Friday, October 6, 2017

Chair with a View; Homeward Bound; Frog Bikers; Salt Lake City; Carbondale and Breckenridge, Colorado

Well, it's October, and our 2017 Messages of Hope Tour is winding down. We are now officially eastbound after spending the summer out West. Here's what's been happening lately:

After being cruelly abused by our personal tormentor (er, trainer) Heather (see my previous post for details), Suzanne took off for Scottsdale and the Afterlife Research and Education Symposium, while I took a break to paddle on nearby American Lake and ease my sore muscles. The view of Mt. Rainier was impressive, and early morning/late afternoon paddling was delightful.

Our campsite was right on the water, and this was the view from my camp chair (wine glass with Zin not shown)... not too shabby, eh?

While MLB was away, I also took the opportunity to get some culture, and enjoyed the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM), where this Georgia O'Keefe still life (From Pink Shell, 1931, oil on canvas) caught my eye. I also learned about Ghost Ranch, one of her favorite places, which I will have to visit one day...

Another favorite of mine at TAM was this mixed media by Montana artist Kevin Red Star, titled Buffalo Horse Medicine. He was born on the Crow Indian Reservation, and his work graces the Smithsonian, the National Museum of the American Indian and the Heard Museum, among many others. 

After an exhausting visit to the museum, I simply HAD to stop at "Hello, Cupcake". (Sounded like a tart greeting to a young woman, or a sweet greeting to a tart... but I digress...) The cupcake (vanilla topped with pink vanilla buttercream and a sugar flower), was simple, but elegant. (Reminds me of me!)

Leaving Tacoma, we headed south to Portland to pick up I-84 eastbound through the Columbia River Gorge, which had spectacularly "gorge"-ous scenery. But the fire and rain gods laughed at our presumption... I-84 (on the south side of the river/gorge) was closed down because of a series of fires/rain/rockslides, so being very clever, I thought we'd follow Washington Highway 14 on the north side of the Columbia River. Everything was going swimmingly until I saw a sign saying "Tunnel Ahead in 4 miles - 12' 6" clearance". Hmmm.... our coach is 12'11" high. I did some quick mathematical calculations and figured that (a) we would not fit, without (b) taking off the three air conditioners, either intentionally with tools or unintentionally using the top of the tunnel. Option (b) would be quicker but messier. Option (c), which My Lovely Bride suggested, was to take a bridge across the Columbia and try to find an alternative route east. Knowing how smart she is, I chose option (c). Unfortunately, we found that there was no alternative route east, so we had to return to Portland for the night, where we actually found our old campground in scenic Boring, Oregon, to have a spot for us. 

The next day we proceeded north up past Mt. Hood, expecting to reach Hood River where I-84 was open. Alas, MLB was reading the latest weather forecast, with words like "winter storm advisory", chains, caution, high winds, etc... Jeez, it was September 20th, for Pete's sake!!! So, we had to divert south almost to Bend, OR, to find clear skies and moderate weather. What was supposed to be a relatively easy 840 mile all-Interstate trip turned into a harrowing epic of 1066 miles (averaging 355 miles a day, quite long when you're only doing 45-55 mph in the mountains and on backroads). The scenery changed, for the better in that there was no threat of snow, but more "deserty", like this sculpted mountain somewhere in Utah.

In Green River, Utah, I met this French family cycling from Canada to Mexico. They were two months into a six month trip, and really enjoying the US. Thinking I was a local, they asked me an important question: where the laundromat was located... I had to regret that being a visitor, I couldn't help them out. 

We arrived safely in Salt Lake City and enjoyed a break from driving for a few days. Suzanne hosted a Serving Spirit class there, and we enjoyed the warm hospitality of Kate Young and Jim Morse at the Cottonwood Country Club. (Regrettably, Your Esteemed Photographer neglected to take photos... what was I thinking?)  While I am doing a lot of walking and hiking preparing for a Grand Canyon hike over Thanksgiving, Suzanne is keeping in shape with her TRX straps attached to the ladder on the coach.  These instruments of torture were introduced to her by Heather the Slayer and developed by Navy SEALs.  If anyone thinks this is a wussy workout, I suggest you try it... it is a killer!

Carbondale has always been one of our favorite places. We had an offer to stay at the beautiful, palatial home of our wonderful friends Connie Mariano and John Weber, but our puppies might have destroyed their home, so we opted to stay in the coach. But we did have a glass of wine on their patio, with a spectacular view of the double summits of Mt. Sopris (12,965 ft), in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness of White River National Forest. The next day found Suzanne giving a presentation to the Davi Nikent Group in Carbondale. Thanks to Rita Marsh for hosting Suzanne's full-house event! 

Suzanne and I took a hike on Mt. Sopris's north slope. The day started out relatively warm and sunny...

Later in the day, the clouds building behind us reminded me that during summer in the Rockies, one should start early and finish below treeline by noon or so, because thunderstorms often develop by noon or 1:00 PM, and one does not want to be on open rock slopes during a thunderboomer...

We next visited Kris and Wendy Reitz in Breckenridge, Colorado. They moved from Illinois to a cabin at 11,000 ft about a year ago. Here are Wendy and MLB out behind their cabin. It is September 28th, about 90 degrees back at home in The Villages, and they had 4 inches of snow that morning!  A year ago when Wendy and Kris moved to this high altitude home, Suzanne thought she would never be able to visit there due to life-long altitude sickness.  Thanks to some spiritual lessons prompted by Wendy, this visit became a reality!

Kris has climbed many of the "fourteeners" (mountains over 14,000 ft) in the area, and took me on a hike on the slopes of Quandary Peak (14,271 ft), the highest peak in the Tenmile Range. We only had 2-3 hours to hike, so we started at 11,000 ft and hiked up to 12,500 ft. Kris is wearing gloves not to save his hands from gardening blisters... it was COLD!!!

The views were spectacular. Far below is Monte Christo Lake, where we began our hike. (For My Good Friend Bob: the white stuff is not confetti.)

We saw some furry critters on this hike: several pikas and a couple of yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris), one seen here peeking warily from his rocky burrow... he was very shy. In the Sierras of California, the marmots come right up to hikers, begging for food. I asked Kris if this isn't a popular hiking destination, and he replied that most people don't hike this route or this high, unless they are headed to climb some serious pinnacles about 1,000 ft higher up. (Fortunately, we weren't equipped for that - I haven't done any serious rock climbing in 40 years!)

 Lake Monte Christo took on a different appearance on our way down the mountain due to lower sun and intermittent clouds. There is little question that these mountains would be a fabulous place to live...

After a couple of hours, I was getting a bit thirsty... "Hey, Kris, is there anywhere to get a beer up here?" I think he thought I said, "Are there any bears up here?" and was pointing up the mountain...

We will be home in one week. While it will be great to be back in Florida with family and friends, we will both miss the mountains.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Irma; Mt Hood; Boring and Mossyrock; Ft Lewis; RODEO! Serving Spirit Class Tacoma; Olympic National Forest; Heather the Slayer

Tacoma, Washington - actually Joint Base Lewis-McChord, formerly known as Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base - is our new home for almost three weeks. We are in a pleasant campsite alongside American Lake, with daytime temps in the high 60s, lows at night in the 40s, much better than the 90s our friends back in Florida have to contend with in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone effected by that terrible storm. 

Our house in The Villages survived without damage, in large part thanks to our great Navy and sailing friends Anthony and Annette Baker, who are staying in our house until power is restored at the marina where their beautiful trawler Magnolia is moored. Thanks, guys!!!

Even during catastrophes, one can find instances of humor... this photo of a golf cart in The Villages whose owner had driven into a flooded tunnel made me laugh - no one was injured, except perhaps the owner's pride. What was he/she thinking???

We had a nice stop in Portland, Oregon, at Mt. Hood, where MLB decided to go backpacking overnight for a spiritual experience. I packed in 4 miles with her to make sure Burnt Lake lived up to the glowing remarks that a USFS ranger had given us, helped her set up camp, and then hiked out to enjoy some Pinot Noir with Rudy and Gretchen. You can see that Suzanne is loving her spartan accommodations (my cozy one-woman tent).

Burnt Lake (in Mt. Hood National Forest) is a lovely hiking destination, wooded all the way to the shore, with room for only 4 campsites (flat spots are in short supply). The fish were safe from my predation -  I didn't have room in my pack to carry my fishing rod and hand grenades... 

The view of Mt. Hood from the lake is stunning. After a handful of dayhikers departed, Suzanne had this lake all to herself until mid-morning the next day. She had a can of bear spray, but didn't need it. (I waited until the next day to tell her about the cartoon someone had sent me with a tent in the woods surrounded by 15 bears - the conversation bubble from inside the tent read, "Sweetheart, you have to stop thinking that every noise you hear here in the woods is a bear."

The following day, I hiked back in to Burnt Lake to help her pack out tent, stove, sleeping bag, air mattress, extra food, first aid kit, camp chair, etc... I was happy that she had such a great time in the wilderness so close to Mt Hood (11,250 ft.). We had planned for me to get a 4-day backpack around the mountain on the Timberline Trail, but when we arrived at our campground in Mt Hood Village, our 42 ft coach wouldn't fit in the 38 ft space they had assigned us (this is after making a reservation last December). Because this was eclipse week, all of the nearby campgrounds were full, so we had to relocate for five nights to a county CG in Boring, Oregon. Then for the eclipse itself, we had to drive to Mossyrock, Washington, two hours away and outside the totality cone. Mossyrock and Boring - You can't make this stuff up. Mossyrock homeowners do like their privacy; this former Marine states it plainly: "Trespass at your own risk" and "Come in peace or leave in pieces!"

Our next stop was Tacoma, where Suzanne just completed another Serving Spirit class - the event was filled with 50 wonderful, enthusiastic students, several of whom are old friends to whom Suzanne had given readings or who had attended workshops she had given. Thanks especially to Heather McKay's daughter Tatelyn (far left) who helped Suzanne both days, allowing me to hike and spend more time with Rudy and Gretchen. (See last paragraph below for more info on Heather the Slayer...)

One night MLB said, "Ty, git on yer jeans and boots... we're a-going to the rodeo!" (Well, it was something like that.) We arrived at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup and enjoyed the bronco and bull-riders (all men - Suzanne's favorites) as well as the barrel racers and flag riders (all women - my favorites - gee, I wonder why???). 

It was a fun evening; I almost looked cowboyish in my jeans and tee-shirt, but without the real Justin boots, fist-size belt buckle and Stetson hat, it was apparent that I wasn't ready for bull-riding. MLB looked much more authentic. I offered to take her on the Twirling Teacup ride, but she declined...

Another evening found us on the shore of Puget Sound in Steilacoom, only a few miles from Ft. Lewis. This used to be a sleepy little ferry town, a suburb of Tacoma. Now, with the flood of people and money into Seattle for Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other tech-related firms (100,000 new residents in the past year), prices have skyrocketed, and Steilacoom is a highly desirable place to live.

Rudy and Gretchen got to meet two other long-haired Dachshunds while in Steilacoom. "Rudy, get your nose out of her butt!" 

Ft. Lewis has a great view of Mt. Rainier (14,410 ft.), and tons of hiking opportunities. Unfortunately, our coach has had more than its normal share of maintenance "issues" this summer, which has kept me from my normal 3-4 day long backpacking trips. Repairs to the following equipment have been completed: front end alignment, new steer tires, air compressor, dash air conditioner, roof air conditioner, interior door frame, refrigerator door, and even the car air conditioner... sheesh, I should have trained to be an RV repairman!

We did get up to Olympic National Forest for a dayhike on the Lower Skokomish River. This time we took Rudy and Gretchen in their backpacks (canine hikers are not allowed in National Parks, but are welcome in National Forests). The river is beautiful, massive gravel bars left from the many glaciers that covered the area until cave men started driving SUVs with stone wheels...

This Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) had fallen across the trail, which was then relocated around it - a smart move, since it's over 200 feet long. (They can grow to 250 feet in height and 8 feet in diameter, and may live over 1,000 years.) You can just make out Suzanne at the far end of the tree if you look real carefully.

While at Ft. Lewis, MLB decided it would be a good idea (at this point I cringed) to get a personal trainer to help her with specific exercise goals. I thought, "Yeah, she's going to get some 6' 4" Norwegian stud named Lars with pecs the size of my thighs and run off to Oslo..." Well, imagine my surprise when she said, "Ty, I found this cool gal named Heather who will help us both get in shape!" (My imagination ran wild...) So, we go to the gym to meet Heather. I am thinking she's an impressionable young gal who will be impressed by my running prowess and suave, debonair manner... we meet, and learn that Heather is a former USAF military policewoman, military police dog trainer, parachutist with 200 jumps, and is married to a Green Beret.  Heather has a degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition (called Exercise Torture by some) and is also contracted by the Army to train (in her own words "destroy") young Special Forces soldiers physically so they can pass their tougher than nails PT tests. She is 4' 11", about 90 lbs, and a very tough hard body! Our first weight workout was TWO HOURS LONG!   I AM DOOMED!!! 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Birthday Girls; Lassen Volcanic National Park; Crater Lake National Park; A 9-11 Reminder; Rogue River; Wieners in Bags

We are now about two-thirds of the way through our 2017 Messages of Hope Tour. Recently Suzanne flew back to The Villages to celebrate her mom Ruthie's 90th birthday (and her own xxth, since they share the same date of birth, August 1st. There was a big celebration at Ruthie's place, with 60 or so revelers whooping it up with her and the family. There were two delicious cakes, and when asked which one she would like, Ruthie exclaimed, "Well, both, of course!" (That's our Ruthie!) Here is a shot of the lovely birthday girls...

While My Lovely Bride was back in FL, the puppies and I spent a week at Lassen Volcanic National Park. We would have gone home as well, but as Suzanne was flying next to Denver for an IANDS event, and airlines don't allow one person to travel with two dogs, we had to stay behind with the coach in California. Lassen is a dormant volcano with steaming fumaroles, beautiful mountain lakes, thick woods, and 150 miles of trails. Because it's pretty far from major cities like San Francisco, there were far fewer turistas than one would find in Yosemite or Grand Canyon.

I got my fill of hiking that week, completing six trails, one prettier than the next. The woods were more like Colorado than Oregon or Washington, where the undergrowth and trees tend to be much closer together. Here, open spaces between the trees allowed for more open vistas and the ability to go off-trail when desired.

The creeks and streams were running fast with snowmelt, unusual for August because of the heavy snowfall that the Cascades, Sierras and Rockies received this past winter. (Sorry, Al Gore, that the actual weather isn't fitting in with your global warming doom and gloom predictions...)

My only big wildlife encounter was this cinnamon black bear that crossed in front of me about 60 feet away. Obviously he was in a hurry to go somewhere, because he didn't stop to introduce himself...

As always, I enjoyed the scenery and serenity of the wilderness in Lassen. This lake was all mine for an hour or so until another hiker appeared, but thankfully, he wasn't nearly as noisy as the birds and insects around me...

I departed Lassen to meet Suzanne in Eugene, Oregon, where she would be flying in from Denver. We celebrated her birthday at a very nice riverfront restaurant in the city. I made a point of sampling one of the Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs, and it was excellent.

Our next stop was Crater Lake National Park- it's the deepest lake in the US (1,946 ft). It was formed when a super-volcano, Mt Mazama, erupted and blew apart about 7,700 years ago, when My Good Friend Bob was only a teenager. Fed only by snow and rain, Crater Lake is extraordinarily pure and is deep cobalt blue in color. Here is MLB on the trail to Mt Garfield above the rim of the caldera - what a view... and the lake ain't bad, either.

This was the highway to and from Crater Lake - miles and miles of trees, trees and more trees. No urban sprawl or traffic around here! You had better have filled up your gas tank early, because it's nuthin' but woods for miles and miles.

During our Crater Lake visit, we stayed in a campground in Prospect, Oregon. Walking by their small fire house, we noticed the sign on this fire engine - it reads, "This truck was at Ground Zero on Nine Eleven." For some people, I guess, 9-11 is a distant memory. Since both of us experienced that day closer than most Americans, we may appreciate better the significance of that sign, and the sacrifices of the first responders and other victims it recalls.

Exploring the area, we found a beautiful waterfall on the Rogue River after an easy hike through the woods. The drop down to the river was much more challenging...

Some of the boulders in the Rogue here are as big as small houses. The river was not running very high - I can only imagine how impressive it must be in June when snow-melt is at a peak.

A side trip to Silver Falls State Park near Silverton, Oregon, gave us a different perspective on mossy trees... this is the "crown jewel" of the Oregon State Park system, and the largest of the state parks in the state. 

We decided to bring Rudy and Gretchen with us, and were restricted on the trails we could hike, but we enjoyed their company immensely. They rode comfortably in our backpacks, and never once complained. They were safe and snuggly back there, and got to see the world from a higher perspective than usual... 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Camp SLO; Paso Robles; California Events; Guilty Dogs; Lodi; Wine! Kayaking; Robbed Again

We spent a night at Camp San Luis Obispo, a National Guard base where captured Italian POWs had been interned during WWII. One of them, PFC Salvatore Fossati, of the 15th Ordnance Company, was a stone mason, and designed and carved this stone monument during his internment. It is called the Italia Rock.

Next stop, Paso Robles for- YES! Wine tastings! "Paso" is world-renowned for its Zinfandels, but has other varietals as well. We pulled into an unnamed vineyard and parked out back. MLB said, "Ty, what a quaint tasting room!" Fortunately, they had a nicer facility out front... 

Our server at Turley Vineyards was Haylee Sund, the daughter of an active duty Navy captain, and she was a delightful hostess and very knowledgeable about their wines. In fact she is studying viticulture at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. We joined the Turley Wine Club, primarily for their exceptional wines, but partly becuse of Haylee's friendly personality.

One of the less known problems related to drinking Zinfandel is that you can actually shrink in a matter of minutes, as this photo proves...

Suzanne has been busy with events in Camarillo, north of Los Angeles, and another in San Jose. She is also working on another book, and is as busy as a one-armed paperhanger. This is a photo of her San Jose class - what a great group!

This class was held at Dolce Hayes Mansion, a beautiful facility often used for spiritual events. The pups particularly liked all the squirrels in a nearby park.

We stayed at the Elks Lodge RV facility in San Jose, near a beautiful suburb called Willow Glen. Houses here go for $1-2 million, even for a remodeled 1950s 1,200 sq ft ranch. This is one of the nicer old houses in an area where we often walked Rudy and Gretchen.

Speaking of our little darlings, we came home one day to find their plastic treat box on the floor - torn open and empty. I had made the mistake of leaving it on the counter where Destructo Dog Rudy could  climb up from the couch and get to it. I read them both the riot act when we returned. Don't they look guilty and remorseful?

Normally I will reward My Lovely Bride for her hard work by letting her out of the galley (kitchen) once a month (I am a very thoughtful husband). This month was Italian. The local Pizza Hut was booked, so after the San Jose event we went to Vin Santo's, a pretty classy place with tablecloths in Willow Glen. (Guys, for some reason women really like places with tablecloths, preferably not stained with stale beer).

While in Lodi, we went kayaking on the Lodi River, a delightful paddle. When we pulled our boats, we met a young woman at the boat dock, whose name is Abba (yes, named for the group). She invited us to hear her play the fiddle at the farmer's market that evening. We showed up after dinner, but found that she wouldn't be playing until an hour later, and we were melting because the temp was 104F. But we will look for Abba next time we're in Lodi.

Our next stop was Sacramento, where MLB would be boarding a jet bound for Florida. Just an hour before I was to take her to the airport, I found that our mountain bikes had been vandalized, and major parts stolen, including a front wheel and fork, stem, and bike computers, probably by one of the hundreds of homeless men (AKA bums) who hang out in the area. After dropping Suzanne off, I returned to file a report, and got to meet one of Sacramento County's finest, Deputy Nelson. While filling out the paperwork, I mentioned Suzanne's work. The deputy was interested, so I gave her some information and Messages of Hope, and later mentioned to MLB that Lacey might be emailing her. There was a pause, and I heard her say in a questioning voice, "Lacey? Lacey?" I quickly replied, "Oh, um, Deputy Nelson!"  (Sheesh... sometimes women have no sense of humor...)