some of you out there may be wondering (well, ok, maybe one person if i’m lucky) just what i sit in front of the computer programming all day. well, i’m happy to announce that i’ve released the first beta of a new module that incorporates the google maps API into this site! i’m very excited about this module. i guess i really am a nerd. “so, what does it do already?” you may ask. well, it lets you plot images that you take with a camera onto a map. i can record the exact spot in which photos are taken, globally. instead of rambling on here, i thought you might like a little audio visual tour, click the image below (please be patient):
ok, staying with a couple that have a one year old and three year old can be an adventure to say the least. 😉 the youngest is having his “thol” tomorrow. “thol” in korean means “rock”. it’s basically a first birthday party. it’s a BIG event for korean babies. it’s all based on historical tradition i’m told. in the past, after the war mostly, food and resources were so scarce that times were really rough. so when a baby survived starvation and disease and made it to the first birthday, it was an occasion to be celebrated! i think calling it “rock” adds permanence, kinda meaning the kid is solid, and here to stay. at least that’s how i take it. the sixtieth birthday is also a big celebration in korean tradition. i think the idea runs along the same lines. if you made it to sixty during the hard days, you were indeed blessed and worthy of some hoopla!
so yesterday i was recruited as child photographer for dong-hyun’s (kyle’s) thol. i haven’t shot people all that much, let alone one year old kids. it was no picnic, but i must admit i had fun. i threw in a shot of tong-chul (nathan) to balance the situation. all i can say is cute, cute, cute, on both accounts!!!
it’s been a long while since my last post. i’ve been having programming delirium tremens for about two weeks or so. once you start programming it’s much like a drug. you develop a compulsion to go further and further, pushing your mind and body to the limits, at least i do anyway. once you stuff a few hundred variables in your mind, you don’t want to stop and switch gears, trust me. so you feel like you must just push on until the problem or loop comes to a conclusion. it’s frustrating and maddening but when you see the outcome it usually seems worth the pain.
so after burning the candle too long i needed a little rest and relaxation. jiyeon’s best friend yeonji (look at the spellings, must be something karmic there) offered to give nancy and i a private korean tea ceremony and then take us over to her pottery studio. the tea ceremony was very formal and my heart was beating fast the first time i participated, but i loved it! we tried video taping it and my intent was to post it here, but the video didn’t turn out so good so it’s an excuse to do it all again… 🙂 crafty, no? we recorded the ceremony twice trying to get it right and the second time through was much more relaxing and meditative. the formality becomes like a game you and the server both play. yeonji’s exacting motions were soothing somehow on my mind, and by the time she got to the point of serving me the bowl of tea, i felt very relaxed and clear. and besides, tea and coffee are two of my favorite things, so what could have been better? i am looking forward to going again and can’t wait to post some “good” video here.
after the tea ceremony we headed over to her pottery studio called mudfire. she gave us a tour and it felt good to be in a studio again. memories of art school came back in a flood. i felt at home again. after the tour she picked up some porcelain clay and she cut two big slabs for nancy and i to play with and then headed off to the throwing wheel. i sat and just played with the clay. after the relaxation of the ceremony, this topped everything off. my stress was all releasing and it felt so sensual and grounding at the same time. i first made a little devil head sculpture but yeonji came over and informed me it was too thick for the kiln. or maybe she just didn’t like my little devil? hee hee. so in the end i made two items, a cup and a little bowl with a spout of sorts, both a little deformed of course. nancy and i both just formed the clay by hand and didn’t attempt the throwing wheel. i snapped some pictures of yeonji working on some tea bowls, she made three that day.
so today was mostly driving, and then more driving. we hit very bad construction and traffic on route 10 which delayed us and made our day much longer. the clouds were beautiful though and the weather was clear and hot. i enjoyed every rest stop more than usual. 🙂 we stayed at a campground off the beaten path in louisiana called the tchefuncte family campground. the road leading to the campground was a two mile course gravel road that covered the entire car in a layer of brown dust. if the dust were darker it would have looked like cars do after a volcano errupts. the poor neon has been through so much!
the campground staff were friendly and nice, but the swampy environ of louisiana breeds many mosquitos to torment your body. i made cooking go as quickly as possible. the bathrooms were clean and they had wi-fi, an added bonus. we tried to web cam with inbo but only managed to get about five minutes out of the connection. the wi-fi bandwidth was just a bit too slow there. we did get to see nathan spin inbo around and around in his office chair for a few minutes though, so it was well worth it. 🙂
the next morning we packed up quickly and got on the road. the day was long but the highway heading north was smooth travelling and we didn’t run into much construction at all. we arrived in atlanta sometime between 6 and 7pm on march 10th… i can’t wait to find a shower and a bed!
we got up early today and made quick preparations to leave. today is the beginning of the “sprint” east. we won’t be stopping at any intriguing or out of the ordinary destinations from here on out. it will be drive, sleep, drive, sleep, drive and then land at inbo’s in atlanta georgia. the early driving was very nice. we took a scenic road south to connect up with route 10 east again. last night we heard coyotes a few times and it was exciting, today as we drove we saw one in the middle of the road and then it quickly ran off into the bushes. what a thrill though, even to get to see one! later along the drive i saw four javelinas on the side of the road. i think it was a family with two adults and two smaller ones. so cute!
our stop tonight was the d & a rv park in seguin texas, just on the eastern side of san antonio. well, we could both tell this was going to be a rough one just from the phone conversation making a reservation. but let’s back up just a bit. we started driving early today and were getting very hungry. we were both getting cranky and each time we saw the exit signs with cuisine listings, we were continually disappointed: mc donalds, sonic, ihop, waffle house, hardee’s, wendy’s, cracker barrel, etc, etc… it doesn’t seem like there are ANY independant businesses left these days. besides that, the choices above have much left to be desired for a vegetarian, let alone somebody even vaguely concerned with their health prospects. so we finally got so hungry that we picked this ihop, it’s just breakfast food right? ok, so i’m not sure i want to go into details, but ihop is off the menu for the foreseeable future.
this brings us back to d & a. it was situated about 150ft from highway 10, so the road noise was kinda like being at a nascar speedway with front seat tickets. ah, back to the “real” world, what a delight! 🙂 the park was typical enough, many retired people with rv’s setup in rows, with elaborate patios and lawn balls and garden knomes to boot. it appeared that many of them lived there in a permanent capacity. it seemed really strange that you would choose this place to bed down. but with a $200/mo rate, i can see how old-timers with limited incomes may end up here. what really got me was what i saw directly behind the rv park. i’m not sure if the rv park owned the land or some business beside them. they had fenced in lots with nothing but dirt, no vegetation at all, filled with different exotic animals. some looked african, some more north american, but they were all commodities of some kind to be sure. and that brings me to my point… (oh great, here he goes again, right?) EVERYTHING is a commodity in the world today, people, animals, trees, buildings, anything you can name is bought and sold without any consideration or feeling. i won’t go on and on about this, but this spells disaster for everyone. think about it please, long and hard. changes need to be made.
i wish i was still back in the trees and mountains, fresh air and cool waters… but how long will they exsist? will there be things like this left in the future? even now i have to pay for the privilege to walk on a mountain trail in nature… pay just to be able to experience the natural world. bought and sold, bought and sold. if a spiritual balance isn’t found collectively with human kind, i fear for all our futures. ugh, i sound so preachy and silly, i’ll stop now.
since we arrived relatively early yesterday, we spent the afternoon relaxing. we ate and then ate again. after food i had to worry about my near dead camera batteries again and so i went on a search for hidden plug connections. the campground said there was no power available, but where there is a vending machine there is a way. 🙂 my interest wasn’t in the power aid they were selling but the lonely little power hookup in the back that wasn’t taken. i plugged in my camera battery and went back to the truck to read for a few hours. i’m about 3/4 finished with a book about diving called neutral buoyancy. this was a gift from charles and i must thank him for it because i have been enjoying the book very much. i must admit i don’t usually go in for diving books. but once i started reading this book, i couldn’t put it down. it’s a historic overview of the evolution of diving, from the first drawings and musings of a man walking underwater to cousteau and everything in-between. the writer has a sensibility that i enjoy very much. after reading until i couldn’t see anymore we prepared for bed. walking to the bathroom during the night i remember seeing the stars like it was the first time again. the night was warm and breezy, pitch black and the stars were glowing so brightly that you could even see the murky glow of the milky way. it made me realize some things in an instant. it made me think alot about my life choices over the past few years, and some of the things i’ve been missing caught up in the daily grind. the night felt very awake and alive, and so did i: things were good.
the next morning we planned on getting up at like 6am to go hiking again. well, we were a little late. i think we must have hit the trail around 9am or so instead. the sun was already hot, and during my short walk to the visitors center to pick up a map i was wondering what i was getting myself into. i was also regretting not getting up earlier as planned. after speaking with a man in the morning who had done several of the trails we decided to do a combination of trails that lead to hunter peak. this is the map we used:
we were camping at pine springs, so that was our starting point. we hiked up the tejas trail which was steep switch backs that wound around the front and then the backside of the mountain in a sort of upard U shape. the views were spectacular. the following sequence maps our journey visually:
the first shot is a view from the tejas trail of just shortly after leaving the campground. the second shot is a view of our penske truck at the campground from somewhere along the tejas trail. it’s the little yellow dot in the middle. 🙂 the third shot is a rock structure looking back down the trail right after you take a sharp bend to the back side of the mountain. the fourth picture was taken from just about the intersection with the bowl trail. you can see the winding switch backs of the tejas trail below. you can also see the rock structure from the previous picture in the lower right. the road in the far distance is the highway we took to reach the campground. the fifth shot is from hunter peak at 8368 feet. we both crashed and ate our snacks and nancy took off her boots while i ran around snapping images. you can see the campground as a little square shape in the middle and the front side of the tejas trail on the far right in the middle. the sixth shot is taken on the bear canyon trail just shortly after starting the descent. this trail was extremely steep and rugged. it was very challenging to stay upright going down. the seventh and final picture is from the frijole trail looking back at bear canyon.
when we arrived i was a bit disappointed at first. the view looked liked typical desert mountain formations. but as we climbed the subtle qualities and dynamic changes in both landscape and vegetation really struck me. guadalupe mountains was really amazing. again, i feel like we barely scratched the surface here. i could have spent months exploring. it’s also frustrating trying to take decent pictures when you don’t have time to wait for the “right” light. but with that said, i feel very fortunate to have had the chance to visit this wonderful place, for any amount of time.
we planned on getting up early today, around 6am or so and eating breakfast before heading out. the alarm came and went and we ended up getting out of bed around 8am. the drive to the Guadalupe mountains was only going to be 3-4 hours so we figured we’d take advantage and sleep in a bit. it really felt good. we slowly got up and started heating water for breakfast and washing up. there were these strange birds calls going on in the background. I tried to record some of the sounds with the video camera. that’s the video above. the clanking in the background is breakfast making activities. I increased gain a bit on the audio to get the bird noises sounding a bit more clear. I shot the video standing at our campsite. nancy and I both had a hard time pulling out of this campground as it was one of the most interesting of the trip. I really wish we had more time here to explore. there was a really good looking hiking trail right next to our site that headed up to the peaks in the video. too bad, maybe next time.
the drive to Guadalupe was pretty easy except the drive through el paso, texas. nancy was a bit nervous driving through multiple lanes with heavy traffic. I know the feeling, I had to do it in Tucson. we arrived at the national park sometime around 3pm and setup “camp”. for those of you curious about our “camp” setup, I’ve included the picture above taken at Aguirre springs. we were planning on tent camping, but when the temperatures were freezing and below with wind chill, we improvised. I call it the poor man’s RV.
we pulled into the roadrunner rv park in alamagordo new mexico yesterday at around 3pm. here’s the good news: hot showers!!! can I get and amen? the water was hot and the soap never smelled so good. here’s the even better news, wi-fi access. we had a chance to delete about 200 spam emails and deal with some business. then we hooked up with my parents and were able to web cam. it was cool and the first time I’ve tried something like that. the world is becoming more and more connected. once wireless access and compression barriers are broken, there will be very few limits. I think there are very few limits now actually, I just think access is being spoon fed to everyone at the moment.
this morning was cold, cold, COLD… I think this was the coldest morning so far. “welcome to the new mexico desert” was what the RV park attendant told me. we decided this would be a good morning to eat breakfast out. ? so we headed out and found a denny’s… twenty-four hour goodness… except they were closed for “maintenance” and the truck was in a really tight parking lot. fun, fun, the adventure never ends. so I pulled a dukes of hazard style hairpin turn and got out of the parking lot. lucky for us the waffle shoppe was open right next door. mmm… mmm… the place was hoppin’. I think in these small desert towns there is probably only one or two places to eat breakfast, so it’s kinda like a church gathering, everybody bumps into everybody else. lot’s of “hey slim” and “hola jose” comments going on. we were clearly out-of-towners. quick glances and whispers. news travels fast in a small town. and I think they noticed the moving truck, probably trying to figure what was going on. so I had a Belgian waffle, two eggs and hash browns with a relished cup of coffee. nancy had a vegetarian omelet with toast, hash browns and a glass of water, of course. I do have to mention when I ordered the waitress looked at me and said “you don’t want any meat???”, with a certain disbelief. hahaha. so breakfast was good and we headed out for white sands.
white sands was very white, as promised. the terrain changed very rapidly as we entered. all around alamagordo and just outside the entrance gate, it’s the usual desert scrub brush and cacti. soon after entering the gate you start to see very high mounds of white sand with different kinds of vegetation thickly clinging to it. the further you make it into the park the more the vegetation thins out until only the most rugged survive. the landscape turns into an undulating sea of pure white sand dunes piled as high as thirty to fifty feet or more. in the depressions between dunes small eco systems of vegetation develop. some shallow pools of water also surface in these areas feeding the local system. my first hike out into the dunes was a big adjustment. I was immediately blinded by the sun reflecting off the white surface. it was disorienting actually. I had to stop and close my eyes to stop the pain. I also noticed how dry my throat was after only one quarter mile of hiking. but the seductive beauty of the dunes were not to be denied. it was the largest expanse of open dunes I had ever seen. somehow the rugged desolation and pure white expanse was liberating. the external emptiness forces you back inwards. I see why many religious texts have stories of enlightenment in the desert. I thought my feet would be burned by the hot sand, but once I tested it out, it was actually quite cool, even downright cold at times. i think it’s partly due to the white color of the sand reflecting the heat instead of absorbing it, and partly the cool water hidden below the surface in the depressions. the nights get sub-zero here and the sand and water are slow to change states. it’s an interesting juxtaposition. at the heart of the sands we took a long hike out into the interior. we used a snow peak mountain off in the distance as a navigation point back. once crossing a few mounds it becomes extremely disorienting. everything looks exactly the same. I see how it could be extremely dangerous getting lost here. we spent about two hours out in the sands before we made it back. we both downed water liberally and felt much better for it.
we headed out of the park around 3pm and headed for our overnight destination, Aguirre Springs campground about an hour or two south. the campground is located at a much higher elevation in the mountains. the mountains separate the city of Las Cruses from the white sands area. I didn’t mention it before, but the white sands national monument is actually located in the middle of the white sands missile test range. basically it’s a huge expanse of land with natural mountain barriers on all sides that contains a large military base and open expanse of land for missile testing and fighter pilot training, etc. there was another big boarder patrol check point here. we went through one of these in Arizona as well. it’s scary stuff. sniffing attack dogs, agents with lots of guns, large signs with “threat level high”, etc, etc. they ask lots of questions and see how nervous you are in response. I’m not sure this was all just border patrol related, I’m sure homeland security was at work as well. anyone coming close to a big military complex must make the military nervous these days. well, I don’t want to go off, but if we avoided this disastrous course of action our country has pursued over the past years things might not have to be like this. we also need to address immigration issues as a nation. taking harsh border control measures and xenophobic actions are only going to make things worse for us in the end.
back to Aguirre springs now. as we climbed up the narrow road to the campground we saw only snow covered peaks with our destination at the base. oh boy! another cold night? the terrain was beautiful, large rock boulders and cacti with trees and various other shrub plants. the mountains were towering in the background covered in snow, a beautiful place. at three dollars per night, it’s a bargain. to my surprise the temperature was ware and there was almost no wind. from the high elevation you could see the wide open country below starting from the white sands missile testing facilities stretching out to the vague outlines of white dunes in the far distance. as night fell you could see the glow of city lights in alamagordo far off in the distance. tomorrow we leave for the Guadalupe mountains national park in texas.
our next destination was about three hours drive away, still in arizona. we reached chiricahua national monument about an hour before sunset. wind and freezing nights seemed to be back with us. but there was an added bonus, heated bathrooms! 🙂 ah, it’s the small pleasures in life, right? we drove to the summit that night at sunset to snap some pictures and boy was it windy and cold. this gave us a good idea of how to prepare for the next days hiking.
we got up early and made it to the visitors center to catch a shuttle bus that takes hikers to the summit. this is the cheaters way to see the good stuff, get driven up and then just hike down into the valley back to the visitors center. 🙂 we hiked around 8 miles and with the whipping wind and cold, it was not an easy task. but the balanced rock structures were so amazing i don’t think we cared much. i have so many pictures to look through and edit from this hike… so more to come in the gallery.