Our National Nightmare

I’m trying to decide if I want to punish the entire Republican ticket. I’m actually kind of torn: currently, I’m planning on voting Green for president (why not), Democrat for House (because the republican’s website is only half complete and looks completely unprofessional), and Republican for Senate (because Szeliga is the most reasonable candidate I’ve seen in a while). But the Republicans nominated the Anti-Christ for president. They need to be learn that this kind of pandering does not fly. So, anyway, another debate.

Tonight: A big glass of Laphroaig 10 years. Tawny Port for Jen.

2100: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show event is tomorrow night.” I thought it was tonight!

2101: Watching with Fox today. I hate Trump so much that I want the coverage to be as friendly to him as possible. Shep Smith doing a good job here. Starting to forgive him for saying that Hurricane Matthew was going to kill all your children.

2102: Fox has a tight rope walk ahead tonight. The Trump ship is sinking, and Fox is as tied up with him as you can get. AND Trump is talking about making his own news station…which will be in direct competition with Fox (not MSNBC, I suspect). How do they treat him here tonight?

2105: Mix Trump’s skin with Clinton’s suit, and you have a creamsicle.

2106: Surprised that Clinton got right to the question rather than 45 seconds of preamble. Impressed. Hey, how about this for the Supreme Court – can they just interpret the law?

2107: Laphroaig is often described as “medicinal”. But man, it’s deep. A nice warmth. Oh, news flash, Clinton wants to push along Obama’s nominee. OK, cool.

2108: Trump subdued again. How long would 2 mg of Xanax take to wear off on a bull moose like Trump? 15 minutes? 20 minutes? We’ll check in later.

2110: 10 minutes of open arguing. This is the Fox style.

2111: Sensible gun control (background checks, terror watch list checks, storage etc). I have no idea who would argue against this. I read a good article on Newtown, CT recently.

2114: So far, Chris Wallace is owning this debate. We’ll see how this goes. He comes in with more authority than the previous moderators.

2115: Roe v Wade was passed by a conservative court, I’m told. Abortion is the worst. Gross. A sobering topic, unlike scotch.

2119: Abortion is an evil evil.

2120: Trump doesn’t actually know how birth works; not on a schedule. But so far, I am not mad with him.

2121: Xanax hasn’t worn off yet, and yet he remains coherent. Still sniffing though. He is backpedaling on a full deportation, focusing instead on the hombres.

2125: Andrew Miller, how about him. Cleveland in the World Series. Sorry, zoned out.

2126: If Chris Wallace alienates Trump and Trump starts boycotting Fox News…will he just hang out in his house until the election?

2127: This is why I don’t like it when my 3.5 year old takes a nap. Isn’t it good that Obama deported millions of people?

2129: It is interesting that the Russian government wants Trump to be president. Do we trust them?

2130: Chris Wallace scolds the audience again. I am enjoying this guy. While I was typing that sentence, we got on to Radical Islamic Terrorism. I’m not following his train of thought anymore.

2131: You’re the puppet! Wow, she struck a nerve there. 23 minutes, he’s starting to come off the rails. What was it last time? To the tape!

2132: It was 22 minutes last time. Off the rails. Chris Wallace. Woooo.

2134: Putin’s not my BFF!

2135: He’s sniffing still, but less.

2136: At least Trump can pronounce Nuclear.

2137: I’m digging Chris Wallace.

2137: Abby, who has no soccer ball, has decided that she want’s to be a soccer ball for halloween. She has wanted this for a month. But she wants to be a soccer ball with red patches rather than black. All right. Whatever.

2138: I’ll be honest, I’ve got the bottle right here with me. I’m not really following this baloney anymore. I keep hearing about this “free school” thing, but I’m skeptical.

2140: No one gives Donald more credit than Donald.

2143: Just watched the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer. Just saying. By the way, I agree – Obama did inherit a tremendous catastrophe economically. Dude’s one of the better presidents we’ve had, as people will acknowledge in a decade or two. Especially in comparison with these dopes.

2146: India is growing at 8% but their per capita income is like $4000 a year or something. It’s really not a fair comparison.

2147: Totally lied, and fact checkers actually said I was right. He was very surprised about that. It’s maybe the first time that he’s ever said something true.

2149: Condescending. Bad experience. He’s doing a good job this time. Less incoherent.

2151: That was a powerful Clinton set piece on experience. She rehearsed that well.

2152: By the way, we would be interested in hosting refugees. These are families feeling terrible situations to keep their kids alive. If Trump actually raised his kids, he would have a little more compassion.

2154: Not attractive enough to be assaulted. Yes, that’s a good point. Chris Wallace, still keeping things under control Another strong Clinton set piece by Clinton here, on women.

2156: Nobody in the whole world has more respect for women than Trump. Not even one. There are 3.5 billion men in the world, and Trump is literally the number one respecter of women.

2159: Third powerful set piece of Clinton, this time about all the people he has belittled.

2200: I’m getting sleepy.

2203: Something something something; someone just sent me to Edible Arrangements Facebook page.

2204: Rather than paying a lawsuit, Trump put up an American flag. OK. Good zing on tax returns.

2205: Chris Wallace, please come back.

2206: Rigged election. This is the scariest part of this whole thing. This is terrifying. Peaceful transition of power from Chris Wallace.

2209: Here we are, a fourth Clinton set piece, this on rigging.

2210: Trump as a human is completely off the rails, but he has gotten better at the debates as he’s gone. Less incoherent stories this time. But he’s letting Clinton dominate. She sounds so much smarter than he does.

2214: Trump’s theories on warfare – the element of surprise – a little naive. The Iraqis are in on the Clinton fix too…

2216: Who cares if Trump was for Iraq in 2003, when he was a blubbering idiot who was not running for president.

2217: I hate the look Clinton gets on her face when she thinks she’s said something funny.

2220: Putin, Assad…let’s see if Clinton does a set piece on the axis of evil world leaders that Trump admires.

2221: Lots of luck Hilary. So, did Trump just concede the election to her?

2223: I want some food. This is silly. He didn’t implode. She continued to only say smart things. That is the standard against which the two of them are judged.

2224: Vast swatches of land. I remember swatches!

2225: Trump is delusional. But he believes it. I guess that’s the definition of delusional.

2227: I think the talking point from this debate will be the part where Trump said he was still considering whether he’d stage a coup against a democratically elected government.

2230: I thought it was going to be over at 10:30, yet here we are. I’m going to get something and go to bed.

On Your Left

I spent the summer of 2001 in Pittsburgh working doing an undergraduate research project. Most days, I ran in Schenley Park; both close to the Towers of Ignorance and a pretty great place for running. I had a ~10.5 mile loop out the park and into Squirrel Hill that I did most days. One day, another runner darted out 50 yards in front of me from another trail. Having patrolled those woods for a few weeks already, I considered it my duty to follow this runner and eventually crush his will. But he was fast. Faster than me. After fruitlessly chasing him at 5:45 pace for 3 miles, as he slowly pulled away from me, he turned and I continued my loop, relieved that my pursuit was over.

Why this story? I have never been passed on a run and that was the closest I had come. Several years ago, I took a swag – I think I’ve run between 22,000 and 25,000 miles since I was in 7th grade. While fast by most standards, I was sub-elite when compared to national elite runners. But 12 years ago, if you drew a 30 mile circle centered on Baltimore, you’d probably grab 2.5 million people, only maybe 5 of which could beat me. The chances of one of them running the same route as me at the same time was next to nil. I knew that every time I stepped on the road or track or trail that I was the fastest person. I knew when I walked in a room, I was the fastest person in the room. Whatever else was going on in my life, I always had that to fall back on, and, as a matter of principle, I wasn’t interested in letting anyone take my scalp, even on an easy run through the woods.

Now, I’ve probably only run 500-1000 miles in the last 9 ish years since my Achilles finally went south. I run between 3-6 miles a week these days. I’m out of shape and slow. But when I was 15 seconds into my run today, legs creaking from disuse, and someone passed me, I knew had a streak to maintain. He was pretty decent – a halting stride but defined legs and runner approved clothing. He was a runner, and comfortable on the trails. Another tidbit though – I was superlative in the woods. My bulky, short legs may not have been ideal for a tempo run on a flat road, but they were perfect for grinding through the woods. The trail from Landing to the waterfall in Patapsco is not very hilly, but it is quite technical. I decided that in these conditions, even if the guy that passed me could put two minutes on old man me in a 5K, I could still give it a go. So, I gave him 40 meters so that he wouldn’t hear me, then latched on to see what was what. Eventually, he did hear me, eventually, I started closing, eventually I decided, yes, today was not the day that someone was going to break my streak. And then he stopped, right in the middle of the trail. And I passed him. And then a minute later, I started hearing footfalls behind me. I had turned the right past the waterfall by then, entering an even more technical and hillier section of the park. I started pressing the hills where I could induce more pain on him, started hearing the footfalls fade until a turn off when he took a hard left for the road. I decided that he was either annoyed that I was following him, or that he was doing some kind of weird fartlek run, or who knows, maybe he was just a Sunday jogger too. Regardless, this unofficial victory over a stranger was satisfying.

All of this took roughly 11 minutes. By 12 minutes, the adrenaline had worn off. A metallic burn filled my throat. My legs got heavy. I started seeing a halo in my eyes. The bounding skip up the hills from 2 minutes earlier became a slogging plod as my body ceased to respond to even modest demands. In my mind, I maintain a truism, a mantra…that there is old magic in my legs. That if I need to run a 60 second quarter or if I need to grind out a couple of fast miles on the trails, muscle memory will take over, 4 mile weeks be damned. But whereas I might have chased an elite runner for 3 miles as a rising junior in college, I have very limited supply of this residual potency left. Enough to wear down some shlub who was probably 7 miles into an easy day and not interested in ruining his upcoming speed workout on some Sunday jogger, but not enough to actually walk the walk in any real capacity. But by then I was in a more remote part of the woods, occasionally passing 50 year olds on nature walks, with no more sub-elites in sight. I trudged back to my car – a mere 27:00 and surely less than 4 miles – after I had started, red faced with lungs burning. Maybe back in the day I’d have to run 9 miles at 6:00 pace to feel like that. Now, 12 minutes at probably 6:30 pace followed by a 7:30 pace death march for another 2 miles was sufficient. But I still felt the same burn, the same flush, the same ache…and man, do I miss it.

I’m actually not sure where my non-surgically repaired Achilles will crap out these days, because my home life precludes me from running enough to stress it. It holds together pretty well at 3-6 miles a week. A couple years ago – when Abby was a baby, two months of 30 miles a week jacked it up for a few months. But before it could, I was able to patrol the woods at a decent pace, like the old days. I hope to patrol once again. One of these days, some youngster is going to pass me, and my old magic will run out. But not today.

Presidential Debate Two

Another live blog. I think this time I’m going to stop paying attention and riff longer on things that strike my fancy. We shall see.

2057: I’m watching on Fox to be more fair and balanced. Currently, an animated HeMan of some sort is killing an bird in a suburban driveway. I think I can expect some hard hitting analysis.

2100: Hey, it’s the guy that told us that Hurricane Matthew was going to kill our children. Have all the other Fox News people distanced themselves from this cancer?

2102: We’ll be using this debate stage to find out who has raped more women, Donald Trump or the Clinton family. We’re reaping what we’ve sown.

2103: Shep Smith: In the mud, as deep as a really deep thing in the mud.

2106: Are you modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today’s youth!? HA! ZAP. Children. Any chance this question will keep them being behaving like children in 15 minutes? Start the timer.

2107: Unrelated, we just found a box with a bunch of shoes appropriate for a 18-24 month old. Emily will have shoes. Trump has come out as measured and calm.

2110: More than calm, he would appear to be actually sedated. He’s going to grab ISIS by the p****!

2112: Clinton making a nice point here – Trump not fit to serve, other Republicans are. “We’ve seen him rape women” is what both Jen and I heard. Rate. Rate. Phew. By the way, it’s awkward that they’re both standing up and walking around. I feel like Trump is going to cram that mike into her skull at some point. By the way, Trump is absolutely calm right now. Last time, he would have interrupted 5 times by now. He has a better strategy this time. Can he do it?

2116: Semi-related, breath right strips are awesome. Really opens up the nasal passages.

2117: I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms – high school, college and so on. I’ve never encountered any distance runner who had any sort of leverage over any women whatsoever. The difference between Trump and people in locker rooms is that Trump thinks he’s allowed to do whatever he wants because of who he is. We might joke about bombing North Korea too, but, yeah, we’re not the damn president.

2122: Bernie Sanders “signed on with the devil”. It’s like they are competing for the souls of the damned over there. They both are collecting souls.

2124: I wonder what Pence’s first name is.

2125: Audience: if they can’t talk or clap, why are they there? Whose fault is that?

2127: For laymen. If you see a “C” on a document, it means “Confidential”, one step lower than “Secret” and two steps lower than “Top Secret”. One thing that Trump has never dealt with is anything associated with anything that a president might do.

2128: The sedation is wearing off. 22 minutes. He did bring up the emails Donald. Actually she might have. He doesn’t listen to anyone who speaks other than himself.

2133: Trump doing better on health insurance. I think he has a self-regulated ativan drip in his pants pocket or something.

2135: Steve Pence?

2136: I want to hear what the woman that looks like a 62 year old Terry Hatcher (behind Trump) is going to ask. She’s trying not to give the stink eye, but failing.

2138: Recently, a Muslim reported another Muslim for using the Arabic term for ISIS on a flight. Witch hunts tend to be a problem.

2140: Donald Trump prefers troops who don’t die in combat (or get captures, or have PTSD).

2141: I don’t think that’s how you pronounce Demagogic. Then again, that is not how you pronounce “terror” either.

2143: Extreme vetting = enhanced interrogation

2145: Someone should give Sean Hannity a call to sort this whole Iraq war thing out.

2147: He’s getting time info from people in the audience. It’s a good idea. I’m not sure the times are equitable either. Someone could do an analysis on it.

2150: Google tells me that it’s Mike Pence. I wonder who Steve Pence is.

2152: I stopped paying attention for a second and now he’s talking about building a post office?

2153: Trump is good on tax here. People like the both of them take advantage of all the loop holes. I think that his tax plan is absolute malarkey, but it would be helpful if these super rich people paid some taxes.

2156: I wonder which of them is more corrupt.

2157: How long is this debate? I think I want to go to bed soon.

2158: I feel like Trump is strong on the tax thing and he probably does understand the tax code better than any other candidate. I have no idea what a carried interest deduction is. By the way, that last thing on Hilary having 30 years to do something about all this and not is probably his best set of debate shots so far.

2202: Aleppo? What’s an Aleppo?

2206: Trump is doing much, much better this time. He may have lost the election a few days ago, but he’s not losing it here.

2207: I’m bored, let’s talk about me. I use breath right strips maybe 4 times a week. I can’t say I’ve ever worn one during a televised debate, but I would consider it under some circumstances.

2210: I like Steve Pence’s stance on Russia in Syria, but Trump just repudiated it. But…do we really want a proxy war against Russia in Syria? Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good idea to show them our tech. At least the stuff they haven’t already stolen.

2210: Anderson, you need to poke your co-moderator and remind her that she’s not running for president. She’s getting hostile. Trump is handling her though.

2215: Trump, for what it’s worth, is going over on this question as well. He keeps complaining, but sometimes he gets to go over too.

2216: Clinton’s getting too laughy and snarky recently. People don’t like that.

2217: Trump’s doing much better in this debate. If not for his enormous disaster this week, he’d be grabbing the American public by the p*ssy and giving them a big wet kiss.

2219: The basket of deplorables thing was kind of accurate. Trump could have gotten away with saying something like that, no problem.

2221: You know what Barack Obama has that Trump doesn’t? Dignity. I like the guy. I have very little beef with him.

2223: Just had to go bring my big ole nose to sniff around for smoke. What’d I miss?

2224: We should just cut the mikes. Can they cut the mikes? Why not?!

2225: I was thinking about the Supreme Court justice thing while on my run today. I’d want smart Supreme Court justices. People that know the law backwards and forwards. People that understand the constitution. I don’t think we should be able to cook the books when it comes to the court, and appoint people that will fight for our political agendas. As a result, somehow, I think we need to change the way that the Supreme Court is selected, taking away from both the President and Congress. How about some kind of election among the bar…or something.

2229: Under absolute, literal siege by the Obama administration. Obama and his cabinet are absolutely camped out outside of coal plants, literally bombarding the coal plants with cannonballs and molten oil.

2231: That fly is absolutely feasting on these literal piles of steaming….I actually don’t believe that, I just thought it was funny.

2233: Climate change, poor, marginalized, climate change.

2234: Karl Becker for the win. Clinton was struggling, but pulled it out. She’s no longer talking about the question, however. Waiting for Trump’s answer, but jabber jabber jabber. Hilary doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up. That’s a good compliment. That was a good question. I’m writing in Karl Becker.

2238: I don’t get Fox’s strategy here. They are submarining the entire political process, talking about how ugly this election is. I mean, I agree with them. Actually, try to put your finger on why people hate Clinton, based on the debates at least. She hasn’t been an awful person in the debates. Nor was Trump this debate. This wasn’t that bad.

Rock and the Hard Place

Full disclosure: I loath Donald Trump and only dislike Hilary Clinton. I find it unlikely that these opinions will change. That said, I will do my best to impartially judge the one liners and ranting lunacy.

2055: Why is Kevin James’ TV wife so good looking? What is it about Kevin James?

2100: I’m watching on CBS. I don’t think it makes a difference.

2101: Why did we do this to ourselves? Yuck.

2102: I’m not impressed by these people on CBS.

2104: They just showed up – more undecided? I don’t know anyone who might possibly like the Don that does not already.

2104: I think I’m going to get some scotch if there’s a commercial break.

2105: It’s sexist to talk about Clinton’s hideous red pant suit so I’m not going to.

2106: Income inequality is bad, economy is good – I smell a tax cut for the rich.

2108: I think we have a child out of bed and wandering around.

2109: Trump is hilarious. Mexico and China; bang that drum. Forget the job report, forget the economic data.

2111: Trickle down economics. “Trumped up Trickle down”. That’s the fourth time she’s spat some hokey pre-planned comment.

2113: Very small $14 million dollar loan. Very very few maids and butlers, a minimal fleet of cars.

2114: That’s Administrative Assistant Clinton, thank you.

2115: Bring them back by not letting them leave. Someone points out he’s sniffely, he is. Ironic that he’s sick.

2117: Trump cannot not bud in. In 12 minutes, he’ll be interrupting and talking over her every 20 seconds.

2119: Thesaurus: Semi-Exact –> approximate. “Pseudo-Precise” thinks Jen.

2119: I mean 2 minutes, not 12 minutes.

2121: She may never get another word in edgewise.

2122: “Donald, I know you live in your own reality.” Zing!

2123: He cannot help himself. The meds are already wearing off.

2124: “Lester, I tell you this”…Who is Lester? Wait, doesn’t someone normally ask questions in these debates?

2125: HilaryClinton.com is a fact checker. Good idea. Side note: Neither of your plans are going to be implemented.

2126: Cut the mike.

2128: Guys, I’m not going to make it another 20 minutes.

2129: Shut up!

2131: I hope Obama does golf the rest of his life. He keeps saying he’s under audit and cannot release. That’s not a thing.

2133: He’s been under audit for 15 years – I doubt he’ll be done in the next month.

2134: Yeah Lester, tough guy on the audience. Can’t get Trump to shut his mouth for 20 seconds in a row, pick on the faceless peons.

2135: “That makes me smart.”

2136: Something he’s hiding…kinda like those emails. Both of you, ugh.

2138: Braggadocios. That’s how spell check renders it.

2139: Or maybe because you haven’t paid any income tax! Zing! Big hit.

2142: I’m getting bored with this. Also, I don’t really blame him for taking advantage of the laws. I also think he’ll tailor the laws to suit his interests.

2143: If he thinks he’s going to confine the defense industry into a fixed price box…that ain’t gonna fly.

2146: The problem for Clinton. She’s talking right now, saying, blah blah blah. Straightforward, what everyone always says. I want to hear Trump blow hot air again. But then he doesn’t say anything that means anything. I just want him to talk so that he can implode. Surely he will soon.

2148: He’s about to say he doesn’t like guns. Say it, say it!

2149: Note: if you want to build a relationship with me, feel free to stop and frisk.

2151: Let’s talk about black people, a topic on which we are both experts.

2153: I also loath the gun lobby as much as I loath the Donald.

2154: Agree on implicit bias. No one else will that doesn’t already believe it.

2155: The Donald and the no fly list, good for you.

2156: I think Trumps people have a way to taser him. He’s calmed down a lot in the last 20 minutes.

2158: Trump and the manipulation of black voters for temporary gains.

2200: Trump is telling a very confusing story about Maclachi.

2204: Holier than though barb is decent.

2206: One of those things…one of those things you know about if you make $649 million a year.

2208: Private sector hacking is probably worse.

2210: He just lost the obese vote.

2211: Donald wants to cyber.

2214: Whenever she goes off script she says something awkward.

2216: “Longest military alliance in the history of the world…” Fact checkers!? Get on that one. NATO is like 65 years old. No.

2218: Donald is very focused on Donald.

2221: I think Lester is about to ask Donald when he stopped beating his wife, if Lester ever gets to speak again.

2222: Trump’s temperament.

2225: I almost want him to be president to prove him wrong.

2227: They’ve both dropped “cavalier” in 3 minutes.

2228: I’m going to bed. This is paining me. I’m depressed. Clinton was far less of a obnoxious blowhard, but no one changed their mind.

Olympic National Park

Over the years, I’ve kept a journal while backpacking. I did it again this time, only I was more bored, so it is longer.  I don’t really proofread these, nor do they go through the same editing process that I go through when I type.  I don’t find the right words.  I don’t down select for relevance.  I just slowly scribble on a tiny notebook.

Some previous versions…


8/26/16 1415
At Deception Creek camp, having covered 13.3 miles and 2500 ft of elevation gain in less than 6 hours. A few miles ago, I was complimenting myself on my pace. Now, I’m tired. I should have broken that up more. I’ve set camp and am on my way for the first of many pumps [water filtering]. On the western horizon, which is maybe 4 miles away because it’s a ridgeline, there is an ominous haze of smoke [from the wildfire in the park]. Other than a very smokey few minutes in the car, however, the air has been clean. I think that will be changing by the morning [it did not].

So, a solo hike. So far, not that eventful. I had no particularly profound thoughts. I didn’t solve any problems or reform my life. I mostly just walked. Thought about walking. And what I would do if the volcano blew or the Cascadia fault line slipped…but mostly just walked.

I did come to the realization of how alone I was. Not lonesome, but spatially separate. I do not believe that it is an exaggeration to say that you could have drawn a 2 mile radius circle about me and, for a couple of hours at least, I would have been the only one in said circle. It doesn’t seem like much, but think about that for a minute. 7 billion people on the planet and I have 12 square miles [or 7680 acres] all to myself. Alone. Not so anymore, there are two other tents here already. But for a while, I was a solitary red dot walking my way through the woods in an area that would include 5 million people around Manhattan.

8/26 1834
I’ve been reading and doing camp activities all afternoon and evening – peaceful. My two neighbors are still nowhere to be seen. I got here before 2 and have not seen them since. My best guess is that they know each other and are on some common adventure – bushwhacking to the top of a nearby mountain or down at the Dosewallips River proper (we’re a few hundred meters up a tributary). since they haven’t returned and since they seem to be on the same schedule, I’m wondering if they will return together and find that someone (me) has set camp in the common area between the sites. I’m going to keep reading out there to see if they return. Note: there are too many hours in the day here. I should have gone longer. Optimal solo hike distance? 15-17 miles [not so on subsequent days!]. I’ll have to do another activity, less I get too bored.

8/26 2000
Still no sign of one of them. The tarp guy is a massive [not very] guy with long white hair. OK, not that massive, gold guy. Still no one for the Big Agnes site.

Deception Creek
First night video [Intro was chopped off. I am showing my sites to the girls.]
Near Lost Pass, between first and second night
Upper Cameron Basin outflow

8/27/16 1430
5360 ft. Stephen is not here. Normally I go with him. When Steve is here, when we get to camp at 2 PM and there is a 7200 ft mountain a mile away, you can be sure that a summit will be attempted. I always go too, out of a faternal obligation to keep one’s little brother from an early grave [or at least see where the body ends up]. I am getting old. I don’t think I’ve ever felt it as acutely as I did while gaining 2000 ft of elevation between Dose Meadows and Cameron Pass. I had to stop to catch my breath every ten minutes. I was majorly sucking wind. Steve would have left me in the dust.
But Steve isn’t here. So, rather than clumb the extra mountain, I’m going to lay down and ready a book. He can keep himself alive without my help.

I did take some time to drop my pack and scout for sites here at Upper Cameron Basin. Walking around the glacier fed meadow, with nothing but a hat brought me back to my time at Belly River at Glacier NP, many years ago. There’s something extra wild about being packless, away from everything. There is no one else yet at the basin. I may be in my 2 mile bubble all night this time [it was probably a 3 mile bubble, and I was].

There’s something familiar about this place. Imposing ridgeline shelters glaciers. Relatively flat meadow, sometimes with a lake, criss-crossed by frigid snowmelt. Rocks as large as schoolbuses where you cook. Water smells chalky, some distinct mineral, magnesium perhaps? Basin drains through cascading waterfall, you pump the water right near where it drains.
I first saw this place at Stoney Indian in Glacier and was overawed by the gradeur. Then again on our second night in the North Cascades. Then again at Heart Lake the first time I was in the Olympics. Here in the Upper Cameron Basin, I have the entire basin – who knows how much more with the nearest campsite 3 miles away as the crow files. But it’s still basically the same. Maybe that is why I enjoyed Big Bend so much last year – it was distinctive. Peaceful as it is here, I’m a bit bored and definitely dreading the 10 hours of waiting for dawn as I alternatively deprive my arms of oxygen trying to fitfully sleep while shivering in my tent.
And I miss my girls, all of them. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, and maybe I need that every so often.
BTW: today was 9 miles and 3000 feet. It took all of 6 hours –> 30 minutes per miles, 30 minutes per 1000 ft. Includes rest and lunch.

The meadow at Upper Cameron Basin [sideways]
My camp at Upper Cameron Basin
Grand Pass between night two and three

8/28/16 1422
Arrived at Grand Lake a little while ago and scramble to set camp in the rain. I say scrambled, but I’m not actually moving quickly. Nothing out here does. Even the flies are lazy.
I’ve been talking to myself more today, though I actually felt stronger on the trail today. That might be because I made two walking sticks to serve as trekking poles. It made a big difference climbing to Grand Pass. So, it’s raining and I’m basically killing time until 6 AM tomorrow when I can break camp and hoof it out of here. One downside of being stuck in one’s tent? One is confronted with one’s overwhelming stench. I haven’t really felt complelled to jump into the 53 degree lake or 45 degree river – to wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway without soap. I’ve been rinsing my shift, shorts, and briefs in bodies of water, and that helps some. But they don’t call it swamp ass for nothing and no amount of lipstick is making that pig smell pretty. Or something.

One noteworthy event! I had human interaction! So, 25 or so miles into my adventure, and I finally saw another soul on the trail. And wouldn’t you know it, it was a lost young couple in need of assistance, having only meager navigation skills and subpar maps!

No, no, I swear, I haven’t spent 3 hours starring at this map in the last three days! It was nice to help. I miss people, it turns out. You see, I’m a extrovert in a narrow range of social scenarios. First, I can’t compete for attention. I’m an introvert around dominant personalities. But when I’m the dominant personality, bam, let’s all talk and acknowledge my cleverness and wit. Want to hear about the time I lugged 50 lbs on my back for 4 days? I was all by myself! Picture a 2 mile circle!

Vanity, vanity. I should have a blog! I can control the discussion, framing it in ways to make my views unassailable. Or talk radio? Or maybe I’ll just dominate meetings at work!
All this self-reflecting, you know? But I already knew all these things, enlightened and self-aware as I am. I’m just bored and trapped in a tent with nothing to think about but how much I stink.
(Full circle! Get it? OK, I’ll stop.)

8/28 1556
I think it’s important to do things like go backpacking. It forces you to confront things that you take for granted in your daily life.

The acquisition of water. While I have two hundred viable water sources on this particular route, that wasn’t the case in Big Bend. In fact, we ran out of water on our first hiking trip in New Hampshire. I dreamt of faucets that night. Then there’s the provision of food. Calories and protein, but also fiber. Then you have to force yourselve to eat it. I, for instance, currently have a profound lack of “give a shit”. I mostly just want to sit and sate. But, I suspect this is due to too few calories and too many miles on too few hours of sleep. Low blood sugar. Low something. Whatever the case, this apathy is something I only get under this specific set of conditions. Then there’s shelter. You have to BYO shelter.
And warmth. Last night, I wore 4 shirts (aka, all of them), pants, two pairs of socks, a winter hat, gloves, a silk liner and a sleeping back largely because I neglected to bring my own bag and am borrowing my mother-in-laws’ and she’s not 6′ tall. Sleep. Hard to do on the ground. Hygiene? A losing battle. And there are 7000 ft mountains (they were 11000 feet in King’s Canyon and the Uintas). Maybe hoardes of mosquitoes. And wild animals! Everyone knows about mountain lions and bears (I have no idea why I have yet to see any!), but also goats and deer that will chew on your clothes for salt if you leave them out.

Goats don’t chew your clothes in normal life. Water comes from faucets. Beds have blankets and pillows. Houses have bathrooms and in them you can wash off your filth and dispose of your excrement.

Trust me, it’s good to do without every so often. You should totally try it sometime.
Grand Lake

Badger Valley
Badger Valley again [BTW, it’s possible to get to this place with a strenuous 7 mile day hike. Worth it.]
Deer Path to Obstruction Point, nearer to Obstruction Point
Maiden Peak

8/29/16 12:34
Today’s walk was a celebration. Broke camp early, on the trail by 7:25. Finished 10 miles and about 2000 feet in just under 5 hrs. Felt strong and cheerful. Badger Valley and the ridge were both beautiful. Waiting for extraction, eager to see the girls.

In the last several years, Old Ellicott City has been flooded several times. Last night was the worst – worse even than when we got 2 feet of rain in a month a few years back. Why, then, was this the most devastating flood in EC’s 150 years of record keeping?

First, a quick disclaimer. I’m a hobbyist, not a hydrologist. That said, I don’t think anything I say will be objectively incorrect – an over-simplification, perhaps, but it should be pretty near to the truth. The reason why EC flooded is specifically related to rain rates. Here’s some data from the NWS last night:

NOUS41 KLWX 311619 CCA

Public Information Statement
National Weather Service Baltimore MD/Washington DC
1216 PM EDT Sun Jul 31 2016

…Historic heavy rainfall Saturday in Ellicott City…

Extremely heavy rain fell Saturday evening in Ellicott City,
Maryland. Thanks to rain gauge data from Ellicott City, which is
provided by Howard County to the National Weather Service, we have
detailed information on how quickly the heavy rain fell.

The following table lists the rain that was recorded by this
gauge. Note that the gauge reports in increments of 0.04 inch:

1 minute ..0.20 from 7:51pm-7:52pm
5 minutes ..0.80 from 7:50pm-7:55pm
10 minutes..1.44 from 7:50pm-8:00pm
15 minutes..2.04 from 7:46pm-8:01pm
20 minutes..2.48 from 7:44pm-8:04pm
30 minutes..3.16 from 7:36pm-8:06pm
60 minutes..4.56 from 7:30pm-8:30pm
90 minutes..5.52 from 7:00pm-8:30pm
2 hours…..5.92 from 6:45pm-8:45pm

The storm total at Ellicott City was recorded as 6.50 inches.

The nearest point precipitation frequency estimates in NOAA Atlas
14 come from Woodstock, which is approximately five miles away.
Based on this data, the precipitation amounts with duration 10
minutes to 2 hours statistically have a less than one tenth of
one percent (less than 0.1 percent) chance of occurring in any
given year.

This data is preliminary and is subject to correction.

This, folks, is insane. 2 inches in 15 minutes is an 8 in/hr rate. That rivals some of the rainiest places in the entire world. Though it has been dry, it is simply impossible for the ground to absorb that kind of rainfall that quickly. Think of your house’s downspouts. They collect water from your entire roof in gutters. The gutters funnel all of the water into a 3 inch wide downspout. You may have a 1000 square foot section of roof collecting into a downspout whose area is less than 1 half a square foot. If the rain rate is sufficient, you’ll back up that downspout and the water will cascade over your gutter. It’s even worse if you have several gutters joining together, both because it provides even more water to your downspout and also because the turbulence of that confluence inhibits the ability for the water to make smooth forward progress to the egress.

Something very similar happens in Ellicott City.

Drainage basin in the immediate vicinity of Old Ellicott City.

Drainage basin in the immediate vicinity of Old Ellicott City.

Here, you have a few dozen square miles of hilly terrain seeing rain rates of upwards of 8 inches per hour. All of this is funneled into a steep walled channel; the Tiber River running along Main Street, Ellicott City. This “downspout” dumps into the Patapsco on the far right hand side of the map – from there it has a much wider and more mature track on its way to the Harbor. But the confluence of these several tributaries around Old Ellicott City leads to a turbulent choke point. They water can’t drain fast enough. It overflows the banks.

Why did this much rain happen? Well, now you get into murkier territory. First, dew points were in the 70s. That, simplistically, means that there was a ton of moisture in the air. Why was there a ton of moisture in the air? You can keep rolling it back from one cause to the next, from heat waves to wind directions to ocean temperatures and on and on.

The safest thing to say is that every so often things like this happen. They happen in a lot of places. We got 4 inches of rain in two hours 2 miles easy of Old EC, and it didn’t really bother anything here as our drainage patterns are different. Every so often, that heavy rain happens in the wrong place and something catastrophic occurs. What is noteworthy about this particular event is its locality. Yes, we’ve been aware for days that heavy rain was expected in the area. But no one can predict this outlier event. One particular place got very unlucky.

End of objective fact and onto disputed ground.

Many climate models predict that more heavy rainfall events are expected under global warming conditions. This is VERY tricky to pin down, particularly when focusing on one locality compared to another. Some places will dry out, others will get wetter. It is, however, pretty well predicted that we’ll see heavier max rainfall events (again simplistically) because warmer oceans and atmospheres can hold more water. Let’s say that, under the paradigm of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries (the lifetime of Old Ellicott City), you’d expect by random chance to see an event like this once every 200 years. The global warming models might now be suggesting that you’d see an event like this once every 100 years, or 50 years, or 20 years. It doesn’t mean that any one storm is “caused by global warming”. It means that the witches brew that can spawn an event like this over some random swath of land will be available more often. More dice rolls means more snake eyes.

This is all still very controversial. In fact, I’ll say another controversial thing: I don’t know that global warming is a net negative to the planet. We may, in 50 years, have a globe that is more verdant than previously if examined broadly. The problem is that we’ve built our infrastructure in the previous few centuries (or longer in other places) given a particular climate paradigm, and that paradigm is changing. Maybe Manitoba will be the world’s breadbasket in 50 years, to the great benefit of some…while Oklahoma will be absorbed into the desert. Sucks for Oklahoma, benefits someone.

How do we adapt to our brave new world? I said something similar when Katrina destroyed New Orleans. To rebuild a city situated below sea level in a area prone to massive hurricanes is irresponsible. But here we are. The Army Corp of Engineers did what they could to reduce the possibility of disaster, but it’s still likely in our lifetimes. Same goes for Ellicott City. They can, will, and probably should rebuild. But it’s going to happen again, unless the overall dynamics of the fluid flow through the area are fundamentally changed. How does one do that? You got me! Dams upstream? Dredge both the Tiber and Patapsco? Or, maybe you abandon the lower floors of buildings? Do you move the location of parking lots? Even the best case might turn a once in 20 years disaster into a once in 100 years disaster. Given enough time and real estate, it is impossible to prevent every scenario.

It’s a difficult question. Last night was not the passage of a massive tropical system. It was a random summer storm. It could happen again tomorrow or not for 60 years. It’s nearly impossible to have predicted this, even two hours before it happened. Evacuations, once we could tell it was going to be a huge problem, would have put more people in cars during the 20 minutes when the river rose 20 feet. In a way, it’s merciful that we had zero warning because a half an hour warning would have led to people trying to save possessions and instead getting caught in the torrent.

Regardless of the causes, the whole thing leaves me sick to my stomach. Maryland is a state full of transplants, like myself, yet Old Ellicott City is a historically anchored area, full of character, history, and life. I have relationships with antique people there, my favorite bar is there, I’ve been there in the depth of winter and the heat of summer. My rehearsal dinner was there. We just brought the girls to the train museum two months ago and were in the caboose when a train rumbled down the tracks. It was a great experience in a great place, and I know that place is hurting now. I’m personally pretty bummed out today because in some way that place is also part of me. I do know that we’re supposed to stay away for awhile as emergency crews and those trained in this sort of catastrophe do their work. But I won’t stay away forever. Old Ellicott City will be back and I’ll be back there soon enough. History is shaped by events like these; last night is now part of Old EC’s history.


Clock, now gone


The other week, my daughter told her babysitter that she didn’t want to play with kids who had different color skin than her at the playground. I found this to be more disturbing than I should. My three year old occasionally comes off as a genocidal maniac when she speaks her ridiculous little mind. I generally know better than to pay her much heed. But, given the state of race relations these last few years and especially last few weeks, I couldn’t help but ruminate on it.

We don’t talk to our daughter about race beyond what the Big Book of Why tells us about melanin. Until we moved 3 weeks ago, our neighborhood was very diverse; say 40% white, 20% black, 20% Hispanic, and 20% Indian/East Asian. We were at the playground constantly, and my daughter played well with all kids, without distinction. She would occasionally make references to the girl with the brown skin, but the category “black” meant nothing to her. In fact, she once called an Asian girl with jet black hair “the black girl” while we were also playing with a girl with dark skin. It is the quintessential “color blind” approach. I kept thinking to myself that maybe if she grows up in an environment like this, she’ll know nothing different and her world will be better than the current one.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t grow up in an environment where the default is an equal footing. In fact, I think it’s impossible to passively maintain an understanding of racial equality. Now, humankind in general and white America in particular have a history of malice and are subconsciously tainted by our culturally inherited prejudices…but even in absence of that, I think it’s still impossible. Children cannot ignore obvious discriminating criteria when making value judgments. Race is too obvious for them to be blind to it.

For instance, you go out on a hot driveway barefoot, and you say “that’s hot, I don’t want to do that anymore.” We always correlate based on limited data. In the case of driveways, it’s called common sense, but in the case of people, it’s called stereotyping. In previously mentioned playground incident, we suspect that she came across some rowdy kids who happened to be black, and generated a theory in her head: kids that look like that always act like this. She then tests that theory with all of her future encounters. She’s said very similar things about big kids and boys previously – she doesn’t want to play with the people that recently made her uncomfortable.

The problem, in my mind, is because of confirmation bias. This is a statistically fallacy that we are all guilty of, and one that, I believe, is further strengthened by our deep seated cultural prejudices. Confirmation bias is the idea that you will make a theory, use all supporting data to support your theory, and ignore all opposing data. For instance, I’ve always thought that cops are more likely to pull over black people and pretty women on the highway. Now, some data would say that this profiling is probably statistically supported (at least the black people part), but that’s besides the point. I find myself seeing a car on the side of the road, making an internal bet (“I bet it’s a black person or pretty woman!”), and then giving myself a high five when it’s true. But when it’s false I don’t say “huh, what a crummy theory.” I instead forget that datapoint and wait for my next high five. Confirmation biases always support your own dumb theories, whether justified or not.

Certain characteristics are obvious and easy to associate. Gender, skin color, weight, height, hair color, and so on. We cannot help but draw correlations between these characteristics and behaviors. Once we make these stereotypes, we cannot help but amplify them with our confirmation biases. In order to avoid developing prejudices from these initially harmless daily observations, we must actively evaluate our thoughts. A three year old isn’t particularly introspective. In those cases, we adults have to help them avoid developing bad attitudes, in the same way that we force them to say please or thank you.

A few voices that I respect recently pointed out that the “colorblind” approach is not doing anyone any good. It’s for the same reason that the “all lives matter” rejoinder to the current discussion is useless. We’re not starting from a place where we are prone to respect everyone equally. To be blind is to ignore reality and to leave it unchanged. We certainly aren’t blind by nature. Look at human history – when have we not enslaved, degraded, and persecuted? To combat these trends, it takes an active approach in opposition to our nature.

I have been thinking about how I could handle it if my daughter popped the “I only want to play with kids with the same color skin as me” statement in my presence. One response is “you’ve played with plenty of people who are different than you, don’t be ridiculous.” But that doesn’t correct anything. Maybe a better one is “people are sometimes mean to other people because they are different than them. You’re not allowed to be. Everybody’s different and you can’t decide who you don’t want to play with until you get to know them. Now get out there and say hello or we’re going home.” She doesn’t get juice if she doesn’t say please, she doesn’t get the playground if she disqualifies friends because of how they look. And as adults, we need to do the same thing, either via deep introspection or by talking to someone who has a perspective that can shed lights on where we fall short. There’s no quick fix here, and we might only be able to identify and address a percentage of our own shortcomings. But we can at least help our kids develop less of them than we did.

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