Living and Writing in the Natural World

The Second Rung

January 30, 2013

We canít all be frolicking deep in the High Sierra backcountry every summer. Thatís heaven, and Iíve done it, but not all can. Perhaps your experience is limited, perhaps your fitness is not adequate, perhaps youíre too darn old to heft 40 pounds of pack mile after mile (here I raise my hand), maybe youíve got young kids, or maybe you want to work your way up to the Peak experience. These days of late winter I find myself peeking ahead in the calendar to summer, and thinking that itís time to start making plans and reserving spots in campgrounds and on trails. Whatís available to us in terms of this second rung of outdoor adventures? (more…)

Lazarus Species 1: the Coelacanth

January 23, 2013

Three days before Christmas in 1938, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer received a phone call from a friend who had trawled up a weird fish off the South African coast that morning, and knew she was interested in such things for her museum. She soon arrived by taxi at the dock. "I picked away at the layers of slime to reveal the most beautiful fish I had ever seen," she said. "It was five foot long, a pale mauvy blue with faint flecks of whitish spots; it had an iridescent silver-blue-green sheen all over. It was covered in hard scales, and it had four limb-like fins and a strange puppy dog tail." And oh yes. It had been extinct for 65 million years, she would learn later. (more…)

John Muir's Window

January 15, 2013

After tossing for hours last night as I wrestled with things in my head, I opened my eyes, noted it was two in the morning, and glanced out my window. Since I keep the blind levered to allow me unimpeded views outside, I could clearly make out the black lateral branch of our large walnut snaking across gray-black sky, and the branches of the oak behind it. Through the branches shone two large stars (planets, probably) and a myriad of other stars. I felt better, seeing these reminders of the grand spectacle of which Iím merely a very small part. And I thought of the windows in John Muirís bedroom, which I had stood before three days ago. (more…)

Snow Caves and Crampons

January 7, 2013

Yesterday we passed into the Small Cold interval in the traditional Chinese solar calendar, which with the succeeding Great Cold interval comprise the five weeks in the heart of winter. Here in the Sacramento Valley of northern California, itís easy to maintain the habit of being outdoors that the Taoists of China and our own John Muir so heartily recommendówe rarely deal with snow or sleet. But if youíre in Maine or a similar place, or live at 8,000 feet anywhere, the outdoor life throws you some challenges in the winter. Embrace them. (more…)
Sierra Buttes of the metamorphic, Mesozoic Sierra Nevada range

Infamous trail marker, New Mexico

"Bon voyage" to the backpacking daughter

emerald waters of Colorado River's Black Canyon

Immature White Ibis, coming into adult color

"Fierce and cruel alligators appear to us, but beautiful in the eyes of God. They, also, are his children." --John Muir

Hometown of 4077th MASH Company Clerk

The view from a sea cave

Man and Best Friend, Bennie

2,425 feet of "songs that bear pureheaven in every note"

Sun rising behind over-optimistic paddler, San Pablo Bay

Tomales Bay: North America plate on the right, Pacific plate on the left--and San Andreas Fault immediately below!

Corner room of Mt. Vernon Inn's restaurant. The Colonial Hoecake is not to be missed.

Georgia O'Keeffe's "Chama River" near Ghost Ranch entrance

Ortega showroom, Chimayo

A typical collection of urchins from Puako in the old days, before their return to the tidepool

Harbor seal on a redwood log, Big River

Darwin Falls, up Darwin Wash in Death Valley's Argus Range

Steinbeck and Ricketts pal Frank Wright (right) at Cannery Row

"What? You never seen an otter use a rock?"

Saint John, from

One of Monet's famous water lilies

The newest Sherlock

Eagerly awaited harbingers of spring

Zhou Minzhen, Barnett, Ye Duzhuang at Peking Man Cave

Julia Morgan's "Hearthstone" at Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Do you think the females will like my chain, guys?

40 feet of falling water at Glen Aulin

AJ, Kyle in monsoon at Emei Mt

Young John Muir

Whitney looms behind Ash, Maya

The young Charles Darwin

lunar new year festivities

Courtenay-Latimer's 1938 sketch

Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer

A son and Half dome in snow

Celebrating the harvest, S.F. style

40.5 lbs of trouble

A helpful label

Father, Son under Hamilton Dome

Camping among the sequoias

Fathers and sons at Bearpaw Meadow


Nothing here yet.

Selected Works

His journals reveal a hidden Muir, whose radical worldview challenges
Taoism reveals simple habits for health and balance in our modern lives
Classics Revisited
Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins stumble upon ancient Chinese treasure
Sherlock Holmes discovers his brother has been murdered by a Nazi spy on the eve of D-Day
Historical Fiction
Murder and passion during the 1948 Communist siege of Peking
Nuclear war looms as China demands the return of Taiwan
A Virginian finds romance in Korea as Chinese and Japanese armies battle, 1895

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