Friday, August 28, 2009

Ecuador and the Galapagos

Pine Mountain News

Hello again from Pine Mountain. We are in the middle of another heat wave. Just heard from Jeff and Squeekers at the Desert Outpost. They say it is 96 F at the Outpost on top of the mountain and 117 F down in El Centro. Up here on Pine Mountain it is 92 F at 1 PM.

Area news

The three baby bears that were orphaned when their mother was shot last week have been captured and moved to a new location.

Smoke and ash from the fires south of us here on Pine Mountain has made a ring around the mountain. The fires are about 40 miles south in northern LA county but the winds are blowing the smoke and ash our way.

Poem of the Week

A Surreal Sensation

by emily d stine

It's July in Chicago and the sun sticks to our necks.
Check into the Drake Hotel next to judges, politicos,
making me feel like one lucky twenty-two year old.

It's a surreal sensation of Chicago, a five star
wedding, romantic night carriage ride. The horse
clip-clops around Michigan Ave and we sit smug
in our seats. The week wears on with sun-filled
trips to Navy Pier, East Bank City Club, a club
for the opulent and famous, Occasionally dumbstruck,
I collect my thoughts in my little notebook. The last day,
we rent bikes and traverse the city and parks on our
own agenda weaving in and out of sunlit city blocks.

Once at O'Hare, and ready to board, I'm refreshed, smiling
and serene, but ready to finish up my week of make believe.

Story of the Week

Ecuador and the Galapagos

by Jordan Williams

Galapagos Turtle

So, the Galapagos Islands, home to giant turtles, namesake of a weird Vonnegut novel and the place where Darwin invented the theory of evolution. It’s still one of the great untouched places on the Earth, which is why I was keen on stomping all across like the great huge ape that I am. I’m kidding, but the Galapagos were the reason we were in Ecuador.

The islands, which are about 600 or so miles west of Ecuador, aren’t the only thing to recommend the South American country, but they’re pretty motivating. Both Rich and I are big into seeing new wildlife, so the unique flora and fauna of the Galapagos were a big draw for us.

Ecuador is a small country, especially by South American standards, and one of the few that doesn’t share a border with Brazil. Even aside from the Islands, the country packs an amazing amount of biodiversity and culture into an area smaller than most states.


My usual thing is to hit the capital city, which usually has lots of interesting historical stuff, and Quito maybe no exception to that, but where we ended up when we were on the mainland was Bano, a city in the central highlands.

Bano was interesting, a small city with a wild nightlife plunked down right in the middle of verdant jungle. The city took a hit from a volcano a decade or so back, but it’s sprung back nicely these days. I enjoyed the nightlife but Rich, a happily married man who wanted to keep it that way, found he spent most of his time there enjoying the horseback riding and mountaineering.

And guinea pigs. I have some compunctions about eating rodents, but Rich will eat pretty much everything, so he chowed down on the cuy. I indulged myself a bit with the milcocha, a local taffy and aguardiente, a local liquor distilled from sugar cane. Like I said, I enjoyed myself there.

After that, it was on to the Galapagos, which was really why I was there, night time senoritas not withstanding. There are nineteen main islands, and we flew into Baltras, home to one of the two small airports.

Like I said, I was there to see the wildlife, much of which is unique to the island, and I was not disappointed. I got to see a sea lion up close and in the wild for the first time and, of course, the giant turtles and tortoise, doing their very best impression of being crusty old men, were a lot of fun.

Galapagos Sea Lion

In another life, Rich had an interest in falconry, so he ended up doing some bird watching, and there are apparently dozens of interesting species. I’m only really interested in birds when I can eat them, so you’ll have to take Rich’s word for it.

All in all, Ecuador has a lot to recommend it. The Galapagos, just like Patagonia, are one of the last places where you can see the really wild, and it’s like stepping into another world. I recommend you go see it while you still can.

Pine Mountain Evening

It is another evening at the Pine Mountain Ranch. We have just finished dinner and are relaxing in the family room. Laurel and Grace are watching a movie on TV. I am relaxing in my easy chair reading my Discover magazine. Tonight I am enjoying another sample coffee from
My coffee flavor tonight is A Joy Island. This coffee mixes an American roast coffee with the flavor of coconuts and almonds from the islands. This coffee was discovered by Professor Alfred Joy in 1785.
Well my coffee is finished now and the movie is over and it is time for bed. Everyone have a great week and we will see you next week.