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Showing posts from September, 2021

Horses Celebrate Wyoming

  It was quite a view from the knoll I was camping on. It has always surprised me how little altitude you need to open up the landscape. The view was mostly of Wyoming cattle country, mesas, river valleys, and antelopes. To the south were the Uintah Mountains, covered with yellow aspen. What is more miraculous is how uncrowded and untouristy it was. It was possible to relax, without fearing that a late-arriving camper was going to move in close and start slamming car doors.  Off in the distance, a couple miles from my knoll, a herd of 15 horses ran parallel to the foot of the mesa. They looked like fast-moving white dots. What a contrast between their furious motion and their near-anonymity,  since they were so tiny visually and were almost lost in a vast landscape. What a classic image of the olde West! If only I had been closer to their path on my mountain bike! Why were they galloping along, anyway? Ahh dear, there is so much about animals and land that I don't know. I've re

It Gushes Right Out of the Ground!

To a photographer it would be hard to beat the works of ancient Rome when it comes to water.  But a mountain biker in the western states might find other "hydrology" projects more interesting, such as the remains of an "ancient" project I stumbled across recently in southeastern Idaho.   The interest came from the surprise-factor and the endorphins, of course, not from its value as a tourist postcard. It was cute that the local towns boasted of soda springs and hot springs. But it has started a theme for me: to appreciate springs where water flows out of the ground. This started in Wyoming a few weeks ago. Then it continued into Idaho, and now back to Wyoming, yesterday. We were "mesa-bagging", as opposed to the more conventional "peak-bagging." It seemed early for the aspens to turn yellow.  Perhaps drought brings on fall colors earlier. Drought isn't all bad if it helps you appreciate running water. We followed a surprise descent off the m

Forgot Mistake #1 !

In real life or in the world of drama, most people have run across an archetype: a woman who has buried two husbands and is now married to her third husband. She prefaces most topics with, "Well, as my first husband used to say..." How her third husband resists strangling her, we never learn. I thought about that when I adopted my second (and current) dog. At first I wanted another miniature poodle, as my first dog was. But what if I started comparing the second miniature poodle with a nostalgic and romanticized view of the first miniature poodle? Number 2 would always suffer by comparison. Unfair. It would ruin what would otherwise have been a good experience.  Thus I chose a second dog who was opposite of the first dog in several ways, and was glad that I did. How could that logic be applied to Number 3? My best guess is to choose a dog that is different that the first two. Let her shine in her own limelight.

The Top Mistakes When Choosing a Dog

If you want to feel like the world is crazy and that everything is stacked against you, try looking for a dog. You can do so much searching and get nothing in return but discouragement. There is a reason for this: most dogs simply don't fit reality for most people. Most dog species were developed to perform some function that no longer matters much: retrieving dead ducks from a pond, protecting a herd of sheep from wolves in the mountains, chasing rodents away from the corn crib, pulling a dog sled in the Yukon, hunting wild boars, patrolling the barbed wire perimeters of POW camps, etc.  What do people need today? They need a small dog that doesn't shed too much, and loves being a good companion. But those are the dogs that are instantly adopted by somebody else, so you never get the chance. And what is left to choose from? Losers. There are several mistakes I must avoid when choosing a dog. 1. Don't choose a dog with your eyeballs. Choose behavior, not appearance. 2. Go

Basking in the Winter Sun

I did something yesterday that I hadn't done all summer: I sat outdoors in a chair. Some people do this all the time, but I don't know how or why. But it was cold yesterday at over 8000 feet of altitude. Wyoming doesn't mess around with winter. It felt so good to have the trailer's door facing south towards the sun and to finally be able to open that door in the afternoon.  Sitting in the chair was even better. My clothing was dark. I placed the chair between the white van and the sun. It felt like a solar cooker. I felt like the Australian shepherd pup, photographed on his bicycle in Quartzsite one winter: How was that for a look of pure snowbird-contentment! I cooked up some potatoes in the pressure cooker -- something I seldom look forward to, in summer. Then I dragged the winter-sleeping-bag out of the van. If only my dog liked snuggling in the bed with me! Some people might think that such things are too trivial to write about. Long-suffering readers of this blog k

A High, Lonesome Trail to Oregon and Californee

One of the most admirable sounds in the right sort of place is that of a train: its rumble and whistle. The "right sort of place" is likely to be an isolated rural or backwoods area. From my blissfully lonely camp I hear a busy train track that parallels the Old Lincoln Highway, which was built over the Oregon/California Trail, as it hooks around a small mountain range. If you can actually see the train, its aura and mystique erode. A modern road just blasts right through the mountains. Such is the power of the diesel engine, caterpillar treads, and Blaise Pascal's hydraulics. Old routes follow the contours of the land instead of trying to annihilate them. I learned just yesterday how rugged this small range of mountains was, as I mountain biked through them. It has been several years since the sounds of trains have affected me so much. How do you explain the mood that overtakes the hearer of train rumbles and whistles? A look at the Merriam-Webster's might give a cl

A Compliment

A quarter inch of rain the other night sufficed to get my van stuck in the mud. How refreshing! Seriously, think what a luxury it is to get enough rain to get stuck in. It has been a long time. With no need to go anywhere I waited patiently for the sun to do its job. And it did so, in about 3 hours. A person in a hurry can cause so much trouble for themselves. I hope the reader prefers to hear about time and patience solving a problem rather than how-to details and ads for traction boards, etc. ______________________________ It has turned chilly at night and in the morning. What a wonderful month September is! Better sleeping at night. Afternoons are still warm but they are mercifully shorter.  Even better, my trailer door is facing east. Is there a better way to start the day than to anticipate sunrise on a chilly morning; and when it comes, to open the door to that warming sunlight and cold air, and to feel the impulse of each, simultaneously, on your skin? __________________________

Forest Malpractice

  'Busy as a beaver' is not an expression you hear often these days. Perhaps it is just as well. Actually I am not sure I've ever seen evidence of beaver-work as much as I did recently. There wasn't just a dam -- there was a system of dams. I never would have believed such a thing was possible in the modern age. Surely, by now, beavers have learned to just sit in cubicles and dick around all day on the computer, optimizing dam design; while the actual physical construction of the dams is outsourced to a construction crew of Mexican beavers.  Perhaps every now and then, the American beavers get involved in "field work." And here is the result. The photo plays it down, but water was pouring over from the pond onto the forest road. The road was actually eroding. My bike was slopped up with mud. Moral of the story: this is what happens when there is an over-reliance on computer models in engineering work.

Regime Change for the Seasonal Calendar

  Recall that my Noble Quest for this summer was to learn to actually enjoy summer. It was bad luck that this summer turned out hot and smoky. Still, I did make quite a bit of progress, if not in actually liking summer, then at least in not hating it. It wasn't so much a matter of coming up with brilliant ideas as it was of developing improved habits. And now the calendar/seasons are going through "regime change." Thermal collapse. It was 90 F around here yesterday, and brutally sunny, but I just looked at the sky and said, "Is that the best you can do?"  It was good luck that I ran into my first fresh produce of the summer, yesterday, on the last day of real summer. Wyoming wasn't such a great place to buy fresh produce. Oh they do raise food in Wyoming -- beef. Every year I appreciate locally grown food more and more. Walking around the growers, you are lit up by a reflected glow from them. And why shouldn't they be proud and pleased with their work:

Advice from a Real Traveler

This part of Idaho was certainly making me regret not getting a cargo trailer with interior wheel wells. The gravel road through the canyon was about 1.5 lanes wide, and there were few wide-spots or turn-arounds. So how do you play a messy situation like this? I wanted to go along with it to a certain extent without getting reckless. But remember, you don't quite know you have pushed your luck too far until it is too late. So I started playing "leapfrog" with the canyon: stopping at the wide spots, and walking until I found the next wide spot. Doing all these round trips soon adds up to a lot of walking. But my dog, Coffee Girl, thought this was quite fun. It is funny how your confidence grows as you punch your way through a canyon. I found a small field where I could camp for the night. It was perfectly solitary and quiet. The lack of an internet signal probably helped as a mood-enhancer. A raptor of some kind flew along the wall of the V-shaped canyon. The canyon held

The Destiny of a Little Mighty One

 I heard somebody whimpering while sitting inside my van while parked in a town on the old Oregon/California Trail. Then I heard it again. It seemed to be coming from a large pickup truck parked next to me. Inside, an eight-week-old puppy jumped around on the front seats. He saw me immediately and held my gaze, as if he needed something. He looked to be a cross between a blue heeler and an Australian shepherd. His pickup truck was labelled Something-Or-Other Cattle Ranch, somewhere in Idaho. Why did this affect me so much? It was more than cuteness -- many young animals are cute. Hell, even baby javelinas are a little bit cute. Perhaps I have run across a biography once or twice when the story starts off "in the crib" and contrasts the helplessness of the baby with the man's reputation and accomplishments or even crimes in mature life. Sheer contrast of that type can leave an impression that lasts. In a couple years this puppy will be a serious professional ranch dawg, ex