Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, Part XVII: The Amazing Fruits of Sand

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMarch 14, 2017, Superior- No doubt about it, this area has me hooked.  Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, a combination of Desert Botanical Garden and the Prescott Circle Trail, is the centerpiece of an intensely spiritual region.  Queen Creek, which runs through the park, on the south side, has carved Arizona’s best-kept secret, in its network of canyons.  Picket Post Mountain, to the west, watches over the Arboretum, like a strong big brother.  The people I met, from a gentle wanderer who is exploring all the National Forests west of the Mississippi, to a  vibrant,passionately caring barista, exuded the sort of spirituality that comes from tapping into the extant energy field that is found in places that stay close to their natural origins.

I will present Boyce Thompson Arboretum in three segments:  This first post looks at the various desert plants, from all corners of the world, with an emphasis on the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts, which are closest to the central Arizona highlands, in which the park exists.

The next post will feature Lake Ayer and the terrain around Picket Post House (Boyce Thompson’s residence)  The last  will take in the High Trail and the west end of Queen Creek Canyon.

Here are four scenes of the Sonoran Trail, which offers the flora of Arizona, Sonora (MX) and Baja California.

This is a Fire Barrel Cactus, found in both the Sonoran and lower Mojave Deserts.

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Maguey de Pulque is the source of a medicinal fermented beverage, popular first with the indigenous people of northwest and central Mexico.  It was originally used to relieve intestinal discomfort.

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Palm trees, of various types, are found throughout the deserts of Mexico.  This San Jose Hester Palm is found only in Baja California.

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Here is a testament to the full botanic splendour of the Sonoran Desert, holding its own with the exhibits of Desert Botanical Garden (Phoenix) and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum(Tucson).  The flowering has not reached its peak, but anticipated rains, next week, may change that.  I may even catch some of the colours, when I am here next, on April 1-2.

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The Curandero Trail, named for the traditional healers of Mexico, focuses on medicinal plants, both of the Sonoran and of the Chihuahuan Deserts.

Desert lavender has a calming effect, similar to that of its cousin, in the temperate climates to the north.  Here it is, in a dry tributary of Queen Creek.

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Snakeweed, seen behind the informational sign, had a wide variety of uses, from treating snakebite to serving as a laxative for horses.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBoyce Thompson Arboretum has an extensive catalog of course offerings, on the uses of desert plants.  I am likely to make good use of those courses, in the intermediate future.

Finally, here are a few South American and Australian desert scenes.

This is a Toothpick Cactus, from Argentina’s Gran Chaco.

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The Chaco, like the Sonoran Desert, gets quite verdant, with winter rains (July).

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The interior of Australia  is, as is widely known, a place for only the hardiest of man and beast.  This water tower is indicative of what might be found in a swagman’s camp.  Swagmen herded livestock, in oases of the Outback.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Here are  eucalyptus trees, found in the eastern part of the Outback.

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This gum tree does not supply chicle, as its Mesoamerican and African cousins do, but did give swagmen a supply of resin, for their workaday adhesive needs.

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This is, of course, a minute sampling of what is in store for the visitor to Boyce Thompson.  Two greenhouses, just shy of the park exit, offer sensitive African and Arabian desert flora.  These will have their own segments of the park, in the near future, as will Central Asian and Mediterranean plant life.

Next up:  Geology’s Turn to Dazzle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, Part XIV: Picketpost Mountain

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March 13, 2017, Superior, AZ- Spring Break started in earnest, this morning.  A drive down to my dentist’s office took care of a moderately vexing issue, then I stopped at Scottsdale’s lovely Baha’i Center, to recite my morning prayers, in its serene courtyard.

Superior, and the Upper Queen Creek Watershed, have long been on my radar screen as a venue for exploration.  Picketpost Mountain forms a spectacular backdrop for Boyce Thompson Arboretum, a compendium of desert flora, from around the globe.  Like its counterpart, Desert Botanical Garden, in Phoenix’s  Papago Park, “The Boyce” manages to educate a wide-ranging public, on the value of deserts and the importance of preserving the life that is found in them.  Much more about all that, later.

My immediate draw, even before getting to the town of Superior, was a brief (2-mile, round trip) hike in the eastern approach to Picketpost’s base.  This gave me a foothold on Arizona National Scenic Trail, the length of which may yet be in my future.  It was also not enervating, as I am in the last week of a sunrise-to-sunset fast, of 19 days’ duration.

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This work station is managed by the Federal BLM, two of whose workers were on hand, when I first pulled in, to make sure I wasn’t planning on camping at the site.  Picketpost dominates Superior’s western approach, much as Pike’s Peak lords over Colorado Springs, and the San Francisco Peaks, over Flagstaff.  It was named by soldiers stationed here, under Gen. George Stoneman, in 1870, as it was a good spot for a sentinel post. Here are some of what await the serious hiker. (I would consider it in October, not before.)

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The wall is a remnant of General Stoneman’s western camp.  The bulk of his operation was what is now the town of Superior, 3 miles further east.

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As you will see, continuously, in this series, the rains have been good to Arizona, this winter.

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Thanks to my zoom,  here is a close-up of the top ridge, from a good distance.

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In the opposite direction, Weaver’s Needle says “Hey, remember me?”  I surely do, and what a marvelous trek that was!

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I have encountered many heart rocks, all symbols that the Universe holds me in a good place.  Diamond-shaped rocks are a sign of one step further.  Superior would join Prescott, Bisbee, Flagstaff, Sedona, Tubac and Chloride as a special Arizona place in my heart.

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Next up:  Oak Flat

 

Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, Part VII: Sudden and Sodden

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February 20, 2017, Anthem- The sight that greeted me, as I headed towards the spot where I heard a small child screaming, was not an alien arachnid, but the upended root system of a dead mesquite.20170220_1258341

The child, likewise, was fine.  He was just being willful and demanding- and mom had everything under control.  This mini-outburst was off to the side of the Anthem segment of the Maricopa Trail.

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I was driving back from a lengthy, and rather testy, medical appointment this morning .  (I am fine, and the less said, the better), when I happened upon the Anthem Trailhead.  This was another confirmation of the dictum that one creates one’s own reality.  I had been curious, as to the condition of the Sonoran Desert, after this weekend’s copious rain.  I was also curious, as to the terrain on the Maricopa Trail, between I-17 and Anthem.  The gooey, but flat, hike I took, early this afternoon, answered both questions.

As you can see above, there are a fair number of boulders strewn along this alluvial landscape, and it is entirely within settled horse country.

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There are episodic pools, along the way, one of which gave me a smile.  The main water body here, Skunk Creek, was bone dry.  There were no little white and black critters, either, but the tracks and scent of javelina were much in evidence.

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I came to this underpass, at the off-ramp from I-17, and spotted the continuation of Maricopa Trail, which would have taken me to its junction with Black Canyon Trail, another 1/8 mile to the west..  So, in essence, I have hiked, in segments, from Mayer to Anthem, over the past 1 1/2 years.  My main interest in the Maricopa Trail lies in its mountains and canyons, but I will certainly take the sense of continuity, along with them.

Now, back to the title of this post.  I was treated to a sudden, brief visit from a friend who lives in Oklahoma, and his little chihuahua.  It seems my Okie friends love their ankle biters, but this little guy gave me a sniff-over and jumped up on my lap.  It was a fast friendship.  They left, ahead of me, this morning, having enjoyed an evening of warmth and stabilization, following their sodden ride through eastern and central Arizona.  At least now, the Sun will temper their return home.

So, the ground will need a few days to dry out, my lower left molar has a temporary crown-with its permanent replacement in three weeks, and I have a new little friend.

New River’s Wilds, Part I: Finding the Boy Scout Loop

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January 8, 2017, New River-  I did it right, this time; I found, and walked, the Boy Scout Loop.  Taking the northbound route, from New River’s Emery Henderson Trailhead, the next to last such springboard to Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, as one gets towards Phoenix, it was a non-taxing 5.75 miles, each way, including the Loop itself. Starting with the trailhead itself, there are five covered ramadas and BLM-style restrooms, greeting the bicyclists, hikers and equestrians who flock to this part of the Sonoran Desert, for a fair guarantee of a satisfying day in lush mesquite and saguaro forests.

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The first 1/4 mile is marked by what had been a developer’s road, complete with blue-staked gas lines marking either side of the trail.  There is no gas hook-up, nor are there any further signs of prospective development.  This project was one that went belly-up in 2008.

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Once past this bladed wasteland, the cacti, succulents and hardy desert trees take over.  The terrain is not as rugged as that further north, with the washes and creek beds of the New River and its tributaries generally dry, even with the goodly amount of rain we had, the first few days of the new  year.

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The rock above had been struck by lightning, some years back, thus showing the bright sandstone, under its veneer of gray.

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Near this crossroads, I came upon two runners- husband and wife.  The lady had been injured, whilst running, and fortunately, the driver of this truck came back from target shooting, nearby, and was able to give them a ride back to the trailhead.

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It’s always wise, even in easy terrain, to keep an eye out for the triangular Black Canyon Trail markers.  Numerous ATV and shooting range roads cross the trail.  I must add that target shooters have been uniformly careful, and respectful of those whose day in the desert is more oriented towards fitness.  Younger shooters, and off -road drivers, are well-supervised by older family members.  The teams are very careful, in my experience, to pick up their shell-casings and other trash.

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After 1 1/2 hours, and 4.8 miles, I came to the southern end of Boy Scout Loop.  I took the western route, going another 1.5 miles to the Loop’s northern terminus.  The west side uses a BLM road, and features a moderate ascent, the only remotely challenging part of this segment.  A Boy Scout troop  from Cave Creek, about ten miles east of here, is said to have built this trail.

There are a few low mountains rising, north of Boy Scout Loop.  One of these, at the base of which I stopped, the day after Christmas, turns out to be just across a wash bed from the BSL’s northern tip.  The fence below marks a boundary between BLM land and State Trust property.

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Above, is the rather well-hidden northern terminus of Boy Scout Loop.  A single track leads back to the other end, going around a small mountain and through New River’s dry bed, on its way.

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This segment, as indicated earlier, is a more leisurely, non-taxing route than its counterparts to the north.  Nonetheless, it, and the remaining Biscuit Flat segment, which I will visit at the end of this month, are good indicators of the fragility of the Sonoran Desert, and of the special relationship the residents of New River and Table Mesa have with their surroundings.  Indeed, on the way back, near where the runners were rescued, a man was coaching his daughter on proper shooting, cleaning a rifle and policing spent shell casings.  I feel safer among such folk than I do in some shopping malls.

I topped off the day with a unique Jalapeno Ranch Burger, the pride of New River’s Raodrunner Saloon, which was, suitably, packed with locals this evening.  Waylon and the kids are always gracious to those from near and far.

This was a fitting end to a well-spent Christmas-New Year’s.  Tomorrow, it’s back to work for nine weeks.  We will do well.

 

 

 

 

Looking Back- Part 2

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December 31, 2016, Chula Vista- As the Year of Upended Routines winds down, and has already passed, in the areas immediately west of the International Date Line, I find it meet and seemly to give 2016 its due.

The goodness of it all:  I was embraced by Prescott Unified School District, and brought into a position where positive differences can be made, in the lives of troubled children.

One car served me well, then died, on the road.  Two members of my family stepped up, got the first car through its final duties and the next car into my possession.  Thankfully, I am able to repay these kindnesses, in full.

It was an amazing series of  visits, with friends in Amarillo, Enid (OK), Columbia (MO), Indianapolis, Oley (PA), Knoxville, Boulder (CO) and Dana Point (CA); family in Avila (MO), Saugus and Wakefield (MA),  Newnan (GA), Brooksville (FL) and Loveland (CO)- to say nothing of my Baha’i family in Carson City and Reno, and all who nourish and support me, throughout Arizona.  Most important of all, though, is the strength and constancy of my closest:  Mom and siblings, in Massachusetts, brother, in Georgia, in-laws, in Florida and son, here in southern California, but soon to be in Korea, the land of his birth.

The warmth of new friends, in Fallon and Pioche (NV), Fort Sumner (NM), Ponca City (OK), Salina and Hays (KS),Florissant (MO), Wilmette (IL), Francesville and Kokomo (IN), Bedford and Bushkill (PA), Port Jervis and Middletown (NY), Newtown and Danbury (CT), Martinsburg (WV), Harrisonburg (VA), Register (GA), Chattanooga, Nashville, Marion (IL) a Colorado Springs and Mancos (CO) just reinforces my belief that there is a universal love, which only needs to be tapped and nurtured.

How blessed the natural beauty of the forests, deserts, plains and mountains that gave me solace, this year:  Prescott Circle Trail, which brought the totality of my adopted home into focus; Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, which transcends Arizona’s Central Highlands and the northern reaches of the Sonoran Desert; Arcosanti, an intriguing blend of ancient desert rock, seasonal water flow and nouveau architecture; Juniper Mesa, a stand-alone promontory, which once sheltered Yavapai warriors; the shimmering lakes above Zion National Park, a reminder that the Earth is a changing creation, which will outlive us, despite our illusions to the contrary; the tall grass prairie outside Boonville, MO, a fine place to just lie down and think of childhood days, spent in the grasses of summer; Bushkill Falls, PA, as amazing and comforting to me, on a cool, drizzly July day,as it was to my parents-in-law on their honeymoon, in the winter of early 1949, and on so many wedding anniversaries, thereafter; Lake Redwine, and Serenbe, GA, which brought family together, and  help to keep my Georgia relatives so well-grounded.

How eternally comforting it is, to visit the Baha’i House of Worship, in Wilmette, and to gather with my fellows-in-faith, at Baha’i Centers in Phoenix and Scottsdale, as well as the Marriott Desert Ridge Resort.

So,many thanks, 2016. There were breathtaking changes, coming from all this, and from the winds sweeping our nation and planet.  These will impact me, along with everyone else, in the next few years; stay tuned.

 

Contentment

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December 13, 2016, Prescott-

I will be sending my cards, and a few gifts, out on Thursday evening or Friday.  It will be cutting things close, but this year, I have chosen responsibility over sentiment. Besides, I need to buy a new printer.  Toys for Tots, NAU (my alma mater) and the young people of Streetlight will also need to wait until then.

I am happy, overall, with how my life has panned out, this year.  I am in a position of very intense public service, have a solid circle of friends, am reasonably respected in my community of residence, and have been able to maintain my health and vitality.

My son is holding his own, and getting ready for a great leap of faith and fortune, early next year.  My family, mostly in Massachusetts and Florida, with several scattered in other parts of the country, has been mostly healthy, this year.  I lost two aunts and a cousin,thus far, in the course of 2016. I also saluted an elder who inspired me greatly, as he headed to God’s Eternal Army.

My other love, Nature, rewarded me with a complete hiking circle around this beautiful city, and I have come to the final three segments of an amazing trek through the Sonoran Desert:  Dec. 26-27, and January 6, will find me in the southern sector of Black Canyon National Recreation Trail.  The 19 men who perished while fighting a wildfire in Yarnell, on June 30, 2013, have a memorial place, in Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park.  I will visit that place, on December 29, making my way along the 7-mile round trip trail that brings the visitor to the place where this unspeakable tragedy unfolded.

This year has brought tension, annoyance and suffering to many, perhaps more than in some years, and less so, for others.  I am grateful for having had relatively good fortune, while being prepared, should challenges come my way, in 2017.  A stable job, re-connecting with some friends who have been off my radar for a few years, and good, if too brief, visits with family, give a good backdrop for whatever might lie ahead.

 

Table Mesa, Part II:The Williams Mesa Trail

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October 30, 2016, New River-  SAM_7410.JPG

I set out a bit earlier today, than last weekend, and the the traffic between Prescott and Table Mesa Road was decidedly sparser, this time.  The above photograph, taken at the South Fork of Agua Fria River, reflects the calmness I found today.

There was plenty of activity, especially in the river beds.  As I came down off the second ridge, to the nearly dry South Fork, a man was teaching his daughter how to negotiate boulders and sand, in the course of off-road exploration.  She thought better of trying to go over a two-foot ledge, and he certainly didn’t push the matter.  It was a successful lesson, and I encountered them again, at the Agua Fria itself, some twenty minutes later. There, the challenge was deep sand, but they again prevailed.

The river and its tributaries are the main features of Williams Mesa Trail, which is the western half of the Little Pan Loop.  I stuck with Williams Mesa Trail, going to and from, as it was  clearly marked, as opposed to the actual north link to the eastern Little Pan Trail, which I will explore from the south link, on my next trip to Table Mesa Road.

Here are several photos of the afternoon’s offerings.

Below is a view of the Agua Fria, from a southern ridge.  Notice how dry it’s been, this past month.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe limestone and granite ledges offer a convenient set of steps, up the ridge towards Williams Mesa.

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Before that, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the blissful peace of the pools along the river bed.

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Above, is a view of the unnamed mesa that I viewed from Cottonwood Gulch, on a hike from Black Canyon City, last spring.  It drew me, with a sense that there is a goodly amount of spiritual energy there.  I certainly felt energized, after sitting among some rocks that had broken off from the mesa, and offer themselves as a resting place.

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I spent about twenty minutes here, writing in my BCT journal.  From there, it was back towards the Agua Fria.  The junction with the east Little Pan Trail was not in evidence.

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This marker appears to be turn-around point of some kind, though, and it was fairly easy to get back on the Williams Mesa route, and the Agua Fria.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLooking closely at the river pool,  one can see the thick algae that results from the water standing too long.

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Cacti are certainly resourceful, as is this one, which look like a tongue sticking out of the rock.

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Look closely above, and note two Monarch butterflies, feeding.

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Here is another take on the late afternoon appearance of South Fork, Agua Fria.

A small family of cattle were enjoying the leavings from a pumpkin smashing party, that had apparently taken place, last night.

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No good morsel is left behind, in the Sonoran Desert.

So ended my 7.6 mile hike along Williams Mesa Trail, on a pleasantly overcast afternoon.

 

The Road to 65, Mile 35: The New Adults in the Room.

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January 2, 2015, Mesa-  I keep looking at Millennials, my son’s generation, and seeing, on the one hand, my extended brood of children.  On the other hand, I’m in awe of how they are handling, as a generation, just about every task that has landed in their laps.

I went down to Mesa, Arizona’s third largest city, to spend the afternoon with my son, as he is winding up his holiday leave- spent with friends from his high school days.  We had a delectable lunch at Bavarian Pointe, a German eatery, as you might have deduced, going for a full meal-complete with soup, hot entrees and dessert crepes.  The waitress showered us with attention and I will recommend the place on Yelp!, which I don’t always do.

Our planned hike, at Usery Mountain Regional Park, in Mesa’s northeast corner, necessitated heading back to his friends’ house, and getting mother and daughter.  Daughter is 3 years old, so I suggested a hike in the foothills, which the little girl said she could “do easy”.  Well, she did it easily- uphill, downhill, 8/10 of a mile.  My son, his high school classmate and her daughter are shown below.

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Here are some scenes of the Merkle Hills, which we hiked.

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We started off, trying to decipher the rather rudimentary map given us at the entry station.  Something told me to suggest parking ahead of a roundabout, midway in the park.  We then walked about 1/2 mile further east, and found Merkle Hills trailhead.  The above trail satisfied one and all, and just as Son was preparing himself for a lengthy walk back to the vehicle- Friend looked down and exclaimed, “The Jeep!”  There it was, right at the foot of the exit trail, whose sign was hidden behind some lush Sonoran Desert growth.

The Universe does take care of us, in some rather unforeseen ways.  I guess that’s why it’s the Universe, and we are peas in a pod.  When we returned to the friends’ house, Male Friend was there, waiting for his love and his soon-to-be stepchild.  His game plan was to prepare chili dogs for the lot of us.  So, while we waited, I was offered the use of their movie collection- looking in the “family section”, I chose “Charlotte’s Web”, the movie with Dakota Fanning, and Julia Roberts, as Charlotte, and a very happy three-year-old was occupied nicely until dinner.  I was greeted warmly by the family’s very own lap cat, “William”.  He spent several joyous minutes, sitting on my lap, snuggling and purring.

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The little girl had to put on her coat, before going somewhere with her mother, and asked me to help her zip the coat.  After a bit of tussling with the plastic fastener- mission accomplished!  Getting back to my comment at the beginning of this post, it is ever-gratifying to see the rising generation take on, successfully, the challenges of parenthood, leadership and the various crap that adults have to handle, put their own stamp on all of it- often without a personal vehicle, and make it all happen nicely.  Millennials have their share of problems, as does every generation, but we’re in good hands, folks, as I’ve said on this site a few times.