Monday, October 6, 2014

Scout The Wonder Dog And The Last Trail

There will be no pictures with this post, save the one at the top of the page. There will be no report of the trip as Scout is on a trail I can not yet tread upon.  I can only report that Scout The Wonder Dog stepped off from the Trailhead in his sleep sometime Saturday night. Cause of death was complications of old age. About a month or so ago, Scout was bitten by a snake and when I took him to the vet it was explained to me that while he would survive the snake bite with treatment, his days with me were coming to an end. It could be weeks, months, or days.  The vet assured me that he would be in no pain, that he would simply stop breathing, and that's what happened.

Scout was born in October of 2002, one of a litter of seven born to Punkin The Wonder Dog, an Akita mix, his father a Border Collie mix known in the neighborhood as a lady's man. In coloration and hair, he resembled his mother, in size he was like his father, with a few wisps of black hair (that became more prominent with age) being the only contribution made to his appearance. He was raised in the yard of the Prairie Bungalow by his mother and three other female dogs, Annie, Libby and Serenity whom we called his "maiden aunts" even though there was no blood relation. Early in his puppyhood, just after the soft fur phase,  my late wife and I were getting to dogs together to get them inside for the night and the puppy was no where to be found. We did a search but to no avail.  Round these parts, if a dog is left outside at night, its pretty much a given that he's going to become coyote food and we resigned ourselves to that possibility.  By early afternoon of the next day, we regarded that fate as a certainty. But around 3:00 he came running into the yard to be greeted by his mother and maiden aunts. From that moment on, Scout never ventured very far from the homestead.

Scout was never needy or hyper. He didn't bark much unless he thought there was a real danger, and he was never mean to people or other dogs.  Scout never started a fight, but I've seen him finish several of them. He was a good friend, a good listener, and as mellow as an Autumn sunset.  He was also the best trail dog I've ever had or known.

What makes a good trail dog?  He always takes the lead.  He sets the pace---he doesn't pull your arm off dragging you down the trail and he's not so slow he gets tangled in your feet. He knows the difference between a trail and a wide spot between trees with no underbrush. He doesn't stop unless its necessary (and you should respect him enough for that to allow for the fact that sometimes sniffing a bush is necessary). He enjoys being on the trail, and being on the trail with you. He carries his own food and water without complaint.  In short, a good trail dog has the same qualities as a person you'd want to walk the trail with. 

Scout was all this and more.  In camp, he didn't crawl under my tarp and hammock so that I could protect him.  He stationed himself outside and as far as his tie out would let him so that he could be on guard.  He knew what his pack was and knew that when it came out we'd be going camping, so he'd sit by the car until it was time to go. He didn't bark, even at strangers, but his eyes never left them.  That picture above was taken by a fellow camper who offered to take some pictures of me and my set up.  He took several and in every one of them, Scout is looking directly at the camera---or to be more precise---directly at the man holding the camera.  That picture is how I like to remember Scout, standing by me on a misty morning in the woods as I sip my coffee, his only concern being my well being and protection.

More important than being a good trail dog, Scout has helped me understand some things about God.

Grace is a concept that is incompletely understood by many Christians, and by even more non-believers. The shortest definition is "unearned favor", and if you believe, as I do, that God is Creator of the Universe we are covered by so much"unearned favor" that we don't even notice it. Because He created the Universe and all that's in it, this "unearned favor" extends to every living being, human or otherwise, Believer and Non-believers.  Matthew 5:45 tells us  

44 But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, 
do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you,45 that ye may be the children of your Father who is in Heaven. For He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
When I prayed to God last night I thanked Him for sending me a dog I didn't deserve and begged forgiveness from him for any acts of commission or omission I may have made since He sent him to me that may have caused him pain or distress. God's Grace is evident to me just by the fact that Scout the Wonder Dog was in my life, in my life for so long, and truly enjoyed being with me doing the things I enjoy doing the most. Like God, Scout's love was unconditional and constant, and was given to me when I needed it most and deserved it the least. And like God, Scout was protecting me and I didn't even notice it---not until I saw those pictures and realized he never took his eyes off of the stranger taking them.  
There's a popular notion in our culture that "all dogs go to heaven." To my knowledge, there's nothing in scripture to support that idea.  But I do believe in a Loving and Merciful God and I would like to think that when I take my first steps down the trail that Scout is on now, he'll at least be there at the Trailhead waiting on me to either go the trail with me or to make sure I get on mine properly before taking his own.

If you're not familiar with Scout The Wonder Dog and his Adventures, you can go to and search for the stories I wrote about he and I on the trail, I'm not going to clutter this post up with a lot of links. Scout is being cremated and some time in the very near future I will spread his ashes on the Lone Star Trail near the site of the first camping trip Scout made with me a few years ago.  Folks who wish can contact me through Facebook or Hammock Forums if you'd like to go along.  A portion of his ashes will be spread around the pond at the bottom of the hill here at the Prairie Bungalow where his mother's ashes were spread, and once I find a suitable container, a small portion will be hung from my pack strap so that he can be on the trail with me for whatever days God gives me to walk them. In Backpacking terminology, we call that "good weight."

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Introducing The Underwoobie

As Backpackers and Hikers we have certain requirements for our gear.  Those requirements can vary a good deal as gear is an intensely personal choice, but generally are based on Weight, Functionality, and Durability in varying degrees of importance on which we put each of those requirements. As Hammock Hikers, we further complicate things by adding the requirement of Functionality with hammocks to our sleep and shelter choices. As a mode of shelter that is somewhat outside of "mainstream camping" (but gaining in popularity almost exponentially), much of the gear manufactured specifically for hammock camping is provided by cottage vendors as large manufacturers do not yet see the profit potential in large scale production of items designed specifically for hammock camping.

Since the hammock camping cottage vendor community of necessity must address the needs of as large a group of individuals as possible in order to make their businesses not only profitable, but viable as well, this dynamic is repeated in microcosm.  The greater majority of hammock campers are weekend or long distance backpackers located on the East and West coasts, primarily in northern tiers of those states.  This means the majority of products offered are aimed at individuals to whom Weight is of the greatest consideration, and who can expect to use these products in climates that stay cool to cold with low relative humidity for the greater part of the year (Washington State being a notable exception as regards humidity).  Individuals south of the Mason/Dixon line, primarily those on the Gulf Coast, find themselves having to adapt or accept some products that were not designed primarily for an annual climate that is warm to hot  with a relatively high humidity (as well as higher rainfall intensities and frequencies).  Likewise, Expedition Hikers and Hunters who use hammocks as their primary shelter find themselves having to choose products with Durability and Functionality (and adaptability) that is less than what they would desire.

A post on Hammock Forums regarding using a Kifaru Woobie/Doobie as an underquilt is an example of the conundrum as regards Expedition Hunters.  It became immediately apparent to me that the Doobie would not be adaptable as an underquilt without a lot of DIY work as there is no provision on that product for a suspension or cinching of ends, and it lacked the edging and ties that makes the military issue Poncho Liner (which it emulates) so adaptable as a warm weather under or top quilt.  But I did see that a design I was working on could be adapted quite easily to achieve the desired results. I posted the following pictures of the quilt I was working on at the time to that post:

The original idea was to create a quilt that could not only be used as either a top or bottom quilt, but one where different thicknesses of synthetic insulation (Climashiled APEX) could be snapped together to increase the insulation value, and would mimic the functionality and adaptability of the military poncho liner for other uses.  Having been in the military for eleven years I was intimately familiar with the "Woobie" and its many uses.  My thinking at the time was to make a system with 3 under/top quilts and one lightweight top quilts that would address all climate conditions I might encounter in my weekend backpacking on the Gulf Coast.  Bruce Carter, who made that original hammock forums post was intrigued by the concept and we entered into an email exchange where I presented him with various options on materials and insulation, much of which was kind of over his head.  It wasn't until he gave me this description of what he needed that true inspiration struck:
I am packbacking thru the Alaskan wilderness hunting moose carrying a 14 day supply load in a Kifaru Timberline Duplex 1 pack with archery and lever 45-70 govt rifle for bear protection. My sleep system already weighs 10lbs. I know, I know...****! But that's my choice because I sleep warm and toasty even if I and all my gear is soaking wet. (Wiggy's Freedom Shelter bag). But the black Wiggys bag if worn poncho style might buy me a bullet from some idiot with poor eyesight thinking I'm a bear. So I am thinking "Okay...I don't wanna get shot by a gun hunter, what's a lightweight alternative that will serve dual use?"

Bruce wanted the kind of functionality that a poncho liner and poncho would give him for shelter in emergency situations, that could also serve as a blind from which to conceal himself for hunting elk, buffalo, and other big game that could also function as an underquilt.  I was designing a sleep system with the Gulf coast in mind.  That's how the Underwoobie came to be born.

WW2 Army Shelter Halves As A 4 man Shelter

WW2 USMC Poncho--Snaps All Around

Current Issue Army Poncho Liner

What I've tried to do is to combine the best feature of a shelter half:  adaptability as a one, two or four man ground shelter, with the water resistance of a poncho, and the insulation qualities of a poncho liner, with use as an Underquilt, Topquilt, or ground quilt.  Every noob who comes into a hammock forum will soon find out that a poncho liner can be quickly adapted as a warm to cool weather underquilt and DIY guides abound.  Its insulation abilities are limited, however, so I decided to use Climashiled APEX in order to have a quilt that will work in 90% of the weather one can expect. 

So here it is, The Underwoobie. 

In order to achieve the durability that Bruce was looking for with water resistance, wind resistance, and durability that Bruce demanded, outer shell: is composed of Duro Epsilon in a MultiCam pattern licensed to Duro by CryeNot only is it lightweight (1.5 oz/yd), it is extremely strong and abrasion resitant, but its soft to the touch and would make an excellent inner shell as well. It measures approximately 60" wide by 84" long, making it a full length Underquilt.

I made mine using 1.1 uncoated ripstop in MarPat .  Bruce wanted more durability in his inner shell, so his was made with a 1.9 DWR in Ranger Green.  Mine comes in at about 2 1/2 pounds with suspension, Bruce's a bit over 3 pounds.  The design mimics military shelter halves and ponchos in that any one Underwoobie can be snapped to another one to make a two person sleeping bag, or a one, two, or four person shelter.

There are three rows of snaps on each side, two on the outer shell, and one on the inner shell. This allows the side and end channels of the underquilt to be used as a storm flap when making a top quilt or sleeping bag

Grommets at the centerline of each side and all four corners allows the Underwoobie to be used as a one man shelter when used alone, or snapped together to make a two man shelter as a military shelter half would.

Since the Underwoobie is intended to have more functionality than just an Underquilt, it has a four piece suspension.  In addition to the normal shock cord cinching arrangement at the end channels, each side channel contains one length of shock cord rather than the loop found on most underquilts.  

Rather than adjustment at one end through one cord lock, adjustment is made on all four corners using a double cord lock.

When stored in the pack, or used as a shelter, quilt, or serape, each end of each channel provides for stowage of the shock cord

The 7 foot long Underwoobie hung beneath my 12 foot hammock.

As a top or ground quilt, it can be used with cinched foot box

A square foot box
Or folded in half to make a side snap sleeping bag

It can also be used as a serape in colder weather

And it does not interfere with using the hands and arms 
Temperature ratings for underquilts and sleeping bags are a very subjective judgement that is dependent on many factors.  I can tell you that as a 61 year old man weighing 215 pounds that an Underwoobie with a 1.1 MarPat inner shell is comfortable down to 40 degrees, and usable to 30, but that is based on my personal experience.  I have retained the ability of two Underwoobies to be snapped together to increase insulation effectiveness.

If you would like for me to make an Underwoobie for you, I would be glad to do so.  Cost would be $175 delivered with your choice of 5.0 or 2.5 ounce Climashield APEX, an inner shell of 1.9 or 1.1 ripstop, DWR or unfinished, and Duro Epsilon outer shell.. (Based on the price of the Epsilon and the Climashield, I end up paying myself about $2.50 an hour for making these.)  My recommendation on an inner shell would be the 1.1 MarPat that I use for mine to keep weight down.  If you want two Underwoobies, one to use as a Topquit and one as an Underquilt, or two of different insulation thicknesses so that you can snap them together for colder temps, while using one for most of the rest of the year, I can go $340.  I don't keep any in stock, nor do I keep much fabric, so delivery would be about 3-4 weeks and I would require a deposit to buy materials.  The deposit won't cover everything, so we're both taking a risk, which is only fair.  Just send me an email at, or contact me through PM on hammock Forums.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Apologies To The Park Service

Sort of.

All this time I had been reporting the decisions made as to how the Park and Memorial closures have come down during the partial government shutdown, I had placed blame squarely on the shoulders of Parks Management leaving the Administration as somewhat distant supervisors who issued only general instructions and did not know details. I have been critical of other decisions Parks has made in the past on several other matters, and was very vocal about the spitefulness of closing the WW2 Monument and Parks features such as scenic overlooks, privately funded museums, and picnic areas here in this post and elsewhere on the web.

This afternoon, I came across this video of the Congressional testimony given today of Parks Service Director Jarvis before the Committee that is investigating how these decisions were made.
National Park Service director Jarvis said he discussed closing the open-air monuments and memorials with the White House, as well as the secretary of the Interior Department:

"Yes, I did," says the director when asked whether he discussed the closures with the secretary of the Interior Department.

"You didn't discuss it with anyone in the White House, did you?" asks a congressman.

"Um, in -- several times, on the phone, with the White House, I presented with the secretary my decision," says the director. "But it was never the reverse--"

"So you discussed with officials in the White House your action?"

"That's right," he says.

While it is not said who in the White House he discussed his plans with, since he was on a conference call with the Secretary of the Interior, it is safe to say that the individual in the White House was fairly high up in the President's Staff.

What this means is he said words to the effect of "I plan to put barricades around the WW2 Monument and will arrest anybody who tries to get in." and nobody at the White House, and certainly not the Secretary of the Interior, thought that was a bad idea.

Monday, October 7, 2013

To The Barrycades!

Its been a busy week on the Barrycades.

In addition to the massive Civil Disobedience by Veterans at the WW2 Memorial, crossing Barrycades placed in front of it by an ungrateful government on an almost daily basis for the past week , Marine Corps Veterans knocked over Barrycades at Marine Corps War Memorial, commonly known as the Iwo Jima Monument.
In case you don't believe it, here's a picture of them doing it, from a story in their Hometown Newspaper.

Citizens visiting DC area Gravelly Park created their own parking spaces when they arrived this weekend to find the Parking lot Barrycaded, creating an unsafe condition that perhaps the Park Service should have considered before spending the money to barricade something that costs nothing to leave open.

The park, closed by the government shutdown along with the rest of the public spaces administered by the National Park Service, was teeming with families Sunday night. Cyclists, fishermen and folks just looking to wind down the weekend filled the park even though it isn't technically open to the public.

"I think this is the best kind of salute back to the guys on Capitol Hill," said Andrew Holt, who came to the park Sunday evening to fish. "Telling them how everybody feels about it."

Gravelly Point's popularity has created some safety hazards as park-goers improvise parking spots instead of leaving their cars in the parking lot, which has been barricaded by park police during the shutdown. Park-goers have parked their cars on the shoulder of the road near the park and even on the grass.
In the meantime, soccer moms have been routinely tearing down Barrycades at "Turtle Park." 
According to sources, angry moms near the Eastern Market are of Washington, D.C. have been diligently tearing down barriers erected by the National Park Service around Marion Park, or the turtle park as it is commonly referred to because of the fake turtles that children like to play on.

Sources said that the park was blocked off by park officials, but the source suspected that neighborhood moms have been taking down barriers to the park so their children could play there. In response, park officials keep erecting new ones, which the moms promptly tear down.

That story also notes that another park with the same Park Service funding that is "close to the homes of “quite a few” Democratic senators" who are regularly seen there that has not been shut down.

There's no word yet on the fate of the Barrycades at Mount Vernon.  In addition to closing down the bus turn around, they've closed the Parking Lots.  They can't shut down Mount Vernon itself, its a privately owned and funded museum, so they spent money to erect Barrycades at the parking lots to keep people from going there.

And while things are quite this bad at Mount Rushmore (yet)

It does look like this.
As with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Park Service has attempted to outlaw sight seeing, blocking off access to the scenic overlooks that tourists use to take pictures of Mount Rushmore.  The State of South Dakota, has some problems with that, though.

The Buffalo News reported that a tour group of dozens of people from western New York was unable to take pictures of the monument because highway viewing areas were coned off.

“It’s all closed up,” the newspaper quoted North Collins, N.Y., resident Hilde Werneth as saying. “They won’t even let you stop and take a picture. You can only drive by.”

Jim Hagen, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism, said the situation is hurting people from out-of-state and international visitors who are in South Dakota to visit the monument.
Bicyclists on the Crescent Bike Trail are routinely ignoring Barrycades there

US News & World Report has a story about acts of Civil Disobedience on the Barrycades.

At one padlocked restroom on the Mount Vernon bike path that snakes along the Potomac River in suburban Virginia, two bicyclists expressed their disgust at Washington gridlock by letting it fly on the outside wall of the building. "This is a urination protest," one of the bikers said. "Maybe it'll catch on." On the nearby door to the shuttered bathroom was a sign stating, "Because of the federal government shutdown, this National Park Service facility is CLOSED." For extra emphasis, the word "closed" was bolded and underlined. 

One of ticketed parkers was outraged. "I'm just here to go jogging, and I end up with a hundred-dollar fine," he said. "I thought Michelle Obama wanted us to all stay in shape, but the cops just threatened to tow my car. It's ridiculous – regular people are not the problem." Another park visitor said, "I just saw somebody flash a badge and drive right on out of here; do they have plain-clothes undercover cops patrolling parks to make sure nobody is picnicking illegally?"

At nearby Jones Point Park, two National Park Service patrol cars blocked the vehicular entrance. On normal days, these lots are unstaffed, and in most cases entrances are ungated. During the shutdown, barricades have been trucked in and erected to block off lots and armed police stationed there to bust offenders. According to the Office of Personnel Management records, U.S. Park Police officers make between $52,020 and $155,500 a year. Congress ought to hold hearing investigating how much is being spent to barricade and police empty parks and parking lots and who gave the orders to lock down so many sites.

 Meanwhile, in Badlands National Park, one family had their own method of expressing their displeasure with the Barrycades put up at scenic overlooks there.

Word is that this picture has inspired a movement to remove the cones and send them to or put them up at the Government Agency you'd most like to see shutdown instead.

Friday, October 4, 2013

"We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can."

In a political commentary on the shutdown of National Memorials, Monuments, Parks and Forests Wesley Pruden brings us this important piece of information:

“It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation,” an angry Park Service ranger in Washington says of the harassment. “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”

In the meantime, Veterans from my generation had a way of handling the closure of their monument.
Like the hundreds of World War II veterans who came to National Mall to pay their respects this week, a group of Vietnam veterans found a barricade blocking the way to their memorial Friday. News4's Mark Segraves said two U.S. Park Service Rangers manning the gate asked that the group respect the government's shutdown but moved aside.

Segraves described the exchange as pleasant and respectful.

The veterans then moved the barricade and walked down to the wall to pay their respects. But a flood of tourists followed even though the memorial is closed to the general public.

Civil Disobedience seems to be the order of the day for Veterans.  Should we not emulate their example and take our Parks and Forests back?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

This Is The Real Reason The Government Is "Shut Down."

And its the reason why they are closing down so many things they don't have to in order to cause as much pain as they can in an effort to manipulate you.

On Monday, Congress unanimously agreed to pass a standalone measure to pay the troops during the partial government shutdown, and President Obama signed the bill into law. But on Thursday morning, Senate majority leader Harry Reid blocked votes on House-passed bills to fund veterans, the military reserves and National Guard, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and national memorials.

As Politico reported Thursday, during the 1995 government shutdown congressional Republicans and President Bill Clinton were able to agree to a "stopgap bill to assure funding for veterans, welfare recipients and the District of Columbia."

Why won't Senate Democrats and President Obama agree now to any more stopgap funding bills?

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York told THE WEEKLY STANDARD following a noon press conference Thursday that in 1995 "it was a different world." Why is that? "Because we have a Tea Party," Schumer said without elaborating as he walked away.

(emphasis mine)

Through hikers are having to cancel their attempts on the Appalachian Trail.  Section hikers are having to go home.  Weekend campers and backpackers are having to go to State Parks.  Picnickers are being threatened with fines.  Armed men are standing in front of our national Monuments. 

Because, Tea Party.

Its an improvement.

It used to be Bush's fault.

The House has backed off their demand to have the Senate vote on a repeal of Obamacare.  They have backed off their demands to defund it.  They now propose that it be delayed for everyday citizens the way that Obama has delayed it for Big Business and Political Contributors, and they demand that members of Congress and their Staff give up the exemptions and subsidies granted to them and they be subject to the same conditions of Obamacare that you and I are.  The House has twice introduced a Bill to fund the VA.  The Democrats defeated it once in the House, and the Senate refuses to vote on the second one.  The House has passed a Bill to fund the National Institute For Health in  order to keep funding flowing to treat children with cancer.  Harry Reid refuses to vote on it.  The House has passed a measure that would re-open the National Parks and Forests so we can go out and do what we love to do---and thru hikers don't have to give up a lifelong dream and a life changing experience.

Because, Tea Party.

Edit to add:

"You're making me do something I really don't want to do, this is your fault." are the words a wife beater says as he's slamming his fist into his wife's face.

"The other guy made me do it because of what he did." is the excuse of a child.


"We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

There Is Something Terribly Wrong With The US Parks Service (Updated below)

Hidden a few paragraphs down in this story about the "government shutdown" at Great Smoky Mountains National Park is this paragraph:

While U.S. Highway 441, which runs through the park, will remain open, Scott says people are not allowed to stop along the road at the scenic overlooks, or break for lunch at one of the many picnic areas. She says the majority of the employees who will continue to work are law enforcement officers for the parks; they will be making sure tourists don’t try to circumvent the law.
(emphasis mine)

US Highway 441 runs through the middle of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Its also known as Newfound Gap Road.

Its a public road. Alongside it in strategic locations are a number of scenic overlooks. 

If all you have is time to drive through the park on your way between points A & B, you can stop and have a picnic, just enjoy the breathtaking beauty of God's Creation, or do something like this:

These are, apparently, not normal times.  The U.S. Government, as embodied by the Executive Branch (that would be the President and his Cabinet)  will send armed men in uniform to make sure that you do not "circumvent the law" by pushing the shutter button or swallow your Dr. Pibb.

Great Smokies is the most visited National Park in the country.  Millions of people travel US 441 every year.  The Park Service couldn't shut down the highway, so they've told people not to get out of their cars or they are "circumventing the law."

I'm wondering.  Which law would that be?

It goes deeper than that.  Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, is and always has been a privately funded museum and park.  Just down the road is a turn around that tour busses use.  Its on land owned by the Park Service.  This is what that turn around looks like today:

That's right.  Claiming that a road shorter in length than a football field is required to be shutdown if the government is, the park service has erected what are becoming know as "Barrycades" (after Barack "Barry" Obama as he was known to his chums in the elite private High School and Ivy League colleges he attended) to prevent tour busses going to Mount Vernon from turning around safely.  You see, they couldn't close down one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, but they could poke their finger in the eye of anybody who would try to go there, so they did.

Here's another example of Park Service overreach.

The Park Service has effectively closed the Claude Moore Colonial Farm.  But it is a privately operated, funded, and maintained Living History Farm.  No government money goes to its operation.  The problem is it sits on Park Service land.  The entrance is right on the road.

The George Washington Parkway to be exact, another public thoroughfare that the government can't close, just down the road from Mount Vernon. None of its employees are paid by the government.  None of its expenses are provided by the taxpayer, except through direct donation.  But you have to step foot on government property to get there.  On Monday, they were told to go home, that the government is closing them down.

A Lady named Anna Eberly who is the Managing Director of the farm, proves that she's not part of the Federal government by daring to send an email to supporters, volunteers, and donors that included this:

For the first time in 40 years, the National Park Service (NPS) has finally succeeded in closing the Farm down to the public. In previous budget dramas, the Farm has always been exempted since the NPS provides no staff or resources to operate the Farm. We weren't even informed of this until mid-day Monday in spite of their managers having our email addresses and cell numbers.

The first casualty of this arbitrary action was the McLean Chamber of Commerce who were having a large annual event at the Pavilions on Tuesday evening. The NPS sent the Park Police over to remove the Pavilions staff and Chamber volunteers from the property while they were trying to set up for their event. Fortunately, the Chamber has friends and they were able to move to another location and salvage what was left of their party. You do have to wonder about the wisdom of an organization that would use staff they don't have the money to pay to evict visitors from a park site that operates without costing them any money.

(emphasis is mine).

You probably already know about the attempt to close down the WW2 Monument to visiting Veterans of the greatest conflict this Nation has engaged in, one that defeated the most evil government in the history of mankind.  Here's an aerial view of the WW2 Monument:

Its open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  How could it not be?  Its wide open on all sides.  There are no buildings to enter, no museum displays, just statues and obelisks.  People are, or were until Monday, free to walk through it whenever they please.  They can walk on the grounds on either end of it as well.  These grounds are the National Mall, also part of the National Park Service, and it is not closed down.  There are no gates, and no guards (again, until Monday) at the WW2 Memorial, and only minimal staff at an information booth.  The Park Service doesn't even provide security nor is it responsible for law enforcement at the site, the City of Washington, D.C. is.  Yet, the Park Service took it upon themselves to spend money to close down a site that costs them nothing--during a government shutdown based on funding---to erect barricades and station guards in an attempt to close it down.  It actually cost them more money to close it down than it would have to keep it open.

The Monument was erected, 50 years late, using private money, and like Mount Vernon and the Claude Moore Farm, money for maintenance is provided via another private fund.  The veterans who became famous for storming the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima have once again, in their late 80's and 90's, have now become famous for storming the barricades erected in front of their own Memorial.

Some of them did come home with souvenirs, though.

There was another government shutdown in 1995.  The WW2 Monument wasn't open then, but Claude Moore Farm and the bus turn around at Mount Vernon remained open.  Back then, the Lincoln Memorial was technically closed, but you could walk up to Old Abe and gaze upon his countenance if you wanted to:

This is what you will see if you go there today:

The same was true of the Jefferson Memorial.  Here's what it looks like today:

Here are armed men erecting barricades at the Martin Luther King Memorial:

These are statues beside public roads.  The Park Service is erecting barricades in around them and stationing armed in front of them.  Why? Why tell mothers and their children that they are going to have to drive another half hour and have their lunch in a Walmart parking lot instead of at a scenic overlook on US441?  Why tell WW2 veterans they can't walk on the sidewalks around the monument erected to commemorate their service and sacrifice?

There is something terrible wrong with the US Parks Service if they view shutting these things down, things that don't need any funds whatsoever, as being required to be shut down at any time---any time at all. Roads, statues, bus turn arounds, and privately funded historical activities, places the public normally walks across as a shortcut to and from work.  What reason, other than spite, overreach of authority, ignorance, or a desire to inflict pain on the electorate in order to manipulate them politically, could there be?


Monday, September 30, 2013

Recommended Reading.

I just got finished reading a post over at Bible Portal.  It tells the story of a monk who lives in that tiny little house on top of that pillar of stone.  I recommend it as a good read.
It got me thinking about why I go into the woods by myself.  Lots of times I'll go with a bunch of other guys, but sometimes it will be just me or me and the dogs.  The author touched me with this paragraph in particular:

I once spent a week at Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, a Trappist Monastery open for solitary retreats of prayer and contemplation. It was a stark rupture from my life: simple, never sterile, structured but never over-formal, quiet, but filled with kind awareness. And once I went back to my typical routine, my relationship with all the stuff of modern life was a little different at its root. I could feel that, somewhere beyond the LCD screens, there was a silence within which the breathing presence of God could perhaps be a bit better heard and felt. And the experience of that 'beyond' place made it easier to put down the devices and seek it out again. And again. Even if just for fifteen minutes in a day.
And that's part of it---the experience in the "beyond" place making it easier to "put down the devices and seek it out again."

Most of my hiking is done in coastal Texas.  Within a hundred miles of my home you can find the sea coast, deep piney woods, hardwood forests dripping with Spanish Moss, wide prairie and brown muddy rivers easing their way lazily in a serpentine route towards the coast.
I sometimes find myself looking a pictures posted on other websites and blogs.  Pictures taken along the Appalachian Trail from scenic overlooks expressing wide vistas of pine covered mountain tops glimmering emerald in the sun, or those same mountain tops peeking out from fog covered valley's looking like islands on some distant planet.
Or those taken in my native New Hampshire from the alpine heights of the Presidential range with young, smiling, bearded faces in wool caps and goretex parkas standing on granite boulders with the maples and oaks in the cols and valleys below exploding into the brilliant colors of fall.
Sometimes they're taken on the talus slopes of Rocky Mountain valleys looking down on crystal clear lakes surrounded by scrubby pines desperate to maintain a foothold on the rocks.

Or taken from kayaks coursing over the mirrored surface of placid Maine lakes, or staggering their way through a raging foam of  white water.  
Or in the deep snows of a Michigan winter of red faced men seemingly being devoured by down jackets, the condensation from their breath creating clouds in front of them.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous of the people in those places and their ability to visit those that are so different from the nearly flat and featureless terrain that I am surrounded by.  There are no mountains here, no valleys to fill with fog, no talus slopes or alpine vistas, no roaring streams and isolated lakes, just the flat land and the varied vegetation, and a lot of heat most of the time.
But maybe it would only be because they were just other places in the beyond that I am always seeking to return to and they hold no real superiority.
I dunno.  What do you think?