HERE COMES CAMPFIRE SEASON

HERE COMES CAMPFIRE SEASON

A few more words about structuring a campfire

Working for my supper

Working for my supper

It is almost camping and wiener roasting season again and that means campfires. It is hard to find a camper who does not love campfires. I say ‘almost’ because I know a woman who cannot handle the smoke and had a man once tell me that I was polluting “his air.” I can only hope he did not try to take any of “his trees” home with him.

I heard about a guy who wanted to bring a little bit of nature into his house, so while camping he dug up a small oak which he judged as being barely sprouted and took it home. After planting it lovingly in a redwood pot full of the finest potting soil and placing it in the bay window where it would get plenty of sun he sat back waiting for it to take hold and start growing. A little later that day his neighbor came to visit and asked why in the world he was growing poison oak in his window box. I wonder where he started itching first.

If you read my previous article about campfires you know it was concerned with lighting the fire. This time I want to show you how to construct specific types of campfires. There are three types of campfires every camper should know about: 1) Heat 2) Light 3) Cooking.

  1. The campfire for heat. This is a low, wide fire, typically a ‘log cabin’ fire. It is constructed by placing logs atop each other at 90 degree angles, creating a box-like structure much in the way a log cabin is built, but with air space between each layer. It will burn hottest and longest with hardwood (broad leaf tree) logs which will collapse into center creating a wonderful coal bed for cooking.

    Log Cabin

    Log Cabin

  2. The campfire for light. This is a higher, more narrow fire. The tepee configuration is a classic and most useful for lighting the campsite. Flames follow the shape of the structure. In this case the flames will stream upward like a torch.

    Teepee

    Tepee

  3. The campfire for cooking. Any campfire will eventually collapse into a bed of coals for cooking, but if the only purpose for the fire is cooking you may not want to wait that long. Also, during the day you do not need light and if the weather is warm you do not need heat. For this purpose build a fire simply by placing small logs on burning kindling (gently so to not scatter embers or smother the flame) in a crosswise fashion and let them become charcoal embers. When a breeze threatens to interfere dig a small trench in which to build the fire. This is also good for placing a portable cooking grate over the embers.

    A good coal bed starts here

    A good coal bed starts here

A really good design for an all around campfire which will give you heat and light while waiting for a good bed of cooking embers to develop is the chimney design. Start out as you would to build a log cabin fire but place each layer of logs a little closer to the center creating a smaller center opening at the top.

Chimney

Chimney

A word about safety. Use common sense. If you do not have any, just stay out of the woods altogether.DSCN5635

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Little Critters – (a poem for those who know nothing about poetry, like me)

Little Critters

Mother Nature is my friend,

But she’s not always fair,

Her critters should be disciplined,

And cute as Yogi Bear.

I love the music of the night,

It lulls me into sleep,

Coyotes yipping, hooting owls,

And bullfrogs croaking deep.

Spring elk trumpeting for a mate,

Antler rattling of the buck,

If watching wonders is my fate,

I consider it my own good luck.

But I’m still annoyed by little things,

with lots of legs and maybe wings,

That surprise me in a bag of chips,

By nibbling on my finger tips.

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THE KITCHEN GARDEN

THE KITCHEN GARDEN

Most modern people are unaware of the kitchen garden. It is no longer part of our lives, but in times past is was a necessity. It was from the kitchen garden that produce for the dinner table was gleaned. I was not born in the 19th century, but I was born in the Appalachians were time was slow moving and old fashioned ways remained. It was my grandmother, matriarch of the family, who managed the kitchen and the garden that supplied it. It was from her that I learned to love the soil and utilize it to grow our vegetables.

There is something almost magical about how good bottom soil feels squishing between your fingers and molding in your hands. The aroma is fresh and Earthy, and the older people would say they could smell the dirt when it was ready to plant. Making furrows and mounds; pushing seeds into the moist soil felt good. It was almost like making love to Mother Nature. You knew those seeds would sprout and grow and give you the most wonderful vegetables to color and fill your table with pure goodness.

Grandma took me out beside the house and showed me the plot, then told me I would be responsible for spring onions and carrots. This was normally a chore passed on to the young girls, but in my family gender was ignored. Everyone learned and participated in everything. And so Grandma and I spent the afternoon, mostly on our knees, planting the seeds that would feed the family. She made sure I knew exactly how deep and how far apart to plant the seeds, and to sort of scrunch the dirt in my hands so plenty of air and water could get to them. Each tiny seed seemed to be special and have it’s own purpose. It would be coming to life, growing and blossoming into a beautiful orange or green and white vegetable. And these would be the sweetest onions and carrots I had ever eaten; I just knew it to be true.

Now, any time a little boy can get dirty and a little muddy is a good time. When we had finished with the garden and I went in the back door my mother stood there staring at me, half cringing and half smiling at the mud streak Grandma had painted on my nose. She laughed and said, “boy, I’m gonna have to hose you down before you can go in the living room.”

I was tired and dirty and glowing with a feeling of accomplishment. When I think back on Grandma in her print cotton dress with her gray/black hair pulled back, on her knees troweling up that rich, dark soil, shooting me an occasional smile my heart gushes with happiness that we had those times together. It makes me grateful I grew up a country boy and learned to love the Earth, the animals and all the natural things people take for granted these days.

Our Mother Earth and what she gives us is precious. It is life. When we harvested that first garden I felt like I would burst with excitement. I pulled up my first carrot and shook off most of the dirt, then wiped off almost all the rest on my jeans, snapped off the root tip and took a bite. That was the best carrot I ever tasted, even though it still had a little dirt on it.

Afterwards Grandma and I spent days snapping beans, shucking peas, cleaning and canning (which we actually called “putting up”) the produce. Before long it was time for the late garden to go in and by the end of summer the basement shelves were filled with jars of everything imaginable. There was also a wonderful variety of fruit trees and a grape arbor. Sure, it was a lot of work, but my first year being a full part of it was one of the most important and special events of my young days. It was the turning point from being a child to being a productive and needed part of the family. I was really growing up.

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THE CONCEPT OF FAILURE

THE CONCEPT OF FAILURE

If you are under the delusion that failure is a purely bad thing, or worse, that it really does not exist in our modern world of “pseudo-winners” there will come a day when you realize that you have failed the test of reality or you will simply walk out of the cave you have been sheltered in and see the bright light of wisdom. One way or the other you will discover that failures, ie, setbacks, are simply part of being human and as with most things, sitting on the fulcrum point of life’s balance, ready to go in either direction, positive or negative. And in the vast majority of circumstances the direction will be completely up to you.

In this age of ’empowerment’ it is absurd for a person to do poorly at something and then just sit back and whine about failing. Women like Camille Paglia and Gloria Allred, and men like President Barack Obama and Frederick Douglas all failed at things from time-to-time, but ultimately were real winners because they looked their failures straight in the eyes, gave them a good shake and said, “Baby, you ain’t nothin’ but a second in time. Get out of my way so I can move on,” or something like that. If you want a lesson in real strength and how to deal with failures read the story Bessie Coleman or Audie Murphy, two of my personal heroes. Coleman was the first female African American to get a pilot’s license and Murphy was the most decorated soldier of WWII. All of these people won in life by putting failure in its proper perspective. Again, failure is just part of being human, deal with it.

Growing up in the Appalachians over a half-century ago was a much different world than today. There was no soft, societal cushion to fall on. We did not get trophies for losing games and we were not applauded, showered with praise and told we were all winners just for playing the game. Yes, it was a cruel world; we had to deal with the truth. In a world where euphemisms are used to mask the truth and make untruths more palatable, “spin” – which in truth means “lie” – is considered natural. Some people even get paid to do it and are touted as “spin doctors.” We used to call them “snake oil salesmen.” Of course the oil was not really from a snake. It was from a whiskey still and guaranteed to cure any ailment. It did not cure anything, but for a dollar you would soon forget what hurt in the first place. Much like “spin” will make you forget what the truth really is. Dealing with truth requires the acknowledgment of failure and it’s true nature. You see, nothing can be called a true failure if one learns and grows from it. It is then merely a setback turned into success.

When I entered the first grade my first friend was the biggest boy in class. That was not because he was a big corn-fed farm boy. It was because he liked the first grade so much he decided to do it again. How is that for “spin?” He failed the first grade. I do not know how one fails the first grade, short of biting the teacher on the ankle, but he did it. So we formed a symbiotic friendship were as I helped him learn his numbers – old people talk for arithmetic – and he showed me the wisdom he had gained by already ‘roping this goat’ once before. Without thinking too hard about it we had turned a situation called “failure” into a positive and purposeful state, one we could both learn and benefit from. If you are wondering if he suffered humiliation and teasing from other students, the answer to both is no. First, there is no humiliation in failure if you understand its true nature. Second, he was too big to tease in a mean fashion. He would have simply beat the snot out of the teaser.

What we had done was recognize the failure as part of life’s experience, taken it in a positive direction and learned from it valuable lessons that helped both of us move toward the future. It is those three principles that can turn failure face-up so we can rise out of the ashes like the Phoenix. I have always wanted to use that overly dramatic metaphor for something.

Now, let us examine those three principles to make sure we all really understand them. That goes for me too. I always learn as I write.

  1. Recognizing the true essence of failure: If a young pole vaulter knows that she can clear the bar at 18 feet but sets it an inch lower and sails over with ease and then smiles and bows to the cheers of the crowd what has she really accomplished? If her only goal was cheers and pats on the back, she got what she wanted and exactly what she deserved, valueless praise. On the other hand, if she had cleared the bar at 18 feet and just 1 inch she could honestly enjoy her victory. But what if she tried to raise the bar 4 inches and hit it, falling onto the mat in a way that would make the Fosbury Flop look graceful? Would that be a failure? Look at #2 for the answer.

  2. Tipping the scale: Now it is time for our fictitious young lady to take control. I do not know about your pole vaulter, but mine is strong and determined. She stands up with pride, wiping the blood off of her arm as if it is a badge of honor and courage. She analyzes her mistake. The bad vault is not a failure; it is a step in learning how to go higher because she made the decision to take it to the positive side of the scale.

  3. Learning and earning your right to evolve: Once she understands why she did not get over the bar she adapts accordingly. In survival training we were taught the AIO principle, “ Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome.” Our young vaulter will use that principle and ultimately overcome her obstacles. She will stretch and test herself to achieve her goal and even more. She has learned by her mistake and persevered earning her the right to evolve into the best pole vaulter she can possibly be. If she did not turn this situation outward and move ahead, it would then be a true failure rather than a temporary setback. The power to make it either was hers. She chose to be a real winner.

    Failure, or shall we say “setback,” like bumps and bruises is just part of life if that life is in motion, striving and evolving to reach a higher level, the highest plane of who we are and ultimately who we can be. Whether your personal objective involves sports or spirituality, or something as mundane as teaching your dog to stop humping your brother-in-law’s leg, the same formula applies. It is truly in your hands. So, recognize failure for its true nature, push it over the fulcrums edge to the positive direction and learn what it has to teach you in order to move ahead. Just three simple steps that will make tour life a whole lot better by helping you become a true winner.

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HOW TO REALLY LIKE PEOPLE – (an editorial)

HOW TO REALLY LIKE PEOPLE

 

 

I am not much of a people person. That is to say, I honestly prefer “lower” animals. My favorite is bears. I have had a lot of experience with them, most of it good until they get into the garbage. Fish are okay, but not very interactive, though they are quite tasty. Birds are beautiful and interesting to watch, until they are directly overhead. Ungulates are sleek and graceful, well, except for cows. Rodents are cute and appear rather cuddly until they eat the wires off of your RV engine. The point is that everything, no matter what the species has qualities of good and bad.

I think too much from people. I expect them to have more intelligence and be more civilized and caring than they are. If I kept a list of things I am wrong about, that would be on it. The sad fact is people are exactly what they are supposed to be, confused, unwitting creatures stumbling through a life of uncertainty, chaos and instability. No one is exactly the way we imagine or want them to be. So it ends up being a matter of tolerance. Cute, furry and cuddly creatures simply rate more tolerance.

When a Deer mouse is chewing on something of mine I simply shoo him away. Just yesterday while I was sitting outside on a lounge chair doing Sudoku puzzles a couple honey bees decided I looked like a big, very big, flower. I brushed them away, having little to no emotion about the situation. On the other hand, when I have spent the morning packing my RV and am just ready to pull out I become thoroughly irritated when an old man walks up and announces, “Hey, I want to talk to you about your solar panels. You’ll have to yell in my good ear, I’m ‘deef,’ but first I’m gonna tell you how I won the big war and then about my various operations and a little something about my anal leakage.” By the time he gets to the war my tolerance is totally shot. And if you think that is a gross exaggeration you do not know any old men.

So right now I am at my favorite spot in the whole world, a remote camping area on the Rio Grande where birds, squirrels, rabbits and a bobcat are the only living things I will likely see during my stay. This is a place of absolute peace and solitude. Not once have I encountered a human here. This is my respite; my place to take a deep breath and forget all there is to forget about the modern world.

There is nothing here to attract my fellow creatures. The amenities of the modern campground are completely absent. There is no concrete patio, no cable TV, nor electric, water or sewer connections. There is no clubhouse, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna or golf course and the closest Starbuck’s is a half days drive away. The only thing here, aside from nature, is an old picnic table that sits aslant under a salt cedar by the river bank. When I open my door I do not have to make sure my neighbor is not opening his at the same time lest we collide. There is no neighbor, and that is my secret of learning to tolerate and like people as I truly desire.

Distance is the key. Frequency is the lock. When the key finds its way to the lock everything changes. Time spent away from others makes time spent with them more precious and enjoyable than ever before. Rehashing the same tired old subjects of everyday conversation and hammering them out like spikes to be driven into our brains is purely past-tense. New and sometimes exciting subjects can be entertained.

Not everyone is cut out for a life of total connectivity. Today people walk around with a complete social network attached to their ear. There is rarely a single moment of release from the tether of civilization and the social order of humanity demanding constant attention. A mind never gets to rest, to simply be at peace.

Consider a hamster, running relentlessly to make a wheel spin, yet never going anywhere. I once watched a seagull on the coast of Oregon lift up from a rock and fly into the wind. He flew furiously into an impenetrable headwind for several minutes before landing back on the same rock in almost the same spot he had taken off from, seemingly quite content with his lack of progress. I wondered if he thought he had actually gone somewhere.

Could it be that there are times when going nowhere at all is exactly what we need? Call it a vacation from life itself; a time when time does not matter; a place where nothing is exactly what is going to happen.

If you find that place, your very own Xanadu, you will know because when you return to the world of today there will be a smile on your face and big new room in your heart just waiting to be filled.

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USO –UNIDENTIFIED SWIMMING OBJECT

USO –UNIDENTIFIED SWIMMING OBJECT

 

There are many times in the outdoors that something you see just does not make sense. An entire TV show is dedicated to “Finding Bigfoot.” Nessie has been chased by the best for decades and “little green men” cost the government enough money to put a colony on Mars and make our own little green men, and women. I remember Yvonne Craig playing a little green alien in the original “Star Trek” and if they look anything like that I will be at the head of the line, along with most men of my species. I say ‘most’ because maleness has taken quite a turn lately and I do not wish to ‘assume.’

What constantly amazes me about unusual sightings is that the photos always look like someone stuck their camera in a mud hole or mass of underbrush and just snapped away hoping that somewhere on the ridiculous picture someone will think they see something exciting. We never do, but there will certainly be a smudgy dark glob somewhere and someone will exclaim, “OMG, I see it! It’s right there!” And when someone with a clear mind asks “What?” they will excitedly answer, “I don’t know, but there it is!”

From that point theories will fly about like mosquitoes in a hurricane, and you can bet that before long a small dog will have mysteriously disappeared and someone’s crazy aunt, the one who makes her own elderberry wine and channels the spirits of passed-on cats, will have a riveting story of abduction.

I would love to have an incredible story to tell about what I saw swimming in El Vado Lake in New Mexico, but I do not know what it was and the only thing I could really see was the breakwater at the surface just above it. What I do know is that there was something very large under the water, moving with purpose to cross the lake. It was swimming. But what was swimming causing a surge of breakwater just above it and over 100 feet long?

Look for the whitish horizontal streak

Look for the whitish horizontal streak

Now you can see it

Now you can see it

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Giving Thanks (Something I Hope Everyone Will Do)

Giving Thanks

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This is a time when giving thanks is on the minds of most of us. Those who do not, I feel a certain sorrow for. And whatever their reasons might be for having nothing or just believing they have nothing to be thankful for I pray they find some small thing to brighten their darkness.

As for me, I have so much to be thankful for that it would make a long and boring list, so I will condense that list to one thing, the beauty in my life.

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Every day I wake up to the beauty of the natural world. Today I look out across a deep blue lake edged by mountains and sculptured by landforms that carve out bays, make contoured shorelines of silky beaches and fill the mountainsides with craggy shadows as the sun goes down.

DSCN4325       I must admit there is a little piece of my heart that longs for the emerald green Appalachians with deep forests of hardwood and pine, canyons, waterfalls and amazing autumn colors.

“The Lord sure makes some beautiful worlds;” a line from one of my favorite sci-fi movies seems fitting here because now that we have seen photos of the terrestrial planets in our solar system, is there any doubt where the intricate beauty of land and life forms is the greatest? Right here, on the “third rock” where we have the extraordinary pleasure of existing. Nature provides everything we need. She feeds our bodies and our senses with every pleasure imaginable. Nothing yet created by human hands can compare in delicate beauty or eloquent complexity to the delicious splendor and perfection of a single tree leaf or the magnificence of a single-celled euglena with it’s wavy shoreline-like appearance, so seemingly uncomplicated, and yet capable of dividing it’s chromosomes, creating two nuclei and dividing (mitosis) into two separate beings. Imagine the excitement of a farmer going to bed one night having one John Deere tractor sitting by the barn and waking up finding two John Deere’s sitting there. Oh dear!

In comparison to nature, which generally appears to sit around doing little more than ‘being,’ we are pretty simple minded. Things we struggle to accomplish through brainiac technology are accomplished in nature every day without, may I say, the Grand Lady even breaking a sweat.

So how marvelous is it to live so close to Mother Earth? Nothing I can imagine, not any level of material wealth, celebrity or might, could surpass that of the simple life of an Earthling who can give thanks every day for merely being one.

I never could resist a Texas Tornado

I never could resist a Texas Tornado

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THE SUMMER CONTINUES IN PHOTOS

As promised here are more photos of northern New Mexico now that the uploading

Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum)

Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum)

seem to be solved. DSCN5555

Back road hazards can slow you down

Back road hazards can slow you down

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Hepatic Tanager (Piranga flava)

Hepatic Tanager (Piranga flava)

Desert Prickly-Pear (Opuntia phaeacantha)

Desert Prickly-Pear (Opuntia phaeacantha)

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MEETING ROYALTY ON THE TRAIL

MEETING ROYALTY ON THE TRAIL

 

Traveling in New Mexico is absolutely my favorite thing. Of course there is always tomorrow. In this life things are changed more often than adult Pampers. For now, New Mexico is my stomping ground and I see no edge of boredom in sight.

One of the best things I have discovered about this state is the friendliness and acceptance of the residents and visitors. There is always someone new to meet, whether local or traveler, who is interesting and sometimes even fun. There are also occasional encounters with someone of royal status. Although not a common occurrence, meeting a prince, duke or earl can be quite exciting. After all, it is in New Mexico where the famed El Camino Real (Spanish: Royal Road) is.

It was a cool morning on a hiking trail that I met my first member of royalty, whom I will now introduce.

Meet Solare, a Regal Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma solare).

Solare, the Regal Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma solare)

Solare, the Regal Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma solare)

Solare was travelling when I met him. He probably travelled from Arizona, or perhaps his parents migrated sometime earlier. After refusing to answer any questions about his actual origin or purpose here I surmised that he could be on a secret mission from the ACLO (American Counterintelligence Lizard Organization).

Being very close to noon it seemed quite possible that we might share a light lunch until I learned what that means to a Regal Horned Lizard who generally dines on spiders and flies as well as most any insect that will fit in it’s mouth, though it’s taste is really for harvester ants of which he devours as many as 2,500 at a sitting. That is a lot of acid. An entire roll of Tums would be like putting a Band-Aid on one of Freddy Krueger’s victims. Besides, they are very slow eaters, being ectothermic (cold blooded, such as many politicians except for Senator Manchin) which also requires a high food intake.

Because he needs to regulate body temperature by absorbing heat from the atmosphere this tiny, armored lizard has sort of a cute (is ‘cute’ appropriate for royalty?) way of heating up. He digs a hole in the sand and buries his body except for his head, which is the only part sticking out. Obviously, they never live on a golf course or well-manicured lawn. A chamber in the head heats the blood until it is just right (I do not know what is ‘just right,’ ask Goldilocks) and then a valve in the neck opens to circulate the blood throughout the body. When the weather gets too darn cold for proper lizard frivolities he might go into a temporary state of hibernation called ‘torpor.’

But there is a downside to being an, ever so cute, 3-4 inch lizard; it is predators. Although he does not look too tasty to me, there are many critters that look at him the way we look at those little Chinese food take-out containers, easy to open and full of tantalizing goodness. First, of course, they have to see him. That is where good camouflage pays off. This little guy’s camouflage is so good he just might be a Cabela’s shopper. He can also puff out his horns and for less visibility to hawks can flatten his body and reduce his shadow.

Pretty good camouflage

Pretty good camouflage

After surviving hunger, cold and various attacks this little guy has truly merited a treat, a little bit of what Golden Earring sang about, “Lizard Love.” Oh yeah, that was “Radar Love,” but they are Dutch; what do they know about lizards? In order to attract a mate the fine young prince will display his physical prowess with pushups and a bit of suave coolness by rhythmically nodding his head (I am certain this is where Will Smith got the idea for “Nod Ya Head” without a single acknowledgment to the Lizard Prince from the Fresh Prince).

Once a Mate is acquired the nuptials (AKA lizard love) go on from April to July when apparently the female has had about all of the horny prince she can handle. Then, from late July into early August she will lay 15-33 soft, white eggs. Does that not sound romantic? Well, that is where the romance ends. After a few weeks in the sand the hatchlings emerge to …? Mom and Dad have skipped out to ‘Peoria’ without so much as a Hallmark moment. These poor little cuties are left to fend completely for themselves. They immediately dig into the sand and hope for the best. Looking back on the article about genetic memory, this is another fine example. Without it they might just stand on a rock waiting until they finally end up as predator poo.

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EXPLORING ONWARD (this will consist of later photo additions)

EXPLORING ONWARD

 

 

After leaving Abiquiu Lake I found the road headed north to my liking. Leaving main highways behind and venturing up into higher mountains is always a pleasure. The San Juan Mountains go up over 11,000 feet and are sparsely populated. The roads are two-lanes, and sometimes not quite that, as well as frequently turning to dirt. Maintaining a reasonably well stocked larder can be a bit of a pain, requiring taking advantage of every opportunity to obtain supplies. Any town of more than 500 residents is an occasion to stop, find a Laundromat, a grocery and/or general store and the local bar/grill where the beer is always cold and the food is like home cooking.

Chama, New Mexico

Chama, New Mexico

I found just such a place back on the blacktop, almost to the Colorado border called Chama, New Mexico. Chama is a little main street town with a surprisingly large grocery/hardware/hunting/fishing/camping store that is hard to beat. And a Laundromat? Oh yes, which is also a combination visitor’s center/cell phone/local bulletin board store. But about the bar/grill; I could have not imagined one better. It is in the Wild West era Foster’s Hotel that has not changed a weathered plank or molded ceiling panel since it was built. I asked the bartender “Is it haunted?” She slyly cocked her head, smiled and said, “Whadda you think?” accentuated with a demure wink.

Foster's Hotel built in 1881

Foster’s Hotel built in 1881

Inside Foster's

Inside Foster’s

 

 

Foster's Saloon veranda. The stumps are seats.

Foster’s Saloon veranda. The stumps are seats.

Foster's Dining Room

Foster’s Dining Room

After completing all of the in-town chores it was late afternoon and time to get back out on the road. As usual, blacktop leads to dirt which leads to a good camping area. By ‘good’ I mean close to a lake or stream, remote enough to have more wildlife than people and have a flat spot for the RV.

My view of one of the better roads

My view of one of the better roads

Two magpies came to visit while I set up camp. As I talked to them they sat calmly turning their heads listening intently to my gibberish for a couple minutes before flying away, no doubt to find food or  something shiny. They are master thieves, like ravens. Apparently, they believe that if they get the booty to their nest it is now theirs.

 

Not meant for an RV, but I'm from West-by-God-Virginia; I don't care

Not meant for an RV, but I’m from West-by-God-Virginia; I don’t care

The high mountains are most wonderful at daybreak and sunset. Temperatures change dramatically, as if another season was coming in. Up on a high mountain ridge, just after the sun slips below the summit, there is an amazing temperature related pressure change that causes warm air to rush up the mountain slopes. It roars and rumbles like a freight train, and is very forceful when it passes through camp.

Cool evenings in the mountains are ideal for a blazing campfire. With a ranger’s permission I harvested a dead elm to have logs for several nights.

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Once in the higher, montane forest region trees get noticeably smaller. Most everyone is familiar with the phrase “timberline” which refers to the elevation at which trees stop growing entirely and Alpine flora takes over. At my present latitude tree level is around 10,000 feet, but up in Alaska at a higher latitude tree level drops to around 2,500 feet. And what, you might ask, is above Alpine forest? Rock; either a dome or jagged and craggy range with spires and deep crevasses, like the Saw Tooth Mountains in Idaho/Montana/California. That is where people are separated by how jagged and craggy they are, and sometimes are separated into various parts while plummeting into a crevasse. If you are not schooled and experienced in mountaineering, nice rolling hills are very pleasant and much safer. Even with a mountaineering education from the National Outdoor Leadership School, Lander, Wyoming and many years of experience I have had my share of close calls and accidents that could have been very serious or fatal to a novice. There’s an old expression that goes “There ain’t a horse that can’t be rode, and there ain’t a cowboy that can’t be throwed.” That bit of western wisdom is suitable in a lot of circumstances.

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DSCN5364NOTE: Problems with uploading photos has brought me to a stopping point. There are many more which will be added in the next post.

 

 

 

 

Out here in the wilds a fellow is usually pretty much alone. Few city people that I have brought out to such areas last longer than a night or two. When dark slithers over the mountains there are no street lights. The sky comes alive with more celestial bodies than the freckles on every nose in Ireland. The ground almost seems to ooze creepy crawlies out hunting an evening meal. The sounds of civilization are completely absent, but now the sounds of the forest and it’s night creatures begin. To me it is all living poetry. This is where I am most at home, at ease and comfortable with life.

And so, rather than ramble on about the wonders of nature I prefer to show you. Welcome to my summer.

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