I'm back home for a few weeks, spreading my unique brand of humor to local businesses. Case in point: we had just finished shopping at Acme Grocery Store when I noticed the sign in the checkout lane: "5% discount if you wear your Philadelphia Eagles fanwear on game day." Since The Eagles would soon take the field against the Cowboys, I asked the cashier, "Would it work if I told you my wife and I were wearing matching Eagles underwear?"
Her reply: "Well, I can't easily verify that, and if you were to demonstrate it, it would make people in line very uncomfortable..." Touché!
It took a couple of weeks to organize my next venture, to Texas and New Mexico. On tap: Big Bend NP, just as it enters its high season (sizzling temperatures discourage summer visits); Carlsbad Cavern; and Guadalupe Mountains NP
(websites say that during fall foliage season, it's the most beautiful spot in Texas. That may be a low bar to clear, I'd guess.) Fun fact: to begin this trip, I will fly into the Midland (TX) International Air & Space Port. (Wow! Maybe I'll take a side trip to the moon.)
On a couple of occasions so far this challenge, I've experienced the thrill of being a novice in the National Parks. I had a great time learning to geocache in Petrified Forest in May, and trying an e-bike at Crater Lake engaged me fully. In both cases, I recall the excitement when I first realized, "Hey! I can do this!"
But, I reminded myself, you had a third novice adventure on this past trip - pilfering piñon nuts! In an off-year for the crop, Bill and I still managed to gather five piñon pine cones. However, once my health took a hit after leaving the park, my focus narrowed to surviving the grind, and I forgot about the cones.
Even so, I did bag the five cones and carried them home - where they sat in my suitcase while I juggled finances and planned for Texas. (It's too easy to procrastinate doing something which I don't know how to do.) Finally, I buckled down yesterday and fled to Google to learn about harvesting pine nuts.
Step one: disassemble the pine cones to access the nuts. (I love taking things apart, especially if I don't have to them back together.) Okay, if I pry apart and peel away each 'leaf' of the cone, once I remove the outer layer - OMG, there're the nuts! It took me a half hour to strew shredded pine cone parts around my desk and extract 50+ nuts.
One website suggested washing off the liberated nuts, so I rinsed off the batch.
Now what? I showed them to Sue, who had as much idea as I had. "That's too big to be the nut. Pine nuts are much smaller - that's why they're so expensive!"
Back to Google, and a suggestion that you can open the shells using a rolling pin. Oh, boy, now I can make a mess in the kitchen! Quick, before Sue sees me. Wrap five of the nuts in a paper towel, roll the pin over them. That gave me five nuts crushed to smithereens. Okay, plan B.
The shells were thin enough for me to open with my thumbnail. One by one, I went through the remaining nuts. Many were empty, some contained papery threads or decay. When I found my first actual nut meat, I danced a fancy jig in my mind, and turned back to my task with a new sense of purpose.
In the end, I salvaged the nut meat from six - yes, six - nuts. One tiny nut meat for each pine cone (and a bonus one), at ten (or more) minutes of labor for each piece. Not very efficient, but I'll label it a success. Nice to know you CAN still teach this old dog a new trick!
Speaking of new tricks...
This week I started planning my first parks trip of 2023 - a trip expected to provide a keynote experience of my parks challenge. (And keynote experiences don't come cheap!) In January, I will spend a day training in the intricacies of mushing a dog-sled team, and then lead the dogs on a two- or three-day trip into the snowy wilderness of Denali NP. Highlights include stirring views of Denali, possibly sighting caribou and elk, and likely experiencing the Northern Lights. (I'll just ignore the comment the outfitter made about what happens if the temperature drops to 30° below zero. Think warm thoughts.)
Now for the 'invite' part. Would anyone reading this care to join me on this bucket-list adventure? I'd love to have someone share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with me. I have yet to book anything, so can work around what dates would work for you. Please let me know quickly if this might appeal to you.
I also plan on snowmobiling into Yellowstone, either before or after Denali. A full-day tour through the park to Old Faithful costs only a few hundred dollars. And since Grand Teton is close by, snow-shoeing (another novice experience!) or cross-country skiing there is an add-on option. If either or both of those sound do-able to you, let's make plans together.
Now excuse me while I go figure out how to afford all this...