Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bad News and Good News

It’s going to be an unpleasant night.  I have a sleep disorder and I’ve gone and let a prescription run out.  My brain is broken – for whatever reason, current theories being an auto-immune disorder, I’m lacking the proper amount of certain cells.  These cells produce a specific chemical.  The chemical regulates sleep.  Without it, the brain shifts gear at inappropriate times – it tries to shift into wave patterns at the wrong times.  Or not at all.   Without my medication, tonight will be spent on the edge of sleep, never in deep sleep, but constantly dreaming.  I will realize I’m dreaming, and fight to awaken.  I will think I’ve finally made it, only to realize that I’m only dreaming I’m awake.  And the cycle will start again, dream within dream within dream, like a series of mirrors reflecting the image that reflects the image that reflects the image. Trouble is that even if I don’t bother to go to bed I’ll have to rest sometime, and that’s when it will start.

But here’s the thing.  I’ve been a bit worried.  I have so much trouble working the slides (?) and various parts of the guns I’ve been trying that I’ve worried that my hands, despite the fact that I work with them a lot, were too weak.  Since I don’t yet having a larger caliber gun, I have had the Browning loaded and next to my bed.  I prefer to not have the AC on if possible, but that means leaving a vulnerable window open to get a cross breeze, and we’ve developed some crime problems recently.  Knowing that my brain and body will be out of whack until I get my prescription refilled, I decided that a loaded gun within reach of a serious dreamer would be a bad idea.  Although REM sleep is the major dream sleep and during REM sleep the muscles are paralyzed (and having REM sleep pop up during waking time is just a real fun thing because of that), there’s still the possibility of sleepwalking so I decided better safe than sorry.  I unloaded the Browning and moved the magazine and extra shell elsewhere.   Why is this significant?  Because I had absolutely no problem doing so.  And I’m relieved because that tells me that it’s just a problem of my hands getting used to handling things, not a problem of strength in them.  I'll be cranky tomorrow, but at least that’s a happy thought for tonight.

Now if I could just get the flippin’ credit hours put away so I can get back to the range.  I so want to shoot.  Doggone addictive sport.

W & OD Rail Trail

Since the weather has gone back to Gorgeous Summer Day, yesterday afternoon's adventure was trying out the Washington and Old Dominion Rail Trail, whose west end starts at Purcellville, VA. The W&OD operated from 1859 to 1968, and although the original investors had high hopes for moving products and passengers between the Port of Alexandria and the Appalachians, it struggled during most of its time in operation. The right-of-way is now a 45 mile long paved multi-use trail.

Purcellville is a pretty little Loudoun County town popular for antiquing. It also has a very fine restaurant that just happens to be right beside the end of the trail.

Magnolias at the Mill

So, off I go. Welllll... This is a highly populated corridor. So while you might be seeing this:

You turn around in the same spot and see this:

Not only does it have a lot of street crossings, but it runs parallel to some major roads, so even when in a green corridor the roar of cars is next to you.  But at times you do get to see some of the remains of the history of the county, which was formed in 1757, and there are some peaceful stretches.

Remnants of railroad days are still around, like this building at Hamilton Station.

And there is a lot of historical signage along the way.

As I was noticing all this, I was also noticing that there seemed to be a slight downward slope as I headed east.  And that it's a heck of a breezy day, with long stretches on the trail where you are pretty open to getting pushed around by the wind.  Since I had decided on 10 miles out and 10 miles back, I was a little concerned.  But, oh well, it stays light late and if coming back is harder it will just take longer.

Um, yeah.  If I had read the web page more closely I would have seen this - " a four mile long gradual climb over Catoctin Mountain through Clark's Gap" - in reference to the trip back from Leesburg to Purcellville.

It was a MUCH longer trip back.  I was already tired from fighting the head wind, and a constant up-slope for miles was miserable.  Did I mention the head wind?  It was pushing me so hard at times that there was no way to coast - it would just stop me.  A turtle could have passed me at times.  My quads felt like they were exploding.  I finally started dismounting and walking the bike across intersections in order to give my legs a little break.  And oh what a relief it was when I finally passed Clark's Gap, though I didn't realize at the time that things would ease up from there on.  Except for the head wind.  Did I mention the head wind?

But finally milepost 44.5 appeared, and I actually made it back to the suv, loaded the bike back up, pulled on a dry t-shirt, and got down to the important business of the day.

'Cause life is very, very good, even with tired quads.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Houston VA accused of censoring religious speech

Local veterans and volunteer groups accuse Department of Veterans Affairs officials of censoring religious speech — including the word "God" - at Houston National Cemetery.

In one example cited in documents filed this week in federal court, cemetery director Arleen Ocasio reportedly told volunteers with the National Memorial Ladies that they had to stop telling families "God bless you" at funerals and that they had to remove the words "God bless" from condolence cards.

"It's just unfair that somebody would ask us to take God out of our vocabulary," said Cheryl Whitfield, founder of Houston National Memorial Ladies.

"I could've kept my mouth shut and let things happen, but when it comes to standing up for your belief in God and giving comfort to the families, I don't want to regret not saying anything," Whitfield said. "We all had to stand up for what we believe in."

The new allegations of "religious hostility" by VA and cemetery officials follow on the heels of a controversy over Pastor Scott Rainey's prayer in Jesus' name at a Memorial Day service in the cemetery.

Spellcheck - Not Always A Friend

So among my regular reads are “History Magazine” and “American History”.  And last night I was finishing up the current issue of “History Magazine” when I came to this:

“Bresci decided to vent his anger in a pubic manner designed to bring about social change.”

Um…I'm not sure I want to know.

Gaetano Bresci took pubic action...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's Complex and Complicated

So Ted Turner says climate change is “probably the most serious — and, in all fairness, the most complex — problem that humanity has ever faced.”  And: “It is really easy to understand how some people don’t get it, because it’s so complex and complicated.”

Well, Ted Turner may have a bunch of money, but I've never considered him to be the sharpest tool in the shed.  He may know media, but I'm not sure what his science background is.  I know he loves the Civil War, and I appreciate that interest in history, but that's a brief bit of time in the history of the world.  And even with that, I fail to understand how he could have so much money to spend but end up making such mediocre movies out of the Shaara books.  (For goodness sakes hire a makeup artist who can make a realistic beard the next time, dude!)

For Mr. Turner and others who think we don't get it, a few pictures.  First, a graph of temperature variations:

This shows temperature deviation over the last 450,000 years with the 0 point being a mean of temps from 1961 to 1990.  Note where we are at the 0 point - less variation and lower temps than at other periods.  And this chart only covers only a small fraction of geologic time - I chose it because of the possible influence on hominids, i.e, grandpa.

We are currently in an interglacial period.  Once upon a time, roughly 20,000 years ago, we kindof looked like this:

We've looked like that repeatedly.  We'll look like that again.  I don't like cold very much any more and I guarantee that a mile thick ice sheet would have made my current place of residence COLD!  And it probably would have adversely affected land values in PA, NY, MA, etc:

And when there's that much ice, a lot of water is locked up in it, so current guesstimate is that sea levels were about 120 meters lower.  Once terrestrial ice sheets start melting, sea level rises.  And, of course, a whole lot of other things are happening, both as the ice accumulates and as it recedes.  Sea currents change, the earth's crust depresses or rises due to the weight, salinity changes.  These changes are constant, and normal, and have always happened and always will happen until it's time for the planet to cease its complex existence in the universe.

So now it's warmer, and I'm good with that.  It means greater availability of things I love:

And yes, climate change can cause extinctions.  Another graph:

This one shows percentages of living species going extinct in the millions of years prior to now.  And, really, this one is showing low percentages - I've seen theories that there have been waves of extinctions of up to 90% of extant species.  So extinction is a normal part of the earth's cycles.  And really, for all the nuisance deer are, there were once a whole bunch of much more unpleasant critters around.

I'm really glad this guy is not around any more.  I'm really, really good with its extinction.  And humans didn't have a doggone thing to do with it.  But humans have been and currently are working very hard to make various species extinct, and I don't hear much out of the "Save the Whales" folks about it.  These creatures are a part of the natural world, just the same as whales, wolves, and other, more warm and fuzzy creatures are.  And I fully support their extinction.

You don't see these pics much, because, well, they're not cute and cuddly.  But the living, natural creature named Variola shown above, aka smallpox, has been a cause of enormous suffering and death, and the fact that it seems to be extinct in nature is rightly celebrated.

So, you see, a lot of us DO get it.  It's just that it's a way more complicated thing than Mr. Turner seems to understand.

And, by the way, if population is such a problem, why are we working so hard to eradicate cancer?  AIDS?  Polio? Why are we spending so much time and funds on vaccines for flu, pneumonia, diphtheria, measles, and other human ailments?  And why, Mr. Turner, didn't you think of the whole population thing before you had five kids?  Was the relationship between sex and pregnancy too complex, too complicated for you to understand?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sleepy Creek, Or "Where the heck am I?"

So after 7 years here I suddenly realized that I'm actually closer to some hiking areas than I used to be, and I decided to try out the trails in Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area.  The Tuscarora Trail, a 250 mile long side trail of the Appalachian Trail, runs through the Eastern Panhandle, following the ridge of Sleepy Creek Mountain and the boundary between Berkley and Morgan Counties.  A check of on-line maps and a topo showed that Sleepy Creek has enough side and jeep trails to create a loop hike, so off I went. 

First discovery - all my maps are out-of-date.  There are a lot of trails there that aren't on any of them. But one trail out of the parking area said 1.7 miles to the Tuscarora and the other trail was the one I wanted to come back on, so off I went on the trail that wasn't on the map.  It didn't take long until I realized that I needed to be UP THERE:

But it's a nice trail, well maintained, and scenic.  Brushy Creek still has one mountain laurel bush blooming beside it.

And then the uphill started.  The trail has switchbacks, but it feels like it's going straight up to the ridge.  Fortunately, I could find things to distract me.  Hints of symmetry  in the rocks started catching my eye and led to contemplation of what rock formation I might be in.  The hints finally became clear imprints of a brachiopod and a snail of some sort.  Not many fossils.  I'm thinking maybe wash-ins rather than a community of animals.

Decent day, pretty trail.  But am I there yet?

Ah, ripple marks!  So definitely a shallow water deposit, and the ancient remains of currents across the sand.

Finally, up on the ridge and the Tuscarora.  Worth the climb!

But now I realize the error of taking a trail that isn't marked on my map.  I have no idea WHERE I've come up on the trail.  So I have no solid idea of how far I need to go before looking for my selected side trail to come back.  And is my side trail even still there?  Hmm.  Well, nothing for it but to hike north and enjoy the view.

It turns out that the trail I came up on isn't the only one that isn't marked on my maps, and intersecting a few unknowns makes for slow going as I try to figure out where the stray trails are crossing on the map and where I might be.  Finally, I spotted a distinct peak across the valley that allowed me to sort myself out, and I headed down-slope on the next trail that intersected, hoping it was the right one because I sure didn't want to climb back up to the ridge if I was wrong - this trail was even steeper than the one I had come up on.  But I figured down meant down to Brushy Creek, and if all else failed I could bushwhack along the creek until I hit the first trail again.  After the major elevation drop was over, the trail widened into a jeep trail and became very pleasant walking.

And I was relieved when it opened into a meadow - one map I had did have the wildlife meadows marked, and I knew immediately where I was by it.

The meadows are full of wildflowers and butterflies now, and knowing where I was meant I had time to dawdle and appreciate them.

Home in plenty of time to get to 6 pm Mass.  And in bed, completely exhausted, and sound asleep by 8:30.  Still haven't found an updated map of the area, still don't don't know how far I hiked.  But it's definitely an area to return to.

And having guessed from vague memories of geology courses past that the sandstone is the Tuscarora, some quick research confirmed that, especially since I was crisscrossing red silt/sandstone, which would be the Juniata below it.  Lower Silurian (440 to 417 million yrs in age, + or - 10 million), shallow marine, representing a vast shoal at the edge of an ancient sea.  The formation has yielded a few fossils of these guys, eurypterids, which could reach 2 meters in length:

Imagine running into one of those while diving!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Not happening

And, oh, by the way, this ain't happening:

Because the whole Hello Kitty thing scares me.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

No Jews allowed.

So Delta has decided that it wants to add flights to Saudi Arabia.  In order to do this, they intend to implement a "no Jew", "no Israeli passport" policy for certain flights out of the U.S.  In other words, create one more example of economic Sharia.  I know, I know, I'm a bigot for being one of those pointing this out. 
Delta Air Lines' plan to add Saudi Arabian Airlines to its SkyTeam Alliance of partnering companies would require the American carrier to ban Jews and holders of Israeli passports from boarding flights from New York or Washington bound for Jeddah, prompting outraged accusations of illegal religious discrimination.
The issue, which has caught the attention of the American Center for Law and Justice already, was raised when Washington attorney Jeffrey Lovitky was perusing airline procedures for travel.
"As we learn more about the issue and facts, we are determined to ensure that American citizens do not face discrimination by airlines like Delta that are passenger code-sharing with Saudi Arabian Airlines, said Colby M. May, director and senior counsel of the ACLJ.
Read the insiders' plans for America under Shariah, in "Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Conspiring to Islamize America," autographed, from WND's Superstore.
"We will be communicating our position with members of Congress, the State Department and Delta Air Lines to ensure that the rights of American citizens are protected," he said.

Borrowed... try out next range day:

I haven't had time to read up on them yet, but my neighbor didn't like it because the recoil hurt her hands.  It is extremely light, so I can see where that could bother somebody.  So far the only thing recoil has done to me is cause my hand to fly up with each shot.  

My main search right now is a dedicated self-defence/concealed carry gun that meshes well with my small hands.  I love shooting the Browning but I feel I still need to have a larger caliber for serious.  Murphy explained it to me very well - in an adrenaline fueled situation people don't stop because it hurts, they stop because things stop working.  I need to have a gun that will make things stop working quickly.

So now I'm anxious for range day again, but I have to work some credit hours so I can take off.  Dang job gets in the way of my having fun all the time any more.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011


So I work at home a lot.  And that means I'm sitting on my porch a lot - have laptop, will travel.  And as I'm sitting here a few minutes ago a fawn runs right up to the porch.  Couldn't have been more than 3 feet from me.  Dang deer.  Drive me crazy getting in my flowers and then they go and do something cute like that.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Range day!

Woo hoo!  Range day!  Tried out the Browning .32  cleaned per an earlier post, and the Harrington & Richardson Model 929 .22, as well as a Smith and Wesson Model 10 .38 revolver and a Ruger 10-22 rifle borrowed from the arsenal known as Murphy’s Lair.   

Absolutely loving the Browning – it fits my hand wonderfully and my reaction to the first shot was "Wow!  That feels great!"  I was really happy – I don’t know when this gun was last fired and I had never fired it before so I didn’t know what to expect.  It was still an adventure to reassemble after cleaning but eventually that will work out and I’ll lose my fear of having to hand over a plastic bag full of gun pieces to be reassembled.

The H&R 929 laid next to an uncle's bed for years, ended up in Dad's bed stand for years after that, and then came to live with me when Dad died.   Like the Browning, t's been languishing in my dresser drawer since 1998 and I have no idea when it was last fired before that. 

It was also good, but didn’t feel as outstanding in my hand.  Maybe I'm a bit prejudiced against the plastic grips. First rounds showed that I needed to find a different spot on the sight – I was hitting low.  I think that got fairly well worked out after a bit – I need to put a spot of white-out on the correct spot on the forward sight.   My hand also is not accustomed to the trigger, and I’m a lot more on target with single action than when I try to use it double action.  I end up concentrating so much on pulling the trigger that I pull up as I am firing.  This gun went out of commission as of the last time I went to empty the rounds. The pic here does not show the little screw that the cylinder assembly pivots around.  That would be because someone had lost the original and just put a standard screw in its place.  That screw worked out at some point while I was firing and dropped into the gravel, never to be seen again.  At least a replacement can be ordered.

The S&W 10 felt good – better than the H&R.  More substantial, but not too heavy or too large for my hands.  I fired one of the same size both times I was at the range before and they felt too big, but I think my hands are becoming more comfortable with guns in them so the feel is changing.  It's becoming less awkward. And Murphy makes sure the guns in the Lair are well cared for, so it may also reflect a gun that has been carefully cleaned and oiled as compared to one that sat forever without use or care.  It also had an easier trigger, but even with that I was still pulling up.  Single action best right now with the revolvers.  Time time time. Practice practice practice.

And about the third time I did it I realized I was cocking the revolvers for the first shot while they were still pointed down rather than after they were pointed at the target.  No no no.  I stand with my feet spread but as I brought the gun up it occurred to me that that was something that could go very wrong even with accidentally firing between my feet.   Although I guess I would only do that once. It would be one of those things that leaves an impression.

The rifle was fun – light and easy to use.  And I like rifles - I want to play with more.  I need to remember to snug them up  better – I end up carrying more weight than I need to but I tend to figure that out right about as I take the last shot in the magazine.  The one problem – I don’t see the target so good even with glasses after a certain distance.  So with the longer distance I was just hoping I’d hit somewhere in the target.

I need to learn to breathe.  I'd realize I had taken several shots and held my breath the whole time.  Need to work on my stance - my posture causes me back problems because I throw my weight wrong when standing and that's carrying over into my shooting stance.  And after about 3 shots my glasses would fog up.  Like, what?  Is my brain overheating from concentrating on aiming?

Finished up by watching a guy finish loading and fire his black powder rifle.  Cool gun, but, jeez, sure wouldn't want to be in a hurry.   And then of course the pleasantly messy job of cleaning.

A very fun day.  Very fun and satisfying.   Thanks, Murph, for the outstanding training.  And I'm still coming to your house come the revolution - you have more toys.  I'll bring the beer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why guns?

Well, why not?  I really don’t understand why there even has to be a discussion.  We are surrounded by things that can be construed as dangerous, including the car in the garage and the propane tank next to the grill.  If it isn’t anybodies business how many chef’s knives I have in the house, then it isn’t anybodies business how many guns I have in the house, or what kind.  Just sayin’.

But, seriously, why have I decided to learn to shoot at this time? Several reasons.  First, it’s something I believe that you need to do right if you are going to do it, and when I had a 4 hour a day commute for work I just didn’t have the time I felt was necessary to practice and learn.  Second, I live in an area where police response time can be in the 15 to 20 minute range.  I seriously doubt the bad guys are going to want to sit and have a cuppa and conversation while waiting on the local deputy.  So home defense is on me.  And really, why shouldn’t it be?   To me it’s part of the pro-life ethic.  Life is a gift, including mine, and I have a right and a responsibility to protect it.  Third, I’m watching a situation develop in this country that I think can go south very fast once certain things come together:  a weak dollar driving fuel costs up, and that in turn driving all other costs up.  An entitlement mentality and a lack of fear of God.  Heat.  End result, civil unrest.  That’s the polite way of putting it.  Baltimore, D.C., Detroit, and God only knows how many other cities could see an explosion of rioting and destruction, see their centers burn to the ground, and I live close enough to major cities to be concerned about roving gangs out to do whatever mischief they can do.  You can say that we have the National Guard for such things, but my personal protection and the protection of my community is up to me and to others willing to pick up a gun and make it clear that we aren’t having any of it.  The National Guard will have its hands full in the cities.

And, yes, it’s fun.  Fun to find out that I’ve still got some eye-hand coordination.  Fun to handle well made guns.  Relaxing to sit and clean them afterward.  And I could so easily end up collecting – I love wood and steel that have been well handled and have become smooth with use and care.

I hope I never have to pull a trigger anywhere outside of a range.  But situations often move very fast – too fast for thought or discussion.  So if it ever happens, I don’t want to be fumbling around trying to remember step 1 step 2 step 3… It needs to just happen and happen right.  Discussion will have to wait until later.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Time to go

My buddy Steve lives in southeast AZ, and one of the fires has jumped to his community.  I've been getting updates from him regularly, with my response being "Grab and go bag by the door, pet carriers ready".  Just got this from him:

My response being "Time to get the hell out of Dodge, dude!"  So cross your fingers or say a prayer, your preference.  There're thousands that have been forced out of their homes right now because it is either too dry or too wet.  Seems ironic somehow.

They blew it. Seriously. But it will never be admitted.

This is showing up at other blogs, and I thought I'd keep it moving on.  This is a cut and paste from American Digest.   Sadly, there are way too many people who will think that welcoming Trig into the world was a mistake.

"Every child is created special, with awesome purpose and amazing potential:" The Sarah Palin Email to Read When You're Reading Only One

palinandtrig.jpg"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."SARAH PALIN'S COMPLETE LETTER TO HER FAMILY ABOUT TRIG:
In April 2008, two weeks before Trig was born with Down's Syndrome, Mrs Palin sent the email to her friends and family from her official government account. In the touching message, Mrs Palin writes from the voice of God, as 'Trig's creator, your heavenly father'.
Please read it all and forward to those you think could benefit from reading it.
To the Sisters, Brother, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and Friends of Trig Paxson Van Palin (or whatever you end up naming him!):
I am blessing you with this surprise baby because I only want the best for you. I've heard your prayers that this baby will be the happy and healthy, and I've answered them because I only want the best for you!
I heard your heart when you hinted that another boy would fit best into the Palin family, to round it out and complete that starting five line-up. Though another girl would be so nice, you didn't think you could ask for what you really wanted, but I knew so I gave you a boy.
Then, I put the idea in your hearts that his name should be "Trig," because it's so fitting, with two Norse meanings: "True and "Brave Victory" ...
Then, finally, I let Trig's mom and dad find out before he was born that this little boy will truly be a GIFT. They were told in early tests that Trig may provide more challenges, and more joy, than what they ever may have imagined or ever asked for. At first the news seemed unreal and sad and confusing. But I gave Trig's mom and dad lots of time to think about it because they needed to understand that everything will be OK. ...
This new person in your life can help everyone put things in perspective and bind {you} together and get everyone focused on what really matters. The baby will expand your world and let you see and feel things you haven't experienced yet. He'll show you what "true, brave victory" really means as those who love him will think less about self and focus less on what the world tells you is "normal" or "perfect."...
Trig will be his dad's little buddy and he'll wear Carhartts while he learns to tinker in the garage. He'll love to be read to, he'll want to play goalie, and he'll steal mom's heart just like Track, Bristol, Willow, and Piper did. And Trig will be the cuddly, innocent dependent little brother that his siblings have been waiting for... in fact Trig will - in some diagnostic ways - always be a mischievous, dependent little brother, because I created him a bit different than a lot of babies born into this world today.
Every child is created special, with awesome purpose and amazing potential. Children are the most precious and promising ingredient in this mixed-up world you live in down there on earth. Trig is no different, except he has an extra chromosome. Doctors call it "Down syndrome," and Downs kids have challenges, but can bring you much delight and more love than you can ever imagine! ...
Trig's mom and dad don't want people to focus on the baby's extra chomosome. They're human, so they haven't known how to explain this to people who are caring and are interested in this new little Alaskan. ... Some will think Trig should not be allowed to be born because they fear a Downs child won't be considered "perfect" in your world. ...
Many people will express sympathy, but you don't want or need that, because Trig will be a joy. You will have to trust me on this.
I know it will take time to grasp this and come to accept that I only want the best for you, and I only give my best. Remember though: "my ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts... for as heavens are higher than earth, my ways are higher than yours!"
I wrote that all down for you in the Good Book! Look it up! You claim that you believe me - now it's time to live out that belief!
Trig can't wait to meet you. I'm giving you ONLY THE BEST!
Love, Trig's Creator, Your Heavenly Father

Monday, June 13, 2011

Free time 2...

So yesterday started with locally roasted coffee and a nice view:

Then off to Hancock, MD, to bike a piece of the Western Maryland Rail Trail.  The WMRT runs parallel to the C&O Canal Towpath for 22 miles on the old Western Maryland Railroad bed, starting near Ft. Frederick State Park and ending at Sidling Hill, and its paved surface provides welcome relief from the towpath’s rocks and roots while still sending you through beautiful countryside. 

On the way I thought I’d make a stop at an old favorite fossil hunting site.  I always seem to be in too much of a hurry when I’m by here anymore and don’t take the time to check out old haunts.  With nothing to do but enjoy a summer day, I hopped off US 70 at Clear Springs and took US 40 west until just before it merges back into 70.  There’s just enough shoulder to park on and it didn’t take more than a couple minutes before I started seeing some old friends:

Horn corals, brachiopods, and crinoids, oh my!  About 400 million years ago (without digging out my notes, I'm seriously ball-parking) they lived on a shallow sea bottom that looked like this:

The flowery looking things are crinoids - relatives of starfish and sea urchins.  The brachiopod looks like a clam, but it's really a different critter.  And while there are a few types of brachiopods left, one of the convulsions of extinction at the end of the Devonian wiped out most brachiopod species.  To try to add to the picture, the Devonian is when plants started appearing on land, allowing animals to begin to move out of the sea.  Up until then the neighborhood, no matter where you were, was probably pretty bleak looking.  

Fortunately, I had shorts and sandals on and I don’t care for poison ivy or I’d have spent the rest of the day picking over the hillsides and never made it to the trail.  But on to Hancock and west on the WMRT.  Not many people out, but a little bit of traffic:

The folks not out there sure missed a fine day.  Hot and humid days in the woods and along the river fill the air with that green, sweet smell that is so, so alive.  And the birds calling - cuckoos, yellowthroats, wood thrushes, tiny warblers hidden in the leaves.  Rustles and chirps, frogs in the canal croaking, tree stems creaking in the breeze.  Amazing sights, sounds, and smells all around.  Ain't a television or a shop in the world worth giving that up for.

The WMRT mostly follows the towpath, but pulls away in some areas and passes through meadows and old orchards, along old rail structures and farms.  Sometimes it's sad - you see a lot of abandoned houses sitting empty-eyed and overgrown.  The railroad left, the orchard business fell off, the quarries closed, and people moved on looking for livelihoods elsewhere.  But once I came up on a small, neat homestead, garden and grounds immaculate, rooster crowing, pond waiting for a kid with an inner tube and it made me smile because the place was obviously somebody's much loved little piece of heaven.

The WMRT currently ends at Sidling Hill, 12 miles west of Hancock, and because I'm doing the towpath in bits and pieces and I have to be able to say I actually rode every piece, I hopped over to it and started back east, thinking a bit too late that it would probably have been a better idea to ride UP the towpath and BACK on the paved surface. Oh well.  There's a ton of history along the way, like the remains of the cement plant:

And some pretty spectacular geology:

So I had plenty of excuses to rest me butt.  As I was passing through Hancock at the end I came up on a church group with pro-life signs running some sort of foot race and I wanted to take a pic but just then the storm that had been rumbling to the north started to get serious and so I just flashed them a thumbs up and quit shilly-shallying.  Good thing, too, because when it cut loose it cut loose and turned the drive back to a slow crawl.  It's just is all sorts of grins to be in a vehicle when it's hailing.  I always feel like I'm in a tin can full of pebbles that's being shaken real good.

Took out a lot of power, but cleared off into a nice evening.  A good one to hang out at the Canal House in Harpers Ferry.  Here's to Winchester resident and local performer David Elliott.  No power for food, and technically closed, but their patio, a couple bottles of wine and David's voice and acoustic guitar put a fine ending on the day.