Friday, October 22, 2021

A Fresh New Era

 Waning Gibbous Moon

Few 1987 Mazda B2200 longbed pickups have been celebrated as grandly as Spugly the Spectacularly Ugly Palomino Transporter. I will go out on a sky high redwood limb and posit than none has, in fact, received even half as much acclaim. Spugly was an integral part of several of my retirement adventures and, for the most part, it came through like a champ.

All things, as they say, must pass, so it was with the utmost respect and no small measure of gratitude and melancholy that I sold dear old Spugly at the same time as I plunked down a chunk o' cash for a newer, nowhere near as ugly, 2004 Honda CR-V EX. 

This transaction occurred a few weeks ago in Tracy, CA with a friendly, hardworking gentlemean named Pablo. Fans of Spugly will be happy to know that Pablo is a man of many skills, one of which is the painting of trucks and automobiles. Two days after Pablo purchased Spugly, he sent me this photo.

Note the slick gray primer hood complexion contrasted with its flat black bumper and grill. This truck is styling now. It is no longer ugly in form or fashion - instead it seems almost smug in its stoic transition away from Boomer Beat Frantic to Millennial X-change Cool. There was a time to be Spugly and now there is not. Spugly is no more. 

In Spugly's place is a used, one-owner, low mileage gas saver that runs like a top and fits nicely under my poor-ass retired-teacher budget. In a fortunate, happy twist of fate, I was able to purchase it for nearly the exact amount I sold my 2002 Toyota Tacoma to a friend back in 2013. I gave him a great deal on that supercool truck so he could give it to his son as a high school graduation present. "What goes around comes around" has never been more timely. If all goes well, this car might be my last one. It is in pretty great shape and it really scoots. 

I expect that this little Honda will run and run and run, calling to mind NBA great John Havlicek, one of my older brother's and my favorite basketball players from days gone by. Havlicek was a legendary Boston Celtic small forward whose endurance and clutch performances  inspired even me, a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan. He never stopped moving, running opposing players into exhaustion and filling up the bucket with fast break layups and "leaping leaner" jumpshots. 

Havilicek's nickname was Hondo, ostensibly borrowed from the 1953 classic western movie of that name. I'm not sure about the John Wayne/Geraldine Page/Ward Bond connection, if there was one, but I believe that christening my ride Hondo Hondacek would be a fitting tribute for my indefatigable, resolute, steadfast wagon.  For sure there will be wild west adventures to come, maybe even soon. Hondo Goes to Hollywood? Hondo Meets the Mother Road? Breakfast with Hondo? Hondo Hoops America? Or maybe all the above, all together, all at once. Stranger things have happened.

It's a fresh, new era. Let the games begin.

Peace, Love, and Wonder Wheels,

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Mitteldorf Preserve

Waning Gibbous Moon

Last week I noticed a post on Wastebook announcing the opening of public hiking opportunites on the Mitteldorf Preserve, part of the Big Sur Land Trust above Carmel Valley. The link outlined an easy procedure to register for a hike, how to get there, and what trails to take. So with a few mouse clicks and a bunch of fill-in-the-blank typing, I was all set with a permit for a new adventure close to home. This Big Sur outfit is super-organized. They only allow about twenty or so hikers per day through the gate in order to keep the land clean and to preserve a reverence for natural peace and quiet. I'm for it.

So I opted to reserve a spot on Wednesday, October 20, the day of the Full Moon, forecast for partly cloudy sky with temps in the 60's. I showed up at the gate at 10 a.m.after a 40-mile drive, showed my registration email, got my pass, and found my way to the parking area on the road to Williams Canyon. When I arrived, there was only one other car and the forest was perfectly silent. After a 1.8 mile road walk, I came to the kiosk that marked the launching point for a variety of hikes around the preserve.

The Mitteldorf Preserve, established in 1990 through the Big Sur Land Trust, has only recently been open to hikers. It would have opened sooner but for a major forest fire. In 2016, the Soberanes Fire burned 137,000+ acres from Garrapata State Park to Chew's Ridge. The magnificent redwoods of the preserve took a big hit as the fire (started by an illegal campfire, grrrr) surged inland from the coast. Suppression efforts cost more than 260 million dollars. Everywhere I went I could see the damage mixed in with the resilence of the forest beginning to make its way back.

By United States Forest Service -, Public Domain

The longest trail in the park is the climb to Patriarch Ridge and back, about 11.5 miles round trip. There are lots of historic sites along the way and on a clear day, from the top you can see out over the Pacific. I decided to work my way up to hiking that one and start with the easy swing around to the Lodge and the Nature Trail Loop. The overcast sky accented the quiet of the woods and the beauty of the hardwood lodge.

I saw one furtive deer and a few scrub jays. Other than that, the only signs of animal life were several small piles of bear scat. The duff-covered trail revealed no tracks that I could see.

Just before looping back to the Lodge I came across the Landmark Redwood, a giant of a tree whose base had been charred by the fire. Otherwise, it seemed like the massive tree weathered the burn quite well.

In all, I hiked about 5 miles yesterday and learned the lay of the land for my next visit. I'm going to shoot for a sunny day and an earlier start next time to tackle the Echo Ridge Trail/Headwaters Road hike, about 8 miles round trip with views of the ocean and an old time loggers' bunkhouse. That will set me up for my third hike - a final outing up to Patriarch Ridge, the sacred site of Essalen and Rumsen tribal ceremonies. 

On the one hand I am kind of amazed by the extent that Father Time has eroded my conditioning and motivation to take on small goals like these. On the other, I seem to respond to that little push that comes from who knows where, directing me to keep my feet moving and my eyes wide open. There is always something new to see.

Peace, Love, and Preservation,

Sunday, October 17, 2021

In Praise of Excellence

Waxing Gibbous Moon

My ex-librarian pal Dee Dee gave a book to me recently, saying she thought I might like it. I was impressed that she took the time out of her hectic retired-librarian, mushroom-hunting schedule to remember me. On top of being impressed, I am most grateful.

I finished reading The Wild Excellence: Notes from Untamed America last night. The stories in this book rang true to most of my core interests and formative experiences. Notice that I did not and will not use the word "resonate" as I describe the book or anything else under the Sun. I hate it when people do that.

 In my mostly humble opinion, author Leslie Patten just gets it. There is not a phony paragraph on any of her two hundred forty-seven pages as she covers the vast spectrum of real-life important things: learning, growth, attention, intention, purity, loyalty, discipline, ancestry, history, trees, mountains, rivers, wolves, elk, bear, coyote, relationship, and sacred places. She doesn't dwell on her personal past or exactly how that life informed her decision to leave California and live alone in a cabin in the Wyoming mountains. What business is that of the reader anyhow? She placed herself in close proximity to life and to its beings without the direct trappings and distractions of civilization. She describes her experience without judgement of herself or of others. She sees in nature the truths that can lead to harmony and connection. 

It probably helps that I am close in age and near in geographic attachments to the author, but I think it wouldn't matter if I weren't. She gets the holiness of being alone in the wilderness and that is most important for me. The fact that she expresses herself with clarity without saying "resonate" is probably number two.

Do I think you should read this book? Maybe. It kind of depends on where you are in life. I hope you are in a place where absorbing this woman's story will make you happy for her and will also let you see how you have made comparable choices to grow and learn on Earth, too.

We are a richer species by just walking with grizzlies in these woods. To walk with the Great Bear one must be alert, fully awake and aware. All one's senses must be engaged. With the Great Bear around, you cannot walk lost in thought, or conversation. You must be Present. This alone is a gift that only another top predator can bring to man. The Present is his present to us. He presses it upon us by circumstance. Men do not give themselves that gift by choice. That is the gift of the grizzly. - Chapter 7: Bear Dreamer

The Wild Excellence touches all the planet's bases before bringing us safely home in a clear, concise epilogue. The book as a whole is an exemplary environmental teaching tool as well as a deep salve for the soul. To borrow Ms. Patten's closing phrase, "I praise the wild excellence," too.

Peace, Love, and Excellence,


Saturday, October 2, 2021


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,