Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 272 and 273: Dan Logue's Errors

Managed to take Angel for a walk today. Other than that, it's been rest and reading and watching endless amounts of nerdy TV. Still fighting the mother of all respiratory infections here in the Foothills.

Note to self: bring vitamins on my next backpacking trip.

From all this reading and watching Cspan, what has become clear to me is just how much "push back" there is in the Tea Party against any sort of Climate Change science. Voting for these populist pipsqueaks is essentially a vote against science, Darwin, James Hansen and rationality. And here in California, Prop 23 is an attempt to extinguish our State's timid climate legislation (which attempts to roll back carbon to 1990 levels by 2020). Even that small amount of cutback is seen as a "jobs killer". The main funders of this Initiative are oil companies and it was written by our very own State Assemblyman: Dan Logue.

So I re-read McKibben's "Eaarth" last night. Not a cheery read.

Frankly, I don't think anybody on the Climate Denier Side has stepped out their front doors in the last twenty years. Nor have they noticed that things just ain't normal when it comes to weather patterns or flowering flora (last year I saw my first Mustard plant in November--two to three months ahead of schedule). Nor do they notice that grain production peaked in the 1980's. They haven't noticed all the bugs that are chewing up our forests because winter doesn't kill the little critters off anymore (the latest disaster is a new beetle from Asia that now threatens the Bristlecone Pine--the oldest trees in the world). Nor do they notice that the Midwest has extensive floods nearly every year now (and in August and September!). Almost all the glaciers are gone in Glacier National Park and you can sail your way through the Northwest Passage in Canada during the summer (the first time in 2006 and every year since then). Walrus are starving on islands in Alaska at this very moment. Black Abalone on California's coast are now on the Endangered Species List because the ocean has become too acidic for their shells. The acid is created from the absorption of CO2, lowering the Ocean's PH level and endangering coral reefs and shell fish. Pakistan has 20 percent of their land under water. River flow in almost all the world's rivers has diminished as glacier melt water has diminished. The list is endless.

Climate has become much more dangerous. Storms are stronger. Disasters are bigger and will continue to be very expensive. None of these costs are in anyone's budgets. Washed out roads, destroyed and flooded houses costs lots and lots of money. And it is becoming much more frequent.

Yet our own Dan Logue does his own little Paleo Republican Schtick that lowering CO2 is just too expensive. If he thinks this is expensive, just wait until the first grain harvest fails because of drought. To not act is the expensive part.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 271: Yet Again!

The phone rings. I answer.

"Hi Allan, this is Mark". Mark and I were college roommates back in the early 80's. Life-long friends. Mark owns an organic flower and vegetable farm back in Minnesota.

"Hi Mark", I say.

"You know, I've been reading your blog and articles and I think we should take a backpacking trip when I come out in a few weeks. Just a few days. Have another adventure. You pick where we go".

"Gosh Mark, I was kind of hoping not to saddle up that backpack again this year. But, well, okay, I'll tell Joni".

Here we go again; I haven't really recovered from the last trip yet.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 270: 33 Points...

I'm too sick to work, but not too sick to e-mail a friend.

This friend asked me to pass on a utopian vision of an ecological society. Practical things we can do right now to arrest our over-development. Here are my 33 points:

1. Vast increases in wild space and animal migratory corridors. Especially in places where humans have taken over. (The Sacramento Valley floor for starters---there ain't anything wild in that valley from Redding to Bakersfield).

2. Solar panels on every roof that has decent exposure. Same goes for small and medium wind projects. Put all those unemployed folks back to work installing solar systems that you can get on loan from the government just like the student loan program (no means test).

3. An end to consumerism--how many shirts does a person really need? Bring back thrift.

4. An end to coal.

5. Labor intensive organic agriculture. Put humans back to work on the farm. Right now we mostly eat oil (10 calories of oil to make 1 calorie of food).

6. No more "always on" appliances.

7. Real conservation.

8. Take out the damned Dams and bring back the salmon.

9. The socialization of benefits (health care, social security etc.)

10. A 20 hour work week.

11. National Forests that put wildlife first. If you log on it, it must be sustainable without terrible run off into trout streams. More labor intensive. Use horses!

12. A change in consciousness so that humans don't think they are the most important species on the planet.

13. Tax the snot out of houses over 1,200 square feet. Have a goal of having 300 square feet of living space per human.

14. Permaculture.

15. No more yards; up with gardens!

16. A speed limit of 40 mph on country roads (at night) would reduce deer and critter assassination.

17. No more fences, with the exception of garden spaces and some animal husbandry. We need wildlife to be able to migrate.

18. A moratorium on all new land development.

19. Vegetarianism, or at the very least, greatly reduced meat consumption (an end to grain fed beef and factory farms).

20. Only one child for every other woman to reduce the human population down to 1 billion within 80 years.

21. Communities you can walk in.

22. More walks!

23. Home canning!

24, An end to Global Trade (with the exception of coffee!).

25. A tax on goods that are shipped more than 500 miles.

26. Protectionism and Tariffs.

27. An end to militarism (nothing can happen until we end the empire).

28. A consciousness that understands that an item need not be mined, milled, dug, eaten or killed in order to have value.

29. A zero waste society. Have the cost of recycling a product built into the product on the front end.

30. Co-housing.

31. Trains!

32. Localvores.

33. Local economies...

Oh, the Green agenda goes on and on...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Days 268-269: Farms...

Still sick here.

My friend Mark (who is coming out to visit us for a week in October) sent me some photos of him completing an item on his "bucket list". A tandem skydive.

What struck me about the photo is just how fully domesticated the Midwest is. Fly across Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and this is what you see; miles and miles of farms. No space for anything wild. Nothing wild left.

Give me the wild, wild West. I want to live in a space that still has some wildness left to it. It is getting harder and harder to find such spots on the planet. All the usable space is being mined by humans for our own little dramas. We have crowded out all other relations...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 267:Nyquil and Network News..

I've been feverishly overdosing on Network News and cold medicine. Taking Nyquil and MSNBC in large doses leads to amusing changes in consciousness. For instance, France is taking to the streets protesting a change in the retirement age from 60 to 62! Almost everyone says the Dems are going to lose the House, and maybe the Senate. I watched the American delegation walk out of the UN when Iran's President quoted three conspiracy theories about 9/11.

The only outdoors time I've had was listening to the coyotes with Joni the other night. The coyotes were having quite a skirmish over something. Joni (with her acute hearing) could distinguish six distinct yelps. Perhaps they were celebrating, as we are down to one lonely chicken; the rest snatched by the coyotes. We still haven't solved this problem yet (much to the coyotes joy!).

So being sick with a fever is not a way to enjoy American politics. The antics of the Tea Party is hard to handle from a decongestant-induced feverish fog. All these Tea Partiers just seem to be fiddling while Rome burns. Angry White backlash; mischanneled anger. Angry with providing health insurance to the poor and not being angry at attacking oil fields for the rich. The field of debate is so very, very narrow on all these news channels. MSNBC being the best of them--but still coming up short.

Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! often gets it right. An island of sanity amongst the talking heads of media. But who watches her? You have to be pretty invested in the news to suffer through her pedantic program. And you have to have a high tolerance for tweed jackets and professorial opinion.

So go out on a limb Allan. Is this 1994 all over again? Or is it worse than that? How should Greens feel about this election cycle? Our issues have been shut out. I think it is important to get out and vote for the Dems because they, at least, don't deny climate change. Vote for the Dems and hope that Obama takes a populist green turn for the second two years of his term. It's the lesser of two evils once again. But this time, the evil is eviler than they have ever, ever been (and I never thought that could possibly happen).

In the meantime, and no matter who wins the election, I need to build a better chicken pen.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 266: Outdated...

Still fighting a bug here. Taking massive amounts of Nyquil, sleeping and resting.

Started me thinking about what we don't have that others would consider essential. We have no blackberry, I phone, cell phone, I pad nor Lap Top. We have no hot water; no running water to the kitchen (we carry it in buckets). We have no Wii, Sega, no PlayStation of any number. We don't take kindly to Kindles. We have no GPS. I don't know what 3G is---guess it follows that 4G is also a mystery to me.

We do have a ten year old Sony television, the type that is big and boxy and hard to carry. We do have a six year old computer that runs ever so slowly (I have a hard time getting the Word Processing program to mail stuff). We have a small CD player. We do have a DVD player that I can't run. The thing also plays VCR tapes that I have never used.

We do have Satellite TV (although we are thinking about giving that up). We do have a Satellite Internet that I consider essential to contact the outside world.

We have no air conditioning. Essentially, we are outdated and mostly useless when it comes to civilized culture. I like it that way. If I had my way, we would remain living without these other pesky conveniences forever.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Days 264 and 265: Writing From Others

I'm a bit under the weather. Sore throat. Gooey. Feeling terrible. Lethargic.

So I thought I would let others handle the writing for a bit. Jason (the Therapist) was kind enough to go on the PCT hike. He wrote about it here. Jason has links in this piece to his first two entries.

And my son also blogged about the Appy Hike. You can read his (painful) experience here. Just scroll down to read his entertaining writing...

Happy reading!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 263: Wolves and our National Forests

The Abbot sent me a disgusting article about wolves, asking my opinion. This is what I wrote to him (and a few friends):

Okay...I read the article...

Actually, the guy quoted "Michael Robinson" of the Center for Biological Diversity is a friend of Joni's. They hung out in Boulder together. He had the Teepee next to hers.

Notice that the wolves allegedly killed the cattle on national forest land. These welfare cattlemen use the public lands at a very cheap lease rate from the state. Then when a cow dies, they raise holy hell. In Minnesota (where I'm from) wolves are respected and revered. We are proud of them. And there has virtually been no predation of livestock. Why? Because livestock are fenced and put into barns. They aren't roaming wild in public lands that should be a haven for wolves, deer, elk, etc.

Frankly, we don't need cattle and sheep on public lands. Only about 3 percent of our beef comes from such a welfare farmer cattle industry. It is more a tradition in the west than an economic necessity.

There are farmers in this area who are trying to live with the mountain lion. They use a breed of guard dog to deter the lion from taking their goats, sheep, cattle. It works.

Wolves have a right to live. My argument would be that National Forest land belongs first to the wild species, then the domesticated ones. If a wolf kills a cow on such land...too bad!

Wolves are good at regulating their numbers. Only the alpha pair in a pack breed. They control their hormones better than humans.

Ranchers in Idaho and Montana etc. go apoplectic over this issue. They spread terrible lies about wolf predations. They do the same for every wild predator. Frankly, I'm tired of them running their livestock on OUR PUBLIC LAND!

Time to bring back real livestock management. Use shepherds. Dogs. Let the wolves control their own population: they will do a better job of it than we horny humans....

Give the wolves a chance man! They've suffered enough from our sin!

Of course, this article doesn't get to the heart of the issue: What is the purpose of having wild public land?


And a followup e-mail:

Sorry about the sermon...

I just think it all comes back to (and I harp on this all the time) how we conceive humans to be within the realm of creation. Ecocentric versus Humanocentric. Christianity, and almost all religion, is mostly about our own species. Humans as the crown of creation. Everything is God's gift to humans. To the point that we deny souls to those that we don't value: it used to be women (as in the Muslim tradition). The idea that all species have a right to freedom to roam, procreate and live their lives in balance and happiness, even if they aren't human, goes counter to almost every dogma that religion has taught (with a few notable exceptions: St. Francis of Assisi being one).

We just blindly follow the faith of our fathers, no matter how destructive to the earth, large predators etc etc...

Will this change? I doubt it. There are some glimmers of hope out there. The 30 year Butte County plan actually acknowledges that our black tailed and mule deer population has migratory rights. This has been fought vehemently by my Concow neighbors. There is a movement to create a wild space in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming which has some support in Congress. The mountain lion initiative passed back in the 90's is another case in point. But how far will we go in re-wilding our lands?

And the radical enviros are developing their own variety of dark green religion, as exemplified by Bron Taylor's decent book of the same name. But it is time to move beyond "blessed are the poor" (because they know how to live simply and will inherit the Earth?) to "blessed are the poor and all wild creatures".

Questions around large predators (mountain lion, wolves, grizzlies) lazer the question into a sharp focus. Can we humans share? Doubtful.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Up to Day 262: Simplicity...

Yes, I've been taking it easy since getting home. For one thing, my tummy took a few days to work out that rust colored water we drank. Secondly, I'm tired: simple as that...

So it has been simple short dog walks. Is there anything more simple, or more fun, than that? We make life way too complicated. Life is really quite simple. Life is NOT complicated. People who want life to be more complicated are just addicted to drama and are probably really bored. Drama Kings and Queens. Enough of that!

In fact, simplicity should be the guiding factor in all our lives: relationships, economics, exercise, home building, politics, cuisine, reading, environmentalism. Make something complicated and nine times out of ten you are on the wrong path.

What is the simple answer? Ask this, and you will get the right answer.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Appy Trail Day Six: Damascus!

Taran finishing the hike. He lost 27 pounds on this trip..

Awake the last day, feeling nauseated, we head out for the last eleven miles. Downhill. We hiked down to the Virginia Creeper trail, which is an old railroad bed turned into a trail, and took that into town. We skipped the last hill.

Yes, we were exhausted. We feasted on milkshakes at an ice cream store. Taran drank Gatorade. I drank sodas. We called for our ride---and took a blessed shower back at Taran's lovely house. Taran weighed himself: he had lost 27 pounds in 6 days! The poor kid suffered, yet, he wants to join me on the Pacific Crest Trail next year. His words: "Next year I'm gonna train for it!"


Miles: 11. Total miles: 54--plus side trips for water...

Appy Trail Day Five: To Saunder's Shelter...

Vulture Head...
These white blazers mark the entire 2,100 miles of the Appy Trail. It is nearly impossible to get lost.

Taran near the top of Whitetop Mountain...


We had lunch at Lost Mountain Shelter...

There are signs along the way. Many of them nearly unreadable...

And Saunder's Shelter. Photo taken the next morning because we got there as darkness descended...

Coffee in the morning, oatmeal and off for a long, long day. We started out without water (yet again). And, as seems to be the case on the Appy Trail, we began by climbing a mountain. This was going to be around a fourteen mile day.

Taran's feet were battered. More moleskin. Blazers mark the way (see the photo above). Frankly, it would be really, really hard to get lost during the daytime on the Appy Trail. The way is so well marked with white paint blazers. The way to water, or alternative trails, is marked with blue blazers. This eighty year old trail is well maintained and highly developed, which is part of its charm and also part of its non-charmfulness.

Yes, the trail is difficult. Mountain trails are like that because mostly you either go up. Or down. Level stretches are few and far between (at least on this section). The age of the trail makes you think of all those other folks who have hiked it through the years. Tradition. History. The path more traveled.

Back to suffering. I was feeling pretty good, but the child of mine was hurting real bad. He slowed down. Needed lots of water (which we didn't have). Needed rest. We drank some water on Whitecap that came right out of some rocks. We didn't feel a need to filter it. (mistake!).

When we got to Lost Mountain Shelter for lunch (Ramen anyone?), the water there was, once again, in a foul, leaf littered, one inch deep murky puddle. I filtered the water thinking that the best filter in the world couldn't make such water safe.

Six more miles to our destination at Saunders Shelter. And a mountain ridge to climb. Taran's blisters had blisters on them---with more blisters on top of that. He suffered miserably. I encouraged him to "dig deep" and "it's more in you mind than anything". These are awful words of advice I have heard while deeply suffering on the trail from more in shape companions. These words rung hollow with me then--and I'm sure they rang hollow with Taran.

But he made it to Saunders Shelter just as the sun set. We skipped dinner. Both of our tummies were hurting. Taran fell asleep fast. Snoring!

Later I awoke to the sound of wretching. The poor kid was vomiting up the last bit of almonds he had eaten from the trail mix. The emesis passed and he made it through the night.

Mileage 14. Total Miles: 43.

Appy Trail Day Four: The Virginia Highlands

On top of the Virginia Highlands...


Thomas Knobb Shelter...5,500 feet in elevation...

On the trail...
A haggard face...

Views! Finally!

The path down to Elk Garden (where we camped on Day Four)...

The rain had stopped. The next two days promised to be the most picturesque of the whole trip. Multiple mountains to climb, descend and sally by. We are behind schedule. Our intention was to hike a 14 mile day to Lost Mountain Shelter.

Didn't make it.

Taran's feet had gotten wet the previous day. Angry blisters emerged! He did his best to mend them with moleskin. I gave him a pair of wool socks (didn't know he was hiking in booties). He also cut a hole in the bottom of his floppy shoes and strung laces through them to hold it together. This worked.

We enjoyed the views this best of days. We stopped off at Thomas Knobb Shelter to rest. This shelter is a double-decker one, just before the very top of Mt. Rogers--the tallest mountain in Virginia. It has an alpine flavor to it. And it was cold. We had endured the climb through Rhododendrum Gap to get there. We filled our water bottles and moved on.

We ended up completing 10 miles. We stopped at a place called "Elk Garden" which didn't have water. We used what little we had to make (yet again!) Ramen. At this point we both were getting rather nauseated at the sight and smell of this awful noodle. We had a couple of trail bars left. Some trail mix without M and M's (which is worthless, in my opinion).

Taran carried a tent with him. He set it up at Elk Garden. Since we both were a bit ripe by this time, I elected to sleep outside the tent Cowboy Fashion style. Now the last time I had done this, I had a bat crawl into my sleeping bag. I cleared the area around me and hoped that the gigantic Eastern Diamondback rattler wouldn't decide to share my bed. Nor a copperhead.

We made a fire, knowing that we had quite a journey ahead of us if we were going to make it to Damascus by Day Six. The fire warmed us as we talked. Although our talk was losing the cerebral quality of our earlier discussion. Mostly we talked about our aching backs. Our feet. Our tired muscles. And about the burgers and malts we would eat when this death march was over.

Mileage: 10 miles. Total mileage thus far: 29 miles.

Appy Trail Day Three: To Old Orchard Shelter...

Old Orchard Shelter and Jim Beam....

The Tropical Storm hit that night. We lay in the Hurricane Shelter and listened to it pour on the tin roof. This made me a little homesick, as I thought of listening to the rain on my own tin roof back in California.

The next morning it was still raining. Undaunted, we packed up and made it our plan to just hike the six miles to Old Orchard Shelter. We didn't have pack covers to keep the rain off of our packs. I did bring garbage bags along to put the packs in, but, once again, my sheer slothfulness kept me from wrapping the packs. "It isn't raining that hard", I thought to myself.

It doesn't take much rain to get a pack soaked. On top of that, Taran's shoes fell apart. The soles separated, making him walk with a flappy shoe. Rain got into it. And given this genetic propensity to overlook the obvious, he also only brought along anklet socks to wear. Cotton. Can you guess the result?

The result will become obvious on Day Four.

Again we climbed up and down a mountain. We made it to Old Orchard Shelter and, once again, made Ramen. I celebrated with Jim Beam. Pringles and SubMan caught up to us at the shelter. They pulled out a few sandwiches from Subway and shared them with us! To each according to need; from each according to ability---the story of the Trail.

SubMan and Pringles marched on; we never saw them again. Taran and I decided to pack it in for the day. Rest. Plan out the rest of the trip. We were horribly behind schedule to make it to Damascus (our ultimate goal). Planning is best done with a bottle of Jim Beam.

Right about then six Grannies came to the shelter. I kid you not. These were six 60 to 70 year old women who were on their first day of an 8 day trip. They had originally planned to stay at Old Orchard shelter for the night. That's when I spilled a second pot full of Ramen. And then dropped several other items.

The sophisticated Grannies took a second look at us; looked at the cramped size of the shelter and the bottle of Jim Beam---and then decided it was in their best interests to continue on another six miles to Hurricane Shelter. They did have M and M's but didn't share with us. I did offer them some Jim Beam. The Grannies didn't wave as they left.

The end of the Third Day. Mileage: 6 miles. Total mileage for the trip: 19 miles.

Appy Trail Day Two: To the Hurricane Shelter

Starting Day Two...

Filtering water in Comers Creek...

Hurricane Shelter..

A comatose young man...

Awake early the second day to a very loud, unnatural sounding owl. At least that's what SubMan called it. Breakfast: Oatmeal and coffee! We pack up before SubMan and Pringles. Virginia had been undergoing a drought the last month or two. Of course, I hadn't planned on there being a lack of water in Virginia. The water at the Trimbli shelter was a foul smelling puddle. The water had an orangeish tinge to it. I still had a pint or so of water (Taran about the same) so we made the decision to get water about three miles up the trail. The map we purchased had all the shelters and water holes marked on it. Along with side trips into towns for such necessities as burgers and fries. Off we go!

This is eastern woodland hiking. This means that you are under the canopy of deciduous trees, never seeing more than a 100 feet or so in front of you. And our lack of planning also means that we picked a pretty tough section of trail to do our 56 miles on. We have elevation gain everyday to handle. And the three tallest mountains in Virginia to climb.

The trail climbed after we left Trimbli. It soon became apparent that not filling our water bottles with the rust colored water was a mistake. We ran out quite soon. And when we finally trudged to the top of the first mountain, where the water should be, we couldn't find it. Damn!

We were saved by SubMan and Pringles who came by and gave us the rest of their water. They were following the path that intersected there a mile or two down to Troutdale, where they would be imbibing in ribs and a hostel for the night.

We hiked on another three miles to Comers Creek (see photo above). We filled the wine bottle full of water too (this, I think, is my best innovation to backpacking: bringing a bottle of wine for the first night and then using the bottle to hold water for the remainder of the trip). We still hadn't really experienced much of a view: the trees and foliage get in the way.

Now Taran is a young man a bit like me: grandiose, forgetful, a tad delusional and unbelievably optimistic to his abilities. It's in our genes. However this young man has been focusing on a successful computer programmer career. Working late hours peering at a computer screen. His free time has been mostly doing the same thing: peering at a computer screen. The result of this is another family trait for our every slothful ways: weight gain. Lots of it.

But when you are 24 you still think you are 16 and 160 pounds of youthful enthusiasm. He soon learned that that is no longer the truth of his physical conditioning. To make matters worse, a Hurricane had come ashore in Mexico a few days before (I forget the name, but it started with an "H"). This storm had continued up through Texas---off to Ohio before it decided to make a turn straight towards us.

Clouds filled the sky.

We had originally planned to put in a 16 mile day to Old Orchard shelter. Given our early morning dehydration and our non-trail legs, we decided to just go to Hurricane Shelter. This seemed fitting as the remnants of a hurricane were headed our way. Always go with synchronicity, I say!

But first we had to climb Hurricane Mountain. Just a few thousand feet of elevation gain---but this poor progeny of mine suffered up every inch. When we finally got to the the shelter (halfway up the mountain), the poor kid threw down his sleeping bag and immediately went to sleep. He awoke a couple of hours later, ate some Ramen---and went back to sleep.

I sat and sipped Jim Beam and listened to the Tree Frogs.

The end of the second day. Mileage: 10 miles.

The Appalachian Trail: Day One

The start of our sojourn at Virginia State Road 670

Taran having dinner at the Trimbli shelter.

September 8, 2010. I flew across the country, first from Sacramento to Chicago O'Hara---then on to Charlotte, North Carolina---arriving at midnight. Taran, my 24 year old son, picked me up at the airport and then drove me the four hours to his home in Lebanon. A nice, contemporary cabin style house in the hills of southwestern Virginia.

I'm not much into flying. And it has been a year or two since I last darkened the doors of a plane. What is apparent is that nobody, and I mean nobody, talks to each other anymore. In this digital age, most people seriously stick there noses into their smart phones. And nobody smiles either. Flying has become a humorless business.

I wanted to be of good cheer, so I had a couple beers before taking my flight to Chicago. In Chicago, at O'Hara, the United Terminal had only one bar---and that was about the size of a closet. Nobody talked even at the bar.

So we awoke late that next morning (the day of the start of our hike). I'd decided to go light on food this trip---so we went to the store and bought a case of Ramon (chicken flavor) and about 15 packs of Tuna. We also bought a few trail bars and I had already brought along some organic trail mix in my pack. I still have it in my pack: this trail mix didn't have M and M's in it.

Trail Mix must have M and M's to be good!

My stroke of genius was to buy a few fresh steaks and a tolerable bottle of local Virginia wine for our first night's feast.

We still hadn't decided fully where to begin our sojourn. On our way to the trail head (Taran's wife giving us a ride) we stopped at a store and picked up a map of the Appy Trail. Talk about shoot from the hip! Plan a hike? to leave it to a whim!

We finally decided on a 56 mile route---set the auto's GPS to get us to the trail head---and finally got on our way around 6 pm.

Our goal was to start at Virginia State Road 670 and hike to Trimbli shelter. Easy enough and it only took us around an hour or so to get to the shelter. Of course, much of it was uphill.

For those unfamiliar with the Appy Trail, there are shelters located along the whole 2,100 mile sojourn. They seem to be spaced around a days walk apart. There you can sleep on a floor, off the ground, with complete smelly strangers. It makes the whole experience rather communistic and genteel. You just walk from shelter to shelter.

The Trimbli Shelter was the perfect one to stop at for my first experience of this. The photos above don't give it justice. The thing must date from the 30's; is made of stone---and even has a hearth in it.

And the Trimbli Shelter came complete with smelly strangers. Their Trail Names: Sub-Man (this guy spent years on a nuclear sub--waiting for the chance to blow up the world with Nukes); and "Pringles"--an Architect.

We pulled out our steaks and wine (and Jim Beam--plus a small bottle of Crown Royal Black). Sub-Man and Pringles were in ecstasy when I asked them to join us for wine and steak. Cooked the steak on my backpack stove and talked of our trail experiences.

Long trails are great equalizers. It is about the only thing left in our culture that is halfways egalitarian. People who have nothing in common outside of the trail become fast friends on the trail. Witness SubMan--who just gave up a job working the third shift at Walmart---and Pringles, the Architect. They met years ago on the trail--and now continue their friendship by hiking the trail now and then. Sub-Man actually Thru Hiked the thing in 2004. Pringles accompanied him at the start and the finish of that journey. My point is, I highly doubt these two guys would be friends if it wasn't for the Trail. They are just too different.

We went to bed and slept well on the floor of the shelter. Sub-Man joined us. We all snored really, really loud; drowning out the Tree Frogs which were louder than the noise of a freeway. A good noise though: give me Tree Frogs over Freeways anyday!

The end of the first day. Mileage: 3 miles.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Made it to Damascus...

I'll write about the six day hike later. For now, just a few thoughts. I skipped the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. The guy has done more harm for morality than good. The guy never heard of such a thing as collective sin.

And here is a case in point of Collective Sin. This sign is all over southern Virginia where they want to keep mining the coal.

I flew across the nation last night. In the dark. It was amazing just how crowded with electric lights most of our nation is polluted with. There is hardly any place where our species has left things alone and untouched.

The plane had one of those devices that tells you exactly where you are. When we flew over Moab, Utah--I was so happy to finally get back to my beloved West. I could look down and not see an electric light anywhere. Aldo Leopold's blank space on the map. "What good are forty freedoms (he wrote) without a blank space on the map?" Flying across the country it is quite apparent just how danged prolific we humans are. Even Oklahoma looked crowded!

As for the hike, more about that later. I seem to be wrestling with a tummy ailment that probably came about from filtering water out of a small, one inch deep puddle. Been nauseated for three days. Of course, the hike was wonderful with an excellent hiking companion (who was quite the trooper---suffering through exhaustion, days and days of Ramen Noodles and Tuna Fish and gigantic blisters!).

Cheers Everyone! It is good to be home!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Days 247-250: The Road to Damascus...

A walk this morning in the Napa Valley. Work today, then home--will arrive in the wee hours of the morning. And then up tomorrow, pack my backpack and hop a plane to Chicago--and then Charlotte, North Carolina.

We will start a leg of the Appalachian Trail on Thursday. The section will end in Damascus--and from looking at the map, if we start in Marion, it will be a 63.8 mile romp, including a climb up Virginia's highest mountain (Mt. Rogers---5.700 feet). I'm told that the Appalachian Trail is much tougher due to the lack of switchbacks in rugged territory. When it was built in the 1920's, people must have been less domesticated---so they just built the trail from point to point--leaving out any need for a lower grade or comfort.

I've read Bill Brayson's book on the Appalachian Trail; wasn't impressed. That's about all the reading preparation I've done for this thing.

And I remain woefully out of shape. Unprepared (as usual). Since this is my third week long trek this year, one would think I'd be getting smarter at this by now. But no. I continue to believe I'm 160 pounds and 25 years of age. This burgeoning gut and the lines around my eyes tell the real truth. So I shall suffer. Carry my home on my back. Hope for the best.

So this little, goofy website will be silent for a bit. Be back late next week with a full update on the experience.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Days 244-246: Ghandi, John Muir and Chief Joseph

Got a call from work asking my assistance. Since Joni and I are living on financial fumes, I drove down to pick up some shifts. My walks have been solitary, angst ridden sojourns to some of my favorite vineyards in the Napa Valley.

You see there was just one Letter to the Editor in the Chico News Review. And not a friendly letter. I know this is a family web-site, so I apologize for the language in the letter that was printed:

"Let’s see if I’ve got this right. A guy takes a walk in the woods with a bottle of rum and a couple of his buddies, and that earns him the right to pontificate to those who read about his excursion on how to live right—“become a creature again and not just a nurse, office nerd, or cog.” Kinda condescending to his fellow two-legged creatures, I’d say.

What is it about Chico bikers and/or hikers that invariably produces such smug self-righteousness? You took a fuckin’ walk, man. That doesn’t make you Gandhi, or John Muir."

Jaime O’Neill


Jaime is a very good writer. He also is an English Professor. If you look at the web pages of the CNR, you will find no less than five pages of his features, articles and other pieces. He also has written for some major publications. I've seen his stuff in the Los Angeles Times.

And I like what he writes. So the only Letter to the Editor was a critical one written by the area's best known writer! I was quite discouraged. Told Joni I was never going to write anything again. I thought about closing down this web-site.

Then a few fan e-mails started trickling in. One guy wrote to tell me that he has added the hike I wrote about to his "life list". Others have asked advice on backpacking (if they only knew what a sham I am!). Others just wrote to say they loved the article.

And now this letter taking on Mr. O'Neill:

Re: What’s the big deal? Letter to editor by Jamie O’Neill: Jeez, Jamie, who does the author need to be before he can proffer a bit of friendly, useful advice on life, living, and the wilderness? John Muir? Chief Joseph? How about just a guy who has a newly found respect for the wilderness experience and wants to wax a wee bit philosophical? In all your editorial rantings, Jamie, I’m sure you’ve never pontificated out of turn! Take a chill pill, sir, or better yet, go take a hike.

And I think there might be a couple other positive letters in the next edition of the paper. I won't be able to read them: I'll be carrying my backpack up some mountain on the Appalachian Trail with a fine young man.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 243: Highest Praise...

Back up to the Homestead last night. Pulled in about 1:30 in the morning.

Angel and I took a walk this afternoon. Had to check out the Ridge. What is evident is the rapid growth of the Scotch Broom. This non-native ornamental escaped people's gardens and is now taking over the West. Choking out the Native Plants. Reducing habitat for small game. Over the last two years, I've watched this plant takeover much of the road I walk.

When Joni took the girls to school this morning, she saw one of our neighbors walking the road wearing one of those old, external frame backpacks. This neighbor decided to start backpacking after reading my piece in the News Review. Evidently it inspired him to dust off that old backpack. That's exactly what I wanted that article to do: get folks outside and enjoying our backyard!