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Mother Nature's Song

Never again will I allow anyone to use the phrase 'nice sunny day' in my presence without an argument. How much sunlight do you need for life? What life really needs is Water.

This winter and spring are turning out to be more blessed than any year I can remember.


At this time of year (June) the sky is supposed to be hopeless: a blue-white glare, utterly cloudless, uninteresting, and enervating. You can barely step outside in mid-day without an aluminum umbrella. But it is different this year.


 I hope it snows on the Fourth of July.

But of all the Life brought forth this spring, the best is represented by Greta, a 10-week-old golden retriever pup, who wandered by my campsite the other day.



 She was fearless around big dogs:


Let's see, how did that little jingle in Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance (?) go? Remember the "Three Little Maids from School?" Wasn't it...'Life is a joke that's just begun...'


It took only seconds for her to reduce m…

A Star is Born

It has been quite a challenge to be a doggie's uncle; especially when the dog is a one-year-old, intact male. He was a street urchin picked up by my friend. His coloration reminds you of a blue heeler, but the body type isn't right for that.

I concluded that his other half is Mexican Grey Wolf, based on the body, head, teeth, and behavior!

At first I resisted zapping him with his electric training shock collar. But after he rammed his muzzle and canine teeth into my chin, I have become a training nazi.

On the other hand, he is a real lover boy, friendly, athletic, and good-hearted. His name is 'Hopi.' He has been learning to mountain bike with me. We only had one mishap, which cost me a knee cap. But I still have one good one, left. Unrelated to that, cattle gates still confuse him.



Although he isn't going to become my dog, it has been fun to become a type of foster parent, or uncle, to him.

So much of his significance comes from considering what he represents. Seeing a…

The Stow-away

If you live long enough, you will experience just about anything and everything. The other day I actually rode a technical mountain bike trail and enjoyed it -- not in spite of its technicalities, but because of them. Credit the soft sandstone geology of Utah.

I consider that last example to be extraordinary, but if the reader isn't a mountain biker, they may not care.

OK, try this one on: I left the dispersed camping site near Moab a couple days before two friends were planning to. I stopped at one guy's van to say goodbye, while keeping an eye out for his little dog, so I wouldn't run over her. But it was a bad time for him, so I kept going. Everything seemed smooth.

Unaccustomed as I am to wasting time and money in coffee shops, I did stop in at the one in Green River, Utah. There I noticed a message from one of the friends back in Moab. (My phone volume had been turned off because of some telephone spammers.)

The message said that Olive, the little dog, was missing. And wo…

The Puppy-Girl of Pie Town

After all these years I finally had a chance to visit the famous "toaster house" of Pie Town, NM. People doing the Great Divide mountain bike ride love to stop in here. Thanks to some good luck, I walked in on the proprietor who was checking up on things. She filled me in on the history of the toaster house: she had raised four kids in that house, before turning it into a donation-only hostel.

Thanks to the riders' blogs I knew where to go for wifi. And let me tell you, getting on the internet is a challenge in this town. I -- or rather, my dog -- was noticed by a family of campers. After a certain amount of observation, their little girl insisted on making friends with my dog.

I was then surprised and delighted to have a one hour conversation with this little girl, age 4. She was so well spoken. A cynic might say that her skill at adding inflections and nuances to her statements was just a mimetic skill, gotten from observing her parents. Still, it amazed me. 



This is the …

Waylaid by a Gorgeous Blonde

It is a delightful surprise to discover by accident that you are really in the mood for something...and you didn't even know it, until it happens. I was mountain biking by some campers when something swooped in on my peripheral vision and conquered me.


Now, don't hold the Barbie doll hairdo against this girl. It is her owner's fault. Still, I love petting the cotton-ball-softness of a poodle. She was 7 months old, and bursting with joy, good health, and over-eager friendliness.

I told her owner that this really made my day!

Life Exists During the Christmas Shopping Season

It has been awhile since I offered extra credit points to the reader who can supply the right information: in this case, the name of the essay in which Thoreau said (more or less) that he had walked all the way across Manhattan and hadn't seen one person who was actually alive.

That is a useful thought to keep in mind if you find yourself in a busy shopping area in the USA near Christmas. There are softies out there who will tell me that that is not a "nice" thought. But it was actually...

I walked into a Walmart recently in an Arizona desert town, and the quote from Thoreau came to mind. But something I saw relieved this otherwise gloomy thought: a little dog was walking around next to a touring bicycle, fully loaded, and leaning against the side of the building.

Why wasn't the little dog on a leash? Where was the owner? I considered guarding the little dog, but maybe I too wasn't really alive. Instead, I continued into the store to do some routine shopping.

When I …

Ten Year Anniversary

Has it really been ten years? I checked. It has. It was ten years ago, and right here in the Book Cliffs/Grand Junction area, that I adopted my sweetheart.


She doesn't look much different today. You never quite know what a canine-American person is thinking, but she probably thinks she has had a pretty good life since then.

Returning to the Womb in Winter

Last post, I was having fun re-inventing the water bottle. But today I'd like to be completely non-facetious, because it really was profoundly satisfying to take that hot water bottle to bed with me. Isn't profound satisfaction worthy of a post?

The old saying about 'hunger is the best sauce,' is certainly true, and that no doubt gets a lot of the credit. 

But there is something else. Insulating a camper, wearing the right clothes, and toughening-up are all valuable activities. But they smell too much like 'living without.' That is, they are negative approaches. ('Negative' should not be thought of as a synonym for 'bad.')

There is something in human nature that is frustrated by emptiness, that is, 'living without.'  Using fewer gigabytes of data on your internet plan, eating less, spending less, being celibate, showering less, stifling yourself in conversations, sleeping less, etc. At some point you rebel against these constant, nagging co…

Identity Politics in a Campground

It has been a long time since I have been this positive about the political scene in the US. But don't misinterpret me. The situation has become so surreal, on both sides, that it has become easy to laugh the whole thing off. And laughter is more positive than anger.

For instance, identity politics is drowning in its own absurdity. The other day I was invited to give my comments to a large corporation where I had recently made a large purchase. Considering the blue-state headquarters and clientele of this corporation, it shouldn't have surprised me to be asked about which gender I "identified" with.

What phoneys!  If they really wanted to liberate human beings, why not broaden the question to "which animal species do you identify with?"

I know my answer. The other day I was making the rounds at dawn at the campground. No members of homo sapiens were up and about. But several dogs were already living the good life. A society of dogs seemed to be sharing a secre…

A Dog's Purpose, A Woman's Purpose

On our bicycle ride to town my dog and I have crossed paths several times with an older female jogger. What a tough ol' gal! An ideal observer would let someone like her inspire them, and then write a nice little sermon about her.

But I needed a little more. About 50 yards behind her, ran her even frailer old dawg. There is something about him that produced a lump in my throat. 

What was he thinking about? He looked so frustrated and disappointed, now that he can no longer keep up with his human -- and she is pretty frail herself. Was he thinking about a few years ago, when he was a still spry 10 year old dog, and she was a 70 year old "girl", and they were knocking off the trails one after another?

What kind of life had they had together? And now it was winding down.  

Perhaps the reader has seen that wonderful new movie directed by Lasse Hallström, "A Dog's Purpose." In the movie, a dog lives with his humans for awhile, ages or dies, and is reincarnated into …

How to Croak Alone in the Woods, Without Killing Your Pet

The marketing department here at the Institute for Advanced Recreational Studies barely approved of this post. "This isn't the topic to increase clicks," they tried to explain.

Still, the problem remains for a solo camper who wants their pet to survive their sudden and unexpected demise while camping alone. Just imagine the situation for a ranger or emergency personnel: they must bust into a rig, and what do they find? Pet urine and feces, and probably vomit. The pet might still be alive. They also encounter a partially eaten human carcass. If your pet is a dog, it would have actually felt bad about that. But what choice did it have?

Presumably, this would not look good on your pet's adoption resumé at an animal rescue organization. Then again, a clever worker there might advertise, "Fluffie has shown herself to be self-reliant and resourceful..."

There is a solution available: a doggie door. Few products in this price range have improved the lives of owners a…

A Decorated Grave in the Forest

So close to Memorial Day, it was strange to stumble onto a well-marked grave for a dog, in the forest. It had a large blue Christian cross with some nice words about the dog, "Jack". A plastic doggie water bowl was in front of the cross. Did the owners come out every year and replace the bowl, or symbolically pour water in the bowl? I found myself quite affected by this, especially considering how difficult it is to dig a grave a couple feet deep in rock.

I know one man who would not have been impressed: the fellow who camped nearby last winter. He once told me, with some disgust in his voice, "You treat her like a person!", referring to my dog of course. (In fairness, I try to repress baby talk and other behavior that is obnoxious to other people.) 
That's one of those phrases you hear every now and then. There are several others.
Dogs offer unconditional love.Dogs are loyal.I like dogs better than people.All of these phrases seem to miss the mark. I have only ha…

Sometimes, Only a Pretty Girl Will Do

Early summer seems to be the time of year to notice butterflies on my mountain bike rides. So often, they seem to tag along, as if they are requesting membership in our bicycle club. It is physically challenging to focus on them as they flutter along, a step or two from the bike, and at the same speed as the bike. Whenever my eyes manage to freeze them in motion, they seem transformed, somehow.

The other day a large yellow butterfly fluttered in from the side, perpendicular to the direction of the bike and my dog. In fact, the butterfly collided with the head of my dog. But she didn't react snappishly, as she would to a normal insect nuisance, such as a fly or a sweat bee. She playfully -- and yet, gently--pushed the butterfly away from her head, and La Mariposa flew off, uninjured.

What is it with dogs and butterflies?

We are having great luck in northern New Mexico, right now, finding high, semi-flat land to dispersed-camp on and mountain bike on. The other day I stopped in the mid…

Admiration

One of the uses of old age is to develop the "muscles" that can actually improve with age. By that I mean developing the capabilities and habits of Appreciation, Gratitude, and Admiration. Today's focus is on Admiration.

I once used an inspiring speech by an anti-hero, "The Hustler," in the 1962 black-and-white film noir movie starring Paul Newman, George C. Scott, and Jackie Gleason. But before re-quoting it, let's first ask why it inspired at all. Art, according to Tolstoy's "What is Art", is not really about "beauty," as most people mistakenly suppose; rather, Art is the infecting of the viewer/reader with the emotional experience of the artist, by words, pictures, or sounds. And the makers of "The Hustler" certainly did that to me. 

Maybe their trick was to exploit the inherent advantages of an anti-hero. (Does that trick also apply in the blogosphere?) If a goodie-two-shoes, follow-the-rules, smiley-face had made the sam…

Time Travel in Utah's High Country

On a recent mountain bike ride near Richfield UT, they caught me sleeping. I was focusing on choosing a path between the rocks, when my herding group dog, Coffee Girl, took after a herd of sheep that we had almost stumbled into. But she was eventually scolded into returning to me, and the sheep weren't too rattled.

Hey wait a minute, weren't we only a couple seconds from an ambush by giant white dogs, screaming out of the sagebrush to protect their herd?

But none came. As we sidled up the ridge, the size of the herd became more apparent.


Where were the dogs and the human shepherd? Eventually we spotted him. But he seemed to only have a couple border collies to help him.


I waved at him so he'd notice that my dog was now on a leash, but he didn't respond. Maybe he didn't speak English, or even Spanish. Maybe he was a Vasco, that is, a Euskal from the Basque country. I'm a bit skeptical about Great Pyrenees dogs being hostile to humans, but I wasn't so sure what t…

Recidivism on a Pit Bull's Rap Sheet

The weekend finally over, the animal shelter opened up today.  I dreaded taking "Tipper", our self-invited weekend guest, to the shelter. I imagined the volunteer taking one look at Tipper and saying, "Oh that's just great, just what we need, another uncastrated pit bull! And this one requiring veterinary expenses on top of that!" Oh geez, would that mean 'the back room' for this sweet monster?

I had to lift Tipper into the van because of his sore foot. He was lighter than I thought. He just sat there. Not a squirm out of him. I rubbed his head all the way to the shelter. There was a stoic resignation that was disturbing. Did he know something that I didn't?

It was the opening of the work week at the animal shelter, and the dogs were acting out their anarcho-libertarian political leanings. They were running loose and barking their heads off. The place stunk. Apparently they don't like being ignored all weekend.

The volunteer opened the door of my v…

Returning the Favor of Dog Rescue

(Dispersed camping near Little Texas #3, CO.) Coffee Girl, my Australian kelpie, did not like the intruder, an uncastrated pit bull. In fact I've never heard her growl at another dog before. Initially I thought of getting my foot all the way back, and then kicking its brains in. Like most people, I despise pit bulls.

But wait a minute. It was acting so friendly. The colors were "friendly" too. It had a sore foot. After watering and feeding it, I set up a doggie luxury lounge underneath my trailer.



Why don't people put tags on their dog with their phone number so that somebody in my position would know what to do?


Anyway this is such a sweet dog that it is a pleasure to return the favor to some stranger that Will F. did for another stranger -- me -- several years ago when he rescued my little poodle after he had run off; he had freaked out because of the echo of gunfire by target practicers, when we were getting ready to camp at the foot of Book Cliffs near Grand Junctio…

'Best in Show:' Wild Canids in the Canyon

The reader might be familiar with the semi-recent movie, "Best in Show." The spine of the plot is a dog show, but it is not really a 'dog movie.' Rather, it's a comedic mockumentary about their neurotic human owners.

Today's hike in Zion country (southwestern Utah) turned out the opposite: it was the humans who were acting sensibly, and the dogs who were nuts. We had five dogs in our party, eight humanoid-companion-units, and a neighborhood dawg, Blue, who tends to join any frolic taking place on her BLM land.

As we drove up, I thought my kelpie, Coffee Girl, was going to crash through the windshield with excitement when she saw all these playmates. All of the dogs, no two alike and weighing from 10 to 80 pounds, got along beautifully. I get really charged up by the frantic synergy of dogs. You could think of this walk as a linear-BLM-version of a dog park.


Up we all went, up the arroyo towards one of the famous mesas of the area. I was surprised to see puddles …

William Blake Paddles Down a Dry Granite River

The word 'flow' in the title of the last post and a comment by uber-commenter, George, reminded me of something. Gee, if only the search box in blogger worked right. After some brute-force-searching I finally found that other post. 

This blog isn't a travelogue of Breaking News of the day. There is too much of that approach on the internet. The more minute-by-minute writing becomes, the more trivial it gets. So I rewrote this other experience, hoping that a couple "moments of truth" will come across more clearly to the reader.
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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 ca…

Kissing a Butterfly in Colorado's San Juans

Silverton, Colorado. A classic hike up to a glacial lake and cirque sounded good. We used a road rather than a hiking trail in order to get a more open view in the forest. Although there are a lot of motorheads in the San Juans, the ones we encountered were all polite adults.

We got a start still early enough to experience something that should not be interesting, but was: when walking into the morning sun, all of the flying insects were backlighted. They zinged across the glare, like a video game.

But they didn't all zing away. A small, orange butterfly remained on a rock in the middle of the road. Maybe it was too frightened to move; maybe it was just sunning. Then the little poodle quite amazed me by slowly lowering his muzzle to the butterfly, until he and La Mariposa shared a gentle nose kiss.

On the way up to the lake we saw scenery like this:




But since this is the kind of scenery you expect in the San Juan Mountains, it didn't have much effect on me. I was enjo…