"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious" ~ Albert Einstein

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Blackrock Well Petroglyphs and Lee Flat Nightscapes, November 9th, 2013

On the east side of Lee Flat and up against the western flank of Nelson Mountain range, lies Blackrock Well - a place where one can take a walk back through time.  This is a remote, secluded petroglyph site where ancient drawings on the canyon rocks tell stories from people long ago.  I had tried to get to this site on my Lee Flat, Darwin Plateau Exploration ride a few weeks back, but had bungled the directions, ending up a not-so-impressive old mining site instead.  Disappointed to miss the petroglphys, I came back out over the weekend of November 9th, 2013, with Rebecca and the doggies, Rosco and Daisy, for a second attempt at locating this magical little canyon.

Doing a little more research this time, I realized there was no road to the actual location.  Perfect!  It had been a while since my last hike and it felt great to get out again.  Plus, I knew the site would be that much more secluded.  It was about 2 miles of cross country travel through scattered Joshua Trees across Lee Flat, leading to the western escarpment of the Nelson range.  Canyons wind their way down from the high rocky ridges, with dark, volcanic looking rocks gathered near the bottom flanks.  One of these canyons had the mysterious petroglyhs we were looking for.  But, which one?





Showing up extra prepared this time, we used a GPS to lead us right to the canyon holding Blackrock Well and its rock art.  It would have been easy to spot, but I wasn't taking any chances this time!  There was one particular canyon where Mother Nature had gathered the areas prize collection of dark-colored, clean, granitic boulders that native people discovered made a perfect parchment for their artwork.  The drawings are enigmatic and one can't help but wonder what story they are trying to tell, but the details are lost to time.  However, some things were clear.  Big Horn Sheep and the Snake were obvious co-inhabitants in this land long ago, as they figured prominently in many of the drawings.  Occasionally a figure of either a warrior, or hunter, would appear.  Sun bursts would appear, giving hints the desert could get just as hot then, as now.









After taking an extended hike further up-canyon and taking lots of photographs, we trekked back across Lee Flat, hopped in the 4Runner and headed over to the excellent camp site I found last time I was here.  Rebeca made a yummy back country dinner, which you can read about here.  It was delicious!  The dogs were so relaxed, as they hung out nearby in the vehicle.  They had the most amazing expressions of serene contentment I had ever seen.  Clearly, they needed a good hike too!

Next up, waiting, followed by a little more waiting.  We didn't mind.  It always feels nice to soak in the desert surroundings.  We were waiting to try out some timelapse photography on the sunset, followed my some photos of the night sky.  The sunset wasn't spectacular, but the timelapse still came out pretty decent.  The clouds were very cool.  They appeared stationary in real time, so it was neat to see all the hidden movement come alive in the video!  I also took an hour's worth of exposures every 60 secs to put together one of my first star trails photo and an accompanying timelapse.  I didn't get the intervals quite short enough, though.  So, overall, nothing spectacular, but good stuff for a first try.


Lee Flat Sunset

Orion Rising

Cosmic Spin Cycle

Our timelapse vidoes are available on Vimeo and embedded below.






We just ordered a new dSLR, which should really improve the landscape and night scape photos.  A Canon EOS 6D with a Sigma 20mm f/1.8 Wide Angle lens.  Cant' wait to try it out on an upcoming trip!

I think we got hooked on the petroglphys too.  There are many other secluded sites in Death Valley that are not well known and would also be very cool to visit.  So much to explore!

Smugmug Photo Album - Blackrock Well Petroglyphs, Lee Flat Sunset n Nightscapes

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Reincarnation - Scientific American: Ian Stevenson’s Case for the Afterlife

Scientific American Article

This was an interesting article about Ian Stevenson who conducted the first systematic and rather monumental research effort into reincarnation.  Stevenson was a psychiatrist at the University of Virginia for ~50 years.  His work is continued there today by other folks in the Division of Perceptual Studies.   It was a bit shocking to see an article like this in Scientific American, especially one that acknowledges any rigor or the compelling nature of Stevenson's work.  Indeed, despite what certain folks think of reincarnation, it is rare to hear disparaging comments thrown in the direction of Stevenson.  Perhaps that alone says much for his repute of a scientist and the quality of his work, even if folks may not like the topic.

Overall, the article seemed like a fair assessment of his work.  I'll quote some of it here with a link to it included below.  I will also briefly discuss reincarnation further below, with a focus on Christianity.


http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/bering-in-mind/2013/11/02/ian-stevensons-case-for-the-afterlife-are-we-skeptics-really-just-cynics/


"Stevenson’s main claim to fame was his meticulous studies of children’s memories of previous lives. Here’s one of thousands of cases. In Sri Lanka, a toddler one day overheard her mother mentioning the name of an obscure town (“Kataragama”) that the girl had never been to. The girl informed the mother that she drowned there when her “dumb” (mentally challenged) brother pushed her in the river, that she had a bald father named “Herath” who sold flowers in a market near the Buddhist stupa, that she lived in a house that had a glass window in the roof (a skylight), dogs in the backyard that were tied up and fed meat, that the house was next door to a big Hindu temple, outside of which people smashed coconuts on the ground. Stevenson was able to confirm that there was, indeed, a flower vendor in Kataragama who ran a stall near the Buddhist stupa whose two-year-old daughter had drowned in the river while the girl played with her mentally challenged brother. The man lived in a house where the neighbors threw meat to dogs tied up in their backyard, and it was adjacent to the main temple where devotees practiced a religious ritual of smashing coconuts on the ground. The little girl did get a few items wrong, however. For instance, the dead girl’s dad wasn’t bald (but her grandfather and uncle were) and his name wasn’t “Herath”—that was the name, rather, of the dead girl’s cousin. Otherwise, 27 of the 30 idiosyncratic, verifiable statements she made panned out. The two families never met, nor did they have any friends, coworkers, or other acquaintances in common, so if you take it all at face value, the details couldn’t have been acquired in any obvious way." *

"This Sri Lankan case is one of Stevenson’s approximately 3000 such “past life” case reports from all over the world, and these accounts are in an entirely different kind of parapsychological ballpark than tales featuring a middle-aged divorcĂ©e in a tie-dyed tunic who claims to be the reincarnation of Pocahantas. More often than not, Stevenson could identify an actual figure that once lived based solely on the statements given by the child. Some cases were much stronger than others, but I must say, when you actually read them firsthand, many are exceedingly difficult to explain away by rational, non-paranormal means. Much of this is due to Stevenson’s own exhaustive efforts to disconfirm the paranormal account. “We can strive toward objectivity by exposing as fully as possible all observations that tend to weaken our preferred interpretation of the data,” he wrote. “If adversaries fire at us, let them use ammunition that we have given them.” And if truth be told, he excelled at debunking the debunkers." *

"I’d be happy to say it’s all complete and utter nonsense—a moldering cesspool of irredeemable, anti-scientific drivel. The trouble is, it’s not entirely apparent to me that it is. So why aren’t scientists taking Stevenson’s data more seriously? The data don’t “fit” our working model of materialistic brain science, surely. But does our refusal to even look at his findings, let alone to debate them, come down to our fear of being wrong? 'The wish not to believe,' Stevenson once said, 'can influence as strongly as the wish to believe.' " *

"Towards the end of her own storied life, the physicist Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf—whose groundbreaking theories on surface physics earned her the prestigious Heyn Medal from the German Society for Material Sciences, surmised that Stevenson’s work had established that 'the statistical probability that reincarnation does in fact occur is so overwhelming … that cumulatively the evidence is not inferior to that for most if not all branches of science.' ”*

Christianity and Reincarnation

Reincarnation was a common idea around the time of Christ among the Jewish people.  It was a fairly foundational concept within Jewish Mysticism like Kabbalah.  

"The Zohar and related literature are filled with references to reincarnation, addressing such questions as which body is resurrected and what happens to those bodies that did not achieve final perfection, how many chances a soul is given to achieve completion through reincarnation, whether a husband and wife can reincarnate together, if a delay in burial can affect reincarnation,18 and if a soul can reincarnate into an animal."**

"The Bahir, attributed to the first century sage, Nechuniah ben Hakanah, used reincarnation to address the classic question of theodicy -- why bad things happen to good people and vice versa"**


Reincarnation was also very common among the Greeks.  No doubt Luke, an author of one of the three synoptic gospels, was also familiar with the concept.




Prominent early Church Fathers like Origen taught metempsychosis, or transmigration of the soul, now better known as reincarnation.

" .... 'On First Principles', which is the most systematic and philosophical of Origen’s numerous writings. In this work Origen establishes his main doctrines, including that of the Holy Trinity (based upon standard Middle Platonic triadic emanation schemas); the pre-existence and fall of souls; multiple ages and transmigration of souls; and the eventual restoration of all souls to a state of dynamic perfection in proximity to the godhead." ***

Certain Bible quotes also suggest that not only was the idea common, but that discussion centered around it was not anathema.

John, Chapter 9:1-3
"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.  And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?  Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

How can a man sin before he is born?  This sounds more like "karma" from a past life than anything.  Also, Jesus did not repudiate them for intimating at reincarnation, which would be surprising if reincarnation was a taboo, off-limits topic, as it it considered to be today in the Christian tradition.

Matthew 17:10-13
"The disciples asked him, 'Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?'  Jesus replied, 'To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.' Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist."

Once again, this sounds like a clear case of reincarnation, specifically dealing with John/Elijah.  Not only was it not repudiated by Jesus, he played a part in the suggestion!

Let's not also forget that reincarnation becomes an obvious theme when reading the theories within the Bible on just who Jesus was, as thought by the people of the day.

Mark 8:27-28
"Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, 'Who do people say I am?' They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.'"

All the theories here presented in Mark 8 clearly involve reincarnation.  Herod was also left confused by the theories he was hearing.

Luke 9:7-9
"Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. But Herod said, 'I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?' And he tried to see him."

Modern Day Accounts

Modern day accounts of reincarnation persist, even in cultures like our own where reincarnation is not an accepted belief.  The following is perhaps one of the more popular stories of a young boy who presumably remembered a past life, despite his parents being traditional Christians with no belief in reincarnation.  Some of the details are rather remarkable.




Here's a few more videos on this particular case:


Case for Reincarnation - Part I 

Case for Reincarnation - Part II


Summary

The idea of reincarnation has been a very wide-spread belief across many cultures throughout time.  Why it waned within Western culture is a complex discussion I might try to tackle another time.  However, it can be found within the seeds of our beliefs, even if it is hiding at times.  It is a recurrent theme in modern day Mystical Experiences and Near Death Experiences.  Despite the fact that the evidence could be claimed to be anecdotal, I think the sheer volume suggests that it would be best to at least keep an open mind when it comes to reincarnation.  And, if studies like AWARE end up showing that consciousness can exist independent of the body, concepts like reincarnation may suddenly become rather plausible.

Here is a video by Jim Tucker who is continuing Stevenson's work at the Division for Perceptual Studies, University of Virginia.  He provides a nice summary of Stevenson 's work where one can also start to get a feel for the rigor of the work and the amount of systematic studies that have been done.




References

*Scientific American: Ian Stevenson’s Case for the Afterlife: Are We ‘Skeptics’ Really Just Cynics?

**Reincarnation and the Jewish Tradition

***Origina of Alexandria

University of Virgina School of Medicine, Division of Perceptual Studies

Friday, November 1, 2013

Crystal Crag, North Arete, 5.7

This was a memorable trip and part of the effort I have underway to get some retrospective trip reports up here.  I guess I'm getting into this blogging thing rather late in the game!  Crystal Crag was a really nice climb in a beautiful setting and it was also our first multi-pitch climb in the Sierra.  Crystal Crag sits just outside Mammoth Lakes, CA and is a rather striking peak from several angles.  It's a fairly tall, narrow, impressive looking fin of granite.  Although not quite as impressive as some other pieces of granite in the Sierra, the close proximity to Mammoth and all the nearby lakes adds something special to it.


The North Arete climbs the steep right-hand skyline seen in the picture above, which is then followed by an aesthetic, scenic ridge traverse to the summit.  It was quite an accomplishment for us given that I was still coming off of the lower back injuries/surgery and was also having some problems with my upper back!  At the base of the climb, I was having some discomfort even when I would breathe in, so it probably wasn't the wisest decision to go on with the climb.  Despite all that, everything turned out great.

We spent the night in Old Shady Rest campground in Mammoth and opted for an early pre-dawn start.  Rumor had it that the top of the climb was loose and the last thing we wanted was parties ahead of us kicking rocks down on us.   As luck would have it, not only were we the first ones on it that day, we were the only ones on it all day!

We climbed the N Arete in three pitches.  The first pitch is rated 5.7 and is the crux of the whole climb.  The crux move itself was pretty fun and interesting.  It required transitioning out of the chimney the climb starts in and onto the face just right of it .  However, it was actually the move shortly after this which grabbed my attention the most.  The next piece of pro I was able to place wasn't exactly what I would call bomber.  Right after this, one traverses slightly left to gain the crack system going up the Arete.  The traverse involved a foothold, which was nice-sized, but oddly angled and a bit slippery.  Along with the bad handholds here and the less-then desirable pro, I was glad to gain the crack system, which then provided a fairly easy, fun cruise to the top of pitch one. The second pitch was mostly class 3/4, with a few small class 5 moves thrown in for fun.  Some great views of the lakes below start to open up on this pitch.   The third pitch has another small section of 5.5/6 crack climbing.  The following picture shows these bottom pitches, although it has the usual "shrinking" effect on the upper pitches, making them look shorter than they really were.  There are many variations on the climb, but it sounds like the difficulties most folks encounter are fairly equivalent on average.


We had a bit of an incident on pitch 3, which turned into one of those valuable learning lessons.  When I started out on pitch 3, the first 30 feet or so were rather circuitous followed by a move back into a deep-set chimney.  At the bottom of the chimney, I had a feeling I should bring Rebecca up and just make another pitch out of it.  I didn't listen to my gut instinct and part way up the chimney the rope drag got so bad I could barely climb forward at all.  I ended up making an anchor and used my body weight to overcome the drag, while Rebecca lowered me back down to the bottom of the chimney.  I built another anchor here, brought Rebecca up and then tackled the chimney and with much less rope drag this time!  I guess, perhaps, this really made our climb 4 pitches.  Lesson learned: listen to gut instincts and don't be lazy!

Crystal Crag, N Arete is Along the Sun/Shade Line

Crystal Lake

Rebecca Coming Up The First Pitch
The most talked about part of this climb is the Crystal Pitch at the top.  Crystal Crag is named for the amount of crystal quartz found on the peak and this pitch is 100% all crystal quartz.  At first, I thought it would be very slippery, but it actually was pretty gritty supplying all the friction one needed to climb through this section.  It was a pretty short pitch, but kind of surreal while it lasted!

The "Crystal Pitch" Just Below Summit Ridgeline

Rebecca At Top of "Crystal Pitch"
Next up was the summit ridge traverse, which was as much a blast as it was reputed to be.  It had one semi-long, exposed Class 4 downclimb, but other than that not too bad.  After this, one arrives at a notch for the final bit of ridge to the summit.  Rebecca and I decided to call it quits here.  There was a ferocious wind at this point, making the exposed, balancy moves rather scary.  We were also both tired and neither one of us felt like getting the rope out again!  So, we leisurely made our way down the Class 3 East Face to Crystal Lake below where we relaxed with a hard-earned snack.  The hike back was beautiful, as the trail meandered along on a hillside above all the lakes.  On the way home, were also treated to a beautiful desert sunset.  A very nice day and a highly recommended climb.

Rebecca On Crystal Crag Summit Ridge Line




We made a video for the trip, but it's just a slide show containing several more photos not pictured above.



Friday, October 25, 2013

Inyo Mountains, Mazourka Canyon Ride, May 25th, 2012

This is another one of those retrospective blog posts. Since I've been writing up trip reports on a few recent outings, it seems like a shame to not have one for some of our more noteworthy trips in the past.  Plus, I wanted this blog to partly be a resource for others to find inspiring, fun destinations to explore and ideas for adventure.  Not too mention, on this particular trip, I made one of my first GoPro videos that actually turned out half-way decent!  Curtis and Mark joined me on this trip.

Our ride went up Mazourka Canyon and into the Inyo Mountains.  Inyo comes from the Owens Valley Paiute, which means "dwelling place of the Great Spirit".*  We slowly made our way up Mazourka Canyon and entered Badger Flats, without much anticipation of an actual meeting along the lines of Moses' encounter on Mount Sinai.  From Badger Flats, we started a loop that initially heads back towards Papoose Flats.  This section of road got a little rocky and rough in places, but it was a lot of fun and the views off to the Sierra were pretty expansive in several spots.  Papoose Flats was a really cool place - remote, scenic and tad-bit unusual.  It's a fairly wide flat with large, isolated granitic boulder formations spread out across its extent, which had a somewhat other-worldly feel to them.  If it wasn't for all the sage and other desert brush, which makes me feel right at home, Papoose could almost start to resemble an alien landscape. 





Papoose Flats

Papoose Flats
We had lunch in Papoose Flats before heading over to Squaw Flats, another pretty and isolated area nestled deep in the Inyos.  The trail was pretty sandy getting over to Squaw, but then there was a fast, fun section of trail right through Squaw Flats that led to a hill climb of sorts on the far side.  I had a blast trying to keep up with Curtis through this part as we weaved our way along to the far side of Squaw Flat.  However, it made it go by too fast!  It was nice to visit Squaw Flats again because it brought back some good memories.  Rebecca and I drove back there quite a few years ago to hike up Waucoba Peak and Squaw Peak with Rosco and Daisy.  We all really enjoyed that one.  Gotta say, sure was a lot easier getting back there on a dirt bike, though!

From here, we headed out to the 178 highway and then circled back through Harkless Flats before returning to Papoose Flats.  I'd love to get back to Harkless Flats to explore around some more.  The crest between Papoose and Harkless had yet more great views of Owens Valley and the Sierra.  The clouds were building above the Sierra by this point and a swift wind was picking up over the Inyos.


Looking Back At Squaw Flats





When we got back to Badger Flats near the top of Mazourka Canyon road, Curtis and Mark had to head back home to Ridgecrest and take care of some family business.  Since I drove up separate, I decided to stay and ride on up to the top of Mazourka Peak and check out the views, which held some promise for being some of the best that day and, indeed, they certainly were.  I found a couple of really nice on-the-edge-of-the-world camp sites up there that are still on the to-do list for one day!  I got off my bike, took off the helmet and some gear and relaxed for a while in this awe-inspiring location.  I love crisp, cold mountain winds.  They feel almost cathartic and enlivening as they purify, carrying away any concerns, frustrations, or any other emotional tensions, with each gust.  I rode back down the mountain feeling re-invigorated.

Next up, I decided to try getting out to the Betty Jumbo Mine, one of those more obscure locales.  The road to Betty Jumbo follows a narrow road that precipitously snakes its way along the side of the Inyos for about 9 miles, with a lot of steep, rugged mountainside stretching far above on one side and far below on the other.  Frequent large, fallen boulders lay across the middle of the road.  It's always neat getting to these antiquated, rarely-visited old mining sites. Since the mine site was separated off a bit from the main mountain massif and out on an isolated sub-peak, it made for a nice lookout with views stretching up and down Owens Valley below.  One can quickly feel tiny and insignificant in this vast landscape.


Betty Jumbo Mine
Looking Back At Road to Betty Jumbo
Betty Jumbo Mine

I slowly made my way back over to Mazourka Canyon and down to my vehicle parked in Owens Valley.  I packed up my gear and loaded my bike up as the wind occasionally blasted me with clouds of sand swept up from the desert floor.  I headed back down the 395 to a hot shower, a yummy dinner and a couple cold beers.  After a good night sleep, I enjoyed relaxing the next day.  I always enjoy the contrast of rugged adventure, followed by a well-earned day of sheer, utter laziness.  ;-)



*Zdon, Andy; Desert Summits, Spotted Dog Press, 2000

Protein Quinoa Bowl and Chia Seed Cereal

I've been regularly eating a couple breakfast meals that now rank amongst my favorites since starting to eat a bit healthier.  These are the Protein Quinoa Bowl and Chia Seed Cereal.  They're both Julie Morris recipes, albeit with perhaps a few small modifications here and there.  She rightly calls the Protein Quinoa Bowl the ugly-duckling of breakfast bowls.  That, however, must make the Chia Seed Cereal the fugly-duckling of breakfast bowls.  The unappetizing green color is mostly caused by the Hemp Protein Powder found in both cereals.

Surprisingly enough, they are both delicious and very satisfying.  I like them both a bit before, or after, a good workout, because they are easy to digest and leave you with a light feeling, even though they provide energy for hours.  No doubt, you have probably heard the Chia Seed Cereal mentioned before if you have read some of my other blog posts.  I often take it with me on my trips for an early morning energy source, before a good hike or ride.

First, let's start with the Protein Quinoa Bowl.  This is a hot meal and best during the cooler months.  Like I said above, it doesn't look super appetizing.  But, don't let looks fool you!  If you like the taste of almond butter and maple syrup, topped with a little banana and cinnamon flavor,well you're probably going to like this hot cereal.  Let's start with the ingredients.

  • 1 cup Hemp (or Almond) Milk
  • ⅓ cup Quinoa Flakes
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Almond Butter
  • 2 tablespoons Hemp Protein Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Maca Powder
  • 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of Maple Syrup
  • 1 Banana
  • Cinnamon Powder




Bring the Hemp Milk to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Then, stir in the Quinoa Flakes and turn off the heat and let sit for about three minutes, allowing the Quinoa to cook through.

Next, add in the remaining ingredients and stir until smooth.  Dish into your favorite bowl and add sliced banana and Cinnamon Powder to your liking.

Next, prepare to be amazed how yummy this ugly-duckling of breakfast bowls can taste.  Don't forget to go for a work-out and feel the endurance!

I should also note that Maca can also provide a bit of energy.  At the same time, it's also a powerful adaptogen, making for a "calming" energy while regulating stress, if that makes any sense.  Incan warriors used to eat Maca before going into battle to increase both strength and stamina during long battles.  However, given it's libido enhancing effects, the women of the tribes demanded the men not be allowed to eat it during times of peace, so they could have some piece and quiet.


Protein Quinoa Bowl

Next up - Chia Seed Cereal.  This is best cold, or even at room temperature, which I actually prefer.  Also, if you need more fiber in your diet this is the cereal for you.  The 3 tablespoons of Chia Seed Cereal contains 15 grams of fiber alone!  Hemp Protein is a fairly rich fiber source, too.  So, it may be best to start out with 2 tablespoons of Chia Seeds and see how you handle it.  Either way, you probably don't need a whole lot of fiber for the rest of the day.  As mentioned, I find the Chia Seed Cereal very easy to digest, despite the fact that other high-fiber meals may be a bit more of a challenge.

In addition, since the Chia Seed absorbs the Hemp Milk and becomes "gelatinous", it's also helps detoxify your system.  I've also read that Chia Seeds can help with extended hydration during exercise, due to this moisture absorbing property.  To be honest, I haven't really noticed a difference here, myself.

Lets start out with the ingredient list again.
  • 1 cup Hemp (or Almond) Milk
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of Chia Seed
  • 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of Hemp Seed
  • 2 tablespoons Hemp Protein Powder
  • 1 scoop Amazing Grass Chocolate Infusion Greens Powder
  • 1 small handful Goji Berries
  • 1 small handful White Turkish Mulberries
  • 1 Banana
  • Cinnamon Powder

I also like to add dried dragon fruit when we have it around.

Start out by adding everything but the Hemp (or Almond) Milk into a large bowl.


All the Dry Ingredients For Chia Seed Cereal


Then, pour in the Hemp Milk and stir well.  Let this sit for about 15-20 mins.  It doesn't hurt to occasionally stir during this period, but it's not necessary, either.  When ready, give it a final stir and add some banana slices and Cinnamon Powder to your liking and enjoy.

Easy Peasy!

Once again, it doesn't look very appetizing, but I personally think it's pretty yummy.  I gotta admit though, when Rebecca first introduced me to this one, I was a bit frightened to try it.  I think it took a few times to acquire a taste for it, as well.  Who knew it would turn into a fairly regular meal!


Chia Seed Cereal


I'll also sometimes have a small glass of "chocolate" milk with these breakfasts.  It's as simple as adding one scoop of Amazing Grass Chocolate Infusion Greens Powder to an appropriate amount of Hemp (or Almond) Milk.  The powder is made from Cacao, which is an unprocessed, unsweetened and healthier form of "chocolate".  In fact, it is one of the most anti-oxidant rich foods known.  If you need a little more protein you can throw in 1 tablespoon of Hemp Protein, but this does alter the taste quite a bit.



Here's to starting the day off right!  ;-)

Morris, Julie; Superfood Kitchen, Navitas Naturals, 2011

Wolfe, David, Superfoods, North Atlantic Books, 2009

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Faith

I wanted to share my view on faith, which was partly summed up so well in a series of Alan Watts quotes.

"Faith is a state of openness or trust."

"And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on."

"But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be."

"To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float."

"In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all."

~All quotes by Alan Watts




Living in a predominantly Christian society, it seems most folks equate faith to simply believing in Jesus.  Don't get me wrong, I ultimately consider myself a Christian.  However, I think this view has a tendency to forget that Jesus also taught inner transformation and self-knowing, as all religions do.  Also, it is a mutually exclusive view, which seems sort of hard to reconcile these days, since fields like comparative mythology and psychology have shown that all religions are saying the same thing.  It's also very hard to reconcile with what comes out of the Near Death Experience and the Mystical Experience, as they are reported out of all cultures and religions around the world with the same consistent, universal and inclusive themes and messages.

I view faith as a stepping stone to experience, meaning we’re not talking about a “blind faith” here.  Faith is an opening of the mind to a deeper reality that one can eventually come to directly experience, here and now.  I know this might sound strange, as most of us aren't familiar with the idea, or the possibility, of a direct experience of God, or the ground of all being, while still alive.  But, this is what ultimately comes out of the teachings of religions worldwide.  In reference to all the literature and scripture discussing the nature of this transcendent, yet immanent, experience, Aldus Huxley called it the “perennial philosophy” and Alan Watts called it “a single philosophical consensus of universal extent”.  One can also simply call it a spiritual awakening, which typically requires first being open to the possibility of having a spiritual awakening.

In the Gospel of St Thomas we hear, “The Kingdom of Heaven is spread out upon the Earth, but men do not see it”.  The good news, which is the meaning of “gospel”, is that we can learn how.  It all starts with faith!

If you would like to read more on my views on God, religion, and the nature of reality, you may also want to check out: 

The Middle Way - Part I, Introductory Ideas

The Middle Way - Part II, Interdependent Co-Arising

If you’re interested in more Alan watts, here's a lecture by him  on Christianity I really enjoyed.





Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lee Flat, Darwin Plateau Exploration, October 12th, 2013

'''Be ye warned, 'dem Flats be haunted with the restless, angry ghosts of old-time Death Valley miners".   That's along the lines of what some enigmatic Internet personality named Dingus Milktoast once dramatically told me about Lee Flat - a semi-remote spot in Death Valley NP, which also happens to be one of the more impressive Joshua Tree "forests" in California.  I don't know if that factored into my decision on whether to drive out the night before my ride and spend the night in Lee Flat or leave really early in the morning instead, but I ended up going with the early morning departure.

When I arrived to the turn off for Lee Flat the next morning, Wild Burros were hanging out in the area.  Most burros I have seen in the past either barely take the time to look up and acknowledge your presence, or they just stand there and keep a leery eye on you until you leave.  These three guys were jittery and booked it quite a ways before finally turning around and staring me down with much trepidation.  Between that, the low light and incorrect camera settings, I didn't get the best picture.  Still though, any wildlife pictures are always a gem in my mind.  Aren't their white noses cute?



Arrival to Lee Flat
I found a nice camp site in Lee Flat and spent a few minutes watching the desert come alive as the first rays of light made it over the mountains shortly after I arrived.  Perfect timing!

My original plan was to do a loop through Death Valley that I have been wanting to do for some time.  So, what are the chances the government would shut down right before I go and decide to shut down the desert  too?  Quite ridiculous, but that's what happened.  Anyhow, I picked a new ride that still went through small parts of Death Valley, but at least I wouldn't be quite as blatant about it.  Plus, if I broke down, maybe I'd have a chance for a rescue!

My new plan was to explore some lesser known roads that climb up into the Inyo Mountains.  One led up to the Bonham mine and was just north of and parallel to the Cerro Gordo road.  This one wasn't too bad to get too, but the bottom of the road leading to Cerro Gordo was gone, washed away in a flash flood leaving behind a bunch of rocks and debris.  This made for about a 1/2 mile of interesting wash riding before getting to the Bonham mine road proper.  The second road was south of the Cerro Gordo road.  On the map it looked to go all the way to Cerro Gordo, but I only made it to about a 1/4 mile before the Belmont mine.  If I had company I would have gone further, but it was getting rougher than I was comfortable with being solo.  This was yet another road that appeared to be damaged from the heavy rains this year.  Both areas were real pretty and it was fun to visit these secluded spots.


Making My Way To The Inyos


Inyos, Pleasant Mountain



Bonham Mine


Bonham Mine

From here I had a blast on a long, fast stretch through Santa Rosa Flat that led back down to the 190 highway.  I crossed over and made my way down towards the northern edge of the Navy base.  The plan was to head down Centennial Canyon (rocky!) to Upper Centennial Flat (more rocks!) and the Navy base boundary.  From here, I would loop around over into Joshua Flat (even more rocks!), nestled back in the Coso Range.  It was pretty obvious nobody has been back here in a while.  The only tracks in the canyon were burro tracks and the road was almost non-existent in spots in Upper Centennial Flat.  There were so many burro tracks (and burro poop!) in some spots I was surprised to not run across some more. 

I had a bit of a navigation snafu back here too.  (Snafu means "a badly confused or ridiculously muddled situation", which seems to sum up best what happened!)  I thought I had already crossed Joshau Flat and was climbing up to a saddle on the far side when I crashed and ate it in some rocks.  Being rather remote, this made me a bit nervous. So, as I lay there with the bike still on top of my leg, I made the decision to turn around and head back.  Later on, I found out I was only climbing up to the saddle between Upper Centennial Flat and Joshua Flat and still had 5 miles left to get to where I thought I was in the moment.  In retrospect it all seemed pretty obvious.  Ah well!  Joshua Flat will still make for a nice adventure to a rarely-visited and scenic area for a future trip.  Maybe next time I will see some burros, or even wild horses, which also roam the Coso Range.

After this, I started heading back towards camp with the plan to stop at Talc City and check out some of the old mines.  There wasn't much to see, but I found a really nice spot up on a  hill to enjoy the views and have lunch.


Tacl City Mines


My Lunch Spot


Tough Flower All By Its Lonesome

After Talc City Mine, I hopped on the pavement for a bit and headed over to the Saline Valley Road where I cut back towards Lee Flat again.  On the way, I visited the the Box Car Cabin, located just before Lee Mines.  This was a neat cabin that had several pieces of artwork, both outside and inside.  Always neat the unexpected things one can come across in the desert!
















After the Box Car Cabin, I rested for a bit back at my camp before setting out for the next destination.  This was a little spot I've been thinking about since first visiting this area back when Rebecca and I hiked up Nelson Mountain.  It looked like the road we drove in on then may have kept going back to a potentially killer view of Saline Valley.  Turns out it did just that and the photos don't do it justice.  I think the views from here were probably better than from Nelson Mt itself.  There was a great campsite here too that we'll both have to come back to one day.





Last stop was the Nelson Mountain Cabin.  Another spot Rebecca and I skipped over after our hike years ago.  I didn't get to see much this time, either.  There was a Hantavirus warning so I made a retreat in fairly quick order!




I headed back to camp and relaxed with a couple cold beers, while listening to the wind rush through the nearby Joshua Trees.  It was the only sound the desert was making and it was quite peaceful to listen.  I became mesmerized watching the especially contorted shapes of some other Joshua Trees rustle in the wind.  They looked almost uncomfortable and resistant as if the wind was causing them pain.  Joshua trees have quite a personality at times.

Overall a great day!  Only regret was being too tired to join Rebecca for Alabama Hills the next day.