Saturday, December 29, 2012

Life goes on

The flag at Castro and Market from Noe and Market
Long time, no post. October into November I was caught up in the presidential election. The prospect of a corporate raider for president was horrible to me. What a relief when President Obama was re-elected. 

We’ve been easing ever-deeper into retirement… productive mornings, taking it easy into the afternoons and evenings… 

Leslie and I are in San Francisco at the moment. We’re staying at David’s and Charles’ house for the Christmas holidays, as we did for Thanksgiving. We had several days together, then David and Charles left for a several days to visit Charles’ family in Tennessee. They’ll return the day after Christmas and we’ll be together again through the New Year holiday. The night before they left I read the Night Before Christmas for the 26th year in a row.

At the corner of Castro and Market
A few weeks ago I was lying on the bed in late afternoon and Leslie came in and bent over me to kiss me and like a starburst I saw her true beauty. We fell in love more than 50 years ago and I've always seen her beauty, but this was so intense and sparkling. I made a re-commitment to her then (which I told her about last night). It's a deeper understanding of "til death do us part" - I feel like I'm in a new stage of life.

Wren (named Wregan the Vegan) on feeder at our bedroom window 
So here we are riding buses and streetcars and walking all over San Francisco. Yesterday we were on Stockton Street, the Chinese part of Chinatown, checking out the markets, the people, and having lunch (duck and pork on rice, what else) at the New Moon Café, where if you go upstairs and look back just past the restroom you can see into a room with big fans and whole pigs hanging, air drying… and the menu includes sesame oil with stomach, pork skin and pork blood, and, well, you get the point. It’s a lot like being in Asia.

Ferry Building, choir
We took the F-Line down Market to the Ferry Building Saturday market – Golden Gate Bridge not far away, vendors outside and in, tons of people, beautiful vegetables, breads, cheeses, mushrooms, olive oils, chocolates, and of course, Blue Bottle coffee. There was a choir singing in the gallery above that runs above the ground floor where all the vendors and people are. Magic!

Hummingbird near Noe and Market.
Thanks for the camera David and Charles!
Yesterday on the streetcar back toward home a woman left her scarf on her seat and a guy chased her out to give it back and the driver waited. Later a young woman with long curling hair was getting off and she turned to us and said, “You two are adorable.” Then when we got off a man stopped us to give me the umbrella I’d left behind.

We were in Café Trieste, communing with the ghosts of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and having the usual double espresso and there was a well-dressed older man, muttering and talking, and then shouting and cursing, standing right next to Leslie, threatening someone, shaking his cane, and Leslie is sitting there, cool as can be… Someone finally escorted him out. As we were leaving, we saw a woman, escorting him back in. Haha, we wondered what the people inside thought about that?  

Inside Italian streetcar (1920s) on the F-Line
Little by little the buses and streetcars are giving up their secrets to us. Into the Tenderloin and the 38 stop near Shalimar where people go to score and sometimes smoke crack (a desperate scene; it's tolerable, though, as long as you don't do something stupid like carry a purse); and the wonderful loop from Union Square through Japantown (nice mall, clean restrooms), on to Fillmore (coffee at Peet’s), Pacific Heights, through the Marina (walking around Chestnut Street), looping back up through North Beach, Chinatown, hop off at edge of Union Square and walk back to our hotel in Chinatown.    

Even with all the magic, it’s a somber Christmas. The Newtown Connecticut killings of so many children have shaken Leslie and me. What now?

Gun laws should be improved/strengthened of course. I say this as an experienced gunfighter who owns guns. I’m not a hunter though.

We should commit to being better parents, and partners and neighbors. It all starts at home, loving, supporting, teaching, and protecting. It continues into community, with engaging, supporting, and lifting up others.

We should train ourselves and our loved ones to maintain situational awareness. This isn’t being fearful or paranoid; it’s a basic life skill and is in opposition to walking around like a numbnuts.

We should make a commitment to acting effectively when action is needed. In a crisis/dangerous situation most people freeze and do nothing; a few people panic; a few people act effectively. For example, if someone starts shooting, what should you do? Go sideways of course, preferably to the left, and leave or flank the shooter and take him down.

I just finished reading Carl Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, wherein he says evil has been loosed upon the world as a “determinant reality” and “how we can learn to live with it without terrible consequences cannot for the present be conceived.” And I’ve been reading the Book of Job, the book that asks, “Why do the righteous suffer?” Someone suggested St. Francis had a response, but not an answer to this (heretical) question. I’ll take this as a response to Newtown and as part of the answer to the question of, “What now?”

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

As anyone who knows me would know, I’ve got a way to go on this one, but nevertheless, Onward, into "the unrepeatable gift of each precious day."

When we got back to DFW Airport from Thanksgiving in SF there was a note on my car, saying “A Purple Heart (referring to the license plates), Marine (window decal), Obama supporter (bumper sticker) – I dig it! Thank you for your service and happy Thanksgiving!” Inside the note there was a gift. Nice.

Chocolate pecan pie
I’m a pie-making dynamo. Starting at Thanksgiving I’ve baked at least one… pecan pie, chocolate pecan pie, chocolate walnut pie, cherry pie, apple pie, coconut pie, beef pot pie, and chocolate torte.

There have been challenges this year (the hailstorm, mostly), but it’s been a good year for us. And I’m committed to continue to work toward real-izing St. Francis’ prayer.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Subsonic love-making

We were both sick (GI – nevermind the details) and Leslie was much sicker than I. After a few days we were able to get out of bed to somewhere other than the bathroom… after we could move around there were many hours that we still lay in bed together, one or the other dozing, awake, not talking, holding hands, and even though neither of us felt well, it was a sweet time, together.

Last Friday I went to a huge luncheon at the Anatole (long gone the days of big room bad food). The theme of the event was Each Moment Matters and it was all related to Grace Presbyterian Hospice. I was blown totally away, tears in my eyes blown away by the announcement that there is 30 million dollars in the bank toward a goal of 45 million to build (Dallas’ first) inpatient hospice. An inpatient hospice has been a dream since 1978 when we started the first hospice in Texas!
Main stage at Art Outside

From the luncheon I was on the road to near Austin where I went to something called Art Outside. I camped with the Atrium Obscurum crew, hung out at the campsite, spent some brilliant time with Asa of Hyperdimensional Space Exploration Foundation, danced and danced and danced…

And went home to Leslie early Sunday afternoon. The perfect ending to an epic several days.

Sometimes at night, when you’re asleep I whisper things to you, like, “Leslie, I adore you… My beautiful Leslie… Forever and ever... I love you…” Adore - a perfect word for all of this. Subsonic love-making.

These are the days.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


This post is dedicated to Henning Wessel, a friend who recently died – a good guy who helped a lot of people passing through Phnom Penh and along the Mekong. Henning loved food and I think he would have enjoyed this post. Brokedown Palace (going home)
The hailstorm repairs are allllmost done, summer heat is finished, and it’s time to bake again. Over the past few weeks I’ve made pear preserves, strawberry preserves, triple chocolate cookies, bun cha, lahp, a country French boule, and a country French cheese (pepper jack) boule. For breakfast this morning I had bread, preserves, and almond butter – all homemade.  
Here are three good preserves recipes:
Strawberry on left, pear on right
Strawberry Preserves 
Recipe from Martha Stewart, with increased sugar
Super-sweet berries are not necessary. The main thing is good flavor. The sugar takes care of the sweetness.
2 pounds strawberries, hulled
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon, freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups sugar
Put strawberries and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat until juices are released, about 40 minutes. Stir in sugar.
Can take berries out, put in jars, then cook the syrup down and pour over berries. This will result in firmer berries.
Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture registers 210 degrees.on a candy thermometer, about 15 minutes. Original recipe says “Let cool completely; skim foam from surface with a spoon. Preserves can be refrigerated in an airtight container, up to 2 months.” I pour them up hot, jars in boiling water for 15 minutes. 

Amber Pear Preserves
Printed from COOKS.COM
□   4 c. under-ripe pears (I use 4#)
□   3 c. sugar (try a little less – with 4# pears, I used 4# sugar)
□   1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice (3 T if increasing as above)
This recipe is about 75 years old. Peel and chop under-ripe pears. Let stand overnight with sugar and lemon juice. Stir then put on low fire and let simmer until pears have turned amber color, about 2 hours (BUT do not over-cook). Go by color. Stir to be sure it isn't sticking. Pour in prepared jars and seal. Use all juice. Boiling water bath for 15 minutes. You are really in for a treat.

Orange Marmalade
From About British Foods
Seville oranges are smaller and not as “pretty” as the usual oranges seen in stores. But they are the right (bitter) oranges for this recipe. Usually available December-February. Need ~12” square of muslin, large non-reactive stock pot with 4 liters water, sterilized jars.
5# Seville oranges
2 large or 3 small, unwaxed lemons
6# sugar (original recipe calls for a little more)
4 liters water in a large pot
Almond butter, strawberry preserves, country loaves (cheese on top)
Halve the oranges and lemons and juice them. Add juice to water. Put the pips and rubble onto muslin, tie it off, and put into the water. Pull the membranes out of the oranges (reserving the pith and peel) and discard. I think the membranes add a stronger bitterness. Cut orange and lemon peel into strips. If too thin will dissolve. Put into water. Bring to boil, then heat, and bring to boil. Boil for about 20 minutes, removing any scum – until setting point* is reached. When setting point reached, turn off heat and let sit for 20 minutes.
Pour into sterilized jars (I use a sterilized 1/3 cup measure). The original recipe doesn’t call for a 15 minute boiling water bath, but why not.
*Setting point is determined by putting a couple plates into the icebox for 15-20 minutes. Put a spoonful of marmalade onto a plate and back into icebox for 5 minutes. Then push the edge of marmalade with finger. Wrinkly = set.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Thoughts on writing

Someone (T) asked me about writing… I can tell you what worked for me, but first, T, I didn’t ask if you’ve thought about writing a book about your life. I asked, “Have you thought about writing about your life?” The point of writing about yourself is to understand more about yourself, how you got to where you are, where you might be headed, to tell your story, and maybe, if others read your work, to change people’s consciousness. (If you write truly you’ll certainly change your own consciousness!) I’m well aware that the first part of your life was extraordinarily difficult. I was seeing writing as a means of discovery and ultimately, healing. If a book results, well, great.

The way to become a writer is to write – several hours a day, five days a week if possible. Maintaining a blog is a good way to get started. I write about people I meet, things I do, my past, whatever. I’m writing a lot less these days. FB posts lead to nowhere in terms of writing.
Most people need coaching or editorial help, especially early in the process of becoming a writer. For many people, it isn’t easy to hear that their writing is lacking in grammar or style or whatever. But there is no avoiding correction if one is to be a serious writer. 

Related to editorial help is a constant effort to improve one’s writing. I always revise and correct my work several times over. One curiosity I discovered about my writing is that fairly often, the last sentence of a paragraph actually should be the first sentence.
Intentions are of little value. Actions matter.
The problem of “writer’s block” should be ignored. If you can’t write, work on the table of contents or clean your desk or change the oil in your car or something productive. Waiting for inspiration while staring at a blank screen or sheet of paper is a waste of time.
Read other people’s work. I’ve learned a lot from skilled writers like David Sedaris, Elmore Leonard, Harry Stack Sullivan, and countless others.
I carry a pocket notebook almost everywhere I go. I write down things I see. things people say, my thoughts, quotes from things I read, whatever. I use less than 20% of what I make notes of/on. I’m still waiting to use these quotes: “Onward, toward our noble deaths” (title of book by Misuki) and “He despised all cant and pretentions, and he never called himself an artist” (from the forward to the Aperture book on Robert Capa).
This is a lot of work, but if you do it for several years, you’ll be a writer.
I wrote because I had something to say and there was some degree of I wrote because I couldn't not write. Thanks to my coaches and editors: Joe Bob Briggs, Jennifer Donovan, Linda Garner, and the editors at Lippincott and Elsevier Science.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Car camping in Colorado

This is from Elevation Outdoors, a hip climbing, BPing, cycling, etc., magazine out of Boulder. The original article with some photos is here - along with other good stuff. This is a good mag. Check it out at
"Colorado has one of the biggest menus of campgrounds in the country, but too many of those spots are overrun, poorly planned or filled with fume-belching RVs. To help you plan, we rounded up 10 of the best campgrounds across the state. Some are small and private. Others are better for rowdy groups, trailers and kids. But all are set in drop-dead gorgeous locales with adventure nearby. (Photos were taken in Colorado, but are not related to car camping, Underlined places were given further positive review by my internet friend SWT.)  
Campsite in Rawah Wilderness
1. The Crags – Colorado State Forest, southeast of Gould Colorado State Forest is often overshadowed by its more popular neighbor, Rocky Mountain National Park. Yet, the scenery here is almost equally jaw-dropping, and the wildlife nearly as abundant. What you won’t find in the forest are the bumper-to-bumper windshield gawkers. The Crags Campground is wedged among rocky peaks at the southern end of the forest. A rough access road and small spaces make this best for tents and small trailers—and keep the crowds at bay. All the sites except No. 6 are reservable, but you probably won’t need a reservation except on busy weekends. Call ahead to be sure. What to Do: Climbing at Nokhu Crags and hiking the surrounding chain of 12,000-foot peaks are the choice pursuits, with several routes accessible from the campsite. Cast a fly in the bordering American Lakes for cutthroat trout. CONTACT: 970-723-8366;
2. Mueller State Park Campground – Pike National Forest, south of Divide
Mueller is a popular spot, and once you set foot here, you’ll immediately see why. The park’s 5,121 acres of aspen and conifer forests are home to black bear, elk, deer, fox, coyotes and hundreds of bird species. Pikes Peak is in full view to the east, and a long stretch of the Continental Divide to the west. For walk-in tent sites, head up Revenuer’s Ridge to Prospectors Ridge. A dozen sites are (a short) walk-in only and spaced about 100 yards apart for privacy. Turkey Meadow sites are also a short walk in and provide the best views of Pikes Peak. What to Do: Access more than 85 miles of biking and hiking trails directly from the campground. Four Mile Creek provides stream fishing for trout. The south end of Mueller has the Four Mile Day Use Area where you can set off down the popular hike up to Dome Rock. Look for bighorn sheep. Have the family along? Sign up for a ranger-led nature program. CONTACT: 719-687-2366;
3. Camp Dick – Boulder Ranger District, near Allenspark
One of the Rawah lakes
Small groups, dog lovers, and wilderness buffs will feel right at home at Camp Dick Campground, which is situated in a glacial valley adjacent to Middle St. Vrain Creek and borders the Indian Peaks Wilderness. While many surrounding sites (including Rocky Mountain National Park) don’t allow four-legged hikers, they’re welcome (on-leash) at Camp Dick and in the wilderness area. Try to nab one of the sites that borders St. Vrain Creek—the sound of the water adds privacy and offers the chance to take a dip on hot summer days. The camp is normally full for the weekend by early Friday afternoon, so arrive early or reserve ahead. What to Do: Trails leading into Indian Peaks leave right from the campground. Horseback riding, biking and fishing are also available here. Campground full? Peaceful Valley Campground is approximately one mile east of Camp Dick and offers another 17 sites.
CONTACT: 303-541-2500.
4. Long Draw Campground – Roosevelt National Forest, west of Ft. Collins
Most Fort Collins visitors stop at Poudre Canyon and Red Feather Lakes, but if you keep heading west, there’s much more to discover. At 10,030 feet in elevation, Long Draw is the ideal base camp to escape the heat and explore. All the sites are first-come, first-served, so get here early to stake out your ground. Twenty-one sites accommodate RV camping and four are more suitable for tents. Most of the sites are heavily wooded, providing shade and privacy. Local rangers say that once people visit Long Draw, they keep coming back year after year—a true testament to the area’s hidden beauty. What to Do: Fish for trout in Long Draw Reservoir, La Poudre Pass Creek, and Corral Creek. Hike the nearby Corral Creek and Poudre River trails. Nonmotorized boats are permitted in Long Draw Reservoir. CONTACT: Canyon Lakes Ranger District, 970-295-6600
First campsite in the Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop 
5. North Rim Campground – Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, near Montrose
Photos don’t do justice to the deep, narrow drama of the Black Canyon. You really must come and see it for yourself. There are many places to access the gorge, but the north rim offers the most solitude. The campground is arguably the most scenic in the area, set on the rim’s edge in an ancient piñon-juniper forest. Instead of looking up at snowy mountains—the quintessential Colorado view—you will be looking down into the nearly 2,000-foot-deep canyon. Campsites are on the small side, which discourages trailers and RVs. No reservations are accepted, so arrive early on busy summer weekends. What to Do: Hike along the rim or down into the gorge itself, where the fly fishing is unparalleled. At the end of the campground loop, set foot onto the Chasm View Nature Trail for amazing gorge views. The North Vista Trail leaves from the ranger station nearby and goes along the North Rim of the Gunnison to a high point on a nearby ridge. Climbing the “Black” is a unique adventure too (but not for the inexperienced). CONTACT: 970-641-2337;
6. Cold Springs Campground – Routt National Forest, southwest of Yampa
Here, solitude is absolutely guaranteed. Farther off the beaten path than most car-camping spots, this is the uppermost campground along FR 900. It sits at the eastern edge of Stillwater Reservoir and only offers five sites and no RV access. No reservations are accepted, so arrive early to nab a spot. Your backdrop is a knife-edge ridgeline of 11,000–12,000-foot peaks, and there’s a waterfall and small pond on-site. The trailhead to the Flat Tops Wilderness is nearby, as are several other trails leading to the small lakes atop the mesa. Steamboat Springs isn’t too far away by car if you want to break up your wilderness experience with mountain town life or a dip in the springs.What to Do: Hike. Stillwater Trailhead lies just beyond the campground and offers access to the Flat Tops. Smith Lake Trailhead leaves from the campground and is an easy stroll to Smith Lake—great for an after-dinner walk or hike with small children. You can also fish on the reservoir. CONTACT: Routt National Forest, 970-638-4516
On the Four Pass Loop
7. Parry Peak – West of Twin Lakes, near Leadville
Anglers who want to save money on hotel fees and have easy access to the best holes should stop over at Parry Peak Campground. This lightly forested campground on Lake Creek makes a great stopover on a fishing road trip or a great destination in and of itself. The campground was recently rejuvenated, including some reforestation of pines that were destroyed by beetles. The sites are a bit close together, but the campground typically only fills up on the busiest summer weekends. For the best sites, stay left after crossing the bridge. What to Do: Lake and stream fishing are the biggest draws here. You can also launch a canoe or hike in and around the campground (access to Mount Elbert is close by). Surrounding Leadville you’ll find amazing white-knuckle singletrack for mountain biking. Climbers can access Monitor Rock, Outlook Rock, Black Slab, Dump Wall and more. CONTACT: San Isabel National Forest, 719-486-0749
8. Bear Lake Campground – Sangres, near La Veta
This isn’t the same Bear Lake you think it is. Located in far southern Colorado, the granite domes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains border a forest of spruce and fir. This in turn gives way to an open meadow and Bear Lake, where you can enjoy tent camping in the most southeasterly slice of national forest land in Colorado. The campground is well placed along the dense forest and alpine meadow above Bear Lake. Along the gravel loop, several wooded sites are spaced out with obscured views of the lake. More open sites are in the center loop as the road swings around into a grassy meadow. Reservations aren’t accepted, but sites are usually plentiful if you arrive by early afternoon. What to Do: Dozens of trails offer hiking within minutes of the campground, or make a side trip to the Spanish Peaks. Indian Creek Trailhead starts just beyond site 9. A foot trail circles Bear Lake, fed by the streams above and home to trout. A mile up trail is Blue Lake, with more fishing. CONTACT: San Isabel National Forest, 719-269-8500
9. Saddlehorn Campground – Colorado National Monument, near Fruita
On the Four Pass Loop
Until recent years, the canyon country southwest of Grand Junction was largely overlooked by outdoor junkies who only had tunnel vision for Moab. But the crowds are discovering Fruita’s trails and the forests and rock sculptures of the Colorado National Monument. Saddlehorn Campground is an ideal jumping off spot for exploring the monument, and the campground is a destination in and of itself. Loop B has a few sites that are especially private. For the best weather and least amount of bugs, visit here in early September through November. All sites are first-come, first-served. What to Do:Some of the monument’s best day hikes are accessible from the campground. The Window Rock Trail is a nice short loop with views. Canyon Rim Trail travels on the edge of Wedding Canyon for more views. For a longer hike, take off down the Monument Canyon Trail for 6-8 miles and tour the natural rock sculptures. Or try the Ottos Trail, which drops down toward the Pipe Organ and overlooks the depths of Monument Canyon. Drive or road bike the 23 miles from one end of the park to the other—numerous overlooks provide wide vistas over the canyon. CONTACT:
10. Vallecito Reservoir – Northeast of Bayfield, near Durango
Vallecito is one of the few large reservoirs in Colorado that marries the tranquility of camping with the bustling fun of water sports. For that reason, it’s an ideal destination for groups and families. Several campgrounds surround the reservoir, but we recommend Old Timers and Graham Creek on the east side, which is less developed. If you like fishing, visit in early fall when the water skiers are gone. Anglers can pursue rainbow and German brown trout, Kokanee salmon and northern pike. What to Do: Boating and water sports are the big ticket here. Several hiking trails are located near campgrounds, leading along streams and into the high country. You can take short walks to scenic overlooks or long treks into the Weminuche Wilderness. CONTACT: San Juan National Forest, 970-884-2512"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wind Rivers 2012

Taken standing in front of my tent - sub-alpine paradise
(Written in a vast mountain meadow called Miller Park) When I was in my teens I would look at maps and see an area called the Bridger Wilderness and I would wonder what that was like. Now I know. This place, the Wind River Mountains in the Bridger Wilderness, must surely be one of the most beautiful places in North America, if not the world. I’m grateful I’ve been here.
In one of the basins between two of the passes in the Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop (Colorado) I came across some alpine tarns and granite domes and I thought, “This is it. This is what I’m looking for. I’ll be back.” Then I found the Winds – a mountain range full of tarns and granite domes, and jagged peaks, glaciers, snowfields, waterfalls, tundra – really an amazing place.
On my last night out, a prayer of deep gratitude that I’ve known some small part of this incomparable place.
I didn’t get as far or as high as I planned. I got to about 10800, partway up Indian Basin on my third day and was having to stop every 50 yards or so and taking a long time to recover. A man on the trail had said to me, “It’s a wise man who’s willing to change his mind.” As soon as I got down to ~10000 I started feeling better. I camped at Island Lake, on the way out the next day I camped at Seneca Lake, and the last night in the meadow.
Next to my last campsite
I’m camped next to a grove of about 8 large pines. In the morning as night fades the wilderness awakens – the nocturnal animals settling in and the sky purple over the mountains, rising to pink, fading into blue and the clouds white and some tinged with pink and a jay screeching, answered from around the meadow by other jays, some cheeping, some rapid warbles, cawing, and what sounds like a squirrel chuk-chuk-chuking and a woodpecker going to work. I’m having oatmeal and coffee on this last morning on the trail.
I’ve pushed it pretty hard backpacking, with the pinnacle being the 2009 loop along the Highline Trail, over Knapsack Col, and the long glissade down Twin Glacier, and on out through Titcomb Basin. The vision now is smaller. I think easier treks, no glaciers, no epic. I found myself thinking about Big Bend. The following is from the Thanksgiving 2007 Sierra Club Big Bend trip.
Island Lake
When I got up the next morning I walked into the woods to urinate and as I unzipped I heard a sound off to my right. I looked and about 30 feet away (I later paced it off – 10 paces) was a mountain lion standing sideways to me, looking at me. Big, beautiful tawny, big eyes. I flashed on Juana, a Mexican woman I know who has power over animals and I did what I thought Juana would: I said “Hello, how are you” and went ahead and peed. Meanwhile the cougar watched me, sneezed a few times, sat down and licked her chest. I finished, zipped up and said something like “I hope I see you later” and walked away. When I looked back she was still sitting there, watching me. A little while later at breakfast I told the people in my group what had happened and several of the men went to see if they could see it (they assumed it was a male, I thought it was a female – we later found out which it was)…
That night I slept warm with the wind rushing high above (but it was not windy where we were) and I heard the patter of rain or sleet on my tent. In the morning several people said they had heard something that sounded like cats, but not lion-sized….
I left Amarillo before sunrise and here it comes
In the morning the tents were covered in (granular) ice >1 inch thick in some places. The plan was to break camp and hike to the lodge for breakfast (mmm, bacon) and then hike out of the mountains. Taking the tent down was soooo slow, with so much ice (inside the tent, too) and my fingers icy cold and then numb and kind of hot feeling – how many times long ago climbing had they felt that way – knocking the ice off and untying lines and then the lion returned and began to scream. I saw it again, about 40 feet away, watching us. It stalked our camp, screaming and hissing 5-10 times as we broke camp. Our theory, zoologists that we are not, was that she had cubs nearby and had basically just had it with us being so close. Who knows.
As I was falling asleep one night I sat up laughing out loud, realizing that the commitment to live fully beginning when I survived a war has resulted in me living at least 1.5 lifetimes, so far.

I think of what I want to do in my life now… a little travel and being home with Leslie, being around David, a little backpacking, journeys with Jeff, but mainly what I look forward to is being with/taking care of Leslie.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

High tundra - rock, ice, sky

Here we go again and as always, wherever you are, Leslie, you’re with me – through the endless Texas plains, the edge of New Mexico and over Raton Pass, into the Colorado flatlands, the foothills of the Rockies, stopping in Fort Collins - the city of my dreams, past the Snowy Mountains, into Wyoming’s high desert, and finally the Wind River Mountains and all along the way, Hello Kitty sticker (surrogate Leslie) reminding me, “The speed limit is…” and “Don’t you want to…” and "uhh..." and of course, "Hello."
David and Leslie, near Hue
Last night we were lying in bed talking, cutting up, laughing and laughing about I don’t remember what – like so many other nights... and then sweet mornings. These are the days. It’s been more than two months since the hail storm that turned things upside down for us. Except you and I never got turned upside down – together and these really are the days.
Sweet afternoons.
When I think of you my heart is full, all the love, the joy, the respect, all the fulfillment, all the everything.
From Hue 2011/2012: After a banana pancake breakfast (with honey and yogurt) and not forgetting a glass of very strong cafe sua and a few minutes later splitting an omelet/baguette sandwich, we took a riverboat cruise for 100,000VND (Leslie's bargaining acumen) to Thien Mu Pagoda, 45 minutes up the perfume river. This where the monk Thich Quang Duc lived before he went to Saigon in 1966 to immolate himself in protest against the VN government and the war. The pagoda and grounds were quietly beautiful –understated and mossy with just a few people around and a view from the grounds across the wide river, past the plains, to these mist-covered mountains where we fought and bled, where so many from every side fought and bled and died, aching for life – me for a beautiful dark-haired girl whose photo was so washed out from the water that only the shadow of her left eye was left and now, 45 years later, looking across the room from where I write she's sitting on the bed, the love of my life, beautiful, her hair white now and here we are in Hue and I look out through the glass-paned doors toward palm trees and mossy buildings - it's misting in Hue.
I’ve loved you a long time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You dreamed of me

It was a heavy meeting this Wednesday morning. Someone has cancer, someone is six years (!) into his wife having a degenerative neurological disease, someone’s wife has cancer, and there are others with family members with cancer or other serious problems. And the wounds aren't just physical. It’s not like there is some kind of the answer to making it through these things. I think it's good to have family, community, friendships; it's good to have faith and/or a spiritual home; it's good to know you're doing your job; it's good that you're here... 

Mention was made of Beatitudes...

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
(And so on – Matthew 5:1-12. I carry these verses with me in my little notebook - for contemplation.)


From an email to Jeff: Last night I was thinking that we're all just passing through and in the end, not many people will mark our passing, hence it's good to treasure and nurture those relationships. 

I was also thinking that here I go on another vision quest into the Wind Rivers. I think I have some kind of fundamental or spiritual connection to the Winds. To paraphrase John Muir, These mountains call and I must go. 

Love, Charlie


Attics of My Life 
(written by Robert Hunter, sung by the Grateful Dead, dedicated to Leslie)

In the attics of my life, full of cloudy dreams unreal.
Full of tastes no tongue can know, and lights no eyes can see.
When there was no ear to hear, you sang to me.

I have spent my life seeking all that's still unsung.
Bent my ear to hear the tune, and closed my eyes to see.
When there were no strings to play, you played to me.

In the book of love's own dream, where all the print is blood.
Where all the pages are my days, and all the lights grow old.
When I had no wings to fly, you flew to me, you flew to me.

In the secret space of dreams, where I dreaming lay amazed.
When the secrets all are told, and the petals all unfold.
When there was no dream of mine, you dreamed of me.


Last week I talked some about a photograph of a girl who has haunted me for years. Here is Omayra Sanchez shortly before she died. I put the photo up for about 10 minutes and then realized I'm not qualified to do that. Maybe if I was still caught up in service - but I'm not. You can google her name. I recommend it. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

The mountains call

Peak Lake Basin in the northern Winds - high and wild
The Wind River Mountains! It’s that time of year again, poring over a topographic map of the northern Winds. Seeing the trail (Elkhart-Seneca-Indian Pass) going up up up through forests and across meadows and on the second day out of the forest into mostly open sub-alpine terrain (below photo, right) with lakes, glacier-scoured granite domes, groves of pine trees and on the third day, into the alpine (like in the above photo, left) where it’s all rock and tundra, ice and snow and water. Still going up and on the fourth day, if the weather is clear and my strength is good, leaving most gear behind and climbing Freemont Peak (13,745). The next day is off-trail over Indian Pass at ~12,000 feet and down Knife Point Glacier. I’ll set up a base camp for a few days and wander in the rock, ice, snow at the terminuses of this and other glaciers.

Then back over Indian Pass, down Indian Basin, past Island Lake back into the sub-alpine, where maybe I’ll sit for a day before walking out. The photo at right (below) is where I camped my second night in 2011 – I regretted not walking at least up to that little rise in the right center of the photo, maybe back there for a place to sit. I may spend one more night at the edge of one of the huge meadows they call “parks” up here, then out and it’s time for a cheeseburger and fries at the Wind River Brewery and a hot shower, sleep, and start home. Total 10-12 days on the trail, about 50 miles.
Sub-alpine area campsite along the Seneca Lake Trail

It’s unclear exactly when this will happen as the work on the hail damage at our house continues. It isn’t all that important when, except I need to be out of the mountains by mid to late September because of the snow.

House repairs drag on. Even though we seem to have a good guy in charge of the various subcontracting crews, it’s been stressful, but we’ve hung in there, mutually supportive. All this is against a background of how lucky we are (no tornado, no fire, no flood). Anyway, it’s far more pleasant studying the map, looking at photos, planning what I’ll eat, and so on.

I had to clear out the attic (with some help from Ron the construction superintendent) so all the insulation can be removed and new insulation put it. Leslie and I went through some Christmas decos and I ended up with more lights for the welcome lights on the arbor at the front sidewalk. I put them up today and this evening walked out to look at the lights and the fragrance of the four o’clocks was intense. Nice.

Campsite in southern Titcomb Basin
It looks like I’ll celebrate my 68th birthday somewhere high in the alpine. My 65th was deep in the northern end of the incomparable Titcomb Basin “… a sight that will haunt you forevermore” (The World’s Great Adventure Treks) ”… dark and foreboding, almost like something out of the Lord of the Rings” (Dorf’s Winds, 2006). What a birthday that was, at the end of an epic journey! 

"The mountains call and I must go" (John Muir).