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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The LABYRINTH: Another damn hike

People look at my pictures and comment, “You must like to hike!”
I usually hesitate to answer. I smile stupidly.
I mean, I think I like to hike…but it sure seems like a slow way to get someplace.

At least half of you reading, scattered along a particular bell shaped curve, won’t get this, but there comes a time when you realize you’ve passed your physical peak, and that you will never be as strong or fast or resilient as you used to be.

Lately, when I find myself on a trail, I feel like…maybe up ahead… there is a younger faster version of me making good time. I’m trying hard to catch up, but I can’t. I just keep falling further and further behind. Frequently I stop and wipe the sweat from my forehead and pretend to take photographs while I catch my breath. Maybe one of the less obvious definitions of residual vanity is, “One who consciously regulates breathing while encountering oncoming hikers so as not to appear winded.”

But no matter how far behind I get – no matter how pitiful the labor - I can’t stop.
Because…what then?

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I’ve been relying fairly heavily on the Portland Hikers Field Guide for some much needed direction, but this time, I found a useful article by the Oregonian’s Terry Richard.

It has concise clear directions for a loop that swings through an area referred to as the Labyrinth. Though the hike does wind through some basalt outcroppings, it isn’t exactly an unsolvable maze.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009


Driving east of Pasco

A cold wind blows – buffets the car like a boxer - seemingly inhospitable

Migrating bushes recklessly play chicken with cars – end up as grill decorations - gather together at barbed wire fences - share tales of their exploits

The land ripples and undulates as if it were water

Postulate God.
Does God watch the continents flow like we watch streams in the sand?

Second-hand topsoil – courtesy of Montana? Silt and dust blown across half a continent and some significant portion of an epoch

Palouse Falls State Park - Washington

Mindlessly following gravity’s imperative, water probes faults and chips away at basalt barriers. On one hand friendly and supportive of life, water is three faced and fickle and remains god’s tool of choice for wiping the earth clean of humanity – though fire is certainly in the running.

Magnificent floods spawned by an ice-age lake helped scour out this canyon to reveal early flows of lava – rivers of once molten rock that stretch all the way to the ocean.

Uncle Jon – Geologist - somewhere in West Texas

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What could I see with a geologist’s eyes?

The telltale signs of a fortune in oil?

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...a landscape from the Cretaceous?

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...a resting place for creatures from the Oligocence?

We walk on top of many lost worlds, where life multiplied and thrived and was wiped away…


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Any Garden of Eden must be a temporary illusion – a window in time – a delicate balance of environmental factors that may cradle life, but could never support the excesses of a species.

Clone Tree Farm on the way back to Portland

Giants steal power from the river…

…and carry it away beyond the horizon.

We reach to catch the invisible currents flowing in the sky.

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Racing westward on the freeway, the car hums.

“This has all happened before…and it will happen again.”

-Cylon hybrid-

These leaves that unfurl to greet the spring…

…are only just beginning to realize…

…they’ve been screwed by a beaver.

Speaking of geologists....this is my uncle Jon's book. I was privileged to accompany Jon on a fossil survey of sorts in West Texas back in 2004. I wrote a review of the book once, but I don't think Jon liked it very much. But the book is good and my review was heartfelt and so I'm reprinting it here.

Adventures in the Bone Trade:
The Race to Discover our Ancestors in Ethiopia's Afar Depression.

Adventures in the Bone Trade does the same thing for science that a stint on a church council does for one’s appreciation of organized religion. Namely, it reveals how our greatest accomplishments all rest on an unlikely scaffolding of both our best and our worst character traits.

This book is a curious mixture of Mr. Kalb’s expertise in geology/paleontology, and his amazing experiences in Ethiopia. But most striking of all is his self-deprecating honesty. He tells his stories by laying out events as matter-of-factly as he can, and then lets the reader make the judgment calls. If one must vicariously experience the drama that occurred in the Afar depression – become a vicarious-experience-parasite in other words - one could do a lot worse than use Mr. Kalb as a host.

The best thing about this ‘science’ book is getting a first-hand glimpse of scientists and what it is they do in-between those periodic headlines in the daily newspaper. It is one thing to read a scientific textbook filled with facts and theories. It is another thing entirely to watch scientists drink out of a baboon’s toilet.

Ideally, somewhere, paleontologists all work together as brothers and sisters, speaking the international scientific language and cooperatively advancing truth and knowledge…but not on this planet. Adventures in the Bone Trade reveals some of the dirty tricks that can be used to secure both grant money and prime fossil-rich real estate. Sadly, Mr. Kalb seems none to proficient at underhanded dealing (although one probably wouldn’t want to lend him one’s mosquito netting) and ultimately, his dreams must suffer for it.
The next time some kook walks up to you and says something like, “I successfully initiated cold fusion in this glass of water, but the keepers of the established scientific paradigm are engaged in a vast conspiracy to cover up my discovery.” Tell him to piss off. Because after reading Adventures in the Bone Trade, you’ll realize that the greatest prize in science is finding something new.

I'd put a link to Jon's Website here, if he had one. The book is still available at Amazon.

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