Friday, December 21, 2012

The Vegan Experiment

     I recently met with a friend I hadn’t seen in several months.  He dropped 45 pounds and looked and felt great.  He told me that the movie “Forks Over Knives” had introduced him to a vegan diet that led him to a healthy meatless existence.  I watched the movie and read over the Engine 2 diet.  These guys link the consumption of meat to just about every health problem known to man, much like the “Wheat Belly” folks demonize wheat products.    They approached it from a nutrition standpoint with no mention of animal rights or anything on that avenue.  After discussing his diet, I told him I believed the weight loss came from reducing “white” carbohydrates and junk food, not the elimination of meat.  I decided it was time to prove a point.

     I read up on Engine 2’s 28 Day Challenge, in which the diet’s creator, Rip Esselstyn, promotes a plant-based diet that fueled him through his career as a professional triathlete.   Go ahead, read the last two words again.  Got it?  That’s right, PRO triathlete.  I haven’t done any endurance racing in a while, so I decided to brush up on distance running during the 28 day experiment since I’m between fencing tournaments for a while.
     Boring diets are no stranger to me.  It’s the price you pay to lose weight, and I used to tip the scales at 250 plus pounds.  At the end of the 28 day period, I was up five pounds and couldn’t wait to get back to an omnivore lifestyle.  I’d like to share my observations with you:
1.        I’m pretty sure even God hates kale. 

2.       I have no problem with tofu as its creators intended.  It is an abomination to attempt to pass it off as anything else. 

3.       It was easier to stay hydrated

4.        I actually had dreams about eating meat.
5.       I added three additional workouts (weights and treadmill) per week in addition to my regular fencing regimen and still gained weight. I watched caloric intake to make sure I was eating enough- failure to do so can cause weight gain.

6.       A wheat-based breakfast left me fighting for consciousness by 10:00am. 

7.       A little fiber in your diet will make you regular.  An all-fiber diet will make you unstoppable. 

8.       The veggie version of any meat product should be against federal law. 

9.       I slept better and never had any heartburn or indigestion. 

10.   I now know why I don’t like most vegans.  It’s not their fault they don’t socialize well.  They spend most of their lives eating horrible food while staying hungry the whole time, they can’t eat any food commonly found at restaurants or parties, they’re broke from buying food from niche stores, they have a constant ringing headache and can’t be more than five minutes away from a bathroom. 

     I ended the diet by taking down a 12 pack of tacos.  I did gain some skill in making vegetables more interesting.  I’m still a believer that meats in moderation are important and vegetables are more than just a side dish.  I’ve added more whole foods to the mix.  Most importantly, I proved to myself that wheat is my personal dietary greatest evil.  I can say I gave Engine 2 a solid try and it failed for me.  I’m firmly convinced that we are products of our individual evolutions and there’s no one perfect diet for anyone. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Your First Telescope

     The West Texas Astronomers recently held a presentation at the Blakemore Planetarium that featured a show-and-tell view of popular “first” telescopes.  There is no better way to crush a budding young astronomer’s spirits than cheaply constructed gear.  What’s presented here is a consensus of local amateur astronomer opinions as to what will ensure the best observing experience without breaking the bank.

    We tend to avoid buying used things as gifts.  That’s usually the best way to extend your astro-dollar, but it’s understandable that hand-me-downs aren’t popular under the tree.  If you stick to the basics listed below and come across good used stuff, you may go bigger for the same or less money.  Astronomy gear tends to be well cared for and makes for an excellent value.  I’ve never owned a new scope!

     The first rule is to NOT purchase from discount, sporting goods, electronics or department stores.  It is very rare that reasonable quality scopes are found in such places.  The brand names populating our astronomy club’s list are Orion, Celestron, Meade and Vixen.  While these brands range from middle to higher quality gear, some of their less expensive gear doesn’t fit the bill for a beginner.  These brands are usually found only in astronomy shops.
     Without going into great detail, there are two types of telescopes in the price range for beginners: Newtonian reflector and refractor.  A refractor uses a main lens to collect light and focus it to a point where it can be viewed through an eyepiece.  This is the typical tube telescope we’re used to seeing.  Binoculars and spotting scopes work in this manner.  A Newtonian reflector collects the light with a large mirror which focuses the light to a second smaller mirror and then the eyepiece.   Larger diameters collect more light which allows the observer to see dimmer objects.  Of the two designs, the reflector gives more light collecting ability than the refractor for the same money, generally speaking.

     It makes no difference what “power” the telescope is.  Quality scopes advertising magnification power are, generally speaking, not worth having.  There are quality optics like binoculars and fixed-power spotting scopes where this number is important, but astronomical scopes have to be a bit more flexible.  Interchangeable eyepieces are used in astronomy to vary the field of view and magnification power to suit the conditions and the object viewed.  Very seldom is maximum magnification used.  Remember, diameter is king.
     The reflector with its larger diameter will provide good views of the moon, planets and stars with the added advantage of seeing some deep-sky objects like galaxies and nebulae.  Refractors in the same price range are less likely to see the “faint fuzzies” in deep-sky viewing but typically work for planetary and lunar work.  The refractor is a bit more durable and maintenance-free than the reflector.  Reflectors require collimation, which is the aligning of the mirror.  It’s a little tricky to learn but not impossible.  Fortunately there are some good YouTube videos on the topic in addition to several sites explaining the process. 
     Finally, you have to decide on a mount.  The general consensus of the locals is that the Dobsonian is king of the beginner mounts.  It’s a cradle that holds the scope tube like a cannon barrel.  It stays at a reasonable height and there’s very little setup involved.  Don’t worry, as you expand your interest in the hobby you’ll be able to spend thousands on a suitable mount.  I started with a “Dob” and it’s still a favorite.  The mount was invented for “sidewalk” astronomy at star parties.

     Here come the specifics.  The highest overall recommended scope by our local club is the Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian.  At $309 shipped, it’s a turn-key setup with everything needed to get started.  As for refractors, the Meade Terrastar 90 and Vixen Space Eye 70 are good values.  The refractors come with a tripod.  Make sure the scope you pick comes with an eyepiece or two.  Prices fluctuate, especially around the holidays, so make sure you search for the best deal.
     Entire books have been written about eyepieces, and they can get extremely expensive.  The most hardcore amateur astronomers I know still have a few $20 eyepieces as spares.  These are a very popular item to trade among other stargazers.  Just about any scope can use something in the 10, 15 and 20mm range.

     If you’re willing to spend a little more money, larger diameter never hurts!  Keep in mind that larger scopes get heavy, so check the specs.  Computer guidance  is nice, but it’s always best to start with an unguided scope to browse and learn the sky.  Pick up a star chart, Google Sky phone app or Stellarium and you’re set for stargazing!
     I strongly recommend hitting a star party or two WITH your scope.  You'll receive plenty of friendly support from your local astronomy club.  Any input is appreciated, so please feel free to leave comments!

Monday, October 22, 2012

ABC News: Bring a Phone to a Gun Fight

     In my previous post I shared the results of my informal survey about how and when armed citizens and off-duty police carry firearms.  I decided to run the survey and write about it after I ran across this ABC News story:

     In this story, ABC News seems to be telling us that the best action in an active shooter situation is to dial 911 and play dead.  They run an experiment designed to show us the ineffectiveness of armed citizens, and that it’s best to wait for professionals.  There are several problems with their story, and I hope the police instructors participating in the study were edited in such a manner as to look supportive of ABC’s opinion.  If not, they should be ashamed of themselves.
     ABC took some college students, ran them through a class taught by police instructors with Simmunition guns and trained them with more hands-on work than most states’ CHL requirements.  Each student is placed in a classroom while armed with their Simmunition Glock and surprised when an active shooter barges in the classroom and shoots the place up.  ABC is quick to jump on them for failures and mistakes while ignoring their own.
     First, the bad guys in the study are trained police instructors.  They are inoculated against the stressors in the simulation and do not act as all shooters would in the same situation.  The students are in a classroom and it takes them a while to understand that they are in a simulated shooting.  I believe they would respond sooner in an actual shooting.  People take more risks with training gear.  They push their luck because they want to learn limits that will save their lives later.  The bad guys in the study did something in the video that I believe is a real possibility in the real world:  When the test subjects returned fire, they stopped shooting random people and fixated on the person returning fire.   This will save lives.
     Also, think of how many shooters have been arrested after the shooting.  It turns out that some of them don’t want to be shot.  This would cause them to take cover or engage anyone firing at them.  Lives would be spared because anyone else could flee.
     ABC makes a huge statement about tunnel vision and how it causes a person to fixate on a target while ignoring innocent bystanders.  I’d like to note that none of the students shot a bystander.  They hit the bad guy, the floor and a wall.  ABC cites two shootings by citizens to support their stance.  In the first, a man shot his wife in their home.  It seems that he thought she was an intruder.  I see absolutely no correlation to the topic at hand.  That is poor judgment and failure to identify the target.  It’s not tunnel vision during a mass murder.  In the second, a clerk defends against an armed intruder and fires past a woman holding a small child.  They make a point that he fired inches away from the child, but again I see no relation to the topic at hand.  He didn’t hit the kid and he made the bad man go away.
     ABC wants us to play dead, call 911 and wait for the professionals.  This point is followed up by how even the professionals screw up shootings by hitting the wrong people.  They also make every mistake just as the study subjects did, and for the reasons they did.  They are humans  and training degrades if not repeated.  Modern police are trained in responding to active shooters, but the shooting is usually over before they arrive.
     I don’t find this study to be good science.  It seems to be politically motivated and not based on reality.  There are few active shooters stopped by armed citizens because a mass murderer chooses the crime scene based on probability of success.  They seek kill zones where the cops are far away and there is a confined mass of unarmed people to slaughter.
     In mass shooting, time equals human life.  The maximum number of barrels on the bad guy means less time and more people survive.  Opinions on firearm ownership are like politics and religion.  They are not based on fact, they are cultural.  This is a clear case of bias to align with one’s belief while ignoring reality.  There is no replacement for good training, and the vast majority of armed citizens have very little.  Many police don’t have enough and they probably won’t be there before the shooting is over anyway.
     The cultural fear of firearms produces kill zones where mass murderers do their work.  Teaching citizens to disarm, play dead and call 911 increases a murder’s success.  Firearms are a part of the American culture that will never go away.  They were here when the U.S. formed and can never be completely eliminated.  Mass murdering active shooters are an evil that the government cannot protect us from.  They will get their weapons no matter what laws are on the books, and they will kill as many innocent people as possible.  I am thankful to be surrounded by the people in my survey who choose to stand against murderers and those who seek to improve their success.   

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Armed and Concealed; The Survey

In the wake of all the recent active shooter incidents, I decided to take a survey of my Facebook friends to get a picture of our level of preparedness.  I have no way of knowing who participated, but I’m guessing most are in the Midland area.  I will be using the data to refute some claims against armed citizen’s effectiveness in mass shooting incidents.
First, the survey asked if the person had a concealed handgun license (CHL) or not, and asked if they were a peace officer or similar person.  14 responded as having no CHL, 20 with a CHL and 19 were peace officers.  The most common firearm is a full-sized automatic followed by a compact.  22 carry a spare magazine and 11 carry two spares.  16 people responding carry more than 17 rounds.  Peace officers were asked to answer the survey referring to their habits of carrying a weapon off-duty.
12 reported carrying their weapon inside a vehicle and two of them were peace officers.  All of the unlicensed folks carry in their car.  94% of respondents carry a phone.  Half said they carry a knife and/or flashlight.
I expected fewer CHL licensees to carry outside of the vehicle based on my experience as a CHL instructor asking renewal customers about their experience.  Most tended to carry less as time went on, much like rookie cops.  It’s encouraging to see holster use high, with 19 using a holster and 11 carrying in a waistband.  I hope the waistband people can be encouraged to adopt some sort of holster.  It’s hard to put up a fight when your firearm is in your pants leg or laying in the parking lot.

The survey showed a majority tilt toward good decisions when carrying a concealed firearm in public.  Peace officers showed a higher tendency to carry in a holster on their person and have more ammo available.  They also tend to carry a full-size firearm a little more often.   While this survey does nothing to evaluate skill and experience, it does show that armed citizens are very close to sworn peace officers in the equipment department.  It’s also worth noting that in places where concealed handguns are not allowed, half of the people in the survey would be disarmed. 
My recommendations for concealment have always been the same:  Full size or compact firearm (no nano-guns), strong-side holster, at least 12 rounds and a cell phone.  I’m happy to see this as a trend.  It’s not something I dreamed up, it’s just a matter of good sense based on experience.  Nano guns are tough to use.  Only movie stars can run a half-marathon through back alleys and not lose the .45 stashed in the waistband of their boxers. 

A mass shooter picks the crime scene based on the probability of success.  They’re looking for condensed targets like a crowd jammed in a doorway, close distances, and the likelihood that no one will resist them.  They will do their damage within the police response time.  All it takes is a single, well-placed opponent to stop them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Thought for Food

It’s been a year since I started following the Slow Carb Diet from Tim Ferriss' The Four Hour Body.  I’m still lighter than I was in high school and wondering why it took me 41 years to figure this out.  Friends have sent me links to books and movies that, for the most part, align with Slow Carb, Glycemic Index and Paleo thought.  If you're looking for some diet info, here's your summer reading/watching list!

The next book to come along was the book Wheat Belly (  Dr. William Davis explains how the wheat we consume now is not the same plant our grandparent’s ate and how elimination of wheat from one’s diet causes a significant health increase. 
Next was the movie Fat Head, which is a response to Supersize Me.  The latter is about a vegetarian who eats at McDonalds for a month and gains weight.  Fat Head is about a regular guy who also eats at McDonalds for a month while limiting carbohydrate intake and loses weight while improving his cholesterol levels.

Both Fat Head and Wheat Belly assert that starchy foods like potatoes, rice and breads are metabolized just like table sugar.  I was one of the people who thought that whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk was a healthful way to start the day.  I’ve since learned that I was biochemically ensuring that I would store fat no matter what I did or ate.  It’s a function of the glycemic index.  The general assertion is that our ability to process a high-carb diet has not evolved as fast as our ability to create it, hence the Paleo diet.

For years I wondered why calorie counting failed and eating whole grains wasn’t doing the trick.  Apparently birds are the only creatures on the planet well suited for consuming large amounts of grain.  I miss eating pasta and other wheat products on a regular basis, but I’ve become conditioned to looking forward to the one-day-a-week food orgy where I eat anything I want.  Re-setting the clock and quieting the beast is an important part of the diet.

Yet another friend told me that he lost 45 pounds on a plant-based diet after watching Forks Over Knives.  This documentary says that meat consumption causes cancer.  I can see the weight loss coming from the fact that refined grains are out of the picture too.  I’m not going to take the vegan plunge anytime soon, but I do eat more beans and greens than before.  A decent steak, plate of fajitas or chicken stir-fry is one of the few meals I look forward to. 

On an interesting note, I once tried vegetarian hamburger patties.  They’re not all that bad, but it’s not sirloin.  I had an elevated cholesterol level most likely caused by eating egg yolks because I had become too busy/lazy to boil ahead of time and eat only the whites.  I was downing about 6-8 eggs worth of omletes per day!  For about a month I lived on vegetarian meat substitute products.  It’s not bad, but damn sure not the real thing.  The result?  I gained weight even though I was working out regularly and otherwise maintaining the slow carb regimen.  The culprit was wheat gluten that was present in all of the vegetarian junk.  I went back to lean meat and chicken and the weight went away.  Once the egg yolks were gone the cholesterol got back in line.

There’s no denying that your genes define how you metabolize food, but there’s also no doubt that our average high carb and sugar diets are the cause of mass obesity.  The most common response to the Slow Carb diet is “I can’t go without my [insert processed wheat product here].”  Somehow we’ve developed a belief that each meal should be entertaining.    That was the toughtest part for me to master, because it's like breaking addiction.  It’s a matter of dealing with instant gratification that the "cheat day" takes care of. 
It all boils down to a diet centered around green vegetables and lean meats, reasonable exercise and completely pulling out the stops once a week.  There's nothing like eating a half-gallon of ice cream (using cookies as spoons) to lose weight.  That makes up for every craving supressed through the entire week. I'm convinced there's a perfect lifelong diet out there for everyone alive and I've finally settled on mine. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Fencing Classifications

My friends and family have made me feel like a celebrity for going to the U.S. Fencing Summer Nationals for the first time.  There are a few fencers from our club who have gone to the “Nats.”  From memory , Robert Walter, Mike Husband and Orlando Temple from back during the formation of the club, and more recently Jim Geitgey and Dr. Denise Fitzsimon-Hawke.  The latter two were both “vets.”
Fencers start with a rating of “U” for “unclassified.”  Depending on where they place in a tournament, they achieve a rating a rating of A, B, C, D, or E with A being the highest.  The rating is often followed by the year.  Yours truly is an “E09,” which means I rated an E in 2009.
                In a tournament, the number of competitors and their rating determines what ratings will be awarded to the top finishers.  For example, if enough fencers of varying ratings meet the standards for an “A4” tournament, here’s how the ratings are distributed:  The top 8 fencers are rated A, then the next 8 get B’s, then C’s to the next 8, etc.  For a tournament to meet standards of an A4, it requires 64 fencers with a specified minimum number of each rating.  The smallest possible tournament rating is an E1, where 6 unrated fencers would complete and first place would be rated an “E.” 
                There are currently 55 entries in my event and the ratings are well spread.  While your rating does indicate how well you fence, it’s easy to see how it’s possible for just about anything to happen.  According to the last few years of Nationals, there have been A’s finish near the bottom and E’s make it halfway to the top.  There are plenty of factors at play, notably how strong the competition is in your own yard.  Our division is dominated by Amarillo Competitive Fencing Association and the Texas Tech Fencing Club, both of which produce strong athletes so I definitely had to work for my “E.”
                I’ve never fenced an A, but I’ve been thrashed by B’s and C’s.  I’ve put a few points on all of them.  The only way I could describe fighting these people is like one of those dreams where you can’t run and you feel like your legs are submerged in quicksand.  Their speed and precision makes you feel as coordinated as a six month old puppy on a tile floor.  All of the ratings compete together, so U’s will face A’s and it all comes out in the wash.
                My hope is to promote to the finals after the pools.  I don't stand much of a chance in winning a rating because only the top 13 or so will rate and there are more than 13 A's and B's.  

                That’s the reason I’m aiming for the upper middle part of the very bottom.  I have a better chance of being hit by a meteor than placing high on the list, but I’ve set a goal that’s enough out of reach that I have to train hard.  That’s what amateur sports is all about!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Pentagon Magic Act

 In 2005 I received an e-mail linking me to's Pentagon Magic Act video.  I can't find the video anywhere now.  It appears that the website has given up the good fight entirely.  The mass-forwarded email came to me with only one line of text in the body:"Makes you think."  It was a Saturday morning, I was on my third cup of coffee and it was time to think.  The video documented all of the evidence the producer needed to prove that the 2001 attack on the Pentagon was an inside job.  I've never been able to get my mind around their logic, so I put some down on their video.  What follows is my reply to every recipient on that email that morning. 

I've made notations in brackets to explain the points made by the video.

The video linked at the end IS NOT the one I'm referring to.  It's a forensic video that speaks for itself.

My impression is that the producers want us to believe that the Pentagon was struck with a missile or lighter aircraft than the 757 used.  Lack of large pieces of wreckage, appropriate noise, large fire like the WTC, etc, are cited as evidence.  Here we go.

As for wreckage, the comparative photographs are of low speed accidents for the most part.  When pilots know they are in trouble, they will make every effort to slow the aircraft to minimize damage.  Makes sense, right?  When the landing goes wrong, this results in large pieces of the aircraft being torn away.  At high velocities, and especially when the aircraft strikes at a right angle (straight into the ground or a wall) the result is very small pieces of wreckage.  Search for a picture of the aircraft that crashed into a field on 9-11.  It doesn’t look like the ones on this video.  It crashed at a steep angle. 

The “small pieces” shown are aircraft aluminum.  The one carried by the man in the upper left hand corner is far too large to be a piece of a missile.

Fuel-air explosions are fast and hot.  More of the heat and vapors were contained in the WTC than the pentagon.  With more air, the fuel will burn out more quickly.

“It sounded like a missile” or went “piff!”  [witness quote on video] Missiles don’t go “piff.”  They go “roar.”  Pay a visit to your local model rocket club and ask to see a high-power rocket flight.  I guarantee it’s piff-free.  Those are bottle-rockets compared to a military missile.  I’ll bet that no one “interviewed” has ever seen anything that large fly at Mach .69 under 100 feet before.  It wouldn’t make much of a roar until after it passed.
[Video alleged that unbroken wire spools and windows proved impacting object was too large to be an airplane]Why did it leave undamaged wire spools and windows?  Because it MISSED THEM.  That’s like asking why Jackie wasn’t killed when JFK was shot next to her.

[Witness said he could smell the cordite from the missile.]  The witness who reported smelling cordite must have been standing next to a large cannon used to blow a hole in the building.  Cordite is a propellant for large artillery.  It’s not used in warheads.  Rockets or missiles use propellants like aluminum perchlorate and explosives like RDX.

[Impact hole too small for airliner]  What about the neat little hole?  Run a google search on this formula:   F=ma.  Any remaining structural part of the aircraft with sufficient velocity could knock a small hole in reinforced concrete.  We’ve all seen pictures of the fence pickets poked through palm trees after hurricanes.

Let’s assume the “Mind Control Machine” used a missile against the Pentagon.  They did a half-assed job at best.  Why strike a fortified target at it’s toughest point?  Why strike it at an angle?  Why not strike it with laser-guided air-dropped munitions?  We’ve all seen the videos from Iraq.  There would be no sound or evidence left behind… just a smoking hole.

[Too hard to hit building for an unskilled pilot] Was anyone surprised that a raghead terrorist pile of walking excrement was a bad pilot?  Did you know that aircraft like the 757 are very easy to handle once in the sky?  You need a yoke (that’s the wheel) two pedals and a throttle.  I’ve flown store-bought flight simulators that are more of a challenge than real airplanes.  Handling the airplane in the sky is the easiest part of flying.  Go ask your nerd friend (you know you have one) to fire up Microsoft Flight Sim for you.  After a couple of hours of familiarization, you’ll be ready to duplicate the tragic acts of September 11.

[Alleged that government confiscated video of a missile]  I was shocked to see that the “Mind Control Machine” confiscated security tapes of all of the private businesses on the route of the mysterious aircraft.  Can you imagine the gall of our federal law enforcement taking evidence of a crime?  One small question for the producers:  How the hell did you morons manage to get a copy of the Pentagon’s security camera when you couldn’t even get footage from a gas station?  Is the MAN keeping you down?

I’ve gone over their site.  It’s disturbing to me that anyone would dedicate so much time and energy into something so moronic.  Why is the evidence so strange?  Because we’ve never seen anything like it before.  The government isn’t working hard to debunk these people because it’s not necessary.  The vast majority of Americans have devoted their time, money and lives to protecting this country and recovering from the disaster that was a terrorist act.

"This chorus is the feces that is produced when shame eats too much stupidity!"  Dale Gribble, King of the Hill


I found an interesting FORENSIC video about the Pentagon attack:

Monday, January 16, 2012

January in The Bowl

     Over a couple of pints of Guinness at Murray’s Deli in Midland, Clif and I planned a winter hike in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  I’ve hiked the Guads with Clif many times, but never in cold weather.  We planned and packed for an overnight trip to the Tejas camp site from Pine Springs, returning on the Juniper Trail to Bear Canyon, a round trip distance of 12 miles with an elevation gain over 2100 feet. 

     We scrubbed one launch because of weather.  We watched the forecast closely and when the day temp for “The Bowl” was forecasted at 48 and 38 night on January 14, we dropped the hammer.  We got our backcountry permits that morning and headed out.  I was down to a T-shirt and jeans on the way up.  The temp had to be in the 60’s or better at the bottom.  There were patches of snow on the mountainsides from previous falls.   When we hit the top, the patches grew.  By the time we got close to the Tejas camp site, the snow was a total blanket and knee-deep in places.  As Clif said, the novelty of hiking in snow soon wore off.  We didn’t have problems with moisture or cold, it’s just tough to make way through powder.
     The good part was that much of the snow was packed pretty tight and getting through it wasn’t too bad.  The air temp was in the 40’s by the time we got to camp.  At about sunset, the temperature fell to 20 degrees and the parkas came out.  We managed to enjoy drinks and cigars over backgammon before dark.  I don’t think it got much colder than 20 degrees.  Wunderground showed the air temp at 32.  There must have been a heat wave near the weather station that didn’t reach our camp.  Despite the cold, we had a pretty decent night.  There’s much to be said for having good gear.  I slept in my new 20 degree bag with thermal underwear and stayed warm all night.  I heard Clif snoring like a bear in the tent next door and he assured me I returned the favor. 

     The wind was dead calm most of the time but that changed on the return hike down Bear Canyon.  The top felt like a 70mph wind tunnel.  The Bear Canyon trail is like a 1.8 mile staircase.  Clif has gone up that trail, and after his story I decided I’d never climb it unless I was being chased by its namesake.  Once we got in the foothills, we logged another “first;” We were hit by a gust of wind that blew both of us down.  The wind didn’t leave us alone until we got back to Pine Springs.
     We spent a total of 6 hours on the trail, and we were away from our homes for about 36 hours.  Both of us had our packs tweaked to about 40 pounds, but we could have shaved off some water weight had we known about the snow.  It pays to ask the headquarters about that sort of thing because they didn’t mention it when we got our permit!  I almost didn't bring my parka, but Clif reminded me of a spring trip almost 20 years ago when I opted for a lighter jacket to save weight.  We woke up in fresh unforecasted snow and I whined about being cold for the rest of the trip.

     Many kudos to Clif for packing the Nikon D40 and catching some great pictures.  I'll drag one along next time so there'll be more shots of him.  I’ve never found the words to describe a trip to the backcountry in the Guads. It’s the kind of place where you sit at your camp and just look around in amazement. I visit the park several times a year and never get bored with it.  Good photos are the only way to accurately describe what’s sitting on top of a mountain range three hours from Midland.