Steampunk, a Towering Octopus, and a Giant Rhino… The Mutant Vehicles of Burning Man

Burning Man's El Pulpo Mechanico.

The sometimes scary El Pulpo Mechanico in black and white.

Peggy and I were out wandering around Black Rock City when we came across the steampunk mutant vehicles that I am going to feature today: El Pulpo Mechanico and the Beamer Steamer. A flaming duck was also present. The folks that created these vehicles came from Northern California and Southern Oregon— our territory, and at least two of the vehicles had connections with the human-powered Kinetic Sculpture Race that runs between Ferndale, Eureka and Arcata over the Memorial Day Weekend.

El Pulpo Mechanico sprang from the creative mind of Duane Flatmo. His parts were scrounged from the Arcata Scrap and Salvage Yard in Northern California. Jerry Kunkel designed his electronic and flame system. His crawdad attachment was once part of one of the Kinetic Sculpture race vehicles.

El Pulpo always draws a crowd at Burning Man, especially when he is flaming. He can go through 200 gallons of propane in one night.

El Pulpo always draws a crowd at Burning Man, especially when he is flaming. He can go through 200 gallons of propane in one night.

El Pulpo at Black Rock City.

This shot of El Pulpo by our friend Don Green also shows his crawdad front.

Heres a shot of his crawdad front during the day. This creature was once part of a kinetic sculpture that participated in the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Eureka.

Here’s a shot of his crawdad front during the day. This creature was once part of a kinetic sculpture that participated in the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Eureka. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Looking up at El Pulpo provides a view of his barrel tentacles.

Looking up at El Pulpo provides a view of his barrel tentacles.

El Pulpo Mechanico fish at Burning Man.

This primitive fish is also a part of El Pulpo’s decorations.

As is this sea horse!

As is this sea-horse! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

El Pulpo's head.

El Pulpo’s head.

El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man.

A final view.

Bob and Karen Thomson of Southern Oregon had been participating in the Kinetic Sculpture Race for several years when they decided they wanted a vehicle that they didn’t have to power with their own effort and sweat. They created the Beamer Steamer to go to Burning Man.

The Beamer Steamer at Burning Man.

The Beamer Steamer mutant vehicle by Bob and Karen Thomson.

I am not sure of the history of the flaming duck but it can light up the sky at night.

The flaming duck during the day at Burning Man.

The flaming duck during the day at Burning Man. Check out its head.

The flaming duck at Burning Man.

The flaming duck out on the playa at night waiting for the man to burn.

You have to travel south on Highway 101 from Eureka to come to the home of my fourth mutant vehicle today. The Rhino Redemption was created by Kevin Clark and the artistic group that works out of the Reared in Steel building in Petaluma. Kevin was also responsible for the creation of the Medusa Sculpture at Burning Man that I have featured in the past.

This wonderful rhino mutant vehicle has become one of my favorites at Burning Man. I was once charged by one of his counterparts in East Africa and have had a special appreciation for rhinos ever since.

This wonderful rhino mutant vehicle has become one of my favorites at Burning Man. I was once charged by one of his counterparts in East Africa and have had a special appreciation for rhinos ever since.

Rhino Redemption at Burning Man.

A side view of Rhino Redemption. He can accommodate up to 20 people.

Rhino Redemption at Burning Man.

Rhino charging? It’s kind of how I remember it. (grin)

Rhino Redemption in camp at Burning Man.

A final view… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT BLOGS:

I’ve decided to take a semi-break for my birthday next week when I will be in Las Vegas. I’ll see you back here on March 6. Well, I may put up a blog or two if things are slow, but I wouldn’t bet on it. (grin)

–Curt

16 Miles without Water: a Rattlesnake, a Lost Trekker, and a Rebellion… The First Sierra Trek

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." –John Muir

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” –John Muir

 

As the physician who had threatened to tell the media I was running a ‘pot smoking orgy’ in the mountains packed up to leave, my thoughts turned to the challenges of our second day’s route. We were facing a hike where the first water and possible campsite were 16 miles down the trail. Considering how much fun I had getting our Trekkers through seven miles on day one, I was not excited about day two. We had one access point approximately half way where a road crossed our trail. Steve and I planned to have the jeep there to resupply the Trekkers with water for the second part of their journey.

Today’s photos are focused on the mountains of the High Sierra. These towering peaks of granite are topped off by Mt. Whitney at 14,505 feet (4421.0 m). John Muir loved the Sierras and returned to them again and again. “The mountains are calling and I must go,” he declared. It is a passion I share. In honor of Muir’s love for mountains and wilderness, I am using a different quote of his for each photo. These quotes were gathered by the Sierra Club.

 

I did a 360 mile trip down the Sierras to celebrate my 60th birthday. Mt. Whitney is in the Background.

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” –John Muir (Here I am, keeping “close to Nature’s heart.” Mt. Whitney is in the background.)

 

When the Trekkers were packed and ready to go, I called them together for a final briefing. I reminded them of how difficult the day would be and then gave them very specific instructions:

“If the jeep isn’t there when you arrive at the road, wait for it.” It would not be the last time in Trek history my directions would go unheeded.

As per plan, I sent Steve on ahead as trail leader while Charlie and I provided rear guard support. In retrospect, I should have recalled that this was the section of the trail that the hawk had ‘chased’ Steve for miles, apparently all 16. Far from being a gentle ridge walk, we were climbing in and out of small canyons over hot, dusty trails. By the time we had covered five miles I was beginning to worry and by six, I knew had to come up with an alternative. Otherwise many of our folks would be making a dry camp out on the trail.

I had quickly discovered that the walkie-talkies from Bob-of-No-Name didn’t work because of all the canyons. My only solution was to hustle up to the front of the line and catch the Trekkers before they left the jeep. I dubbed Charlie as primary rear guard and took off moving as fast as my short legs would go, passing the majority of our group along the way. When I arrived at the jeep, Steve was there with 15 people. “Damn,” I thought, “some of the Trekkers have already gone on.” Maybe I could catch them.

“Hey Steve,” I jumped in as he greeted me, “it’s time for Plan B.”

“Which is…” he asked grinning?

“We need to send the Trekkers by road into Robinson Flat with jeep back up. It’s only about 5 miles by road versus 10 by trail plus the jeep can provide water along the way and shuttle people if necessary. But first, how long ago was it when the rest of the Trekkers left the jeep?”

“I don’t know,” Steve confessed. He’d had a group of Trekkers walking on his tail and let them pass (thus breaking one of our cardinal rules). Even worse, Steve Locke didn’t know either. Apparently 15 of the Trekkers had arrived before the jeep and chosen to go on. Another five had actually waited, loaded up with water and then taken off, approximately 30 minutes before I arrived.

“Great,” I responded. Thanks to Steve letting people go ahead, we now had 20 people out on the trail in front of us without a leader— and 15 with limited water.

"In God's wildness lies the hope of the world - the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware." –John Muir 

“In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world – the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware.” –John Muir (Here you are looking from the top of Mt. Whitney east toward Lone Pine and the Owens Valley. The road winds through the Alabama Hills where many Westerns have been filmed.)

This photo looks north from Mt. Whitney into the heart of the High Sierras.

“This grand show is eternal.”  –John Muir  (This photo looks north from Mt. Whitney into the heart of the High Sierras with mountains as far as you can see.)

Day two, which had started with the doctor and his ‘pot smoking orgy,’ had gone from bad to worse. I made a command decision. Steve would continue on with Plan B as I had outlined it, moving the remaining Trekkers via road to Robinson Flat. I would continue along Red Star Ridge and provide backup for the group who had chosen to hike another 8 miles without water access.

I had little doubt about what type of foul mood my wayward charges would be in and who they would blame for their predicament. (It certainly wouldn’t be themselves for failing to wait for the jeep.) We would camp on Duncan Creek and hike the two miles into Robinson Flat the next morning.

“No one is to budge from Robinson Flat until I get there,” I instructed with the fervid hope my instructions would be followed this time.

First, however, I had to go back and retrieve Charlie. I wanted to personally be sure that all of our other Trekkers made it to the jeep. I asked Crowle and Locke to hold everyone. I found Charlie a mile or so back the trail with another broken pack. Boy, were we having fun. If my learning curve got any steeper, I was going to fall off.

“I’ll hike on with you Curt to provide support and company,” Charlie insisted.

I knew I was tired and could only imagine how he must feel given his extra 25 years and 50 pounds. I was beginning to realize that older people are often tougher than young people half their age with twice their strength. The journey we were on was as much psychological as it was physical. Maybe more so.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. (Treks down and across the Sierras are tough for everyone, but especially so for people without experience. It always seems that there are more mountains to climb and more canyons to drop into.)

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” –John Muir

"Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life." –John Muir

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” –John Muir (Over the years, I have known numerous people who have decided to change their lives while backpacking for a week through the Sierras.)

"Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue." –John Muir (The same photo as above a couple of hours later as alpen glow colors the ridge. This is in the Dusy Basin near Bishop.) 

“Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue.” –John Muir (The same photo as above a couple of hours later as the setting sun colors the ridge. This is in the Dusy Basin near Bishop.)

We initiated phase two of our journey around 2:00 p.m. In a little over 30 minutes we caught our four eleven-year-olds, who we had nicknamed the Four Mouseketeers, crawling along at a pace that a turtle would find embarrassing.

“Joe is really slow,” one of the urchins informed me.

Yeah, I thought to myself, and you guys are so glad he is because it provides all of you with an excuse to move at the same pace.

After about an hour of moving along at ‘Joe speed,’ Charlie plaintively informed me he wasn’t going to make it into camp if he couldn’t move faster. Having determined that three of our Mouseketeers really were good hikers, I assigned them to Charlie and took Joe on as my personal challenge. The experience was similar to moving my Basset Hound down the trail after he spent a full night of digging. Joe would go a quarter of a mile and stop, plopping down onto the dusty trail. We had managed about a mile of this when I came on Charlie again, standing beside the trail and pointing off to the left.

“Careful, Curt,” he began, “there is a huge timber rattler coiled up there.”

Adrenaline gave me a spurt of energy I didn’t know I had. Huge was hardly an adequate description. The snake was as thick as my wrist and about six feet long. Joe, either out of exhaustion or not caring, came to a shuffling halt mere inches away from the poised pit viper and kicked dirt into its face.

“Um, Joe,” I whispered trying to sound calm and not wanting to frighten him or the snake into precipitous action, “if you will look down to your left, you will see a snake. Don’t move.”

Had I received such instructions, I would have been 20 feet down the trail in one prodigious leap. Joe, on the other hand, looked down at the huge, coiled rattler, said ‘oh,’ and shuffled on down the trail. The snake didn’t budge; Joe was not food, friend or foe. We left the snake guarding the trail.

"Man must be made conscious of his origin as a child of Nature. Brought into right relationship with the wilderness he would see that he was not a separate entity endowed with a divine right to subdue his fellow creatures and destroy the common heritage, but rather an integral part of a harmonious whole." (Granite rules in the Sierras and reminds us of our place in the world.)

“Man must be made conscious of his origin as a child of Nature. Brought into right relationship with the wilderness he would see that he was not a separate entity endowed with a divine right to subdue his fellow creatures and destroy the common heritage, but rather an integral part of a harmonious whole.” –John Muir

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike." Few chunks of granite are more beautiful and famous than Half Dome in Yosemite.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” –John Muir (Few solid chunks of granite are more beautiful or famous than Half Dome in Yosemite.)

"Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality."

“Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.” –John Muir

Charlie went on ahead with his three charges and I continued to herd my half dead companion. It was after dark when I heard the stream that I knew meant camp. It was an extremely welcome sound; Joe and I had been traveling for at least 30 minutes by flashlight. Charlie was waiting for us outside camp.

“We have a problem Curt…” he began for the second time that day, although the day had already stretched out forever and I hadn’t known one minute when the ubiquitous problem did not exist. As supportive as Charlie had been, I had thoughts of killing the messenger.

“What’s it this time,” I asked, struggling to keep the grump and whine out of my voice.

“One of the Trekkers is lost and the rest of the Trekkers are ready to string you up from a tree,” he reported matter-of-factly. But then, it wasn’t his neck. “I’ve calmed them down by telling them all you have done today,” he went on. “Now they are just going to give you the silent treatment.”

I am not a praying type of person but I looked up at the sky and said, “God, get me back to Sacramento and I promise I will go back to running Christmas Seal Campaigns with my 80-year-old, lady volunteers and be perfectly happy.” The odds against any future Trek program had just hit 1000 to 1.

Before going to bed, I insisted that the Trekkers gather around so I could learn what I could about the missing person, Dick. Silent treatment or not, I needed to think through an action plan for the next day. Dick was the school teacher who had claimed he could carry his weight in booze. He had been hiking alone and hadn’t talked to anyone about leaving the route. The Trekkers could only give me an approximation of where they had last seen him.

I decided to get folks up early in the morning. I would high-tail-it the two miles into camp and see if Dick had shown up at Robinson Flat. If not, I would check with the ranger station and help organize a search party. Two of my strongest hikers would stay behind in camp in case Dick showed up there. Charlie would bring the rest of the Trekkers on to Robinson Flat.

"When one is alone at night in the depths of these woods, the stillness is at once awful and sublime. Every leaf seems to speak." –John Muir (I sometimes backpack by myself in the wilderness and spend nights with nothing but myself and nature. I highly recommend the experience.)

“When one is alone at night in the depths of these woods, the stillness is at once awful and sublime. Every leaf seems to speak.” –John Muir (I sometimes backpack by myself in the wilderness and spend nights with nothing but myself and nature. I highly recommend the experience.)

I was exhausted and couldn’t go to sleep but somewhere in the wee hours I must have dozed off because I woke with a start as Charlie lobbed pebbles at my sleeping bag. I was up and packed in a zip. After a few words of encouragement to the troops, who had made a miraculous recovery over night, I was bounding off up the trail like a hare with the hounds of hell in hot pursuit. Just as I came into camp, Dick came hoofing in from the opposite direction. I didn’t know whether to kiss or to kill him, but he was too ugly for the former and possibly too tough for the latter.

I settled for, “Are you okay Dick?”

“Sure,” he replied in a why-wouldn’t-he-be tone.

“What happened,” I demanded, allowing my irritation to surface.

“I got thirsty,” Dick explained. “I could see French Meadow Reservoir at the bottom of the ridge so I hiked down to get a drink. When I got there, I was tired so I set up camp.”

My irritation boiled over.

“Why didn’t you tell someone you were leaving? Didn’t you realize we would be worried sick and mounting a search and rescue effort?” I was on a roll and Dick was on the receiving end of a great deal of frustration I was feeling. Fortunately, guilt had driven him to get up before dawn and make his way to Robinson Flat as quickly as he could. It might have been worse, much worse.

The crisis was over, but I still had chores. First up was to go back and collect the rearguard I had left at Duncan Creek. I could have sent Steve but I needed the down time. As I hiked, I made my second command decision of the day. Even though we had only hiked for two days, the group could use a layover day. Hell, I could use a layover day. In fact, I needed a layover day. I deserved a layover day. The next day could wait for its turn. What else could go wrong? Hah!

"God does not appear, and flow out, only from narrow chinks and round bored wells here and there in favored races and places, but He flows in grand undivided currents, shoreless and boundless over creeds and forms and all kinds of civilizations and peoples and beasts..." (Wise words in these troubling times of division.)

“God does not appear, and flow out, only from narrow chinks and round bored wells here and there in favored races and places, but He flows in grand undivided currents, shoreless and boundless over creeds and forms and all kinds of civilizations and peoples and beasts…” –John Muir (Wise words in these troubling times of division.)

"It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods -- trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries ... God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools -- only Uncle Sam can do that." (Something to think about as 'Uncle Sam' moves to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.)

“It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods — trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries … God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools — only Uncle Sam can do that.” (Something to think about as ‘Uncle Sam’ moves to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and the regulations that protect these forests from destruction.)

"Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it still seems above all others the Range of Light." (With 50 years of wandering the Sierra Nevada Mountains behind me, I agree.)

“Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. –John Muir (With 50 years of wandering the Sierra Nevada Mountains behind me, I agree.)

NEXT BLOGS:

Friday: An amazing octopus and rhino. More on the mutant vehicles of Burning Man.

Monday: Sully and his airplane.

Wednesday: Sierra Trek: The layover day where all sorts of interesting things happen.

Sorry, Sully, I Was Distracted… Oregon’s Gorgeous Harris Beach State Park

This is what you find on a sunny day at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon. Peggy and I had to deal with stormy weather.

This is what you find on a sunny day at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon. I was particularly pleased with the seagull who decided to photo-bomb my picture. Peggy and I had to deal with stormy weather when we visited there last week.

 

So, I was going to write about Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger III today, the heroic American Airlines pilot who saved 155 people in 2009 by landing his goose-disabled US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, but I got distracted. It happens, you know.

Peggy and I took a trip over to the Oregon Coast for Valentine’s Day and ended up at Harris Beach State Park in Brookings. It was a stormy three days filled with 40-60 MPH winds, slashing rain and crashing waves— the perfect weather for romantically snuggling down in our 22-foot RV and eating chocolate as the world roared by outside.

We had our rain hats, rain coats and rain pants, however, so we got out for a couple of walks: once when the sun was threatening to shine and once when the heavens were threatening to open up and dump oodles of rain. And we took our cameras. Peggy wanted to play with her new Canon EOS Rebel T6i with a Tamron 16-300 mm telephoto lens. I took my trusty little Canon Powershot G7x. The conditions weren’t ideal for photography— grey skies matched grey seas matched grey rocks, but we had fun seeing what we could capture.

Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon

This sea stack was in the background on the lead picture for this post. Again, I took this photo on a sunny day. Note the large crack/cave on the front. (Sea stacks are rocks in the ocean that have been created by the endless waves eroding the shoreline.)

Storm tossed seas at Harris Beach State Park.

This is what it looked like last week. A wave is crashing into the cave. (Because of a high tide abetted by the stormy weather, I had to take this photo from a different angle.The sea stack on the left is included in photos below. Brookings is on the distant cliff.)

When we arrived home, I was eager to see the results and process the photos. I did that instead of working on the photos I took of Sully’s plane at the air museum in Charlotte, North Carolina when we visited there in early January. Bad Curt. As a result, today’s post is on Harris Beach. Sorry, Sully. Next Monday is yours. But then I will be in Las Vegas. Hmmm.

Harris Beach State Park sits on the edge of Brookings and is about three scenic hours away from where we live. We followed back roads to Highway 199, otherwise known as the Redwood Highway, to US 101 on the Pacific Coast and then followed it north to Brookings. It is a gorgeous park filled with imposing sea stacks and Oregon’s largest island, which happens to be reserved for the birds. Some 100,000 hang out there during mating season, including tufted puffins who use their webbed feet to dig their nests into the ground.

The island is off-limits for two-legged types like us, however, so we were left with taking photos of rocks, waves, and driftwood.

Split rock at Harris Beach State Park allows waves to go under rock.

Our semi-sunny walk took us behind the large sea stack (small island?)  and showed us that the large cave we had seen on the front went all of the way through. The waves coming in had developed a small cove. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Harris Beach State Park on the Oregon Coast.

The waves created this interesting, fan-like look. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Massive rock face at Harris Beach State Park.

As we hiked down to the cove, I turned around and photographed the rock cliff we were walking around. Note the couple on the lower right for perspective. I felt that the grey sky set the cliff off more than a blue sky might have.

Peggy Mekemson hiking down trail at Harris beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon.

I caught a photo of ‘my Valentine’ appropriately dressed in red as she made her way down the trail. I had her move to the center of the trail so the Pacific would outline her and provide depth.

Rock 'bower' along trail at Harris Beach State Park on the Oregon Coast.

This rock overhang provided a bower for the trail. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Rock overhang at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon.

I took a close up of the overhang.

Water caught in crevice at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon.

Another close up that intrigued me was this water caught in a small crevice that provided something of an abstract photo.

Down on the beach, Peggy caught a shot of a wave come through the split in the rock.

Down on the beach, Peggy caught a shot of a wave coming through the split in the rock. Blue skies may have provided more depth but I felt the grey skies placed the focus on the wave.

Split rock at Harris Beach State Park on the Oregon Coast.

I moved back to capture some yellow rocks in the foreground to add color to our grey day.

Photo of sea stack rock by Peggy Mekemson at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon.

A sea stack  just south of the split rock caught Peggy’s attention and she filled her lens with it.

Photo of sea stack rock by Curtis Mekemson at Harris Beach State Park on the Pacific Ocean.

I placed the sea stack in its surroundings, again using a yellow rock on the beach for a splash of color.

I then rendered it in black and white to honor the black and white of the day.

I then rendered it in black and white to honor the black and white of the day.

Conglomerate rock at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon.

A conglomerate rock and driftwood caught my attention next.

Photo of conglomerate rock by Peggy Mekemson at Harris Beach State Park on the Oregon Coast.

Peggy focused in on the incredible color and texture of conglomerate rock…

Driftwood at Harris Beach State Park.

While I went for the driftwood and the rock it had managed to capture.

Our second walk took us down to the main beach area at Harris Beach State Park. The weather was more iffy so Peggy was more careful with her camera, but my small Power Shot G7x is used to being abused.

Scotch Broom photo at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon.

I used Scotch Broom to add color to a shot looking north up the beach.

Peggy's telephoto lens provided a better view of just how many sea stack rocks are found on Harris Beach State Park.

Peggy’s telephoto lens provided a better view of just how many sea stacks are found on Harris Beach State Park, and a sense of the grey day.

Sea stacks at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon.

I used these waves to provide a lead in to the sea stacks.

Drift logs at Harris Beach State Park on the Oregon Coast.

Talk about a lead in… What about this drift log? The driftwood speaks to the power of storm-tossed seas. Note the colorful roots on the left.

Flat roots on driftwood at Harris Beach State Park.

I also found these ‘moose antler’ roots interesting. With a little imagination I found the moose’s eye and nose.

Turtle-like rock at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon.

While I am on the subject of wildlife, I dubbed this Turtle Rock.

Another clear day shot take from the beach area. Bird Island is in the background.

Another clear day shot taken from the beach area. Bird Island is in the background.

Peggy took this shot of the turbulent Smith River on our way home. She really like the contrast of the green moss growing on the oak tree.

Peggy took this shot of the turbulent Smith River on our way home. She really liked the contrast of the green moss growing on the oak tree with the white rapids. The weather had been so wet we found 74 waterfalls careening off of the mountain and into the river as we drove up Highway 199.

I'll conclude with this hill hugging rainbow we found welcoming us back to the Applegate Valley. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I’ll conclude with this hill-hugging rainbow we found welcoming us back to the Applegate Valley.  Peggy shot this photo through raindrops on our windshield. Note: there is a slight double rainbow.

NEXT BLOGS:

Wednesday: It’s back to the Sierra Trek and a 16 mile day without any water sources. One Trekker is lost and I face a rebellion and a rattlesnake.

Friday: More great mutant vehicles at Burning Man.

Monday: Will it be Sully?

 

DMV… Burning Man’s Department of Mutant Vehicles: Part 2

One of Burning Man's more unique mutant vehicles from my perspective is this traveling eye.

One of Burning Man’s more unique mutant vehicles from my perspective is this traveling eye. The only thing remotely like a normal vehicle are the tires peeking out from below. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

 

“A Mutant Vehicle is a unique, motorized creation that shows little or no resemblance to their original form, or to any standard street vehicle. Mutant Vehicles are radically, stunningly, (usually) permanently, and safely modified from their base vehicle. Sometimes the whole vehicle is made from scratch.

Mutant Vehicles may include such non-standard motorized forms such as furniture, other non-street vehicles such as a boat or train, animals, or just about anything imaginable.” —Taken from Burning Man’s website.

 

Eye of mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

The eye up close, checking you out! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Animals are a favorite theme for mutant vehicles. This polar bear would have fit right in on Valentines Day.

Animals are a favorite theme for mutant vehicles. This polar bear would have fit right in on Valentines Day. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Polar Bear mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A side view of the friendly polar bear. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Burning Man takes its mutant vehicles seriously— partially because they are an integral part of the Burning Man experience and partially because safety is a critical issue.  These often-large vehicles must maneuver through and around thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians both during the day and at night.

The permitting process is extensive. To start with, both government agencies and Burning Man place limits on the number of mutant vehicles. Far more people want to bring vehicles than can be accommodated. Participants must meet stringent requirements to bring their creations to Black Rock City. (Go here to learn about requirements.)

The Department of Mutant vehicles is responsible for overseeing the permitting, inspection and operation of Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man.

The Department of Mutant Vehicles is responsible for overseeing the permitting, inspection and operation of Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man.

Headquarters for the Deparment of Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man.

Headquarters! All mutant vehicles must stop here to pick up their licenses to operate at Burning Man and have a safety inspection.

The first requirement is that the vehicle must in no way resemble the initial car, truck, golf cart, etc. (Boats seem to be an exception, but hey, they are ‘floating’ across the desert.) Beyond this, the organization states, “the mutation should aim to provide a level of ‘radical visual stimuli’ or ‘wow factor’ for the other participants of Black Rock City.”

A covered wagon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A covered wagon had us running for our cameras. I’d say that there was a ‘wow’ factor.

Conestoga Wagon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Another view. The Black Rock Desert would have seen similar vehicles (albeit smaller and attached to oxen) in the 1860s along the Applegate cutoff to the Oregon Trail that ran through the area. This photo was taken in front to our camp.

Cat car mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

The cat car is another perennial favorite of mine at Burning Man that has a definite ‘wow’ factor.

A side view of the cat car mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A side view. It takes a lot of guts to have pure white upholstery at Burning Man!

Close up of head of cat car mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And a close up of the kitty’s head.

Interactivity is also considered critical. Giving rides to Burners and providing entertainment are two ways of accomplishing this. For example, one year I saw a fire-breathing mutant vehicle that featured an opera singer standing on top. When she hit her high notes, the vehicle would send flames shooting into the air.

Safety involves many of the things you would expect including good brakes and safe accommodations for passengers. Think of 40 people (some who have spent a fair amount of time visiting Burning Man’s free bars) dancing on top of a vehicle as it drives through the desert night. Falling off is a real possibility. Railings are critical.

Orange bus mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

There are serious railings on this orange bus mutant vehicle. Note the intricate carving of the wood.

Orange mutant vehicle bus side view.

A side view of the bus. I suspect one would land with quite a bump coming off the slide.

Mutant vehicle with beak at Burning Man.

This guy with his boxer-beak and tail feathers also has a well-built railing.

Tail feathers on a mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

The tail feathers.

Vehicles that want to travel at night must have adequate lighting on all sides of the vehicle. But the requirements go further. Lighting is also expected to contribute to the “wow” factor. Many mutant vehicles are more spectacular at night than they are during the day. One of my all-time favorites is a large, travelling vase.

Mutant vehicle that looks like a vase at Burning Man.

This large vase mutant vehicle normally lives in camp during the day.

Vase mutant vehicle at Burning Man with mountain backdrop.

Another day-time shot. This one with a mountain backdrop.

The mutant vehicle vase at night. This was on the night when the Man is burned and vehicles form a large circle around the Man.

The vase at night. Mutant vehicles form a large circle around the Man on Saturday night when he is burned. The flower is part of another mutant vehicle.

Vase mutant vehicle lit up at night at Burning Man.

A different views with different colors.

I caught this shot as the vase left a wedding in Black Rock City we had attended.

I caught this shot as the vase left a wedding in Black Rock City.

As you might imagine, vehicles that feature fire art and shoot flames into the air, must also meet strict requirements. The types of tanks, fuel lines, daily safety checks, and emergency shut off valves are all included. But the effort is worth the extra care when you consider the results. Imagine meeting up with El Pulpo Mechanico as it roams across the playa with all eight arms flaming.

El Pulpo Mechanical as he flames his way through the Burning Man night.

El Pulpo Mechanical as he flames his way through the Burning Man night.

Burning Man mutant vehicle designed to shoot flames into the air.

The ‘weapon’ on top of this Mad-Max look-a-like shoots flames as well.

Dragon head on mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A front view…

Close up of dragon headed mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And a close up.

And finally, there are sound requirements. Nothing is more irritating than a mutant vehicle with humongous speakers making its way through your neighborhood in Black Rock City while blasting out music at 2:00 AM. Burning Man notes that there has been an “increase in the number of vehicles with sound systems that would normally be designed for an arena or stadium.” No kidding. Having those systems pointing at you is like deaf city. Fortunately, the loudest systems tend to be restricted to the outer areas of the city where Burners can go deaf to their hearts-content.

Check out the number of speakers on this mutant vehicle. They are the reason it is assigned a position way out at the edge of Black Rock City in the Playa.

Check out the number of speakers on this mutant vehicle! They are the reason it is assigned a position way out at the edge of Black Rock City in the Playa. There is almost always a crowd of people dancing around and on this vehicle, including up on the heart.

And just for fun, I will close today with this googly-eyed, low-tech frog.

Frog mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

 

NEXT BLOGS:

Monday: The airplane that crash landed on the Hudson River in New York City.

Wednesday: The Sierra Trek— Our second day included a sixteen mile hike without any water sources, a lost trekker, and a huge timber rattlesnake that insisted on blocking the trail.

Friday: More Burning Man mutant vehicles including El Pulpo Mechanico and a huge Rhino that would send his African counterparts scurrying for cover.

A Pot Smoking Orgy in the Mountains? No Way… The First Sierra Trek: Part 4

The high Sierras are chockfull of beautiful alpine lakes. Except for very dry years, water is rarely a problem. Often the opposite is true, especially when it comes to crossing creeks and rivers filled with rushing snowmelt.

The high Sierras are chockfull of beautiful alpine lakes. Except for very dry years, water is rarely a problem. Often the opposite is true, especially when it comes to crossing creeks and rivers filled with rushing snowmelt. Obviously, that wasn’t a problem here.

 

In my last blog about the Sierra Trek, I wrote about how we had survived the first day. Often, as I have learned from over 30 years of experience, that’s the toughest part. But on the first Sierra Trek, it was only the beginning of my problems…

A reminder, the photos I am using are from other Treks I have led over the years. I am sticking with my water theme today, given all of the water problems I had on days one and two of Sierra Trek I. 

Steve, Lisa and I set up camp on the opposite side of a small stream from our Trekkers. I am not sure why. Maybe Steve and I were subconsciously escaping from what we had created, but I suspect we just wanted a good night’s sleep. The Trekkers were noisy and the burbling brook served as nature’s sound maker.

I made my evening rounds before turning in. We had divided the Trekkers into food groups of four and I went from group to group checking for problems. Overall, people seemed in good spirits. There were a few sore ankles and knees, but blisters were the problem that elicited the most complaints. I dispensed sympathy and mole skin. I also gave everyone a preview of the next day and warned that it was going to be tough. My last words were to remind people that 9:00 PM was quiet hour. I wanted everyone fresh for the next challenge.

If there was noise, we didn’t hear it. We were zonked out from exhaustion. Early the next morning we were up in the dark, wolfing down our quick breakfast of instant oatmeal, and throwing our gear together when Charlie arrived. He looked serious.

“We have a problem Curt,” he started without preamble. God, I hate those words. My vivid imagination had a stove blowing up, or a Trekker cutting herself, or one of Steve’s migrating rattlesnakes finding a warm sleeping bag. Or maybe the IRS had arrived to grab Charlie and we were to be held as accomplices.

“What’s up?” Steve threw in, cutting short my growing list of possible disasters.

“We had a doctor from Sacramento come in and camp next to us last night,” Charlie reported. “He says he is going back to Sacramento and tell the press that the Lung Association is running a pot-smoking-orgy in the mountains.”

“Oh hell,” Steve said. I seconded his thought and added a few of my own with much more colorful words. A blown-up stove I could deal with. A cut I could bandage. A rattlesnake I could chase off and frequently have. But what do you do with a physician who has infected his butt with his head. Beg? It took absolutely zero imagination to figure out what the Trek’s future and my career with Lungland would look like one day after ‘pot-smoking-orgy’ made the headlines.

“I tried to reason with him but it was impossible,” Charlie threw in as if he were reading my mind and wanted to dash any hope I had. Just then Orvis came tramping into our camp. Uh-oh I wondered, is the other shoe about to drop? Orvis could backpack at 70 because he had never consumed alcohol or smoked in his life. He was almost as pure as his white beard that decorated his chest. I couldn’t imagine him being very tolerant of misbehavior.

“The man is lying,” Orvis said angrily and forever earned my undying love. “I was there the whole night and no such thing happened. If he goes back to Sacramento and talks to the press, I’ll go back to Sacramento and talk to the press and we’ll see who they believe!”

I wasn’t quite as sure about Trekker behavior as Orvis. It was the seventies after all and we had recruited some interesting characters. I had heard the teenagers giving each other a hard time the night before during my rounds.

“Hey Suzy, why don’t you come over here check out my sleeping bag?” But the response had been, “Why don’t you take your sleeping bag and stuff it?” I had also had a discussion with our younger kids about the Trek not being an appropriate place for tobacco. Who knows what the doctor had seen or had thought he had seen?

“Look, I have an idea,” I said to the small crowd that had gathered around our cook stove.  “I want you to go back to the camp and tell everyone to gather near the rock which is about ten yards away from the Doctor’s camp. Tell them I am going to read them the riot act and I want them to look dejected and apologetic whether they feel that way or not. It’s show time.”

My helpers dispersed to do their job and I carefully thought through what I was going to say. At the appropriate time, I marched over to the rock looking like my dog had just been killed and climbed up on the rock. It was Sunday morning and ever after my lecture was known as the ‘sermon on the mount.’ Sixty expectant but properly humble faces looked up at me. I could see that the doctor had also stopped his activities and glued his attention on what we were up to.

“Last night we made a serious mistake.” I started, making sure the doctor could hear me. “It has come to my attention that there was misbehavior in camp which may have included the use of marijuana. I want to apologize to all of you for not being in camp myself and to let you know I will be from now on. I also want you to know that such activity jeopardizes not only this Trek but the possibility of any events like it in the future. I know that you have all worked hard to be here and that you have worked hard to raise money to fight lung disease and support medical research. I want your word that no such further activities will take place on this Trek.”

Charlie, Steve and company had done their work well. “We’re sorry.” “It won’t happen again.” “You have our word on it,” and similar statements were heard from all sides with everyone looking more serious than I have seen any Trekkers look since. I then dismissed the group to break camp.

As I walked away the doctor made a beeline for me and held out his hand.

“I am Doctor so and so,” he announced. “Although things were out of control last night, it appears you have them under control now and probably won’t have any more problems. Good luck on your trip.”

I thanked him for his concern and breathed an audible sigh of relief. He wandered back to his campsite, undoubtedly pleased with his power and influence while I moved away to avoid expressing my thoughts about his ancestry. The next challenge was how we were going to get our Trekkers through the day. It promised to be a doozy— sixteen miles with very limited water. It left little time to contemplate what might have happened had the misplaced medic carried out his threat.

Continuing on with my theme of alpine Sierra lakes, trials like these that wander along the edge are a delight to hike.

Continuing on with my theme of alpine Sierra lakes, trails like these that wander along the edge are a delight to hike.

Alpine lake along the John Muir Trail.

The views aren’t bad either.

Usually, crossing outlets can provide a bit of a challenge, as Ann Nash demonstrates.

Usually, crossing outlets can provide a bit of a challenge, as Ann Nash demonstrates. We spend a lot of time on logs over water. Often it is much scarier than this! Imagine a roaring river below you.

Ann had a nice view of logs...

Ann had a nice view of water soaked tree trunks under the water.

Reflections are also common and can detract from your concentration.

Reflections are also common and can detract from your concentration.

How about rain drops falling on the water...

How about rain drops falling on the water…

Small ponds like this are always a favorite of mine. Mosquitoes can be a problem, though.

Small ponds like this are always a favorite of mine. So, I will conclude with this photo.

NEXT BLOGS: On Friday I will feature more of Burning Man’s colorful mutant vehicles. Next Monday, we will look at the actual airplane that crash landed on the Hudson River. On Wednesday, I’ll return to the Sierra Trek where we cover 16 miles without water, a person is lost, a giant rattlesnake forces me off the trail, and I face a mini-rebellion. Some fun!

From Dawdling Ducks to a Bodacious Baboon… More of Boston

Had I not been walking in Boston, I would have missed this bodacious baboon who was advertising a play near Paul Revere's house in North Boston.

Had I not been walking in Boston, I would have missed this bodacious baboon who was advertising a play near Paul Revere’s house in North Boston.

My favorite way to see a city is to walk. Actually, it is my favorite way to see anything. You miss a great deal in a car, or on a tour bus, or by using public transit. Even a bicycle has its limits, especially in a city where you are busy dodging cars and trucks. But with walking you can lollygag, stop when you want, or put on a burst of speed if you have to be somewhere. You may laugh at the latter, but you have never been with Peggy when she decides to take off. It’s zippity-doo-dah time. Strong hikers have been known to whine about keeping up.

I’ve shown you a fair amount of historical Boston in my last three Boston blogs. Today I am going to wrap up the series and feature some of the photos Peggy and I captured that didn’t fit into the first three blogs. Enjoy.

Ma was all dressed up in her Christmas cap, as were her ducklings.

Ma Duck was all dressed up in her Christmas cap, as were her ducklings.

Quincy Market backs up to Faneuil Hall. The trees in its plaza were beautifully lit for the season.

Quincy Market backs up to Faneuil Hall. The trees in its plaza were beautifully lit for the season.

Built in the early 1800s, Quincy Market is now crammed full of market-stall type restaurants filled with tempting goodies.

Built in the early 1800s, Quincy Market is now crammed full of market-stall type restaurants filled with tempting goodies. The people were waiting for performances by a high school band and a high school chorus.

The goodies inside included these candy apples. There is something for everyone!

The goodies inside included these candy apples. There is something for everyone, including M&M covered apples. Hmmm.

Peggy and I visited the Market twice since it was close to our hotel: once at night when it was packed and then early in the morning when this photo was taken.

Peggy and I visited the Market twice since it was close to our hotel: once at night when it was packed and then early in the morning when this photo was taken.

Some kids came by to play this piano while we were sitting in the market drinking coffee.

Some kids came by to play this piano while we were sitting in the market drinking coffee. I really like the idea of having a “Play Me, I’m Yours,” piano available. The kids were really good. It turned out they were from the band playing outside.

This is what we saw looking up from our seats.

This is what we saw looking up from our seats.

The band outside warms up. Literally. Soon afterwards it started to snow.

The band outside warms up. Literally. Soon afterwards it started to snow.

The Commonwealth Bookstore pulled us in with this display.

The nearby Commonwealth Bookstore pulled us in with this display.

I knew it was a good bookstore when I found Leo.

I knew it was a good bookstore when I found Leo. I am convinced that any bookstore with a cat is a good bookstore. The sign requested that customers please refrain from poking or prodding Leo. “Gentle patting and chin scratching” were fine.

The Boston Public Market was just a few blocks away from the Quincy Market.

The Boston Public Market was just a few blocks away from the Quincy Market.

Winter squash and turnips were among the vegetables it featured.

Winter squash and turnips were among the vegetables featured.

The turnips...

The turnips…

We found this sculpture in front of the John F. Kennedy Federal Building and I confess it had me scratching my head.

We found this sculpture by American Sculpture Dimitri Hadzi in front of the John F. Kennedy Federal Building and I confess it had me scratching my head. Research told me that it represented the last man standing at Thermopylae where the Spartans fought the Persians until there was only one Spartan left. I am still scratching my head.

Down on the edge of the Commons we checked out the Park Street Subway System. We had been told that Boston provided excellent mass transit. I found myself wondering whether Charile was still stuck on the MTA.(Kingston Trio song).

Down on the edge of the Commons we checked out the Park Street Subway System. We had been told that Boston provides excellent mass transit. I found myself wondering whether Charlie was still stuck on the MTA.(Kingston Trio song). “But did he ever return? No he never returned. And his fate is still unlearned.” Sing it if you know it!

We didn't find Charlie but we did find this ceramic mosaic commemorating the opening of the line in 1897.

We didn’t find Charlie but we did find this ceramic mosaic commemorating the opening of the line. The artist, Lili Ann Rosenberg lived in the Applegate Valley of Oregon where I presently live later in her life. The Ruch Library where Peggy serves as president of the Friends of the Ruch Library features one of her ceramic works.

Meet Doodle (as in cock-o-doodle-do). Doodle resides in our front yard and was created by Jeremy Crisswell who worked as an apprentice under

Meet Doodle (as in cock-o-doodle-do). Doodle resides in our front yard and was created by Jeremy Crisswell, a well-known ceramic artist in our area who worked as an apprentice under Lili Ann.

The back side of Doodle.

The back side of Doodle.

Peggy and I hiked down to the New England Genealogical Society on Newbury street to renew my membership and do a little research.

Peggy and I hiked down to the New England Genealogical Society on Newbury Street to renew my membership and do a little research.

The New England Genealogical Society has been a good source of information about the Marshall's of Windsor, Connecticut. This is Eliakim who was a Deacon in the church. I am hoping that the Society may have information on the Mekemsons as well.

The Society has been a good source of information about my mother’s ancestors in Windsor, Connecticut (the Marshalls).  This is Eliakim who was born in the early 1700s and was an Elder in the Windsor church. I am hoping that the Society will have information on the Mekemsons as well. Interesting headstone, eh?

Newbury is filled with exclusive shops, including for those who have 'a pea in pod.'

Newbury is filled with exclusive shops, such as this one for women who have ‘a pea in the pod.’ Looks like more than a pea to me.

The area is known as Back Bay because it was reclaimed from the Bay. It became a center for very expensive homes competing with Beacon Hill for the wealthy of Boston.

This area was once part of the bay but was filled in by chopping off the tops of Boston’s higher hills. Once filled in, it became a location for very expensive homes competing with Beacon Hill for the wealthy of Boston. This one has been converted to shops.

There are more photos, always, but I will conclude my Boston series with this picture of the old Custom's Building. The hands on the clock are made of copper covered California redwood.

There are more photos, always, but I will conclude my Boston series with this picture of the old Custom’s Building. The hands on the clock are made of copper covered California redwood.

NEXT BLOGS:

Wednesday: It’s time for the next post in the Sierra Trek series where I am accused of running a pot-smoking-orgy in the mountains. Woohoo!

Friday: More of the fantastic mutant vehicles/art cars of Burning Man.

Monday: Remember Sully, the pilot who saved the lives of his passengers by landing on the Hudson River in New York City? We are going to check out his plane. It now resides in a museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s amazing that it floated.

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!

 

 

A 60-foot Fire-Breathing Dragon Roars into Washington— 3 Days after the Election… The Mutant Vehicles of Burning Man: Part 1

If Trump had stared out his window and seen this fellow staring back at him, do you think it would have changed history?

If Donald Trump had stared out his window and seen this fellow staring back, do you think it would have changed history?

Today I am kicking off my Friday photo-essay series on Burning Man. Last week I went through the thousands of photos I have taken since I first went in 2004 and winnowed them down to a mere 4,000. (grin) I suspect you will see a few hundred of them on Fridays over the next six months leading up to the event. 

I had a long discussion with myself over what to start this series with. “What are you talking to yourself about?” Peggy had asked worriedly. Mutant Vehicles won out. I love the variety: from dragons to bugs to ships to rhinos to cats to Mad Max wannabes— Burning Man has them all! 

Peggy and I share photo taking responsibilities at Burning Man but we also have help from fellow members of the Horse Bone Tribe: Don Green, Tom Lovering and Ken Lake. I’ll try to credit Don, Tom and Ken, but if I miss a few, my apologies. 

Let’s start with Abraxas,  a 60-foot dragon equipped with a 10,000-watt sound system. Normally, Abraxas hangs out at Burning Man, but on November 11 (right after the election) he was in Washington DC on the Mall. I wonder if the new president looked out his window and saw him. Probably not. There weren’t any tweets.

He seemed quite proud of his offspring who followed him everywhere.

What would Trump have tweeted about Abraxas? Any ideas?

Abraxas has been going to Burning Man for a number of years. In 2016, he showed up with a baby.

Abraxas has been going to Burning Man for a number of years. In 2016, he showed up with a baby.

Early in the morning before sunrise, Abraxas likes to hang out at the Temple, you can see him lurking out on the Playa. When the sun comes up, it is time to dance and he fires up his 10,000 watt speakers as Burners gather around.

Early in the morning before sunrise, Abraxas likes to hang out at the Temple, you can see him lurking out on the Playa. When the sun comes up, it is time to dance, however, and he fires up his 10,000 watt speakers as Burners gather around.

Another close-up of Abraxas.

Another close-up of Abraxas. The tube coming out of his mouth spits out fire at night.

Abraxas the mutant Vehicle at Burning Man.

Check out the claws!

Most mutant vehicles at Burning Man take on a different look/personality at night. Here, Abraxas was getting ready to go out and party the night away.

Mutant vehicles at Burning Man take on a different look/personality at night. Here, Abraxas was getting ready to go out and party the night away. You may have noted the different faces. Most years,  Abraxas comes back to Burning Man with a new look.

The golden dragon is one of hundreds of mutant vehicles/art cars found at Burning Man each year. While you are required to park your car, truck, RV, etc. at your camp and leave it parked, mutant vehicles are free to roam the playa and Black Rock City, assuming they have a permit. Today I am going to also feature a warthog, a lion, an angler fish, a lizard dragon, a mammoth and traveling bar. There will be more next Friday!

Warthog mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

This warthog is a favorite of mine.

Warthog art car at Burning Man.

Head on! Check out the tusks.

Burning Man warthog mutant vehicle.

And a side view. I think he is kind of cute. I once followed a warthog and her kids across the Serengeti Plains in Africa. Mom and kids all had their tails sticking straight up in the air.

Burning Man is okay, huh. Are you ready for some reggae?

Burning Man is okay, huh. Are you ready for some reggae? The M.O.J.P. is taken from Bob Marley’s song, Exodus, and stands for “Movement of jah People.”

M.O.J.P. mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A side view of M.O.J.P., which I assume is a lion. Note the big mouth.

M.O.J.P. art car at Burning Man.

My friend Tom Lovering found it quite comfortable. M.O.J.P., BTW, was once an RV.

Lizard dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Peggy found this small but ferocious looking dragon out on the Playa and climbed aboard. Fortunately it was missing keys. Otherwise I still might be searching for her.

Small dragon art car at Burning Man.

The dragon’s snout.

Head on view of mammoth art car at Burning Man.

Somebody had a twisted sense of humor when it came to creating this Mammoth art car.

Head and tusks of mammoth at Burning Man.

A side view of the mammoth’s head and tusks. I wonder if the wire around the head is supposed to be a halo?

Mammoth art car in Black Rock City at Burning Man.

A full view of the mammoth.

Angler Fish art car on Playa at Burning Man.

Whoa! If I didn’t have a clue about what was happening and saw this creature drifting by in a dust storm, I would be looking for the nearest exit.

Angler fish mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Here’s the angler fish up close and personal. In nature, angler fish use the nose dangly as bait for attracting prey. Great teeth.

Front view of angler fish at Burning Man.

How the fish might look just before it chomped down on you.

I'll conclude today with the Playa's wandering bar complete with outhouse. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

I’ll conclude today with four photos of  the Playa’s wandering bar complete with outhouse. Wandering around through the desert can give a person quite a thirst! (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

This tractor pulls the bar around.

This tractor pulls the bar around.

Burning Man's traveling bar.

Action at the bar! Tom and I stopped for a taste of moonshine. It was potent stuff!

Kitchen of wandering bar at Burning Man.

Peggy walked through the bar’s door and came out in this kitchen!

NEXT BLOGS:

Monday: I’ll conclude my Boston series.

Wednesday: It’s back to the Sierra Trek and the “pot smoking orgy.”

Friday: My next post on the mutant vehicles of Burning Man.

It Takes a Worried Man… The First Sierra Trek: Part 3

Water became a major problem on our first two days of the Sierra Trek. It was one of the reasons I decided to hike down the Sierras instead of across them on all future treks. Today I am featuring waterfalls.

Water became a major problem on our first two days of the Sierra Trek. It was one of the reasons I decided to hike down the Sierras instead of across them on all future treks. Today I am featuring a few waterfalls you find along the range. All of these are along the Pacific Crest Trail.

 

When I last wrote about the first Sierra Trek, the morning of the event had arrived. I was a worried man. I found myself singing Woodie Guthrie’s fateful words as I drove up into the mountains:

“It takes a worried man to sing a worried song/I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long/I went across the river and I laid down to sleep/When I woke up, I had shackles on my feet.”

Note: As I’ve mentioned before, the photos in this blog are from other Treks. I didn’t carry a camera on the first year. 

 

I met my support crew at a small restaurant just outside of Squaw Valley at 7:00 AM. Steve had recruited two friends to help out. One was Steve Locke, whose family owned large sections of Delta farm land and had a town named after them. The other was Bob with no last name, strong quiet Bob who was an excellent man to have along in an emergency, who loaned us valuable equipment such as walkie-talkies and a jeep, and who, I learned years later when he was in prison, made his living flying pot out of South America. Steve Crowle was to be my assistant leader, Steve Locke was going to drive a back-up jeep, and Bob was to be there just in case— in case of what I wasn’t sure.

We drove the last three miles into Squaw Valley to meet our fate. The Trekkers were arriving in droves and milling around like lost sheep. There was fat Charlie, skinny Orvis, beautiful Lisa, and 57 other people ready to follow us across the mountains. I felt a little like Moses must have felt in leading folks off into the wilderness, except I didn’t have his guidance system. I also wondered how Moses might have fared feeding the Israelites Ham Cheddarton instead of manna. We might have a different religion today.

Steve called the Trekkers together and I gave my first ever Trek orientation. I started by pointing out the tram. The first part of their day was to be spent saving 2000 feet and two miles of climbing. Steve had finagled free rides for all of us. This put the participants in a good mood. I then made a serious mistake. I told the Trekkers they should have an easy day.

Rule number one of Trekking is never, never, never tell people they will have an easy day backpacking. Each day is grueling and people may just survive. Period.

All too soon we were on our way, crammed like so many cattle onto the Squaw Valley trams dangling high above the ground as we bounced our way to the top. One of our Trekkers with a fear of heights had wanted to walk. She hid herself in the crowd and refused to look out, frightened that we were going to go careening down the cliffs. Her instincts were good. A few years later, the world watched as a rescue operation pulled people off of one of the very same trams as it dangled 100 feet off of the ground. We made it without any problems.

They started when we got off of the tram.

Steve’s job for the first three days was leading since we were going over the route he previewed. Mine was to be trail sweep or rear guard, as we called it. Our rules were very simple: don’t get ahead of Steve, follow the yellow ribbons left behind by the horse people, and don’t get behind Curt. We also required that Trekkers hike with at least one other person and that they let someone know if they had to leave the trail to ‘serve nature,’ as my students in Africa had called potty breaks.

I was not going to march people through the woods like an army. By allowing them to travel at their own pace, they could move at a speed their bodies and minds were comfortable with. It also allowed for something of a wilderness experience even though we were hiking with a large group. Sixty people would be spread out over 2-3 miles of trail.

Rear guard duty is always the toughest job on a Trek since it’s where the problems accumulate. That first day we made it exactly 50 yards before the first one popped up. The witch had shown up with an old boy scout pack with a rope tied on for a belt. (Remember she was the one who was going to come over in the middle of the night, bite me on the ear, and turn me into something. I think she had a sex-crazed maniac in mind.)

We were still in a transition stage where a few belt-less backpacks were wandering around in the mountains with people attached. Following the dictates of my Bible, “The Complete Walker,” by Colin Fletcher, I had insisted that all of our Trekkers have the belted kind. Not surprisingly, the witch’s ‘belt’ broke immediately. I was tempted to suggest she use her occult powers to fix it but Charlie Colin, the ex-ice hockey player, cheerfully took care of the problem. I loaned her some sun tan lotion and insisted she use it. In addition to having lily-white skin, she was wearing a tiny mini-halter, no bra, and short shorts with close to total exposure.

“But Curt,” she objected, “I want to go home with a complete tan.” Right. I told her she would be one roasted chickadee at the end of the first hour and I didn’t want to be accused of burning witches.

By the time we had taken care of her problems (or at least the ones we were qualified to take care of)— and those of several other Trekkers, Steve had covered a mile plus and was about to disappear over Emigrant Pass into the Granite Chief Wilderness. All the way up the mountainside, I could see our charges struggling with thin air, a steep trail and heavy backpacks. Some, having traveled for 10 minutes and 200 yards, were taking their first 20-minute break of the day. I resigned myself to a long, slow hike.

An hour or so later, Charlie and I crested the pass. Up ahead there may have been people having the easy day I had promised, but they certainly weren’t the 20 or so Trekkers I was now herding along the trail. I looked back at the now distant floor of Squaw Valley and sent a small thank you wafting upward that the first 2000 feet and two miles had been by tram.

I also sent up thanks for the fact that we truly did have a short day. Having cut off two miles from the beginning and hiked another, we only had four to go. Steve had carefully described our first campsite and I had reviewed my topographical map. We were going to drop down into the small valley behind Squaw Valley where the American River begins its journey to the Pacific as soggy ground, and then climb up the ridge that forms the side of Granite Chief Mountain and Needle Peak. Eventually the ridge trail crossed a small, glacier-caused hanging valley perched several hundred feet above the now creek size American River. A spring was running into the valley with ‘ample’ water for our Trekkers.

Apparently, I had used up all of my credit with thanks, though. When we arrived at the proposed campsite, there was only one Trekker present, Bob. I was about to learn what the ‘just in case’ part of his job description meant. This particular just in case was my arriving in camp and finding no one there.

“Everyone has gone on, Curt,” Bob reported. “There is no water. Steve has taken the Trekkers another two miles to Hodgkin’s Cabin.”

Ah that I would have come across a small stream. Even this would have provided enough water for our Trekkers.

Ah that I would have come across a small stream. Even this would have easily provided enough water for our Trekkers.

I am not sure this would have worked but many times I've made do with less when hiking alone.

I am not sure this would have worked but many times I’ve made do with less when hiking alone.

I wanted to whine. People had been whining at me all day. Certainly, it was my turn. The possibility of the small stream running dry must have been apparent two weeks before, I complained to myself, and wearily began rounding up my charges. They had scattered out and plopped down on the ground, like rocks.

There were two bright spots to my day. One was Charlie.  What a character and what a help; he told me his life story as we placed one foot in front of the other. Every once in a while, he would break out chanting: “cold beer, cold beer, cold beer.” It was pure fantasy but the thought kept us going.

The other was the fact that Lisa had joined us and was playing sheep dog with Charlie and me. We kept everyone moving forward with at least a semblance of humor. By this time, Charlie and I had set up a pole between us and were carrying two broken down packs in addition to our own. Somewhere along the trail I offered Lisa my hand to get over a rough spot and we had continued to hold hands. I felt guilty— a little. The rawness of Jo Ann’s confession was still burning a hole in my soul.

Eventually, we arrived at Hodgkin’s Cabin. We had survived day one. Tune in next Wednesday when I am accused of running a pot smoking orgy in the mountains— not true.

Here are a few more tantalizing waterfalls. BTW, I took most of these when I did a 360 mile backpack trip down the Sierras to celebrate my 60th birthday.

Tuolumne River Falls in Yosemite just outside of Tuolumne Meadows.

Tuolumne River Falls in Yosemite just outside of Tuolumne Meadows.

I enjoyed this cascading falls...

I enjoyed this cascading falls…

This split falls...

This split falls…

This narrow falls...

This narrow falls…

And this humdinger filled with snow melt.

And this humdinger filled with snow melt.

Friday and Saturday’s posts: I am excited. I have my ticket to Burning Man! So I spent my past week using an old, limping laptop to peruse my thousands of photos I have taken at the event since 2004, eliminate a bunch, and divide the rest up into categories. I actually got my number of pictures down to around 4,000. (grin) Don’t worry, I am not going to throw them all at you. But I will share select photos. On Friday and Saturday I will kick off my Burning Man posts with some of the wonderful— and weirdly wonderful, mutant vehicles that prowl the Playa and Black Rock City. I’ll move on from there to other categories such as sculpture, tribes, temples, the Man, etc.. This is a series you won’t want to miss!

Did Bessie Eat Grandma’s Ear? The Boston Series

An estimated 5000 people are buried in the two acre Granary Graveyard. A few of them even have tombstones. It helps to be a Revolutionary War hero.

An estimated 5000 people are buried in the two acre Granary Graveyard. A few of them even have tombstones. It helps to be a Revolutionary War hero.

My laptop has finally returned from the doctor! So I can return to the world of blogging. It’s back to Boston and the Revolutionary War today.

Call it yellow journalism, if you will, or a post with a National Enquirer flair. Except this story isn’t filled with the ‘alternative facts’ of modern tabloids, tweets, and Facebook. Bodies did actually float to the surface in the Granary Graveyard found along Boston’s Freedom Trail. Back in the early 1700s, families occasionally discovered their loved ones surfing and needed to replant them.

It was a swampy area, overcrowded with dead bodies. An estimated 5,000 people were buried in the two acres. Digging a new grave inevitably meant running into the previously departed. Plus, there were the cow pies. Grass grew quickly in the graveyard (was it because of the wet conditions or the enriched soil) and the city fathers determined there was money to be made by renting the land out to a grave-digger as a pasture for his cattle. On a positive note, he was required to repair any damage his herd caused.

I imagine his report to Boston’s Selectmen went something like this: “Yes sir, Old Bessie did eat Grandma’s ear. She thought it was a mushroom. But I reburied Grandma along with the appropriate cow pile.” (Definitely an alternative fact.)

Today the Granary Graveyard is considered to be one of America’s most hallowed grounds. Benjamin Franklin’s parents are buried here. As are several Revolutionary War heroes including Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, James Otis, and Robert Treat Paine. Hancock, Adams and Paine were all signers of the Declaration of Independence. There is also a grave marker for the five men who died in the Boston Massacre— Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, and Patrick Carr.

Samuel Adams is one of the Revolutionary War Heroes buried in the Granary. One of America's most ardent revolutionaries, he was an early proponent of independence from England.

Samuel Adams is one of the Revolutionary War Heroes buried in the Granary. One of America’s most ardent revolutionaries, he was an early proponent of independence from England.

The graveyard backs up the stately Park Street Church, which in turn, sits on the edge of the Boston Commons. The leading Abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison, gave his first fiery sermon against slavery in the church on July 4, 1829, and the anthem, America (“My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…”) was first sung from its doorstep. Liberty wasn’t so sweet for black people.

Park Street Church was built in the early 1800s and became a center of opposition to slavery.

Park Street Church was built in the early 1800s and became a center of opposition to slavery.

As for the Commons, it was a true cow pasture. Communities in early New England often set aside a common area where all of the town’s cattle and other livestock could graze and be jointly tended. In 1775 the British turned it into a campground for its Redcoats. That would be the common soldiers, of course; the officers stayed in much more amenable accommodations, held parties and danced the night away. Today the Commons is an attractive public park and has served as a rallying point for the likes of Martin Luther King, Pope John Paul II and the recent Women’s March. Massachusetts’ attractive gold-dome statehouse overlooks the area.

The Massachusetts' State House overalls the bucolic Boston Commons.

The Massachusetts’ State House overalls the bucolic Boston Commons. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

One of the really attractive things about the Freedom Trail, besides its historical significance, is the fact that it can easily be walked in a few hours, or a day if you prefer to dawdle and take time at each of the sites. Or, if walking isn’t your thing, a number of popular bus tours will take you to all of the locations minus the exercise.

Peggy and I did most of the Trail but didn’t cross the Charles River to Bunker Hill. That will have to wait for another time. We did, however, reach Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, a site I found equally interesting to the Granary Graveyard, not because of the people buried there, but because of the tombstones.

The crooked tombstones on Cobb's Hill remind me of someone having a really bad tooth day.

The crooked tombstones on Cobb’s Hill remind me of someone having a really bad tooth day.

Another view of the tombstones on Cobb's Hill.

Another view of the crooked tombstones on Cobb’s Hill.

The Puritans were sensitive about elaborate headstones, wanting to keep things simple. This death's head with its crossed bones was allowed, however, and is found on many early tombstones in the New England region.

The Puritans/Congregationalists were sensitive about elaborate headstones, wanting to keep things simple. This death’s-head with its crossed bones was allowed, however, and is found on many early tombstones in the New England region, including those of my ancestors.

Later, a slightly more friendly cherub was allowed, including this one found in the Cobb's Hill Burial Ground.

Later, a slightly more friendly cherub was allowed, including this one found in the Cobb’s Hill Burial Ground. I think it may be smiling.

I’ve already introduced you to a number of sites along the Freedom Trail including Paul Revere’s home, the Old North Church, the Old State House, the Old Corner Bookstore (there are a lot of old things in Boston), Faneuil Hall, and the Latin School. I’ll finish my posts on Boston today with a few other sites and some additional photos of Faneuil Hall and the Old Statehouse.

This is a modern version of the Green Dragon Tavern that served as a secret gathering place for hatching many of the early protests against England's efforts to tax the colonies, including the Boston Tea Party.

This is a modern version of the Green Dragon Tavern that served as a secret gathering place for hatching many of the early protests against England’s efforts to tax the colonies, including the Boston Tea Party.

Faneuil Hall served as a more public venue for discussing the tax on tea. It wasn't big enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to protest however...

Faneuil Hall served as a more public venue for discussing the tax on tea. It wasn’t big enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to protest however…

So the meeting was switched to the Old South Meeting House, which was apparently big enough to accommodate the 5,000 people who wanted to participate. Samuel Adam's final words to the gathering, "This meeting can do nothing more to save the country," were apparently the secret rallying cry that sent the Sons of Liberty dressed as Mohawk Indians off to the Boston Harbor for their Tea Party.

So the meeting was switched to the Old South Meeting House, the largest building in Boston at the time. Samuel Adam’s final statement to the gathering, “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country,” was apparently the secret rallying cry that sent the Sons of Liberty dressed as Mohawk Indians off to Boston Harbor for their Tea Party. 

Boston's Old State House sits just across the road from Faneuil Hall. The Boston Massacre took place between the tow buildings. Check out the weather vane... (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Boston’s Old State House sits just across the road from Faneuil Hall. The Boston Massacre took place between the two buildings. Check out the weather vane… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Grasshopper weathervane on top of the Old State House in Boston.

It’s a grasshopper. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

You may have noticed the lion and the unicorn on the Statehouse as well. This symbols of British power were torn down after the Declaration of Independence and were later restored.

The lion and the unicorn on the Statehouse are symbols of British power. They were torn down after the Declaration of Independence but later restored.

NEXT BLOGS:

Wednesday: Back to the Sierra Trek. Our first night out, a conservative doctor out of Sacramento camps next to us and claims he is going back to Sacramento and tell the media that the Lung Association is running a “pot smoking orgy” in the mountains. Not true, but worrisome, none-the-less.

Friday and Saturday: The wonderfully weird world of mutant vehicles at Burning Man.

It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me… A Sierra Trek Tale

Oregon Black Bear

Black Bears are much smaller than either brown or grizzly bears, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t scary. This one was cruising our neighborhood in Oregon and  tipped over the heavy Webber Grill on our porch. Our daughter, Tasha, was sleeping in the bedroom next to the grill. “Curtis!” she screamed. Later, our neighbor captured the bear’s photo on a surveillance camera.

 

I’ve been re-blogging older posts while my laptop is at the doctors with memory problems. Today it’s time for another Sierra Trek Tale. Next week, I’ll get back to the first Sierra Trek but today we are jumping ahead five years to the first trek I led into the back country of Yosemite where bears rule.

 

Bears like me, or at least they haven’t eaten me. They’ve had numerous opportunities over the years. It goes with the territory of backpacking throughout North America for over four decades. My scariest encounters, as it turns out, were also my first.

By the fifth year of the Sierra Trek, I had worked my way southward from Lake Tahoe into Yosemite National Park. Since we were utilizing a new route from Yosemite to Kennedy Meadows, I had to preview it. (Plus it was another excuse to head out into the wilderness and be paid for it.)

My friends Ken Lake and Tom Lovering joined me on the first three days from the Yosemite Valley floor to Tuolumne Meadows. Day one found us climbing several thousand feet out of the Valley and camping above the Little Yosemite Valley. The bears dropped by for a visit on our first night in the Park.

Half Dome, Yosemite. Little Yosemite Valley is on the other side.

Half Dome, Yosemite. Little Yosemite Valley is on the other side.

After carefully hanging our food bags from a cable provided by the park service and burying the left over fake freeze-dried raspberry cobbler (it was made from apples), we trundled ourselves off to our sleeping bags. The problem was we buried the food a little too close to Lake. I think Tom may have been up to his usual mischief.

The next morning, a very excited Ken asked if we had seen the bears in our camp the previous night. Neither of us had and we attributed his sighting to an overactive imagination. Believe me, if a bear had been digging up food next to my head, my two companions would have known about it, immediately.

Day two was tough. What I hadn’t counted on was the amount of snow still left on the ground. We spent most of out time slipping, sliding and slogging through it. By three in the afternoon, Tom was ready to set up camp right in the middle of a snowfield. Ken and I threatened to leave him with the bears and he committed to another hour. Fortunately, that night was bear free. They would have found little resistance from the three of us.

Eventually, we made it into Tuolumne Meadows where I was faced with another challenge: hiking over 70 miles of snow-covered trails by myself while Ken and Tom returned to Sacramento and work. The journey was fraught with opportunities for breaking a leg, or losing the trail, or being washed away when crossing streams raging with water from melting snow. None of the above was a desirable outcome for someone hiking alone.

Tuolumne Meadows in the summer.

Tuolumne Meadows in the summer.

My other option was to return to Sacramento with Ken and Tom, which was not acceptable. I had a week off to wander in the woods and I was going to wander in the woods for a week. I compromised by heading back over the mountains toward Yosemite Valley. My fractured logic concluded that it was better to break a leg and get lost where I had been than where I was going. I also promised myself to be really careful. This included keeping my food from bears.

Hiking out of Tuolumne Meadows took me back around Cathedral Peaks shown here.

Hiking out of Tuolumne Meadows took me back around Cathedral Peaks shown here.

The first day was non eventful and the second idyllic. I was exploring new country, doing what I most love to do. As evening approached, I found a delightful campsite on the Cathedral Fork of Echo Creek. Amenities included a babbling brook to put me to sleep, a flat space for my sleeping bag and a great food-hanging tree with the perfectly placed limb. A hot dinner topped off by tea spiced up with a shot of 151-proof rum and I was ready for sleep.

I carefully hung my food bags at the recommended 12 feet off the ground and 9 feet away from the tree trunk and then snuggled down in my sleeping bag. As was my habit at the time, I slept out in the open, only using my tent when rain threatened.

It was somewhere around 4 am and very dark when I awoke with a pressure on my chest. I couldn’t see very far but I didn’t have to. Approximately five inches away from my face was a long black snout sniffing at me. It was filled with grinning teeth and topped off by a pair of beady eyes that were staring at me with a hungry look.

I let out a blood-curdling scream and vacated the premises.

As I flew in one direction, the equally surprised young bear that had been standing on me flew in the other. I don’t even remember getting out of the bag. The next thing I knew I was standing up, yelling and shining my flashlight into the woods where not one, but two pairs of orange eyes were staring back at me. I lost it. Never have so many rocks been hurled with so much vigor in such a short period of time. The bears wisely decided to head off over the mountain.

But the damage was already done. My camp was a disaster area. My carefully hung food was scattered all over the ground with literally every meal torn open and sampled. All I had left was a chunk of cheese and it had one large bear bite out of it. I hid the cheese under a heavy rock.

As a further insult, one of the bears had chomped down on my plastic rum bottle and all of the rum was gone. I couldn’t even drink. With that option eliminated, I policed the area, crawled back in my bag and went back to sleep. When I awoke in the morning it was obvious that the bears had come back into camp to clean up anything they had missed. Once again the previous night’s trash decorated my campsite. At least the bears let me sleep this time. And they had missed my cheese.

So I ate it for breakfast, cleaned the area again, packed up my gear and hiked 18 miles into the Yosemite Valley to resupply. But my week wasn’t over; neither were my bear experiences. And the summer had only begun. (I’ll get back to these stories in the future after I am finished with my series on the first Sierra Trek. You won’t want to miss the time a bear grabbed me by the head.)

NEXT BLOG: A return to my photo series on Burning Man.