Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Last Ride

I got in what will likely be my last bike ride of the season today. I did 16 miles in 25 degree weather. Luckily wind was negligible today. I rode on the recently completed Fishtrap Trail from the bottom of Sunset Hill all the way past Marshall and back late in the afternoon. The only thing that was cold on me were my big toes.

I rode on my classic black Schwinn 10 speed (without toe clips) wearing my handmade cap, my amber colored shop glasses from Lowes and some funky gloves that worked well. I also had on some trad cotton underwear beneath some work out pants. I had on my windbreaker bike jacket over a t-shirt and two sweatshirts. In retrospect, I think I need a pair of those booties that go over your shoes designed for cold weather biking. I also had on my National Geographic Polar Bear Buff Thermal Headwear worn as a mask in order to warm the air as I breathed it into my lungs. All elder outdoor enthusiasts with any kind of respiratory or cardiac issues should wear something over their mouths and noses when exercising in temperatures below freezing. I used to teach that when I did Cardiac Rehabilitation at Deaconess Medical Center years ago. I really didn't need it today but it feels better to have slightly warmer air coming into your lungs when you are exerting yourself.

I saw 3 turkeys, some Canadian Geese and a Magpie on my journey. I was even friendly to the one other person that I passed going the opposite direction (twice). I didn't even notice what kind of bike he was riding.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Gear Snobs I Have Met

They say that writing helps a person to understand themselves... so bear with me here. Okay, I am just gonna say it...I am sick of meeting people on the trail who glance down at your bike/skis/ snowshoes/whatever and you can see in their eyes that they are making a snap judgement on whether you are 'worthy'. On the other hand, a person who doesn't care about that stuff will look you in the eye and say 'hello' and talk with you. I had both experiences, again, on Mt. Spokane while cross-country skiing.

I met an older man a couple of years ago that was training with his ancient external pack on and, instead of trekking poles, he was using old pink cross-country ski poles. As we passed each other we said 'hello' then we turned back and started chatting. He was a very interesting fellow who was training for a solo trip into the Norht Cascades and happened to be thrifty. He was also a pilot and former competitive body builder.

In Spokane there is a retro bike group that gets together monthly and rides together to Brown's Addition for refreshments. I passed them one evening and there were 40 or so in the group and it just made me smile : )

I am of two minds about all this. Sure, I have a few nice things but the last time I went backpacking with some friends I chose my old external frame pack (bought in college) because it is so cool and funky. I could have taken my newer one but it was a fun trip composed of us goofy letterboxers. We are all just kids at heart anyway.

I guess I just pine for the days when your old pair of running shoes, tattered sweats and the T-shirt that you bought at the Champion outlet with the logo misprinted backwards for 39 cents was 'in'. At least I thought it was 'in'. Maybe I just feel this way because I grew up with little money and still don't like to spend much. I know that good gear, especially in the clothing realm, can save your life. However, when I am just dinking around I think I will just stay with my tattered cotton sweats with the paint stains and let people judge me for my behavior... like 'hey, at least that old guy is out exercising!'

This is not meant to be offensive to anyone and I am guilty of this myself. Like the ubiquitous 'Northface' logo that I see everywhere that makes me cringe...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Zombies Among Us

I was walking on the abondoned rail trail below where we live last week. I was crossing what I call 'The Scar', an open gash that the developer made in the trail when I noticed someone coming in the other direction with a small white dog on a leash. As we got closer I saw that it was a young woman and she was texting on her iphone or some such device, looking down at it the whole time. She must have noticed me because as we were about to pass I looked her way to wave and say hello but she was looking away and had put her phone in her pocket. She still had her ipod earplugs in. I can understand not wanting to say hello but we were in the open in full view of the houses just above where we were walking. I am sure that after passing me she got her iphone back out and texted something like "passed scary old man" in cyptic language. I wonder if she even noticed the smells of the decaying leaves in the woods, the play of light through the evergreen braches or the clouds overhead? I know she never heard the sound of a bird that day. Good thing she didn't walk into our neighborhood moose.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Consistency of Mud

The weather man predicted an 80% chance of snow for today. I needed some exercise so climbing Tower Mountain again sounded attractive. It is my new favorite local hike and can be a loop if one so desires. As I climbed out of the valley I quickly came to were the ground was superficially frozen. I also discovered a small recently dug grave for a dog. Someone had come upon the poor, unnamed pooch and thoughtfully buried him then erected a small monument with his collar draped over it. What a thoughtful thing to do.

The trail became much more steep and rutted as I neared the towers and the summit. The wind was blowing a little on top but still no hint of snow. In fact it looked like it was clearing a bit to the west. The only 'snow-flakes' were frost particles blown off the pine needles. As I left the fences and towers and descended into a more natural area at Krell Hill I was greeted by my Corvid friends. They were just playfully soaring and circling in the wind. They always make me feel connected to the web of live and like I've just come home.

I explored around Big Rock for awhile, found an abandoned climbing rope, took some more photos and scrambled onto a few rocky outcropping to check out the views. I could see Steptoe Butte in the distance. A few whitetails were in the area moving like graceful dancers in the underbrush.

Descending now, I found out that today was definitely not a good day to be a trail runner. The trail was all frozen beneath but covered with about an inch of gooey, slippery mud. I slipped a couple of times on nearly flat ground. On the steeper sections I had to skirt the edges or just plant my feet in the center of the eroded middle which was not muddy. As I made my way down the snow finally moved in, which in itself was fun to watch against the backdrop of the dark hillsides. Very nice hike, all in all. I was all alone except for my animal companions, taking everything in.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

My hero while growing up and more so now, was my uncle, Norman Wills. Despite teasing me about 'girlfriends' when I was little and harassing me about my bowling form when I was at the alley with my teen friends, he was always a positive male role model for me. He never smoked and drank very little unlike every other adult in my family.

From the earliest age I was instructed to never ask him about 'The War' that played such a huge role in my parents generation. He had terrible nightmares and was trying to live his life by forgetting the horrors he had experienced.

When he entered the service he was asked if it mattered which Theater he wanted to serve in since his mother had immigrated from Germany at the age of three. He essentially said that it didn't matter to him. So he went off to England after training. He fought from the day after D-Day (his boat was at the back of the landing force) until he was wounded and captured in Aachen on September 21st, 1944. At that time he was Staff Sergeant Squad Leader in the 36th Armed Infantry Regiment of the Third Armored Division, a "Spearhead Doughboy". As squad leader he was 'in charge of the operation of a light machine squad of 9 men, including gunners, crewman and half-track drivers and led men in battle'. During close house to house combat a German grenade was thrown at him and he was badly wounded in the leg and then captured. "They only asked me if I was American or British" he told me. Several hours later the Allies advanced, the Germans retreated and left him there. When he was recovered in the field of battle his long journey of healing was just beginning.

He spent 23 months in military hospitals in England and in the U.S. healing his badly broken and infected leg. During all of this time he was married to my mother's sister, Alice, who was raising their young son Dennis.

Uncle Norman was awarded a Purple Heart, two different Bronze Battle Stars and served in the Normandy, Rhineland and Northern France campaigns including the liberation of Belgium and the Battle of the Bulge. The only time I heard him talk about his experiences was on the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. I was at home visiting them in their living room on peaceful Cherry Street in Lockport, NY. He said the local VFW had contacted him to be part of the celebration. "Why would I want to celebrate something that I have been trying to forget for the last 50 years?" was what he said to us.

Once, later, on the phone I encouraged him to write down some remembrances for future generations of our family but he gently re-buffed my request.

This man who always gave a warm greeting, a big smile and who had a gentle way of encouraging you had a hidden secret that he bore with dignity, never complaining. He continued to hunt, fish, bowl and garden into his later years. I still recall him in the back yard on Cherry Street pitching wiffle balls to my two young daughters. The limp as he walked, reminded me of his secret, safely tucked away...

Norman Wills
February 10, 1917
October 28, 2003

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Another Quote That Speaks Truth

"There are those of us who are always about to live. We are waiting until things change, until there is more time, until we are less tired, until we get a promotion, until we settle down / until, until, until. It always seems as if there is some major event that must occur in our lives before we begin living." George Sheehan, physician, author, runner, 1918-1993

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Creatures of the Night and Virgin Rail Trails

I finally got off my duff around 6:45 and went for a rail trail ride from Marshall for a bit of exercise and because I am nosey. I wanted to see how they were coming on the paving of the section from the bottom of Sunset Hill towards Marshall. This is the Fish Lake Trail which, someday, will connect Spokane's Centennial Trail to Cheney and then all the way to the Tri-Cities area.

The pavement ended 3.5 miles into the ride back towards Spokane. I was met with a very smooth and wide gravel trail. I kept going and eventually came to the first little bridges where they are in the process of putting up railings. I next came to the begining of brand new paving! There was one other biker and then 5 people out walking and exploring the new wonderful trail. It was hard to tell if they were locals who live along the trail and just checking it out or were trail rats like me. Twi-light and then night fell as I biked back to my car. I was escorted by bats, night hawks and freight trains the rest of the way along with a nearly full moon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bicyles, Sun, Music, Ice Cream & Cake

This is going to be difficult.... It was a year ago today that I lost my Mom rather suddenly. It was five days after my birthday and I was just finishing up driving the Al-Can highway while moving Anali & Peter home from Alaska when I got the call. When I got home my birthday card from my Mom was there but I just couldn't open it. Tonight I finally did and she had included a twenty dollar bill, the paper clipping from my college graduation 30 years ago and wrote that she was proud of me and loved me with all her heart. She also wrote to "have a nice time on the mountain" as she knew we were going to climb a glacier on my birthday. Tears were flowing as I ate my last slice of birthday cake tonight....

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I like this quote!

"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet." --James Oppenheim

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Leisure by William Henry Davies


What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare,

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.
---William Henry Davies

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Looking for Buttercups

The pockets of snow and ice cling grudgingly to the warming earth. Like mini-glaciers the retreating snow exposes compressed pine needles and dead grass covered with a thin gray layer of mold. However, along the south facing hillsides small patches of green grass are experiencing rebirth. The golden glint of buttercups were no where to be seen. Along the trail the piles left by mother and son moose are concentrated in a short section in an exposed, south facing opening.

The robins and magpies call out at dusk and suddenly I hear the first tree frogs, their voices sounding like pieces of dinosaur eggs being scraped together. Walking steadily up hill in the deep gloaming I see a flash of movement as a silent Great Horned Owl leaves its perch and glides away into the dark.

J Ross Wilde

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sick of Fog Yet?

I can handle winter and the snow. What I tire quite easily of, however, is fog day in and day out. Yuck! Doom and especially Gloom. Well, getting outside nearly always cheers me up and the last few days the weather has been nicer. Well, at least the fog burns of by late morning!

Two days ago 11 Canadian Geese were flying ENE over our house. On my hike down to Latah Creek yesterday I saw a huge gathering of Robins. At least a couple hundred of them enjoying the sun along the warmer south facing hillside where most of the snow had melted off (still a foot and a half at my house). There were a group of prancing deer by the cliff edge as I approached the bottom of the hill. Then a Bald Eagle flew over me, lifting my spirit towards Spring!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Another Quote from "This Moment on Earth"

"The most fundamental responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens from physical harm. Sometimes that harm comes from hostile foreign powers, or from terrorists, or from criminals. But as this chapter shows, it also comes from toxic materials, from air and water pollution, and from those who carelessly expose others to the real and horrible consequences of their own greed or negligence.The environmental justice movement was founded on the simple expectation of American citizens that their government will fight, not tolerate, such harm. Taking up that fight does not involve an expansion of government, or an intrusion of government into private matters, but a vindication of public trust in democratic government itself." from "This Moment on Earth" by John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry

This is from Chapter 3 that speaks 'truth to power' and chronicles Majora Carter's struggle to bring change to her community (essentially a minority community that became a major dumping ground for NYC) via the Sustainable South Bronx organization.

New Bird

I have been a fan of Mountain Ash trees since I was in elementary school when I was collecting Red Rose Tea Cards. They came out in different nature-themed series and the books to glue them into only cost 25 cents! The tree series cards had beautiful little paintings of the various types to North American trees. I was particularly attracted to the picture and name of the Mountain Ash. I do not believe that I actually saw one in real life until I moved west in my early 20's. As a gardener I had heard that they were "messy" trees because of the small leaves and berries but they attract birds like crazy in the dead of winter. Robins, waxwings and nuthatches love to feast on the large red meaty packets of energy. This Saturday I spotted a group of medium sized birds and suspected that they were waxwings but upon a closer inspection they were entirely different with thick, slightly crossed bills. It was my fist sighting of the Pine Grosbeak (# 229 on my Life List)! The males plumage in winter is rather muted but the females plumage looks just like in the bird guides. They were literally outside my front living room window in the Mountain Ash tree. They were pretty tame when I went out onto the front porch to leave. Here is an interesting fact...I did not even plant the tree. It was a volunteer from some bird who made a deposit one day and grew up by the downspout from the eves.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Amazing TV Viewing Stats

Here are some stats that I found:

American adults watch an average of 4 hours of TV a day and the TV is on an average of 8 hours a day.

By the age of 65 the average American has seen 2 million TV commercials.

The average American youth spends 900 hours a year in school and 1000 hours a year watching TV.

(TV-Turnoff Network)

Just imagine how much more you could get accomplished or how much more exercise or how much more enjoyment of life you could wring out of each day if you minimized your time in front of the tube!

Monday, January 19, 2009

To Face Book or Not to Face Book

I am having a difficult time deciding if I should take the plunge. Two of my friends have invited me to join the facebook craze. I just heard that fully 65% of younger people have on-line interfaces and now it is up to 35 % of older adults do as well. My fear is that it will cause me to be on-line even more than I am now. I mainly check news, email, a hobby site and Sparkpeople along with the limited blogging I do. It already feels like this takes me away from 'reality' too much at times. I do like the idea of keeping up with what is going on in my friends lives and maybe reconnecting with lost friends. There is continued debate about whether this sort of communication is bringing people together or making us more physically isolated. I hope it is the later. If it had been so easy to communicate using facebook and myspace in the past I wonder if I would have lost touch with so many of my friends....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Not This Cat!

Another Quote from "This Moment on Earth"

"A few decades ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) tried to end a malaria epidemic in Borneo by using DDT to wipe out the local mosquito population. Unfortunately, there were unintended consequences, just as Rachel Carson had described in Silent Spring. In the case of Borneo, the DDT also wiped out the wasps that controlled the local thatch-eating insects, with the result that many of the roofs on the Bornean homes started to cave in. Meanwhile, the DDT accumulated in the local lizard population, which caused the cats that ate the lizards to die, thereby unleashing a ferocious infestation of rats. Ultimately, WHO was forced to parachute in 14,000 new cats to control the rats in what was known officially as Operation Cat Drop.The story illustrates the high price of linear thinking. The simple fact is that problems never exist in isolation--nor do solutions. Assuming otherwise invites a host of unintended consequences and leads us where we never intended to go. A lot of what we do in life is like that. We make simple assumptions, we act in a hurry, we forget to worry about the details. And one day we wake up and all the cats are dead."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Environmental Impact of a Common Convenience

I came across this quote in an environmental book that I am reading on-line (This Moment on Earth by John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry) and found it pretty shocking.

"The disposable diaper was convenient and gave millions of American parents--especially mothers--a new sense of freedom. But what did the introduction of the disposable diaper mean for the planet? Sixty years or so after the "Boater" hit Saks, it is estimated that more than 18 billion disposable diapers are used in this country each year. The manufacture of these diapers requires 82,000 tons of plastic, which is made, in part, with crude oil. The absorbent inner layer is manufactured from wood pulp, derived from more than a quarter of a million trees cut down each year solely for this purpose. To make the diapers a crisp white color, a sign of cleanliness and sterility, the wood pulp is bleached with chlorine gas, a process that emits some of the most toxic chemicals ever made by humans, including dioxins, which are associated with birth defects, miscarriages, and cancer. Additionally, 18 billion diapers each year translate into a lot of trash.Diapers are now the third-largest single contributor to solid waste at landfills, where they may take as long as 500 years to biodegrade. Furthermore, the waste that goes to the landfill with the diaper, should parents not first flush it, brings with it viruses and bacteria that can end up in our waterways, posing serious health risks."

My wife and I used a cloth diaper service in the 80's when we were raising out two daughters. I have always tried to be sensitive to environmental concerns. I still remember the first Earth Day celebreation in middle school when we walked around the neighborhood picking up litter. I recycle as much as I can and bring it home from work as well.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tonight's Evening Snowshoe

After finishing up a movie this evening with my sweetheart (we first met 30 years ago this week in Albuquerque!) I decide to go snowshoeing. We have just set a record for the most snowfall for one month in Spokane and it just keeping piling up. Today, however, it began warming up (known locally as a Chinook wind or the Pineapple Express) and melting. I was invited to go cross-country skiing but I declined as it is no fun when the snow is this wet.

As I put on my snowshoes in the howling wind and began my little trek the sky was ablaze with an orange-tinted glow from nearby city lights. The beautiful silhouettes of the pine trees where a wonderful greeting. I headed past my favorite Ponderosa Pine in the nearby woods with its large trunk and thinning crown. The snow is thick but because of its moisture content I was not sinking as deep as the other night.

As I sunk into a rhythm with my poles and exaggerated steps my mind began to wander. I started thinking about trappers checking their lines out in the wilderness and about northern indigenous people eking out a living from the land. My meandering thoughts also took me trekking along with polar explorers advancing toward an invisible goal.

With all the deep snow around lately I had seen no animal tracks of any kind. I was approaching the ridge line overlooking the valley as I was thinking these thoughts and then, there they were. A set of day old tracks, possibly of coyotes. It has been awhile since I have heard their calls around home. Following the ridge line south I began to see more tracks and then a big circle of them with a dark patch in the middle... the carcass of a porcupine. All that was left was his pelt, a leg and his head. A few steps further and I saw the spot under a fallen pine where he must have been hunkered down in the snow and the signs of struggle. Many tracks led to and from this scene of death and survival.

Alone with these thoughts I climbed the hill to our "view point" and stood in the strong wind and looked out over the valley and at the city of Spokane 4 miles off. I trudged on past the old sledding hill and back home.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Experience Comparison

I had an interesting thought while I was shoveling snow off my roof today. This was triggered by 4 people on snowmobiles who were passing by in the woods and fields north of my house. They had paused and were shouting back and forth over the sound of their engines. I could hear them screeching from 150 yards away. Then they passed to the east of the house on their little noisy adventure. I have ridden a snowmobile once in Colorado and found it sort of fun but not for me. The whole idea of Noise while you are trying to enjoy nature baffles me. Other examples include personal watercraft, ATV's and dirt bikes. I would rather be in a canoe, hiking or bike riding. I know that this is in the realm of personal preference but the difference in the quality of the experience is stark.

In my mind I immediately conjured up the experience that I had had just two nights previously. My wonderful son-in-law and I went for a night snowshoe in the same area that the snowmobiles just were. The woods were quiet and we watched the moon set from the top of a small hillock. All was still as we suddenly saw a shooting star race from north to south over our heads. We named the constellations that we knew and peacefully snowshoed home.

I was pondering the difference between these two experiences as the smell of combustion engines wafted to me, shovel in hand, up on the roof top.

Quote that Fits!

While reading "Great Books" by David Dunby I came across a great quote that sums up the reason for this blog and how I would like to affect change in people; "the unlived life as spectator". He was referring to his own life but I think it captures the tendency in our culture to be caught up in things that, in the final analysis, amount to frivolous wastes of time.

I, personally, waste time watching tv, sorting and saving useless ephemera as well as a bit too much time on the computer. These 'activities' usually leave me upset with myself for not doing something productive, creative or active. So I try to limit these times and I am way happier and content when I DO something. Of course there are times when I am too tired to do much else so I vegetate in front of the boob tube and hope I find something that holds my interest. I like educational (nature, gardening, history, science) shows. Yes, you are correct in your assumption... I detest 'reality' shows. I prefer my own reality of experiences.

Finally, I do not want to be lying on my back staring a light in a hospital some day with regrets about all the things I never got to do.

Serendipitous Outing

My new friend, Steve, and I decided to spend the day checking out the partially flooding Spokane River back in May of last year. We are a couple of curious, nosey adventure seekers and can find fun just about anywhere. That day was one to remember! I am so glad I didn't stay home watching tv or otherwise wasting time...

We headed to the cemetery along Government Way not too far from where I live. I have never seen the river this high since moving here in 1983. The river banks are fairly tall and steep in this area except for a few spots. As we walked along the trail observing the river and how far up on the trees the water came, we started coming across a wide variety of wildlife. In the first low area we spotted a duckling in the tall grass and brush. We were afraid we would scare it out into the strong current so we froze. Then along came its parents, a pair of mergansers and they calmly swam with their charge back along the edge of the tall grass. Next we spotted a large bull snake in the branches of a bush at the edge of the water. While trying to get a good photo, Steve got a little too close for the snake's comfort and got hissed at rather aggressively! It was pretty funny and is even on video.

At this point we were feeling like a couple of kids out exploring in the woods behind the house. We went back to the car and since I was driving I decided to take the 'scenic' route back to my house. So up Indian Canyon road we went. At the Y I opted for the right sided road that connects with Basalt road. As it started to curve we passed a smallish man sitting cross-legged in the gravel behind his vehicle in a small pull-out area. We looked at each and wondered aloud if he was Native American as he sure looked like it from the glimpse we got. Soon after that I happened to glance to the left and saw 6 young coyotes in a pile playing with 2 adults nearby watching. We stopped and took some photos. It was several seconds before the adults headed down the abandoned road away from us. The youngsters, one by one, got the hint and slowly trotted after their parents. It was a very touching scene. We decided to drive a bit further up and get out to try to get some more close-up looks and photos. We headed down the next path and part way I realised that I had left my camera in the rig. Steve continued down the trail while I climbed up to retrieve the camera. As I came back down the trail I suddenly saw Steve frantically wave me to a stop. As soon as I stopped a medium size black bear strolled across the trail between Steve and I! He got a few pictures and when he was gone we were so excited that we could hardly contain ourselves! I live about a mile as the crow flies from there and across the freeway but have never seen a bear before. We have coyotes, deer, moose and occasionally an elk, but I have only heard any rumors about bears once in our area. We wondered about the connection between the man the the plethora of animals in that area on that day and how close together they all were.

You can see photos from this amazing little adventure on my regular blog, adventuringon.blogspot. I think the photos are under 'May'. Regrettably, they are all that remain of my photos from that day as shortly after that my computer crashed and I lost them all. It pays to back things up!