A Real Ban on Travel – Hopefully Only Temporary

It is February 2017. I live in a Federal Republic in a country called The United States of America. At present the various branches of government are getting [sic., at whole new levels]  to prove/disprove, test, validate/re-validate, and educate themselves and others as to their roles and authority in how we operate as a country. It is a fascinating exercise to observe from afar.

However, that is not the topic of discussion for this Post.  Personally I have a much more pressing  and immediate problem. I am temporarily trapped at the cabin. I am effectively banned from travel outside of Stanley, Idaho. Why? Weather! Weather (aka Mother Nature) is dumping moisture in the form snow and now rain at unprecedented levels. Avalanches and Avalanche Danger have closed every single road that could be used for escape.

Up until last weekend snow and record cold temperatures was the diet delivered at 150%-200% of normal from November through the first week of February. Last weekend the snow continued but the temperatures rose. So much so the 5-6 feet of snow on the cabin roof finally slid off.  There was some excitement during one slide, as Kyle was evaluating the possibility of the slide 15 seconds before a slide occurred. Despite being nimble and having a chance to jump away (somewhat), Kyle was buried in snow up to his chest. It took me 20+ minutes to dig him free. On Wednesday a monster storm presented itself but the snow level rose to the 8,000 feet (the cabin sits at just below 7,000 feet). So 40 degree Fahrenheit temperatures and heavy rain was the gig from Wednesday night until midnight Thursday. It is has been snowing lightly for the past number of hours.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy for the 21 Century Jeff Lubeck is the slide of the other half of the roof (Wednesday afternoon) occurred in one fell-swoop careening onto the upper deck and wiping out the Satellite Dish. OMG what am I going to do!

Scott our DirectTV Guy (and a nice one at that) is trying to reach me.  But Scott tells me the avalanche slide on Highway 75 east of Stanley is 20 feet high and long. Scott says IDOT thinks it might be cleared by late Saturday afternoon.

A Sunny Day in January

The view from the top of Lubeck Ridge.

Lubeck Ridge (as the sun starts to set) from the driveway of our house.




















It is 2:45 PM on January 28th – the day before the birthday of my Best Girl for the past 38 years. The temperature is nine degrees Fahrenheit (9 F) and sunny.  The snows of December and January have covered the region with anywhere between 130 – 185 percent of normal precipitation for this time year.

I have determined these Baby’s [sic., mountains, peaks, bowls, ridge-lines] need to be skied.  Kyle skins up Baldy and Dollar Mountains after the lifts close during the week.  Recently, I have joined Kyle and Merry [Christmas] Dog (in her booties) on these ventures.  Last Friday we did Baldy and skied down in the dark – with our headlamps providing assistance.  Last Sunday, Kyle and I and climbed up Proctor Mountain and skied down under a founding member of America’s original ski lifts. Separately, I have been climbing and skiing in the Sawtooths – virtually unencumbered.

On this day however, the goal is to climb (in skins) to the very top of Lubeck Ridge and ski down the mountain all the way back to the house.  Kyle and I had the pleasure of completing this task last winter.  On that occasion we reached the top at sunset, took in the wonderful pinks and oranges of the darkening skyline and skied down in the dark through a series of fog bank layers.  It was an experience unlike any other.

On this trip it will be me on my own.  I check the condition of the snow at various points on the trip to the top.  The Avalanche Center report indicates that where I am heading conditions for an avalanche are moderate. Given the majority of the run is between 30-32 degrees in angle, I feel I can ski alone as long as I pay attention to the condition of the snow.  I will pay extra attention in the two sections of the run where the pitch will be 35-45 degrees and both have large boulders protruding through the snow.  As always I have my Spot GPS to report my status from start-to-finish.

Normally the ascent follows our hiking route up from behind the Ohio Gulch Transfer Station. While not a formal trail, the Lubeck’s have been burnishing a Citizen’s Trail since moving to the Valley Club in 2003.  The elk, deer and to some extent sheep have performed the foundational engineering. However, today I decide to head up the spine of the Mountain from the Gun Club.  To ensure I am not starting out with flawed judgement, Linda takes the 2 minute drive to the spot with me and drops me off given the Green Light.  It is a great choice, and as I frequently say – better to be lucky than good!

On the ascent, the snow proves to be very lite and stable.  Once on the upper ridges, the snow shows the effect of wind and is slightly packed.  The only trace of living creatures are those of Coyote.  I use these tracks for the last 150+ vertical to the top.  The top of Lubeck ridge has a small cornice – with 3 foot drop down to the route I will take.  Luckily the first 50 feet of the route has gentle 10 degree angle.  So, think of it as jumping off the kitchen counter top onto the kitchen floor.

The view from the top of Lubeck Ridge is pretty darn cool.  You can see the entire Wood River Valley from South Ketchum to Hailey.  Our house, The Valley Club and Deer Creek, Greenhorn, Ohio, East Fork and Timber Gulches sit 1,200 – 1,500 feet below.  Baldy is almost directly across and in full view. Off in the distance and slightly to the right – the peaks of the Boulder Mountains (Galena, Boulder, Glassford, Ryan and Kent) stand high.  To the far right The Devils Bedstead – East and West – of the Pioneer Mountains stick out.  Greenhorn and its steep angled treeless bowls from top to bottom is especially stunning.  I swear I can hear her call out; “ski me next, ski me next.”

Before I change from climbing to skiing mode, I send an “Okay” signal from the SPOT device to Linda and Kyle.  Next, I ratchet down my boots two levels and flip the back part of the boot from walking to skiing mode.  This is followed by removing the skins from my skis and packing them into a back-pack. And finally I change the bindings from cross-country to downhill mode and step into the bindings ready for a downhill run.  The biggest challenge (for me at least) is taking the time and having the patience to adjust to downhill mode.  In short I need to not rush things as the skis are now super fast and my heel is completely locked in.  I also need to compensate for a heavy pack on my back (i.e., camera, lenses, monopod, shovel, crampons, water, food, headlamp, and extra clothes, gloves, googles).

Now that I am all set – down I go.  As I drop into the steep narrow part of the descent the snow becomes as lite and gentle as mother nature can provide.  The ride is awesome.  The condition of the snow remains the same for the entire descent – OMG!  At the bottom of the run, there is a fence-line that acts as the point of demarcation between private property and United States Forest Service land.  The wire of the fence sits about four feet high and the fence posts top out a six and a half feet in height. No evidence of the fence exists – so I ski onward.

Once at the bottom I ski to the driveway of one of our neighbors.  I change ski mode back to cross-country.  As I head back to the house another neighbor and his two dogs greet me.  They join me for my return to our house.

Skinning Up in Skis to Take In America’s Alps


The Sawtooth Mountain Range was first characterized as America’s Alps in the early 1900’s. With 52 named peaks over 10,000 feet in a range that spans 45 miles in length and 20 miles in width. The designation is a fair one. I have reached the summit of many of the named peaks. I have been fortunate to photograph them from many vantage points north – south – east – west – winter – spring – summer – fall.

 This past week, for three straight days, I decided to skin up to peak 7183 across our cabin in the Goat Creek drainage – west of Stanley – to take in a view of the most northern part of the range.  After a skin up of just shy of a 1,000 vertical feet to the top – the vantage and the untouched power skiing back down to the valley floor was pure joy.  On the first day, three elk standing on the frozen Valley Creek followed me for my entire descent.

Alpine Terrain (AT) skiing in the backcountry is my preferred method of skiing.  Cross-country is a close 2nd, followed by lift-served downhill.  There is something empowering and satisfying about climbing\mountaineering up to a designated spot and then skiing back down.  While AT skiing sounds rugged and demanding – which is most often the case – it can also be fairly easy and relaxing.  Some days the effort is simply intended to the outdoor equivalent an hour or two on the StairMaster.

Earlier in the week, Linda, Shae dog, Merry [Christmas] dog and I braved the -13 degree temperatures to cross-country ski the Park Creek drainage west of the the cabin from late afternoon to sunset.  It was the warmest point in the day after starting up from -31 F before sunrise.  The ski was magical.

A Real SNOWMAGEDDON and the Beauty of It All

The prospect of a natural disaster is something of which the media feasts.  A weather related event that can be predicted, anticipated, tracked and analyzed - can fill an entire programming period for days on end.  Hurricanes and Typhoons used to be the only weather events named. In the 21st century all weather spectacles are now named and packaged.  If the [Place The Name Here]MAGEDDON poses even the faintest of risk to anywhere in the United States expect a plethora of  "on-the-scene" reporters outfitted to the "T" in sponsored outfits broadcasting live.  Luckily, more often than not the event ends up bringing only a small fraction of what has been predicted (e.g., a Category 5 storm turns out to be a party cloudy afternoon.

So when Snowmageddon 2017 was predicted in January in my region, I treated the upcoming event with a bit of skepticism. The official National Weather Service forecast predicted up to 40+ inches of the white stuff (even more at the highest elevations) over a three-to-five day period. It should be noted that we who live in the high mountain's of Idaho we welcome as much moisture as can be delivered - especially if it is snow.

Well... this time the prediction was spot on correct - Snowmageddon 2017 was a dandy.  The National Weather Service (correctly) warned the snowfall might be so great that road-crews and snow plows would not be able to keep pace. Luckily, in my area, the infrastructure is in place to deal with the issue.  And, at least in the Wood River and Sawtooth Valley's, the Idaho Transportation department was more than equal to the task.

As the event ended and the clouds started to clear (Thursday 1/12/2017) Kyle, Merry [Christmas] dog, and I put on the crampons  and climb up to the top of Dollar Mountain after work.  We took in a wonderful sunset behind Baldy.

On Friday I head up to the cabin in Stanley to clear the 36-40 inches of new snow that had arrived.  Linda, Shae dog, and Merry [Christmas] dog join me on Saturday mid-day for the MLK extended-weekend.  It is winter wonder land. I should not forget to mention that the temperatures on Friday (-31 F) and Saturday (-31 F) were pretty chilly.

Update:  As of January 23rd, 2017 precipitation in the region (water content as rain or snow) is anywhere between 135% - 186% of norm.

Turkey, The Birds and Wine Country

Linda and I took a quick trip to The Russian River Valley and coastal regions of California to see family (brother Roger and sister in-law Lynette liver in Sonoma County) for Thanksgiving.  My brother Dave and sister in-law Brenda flew in from Kansas City to join the festivities.  The 776 mile trip each way from Sun Valley ID to Cloverdale CA included crossing over the Donner Summit (elevation 7,240) on I-80.  The weather on the summit can be brutal – on average 400+ inches of annual snow fall.  A major snow storm (12″+) was hitting the summit during each of our crossings.

Bodega Head on the California Coast (Bodega Bay).

Vines on Dry Creek in the Russian River Valley (CA).














Bodega Head, California Coast

Bodega Head on the California Coast (Bodega Bay).

The Potter Schoolhouse Bodega CA. Used in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963).

The Bodega CA Church. Used in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963).




Bloodlands: Between a Rock & A Hard Place Would Be Considered A Luxury

What if you lived between two neighbors that hated each other to the greatest degree possible? And the only thing they hated more than each other was – you, your family members, friends, and relatives.

The Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder covers the topic (in excruciating and exacting detail) by discussing the Borderlands (otherwise known the lands and people between Germany and Western Russia) during the Stalin and Hitler Regimes.

Snyder the Dayton Ohio born, Oxford educated, Yale Professor of History takes great care and time (i.e., number pages) to dispel common misconceptions, clarify and elaborate on these Regimes, their efforts, and implications thereof.

With great effect Snyder dispels the belief that the crimes of Hitler and Stalin can (or should) be viewed separately, and these crimes really only occurred in large numbers to the combatants of WWII and Jews in concentration camps.

Let’s be clear, Snyder does not attempt to belittle the horror that was WWII or what we know of the Holocaust.  However what Snyder does point out is the fact that a far, far, greater number of people died [14.5+ Million inhabitants of the Bloodlands to be exact] through treatment as bad or worse, and over a significantly longer period of time (1920s, 1930s, 1940s).  This included, Jews, Poles, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Germans and Russians.  In short, the list of victims is long and varied.

The Bloodlands and its peoples were over-taken by Russia or Germany one, two, three, and even four times during this period. The vast majority of the people living in the Bloodlands fell into two-categories 1.) Need to Be Exterminated A.S.A.P or 2.) Need to be Slave Labor to grow food or make goods for the conquerors until no longer useful and re-classified to Category #1.

Why?  A.) Because of who you were, not what you had done and/or B.) You and your kind were on a Defined List that established you as not meeting the prescribed Nationalist ideal and/or C.) plans such as the Final Solution (w/options 1,2&3), Great Terror of 1937 (1938,1939), or GeneralPlan Oust called for your demise.

Snyder takes advantage of the fact the these two Regimes were terrific at documentation and record keeping. The Bloodlands shows that Russia and Germany, Stalin and Hitler operated with cold efficiency and used this buffer zone and its peoples in an attempt to destroy each other and clear it for themselves.  Each calculated the other would ultimately fail and would do anything to accomplish their goal – even if it seemed counter intuitive.  For example while your enemy just invaded your country and is starving 3.1 million of your own citizens – pretend to do much, but actually do little because in the long run – you wanted these citizens dead anyways and as a bonus – your enemy can be blamed at the same time – with little to no monetary output on your part.  Or as another example, sign a non-agression pact with your enemy, give 1/2 of the country you just conquered (i.e., Poland) to them on the premise that your enemy will efficiently eliminate the Poles and after the work is completed you will subsequently break the pact, invade and conquer your enemy.

The Bloodlands is sobering.  The Bloodlands is tough to stomach.  It is important to read and understand the Bloodlands – as history has a tendency of repeating itself.  All it takes to start is creating a National Registration List of people for who they are, not what they have done.

Underground Railroad: Novel, Fantasy, Historical Fiction – A Read on Subjects of Continuing Relevance

The publishing of the novel Underground Railroad (2016) comes at an interesting time in America. Although a novel, author Colson Whitehead’s fiction touches on our history as a country and society – forcing the reader to confront foundational aspects that are highly admirable and utterly disturbing.

Could so many Americans be that magnanimous while others are treacherous?  The answer in Underground Railroad is yes – both in relative and absolute terms. Unfortunately in non fiction history – the answer is yes as well.  Underground Railroad has highly imaginative fantasy aspects that are presented so successfully they border on feeling real (e.g., the physical railroad).  It also presents characters in settings that are beyond imagination. Unfortunately real history confirms what Whitehead presents in many storylines did actually occur (e.g., rape, torture, mob mentality).

Underground Railroad is a quick and great read (306 pages).

Fall is Going Fast: Get Your Color Fix Before It Is Gone!

Okay, okay… I understand that you are very busy, very important, and buried in the details of one of the most important issues known to human-kind.  However, have you taken a moment to pull your head out from [fill in the blank] and soaked in the colors of fall-time?

In spite of being exceptionally self-important and consumed by a Presidential Election that is certain to send me to Canada on November 9th (no matter the winner).  I have done so. and so should you!

Click on the images below for an expanded presentation,


The first morning of fall in the Sawtooths. I walked out from the cabin (in the trees straight ahead) to capture this shot.


The Arctic Willows at their prime fall color in early morning on Lewis & Clark’s River of No Return (Salmon River) above Fisher Creek.

If your cross the Wood River at the base of the Boulder Mountains (at your own risk) you can enjoy sunset on some hidden Beaver Ponds.

Aspens bursting with color at the base of the Galena Pass at the source of the Lewis & Clark’s River of No Return (Salmon River).

Thought Provoking & Somber With Grace – Literally: The Light Between Oceans


The film The Light Between Oceans could quickly and easily be classified as a tear-jerker Chick Flick sponsored by Kleenex brand tissues.  This characterization would be selling the film, its source novel, and its potential audience short, very short.  This is a story about making very… no.., extremely tough choices so as to benefit one that you love with a material risk to your own well being.

Yes, The Light Between Oceans could have been a costume-drama Hollywood executives chose to turn into a courtroom procedural or a thriller with car chases.  Car chases in the 1920’s in Australia are not as dramatic as in the 1960’s – 1980’s in San Francisco.

None-the-less The light Between Oceans is meant specifically for the brain and the heart to embrace and consume.

Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Bastards, Shame, 12 Years a Slave), Alicia Viklander (ex-Machina, AA The Swedish Girl, Jason Bourne) and Rachel Weisz (AA The Constant Gardener, About A Boy, Enemy At The Gates) are superb in the lead roles.

Ironically Jack Thompson and Bryan Brown two males leads of the 1980’s in Australian film (AAN Breaker Morant) are the key supporting characters in the film.  This is one of my favorite films.

Oh… then there is the music score by Andre Desplat (AA Grand Budapest Hotel, AAN The Imitation Game, AAN Argo), Cinema-photography by Adam Arkapaw (McFarland USA, Animal Kingdom) and costumes by Erin Benach (Drive, Lincoln Lawyer, Blue Valentine) These three aspects are worth seeing the film on their own.

Adding Up on Almost Every Count: The Accountant


Similar to General Accounting Principles (GAP), if filmmakers follow General Filmmaking Principles (GFP) a movie can operate by the books and in most cases be successful both financially and as entertainment for its audience.

The Accountant is an exciting genre film that while not overtly appearing to do so – follows virtually all of the GFP. The Accountant is a Super-hero film for Adults that is not dragged down by all the branding, licensing, and cross-promotional baggage brought on by an association with D.C. or Marvel Comics.  Although it should be noted that I would like to receive an Official The Accountant Pocket Protector ™ and a Official The Accountant Anti-Tank Rifle ™ from Santa for Christmas.

From a checklist perspective, The Accountant has an intriguing base storyline and sub-plots that are added and well extended. The Accountant has primary and secondary characters who’s roles are well developed.  The Accountant has music and sound properly blended into the film.  The Accountant has excellent acting and direction.

Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, Argo, The Town) is outstanding as the lead character – Christian Wolff. Wolff has an affliction that our society has a hard-time diagnosing and understanding – let alone treating correctly.  Affleck exhibits the traits of this affliction with superb effect.  The filmmakers seize this affliction, embrace it, and weave it and its implications into The Accountant with the precision a bespoken suit-maker.

As with any good Super-Hero feature there are supporting roles – almost all well played in this film. There is the good-guy, good-guy-bad-guy, bad-guy-good-guy, conflicted-guy, observer-chaser-guy, at-risk-needs-protection-guy, and of course the role-becomes-obviously-clear-at-the-end-and-you-should-have-seen-it-coming-guy.  Guy in this definition is both male and female.

As with any Super-Hero film the story and characters should not be scrutinized too deeply or for very long – as it will lead to the uncovering of holes, gaps and worst off  – your loss of suspended disbelief.  So yes, the bad-guy is going to do something at the end that makes absolutely no sense and leads to their demise. However, the film The Accountant is bad-ass good entertainment and I would see it a 2nd time in theaters.