Sunday, June 6, 2021

~ Call me Jim ~

"If the very old will remember, the very young will listen." - Chief Dan George

In the day, Jim was the top cowboy/packer at the Bishop Mule Days.

He's a cowboy for sure. His hat, honest words, smile, and a horse called Tops were all I needed to know about him.  For the longest time, I thought his first name was Harvey. Everybody called him Harvey, and so did I for years.

One day, a bit embarrassed, I asked: "Harvey, what's your last name." "Well, that is my last name, my first name is Jim," he replied. That was nearly 30 years ago.

Jim Harvey - 50th Bishop Mule Days - 2021.

Today, I'm at the 50th Bishop Mule Days in 2021. He's easy to spot. These days, he's not on a horse but at his security post. He's behind the scenes, yet, knows all the events that are occurring. Most people who pass his station stop to say hello and pay respects. A few old-timers linger longer.

I sit next to Jim and we share stories of earlier days in the Sierra. He proudly tells me: "This is my 50th Bishop Mule Days. Yesterday was my 85th birthday, born May 28, 1936." When I do the math, he was about 35 years old when he first competed at these events. Old-timers say that he was one of the best all-around cowboys/packers at the events. Jim taught me everything I know about horses, mules, and camping in the backcountry of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. 

Some call him a "horse whisperer."

Today, I ride an iron horse and share some moments from the 50th Bishop Mule Days, camping in the Alabama Hills at the base of Mount Whitney.

I love Highway 395 and this view towards Mount Whitney.

My campsite always comes with a view.

The views take my breath away.

My morning view from base camp.

McGee Creek wilderness.

The National Park Service has always had a presence at the Bishop Mule Days.

The best views are where the action begins.

This cowgirl beat the boys today.

Cowboys riding hard for a finish.

Action at the scramble event.

Farewell Sierra range.

My last camp view was special from the Alabama Hills.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

~ Farewell my Friend ~

"The only way to have a friend is to be one." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Warnell on my Yamaha Road Star at his home in Hanford, CA.

One summer day, a moving van arrived at the vacant house directly across from our home on Elizabeth Street. The new family was busy hauling boxes into their house at 1004 East Elizabeth Street in Barstow, CA. 

My mom encouraged me to go say hi to the boy who appeared to be about my age.

He was two years younger. I was nine years old. I managed to say, "My name is Robert and I live over there, pointing and looking back to my house." He had a sister, Diane who was much younger. Then his mom called, "Warnell it's time to come inside for lunch," and off he went. 

That was the day our friendship began. It would continue for nearly 65 years.

We grew up and shared our adventures, even at seven and nine years old. We camped out in our front yards, rode bicycles, attended Cub Scouts, went fishing at Lake Isabella, and then there was baseball. We both played little league on perhaps the worst team in the league - the Mustangs - but we didn't care. We loved the game and had fun.  

Years later, he would tell me that I taught him how to throw and catch a baseball. He had an iron-tight mind for the game of baseball. He once told me the seats we sat in at Dodger Stadium, who they played, the final score, who pitched, and how we nearly missed getting a fly ball hit into the bleachers from where we always seem to see the game.  As one can imagine, we took our baseball gloves to the game. We were ten and twelve at the time. How our parents, at that young age, allowed us to travel by ourselves from Barstow to Los Angeles was remarkable. We rode the train and by a miracle made it safely to Dodger Stadium. 

We went there to see Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Johnny Roseboro, Maury Wills, and my idol - Duke Snider. 

Warnell was the cornerstone of the game for me; a true Dodger Blue fan.

As we grew up, we owned identical black Yamaha 125 cc's and continued with our adventures on two wheels. His family eventually moved from Elizabeth Street to Pallesi Street in central Barstow. He attended Barstow High School and I went to John F. Kennedy High School.  We, however, remained close as we went our separate ways.

Many years later, Denise and our 1 1/2 old son, Keith traveled to Botswana, Africa to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers working for the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. I had forgotten but he reminded me that he drove us from Barstow to the Ontario Airport in our 1973 Dodge Van.  I trusted him that much, and he returned our van to Barstow where it was parked for nearly three years. He loved to hear about our tour in Botswana.

We frequently talked about our childhood, our adventures on Elizabeth Street, baseball, and our families. 

Sixty-five years is a long time to share a friendship.

"Warnell, I'll miss you dearly.  Farewell, my friend."

I was leaving for Barstow the morning his sister, Diane called to say that Warnell had passed away.
I thought about him the entire 600-mile round-trip. He and his sister were part of our family.

Farewell, my Friend.

Friday, April 23, 2021

~ National Park Week 2021 ~

The article "National Park Week 2021" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" website on 4/19/21.

National Park Week 2021

Apr 19, 2021View Commentsby 

“There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”– President Theodore Roosevelt

There are more than 400 parks available to everyone, every day and they are America’s best idea. The fee-free days provide an awesome opportunity to visit that favorite park or perhaps one that you have never been to before.

2018 National Park Week RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel magazine

My favorite National Park is in my backyard here in Three Rivers  – Sequoia National Park. My wife and I were hiking the short trail to the little known, Hanging Rock when I spotted this awesome motorcycle parked along the highway amidst the Giant Sequoias. The road continues to the more famous Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow. To reach the top of this granite dome, follow a stone stairway over 350 steps that climbs 300 feet to the summit for panoramic views. At the top, you can see the mountains of the Great Western Divide. Peaks in the Great Western Divide climb to more than 12,000 feet. Don’t climb Moro Rock if ice or snow are present on the stairs; it is very dangerous.

You can read more about Sequoia National Park in my articles – Celebrating 100 Years of the National Park Service and Exploring the Backcountry of Sequoia National Park. The Chronicle, In Pursuit of Wildness features other great National Parks like Pinnacles National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and El Morro National Monument.  Undoubtedly, there are hundreds more favorites – just pick one.

For one week each April, the National Park Service welcomes you to celebrate America’s treasures upfront, close, and free. This year, National Park Week for 2021 will be celebrated April 17 through April 25! There are some special programs and events to be celebrated at most park such as:

  • April 19: Military Monday
  • April 20: Transformation Tuesday
  • April 22: Earth Day
  • April 24: National Junior Ranger Day

Celebrate National Park Week at a park in your backyard. Now, I need to climb those 350 stone stairs to the top of Moro Rock.  I know the view will be amazing.