Tonight I'll be meeting a group of Boy Scouts at the Fullerton train station; we'll be riding Amtrak's 'Southwest Chief' to Raton, New Mexico (a 22 hour train ride ... if you're lucky). From Raton, we'll take a bus another forty miles to Cimarron, home of Philmont Scout Ranch.
Philmont is one of the Boy Scouts' national "high adventure" bases. "Crews" of Scouts come from across America — about twenty thousand each summer, if things haven't changed too much from back in my day — to go backpacking on ten-day "treks" through the Sangre de Christo mountains. (The Sangre de Christos are the 'foothills' of the Rockies, although they're no slouch themselves, with the tallest point on Philmont property being 12,441 feet.) Treks can be anywhere from fifty to ninety miles, with an activity level ranging from 'challenging' (or 'typical') to 'super strenuous'. The thing that makes Philmont different from a typical backpacking trip is that the Philmont backcountry is dotted with "staffed camps", where the Scouts stay overnight and do various activities. Some of the staffed camps offer program that's similar to what you might find at a summer camp — rock climbing, shotgun shooting, horseback or mountain bike riding. Other camps are inhabited by staffers who are playing the role of New Mexico backcountry residents of years long gone by — miners, trappers, loggers, homesteaders.
This is a big trip for me in a couple of ways. The first is that my brother is one of the Scouts in the crew. (For any new readers, we're sixteen years apart). The second is that I spent two summers working at Philmont — in 1994, I was a photographer; in 1995, I managed the photo department. One of the advantages of being a photographer is that you got a lot of time off; I spent most of mine backpacking, which got me well-acquainted with a wide swath of Philmont's backcountry. While the people I worked with back in the day won't be there (with a few exceptions; my old boss seems to have moved to Cimarron to run a souvenir store/gallery in town!), I'm expecting this to be an emotional reunion with the place itself.
See you in a couple of weeks!
A look at our newest neighborhood friend (click for a larger version):
Maybe it's thanks to the rats and mice that I kept as childhood pets, but I think that he's pretty cute.
Just so you all don't think that this blog is only a place for me to vent my spleen at things I dislike (the Anaheim White House, medical billing offices, Tan Nguyen and his signs, the TSA, etc.), I've decided that I need to call out things that I do like from time to time. So here goes:
|It's just been government-recognition week around here at the Hogan household. The first to receive recognition was the house itself. You may remember that way back when we researched the house's provenance so that we could apply for the Mills Act, wherein owners of homes of a certain age receive massive property tax benefits in exchange for agreeing to maintain their homes in a historically accurate manner. On Tuesday night, the City Council meeting started with a brief recognition ceremony for us Mills Actees; we got to shake the mayor's hand, took our picture with the rest of the homeowners in the Mills Act "class of 2006", and were presented with this plaque that's now mounted by our front door:|
|It's no concidence that the ceremony where they handed out the plaques took place the week after the County Assessor's property valuation for 2007 arrived in the mail:|
|... that little box, snipped out of our valuation notice, makes the value of having a Mills Act house pretty darn clear. We bought in 2004, but now we're paying property taxes like it's the mid-90s — woohoo! (If only we could find some way to apply the same reduction to our mortgage.) Now we just need to get some projects started around here and start sinking some of that found money back into the house.|
The second to get good stuff from the government was me. On July 4th, while we were celebrating freedom and hot dogs and all that, some hard-working soul at the U.S. Patent Office was issuing a patent with my name on it! My first patent, almost four years after we made the application:
|... unfortunately, it lists me as living in Morgan Hill, but you can't have everything. Maybe soon we'll start getting good (or bad, whatever) news about some of the other applications that we made around the same time period.|
There's a tingly feeling about now being (in an extremely small way) part of a historical record that stretches back to 1790; maybe in the future, bored high-school kids will stumble across this patent while listening to their twentieth-generation iPods and surfing the Metaverse for three-dimensional porn, chuckling at its quaintness in much the same way that one might smile at a patent for an enhanced buggywhip or whalebone corset today.
Happy Fourth of July, everybody. Enjoy a piece of properly charred meat (or your favorite vegetarian/vegan alternative; we're not picky) and a beverage of your choice. Watch some fireworks. (Unless you're one of my international readers; then just have your grilled food and beverage and reflect on whatever you want to.) That's what we'll be going off to do in a few hours; in the meantime, I have a cherry pie that I need to bake ...