Sunday, June 24, 2007

Let Them Spread Their Wings

To kick summer off, Kyle and I went camping in the Sierra's this weekend. Lot's of hiking, kayaking, and s'mores! But, there were some neat lessons learned as well.

Our campsite was on the Kern River, right at the start point for the Kayak Course, a 200 yard run of solid Class IV whitewater. While we scrambled on the rocks, I reminded Kyle to be careful; if he fell in, there was a good chance he'd drown going down the falls, holes, and washing machines.

As we listened to the roar of the rapids, a mother mallard and four ducklings started making their way across the pool above the rapids. We watched as they slowly got sucked into the current. Just before starting down the chute, the mom flew out and safely to shore. The babies? They dropped in and were flushed through 6-8 foot drops and chutes, and enough swirling whitewater to drown a fish...

Kyle and I watched the mom, sitting in the pool, and tried to figure out why she had been so stupid, and why she continued to quack uselessly for her brood. There was no way those ducklings were ever coming back.

After about 10 minutes, I was relaxing on the shore of the pool with a nice microbrew when I yelled to Kyle "You're not going to believe this!" One of the ducklings was making it's way along the opposite shore towards his mom, who was now quacking quite loudly!

I started to go into a speech about perseverance and never giving up when two more came along to join them. But the forth wasn't there. After another 10-15 minutes, it still wasn't to be found.

I told Kyle that in nature, 75% survival rate was pretty darn good, and that the three who had made it had become stronger as a result. We watched as they swam up the pool, around a bend, and out of view.

As we started up the bank to our campsite, we barely heard it over the sound of the rapids; a series of high pitched "cheeps." There was the fourth duckling, on our side of the shore, walking, scrambling, and swimming upstream! His mom must have heard the cries, because shortly thereafter she and the ducklings joined up to become whole again. This, near;y 35 minutes after the original plunge.

Aside from the lessons to kids about never quitting, I found a few as well; Don't underestimate kid's ability and desire; Let them take plunges now and then; and never question the power that family can give someone to overcome the greatest of obstacles.

This first shot, taken on the Kern River, shows a juvenile brood of mallards. Not the ones that took the plunge (the were still little fuzz balls), but you can guess they probably took their own plunges. Those river ducks are hard core! The second shows Kyle at the mouth of the kayak course.

Friday, June 15, 2007

By Design

So gently placed by grand design
sculpted, weathered, smoothed, sublime
My restless soul's rough edges soothed
like boulders shaped by wind and time

Creeping shadows lay long across
the sparkled face of these rocks
Time loses time in this quiet place
I drift away until I'm lost

Til the sun fades to gentle west
breath barely rises from my chest
This moment hangs like tapestry
I drift to sleep, my soul at rest

I took this photo from inside the tent one evening while my son and I were camping in Joshua Tree NP. This formation is called Jumbo Rocks. Carved by wind and time, these boulders are the size of cars.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Say It Ain't So!

Omigod... Paris Hilton's going back to jail! What kind of system allows an ultra-rich heiress to slum amongst normal folk, eating bologna and cheese on wonder bread, and sleeping on a 2 inch mattress? Will her hair be styled by some big gal named "Trixie?" Will she succumb to the siren's call of Wal-Mart brand mascara? I guess it's a good thing she had so much fun in her series 'The Simple Life' because now she has an opportunity to live, breath, eat, and yes, poop in the exact same environment as the folks she made fun of. Can you say "karma?"

Personally, I enjoy living in a world that's Paris free. I don't care that Rosie left, quit, or got fired. And, it's inconsequential who's left on Dancing with the Stars. I get my strength from things that are timeless; National Parks, wildlife, sunsets, nature. I'd rather spend an evening watching my dogs wrestle than listen to what's going on in Hollywood. Fortunately, even though we live on the edge of the Los Angeles basin, and the 15 million people that call it home (including Paris), we are less than a couple of hours away from incredible solitude. This shot was taken at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley NP. Way more amazing at sunrise, I'd tried my best to get its other-worldly feel in the mid morning sun.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

R-O-A-D T-R-I-P!

Someone once asked me "What's your best ever vacation?" Without even thinking, I replied "The one I haven't taken yet...." You see, for me, vacations don't start when the car pulls out of the driveway. No, No, No.... They start long in advance!

Usually, over lunch involving some type of microbrew, my wife will casually throw out a line like "So, have you thought about vacation this year?" At this point in life, what with a 12 year old son, 2 dogs, work, etc., she could as easily have asked "Have you thought about getting jiggy?" and it couldn't elicit a more excited response.

I casually reply "Well, you know, I've got some ideas, but nothing concrete." My wife knows better. Actually, I've already planned down to the nickel and gallon of gas, at least three potential adventures. I test the waters with a Hawaii trip, a cross country visit to the "Grandma Belt" and, for good measure, throw in a good old National Park road trip. I then say "But I don't know what Kyle (our son) wants to do."

There are moments in a dad's life; when your son is born; when he catches his first fish; when he tells you about the first love of his life; but my buttons were bursting from my chest when my wife said "He wants to do a road trip like we did in Colorado (or Utah, or Arizona, or New Mexico...). I practically blew beer through my nose as I tried to conceal my glee. Of course my wife knew my feelings as she's sworn from day one she was only a vessel for the "mini-me."

Which leads us to this summer. Nothing big planned due to work schedules, but Kyle and I are going on a kayak trip on the Kern River later this month, with an excursion into Sequoia NP. And, we will be doing it in a new Honda Element! No telling what will happen, but I can tell you Kyle and I talk about it every day. Occasionally, I'll hear the holy grail of kid compliments- Suuweeet! Don't wait till the car is running to get started or you'll miss the best moments!

Pow-wows are a great thing to attend, particularly if you have kids. The color and pagentry, mixed with appreciation for our native cultures, is something that should not be missed. This shot was from a Pow-wow at the Soboba Indian Reservation near our home. This gentlemen was the Eagle Warrior, chosen to lead out the opening procession because of his bravery and dedication to his People.