Monday, September 26, 2016

Thinking Like a Grunt

The Army trained me to shoot at anything that moves.  I walked through field courses in the northwest woods where humanoid shapes would pop up from the brush and I would fire my M-16 blanks.  The training was to create a conditioned response.  In war everything is a threat and the best way to fight that threat is to fire quickly.

That attitude might seem rational in the twisted logic of war.  It has absolutely no place in civilian society.  Yet, the repeated shootings of black Americans by police makes me wonder if police now think like infantry soldiers.  Instead of a foreign enemy police see threats and react with force.  Sometimes, they cannot even say why they fired their weapons.

I understand that police often face life-threatening situations and must make spit-second decisions.  But so many of the shootings don't come close to that level of threat and might not have required lethal force.  Yes, I am second-guessing the police.  I do so because they are acting in my name and I expect them to be as well-versed in de-escalation as in the use of firearms. Fewer people are likely to end up dead.

The infantry soldier's mission is to kill.  The police officer's mission is to save lives.  The police should know the difference and be prepared to use judgment and skill before resorting to force.


This doesn't begin to address racism in policing practices.  For that I recommend the Bad Tux tutorial for police officers.

Also, I don't shoot at anything that moves these days but I am always on the look out.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Dance of the Cosmos

From a December 19, 1999 journal entry written in Window Rock, Arizona:

The night sky is at once dark and bright.  The dark is the infinite black of deep space which the many stars do little to lessen.  The brightness is the near full moon of this December night.  It is a waxing, gibbous moon three days from fullness on the Winter Solstice, the last solstice of the 20th Century and also of the Second Millenium.  But cycle of the sun is independent of any human calendar.  The celestial dance of the solar system has proceded for eons and will continue untill the sun burns out, as all stars must.  The tiny fragment of time we call ours is a speck in the cosmos.

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Dance of the Cosmos

From a December 19, 1999 journal entry written in Window Rock, Arizona:

The night sky is at once dark and bright.  The dark is the infinite black of deep space which the many stars do little to lessen.  The brightness is the near full moon of this December nignt.  It is a waxing, gibbous moon three days from fullness on the Winter Solstice, the last solstice of the 20th Century and also of the Second Millenium.  But cycle of the sun is independent of any human calendar.  The celestial dance of the solar system has proceded for eons and will continue untill the sun burns out, as all stars must.  The tiny fragment of time we call ours is a speck in the cosmos.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

North Cascades Post Labor Day

[My apologies for the variable type size and spacing.  I wrote the text on word processing and copied it to Blogger which added so much HTML coding that I cannot figure out how to get it right.  I gave up after a couple of frustrating hours. I won't do copy and paste again but for now you're stuck with this.  I hope it doesn't distract too much from the story.] 

Nine years after moving to Washington I finally made it up to the North Cascades National Park. I walked through them in 2007 when I accompanied my Appalachian Trail thru-hike partners on the last couple hundred miles of their Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike and have wanted to return ever since. In years past, whenever I thought about heading up I learned that most National Forest and Park Service campgrounds closed almost immediately after Labor Day, my preferred time to for the trip. This year, however, the national park campgrounds were open through September 20. That was incentive enough to brave Seattle traffic on a sunny Wednesday.

The drive up isn't bad—just the usual I-5 traffic. Seattle is busy but the express lanes are open heading north so Maggie and I shoot through the city handily. We leave the freeway at Arlington and follow WA 530 along the Stilaguamish River through Oso and Darrington before intersecting WA 20, the North Cascades Highway, at Rockport. The day is perfect for a countryside drive as we work our way into the mountains. The sky is blue, the air is crisp, a few trees are showing a bit of color, leaves blow across the road. It's not fall yet but the season is definitely starting to turn. 

The highway follows the Skagit River into the park. We pull into the Newhalem campground and find many campsites sites open for Wednesday and Thursday nights but reserved for Friday night. We need all three nights. We find the one space that works for us and lay claim to it. We also discover that a second loop is open (according to the park website only one loop was open after Labor Day). Others are already camped there and most vacant sites have a card stating that they are open for for through Friday. We quickly spot a nice secluded site. Maggie brings the truck around and we set up camp. We learn later from a ranger that the decision to open the second loop was made only the day before.

Our site is well-removed from either neighbor with enough vegetation to block our view of them. We can see traffic on the road to the visitor center and entering the campground but none of it amounts to any intrusion. What is an intrusion is the horde of small biting insects, so small we did not notice them. We expected mosquitoes and were ready to slather on bug juice at their first sign. By the time we figure out that we were being bitten, the little buggers had exacted a toll. Even covered up and juiced up, we still get bites on our exposed hands. That aside, we enjoy a long sunset and twilight. Maggie and I walk around the campground road, checking out other campers' rigs (everything from tents and utility trailers to very high-end motor homes). We meet a few other campers and their dogs. A big near-full moon rising in the east is barely visible through the forest canopy.

Thursday morning is slow. I am up at first light watching the light push away the dark. Light comes slowly here. Our campsite is hemmed in by three steep ridges--one south and west, another to the north and east, the other east and south—so sun doesn't crest the ridge until well after sunrise. Even then we still have the shade of the thick foliage above. I can hear the quiet rush of the Skagit River not far away. I can also see and hear traffic on the road. It's not especially heavy but it is certainly noticeable given that much of it is larger trucks and utility vehicles. We make breakfast, clean up and visit with neighboring campers before hiking up to the visitor center under a warming sun. 

The trail from the campground to the visitor center climbs up a low ridge that rises from the Skagit flood plain. Most of the flood plain is overgrown with forest. It doesn't look like water has flowed this high for many a year, no doubt because of the three upstream dams that power Seattle City Light's hydroelectric generating facilities on the river. On this day the forest is lush and quiet. The climb is steady but not steep and brings us to the backside of the visitor center and its patio. Inside are displays of local geology, ecosystems, life forms and cultural influences. Lots of info on trails along the North Cascades Highway, too. We putter around taking it all in before heading back down the trail.

Just before reaching the campground we turn on to the River Loop Trail, a two mile trail along the flood plain. The forest is fairly open and sunny at first. Many trees show evidence of an earlier fire. Closer to the river, the foliage is thicker and the trail much shadier. Shafts of late afternoon sunlight punch though the canopy, dramatically contrasting with the deep green of the forest. Large, old growth western cedar and hemlock trees are still standing, their massive trunks a reminder of nature's awesome immensity. Back in camp we make dinner and clean up just before dark. Not long after we are in the truck. 


 On this night we learn just how badly we've been bitten. We both have scores of bites on our lower legs and ankles, on our forearms and hands and occasional bites elsewhere. I don't recall itching much last night but I've noticed it all day. As long as we were doing things and moving about I could ignore them somewhat. Now lying still, trying to sleep, the itching is noticeably obvious and leaves me scratching like a dog with fleas. Benadryl, cortisone cream and a topical gel offer some minimal relief but the night is a long one. At one point in between scratching, Maggie returns from the restroom to inform me that the moon is up and visible from the campground loop road. I pull myself out of the truck for the view. The moon is one day shy of new and well up in the sky. Some light clouds have moved in creating a halo around the moon giving it a subdued look although it still puts out plenty of light. 

Friday morning begins cool and clear. A bit of magic happens early. During an exchange of pleasantries about this wonderful place , another camper tells me he is heading home and asks if I want some firewood. I say yes and he says he'll drop the wood at our site on his way out.  Sweet. 

After breakfast Maggie and I drive up to the visitor center so I can imprint my journal with the park's passport stamps.  Maggie takes the opportunity to wash up using the hot water in the restroom.  Once done we head east on the North Cascades Highway.  We quickly pass through New Halem just up the road from the campground.  It's a company town built by Seattle City Light for workers at its dams and power stations upstream.  That explains all of the truck traffic I witnessed from our campsite, not to mention the power lines we followed upriver on our way here.   Still following the power lines upriver we pass the Gorge Dam, Gorge Lake, Diablo Dam and Diablo Lake.  The route snakes up a side canyon arm of Diablo Lake offering a nice view of Pryamid Mountain before returning to the Skagit River and  Ross Dam and Lake.  From here the highway follows Ruby Creek and Granite Creek to Rainy Pass.  The power lines and pylons ended at Ross Dam.  From here on it's just road and mountains.

Strictly speaking, Maggie and I ar not actually in the North Cascades National Park.  Our campsite and the highway we follow are located in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area. The national park is divided into north and south units flanking the recreation area.  Unlike the recreation area, the park units are roadless. Farther east, Rainy Pass, our destination for the day, is located in the Okanogan National Forest. The landscape pays little attention to these administrative boundaries. Everything wihin view is stunningly grand.


Coming up Ruby Creek we catch a view of Jack Mountain (9,066 ft) and Crater Mountain (8,128 ft). The former is a sharp ridge of silver-gray granite. The latter is lighter and more earth-toned in color and resembles its eponym.. The North Cascade Highway is an impressive piece of work. The long drill holes along some of the cuts attest to the challenge of constructing and maintaining a highway through this rugged terrain. The climb from Ross Lake to Rainy Pass seems deceivingly gentle (which is easy for me to say since Maggie is driving).

The Pacific Crest Trail crosses Route 20 at Rainy Pass. We pull into the parking area on the north side of the highway and find trail magic. A man who's been supporting his wife's PCT thru-hike is serving food and drinks to four young thru-hikers—two men, a woman and dog from Switzerland and a Czech woman—taking advantage of the hospitality. They are within a few days of finishing their hike and are excited to be nearing the end of their journey and a bit unsure what life will be like after the trail. I recall having those same thoughts and emotions during my last few days on the Appalachian Trail in 2002. I hadn't walked from Mexico when I crossed Rainy Pass in 2007 but I do remember looking forward to the end of the hike. After a while Maggie and I walk south a short distance on the PCT and also north. Nothing looks especially familiar. What I recall most are the toilets at the parking lot.



By the time we leave at least two more groups of hikers have stopped by for the trail magic. It's around five o'clock when we begin heading west back to the campground. The sky has become increasingly cloudy during the afternoon—a premonition of rain forecast for tonight and tomorrow. The drive back is as spectacular as our drive out, perhaps more so due to the low angle light that highlights the high ridges and peaks. Patches of early fall color—reds and yellows—stand out in the gathering dusk. Even the power lines and pylons glow with reflected light. Sky is getting cloudy as we make our way back down the highway.


In camp we find the promised load of firewood. We make a quick dinner and batten everything down in preparation for the expected rain. A few drops have already fallen but not enough to keep Maggie from building a fire with our unexpected trove of wood. The smoke seems to keep the biting insects away and we listen to owls calling from one to another. We can tell that one of them is moving closer to us but are startled when it hoots from just above us. The owls finally “meet” and carry on quite a conversation making sounds (cackles and caws) that I would have never expected to hear from an owl.  They come to some sort of terms and are heard from no more.

Rain begins falling after about an hour or so and we bail into the truck. The sound of rain falling on the camper shell is always a pleasant one (as long as I don't have to go out into the rain) and is a soothing accompaniment to my attempts to sleep. The itching is still pretty bothersome but tonight I took an entire benadryl, not just a half, and sleep better than last night.

By morning the rain is steady. We're heading home so we don't care too much and pack up most of our gear before exiting the camper shell. The rest is quickly moved from front seat to the back the camper and we pull our of the campground without bothering to fix breakfast. Highway 20 is misty and wet. Looking much more like fall with all of the rainWe find a restaurant in Marblemount for breakfast. By the time we finish eating, the rain has let up somewhat and is pretty much tapered off by the time we reach Sedro-Woolley. After short stop at the Park Service-National Forest visitor center there, we turn south on Route 9—we aren't ready for I-5 just yet—to McMurray. Back on the freeway we encounter traffic slowdowns in Everett and again in Seattle.  Neither are particularly bad and we make it home by dinner time.

The hot shower feels oh so good. The itching will soon dissipate and I will be left with memories of a fine time in the woods and even more desire to return.

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Friday, September 09, 2016

Secret Plans, a Con Artitist and a War Criminal

Never trust a a candidate with a secret plan. Donald Trump says he has a plan to destroy ISIS but won't tell anything about it lest he tip off the enemy. Last time a candidate claimed to have a secret plan to end the war it ended with Richard Nixon killing another 25,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians. If Americans had known that Nixon's secret plan was to escalate the violence even more I'm sure that would have changed enough votes to make Hubert Humphrey president.

As in the current election, America in 1968 was faced with two flawed candidates. Both were experienced in government but Richard Nixon had a reputation for dishonesty and cold war militarism while Hubert Humphrey had spent the previous four years defending Lyndon Johnson's escalation in Vietnam. The war pretty much destroyed Humphrey's reputation as a progressive liberal. Fortunately I was too young to vote that year. I was almost 21, in my third year of college and keenly aware of the war as a draft-age male. In the end, I thought Nixon's secret plan had more credibility than Humphrey's late embrace of some anti-war policies. Nothing else seemed to matter as much. In the end a very divided nation chose Nixon.

Okay, I thought. He says he has a plan. He's known to be intelligent and experienced in foreign affairs, I'll give him a chance (or the benefit of the doubt, as Hillary Clinton would say). I figured a couple of years to wind things down would be reasonable. Aside from ending the carnage in Southeast Asia, that timetablewould eliminate the chance that I might have to go to Vietnam. By the time my student deferments ran out, the war should be over.

Except that the war did not end. Two years after Richard Nixon's inauguration, I was humping the boonies on combat patrol in the mountains of Long Khanh Province in South Vietnam.

So, yeah, color me skeptical about secret plans.

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Friday, September 02, 2016

Voter Fraud My Ass!

Growing up I remember public service announcements on television urging viewers to register and vote. The one I remember most vividly declaimed “Vote and the choice is yours. Don't vote and the choice is theirs.” A strong bold statement, to be sure but one that even before I became aware of the systematic racism of the segregated South, sounded ominously divisive. As I grew older and became aware of who “they” were I came to appreciate the protections afforded to fellow Americans who had been systematically denied the right to vote by a web of Jim Crow laws.

That's why the wave of “anti-fraud” legislation enacted by Republican states pisses me off. Not only has anyone demonstrated voting fraud that even remotely approaches a level that would warrant restricting the exercise of a fundamental right, but legislators specifically crafted provisions to target minority and working-class voters.

The most egregious example is North Carolina where the legislature took advantage of the Supreme Court's decision to gut the most effective provision of the Voting Rights Act. HB 589 enacted a raft of changes that significantly increased the barriers to African-American and other minority voting. We know that legislators specifically targeted minority voters because lawsuits against the changes have disclosed legislative requests for information about minority voting patterns before they eliminated practices that encouraged minority voting and established identification requirements that reduced minority voting. Given the absence of any real voter fraud anywhere in the US, I can't imagine that other states' motivations for enacting ant-fraud legislation are any less suspect.

Much of the restrictive voting legislation is promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which describes itself as “America's largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.” I would call them and agenda-driven clearing house that produces templates for business-friendly legislation. I first heard of ALEC when I worked for the Arizona State Legislature in the 80's. Several of the more conservative legislators joined the newly-formed ALEC because they thought the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) formed in 1975 was too liberal. Given the legislation that has come out of Arizona in the past few decades I can understand why they thought so.

So in the end, anti-voting fraud legislation is an unwarranted restriction of a fundamental right fostered in the interest of a wealthy business class by a well-funded front group.

Ya gotta admire their success.

Fortunately, America still has a somewhat independent judiciary.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

The Return

The final leg of my trip east begins in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, my mother's hometown. Unlike my mother and five other siblings, my Aunt Peg never never left Johnstown. Even so, she was the linchpin of the family. She died in 2008 but I still have cousins Gretchen James and Michael Seifert there whom I had not seen in years. My visit was also an opportunity to prepare for the trip west. On the way to Johnstown from Virginia I stopped for an afternoon at Antietam National Battlefield and a full day in Cumberland, Maryland with Pamela McCormick, a friend from my days on the Rez.

Thursday June 16 is overcast, wet and occasionally foggy as I snake my way northwest out of Johnstown early and into the hills of western Pennsylvania. I make a long detour around a massive, stand-still traffic jam on the PA turnpike and finally cross into Ohio on toll roads I-76 and I-80. Weather is on-and-off rainy much of the day. Once through Cleveland my route follows US 2 along the Lake Erie coast from Lorain to Maumee Bay State Park.

The park is very high end. In addition to the usual camping, hiking and other outdoor activities on the Lake Erie shore, park facilities include a resort lodge and golf course. The camping pads are all paved. I find a site with good vegetation between other sites and mine and settle in for a relaxed evening after a long day's drive.

Next morning I check out a few of the park's features before setting out through Toledo and into southeast Michigan following US 223 through the countryside. Breakfast is in Blissfield before passing through Cement City about 10 miles south of Jackson where I pick up I-94 to turn west. Day is sunny and hot. Turning north at Kalamazoo I finally get away from freeway traffic in Ostego where I follow Michigan Routes 89 and 40 and US 31 to Muskegon. It's a Friday afternoon and plenty of traffic is on the road, large sections of which are under construction. Traffic in Muskegon is heavy and it seems like forever getting to my friends' place.

My friends, Jill Farkas and Scott Majetich, are also acquaintances from my Rez days. They both taught in Window Rock schools. Jill was also a photographer and one of the regulars with me in the Thursday night open darkroom at UNM Gallup. They are retired and living in Jill's hometown. My time with them is a whirlwind. Friday evening starts with dinner followed by a small neighborhood gathering and an event at Hackley Park downtown where two family members are performing in a local band and end at a bar where one of those family members is playing a set with another musician. Saturday is equally busy—farmers' market, kayaking on Lake Muskegon, dinner, lighthouse tour and back to the late night bar. 


Sunset in Muskegon

Sunday morning I headi north on US 31. North of Manistee I cut over to Michigan 22 following Michigan's west coast and stopping at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore for a short visit. Turning east from Sleeping Bear, I head to Traverse City and continue on to Petoskey State Park on Little Traverse Bay. I'm very tired by the time I pull in.

Monday morning dawns windy with the threat of thunder storms. I manage a quick breakfast in camp and am ready to roll when the first storm hits. Continuing north, I soon reach the suspension bridge over Mackinac Straights. With a carrier on top of the camper shell, my truck is a high profile vehicle so I am required to cross in a convoy behind a pilot vehicle with the tractor-trailers and RV's. The wind is blowing hard. Any harder and the white caps would be breaking over rather than against the causeway. Gulls can hover in one place by simply riding the current.

On the Upper Peninsula now, I follow US 2 along the northern shore of Lake Michigan. After a late breakfast in Naubinway I turn north on Michigan 77 at Blarney Park heading to Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore on Lake Superior at Grand Marais. The visitor center there is not open (as in for the season, it appears) so I follow County Road H 58 through the park to the Upper Hurricane River Campground which is largely empty at mid-day. I claim a space and head down to the lake shore where the lower campground looks pretty full.

At the shore, I hike out to the Au Sable Lighthouse along what is essentially a closed road. Interpretive signs provide information about shipwrecks and lures me down to the shore where I am supposed to find the skeleton of one wreak. I don't find the skeleton. I'm too busy making sure not to fall The route at shoreline is rocky and I wish I was wearing stiffer footwear. The rocks end soon enough and I find a route up the sandy bluff to the lighthouse. After walking around the site and reading the exhibits, I head back along the road.


Au Sable Lighthouse

The day has been especially windy and even though my campsite is well up from the shore I can hear the roar of the surf. Weather here is decidedly cooler than farther south. Muskegon was hot. Tonight on the Summer Solstice I am dressed for warmth.

Tuesday morning I continue along H 58 through the park, much of which I recall as forest with the occasional lakeshore access. I make a few stops along the way but reach my planned stop by noon even after spending time in Munising to take care of some chores. I decide to push on following Route 28 through Marquette and a countryside dotted with lakes and rivers. The day ends at Curry Park Municipal Campground in Ironwood, Michigan. The feel of trip is changing--I decided against a second night on Lake Superior because it was 10 miles out of my way. I'm beginning to feel like I need to start making miles toward home rather than wandering so I end up camping in the middle of town. Hardly pristine but shaded and reasonably quiet despite traffic on US 2.

Breakfast the next morning is in a nearby restaurant, one of the benefits of camping in town. Two miles out of Ironwood on US 2 I cross into Wisconsin and zip across the northern part of the state to Duluth, Minnesota. Leaving Duluth I mistakenly follow US 2 north instead of taking a somewhat more southerly route west across Minnesota. I discover my error in time to follow Minnesota Routes 200 and 34 through a less populated area. I cross the Mississippi River at Jacobson. The river is substantial even this far north but not as wide as it will become. I pass Leech Lake which is also home to the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. Late Dinner in Park Rapids is surprisingly inventive and good. The day ends at Buffalo River State Park which includes and adjoins “one of the finest and largest prairie tracts in Minnesota.” The park is very pleasant and relaxing. 


Mississippi River at Jacobson, Minnesota

The next day begins my long miles of interstate driving. I pick up I-94 in Fargo, North Dakota shortly after leaving Buffalo River. The Fargo-Moorehead Visitors Center has the wood chipper from “Fargo” on display. The day is hot. North Dakota from the interstate is pleasantly pretty and definitely not flat. The topography is rolling and looks soft to me. Occasionally, I can see what seems like forever—green, verdant undulating fields stretching out before me. Above, a great blue sky encompasses this infinity. Climbing out of the Missouri River basin west of Bismark the terrain becomes more rugged, but even here subdued. No rocky outcroppings. No sharp peaks.

The day ends at an extended stay motel in Dickinson, North Dakota. The motel is housing for workers in the North Dakota oil boom. It has a full refrigerator, stove top, and a full size sink. I'm not in for an extended stay but this is all convenient for freezing water bottles for my cooler and washing dishes after a week on the road.

Friday morning I discover that I left my gas cap on the pump when I filled up in Jamestown yesterday. I find an auto parts store nearby for a replacement, grab a breakfast burrito at Taco Bell and blast off for Theodore Roosevelt National Park about 30 miles away. My plan is to arrive as last night's campers are pulling out. It's a Friday in June at a national park so the campground will fill fast in the afternoon.

The drive to the park goes quickly and I am in the campground by 11:00. It's about half-full. I select a site that appears to have the best shade on this very hot day and sign up for two nights. After a quick lunch, I head out to explore the 36 mile scenic loop drive. I'm slathered in sunscreen, have lots of ice water in the cooler. The park is part of the North Dakota Badlands/Little Missouri National Grassland. The park is cut by the Little Missouri River and peaks rise about 1,000 to 1,500 feet above its wide floodplain. Eroded sandstone cliffs underlain by harder rock create, isolated peaks and hoodoos. Between the heights are extensive areas of open range, the sparse vegetation standing out in green contrast against the gray-brown earth. Tributary streams create their own open ranges. I am surprised to see water flowing in any of the tributaries in this heat.

By the time I complete the scenic loop I am totally wiped out by the heat so I bail into the visitor center to watch the orientation video in a cool, dark theater. My campsite has a little but not much shade when I return. I cook dinner in the heat, hunkering in a sliver of shade afforded by a tree trunk. The heat breaks as the sun heads toward the horizon around 8:00 pm. After dark, I watch lightning flashes light up the southern sky.

Saturday morning is cool and pleasant. I lounge in the shade until the sun climbs higher before heading out to the park's north unit 85 miles away via I-94 and US 85. The wind is blowing fiercely hard from the west and keeping the truck steady in the cross wind is difficult. The day is much cooler than yesterday. The topography is much the same as what I saw yesterday except the elevations are higher and includes much grassland. A bit of rain falls but not for long. Back in camp the dinner challenge is keeping things from blowing away. After dark I spot Jupiter and Mars in the night sky. I also see bats circulating in the evening sky. They look fairly large, with maybe a 12 inch wingspan. 


Little Missouri River in Theodore Roosevelt NP

Next morning I soon cross into Montana. After breakfast at the Paradise Café in Wibaux I begin the 700 plus mile drive across the Big Sky State. The day is hot and traffic is heavy on this summer Sunday, especially after I-94 merges into I-90 at Billings. The landscape gradually morphs from badlands to rolling terrain where the freeway follows the Yellowstone River. I pull off at Big Timber, Montana and turn south on Route 298 looking for a national forest campground. It's farther than I expected but I finally find the Falls Creek campground about 30 miles south. It's a fairly primitive site in a steep canyon and charges no fee. The sites are walk-in so I am camping in the parking area to sleep in the truck. Even in the truck I can hear the music of water falling over rocks as I fall asleep. Sometime during the night I look out the window to see the most brilliant dark sky of the trip, a seemingly infinite array of stars splayed out against a black dome..

On the final Monday of the trip I roll into Big Timber for breakfast and begin another long driving day. I finally leave the Yellowstone River at Livingston and push on through Bozeman and Butte. After Butte, I get off the freeway to follow Montana Route 1 to through Anaconda to Drummond. Back on the freeway I am now following the Clark Fork River which parallels the road all the way to Superior where I will stop for the night. It's a damn big river that I've never heard of. I make a quick stop at the Nine Mile Remount Depot, a working Forest Service ranch in Hudson, Montana. Back on the freeway I find dinner in Superior before heading south to the Trout Creek national forest campground. The campground is in a poor state of repair but it's everything I need at the end of a hot day.

The night is surprisingly cold after the day's head. I started out sleeping in my light summer bag but switched to my down bag sometime during the night. Morning is the coldest I felt since the first days of trip in Yellowstone National Park in late April. I pack and roll out quickly for breakfast in Superior. The day's drive is a short one to my cousin Kathy Bonner-Walsh's place in Nine Mile Falls northwest of Spokane. I am almost home now.

I take a zero day at Kathy's and take time to catch up with family news with her and husband Mike. Their place fronts on Long Lake and I get out on Kathy's kayak both evenings to enjoy the quiet and watch ospreys soaring overhead and occasionally diving for food. The stopover also gives me a chance to wash the truck and remove the vast collection of splattered insects that I've accumulated since April.

On Thursday June 30, I roll out of Nine Mile Falls through Spokane and on to I-90. This is a familiar drive. I've done it numerous times but it feels different on this day. I have something like 8,000 plus miles behind me. I've seen many friends and familiar places while also seeing and experiencing new places. All of those friends and places come to mind as I make my way across a very hot eastern Washington. Crossing the Cascades at Snoqualmie Pass brings me into very familiar territory. I-5 traffic is heavy but not yet at rush hour congestion so I make good time.

Exiting the freeway on to Pacific Avenue in Olympia, everything looks the same but somehow feels different after two months. I pull into the parking space at my apartment and by the time I get out of the truck Maggie is waiting at the bottom of the stairs.

I am home.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

It's Over?

Today's Washington Post pretty much calls the election for Clinton.  The lead story describes continuing divisiveness within the Repbulican Party and Trump's campaign.  This is followed by Senator Susan Collins refusting to endorse Trump and a serious discussion of Trump's non-existent get out the vote operation.  Finally, Stuart Rothenberg makes a convincing argument based that Trump is unlikely to halt his downward spiral.

All of which is music to my ears.  I can only hope that all this will prove true.  I know that Donald Trump has survived as a candidate against all expectations but I think that most Americans are begining to tire of his bluster, lies and ignorance.  Of the only two people who have a chance of serving as president beginning January 20, 2017 I prefer Hillary Clinton.  Seeing a blowhard bully like Donald Trump crash and burn in November would be a bonus. 

This all reminds me of the Goldwater-McGovern treatment.  Both candidates were regarded as hapless losers from the moment of their nomination.  Barry Goldwater was widely described as a dangerous (the infamous daisy ad) and was reported to be psychologically unfit to be president.  McGovern was derided as the candidate of "acid, amnesty and abortion".  He was ridiculed for dumping his VP candidate after backing him "1000 percent".  Both McGovern and Goldwater were written off by the press early on.  Neither succeeded in turning things around.

I hesitate to compareDonald Trump to either George McGovern or Barry Goldwater.  The latter both demonstrated a demonstrated a serious commitment to public service and were decent human beings.  Donald Trump shares none of these traits.  But one comparison is appropriate:  both McGovern and Goldwater lost their elections.  I look forward to Trump joining them in the loser column.

A follow up question for extra credit. 
If Trump is Goldwater/McGovern, is Hillary Clinton Lyndon Johnson (remember how that worked out) or Richard Nixon (even worse)?