Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Novice and Nope Ropes

Did you know the Internet calls snakes "nope ropes?" I love that. I wish I had thought of it.

Springtime is a busy season for nope ropes. They're just waking up, and it's still cold at night, so what they chiefly want is to sun themselves on rocks. Often they haven't eaten in a whole season, which makes them extra venomous too. This is not good news if you're a human.

I went to Utah to meet a condor, but I wasn't going to sit around staring at him for five days. In a search for other fun activities near Salt Lake City -- outdoor only, no temple tours -- I discovered a hike to a hot spring.

Hot spring! That's been a bucket list item for me lo, these many decades!

There were several glitches, however:

1. Mr. J has never gone hiking, even in the benign Pine Barrens of New Jersey. He's a water person. Give him a rowboat and an oar, and he's all set. But hiking? Hasn't done it.

2. Nope ropes. Abundant nope ropes of the rattling variety have been documented on the trail I wanted to take. There's a particularly compelling YouTube of a cluster of rattling nope ropes right next to the hot spring. And it's the season when these creatures come out needing a little bath to keep them in tip-top shape.

3. Speaking of shape, I'm out of it. And the trail was ranked "moderate." I had no idea what that meant in Utah. In Pennsylvania it generally means steep and rocky.

But never mind the concerns! It's not like the hot spring was going to hike down to see me! Mr. J bought a pair of hiking shoes, and bright and early on a sunny morning, we set out for Diamond Fork (Fifth Water) Hot Springs.

The first thing I discovered is that Mr. J sets a nice pace for hiking. I'm used to watching my daughters disappear into the far distance, but I kept up nicely with him. The trail was pleasantly Poconos-like, meaning steep and rocky but not what Utah can throw at a hiker. The scenery was outstanding, and the creeks were muddy torrents of snow-melt.

It was a long slog, but we made it to Diamond Fork. And there it was, a real hot spring, bubbling up from creek-side, scalding and smelling of the sulfurous bowels of the earth!

The hot water flows into a series of man-made "tubs" where you can sit and soak. It's like the Three Bears: one tub is too hot, one tub is too cold, and one tub is just right. Actually, the high water in the creek meant that the tubs weren't their signature deep blue color (the creek was overflowing into them), but they also didn't reek quite as much as they would most days.

Right above the tubs there was a Poconos-grade waterfall too! Added to my collection!

There's something about waterfalls. They always bring out the bliss.

Now, here's a sad fact for you striplings: A time comes when it's harder to hike downhill than it is to hike uphill. Gravity might be helpful to the heart, but it's a bitch for the knees. Nevertheless, Mr. J and I (after a good long soak) limped back down the trail to our car. Round trip it was five miles. My knees felt every damn rock, but Mr. J -- a complete novice -- handled it with nary a complaint.

As for the nope ropes, we didn't see any. There were many other hikers on the trail and in the tubs, and one guy said he saw two, but not the rattling variety. Nor were there any insects except butterflies! Even as I write this there are mosquitoes humming around New Jersey.

The scenery, like the hot springs, was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. I haven't gotten around much. I had my own piece of mountain for the longest time, and I spent much of my life there. These Utah mountains, though ... they made my mountain look like a lil' old knoll.

If not for Andy N. Condor, I never would have known about Diamond Fork (Fifth Water) Hot Springs. Never let it be said that buzzards won't do you a good turn.

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Sacred Thunderbird Navel Gaze

For a long time I have talked the talk. But last week I walked the walk. I, Anne Johnson, flew in a plane to Salt Lake City to meet a Sacred Thunderbird named Andy N. Condor.

They say you're not supposed to cross the country to meet someone you've just known online. Well, that certainly holds true for humans, but condors ... totally different story.

Andy N. Condor lives at Tracy Aviary. He is frequently online, where he performs essential ministry on the subject of vultures and their importance to the life of the Earth. I first started seeing his posts about two years ago. Then I found out that he and I both turned 60 this spring.

So I went to see him.

The very patient and understanding Mr. J and I arrived at Tracy Aviary at 9:00 on the dot for our tour. O blessed Sacred Thunderbird! Andy knew I was coming, so I got to take a special private walk with him and pose for photographs. It was a transcendent moment, dear reader.

What a magnificent specimen! I tried to contain my praise and worship so I wouldn't get tossed out. It was hard. Several times I had to ask myself why I put on makeup.

I took this photo myself. We had quite a stroll. I got to talk to Andy's best friend, a lovely Bird Whisperer named Helen, and she told me everything about him that I didn't already know. Which took about 25 seconds.

After my walk and chat with Andy, I perused the rest of the birdies at Tracy Aviary, and then Mr. J and I drove out to Park City. This was just Day One of our sojourn, so stay tuned for further missives about the adventure.

Before signing off, though, I'll have to say that I don't travel much. I hadn't flown in a plane since 2000. I haven't taken a summer off since 2015, and I've never gone anywhere on Spring Break. This brief jaunt made up for some lost time. Those of you who've known me awhile might well imagine what it meant to me to get this up-close and personal with a Sacred Thunderbird.

More soon! I'm not finished with this vulture!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Making a Pact

I am about to make a pact with an Andean condor who lives in an aviary.

He was hatched in the spring of 1959 and is celebrating a 60th birthday on Saturday.

They say he's in excellent health and could perhaps shatter records for his species in captivity.

Therefore, with a wink and a nod, I will enter into an agreement to see him again in 2029.

I have been in touch with the aviary, and they are awarding me a private audience with the dapper fellow. After our tete-a-tete, I will be spending the day doing volunteer work to help the staff prepare for the big birthday bash on Saturday.

I'm dragging poor Mr. J along, but after all this time he's well accustomed to my eccentricities.

Dear readers, I will report back when I return.


Monday, April 22, 2019

Projects Completed and Occupied

The new luxury homes across the street are completed, upgraded, and occupied.

Behind Door Number One is a family of four: parents and children aged 3 and 1.5. The children don't understand the concept of "street." They run blithely where they please. Basically sucking entitlement from the breasts of their svelte mama, I guess.

Behind Door Number Two is a family of six: parents and children, the oldest of which is about 7. Double stroller often left on the double driveway beside the identical SUVs (well, one is gray and the other is white).

Family behind DN2 also has a dog, although my cat Gamma is about three times larger than said canine. This animal is one of those yappy pedigrees (Pom, maybe, but smaller). It makes some noise.

To say I have rolled out the red carpet of welcome to these families would be a misstatement of Trumpian proportions. I have offered a modest handshake. When the mother of the brood behind DN2 said, "I suppose you must have heard my noisy children," I didn't say, "What? Your little darlings, noisy? Why, I adore kids!" Nah. I just gave a thin grin and said, "I've lived here since 1987, and I've never seen so many children on this block."

SsssssSSSSSSSSsssssss. Petty, Anne. Very petty. Actually I don't mind the kids as much as the teacup pooch.

The one thing I have noticed that these two households have in common is this: Both dads look tired. They are prematurely gray, and they don't smile. Whenever I see them, they look grim.

Both sets of parents in both luxury homes are attorneys. That's all I know, and all I care to know.

I miss the trees.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Goodbye to Glen Onoko Falls Trail

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" How do you stand on the matter of waterfalls? As for me, I could qualify for Waterfalls Anonymous, if such a group existed. I just slobber over waterfalls. Best thing about that is, no one notices a little bit of Anne drool dripping into a cascade of clear, mountain water.

A few years ago, the combination of some weight loss and increased aerobic activity led me to attempt some daring and dangerous waterfall hikes that I might have sensibly avoided before. One of these was Glen Onoko Falls Trail near Jim Thorpe, PA.

The Glen Onoko Falls Trail is steep, slippery, rocky and perilous. But it's not like there's no warning.

And the sign doesn't lie. There have been about a dozen deaths along this trail (one of them a 3-year-old) over the years. The reason is that many people are totally lacking in sense. Maybe the sign should read

At the beginning of this trail there's a sign that clearly warns hikers that the trail is steep, slippery, and perilous, and warns people to wear sturdy hiking shoes with good tread. I had already done my due diligence about Glen Onoko before I arrived, so I had on my sturdy hiking shoes with good tread.

About ten minutes into our hike up the trail, my daughter The Heir and I met up with a family all clad in flip flops. There were parents and children. The hike had already begun to look challenging, and here these kids were in fucking flip flops.

Needless to say, Heir and I -- both clad in our sensible hiking shoes with good tread -- left the (presumably) illiterate family behind as we began to ascend toward the falls.

Glen Onoko Trail has three beautiful waterfalls. It's astonishingly gorgeous. But it is also steep, slippery, and perilous. As I was climbing (can't call it hiking when you have to use your hands too), I made a mental note that maybe I ought not try this ever again. It saddened me to think so, because...

This waterfall is so tall we couldn't get both me and the top of it in the picture. Nor can you see my sturdy hiking boots.

I've been on some rough trails in my time. The Appalachian Trail will always test you, and I've been tested. But I must say that inch for inch, Glen Onoko Falls Trail was the toughest hike I've ever taken over such a short distance. Oh, boy was it worth it, though!

This trail is the only place I ever saw a dog unwilling to follow its masters, as they tried to coax it onto rocks that should hold neither dog nor human.

The water table was low when Heir and I went, but at all times hikers could walk behind this cascade. It being August when we went, Heir was glad for the shower. I stayed behind, judging the rocks too slippery for a woman of a certain age.

I wish I had a better shot of Heir's grin as she came back from being behind the waterfall!

Long story short, the Pennsylvania Fish and Wildlife Commission, owners of this area, have declared that, effective May 1, the Glen Onoko Falls Trail will be closed.

Yes, closed. As in, not even people with sturdy hiking shoes will be allowed.

The rationale for this is the loss of life (all of it people who climbed to the top of the falls and then just had to go to the edge and look over), as well as the inevitable broken bones and sprains that can occur on such a challenging trail. You see, it takes a whole boatload of first responders to evacuate someone from Glen Onoko because the terrain doesn't accommodate stretchers, let alone vehicles. And people do get injured up in there. Apparently quite often.

So goodbye, Glen Onoko Trail! Nevermore will you end the existence of a drunken frat boy as he declares, "Hey guys! Watch this!" Nevermore will you host six-year-olds in flip flops or bridal parties in gowns and heels, looking for photo ops.

Nevermore will you host women of a certain age who, having ascended the challenging trail, feel a lingering sense of accomplishment ... heightened by the fact that everyone else at the top is a generation younger.

Nevermore will you host people who exercise monumental hubris, figuring the signs are for all the other people but not them. Oh, wait. Those morons will still rush in where angels fear to tread.

Monday, April 15, 2019

A Moment of Your Time

Hello, and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we stray from the main message more frequently than we address it! I'm Anne Johnson, a wishy-washy Pagan ... but still a Pagan, thank you very much.

A scholar at American University is conducting a survey of Pagan values. If you would like to participate, here is the link:


It took me about 20 minutes and didn't feel particularly threatening or judgmental.


Friday, April 12, 2019

Katy Is Living My Dream

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm Anne Johnson, a has-been, over-the-hill, wannabe this-and-that. Just think! I always wanted to write a novel! (And I did, but it sucks.)

I digress. I think I'm about to start a new little series of posts here called "Living My Dream," about people who are doing what I would love to do, but couldn't or can't.

Katy is first on the list. She is my next door neighbor, and she is 10.

Every evening Katy comes out with her glove and her baseballs and practices pitching. She's got a wicked delivery for a fourth grader. And guess what else she has? She has a spot on a Little League roster!

When I was 10, I wanted nothing more than to play Little League. My mom and I used to go watch the games. (The fields were between two huge cow pastures.) In my dreams I was on the team, swinging for the fences.

But in 1969, girls were not allowed to try out for Little League. Probably just as well in my case, because my hand/eye coordination is the only thing in the world that's worse than my novel.

Anyway, last evening I went to the Haterville Little League field to watch Katy play. She pitched two innings and hit a triple. She struck out a few batters. And she was the only girl on either team.

I'm glad Katy didn't settle for playing softball. Don't get me wrong, softball's great and all that. But if you want to play baseball, you ought to be able to take a shot at playing baseball.

Katy is a proud tomboy, and this I heartily endorse. At her age, so was I.

All hail Katy, living my dream!

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Can't Please Everyone

Hello, and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where no good deed goes unpunished! Have you ever noticed that? The nicer you are, the more you're squashed. I'm Anne Johnson, a veritable pancake.

Today I arrived home to find the following note on my back porch:

To: Anne Johnson
From: Haterville Squirrels LL.C
Re: Ornamental Maple

It has come to our attention that you have made your ornamental maple inhospitable to hungry squirrels. Rest assured that we will bring this matter to the attention of the proper authorities. You can expect to hear from our attorney, as well as the local and/or national press.

Don't think for one moment that the many peanuts you put in the back yard every day will mitigate this debacle. We are tired of peanuts and need some tender greens in our diet.

This isn't over.

Okay, okay! I have a maple tree that I planted as a seedling, grabbed from another yard. It's the same age as my daughter The Fair, and so I call it "Fair Tree." Last year the squirrels got up in the canopy and ate all the buds. The tree had scant leaves the rest of the summer.

So yes, I committed a nefarious act, and to be honest I expected some kind of retaliation.

That's cayenne pepper. I admit, it's really, really mean. But the tree won't survive another year of having all its buds eaten. It's a small tree.

I will continue to put peanuts out for these local, snobby, Haterville squirrels. Don't tell them the peanuts are for the blue jays. Next thing you know, I'll get another memo.

Monday, April 01, 2019

One Job Should Be Enough

What's wrong with the Democrats? Is it me, or is everyone missing the real problem in this country?

How long can this end-stage capitalism last, when our young people can only be employed in "gigs" as "independent contractors," as "part timers" when really they should be full time (and are, in terms of hours performed)?

Did you see this week that Lyft, whose entire work force is "gig," went public with an IPO? Shareholder value! The entire company is built on people who qualify for Medicare and food stamps!

What we have right now is a workforce that is losing all of its power to self-sustain. I am so tired of it. So. Tired. Of. It.

If I was running this world, I'd stick it to the oligarchs, and not just in this country, but everywhere. There ought to be an international cap on wealth, agreed to by all governing bodies.

Know why that will never happen? The politicians are either bought by the stinking rich, or they are the stinking rich.

One job should be enough. Enough to rent an apartment, enough to support a child, enough to afford a modest savings, a fun vacation, a car. That's not asking much. Why isn't it a platform of the Democratic Party?

Oh, by the way, sweet readers ... I missed you guys! You can comment, and sorry about the stupid verify thing. I'll try to police the sleaze bags.