What's your usual? Maybe a five-mile run in the morning, or a bike ride after work? Perhaps you get some cardio in by stalking the gym during lunch hour looking for a free elliptical.

We all have our routines. And those of us who like to mix in some exercise regularly often develop a set regimen, or at least a preferred context for our exertions. With that in mind I'd like to ask a rhetorical question: When you return from your morning or evening constitutional, when you towel off after your "usual," are you the same person you were when you began? If the answer to that question is "Yes," then let me humbly suggest there is much more to be gained from your endeavors than mere exercise.

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“Yes!” I happily grunted out loud, “no one here.” It was a small kind of victory. I had just reached a spot in Caspers Wilderness Park referred to as “The Gazebo,” an open-sided wooden ramada that sits on a hill at a trail junction. My overt satisfaction was born of a historical (and, admittedly, probably constitutional) grumpiness over having often hiked three and a half miles - the last mile or so gaining over eight hundred feet in elevation - to get to this lovely location only to find it already occupied.

I’ve shared the Gazebo in the past, but to say I welcome company would be too brazen a falsehood even for me. For some reason I covet solitude there. Despite my apparent genetic lack of empathy, though, I’ve always understood the attraction of the Gazebo. It’s a great place to rest after the sturdy climb. It’s open and airy, yet still provides a bit of shade on warmer days. And although it’s not the highest spot around (the Santa Ana Mountains to the east rise much higher), or even in Caspers (that point lies a few hundred yards up the trail), it offers excellent vistas of Orange County, the ocean to the west, and even L.A. on a clear day.

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ZekeCan we talk?

Let me state up front that I love dogs. I've got pretty good canine-fu. Dogs usually like me, and I nearly always like them (okay, I have to admit to not being a member of the chihuahua fan club, but...c'mon, who is?). I've been a dog-owner for much of my life, always kept them inside and treated them as family members - if ones with off-putting personal hygiene.

Our culture has generally been pretty dog-friendly. And I do have some concern that this friendliness is currently a bit over the top, verging on dog-crazy. But even so, I don't really see it as a huge problem if someone feels undressed without Precious in their purse, wants to drive with a furball half in their lap and half out the window, or even brings their adorable drooly-face into a grocery store with them.

I do, however, have a problem with dogs in the wilderness.

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Let's begin with two simple, and indisputably true, observations,

  1. Rattlesnakes really can be dangerous, and
  2. Rattlesnakes really don't want to bite, maim, eat or otherwise hurt you.

If these assertions seem incongruous it's because you're unfamiliar with one of the most pervasive ethological edicts in the animal kingdom - If possible, avoid taking on something bigger than yourself. Animals that break this rule can end up too injured to hunt or even dead, and that makes it tough to pass on your genes.

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recent article over at KCET's "Rewild" site documents difficulties the condor recovery program continues to face, in spite of apparent success. The mortality rate among reintroduced individuals is high, and the reasons are varied: lead poisoning (from the bullets in discarded carcasses upon which the condors feed) is still a big problem, and so are trash ingestion, egg-thinning (it will surprise no one that residual DDT is likely the culprit here) and collisions with technology (wind generators and power lines). The article is an eye-opening, cautionary read. It counsels us not to take the current number of "wild" condors (some 230 spread over California, Arizona, Utah and Baja - up from zero in 1987) as evidence that successful rewilding is a fait accompli.

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