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9/1/12-Sat.-I attended my Alanon meeting last night and spoke about my first few years in this program. Meditation and contacts with other members have been the most meaningful aspects for me.

Fran and I switch as of today to a new daily agenda. From 6/1 through 8/31 we have lights out at midnight and do not get up before 6 AM. From 9/1 through 5/31 we shut down at 1 AM and get up at 7 AM. Of course, we often also have naps - now that we are retired - regardless.

Am busy with a number of tasks during these last six days before leaving for CO (early on 9/7).

Have started a new book I am enjoying, Blue-eyed Devil, by Robert B. Parker.

The final details of this year's family reunion (10/5 through 10/7), in honor of my mom's 90th birthday, are being worked out. At long last, it appears the event will occur and probably be a positive overall experience.

9/7/12-Fri.-Drove from Austin to a Motel 6 in Wichita Falls. Exhausted by this evening. Meditated. Checked on emails. Had lunch with Mom. Day one of about 21-22 of this trip.

106°F the high in W.F. today. Cool front and thunderstorms came through late this evening.

9/8/12-Sat.-Got a reasonably early start today. Temperature in W.F. fell into the mid-60s last night! Alright. A nice breeze today too. Yesterday, the car A.C. could not keep the car cool enough. Today I can do without it much of the time.

Falling asleep, almost, while driving. Not good. Needed to use various tricks to stay awake. Stopped once reached Dumas, after having a nice lunch in Amarillo.

Have decided each day to note at least one interesting thing. Yesterday, the high to low temperature difference was over 40 degrees. In between was a neat thunderstorm.

Also, I came to these quotes in Charlotte Joko Beck's book, Nothing Special - Living Zen:

"To reestablish our lives on a secure foundation, we have only to return to these six legs of reality (the senses plus functional thought), over and over and over again. That's all the practice we need..."

"It sounds crazy to say that when we have a problem we should listen to the traffic. But if we truly listen, our other senses come to life also. When we do that, something shifts, and how to respond becomes clearer..."

This afternoon, I went walking and found a pair of reservoirs, nobody around, just these two bodies of water and scores of ducks.

On the way back, a kindly young fellow in a pickup offered me a ride. Now that was notable. (I thanked him but turned him down.)

9/9/12-Sun.-Have stopped at a Dairy Queen in Clayton, NM. On the way here from Dumas this morning, I saw several notable things: horses, goats, lots of sunflowers, huge corn and hay irrigation circles, and pronghorns. There are estimated to be only about 3000 pronghorns left in Texas. The low temperature in Dumas, only in the mid-50s F, was also interesting. And I had a neat dream.

I went back to bed for about 45 minutes after my continental breakfast at the motel this morning. So I got a later start than yesterday, but that short nap has made a tremendous difference, greatly reducing my sleepiness while driving.

At 68, nearly 69 years old, I am only a few years away from the end of the average man's life expectancy in this country. I like to think I'm "young for my age," but still...In meditation teachings and Alanon, though, we are advised to live in the present moment, fretting or dreaming about neither past nor future. Supposing I am allotted only another day in this existence yet become successful at living more in each instant, that means there are potentially 86,400 second-long moments left to live, at least 50,900 of them while awake. Imagine how many notable things might come into awareness in over 50,000 moments. And if I live more than one more day, for each one that's another 50,000+ potential awarenesses of notable things.

Later. On NPR early this afternoon, there was a "Fresh Air" interview with a former Zen and Benedictine Monk who had also been an insurance salesman and a reporter. In his 50s, he had to be put in a nursing home due to MS and was about 30 years younger than the average resident, giving him an opportunity to report on people who could not report on themselves. He had other key observations. My take:

  1. We can be compassionate with ourselves. The limit of our compassion for others is our compassion for ourselves, and vice versa.

  2. Getting to know and befriending others is important, regardless of their disabilities and "usefulness" and can help us better come to terms too with our own mortality.*

  3. Doing videotapes of interviews with others, getting their stories, is a key way of achieving intimacy with others (and the tapes can be given to loved ones).*

  4. An intensive meditation discipline can be positively life changing, potentially the best thing that happens in one's existence.

  5. Relegating older people in some degree of disability to nursing homes and similar forms of warehousing, essentially just waiting to die, is one of our species' biggest kinds of waste.

*(Of course, this may not work so well if you're an introvert.)

At a rest stop about 30 miles east of Raton, NM, I have first noticed that the early PM temperature feels cool!

3:10 P.M.-Have stopped for a break in Trinidad, CO. Since the last entry supplement, I've seen hawks, horses, goats, ravens, NM mountains and lava flows, burned forests, snow-capped peaks, and about 50 more pronghorns!

5:00 P.M.-Arrived in Pueblo a few minutes ago. Stopped at a Denny's for supper and to-go fruit. Saw another pronghorn on the way over here.

Latest notable thing: most urinals encountered so far in this state (rest stop and restaurants) are no-flush, supposed to save 40,000 gallons a year each!

A really cool movie on HBO tonight "Extremely Loud Extremely Close," starring Tom Hanks and about a brilliant kid looking for any info or clue about or message from his dad (who died in the 9/11 terrorism), and the kid in the process has a beginning relationship with a grandfather he didn't know he had, but who didn't speak.

Insight: If I feel bored, it means I'm not paying attention. Chances are, it means I am avoiding something I'd learn if I were to pay attention, which is dumb, because awareness is all we have and all that we are.

9/10/12-Mon.-Up about 7:30. Continental breakfast at the Rodeway Inn in Pueblo, CO, was kind of meager. No fruit, eggs, waffles, TV, microwave, wheat bread, etc. Still, there were calories. Now do not need to stop and pay for them later.

I can take my time if feel like it. Am 3-4 hours from R.M.N.P., and check-in at my motel in Estes Park is not till 4 P.M.

Stopped for lunch a little south of Denver. Notables today included the scenery on the way north from Pueblo, with neat mountains on the left, sometimes streams on the right, and nice feathery clouds above.

A new stop, about 2 hours later: getting through Denver was as usual difficult, with several close calls.

A notable: a small recent model car passed me with "Police Volunteer" displayed on the back and sides. I'd like to know more, but that sounds like it might be a pretty cool volunteer gig.

Also, the local weather report indicates possible snow in the higher peaks tomorrow. Yes!

Arrived at my motel in Estes Park a little before 3 P.M., but with about an hour to go before they check folks in.

On the way, the last 20 miles or so were through my latest notable: on Hwy. 34 between Estes Park and Loveland, CO, the Big Thompson River's gorge, mostly in Roosevelt National Forest. Impressive. Well recommended.

Late evening. Last notables include sunset and dusk scenery from a basin ringed by mountains, amazing beauty. Also, a pair of bugling, fully antlered male elk with their herds totaling about 30 cows. The nearer herd and bull elk were about 40-60 yards from me.

9/11/12-Tues.-The walls in this motel are thin, and I could hear most everything in one of my neighbors' rooms last night. they apparently had a party with kids in there but also with at least one couple being intimate and then making love in a suite room, or even the bathroom. I gather families are having reunions here.

On TV, some of the stations are rebroadcasting the then live news feed from 11 years ago today, of the 9/11 terrorism.

One of the women guests here has a wire haired fox terrier. It looks and acts almost the same as Puff.

Meditated for an hour and hiked up to Gem Lake. Took lots of pictures, then later processed them. Got caught in a rainstorm. Did a little shopping. Saw a rabbit, a black squirrel, a lizard, and several ground squirrels on the hike. Neat rock formations. Called my Alanon friend, Charlotte. Emails.

Last notable: A roofless privy up in the mountains, from which I took several pictures of the surrounding scenery. The lake was small but pretty cool too.

9/12/12-Wed.-This morning, I'm dragging. It may be due to the elevation, not yet being acclimated to it. Yet I've walked several miles here each of the past couple days. More likely it is due to that very physical activity. Definitely feel both sore and tired. On the other hand, it could also be partly because I stayed up till 3 A.M. last night watching a good movie.

It is cloudy and rainy out, the temperature here now likely in the 50s to 60s F and headed up to a high about 10 degrees above that. I think I'll check out some visitor centers or museums and do a little planning for possible hikes in the days ahead.

Checked motel prices in the area, and so far the current rate is best for what I already have. Will have to see if can at least extend current cost for another week. I guess I should be glad that the average of the rate I paid in 2011 (very discounted) and in 2012 works out to be fairly reasonable. Once the great continental breakfasts and the ample space and conveniences of the location are factored in, I do not feel cheated or that the price is really out of line. Meanwhile, one good stock purchase can lead to annual profits that easily pay for the extra.

I drove over to the Rocky Mountain National Park's (RMNP's) Fall River Visitors Center and looked over the exhibits, then went on into the park. My luck with good picture taking opportunities held, despite cloudy, foggy, and relatively cold (temperature in the 30s to 40s F in that area of the park) conditions. At the second meadow I came to, there were many elk. I took photos of elk from 20-100 yards away, including of bulls. I had my first real life (as opposed to documentaries) experience of watching bull elk confrontations, some quite close, and seeing a male elk herding the cows and forcing them into or back into his harem.

Later I also got some good foggy views of aspens beginning to turn golden and of mountain scenes decorated with fog in upper elevations.

I was out there when a fresh snowfall blanketed the background landscape.

As with my time spotting a moose last year, being a patient observer paid big dividends. A number of others stopped for a few minutes when they noticed elk fairly near. Yet most of these soon departed when nothing of interest occurred. I was one of just two or three who kept watching, despite my not being warmly dressed and so beginning to shiver, for about an hour and so got to see other bull elk initially try to come into the area and take some of the harem, then be driven off by the resident alpha male.

Later, twice when I would stop to take pictures of other subjects, additional vehicles would soon pull in and park too. I'm sure Fran has this sort of experience quite often, finding good subjects and helping others to see them. In her case, of course, there is also genuine competence with her camera and photo processing, so her results are comparatively professional. My hobby is amateur and relies a lot on help from her, but is for all that still enjoyable.

Am beginning, already this trip, to get a little of the yearning to be engaged in another of my hobbies, investing, missing it. In that one, I know I have some genuine skills of my own.

Of course, a third hobby, traveling periodically, takes precedence at the moment.

So far this trip, I've been getting by on 1-2 hours less daily rest than I get at home, yet am not suffering much if at all from the deficit. Is this because my extra meditation is restorative enough I don't need more sleep or simply that I'm more interested in what I'm involved in now? Maybe some of both. Possibly too, since I'm an introvert, I need less time to "recharge" when not so engaged socially as in my typical routines in Austin. Also, I'm taking half my usual dose of thyroid medication, since I forgot to pack enough. Could this be the basis for feeling energetic on less slumber?

I wonder if I could get by on only 3-4 hours a night if engaged in hobbies I love and on a retreat in which I see and speak to nobody for days at a time, and meditate intensely several hours a day.

9/13/12-Thurs.-Finalized arrangements at a discount to the previous terms for my motel room here in Estes Park through the end of my RMNP vacation.

Also went for a long hike (to Big Thompson River's "The Pool" and Cub Lake and back) but apparently not with enough sunscreen and/or being out too much during the sunniest part of the day. Despite wide-brimmed head gear, my face was pink and close to a burn this evening. I've treated it with vinegar and aloe vera and am hoping all will be well.

In RMNP today, I saw a snake, ground squirrels, magpies, turkeys, mule deer, elk, and a neat caterpillar Fran would probably like to have seen too.

Back at my room, called my Alanon sponsor, meditated, answered e-mails, then relaxed for the rest of the evening till time for bed.

9/15/12-Sat.-Yesterday, I did some meditation and various activities concerning the family reunion, but three weeks away. Left about 3 PM for RMNP. Since getting a little too much sun Thursday, I'm mostly limiting the hiking to earlier in the morning or late in the afternoon.

First, I watched a park service movie at one of the visitor centers. Checked out the informative exhibits there too. Then drove over and began hiking at the Upper Beaver Meadows area about 4:30. Saw 4 elk herds, one of which got too close, and a ranger got on my case for staying and taking photos too near the elk that were going by, rather than heading back to the parking area. The elk had moved between me and the car at first, and I had just stayed and taken pictures.

Later. More elk. More people behaving badly. Made 3 RMNP stops and hiked at a couple of them. Fewer wildlife sightings, but still photos taken of some. Also saw a duck, another "Halloween caterpillar," and a trout (in Lake Sprague, where I had seen a moose last year).

Temperatures here now are in the 40s-70s F (still dry), a little cooler in the mountains.

Since it is the weekend and there is a big conference in town, things are hectic. There are few if any motel vacancies. We have a mild cool front coming through early next week, with temperatures expected to drop to the 30s or low 40s at night and high 60s or low 70s during the day.

9/16/12-Sun.-11 A.M.-Back from my morning hike. I got an early start and used a checklist so I would not forget anything. Indeed, I remembered and did (or took) everything on my list, like using sunscreen and taking a long-sleeve shirt and wide-brimmed hat. Of course, it turned out a couple things not on the list were important too, like my room key and backpack (with water and a salty snack), and I forgot those.

The trail I took this morning is in kind of like an alpine version of Enchanted Rock, in Texas. I really wanted to see the chief varmint supposed to inhabit this area, the mountain lion. So, I did at various times everything opposite to what the official precautions recommended for safety on this trail: got down on all fours and dragged one leg, as if injured; jogged alone; took small children with me from large groups that had plenty to spare; and walked small dogs (all pets illegal here, but this did not stop people from taking them!) on long leashes. Alas, I must have seemed too pathetic to warrant serous consideration as cougar prey, and I saw nary a one.

At breakfast this morning, I observed an odd phenomenon that has diverse examples: those who need calories the most eat like a bird; while those who need them least are sure to be the ones who take five eggs and/or two waffles and abundant butter and syrup; those who most need to be better informed skip the books and educational stations; those who can best do without any makeup tend to apply too much; those with plenty of kids often have still more; those who can least afford to be careless in the stock market are inclined to buy high and sell low; those who really ought to "chill" guzzle the most coffee or booze; those with fair skin go hatless, topless, or sleeveless; and so on.

9/17/12-Mon.-Up about 7:30 this morning. Left my room relatively early and shall stay away till about 4 P.M. to be sure the motel staff has a chance to clean my room, first time since had checked in a week ago.

The plan for today's RMNP excursion is to head west through the park on hwy. 34, which becomes Trail Ridge Road, stopping at points of interest before heading back around 3 P.M.

A weak cool front came through here last night. It brought a little rain to Estes Park and snow on higher elevations.

There are still several moderate or easy trails I've not been to and that I hope to check out during this vacation.

Hwy. 7 also is supposed to lead to great scenery.

Later. At higher elevation on the Trail Ridge Road today, I was briefly in a small snowstorm. The winds out on some of the overlooks must have been gusting about 40-50 MPH and I was as cold as I have been at Chicago, IL, or Turtle Lake, WI, in winter. I got up to the Alpine Visitors Center, took a number of pictures along the way to and from, and yet was glad enough to head back to warmer, lower level temperatures.

4 P.M.-While near the top, I saw and heard a tundra creature, a pika. I learned something new today, that tundra area surface rocks gradually get moved by the successive thaws and freezes of their underlying and surrounding soils and as a result seem to "flow," sometimes forming random arrays, sometimes approximate circles, sometimes lines from slightly higher to lower elevations.

Once I had returned to the Falls River area, about 4000 feet lower, I hiked near Horsetail Falls and the alluvial fan, following pungent, narrow elk paths through deep and thick meadow grasses, almost stepping at times into deeper, wet areas, ponds obscured till the last minute by all the vegetation growing there.

I began taking photos of the regions stream, but then was caught in a downpour. About 1000-2000 feet above on surrounding higher ground, the precipitation was white. While I was heading back, I lost track of the elk path and I had come in on and so had to pick my way carefully through to avoid sinking into the muck. Getting closer to my car, I heard nearby elk bugling. Sure enough, as I emerged into the clear area where I was parked, there was a big bull elk heading in under the trees at the edge of the meadow. He was shy and ducked away into thicker woods when I tried to take his picture. I think I just got an image of his disappearing rump.

9/18/12-Tues.-Drove over this morning to the Morraine Meadow Visitors Center, hiked over to Thompson River and along it for awhile. Took pictures. Saw a distant elk herd. Later drove along the road to the Cub Lake and Fern Lake trailheads and saw two more elk herds, one moderately distant and one close.

Got info from a ranger on trails in the Upper Beaver Meadows area and along Hwy. 7 (in the Wild Basin area).

Some likely options for hiking/photography in the balance of this vacation:

  • From the Cub Lake Trailhead, heading left after on the trail about .4 miles and continuing till locate the Big Thompson River, then walking near it as long as like, and heading back. Best if go early and on a weekday - due to too much sun or weekend crowds otherwise - and also best if take the shuttle - as nearby parking is in short supply. (One hike.)

  • In the alluvial fan/Horsetail Falls area. Best if go early and on a weekday - same sun and people considerations. (One hike.)

  • In the Upper Beaver Meadows area. Best if go early and on a weekday. (Two hikes.)

  • In the Wild Basin/Hwy. 7 area. AM or PM, weekday or weekend, but go early or late and avoid too much sun. (Two or three hikes, plus more points of interest in the vicinity.)

  • Around Lake Estes. Best if go early and on a weekday. (One hike.)

  • Trail Ridge Road/Hwy. 34, west past Alpine Visitors Center, toward or to Grand City, and hiking near the visitors center on the west side of RMNP. If possible, best if cloudy, after fresh snowfall. (One hike, but with several points of interest along the way.)

  • Another possible outing is a touristy round of the Estes Park shops, with photos of the Big Thompson River.

9/19/12-Wed.-This morning I drafted an update email asking for more volunteers for the "Stand up for Charlotte" tribute to my mom, then went hiking again in the Upper Beaver Meadows area. Saw a hawk, several bluebirds, a flock of foraging turkeys, and a little spring-fed ecosystem. There were also nice autumn colors from patches of aspens.

9/20/12-Thurs.-Went out to the Lilly Lake Trail, off Hwy. 7, on the east side of RMNP today. Nice views, including of the lake, mountains, rock formations, and golden aspens. There were two kinds of ducks. The larger species would bob down for snails or whatever, so that its butt was the only thing left visible. The other type would evidently dive down several times its small body length, then suddenly reappear a little later. In the thick marsh grasses near the south side of Lilly Lake, I saw many large or medium depressions, apparently left recently by elk.

The temperatures here in Menlo Park are still in the low 40s to low 70s F.

I am scheduled to call my Alanon sponsor this evening.

9/22/12-Sat.-Up reasonably early and got out to RMNP before 8 AM. Began my hike at the Cub Lake trailhead, crossed the Big Thompson River (happily, able to use a bridge on the trail). I could hear nearby elk bugling and veered off the trail to my left (roughly east) to stay close to the river, here only a few inches to about a foot deep. The light was exactly wrong for photography, but when I saw elk crossing the river just ahead (south to north), I crouched behind a bush, leaned left, stayed in the shade, hoped for the best, and began snapping pictures. The elk were about 20-30 yards from me. It took about 15 minutes for the rest of the herd to cross, a big bull last. He spent about 5-10 minutes leisurely getting a big drink, then went on across himself, bugling once as he proceeded. Hope at least one or two of these shots came out despite the sunlight being in my eyes and almost directly into the lens.

I went back to the trail, took some rock formation and golden hued aspen pictures, then veered left again a little further south. I could hear more bugling off in that direction but far enough away I did not expect to see that herd. I had in fact earlier seen another nearby herd. Mainly I wanted to go east because I had already taken the official (Cub Lake) trail, which veers right or roughly west from where I had been, and so wanted to see what was in the other direction. I had crossed most of the beaver meadow, heading approximately southeast, when I noticed a bit of movement around 100 to 150 yards ahead. This turned out to be four fairly small mule deer, a buck, two females, and a young one. I gradually crept closer and took their pictures. Here the lighting was much better, but the closest to them I got before other hikers scared them off was about 70 yards, so these pictures also may not have come out.

I took a break, sitting (where the meadow meets the tree line to the south) on a rock under the shade of some pine trees, while surveying the meadow out before me and realizing that much the same kinds of scenes could have been witnessed in this area for probably at least 10,000 years. All other relatively close hikers were apparently on official trails elsewhere. The peace and stillness of the moment were deeply refreshing.

There had also been a light freeze here last night, and some of the tall grasses still had frost on them. The temperature was as yet quite comfortable.

I resumed my hike and soon detected more movement in the distance and so waited about where I was, though as yet I could not tell what the creatures were. The sun angle was again unfortunate, so I gradually moved about 20 yards more to the southeast. Meanwhile, the animals were moving in my general direction. As they crested a hill, I could see through the tall grasses that it was a flock of turkeys. They never got closer than about 30-40 yards, but I hope some of these pictures came out as well.

I left RMNP about 3 hours after arriving today, and when I did I could see cars and their occupants lined up at least 1/4 mile waiting to go in, despite 3 gates being open. There must have been 200-300 people in those lines, maybe more.

9/23/12-Sun.-My last full day (for this trip) in the RMNP/Estes Park area. Fall began yesterday, I believe. Certainly it feels that way here. Besides the abundance of golden aspen in evidence, we have had a freeze each of the past couple nights. Estes Park is but one of many CO communities filled now with autumn celebrants. I appreciate the mood and enthusiasm, yet am glad I was able to beat the horde into cool hiking routes this morning. I hiked the Glacier Creek and Boulder Creek trails and also returned to Sprague Lake, where I saw my first beaver dams of the current vacation. Also an Alber's squirrel, a raven, several trout, and a ground squirrel. On the way, I saw a splendid bull elk specimen too.

9/24/12-Mon.-1:30 P.M. Have stopped for a vegetable plate and apple juice at Black-Eyed Pea in Castle Rock, CO.

My last stop of this vacation in RMNP was productive. Saw mule deer, views of Long's Peak (highest mountain in the park, at over 14,000 feet), lots more aspens, llamas (being used as trail pack animals by hiker-campers going the 7.5 miles from the Wild Basin Ranger Station up to near the top of Long's Peak and back), and a neat mountain stream.

After leaving the park, I continued on scenic CO State H wy. 7 (between Estes Park and Lyons). Some of the views were stunning, especially several miles through a gorge and along a small river.

From Lyons, I took Hwy. 66 to I-25 (at Loveland), then headed straight south.

Later. Had intended to reach Pueblo for a night stop. Instead, I'm south of there at a rest area outside Trinidad, CO, and expect to get a room in Raton, NM. All things considered, I shall probably get home sooner than anticipated.

9/25/12-Tues.-Reached Clayton, on Hwy. 87 at the eastern edge of NM, by 10:30 this morning. Between Raton and Clayton, with temperatures in the 60s F and fair skies, I saw lots of cool cirrus clouds, 2 ravens, 6 hawks and 59 pronghorns. Although the roadway here is virtually flat, the drive was also enhanced by many buttes, mesas, or other interesting features, especially in the Capulin Volcano National Monument area.

About 640 miles remain on this trip. I should get home tomorrow or Thursday at the latest. To evenly split the distance remaining between Raton, NM, and Austin, TX, I need to drive at least 31 miles past Lubbock, TX, before stopping today. That means about 280 miles yet to go before I get a motel for the night.

Later. Reached Amarillo about 1:15. Now looks like I shall stop for the night in Post or Snyder, TX, after roughly 3-4 more hours' driving. About 300 miles will then be left for tomorrow.

9/26/12-Wed.-Stopped for the night at an old, smoky, but relatively cheap and very comfortable motel in Snyder, TX, between Lubbock and Abilene, on Hwy. 87 East.

If there are no negative surprises, expect to get home by around suppertime.

Later. Have stopped for a quick break in Lampasas, TX, about an hour and a half of further driving from home. The sooner I get on the road again, the less trouble I am likely to have from Austin's commuter traffic.

Already, it is great - after hours and hours of nothing on the radio but "country western," right wing talk shows, and angry fundamentalist Christian fantasies - to finally again have access to my hometown's classical music and public radio stations.

About 3:30 PM, arrived home. I began the trip intending to note at least one interesting, remarkable thing daily. Today it is how verdant things are in central TX now, though they were mostly dry and brown when I left. Not insignificantly, Fran has indicated Austin has had abundant rain and fairly mild temperatures here while I have been away.

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