Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 59: Jazzy's Rite of Passage!

Okay, forget the first day of school, the first Communion, the first solid food, the first step, the first note sent to a member of the opposite sex--around here the best rite of passage is riding your bike for the first time on the Long Loop with Allan.

Jazmine has been asking to do this for a year. Today, I gave her the opportunity..
Angel has many faults. She is too enthusiastic around strangers. She thinks bears, skunks and mountain lions are her friends. She jumps on us.

But she does have one good attribute: she has a super duper attachment to the girls. This was her job given to her when we picked her out as a little puppy. We wanted a big dog to guard over the girls. Hence her name: Angel. As in Guardian Angel. She takes her job seriously--especially when the girls are riding their bikes or visiting neighbors.

Jazmine's big day. How will she do?

The Long Loop is someplace around three miles in length with two monstrous hills.

Teaching the next generation of Trespassers!

Exercising the girls Right to Roam!

Jazmine passes the first test: climbing a closed fence...

And rock barriers are a breeze for the girls...

The rule is that you can push your bike up the monster hills. However, If I assist them--the Rite of Passage doesn't count.

Kylie found this beautiful mushroom. She wants me to let Readers know that her foot is a SIZE SEVEN in WOMEN'S SHOES. Okay, I wrote that Kylie. No one will think you have little girls feet...

In the end, Jazmine completed the Rite of Passage. She didn't whine. She dug deep and completed the Long Loop. She is quite proud of herself!

In fact, I whined much more on the recent backpacking trip to Costa Rica than Jazmine did completing the Long Loop. A brave girl! Congratulations are in order!!!!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 58: Hope Springs Eternal...

At last, another sunny day. When I tell Joni that the rainy season is nearly over, she just looks at me with that rather incredulous look and says: "You are a dreamer". She is right.

Hope springs eternal..

I found a tree with blossoms on it. I have no clue what it is... cherry? crab apple?

The tree blossoming out...

Angel is next to a piece of "Three Rivers Slate". Joni would like me to gather a couple large pieces every time I walk and carry them home in order to start a patio. The best place to harvest the slate is half ways down the canyon. It would be a real act of love to follow through with this project. The slate is heavy. The road steep.

Yet doing something like that might get me in better shape for hiking season this summer...I wonder how long it would take me to drag up enough rock for a patio?

Angel and I ended up doing the three mile loop. Things are turning green. Flowers should become evident in the next couple of weeks. Hurrah!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day #57: Manzanita

Angel and I did the three mile loop in the rain and sleet today.

Manzanita are most beautiful in the rain. The wet bark shows off it's beauiful deep red color. I've read there are some 60 varieties of Manzanita. I have no clue what variety this tree is. I do know this gnarly tree is old; takes forever for these things to grow. The wood burns hot and we've been warned not to use it in our wood stove (when we finally get the thing operational). Evidently the hot burning Manzanita can crack your stove.

We are on the cusp on this Ridge between the more Savannahish Foothills and the beginnings of the Ponderosa forest. Above us we have forest; below us the hot parched Savannah.

Thunder as I type this! A thunderstorm! Those are rare here in the Foothills. Reminds me that I don't have the Internet Satellite Dish grounded...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Days #55 and #56: Recovery, the Fourth "R"...

Rain yesterday. A short dog walk.

Today: Sun!! For a short while, until the next storm blows in to dump a few more inches of rain on us. Angel (the dog) and I took a long walk this morning. We were happy to greet about a dozen Steller jays. Oh how wonderful to see the sun even for a brief bit of time!

I got an invitation to be a "top blogger" at Healthblogger in the "Green Living" category. From reading through their invitation, they actually seem to read the blogs and to be a bit more choosy with their invitations.

So I accepted their offer--scam artist that I am.

A scam Artist? Well, I'm not the epitome of health. I don't eat enough vegetables; tend to be mostly an opportunivore in my diet regimen. I hike, walk and ride bike more to be outside than to accomplish any health goals.

As for Green Living? Living in a rural area, we tend to be car dependent. I drive 165 miles to work (but only twice a month). True, we do live in a partially constructed house made of mud, straw and recycled materials. But we drive way too much.

Green Living. What does that mean? What would Thoreau have to say about this nebulous movement? Ed Abbey? Companies green wash. Obama is said to have a green agenda. I've met Socialist Greens. I've met Libertarian Greens. I've met New Agey Greens. Pagan Greens. Most of the time, being Green is reduced to just being an expression of an alternative consumerism.

Here is an alternative vision for being Green: Having Devotion to the Planet and all life on the Planet. This devotion then informs us in all that we do. We love where and who we are. And we give space to other beings to be who they are and freedom to live out their lives. We make ourselves smaller so that the non-human entities can be larger.

Being Green ultimately is about Recovery. I'm a Recovery Green. The fourth "R" in the reduce, reuse, recycle chain of being.

Recovery means ending the oppression of a Human Centered Worldview.

Recovery might mean that we tear out half of the dams in California so that 50% of the rivers return to being free flowing (hence giving the salmon a chance to recover). Recovery might mean limiting our housing to 300 square feet per person. Recovery might mean changing jobs. Recovery might mean giving money to the Nature Conservancy. Recovery might mean working less; earning less; living more. Recovery might mean sitting in a tree or tearing down a fence. Tactics might be different, but Recovery for the planet is the goal.

That is Green Living to me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Days #50 to #54: Sloth...

"To every thing there is a season" as the Byrds borrowed from Bobby Dylan and as Bobby Dylan borrowed from Ecclesiastes.

Last Thursday I drove to the Napa Valley for my obligatory work week. Along the way, as I usually do this time of the year, I came across the herd of elk in the top two photos. I got out of the car and spent half an hour with them. Watching them. The elk just watched me as I snapped a few photos of them.


So I worked my five days. After work, I didn't feel like doing anything. I didn't walk. I didn't ride my bike that I brought with me. I didn't go to the library. I didn't go to town. I just went to my Monastic Dorm room and slept.

It must be February. My legs were hurting after work. My back has been sore. So I decided to withdraw. Regroup. Read. Sleep. Watch the Olympics. And I must admit, I enjoyed my slothfulness. After 400 days of giving myself a daily assignment to "get outside"--staying inside was a decadent treat.

Sometimes we need to linger in our caves.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Days: #48 and #49: Nature Nerds and the Age 50 Transition...

Did the Short Loop yesterday, and again this morning. Taking it easy after a more strenuous hike on Tuesday. My legs feel strong.

Several of my friends are turning fifty. As such, we've been talking about "bucket lists". Nature Nerds get a little weird around the age of fifty. Out of storage come the hiking boots, guide books and dreams of taking that long hike you have always dreamed of taking. There is an increasing urgency as we notice the natural physical decline involved in aging. It is now or never.

We don't want it to be never.

My friend Patrick wrote me the other day (who turns fifty soon)--sending along his "bucket list". Hiking the Grand Canyon made his list. And Larry (who drops into this site once and awhile) just started a blog about his Age Fifty Transition. His bucket list involves lots of hikes and outdoor pursuits. He calls the blog "In Search of Birkyness" with grand plans of cross country skiing, riding his bike 100 miles and hiking the John Muir Trail. Larry turns fifty on Saturday. Give his new webstie a look-see.

Nature Nerds have an easier and healthier Age Fifty Transition. They lose weight. Stop some of their bad habits. Eat more vegetables and attempt to get more sleep. They stop worrying quite so much about their careers. Nature Nerds in the Age Fifty Transition are less likely to buy that Sports Car or trade in their spouses for that one last fling with a Twenty Something.

Nature Nerds who turn fifty have other dreams. They want to get to Everest's base camp or some other high mountain pass in Nepal. They get on their bikes and ride across the country. They lose the fog of inactivity and move!

Look for us Age Fifty Transition Males on a hiking trail this summer. You'll see us with our graying hair, brand new nylon pants; turning blue from panting with gigantic smiles on our faces.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day #47: We Get Lost...

R. and I have hiked in Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa, California before. We thought we knew the way.

"We don't need to bother with the map", R. said. We had invited along a new MD friend to hike up to Lake Marie; followed by a trip along the Skyline Trail to admire the views of Napa and San Pablo Bay.


We took the wrong trail. After walking in circles for a couple of hours; getting lost and taking "short cuts"; struggling up multiple climbs; traipsing up a stream bed only to find that we had gone in a full circle back to where we had started---We decided to give it up and call it a day.



Next time we shall consult the map. Still--a good time was had by all. Getting lost can be fun if it is early enough in the day, with adequate daylight time to find your way back to the trailhead.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day #46: Schedule It!

On my feet today. I did the short loop with Angel.

It is the nicest day of the year thus far! Temperature in the low 60's. Sunny. I put on my shorts and a new John Lennon "Imagine Peace" t-shirt. I bought the t-shirt at Target a couple weeks ago; somehow, it just doesn't seem right to buy Beatles paraphernalia at Target.

February has been a month of perusing hiking/backpacking books. Dreaming of the hikes to come. I came across a kernel of wisdom from one of the Authors in one of the books (can't remember which book right now).

The Author was asked: "How do you manage to take 200 hikes in a year?". His reply was simple: "I schedule it".

He states that if you schedule hikes (like we schedule everything else in our lives: work, dentist appointments, ballet classes or whatever) then you will actually do them. He recommends scheduling outings with friends--that way you can't back out of them.

Which is why I must travel to Napa today (on a day I would rather be outside than in the inside of a car). I scheduled a hike in Napa with a couple of friends. We are going to do a hike in a preserve that overlooks San Pablo Bay tomorrow. So I will drive down to R's house today, have a barbecue and sleep on his couch tonight.

Is there anything more enjoyable than taking a hike with friends? Drop me an e-mail. Let's schedule a hike together.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day #45: Salvage Logging and the Concow Fire..

Over the past few days, I've been extending my bike range. My goal is to make it to the top of Sawmill Peak--an elevation gain of 2,200 feet and an unknown number of miles away on logging roads. I asked Angel (my dog) if she wanted to come with me today. Smart dog that she is--she refused. We went a tad far for her yesterday; she wanted to rest at home.

So I headed out. It is Sunday and sunny, which means that the ATV folks are out.

I met a family of four out enjoying the logging roads. They had come over across the canyon from the town of Magalia. My goal is to ride my bike to Magalia someday...

I had to ride my bike across a fast flowing stream...

This is as far as I made it. Sawmill Peak is behind my bike. I stopped in a "clear cut" zone of Salvage logging. A two and a half hour ride today.

If you look closely, you can see the Fire Lookout on the top of Sawmill Peak in this zoomed in photo.

A pile of Salvaged Logs (cadavers) and the torn up staging area. There are many of these torn up staging areas on this bike ride. The devastation that the logging does is very difficult to photograph. It is much worse than it appears in this photo (and subsequent ones).

Salvage logging in a clear cut fashion. This is right on the edge of the beautiful Feather River Canyon (northern branch). In the clear cut areas, the logging roads were all washed up and torn up from water run off. And all of the water, mud and debris runs down, unhindered, into the beautiful Feather River Canyon. This cut is on the very edge of the canyon.

The mountain looks as barren as the moon. And the water rushes down 1,500 feet or more to the Feather River. Goodbye trout!

A logging road that goes straight up a mountain...and the rain water is channelled down the road. In a normal year, we get around sixty inches of rain. This year is 120 percent of normal thus far. And from the condition of the logging roads, you can tell we've had a ton of rain.

The Concow Fire occurred in 2008 (the day we moved into our cabin). We were evacuated for a couple of weeks, in two seperate events. The fire burned some thirty five thousand acres--and pretty much ended at our cabin. This fire was a stand replacing "crown" fire. The worst kind.

I've been watching the forest recover over the last two years. The photo above shows an area that hasn't been logged. The burned trees fall down gradually--starting with their uppermost tips. Plenty of bio mass prevents water runoff (and the dead trees fall down in segments--almost by design). Bottom cover plants turn green. The area has had an explosion in the turkey population. The deer are doing well too.

Juxtapose the photo above, with the brown de-nuded clear cut areas. No life has returned there.

But don't we need the wood? In this recession, there is a wood glut. The mills have plenty of wood in their inventories. The Feather River is one of the more picturesque places in northern California. There really was no good reason to log this beautiful canyon area.

I found some nice raccoon tracks on my way home. This must be one large raccoon. The track is as big as my hand...

Back and front paws are evident in these tracks...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day #44: Someday Sawmill Peak...

On my bike today. I brought Angel along for a longish ride. She is getting quite good at running beside me.

A sunny day---we still have plenty of puddles for Angel to drink from.

Just down the road from the cabin, you can see my goal: Sawmill Peak. 4,000 feet tall--Sawmill Peak stands guard over the Feather River Canyon and the town of Magalia. The utility lines in the foreground are phone lines. We have no electrical service on the Ridge.

A closeup view of Sawmill Peak...

These are logging roads. Huge logging trucks haul their cadavers on this road.

And a small shack. Plush accommodations by Concow standards...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day #43: The Cove (a must-see documentary!)

My turnaround spot...on the way up Sawmill Peak...

Last night Joni brought home an excellent (but very disturbing) documentary. The Cove is about the dolphin slaughter in Japan, where 23,000 dolphins are murdered every year. For no good reason. The documentary is very graphic--and involved some high tech Trespassing to obtain footage that is very difficult to watch. I highly recommend this movie.

One of the lines in the film is memorable: "You are either an Activist or an Inactivist". True. And after watching the film, here are some easy things that can be done to end this abhorrent slaughter of dolphins.

If the Japanese dolphins are saved and this barbaric practice is ended, we will have the courageous, illegal, direct action of this film crew to thank. And much of the story revolves around their creative hijinks to pull this feat off. They have my admiration!

This movie has been on my mind since seeing it last night. The dramatic footage within this movie is a sentinel event. It is akin to the footage of the journalist being shot in Nicaragua in 1979 which turned public opinion against the Somoza regime and against American intervention in Nicaragua.

Rain today. Sawmill Peak is around six or seven miles away reached by some Jeep roads. My goal is to be able to ride the 2,000 foot ascent on these bumpity logging roads to reach the Fire Lookout at it's summit. From the Lookout, a network of roads descend down the canyon, and then up the other side--to the towns of Magalia and Paradise.

This ride should get me in shape. And when I can ride this thing, I will be ready for the Wildflower 65.

Today I rode up the road until my hands got cold. I didn't wear gloves. I then turned around and rode back to our cabin. This is a good workout...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Days #40, #41 and #42: Home to Concow...

I haven't set my butt down to write for a couple of days. Time to catch up.

On day #40, I drove home in the evening across the Sacramento Valley where elk, eagles, and hawks guided my little car. It is spring in the Valley, which means that large winged creatures are passing through. Spotting an eagle is easy this time of the year.

When I got home, Joni and I took a walk with our new headlamps. Caught up on this and that while walking in the dark.

Day #41 was my lounge around the house day; recovering from work. Just a couple of short neighborhood walks with Angel the dog.

Today (day #42) I tried to train Angel how to run next to me as I rode my bike. Did the long loop with dog in tow. By Angel standards, she did okay; she only stopped to "sniff, drop and roll" once. It is cloudy, but the air temperature is warmer. Not raining today (but threatening to). I saw my first robin a month ago.

As for biking, this is much more aerobic than going out for a gentle daily stroll. Especially with hills in all directions around our little cabin. I look forward to extending my roaming range. Get to know more of this wilderness community.

Joni thought she heard some Trumpeter swans the other day---flying high in the sky overhead. Reminds me of Jack Turner's excellent description of Trumpeters in Teewinot (with thanks to Greentangle for turning me on to this writer). Jack was on top of a mountain with Trumpeters flying overhead. He estimated they were flying at 25,000 feet.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day #39: Mustard...

I survived my first bike ride last night. I had a great dinner of Crab, a caramel dessert and three glasses of Sauvignon Blanc; had an interesting conversation with another gentleman who rode his bike to the bar--and I then rode home in the dark.

Work today. A draining day. Not all clients on a mental health unit are psychotic. The problems of clients run the gamut: some are depressed; some are in intolerable situations they cannot handle; some are anxious; some are manic; some are psychotic. You have to change gears quickly and use different skills to deal with this eclectic population. You need to have both wisdom and empathy. You have to know when to talk and when to shut up. You need to know when to educate and when to medicate.

That's partly why I enjoy it: it is always varied and interesting.

I am convinced that not one of us is immune from ending up on a Mental Health unit. That is why we need them---cause anyone of us could end up there. If you don't think you would ever end up on one---just have someone sleep deprive you for three or four days. Get no sleep and watch yourself slide into psychosis.

The rain returned just as I got off work. Down to my favorite vineyard for a restorative walk. I wish I would have remembered my camera, because I have never seen the Mustard as tall as it is this spring. Beautiful!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day #38: On my Bike...

A new phase.

After work I got on my Bianchi hybrid bicycle and headed down the hill from the hospital. It has been a few years since I used to commute to work on this thing. The bike seems to be working fine; it was tuned up well by the Oroville bike people.

In fact, it seems much too fast. Ian is right: biking is fast! The world spins by quicker than what I can process in my brain. I feel exposed. Vulnerable. I gingerly apply the brakes down the hill. These are new tires and I'm not used to them yet. Go slow Allan.

Traffic in the Napa Valley is busy today. And I am a wee, little bike sharing Highway 29 with people who have been wine tasting all afternoon---and are now on their way in their Lexxus, BMW's and Jaguars (all with much too much horsepower) to watch the Super Bowl. Chances are I'm the only person on the road who isn't liquored up. (I will remedy this soon.)

I arrive at the Library a bit sweaty, safe and happy.

Can a walking blog include bike trips? Yes! This blog is about getting outside under your own human power. Crawl, walk, use a wheelchair, ride a bike--it is all the same. Just get outside!

And so now I will get back on my bike, ride a few miles out of town to the Silverado Brewery, order some fresh rock salt broiled Dungeness crab and a beer (organic micro brew) and watch the end of the Super Bowl. Then back on the bike and up the hill to the hospital and the Monastic Dorm.

A new phase has begun! Now we start to train for the Wildflower 65!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day #37: The Recall...

I brought my bike along to the Napa Valley for this week of work. My work comrade and friend, R.O. talked me out of riding my bike today. "Don't get your bike wet for your first ride", he said. "Ride it tomorrow when there isn't supposed to be any rain".


So after work, I took yet another stroll around St. Helena...and another quick walk through a vineyard. Stopped off at a grocery store to buy some soup and a bottle of wine for dinner.

This town is in the midst of an election campaign. Signs advertising "Yes" on Recall and "No" on Recall compete in next-door neighbor's front yards. The Recall is about throwing out four members of the current school board. Supporters of the Recall want to replace these board members with four new ones. Why do they want to replace the School Board? It seems that the new Superintendent of the school is seen as a sycophant of a prior Superintendent. There are other issues too---but in reading through the arguments for the Recall, it just seems like some folks have way too much free time on their hands. At least they aren't arguing over some Neanderthal issue such as teaching Evolution in schools. (I wonder if the increase in Homeschooling by Christian Conservatives has led to the demise of this issue?). Anyway, this Recall vote just looks like plain old Vengeance. An ax being ground.

The St. Helena School District has lots of money. Property taxes on these multi-million dollar properties means that St. Helena has lots of cash to spend on their public school system. Some families in other towns fake their addresses so that their kids can go to the schools in this wealthy community.

Democracy in action. I wonder how it will all play out?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Day #36: Forgetting...

I forgot to bring my camera to the Napa Valley.

And having only worked one day this year thus far, I had to try and remember how to be a Psych Nurse. Funny how quickly we lose skills when they aren't used. I also noticed that it has been around a month since I've actually talked with a psychotic person. I think most of us probably go through life and never really talk to someone who is not connected to reality. Today, I noticed just how strange this profession that I work in truly is; it all seemed odd. When you work in this gig a whole lot, psychotic behaviors and conversations start feeling normal. It is only when you step away that you notice just how bizarre this field can be.

So I found myself a bit tired after work. First off, I've been sleeping in--so getting up before sunrise was difficult. Secondly, being on my feet most of the day was a bit tough on my sore toes.

So down to St. Helena after work to walk in my favorite vineyard. The mustard is nearly waist high in the Napa Valley. It is raining, but it is a warm rain. Aromatic.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day #35: With Thanks to Emerson....

Did the Short Loop with Angel this morning. While it is still cloudy with a hint of rain in the air, the temperature is warmer. Dare I say that Spring is in the air?

I finished Susan Cheever's American Bloomsbury last night. This book describes Concord, Massachusetts from 1840 to 1880. She attempts to describe what a dynamic town this was during this period, --which hailed Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau.

But special credit goes to Ralph Waldo Emerson who inherited money from the death of his first wife, and then wisely used the money to create an informal Artist's Community leading to some of the best literature ever created. All of the writers mentioned above benefited from Ralph Waldo's money. And support. In a sense, the modern environmental movement, feminism (from Margaret Fuller) and the creation of the "memoir" were made possible by Emerson's sharing of wealth.

Think about it: The Scarlet Letter, Little Women and Walden all came about because of friendship with Emerson. I think Emerson made a wise investment.

Time to drive to the Napa Valley for a week...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Days #33 and #34: Back on the Trail; Concow and Concord

My toes are better. Time to get into gear.

Angel and I walked the Long Loop today. First time I've walked it since returning from Costa Rica. Lots of trees are down from the high winds we had last week. And a new parcel is for sale. This is the parcel that (once upon a time) had the original farm house on it. The house was torn down a couple of years ago--as it had become a flop house for Bikers and Methheads. Now, just the property is for sale.

Actually two parcels are for sale on this Ridge that I have come to love. Makes me anxious as to who will buy it. This isn't a tight knit "off grid" community; most folks are escapists and a tad on the paranoid side. Yet, most are benign enough.

In a way, I wish Concow would become more like Concord. In the 1840's, Concord Massachusetts could boast that Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, H.D. Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Margaret Fuller lived there. All of these literary greats lived within spitting distance of each other. They took walks together. Borrowed each others books. Helped each other with their gardens. The only one who had any sort of recognition at the time was Emerson.

Concow could stand an infusion of "off grid" Artists Wannabees like Emerson or Thoreau.

All good things come to an end. I have only worked one day this year thus far. I've had thirty three days off. Tomorrow I return to the Napa Valley to earn my keep. My goal this year is to work to live; not live to work.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Days #30, #31 and #32: John Barleycorn...

The computer is still in the shop.

Outdoor activities have been limited to walks with the dog and a little work on the house. This vacation has been good for me. Spending large amounts of time away from paid labor makes a person appreciate just how much working for pay takes out of a person. Now, after only working one day in the last thirty days, I'm starting to feel like myself again.

And I've been reading. A lot. I finished "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer. Climbers seem to know how to write books. This is a tragic adventure story about the 1996 expedition to Everest that ended in half a dozen deaths. Climbers still march past the bodies that are forever entombed on Everest's slopes.

And last night I finished Jack London's "John Barleycorn". Written in 1913, essentially this book is about Jack London's alcohol use (and abuse). Jack London died from alcoholism three years later. "John Barleycorn" is London's word for alcohol. London admits he voted for women's suffrage because he thought once women had the vote, they would vote for Prohibition. As long as alcohol was legal, Jack London said he would always drink. London helped Prohibition's cause by writing this alcoholic memoir. It fueled the movement. Ironic that Jack London never liked the taste of spirits. He considered himself a social drinker--although towards the end of his alcoholic dance he needed alcohol from morning til night. A good read.

And I brought my bike into the shop to be serviced. Soon we shall start training for the Wildflower 100. But I haven't decided whether I'll do the "Mildflower 65".