2 Weeks in July

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Grand Teton range.

Road tripping, an American pastime for nearly 100 years, and one that I have been to far apart from for too long. This Summer it was time to rectify that. Mike had plans to go canoe the boundary waters and hike Isle Royale. When that fell through, I told him he should join me for a trip to Yellowstone. We quickly settled on mid-July for the start of the trip. While we both cleared up 3 weeks, we planned the experience to last about 2 1/2. I researched 4 stops on the way and 4 more for the way back, our plans looked like this:summerI

I’ve been back and forth across I-80 through Nebraska probably 100 times. Anyone who has ever made the trip know that it is boring, devoid of scenery and lacking in culture. But I had heard that NW Nebraska had some amazing stuff, so we decided to start there. We took off out of Columbia on a Tuesday and spent that night in a hotel alongside I-80 in central Nebraska.

The following day we drove the short distance to Chimney Rock National Historic Site. Chimney Rock is of more historical significance than it is of geological import. The Westward wagon trains would all head here, shortly thereafter the California Trail and the Oregon Trail would diverge. The settlers would have to decide, seek gold in California or rich bottom land in Oregon.

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Chimney Rock is visible behind this wagon.

After leaving Chimney Rock we headed North to Scotts Bluff National Monument. Scotts Bluff marked the easiest passage to Oregon. Rising 500 feet out of the Western edge of the Great Plains it was a destination first for fur traders then trappers, these were followed by emigrants and mail and freight, and finally the army gathered here for the mass exterminations that followed the Civil War.

We hiked the top of Scotts Bluff, and took in the vast scenery and the Western “big sky”. We ended the day in a municipal campground in the town of Scottsbluff.

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Scotts Bluff towers behind a Calistoga Wagon.

The Next morning it was but a short drive up to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. We hiked a couple of interpretive trails and visited the museum/visitor center. We learned that around 20 million years ago there were beaver in this area living like prairie dogs do today and that at the time a type of pig was the apex predator. A couple of hours was all that this site required. Of note was the Cook Collection of native American artifacts at the visitors center. There was also a nice diorama of molded skeleton animals based on fossils found nearby.

From here we headed up to Toadstool Geologic Park, a badlands area named for its rock formations. This site is administered by the Forest Service and includes a 30 million year old “trackway” of footprints left by mammals along a drying up stream bed. For the remainder of the first day we lounged around camp, just processing all that we had taken in over the last 2 days and planning the rest of our adventure. There is dry camping on site and we paid to spend 2 nights there.

The next day we drove to the Hudson Meng Bison Boneyard. This is an interesting excavation containing the 10000 year old remains of 600+ American Buffalo (bison). How the bones got there is open to interpretation but early Native Americans played a role based on arrowheads and other artifacts found at the site. Running them off a cliff has been ruled out, but other theories have not been proven or disproven. The partially excavated site is enclosed in a pole barn. An interesting place to visit.

Later that day we hiked the Toadstool badlands trail. There were lots of early mammal tracks in the stone but they just looked like depressions to me. However, the area stands out for its stark and rugged beauty.

Then, on to Wyoming. We headed out early, destination Thermopolis, site of Hot Springs State Park. Along our route we went through Wind River Canyon, an amazingly beautiful canyon and numerous pull offs to enjoy it with. When we got to Thermopolis, I discovered that I had made the hotel reservation for the wrong night. Since there was some sort of bicycle event in town, there was not a room to be had. We ended up driving 30 miles north to get a room.

The next morning we headed down to Thermopolis and the Hot Springs. The Native Americans who donated the spring to the state set the condition that the spring must be made available to the public for free in perpetuity. So we spent Saturday morning soaking in a public bath house. A nice experience that certainly relaxed us for our afternoon drive up to Yellowstone.

We stopped in Cody WY for lunch, then headed West to the park. We were hoping to find some National Forest camping near the park, but none presented, so we headed through the park and found some camping North of the park in Montana. We payed for two nights then spent the evening in the park gaping at the Elk and Buffalo and enjoyed visiting a couple of waterfalls.

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A typical geyser field.

We spent the next two days driving around the park, hanging out with the buffalo, and walking every trail that was shorter than 2 miles (there are a lot of them). Highlights were Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin, Black Sand Basin, and too many others to name. We also moved our camp to the Western entrance to the park, outside of West Yellowstone MT. We went down to see Old Faithful and got to witness her eruption. Later we found out that a 9 year old girl had been tossed by a buffalo about 2 hours before we were there.

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Old Faithful, erupting on schedule.

After watching Old Faithful do her thing, we hiked a few more Geyser trails then went back to camp. The next day we visited Yellowstone canyon, and did a rim hike along this magnificent rent in the ground. Then it was back to West Yellowstone where we got an overpriced hotel and prepared for the next phase of our travels.

Got up the next day and commuted through the park to the South entrance and headed down to Grand Teton National Park. We found a nice campsite in the National Forest and spent the next few days taking in the sites. One morning we got up early to be at an overlook for a sunrise photo op with the eponymous mountain range just to our West. Twice we staked out moose habitat hoping for an encounter with one but without success.

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A Mormon settlement with the Grand Tetons as backdrop.

We visited some historic settlements, an old ferry station, all of course with the classic Western back drop.

After this it was South along Wyoming’s Western edge with a brief dip into Idaho and on to Fossil Butte National Monument. Like Agate, Fossil Butte contains fossils from the Cenozoic era, early mammals. We did a hike and watched a paleontologist excavating little fish fossils. The visitors center has a nice collection of fossilized turtles. Overloaded from all the sights we had seen so far, we only spent a few hours here and then we were on our way.

Dinosaur National Monument is a big sprawling park straddling the Utah Colorado border. We visited the smaller section in Utah, this is where the dinosaur bones are concentrated. The highlight of the visit was Quarry Exhibit Hall, a vast building with one wall made up of a hill side with exposed dinosaur bones partially excavated. We also did some short hikes to view petroglyphs made by the Fremont people 1000 years or more ago.

Then we headed East across Colorado. I had wanted to visit a camp spot that I remembered from 10 years ago. It was off of CR-8 near the crest of Ripple Creek Pass. We found it all right but the spot had been degraded in the 10 years since my last visit, a trailhead had been established right next door, and after the desert it was cold camping at nearly 2 miles of elevation. It rained all evening, and since our tent had suffered a gash in the rain fly, we pulled out around 9PM and headed for town. We stopped at every hotel for 100 miles but there was not a room to be had. So I ended up driving half the night, dodging deer and rabbits and even the occasional cow, and we slept in the car at the border to Rocky Mountain National Park.

We basically did a drive through of Rocky Mountain. We spent a little time taking in the grand views and learning about the tundra. Hiked to a prohibition era lodge and saw the elk, larger here than they are up in Wyoming.

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Rocky Mountain view.

The road through the park is the highest paved road in the world and we topped out above 12000 feet. It was cold and windy, exposed and stark, and beautiful and awe inspiring.

Then it was East and down out of the mountains, through a beautiful canyon, and onto the plains. We spent the night in a hotel near the Kansas border. We got up the next morning, picked up a hitchhiker and drove across Kansas and Missouri to get home in time for dinner.

A pretty epic trip, it spanned 2 weeks, we covered 4000 miles, and we visited 8 states. As always, it is good to be home.

 

 

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20 Soups From Around the World

Editors Note: No recipes are contained in this post, none are linked, Bing is your friend.

Shortly before Christmas of last year (2018) I decided that I would make 20 (new-to-me) soups from around the world as my New Year’s resolution. Today, May 19th, I made the twentieth. Since the soups were to be new-to-me, that precluded many of my personal favorites that I had made previously: Tom Kha, Miso, Egg Drop, Etc…

I can’t vouch for the authenticity of any of the soups that I made, I googled recipes and read and synthesized the ones that sounded best/doable into one that I could make. Following is an annotated list of the soups that I made,

  1. 12/26/18 Getting a jump on the New Year, I started off with Pozole from Mexico. The version that I made was chicken and hominy. It was a good one to start with as it ended up being one of my favorites. I learned a new technique in boiling dried peppers, in this case ancho, then running them through the food processor; this gave the broth body and loads of flavor.
  2. 1/4/19 Next up was Sinigang from the Philippines, I don’t remember much other than it was sour ginger.
  3. 1/9/19 Goulash Soup from Germany, this was a hearty beef stew with lots of paprika of two different kinds. It was good but didn’t seem exotic at all.
  4. 1/16/19 Bolivian Chili, a tomato based vegetarian soup with chick peas instead of kidney beans and chunks of sweet potato. It was much better than the description would make you think.
  5. 1/21/19 Arstoppa, a Swedish yellow split pea soup. Subtle in flavor but very good. It didn’t take long to discover that most European soups were similar to the soups I grew up on, makes sense since I am German heritage from mid-West America.
  6. 1/28/19 Lohikeitto, a Finish Salmon soup with potatoes. Basically a typical potato soup with chunks of salmon. It was very tasty. I should note that we have food allergies in our household, so any dairy was substituted with soy milk and/or coconut milk.
  7. 2/1/19 Thukpa, a Tibetan noodle soup. This was quite flavorful and made with multiple types of meat, it is on my must make again list.
  8. 2/4/19 From India, Sambar; a spicy lentil vegetarian soup.
  9. 2/20/19 Gombaleves, a Hungarian mushroom soup. It was an odd soup but strangely enticing. Made with multiple types of mushrooms, some dried others fresh. The dried mushroom were re-hydrated and ground into the broth. It was a thick hearty vegetarian dish that was a big hit.
  10. 2/24/19 Laksa from Singapore, a curry like soup made with lots of galangal. Galangal is a rhizome similar to ginger or turmeric. This was the only soup on this list that I had made previously, and along with Tom Kha is one of my favorite soups. I chose to make this one with shrimp.
  11. 2/27/19 Cambodian Samlar Kako, a flavorful chicken vegetable with lemongrass, turmeric, and galangal. Turned out to be one of my favorites.
  12. 3/4/19 From Georgia, Lobio bean soup. This one was quite interesting with ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses, fenugreek and cilantro. It was definitely a unique bean soup.
  13. 3/22/19 Sopa de Peixe from Brazil. A spicy hot fish soup with coconut milk. Definitely one to make again.
  14. 4/1/19 Vietnamese Canh Cua, while usually made with crab, I chose to use shrimp instead. This is a sour noodle soup which, while tasty, I put in too much noodles and it turned out not as good as it could have.
  15. 4/10/19 Sopa de Fideo from Mexico, a chicken noodle soup.
  16. 4/15/19 Cock-a-leekie from Scotland, a chicken and leak soup made with dairy. It was OK, but required more work than it was worth.
  17. 5/8/19 Yemeni Marak Temani, a beef and potato stew. If there was a single favorite, this was it. First had to make Zhug, a chutney-like condiment made from cilantro. Then a spice blend called hawaij containing coriander, cumin, cardamom, and half a dozen other spices. Very flavorful, very tasty.
  18. 5/13/19 Irish Shellfish Chowder, basically it is potato soup that has been put through the food processor and then add shellfish. I used shrimp and scallops, it was ok.
  19. 5/17/19 Italian Kale and Chickpea soup, it has an Italian name but I forgot it. As with many of the European soups, it was a little boring.
  20. 5/19/19 Chinese Taho, I decided to rap up the 20 soups with a desert soup. This one involved making three things: homemade silky tofu, tapioca, and palm sugar syrup and combining them when serving. It was good and learning to curdle soy milk into tofu was a fun experience.

Overall, making 20 international soups was a fun and learning experience. I learned new cooking techniques that I will be using regularly in the future, it got me out of my comfort zone in using some of the more exotic spices, and I got to eat some really good food. Not sure what my next cooking challenge will be, my partner suggests 20 salads, but that doesn’t seem as fun. I know that I will be making a couple of cold soups this summer as gazpacho is the only one I’ve made.

Since we are getting back into the hot season, I will probably break out the One Pot and get back into experimenting with it. Maybe fermentation will be my next challenge.

RIP My Sweet Girl

Shadow: May 22, 2003 to April 25, 2019

Photopaint of Shadow

Shadow, my loving and faithful friend and companion.

When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.’—Rudyard Kipling

She was barely 3 months old when I got her, a bundle of furry energy. I had wanted a companion dog for some time. After settling on a breed (Australian Shepherd), it took me nearly 2 years to find the right one. I initially wanted a German Shepherd, but decided on something smaller–had I known I would get the world’s biggest Aussie…I wouldn’t change a thing.

Shadown as Puppy

At 3 Months

Like every new dog owner, I intended to be tough on her, I told myself she would develop no bad manners. All of that melted away within a day when she was mauled by a pit bull. She spent the night in the hospital and couldn’t walk by herself for nearly a week, I wasn’t tough on that dog, she was my baby girl. She recovered from the mauling remarkably well, her brown eye was weepy from a torn tear duct and she had little biting power due to a broken snout. These things never got in her way other than always losing at tug-of-war, even against puppies.

Shadow with grass

Shadow, somewhere above the Mississippi River.

Shadow was a food gulper. When I got her I thought I could teach her to not gulp by keeping her food bowl full, but that wasn’t the case. She got fat, a problem she would struggle off and on with for her entire life. But it earned her the endearing nickname, “Fatdog” which lasted her lifetime whether her weight was up or down.

Back in the oughts Google bombing was a thing. I set up a sub-domain under the term “ornerycritter” and seeded links so that if you typed “ornery critter” into Google and clicked the I’m Feeling Lucky button it would bring up a picture of Shadow. This probably spoke more to my over abundance of free time at the time than it did to Shadow.

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace. ― Milan Kundera

After being mauled she became defensive around other dogs, so she and I attended Sirius Puppy School. We both learned a lot and she developed the good habits that would make her a great dog.

Shadow on the beach.

On the beach at Olympic National Park.

Shadow was a well traveled dog visiting 46 states by the time she was eight. I always promised her that we would go to Maine so she could get numbers 47 and 48, but we never made it…time ran out. We did go up to Minnesota last Summer as it was closer than Maine and we couldn’t free up the time needed for a longer expedition. Minnesota is similar to Maine; the great North woods, Moose, views of Canada, etc. She never said if she was disappointed with the switch but we did enjoy a final week long camping experience, even if she wasn’t up for hiking.

Shadow loved camping and visiting National Parks as much as I do. She did all the great parks from Olympic NP to Everglades NP and from Glacier NP to Big Bend NP, as well as most of them in between. We would take camping road trip vacations a couple of times a year, spending lots of time camping and hiking in the National Forests; no man could ask for a better travel companion.

John and Shadow

Me and Fatdog backpacking at Big Sur.

I always thought I would add a second dog when Shadow turned 6. But in 2007, with Shadow barely 4, I went through a dark time. Of course I did the worst possible thing to combat it, I got a puppy. A bouncing Blue Heeler who I named Smokey.

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.— Edward Hoagland

Shadow didn’t enjoy Smokey as much as I thought she would, but she rose to the occasion and was a stalwart alpha to Smokey’s status seeking beta. However, having a young dog around who was always seeking confrontation led Shadow to age pre-maturely, she quit playing as every romp turned into a battle of supremacy. Shadow maintained her dominance till the end, but it had its toll on her personality. Still, I think she loved Smokey as much as I do.

Shadow and Smokey

Fatdog with her sidekick DooDoo playing in the snow of the High Sierras

Shadow and I lived in Berkeley, California for most of her life. She grew up hiking and playing in Tilden Regional Park and Pt. Isabelle Dog Park; two of America’s jewels both conveniently located within 10 miles of San Francisco. All summer long we would journey across the valley to spend weekends in the Sierra mountains. In the Winter we would often day trip into the mountains to play in the snow. In her senior years we moved to Columbia, Missouri where she got to experience life with four seasons.

I’m an introvert… I love being by myself, love being outdoors, love taking a long walk with my dogs and looking at the trees, flowers, the sky. –Audrey Hepburn

I am going to hijack this ode to Shadow and write just a bit about me. I thought I was ready to let her go. I mourned a little the first time she couldn’t hike all day, a little more when 10 miles got to be too much for her, and again when 5 miles was too much. I mourned for her the first time it took 45 minutes to walk around the block, a little more when I had to start carrying her up and down the half flight of stairs, and again when she couldn’t even make it around the block. I mourned her pain, I mourned her physical and mental decline. I thought this pre-mourning would make it easier to let her go when the time arrived. It didn’t.

She truly was more than just a dog, she was my friend and always faithful companion. It is more than just Smokey and I who will miss her, but everyone whom she touched. With friends from coast to coast, that dog will live on in memories far and wide. Goodbye my friend, I miss you, and always will.

Shadow with flowers.

Shadow grew up in the Bay area parks.

Dogs got personality. Personality will go a long way. –Quentin Tarantino

This photo story covers the first half of Shadow’s life.

I went ahead and did a photo story for the second half of Shadow’s life.

Multiple Victims of Militarized Police

Yesterday the local police ran over and killed a 4 year old who was on the sidewalk of a local high school. It is a terrible thing for everyone involved.

The little girl’s parents are obviously devastated, losing a child will have life long impact. One can only imagine their grief, something no parent should go through.

The officer who inadvertently ran over the little girl is also a victim. She must now live the rest of her life with this on her conscience. Imagine that you had to live with the knowledge that you had snuffed the life out of an innocent child.

Here is news coverage of the accident incident.
Here is the Highway Patrol’s initial accident crash report.

The child, her parents, the officer–all victims.

So who is to blame?

I would argue that the blame should rests with the decline in police officer standards and the militarization of the police. Before we continue, watch the following short video.

This video features the officer involved. There are a few things that can be gleaned from the video.

First, she is very petite. When faced with an adversary, say a drunken college student, her only option is a weapon with the potential for serious injury or death. The officer then becomes judge, jury and executioner solely due to falling police standards. This isn’t to argue against female police, simply to state that there should be some minimal standards for police, male or female. At the 2 minute mark of the video notice her gait, not only is she small but she has a physical handicap.

Second, even though we live in a city, the police insist on driving SUVs, and very large ones at that. Every single police car on our streets is an interceptor with built in battering rams. It is not mountainous here, there are no forest service trails to patrol; hell, we don’t even have dirt roads. There isn’t a rational reason why the police all need to drive giant SUVs (except, of course, to project dominance over the populace.) At the 15 second mark of the above video it is clearly evident that the officer can’t see over the hood of the vehicle.

And that in short is why a little girl is dead today. The militarization of the police is to blame. They insist on driving tanks in the city, WTF? Add to that the fact that the police have become adversaries of the general public, basically enemies of the people. No one sane wants to be cop, police departments are left to hire anyone they can, whether qualified or not.

So it was this woman’s dream to be a cop. Ask her today, if given a choice, would she have rather been told that she did not qualify physically to join the police or have to live with this child’s death on her conscience for the rest of her life which she would choose. I can only imagine that she would rather have been politely declined for the position.

The time has come for the police to get back in the business of protecting and serving the community. Until that happens they will struggle for recruits and terrible things like this little girl’s death will continue. It would be great if Columbia could be the start of that change.

On Patriotism

The Washington Post has an opinion piece up today called “Don’t let the nationalists steal patriotism.”

It is garbage.

Patriotism is nationalism and nationalism is patriotism and they are both unmitigated evil.

Patriotism is what we have while nationalism is what “they” have, we view one as being somehow different than the other. Yet, despite our contortions, they are synonyms.

I am simply going to wrap this up early with a few quotes from Tolstoy on patriotism.

This is the opening paragraph from Tolstoy’s 1894 essay “On Patriotism:”

Patriotism today is the cruel tradition of an outlived period, which exists not merely by its inertia, but because the governments and ruling classes, aware that not their power only, but their very existence, depends upon it, persistently excite and maintain it among the people, both by cunning and violence.

Later in the essay he writes:

Patriotism in its simplest, clearest, and most indubitable signification is nothing else but a means of obtaining for the rulers their ambitions and covetous desires, and for the ruled the abdication of human dignity, reason, and conscience, and a slavish enthrallment to those in power. And as such it is recommended wherever it is preached.

He follows that with a simple statement:

Patriotism is slavery.

In the same essay, he continues:

[P]eace between nations cannot be attained by reasonable means, by conversations, by arbitration, as long as the subordination of the people to the government continues, a condition always unreasonable and always pernicious. But the subordination of people to governments will exist as long as patriotism exists, because all governmental authority is founded upon patriotism, that is, upon the readiness of people to subordinate themselves to authority in order to defend their nation, country, or state from dangers which are supposed to threaten.

Elsewhere he wrote:

Tell people that war is an evil, and they will laugh; for who does not know it? Tell them that patriotism is an evil, and most of them will agree, but with a reservation. “Yes,” they will say, “wrong patriotism is an evil; but there is another kind, the kind we hold.” But just what this good patriotism is, no one explains.

Until patriotism is recognized as the evil that it is, we will always have war. And con-men and charlatans will continue to take advantage of us.

 

 

 

Midterm Elections 2018, Gut Response

Net result: Republicans expanded their control of the Senate while the Democrats took control of the House. The bottom line is that there was no blue wave, essentially there is no backlash against Trump’s first two years in office.

Random thoughts in random order.

1) The Democrats overplayed their hand on Kavanaugh, showing that #metoo has limits.  I didn’t really understand the intense opposition to Kavanaugh, he was as good as we would get with Trump and a Republican senate; that battle had already been lost in 2016. Sun Tzu teaches that if you want to win a war then you must choose your battles carefully. This is a lesson that the Democrats never learned. So the Democrats wasted their political capitol on a battle that was never winnable, energized the Republican base in the process, and it cost them some seats in congress.

2) Democratic leadership is not very likable. Every republican running for the House ran against Nancy Pelosi. She is a lightning rod (it is insignificant if rightly or wrongly). She is an astounding 78 years old, how can she be the face of the future?

3) Trump is smarter than we give him credit and his base is passionate. I have no idea what Trump believes in, I’m not sure that he knows, but he has re-shaped the Republican party in his image.

4) As of right now, I don’t see anything blocking Trump’s re-election. It would seem the Democrats are lining up a clown car of Septuagenarians and Octogenarians to challenge him in 2020. I am old enough to remember when the Republicans were the party of old stodgy people, my, how times have changed.

5) Our government is based on the checks and balances of 3 parts of government. Unfortunately the legislative branch has ceded its power to the executive. This imbalance makes us wobbly at best and headed for a serious crash at worst. Trump is not the problem, he is but a symptom. We need to fight the disease while managing the symptoms.