Saturday, January 31, 2009

Walk #31 A Walk With Henry David...

Walk Duration: 1 hour 15 Minutes...

I read through H. D. Thoreau's essay: "Walking" last night. This was published after his death, in 1862 in Harper's Magazine. Some of his best quotes are found within this essay, which was adapted from a set of traveling lectures he did in the 1850's.

H. D. walked four to five hours a day. Anything less than that was hardly worth it (he said).

Nature writers (and Thoreau nearly created the genre--something he learned from his buddy: Ralph Waldo(n) Emerson) are walkers. Mile after mile, year after year, the Enviro Writers ambulate. They look for inspiration. They get inspiration. And they participate as Walkers in our World.

They know the secret. They know you really cannot get to know the world around you unless you walk through it.

So be like Waldo (where is he?), H. D. Thoreau, Eddy Abbey and Gary Snyder. Get out there and walk through your neighborhood, field, thicket, trail, travail, wood, pond...and get out there quick! Before it is gone. Or changed. Or paved over.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Walk #30: A Quote From Gary Snyder

Walk Duration: 30 minutes.

I read this last night in Gary Snyder's essay: "The Etiquette of Freedom":

"Practically speaking, a life that is vowed to simplicity, appropriate boldness, good humor, gratitude, unstinting work and play, and lots of walking brings us close to the actually existing world and its wholeness."


I'm not sure Gary would like to share the page with my mug. Sorry Gary!

Gary lives some forty miles south of here as the Crow flies. He bought one hundred acres with fellow Beatnick Allen Ginsburg. Gary lived there, and commuted to Davis, California where he kept his day job as a Professor. Otherwise he is known as the Poet of Deep Ecology.

I like his essays better. Poetry escapes me. Seems like a lower form of communication. Rhyme. Rhythm. Cadence. They mean nothing to me.

Give me prose! Paragraphs! Ideas that are written as spoken---shared through sentences. Say what you mean. Communication is tough enough without trying to say such through some Post Graduate, Hyper Educated, Ego Ridden, Metaphoric Meaningless Word Sequence Fog.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Walk #29: The Stick Game

Walk Duration: 60 minutes.

I'm told that dogs were domesticated some 12,000 years ago. They came from Wolves who (then as now) were looking for scraps and bones to gnaw on. They became enslaved because they wanted "Fast Food". Sound familiar?

But it has been a happy arrangement for both dog and human. At least I'm happy with the arrangement. Angel and I have a ritual. At least once on our walk, she must wrestle my walking stick away from me:

Then she proudly runs off with the stick:

And then drops it, waiting for me to wrestle it back from her. She is much more amused by this game than I am.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Walk #28: Chickens and Survival

Walk Duration: 40 minutes.

I'd meant to go farther today. But laziness, slothfulness and a desire to not walk uphill won the day. I did come across a new chicken pen some neighbors put in over the weekend. Since the fire last summer, the numbers of wild fauna on the ridge are much diminished. I don't see near as many tracks in the mud. A sad thing.

These decreased numbers of predators seems to have led to more of our neighbors getting chickens. Chicken mortality rates are lower with fewer wild critters seeking an easy meal. Personally, I hope the coyotes, fox, raccoons, cougar, skunks and bears return to raid our chicken coops. We need our wild frontier back.

Our neighbors built this temporary cage (the photo above) far from their house. I think they did this for two reasons: 1. smell and noise and 2. in case the Bears do return this summer, they won't come near their house.

In the Omnivore's Dilemma author Michael Pollan describes a chicken coop on wheels (sort of like the one in the photo above). That way the chickens could fertilize an area with their poop, and the coop would be rolled to another patch of land a few weeks later. This then would fertilize another patch of land.

It will take more than Chicken poop to make this land fertile.

Poet Gary Snyder said that it is impossible to have a garden in this area. The Earth is just too full of clay. One neighbor of ours says: "You have to build up". Use lots of compost. Joni states that Gary Snyder must not have been too good of a gardener to have said that.

Hail the return of the garden! This economic depression we are heading towards (and yes, I believe it will be a depression rivaling the 1930's) has already led to a new interest in gardening. We better learn how to do this soon. My concern is that the level of suffering within this new depression will go far beyond the suffering in the 1930's. Why? Because we have become industrial age, consumer age, immediate gratification seeking, Softies. We have forgotten our survival skills. Nobody knows how to garden. Or sew. Or raise livestock. Or barter. Or do without. Or do much of anything with their hands. Include me in that survival neo-phyte category.

How was your walk today?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Walk #27: A Walk in the Dark

Walk Duration: 20 minutes.

Drove across California, back to my Cabin Home. Got home in time for a late supper, and after greeting and eating--I quickly got in my walk.

Dark. A new moon. I took my flashlight and my white dog. The flashlight is the hand pump/no battery kind. More reliable than those that run on batteries.

Peaceful. Spooky. Walking on these country roads, on a night when there is no moon to guide you, is both exhilarating and scary. The stars were out in full force. Nice to see them. But I also kept thinking about that Mountain Lion track I saw the other day.

Twenty minutes was enough. I'll do more tomorrow.

Walk #26: Through The Mustard!!

Walk Duration: 50 minutes.

Right outside the Library in St. Helena, you will find this path. It winds along the Vineyards which are in full bloom with Mustard:

A relaxing, rejuvenating walk!

This is an older vineyard. I'm not sure of the variety, nor the age of this Grapevine. I suspect it is Cabernet. From Grapevines such as these, come some of the best wine in the world.

The path winds around here and there. I ignored a couple of "No Trespassing Signs" for this walk. I wasn't hurting anything: no grape viruses on my shoes; nothing to pick; no malicious intent in my persona: All I wanted to do is walk. And walk in beauty.

Should a landowner deny me such an experience?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Walk #25: No Motivation...

Walk Duration: Thirty Minutes (and not a second more!)

I struggled with this one.

I went to Calistoga and walked for thirty minutes on the bike path there. I didn't want to. I was tired from work. The wind was blowing. It was cold.

My motivation: I stopped into a bar for a burger, fries and a beer as a reward. Burned 150 calories in order to eat 1,200. With motivation like this, I should waddle like Jabba the Hut by December.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Walk #24: St. Helena...with a stop...

Walk Duration: 50 minutes.

Got started on this walk late; got dark on me. Once again up and down the streets of Trustfunderville. I noticed somebody bought the St. Francis statue I spotted on my last walk. Paid more attention to the restaurants and shops. And broke the walk up halfway with a pit stop: Caesar salad and a beer at Tra Vigna Pizzeria. Only 25 dollars for a sandwich, salad and a wheat ale.

A damp and dark walk. No fun. No motivation.

How was your walk?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Walk #23: Anthony Bourdain and The French Laundry

Walk Duration: 45 minutes.

On a drizzly day, towards evening, I drove 9 miles to Yountville, home of expensive Inns and expensive restaurants. My goal was to find what Anthony Bourdain calls "the best restaurant in the world": The French Laundry.

A walk down Washington Street and sure enough, there it is! A very small brass sign identifies the place. Peeking in through the windows (and feeling a bit like a stalker), I see Chefs working furiously. Walking around back a Chef comes out to dispose of refuse. I think a little about dumpster diving at the best restaurant in the world--but stop myself. I'll just make a reservation someday (the waiting list is only three months long).

Yountville has the best of the best in the Napa Valley. The best Inns. The best restaurants. Jaguars abound. Celebrities abound. The entrance to The French Laundry has a nice little discreet place where the Will Smiths and other Hollywood celebrities can discreetly disembark and partake in Thomas Keller's food.

I halfways think about dropping into the French Laundry to see if I could get a table for one, but then I quickly decide: No. If on the off chance I did get a table, I would never be able to explain to Joni how I managed to eat at this prestige restaurant by myself--on her birthday! I get a little more tactful as I age.

Yountville itself is a make believe small town. Fake. I much prefer Calistoga--heck even hoity-toity St. Helena-- to Yountville. This isn't the real world. It is like a plastic copy of what a small French town should look like. A Disneyesque Replica.

I walk the town. I think about the Four Families of Food in the Napa Valley (an exaggeration). Most of the best restaurants are owned by four families that reign like Kings in their own turf. Two Families in Calistoga. One family in St. Helena (Mustards, Becky's Backstreet Kitchen and GoFish). And Thomas Keller in Yountville (The French Laundry, Bouchon and Bistro Jeanty). It's like the twelve families that used to control (and still do?) El Salvador back in the 80's. More on that another time...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Walk #22: Rain, Dogs and Ipods...

Walk Duration: One hour.

OK. So I added a new question for the poll. And since I've never gone for a walk with an Ipod before: I did so. Loaded up the Beatles "Love" CD (worth the price just for the remix of "Revolution", with the guitars separated in each ear) and headed out.

I tried to listen to the music for half the walk. I found the experience to be a little like trying to watch CNN on TV while making love. It can be done. But both enterprises suffer.

So I took the darned thing off. I want to hear the rustle behind me as the Mountain Lion swoops down from his lair injecting his claws in my back and his teeth into my neck! I'd rather listen to the soundtrack of thoughts in my head, the whisper of rain and the ripping up of the turf by my dog. The Beatles can wait until later. I'm on a walk now.

Rain today and also forecast for the next week. I go to the Napa Valley today. For those who are new (and thanks for joining and visiting!), I work five days in the Wine Country (Psychiatric RN) and then live for nine days here in the mountains working on our homestead. Five days of wine; nine days of solitude.

It is a tough life; somebody has to do it!

So I may not be able to write anything in that time. But I will continue my walks. This is fun!!

One more thing. I weigh myself tomorrow at work. I'm not doing this to lose weight; I'm doing this to move and get ready for the hiking season this summer. Weight loss is not what I'm looking for. But then again, I certainly wouldn't mind having less of Allan to carry around. Last time I weighed myself, I gained two pounds.

What will happen this time? And how was your walk today?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Walk #21: Tis A Gift To Be Simple...

Walk Duration: 1 hour, ten minutes.

My spouse and I put up these Strawbales today for the wall of our house. We also finished putting in the window. I headed out late for my walk. My dog was happy to be my walking partner.

Since watching the Inauguration, I've had that Shaker Hymn rattling around my head. Walking today, it was there. Present with every step. To wit:

"Tis a gift to be simple; tis a gift to be free; tis a gift to come down where we ought to be"

Beautiful. And so true.

Is it a coincidence that so many writers and thinkers, prophets and philosophers were walkers? Jesus, Ghandi, Bertrand Russell, Henry David Thoreau and Ed Abbey. All walkers. How about the Prophets in the Bible? Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah. How about the people of Israel--walking out of Egypt, wandering the desert and then establishing a country that had no King?

Buddha wandered for years by foot. Perhaps it was resting from walking, under that famous Bodhi tree, that helped him attain enlightenment?

And Obama walked part of the parade.

Thom Hartmann states that walking stimulates both sides of the brain; that if you focus on a problem while walking, within twenty minutes the dialogue of the brain (by using both hemispheres while walking) will help you solve your problem. Walking heals. Hartmann believes walking is how we traditionally heal from trauma. I agree.

Can you think of some other famous folks who benefited from walking? How was your walk today?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Walk #20: A Walk About Oroville

Duration: 1 hour 10 minutes.

If you want confirmation that the American Empire is in decline, just take a walk around Oroville. I had to take the car into the shop today. Gave me time to walk around this Redneck town. It is hard to find anything beautiful in this exhausted, former mining and logging center. The town is dirty, smelly, ill kept, depressed and dilapidated. Even the stately old mansions look out of place in this poster town for what is wrong in America.

Economically depressed, this brand new shopping center sits empty:

Homeless abound in Oroville. This elderly gentleman (who had no teeth) was quite polite. He has his entire camping setup attached to his bike:

Ishi came out of the woods in Oroville in 1916. Ishi was known as the last Native American--eventually becoming a living Museum piece in San Francisco.

A colorful house. A cigarette smoking, hugely pregnant young lady came out of the house to look at me take this photo. She declined to tell me why they painted the house like this.

We still are in California, so you have to expect some Californiaesque weirdness (with apologies to my macrobiotic friends):

For my friend Ian--and Ron Paul Revolutionaries everywhere!

In short, Oroville is a town you go to when you absolutely can't avoid it!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Walk #19: Sawmill Peak...

Walk Duration: 5 1/2 Hours.

To celebrate Martin Luther King day, I decided to take a stab at making it to the top of a mountain. With Saint Martin Luther King's famous words resonating in my brain..."I may not get there with you"...and with Obama being inaugurated tomorrow--it seemed fitting to climb a mountain.

So I picked Sawmill Peak. Visible from near our house. I studied a few jeep roads that would get me there, and departed at 11:30 am. Much too late for this ambitious of a hike.

Sawmill Peak:

Angel came with me--loyal dog that she is. And we found water along the way:

Snowcapped mountains in the distance:

And a great view of the Sutter Buttes behind us. This is the Sacramento valley--the Coastal Ranges are beyond them:

This is what Salvage Logging looks like. To the right of the photo is the Feather River Canyon. We live along a ridge (not visible here):

Obligatory Dog running shot:

Hard economic times lead to creative solutions. More and more we are seeing people "squatting" in our National Forests. A cheap way to live. Here is someones domicile:

I turned around before I made it to the top. I didn't want to be trying to find my way along these Jeep roads in the dark. Being safe (mental note: get a GPS gadget for hikers). Martin Luther King didn't make it to the top of his Mountain either.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Walk #18: The Paradise Trail....

On another very warm January day--we hopped in the van, threw in all our dirty laundry and the dog-- and went to Church in Paradise (Episcopal--they resonate the most with me, given their long history, beautiful rituals and progressive, religious tolerance--if its good enough for Elaine Pagels and Bishop Spong, it is good enough for me).

After Church Joni and the girls dropped the dog and I off at the head of the trail that runs through the spine of Paradise, California. The walk to get to the trail is not very pedestrian friendly. No sidewalks (no development should ever be built without sidewalks!):

Deer Ticks are abundant in this part of California...leading to the growth industry below:

The trail starts at "the Depot". This park and path were completed in 2006...and it has all the beauty of a concrete Soviet Style Apartment Complex. Very poor design. Downright ugly. This is how to take a beautiful building built in 1906 and turn it into something totally bland and obnoxious. Forty feet of concrete surrounds the building leading right up to the walls of the otherwise gorgeous Depot:

The trail itself is under used. I met nine people on the six mile walk.

One thing Paradise does have are cottages. The housing in this little town is proletarian simple in design. Gorgeous! Non-pretentious.

Through out the six miles of the walk, most of the houses are pretty little cottages like these:

Graffiti on a bench! Another rebellious teenager that will have to learn the hard way that drug abuse leads absolutely no where...

More graffiti. On this rock someone spray painted SWP. Could it be that the very left wing "Socialist Workers Party" is making a resurgence in America? By the way, I'm usually not one to promote old left wing political parties, but there have been some pretty decent pieces written lately in the Socialist Workers Party's web-site.
They seem to be making a bit of a resurgence...I even saw a talking head from their newspaper on GritTV the other day. Refreshing!

A two hour walk today with a leashed dog. Met Joni and the girls at the laundromat after the walk.
How was your walk?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Walk #17: Bald Eagles, Bikes and Cougars!

On a very warm January day, I coaxed Kylie (and Angel--the dog) to walk my three mile staple route. Kylie (who turns nine soon) rode her bike.

A magical day. We found a Mountain Lion track (below)--characterised by no claw marks and an "M" shaped pad. This track was fossilized in the clay, from the last rains over a week ago.

As we finished identifying the track...we looked up to see six Bald Eagles soaring above us. A Cougar track and Bald Eagles! How does a person put monetary value on that? What is having that much wildness available on a simple walk worth? The problem with economics isn't the stuff you can value; it is giving value to that which has none.

I do know that showing a nine year old girl a Mountain Lion track, as Bald Eagles soar above us, is the sort of experience that turns nine year old girls into instant Naturalists. You can't get those experiences out of you; they seep in and permeate. Makes it so that as an adult, all you want to do is work outdoors or escape your cubicle just as quick as you can to get outdoors.

And that is a good thing.

Kylie snapped a couple photos of me. Joni keeps telling me that she is sick of having Jazzy and herself at the top of this blog.

These got in reverse order. Scroll to the bottom to watch Kylie muscle her way up the hill on her bike.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Walk #16: A Short Stroll...

Rules evolve.

My minimum walk requirement is thirty minutes. And that's what we did today. After all, we took a long walk yesterday; today is a work day on our Solar, "off the grid", Primitive Green Addition.

This is a rather bizarre "off the grid" community. When we first bought this place, and then moved here--I thought we would be surrounded by Green, Granola Loving, War Hating, Yoga Doing, Hippie Folk. Who else would want to live "off the grid"?


The reality is that we pretty much are surrounded by a smorgasbord of Traditional Rednecks, Pot Smoking Rednecks (a curious breed--and quite dangerous if you stumble on where they cultivate cannabis), Jesus Loving (and people hating), Tribulation Waiting Christians and Disabled Folks trying to make their Social Security Checks last. Not a peace sign to be seen anywhere. And the dog of choice is the "pit bull". They are everywhere. That's partly why I carry a walking stick. Forget Mountain Lions (although they are around here--a neighbor had one under his porch that didn't spook when he came home last Spring)--the biggest danger is getting mauled by a pit bull.

In the photo above, Angel frolics with a pit bull we met along the way today. A neighbor's dog. Friendly.

How much are you walking?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Walk #15: A Sweaty Canyon Hike...

Angel and I are lucky--we just leave the front door, walk about an hour (with stops for photo ops) and we are at the bottom of this 1500 foot canyon. The Feather River.

I wanted to be lazy by the river, but Angel wanted to swim. And just to make sure I didn't get too comfortable, she would come and cozy up next to me with her smelly, sopping wet, doggy body.

It is a very, very steep trail. Mostly Angel waited for me while I panted.

And of course, you have to run full steam downhill now and then:

These are the Sutter Buttes (the dark hills in the background). I had an excellent view of them today. They sit on the Sacramento Valley floor, about fifty miles away as the crow flies. The Native Americans in this area believed that your Soul went to the Sutter Buttes to rest upon death. Holy ground.

A non-magnified view of the Sutter Buttes:

The Canyon...

And more of the Canyon.

And even more..

A good sweaty walk today. 2 1/2 hours in duration. About 1./3 of it up the sides of the steep canyon. I consider this training for a hoped for ascent of Half Dome in Yosemite in June.

How was your walk today?