Friday, November 20, 2015

The effort of engagement...

What with ever more disturbing news from around the globe,  extreme climate events, political unrest, mass migration and horrifying acts of terrorism, the circus that has become our presidential selection process, senseless gun deaths in our very neighborhood, and etc, etc, it is understandable (I believe) that one would feel quite 'undercut' morale-wise. How does one go about one's day without resorting to denial?   It does not seem surprising that life expectancy for middle-aged white males is said to be 'shrinking' - in some views, due to despair.  New global challenges are being exposed and documented every day, thanks to the internet.  Thankfully there are many 'watch' groups set up to monitor these things.  I am grateful that passionate people are doing the important investigative work --  and I also must lapse into 'withdrawal' mode from time to time, during which I delete scads of email entreaties/requests for money, and have to work hard simply to ward off a deep desire to hide in the house!  Well... I cannot give much money nowadays, under the best of circumstances.  What I can do is volunteer and rally; put time and energy to constructive use...

What IS the use?  Sometimes I buckle under a weighty sense of futility.  But that is just where another inner voice protests, '...future outcomes (or the hope of particular outcomes) are not the reasons for action!  If we care, there is no choice!'  In a sort of mental/emotional mutiny against the tide of news from Europe and the Middle East, two cogent points have been ringing in my mind for the past few days regarding my own capabilities and activism.  First of all, for as long as I am here and able, I am determined to spend my time standing up for the planet and other beings (some of them human!) The other obvious point is to be present to appreciate the good life I have in this beautiful part of the world.  These are my most important jobs.  Is optimism necessary?  No.

A climate rally at Pacific Gas & Electric

Annie and me - at SF March for Elephants

At SFSPCA - more fuzz therapy!

From a practice walk yesterday; walk-pilgrimage set to resume April of next year.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A trip home, and the question of keeping 'pilgrim consciousness' active while waiting to resume walking (gods willing) in the spring.

Views from the train.

Back to the Bay...

That was a great train ride, if rather long!

Although I had been feeling 'beaten' in some ways, there are certainly many ‘up-sides’ to being at home for the present; things I am appreciating right now include:  hanging out with family and friends (both the two and four-legged ones); messing about in a kitchen, and of course - California produce!

...San Francisco’s open-minded culture; parks; close proximity of art and music.  Some of my favorite panoramas.

J.M.W. Turner exhibit at the deYoung Museum

I was invited back to my weekly job(s) at the Farmers' Market, which is a great gift.  Working with so many local and area farmers, it is easy to forget that, for most of the US, the production and sale of food is just business...

Soon after resuming walking in the spring, I will cross into Nebraska.  Traveling in the agri-business belt of the US (as I have been for a number of days already, and which will be the theme for miles ahead), leads me to frame my questions about it in some obvious ways. To wit, is this (mono-culture) the best/only model for feeding and otherwise providing for our planet’s population in the 2000’s?  Why are certain corporate practices even legal?  (Monsanto comes to mind.) Why is the merging of business and government any less objectionable than the ‘church and state’ alliances that our forebears were fleeing a couple of centuries ago?  And, ps - why is population no longer mentioned (along with disproportionate exploitation of resources by wealthy nations) when we’re talking about the carrying capacity of a finite planet?  (A sticky one, that question, and maybe not so politically correct these day.) It has been interesting to see how much diversity there is in people’s views on environment and politics, more than I would have guessed, and much more than is reflected through media sources.  Maybe Fox News has not yet achieved total control of public opinion.  I am curious about the political ‘comfort zone’ of the Midwest, generally speaking, as seen/heard face to face.

Now then, what will I be doing to take care of ‘pilgrim mind’ over these next 6 or 7 months?   Walking, for sure, even if it means walking in circles around the city of SF, and over the bridge to the north.  Looking at ways of making offerings of various types.  Continuing to explore gratitude from the perspectives of 'not taking for granted', and interconnectedness.   Recently I was given a book called 'Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy' (Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, 2012).  Once again I feel vindicated in my long-held view that despair and depression, anger and frustration (in measured amounts) are natural and appropriate responses  to the enormity of global environmental degradation and waste.  Most usually, political/social activism does not allow a place for exploring these emotions, let alone offering ways of coping with them and transforming them into something life-affirming and creative.  So, as I cannot seem to find anything of the sort going on, I am wondering about initiating a 'grief support' series of gatherings specifically about environment, and based upon the ideas and exercises described in the aforementioned book.   We shall see what comes of it.

In the meantime, let me (as best I can) take  care of my relationships and my sense of humor!  Updates as they occur...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Difficult decision -- suspending this trip for the rest of the year.

Hello again, from another Colorado 'fort'; this one is called Ft. Morgan, an agricultural community in northeastern Colorado and on the western side of the Great Plains.

Handy that there is an Amtrak stop in this town.  It looks as if I will be boarding a train for home this week, for medical reasons!  In response to a few inquiries I will say that, yes, I am OK.  The issue that developed is related to (but not quite as simple as) insufficient hydration.  The treatment requires 'flushing' with IV fluids and follow-up blood chemistry checks.  In my case the blood work did not show satisfactory improvement in a single day, indicating a need for more recovery time than it is practical to take here in the heart of 'agri-business', Colorado. My decision to suspend walking at this point was based upon a combination of this medical event (together with a couple of related findings), and a look at the daily weather forecasts (temperatures, specifically) over the coming week(s), since heat was one of the factors contributing to this inconvenient medical diagnosis.  Although I know that heading for home is the right decision at this point, it still has an unsatisfying, 'wimping out' sort of feeling.

Ft. Morgan is not quite the place I would have chosen as a stopping point while waiting for my home-bound train.  The Great Western Sugar Company, a 100-year old sugar beet processing plant, with its multi-silo storage tank is the most prominent feature of the town.  The hum of this huge factory and accompanying whine of the interstate can be heard throughout the night. On the plus side, there are a few decent coffee shops, a museum of interest, a good bicycle shop and a riverside park.  I've rented a bicycle and this morning took a ride along the S. Platte River, before it got too hot to be comfortable. 

If circumstances permit I will return to this point next year in the spring, to resume walking.  In the meantime, any recent donations will be returned, with great thanks to all for the unstinting support!  Plan updates will be forthcoming.  And hey - here is an opportunity for others to think about joining the walk (or a part of it) next year!

Rainbow Arch Bridge (circa 1922) over the S. Platte River.  GW Sugar plant in the distance.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mixed emotions -- and a lot of catching up to do!

Many people to thank since I have last given voice to gratitude! So let offering thanks be my first priority this time. Most sincere thanks! Camping in the rain for two nights prior to crossing Vail Pass was not terribly comfortable, but would have been much more difficult had it not been for the attention and help of the host at Gore Creek campground.  More road angels have been instrumental in Silverplume and Idaho Springs, on this side of Loveland Pass, and most recently in Denver and here in Ft. Collins, where I am visiting a long-time friend.  A shower, a cold drink, a place to sleep out of the elements and somewhere to charge my phone (faster than it can be done with a solar charger in cloudy weather!) -- each of these amenities can make a great difference in the course of a day, and have done so with a frequency that blows my mind.

Scenery has also been mind-blowing for days on end. The Rocky Mountains.  I will not need another reminder of the origin of that emphatically literal (if rather unimaginative) appellation. Huge, soaring cliffs, teetering slabs and walls of upthrust book-like rows of sedimentary stone, and great fields of fallen rock that stretch for square miles, in shapes and sizes (from pea to dinosaur-size) as variable as one could imagine.  Maintenance crews have their work cut out for them year-round, just keeping the rocks off the roadways. The town of Silverplume sits under an enormous cliff called Bull Head Cliff, that looks as if it could fill the entire narrow river valley if it were to fall. But many of the buildings there are over 100 years old, so I guess the residents are justified in their confidence in its stability!

Wildflowers have also been prolific and startlingly colorful, thanks to all of the extra rain this season. Sometimes it becomes necessary to stop every few minutes and take a photo; too bad they never do justice to the actual subject matter!

The walk from Golden to Denver was a different experience.  I had not yet had to negotiate the outskirts of such a large metropolitan area.  No road shoulders, cracked and broken sidewalks and a string of seedy looking businesses along the route I had chosen as being the most direct.  Also a surprisingly nice library, where I took a break along the way.  At one point I was approached by a belligerent  and (probably) drunk young man who wanted to know what I thought I was doing.  I took refuge in a liquor store, and the argument was avoided.  Getting into the city proper I spent about a mile walking along a bike path on a massive elevated structure that crossed the North Platte River, many railroad lines, and intersecting freeways.  

After spending a pleasant evening and night with my Denver host, on a tree-lined street in one of the old neighborhoods, I took a bus to Ft. Collins to meet a friend I had not seen in some years.  Ft. Collins seems more interesting and 'visitor-friendly' then it did when I was here years ago, probably due to my more interested attention.  I'm enjoying the new bike paths, public art/sculpture and downtown University Ave. neighborhood.  Lots of old street trees and interesting architecture. (Right now there is an event going on involving colorfully painted upright pianos set up here and there around the downtown area, for anyone to play.)  One very sad note(!) was that the friendliest of the three cats where I am staying went missing and turned out to have been hit by a car and killed, this on the day after I arrived. Yesterday we went to identify his poor body at the local shelter.  Having a small ceremony for him helped, but I am still feeling rather heavy-hearted, and pained for the friend I am visiting...

It will be difficult to leave, but this is the plan for later in the week.  It makes the most sense not to return to Denver, but rather to head east from here (more or less) and rejoin Route 6 about half way to the Nebraska state line. Leaving the mountains behind for a while, I am prepared for a very different sort of scenery -- headed into the Great Plains!

Near Vail Pass

At the top of Vail Pass

A museum in Silverplume

PS -- Occasionally I get a message that I've received a comment on this site.  Those never include any contact information, so I haven't figured out how to respond when I would like to.  So I just want to say thanks for any comments or feedback.  And be sure to include an email address in the comment if you want to, and I'll be able to respond!  Sorry for my blogging illiteracy!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Caution to the wind? Sneaking up on the high mountain passes.

Sunset - camping in a local resident's yard.

Have I been overly cautious where there is a threat of unstable weather up on the high passes? It does feel frustratingly so as I sit here in the town of Minturn  (having detoured to find a reasonably priced room and wait a day - now two days - for better weather prospects.) The thing of it is - t-showers are in the forecast for the entire week! And they don't always materialize on schedule or at all, though I have been rained upon on various occasions... The combination of altitude and thunderstorm is a daunting idea, though, from this 8000' perspective.

It has been interesting to explore the area a little; lots of history in this former mining and rail town, which has also been described as a poor relation to neighboring Vail up on Rt 70. One piece of visible recent history can be seen up on the defunct railroad tracks across the Eagle River from the highway. This is where two huge  (school bus size) rocks broke away from a formation called Lion's Head Rock on the top of the nearest peak. One sits on the tracks and the other is just a few feet from a drop into the river where, had it landed there, it could have created a dam that diverted the river through town.  The story is fresh in local memory as it happened just about a year and a half ago.

Let me now attempt to address a frequently asked question, with as much honesty as I can muster up in this moment. That is - what am I thinking about/feeling as I am walking along? First of all, I no longer believe that a person on foot (at least this person) has any greater chance of being 'present' than a person traveling at speed. That becomes clear in the frequency with which I must recall myself from attentions concerning my immediate future, to appreciate the surrounding beauty, or whatever the moment may bring. I am doing a lot of chanting as I walk, sometimes hearing internal music. Perhaps I am in a more sober state of mind than I was earlier on; not playing music as I was before  (on a harmonica I was given), or listening to recordings. Emotions are certainly close to the surface these days, I notice. Whether it is about beauty and love, or grief for myself, or the planet and all its critters (including us humans), they seem to pool up at about the heart chakra so that I feel as if a little acupuncture would be beneficial! Through it all, there is gratitude for many kindnesses (most recent thanks to road angels in Eagle and Edwards) and new appreciation for the struggles of people along the way. Always a new opportunity pay respect, right?

Fallen rocks!

Lion's Head Rock

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Glenwood Springs. Mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers -- awesomely!

View of Mt. Sopris

Glenwood Hot Springs pool

Lots of walking alongside the wide and fast moving Colorado River.

In a timely Facebook coincidence, I was able to visit some long lost friends of Anne's, who just happen to live in one of the most picturesque locations I could have imagined.  How amazing! Also had a chance to visit the Glenwood Hot Springs, where the main pool is reputed to be the world's largest.  Great thanks to my new Glenwood Springs friends/angels, and also to the kind hosts who offered shelter in the town of Rifle a few days previously! 

Will head up the Glenwood Canyon bike/hiking trail this afternoon.  The next week or two will comprise the most challenging of the high-altitude climbing I've experienced so far - two peaks of close to 12,000', one of which is the Continental Divide.  So daily distances are hard to predict. In this stretch I will also be much more attuned to the possibility of 'wildlife encounters', and the obvious challenge of behaving responsibly with my food and other scented items while camping in the forests! Challenges notwithstanding, it is generally agreed that this is some of the most beautiful terrain in the USA - and though I have seen parts of it in the past, I now get to see it up close and at a snail's pace!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Surrender -- a train ride to Grand Junction, CO

Within a couple of days out of Price, UT, the daytime temperatures rising, I became acutely aware of the importance of finding shelter from the sun in the afternoons.  At about 25 dusty miles from Green River (especially dusty through a 2-3 mile road construction site; once again, lots of parked equipment and no people...) I took a ride with a wind-blown bodhisattva from New Mexico, wearing bib overalls and driving a rattly small  piick-up truck.  Rode with him the rest of the way into town, and was delivered right to the state park camping area where shade was available, as were showers!  It was 100 degrees and the weather forecast was calling for 'triple digit' temps over the next 10 days; 106 degrees one day?!  Studying the map was discouraging; just one service station on the 110 mile stretch to Grand Junction, and no shade in the picture.  Hmm.  'Done for' last month by serious thunder storms, and now 'done for' by heat. Re-grouping/rethinking seems to be the story of my life just  now.  So what were the options?  If I were to continue walking, finding daily shelter would be primary, and the prospects for any sort of cover in that next stretch were not optimal.

From Nevada to western Colorado people have spoken of an 'unseasonably' wet spring season after a dry winter.  And now that the storm systems seem to have blown over the temperatures have turned abruptly, and are now hotter than usual for early summer. Just my luck...

Conveniently enough, though most of the trains I've seen have been freight trains, Amtrak has a stop in Green River; it's the 'California Zephyr' route I have ridden several times in the past.  In a burst of nostalgia (and survivalist practicality) I decided to take the train to Grand Junction, even though it meant that I would not walk into Colorado.  As I remembered, the train runs alongside the Colorado River for much of the 2 hour trip, in a wide red-rock canyon.  Beautiful scenery and the river rafters were out in force.

Daytime temperatures are still topping 100 degrees.  However, from Grand Junction I can plot a course with the more frequent service points (and towns) as goals, rather then thinking in terms of daily distances. This will help me get to the higher elevations of the Rockies, where it will be somewhat cooler.  The road also follows the Colorado River for much of the way, so I'm hoping for access to some shade!  Walking and stopping earlier in the day is the right strategy, assuming that there is someplace reasonable to stop!  In the meantime, as I spend yet another couple of days focused on gear and on relaxing(!) I am grateful to have discovered a hostel-type situation in town, with reasonable rates and good people.  A big thank you! to the 'historic' Hotel Melrose.

                        Am enjoying all of the art in the downtown area of Grand Junction.

Hotel Melrose - est. 1908

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Falling Rocks - A walk up Soldier Summit and down Price Canyon

At Spanish Fork, UT, I met and was overtaken by a Route 6 runner (previously mentioned).  We had a meal together, along with several of my host-angels and the driver assisting her.  She was still wilted from her day's run, but food was her first priority that evening!  By now she is miles ahead of me.  I wish her the best and hope she will take a rest day now and again!!  She said she hasn't done so, amazingly, but then she is a couple of decades younger than this old (flightless) bird...  I, in fact, am capitalizing shamelessly on it being my birthday today(!) and taking an extra day here in Price to visit the paleontology museum, look for a few gear items, and eat cake.  Am planning to continue early tomorrow AM;  it looks as if there are some very hot days in the forecast for this week.

There is only one convenience store between Spanish Fork and Helper, UT (about 60 miles); that store is a welcome sight at the top of Soldier Summit.  The way up felt like the 'endless climb' to me, but I hadn't yet experienced Price Canyon. That was the theme on the next day, after I had spent the night up on a mesa in the Wasatch range, part of the mountain chain that stands between the Great Basin and the Colorado Plateau. And luckily that was a downhill day, for which I was repeatedly grateful; it's more than 8 miles down to the small town of Helper. The canyon walk was hair-raising at moments, but breath-taking in a good way, too, and punctuated by dips in the Price River, once to climb over a guardrail and wet my facecloth in a little waterfall, and once to enjoy 'full immersion' under an out-of-the-way bridge. At the waterfall about a dozen big yellow and black butterflies rose up in a cloud as I blundered down to the water. The river is pretty muddy, but very refreshing!  This was also a 25-mile day (longest mileage yet), to which my 'walk muscles' will attest.  

Between here and Grand Junction, CO (at least) there will be more dramatic and beautiful canyons and rock formations, and a number of distances with no services.  I have learned by now that a 'dot on the map' with a name does not necessarily mean anything is there - a very important consideration when provisioning for each stage!

Aprylle Gilbert, from San Jose - the Rt. 6 runner.

Little waterfall in Price Canyon.

Thunder storms closing in on the approach to Price.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A 'harmonic convergence' of circumstances led to an emotionally charged weekend trip to the SF Bay Area...

Yes.  In a rush of unlikely and closely choreographed twists I found myself booked on a flight from Salt Lake City to SF for the week-end in order to attend the very moving funeral of a dear friend, the husband of another dear friend, both of whom live(d) at the Buddhist community where I was also a resident for many years. Brief encounters with many old friends; many hugs and memories exchanged.  How amazing that this trip was even  possible. A main factor was having a place near SLC to park my trailer and stay myself before and after the week-end.  Boundless gratitude to a family of new friends in Elberta, and another family from a SLC suburb! Thanks to these serendipitously met road-angels I will resume my walk from here this week.

On my second night in SF our (Anne's and my) gray kitty Pushkin, who had been ill and fading for some months, had his final health crisis; after being up with him for much of the night, we took him to the emergency vet to say good-bye very early on Saturday AM.  Did he time his exit strategically? On my first night home he was alert and attentive; the next night his distress was so obvious that we did not even wait to contact the daytime 'house-call' vet.  In any case it made for quite a week-end of  'letting go' practice, and I am not adjusted yet, even from this distance (back in Utah).

From the valley around the lakes the mountains here are emphatically mountainous; these mountains are not kidding -- no foothills to speak of, or big trees to block the sight of the peaks. You can name any street (although most Utah streets are numbered...) or place of business 'Mountain View' without a bit of tongue-in-cheek or exaggeration.  Last week I had the pleasure of a visit to Sundance Valley, which is like being in a postcard.  And I know, I know - I haven't reached the Rockies yet.

Inside a beverage and sweet shoppe.

Rest in peace, Baby Pushkin!

PS - I have recently met several other long-distance cyclists and runners out on the road.  One is Aprylle, who is running Rt. 6 to raise money for a San Jose center for at-risk kids.  Her story can be found at  And the following YouTube video is by Dave, a cyclist from the Pacific Northwest, whose site is called Three Wheel Journey (It's 2 wheels actually; he used to pull a trailer!):  I don't know if this address gets you there; use caution.  He included some footage of our encounter by the side of Rt. 6 between Delta and Eureka.