Desert Hiking Gear

Desert Hiking Gear: 101

 

I received a request to address this subject, so I will.

First off let us assume you are hiking in any season other than summer. If you are about to hike in the desert in summer there is a good chance you cannot read, so this does not apply to you.

There are a couple things to know about desert hiking before you dress for it. High temperatures and low humidity equals easy dehydration. However, do not worry about dying quickly from dehydration. It takes quite some time and is not only slow but terribly painful, so it is a good idea to learn how to recognize dehydration. Pinch up some skin on the back of your hand and observe how it snaps back into place. Slow means dehydration. Cotton mouth, difficulty speaking, headache, pallid skin and disorientation also mean dehydration. And then there is my favorite, thirst. Drink BEFORE you get dehydrated. People are affected differently by dehydration depending upon adaptive features, like thick lips, which help retain moisture. No, not the ones filled with collagen. Fat storage is important in both plants and animals as a safeguard. Thermal migration is a major safety measure and simply means moving to a shaded, cooler area, perhaps a wet area when daytime heat is too high. Animal tissue can only survive in a narrow temperature range called the range of thermoneutrality. For about four months out of the year desert temperatures are above this range for animals. The moral of the story; hike when cool temperatures exist, or you could use the urohydrosis method of vultures and urinate on your legs to cool and hydrate them. A bit more pleasant method is to keep your mouth closed. An open mouth allows for much evaporation of moisture and, in some cases, for ill-conceived thoughts to escape.

Now for clothing, finally. Starting with socks and undies it is important that they breathe, and since they will be soaked with sweat they must also wick moisture away from the skin. That might sound counterproductive, but it allows for evaporative cooling, reducing sweat and averts a possible ailment known only too well to military veterans, ‘jungle rot.’ It not only occurs in the jungle, but in any hot place were the skin is allowed to stay moist for too long. It makes the flesh actually rot away. This is rather unpleasant. Wool is excellent to this purpose, as well as the new microfibers. Cotton is only good as long as it is dry. On an overnight backpacking trip the remedy for this is to remove socks and undies once in camp and hang them out to dry.

As for boots, they must be sturdy and again, breathable. Leather is my first choice, with rough outers to take the punishment of the rocky desert terrain. I do not advise hiking in sandals as I most often do unless your feet are conditioned to it. Even with good leather sandals the desert will give your feet a beating, as well as a sticking or two.

Boots versus snakes is always on a person’s mind. Here is the straight skinny on that, take it or leave it. A rattlesnake’s fangs are so sharp and strong that they can penetrate heavy leather as easily as tissue paper. Unless you wear snake gaiters or snake boots you might as well be wearing ballet slippers. Your best defense is awareness. Look and listen.

How about pants? If you are over 50 years old do us all a favor and wear them, please. Loose fitting cotton or jeans will protect your legs from cactus needle and rock scrapes, plus allow for good air circulation. A loose fit can also catch a pair of fangs. I have known of that to happen on several occasions.

Most of this snake talk is just precautionary. In reality, there are very few bites every year. One reason is because most snakes hunt at dawn and dusk. The middle of the day is too hot for them.

When it comes to shirts, cotton is just fine for outerwear.

A hat is something I consider essential. Wide brims are best. The tops of ears are very easily sunburned. Hats are also very important for bald spot coverage.

Here is something that has lost favor in the last few decades, bandanas. A bandana is as normal to me as clean socks. It can serve so many purposes this is not the time to go into them all. From covering the mouth/nose for blocking blowing dust/sand, being tied as a tourniquet or sopping dew off of boulders for a morning drink, the bandana is indispensable.

There is a modern form of the bandana that is a round, tube-like thing containing ‘Magic Beads.’ When soaked in cold water the bandana swells and holds the cold for a very long time. Wrapped around one’s neck it keeps the body temperature comfortable for a pretty long hike, lasting most of the day.

The last thing I might suggest is a sign that reads, “Only two things hike the desert during the day, wild jackasses and me.”

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The Invisible Eclipse

DESERT DAVE SHOOTS A MOON IN JUXTAPOSITION WITH URANUS

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I wrote the following before sitting here for three hours watching a blank sky. The photos are from several hours before the lunar eclipse. Am I disappointed? Not really, I spent the time listening to some excellent Brahms.

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If you watched the lunar eclipse you saw wonderful things like, a rare “selenelion” event, the moon entering penumbra and the Earth’s dark umbral shadow, the moon reappearing in the “Japanese Lantern Effect” leading to the finale (the moon completely reappearing). If there has been a major volcanic eruption in the last couple years ejecting particles into the stratosphere, and there have been three, the eclipse will be darkened a bit. For all you “Flat-Earthers” out there the curved shadow on the moon is visual proof that the Earth is a sphere. Even Aristotle concluded that by watching an eclipse in the 4th century BC.

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Okay, we all know that stuff, but there is another aspect to the event you might not know, but you will. My Aunt Genevieve, a fine Astrologer and world-class shopper, impressed upon me the importance and quite often accuracy of stellar alignments. Do not scoff, in my family one can read Tarot cards before they can read Animal Crackers.

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It seems that this Lunar Eclipse will be at 150 of Aries. Oh sure, now you are impressed. That means that it will fall on Alpheratz in Andromeda. The moon is also in juxtaposition with Uranus. Oh boy, now you are getting excited. But wait, there’s more. The angles of the Cardinal Grand Cross will be reactivated and Venus and the sun are …, well here is the bad news. It all relates to lovers who have been forced into hiding by domineering parents, the social ideology of by-gone days and certain activities better done in the dark anyway. But – there is always a ‘but,’ isn’t there – the Alpheratz/Uranian moon will liberate these secreted lovers and allow them to be accepted by those who suppressed them. This is an event of love and liberation. In the end someone will live happily ever after.

This being said, perhaps someone will be inspired by these events to tender forgiveness, hold out a loving hand, offer a kind word, search their heart for love instead of hate; and for heaven’s sake get teen boys to pull up their pants.

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Five Ways to Keep Your Pants Up

Five Ways to Keep Your Pants up

(For teen boys, or mothers with no sense of humor and a stick)

 

 

  1. Staple them to your navel. That is if you can find room amongst all the other junk you have pierced and pinned there.
  2. Buy a belt. It’s a short strip of leather (you like that part, don’t you?) with holes and a buckle. It will be about 22 inches long if you are a typical, modern, emaciated youth and a black one will be a good contrast to your pasty white skin. If you do not know about belts, it will be just like your father’s, only his will be about 46 inches long and have a huge silver buckle with something ridiculous on it.
  3. Stick them up with duct tape. If you are not familiar with duct tape, check with your uncle who drives an old pick-up, is missing a front tooth, spits through that gap, dates a waitress named Wanda and can’t keep his pants up either.
  4. Let ‘em drop just one time in front of that aunt who is obsessed with pinching your cheeks.
  5. Show up looking all ‘Street’ on Sunday morning for services at the Church of Christ. Oh Lord, I do not have to say any more about that.
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The Real Celtic Story of Red Riding Hood

(The real story of Red Riding Hood, who was not so little, and not so innocent)

This is not a fuzzy fairy tale and not appropriate for young children

 

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This is what really happened. It was a very long time ago, as you probably suspected. It all took place in the forest of Northern Wales, close to the countryside town of Denbigh, and my grandfather swore that every word is true.

Red, whose real name was Gwynlyn, was a young woman of stunning beauty. Gwynlyn was magnificent, with shimmering hair the color of a raven’s breast, crystal blue eyes and skin that would make fresh cream jealous. Every man in the village sought after her, to woo her, to love her, to claim her as his bride. But it would take a very special kind of man to win her heart and gentle words of poetry or love songs strummed on a lute would not be enough. You see, Gwynlyn’s mother and father were both brave Celtic warriors. She knew the sword and bow as well as she knew the loom and kettle. Gwynlyn was not dainty or faint of heart; well, unless it suited her.

One night a man came riding fast into the village with news of a terrible tragedy. An old woman, one of the Cunning Women of the forest, had been found slain in a particularly vicious manner. This news was of great importance and distress to the villagers because it was the Cunning Women who brewed elixirs and potions to cure everything from a simple headache to serious infections and afflictions. This news was even more sorrowful to Gwynlyn. The Cunning Woman who had been slain was her beloved Nain, her grandmother.

It was with Grandmother that young Gwynlyn walked in the forest learning to appreciate the colors, smells and sights around her. She learned to brew tea from the bark of a tree that would relieve pain, make a thick heavily odored brew from a root that would relieve cramps when the time in her life came that she would need such a medicine and to harness the power of a delicate white flower that could put a suffering person to sleep for an hour, a day, or forever. She learned that her hands could be hard, grinding roots for a potion and the next moment be gentle enough to cradle a butterfly like a new mother cradles her fresh, pink infant. It was with Grandmother that Gwynlyn learned how precious a life is, no matter how small. It was with her parents that Gwynlyn learned how precious the power to end a life is when the time comes.

So it was not long before Gwynlyn decided what she must do. Such a terrible wrong against her family could not simply be forgotten and brushed aside. This creature of the forest night could not be allowed to claim more victims. And the young girl felt it was up to her to set the balance of good and evil right. Gwynlyn’s anger and anguish was at a peak. Her grandmother would be avenged and the village would be rid of this terrible creature.

The next morning a gypsy woman came to call on Gwynlyn. “I have seen the creature you seek,” she said. “It is neither all man nor all beast, but much of both. In Ireland it was called Laignach Faeled. The French call it Bzou. We have our own name for it, Blaidd-ddyn. It is very strong and has killed many, and yet it can be quite charming to a young lass, for which it has a compelling hunger. You should not challenge this abomination of nature, but if you do, remember that it was once a man, and when the time comes to strike, hesitation means certain death. ” Having said her piece the old woman vanished back into the forest.

Now Gwynlyn knew for sure. It was the beast her father had suspected, Blaidd-ddyn, the Werewolf, and her heart beat a little faster.

Talk of the beast had filtered through pubs and places where people meet to discuss things better not spoken of at home, in front of children or in the open air. It was a hushed topic. No one wanted to say it aloud, but everyone knew that this was no ordinary wolf.

Gwynlyn sat in their living room watching the flames in the fireplace, her father in his chair smoking his pipe, her mother gliding about keeping herself busy with trivial chores.

“It’s not a mere wolf, ya know?” It was her father who spoke. “It has killed many a strong man. Do ya hear me, girl?” His tone swelled.

Gwynlyn looked up to meet her father’s eyes and spoke calmly, yet with spirit, “I may still be a girl, but am I not my mother’s daughter?”

“Aye, that ye be, and as such I know ye won’t be stopped once set upon somethin’. But take care, and take this.” He tossed an old leather pouch to Gwynlyn’s quick hand. She opened it. “That’s the only thing that will kill the beast,” he continued.

From the long, leather pouch she drew out a double edged dagger of the brightest, shiniest silver she had ever seen. The edge was keen and thin as a baby’s fine hair; the grip was rough leather, lest it slip from the hand at an inopportune moment.

“It’s quite beautiful, Father.”

“It’s deadly, as you must be.”

“Do not fear for me, Father. I have more than the courage and skill you taught me, I have mother’s charm.” She rose with a mischievous wink and retired to her bedroom.

For eight nights Gwynlyn waited with the patience of a saint until the phase of the full moon.

“Father,” she asked, “How is it possible for such a beast to exist?”

“It’s a curse, darlin’, a vicious curse with no cure. I will tell ye somethin’ an old gypsy woman told to me. It’s sort of a poem, I guess. Goes like this,” and his voice softened, “Even a man who is pure at heart and says his prayers by night, can become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.”

“I’m ready for you dear,” her mother called from the kitchen.

“Back in a toot,” Gwynlyn said as she went to answer the call.

The girl is too young and hasn’t the experience, her father thought. She takes this with much too light a heart. Slaying a Blaidd-ddyn is something for a man to do. Then, with a chuckle he said quietly aloud, “Best not mention that to the Mrs., a-ay.”

In the kitchen Mother stood with arms spread wide holding open a hooded cape woven from the finest wool of Eglwysilan Mountain sheep. It was magnificent. But it was the color alone that caused Gwynlyn to cover her mouth and gasp. It was no tartan or tweed, nor any of the usual forest colors. This cape, this very special cape was dyed from the deepest, richest red berries in existence. Her mother turned it out to expose the lining, sleek and shiny as satin, fitted with one long, slender pouch of black leather the exact length of the dagger. On the top of the pouch was embroidered a single word “Rhyfelwr,” warrior. This would be Gwynlyn’s test, as every young man and woman would meet one day to become a Celtic warrior. To wear the emblem of Rhyfelwr one had to prove worthy.

Gwynlyn swirled the magnificent cape around and over her shoulders with such grace that one would suspect she’d owned it all her life. A last look at the dagger and it was then slipped effortlessly into the leather sheath, concealing it along with her intentions and slyness.

Without a word Gwynlyn made for the door. There would be no emotional good-byes, which would be too final; no tears, no hugs and no regrets. That was not their way. As she hesitated before the door her father handed her something in a small pouch and spoke with solid determination, “Come back to us, Daughter, but if you must die, die well.” He would restrain the tear forcing its way from the corner of his eye until she was gone.

“Mother,” Gwynlyn called out, “if it’s not too much trouble might I have some tea and biscuits with honey in the morning?” And without waiting for an answer she was out the door.

Their fastest horse with the bravest heart had been readied and awaited her. Gwynlyn slipped onto its back and with a single, almost imperceptible command the large animal obeyed instantly, digging hooves into Earth and the speeding off into the deep blue night of the forest.

As she rode off into the countryside the full moon rose before her, first cresting the mountain ridge, glaring off the low clouds until it was in full view, large, bright and fully rounded. Now, at the edge of the north wood where the beast had been hunting Gwynlyn pulled her horse to a stop. He stomped impatiently and snorted streams of hot mist into the cool evening air from his flaring nostrils. He had taken Gwynlyn’s mother into many battles and was enlivened for the fight. But not this time. Gwynlyn calmed him with a stroke and soothing words. “You must stay here, old friend,” she whispered. “I will be back. I promise.”

How many times, she tried to remember, had her mother and father said those very words to her? They had always kept their promise. Gwynlyn intended to do the same.

The area of tall trees was full of deep shadows and the ground covered with a thick layer of forest duff. Gwynlyn did not stick to the shadows nor step carefully to avoid snapping a twig or rustling some brush. In fact she walked along carelessly humming a tune as if she had not a thought of any evil. With the moon lighting a well-used path Gwynlyn strolled on, occasionally stopping to view, and even greet, an owl. As carefree as she may have seemed the girl’s senses were not lacking. She took long, deep breaths to fill her nose with every familiar scent. Any small sound was registered. Even the breeze was suspect.

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“Good evening young miss,” came a voice from behind a large tree. She stopped abruptly. The voice was deep and melodic; almost soothing.

With care that a trembling tone would give her away Gwynlyn answered, “Oh my, you startled me good sir. And who do I have the pleasure of addressing?”

A tall, thin man, finely dressed, stepped from behind the tree, but remained within its long shadow. “I am Dargryn, a simple traveler, perhaps like yourself.”

“I am called Lili, and it is my pleasure, sir.” Gwynlyn gave a slight curtsy and nod. She thought; does he know who I am? Are we playing a game?

“My, what a lovely girl you are. I think this is certainly my pleasure.”

“Thank you, that’s very kind.”

“Why do you walk so late in the forest alone, my dear?”

“I’m out to visit an old woman who has been ill. My mother sent me.” The smile that curved her berry red lips was as devious as it was alluring.

“Have you not heard that there is danger out here?” Dargryn probed.

“If there is danger then perhaps a fine gentleman like yourself might see me safely through the forest. I would be grateful, and feel so much safer in your company,” Gwynlyn almost cooed the last few words. The front of the cape draped partly open revealing a modest hint of her beauty. The tight bodice accentuated her curves and her eyes pooled like liquid mercury.

Dargryn stepped from the shadow. He was in full human form, a feat that only comes with experience and great skill. As Gwynlyn expected he was quite handsome; she could feel his presence. She could also see clearly that she had aroused the human maleness that remained within him.

“I will be pleased to escort you, my dear; very pleased indeed. And I will only ask for one small favor in return.”

“And what favor would you ask?” she replied, coquettishly ending her words with a tempting smile.

“I would ask but one kiss from you precious lips. May I?” Dargryn moved close and offered his hand.

Gwynlyn accepted it. At first his hand was gentle, but then his grip tightened and he pulled her hard against him. His lips came within a breath of hers. It took a second for her to become conscious the pain. A blade had been swiftly thrust into her belly. There was a moment of disbelief as she staggered and fell back onto the forest floor. She lay motionless, unable to speak.

Dargryn stood over her looking down with scorn on his now contorting face. His words were growling and garbled as he spoke through the deforming mass of flesh quickly being covered with hair as it twisted into the form of a half-human, half-wolf. “You thought you could fool me!? They sent you, a mere girl, to conquer one like me? Are they mad!? I will send them back what you will become when you pass through me. I am going to eat you from the toes up, very slowly, enjoying every scream and moan as I did with that pathetic old woman who barely filled me for an hour.

Tears, though not of pain but of sorrow, streamed down Gwynlyn’s cheek. The vile beast was speaking of her grandmother, and now her sorrow turned inward. It became a fire inside of her, a fire that was about to erupt.

As the beast, completely changed into the evil Blaidd-ddyn, bent to take its first bite, the moment of disbelief was now his. Like a cool breeze across his throat Gwynlyn’s dagger moved quickly and precisely in her hand slicing through the Blaidd-ddyn’s neck and all the way through its spine. The severed head fell with a thud.

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Gwynlyn kicked the decapitated body away from her, took one brief moment to glare at the head and smile, but time was not on her side. The beast’s blade had gone deep and she was bleeding profusely from the wound. From a small hidden pocket in her bodice Gwynlyn withdrew a tiny pouch. She lay back, exposed the wound, opened the pouch and poured out the contents into the gash in her belly. “Thank you Father,” barely escaped from her lips and her world went black.

How they found her days later no one really knows, but when she came-to, lying safe in her bed at home, everyone stood around awaiting the first words form their returned, triumphant hero. She simply asked, “Tea and biscuits with honey, please?”

 

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A Word About One of MY Favorite Slithery Things

DON’T LET THE DIAMONDS FOOL YOU

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DSCN4240 This is the charming reptile that sent little girls screaming and mothers clinging to their youngsters. It looks suspiciously like a rattlesnake. It fact it is an enemy of rattlesnakes because it eats them. It also eats rodents, which is undoubtedly its best characteristic. This lovely specimen is probably lucky that I herded it away and over the bank toward the lake before someone with a shovel saw him.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the much unheralded and rather unattractively named Gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer). It also comes in six sub-species and a much darker color called the Bull snake. ‘Gopher’ is understandable. It eats them, but I seriously doubt if one could unhinge it’s jaw and swallow a bull. If a person believed that, he would be the one swallowing the ‘bull.’

Aside from being one of the most beautiful snakes, it is also a talented mimic. When threatened a Gopher snake will coil like a rattler, make a rattling sound and flatten it’s head into a triangular shape appearing much like a pit viper.

Learn to identify this and other beneficial species so they are not mistakenly destroyed by someone thinking they are dangerous rattlesnakes. Do not be fooled by the diamonds. If that does not sound like good advice ask most any woman about being fooled by diamonds.

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“It’s Miller Time” With a Big Twist

WINNER OF THE STORRIE LAKE ‘BIG COOLER CONTEST’

So what do you think; beer or fish?DSCN4066

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Which Road to a Better Camping Experience

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(Not too hard and not too soft)

A guy once asked me of all the states I have been in, which is my favorite. Without missing a beat I answered “euphoria.” Ah, those were the days. Never mind. The truth; it is an unanswerable question for me. I could take any state and winnow down everything good and make it sound like a paradise. Yes, even New Jersey. Actually, I like New Jersey, especially the Pine Barrens with their occult urban legends. So, let us look at one decisive factor, camping. Now I can offer a realistic opinion.

The answer may surprise you. After decades of camping in all 47 states…, oh yeah, there are 50 now. I am really old. Anyway, my many experiences have led me to the state I am now roaming around, New Mexico. You are either squinting or shaking your head, unless you have been here. I admit, I thought the same thing, ‘what the heck is in New Mexico?’ Several past articles have featured New Mexico, but in the last year a new perspective has arisen. Much of it is a function of age. These days I am looking for a bit more comfort than I was in my thirties. Still, a concrete paved RV park is not for me. One might say that I am between a tent and a soft place. Thus, discovering New Mexico State Parks has been a great boon.

One thing that was totally unexpected is lakes. This is the desert southwest. Does that sound like lake country to you? Me neither. Not only are there several beautiful lakes in New Mexico, but you can choose from several camping environments, something to suit almost everyone. Almost? There are no spas, five-star restaurants or golf courses. True, many sites will accommodate a forty-five footer with four slide-outs, but that is trumped by the fact that one may have to set one’s pedicured piggies on desert sand. Not to mention – oh but I will – that there is no dog walking service for Fluffykins and if she is allowed to wander about she may very well be eaten or end up with a nose the size of a Buick after being bitten by a rattlesnake.

So, let us take a look at Elephant Butte Lake, one of New Mexico’s State Parks and the premier park in the south. Campsites are large and level with a cabana or sheltered patio, a picnic table, fire ring and barbeque grill, plus electric and water hookups. Unlike a true RV park the natural environment has been well maintained. Flora flourishes and animals such as Gambel’s quail, cottontail and jackrabbits, songbirds and lizards are frequent visitors to every campsite. One of my favorites, coyotes will sing you to sleep most every night, which is why their scientific name Canis latrans means ‘song dog.’ They are also what will eat little Fluffykins. Worth noting is that all desert areas are home to poisonous snakes, scorpions and some menacing looking arachnids that will spike anyone’s phobia. Also, on the list of things that bite, are a single bobcat and mountain lion that inhabit almost every desert area depending upon food availability, which also includes Fluffykins. Perhaps by now you have gotten the ‘hint’ that little dogs should be kept close.

To take one step down in comfort, toward a real camping experience, there are campsites with the same lay-out, but no hookups. Some are not in the main campground loops and have a much more appealing view. These sites have water, but electric is up to you (I strongly suggest solar power). You are almost in real camping mode now, but wait, there’s more.DSCN3889

Unlike most other states New Mexico allows campers to get right into the heart of it by camping in outback areas where you might not see another person for a week, or on the lake or river shore. Most of these areas are accessible by RV, though the road might look a little more like a cow path than super-highway. Fortunately, most of these roads are short. There is nothing at the camp area unless you take it with you. This is as close to ‘real’ camping as it gets in an RV. This is where the dirt road meets the water. This is my haven of happiness.DSCN3885

In a world where some people attempt to remove any and all dangers and uncertainties from life; this is not the place for them to go. Every year RVs get stuck in or swallowed up by sand, or end up playing “Yellow Submarine” in the lake due to windstorm micro-bursts or ‘captain’s error.’ At the high mountain lakes, like Eagle Nest, black bears forage along the shore. But the most horrifying sight of all; the creatures that will make you shudder are commonly found running loose; they are children. Not yours; yours are perfect angels, but everyone else’s. Case in point, I was sitting serenely in camp one day when a boy stopped with his dog to let it pee on my kayak while he watched and giggled. His camp was about 300 yards away, but he seemed to think he had to come all the way to mine for his pooch to pee. Now, this might be a useful parenting tip. Without raising my voice I looked straight at him and grimly stated, “That was a bad thing to do. You must be rather disappointing to your parents.” Five minutes later he returned to apologize. I smiled and told him I must have been wrong because taking such responsibility would certainly make his parents proud.

Whether in a comfy camp close to others and every amenity offered or in a remote camp by the lakeshore with only yourself to rely on, or somewhere in between, the most wonderful thing about the New Mexico State Parks system is that you get to decide. You have options. Camping should be about fun. And who knows better than you what is fun? So, on your next outdoor adventure; which road will you take?

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Sidebar on safety: If you are not accustomed to driving on unpaved desert roads here are a few safety tips. Guys, this is when you hand it to your wife to read because safety tips are somewhat like driving directions to a man. 1) Learn to recognize solid ground. If it looks soft don’t chance it, get out and walk the road until you are satisfied it will hold your vehicle. This is mostly a function of experience. Tire tracks made by previous vehicles will be where the ground is most compacted and safe. On a desert flat that appears solid, yet sort of crusty, look for small holes in the ground. Prairie dogs are one of the cutest desert critters, but their underground condos are very extensive and a heavy vehicle can drop right through a prairie dog’s ceiling and totally ruin their lunch. The ground close to sage, creosote or most desert bushes is usually soft, partly due to the myriad of small animals that live under them. 2) Do not travel these roads at night. If you just thought, ‘why?’ I would suggest you always stay on the pavement. 3) Have a roadside assistance policy that is upgraded to include RVs. 4) Getting ‘stuck’ is a relative term. Just because your RV spins a little does not mean it is truly stuck. First, as soon as you hear/feel tires spinning take your foot off the gas pedal. Do not try rocking back-and-forth or powering out, you will dig a very deep hole. Well, the frame will limit the depth. The shallowest rut is the easiest to get out of without assistance. Also, do not dig unless have always wanted to visit China and speak a smattering of Mandarin. There is a trick we desert rats know, which I will let you in on. Starting at the front of the drive (usually rear) wheels, scrape a ramp sloping gradually forward on both sides. Now gently, so not to deform the ramp, sprinkle water over it. This might need to be done a couple times, slightly packing the ramp in between. Be patient. The wet ramps will harden. While they harden collect brush (be careful of snakes) to cover the ramps. That will make them even stronger and add traction. Now slowly drive out of the mess you got yourself into. Of course there is an alternative. Jump out of the RV in a rage, cuss, throw your keys and call for roadside assistance. If you choose that method do not forget to have them send a locksmith because you are never going to find those keys.DSCN3723DSCN3793DSCN3851DSCN3854

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Out of the Past – genetic memory

Out of the Past
(Some thoughts on genetic memory. Flat Earthers and anti-science adherents might want a stiff drink before continuing)

Insects have long fascinated me with their demonstrations of intelligence. How is it that a fly seems aware of the swatter in one’s hand, or the occupation of both hands preventing a swat? If our elected officials displayed such intelligence something might get done in the Senate. How do ants know how to perform their specific jobs without formal training classes? We rarely see one walking across a college campus with its nose in a Chemistry textbook. And yet, it is adept at the formulation and use of formic acid. A bee colony is a very complex community. Hives are designed and constructed with incredible acumen to the point of bee-coming architectural marvels. So how do we acknowledge this? Simply by saying, ‘It’s nature.’ That may be enough understanding for some people, but although I have never bought a National Inquirer I have an inquiring mind that wants to know.
Some time ago a now famous experiment was done with flatworms. Scientific nomenclature has been abandoned here in the interest of global understanding, i.e. simplicity. The flatworms were trained using, I believe, starvation techniques to navigate a simple maze. Sort of ‘learn where the food is or become fertilizer.’ Perhaps a bit of fun for the researchers, though less so for the worms. But the experiment did result in a very interesting finding, genetic memory. This next part may be a little distasteful, especially if you have just finished a slice of pizza. The educated flatworms were then ground up and fed to an uneducated group of the same species. Sorry, sometimes science is not appetizing, except to the well-fed worms of course. The amazing result was that the uneducated flatworms could navigate the maze as easily as their last meal did, only without a trial-and-error learning period. They had genetically absorbed, sopped-up as it were, the knowledge of their predecessors.
Although this seems to be a fairly clear-cut paradigm, many people continue to disbelieve in genetic memory, much as they disbelieve in global warming, human rights and the existence of dinosaurs. Yet they still manager to breathe in a rhythmic manner and feed themselves, which I find even more astonishing.
But now let us explore this extraordinary function of amino acid alchemy (genetics) in more biologically advanced creatures. If insects and planarians (flatworms) can do it, why not …, let us say dogs.
Something tells me you are way ahead of me on this one. How does one explain the ‘instinct’ of a sheep herding or cattle herding dog to do its basic job without training. Notice ‘basic.’ Although the dog will not respond to specific commands by its handler, it will perform the herding and/or guarding function even as a puppy.
A ‘cutting horse’ that has been bred through a line of ‘cutters’ will set you on an E-ride if ridden into a coral with a calf, even having no formal training in the past.
My personal experience with both cattle herding dogs and cutting horses exhibits this completely.
And now on to one of my favorite animals of amazing instinct, the pussy cat. Big or small they are all marvels of intelligence, beauty and grace. A simple furry pull-toy dragged, almost silently, by a sleeping tabby will instantly cause Miss Puss to leap into action and attack the toy with a vicious accuracy unparalleled by any other creature in your living room. With the exception of Grandma ‘resting her eyes’ when a pot boils over. This attack-and-kill instinct is even observable in young kittens. With no mother present to act as teacher the cat is a born survivor. With a mother to teach the finer arts of stalking and killing a cat becomes the master it’s domain. The genetic demand for this behavior is so strong that many a bicyclist or jogger has become an unwitting target simply by passing an unseen mountain lion on a forest trail.
By now you must be wondering how this phenomena might relate to humans; to you in particular perhaps. If you go to a ‘past life’ therapist, or crystal ball gazing granny she will undoubtedly tell you that you have memories of past lives. In your past life you can choose from being such high dignitaries as Cleopatra, Napoleon, Richard the Lionheart, Joan of Arc or a number of other favorites. It is amazing that no one is ever told they were a scullery maid or stable groom. Past life regression and genetic memory are totally unrelated, much like comic book heroes and (real life hero) American soldiers.
Let us all share a moment for those who did not return.

Thank you.
The subject of genetic memory in humans is a hotly contested one. In Jean Aul’s wonderful book “Clan of the Cave Bear” genetic memory is used to explain how the Neanderthal learned to survive. It was a theory, and a very good one, especially for a work of fiction.
In fact, the Neanderthal had a high sloping forehead, thus limiting cranial space for a frontal lobe. This is where imagination and creative thought take place. Without a fully developed frontal lobe problem solving and invention are seriously inhibited. The individual lacks imagination and their personality falls flat. The famed ‘Frontal Lobotomy’ operation of times past was used to control mental patients who were a bit overactive by detaching the frontal lobe rendering it useless. That elicited a comic to comment, “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than to have a frontal lobotomy.” I agree.
On the other hand, the occipital lobe of the Neanderthal brain was quite large. Guess what happens there. You are so right, memory. Did you remember that from biology class? It is very true and quite possibly speaks to the idea that the Neanderthal lived more on ‘instinct’ than invention. This could also, in part, account for their demise, while the Cro-Magnon (with a large frontal lobe) who lived at the same time flourished and continued.
Think about things in your life that have evoked unexplained feelings, preferences or abilities. There have been many in mine. Since childhood I have loved the smell and feel of wool, felt a serious romantic attraction to mist and fog, as well as to women of strong character. As I got older I learned that most of my heritage is Celtic, explaining each of these things, if I had ever lived in Wales, which I have not. So how is it that these foreign traits of my ancestors are natural to me?
If you consider your life from the outside looking in, try to discover how your ancestry relates to who you are now. You might be surprised, and you might find the answer to a question or two that has eluded all rational thought. Happy hunting, for yourself.

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That’s Not Santa on the Roof – An odd leak repair that might help you

THAT’S NOT SANTA ON THE ROOF
(A Drop of Help with a Leaking RV Roof)

When I woke up and walked to the living area of the coach there was a ladder that looked suspiciously like mine just outside the window. Then there was the sound of something obviously bigger than a squirrel walking around on the roof. Well, it was not a squirrel and it was not Santa, it was my friend Fred. He was looking for the leak.
July is monsoon season in the southwest and there had been a torrential downpour on the previous day. Personally, I like the rainy season. It adds character to the otherwise practically perfect sunny, summer days. Weather with attitude, I call it. Unfortunately my RV now had attitude all over the furniture and floor. It was the thing almost all RVers deal with sooner or later, the dreaded roof leak.
One might think a leak would be relatively easy to find. Surely there must be a seam cracked open or a nice big hole. Let me ask you, when in your life did fate ever act in such a congenial manner? Yeah, mine either. Fred reported that there were no cracks or holes and he was coming down, so I steadied the ladder and guided his foot to the top step. No, I am not the over-cautious sort; Fred drinks a little. Though, in his defense, I will say that he was not ‘in his cups’ that early in the morning.
Being the fine friend he is, Fred took off for the hardware store and returned with caulk. Back up on the roof he began caulking everything that did not move and a slow-moving insect or two. Why am I not doing this? I am such a good friend that I did not want to spoil Fred’s fun.
There was still nothing visible that could have caused such a leak. This was not a simple, singular trickle of water down a wall or a little drip from around a light fixture. Water had poured in from everywhere, almost as if there was no roof at all. Hyperbole aside, it was a darn big leak.
Now, here is where we all get to learn something. That leak was not coming from a crack, hole, seam, gap or crevice. Upon removing the air conditioner shroud to look around the base something incredible happened; the air conditioner moved, just slightly, but it moved. From underneath I removed the air conditioner cover and there was the culprit, plain and ugly as an unglazed donut when you really wanted a cinnamon swirl. The air conditioner hold-downs had vibrated loose creating a seal separation and causing water to run the entire length of the roof, between it and the ceiling. The repair was a simple matter of repositioning and tightening the hold-downs.
The moral of the story – you should have figured it out, but I will tell you anyway – is that if your RV roof starts leaking from every direction, do not panic; check the air conditioner mounting. If you have a leak, it will hopefully be this easy and you will find it before your friend ends up with caulk all over his jeans, hair and just a little in the right ear.

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What Geese Can Teach Us

WHAT GEESE CAN TEACH US

The goose family just came to visit at my Storrie Lake camp in New Mexico. The youngsters are getting color and markings. They’re almost ready to go out on their own now. Several families have united, allowing the goslings to swim together without adult presence. The adults watch from the shore. They are good parents.
When I feed scraps of bread to the family the gander stands guard, not eating. The rest eat their fill while he keeps watch. Finally, when all are sated he eats from what is left while the female watches. Then he leads them into the lake, having done his job as patriarch, the proud father leading his family home. Watching them elicits a sort of comfort in nature; that the simplest forms of life will continue to survive in the simplest ways.
Henri David Thoreau wrote this advice which should inspire people to think, especially those who call themselves ‘green,’ “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” Consider it. Our complicated lives can be our own stumbling blocks. How is your life made better by complicating it?
Recently Dr. Oz has been advocating the ‘Paleo Diet.’ Is it complicated? No. It is a concept of returning to what nature provided so humans could evolve, growing stronger, healthier and smarter.
Medical doctors and scientists know that nature is our mother because we are part of her. We are all natural beings. We are made of Earth materials, risen from the dirt as it were. Do you really understand that? Do you really know who and what we are?
No matter what form of life you encounter it is in some way related to you. By now most everyone has heard the phrase “carbon based life form.” That simply means that all life on planet Earth is composed of carbon chain molecules. All life. That means spiders, squirrels, ants, chiggers, slugs, mosquitoes, polar bears and humans. We are all related to one extent or another. That encompasses all the faunal components, but what about the flora?
Trees, bushes, weeds and even lichens are composed of carbon molecules, too. They are of nature and have evolved (naturally changing to better suit their environment) just as every form of life has.
Many years ago it occurred to me that Buddhists have a pretty cool thing going by respecting all life and not limiting that reverence to humans alone. They have a sense of being part of nature that seems to escape many modern peoples. Being ‘one with nature’ is a serious spiritual journey for them. The Navajo (Dine`) share many of their beliefs and adulations for nature, which is one reason I so admire both cultures.
There is a common anecdote about a Buddhist who walked up to a hot dog vender and said, “Make me one with everything.” A Buddhist friend told me that and I find it cleverly amusing.
The point is that we need to live ‘with’ nature rather than ‘against’ nature as has been the case for centuries. Think about it like this; would you purposely flood, burn or otherwise destroy the house in which you live? Would you poison your pets, fresh water source or children? Would you pump sewage into your backyard and throw trash out of the windows? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, please do us all a favor and leave the planet.
This planet is our home. The intimate little neighborhoods we live in used to be our entire world. Times have changed and so has the size of our world influence. What we do in our daily lives now has global impact. What we do in nature seals our fate. The world of the future does not have to be a land of stark devastation, starvation and violence as depicted in grim futuristic movies. The really sad, and scary, thing is that it can be. But the choice is not ours alone; Mother Nature will decide, as always, if we are worthy of survival. It might be advisable to stay on her good side.
And what is it we can learn from geese? For one thing, that a simple life full of love is a good life. John Lennon sang, “All we need is love,” but maybe a little swimming and flying with nature would make it even better. And second, we need to care about and take care of each other. Lending a hand to make someone else’s life easier, whether it be a parent, spouse, child, friend or perhaps someone you do not even know is about the best way possible to lift your own spirits make you feel truly alive. If skin color, age, gender or religion matters when someone needs you, trust me, you are the one who is really in need of help.

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