Friday, January 29, 2010

Hi from Costa Rica!

We're 6 days into our 13 day adventure trip and have snorkeled the coral reef and

hiked the jungle on the Carribean side, whitewater rafted, ziplined, hiked, and horsebacked in the central mountains, and just got to the Pacific side. Tomorrow we horseback again in another national park. Photos and detailed trip report after we return to our computers in a week. We have lots of photos and even camcorder footage. The above photo is our hotel pool in Manuel Antonio.

Sent from Chuck's iPhone

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Costa Rica Bound

We fly today to Costa Rica for 12 days of adventure, including snorkeling, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, hiking, zip-lining, canopy walkway tour on suspension bridges, swimming, jeep and boat tours, 2 volcanoes, several national parks, and a coffee plantation tour. No laptop on this trip and at best, sketchy Internet access, but check back in 2 weeks and see photos of our adventures. I hope to have shots and camcorder footage of amazing flora and fauna, waterfalls, rain forests, and more.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Chuck's Backpacking Bonanza...

...celebrated its 14th birthday a few weeks ago. I began it on January 10, 1996 when the Internet was its infancy. Pages had to be laboriously built on rudimentary software and the pages and photos uploaded via slow phone modem. We've sure come a long way!

A couple years ago, my host, AOL, stopped hosting web sites, so I had to redo everything, and upload hundreds of pages and well over 500 photos to new hosts. And since I had been adding over a hundred venues re: biking and paddling, I renamed the site "Bike, Hike and Paddle."

Check it out and wish it a happy birthday!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hiking Cedar Key State Scrub Reserve

Len, Marlene, Ellen, and I hiked 2+ hours through the trails of the scrub today. "Scrub" is not a derogatory term. Rather, sand pine scrub is one of the oldest ecosystem types in Florida. In ancient times when sea levels rose and inundated much of what is now Florida, these upland habitats were isolated by water, forming desert-like hilltop islands. During this period of isolation many species of plants and animals developed unique adaptations to the harsh, dry environment of the scrub lands. These rare and unusual species, called endemics, are found nowhere else in the world. The scrub is dominated by species such as sand live oak, myrtle oak, Chapman's oak, along with rusty lyonia and saw palmetto.

The trails were flooded in numerous sections, necessitating detouring and balancing and sometimes getting wet up to our ankles...

...but the pleaseant 60 degree temperature made it less onerous, especially compared to what we just left back in Chicago!

Sunrise and Sunset seen from Cedar Key

We made it to our condo in Cedar Key, Florida, and after a sumptuous seafood dinner, we enjoyed the sunset from the fishing pier...

Cedar Key is one of a few places where you can observe both the sunset (seen in photo above last night) and the sunrise (seen below from our condo this morning) over the ocean...

Two more great reasons to visit this marvelous locale!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Biking Munson Hills

The Munson Hills mountain bike loops in the Apalachicola National Forest just south of Tallahassee is a venue we discovered last year and returned to this year because we loved it so much...

Having just escaped the snow and frigid temps in Chicago, we reveled as much in the 60 degree temperature as we did the marvelous scenery and mildly challenging terrain. We'll be back again on our way home in 6 weeks!


Friday, January 15, 2010

Worthy Quotes #29

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.
-- John Barrymore

Ordering a man to write a poem is like commanding a pregnant woman to give birth to a red-headed child.
--Carl Sandburg

Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.
-- Lyndon B. Johnson

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.
--Helen Keller

It’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.
--Abe Lincoln

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Faith enables us to move through the storms carrying our calm with us.
-- J. Holmes

Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes

An expert is someone who brings confusion to simplicity.
--Gregory Nunn

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Video Tour of Mexico's Copper Canyon

Mexico's Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre) is a succession of six inter-connected canyons in the Sierra Tarahumara, the eastern extension of the Sierra Madres, in the southwestern part of the state of Chihuahua. Together, this canyon system is larger and deeper than Arizona's Grand Canyon and was created by six rivers which eventually merge into the Rio Fuerte and empty into the Sea of Cortez. The name derives from the walls which are copper-green in color.

The Chihuahua Al Pacifico Railroad runs along the main Canyon Urique between Chihuahua and Los Mochis on the Gulf of California. The railroad took over 60 years to complete and travels 408 miles with 37 bridges and 86 tunnels. The total trip takes approximately 15 hours.

This 2007 Elderhostel program rode the El Chepe's entire route round-trip from Chihuahua City to Gulf of Cortez, from 8000 feet elevation to sea level, with stops in various towns to experience the culture and hospitality of the Mexicans and the native Tarahumara tribe who inhabit the canyon. Along the way, we experienced many Tarahumara Indians plying their food, crafts, and other wares, and part 1 of the video includes our two day visit down in the town of Cerocahui deep in the canyon, including a hike, horseback ride, and tour of the town.

The Spanish named the Indians they encountered Tarahumara which is derived from the word Raramuri meaning foot runners. During the 17th century, silver was discovered by the Spaniards in the land of the Tarahumara Indians. They were immediately kept as laborers for mining efforts. There were small uprisings by the Tarahumara, but to little avail. They were eventually forced off of the more desirable lands and up into the canyon cliffs. They remained in these remote reaches of the canyon which protected them during Mexico's various occupations and revolutions and helped them sustain their culture uncontaminated by outside influences.

Part 2 of the video visits a Tarahumara home on a ledge and features Tarahumara natives demonstrating their running/throwing games. The population of the Tarahumara people is estimated at 35,000 to 70,000. Also in this video is a visit to a Mayo village (not Maya) including bits of their traditional dances, and finally several traditional Mexican folk dance performance.

As a sidenote -- Ellen and I met on this Elderhostel program inspiring this poem:

Copper Canyon Connection

Radiant Polaris and Sirius beckoned
and two searching souls responded,
connecting in magical Mexico.
Souls similarly aslumber
awakened afire
and forged a bond of steel
amid Copper Canyon’s
soaring peaks and plunging valleys,

savored from train and bus
afoot and upon horseback,

two souls savoring
the mountaintop experience,
linked and healed.

Against the daunting darkness
of ancient mountains,
smiles brightened
two connecting hearts
as whispered words penetrated
the ancient canyon’s ageless silence.

Racing hearts melded
into unison tempo
and nascent flowering Manzanitas
and Chandelier cactus

mirrored the blossoming connection,
applauding as nature
took its inevitable course
amid Nature’s incomparable awesome majesty.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Patrick Henry Hughes

Born without eyes and unable to walk, this musical virtuoso amazes everyone. He is a student at the University of Louisville and is in the marching band, with dad pushing his son in the wheelchair. You have to watch this...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ozark National Forest hike

The ice storm of 2009 wreaked much havoc in the national forest. They've cleaned up the downfall in the recreation area/campground but the trails still evince the magnitude of the destruction. Many areas of the trail have obstructions to be climbed over, snuck under, or detoured around.

The scenery is magnificent and the ups and downs yield a good workout. We hiked 2.5 hours, about 6 miles round-trip, and enjoyed seeing blue birds, deer...

...and this cute armadillo...

Then we rewarded ourselves with a sumptuous meal at Red Lobster!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hike around Lake Fayetteville

After yesterday's day-long drive to Fayetteville, it felt good to get outside and hike the 6 mile loop around Lake Fayetteville.

It was the first time I'd seen snow on the ground and the effect was very scenic. Normally we shun the pavement, preferring to hike or bike the rocks and roots and single track of the natural trail, but this time we checked out the new 1.6 mile paved extension to the existing 2.7 paved segment. Here's the new 140 foot bridge over the creek and to the right you see the old Copperhead bridge built years ago by the Scouts. In most places, you can't see the paved trail from the nature trail, but the 2 trails briefly converge here...

The new trail beyond the Botanical Garden grounds traverses this lovely conifer grove...

The final mile or so of the paved trail is yet to be built, so hiking the rolling hills on the narrow nature trail is the only option...

...but an option we prefer. We were surprised to see numerous bikers out despite the treacherous ice and snow, and also surprised to find so many hikers and runners enjoying the 30+ degree sunny day following several days closer to zero!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snowshoeing Lakewood Forest Preserve

The recent heavy snowfall delayed my departure to southern climes, so I took full advantage of the new snow and joined Len and Marlene and Dave and Patti for a 90 minute snowshoe adventure in magnificent Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda, Illinois. We always see deer here, today's count being about 20 sightings. Our highest count for one hike is 55 deer. Here's some video footage of our hike today...

As we were leaving, a professional wildlife photographer from Montana arrived and we saw his huge tripod and gigantic 600mm zoom lens. He had been in Ohio and made a special trip to Lakewood before returning to Montana, just to photograph the deer here. He told us his next trip will be to Florida's Everglades, and from there he heads to Nome, Alaska to photograph musk oxen in the Arctic!

Tomorrow I leave for 4 months in Arkansas and Florida, which will also include an adventure vacation in Costa Rica, so check back often!

Coral Reef Wildlife slideshow

Check out this slideshow produced by The Nature Conservancy -- underwater shots of the fish of the coral reefs of the Bahamas and Dominican Republic, including the Exumas.

As it plays, click on the little "i" in the lower right corner to see the name of the fish/wildlife species being shown.

The only way to make it work is to copy this link and paste it into your browser...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Worthy Quotes #28

It is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.
-- Warren Buffett

Don't ever underestimate the importance of money. I know it's often been said that money won't make you happy, and this is undeniably true, but everything else being equal, it's a lovely thing to have around the house.
-- Groucho Marx

A woman's mind is cleaner than a man's; she changes it more often.
-- Oliver Herford

Woman begins by resisting a man's advances and ends by blocking his retreat.
-- Oscar Wilde

You don't stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.
-- Michael Pritchard

I want to be all used up when I die.
-- George Bernard Shaw

Chastity: the most unnatural of the sexual perversions.
-- Aldous Huxley

Honest criticism is hard to take -- especially when it comes from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.
-- Franklin P. Jones

Last night I stayed up late playing poker with Tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died.
--Steven Wright

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
-- Cicero

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Year 2009 in Review

2009 was a wonderful year, and as I recapped it in my mind, I realized in retrospect just how much I had done. See for yourself as I review the highlights...

In January, we drove to Galveston and I cruised for the first time which included a shore excursion on Jamaica and ziplining the Chukka Jungle canopy...

Then on to Florida where we hiked and biked...

No, that's not snow, but rather the white sand of Gulf Islands National Seashore.

In February, we toured Disney World behind-the-scenes with an Elderhostel group, including a visit by Mickey our final day...

We also had a wonderful visit with cousin Trudy and Ed...

A sea kayak program out of Cedar Key with my good friend, Greg, of "Adventures in Florida" was another highlight of the month...

...and included swimming with the manatees out of Crystal Springs...

Another fun week was the canoeing Elderhostel program in the Ocala National Forest...

Of course, we can't be in Florida without biking several times on our favorite mountain bike trails which wend their way for dozens of miles through the gorgeous Ocala National Forest...

In March, on our way home from Florida, we visited a friend in Asheville and toured the Biltmore estate...

...and after returning to Fayetteville, we spent much time hiking and biking, astounded at the damage wrought by the fierce ice storm that ravaged the area while we were in Florida...

In April, we returned to Cedar Key, Florida to rehab the condo, stopping to bike in the Apalachicola National Forest on the way there...

In May, I returned home after my four month escape from winter weather, just in time to attend the Spring concert by my community chorus, followed by a farewell party for our retiring director and founder...

June included twice-weekly biking with good friends, always culminating with lunch near whatever trail we had biked...

...and also family time, as on Father's Day in Wheaton...

July brought us to in Michigan. First we backpacked on North Manitou Island in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with Len and Marlene, and then we made the loop through the Upper Peninsula, touring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and back home through Wisconsin, biking in Green Bay and touring Kohler Plumbing's plant and biking and touring Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge...

August found us canoeing, rafting, kayaking, and body surfing rapids in the Delaware National Water Gap on an Elderhostel program. Then on to NJ and NY for a wedding and some fishing...

September in New England featured a variety of conveyances, including sailing the Angelique for a week...

...riding up Mt. Washington on the the cog railway...

...biking 8 different trails in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont...

...hiking in Robert Frost's favorite forest in Middlebury, Vermont...

...and re-building a trail in Acadia National Park...

October back home was very soggy but colorful...

November was spent visiting Mom after her hip surgery...

...and December featured singing in two concerts each by my church choir and community chorus...

...and of course family -- our extended family annual Christmas Eve party, this year at my place...

Summarizing numerically, we were in three foreign countries, visited 23 states, biked over 2300 miles, paddled 100+ miles, hiked 400+ miles, and in spare time, read 38 books. Maybe in 2010 I'll slow down a bit. (But don't bet on it!)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Predicting the future...

Way back in 1987, Apple Computer Co. produced this concept video basically predicting what computers could do in the future. Now 22+ years later, looking back at these predictions, it amazes me how much of what is on the video actually exists, and yet -- how short today's tech abilities still fall short of what the entire video demonstrates...

Yes, we have much of the hardware, but we do NOT have the software for this, especially not the Artificial Intelligence software depicted. Even the most advanced speech recognition systems aren't sophisticated enough to interpret normal conversational human speech -- understanding everything someone says and evaluating what it really means based on things like context, prior knowledge, and experience.

We do have wireless connections and home networks and wireless printers, pretty far-fetched concepts back in 1987, and the idea that everyone you know would be connected online was pure science fiction. Seeing the person you were talking to ala iChat or something similar now exists, as does searching for articles in a University database from your own home.

Also amazing to me is the lecture topic chosen for this simulation back then -- Amazon rain forest deforestation -- still not solved and still a big issue 22 years later.

Anyway, in a few weeks, it is rumored/expected that Apple will announce its long-awaited iTablet/iSlate/or whatever i-Name they will have for it. It may well look similar to what was depicted in the above video concept, and it may well put us on the road to having the device depicted.

And the new tablet will be a huge step up from my first Apple computer -- an Apple IIe that I purchased for the family in March of 1984, with its (then) whopping 128K of memory and large double floppy disk drives!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Church Signs #14

In my driving trips across all 50 states, I often spot clever, amusing, and thought-provoking signs in front of churches of all denominations, and long ago I began jotting them down. I'll gradually post them here for your entertainment and edification.

Pick your friends – but not to pieces.
Take the “cross” road.
Certified burden drop-off point.
Wise men still seek Him.
Feed your faith and your doubt will starve to death.
Destroy enemies by making them friends (Abe Lincoln)
The world at its worst needs a church at its best.
When you are down to nothing, God is up to something.
The 10 Commandments are NOT multiple choice.
Love, not nails, held Jesus on the cross.
2 boards + 3 nails = 4 given
Trust says Jesus can. Faith says Jesus will.
For fast, fast relief, take 2 tablets.
Look up to your mother no matter how tall you are.
Jesus was a man after your own heart.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 new Year's Resolutions

The tradition of New Year's Resolutions goes back to 153 B.C. The Romans named the first month of the year after the mythical king Janus (January), the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances. He was always depicted with two faces, one on the front of his head and one on the back, allowing him to peer backward and forward at the same time. Hence, Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions.

Though I have never put stock in proclaiming what too often are merely temporary personal improvements, I relent now and begin the next decade with these lofty aspirations:

Get back into running shape...

Fix the shower knobs...

Get the money for that oft postponed nose job...

Try to always keep my head on my shoulders...

Get a few body piercings...

Make those electrical repairs I've been putting off..

Remember to purchase a new jack...

Finally fix that front bike tire...

Show more interest in others...

Be ever vigilant for angels...

Wish me luck!

Last year's resolutions are here.