Random writing – lunar eclipse, the way to the back yard, ER, cardiac cath, lion…

Photo from David Prosper in Richmond, California, a mile our two from us.

I write things that never get posted. Here are some things I found in a few files from several months ago.

We got up at 5 in the morning to see the lunar eclipse. Wrapped up in blankets and a sleeping bag on the deck with the moon hanging perfectly far away above the sea and us getting all dewy damp.


Back garden from the deck

The mystic way to the back garden lies down a narrow stairway with patterned textiles and warm golden light and a couple of turns and through a workroom – now through a narrow hallway, turn right, then left and down four steps into Jean’s studio with high ceiling, the big work table, the sewing machines, journals, materials and mystic masks on the wall – wolf, goat, crows, spirit animals all – through the door onto the covered back porch, past a chaise on the left and on the right, chairs and two big work tables, and now the back yard.

The back yard is small. A path curves off the back porch/deck. Step down 1 – 2 – 3, with chamomile growing between the steps and mint on either side and the path curving past a low stone wall on the right with the large flax plant and earlier in the year there were tomato and pepper plants, and basil, lettuce, and chard. On the left succulents, day lilies, hydrangeas, a bush with purple flowers, calla lilies, and a stone Buddha statue. There is a bamboo grove and a patio where I’m building two raised bed grow boxes.


Streams of consciousness…

The past, running through me alive, beautiful, love not lost love alive and within, reborn, 73 years, death not too far away and how can I lose? Love behind, Love now, Love beyond. Reborn into this!

This endless summer, this endless summer of love.

Jean drove me to the ER at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. I had been short of breath for several days, waiting to go like any other dodgy patient. (I asked myself, what would I say to a friend or patient with sob – go to the ER, of course. So I did.) They took me back right away while Jean waited out front. They took vitals, drew blood, EKG and put me in a room. I went out to the waiting room. “Go home.” “No.” “Go, I’m fine.” “I’ll wait.” But finally she went. CXR, chest CT. Out of cell phone touch.

The past, Love; the now, Love; the beyond, Love. In the room, thinking of Leslie, David, Jean, David, Jean, Leslie, Jean, Leslie, David, life, love. It won’t be, but what if this is the last thing I write? I’ve lived, I’ve loved, I’ve been loved. My epitaph.

And I will never grow so old again. Close to three years ago I was so old. I was dark and dying and now I’m reborn.

The things I will leave.

I imagine when it happens – when I die – I’ll feel a pulse of fear.

Bill, Lisa, Charles, Jean in New Orleans

Finally, they cut me loose, with some abnormal findings and instructions to follow-up. More on that in a moment.


We flew to New Orleans with Bill and Lisa to celebrate Bill’s 70th. In a club in the Treme, sitting in the back (kind of the senior section). Rock & Roll will live forever.

I am happy. It’s 12/1, 2017, 747 pm.

And we’ll walk down the avenue in style,

And we’ll walk down the avenue and we’ll smile,

And we’ll say, “Baby, ain’t it all worthwhile.”

When you hear the music ringing in your soul,

And the feeling in your heart just grows and grows…


The moon was shining bright when we awoke in the alive night. We made love in the dawning light.


A page from Remember

Reading Chops WanderWeird’s book, Remember: “I’ll tell you of many things, but the first and most important is that you already know all of this” (one of the hippest things I’ve ever read), and you, Jean already know all of this. I don’t think Chops was trying to tell us anything we don’t already know; he wants to help us Remember.


Three days in New Orleans with Bill and Lisa. We stayed in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath house a block off Magazine Street and a few blocks from St. Charles. Gumbo, fried oysters, hush puppies, beignets, all of that. We went to Frenchman’s Street and had a good time bar-hopping (no drinking, no problem). The second night we (Lisa, that is) tracked down a really good singer (Myschia Lake) we’d heard the first night. Hanging out at Chickie Wah-Wah bar. The third night we went to a bar that Jean had been to a few years ago. There we were in the Bullet Sports Bar in the Treme’ – Rock and roll, black and white, young and old, good and good.


I went to my internist today. At the beginning of the visit I said this to her:

I’m 73. I’ve lived longer than anyone ever in my family – partly because of the way I live and partly by luck.

I was married for 45 years to my high school sweetheart. She passed away almost three years ago. The grief was terrible. “It never occurred to me that you could love someone the same way after he was gone, that I would continue to feel such love and gratitude alongside the terrible sorrow, the grief so heavy that at times I shiver

and moan under the weight of it” (from When Breath Becomes Air). I know about this.

For the past year and a half I’ve been in a relationship with a remarkable woman in Berkeley, so I’m there more than here. I have a ticket to return to California next week. And we have tickets to India in January.

All this to say, I have a strong sense of my mortality and I’m intent on living as well as possible.

The internist responded to my situation and got a hurry

-up echocardiogram scheduled. The echo showed a need for further assessment, specifically a cardiac catheterization.


On Friday morning at 0900, the cardiac clinic called to ask if I was coming to my appointment at 0920. This was the first I’d heard of the appointment. I said I could be there in about 40 minutes, but they were unwilling to do this (to my great irritation) and so scheduled me for an afternoon appointment, which was okay with me. When I got to the appointment, I learned

Leslie in the Circle of Friends

that the doctor’s name was Aslan ___.

About 15 years ago in a wilderness area of Big Bend National Park I had a very close encounter with a mountain lion. I had walked away from my campsite to pee and as I started to unzip, I heard a sound and looked up to see the cougar standing about 40 feet away looking at me with those great golden eyes (later, I paced it off; the animal really was that close). Feeling that I should be cool about the situation, I went ahead and unzipped and urinated, all the while talking to the cougar in what I hoped was a reassuring voice. It sat down and began licking its chest, but still looking at me. I zipped back up and turned and walked away – later to learn that you’re not supposed to turn your back on a mountain lion. This encounter had great significance to me. I

Band playing in the garage next to David’s house.

realized that this was my spirit animal.

And now, a doctor named lion (Aslan) was going to perform a cardiac catheterization on me. Talk about a feeling of confidence and synchronicity – glad I didn’t make it to the earlier appointment!

Jean flew in to be with me through the process. Jean and John and I went to UTSW.

On the day of the procedure they took me into the cath room (not quite an OR, but not your average procedure room, either). Everybody is gowned and

Jean and Kristina in Dallas.

masked and it seems serious. I was looking around wondering if this would be the last thing I saw. Someone asked me if there was any music I’d like to listen to. I said no, whatever the doctor liked was what I wanted. They said, oh, never mind, what do you like? I said I’d been listening to the Ramones, I Wanna be Well. They didn’t think they had any Ramones and then someone said, don’t they have a song called I Wanna be Sedated. So I sang part of Sedated to them – “20-20-24 hours to go, I wanna be sedated. Nothin’ to do, nowhere to go, I wanna be sedated.” We had a good time with that, though I can’t really sing like Joey. Then someone walked up to me and said, “I heard you want to be sedated.” I said, “Oh yeah.” And so she started the versed or fentanyl, whichever goes first. I woke up however long later – all was well – Jean was there – they had not needed to put in a stent. “Oh yeah, I wanna be well.”

Some of G-5 men’s Bible study group at Bryce’s ranch


The endless summer: an endless summer is not something that just happens. It needs intention and focus and a high consciousness (like “I embrace your anger.”), and above all, Love.


John and Sherry gave me a copy of Devotions (Patti Smith), one of a series of books on “Why I Write.” The first paragraph of this book sparked this…

Saturday at the Albany Bulb Landfill full of “outsider art”

When I was about 10 I had a vision of the suffering of the world (embodied in my own small suffering – though it didn’t seem small at the time).

When I was 21, home from the war in Vietnam, I made a commitment to myself to never waste my life (though I believe that nothing is something worth doing – Shpongle). And I had a vision that we all are one and took the bodhisattva vow. What was I to do? Leslie was already doing service. I had a groovy little store, The New Store, where I sold waterbeds, waterbed frames, shelves, tables – the store motto was “The New Store is a Wooden Ship.” Then I saw a way to integrate

At the Bulb

the visions and commitments. I went back to school for a year of prerequisites and then on to nursing school, worked as an RN, then graduate school, then hospice, refugees, education, nurse practitioner, primary care. I started writing in 1984 as a way to expand on the vision – healing the sick, relieving suffering (going back to the bodhisattva vow), working toward one world, and so on. Following are titles (pasted from c.v.) of some of what I wrote:


Books: Infectious and Tropical Diseases: A Handbook for Primary Care, Refugee and Immigrant Health, Terminal Illness: A Guide to Nursing Care.

Jean at the Bulb

Book chapters: Promoting Healthy Partnerships with Refugees and Immigrants, Culture and Spiritual Care at the End-of-Life, Spiritual Care in Terminal Illness, Anorexia and Cachexia, Six Stories, Promoting Healthy Partnerships with Refugees and Immigrants, Grief and Loss, Refugee and Immigrant Health, The Baylor Community Care Program, Grief, Refugee Health and Community Nursing, Cambodian Refugee Health Project.

Articles (in peer-reviewed journals such as the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, Cancer Nursing, etc. – with thanks to co-authors): Living as a refugee, Cultural issues in palliative care, Community health nursing: Where we are going and how to get there, Culture and the end of life: Major world religions, Culture and the end of life: Chinese, Infectious diseases of refugees and immigrants: Hookworm, Culture and the end of life: Nigerians, Infectious diseases of refugees and immigrants: Viral hemorrhagic fevers, Culture and the end of life: (Asian) Indian health beliefs and practices related to the end of life, Culture and the end of life: East African cultures-Part II, Sudan, Infectious diseases of refugees and immigrants: Giardiasis, Culture and the end of life: East African cultures-Part I, Somalia, Bioterrorism: Introduction and major agents, Infectious diseases of refugees and immigrants: Filariasis, Infectious diseases of refugees and immigrants: Echinococcosis (hydatid disease), Culture and the end of life: East African cultures-Part I, Sudan, Infectious diseases of refugees and immigrants: Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers, Infectious diseases of refugees and immigrants: Dengue fever, Infectious diseases of refugees and immigrants: Chagas’ disease, Infectious diseases of refugees and immigrants: Brucellosis, Culture and the end of life: East African cultures-Part I, Somali, Infectious diseases of refugees and immigrants: Ascaraisis, Infectious diseases of refugees and immigrants: Amebiasis, Infectious diseases of refugees and immigrants: Introduction, Culture and the end of life: Hispanic cultures (Mexican-Americans), Culture and the end of life: Cambodians and Laotians, Culture and the end of life: Introduction (to a series), Vietnamese health beliefs and practices related to the end of life, Metastatic spread and common symptoms: Pancreatic, prostate, stomach, and uterine cancers, Metastatic spread and common symptoms: Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, oral cavity, and ovarian cancers, Metastatic spread and common symptoms: Lung cancer, melanoma, and multiple myeloma, Metastatic spread and common symptoms: Renal cancer, leukemia, and hepatic cancer, Metastatic spread and common symptoms: Breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and esophageal cancer, Laotian health care beliefs and practices, Metastatic spread and common symptoms: Introduction, bladder cancer, and brain cancer, Palliative care for respiratory problems in terminal illness, Cancer detection activities coordinated by nursing students in community health, Managing chronic pain in patients with advanced disease and substance-related disorders, Islamic cultures: Health care beliefs and practices, Palliative care for patients with acquired immunodeficiency disorder, Spiritual care in terminal illness: Practical applications, Community health clinical experiences: The primary care setting, Teaching strategies for operationalizing nursing’s agenda for health care reform, Preparing for death: A Christian guide for individuals and families, Health services for refugees in countries of second asylum, Writing successful grant proposals for services to clients, Addressing the needs of underserved populations, Basic counseling skills: the refugee client. Cambodian refugee health care beliefs and practices, The dying process.

The mountains call

Peak Lake Basin in the northern Winds – high and wild

The Wind River Mountains! It’s that time of year again, poring over a topographic map of the northern Winds. Seeing the trail (Elkhart-Seneca-Indian Pass) going up up up through forests and across meadows and on the second day out of the forest into mostly open sub-alpine terrain (below photo, right) with lakes, glacier-scoured granite domes, groves of pine trees and on the third day, into the alpine (like in the above photo, left) where it’s all rock and tundra, ice and snow and water. Still going up and on the fourth day, if the weather is clear and my strength is good, leaving most gear behind and climbing Freemont Peak (13,745). The next day is off-trail over Indian Pass at ~12,000 feet and down Knife Point Glacier. I’ll set up a base camp for a few days and wander in the rock, ice, snow at the terminuses of this and other glaciers.

Then back over Indian Pass, down Indian Basin, past Island Lake back into the sub-alpine, where maybe I’ll sit for a day before walking out. The photo at right (below) is where I camped my second night in 2011 – I regretted not walking at least up to that little rise in the right center of the photo, maybe back there for a place to sit. I may spend one more night at the edge of one of the huge meadows they call “parks” up here, then out and it’s time for a cheeseburger and fries at the Wind River Brewery and a hot shower, sleep, and start home. Total 10-12 days on the trail, about 50 miles.

Sub-alpine area campsite along the Seneca Lake Trail

It’s unclear exactly when this will happen as the work on the hail damage at our house continues. It isn’t all that important when, except I need to be out of the mountains by mid to late September because of the snow.

House repairs drag on. Even though we seem to have a good guy in charge of the various subcontracting crews, it’s been stressful, but we’ve hung in there, mutually supportive. All this is against a background of how lucky we are (no tornado, no fire, no flood). Anyway, it’s far more pleasant studying the map, looking at photos, planning what I’ll eat, and so on.

I had to clear out the attic (with some help from Ron the construction superintendent) so all the insulation can be removed and new insulation put it. Leslie and I went through some Christmas decos and I ended up with more lights for the welcome lights on the arbor at the front sidewalk. I put them up today and this evening walked out to look at the lights and the fragrance of the four o’clocks was intense. Nice.

Campsite in southern Titcomb Basin

It looks like I’ll celebrate my 68th birthday somewhere high in the alpine. My 65thwas deep in the northern end of the incomparable Titcomb Basin “… a sight that will haunt you forevermore” (The World’s Great Adventure Treks) ”… dark and foreboding, almost like something out of the Lord of the Rings” (Dorf’s Winds, 2006). What a birthday that was, at the end of an epic journey! 

“The mountains call and I must go” (John Muir). 

Backpacking food

Keep it simple: freezer bag cooking, everything dehydrated, super cat stove…

Super cat stove and windscreen at left; meal at right

Freezer bag cooking means that you carry most dehydrated food in single portions, each one in a quart freezer-bag (regular baggies are too flimsy). It’s just a matter of boiling water, pouring it carefully into the bag, adding a little olive oil (from your little plastic bottle), and then putting the carefully sealed bag into a “cozy” (I use an insulated bag from a dollar store) for 5-10 minutes. It’s all pre-measured, there are no bowls or pans to clean, and it’s all very light. The freezer bag cooking site is at http://www.trailcooking.com/ and includes good info on dehydration. I use a Nesco 5-7 tray dehydrator (http://www.nesco.com/products/Dehydrators/). Dehydrating at home means overall better healthier food, and over time saves money.

The super cat stove is a cat food can with specific-size holes punched at measured intervals. Denatured alcohol from the hardware store is the fuel (I carry mine in two small Gator-Ade bottles). My windscreen is strips from a aluminum turkey pan from the dollar store. It takes about 30 ml alcohol to boil 2 cups of water. Instructions are at http://zenstoves.net/LowPressure.htm (have a look around Zen Stoves site – lots of good info). It is important to not use the super cat on top of duff or other flammable material, AND general burn bans apply to the super cat.

Breakfast staples include freeze-dried scrambled eggs (the only such pre-packaged trail food I carry) with pita bread and cheese. I put the eggs into freezer bags at home and divide 2 packages into 3 freezer bags (with some of my dehy jalapenos or salsa). I also carry oatmeal in freezer bags tarted up with milk, sugar, cinnamon, dried fruit, etc. Some days I just have an energy bar + hot chocolate. I’ve begun having some protein drink (see below) with breakfast. 

In the Wind Rivers – can you feel it. Stove with pan left front

Lunch and snacks are quick and include trail mix, energy bars, almonds, and half a Snickers candy bar. There are many excellent dried fruits and berries available in bulk at several stores, and these are good along the way, as is jerky.

Dinner includes (everything dehydrated) marinara with hamburger and angel hair pasta (all pasta is angel hair b/c easiest to dehydrate), chili with burger and pasta, mashed potatoes (Idahoan brand – so good!) with cheese, various dried sauces such as Alfredo and chipotle cream (when pre-measuring, add dry milk if milk needed) with pasta, tom kha with chicken (get soup mix + dry coconut milk and serve with instant rice or pasta) (dehy chicken [use canned to dehy] takes >10 minutes to rehy in a cozy). I bring cheese for half my dinners and have found that pepper jack lasts at least 2 weeks in the mountains. I add EV olive oil to almost everything for taste and >calories (carried in a small plastic bottle from REI). A wide variety of freeze-dried vegetables are now available in bulk from various stores – I don’t eat much of these as I like to take in lots of calories, protein, and carbs when backpacking.

Bread: I used to bring soft tortillas, but now I use bags of pita bread chips or something similar (such as flat bread) as they are lighter and more varied – I expel the air in the bag via a pin hole, bash them up some to make a smaller package, and put scotch tape over the pin hole. I also take smaller (not the smallest though) bags of Doritos, Fritos, etc. and treat them the same as the pita chips.

Pasta with onions, peppers, olives, chicken, etc. All dehydrated at home

Prepared trail meals: REI, Campmor, and retail stores sell prepared meals from brands like Backpacker’s Pantry, Mountain House, and Richmoor. Few people rave about these, though generally, they’re okay. Two-person meals are the best deal. It’s a good idea to re-package them in freezer bags to save space and decrease trash to carry out. An internet source (real people, in Austin) that gets good reviews is Packit Gourmet: http://www.packitgourmet.com/  Packit Gourmet has some good pointers on their website.

Protein drink: I use Walmart brand whey-based protein drink as part of my work-out regimen at home and have begun taking some, mixed with dry milk, when I’m backpacking. I mix up ~500ml (with cold lake/river water) every day, have a little with breakfast, and the rest mid to late morning. This seems very helpful to maintaining my strength and energy along the way.

Coffee: Starbucks instant coffee packets are the best, though there are now some pretty good packets from other makers. Hot chocolate is always good.

Other: A package of cooked bacon pieces goes well with several things. Spam comes in single-serve packs and ain’t bad (nor very good). Olives and similar foods can be well-rinsed and dehydrated, as can fresh basil, jalapenos, salsa, etc. I chew several sticks of Doublemint gum along the trail every day. Gum is essential in the desert. 

Sources of information:
Freezer Bag Cooking http://www.trailcooking.com/
And Google, of course.

Backpacking to take list

David at Big Bend

What I carry for ~10 days, plus food. Totals about 40 pounds. Obviously I’m thinking about the next trek.

Ice axe?

Clothing (Permethrin spray every year)
1 T shirt REI
1 Long Sleeve Shirt (Synthetic)
1 Thermal long underwear top and bottom
1 Cotton underwear
1 Trousers
1 Fleece
1 Shade hat 
1 Gloves (Wool/Synthetic)
1 Watch Cap (fleece or wool)
1 pair Socks (Wool/Synthetic)
1 Boots
1 pair gaiters
1 Rain Jacket & Pants
1 Down Jacket & stuff sack

Wind River Mountains: Titcomb Basin

Extra clothes (socks, underwear, lg underwear)

Crocs for camp and crossing rivers
Tent – stakes, poles
Tent footprint

Sleeping Bag
Sleeping Pad

Stove (cat food can – photo below)
Fuel Canisters x2 with 250 ml alcohol each
Heat tabs and can
Spoon (Lexan)
Foil Windscreen
Ziplock (x1 Gallon size for trash)
Bic lighter (mini)
Cooking tarp, stakes, rope
Bear vault
Rain cover
Pack Liner (Trash Bag)
CK at bottom Twins Glacier after a long glissade

Stuff sack for clothing

Stuff sack for food
Stuff sack for essentials
ID, Cash, Visa and Permit(s) holder
Ziplocks (x4 quart and x1 gallon)
Trekking poles
Fire – Bic & matches
Ice ax
Light (Headlamp, Photon)
Nylon Cord (50’)
Bear Canister
Duct Tape
DEET – 100%
Sun Screen
Sun Glasses
Notebook & pens
Camera with new batteries
Compass (adjustable declination)
Grand Canyon: 3/4 way down, storm coming


2L Reservoir (x1) – Platypus
1-2 1L Gatorade bottle (if desert)
1L Nalgene?
Water Purification (Katdyn pump, chemicals)
First Aid/meds
Rx meds
Cox-2s, ibu
ABX cream
TAC cream
Suture set
Hand Sanitizer – Repackaged
Paper towel 2/day
Toilet Paper, towelettes, Vaseline, hand sanitizer, trowel in Ziplock
Tooth Brush
Kitchen: seat, super cat stove, alcohol, cozy, etc. 

Tooth Paste

Wood mini-platform
Pillows, big and small
Sleeping bag
Foam pad
Light screen
Ice chest
Phone charger, phone
Change of clothes x 2
Hand Sanitizer
Little notebook, pens

Random thoughts

I’ve been cooking and food prepping up a storm getting meals together for David and Scott and their epic JMT trek coming up in a week or so. David and Scott were friends in high school and beyond; Scott was valedictorian and David salutatorian at their academically rigorous school in Dallas. It was their Colorado trek a few years ago that sparked me to return to backpacking. Now they’re both at Berkeley; David in law and Scott in one of the sciences. Photo: David at Love Field. You could say he’s “saddled up.”
Basically I’m preparing/dehydrating food for 2 people for 3 weeks in the wilderness. Pretty amazing thing to pull all this together (it’s 120 meals), and made more interesting by one of them being a vegetarian. The menu includes spaghetti, chili with beans, mashed potatoes with rosemary and cheese, corn chowder with black beans, alfredo pasta, choices of hamburger gravel, chicken, ham, tofu, TVP, etc. – oatmeal for breakfast – all freezer bag cooking for the hikers. I’ve made brilliant energy bars, some with pecans, raisins, and chocolate chips and some with walnuts, apples and chocolate chips.

It’s a lot of work and even more fun.

Great father’s day and DK birthday – he was born on father’s day. One of the things David wrote to me was, “In the past year, I’ve really enjoyed camping with you, as well as watching you camp and helping each other get better at it. For some, it might be a chance to recapture lost time between a father and a son, but I feel we have lost no time. Every moment of my life, I have known that you were there for me no matter what, and I am so proud to call you, ‘Dad.’”

This from someone backstage at a Grateful Dead concert, “I nod and Jerry smiles. He’s playing (Morning Dew) with his back to the audience, tears streaming down his face, the music playing the band, and the music recording itself. Ecstasy on every level.”
There was a discussion today about why we (people) suffer and there were reasons given – making mistakes, discipline from God, opportunity to learn, and so on – everything but randomness. I understand that people have a desire for understanding and meaning, but I don’t buy it. Random stuff happens and if God is really in control, well, we have a big problem, manifested by Hitler, Ted Bundy, Pol Pot, random rapists, evil-doers and child abusers, etc. ad (gag) infinitum – not to mention cancer, depression, starvation – I could go on but I won’t. I know, people come up with explanations for all the evil and suffering and the ideas that God is in charge and there’s some kind of reason and lesson to be learned. The explanations all have one common characteristic – convoluted thinking to support the ideas. As far as I can see there’s no hand on the tiller and it seems to be random, governed by karma and (here’s the miracle) subject to grace and redemption.
Bryce talked today about backpacking with his two sons in the Great Smokey Mountains for 4 or 5 days this father’s day. Much of the time they were in the trees, but finally broke out and could see the mountains rippling out in the distance blue and grey and all and wreathed with smoke … a beautiful vision (the trip and what they saw with their eyes).
Revelation 20:12-13. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. That seems to me to say works are of some importance to those who are concerned about judgment. I mean, fine, if you want to bet your life on faith, fine, no problemo. But please, no self-satisfied little smiles at the futility of works.

Letter to montyman

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your kind and good humored letter – pretty much your theme, I reckon. Good to hear you’re well and marching ever forward. The new camera sounds good, but I have to caution you that your photos are much less the product of your camera than of your mind, so we’re all expecting greater resolution of the same old great things. Photo: Chris, home on leave from the Corps; David, home from Houston; Lauren, here for a great weekend.

Yes, time moves on – usually a good thing.

At the moment I’m kind of between the past and future (but not really in the present, if that makes sense). I have most definitely left my job teaching, but am working two part days/week at la clinica. That’s going very well and is far less stressful than having students at the clinic – I’m just seeing patients and nothing else – enjoying working with Pat, Socorro, and others. I’m going to Bible study every Wednesday and staying the full hour now that I don’t have to race to the clinic to get there before the students. Hanging out at home a lot, reading, hardly ever writing.

A big part of what I’m doing though, is getting ready for the coming months. David is home now, between his job in Houston and moving to Berkeley in early August. In the meantime, he is leaving next week for Cali, to hike the John Muir Trail with his high school (and since) friend Scott. They’ll be on the trail for about 17 days (220 miles) through the Sierras – high up, alpine. When he’s through with that epic trek, he’ll go back to Berkeley for a few days, then fly to Denver where he and I will meet.

In the meantime, I’ll be here for awhile, doing what I’ve been doing, then in early July, driving to Colorado for a few days of car camping (camping at places you can drive to, maybe walking in a mile or two), then solo hiking – mostly to acclimate myself to the altitude – and then meeting David. Our plans are to spend about 10 days in the Wind Rivers, high and wild and then drive back to Dallas. We’ll spend a week or two here and David will fly to Berkeley and I’ll head back to the mountains for about a month – until the snow starts. My mate Jeff will join me part of that time and part of the time I think I’ll be alone, a good thing.

I got a dehydrator and am drying everything in sight (Leslie would say, madly drying everything …). At the moment a huge batch of chili, yesterday hamburger “gravel” to add to spaghetti, etc., and also some fajita jerky. This evening I’ll bake some energy bars: oats, honey, wheat germ, walnuts, cranberries, protein powder. They won’t be dehydrated of course. Actually, I just put the bars in the oven – Oh Yeah! Photo: Buddy, the innocent dog.

The situation in Burma is basically stagnant, with few relief workers let in and of those, many not allowed to leave Rangoon. Cops everywhere. What a tragedy. Anyway, my name is out there at a number of organizations to go when things open up, but I’m not sure they will.

Leslie and I are headed to Asia in early 2009, God willing. She asked the other night what I think of when I think of going to Asia and it’s the strangest thing – I’m longing for Hong Kong, of all places. I’ve always liked it there, but it seems like I would be thinking more of other places. As it turns out, HK is mostly what Leslie thinks of, too. I’m so happy and looking forward to traveling with her – what a great traveler Leslie is. I have this great photo I took in 2007 of Leslie on the stairs at the Chungking Mansions. It’s blurry, but who cares – how many 60+ year old anglo women have ever been on those notorious stairs?

So those are the plans as they stand now. I believe it was Jerry Garcia who said, “A plan is just something to deviate from.”

Warmest Regards, Charles

Backpacking in the Bandelier Wilderness

We were on the road again about 4:30am Monday, headed west through Fort Worth, then northwest through Wichita Falls and Amarillo; west to Tucumcari (still not much there except some low rent motels, but nicer than before); northwest into wide open New Mexico through Las Vegas with the snow-topped Sangre de Cristo Mountains off into the distance; into Santa Fe (a Wild Oats/Whole Foods right on the highway for a nice place to stop for whatever) and then north and west to Bandelier. Along the way along old Route 66, along the train tracks headed out west we saw wild turkeys, camels, pronghorn antelope, hawks …

Keep on rollin’
Just a mile to go,
Keep on rollin’, my old buddy,
You’re movin’ much too slow

Leavin’ Texas
Fourth day of July
Sun so hot, clouds so low
The eagles filled the sky.

Catch the Detroit Lightning
Out of Santa Fe
The Great Northern out of Cheyenne
From sea to shining sea

Jeff said that going to a rest home is probably about like being in prison or the Marine Corps. There’ll be people and things you don’t like, but you just gotta learn to deal with it because nobody’s getting out until they do their time – which in a rest home is usually 3-6 years before they carry you out the back.

Got into Bandelier around 5pm and went first to the ranger station to work out our route, then to Juniper Campground (drive-in campsites) where we set up our tent and grilled sausages for dinner (with salad from Wild Oats, bread from home, water). We pitched the tent without a fly, so it was a cool, open night. Up at 7am, had cereal with milk from the ice chest, broke camp fast, and drove to the ranger station to leave the car and hit the trail up Frijoles Canyon. Photo: Cliff dwellings

The first mile or so of the trail was paved – and took us to the Anasazi Indian (ancestors of the Pueblo Indians) cliff dwellings along and in the cliffs on the northeast side of the canyon. We spent an hour or so in the caves, structures, and ruins there and then on up the shady trail through Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine alongside and back and forth across the mountain stream running cold and clear through the canyon. The canyon walls were 200-300 feet high, with the NE side having vertical to overhanging rock and most of the SW side steep rocky scrub, though there were places with walls on both sides, and sometimes within a 100 feet of one another. There were ferns (some maidenhair), horsetails, violets, columbines, lady’s slippers, what looked like strawberries in first bloom, and other wet woodland plants all along the trail. There was one place where a spring flowed across the trail and into the stream and there was a clump of iris in full bloom in the mud beside the trail. Photo: Jeff on the trail

The walk was only slightly uphill, but we were tired and glad to get to a good campsite around 2pm in “Zone F” on the NE side of the stream (there were many good sites on the SW side of the stream) (6-7 miles). I guess we were feeling the effects of age and the 7000 foot altitude. We pitched the tent on the thick carpet of pine needles among tall Ponderosa pines at the base of the cliff. We fixed the main meal of the day by around 3pm – freezer bag homemade dehydrated chili, cheese, crackers, and water. We used a cat food can stove and denatured alcohol to cook and it worked just fine. Jeff took a nap in the tent and I walked up to the bottom of the cliff amongst the rocks and found a shady spot where I wrote for awhile, then dozed. I went back down to the campsite and we talked for awhile, had an energy bar for a snack and turned in as soon as it was dark. Photo: Stream

In the morning we had FB oatmeal with apples and pecans, and coffee. We talked about the route and decided to take an easier loop than originally planned – the new route was shorter and had less up/downhill. This decision lightened my mind quite a bit. We continued up the canyon and at the Upper Crossing headed up the Mesa del Rito. It was a good hump up switchbacks to the top of the mesa. We walked about a mile back to the SE above the canyon and stopped around 2pm (~4 miles). There were junipers and then Ponderosa pines and we found a great campsite slightly below the top of the mesa. The site was among huge Ponderosas, completely level and soft with pine needles. We pitched the tent without the fly and fixed the main meal – FB mashed potatoes, Spam, rosemary, butter, cheese, and bread. We’ve had several single serving packets of Spam around since the last trip to Asia. On the packets is written, “Just rip and tear your way to crazy tasty town”. Okey dokey. Photo: Cougar scat

Jeff took a nap and I walked to the edge of the mesa to write. I watched a hawk ride the wind high above the canyon and then the wind got bigger and bigger and the hawk was gone and I dozed, leaning against a Ponderosa with the wind blowing over me. We hung out by the tent, talking and then to sleep as soon as the sun went down.

Around midnight I awoke with rain on my face. We got the fly on in less than a minute (fortunately we’d already set rocks ready to anchor the fly). We slept well with the rain pattering on the roof of our tent like a little cave. Thanks to the decision to shorten the route, we had no need to get up at any particular time. The rain let up around 9am and we fixed FB oatmeal with dried mango and pecans, and coffee. Moments before we finished it began raining again and we laid up in the tent for another hour or so. Photo: Campsite on Mesa del Rito

As soon as the rain slacked off, we broke camp and headed down the trail at a Captain Kappleman pace (he was the C Company Commander and always set a fierce pace). It rained some, hailed (little pellets) some, and there was a little thunder – the reason for the fast pace. We were glad to get well off the mesa. By then were so close to the ranger station we decided to not pitch (a wet) camp and walked on out down the side of the canyon (where we realized how extensive the ruins are as we walked above them on the opposite side of the canyon) and back to the car (~5 miles).

It was a good trip, easy hiking, not as harsh a desert environment as Big Bend. While we were in the wilderness area we saw eight other people. We saw summer tanagers, robin red breasts (with brighter colors and sharper markings than what we usually see in Dallas), several different hawks, flickers, canyon wrens, wily old crows, vultures, and many others. We saw mule deer, squirrels, lizards, one snake, and clear blue skies, clouds, rain, hail, and rare beauty. Photo: CK cooking, 1st afternoon on the trail. Stove is inside the foil windscreen on the right.

Some lessons learned: New pack from REI and trekking poles good. Homemade dehydrated food much better (and cheaper) than bought. 5-7 miles in about 5 hours is about right for Jeff and me.

More photos are on WorldisRound

Big Bend, 3/2008

Random thoughts:
– Desert backpacking demands clear communications about water. My mate Jeff said (with 1st hand experience), “Everything is a problem in the jungle.” Same in the desert.
– Take chewing gum next time.
– Dried mango from Central Market is really good in oatmeal with dry milk, sugar, and pecans.
– How about them Mexicans, coming across the desert with poor or no trails, tennis shoes, girlfriend, child! Amazing. David said, How about them Jews in the wilderness! Ranchers out here in the desert! How about them Cowboys! Lot of tough people.
– If you’re urinating more than once/12 hours, you’re drinking too much water. Just kidding.

– We went 3 days, 7-8 miles a day. I need to rest on the 4th day. I’m getting stronger, but have a ways to go. On this route, it’s important to start out early on the first day.
– I can’t wait to hike in places with water. Wash, carry 1-2 liters, have all I want.
– When you’re going to be driving a long way, before you leave, eat a jalapeño with your fingers and don’t wash your hands after you eat. When you get sleepy, just stick a finger in your eye. Just the idea of it kept me awake quite awhile on the way back. Photo: 1st campsite with late afternoon sun bright on the mountains and evening shadows falling over the campsite

This trip to Big Bend started in Houston where I’d gone for a two day primary care conference. I had lunch with David and his mentor, Judy. Thanks Judy! After a harrowing drive through dark hour/rush hour/driving rain in Houston traffic had dinner with David and his friend (and cellist), Lauren at a North Indian restaurant near the Rice campus. Very nice evening, crowned by not getting lost on the way back to the LaQuinta way out somewhere in north Houston. I was the only person there with a button-down collar shirt on and not driving a truck and not smoking. Friday I stayed at the conference as long as I could stand, then headed to David’s around 4pm. Photo: David & Lauren rehearsing

Lauren came over to practice a Beethoven viola/cello duet they’re working on. “But we did it like together and it was awesome” and so here I am in magicland listening to David and Lauren work their way through the duet. Young, serious musicians.
Let’s do it again.” “OK, again.”
Can you do it on the g string so you don’t have to shift so much?” “No.”
Was I slow?” “Yeah.”
Not bad.”

We left Houston a little later than planned, I under-estimated the driving time (with a little help from google), and I couldn’t stay awake driving late into the night so had to stop three times for fitful naps. Getting closer to the park we saw many jackrabbits and cotton tails beside the road and then saw two javelinas (“the only wild, native, piglike animal found in the United States”).

After getting a wilderness permit at the Basin, filling our water bottles, stashing some water at the Homer Wilson Ranch, and losing the map, we finally got on the trail around 10. Weather was beautiful, cool, sunny and the hike up to the pinnacles was stout. When we got to Boot Canyon, a ranger-type guy said (kind of smirkishly) that there was no water, but we looked a little further downstream and found a nice semi-stagnant pool. We missed the turn-off to Juniper Canyon, but doubled back a little way and started back up (panting) and then down down down until we came to what I guess was on old campsite 6-7 miles from the Basin and coming out of the mountains. Got the tent up and dinner fixed just as dusk fell. Had Italian pasta (Pasta Roni brand + a little added olive oil) with a packet of teriyaki tuna for dinner (good) and were in our bags by 7:15, which was just fine because we’d each had about an hour of sleep in the past 36 hours and had a good day’s hike at the end of the 36 hours. David said he thought my stamina was “pretty impressive” – which made me feel very good. Photo: Classic Big Bend – from our 1st campsite. From here we go down and into the desert in the center of the photo.

We both got up to pee at the same time and realized then we were camped in a kind of cirque with the mountains dark masses on three sides and the horizon and sky meeting black in Mexico on the 4th side and the stars like desert stars so many more than one sees in other places and the milky way really milky – part of the reward for hiking into the desert.

Got up 12 hours after lying down for the deepest imaginable sleep. Ahhh – not too sore or stiff, but LOL not not sore, either. Oatmeal with dried cranberries, dried mangoes, pecans, dry milk, and sugar for breakfast (of champions). Coffee me, tea David. Photo: DK In the tent

Broke camp and started off with more downhill to the floor of the desert, then a long level stretch and somewhere along the way David said something about warm Gatorade in the car and that’s when we realized there had been a serious miscommunication because I thought he had those two quarts of Gatorade in his pack. Instead of 8.5 liters, we had 6.5 liters between us. We started rationing what we had and the hiking got harder and we began to get thirsty and a little dehydrated – 20 seconds after drinking and swishing our mouths would be bone dry. We were down to 0.4 liter when we finally got to Fresno Creek, a small rivulet of okay water. Happy us! Drank the rest of our water and filled our bottles and platypus, straining the water through a t-shirt. After treating with iodine and neutralizer it was still cloudy. Oh well, at this point, no doubt about it, particles or iodine taste or cloudy no problem for me.

That 2nd night by Fresno Creek we spread a ground cover out and lay there a long time watching the stars come out. It seems like you’d blink or look off at one part of the sky and when your eyes opened or you looked back there would be more stars. I slept outside and David in the tent. I didn’t sleep as log-like as I did the first night, but every time I opened my eyes there was the sky, black and sparkling and not a sound. The last time I saw the sky like this was when we were climbing in Arches and Fisher Towers so long ago – good to be back! Photo: DK at Fresno Creek
Another great oatmeal breakfast and refilled our water and saddled up and hit that dusty trail again. There was a huge difference traveling with 6.5 liters of water vs. less than 2 cups. Oh, and it’s not as if we were in any great danger.

We drank extravagantly along the trail through the beautiful (in a desert sort of way) desert wilderness. I realized that we had seen one flower the entire time. We would see or hear a bird from time to time and I saw one of those lizards that runs on its hind legs – fast. Up and down, up and down, then a stretch along a dry, gravely creek and then more hills and behind the hills mighty ramparts like (as David said) castles. The trail is well-cairned and there’s only trail and as someone said, If you get off the trail you’ll know it soon enough because it’s all thorns.

Somewhere along the way we topped a hill and rested looking in front of us across the desert and behind us into a bowl in the sere hills rolling down to the place where we’d been. The desert stretches beyond where we can see and the thing is, I don’t know if you can drive to see something like this because what you see isn’t just that thing – there’s also the seer and the relationship to what’s seen and there’s no free rides to this.

As we, or maybe I should say, as I tired, David said, “Just over this hill is a river. With meadows. Green grass. And bunnies. Puppybunnies.” (Family term) Up and down, now traversing the hills and finally we saw a few people up on a ridge to our left (west), but didn’t attach significance to them. Then David said, “There’s a house ahead.” And I realized the people were probably at the overlook over the Homer Wilson ranch and when I saw the house, thought it was that ranch – then below the ridge we saw the bear box with our water in it. That felt good! Photo: Lingam near Fresno Creek

It was about 5 miles from there into the mountains and 3pm on day three we decided to walk up to the highway and hitchhike back to the Basin. The day short of water took it out of at least me, and I was not disappointed to skip the last leg. I’m stronger than I was Thanksgiving, but still have a way to go. Thanks to David for accommodating my slower pace. At least I don’t complain (if you don’t count moaning and groaning, puffing and panting, and so on).

We were hitching and a man stopped who only had room for one person and no packs. So I rode with him back to the Basin. He’s a retired school teacher from Long Island and a long-time outdoorsman. Since retiring he’s spent most of his time on the road in a pickup with a topper or scuba diving. I don’t have in mind as much time on the road nor am I interested in scuba diving, but there were plenty of similarities between us. We had a good time talking. I did feel some sadness thinking about being away from Leslie for a month or so while I hike in the Winds and Glacier. And I’m months from doing it. But in my mind, I am committed, and looking forward to answering the call … as John Muir put it:

The mountains call
and I must go.”

The man took me right to our car – Thanks! I drove back and picked David up and we drove on out. As we pulled out of the Border Patrol checkpoint 40 or 50 miles up the road a javelina dashed out of the scrub, whirled around in the dirt beside the road and then shot across the road looking like a small, weird, narrow, hairy VW with little legs going as fast as they could. A “pig-like” creature. Driving through the scrub desert I thought about the hard lives that people out here lead and the people who’ve tried to tell their stories, Larry McMurtry, Robert Earl Keen, Willie Nelson, Pat Green …
When the sun hits it right on its way down, it was the prettiest thing in our little town.
Every hour I’d sneak a glance over at the plastic frame and cracked glass that holds the picture of Ruby’s two sad daughters.
Last mill closed when I was nine and Daddy left and Momma cried again, I spent my nights cleaning Ruby’s floors,
Just another café on a wind swept highway the farmers bitched, we’re no good at football anymore.

In this land that knows no laughter in this land that holds no water,
We were all in love with Ruby’s two sad daughters.

One went way out west, one went way wrong,
one left at seventeen and the other couldn’t wait that long.
Neither went anywhere with me, not to the games or the Dairy Queen.
Both split with the first boy who lied sweet and looked vaguely mean.

In this land that knows no laughter in this land that hold no water,
We were all in love with Ruby’s two sad daughters.

Why so pretty and forlorn, why so permanently blue
I guess ours wasn’t much of a kingdom to rule.

Now when the sun hits it right on its way down, it’s still the prettiest thing in our little town.
Every hour I sneak a glance over at the plastic frame and I fix the glass that holds the picture of Ruby’s two sad daughters.

Why did hope leave town with Ruby’s two sad daughters?

On the road again, stopping (where else) at the Dairy Queen in Ozona where a surly Hispanic kid lounged in a booth, eating french fries and sneaking kisses with the girl who had the headset on taking drive-through orders walking out pretending to do something for a customer and then stealing her moments in the booth. Across the desert with it’s big sky and big rigs lit up like houses at Christmas running smooth into the night, into the plains and into San Antonio. Hit fog, heavy at times between San Antonio and Houston. On the outskirts of Houston, getting really tired, there was a beautiful choral Easter mass on the radio, but we could have used something a little more lively … when the mass was over, the radio announcer said, “Next, a lute concerto by …” and we just cracked up and put on a country station. Got in about 3am. Showered – ahhh. I slept on the floor, we had breakfast tacos in the morning and I was on the road back to Leslie around 9am.

Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros singing Ruby’s Two Sad Daughters
I’ll post this trip report later at my backpacking page. New links: