I love the colors in this sunset photo of East Lake. Yes, I took the picture (using a camera with, gasp, FILM!) and no, I have not “shopped” it with any software program. In fact, the colors were even more vivid and breathtaking standing there on the lake’s beach. The freezing windy weather was ruffling the lake’s surface pretty hard that evening, causing the waves to lap loud against the stone-strewn sandy shoreline. The cold quickly amplified with the sun’s departure,  signaling the time was right to head back to camp in nearby La Pine State Park. Traveling to this very area a few days before found me squinting at the landscape engulfed by a foggy snowstorm. So glad I returned.

Back to East Lake. She and her  larger sister, Paulina Lake, reside inside the five-mile diameter  collapsed oval caldera of the Newberry Volcano,  southeast-ish of Bend, Oregon.  The lakes are reminiscent of another more famous Oregon caldera lake, Crater Lake, as they are also crystal clear and not fed by any streams or rivers. Some speculate the girls were once one larger lake that split during one of the many eruptions that separated the two with lava flows, pumice, and ash.  For those not familiar with the geography of the west coast, Oregon holds a front row seat in the notorious Ring of Fire. Not the circus act. Not the flaming hurricane cocktail. Not the hair metal band. A real 25,000 mile horseshoe-shaped area around the Pacific Ocean rife with earthquakes, volcanoes, and volcanic eruptions (remember Mt. St. Helens in Washington State? She is a charter member). Because my purpose is to entertain, enlighten, enthuse, or similar, I will not turn this into a huge mind-numbing geology lesson about subduction zones, plates, magma, shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes, oceanic trenches and the like. Not that I find geology mind-numbing. I just know many are not of the same opinion. Suffice it to say 19 volcanoes dot Oregon and not all of them broken … just sleeping. Portland’s iconic Mt. Hood last erupted only 200 years ago.  You can see Mt St. Helens from downtown and that beauty was having minor eruptions in 1898, 1903, and 1932 until she decided to take her act to the big times and magnificently erupted May 18, 1980. Not to be quieted, she erupted four more times that year and is still active. Guess we should have paid more attention to the Native American’s name for her –  “Louwala-Clough” (smoking mountain). The majestic mountains we gawk over, take pictures of and from, ski or snowboard on, hike, climb, water ski, boat, and camp on are all bloody volcanoes. Every single one of them.  Oregon actually has an emergency operations plan (EOP) addressing each of them including those in Washington and California. Ooopssss I think I just slid into the snooze zone. My apology.

Returning to life un-retouched…Growing up hearing place names like Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Portland, Astoria, and Newberry Volcano must have desensitized me as I have found I took it all for granted. Not once questioning the origins or history – besides the obvious Mt. Adams and Mt. Jefferson. I have visited the Newberry  National Volcanic Monument many times since childhood. Although it was not designated as such until 1990. Did I know why Newberry? No. Did I ask? No.

Time out for a quick History for History Haters segment: Dr. John Strong Newberry (1822-1892) was assistant surgeon, geologist, and botanist to the 1855 topographic  Williamson Abbott Pacific Railroad Survey expedition to explore the area between San Francisco, California, and the Columbia River for future railroads. This means he was at some time that year exploring the volcano area. He was also one of those mega-beard guys. I don’t understand the fashion at all. Huge, long untrimmed beards on men in very dapper dark suits. Cannot tell if there is a tie of any sort under there, though.  In spite of his fashion sense (lack thereof), this man has a laundry list of achievements too long for this segment (*yawn*) but here is a good sketch for those interested. He was apparently a vastly talented, intelligent, friendly, and kind man who worked equally well in many fields. Why was the once Mt. Newberry come volcano named after him in 1902? The closest I can find is someone thought it was a good idea to name it after that geologist guy on the famous survey team. After looking for a good amount of time I have grown bored with the search so if anyone knows why he was chosen and by who, I would love to know.

I believe no matter where you live there is beauty in the world to see. So much to explore and learn. Seriously, it is all around us. So often our view is filtered through a software program or special adjustments. I prefer life without the fancy filters. East Lake speaks for herself, don’t you think?


The Idiot Parade

Posted: January 14, 2015 in A day in Life
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I will first apologize for this is probably more of a rant ( and if you don’t like rants you should probably stop reading here) and second for no picture but I am sure just driving to or from your place of employment, the store or wherever your gas/diesel/electricity/wind/nuclear/garbage-powered engine vehicle takes you, an envisionment of the Idiot Parade will be yours. (I am pretty sure that is not a real word but I like it and it fits, so there! Of all the English words people abuse on a daily…no hourly…no minutia basis, skip this one and go concentrate on there, their, they’re/its,it’s/where, wear, ware/too, two, to and oh for the love of Pete –  should of? REALLY? (and now I have to make more parens…for those lost on the latter it is should have or should’ve. Now go return your high school diploma and apologize. Nix that. Elementary school diploma.)).

The Idiot Parade is that line of cars that you get stuck in, even if NOT running late and in a hurry (which only amplifies the parade’s mass and inertia). If there is only one lane you are behind the bozo going 15+ miles below the speed limit OR the vehicle behind that bozo. You assume it is the most forward car’s complete ignorance of the world around him or her (or lack of a properly functioning gas pedal for the optimists in the group). That is until the passing lane. This is where the parade splits off into two lanes and now it is absolutely crystal clear that there are actually two bozos and now they are pacing each other leaving you stuck behind one or the other. If by some stroke of luck one of them turns off mid parade, just as you clear that vehicle you are immediately cut off by another vehicle that turned in from a side road. AND they have out of state plates. AND it quickly becomes painfully apparent that whomever is behind the wheel is texting, talking on their cell phone, eating a sandwich with a fork, putting on lipstick, cleaning out the glove box, lost, looking for an address OR any combination of these. You are doomed and you know it. But human nature prevails so you crank up the tunes and get your game face on. Denial is such a beautiful thing. And so you spend the (fill in the blank) X number of minutes (or Lord help you super city dwellers who live 20 miles from work and spend two hours commuting…HOURS) trying to vie your way around every float in that parade.

Then, there are the asshat (beautiful, descriptive noun) parade goers who get some sort of high off of irritating other parade goers. These are the giant bags of vinegar who will happily go 70 in a 55 just to keep you from passing. These are THOSE people who also love to do super sub-speed limit mphs until that solid yellow center line goes away and then will gladly do 20-plus over just to keep you behind them and flex that muscle just as you are passing. No wonder there is road rage. AND grumpy old people. And don’t get me going about the complete amnesia today’s drivers seem to have when it comes to turn signals. Or maybe it is just too physically difficult to reach up and go FLICK?!?!? Speaking of reaching up and going “flick”…I mean smile, of course.


My version – (History for History Haters)
Scene: General Ormsby M. Mitchel’s tent, Union Army camp somewhere in central Tennessee, early April, 1862. Mitchel is poring over a large map on a table, deep in thought. Standing near his side is a 30-something bearded civilian, James Andrews. A half empty bottle of Old Crow is on the table between them.

Mitchel: “What am I to do with those parasitic Confederates? There has to be a way to get Chattanooga out of their slimy paws!” He takes a long drink from the whisky bottle, slamming it down loudly on the table as if trying to punctuate his frustration.

Andrews: “Now Orms, calm down or you’ll have a stroke. If we could cut off their supplies….hmmm…what about destroying part of Western and Atlantic railroad that runs to it and all the bridges and telegraph wires along the way? That shouldn’t be very hard.”

Mitchel: “Jimmy that is a colossal idea! We could muster a few troops to sneak along under the cover of darkness and blow things up one night, all coordinated to go off at the same time. While some of the men set the charges, others would be destroying the lines and wires. Then disappear off into the woods, nice and safe. Piece of cake!”

Andrews: “No, no, no, NO! That is just crazy talk. That’s it, you’re cut off! What we should do is hijack a big ol’ passenger train right in front of everyone and drive it around in broad daylight. It’s only 100 miles. We can make stops along the way to pull up tracks and perform other acts of sabotage. Then you take some other guys and meet us in Chattanooga.”

Mitchel: “What was I thinking? Jimmy, you are a genius. [He draws a mouthful of whiskey from the nearly empty bottle] Alright, let’s go steal a train!”  Queue music: Jethro Tull’s Locomotive Breath………..

Later that month, April 12, 1862 to be exact, in Big Shanty, Georgia (Present day Kennesaw). The “General”, a steam locomotive built in 1855 by Rogers, Ketchum, and Grosvenor, is on a breakfast stop with the crew and passengers enjoying a meal at the nearby Lacy Hotel. Apparently no one noticed or cared to notice the group of men that had lingered behind. James J. Andrews and his rag tag gang of 20 warriors dressed as civilians had made their way to Marietta, Georgia where they all boarded the northbound General. Oh, and pretended to not know each other. [What? I think people would be a little more questioning and a little less trusting during those times.]

Scene: Engineer and crew sitting and eating at a window table at the Lacy Hotel. One of them notices the train, sans the uncoupled passenger cars, is leaving the station.

Conductor William Fuller: (turns from looking out the window and speaks to Jim Cain, the train’s engineer) “Hey, Jimbo, I think you left the keys in the train or the brake off or something because he seems to be moving.”

Cain: (Without looking up from his plate) “Don’t be ridiculous you cussed fool! You must be hallucinating. You got malaria or something? Been hitting up the morphine again? I swear Bill when we get to Chattanooga….WHAT IN TARNATION!!!” Cain finally looks up from his food, sees his train underway and flees the hotel in hot pursuit with Fuller and another crewman, Anthony Murphy. Queue the music: Chase music from The Keystone Cops.

Needless to say, Andrews Raiders are momentarily successful in spite of the fact they commandeered this train not only in broad daylight but from a depot fairly surrounded by the Confederate’s Camp McDonald. Not to be deterred were the General’s three pretty pissed off crew members who come across a flat car, bringing them up the line to Etowah. Off a rail spur is another a train, the Yonah, an old steamer the raiders passed and decided to leave untouched (hindsight is always 20-20).

Next stop, Kingston. Another hiccup – a large train traffic jam on the tracks – so they switch their ride to the fortuitously awaiting locomotive William R. Smith that was on the mess free side clear of the tracks. Off they go! Ahead of them the General is making stops for its captors to wreak havoc, one such incident causing the Smith’s halt. Back to foot travel  for Murphy and Fuller and for THREE miles until Lady Luck provides a new train, the Texas. But wait – that train is going the opposite direction. No worries! After backing up and dumping all the cars at Adairsville, the duo chase after the Raiders once more full steam ahead and in reverse! Meanwhile the initially clueless of their pursuers Union gang has quickly found stopping and pulling up tracks harder and more time consuming than they had thought [Oh. Really.].

The chase continues on but not for much longer. The picture above is near Ringgold, Georgia (five miles from Tennessee…so close!) on the Ooltewah Ringgold Road and marks the spot where the out of fuel General was abandoned. Not much earlier Andrews Raiders are very much aware of being chased and have been jumping off one by one and scattering and fleeing into the woods to escape.

The tablet in the picture includes all the names of the Union hijackers and their, to be blunt, disposition. Amazingly all are eventually captured. Not so amazingly Andrews’s adventure does not end well for him. June 7th, 1862 finds him a convicted spy at the wrong end of a noose in Atlanta (and not a very good hanging if there is such a thing – his feet touched the ground causing strangulation instead of the usual internal decapitation). Seven of his compatriots are also convicted as spies and suffer hangings as well. The lucky(ish) remaining 14 go on to prison camps where eight brave souls (thinking with nothing to lose here) successfully escape and take different and varying routes to end up safely behind Union lines. The other poor bastards are caught and severely punished but later freed from Libby Prison in a prisoner exchange in March of the following year. Private Jacob Parrott becomes the first of 19 Raiders to receive this country’s first Medal of Honor, including families of the dead. Sadly nothing for Andrews or Campbell because they were civilians. Sure seems like an exception could have been made – all for one, and one for all, right? And what became of our buddy General Ormsby Mitchel? Although Chattanooga was a big fat bust for him he claimed fame that April by seizing Huntsville, Alabama with nary a shot fired. Six months later a mosquito infected with yellow fever, the Civil War’s version of Ebola, finds the newly promoted major general and the disease takes him that October. Chattanooga is finally captured by Union Forces in September 1863.

And…scene. Queue music: Chattanooga Choo Choo.


  1. I don’t care if you do smartly pick the train depot without a telegraph, if it is daylight, there are people around, and the opposing side’s army encampment is right bloody there, maybe you should consider a different venue for your sabotages.
  2. Man those train dudes are supermen when it comes to someone snitching their locos.
  3. If you are trying to keep the enemy from coming after you, maybe you should not leave modes of transportation available for them like other locos hanging around on the spur ready to go. Just a thought.
  4. Have an emergency escape plan well hammered out if you are still bent on carrying out #1. Jumping off a train willy-nilly behind enemy lines should never be a part of that plan. Period.
  5. Planning for fuel stops should be always be at the top of the steal a train to do list.
  6. I’m sorry but how sad are you if (putting item #1 aside) you steal a train and get a head start and still get caught by guys that took off after you on foot, had to keep finding new trains to follow you with, negotiated a traffic jam, ran three miles at one point, and ended up going full tilt in reverse for something like 50 miles!?!?
  7. As if getting hanged isn’t awful enough…you know you are going to have an even worse day when it is apparent the quality control guy for the execution scaffolding called in sick and yours was built for XS and you are definitely a medium.
  8. Again, if a government can decide to enact a medal of honor then why in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks can’t it make it for civilians as well?
  9. Civil Wars are NEVER a good idea.

John Ownby Cabin???????????????????????????????

Actually, the name of this post should be “down the rabbit hole.” It is very often amazing to me how I start out at one spot, with clear intent and path, only to wander off nearly immediately and to end up so far off track I cannot even discern how it came to be. Seems at times I have lost all bearings. I do not remember how I came to having knowledge of John Ownby’s 1860 cabin in The Sugarlands of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Was this something that caused me to explore the Park as an option while visiting Tennessee…or did I discover the existence of the cabin during the planning phases of my excursion? I do know my ancestors that settled in these mountains were Ownby while my branch of the family that trekked to Fannin County, Georgia by way of North Carolina spelled their version Owenby. Others chose Ownbey. As you have probably surmised, this picture is of that 150-year-old cabin on the Fighting Creek trail. It is the last surviving structure from the pre-Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Forks-of-the River community.

Europeans showed up in the area in the early 1800s and called the valley “The Sugarlands” after the numerous sugar maples growing there. This valley at the time was populated with three small Appalachian communities…Forks, Sugarlands, and Fighting Creek.  I hiked alone that day and met no one on the trail and thought of the solitude these folks enjoyed or endured? I found the area peaceful as a day visitor who never had to LIVE here. The cabin, typical of the area in the 1860s, is one room…for the whole family and all their activities of daily living. It fell into disrepair and in the 1960s was restored according to the park’s info –  using original components  – except the fireplace which apparently has amazingly not been touched. The  chimney’s mortar is from the nearby creek. Not too far from the back door is a small spring used by the family for water and refrigeration. I walked around, looking at the cabin from all different compass points, peering into and out of windows, noted the worn floorboards at both entrances, wondered about the growing season and then plopped myself down on the porch and imagined raising a family in this little cabin in the woods. I tried to imagine a springhouse straddling the nearby spring for keeping their meats, fruits, dairy as well as other era appropriate outbuildings… smokehouse, chicken coop, woodshed, toolshed…did they have a barn? Was there a corn crib? I envisioned where a vegetable garden would best be sited and what they might have grown. Were there flowers? Did it include herbs for cooking, health, and healing? Was enough grown to trade at the small local store? Did the misses sit in her chair on the porch in the evening working on willow or oak baskets? They may have been in the area in 1856 when White Oak Flats changed its name to Gatlinburg. Did they know the flamboyant preacher Radford C. Gatlin and why he was later banished? A majority of time must have been spent on raising food and trying to survive leaving very little time for much else. Was there time for John to vote for the 1860 presidential election…in Tennessee the soon to be president of the United States,  Abraham Lincoln, had so very little support his name did not even appear on the ballot! The following February secession was on everyone’s mind with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina,  and Texas already separated and the seeds of the soon to be Civil War sprouting. Questions, questions, questions came to mind as I easily slipped into my thoughts and became pleasantly lost. How hard their life could only have been, every day a challenge in a rough physical environment teetering into the catechism of a disintegrating nation. I quickly realize try as I might I fail woefully short of any ability to imagine let alone comprehend even one day in their life. In my life a little cabin in the woods would be a vacation home.



Upside down or downside up? A question pertinent to this picture and sometimes life. I had excitedly started to climb these stairs inside the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. Yet, as I climbed only a few steps a feeling of trepidation started to wash over me. A couple more steps and  the feeling became a big wave of panic. I really tried to press on, keeping in mind the prize at the top of those 203 steps: a panoramic view of Daytona Beach. No dice. A fog of ridiculous fear enveloped me and try as I might, the grip of panic was too strong.  My body was failing me – ignoring my rational mind’s directions. I found out it is quite difficult to walk up stairs on quaking knees. I was now in the throes of a fight or flight response and no longer capable of countering the flood of adrenaline, cortisol, and noradrenaline coursing through my bloodstream. Despite a death grip, sweating palms easily slid along the cool metal railing as I shakily gave in to my sympathetic nervous system and descended back to terra-oh-so-thankfully-firma. My fear is not so much of heights but of falling so this episode of panic insanity inside the lighthouse was surprising and perplexing. I would not stand at the top of the 175-foot lighthouse with my back pressed hard against the tower as I have other times at other lighthouses. The acrid taste of defeat was still with me as I looked up to watch the others in my party ascend to my now out of reach brass ring. Standing there with my head cocked back like a Pez dispenser I saw the marvelous spiral…appearing like a giant equiangular spiral. The type of spiral found in nature like a nautilus shell or the tasty apple green Romanesco broccoli. Of course it isn’t really one because it doesn’t increase like the Spira mirabilis. In actuality the spiral staircase is a helix. Perspective is such a persnickety thing, just like life. I chose what made me feel comfortable that day I faced ascending the helix. The prize for successfully reaching the top was not great enough to outweigh the awful feelings I was experiencing that day.  Next time, if it presents itself, I may have a different perspective.  The prize may be enough to forge ahead no matter the discomfort.  Funny phenomenon tomorrow is, huh?

Image  —  Posted: April 20, 2013 in A day in Life
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The picture of the seabird on the beach at Gulf Shores was taken by me on a warm and cloudless October day in 2012. The surf line is well marked by a swath of broken and unbroken shells, strewn like multicolored gems along the shore. It is a peaceful picture. I can hear the waves crashing and receding, squawks and squeaks of birds in flight or running merrily along the water’s edge, and voices muffled by the sounds of  the sea. What you don’t see in this picture are the guys just down the beach with nets like giant kitty-litter shovels sifting through the sand for  tarballs or the tar encrusted shells. It has been over two years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (what most of us call the BP spill). Snorkel SCAT teams (shoreline cleanup assessment technique) personnel are still working the area beaches (including nearby Pensacola) as they have been since that fateful summer. These teams search for underwater oil and record precise locations using GPS. Information gleaned from this systematic process is used for determining clean-up and treatment options in consideration with the environment. They continue to find thick bands of submerged tar mats while the tourists play in the sun and sand farther up the beach. I was in Gulf Shores the fall of 2010. No one was allowed on the beaches except the members of the spill’s inter-agency Gulf Coast Incident Management Team including USCG, NOAA, Fish & Wildlife, DEQ, ADEM (Alabama Department of Environmental Management) and Polaris. The team I followed started out in Panama City, FL that August. Although some members have been changed out, there are a few who have worked together all along, spending pretty much every day of the week at the beach, in the water, season after season. The point of all this babble about the oil spill? Look at the picture of the bird.  Does it make you think of dudes with bright green gloves and giant nets and shovels scooping tar turds off the beach while children romp in the surf nearby? Teams of wet-suit clad snorkel teams in the water digging a long shovel into the gulf’s bottom in search of oil muck? Gathering shells that will later need to have clots of tar extracted? Nooo and see there is that point. Life is often more than meets the eye. We often see only what we want to see or chose to not look any closer. Some look for the good, others only the bad. There are ALWAYS choices.

Gulf Shores, AL

Gulf Shores, AL beach

Image  —  Posted: April 11, 2013 in A day in Life
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