Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Hike

Socks, boots, stakes, extra layers for warmth, extra water, ibuprofen. Ready to go hiking with my grandson!

So we set out for our adventure. (His mother drove us to the trailhead and went along  just to make sure we didn't get into trouble.)

Although it is not as old as the Hoh forest on the Kitsap Peninsula, the Point Reyes forest has much of that same "land that time forgot" aura.

The initial hike plan had to be modified, but we still managed nine miles in about four hours, plus an hour spent eating sandwiches and watching the Pacific Ocean sparkle in the winter sun.

Monday, December 28, 2015

From the Pits of Despair to Astronomical Heights

Sunday, December 27

Aren't search engines the best serendipity enablers? Google Maps took "attractions near me" and interpreted it as "La Brea Tar Pits", only 15 minutes away, and it was! Parking, another matter ...

We stopped on the way for breakfast at Tom n Toms, a Korean coffee chain with a decidedly different menu than that other company. Persimmon freezes, sweet potato lattes, fresh-baked stuffed pretzels. Watch for these guys, we think they will knock another hole in the dominant caffeine vendor's market share.

Wiltern Building
Across the street, a strangely green movie theater caught our attention. It definitely could challenge the oft-decried (and now demolished) "blue building" in Ballston, Virginia, that was home to a number of Marymount University's departments.

La Brea Museum 

Takeaways from the downtown park/ interpretive center/ ongoing archeological dig at the La Brea Tar Pits :
  • Sabertooth cats are not related to tigers. Housecats are genetically closer -- but Tess has agreed not to keep one as a pet. Dire wolves are off the list, too.
  • Bison fossils in the pits even have fly skeletons caught in their pelts!
  • Grad students working in the muck and ooze to excavate fly skeletons are gifted with great dedication to their field of study, not paid enough, or both.
After lunch, we  carpooled up to Mount Hollywood's flanks and stood patiently on line for the bus to the summit under clear skies and mild temperatures.

The Griffith Observatory is an art-deco structure with two great domes housing a planetarium and a 12 inch refracting telescope that supported state of the art astronomy in 1904. More of a recreation and education center than an observatory these days, it is still a favorite destination for locals; the Cafe at the End of the Universe is one of Wofgang Puck's restaurants, one of the theaters is named the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater, and the bust of James Dean in the field commemorates the facility's role in Rebel Without A Cause.

Looking down on current-day Greater Los Angeles spread out from horizon to horizon, it is hard to believe that so much understanding of the universe was gained here before advancing technology and light pollution drove astronomers farther and farther from the city, first to Mount Wilson and then beyond.

Less than half a century later the Hubble space telescope has shown us even more wonders, and the ASKAP in Australia has supplanted the great Arecibo antenna in Puerto Rico.  Next, the James Webb space telescope. What beauty will we find?

I visited the 200 inch telescope Mount Palomar once in my youth, and saw the U of A build several specialized telescopes at Kitt Peak and on Mount Hopkins. Spending more of my life observing distant galaxies and less engaging with my own world would have been very different.

I might have had and passed on to my children more common sense, perhaps? As we queued up for the shuttle bus down the mountain, the sun sank toward the horizon and -- as they do on desert mountains, I know this -- temperatures plunged. Huddling together, we successfully staved off hypothermia until the bus arrived.

We celebrated our close escape with dinner at the House of Pies. Tomorrow, we head north to Castro Valley after profusely thanking Brian and Katie for a memorable Christmas visit.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Life in the City of Angels

Very late wakeup this morning for some reason.

Midday found us gathered under a clear sky at a dog play park in the hills overlooking Los Angeles. Poptart showed off his apparently unlimited energy by racing after tennis balls; Cocoa glided quetly next to us and did her best to ignore male suitors. The most persistent, though, received a quiet but savage snarl that sent all but one packing immediately. We intervened on her behalf with the one who was too clueless to get the message.

Photos follow of our dinner at the original Bob's Big Boy, not far from the Warner Brothers studios.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas, communing, consuming

Excellent and enormous holiday meal prepared by Brian and Katie, greatly enjoyed in a full evening of feeding both minds and mouths. Remarkable to see my grandson engaging and sharing in conversation; enjoyable to watch Katie amd Brian working together, and surprising to hear both families talking about their return to attending church services. Guess I'd  better get over my issues with God's cheering squad, too.

Exhausting, though,  after my journey.  I slept until 11.

Friday, December 25, 2015

En la ciudad de Los Ángeles

Traveling solo is lonely sometimes, but it also allows a certain freedom to wander off the main track ... in this case, walking around service streets at 3 a.m. looking unsuccessfully for the Bob Hope USO at L.A. International. Online info points to the area near the LAX Theme Building, but I missed it.

LAX Theme Building

Update at 7:00 p.m. on 12/25

Rather than gawking at the tower, I should have been looking at the low nondescript buildings that -- except for the clearly displayed signs that I somehow missed -- looked like the construction offices for the terminal upgrade in progress.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The early bird ... gets delayed

Stumbled out of the gate on today's race west -- all Delta flights from BWI to ATL delayed, currently by an hour.

Many apologies to my good friends John and Barbara for unnecessarily rushing to the airport, and thanks for delivering me promptly to the departure unloading zone! ( I never know about airlines.)

TSA "randomly"chose me for the new mandatory patdown inspection. After four decades -- yes, the first time was in '73 -- I don't even bother to get irritated.

Update at 2:03 Eastern time

Good news -- Delta's scheduled 8:10 has departed for Atlanta, only 5 1/2 hours late. Bad news: Southwest has flat cancelled their flight. On hold waiting for a rep to look for a new direction in my wanderings.

Update at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time

Delta 1495 is on its way north, schedule to leave Baltimore about 5 p.m. The usually optimistic airline schedules show arrival in Atlanta's Terminal E about 50 minutes before the scheduled departure of the flight to San Jose from Terminal A. Jetway sprint time?

Update at 10:15 pm Eastern time

Memo to Delta Airlines. Re: Best practices for customer management. Corporate reputations depend on customer interaction experiences under stressful conditions. The worst outcome for both parties is one that forces repeated encounters to address the same issue.

 For the company, many employees waste time and communications resources, often at cross purposes, until the hapless dancers in the bureaucratic Caucus Race collapse at the sill of the Person Who Know How To Work The System ... thereby adding unnecessary stress to said Person's work experience. For the customer, the apparently incomplete and inaccurate guidance appears as corporate incompetence and -- even worse -- a refusal to consider the customer's issue as a serious matter.

Noted while browsing the twitterverse for options that United has at least gone to the trouble of stationing dogs in the boarding areas to calm stressed passengers. Not much, but more than I've seen from Delta this evening.

On standby with a long list of other marooned souls for departure at 11:37 pm.

Update at 02:10 Pacific time

Well, I made it -- and in style, last standby chosen, with cheers and best wishes of the season from the remaining marooned travelers in Atlanta. Even better,  the seat was one of the three that are just behind the 757's main door; I had miles of leg room, and was first off the plane when we arrived!

Still unresolved, whether my checked bag was delivered here, or went on to San Jose without me.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Westward bound again

A small personal record -- this will be the first year I have crossed the Mississippi five times, excluding business travel.  First destination is Castro Valley, via Atlanta and San Jose; second, Los Angeles for Christmas Day with Poptart and his trusty companions. Then, back to Castro Valley where my grandson is going to show me how to go wandering in the woods.

Forecast weather here at Valhalla Ranch for Christmas Eve is a high of 71F.  California? North 51F, south 57F. Guess I can leave the straw hat and bermudas tucked in the trunk of the car with the heavy coat, then; not much doubt which one I'll need when I return on the 3rd, but one can't be sure.

Why I need a time out

Sunday, November 22, 2015

McAfee Knob, round two

Another attempt to see the sun rise from the iconic Appalachian Trail perch at McAfee Knob this weekend, much more carefully planned:
  • Nighttime temperature above sleeping bag rating of 20 F, barely
  • Forecast morning dew point below air temperature, no fog
  • Forecast sky conditions "partly cloudy"-- a reasonable gamble, since the previous and following day's forecasts are clear 
  • Experienced hiker support of my mentor and good friend Kirsten Elowsky enlisted to provide expert common sense advice and safety alerts.
Ready!  After a reasonably unimpededdrive down Interstate 81 and a stiff climb up to camping area, we were able to set up camp and cook hot meals shortly after the sun disappeared over the western horizon (14 hours to go, brrr ...) 

Kirsten even built a campfire and provided chocolates to finish off the evening.

Only half an hour after the 3:00 a.m., our packs were stripped down to minimum essential for the hour-long climb to the summit. On arrival at McAfee Knob, we found ourselves alone on a chilly (20's) windswept (also 20's) fog-free granite ledge, looking at a starlight sky about 20 percent occluded by clouds

almost all on the eastern horizon.

We made hot chocolate and wrapped ourselves up to wait for two hours, hoping the sun would break through. Then, back down the hill to strike camp, hike back to the parking lot in the tardy sunshine, and drive off to meet, eat, commiserate, and affirm plans to climb the ridge once again.

Not likely before spring, though.

Photos follow.

Monday, November 16, 2015

November winds

Some small adventures here in Virginia worth noting, before I launch off on another adventure:

Valhalla Ranch redo. A lot of maintenance is going on as the ranch cuts back on four-legged production animals and advertises for more of the two-legged (rent paying) kind. Thor, Valkyrie, the horses, and the cats are gone; the chickens remain, and Theodore Geisel is trying to cover for the canine department.

Crew work at Eaton Hollow, at the southern end of the Shenandoah National Park west of Charlottesville. The park gates were closed at 5:00 PM every day, and many of us wore bright orange clothing -- it's hunting season.
View from Argow Cabin

  • Relocation at Valhalla Ranch to a less exposed room. A number of my close friends approve!

  • Friday, November 13, 2015

    Hi ho! (hi ho) Hi ho,hi ho, it's off to work we go ...

    Trail repair crew again this weekend; original plan was for a relocation in the Eaton Hollow area of Shenandoah National Park.

    Email from the crew coordinator yesterday, however, says that Higher Authorities have urgently asked for our help at the new Old Rag cabin, about 30 miles north. That's what we make plans for, so we know when we're not following them.

    Friday, November 6, 2015

    Sunrises, meteors -- boring, try fog instead!

    As I skipped merrily (some might have said staggered and wheezed, but what do they know) up from the campsite area to the McAfee Knob overlook in the predawn dark through heavy brush and along stone precipices, it occurred to me that I was doing just as my father did: preaching the importance of never going out into the woods without a hiking partner, and then doing just that.

    Not especially smart, since the summit was enveloped in a thick fog that limited viewing of cliff edges as well as celestial events. Looked cool around the trees, though; I will go back, preferably with companions.

    Here's a photo from the previous evening, taken for my children and my grandchildren by a cheerful young Hokie. Staying alive!

    The rangers have a bear alert posted for the area, too ....

    Thursday, November 5, 2015

    Overnight for a sunrise at McAfee Knob

    Since I did not make Mount Fuji this year, I am going to try and claim a more  accessible summit with iconic status -- McAfee Knob, west of Salem, Virginia. Back by Saturday.

    Thursday, October 15, 2015


    Last day at Morningside for the year. I'll hope to return in April.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2015

    Textured air

    "Textured" is hangspeak for winds that vary rapidly in direction and speed. Not for beginners -- so the instructor helped me run the glider back down the hiĺl.

    Fortunately, I have learned enough not to risk flying. Still working on that "never regret choosing not to fly" part, though.

    One more day for this year. Senior instructor says it's doubtful.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2015

    Rreally old roads

    Another ten hour dash along the boundaries of the eastern American megalopolis; in spite of wind shredded cloud layer at sunset, forecast is for good winds tomorrow at Morningside.

    My part is done -- I showed up. Almost all the rest is somebody else's problem.

    Monday, October 12, 2015

    Hawksbill Mountain the hard way ...

    ... was a bit too much to stuff into the day before I return to Morningside. Great day to be out hiking, though.

    More trail, no more time

    I might be able to try again on Sunday.

    Sunday, October 11, 2015

    Annapolis Rocks

    Impulse hike with Ted Conwell's merry band of truthsayers to Annapolis Rocks, an easy 2 mile walk on the AT to a great vista.

    Unhappily, a UK visitor hiking the trail let his enthusiastic efforts to photograph the view overcome his common sense regarding steep cliffs. It might not have made much difference, but he got a full turnout of volunteer and professional help including the AT ridge runner, a Maryland Parks rescue crew, the Myersville Fire Department, an off duty EMT, a wilderness first aid certified hiker, an ER certified nurse, and two medevac helicopters.

    We stayed out of the way, ate lunch sitting on another rock overlook further north, and reminded each other to appreciate every day.

    Saturday, October 10, 2015

    Whether to suffer the storms and winds of outrageous weather ...

     ... or, not.

    Returning to Valhalla Ranch today. I will wait out the rest of this weather cycle, and plan to return on Wednesday.

    Also, my sleeping bag got soaked last night.

    While back in Virginia, I may try to shoehorn in a walk to the top of Hawksbill Mountain, highest point im the Shenandoahs. Reportedly, it is not a very inspiring climb, just one of those check-off "yeah, did that" hikes.

    As one of my instructors says, "Never regret deciding not to fly, or you may regret flying." So, I won't -- but I'll plan to be back.

    Friday, October 9, 2015

    Everywhere, beauty

    Lye Brook Falls, Manchester VT. If you haven't already jumped up to grab you boots and head this way, I'm a poor photographer. Which is true.

    Lye Brook Falls

      Lye Brook Falls stone

    Morning fog in Vermont valleys

    Thursday, October 8, 2015

    Making lemonade

    Veteran kibitzer J. B. says, "See, there's the wind coming up now." Yup, from the north. Winds rotating clockwise around the high flowing out to follow Joaquin's departure. If the high had only tracked a little further south ...

    Tomorrow's forecast, rain. This weekend, fly-in party! With little room for novice flying,  but, at least interesting people.

    In the meantime, though -- if there's no wind for flying, I'll go hiking. Headed out to explore the Lye Brook Falls in the Green Mountains.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2015

    These are not good atmospheric conditions for hang gliding.

    Foggy morning cleared up after a couple of hours, leaving zero wind. Set up the glider and hope? Well, maybe some practice runs..

    Five sled runs down the slope making old mistakes -- then on the sixth, air! Then, the wind finally picked up and swung hard north, out of bounds -- field closed. Sigh. 

    Old roads, been here before.

    Old acquaintances, as well. A favorite instructor from the Kitty Hawk site is now teaching novice paragliding pilots at Morningside and vowing never to go back. Never?

    I learned my lesson on that years ago. The hubris of  saying "never" raises to near certainity the odds of "soon, and for a long, long time" ... call it the Jonah and the Whale Effect.

    Afternoon update: full north at the 450, light westerly gusts over the LZ, steady south in between. All unwelcome for pilots who want to fly another day. I do.

    Tuesday, October 6, 2015

    Driving to New Hampshire, wings on my mind

    182888 on the odometer crossing the Potomac norrthbound. Old destination, different roads. Weather looks perfect for flying; reasonably good for driving, too, but ... maybe Wednesday's winds will be the same?

    The All American Annual Autumn Roadway Renovation & Repair Race made the trip a little more challenging -- winter arriving again before we really get to work on these urgent problems, why does this happen every year? Good thing the crew is always willing to do some overtime ...

    Morningside, 645 miles later. Full starfield, moonless niģht. Life is good.

    Northbound -- and some more pix of Norfolk flooding

    Heading north today, leaving Valhalla Ranch behind again. Dogs are reportedly doing well, enjoying Florida.

    Excellent winds forecast at Morningside -- while I am driving there. Less good tomorrow ... but it all depends on the coastal storm that was Hurricane Joaquin.

    Here's a couple more photos of flooding from my mother-in-law's balcony; she and I agree, it must be upsetting for the owners of these multimillion dollar homes ... but before anyone starts thinking about global warming, this sort of flooding is more or less normal in the Norfolk area. One drives with care after rainstorms.

    Saturday, October 3, 2015

    Redirecting, following the storm north

    Movie date at the Naro Theatre again with a close friend of many years. She and I enjoyed "Pawn Sacrifice" the film about Bobby Fischer's battle for the world grand chessmaster title and for his own sanity. Therese and I agreed later that few of our friends would have appreciated the film as much as we did.

    Easy for both of us to understand why her second daughter's marriage was so strong.

    Skies look promising as the hurricane moves north. After consultation with  my brother-in-law, I have agreed to return in a few weeks to offer moral support.

    Tomorrow, north to Valhalla Ranch, laundry, and other preparations to head north on Tuesday. Next post should be after my first flying day on Wednesday.

    Thursday, October 1, 2015

    Familiar roads again this weekend

    Viewing Joaquin's progress today from a hotel in Williamsburg after driving a familiar track to Ropers Church Road and walking a familiar path into Makemie Woods.

     Onward tomorrow to Norfolk, bearing gifts from the Henmistress of Valhalla!

    Whence I will brave flooded streets to reach the high tower where a fair lady waits with a bottle of wine ... and as we have before, my mother-in-law and I will sit back on her 10th floor porch and discover the Truth in all of the world's joys and woes. Or ours, at least.

    New England winds are turning to a good heading, but that hurricane is still trying to get in my way; also, the fields are reportedly a bit wet, not so good for sure-footed landings. I plan to swim those puddles when I get there.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2015

    Cyclonic course changes

    Last year it was snakes. This year, tornados (Kansas), typhoons (Japan), and hurricanes (Norfolk). What next?


    Mucha lluvia hoy

    Studying out on the porch today, listening to the latest henhouse gossip.

    Friday, September 25, 2015

    Nearly unhorsed!

    Heart-pumping times here at Valhalla Ranch tonight. 

    Some irresponsible driver slid through the corner on Greggsville Road near the ranch entrance and -- for the third time in memory, the recently promoted stewards tell me -- crashed into and knocked down a section of fence, and then drove off.  that keeps the horses from wandering onto that same roadway. Alerted by a neighbor of the damage to the barrier that keeps the horses from wandering onto that same dirt roadway, the two stewards borrowed my Ion and raced out to contain the situation.

    When I followed them out, I found one consoling the horses -- who were likely wishing they had been taken south to Florida as originally planned -- while the other person who struggles to keep this happy place out of entropy's grip worked in the glare of the Ion's hi beams, knocking enough of the rails back together to keep everything under control until morning.

    My suggestion to increase the ranch's defenses by adding Jersey barriers seemed too passive. Real horse people, our self-proclaimed farm girl said, would have stayed to protect the animals, or at least come to the house's door to alert and apologize.

    I suspect the former Royal Marine who named the ranch would have spoken of more active options for repelling invaders. I am also sure that many an un-Christian thought turned to the deities after which our erstwhile canine guardians Thor and Valkyrie were named.

    Monday, September 14, 2015


    Very good final stop for this adventure at Assateague Island! Cold front induced storms that limited recreation in Delaware had cleared away, leaving a Milky Way-viewing starlit night in exchange for a chilly sleep.

    So. There are two herds of ponies, and neither of them swam to the barrier islands by a sinking Spanish galleon. One herd swims to the mainland, where colts aremauctioned off; the other is controlled using contraceptive darts, but otherwise allowed to live as wild animals.

    This apparently includes brazen raids on camground picnic tables, undeterred by human visitors who would rather not have the remains of the evening's repast strewn across the sand.  No, I did not get photos, I was too busy rescuing a plastic bag full of trash from a docile but stubborn cousin of a mule. Grrr.

    Sunrise was beautiful.

    As a final bonus, a bit of Delaware goodness was waiting in a Salisbury mall food court : Jake's Wayback Burgers! Oatmeal Cookie shake, recommended.

    Sunday, September 13, 2015

    Southbound on US 13

    On the road this morning to Assateague, since the weather has finally cleared up.

    Maryland Seafood Festival was enjoyable, if a bit rainy. Photos follow.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015

    Changes happen, like them or not

    Thunder, gusts, and outright downpours here have chilled kayaking plans. The new GoApe! zipline activity at Lums Pond also seems a poor fit for the weather. 

    (A zipline in Delaware -- what, from the top of the WSFS tower to the base of Caesar Rodney's horse? No, it actually runs across the pond and through the treetops of Lums Forest, and looks like it would be very enjoyable on a dry and lightning-free day.) 

    But, lightning storms were in the forecast. So, out to Brandywine Creek State Park for a ramble along trails we all knew well.

    Old Rocky Run Bridge

    Except. Very sad to report, the Poohsticks Bridge (aka the Rocky Run Bridge) is down! A local said it was demolished before the deteriorating underside brought the whole thing down into the stream with a coĺlection of runners, strollers, bikers, and park maintenance vehicles.  

    Our tribe often gathered there to play the Winnie-the-Pooh inspired game of dropping sticks off one side of the bridge and then rushing to the other side to see whose stick came out first. A new steel beam bridge is being rushed into place, but --being sturdier and safer -- it just won't be the same.

    Rocky Run is still cheerily pushing stones out of its way, though, even in the bend where a trio of young engineers tried to block its path a few years ago.

    Rocky Run, upstream

    Stopped into Charcoal Pit for a grilled cheese, tomato and onion sandwich with a root beer float, much the same as it has always been. About a hundred yards north, though, there's a shop with another well known name getting ready to open:

    Concord Pike

    A Claymont Steak Shop in Talleyville? Unimaginable! 

    Change. It's just around the next turn in the trail ... right up there, see?

    Brandywine Creek trail

    Wednesday, September 9, 2015

    Lums Pond

    So, this Delaware version of a yurt is another example of riding the line between feeding the urge to reach back to days gone by and meeting modern expectations. 

    Inside a Lums Pond yurt
    I mean, who hasn't wanted to set up a skin-covered dome in the fresh grass-scented air of the steppes, sleep together wrapped in furs, horses breathing heavily outside ... on the ground, with no insect screens and No Air Conditioning? And I suppose I can do without WiFi for a day or two, but how am I supposed to keep my cell phone charged?

    The Delaware Air National Guard did its best to make up for the missing horses, sending a C-130 during the day and a flight of helicopters in the evening. Not the same, somehow.

    Lums Pond boat launch
    The Park does provide a courtesy kayak with the yurt, so I hurried out last evening to paddle about before they closed the lake at sundown. A familiar boat ramp, some egrets and herons about, but the tree where flocks of the white birds came to nest at sundown was not occupied. Marie called it the "Christmas Egret Tree" ... still too hot here, perhaps, maybe by the time the annual holiday music assault hits the malls.

    Tuesday, September 8, 2015

    A few more photos of Dolly Sods

    From the camera of K. Elowsky, the hike leader.

    Old Roads

    180501 on the odometer, out past the horses. Good bye, they tell me you might be gone before I get back. Sorry I missed the chance to make friends with you ...

    I'm told that the only animals left besides humans and spiders will be the chickens. Sigh.

    Wading around the Washington beltway, then out US 50, over the Bay Bridge and up through Delmarva farm country on US 301, WXPN playing. Old roads for me. I know most of the turns, the best lanes to use, the areas that law enforcement officers use for revenue enhancement. A little less stressful to drive (except the Beltway), a little safer -- but also underlaid with a feeling of going in circles, wasting time and gas going nowhere.

    Listening to an NPR interview on WAMU, Joyce Carol Oates talking about her memoir, The Lost Landscape, growing up in a farm north of Buffalo, discovering books, real books with binding and unique fonts, in a few sent to her by her grandmother. Her lifelong favorite: an original version of Alice in Wonderland, complete with the first published drawings of the animal characters. She wrote, and wrote, and drew, discovered libraries, went on to college (including a mock Ivy League university in upstate New York), became a prolific and famous author. Sounds like it will be worth reading! 

    NPR then shifted from the sublime to the tedious: talking Beltway heads. They filled their airtime wondering whether Congress will avoid gridlock or in fact do anything, what Clinton will say to the quasi-permanent Benghazi committee, and hoping Pope Francis won't use his time with Congress to lay about with a rope and hold them accountable for their stewardship.

    One of the heads suggested that His Holiness would surely leave his jawbone with the Archbishop of Chicago, though, and avoid sensitive issues when he addresses Congress. Could be, but the man hasn't shied away much yet from speaking truth to power. More than a few of us will be rallying to his side if he does as the reactio -- pardon, the conservatives -- try to hustle him him off to a secret tribunal.
    A caller spoke clearly and to the point on the gridlock question; the budget showdown has become an annual festival of sorts to celebrate Washington's dysfunction, she said.  Agreed. Several voices talked about changing the system, instead of just electing new names. Also agreed, cautiously, but hoping we won't be fooled again ...  Change stations.

    301, WXPN playing. Announcer chattering about the possibility of rain tomorrow,  badly needed to break the heat wave ... but not another downpour if possible, it seems like the weather just swings between too much and too little these days. Ayup, I think to myself, that's the climate shift. I recall the same kind of weather in Arizona; very good for expanding deserts, it seems ... now it's on the East Coast? To think, I ran away from home in '72 to dodge the economic impact of water shortages.
    Old roads ... and some like the Washington beltway seem to spin frustrated drivers around every day, subordinate human activity to their will rather than serving it, and swallow enormous amounts of property, money, and time while they do it.
    To quote from an old MAD Magazine poem about an unfortunate baseball team --
    Someday fans will have their fill
    And ship the team to Louisville.
    Or Leavenworth, may be.
    Fleetwood Mac, Never Going Back, on the radio. Well, I have before and I'm back now. Delaware state line, 180762.


    Hope everyone is enjoying these posts. I hear that adding comments is still a problem since Google tightened up security,  and I'll keep working on it. I have added a place where anyone who wants to sign up for updates can add their email address -- fair warning, I have not looked into removing addresses from the list yet. 

    Friday, September 4, 2015

    Virginia rain

    ... is good, it cuts the humidity and grounds the flying insects. Briefly.

    Valhalla Ranch, from the sunrise deck

    Friday, August 14, 2015

    Off in September to wander well worn paths

    My first autumn trip will plan to follow trails in Delaware full of memories, and possibly adding a few more.

    I will be leaving on September 8 for Lums Pond State Park to stay in a yurt for three nights, then heading south to wander the Delaware beaches.

    Monday, August 10, 2015

    The Word for Herren Dahles' alpine meadows is ...


    Also, wild blueberries and huckleberries (yum).

    Bring layers, though -- expect to get hot, cold, wet and muddy. It's essential to the Dolly Sods wilderness experience.

    Friday, August 7, 2015

    Rolling into West Virginia for the weekend

    My backpack and daypack are stuffed with gear for a three day expedition into the Dolly Sods region of the Monongahela Forest, once spoken of by locals "with a sort of dread, and regard it as an ill-omened region, filled with bears, panthers, impassable laurel-brakes, and dangerous precipices". These days, former Scout leaders like Paul Hill recall it as a location for troop hikes ... yes, scary.

    Kirsten Elowsky assures me,though, that there will be enough climbing to keep me from losing the muscle tone I built up this summer. So, upward!

    I plan to return to Valhalla on Monday, August 10, but will be out of contact until then. Photos next week.

    (Side note: Perseids meteor shower maximum is expected before dawn on August 12, with no moon. If you can get to a light-free sky, please enjoy!)

    Monday, July 27, 2015

    Well, I'm back

    John Kittridge drove me back to Valhalla Ranch this morning. There was a joyful two-Bernard committee waiting to welcome this prodigal son back, and the overstuffed chair was ready for me after I finished the ritual greetings, sniffs, and buttscratches.

    Thor in his summer suit Valkyrie in her summer dress

    Yesterday's transcontinental trip was my first flight on the new C-17 transport! Here's a stock photo.

     Takeoff was extremely late (3 hours); after all, we were just extra cargo! They stuffed me in at the 940 mark (centimeters?), port side.  The old web seats have been replaced with a slightly cushioned ergonomic design, it seems, complete with a personal fire protection evacuation hood ... no life vest, though.

    The flight was more of a family overnight experience than the usual cattle car feeling on commercial flights -- kids and some adults spread pads on the cargo floor, unpacked their PBJ box meals, refilled their cups and flasks from coolers full of ice water. Hate to think what some clear air turbulence would have done.

    Plenty of leg room, though, about eight feet from the side mounted seats to the center of the empty cargo bay. And noisy children? Not a problem, we all had earplugs in to damp out the sound of the engines rumbling through the hull at our backs.

     The youngest member of the loadmaster's team marched smartly down the line checking seat belts with a polite frozen half-smile on her face, looking very professional. Nomex flight suit was more fashionable than one would think for a fireproof set of overalls. It fit better than many uniforms that the services have inflicted on women service members.

    She engaged in a spirited discussion about the port-a-potty pallet with the square-built loadmaster of perhaps twice her age. They were beyond passenger hearing range in the thundering cavern, but it involved a lot of pointing. The complex sequence involved in raising and lowering the aircraft tail ramp that fascinated all the kids in the audience (yes, me too) was hers to carry out as well --clearly a full partner in the team's work. Times are changing, if slowly.

    On the ground again, the taxi dispatcher asked what city the Andrews AFB passenger terminal was in. Right, I said -- thanks, it may be midnight, but I'll find other transportation. With a base map in hand and orienting on the lights of the flight line, I walked through the empty night time streets to the Air Force Inn.

    Sunday, July 26, 2015


    Turning east today after a week of canceled flights to Yokota as the AMC military airlift schedulers struggled to deliver military families safely past Typhoon Halala's meandering wander between Honshu and Korea.  The storm also made webcam views of my objective look less appealing, likely impassable for a solo hiker, and the height of Japan's vacation season threatened even higher burdens on the mountain trails' capacity. So, another day.

    Noticing that conditions resembled the myth-laden storms sent by the goddess Amaterasu to destroy invading Manchu fleets in the 13th century, I chose to declare a successful scouting mission, turn back to Virginia, and plan my next attempt to climb Fujisan from the comfort of Valhalla Ranch.

     That may be a while in coming. The three weeks I spent in Olympic mountain range have revealed equal and more accessible vistas with a lot fewer hikers on the trail. Plus, fresh salmon and berries!

    My deepest thanks to my generous and patient hosts Virginia and Steve Tebo, and to my close friend Barbara Cook.

    It has been a long summer and a good one, with many unexpected and joy-filled discoveries -- most important, perhaps, confirming that I do find peace and purpose in the life of a wanderer.

    Many photos remain to be posted after I return to the ranch!

    Seattle - Tacoma Airport

    Thursday, July 23, 2015

    Why worry?

    As the saying goes among the Space A aficionados,  you're never lost if you don't know where you are going.

    Second typhoon of the month is threatening the Kanto plain and causing USAF cancellations and delays of the biweekly shuttle run. I will keep trying, but it may not do much good toward climbing Fujisan this year -- the storms are also affecting trail conditions.

    One more week. Climbing in the Olympics has been at least as enjoyable.

    Sunday, July 19, 2015


    Back from a three day wander through the Cascades -- too many jaw-dropping photos to choose the best for this post!

    Mount Rainier from Mount Townsend

    Here's a link to the unsorted stack (still adding more):

     Latest training hike in the Olympics finished on Saturday, summiting Mount Townsend in the Quilcene district.

    Next stop, Fujisan -- but not yet! Tuesday's flight is filled with refugees from last week's typhoon-related flight cancellation. Next flight is Thursday morning.

    Not too upset, many more enjoyable things to do here on the Olympic peninsula, and my host Virginia Tebo is a wonderful chef; this evening, halibut perfection.

    Saturday, July 11, 2015

    Defying Gravity


    Maguire's retelling still reaches inside and evokes harshness buried in the ruins of my first decade in the new millenium. Angered by the actions of those I trusted, I still accept personal responsibility for allowing others to steal away so much that was valuable to me.

    I stayed in my seat this time as Elphaba declared her rejection of the Wizard, of Madame Morrible, of all her patched-together hopes for a meaninful life ... "I can't want it any more".

    Still shaken by his memories of a troop train that had been bombed into ruin in the Rhône valley years ago, my father tried to teach me better -- but I chose to listen to the Aquarians' fantasies instead, ignored the pendulum swing, looked away from the slide into the fear-driven state of close-minded and destructive actors that we have become.  Perhaps we always were.

    Shi kata ka nai. Still honoring my oath of office, in any case.

    Back from an overnight climb to Boulder Lake, only 680 m in six hours. That's about a third of the Mt Fuji climb that I need to do at a higher altitude some day in about eight hours, albeit with less than a forty pound pack.
    Boulder Lake

    The scenery on the way to the lake was worth the climb, though; we walked narrow and uneven trails on slopes whose end was hidden in the treetops below us. Our steps were wrapped in the silence of towering giants that measure their lives in decades and the company of their companions in centuries. The waistline of one tall ancient we met easily cleared 14 meters. Its neighbor, twisted through a forty degree arc by some accident in its youth, was just as awe-inspiring.

    Mosquitoes at the lake were also impressive. Exhausted, we wrapped ourselves in raingear, made dinner quickly, and retired. I slept, as J. R. R. Tolkien once wrote, "in deep content, if logs are contented".

    Serious trail bridge
    Best waterfall on Boulder Lake trail

    Difficult as it is to see here, this rain forest is suffering in its own way from the drought afflicting the West. Snow caps are nearly gone already and glaciers are retreating. Large swaths of hillside are covered with dead pine trees stressed and made vulnerable to invasive insect attack.

    Everything changes, only change remains.

    Best bridge on Hot Springs trail
    Best hiking break