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Holiday Letter 2022

It’s a great building, a conversion of an old Jewish temple. One of the coolest buildings in town in a town with a lot of cool buildings. It’s the first time I’ve lived alone for more than a few months. I like it more than I thought I would. Gives me a lot of time to reflect which I was short on for the nine years I served on the Columbia City Council which I wrapped up last year leading to the big changes. In general, it was nice to rip the band aid off and be done with Columbia. Between the brutality of political life and the toll of working with homeless folks it had started to get to me. Getting away and being in a new place doing new things was just what the doctor ordered. If I had stayed in Columbia I would have been pulled into more drama and been put upon do more hard stuff for free, then I feel like doing at this point in my life.

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a holiday letter, but I want to get back in the swing of blogging in 2023 and this seems like a good start. The beginning of the year found me starting a new life in Leavenworth Kansas. I had moved here in November to take a job as the Executive Director of a domestic violence and sexual assault service center. I kept my house in Columbia, Missouri which is about three hours away and I make it back to visit about once a month or so. I got a nice two-bedroom apartment a short walk from work.

So, asides from work my life is pretty quiet. I walk a lot. One of the first things I did is get a list of the Leavenworth Parks and walk to them all. There are some nice ones. Haven Park has mountain bike trails that are fun to hike on, even though the woods are pretty scrubby. Veterans Park has some good trails but it’s on the other side of town, so I don’t get over there much. Three Mile Trail and the River Walk are my go-to walks I do several times a week. I like hikes that start at my front door and a walk through town and down the River Walk to Three Mile Creek and then take the trail to the end and circle back home or walk it backwards if I need more steps is my go-to walk.

It’s a beautiful day for December so I walked down 7th Street to Three Mile Creek to the River Walk and then down Esplanade to 2nd and back was a nice walk and a little longer and may become my new one. I had some back pain so I took the day off and thought a long walk might help me stretch out. I’ve put on a lot of weight this year and am looking to get a lot more active and do some portion control and drop a few pounds.

My job has been fairly stressful until recently. The nonprofit was a bit of a fixer-upper to put it mildly. It had closed down for about a year and never really got straightened back out after reopening four years ago. It took a lot of work to get the accounting straightened our, fix the grant reporting system and bring in solid management staff. We still have a lot of turnover but we are stable if still a bit fragile. I have repaired our relationship with our funders and been out in the community a lot, so donations are up. We’ve improved the data collection but that still needs some work. We are close to getting certified which will be a big accomplishment. We have a few things left to do from our site visit as far as rewriting our rulers to be more trauma informed and paring down our fairly onerous intake procedures. I’m kind of excited about having the space to improve programming.

There has been so much catch up and back-office repair I haven’t been able to focus as much on process improvements. I was finally able to fill our contract counselor position so it’s nice to have another clinical heavy hitter on the team. I hope to start doing some motivational interviewing training for my staff next month. I wrote myself into a COVID grant to do that but haven’t had the time to make it happen. I am also looking forward to doing an annual report. We’ve not done one in many years, and I didn’t have the data or accounting nailed down to do one last year.

Mostly I’ve been pushed at work. Have had very little time to choose my own adventure kind of activities and have been keeping the wolves at bay. I actually have some discretionary time and some ability to slow things up a little and focus more on selfcare. I want to go to Italy in June so I need to get in much better shape to properly enjoy it. Walking more and getting back on the ebike are my big plans and adding some inside workouts when the weather isn’t cooperating.

Besides work I am active in the Chamber of Commerce. I’ve been on the Board of Directors since January which is pretty good for being a new resident. This January I’ll start on the Executive Committee as the Vice Chair. I’m also plugging in on their strategic plan. I’ve also gotten active with the Leavenworth County Human Services Committee and am spearheading their strategic planning efforts. I hope to do it in pieces over the next year working in small groups with rotating members. We rewrote the mission statement, so vision is next.

I’ve also been a Chamber Ambassador, so I go to all the ribbon cuttings. It’s a good way to meet people and find out what is happening in the community. I’ve read research that having lots of weak ties is one of the components of a happy life so I’m doing good on that front for a newbie.

I’ve done a bit of regional travel. I’m planning on wrapping things up here in a little less than a year after I fulfill my two-year commitment. I’m not really cut out to be an executive director. I was a reluctant administrator much preferring direct service and clinical work and clinical management and training but once you’ve been an executive director it’s really hard to get a job doing anything else. It’s been satisfying fixing a broken keystone nonprofit but it’s not how I want to spend my days and the small “p” politics of small-town organizing is a lot to put up with for not having a particular passion for the work or the community. I like them both, but I have a lot of interests and I like a lot of places.

So, I’ve spent some time checking out Lawrence, Topeka and Wichita as well as Atchison which is a bit closer. I’ve done all the hikes within a half hour drive and am working on the hour drive hikes. I’ve also checked out the Flint Hills and Osawatomie. I have concert tickets in Hayes Kansas to see an alt country band, 49 Winchester, in May and my grants manager is getting married in Wichita so I’ll be back down there. The Capitol with the famous John Brown mural is a must see. The John Brown Museum in Osawatomie also has some cool artifacts.

My friend Harry came out and we went to Lawrence to see mewithoutyou on their farewell tour. It was an awesome show and I saw some shows with John. Most notably the Firewater Festival with Blackberry Smoke, the Old 97’s, and 49 Winchester giving memorable performances. I did a float trip down the Missouri from Leavenworth to the next river town. I also did Hartsburg to Jeff City later in the year which was pretty fun. For my vacation I flew into Detroit over Labor Day and caught the Detroit Jazz Festival. I came early and stayed late to see my friends in the homeland.

And that friends has pretty much been my year. Mostly I’ve tried to live a humble and quiet life. I’ve given up big ambitions and focused on what’s in front of me. Overall, I’m pleased with the results. The ego gets going a bit, but I’ve gotten better about keeping it in check and will keep working on it. I’m going to stay on much the same path in the coming year but take better care of myself while doing it. By the end of the year, I should be wrapping things up and packing my things back to my house in Columbia. From there its epic road trip and finding a quiet place to hole up and write a book. I hope to blog more to keep me in the writing mode.

Hoar Frost in the Graveyard

December 14, 2022 Leave a comment

After visiting all the parks here in Leavenworth and the surrounding areas I started working my way through the graveyards. Sunday it was really foggy and I heard reports of ice fog and thought it might be a good day to explore Mt. Carmel Cemetery. It turned out I was right.

Lots of the statuary had hoar frost in what looked like cobwebs.

Even the most whimsical statuary I’ve seen in a graveyard did not escape the hoar frost.

The fog was more of what I expected to see and I got one good shot of it.

It’s a big cemetery and the historic stuff is scattered throughout. They must have had isolated shrines and burial areas back in the day. There are still large parcels that are grassy fields. There are a lot of modern graves with laser pictures, bad poetry and things people are into like sports teams. People leaving grave offerings is touching though.

I also saw my first sex marriage tombstone. It made me feel a little better about modernity when I was thinking history might find us banal and silly. I’ll leave you with this weird Janus Crucifix which had a Jesus on each side in the middle of a turnaround.

Epic Road Trip #15 (The Final Leg)

Had an expensive fastfood type breakfast at a diner in Granby. Did some laundry and found dispersed camping in the National Forest. I took a not so great site lower on the mountain since I had the donut on. I walked up the road to the High Lonesome Trailhead and hiked that to the cabin at the end.

The next morning I drove into Winter Park, I think and got my tire fixed. Had another expensive fastfood type breakfast and checked out the local thrift store. It was $44 for the flat fix, which was steep but since the other was free I made out ok.

I backtracked to head north and picked up a hitchhiker and took her to Sulphur Springs before her Food bank milk spoiled. It was my third hitchhiker of the trip which made up for my two rides and one for the hundreds of times I’d hitchhiked in my youth.

I drove up north through a large burned area of the Rout National Forest. It was surreal seeing the total devastation which read like an indictment of our poor forest management practices.

I stopped at the big wildlife management area and saw it was moose country. There was no free or cheap camping or hotels in the Walden area and all the restaurants looked like the same pricey fastfood like stuff I was coming to hate about Colorado so I pushed on to Wyoming.

I found a hike in the Medicinebow National Forest on a rails to trails trail. There were a lot of ponds from the borrow pits making the railway and I saw a lot of Willow and some moose droppings so I camped in a burned out area and got up in the cold predawn for a morning hike to see Moose, but no luck.

I drove into Laramie and filled up on cheap Wyoming gas. I drove to the Lincoln statue which is at an elaborate rest area celebrating the Lincoln Autoway which was the first cross country auto route. There were allegedly trailheads there but I couldn’t find them. All the trails had a $5.00 day use fee so I drove on up to Cheyenne.

Cheyenne has a great municipal park with a botanical gardens and a swimming lake. Had a nice lunch at a Filipino restaurant and looked at my options. When I went to Cheyenne I’d decided to turn towards home. I did Yellowstone and Grand Tetons a few years ago and Devil’s Tower at 250 miles away didn’t seem worth it.

With nearly a full tank of gas I figured I could head back to Colorado. Drove down to Fort Morgan where I found a reasonably priced hotel in the High Plains. I hiked a riverside trail along the Platte which wasn’t great.

I headed west and had lunch in Nebraska before turning south into Kansas. I had talked to my friend Trevor that morning about our bi-annual trip to the Detroit Jazz Festival and he reminded me of Nicodemus so I decided to head there. Passed a memorial to the Sand Creek Massacre and related tragedies some of which had happened nearby. I found some free camping east of their in Hill City at a municipal park. It’s hot in the flatlands and I slept poorly.

The towns along 24 each had little historical parks and signs about their settlement. Nicodemus is a National Park site being settled by former slaves. I took a solo guided tour with a ranger and we had a great dialogue on racism and city development.

Nicodemus had a strong start but got screwed out of their railroad stop by the white developer who had helped found the town but pulled some shenanigans to get the stop in one of his white towns. In addition to a good breakfast place the ranger told me about a dugout Nicodemus residents had made outside of Stockton which was a sundown town. It was in good shape and I don’t recall having seen one for as many as I’d read about in westerns growing up.

I drove to Grand Junction and got another hotel as it was hot again. Had some so so barbecue and another crappy hike on a riverwalk this one the Republican River. Then I drove home. It was nice to be back. Nine weeks on the road, ten states, 5,000 miles, 5 nights at friend’s places, 4 nights at hotels and never paid for camping. It was a sweet trip and a great adventure.

Epic Road Trip #13: Across Colorado

June 18, 2021 1 comment

Boy a lot has happened in the last 6 days. As I mentioned in the last post I stopped at The Ancestral Pueblo Cultural Center which apparently is rebranding but the maps haven’t kept up. There were a couple of ruined pueblos on site and the museum had tons of current artifacts. When they built the nearby reservoir they harvested all the artifacts they could find before submerging them.

The ranger recommended Sand Canyon and to start early but it was already too late for that and I hit the trail at noon. I took it slow and with a gallon of water I hiked to all the sites on the first 3.7 miles before I decided to turnaround. It was really cool being in the wilderness and finding all of these cool cave dwellings you could get fairly close too.

I was surprised I was up to 14 miles with the hiking I had done earlier and the spur trails to get to the sites. I had also missed Castle Rock Pueblo by entering on an alternate trailhead but I stopped in a winery and picked up a half bottle of a white blend to taste the local terroir. I considered a tasting but even 4 oz of wine didn’t seem wise when I was going to be doing more desert hiking.

Took me a walk to find the site which turned out to be the big rock that looked like a castle. It was sad to see it pockmarked with gunshots and you couldn’t see the ruins from outside the prohibited area.

I drove on to Hovenweep and saw in the brochure my dispersed camping was really a campsite. It was $15 which I would have paid if it had included a shower. I decided to hike the 2 mile main trail even though I was 15 miles into the day and dark was approaching. It was an amazing hike and Hovenweep is the unknown gem of the trip for sure.

After the cliff dwelling period the ancient pueblans built free standing towers right before abandoning the area and moving south into the Rio Grande basin. There is another ruin on a 4 mile trail but I left that one for next time. I took the hour plus drive back to the BLM land by Mesa Verde I’d been staying at. It was a bit of a harrowing journey with 3 episodes of mule deer in the road one where I slammed on the breaks and stopped within inches of it as it looked at me sort of dumbfounded. Even more nerve-wracking there were these birds flying in front of the van scooping insects out of the headlight glow I assume. I made it back late and slept the sleep of the just. 17 miles hiked through the desert, I’m definitely getting stronger.

I drove the Canyon of the Ancients loop the counterclockwise this time and went to Sand Canyon Pueblo. It’s excavated ruins reburied to protect it. It had a subtle beauty and good interpretive signs but the young family who hiked it after me were unimpressed.

Then I challenged some dirt roads and visited a couple more ruins. You never know what you’re going to get but Painted Hand Pueblo was especially cool with a nice freestanding tower.

I then did some driving and got a burger and green chili beer at a brewpub in Durango. Drove seven miles up a mountain and was in some beautiful Aspen/Ponderosa Pine forest and a nice cool night. I noticed I had a rapidly developing flat tire but decided to wait until morning to deal with it.

I swapped on my donut and drove back to Durango. Got a great breakfast at a diner, picked up a pair of pants at a resale shop and they fixed my tire for free. I’d hiked a piece of the Colorado Trail on my way down the mountain which was amazing and hiked the interpretive trail by the overlook on my way backup the mountain. Had a nice campfire that night which was a nice surprise being in a worse drought then what drove the Ancestral Pueblans out of the area in the 13th century.

I hiked the Log Chute Trail coming down the mountain and should have known better by the name. It was a 5 mile loop with the last bit being super steep downhill and was obviously designed with mountain biking in mind. It was a lot of loose sand and I had one bad moment but I got my feet back under me before I had a fall.

I started up 550 North and pulled into an overlook at Coal Bank Peak, steam erupted from under the hood. I popped the hood and saw a hole in my radiator hose, about the only mechanical problem I was capable of fixing. I saw an auto parts store and looked at the map and thought it was in Silverton so I hit hitchhiked there. Got a ride right of way and quicky learned Google was messing with me sending me to Silverton to turnaround and drive back to Durango.

Rather then doing that I went to an auto repair place and the old boy running the place sold me a random one for $22.00. I had a choice of 2 so I picked the longer of them. I walked about an hour before I got a ride back to my van with a dude who knew his way around cars and gave me some sage advice.

It was difficult getting at the clips and then getting the hose on. Twice I felt my composure slip a little bit and I took a few breaths and centered myself and treated it like a meditative exercise. I got it done and it heat sealed and I drove my hot and filthy self to Silverton. I searched hotels and they were all pricey so I settled for some ok pulled pork and fries and got some cool dispersed camping by the river right outside of town.

I took this as a sign that mountains were not for the Cookie Monster and considered heading for home. My ride had said only a couple of passes and 550 flattened out. My last picture wouldn’t upload so I’ll wrap up and publish. I stayed at Steamboat Springs last night and am going to camp and hike in the Medicine Bow-Rout National Forest for a couple of days and figure out my next moves. The heatwave broke here and it’s pretty nice being at some elevation. Looks hotter then he’ll everywhere else so I’ll try and stay put. Stay cool.

Epic Road Trip #12

June 12, 2021 1 comment

So after buying shoes I drove back up into the Jemez and went west on 4. I stopped at a hot springs which was more of a warm springs but was beautiful and after a hot and sweaty day, much appreciated.

I found another dispersed camping site and was able to get back more into the woods, just in time for the sunset. I cooked dinner in the dark which turned out to be a critical error. I use zip stove and left it out to cool and broke it putting it away when I packed up in the morning.

I drove down to Battleship Rock, which is an impressive formation. It’s really a pinnacle as the Jemez Creek horseshoes around it. I hiked 6 miles over tough terrain trying to follow a path to a hot springs. There were so many informal paths I ultimately realized my knees were shot and I needed to head back while I still could. I met some hikers who said most who tried couldn’t find it and one was making her third attempt and wasn’t optimistic.

I caught a burger in Jemez Springs and drove out of the mountains. I stopped at the Pueblo Cultural Center and checked out their museum and picked up some trifles for the folks at home taking care of my house and dog. I also got a Zia ginger ale, it’s nice to see regional sodas making a comeback and it’s spicy and delicious.

There was no closer free camping to Chaco then where I’d stayed last night so I drove out there and steeled myself to pay to camp if they had any sites left. They didn’t, so I did some sunset hikes and boondocked off the first turnoff from the rough gravel road you take to get there. My first time this trip and it was nice. Peaceful with lots of stars. I did realize I’d made 2 critical mistakes in the morning and had left my hygiene/med bag on the roof of the van when I stopped for my morning constitutional.

I went to the visitors center and met a local Navaho getting water. We talked about living without running water which I had done for a few months squatting a cabin outside of Columbia. He was sanguine about it and filled enough barrels to water his plants.

I hiked some of the main sites when they opened and took a long hike in the back country to see isolated ruins, petroglyphs and some rare pictographs. It was all told about 15 miles mostly over loose sand and I was whooped. Killing time in the shade until I could boondock again didn’t seem appealing so I drove to Fairfield and got a Subway salad and a hotel room.

I went to Aztec which is a cool ruin, right in town with a reconstructed kiva. It was a great spot to grab some meditation time. I’d planned to head west into Arizona but threading the needle between fires didn’t seem appealing and I was so close to Mesa Verde I decided to head north into Colorado.

I stopped in Cortez and got some sage advice at the Colorado Welcome Center as well as maps and guides. I did a nice hike at a nature preserve and saw some pueblo ruins and got my steps in. There is nice dispersed camping on BLM land right outside of the entrance to Mesa Verde where I’ve spent the last 2 nights.

Mesa Verde is very cool but the one large cave dwelling you can go in without a reserved ranger led hike was closed because of a landslide. I did have a great 5 mile hike with Shannon, another epic Road tripper on her way back to the Northeast. We both talked up a blue streak and it was nice to connect with a kindred spirit.

I did the petroglyph hike which was a tough hike in the heat and coming after a lot of miles and had close to 15 miles in again. It was only one panel but it was a nice one.

This morning I drove into Dolores for breakfast. I’m going to the Anasazi (note that word is a slur and ancestral Pueblo is the preferred term) Museum and then tour the Valley of the Ancients sites. There is BLM dispersed camping on the far side of the circle and I may take 2 days.

After that I have decided to explore Colorado and stay out of the southeast heat wave. I’m going to go to Durango and then north up the valley and spend a couple of days at my friend’s hotel. Then I am going to go West on 70 more or less and work my way to Bay Area and then south down the coast to San Diego before turning towards home. I’m 7 or so weeks in and am a little past the halfway point time wise. It’s been truly epic and I feel blessed to have made it this far and seen so incredibly much.

Epic Road Trip #10: Petroglyphs and ruins

Petroglyph Rock was impressive. I hiked 2 1/2 miles down a jeep trail to get to the trailhead. I got on the wrong trail and spent a couple more miles following false paths. I did a thorough search of the parking area and found the trailhead clearly marked and a short hike to Petroglyph Rock.

It’s a paleolithic artifact 8-10,000 years old. Very nice piece. I found one other petroglyph on another rock after a pretty exhaustive search. I hiked most of the trail twice but it’s really just a connector to a nearby campground and some exposure to the ecosystem which I’d already done on my misadventures on the Rio Bonito.

I did see what I assume is a horny toad. If anyone knows more, please chime in. I then drove over to Fort Stanton and checked that out. It was a fort built for the Indian wars and had some parts of it burned by Confederate sympathizers. It then was used to ensure the Mescalero Apache stayed on the reservation.

It was the best built of the western forts and in spite of being a tool of genocide was quite beautiful. There were lots of intact buildings from the late 19th century. It got a new lease on life as a CCC project and German sailors were interned there as well as some Japanese Americans during WW II.

It got its final makeover as a hospital for turbuculosis patients. The climate is really sweet and they added some buildings and upgraded almost everything. When we got better treatments then hanging out in the desert it was closed and is a historic site. It seems really underutilized and would make an awesome resort.

I camped in the next canyon over on some BLM land. It’d been a pretty full day. The next morning I started driving north towards my next historical site. A tip from Ray who I had met at Bridal Veil Falls and a historic sign map gave me my next 3 stops.

After breakfast, at the Smoky Bear Cafe where I finally got one of those Mexican breakfasts with beans and tortillas (It was in the area where he was rescued from a fire, I skipped his park because they wanted $2.00), I went to White Oaks a former ghost town which is now about half occupied.

I stopped by the graveyard it being Memorial Day and paid my respects to a deputy gunned down by Billy the Kid. They also have a little historical museum you let yourself in with little dioramas of settler life.

I then drove down to Valley of Fires, which was really cool. It’s a 4-5,000 year old lava flow and had a cool interpretive trail. A thunderstorm blew in with some serious hail and I got soaked in the second wave.

I then drove out to Three Rivers Petroglyph National Conservation Area. I was going to camp in the nearby National Forest and explore it the next day but the road was closed because of flooding from the storm. Even a quarter inch of rain can flood some arryos I learned and we got much more than that. I did some serious backtracking to find camping in the National Forest but the site was beautiful.

I drove out to Three Rivers the next morning and wow, just wow. It’s the largest collection of petroglyphs that is publicly accessible. There were so many I spent the day there hiking and taking pictures and meditating.

I then made a serious drive and got my second hotel room in Santa Fe. Again out the door for $43 and wifi problems on one of my devices. Today I got up and poked around downtown some but was scared off by the price of parking. I went to the National Cemetery and then further up north to the Pecos Pueblo ruins.

It was pretty cool. It’s an archeological site where this dude figured out layering and dating sites by pottery. The Pueblo folks sent Coronado on a wild goose chase to Kansas figuring he’d get weakened or killed on the plains looking for cities of gold. It worked but they got conquered by the Spanish anyway.

They had a revolt and destroyed the church and had 12 years of freedom but the Spanish won out who became the Mexicans who got pushed out by the Americans. The Pecos Pueblo traders dwindled until the remnant joined a nearby pueblo.

There were some reconstructions and foundations. The second church ruins were built in a smaller footprint then the first one. There is a kiva in the church which there’s only a couple of those. I did my meditation down in it which was cool.

The park closes at 5:30 so I didn’t get to do the Civil War hike. Texan militia tried to conquer the area to open up Colorado gold fields and Californian access to the Pacific but got their asses handed to them by Colorado and New Mexican militia.

That’ll be tomorrow’s hike. Now I’m at a great dispersed site in Dalton’s Canyon in the Santa Fe National Forest. I’ve got some split peas cooking on a fire for a late dinner. Didn’t expect to get to make a fire out here but all this rain has been a Godsend for droughtland. My peas are old and are taking forever which has allowed me to get this written.

Rest well faithful reader. I’ll get this posted tomorrow and hopefully have enough signal for petroglyph pictures.

I forgot to post this yesterday when I went into Pecos for coffee and was looking for the Civil War trail. I couldn’t find the trail and drove up into the mountains and hiked a trail. They wanted $8.00 for a day use pass so I just hiked the one and relaxed at camp (in the evening drizzle again).

I decided to take a slow day today and push on to Bandelier tomorrow. I found the trail in Google maps I couldn’t find yesterday so I’m going to hike that. Been reading Leaves of Grass, the deathbed edition; a book on the Apostles and studying Book 4. Good stuff for a deep dive both into America and myself.

Epic Road Trip #5: On to Arkansas

Been a little gap in the narrative. It’s been easier to make a quick Facebook post with a couple pictures to let people know I am safe and where I am at. But it’s raining and I don’t have a signal so it’s a good time to get caught up.

It was a fairly decent legitimate site at Pine Ridge. I drove down to the Piney Creek Wilderness area the next afternoon and there were lots of well maintained dispersed sites. I did a hike in the wilderness but couldn’t find the trail so came back. I had a controlled fall on some wet loose rocks which was a good reminder of the inherent risks in solo back country hiking. I’m pretty careful but you never know.

I didn’t want to take another hike so I headed south on back roads into Arkansas. I stopped in Fayetteville and saw an old friend. With short notice she was a great host and I got a hot meal and a shower and a chance to go to the grocery store for some goat cheese (a soft peppered one that is delicious) and local beer (Ozark Beer Company, Hardwork APA, it’s ok) and whatnot. I tried a couple gear stores looking for a Forest Service Map but no luck.

After Fayetteville I just drove on some long unpaved roads until I found stuff to do. I was heading towards Mills Springs Day Use area in what is mostly ATV infested woods when was stopped by a tree in the road. There’d been storms when I was in Fayetteville and there were a lot of downed trees. A couple in an F-250 with a camper shell were taking it apart with a hand axe. I got my full size one out but it was a little dull to their liking. We got the branch off and they were trying to pull it out of the way with their truck when the Forest Service arrived with a chainsaw and made short work of it. The couple was cool, recently retired marines who were 5 months into their cross country road trip. I told them about the water falls hike at Hercules Glen and they showed me a good campsite I stayed for 2 days.

I hiked both ways on the Appalachian Highlands Trail. A lot of poison ivy but pretty falls and a nice trail. There was a whole hillside that collapsed onto the trail which made it tough to get around but I navigated the edge until I found the trail again. Spent some time at the Springs area which was cool rock, maybe CCC era. There were some more modern additions maybe 1950s showing their wear and semiabandoned toilets, which are the very worst kind.

So today I drove out of the woods and came east and back into the forest. I’m south of Newton County I believe and there are some cool hikes I found directions too. My plan is to hike them over the weekend, between showers and then down to Little Rock for a couple few days to visit my old friend Jay and his wife.

It’s been smooth sailing and I’m hoping this part of the forest is in better condition then what I’ve seen so far. Well that’s it faithful reader. News from home is Smokey passed on and was buried by the other dogs in the backyard. It’s a sad thing, she was a good dog and had a lot of heart. She’d have liked all the cows I drove by today and barked at them all. Rest well Smokey, the cows will have to take care of themselves.

Newton County is as beautiful as I remember it. I did a couple of hikes near where I camped. Pretty decent trails, more ferns and wildflowers. Then I drove into Newton County and did a cool hike at a natural bridge site. There were a number of caves and pillars and such as well.

I then drove up to the Ponca Wilderness and hiked into Hemmed in Hollow. It was 2 miles of steep drop to get to the overlook to see the falls. It’s the tallest between the Appalachians and the Rockies but was hard to see from the overlook. I hiked out racing the dark and pretty much made it.

I then drove into the Buffalo Scenic River Area to park and camp. Drank a couple of the local APAs which are growing on me with some local jerky. I was bushed and slept hard. Came back to Jasper and will try to add some photos at the Subway with WiFi.

Categories: camping, hiking Tags: , ,

Gepetto, I want to be a real boy

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Good morning faithful reader. Here in Missouri we had a beautiful weekend of weather and I unexpectedly had a little time on my hands. Yesterday I got some serious time in the garden and completed the cold frame. It was sunny in the 60s and it was too windy to finish raking the backyard. I also futzed around with the big compost bin and remembered to leave it open before the big rain last night. I finished shoveling the cold frame bed and pulled out the grass clumps because the biggest chunk of it was yard prior to the Fall.

I planted lettuce and leaf lettuce. I was out of seed, the seed catalog sitting on my counter unread, so I added some broccoli, cabbage, and peas figuring I would eat the little plantlings in salads. I didn’t have much luck with keeping the deer out of them to growing to adulthood. That sort of thing is supposed to be really nutritious and I would like to eat more salads.

Its been strange living by myself. Its hard to cook for one. I’ve been making a big meal and then eating it for days until it is gone. I made this bowl of dressing that has been two meals thus far with many to come. It was really quite delicious. I took my stale bread crusts, mostly whole wheat store bread, some whole grain white, some wheat/rye made slow to stretch the yeast (14 lbs of flour with the yeast pack) made in a clay oven in the woods in a 19th century camp out by my friend Jeff, and some holiday bread from my sister Betty that got stale on me.

I had sliced and all that dry, I keep a dish of it going through the winter and make dressing when I get a bowl full. I had frozen some Thanksgiving turkey and the drippings and I added that. I also added a bunch of celery, 1/2 red onion, yellow onion, 6 cloves garlic, maybe a tsp of thyme, 1/4 tsp mace, and the rest of my dried white sage from the garden I had dried last year (maybe 2 tbsp).

I baked it in my biggest glass mixing bowl with foil for an hour and without file for 1/2 hour at 400 degrees. Let it cool and yum. The mace really sets it off. Its a powerful spice. I added lots of fresh ground pepper as I didn’t put any in to cook. For left overs I sliced out a piece and baked it in the toaster oven with some smoked gouda and served it with a couple of farm eggs over easy. Will likely do the same for lunch. Better think about dinner, maybe salmon patties and a salad.

Saturday I took Fido for a hike. We were at the dog park but it was such a nice day everyone was there and there were to many big dogs for Fido to relax and run. So we walked down to the trails by Cosmo. Actually that was Sunday, yesterday felt like Sunday but it was Monday being MLK day yesterday. Saturday I did campaign stuff all day. I have two plans to go forward with and am awaiting someone else’s decision which created this space. I also closed down my Facebook account. Hadn’t realized how much I relied on it for pseudosocialization. Maybe I will go out and be a real person instead.

Holiday Letter 2011

December 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Well its been a tough year on Leslie Lane but Fido and I are resilient if nothing else and still found some joy worth sharing this holiday season as we recount the events of the year for our family and friends. I use the “we” pretty loosely as Fido is sacked out on the love seat with his head on a pillow as his cousin Shadow, “a little human in a dog suit” taught him to do. He rarely much to these narratives so I will plunge ahead without his active input.

Currently I am sick; scratchy throat, sore, chills and tired. Came on last evening, I couldn’t sleep for the congestion, got up and took some Nyquil and almost slept through the time to call in. As I alluded to in my last post and if your a new reader you may not know but we had our share of tragedy this year, Fido’s man died in April and if being sick brings a little solemnity to the narrative, its entirely appropriate; snot riddled and a little tearful looking back on the year that was.

Dad and I celebrated the holidays at home last year. Usually we travel and the year before in a hotel in Monroe Michigan it struck me that I have a perfectly good house with a lovely Christmas tree at home why am I spending Christmas in hotels and campgrounds year after year. I worked Christmas Day and came home to celebrate with Fido and the Popster with the exchange of gifts and holiday cheer. We celebrated the New Year with Dad making a pork roast in the slow cooker, you have to eat pork on New Years to” root ahead” as Grandma Trapp would say. If you eat chicken you’ll scratch all year and beef leaves you standing still chewing your cud.

We had a bad Winter with lots of snow and cold. Since I live only a block from work I was one of only three that made it in and one of two that stayed. We had fun doing all the groups and accommodating ourselves to the weather. I walked Fido a lot. He would have a good time even when the snow was deeper then he was tall. He kind of jumps and swims like his moves to get through tall grass. We owned the Bear Creek Trail that winter.

I made my first road trip of the year in early Spring when Dave Smith won some free tickets to see The Pogues at the Royal Oak Music Theater. It was nice to reconnect with Dave and see his new place and visit family and friends who I’d missed on the holidays. The green¬† truck did not survive the trip however with the timing chain rubbing its way through the engine case. I landed on my feet and Betty and Bill were kind enough to loan me there car for my stay and rented one for the drive back.

I brought back Johnny Watson for a working vacation here in CoMo. He put in a new floor and tile in my kitchen to replace the crappy linoleum that was cracking even though it was new when I bought the house. The disruption and dust was hard on Dad and it was only a little before that that I saw Dad was struggling to get through his routine and that I was going to have to step up my game and start helping him with laundry and making his bed and real basic shit like that. I cried when Sarah asked me how I was doing the morning I realized Dad couldn’t make his bed anymore. I wondered how I would manage the house on my own and caregive for Dad and work all on my own.

In early April Dad couldn’t catch his breath and I took him to the ER. They gave him a breathing treatment, which eased him up and they almost sent him home, but decided to admit him. I went to work and came back after and he was struggling to breathe. I got on the nursing staff to get him some breathing treatments ordered and went home since he couldn’t visit. I missed a call in the middle of the night and awoke to a voice mail they had Dad on a ventilator.

I called family and pretty much moved to the hospital. Bob was on the road within hours and bedside that night. What a blessing family is. They took Dad off the ventilator to see if he could breathe on his own and we were instructed to get his final wishes. As he was coming out of anesthesia I said “Dad, Dad its Mickey [my childhood nickname]”. Dad licked his lips and said “Mickeys in the wide mouth green bottle, Rolling Rock…” and I could tell he was thinking of beers in green bottles and after a pause he said “I’m not an alcoholic”.

Well he couldn’t breathe without mechanical assistance and that’s a shitty life my friends so we stopped the machines and started the best friend of the dying, good old Morphine. Morphine relaxed him and got him some lung action so he could push out carbon dioxide again and gave him a few good days, to visit and say goodbye and give more family time to come and make peace.

My friends went into action, hosting my family, cleaning my house, walking my dog so that I could be at the hospital full time. They visited and offered support and got us the things we needed. Boone Hospital Palliative Care were beautiful. We drank rum and cokes, Dad had lost the taste for beer with his gluten free diet, but enjoyed a good drink with family and friends and was his charming and engaging self. We snuck Fido in one night and he lay at Dad’s feet while he slept. Dad woke and said “I’ll be damned”.

It was good for Fido who had never been apart from Dad for more then a few hours in his whole life and he seemed to figure out what was going on. Dad hung on for a few days, the price of doing business when your tough as nails. One of the last things he enjoyed was listening to the first two chapters of “Last Stand at Papagos Well” by his favorite author, Mr. Louis L’amour, read by yours truly.

Dad passed and family returned home and Fido and I were alone in our grief. I decided to do the funeral service myself out of respect I didn’t want to hand the chore over to a stranger. I had a small memorial service in the backyard that weekend and sprinkled a little of his ashes on Fido’s predecessor Myrtle’s grave. I wanted to make sure I could get through the thing without breaking down before I did it for the full funeral the following weekend. It went well though my progressive friends wondered how it would go over in the heartland.

It went over really well, people liked hearing his story and having a theologically unique approach was validating to many and offended few (at least they were quiet about it). It gave me a chance to connect with a lot of family as I am normally quiet at such affairs and no one knew I could write and deliver a speech. I submitted the service to the New Yorker but ultimately just posted it on my blog.

I thought I would be alone in the house but this guy Kevin who used to live in Columbia contacted me about renting a room and John came back to stay with me for close to six months which was great having him around. John got some projects done putting in a dog waste compost system in the back corner and building a raised bed frame and a cold frame out of some of the old windows.

The garden was largely a bust this year, tough weather with lots of rain early and then a month long hot and dry spell. Ultimately it got nice but green tomatoes were about the only thing I had in abundance. I fried some, made and canned chutney, and ripened a bunch for homemade tomato sauce several times. Put the last of them in my turkey soup yesterday.

It was a good year for floating, though not on The Big Muddy which was closed for much of the year because of flooding. Michael, Trevor and I floated both the Lemine and Locust Creek. The Lamine was slow and Locust Creek involved a lot of portages due to debris which was new to me. I floated the flooded Overton Bottoms twice. Nothing like canoeing through the woods. My best float though, John put together a full moon night float on the Gasconade on my birthday. That was incredible.

John and I also vacationed in the Appalachians. We stayed in Sieverville for a couple days and daytripped into Great Smokey National Park. The hike to Laurel Falls was probably my favorite but we also watched a mama bear and her cup snacking and lazing about in a gum tree. It was very cool. We dropped south of the park and did some guerrilla and dispersed camping in the Nantahala National Forest. We hiked in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Grove and saw some great old growth trees and hiked to some more waterfalls including another Lauurel Falls. On the way out we camped in the Pisquah, pretty much skippable. It was a great trip though and I got another mile of the Appalachian Trail and my total stands at 157. I pledged to go back and start north just north of the park, but not this year.

Ultimately John moved back to California and my housemate Kevin bought a house and moved out yesterday, so as of today its just me and Fido. We’re content with that, though the house seems big for me and a little dog. In the Spring if a housemate hasn’t turned up on their own I’ll start looking. I expect someone will just show up, its worked so far.

Lets see, entertained less, but some. Had a nice blow out for Thanksgiving, with a local pasture raised heirloom turkey and Kevin made some excellent sides. We had a collection of strays from my neighbor Henry, my buddy Harry originally out of Toledo, Kevin, his new girlfriend, and a couple of professors from the university from way out of town (Italy and Estonia). We had lively conversation and drank some good wine and enjoyed our lovely meal snug and grateful.

Work continues to go well. I was demoted to counselor after a minor screw up. Best thing that ever happened to me. I got a more responsive boss and a more reasonable work load. I continue to do staff trainings, education groups (added self control and dreams to my repertoire), therapy groups, and am getting to be a better counselor. I am a more confident public speaker and am even more motivational. I came to realize people need more preaching then teaching.

I continue to eat more local food and now that I’m buying all the groceries my local content should do nothing but climb. Lets see, I also joined the Odd Fellows and I’m glad to be a part of something both storied and ready to play a more important role as our government slides further into dysfunction.

In October I got into the post a day challenge a little late but upped my blogging game considerably. It challenged me to have something meaningful to say daily and I started picking up more subscribers and “Likes” from strangers. I cancelled my Directv and will likely drop Netflix as I blog more and watch TV less. I hope to get into an exercise routine in the coming year. Still single but feel closer to changing that but am still not feeling rushed. Have a couple folks that I think are interested but haven’t followed up on it. I may, or I may not when it comes right down to it.

All in all some good things happened in a tough year. I am not sorry to see 2011 go but it was a time of growth and change and I am not ungrateful for the experiences I have had. 2012 promises to have more joy and less pain and I look forward to building on the gains I have made, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.

feeling a bit chill

December 18, 2011 3 comments

I was watching this pretty intense Australian movie called The Tracker when the VCR just went dead. Got it going again but now I’m blogging. Its got a grooving sound track and its a little heavy handed but good. shit. video out again. I think my DVD player is on the fritz. I guess I am more likely to cancel netflix then buy another one. It’ll be nice to stop them from dipping into my bank account. I haven’t missed directv and haven’t tried to connect the antenna I got from Harry yet. I kind of like peace and quiet.

What a great day, it was so beautiful, especially for December. The sun was out some and I hung a load of laundry out. I made soup. I used chicken stock I’d made and the turkey neck left over from Thanksgiving. There’s a lot of meat on a neck and Fido enjoyed a little integument and such. I added some water a piece and a half of celery and maybe 1/2 a cup of celeriac leaves. I chunked the celery up big. I also added herbs from the garden mostly parsley but also oregano, marjoram and wild onions. I also threw in almost a cup of lentils and cooked that until the lentils were done and turned it off.

I went shopping with Sarah and had a pleasant time at the mall and such and drove carefully through the maelstrom of pushy people on cell phones wheeling around in big SUVs. Didn’t end up getting anyone but me stuff but I got some neat stuff. I had a $15 Target card for being a good worker bee and got a metal colander (I’ve been looking at thrift stores for years and hadn’t found one) and a glass loaf pan.

I had no luck at the Shoe Department looking for a goretex or goretexlike hiking shoe. Did find one at “the locally owned shoe store that happens to be at the mall” as Sarah was an excellent mall navigator having grown up at the mall in her mom’s bookstore,¬† and got a new pair of Merrels for around a hundred bucks. I walk enough to justify it and I ripped the seams out of the goretex in my current two year pair when I was sinking knee deep in the mud floating the Lemine.

At the kitchen gadget store got my dough mixer I was missing from the pumpkin pies. Even a few pies will justify the expense. No luck on getting a sieve though, I’ll have to try flea markets and antique malls or else start shopping in a time machine. Stopped at Westlakes as Sarah wasn’t finding her present but I got some bathroom caulk and a cute little shot glass that also has teaspoon and tablespoon markers. Should come in handy. I did finish my soup before Michael came with some mushrooms from Harry, a few carrots, a handful of little taters, some kale, some rue Kevin made on Thanksgiving to thicken it, and garlic. Also threw in 3 or 4 semi dried thai chile peppers.

Maybe I’ll make some tea with Baileys and have a piece of my pumpkin pie. No way am I going to make one for Christmas. I’ve been eating it every day for better then half a week. Should have offered Michael a slice when he came to pick me and Fido up to go to the off leash dog trails by Cosmo park. They’re extensive with a couple good little climbs and some nice views. Goes down to the boardwalk and we hiked the extra loop by the golf course. Fido stayed pretty close and had fun playing with Olive. My face feels windblown from the brisk day and my new shoes have some inaugural mud but performed well on the muddy hills.

I could’ve gotten more done on the Christmas front but it was a fun day, the dog had a good time, and I got a lot of other stuff done. I planted the rest of the 50 pack tulips I got at a discount earlier this month. I continued to fold them into the strawberry patch and pull grass. Need to get in and clip up the white sage gone amok and plant another six pack and I’m done with that project. Probably after Christmas though, I’ve really gotta get wrapping and follow through on an idea.

Expect to hear more from me and of course the annual tradition of the holiday letter. Probably would have done it already but it was a somber year here at Leslie Lane. And with all the magic and the growth and getting better at standing on our own two feet, or four feet really for some, it is still worth celebrating a new year coming on. Hope you can make it for some lucky new years dinner, mimosas perhaps, Baileys and home roasted coffee, and weather permitting a fire. Any time after 3 would be lovely and if you get no more invitation then this, consider yourself invited.

 

Categories: cooking, dogs, gardening, hiking