Thursday, February 26, 2015

St Petersburg; Magnificent Mandalas; The Ultimate Gift; A Poetic Breakfast; Let Out More Chain; A Job Offer

On Sunday, we traveled to First Unity of St. Petersburg, where Suzanne spoke at two services and presented her workshop, "Awakened Living 301, The Advanced Course for Souls on the Earth Plane," to a large and enthusiastic audience. First Unity is one of our favorite places to visit because of the wonderful congregation, their fabulous Wings Bookstore (thank you, Sharon Jebens), and their inspirational minister, Rev. Temple Hayes. It was also nice being back in St. Pete/Tampa, a vibrant community with a somewhat younger population than The Villages, our home community in Central Florida. 

We had driven our motor coach down for the weekend and "dry camped" at MacDill Air Force Base. That means we didn't have any services (water, electric, etc.), but simply parked in a field with about 50 other visitors in a variety of rigs. For some unknown reason, there were many other RVs down from the Boston area in particular. But the highlight for Rudy and Gretchen was getting to play with other Dachshunds, especially these two longhairs and a dapple. There aren't many other Doxies back in The Villages, and you can tell they were trading dog stories while sniffing each others' butts. Dogs seem to have no compunctions about getting down to basics; I'm glad people don't use that olfactory means of greeting. At least I was able to get a formal photo with everyone's head up.

On Monday, we drove to Bradenton to have lunch with artist and poet Patricia M. Bowers, an incredibly talented painter who specializes in mandalas. Not only are her works vibrantly colorful and amazingly intricate, but Patricia paints freehand. Suzanne was impressed by the beauty of her work and the sacred geometry which infuses Patricia's designs.

Suzanne is the proud owner of two of Patricia's Spirit-inspired prints, which she uses not just for the pleasure of gazing at them, but as a meditative tool.  Suzanne and I were also very impressed by Patricia's book of art and poetry, Infinite Love; Love and Life Enraptured.  You can see more of Patricia's work at

Our good friend Bill Hammond, whose award-winning nautical fiction series has been praised in this blog previously, has a new book out, The Ultimate Gift: Embracing the Joy of Eternal Love. This is a very personal and touching book about the loss of his beloved wife Victoria, and the series of stunning soul-to-soul communications that Bill experienced that provide irrefutable evidence that life is eternal and that love never dies.  You may recognize a couple of folks with whom you are familiar in the pages of this book, as it features several highly meaningful sessions with Suzanne and a special visit we enjoyed with Bill in Minnesnowta.  You will find this well-written and heartfelt book hard to put down, and a confirmation that our consciousness lives on long after death.  Click here to find out more.

Suzanne and I took the latest creative cactus contest winners, Connie England and John Henry, out to breakfast yesterday at First Watch, and Der Blogmeister sadly allowed them to escape without documenting the event with a photographic record. I had to ask Connie to send a selfie by email. Connie is a gifted poet from Maine (but you'd never know it by her accent... right....) and John is from North Dakota, where he has a house on a lake filled with fish that leap onto his hooks. Amazingly, this is one fisherman who actually catches fish. (No snide comments about my fishing prowess, please...)

Speaking of water sports, as I write this post, the wind is howling outside our lanai. A severe cold front with a line of strong thunderstorms is moving at 75 mph through the area, and the winds outside are already up to 45-50 mph. In fact, the wind woke me up a bit ago, and I murmured to Suzanne, "I'm getting up to let out more chain.", referring to the frequent routine aboard a sailboat of increasing the length of your anchor chain to prevent dragging during a storm. She replied without a beat, "Be careful out on deck." You can take the sailors off the sea, but you can't take the sea out of the sailors. 

Finally, we had pizza recently with our good friend Gail Grossman, who is a lawyer and a public defender.  (I have to admit that I must be mellowing a lot, because I rarely use friend and lawyer in the same sentence.) I was giving her a hard time about some of her clients (whom I generally refer to as "TGBs, those guilty b----- ... now what was that last word?") Gail has a real sense of humor, because she later sent me a note saying that she had alerted the P.D.'s office that I was looking for work, and they were awaiting my application and C.V. to join their staff to help get the miscreants out of jail and on the path to righteousness. (In the Navy, we called that "peeing up a rope". Don't hold your breath, Gail.) It is appropriate that just over Gail's shoulder is the logo "NYPD" and a sheriff's badge...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cactus Quiz Winner; Ty's in Trouble; Kayaks and Raptors; No Quitters! Ty Needs Help! Great Bread Contest

The results of the Cactus Quiz are in, and the winner is... drum roll, please... Connie England! Thanks to Peter Lee, Colette Sasina, Dale Hilliard, Terri Horsmann (AKA Terri of the Frozen North) and Lynn Spence for your entries; they were all thoughtful and creative. Here is Connie's limerick entry: 



Oh, yes..the Ferocactus
I found it, through my practice
        of chasing links,
      and now me-thinks
A breakfast feast will feed us

The blossom yellow-green or red
Crown-shaped upon its head
      in southwest found
      in desert ground  
   A beauty, it’s been said

Flowers boiled to make a drink
Or eaten cooked like cabbage
        Pulp scooped for food
        Could it be stewed?
Might do, if you are ravaged

Emergency fluid if you’re lost
Enough for one or two
     A tool you’ll need
     to get that feed
Tongs handy.  They will help you  

The barrel shape is useful too
For natives of the areas
   holds little things
   like beads or strings
called barrelcacticarriers

Speaking of literature and fine arts, I never thought that I'd get in trouble for reading or an interest in photography. Seriously, would my English teacher from 6th grade, Mrs. Snelling,  have rapped me across the knuckles for admiring a work of artistic journalism or looking at an article titled "America the Beautiful"? Perhaps an explanation is required... I had been reading the news, and saw that a popular American magazine, Sports Illustrated, was under attack by the Forces of Darkness for allowing a young woman to be photographed wearing a swimsuit on its latest cover. I mean, come on, this isn't Iran or Saudi Arabia, is it? Girls are allowed to wear swimsuits here, and aren't required to wear burkas when they go swimming. In the spirit of freedom of speech (and only for that reason!), I decided to look at the web site for the aforementioned national magazine. Unfortunately, My Lovely Bride happened to glance down at my computer screen at just the wrong moment (I knew I should have gotten one of those anti-snooper filters that they advertise in airline magazines), and said, "Hey, are you looking at a naughty girl web site?" I replied, "No, Love of My Life, I'm supporting freedom of speech in the USA, and am about to look at an article about a baseball player. This just happens to be the cover of the magazine." "She doesn't look like a baseball player! She looks like a stripper!" "Well, um, gee, I think she's betrothed to a baseball player, some guy name Jeter, I think, maybe, possibly..." "You'd better get back to something less stimulating, like fishing or cricket!" "Yes, Ma'am..." (Well, that was a strike against Freedom of the Press... Sigh. Nota bene: Discretion being the better part of valor, I have omitted the photograph of Hannah Davis which got me in such trouble. Ladies, you really don't need to look at the cover of Sports Illustrated - it's pretty boring. Gentlemen, if you subscribe, then hide it right away!) 

On a less controversial note, I recently attended a meeting of The Villages Canoe and Kayak Club, where one would expect the topic of the day to be paddling. That would have been fine, but even better was the guest speaker, Carol McCorkle, co-founder and director of the Avian Reconditioning Center in Apopka, Florida. Carol and her husband Scott have been working with birds of prey for over 40 years. They and their staff rescue and rehabilitate wounded and injured eagles, osprey, owls, falcons, hawks, kestrels and kites. Carol brought a barred owl (shown in photo), a short-tailed hawk, a kestrel and a kite to the meeting, and gave us fascinating facts about birds of prey. (Did you know that the peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world, capable of diving at speeds to 240 mph?) The ARC is open to visitors on Saturdays (10 AM-4 PM), where you can see these beautiful birds up close; there even offer a flight demonstration. For more info see

I don't watch a lot of movies, and part of the reason is that the cowboy has fallen out of fashion in Hollywood. This sign in the Phoenix airport reminded me of the good old days when you could go to a movie and not have to cover your kids' eyes and ears because of inappropriate scenes and language. "American Exceptionalism" was the norm, not something to be maligned and apologized for. And the good guys always won... man, I wish we could turn back the clock.

The "Ty Needs Help" subtitle is not related to tools or roofing or car repairs, which are mostly "guy things", but actually more "a girl thing"... no, I don't need fashion advice (NO SMART-ALECK COMMENTS, PLEASE!), but something far more serious... a good bread machine recipe. Now, before I get a lot of flack from the male contingent out there, let me remind everyone that the world's greatest chefs are mostly men (sorry, ladies), but having been at sea for most of my adult life, I am somewhat deficient in some of the finer aspects of culinary expertise. I have been baking bread recently in a decent West Bend bread machine, but have been disappointed by recent (mediocre) results... even after following the recipe in every detail.

So, our new contest asks for entries of your favorite bread machine recipe. I will try each one over the next week or two, depending on the number of entries. The Great Bread Prize will be awarded for the best submission, based on my admittedly biased palate. (Okay, Suzanne will also have some influence on my decision). The winner gets lunch for two with Der Blogmeister and His Lovely Bride. Please send entries to (Warning: entries including quinoa or coconut oil are doomed from the start.) 


Monday, February 16, 2015

Musings: How the World Turns! Manatee Convention; A Warning Sign; Nature Quiz; Snackie Choices; Romance on Wheels

A few years ago My Lovely Bride gave me a great Christmas present... a globe on a stand. It had been years since I had one, and it remains a treasured possession. Every now and then I will close my eyes, spin the globe and let it stop under my finger, and see if I know of or have been to that country or area. I preformed this task yesterday, and the globe stopped on the northeast coast of Brazil, near the port city of Recife. 

I was only there once, in 1974, on a voyage back from the Persian Gulf aboard USS KOELSCH (FF-1049), shown here in moderate seas taking green water over the bow. She needed fuel, and we made a two day refueling and R&R stop in Recife. Our soccer team was invited to play a Brazilian Navy team, so 14 of us boarded a minibus and proceeded to the game. In most ports, pick-up games like this are normally attended by the wives and children of the opposing team, so we expected about 20-30 spectators for our match. Imagine our surprise when we rolled into a big soccer stadium with 10,000 cheering Brazilians... unbeknownst to us Americans, we were playing the Brazilian Navy's national team. Fortunately, our center forward, Ltjg Mark Young, had been captain of the US Naval Academy soccer team just a few years earlier. Miraculously, within the first three minutes of the game, Mark had scored the first goal, and the fans roared. The game ended with the score Brazil 3, US Navy 1, but the hospitality and friendship shown us by the Brazilian Navy and the citizens of Recife was fabulous. I had told this story to MLB (several times, in fact, over the past 20 years), and she always smiled and wondered how much of it was factual. Then a few years ago we happened to bump into one of my shipmates who had been at the game, and he said, "Hey, wasn't that soccer game in Recife something? 10,000 spectators, and we only lost 3-1." Suzanne looked at me with wonder, and I knew she was thinking, "You mean that story was for real????" (Oh, ye of little faith....)

Recently Terri of the Frozen North visited us here in The Villages, and we joined her for an adventure in Crystal River swimming with the manatees. There were about 20 of these gentle creatures in the water that day. After Terri returned to Coon Rapids, Minnesnowta (current temperature 2 degrees F), she received a note from a friend with news that a manatee convention was being held at Three Sisters Spring where we had been swimming, and the spring had to be closed because several hundred of the marine mammals had congregated there. As you can see from the photo, there is no room for people!

While driving back from a hike in the town of Altoona, Florida, I stopped at a gas station for fuel, coffee and the rest room. This sign in the men's room made me stop and wonder about the maturity (or lack thereof) of some of our citizens...


The next photo is the subject of this week's nature quiz. Identify the object in the photo with something more than just "It's a cactus." and send your entry to me at The person submitting the most correct and entertaining entry will win breakfast for two with Der Blogmeister and His Lovely Bride. (Please limit entries to 1,000 words or less.)

Food is a common theme on this blog, and I must report that my tastes (occasionally) are revealed to be at some variance to those of My Lovely Bride. Recently we were both ready for a mid-morning snack, and Suzanne asked me if I would like some applesauce. I replied, "Applesauce? Like ground up apples? Are you kidding? I wouldn't want to deprive you of that pleasure. You take the applesauce; I'll have that cinnamon roll..."

Finally, I am often chagrined when I hear (some) women (unjustifiably) accusing (some) men of being less than romantic. Being a sensitive, New Age kinda guy who makes a point of getting MLB flowers whenever I think about it, I look for ways to show her my romantic side. I was walking in town recently when I saw this golf cart, whose owner is obviously another very sensitive and romantic man...

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Code Talkers; Lost Car Keys; Doo-Doo-Fais? Crawfish and Moccasins; Awakened Living 301; A Spirit Circle

While out in Tucson, I met two WWII Marine Corps heroes, Bill Toledo and Alfred Newman, both Navajo Code Talkers. For those unfamiliar with this small group of Native Americans, during the Pacific campaign the Marine Corps needed radio operators that could translate tactical communications in combat without the Japanese being able to understand what was being said. The original 29 Navajo volunteers developed a unique radio code using Navajo words to describe military operations and equipment. For example, chay-da-gahi in Navajo means tortoise, and translated to "tank" in English; ah-na-sozi in Navajo means cliff dwelling, and translated to "fortification" in English. During the entire war in the Pacific, Japanese cryptanalysts were never able to crack the Navajo code. Ultimately 450 Marine code talkers were recruited from the Navajo tribe, and fought with valor and distinction through the brutal island-hopping campaigns (including such garden spots as Bougainville, Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa). There were also some Comanches who served with the 4th Infantry Division in the European theater, where the Comanche term for Adolf Hitler translated as "crazy white man". 

Another very surprising experience out west occurred when I was returning to the air force base after dinner and a bookstore trip. It was 9:30 on a Friday night, and as the gate guard checked my I.D. card, I noticed that the young man wasn't a 20 year-old airman, but a full "bird colonel", in fact the 355th Fighter Wing Commander himself. Col Meger goes out and works with his men and women "on the front line" at every opportunity, an impressive leadership style. (What was really sobering was that the colonel looked so young!)

Have you ever misplaced a set of car keys? It can be very frustrating, and in extreme cases can lead to marital strife... My Lovely Bride was looking for a set the other day, and suggested that I had misplaced them when I last drove the car. I replied, "But My Darling, I distinctly recall putting the set I used into the kitchen drawer." I think that I heard her mutter "Harumph!" or something very much like that under her breath, as she continued looking for the keys. A few minutes later, a somewhat abashed Suzanne poked her head around the corner and said, "You know, a less honest wife might have put these in your jacket pocket... but I would never do such a thing."

We were enjoying a fabulous dinner the other night with good friends Jan and Peter at their new home with one of the best views in town, and Jan started to tell us about a Cajun Zydeco group that was scheduled to perform as part of the upcoming Mardi Gras celebration here in The Villages. "Ty, you probably know all about that Doo-Doo-Fais stuff, being from New Orleans." I was taken aback for a moment, and then realized that what she meant was "Fais Do-Do"...

... which is Cajun French for a dance party, but literally referred to the gentle command "make sleep" that young mothers gave their crying babies so that the mother could return to the dance floor. While I do have Guidrys on one side of my family, I was not raised speaking Cajun French, but I had a close Cajun friend who would take me crawfishing out in the swamps, and I got to a few dances at places like Mulate's and Tipitina's. I have yet to take My Lovely Bride out Cajun dancing; she knows about my two left feet, and is wary of being injured. I have taught her to eat crawfish, though, but she is still a beginner at eating them properly. (If you know what I mean, you also understand why I'm not more descriptive...)

One experience with my Cajun friend Jesse bears repeating. Proper crawfishing in south Louisiana requires one to set 30 or so nets baited with chicken necks in a circle in the swamp. You are wading in cafe au lait colored water up to your thighs, with the top of each net marked with a small red rag. By the time you've completed the circle, the first net should hold 5-10 crawfish, which are then dumped into a gunny sack tied to your waist. You continue around the circle of nets, loading up your gunny sack until it's full. 

We were only an hour into our harvest, and I saw movement out of the corner of my eye; it was a cottonmouth, or water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus), swimming towards us. These snakes are poisonous, and can be quite aggressive. Jesse pulled a forked stick out of his belt, and as the snake reached arm's length, jabbed the fork behind the snake's head, pinning it down in the mud. He then reached for his Bowie knife with his left hand and quickly cut off the snake's head and tossed the still thrashing body into his gunny sack. My eyes were as big as plates as I asked him, "Geez, Jesse, what if he had bitten you?" He replied, "Well, that's one of the reasons you're here." He later asked me whether I'd like a belt made of the snake's skin, but I declined, saying that it wouldn't match my Navy uniform... I also decided to do any future crawfishing from a pirogue (a small south Louisiana flat-bottomed canoe-like boat) rather than wading.

Back here in The Villages, Suzanne has been busy with a new presentation, Awakened Living 301, the Advanced Course for Souls Living on the Earth Plane. She gave this talk for the first time (while I was at a photography class) as a benefit for Unity of The Villages' building fund, and filled the house with over 150 happy attendees. She will be presenting it again tonight (Thurs 2/12) at the same venue, and at First Unity of St. Petersburg, Florida, on Sunday February 22. 

We got "off the reservation" recently when Suzanne was invited to a Spirit Circle by friends in Citrus Springs, about 40 miles west of The Villages. The puppies and I tagged along, and we all had a great day; while Suzanne met with the ladies, I swapped sea stories with two other Navy veteran husbands, Tom and Herb, and Rudy and Gretchen got to go on walks in a new neighborhood with different dog smells. To Ty (that's her in the blue top in the center), many thanks for hosting such a loving event at your home, and to the entire Spirit Circle for their friendship, hospitality and a delicious gourmet lunch!

Finally, I have to relate one of the most bizarre and troubling sightings of the year. I was on a walk through our neighborhood and was passed by a golf cart going full speed. The driver, a sixty-something guy, had both hands off the wheel and was flossing his teeth... what was the name of that movie? Oh, yeah, "Dumb and Dumber"....

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Superstitions Trip Report Part 2; Apaches and Art; Mona Lisa of the Range; Back in The Villages; A Dove by Any Other Name

The first part of my trip to the Superstition Mountains of Arizona had gone well, but rain was coming. After helping the other hiker back to his car, I checked the weather, and the forecast was still grim. My choices were to tough out 2 inches of rain in my tent for a couple of days or to wuss out and find dry lodging. "My Momma never raised no fool..." Because of the Superbowl, hotels in the Phoenix/Mesa area were far too expensive, so I drove to Tucson (a two hour drive from the Superstitions) and checked into Davis-Monthan Air Force Base's temporary quarters - known to us old farts as the Bachelor Officer Quarters, or BOQ (not exactly politically correct terminology today). Because I had broken camp before the dew on my tent dried that morning, I had to hang the tent, tent fly, groundsheet and sleeping bag up to dry out to prevent mildew. Along with all my other gear, this gave the room the appearance of a gypsy camp. I have to admit that sleeping in a soft bed was more comfortable than my tent, but when a group of young Air Force officers in the room directly over mine continued their loud party past 2300 (and failed to invite me), I got a bit ticked off and asked them to pipe down. Finally getting to sleep, I was reasonably well rested the next morning, except that the symptoms of a bad head cold were making their first appearance. 

It was raining heavily in the morning, so I decided to take it easy. I visited a museum at Fort Lowell, an old US Army cavalry outpost which was the local headquarters for operations against Geronimo and his band of obstreperous Chihuahua Apaches back in the 1870s/1880s. This photo shows some of the "good guys", Apache scouts hired by the Army to help track Geronimo and his men. This band of Apaches was exiled to Fort Pickens in Pensacola for seven years before being transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. This photo could have a modern caption, "Turn over your weapons. The government will take care of you." These scouts, having served honorably and risked their lives with the US Army for years, were disarmed and relocated with the "bad guys" to Florida and Oklahoma... so much for promises from our federal government and elected politicians. (A pessimist might say that things haven't changed much since 1880...)

Rain continued... so I moved on to the Tucson Museum of Art, where works by Rodin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso and Chagall kept me occupied for the rest of the day.

Part of the Tucson Museum's collection is Art of the American West. Lots of paintings of Indians, the Grand Canyon, etc., were interesting, but a 1981 photograph of Julie Hagen, a working cowgirl in Wyoming, caught my eye. She has been called "the Mona Lisa of the Range", and at least I got the impression that Julie could take on any ranch job with confidence... 


It was still raining the next morning when I went out for a diner breakfast. This more contemporary art painted on an abandoned building next to the diner was actually pretty good... I spent the day at a bookstore and got a lot of reading done, but was anxious to get back to the mountains. I thought that I would have another freeze-dried meal in the BOQ, but after preparing a nice chicken stew with lots of veggies, decided that dehydrated food is much more appropriate for a starving guy in the wilderness... so I gave up and went to a steakhouse.

When the rain finally ended, I drove back to the Superstitions, but canyon flooding kept me from going into the back country. I day hiked for two days out of Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction. The first day's hike was up Siphon Draw to The Basin, at the foot of the Flatiron. That's the mountain directly above this handsome hiker's head.

The terrain here is fairly rugged. Younger hikers can climb up to the summit of the Flatiron in about four hours; I decided that Prudence was the better part of Virtue, and stayed off the steepest boulders so I wouldn't become a statistic or a splat on a rock...

This was the view from my campsite; "not too shabby..." Dinner that night was Mountain House (commercial) sweet and sour pork. I have to admit, it was tastier than my dehydrated vegetable stew,

My last hike was to Massacre Grounds, where according to legend, a group of Apaches were slaughtered by a group of Mexican miners in the early 18th Century. In spite of the fact that we are close to the Phoenix metro area, there were only a handful of hikers and three equestrians on the trail on a perfect day.

Returning to civilization was only slightly complicated by the 80,000 Superbowl fans trying to get back to Boston and Seattle. The airport was a zoo, but my flight was on time, and I was reunited with My Lovely Bride, Rudy and Gretchen in time for dinner (see the previous post). But just as I got home, I got in trouble... I had to go to the grocery, and looking at the list, saw Dove. Knowing that Suzanne uses Dove shampoo and conditioner, I got both. On my return to the house, she looked in the bag and asked, "Ty, where is my dark chocolate?" It took a moment to realize that I had made a grievous error... 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Back Home; Superstitions Trip Report (Part 1)

Having just returned from a celebratory repast at our local Thai restaurant, I must formally thank My Lovely Bride (shown here in a very snazzy outfit which got multiple 'Wows' at dinner from several ladies) for posting the blog by proxy on Friday while I was backpacking and hiking out west for a week. Suzanne also dropped me off and picked me up at the airport, which was much nicer than taking the shuttle or hitchhiking...


Well, the plan was for a week in the Superstition Wilderness, and I thought I had planned the trip with care, but three events conspired to wreck my plan... and as Colonel Crusty would tell you, "No plan ever survives first contact with the enemy." In this case the enemy was (a) the weather, in the form of a huge, slow-moving low pressure system that brought 2 inches of rain to some parts of the mountains I was planning to be in, resulting in dangerous flash floods; (b) the Superbowl, which some nitwit scheduled during my visit to the Phoenix area (how dare they!); and (c) an insidious attack by the Rhinovirus, resulting in a heavy dose of the common cold, which I must have picked up on the flight out to AZ, and which slowed me down more than a tad on my hikes later in the week. 

My arrival at 6:00 PM on Tuesday allowed a necessary stop at REI (an amazing outdoor store) before closing time. I needed to get some pressurized gas fuel for my tiny stove (carrying this aboard an aircraft is a rather serious No-No that gets you invited to a special private meeting with unsmiling TSA agents). Then I found a hotel in Fountain Hills on Hotwire ($54 that night, $264 for the next few nights). I was going out into the boonies in my tent the next day, but I asked the desk clerk why the big price rise. He looked at me sorta funny and said, "Well... it may be because of the tens of thousands of visitors for the Superbowl and the Phoenix Open." My reply: "Oh, really? I don't watch much TV." This caused his eyes to roll just a bit, and I think he may have taken me for a Conehead just arrived from Remulak. I tossed my bags in the room and went across the street for a pizza, where I met Ted Blank, a really nice guy whose son served in the Navy, and who is the president of the Fountain Hills Astronomy Club. Ted has his Really Cool Automatic Tracking Telescope (RCATT) set up outside this pizza joint and encouraged every passerby to look at the moon (75 times larger than the naked eye... Awesome!) and a nebula where stars are being born (in the Andromeda galaxy, I think???) It was a great way to end my first evening in Arizona. 

After a decent night's sleep, I drove to the trailhead at Canyon Lake, started hiking on the Boulder Canyon Trail (gee, why do they call it that?) and entered the Superstition Wilderness. The mountains are the location of many abandoned 19th Century gold mines, including the Lost Dutchman mine, which supposedly was the site of a mother lode. The prospector who found it died before he could extract the gold, and people have been searching surreptitiously for his mine for the past century. The mountains are also the traditional home of many Apache Indians, who believed that a hole here led to the underworld, and that the hole was the source of dust storms in the area.

By the way, the Superstition Mountains are not flat. The tall one in the distance is Weaver's Needle, a 1,000 foot tall spire of rock with an elevation of 4,555 feet. Shortly after I took this photo, I met two young rock climbers who had spent the previous night on the summit after a challenging 5.5 climb requiring ropes and belays.

The hike in had many ups and downs, finally arriving in a canyon strewn with boulders tossed around easily by the flash floods that come with anything more than one quarter inch of rain (there's not much dirt and no lakes or ponds to hold rain water in the rocks that serve as soil here). That's Battleship Mountain on the right. My campsite would be just another hour's hike at this point, and I was looking forward to sitting down and just enjoying the stark but strikingly beautiful scenery. 

Did I say "stark"? "Nay", you may say, "see all the green thingees in that photo!" Well, most of the green thingees are nasty plants like catclaw and cactus, such as this jumping cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida), which has attached itself to my calf in the photo at right. The spines of this cactus have thousands of microscopic barbs which can make removal rather painful. Fortunately I was not seriously affected by these little devils, and after this first encounter, I put on my long pants to reduce the probability of epidermal damage from aggressive vegetation. 

One of the characteristics of a desirable camp site is a flat spot big enough for your tent. Another is a nearby water source. I found both near this delightful body of algae-covered water, Second Water Spring. (There are only six reliable springs in the 370,000 acre wilderness. The water was only a couple of inches deep, so bathing was not in the cards. But my hand-pumped water filter supplemented by iodine tablets and iodine neutralizer tablets (to remove the foul taste and color imparted by the purification tablets) did the trick, and I replenished my 3 liter water supply in under 15 minutes.

A few minutes later my tent was set up, and I had a cozy abode ready for the night. There are very few bears around this area, which was a blessing, because I didn't have to carry a heavy bear canister to protect my food, and the trees were big enough to hang my food bag high enough to keep coyotes and mice away. Unfortunately, campfires are not allowed, but gas stoves are okay, so I was able to enjoy a hot meal...

... made up of the dehydrated vegetables, chicken and pasta that I had prepared a couple of weeks ago. Just add boiling water, wait 8 minutes, and "Presto-Change-O"... it looked like real food.  I declared it delicious, a meal fit for a king, complete with Eau d' Second Water Spring. Okay, it might not have been quite as tender as the fresh version, but it was pretty good, and options were a bit limited. The nearest restaurant was about 6 miles/4 hours hike away. 

As the sun set, I enjoyed a beautiful light show (no lasers) on the rock wall west of my campsite. I hadn't seen anyone in the past couple of hours, and those were all day-hikers, so I knew I was going to enjoy the solitude of a desert evening that would see temperatures drop into the low 40s. My 32 degree sleeping bag (and if necessary a down jacket to supplement the bag) would keep me toasty warm atop my lightweight air mattress. 

I fell asleep listening to the hooting of an owl out hunting his dinner on a brightly moonlit evening. No coyotes around here; I suspect there just weren't enough rabbits or ground squirrels to keep coyotes alive in this area. It was one of the better night's sleep I've had in my tent, with only a minimum of tossing and turning. The tent is very lightweight (read "tiny"), not allowing much room for thrashing about. Inside my old two-man tent, I had room for my boots and backpack... but not in the new one. My backpack was hanging in a tree (to keep mice out) and my boots were just outside the door (and yes, one does turn them upside down and shake them in the morning to check for tarantulas or scorpions). 

I awoke the next morning just after dawn to sounds of rockfalls in the distance. I got up, and was just about to heat water for breakfast when an apparition appeared from the hillside above my campsite. Another hiker, but where did he come from? We were miles from any trailhead and it was just barely light enough to be hiking. He approached, and we started talking... Tom had been hiking the Ridgeline Trail, an 11 mile, very difficult trail along the spine of the Superstitions. It normally takes 10 hours to complete. He and his hiking partner (both experienced outdoorsmen) had started late, without a topographic map, and were "caught out" on the mountain by nightfall. While his partner had long pants, Tom only had shorts, and temps were dropping into the 30s up top. They split up, his partner waiting until daylight to move; without a map, Tom was unable to find the trail out, and his car was about 10 miles away on foot. To keep from getting hypothermia, Tom would sleep for 10-15 minutes, then hike for 45 minutes to warm up, all night long, mostly over boulders and through thick spiny cactus vegetation. He had found some water in rock divots on the mountain and treated it with iodine, but at 4 times the normal dosage. I saw his coughing and eyes burning from the harsh iodine, and suggested he use my purifier and refill his bottles at the spring. Then I noticed his arms and legs, badly cut up by cholla and catclaw, with dozens of cactus spines stuck in his skin. After a quick breakfast, I struck camp and we set off for my car, which was parked at a trailhead much closer than his on the other side of the wilderness area. After a 3 hour hike out, it took an hour and a half drive to reach his car; his partner was still on the mountain, but they had exchanged text messages after we got out of the canyons and he was okay, and expected to be down in about four hours. I was happy to help him out; he asserted that he would pay it forward to the next hiker he met in that predicament. The experience underscored the necessity for not underestimating the difficulties one might encounter in the wilderness or the mountains, and being prepared for every eventuality.