Travel Diamond – One Home run and One Strikeout. Part 2.

Part 1 — The Home Run – was a positive experience about a mystery lady who showed up on a trailbike and challenged our thinking about restrictions on TV and smart phones for children living at home. You can read about Part 1 here.

To add to the debate over social media, the Surgeon General of the US said yesterday that US Congress should come up with guidelines/laws that limit excessive watching of screens like TV and iPhones. He said that 1/3 of all US teenagers monitor their cellphones from morning until they sleep.

Valles Caldera National Preserve.
My brother Neil, visiting Albuquerque from Australia, had a day of work to do so he and Mary Ann stayed at home while Kim and I drove up to the Valles Caldera National Preserve. It’s about an hour from Albuquerque on a picturesque road that cuts through the Jemez mountains.

What is the Valles Caldera? A National Preserve is similar to a National Park, but allows grazing and fishing and even hunting of elk and wild turkeys. “Valleys of a Volcanic Crater” is an interpretation of the name Valles Caldera.

And it was a super-volcano like Yellowstone! It blew its top about 1 million years ago, and ejected ash landed as far away as Kansas. Massive flows of volcanic ash and pumice and tuff spread for miles around, and the town of Los Alamos is built on some of these. The crater is about 13 miles across, so it’s a big dude.

Paleo-indians of 10,000 years ago visited the Preserve and mined its obsidian – a black volcanic glass that is really hard and has been used for arrowheads and spearpoints and scrapers for cleaning animal hides. Obsidian from the caldera was traded and has been found in North Dakota, Texas and Mississippi.

Samples of obsidian purchased in Houston.

The clash.
Kim and I arrived at the Travel Center in high spirits. Our goal was to hike the Obsidian Trail, and to drive to the far reaches of the caldera where the San Antonio creek, laden with trout, meanders lazily through a mountain meadow.

When we checked in, I was shocked. The ranger said we needed a back-country permit to go where we wanted to go. The last time I was here, there was no such thing. Worse, they couldn’t provide us with such a permit – we could only apply online. I knew phone coverage was spotty up here but brightened up when the ranger said a Verizon phone works. I had a Verizon phone.

There was no place to sit but an elderly gentleman let us into his office. I’m good at scientific computing, but couldn’t handle the passwords to get into After 15 minutes, I gave up in disgust. We decided it was a lost cause.

As Kim and I walked out of the office, a group of five rangers and park volunteers in uniform stood back to let us pass. It was like running a gauntlet. I just wanted out. But when the elderly gent asked me if we had success in getting a permit, I lost it.

My anger poured out, not in a shouting way but forcefully. I said words like No, I can’t get on the website, and I’m very disappointed. Kim came from Kansas to hike in the back-country, and you folks should have an alternative, temporary pass for people who don’t know about your new rules. It’s not good enough – the National Parks Service can do better than this.

I said, this rule will make a lot of people unhappy with the Park Service. You should take my complaint to your bosses. Will you do that? The youngest of the rangers said that I could write my comments on a book on the countertop. I shook my head and said, No, you should write this complaint in the book, or better still, tell it to your boss. I said again how disappointed I was with the Park Service, and walked out.

Kim was surprised too. She told me later she looked back and raised her eyebrows at the gauntlet folks. I was fuming, but not out of control. I hadn’t planned to say those words at all but they poured out suddenly, just as if a jug of water had been tipped over.

As our car rolled forward to leave the parking lot, the elderly gentleman ran toward us. I stopped and rolled down the window. He handed Kim a small square of paper with four numbers printed on it. He said this will get you through the locked gate ahead of the back-country, and the park police will not bother you.

I actually burst into tears as intense disappointment changed to relief. I couldn’t speak – just held out my hand which the man shook. He admitted that a lot of folks had been upset by the new rule. The local staff had tried to get the Park Service to change the rule but without success.

Flowers along the Obsidian Trail.

The back-country was beautiful – rolling hills and immense yellow pines. The streams were flowing better than the one time I’d been there before, and one fisherman told us he’d just caught three trout up to 9 inches long.

We hiked a mile up the Obsidian Trail, and tried to figure out where the numerous obsidian shards lying on the trail had come from. I knew there had been obsidian mines you could visit in the area, but that was before it became a national Preserve.

We drove on to San Antonio creek which is the largest in the caldera. We had plans to hike a tantalizing trail that followed a small side creek into the hills at the edge of the caldera. But when the rain started we turned back because the gravel road had stretches of dirt in places that could get very slippery.

San Antonio Creek.

The next day I had time to reflect on my impassioned outburst to the gauntlet of rangers. Had I overdone it with my anger? Should I feel guilty about it?

Thoughts hammered away at my brain. When is it appropriate to be angry? I’ve always thought that uncontrolled anger is not good, because things can be said or shouted that rip another person apart, and the hurt can last for years, maybe forever.

But the Christian faith is often presented as a way of peace, grace and forgiveness.

Yet others insist anger can lead to action that corrects wrongdoing. One of my mentors in my early career in space physics told me he became angry at a colleague who had pushed his request to the back burner without good reason. My mentor said his own anger had demonstrated how serious a lapse this was and it created action that resolved the problem.

Saint Paul said don’t go to bed angry. He didn’t say don’t get angry.

Jesus got angry at the crowds in the temple who were ripping off the poor that were seeking to buy doves and other spiritual sacrifices. So angry that he grabbed a whip, tipped over their tables, and drove the sellers out complaining that the temple should be a place of prayer not a den of marketing thieves.

I’ve heard the term righteous anger, and maybe this is okay. But who decides what is righteous? How do we decide what is right?

In a blog called Sermon, I found an old but interesting discussion of the Christian context. See this statement by Steve Gregg:

I believe that anger and fear are both emotions that we are repeatedly told to control and expel from our lives. They are both God-given visceral responses to certain stimuli—and appropriate in certain instances. Both are intended to motivate to appropriate action. We would be very unloving if we were not angry at certain situations requiring our courageous intervention (e.g., abortion or the kidnapping and selling of girls into sex-slavery). We would rarely speak out for justice if we were never vexed by injustices (as Jesus was).

Back to my experience in the Valles Caldera, I didn’t feel guilty at my angry outburst. And it did reveal how the Park Service could temporarily resolve visitors’ disappointment at a rule perhaps instigated by some young and ignorant bureaucrat in Washington who had never even witnessed the beauty of the Valles Caldera.

To be fair, for all my years in the US I have held in highest regard the National Park Service. I have visited most National Parks in the west of the US and enjoyed delightful hiking experiences in them. Some like Arches National Park in eastern Utah I have visited many times.

Postscript: we saw a log cabin in the Preserve that Kim said looked like the one which Longmire lived in. Longmire is the name of a beloved western series from a few years ago that was filmed in New Mexico.
BLOG TOPICS: I write in-depth blogs about a mix of topics: Health and Hiking, and Science and Energy, and Inspiration and Hope.
The Gray Nomad ….. Anger is an all-too-common problem, but when is it okay and when is it not okay?
Be angry, and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath (Ephesians, chapter 4).

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Ian, as one only gaining emotional intellect in my maturing years, I have to say, I do think there is a place for anger.
Not blind, raging anger, but of the kind that makes you raise your hand and say, “This isn’t ok.”
I’ve certainly been guilty of the former and it affected my credibility in various situations.
Today, it is typically a more measured approach. Still a work in progress. Thank you Lord.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x