Thursday, August 11, 2011


The first five and a half miles are comfortable. My legs warm up and my breathing evens. Checking my pace and upper body relaxation. I recite affirmations: ten times minimum. I unencumber distracting thoughts and ideas and focus on the run. It all feels quite pleasant. Presently, fatigue begins. A report from below, usually from my legs. I continue.


1973: At thirteen, I stood five feet tall and weighed 112 pounds. I was required to run an 880 – roughly half a mile - during a seventh grade gym class. It was horrible; I was fully intimidated by circling the track so many times. I finished, feeling shamefully slow. This experience reinforced a distaste for sports. I lacked natural coordination, so I’d avoided playing games since kindergarten. I now added a dread of future track and field classes.

1975: At fifteen, I was six foot two and weighted 125. I had stretched, beginning acquisition of my lean adult form. I played the trumpet. To improve my wind, I began to run. My father started too. We both took advantage of the mid 1970s jogging boom. Nike and other firms had launched; it became easy to get good running shoes. I still miss my first pair of Adidas blue runners, though I shutter to remember how little support they had. I worked out a series of three to four mile loops through my neighborhood. Running was pleasurable, other than the very frosty winter mornings. I ran early, enjoying the solitude and time to observe the streets before they woke up.

1978: High school ended: college began. I discovered that the intensity of academics eased with regular physical action. So I continued to run: the gym in the cold of Ohio winter, outdoors when the air warmed up. I continued to run in solitutde. I had a girlfriend who was on the track team. She told me about their long training runs. The town was surrounded by a gridwork of roads which separated farmland into a square mile gridwork. A number of four plus mile runs were thus possible. So on a spring day I decided to try a loop. I set out from the gym. I was now six foot five, 157 pounds. Four miles seemed impossibly far. Turning the first corner, I left town. Hey, this was interesting. I had never seen the countryside. I ran north; a stiff headwind from Lake Erie greeted me. I turned east; the headwind continued. I continued to enjoy the landscape. Back into town, almost done. The gym: done, I felt exuberant.

1983: After graduation, I worked in Washington DC. I began to run longer distances; the challenges of my job were released by 30 plus laps around my high school track. This was also validation. As I ran on a frigid moonless night, I thought, damn it, when I was in school I was afraid about sports, but now I am doing just fine.

1985: Graduate school in California and subsequent life in the San Francisco Bay area forced changes in routine. I travelled for research. Running became episodic; six months, two years, one year. Much of this was triggered by my serious study of Aikido. Developing a martial arts body contradicted serious running.
2007: I had begun consistent strength training at a gym as recovery from a knife accident (in the kitchen, not the dojo). Pushing iron was accompanied by cardio: I learned the variety of elliptical machines, stationary bikes, and treadmills on offer. I ran infrequently; the ellipticals were more of a workout. I now maintained a stable weight of 176 pounds, and added a new metric: 10.1% body fat.


2010: After 30 years of Aikido, I began to study qi gong and tai chi chuan. As this training began to teach me concepts that Aikido would not, I declared a dojo sabbatical. A friend at the gym said that it would be fun to run in the annual Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco. This event crosses the city; 2011 would be the 100th anniversary. I signed up.

Without Aikido, time and energy were available. I thought, I’ve always wanted to run a marathon. I’d heard of the marathon in 4th grade, when I read about Pheidippides’s run in Greece after the Battle of Marathon. I had not realized that it was a modern road race until seeing Frank Shorter win the Olympic Marathon in 1972. Was now the time? I was fifty. I researched races. Well, the San Francisco Marathon was in July. It was October. This seemed sufficiently far away in time and convenient in space. I signed up.


When I registered for the San Francisco Marathon, my inventory of races was a dozen or events of 10k or longer distance. My experiences on these were mixed; I was sometimes undertrained, sometimes intimidated by running in a race, sometimes bad cramping. So I didn’t want to race on the marathon; I wanted to run and see if I could finish.

I consulted with a friend in the sport psychology department at work. I’d helped them get a lot of grant funding, so she was glad to help. She recommended a book that covered the mental aspects of training and competition. Although designed for triathletes, it addressed the issues I’d face as an endurance runner. Part-time scholar that I am, I read it completely. I quickly realized that mentally, I was in pretty good shape. Sure, I could skip working on mental issues related to competition, but in terms of other potential barriers, I was good. I like myself and have built confidence in my mental toughness and physical ability. We also discussed using imagery and “positive self-talk” while running. This seemed interesting. I immediately thought of my sister, a cancer survivor. I could easily imagine running the marathon for her; the pink ribbon would be a symbol.

I read more about running a first marathon. It became clear that competition was optional. Almost everything I read encouraged first-timers to run to finish, not achieve a certain time. This validated. I could just run my run, and not worry about competition.

By mile fifteen, my feet and legs are at maximum soreness. An undifferentiated broad distress throughout my muscles, tendons, and fascia. I’ve drunk enough water and electrolyte and swallowed enough gel that my system has energy, but all of me below the waist hurts.


More research yielded a training schedule. There were plenty to choose from. I eliminated options that required extensive record keeping and/or seemed to be aimed at competitive runners. I liked the basic method that the schedules shared; a gradual increase in mileage, especially the LSR, the weekly Long Slow Run. At peak, the longest would be 20 miles. This seemed far.

My Sundays thus became dedicated to progressively longer LSRs. I live near the junction of several trail networks, so I was able to plan and achieve my distances without crossing streets or dodging traffic. I enjoyed the early morning starts that the LSRs required, before the heat of the day. The trails were empty, save for other runners and packs of cyclists. The population gradually swelled with time, as more people went for morning walks/runs/rides/skates/motion on other contraptions.

I’d set an LSR pace goal of 10 minutes per mile. This is slower than I naturally run, so I timed myself against the mile markers on the trail. This was hard when my mind got fuzzy, due to heat or exhaustion. I then discovered a smartphone GPS app that tracked average pace, split times, calories burned, and other ephemera. Much easier than using a watch, once I got the volume set low enough to not startle myself or other trail users.

The LSRs were hard. Each one pushed me further mentally and physically. I always finished; this persistence built confidence. It was great to get back to my house, shed my wet clothes, swallow my recovery drink, down a couple energy bars, and stretch thoroughly. I learned to be careful in my routine; if I got on the floor to stretch before I’d recovered enough, I was too tired to get back up. I had to crawl to the bathroom more than once. Actually, the hardest part was the day after the LSR, when I woke both decrepit and tired. No amount of stretching and nutrition seemed to thwart this. Then I read about ice baths: a 10-15 minute soak right after an LSR. I tried it: agony. Then, the next morning – huh, I was tired, but moved with ease. I was instantly converted.


I tired over the weeks of training. It was harder to accomplish tasks at home and the office. I was fatigued and unmotivated at the gym. These sensations were familiar from intense Aikido training periods. I knew a solution was to eat more, but eat what? I’d gotten a book on endurance sports nutrition. I read it in a week, learning the basics of physiology and metabolism for marathoning and other long duration sports. Complex carbohydrates and protein were good. Fat was ok: I’d burn it on the LSRs and the marathon itself. This examination was also a basic check-in on my diet, which I knew was pretty healthy and balanced. My research was confirmation: I just had to eat more! Based on calculations from the book, I needed 4.000 calories a day, in a specific ratio of protein to carbohydrates to fat. Trying to eat this much was more intimidating than ice bathing. However, once I upped my diet, basically eating four meals a day, my energy returned. It was a delicate balance; whenever my intake dropped or went off balance, my performance decreased. It was fun to be able to eat pretty much anything, knowing that I would burn it one way or another.


One Sunday morning in April, I did an eight mile LSR, an out and back along the Contra Costa Canal. This was not my longest run to date, but was pretty close. When I got home, my feet felt strange: not painful, not sore, just sensitive, centered on the ball and big toe of both feet. It was more intense on my left foot. Something had happened. I hadn’t gone particularly fast; maybe I’d let myself relax and speed up from my intended LSR pace. I’d also been experimenting with a less pronounced heel strike, trying a more rolling contact with the ground. These new foot feelings persisted. The sensations moved around, and began to resemble the faint burning feeling I associate with nerve pain. I researched runner’s foot pain on the internet; nothing seemed to fit my symptoms.

I worried. Were my feet damaged? The sensation and tenderness were not the pain I associate with injury. I took a week off and cross-trained; the sensations decreased. My next long Sunday run brought them back. What to do? I had to run.

I visited family In Maryland, and ran a half marathon in Philadelphia. My feet were not a problem; the sensations faded as the race progressed. This seemed to be evidence that I was not incurring serious damage. My anxiety lingered.

I went to my favorite running store and had my stride analyzed. This suggested a solution. I tried on several pairs of shoes, eventually choosing a pair of Sauconys. I’ve been wearing the same type of Asics since 2000; the latest incarnation, which I’d just switched into my shoe rotation, lacked sufficient forefoot support. The Sauconys relieved my foot sensations. More internet investigation turned up a diagnosis: metatarsalgia, i.e., lack of forefoot support causing nerve sensitivity. Ball of foot inserts were a suggested fix. I ordered a pair. It felt funny to run with a blob under the ball of my foot, but it seemed to help.

The sensations came and went throughout the weeks. Icing my feet after every workout helped too.


I had not run a timed race in several years. As training for the marathon, I participated in three events: the Western Pacific 10k in Fremont, the ~12k Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, and the Oddyssey Half Marathon in Philadelphia (13.1 miles, 21k). Besides getting me medals and t-shirts, I learned a number of things from these races. First, I get distracted easily by looking at scenery and activity that’s not on the course. I actually got lost on the Western Pacific and ran a couple extra kilometers on the marathon course. Oh well.  Second, running with others did not bother me as much as in the past. By focusing on my pace, form, and inner race, I was fine. Third, none of these events were hard; my training was working.

At mile nineteen, I’m getting stupid. I plod. Not gonna stop. Can’t think straight, can’t do the math to figure my splits. I bull onward, not much more to get done and home.

 Gel, Water, Electrolyte, Beer

July 31st, 4:18 am, I was in my car en route to The San Francisco Marathon. I had been flummoxed to discover that there was no viable mass transit. Well, driving was an opportunity to focus. Parked, peed, my sore left adductor coated in warming cream, and in the Wave 7 Corral, I began to run around 6:24, in the pre-dawn light. Along the Embarcadero, up and down through Ft. Mason and another flat stretch along the Marina. My first experience was frustration – the corral was packed, and my pace was slowed by the crowd. Most of the others were doing the First Half Marathon: only around 5,800 of the 24,000 participants were doing the full. Note to other runners one: don’t stop to fuss with electronics in the middle of the course. Well, this is the way of races. Note to self: start further towards the front of the corral next time.

Mile 3. Mile 4. The SF Marathon attracted a very diverse group. Based on gear, I saw participants from Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Brazil, England, Ireland, France, Italy, Iran, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Also plenty of domestic jerseys from races all over the States. In my part of the crowd, people of all shapes, ages, and sizes.

I felt pretty good at Mile 5, ascending the grade to the Golden Gate. At daybreak, the weather was about ideal; overcast, upper 50s. I’d picked the right layers. Across the bridge, more crowded lanes, more pulses of slow runners. Note to other runners two: if you are going to walk and talk, don’t do it in the middle of the course. I started passing clots of slower runners, jinking along the edge of the course.

Running the bridge was FUN. Looking towards Marin, then making the loop and running back towards the city was when it hit me – I’m actually doing the SF Marathon.

The usual body feelings arrived and joined my sore adductor: feet, legs, and a sudden ache in my left knee. A bit late at Mile 8 or so, but in time for the long climb up through the Presidio and the downhill along Baker’s Beach. Note to other runners three: thank you for getting off the course to take pictures of Land’s End. Focus and continue, the only impact of tiredness being spilling sticky electrolyte drink on myself at the next water stop. Inevitable.

Left and more up and down through the Sunset District. Waving to spectators, high-fiving a course monitor or two (members of Harley-Davidson clubs, all in their leathers). Persisting telling my legs and feet that they were strong, healthy, and relaxed. Mile 11, Mile 12, Mile 13. Into Golden Gate Park. A sharp right turn; the First Half Marathon crowd turned left. Ah, a suddenly tranquil uncrowded course, as I wound a long downhill and its uphill payback. Time to really check in with my body and mind: pace, pain, presence of mind.

I’d actually been talking about this with my qi gong teacher earlier in the week. I’ve experienced dropping my qi – running from a centered place – pretty regularly. I can engender it with proper attention. He reminded me of the other part of the equation: raising awareness, being present in the surrounding environment. Now, when I dropped into this mode, it was a nice moment of smelling the eucalypts, watching the motion of other runners around me, and feeling the sensations in my body; aches but also aerobic comfort, and general ease in motion. More evidence that training worked.

We joined the Second Half Marathon crowd for a lap around Stow Lake; back to a dense course population. Near the polo fields an unofficial beer stop had been set up; I downed a couple ounces for the heck of it; gotta be some reasonable combination of carbos, electrolytes, and pain killer. Up JFK Drive and left onto Haight. Here was another moment of wow I’m doing this, as I ran the rises and falls of Haight-Asbury. Mile 17, Mile 18. Beginning to feel the deep tiredness throughout my body. I’d eaten well in the taper period before the race, and certainly downed enough gel so far; some of it was on my face and shirt. I’d been sweating consistently, but drinking too. This was the accumulated fatigue of repeated motion for almost four hours. No need to stop. Mile 19. Body now getting numb; aches and sorenesses dulled away.

Down Guerrero, the last major decline. Using my downhill stride to recapture some time and energy. Mile 20, Mile 21. Almost to the flats by the Bay, a left hand dog leg and a wildly cheering mob of – cheerleaders? I dunno, but they were all young, female, fit, and enthusiastically loud. This cheer station really helped me. It came at the only point when I thought - do I have to keep running? The crowd on the course had thinned out: a lot of people walking now, especially on the hills. With a push from this group, I resisted my loss of focus and kept running. Around the east rim of the baseball stadium, past a series of DJs: loud pumping music amused me and told me to keep moving. The Bay Bridge loomed closer. I knew I had to go under it to the finish, but my focus now was just on moving, staying with my pace. Mile 25. I inventoried: I had enough juice left to kick it up. I ran the last 1.2 miles in under eight minutes.

Through the finish line and into a chute to get my finisher’s medal. Pushing the buttons on my watch and GPS. My time was just over 4 hours, 28 minutes. I was tired, close to incoherent, but happy. 

July 2011 Road Trip VII: Salem to Humbug Mountain to Stafford to Walnut Creek

Sleeping on Bruce and Daisy’s back deck was surprisingly comfortable. Quieter than Eugene, and the wood of the deck no harder than the ground.

Time for the southerly run towards home. Sarah had several nights before she had to fly home. She wanted to see the Oregon coast and the redwoods. So west from Salem on Rt. 22, following the Salmon River to Lincoln City and Rt 101.

Two nights on the road. I drove; Sarah has foot issues that would have made the winding coastal highway unfun. Plus I like this kind of active driving, sensing the other vehicles and their relative speeds, while attending to the passing scenery (natural and human). Given that this run was a distance of over 700 miles, it’s a bit fuzzy.

We developed a quick pattern: drive, stop at a promising ocean vista, peruse and photograph, and repeat until exhaustion, the right camping opportunity and/or sunset occur. Any number of coastal towns rolled by: Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Otter Rock, Newport, Sea Rock, Waldport. Most of these, along 101 at least, seemed focused on tourism. No worries, only a few hours from Portland/Salem/Corvallis/ Eugene: most of Oregon’s population. Each town seemed to repeat the same pattern of businesses: drive-thru espresso, used book store, Mexican restaurant, and an art gallery (trending from glass to myrtlewood to redwood with proximity to the equator). This became our litmus for a place being real.

The coast was consistently dramatic. The compression along this convergent plate boundary has shaped the western edge or Oregon into steep mountains, composed of a mish-mash of rocks – lava, metamorphics, deep-sea sediments (based on my scant observations). The Pacific Ocean continually works away at this stuff. Given that a lot of the rocks are pretty hard, the coastline features dramatic cliffs, sea stacks, arches, and other intensely scenic features. They were lovely even in the flat midday light. Working with dual intuitions, we stopped at viewpoints that sounded right: Boiler Bay, Devils Punchbowl, Natural Bridges. The air was cool and wet, and abrupt change to my body after the desert. Strange to wear layers of clothing.
Further south, Reedsport, Lakeside, North Bend, Coos Bay, Bandon, and the tourism density began to decline. Fewer cars, more trucks on the roads. Through Port Oxford, coming on late afternoon, time to camp. Humbug Mountain State Park appealed. Well, the campground was right by 101 (a narrow canyon made this necessary) and full of Americans, but it was a short walk to the beach. We took one of the last spots and set up.

Dinner, a wander to the beach for a fully worthy brilliant sunset. Strong breeze: I was pretty sandblasted around the ankles by the time darkness emerged. Back to the campground; the family next door had thankfully taken the whistle away from the little boy. Eight hours of oblivion.

Misty dawn, actual dew on my gear. No worries. South and further south. The one part of the coast which had intrigued me during my pre-trip research was this southern bit; especially the Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor: thirty plus miles of relatively undeveloped coastline. But fog and diffuse morning light masked its beauty, or maybe this was the dullness of too much time in Trixy. We progressed. Gold Beach, giving in to the urge to visit a used book store, I discovered that there was Pirate Festival in Brookings, the next (and last) town in Oregon on 101.

Aaargh, matey. The festival was a great lunch stop. Small with a lot of pirates who seemed to be wearing modified Renaissance Fair clothing. No worries. Good on Brookings for doing something so fun. Sorry to miss the cannon demonstration.
Back into California, 101 cutting inland towards Arcata and Eureka. Redwoods sensu lato as destination. It was a summer weekend, so I figured that most parks would be full. A stop at the VC in Eureka confirmed this. So we drove, with an appropriate pause at Trees of Mystery. Evening approached. My gazetteer indicated campgrounds in many of the small towns dotting 101. We eventually ended the day at the Stafford RV Park, in Scotia. Pleasantly funky, a mixture of permanent trailer residences and passers through. Adjacent to both the Eel River and 101. We were the only campers until a Japanese cyclist showed up at dusk. He was glad to learn where the water faucet was, and to understand about the incipient high mosquito density. Nice to camp under 100 year old redwood saplings, my last night out, alas.

A final morning. Not ready to go home, but ready to be there. I’d had enough of driving, and the San Francisco Marathon was only eight days away. Sarah and I redwooded, proceeding down The Avenue of the Giants with appropriate photo stops, which provided to be short, given the continuing mosquito density. Haw, one item I had not packed was insect repellent.

The damp coastal valleys now trended NNW-SSE; we were in terrain controlled by the San Andreas Fault System. Good bye to dominantly compressional tectonics, hello to dominant lateral shear. This is the geology of home, so after my time on the road, it felt strangely right. I guess I’ve lived in California long enough.
Eventually cutting inland and drier, tall trees giving way to grasses, oaks, and fairly quickly, vineyards. We paused for lunch at Saracina Vineyards. Sarah was iso a bottle of decent wine for her husband, so before eating we the caves. This being distal Napa, the tasting room and warehouse had been excavated out of a hill. I haven’t been to a winery since 1996. I knew that wine culture had exploded since then, but the financial impact of this was not apparent to me till seeing Saracina. Besides the caves, the winery per se was all brand new: very modern buildings; the plants, furniture and other accessories all pretty top shelf. And all this at a place that produces 4,000 cases a year? The other piece of evidence was the language the pourer used; varietals and adjectives that were totally new to me. Smile, nod and taste, not a problem mate. I picked out the syrah that seemed to have the most interesting nose and bouquet for my bro-in-law.

Having finished my 4 ounces of wine for July, it was time for the final two hours falling south. 101 widened, narrowed, transitioned from vineyard to exurb to suburb to city. The San Rafael Bridge, San Pablo Dam Road, Rt. 24, and home. 

July 2011 Road Trip VI: Eugene to Salem

Morning under the apple tree, time to run again. I also ran in the summer of too much chemistry (actually I really enjoyed classes), so I retraced some familiar routes. Mild dissociation: while the geography of streets was the same, so many of the houses had changed. An abundance of Sunset magazine influenced flower-rich yards, different shops on Friendly Avenue. I listened, but felt no echoes of myself at 20. A quick 3.9 miles, back to the apple tree.

A long morning in Eugene. A cousin’s second birthday party. He liked the balloons. Planning with my sister: my aunt was to be busy with medical stuff, so we were free to proceed out of Eugene. I wanted to visit my friends Bruce and Daisy in Salem.

I know Bruce and Daisy from my Aikido San Leandro. They moved to Salem oh, seven years ago, and have settled in well. We had a lovely visit. It was fun to see their house, be inspired by their gardening, and meet Ollie, their Jack Russell terrier. Ollie provided my dog fix for the rest of the year. Once he had calmed (on the JR scale) to something slower than a furry growling blur, I had a great time throwing his toys and basically playing dog for a while.

Bruce teaches Aikido in Salem. He invited me to train and teach a class. I was initially unsure about participating. I’m on sabbatical from Aikido at present; my path currently lies with the subtle powerful energies of qi gong and tai chi quan. My intuition said to go. I had a great time. Bruce has good students. It was smooth and rewarding to mildly integrate my internal current practices into training and teaching. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

July 2011 Road Trip V: Painted Hills to Eugene

Dawn and back to the Painted Hills. Breakfast in the empty day use area: overcast and windy, but that’s what oatmeal, protein powder, and a banana are for. Dull light at the sites of the previous evening’s display, so I proceeded to a trailhead that I knew would get me close to a small cluster of the Painted Hills. Up close, texture is as prominent as color; the clays that compose the Hills have a “popcorn” texture caused by irregular absorption of water, subsequent expansion, and erosion. Good to photograph, especially when I could contrast multiple hues at the same time.

I did not know where today was to end. I had a general plan to rendezvous with my sister Sarah in Portland today or tomorrow. She flew out from Maryland to visit family, meet me, and drive back to California. I knew she’d arrived safely at PDX a couple days previously. But, here in the Oregon outback, mobile phone reception was dicey at best. I decided that I’d better head west, iso a zone of communication from which I could either bolt all the way to Portland or hide out for longer in the woods.

So a commute commenced: north on Rt. 19 from Mitchell to Fossil, west from Fossil to Clarno and Antelope on Rt. 218. Trixy and I wound over many passes, down innumerable stream drainages, and through many variations of farmland, forest, and sagebrush. I paused in each town; no mobile reception, no messages, no luck with outgoing calls or texts. Each of these little towns intrigued me. Here were communities that have persisted, that felt authentic and real. Alas, no time for other than such fleeting impressions.

Over a ridge west of Antelope, and the Cascade volcanic arc spread out before me. Mt. Hood just north of west, Mt. Adams to the north in Washington, and further south, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters. I faced a choice. I could drive west northwest, touching the south flank of Mt.Hood: the slow, scenic route. Or I could go north to The Dalles and west up the Columbia River Gorge. Fast and populated. Still no phone contact. Intuition pointed me to The Dalles route. Thus down a long hot ridge and across the Deschutes River on Rt. 197 through Maupin, Tygh Valley, and Dufur. A dog leg west, onto Interstate 80. The Gorge scenic at 75 mph.

Distal Portland. My sister was staying with one of our aunts. I knew her place was on the west side of the Willamette River. I wondered around, finally parking west of downtown. On the phone: contact. I was only seven or so blocks from her place.

My intuition had been right. The salient reason for this trip and rendezvous is the major illness of another aunt who lives in Eugene. Sarah had made contact with her; today was the best window for us to visit. So south to Eugene, meeting yet another aunt and an uncle for dinner, then a good visit. I am sorry if this is confusing, my Oregon family is large and complex.

Nighttime in Eugene; we found space to sleep at my aunt’s old house in south Eugene. I’d lived here in 1980, spending the summer buried in chemistry at the University of Oregon. I did not want to break my trend of camping, so I spread out my bivy under the apple tree in the backyard.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 2011 Road Trip IV: Crystal Crane Hot Springs to Painted Hills

5 am. Almost dawn, and it sounded as if the bull finally had gotten access to one of the cows. Well, at least they were at the far end of the paddock. I lay in my tent and thought for a while. Eventually, it was time to get up and run. Rt. 78 had looked promising the previous evening. I thought I’d trot from the Hot Springs east to the town of Crane, which seemed like about my scheduled four miles. I layered up and set out. A straight road into the sun, a turn to the south, feeling pretty good. As I approached Crane, another runner came towards me; good to see that I was not the only self propelled item on the road so early. I’d been passed by an equal ratio of cars and trucks, about one every half mile. Everyone had waved to me.

All of my time thus far in Oregon has been in Harney County, which makes up a large chunk of the southeastern part of the state. It’s rural and isolated, and the friendliest place I’ve been in the States in years. I’ve had pleasant, helpful conversations in gas stations, stores, tourist spots, just everywhere. Almost every time Trixy and I have intersected an oncoming vehicle, the driver has waved. The locals, based on the vehicle type – trucks for preference – always do, even to Trixy, who has to shout tourist to anyone observant. These brief experiences have enriched the trip. Before setting out, I had said that one of my goals was to talk to no one for five days. I am glad to have failed. I trust these connections genuinely reflect the people I’ve met; maybe I’m more open too. 

I reached the outskirts of Crane: a dilapidated house with a couple of rusting Detroit hulks in the yard. Turning around, I discovered why the run had felt so good; my tailwind instantly became a stiff headwind. I was warmed up now, so I pushed my pace a little and headed back to the Hot Springs. Couldn’t be any worse than running across the Golden Gate Bridge in about ten days.

Back at camp, I warmed down with another soak.

On the road, to Burns. A pause to blog in a café (no wireless?) and give Trixy a much needed bath. The density of insect carcasses on her front quarters, not to mention the dust of the Alvord and Steens everywhere, required attention. 

North on Rt. 395. Good bye to the Basin and Range. Up Devine Canyon, down the Silvies Valley. Across Bear Valley and over The Aldrich and Strawberry Mountains. These are part of a set of a series of NNW-SSE trending ranges; I think these are largely compressional in origin, related to the formation of the Cascade Volcanic Arc further to the west. Also adios to sagebrush, and greetings to ponderosa pine forest. Dropping into the Canyon Creek drainage, passing through Canyon City, and into John Day.

Tired by winding roads, and wanting lunch, I followed the signs to Kam Wah Chung State Park. Another guidebook recco; this small historical site illuminates a bit of the Chinese history of the John Day area. Intrigued, I decided to do more than sit in the Visitor Center parking lot and eat an apple with peanut butter. The VC was outstanding. It told the general history of John Day and Canyon City (a syn-Civil War gold rush), the subsequent arrival of Chinese immigrants, and the often intense racism they faced. Like many recent museum exhibits I’ve seen, this was told directly. This history set the stage for the story of Kam Wah Chung; a store/doctors office/gambling den/bunkhouse run by a pair of Chinese men – an entrepreneur and an oriental medicine doctor. They initially set up shop to serve the Asian community. As the ore faded and the racisim waxed, most of the Chinese left. These guys stayed, seeming to become accepted and important members of the community. A moving story of spirit. I was impressed at imagining the bravery and ambition of men crossing the Pacific from Southern China in search of what – I don’t know – but persisting and ultimately living significant lives in this remote part of North America. 

The core of the park is the Kam Wah Chung building itself. It was locked up in the 1950s when the second of the Chinese guys died. It was given to the city in the following decade, passed the county, and finally the state. When opened, the building proved to be a time capsule. All of their stuff – store inventory, boxes of herbs, personal belongings, furniture, massive iron stove, was still there. It has all been curated, restored, and carefully arranged to a “working” appearance. I took the ranger-led tour; necessary to see the inside. This turned out to be recorded oral history. I was touched to see such abundant evidence of a slice of past culture and life, now gone, except for this museum. I did ask the ranger; there’s been no continuity in Chinese culture in the area.

Another reason for my pause in John Day was the sky. Dark, cloudy, a profound promise of rain. Sprinkles in John Day turned into brief showers as I headed west through Mt .Vernon and Dayville and on Rt. 26 towards my next destination, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. I’d been here before in 2005, and particularly wanted to return and both enjoy and photograph the Painted Hills Unit. 

I stopped at the park John Day VC to get water and look at the fossil exhibits. I chatted up the ranger. At some point I told him I’d worked for NPS at Grand Canyon. A casual bonding experience: when I told him I was camping, he told me about a secret spot on BLM land that was dead close to the Painted Hills. An excellent steer.

On through Mitchell, and north to Painted Hills. This is a little area, a number of overlapping hills on the side of a broad valley, which are profoundly colorful. They’re composed of lake bed sediments and volcanic ash, which have both altered into clay. This material is so hydrophilic that plants can’t survive on it. The resulting barren hillsides are colored by the trace minerals in the clays: rust red, buff orange, olive green, blue-black, but in spectacularly, jaw-droppingly beautiful layers. I have never been any place as stunning. 

Late afternoon, mostly cloudy, but clearing. A rim trail along the edge of the main Painted Hills vista was the right spot to be for the light. I poked along; so many compelling mixtures of color angle, and texture. I passed another photographer with a full kit of gear; he’d staked his spot, based on the tripod and accessories laid out. I preferred to bounce around. The sky cleared tantalizingly as sunset neared. The sun peaked out. A brief moment of warm light suggested that persisting in the cold wind and camping in the dark was going to be worth it. A cluster of visitors waited with me, huddle on a bench to break the wind. 

7:50 pm, 25 minutes to dark, the sun came out. The glow on the hills became almost other worldly. One hundred and thirty pictures later (I bracket exposures) it was dark and time to camp. The secret BLM spot was just fine.

July 2011 Road Trp III: Alvord Desert to Crystal Crane Hot Springs

I woke suddenly – crap, it was already light! I had trouble falling asleep last night; some one turned the moon on. Bugger, I’d wanted to commute a couple miles back south to Alvord Hot Springs to enjoy a syn-dawn soak. I’d passed the Springs yesterday; a shack enclosing a couple 10’ by 10’ basins, fed by a conglomeration of jammed together pipe from the geothermal vents, which were just below the road. Homemade, unattended, free, and with a killer view of the Alvord Desert.
Well, I got there quickly, still plenty of magic dawn light time. Then time for a solitary soak. OK, two pools, what was the difference? Whoa, the outdoor one is a good 120 degrees! Better start in the sheltered pool. 

Properly boiled, I headed back south, continuing to contemplate the Alvord Desert. It didn’t look right. I had enjoyed watching it turn into a mirage-like expanse of water yesterday evening, but this morning, the mirage was still there. Moreover, the far mountains were reflected in it. Hmm, it’s news to me that mirages do this. I kept glancing out the window. Ripples on the desert surface. And all that health green vegetation. I suddenly realized with some embarrassment that I’d assumed Alvord was dry because that’s how it was described, but really, this July, it was still a bloody lake! I confirmed this by finding the turn-off for putatively driving onto the playa. It vanished in a series of tiny waves, lapping on the shoreline. A single wading bird confirmed my realization.
South, back to paved road, and a sharp right north on Rt. 202 towards Steens Mountain. Steens has intrigued me for years. I almost made it here in 2005, but was distracted by the John Day Fossil Beds. I hoped to get close to its summit; from the looks of the east side, there was still plenty of snow up there above 9,000 feet. 

The east side of Steens Mountain, where I’d been on the Alvord Desert, is the Basin and Range fault bounded side. It’s thus steep and dramatic. The west side is the hinge zone if you wll; no major fault per se. Instead the strata tilt up to the east, forming a gradual slope. I drove north along the base of this inflection. To the west, the Basin and Range continued. The basins were quite flat. Along their margins, the alluvium was eroded into a series of benches; ancient shorelines, from the time of the last glacial epoch, when this was all one big lake. 

Trixy eventually took me to Frenchglen, a small historic community on the west side of Steens, and the access point for the BLM scenic loop up and down the mountain. Oh boy, more gravel. Well, I was getting used to navigating in a Trixy-preserving way on this surface, as well as living in and breathing a constant layer of dust. I commenced a gradual assent. Hmm, not a lot of rock exposed, but the gradually changing biotic zones – five according to my information – more than kept me observant. I tried not to swerve too much as I tried to note places for flower photography later in the day. 

The road ascended consistently, winding between a pair of large streams draining the east side of Steens Mountain. Progressive turns, higher and higher. I watched the road carefully, twitchy for anything hazardous, but it continued in good nick. I began to wander how far I could drive. The signage had indicated that the road was open up to Gate 2, which was somewhere near the first campground on the Mountain. I figured I could walk from the gate to the first good overlook, if necessary. I passed a six-pack pickup truck parked by the side of the road. A pair of arms holding a camera projected on the scenic side. Oops, I went by fast, hope I didn’t dust them! 

I continued past small clusters of ponderosa pine (out of place), stands of aspen, and several enticing patches of wildflowers. Snow appeared above me; exciting – I’d seen it from the Alvord the day before, now it looked like I would reach that high. A turn, and a muddy road cut – through five feet of snow. Yeah. More switches, more snow, often tinged red by algae. The first campground and gate came and went. The road continued: no gates, more snow, a persistent subalpine plant community amid the chocolate-gray rubbly basaltic outcrops. I stopped to look at a potential afternoon light photo spot. The six-pack came past. We waved at each other. Back in Trixy, who was sounding a bit weasy at 9,000 feet. No fear. The turn off to the Kiger Gorge Scenic Viewpoint appeared. Alright, this was further than I expected to get on four wheels. I turned left, drove in, and parked.

Kiger Gorge is a glacial valley, carved into the side of Steens Mountain during the last glacial epoch. It shows the truly classic U-shaped cross-section that alpine glaciers create. Quite distinctive from the effects of running, liquid water. I stood on a snow bank and contemplated. The Gorge walls were cut into lava flows; a distinctive subhorizontal banding, layered with green banks of vegetation. Quite fetching. A notch cut into the east Gorge wall indicated where a subglacier must have flowed, cutting a channel. Geez, the ice cap on Steens must have been quite thick: maybe thousands of feet. 

I joined the crew from the six-pack; apparently an extended family on holiday, at least three generations by my estimate. They all had pocket sized digital cameras. We chatted; they were from the Bend area. The woman I’d labeled as “Mom” refused to go close to the Gorge rim, and wouldn’t let anyone else near it either. Except me; I did make her promise to close her eyes when I went up to the edge for a super-wide angle photo. 

The road continued upward. Not much further to reach the summit ridge. Blitzen Gorge, another U-shaped valley, dropped off to the southwest. Finally, a “Road Closed” sign, with the cloud of a road grader at work in the distance. But this at junction: a left turn into the East Rim Scenic Viewpoint. Awesome; the second highest point on the Mountain. Parking, I felt satisfied that I’d driven my little car up here. I’d only seen trucks and SUVs on the road. Until the parking lot, where a pair of Prius hybrids were parked. Deflate, haw. 

The edge of Steens Mountain. A hazy but still impressive late morning view to the east over the Basin and Range. A respectable 25 miles, based on my maps. And a downward look onto the Alvord Desert; my campsite and Alvord Hot Springs were almost visible. I stood at about 9,500’. I have not been this high in quite a while, and had forgotten the clarity of the air: the colors a bit sharper, the sky above slightly darker. As I wandered south along the rim, another reminder occurred. I was quickly out of breath and lightheaded. Too high, too fast for my physiology. If I’d been really hard core, I suppose I could have tried a run, but then my shoes would have been dusty.

The fault-bounded east side of Steens Mountain featured badly fractured craggy outcrops descending the steep drop to the Alvord. The lavas here had been further sculpted by erosion, no doubt including the effects of ice, wind, rain, and small persistent plants. Yes, the ground was covered with small spreading alpine vegetation. I didn’t want to step on any of them. They looked simultaneously fragile and hardy. I thus hopped from rock to rock, trying to keep my balance as I got dizzy.

I came to a narrow scalloped cove in the rim. The massive parts of several lava beds lined its sides. They were delineated by recessive bands; I assume that these were the flow margins, which erosive forces had attacked more successfully. A remnant patch of snow lined the bottom of the cove. I could hear the drip, drip of water as it melted in the now-high sun. Hard to photograph: either the lava textures were visible and the snow overexposed, or vice versa. 

Descent, more dust, with frequent wildflower stops. The Frenchglen Hotel provided a chocolate chip cookie; my gluten indulgence for the day. Crunchy but a good afternoon boost for the next phase: north and east to the Diamond Volcanic Field.

The Diamond Field is designated as an “Outstanding Natural Area” by the BLM. Since it was geology and on my way, I had to take a poke at it. Diamond is a small complex of basaltic volcanoes – a mixture of petite shield volcanoes (broad piles of lava flows) and maars – explosion craters formed when underground magma flashes groundwater into steam (boom). Well. It was late afternoon, hot, and my head hurt. I dutifully followed the BLM guide, but I was too tired to stare productively at grass-covered volcanoes, however outstanding. I pushed on. 

Diamond would be a good place to bring a class. The variety of volcanoes, as well as eruptive products – lava, bombs of various types, and ash would teach a lot in a small area. Maybe I was paying attention after all.

My guidebook had recommended a camp at Crystal Crane Hot Springs, north of the Diamond Volcanic Field, and to the east of Burns, Oregon. I drove up Rt. 78, letting the hot air blow through Trixy, hoping to remove some of the Steens Mountain dust, hoping to clear my painful sinuses. I turned west onto a flat agricultural plain – another Basin. A sign at a rise in the road: Crystal Crane Hot Springs. A large pod of RVs in the foreground, little cover anywhere, a moderate westerly wind. Bugger, could I camp at such an open place? Sure, I was tired. It was a hot spring. I turned in. The owner was welcoming and delighted to direct me to the empty dry camping area at the rear of the property, which I had all to myself, other than the bull in a paddock on other side of the north fence. He seemed more interested in the nearby cows.  

Camp, dinner, and a long soak. Not as close to boiling as Alvord Hot Springs, more than sufficient.
During post-soak ablutions, I looked at myself in a mirror for the first time since Winnemucca. I was startled to see that the left side of my face peppered in little red spots. They did not itch, weren’t sensitive. I then remembered my camp on the east side of Steens Mountain. Curled up in my bivy sack, drifting off to dreamtime, I had suddenly heard the tinny sound of numerous mosquito wings. I zipped up right away, but I guess a bunch had bitten me first. Well, aspirations to beauty are not a goal of this trip, tidak apa apa.

Friday, July 22, 2011

July 2011 Road Trip II: Winnemucca to Alvord Desert

A good night’s rest. A bed after the long commute was wise.

Since I’m running a marathon at the end of the month, training must continue. Thus at 6:55 am, I parked Trixy (my reliable 2005 Toyota Matrix) at the east end of 2nd Street: the edge of town. Running through the quiet town early on a Sunday felt right. I set off into a moderate headwind, past old solid looking houses; a two story apartment was signed, “Built in 1912”. Past the town hall, the county field office, Winnemucca Junior High. Eventually the west end of town appeared, so I turned south, uphill and over the railroad lines. More vehicles on this road; mostly large American pickups. Putrid diesel breath. The road took me into new Winnemucca; cheaper-looking modern houses, apartments. I passed a woman walking her dog, talking on a cell phone. She mouthed “good morning” as did I. Turnaround and return via 4th Street 3rd Street, and 2nd Street. Many barking dogs, all toy-sized. 3.3 miles in 28 minutes. Not bad for this altitude.

Breakfast and departure, leaving I-80 for Rt. 95 N. Winnemucca vanished quickly: back into the Basin and Range. I drove north up the Pueblo Valley, turning west on Rt. 140. Again, out of town, but not out of civilization; the valley margins were sparsely dotted with ranches, the homesteads marked by clusters of cottonwood and Italian cypress trees. The valleys are high enough here for limited agriculture, evidenced by industrial-scale irrigation systems spraying water in the still cool morning. No cattle – too little water? Over a low pass, and the next basin dropped into semi-desert. A return to sagebrush.

A right-hand, northward turn at Denio and I was in Oregon. Good bye to wide road striping. Over a rise, and there was Steens Mountain. I swerved at the sight of 5,000 feet of craggy ridge, the top still bearing snow, the effects of glaciers (long melted) clearly visible. This is the biggest and highest mountain in the Northern Basin and Range Province – upwards of 30 miles long.

I’ve been itching to write about the Basin and Range. As I wrote earlier this physiographic province includes much of Arizona, Utah and Nevada, and bits of Mexico, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Canada, and yes, Oregon. This geographic definition keeps expanding; New Mexico and Montana weren’t on the list when I was in grad school. I first became aware of the region while in college, from staring at a geologic map of North America. On it, the north trending, colored ranges looked like a fleet of aligned caterpillars amid the yellow tan colored alluvial basins.

Of course, this geography is controlled by the underlying geology, just the way I like it. The Basin and Range is clearly an area of major extension – widening – of the North American plate. Imagine stretching the bellows of an accordion, and you’ll get the idea. The amount of extension is crazy – 50% to maybe 200% - and is way beyond normal for the Earth’s plates. The geologic origin of Basin and Range extension is controversial. Given that it involves large-scale tectonics and structural geology, it’s way beyond my expertise. Not that this will stop me from making a shot at an explanation.

For much of the past 450 million years, the western edge of the North American plate – what’s now Mexico through California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia – was a convergent plate boundary, similar to the current west coast of South America. This was a zone of overall compression, as the plate overrode the oceanic crust to the west. This long-lasting process made the North American crust relatively thick. At the same time, subduction of the oceanic crust created the granites and other igneous rocks of the Sierra Nevada, among many others along the boundary. However, starting about 20 million years ago, a divergent plate boundary – a mid ocean ridge – began to be subducted under North America. Divergent plate boundaries are areas where two plates spread –extend – way from each other. It’s weird for one to be subducted. As the mid ocean ridge was forced under North America, subduction apparently slowed and stopped. This lead to creation of the modern plate boundary, the San Andreas Fault System, but that is another story I barely understand.

On to the Basin and Range. So, no more subduction; this may have allowed relaxation of the compression western North America had been enjoying for so long. It’s possible that this allowed the crust to spread from its thickened state back towards “normal” (a poorly defined term). This sort of extension certainly happens and has happened elsewhere on the Earth, but as far as I know, there’s still only one Basin and Range. The joker in the deck might be the subduction of the mid ocean ridge. Divergent plate boundaries are also sites of active igneous rock formation – seafloor volcanoes and intrusive rocks. In other words, they’re hot. When the ridge went under North America. this heat, formerly concentrated along the plate boundary, must have begun to warm the overlying crust of North America. Warmer rocks are softer and more prone to flow; this may have aided the relaxation of compression I described. Or vice versa, or simultaneously. There are more ideas, but this should be enough to give a sense of the large scale forces involved. I always get shivers when I think about what happened, over millions of years. It’s awesome. Having any understanding is a humbling and ultimately spiritual thing; it’s one of the key things that drew me to geology.

The geography of the Basin and Range is the surface expression of this extension, plus the effects of erosion. As the plate pulled apart, the upper, brittle part of it was complexly faulted, such that large blocks of real estate dropped down – forming the basins – while other rose and/or were left high – the ranges. The precise geometry of the faults is massively variable and complicated. Accompanying this spreading was intermittent volcanism – magma leaking up along cracks, lots of mineralization, and to this day, abundant geothermal activity; hot springs. I’m hoping to see all of these on this road trip.

The 140 brought me to the micro-town of Fields. Every Oregon travel guide that I read truly raved about the milkshakes at Fields Station – the local motel/campground/store/gas station/restaurant. It was 11 am. I entered the store; the milkshake bar called to me. Chatting up the owner, she recommended a coffee caramel shake, one of her creations. I order one, and sat and talked to her granddaughter and grandson (he had topped up Trixy’s gas tank, not bad for a nine-year old). The boy pointed out a can of rattlesnake meat on the bar, and said, pick it up. When touched, it immediately began to vibrate. He began to proudly tell me how he’d wired up a motor inside to fool customers, but was called away to the gas pump. Not to be outdone, his sister gave me a tour of the pictures that covered every vertical surface in the store. This is hunting country; they all featured men, guns, and their quarry. And a few pictures of local rattlesnakes. The shake more than exceeded its publicity, but at 24 oz., I was wired; more dairy and sugar than I eat in a week. Well, this is vacation, right?

I’d come to Fields in hopes of visiting the Alvord Desert, a particularly low basin that’s filled with a very large dry lake. It’s just to the east of Steens Mountain, and sounded scenic as hell. My BLM pamphlet was ambiguous about road quality, but Grandma assured me that the road was good.

Onto gravel, at a stately 25 mph. I’ve driven Trixy on gravel before, but this was a new road in a new state, and I vigilantly wanted to avoid any car trauma. Sigh, this is the one time of year I’d truly love to have a good 4WD Landcruiser. No fear. The Alvord Desert appeared to the east, just off the road. A bright buff expanse, already cooking in the midday sun. I really wanted to get out on the playa, but wanted to complete some recon first.
My guidebook made vague reference to an informal camping area about 25 miles into the Desert. I eventually found the track, and crept up it, climbing the alluvial fan of Pike Creek, which drains the east side of Steens Mountain. I gingerly dodged the cobbles and boulders protruding through the gravel, all to save Trixy’s tires and delicate underbelly, eventually reaching a point of bouldery steepness that scared me. I backed down the road, pulling into a campsite I’d noted on the way up.

1:30. I wandered up the track to Pike Canyon, and found a nice flat boulder of volcanic rock to sit on at the base of the Mountain. It was time to break the pattern of motion and action, and contemplate. A strong southerly wind blew along the range, at times overwhelming the buzz of locusts in the brush. I liked the rushing noise it makes blowing through the sage. The rock was warm; matching the intensity of the summer sun; I was glad for my SPF 70.

Alvord Desert continued to glow buff-white in the distance. Intermittent dust devils spun up the east side. I’m glad I wasn’t out there; some of them must have been a couple thousand feet high. The Alvord is collared by a band of green; I presume there’s enough shallow groundwater to sustain a decent plant cover. And animals; I eventually heard a solitary moo, indicating that the dots I’d been watching were actually cattle.

My mind still rushed with thoughts of the past, present, and future, but sitting helped, as I began detachment from the factors in my life that aren’t here. My shadow gradually lengthened; time to wander downhill and use the afternoon light for photography.

Back to Trixy, dinner, a spit bath, and sleep.

July 2011 Road Trip I: Walnut Creek to Winnemucca


I’m on a short anticlockwise road trip from the Bay Area through SE Oregon, then onto Portland, Eugene, and south to home. This comes in the two week lapse between ending my work at JFKU and beginning a new job at The Wilderness Society. I needed some desert time with rocks to look at and close and far scenery to photograph.
Transition: Walnut Creek to Winnemucca

Eastward over the Sierra Nevada, a mid-morning departure tempered by a cascade of last instant tasks: desuckering the pomegranate tree, pulling the inevitable weeds, cleaning the kitchen sink. Finally the road, freeway time on Interstate 80, the familiar route out of the Bay Area into the Central Valley: over Carquinez Straits, then Green Valley, Fairfield, Dixon, Davis, and Sacramento. Beginning the climb; Rocklin, Auburn, and Colfax. 1000 feet, 2000 feet, 3000 feet. Road cuts appear, a vaguely familiar sequence of foothill metamorphic rocks (platy greens, browns, and blacks), trending uphill into white quartzose stream gravels and the core salt and pepper granites of the Sierra. Exchanging abundant oaks for conifers. Higher, above 5000 feet, approaching Donner Lake, breaking out near treeline, with broad views over the range crest; luscious barren granite, still plenty of snow. Descent towards Truckee, then chasing the river down, quickly falling towards Reno.

Entering a different land. The Sierran rainshadow; no trees, welcome to the semidesert. I’ve left the plate boundary-dominated California Coast – lots of NNW-SEE trending hills – for the Basin and Range, the swath of alternating sharp mountains and dry lakes that runs northern Mexico to Oregon and east as far as Montana, Utah and Texas. I’ve made this translation before. It’s abrupt, whether I’m on the ground or flying high overhead.

But Reno dominates Nevada first, the casino towers demanding attention. I need a break; the Nevada Museum of Art seems right. With some searching (the directions from the NMA website were not quite right) I arrive with time for a good hour visit. The parking lot is surprisingly full. Oh, there’s an Egyptian exhibit, lots of families are there. No fear, I am here to see the several small galleries: Ansel Adams, Chris Jordan, David Farnsworth. I’m glazed from the road. I stare at paintings, photographs, and other media, and it takes a while for any perception to occur. An Americano and blondie break at the café help. This is a really good small museum. Presently I come to an Adams photograph that gets through; not one I remember, but a geometry of clouds and mountains that reminds me of one of the main reasons why I’m here, not at home.

Satisfied, I travel the sprawl in search of fuel. Once the car is fed, it’s further east on the interstate. I like Nevada’s version better than California’s: wider lane paint, rumble strips on the verge for when I get distracted by the geology. For east of Sparks I am into what passes for undeveloped America. I am never out of site of a side road, building, gas station, industrial facility, or small town, but the urban world is thankfully gone for a few days.

Back to the Basin and Range desert. I move along at 70 mph plus, dropping down between the Trinity and Humboldt Ranges along the edge of Carson Sink – the last real dry lake. A dirty white expanse to the east, punctuated by small lakes and pools. I wonder if these are spring-fed or remnant evidence of the wet winter. Sparse grasses and shrubs densely dot the rubbly soil. Each range is different. I’m commuting too fast to do much identification, but I can pick out hills of recent volcanic rock (red and black, relatively flat-lying layers), jagged cliffs of older sedimentary rock (the distinctive grays of desert limestones), occasional veneers of recent lake sediments from the last glacial period. It’s satisfying enough. The regional geology here is so complex that I don’t need to fully get my head around it. A far cry from Australia.

The road turns northeast, now between the Eugene and East Ranges. I’m tired, dried out, and stiff. Winnemucca better come into sight promptly. Eventually, a curve to the east, and Exit 176. I find the Quality Inn were I’d booked a first night-long drive room. Buggerall, it’s masquerading as the Model T Casino and Resort. Well, the room seems OK, I can’t hear the casino, and there’s a grocery store across the street. The place is full of buzz cut guys wearing baseball caps, many with attendant women, both heavily tattooed. I ask at the desk: they are part of a 44 hour baseball tournament.

Shopping, dinner at a local barbeque joint, and time to write.