Tuesday, June 20, 2017

We Have A Plan ... We Think

As everybody by now should know, there will be a total eclipse of the sun over a large swath of the US later this summer. Neither Steve nor I have seen one. I want to, and I found a way to drag him along.

Now, forget motels. I asked at the front desk of one we stayed in on our way up to Minnesota whether, as they were close to the path, they had been getting a lot of reservations. A lot? They'd been full up by the end of the day its path had been announced last year! Hmmm, I guess not the way to go for us.  Another friend had checked a community they wanted, found a single room left in the whole town (!) in a Motel 6 for the night, but for $400! They passed on that one. They can leave a whole lot of lights on for ya at those prices!

Being neither early planners not millionaires, we needed another plan, or to just give up entirely. I wasn't ready to give up. I developed a plan, figuring how to entice Steve into going along with the idea. Just add sentiment... and fishing!

Sentiment boiled down to a  favorite location, one filled with happy memories. (No, I'm not going to tell you where that is! We're hoping for a little breathing room.) In this case, the location involved includes a pair of his favorite fishing rivers, so cross those both off with no effort.

So what's the catch? I mean, other than starting to head back home earlier than usual, and seeing family for a shorter time than usual, there had to be a catch if I had to put in a bunch of work to bring Steve along on a trip  he wasn't particularly interested in to see an event he was fairly indifferent to, right?

The catch is the plan involves camping! Yep, that's right, these two old geezers are going camping! In a tent! In sleeping bags! I doubt I need to explain to you just how unlikely we thought that would ever be for us again. Heck, even RVs were both out of our price range, and required skills and abilities we don't have. (Think crawling underneath to hook up and empty the grey water and black water!) Steve actually talked somebody into taking the old RV off our hands last summer because it was so riddled with problems and bad memories that nobody in the family ever wanted to use it again. Free was the right price for the new buyer, and we see it all spiffed up sitting across town ready to find its next adventure, so we guess everybody is happy.

This is a plan that takes a lot of putting together. Start with the tent. There's an old one in the basement needing to be checked out. Had mice gotten in? Mold? Poles bent? Zippers working? Was it tall enough to stand in? And even if all those things were perfect - which they were - could the two of us in the middle of nowhere put it together? Richard hauled it into the back yard, figured how it worked, and then spent about an hour working with us to make sure we could manage it ourselves. We’re fairly confident. Not totally. Our route has us arriving at the campsite with a full half day to try to work any kinks out.

Even the best tent is no good if we can't get off the ground in the morning. So off to the store for two new airbeds. We got the kind that inflate to a height of 22" off the ground, and have lots of inner support so it wouldn't just roll over while we're trying to get up. They came with inner pumps which worked off the cigarette lighter of the car, and we tested both of them, up, down, carrying weight, comfort. Back to the store for a couple long extension cords just in case we couldn't get the tent close to the car. Or was it if we couldn't get the car close to the tent? We're not sure once fully inflated that they'll go through the tent doors, so we have to inflate them while inside.

Both of us had great sleeping bags last trip, so those had to be checked for mold, mice, zippers, etc. They passed. No air pillows, though, so put those on the list. Plus a pair of ugly pillow cases.

Now great as those sleeping bags are, we could easily be looking at snow for some of this trip. August? Really? Yes. We’ll be at some elevation, and for comparison, Yellowstone just had snow a few days ago. If that doesn’t convince you, consider my very first camping trip to Yellowstone with my kids, ’85 if memory serves, near July 4. I was naive enough to think I could just drive up to the entrance and get a camping spot, no reservations. Of course you snicker! The thing was, it worked. 8” of snow had fallen just a few days earlier, driving all the wimps out of the park. It had  just now melted, and we had a hundred or so sites to choose from! What that all comes down to is we’ll be packing a bunch of extra sweats to sleep in or whatever, just in case.

For the two of us geezers, sitting comfortably is an issue. Fortunately, each of us has a Coleman's steel frame and canvas folding chair with a folding little table, including a cup holder for either beverages or bug spray. It's the only chair we've found that both supports our weight and isn't so low we can't climb up out of it. The table is small but will hold a book or lunch. (More on those later.)

Last time we camped in this location, the campground had been left abandoned. The outhouses still were safe to use, as were the picnic tables, but we have no idea what we'll find now. Plus, if the campground is full, we may have to select a spot in a meadow near the river and set up camp there. Either are allowed, and the price is free. We just need to prepare for lack of amenities. And we hope to avoid difficulties with crowding by arriving a full week before the eclipse.

The outhouse issue will be solved with a portable camping toilet, plumbing free. So far I've only found them online, but that's my perfect way to shop. The toilet is a 5 gallon sturdy plastic bucket, lined with a heavy gage plastic bag, topped with a plastic seat and lid combination that snap tight. Extra bags are available, of course, and the trick to using them without spills or stink is not just the assurances of the seller, but adding a small amount of clumping cat litter. They even come in their own little but tall tent for privacy. Not sure where we'll find an acceptable place to drop all our garbage, but we'll locate something, somewhere.

While researching camping toilets, I read a little Q&A about one. It included the query as to whether the seat was comfortable enough to sit on for an hour and a half? The answer was that nothing is that comfortable,  and referred the questioner to their doctor.

The other garbage will be food garbage. Now make a note: I am putting my foot down and declaring that this is my vacation too. That'll make it a first in ... forever! NO COOKING! Which carries over to no dish washing, no menu planning, etc. It doesn't mean starving, however. I went online and ordered 2 cases of MREs. Each has enough calories to last a day, is sealed off until opening so bears and raccoons don't sniff them out and try to ransack your camp, and each meal is different from the others in the case. Back when Paul was in the military, he brought some cases home and I helped eat them. It's not a sacrifice ... for 12 days. And those little tables on the chairs will be up to the task for mealtimes.

An FYI: as now-Arizonans, we are very used to carrying around plenty of water. There will also be extra room in the car, because next week the dogs both go to foster homes through a marvelous program called MARS, while they await their new forever homes. Both will be with families, not in shelters or kennels, which makes it emotionally much easier on both of us.

We have no idea if we can nail a campground site with a fire pit, but we've got a hatchet, just in case. Oh, and fire too. If we can't, dark happens for us when it does for the other critters. We'll be about 20 miles from any electricity, so no kindles after dark. Paper books and daylight reading only. But as the world darkens, those who remain still and quiet can get treated to the sight of the local elk herd coming down the mountain for their evening drink at the river.

Yes, there'll be a flashlight for finding the toilet, whichever and wherever it may be. I have considered getting another Timex Indiglo watch, though I'm not even certain they're still made. It worked well enough my last camping trip there. In a black world, it's a beacon. Just not enough of one to kill your night vision so you can still stop and look up to see the most spectacular view of stars available. It's also got the advantage of being literally at the end of your arm so you needn't hunt for it in the dark.

We’re hoping to find an easy-assemble screen tent, both for shade and bugs, while we relax. Back to the basement. But this time, the old one has nothing easy about the assembly portion of the job. Another search online, no clue of the results.

On The Day Of, the plan is to wake early, drive about 30 miles, and find the best eclipse viewing spot we can to pull over and park. I also figure it'll take a couple hours for the area to clear out again, so there's no thought of breaking camp that day and heading out ourselves. One last night on the trail, then head for a motel. I'm sure an actual shower will rival the heaven we've spent a week in.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Trip To Prison

Those of you who know me well are aware that an extended family member is in prison. Most summers when we hit Minnesota Steve and I go visit for a few hours. It's contact visitation, so we can exchange hugs, talk all we want (provided rules of common civility are observed), play board games.

Last year that changed. I'd just had my knees replaced, and knew they'd set off the metal detector. So I called their main phone number and asked what I needed to do to gain admittance, explaining my new titanium knees. I was blithely informed that I could tell them what the case was, show my scars if necessary, they'd wand me to verify the metal was inside me, and pass me through for the visit.

Boy were they full of bull****! When we arrived, I was denied entrance. I talked myself blue informing them I'd inquired from out of state, and gotten this nothing-needed response. They didn't care, and treated me like either an idiot or criminal. By the end of that discussion, I'm sure they were as happy to be rid of me as I was pissed to be kicked out.

What, I wonder, did they think I was about to do? Cut my knees open and pull out drugs? A file to work through the bars? A shiv? I mean, seriously, guys? There wasn't already enough pain in the replacement process? So I went back to the car, none too amenably, and sat there while Steve had his visit. I told him to take as long as he wanted, as I had my Kindle along, and there were restrooms in the public part of the building. However, I'm sure he hurried through the visit with me in mind.

He drove up alone for his second visit of the season.

Keep in mind that had I been given the correct information, the two necessary pieces of paper were on file in Arizona, and would have fit easily in a pocket of my baggage.

I brought them this year. They photocopied them for future information and returned them to me for any future need. Probably if I need to fly, or pass some metal detector, or whatever. Who can tell? Everybody down in Sun City knows what those two scars mean. We who have them compare notes, much like new mothers compare birth experiences. Apparently others are perfectly capable of finding more nefarious causes for them.

While I still maintain those people are complete idiots, today I enjoyed a couple hours visit in a prison. And even more, appreciated leaving!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Where Did It Go Wrong?

It was supposed to be a loving trip down memory lane. PBS first aired a Peter Paul & Mary special, then an hour of folk oldies M C'd by the Smothers Brothers. These were the anthems of my teenage years. Folk, peace, love, ending wars, with some great classical thrown in. There was no rock, just idealism and humor on my record player. (Hey! Look it up, whippersnappers!)

It started to feel wrong tonight. At first, I put it down to all those songs that got missed, even though a pledge drive or two couldn't possibly have been inclusive. Then it began to feel like I was left out, so many songs I didn't know, still don't. Since everyone else seemed to, a "should" crept in there, pointing out the gaps and holes. But even that didn't explain it.

What finally emerged was failure. My failure. I believed in all that idealism back then. Of course, I was too young to be allowed to march for civil rights, the wrong gender to get caught up in the Viet Nam War, even though my brother was. All that idealism had no place to go, I tell myself.

So it went nowhere. Just got incorporated and buried. Life went on. There was some college, but without a real goal, got swapped for a marriage "because he needed me", and I needed to be needed. I disappointed my parents, despite - or perhaps because of - years of hearing I wasn't living up to my potential.

No clue what I was to do with that message, however. I was good enough at everything, so no one thing stood out. Life kept happening. There were the kids, putting up with a bad marriage until I finally couldn't anymore, struggling to be a single parent while at the same time putting my own head back together. There was no sense of living up to my potential in anything, nevermind being able to identify what that might have been.

It wasn't whatever all those idealistic messages had been however. There was no sense of making the world a better place, just recovering from what it had dished out. And no fooling myself about my failures along the way. There were no grand schemes, no noble causes, no big contributions in the rear view mirror. The world wasn't a better place for my having taken up a place in it.

Perhaps it's all just an age thing. The body is too old, has too many reminders of what can't be done anymore, carries around too heavy a pile of disappointments in what wouldda/couldda/shouldda beens. Too many years wasted, or at least falling far short of whatever it might have been. It's hard to carry around all that unfulfilled potential.

Songs like "Blowing In The Wind" stir it all up again. I can't help but ask, "Could I have made a difference? THE difference?"

Did we perhaps all fail?

Is that just how the world cycles round?

Or is that just another way to be able to sleep at night and continue on?

Monday, June 5, 2017

So The Motels Wanted Critiques!

My email box has been filling and refilling daily with motel requests evaluating our stays there. I finally bothered with two, our best and worst.

Anneth Lodge in Cortez was our first and best night. It's single story, modest, and if you're skimming along the main drag looking for big and fancy, you could miss a real gem. (Hint: go for the address, 645 E. Main. Don't miss it while you enjoy the view of snowy peaks lit by the sunset as you roll through town.) Inexpensive and dog friendly - defined as dogs stay free unless they damage something - it gave us our best night's sleep of the trip. Climate control worked perfectly, unlike our worst stay. The front desk had practical information on touring Mesa Verde so we could  judge our stay and be getting back before the local food joints closed. There was a grassy area for dog walking, a treat for them after months in Arizona with no grass. We didn't bother with Wi-Fi or TV because we were tired and there for sleep, and that's almost never what I rate a motel on anyway. If there's time for  bedtime TV, we haven't enjoyed local attractions or driven far enough to get where we're going. All the connection beyond phones we want with the outside world is for upcoming weather, and ten minutes of the TV weather channel in the morning in every motel I've stayed in has served that need while I dress and have coffee.

The room was easy for both of us to get into, no stairs anywhere and a slight ramp off the parking lot on our end, always important these days, and more so as years pass. If you're looking for a good solid sleep, try this one.

Our worst night was immediately following, Motel 6 in Pueblo. That was the one with no AC after a hot day, and no real fix for it, other than sitting awake for periods during the late night with the door open so the evening air could cool the room enough for the next couple hours of sleep. I wrote in more detail about that in my previous posting, but we'll never go there again. As far as we are concerned, sleep is what a motel is all about, and if you can't get that, why are you there?

When it came time to fill in their online questionaire, snark was the name of the game. I can do that well. The silliest part was they promised to post it. At least Anneth only offered to post it after their committee reviewed what I wrote. I guess they are smarter in lots of ways.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Hi Points, Low Points

We arrived safe and sound. Mostly. Steve's arthritis hit his hands so hard that I wound up doing most of the driving (no biggie), and the final day of the trip I sunburned both arms through the rolled up car windows. Yes they still hurt. Actual aloe jel  - the pure stuff - helps briefly.

The dogs managed the trip pretty well too, though Fred Bassett, at 9 or so, is finding it increasingly difficult to jump up into the back seat of our low-slung hatchback. This from our already Miracle Dog, adopted from a shelter after somebody turned him in after an apparent road accident where both his pelvis and one leg were fractured. Once he'd healed, Steve had been told he'd never do stairs, but he's managed pretty well to make it onto the living room couch all these years. It finally took his "Magic Word" to get him into the car, after I decided his heft meant I couldn't help him in either: "Milk Bone!" You just better have one on offer for him after using the phrase! He gets down pretty well on his own, but there's usually a lot of incentive from his bladder at the time. We do see an occasional limp, however.

His problems brought us to a decision we'd been discussing for months now. The time has come when we will no longer be dog owners. Bassets are notorious for bad backs, and if we keep traveling with him, that will be much sooner than later.

Ellie, on the other hand, is still frisky as can be, but since Steve and I have decided to do more traveling while we still can,  having any dog still presents issues. Ellie's early history of abuse leaves her with residual issues that also make her a special needs dog. She has severe abandonment issues. We can leave her with Fred for short periods, but if more than a couple hours she can get very destructive. And no, you CAN NOT pop her into the car and bring her along everywhere in Arizona. They arrest you for that. Also, since her early abuse involved being left for long periods outside the house in a wire crate, she absolutely will not tolerate any crate to this day. She is so frantic to get out that she works to dig through until her paws are bloodied. So again, a solution for a "normal" dog is not one for her.

When I got her, those issues were not problems. I was close to retirement, in a household of people with varied schedules which left her getting constant attention. Once retired, I was able to give her that attention nearly all the time. She makes a great lap dog, a wonderful guard dog both around the house and yard, and on her favorite corner of the bed, appropriately facing out to take on all comers. If everybody was sleeping, she still had Fred for company as he also had the run of the house at night.

But with all of it taken together, we decided on the trip up that the time had come for new homes for them. Our ideal, of course, would be home, singular, but we're realistic. I can only hope Ellie's new home is not with some know-it-all who believes a crate is about good behavior and not about the torture it would be for her. I'd rather see her put down than face that, but our favorite vet will not get involved since we can't point to some physical ailment to say this impairs quality of life.

The trip was about more than the dogs, especially the first two days through Colorado. Our always first stop, if our route leaves it at all possible, is at Four Corners where the best - to us anyway - fry bread around is to be had. Steve's history there goes back to when he was in high school and his much littler brother and parents were on a trip. Steve placed himself so he covered all four states at once, bent Max over his knee, and had his parents shoot a picture of a mock spanking in four states at once! Now, no spankings, not even any kneeling, just fry bread.

We made it up to Cortez for the night, checking in early so we had plenty of time to visit Mesa Verde and get back. Our original plan was to see a bit around sunset, and head back for more pictures in morning light. Luckily we went to the "Palace" first, since the trip just to the main overlook  for it with cameras and dogs managed to both awe and thoroughly wear us out. Leaving we spied a coyote leisurely strolling down the road toward us, but even the dogs were tired enough to forgo going ballistic like they usually do in our back yard when one passes. We returned to our motel room, where even considering losing an hour in local time, it was well before our usual bedtime, and were more than ready to hit the sack. None of this midnight stuff for us! In fact, no reading, not even any TV!

Our goal for day 2 was to hit Pueblo. We already nixed a return to Mesa Verde, agreeing it was a great idea for 30-year-olds. Not us. We did, however, detour for Chimney Rock. Nothing much to see there that you haven't already seen and with better views, approaching from the west. At least it was free.  We could have gotten out for a hike, but....

Driving through the San Juans was glorious. Verdant valleys, snow capped peaks, ranches, flowing streams, cattle and horses. For a mountain road it was one of the easiest driving I'd done in years. I've had my fill of white-knuckling switchbacks, thank you very much.

After passing several Forest Service roads, usually with signs letting us know one was there about three seconds before the turnoff while tailgaters were hot on our behind, we finally found one with a safe access and took it. It's one thing to pass beautiful country at 60 MPH, quite another to get up close and personal. I don't guarantee this was the best possible road of the all choices, but it had everything we could possibly want along it.

About a hundred feet in, a private road with a wide turning spot before the locked gate was on our left. PHOTO OP! Below us spread a meadow following the gravel road curving down to a quiet, reflecting lake, a tiny cabin roof just showing above the drop to the lake off to the side. Rising up the other side were a patchwork of bright green meadows and deep green pines, repeat repeat, until above the treeline craggy rock peaks held traces of the last of the spring snow, topped off by scattered clouds in a sunny blue sky. Beautiful as this was, it still was almost ho-hum until the wind started to gust through the pines. All too often the picture has to wait for the wind to die, but this was pine pollen time, and thick clouds of yellow were lifted and carried off  leftward with each blow.

When we were  finally satisfied with every possible permutation available through our shutters, we jockied the car around to head further up the road. There were a few homesteads along the way, until finally we reached where the madly running creek crossed the road we were on. It was narrow enough for a single land bridge, so we very carefully made sure stopping both before and on the bridge were safe for the pictures we wanted. I shot out the driver's side, enjoying how the current lifted over a couple sapplings lying in the water before noting that I was actually shooting through a broken railing in the bridge itself. In fact, on my side there were two breaks! Luckily the bottom planking looked secure.

Live and dead trees mixed, and both Steve and I have a fondness for weathered grainy wood, These were nothing as spectacular as the gnarly corpses back at Mesa Verde, but still worth a few shots. My favorite live tree shots, now that we were way past the blowing pollen, was at a pull-off, where a single spruce stood festooned with reindeer moss, or at least it would be called that in the BWCA. It stood next to the upper part of the creek whose narrow bridge we stopped at, only this time there were many more obstacles causing whitewater, and a wide space allowing a reflecting pond before the water headed out on its way.

We thought we'd taken enough time here, considering how much journey remained for the day, and turned back. A Forestry Ranger pulled up next to us in the one spot on the road wide enough for two vehicles, and we had a ten minute conversation on sights to be seen, where everyone was from, all the usual. He was heading back further up the hill where a small herd of Bighorns were grazing earlier that morning. Tempting as it was, we decided the likelyhood of any being still there were nil or fewer, and proceeded back to the highway.

After that pulloff, the rest of the day was just driving, by comparison. Sure, snowy peaks, clouds dropping small showers, fields and forest. The closer we got to Pueblo, driving east, the flatter it all got. We easily located our Motel 6, had pizza delivered, and suffered through our worst night of the trip. Our elevation was low enough that the day had gotten hot, and we had the -apparently only - room in the place with no air conditioning working. A call to the office promised a repairman. First thing in the morning! Or we could haul all our stuff up to second floor! Uh, hello, there was a reason I'd specified either handicapped or first floor! She couldn't manage to convince me that our comfort mattered to her.

We wound up keeping the dogs on their leashes and having the door to our room open once it cooled down. Not the safest feeling, but... After dropping the room about 10 degrees, and being exhausted again, we locked up until about 3 AM when apparently the heat even woke up the dogs. While Steve took them on a generous walk to cool the three of them down, I sat up with the room door open to collect as much coolness as possible. We made it through until morning. That's another motel on our "Never Again" list.

The last two days were driving, driving, and sunburn through the car windows. We did spy another coyote, two dozen turkeys, one live and two roadkill deer, and several bits of highway hamburger. Just after crossing into Minnesota, Steve was pointing out a towed boat with two vertical posts used for shallow fishing to keep the boat from swinging around at anchor. Before he managed to explain their purpose, the trailer, on our left, blew out a tire, throwing rubber all over. Despite the traffic, I managed to hit the brakes soon and hard enough to allow it to cross in front of us onto the right shoulder without causing any further damage, to themselves or others, so far as we could see before starting up again. Steve thinks they lost the wheel too by the time they stopped.

Our trip, at least, was safe! Maybe tomorrow we'll start to unpack.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

New Sighting

I've heard about them from the neighbors ever since we moved down here. Of course I believed them. They had to  be more than just another urban myth. After all, it took a couple years for me to spot actual tarantulas out in the desert, over a year to see coyotes in the neighborhood, and until a year ago to see a javelina. And while I've still not spotted scorpions or rattlers down here, my reaction is not disbelief, just gratitude.

I love watching the various doves, finches, owls, hawks, and especially the Gambels quail with their little topknot black feather. I even feed them, waiting till spring to attract parents with babies. This year the home baby count was one family with a single, likely day-old chick, and another with 4, either 2 or three days old. Unfortunately the baby quail sighting was limited to a total of about five minutes in a single day.

Too many predators, I guess.

But the bird the neighbors have raved about is the peach faced lovebird. I finally spotted one this morning, while doing a bit of yard cleanup before summer. It sat up on a wire, studying me as I studied it, though I'm sure I'm the only one of us who was regretting that the camera was all the way through to the opposite end of the house, charging. Perhaps my inactivity upon finally spotting one became boring to the lovebird, as it flew off elsewhere, leaving me to finish my cleaning.

In case you can't look one up - though if you have enough internet connection to be reading this, I can't imagine why - think small parrot slightly larger and fatter than a parakeet, emerald green throughout the body though pictures show some royal blue if you get closer than I was, a tiny white parrot's bill, and a black eye set in a face and throat ranging from peach to rose, depending on the bird.

Native to southwest Africa, it is believed some kept as pets escaped their cages in the Phoenix area and found a habitat well suited to them, including roosting spaces in old woodpecker holes in saguaros. They have been spreading throughout the greater urban area, possibly due to plenty of water sources though they are adapted to dry areas, and an abundance of seeds either from everybody's landscaping or the very popular 20-pound quail seed blocks that folks like me set out.

Either way, I count myself lucky to have seen one.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

AWWW, Another X-mas Tree Denied

Yep, Christians are under attack in this country. Uh huh, sure. Boo hoody hoo. They're so-o-o forced underground with their beliefs. To be "forced" to wish 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas' because all good Christians know that there are no other holidays, religious or secular, happening at that time of year... scandalous!

It's not enough that all the stores in the country set up decorations and special sales even before Halloween half clears the shelves. Not enough that lamp posts are festooned and cables high over streets are decorated in greens and lights, not enough that every mall has a Santa and elves for photo ops. Not enough that houses up and down the streets hang lights and inflate snowmen and Santas and reindeer, poke candy canes and stars and blond angels and fake packages in holes in their lawns, competing with every other house in the city for the most garish display and the biggest waste of power ever ever, as if any of that makes them holier than their neighbor because we all know it's a competition and the richest, most ostentatious one wins.

Hey, if a church wants to put a creche on their lawn to illustrate the story of their particular belief, goody for them. That's the proper place for it. I'm not about to haul them aside to quote the forgotten commandment about no graven images. Not my place. And after all, how many of the trappings of Christianity actually follow the principles of Christianity anyway? Was there a decorated tree in the manger in Bethlehem? Did Santa squirm his was down the chimney, not to mention the advisability of even having a chimney for a fire in a building full of straw? Did the shepherds make candy canes? Were the gifts of the wise men wrapped in pretty papers with curly bows? Did the angels smite unto death all who didn't believe the exactly proper way about what happened and what all it meant?

So despite the ubiquity of silly celebrations of Christmas, down here in Phoenix land there is yet another attack on Christmas. Or at least that's one interpretation of what's happening. It's not mine.

First, keep in mind two immutable things about this part of the world. 1:  There are mountains scattered about within our metropolitan area. Used to be they pretty much enclosed the area, but we've grown.  2:  This is a desert. It's made of rocks and tinder. If you want to argue with that last term, consider the amount of rainfall it takes to first, grow a tree or suchlike, and second, the amount of water it takes to decompose a tree or suchlike. See the first sentence of this section. We don't have it.

As a result, any trash you drop, stays. Wind may relocate it, but until the sun degrades it, years on, it's still here, somewhere. All our city parks, generally designated to be on mountaintops where it's just too damn difficult to haul construction materials up that high, and also too damn high to pump water that far, but not too high to keep an endless supply of athletically endowed but often intellectually challenged people from heading to the top, have their own unique set of rules.  By unique, I mean something beyond the usual ones of tell somebody else where you plan to go and when you plan to return, take plenty of water, stay on the trails. You know, the seemingly obvious. We've had to add that you will pay for your own rescue off the mountain.

At least we don't make you prove solvency first!

Unique rules, for example, say dogs are not allowed on the trails, or what passes for trails, once the temperatures reach 100 degrees. Yes, there are folks both stupid and cruel enough to ignore those signs. And no, you can't leave them in your car while you head out, either. I'm not sure if not playing with the local wildlife, like the Africanized bees, scorpions, gila monsters or rattlesnakes are rules, but they should be. And we're fussy about whatever you take in, you pack out.

Which brings us back to Christmas "persecution".  For over a dozen years, hikers have been carrying a decorated X-mas tree up to the top of Camelback mountain, to leave there for weeks, and then haul down again. Well, mostly, anyway. Winter winds do blow. Ornaments get fastened loosely, as if the tree were inside somebody's home with the breezes limited to what emerges from the HVAC system.

I bet you can guess how much of what goes up actually comes down. You might even have an idea of just how dangerous it might be to retrieve something that's blown just... over.... Oops! So the city is working to prevent the placement of another X-mas tree on top of Camelback. I bet you can also guess just how many folks who believe themselves to be well-meaning are fighting that prohibition.

Me? I'm with the city. Put that damn tree in your own yard! Better yet, in your own window, letting your personal message shine out into the neighborhood without your personal mess joining it! And let the mountain stay a mountain. You know, just the way whichever deity you believe in, or don't, intended it!