Saddleback Dawn

It’s about 40F outside of my tent as I make my early morning run for bladder relief, and the sun and sky are putting on a show as the rest of the troop sleeps. I had to stop and gawk, letting nature’s call go temporarily unanswered.

Camping in the desert is a delight for me in all but the hottest guy of summer, and it is moments like this that remind me that I need to get out here more often.

President’s Day Tech Reading

One of the best parts of my work life is deep-diving into the industries, issues, and ideas that touch on my clients. Now that I am back working with the most innovative company in the telecommunications business, topical reading is at least half of my list.

My daily client contact just finished Brad Smith and Carole Ann Browne’s Tools and Weapons, so I am nearly done with it. Smith shares his thoughts on the double-edged nature of the innovations that are pushing into our lives – a critical mental warm-up as we guide our client through the rollout of 5G wireless networks.

Jon Gertner’s The Idea Factory has been perched on my shelf for years waiting for its moment, and that moment is now. I see a lot of interesting parallels and contrasts between my client – who has spent $60 billion on R&D in the past three decades – and Bell Labs, all good. Bell Labs, like Xerox PARC after it, made some profound mistakes in its efforts, most notably spending vast sums on R&D without building the business and legal structures to capture the value of all of that investment. That’s my superficial understanding: hopefully, Gertner will offer some important nuance.

Wrapping these – and catching up on back numbers of The Economist – should round out my long weekend.

Twelve Miles Uphill, Before and After

Sunny dropped us at the beach at Sycamore Canyon around 9am. It was a later start than we would normally like, but as it turns out it was a good thing we were rested.

The twelve mile uphill hike wasn’t particularly strenuous, except for a portion where we gained about 600 feet in a mile, and that was only a challenge because it was after 8 miles and 2:40 of steady walking up slope without rest. What is more, Aaron keeps up a steady 3mph pace with a full day pack, so it was a bit more than a leisurely stroll up Sycamore Canyon.

In theory the last four miles should have been an easy downhill stroll to the 101, but fatigue was starting to set in, and even the kid was audibly relieved when our stopping point hive into view as we crossed the freeway.

By the end we had taken a bit over 4 hours to walk the 12 miles, but we had crossed the Santa Monica Mountains, burned 2,000 extra calories, and started our training program for the big prize: the John Muir Trail.

Sno-jave

An uncommon sight in the Mojave National Preserve: snow, in the desert, and down below the 3500′ level.

As we drove, I explained to Aaron the difference between the “high deserts” and the “low deserts.” That difference was never starker than the week of December 23-30, when the demarcation between the two all but matched the snow-line.

All of which was a poignant reminder that the desert is not a single, simple climate zone, but can and does encompass a wide range of micro-climates as altitude and geography change, sometimes within a mile or two. Within each of these zones live varied but surprisingly diverse and and rich ecosystems camouflaged by what appear to the common observer to be desolate landscapes.

Of course, I am horribly biased: I do love the desert as  much as I love the seashore, and the ache to live again in drier climes grows in me daily. Is it the Wandering Jew in my soul that misses these scenes? Does something inside of me yearn for Sinai and Galilee? Or do I simply treasure the solitude and the chance to commune in quiet with the Infinite, far from noise, crowds, and fog?

No matter. I will be back, and right soon.

Not a University

Just north of San Luis Obispo we passed the California Men’s Institution. This is their Level II unit, a medium-security facility with open dorms.

Something I have long wondered about California prisons nestled in picturesque settings is the degree to which the setting itself is a form of punishment. To be incarcerated amid beauty that you can see but cannot enjoy makes me wonder if it is harsher to be here, or in a facility in the Mojave desert like USP Victorville.

As we pass by, entrained in comfort, I hear the Man in Black singing in my head.

I hear that train a comin’
Rolling round the bend
And I ain’t seen the sunshine
Since I don’t know when
I’m stuck in Folsom Prison
And time keeps draggin’ on
But that train keeps a-rollin’
On down to San Antone

I bet there’s rich folks eatin’
In a fancy dining car
They’re probably drinkin’ coffee
And smokin’ big cigars
But I know I had it comin’
I know I can’t be free
But those people keep a-movin’
And that’s what tortures me

 

 

Songwriter: Johnny R. Cash
Folsom Prison Blues lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc