Bone Is Found— but he is still just a bone… Part III

George, the Bush Devil from my book, “The Bush Devil Ate Sam,” checks out Bone. NO, George, Bone is not edible!

 

This is the third and final post on how Bone was discovered. In last Wednesday’s post my fellow backpackers and I had ended up at the resort on Echo Lake after coming out of the Desolation Wilderness. We had celebrated the first part of our journey with lunch and a beer or three…

 

My system complained about the third beer as we hiked on across Highway 50 and up to Benwood Meadow where we stopped for the night, some 34 miles from where we had started.

Our fourth day started out as a typical backpack day: we climbed. It was gentle at first and then became more serious. Once again snow-covered large segments of the trail. We spread out and searched for tree blazes. I scrambled over a particularly steep section and found myself in a high meadow.

Something half buried in a field of young corn lilies caught my eye. A few days earlier it would have been covered with snow. Curiosity led me to detour through the still soggy ground. Mud sucked at my boots.  My treasure turned out to be a disappointing, short, squat bone. Gnaw marks suggested it had been part of someone’s feast. I was about to toss it when a devious thought popped into my mind.

“Trash,” I hollered at Tom and held up the bone. We had a game where if one person found a piece of trash, the other person had to carry it out. But first you had to catch the other person.

Tom sprinted down the trail with me in pursuit. Unfortunately, we had made it over the mountain and our route ranged from flat to downhill. Tom was very fast. We had traveled two miles and were almost to Showers Lake before he stopped, concerned about leaving our companions too far behind. Very reluctantly, he took the bone and stuffed it in his pack.

“How can you classify a bone as trash,” he whined. I figured Tom would toss his new traveling companion as soon as I was out of sight.

X marks the spot where Bone was found, resting in a high mountain meadow. (Map from the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail book by Thomas Winnett.)

It was a pleasant hike down to Carson Pass on Highway 88, and relatively dry since we were on a south-facing slope. Kit Carson had come through here in February of 1844 along with John C. Fremont. It wasn’t pleasant then. The snow was deep and food was limited. The mountain men ended up dining off of their horses, mules and the camp dog. The dog apparently went quite well with pea soup. Later, the trail they discovered would become a major entry point for the 49ers rushing west to find gold. (Eventually, the trail cut through Diamond Springs, the foothill town where I was raised.)

There was nary a bar, restaurant or gas station near the pass so we hiked on another three miles to Lake Winnemucca. Rain was threatening and I set up my tube tent, a large sheet of plastic shaped into a round tunnel. It wasn’t particularly sturdy, but it was light and dry. Tom, on the other hand, was carrying a luxurious three-season tent. He stacked the women in head to toe and ended up smelling April’s feet all night.

The next day was all downhill— down to Fourth of July Lake, down to Summit City Canyon, and down to Camp Irene on the Mokelumne River. After dropping 4000 feet in 14 miles I found myself bone-tired again.

Camp Irene provided an attractive campsite but turned out to be rattlesnake country. I had discovered the perfect toilet spot, dug my cat hole, and was baring my behind when one buzzed at me. It’s amazing how fast you can pull up your pants. I was lucky the snake didn’t bite me on the butt. I grabbed a stick and chased him away with a couple of sharp prods for good measure. He was lucky I was something of a nature boy. Otherwise he would have been smashed. The next time I did any serious bathroom duty was when I was parked on a flush toilet at Lake Alpine the next day.

Climbing out of Camp Irene is a challenge. The 4000 feet we dropped the day before in 14 miles we were now expected to re-climb in six. Low clouds filled the canyon. It wasn’t raining but it was cold and damp. Somewhere in the mist a male grouse made its familiar ‘whump, whump, whump’ sound, working to attract a female companion. I empathized. Dripping wet Buck Bush grabbed at our legs.

To stay warm and dry we broke out our rain gear. Lynn moved from being cold and miserable to shivering and not caring. She was on the edge of hypothermia, a very dangerous state. The body loses its ability to maintain warmth and the rational mind ceases to function. Coordination spirals downward. It is very easy to die.

Tom and I acted quickly. I fired up my Svea gas stove and Tom had Lynn stand over it wearing her cagoule, a dress like poncho. We positioned the stove carefully. While this wasn’t a solution to hypothermia found in survival guides, it worked. (The recommended solution is to break out your sleeping bag and crawl in naked with the victim.) Within minutes, Lynn was ready to tackle the rest of the mountain.

Hypothermia can strike fast but it can also be quickly cured— assuming of course you catch it in time. Tom was next. “Curt,” he called plaintively from off in the brush where he had gone to pee. I rushed over and begin laughing. He had managed the first half of his chore but couldn’t zip his pants up. His mind was working fine but his coordination had gone south. He was all thumbs. I called Lynn over to help as I returned to the trail chuckling. There are some chores a trek leader doesn’t need to handle.

We hiked the rest of the way into Alpine Lake without difficulty. Since our ride wasn’t coming until the next day, we rented a one-room cabin to share. Rain poured down outside as we relived our adventures and made up tall tales way into the night. Our journey was winding down, but it wasn’t over.

I was shaking the dirt out of my pack at home when the bone fell out. Apparently, I had been carrying it all the way from Winnemucca Lake. “Darn Lovering,” I thought to myself, “I am going to get even.” I decided to keep the bone. There would be an opportunity on a future trip to slip it back into Tom’s pack. I would have revenge!

And that’s it, the story of Bone’s discovery. It started like so many things in our lives often do, as a non-event. Bone didn’t come up as a subject during our night in the cabin. Naked jumping ladies, lost trails, swollen rivers, gorgeous country, rattle snakes, the physical challenge, hypothermia and even the upside-down map were the stories of legend, not a small, insignificant bone that came from who knows what.

But time has the power to rewrite history. When Tom opened his suitcase in Japan at the beginning of a two-year exploration of Asia, Africa and Europe, he found a surprise, the bone. I had my revenge, and the bone became Bone. When I moved to Alaska and was unpacking my boxes, who should fall out but Bone. The tales goes on and on and on…

The Bush Devil has travelled with me since 1967 and Bone since 1977, a combined total of 90 years.

Bone on his pedestal.

Raging Rivers, Kamikaze Mosquitoes and Naked Ladies Jumping… How Bone Was Discovered: Part II

Bone contemplates a book on the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail and the high mountain meadows he loves. I used this book by Thomas Winnett on several early Treks that I led between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite.

 

This is second in a series of Blogs on how Bone was found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Go here for the first one.

I watched regrettably as April and Lynn headed out. I would miss the inspiration. Soon, however, my mind was more than occupied with route finding. The trail had disappeared under the snow.

Velma Lakes where we parted company with April and Lynn. I took this shot in the evening on another trip.

Tom pulled out his map and compass to establish our general direction. We searched for ancient tree blazes left behind by early foresters, cattlemen and sheepherders. We also watched for ducks where the snow had melted. I’m not talking about fowl that quack and taste good in orange sauce. Ducks, in trail finding terminology, are piles of stone set up to show the way. With a little imagination, they can look like their namesake. Caution is advisable. The people creating the ducks may have had a different destination in mind, or perhaps they were lost.

Tree blazes were the primary way of marking routes by the early explorers of the Western mountains. The short rectangle on top and longer one on the bottom mean ‘this is the trail.’ Blazes were normally within sight of each other.

These are duck ducks, Mallards to be specific. They are not trail ducks. Following them might get you lost, or wet. Check out the eye on the male. He was not happy with my waking him up.

This is a trail duck. The three rocks in the middle are what a normal trail duck looks like. I added a rock on each side to create a Sierra Trek duck so Trekkers would know what to follow. I borrowed these rocks from Peggy’s rock garden and put them on our railing. I had strict instructions to return them to where I found them. BTW, three ducks in a row mean danger to Boy Scouts. We rarely had Boy Scouts follow us.

This is an example of a duck in use. A trail splits. The duck tells you to use the left one. I borrowed our backyard and deer trails for this.

An hour later we found ourselves more or less where we were supposed to be, on the edge of the Rubicon River. A student of ancient Roman History undoubtedly named the stream. Like Julius Caesar, we were faced with crossing it. In a month or so it would be a tame creek inviting a refreshing dip but now it was a roaring river, filled with icy water from quickly melting snow fields.

I entered with trepidation and was almost washed off my feet. Facing up-stream, I used a walking stick to give myself a third leg. Water crept up to my knees and beyond. It was cold; I have short legs. The force was incredible. I set each foot carefully and moved crab-like, searching for solid ground between slippery rocks.  I’d undone my pack belt so I could shuck the pack if I were knocked over. Swimming in freezing water with 50 pounds on your back is hazardous to your health. In a few minutes that stretched out forever I was across. Tom and Terry also made it without incident.

We plopped down on a convenient log to catch our breath and munch down on GORP (good old raisins and peanuts). It was a quick meal. A thick swarm of mosquitoes dive-bombed us with kamikaze abandon.  Slap one and five more landed, gleefully licking off our bug repellent before plunging in their proboscises. We were driven to put on our packs and scurry up the trail. Fortunately, Rockbound Valley is relatively flat and we were able to escape. Stopping was not an option as we hoofed it for the next four miles, crossing the Rubicon two more times before we began our labored ascent up aptly named Mosquito Pass.

Life slowed down immediately as we began climbing. The blood sucking hoards caught up. Near the top, we were confronted with a different challenge, more snow. Eight hours of hot sun had turned it to mush. We spent as much time sliding as we did climbing. It was slow, hard, slogging work. And it was dangerous. Running water, partially exposed boulders and tree trunks melt snow from the ground up and create hidden cavities. More than once we plunged through up to our knees.

Ignoring the danger, Tom and I laughed our way down the other side, glissading in our boots. Control was minimal. Camp was in sight. Terri came along at a much more sedate and careful pace.

There was nothing about Lake Aloha that made me think Hawaii. It was a strange Dali-like creation with a convoluted shoreline and innumerable Rorschach type islands. What’s more, mini-icebergs decorated its surface. Bright white on top, they turned an icy blue under the water. All I could think was cold. Plowing through snow on our way around the lake to camp added freezing to my thoughts.

That night, we built a small campfire to fight off the chill. Terry wandered off to bed. Tom was slightly melancholy. He looked off into the distance over my shoulder.

“I was married on that peak,” he announced to the night. I turned around and stared across Lake Aloha at the towering Pyramid Peak, the centerpiece of the Crystal Range. It was bathed in moonlight. Several years earlier, Tom had met and fallen in love with Hilde, a slight, attractive blonde who shared his love of the wilderness. They decided to get married on the mountain. Mom, wedding party and friends were invited to share their 9983 feet “I do.”

The marriage didn’t last long and Tom was reluctant to talk about it. The fire burned down to glowing embers. We shared the silence in memory of lost love.

This map from the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail book shows our route from Velma Lakes to Upper Echo Lake. The red trail shows the actual route. The dotted trail shows the route we picked to Lake Aloha because of the deep snow going up past Dicks Lake.

I was up early the next morning and eager to hit the trail. My body was starting to adjust and feel good. More importantly, the resort at Echo Lake was calling. A quick breakfast and we were off. I took the lead with Tom following and Terry trailing. Soon we had climbed out of Lake Aloha, hiked past Lake Margery  and worked our way across Haypress Meadows where cattlemen once harvested grass for winter feed. As we began our descent into Echo Lake, I left my companions behind. The vision of cold beer and a hamburger drove me on. Short shorts may have been a factor as well. Lynn and April were supposed to rejoin us at the Echo Lake Resort.

There was a decision to make when I reached Echo Lake. I could continue to follow the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail around the upper and lower lakes or I could call the Lodge from a phone located at the end of Upper Lake. It would send a boat taxi to pick me up for five bucks. The trail was hot and filled with day hikers. I made the phone call. A half hour later, the throbbing of the motorboat’s engine caught my attention as it worked its way up the lake. Soon it arrived, coughing slightly. The boat slowed and bumped into the pier. My ‘taxi driver’ was a 16-year old plus teenager who had managed to snag a great summer job.

“Hop on,” he told me. An elderly couple was along for the ride. I nodded at them. I was halfway between the boat and the pier when I heard a commotion.

“Over here, Curt,” a familiar voice shouted. I looked up. A few yards away alders had hidden another pier. Two very attractive and very naked women were jumping up and down to get my attention. They succeeded. It was April and Lynn. They had come over on an earlier boat and were working in a little sunbathing while waiting for us. The young boatman and the old man were all eyes. The elderly woman looked thoroughly irritated and glared at all of us, especially her husband.

“Uh, I think I’ll stay here,” I told my driver.

“Can I stay too?” he asked and grinned at me. The elderly man wisely stayed silent.

I joined the girls as the boat coughed its way back toward the resort. Tom showed up soon afterwards. We were waiting for Terry and the women were dressed when the ranger showed up.

“There has been a complaint about naked women jumping up and down over here,” he told us.

“Boy, I wish I would have seen them,” Tom responded. I am not sure the ranger bought our story but he wandered off in search of other criminals.

The same boatman picked us up and told me that the first thing the elderly woman did when she got back was to complain loud and long about the perverted people across the lake. She even cornered a ranger. My new young friend speculated that the ranger came looking for us as an excuse to escape. “Or maybe he wanted to see the naked ladies,” I noted.

I happily downed a hamburger and a beer, or maybe it was two. But we still had a few miles to go before camp, so I didn’t want to eat or drink too much. Backpacking is hard enough as is—alcohol and a stuffed tummy makes it harder.

Be sure to check in next Wednesday and learn how Bone was found!

Three more photos from the journeys that Bone has been on since his discovery.

Riding an elephant in Nepal. Bone is hard to see but he is resting on the elephant’s head. He is being held by Mary Johnson who had taken Bone along for good luck. Many people have travelled with Bone over the years.

Iguanas chat with Bone in the South Pacific, where he was taken on a diving expedition by Jose Kirchner.

Bone sits in the sand at twilight on the edge of the Tasman Sea on the South Island of New Zealand. He was traveling with Peggy and me.

NEXT BLOGS

Friday: It’s back to Burning man with some very Burning Man-like murals and paintings.

Monday: A cave filled with sea lions on the Oregon coast and another beautiful lighthouse.

Wednesday: Bone is found! Hypothermia threatens! A rattlesnake tries to bite me on the butt!

 

 

Let’s Celebrate the Earth… It’s Earth Day 2017!

Without environmental awareness and action, this magnificent Brown Pelican would no longer be flying. By the 1960s, DDT, which was used extensively in controlling insects, had come close to wiping out the species.

On April 22, 1970, I was running a recruitment campaign for Peace Corps at the University of California in Davis. It was one of those beautiful spring days in the Central Valley of California where green grass covers the valley floor and pushes on up into the foothills, the birds are busy declaring their love, and everything seems to bloom at once.  Inspired, I had gone out for an early morning walk along the American River in Sacramento before heading to work. When I arrived on campus around 9:00, booths had sprung up across the large open quad that is the heart of the University, and a sense of excitement filled the air.

It was Earth Day I, ground zero in America’s efforts to save its environment, to return to an earlier time in American history, back before our rivers and air became a cheap way to dispose of industrial wastes, back before the value of our remaining wild areas had only been measured in the minerals that could be mined, or oil that could be produced, or trees that could be cut down, back before agricultural production was determined by the number of poisonous chemicals we could pour on plants and the antibodies and hormones we could pump into our livestock, back before America’s ‘greatness’ was measured in terms of how many times we could blow up the world with our nuclear weapons, and the amount of wealth that could be concentrated in the top one percent of our society.

Rachel Carson had provided the initial impulse for the environmental movement with her classic book, Silent Spring, published in 1962. The original idea for Earth Day had come from US Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, after he had witnessed the devastation caused by the Santa Barbara oil spill. He had noted student activism on American college campuses in support of human rights and in opposition to war and felt that some of the energy might be captured for saving the environment. Nelson had recruited Senator Pete McCloskey, a moderate Republican from California, and the two of them had gone on to organize the nation-wide teach-in on college campuses that had become Earth Day I.

I had quickly given up any pretense of recruiting for Peace Corps that day and instead spent my time walking from booth to booth and talking to young people and organizations about the challenges we faced on the environmental front, about their hopes and dreams for the future. Something happened to me that day. I became a believer in the importance of turning back the clock, of making America great again from an environmental perspective, and of redefining progress to include clean air and clean water, and wild places we could still enjoy and escape to.

Within two months, I had left my job as Director of Peace Corps Public Affairs in Northern California and Nevada and become Executive Director of a fledgling environmental center in Sacramento. On a national level, 1970 saw creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. But the battle was just beginning. And nowhere was this clearer than in California. The then governor of the state, the man who would be president, Ronald Reagan, had already declared in the battle to preserve the redwoods, “…a tree is a tree, how many more do you need to look at?” The timber industry, and apparently, the governor, still looked at a 2000-year-old forest giant and saw 480,000 board feet of lumber.

Redwood

This ancient redwood is located in Redwoods National Park on the northern coast of California. Is the approximate three million dollars worth of lumber that cutting it down would bring worth more than its beauty or the 1500 years it has taken to produce it? Or to the joy it will continue to bring to our children and grandchildren for generations to come?

In 1990, Earth Day appropriately went international. Some 200 million people in 141 countries carried the fight for clean air, clean water, and for the protection of wild places and wild animals onto the world stage.

Today, in the US, after 50 years of making progress in cleaning our air and water, in saving endangered species, in setting aside wild and beautiful areas, in developing clean energy, and in recycling our waste, the man who is President has declared war on environmental protection. He has proposed drastic cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and appointed a man to head the agency who is a dedicated opponent of the organization. He has denied the science behind global warming and moved to pull the US out of international efforts to solve the problem. And this is just for starters according to his campaign promises. Apparently “Making America Great Again” includes returning to the days when making a profit always trumped protecting the earth. But who knows? Our President is known to change his mind.

But the battle to save the earth, and that is what it is, is not just a US problem; it is a world-wide problem. It doesn’t matter today whether you are reading this post today from Nigeria, or Australia, or France, or Canada, or England, or Russia, or Brazil, or Singapore, or any of the other 160 countries from which people frequently or occasionally check in on my blog, the fight for clean air and water, for healthy food, for wild places, and for wild animals is a fight for all of us. Future generations of people, not to mention lions and tigers and frogs and trees and elephants and butterflies will say thank you.

The photos today (taken by Peggy and me) are to remind us of just how precious this world we live in is.

 

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the World’s great natural wonders. There were plans to dam the canyon and flood it with water until people who loved its beauty stepped in and stopped the effort.

The world is full of natural beauty… including this waterfall in Milford Sound, New Zealand.

Sunset at Sea Kayak Adventure's campsite on Hanson Island in Johnstone Strait. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Sunset in Queen Charlotte Strait off the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Scotch Broom found on the American River Parkway. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Scotch Broom found along a wild roadside in Scotland.

Yosemite's Half Dome captured on a hazy day. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

John Muir who wandered the Sierra Nevada Mountains was the founder of the Sierra Club and an early conservationist. His love of Yosemite led to national protection for the area, and the photographer, Ansel Adams, would make Half Dome, seen here, world-famous. I have spent 50 years of my life wandering the Sierras.

The deserts of the world have their own beauty. This is Death Valley.

For my last photo today, I can’t resist posting a picture from our front porch in Southern Oregon that I took a couple of months ago. Peggy and I are blessed to live in an area of great natural beauty. Every day we are reminded of the importance of protecting the environment.

 

Happy Earth Day from Curt and Peggy!

 

The Ten Questions People Most Frequently Ask Bone… The Interview!

Bone has been in many tough situations in his life; he can handle tough questions. Here he rests on top of a saguaro cactus in Arizona looking for border control agents. His lack of official papers, or even a birth certificate, can cause problems at times.

Q: Do you really talk? We’re speaking ethics here, Bone. Blogging is about transparency. That means honesty.

A. Are you crazy? Have you ever heard a bone talk? Of course I don’t talk. I just think out loud.

Q: Curt sometimes refers to you as he. Does this mean you are a male bone?

A. No. He makes assumptions, lot of them. He was showing me to a biologist at a writers’ conference and she suggested I have my DNA tested. “Just cut a small chip off of it,” she said nonchalantly. “You can determine its sex and breed.”

“Just cut a small chip off of it!Outrageous! I am not some it to have chips cut out of. Besides, I lead a rich fantasy life and have no desire to know whether I am male or female. Call me she, he, or Bone, but never it.

Um, I think Bone is definitely a male in this photo. –Curt

Q: You have travelled all over the world and met thousands of people. How do they usually react to you?

A. With befuddlement. You should have seen the look on the face of the customs agent in New Zealand who tried to seize me as ‘animal matter.’ But emotions run the gamut. There was a Japanese man who got off a tour bus at Yellowstone National Park and wanted to hold me for good luck. Soon there were 40 other Japanese handing me around, oohing, and taking photos. I was thrilled. On the opposite side, I know a woman who refuses to touch me, like I have cooties. “I don’t know where Bone has been,” she states primly. Not surprisingly, there is also jealousy. “I want to be you and travel the world,” a good friend in Sacramento told me.

Some people act like I have cooties. This woman almost dropped me and then washed her hands! –Bone

Her daughter, on the other hand, so to speak, understands proper bone etiquette and respect. –Bone

Q:  What is your favorite thing to do?

A. Visit graveyards; there are lots of old bones there. My favorite grave is Smokey Bear’s in Capitan, New Mexico. I once stood on his tombstone for ten minutes trying to communicate but all I could get was something about ‘growling and a prowling and a sniffing the air.’ A close second is the grave of Calamity Jane in Deadwood, South Dakota. What a woman! These are difficult choices, though, when you toss in the likes of Hemingway, Daniel Boone and Billy the Kid. On the light side I once visited Ben and Jerry’s graveyard of discarded ice cream flavors in Vermont. My spookiest experience was a visit to the Capela dos Ossos, the Chapel of Bones, in Evora, Portugal. Those folks definitely have a skeleton in their closet, lots of them.

Bone has a special fondness for unusual graves. Here he hangs out with Billy the Kid in New Mexico. Has he been in a shoot out? Is that blood on his vest?

Q: So, what’s your second most favorite?

A. Too hard; I am a dilettante dabbler, but here are a few.

  • Wandering, of course, anywhere and everywhere and by all modes: bikes, kayaks, rafts, skis, backpacks, sailboats, planes, helicopters, trains, cars, RVs, etc.
  • Visiting wild, remote and beautiful natural areas. I started life wandering the Sierra Nevada Mountains, John Muir’s Range of Light.
  • Seeking out the strange such as ghosts and aliens (I’ve been to Roswell four times).
  • Attending unique events like Burning Man but I also have a fondness for any type of fair.
  • Meeting weird people like Tom.

Bone backpacking on the John Muir Trail.

Tom being eaten by a bony desert monster.

Q: Speaking of Tom, he and Curt ‘discovered’ you in 1977 and you have wandered extensively with both. Which do you like best?

A. Eeyore, the jackass who can’t keep track of his tail. We’re traveling companions and he saved me from being strung up and buried on Boothill in Tombstone Arizona. I’d robbed a bank, cheated at cards and hung out with women of questionable character. (This is what I mean by having a rich fantasy life. It’s also known as evasion.)

“I was in deep trouble in Tombstone. Wyatt Earp had arrested me for robbing a bank and Doc Holiday was checking me for weapons.

My life as Bone was in serious jeopardy.

Odds were I was going to end up on Boothill, along with Billy Clanton.

But then the ever brave Eeyore came to my rescue! I hopped on his back and we went riding off into the sunset while leaping over large rocks.

Q: Which of your journeys has been most memorable?

A. I would have to say traveling the length of Africa in the back of a truck from the Sahara Desert in the north to Cape Town in the south. Almost falling off the back of a riverboat into a piranha infested section of the Amazon River would have to be a close second. I was perched on the back railing doing a photo shoot. And then, of course, there was the 10,000-mile bike trip.

Bone on photo shoot barely escapes falling off the edge into the Piranha infested waters of the Amazon. “I was falling off when Curt leapt across the boat and grabbed me.”

“I was much smarter when I rafted down the Colorado. I wore a life jacket!”

“That didn’t protect me from pirates. The dreaded pirate Steve held a knife to my throat and demanded to know where I buried my treasure.”

Q: You are often seen scrambling over rocks in remote sections of the Southwestern United States. What’s that all about?

A. I’ve developed a fondness for Native American Rock art. It resonates with my bone-like nature. It’s also another excuse to go wandering around in the outdoors. Plus, some those places might be haunted and it is a great place to look for UFOs. Some of the petroglyphs look amazingly like aliens. Finally, wandering in the desert is known to be good for the soul. Ask the Prophets of yore.

How can this guy and his strange dog not be aliens?

Here I am making tracks across White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. It’s a great place to watch out for UFOs.

Q: Ah, being a born-again bone, do you have any insights into the great unknown?

A. Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Q: Finally, and this may be a little sensitive, but do you always run around naked?

A. What kind of a question is that? Do you think I am uncivilized? For shame. I am the epitome of haute couture! A bow and arrow toting, card-carrying NRA member in Montana has designed and made me two leather vests. What’s more, an 80 plus year old woman in Kansas going on 20 with a crush on Johnny Depp and a room devoted to the Egyptian gods has made me a kilt and several other outfits. Then there is the horse woman actress in Ohio whose husband is an ex-secret service agent who has promised me an outfit and the artist head of a PR firm in the Bahamas who has promised me another. Face it; I am hot stuff, clothed or naked. I may take up a modeling career.

Rod Hilton fashions a new leather vest for bone.

My Bahamian/Canadian friend makes me a new vest in the wilds of Montana. –Bone

Bone, wearing his newly made kilt, fights off a ferocious sea monster in a scene straight out of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’

So… now you have heard from Bone, do you have any questions you would like to ask him? He promises to answer.

NEXT BLOGS:

Friday: The stunning temples of Burning Man.

Monday: Bandon by the Sea. It’s back to the Oregon Coast.

Wednesday: The exciting tale of how Bone was rescued from a life of quiet contemplation. Part I

The Journeys of Bone… Forty Years of Wandering the World

Bone has been wandering the world for 40 years. Given his nature, it is only natural that he would end up at Burning Man. He and a butterfly are perched on “Horse with No Name,” preparing to ride off into the desert.

 

Have you met Bone? He’s been hanging around here for 7 years and traveling the world for 40. Once upon a time, and it seems like a long time ago, this blog was even titled the Peripatetic Bone. There’s a story here, of course. In January of 2010, I had attended the San Francisco Writers’ Conference. Part of the event had involved ‘speed dating’ with agents.  I had carried Bone with me to San Francisco and introduced him to three of the agents, suggesting that I wanted to write a book titled “Travels with Bone.” They had been a bit surprised to meet Bone, but had been intrigued by the concept. Each had suggested that I go home and write up a proposal.

 I had also learned at the conference that I needed an Internet presence and would be expected to market any book I succeeded in publishing. I dutifully went home and created a blog for Bone on Word Press. Somewhere in the process, I decided that my first book should be on my Peace Corps experience. So, I wrote and published, “The Bush Devil Ate Sam.” I also changed the name of my blog to “Wandering through Time and Place.”

 I decided it would be fun to reintroduce Bone and do a five-part mini-series on his adventures. Today, I am going to summarize his travels. Next week I will do an interview with Bone. Then I will follow up with three posts on how he was found.

 

Bone has traveled twice to the base of Mt. Everest.

 

Part I: The History of Bone

Sometime in 1900s Bone started his life as part of horse wandering through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The horse was allegedly eaten by a bear. Bone ended up in a high mountain meadow practicing Zen and being nibbled on by a miscreant rodent.

1977: He was ‘discovered’ by two lost backpackers (Curt Mekemson and Tom Lovering) on the Tahoe Yosemite Trail above Lake Tahoe and launched his career of wandering the world.

1980-81: Bone commenced his first World Tour with Tom.  He visited Asia including Japan, Hong Kong, Bombay, Delhi and Katmandu where he trekked to the base of Mt. Everest. He then wandered on to spend spring and summer in Europe stopping off in Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, England and Ireland. Getting cold, Bone headed south and hitched ride in back of truck through Algeria, Niger, Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Zaire, Sudan, Kenya (where he crossed Equator), Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. He signed on with Tom as crew of sailboat in Cape Town and headed north to Mallorca, stopping off on the islands of St. Helena, Ascension, Cape Verde and Madeira. Back in Europe he explored his possible Viking roots in Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Bone ends up in Tom’s hair (don’t ask) on a 2010 trip down the Colorado River.

1983-86: Bone assumed Cheechako status and moved to Alaska with Curt where he was stalked by a grizzly bear on the Kenai Peninsula, explored Prince William Sound by kayak, learned to winter camp in 30 degree below zero weather while listening to wolves howl, backpacked in the Brooks Range north of the Arctic Circle, and discussed the finer points of eating salmon with Great Brown Bears in Katmai National Park. He escaped briefly to the warmer climate of Hawaii and participated in New Orleans Mardi Gras.

1986: He backpacked the Western US for five months with Curt exploring the Grand Canyon, the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, the Rockies, and the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming before returning to his beloved Sierras.

1989: Bone went on a six month 10,000-mile solo bike tour with Curt around North America visiting 18 states and 4 Canadian provinces. He ended his journey by meeting Peggy.

1990: The International Society of the BONE was formed at Senior Frogs in Mazatlan, Mexico, where Bone spent the afternoon being pickled in a pitcher of margaritas and being kissed by lovely senoritas.

1991-97: Various members of International Society accompanied Bone on numerous adventures. Highlights included a White House Press Conference with Bill Clinton, being blessed by the Pope in St. Peter’s Square, visiting with Michelangelo’s David, going deep-sea diving in South Pacific and Caribbean, doing a Jane Austin tour of England, and exploring the Yucatan Peninsula. A group adopted him as a good luck charm and took him back to visit the base of Mt. Everest one year and to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro another.

Bone loves high places. Here he is on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in East Africa. (He’s with MJ, fourth from right, standing.)

Bone went diving in the Pacific in 1997 with Jose and Barbara Kirchner, visiting a Japanese ship sunk during World War II and receiving his diving certificate.

1998-99: Bone embarked on 40,000-mile journey in the van, Xanadu, through the US, Canada and Mexico with Peggy and Curt, visiting over 30 National Parks, driving the Alaska and Baja Highways, checking out Smokey the Bear’s and Calamity Jane’s graves, kayaking in the Sea of Cortez, leaf peeping in Vermont, jetting to the Bahamas, pursuing flying saucers in Roswell, New Mexico, and completing his visits to all 50 states, etc. etc. etc.

2000-02: Bone journeys up the Amazon, returns to Europe, cruises to Belize, Cancun and the Cayman’s, and goes to New Zealand where a misguided customs agent tries to arrest and jail him as animal matter.

While in the Amazon, Bone slept in the same room that Jimmy Carter had slept in.

2003: Bone undertakes a 360-mile backpack trip in celebration of his discovery and Curt’s 60th birthday. They begin at Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe and end by climbing Mt. Whitney. Various friends join them along the way.

2004: Bone visits Hemingway’s grave in Idaho, goes horseback riding with Australians and Bahamians in Montana, and makes his first pilgrimage to Burning Man in Nevada, a very Bone like type of place. He also jets off to Costa Rica.

Bone has a love for anything ancient. Here, he perches on a Mayan sculpture in Costa Rica.

2005-2007: Bone returns to Burning Man twice and revisits Europe twice including special stopovers in Portugal, France, Holland, Germany, and Belgium. He also revisits Mexico.

2008 – 2011: Bone commences another exploration of North America. This time he travels in the van, Quivera, along with Curt, Peggy, and Eeyore the Jackass. His journey takes him over 75,000 miles of American Roads. In May of 2010 he begins his travel blog, The Peripatetic Bone, and rafts 280 miles down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

2012-2017: Bone goes into semi-retirement in Southern Oregon. Please note the semi, however. He continues the exploration of the West Coast ranging from Big Sur to Vancouver Island, where he kayaks for a week in search of Killer Whales. He wanders through England and Scotland helping Curt find his roots and spends a week traveling by Canal Boat on the Mercer River. Later, he returns to Europe again, traveling through the Mediterranean visiting Turkey, Santorini and other Greek Islands, Dubrovnik, Venice, Rome, Pompeii, Florence, and Barcelona. He returns to Burning Man several times.  On one trip, he is married to the lovely Bonetta, who he met while exploring a swamp in Florida. Rumor has it that it was a shotgun wedding.

Bone and Big Nose Bonetta are married at Burning Man 2013. Bone’s kilt was made for him by an 80-plus year old woman from Kansas. Bonetta is wearing a designer wedding dress with very expensive plastic jewelry to match.

NEXT Wednesday: Bone grants one of his very rare interviews. You won’t want to miss it! (No, Bone doesn’t talk; he just thinks out loud.)

In the Meantime:

Saturday: A return to Burning Man and the last of the sculptures.

Monday: Peggy and I have just been in Bandon on the Oregon Coast. Are you ready for a visual treat?

If Someone Steals your Spouse or Cow, Who Do You Call? The Lightning Man!

The Bush Devil is a powerful figure within traditional Liberian Culture. This is a Bush Devil of the Grebo Tribe that visited a Peace Corps Haight-Ashbury Party Liberia circa 1967.

 

I was in serious need of inspiration over the weekend when it came to today’s post. I had a bad case of blogger’s block. And then I was hit by a thought— why not throw in a chapter from my book. Other than the promo I run in the upper right hand corner, it’s been a long time since I’ve done anything with “The Bush Devil Ate Sam” on this blog. If you are new to The Bush Devil Ate Sam and enjoy this chapter, the book is available on Amazon.

 

Sam, the young man who worked for us in Liberia, was enamored with western culture. It fired his imagination. He spent hours listening to the Kingston Trio get Charlie off the MTA and dove into peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like a frog dives into water. Still, for all of his excitement about things modern, ancient African was an integral part of who he was. He had the scars to prove it. They marched down his chest in two neat rows.

“How did you get those,” Jo (my former wife) asked with ten percent concern and ninety percent curiosity.

“I can’t tell you,” Sam replied with obvious nervousness as Jo’s eyebrows rose. “But I can tell Mr. Mekemson.”

Aha, I thought, Sam and I belong to the same organization, the Men’s Club! Actually, Sam belonged to a very exclusive men’s organization, the Poro Society, which I wasn’t allowed to join. Its functions were to pass on tribal traditions, teach useful skills, and keep errant tribe members in line. Everything about the organization was hush-hush. Tribal members who revealed secrets could be banned and even executed.

Political power on the local level was closely tied to membership in the Poro Society. On the national level, President Tubman assumed leadership of all Poro Societies in Liberia. Tribal women had a similar secret organization called the Sande Society, which prepared young women for adulthood and marriage. A controversial aspect of the Sande initiation ceremony was female genital mutilation— cutting off the clitoris.

Sam got off easy.

He had been to Bush School the previous summer and learned how to be a good Kpelle man. Graduation to adulthood consisted of an all-consuming encounter with the Poro Society’s Bush Devil. It ate him— metaphorically speaking. Sam was consumed as a child and spit out as a man. The scarification marks had been left by the devil’s ‘teeth.’ It seemed like a tough way to achieve adulthood, but at least it was fast and definitive.

The Bush Devil was a very important tribal figure who was part religious leader, part cultural cop and part political hack. Non-Kpelle types weren’t allowed to see him. When the Devil came to visit outlying villages, a frontman preceded him and ran circles around the local Peace Corps Volunteer’s house while blowing a whistle. The Volunteer was expected to go inside, shut the door, close the shutters and stay there. No peeking.

We did get to see a Grebo Devil once. The Grebo Tribe was less secretive, or at least more mercenary. Some Peace Corps Volunteers had hired the local Devil for a Haight-Ashbury style African party. It was, after all, 1967, the “summer of love” in San Francisco and the “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.” Along with several other Volunteers, we hired a money bus to get to the party. Had we been thinking, we would have painted the bus with Day-Glo, like Ken Kesey’s bus, Further.

The Devil was all decked out in his regalia. His persona was somewhere between a voodoo nightmare and walking haystack. Grebo men scurried in front of him with brooms, clearing his path and grunting a lot. We stayed out of the way and took pictures.

Another area where Sam showed his tribal side was his fear of the newly dead. A person’s spirit was considered particularly powerful and dangerous right after he or she died. Later, the spirit would move away into the bush and fade. But first it had to be tamed with appropriate mourning, an all-night bash. One didn’t take chances. When Sam worked late for us after someone had died, he would borrow a knife and a flashlight in case he had to fight off the malevolent ghost on his way home. I had grown up next to a graveyard and was sympathetic with his concern.

Juju, or African witch doctor medicine, was another area where African reality varied from modern Western reality. Late one evening, in the middle of a tropical downpour, one of my high school students appeared on our doorstep very wet and very frightened. Mamadee Wattee was running for student body president. His opponent had purchased ‘medicine’ from a Juju man to make him sick.

It was serious business; people were known to die in similar circumstances. Had the opposition slandered Mamadee or stuffed the ballot box, I could have helped, but countering a magic potion wasn’t taught at Berkeley, at least not officially. I took the issue to Mr. Bonal, the high school principal, and he dealt with it. Mamadee stayed well and won the election.

The use of Juju medicine represents the darker side of tribal culture. Human body parts derived from ritual human sacrifice are reputed to be particularly effective in creating potions. Cannibalism may be involved. On the lighter side, my students once obtained a less potent ‘medicine’ and buried it under the goal post on the football (soccer) field with the belief that it would cause the other team to miss goals. Apparently, it wasn’t potent enough; the other team won.

Mamadee was also the reason behind our introduction to the Lightning Man. When Jo and I went on vacation to East Africa, we left Mamadee with $50 to buy a 50-gallon drum of kerosene. When we returned, there was neither kerosene nor $50, but Mamadee was sitting on our doorstep. Someone had stolen the money and Mamadee was extremely upset. Fifty dollars represented a month’s income for a Kpelle farmer. Mamadee’s father, a chief of the Kpelle tribe, was even more upset and wanted to assure us that his son had nothing to do with the missing fortune. It was a matter of honor. He offered to have Mamadee submit to the Lightning Man to prove his innocence.

The Lightning Man had a unique power; he could make lighting strike whoever was guilty of a crime. If someone stole your cow or your spouse, zap! Since we were in the tropics, there was lots of lightning. Whenever anyone was struck, people would shake their heads knowingly. Another bad guy had been cooked; justice had been served.

We didn’t believe Mamadee had taken the money, and even if he had, we certainly didn’t want him fried, or even singed. We passed on the offer. The Chief insisted on giving us $50 to replace the stolen money.

Another Liberian Peace Corps Volunteer in a similar situation chose a different path. Here’s how the story was told to us. The Volunteer had just purchased a brand new $70 radio so he could listen to the BBC and keep track of what was happening in the world. The money represented close to half of the Volunteer’s monthly income. He had owned his new toy for two days when it disappeared.

“I am going to get my radio back,” he announced to anyone who would listen and then walked into the village where he quickly gathered some of his students to take him to the Lightning Man. Off he and half the town went, winding through the rainforest to the Lighting Man’s hut. The Volunteer took out five dollars and gave it to the Lighting Man. (Lighting Men have to eat, too.)

“I want you to make lighting strike whoever stole my radio,” he said.

The Volunteer and his substantial entourage then returned home. By this time, everyone in the village knew about the trip, including, undoubtedly, the person who had stolen the radio.

That night, there was a tremendous thunder and lightning storm. Ignoring for the moment that it was in the middle of the rainy season and there were always tremendous thunder and lightning storms, place yourself in the shoes of the thief who believed in the Lightning Man’s power. Each clap of thunder would have been shouting his name.

In the morning, the Volunteer got up, had breakfast and went out on his porch. There was his radio.

NEXT BLOGS:

Wednesday: I wrap up the Sierra Trek series.

Friday: A look at several major art installations at Burning Man.

Monday: Astoria: A return to the Oregon Coast.

Three Hundred Cups of Tea and The Toughest Job… More Tales from West Africa

Three Hundred Cups of Tea and the Toughest Job by Asifa Kanji and David Drury

 

Peggy, who is President of Friends of the Ruch Library, came home from a Jackson County Library meeting this summer and told me that two Returned Peace Corps Volunteers had just given a program at the Ashland Library on a book they’d written about their experience in Mali, West Africa. She also had their names, David Drury and Asifa Kanji, and contact information.

Given the book I’d written about my Peace Corps adventures in Liberia, it caught my attention.  I called immediately and reached David. Asifa was off in Hawaii attending to business. Within a few minutes we had a picnic set up for Lithia Park in Ashland. We’d bring the wine. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ashland, it’s the first town you come to when following I-5 north from California into Oregon. The community is renowned for its Shakespeare Festival.)

By the end of lunch, we were on our way to becoming friends and had exchanged books. Asifa and David’s books, Three Hundred Cups of Tea and The Toughest Job, are combined under one cover. My book is The Bush Devil Ate Sam. 

I immediately took their books home and begin reading them. I was fascinated. Both are good writers, have a great sense of humor, and have interesting stories to tell.

I joined the Peace Corps when I was 22, right after I graduated from UC Berkeley in 1965. David and Asifa joined almost 50 years later in 2012 when David was 60 and Asifa 57. They had to have vastly different experiences from mine, I thought. And yes, there were differences. I certainly didn’t have a cell phone or access to the Internet. They still weren’t invented. And David worked in a cybercafe! In 1965, I would have been running to the dictionary for a definition— and not finding it.

But in the end, I was more impressed by the similarities of our experiences than the differences. Working in an impoverished third world country while struggling to accomplish something in a totally different culture is slow arduous work, and often unsuccessful. Both of their book titles reflected this. Asifa’s 300 cups of tea was the number of cups you had to drink with someone to get their attention. Patience and, I might add, a strong bladder were called for. David’s book got right to the point; it was the toughest job he had ever had.

If you want a good tale that will transport you into another world with both compassion and humor, I recommend David and Asifa’s book. It’s available here on Amazon.

The Bush Devil Ate Sam, Tree Hundred Cups of Tea, and the Toughest Job: Books on Peace Corps Experiences in West Africa

If you are among my blog followers in Southern Oregon, Asifa, David and I will be doing a program featuring tales from West Africa on this coming Saturday, January 20 at the Ruch Library from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. You are invited! The address for the library is 7919 Highway 238 (one block past the Upper Applegate River intersection if you are coming in from Jacksonville on 238).

Boston: A Cradle of Liberty Where Freedom Still Rings Out

Boston's Old State House has been a symbol of American liberty for over 300 years.

The Declaration of Independence was first read to Bostonians in 1776 from the balcony of the Old State House (shown at night above). John Adam’s bright and articulate wife, Abigail, wrote to her husband that as soon as the Declaration was read… “three cheers rended the air.” She went on to report, “Thus ends the royal authority in this state.”

A fierce desire for independence and freedom has existed in Boston dating back to its very beginning in 1630 when the city was granted a charter to self-govern. Britain’s decision to limit the city’s freedom and tax its citizens starting in the 1760s led to protests that ended in the Revolutionary War and American independence. Beginning in the early 1800s, a strong abolitionist movement opposing slavery grew up in the Boston that would play a key role in leading to the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves. When Peggy and I visited the city in December, we were able to visit a number of sites that reflected Boston’s historical contributions to liberty in America, but we also found ample evidence that the call to freedom still rings out in the city.

My experience in Boston combined with the fact that Donald Trump will be inaugurated as President this week led me to ponder some the most powerful statements that underlie our nation’s commitment to freedom and equality. Here are my favorites:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —US Declaration of Independence

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. —Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. —The First Amendment of the US Constitution

Slightly different but reflecting America’s original openness to immigration, and I might note, recognizing that we are a nation built by and with immigrants…

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! —Quote on America’s Statue of Liberty

These are words of wisdom from the folks who “made America great,” and have inspired generations of people in the U.S. and around the world. It is my hope that our new president will take these words to heart  in his efforts to “make America great again.”

 

Neither Peggy nor I had been to Boston before, which is a bit surprising considering the importance of Boston to the nation’s history— and to my own. My Great Grandfather to the umpteenth on my mother’s side arrived there in early 1630s from England, when the city was founded. Ultimately, we are all immigrants.

Boston Commons plaque that commemorates the founding of Boston, Massachusetts in 1630.

This plaque located on Boston Commons commemorates the founding of Boston in 1630. My Great Grandfather to the umpteenth is helping pull the boat in. (Just kidding.)

It was ‘love at first sight’ when we arrived. I had managed to find us an affordable hotel in the center of the city. Most of Revolutionary Boston was within walking distance and I am a big fan of Revolutionary War history. The red brick Freedom Trail was a short 10 minutes away. “Just follow the yellow brick road” was bouncing around in my mind. Instead of skipping off to Oz on yellow bricks with encouragement from Munchkins, however, the red bricks of the Freedom Trail connected us with many historical sites central to America’s struggles for freedom and equality.

Today, I want to share some of the things we saw in Boston that seem particularly relevant to this week in American history. Next Monday, I’ll be more focused on Boston’s Revolutionary history.

The Tremont Temple in Boston, Massachusetts.

I photographed the Tremont Temple because I thought it was a unique building…

Tremont Baptist Church was the first integrated church in America.

Not having a clue that it was a Baptist Church, or that it was the first integrated church in the U.S. It is a fitting photo to commemorate the week of Martin Luther King’s birthday.

I normally wouldn't take a photo of a Chipotle Restaurant, but this one happens to locate in the Old North Bookstore Building where Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was published, which was both a classic of the Abolition Movement and a key factor in leading to the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves.

I normally wouldn’t take a photo of a Chipotle Restaurant, but this one happens to be located in the Old North Bookstore Building where Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was published. The book was both a classic of the Abolition Movement and a key factor in leading to the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves.

Historic Faneuil Hall located in Boston, Massachusetts

Faneuil Hall is located just across the street from the Old State House. It was from this building that the fateful words were uttered, “No Taxation without representation.”  Maybe today’s declaration would be focused on the ultra-wealthy and declare “No representation without paying your fair share of taxes.” (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

We found this Gatling Gun in the military museum on the third floor of Faneuil Hall. While it may seem strange to include it here, it's inventor, Richard Gatling, believed that by employing increasingly deadly weapons that the size of armies could be reduced and that deaths due to combat and disease could be reduced as well. History has taught us a much different lesson, one that should be considered in any discussion of renewing the nuclear arms race.

We found this Gatling Gun in the military museum on the third floor of Faneuil Hall. While it may seem strange to include it here, the inventor, Richard Gatling, believed that by employing increasingly deadly weapons, the size of armies could be reduced and deaths due to combat and disease could be lowered. He also believed it would show us the futility of war. History has taught us a much different lesson. Millions upon millions have died because of the ever-increasing sophistication of weapons. And now our new president is talking about renewing the nuclear arms race…

This plaque on School Street notes where the Latin School stood. Founded on April 23, 1635, it is the oldest public school house in America. People such as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams and John Hancock attend the school. Public education in America may become a thing of the past under Betsy DeVos, his new Secretary of Education, who will gut public schools in favor of private schools whose motivation is either profit or the promotion of a particular belief system,.

This plaque on School Street notes where the Latin School stood. Founded on April 23, 1635, it was the first public school in America. People such as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams and John Hancock attended the school. Public education in America may become a thing of the past under Betsy DeVos, Trump’s new Secretary of Education, who’s proposed voucher system will gut public schools in favor of private schools whose primary motivation is profit or promoting a particular belief system. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy and I wondered what the significance of theses rocks were when we were on our walk. The we come on the plaque featured below.

Peggy and I wondered what the significance of theses rocks were we found on our walk. Then we came upon the plaque featured below.

The Boston Peace Garden.

The Boston Peace Garden.

Peggy and I walked over to Newbury Street where the New England Genealogical Society is located. Along the way we came across the very impressive First Church of the Covenant that has long been a leader in promoting social justice.

We walked over to Newbury Street where the New England Genealogical Society is located. Along the way we came across the very impressive First Church of the Covenant that has long been a leader in promoting social justice.

This banner was stretched above its door...

This banner was stretched above its door…

Peggy and I found these T-shirts featured in Boston's Old State House where freedom still rings.

Peggy and I found these T-shirts featured in Boston’s Old State House.We decided that they would serve as an appropriate conclusion to this blog.

NEXT BLOG: Back to the Sierra Trek

 

 

 

Wandering through Time and Place in 2017… And Some Thoughts on Planning

Curtis Mekemson hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail behind Squaw Valley.

It’s time to start planning and dreaming about 2017. One of my goals is a seven week, 500-mile backpack trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. Here I am in the Granite Chief Wilderness behind Squaw Valley, California. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

It’s the first day of the New Year. It’s the time to make resolutions and plans— a time to dream.

There was a time in my life when I was obsessive about the planning process. I would lay out goals and objectives. And then I would move into YAPs, QUAPs, MAPs, WAPs and DAPs, or, to spell it out: yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily action plans based on my goals and objectives. I set priorities, created time lines, made to-do lists, checked things off, kept records, and made plan revisions. Things that didn’t work were modified or dropped. New opportunities were taken advantage of. I did it for my personal as well as professional life. It was how I accomplished things I wanted to do, and how I kept some control over my often chaotic life.

Early on I had learned if I didn’t plan out what I wanted to do with my time, someone else was more than willing to do it for me. And I had also learned that there is power in planning, in knowing what you want to do, and in determining what is important, what has the greatest impact.

I am not as obsessive as I once was, but old habits die hard. And, even though I am “retired,” it is still important to have an idea of where I want to go, of what I want to do, and of what is important to me. Of course I don’t exist in a vacuum. Ask Peggy. (grin) Most of what we do is jointly decided.

So given all of this, what are my writing and travel plans for 2017?

Kpelle footbridge near Gbarnga, Liberia circa 1965.

I hope to revise and republish “The Bush Devil Ate Sam,” a memoir about my Peace Corps experience in West Africa. Here, a much younger Curt makes his way across a river on a native bridge in the heart of the African jungle.

Under writing objectives, I plan to finish my next book, tentatively titled Tales of an Incorrigible Wanderer. My 10,000-mile bike trip plus other outdoor adventures will be included. (I am sure you will want to buy a copy. Grin.) I also plan to revise and republish The Bush Devil Ate Sam. I will continue to blog two to three times a week on current travels/adventures as well as past adventures. I am thinking in terms of doing one blog each week on current travels, one blog on past adventures, and one blog as a photographic essay. But we’ll see. I have to reduce the time I spend on blogging so I have more time for other goals, like play, for example.

Our travels this coming year will likely go in three directions. One, Peggy would like us to do a more thorough job of exploring the Pacific Northwest. I might add California down to Big Sur simply to expand my Pacific Coast blogging series. (And I really like Big Sur, Carmel and Monterey.) I expect we will also spend more time exploring the East Coast now that our two kids and their families are living there. Finally, I am hoping we can plan a trip to Ireland and possibly England where I would like to continue my genealogical research.

Photo of Scottish pony taken by Curtis Mekemson.

I photographed this pony in Kirkcolm, Scotland when I was doing research on my Scots-Irish ancestors a few years ago. I promised myself at the time that I would return for more research in Ireland and England.

I am also hoping we can make it back to Burning Man. It is one of my most popular blog topics and I would like to write a book in 2018 on my 14 years of experience with the event. We will know in February if we can get tickets for this year.

The Temple of Promise at Burning Man in 2015 is caught by the morning sun.

Morning sun catches the copper face of the Temple of Promise at Burning Man 2015.

Finally, it is time for another grand adventure. I celebrated my 60s by doing a six-week 360-mile backpack trip down the Sierra Nevada Mountain range from Lake Tahoe to Mt. Whitney. It seems only appropriate that I celebrate my 70s by doing a seven-week, 70-miles per week, 490-mile backpack trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. But I’ll have to see whether my 74-year old body is willing to cooperate. Maybe it will be a one-week 70-mile trip, or a one-day 7-mile hike, or a .7-mile hike to the mailbox. Laughing.

Whatever… I am sure there will be many adventures to share!

Wandering through Time and Place… The 2016 Year in Review: Part II

America and Canada are crammed with beautiful sights that range from mountains to deserts to oceans, to plains, to rivers... and well the list just goes on and on. This is a waterfall from Old Stone Fort State Park in Tennessee.

America and Canada are crammed with beautiful sights that range from mountains to deserts to oceans, to plains, to rivers… and well the list just goes on and on. This is a waterfall from Old Stone Fort State Park in Tennessee.

Continuing on with our 2016 journeys, Peggy and I left Oregon in March to retrace my 1989, 10,000 mile bike journey around North America. We were on the road until mid-June, and I just wrapped up my posts on the trip. It took me longer to write about it than it did to bike it!  The truth of this is that I can’t begin to capture the experience in ten photos. It was a challenge to me to capture it in 54 posts and 1000 photos. None-the-less, here are a few random shots:

I started my journey in the foothills of California in the spring. In a couple of months the green grass here would be brown, or golden as they call it in California.

I started my journey in the foothills of California in the spring. In a couple of months the green grass here would be brown, or golden as they call it in California.

One of the more challenging parts of my ride was through Death Valley. Twenty Mule Canyon was on my way out of the National Park on my way into Nevada.

One of the more challenging parts of my ride was through Death Valley. Twenty Mule Canyon was on my way out of the National Park on my way into Nevada.

I found a touch of outer space when I rode by the Very Large Array of radio telescopes as I rode down the easter side of the rocky Mountains in New Mexico.

I found a touch of outer space when I rode by the Very Large Array of radio telescopes as I rode down the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico.

Literally dozens of roadside sculptures entertained me on my bike trip and then Peggy and me as we re-drove the route. Peggy and I found this 25 foot high Longhorn in West Texas, where you would expect to find it.

Literally dozens of roadside sculptures entertained me on my bike trip and then Peggy and me as we re-drove the route. Peggy and I found this 25 foot high longhorn in West Texas, where you would expect to find it.

Louisiana is bayou country, the place where you expect to see water moccasins slithering through the water, or get good reflection shots.

Louisiana is bayou country, the place where you expect to see water moccasins slithering through the water, or get good reflection shots.

The Natchez Trace and the Blue Ridge Highway are both beautiful. It's the Trace here. An added advantage of both National Park highways is that no commercial traffic is allowed. Translate: I wasn't dodging 18-wheelers.

The Natchez Trace and the Blue Ridge Highway are both beautiful. It’s the Trace here. An added advantage of both National Park highways is that no commercial traffic is allowed. Translate: I wasn’t dodging 18-wheelers.

I found this small waterfall beside the road in the Great Smokey Mountains. Dozens, maybe of hundreds of such falls graced my trip.

I found this small waterfall beside the road in the Great Smokey Mountains. Dozens, maybe of hundreds of such falls graced my trip.

The Atlantic Ocean greeted me along this rocky shoreline of the Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotiia. This was my fattest point east. After this it was time to turn around and ride 5,000 miles west.

The Atlantic Ocean greeted me along this rocky shoreline of the Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotia. This was my fastest point east. After this it was time to turn around and ride 5,000 miles west.

A stream along the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario. My rivers ranged from the mighty Mississippi to mere trickles.

A stream along the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario. My rivers ranged from the mighty Mississippi to mere trickles.

I crossed several mountain ranges including the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies twice. Tis is a photo of the rockies in Montana.

I crossed several mountain ranges including the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies twice. It is a photo of the Rockies in Montana.

One thing I learned over and over is that beauty comes in all shapes and forms, such as this lonely tree in North Dakota.

One thing I learned over and over is that beauty comes in all shapes and forms, such as this lonely tree in North Dakota.

Whoops. I just counted my photos. There are 12. I’ll call it a bakers 10.