So Here’s What’s Up!

Sorry it’s been so long since my last update but things have been very unsettled. I think I’m back on firm ground now, and here’s everything that’s happened!

First, Durango! I owe you all some pictures of the town, so here they are!

View across the Animas River of some small houses in Durango, CO

i  View across the Animas River of some small houses in Durango, CO

View north along Main Ave in Durango. Mountains in every direction!

View north along Main Ave in Durango. Mountains in every direction!

The Durango Public Library was a lovely building too! And they had a really clever multi-biome garden that was mostly installed.

Durango Library 1Durango Library 2Durango Library Garden
The train up into the wilderness and back was absolutely a delight. Everyone working on it was amazingly friendly and knowledgeable about the area and the train itself, which is a restored fully authentic steam train with only minor adjustments for its new purpose: carrying people through the breathtakingly beautiful valley along the Animas River from Durango up to Silverton and then back, and occasionally stopping to let backpackers and rafters get on and off. This is the train when I saw it pass through Durango:

Durango-Silverton Train 1Durango-Silverton Train 2Durango-Silverton Train 3
And here is a beautiful shot from the train itself, heading back down from Silverton (we’ll get to Silverton eventually, bear with me!)

Durango Silverton Train 01As you can see, it is spectacular. If I lived in Durango I would get a season pass and ride it every freaking day. So, about two and a half hours after leaving Durango the train arrives at a stop where the town of Needleton used to be but isn’t anymore because it was destroyed by landslides after it was abandoned.

What IS there now is a trailhead, leading a half mile through privately owned land to the Needle Creek Trail. You use this little bridge to cross the river:

Animas River Needle Creek Trail BridgeHere’s the view from the bridge:

North from the bridge

North from the bridge

South from the bridge

South from the bridge

So! A half mile into the woods from there, and past one lovely cabin, we come to our goal!

Weminuche Wilderness Sign

The wilderness was an entirely new experience for me. There were no people within miles – the closest was a pair of hikers who got off of the train with me, and from their plan they would be a couple of miles ahead of me, and then take a different trail, before very long. I hiked in about three miles after getting off of the train, until I was a bit above 9,000 feet in elevation and near to the smaller New York Creek, and then made my first camp. I camped under a pair of pine trees, on a nice flat spot next to an old rockslide. Here’re some views from camp:

Needle Creek from the trail, about 200 feet from camp

Needle Creek from the trail, about 200 feet from camp

Rockslide nearby and uphill from my camp on Needle Creek

Rockslide nearby and uphill from my camp on Needle Creek

And then, after camping, I at some delicious peanuts and corn nuts and dried cranberries before climbing back down to the stream to take some sunset pictures and to refill my water.
Needle Creek at Sunset 2

Needle Creek at Sunset 1

It was a beautiful night, too – cool but not uncomfortably so, the air fragrant with pine and mountain plants, and the only noises on the air birds and small animals in the brush. Once it got dark, the only noises I heard were the angry chirpings of the squirrel whose home I must have camped too close to. He came to shout at me every couple hours all night, though it wasn’t too disturbing.

I woke up with dawn and packed up my camp. It had gotten a lot colder overnight, and as I was surveying the route ahead on the trail, it started to snow in the upper reaches of the mountains ahead of me. I could see that the snow line was a lot lower than expected, and since I was on my own and the weather was questionable, I decided that it would be safer and more prudent to head back and prepare for another trip less impacted by disaster and weather.

So I headed back down to the train stop and, even pacing myself carefully after my delicious Clif Bar breakfast, made it to the track before the train! I hopped on and finished off my ticket from the previous day by heading up to Silverton and then back down to Durango to prepare for my trip to Massachusetts.

I leave you with a couple of photos of Silverton as the snow came in, and from the train ride back!

Silverton Mountains Before SnowSilverton Train SnowAnimas River In GorgeAnimas River From TrainOutpost On The Animas RiverLight on Mountains over Animas River

Durango, sadness, and trip details!


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Hi friends!

First, I apologize about the lack of pictures but the internet here is a little slow for uploading such large files. As soon as I am at a faster connection, I’ll make getting those uploaded my priority.

So. First the good news. Durango is beautiful! The people here are very friendly, and the town itself is just delightful. Accessible, lots of green and plenty of walking with lovely sights like the Animas River (which flows through it.)

The hotel I’m staying in is the Day’s End Motel on Main Ave. and it’s very nice. Clean, comfortable, quiet, and it backs up onto the Animas River Walk, which is a long, paved bike/walking path that follows the river for miles. Several times a day I took a walk along the path as far as the Durango Public Library which is a stunning building.

It’s about three-quarters of a mile to the Library, and about a mile to the closest bunch of businesses – really a nice walk to get groceries or visit the outdoors shop in town (because of course there is one.) A lot of other tourists have arrived, and in just the last few days that I’ve been here traffic has increased considerably, so I’m really glad I’ve been walking everywhere.

Tomorrow I take the historic Durango-Silverton Train up into the wildeness and I disembark where the town of Needleton used to be. From there, I’m going to follow Needle Creek through Chicago Basin. From there I’ll take the trail over Columbine Pass – pretty much tied for the highest this trip will take me, a little over 12,000 feet in elevation (the average is about 9,000 for most of the trip.)

From there, I’m going to follow Johnson Creek to Vallecito Creek, and then follow Vallecito Creek north several miles to Rock Creek. I’ll follow Rock Creek up to the area where it becomes a steep ascent up towards Rock Lake, and make a camp there.I’ll stash most of my gear there the next morning and then pack a light day bag to hike up to the Continental Divide at one of its lower points in the area, above the Twin Lakes. I’ll take some time up there for pictures and then it’s back down and out the way I came in!

I am provisioned and prepared for a total of seven days – three in, one to climb to the Divide and then three out again – but if things go well and I can keep up my pace, it might be possible to cut it down to five days.

So I am pretty excited about that, as I am sure you can imagine. I can feel my dad’s approval of this trip – he loved the wilderness and he loved that I was as interested in it as he was.

On the other hand… some unpleasant things happened as well. After the last few days here, I had to confront my hiking partner because it became clear to me that she was not physically prepared for the stress of the trip, and that I didn’t think it was safe for her to come up with me. I told her that it would be irresponsible of me to take her knowing she was at a high risk of serious injury, and that any emergency would take several days to respond to. She was understandably upset – we have been planning together on this trip for a little more than a month – but there is no real alternative.

I am even more determined, now, to make this an awesome and successful trip.

Catch y’all when I get back!

Denver to Durango 05 20 2016


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Hello friends!

Had a good couple of days! Yesterday was an epic bus ride – for more than 12 hours we were on one bus or another, first heading west over the Rockies from Denver to Grand Junction and then south from there to Durango, by way of every other tiny little town near the Four Corners or so it seemed.

In the end I didn’t really mind the distance or the time because this was unlike any other bus ride I have taken. The Rocky Mountains are amazing. Breathtaking. Astonishing. If you haven’t been out here, even if just to see them from afar, you absolutely have to do it. If you have, I suspect that these pictures will make you want to go back…

It is so exciting to be traveling and seeing these places that are connected to me – I was born in Denver, but we left before I was even a year old, so I have no memories of it.

This is such a beautiful and amazing place. It’s not my beloved desert, but it is definitely wonderful. I ca’n’t wait to get out there and see it up close!

More on Durango and our plans for the trip in tomorrow’s post!

Taken a short distance west of Silver Plume, CO

Taken a short distance west of Silver Plume, CO









Taken just outside of Dillon, CO

Taken just outside of Dillon, CO

Taken on Route 70 heading west just inside of the Routt National Forest

Taken on Route 70 heading west just inside of the Routt National Forest

Taken on Route 70 just west of Glenwood Springs, CO

Taken on Route 70 just west of Glenwood Springs, CO

Taken from Route 145 headed south in the San Juan National Forest, just south of Gold Creek

Taken from Route 145 headed south in the San Juan National Forest, just south of Gold Creek



Here we go!


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1/4 of the way up Miller's Peak, looking down

1/4 of the way up Miller’s Peak, looking down

So. That’s the last picture I took in Arizona, looking down from the side of Miller’s Peak in the Coronado National Forest at the valley below us. A whirlwind in Massachusetts ends today, and I am off to Colorado and a new project begins!

I and my friend Shay will be traveling around, alternately into the wilderness and into new communities, blogging about both, and pausing long enough to suck up some delicious wifi on the way.

Ca’n’t forget those gaming roots!

Visit our shared blog at and my Patreon page at if you want to follow along with our adventure, and there you’ll find ways to help support our journey if you like!

It’s a little scary, heading off onto this totally new thing, but I am super excited about it. More words from me once I am more settled in Denver – or maybe the airport, if there is a long layover.


Even Heroes Lose Their Way


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Here’s Chapter 1 of a new tale of Arnd!

Please enjoy “Arnd and the Trackless Desert, Chapter 1: Even Heroes Lose Their Way”!

The summer had been long and abnormally hot this year. The sun hung high above their heads, its fierce blazing seeming to bleach the blue from the sky just as it sucked the moisture from the soil of their small garden and reddened their skin.

Exhausted from the work of turning the soil to ready it for the midsummer planting, Ailin wipes the sweat from her brow with the hem of her simple cotton sundress, oblivious to the immodesty of such a motion – after all, there was no one this far from the towns, no one but herself and Auntie Nem of course. The girl – more a young woman now, as she neared fifteen winters – looked over at the comfortable rocking-chair set under a shady tree nearby, where the old woman napped through the heat, and smiled.

To pass the time as she toiled, she began to recite to herself one of the stories she had heard so many times, one brought to mind by the heat of the sun and the feeling of the earth crumbling in her hands and under her toes. So focused was she on her work that she hardly noticed that she was whispering the words aloud, nor did she see the sliver of eye peeking from behind the eyelids of the old woman who watched and listened with an acuity that belied her advanced age.

The great hero Arnd, deep in grief over the loss of his beloved, had wandered heedlessly and far for many, many days…

For the rest of part 1, head over to my deviantArt page and find the whole chapter there!

The Unheard Eulogy Of The Stone



Born from the embers of ancient dead stars
And shaped by the roiling youth of our sphere
Your edges were rough and your shape was untooled
Your creator the endless and natural law

Your birth-herald: anguishing cracking of rock
And the shattering cleaving of your mother shale
The wrenching, the roaring, the shivering earth
You were cast out on the high, lifeless shore

You were, and you watched, and the heavens spun on
No thinking, no wanting, no needing, no pain
Nor moved nor aroused by breeze or by gale
Your heartbeat, the eons that came and then went

When a sudden miraculous swirl then unfurled
Your timeless eyes dazzled, it burst out from nothing
It flooded your world and it flowed and it changed
Inconstant, ineffable, changing, bizarre

Blooming, then with’ring, then rising again
Its shapes inconceiveable to your solid mind
First specks, and then patches, then suddenly, roots
They, your first teachers of wounding and pain

Small fissures, a few chips, a weathering rut
Water flowed over and gnawed at your flesh
Then covered, engulfed, and shrouded in green
Around you, your brethren ground into sand

But you, you had fortune’s compassionate light:
The earth groaned and buckled and carried you high
So swiftly, so slowly, a mountain arose
And you were its capstone, its heavenly heart

But then, after ages! Your body, invaded!
So high were you pressed that the air became chill
Those precious few drops which had slithered inside you
They froze, they expanded, the agony grew

Then rending and killing it forced you apart
First one crack, then dozens, shards flaking away
Where you once had towered, a unified whole,
Now fractured and broken you cowered and fell

’till there was nothing to marker your tomb
No token remembered, no heart there aggrieved
Your glory once perfect now crushed and brought low
With nary a witness, and no one to mourn

Universe as Phantasmagoria


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Phantasmagoria –  /ˌfanˌtazməˈɡôrēə/ – noun – A sequence of real or imaginary dreamlike images. The original usage referred to an early predecessor of slide projection, primarily used to project unsettling images of ghosts, devils, and other terrifying creatures, making the word have somewhat sinister undertones.

This same dissonant, ethereal, ‘that ca’n’t possibly be real’ feeling is evoked when I look around at the state of the world around me.

I don’t mean the greater political landscape – though that terrifies me as well, for different reasons. I mean, literally, the world just outside my door. And, often, within as well.

We live in a world full of wonder. Every morning, the sun rises – an almost unimaginably hot, indescribably huge ball of nuclear fire claws its way up above the horizon in a blaze of colors ranging from faint orange to deep crimson, against a field of every brilliant shade of blue imaginable. Only those colors aren’t real – they are simply the only way our tiny brains can begin to interpret the vast spectrum of electromagnetic waves spewing at us across the immense distances involved. And, actually, it isn’t moving. We are, at more than 1,000 miles per hour, on the surface of a spinning orb that is, itself, moving in a complex dance that carries it, us, and everything we know through a deadly void that is as close to true nothingness as one can get.

We, ourselves, are amazing. Our bodies are built out of nearly countless cells – estimated to be somewhere in the vicinity of one hundred trillion (that’s 100,000,000,000,000… but just typing that number out makes it clear how totally incomprehensible it really is to our minds. I know what it means. I can even sort of grasp the magnitude of it, with effort. But then I think about how just to count that high at my normal counting rate (roughly three numbers a second) would take, literally, a million years, and my mind just blanks again.

That’s not the best part, though. These cells come in a stunning variety of sorts, each radically specialized for its own particular task – a clockwork machine called a ‘person’ with one hundred trillion little moving springs and cogs and wheels. And it happened – most likely – totally by accident, one chance in a number so high it is essentially infinity that lead to something that could replicate itself, a process which snowballed into what we have today.

And each of these cells is, itself, made of one hundred trillion atoms – and this is even more amazing, if that is possible. The cells, at least, are ‘alive’ (whatever that really means, but that is beyond the scope of this post) and so their ability to do things is at least somewhat comprehensible. The atoms, formed into molecules, formed into larger arrangements, are simply a game of pachinko at a massive scale, tiny particles crashing and bonding and splitting and crashing again in a way that, through some ineffable miracle, gave rise to this self-motivated, apparently conscious, willful, powerful bag of dirty water which has incredibly – impossibly – incomprehensibly – gained consciousness.

And all around us are billions of similar creatures, and trillions more somewhat related clockworks, from tiny ones with but a single cog to those hundreds or thousands of times more massive than we are.

How do I get from here to phantasmagoria? Simple: we don’t see it. We blithely go about our business, moving from here to there and back, doing our ‘jobs’ – as if they were part of some natural law, totally heedless of the fact that everything we call society is just a consensual, mass hallucination shared by seven billion of us, fractured and subdivided by nearly imaginary lines. We allow ourselves to be so consumed by our nearly insignificant concerns, worries, joys, disappointments, victories, defeats, and other ephemeral-in-a-cosmic-sense experiences that we manage to be -bored-.

So: phantasmagoria. A dreamlike illusion of banality overlaid on an astonishing backdrop of staggering immensity.

I think I am going to make a point of watching a sunrise sometime soon, just to remind myself.

I am a monster…


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So! Let me introduce the first regular feature for ElleShaped, something I’m calling ‘Welcome to Tuesday!’

Basically this will be a regular weekly look at what I’ve been up to this past week, and a place for me to pour out whatever weirdnesses have been percolating in my mind. The only thing reliable about it is likely to be the fact that it’ll happen every week!

Without further ado, here goes the first installment.

I am a monster…

Or at least I play one on the internet >.>

Other than The Secret World, most of my characters tend towards evil and frequently have no qualms about engaging in violence or other nefarious means to achieve their ends.

There’s the straightforward ones like Aethra Sunder, my EVE Online character.

AethraSunder002She’s a pirate, a drug manufacturer and supplier, and even though she herself is a liberated slave, she’s got no objection to making slaves of other people she finds attractive or appealing.

On the other hand, she isn’t a sadist because she likes inflicting pain – for her it is more about freedom to indulge whatever desires she has, and a burning need to take and have – anything and everything, and that is what drives her into the black.


There’s Brielle, of course, my vampire matriarch in Elder Scrolls Online. She, too, is more complicated than just a simple ravening beast, though. She really wants security and safety for herself and those she cares about, and to please the Prince to whom she is beholden. Her past and her allegiance frees her from almost all other moral structures, though, and so her actions are quite easily seen as monstrous – she has kidnapped more than a few people and compelled them to become a part of the house, but once they fall in line she can be quite sweet… so long as she isn’t angry or peeved.

But now, there’s a new monster for me, and this one has no pretensions of personhood. The Kraken exists to kill, devour, and destroy, and it is driven mercilessly by them. Kill to eat, eat to grow, grow to survive, survive to kill again… and its escapades end up looking like this (gameplay footage of me playing ‘Evolve’):

And I’ve been loving every minute of the time I’ve spent playing Evolve. Even when I get my ass kicked – and when I come across a really organized, experienced team, I do – I find I’m learning new things in every match, and getting even better at being a monster.

So. Welcome to Tuesday. Be careful when you go out – there are monsters about!


It’s good to have a plan…

I suffer from severe white-page-intimidation. It makes it difficult to post to a blog, especially, because on top of ‘Holy crap, that’s a lot of blank space how the hell am I going to fill it?!?’ there’s a huge dose of ‘People are going to see this! Like, NOW! It has to be PERFECT!’

I don’t say this as an excuse for my lack of posting, but more of an explanation. I think I have an idea to help alleviate this, and to encourage myself to get back to a much more regular and consistent posting pattern.

To this end, I’ve decided I will do a couple of things: First, I’m coming up with a schedule for myself, not so much a binding document but more of a prompt, to remind me to post and to help with that ‘What do I write?!?’ terror. Second, I’ve decided that I’m going to go ahead and launch a Patreon profile and attach it to my stories… and it will be up as soon as I figure out what I want to do for my promo video. Lastly, I’ve revived my fractals project and set up Apophysis to support it.

Hopefully I can keep this ball rolling, now that it’s been… um… rerolled?