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Archive for the ‘hiking’ Category

More About Fim Fish From Beyond

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 28, 2017

A little while back I wrote about Renaissance man Jim Fish, who died a few days after his 68th birthday, while hiking back down a mountain he had just climbed in the New Mexico wilderness. He was a poet, among other things.

Recently on the grounds of the winery he started, I met several other people, two of whom had a nice long truck, and a trenching machine known around here as a ditch witch. It was handy. We had to tear down a solidly built shed, one that had been built to last. I took a few swings at it with a sledge hammer, and only removed a few wooden shelf braces and some upper storage shelving. To take this thing down would have taken all of us working hard all day, and we still had to load it all on the truck. But, the ditch witch made much shorter work of that shed.

You see, after Jim’s death, we had to clean up around there. This shed had held many of Jim’s personal items: old papers, maps, camping gear, antlers, pieces of wood for carving, etc. and etc. Unfortunately, our local desert rats, or pack rats, had moved in. They pissed and shit everywhere. The mixture has the consistency of hardened epoxy. Really. You have to chip it away. It was all over everything, along with all the bits and pieces they drag into their nests. One idea was to just torch the building, but we decided it was better, and more in keeping with local fire ordinances, to just tear it down. It still took roughly 6 hours of hard work, but we got it down, and hauled away.

During the process, I found some old cards Jim had printed up, and sent out to friends many years ago. He was already into the poetry, so each had a poem, and a photo of Jim’s of New Mexico, where he lived. I had read several of Jim’s poetry books, but not all of them, so I’d never seen these poems, and I don’t even know if they were published in book form.  I scanned and cleaned the four cards up a bit digitally, and I’m posting them here, because they are good, and to give others an idea of what he was like. Those are his horses in the second photo image; they are off in the high New Mexico countryside now, just grazing and keeping an eye out for cougars. Jim took a lot of photos of bears over the years, but, as you can see, not this particular one (fourth photo image). He probably made a card each year, but the only ones I found were from 1982, 1983, 1987, and 1988.

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Musings on Unclaimed Relationships & Utter Things

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 19, 2017

I read some poetry today that reminded me how so many people feel sad because someone they loved is gone, either through the end of a relationship or death. That is sad indeed, although an old relationships can often be rekindled, even though at a certain point in time it doesn’t seem possible. People seem to not know that, or ignore it, or conveniently forget it.

I don’t forget it. Sometimes that has happened to me. I remember how terrible it felt at times, but I no longer feel that way, about the relationships, or the two marriages, or my father’s death, or even my godfather’s death, although I still miss my favorite cat ever, and even though I accepted that he was dead, I suspect he is still alive, having seen what I’m pretty sure was that cat, with a new collar and tag a few miles from here.

I can’t go get the cat, even if I could find him, because I have a new cat, and another cat besides, and the fighting would be bad, and three cats is just too much. I am deeply saddened by not having that cat around, and knowing that with some effort, I might be able to reclaim him. But, that is somewhat like what this post is actually about: unclaimed relationships, not with cats, but with people.

I live alone, save for the cats. It could be otherwise. An old girlfriend from many years ago ended up single, and available for friendship or living together. And even though I used to think that I would jump at that, I don’t want to. For one thing, she is quite batty, with a house overrun by cats, and sometimes a dog or two, and bizarre off-the-deep-end beliefs which she will force on anyone and everyone, but also because I like living alone.

She is not the only woman I’ve met since my last divorce. An old girlfriend actually lived in this same housing complex when I moved in ten years ago. We often met at the mailbox kiosk. Once I met her walking her dog along the ditch that runs just behind these houses, and went to a mutual friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. It was nice. Next time I saw she she gave me a big smile, but we never hung out. She taught at a technical/vocational community college, and she worked at the nearby bookstore, so I often saw her there. But, I didn’t feel any sparks. I remembered that the sex had been nice. We attended another Thanksgiving dinner the next year, but then not again. She eventually quit the bookstore, and moved away, though I did visit her in her new place a couple times.

Not too long ago, a much younger woman gave me a couple of years of extreme pleasure, but insisted I not fall in love with her because we were friends only, with benefits. I was a bit sad about that, because I would certainly have married her, and not just for the sex, although that would have been a pretty compelling reason, but because she and I enjoyed each other’s company, sharing meals, watching movies, and even having drinking games during movies. The pleasure of snuggling up with her between bouts of sex was heavenly. She finally moved away. Contacted her and she wanted me to visit, but then changed her mind. Such is life.

I wasn’t as sad about that as I’ve been about other relationships, because she warned me from the first to not fall in love with her, and would get quite upset if she thought I was drifting that way. So, it never came as a shock, nor depressed me beyond my normal state of living life a bit less than to the fullest.

It’s not like I don’t still meet women. Being involved with the TV & movie industry in New Mexico, both in front of a camera, and behind the scenes, I meet a lot of woman, and there are possibilities there. But I don’t pursue them. There’s something about leaving things as they are that suits me. Beside the acting and crew work, I hike the mountains around here. I read a lot. I eat what I want, sleep when I want, watch TV or not watch TV. I’ve a friend I watch Netflix rental movies with once a week.

I work at a winery,

040616 (4) 072810 (8) watering, weeding, picking fruit, pumping and filtering, bottling and labeling about a thousand or more gallons of fruit wine every year. I don’t make any money at it, but it sure keeps some of my “free” time occupied.

I buy lots of things online, mostly books, and graphic novels, and I resell them. (Terry’s Books) I have a diverse coin collection:

I also take photos of the landscape around here, and sometimes I sell one, in a shop, or by hanging them at the winery.  091616-147

IRS I owe the I.R.S. way too much money every year, so I think I’m doing my part to prop up the U.S. economy.

But, let me tell you, it all doesn’t seem to mean much. It’s not that I think there’s more to life, or need a reason for life, or worry about the meaning of life. I don’t think life has much meaning, except what we each want it to mean. Sometimes though, I remember what it was like to share my everyday life with someone, sleep next to them each night, and wake up with them.

I do miss that, in somewhat the same way I miss my cat. Not the same thing of course. Even having cats leaves me feeling lonely and miserable at times.

Nowadays, I accept that I am just going to be living this way. It’s easier for a misanthrope to live alone. I suppose I don’t really dislike all people so much as I like being a recluse and not having to deal with other people.

And then again, sometimes I don’t think it matters, because I don’t expect to live all that much longer. I had a heart attack back in 2013. Before that happened, I was losing my ability to keep up with other hikers, some of whom were older than me. My energy was flagging, and I kept having to stop and catch my breath. I fell to the back position in any hike, and was wasted by the time I reached the mountaintop. Finally, one day while reading, I felt suddenly as though the world was ending, that everything was going black, and there was this intense pressure in my chest, and I called 911. The paramedics, and a cardiologist convinced me I was having a heart attack, and I had angioplasty with a stent emplacement, followed up by drugs. Things got better, I ran three half marathons, I got faster on hikes, and had more energy.

But, now I am starting to feel the energy fade again. I hiked on Monday 8.9 miles, about 6 hours, up and down my favorite trail, an elevation gain of roughly 2800 feet.041717 Panoramic

It was slow going, about 1 1/2 miles an hour, but I was beat when I was done. Felt wasted. Drank electrolytes on the way up, and a bottle of black tea on the way down, and had to drink two more bottles when I got home, just to have the energy to function. I’ve done this trail before, and I wasn’t that wasted. It was the same on another trail I hiked recently – wasted, sleepy, lethargic afterwards. I’m thinking the heart is not doing all that well. My cholesterol is the lowest it’s ever been, and my blood pressure has never been too high. I do have a visit with my cardiologist next month, and a stress test, so I’m curious what that will reveal.  Even simple exercise seems to tire me, just like before the 2013 heart attack.

I should write a poem, or a song:

I’m so sad and lonely

near my end of  time

there’s no one to miss me

and nothing left to live for.

O, o, o, I think I’ll die.

Set to music, it’d be alright, and entertaining. Of course, it’s been done so many times already. It’s the human condition, the poet’s theme, the singer’s shout, the hipster’s wail.

Meanwhile, I’m still here. A hike tomorrow morning, fruit to water Wild Cherry Farm.JPG on Friday, wine to sell on Sunday with my lovely stepdaughter, physical therapy for my aging back Tuesday morning, acting class Tuesday evening, background work for a TV crime series pilot (based on graphic novels) scalped next Wednesday. I’ve an acting gig to finish up. Then the stress echo-cardiogram next month, and a visit to the urologist, and a strange 5-day cruse with five of my six siblings, some in-laws, some nieces, a nephew, a couple of cousins and my mom, mostly to please her. Dream cruise for her, or I wouldn’t go. I’d rather not have that much interaction with people, even though I sometimes crave it.

Posted in family, health, hiking, In front of the camera, Life, love, madness, marriage, misanthropy, poem, rambling, rants, relationships, wine | Leave a Comment »

A Busy Summer

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 8, 2016

BEAR CORN

It’s a parasitic growth on tree roots, usually pines. It’s interesting how it takes on the characteristics of a pine cone, made very apparent here sprouting among the cones themselves. Bears do eat it. From a hike in the Sandia mountains on June 9, 2016.

MULE DEER

You never know what you’ll run into in the mountains around here. These shots are from a  hike in July.

DANCING ACROBATS

Some amazingly acrobatic dancers at the International Folk Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 10, 2016.

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PRAIRIE RATTLESNAKE

Like I said, you never know what you’ll run across in these mountains. This guy is about 3 feet long, full grown for his type, lying right across the trail, but very sleepy. July 18, 2015.

CIRCUS VIDEO

[AND, da da da dah! here is the “Circus Life” video:

Circus Life video by Rachele Royale released finally by singer Rachele Royale. If you watch carefully, you’ll see me here and there.

July was a very busy month. Here I am, made up, posing with the fire breather for a Gothic Circus themed music video. She dressed like that for the whole 1st day, but since we were on loaction at a masonic temple, the Masons asked that she cover up a bit the next day. Aww.

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CLOUDY DAYS CAN SURPRISE YOU

Wrapping up July, here is a hot-air balloon flying over my house, silhouetted against some rare clouds.

HORSE CLINIC FOR MOVIE COWBOYS

So August found me at an open house for actors needing to learn or polish horse-riding skills. Directors can be very picky about who they let ride a horse on set. Even the two life-long professionals shown here can’t be sure a director will pick them. 08/02/16

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A SUDDEN RAIN

Looks like snow, but it’s just raindrops backlit by  the sun or an otherwise bright summer day. 08/30/16

BUBONICON 48

Albuquerque just had its 48th science fiction convention. The Convention Theme was “Rockets, Robots & Rayguns”. Although you see some costumes here, it’s not so much about that as it is about the authors. There are plenty of chances to meet one of your favorite authors. And, the auctions are not only a lot of fun, but the final one on Sunday gives you a chance to auction off your own superfluous items.  There was also an art show, open to all, based on the theme.  The panel discussions can be interesting, but there are also presentations by authors and at least one by a scientist. This year, the science talk was by Sid M. Gutierrez, NASA Shuttle astronaut and the first Hispanic astronaut.

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It’s Winter in the desert, but there’s snow

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 13, 2016

I live in Albuquerque, at the base of a mountain range called the Sandias. The mountains often block rain and snow storms from hitting the city very hard, so many winters there is just no snow in Albuquerque at all. However, the long drought has ended for most of the state, and this past year we had more rain and snow for any year since 1986.  Technically, according to geography studies, based on the average amount of rain that falls here, New Mexico is more accurately classified as a steppe. (In physical geography, a steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes.) Locally, people say we live in a high desert.

Long story short: we’ve got snow! Not much hit the city. In areas closest to the mountain range, there were several inches. In other places, like outside my house:

I hiked up the Pino Trail on December 17 looking for snow:

I went for a hike on Dec. 24. There was still snow in the mountains.

In fact, we got snowed  on as we hiked. Things were looking up!Embudito (1)

(photos by Robin Tackett)

So, I hiked up the Piedra Lisa Trail on the first day of the New Year:

Good snow, but I knew there was more on the crest of the mountain range itself.

Hike leader Robin Tackett set up a hike for Jan. 7, where we would ride the aerial tram up to the crest and hike along the ridge:

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Someone mentioned this reminded them of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining

As you can see, the tram station was nicely iced over. In fact, the workers there had to carefully inspect the cables, as well as clean under the docking area for one of the trams, chipping away ice and frozen snow.

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The cross-country skiers took off ahead of us on virgin powder.

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I could hike on the narrow trail itself, but step off and I sank, sometimes to my waist.

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This is living!  However, not only did I not bring snowshoes, but I forgot my camera this day, so none of the photos are mine. Photos by Robin Tackett and Khondeh M.

One more trip up the mountain, up the Pino Trail again on Monday the 11th of January:

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Modern Art

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Dancer

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It was a (relatively) warm day, (the sun was out) and there was no wind! Damn! Life can just be so good to me sometimes. (Even though some people aren’t).

Such a glorious start to winter. I hope this means the upcoming fire season will be quenched by the rain to come. Moisture! Snow! Come On Rain! Here’s hoping there’s enough rain to discourage the bark beetles and moth larvae that have been destroying so many acres of trees, and they won’t be so easy to burn. Yea snow!

 

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Black Ghosts in the Dome Wilderness

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 5, 2014

The Dome Fire burned in the Jemez Mountains in the northern portion of the state of New Mexico. Devastating portions of the Santa Fe National Forest and Bandelier National Monument, the fire exploded on April 26, 1996, starting from an improperly extinguished campfire. 16,516 acres in Capulin Canyon and the Dome Wilderness were burned.  The fire was fought by over 900 firefighters. In 2011, the Las Conchas fire reburned the wilderness area almost completely. Congress designated the Dome Wilderness in 1980. The Dome Fire burned the majority of the wilderness. The area was closed under a Santa Fe National Forest Closure Order.

On May 30, 2014, I hiked through a small part of the area. I was struck by the fact that all the trees had been burnt, to the ground. In fact, I could see portions of roots that stuck out above ground burnt. Everywhere I looked the trees remained as black ghosts of their former selves. In some case, due to the destruction of the soil, extreme flooding brought down centuries-old Ponderosa Pines, breaking them up like matchsticks, or simply pulling them out of the ground.053014 Dome Trail 1

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And, Suddenly, a Heart Attack

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 8, 2013

Sandia view I hike in the mountains, nearly every week. Sometimes its a three to four-hour jaunt, sometimes six hours, with a lunch break. The elevation gain can be 1000 feet or 2000. I’ve done much harder hikes in the past, but found that I was having too much trouble keeping up with the other hikers. Instead of getting stronger with more stamina over time, I was having a hard time finishing 12 mile hikes up and down a mountain trail at all. So, I began hiking with a Meetup group, hiking just the three or four hours at a leisurely pace. I tried snowshoeing to the peak of one mountain, Mt. Taylor trail Mt. Taylor, at 11,301 feet. I had hiked it on two prior occasions, and snowshoed it once before, but didn’t make it that day. I had to stop to catch my breath a few times. Once I leaned against a tree and felt like I could fall asleep right there, standing up. I fell so far behind that the hike leader, tired of coming back to look for me and unwilling to wait for me in temperatures near zero degrees F (he was not warmly-enough dressed), relayed a message to me that I was to turn around. I had never failed to complete a hike before, so that was upsetting. I knew I could get to the top, but just needed more time. The hike leader had also cancelled our scheduled lunch break at the top, which is when I felt I could have caught up to them. I missed the wonderful sluicing through the deep powder on the back side of that climb. Well, so  it goes. However, on the way home by car, I had trouble breathing. My chest actually hurt upon taking a deep breath. That was very troubling. Back home, I saw my doctor and he said I had exercise asthma, and prescribed an inhaler. I used it a few times before hikes, and had no trouble. However, on several hikes with rapid elevation gain, I had felt strange and weak when we stopped for lunch.

Then, last Sunday, while puttering around a winery I help out at, I felt the same strangeness, more like a tightening of my chest or pressure on my chest. I had only been cleaning up, putting equipment away, and climbing up and down a short ramp when I felt it overtake me. I sat down in a chair with a  glass of cranberry wine and relaxed. I felt better after a short while, so I finished my duties and went home. At home I was comfortable and relaxed and slept well. The next day, however, was far different.

In the morning I awoke early, had coffee, and picked my step-daughter up from her home, dropping her off at her job. She doesn’t drive, due to a problem with her peripheral vision, so I take her to and from work most days. This day I also had a blood donation appointment, so I went there after dropping her off. The blood donation went well – no unusual blood pressure, pulse normal. Afterwards I stopped at a breakfast buffet, JBz and for $6.49 had bacon, sausage, eggs smothered in red chile, a bit of carne adovada (pork marinated in red chile), small slices of french toast, and fruit – hey, the blood place said to eat a big breakfast, so I did. I dropped off a package at Fed-X for my step-daughter and went home. It was a slow day after that. I messed around at the computer: reading news, checking blogs, Facebook, eBay, an art site (Deviant Art), and then sat down to quietly read a book.  In mid-afternoon, however, I felt that strange pressure in my chest. I used my asthma inhaler, but to no effect. I took two aspirin. I stretched out on my bed for a bit, but without improvement. I felt odd, perhaps a little anxious. I was sweating, so I turned on the evaporative cooler. I went back to reading. I still felt that something was wrong, and I still felt hot. I increased blower speed on the cooler. I began to worry. It was getting late, after 4pm, so I wasn’t sure if I could get to the clinic my doctor worked at before it closed. Suddenly I decided I was going to go anyway. Enough uncertainty! I had to find out what was wrong; I might even be having heart problems. I decided not to take the motorcycle, opting instead for four wheels, should I become weak or unsteady. However, I changed my mind as I was backing the car up, and went back in. Something was wrong and I was getting worse fast. I called 911.

It didn’t take the EMT guys long to get to my house, as the firehouse was less than two miles away, but they had to search for my house in this compound so I got up and flagged ’em down. They came in, asked questions, took vitals and decided I should go to the hospital. An ambulance had arrived after they came in their firetruck. By this time I was sweating profusely, felt weaker, and didn’t mind lying on their gurney. I’m not sure it was a good idea to attempt an IV while the ambulance was bouncing over the speed humps, but I got to the hospital OK. They sent me to the cardiac lab, and five or six guys went to work, taking pictures, repeating vitals and finally deciding that I was, indeed, having a heart attack. There were options, like drug therapy, but the best idea presented was to do an angioplasty, where they run an inflatable device up an artery into my heart to open the artery there. X-rays had shown that the artery was indeed almost completely blocked by a clot. Heart before

I agreed, so the team went ahead. I felt a pain after they began. I said “Ouch!” just as somoene was sticking a needle in me, and he apologized, but it was the sudden sharp pain in my heart that had gotten my attention. The pain increased, but, miraculously, as they worked and the catheter reached my heart, the pain subsided; the pressure that had been building stopped, and I felt great! They had used the balloon-like device on the end of the catheter to ream out my artery, Heart after and then released a stainless-steel tube from there that expanded to fit to the walls of the artery. It’s called a stent. stent It’s an odd, meshed device. To me, it resembles those old Chinese finger puzzles, but on a much reduced scale. The stent will remain with me now. Stent 2 I must take a drug for one year to prevent my body from rejecting the stent. Ha! I wish I only had to take one drug. I must also take aspirin, a small 81 mg dose, every day. I am taking a drug to lower my blood pressure, even though my pressure is normal. I am taking a statin drug to lower my cholesterol even though my cholesterol is not high. I am taking a drug to block blood platelets from sticking together and forming clots. I am taking a drug to lower the acid in my stomach. And I am taking a drug that lowers my heart rate, reducing strain on my heart, which was only minimally damaged in all this.

In short, I survived, and in good shape. I’m certain I do not need all of these drugs. My blood pressure is now lower than ever, at about 118 over 70, as I just measured. I already eat fairly well, so my cholesterol is not dangerous, but I welcome the assistance of the drug, for now. I think some of the others are a bit too much, as I would like to be as drug-free as possible. One drug can be interfered with by fish-oil supplements, which are in my daily multivitamins already. If the fish oil has the same effect, I don’t know why I can’t just take that instead of a drug.

Ah, well. I’m lucky to be alive, and damn lucky to have had that cardiac team work on me. They worked very quickly, efficiently and smoothly, each one performing certain vital tasks, and being watchful of changes in my status. Without them, I wouldn’t have survived. I need to take them some wine.

I received lots of messages from friends and family, and my step-daughter visited me while I was confined to the hospital for two days. My friend, who is “not a girlfriend”, declined to visit me in the hospital because, as she put it, “…hospitals freak me all the fuck out…”, but she said she wanted to see me to verify that I was alive. We went to a movie and had dinner Friday afternoon. Life goes on.

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An Arch Called Ventana (the window) in New Mexico

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 17, 2012

Previously, I uploaded some pics from my hike across the lava flows in El Malpais Conservation Area, founded in 1987 near Grants, New Mexico. See: Hiking the pāhoehoe and ‘a’a in New Mexico. I went back. This time I saw, not only the lava and spectacular landscape, but also an incredible arch, located in a very accessible public part of the area. It is called La Ventana (The Window), and it is also in the El Malpais Conservation Area, founded in 1987 near Grants, New Mexico.

and here’s more of the pictures from my 3/11/12 hike (click on a pic to view it full size):

 

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Hoodoos and Petrified Wood: Bisti / De-Na-Zin Badlands in New Mexico

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 2, 2012

I went hiking in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness recently. I thought people might be interested in seeing some photos. After you click on one, you can use the arrows to view all of the photos. They are high resolution photos, so give each one time to fully load before moving on to the next one. It was fantastic hiking there.

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Hiking the pāhoehoe and ‘a’a in New Mexico

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on November 9, 2011

For many years, I’ve traveled by the lava flows around Grants, New Mexico. I’ve stopped to smell the lava occasionally, and even picked the tunas, the fruits of the prickly pear, as they are known around here, which grow near the lava by the highway. I’d never hiked through the lava fields before, so when a hike came up to do so, I jumped at it. Now, hiking through cold lava is not as easy as it sounds. The smooth flow, pāhoehoe, is not bad to walk on: mostly flat, good traction. The ‘a’a is not so easy. Much of the later half of the hike was on ‘a’a, the sharp, strewn rocks blown out of the volcanoes, including loose gravel-like stones.

 El Malpais is a national park.

There is a trail, (a very loose term), through the badlands. It is 7.5 miles long. Seems easy, right? Well, people do get lost and die in there. In fact, human bones found scattered on a lava flow in El Malpais National Monument have been identified, just last year, as those of James Chatman and Crystal Tuggle, father and daughter, who never came back from an afternoon walk there nine years ago. See? It is so easy to get lost in there. The trail, such as it is, is marked with cairns throughout. Sometimes the cairns are no more than ten feet apart, sometimes, 20 to 30 feet apart, when the trail is obvious. Usually, it is not, so the cairns are placed liberally along the trail, showing the way through every twist and turn.

There’s one there, in the upper right corner, next to one of my hiking companions. Now, this one is fairly easy to spot, but do you see a problem? The cairns are simply piles of lava rocks. On a rise like this, fairly easy to spot, silhouetted against the sky. Imagine that you are walking through a field of lava and all of the cairns are about two to three feet tall (max), composed of rocks the exact same color of the background. Here are two cairns in a row; can you spot them?

The advice the park service gives is to always have the next cairn in sight before you leave the one you’re at, and I wholeheartedly endorse that. Occasionally, this takes a bit of reconnoitering, but there is always a cairn alongside the trail in the direction one needs to travel. Looking at the photo above, you might be tempted to say that one needs only follow the other hikers, right? Wrong. Suppose you’re a slower hiker, or you stop to pee or take a photo. The other hikers are gone, around a bend, down a hill, or behind a pile of lava somewhere. You then have to navigate on your own until you see them again. Sometimes you walk right past a cairn, if you glance up at the wrong moment, so you have to backtrack a bit and try again. Imagine doing this right after a snowstorm. It had snowed the night before, but fortunately, it was light, and tended to melt as the day wore on.

 

Helpfully, the park service has provided wooden posts for some cairns, sticking straight up through the center of the cairn, but even these have a tendency to fall down, due to the really intense winds blowing through there.    This one was near one end of the trail.

There were piles of these poles here and there, so I assume it’s an ongoing project for the few rangers that have kept their jobs. It’s unfortunate that the National Park Service has felt the brunt of the many cuts in government over the years.  I guess we need to keep raising our Congress people’s salaries, and keep paying them for life, and make sure they have top-of-the-line free medical care.  Well, at least they think it’s more important, for them, even if they don’t think it’s important for the rest of us.

Anyway, you came here for pictures, yes?

Here ya go – (click on one to view larger, then use your keyboard’s arrow keys to scroll through):

As I told the hike leader, it was one hell of a hike. Although I was tired and aching by the time we finished, (just under five hours including two 15-minute breaks), I really enjoyed this hike. The views were always outstanding, and the experience, on the whole, was fantastic! It’s one of the best hikes I’ve ever done. On the way home, we stopped at the ‘WOW’ diner in Milan, near Grants. Their menu is just as unique and varied as the lava fields are. With three pages of dinner entrées, I may never experience everything on their menu, but I intend to try. (There are still lots of hikes in the area.)  It is the perfect end to a perfect hike.

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40 Years and a Retirement Hike

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on November 2, 2009

After spending nearly 40 years of my life working, post high school, I retired from my last job after 25 years there.  unm_logo

In high school I flipped burgers, but after leaving high school, my first real job was running equipment in a physics lab at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. JHUPhysicsLab-1 It was a good job, working with a machine that used x-rays to measure molecular spacing in crystals, like silicon and germanium, which would prove vital to computers later on.  It was, however, boring and repetitious, but I took night classes for free there.  I stopped working full time to attend the University of Maryland Baltimore County UMBC_Seal for two years, but continued working part time as an independent contractor.  I simply typed up a bill for my time every week.  As good as that was, I was also involved in anti-war and anti-government protests, as well as volunteer work with a free clinic, caduceus classes with a chapter of the Black Panthers, Free Breakfast Program and experiments with sex and drugs, so college work seemed irrelevant.  The University finally told me my grade-point average was too low to continue, so I’d have to drop out for a couple semesters.  Instead, I left town with my bicycle, riding through parts of Michigan, Canada, Wisconsin and North Dakota.  Short of money, I took my second real job, as an electrician’s assistant for a large mid-western carnival: Murphy Brothers Mile Long Pleasure Exposition. Murphy Brothers 001 I spent a full season with them, running cables to rides, troubleshooting, and maintaining the generators.  Then, when my final pay was stolen by Toothless Lester, so he could go on a binge, I stayed on and worked small fairs in Oklahoma and Florida.  Florida in winter is nice, and I got to swim in the ocean in December, but the ride I was with didn’t get enough business, for the four of us it took to set up and run, for us to eat all that well.   I split to Virginia to visit people I’d met in Canada.  The only work I could find there was helping out on a small goat farm, so I passed on that, and hopped a train back to Baltimore.

I got another job at Johns Hopkins LogoJhu after a short search, and this time I was preparing genetics and developmental biology laboratory materials for the pre-med students there.   That job got short circuited when a graduate student opened a drawer in a chicken egg incubator, and left it open.  The large rotating drum full of dozens of drawers full of eggs then tilted forward, and the drawer slid out.  It didn’t have far to go, and could have slipped back in, but ventilation was maintained by aid of a wooden blade revolving around the drum.  The graduate student was long gone by the time the wooden blade slammed into the open drawer, jamming the whole device, and causing the premature hatching of 50 to 60 chicks.  I was blamed.  As it was, there had been complaints from the students of contaminated agar plates, which was also blamed on me, even though the students did not follow instructions very well, and violated every protocol they were given to prevent contamination.  Another job down the tubes.  I knew exactly what to do: get on the bicycle again.  This time I left Baltimore directly, and rode west to Arizona.  After hiking across the Grand Canyon and back, I ended up in Scottsdale, Arizona, working for a crafts foundry run by Paolo Solari, a visionary architect building an “Arcology” in the desert.  I made bronze wind-bells, melting bronze, ramming clay/sand mixtures around molds and then pouring the bronze, cleaning up the raw products, assembling and even selling them. arco-santi-bells Sometimes I helped out by giving tours to tourists and other visitors.  It was a fine job, but I met some bicyclists traveling through who were doing advance work for a cross-country bicycling/networking trip.  I agreed to join them when the group arrived from California.

That was my longest break from working ever, although it involved riding a bicycle nearly every day for six months.  Sometimes we did odd jobs to supplement our communal income, and we all gave workshops in our specialties. ProjectAmerica1976 Mine was bicycle maintenance and repair.  The tour ended, and I tried working for a solar contractor in Philadelphia, but that didn’t work out.  I hadn’t enough experience in carpentry (none with solar panels) to satisfy my boss, who had wanted to have me work unsupervised.  So, I traveled to New York City.  I knew a few people there and had a place to stay.  Then began my fourth major job: bicycle messenger.  I pedaled letters, packages, advertising films and even artwork all over Manhattan on my trusty metal steed. traffic However, I had met a fascinating and very sexy woman in Albuquerque when the bicycle group had stopped there for ten days.  Although I had met several woman in my travels, she seemed like the one.  She wanted me to move there, and I wanted her, so I found my way back to New Mexico.  Unfortunately, there weren’t many jobs available in the Land of Enchantment.  After six months of looking, working odd jobs, and hanging around the unemployment office, I finally got a job at the University of New Mexico as a mason’s helper.  cement_worker For a couple of years I replaced broken sidewalks, mixed hod for block walls, and even laid a brick floor in the University President’s house.  There was also some remodeling and jack hammer work.  I transferred to a job at the Cancer Center for about a year and half, injecting and implanting, respectively, tumor cells or tumor chunks into rats and mice.  Then I would treat them with radiation and drugs, monitoring them, weighing them, and dissecting them. whitelabrats It was OK work, but the Director, and my boss, the Associate Director, took their grant money and moved to Philadelphia.  I had no desire to go there, much less to the east coast, so I was out of work for another six months, doing odd jobs, and even collecting unemployment while I searched for work.  I finally found a good part-time job, analyzing electroplating baths for a printed-circuit board manufacturer, plating which gave me a chance to take University classes again.  I did that for four years, but my quality control position was dropped, and I was looking for work again.  This time I ended up back at the University, working initially with mice, removing their glands for analysis and isolation of immunoglobulins, the wonderful molecules that protect our bodies from disease. Lab_mouse

This time the job lasted 25 years.  It changed continuously though.  I stopped working with mice, and ran machines again exclusively.  There were machines for determining the amino acid sequence of a protein, sequencing for purifying such proteins, generic HPLC for making short versions of such proteins, Peptide Synthesizer for analyzing the total amino acid content of biological samples, aaa and determining the purity of all of the above.  That changed too, as we obtained new machines: first, a machine for creating synthetic DNA.  Cool.  394 Then a machine for determining the sequence of various DNA samples. 3130xl That became my job then: making and sequencing DNA.  Interesting at first, but ultimately boring and repetitive, fraught with problems.  The problems could be fun to isolate and resolve, but dealing with an ever-changing clientele of Ph.D.s, graduate students, post-graduate students, undergraduates, and dealing with all the budget balancing was sometimes frustrating.  As this last and final job wound down, I went through the motions, doing the best job I knew how, but increasingly disinterested.  I could barely force myself to go to work, much less work all day, every day.  In the end, I suddenly decided I’d had enough, and retired.

So, what do I do the day after retirement? I went hiking in the Sandia Mountains here.  Hiking the entire 18-mile length of the Faulty trail from Placitas, New Mexico to Tijeras, New Mexico. palomaspeak It was fun, with beautiful views, a clear blue sky and leftover snowfall from a snowstorm four days earlier. Faulty Trail has a mysterious origin. Diamond blazes appeared on trees marking its route before any official Forest Service recognition, and it was unofficially called the Diamond Trail. Probably an old herding route, it was apparently cleared by a horse club. The Forest Service took it over and renamed it Faulty Trail in honor of the dikes—fissures filled with igneous rock that moved up from a lower fracture and created the limestone blocks—that appear alongside the trail. Working in a laboratory for twenty-five years, however, does not really prepare one for hiking rolling hills 18 miles at almost 8000 feet above sea level, even with some hiking experience over the last year.  I saw wild turkey, Turkey_trackrabbit, rabbittracks raccoon, coonwalking deer, tracks and even fox tracks fox_tracks in the snow and mud.   Many of the trees date to the 1700 and 1800s, and some have been cored and marked with their age,  so that is a wonderful experience.   I even saw a large black coyote near the crest of the mountain. black It was one hell of a long day however, from the meet-up at 7 a.m., to the timely lunch break halfway, to wandering off the trail for a bit, to the final late, forced steps on the darkened trail in the light of a full moon at 7:30 p.m. (2 1/2 hours beyond schedule).  Tired, sore, and as hungry as a bear, I ate, went home, and crawled into bed early that night, and slept the longest I have in fifteen years: 8 and 1/2 hours non-stop!

Now that is worth retiring for.

Posted in Bicycling, hiking, Life, My Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Good ol’ February 14

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 11, 2009

090608-22 Another Valentine’s Day.  People make fun of the day, and criticize it as meaningless commercial promotion for the greeting card and candy companies.  I’ve often found, however, that when I’m in a serious relationship, it is satisfying to do something nice for your lover on a day that is dedicated to love. Once I didn’t, by mistake, actually.  I was one of those who felt that gifts or flowers as sentiment should come spontaneously and randomly, and I acted on that.  However, I knew, without a doubt, that my lover at the time would want to be treated special, so I had a plan. Since I rode a bicycle every day to and from work, it was difficult to range very far in getting flowers, which is what I thought most appropriate at that time.  And, of course, arranging to have them delivered never occurred to me. Every day, I passed a flower shop on the way home.  I had never had a real girlfriend or lover to buy flowers for before, and had no idea how early one has to buy these things.  However, the shop would certainly have had some kind of flowers left, even if they weren’t roses.  So, I left work, and headed home, climbing the slope of “nine-mile” hill steadily.  I reached the flower shop, and THEY WERE CLOSED! As in shut down and moved away. Crap.  I couldn’t believe it.  I knew of none other within miles, and I was expected at home anyway.  I went home, and promptly told my love what had happened, and she said it was OK, and no big deal.  DON”T EVER BELIEVE THAT.  It is just not true.  Later, after she’d left me for someone else, and we’d become friends again, years later, she told me that’s when she changed her mind about me. She was actually pretty upset.  She met this guy coincidentally the next day, and she became interested in  him.   rose4jam-2

Be that all as it may be, however, I’ve been with many women since then, and I never screwed up like that again, always giving flowers and treats, and not because I had to, but because I wanted to.  So, I like Valentine’s Day.  However, since that last divorce and my subsequent unrequited love infatuation and rejection, I don’t think much of this approaching day of love.  It sucks, really.   I added a note to myself on my appointments calendar for the 14th: Kill myself.  Now, it’s unlikely I will.  For one thing, I’ve gotten really interested in learning guitar, and I practice every day.  I understand a little bit of the nomenclature, and I’m training my fingers, and making slow progress.  It may take a long time, but I think I can do it.  So, since I want to see how well I can do, I should stick around a bit longer.

Before this, I joined the Mountain Club, however.  I went on four hikes, up and down hilly terrain, for lengths of  8 to ten miles, and enjoyed it.  Loved the slowly increasing strength and stamina, but I haven’t been hiking since January 1.  I used to go hiking on level ground about 4 miles every Sunday before going mountaineering, but I haven’t even done that.  Now I’m focused on guitar.  I wonder if I can keep my interest in that?  Or will I lose the excitement that grips me now?  If I do, will I decide there’s no further reason to keep on living? or will I find another item on my bucket list to throw myself into?  I can’t predict, just can’t tell.

Posted in hiking, Life, love, madness, marriage, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts, relationships | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Day 15 – a very slow day.

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 3, 2009

Well, here I am, 3 days into the new year of 2009, day 15 of my vacation from all things work related.  I’m trying to see what I’ve accomplished.

1.)  Replaced the remaining three almost-bald tires on the car – they have whitewall stripes too, matching the car (well, actually it’s cream colored).

2.) Took the rear tire off the motorcycle, scraped the grease off the gear and rim, and replaced the tire, which was stark-raving mad, er, nude, er, uh, bald.

3.) Broke a link out of the stretched-out bike chain (had to use a cold chisel); cleaned, adjusted and greased the chain.

4.) Went hiking around To’hajiilee, just west of Albuquerque. Hiked beyond my comfort level, took some nice pics.

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5.) Had lunch with my 1st wife.  Learned she thought I wanted the divorce; I thought she did.

6.) Had dinner on Xmas day with my step-daughter; made a kick-ass chile with Italian sausage, green chile, and black beans. We both enjoyed it.

7.) Went hiking in San Lorenzo canyon (near Socorro, New Mexico); hiked just past my comfort level; took a few pics.

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8.) Bought a digital picture frame; learned I haven’t beaten my eBay addiction yet.

9.) Read several books: Titan’s Daughter, by Sci Fi author James Blish; Ballroom of the Skies, a Sci Fi novel by crime/mystery novelist John D. MacDonald; Please Write For Details, also by John D. MacDonald, Wild Traveler, a 1967 story about an adopted coyote by A.M. Lightner; Jack of Eagles, by James Blish; Berlin (2): City of Smoke, graphic novel by Jason Lutes; graphic novel David Boring, by Daniel Clowes; graphic novel Far West (Vol. 1), by Richard Moore; the screenplay of Ghost World, by Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff; a wierd “art” graphic novel Jellyfist, by Jhonen Vasquez and Jenny Goldberg; and Aya of Yop City, a graphic novel by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie.

10.) Finally watched: 2010: The Year We Make Contact, the new 2008 Journey to the Center of the Earth, the orignal Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), Transsiberian, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Outer Limits: The 2nd Soul, the animated Superman Doomsday, anime Kai Doh Maru, Bridge to Terabithia, a dumb anime: Fencer of Minerva, Chap. 1, and The Incredible Hulk, with which I easily identify.

11.) Learned how NOT to make chocolate chip cookies.

12.) Went out to dinner with an old girlfriend on New Year’s Eve; played 2 games of chess, took her home at 10:00 pm (She goes to bed early).

13.) Went hiking 5 miles up the La Luz Trail in our Sandia Mountains; took the old trail back down; got off the trail; had to bushwhack and slide through snow to the bottom and hike back up to the trailhead.  Went beyond any comfort level I thought I had before. Had a GREAT time, because my step-daughter and her boyfriend went with me. (Hope they forgive me for leading them astray.)

Did NOT pass Go, collect $200, fall into or out of love, or have sex, but I  least I kept myself busy.  What a demented way to live. 🙂

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