About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Monday, May 25, 2015

Time, Tides, and the Big 6-0


Copyright © 2015
by Ralph F. Couey

A few days ago, I passed a sort of a birthday milestone, number 60.  We spent the day driving through the Valley of Fire state park about an hour north of Las Vegas.  It was a useful retrospective, since while 60 years is a pretty good hike for a human, it's less than a flash of light to rocks whose ages are measured in tens of millions of years.

There was a time when I thought 60 was ancient; right up there with the rocks.  I couldn't imagine myself being that far along.  And as I over-ate my way through my 40's, there was a time when I frankly assumed I would have boarded the bus before that point. But there was an intervention, a massive weight loss, and here I still am.

One of my favorite original aphorisms is that while ageing is inevitable, being old is a choice.  My experience in life has brought me into conversation with two types of old men.  One is the type who reaches a certain point -- different for each man -- where the infirmities of age have filled the conscious mind, when mortality has become painfully apparent.  This is the man who sits around, groaning about his aches and pains and is simply waiting to die.  The other is the man who, while suffering from the same maladies, refuses to allow them to imprison him.  He stays active, both mentally and physically, and enthusiastically lives life, as they say, like there was no tomorrow.  I've wanted to be that second guy.  

Many of my friends tell me that I don't act my age.  I take that as a compliment.  I ride a motorcycle, I run 20 miles every week, and I hike at least one of those days.  I remain a voracious reader, and delve into crossword puzzles whenever I can.  I write, pursuing that dream of freelance writing.  I have promised myself that I will have a book published before I depart this life.  I do look forward to retiring in six years, but not because I'm that interested in not working, but because I want to have the free time to pursue all these interests.  And travel.

I do struggle.  I am neck-deep in the prostate years.  Arthritis affects my hands.  Every morning, it takes 10 to 15 minutes of dedicated exercise to loosen up the lumbar muscles so that I can stand fully upright.  There are times when my conversation halts in midstream while I search frantically for a word, or try to keep my train of thought from disappearing over the hill.  My intake of sugars and carbs has to be strictly monitored.  Appointments are sometimes hard to remember.  And then there are those 5 stents in my heart.  But I work through those because I don't want those things to control what I can and cannot do.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hiking, Parts 23, 24, and 25



Copyright © 2015
by Ralph F. Couey
Words and pictures

My wife and I make at least one trip to Las Vegas every year, sometimes more than one.  Usually those trips are co-scheduled with her family who fly in from Hawaii.  In case you ever wondered where people who live in paradise go on vacation, it's Vegas.  The clientele is so large that three of the local hotels, the California, the Main Street Station, and the Fremont have discovered a very fruitful revenue stream catering to vacationers from the Islands.

Normally, we engage in the usual Vegas-ish types of activities, gambling, entertainment, gambling, eating, gambling, sight-seeing, gambling... well, you get the picture.  Until I discovered hiking this past two years, it never entered my mind that there was anything else to do.  In preparation for this trip, which we coordinated with our middle daughter and her family, I searched for and found a book called "Hiking Las Vegas."  The author, Branch Whitney, researched, hiked, and described over 80 different hiking routes in three areas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area about 18 miles to the southwest, Mount Charleston about 40 miles due west, and Lake Mead about 35 miles due east.  The hikes range from easy one-milers suitable for young children, all the way to double-digit highly technical Class 5's which usually involve ropes and pitons.  

We arrived a day early and did the first hike by ourselves.  This 4-mile out-and-back is called "The Muffins," named for a group of conglomerate rocks that somehow ended up atop Blue Diamond Hill. Since conglomerates always form at the bottom of things, their placement there is something of a geological mystery.  To get to the trailhead, we drove out Charleston Road, which becomes Red Rock Canyon Road, past the Visitors Center to the Cowboy Trail Rides stables.  I should have parked in the dirt area just off the highway, but instead drove on up to another parking area near the corral.  This would later prove to be a mistake.



We got out of the car, geared up, and started out.  This particular area is criss-crossed with abundant mountain biking trails, which carry quaint names such as "Boneshaker" and "Bob Gnarly."  Hence, for the first-timer finding and staying on the correct path can be a bit difficult.  I missed a trail fork just past a dry wash and we ended up walking, not towards the clearly visible goal, but into a deep box canyon.  
 Looked pretty simple at this point.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Hiking, Part 22



Copyright © 2015
By Ralph F. Couey
Words and photos

This weeks sojourn took me back to one of my favorite places, the Appalachian Trail south of U.S. 50.  This hike, while containing some steep climbs, is one of the easier stretches of this great trail, leaving the hiker with energy and time to take in the wonder.  This route goes along the ridge part of Sky Meadows State Park and then into the Thompson Wildlife Preserve.  It varies from forest to meadow, and the path is well-marked and not nearly as rocky and rooty as other stretches. It is a pleasure to hike.

There is a small parking area at the foot of Liberty Hill Lane, all but invisible from the highway.  For hikers going north, there lies the dangerous crossing of US 50, a four-lane racetrack split by a grassy median, before tackling the infamous "Roller Coaster" heading towards Virginia Route 7.

My route south began with a steep climb out of the parking area, ascending to the top of the ridgeline.  As I climbed, I happily saw that the spring wildflowers were still in bloom, including this beauty...