Tuesday, May 29, 2018

~ World Champion Team Packers ~

The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks team win the World Champion Team Packers at the 2018 Bishop Mule Days! 

Congratulations Nick Knutson, Woody White, Lanadawn Nusz, and Randolph Hudson!

World Champion Packers.  Photo by Cinnamon Gullery


I normally do not devote an entire post to one picture but this is worth it.  Holy cow!

Monday, May 28, 2018

~ Shadows over La Joya, New Mexico ~

This Memorial Day was spent attending the annual Bishop Mule Days; something I've done for years supporting the packers from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

But before I get to all the cowboys, cowgirls, horses, and mules, I wanted to remember and honor my uncle Valentin Moya on this Memorial Day.



World War II impacted the Moya and Griego families of La Joya dearly. 

Our mother’s youngest brother, Valentin Moya was born on July 8, 1922 in La Joya, New Mexico and died on July 18, 1943.  He joined the Army as a young man, and likely lied about his age in order to be accepted.  He was part of the 43rd Infantry Division which, in June and July 1943, was in the South Pacific area where they had just landed on Rendova and New Georgia Islands.  The objective here was to take the Munda Airfield occupied by the Japanese.  It was captured by the US Army forces after 12 continuous days of fierce fighting and fell on August 5, 1943. 

The official Army records factually tell us that  “…at about 0125, 18 July 1943, the US Navy LST-342 (Tank Landing Ship) was en-route from Guadalcanal for Rendova Island (to capture Munda Airbase) and was torpedoed without warning by the Japanese submarine RO-106.  The stern portion of the LST-342 was blown off by the torpedo explosion and sank almost immediately.  The actual location was south-east of New Georgia, Solomon Islands in position 09º03'S, 158º11'E (about 50 miles southeastwardly from Rendova).  [Your uncle] Valentin Moya and 31 other soldiers died in this attack.  There were only three (3) survivors…” 

Our mother loved Valentin deeply, and was often sad because she did not know Valentin’s final resting place.  This simple, little fact eluded her for nearly 65 years. We now know that Valentin, along with 36,285 soldiers missing in action, is honored on the “Tablets of the Missing” at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines.

Robert Griego made a video to honor our uncle Valentin Moya and dedicated it to Nancy (Moya) Griego, as her final closure to this chapter in her brother’s life.

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On this Memorial Day, there is another person I'd like to highlight - my good friend, Jim Harvey who is 82 years young today.  In the day, he was the number one packer at the annual Mule Days competitions; a real cowboy.  We rode many miles together in the backcountry of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  He taught me everything I know about horses and mules.

Jim Harvey at the Bishop Mule Days.  82 years old today

Jim Harvey and Bob Griego

Jim handles security at an important gate at the Bishop Mule Days


Here are some pictures from this years Bishop Mule Days:

These cowboys are from Tombstone, Arizona and aim to keep the peace

NPS packers

The NPS brass

My good friend, Nick Knutson - top hand of the SEKI packers

Nick Knutson getting ready for his rodeo

I think I may have ridden this horse years ago


Memorial Day draws lots of people, so the Lone Pine Campground was full, except for one spot which I grabbed.  Honestly, I prefer the wide open spaces to the hustle and bustle of a packed campground.  So with those thoughts, I gave up site #10 and headed for Horseshoe Meadow where I had camped years ago with my good friend, Scott Ruesch.   

The elevation gain is substantial and the snow on the ground persuaded me to return to lower elevations.  And that's when I spotted an isolated dirt road where my adventure began.

My bike fully loaded weighs about 1,000 pounds.  A fully loaded bike that hits sand on a narrow dirt road often loses.  Before I knew it, my bike went down at only 1-2 miles per hour.  It took all of my strength to lift it back up and then it only got worse.

You see, I tried to turn around and my rear wheel sank deep into the sand.  I had left the Lone Pine Campground because there were too many people and now I was alone.  Alone and stuck.  In moments like this, it is best to relax, take deep breaths, and to accept consequences.  Nobody to blame but me.  I was stuck, but stuck in one of the most beautiful spots on earth.

That evening I dug out as much dirt and shrubs from under my bike and set up camp, knowing that this was going to be home for tonight.

This lonely dirt road was fine until I hit sand

My rear wheel was buried up to my saddle bags.  I dug out as much dirt as possible for my big push in the morning

Stuck in the sand but what a view tonight

My million dollar view looking towards Mount Whitney

My Yamaha Road Star is a work horse ~ It has never let me down


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

~ In Pursuit of Wildness: Mount Rainier National Park ~

This article "In Pursuit of Wildness:  Mount Rainier National Park" by Robert Griego was originally published on the RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel magazine website on 09/13/2017.


Of all the fire mountains which, like beacons, once
blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest …” —John Muir
Mount Rainier is the fifth highest peak in the contiguous United States, and America’s fifth oldest national park. But for my family, we simply called this park home.
When my tour ended with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in Botswana, Africa, Mountain Rainier National Park was my next assignment. It is a national park full of rich history, a crown jewel of America, and special to my wife and me. Our daughter, Lori, was born in the nearby town of Puyallup, WA. It was a magical time and place for our family.
Today I am riding my motorcycle from Central California across Oregon and nearly the entire state of Washington. My odometer reads 124,996 miles. I hope to remember the next few miles as another milestone approaches. At a scenic rest stop along Interstate 5, Mount Shasta stands tall in the distance. Another biker pulls up and we immediately make small talk.
“Where are you going?” he asks.
“Mount Rainier National Park.”
“How many miles?”
He is taken aback by my reply: “I don’t know.”
“Those are the best rides,” he says, strapping on his helmet. He is off to a wedding in Bend, OR. His wife will fly out from Los Angeles, and they plan to ride down Highway 101 back to LA. Who knows, I might see him again. Highway 101 has a magical ring to it. My route back home is uncertain, but he plants a seed among my mindless wanderings.
Thirty-seven years ago, we were stationed at Mount Rainier National Park when Mount St. Helens erupted. We were just 23 air miles away. The sight of that explosion was intense. Today, the regrowth of the forest is equally amazing. At the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center, I ask, “How many more miles to the Johnston Ridge Observatory?” “Well, about another 25 miles,” the clerk replies, “but if you have never seen Mount St. Helens up close, it is so rewarding.” When I describe the eruption we witnessed long ago, she looks me directly in the eyes and simply says, “That was 37 years ago. I see now that you have seen it.” Our son was six and our daughter was two at the time.
I’m a bit lost as I leave Interstate 5 for Mount Rainier National Park. The country roads are draped in heavy morning fog and the fast-moving logging trucks have me on high alert. It has been decades since I’ve been on these roads and I can’t remember a thing. The cold fog slows me down considerably. As I approach Elbe, an upcoming road sign is comforting: Mount Rainier National Park is just ahead!
In 1980, we lived at Tahoma Woods where I worked at Mount Rainier National Park for two-and-a-half years. I remember it rained a lot, but when the mountain was out, it was magical. The old, traditional Nisqually Entrance welcomes me just as the fog lifts. There are massive logs spanning the highway with heavy chains that support a large sign with the words “Mt. Rainer National Park” carved deep into the wood. The canyon follows the Nisqually River past Longmire to the alpine slopes of Paradise. There is a new visitor center at Paradise and people of all ages are leisurely exploring the mountain. The large lodges are dwarfed by its immensity.
Etched on granite steps is a perfect quote by John Muir:
“… the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings.”
Tomorrow, I will decide my route back home. I’ll think more about that biker’s comment. Perhaps Highway 101 south from Washington State will be a good choice, but that is another story. It’s been about 1,500 miles since leaving my home in Three Rivers, CA, and I must stop, really stop—stop to appreciate what is before me. After all, it has been 37 years.
A moment of silence, offering thanks, and appreciation. The mountain is on display in all its beauty, all in perfect harmony. The magic is still here. Then John Muir whispers in my ear: “The mountains are calling and I must go.”


Planning a Visit
Mount Rainier, ascending to 14,411 feet above sea level, stands as an icon in the Washington landscape and is 54 miles from Seattle. An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S., spawning six major rivers. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano while ancient forest cloaks Mount Rainier’s lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park’s ecosystems. A lifetime of discovery awaits. Over 97 percent of the park is wilderness—untrammeled, free from development; a place to explore, and to find solitude and wildness.
There are three campgrounds at $20 per site: Cougar Rock (173 sites), Ohanapecosh (188 sites), and White River (112 sites). There are 10 primitive walk-in sites at Mowich Lake.
GPS devices sometimes give inaccurate directions in this area, so keep a park map handy and pay attention to signs. Some roads are inaccessible in winter.
To Do
Day hiking, Ranger-led activities, visitor centers and museums, skiing, snowshoeing, picnicking, horseback riding, camping, mountain climbing, wildflower viewing, the Longmire Historic District Walking Tour, and more.
Hours
Open 24/7/365, weather permitting. Highest visitation is in July and August.
Cost
$20 per motorcycle; $10 individual; $25 vehicle. All passes valid up to seven days for Mount Rainier National Park. Annual passes $50.
For more information or to purchase a pass, visit www.nps.gov/mora.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

~ 20th Annual Fallen Heroes Memorial Event ~

"Courageously They Died - By Inspiration They Lived" - LAFD Fallen Firefighters Memorial




Last year, I was honored to attend the Los Angeles Fire Department Annual Fallen Firefighters Memorial Ceremony.  I walked away with a deep respect for the LA Fire Department and their heroic efforts to remember those fallen firefighters.  I wrote about this event in a post called "Courageously They Died - By Inspiration They Lived."




~ LAFD Fallen Firefighters Memorial Ceremony ~

Recently, President Jack Wise of the LAFD Fire Hogs M/C asked if I could help spread the word about the upcoming 20th Annual Fallen Heroes Memorial event.  The purpose is to remember our fallen firefighters and to raise money for the Los Angeles Firemen's Relief Association, Widows, Orphans, and the Disabled Firemen's Fund, where all proceeds go directly to them.

It is important to note that this event has generated over $25,000 each of the last four years, bringing the total to over $300,000 generated for the Fallen Heroes over the last 19 years.

I just returned from an epic motorcycle adventure out to Big Bend National Park in west Texas.  On my way home, I stopped by the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial  to honor the nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew who lost their lives fighting the Yarnell Fire on June 30, 2013.  So when I got the request from Jack Wise to post their message on my blog, it was an honor.  This is such a worthy cause and I encourage my readers to attend if possible.  

And if you can't attend, take time to thank the next firefighter that you see for their service.  More details about this event are as follows: 


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DESCRIPTION

On Saturday, July 14, 2018, the LAFD Fire Hogs M/C will be sponsoring the 20th Annual Fallen Heroes Memorial Run and Fund Raiser to raise money for the Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association, Widows, Orphans, and Disabled Firemen’s Fund. Come join us at 0900 hrs as we ride from our Fire Museum (1355 N. Cahuenga Blvd) in Hollywood, up along the Coast with a couple of scenic stops, then through the canyons to our final destination of the Sage Brush Cantina (23527 Calabasas rd., Calabasas) for music/ luncheon and a raffle to benefit the Widows, Orphans, and Disabled Firemen’s Fund. All are welcome ! If ya cant make the ride meet us at the Sagebrush for the luncheon Raffle and Music! Be there at 1230 to watch the riders come in!! The fund raising events at the Sagebrush Cantina start at 1230 pm. Join us for an afternoon of FUN!! Riders and NON-Riders are ALL WELCOME! All riders and passengers must bring a copy of their signed rider release to participate, copies will be available at the registration Booth. Pre-registered orders for the ride (by July 1, 2018) to receive a Run T-shirt.
Tickets are $40 for a single rider and $70 for a rider with passenger when pre-registered. Only Tickets purchased prior to July 1, 2018, include a Run T-Shirt. Drivers must be 18 years old to participate. Riders and Passengers must sign Waivers. Non-riders and those wishing to join for the luncheon, music, and fund raising festivities at the Sagebrush Cantina (23527 Calabasas Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302) at 1230 pm, the cost is $25 pre-registration (Run shirt not included). Tickets will be slightly higher at the door.
The Anza Hotel is giving us discount room rates if you book by June 13, 2018, call the Anza at 818 222-5300 and ask for the "Firehogs Fallen Heroes July 2018" rate or if you book online at "https://www.theanzahotel.com" use in the group code "180713fire" you will get the same discounted rate. Rooms must be booked by June 13 and they only have a limited number of rooms as of now, which are going fast!!!
Rider Waiver available at registration
visit our facebook.com/Fire Hogs M/C, Website WWW.firehogs.org
FAQs
Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?
Yes. You must be 18 years old to ride a motorcycle in the event. No age limit for passengers and those traveling by car.
How can I contact the organizer with any questions?
Go to our web site Firehogs.org to contact any one of the Board members.
What's the refund policy?
You can request a refund up to seven days before the event.
Do I have to ride a motorcycle to attend?
NO! We encourage those NON motorcycle riding folks that want to attend the ceremony at the Museum in the morning to drive their cars there ( parking is limited) and then meet us at the Sagebrush Cantina for the Raffle, Lunch, and Music benefiting your Fallen Heroes. If you cant make the Ceremony in the morning, come to the Sagebrush by 1230hrs to watch the group ride in and then join in the afternoon activities. Those that are not riding in the motorcycle procession can obtain a lunch only ticket at a discount rate. ( Event shirts are not included)
Will there be Fire Hog and event merchandise available at the Sagebrush Cantina?
Yes. For those that were not able to pre-register in time to secure a Event Shirt there will be a limited number for sale at the registration in the morning and at the Sagebrush Cantina along with other great Fire Hog apparel.
Can I have the Event Shirts mailed to me if I miss the Event.
Unfortunatley no. Event shirts that have been purchased must be picked up at the event, any merchandise not picked up within 2-hours of the event ending will be sold for charity. See refund policy above. 
How Much is Donated?
With an ALL Volunteer staff, All procedes made from this event go directly to the Widows, Orphans, and Disabled Fire Fighters Fund. We are proud that this event has generated over $25,000 each of the last four years, bringing our total to over $300,000 this event has generated for our Fallen Heroes over the last 19 years.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

~ Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial ~

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe" ~ John Muir.


Robert Griego after a six mile hike up Granite Mountain


Recently, I found myself head-to-head with an awesome memorial in the state of Arizona.  I had never been there before, but I knew one day I would.

You see, this memorial is for the nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hot Shot Crew who lost their lives fighting the Yarnell Fire on June 30, 2013.


Thank you hotshots (all 20 members)

In fact, I had never been to Yarnell, Arizona but I felt comfortable with my decision to take this direction home from Big Bend National Park in West Texas.  I am poor when it comes to reading informational signs, and this time was no different.  Had I read the sign, I would have at least carried water, applied sun screen, and worn my sandals.  

Only later, after my long hike, did I read the sign that said the trail was strenuous, uphill, and 6 miles round trip.



The view of the Memorial (lower left, center) and Yarnell


The Memorial. Photo by CNN


In my cowboy boots, it was a hump.  I was determined to see the memorial regardless if it took me to the end of the earth.  

I was overwhelmed by the tribute paid to the nineteen firefighters as I walked up the mountain.  Nineteen granite boulders cradled a picture of each fallen man with a personal description of who they were.  

The sun was going down when a man descending down the trail warned me, "It's late, you'd better turn back as it is still a long way."  I thanked him, adding "I'd be fine, I intend to make the journey.  I rode out here from West Texas."  Tired, I was only 3/4 the way to the observation site that looked down on the memorial and the town of Yarnell where they met their fatal end.

I remember it was very windy.  I thought about those windy conditions as they fought that fire and later fought for their lives.  Then, the wind stopped, just like that.  The silence consumed me.  

It was late in the evening and I was here alone just as so many have done before me.  Offering a silent prayer, I added "Do you remember me from Happy Jacks?" Silence.  Then more silence.  And then, the wind picked up again as my words blew closer to them to hear.  The wind saw to it.

I have never met the Woyjeck family but I felt a personal connection to their son, Kevin who I met at Happy Jacks Cafe in Arizona on one of my motorcycle trips from New Mexico.

My letter to the Woyjeck family reads:

___________________________________________________________________

Dear Woyjeck Family.

Time moves slowly when pain is always there.  I do not pretend to understand but I am connected by a force that I do not understand.


Recently, I was on another motorcycle trip, this time out to Big Bend National Park in West Texas. 
On my way home, I decided to go by Prescott and Yarnell on my way home to Three Rivers, California.  I had never been to Yarnell before, yet, I knew one day I would be there if only in silence.
Today was the day.  Deep breath. OK, walk up that mountain.
The hike was longer than I thought.  In my cowboy boots, it was a challenge.
Honestly, I was overwhelmed with the tribute to the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots.
I had left Big Bend National Park only days before so I was a bit tired, but determined to visit this site.
For reasons that I do not fully understand, I stopped by your son’s granite rock along the 3 mile hike up the mountain.  I do remember him from my brief encounter at Happy Jacks in Arizona.
I don’t know what else to say, other than I paused by his rock, to say that I remembered. 
I’m proud to have met him and the other Granite Mountain Hotshots, doing what they loved, if only years later.
Tired, I left with a better outlook on life.
Robert Griego
May 3, 2018


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The Woyjeck family's thank you card arrived today with their personal message inside, along with two remembrances of their son Kevin.  It was an honor to receive their card and touching words and to share their story.



The Woyjeck Family