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Leaving the place better than we found it
Seeing with my eyes closed
Thomas Jefferson on gun control
How to lie convincingly
Our hardy heartland
Breaking the cycle
How to catch the sun's comings and goings
Thoughts from the inside
Leveraging the internet to build our walls
Twitters from the past
And the invincibility of youth
Without ego projection
Yet another gift of the road
The charming side of obstinance
The creative part of photography
A movie critic looks in the mirror
We are not alone
As part of the system
Defecting from the rear guard
The end of Kumbaya
The wanderer's poet
Running out of dirt
Striking a balance
The Bay of Fundy, where the sea breathes
How to photograph them with anything, even your cellphone
A simple question we get every day
We may be failing to fail
And why no one should hesitate to examine them
Becoming a hero in one's own life story
A writing assignment
A new discovery of something old
Finding new eyes to see old landscapes
Hick humor
Toys for photographing wild places
Experiencing life with God
A radical thought about our radicals
Redemption with style
Hidden heroes among us
Resetting our parallel processor
A village with heart
A lesson from the road
The bullet dodged
A soul sparkles
You're on this page.
Painless ways to lose your virginity : 11/12/15
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Captain Ron
Isolation in style
01/06/16
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Moon burst over Salton Sea

In the jumbled recesses of my mind, I had always filed California's Salton Sea under the dead category. Only upon arriving did I learn that this immense body of water is stuffed with 400 million fish, mostly yummy tilapia. And for you fishermen types, the limit is, well with more than one fish for every American, there is no limit.

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Crunchy night shore

My other discovery was a by-product of being lost (yet again) on a dirt road along the southern edge of the lake, looking for a field of bubbling mud pots. The area is home to a half dozen rusty thermal energy plants, but nothing in the way of signs to the unnamed mud pots.

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Moonset over the civilized shore

At a turn into a particularly bad stretch of ruts and sand, I noticed a dilapidated motorhome nestled among some reeds. A recent campfire of blackened cans spoke of human habitation, so I went looking for the proprietor, hoping not to come across his dog instead.

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Brine rocks

Rummaging among the reeds with a rowboat fitted with a tiny motor, I found Captain Ron. White hair sprang out from under an Inca hat, eyes slitted tight against many years of sun, and black rubber boots almost to the knees.

Without so much as a hello, he glanced over his shoulder, went back to tieing down his boat, and grumbled, "You'll never make it to the mud pots in that thing."

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Unnamed geothermal mud pots

After a bit of my sniveling, he pointed out which track went to the mud pots but added, "The 4-wheel drive tow truck will set you back $400, plus whatever you rip off the bottom of your RV."

That put the fear of the Lord back into my position, and I became more penitent. I settled into a civilized conversation where I listened more than spoke.

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Cinderella looks out from her pumpkin

Turned out Captain Ron was a commercial fisherman in Alaska, but said he'd grown soft and only did that now in the summers. The rest of the time, he hid alone along the shores of the Salton Sea where there was no camping fee. When he got hungry, he would shoot a duck or catch some tilapia.

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Sleeping steam vent

Turning my attention to a muddy quad (4-wheel motorcycle) next to his RV, I asked, "Since the wind is too fierce to hunt or fish today, can I pay you to give me a ride to the mud pots?"

I threw in some gas and $20 later, I had a dust hairdo behind Captain Ron as we bounded over saltbrush and swung around sandy washes.

Captain Ron yelled stories over his shoulder about Alaska and the love of his life, his wife of over 30 years who had died not that long ago from lupus. They fell in love after she was badly injured in an airplane crash and grew addicted to pain pills. Captain Ron stayed by her side because of their shared love of the outdoors and because "that woman loved to kill fish."

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Captain Ron

At the mud pots, Captain Ron cautioned me to follow his footsteps. Three-foot high volcanoes gurgled, belched, and hissed next to us. At one point, Captain Ron started sinking in soft bubbling sand, and I saw the need for the rubber boots. We backpedaled in a hurry.

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Peter listens to Captain Ron describe his domain

After the mud pots, Captain Ron asked if I wanted to ride the quad to a rock promontory, the only one next to the lake. Of course I grinned and nodded.

Only a couple hundred feet high, it nonetheless offered a magnificent bird's eye view of the bird sanctuary's marshes. To the left of a white carpet of sea gulls in the distance, Captain Ron said were hundreds of tasty ducks. I saw nothing. He handed me his binoculars. Indeed I saw the brown dots, and wondered how such an old guy's eyes were so sharp.

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Cormorant nesting heights

The promontory was also home to over a thousand straw-and-stick cormorant nests, packed tightly next to each other. Bird shit and straw were packed into a ball pasted to vertical cliffs just to form the base for yet another nest.

Back at Captain Ron's camp, we spoke about whether he was ever afraid, living like a hermit so far from people. He spoke of how he didn't get along all that well with people, and then asked, "You've heard of alien abductions?"

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Cliffside appendage

"Yes", I said, expecting a hair-brained alcohol-laced story.

"That's why I made camp next to this flat open spot," he gestured with a bumpy old hand, "so they'd have no trouble landing."

"And if they're just grabbing dinner?"

"As a hunter, I would understand. After being on this planet for 86 years, I'm ready to take my chances."

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Rock head looking out to sea

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