Saturday, October 2, 2021

Stumpy

Waning Crescent Moon

Maybe this is unusual, but I have made friends with a tree stump. 

Several years ago, near mile marker two on the local stretch of the Juan Bautista De Anza National Historic Trail (the De Anza Trail for short), my attention was drawn to the rather comical remains of one of many old trees that line this part of the trail. I immediately liked this tree. It put a smile on my face every time I saw it from that day on. I usually take a picture of it and somewhere along the line I started calling it Stumpy the Dancing Tree Stump. You can probably see why. 



I have long counted Stumpy among the many friends I have made while walking trails both nearby and far from home. A couple of times over the years I have introduced Stumpy to other hikers who happened to be passing by the same time I was visiting him. At the risk of appearing completely senile/demented/off-the-rails-alzheimered, I have actually elicited promises from these wary, unsuspecting walkers to keep the whereabouts and identity of Stumpy a secret. 

It's a tiny club of special wanderers that know and love Stumpy's magical, ethereal key to happiness. If you have half an imagination and have caught yourself dancing to the beat of a favorite song while rooted in the comfort of an easy chair or cushy sofa, you might qualify.

Alas, in the past year, along with many other beings in the freaky time of viral death spirals and political mayhem, Stumpy has begun to crumble. When I first saw him with one arm cast to the ground, I reacted in anger, blaming this horror on the litterbugs and scofflaws of the world. Who else would willfully knock the limb from a blissfully dancing trail gnome?

Fortunately, I suppose, cooler heads prevailed. Friends counseled me not to seek vengeance. After all, they said, it could have been a passing cow who carelessly backed her big fat bum into Stumpy's merry, but fragile right arm. Maybe it was an accident, they said. Don't give in to any sudden homicidal urges, they said, it would be so unlike you. Okay, I guess so, I said. But still, I was saddened. 

Now, every time I see Stumpy, he seems a little more stooped and weary, still dancing but clearly weakened by time and the elements. Me, too, bro. I feel ya, old friend, I feel ya.


Peace, Love, and Change,

Jim

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Burned Out

 Waxing Gibbous Moon

Two days ago I learned that my camping reservations for this coming week at Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia National Park were cancelled due to a complex of lightning-caused fires moving into the area. They started as three hot spots and grew into one large unit. The park is closed and the surrounding region is either on fire or in the fire's path. The wonderful mountain community of Three Rivers is under an evacuation warning, but holding steady.

All I can say is thank goodness for the tireless firefighters and gutsy operators of modern technological machinery. Despite the spread of the fire in the past few days, fantastic progress has been made toward saving key landmarks and iconic groves of sequoias. The Giant Forest and the General Sherman Tree (at 52,508 cubic feet, it's the world's largest tree) appear to be okay, as are the Wuksachi Lodge and the Lodgepole Visitor Center. Today's summary of the team's progress can be viewed here.

It will be some time before the park is open again so I doubt that I will be able to do the series of hikes I had planned before the snow comes. But hey, as long as the trees and animals stay safe, that's okay. This is one of the holiest of all the holy places in California and Mr. Goldie, the marmot mayor of Lodgepole, must not be harmed.



Peace, Love, and Rain (without Lightning),
Jim

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Somersaults on Fremont Peak

 Waxing Gibbous Moon

Fremont Peak State Park is only 11 miles away from my camp, a slow drive up a narrow, twisting road through San Juan Canyon. I like to visit this park at least once every season to hike the trails and take in the long views of the local area. 


The peak itself is one of the easiest ones to summit in all of California, a 30 minute trail walk followed by 5 minutes of scrambling on steepish, but non-technical, dolomite/marble outcrops. I have been to the top a dozen times, although I seldom do it any more. It has become "old hat" to me and usually I just bypass the summit and loop around it to continue my hike.




Last Sunday was an exceptionally beautiful day on the mountain, so I decided to climb to the top and say a little prayer for rain. We have been lucky locally this summer with no nearby fires, but as everybody out West knows, we need rain very badly. 



After my mini-rain dance by the flagpole, I noticed a really nice outcrop on the steep rocky southern side of the peak which I had not inspected previously. Instead of descending the way I came, I started to clamber down to that spot. Crouching down, I kept one hand on a sharp handhold and the other halfway down a hiking pole to keep my balance. However - a potentially serious however -  I misjudged the length of my next downhill step. The result was sort of a slow lunge to try to place my boot in what looked to be a stable foothold. This slow forward lunge brought my head and shoulders down and changed my center of gravity enough to initiate a slow motion somersault down the slope. "Uh-oh," I thought.

This was not to be a single somersault, however. I begrudgingly gathered a little momentum and continued to roll into a second somersault which alarmingly threatened to pick up speed. "What would Bruce Lee do?" I wondered. That's when my amateur ninja tumbling mindfulness kicked into gear and I shouted out loud, "STOP!" My old but somewhat still responsive body obeyed the order. Coming out of somersault number two I managed to extend myself flat on the slope, essentially playing dead until I overcame the laws of physics and skidded to a stop on my back. "Oww," I said, plus some other words too blue to print.

This was a really weird experience, sports fans. It was not all that scary - more of an amateur Bruce Lee mountain tumble in slow mo. I suffered no real injuries, only some scrapes on my arms and legs. The ancient marble is very hard and grabby. Perhaps the mountain extracted a little skin sacrifice and bloodletting to make the rain dance more effective or dramatic? I gingerly picked myself up and slowly, carefully, I made my way back down to the trail.   

It is probably time for me to retire from geologizing solo on steep rocky slopes before curiosity unwittingly yields any more acceleration to gravity.



 Peace, Love, and Neosporin,

Jim

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Transformation of a Legend

 Waning Crescent Moon

Fresh from a passing grade on its biannual California State Smog Test, Spugly the Spectacularly Ugly Palomino Transporter has undergone subtle changes in its appearance and function. Gone is the $25 black plastic garage sale toolbox, which has been relegated to yard-junk storage status. In its place is a sleek plywood redneck tonneau with two coats of indoor/outdoor water-based black paint and assorted silver hardware items. As you can see in the featured photos, the redneck tonneau accentuates Spugly's streamlined, long-bed sex appeal and, for a mere $175 investment, it competes favorably with the high-priced fold-out tent platforms costing upwards of $3k.

One such fold-out tent platform company is called Tepui Tents, headquartered in Santa Cruz, CA, a hop. skip, and a tectonic plate boundary away from my camp. With a respectful nod to Tepui Tents, a fine and successful family business, I have decided to call my platform the Jimui Tonneau. Unlike a normal, bourgeosie tonneau, the platform of the Jimui is hinged in the middle, so the truck bed can be accessed more easily. Inside the bed's storage space, beside a necessary two-by-four twin I-beam support apparatus, I can fit my rolled up REI Half Dome tent, my loaded backpack, and whatever else I elect to take with me as I traipse across California dodging forest fires, belligerent gangs of recall morons, and other human-caused catastrophes. I don't need a full-blown campsite, just a level parking area in the mountains or on the beach, preferably one hundred miles away from the nearest drunken blowhard. 

Setting up the Half Dome on top of the Jimui Tonneau is simple and quick thanks to the shiny silver attachment hardware. A simple step stool allows me to safely and easily climb up and into my quarters which affords me quite the elevated, panoramic view from both of the wide, sidewall, no-seeum-proof netting entrances. In cold or wet weather, the rain fly can be utilized to stay dry and to avoid all but the most horrid of post-Apocalyptic flash flood events. 


All that is left now is a finishing touch of black Flex-Seal paint and I'll be off into the wilds to dream perchance to sleep on the redneckiest tonneau this side of Hoo-Haw, Arkansas. Stay tuned to subscribe to my Jimui Tonneau You Tube channel. Made in America.

Peace and Love From a Little Perch in Paradise,
Jim

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Jimmie Sue

 Waning Gibbous Moon

During the 1964-1965 school year I was in the seventh grade at St. Monica School in Dallas, Texas. This was when the baby boomers were really booming. Every grade, K through 8, had four classes of boys and girls, with fifty to fifty-five kids in each class. Most of the teachers were nuns and each mighty nun ruled her classroom like a Texas Nazi concentration camp. The school motto was not "shut up and learn," but it could have been.

In each grade, the four classes were separated by test scores into an Accelerated Class, a Pretty Smart But Unmotivated Class, a Bunch of Smartass Underachievers Class, and a Juvenile Delinquent Future Burdens on Society Class. I was among the most skilled at taking tests designed for well-behaved white boys so I was near the top of the Accelerated Class. Every nun I had in grade school was certain that one day I would be the President of the United States of America. I am not sure any of those mighty nuns were very bright.

We studied English grammar and arithmetic like our lives depended on it, but most of the focus otherwise was on memorizing the Catholic Catechism and learning about the Lives of the Saints. I thought St. Monica must have been pretty cool, mainly because she was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, my favorite saint in those days, who in some ways was the Roman Catholic equivalent of Siddhartha. His journey toward spiritual enlightenment and sainthood took many surprising turns down Hedonistic Avenue and Hellraiser Row, but somehow he popped out on the Stairway to Heaven and all was forgiven. I love a happy ending, don't you?

Anyway, in seventh grade, for the first time in the history of St. Monica School, the powers that be decided to try something new and radical. Instead of sitting silently in our assigned desks in seven rows of eight kids all morning and all afternoon listening and watching septuagenarian Sister Cantius drone and spray spittle, we got to sit silently and listen to an alternating array of different teachers teaching different subjects. Every hour or so, another nun or a "lay" teacher would enter the classroom. We took that as a cue to put away one book and take out another. In the Accelerated Class, it was a precise, elegant exercise, like synchronized swimming, most of the time consuming less than five seconds. There was no wasted motion. We were all about shutting up and learning, the more solemn the process the better. So accelerated we were.

The English teacher that year was a rather large, imposing "lay" woman with a fierce demeanor and a commanding, booming voice. It was actually kind of scary the way her words took up the air spaces in between the attentive, accelerated children. If you moved an inch in any direction, you would bump right up into the deep, vibrating, dominating, Alpha Woman sound waves filling the room like cascading sea foam from repeating winter sets of Santa Cruz breakers. Be still. Be very still.

The name of this strict, dominating, huge woman was Miss Humann. In 1964-1965, nobody in any Catholic school in the nation used the title "Ms." It was Miss Humann and nothing else. I had no idea what her first name was or even if she had one. 

Toward the end of the school year, Miss Humann announced that she was going to produce a school play, something which had not happened at St. Monica School in ages, if ever. The name of the play was The Importance of Being Earnest, which I later learned was written by Oscar Wilde, and that I am told is a pretty big deal. I may have been very talented at scoring high on aptitude tests but I didn't and still don't know diddly squat about playwrights. Miss Humann announced that interested accelerated students could sign up to "read" for a limited number of speaking roles in the play after school the next day. So I signed up on the list on the teacher desk sort of automatically because that's what accelerated young men did. We did things. We were doers. 

As I finished drawing my name in flawless, Catholic cursive, I glanced up to see Miss Humann staring at me from her chair. It was a terrifyingly cold stare, a stare that seemed to say "What the ____ are you doing signing up for a speaking role in MY play?" I was immediately intimidated to say the least. What was I doing? Never once in my brief life had I ever considered acting in a play. I had never even seen a play and "acting" was completely out of character for my shut up personality. But there it was, my flawless, Catholic, cursive signature, so I had to show up in my time slot. Maybe it wouldn't be all that bad.

It was that bad. It was quite horrible. I sat in a chair at the side of Miss Humann's desk. She glared at me and shoved a book in my direction with loud instructions to read the first paragraph on page number whatever. The passage was only a few sentences long and the words were all words that I recognized, so I read them to her, thinking "is this all there is?" 

That was all there was. She took the book from me and very stiffly thanked me for being on time. I was doing my best to shut up and learn, but I didn't know what to do next. 

"You may go" she said, so I did.

I think I went to the play but I can't really remember. All I remember is that the next year Miss Humann was not one of our teachers, we no longer did the new and radical teacher switching thing, and we did not have a play in eighth grade. Nobody really cared. In 1965-1966, we were all getting ready to leave good ole St. Monica behind. Over the summer, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had successfully erased most of the Catechism from our accelerated brains - whoosh! - like lifting the film on an Etch-a-Sketch. All gone!

I didn't think of Miss Humann again until 1971. That year, a movie came out based on Larry McMurtry's brilliant novel The Last Picture Show. It was really fantastic - I think it got something like eight Academy Award nominations. I was a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin then and just beginning what has been a lifelong semi-worship of Larry McMurtry's writings. 

Watching the movie was a real treat, but something happened along the way that sort of blew my freshman mind. The story is too complicated and beautiful to tell in a few sentences and I won't even try, but let's focus just for a second on the scene when Billy, a young boy and prominent character in the story, loses his virginity to the rowdy town prostitute in the back seat of a 1950-ish automobile. The rowdy town prostitute, Jimmie Sue by name, was a large, imposing, loud woman who had been paid by poor Billy's friends to introduce him to the wiles of Hedonistic Avenue. 

The scene was brief and rollicking but the audience got a clear look at Jimmie Sue's back seat skills and a clearer idea of her rather dynamic role in the story. That was astonishing, given Billy's young age and his decidedly un-accelerated learning abilities, but what was way more astonishing was the fact that the actress playing Jimmie Sue was none other than Helena Humann, aka Miss Humann, my seventh grade English teacher. 

Ms. Humann also played the role of Peach in the Lonesome Dove mini series and had bit parts in several other movies, including that of a hilariously dominating nun in 1990's Problem Child. I for one am happy that she attained some level of success in the movie business. Ms. Humann passed on much too soon at the age of 52 on December 13, 1994.


Peace, Love, and The Importance of Being Humann,

Jim

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Announcement #5 How to Follow Palomino Dream

 Waxing Crescent Moon

Go to the web version of Palomino Dream <https://palominodream.blogspot.com> and look at the right sidebar. You will see where "Followers" are listed. Click on the box that says "Follow" and follow the directions. They are as simple as entering your email address. Then you're good to go. You will be notified whenever a new post comes along. Easy peasy!

Note: this is easier to do on a laptop or PC than a phone. If you are using your smartphone, you get a reduced version of the blog. Looking at the blog on your phone, scroll down to the bottom and click on View Web Version. Then you will see the whole shebang, including the right sidebar, which is what you need to make the change.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Kings Canyon National Park Quickie

 Waning Crescent Moon


What did I learn from my trip to Kings Canyon and back this week? I learned that the first week of August is probably not the best time for me to visit what is a very beautiful and, under normal circumstances, kickback national park. Going from 200 feet above sea level with temperatures in the mid 70's to low 80's over Pacheco Pass into the parched 100 degree Great Central Valley in a no-AC 1987 truck with a questionable water pump was one thing. Climbing up past 6,000 feet through hazy skies and upper 80's was another. 

But none of that physical adjustment stuff is why I only stayed a couple of days instead of my planned four. No, there was more to the story than that. I won't dive right into that part right away because there were several pleasant things I would rather talk, or write, or think about.

I arrived at the Moraine Campground, site #92 almost exactly at noon, which happens to be the prescribed check-in time, figuratively patting my self (and Spugly) on the back for being such a good citizen. I didn't spend much time there, though. By 1:00 I was pulling into the parking lot for the Roaring River Falls Trail, a paved tourist trail that leads up to - you guessed it - Roaring River Falls. I was surprised that it looked like this, given the time of year and the sparse 2021 snowpack. I enjoyed the cooling mist immensely plus the people who were there were really polite, sharing spaces, considerately moving out of the way when other folks were taking pictures, being quiet. 


After soaking in the falls and the small river for a while, I took an easy (dirt and rocks) side trail toward Zumwalt Meadow. This trail was somewhat parallel to the South Fork of the Kings River. There were great canyon and river views, the rocks were complexly tortured in places, and although much of the area had recently burned, the vegetation had recovered spendidly.






I returned the same way I came, satisfied with a couple of easy hours of walking. Even though it was pretty hot and the elevation took its toll on my system, I felt great and went back to the falls for one more look. Hopefully, the link I attached will show you a quick video of Roaring River Falls from Monday, August 2, 2021.  Try it, you'll like it.

Back at the campground, I set up my tent and put my food and other smellables in the metal bear locker, just like I have done hundreds if not thousands of times. I brought a folding chair with me on this trip, my one luxury item, and relaxed with my book, a snack, and a big bottle of water to rehydrate. It was then that I began to understand that what I had thought was Moraine Campground, named after the geology term for an accumulation of glacial till (rocks and stuff previously carried and deposited there by a long-gone glacier), was actually Moron Campground, named after a few hundred drunkish goobers from who knows where. They were intensely being loud and rude, employing every conceivable suburban camping contraption which filled up each and every bit of their spaces. 

Perhaps it was my lack of contraptions or the silence of my book, but it only took a few pages before the first rude, bald, sweaty, shirtless goober staggered right through my campsite on his way to the restroom. It was like I wasn't there. On his way back (there were two obvious paths that lead to the restrooms, but morons and goobers are famous for simply not giving a sh^t), First Goober acknowledged my presence by blurting these words: 

"Are you all alone?" 

On his splotchy, sunburned, bloated face was a look of complete astonishment. 

On my tired, old, salty, annoyed face was a look of complete disbelief. 

Fact one: the campground, with > 100 spaces, was full. Fact two: there were more people crammed into the campground than I see on any day of the week at home. I replied by blurting these words:

"Hell no, looks to me like there are people everywhere you look around here."

First Goober stared at me for a minute and just kept on staggering. I watched him go back to his camp. There must have been $200,000 worth of vehicles parked there. Who on Earth would pay that moron to do anything? 

More rude, lazy people traipsed through my camp as the evening wore on. They ignored me and I did my best to ignore them. I cold-soaked some brown rice and dined on cold rice and pink-salmon-from-a-foil-pouch. It was delicious and nourishing and soon, after disposing of my trash in the bearproof dumpster, washing my spoon and bowl, and brushing my teeth at the sink behind the restroom, I was ready for the sack. I left the rain cover off the tent so I could see some stars when they came out. It was warm and still and I was certain it would not rain. 

I drifted off to sleep just before dark, but soon I was awakened by moronic goobers running through my campsite shouting strange, loud syllables in the direction of my neighbors across the one-lane road from me. It sounded something like "AHHHH! AHHHH! AHHHH!" coming from deep in their sweaty bare chests. Then car horns from all over the campground started blaring and music was urgently playing at full volume - different kinds of music with different beats. Pots were being beaten with metal objects and female morons were screaming bloody murder. Confusion reigned. "AHHHH! AHHHH! AHHHH!" 

I sat up and watched, unsurprised. I knew what was going on. People who had no idea how to camp in bear country had royally screwed up once again, goober-moron-style. The goobers left food out, unattended, where bear could smell it and mosey over to get it, then said goobers and their goober buddies went into a rage. It was like the Commie Pinkos had landed in Kings Canyon, California on their watch and it was the goobers' patriotic, drunken duty to chase the godless fruitcake bear off the planet. If it wasn't so stupid and sad it would have been funny. 

The same thing happened in different parts of the campground five or six more times in the next hour or two. I didn't even bother to sit up again. 

When I got up at first light, I walked to the bathroom and surveyed the previous night's damage. About thirty feet from the bearproof dumpster is an ash can. It's like a trash can, but it is clearly marked as a receptacle for ashes. There is a big sign written in simple English stating what an ash can is and what a trash dumpster is. There is a shovel hanging from the sign. Presently, campfires are not allowed in the park, for reasons obvious to any non-moron, so you would expect ash cans to be empty.  

But noooo, ash can look like trash can to moron. Moron dump trash in ash can. Moron say to himself, "Me save at least thirty steps. Me smart moron!"

So bear tumped over the ash can and had a little quick feast on ice cream and doritos wrappers until all the "AHHHH" galootin' goobers came lumbering over and the horns started blaring and the women started screaming and the booming cacophony finally broke up the party. Did the goobers stop to clean up the mess so it wouldn't happen again? Of course not! They "AHHHH"ed their way back to their beer coolers and left the garbage strewn all over the road. That is, until the next morning at first light when All Alone Guy scooped it up with his Caltrans volunteer trash picker into a thirty gallon Hefty bag and tossed it into the bearproof dumpster. 

I freakin' HATE the Moron Campground. I packed up and left right after breakfast. 

Thirty miles from the M.C. is Grant's Grove, which early in the morning is a lovely place to putz around the hiking trail with hangoverless families and sober tourists from countries that are not hellbent on the Apocalypse. It was absolutely delightful and the General Grant Tree rocks!



Almost equally impressive are the fallen Sequoias that provide insight to how mighty they once were and how life-giving, through their decomposition, they still are to other creatures. The Fallen Giant and the Old Monarch are fascinating to see. After spending quality time walking through the Grant's Grove, I was almost healed from the previous night's encounter with imbeciles.




On my way out of the park I stopped to hike for an hour or so on the aptly named Big Stump Trail. As long as you don't stop to think about how insane it was to chop down these trees, you can appreciate the size of the stumps and the beauty of the trees even in death. One of the stumps is named for Mark Twain. It comes equipped with a ladder so you can climb up and walk around on it like a stage. That particular Giant Sequoia was murdered so that a cross-section of the tree could be cut and shipped back East to a museum. Evidently, folks back East did not believe the stories that described the great size of the Sequoias. So by golly, they had to be showed. 




Somehow, Spugly survived the trip back across the Central Valley and over Pacheco Pass back home to just east of East of Eden. I am glad I went but gladder I am back. 

Peace, Love, and Save our Parks from Morons,
Jim