Listen up, Grand Junction! This for everyone who is just as passionate about the live music scene as I am, and especially for those who have yet to catch the incredibly talented local bands that have been bursting onto the scene and taking the Grand Valley by storm lately. There is so much music happening right here in our backyard, and you’re missing out. This past month was one of the best for me as far as bands and shows go, and I can’t pick just one in particular to do this write-up on because they all rocked my world. So I’ll just give you a rundown of a few shows that stuck out to me in hopes that you’ll be inspired to see some of these bands the next time they play and support some of our local artists and promoters. First up: Jones/Adams Duo’s energetic and boogie-inducing set at Tenacious Brothers’ Pub in early April (opening for fellow local thrashers Heavy Drags and New Orleans blues band The Bellys). Members and true music snobs Warren Jones and Trevor Adams are a match made in hipster heaven. At every show, Trevor calmly welcomes the crowd with “We’re Jones/Adams Duo, and we play songs by other people”. Then the music starts and it’s as if their audience is programmed to just start dancing and smiling in appreciation for their favorite indie songs being covered in a style that only Warren and Trevor could create. Warren’s distorted and bouncy guitar riffs whip the crowd into a flailing frenzy of full-body dancing mania while Trevor, who switches off between the small drum set and keys, sings songs ranging from a high-energy cover of MGMT’s “Kids” to ‘80’s classic “Shout” by Tears For Fears. The duo’s fan base is all about letting loose while enjoying good company and music, and they’re growing with every new gig. JAD is a must-see local band, so don’t miss their next show, you won’t be disappointed!
Since we’re on the subject of that epic night of music at the Pub, I’d be crazy to not mention another band who are thrashing their way through the local music scene. Andrew Watson is the front man for “The Heavy Drags” a funky and feisty group of guys who’s music is comparable to the effects of tequila. The minute their set starts, their fans let go of all inhibitions and behave in a manner that would probably make their parents cringe. Thrashing is required and usually inevitable at a Heavy Drags show. With songs like “Ass ‘n Titties” and the funky-mellow original “Broke-Ass Ho”, Andrew’s band gets even the most timid of music lovers wildly flailing about on the dance floor. Heavy Drags are truly some of my favorite local musicians, and they’re going to be huge. They get better with every new show, so seriously, check them out. I dare you not to have a good time. Last but certainly not least, my favorite hard-rocking, whiskey-drinking, and downright Southern rockers to the bone, Denver’s own Forth Yeer graced us with their presence for the first time since January and proceeded to melt faces and induce headbanging once again. The unveiling of two new songs, “Balls of Steel” and “Hell Yeah Back Door” especially excited me, and their cover of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” would certainly make Iron Maiden proud. These boys gave our town another taste of true no-holds-barred rock n’ roll, and they’re damn good at what they do. Their hilarious lyrics are a true representation of what they’re all about but they certainly don’t take themselves seriously. They’re just six regular dudes from Denver (one of which is originally from Chicago, if that gives you any indication of their musical capabilities), who like to play loud music and hang out with those who share their same interests. When I asked lead singer Aaron Howell to name one particular influence for his band’s music,
he proceeded to give me a rather extensive list of things that included but was not limited to; Beer, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, vans (vehicles, not shoes), bourbon, adrenaline, Gibson guitars, Led Zeppelin, green chili, and pinball machines.
That should give you an idea of what to expect from Forth Yeer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times over, if you haven’t yet been out to see these guys, I highly recommend going. I can almost smell their future success stronger than the beersoaked barroom floor after a night of Forth Yeer music mayhem. Before embarking on their summer West Coast tour, they’ll return to Grand Junction on Friday May 7th, opening for Nashville Pussy, Psychostick, and Green Jelly at the Mesa Theater. There’s quite a buzz of excitement around town about it, so don’t miss this one! Like I said at the beginning, this month was epic for me as far as shows go, and a lot of the bands I’ve seen were bands I had never heard of or listened to. That being said, I will leave you with this; For as long as I can remember, the general population of GJ will usually only go out to see bands they’ve heard on the radio, which is fine if you’re into that sort of thing, but the true talent and artistry lies within the bands you’ve never heard of. Local promoters, and venues have been doing an excellent job of bringing a variety of different acts to the area (often catching bands on tour that happen to be passing through Junction). We have them to thank for building our music scene bigger with each show. They can’t do it without our support, and that’s why I encourage even the pickiest of music snobs to check your preconceived notions and opinions at the door, let curiosity get the better of you, and shell out the $5 cover charge for bands who just might pleasantly surprise you. I’d also encourage you to look up some of the bands I’ve mentioned in these articles on Myspace. Next month, I’ll give you the lowdown on Grand Junction’s hottest new dirty blues group, “Me Catch Me Kill”, fronted by the infamous Matt Zurek. You’ll be hooked by the first
sound of Matt’s out-of-this-world vocals combined with Griff’s wailing harmonica and wild guitar solos. They’ll make your brains fall out. If you don’t know them yet, you will soon enough! Until next time, my fellow music lovers, as always, rock on!
!"#$%!&'%()%*+,+-.'+% By Lady Bud
When I arrived in Aspen for the First Annual Western Slope Cannabis Crown (April 17-18th) I expected that no one would really know what was going on, I wasn’t let down. But I still left the event highly satisfied. You really have to hand it to NugSource and Alternative Medical Solutions; they took over organizing the event just a few short weeks before it was set to take place. With what little time they had, they did a great job, and next year promises to be bigger and much more organized.
And an honorable mention goes to Banana from Nature’s Medicine, Grand Junction.
While I agreed with most of the judges choices, I didn’t think too highly of the Chocolope. It seemed a bit too earthy for me. I tend to prefer the sweeter hydro buds. My favorites strains were the G-13 and Matanuska ThunderF*$K from Green Rooster Natural Medicine, Kali Mist and God Bud from Western Wellness Center, Blue Dragon from Delilah, Grape Ape from Mahooka, and Hong Kong Events included a Miss Cannabis competition, from Native’s Choice. a hemp clothing fashion show, speakers, and While consumption was not allowed on the vendors at two hotels. The two-day event had premises, several patients found a quiet a nice turnout and I heard they had to turn corner or a comfy lawn chair to enjoy their people away from the Cannabis viewing room medicine. Purchasing a brand new pipe typibecause it was too full on the first day. The cally came pre-loaded with some delicious second day of the event seemed as if some of herb. While enjoying dinner in downtown the vendors left early and it was bare in both Aspen, my husband and I were approached hotels. The highlight for me was the Bud and by a grower and he handed us a free joint. He without further ado, here are the top five Buds noticed we were wearing our cannabis crown at the Cannabis Crown this year: wristbands and simply told us, “Remember 1 Kandy Kush from Rocky Mountain Remedies, the name Himalayan Gold”. Wow, when does that ever happen? Steamboat Springs Having a golden ticket was a definite perk; it allowed me to receive a sample of each strain 3 Matanuska ThunderF*$K from Green Rooster to take home and judge for a people’s choice award in a couple weeks. Gathering my samNatural Medicine, Fort Collins ples it felt a bit like trick or treating at the mall. 4 Chocolope from Holistic Health Care You stand around in a line that doesn’t move 5 Sages from Medical Marijuana of the Rockies, but at the end of the line you have a bag full of yummy treats. I can even hear my mom say, Frisco ‘don’t enjoy those all in one night’.
2 Grape Ape from Mahooka, Denver
Recently out and about on Main Street, you may have had the pleasure of catching a couple of kids playing guitar and violin. Aside from this good old-fashioned street performing, these talented musicians also have a full band and are really quite ambitious with their ventures. These talented folks go by the name Dem Bones, with Gabe Smith on acoustic Guitar and Vocals, Talya Dewey on Vocals, Dan Lauten playing Violin, David Rowley on Upright Bass, and Billy Pogony, playing electric guitar. I had the pleasure of running sound for the band at one of there first performances that was inside the bar rather than outside at the Rockslide. They were some of the most understanding and easy to work with musicians I have dealt with in my 2 years of helping with the music scene in GJ. Even when it started to rain and we had to pack everything up and bring it inside. There was no bellyaching, no whining, they just helped me bring everything inside, and continued to play the show as if nothing had happened at all. Their music is an interesting blend of folk and blues type instrumentation with punk lyrics, and vice versa. An interesting and unusual concoction previously unknown to the GJ music scene. The other day I had the chance to sit down with Gabe and Billy from the band at Roasted coffeehouse, and get a little bit of insight into the history and ambitions of the band. Much to my surprise, they are a lot busier that I had expected. The band hasn’t even been together for a full year, and they have already booked two out of town festivals, and with many local shows. With help from local D.I.Y music extraordinaire Lehi Cano and Jordan Lister, “Dem Bones” have started the ground work on their own local record label Panthernaut Records’.
They will be recording there debut album by the time you read this article. “We already have plenty of bands ready to work with us and make albums” says Gabe, “We are working with Heavy Drags, Dinosaur the Musical, and a friend of mine from Savannah, Georgia who goes by the name Attica Basement. We are always willing to help any other bands cut a record.” When asked about the history of the band and how it was formed, I was surprised to find that much of the band is from all over the United States. “Talya is from Wyoming, and Dan is from Illinois” Explains Gabe, “We all met at the Bad Water Flats Collective, here in GJ”. “I basically was traveling the northeast with a backpack and my guitar hopping freight trains. One day I decided maybe I should go to college,” says Gabe. The personal history of Gabe Smith kind of plays out like a Johnny Cash song to me, he has literally been everywhere. Born in Boise, and after living in San Jose California, and then Provo, Utah. He rambled across Philadelphia and much more of the northeast. Finally settling down in GJ last October, Gabe enrolled at Mesa State College. When asked on why he chose Grand Junction, he simply replied with “I saw the most potential for what I wanted to do with music in GJ” After a few more questions Billy stood and said he was going to run home, but Gabe exclaimed “But we are drinking soon…” to which Billy decided to stay and I thought it would be a good chance to get his take on things.
Billy’s past is quite similar to Gabe’s. Born in Florida and raised all along the south, in Georgia and St. Louis, he found himself fallen on hard times. “I was living in a homeless shelter in Florida.” Says Billy “My Aunt that lives up here in Fruita offered me a place to stay, and that’s how I found myself here.” Billy, who has been playing guitar since he was 13 is also a songwriter, has a side project with the same members of the band, that goes by the name “Golden Barge”. “I got the name from my friend when he was drunk.” jokes Billy, ”He wanted to start a coffee house named the Golden Barge, and suggested I start a band with the same name and become the house band.” Despite his talent for music, he isn’t one to settle on just anything when it comes to writing. When asked about his writing process, Billy responds with; “Its pretty much kicking and screaming to pull out lyrics that don’t sound retarded, it takes awhile for me to put something together that I like.” To get a taste of the bands style, you can go to their myspace at www, myspace.com/wetallnightmusic, or wander around Main Street of GJ. On any given night you have a more then good chance of catching a few members of the band playing out in front of our local bars. Spare change is always accepted, but don’t think of them as beggars. They only want an audience to enjoy their music, and possibly to spare a cigarette or two.
7th -Flat Top Reed 8th -Press Gang Design 3rd Anniversary - Steel Tigers of Death w/ Neutralboy & Heavy Drags 14th -Mad Dog & The Smokin’ J’s w/ The Rhythm Getters 15th -Boom Sonic Six W/ Knock Out & Local Guest 21st -Irony Man (Black Sabbath Tribute) w/ Would & Horizon No. 6 22nd -Hank Hall w/ The Ugly Valley Boys & The Rhythm Getters 28th -Whiskey Throttle 29th Cogswell w/ A K All-Stars
I miss when hip-hop was purely about the art of it. It has become this bastardized blend of hipster irony, and how much “skrilla” you can pack into your money clip. In light of this, I feel compelled to put the spotlight on Mos Def and Talib Kweli’s first album, “Black Star”. Long before Mos Def was making movies, he and Talib Kweli got their start in the New York City underground hip-hop scene. After being picked up by Rawkus Records, DJ HI-TEK produced their first album together in the late 90’s. Hip-hop albums usually don’t have any type of central theme, but this album seems to cover a lot of about the state of hip-hop at the time, and its decline into a genre that would eventually be taken over by wack shit like 50 Cent. The album is nothing short of pure 90’s hip-hop at its finest. Featuring 12 tracks of conscious and entertaining wordplay, this album is guaranteed to not disappoint when you are craving some raw east coast flavor. From the first track on, you are treated with a look into the world inhabited by Mos and Talib during the underground scene of New York at the time.
On “Respiration”, the lyrics take you on a trip through what life was like for the two MC’s while growing up in New York. They address social issues in ¬“Children Story”, a play off of a Slick Rick song by the same name. The lyrics are re-written to tell a story of a young gangster rapper sampling older songs and making tracks to fuel the feud between east and west coast. After the success of this album, Mos and Kweli decided to give back to the community by buying Brooklyn’s oldest African American bookstore, which was having financial issues at the time. They turned it into “The Nkiru Center For Education and Culture”, a non-profit organization to help improve the education of the youth in New York, and promote cultural diversity. Even though I didn’t have the album until well into high school, it has everything that made me love hip-hop back in my younger days. It has conscious and thoughtful lyrics, great beats, and some great guest appearances, like Chicago’s own Common, who is featured on “Respiration’. Without a doubt, if you are a fan of Hip-Hop, this is a must for your music collection.
The air is crisp and cool but not cold. It is not yet March so the chill still has a slight hold on the Valley. The tattoo and piercing guys from Apex wear caps over their shaved heads. Does the metal in their skulls make the cold weather harder to cope with? They stand close, huddled together for warmth. Maybe it is because they are both bone thin and they cannot produce enough heat individually. The smell of their neighbors business catches my olfactory glands. A scalding cinnamon, chocolate latte tickles my tongue; in my rush to consume the delicious froth I feel, but do not taste it. The sunshine on the back of my neck feels alien in the cold oppression of this Colorado winter. Yet it feels surprisingly fresh as I walk along the frozen cement; like the first scissor cut into a new piece of construction paper. I briefly consider walking down the steps to The Winery but quickly decide against, opting for another time. The plaza to my right, Sentinel Square, has quaintness to it, with a few benches haphazardly placed amongst cement planters that contain nothing but desolate winter browns. They are frigid and dead with season and choking overgrowth. Like the cold slowly killed their will to fight. The people standing in the plaza are leaned into each other with bowed heads. Engaged in intimate conversations trying to not let their docile tones disturb the quiet of their sanctuary.
My desire to survey the courtyard trumps the sense of urgency burning at my heels. The sign for 634 Main St. looks as if it is waiting for someone to come finish it. Only four of the seven nameplates are filled. #3 The Yorkie Ranch, #7 Mind Connections, #1 Dance Junction, #2 Johnson Carter Architects. Written in Cheerleaders handwriting is a Pepto-Bismol pink sign hanging directly above me, “Pretty Things” does not appear on the nameplates below. I do not look for the store itself, the bubble gum sign assaults my sense of well being. The store is not part of my procrastinators guide to the galaxy. Trepidation towards everything in general is not well accompanied by all the red, pink and white hearts that are mixed with the sprinkling of “I love you” pillows and candies. My curiosity is sparked by #3 though, I long to have the money and time to wander, and explore aimlessly. My hands are no longer capable of movement, frozen and numb from the cold of holding my notebook and pencil are no longer capable of movement. I wish I would have worn my gloves. Don’t you have to know where you are going before you get there? It is discerning when I think of it in that light. Unknowing only leads to chaos, no matter how controlled that chaos is. Perhaps that is the way of learning the lesson; because isn’t there always a lesson? A lesson, a reason, a season; insert cliché here. Now though is the time to focus on the task at hand.
A strange bronze sculpture of a male torso, from a San Luis artist, is set next to a building. Being smaller than many of the sculptures in the area it nearly escapes my view. There is one further on my walk that looks completely out of place in the winter. Covered in ice and snow the fountain will not flow for another two months. It almost adds to the bleakness of the day. The girl and boy with their puppy will not be drinking from the spout of the hose nor running through its refreshing streams. They are anxious for warm weather and continued sunshine. The tables outside the Main St. Café yearn for warmth and for patio umbrellas to shake off the dreary icicles and frost. I pause to jot a note but cannot finish this thought before the light changes. I continue to write as I pass through the cross walk, listening to roar of traffic. With every shop window I pass, the desire to liquidate my funds grows. I anxiously gaze through the shops with thoughts of plundering little stores like “The Plaid Rabbit”. The backless olive colored stool in the storefront entices me with its cool mint and avocado satin cushion. Beautiful women sit on stools like this, in front of big mirrors that only seem to enhance their classic beauty. Isn’t that how it goes? If I had a solid wood vanity and that stool brushed with an olive stain, would I be beautiful like those women? Pointless questions with insignificant answers, another trip down Main Street. I stop here though; this is where I will end my journey today. Perhaps I knew where I was going after all, nowhere.
Ah, the challenges and atrocities of being a young person in the adult industry these days can be of somewhat interesting conversation. I am not talking about the hot and heavy adult acting‚ … I mean the bottom of the totem pole, porn to the people, porn store clerk. And these are my stories. This poor guy was probably One chilly morning in October a Back up front the time continued few years back I had gotten up and gone to work just like every other day before that. I came in unloaded my crap and began business as usual. Checking customers out and making change in my most bored, “autopilot” fashion. The day just seemed to drag out as if it would never end, nothing exciting had happened all day. No shipments received, no over sized crossdressers, not even a god damned phone call. We had all our normal, every day Regulars keeping all the bill-acceptors in the back happy, who would casually come up front, do a short lap around the store and head back for more. On one of these laps I was approached by one of our Regs, he had told me that we had a camper in number eight. A camper is someone who is occupying a room without putting money in the viewing booth. So without any hesitation I got up and proceeded to make my way down the short hall to room number eight, as I got to the door I noticed that it was slightly open but not enough to see anything. I knocked on the door and listened. I heard the grumble of a beastly kind and tried to decipher what was just said to me. I was able to understand only so much of what sounded to be a cross between a priest speaking in tongues and Chewbacca. I think he had just told me “ok, ok, I’m getting on it” which to me meant he would deposit more cash. I waited a few seconds more and saw the green light go on just above the room door. With a single knock I said, “thank you”.
to barely push forward, I sat back down and read my book, and every thirty pages or so looked up at the clock and noticed only five minutes had gone by. I was about to lose my fucking mind, when suddenly the same Reg who warned me about the camper the first time came back up to the counter. What now, did someone shit in a booth? It always seemed that the same customers were always complaining. When I made eye contact and began to get up he pulled out his wallet and asked for change. Ok, that‚ will only take me five seconds and then I can go back to pulling my hair out! Immediately after he had gone back down the dark hole for a hallway, another familiar face from the abyss showed up to grace my bored ass with their presence. This time it was the camper complaint again same booth same guy. I was a little anxious to get back there as to maybe there may be something, anything to better waste my time. On the door I noticed the cheesy number eight sticker was peeling away, I knocked twice real loud and this time nothing. No movement, no gibberish just nothing. I noticed that the door was still unlatched because it bounced back as I repeatedly pounded my fist against it. Finally after what felt like fifteen minutes but had probably only been two, I consulted the Reg who had made the latest complaint, whether or not I should just open the door, and drag this slug out of the store. With my new found back up I approached the door and pulled it open. I couldn’t, believe my eyes, I was in shock, and it was absolutely the saddest sight I could have ever imagined
homeless, drunk as a college girl, and completely passed out to the world. He had one hand around a pint of vodka and the other tightly grasping his almost unidentifiable male genitalia. My Reg and I just over flowed with laughter, I hadn’t‚ had a belly laugh like that in a long time.
After I recovered from my laughing spell I used my foot to kick him gently in the leg in an attempt to wake him up, but this guy was gone. There was no way I was even gonna entertain the idea of me and this customer dragging him to the curb with his sorry manhood exposed and his pride long gone. I made a few more attempts with the gentle kicking method and failed. What else could I do? So I went back up front, played back the entire scene in my head again while having another laughing fit, and then I pulled myself together. I decided this kind of dirty work should be saved for the lucky men in blue! So I called the local PD and made a complaint, I told the dispatcher word for word what I had just described above, after she had a good laugh herself she took down the info and sent someone to the scene. Shortly after I hung up the phone, the pigs were at the back door. I showed them where my problem was. The two officers grabbed the hobo, one on each arm and escorted the sad fellow out the back door and probably threw his wasted ass in the drunk tank. There ya have it, problem solved. All I kept thinking about was getting home and telling everyone how my bored as shit day had gone from slow motion to full-fledge comedy. I finally posted
back up in my usual corner behind the counter to resume the rest of my shift. Next thing I knew my relief was walking through the door and my shift was over. Time had finally caught up, so I clocked out and bailed. Just when I thought I was having a bad day, someone who was obviously having a worse one than I was came into my life and turned it around for me.
To mine. K.K
To me, good bluegrass is always complimented with beer that matches the quality. This month I found both of those in basically the same town in Colorado. From the Rocky Mountains of Colorado I give you Avery Brewing’s 14’er E.S.B, along with Yonder Mountain String Band’s “Elevation”. Yonder Mountain got its start in Nederland’s, Colorado, just a spit away from Boulder where Avery is based. The beer is obviously named after the fifty-four 14’000+ peaks in the mountainous regions surrounding the area, and is about as beautiful in taste as the terrain is in sight. Despite the beer being classified as an E.S.B. (extra special bitter), it has a very mellow, yet still hoppy taste. Brewed with fresh spring water straight from the mountains its named after, with quality malted barley, hops and yeast, the beer leaves a potent but manageable taste on your palette 14’r E.S.B. has one of the smoothest and most enjoyable aftertastes I have ever come across. The album, as I said before is on par with the beer in enjoyment. “Elevation” just as the beer, is named after the area in which it was written and recorded. The band released this album under Frog Pad Records, the label the band founded. This album features the original and still to this day current line up of Ben Kaufmann on Bass and vocals, Dave Johnston on Banjo, Adam Aijala on guitar and Jeff Austin on Mandolin and vocals. Sticking true to the bluegrass sound with barn-burning, beer guzzling anthems like “If There’s Still Rambling in the Rambler”, the band also shows their melodic side with the songs
“Half Moon Rising” and “This Lonesome Heart”. They tap the story telling side of the genre with the song “Bolton Stretch”, a song about a man who robs liquor stores and evades the police. As well as “On The Run” a song about a man who sleeps with the sheriff’s wife, and has to run for his life from the sheriff and his posse. The beer consumed while listening to the album is a whole other experience, which as usual, I highly suggest the duo if you have an open mind for music and beer. The hoppy bitterness of 14’r E.S.B. along with the hard thumping bluegrass of YMSB will make a perfect evening of front porch lounging these next few summer months. The only thing that could make it better, is if it was live. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to pay Yonder to entertain me, but at least I can afford the beer and the album, and I’m sure you can too.
In last month’s issue we left off at a stressful point in my father’s and I’s journey through Peru. My dad had become extremely ill and it was uncertain whether or not he would be able to continue the rest of the trip… I’m happy to report that with the right medication, care, and plenty of rest, dad was able to spend the night at 14,000 feet and have breakfast with me and the rest of the group that next morning. Then we all made the trek down to lower elevation and into the next valley on a gorgeous bluebird day. Probably the best part about the area where we camped was the glacier lake down below us.
It was absolutely pristine, the most beautiful blue water I’ve ever laid eyes on (compared even to the waters of the Caribbean) and calm as the crisp air on that early July morning. We made the steep hike down to the lake and spent some time admiring it as well as the waterfall that fell behind it. Our main guide, Jeff, and a couple of girls I had become close with on the journey began joking about skinnydipping in the lake. “No way! I bet that water is SO cold!” we all exclaimed. It suddenly became clear that this was no joke when Jeff stripped down and dove into the once calm and clear water. Our jaws dropped in shock, and soon enough, Abby, Katy, and I were about to follow Jeff’s example.
“When will there ever be another time in our lives when we’ll get to jump naked into a glacier lake at 14,000 feet in another country?!” That was reason enough for the three of us to strip down and throw our bare bodies into the FREEZING cold water. I could have sworn I felt my heart stop for a split second upon impact, but it was quite possibly the most exhilarating feeling I’d ever experienced. As soon as we jumped in we quickly hopped out, got dressed, and took on the rest of that day as if we had just conquered the world. I will never forget that moment for as long as I live! The rest of that day made for the easiest hiking we had done yet, mostly all downhill, next to a beautiful river, and through a strange high-altitude jungle area with the most exotic plants I’ve ever seen.
That night we camped in a flat, grassy area where there was plenty of space for the crew’s horses to roam. Despite some heavy rain showers, we had a bonfire and an overall relaxing and fun-filled evening. Not to mention quite an incredible view of Mount Veronica, a majestic 17,000 ft. peak on which no one has successfully reached the summit – yet. The morning of the next day was another early one of course, but another easier day of hiking. It was a beautiful cool Sunday and the group was in particularly good spirits because this would be our last night of sleeping in tents, and a few other much needed amenities would be available to us for the first time in almost seven days. We hiked all day to the place where we would eat and lay our heads to rest that night.
It was comparable to an American campground, but instead of cabins there were huts made to put tents under, and, the most exciting thing of all; TOILETS! As I’m writing this article I’m looking through my journal entries from this trip, and laughing at how excited I was at the mere sight of a toilet after a week in the mountains. One particular entry went like this: “First of all let me point out that this is our LAST night of sleeping in tents!! This campsite rules! Allow me to elaborate on why this is so awesome: -SHOWERS!
-Eucalyptus sauna!!!!!! Which I’m about to go in. Oh my god. -Electricity!! Charging iPod and camera batteries!!” I guess the saying is true: you never know how to appreciate the little things we take for granted in life until you go seven days through the mountains in a foreign country without them. After taking the longest hot shower that the small water supply would allow me, and relaxing in a wooden sauna with 360-degree mountain views, my friends and I crawled into our tents and prepared for a VERY early morning. Monday, July 13th, 2009. 4:30am, the final leg of our long journey. The day we would finally get to the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu, but not without encountering a few obstacles and sketchy characters first. Our group groggily awoke and quickly gathered our belongings, loaded up the horses, and began our hike on an extremely narrow trail on the side of a mountain with a raging river directly below us, using headlamps as our only source of light. Once we reached the end of the trail there was a very long, very high, and VERY shaky bridge above the raging river, which we had to cross in order to meet the train that would take us to Machu Picchu.
The only way I can describe this next part is by comparing it to something out of an Indiana Jones movie, seriously. Once across the bridge, a locked gate on the other end suddenly stopped us, leaving us stranded above the raging river. As our guides Julio and Jeff tried to find a way through, the figure of a crippled old man emerged from the shadows behind the gate, and Jeff spoke to him in Spanish. “Where are you from?” asked the man. Jeff told him we were Americans. The man asked, “No, where did you come from?” And Jeff basically told the man to F**k off and let us through. Long story short, we passed through the gatekeeper, caught our train promptly at 6:00am and headed to Machu Picchu! Arriving there was slightly overwhelming, as there were crowds of tourists and quite a long line to get into the actual ruins, but finally seeing the ancient city was magical. It looks just like all the postcards you see, it’s truly breathtaking. Before getting a tour of the ruins, we decided to hike to the top of Mount Machu Picchu, which rises to almost 10,000 feet in altitude and looks over the entire ancient city. The hike up was brutal – about two hours of rock stairs and switchbacks. Imagine doing a Stairmaster machine continuously for two
hours, that’s exactly what it was like. How-
ever, the view from the top was more than worth the treacherous hike up. Looking down, the city of Machu Picchu was smaller than a pebble. The small flat
summit where we all sat down to eat lunch had a giant Inca flag blowing in the cool wind
Our shaman from the mountains accompanied us and gave us another beautiful healing ceremony and this time we were told to throw a “worry rock” off the top of the mountain. It was incredibly spiritual and altogether a magical afternoon. Soon after, we headed back down (I can almost still feel the shakiness of my legs from the steep hike down) and took a tour of all the ruins of Machu Picchu. It was very educational and interesting but to be honest we were all so exhausted that it was hard to concentrate on anything the guides were telling us. All in all, however, Machu Picchu might just be the most beautiful and mysterious place I’ve ever seen. On our last real night of the adventure we stayed in Cusco. We had dinner with Julio (our Peruvian guide) and his family at their home in the city. Before that, though, Jeff and I had plans to get tattoos. It was a wonderful bonding experience, having my guide accompany me while I got my first tattoo – the Incan star, on my inner wrist. Afterward we rushed to Julio’s house where we ate amazing food, and were treated to traditional live music, with drums and other primitive instruments. The band led us on a march through the streets of downtown Cusco. Music, my new friends in the group, and our mini-parade made that night, honest to God, the BEST night of my young life to date. In America, we could never get away with a midnight musical parade, stopping traffic on busy streets. My journey through Peru was probably the most amazing adventure I’ll ever get to take, and sharing it with my father made it that much more special. It opened my eyes to a different way of life, and certainly allowed me to appreciate the tiniest things that I normally take for granted. I still keep in touch with some of the friends I made in our trekking group and will never forget how much I enjoyed sharing that journey with them. If this sounds like something you have the guts
to do, check out Jeff Evans’ website www.mountainvision.com for details on this and other guided expeditions he offers all over the world. Until next time, happy trails!