Sunday, March 16, 2008

Aldo Leopold, New Mexico field trip

The fact that Aldo Leopold

  • started his career in forestry in New Mexico in 1909 is an important point in the following documentation of a class of 5Th grade school children on a field trip, March 14Th of 2008.

    Born in 1887 near Burlington Iowa, Aldo Leopold grew up, high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi river. He spent his years out in nature and developed a keen sense of observation of it's cycles of life.

    His being instrumental in founding 'The Gila Wilderness Area' in Southern New Mexico in 1929, as the first US Wilderness Area

  • is also important to this little story. Aldo Leopold was known as 'The Father of Wildlife Ecology and his book 'A Sand County Almanac' published in 1949 a year after his death in 1948 at his little farm near Baraboo Wisconsin, (near Madison) is still a valued reference for the balance of man living in harmony with nature.

    Our little story begins with a request from my ten year old Granddaughter, to please accompany her class on a field trip into the 'Sandia Mountains of New Mexico'. I am familiar with the Sandia Mountains

  • being right in our own backyard and a source of enjoyment and wonder for most of my life. I have blogged a couple of my trips previously. Being a mountain hiker with a renewed interest in this amazing ecologic system, I accepted, with only a slight reservation. A knee problem slows me down and the possibility of ten year olds scampering up the trail, leaving me to be rear guard.

    Our original Mountain hike field trip planned by that excellant little Albuquerque New Mexico NE heights elementary school, for a couple of months ago, was cancelled due to a storm with below freezing temperatures, blowing snow and icy conditions. My granddaughter informed me that on Friday March 14Th, I was to pick her up at home, take her to school, sit in a small chair in her class while her teacher explained the days program to myself and other adults willing to assist in, what I assumed to be, 'herding cats'. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

    After orientation which included dividing the students into small loose knit Squads of 4 for each adult. The students were then loaded into the two buses from our neighborhood elementary school. The adults drove to the area with the map provided. The Public School System here in NM, has built a large Natural History Center

  • in the Sandia Mountains, explicitly for the purpose of educating students in the importance of understanding the role and balance of, nature and humanity with all life on earth.

    I and the other adults/parents, arrived ahead of the buses, parking in the large area in front of the education buildings. Our first order after the buses unloaded, was to somewhat organise into manageable small Platoons of about 25 each. There were five groups in all, with a naturalist guide assigned to each group. We were introduced to our Platoon leader Paul, known as 'Viper' on the radio system that kept them in contact with each other, yet seperated on the trail. Cliff, Amy, and AJ (Smuggler) were a few of our guides. Amy (MUDHEN) actually accompanied us to answer questions in her area of expertise as well as 'Rear Guard' in our column.

    The order of the day was explained by Paul who refered to 'Aldo Leopold' as his inspiration in a lifetime of working with Nature and teaching as a guide, therefore the title of this post is in his honor.

    "No lunches or snacks were to be taken on the trail", no asking, "how much further", no asking "what time is it", "Please do not get lost and make me search for you", "if you do get lost just stay put and we will find you", "Do not wander all over the place, it just makes it harder for us to find you". "Use the restrooms before we start up the trail", "Stay on the Trail so we don't end up with a 'road". With those explicit instructions, we 'saddled up' and started our single file foray into the mountains with 'Viper' on Point.

    The first stop for our Platoon of 25, was within a short distance of the center. A 'whiteboard' was set up at a small seating area at the 6,900 foot altitude and the Days mission was outlined, with many questions answered by the alert students. The Eco-system was basically outlined with the division of the 'Producers', the 'Consumers', and the 'Recyclers' of the forest system being labeled. The Living parts were also seperated from the Nonliving. The students caught on fast and many of the basic family of each division were identified. Trees 'producers'..Animals such as 'Squirrels' consumers..'Fungus' recyclers, Rocks and Dirt including it's nutrients.

    A short walk back to the 'Pajarito' Trail head, and our Trek began. Within a few minutes climb to higher altitude, the first stop and forming a circle, Paul asked the students about the powers of their observations so far. The things that were seen and their place in the cycle. Many forest signs were described such as 'Scat' from animals, Leaves from the trees, and the soil composition such as the gophers that turn the soil endlessly while tunneling. A 'plowing' process that is necessary to keep the layers of dirt in the forest well mixed and allowing the soil to be porous for moisture holding.

    Paul is really impressed with the tough old Alligator Juniper with it's unique alligator scaled bark, tortured twisted branches, and he described it's methods of survival. This is a dry, high altitude Forest. One method of survival, Water retention by allowing the bark on the bottom of horizontal branches to remain and carry the nutrients under it, to the upper reaches of it's foliage.

    During years when no moisture is available, it can go into a state of hibernation. A lifespan of 1,900 years is entirely possible with the Alligator Juniper. This little, possibly fire caused, Sun bathed clearing was perfect for allowing the sprouts of new meadow grasses which are necessary for grazing animals.

    More hiking upwards into the Mountain system, brings us to an area where several different types of tree co-exist. The temperature change allows the Pondrosa, which likes a cooler habitat, to flourish. At this point we began a rare, off trail, brush trip. A turkey 'scat' was spotted.

    The turkey was abundant when I lived nearby in the 1960's. They disappeared for a long time due to various reasons, possibly including infectious diseases, and were then reintroduced from the Manzano Mountains to the South. Now once again, it's common to see sign of them. We climbed higher up the mountain, carefully pushing through the brush.

    A welcome rest stop was at "Best View Baldy". A small clearing on top of a mountain ridge, overlooking a valley of trees. The short duration wind gusts on this day, achieved about 24 miles per hour, according to Pauls little instrument. While laying back and looking at the view, Paul told us some stories from his past. One of which was nearly freezing to death on Mt. Washington

  • in New Hampshire. Wind can achieve 239 mph on 6,900 foot Mt. Washington and hypothermia sets in quickly. Another time Paul was in a tent on a cliff overlooking the ocean in Labrador

  • . The wind almost blew his tent over the cliff, consequently, Paul respects the wind. Paul worked as a guide inCarlsbad Caverns

  • , another New Mexico natural wonder.

    While exploring Lechugia Cave near Carlsbad Caverns, which BTW is 114 miles long, he was climbing the 200 foot rope, using lever devices. At the 90 foot level, He shined his light down and saw nothing but a black abyss. He shined his light up and saw nothing but more blackness. He then thought, "WOW this is so cool, and they pay me for this".

    Paul also respects forest fires, having worked as a fire fighter. He mentioned that nature burns whatever it wants with little effect from the fire fighters. The Yellowstone fires taught a valuable lesson in humility to mankind, a book describing that fact is available, if anyone wants to read it, drop a comment at the end of this post.

    The altitude on this scenic resting spot is 7,200 feet by my GPS indication. Any one who thinks a trail climb of over 300 feet is simple, needs to try it with a backpack and trying to keep up with ten year olds. I compare it to a 30 story tenement stairway. After sipping water and a question and answer period where binoculars and monoculars were handed out and recovered, We start back down by a different route. Interestingly enough, which takes us past a 500 year old Indian hunting lodge made of rocks, not far above a small spring.

    The animals enjoy the fresh clear water trickling from the little, old wellhead that someone tried to develop a very long time ago. A game of searching and observation was enjoyed by the students, listing all of the various elements of the eco-cycle found in this area of rich natural diversity. A large Ponderosa pine about three feet in diameter, had a shiny metal disc fastened to it with the words, "Custers Last Stand" GD1876 #130. Always looking for some fun, paul found what looked like a large animal 'scat', picking it up with paper, he carefully showed it to the students before putting into his mouth. A shriek erupted from the students, Paul had carried a rubber 'scat' with him for the shock effect, it worked :>)

    The rapid return descent down to the base camp, was on a canyon trail lined with remaining ice from this winters storms. After arriving at base camp and a restroom break, Our own packed lunch was enjoyed at several tables placed away from the buildings, back into the trees, to give a sense of even more nature. No litter was allowed, and all trash was packed up for deposit in the barrels at base camp nearby.

    The last hike of the day, was to a prepared area for the lesson in 'Orienteering' using compasses and five foot lengths of rope to 'chain' the distance to pre positioned PVC tubes containing further instructions to follow. Now it was getting technical. Paul explained how the compasses worked, using the needle for North reference and turning the ring for the heading listed, then folowing the base line toward the direction determined for each group on the starting post sign. Then using the rope for relevant distance measurements, the students were to begin their quest.

    My little squad of four girls were enthused to say the least. One grabbed the compass and immediately determined the direction heading of the first leg, at 200 degrees for 80 feet. Two grabbed the 5 foot rope and started 'chaining' the distance. I stood at the post to keep them on heading. The fourth started looking frantically for the camouflaged PVC tube, finding it within minutes. The girl with excellent writing skills documented the further instructions rolled up in the tube, which included the next compass heading of 150 degrees for 50 feet, the distance and also one word of the puzzle to be solved later.

    I then went to that site as a guide, as the four girls plotted their next leg of the course. Within minutes they were 'chaining' the distance of the compass heading. One tube was found hanging from a branch of the tree, my Granddaughter spotted it. From that site, the next leg at 60 degrees for a distance of 60 feet, was processed quickly in their minds. The third tube was somewhat elusive due to the dense brush in the direct chain path. An overshoot in distance brought them to the second tube from another team. The other team welcomed the help.

    Our team's third tube was soon found and the words from each tube, 'Squirrel, Tree' and Hawk, brought them to determine the cycle of life in this Mountain forest. "The Pine Tree produces the pine cone nuts", "The Squirrel eats the nuts", "The Hawk eats the Squirrel" and "Their lifetime of scat along with their eventual demise", "Recycles into the soil for nourishment of the trees".

    A quick return to the rendevous point revealed that our little team won by a considerable margin. I was soooo proud of the girls. We waited patiently for the others to return. After return, all teams told Paul the answer to their riddles. Paul collected our compasses and ropes. We all packed up our gear, then proceeded back down the trail to base camp. Many pictures were taken to remember this day while waiting for, and loading on the buses.

    All in all a really fascinating 7 hour day was had by all. Thank you Teachers, Organisers, Students, and of course Adults accompanying the group. We all had a great field trip enjoyed by everyone involved and most of all by this 'Blogengeezer'.

    One more day enjoying life in this United States of America. "One Nation Under God". "The greatest Nation the world has ever known"

    Please do not forget 'The Others'

  • that keep our society free to do these things. Lt G

  • Labels:

  • Tuesday, March 04, 2008

    Love Ranch, Joe Pesci, Helen Mirren

    Love Ranch...on set

  • Now you can click on the Juke Box, set it for 1976, pick a tune to start, sit back and reflect back to those days in Reno Nevada, The Mustang Ranch, Oscar Bonavena, Joe and Sally Conforte, and even big bad Ross Breymer at ringside during a well promoted heavyweight fight attended by thousands. This is the scene depicted on the set we are working, for these posted weeks starting 2-21-08 through 3-5-08. Enjoy 'The fight'. 'Ringo'

  • Call Time: Wednesday, March 5

    8:45 am Ranch Girls
    8:45 am Ring Girl April
    8:45 am Fight Fans with FIRST names that begin with A-M
    8:45 am Arena Security/Sportswriters
    8:45 am Fight Officials/Fight Judges
    8:45 am Reno Police/Still Photographers
    8:45 am TV Reporters/TV Cameramen/Soundmen
    8:45 am Statisticians/Black Panther Body Guards
    9:45 am Fight Fans with FIRST names that begin with N-Z
    9:45 am Oracon Cameramen
    9:45 am Wendall Photo double
    9:45 am Time Keeper
    9:45 am Colter's Cut Man/Bruzo's Cut Man
    9:45 am State Trooper
    WOMEN come with your hair in hot curlers or rollers and with makeup done.
    We will be at the Tingley Colisium on the State Fair grounds.


    Awoke at 0600, SSS and arrive very early to eat breakfast before sign in at 8:45 am. Elizabeth walked in just behind me. Now that is a dedicated Casting Director. Rebeca a little later, Katy followed by Rachel who just makes sure we are all happy and know what to do next. Sign and wardrobe before 9:00 am, then just sit around talking about whatever 'jingles our bells'.

    No 'CSI' Nicholetta today, busy with studies at UNM. Enrique the young 'Tenured' lib UNM college professor of European History, (200 students per semester), future politician? After speaking with professor Enrique, I was left with the impression that the University of New Mexico

  • teaches the analogy that "Bush is Hitler"?

  • We were called to the 'live set' before I could find out from Enrique, which historical figure Vladamir Putin

  • is representing, or more importantly the future role that Barack Hussein Obama

  • would play as the new, loved by all, 'World Leader'. Now that subject would be interesting, considering the changing demographics of these times, interwoven with Bible prophesy.

    Enrique mentioned that Nicholetta was most likely busy with her intense schedule in criminology

  • studies today. Good for Nicholetta, studies that are worthwhile to humanity. I have always respected 'The Hard Sciences'.

    'Woody' the Paratrooper Demolition Man

  • walked over and told me his kids liked the previous stories about him and our 'work'. They told him, their Dad was now famous over all of the world. That's a good thing because his generation is what made this Nation great. I can only hope and Pray that this next generation has the same wisdom, guts and intuitions as the 'Woody's of the past. The troops returning from a truely godforsaken world, are our future. My prayer is that they will fill every public office at every level to hold accountable, those that seek to weaken our system for their own political gain.

    Ron from Bakersfield California, a retired Lexus Sales Manager (his wife was one of his Sales reps) was rare'n to go after chow call. He has owned about 4 single engine sport planes and homebuilts are his fav's. At present, Ron likes the cloth covered basic types.Fisher Dakota

  • About 11:00 am Rachel came and said to get ready for some action soon. Yep, file out to the Arena and a grandstand seat with a back was my nest for the next few hours. Right straight away in back of the fighters and behind the press but to the left. Good spot with a great view of the action. Heavy Glycerin smoke today, what's new?

    Here's my research stats on the effects of the heavy 'haze' created by; Le Maitre smoke fluids are materials supplied by Le Maitre for use in their smoke generators. A reservoir is charged with the water based fluids which are forced by pneumatic pressure into a heated chamber. Here the fluid is immediately vaporised and expands. On passing into the atmosphere a mist or smoke is formed as a result of condensation of the vaporised material. .
    3.3. Toxicology of Propylene Glycol & Glycerine

    Propylene glycol is an allowable constituent of foodstuffs and pharmaceutical products. it is contained, for example, in soft drinks and suntan lotions. Although neither of these are inhaled there is no reason why this route should pose an additional hazard. Experiments on rats and monkeys have shown that exposure to saturated atmospheres for up to eighteen months produces no ill effects. Equally no effects have been noted in man as a result of inhalation.

    Glycerine is also allowed in foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals and is very widely used. It is also used as a bacteriostat. No toxicity effects on animals or man have been noted even at concentration well in excess of those relevant here.


    In general, it is prudent to avoid undue exposure to any substance but there is no reason to suppose that any harmful effect will result even from continued exposure to the smoke generated. In typical use where the exposure is restricted and limited there is every reason to consider the devices safe.
    My personal note; one side effect is enhanced sense of smell after leaving the set, this effect remains for several days?

    Super Techno Crane

  • with it's camera was flying overhead. Shoulder mounted cam was also in ring again for closeup shots of the fighters. The ringside floor where we were sitting last week was now laid with 20 ft (6m) of track and the 'Chapman'? Dolly

  • , camera was rolling back and forth for 'ringside shots'.

    Round one clinch , we Boo, the break, we cheer, Bruzza recovers we cheer. Five 'takes' on that one and we progress to section 2 of the same round, Bruza in full control with 2 'takes'. Section 3 of same round Bruza still in control of Colter. Chanting, and standing with lot's of fist pumping like monkey's, is rising in intensity now. 'BRU-ZA' is heard repeatedly along with lots of animation from the hundreds of us positioned among the blow-up heads and cutouts seated among us. To the distant camera it looks like the stadium is filled with people 'rippin it up' over the fight. Bruzza staggers Colter with a good head shot and we all go wild. shoulder cam is in tight for that head shot. Reset and take that same shot five times to get it looking right. 'CUT' is called by Hackford. End of round one at 12:00 noon. Jimmy and Leroy are friends again and huggin' it up. Must have been the long hours the other night.

    Sitting to my right is Mark retired from CNM

  • as a Budget Director. Payroll was not his 'thing'. Next to him was Don the CPA, from Sacred Power

  • a solar and wind turbine company that gets most of it's business from off-grid customers like the Indian Reservation, with initial costs of ten dollars a watt, offset (paid) by federal government subsidies. Watts new?

    Break for a move to floor area at 2:30 am, where we spent time last week. Techno Crane is now on reverse side of ring. Round one is re-started again and different camera perspective is repeated as viewed from the Press area. Again Bruza is in control as before so we repeat our chants and cheers loudly but at times in Pantomime for the dialog to be heard through the microphone held close overhead by the person holding the boom pole. Finally move on to next section where we repeat the same scenes we did from the grandstand. 3 resets then 'Cut'.

    Round two and repeat the action from before. Hackford calls for an instant replay of round one which takes only a couple of minutes then we move on to round two and doing several 'Ends of Rounds' in quick progression. Stand up, cheer, pump fists, sit down and repeat many times. Every body's knees are working well today and fully exercised. Colter is in control at this time making full use of his fast combinations and lightning jabs. After being whacked a good one by Colter, Bruza takes a swing after the double bell end of round and we all Boo. We do that one many times and then 'Cut'.

    Helen Mirren does a cute little dance for us in our aisle while passing the time. She seems fun today and in the mood to entertain the background. My friend is sitting behind Joe Pesci and it looks like he is talking to Joe? A crewman looks exactly like Joe, more so than his stand-in does, Interesting.

    Bruzza is now being applied with 'blood' for this next sequence of shots. The doctor and 'cutman' is in the ring for this group while we bemoan the fact that our hero is cut. The Colter fans, cheering for their, lighter on his feet, faster, more technical fighter, are elated at this time, Bruza is more like a slow determined, flat footed fighter watching for any opening to unleash his heavy weapons. Many takes later we hear the word 'Cut' and the next scene where fans are all in the ring, is set up. this one is complicated due to the 50 or so fans all together. Ryan wearing his old style 'gym' shoes with red sport jacket was picked by Taylor to get in there. Frank and Tom got some 'ring time' as well. Five pm and dinner break with chicken or pork, veggies and macaroni with red sauce were served to the hundreds of us through several lines. Pretty fast and efficient for all. Not the best food working on this film but not the worst by far.

    Had met Fred earlier. He was stationed in the Philippine's during the Vietnam war. His outfit suffered one KIA in Nam but Five in the Philippines from the local Huk's. Fred was an Air to Ground Radio man. At times during atmospheric skip, he talked to guys in Nam, both ground pounders on patrol and aircraft. Atmospheric skip is interesting when it occurs but not good when a critical piece of information is being passed.

    Fred and I discussed Colorado where he grew up. His uncle met Zane Grey on several occasions when he was his guide and Grey wrote him into a book as an old tough rancher. Fred hiked with his uncle often. Trapper Lake above Meeker was a destination. One time he was riding a bus from Silverton to Ouray Colorado and came to a recent large snow slide at the point where the Preacher and his two daughters lost their lives years ago. The driver turned around and Fred walked over the slide to the other bus stopped on the other side and continued on his way. Red Mountain Pass is always interesting, Have driven it often.

    Kimberly from England does social work, her husband is US military and did duty in Panama and Grenada. Kimberly was entering the British Army just as they were heading to the Falklands. Her family strongly suggested she do something else. She lived in Pennsylvania for a time.

    6:00 pm and Rebeca rounded us up to return to the arena, same position in plastic seats with backs (good thing). Same positions as morning for different camera angles and stand up, sit down, yell, cheer, among the 'bubble heads (strung together in 4's, and cutouts. Tall Nathan was near center and many others of our friends around him, 50 in all. Bruza stands on a stool, while MC gainey, playing the part of Joe's man, Ross Brymer puts him on his shoulders many times and from many different angles.

    Bruza falls backwards into the arms of the fans (actually crew) repeatedly to get it right. The announcer repeats many times loudly while rolling his tongue "The winner by a knock out, Arddddmando 'the wild bull' BRUUU-ZAAA". Of course we clap and cheer loudly while chanting "BRUU ZAAA, BRUU ZAAA" over and over. We are so excited it seems we are really there in Reno in 1976 watching 'Oscar Bonavena' win his fight.

    Helen came down to get out of the crowd while her husband Taylor instructed the people how he wanted them to perform. Helen walked around outside the ring for a while by herself. A cooling fan was held up to keep Joe Pesci cool in his long black leather coat. Bruza came down for a touch up, to make up for lost blood. All through this scene Super Techno Crane was flying overhead to film the action. along with 'shoulder cam'.

    We were selectively moved to the railing of the Grandstand for a repeat of the scene in the ring. Al and I got to be directly down range from the camera for a last set of shots during the ring melee. Lots more yelling and cheering and Boos. Our throats were getting a little sore even though the water bottles were being passed around by the casting assistants.

    Al has been in ABQ for 14 months and came from Maine where the weather is really cold. While climbing through the trees to his house, through the deep snow on hands and knees one night, returning from work, he re-thought where he wanted to retire. Good choice Al. The chambers house in Waldoboro Maine where he lived for 15 years, was always thought of as 'The Chambers House' Al and his wife were thought of as 'The people from Away'.

    The locals had to live there from the beginning of colonization to be accepted as true Maine residents worthy of the recognition as such. The Chambers house was over 150 years old and had no insulation until Al and his wife laid down some pink Panther in the attic. Still his heating bill was $480 dollars a month, pro-rated for all 12 months of the year. That was before the last years increase. Really good choice Al. This was another of Al's career's Keeping us safe during the cold war years. B-47 Mechanic

  • We stand on the rail watching and cheering as the 'ring crowd' scene is worked from many angles. Bloodied Bruza climbs down from ring as Helen holds him gently and escorts him from the crowd scene. She hits her head on the big light frame one is quickly raised about 8 inches.

    Big MC Gainey (playing Ross Brymer or 'John') walks by and I yell "MC!" a crew man taps him on the shoulder, he turns and walks over to me. I was last with him in the Mustard scene in "Wild Hogs. He told me he couldn't stand mustard on anything for months. we had a laugh over that, he shook my hand and walked away, thanks MC.Really great actor and all around nice guy

  • Al spots Jimmie the fight director, putting black color on his arms for a camera shot with the gloves, we had no idea what that was all about. They apparently made his arms the same black color as Leroy's. Joe is confronted in the ring by the IRS man. He explains that Joe has not paid enough taxes and will he meet in Joe's office at 9 am on a certain day. Now the story gets more interesting, from a historic view. repeat a few times and finally;

    "It's A Wrap". Ever gracious, Taylor Hackford says "Thank You all for a great job" It is 10:30 pm. Run to wardrobe, change out 1976 attire, turn in clothing, pick up pay voucher, run to Casting table, stand in another line with hundreds of background, get voucher validated, receive pink copy and head home for 11:oo pm date with bed.
    As usual it has been another wonderful day in THE United States of America, One Nation Under God"
    Now start the search to find another casting call.