Helplessness Blues

The title says it all.
As an aside, the song opens here in this Austin City Limits cut with the feel of the hootenannies of old but segues into a memorable pop performance.

What’s my name, what’s my station? Oh, just tell me what I should do
I don’t need to be kind to the armies of night that would do such injustice to you
Or bow down and be grateful and say, “Sure, take all that you see”
To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls and determine my future for me

Fifty days on the road: 10

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve was a stark contrast to what we had experienced on the trip so far: Craters created by volcanoes thousands of years ago, cinder and spatter cones and a lava field stretching as far as a person can see.
At first glance, it seemed the area wasn’t conducive to plant growth, but there was plant succession under way, at least those plants such as dwarf buckwheat that start the process of breaking down the products of ages of volcanism.
Lava flows stretching into the distance are strange enough. When walking the paths into the midst of the formations, the forms and patterns grow stranger still.
The preserve has numerous informational signs with the didactic of “Stay on the trail to preserve what you see.” It’s unfortunate that those repetitions are necessary, displacing what could be more interesting notes, but their necessity was driven home by the sight of tourists scrambling around formations that should have been left alone.

The rest of the crew explored shallow lava tubes and caves formed during the volcanic period. I just stood on the surface and marveled.

Fifty days on the road: Nine

  • Overheard a child while hiking responding to a parent’s caution: “But if I watch my step, I get dizzy!”

Granite Creek Campground in the Bridger-Teton National Forest:

  • In the mountains, there are few straight lines from Point A to Point B. It was a good reminder for this plains person. Often, travel involves gravel roads. The trip to the camp was worth every crappy section of gravel road. We were smack dab in the middle of a national forest, complete with nearby waterfall and several hot springs seepages.
  • The falls may be hidden, but you can hear the tumble.
  • Once the initial shock wears off, a cold shower is a wonderful thing.
  • Cell reception at Inspiration Point is excellent, but you have to sweat to get there. Apparently, somewhere along the line, I lost a passel of tweets I’d been saving before encountering a cell signal. Most likely my not-so-nimble thumbs were the culprit.
  • It was a great Sunday at Granite Creek. A mule deer doe wandered into our camp site, the sight quieting our breakfast discussion.
  • Then it was off to a hot-spring pool just below the falls, alternately soaking up the heat of volcanically-heated water, then cooling toes in the cold, cold stream.
  • A hike while in the national forest took us along Flat Creek Cutoff Trail a half hour into Gross Ventre Wilderness Area. Picked up the trail above the hot springs swimming pool.
    (Yep. it’s a concrete pool that fills from the hot springs each morning and is drained each evening. There is a charge to soak for an hour. We cheaped out finding one of the hot-spring pools below the falls.)
    Wandered pretty much northward above Granite Creek, crossing a largish stream stream feeding Granite Creek, a series of mountain meadows, a smaller stream and a large meadow before segueing into the wilderness area. Crossed a dry creek and another meadow and a small stream before turning back by a pair of boulders flanking the trail.
    A runner passed us going and coming, and we encountered six other hikers, two dogs (illegally) accompanying one of the trios.
    Such is the stuff of hiking.

Photo by Janine

Freedom

Ranky Tanky visits an old theme, overcoming injustice with a gullah-inspired tune, the jazz electric guitarist Clay Ross laying down a steady beat while drummer Quentin Baxer batters at the strictures with a percussive bid to break away. The chorus bears all the marks of the civil rights struggle, preceded by Quiana Parler’s wail. Also adding their layers to the tune are Kevin Hamilton on bass and Charlton Singleton on trumpet.

They take our dreams
They pull us apart 
They’ll never know our strength
They’ll never know our hearts
We want freedom.

Fifty days on the road: Eight

Looking back on a morning hike in a wooded campground:

Mornings stream early
Into mountain meadow,
Each grass, flower, shrub and tree
Collecting its own.
Ponderosas glow low gold
And stand over all.

Traveling in Wyoming, I was able to put a place to the political intrigue during President Warren G. Harding’s term. The Teapot Dome Scandal centered around the oil reserve marked by Teapot Rock. Well, we saw Teapot Rock as we drove through the area (sans handle, though)
Also hiked the Cottonwood Dinosaur trail, treading on who knows how many clam fossils. The area is literally littered with fossils, including an ammonite or two, hence the signs to stay on the trail and to leave the prehistoric remains where they are.
The area is the site of a discovery of a fossilized camarasaurus skeleton by a class of fifth graders.
Imagine: “Hey, teacher! What’s that sticking out of the hill?”

Camping near Alcova, at Metrona County Campground, we were treated to a dawn glowing through out tent net.
Also, you know how a bottle hoots when you blow across the top? The campground also featured a pit toilet with an open stack that emitted a soft baritone hum in the wind.
We were well synchronized breaking camp. I guess we were energized by the prospect of finding a more forested spot.

Brown Skin Girl

Beyoncé, et. al: Gorgeous video! The images and song drive home the point that diversity is the norm.

Them men, them gon’ fall in love with you and all of your glory.
Your skin is not only dark, it shines and it tells your story.
Keep dancin’, they can’t control you.
They watchin’, they all adore you.
If ever you are in doubt.
Remember what mama told you.

Fifty days on the road: Seven

Okay. The first U.S. national monument is many things to many people. Point taken. It’s known as Bear Lodge to the peoples who traveled the area before the Anglos discovered it, as an igneous intrusion to a good share of the geological crowd, and popularly known as Devils Tower.

Bear Lodge is an awesome sight. It’s no wonder First Nation peoples have legends about the site.

Limber climbers ringed the rock like beetles on a tree.

At the campground nearby, we visitors indulged in ice cream (of the huckleberry persuasion) while watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the film which features this landmark prominently. As the movie began at dusk, bats emerged from habitat near the tower and swooped in to clear away pesky flying bugs. That was cool; that’s what bats do.

We were able to visit Jewel Cave, as well, home to species of bats, and finding out that control of white-nose syndrome has become a priority around places where bats hang out. The disease is caused by long-viable spores that latch onto the exposed skin of bats (usually the nose area). The bats are not able to hibernate effectively, waking and trying to feed in he winter when there is no flying food.

At Jewel Cave, visitors walks through a solution that disinfects the bottom of the shoes worn into the cave. My boots have never been so clean.

Approaching Casper, Wyoming, we spotted a solitary antelope (They weren’t particularly plentiful while we traveled.) and a solitary cell phone antenna disguised as a tree.

A late-evening blow rattled our tent noisily. I don’t think it lasted an hour. Tent stakes didn’t budge.

Hello Brother

This wistful little gem of a song was hidden away on Luois Armstrong’s 1968 album What a Wonderful World. Satchmo was an enigmatic man and musician, criticized for what folks saw as an ambivalence towards civil rights. In this tune, though, despite the carping of a portion of the public, a very human longing shines through.

A man wants to work… for his pay.
A man wants a place… in the sun.
A man wants a gal… proud to say.
That she’ll become… his lovin’ wife.
He wants a chance to give his kids a better life.
Well hello brother, hello.

Fifty days on the road: Six

Thoughts while traveling in South Dakota:
• Woke up to Sheridan Lake stippled with a soft, short rain. In the shelter of the pines of the campground in Black Hills National Forest, there was an occasional drop on tent top.
• With the Sturgis motorcycle rally approaching, it was quite a contrast: burbling streams and blatting motorcycles.
• It’s been a decade (or more) since I have set foot inside a Walmart store. That was interrupted by a visit to try to find camping supplies. What we were looking for wasn’t stocked. Go figure.
• Has anyone come up with a taxonomy of watercraft? The variety on the the lake was astonishing.
• When hiking in unfamiliar territory, it’s not a “shortcut.” It’s “another path.”
• An impressive afternoon thunderstorm rolled through, complete with announcing thunder, darkening skies, fierce lightning, buckets of rain and wind gusts that made the tent dance. Stayed dry!
• A nearby lightning strike ignited a spot of dry forest. It was a two-bucket firefighting effort, two dips into Sheridan Lake with a large bucket, dipping a sizable amount of water. Two drops apparently took care of the fire threat.
• Before leaving the lake, we raised a toast to Site 69, where we spent a number of great days. The elixir of choice was Prairie Berry crabapple wine, a local brew. The Red Ass rhubarb wine waited for another occasion.