Friday, March 31, 2017

The Byrne-Milliron Forest

Waxing Crescent Moon

Tucked back into the folded, twisted, faulted, redwood-covered Santa Cruz Mountains near Corralitos CA stands the Byrne-Milliron Forest, 402 acres of public land managed by the Land trust of Santa Cruz County. It's not easy to find. You have to pass through a gate to a nursery of some sort before you wind up at the entrance. But the sign there lets you know right away it's not your every day county park. But of course! This is Santa Cruz!

A matriarch stands guard, so you better behave.

There are more than 20 miles of hiking trails (no bikes or horses here, please), with a good bit of elevation gain and loss to work your heart, quads, and knees. The trails are laid out in a quasi-concentric manner, so if you want to go all day you can, but you can also loop back to the parking area at several points if you wish.

One steepish but beautiful trail leads to the "Great White Redwood Tree" over 600 years old and 233 feet tall. In the morning light, the redwood bark appears light-colored. Hence the name, I suppose. The tree is awe-inspiring and huggable and there is a wood-hewn little table and bench there where you can snack and rest.

Perhaps the most interesting features in this park, aside from the quiet natural setting, are the fascinating wood carvings found at intervals along the trail. The best place to see a bunch of them at once is at AJ's Point of View, an overlook stocked with drinking water and trinkets at the approximate center of the park.

From AJ's, you have a nice view towards Watsonville and Monterey Bay. I am partial to the howling coyote, but there is much to see here.

There are also journals with amusing, creative, and sometimes bizarre entries written by visitors over the years. Don't miss AJ's Point of View, with the dedication plaque for Jeff Helmer, a longtime caretaker of the forest.

If you haven't visited this park, do it, you will be glad you went and I know you'll be back for more.

Peace, Love, and Hard to Find Getaways,

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Arts and Crafts

Waning Crescent Moon

The annual San Juan Bautista Arts and Crafts Fair is gracing Third Street today and tomorrow. The weather is trying its best to cooperate, so come on over and check it out. I bought a nifty bolo tie from SJB's own Artsy Chica and a scrumptious tri-tip sandwich from the Mansmith booth. I suppose I can now look fairly respectable with fire sauce dripping from my chin.

I don't have any room to hang art in my tiny home, but I like to look at art and to analyze, however briefly and amateurishly, the vibe coming from the art maker. Every artist is special in her or his own way - sometimes brash, sometimes subtle - always interesting, I think.

Things were just getting underway when I passed through, but already folks had begun to show up.

This little pony ride would have appealed to me when I was a pup.

If you're close to town this weekend, stop by. Lots of good food, some cool iconic crafts, and mostly it's a relaxing way to spend your time in the City of History.

Peace, Love, and Ponies-Go-Round,

Monday, March 20, 2017

March Madness

Third Quarter Moon

The men's and women's NCAA tournaments are getting most of the nation's basketball fan attention right now, but there is more hoop madness going on in America's smaller gyms and arenas. I'm talking about high school basketball playoffs. They are just as physically and emotionally intense as the big-stage versions and a whole cheaper to attend. If your local high school is still in the hunt, go. Cheer. Witness the show. Support their commitment.

Forty-seven years ago I played on a high school team with my friends. I wasn't the star, but I was a starter and captain and point guard on a team that went 32-6 for the season. We won our final 23 consecutive games and eeked out a one-point victory for the 3-A Texas Catholic Interscholastic League championship.

That probably sounds stupid or boring to you if you aren't a jock. Who remembers high school? How important is it in the grand scheme of your life? Okay, I'll grant you all of those points. Then I'll tell you that I can recall details of that year better than I remember just about anything else from my childhood. Sounds, smells, the name of the hot cheerleader from Lancaster High School (Johnnie Ginger!!), the pulsing roar at the championship game in the St. Mary's University gym in San Antonio, filled with people, more of them for San Antonio Central Catholic than for my team. The mad rush of our fans and my family onto the floor after we won. Being scooped up onto friends' shoulders at center court and paraded around amidst mayhem and screaming and sweaty, steaming, joyful teammates. We worked our asses off for that trophy, that moment, that odd and crazy high school round-ball ecstasy. That kind of fun burns itself into your memory. I loved it.

This past Saturday night, I watched one of our local high school boys' teams win a tight battle for the NorCal Division V championship in a packed gym against a gritty squad from Lodi. Watsonville's St. Francis Sharks won their 23rd consecutive game with a strong team performance, pulling it out in the last two minutes after a close, intense contest. They earned the right to travel to Sacramento this Friday to play the SoCal champs for their division's California state title. It will be a chance to win their final game of the season. Only one team gets to do that this time of year. Only one team gets the crown. Good luck. Go Sharks!

The reason I attended the game was because one of my ex-students is on the team. His name is Riley. He doesn't have the varsity experience that some of the other kids have and he doesn't get to play a lot. He is a brilliant student and a lead actor in school and community plays, quite used to pressure situations and acquiring honors. I think it is hard for him to sit on the bench and watch, but he is always into the game mentally and cheers hard for his friends and teammates.

On Friday, Riley replaced a starter who was in foul trouble for a few minutes of tight action. He found himself open from the three-point line and sank it. You could feel his personal joy as he clenched his fists with a brief "YES!" celebration before sprinting back on defense. There he held his own, boxing out his man diligently on the boards. On the other end, Lodi pressed and trapped most of the game, so receiving the ball, he immediately a drew double team a few times, a crazy place to be if you are not used to it. But Riley held up under the pressure quite well, only making one error, arguably not his fault, when a tired teammate failed to present him with a clear passing lane. Overall, in his brief appearance in a highly contested game, he made a valuable, positive contribution to the win. In a team sport, as a bench player, knowing your role, and being ready to respond, is just as important as being a star.

Result? A NorCal championship and a chance at the big prize: forever memories of high school glory.

Hey! Don't forget your biggest cheerleaders. They are important, too :-)

Peace, Love, and Take State!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Super Saiyan Senior Style

March 15, 2017

Waning Gibbous Moon

I will skip the Ides of March stuff. There are already too many scary things to beware of coming at you from every direction. Instead, I will recommend a 30-day exercise challenge that is pretty benign, but, combined with a stretching, walking, and/or bicycling regimen, will produce favorable results for most folks. By "favorable results" I mean you will feel stronger, tighter, and more energetic. At 65, I know I am never going to look like I'm 35 again and really, I don't much care about that. I just want to feel good and this program does the trick.

It's called the Super Saiyan 30-Day Challenge. Someone found it on the internet and sent it to me a couple of years ago. There are several different programs, but I like this one for now. I am starting it today for the second time in the past year or so, along with a friend of mine from Texas. We agreed to text each other a brief message each day (e.g., "Day One done) as a way to stay on track. That helps to hold yourself accountable, of course, but it is also more fun to share a friendly challenge with someone else.

Everybody knows the benefits of aerobic exercise for heart health, so keep walking or biking or swimming if you are already doing that. If not, then start! But maintaining strength and flexibility is also important in our "twilight" years. Many folks join yoga or tai chi classes - that's great, too - but I prefer to zone out with exercise on my porch at my own schedule. These exercises can and should be spread out over the course of the day (nobody I know can crank out 350 push ups all at once!) and you are free to modify them as you see fit. For example, my right knee is shot. It will not support my weight without sharp pain when bent at a 90-degree angle. So for the squats, I only bend to an angle that I can do without pain. I still feel a noticeable gain in strength from the repetitions over the course of 30 days.

I used this program in the training leading up to my 3,322-mile coast to coast walk across America last year and it helped a lot. Since I returned, I incorporated all the exercises (with low repetitions) into my daily routine. Now that summer is coming (and hopefully some new adventures), I am ramping up my effort to get prepared. I am old but I am mighty!

Peace, Love, and Exercise,

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dig a Pony

March 14, 2017

Waning Gibbous Moon

If, like me, you are interested in what the heck happened to North America in the past few hundred years, one thing you could do is to read The Saga of the Pony Express by Joseph DiCerto (2002). This readable and thoroughly researched book focuses on the brief, but intense, year and a half history of the Pony Express, a grand project created to move mail and news from the then edge of the American frontier to San Francisco and the still "unsettled" West.

You might, like me, be surprised to find that the Pony Express only lasted from April of 1860 to October of 1861. Samuel Morse's invention of the telegraph and some inevitable financial/organizational difficulties eventually lead to the Pony  Express's demise. In the meantime, there were tales of daring do by boys, essentially, young kids speeding cross country on the best horses money could buy. They faced all of the weather and terrain challenges imaginable, as well as sometimes fierce resistance by native people upon whose lands they were trespassing and whose customs they were helping to destroy.

"Orphans preferred."

The Route: St. Joseph. MO to Sacramento, CA, then to San Francisco by boat.

My biggest criticism of this otherwise interesting and possibly accurate saga is that it is almost completely one-sided. It presents the viewpoint of the European immigrants with little to no examination of their basic lawlessness and disregard for the humans they were dispossessing. Why do so many history books fail to address this obvious legal and moral tragedy?

Guilt and shame are pretty useless now. What's done is done. But why cannot the mistakes be acknowledged and some course corrections be initiated? It certainly seems that whatever that force is that fuels conquest and murder and the self-righteous notion that one group of people is entitled to whatever land and resources they desire is still at play. To ignore it is to support it, to feed the monster. The monster appears to be fatter than ever.

Some would call it human nature. or more simply, nature itself. I will take what I want unless you stop me. Like supernovae or colliding black holes or a tectonic plate being subducted beneath another, big violence happens. But the human role in this tug of war is at odds with every religion and civilized doctrine in history. The Golden Rule is taught and recited, but not applied.

We should be better than our history, but we are not. In practice, people, especially those of European descent, have run rampant across the world in the name of their religions. This is not natural. This is simply perverse.

In 1860 there were an estimated 50-100 million pronghorn antelopes, 30 million buffaloes, and 1 billion prairie dogs living in the path of the Pony Express. Oh boy. Not for long. Ever-increasing abuses of ever-expanding technological "advances" all but eliminated them. And more. Today, just 157 years later, there are an estimated 327 million cell phones in the United States of America and a President who regularly tweets incendiary nonsense. SOS. Where are we headed?

Can you hear me now?

Peace and Love from Whence the Skies Were Not Cloudy All Day,