Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Grand Canyon Hike

It was somewhere about two miles from the rim while hiking back out when I began to doubt that I might make it all the way up to the top again. The light was fading quickly in the side canyon of the Bright Angel trail and my left knee had just had two sharp, shooting pains that felt like someone was driving a metal stake through it. The day had been long, but I had gotten a late start. The morning was spent answering emails and now here I was in another world where the concept of time existed in spans that stretch longer than a human life. And against it all the realization of just how insignificant we all are and especially I was at that moment.

For years I'd seen the canyon from the rim. Wondering what it was like to see it from the inside. I'd made several short trips down but no more than a few miles. Today I was going almost all the way. Six miles in and 3,100' down. Six miles out and 3,100' up.

The day was clear and comfortable. The strong, cold winds of the last two days was gone, replaced by a gentle breeze. On my back was a new Camelbak pack with 3 liters of water. I also brought another two extra liters just in case. On my head was a big, ugly floppy hat, but perfect for shading my head from the hot sun that would be waiting for me at the bottom of the trail. For now I was in the shade of the cliffs and cool in the high elevation. The trail head starts a 6,860 ft above sea level where the air is cool and pine trees whisper in the wind.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ancient Territories flutes

The number of Native American style flute makers is growing everyday. It's getting harder and harder to find flutes that are different enough and also well made to fork over the money for another flute. However these makers are out there -which is good for NAF enthusiasts but bad for bank balances- and one of these is John Stillwell of Ancient Territories flutes.

I first met John at the debut meeting of the Inland Empire Flute Circle and it was obvious that he was doing things that I had never seen before. At that time all of his flutes had end caps made of multiple layers of contrasting colored wood in a distinctive chevron pattern. The workmanship was first rate. Turns out John has a background in cabeint making so he knows how to work with wood. The other difference was that instead of cutting his blanks on the horizonal he cuts most of his on the vertical so that the seam runs through the finger holes and sound holes. The final touch was that the flutes flaired slightly on the top making for a subtile flatting of the finger board, the top of the flute where the finger holes are.


All of this made for a very unusual looking flute. They also sounded good too and since that time John has constantly experimented to make his flutes even better.

For good or for bad many flute makers stop experimenting once they get a template that works for them. For many makers this is not a problem once they get a good sounding flute. John however seems to be driven to strive for the next level of his craft.

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