Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hike to Nowhere and Everywhere, 5/28/12

Looking back down the Three Gun Spring Trail
At the "Eye of the Sandias," after all the toil
Looking back at the "Eye" from a distance
The route, starting from the lower right and coming back around to the lower left
Yesterday, on Memorial Day, John Brewer and I took an unusual hike in the Sandia Mountains.  I'd been thinking about routes for hikes for some time, and, when neither of us wanted to spend an entire day hiking on the Monday holiday, I suggested an offbeat route that (a) started on the lower part of the Three Gun Spring Trail, where I hadn't been in twenty-plus years, (b) covered trail-less ground where I had never been, and (c) passed by the "Eye of the Sandias," which John had never seen.  We were able to accomplish the hike, although, because much of the route devolved into bushwhacking and boulder-hopping, it took longer -- and was more of a physical challenge -- than I'd expected.  At 7:30 am, Dorine dropped John and me off at the Three Gun Spring Trailhead, which is north of the Monticello Estates subdivision in Tijeras Canyon.  Right off the bat I was having mild difficulties, which got worse once we hit the steep switchbacks that climb up to the head of the canyon.  Then we went down the top of the Embudo Trail to the cut-off to Post Pass, a prominent saddle in the ridge, which was the beginning of a couple of miles of off-trail scrambling, entailing much elevation change (up and down), our passing through a lot of very abrasive vegetation, and our having to negotiate quite a few large granite outcrops.  With the help of John's GPS and my knowledge of the rough location of the "Eye," we were finally able to get on the correct ridge, which describes a fairly well-traveled trail, even if there was no clear route through the steep, boulder-strewn peak just northeast of the "Eye."  Once we found the "Eye," however, it was an easy matter to hike down to the car we'd left at the east end of Copper Avenue, although my lower back took a pounding that I'm feeling pretty acutely today.  The entire hike took about 5 1/2 hours total, and we spent over three hours of that time on the segment between Post Pass and the "Eye" (see map).

I don't know if we'll be able to do any of the longer hikes this summer that I've thought about, but it was nice to do something over the long weekend.

[Update 2/24/13: Here are two views from Google Earth showing a larger view of the terrain covered by this hike and a fairly close-up view of the boulder patch where the "Eye" is located:.]

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Annular Eclipse in Albuquerque - 5/20/12

The Ring of Power
Are we not men?

The title and photos above should make obvious to anyone that we were able, for the first time in my lifetime, to view something approximating a total eclipse of the sun this evening in Albuquerque.  It wasn't, properly speaking, a "total eclipse," inasmuch as the moon did not obscure the entire circumference of the sun; rather, it was an "annular" eclipse that produced a "ring of fire" during the few minutes in which the moon was directly in front of the sun.  We watched it at Mike and Judy's house, where Dorine's brother Don set up his telescope on the second-story deck.  (My son-in-law Sam took the "ring" photo above through the telescope with his iPhone.)  Dorine had obtained a couple of pairs of "eclipse glasses" from someone at work, and I'm wearing one of them in the "Devo" pose above.

It was just a little other-worldly to have the sun appear to dim, and for the temperature to drop noticeably, an hour or more before nightfall.  The last time I had a similar sensation was last summer, when smoke from multiple forest fires in Arizona blew in to Albuquerque and, on a couple of cloudy days that I remember, lent an eerie yellow cast to the sky.

Looking through Don's telescope
At Mike and Judy's House

On another planet last summer
The smoke last summer

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How far we've come--Jabari Parker

I've found a great deal of inspiration lately from the fact that the national high school basketball player of the year -- and the top recruit coming out of the Class of 2013 -- is Jabari Parker, an African American LDS church member from Chicago.  (Jabari's mother Lola is a life-long Mormon of Tongan descent, and his father Sonny is an NBA veteran.)  Although BYU is recruiting him heavily, it seems certain that he'll sign with a Duke, Kentucky, or North Carolina.  He reportedly is seriously considering serving a church mission after his freshman year (as his older brother Christian did some years ago), although he and his parents have to be concerned that it would affect his basketball development and thereby harm his chances for stardom in the NBA.  (I personally have mixed feelings about Jabari's serving a mission: on one hand, it would surely be a tremendous learning and growing experience for him personally, but, on the other hand, it's easy to imagine that he could be an even greater ambassador for the church as a pro basketball player.  I note that a number of famous LDS athletes -- for example, Steve Young, Danny Ainge, Jimmer Fredette -- did not serve church missions.)

So why is Jabari such an inspiration?  Well, what's not to like about him?  He's a gifted athlete, which is remarkable enough, but he's also: a faithful Aaronic priesthood holder who attends early-morning seminary; a humble young man despite his basketball success and growing fame; a good student with a 3.7 grade-point average in high school; and someone who obviously smashes the lily-white Mormon stereotype to pieces.

When I think about where the LDS Church was at a generation ago (prior to 1978), when persons of black African descent were still barred from the priesthood and temple ordinances, I marvel at how far we've come.  I was a freshman at BYU in 1977 when the school brought in its first black scholarship basketball player, Keith Rice, which was a big deal at the time.  In that light, I can't help but tear up a little now at the thought that the best high-school basketball player in the land is LDS and African American.

(Here's a link to the story in Sports Illustrated on Jabari.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

In the Sandia Foothills

East of U Mound, Sandia Foothills, 5/12/12
The panoramic photo above shows Dorine and me with Dorine's sister Judy (center) on a trail in the Sandia foothills.  It was taken by Judy's husband Mike with a "stitching" app on his iPhone while we were "circumnavigating" the "U" last night just before dark.  I love the views in the foothills, and there were many wildflowers up there this weekend, especially prickly pear and cholla, that were starting to bloom.  I don't mind taking walks around the neighborhood, as Dorine and I do quite often; however, given a choice, I would almost always opt to drive a little and walk in the hills, instead.

The skyline on the ridge in the background more or less coincides with the Whitewash Trail, which I've mentioned in previous posts related to other hikes I've done.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Of Celts and Saxons

Celts, 1962-63
Saxons, 1962-63

A couple of years ago I was fascinated to read a thread on the message board for my high school at Classmates.com about a club that once existed at the school in the early-to-mid 1960s. It was called the "Celts" and reportedly was more a pretext for drinking beer and getting into gang fights, and for otherwise engaging in various antisocial behaviors, than the "service club" it was advertised to be.  When someone posted the school's 1963 yearbook, I got a better sense of the guys who were in the Celts, and I was mildly surprised to find that there was another, similar club called the "Saxons" (see attached screen shots).  It isn't clear to me whether the Saxons were hell-raisers like the Celts, or if they were the latter's "good boy" counterparts and rivals.  I used to work with Ken Fisher, a one-time Saxon, at the temple on Wednesday third-shift; however, Ken is no longer working on that shift (although his wife is still the "sister" shift coordinator twice a month) and I haven't seen him in some time.  (By the way, I don't believe that Ken, now a retired FBI agent, was a member of the LDS church when he was in high school.)  The fact that there were "Saxons" as well as "Celts" points up the tribal origins of the club names, suggesting a sort of war-like disposition; one wonders if "Huns," "Vandals," and "Visigoths" were already taken.

Anyway, I'm still intrigued to know that the school once officially sanctioned these clubs, provided faculty sponsors, and even gave them each two pages for photos in the school annual.  It's notable, however, that the school's 1964 yearbook, which is also uploaded to Classmates.com, contains no mention whatsoever of either club, although both evidently continued to exist at the school for several more years; clearly, they fell out of favor with the school administration in the interim, and one can easily imagine why.  By the time I started attending the school in the mid-1970s, the culture had changed significantly.  Various students still drank a lot (in addition to smoking mucha mota) -- and there were still divisions between "jocks" and "heads," despite some blurring of the lines between the two -- but the idea of formally organizing a "thinly disguised gang" (as one poster called the Celts on Classmates.com) into an exclusive "boys' service club" would have been completely unheard of in my day.

(The family of one of the Celts pictured in the 1963 yearbook, Darrel Truelock, used to live four or five houses up the street from us.  I don't remember Darrel very well -- he would have been a couple of years older than my oldest brothers, Roger and Robin -- but I do remember his younger brothers, who were closer in age to my brothers Jeff and Kelly.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Weird Al-buquerque

Weird Al and his band, 4/30/12
Dorine and I went to the Weird Al Yankovic concert in the Kiva Auditorium at the Albuquerque Convention Center on Monday, April 30, 2012.  (See the attached, unfortunately lousy photo that I took with my phone camera -- trust me, Al really is in it somewhere.)  The concert tickets were sort of a birthday present for me, and, as it turned out, it was one of the best birthday presents I've ever gotten.  I've long regarded Yankovic as a comedic genius, but this concert made clear that he is also a great live entertainer; he and his band (which consists of the same guys he's been playing with for what seems like forever) put a lot into the show, and in no way did they disappoint.  I won't even try to list all the old favorites they played (they packed about ten classics into one medley), but the fact that Al went through at least a dozen costume changes -- including one into his iconic "Fat" outfit -- is a good indication of the concert's entertainment value.  My favorite bits were (a) what seemed like an extended version of "Wanna B Ur Lovr," in which Al, dressed in a tiger-striped "lounge lizard" suit, went out in the auditorium and did a bump-and-grind (all in ironically good fun, of course) with various female audience members, and (b) the Doors parody "Craigslist" (see video below).  And, although Al didn't do the full version of "Albuquerque" -- really, how could he? -- he closed his encore with parts of it, which impressed me and showed how much he cares about his fans.  I'd recommend seeing him live to anyone!

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Kiley and Sam's Photo - "Wanna B Ur Lovr"
[Update 5/6/12: Unbeknownst to Dorine and me, Kiley and Sam also attended the concert and, in fact, had much-better seats than we did.  Above is a photo they took of Al during "Wanna B Ur Lovr."]