Kenneth Feucht

Charlottesville and then…


TransAm Day 5—08April

Today I rested. I love the hotel that I’m in, right on the route. Breakfast was great, and I was able to get everything dried out. Randy and Leslie decided to drive up from Langley just to get away for the day. We went out to lunch, and then drove up to see Monticello, Jefferson’s home. I had passed Monticello en route to Charlottesville, but it was cold and snowing at the time, and all I desired was to get warm and dry. Sadly, photos were not allowed inside the house, so I was only able to preserve for posterity the exterior. The evening was spent packing up and getting ready for tomorrow’s ride. Once again, I went through everything that I was carrying, and eliminated another five or more pounds of goods, to be shipped back home. I read on hiker blogging pages that this exact same thing happens. Suddenly, many articles of clothing can be multi-tasked. There becomes a blur between bike clothes and street clothes. The only real distinction is that my bike pants have padding which is uncomfortable to just wear around as street clothing when trying to chill out. I decided that it is highly unlikely that I would do any serious cooking, and needed the stove only for coffee in the morning, if I’m camping that night. Granola bars take the place of pancakes, eggs, oatmeal, and all those other things I cherish at home.
Randy and Leslie with Tom Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson’s grave site in the family plot

TransAm Day 6—09April

Time to check out of a comfortable hotel. Looking at the ACA maps, they deviate to some very strange side roads. I have the strange mentality that if I wish to go from point A to point B, one goes in the most direct line possible, unless there are very good reasons to do otherwise. Most of the TransAm route in fairly direct, except for Virginia, which for unexplained reasons, the ACA course takes you all over the map. Thus, I will be making modifications as I go through Virginia. I am recording the route on my Garmin, but am not sure how to get it into this post through my iPad, so will leave that only to my Garmin friends, or if you particularly request to see my route.
The weather was cold and windy when I went for breakfast, but by 8 am, it started to snow. I thought I’d wait a bit, but it continued to snow until after 11am, and the temperature remained bitterly cold. I checked the weather reports, and tomorrow was supposed to be sunny, so it made sense to just wait out another day. If I don’t get riding soon, it will be impossible to get back in the saddle!

TransAm Day 7—10April

I started out the day with fog and wind. Some of my mojo seems to have come back, and it was not terribly challenging making it up to Rockfish Gap, though I will admit that I walked the bike a short distance past the cookie ladies’ house. The cookie lady was June Curry, who would bake cookies for the cyclists going by her house. It appeared to be a beautiful brick structure, that unfortunately had fallen into serious disrepair after her death in 2012. I arrived at Rockfish Gap much earlier than I expected, but it was bitterly cold, again chilling me to the bone, and making me lose my mojo. I had a hot dog at the King popcorn stand, and wanted nothing more than to get down out of the wind. So, I made executive decision #39 to forego riding the Blueridge Parkway, and to ride the Shenandoah valley instead. It was a little disappointing to me, but a good decision made on somewhat bad information. The elevation of Alton was shown at about 1000 ft on the ACA profile maps, and the top of the parkway at about 3000 ft, suggesting that I had only scratched the surface of the climb, when in reality, Rockfish Gap was over 1800 ft altitude per my Garmin. The Blueridge Parkway route would not have been as challenging as suggested by the ACA elevation profile. So, I dropped off of the ridge into the Shenandoah Valley. I stopped in a cheap hotel south of Waynesboro, but would be able to make up for a few lost days in the next few days by just following the Lee highway southward.
The cookie lady’s house
Popcorn stand at Rockfish Gap, a great place for a hotdog.

TransAm Day 8—11April

Today I wanted to make some distance. But, a woke up feeling absolutely miserable again. It is strange that I was sleeping better in tents than in hotel rooms. The very first night of my adventure, I took a hard fall to my left side getting up from a picnic table at the campground. I thought nothing of it at first but then realized that it was extreme pain not letting me sleep at night, and bothering me whenever I moved or lifted something. The pain and symptoms were most consistent with a rib fracture, something I’ve had before. Worse, the cold air was making me cough constantly, adding to the misery. But, the coldness was affecting me in a manner very strangely, as I felt frozen to my bones, and could not warm up. I’d have all my cycling clothes on, and warmth clothes on, be sweating profusely, and yet felt icy cold in the wind that seemed to mock defiantly my efforts for comfort. I had completely long any sense of ginger. So, I have my bags packed but the thought is overwhelming me whether or not I was enjoying my adventure, and when the course would turn that I would start enjoying things. My body wasn’t helping because all it could say was “pain”. It wasn’t tiredness, save for the tiredness that plagued a body feeling like crap. It didn’t help that the weather reports had been consistently more optimistic than reality, but still didn’t predict balmy spring weather, but rather, more storms. So, I called home to Betsy for advice. Her suggestion was to abort, and normally I’d be resistant to that. I’m not a quitter. I don’t do things like that. I’ve been thinking about doing this for years. But, for now, I decided to abort. Running through all the options, I decided to rent a car, and just drive home. It was the most expensive option, but the most convenient. I considered stopping for several days at Pete’s farm house in Kentucky (close to Berea) to see if I would bounce back, and then resume the ride in Kentucky, skipping only a short section. Anyway, I pushed the abort button, got a car that would fit my bike, and off I went. A car also made sense, because it would continue the adventure, driving through places I’ve never been, or re-discovering places I once was.
Peter’s new car, a 10 wheel drive vehicle
Pete at the wheel of his new car
Peter building his house by himself on his farm. The frame was to go up in two days.
The first day was driving through Virginia, West Virginia, and eastern Kentucky to Sanford, KY where Peter had his farm. Peter, by the way, was a good friend through surgical residency, the research years, and surgical oncology fellowship. We had done a number of rides together before, including several cycle tours together in Germany. He had just gotten married to Karma, and it was nice to see Karma again. The plan was to spend several days with Pete, see how I was feeling, and then take off either by car or bike from there. We drove Peters’ “new” Jeep around the farm, had a bbq and cigar, and chatted as old friends. That night I slept worse than ever with rib pain and coughing, felt like a low case of the flu, and just wanted to get home. So, I decided to run. The temperature when I left Virginia was 40 degrees, and it had warmed up to 50 in KY, but with the wind, I still felt frozen. I drove through KY, Indiana, southern Illinois, Missouri, and made it all the way to Selena, KS, where the temperature was up to 90 degrees. But, a storm was expected the next day, so I knew that the warmth would be short lived. Taking off early the next morning, the temperature started at 50 degrees and balmy, but dropped to 28 degrees with high winds in a blowing snowstorm by the time I reached Colorado. Pushing on, there were more snow flurries and much high winds in Wyoming, the weather finally becoming beautiful sun in northern Utah. I stopped in Burley, Idaho for the night. The next day remained a warm-feeling 50’ish degrees F, and a beautiful ride home, ending in a torrential rain as I arrived in Puyallup. It was raining so hard that the area was worried about landslides of an Oso proportion, which happened several years ago up by Arlington, WA, wiping out an entire community. Meanwhile, the next few days manifested horrible snowstorms in the Midwest, and Peter even noted that they were getting snow in Kentucky. I would have been struggling through at least a week or two more of inclement weather. It was just NOT the right year to start the TransAm in April!


So, how might I learn from this truncated adventure?
1. Riding alone is fun for a few days and I always have enjoyed occasional solo adventures, but for me, I hated the absence of a companion to ride with for prolonged periods. That’s me. I didn’t think that it would affect me so much, but the prospect of three months mostly alone began to torture me. I went on this ride to find myself, but it didn’t take three months, it took only a week to find myself. I learned that I like being around friends and people, and put a high value on that. That’s how I found myself.
2. Over-planning is always my biggest curse. But, I do that when not sure what to expect, and this abbreviated adventure gave me great insights into how to do it right in the future for “epic” bike tours. Don’t fret every possible contingency, pack light, and adapt to re-provisioning on the road.
3. Physical injury or illness can never be predicted, as well as inclement weather. Many variables affect an outcome, and the insight to change or abort must always be held. Surgical training has taught me that to persist in something that isn’t working is the epitome of foolishness. I don’t consider the “abort”decision as a sign of failure or giving up, but rather the need to adjust plans to best accommodate the current situation.
4. When tired, depressed, and overwhelmed with discomforts, personal hygiene seems to be neglected. I had learned in Air Force survival school as well as on backpack trips, of the importance of maintaining cleanliness. This is a small but important item that is often neglected by many, but as survival school taught, could make the difference between life and death.


So, what am I going to do from here? I intend to continue some sort of touring bike ride, but without the intention of riding the entire TransAm this season as a complete whole. I have several backpack trips planned for later this summer, including one in Mt. Rainier National Park for which I was able to obtain reservations for campsites, but more on that in another post. Russ wishes to do a long ride, so we will perhaps take the train to Newton, KS, and ride from there to Missoula, MT. Perhaps we’ll alter our plans an ride the Pacific Coast route to San Diego from my house. It doesn’t really matter too much to me as long as I can keep riding. And yes, I will keep posting.


I didn’t realize until I came home that the photos I the first TransAm post were not coming through correctly. I was taking the photos in RAW format on my mirrorless Canon M100, and they seemed to incorporate nicely into the WordPress app that I’m using on my iPad. Apparently, they are importing in too large of a format, and I’m unable to add captions to the photos. I will be correcting the former posts, and playing around a bit to see if I could fix the problem so that I can post while on the road.

TransAm – The Start

Day -1 02April

I left Washington on 02April on a shut-eye flight to Charlotte, NC, and then up to Newport News. I slept very well on the plane,compliments of Halcion. Also compliments of sleeping pills, it’s all a vague memory, but I am up and running today.


Day 0—03April

My friends Randy and Leslie Neil picked me up from the airport, and I then got my bicycle all assembled. Randy and I then went for a 7 mile jump ride around the base, and the bicycle seemed to be working well. Our entertainment for the day was a squadron of F-22 Raptors taking off, chased by T-38s. That afternoon, we drove around the Yorktown battle site, and it was most interesting. The area was larger than I anticipated, and many of the fields are now overgrown with woods. We had dinner on the waterfront at the Yorktown Pub, on the spot where I would be starting the route today. I slept again like a baby.

Randy and I enjoying a good cigar.
A quick drive around the Yorktown battlefields, and a second surrender.
A super-good pub right at the start of the TransAm

Day 1—04 April

Yorktown to Chickahominy, 39 miles. Randy and Leslie dropped me off at the Victory Monument at about 11:20 am. I performed the obligatory dip of the rear wheel in the Yorktown River and started riding. By chance, there was an older gentleman, Rick, who was also starting, so we rode for about the first mile together. I then recognized, to my horror, that I did not have my helmet mirror. Anyway, on I rode. I arrived in Williamsburg, and wasn’t quite seeing what the map showed, so I finally turned on my Garmin for guidance. It directed me an odd direction, but, trusting the Garmin, I rode on. Eventually, my trust waned, and I realized that the Garmin was short-cutting me back to the start of the trail. It was 10 miles and an hour lost, but good lessons learned. The remainder of today was facing a very strong Gegenwind (headwind) making it feel like I was climbing a 5% grade. All I could think about were what things I could eliminate from my panniers to lighten things up. I already know a few things, but will wait a few more days before finding a post office to mail them back home. That’s ok, as I’d rather over- than under-plan a trip. So I did finally reach Chickahominy, intact, feeling great, but a little tired. After the sticker shock of paying $31 for a bicycle only campsite, I called Betsy, that sweet angel of a lady who gave me permission and support for this trip, am whom remains ever in my thoughts. I then called R & L to let them know that I was ok, and to thank them for all they did. When I mentioned the loss of my helmet mirror, they quickly identified it, and demanded to drive out to give it to me. Honestly, I’m in tears… I don’t deserve such good friends. It is a lesson to always strive to be friendly to others.
Note the ride to the start of the TransAm in a TranAm! Also seen are Leslie and Randy giving me a formal VFW sendoff, and Rich, a 75 yo retired teacher, also starting the trip.
Riding to the TransAm in a TransAm
A VFW send-off with Leslie
A VFW send-off with Randy
The only other cyclist I saw on the entire adventure, Rick, ready to depart.
Re-dipping the wheels at Yorktown.
People ask me what I think about on a bike trip like this. The changing unfamiliar scenery constantly commands my thoughts. I see the fingerprint of God in every passing scene, and gratefulness to a loving creator fills my neurons.

Day 2—05April

I woke up to freezing cold temperatures, and a little lack of luster. The wind continued from the northwest, so I was mostly riding against the wind. It remained cold, and I did not take off my fleece coat until about noon, but then the wind continued to make it much colder than it was. I did only one wrong turn this time, and this time I fault the ACA maps, in that the map shows a straight direction, but one actually needed to make a sharp right turn at a particular intersection. Continuing on, fortunately only several miles, I realized than this was not the correct direction. When I stopped to turn around, lol and behold, there was the Mechanicsville Apostolic Christian Church, which is where my sister-in-law attended church until she married my oldest brother Dennis. I struggled on, thinking to stop at a hotel in Mechanicsville, but very disappointed with the choices, so I rode on to the originally planned destination of an Americamps KOA campground. They offered free breakfast, a charging plug just outside my tent, and even Wi-Fi, all for $11.31. I felt like I got ripped off last night. So, 73miles for today, and tomorrow is going to be a much shorter day!
First night camping
Chickahominy State Park with my bike.
Church of my sister-in-law Dottie, just slightly off-route.
A thought on finding directions. Alone, the ACA printed maps are woefully inadequate, but still quite necessary. The Garmin gps points are great, but is terrible when wanting to find oneself back to the route. I iPhone/iPad product has been the most helpful, and I use both of them to plan out the day. It’s just they are not good for moment by moment directions, since they will quickly deplete you phone and pad batteries. The combination of all three works best for me,and I wish that the ACA would sell them as a package. I also wish that the iPad/iPhone options were regularly updated, rather than having to look on the ACA website for addenda or corrections. If I had one more wish, I wish than notes could be added to the maps, and that both myself and the maps creators would include their thoughts on the road.

Day 3—06April

The day started out with a waffle breakfast at the KOA. I slept extremely well, and didn’t wake up until 7am. It was again cold and windy. I also got notice from Randy that another snowstorm was coming. Well, that didn’t tickle my feathers. I felt really bonk-ish today, ending with a minor shortcut into Mineral. After setting up my tent at the volunteer fire department, I got a box and packed away nearly 15 lb of stuff I knew I would probably never use. I think that the excitement of this adventure caused me to way overpack. My legs will be happy to have 15 less pounds on the hills. If I remain a touch bonk-ish tomorrow, I’ll probably find a hotel and spend two nights in Charlottesville. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I’m going to crash early, and try to get another good night’s sleep, taking off earlier than this morning.
Fire department tent setup–it was a very windy day
Mineral Fire Department

Day 4—07April

The fire station was exceptionally noisy, with trains, cars, and emergency calls constantly going off. So, I got up to chat with one of the firemen, had a coke, some Advil and a sleeping pill, and I slept totally all night, waking up at 7:30. I quickly packed a very soggy tent, put on warm rain clothes, and headed out. About an hour into my ride, it started to hail, so I opted for a shortcut to Charlottesville. By the time I arrived, I was being hit with snow flurries. I booked my first hotel for two nights. Most every thing except for my sleeping bag was wet. I am now thawed but happy to have a break day. Photographed is the one remaining statue in Charlottesville of Josef Stalin.

T -2 and Counting

OK!!! I understand! This is a blog about bicycling! So, why am I displaying myself as an old fart out on cross-country skis? Simple. I’ve been dreaming of cross-country skiing ALL season, and either had nobody to go with (yea, I could have gone alone) or some other lame excuse, like the weather wasn’t good, or I wasn’t sure if the snow was ok, or, it might be avalanche conditions. Now, this was my last chance this winter, and Jon (my son) was up to it. I can’t believe it. I hadn’t touched my skis in about 3-4 years, but used to spend winters in the snow. In fact, there was a time where I far preferred to snow camp than to summer camp. It’s much cleaner. You stay warm, if you know what you’re doing. In fact, my problem (including today) has been that of over-dressing, and getting too hot.  I usually wear wool knickers on the trail, which keep you warm, but also shed sweat and heat much better. . . but wool knickers are now a thing of the distant past. NOBODY but a dinosaur wears wool knickers any longer… well, maybe I will return to wool knickers, and hopefully restart a trend. I should have been in nothing but a t-shirt today. You burn off tremendous energy. Today’s exercise taught me several things. 1) Look at the maps before going out. We floundered for over an hour trying to find the trail head to the Iron Horse Trail. At least I got to do some downhill runs on my cross-country skis. We (Jon and I) eventually went 6 miles out and back. Quite a few other people were out there. I am most jealous of those that can skate ski. For me, forget it… impossible… I won’t even try. 2) I do miss a pack on my back and the prospect for night(s) out in the snow. Next winter, I so desperately hope I could find people to go snow camping with.
So, here are the Garmin stats… ignore the first three miles…
I would be remiss to not include a photo of Jon…
Jon on the Iron Horse Trail, Snoqualmie Pass in the background and with Lake Kecheelus to the right.
Ok, since this is a bicycle blog, I will cease and desist from x-country ski talk. My skis are hung up. Thursday, I did an outside training ride, shown below. It was beautiful, and I felt absolutely marvelous the whole time I was riding, even though I was pushing it a little bit. I think I’m ready. Sarah B., thank you for your encouragement!  I won’t work out on Easter, but might do a garage ride on Monday before I head off to Virginia. Please stay in touch, and I welcome your comments either here or on Facebook. I’ll probably be publishing only once a week, unless circumstances dictate otherwise. Since I’ll be camping a lot, I won’t have wifi and plan on doing these posts on my iPad. I use a Canon M100 for the photos, and a Garmin 1030 for tracking. Until next time, Auf Wiedersehen!

Car Camping with Brother Gaylon

Car Camping with my brother Gaylon 16-18MARCH
OK, you are correct. I normally don’t do car camping. But, Gaylon was thinking about SAGing a segment of my TransAmerica bicycle ride, and hadn’t camped in years, so wanted a trial run. Besides, it would get me in tune to tent camping. I think I planned too much for the trip, as will be explained below. We decided to do two nights, in a loop around the Olympic Peninsula, somewhat similar to what Jon and I did several years ago on our bicycles. Gaylon had flown over the Olympics when he had a private pilot’s license, but he had never been physically on the ground in the Olympics, so this was a first for him. The first night was at Fort Flagler, a retired military compound, designed to guard entrance of enemies through the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
The fort complex is large, with military type barracks on the hill, and campgrounds below on the beach.
The Olympics were clearly seen from the beach, as well as Mt. Rainier when looking in the opposite direction.
Signs and exhibits describe the history of this park. Here are shown devices strung across the bay to Port Townsend, designed to stop subs and torpedos.
The next day, we headed off for Port Angeles. As a diversion, we ran up to Hurricane Ridge. The road was clear, and the views were spectacular.
New visitor center on Hurricane Ridge
The High Divide could be seen, with Mt. Olympus in the far distance off to the right of the photo. They had put in a small ski hill to our backs, which was quite busy.
We finally arrived at our planned destination of the Kalaloch Campgrounds.

The tent was just a 100 feet from the stairs down to the beach.
Am Strand. The beach as beautiful as always.
Camp kitchen
I created the camp kitchen, expecting to do a bit of cooking. I discovered that Gaylon really doesn’t like to cook, and if he does, uses disposable plates and utensils, so that no dishwashing or other formalities of camp care would be needed. I’ll have to save the car camping stuff for when Betsy and I go out on excursions. Gaylon needs only a single burner stove to heat water for coffee, or for single dish meals with a simple clean-up. So, I way over-packed for doing nothing but boiling water. We did have a lot of time to chat and catch up on various matters. He was inspired to possibly put in some applications to be a campground host, a means of getting himself away from Lake Merwyn for cheap.
All in all, the adventure was a success, Gaylon and I both had a great time, and it was nice spending time with brother Gaylon.

Training and Preparation

It’s now less than a month before I leave on my long ride. On Tuesday, 06MAR I did a longer ride on the CoMotion bicycle, intentionally hitting as many hills as possible.
I find that the same journey on my road bike, a Trek Malone 5.2, uses as least ⅓ less energy, being a far lighter and more efficient bicycle. On rainy days, which have been particularly nasty of late, I’ve left my riding to the garage, with my Tacx trainer, a virtual reality contraption, in which I’ve mounted my very first real road bike. Here’s several photos of the contraption.
Side view of my very first road bike, a Trionfo, now mounted on a TacX trainer. Two of my friends watch over me. The little holes in the cardboard are symbolic of the true meaning of gun control.
Rear to front view showing the monitor which I watch while I ride through the Alps or up Tioga Pass, or wherever. Behind everything is my bicycle repair shop.
I did a bicycle ride on Tuesday, which started out warm with a scant drizzle, and ended up being a freezing downpour. I came home absolutely soaked to the bone, and freezing. Nobody, honestly!, nobody was on the road bicycling that day. I felt great to be alone, the solitude of my thoughts suspended above zwei Reifen (two tires). Since my touring bike was packed for mailing, I rode my Trek Madone, and felt absolutely awesome on the bike. Here’s the Garmin stats…
Earlier this week (13MAR) I mailed off my bicycle and panniers to a dear friend at Langley Air Force base, at the start of the TransAm bicycle route. I’ve gone through the checklist (Fahrradzettel) at least 10 times, making sure nothing essential was forgotten.
My personal Fahrradzettel, modified for the TransAm. I hope I didn’t pack too much!
Bike and panniers boxed and loaded to FedEx back to VA. I used ship, and the Aircaddy has been used heavily, is now on its last journey.
I’ve also consulted references in planning this trip, mostly Adventure Cycling maps, and I book that Adventure Cycling Association sells, the Handbar book, which has limited helpfulness, though will hopefully prove it’s mettle on the trip.

Meanwhile, Betsy and I flew back to Dallas, Tx to attend the wedding of a niece, and last weekend had a family reunion with Feucht relatives at our place, making up a brisket on the Traeger.
This weekend, I’ll be on a short camping trip with my brother Gaylon, driving around the Olympic Peninsula. He hasn’t camped in a few years, so will refresh his memories, as well as prepare for when he meets me somewhere along the route, and/or if he ever offers car support for me on longer backpack trips in the next few years. You’ll probably see some photos of that trip. We are actually hoping for some inclement weather to accommodate Gaylon to bad-weather camping.
Of course, anxieties develop. Have I remembered everything? Have I filled out all the necessary forms for retirement? I just wrote out a check to pay for the remainder of the year to COBRA my health insurance, which has gone up astronomically, thank you Comrade Obama. (P.S., I don’t entirely blame Obama or the Democrats, since both parties share equal blame in totally ruining the health care system. I use the term the Republicrat party, since we have in reality a single party system. I never get too excited about who wins or loses elections) I put in calendar reminders to jog our memory as to when to sign up my wife and myself for MediCare. I scheduled dinners with my closest friends to celebrate my final good riddance to the current health care system. My worst fear is dying in a hospital. Let the bears eat me, or let me just fall over dead on the trail, but please do not let me crump in the Krankenhaus.
Did I lose my mojo? Will I bonk after 3 days? Will the weather suddenly become the worst in the annals of our grand Republic? Have I made adequate provision for my best friend, who is also my wife? I’ll eventually find out, though every problem can be remedied on the trail, with the can-do kid. Yes, I ask questions of myself, as to whether I have gone insane. Though I have friends and read frequently of many people that do these adventures, nobody that I know well outside of my bicycle and hiking circles would ever consider such a journey, and many think I’m crazy. Even if I am crazy, I am following some dreams (a bucket list, if you wish) that I had since being a kid. Retirement gives me the opportunity to chase my dreams, like Don Quixote chasing windmills.
Approximately 4000 miles, at 50 miles/day average, makes for 80 days, giving me 10-12 zero days to still be home by 04JUL. I’d like to pack in at least one century day (100 miler day). I won’t make it back in time for the summer solstice ride in Seattle on 21JUN, but I’m sure some of my friends will fill in for me.  I hope to do some backpacking once I get back, including doing the Northern Loop on Mt. Rainier, and the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood. Hopefully our son Jon will join me for one or both of those adventures.

Mormon Trilogy

The Book of Mormon | Doctrine and Covenants | The Pearl of Great Price, by Joseph Smith
I had a recent Mormon student working with me who piqued my interest in actually reading the book of Mormon. I had several hard copies of the Book which I got at various Marriott hotels, but decided to download this from and read it on my Kindle. Most of it was read while I was at work.
First, let me say that I mean no harm and hold no hatred towards Moronis. The same was true when I reviewed the Koran. I have many friends (and even relatives) that are Muslim and Mormon, and unhesitatingly state that they are good friends and dear relatives without reservation. I don’t let particular religious biases cloud my judgment of a person. The same is true of my mix of political friends, who are far left, far right, far middle, off the edge, conservative, liberal, feminist, anti-feminist, pro-Nazi, anti-Nazi, Communist, Fascist, Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, etc., etc. To all, I mean no harm, and read these texts in a hopefully non-prejudicial fashion. Yet, my rose-colored glasses are Reformed Protestant Christian with Amish type roots. I can’t help that. That’s who I am. But, it does affect how I read anything and everything. Finally, I will call Later-Day-“Saint” folk Moronis because the warrior-become-angel Moroni seems to get more honor in the LDS faith than the warrior-become-whatever man Mormon. Back to the text at hand.
Looking at the text itself, it is very sloppily written. Joey (Joseph Smith) should have had a better proof-reader. I am told that this text has been “corrected” and altered substantially from the initial writings of Joey to the present day version that we read, but there are still problems with mis-spellings, grammatical errors, and a very sloppy style. Supposedly, a number of people wrote individual books of the book of Mormon onto the plates translated by Joey, yet the writing style remains exactly the same, all the way through the entire trilogy. The various texts of the Old and New Testaments all have differing styles, and sometimes even books of the OT have different style (look at Genesis, Isaiah) which have led to criticism of different authorship. There is nothing of that in the Trilogy. It matters not that there is a single translator, as Martin Luther single-handedly translated the Christian bible, yet the styles of the authors remain explicit. The only plausible Moroni explanation was that “god” was giving verbal dictation style inspiration to the various authors of trilogy, as well as a verbal dictation of the translation. But, that creates other questions. If the translation was verbally dictated by “god”, why does god speak 16th century English in the 19th century, why does he get it wrong and needs to be corrected, why did Joey even need the plates, the Urim and Thummin, and the translation stones to create this stunning trilogy?
There is a sense of extreme dullness in reading the trilogy. Unlike the Christian bible, the trilogy constantly reflects back to defend itself. Perhaps Joey figured people just might question him for the legitimacy of his writings? There is no real prose, no poetry, no shift in styles, nada! College English classes will offer books of the Christian Bible as examples of great literature, even though they may not believe that literature, but nobody except a Moroni school would dream of suggesting that the contents of the book of Mormon is great literature. It just isn’t.
Dullness is compounded by confusion in reading the text. Joey had no imagination in nomenclature of people and places. Many OT and NT characters are used in the book of Mormon, like Adam, Moses, Amalek and Jerusalem, just to name a few. The names that he created are multiple. There are two Moronis, two Mormons, multiple Almas, Helamans, etc., etc., etc. Joey doesn’t even give a means of differentiating the BC Moroni from the AD Moroni. They all just kind of blend in. Perhaps, Joey would have ultimately developed the concept of reincarnation in his theology, had he not have prematurely died, to explain this faux pas in his writing. Joey has multiple place names and descriptions of the land. Yet, there is not a shred of a clue as to where these fictional places might be. We now know where the hill Cumorah existed in upstate NY, but even there, there is virtually NO archeological findings to substantiate the claims. Even the large stone pit which held the plates for 1500 years is strangely gone. Otherwise, there is not a single identifiable place name in the new world consistent with Joey’s fantasy world. This is a substantial problem. Truth is verifiable. The writings in the book of Mormon are NOT verifiable. Let the reader draw his own conclusions.
Joey has a problem with chronology. The book of Mormon was written from about the year 600BC until 400AD. It was written entirely in the Americas with absolutely NO contact with the Eurasian continent. Yet, there are multiple quotes from the New Testament, and even from Old Testament text written after 600BC. Lengthy quotes are given of Jesus, even before Jesus supposedly appeared in 34AD to the American continent. Paul and John are frequently quoted, long before they were ever born. Mormons might argue this to be a manifest of “inspiration” to the ancient scribes of the book of Moroni, but I argue that even the NT and OT don’t do this.  Animals exist in Joey’s fantasy world, like horses, that never existed until European settlers after 1492AD. The fraudulent nature of the book of Mormon is just so blatant as to strain one’s credulity. More examples of chronological faux pas’s are found in the text review.
Joey gives lengthy quotes of Scripture. He especially loves the book of Isaiah, which is quoted in length. I did not cross-read his version of Isaiah with the Scripture text we have now, but do know that Joey jumps around all over the place when quoting. It is not a straight quote out of Scripture. It is Joey’s version. The quotes of Jesus are practically verbatim from the King James Bible. But then that is understandable. Jesus spoke King James English in ancient Palestine; don’t you know that?
The Mormons love to call themselves Christian, but from my reading of the Trilogy, they are definitely not Christian. In fact, they are very anti-Christianity. The Jesus that they describe is a non-historical fantasy, and the name “Church of Jesus Christ…” refers to a much different Jesus than walked in Palestine 2000 years ago. In the D & C. Joey stresses clearly that all Christian churches just have it wrong, and yet uses their bible, and much of their liturgy and doctrine for his own church without arguing how the church got it wrong. Joey often talks of “my gospel”. He is totally correct. Paul in Galatians 1:8 (ESV) states “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed”. The Mormon gospel is a MUCH different gospel from the Christian gospel, and Paul’s words stand as they will. In the BOM, Joey frequently speaks of the “atonement” of Christ, even the “infinite atonement” of Christ, but NEVER EVER tells you what that atonement was, why it was, or what it accomplished… it is simple religious “god-speak” in the Moroni sense of the word.
Conclusion: The reading of this Trilogy did not persuade me to become Mormon, but actually bred a bit greater resentment of Moronis. The reason for my resentment is the deception that Moronis offer. They are not forthright and honest about their belief system, but feel like they need to break it in slowly, especially when witnessing to those of the Christian persuasion. They are not honest with themselves about their belief system. Though their schools have apologetic departments to defend the Moroni faith, their ultimate defense trickles down to their “burning in the bosom”, a feeling that they get that persuades themselves that they are correct. I have a burning in the bosom that they are wrong. So, who is correct, me or them? I’m willing to proffer a defense of my faith based on rationality. The Mormon faith will never have a Francis Schaeffer. They can’t, since their faith is indefensible.  No belief system will be able to absolutely prove the legitimacy of their claims, including the belief systems of atheism, agnosticism, what-ever-ism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Nose-picking-ism. We believe what we do based on fundamental presuppositions. The question for anybody is to examine what are your ultimate presuppositions, and to decide whether they have a logical consistency to them that can be discussed. The burning-in-the-bosom ploy just doesn’t work for me.
So, I conclude with the notes I jotted down as I read through the Trilogy. My comments are simple observations and my preliminary reflections of the text.

The Book of Mormon


The introduction includes signed testimonies of three, and then eight witnesses, followed by the testimony of Joey Smith attesting to the veracity of these writings. Joey discusses how he managed to obtain the plates that contained these writings, which were buried on a hill, and then proceeded to translate the plates. The plates were then removed from Joe’s possession by angels. The plates themselves are accounts written by a group that escaped the Babylonian captivity and sailed to the Americas, writing their history for posterity.

Nephi 1

This first book is 22 chapters, and the account of Lehi, his wife and four sons, one being Nephi, on their departure from Jerusalem and journey to the Americas. They all took Ishmaelite wives, and struggle is noted between the “godly” Nephi and his troublesome brothers. The book was translated in the 1820’s (roughly), though the English used was King James 17th century English (which, incidentally, was quite annoying to read). It is written in first person, with Nephi repeatedly noting that he was writing this chronicle. While the plates were supposedly written at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in 600+B.C., numerous chronological faux pas’s are noted by me. He often spoke of the Christ, who was still in coming. He spoke of the church, which didn’t exist until the Christian era. He loves to quote Isaiah, but also extensively quotes New Testament Scripture, especially the words of Christ and the writings of Paul. I guess one has to assume that Nephi was being retro-inspired, since Jesus and Paul had no access to these plates. There is the presence of fine steel and compasses, neither of which existed in 600 BC. They found horses and other animals in the new world (America) which didn’t exist until the European explorers and settlers brought them to America. He speaks frequently of baptism, which wasn’t a practice until various sects began the practice in the last century before Christ. Finally, Joe spends much time putting words into Nephi’s mouth about the “great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth”, and then wonders why standard Christians have a little problem with Mormonism. Joe suggests that another “pure” church will come which is holy and righteous, implying that it will be the Mormon church. He fails to explain how 12 apostles essentially formed a whore church. Oh well. Joey didn’t do his homework before picking up the pen.

Nephi 2

Nepthi 2 is a continuation of the chronicle of Nephi 1, 33 chapters long. It is divided into a narrative section and a moral section. The narrative details the rebellion of Nephi’s brothers against Nephi, and how he fled into wilderness to escape his brothers. Joe attempts to provide some theology in this narrative section, such as hypothesizing what would have happened in the fall never occurred. To him, Adam and Eve would then not have had children. Odd, because Joey had many wives, and I’m sure he used them plentifully in a sexual manner. Intermingled are words from Nephi’s son Jacob. The majority of Nephi 2 is not narrative but moralistic and theological statements, with a very large section of Joey quoting from the book of Isaiah. Even then, direct quotations from the writings of Paul are inserted by some miraculous means. Joey frequently uses the word “Jew”, a term in the year 600BC that did not yet exist, but was first used in the post-exilic period. There are phrases that Mr. Smith frequently repeats again and again and again, often many times in the same chapter, such as “wars and rumors of wars” (taken from Matt 24:6). He repeatedly speaks of “infinite atonement”, a simple nonsensical phrase, described for mankind, making Joey a universalist. Yes? Mr. Smith waxes at length about Nephi discussing how he was going to preach, prophesy, and write about the Christ who was still 600 years to come. I consider this to be anachronistic sloppiness at its worst. It would be quite easy to detail numerous other anachronisms and simple sloppy writing and thinking in this text. It makes it VERY difficult for me to believe that anybody could believe this nonsense.


The book of Jacob is short, at 7 chapters. It is written by Jacob, the brother of Nephi. There is little narrative, and it is totally Jacob preaching to his brethren. Oddly, the content and style are virtually identical to that of Nephi. Perhaps it was actually from the same person (Joey Smith????). Inconsistencies include Jacob suggesting that he was a priest, even though Nephi condemned priests, and Jacob condemning multiple wives, even though early Mormon practice was to have multiple wives. Jacob inserts in the middle a tale of the vineyard which goes for MANY pages, and ultimately making no sense, especially since vineyards are used to make wine, which Mormons don’t drink. The last chapter was a story of Nephi contending with a doubter of Christ (still 600 years in the coming!!)


Enos was the son of Jacob, and in a short 1 chapter book describes the struggles between the people of Nephi and their brothers (the enemy) the Lamanites. He describes also some falling away of Nephites. It engages in the same stylistic writing of Nephi and Jacob, and similarly makes chronological mistakes, such as quoting New Testament passages. Oh well!!! I guess some people will believe anything!


Jarom was the son of Enos, and also wrote a short, one chapter book. He details the continuing struggle between the Nephites and Lamanites. Jarom notes that he didn’t have but small plates to write on, so had to keep things short. Thank God for that!


This one chapter book involves brief statements by Omni, his son, and on for a number of generations. During one generation, it was noted that another group of people were discovered in the “promised land” (America), who had also come across the ocean by boat from Jerusalem after its fall, but ended up with another language and belief system than the Nephites. By the end of the book of Omni, the plate was reported as “full”.

Words of Mormon

This is an account of the past by Mormon, who describes when Benjamin was king and engaged in a great but victorious battle against the Lamanites, bringing peace to the land.


I almost thought that Mr. Smith was running out of creative juices, that his muse had dried up, but now he again has a 29 chapter book. The tale is now very rambling and hard to follow, so pardon if you don’t follow my accounting. Mosiah was the son of king Benjamin. The books starts by recalling the end of Benjamin. Benjamin called the people of Nephi to the temple to speak to them. This happened just before AD 0. Oddly, 2:32, Mosiah is called the father of Benjamin-not sure if that was a mistake of Joey’s. Benjamin speaks at length moralistic platitudes, transfers power to Mosiah, and then dies. Mosiah sends out a scouting party that encounters another city apparently in struggle against the Lamanites. They have plates that need interpretation. The king was Zeniff, who was good. His son was Noah, a bad king. Battle persisted during this time against the Lamanites. Alma,a good guy, leads a group to settle elsewhere, but is harassed by the Lamanites and eventually returns to Mosiah’s city. Alma’s son, also named Alma, becomes chief priest. Interspersed is much moral dialogue, mostly sloppy quotes from the Old and New Testaments.


Alma was the son of Alma (Joey was having a hard time being original about names, using many Biblical names like Noah and Gideon. The book starts out with the deaths of Alma #1 and Mosiah, and the development of “heretical” preachers. Joe S. notes in the second chapter that the Lamanites were given dark skin because they were cursed of God. Alma, after battling the heretics with the Lamanites, establishes himself as high priest, and builds cities, setting up a “godly” empire, stamping out wickedness, etc. Alma goes about his country preaching, and often encountering resistance. Much of the first portion of the book is filled with moralistic preaching, the central aspect of Alma details the 39 years of war with the Lamanites, taking over cities that the Lamanites had conquered. In the end, several of the Nephite heroes were dead, Alma dies, Moroni dies, and Helaman dies. This book was long and tedious to read. Most of it did not read as a credible account of any real struggle that had occurred. many times, Joey reuses names, such as Judah, Ammon, Amalikite, etc. making the reading even more confusing. I’m not sure how Mr. Smith is going to get Moroni back into the picture in order to bury all the pages of much still unwritten parts of the book of Mormon. I wait anxiously…


The Helaman that wrote this book is the son of Helaman. The book has 16 chapters, thus, shorter than Alma. It starts with Helaman as the chronicler, but he dies in the third chapter, and the chronicles are taken over by Nephi, the eldest son of Helaman. Through preaching of Nephi and imprisonment while surviving through fire, the Lamanites become good people, and the Nephites evil. Wow! By the end of the book of Helaman, Nephi is the judge of the wayward Nephites, and the Lamanites through the prophet Samuel is preaching to the Nephites to repent. There is no mention of particular sins of the people, just that they practiced great iniquities. Samuel mentions that the Christ is about to be born, and will come to the Nephites/Lamanites to preach to them. Thus, the end of 90 years of the judges.

Third Nephi

3 Nephi was a tedious book to read, 30 chapters long. This Nephi was not the first Nephi, but the son of Helaman the son of Helaman. The story starts with continuous wars between the Nephites and Lamanites, who sometimes unite each other to fight the Gadianton robbers lurking in the woods surrounding the Nephite and Lamanite towns. War against the Gadianton robbers leads to victory for the Nephites. Mormon then writes of their history, of which I can only presume that this was a different person Mormon than the Mormon mentioned in previous books. Again, the Nephites turn evil, civil unrest occurs, Nephi preaches in vain. The year 34 AD arrives. The land gets darkness for three days, and great physical upheaval occurs that destroys many of the cities, the city of Moroni and others sank into the depth of the sea, and many die. Then, Jesus appears, and he preaches. And preaches. And preaches. Between, he ascends to heaven. Then reappears. Then re-ascends. Then reappears. Etc. Etc. Lengthy quotes of the sermon on the Mount were given, as well as a few quotes by Paul. I guess Jesus needed Paul’s help. Twelve apostles are chosen by Jesus. I guess these apostles were counter-apostles to those chosen in Judea? It was a blessing to end this book.

Fourth Nephi

4 Nephi is just one long chapter. I’m not sure why Joey made it a separate book from Third Nephi. This book spans about 3-400 years, and incredibly, Nephi wrote it, even though he lived a normal length life. Oh well! The Nephites and Lamanites are all converted to the Mormon church, and live happily. But, as the years go by, they fall away and turn wicked again. Oddly the robbers of Gadianton reappear. Geez? Ammaron (another Ammaron than he who was mentioned previously) preserves the “sacred” records.

Book of Mormon

The book of Mormon is 9 chapters. Ammaron informs Mormon of the sacred records (this is a different dude Mormon than the Mormon mentioned earlier, unless he was “reincarnated”). The book starts by mentioning the continued war going on between the Nephites and Lamanites. Three of the Nephite apostles are wicked away to heaven, but the book does not mention who they were. War continues with Mormon as general of the Nephite army, and he also becomes responsible for the plates. Mormon then refuses to continue on as general of the army, carnage continues, Mormon again accepts generalship of the army, and “prophesies” that the Lamanites some day will be preached to by the Gentiles (how would they even know who the Gentiles were, as they were living in the Americas for 1000 years!). The Nephites gather in Cumorah (now in upstate NY!) and the Lamanites wipe out the Nephites. Mormon hides the plates in the hill Cumorah. I’m not sure how the remainder of this book and the following two books made their way into the plates, save perhaps by some “miracle”. Mormon carries on his preaching, even though the Nephites were utterly destroyed. Oh well! By now, my credulity has been strained to the maximum anyway. And, the moon is made of cheese, isn’t it?

Book of Ether

Ether is 15 chapters long, and is an accounting of 24 plates incidentally discovered hundreds of years ago BC, during the reign of Mosiah. These plates were written in abridged form by Moroni. Mr. Smith needed more stories, and more fictions to create, so here is the book of Ether. It is the record of the Jaredites, who started at the tower of Babel. For some reason, their language was not “confounded” at the tower, so that they could understand themselves. Mein Gott! Jared went to live in Nimrod, but the Lord has a few long chats with Jared, who has Jared go down to the great sea, build a boat (with holes in the top and bottom), and sail across the sea (to America). Wow!… just like Lehi did with his family a thousand some years later. Absolutely incredible! Jared reveals that God actually is made of flesh and blood, JUST like us! Jared was given stones that glowed in the dark, allowing him to see the way across the ocean to America. This account was instructed to be written by Jared, but to be preserved unseen by man until the coming of the Christ. It is mentioned here that these works were written in reformed Egyptian, a language not known or used by any language group on earth, but that the story was recounted by Moroni from memory. Why didn’t he just translate the 24 plates? Perhaps this explains how Mr. Smith got everything… “memory”. On reaching the “promised land”, they quickly appoint a king (even though there were only 22 people), the king of who does well, but many generations later, the kings turn wicked. Many place names and personal names were identical to the Lehi generations and settlements, which is incredible, since the Jaredites had unconfounded language, as compared to what Lehi would have spoken. A number of stories are told, such as a Smithian version of Herod vs John the Baptist. It is here that Smith notes how the Jaredites had many horses, elephants and other animals which never ever existed in the Americas until after 1492. The book ends with a great battle between the people of Shiz and Coriantumr, where they destroy each other. Every other sentence starts with “and it came to pass” which I needed to know repeatedly, especially when at the end, Shiz’s head is struck off but he continues breathing! Ether quickly buries the plates chronicling these events and the book ends.

Book of Moroni

The book of Moroni is a fitting book to end the Mormon Scriptures, as it was written by a moroni for a bunch of moronis, and is 10 chapters long. Moroni continues his story, starting with the end of the Jaredites, and getting back to the story of the Nephites being destroyed by the Lamanites. These chapters start very short, and detail church liturgy, followed by lengthier chapters reiterating previous moral behavior. He spends a chapter refuting infant baptism and original sin. Chapters are closed with the phrase “I am now done writing” but then resumes in the next chapter. Moroni ends with some final words and passes away.

Part 2: Doctrine and Covenants

There are 138 sections and two additions to this section. These were obtained by “special revelation” to Mr. Smith on various occasions and in the company of various people. Each section introduces the occasion and circumstances of the revelation, and attests that this is directly the word of God to Joe.  The first few sections start by attesting that the book of Mormon and this Doctrine and Covenants are the very words of God, and MUST be heeded. A number of sections then find Joey with a problem in that one of the men with Joe, Martin Harris, took some of the translation pages and lost them. Joe astutely realized that perhaps when he “re-translated” the plates, that they might come out much different, proving that the translation was a joke. Joey wiggles through this one, later re-befriending Mr. Harris. Section 19 was written as a specific reprimand of Mr. Harris to repent and shape up. This brings an interesting concept to mind. Throughout the book of Mormon, and now here, conformity to the head of the church is mandated without any questioning or hesitation. The book of Mormon frequently speaks that the main “sin” of the people was that of contention. This is evolved into a church that is intolerant of any questioning. You don’t dare question whether the “leader” or “apostle” truly received a message from God. Thinking ist verboten!!!! In section 28, some other dude was receiving revelation through a special stone, and was immediately shut up by a prophecy that ONLY Joey would be getting revelations. Whoa, dude!!!! But then, Joey was assassinated or committed suicide, and in several instances, some very embarrassing doctrines and practices of the church needed to be fixed, so, lo and behold, more “divine” revelations were given. The first was in 1890 when certain leaders realized that polygamy was a problem, and so the “Lord” decided that the Moronis should stop the practice. The second was in 1978, when it became apparent that negroes, orientals, and other races would be a financial boon to the church, that they were suddenly (MIRACLE!!!!) permitted to become members and priests in the church. The sections show a sharp turn toward becoming really bizarre about 1836, when Joey was jailed in Missouri. It is at that time that he started introducing some VERY strange doctrines, like that God exists in the heavens as flesh and blood, that humans are spirits brought down from the nether world to be humans, the doctrine of baptism for the dead, etc. Many other doctrines known to the Mormon church alone have not been mentioned in either the book of Mormon or D&C, such as the origin of Satan (as a brother to Jesus), the necessity of lineages, family practice, etc.
The D&C is a very strange document. It sections are both short and long, most of them being orders (from God???) about minor decisions, such as Mr. X needing to donate money to build a church is town Y, or a temple which should be built in town Z with such and such dimensions, or some transgression of a member (the transgression is never specifically mentioned). Only toward the end is there mention of certain doctrines peculiar to the Mormon church. I get a very strong feel that this is a deceptive ploy of Joey to control other people’s lives, as all you need to do is to tell them God commands this. It does great harm to the true gospel. Another peculiarity is how often “god” got it wrong, such as commanding Joey to build a temple in Far West, Missouri, only to have the Moronis expelled from the state. Joey, of course, quickly attributes it to the sin of the Moroni believers, an oddity, since God NEVER does that in the entirety of the Old and New Testaments. The book of the D & C seems to do more than anything to persuade me not only of the inconsistencies of the Moroni faith, but of the positive evil that they reflect. I will forever find it harder to forgive Moronis for being a touch naive about their faith, as it is so clear than this is a totally artificial religion demonstrated by the D&C.

Part 3: Pearl of Great Price

This is a hodge-podge of writings first assembled in 1851, later experiencing a number of additions and revisions. It seems to be a work in progress of the church. It starts with a fanciful “re-translation” of the first 5 chapters of Genesis, formed somewhat creatively by the wishful imagination of Joey Smith. I don’t mean to be cruel, but it is stated as a “translation”, which means that you are reading something in one language, and re-stating what has been said in another language. So, what was it translated from? Where did the extra text come from? Where did the creative new “interpretations” come from? Truth of the matter, it’s all a hoax, as is seen again in the next section on Abraham. In this section with the following facsimiles, Joey obtained some Egyptian script obtained from a traveling road salesman, and allegedly interpreted the Egyptian script. Unfortunately for Joey, this was soon after Champilion had broken the code on the Rosetta Stone, but before anybody was able to efficiently translate from Egyptian hieroglyphics. In the facsimiles, Joey details the events of what was going on, but left the hieroglyphics for the illustrations intact, allowing any Egyptian scholar to confirm the validity of the translations, which (of course) Joey had totally wrong. In the Abraham translation, he again repeats several early chapters in Genesis which were translated in Moses, but now the translation has much more added, including additions that describe a plurality of gods that counseled to create earth. Oooops! I guess he thought we wouldn’t notice. The Old and New Testaments show very ancient forms, and very unsubstantial changes over time. Joey shows that the book of Mormon, the D&C, and the Pearl are constantly changing as the church prophets discover mistakes and errors in their sacred texts. The PGP then contains the start of a translation of Matthew. I presume that if Joey hadn’t committed suicide by jumping out of a window, he would have eventually translated the entire old and new Testaments. There is no explanation as to what he was translating from, and I can only assume that it was his personal form of “re-inspiration” of these texts. Unfortunately again, the texts are so significantly deviant from the earliest extent copies we have of Matthew, that there is only a fleeting resemblance. It was Joey’s way of discrediting the entire volume of the Old and New Testament. The PGP finally included an autobiography of Joey as a kid, and his discovery of the “plates”. It ends with the articles of faith of the Moroni church, which is a lie, because they tacitly assume much more must be believed in order to go directly to the celestial sphere. The so-called Moroni prophets are constantly inventing new doctrine which also must be believed.
A final summary of the Mormon trilogy is stated at the beginning of this post, so look up for my assessment.
For my Moroni readers, Joey, throughout the trilogy, calls for repentance. He is relentless. He doesn’t tell you what you should repent of, save for being contentious against the high priest. The LDS system cannot tolerate dissension or questioning of their faith since they have no answers. I will tell you what you really need to repent of, and that is of your belief in the LDS church.
As a kid, we had a book of Mormon in our AC church library, and the librarian (Rosalie D) astutely had the checkout card label the author as Satan. A few people took issue with that, but I believe Rosalie had it right. Your angels of light were none other than demons from the pit of hell. Why would the devil wish to make a peaceful, loving, family friendly religion? Simple. Anything that could distract one from the true Gospel is fair play for the nether world. All of my Muslim, atheist, liberal, conservative, Commie pinko freak, or whatever-they-are friends have a much greater chance of passing through the pearly gates than you do. So, I beg of you LDS adherents: repent.

TransAm T -6 weeks

In six weeks, I begin the TransAm bicycle route, which runs from Yorktown, Virginia to Astoria, Oregon, about 2700 miles of cycling. I will be following the Adventure Cycling Association maps along the way. This post shows what equipment I will be bringing along. This post is mostly a trial to see if I could download photos from my Canon M100 camera, as well as access WordPress in order to post it all on my website. There will be many more of these as I make final preparations for this trip. Sign up on my website for notifications of whenever I post. And by the way, in case you were wondering, I love my Feathered Friends sleeping bag. You will notice that I keep much stuff in dry sacs, in part for organization, and in part for added security against rain, though I’ve yet to have rain get through those bags. There’s also a stove, as I plan on some cooking as well as morning coffee. I also use a hydration pack, as I also use it to carry my wallet, and stuff I always want on my person.
So, hopefully, this is the first of many posts. Since I am writing this on my iPad, please pardon the occasional spelling errors.

Too High and Too Steep

Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography, by David Williams ★★★★
This is a wonderful historical accounting for how Seattle was massively reshaped, making it the city that it is. Large hills were completely removed, tide flats filled in, and the shoreline extended in the early reshaping of the city. Williams starts with prehistoric times, thenoffers an early history of the city including its founding by Arthur Denny. He notes Seattle’s original geography, and then details the decisions, and oftentimes absence of decisions, that led to the restructuring of the geography. It is now hardly imaginable that the shoreline was much further in, that many of the hills of the city existed that are now flattened or completely removed, that the drop in the Lake Washington shoreline by 3-6 ft with the placement of the ship canal completely changed the nature of the communities and industries that surrounded the lake, that the filling in of the Duwamish tide flats and many other flat lands adjacent to water now seem to be a natural part of a long pre-existing landscape. Williams takes a look back at all of this earthly rearrangement, and asks whether it was necessary or prudent, and whether the good was greater than the harm. These are questions that are not easily answered but always very worthwhile asking. Unfortunately, cities often get it wrong, Seattle with its audacious remodel of planet earth, as San Francisco’s grand decision to build the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. Hindsight is a curse. Williams details how Seattle is now engaged in multiple tunnel projects, as well as rebuilding its waterfront which seems to be deteriorating, the new waterfront taking into account massive hypothetical rises in sea level. Who knows whether a future author will equally past judgement on current Seattle decisions?
There is only one detail I really didn’t like about the book. Williams writes as though he was doing a television script, which would work best for how the text stands. Though he includes a moderate number of historical photos, he also assumes that the reader is very familiar with Seattle. In order for me to grasp what he was saying, I needed to sit in front of Google maps, and search for every location described in the book. This slowed the reading down considerably. Many geographical features, like some of the hills of Seattle, simply could not be found. Maps are sorely missing in this book, which makes it a much less fascinating text. Hopefully the second edition of this book adds the missing maps.
I wish to thank Sarah B for recommending this book. My love for history and the environment fit well with this text.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther, The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, by Eric Metaxas, 480 pages ★★★★★
A recent review reported on three other histories of Martin Luther, read in light of the 500th anniversary of the nailing of the theses to the Wittemburg castle church. This book arrived after Reformation Day, and so I was delayed in getting it read. I read it as an autographed hard cover text, and not on the Kindle. The book is well written, and the reading flows quite easily. The book has a different focus than Roland Bainton’s magisterial text on Luther, Here I Stand, one of the books reviewed a month or so ago. Metaxas was wonderful in providing a more detailed physical history of Luther than Bainton. You were told which towns he traveled through, which people he befriended, the content of the conversations and debates of the time, small details that color the story of Martin Luther. One was told more about the mindset and thinking of the man Luther in Bainton’s text. The two texts stand as complementary, supplementing each other on the life of Luther, and both are worth reading in order to grasp the man Luther.

Wilderness and the American Mind

Wilderness and the American Mind 5th Edition by Roderick Frazier Nash, 412 pages ★★★★
This book will be reviewed in two parts. The first part will contain a review of the book itself but include many of my personal comments, and the second will contain my thoughts and reflections on the Wilderness philosophy.

Part 1: Book review

I read this book on my iPad Kindle app mostly while at work between seeing patients. The Kindle allowed me to make numerous notes, very few of which will be mentioned. Mr. Nash is quite readable, and I enjoyed this text. I appreciated his organization of the book from a historical perspective, and I appreciated that he honestly discussed his own bias regarding wilderness. I learned a tremendous amount from the book and so consider it of great value. I selected this book over others from Amazon based on the volume and high ranking of the reviews that this book received. My opinion concurs that the book is well written and gives a persuasive argument for the preservation of wilderness. The chapters were quite variable in their quality, and I will discuss each chapter individually.


Nash discusses the etymology of the word wilderness, and the challenge of defining exactly what it means. He speaks of the diverse use of the word wilderness and similar words across times and cultures in the recorded history of the world

Chapter 1: Old World Roots of Opinion

Briefly, Nash reviews various descriptions of wild nature, as found in the writings of ancient civilization, including Persia, Greece, Rome, Scandinavians and barbarians of Europe. The wilderness was a mysterious land, dark and dangerous, filled with evil sprites, ogres and demons, not a welcoming place. he also mentions Bible references to wilderness, though Nash fails to see that wilderness (as translated) is used in a totally different sense than we would use it today. Historical descriptions of wilderness are taken up to the end of the middle ages. Nash suggests than in opposition to western thought, many cultures did not fear or abhor wilderness, yet offers no evidence for this claim.

Chapter 2: A wilderness condition

We jump to the early 1800’s in America. Europeans are enchanted that wild lands still exist, as there remained no wild lands in Europe. Again, most descriptions of early settlers and explorers centered on the gloomy, dreary nature of what they were seeing. The ruggedness of the woods tended to tailor the descriptions, and survival and taming the wilderness were considered of utmost importance in the American mindset. The role of settlers was to subdue the wilderness and transform it into useable land. To them, it meant survival, not convenience or ideology.

Chapter 3: The Romantic Wilderness

This chapter shows an awakening of the European mind to the possibility of beauty as found in the wilderness areas. This is in part a reaction to the ugliness and stench that was familiar in the larger cities of Europe, as well as the taming of wilderness, so that, even though it remained “wild”, there was a possibility of venture into the woods while expecting a large chance of coming out alive. Thus, many Europeans formed an attraction for “primitivism”, that is, divesting oneself of many of the comforts of the city to enter into wild areas, with its novelty of danger. While most Americans were using the undeveloped regions as a form of sustenance in activities like hunting, trapping, and foresting, there became a growing fraction that would go into the woods simply to encounter something different.

Chapter 4: The American Wilderness

This chapter historically overlaps much of chapter 3, speaking of attitudes toward wilderness and wild areas in the early 1800’s. The scenery of the American landscape became a topic of conversation on both sides of the Atlantic, with literature honing in on the spectacular beauty of America. I dare say that Europeans found this particular literature quite novel, since there was really no existent wilderness lands throughout Europe, and that all forests and lands have been tamed. Authors such as James Fenimore Cooper who wrote much about attitudes toward wilderness in his novels, was highly mentioned. Paintings and descriptions of the far west including Yellowstone, and the Tetons, became an arena of much public interest.

Chapter 5: Henry David Thoreau: Philosopher

Thoreau in the mid-1800’s became the first philosopher of wilderness, declaring that “in Wildness is the preservation of the World”. Thoreau spiritualized wilderness, developing a philosophy of wilderness which suggested that there is a spiritual truth in wilderness but greater than the observed physical. This of course, led to the thinking that nature itself was a proper source of religion. Though Thoreau survived by commercializing his ideas, he railed on the spirit of commercialism as a virus of the age. Thoreau went on an insatiable quest to discover new wilderness, but he also realized the need to return to the civilized city, and discussed the need for balance between the city and the wilderness. Thoreau’s statement “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately” suggests that city living is not or cannot be deliberative? Even Nash admits that much of Thoreau was either inconsistent or trite. Thoreau sought to find a merger between the savage of the woods (the Indians) and the cultured intellectualness of civilized man. This search for a merger, as typified in his book “Walden”, suggests his zeal toward bringing both factions together. As stated by Nash “Thoreau knows wildness (the animal in us) as man’s most valuable quality but only when checked and utilized by his “higher nature”. Yet, such synthesis remains to this day competing realms of the wilderness movement, as we shall see.

Chapter 6: Preserve the Wilderness!

Toward the middle to end of the 19th century, keen observed began to note how pioneers and settlers were wholesale destruction of the land they were settling, and complaints were made. Particularly was it noted how quickly the mass herds of buffalo had disappeared. Arguments for the preservation of wild areas first emerged in the later half of the 19th century, noting that we needed to look at wild areas with more than a utilitarian motive. The devastating effects of clear cut logging were noted and need for restraint on how we treated the earth advocated. The first talk of preserving Yosemite and Yellowstone were described.

Chapter 7: Wilderness Preserved

In 1872, Ulysses Grant formed the first national park, Yellowstone by a stroke of the pen. Thus started the first time in the history of known mankind an act that preserved land in its undeveloped state. Yet, this act did NOT occur secondary to the activities of Thoreau or other Transcendentalists like Catlin, Hammond or Marsh, but simply in order to prevent private acquisition of areas in Yellowstone. The main argument for Yellowstone was not its usefulness as wilderness, but that it was land that was useless to civilization. Only later did its wilderness aspects come to bear. Slowly, arguments for preserving segments of the east, in the Appalachians and Adirondacks, came to focus. Often, the arguments for wilderness preservation had a very utilitarian focus, such as the necessity of preserving watersheds. To preserve wilderness for wilderness’s sake had not yet hit the public consciousness.

Chapter 8: John Muir: Publicizer

Nash spends much space detailing the life of John Muir, having been born in Scotland, but growing up in the Wisconsin frontier. Nash makes Muir’s development of a love for wilderness as almost a religious conversion from his native Presbyterianism. Muir ended up in California, effected heavily by transcendentalist thinking, and developed a great friendship with Emerson. Thus John Muir took up his mission in life to educate fellow man about the virtues of wilderness. Nash then describes the start of the two competing ideas for wilderness, that of John Muir and that of Gifford Pinchot. We will hear much more of those two in the next few chapters, the difference being that Muir advocated strict preservation of wilderness, which Pinchot advocated the wise use of such lands. Muir’s influence helped to develop the Yosemite act, preserving Yosemite and later much of the Sierra Nevadas from crass development. Muir was influential in the development of vast forest reserves, though the function of those reserves were left undeclared. Muir and Pinchot started as friends working for a mutual end, though Pinchot’s focus was primarily on civilization and forests, and Muir to wilderness and preservation. Sadly (in my estimation), neither side then or today seeks to find ways in which they can work mutually together! Such thinking led to irreparable rifts between the two men, culminating in the Hetch Hetchy controversy, to soon be discussed.

Chapter 9: The Wilderness Cult

Nash starts up in the early 20th century, speaking of a man who went naked for two months into the woods, in order to survive. Interest in primitive living from his published story suddenly swept up public enthusiasm. (Oddly, in order to survive, much damage to the wilderness needed to be done, including killing a bear out of season). Simultaneously, the need arose to escape the city. It was at the turn of the century that Americans began to realize that the frontier no longer existed. Movements such as the Boy Scouts to get city folk out into the woods arose. President Roosevelt toured both Yellowstone and Yosemite, stirring up public sentiment that such parks needed to exist. Many outdoor clubs, such as the Appalachian Mountain Club, Sierra Club, Mazamas, and Mountaineers were started at this time. Thus, the scene was set for Hetch Hetchy.

Chapter 10: Hetch Hetchy

Hetch Hetchy is a valley that extends up into the Yosemite wilderness, described as having steep canyon walls and immense beauty. It was included in the area of the Yosemite wilderness. Yet, developers desired to dam up the valley for hydroelectric power for San Francisco, the lake of which would have extended well into Yosemite National Park. Thus pitted the preservationists against the utilitarians, Muir vs Pinchot. Sadly, this time, the utilitarians won, and a dam was built. The story of the struggle between factions demonstrated the inability of the utilitarians to think of reasonable alternatives, while the preservationists presented statements that reflected fantasy rather than reality. In one particular statement, Muir noted that the region “be saved from all sorts of commercialism and marks of man’s works”, yet trails, shelters, roads, and other structures mark man’s work, but not to the detriment of the wilderness. He correctly noted that energy and municipal water supply could have been secured outside of “our wild mountain parks”, a definite truism that Pinchot refused to give in to. Sadly, anger reigned on both sides, and mis-representation on both sides existed. The friends of wilderness accused others as guided only by “mammon”, but certainly, economics was NOT the main driving force. Sadly, the arguments turned into ad hominem insults on both sides. Preservationists attempted to make a religion of the wild places, also clearly misjudging the motivations of the utilitarians. Clear vision seems to be lacking in California to this date. It was the Democrats who were in strongest support of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, by the way! This chapter was excellent at identifying the issues that confronted society in making decisions about preserving or utilizing our wild spaces, and lessons are to be learned to this date. While Nash fails to point out the need for clearer thinking on both sides of the issue, he details very nicely the controversies that will not go away.

Chapter 11: Aldo Leopold: Prophet

A chapter on Aldo Leopold is provided to emphasize his role in developing a public policy toward wilderness. He was employed by the United States Forest service, and worked in the SW of Arizona and New Mexico. Leopold’s main focus was on wildlife preservation, but his enthusiasm eventually cost him his job with the Forest service, later rejoining when more favorable attitudes developed in Washington. Oddly, Leopold’s definition of wilderness supports hunting and fishing, but not the development of trails. Leopold was able to see that a balance between preservationists and utilitarians must be sought. He also pointed out that recreation was not the only reason to maintain wilderness. It was Leopold that motivated others to form primeval areas, such as the development of the Appalachian Trail. Toward the end of the chapter, Nash diverts a bit to wax eloquent about the spirituality of the woods, simultaneously horrendously misquoting the Bible. But, Nash describes the development of a wilderness “ethic” that oddly removes man from the situation, that is, that wilderness is to preserved independent of all other considerations of man and beast.

Chapter 12: Decisions for Permanence

This chapter follows the Hetch Hetchy setback and death of John Muir a year later. This is the story of successes with stopping other public works projects on national parks and monuments. The Echo Park Dam proposed project introduces Robert Marshall as the hero of the moment. Yet, Nash devolves into the trite. An example in arguing for the need for more wilderness, I quote “When asked how many wilderness areas America needed, he replied, “how many Brahms symphonies do we need?””. Unfortunately, the answer is “Four!” because that’s how many Brahms wrote. His response doesn’t really provide quality thought into the question asked. Again, he stated “wilderness furnishes perhaps the best opportunity for… our esthetic rapture”. I’m sure the Donner party was engaged in esthetic rapture in their wilderness experience. Or, statements of political nonsense “A democratic society, he believed, ought to respect the preferences of those who coveted wilderness”. Hogwash! Democracy respects the will of the majority, which is why the USA is not supposed to be a democracy! Marshall asks some pointed questions, like how a society balances the need for irrigation, logging, highways with the need for wilderness. Sadly, he gives no means of answering that question. Marshall helped to found the Wilderness Society, that was actually able to do some good, in spite of the triteness of its founder. The proceedings of the Echo Park rescue continued, but with so many more inane statements expected to win an emotional but thoughtless decision. Examples again… “wild country was the place we rediscover ourselves when troubled, confused or dismayed”. (Really now?) and “no one has ever been able to place a dollar sign on wilderness values”. (So what, countless things, including human life, have no dollar signs). “We should keep some wild places to benefit the human spirit” (Oh yea? Could you really explain that?)The chapter ends in the passage of the Wilderness Act, and in the battle over building dams on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon episode was informative, showing thoughtless thinking on both sides of the argument. Again, the only plea of the conservationists was that the dam was being built for “profit”, but that wasn’t the motive at all, in that the SW needed a better water supply and power. Yet, the argument would never pass muster today, with the conservationist stating “coal-fired thermal plants or nuclear generators could supply the requisite electric power at less cost than the dams”. Conservationists came down strongly that with dams, people would no longer be able to raft the Colorado, an argument which came back on them when later when secretary of the interior James Watt insisted on motorized vehicles on the Colorado so that all people could float the Colorado. Bad arguments lead to even worse responses. Interesting, the Hualapai Indians had a financial stake in the dam venture, and were fighting strongly for one of the dams, going against arguments that the Indians were intrinsically caring to “mother earth”. So, while I thank God that the various dams discussed in this chapter were never built, I only wish that better arguments and better thinking on conservation issues would have prevailed.

Chapter 13: Toward a Philosophy of Wilderness

In this chapter, the wilderness ethic becomes a religion, quoting “Wilderness appreciation was a faith”. Nash presents the extremists on both sides, particularly focusing on those who would totally obliterate wilderness with development. Proposals such as building a restaurant on top of Half Dome (and I presume a tram to take customers up), complaints being raised that most (99%) of people cannot enjoy the distant backwoods (too lazy, old, young, timid, inexperienced, frail, hurried, or out of shape suggested),  or a tram in the Grand Canyon suggested, are all ideas proposed, and thankfully not accomplished. Emphasis remained, like Thoreau suggested, on a balance of life between civilization and wilderness. This chapter labors over the struggle for this balance. It fights for something lost over the face of the earth, in that true “wilderness” doesn’t exist any longer anywhere on earth. Everywhere has been mapped, everywhere is accessible by airplane or other means, no place is truly primitive and inaccessible. Society has abandoned the idea of morals and value, but tries to create morals and value, beauty and excellence, with the concept of wilderness. So, I see in Nash’s presentation of this chapter on wilderness philosophy as a great philosophy without legs or underpinning. Example, I quote “When man obliterates wilderness, he repudiates the evolutionary force that put him on this planet. In a deeply terrifying sense, man is on his own”. Bullshit! If man is purely a product of evolution, his actions are manifestation of evolution, including man’s destructiveness. You can’t have a argument for evolution, and yet exclude man from that argument. Such rubbish arguments continue on for pages. Conservation arguments then try to disengage wilderness from recreation. Really? Then, let’s forbid man from entering wilderness! Or, “to lose wilderness was to risk losing what was characteristically American” is total nonsense, since the entire gist of this book was that it was American to conquer wilderness, and that conservationists were attempting to stop this progression. Further arguments turn worse, such as “In the 1940s the Mormons also found freedom in wilderness”. Really? You can’t be serious, Nash! And quote from Dasmann “wilderness areas (are) reservoirs of freedom”. And “This importance of wilderness preservation transcends mere recreation. Evidence comes from the fact that rebelling guerrilla bands still head for the hills”. Again, “(wilderness is) a refuge from authoritarian government, from political oppression”. Again “we dreamed of and labored toward an escape from the anxieties of a wilderness condition only to find, when we reached the promised land of supermarkets… that we had forfeited something of great value” (seriously, most people visit the supermarket for supplies before heading out to the woods. I hope one isn’t killing deer for food in the wilderness!). Finally, lest I grow weary, “The concept of wilderness as church, as a place to find and worship God, helped launch the intellectual revolution that led to wilderness appreciation”. This is double talk, as there is no appreciation of God or belief in God, unless one’s god is wilderness. Sadly, it is such muddled thinking which explains why conservationists have had such trouble in arguing their case.

Chapter 14: Alaska

In 1980, Alaska became the focus of conservation, when Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, protecting 104 million acres of the state. Alaska was conceived by conservationists as the final American frontier, and thus the desire to avoid the mistakes made in the greater 48. Some thinkers considered Alaska too big to be spoiled by tourism. Others realized that that was precisely what was said of the American west, and feared its ultimate destruction.  Noting Alaska’s inhospitable climate, the risks for an easy destruction are much greater.  Yet, Alaskans would like to be the determiners of their own fate, and not interfered with by elites of the lower 48. Complicating matters are the role of Alaska natives, with a deal struck allowing them ownership of 44 million acres of lands, and rights for subsistence living on those lands. The eskimo, like Indians of the lower 48, had no concept of land ownership to guide their actions. Also complicating matters is that Eskimos subside on now modern technologies, such as modern rifles and snowmobiles, and no concept of preservation. The permission for subsistence living was a complete break from tradition in the lower 48, forbidding hunting and subsistence living in the lands under the jurisdiction of the forest service. Muir is described as one of the first people to bring attention to Americans as to the need to preserve wilderness in Alaska. Alaska slowly transitioned from being defined as Seward’s folly or a worthless hunk of ice, to being the object of tourism. Regarding the tourists, Muir complained that only if one visited the wilderness in his personal style would one get into the heart of wilderness (a little bit arrogant, in my opinion). Nash then rails against Jack London and Robert Service describing Alaska as an inhospitable place (it was), and differentiates many visitors stay in Alaska as “vacation”, while Muir’s brief stay was “work”, reflecting a personal elitism. Alaska was finally visited by Robert Marshall, a wealthy New York born Harvard educated kid who saved Echo Park, taking delight in his lengthy “vacation” in the wilds of the Alaskan outback. Marshall became a self-acclaimed conservationist, determined to prohibit any development north of the Yukon River. Thus, an attempt for a permanent American “frontier”. Battles began, especially when oil was discovered in northern Alaska. Preserving wilderness became self-defeating, in that hunting, fishing and tourism depended on preserving wilderness. The Sierra Club was hell-bent on preventing Alaska from any further development (though I’m sure they would have been offended if Alaska insisted on no further development in California). Compromises in wilderness designation had to be made in Alaska. Alaska resented the lower 48 states making legislation that the states would never make for themselves. Alaskans seemed bewildered that “there was a rush to lock resources up in a park that only environmentalists with their planes can get to”, and saw the hypocrisy that it was elitist millionaires like Charles Sheldon and Robert Marshall, or paid representatives of wilderness groups like John McPhee, such luxuries were not possible for the average Alaskan. The challenge in congressional debates was to preserve America’s last frontier (even though even environmentalists with their airplanes did not treat it like a real frontier). Like a broken record, again it was argued that Americans “needed places where we can learn how to live in close harmony with the earth, and Alaska was such a place (rather WEAK argument for preserving wilderness!!!!). Continuing the argument, I quote “Arizona…supplies the world with much of its copper…Alska can supply… vast and pristine wilderness” (yea sure, export a little of this wilderness to Europe, why don’t you?). I don’t mean to be critical of the environmentalists and delighted that efforts had been made to keep industry from running rampant in Alaska. I’m very disappointed that such flimsy, weak and silly arguments are made to preserve “wilderness” in Alaska.

Chapter 15: The Irony of Victory

Wilderness preservation has developed a “Catch 22”. To promote wilderness preservation, interest in wilderness had to be promoted. By promoting an interest in wilderness, the wilderness has suffered “intolerable” visitation, and because of excess visitation, diminishes its consideration of being wilderness. Thus, the topic of this chapter. How does one maintain an interest in preserving wilderness, while keeping the hoi polloi and riffraff away, whose support you desperately need? Improved access and technologies for wilderness visitation has created a glut of visitors to the wilderness. Yet, the conservationists offer major wilderness outings, for instance, the Sierra Club offers over 300 outings a year. Strong arguments are to maintain “primitive simplicity…as a guideline in managing wilderness because the areas were intended for people who seek almost absolute detachment for the evidences of civilization”. (Yet, in my opinion, such an attitude denies reality, and only compounds the problem by not instituting simple measures to protect wilderness from even worse destruction by its visitors). Marshall’s solution was for “no constructed trails or trail signs, no established campgrounds and, most importantly, the feeling on the part of the visitor of being where no one has ever been before” (sadly, it is guaranteed that others have been there before, so, get over the fantasy, and offer real protection to the wilderness). Nash offered discussion of limiting wilderness access as a solution to overcrowded. Finally, he notes that the debate over anthropocentrism versus biocentrism. (In my opinion, this is total rubbish! Virtually every argument Muir and so many conservationists give for the wilderness is anthropocentric (The mountains are calling and I must obey, Climb the mountains and get their glad tidings). Even the definition of wilderness is anthropocentric!). Nash discusses the proposal to place dams on the Colorado in Grand Canyon NP. While conservationists (against their own principles) argued against dams because people needed the experience of rafting the Colorado (you dare suggest that wilderness might also be for recreation????), others, led by Secretary of the Interior James Watt suggested that the boats MUST be allowed to be motorized, since it allowed access to the river to those incapable of doing the float trip in rowed vehicles (total nonsense, one might as well argue that all trails must allow motorized vehicles to allow equal opportunity access to the wilderness of the crippled, blind or incapacitated!). Sadly, motorized boats are (I believe) still allowed on the Colorado (and the river is a commercial zoo). Strangely, Nash keeps reiterating the mantra “by etymology and by tradition, wilderness is uncontrolled”, yet desperately wants control of its commercialization, over-utilization, and destruction by careless visitors.

Chapter 16: The International Perspective

Review of this chapter will be kept short. This chapter focuses of the lands outside of America, mostly in Africa, and mostly related to preservation of game from hunters and commercial interests. Thus, the statement “as a rule the nations that have wilderness do not want it, and those that want it do not have it. Economy drives wilderness preservation, since it allows for the commercialization of wilderness (strange thought, isn’t it????). While Nash bemoans “the chronic problem is that national sovereignty is left unchallenged”, he remains absolutely blind to the even greater dangers of international sovereignty. But, the chapter has some great discussion of international problems confronting the various nations in preserving wild lands and wild life.

Epilogue: Island Civilization

In this final chapter, Nash breaks loose at exposing what he considers to be an ideal goal. For him, mostly wild-ness, with occasional pockets of civilization exist. This is perhaps the worst chapter of the book, because Nash breaks into Fantasyland, assuming that islands of civilization can maintain the technologies that we so dearly depend on. He fails to realize that civilization used to be nothing but islands, and when that happens, there becomes a great desire to tame the woods around you, for a very good reason. Nash should have left out this chapter and the book would have been a stronger read.

Part 2: Thoughts and Reflections on the wilderness philosophy

My heart is in the wilderness. I love being in the woods, and away from civilization. I volunteer to help maintain trails into the more remote places in our state. In retirement, I long to spend a huge proportion of my time either on my bicycle or in the woods. Because there are strict laws that govern the manner in which wilderness is managed, I became quite curious as to how these laws were developed, and to how the current thinking among wilderness advocates was proceeding. Thus, my read of this book. I disagree in many ways with the thinking of Mr. Nash, and in the course of this discussion as well as my preceding book review, will point out our agreements and disagreements.

No definition of wilderness

It is strange that such an important concept as wilderness lacks a definition. Many of the definitions are somewhat meaningless. The national park service defines wilderness as  “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” But, what do they mean by “untrammeled”? Surely there are trails into the wilderness, making it “trammeled”. Does this mean that all trails should be removed from the wilderness? And “man himself is a visitor who does not remain” is an equally strange notion. I presume it means not “mankind” but “a particular person”. Remain? For how long? Are there episodes in a wilderness where no man shall be present at that time within the wilderness? If there is a shack, shelter or lodge for the temporary stay of people, does that exclude its definition of wilderness? Nash never is willing to offer a hard definition of wilderness, but will assumes a definition that adjusts itself to the topic in question. It is a fuzzy concept that cannot be defined, which is problematic, because the solutions also end up fuzzy. Thus, we see very well meaning people at total odds with each other as to how to manage our undeveloped lands.

Elitism reigns

Nash approaches the wilderness philosophy from an extreme elitist viewpoint, and finds no problem with that. I must have added footnotes complaining of “elitism” at least 50 times throughout the book. Nash probably represents the thinking of many environmentalists speaking of wilderness philosophy. To this, I take extreme objection. It reminds me of the era in British history when if one was caught hunting or loitering on the kings’ land, there was a high probability of being beheaded. Kings aren’t an issue any more, but there are sections of land that will only permit certain people, such as “scientists” (i.e., environmentalists and politicians) on the land. Nash finds no problem with that. I do not have a problem with limitations on the number of visitors to certain overused areas, but to exclude all but a small faction of people from a place is blatant elitism and arrogance, which is uncalled for. Nash is willing to admit that most wilderness policy was created by rich kids born with silver spoons in their mouths, like Marshall. Not that that is all bad, but it gives the reflection that these “elites” wish to form their own playground, not especially thinking that the playground will be desired my many more than themselves. Thus, their wilderness policies did not account for the possibility of heavy use.

Controlling the crowds

Nash is effective at pointing out a serious problem on public lands, which is that they are being overrun by people. Many of the state and national societies that promote wilderness have a schizophrenic attitude. The Sierra Club wishes less visitors to overrun wildernesses in the state, yet conducts outings to those areas. Wilderness is promoted as a wonderful place of unspeakable beauty, yet their attitude is “please don’t come visit it, because we will photograph it for you, and that’s all you get”. They work feverishly to build and maintain trails, yet in their hearts they hope that they are rarely if ever used. They need a very pro-wilderness public in order to pass laws that strengthen and expand the protection of wilderness, yet hope in their hearts of hearts that that love for wilderness doesn’t mean visitation to the wilderness. The environmentalists were hypocrites. They condemned forestation, yet lived in large wooden structures. They objected to drilling for oil, yet required their fueled vehicles to take them to the mountains to hear its glad tidings.

Wistfulness for the past

Nash mentions toward the end of the book that he longs for a definition of wilderness similar to that which early explorers experienced when first setting foot in the west. This meant that an adventure into the wilderness placed you not 10’s of miles from the nearest roads, but 100’s to 1000’s of miles from the nearest roads. Such is the dream for portions of Alaska. Nash even longs in the book epilogue that most of humanity would die out, though its major industries and technologies be preserved and freely available for the few humans remaining. This would leave vast portions of wilderness free to be enjoyed as wild. Such is a fantasy. Take away most human beings, and you lose the industry and technology to enjoy wilderness. You will have to kill animals to have clothing to wear out in the cold, and food to eat. You will have to cultivate food, and be in competition with the insect and mammalian world for that food, as well as the extreme possibility of blight, starvation or attack by animals. You must forgo the use of modern weaponry. You will have to saw down trees for housing, firewood, boats and other structures. Truly, Nash’s utopia is simply setting the clock back 2-3,000 years. He forgets that the historical tales of dangers in the woods were based on fact. There was a great fear of being attacked and eaten by wolves, bear and other animals. It is similar to areas of India and Bangladesh today, where the danger of tiger or elephant attack is so great, that there is no wistful longing that tigers and elephants could grow in number. The large animal population was one that needed control.

Meaningless aphorisms don’t help

So often, the environmental movement bases itself on totally meaningless statements, if not statements that animate the hills and forests. Here are a few examples… “climb the mountains and get their good tidings” (as though the mountains were physically speaking to you?), and similarly “the mountains are calling, and I must go” (yea, right!), “wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit” (say’s who? What do you mean by wilderness or human spirit?), “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” (as though normal existence is NOT living deliberately or facing the essentials of life?), “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” (yea, right, just tell that to a park ranger!). Enough for quotes. I quoted Muir, Abbey, Emerson, and Thoreau with often quoted statements made by them. Don’t get me wrong, all four people also muttered very nice aphorisms, but I quoted their specific comments regarding the wilderness, and not their comments about being nice people. Such quotes stir sentimental emotions about the woods, but don’t really help at coming up with policies that can protect our wild areas.


Nash portrays the wilderness movement as anti-humanity, i.e., that humans, or the large number of them, are the problem. The solution mentioned in his epilogue is that people would just go away. For Nash, they don’t go away completely. For others, they do go away completely, but then, evolution will produce a MUCH more intelligent sentient being that will preserve the environment. The arguments fail for this. For Nash and others, wishful thinking doesn’t provide a solution. War or a nuclear catastrophe might make mankind disappear, but at an unacceptable price in that all life will probably disappear.  No environmentalist is willing to lead by example and terminate themselves first. The closest to unintentional self-termination to save the environment is Charles Manson, who is not being used by the movement as a poster child.  Anti-humanity thinking is anti-productive towards forming a realistic solution for saving wild lands. Sorry, but humans are NOT just going to go away, so clearer thinking must be had. Besides, without humans, there would be no concept of wilderness, since humans are intrinsic to the definition.

Self-styled picture of the wilderness

This is the one-size-fits-all mentality, and is true of both environmentalists and “anti-environmentalists”. Nash spends some time in the book condemning the weekend woods wanderer, especially those who happen to do it by car camping, or staying in wilderness huts and chalets and doing day hikes, or using mechanized motorboats, four-wheel drive vehicles, snow mobiles, motorcycles or bicycles, airplanes, or other means to venture into “wilderness”.  I certainly agree with Nash’s style of wilderness, but would be hesitant to make it public policy. I don’t think that there is a place for motorized machinery in the wilderness, save for maintenance of that wilderness. So, I’d be more than happy to see motorized boats removed from the Grand Canyon. Mr. Watt’s argument that to exclude motorized vehicles excludes less abled folk is faulty, since most of life has its exclusions. In Mr. Watts’ thinking, we would ban movies and tv since the blind cannot enjoy them, and we would force all back country trails to be negotiable and paved to allow wheelchairs, and perhaps even stretchers up the trail. Such thinking of Mr. Watts is crazy. yet, the one size fits all mentality of Mr. Nash is equally crazy, and public policy must accommodate all types. Perhaps public policy has gone overboard at promoting and supporting the use of recreational vehicles, which are nothing but gigantic portable life support units, and really diminish any outdoor experience. Yet, there are large number of state parks that have innumerable RV slots. Car camping is a compromise option that often familiarizes people to the outdoors. If we were to conduct ourselves in a democratic fashion, we would find that while most people would want some truly wild areas preserved (which, as I’ll discuss next, really doesn’t exist anywhere on earth any longer), most would vote strongly to allow some taming of the wilderness to permit safe and somewhat convenient access.

Wilderness made wild

Contrary to the past, no matter how much we insist on keeping the wilderness wild as wild places, most wilderness ethic folk are unwilling to go the distance to actually restore the dangers of the past, and in this regard, they are hypocritical. First, getting to wilderness, one needs roads. Should these roads be destroyed? If so, one has to journey on foot (not horse! or bicycle!) Once one reaches the wilderness, the presence of man-made trails reduces the wild-ness quotient. We won’t belabor how those who walk off of the trails tend to destroy the wild and are the nemesis of park rangers, but since wildness is the sumum bonum, who cares? Our clothes shall not be high tech miracles, but fig leaves, since we don’t dare kill animals for their skins. Or, perhaps, we won’t bother wearing clothes at all? The clothing problem definitely limits the seasons for our adventures. What about equipment? Our tents, our stoves, our food all need to be totally natural. And since we operate under the LNT (leave no trace) philosophy, anything that leaves a footprint, injures a tree, or kills, harms or molests an animal is forbidden. Under these conditions, not even the Alaska backwoods is negotiable. For Nash to argue the desire to preserve wild areas equivalent to what the pioneers might have seen, he is living in fantasy land.
Dynamite would be considered antithetical to the wilderness concept, yet the blessings of dynamite are shared by many, and even in wilderness areas. Along the PCT, the Kendall Katwalk in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness was created by dynamite, and it is appreciated by visitors as a most beautiful stretch of trail. Even more stunning is the alternate stretch of the PCT along Eagle Creek in Oregon, considered by many to be a highlight of the PCT adventure, even though Tunnel Falls and much of the Eagle Creek trail required dynamite to make, as well as helicopters to install High and Low Bridge. Both spots disprove the hard-core wilderness advocates that any deformation of the land denigrates the wilderness experience, but as we see, judicious use of dynamite and other trail creation techniques might greatly enhance the entire experience. My very first backpacking experience as a teenager was up Eagle Creek, and dynamite cemented my love for wilderness and things wild. Most of the beauty of Eagle Creek would never be able to be seen except through the most extreme measures were it not for dynamite.

Renewability of natural resources?

Nash completely omits the concept of the renewability of natural lands, even after having been destroyed by man or natural phenomena. This is no excuse for careless behaviors. I woke up one morning in Portland, only to find a portion of Mt. St. Helens covering everything outside. The surface of the land around Mt. St. Helens appeared as though a nuclear bomb had hit; it was a total wasteland. The prediction was that it would take hundreds of years before we see the start of life returning to this area. In fact, it only took several years before plants and trees were again growing,  and animals surviving in the area. All predictions were wrong. Recently, I was volunteering on some trail clearing with the Washington Trails, and we were working in a portion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness which was just re-designated and added to the larger body of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Yet, we could find logging paraphernalia strewn everywhere, from heavy cables, to tackle, and other items. These items are becoming increasingly unnoticeable as wild-ness returns to the land, and traces of man (except for our excellent trails!) disappear. To some extent, there is a renewability of nature. I discover that to my dismay every time I go to work in my yard, which all too quickly becomes overgrown and wild again. I would surmise that should a dam be removed, we would quickly find that nature would restore what we had lost. To this end, I don’t give up hope. Lands can be reclaimed and restored to their original beauty. As technology finds better solutions for matters such as energy, water and food supply, we will no longer need to rely on dams and other structures.

 Back to planet earth, folk!

Unless the discussion regarding preservation of wild lands is grounded on reality, progress cannot expect to happen. Factors that must be included are as follows. 1) We must realize that a broad spectrum of people need to be accommodated, and favors not played to an elitist few.
2) We must realize that ever larger volumes of people will be seeking a visit to wilderness areas
3) With increased mobs attacking the wilderness, safety for them must be an increased item.
4) Accessibility should not be considered an evil.
5) Beauty, not wild-ness, needs to be our top priority.

Better alternatives…

Rather than pontificate over the poor thinking of others, I wish to offer my own thinking on how to approach wilderness. Please realize that I change my thinking from time to time, and so might write something much different in 10 years.

graded wilderness systems

There is a huge advantage of having a graded wilderness system. First, it would better fit the large diversity of people with a mind toward wilderness. Those that wish no human access, those that wish preservation of the current system, and those that wish better accessibility to wilderness would all have their way. Secondly, there would be less reluctance for many to allow non-designated land to be designated wilderness if there was not the stiff definition. The several lands in Utah that have been politically redefined several times in the recent past would be better served. Thirdly, lands that never would make it to wilderness designation would be designated wilderness, and allow the closer and firmer protections that are granted to wilderness lands.
Grade 0-No access by any human being to human object to this wilderness. Not only will it be off limits to the foot of man, but drones, low-flying airplanes, boats and other watercraft will be forbidden
Grade 1-Subsistence existence only. Only primitive means of subsistence will be allowed. This will only exist on lands that are already used for subsistence. No motorized machinery, guns or other modern hunting or fishing means shall be used
Grade 2-Scientific access allowed only. This grade shall have a maximum time span of 5 years, and then revert back to Grade 3 wilderness
Grade 3- Wilderness as currently defined. I would hope that most wilderness lands actually be labeled grade 4 wilderness.
Grade 4-Wilderness with the ability of caretakers to use modern means such as powered chainsaws, trimmers, etc. to provide trail care. (Do you honestly think that most people give a rip about whether a tree lying across the trail was hand sawed or chain sawed a day after the event in order to remove it from the trail? They will give a rip if a tree is NOT cleared, but the destructive paths formed to get around the fallen tree only make matters worse, not better for the wilderness experience!) The occasional use of other means such as helicopter assistance in trail maintenance or camp maintenance shall be allowed. The use of modern means for construction of bridges and other trail/camp structures will be allowed. No powered equipment will be allowed by visitors.
Grade 5-Limited commercial access wilderness. This does not include destructive mining, but may include very limited and highly supervised grazing rights. Horses may used allowed access but motorized vehicles will not be allowed.
Grade 6-Highly supervised, but with limited access by motorized vehicles. Limited roads allowed, and the building of roads would be discouraged. Some limited dwellings would be allowed for visitors. Caretakers would be allowed lengthier stays. This wilderness status would reflect that as found in National Parks, and each National Park would then be able to have various regions with differing grades of wilderness. This would also prevent grotesque shapes drawn to current wilderness boundaries to account for the presence of existing roads.

merging extremes between preservation and utility

Irrational management is too often the case. As an example, a 4 mile stretch of the PCT in the Angeles National forest has been indefinitely closed in order to try to save the mountain yellow-legged frog. I do find this challenging idea to grasp, to think that environmentalists have the hubris to think that the tread of man disturbs the sex life of a yellow-legged frog, and that closing four miles of trail will save the frog? Really now! Why not just warning signs and prohibition with camping in that area? Like, 4 miles of trail closure will save a frog? Such actions by environmentalists cause serious thinking folk to question whether anything an environmentalist suggests should be taken seriously. I truly wonder what the real goals of the environmentalists are? Why don’t they just close down the entire PCT and save all of us the pain of struggling with dealing with their overarching stupidity?

safer means of wilderness access

Nash might accuse me of taming the wild-ness of wilderness by seeking better means of making wilderness safe, yet it would also have the effect of actually protecting wilderness. Installing bridges across perilous stream and river trail crossings would protect the lands from hikers willing to remodel the land to create a temporary safe crossing, and protect the land from the innumerable accessory trails creating in seeking a river crossing. It would allow faster transit of visitors in order to diminish the total impact of each individual. Of course, this would also have to entail restriction of access for visitors.

limited access at a cost

It is reasonable to limit access to wilderness areas, including our national parks. Why National parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Mt. Rainier and others that are being visited to death do not prohibit automobiles and utilize bus shuttle systems for access is a mystery to me. Denali restricts inner access to bus service, and most do not find this to be a serious problem! This can control the swarms of visitors each day to the parks. There is a great cry that charging increased fees for access to parks and wildernesses will restrict access to the poorest is simply not true. Where there is a will there is a way, as is seen by the mass swarms of people hiking the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trail each year, with an average expense account of about $6K. If the AT or PCT permit holders charged a modest cost ($500-1000) for those permits, I’m quite sure very few people will find it unaffordable. Improved revenues will allow improved care of the trails. This could include the development and care of designated camp sites, and, at least for the PCT, water drops at important stretches of the trail. Among many thru-hikers, stealth camping is a way of life which can be quite destructive, yet few people complain that many national parks, including Mt. Rainier, demand the use of designated campsites. Such access charges would help fund bear protection systems for food, and also allow for outside toilets. Toilets? I’m sure Mr. Nash has not spent a second in cleaning up the shit and toilet paper of trail hikers, yet I’ve seen National Park rangers carrying out large bags of this stuff from careless hikers. It’s a reality, and the wildness quotient is diminished more from trudging through human waste and toilet paper than occasionally encountering an outhouse in the back woods. Mt. Rainier currently has a program that prospective climbers of the mountain need to demonstrate that they will not require rescue assistance by proving that they know what they’re doing, and showing that they have the adequate equipment to provide for personal safety. Is this asking too much for others visiting the outbacks of our wilderness system?
I am continually amazed by what people get away with in the wilderness and parks of the USA. I’ve seen numerous examples of people hiking on trails with pets off of leash when pets are strictly forbidden, garbage thrown willy-nilly, people walking off the trail on fragile vegetation, tents set up in luscious meadows precisely where it would do the most damage to the plants, wild animals being fed, wild animals being teased, and careless disregard for the fragile surroundings. Yet, most often, even if the offenders are caught, they get away with nothing but a gentle slap on the wrist. It is no wonder that people abuse our wilderness. If we really value our natural lands, then wanton acts should have at least a significant penalty or fine. The $25 fee for breaking the rules in Mt. Rainier NP is a joke. Perhaps it should be at least quadruple with forbidden access to all national parks for a period?
One major objection to structures like trails, bridges, and perhaps shelters, is that they often are constructed cheaply out of unnatural materials. Constructions should have a natural appearance to them that blends into or contributes to the scenery. Nobody seems to complaint a beautifully constructed stone bridge across a stream, or stone railings on the roads that go through national parks. Such an idea should be the norm. Shelters in wilderness should be out of stone and natural materials, and wilderness laws should not prohibit tactfully placed structures for the safety of its occasional inhabitants. There already are such structures in many wilderness lands. I am quite sure John Muir would not have  been offended by the stone shelter built atop Muir Pass, even though such a shelter goes against wilderness philosophy.


Insufficient funds have been spent research seeking to minimize the destructiveness of wilderness access. Simple things, like trail building technology hasn’t changed much over the last 30-50 years. Can we use better technologies to limit the destructiveness of heavy access? Are there better ways of crowd control that would enhance a visit to the park or wilderness for everybody? Are there better means of controlling garbage and human waste in the woods? Is the LNT admonition really working, or are there better ways of minimizing human impact in the woods? Have we optimized trail surfaces, bridge construction, water control and culvert construction, and other aspects of trail construction? I have already suggested several ways to lessen the human impact, with providing things like backwoods toilets, building bridges across dangerous streams, and enforcing designated campsites. Surely modern technologies could be used to disguise the unnaturalness of the human alteration of the environment. To resist the assistance of technology only prolongs the problem.

Personal Perspective and Random Thoughts

It was roughly 45-46 years ago when I did my first backpack trip up Eagle Creek on the Oregon side of the Columbia River gorge. The trip was a near disaster, though we survived quite nicely with the aide of a senior “guide” who grew up as a boy scout. The adventure seemed grueling at the time. We carried in excess supplies, including hatchets and saws, which we used plentifully to cut down trees, all according to the boy scout manual. We fished, catching 4 inch trout which when cooked, provided no essential nutrition to ourselves. We had no sense of nurturing the forests and streams which we were visiting. Much has changed in my thinking since then. The first admonitions came from fellow hikers from school and outdoor clubs which I belonged to. A book by Francis Schaeffer, “Pollution and the Death of Man”, was seminal at reforming my thinking regarding wilderness and all of our environment. Schaeffer presented that God created the world as a beautiful place, and we must reflect that beauty in all of our actions. So, we might cut a tree down to build a house, but we don’t cut down the tree just for fun, and when we cut the tree down, we take an interest that we are not destroying beauty, or that we are restoring that beauty by subsequent actions. The key word for me is “beauty”, rather than “wild-ness” for R. Nash. Many of Nash’s and my conclusions would result in the same actions, regardless of our difference in philosophy, but our actions would be for very different reasons. I would not have supported the dam at Hetch Hetchy since it destroys a natural beauty, and since there are alternatives of a kinder nature to our earth. Unlike those fighting the proposed dams on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, I do not oppose the dams because they destroy the ability to raft the river, but because they destroy a particularly beautiful part of creation. I don’t value “wild-ness” per se, so see no problem in taming the wilds, so long as it is done in a way that preserves a natural beauty to the situation. Thus, I would limit road building, but I would encourage trail building, since beauty is only beautiful when there is a beholder to admire it as beautiful. Trees will make noise when they fall in the woods without a listener, but beauty is a subjective phenomenon that demands a sensate subject to appreciate. I find it troublesome that the same Christians that have love magnificent art, music, and cathedrals mercilessly attack and destroy the artistry of God as we find in nature. To that end, they are totally inconsistent with their beliefs. It is no wonder that many will regard people of western faiths to be the enemies of nature. As for me, whether on my bicycle, on foot or on skis, I will persist as long as I have strength, to enjoy this big beautiful earth that God created for us. While enjoying this earth, I will give thanks to Him for giving us such a beautiful world to enjoy, and strive to care for it and to defend its preservation, to the best of my ability.