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||Results from blood draw on June 23: PSA Undetectable!
The little goats(kids) Sarah, Emily and myself started off on July 1 with a great excitement and anticipation of a wonderful backpacking trip into the Mount Baldy Wilderness Area. We stopped for some last minute goodies at the Popular near our home and soon found ourselves on the road driving past the awesome view of the Superstitions and on toward Superior, Devils Canyon, Miami, Globe and the Salt River Canyon. I enjoyed telling Sarah and Emily about how my mother and father met at Superior High School and how My Dad's uncle was the owner of the Superior Dairy. Both of my Grandfathers worked for Magma. My dad's dad was a fleet mechanic and my mom's dad was a foreman in the mine.
There were some slight delays going through the Salt River Canyon due to road work, but not too bad and we soon found ourselves getting gas at the Pinetop Chevron. From there it was on up to Hon Doh and MacNarry and up the hill a bit Baldy broke into view on the northeast. It was pushing 3:00 PM and that was the time I thought would be the latest to give Sarah and Emily adequate time to pack it in about 4 miles, set up camp and have some fun looking around before sundown. The next day we would go to the summit or as near as we could without crossing the Apache Reservation line (I respect the idea that their mountain is sacred to them, but I question the use of it for a ski resort, which really makes the mountain look bad). We were definitely ready for a great time of hiking along the West Baldy Trail #94, which winds along the West Fork of the Little Colorado River, through meadows and a thick forrest of Aspen, Spruce and Fur. This is my favorite part of this state and I've been going there since I was five. As we approached the trailhead I checked my watch and it was a little before three. Perfect! I thought to myself as the yellow plastic sawhorse with an ominous red sign on it and barricade tape stretching out from it emerged into view. AREA CLOSED DUE TO EXTREME FIRE DANGER!
My first thought was, "OH NO!, certainly this doesn't mean us." I thought about going around the tape. No, it was useless, I'd have to change my plans, but first I decided to get on up to the Ranger Station at Big Lake and see where I could go and what I could do and also give them a little piece of my mind about closing public land etc., etc., etc. My thinking is Baldy is the highest area around there and the last of the snow melt. If anything were to be open it would surely be Baldy with it's year round runoff. Even during the hardest of this recent drought period two years ago I was in there without a problem and it was plenty wet.
I always tend to get my butt in an uproar when things don't go as I so diligently planned them; those things that I'm in charge of and you'd better not interfere. I'm getting better in that area, but still need some improvement. No matter what befalls one in life, there is always a blessing. And of course, in my case, I always sort of feel like a semi-idiot because I had gotten my butt into an uproar and ended up getting blessed. This is one of those stories. I'm still learning that no matter what happens to me in my life, God is still in charge and still good to me whether it is prostate cancer or closed trails that threatens my self-imposed comfort zone.
By the time we got to the Information Center I had cooled down from boiling to moderately hot and only mildly accosted the rangers with a verbal spewing of "this land is my land" and "this is an outrage" and so on. They hummed and hawed quite a bit, but never did give me a satisfactory reason as to why Baldy would be closed and other areas of more obvious fire danger would be open. They said they wouldn't be able to get anyone off the mountain if there was a fire. To which I retorted "Isn't that always the case? YES!" Come on you guys can come up with better than that. Of course this whole thing was the decision the the Springerville Ranger District Supervisor. My thinking is this: All of the Baldy trails are extremely popular and getting more and more traffic every year. I think the Springerville Ranger District Supervisor wanted to cover her ass through a busy holiday season. Good for her, bad for us. Nothing we could do at this point. So after being very patient and understanding of my spewing and seemingly impressed with my love for the area, Ranger Tyler and Adrian offered up some alternatives. Since it was getting ever closer to sundown and no time to navigate unchartered waters with the little goats, we opted to car camp the night if we could find a local camp ground that wasn't already bulging full with barking dogs, quads, boom boxes, alarms, generators and all of the niceties you would find at home. We could at least figure out a good day hike for the next day. I was surprised to find that there were a number of camp sites still available. The hosts gave us one, I paid the $12.00 and we followed the map to our loop and drove around to the site. This was blessing number one. It was a beautiful campsite in Rainbow Campground on the side of Big Lake. It was on the very outside of all camps and down from the loop road. I went back to the check-in booth and paid for an additional night.
I felt like a minimalist to say the least, sitting there at that concrete table with only a small light, my single burner and bags of dehydrated food sitting next to a bunch of backpacks. The setting demanded some real car camping equipment; not sure what, but we'd just have to drive into Springerville to the Western Drug and General Store to look around and see if there was anything that would accommodate our need to shake the backpackers blues and frustration. We found several items that would be nice, but we couldn't afford the generator required to run them so we settled for three folding stools and a tent lamp equipped with magnets to attach it to the wall of the tent. Wow! We felt a little better. I really wanted to get the glowing fake logs to put in the fire pit, but no generator darn it! So off we headed to Big Lake suburbia.
Blessing number two: As we headed back to camp we saw two elk and a mule deer, but the prize sighting and my first ever in Arizona, was a black bear. As we drove along on SR 261 near the edge of the forrest just before coming out into a large expanse of grassy area I saw a shape like a bear sitting close to the right side of the road near some bushes. I thought to myself that's not just the shape of a bear, that is a bear! SCREECH. I put it into reverse and backed up yelling at the same time to Sarah and Emily that we had just passed a bear. I stopped. He was no further than thirty feet from us and showed no signs of being afraid of us at all. In fact, he seemed to be a little curious about us, even craning his neck a little to get a look at us. I would say he was a very good sized bear for Arizona; big head and probably no less than four hundred pounds. I was so awe struck that I totally forgot that my camera was sitting right next to me on the console. Emily who was sitting in the front with me said, "Dad take a picture." So as I fumbled for the emergency flashers (We were only a little off the road and not in a safe spot) and tried to get the shifter into park, the bear decided that he had had enough of us and turned around and lumbered off into the forrest while I was getting the camera fired up. Oh well I'm sure the image of that bear will be imbedded in the minds of the three of us for quite some time. It was really cool as he was lumbering off I got a good look as the size of his feet. It felt good to be in the truck and certainly reassured my feelings on packing a powerful firearm when backpacking in bear country if push were to come to shove. Bear country; wow, it sure feels cool to say that.
Back at camp Sarah and I played a game of UNO and hit the hey around nine. Emily was already asleep. We got up around seven the next morning. Had some oatmeal and headed out to do the Thompson trail. This is a short out and back of about five miles or you can choose from several options with other trails. We decided that we would do the two and a half miles to the junction and decide once there what to do. This trek was blessing number three. As we headed around the back side of Big Lake on SR 249 just before getting on to FR 116 South we encountered a large heard of antelope. It was a very cool siting. After a short drive along FR 116 we came to the Thompson Trail a little after nine.
The Thompson Trail follows the West Fork of the Black River down through some spectacular timbered canyons much like that of the West Baldy Trail 94. Towering Spruce, Aspen and Fur contour the skyline in a variety of deep to light greens. Further along the trail are grassy meadows punctuated with rock cliffs, slides and a variety of fern-like vegetation. An extremely large amount of work has been done in various stretches of the two and a half mile wandering of the creek to the West Fork Trail to keep it's banks from changing. Much of this has to do with the restoration and protection of the Apache Trout(one of two Arizona native trout species), which was once on the brink of distinction, but is now fishable in a variety of locations. The Apache Trout is expected to become the first native fish species in the nation to be taken off the endangered species list. This section of the creek has a quarter mile containment area which is nothing but Apache Trout and cannot be fished. The area below the containment section is limited to flys and lures only, and catch and release only, with strict warnings not to import any other breed of trout into the stream. Sounds odd, but apparently avid fisherman like to import their favorite breed into their favorite location. The trail drops a moderate 250' along the two and a half miles. This a fun and easy trail for all level of hikers. We thoroughly enjoyed the serenity offered up by this trail; lots of breath-taking views. To be expected there was a large variety of flying critters buzzing by, landing and sometimes biting, but hardly took away from the overall experience.
Ranger Tyler had also informed me of the activities going on at the information center which included a talk on Friday night and a birthday party for sixty year old Smokey the Bear on Saturday. We were planning on leaving before Smokey's Party, but decided to attend the talk on Friday night. That talk was blessing number four. This talk was by Ranger Tyler assisted by a video. The subject was wildfires. The talk started with a question: Are wildfires good or bad? Emily raised her hand and answered "They are both good and bad." She was right. Without getting into all of the political issues of this subject, I must say I am much more educated now on various forest eco systems that are actually dependent on fires. I learned quite a bit about both kinds of wildfire; the good and the bad. I learned that bark beetles are restrainded by good wildfires. In areas where low level "good" wildfires are suppressed, bark beetles can thrive because of the sap levels in the trees. In a forrest unrestricted from "good" wildfires, bark beetles do only the limited amounts of damage intended by nature rarely taking down a whole tree. This was good for me to know because I have been of the mind set that the bark beetle damage is a natural thing and you can't say that nature is doing the wrong thing. Well if you take away a necessary component of an eco system you throw the balance of nature out the window. That old saying of Smokey's "Remember, only you can prevent forrest fires" is unfortunately part of a forrest fire paradigm that is changing. Duh! How the hell did our forests get along without us for thousands of years. We show up from Europe and suddenly we need to put out every fire that gets started, whether by man or nature. Duh again! Now the problem is the years of damaged we have done by our need to extinguish may not be fixable. There is now an extremely high potential for "bad" fires, the type that crown out and kill not only the trees but damage the soil that may never grow the same kind of tree again.
Ranger Tyler had also mentioned to me during one of our several meetings that there was a U.S. Forest Service Bald Eagle Specialist working in the area and that there were Bald Eagles nesting in the Crescent Lake area. I asked him where in the Crescent Lake area and he sort of shrugged and I told him it was OK that he wasn't supposed to give out information. Anyway he said that if I saw a big four wheel drive Dodge Ram parked in that area that it would more than likely be Joe Petty, the Bald Eagle specialist. As blessing number five would have it, after we had broken camp and were heading out for home I noticed a big red Dodge Ram four wheel drive vehicle parked on one of the pull-outs along Crescent Lake. As I drove past I noticed a guy sitting there with a spotting scope pointed across the lake and a pair of binoculars to his head. I pulled in. Sure enough it was Joe Petty and all I had to due was look at the spotting scope and the direction it was pointing and new exactly where the eagles were. We had a very good talk about a variety of subjects from the Mexican Gray Wolves to the Bald Eagles he was doing research on. He told me there were twenty-seven head of elk living on the small hill under the eagles and that three Gray Wolves had taken a calf down a couple of nights before. He told me how the male eagle that he was watching was nowhere near the hunter and provider as one particular eagle he had been observing at Luna Lake, but that was really only a matter of maturity. Joe also is a native Arizonan from the near-by town of MacNarry. We talked a lot about how that town was once the booming lumber mill and activity center of the White Mountains, but was brought to its knees when the Apache Tribe didn't renew the lease to the mill. The town now is a ghost of what it once was and poverty abounds.
Talked with Joe for about forty-five minutes and got back on the road to home. Outside of a huge traffic jam and detour in Show Low for the 4th of July parade, the ride home was uneventful. We stopped at the Sonic in Globe for lubrication. Yuk!
||Recently I have had a few unexpected urinary leaks. Nothing devastating. I have attributed it to fatigue and stress. I think this type of thing should be expected. After all there's only one valve now.
On a brighter note I have started painting again and I've posted a few of the new paintings here with this entry. They are watercolor sketches of areas that I've hiked in and one I just made up. I like to make things up and I think thats why I like to paint in a non-representational manner at times. I'm convinced that my art has something to do with my service to the Lord and with this in mind new and different images are appearing to me. Hopefully these new works will minister to those who don't know the Lord, that they might have hope and know the truth. My good friend Ron is encouraging me in my passion for Christ in a way that is fitting to how I was created for God's pleasure and purpose and many things are happening in my life right now that are not just coincidental. There are a lot of unknowns that come along with change and I must truly be a man of courage and step out of some of the ruts that I seem to be stuck in. Another thing that I intend to do is develop menofcourage.net that it might better minister to those in need of it.
||Did the second annual West Fork Wade with arizonahikers.com group. Russ went along and did the trek. There were 13 of us. Last year there were 10. A few chickened out because of the threat of rain and flash floods. It rained on us, but there was definitely no flash flood. In fact the water was down from last year and there were really only two areas that required swimming; the rest of the pools were wading pools. We also finished about two hours faster, but seems we were all just as fatigued. Russ had a great time and I'm glad he went. A peculiar thing: last year I did this hike only twelve weeks out of RP surgery and I didn't fall once. This year I fell seven times and had several near fall where I caught myself. After the hike we enjoyed a huge pot-luck and fire with all the group. GREAT TIME. The picture to the left is me in one of the swims with a group on the other side watching. Additional pics can be seen here: WFW II
|2004-09-25||Much going on, just haven't put anything in here in quite a while. I'm doing well in a physical sense, although I'm not exercising enough and need to hike more. I'll have another test in October, I guess they're going to be every four months for awhile, not six as I thought would happen after one year of being PSA free.
I have a very busy schedule this fall since Emily is running cross country and Sarah has auditioned for and will dance in the "Nutcracker" with Ballet Arizona. I'm still trying to paint when I can (more on that in a later entry) Just felt compelled to make an entry now.
||Although Emily's birthday was the 5th of October we actually celebrated on the previous Saturday. She turned nine, my baby is growing up.
Received a letter from Urology Associates stating that I need to reschedule the appointment for my next PSA check. Will do that some time this week. I think I'm doing OK.
If you are reading this entry right now, would you please take a minute and sign the guest book. Thanks.
I've spent quite a bit of time painting this weekend. I've been working on a watercolor that is titled "COMPASSION FOR THE MULTITUDE", a painting derived from the passage in Matthew where Jesus feeds the multitude with just three small fish and seven loaves of bread. The painting to the left is a small watercolor study for another painting titled "MIRACLE AT CANA" that represents Jesus' first miracle at a wedding in Cana.
Did not hike this weekend and pigged out on junk food. This week I'm going to go back to my old diet that I was actually doing before I was diagnosed with cancer. I simply eat proportionately from the pyramid and not more than 2400 calories a day. I'm weighing in at about 210 and want to be closer to 190-195. My only exercise this week was yard work; that's not enough!
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