Saturday, August 16, 2008

Geocaching in the hills

May I just say that smoke would not be on the typical "Wanna See" list while out hiking in the (dry) hills. Would that be a safe assumption? Ok, well, there I was this afternoon hiking in some nearby hills looking for geocaches. I found two while gaining elevation on my way up to a hidden lake. I had never seen this lake, actually just a small reservoir, so I thought I would head up and take a peek.

While I was looking at the lake, and the surrounding community, I suddenly smelled smoke. No, not a bbq, but smoke. The burning grass kind of smoke. This sudden bit of information was not pleasing unto me, being quite a ways from an escape out of those hills. I figured if worse came to worse, at least I had a lake to jump into, never mind all the algae floating on top.

I walked down just a bit from my location on top of the hill and looked at the situation. Hmm, that smoke was rising from the blind side of another hill and it was quite some distance from me. My escape route would be downhill all the way so I could run it and get out. That's what I decided to do. Heck, I don't like walking down hills anyway but prefer to jog if I can. In this case I just picked up the pace more than usual.

Once I got to the bottom of the hill and was about to turn out toward the community of houses, I noticed that the smoke I had seen earlier had lightened up considerably. Well, I'll be! It would have been a shame to split out of there when there was still another cache to be found less than a quarter mile away. Priorities changed...I found a third cache for the day and then I split. There was still a little bit of smoke rising but it was nothing like before and from my new vantage point I could see a fire fighting crew from the nearby forestry station on hand. All was well.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Haakon Aamodt Family

It has been awhile. Is it time to add a post to this blog? Perhaps I'll add a few photos that I've recently scanned...

This is of me at the Jordan River in Israel, Dec 1987
The following photos are of the Aamodt family that I have recently scanned. The first two I received from Grandma Melton's cousin, Bertha Tuckett. The last two are in Grandma's possession. I do not have dates for the photos.

L-R: Albert, Haakon (sitting), Arthur, Haakon E., Heber, Leonard

L-R: Effie, Dagmar, Julia, Mamie, Hilma, Constance

L-R (back row): Arthur, Leonard, Albert, Heber

(middle row): Hilma, Haakon E., Mamie

(front row): Dagmar, Julia, Effie, Haakon, Constance

L-R: Heber, Leonard, Haakon (sitting), Arthur, Albert, Haakon E.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Oak Glen

There is a quiet glen in southern Cal named Oak Glen. If you would like to play the role of a tourist and drive through apple country, this is a good place to come.

Not long ago I was told of a 100' waterfall that can be accessed from the glen, located only about a mile away from where the vehicle can be parked. On November 23, 2007, I struck out to find this fall, but what I found was a 20' fall. The next time I met with the person who told me of the fall, I was told that the waterfall I found was only the first of seven falls. Hmm...why wasn't I told about the seven falls before I struck out on the hike?

I didn't get back to the canyon to look for the rest of the waterfalls until April 19, 2008, due mainly to the winter snowfalls and iced in conditions. We have been having wonderfully warm weather lately so I gave the canyon another attempt, however I only reached the third waterfall this time. The steeply vertical walls of the canyon prevented me from continuing further from the third fall, but I saw an area back down the creekbed where I figured I could ascend the canyon wall and then go around the fall. This assumption turned out to be a mistake after I ascended about 150' of loose shale, only to find myself on top of a pinnacle. From the top, there was no where else to go except for back down another vertical face. I decided to call it a day for this trip and then return again after conferring with my friend for further info.

One item of note that was rather cool at the third waterfall: there was a huge chunk of ice, basically a glacier, in the creek bed. This glacier will eventually melt as the sun gets higher in the sky with summer coming on.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Things that go bump in the night

There hasn't been a whole lot of excitement in my life worth documenting, thus the gap between entries to this blog, until last night.....

I had just finished a late shift at the Riley Farm, where I am currently employed, and was driving out of Oak Glen, losing elevation as I descended down a country lane. The time was around 9:45 pm and being in the country, with no lights to molest the view, the black sky was filled with a zillion stars. I had looked into the sky to locate a few constellations before leaving the farm, and was wishing that I could pick out a few more as I drove down this two-lane road.

Suddenly, a figure jumped into the beam of my headlights, probably a coyote. I quickly swerved to the right in order to miss the critter, not realizing in the dark of night that the road was about to swerve sharply to the left. I slammed on the brakes but it was too late. The truck slid off the road to the right and bounced around in the dirt. Sliding in the turn, yet plunging carelessly ahead, the truck was out of control.

I tried to bring the truck around to the left and back onto the road, but the momentum would have flipped the truck. Continuing in the dirt with my foot slammed on the brake, the next thing I knew there appeared in the beam of the headlights a drainage culvert, coming rapidly toward me. My heart sank as I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to convince the truck to swerve around that culvert… and then CRUNCH! The truck smashed right into one of the low, concrete walls. The forward momentum of the truck was still enough to carry the truck over the back side of the culvert, giving me a slim glimmer of hope that I was going to get out of that mess….but what in the world was this balloon thing doing flapping around in front of my face, blocking my view of what was ahead?

The truck came to a screeching halt, still in the dirt with the right tires partly in a ditch. I sat there in the seat catching my breath, watching a blasted airbag slowly deflate at the steering wheel. I do not even recall having that bag inflate. Suddenly it was just there in front of me, getting in my way while I tossed around with the chaotic motion of the truck. Sitting in the seat, and before opening the door, I looked around behind me hoping to get a glimpse of whatever critter it was that popped into my lights and initiated that insane ride of mine. All I saw was the blackness of night behind me and I am sure that to the critter, I am nothing more than another notch on its hiking stick.

There I sat in my truck, a black truck in the blackness of the night, out in the middle of the countryside. I turned on the hazard lights and got out to inspect the damages. Hmm, the first thing I saw as I exited the truck was the front, left tire sitting flat on the ground. Now I am not mechanically inclined by any stretch of imagination, but looking at that wheel, I knew that something was not right. Continuing around the truck, the only other damage I noticed was the front bumper bent lengthwise. Not a pretty sight in and of itself.

To round out this story, a deputy arrived on the scene from the city of Yucaipa to take my report. A tow truck came by to haul my truck away. As the front end of my truck was lifted up, and the front, left wheel hung limply to the side, we saw that the only remaining connection between the wheel and the truck was the brake line. Sheesh! For some time now I have thought about getting another vehicle. It's beginning to look like the time is approaching faster than I had anticipated.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Chasing Bears

May 23, 2007
This is a late post. I was advised to post this to my blog many moons ago after sharing the story with family, but I'm just getting around to it. What is that word that plagues humanity, procrast........?

Hmm, it's all quiet right now. There was some excitement earlier here at the Riley Farm, though.

I am standing my first overnight watch, from midnight - 8:00 a.m. It is now 4:30 a.m. as I write. When I first came on watch and did my first round with the dude I was relieving, we came across a cinnamon-colored bear that had approached much too close to the tent that elementary-age school boys are staying in. When a bear is spotted, the protocol is to try and chase it off the farm, and usually this can easily be done by throwing rocks in its direction (without hitting the bear, of course) while informing the bear in your utmostest polite voice that it is not welcome on the farm. This young cinnamon bear that was spotted turned around when rocks were thrown, but rather than high-tailed it out of here it went straight up a tree. We continued to throw rocks into the tree until the bear came back down - only to head straight up a second tree. This just wasn't going in our favor! Suddenly Logan (the dude I was relieving) came up with a brilliant idea. He hooked up a firehose to one of the several fire main connections on the farm and then gave the bear its annual bath. The bear did not like taking this bath now, and I didn't blame it. Heck, summer hasn't even begun yet, much less is the summer season over. The bear did finally come down out of the tree and split out of the area.

About an hour after the cinnamon bear sighting, there was another bear but it had not crossed the road yet to enter the premises. All we saw were two beady- blue eyes shining in our flashlights, and then with a rock thrown the bear was out of our sight.

There was yet one more bear, this one a dark black one. I was sitting in the office when one of the farm dogs started barking. This bear had made it across the road and onto the farm, but the dog had the bear stopped. When I came out with my ultra-mean, vicious falshlight, the bear decided it had enough and went back into the woods on the far side of the street.

It is anticipated that the bears will not be back until about an hour before sunrise. So now here I sit, in a little office with a heater going, watching the second hand slowly sweep around the clock on the wall.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Someone has come up with the idea of e-tagging, and I became a taggee. My responses took awhile to come up with, with some areas lacking info and other areas having possibly too much. Be that as it may, the following is what I had to say….

1. What was I doing ten years ago?
Ten years ago was a crazy time for me; and a challenging time! I was living in Lakeside, CA (San Diego County) while my kids were living in Georgia. I came to the end of a two-year hitch with the Naval Reserves. I lost the best job I think I have ever had, working aboard a research craft as a sub-contractor for the U.S. Navy. I was underway often back then, either driving an inflatable boat on the ocean, or operating the cranes that launched said boat, along with other equipment, into the ocean. Losing the job was not due to anything I did, but rather it was a decision by the U.S. Congress to stop funding on our particular project. Fortunately, I was able to switch over to another division within the same company and work as a mechanical drafter. The drafting was another good job, but not nearly as fun as the research project.

During my off time I took wilderness survival classes with friends living in a nearby canyon. I eventually moved in with them, or actually onto their property, in an experiment of wilderness living. I lived in what I called a primitive hut – just a simple one-room hut with no plumbing, nor cooking facilities. This arrangement lasted about three months before I moved on.

It was during this period of my life that my car broke down, leaving me without transportation, yet I had to get to work. There was no public transportation heading directly toward the area I worked, so this is what I did:

Get up at 2:00 a.m. Get myself ready, then walk three miles out of the canyon where I lived in order to catch a city bus out of the town of Lakeside, CA. The bus took me to the neighboring town of Santee, where I had to transfer to the San Diego Trolley. The Trolley then took me through the towns of El Cajon, La Mesa, Spring Valley, Lemon Grove, and into downtown San Diego. One more transfer had me on a commuter train, the Coaster, which left downtown San Diego and followed the coast northward. I got off the train near the town of Sorrento Valley and walked another mile and a half to the office. After spending my eight hours at the office, I repeated my commute back to the canyon in Lakeside where I lived. My commute alone took eight hours a day, which when added to my time at the office, made for a very long day. I would get home around 7:00 p.m., eat dinner and then sack out so that I could be up at 2:00 again the next morning and repeat the process. This went on for about two months before I was finally able to move out of the canyon and purchase another car.

2. What was I doing one year ago?
One year ago was somewhat better for me, although it ended up being yet another transitionary period. I had just finished my second Associates Degree not long before and was working with the US Geological Survey in their surface water division, measuring the flow of water in various streams. I maintained thirteen sites from the southern end of California, to the Salton Sea, the Anza-Borrego Desert, and up to the Palm Springs area. Down on the southern end of my route I measured stream flow in the most polluted river in the country, the New River, which flows into the united States from Mexico at Calexico, CA. In the Anza-Borrego desert (San Diego County) I used to run into several Big Horn Sheep on every visit. Then up in the Palm Springs area I had several sites including a canyon which I truly enjoyed hiking. The canyon is owned by a research division of UCR and is therefore off-limits to the public. I frequently saw Big Horn Sheep in this canyon, as well as the tracks of mountain lion. I never did see the actual feline critters, but I sure did want to.

3. Five snacks that I enjoy.
- Peanut M&M’s
- Ice Cream
- Sunflower seeds
- Fruit
- Popcorn

4. Five songs I know all the lyrics to:
- Lorelei, by Styx
- The Grand Illusion, by Styx
- Give Said the Little Stream
- Cat’s In The Cradle, by Harry Chapin
- Corey’s Coming, by Harry Chapin

5. Five things I would do if I were a millionaire:
- Purchase acreage and build homes for family and friends to stay in when they visit
- Take a number of classes to learn new skills/hobbies
- Hike the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide
- Bicycle across the country, several times using various routes
- Establish an organization similar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation

6. Five bad habits:
- Procrastination
- Slouching
- Falling asleep at the wheel (not good when you’re a truck driver)
- Eating too many peanut M&M’s at a sitting

7. Five things I would never wear again:
- Bell bottoms
- Plaid pants
- A nightgown

8. Five toys I love:
- Camera
- Laptop
- GPSr
- Magnifying glass
- Bicycle

First thoughts on truck driving

For those who might not know, I am currently in a training program to drive trucks for CR England. I have been on the road as an apprentice now for a few weeks, first with a trainer that I had to leave because he was an idiot, and then with a second trainer who has been awesome to work with.

I first joined up with my second trainer, Andy, on Friday, July 6. He initially told me to meet him Thursday evening between 10:00-11:00, so I drove down to the England drop yard in Mira Loma to meet him. Due to an unforeseen situation, Andy didn’t arrive to pick me up until Saturday morning at 3:00 a.m., so I had to wait awhile.

Since meeting Andy, I have been back and forth between Salinas, CA and Chicago, IL. As I write this now, I am sitting at the world’s largest truck stop off of I-80, exit 284, near Walcott Iowa. And now, here are some thoughts I’ve had, and sights I’ve seen while meandering the highways….

I drove through Donner’s Pass, near Lake Tahoe, for the first time. I thought the area was beautiful and I would love to camp/hike there some time.

As I drove through the Nevada desert Friday night, July 6, I remember looking to the north and seeing a single line of lights in the dark heading up the mountain. The sight was quite curious to me and I wondered who in the world would develop a community so that there was one single line of lights like that. When we arrived in Mill City and stepped out of the truck, the smoky smell of fire hit us and I realized what the lights were – fire. The next morning as we drove out of the area, we saw crews shutting down the highway due to the heavy smoke.

The first time that I ventured into the state of Wyoming was at night and I regretted it because I couldn’t see anything – except the stars, LOTS of stars in the wide open spaces of Wyoming. I remember seeing a sign at the side of the road stating that I was crossing the Continental Divide. Interesting. I’ve crossed the divide many times before, but never at that high latitude.

Now for those of you who don’t know what the Continental Divide is, please bear with me while I explain that this is basically a ridgeline running north-south that divides the direction rivers flow down the Rocky Mountains. Rivers on the west side of the divide flow west; rivers on the east side flow east. With this explanation out of the way, imagine my confusion when I came across another sign stating that I was crossing the Continental Divide – again. How in the world could that be?! Is there not just one Continental Divide – only one ridgeline dividing the flow of rivers? I knew that I had not reversed direction on the highway and was then driving in the opposite direction, and was thus seeing the same sign I had previously seen. So what was the story?

When Andy and I swapped seats in Nebraska and I went into the sleeper, I could not go to sleep until I pulled out my atlas and looked up the Continental Divide in Wyoming. Aha! The I-80 highway travels through a basin known as the Great Divide Basin. So what I did was drive up and over the ridgeline at the western end of the basin, then dropped into the interior of the basin before driving up and over the ridgeline at the eastern end of the basin. The cloud of perplexion hanging over my head dissipated and I was able to rest.

Iowa was, um, well, there was a heck of a lot of corn spread out across the rolling hills. Lots of cows, too. One thing that I found quite interesting in Iowa was the fireflies. Not the fireflies themselves, which are always fun to watch, but rather the results of a firefly making contact with a windshield in motion. In one rapid swoop there will be the glow of a firefly in the air and then suddenly the glow becomes a translucent green-blue smear splattered across the windshield that continues to glow for several seconds. It’s a fascinating sight.

In Chicago, had the opportunity to scare the be-jee-bahs out of a woman sitting in her car. She was waiting at a red light at an intersection where I had to make a right turn. Mind you, now, I am still learning how to maneuver this truck, with its fifty-three foot trailer in tow. While driving down a main street with very narrow lanes, I slowed down as I approached the intersection and then made my turn. Due to the length of my trailer, I have to pull way into an intersection before actually turning the tractor so that the trailer wheels do not roll over the curb. In this particular case, the lady in her car was in my way.

I inched forward with my tractor and then turned right swerving right in front of her car and along her side. As I made the turn, I watched the lady on my left side with her eyes bulging out of her head. At the same time, Andy is hollering at me to take the tractor wider because the trailer wheels were about to go over the curb. If I took the trailer any wider, the lady on my left would be fleeing for her life. I was in a tough situation where in the end, the trailer tires ran over the curb. If I was still in school in Mira Loma, the curb thing would have been a fail. As it was, I was in Chicago, late at night, and I just continued driving down the road.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Well-Regulated Militia

For a short while, I worked at the Riley Farm as a living historian. This farm is owned by Jim Riley and is located in Oak Glen, which is in Yucaipa, CA. You can visit his website at There are many activities available at the farm from barbeques, to picking your own fruit in season, to historical reenactments, etc. For example, I took my parents to a fine Mother’s Day barbeque feast this past May, and I will be taking them again this month for a Father’s Day barbeque and activity.

As a living historian at the Riley Farm, I would dress up in a costume representing the mid-to-late 1700’s. I was then part of a Revolutionary War era program in which I had one of several stations where information was presented to school groups that come to the farm on field trips. For the Revolutionary War program, the school groups typically consist of fifth-graders who are learning about the Revolutionary War. There are also home school groups that come to the farm, as well as an occasional adult group. For example, we had a DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) group come one day. The DAR group participated in our daily Revolutionary War program, and then they had a luncheon specifically tailored to their group.

When the groups come to the farm for the Revolutionary War program, they are divided into what we call “Townships”. Each township is made up of no more than 35 students and has a name such as Lexington, Concord, or Norfolk. The townships also have their own flag, with someone selected from their group to be the flag-bearer; the flag is then carried with the township throughout the day.

As I mentioned, there are several stations where information is presented. As the townships rotate through the stations, they are lined up front-to-back so that each person is facing the back of the person in front of them (versus shoulder-to-shoulder). We also have the townships lined up in this formation whenever Jim Riley is presenting information to the entire group as a whole at the beginning of the day, the end of the day and at lunchtime.

There now. I believe the previous paragraphs should have enough pre-information for me to continue with this particular entry.

One of the stations that the kids rotate through is the “Well Regulated Militia”, in which the kids learn a few soldiering skills such as marching, turning commands, and musket handling. After teaching the turning commands: Left Face, Right Face and About Face, the instructors of the Well Regulated Militia often like to have fun with the flag-bearer. While the township is lined up front-to-back, with the flag-bearer in front of the line, the command is given to About Face. The students all remain in line and turn about, which puts the flag-bearer at the end of the line rather than at the front. This effectively labels the township as cowards, so the flag-bearer must quickly run to the front of the line. At this point, the instructor then repeatedly gives the same command to About Face, causing the flag-bearer to run back and forth up and down the line. If done corretly, this process is humorous and the flag-bearer does not become discouraged.

Jon Harmon is one of the redcoats during the Revolutionary War program and he will occasionally teach the Well Regulated Militia station. He learned a valuable lesson one day about which direction to have the township oriented when the command to About Face is repeatedly given. One of his townships was lined up north-south on the green (meaning the lawn) in front of the tavern while the About Face command was given. This particular green has a north-south slope, rising in elevation in a northerly direction away from the tavern.

So there’s Jon, standing authoritatively in his redcoat uniform and repeatedly giving the command to About Face. The students are standing in line, turning about, while the young female flag-bearer runs up and down the slope in an attempt to remain at the head of the line. At one point the students had been turned to face the tavern and so the flag-bearer had to run down the slope – but she tripped on the colonial dress she was wearing as a costume. Down to the ground she went head first, sliding down the slope on her belly with arms outstretched. If there had been a home-plate, she would have been safe; however in this particular moment she was just simply embarrassed. Jon was horrified!

The young flag-bearer sat up and smiled as she brushed herself off. The rest of the class laughed at the incident, but I’m told that the laughter was with their classmate and not at her. Jon immediately ran to the girl to see if she was alright and fortunately she was. Apparently the girl took it all in stride as a good sport would. When this township finished with the Well Regulated Militia training, their next rotation brought them to me and my Vice-Admiralty Court. I had no idea what had just happened to the flag-bearer of this township and was therefore clueless when Jon approached the girl during my presentation with a large cup of hot cocoa. All I knew was that on this cold, overcast and blustery day, the girl really appreciated the cocoa.

Getting a Haircut

Let me start this entry with a question: In the situation that follows, does a bystander get involved or do they just sit back quietly and observe?

I walked into a Great Clips hair cutting salon, in the town of La Mesa, with the intent of having a few of my hairs cut. I gave my name to the gal at the front desk and then took a seat, adding my mass to the silent assemblage that had already gathered to await their turns. In time, one of the stylists approached and called out the name of her next client. A man stood up and as he stood he commanded to a young boy, “Come”, whereupon a boy of about four years old stood to follow the man who appeared to be the boy’s father.

The stylist led the boy to a chair where he sat to have his haircut. While the stylist went to work, the father stood almost directly behind the boy watching her. As the cut progressed, the man critiqued the manner in which she worked. He spoke with an accent from the New York area and he had an abrupt attitude to go with it. The stylist politely informed the man that she understood the points he was making, and what he was referring to, but she was not finished with the cut yet. And then it happened…

The boy moved his head while the stylist was trimming his right side, causing her to cut more than she intended. She stylist tried to explain to the boy’s father that because the boy had moved his head, she was going to have to modify the style of cut in order to blend everything in. The man continued his badgering, and with all of this happening in the first chair next to the lobby, everyone waiting for their own cuts could hear the conversation. The stylist appeared to be keeping her nerve but in exasperation, she finally turned to the man and asked him if he were a barber. With this confrontation, the man turned to sit back down but as he did he told the stylist disgustedly that if he were a barber he wouldn’t be there in the salon.


Sitting in my seat waiting for my cut, I looked over at the man who had returned to his seat and I asked him why he couldn’t let the stylist do her job. He told me that if I had any children I wouldn’t be making comments like I just did. I informed him that I had four children, which effectively shut that line of conversation down. He then asked, however, if this was any of my business. I told him that he was out of line, and that really opened him up with comments about how I shouldn’t be butting into other people’s business. He kept at this so at one point I told him, “Look, it’s over”, and he replied, “Just so you know that”, as if to inform me that it was over; yet he still went on and on and on.

When it was finally my turn to have my haircut, I had the fortune of sitting in the chair next to the rude man’s boy. The father remained in the lobby until his boy was done and then he approached to view his boy’s cut, but he didn’t say anything more to me. After the man had left the salon, the boy’s stylist touched my arm and quietly thanked me for sticking up for her. I had to laugh at the man’s stupidity.