Sunday, May 31, 2009

Walk #150: Napa Bothe State Park on the Cutting Block...

Six of the nine vehicles that service the 2.2 miles of paved road at Napa Bothe State Park.

Governor Arne is having a tantrum. A really, really big tantrum. Angry that the voters rejected his budget proposals soundly, he has started to make cuts to California's spending. The result is barbaric. I've already commented on how this will affect California's (somewhat decent) mental health system. One of the other items to be cut is the closure of, at the least, 48 State Parks and 16 State Beaches.

Today I decided to visit one of those State Parks that are to be shut down. I am well familiar with Napa Bothe State Park, as for years I visited this one often--sometimes daily. Some Fifty pounds ago, I used to love to run the trails. Today I walked my favorite one.

On my way to the trailhead, I counted nine nearly new, state park vehicles. This for a park that has exactly 2.2 miles of paved road. This also accounts for why I have never seen a Ranger on a hiking trail there (despite my probable hundreds of visits). Liquidate the trucks, buy the Rangers some boots--and I think we could save this State Park from the guillotine.

The trail is lovely. Shaded, it meanders up Ritchey Creek which runs water in all four seasons. This is one of the few public places in the Napa Valley where you can walk a path and actually see Redwoods. Not ancient Redwoods (they were mostly cut, or didn't mature to ancientness). These Redwoods do remain majestic enough and there is nothing more magical than sitting in a fairy circle of Redwoods. Try it sometime.

Napa Bothe State Park is the best, most inexpensive way, to lodge in the Napa Valley. Located halfway between St. Helena and Calistoga--it is nearly walkable to both towns. I've stayed there. Clean hot showers and decent camp sites for fifteen dollars.

I had a wonderful hour and a half hike up Ritchey creek. I had the place to myself.

Should this Park be closed may I propose something? These are our parks. You cannot close them; they belong to us. Visit them anyway. Hike into the park and enjoy the trails, even if the park closes. Hike in with tents and stay at the campsites. You can't squat in what is already yours!

You cannot close a People's Park! A better course of action would be to greatly reduce the hardware that these parks require. No State Park requires 9 vehicles. Return the Park's to their primitive state if need be (all in all, that would be an improvement anyway)...but for heaven's sake: Don't Close Them!

Walk #149: Walking with Hunter...

GG and Hunter, enjoying refreshments and Oysters...

GG puts fresh oysters in the shell on the barbie...

Oh no! Another barbecue with my psychiatric nurse friends! We were to meet after work, in the city of Napa, at a charter member of The Psychiatric Nurses Anonymous home. Five of us this time. These gatherings are impromptu meetings of jaded and worn out professionals. If you added up all the years of experience, it would be someplace in the 105 year range. And that is including one nurse who has but one year's worth of experience (always good to have a newbie around).

So we gather at R.O.'s house, meat in hand. We had three feet of pork loin, dozens of fresh oysters, crab sausages, burgers, chicken quarters and salmon. We fire up the barbie and begin to talk.

Psychiatric nursing is a dying profession. The heyday crested about 1990, just about the time we figured out that mental illness is TREATABLE and NOT HOPELESS. Since then, the funding has been mostly downhill. Units started closing. Budgets got slashed. Insurance companies reduced lengths of stays. And we have the situation now, which is rapidly descending into barbarism. Why give a rip about a filthy, dirty, scary homeless man?

During this recession, that looks more and more like a depression, the mentally ill have already started to die in higher numbers. Personally, I can attest to a death of a mentally ill gentleman during the last heat wave--two weeks ago (exposure). Crises Units are closing in Sacramento. Our own hospital teeters on the edge of bankruptcy due to a 50% reduction in reimbursement from Medicaid.

The least of these always get the least.

When Psychiatric Nurses meet, it is much like the cloistered secrecy of the Vatican (or the Kremlin). Sworn to privacy laws, the only people we really can share stories with are each other. Some of the stories would surprise, amaze or disgust you. So we talk, as we eat artisan cheese and drink wine.

We have fun preparing and cooking the food. Slow food prepared by slow nurses. Lots of garlic and bizarre herbal rubs are applied to the various species we are eating. We saute' a variety of mushrooms, onions and garlic as a sauce.

We eat. Rachel Rae would say.

After dinner, my friend Hunter (as I call him because he looks and acts like Hunter Thompson) and I go for a walk. We are in a more modern part of Napa. Suburbs. No sidewalks. Our mission? To walk to a local market for a bottle of Jim Beam.

I am on my best behavior, due to working the next day. But a couple of the tribe would like to have an after dinner whiskey on the rocks. Hunter and I walk to the store and walk back to the gathering.

Another walk done.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Walks #147 and #148: Getting Walks In While Busy

The hospital grounds...

Drove across California yesterday. Got to the Napa Valley around 8 pm. Quite a contrast in temperatures between the foothills (where it was in the mid-90's) and the Napa Valley, where the marine fog had rolled in and the temperature was in the mid 60's. Forgot to bring a jacket. I must be acclimating to the Foothills heat already, as the coolish Napa Valley temperatures felt rather tundrus.

Had a short walk around the grounds while I washed some clothes.

Today I worked an extra four hours. Tis hard to turn down that "time and a half"...which translates to working for about $1.15 per minute. I rewarded myself for sticking my nose to the grind stone, by nosing around downtown St. Helena on my two legs. Purpose? To buy a book (as the library was closed). All the shops were closed in St. Helena--the Trustfunders have more important things to do than shopping on a Friday night; they eat.

One trick to get some steps in is to park way far away from your destination and walk there. Which is what I did in the coolish evening of the Napa Valley tonight. But alas, no bookstore was open, so I drove the nine miles to Calistoga where I knew the shops would be.

They were. Deepak Chopra's book "The Third Jesus" was my gift to myself for working extra. Plus I bought a meritage red wine from a local winery that was on sale. They await me up in my room.

Again in Calistoga, I parked a mile or so away from the downtown and walked there.

Comparing the two towns tonight, it seems the tourists are out en masse. They were better dressed in St. Helena. Frilly little floofy dresses--mostly strapless--by the Yupstery ladies. The men were in finely pressed dockers and light sport coats. Calistoga was also quite busy--more so than St. Helena. California cuisine odors everywhere in the two towns. People busy talking, eating, drinking wine---looking pleasant and relaxed in this nationwide, tourist destination of foodies and oenophiles. Such a contrast to my home in the Foothills...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Walk #146: A Walk With A Friend..

A work colleague: R.O. came up to the homestead to help me build straw bale walls today. We worked hard. The hardest part was trying to figure out how to re-tie a bale, to make it fit. After working most of the day, we had a fine meal on the barbecue: tri tip steaks, Yukon gold mashed potatoes with garlic, salad.

After dinner, with bellies full, we took a walk.

I was able to show my friend, my daily walk. Gave a tour of this bizarre ridge with the "off the grid" eccentrics who choose to live here. Told him stories about the mountain lions, the bears and the Apocalyptics. A fun time.

Walking with a friend is an under rated pleasure. When was the last time you took a walk with a friend?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Walk #145: Heat!!

Once again I waited until the hottest part of the day, and then headed out. A longer walk again.

It isn't really fair to my dog. She doesn't know how far we are going when we leave. I have the advantage! She runs here and there. Gets good and hot. Then pants the rest of the way:

My 145th walk. Am I any thinner? No. Yesterday, I did notice that the hills are much easier for me. And since I'm waiting for the hottest part of the day to walk, that means I am craving more exercise. I don't really have time right now to add longer walks. Which means that I just might have to start adding a morning run (waddle?) to my regimen. Yikes!

Reading the "comments" section is always fun; it is especially more so now. Ian W. states he is gonna start posting his outdoor activities there. Look for adventures on a bike. Reports on walks from his many travels. Ian is a writer, senior editor of a renewable energy magazine, wind energy expert, solar pioneer, and author--who has lived "off the grid" for decades. Having Ian write in the comments section is like having Hank Aaron ask to play on your softball team--an incredible honor! I look forward to (hopefully) reading his "comments" as he makes a commitment to spending more time exercising. Go Ian!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Walk #144: Threatening Clouds and Blackberry Blossums

We headed out, my dog and I, during the hottest part of the afternoon. Threatening clouds were off to the east. Higher in the Sierra.

A longer walk today. Our Blackberry patch is blooming. Here we shall gather many berries later this summer:

I set out a shower bag so that I could have a refreshing, cleansing shower after the walk:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Walk #143: A Memorial Weekend Wildflower Extravaganza!

Most days I walk the same route. It is a great way to get to know this new econiche I am in. We moved up here one year ago; we are at 2,000 feet elevation at the top part of the Sierra Foothills (Mt. Lassen, the first mountain of the Cascades--is forty miles away).

Last summer we had a huge fire. The ridge I walk on was partly burned. Now the wildflowers are showing their beauty. Below is a Mariposa Lily:

On my walk I discover the wildflower, take a photo and then show it to Joni. We get out the wildfower books and try to identify the suspect. More Mariposa Lillies (sometimes called Tulips) below. They just started blooming. Thousands of them on the ridge!

We can't identify this grass. It almost looks like some sort of wild hops to me. Anybody know what it is? I'm tempted to harvest it and attempt to make a real "Foothills Ale".

Blue Brodiaea! The Natives in this area dug up the bulbs to eat. I didn't try it, as I guess if you get another species... the "Death Camas" (which often can be found next to the Brodiaea), and eat it--well--you die.

We think these purple flowers below are the "Farewell to Spring" flowers. These also are edible--and the Native folk considered them among their most prized foods.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Walk #142: Constitutionals...

Summer has started and with it our new construction season. We are hard at work, using every free minute to try and create some more space for this family.

So my walk today was a short one (taking a break from putting in a new floor). The purpose? To get my darned dog to poop. She protested, as I kept her on the leash. Punishment for not coming when I call her lately. Seems she has decided that finding bits of morsels to eat is more important than obeying her master.

But these walks are good for both master and pet. Even if they are just twenty minutes in duration.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Walk #141: Back to the Foothills....

Back to the Foothills...

A mosquito ridden walk along the ridge with my less-than-obedient dog. Good to be home!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Walk #140: McMansions and Tombs...

Joni woke me at 5 in the morning. She lovingly made me my coffee; I drove to the Napa Valley. Worked all day as a socialist social worker. Got my room. Fell dead asleep for one hour. Woke up.

Took my walk then.

Not a long walk, hell, I was still half asleep from getting up early, driving, working. I told a colleague that I might as well have a hangover, because going to work without enough sleep is much the same experience. Except you didn't have the fun of the night before.

And it is this silly blog that got me outside. Not that there are that many readers. Not that anybody really reads every walk. I do it for myself. To have time outside.

How is it that we got to be such an inside nation? I drive by huge developments that have McMansions on them. They are all designed for inside living. That isn't living!--that is practicing to lie in a tomb!

Get outside.

Engage in the world. Smell a flower, step in dog dung, pick up some trash, kick a can, hug a tree, trip on a rock, slip on some sand, get pooped on by a bird, walk through poison oak, pee in the snow, spy on a neighbor, be mountain lion bait at sunset.

These things keep me sane...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Walk #139: Looking for the Mountain Lion...

A short walk this evening. Since we had a mountain lion sneaking around here, I thought I'd try and find some of his tracks. Couldn't find any. The ground is too hard from being scorched in record heat, to leave any tracks.

Instead, I found the growling kitty above.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Walk #138: Survival...

Back home in the foothills tonight.

I drove back after work. The hospital I work at is in the midst of some pretty stringent down sizing. Employees all day dreaded hearing those awful words: "Can I see you in my office". I saw a couple Vice Presidents and Nursey Executives dressed in their finest mortuary attire--giving the pink slips out like they were passing out candy to Halloween Trick or Treaters. Lost were some thirty to fifty employees and a couple of programs.

I halfways thought I might be on their list. After all, I work part time, am benefited (rare for a part time worker these days) and have a cushy schedule. Perfect pickens to downsize. But I survived, as far as I know.

Got home in time to take my dog for a walk. I came across this stake in the photo above. Does this indicate some more unneeded improvements on this ridge? I resisted the Abbeyesque urge to pull the sucker up. After watching several colleagues get the ax today, I didn't feel like pruning much of anything.

On another note, our neighbors saw a mountain lion on the property next to ours yesterday morning. Just a few 100 yards from our place. Probably scoping out our neighbor's chickens.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Walks #136 and #137: A Different Life...

Still in the Napa Valley.

Yesterday, a warmish walk in the late evening around the hospital grounds. Today a tad longer walk around this little hillside settlement of Deer Park, where the hospital is.

My friend R.O. told me the other day that I have a really strange life. "You spend five days every two weeks in the lap of luxury that is the Napa Valley; then you are home for the rest of the time hanging out with the Rednecks in Concow". Yup. It is different. I like it that way.

For how much longer will I have this "different life"? I don't know. Seems that cuts are in the wind. 50 jobs lost in our hospital last Friday. Uncertain times in an uncertain occupation (psychiatry).

Back to walking. Such a joy it is to just take a simple walk. Tonight I watched two Stellar Jays squabble with two Scrub Jays. I looked at them and asked, in Rodney King fashion, "Can't you guys just get along"?

I rarely see anybody on these walks. Maybe a nurse now and then walking to their car. Even when I take a walk in the small towns around here, like St. Helena--I almost never see a pedestrian in the residential sections of town. Pedestrians are becoming a rare sighting--as rare as the wolverines that have just re-established themselves in the Sierra. Or Jaguars in Arizona.

Another thought while walking today: Community is the antidote to consumerism. We don't need to keep up with the Jones'--we need to take a walk with the Jones'. Flights into materialism and consumerism, I think, are spurred more by innate loneliness than a desire to have something. Create walking communities and I bet the need for things goes way down.

Being lonely is good for business. I think that is why they created suburbs.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Walk #135: Psychiatric Nurses Anonymous...

It sounded like a good plan.

A barbeque with a couple of my nursey friends. Hunter (who is enjoying his 212th day of unemployment) and RC--who looks uncannily like Jerry Springer--and myself--who more and more looks like a cross between John Denver and Michael Moore. Aging sucks!

I trundled down to the city of Napa after work. Dropped into the chain store "Whole Foods Market" (Joni calls it "Whole Paycheck") and bought provisions: Grass fed, organic, tri tip; organic shittake mushrooms; Asparagus; a really good stinky, Artisan Cheese slab; Butter; Corn on the Cob (fresh, from southern California); two bottles of wine--a french Bordeaux and a Cabernet from Washington state. We gathered at RC's backyard where my colleagues had brought their feast items: lots and lots of garlic, six more bottles of wine, a liter of gin with fixins, potatoes, another tri tip steak (not organic or grassfed) and some rib eye steaks.

We barbecued it Slow Food Style while calling our impromptu Psychiatric Nurses Anonymous meeting to order by opening the French wine to complement the stinky cheese.


The idea was to make dinner and then walk to the oldest building in Napa. This building was made of Cob in 1840, and today is the home of one of the more reasonably priced bars in the Napa Valley. This bar will only be open until January, when the building will become a museum. Get there quick because the atmosphere, beauty of the Cob and sense of history of the building--along with the working class nature of the bar--- is refreshing for the hoity-toity Napa Valley.
I loved it!

But I get ahead of the story.

We had planned on walking there after our feast. The problem? We made so much food and imbibed in so much, Hunter said: "I'm not walking there". I still wanted to check out the Cob structure, so we took a cab instead. Responsible Psychiatric Nurses we are.

Which reduced this walk to an anemic walk about the Whole Foods Market.

P.S. I shall post photos of this amazing building (and of this evenings activities) when I return to my home in the Foothills...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Walk #134: Napa Valley Thrift; Nature Blogging as a Money Maker?

I'm back in the Napa Valley.

I met a work colleague after work for a visit to the most excellent Thrift Shop run by the Catholic Church in St. Helena. Being this is a Trustfunder town, where donations like this brings large tax deductions, the merchandise at the thrift shop is exceptional. Even for men's clothes. Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Eddie Bauer, Patagonia---all shirts sold at three bucks a pop. The least expensive way to dress for Napa Valley.

But what does this have to do with walking? I parked aways away from the store and walked there. And after my friend and I were done shopping (with a stop into my favorite watering hole for a couple of beers), I continued the sojourn in St. Helena. A hot day today. But a nice walk.


A comment to Woodswalker made me curious about the Nature Blog Network, which this blog belongs to. My hunch is that Nature Blogs, for the most part, are self indulgent exercises (mine included) that mostly have no political relevancy. So I decided to test my hypothesis by visiting, at random, some of the blogs listed on the Nature Blog Network bug (to the right).

I visited most of the Number One blogs in all of the various categories. I then chose, at random, three or four blogs that looked like they might promote some sort of nature advocacy, from a few of the listed categories i. e. Birds, Hiking, Ecosystem, and so on.

What did I find out?

I visited twenty two Nature Blogs.

Four of them advertised a Nature Advocacy Group...but one of them was to raise money for its own site. Which doesn't seem to count. So only three of the twenty two blogs had any sort of collective advocacy on their sites.

Only one site had an advertisement for a major advocacy group (The Nature Conservancy).

Interestingly, twelve of the twenty two blogs had advertisements from Google on them, in effect, making their own blog an attempt at money making for themselves. So, in other words, in this unscientific survey of nature blogs, people are more apt to attempt to make money for themselves on what they write, than promote a beloved cause to their audiences.

Simply said, four times as many bloggers attempt to make money for themselves rather than promote an environmental advocacy group.

I think that is telling, don't you?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Walk #133: Wildflowers and a Hello! to Wally Herger World!!

A long walk with my dog today. Admiring the wildflowers that Joni (in her letter to Wally Herger yesterday) said we should enjoy after a fire. A delicious, warm day.

At the bottom of this page is a little "sitemeter" which gives information about those who visit. It is a nice little toy, and quite fun to see where people visit from. I've had visits from lots of places: the UK, China, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, France, Thailand, Australia, Portugal, Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Peru, Italy, Saudi Arabia, India and many more countries.

But after writing about our local Congressman yesterday, it seems that I've had three visits from "Washington, District of Columbia". And the internet address is: "". That means the House of Representatives. Big Brother.

So, a possible scenario is that some staffer in Wally Herger's office spent 9 minutes and 58 seconds reading the Wally World thing (plus three more pages). This was followed by two more visits (sharing it around the office, maybe?).

Oh, I can see the panic/curiosity/amusement in Herger's office. Who is this Allan guy? Is this somebody we need to worry about? And did he say his wife was a "treesitting felon"? (Yes, a long, long time ago). Shall we respond to this Kook?

Or are they just laughing their butts off? Are they calling the FBI to review my dossier? The IRS? The CIA? Are they gonna lift a sample of the writing to show just how kooky the enviro left is?

So, let me offer an invitation to Wally, or to Wally's staffer (just to show how harmless I am).

First off, go ahead and leave a comment. Don't just visit, spend ten minutes, read three pages and not let me know what you think. Call me a nut! Disagree! Correct me! Ask for my sources! I am flattered by your visit!

When I visit a blog and spend ten minutes reading it, I will (out of courtesy) leave a comment for that writer. I tell them what I like. I tell them I appreciate their efforts. It's internet common courtesy (in my view).

Secondly, the next time you (either Wally's staffer or the great Wally himself) are back in the District, let's go for a walk. Talk a bit. On that walk I would remind you that a Representative in the House works for more than the people of his District---He is also there to represent the rocks, birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, trees, plants and water of the District.

Care to take a walk?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Walk 132: Wally Herger World

Every day I walk through a burned area.

Last summer we had a huge wildfire which led to Joni and I being evacuated for three weeks. The fire took four of ten homes on our ridge. This year, the forest is coming back. Other areas weren't quite so lucky, as the fire was a "crowning" fire that devastated the wilderness. To make matters worse, everyday logging trucks roll on our little, one lane county road (with 200 foot drops) menacing both logging truck driver and homesteader. This "salvage logging" after a fire is even more grotesque than the normal logging operations. Why? Few environmental protections exist for the logging of "burned areas". Some suggest that timber companies start fires so that such operations can begin.

The other day I called our County Supervisor to complain about the legions of logging trucks on our single lane, itsy bitsy, precipitous, drop-off road.

The Supervisor laughed and asked: "How long have you lived here?"

I told him two years. The County Supervisor then went on to tell me that "city people" have different expectations of county roads, and that, in fact, the logging trucks had more of a right to be there than I did. I felt like I was talking to the County Sheriff from James Bond's "Live and Let Die".

Of course, the County Supervisor was able to call the logging company, and the logging company did give me a call (Columbia Helicopter). They will review logging truck safety in our area. I haven't seen a loggin truck since I made the call. This was an incident of "armchair monkey wrenching".

Joni (my spouse, the felon Treesitter) wrote this letter to Congressman Wally Herger today, after receiving an e-mail from him complaining about Enviro law suits, lumber plants closing (always the Enviro's fault, and not the slow economy and the wood glut!) which have stopped logging operations within parts of our District. Wally is simply horrid on forestry issues, although his Democratic opponent in the last election wasn't much better.

Joni wrote:

Dear Congressman Herger;

I am familiar with the Quincy Library Group legislation, and in fact participated in similar joint efforts to forge consensus between conservationists, timber companies and other interested parties in Colorado, on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest. I, too am disappointed to learn of the closure of the mill in Quincy. However, if proposed timber sales have been held up in court, it is likely these proposals were not in the best interests of endangered species or some other legal protection of our forest habitats and watersheds.

Until timber sales are legally developed, lawsuits will be filed to prevent them. I have seen the underhanded efforts by the Bush administration in the past 8 years to tear down protections for wildlife and critical habitat. I have no doubt that the lawsuits filed to prevent proposed timber sales were bona fide efforts to ensure protections for threatened and endangered species and critical habitat.

As for the relative importance of the timber industry in Northern California, I would need to see the analysis to believe this is truly a 'vital' part of our economy here in the Sierra Nevada. In some regions that get more rainfall and where more commercially desirable tree species are common, this may be true, but hard to believe for Butte County.

While there is no 'recipe' for forest management that will work everywhere, research supports protection of roadless areas as necessary to conservation of many threatened and endangered forest-dependent species. In roadless areas, a policy of controlled burning is better than a thinning program, due to less habitat fragmentation and soil disturbance.

In areas with existing roads, a program of thinning should not end up looking like the 'moonscape' of devastation we now see in the burned-over areas in Butte County after last summer's fires - horrendous and criminal, while in uncut areas evidence of recovery are everywhere: burnt trees sprouting green leaves from trunk and large limbs, green growing out of the ground everywhere...Many of our forest ecosystems evolved with fire, thus a policy of careful use of controlled fire could be advantageous, particularly on steep terrain, where logging is terribly destructive to soils and watersheds.

The roads left behind by logging operations create long-lasting fragmentation of forest habitat, as these roads continue to bring in hunters and others that adversely impact habitat and sensitive species for many years. The timber industries are facing a diminished resource, due to poor planning in the past. Continued plundering of the few remaining pristine forest fragments is not the answer.

As for those people who choose to live in forested areas, the burden to utilize fire-safe landscaping and fire-resistant building methods is on their shoulders. Expecting billions of tax dollars be spent, and lives lost, to protect homes and buildings in forested areas every year is absurdity on the highest level. Build defensively. Thin where roads exist. Then let the forests burn as nature intended, and enjoy the wildflowers in the fires' wake.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Walk #131: Waiting For Me...

A long day today; lots of miles. Dropped off my friend, B.C., at the Sacramento Airport, then off to the Napa Valley to catch an afternoon class for my job. Finally back across the State of California to my off-the-grid home.

Waiting for me was my pup. Always ready for a walk and looking smart in her blue bandanna. Could you refuse a walk to her?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Walk #130: The Oroville Dam...

Today was the last full day my friend (BC) is visiting. We have worked on our home most of the time. But today we took off to enjoy some of the sights around here. Here, BC demonstrates proper walking technique:

We found our way to the park that inhabits the largest Earthen Dam in the United States: the Oroville Dam. I'm not certain about the wisdom of having earthen dams in a earthquake prone area. I'm even more skeptical about the practice of even having dams in the Sacramento watershed. The sign below documents that 34 workers died while constructing this dam. This was in the 1960's, which seems like an inordinately high number of workers to perish:

And here is a photo of the dam in all its ugliness:

This dam is huge. Ugly, like most dams. The water insures that veggies, nuts and rice are trucked through out the United States (and, indeed, the whole world). It also helps to ensure that California's numbers of people continues to climb. The whole watershed suffers because of this dam. Might it be better to let our rivers run free? Might it be better to use our frontal lobes, rather than our gonads, to manage our numbers to live within a better, more natural carrying capacity of people living in California?

If you build it, the Salmon suffer (the Sacramento river salmon are nearly extinct) and more people are able to continue their human and inhuman endeavors.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Walk #129: Giving Thanks...

I ducked out for a quick walk today. A beautiful, warm day where the air temperature seemed to match skin temperature, making it hard to distinguish where I end and where that which is not me, begins.

I spent my walk thinking about the blessings of life, family and friendship. Gratitude. Good stuff!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Walks #126, #127 and #128..A Visitor...

Been busy here. My walks have consisted of walking around the perimeter of the Sacramento Airport (I felt sort of conspicuous, but nobody arrested me). A quick walk with the dog to get her to poop. And this evening, a lovely sunset walk.

The reason for the busyness is that a friend from Minnesota is visiting (hence my trip to the airport). Nice that he would take the time, and waste his too few vacation hours, to come out to our house and help Joni and me figure out how to put the damned thing together. For the pleasure of doing this he is sleeping in a tent, enduring mosquitoes and various varmints and exposing himself to vast amounts of heat and sunlight. The least I could do is provide the wine to cap off the day...

A good friend indeed...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Walk #125: The Next Generation

Me? 48 years old. Kylie: 9 years old.
Kylie pushes her bike up a hill. She has valiantly offered to come on a longer walk with me. This works good for her when the path is flat, or downhill. But we have many hills around. And she, with few whines or whimpers, pushes her bike up the hills.

I'm thankful she enjoys taking these walks with me. She gets memories from the ordeal. The chance to hear about the "olden days" before Ipods, computers, Hannah Montana and G3 phones. It makes me laugh to think of the 70's as the olden days.

I get to watch a fine young lady who will experience peak oil, a melted ice cap and (maybe) a real move to a sustainable world. Or will she encounter barbarism? More oil wars? A die off of the human population?

What will life be like for her, when she is my age--in the year 2048?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Walk #124: Luck...

It was my typical every-other-Tuesday. Up early to work, then into my little Echo-that-can for the drive back to our Solar homestead. Got home in time to have a little dinner, and to take my dog for a walk. A joyous reunion.

On the walk, I noticed this horseshoe on a post. Got me to thinking about luck. Luck of all sorts, good and bad. So much of life depends on luck; on synchronicity. We revel in our "good luck"! We ruminate in our "bad luck".

But have you noticed, at times, that which we thought was "bad luck" turned out to be the best thing in the end? Times when we were sad that we didn't get the job, girl or the proper Jack-in-the-Box Toy? Ever notice that sometimes, what we considered bad, was really good?

Maybe it is best not to attach any significance to the term: luck.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Walk #123: A Damp Rain...

Today was one of the harder days I've had at work. In case you haven't noticed, this country is sliding into barbarism. That is nowhere more apparent than on a psychiatric unit (what few units we have left in the USA--before long, I'm afraid, we will just let these poor folks suffer and die). For those who are new, I work part time as a Psychiatric RN in a hospital in the Napa Valley.

I took a restorative walk after work. It is one of those rainy days where you don't think that you have to bring along an umbrella. You think: "I won't get that wet". Ten minutes later, you discover that you are actually quite wet. Damp. Soaked to the bone. And it is too late to go get the umbrella and undo the dampness. Silly me...

Now I plan on restoring myself further by heading up to my Monastic Dorm and participating in a Eucharistic meal (although solitary) of a bottle of local petite syrah, some wild Oregon salmon (smoked), a bit of sour dough bread and a bit of fresh, local goat cheese.

While at it, I'll finish John Muir's book "My First Season in the Sierra Nevada" and go to bed early.

Not a bad evening though: A walk, a simple meal of local fresh food, a classic book; this is living!!

Home tomorrow!!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Walks #121 and #122: In Praise of Short Walks...

Oh I admit it, my nature runs towards the slothish side. Slothful. Full of sloth. Downright lazy. I consider it a virtue. It is quite apparent that it is the ambitious who have been mostly responsible for the degradation and destruction of the planet.

Yesterday was a day full of rain. I resurrected my umbrella and did a short walk about the hospital grounds. Miserable. Not too long of a walk.

And today, tired from a day of work, I managed to take a walk behind the vineyard at the library in St. Helena. This has become quite familiar territory for me. No rain today, but very humid. The temperature was in the mid-sixties, but it felt much warmer, even with mostly clouds in the sky.

Another short walk.

And so I must write a few words in praise of the short walk. Why must all our walks be long? Why not just enjoy a pleasant saunter out to your favorite tree, park, playground, pub or refrigerator? Short walks are underrated. Fifteen minutes in the fresh air (or miserable rain) is much like that first "eye opener" to the trembly fingered drunk. Or to maybe put it in a more healthy perspective, fifteen minutes walking about can clear scads of stress, tension, cobwebs and depressive miasma.

What is so good about a short walk?

Well, first off there is the brevity of it. It is easily completed and need not take up a whole lot of time. Every non exercise fiend needs to have a simply completed physical goal. It gives a person the sense of mastery so often not present in any other place in our lives. And by taking a short walk, someone else just might finish the dishes when you are gone.

Secondly, given that I'm the one who makes the rules up for this blog, it counts as a "walk". Makes it so that I can write.

Most don't stress over taking short trips in their cars. So why not add a short walk to the ensemble? And why must we have any purpose or destination for our short walks? I think a five minute spin about the backyard to see if the sparrows are nesting, or even to see if the peas have germinated, is just fine. We need not even have that much of an excuse to be outside.

Some are suspicious of those who are outside for no apparent reason. They think we are up to something. And they are right: It is called ENJOYMENT OF LIFE! So go ahead. Get out there. Have no destination or purpose. It's okay to not have one. Better to not have a purpose and walk, then to be incredibly industrious, purposely watching your life spin by without notice...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Walk #120: Looking for Beltane and the IWW in the Napa Valley

May Day. A day of celebration for both Socialists and Pagans. I set out on my walk in St. Helena looking for both. I decided that I would fully investigate the first reference either to the Pagan or Socialist holiday I came across.

First, I decided to walk to the Charles Krug winery, from the library in downtown St. Helena. No life there. It's a rainy day and the workers at Charles Krug have absolutely nothing to celebrate. After all, the Farmworker's union was busted up a couple of years ago, after a hard fought battle in the 70's. Gone are the decent wages; gone are the health benefits. Up go the Peter Mondavi families profits. Sad.

And still no reference to either Pagans or Socialists.

I stop into a restaurant to grab one of the Napa Valley's most expensive burgers. Only a couple restaurants actually have a bar where a I can sit alone. I bring a book by Hunter Thompson. The host of the restaurant recommends a wine. A Rose'.

Just then the spouse of the winemaker of the recommended wine walks up and says: "It's May Day".

My ears go up like a curious dog, as now the spell has been cast. I have heard the blessed words: "May Day" though not from a Pagan or a Socialist. I decide that this counted; I decide to investigate further and order a glass of their wine.

I'm not terribly fond of Rose's. They, to me, are a hint of being what they should be. They aren't red. Nor are they a white. I usually pass on a request for this. But the winemaker is present at the restaurant this evening (a youngish handsome fellah from France). The Winemaker and his spouse are sitting next to me and they tell me the story of meeting in France and moving to the States to start making wine. Every wine needs to have a "story" to sell it. This is theirs. The story seemed even more tailor made for me as they tell me they live in the Sierra foothills, where they grow sixty percent of the grapes for their wine (Syrah, by the way). The other forty percent coming from the Rutherford region of the Napa Valley.

I try the wine. It is actually quite good. Fruity. Has a nice finish. Not too hot with the alcohol. Fresh, with a hint of pineapple.

The restaurant is sponsoring a tasting this evening of three blush Roses'. I taste the other two-- which are not near as good as the one made by my new friends sitting next to me. One of the competitors blush wines is made by the famous Heitz winery.

I tell the young Winemakers I like theirs best. I could do so with authenticity and honesty.

If you are ever in the Napa Valley, and you are sitting next to the many winemakers who inhabit the valley like zits on a teenagers face, it is always a good idea to tell him or her that you love their wine. This will usually lead to an evening filled with Bacchus like cheer; your cup will runneth over!

Mine did.

The evening wasn't quite a Pagan Beltane. Nor a Socialist Eugene Debs march. It was a mixture of both. Bacchus meets small family wine owner. More E. F. Schumacher in Nature. And I liked it...

As a footnote to the mountain lion and dog bites child story, here is the Oroville Newspaper's report of the event. Rednecks like Wolf type dogs. The dog was placed in a quarantine. Can you imagine a mountain lion ever being placed in a quarantine after biting a child?