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After India

Started: 2012-08-07 08:14:27

Submitted: 2012-08-07 09:09:54

Visibility: World-readable

Since returning home from India, I've been thinking about my next major international expedition. I don't yet have a clever name for our planned two-week expedition to Hong Kong (with possible side trips to Shenzhen (the special economic zone where almost all of the world's electronics are manufactured) and Guangzhou (known in the west as "Canton", the city that precipitated the First Opium War and was instrumental in the Chinese revolutions of the last century)) and Taiwan around Christmas this year. (Being officially located in the tropics, Hong Kong has the distinct advantage of being warmer around the winter solstice than most other places in the northern hemisphere I'd be interested in visiting. I'm interested in Taiwan for its history, its ability to form a reasonabaly pluralistic democracy out of Chiang's military dictatorship, and its suitability as a place to expatriate ourselves in a couple of years). Kiesa is trying to figure out how to keep Calvin occupied on a fourteen-hour plane flight across the Pacific Ocean, and I'm working through a several-page-long reading list of the region's history wihle trying to plan the outlines of the expedition itself. This has Fantastic Adventure written all over it, if we can convince Calvin it's a good idea. (My opening salvo in the propaganda war was My First Long-Haul Flight, and Calvin can identify China (mostly by color, I suspect) on both of the globes we have in the house.)

The first two weeks after I returned were oppressively hot, with major wildfires in the foothills making international news: the Waldo Canyon Fire in suburban Colorado Springs destroyed an entire neighborhood, and the High Park Fire west of Fort Collins destroyed homes in the foothills. I could see, and occasionally smell, the smoke plume from the latter. Boulder got its own fire in late June, when lightning struck a fire on the west side of Flagstaff that burnt the north and west ridges of Bear Peak. I could look out my office window and see planes fighting the fire.

Relief came at the beginning of July when the Colorado monsoon brought moisture from the Pacific Ocean. The temperatures dropped into the eighties and nineties, with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. (The first four days of July were wetter than all of June.) While the monsoon made temperatures in the suburbs more pleasant, the extra moisture meant I had to remain vigilant when hiking lest I get stuck in a thunder storm. Getting rained on below treeline is wet and unpleasant, but getting struck by lightning above treeline is on my list of things to avoid.

On the last day of June, I didn't get up early enough for a proper mountain expedition, but I drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park and joined the tourists on Trail Ridge Road. While I was gazing out at the scenery from the Alpine Visitor's Center, a ranger came up and asked if I knew what I was looking at. "Well," I said, "That's Fall River Road, and the [southern end of the] Mummy Range, with Mount Chapin, Mount Chiquita, and Ypsilon Mountain. I've climbed those." He pointed out a few features of Trail Ridge I didn't immediately recognize, and we chatted briefly about the lack of snow and the Flagstaff Fire in Boulder before he left to find real tourists to educate.

On the Fourth of July, we took Calvin hiking from the Fourth of July Trailhead to Diamond Lake. He's grown at least a little since the last time I carried him in the backpack carrier, but carrying him in the backpack slows me down enough so that Kiesa can keep up with me. (With Calvin on my back, I'm no longer the fastest person on the trail, but I can still outpace roughly half of the tourists on the trails.) Calvin walked roughly half of the two miles from the trailhead to the lake, and seemed to enjoy himself.

In the middle of July, we joined a group including Yanthor and Anya at the Colorado Renaissance Festival in Larkspur. I was a little worried about romanticizing a dreary period of world history (though, to be fair, pretty much every period of world history is dreary; I happen to really like antibiotics, birth control, representative government, microchips, coffee, air conditioning, superhighways, and jet transport), and I was bemused by the presence of an authentic sixteenth century minotaur shortly after the entrance to the festival (which scared Calvin), but I found the festival to be an amusingly eclectic collection of handicrafts and entertainment. Calvin and I rode a camel around a tiny track. I figured my normal instinct of obsessive research was probably going to lead me down the wrong track, as I'd merely feel compelled to identify anachronisms everywhere, but I did let myself contemplate my hypothetical renaissance costume: either a Swiss pikeman (unmatched on the battlefields of continental Europe), or Akbar the Great (the contemporaneous Mughal emperor in northern India; I visited his tomb in Agra) or a visiting dignitary from his court.