Thursday, April 30, 2020

Adios April

First Quarter Moon

Just like that, 2020 is one third finished. This shelter-in-place, social distancing thing has been pretty good for me. It has encouraged self-discipline and fostered self-improvement and, digitally at least, brought me closer to family and friends. The 2020 in 2020 Challenge (walk 2,020 miles this year) has been key to staying focused. As of today, I have logged 674 miles with no days off, just by staying consistent and, so far anyway, injury free - knock on log.

I am 350-odd (very odd, some would say) pages into my next (as yet untitled) book. I am attempting to combine an edited version of my Pacific Crest Trail journals with highlights of my research on trade routes, customs, legends, and myths of the tribes who once lived in the areas crossed by the trail from Mexico to Canada. It's a ton of work, but I think I will be finished with the first draft by June. Maybe it will be complete by Fall.

To me, the hardest thing about writing books, even silly ones like mine, is knowing when you're done. Did you make your point? In grad school, you write a thesis proposal, it gets analyzed by your advisor, you make corrections, more red ink gets spilled, over and over until it gets approved. I jokingly bought Jan Gillespie, my thesis advisor, a box of red Bic pens when I first handed in my proposal, not knowing she would actually use them all.

Then you write the first draft of the actual thesis and your work gets crucified, I mean, baptized with more red ink. That happens a few more agonizing times until finally it gets accepted long months later. I don't know how many times Jan wrote "You have to SAY it!!!!" in the margin when the point I was trying to make was not clear enough. It really is hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes, especially when you are working full time, taking classes at night, doing field work on weekends and holidays, and writing whenever you can squeeze it in. At the end, it is kind of hilarious when you get pronounced "Master of Science" after being (rightfully) humbled for a few years. In truth, though, it was the best of times. Pressure makes diamonds.

So this summer, I will put on my Gillespie hat and try to do that kind of gritty analysis for myself. I want this thing to be good. We'll see how it goes.

Late yesterday evening I got a little antsy so I jumped in Spugly and drove most of the way up into San Juan Canyon near my camp. I was following my instincts that told me it was going to be a good sunset. Up near the top of the canyon almost to Fremont Peak State Park, I pulled over and walked up a little dirt hill where I could get a good view in all four directions. And thank goodness I did - it was just what the doctor ordered.

On the way home, I stopped before turning into my camp and snapped one more picture just for fun. 

I have to say it - hey! you! don't worry! be happy!

Peace, Love, and Sundown,

Thursday, April 16, 2020

A Peek at the Peak

Waning Crescent Moon

"When walking is outlawed, only outlaws will take walks." - Anonymous

Or something like that.

Today I sort of sneaked into Fremont Peak State Park and hiked the Cold Springs Trail all by my lonesome, sheltered-in-place, quarantined self. It was so quiet in my woodsy woods woodsy seclusion that I could hear myself metabolizing. My heart was beating thump-thump-thump and my tinnitus was ringing ting-ting-ting.That thump-and-ting thing was annoying until I walked for a bit and got used to it. Then another annoyance took its place. Is this what animal lives are like?

Soon I was hyper-alert to the stupid notion that now that people aren't around much, mountain lions were sure to be lurking up there somewhere. Looking at me. Curling their be-whiskered upper lips. Extending sharp claws on their burly fore-paws. Salivating. Flexing their hindquarters. Swishing their power tails. I was checking the trail behind me way more than usual for the first half mile, but I eventually relaxed. There is no point in spoiling a perfectly good hike with unwarranted wildcat fear, is there? Can cats smell fear? What about bears? Whatever! Shut up and walk!

The trail rolled up and down through the forest, littered with oak leaves and lined with Miner's lettuce and poison oak.The oaks and the madrones were interspersed, taking turns dominating the hillsides with the subtle changes in elevation. I had forgotten how much I like this place.

Moving along, my focus shifted to the small stuff. There were three main flower types, none of which I can correctly identify because I am stubbornly and happily ignorant that way. Besides, it is much more funner to make up your own names for flowers than it is to memorize something someone else made up. In that spirit, I would like to introduce you to Deirdre's Dimple. Isn't she lovely?

Back in the old days, when Uncle Sam put young dudes to work all over the country building trails and waterworks, this pump house served to move water from Cold Springs uphill to the campgrounds. The spring box is no longer functional, but the structure is hanging in there somehow, rickety and mossy and underpinned by fungi. Want to watch a cool documentary? Check out the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

One of the best parts of visiting Fremont Peak State Park is the view of the ocean from the peak. On a really clear day, you can see the beach shining far off in the distance. It's a great place to watch the sunset, too.

On cloudy days like today, the views are very different, but still pretty neat. Why? Because the wet marine layer settles into the valleys below the incoming clouds, creating a double layer with mountain tops poking through in the middle. Today's show was (truthfully) pretty mediocre but maybe looking at these pictures will at least give you the idea.

The beach is out there under the dividing line between the cloud layers.

The tops of the Diablo Range are visible poking out of the fog to the east.
Eventually, I climbed out of the woods into the lower parking lot below Fremont Peak. It was obvious that going up top would not be visually fruitful so I opted to return to my truck via the park road. 

This is one of the easiest peaks to bag in the whole state of California -
about thirty minutes from the parking lot to the summit.
I was not really being a scofflaw at all. It is still legal to walk or bike into the park as long as you don't block the locked entrance gate. There are multi-lingual signs with pandemic safety sayings and stick figure illustrations adorning the gates to remind you, just in case you forgot on the way up from town, that you are in a state of crisis. It could happen, I suppose. I had left Spugly the Spectacularly Ugly Palomino Transporter perched on the grassy edge of a winding narrow access road just beyond the park boundary, so I was cool with all the rules.

It's a very steep, hairpin-heavy, 11-mile bike ride up there, so only the elite riders in this area make it all the way. I only saw one rider coming up as I was going down. 

As yet, I think most of the very bored locals think you're not supposed to hike into the park. Ergo, they are all waddling around down on the De Anza Trail, making six feet look like three and chattering like they were in their kitchens. These practices, as you can imagine, greatly interfere with hearing one's heart beat. 

I had the good fortune of seeing a park ranger in town on Tuesday. I asked him for the real lowdown on the high country. He gave me the green light, so today I was in like Flint, strutting around like I owned the place in my very own quarantine park in the sky. Don't tell anybody! I want to do it again!

Peace, Love, and Social Distancing,

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Pink Moon

Full Moon

Early in the morning on Wednesday, April 8, is the Full Moon (Supermoon!) for April, aka the "Pink Moon." No, the Moon does not exactly change colors like a chameleon, although that would be pretty cool. It appears big and pinkish due to its position in its elliptical orbit around Earth and the interaction of photons (teensy particles of light) with Earth's atmosphere.

Remember ROYGBIV from school daze? The visible light spectrum? Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet? Okay, okay, Pink isn't in the acronym, but neither is Iris or Aquamarine or a whole bunch of other colors in your Crayola box. Pink is a gradation of electromagnetic radiation at a slightly different frequency than ROY, G, or even BIV. It doesn't know that it's Pink. Somebody somewhere, maybe Mr. or Ms. Crayola, saw that frequency of light wave and pronounced it so. If you object, if you would rather call it "Mickey" or "Penelope" that's too bad, for alas, you are late to the crayon/photon party.

Visible light is just one form of electromagnetic radiation coming from the Sun, our star, which is basically a big ball of nuclear explosions converting Hydrogen to Helium and blasting wavelengths of energy every which way throughout the solar system in the process. Lucky for you, because without the Sun, you would never be able to watch all that Tiger stuff on TV.

Radio and TV waves are really, really long, like miles, whereas x-rays and gamma
 rays are super-short. Visible light waves are the only ones our eyes can see, hence the name. 
Okay, now that we are all experts in Physics, let's examine the central issue confronting us today. Whuffo is dat Moon pink, y'all? A picture is worth a thousand words. It also saves time, which I need to do because I have to go for a walk in the gorgeous UV light outside my window, pronto.

"But why does it appear to be bigger than usual, Mr. Wizard?" 

Well, the Moon's orbit is not a perfect circle. It is an ellipse, which means it looks like a slightly flattened circle. So sometimes the Moon is closer to Earth than at other times. When the Moon is the point of its orbit that is farthest from Earth, that position is called "apogee." When it is closest, it's called "perigee." Early in the morning on the 8th (depends on your time zone), the Moon will be at 90% perigee, in other words almost as close to Earth as it gets. And that's why this Full Moon will look bigger than it did last month.

Not to scale!!
We have taken to calling these perigee events "Supermoons" because we don't really have much else to do. You can only watch so much of that Tiger stuff on TV.

Anyway, go outside for a minute and look at it. It's purdy.

Peace, Love, and Apollo 13,

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Resume Comparison

Waxing Gibbous Moon

A friend who knows me well sent me this little chart comparing the NBA and NCAA stats of Kareem Abdul Jabbar versus Michael Jordan. Note: this doesn't even include high school stats - if it did, it would be more lopsided in favor of KAJ.

I have nothing against Michael Jordan or anybody else you want to mention in the conversation about the Greatest of All Time in the game of men's basketball. I love the game and I loved watching MJ throughout his career. In today's game, players like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Damien Lillard, and LeBron James, etc. are absolutely brilliant and there are so many fantastic shooters and ball handlers. But nobody, not even the greats like Russell or Wilt or Magic, has a better basketball resume than Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

My admiration for Kareem goes beyond the court, however. He graduated in four years with honors in History from UCLA. He has been an outspoken advocate for civil rights his entire life. He served the U.S. as a global cultural ambassador and is an honored recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He voluntarily coached high school basketball on an Indian Reservation in Arizona for one season and served as an assistant coach for the Lakers (adding two more rings, btw) in the NBA. His Skyhook foundation funds camps for underprivileged children that promote healthy living through sports and education. He has acted in numerous television shows and movies. He has written more than ten books and countless journal articles since his retirement from the NBA after twenty seasons. Now in 2020, Kareem, soon to be 73 years old, is the executive producer of the History channel's Black Patriotism: Heroes of the Revolution

Kareem's influence on my life and on the world at large continues to be inspirational. If you want to argue about who is the G.O.A.T., go ahead. But really, all you are arguing about is who comes in second place.

Peace, Love, and Heroes,