Friday, August 31, 2012

Coming soon. . .

I've been meaning for some time to write a blog about procrastination.  But, well, somehow I never seem to get around to it. 

All those self-help and true confession sorts of books out there, and no one has published their memoir of chronic avoidance.  Millions of people have had their lives seriously disrupted by their inability to "just do it" and yet none have told all in a steamy confession.  (Well, duh.  Just wait, though.  Eventually all those "somedays" will come together in a single catastrophic day of accomplishment and the world will end.)

In all seriousness, I do spend a lot of time considering my tendency to procrastination.  Making lists is one manifestation.  If I make a list, I'm doing something.  If I put the undesirable task on the list, I've made a start, right?  Some part of my mind does work that way.  Even worse, once I've written down the task, some part of what I call my brain actually believes that I have done the job.  So then I'm free to forget about it and go back to doing things that a) can be done while listening to recorded books and b) don't make me break into a sweat at the mere thought of them.

Until I wake up at 2 a.m.  At that useless hour, every undone task and unfinished MS (none of mine are about procrastination, because I haven't gotten to that one yet) comes back to haunt me. 

There is, of course, a simple solution to this problem.  I'm smart enough to see it.

Outlaw 2 a.m.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Walking in the Winds, Part Two

Day Four.
As usual, when we got up at 6:30, we could see that the sun wasn't hitting our camp anytime soon.  It mattered more this morning, as the temps had dropped low enough to leave some frost on the ground.  But we were up and enjoying the morning, or at least preparing to enjoy it once we thawed.  Supplementing our usual morning oatmeal with scrambled eggs helped.

Soon we were warm enough to start moving, anyway.  Our plan for the day involved carrying our packs maybe 3/4 mile down toward Peak Lake, leaving the bulk of our stuff, and dayhiking to Knapsack Col, as close to the crest of the Winds (and the Continental Divide) as our route would allow.

Our only concern was that a portion of the old trail around the far side of the lake had been wiped out by a slide several years ago (the newer section still shows up as a lighter triangle of scree in the center of the photo below).  In the event, it proved passable, with only a little scrambling.

Soon we were around the lake and climbing toward the Col (not quite visible below, on the left edge of the skyline).  The water we were following is the source of the Green River (which joins with the Colorado in Canyonlands, near Moab, UT).  It all starts with the glacier at the top of the picture.

 Looking back the other way, we have topped a ledge and can no longer see the lake, but only the peaks on the far side of a couple of canyons.

 Wildflowers were a treat up there.  Not a lot of varieties, but patches of great abundance.  Lots of Indian Paintbrush, one of my favorites.

 From the top of the Col, we could see all the way back down to Peak Lake, which looks a lot farther away than the two miles it was advertised to be.  Felt farther, too.
The wind was howling through the col, forcing us to shelter behind a boulder while we downed our lunch.  From our shelter, we could see into the top of the Titcomb Basin, a mecca for climbers (not sure just which things they climb, though, and we didn't see any).

Then it was a looooong climb back down (about 1800') to the lake, and back up to pick up our packs and continue north on the "no longer maintained" Cube Rock Pass trail.  We were to find that the warnings that it isn't maintained, and is not passable for stock, were spot on.  Partway down the boulder-strewn gully, we lost the trail under a huge rock slide.  Our boys found a good way through, my spouse and I followed some cairns and found the bad way.  After a half hour of picking our way over, under and around car- to house-sized boulders, we finally came out the other side, and my legs, at least, had had about enough.

Trail runs somewhere down through those boulders, or once did.

We still had a couple of miles and a few hundred feet to go to camp, though--nearly an hour's worth, and it felt longer.  I was very happy when we topped out Vista Pass and found a small pond, and some nearby campsites.  Soon we had our happy home, complete with easy chairs.

And, even without clouds to make a spectacular sky, the evening brought us yet another light show.

Day Five.
Morning was easier than most in some ways--like getting sun before we were through breakfast--though harder due to muscles strained by the climbing (and especially the descending) the day before.  Nonetheless, we were soon dropping into the next drainage, where a random collection of logs and boulders allowed us to cross the stream dry-shod.  There was only one bridge on this whole trip--and, at this season, only one needed. Most of our crossings were simple log-walks or rock-hops.

Our route for the day put us on another long climb, up from Three Forks Park to an unnamed pass near Lozier Lakes.  Fortunately, we'd started early enough to beat the heat (which wasn't bad  anyway, as the wind came up and cooled things all too well).  Also, the trail came with a snack bar partway up.  Nothing like fresh huckleberries!

After what felt like a long climb, we came to Clark Lake, from which we could see the rest of our climb, up the end of the valley. 

The upper slopes of the pass proved to be a flower garden, however, once again demonstrating that even if my husband doesn't bring flowers to me, he does at least help me to go to the flowers.
Our plan had been to camp atop the pass, to make for a quick and easy evening hike up into the area around Hidden and Thompson Lakes.  But the wind, which had been a nice, bug-removing breeze at Clark Lake, was a howling gale on the pass, and we dropped a few hundred feet to find a campsite by a lake just below tree line.

That meant that the after-dinner hike my husband and I took was longer, harder and less thorough than we'd have liked, but it did also mean that we were able to cook and eat our meals without the wind howling through us, a reasonable trade-off.  And we did manage to climb to a vantage point over Thompson Lakes in the evening light.  Definitely an area I'd be willing to revisit, and visit more thoroughly.

In the other direction, the peaks now farther east of us were nicely lit by the sinking sun.  I could no longer pick out Knapsack Col up there, and it may be out of the picture to the right.

We made it back to camp just before dark, in time for everyone to hit the sack.

Day Six.  Morning brought more frost--but also calm conditions, and a chance to enjoy the lake.

Soon enough, though, it was back to the trail.  We had a fairly long hike in front of us, six or so miles, depending on where we'd find a camp.  We started with some ups and downs across to Lower  Lozier Lake (pictured below and behind my husband) and up to Upper Lozier (at the top of the rise beyond and to the right of the lake).  After that, we knew we'd be in for another knee-pounder--something like 1200' down to New Fork Park.

Upper Lozier is a premier camping spot, and we could see why.  We could also see that, like Peak Lake, several parties had, in fact, camped there.  We had no regrets for having gone farther from the trail and sacrificed a bit of the view for solitude.

Finally, we reached the point where the high peaks would drop behind and not be seen the rest of the trip.  For consolation, we could look down into New Fork Canyon, where the impressive walls would console us for our sore knees once we were down.

In fact, we made it down in time for a late lunch, at which we ate the last of our crackers and most of the rest of the lunch food, committing ourselves to hiking 7+ miles out to the car before lunch the next day.  Lured by talk of burgers and shakes, the boys were easily convinced to get up early and get it done.

Apparently there was at least one forest fire burning off to the west, causing a lot of haze. As the sun dropped behind the canyon walls--not long after 6 p.m., due to the height of the walls and narrowness of the canyon--we could see the effects of the smoke in the air. 

Day Seven.  Morning brought clearer air again, and the moon setting over the canyon walls.

We made our earliest start of the trip, and were on the trail long before the sun hit the Park.  Hard to photograph, but pretty to walk through the meadows while the sun crept down the walls.

We didn't stop for a lot of photos on the way out.  The spectacular scenery was behind us, the burgers (and shakes!) ahead.  But it was worth a pause when rounding a corner brought New Fork Lakes into view at last, however distant.  The forest in foreground is partly burned, thus the many standing dead trees.

Only a few miles to go, passing beneath an arch of fallen tree.  That's me, burning up the trail in hopes of some fresh food and a shower (as it happened, I had to settle for a swim in the lake, but that did the job).  Another great trip--one of our best.  Not a lot of writing that week, but plenty of soul-healing beauty and peace.  Oh--and a glorious salad to go with that burger.  Fresh fruits and veggies never taste so good as after a week on the trail!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wild Walking in the Winds--Part One

We've been home for a week or two now, so I guess it's time I got going on a bit of a trip report from our family 7-day backpacking vacation in Wyoming's Wind River mountains.

We left our summer acclimatization/so that's what the "sun" is! digs on July 31st, and drove straight through about 6 or so hours to Pinedale, Wyoming, where we stopped long enough to gather some info, then drove on up to New Fork Lakes, to the Narrows campground, in time for dinner.  We even had time to play around a little at the lake in addition to getting all our gear organized and getting to bed early.  We were scheduled to meet some horse packers at 7:30 a.m., to get a little "cheat" on our trip--they would haul our packs up the first 6 miles and 2400'.

Monday morning, Day One, and everything works perfectly.  We are up, fed, and ready to go by 7:30, and the packers are at the TH, ready to take our gear.  As a result, we are one the trail shortly after 8, and in a good position to get our climb done before noon--and before the day heats up.  Our 3.5 weeks in Boulder have helped with the altitude, and even some with learning to deal with heat (something that is not an issue in our coastal home near SF), but we can use any edge we can get.

The trail follows the lake two miles, then turns and climbs persistently through an area that burned in 2008.  Fireweed makes a flower-garden of the burnt forest.

After lunching--and collecting our packs (yes, we really were glad we hadn't carried the full packs the whole distance) we finally topped out and got some views of the high peaks.  In a couple of days, we'll be among those peaks.  It's hard for us to believe--they look so mysterious and far-away.

We finally find a camp with a view of the mountains, and enjoy relaxing through the rest of the afternoon, then getting out in the evening for sunset views.

The sun rises behind the mountains.

Our next day's hike takes us past many beautiful alpine lakes.

We camp near Summit Lake (it's near the top of a pass, not on the summit of anything), and the evening gives us another beautiful light show.
 Our third day saw us climbing (again) through the sub-alpine to regain the alpine.  Already the high peaks are looking a lot closer.  Since we didn't have very accurate or dependable mileage estimates for some of our trails, we were gratified to find that we were making good time toward our goal.

Past more beautiful lakes.  The Winds are lousy with lakes, which does mean mosquitoes, but also lots of great scenery!

Since it was mosquito season, it was also flower season, and we saw a decent selection.  Columbine grew in clumps in some areas.

Pedicularus is another favorite.  Also known as "Elephant Head"--can you see the little trunks?

 Eventually we settled on our highest camp of the trip, atop 11,000' Shannon Pass.  Storms made the mid-afternoon interesting without being threatening, as we sat them out in our tents.

After the storms, we weren't the only ones to come out and look around.  Pikas may be among the cutest animals on earth!

We even climbed around and got some views of where we'd been.  We lunched at the upper end of that lake, and had come into the basin around the knob to the right of the lake.  This was also a major trail junction, and the only place we saw excessive numbers of people.

Even up here, atop a pass, there was abundant water.

Finally, another nice sunset, making us three for three so far.   This takes us to the mid-point of the trip, and makes a nice rest spot. At this point we had hiked for 3 days, and covered between 18 and 25 miles--not huge mileage, but the sort of days we like, with hiking all morning and settling into camp soon after lunch.  We try not to race through the amazing landscape (and we are not so young anymore, except our kids, and don't want to move too far or too fast).  The Winds rewarded our slower pace with many beautiful campsites.
 More to come!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Ninja Librarian Speaks!

I recently received a package via very special delivery.  Inside I found the following communique, which I ( thanks to far too much exposure to Geoffrey Chaucer at an impressionable age) have chosen to title. . . 


Up to now, I have allowed young Alice to narrate events in our town of Skunk Corners, and for the most part she has done an admirable job.  On deep reflection, however, I have determined to set straight the record on a few points.
Young Alice has an unfortunate tendency to depict me as both mysterious and, there is no other word for it, stuffy.  I confess to the former, as both certain vows I took and long years of habit render me reticent about my personal life and history, and disinclined to explain myself.  The charge of stuffiness, however, I most heartily deny.  I am an educated man, of course, and inevitably I do speak as such.  There is nothing wrong with that, and indeed I believe any attempt to speak and act otherwise would render me absurd.  But to be formal is not to be stiff or stuffy.

That point settled, I wish to recount my experience of my arrival in Skunk Corners, as young Alice has very clearly expressed her own and the town’s reaction to my arrival. 
Skunk Corners did take me very much by surprise.  Rather, on my arrival I saw much what I expected: a collection of ignorant people bent on demonstrating their ignorance.  I responded as I had been taught, withholding judgment only from Alice, of whom I had been told something.  I consider this forbearance to have been fortunate and highly rewarded.
For I did know something of the town before arriving.  And I knew that the school teacher was a young woman who dressed and acted as a boy.  I ought to have assumed her to be coarse and uneducated, and our first meeting certainly did little to change that idea.
And yet.  She went out of her way to warn me of the welcome planned for me, and for that I would give her a chance, despite her coarse appearance and dreadful abuse of the language.
Young Alice herself has recorded the outcome of that decision, and you can conclude that in the end I found something different than the crude collection of cruder individuals I had anticipated.  What Alice has not shared, simply because she does not know it, and I have been disinclined to tell her, is the manner of my passing my first night and morning in Skunk Corners.

I was all eyes and ears when I stepped off the train in this town that was to be my home for the next months.  I have never told Alice, nor anyone else in Skunk Corners, but this was my first time out West.  All my other assignments had been in the larger cities back East, as indeed are most Ninja Librarian assignments.  It is in those cities, with their gangs on both sides of the law, that there is often the greatest need for a librarian who is both educated and skilled in the ways of the Ninja.
It had been some thirty years earlier that the heads of the Society had gotten the idea to build libraries in the new towns springing up out West.  It was only now that they were realizing that some of those libraries needed to be staffed by the Society.
So there I was, after what seemed a lifetime riding trains of ever-shrinking dimensions, walking down the street of my first Western town.
It wasn’t much to look at.  Depot, church, Mercantile, teashop, bank, tavern, school, library, and a City Hall with a fine façade hiding a shoddy pine shack.
I noticed everything that day.  No one was expecting me, but a number of idle men hung about the depot, so I introduced myself.
“Good day, gentlemen.  I have come to serve as your librarian.  You may call me Tom.”  They didn’t, of course, call me any such thing.  Two nodded, which I took as a greeting, and one spat on the platform, which I did not.  A fourth called me something else entirely which I will not repeat here or anywhere.
Somehow, by the time I had crossed the platform and stepped into the dust of what they called Main Street, word had spread through the settlement, and every porch and doorway bore a watcher, not one of whom deigned to offer a greeting.  At the end of the street, the library and school glared at each other across the dusty thoroughfare, just as the school children gazed at me in open hostility.
Of their teacher I saw nothing at that juncture, nor did I much wish to.
When finally I entered the library and closed the door behind me, I sagged with relief.  In other places I had been librarian, a small violent element prevented a peaceful majority from using the library as they wished.  In this gods-forsaken town, it seemed every resident wished me gone.
Or dead.
The thought did not fill me with either joy or hope that I would make a difference, though I would fulfill my vows and make every effort.

The contemplation of the interior of my rooms did little to comfort me.  If the Society had thought to include a stove in their design for the living quarters, there was no indication of such now.  Only an open hearth greeted me as the means to heat both myself and my meals.  A stale smell of untouched books and dead air pervaded every corner.
I am quite aware that many of my new neighbors had lived and possibly even thrived in such conditions all their lives, less the books, of course.  But, as a city man, I had a problem.
I had always boarded until now.  I knew nothing of cookery, and while I felt confident that I could boil water and prepare the kind of simple repast to which I was meant to limit myself, I had no idea how to go about doing so on an open fire.
Thus, when I met Young Alice in the back entry of the library that night, it was not only that I had heard her enter and meant to discover the meaning of the intrusion.  I was also escaping the clouds of smoke I had generated, first by kindling the fire without opening the damper, and then by burning my toast beyond all recognition.  The warning which Alice delivered meant less to me at that time than my fear that I must starve in this forsaken outpost beyond the fringes of civilization.
However, by dint of much effort, I managed to produce boiling water and make a cup of tea.  I made no further attempt to toast my bread, but rendered it edible by dipping it in the tea, and so contrived to still the demands of my interior until morning, when I was forced to do it all again.

Thus, you see, I was in no mood to put up with ill treatment the next day when the townsfolk gathered to send me back where I came from, upright or in a box.  Had I been better fed, I might have been less quick to respond aggressively.
That, I suspect, would have been a pity.  Some towns do require a firm hand.

This narrative was signed simply, "Tom."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Book Review: Birdie Down, by Jim Graham

As I have been away, mostly backpacking in the wilds of Wyoming, I've fallen a bit behind with this blogging stuff.  However--I finally have a review of one of the several books I've read recently, an intriguing  work of science fiction.

Jim Graham's Birdie Down is an engaging read that, despite a few flaws, is well worth checking out if you are a fan of what I might call swashbuckling science fiction.  The book follows the progress of the inter-planetary revolution begun in Scat (which I have not yet read as for some reason I got hold of "Birdie" first.  I plan to go back and read the first book next time I'm in the mood).

The story and the characters are engaging, although I didn't get "grabbed" until probably 50 pages in--getting a little close to my limit.  Mr. Graham has created a consistent world, and largely avoids the "Bat utility belt" approach to solving SF problems (you know: when all else fails, pull out some amazing high-tech device to solve the problem).  At times, however, I found it hard to keep track of things.  The author creates a very real feel by using the acronyms and nicknames for things that would be common to the characters.  I might recommend, however, that for those of us with shorter attention spans, he might want to occasionally throw in the full-length version, as I at times found myself a little lost.

A few other issues brought this book down from four stars to 3 or 3.5.  First and largest, the changes of POV need more markers, especially as there are enough characters that it's not always easy to remember who is on which side. This (like the issue with jargon) was exacerbated by the piecemeal approach I took to reading the first hundred or so pages, which allowed me to forget too much.  Things definitely were better after I was grabbed and read straight through the second half of the book, but I still needed more markers.  As an aside, that's an issue that's worse with e-books.  If I'd been reading a paper book, I'd have just flipped back to check out what I couldn't remember.

My second criticism is that the book needs better editing.  I was at times distracted by minor errors of spelling (typing) or word use.  If you are less anal than I about such, you probably wouldn't notice, but I did.

Finally, I was unsatisfied with the ending.  Although the story is brought to a resting point, I thought it left too many loose ends (a couple of them brought up just in time to be left), making it a little too clear that a sequel will be coming--and must be read if you really want to know how things will work out in the end.

Despite these criticisms, I will reiterate: I enjoyed reading Birdie Down and can recommend it as an interesting read, and I plan to follow the development of the Revolution.  I give it 3.5 stars.