Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Bye Bye June and Junior

Waxing Gibbous Moon

All gone, June is done and 2020 is mercifully half over. I celebrated the end of the month with an 8-mile walk on the De Anza Trail, bringing my 6-month 2020 in 2020 Challenge total to 1,016 miles. That means I would be slightly ahead of schedule if this was exactly half of 365 days, but I am too lazy and too tired to look that up right this minute. Pretty sure it will work out okay, though, if I stay healthy.

Today was all about big weird trees and sorta spooky forest on the trail. 

In case you were wondering, here is a little Baby Northern Shrike update. Mom and Dad are gone - they flew the coop - maybe to Baja for a vacation? (That was fast). There are no more cute little shrike peep sounds up in the redwoods and there is nary a trace of the little one. I did, however, find fresh skunk poop at the base of the redwood where Junior was last seen. My guess is that Pepe Le Pew is the culprit.

What a way to go - scarfed by a stinkin' polecat. Did you know you could look up pictures on the internet to see what skunk poop looks like? Neither did I. No, sorry, I am not going to put a skunk poop jpeg on my Palomino Dream blog. You can look it up for yourself if you're really scat interested.

However, here is a reasonable facsimile of Pepe the Nocturnal Shrike Eater.

He's so smug, I want to slap the stink right off him. 

Peace, Love, and July,

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bouncing Baby Boy

First Quarter Moon

Two days ago I was working on my laptop in my trailer when I heard the following:


The thud was something hitting my roof, the swoosh was something sailing down and off my awning, the thump was something bouncing off the hood of Spugly, and the crunch was something landing on the gravel pad of my campsite.

From my table, which serves as a desk among other things, I have a clear view of Spugly's hood and the gravel pad landing zone. My initial thought was that an owl pellet had fallen from one of the redwoods behind my trailer. I find them all the time back there, but usually they are about the size and heft of a golf ball - maybe slightly bigger. Whatever that thing was that crash landed in the gravel, it was bigger than an owl pellet, roundish and gray - maybe the size of a peach.

I was pretty engaged in what I was writing so I didn't check it out right away. But when I came to a stopping place, I got up and went outside to investigate. To my surprise, it was not an extra large owl pellet. It was a normal size fledgling bird. It's tiny training wings were just too little and weak to do much of anything. When it set sail from wherever it started, up in the branches of a redwood, it plummeted pretty much straight down onto my roof, etc., etc., etc.

This little bouncing baby boy (come on, it had to be a boy, girls don't do dumb stuff like that) was upright, but stunned, blinking at me like whoa, that hurt. When it comes to most plants and some animals, I am not the most empathetic kid on the block. I see accidents like these as part of nature's grand scheme more often than not. The mean old feral calico that passes by my camp every evening would probably snatch this little bugger up PDQ, end of story.

But, no, this time was different. During the whole COVID quarantine time, I have been shaking out the tea towel I use as a bib every afternoon when I snack on peanuts-in-a-shell. I am a world class peanut sheller. When I snack, my hands are a blur. The hard shells fly into my camping pot and the little brown flaky things that surround the nuts burst up and land on my bib. After ten minutes or so of this shelling fury, I am sated with respect to peanuts and a good sized flaky mess has been made upon my chest.

What do I do next? I fold up the tea towel bib, thus capturing all (well, most) of the brown flaky husk-things and carry the whole package outside. On the gravel in front of Spugly (where the bouncing baby bird happened to land two days ago), I shake out the towel/bib onto the gravel and head back inside. From my window, at my table, which then serves as my bird-watching blind, I can observe birds coming and going, sporadically feeding on peanut stuff. Cheap thrills.

Over the past few months a succession of bird types has taken advantage of this AYCE buffet. First it was robins, then doves, then more robins, and lately, it has been a rotating set of northern shrikes. (I did not know that people called them northern shrikes until yesterday when I bothered to look them up on the world wide web).

Anyway, this little stunned birdie was a fledgling northern shrike. I could hear and see its parents up in the trees making their distinct little sounds and hopping from branch to branch. They seemed to be asking me not to step on or bite their dumb ass little son. I was, to tell the truth, surprised that their calls were not more urgent. They made sounds like old people make when they are trying to suck a little shred of chicken from between their teeth - hardly a cry of pleading desperation.

Try it. Try making that sound. I'll wait.

Okay, you done? Now you know what a northern shrike Mommy and Daddy sound like when their dumb ass son tries to fly when his wings are like three-eighths of an inch long.

In deference to Mom and Dad, I pulled a plastic take-out bowl out of my recycling cache and scooped Junior up out of the gravel. I remembered hearing sometime way back in the 20th century that you aren't supposed to touch a dumb ass bouncing baby boy bird lest the parents abandon it in favor of early empty nest status. That status could have practical advantages, I am sure.

Then I moved over to the redwoods where the parents were watching me and sucking their teeth and I lovingly plopped Junior into the duff at the base of a very cool tree - one of my true favorites, actually. Could Mom and Dad grab Junior by his stunted little baby wings and fly him back up to their nest? Hell, no, but neither could I. So Junior was gonna have to face the music on the ground from there on. I was empathied out.

Later that day after dinner, curiosity got the best of me and I went out to check on him. I peeked around the corner and saw the parents on the ground with him, but as soon as they saw me, they zipped up into the branches, sucking teeth again. Junior just sat there in the duff, blinking at me. I began to wonder if it was the thud-swoosh-thump-crunch that created this dumb ass look or if all northern shrike boys look like that. I tossed some peanut flaky things out for family dining and hoped for the best.

The next morning I looked for him and by some miracle he had survived the night. He had moved about six feet away to another tree and the parents came down and landed, one on a nearby stump, the other on a fence post. They looked right at me, as if fully expecting me to perform some kind of St. Francis friend-of-the-northern-shrike miracle. I had zero ideas, bird fans. All I could do was talk to them in my friendliest Walt Disney cartoon human voice. I expressed my sincere happiness that the mean old feral calico had so far missed out on this easy meal and hoped that they and Junior would stick around for a while. I truly enjoyed feeding them flaky peanut leftovers after all.

In the afternoon, I was leaving for a walk and I noticed that Junior had left the safety of the redwood duff and ventured out into the empty dirt space next to my camp. That boy was obviously stark raving crazy and a dumb ass to boot and I told him so. This caused him to flee toward the street (like a dumb ass would). I was briefly impressed that he had gained a little foot speed since the crash landing. I could no longer easily scoop him up in a bowl and I was not about to chase him at my advanced age. So I employed the herding instinct of the wily border collie instead. Where I got that idea I will never know, but it worked. I circled around him and flushed him back into the trees. I felt very good about that. I nearly barked and wagged in glee.

Junior was still in his spot when I retired to bed last night. Alas, though, I have not seen him since. I fear that nature has run its course and the time for northern shrike family drama has passed. It's kind of too bad really. I was starting to hope he would grow some sturdy little wings and learn to suck his teeth like a grownup shrike.

It was not in the cards. RIP, little dumb ass, RIP.

Peace, Love, and Destiny,

Thursday, June 4, 2020

To Be Spacific

Waxing Gibbous Moon

I finally gave myself permission to drive twenty-five minutes west to Moss Landing State Beach today and worship-walk for three hours along Monterey Bay. It was a Spacific Oceanic sandy surfy religious experience. Seraphim and Cherubim and Ophanim and Archangels and pre-rebellion Beelzebub and legions of unnamed relatives of minor league angels danced in my head the whole time. I would periodically stop and shout "Hosanna in the Highest!" or "Ad deum qui laetificat!" or "Juventutum meum!" or "E pluribus unum!" or any other churchy-Latiny words I could think of from way back when church was fun because you didn't know what the heck anybody was saying. "Ora pro nobis!"

I loved saying "Ora pro nobis!" when I was a kid. I hope it doesn't translate to anything too nasty.

Today was the most fun I've had by far since the whole SIP thing kicked in. When the waves are crashing and the breeze is blowing and you have walked way past where the normal people stop and plop down their chairs and their EZ-up tents and their 4-wheel drive ice chests, you can yell whatever you damn well please into the wind. And I did. Mostly in Latin. With feelin'.

This beach is the one that I spent a whole summer cleaning up in 2011 after Fukushima went haywire and trash started washing up on our coast from Japan. I have glowed in the dark ever since, but other than that, I feel fine. Since then, Save Our Shores, a local environmental group, has been taking good care of the beach. But I guess they took a few months off due to the covid closures because there was quite a bit of trash buildup. Litterbugs never give up in their dastardly quest to dump on America.

There were also several of these mysterious ghoul carcasses strewn about one little stretch of sand. Everybody has to go sometime, poor ghouls

Also, I may have discovered Atlantis. Or maybe Canyon de Chelly west. News at eleven.

Mostly, though, it was sand, surf, and birds - a very nice morning.

Peace, Love, and Escapism,

Monday, June 1, 2020

2020 in 2020 Update Update

Waxing Gibbous Moon
Nature is orderly. That which appears to be chaotic in nature is only a more complex kind of order. – Gary Snyder
Despite the fricken orderly chaos, I continue to work on the never-ending twin causes of self-improvement and world peace.

The 2020 in 2020 Challenge might be the only thing keeping me sane. 848 miles and counting, mostly on country roads near my camp. I am walking the roads because most of the local trails are either closed or crowded with SIP refugees who walk in clumps of 4-7 and talk unmasked non-stop. This clump-and-chirp technique is not conducive to world peace, fledgling hikers!

I have finished the first draft of my book chronicling my piecemeal 2,661-mile hike of the Pacific Crest Trail between 2001 and 2009. I will attempt to complete all the edits by the end of the summer. I still haven't settled on a title yet. If you have any good ideas, let me know by email and I'll add them to my working list. The book combines my trail stories and historical references to indigenous bands who once occupied lands now crossed by the PCT from Mexico to Canada.

Peace, Love, and Justice,