Over the years people who have heard about my “Life List” ask me where my favorite places are, my favorite foods, flirtations with danger, how many broken bones or diseases I have contracted, anything unusual.   Many people dream about traveling to exotic places, but become discouraged when they contemplate the “cost”, in time, money, and risk to their health and welfare.  As a college professor I have observed that most young people have an over-active fear of failure.  Maybe this is due to the negative reinforcement from taking so many examinations, trying to please parents, or impress their peers. 

 

I was never a slave to my Life List, it was simply a string of ideas about places I wanted to go and things I wanted to see, if and when the opportunity arose.  I have discarded some of the goals after researching them, often discovering legal, financial or political restrictions.  For instance, participation in a Mt. Everest climbing expedition would cost  about $100,000.  I have always tried to lead a balanced life, not one focused solely on myself.  I’ll never forget reading about the anguish George Leigh Mallory caused his widow and young children after he died trying to climb the north side of Mt. Everest in 1924.  Sometimes the risks associated with my Life List goals isn’t worth the emotional cost to my family.       

 

Well, enuf said.  Here’s some of my bests memories, which are completely subjective, based on my own personal tastes.

 

MOST EXCITING EXPERIENCES

 

  • Catapulting and landing on an aircraft carrier

  • Rowing a raft along  the Colorado River through the 277 miles of rapids in the Grand Canyon

  • Rowing a raft along the Owyhee River through a series of pristine gorges between Rome, Oregon and Owyhee Reservoir.  Just like being a mountain man exploring the west in the 1820s.

  • Low level flights with the Navy in Thailand, Oman and Panama.  You really feel the sensation of speed and acceleration during low level flights using terrain masking

  • Trailing foreign submarines without their knowledge. Being on a nuclear powered submarine is like being in the Space Shuttle, except there aren’t any windows

  • Water skiing from the back of my Jeep along the inland coast of Baja California.  The ultimate in cheap thrills, but takes a really long rope and experience with beach starts and stops, which are pretty tricky.

  • Scuba and skin diving off Catalina Island and in Hawaiian Islands.  My favorite locale is Sunset Beach inlet on north coast of Oahu.

  • My first raft trip down the Green River entering the Gates of Lodore in Colorado, which mountain man William Ashley explored in 1825.  This was the fulfillment of a boyhood dream born of my reading about the fur trapping trade and exploration of the west.

  • Exploring Hezikiah’s Tunnel along the Kidron Valley in Jerusalem. I felt like Indiana Jones.

  • Seeing Mt. Fujiyama rise majestically above the clouds from 200 miles away when flying to Japan for the first time. It gave me goose bumps beneath my flight suit. 

 

MY FAVORITE PLACES

 

  • Thunder River above Tapeats Creek and below Surprise Valley in the Grand Canyon.  About 35 million gallons per day cascades from an underground river beneath the Canyon’s North Rim forming an actual Shangri-La.  I have been doing research in that vicinity since 1979.

  • The Hula Valley of Northern Israel, where the three tributaries of the Jordan River come together.  The eastern fork bursts out of the basalt cliffs at Banias (Caesarea Philippi).  This area looks and feels like the “land of milk and honey,” of Genesis, nestled beneath the snow capped slopes of Mount Hermon.

  • The transect up Toroko Gorge between Hualien (at sea level on the coast) and Mt. Morrison (12,963 ft), highest point in Taiwan.  A dramatic sliver gorge cut through limestone cliffs in the heart of the tropics, contrasting with snow caped peaks above timberline.  

  • The Narrows of the North Fork of the Virgin River in Zion National Park

  • The Joint Trail leading from Chesler Park in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.  Simply unbelievable, formed in an extensive graben complex.

  • Watching clouds lift up from the craggy summit of Mt. San Jacinto (10,813 ft), the highest rock escarpment in the continental United States.  From this lofty perch you can watch clouds lift at record rates as they approach the peak’s sheer northern face, which rises 10,000 feet without interruption. It doesn’t look real.

  • Floating on the saline brine of the Dead Sea reading a magazine without getting it wet.   

  • Some of my fondest memories are of standing on snowy peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains on clear wintry days looking at the Channel Islands off the Southern California coast, with nary a hint of the millions of people scurrying about beneath the coastal inversion layer.   

 

MOST DANGEORUS EXPERIENCES

 

  • Having a nest of baby rattlesnakes greet me at eye level at the top of a steep, hairy pitch in Joshua Tree National Monument

  • Rappelling off a waterfall to stage exciting pictures for the camera. Wet climbing ropes and frozen climbing ropes can be very dangerous.  I almost had a tragic accident while rappelling at Fish Falls in the summer of 1970.   I learned not to do anything unusual for sake of a photograph; it is an unnecessary risk.

  • Contacting Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever on the Green River in Split Mountain Gorge.  Spent a week in the hospital at Vernal, Utah, then an entire summer and fall recuperating.

  • Experienced debilitating effects of hypothermia while hiking out of the Grand Canyon in May 1984 wearing only shorts, T-shirt and a pair of Tevas.  It was 27o F up on the Rim when got out around 2:30 AM. I knew I was contracting hypothermia and becoming increasingly paralyzed, but was powerless to do anything about it.  Two hours in a warm bath brought me back to life.  Since that time I have become much more careful about taking along “contingency” items (canteens, First Aid kit, parka, etc) everywhere I go.  

  • Rafting the Colorado River at 93,000 cfs through the Grand Canyon in late June 1983, when the spillways at Glen Canyon Dam cavitated.  I was ejected from my 14 ft Miwok Raft in 24- Mile Rapid just like blasting out of an F-14, leaving my pregnant wife all by her lonesome to face two more miles of uninterrupted rapids.  I eventually caught up to her, but we lost the oars.   

  • Came within an eyelash of impaling myself on a threaded rockbolt protruding from a troubled cliff face while rappelling on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco in the late spring of 1992.  I was saved by the steel shank in my Knapp work boots.

  • Flirting with danger while studying of desert flash floods along the Mojave River in March 1978.  Sometimes we have to be content with being marooned for awhile instead of risking life and limb.  

  • Trying to raft Alameda Creek through Niles Canyon in March 1983, during record high runoff.  The channel was clogged with dangerous flotsam, which punctured my raft in the first 10 minutes.  I came pretty close to drowning, despite being a strong swimmer and wearing floatation. 

  • Altogether I have had 20 broken bones: 6 fingers, incl. one bad dislocation, two broken toes, 2 broken ribs, 8 cracked ribs, a massive dislocation of right shoulder (for 8 hours), a broken right rotator cuff, severed nerve in right index finger, broken right femur, crushed lumbar region of lower back, slipped disc at L-5 twice, and broke both wrists.  Through it all learned the value of physical therapy (no pain, no gain).  Swimming is great therapy and conditioning.      

 

MOST HUMBLING EXPERIENCES

 

  • Watching all five of my children being born, between 1978 and 2002.  The last one was born at home and was a beautiful experience.  There is nothing that compares to the love and trust placed in us by our children.  It is unconditional.

  • Seeing the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.  10,000 graves representing a cross section of America in 1944.  War is the great equalizer.

  • Seeing the crushed bodies of earthquake victims in the Interstate 880 Cypress Structure in downtown Oakland following the October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

  • Attending the funerals of shipmates killed in the line of duty and trying to comfort their grieving families.  It makes you aware of your mortality like nothing else.      

 

BEST TRAVEL VALUES

 

  • Four-wheel drive trips through Baja California.  Gorgeous mountains in the north (Sierra Juarez and Sierra San Pedro Martirs), unspoiled wilderness along pristine coastlines, easy diversions by ferry across the Sea of Cortez to unlimited shrimp feasts in Guaymas, incredible geology and fossil collecting at Punta Bunda, and you can actually reach the tropics at Cabo San Lucas (tourist trap, but has hotel rooms with hot showers).

  • White Rim Mesa and Elephant Hill four wheel drive trails in Canyonlands National Park. Incomparable vistas and scenery for little cost, but you have to take plenty of gas.  Don’t go by yourself, take another vehicle. 

  • Climbing the hogback drainage divide above the Pali Tunnels lookout, between Honolulu and Kaneohe on Oahu.  Also take the Diamond Head hike.  Both are free, relatively easy hikes, provide beautiful vistas and exhilarating breezes.

  • Backpacking in the Grand Canyon before Memorial Day and after Labor Day, when the tourists are gone (read the book Death in the Canyon first)

  • Backpacking in the Haleakala Crater (10,023 feet) on Maui.  Start at the summit and head down into the crater towards the southeastern coast (requires a permit).  Feels like being on Mars or Venus.  The Haleakala Crater is where they filmed many of the original segments for Star Wars.

  • Ride a bicycle down Haleakala (10,023) to Haiku, 29 miles distant.  It’s all downhill, make sure you have good brakes and try to pick a sunny day.  Stop for lunch at a trendy sandwich store. Great family fun for kids > 11 yrs old. 

  • Drive and camp along The Alaska Highway.  Not too expensive, but the tent never gets a chance to dry out.  Take insect repellent and a camera.

  • Slot Canyons in the Navajo Sandstone around Lake Powell.  Paria Canyon is the most popular. Take weather radio receiver to avoid flash floods in July, August and September.

  • Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River in March and April of an unusually wet winter.  Located on extreme southwestern portion of the Navajo Reservation.  You can climb down into the gorge and really learn a lot of geology for the price of a couple of gallons of gas.  About 30 miles northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona.

 

FAVORITE MEMORIES

 

  • All of my favorite memories revolve around family, not the 61 countries I have visited and enjoyed.  Here are some highlights:

  • Marrying my wife Trinka on Saturday June 12, 1982

  • Taking my kids to garage sales in our 1943 Army Jeep on Saturday mornings and trying to explain to them what vinyl records were…. 

  • Bike rides, jogging and skate boarding along the Contra Costa Canal trail with my kids followed by breakfast at Ann’s Sunshine Café

  • Watching my kids and all the neighbor’s kids riding down the zip line and waterslides we set up in our back yard, coming off our unique three story playhouse.   

  • Watching old movies and building model airplanes with my family

  • Reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder and Ralph Moody books aloud to our kids in the evenings after our decision to boycott television in 1993.  We had a wonderful Little House on the Prairie Christmas that first year, with tin cups, shiny pennies, oranges, and big sugar cookies in our stockings.

  • Taking my kids to Barnes & Noble for dinner at Starbucks and an evening of perusing books to our heart’s content

  • Allowing my wife to put grey streaks in my hair for an interview in Hawaii in 1990…and then getting the job!  Who would want to look older???

  • Watching my children sing “Always be true to the one you’re married to” at my parents 50th wedding anniversary in July 1994, bringing them and the rest of us to tears.  

 

WATCH WHAT YOU EAT!

 

  • I try to eat real foods, mostly fruits, nuts and vegetables. My favorite foods are: salads, watermelon, popcorn, fruit smoothies, Fuji apples, papayas, guavas, fresh squeezed orange juice, Pad Thai Noodles, Mu Shoo Chicken and Kabob Lamb Sirloin.

  • As a general rule, I don’t eat it if it’s wrapped in cardboard, cellophane, a tin can, or anything that has been fried.  I enjoy feeling healthy and avoiding sickness as much as possible.

  • Avoid food sold at fast food joints except the free ice water and salads, then critically review the contents of the packaged dressings they dole out.  Use one package instead of two if you have to have dressing.  Never eat the fried tortilla shells that frame the taco salads.

  • Be creative about making salads.  Use a multitude of tasty toppings, including all kinds of sliced nuts, berries, raisons, dried cranberries or wolfberries, shredded coconut, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, trail mixes, soy berries, sparring amounts of cheese, crispy fruit chips from dried bananas, pears, etc., apple bits, granolas, sesame sticks, etc.   Then make your own healthy dressings, without polysaturated fats.  You can stuff yourself for an entire hour eating that kind of salad slowly for lunch, feel stuffed and never gain a pound.  In the beginning it takes more effort than ordering a Big Mac, but once you’ve purchased all your favorite toppings you can put them in a snack baggie and take them with you to Subway when you order a steak salad.  Try it, you’ll like it.                

  • Avoid anything with white refined sugars or enriched white flour. That stuff is bad for your body and causes constipation, weight gain and even cancer. The worst thing out there for your body is probably gooey, greasy cheese pizza, which kids and college students prefer over any other food!     

  • Drink lots and lots of pure water; you can’t drink too much water, but you can drink too little.  Always try to avoid carbonated beverages (low pH) or more than one beer (impairs water absorption and goes directly into the blood stream, impairing thought processes)   

  • Consciously increase your salt and electrolyte intake in accordance with exertion and sweating, especially when working in the desert or in the tropics.  Consciously ingesting essential body salts avoids a LOT of problems when working outdoors.  Most Americans are not used to being outdoors for extended periods.  Salt also kills a lot of bacteria that might be in the water you are drinking.       

 

EXERCISE IS A MUST  

 

  • A lot of people ask me how I’ve maintained my weight all these years.  It gets down to balancing food and exercise.  I’ve noticed that my metabolism has been declining gradually since age 40, so my caloric intake has been going down.  

  • I believe in modest and balanced exercise routine, with lots of walking, 20 minutes on a recumbent bicycle to maintain my pulse in the aerobic zone (200 calories burn off), and 20 to 30 minutes on an elliptical ski machine or stair master (300 calories burn off), and one-quarter to one-half mile of lap swimming using leg floats and training paddles, to provide an upper body workout.  Swimming provides all around stretching, great for the back that’s been sitting all day. 

  • I have found that lap swimming is the best all-around conditioner.  It can’t hurt you nearly as easily as any other form of exercise (people can tear muscles just by doing simple stretching).  As with anything, the level of swimming must  be achieved gradually over time, working to the level you feel comfortable with.   Start with one lap for a week and work up from there.   

  • I always use custom insoles (orthodics) fitted to my feet crafted by a Certified Pedorthist, for all my shoes (mountaineering, running, even my dress shoes).  In my opinion, you can’t spend too much money on your shoes: they take you where you want to go.  If you lose weight, you will need to upgrade your orthodic inserts to reflect the changing shape of your feet. 

  • If you are overweight or have a history of heart disease, consult a physician before embarking on any new program of exercise.  One of the best forms of exercise is simple extended walking, while monitoring pulse, time and distance covered.  Keep a record of exercise and weight.  Never avoid water intake to help “lose” weight, which is dangerous. 

Most Memorable Experiences

Questions or comments on this page?
E-mail Dr. J David Rogers at rogersda@mst.edu.

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