Monday, April 19, 2021

Scratching the Groove a Little Deeper

 I have lived a blessed life.

Born into a great family to grow up and thrive with.

A smart and independent daughter that has been far less troublesome than I deserve.

Career opportunities and choices that, while they may not have always been what I would have chosen for myself given free-range, for the most part kept me interested in what I was doing and allowed me to retire early.

And not least, far more good days than stormy during my numerous camping trips.



But you remember those clouds that blew in late yesterday and kept me from getting some good sunset photos of the Murphy House? Well it started raining last night and this morning (March 22) it's still raining. Not too hard, but steady.

The radio reception here is crap, very sporadic and faint, and I have to be standing in just the right spot at just the right time (go back to the same spot 10 minutes later and nothing) with my little pocket-sized weather-band radio to catch the NOAA forecast, but as best I can hear, it might clear up, or at least stop raining, later today, or maybe not until overnight.

Now I could hunker-down in the cozy, dry warmth of The Van and work on my collection of mini-puzzles while waiting for the perfect hiking weather or


I could swap out my usual straw hat for my Tilley, (She's pretty old - I know for sure I've had her since the 80's because I've got photos, but it could be I got her as far back as the mid to late 70's - and she's rather shapeless, permanently stained around the head-band, and scuffed where she's been mistreated. In other words she's far from pretty anymore - but then again neither am I - but I treat her with a spray water-guard every couple years and she still does the job.)




don my rain-suit, jacket and pants,


slip on my fisherman's gloves, which, though it is hovering in the chilly mid-40's still might still be a little over-kill since they are thinsulate-lined, but these are water resistant, (they claim the shell is water-proof but very few things are actually water-proof, just ask the Appalachians which are the stubby little remains of Himalaya-esk mountains worn down by, you guessed it, water) and my other gloves are more sponge-like - worse than nothing in the cold rain,


stretch the rain-cover over my loaded pack,

and head on out despite the weather.


The rain is falling more sideways than down, especially up on the exposed ridges, and I feel like I'm walking in a small, fuzzy bubble and the world ends in a pillow-like fall off the edge a few dozen feet away in any direction, but many decades ago when I was briefly playing solder it was explained to me this way and it has stuck ever since:

We are all born with a shallow groove which is where the toughness, fortitude, and resolve we need for dealing with physical and mental challenges lives, and every time we face one of these challenges it scratches that groove just a little bit deeper, giving us a little bit more of that toughness, fortitude, and resolve to work with next time. But that groove is just like our muscles. If it isn't challenged on a regular basis then it gradually reverts back to it's original form, it's original shallow depth that can only hold limited reserves of what we might need.

So I try to scratch my groove regularly. Acclimating to seasonal changes rather than retreating into heated or air-conditioned comfort, pushing on up that next hill even though my legs would rather not,  forcing myself into my daily workout even though I don't feel like it, and today, hiking when the conditions aren't the best.

Besides, the worst day hiking is better than a day - well you know, blah - blah - blah


(Most the photos in this post come from my phone because it is "water-proof" and my camera is definitely not! I carried the camera safely tucked away in my pack, but ended up just leaving it there.)

So off I go, frankly feeling pretty smug about myself as I walk by other campers huddling in their sealed RV's. More smug than I'm entitled to. - - - After all, it's just rain - - -

Not quite a mile from The Van the old posts for the gate that once kept goats where they were supposed to be loom up out of the mist one step at a time


marking the official, in my mind anyway, start of the trail,


and the beginning of a glorious, if damp, day.


I've hiked many trails more than once, sometimes a lot more than once, but each time the trail is different. Different light, different season, different attitude; even the trails on the property which I hike several times a week are constantly changing. (With branches and trees falling across and blocking them more often than you'd expect!)


But today, with limited visibility eliminating the familiar ridges and the rain sometimes closing in tight


and other times being torn open by the swirling winds, it is a notably different hike.

Enough so that the mild discomfort of hiking in the rain is often pushed out of mind by the wondrously new - which is a shame really since I'm hiking in the rain dammit and someone should be making note of that! Even if that someone is just me - - -


About two miles from The Van it's time to start the 350 foot climb up out of the canyon towards the ridge.


At the top of the climb, enshrouded firmly in my small, misty world, I deviate from the main trail to wander through Primitive Camping Area B perched high into the thick of things on the un-sheltered top of the ridge. The camping area, understandably, is devoid of campers on this fine morning.


I hike my diversion all the way to the ghostly gate between the park and the back-side of a private ranch to the north.

(This is how the electric-coop service trucks get to the high-voltage transmission lines that cross the ridge-tops here)


Eventually I wander back to the main trail and make my way along the serpentine spine of the ridge.


For the past 100 years film-makers have understood the impact of sound and music on us humans, and that impact is not only felt on film.

When the trail wanders, without advanced warning because of the limited visibility, under power lines that are moaning and howling in the cold, wet, wind, it is suddenly a colder, uneasy, and lonely place to be.


But that is replaced by a different kind of uneasiness as I stand at the top of the descent down off the ridge looking down at 300+ vertical feet of wet, slick rock.

Humm, this reminds me of something - - - Oh Crap! Illinois' Little Grand Canyon where I slipped and busted my ass on wet-slicked rock just like this! I knew that canyon was slick - and I was being extra careful with each step - yet, without warning, I was unceremoniously thrown down on my ass into what could have been a pretty nasty situation - And now I'm standing, frozen here in the rain, looking down at more slick rock!

Dude! Just quit your whining - pull your big-kid underoos  up - and cut the groove a little deeper!



But first I take the rubber tips off my hiking sticks.

Technically I'm just supposed to use those rubber tips for safe transport of the sticks between hikes, but the carbide tips under them clicking on rock as I hike are just too noisy for me.

But those noisy tips also grip rock, especially wet rock, even at ridiculously obtuse angles, a whole lot better than the rubber, so I'll put up with the noise for this treacherous descent.


Unfortunately my hiking boots have seen quite a few miles of trail and the edges of the lugs and sips are well worn and rounded, which means that like the rubber tips on my hiking sticks they too only offer - well let's call it limited - grip, especially on wet rock.


I was recently looking at some mini-spikes, the kind you pull on over your boot a lot like those old-fashioned galoshes.


Rather than the long steel shark-tooth like spikes of crampons used for thick ice and hard snow, which I hardly ever encounter these days, the ones I was looking at have 12 grippy lugs  per foot, each tipped with one of those rock-grabbing little carbide nubs. Now I'm kinda wishing I had clicked that "add to cart" button - - -

OK, quit procrastinating and cut the groove dang-it!

 


The trip down is slow and sometimes frighting. But at the bottom, with no spills along the way, and only a few minor slips, the trail abruptly flattens out (This is where a surprising number of hikers coming up from the other direction, barely more than a mile from the trailhead, take one look at the climb ahead and turn around) and my reward is the bench in front of The Grotto.


In anticipation of a cold hike I brought my stove with me for an augmented lunch today.

Water keeps dripping off my Tilley into my noodles, and I have to keep my crackers tucked into my jacket so they don't get soggy, but I don't care. It's the best lunch ever!


From here it's a flat, three mile dawdle along the Sabinal River back to The Van.

Along the way there's a little cluster of about a half-dozen of the Texas Madrone trees that were missing from my hike a couple months ago along Pedernales Falls Madrone Trail. That's a fun bonus!

By the time I get back to camp there are hints of clearing weather so maybe I'll be back to using the weather-sensitive camera for tomorrow's hiking.



Monday, April 12, 2021

Restoring Marital Bliss (Or at least tolerance!)

 When The Van sits beside the barn for too long a couple of things happen.


First, I start getting - well - grumbly (Yeah, let's call it grumbly and not a horse's ass - - -) because let's face it, doing work-out laps around the same couple of miles on the property just isn't the same as getting out there on a real trail.

And second, The Wife starts getting antsy - OK, not antsy so much as fed up with me being around under her feet day after day.

We both need our breaks, but the winter storm of February got in the way, forcing me to cancel a scheduled trip in favor of digging out, restocking the homestead, and getting it ready for the next one.

In these corona-times spontaneity and snagging a campsite just don't go together, so when I canceled that one trip there was nothing to do but wait ( and wait, and wait ) for the next one, already scheduled and reserved for March.

Oh, we played it casual when the day finally arrived, taking the time for a civilized breakfast together before I hit the road, but once the civilities were done I shot out the door with a big shit-eating grin on my face so fast that The Wife whiffed the boot she had aimed at my ass!


Relief at finally being behind the wheel of The Van was slow in coming as I fought the reality of the Sunday rush of returning spring-breakers, but eventually I made it to the far side of the intervening city and most of them were finally going the other way.

It was pure luck that I chose to deviate from my usual route to Lost Maples State Park this trip. I didn't realize, until I passed the intersection where I would have normally come out and saw the big sign blocking the road, that a bridge was completely out on my usual route. And out here where hamlets are sparse, sprawling ranches dominate, and roads are few and far between, detours take the better part of an hour.

All I had to do was check drivetexas.org before I left, but in the excitement of getting on the road (Check back a few paragraphs where I shot out the door just barely ahead of a swinging boot.) I rarely do. 


As far as campsites go here at Lost Maples (Unless you are backpacking into one of the primitive sites the only option is one of the thirty water/electric sites) it's better than commercial campgrounds but not as nice as some of the other state parks.


While the campsites are reasonably sized here, they are lined up side-by-side with no buffers between them.


But I'm not here to hang around the campground!

Even though afternoon would soon be transitioning to early evening by the time I got parked in my assigned site (I know some people are just hitting their stride around this time of day but I'm definitely a morning person and starting anything after 1600 just doesn't feel natural.) I grabbed my pack and hiking-sticks and left The Van behind to cool off on her own.



I thought maybe I could get some late-sun, maybe even sunset if I felt ambitious and dinner wasn't beckoning too loudly, photos of the Murphy House, and while I was waiting on that perhaps check out the trail-less bench that sits south of the Murphy House on the far side of the Sabinal River.


Though it was late on a Sunday afternoon, and it's 50 miles to the nearest Walmart and 90 miles to the nearest city, there are still quite a few cars here at the trailhead parking in front of the Murphy House.

Drat!


And, despite some early promise

In all the years I've been coming here I have never seen a single bike nosed into this rack, but it does make for some interesting shadows.

clouds quickly filled in so there were to be no award-winning sunset-over-the-Murphy-House photos today,


but all's still good.

Regardless of of the cars still in the parking lot I had that little bench above the river


all to myself and I took full advantage of it as I felt marital bliss, at least I think that's what it was, seeping back into my soul.

 

Yeah, I too wondered why this particular tree was reserved for women. After all, it doesn't provide much cover for any gender.



Until I figured out it was just humorous recycling of an old sign into a birdhouse 


And this downright (Giant!) vertebraic rock had me going for a minute



Probably because I had just run across the remains of a fairly recent deer-kill so bones, and predators, were on my mind



But eventually, with my chance at world-renowned sunset photography still eluding my grasp, it was time to head back across the river to The Van, settle into the fuzzy comfort of an efficient routine evolved over thousands of nights ensconced in her familiar innards, and make my first dinner of the trip. 


Monday, April 5, 2021

Aftermath - Helpful or Annoying

 As in all things in life, when I first started out my working life I just did what I was told to do. But as time went on I ended up with increasing responsibility and eventually I was the one doing the telling - and the one accountable.

That last word, accountable, can really sneak up on a person in a big way and I'm not a fan of most surprises!

Which is why, in my professional life I was trained in, and heavily used, risk assessment, risk mitigation, and event postmortem, and this, for better or or worse, has carried over to my private life as well.


Risk assessment is pretty straightforward. You use a matrix to plot out how impactful an event might be in the overall scheme of things. Low impact to very high impact.

Risk assessment matrices come in 3X3 all the way up to 10X10,  I have found that the 3X3's are so simplistic people don't take them seriously and they're often not comprehensive enough to fully cover a situation, and the 10X10's are way too complicated, so I prefer a 5X5. Enough detail to make it meaningful but not so much it becomes mind-numbing.

When using a risk assessment matrix one axis, the 'likelihood' axis, remains constant regardless of what you are assessing. The event being tested is probably not going to happen, is going to happen, or falls somewhere in-between.

The other axis, the 'consequences' axis, needs to be adjusted for the nature of the event. Though both scenarios deserve analysis, the consequences of a fire in a densely populated apartment building are far different from the consequences of missing a project deadline.


Once the level of impact has been identified then a strategy for dealing with the risk can be developed.

In some cases, where the probability and consequence is low, the sensible approach, in terms of time, effort and expense, to mitigating the risk is to not bother, but when you get out of that category the cost of mitigation is often justified by the potential consequences.

Regardless of how chicken-shit it sounds, (Make Mikey do it instead!) in our professional and private lives transferring the risk is something we do all the time and usually means something like buying insurance. Most of us don't get into auto-wrecks, but if we do the financial consequences can be serious, so we buy auto insurance to mitigate that risk by transferring it to someone else.

And for most of us reducing the likelihood a a high probability-high consequence event means - well - just don't do that. In other words, instead of buying a bunch of crash-pads and stacking them on the deck, along with keeping an ambulance standing by, in case you miss, just stop jumping off the roof into the pool while drunk!

But in our private lives reducing the impact of a low-probability, low to high consequence event is where we can have the most - well impact - on the risks we face. Yet it's also where we often do nothing then whine and moan about the living with the consequences when it does happen.



We've all heard about go-bags. An emergency kit ready and waiting to be grabbed at a moment's notice, a relatively inexpensive form of risk mitigation, but surprisingly few of us actually have one. (In our case The Van is a giant go-bag. Always fully stocked with water, basic foods, clothes, electrical power, and fuel.)

My personal recommendation is to examine the contents of some commercial go-bags, then build a cost-effective and useful version of your own including only those items that make sense for your circumstances. But the time to do that is now! Before a wildfire is minutes from sweeping in.

Some mitigation efforts are on the more expensive side, such as us with our big generator, dedicated generator inlet wiring, and manual transfer-switch, (Although, to be fair, over the past 15 years we've paid far more for auto/RV insurance that we've used twice to replace a couple windshields than we've invested in our electrical system.) others, like the $60 we paid for sixteen 2.5 gallon freezable water containers that we keep filled and tucked into the well-house to carry us over just in case our well fails, are pretty inexpensive. (We keep the water in these jugs fresh and clean without wasting any by dumping them into the fire-tank, which looses about 8 - 10 gallons every month when we test the fire-pump, and filling them back up with fresh water.)


And that brings us to event postmortem.

I titled this post Aftermath - Helpful or Annoying because, though my work-teams were fine with participating in risk assessment, and would grudgingly participate in drills to hone our response skills and test our risk-mitigation strategies, when it came to doing a postmort in the aftermath of an actual event, something I insisted on with no exceptions, they were often openly hostile to the whole idea.

Understandable since, even though the point is not to assign blame but rather identify what worked, what could be improved, and what we didn't even think about until it happened, these after-event meetings can feel like finger-pointing sessions. It doesn't help that far too many managers let these meetings devolve into finger-pointing bashes. (Take for example Texas legislators that have wasted time and money, but gained a lot of TV time, looking for a scapegoat they could bitch-slap after the power and water debacle of our February storm rather than trying to identify the underlying factors in order to address them.)  

Yet I believe, done right, post-morts can be the most valuable part of the process. After-all, we can sit around and imagine things 'till we're blue in the face, but unless and until it actually happens we don't really know. This is a sometimes rare opportunity to examine an event and our response, as well as our level of preparedness, in real-world conditions.


A few of you may remember that here in Texas we recently (Mid February) had a record-breaking series of winter storms that left many without electricity for days and without water for weeks. Though I'm sorry to say that, as I type this two weeks after the last icicle melted, as is human nature, far too many Texan's have apparently already forgotten the lessons so harshly imposed on us and have no real plans to prepare for the next time, trusting the clueless politicians to do that for them. Like that ever worked out in the entire history of politics!

Well that's their problem. Within days of the event The Wife and I sat down and did a complete post-mort. While we came through those storms just fine, with our existing mitigation plans leaving us dealing with only relatively minor inconveniences while others died, that doesn't mean there wasn't anything for us to learn from this experience.

As a result, despite how well our plans worked we have decided we better make a couple key changes in our mitigation strategy.

Keeping a supply of fuel on hand, mostly for the fire-pump and generator, is a balancing act between having enough, yet not so much the fuel goes stale before we get around to using it under normal circumstances.

We started out 15 years ago with 60 gallons of storage capacity plus a full 2 gallon can (much easier to carry up from the tractor-barn where we store the fuel and dump into the fire-pump than a 5 gallon can) and another 15 gallons in the pump and generator. (Part of the monthly testing routine for the generator and fire-pump is to top up the tanks afterwards so they are always full and ready to go.) That turned out to be too much fuel. We use a stabilizer but it still took too many years to get through all of our reserves, so we cut back on how much of that storage capacity we actually used.

It also used to be that our most likely season for losing power and needing to rely on the generator, our largest consumer of fuel, was summer-early fall, during hurricane season. So we would let our reduced fuel supply dwindle until late spring and then stock back up for the upcoming storm season.

Well time has passed, climate change has snuck in, and in all probability, in addition to more severe hurricanes, record-challenging winter storms are also going to be a regular part of our future, and both have the potential for creating extended electrical blackouts, so we need to keep our reserve fuel supply topped up year-round now.

Oh, and we clearly cut back on our fuel reserves by too much! We still had several days of fuel on hand by the time this last series of storms blew on through, but I was certainly keeping more than a casual eye on levels and rate-of-consumption.

So after the dust, or rather snow, settled we revised our fuel strategy. We are now keeping 25 - 30 gallons of stored fuel on hand at all times, (30 gallons is the capacity our supply of 5 gallon cans) year round, refilling a can as soon as it empties rather than waiting for several empty cans to collect before making a spring resupply run.

In addition, upon first news of an approaching storm (given the advances in forecasting, usually a week before it actually arrives and days before the general population starts paying attention) we will dump those cans into our 30 gallons worth of larger storage tanks and refill the cans to boost our reserves up to 55 - 60 gallons. Afterwards, to keep any unused fuel from going stale on us (We set a limit of 2 years for stabilized fuel) we will use our excess reserves to refill the car until we get back down to our baseline 30 gallons again.

Lessons learned, supplies restocked, revised mitigation plan in place, and the only one pointing blaming fingers at me is me.

Oh yeah, and for winter storms I also need to move the rainwater collection bucket into the barn, otherwise the dang thing will split wide open when it freezes - - -


Monday, March 29, 2021

The Elusive Madrone

 

It's Friday, January 29, and as is typical in this Corona-age of crowded parks and short trips, I must vacate my campsite to make way for the weekenders that make their reservations farther ahead than I do.


But, as is also typical, I'm going to sneak in one last hike before hitting the road early enough to get myself to the other side of the city before the afternoon rush kicks in. And I'm not talking the good kind of rush, but rather the road-rush of frenzied hoards of commuters trying to get back home for the weekend before doing it all over again on Monday.


Down at the southern end of Pedernales Falls State Park, much of it south of the county road that cuts through down there, is the Madrone Trail.

This is as far from the campground as you can get so, since I was moving The Van anyway, today is the perfect time to actually drive to the Madrone trailhead so I can get right on the trail without a lot of preamble perambulating.

The Madrone Trail is a point-to-point so to make a loop out of it requires adding in some bits and pieces of other trails as well, including that bit of the Juniper Ridge Trail which forms the 'toes' of my foot-like track.

The Madrone Trail actually crosses the entire east-west width of the park along its southern border, but I didn't feel much like rushing my hike in order to beat the rush - since that seemed overly redundant in terms of rushes - so I only hiked a portion of it as I made my counter-clockwise, five-mile loop this morning.


After using fossil-fuel to get myself to the trailhead I switched to foot-power and slipped through a gap in the fence


to start my hike along the empty, peaceful trail.


Unfortunately too empty in one respect.

The Texas Madrone is becoming scarce in some of its former habitat and here at Pedernales is no exception. In fact, despite being on the lookout, I didn't see any full grown specimens on this hike. (Of course, to be fair, I only hiked about half of the actual Madrone Trail today) When trolling through past photos for an example I discovered that over the past 10 years I have photographed this particular tree twice before.


With it's deep orange-red coloring, distinctive shedding bark (The tree is sometimes called Lady's Leg because of the smoothness of some of the branches/trunks.) and rosettes of fall-tinted red-green leaves this is not an easy tree to miss,


but the best I could come up with this hike was these two shrubby examples (one right and one left in the photo) tucked under the Cedars


and a seedling that someone is trying to protect with a stone barrier.


But my slow, plodding pace was not without other rewards, such as this landscape of speckled silver-dollars (probably not their official name but close enough for me) all clustered in a mound


smaller than my lens-cap.



Or this oh-so-soft carpet of moss found down near Butler Creek


laid out like a Siren Song blanket on this nearly prostrate tree, just daring me to climb on up and take a nap. (I didn't. - I thought about it - but I didn't.)


When the trail took me around the southern member of the Twin Buttes I decided that its summit would make a good lunch-spot.


And I was right.


But since I had to bushwhack a bit to get to my nice comfortable spot-with-a-view, I took some precautions.

If you look close, there at the end of the arrow, you can see that I've propped one of my hiking sticks up against a branch. Even being black, (I've talked before about how I don't like advertising my presence so avoid the neon colors of many other brands.) any straight line like this tends to stick out out here in - well - the sticks.

In this case the hiking stick is marking the direction I need to go when I leave my lunch-tree.

And by the time I get to that first stick and retrieve it,


I'll be within sight of my bright yellow towel hanging off another branch there in the distance.

OK, maybe not so bright anymore now that I've been using it while painting a few sketches on the go, but I'm reluctant to use the super-bright hunter-orange bandanna I also carry unless I really need to.

In addition to the usual "hey you dumb-ass hunter, don't shoot me" I also carry the bandanna for the O part of my STOP process in case I misplace myself out here, but it just screams so loud I don't like using it unless I have to.

Anyway, bright or not the faded and stained yellow towel is still easy to see from a distance and placed near it is my second hiking stick, pointing the way back to the trail.

Over-kill on the precautions?

Oh definitely.

Especially when you consider (A) I only came this way less than an hour ago, (B) I'm also tracking myself with a GPS, (C) and the trail wraps around three sides of the butte with a fence-line and road not all that far away on the fourth side, so all I had to do was go downhill to 'find' myself.

But I do it anyway, not only because a little extra caution rarely hurts, but also for the practice. Same reason I run the fire-pump once a month, not only to make sure it is operating, but also to keep the steps necessary to hook it up and get it operating fresh in my mind so that I have a better chance of performing those steps properly when in a panic.

And apparently it works because after thousands of solo hikes here I am, standing at my desk in the barn, writing up my last trip and thinking about the next.

___________________

STOP

Sit: This is probably the most difficult step in this process because not only do you first have to admit that you don't know where you are, it also goes against the double-whammy of your body's natural fight-or-flight response. But it's the most important thing you can do right now. Just as soon as you feel like you've misplaced yourself - sooner if possible - sit down. This has the immediate effect of preventing you from making things worse by allowing that initial concern (OK, downright panic) to take over and drive you into doing something, often many things, one on top of the other, that may turn out to be less than helpful in resolving the situation. (Fight: This is the wrong spot so I'm going to fight my way to somewhere else right now, even if I don't have any idea where that somewhere else is, or Flight: I don't know where I am so must get away from here as fast as possible and I don't care if I know where I'm going as long as it's somewhere else.) And the body's natural physiological response to sitting also helps lower your heart-rate and adrenaline levels. To help with that even more sip some water, chew on some trail mix, sing a dirty limerick, do anything "normal" that will allow your mind to clear and settle down.

Think: Now that your mind is functioning rationally think about the situation. Where you were last time you - well - knew where you were. Where you were going. And how you got here. Often this is all that's needed to get you back on track, both figuratively as well as literally.

Observe: At this point, if you still can't put your feet back on the trail with confidence look around. Can you see landmarks that you can take bearings off with your compass and triangulate your position on  your map? Maybe you can even spot your back-trail? (Just make sure it's yours and not a random game-trail.) Can you hear traffic or a river? Chatty hikers? To expand your picture further mark where you are right now with something highly visible (Yep, there's that screaming bandanna.) then explore in a radius around that point, always keeping your marker in sight because, until you are "found", where you are right now is the closest you will ever get to where you are supposed to be.

Plan: OK, Now that you have the picture, what are you going to do about it? Here, depending on your skills, the weather, and the resources you have with you, there are several possibilities. You can take a bearing and walk towards the traffic noise, towards the river, towards that ridge-line. (Statistically, there's a higher chance of finding people or infrastructure by going down-hill, down-river, than up.) If you left a trail-plan with someone you can hunker down right where you are, build a shelter with the resources you have, and wait for someone to come looking. (If the sun is getting low you want to do this - build a shelter - right now regardless of your ultimate plan because building one in the dark sucks!) Even if you plan on walking out, you still might want to hunker down for now and observe your surroundings in the dark, when the far-off glow of town lights can be seen, or moving headlights mark the location of a distant road impossible to see in the daylight.

______________________