I began the year right with a two-hour ramble right out my front door over the local hills. Very cold temps ramped up the usual saunter to a serious march. I always go light: short pants, T-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, bandanna, light cotton gloves. Rain that turned to snow overnight gave Superstition Mountain a serious dusting.
And I always take a notebook and a pen in case I get a really good idea. Haven't had one yet, but you never know.
Walking in the wild, alone, is a pleasure to keep one sound in body and mind. "Really to see the sun rise or go down every day, so to relate ourselves to a universal fact, would preserve us sane forever." (Henry David Thoreau, Life Without Principle.)
Mark Anderson, presently on a sort of Nietzsche pilgrimage, sent me this panoramic shot. Left-click to enlarge. Mark explains:
The photo shows lake Sils. The little settlement below is Isola. Further to the right, where the lake ends, is Sils-Maria. The large patch of green that may look like an island right up against Sils is the Chasté peninsula, one of Nietzsche’s favorite places. He even fantasized about building himself a hermit’s hut there.
Properly enacted, independent thinking is not in the service of self-will or subjective opining, but in the service of submission to a higher authority, truth itself. We think for ourselves in order to find a truth that is not from ourselves, but from reality. The idea is to become dependent on reality, rather than on institutional and social distortions of reality. Independence subserves a higher dependence.
It is worth noting that thinking for oneself is no guarantee that one will arrive at truth. Far from it. The maverick's trail may issue in a dead end. Or it may not. The world is littered with conflicting opinions generated from the febrile heads of people with too much trust in their own powers. But neither is submission to an institution's authority any assurance of safe passage to the harbor of truth. Both the one who questions authority and the one who submits to it can end up on a reef. 'Think for yourself' and 'Submit to authority' are both onesided pieces of advice.
Peter Lupu wanted to see some pictures with me in them, so here we go: hiding one's vanity is perhaps a form thereof. But first a shot of Ed Buckner and his charming wife, Fiona. It was good to meet him in the flesh after many years of correspondence and weblog interaction. He has appeared in these pages under such pseudonyms as 'William of Woking,' 'ockham,' 'ocham,' and a few others.
Dale hoists a bottle of Pilsner Urquell. To his right, Daniel von Wachter, Daniel Novotny, Alexander Pruss, Michael Gorman, Piotr Dvorak. In the background, left to right, Jan Liska-Dalecki, Lukas Novak, and Trent Dougherty.
Right click to enlarge.
Lukas, Jan, and Vera.
Trent Dougherty with his arm around Vlastimil Vohanka.
One of the participants, fearful of objections, showed up in full armor.
Marvellous Czech cuisine and beer as our reward for exploring a medieval fastness and traipsing some 10-15 km through the woods on muddy trails. What looks like bread is Knedlik, a close relative of what the Germans call Knoedel. That amazing sauce with a dollop of sour cream and cranberry and lemon accents won't soon be forgotten, nor will the ebullient Czech waitress whose jokes inspired a large tip of Czech koruna and U. S. dollars.
Peter's girlfriend Carolyn wanted to go on a hike, but Peter the biker is no hiker. So the guide task fell to me. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it. The day's high was 113 F. with monsoon humidity.
Yesterday's killer hike, commencing at First Water Trailhead at 7:30 AM, took us to the top of Black Top Mesa (not to be confused with cholla-forested Black Mesa, also accessible via First Water). It is a leisurely saunter over Parker Pass and across some now-almost-dry streams until you arrive at the Bull Pass upgrade which is not only steep but slippery as hell. At Bull Pass, a cairn marks an unofficial spur that leads to the top of the mesa and some fine views. It is easy to miss it and end up on a very different (false but seductive) spur that peters out only after one has been well-seduced. (Been there, done that.) It got warm and our start was late, James having driven up from Tucson, so the two old men spent 8 1/2 hours on the trail including leisurely rests and a half-hour lunch atop the mesa. We were out of water and well-trashed by the time the death march was over and we climbed back into the Jeep with visions of Fat Tire Ale dancing in our heads. Mileage is about 12 round-trip with accumulated elevation gain of about 1600 feet. Details here. Weaver's Needle from the top of the mesa:
My hiking partner James L. begins the descent into Coffee Flat. The magnificent formation in the distance is variously referred to as Castle Rock (Tom Kollenborn) and Cathedral Rock (Jack Carlson). Left-click to enlarge.
Ed Farrell sent me the above. Here is more of his spectacular photography. The New Testament verse he chose is one of the most beautiful in the whole Bible. One of the gifts of the Father of lights is the Range of Light, as she is called since John Muir so named her, the Sierra Nevada of California. Ed's Sierra Nevada Gallery does justice to this, one of the great mountain ranges of the world.
It was going to be either a Harley-Davidson or a Jeep Wrangler. I took the three-day motorcycle course, passed it, and got my license. But then good sense kicked in and I sprang for a 2013 Wrangler Unlimited Sport S. I'm a hiker, not a biker. And I value my long-term physical integrity. 'Unlimited' translates to 'four door.' The longer wheel base makes for a comfortable freeway ride. The removable hard top adds to security and means a quiet ride. The new with 2012 Pentastar 3.6 liter V6 24 valve engine delivers plenty of power through either a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic tranny. But it is still a lean, mean, trail machine that will get me easily into, and more importantly, out of the gnarlier trailheads.
I bought it the day after Thanksgiving and I've had it off road twice. Drove it up to Roger's Trough Trailhead in the Eastern Superstitions on Sunday where James L. and I trashed ourselves good on a seven hour hike to and from the Cliff Dwellings. Don't try to access this trailhead without a high clearance 4WD vehicle. There was one steep switchback that definitely got my attention and left me white-knuckled. And then on Wednesday, a serious off-roader showed me some Jeep trails northwest of Superior, AZ. Using walkie-talkies, he gave me a little tutorial on how to negotiate narrow, rocky trails without getting hung up or rolling over. It comes standard with a roll-bar, though. I hope not to make use of it. And I don't reckon I will be putting the front windshield down, either. Might come in handy, though, for shooting in the direction of travel . . . .
It was my pleasure to meet science writer and long-time reader and friend of MavPhil, John Farrell, in Flagstaff Friday evening. He was in town for a conference on the origins of the expanding universe, as he reports in Forbeshere. Flag is a lovely dorf sitting at 7,000 feet amongst the pines and home to the Lowell Observatory. It is an excellent retreat from the heat of the Valle del Sol where you would never catch me this time of year in long pants, jacket, and beret.
John and I are standing in front of an excellent Mexican eatery on old Route 66. I first heard about this joint on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. As luck would have it, Farrell the Irishman is enthusiastic about Mexican chow. Our tequila-fueled conversation was so good that I failed to clean my plate, a rare occurrence as my companions (literally those with whom one breaks bread, L. panis) know.
Perhaps the best thing about maintaining a weblog is that it attracts like-minded, high-quality people some of whom one then goes on to meet in the flesh.
Mere assertions remain gratuitous until supported by arguments. Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur. That which is gratuitously assertible is gratuitously deniable. Thus one is right to demand arguments from those who make assertions. It is worth pointing out, however, that the difference between making an assertion and giving an argument is not absolute. Since no argument can prove its own premises, they must remain mere assertions from within the context of the argument. No doubt they too can be supported by further arguments, but eventually one comes to ultimate premises that can only be asserted, not argued.
Argument cannot free us of assertion since every argument has premises and they must be asserted if one is making an argument as opposed to merely entertaining one. One who makes an argument is not merely asserting its conclusion; he is asserting its conclusion on the basis of premises that function as reasons for the assertion; and yet the premises themselves are merely asserted. There is no escaping the need to make assertions.
If you refuse to accept ultimate premisses, then you are bound for a vicious infinite regress or a vicious circle, between which there is nothing to choose. (The viciousness of a logical circle is not mitigated by increasing its 'diameter.') This shows the limited value of argument and discursive rationality. One cannot avoid the immediate taking of something for true. For example, I immediately take it to be true, on the basis of sense perception, that a couple of black cats are lounging on my desk:
Here are some shots from last Sunday's Superstition Wilderness 7.6 mile point-to-point hike from First Water trailhead to Canyon Lake trailhead. A delightful hike that starts out easy as one meanders out on the soft and flat Second Water trail though Garden Valley. But then it gets rocky. By the time you come to the junction with the Boulder Canyon trail, you're in deep with plenty of ankle-busting rocks and lung-taxing upgrades. This hike has a lot to offer: easy walking, challenging climbing, solitude, history (one passes right by the Indian Paint mine,) great views of Battleship Mountain and Weaver's Needle, and even a couple riparian areas. The two young whippersnappers depicted, Larry and James, acquitted themselves creditably. I made 'em work.
James L., fanatical hiker, who I have been introducing to the Superstition Wilderness. A native Arizonan, he has no problem with hiking in the summer in this rattlesnake infested inferno. I hope not to have to make use of his nurse practitioner skills. The knife hanging from his belt suggests he might, in a pinch, be up for some 'meatball surgery.'
James and I encountered this tarantula on the Dutchman's trail near dawn, last Wednesday. And then a bit farther down the trail, and smack dab in the middle of it, we spied a baby diamondback rattlesnake:
Weaver's Needle at daybreak from the Dutchman's trail near Parker Pass. We were doing the Black Mesa Loop out of First Water trailhead in the counter-clockwise direction. Covered the 9.1 miles in 5 1/2 hours. Not bad considering the monsoon humidity and a high of about 108 deg. Fahrenheit. Last year in July three Utah prospectors died near Yellow Peak which is on this route. We passed right by the black basaltic rock on which they expired, rock that can reach a temperature of 180. See Another Strange Tale of the Superstitions. For the rest of the story see Tom Kollenborn, A Deadly Vision.
Written a few years ago, this entry from the old blog merits reposting.
As the economy stumbles, CD rates tumble, the stock market falters, gas prices soar, and foreclosures mount, I look at the bright side: less development, fewer sales of State Trust Lands, less destruction of desert and wildlife habitat. A temporary respite from the hyperkinetic rush to a universal pave-over. And less mindless zipping around in gas guzzling behemoths. I don't reckon there is much of a market for Escalades and Hummers these days. Out on U.S. 60 the other day the traffic seemed surprisingly light. People are feeling the pinch of higher gas prices. Good. Maybe they will learn to cultivate local pleasures, those of hearth and home. Maybe they will learn to slow down and walk. Or ride a bike.
Call me a green conservative. I have no patience with libertarians and other open-borders types who think economic considerations trump all others. To sacrifice quality of life and natural beauty to economic expansion makes little sense to me. But don't confuse me with eco-extremists like Dave Foreman who, in a book of his I read some years back, claimed that a bear and a human being have the same value. That is an equal but opposite form of moral and intellectual idiocy.
And then you have the Sierra Club, the members of which are mostly squishy bien-pensant latte liberals who refuse to work with Jim Gilchrist and the Minuteman Project because they stupidly think that anyone who insists on the enforcement of immigration laws is a 'racist' and a 'xenophobe.'
So it's a mess and I for one see little point in getting my blood pressure up over it. You've got Republicans who like cheap labor and Democrats who are hoping that a flood of illegal aliens will assure the permanent ascendancy of their party. Contemplative types like me laugh at those who piss their lives away in activism battling activists of some other stripe. I prefer to use the time and good health I have left enjoying as much natural beauty as I can while there is still some left to enjoy. A shot from my backyard:
This is a 9.3 mile hike out of the Peralta Trailhead, Superstition Wilderness, Arizona. I have done it countless times in both the clockwise and counterclockwise directions. The route sports about 1260 feet of elevation gain according to David Mazel (Arizona Trails, Wilderness Press 1991, p. 47) We commenced hiking at 6 AM on the dot and finished at 11:35. The dialectics slowed down the peripatetics. Clockwise takes the hiker up rather than down what the locals call "Heart Attack Hill" when they are not calling it "Cardiac Hill." I much prefer the uphill to the downhill, heart stress to knee strain, though we have it on the authority of Heraclitus the Obscure of Ephesus that "The way up and the way down are the same." (Fragment 60) A second advantage of the clockwise route is that fewer fellow hikers are encountered. Human nature being what it is, the path of least resistance is preferred by the many. The fewer of the many encountered the better, or so say I. Here is the elevation profile in the easy counterclockwise direction:
Eschewing the Peripatetic approach to philosophy, Peter L. deemed us "crazy" for hiking in the desert in summer. (High was near 100 Fahrenheit on the day in question.) Hiking is a "delectable madness" as I seem to recall Colin Fletcher saying. The first shot depicts the young philosopher Spencer Case at Miner's Summit standing before Miner's Needle while the second shows what the locals call "Cathedral Rock."
The Superstition Mountains exert a strange fascination. They attract misfits, oddballs, outcasts, outlaws, questers of various stripes, a philosopher or two, and a steady stream of 'Dutchman hunters,' those who believe in and search for the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. This nonexistent object has lured many a man to his death. More men than Alexius von Meinong's golden mountain, for sure. Adolf Ruth, for example, back in the '30s.
Such appears to be the case once again this last week. Three Utah prospectors, their brains addled by gold fever, entered this wild and unforgiving inferno of rocks and rattlesnakes unprepared and appear to have the paid for their foolishness with their lives. Here is the story.
Or at least that is the story so far. But there has to be more. Why July when the temperature approaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the monsoon humidity adds a further blanket of discomfort? It is not as if they haven't been here before. A couple of them were rescued last year.
And how do you get lost, if you are not totally stupid? The central landmark of the entire wilderness is Weaver's Needle depicted in the first shot above. It is visible from every direction, from the Western Sups to the Eastern Sups. To orient yourself, all you have to do is climb up to where you can see it. And then head for it. To the immediate west and east of it are major trails that lead to major trailheads.
And why was no trace of them found despite intensive searching with helicopters and dogs? It is possible to fall into an abandoned mine shaft. But all three at once? Their plan, supposedly, was to search by day and sleep in a motel at night. But then they wouldn't have gotten very deep into the wilderness and the chances of finding them dead or alive would have been pretty good.
Maybe it was all a scam. Maybe they never entered the wilderness at First Water. They left their car there and hitchhiked out in an elaborate ruse to ditch their wives and families and their pasts. But I speculate. (If a philosopher can't speculate, who the hell can?)
I've hiked out of First Water many times, winter and summer. I know a trail that you don't and is not on any maps that leads to Adolf Ruth's old camp at Willow Springs. I've got half a mind to take a look-see . . .
Mike Valle and I spent four and a half hours floating down the Rio Salado on truck tire inner tubes yesterday. That's Mike and a bit of my left knee in the first shot. The second depicts some thirsty wild horses. The third offers a fine view of Red Mountain.
I didn't make it to the top of Picket Post Mountain this morning as planned. (Near Superior, AZ 25 miles east of where I live.) You could say I wimped out about half way up: it was windy and cold and overcast, with nerve-wracking drop-offs. Steep I like, precipitous I don't. I was alone, couldn't raise wifey on my cell phone, and the final pitch which required the use of hand-holds would have been difficult with my walking stick. We'll leave the peak-bagging for another day. But I did explore a good stretch of the Arizona trail which runs from the Mexican to the Utah border as a warm-up before tackling the mountain.
On the way down the mountain, encountered this character who proved to be very interesting. A fortuitous meeting in a two-fold sense: by chance, and fortunate. (Interesting that 'fortunate' carries both a descriptive and an evaluative meaning: chancy and good.) I told him I'd take him for a hike in the Superstitions the next time he's in town.
The following shot looks roughly north-northwest. The prominence smack dab in the middle on the horizon is Weaver's Needle, the central landmark of the Superstition Wilderness. Superstition Mountain is on the far left and Buzzard's Roost on the far right.
The party line of the Democrats and their fellow travellers is that the Tea Party Movement is fueled by racism. The moral scum who make these absurd and scurrilous allegations ought to be ashamed of themselves. I name names and go into details in other posts which you will find in the Race and Leftism categories. But just to verify what I already had excellent reasons for believing, namely, that there is no racist motivation to speak of behind the Tea Party protests, I decided I'd better attend one, which I did today. I visited one of the lesser gatherings of the day here in the Valley of the Sun, one held at Freestone Park, Gilbert, Arizona. The main speaker was Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. There was no racism apparent in the signs, the speakers, or the people I observed and spoke with. No racism, no extremism, no xenophobia, no overheated rhetoric, no incitements to violence. Just trenchant political dissent in the good old liberty- and free speech-loving American style, something that leftists don't understand, laboring as they do under the strange conceit that they own dissent, as if dissent were something inherently leftist. Here are some amateur shots of the event by your humble correspondent.
Which is harder, to run 3.1 miles or 26.2? They are equally hard for the runner who runs right. The agony and the ecstasy at the end of a race run right is the same whether induced by 42.2 km of LSD or 5 km of POT. Above, I am approaching the final stretch of a 5 K trail race (2nd annual CAAFA 5K Race Against Violence, Prospector Park, Apache Junction, Arizona). The date is wrong: should be 3/21/2010. I finished in 45th place in a mixed field of 113, and 28th among 44 men. Time: 33:38.8 for a pace of 10:49.8. That's nothing to crow about, but then I'm 60 as is the gal right behind me. Twenty years ago I could cover this distance at a 7:45 min/mile pace. There were five 60+ males and I finished first among them. Not a strong field! But a beautiful cool crisp morning and a great course and a great run. I could have pushed harder! Could have and should have.
LSD: long slow distance. POT: plenty of tempo. Both terms borrowed from Joe Henderson.
The infernal hike of 28 August 2005 began at 5:20 AM at first light, that phase of dawn at which one can just make out the trail and its hazards. Sunrise was about forty minutes off. If one hopes to survive a desert hike in August, especially in environs as rugged and unforgiving as the Superstition Wilderness, one does well to start at first light and be finished by high noon. I once finished such a hike around two or three in the afternoon with the distinct impression that I had pushed the envelope about as far as possible.
It is a curious sensation to feel oneself being slowly roasted in five different ways.
There is first of all the air temperature. Today's for example was 112 degrees Fahrenheit at its high. At any temperature above 90 the human body starts to absorb heat through the skin.
Then there is conduction. One gains heat by contact with the ground, rocks, ledges, anything one touches while hiking or climbing if the object is hotter than 90 degrees.
In third place comes convection. Hot air blows against the skin and imparts heat to the body. Even a slight breeze at 112 degrees has quite an effect.
Fourth, there is solar radiation. Once up, Old Sol beats down unmercifully, which is why I wear a long-sleeved white shirt and a broad-brimmed hat. My legs remain exposed, though, since hiking in long pants is unbearably confining.
Finally, there is metabolism. The internal organs and the muscles at work generate body heat.
I finished at 11:10 with the day's high of 112 degrees Fahrnheit fast approaching. I was well-roasted and dehydrated, but very satisfied with the five hours and fifty minutes I spent hiking over washed-out, overgrown, ankle-busting trails.
I concur with Colin Fletcher: Hiking is "a delectable madness, very good for sanity, and I recommend it with passion." (The Complete Walker III, p. 3)