Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Sunday

Great day yesterday! It began with church service followed by meeting Linda and Phil at the Schaumburg Prairie Art Festival. Many wonderful artists were displaying beautiful examples of their talent and Schaumburg's magnificent municipal center park provided a lovely backdrop. I especially liked the partially buried lady statue...

Next I went to nearby Busse Woods for a quick bike ride. Being a holiday weekend and another gorgeous day, the trail was quite crowded, and being late morning, the temperature was already approaching 90 degrees, but seeing the elk for a second time in a week was a highlight...

Then it was over to Linda and Phil's for a barbeque. Here's Phil putting the chicken and turkey on the grill for the final few minutes after Linda had cooked the meat in the oven...

...and here's the turkey leg I enjoyed, a taste treat usually reserved for Taste of Chicago...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mom and Elk

Visited Mom today, showed her movies from my latest trips, and then took her to eat at Won Ton Gourmet...

...and on the way home biked at Busse Woods and enjoyed watching the sleepy elk. This was the only one on its feet -- I guess the 89 degree temps had them all tuckered out...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dog with arms...

Years ago, I participated in a skit for a church variety show, a skit that had me behind a woman as I supplied her arms and fed her breakfast without being able to see what I was doing, (i.e. where her mouth was, where the bowl was, how much cereal to pour into the bowl, where the milk was and then how much to put on the cereal, etc.)

So this video really struck home with me. Enjoy!

"Get A Mac" ends

I've been a Macintosh user for over 25 years and really enjoyed Apple's long-running ad campaign starring PC and Mac, but alas, the campaign and its humorous commercials is over.

But "One More Thing" has put together this fitting tribute to the many 30 second gems that have amused us over the last five years as it pays a tribute to Apple's Get a Mac TV ad campaign, performed by John Hodgman and Justin Long. The irony is that Hodgman, who played PC, has been an Macintosh user for over 20 years.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Another perspective of the Immigration issue

There is much uproar over Arizona's new law allowing police to stop people on the street and demand citizenship or visa papers in an effort to identify illegal aliens. The solution is beyond my powers of wisdom and knowledge. Though the law does seem to go against our right of freedom and does smack of fascism, I can also understand the position of the State Arizona.

Our federal government has been wishy-washy about immigration for decades, and though many laws are on the books, they are not being rigorously enforced at the federal level. The issue of illegals currently in residence is also in murky waters. These two political footballs have been punted and passed and fumbled for decades by the feds, with the ultimate result being that the states near the border suffer. The hundreds of miles of fencing erected over the years protect large sections of California and Texas, but the fences simply funnel the border-jumpers into Arizona's Sonoran desert and thus the problem becomes Arizona's by default. Since the feds refuse to accept responsibility, what should Arizona do?

I come at this issue from a different perspective due to my passion for the outdoors and my love of the arid Southwest deserts: I view the issue from an environmental angle.

This area in the photos below is located on an illegal "superhighway" from Mexico to the USA. It is in a wash (a normally dry gully which carries rain water to the river) -- a wash that is over a half mile long, just south of Tucson, Arizona. The illegals have walked 25 miles through the desert to get to this spot and from here they see the city lights and know they are close to the vehicle that will transport them deeper into the USA. They have been carrying backpacks with food, water, and a change of clothes, and the backpacks and soiled clothes are discarded and excess supplies are simply dropped here. Over 3000 backpacks were counted in this one messy area, as well as countless water containers, food wrappers, clothing, feces, and thousands of soiled baby diapers -- and around every bend out of the camera's view is more and more such trash.

Besides despoiling the beautiful desert, if a flood came, all this debris would be washed to the river and then into the sea. According to, these photos were taken by Lance Altherr, the Tuscon Chapter leader of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, at a "layover" area used by the illegals just south of Amado, Arizona.

We've all heard the political wrangling on all sides of this heated issue, but the overlooked consequence of all these federal immigration in-decisions is one which affects the environment of the Sonoran Desert in general and one of our national parks in particular, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Here is a photo taken in the national park...

The National Park Service website for Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument displays this warning:

"Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is an attractive place, and not just for its scenery. Every year thousands of people are attracted to this remote location for its apparent ease with which they can illegally enter the USA. Away from the development at Lukeville, the remoteness of our international boundary is impossible to effectively patrol. Under the cover of darkness, dozens of paths in the park become a freeway filled with illegal foot and vehicle traffic."

"They come from Latin America, Asia, the Middle-East, and the rest of the world. They come for a variety of reasons -- to find work, to escape persecution, to avoid scrutiny of immigration, to bring illegal drugs to an insatiable American market, or to infiltrate mainstream "American" culture."

"Most immigrants are unprepared for the rigors of crossing the Sonoran Desert. They carry a few possessions, a little food, and even less water. They are unaware they are crossing a national monument, a place dedicated to preservation for present and future generations. They may be unsure of the exact route and merely follow the footsteps of others. As a result, the monument's wilderness is laced with hundreds of miles of unofficial roads and trails. Migrants will often discard in the desert what they no longer need for their journey north."

photo of trash in the wilderness

"These routes are usually lined with empty water jugs and other discarded items. Immigrants frequently rest or camp in the most desirable places -- under trees -- the very same places where cactus seedlings germinate. Immigrants collect wood and build small cooking fires, but these fires also cook shallow cactus roots. Trash heaps at these sites are not only unsightly but are also unsanitary and attract a variety of scavenger wildlife. Nearby water sources are often so fouled by pollution that wildlife can no longer use them. Some overnight rest stops are so heavily used that the damage is irreparable. During the rainy seasons, vehicle routes become avenues for flood waters, further increasing the resource damage."

"As a result of illegal immigrants crossing out borders, other unlawful acts do occur within the monument. Some of the illegals are armed, dangerous, and determined to complete the trip at any cost. Most often these few are smugglers and drug runners. They may drive a stolen vehicle or they may hire human "mules" to carry their contraband in homemade backpacks. Other illegals may be opportunistic, not intending harm, but the struggle is long and the temptations are numerous. Though most criminals operate after dark and in remote areas of the park, they have been apprehended in areas frequented by visitors."

I can't help but wonder: If these actions had been done in one of our country's beautiful national forests, or one of our national seashores, or one of our national lakeshores, or your neighborhood parks or preserves, there would be news reports and pictures on CNN, ABC, and NBC decrying the despoiling, leading to an uprising of the American people demanding an end to the ecological destruction. But what? Since this is merely the Arizona-Mexican border and merely an arid desert, it's OK?

What do you say?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Biking with Friends

Another magnificent 75 degree day in Chicagoland, and with it a reunion with great friends Patti and Dave whom I haven't seen in 4 1/2 months...

We biked 22 miles on the McHenry Praire Trail/Fox River Trail followed by lunch at Culvers. Great day!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Biking the Millennium/Ft. Hill Trails

I'm back in Chicagoland again after 4 1/2 months wintering in the South, and today was my first bike ride back in my beloved Lake County Forest preserves. I've biked over 800 miles this year already in Florida and Arkansas, but our local preserve bike trails are among the nation's finest. Today I pedaled 20 miles on the Millennium and Ft. Hill Trails and was happy to discover the Loop Trail through the former Four Winds Golf Course has been reopened with the completion of the rebuilding (finally) of the 2 bridges on the former golf cart path seen in the photo below (click to enlarge)...

It was a great way to enjoy the beautiful 78 degree sunny day!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Paddling Arkansas' Buffalo River

The Buffalo National River in Arkansas' Ozark Mountains flows free over swift running rapids and quiet pools for its 153 mile length as it cuts its way through massive limestone bluffs (as seen here) on its course eastward through the Arkansas Ozarks and into the White River. This trip was an experimental or "scouting" trip for a possible future Sierra  Club Outing.

The lower 135 miles flow within the boundaries of an area managed by the National Park Service and designated in 1972 as the Buffalo National River, the first national river in the United States. It remains one of the few unpolluted, free-flowing, non-dammed rivers in the lower 48 states and offers both swift-running and placid stretches. The scenic beauty is unrivaled and eye-delighting vistas appear around every bend in the river -- and the bends are numerous since the river's 153 miles are contained within a park that is only 60 miles in length. The water in mid-May was warm enough to allow swimming and if you look closely, you'll see young Sammy returning to Greg's boat here...

We were not allowed to put in at Ponca due to low water conditions in the upper section of the Buffalo. Instead we put in at Pruitt Landing just north of Jasper, Arkansas, even though the water level was also low in this section and necessitated occasional dragging of the boats over gravel bars, and we paddled the 101 miles to the confluence of the Buffalo and White Rivers.

We camped along the bank five nights, always careful to choose high ground in case the river rose from rains upriver. Despite rain three of the nights, we managed to have a campfire every night and the stars on the clear evenings were breathtaking.

Our group included 5 canoes with Ellen and me, Walt and Marcia ahead to our left, Jake and Scott ahead to our right, and Greg and Sammy in front. Not shown is Graham who is scouting ahead of the group.

With two professional Florida guides as part of our group, meals were a delight, for despite the lack of refrigeration, Greg and Graham prepared delicious meals every morning and evening, such as pancakes and bacon, eggs and bacon, spaghetti and meat sauce, Cuban rice with chicken, and one chilly evening vegetable and sausage soup.

We often paddled together enjoying the scenery and each others company as the miles floated by. Wildlife sightings and scenic wonders could thus be shared with everyone, as well as stories of previous paddles and hikes.

Several times each mile we came across rapids caused by boulders that had fallen from the mountainsides, or trees that obstructed the river, or gravel bars, and though all most were merely ripples or class one rapids, some presented precarious situations when the current took the boats under "sweepers" or "strainers" -- trees that could capsize the boats or sweep the paddlers into the river, or entrap the paddlers within the branches and drown you. Here's one rapid and more are shown on the movie at the end of this post.

Our numerous wildlife sightings included, deer, otters, beaver, bald eagles, vultures, a timber rattler within three feet of our tent, hundreds of turtles, many species of butterflies, woodpeckers, lots of fish, elk tracks near camp, great blue heron and little green heron, and many more. This heron has a snake in its mouth...

Here's a short video I made showing the scenery, the rapids, camp life, and numerous wildlife sightings from our trip...

Ellen has a great post detailing some of our wildlife sightings here.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Scott's Visit...

... to Fayetteville (AR) has been a whirlwind of fun with a tad of hectic thrown in, as seen below.

First we drove the extensive University of Arkansas campus and walked the main area...

We visited Eureka Springs an hour north of town within the Ozark Mountains and stopped at the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas station and train yard...

Then on to Fay Jones' beautiful Thorncrown Chapel which I blogged about a month ago here. As you can see through the ubiquitous glass, the forest is in full foliage now. It was awarded the American Institute of Architecture's "Design of the Year" award for 1981 and later their "Design of the Decade" award for the 1980s. It recently was awarded fourth on their list of the top buildings of the 20th Century.

Then on to Bella Vista near the Missouri state line for another of Jones' creations, the Cooper Memorial Chapel...

Then on to Bentonville and Sam Walton's first store, which is now the free Wal-Mart Museum which I reported on here two years ago...

We also had a wonderful late lunch at The Station which is two doors down. Finally, after returning home, we took him to a local favorite, the Braum's Ice Cream shop. Great day!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Scott arrived...

... In Fayetteville today, for our canoe trip down the Buffalo River
in a few days. Here he tries out my iPad...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Worthy Quotes #31

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for things we did not do that is inconsolable."
-- Sidney J. Harris

We can forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
-- Plato

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
--Frank Lloyd Wright

Know this: though love is weak and hate is strong, Yet hate is short, and love is very long.
-- Kenneth Boulding

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

I've always believed in the adage that the secret of eternal youth is arrested development.
-- Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.
-- Thomas Jefferson

The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one often comes from a strong will, and the other from strong won’t.
-- Henry Ward Beecher

Blessed are those who expect little, for they will never be disappointed.
-- Carl Sandburg

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Extreme Kayaking Videos

A week from today we begin an 8 day, 130 mile canoe trip down Arkansas' Buffalo River. I've done about 8 multi-day paddle trips on rivers and lakes, but this will be the first that can have some serious rapids -- serious for canoes loaded with a week's worth of gear and food -- so I have some trepidation. To me, someone from the flat and calm waters of Illinois, rapids are best tackled in rubber rafts, so this trip is daunting.

I would never tackle huge rapids and waterfalls in a kayak as seen in this video of several extreme kayakers challenging waterfalls and rapids in Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, and the nearby area.

This historical footage below gives you a view of whitewater kayaking in the early 80s and shows the first sanctioned descent of the Niagara Gorge, North America's biggest rapids. 3000 tons of water spill over Niagara Falls every minute, and then that water continues down through Niagara Gorge. Three men and a woman kayak in this video, through rapids three times the water volume of the vaunted Lava Falls Rapid in the Grand Canyon. This video is from a TV broadcast in the 1980s. To skip the historical review and interviews of the kayakers, go to minute 7 in the video...

Finally, here are extreme kayakers in Patagonia...

" Waterfalls of Patagonia " whitewater kayaking with Demshitz! from jared seiler on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Truth Hurts

Sometime when you're feeling important,
Sometime when your ego's in bloom,
Sometime when you take it for granted,
You're the best qualified in the room,
Sometime when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow this simple instruction,
And see how it humbles your soul.

Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your arm and hand in to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that's remaining
Is the measure of how much you'll be missed.
You may splash all you please when you enter,
You can stop and stir up the water galore,
But stop and you'll find in a minute,
That it looks quite the same as before.

The moral in this quaint example
Is to the do the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself, but remember,
There is no indispensable man.

(found on a sign in Har-Ber Village Museum)