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Showing posts from October, 2020

Geometry Has Consequences

Although the percentage is small, some visitors to southwestern Utah must get a kick out of the shapes, lines, and geometry of this part of North America. As I do. In fact my eyeballs and brain positively feed on the geometry.  My favorite picnic table at a trailhead.  It should be offered by Merriam-Webster as a visual definition of 'autochthonous.'  I hope whatever ranger is responsible for this makes District Ranger someday.   For instance, your eye can extend the line of a sedimentary layer from one mesa to a nearby mesa, and visualize the land in between the two mesas as eroding away over the eons. But when you do this, it doesn't quite seem as though the tops of the two mesas have the same altitude. But why should they? Sedimentary layers are uplifted -- tilted -- out of their original horizontal condition at the bottom of a sea. It becomes a game to visualize the formation of this topography as being formed from differential erosion of rock layers that might appear t

Finally...Something Got Better!

Last episode I wrote about revisiting a place that used to be a good place. Although disappointment and anger are to be expected in situations like this, a person has to be careful about complaining to newbies. Otherwise a guy will sound like a grumpy old man. And besides, it is depressing to newbies to be told how crappy things are today. So -- without any facetiousness -- I am going to shock the reader. We had a nice mountain bike descent down an ATV trail, into a hard-bottomed and wide canyon. The surface was packed by the machine traffic -- in olden times the surface was so loose I could barely ride it. We had the canyon to ourselves -- there was nobody else there. The geology was as interesting as ever. When it dawned on me that I was actually benefiting from the heavy traffic -- and of the worst kind -- I felt so relieved that I wanted to sigh out loud. It is so nice not to be on the losing end of societal changes. Sometimes I remind myself not to let changes get me down. But t

Cross Another Place 'Off the List'

In the America of the past, old people probably envied the young, and for good reasons. Look at the advantages of the young:  More years to live.  Likely to have a higher standard of living.  Healthy and good looking. As a post-World War II baby boomer, my generation might be the first generation of Americans not to envy the young. But as I travel around southwestern Utah, another angle pops up: the young simply don't know what they have lost. Just look at this place! The hectic traffic, the price of housing, the difficulty of parking, the crowdedness of recreation on public lands, and fees and rules on everything. I actually remember when it wasn't like that! I am not saying the young should slash their wrists. There are still plenty of chances to enjoy a good life, after making the right decisions. But one more wonderful place is no longer wonderful. I was so lucky to experience it while it was still good. As for the young, they should be grateful they have no real basis of

Near Disaster from Traction Control?

Mother Nature almost played a trick on me on a steep, gravel, mountain road. Actually it was my own fault. Anybody who has bought a newer car after owning an ancient car needs to learn where the button is that will turn off the Traction Control System.  I knew where the magic button was, but it is easy to forget about such things when a sudden situation develops on the road, and it has never been a habit to hit that button. My van is new enough that it still has the wimpy mommie-mobile tires from the factory. So I was worried about slipping as the mountain road became much steeper.  Then my mighty 6.0 liter Vortec V8 seemed to lose half its power. Was the van (and trailer) going to just stop on that hill?! How would I ever get it started again after it came to a stop? The good news is that the slippage wasn't too bad. In a way, the Traction Control System was doing its job well: it was backing off the throttle in order to reduce the wheel slippage. And perhaps it was applying the

Developing Latent Pleasure

The third weekend of October presents a challenge to a Utah camper who dislikes bullets flying over his head, crowds, generators, and motor-sports yahoos.) And yet, we made it work by arriving early, and avoiding campsites that were right on the edge of the canyon. The mountain bike can be used to great advantage in crowded camping situations. (I always write about biking on dirt roads and two-tracks, not single-tracks.) In fact it is the ultimate secret weapon. A mountain biker does not need or want to camp right at the "greatest" scenery; to do so would steal the thunder from the mountain bike ride. Besides, when a scenery tourist says "greatest scenery," they simply mean the biggest and reddest verticality. Mountain bikers benefit from gentler terrain a few miles away from these overcrowded vertical spots. Long-suffering readers are sick of my criticism of scenery-obsession; but with public lands becoming more and more crowded, I am suggesting an escape route fr

Example of Artistic Creativity

Let's ignore Tolstoy's (and my) disagreement with how the word, "Art," is typically used; that is, let's pretend that "Art" really does mean "pretty stuff" made by the human hand and imagination. Still, I could go to dozens of art festivals per year, as I travel, and find little that actually inspires me. And yet we saw it today. Maybe it wasn't so much pretty as creative and ironic. We were mountain biking near the edge of town, where people used to dump debris of the usual kind. The good news is that most of this dumping happened a long time ago, as evinced by the extreme rustiness of the cans, wires, and buckets. Trail builders or users had gathered up this rusty debris and decorated juniper trees along the trail. At one point somebody had built a "maze" out of a hundred cans. I started to look forward to the next 'sculpture' of rusty debris. I was tickled by some people's ability to turn lemons into lemonade. Anti

Gratitude to a Milieu

A friend and I have talked about how lucky we were to be born in Western Europe or America in the first 15 years after World War II. We thought we had it as good as people are ever going to get it. That thought hit me again as I read Barbara Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror," about the calamitous 1300s.  Eyeglasses had been in use since [1300 A.D.] , allowing old people to read more in their later years and greatly extending the scholar's life of study. Those words might sound mild but they hit me with great force. After all I read her words on an eReader. What a huge improvement they are, especially for older eyes! But won't people born a generation later than me have even better eReaders? Oh sure, they probably will. But how many books will be censored -- directly or indirectly -- by then? We mustn't be so naive as to think that freedom of expression is a natural condition nor that, just because it has existed from time to time, that it is bound to be permanent.

Camping and Language

Every activity seems to sprout its own jargon, as every lawn or garden sprouts weeds. Oddly enough, camping doesn't seem jargon-intensive. In fact the only jargon that comes to mind is 'boondocking', a term I dislike and seldom use. There might be more jargon that is obvious to an outsider, but not to an insider. I finished out the night by listening to the "History of English" podcast again, and found the episode on the woolen cloth industry in medieval England so interesting that I had to get out of bed and start this post. from In particular, Kevin Stroud went through the cloth-making industry in the order of its major processing steps, and mentioned the new English surnames or words that were associated with that step: Spinner, Weaver, Webster, Fuller, Walker, and spinster, napkin, apron, blanket, and mannequin. Perhaps this episode was especially fun for me because, as a camper, I have 'slept with the sheepies' on BLM land, seen warning

Trouble in Autumn's Paradise

It is so easy to praise September and October as months of paradise, and for the most part, it is true. Ahh but there is trouble in paradise: this is the time of year I want to go to sleep at 730 pm.  I knew somebody once who used the 'natural' argument: that you should go to bed when it gets dark, regardless of what "o'clock" it is. He was wrong. Going to bed too early destroys your sleep patterns, and sleep is just too important to play games with.  So what is a camper to do? This is one of those conundrums that will only lend itself to partial solutions. As usual, a person pines for a giant or perfect solution instead of a combination of smaller solutions. 1. Run more lights at night. 2. Blink more frequently. 3. Avoid reading books. Only do easy things with the eyes. Write rather than read. 4. Permit yourself just about any activity as long as you are conscious. 5. Shift your evening entertainment to the ears. 6. Do household chores. Get set up for tomorrow so