"Let us go into the mountains and be happy." – Serge 

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Published on August 10, 2013 by

About 3 years ago something inside craved more connection with food, with the the forest and with the world.  I read up on mushrooms, imploring my senses, I ate mushrooms that I judged safe. A couple of guide books helped too!

edible neolentinus ponderosus, north rim of grand canyon

edible neolentinus ponderosus, north rim of grand canyon

Now during the summer rains, I lay awake at night dreaming of the mushroom hunt, and the wonderful aromas and flavors that dance in the mountain air.

Mushrooms may sometimes be difficult to identify, but they do not run or fight!  I wanted meat. So how to get my meat? For me it was obvious – I was raised around guns and taught how to use them. However I was never taught the ways of a hunter. As a kid I shot birds, squirrels, cicadas and plastic army men for fun – for “sport”.  It would seem that killing and taking of another life is a vibration, a frequency that humans are quite tuned into.  It was something I needed to explore.

By the time I was in my mid 20’s, I rarely shot a gun and did not own one again until my (step) father died, and I inherited a couple of guns.

Shooting a gun is easy and fun, but understanding the Arizona hunting regulations and the big game permit draw may be only slightly easier than obtaining a degree in accounting. I applied for the draw, then during the spring of 2012 I received a bull tag for unit 7E – an area that includes the San Francisco Peaks, an area I have become familiar with during mountain-bike and split-board adventures.

If I had my dream, I would be living in a group of about fifty people and using draft horses and growing all our food. I want to live in a community where neighbors are constantly interacting around food.
-S. Brian Willson

With six months until the December Hunt listed on my permit, I contrarily stopped eating meat on the 2012 summer solstice.  I vowed to only eat meat I killed.  I became a “vegiTerrible”.

braised squirrel aurora

braised squirrel aurora

Mount Elden grey-squirrels are little zen monkeys, sitting for hours swaying on the tip-tops of trees.  I’ve only killed one and I’ll be very hungry before I kill another. That said, the above squirrel tasted like a lean flying pig. Delicious!

Fish Sandwich

rainbow trout of tapeats creek

In November, a 13 mile hike in the Grand Canyon got me down to Tapeats Creek. I was the happiest vegiTerrible in the world, eating fresh fish sandwiches!

By November I did a little scouting, research and target practice.  Some hunters would scoff at the idea of me heading into the mountains hunting Elk with a Texas deer rifle, but my father’s old lever action 30-30 Marlin was the strongest gun I owned.

My investigations revealed that 30-30’s do take down Elk from “short” distances, and newer ammunition helps.  I was also confident in my abilities as a marksman.

waiting in a cold blind

waiting in a cold blind

The first few days of my early December 2012 Elk hunt were spent near O’Leary Peak waiting and watching.   Thanks to the handy work of my friend John, we had a couple of blinds near fresh Elk tracks.   But mostly we saw other hunters, and by the third morning I was tired of the cold and desired a change.  I broke camp and went home for a long night of rest.

views from o'leary peak

views from o’leary peak

Refreshed, and loaded with 3 more days of supplies, I drove up to Lockett Meadow where there was melting snow and green grass. There I met Jake, a younger more experienced hunter who gave me some solid advice.  

I felt great and packed my mountain-bike with enough gear to stay the night, but figured I would ride back down to the truck for a warmer night of sleep. Hard-packed snow made the start difficult but ride-able. Higher above Lockett Meadow on good dirt, I stepped into a familiar cycling groove. The warm sunshine, and steep climb was exhilarating.

Elk are often nocturnal, feeding at night and bedding down during the day. My strategy was to find a spot where they might exit early from their mountain slumber into a meadow full of green grass. With eyes peeled, I found a main braided elk trail that exited from steep, thick mixed-tree forests into a ponderosa pine meadow. And just above the trail I worked with a patch of snags and fallen dead trees. In short time, I had a great hunting-blind in the middle of an elk trail system. As the sun lowered, I slipped my legs into a sleeping bag, layered my upper body in camouflage clothes, and found an absolutely comfortable position leaning against a dead tree, legs stretched out and tailbone snug to the Earth. Within about a 30 minutes I found myself in a most accepting and happy place. Peace. Awareness.

…be present with what is, and feel it feeling you: the state of mutual awareness.
-Philip Shepherd

Time stood still and the waves of protons reflected and refracted into my existence as the sun sunk near the horizon. Tingling sensations stood my hairs on end as my body turned its head with a peaceful precision that I almost did not recognize. There, here, was a bull elk not more than sixty feet away. My heart beat. Loud. The grazing elk snapped his head up to meet my eyes. Louder beat my heart. I closed my eyes, fearing I might be recognized. He did not seem to understand what he saw – closed eyes behind eye-glasses on a camouflaged head sticking up from behind a downed tree. I could feel the magnificent creature silently move. I opened my eyes to see him disappear from view. He was within fifty feet, but now a large snag and boulder separated us. In one smooth motion I grabbed the the 30-30, cocked the lever and leveled the gun where I thought the Elk may reemerge back into view. After a year long minute, he came back into view about 50 yards away and on the move. I grabbed a calling diaphragm and gave out a poorly executed baby-elk cry. The bull jumped and stopped. I gave a better call and he seemed to relax, tilting his head with curiosity. The bull, about 50 yards away, broadside and head turned, stared directly at me. He did not seem to understand what he saw – a bunch of dead sticks and limbs containing the business end of a 30-30 with iron sights leveled at his heart.

The heart’s electrical field is almost 60 times greater in amplitude than that of the brain and is more than 5000 times greater in strength than the brain’s electrical field
– McCraty, Tiller, & Atkinson, 1996

I lost myself in the infinite possibility of the moment…


The bull jumped and bolted out of sight into the meadow. Doubt and fear crept in. Did I mess, or worse, wound him? Panic. I waited then slowly crawled towards the elk. I did not see him. Panic. Then I found him.

struggle, magnificence, mystery

struggle, magnificence, mystery

A phone call and less than an hour later, John was there to help me quarter out the meat. I ate fresh rare meat and drank heart blood.

Want to take a trip down a worm hole? Then isolate yourself for a few days in a cold, below ground garage and butcher a large animal that ya killed. Holy Mother, of god.

The following month I found a meat grinder on Craig’s List. When I went to purchase the grinder, Jake the younger hunter that I met in Lockett Meadow answered the door. Small. World.

Do you think that I do not love you
If I scream while I die.
Antler and thin black hoof
smashed against dark rock—
the struggle is the ritual
shining teeth tangled in
sinew and flesh.

You see, I will go with you.
Because you call softly
because you are my brother and my sister
Because the mountain is our mother.
I will go with you
because you love me
while I die.
– Leslie Marmon Silko

Hunt Photos

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Published on June 23, 2013 by

Congratulations to Dara Marks Marino, upon her win at the 2013 Xterra race in ShowLow, AZ – her first xterra race in over 5 years.
Learn more about coach Dara at TheMindfulathlete.net.

Dara winning the 2007 xterra in ShowLow, AZ

Dara winning the 2007 xterra in ShowLow, AZ

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another fine Arizona winter

Published on March 29, 2013 by

You will find nothing here that is really important for humanity or planet earth.
On second thought it’s all important….
Here are some shots from last winter in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness of Northern Arizona.

early January 2013 tour

middle January and very cold temperatures

early March

middle March

And my favorite shot of the season – JE about to enter the narrow Sqeeker Chutes as I snap a picture from a narrow ledge, above on a rock pinnacle.
JE in the Sqeeker Chutes

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Captain Pistachio and the Daft Master

Published on July 11, 2012 by

This story contains real entities, however the humans and bicycles are imaginary. 

Captain Pistachio and the Daft Master heard a rumor that waterline road of the San Francisco Peaks had been destroyed by the Shultz Fire and subsequent floods of 2010. After playing a few hours of Finnish party poker, the pair pedaled their mountain-bikes up into the Kachina Peaks Wilderness of Northern Arizona.

The moonlight guided their way over 10,800 ft. Fremont Saddle (between Doyle and Fremont Peaks), then down the IB trail into the inner basin. Silver mushrooms of the White Pine Forest glistened from their lights. They made it to the 10 mile stretch of waterline road; this dirt-road descent usually takes 30 minutes to ride. That night it took 3.5 hours. Their progress was impeded by flood debris, boulders, ruts, flood deposited gravel piles, thick hay (erosion mitigation), and a skunk. No one was sprayed.
waterline road damage
In the Eastern canyon between Doyle Peaks and the baby peaks, flood waters had carved 20+ foot canyon walls and obliterated the road. To continue required delicate, 2-person bicycle portage up and down steep, loose and rocky slopes. Around 2:30am it began to rain in the huge and dangerous flash-flood zone. They could only laugh because it seemed all too stupid and funny.

The rain never got worse than a light sprinkle, and by 4am they made it out of the burn area.
waterline road
Currently waterline road is getting rebuilt by the city of Flagstaff, AZ and the USFS.

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Arizona, April 2012

Published on April 17, 2012 by

The girls and I took a trip down to Phoenix for the annual Marks Clan Seder. It was another fine dinner – this time with Jane’s savory beef brisket. Before dinner, McKenna Jane played with Grandma Jane, giving Dara and I the opportunity for a single-track ride together. The weather was crisp and the trails surprisingly empty for a Saturday – everyone must have been catching the AZT300 on ESPN. 😉

Dara, Phoenix Mountains.

With only clouds and no rain experienced on our ride, I was surprised to find the SNOTEL weather station, near home in Flagstaff, reporting 15″ of new snow at 9,700 ft. I began scheming a Sunday/Monday trip into the mountains. By Sunday afternoon we were back home and I was packing my ski gear. The only one interested in a night trip into the mountains was 9 year-old Sazi dog.

Sazi near Reese Tanks.

McKenna really wanted to come, but I told her that she needed to develop her ski skills. “I have an idea”, she said “maybe you can carry me!” With laughter I told her just how fun it would be to go winter camping but that time was not now. She seemed fine with that.
Sazi and I started hiking around sunset. The views and stoke were red-lined.

Left to right: Reese Peak, Bear Jaw Canyon, Abineau Peak, Reese Canyon, Abineau canyon (big avalanche chutes) and Humphreys Peak (highest point in AZ at 12,635) hidden in clouds.

Painted desert and Little Colorado River drainage that feeds into Grand Canyon

Sazi doing his stoked snow-roll-dance next to splitboard and pack.

We hiked for about an hour before there was enough snow to start skinning (uphill skiing) with my splitboard. Temps were around 25 degees F., and we felt quite good. We also “felt the spirits” of the Kachina Peaks, standing our hair on end.


Our goal for the evening was a place I call the tree-cave (aka – the Hanta Hotel). I choose a new route and became disoriented, finding myself near Abineau Canyon, rather than Reese Canyon. From there it was either steep country up or a long traverse back to the mellow route. I chose up and when we got into steep icy slopes, the choice revealed itself as unwise. I became tired, lost my focus and slipped several times.
By 12:30am we made it to the tree-cave. I’ve done this tour in 3.5 hours, tonight it took 6. Alfredo and leftover brisket dinner.
Up and skinning by 7:30.

The storm from ~24 hours ago left beautiful powder that faceted overnight.

Electricity was created by combining gorgeous views, calm air, warm sunshine, chocolate, and the anticipation of snowboarding powder.

Doyle Peak, 11,460 ft. Fremont Peak, 11,969 ft

Abineau Canyon chutes.

From the top of Abineau Peak (11,838), we eased into Bear Jaw Canyon, while keeping my brain on snow-stability. It was a go and for about 1,000 vertical feet and 30 seconds I became a powder spraying superhero riding a snowboard rocket-ship through the universe.

Batten down the hatches – powder spray ahead!

Snowboard and Sazi tracks.

They say every superhero has a weakness – mine became a thick crust over powder in the 10,500-10,000 foot range. From 10,000 to 9,000 the snow became soft again from warm air/sunshine. Below 9,000 there was not much snow and we began the long hike/traverse out of Bear Jaw Canyon back to Reese Canyon and our truck.

Reese Tank. Old Reese homestead foundation?

Elevation: 4000+ vertical climb
Distance covered: ~12 miles. Sazi dog likely covered closer to 20+.
Time: 19 hours April 15/16, 2012 – 6:30pm to 1:30pm (4 hours of sleep at the tree-cave)
Time spent as superhero: 30 seconds

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