Category Archives: Travel

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Part 1

 . . . Much to my amazement, he began, literally, climbing the shelves in this tiny but high-ceilinged shop, in pursuit of the golden liquid of which I wished to partake . . .

***

Right off the bat, I must tell you that my title is not referring to the Walt Disney movie Fantasia that included Micky Mouse as the reckless “Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”  Nor does it refer to the 1797 poem, “Der Zauberlehrling,” written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe upon which Disney borrowed for its 1940 film. A film that that became re-energized among the psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, where everybody was dropping a hit of acid, or two, and going to see Mickey Mouse trying to control a bunch of angry brooms carrying buckets of water. 

No, I’m talking about actually meeting a real Sorcerer and his apprentice.  And yes, this is yet another rabbit hole I’m going down after yesterday’s Rabbit Hole post.  It happened at the same time as that story when I was in Mexico for that “agricultural exchange,“ and, with this writing, you could say that I’m still stumbling about in that “Warren.“

Continue reading The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Part 1

Boquillas !!! Hayarokwetu & Tʉmarʉhkaitʉ

When I began writing this series, I had no idea the words would just keep on flowing beyond a single post.  But, hey, that’s OK.  I’ve enjoyed the writing, and we finally made it to that point in the story where I get to talk about my favorite little town along the “Grand and Turbid River to the North.”  A town I actually never set foot in. 

It was, as you may guess from the titles, Boquillas del Carmen otherwise known as Boquillas !!!

Continue reading Boquillas !!! Hayarokwetu & Tʉmarʉhkaitʉ

Boquillas !!! Pahiitʉ

Now, there are a number of areas in the States that are “Big Sky Country.”   And Big Bend is one of those places.* Where the horizons stretch on forever.  A vast expanse.  It’s difficult to tell where the Earth ends and the Sky begins. 

It is a mirage within a mirage. 

The only thing offering a tethering to the ground in Big Bend are the Chisos Mountains.  They break the joint between skyline and chaparral and provide definition.  They restore the sense of gravity that would otherwise vanish completely.

In these places we get that duality of striking beauty mixed with the desolate and dangerous.  It’s enchanting and alluring here, but there is deception because if you’re not careful you could easily die from the elements. 

The population is sparse for obvious reasons.

Continue reading Boquillas !!! Pahiitʉ

Boquillas!!! Dos

When I arrived at Big Bend, half of the National Park, as well as the River running through it, remained closed to us humans due to COVID.  But, nearby Big Bend Ranch State Park, and the section of the River running through it, were still running wild and free.  No restrictions. And as I have learned in the past, one of the best vantage points to take in such alluring scenery is on the River that runs through it.  

I had booked a day-trip and was joined by two other passengers to embark on a leisurely Oar Raft tour meandering through the River’s Colorado Canyon. 

While most of my adventures involve hiking, or utilizing some other mode of travel like river rafting or horseback riding, through the wilderness, another very important part of this exploration, and of every escapade of mine, is a perusal through, and the translation of, the words describing the back country I’m reconnoitering.  (Whew! That was a big sentence.) The words themselves can relay vital pieces of history or give you some historical context. 

Or not.  😊 

Continue reading Boquillas!!! Dos

Boquillas !!!

I was climbing higher, but my body still seemed reasonably acclimated.  For the past four months I had hiked in elevations ranging from being on the beaches of the Pacific Ocean up to 9000 feet above sea level.  My breathing was slightly taxed, but the air was cooling and becoming soothing, almost methylating, as I lumbered higher through the perfumes of Rose-Fruited Junipers, Honey Mesquites, Scrub Oak, Piñon Pine, Texas Madrone, and Manzanitas.  Their redolence encircling the trail as I approached 6850 feet, a 1200-foot elevation gain from where the trailhead began. 

The desert floor beneath me stretches to eternity.  You can easily see 100 miles or more across the horizon in all directions from the top of the Lost Mine Trail in the Chisos Mountains.  The innumerable red, orange, brown, and lavender hues paint the mountainous landscape.  

A watercolor wonderland.  

Sky Islands floating above what seems like a completely barren reddish-yellow-beige terrain. But that view of what’s beneath is as deceiving as this mountain range is enchanting. 

Regardless if this cordillera derived its name from the Native American word “Chisos,” meaning “ghost” or “spirit,” or if “Chisos” came from the Castilian “hechizos,” meaning “enchantment,” you’ll feel an enduring presence in these mountains.  The Ancestors are still here in this once favored stronghold of the Mescalero, Apache, and the Comanche.  Sharing space and time with the Black Bears, Roadrunners, Javelinas, Ravens, Mule Deer, Mountain Lions, Hawks and Vultures, Coyotes, Horned and Earless Lizards, Rattlesnakes, and Tarantulas.  

And there is so much More. 

Continue reading Boquillas !!!

Hiking – Some Thoughts

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”

Aristotle

A while back, I posted a couple of blogs where I talked about hiking, contrasted the differences between “hiking” and “walking,” and dissected the purpose of hiking; whether it be for camping or exploring some aspect of Nature in particular, or to just connect two dots on the map.  And I also discussed the use of mantras for calling cadence, which can have miraculous effects on extending our endurance and the distance we can cover.

Our minds can overcome things our bodies cannot.  And vice versa, our bodies can overcome things our minds cannot.  Harmonizing both mind and body can make the difference between having a wonderful hiking adventure or facing a life versus death scenario.

Continue reading Hiking – Some Thoughts

The River – Old School

Or maybe I should say, old school style with modern outfitters . . .

***

As the gorge narrowed the wind picked up, and the air temperature noticeably dropped.  The calming frequency of the soft rush of the water shifted timbre.  Now cascading, surging ever faster downward, as the amplitude of the waves, both in size and pitch, increased to a deafening roar.

We hung on tight with both hands as the V-shaped bow and rigid hull sliced into the first wave, but the second was much larger.  And the small vessel skirted straight up its crest, reminiscent of a mighty ocean sailing ship in a surging Atlantic storm, but in miniature.

SR - 7

At the oarsman’s skillful command, the boat shifted sideways as it rolled down into the trough in time for the next wave to crest high above our heads.  Crashing down, completely drenching us, the flare of the hull offering no protection.  Filling the open compartments to the frame’s brim.

Our laughter could be heard above the roar of the rapids as we bailed.

Continue reading The River – Old School

Contrasts – Isahluko 6 – Southwest versus Midwest

I had spent about five months in the Southwest, and I was beginning a roundabout meandering back to the Midwest.  A few years ago, I might have called the Midwest my stomping ground, roost, flop, backyard, or some sort of other euphemism for being settled, but now I don’t really call anywhere “home.”

That’s too big of a word.  It carries too much connotation with it.  As a dear friend put it, home has a “heart connection.” 

After being in motion for so long things become a bit disorienting, but I think that’s a good thing.  Always striving for balance and always approaching each day as if facing a totally new horizon.  You usually are.

I had been staying in a little oasis.  Multiple biomes, where desert meets water and where mountains touch the sky.  Wildlife was diverse and abundant.  Trails unending.  Floating on soft ground.  Even rocky trails seem to give way and bend with your footsteps.  Meditative dreaming.

I made a turn west and found an incredible extreme in Yuma.  Desolate.  Sand baked to concrete in 108-degree temps.  Wind farms, sun farms, RV parks, hellacious cross winds, no visible wildlife.  In stark contrast, there was deep blue water, but it was running in cement canals siphoning from the Colorado river.  All to be used for local agriculture or industry.  No longer feeding the Earth.  No longer reaching the Sea.

I continued on for a brief visit to the ocean, the absolute opposite of Yuma, and turned right this time heading back towards the center of the country.  With a slight divergence north, I was now in 40 to 60-degree temps, picturesque mountains, spring-fed streams, towering vegetation, wildlife on steroids.  Simply amazing.

Mid-world again, I find myself on an asphalt trail.  No longer the soft earth.  No longer the coating of dust on my boots.  It’s an old section of railway.  The lines defunct, the tracks were torn up and they were paved over.  There are many paths like this here and they’re all named after the railroad that used to glide down the missing rails.  The Great Western Trail, Blue River Rail Trail, Katy Trail, Rock Island Trail.  The list goes on.

They’re hard on the feet, ankles and knees, but they can wind through some beautiful countryside and trace serpentine waterways.  But they’ll also be close to civilization.

One of the first contrasts I notice upon being back is the humidity.  I had been in the high desert, north and south – clean, crisp air – warm in the south, cool in the north.  The barren desert, with no trace of moisture.  And the coastal region, where gentle sea breezes moderate the air.  Here the humidity is so thick you could cut it with a machete.  I struggle to breathe, feeling a heavy weight on my chest. 

The high desert was full of wildlife, but it largely moved in silence.  Here the air is abuzz with birds and insects.  A constant hum, chirp or chattering.  Even the squirrels have something to say – clicking and barking.  Warding you off.  An angry wren gives its warning call when I get too close to its nest. 

The vegetation is radically different.  While both parts of the country share oaks, willows and sycamores, the varieties here are much larger.  Leaves can be ten times the size of those in the southwest.  So much more rainfall here to feed their roots, nourish their trunks, spread to their leaves.  They grow 65 to 85 feet tall, not 20 to 30.  A full-grown oak here can put 200 gallons of water into the air each day.  Respiration.  Humidification.  To come down as rain again later when icy winds in the upper atmosphere collide.

Plus, there are also hickories, elms, maples, sumac, sweet gums, catalpas, walnuts, cherries, plumbs, olives, locust, hedgewood, redbuds, dogwoods, and buckeyes.  Too many to name them all.  Most are second and third generation, or younger, this area having been clear-cut by the pioneers.  But a few first generation trees still remain.  Older than your grandparents and with trunks so huge it takes four or five people holding hands to reach around their circumference.

The stream beds here aren’t pristine like those I saw out west.  They’re totally polluted.  Agricultural runoff from crops and feedlots.  Toxic algae blooms.  Industrial waste.  Discarded trash.  Plastic bags.  These waters haven’t experienced respect in a long time. Fish still survive in them, but I wouldn’t eat them.

And there is a different kind of people here too.  In the high desert I encountered fellow hikers. Luminous glows.  Shining eyes.  Happy to be in nature.  Thrilled to say hello.  Knowing you were sharing the experience.

Here there are few enjoying nature.  A couple walks their dog, but turn away as you pass.  The homeless.  Looking for a place to wait out the day, and for another to stay warm at night.  Drinking two forty-ounce beers for breakfast.

Yes, there is still staggering beauty here, but also some depression.  Weight. 

It seems harder to settle in each time I come back. 

But along comes a familiar face.  A beam of light.  I wrote about this person before.  Maybe I’ll encounter more of the radiant.

There is hope . . .

***

Photo: Along the trail that skirts both countryside and city.  With pretty streams, but of polluted waters.  Through towering trees, but on an asphalt ribbon.  Many contrasts . . .

I wrote about this town in Echoes of Home.  And I hope this piece doesn’t sound overly depressive.  After you’ve experienced other amazing places it is an adjustment to return to what you’ve become accustomed to seeing as being mundane.  But persons visiting this area for the first time will probably be amazed at the unique beauty and history here 🙂

Prior Chapters of Contrasts:

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Contrasts – Chapitre 4 – Two Museums

Contrasts– 第5章 – Wild Spaces

 

Fire and Air – Part 3

This will be the final part of my Yellowstone travelog.  The Upper Geyser Basin.

I think the most popular image of Yellowstone that comes to mind is that of Old Faithful.  Because of this, I know I was quite astounded to see all of the other features of the park, each with their own unique beauty.  Some of the other hydrothermal features are so much more colorful.  Just check out the pics of Morning Glory Pond.

I’ll start with a small gallery covering Old Faithful and then have a bit larger one of the remaining features of the Upper Geyser Basin.  Old Faithful is so popular they have built bleachers around it that are packed with people from all over the world for those intervals of 90 to 120 minutes to watch it go off.  Apparently, the geyser’s eruption-timing has become less predictable over the years and the boiling water spout is not as high as it once was – still spectacular nonetheless.

Old Faithful is apparently a juvenile.  It takes a 100 years for a cinder cone to grow by an inch, so some of the geysers are thousands of years older than Old Faithful.

I didn’t record the name of every hot spring, chromatic pool, and geyser, but I did for some of the main ones.  And I included some pics of the Firehole River that runs right through the middle of this geyser basin.  The combination of water, geothermal heat, minerals, sunlight, and bacteria is amazing 🙂

Old Faithful

Remainder of the Upper Geyser Basin

There were other parts of the park that I visited that I didn’t include in this travelog and other parts I still haven’t seen.  Just hitting the main features was a lot.  I’ll have to go back again 🙂

I still have at least one more chapter to write in the “Contrasts” series, but we’ll be in a different location for Chapter 6.

***

 

Fire and Air – Part 2

In order to be complete, there must be a couple of more parts to the Fire and Air segment of the Yellowstone galleries.  Today we’ll cover Mammoth Hot Springs, an incredible array of Travertine Terraces formed by the hot springs bubbling though Limestone and bringing Calcite to the surface and layering the deposits.  Tomorrow, I’ll try to finish up with the Upper Geyser Basin.

Some of the portions of the terraces are “alive,” meaning the 186 degree plus water is still flowing and building those portions of the terraces, while some are “dead,” or inactive.  But my understanding is that this changes continually.

While every part of Yellowstone is incredible, this feature is really amazing!

Because I was using two cameras these aren’t in perfect order and there might be a repeat or two, but maybe at a slightly different angle.  But I doubt you’ll tire of these images.

This feature deserves a gallery of its own 🙂

***

Fire and Air – Part 1

We had Earth and Water yesterday, so it’s on to Fire and Air – Yellowstone’s geyser basins.  Or at least a couple of them.  Today I’m posting pics from the Norris Geyser Basin, which has, to my understanding, just recently fired back up to full power.  It’s divided into two areas and the boardwalks will keep you moving.

It’s amazing when geothermal energy collides with water and minerals 🙂

Porcelain Basin

Black Basin

***

Earth and Water

As I mentioned yesterday in Contrasts, Chapter 5, I would have to post some additional photo galleries of Yellowstone.  I decided to break them up a bit because I took so many photos and there are just so many diverse areas to see in this park.

Today’s theme is Earth and Water.

Contrasts – 第5章 – Wild Spaces

Lodgepole pine forests, alpine meadows, sagebrush steppe, rolling grasslands, massive watersheds and wetlands, 2500 miles of rivers and streams, 600 lakes and ponds, majestic canyons and waterfalls, geyser basins scattered about a giant volcanic caldera, the Continental Divide, and home to a wide diversity of wildlife including endangered species.  Ready?

I’m finally getting to the contrast that inspired this series of blog posts.  Yellowstone.

Why?  The San Diego Zoo, at the start of the series, represented the epitome of a zoo’s potential.  Beautiful grounds.  Botanical paradise.  Humane habitats constructed to be as natural as they could be, considering they are still prisons for the wildlife residing there.

Asphalt pathways.  Directional signs.  Herds of people grazing on hot dogs, candy, and sodas.  The animals scarcely move, except to pace the perimeter of their enclosures.  The mammals lose the luster to their fur.  The color fades from the birds’ plumage.

Depressed.  Spirits broken.  Many lose the ability to reproduce.  Many die early deaths.

Contrast Yellowstone.  It is zoo-like in the number and diversity of wild species, but there are no cages.  People and animals can mingle with no bars, no fences, no nets, no plexiglass, no moats, no enclosure of any type between them.  Nature trails through the middle of it all if you want to hike.

And there is no urban jungle surrounding this pristine landscape.  No smog, no freeways, no towering buildings, no two million human residents.  Although archeological evidence shows people have inhabited this area as long as 11,000 years ago and 26 Native American Tribes have connections with the park.  And there are those four million tourists of modernity that can come and go in a year.

What behavior could we observe there?

I have to tell you it’s a bit strange.  For one, I understand the dilemma that park rangers face.  A lot of people just don’t get it.  These are wild animals.  Beautiful and magnificent.  In the wild.  And the people are in their territory and seem to be unconscious to the fact that they are in the wilderness, the real world.  It’s not a human-made park, and you just can’t walk up to a Grizzly Bear and expect not to be killed.

The animals, having become accustomed to large groups of people who are prohibited from killing them, are not fearful, do not take refuge, do not hide.  Of course, some, like the bear, never would have anyway.  This is their land.

They’re alive, vibrant, free.

They roam where they want.  Raise families.  And balance.  Yes balance.  If you’d like a good vision of that balance check out my post “Of Wolves and Hominids.”

The situation is bound to result in some collisions.  Bumbling people long removed from living in nature, believing food comes from grocery stores, now surrounded by nature. The source of all life.

You can get close, but not that close.

So, bring a camera where you don’t have to get too personal.  Your cell phone camera ain’t going to cut it, except for some landscape shots.   You’re not going to get a selfie with a Bull Elk or a Bison.  Because by the time you’re close enough with your phone to get that great profile shot, you’ll be on your way to the hospital or to your burial.

Next, slow the fuck down.  Please pardon my language.

This isn’t New York City, or any city for that matter.  You’re not driving to work.  There’s no trophy waiting for you when you reach your destination somewhere in the park.  You are surrounded by your destination.  You’re already there 🙂

If you try to hurry, you’re going to miss what’s around you.  And you’ll miss a lot.

If you try to hurry, you’ll find yourself stuck and angry, and you’re not going to enjoy the experience.

The park is huge – 2.2 million acres!  The speed limit is 45 mph at the fastest.  There is a lot of road construction as they try to upgrade to accommodate the crowds.  Tour buses drive 32 mph.  Bison, Bears, Elk and Pronghorns will cause traffic jams.

Chill.  Open your eyes.  Enjoy the beauty.

A great deal of what I witnessed it terms of human behavior was people trying to drive insanely fast just to get to the next pull out.  Then they would pop out of their cars – clown car images :-), snap a few pics, mostly selfies, although admittedly there was a great backdrop, and then pile back into their vehicles and speed to the next pull out and repeat.

Pull in.  Pull out.  Pedal to the floor.  Document.  Record.  But fail to actually see and experience.

Rather, one should breathe in, breathe out.  Stop and appreciate the beauty.  My god, it’s incredible.

Walk around a little and feel the earth beneath your feet.  Touch the tress and lichens.  Listen to the Ravens.  Smell the rivers and streams.  Taste a wild Thimbleberry.

A crowd of stopped vehicles could tip you off to a good wildlife spotting.  But remember the proximity rule.  I saw a crowd of fifty people surround a Grizzly Bear.  One step too close, or too much crowding could have provoked it.  And they can move fast.  I took a couple of shots from a safe distance and moved on.

The day after I left, a man was gored by a Bull Elk.  That’s not a good way to enjoy nature.

Plan enough days to see the many attractions.  I planned a week and I used every minute of it.  I had no idea just how many hydrothermal features there were to see – some 10,000 of them, including 500 geysers.  It would take months to see them all.

In addition to the familiar hot springs and geysers, there are mudpots (springs acidic enough to dissolve the surrounding rock), travertine terraces (hot springs boiling through limestone and depositing the calcite in layers), and fumaroles (steam vents).

Many of these features are rainbow colored by microorganisms called thermophiles.  Microscopic in size, trillions of them amass and produce the varying colors.  The temperature determines what organisms grow and those determine the pigments released.

One of the most spectacular features is the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin.  I did a separate post just on that one because of its intense beauty.

There are some great trails and day-hikes and you should check a couple of them out.  At least hike by the Falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  But also realize you can cover quite a distance just traversing the boardwalks weaving through the geyser basins.  I got in seven miles on one of those days.

And don’t stray off the boardwalk thinking you can sneak a little closer to that hot spring for a better shot.  There have been fatalities where that fragile crust of land gives way and swallows a person in 200 degree, plus or minus, earth, steam, and boiling acidic mud.

If you can, stay in a lodge in the park.  I was 30 miles outside the park and once getting to the entrance, there was another 25 to get to the center loop that links you all of the park’s quadrants.  I averaged driving 200 miles round trip each day I was there.  But it was worth it for all that I took in.

Get out early if you want to see Grizzlies and Elk.  That’s when they’re on the move, and with less people stirring, you have a better chance at getting that once-in-a-lifetime photo.

Accept the fact that you’re not always going to get a pic.  Yes, I saw wolves in the Lamar Valley – with the help of another visitor’s high-power spotting scope.  He was generous. Not everyone will be.

The wolves were way out of range for my 400 mm lens to capture more than a smudge of an imprint.  A few pixels in that high-resolution frame.  But I was thrilled to see them and that image will always remain in my mind.

Well, now I may be getting too touristy in my descriptions and tips, and be wheeling away from the theme of contrasts, but I think you get the idea.

This isn’t the city.  You can’t behave like it is.  This is the real world with a few paved roads running through it.  It’s spectacularly beautiful.  It can kill you if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Enjoy 🙂

***

Prior Chapters of Contrasts:

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Contrasts – Chapitre 4 – Two Museums

As I’ve been going through my pics, I realized I have so many that I’ve decided to post a couple of different galleries.  Today, we’ll have a look at some of the wildlife.  Even an amateur like me can get some great shots at Yellowstone 🙂