Showing posts with label riverFlow. Show all posts
Showing posts with label riverFlow. Show all posts

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Authenticity Surrounded by Taos Tourism

If you want to lose confidence in your own judgement, just try visiting the famous plaza in Taos, NM. First you will have to fight traffic and struggle for a place to park. Then you will walk around, visit a shop or two, and put up with aggressive store workers and high prices.

Then a seditious thought lays hold of you: that there is nothing "famous" about the place. A visit to the downtown area in any small city in Mexico (or any place with a Mediterranean culture) is more interesting, chaotic, free, colorful, and authentic than Taos, NM.

But if that's true, what are all the tourists doing here? There are a hundred of them for every one of you. Are you going to claim that you are so much smarter or have such superior taste to the hundred?

Perhaps one reason that some of the suckers are there is that the previous president abused the Antiquities Act to declare a gigantic area nearby a national monument. The Antiquities Act is not should not be a way for a presidential signature to bypass Congress's responsibility in declaring a national park. But mass-tourists from the big city don't care about legal fine points like that. You have to crawl into their heads to see this.  I thought I did a pretty good job of that in my favorite post in all these years of blogging, on a tab at the top of the screen, entitled "Shopping at the Nature Mall."

But it is too easy to walk around Taos and feel superior to dumbshit tourists from the big city. It is also too easy to feel discouraged. Instead, let's see if we can find something authentic near all this phoniness. I was lucky...

Considering how much traveling and camping I have done, it is strange that I have drunk water from nature only once. I was camped at nearly 9000 feet at Cuba, NM. A little spring was gushing water. I asked somebody in a nearby campground, and learned that it was safe.

What a shame! What could be more important and more real than water, especially in the Southwest. While camped in the Rio Grande gorge close to Taos, my dog and I went on a mountain bike ride along a dirt road. We saw a surprising sign about, "Caution, Water Hauling Trucks." Then we came upon a pickup truck with a giant water tank being filled from a hose coming from a spring.

Just think of this experience from a qualitative point of view, rather than the usual touristic one. Yes the gorge cut into the lava is impressive. 

But the scenery isn't world-class, as it is at Moab or in the San Juan mountains. I'm afraid the tourists are going to find a certain devaluing in the spectacular-ness of the scenery as presidents declare places to be national park wannabees. That is, they are running out of truly spectacular scenery.

But, thinking about that fellow filling his tank with spring water, it makes you think of this solid-looking volcanic lava differently. Maybe it is filled with cracks, and is rather permeable. I have seen ponderosa pines sink roots through the cracks of lava that come right to the surface along the Mogollon Rim in Arizona.

It was gratifying to see some bighorn sheep.

This is only the second time I have seen a large number of them, so it should have been special. Oddly though, it was disappointing. Perhaps that is because I held my dog back, now that this is a national monument. That took all the drama out of it. It makes the sheep seem too placid and cyootsie-wootsie. Wildlife doesn't seem authentic unless it functions as prey or predator.

Outside of an over-regulated tourist trap, we have had more authentic experiences:

Wow, this guy thinks he's fast. But watch this, Pops!

Hot dang, this is fun, this 'being in harmony with nature' stuff.

 Isn't real nature supposed to be 'red in tooth and claw'?

Alexander the Great would have been pleased with the phalanx formed by these Bighorns in fending off the 'big bad wolf,' aka, Coffee Girl.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Evanescence of a Trail

It was hard to believe this forest road: it was an official road on the official map. But why weren't there any tire ruts in it? The grass and other vegetation had filled the road space in. But there was a noticeable road space: flat and smooth. 

Where were all the rocks? Credit the geology for that. 

It was strange to think that I had all this to myself, while just a few miles away in Abiquiu, the tourists were burning up in the heat to see the standard things. Perhaps a place like Coyote NM lacks the cachet they are looking for.

The topography was perfect for mountain biking, albeit backwards. When you camp at 9200 feet, you will usually have to start a ride going downhill -- not what is desirable. But in a heat wave, what else can you do? So smooth was this "road." It felt funny to have the grass tickling my bare leg.

I really hoped this road didn't crap off on me, because it would be a long push/walk back up the hill. It is the buggy season, June, if you think that the southwest ever gets buggy. But it is also the season for big yellow-and-black swallowtail (?) butterflies.

We came upon two herds of youngish elk cows. I thought elks were supposed to "bugle." Their sound was more indignant and higher-pitched. Can ungulates ululate?

Surely I wasn't still on an official road! And then, just like that, we popped out onto a main through-road. Now at least, I knew where I was. I felt relief for a couple minutes, but then felt that evil urge to try something that wasn't so straightforward, such as an unmarked dirt road that appeared to climb back to the high elevation of my campsite.

And then this new road started crapping off, as we climbed out of the ponderosa pines and into the hideously thick spruce and fir. It was a "sinking" feeling as I ascended. But then that perfect moment came, as it has, so often: the exquisite feeling of knowing that you are almost lost; of looking for signs of a continuing road, but feeling that these signs are only imaginary. The real world has left you.

For the benefit of new readers, there is a quote I like to whip out here, from "Five Stages of Greek Religion," by the classicist, Gilbert Murray.

The Uncharted surrounds us on every side and we must needs have some some relation towards it...

As far as knowledge and conscious reason will go, we should follow resolutely their austere guidance. When they cease, as cease they must, we must use as best we can those fainter powers of apprehension and surmise and sensitiveness by which, after all, most high truth has been reached as well as most high art and poetry; careful always really to seek for truth and not for our own emotional satisfaction, careful not to neglect the real needs of men and women through basing our life on dreams; and remembering above all else to walk gently in a world where the lights are dim and the very stars wander.

There is no better physical representation of these thoughts of Murray's than getting lost in a thick forest, on a waning trail.

I had to surrender and backtrack, and then take the straightforward road, up, up...

I had brought plenty of water, and my dog was doing her duty of sipping some. You can only get so hot when riding between 8000 and 9000 feet, in the morning, and mostly in the shade. But I thought of the heat wave that was baking the entire Southwest, and the news stories about hikers croaking in Arizona. 

Then we encountered what I have never encountered before:

If only I had been a newbie and gotten desperately thirsty before seeing this. Still, my dog, Coffee Girl, honored the occasion by wading into the water -- something she seldom does -- and having a good long drink.

It reminded me that soon I'll cross over into Colorado, with its over-rated mountains, traffic, and tourists. But every year it is worth it, just to experience the miracle of running water.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Running water, in New Mexico? It just goes to show you that anything in this old world is possible. But it was worrisome: there was too much force to it. Should I or shouldn't I?

The slippery slope of a stream crossing. The photograph does not show the small waterfall downstream, to the right. It would have destroyed the van.

It certainly helps not to be a young buckaroo anymore. What did I need to prove? Besides, a driver has no experience with moving water. And experience could be expensive.

So I didn't even try it. The deciding factor was imagining the locals talking about some dang city-slicker who was stupid enough to be swept down the river.

Would my mountain bike do better than the van? It would be interesting to probe the risk/reward situation with stream crossings. It is too bad there isn't a rational and non-catastrophic way to get good at stream crossings. 

I started this post as a short anecdote of a fun experience. But now it occurs to me that a stream crossing is a marvelous metaphor for many situations in life in which risk is difficult to manage: investments, legal problems, physical accidents of different kinds, addictions including drugs, and the ultimate risk of marriage.

While reading "A World Undone" by G.J. Meyer, I ran into a ghastly example of situations that make risk hard to manage. During the tense negotiations in the summer of 1914, just before the Great War started, Germany and Russia almost had a compromise worked out. 

If Russia only had a partial mobilization, Germany would also hold back. In turn, the Austrians would agree to only punish the capital of Serbia, not the entire country. But the Russian generals told the Tsar that partial mobilization was impossible -- that it would throw their army into total confusion. In other words, 'partial' meant 'zero'. So the Russians opted for total mobilization. Germany responded with total mobilization. The result was the destruction of half of the twentieth century.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Spirit-Soul of a Human Family

The woman in the RV park was swinging her arms as she walked. You can't get much of a walk in an RV park, so I considered telling her about Farmington's (NM) nice linear city park, along the Animas River. That would certainly make for a longer and more interesting walk for her.

But I kept my mouth shut. I might like recreational trails in a city -- in fact, they are my favorite thing -- but most RVers are out to "consume" the standard, bar-coded brand names of the tourism industry. In this area, Indian ruins are the main brand names, which is surprising considering how visually unexciting most old pueblo ruins are. It seems advantageous to simply read about them, for free, on the internet.

My dog and I went off to do our usual thing of walking along the Animas River. On the way back, we ran into two interesting families. The first was a goose family. They paddled along on the other side of the river, which tortures my dog, Coffee Girl, who is no fan of water.

The second family was of the homo sapiens species. But they were unusual specimens: lively and unfearful. It is so nice to have a dog who loves children! She would sprint up to them,  push her tush into the ground, smile, and wag her tail. The parents seemed to enjoy these performances as much as the kids.

One of the girls was small enough to be in a stroller. When my dog sprinted toward her, I tensed up, expecting the little girl to start crying and the parents to give me a dirty look. But instead, the little girl happily submitted to a face wash from my dog, as the mother looked on, approvingly!

Meanwhile the little boy took a flop into the Animas River. He looked like such a happy little animal, just lying there, wallowing and frolicking, despite the coldness of the water. Again, lively and fearless.

If you use a recreational trail in a city, you might have interesting experiences with fellow trail users. Most encounters are pretty routine, and most greetings -- if there are any -- are pretty perfunctory. But the encounter with this family was my all-time favorite. Why shouldn't my favorite wildlife encounter be with homo sapiens? 

I am unmoved and uninspired by the bogus spirituality of the Native Americans, as romanticized by modern PC city-slickers and New Age faddists. Let others have a "spiritual" experience at one of the tourist traps run by the park service, if it works for them. This family was my version of a "spiritual" experience. How fitting that this happened along a river that means 'spirit' or 'soul' in Spanish.

I had no idea it was so easy and fun to build screens, using the kits from the home building centers. I love solar screens. Perhaps I should turn the whole back end of the trailer (at the ramp) to solar screens!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Appreciating Vastness

While mountain biking the other day we saw something strange ahead of us, as we headed downhill to the main dry wash -- the same one where I witnessed my first "flash flood," a couple posts ago.

And once again I was fluttering my eyelashes at the abrupt onset of a small "slot canyon" in plain ol' dirt. In the past I've tried to explain this fascination on the grounds (ahem) of it being easier to make a big impact on a human observer when processes take place on a human scale, regarding years and size. In contrast, the working out of geology and topography over millions of years can leave the human observer indifferent and unimpressed. In a sense, we need to anthropomorphize geology and physical geography in order to make them interesting.

Then I crawled down into the "slot canyon," and photographed the vertical walls.

It was easy to imagine this two-foot-high slot as being more dramatic than all the famous photo icons in the Moab area; these latter are universally praised as being 'breathtakingly beautiful', when in fact, they are merely freakishly large. And red, but so what?

I was delighted to find my own gem -- one that was not known to mass tourists; and if you showed it to them, they would not appreciate it. If you really backed the mass-tourist into a corner, and asked him if real beauty is perceived by the eyeballs or by the imagination, he would grudgingly admit that it was the imagination that really mattered. And then he would squirm away and pursue activities, choose destinations, and spend his hard earned money in a way that completely contradicts what he just admitted! I leave the explanation as an exercise to the reader.

Soon we were down into the dry wash where I had had my mighty adventure with the Alluvial Entity. Today the dry wash was dry and boring. How could it be the same place of a few days ago?
Some sick fascination pulled me into the dry wash. I started pushing the mountain bike "upstream," from whence the Alluvial Entity had come. Not only was it unride-able, but it was tedious and obnoxious just to push the bike through all that loose sand. But push I did, for about an hour. It was worth every miserable second of it. But first I must digress for a couple paragraphs before finally explaining what was so great about this miserable walk through the loose sand.
Once upon a time I was an aspiring sea kayaker. I signed up for a guided tour in Lac Superieur, offered by a Canadian sea kayaker. I imagined it as a chance to get in touch with my Viking roots, by raiding towns along the shoreline, burning monasteries, and then ravishing and carrying off the beautiful maidens of those villages. It was also supposed to be a small group expedition. But the business was just getting started, and I was the only customer. Rather than cancel the voyage, we decided to make the best of it.

The worst of it was that damn little dog the Canadian guide brought along. She hated me, and we all had to sleep in the same tent! At that point in my life I disliked dogs in general.

Still, it was a good time, sleeping on the sand-less cobble beaches, finding a surprisingly warm bay to take a bath in, eating the good food made by the guide, and sinking into the trough of head-high waves, where nothing could be seen around you, but water.

At one point the guide and I looked out onto Lac Superieur. He gave a little speech about the vastness of it all. I could tell he wanted me to appreciate it, as he did. But I couldn't, despite the uniqueness of North America's Inland Seas, and despite the 1000 foot depth of the lake. But I wanted to appreciate it. The memory of that failure has stayed with me for over twenty years, now.
Now we can return to the present: walking in that disgustingly loose sand. Why was I doing this?  Although I had seen the flash flood where the sandy creek bed was only 20-30 feet wide, most of it was wide enough for a four lane highway. 
The exasperation just kept getting worse. Finally I had to imagine knocking over a common bucket of water onto the dry sand. How big a puddle would it make? (Three feet, maybe.) How many seconds would it take for the water to sink in? (Ten seconds, tops.) How many times would it sink in before water ran off, on the top?

Now imagine how many buckets it would take to produce that 2-3 inch deep "wall" of water that had come at me? A person can look at an ocean, and feel nothing! And then that same person can look at a puny little flood and experience the exasperation of loose sand for an hour, and then, finally, it all sinks in.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Granite River Runs Through It

The Little Poodle and I "paddled" upstream -- on the mountain bike -- along the popular Arkansas River, near "Byoona" Vista, CO. We saw one river rafting company after another. As luck would have it, we made it in time for their mass 'descension' of the Arkansas River. (If balloonists at the Albuquerque festival can have a mass ascension, then rafters in Colorado can have a mass descension.)

It seemed like a documentary about the D-Day invasion of World War II. Actually it all happened quickly and smoothly.

It has always been a poignant experience to watch people enjoying any water sport. I tried to connect with the water over the years, and nothing really worked. So I surrendered to my fate as a land mammal.

The little poodle, not being a Labrador retriever, feels the same way. So we turned away from the river and biked into an area dominated by foothills of spheroidally-weathered granite. The road was actually just a dry wash of decomposed granite: small, clean, bright, and loose. It is tiring to bike uphill through loose gravel. A rocky path is actually easier. But the surrounding scenery made it worthwhile.

We plodded onward, uphill -- or rather, upstream--and into the hot morning sun. Along one section there was a rivulet of clean water that the parched poodle desperately wanted a drink from. He needed some help because the rivulet was only a half inch deep. 

So I scooped the loose granitic gravel into a hole, making it easier for him to drink. It was strange how scooping into the decomposed granite didn't muddy up the water. Here I was, surrounded by the Collegiate peaks (all Fourteeners) and the marvelous Arkansas River. But the mere sight of such things had little effect on me.

It was only when I scooped out a drinking hole for my little poodle, and felt the desperate lapping of his little tongue against the palm of my hand, that I was strongly affected by what was around me. I guess William Blake really was right. ("To hold infinity in the palm of your hand...")

I pushed the bike uphill for a long way, knowing that when we turned around, it might be easy to bike down the dry wash. (A more prudent approach would have been to test that theory closer to the start.) Indeed, it worked out just like that. It's one of the advantages of mountain biking.

Descending the dry wash on the bike was a strange experience because I couldn't really steer the bike, properly speaking. I could only react to the changes in the looseness of the granitic gravel. The path was troughed and concave, and I could only try to keep the wheel straight. 

Looking at my front wheel, it appeared as though it were stationary and the gravel was flowing by, like water flowing by the bow of a sailboat. I could only help the gravel steer me back to the center. With each minute, this unusual mountain bike ride seemed more like kayaking down the Arkansas River. It gave me the unusual satisfaction of actually connecting with a water sport for perhaps the first time in my life. And I was on dry land.