Saturday, January 30, 2010
A nice day yesterday--we worked on the house and enjoyed a walk in the sun with the dog. Finally, got work got done. With the sun out, I'm ready to get this house finished.
Rain today. Off to the Rollerskating rink.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Yup. The roof leaked water in our new Addition. Time to bring out the tar. Man vs. Tin Roof.
Outdoor activities? It is impossible to stay inside after three weeks of rain.
Toe status? The second Great Toe's nail fell off. Talk about ugliness.
Computer status? Anyday now for a return of the Gateway.
And Howard Zinn passed away yesterday. I never met the man--but I've certainly appreciated his work. I can't pass by a Dunkin Donuts without thinking of the man. Why? Because Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky would meet at the local Dunkin Donuts to have coffee. The idea of these two Radicals meeting at a chain Donut Shop for coffee---blows my mind. You'd think they would pick something less corporate; something more high brow that welcomes the intellectual Uniform of Tweed Jackets. Nope. Dunkin Donuts for two of the premier People's Radicals.
I'm betting these two intellectual greats walked to the Donut Shop. I think I'll step out and get a donut and some coffee to celebrate Zinn's memory.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Walking around downtown Oroville, more shops are shuttered. Seems that about half of the businesses in this beautiful downtown are closed. Quite a few more than the last time I walked down here. Too bad really. Oroville has a quaint downtown that dates from the late 1800's. It is the sort of place where the Intelligentsia would love to sit and have a cup of coffee. Which I did.
Then off to Oroville's new Riverbend park. Again, another great place for the area's increasing Homeless population to wile away a few hours. Lots of people hanging out after having spent the night sleeping in their cars. You can tell by the pillows, blankets and sleeping bags visible in the rear seats of the autos. The park boasts an item that is harder and harder to find in our cities: a public bathroom. For a homeless person, the chance to potty and wash up in peace-- is a gift.
I sit here at the Public Library which is open for six hours today. I got here in time to wait in line for the place to open. Half the Folks had alcohol on their breath, as I waited with twenty other Folks for (again) one of the last places where you can be in Public for free. All the Computers are quickly snatched up. Looking around I see a few folks checking out Job Sites.
I guess we always have to have a place for Simon and Garfunkel's "Ragged" people to go. But in this recession, the Ragged folks are more numerous...with many of us having fears we will join their ranks.
So what is Obama expected to do tonight? Put a cap on Public Spending for Medicare, Medicaid and Food Stamps. All the while, the biggest Piggy in the Public Trough (The Department of Defense) doesn't get a hit to their budget.
Nope. We have wars to wage. Meanwhile, the war on poverty is being lost. Look around: the evidence is all around us. How long must we put up with these misplaced priorities?
The Gateway Update: My hard drive is toast. Hopefully, the computer will be fixed by tomorrow.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
I write this post in that great Socialist institution--the public library. Although securing a computer at the library is much like fighting for bread in Auschwitz. Just another sign of the decline of the American Empire. The public Library's hours have been greatly curtailed. Budget cuts. Essentially, the only folks who can make a trip to the library these days are those without a job. Of which there are plenty in Butte County.
I don't understand why that great stimulus package, that was passed last spring, didn't include making sure every public library is open 7 days a week for a reasonable amount of hours.
Rain. It has been raining since I returned from Costa Rica. I'm on vacation (had to use up a bunch of unused hours), with grandiose plans of doing this and finishing that. This January rain puts a crimp in such plans. It is the sort of rain, in the hypothermic 40 degree range, that chills you to the bone.
And vacations are for regeneration--not hypothermia. So my outside time has been limited to brief walks with the dog. Inside time has been spent reading. The best book I've devoured was Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild". A very good read about an interesting (and impulsive) young man who should have brought a map with him to the wilds of Alaska.
Good news! My left great toe finally shed it's nail. This has reduced pain and makes working towards a new goal possible. And what will that goal be?
Friday, January 22, 2010
And our Gateway Computer broke down. So she is in the shop for the next week or so. Posts will be sporadic until she returns...and then we have to see if the Satellite Internet System still works.
But mostly I've been searching for a goal. Having a goal of taking a hike in Costa Rica motivated me. Now I search for something as equally motivating--to build on my progress. So far, nothing comes to mind. Activities during the rainy season are more difficult to find.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Jazmine did make me venture out to see her new "favorite tree". Manzanitas always look good in the rain. Their bark becomes shiny and the dampness brings out their beautiful reddish colors.
And it has been raining. California is socked in with a string of wet and windy storms. So far we've had 7 inches over the last 48 hours. And it is still raining. Winds are supposed to approach 60 miles an hour today. Trees have fallen down all over. It is the sort of weather whereby (if you live in a rural area), you double check to make sure you have ample supplies of beans and rice. Our little bridge that gives us access to our homestead does flood every few years (I'm told). This could be one of those years.
So I've been resting my toes--thinking about what comes next. Just an occasional doggy do duty walk.
The Bible says without a vision the people perish. So what "vision" comes next? How do we build on this great start of this year's outside adventures? I'm toying with the idea of going to Arizona to hike the Bright Angel trail. Although I am a bit tired of being away from home so much. And our budget is a bit tight right now.
I need a February major outside adventure---tricky here in California, due to the awfulness of the rainy season (okay, I'm a wimp). Gotta think on this some more. No, I don't want to snowshoe; I've done that enough. Being cold is no longer on my adventure list. Anybody have any ideas?
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Having absolutely no self respect left, I opt for the "butt slide" on the steeper parts coming off the mountain...better that than falling to my death...
He'll be coming down the mountain when he....
The hike is done. Time for a shower and some beer!
A toast with Eugenio, who safely guided this hike! He told me now that everyone is safely off the mountain, he can finally relax! Everyone lived!
The last day. We packed up camp and made the 5,000 foot descent off the mountain. I worried a bit about this because so many parts of the ascent meant using handholds to climb. That which requires handholds going up is even more precarious when coming down.
So I adopted my patented "butt slide" method for getting off the mountain. My legs were exhausted and I didn't trust them to hold me (and my backpack) on the steeper parts. The result? My new nylon pants were ripped to smithereens on my butt. I hiked along letting my Freak Flag Ripped Up Exposed Bottom Fly! Who cares. I lived.
It was hot coming down. I was the last one off the mountain. At one point, I just didn't think I could make it any further. My peers called to me--guiding me to the orange tree that gave us a last bit of energy at the bottom. Never has an orange tasted so good!
Over the last bridge, we stop at the "hot springs" at the bottom. The family that runs this place quickly serves me beer! And then a fine meal of battered Tilapia (that they raise themselves), beans, rice, squished batter friend plantains and salad. Beer and a meal for eight people for $63! You can stay at this Hot Springs resort, at the base of the mountain, have total access to the springs, lodging and three meals a day---all for $30 a day.
The hike was over. I showered. Ate. Drank three beers. And headed off to Buenes Aires to catch my bus to San Jose. Such an adventure!
Thanks to Ian for the invite!
I felt like I had accomplished what I wanted to accomplish by getting to Camp Two. What I really wanted to see were Jaguar tracks. And I saw plenty of those (still gives me goose flesh to think about it).
The plan was to get up and leave Camp Two at 6:30 am in order to make the four hour round trip hike to the Summit. Then we would break camp and hike down to Camp One--another five hour hike.
I didn't have the energy to do that. Too much for the Michael Mooreish body. So I opted out of the Summit climb.
Instead, I stayed in camp, at 9800 feet--in the jungle--by myself--with Jaguar tracks (fresh!) all around me. I felt like that Goat that pops out of the ground in "Jurassic Park", chained to a tether, saying "neigh", as the Goat waits for T-Rex to come eat him. Every branch that moved in the jungle startled me.
I didn't want to wander off too far from within sight of the Camp, because one of our guides had become disoriented in the jungle the day before. He was the last person in our single file line--and had turned the wrong way after we had started up from a rest stop. Ian found him 30 minutes later, going the wrong way on the trail. And this guide (who is a wonderful person!) had climbed the mountain 8 times before! Anybody can get disoriented easily out in the jungle. We encountered that first hand. You have to be very skilled to find your way.
So I stayed within sight of camp and waited for the Jaguar to come and eat me. I tried to dry my clothes while waiting for my imminent demise.
When the group returned from having a glorious time on the Summit--Ian said he thought I would be adopted by a family of 300 pound Tapirs.
So we broke Camp and scooted down the Green Wall to Camp One. Muddy. Filthy. I adopted the strategy of scooting down (Toboggan fashion) on my butt. I just slid down the wall, not caring if I got muddy or not. Seemed safer.
Part of our group at the top of the Green Wall...Eugenio (our guide) is to the very right. Ian is just behind him.
On the third day, the winds had died down enough to continue to the Continental Divide. We must ascend from 7200 feet to 9800 feet. The hardest part going up the very sheer "Green Wall". This is a 500 plus foot vertical ascent consisting of climbing through mud and lifting yourself by oomping yourself up with roots or trees that hang out of the Green Wall.
The amazing part is the 1200 year old Oaks that hang onto the side of the ascent. I have never seen such huge Oaks!
But the best part was when we got to the top of the Green Wall: There were Jaguar tracks everywhere. And they are huge. My hand easily fit inside one the tracks.
Eugenio told me that the latest census indicates that there are less than 200 Jaguar left in Costa Rica. And we were climbing where the Jaguar census is the most abundant. Jaguar eat the Tapir (a relative of the Hippo) that scramble along this part of the Rain Forest. We also saw plenty of Tapir tracks.
Despite Costa Rica's valiant conservation efforts, the Jaguar are probably doomed through out most of Latin America. We might continue to have a small population that lives in the Amazon. The Jaguar north of there require large amounts of land. Rain Forest. The vast amount of territory they require means that breeding populations get separated by development. The result? The genetic pool dries up.
There are plans to make a Jaguar Corridor that extends from Panama to Mexico. If this ever comes to fruition, it will probably be too late.
Or as Eugenio puts it: "I think we are going to lose the Jaguar in the next twenty years".
We set up Camp Two at 9,800 feet.
So we stayed at Camp One for the day. It rained. The wind blew. I stayed in my sleeping bag for much of the day.
Ian, who is in good shape, went with Eduardo (one of our guides) to scope out the Green Wall. He actually climbed to the top of it just for fun. He came back reporting that "you know, we really could use some ropes on that thing".
Monday, January 18, 2010
Across a bridge...
Suffering. Suffering. Suffering.
Up another windy ridge...
The first night's camp...
To say I struggled on the first day would be an understatement. I suffered! Thirty minutes into the hike, I announced to the group that I couldn't make it.
Highlights? Two precarious bridges. About five precarious ridges. A hike up the beginning of a Rain Forest. Discovering a log that a jaguar had scratched in order to mark his territory. And the wind--don't forget the wind, blowing at hurricane strength--the mountain doing its very best to blow us off a chasm to certain death.
I wrote in my journal: "That was perhaps the hardest day of my life".
I am in the intentional community of Durika. At 6:00 am I get a tour of the place. W. takes J. and myself around the grounds. We look at their goat operation. We tour their garden. W. shows us their medical clinic and their herbal medication drying room. They are into integrative medicine, and the community also has a dental office in the town of Buenes Aires. W. continues the tour and shows us their orchid nursery. She also shows us part of their "off grid" small scale hydro pipe which provides all of their electrical needs.
Everything is peaceful and calm.
After the tour we have our breakfast at the "restaurant". One of the ways this community earns money is to have ecological tours. For fifty dollars a day, you get accommodations, tours, hikes and three vegetarian meals a day. And the meals are outstanding.
This community of 32 permanent residents and some 300 Foundation members world wide adhere to a strict vegetarian diet. They live on the side of a mountain at 5,000 feet. Most of the members are Costa Rican and Spanish speaking. They are all thin. All healthy. They walk around in big rubber boots, which they wear almost like a uniform. But what strikes me the most is their healthfulness. All of the residents are thin and strong. Since they live on a side of a mountain, every place they go involves an uphill climb. As we walk around I am breathless. Their breathing is unchanged walking uphill. They work hard all day on their garden, compost, goats, coffee plantation, health clinics, providing tours and their restaurant. They do indulge in cheese and goat milk. They also eat fish once a week in order to get enough vitamin B12.
They share all duties and have a community meeting every night. They are very much about having a mission. They take their lifestyles seriously; they take ecology seriously. Most are ordained as voluntary "policeman" of the forest. They patrol the nearby nature reserves with steadfast love for the wildlife and plant life that lives there.
They also rescue wayward tourists who attempt to take a hike in the nearby nature reserves. This happens a couple times a year, when hapless tourists decide to go camping on their own in these very dangerous tropical forests.
A word about Costa Rica and their environmentalism. Costa Rica has preserved 23 percent of their land into reserves and parks. For those who think that direct action is not effective when it comes to preserving nature--check out Mike Roselle's chapter on the Costa Rican rainforest in his book Tree Spiker. Essentially, it was the Burger King boycott (led by the Earth First! inspired Rain Forest Action Network) that led to Costa Rica deciding to preserve much of their remaining rain forest. The result? A booming local economy where eco tourism is the number one industry. Costa Rica is on it's way to being out of the grips of the vestiges of the Big Agricultural Firms which have so dominated Latin American countries for seventy years.
After breakfast, Eugenio (our guide) meets with us to describe the hike we will be starting on the next day. It is rigorous. The hike starts at 2,700 feet and ascends to 7,200 feet the first day. There are also two precarious walk bridges to be crossed. There is no trail. Bushwhacking and cowpaths rule the day.
The second day has less of an altitude climb, but the rough part is the "green wall". This is a steep 500 foot climb up a mud wall. After that, we camp at around 9,800 feet. The third day is the summit climb of an additional 1,000 feet. Then back down the mountain for two more days.
This is a very difficult hike. I'm afraid that 44 days of training and a 21 pound weight loss is not nearly enough preparation for what looks like the most dangerous outdoor adventure I have ever done.
The rest of the day is left for walking around the community. Looking at flowers. And feeling anxious about the hike. We leave at 4:00 am the next morning. The weather is bad. It is supposed to storm for the next few days--but we can't put off the hike to wait for better weather because of airline restrictions.
Later in the day Eugenio shows me a snake he just caught. "One of 137 varieties of snakes in Costa Rica". The snake he shows me is a mere baby; when it is full grown it will be a ten foot long bird egg eater. I ask Eugenio how many snakes are poisonous? "19", he tells me.
"Watch where you step", Eugenio warns.
January 10. I awaken early in Alajuela and head out for a morning walk. The hotel is close to the public square, so I enjoy the ambiance of this village. I stop in the Cathedral and say a prayer for good health. Graffiti adorns a building that looks to me like it is the city jail. Alajuela is beautiful.
I have breakfast. A Stellar Jayish looking bird sings for me in the courtyard of the hotel. The cook tells me the name of the bird, which I promptly forget. There are lots of Hippies and Surfers at my hotel. The Surfers smoke at breakfast; the Hippies just look stoned. I talk to a couple from New York who have a map and a guidebook with them. We look up where Durika is. I am making this trip on total faith--I have done no research as to where I am headed. I want to have this experience without any preconceived notions. The guidebook states: "don't even think about going into the Durika area without a guide". The mountain we are to climb is located in the southernmost portion of Costa Rica--close to the border of Panama. It looks impossibly remote.
I hope that Ian shows up. He does (as promised)--promptly at 11:00 am. Ian is playful, witty, smart and a tad irreverent. I like that.
We have transportation arranged for our trip to Durika. A driver takes J., R., Ian and me on a four hour trip to Buenes Aires. This goes across a 10,000 foot mountain pass called "The Pass of Death". We are on the Pan American Highway, a little two lane road that transects most of Latin America. In places the road is washed out--with deep plunges off the road awaiting the inattentive driver. All of it is beautiful. I remember, how in the days of insurrection in El Salvador, Guerrillas used to stop cars and buses and collect "war taxes" at gunpoint on this very same highway--a few hundred miles north of here.
In Buenes Aires, we get on a truck which transports us the rest of the way, up the mountain, to the Eco Intentional Community of Durika. The road is steep. Rugged. We cross streams and go up impossible grades on a very primitive and rugged gravel road. We arrive in Durika at dusk and have a delicious vegetarian meal; we meet our guide for the trip: Eugenio..and then retire to our shared accommodations.
January 9. I take my backpack to the airport in Sacramento. Flying is not one of my favorite activities. I get the time of the flight wrong, and am at the airport much too early. I thought the flight left at 7:30 am; it actually is scheduled to leave at 9:15. I arrive at the airport at 4 am.
6:00 am- I take a walk around the airport.
7:15 am: Will power fails. I order a bloody mary at an airport bar.
7:45 am: Bloody mary number two.
8:00 am: TSA folks are conducting random searches. They skip me.
9:23 am: In the air, on my way to Phoenix.
9:31 am: Looking out over the Sierra at all the clear cuts of the forest. Flying over the Sierra is the best way to see just how much clear cutting has been done of our grand forests.
9:49 am: I behave! I order orange juice instead of an alcoholic beverage. You can tell the Empire is in decline due to the lack of nuts being served on airlines.
12:20 pm: I am in Phoenix, Arizona. In the bar across from the gate for my flight to Costa Rica. I order a beer.
12:39 pm: I order a second beer. Thoughts of traveling to Costa Rica in Hunter Thompson fashion.
1:30pm: I take a walk around the airport. My pilot walks by with a "Failure Is Not An Option" bumper sticker on his travel case. I feel encouraged.
2:25 pm: The plane leaves the gate.
2:37 pm: The plane returns to the gate. Seems there is a warning light flashing that doesn't allow us to fly.
3:50 pm. In the air on my way to Costa Rica. The warning light was fixed. I decline more booze. Don't want to be any more of an Ugly American than I already am. The flight is full. Lots of Hippies and Surfers on board.
10:00 pm. I arrive at my hotel in Alajuela. Los Volcanes. The hotel man lets me in the locked gate. "Hello Allan", he greets me by name. Very kind. I am the last guest to arrive. I get my room, which is simple and adorable. I share a bathroom with other guests. I fall asleep immediately.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Photos and stories about the trip to follow shortly...
It was quite a good time. Thanks for the invite Ian! In fact, Ian has lots of photos of the trip here.
Friday, January 8, 2010
I hope I'm not on the "No Fly" list...
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Addendum: I'm at the Library in St. Helena. When I stepped on the scale in the Monastic Dorm, I was happy to learn that I've lost 21 pounds since I was invited on this hike. Since the hike starts on Tuesday, I don't think I'm gonna make my 30 pound weight loss goal.
My fully loaded backpack weighs 24 pounds. It would be nice to lose the same amount as I'm carrying on my back. Call it even.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
I packed my backpack (seems lighter than when filled with books). Earlier I journeyed to Paradise to buy a few needed items: new nylon pants; a money belt (best to have those while traveling, as I learned from being pick pocketed in Jerusalem); got traveler's checks. I figured out how to make my new headlamp work that Joni gave me for Christmas. Slick thing, it is.
Off to the Napa Valley tomorrow to earn some money. Then we fly...
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Just a couple of dog walks today. I'm taking it easy after exerting myself yesterday. And I made my list for the Costa Rica adventure. Packing light. This promises to be quite the adventure.
Tomorrow I pack. Thursday I travel to work. Work Friday. Catch the plane to San Juan, Costa Rica early Saturday morning. Returning the 18th. So if this blog is quiet for awhile, it is because I am looking at jaguar tracks, panting up a mountain and trying to negotiate chicken buses in a Spanish speaking country with my pigeon Spanish and backpack.
I feel like I'm 21 again, when I traveled with my backpack across Mexico and Nicaragua. Oh, how quickly the years pass.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Below is a 2,000 foot granite monolith, such as you would find in Yosemite.
Here I am with JP. JP runs "the Abbey". An experimental, Lutheran intentional community. He is into two things: The Emergent Church and a New Monasticism. JP is married, but lives simply with his family within this Abbey. They focus on health clinics for the poor and providing housing (and community) for those searching for a more authentic Christianity. For you Lutherans out there, JP is to have a cover story in an upcoming issue of "The Lutheran".
We get to the falls. This is the view downstream.
This is a fun hike. The trail is well maintained. There are idiot bars at the end to help prevent you from falling to your death.
This was a fine hike with this extraordinary young man. Nice to have a perspective from him regarding baby boomers, the emergent church, technology and living in simplicity.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Thoughts on Thoreau as I walk. The past few weeks I've been working my way through Walden. Impressions? You can tell that it is written from the perspective of a person under the age of thirty. I don't know how Emerson felt about this young lad, who hit on his wife, squatted on his land and then would read how Thoreau hadn't met anybody over the age of Thirty that had something decent to say. Seems kind of impolite to me.
Thoreau was writing in the 1840's--at the dawn of the age of industrialism. As we close out this dark industrial age (over the next forty years or so) perhaps it is time for a new Thoreau to step up to the plate. We need a new Thoreau to lead us out of the age of gadgets and empire. Perhaps Ed Abbey and Wendell Berry will be looked upon as the new prophets as we move into a post industrial age.
Tomorrow I take a strenuous hike with a couple of young bucks. Lads who call themselves "post modernists" and part of what they call the "emergent" church. A couple of young lads (under the age of thirty) who probably will think, just like Thoreau, that I have nothing worthwhile to say.
Should be interesting.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Brought the girls along on the Long Loop today. I put on the book-laden backpack and was happy to have company. A beautiful day here! Unexpectedly sunny. Sixty degrees Fahrenheit.
Being a holiday weekend, many of the cabins that are usually vacant are filled with people. Happens every holiday. People come up from the Bay Area to have their weekend of country living. I see them every year...Angel usually runs over and makes a nuisance of herself. She sees everyone as a friend and has a tendency to be too enthusiastic in her greetings. Makes the City Folk nervous.
The Folks from the City bring their paranoia with them. One lady, who I see every holiday, wasn't too friendly. She is always working, working, working on her little ramshackle trailer. And then she plasters the property with ugly "No Trespassing" signs--with severe warnings about what will happen should you step foot on her property (prosecution!). PTSD from living in Oakland, I think.
Of course, her best protection for her property is my daily walks with my overly enthusiastic dog. We keep an eye on things. No need for loud obnoxious signs. I'm not sure she sees things that way, given her grumpiness towards Angel and my family on our walk today.
And those signs? What will happen to them? A beautification project is in order.
Friday, January 1, 2010
Nine days until I board that plane to climb the mountain in Costa Rica. To celebrate the New Year, I took a two hour and forty-nine minute hike down the Canyon. And then up. Then back down again. Then up---followed by taking the long way home up two additional climbs. Angel the dog didn't understand why we were climbing the Canyon twice. It took her more than a little bit of coaxing to talk her into heading down the abyss a second time.
And I only stopped to rest for two minutes. An achievement to make the onerous Canyon hike without stopping. Although I left the backpack at home. Raining today...
We are off to a good start.
I awoke early this morning with my family still sleeping. Good bye 2009! Hello 2010! Time to announce some intentions for this new year.
Old business: I didn't climb Halfdome last year. Put that on the list for this year. Will this be the year I finally trudge up Mt. Whitney? And how about the John Muir trail?---wouldn't that be fun to do all, or at least a portion there of, with a backpack and a book by the ecstatic, whiskered John Muir? Let's put Bright Angel in the Grand Canyon on the list. And a few other mountains: Mt. Lassen (if they open the trail), Mt. Tallack, Mt. Rose. Redwoods--let's spend more time there. And don't forget the ocean--no year is complete without spending a night or two by the thunderous Pacific.
What else? Keep moving. When you stop moving, you die. Seeing as I would like to cheat the Grim Reaper out of collecting Yours Truly for, at least, another year--I plan on stepping up the activity level. Add more activities. Add more adventures...more trips. Spend even more time outside.
So what to look forward to? More backpacking trips. More time spent in our National Parks, Forests, Deserts, Reserves, State Parks. More nights spent sleeping under the stars. More time spent on the seat of a bike. A float trip or two on a scenic river. More family backpacking trips. More camping trips period. More discoveries of wineries and the folks met along the way.
Time to get back on that bike. Let's put the Wildflower 100 miler on the list. That will be in April.
Let's add some books. Gotta bring along some present and past Masters on these outings.
And it is time to introduce these girls to the wonders of carrying your own pack under the power of your own two feet. Time to include the girls more in these adventures.
So we begin the Second Year. I wonder what will happen? Join me. Let me know of your travels outside.
See you on the trail!