Fast Five Solar Days

IMG_5798“Guess I’m outta work” was what the electrician said mid-afternoon Thursday when he wrapped the last solar j-box lugs on the roof.  It was the culmination of an intense week of work and scheduling trying to get this solar array completed before a self-inflicted deadline of September 1st.  He’d wedged me into his already tight schedule thinking it would take about 3 days and we’d finished a conduit run, pulled 150′ of 4 conductor 3 stories, made up a complicated merging of two arrays electrical and tied it into the grid in a little over a day and a half.


Several reasons for the accelerated schedule, besides an ADHD owner, was that we’re leaving for Switzerland on the 1st of September and the rebate deadline with the local power company is on October 1st (which when you’re moving at faux-mach speed was thought to be September 1st).  And you may not have known, as I didn’t until very late in my life, dyslexics are narrow-focused folks.

IMG_5790Close family and friends like Chris, Mike, Will and Kurt put up with short notice, lending a hand or two when the impulse demanded. The electrician, like the roofer, was a required expenses due to this being an HOA installation but we could do all the design, materials acquisition, grunt work and assembly that didn’t require a licensed contractor.

Last step(s) are out of our hands: Electrical inspection and meter change which allows us to throw the double pole breaker reversing the meter, sending 3.5 kw back to the grid.  And of course replacing the usage for the condo.  It’s the right thing to do.

Escalante 2016

P1010957The Escalante Legacy Tree Study lives on, with our most recent trip to the desert duct delivering the Dixie National Forest waters thru the high Utah desert to the Colorado River at Lake Powell.  The Escalante River is said to be “navigable” sporadically during the Spring runoff, but it’s more like a shallow creek most of the year, especially in August.

Mike and I have been lucky enough to be invited to assist Melissa, a research and restoration ecological biologist specializing in Southwest and desert environments, the last two years on the Escalante River, and in the past in the Grand Canyon. The Escalante Legacy Tree Study finds and catalogs those historic trees in the Escalante drainage that meet a specific criteria, not just size. As the GaiaGPS track segment shows, this involves searching both sides of the river banks for qualifying senior candidates.


P1010950Since the access is either down the river along the seldom used animal trails or over the high desert and into the canyon thru steep access, not many get to experience the verdant micro-climate winding thru the desert crust. It took a full day just to get to where we left off last year, route-finding our way to a slot in the canyon wall and bushwhacking down the river bank.


Unusually cooler temps for this time of year made the week working in the Utah desert tolerable and mostly pleasant.  My original plan to not take a sleeping bag was fortuitously amended at the last minute, because the pre-dawn temps were in the mid-50’s rather than the anticipated mid-60’s.  Day-time temps never broke triple digits in the canyon and since we were mostly in the trees and often making repeated river crossings in the P1020070
water, we were comfortable in the long sleeves and long pants necessary for bashing thru the undergrowth. This isn’t a trip that boasts high mileage as the entire goal for the week was to log trees in just a five-mile section of the river.  It takes a full day to search about a mile of river: finding a tree, logging it’s height, distance from and height above the river, GPS location, health, number of stems, girth, and the species (plants) surrounding that granddaddy.

P1020059We spilt up when the river bank is larger than we can see thru the foliage, using coded yodels for communication and then gathering around when we find a living heirloom, each taking a series of recording chores. Melissa managed the most difficult, bushwhacking a direct route to the river to establish distance from the water. Mike and I counted stems (trunks out of the ground), girth and struggled with identifying species IMG_5771surrounding the tree. By mid-day many of the long slender plants started looking very much the same. Pictured is the list of common names we encountered and the code we needed for logging a tree’s vegetative environment. An interesting TED talk describes how plants communicate and share below the ground (worth viewing). We also needed to photograph the tree with ID number, which involved hiking back far enough thru the brush to find a suitable profile.

There are always interesting things to see besides legacy trees.  This river P1020020canyon was home to many in past centuries, just as all the other canyons and deserts of the Southwest.  In one alcove above an early twentieth century cowboy settlement, we stumbled upon an Indian settlement and granary with corn cobs and pottery shards.

A good time was had by all and we look forward to another section of the river next year.

To make sure I don’t bring the same Version 2pair of worn out hiking shoes I did the same gesture I used to do leaving a boat yard in the past. This dumpster was right next to the first ice cream stop out of the desert.




Another Solar Project

Solar detailThis week we’re working on a solar array for our adjacent condo.  The design was easy because we are duplicating what was installed exactly 5 years ago on the roof next door. The only difference is that in 5 years we are able to gain the same wattage with two less panels, 12 instead of 14.  

We’ve contracted with Engineered Solutions for solar, Durango Roofing and Alan’s Electric for the installation because we can’t do this ourselves on the condo complex.

IMG_5727We have been able to assist with the unskilled labor which means procuring the steel, getting the stanchions welded (thanks to Chris George – Red Mountain Equipment), the angle iron up on the roof (thanks to Mike, Christopher, Aiden and Will for their muscle).

This design on a flat EPDM roof is basically a ground mount as opposed to a slanted roof mount, therefore it takes heavier gage materials.  And the EPDM roof material requires a special “boot” to prevent moisture penetration down the 24 posts.

IMG_5744You can see the older array in the background on the adjacent roof. Sealing the boots is exactly the same as patching a dinghy but there is a different liability when it’s on an HOA roof, that’s why we’ve employed licensed roofers.  Fortunately it only took two of them half a day.




Since the roofers finished by noon, we decided to pick-up the steel angle IMG_7072IMG_7075iron and get it up on the roof so that Chris could start welding that same afternoon.



IMG_5752Fortunately the “iron” crew stayed around to help get the wire-free welder up onto the 3rd floor roof as well.  So Chris started and finished the angle iron rails by dinner time.

Thanks to everyone for helping get those rails ready for the solar panels.



C-1 RoofPanels and hardware should arrive this week, but chances are a Utah hiking trip will postpone their installation.

If we’re lucky we might have it all complete by September 1st.



WIS Trip Report

IMG_5707Not all the backpacking trips this summer have, or will, cover as much ground as the Weminuche Traverse posted earlier.  The photo above shows us at Fuller Lake in the late afternoon where we camped at 12,800′ the first night of a three-day WIS trip to the Ice Lake Basin.

This photo alone could foster 500 words about the trip, but this was a WIS (Wilderness Information Specialist) trip and it might fitting to just show you our trip report for those 3-days.  As the detail states this trip had the most “hiker interaction” we’ve ever experienced, mainly because we don’t frequent these hike traffic area as often.  This trip was fun and worth sharing.

WIS Trip Report — Tom Galbraith & Mike Taylor — July 29-31, 2016

Day 1 Drove to South Mineral Creek Trail head. Hiked up Ice Lake trail thru lower Ice Lake campsites, up to Upper Ice Lakes and on to Fuller Lake basin.

Day 2 Hiked up to Diamond Mine site down thru Lucy Mine back along Upper Ice Lake to Island Lake.IMG_5708

Day 3 Island Lake down to Ice Lake Trail and out at South Mineral Trailhead.

Trip stats: 3 days, 15 miles hiking, driving 120 miles

Executive Summary:

There were hundreds of hikers using the Ice Lake trail not just on weekends but on Wednesday (Tom’s wife hiked it on Wed 7/27 and there were at least 30 hikers lunching at Upper Ice Lake and close to 100 on the trail) and Friday this summer. It may be time to consider having/asking WIS volunteers to visit the Ice Lake Basin just as they are encouraged to visit Chicago Basin. The response from all but one of the hikers was “glad to see you up here” to “thank you for being here”. (One solo backpacker didn’t want to hear anything from us).

Trip Report:

  1. South Mineral Trailhead Parking lot was full at 7:30 AM
  2. Talked with 20+ people on the 2.8 mile uphill stretch to Lower Ice Lake Basin
  3. IMG_5703Walked thru every campsite in the lower Ice Lake Basin filling our trash bag with mostly aluminum from firepits, found tent stakes, socks, underwear, stove parts, an abandoned backpack stuck/snagged high in a tree, lots and lots of uncovered toilet paper (only twice associated with feces) and a freshly cut pine bough shelter with nylon cord tightly wrapped around small trees for ridgelines.
  4. Filled the small backpack with our almost 6 pounds of trash and talked father and son day-hikers into taking it down with them.
  5. By this time (noon) we’d seen close to 50 hikers on their way to Upper Ice Lakes.
  6. Checked on one young lady reportedly vomiting along the ledge trail to Ice Lakes. She appeared to be better at lake side, she had eaten something and had 3 liters of water. Declined any help and wasn’t going down until they got to Fuller Lake (Checked on her later in the day, she was fine)
  7. No one camped at Upper Ice Lake but several backpackers had come down as we came up.
  8. Before we left Ice Lake on Friday noon there were over 25 people enjoying the lake. Talking to most groups, they seemed to be either from Grand Junction or Albuquerque.
  9. At Fuller Lake we saw another 18 hikers that afternoon, four groups fishing, only one fish caught and released even though we could see numerous large (12”) and 6”+ fish swimming along the shoreline. Curious behavior (several hours) of a number of fish in shallow flats we thought might be spawning rituals.
  10. A couple from Grand Junction climbed Fuller peak while we were there.
  11. Version 2Saturday was the busiest by far in the Upper Ice Lake basin. By 10:30 there must have been 40 people there with more people streaming over the knoll the longer we talked with folks. It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say there were over 100 people who visited Upper Ice Lake basin on Saturday. Several took a dip, it looked more like the beach at Navajo Lake than Upper Ice Lake.
  12. One Denver photographer had pitched his tent Friday night about 40’ from the lake and we advised him of the 100’ regulation.
  13. On Saturday there were five tent camps in the Upper Ice Lake basin by noon.
  14. Almost every group we passed had a question or two about the lake or the area. The most frequent question was why is Ice Lake so aquamarine, turquoise or “tat color”. Next frequent was how to get to Fuller Lake or even Island Lake.
  15. At Island Lake we helped an international couple choose an alternative route down the mountain, rather than climb over the exposed rock between Ice Lake and Island Lake.
  16. Another family was trying to exit Island Lake via the outflow creek ravine rather than on the Grant/Swamp trail the Hard Rock 100 runners use. They were happy to learn there was an easier descent.
  17. After dinner and during a thunderstorm there were still people visiting Island Lake and at least four up on the ridgeline between Island Lake and Clear Lake.
  18. Sunday morning there were well over a hundred people ascending the Ice Lake trail: at least two backpacking groups, one totally overloaded.
  19. IMG_5718We checked a campsite north of the trail on a knoll below Lower Ice Lake basin and found a tent with an unattended fire with 6” and 4” logs burning. After no one responded, we extinguished the logs by carrying them down to a creek. We left a polite note asking them to be more careful in the future.
  20. IMG_5720On the trail down we were alerted to a Hotchkiss family group with an elderly lady experiencing problems getting down and her 16 year-old granddaughter was carrying two backpacks. (They’d overnighted in Lower Ice Lake basin for two nights.) It took a long time to catch them because almost every group coming up had something to say or ask. After learning the ailing lady wanted to walk slowing down by herself we offered to carry her backpack down.  Mike went back up from the trailhead 1.5 miles to check on them once again. He carried a second backpack and stayed with them all the way down.
  21. Just above the “log creek crossing” we found a couple and two young children “scaling hand over hand” 100’ up from the creek crossing having missed the trail to the left of the creek. We blocked that bottom trail with downed trees so others might not choose the “elk trail”.
  22. We counted 91 vehicles in the parking lot while waiting for the ailing lady and about 12 of those switched out, all before noon.

IMG_5716This was the most rewarding day as a WIS volunteer I’ve had in four years as a volunteer. Everyone was happy to see us and talk. The exposure for the National Forest Service was excellent and 6 or 8 of the locals asked how they might learn about the WIS program. We learned late Saturday afternoon there was another “Forest Service” couple on the Ice Lake trail. We suspect it was the Schmaltz’s from Silverton since they’ve adopted that Ice Lake trail, which was in excellent shape. The trail looked liked it had been swept clean, in the lower section up to the log creek crossing. Hardly any micro-trash on the trail, but the trees and hidden spots are alive with TP.

As mentioned above in the Exec Summary, it might be a good thing to encourage more of the WIS volunteers to go up to Ice Lake and give Charlie and Paulette a hand. From noticing and hearing about Engineer Mountain trail the same might apply. The day hiker seems less experienced on those trails than those who visit Chicago Basin, and our help and volunteers might be needed as much on those two popular trails as in Chicago Basin.

Weminuche Traverse

Messages Image(3109858939)I was privileged once again to follow along one of Will Rietveld’s epic treks across the Weminuche Wilderness area of the San Juan National Forest.

Will has been hiking the San Juan’s for over 50 years and at 74 he doesn’t carry a map any longer, since just about every trail and mountain has  been etched in his memory.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, Will is a writer who reviews and tests ultralight gear from various vendors and has a blog UltralightInsights featuring that gear and his tips.

This year Will’s friend, the founder of Gossamer Gear Glen Van Peski came along as well.  They’ve hiked the Weminuche several times in the past, so it was fun to hear them revisit those previous trips.

IMG_5676Will generally only uses the normal trails to and from the Trailheads.  He prefers Elk trails and often times “bushwhacking” to get where he’s planned to hike.  When I say we probably climbed 3 or more passes a day it’s not an exaggeration. The couloirs between peaks is how he likes to traverse the alpine landscape and usually there’s only been four-legged animals before us.


DSCF0027As you might imagine, the views are spectacular, and above 13,000′ you can generally look in any direction. Camping above tree line we never need worry about insects or bears. The wildlife we saw was primarily Elk in herds and pairs, a number of curious mountain goats, a lumbering porcupine and countless ptarmigan with their chicks. We did see at least 3 bald eagles, one perched on a stunted spruce watching over the fish in Lost Lake.

Version 2


Ostensibly this was a fishing trip.  Those who know me know fishing isn’t my forte, in fact I just don’t fish because I’ve lost more lures and flies than I’ve ever landed fish.  But there was a novel fishing rig along and I was keen to try my hand: a TicTac fishing rig that Glen brought along as his UL fishing kit. I didn’t get a chance to weigh it but I’m sure it was just over an ounce.

DSCF0066IMG_5681 I caught four fish that day, probably more than all I’ve ever caught in fresh water. (Trolling for Tuna, Dorado or Mackerel off Paradox excluded). I only kept one 16″er and could only fit DSCF0064half in my beer-can pot Esbit stove for dinner, so I dried the rest Thai style on my pack for the next 3 days and enjoyed dried Cutthroat Trout.  I’m hooked and already have a TicTac box of mouth freshners to build my own fishing kit.



P1420975The six-day trip was challenging in that we covered 60.2 miles, which itself would only be 10 miles a day, but we managed 19,990′ ascent and 22,081′ descent in that distance.  One day was just over 14 hours. We didn’t anticipate as much snow as there was this time of year and had to alter route, glissade and scree-slide more often than we figured.

Good thing that each of us was packing UltraLight gear, averaging between 7 and 9 pounds base weight.  Six days food at 1 ½ pounds a day was as much as our base weight.  Glen is a master UL hiker and showed us a few of his tricks which I’ll try and incorporate in my kit for the next trip.

By-the-way, most of these photos are from Glen and Will’s cameras as I wasn’t taking many photos in an effort to see how long my iPhone 6+ would be able to track our daily routes.  GaiaGPS tracked 58 hours of hiking and only needed a short charge on the 5th day. As a result we’re now able to “fly” our track in Google earth for some exciting views.


Here’s the crew, Will on the left and Glen on the right. Will and I logged Wilderness Informational Specialist credit by wearing our volunteer shirts and talking to the backcountry hikers and climbers we ran into.  The trip basically took us from Durango to Silverton, zig-zagging thru the Weminuche Wilderness area. For Glen’s version of the trip click here.

Here’s a few more photos to give you a sense of the adventure.

DSCF0033 DSCF0029 P1420901 P1420915 P1420946 P1420943 DSCF0023


Walking the Talk

IMG_5642July has been unusually good weather in the San Juan’s for hiking this year.  Typically the monsoons start on July 4th, but this year we’ve managed about 15 days without a single rain drop. Not that we’ve hiked every day so far this month, but between the two of us we’ve got in at least 15 days on the trails. From a two hour training hike with my sister Donna and niece Vanessa (with 19#, 8 month-old, Oliver on her back) to an epic 6 day traverse of the Weminuche, with lots of miles in between.

IMG_5635Stanna has up’d her hiking regime to M-W-F with her Ladies Hiking Group, tackling harder trails on Monday and Friday with those ladies who want the additional exercise. She even took me on one hike the morning of the 4th.  I could barely catch her at the parking lot when I tried to add another ¾ mile to the Cascade Creek waterfall inbound leg.  In 4.7 miles back  I didn’t see her until I had sight of the car and her at the same time.

IMG_5629In prep for the UL trip in the Weminuche (see next post) I managed an easy peak climb in the La Platas, with Will Rietveld and Travis Ward where we saw a mountain lion and almost stepped on a 2-day-old fawn.IMG_5627




I’m not a peak bagger, but I did sign the log books on two peaks in the last 10 days, none of them 14’ers but they seem to have jars with logbooks on most mountain tops over 13,000.

IMG_5618Since Stanna and I both use GaiaGPS, she has been able to follow some of the tracks I’ve recorded with her hiking ladies. As WIS volunteers, I did the Snowdon Notch right after my aborted Colorado Trail attempt (to establish it was my new trail shoes that foiled the CT, not my body) and she and her group visited the same trail several days later.

Sure wish we could take some of you along.  The mountains of Southwestern Colorado are beautiful this time of year.  See if you can join us.




GaiaGPS Gear Review

GaiaGPS LogoGaiaGPS is the single best App I’ve ever purchased, and that’s coming from a parsimonious Scots miser who hasn’t purchased more than a dozen App’s for his smartphone, and those few all under $3.

Let’s just get the price issue out of the way at the onset: it costs $19 from the App Store for iOS devices and at Google Play for Android devices. If the cost puts you off from trying this invaluable backcountry App, then find someone who’s using it and get a first-hand demonstration, or visit the GaiaGPS website to view a demo.

GaiaGPS has extended my hiking and backpacking experiences many-fold since I first saw another hiker using it on the trail. He was following a track someone had given him, recording his own track with all the real time stats, all the while viewing his current location on a clearly visible fully-zoomed USGS topo.

Questions immediately came to mind: What does it cost? How much are the topos? How large is the app? How do you get other people’s tracks? Does it eat up your smartphone battery and what was that name again? (It’s GaiaGPS).

I’ll have to admit I had to look up “gaia” on the internet; its The ancient Greek goddess of the earth, mother of the Titans, in case you’re clueless as well.

IMG_5520I’ll also admit more than once I’ve been “off track” when hiking and backpacking. Now with GaiaGPS on my smartphone it happens less often, or more to the point, for not as long. Having a real-time GPS cursor following my footsteps is a pretty amazing feature to have in my pocket.

GaiaGPS on a smartphone doesn’t use or need cell tower availability or coverage, rather it uses the phone’s internal GPS chip. It works anywhere in the world, unless you’re in a deep dark canyon with walls that obscure most of the sky. My GaiaGPS recorded tracks seem to do just fine in dense forests and wooded areas but will jump diagonally off track when it’s bouncing off steep walls and cliffs, righting itself once it can “see” more sky.

The phone stays in my pocket (or hip belt) until I’ve sensed I’m off track, have an intersection choice to make, or just am curious how far we’ve gone. But GaiaGPS can tell you much more if you choose: such as knowing the distance, altitude, moving time versus your total time, average speed, and stopped time, to name a few.

What really pleases me is that I now have all those GPS features combined with a camera and phone. I’ve eliminated my Garmin Trek’s 5.1 ounces (that I rarely used) along with 4.75 ounces for my point-and-shoot camera and consolidated those functions into my iPhone. The 9.85 ounce savings allows other gear, or better yet cutting my base weight down closer to that elusive 10-pound number.

And just as preparing for an adventure is enjoyable and rewarding, checking out my tracks and stats after the hike has added to my overall joy of backpacking.

Sharing the track is fun as well. You can export the track via email or text message as well as import it into Google Earth or other mapping applications like Garmin Base Camp. I often take a screen shot of the imported Google Earth track and place it in my blog to give folks a sense of where I’ve been hiking.

Just buying the app can be a little intimidating and even frustrating if you don’t know how to use it to its full potential. GaiaGPS offers you all the USGS topos for the United States for free, as long as you are online (connected to WiFi). You must select an area (draw a box around and Save) the region you’d like to have on your phone while you’re still online.

GaiaGPS screen shotsThe features and operation are very straight forward, but it takes a little exploring to figure that out without someone showing you or watching the numerous very short how-to videos offered in the Help Section of their website.

You can certainly Record a Track without a single bit of help and download the map tiles after-the-fact, but if you’re actually trying to navigate with a topo offline you need to have those USGS (or other versions of the many maps provided) loaded beforehand. Users new to the app complain of “blurry” topos when in reality they haven’t downloaded the actual map tiles and are just seeing the default low resolution overview map.

IMG_5521There is a long list of features provided with the basic version, but the overall beauty of the app is having a super clear, zoom-able topo of where you are traveling and the GPS cursor arrow marking your current location. If you’ve started recording your track, the line of travel is shown in a contrasting color telling you where you’ve been and possibly how far off track you might be.

I especially like loading up someone else’s track for a hike or ride, and using that to show me the route I’m planning to travel. That feature is as easy as emailing yourself the previous track (from a friend or off the internet), tapping the attachment and selecting Import to GaiaGPS. It loads in your GaiaGPS Folders section and you can “Show on Map” with the press of a button.

IMG_5625After using GaiaGPS and collecting numerous tracks, I really appreciate the easy way I can organize the various tracks into Folders, making finding and utilizing previous tracks far easier.

This app could be something you didn’t know you needed, but it soon will be something you can’t live without. Especially if it helps get your pack weight down by eliminating an extra device. As mentioned earlier, GaiaGPS has numerous short and to-the-point video tutorials (, in the Help section of their website online, for each feature. Check it out; you’ll like it.


Changing WebSite Host (names)

UpDate:  They found away to roll us over without the hassle of changing accounts. Hooray! iPage hosting is worth staying with. I’m now back for 3 years at 2.25 a month.

The price of hosting this website rolls over from $1.99 a month (introductory offer) to $11.99 a month.  So we’re cancelling the current hosting and will start up again under Stanna’s name for the next two years. should still be our domain name, but you never know.  Send us an email if you can’t find our website.

Time to hit the Trail

IMG_5610UPDATE: seems that the new trail shoes I wore need more than a day break in.  They are ZeroDrop and might be the reason I had hip pain after the trail turned uphill at 9 miles. Fortunately Stanna was still in Denver the next day and picked me up after 17 miles.  Another day for the CT.

Original Post: In the spirt of “how many summers … left,” it’s time to hit the trail again. The CT has been a nagging specter in my backyard ever since I started UltraLight hiking. And since summer is more than half over for some of us, now is the time to get that ogre taken care of. The hike shouldn’t be a problem: it’s the prep and logistics that is so onerous.

Matt Zion – Version 6It’s first presence was that young fellow I met 17 days out of Denver with a base weight of 7 pounds. With his UL zPacks pack and umbrella tucked in the side sleeve it, he made the the trail seem easy. He was zipping along the Colorado Trail making 33 miles a day. I tried to see what that pace was like a couple years back, and don’t want to try that again. It was easier to mimic his base weight than do that back-to-back mileage, but he had 50 years on me, or better said, “off me”.

Here’s the trail, since it’s hard to imagine.

CT One Line

IMG_5613Food; the quantity and logistics of arranging “drops” is the most work, especially if you decide to hike the CT at the last minute. A sensible thru-hiker would plan this 24+ day adventure well in advance, packing and sorting caches for various stages along the route. But…

Some of us UberLite HDD types try to sort it in a weekend.  Fortunately I’ve got a previously arranged commitment two weeks into the trail so arranging for half the drops could be postponed, but all the meals got packed from the stores covering two table tops.

The Menu honed over many other UL trips:


There won’t be many blog posts while I’m in the backcountry, however you can follow the track live by watching my Spot track.






IMG_1686We’ve been up in Portland to give Daniel’s family a new set of aprons as well as a little help with his new house remodel. Stanna made the aprons in the Thai style with cloth she brought back this spring. The house is 125 years old and if you go back a year in the blog you’ll see what we did to the house last year before they moved in. The main floor is virtually finished and now the concentration is on the full basement and second floor.

IMG_1685We razed the entire second floor last year. Now a second bathroom is the priority not to mention using that upstairs for a third bedroom. As with all “fixer-uppers” it’s been a tour d’ force working full-time, managing a large family and doing a major renovation. A week’s worth of help goes a long way toward the project even when it’s one old man doing nuisance tasks.

IMG_1687In just that week the old victorian home went from two to four useable bedrooms. For those who think assembly of IKEA furniture is a breeze, just look at how many it took to put together Julia’s new bed.

Fun to help, see the grand girls and Traci’s twin six-year-olds.



Fast Track


It’s been awhile since I’ve done a “Show & Tell” or “science fair” display but it seemed appropriate for the UL talk for the San Juan Mountain Association talk I gave with my mentor Will Rietveld last week.  Six years ago I attended one of his annual seminars on Ultralight backpacking, swallowing more Kool-Aide than anyone else.

When I joined Don Ahlert on the Southern Tier for a self-supported ride to Florida from Austin his recommendations influenced my first purchases of ultralight gear: a 30° MontBell SS 3 at 18oz and a NeoAir pad weighing 8oz. This gave me half the essentials for Utralight backpacking and over the next couple of years hiking with Will I’ve converted entirely to that UL sect.


One of the “props” used in the presentation was the 5 Gallon Bucket Rule: showing folks that all your gear, your base weight, should fit into a 5 gallon bucket.  So as Will pulled gear out of a conventional 40-pound pack and a Lightweight 20-pound pack, I pulled gear out of the bucket.

We didn’t expect everyone, or even anyone, to rise up and join the 10-pound Base Weight clan, but there were a few that showed interest in adopting the maximum threshold weights on basic gear for their next purchase.

IMG_5594This talk followed one the week before on GaiaGPS which was given to a similar crowd of Wilderness Information Specialists.  That app for a smartphone was an easier idea to “sell” since comes in at a far lower cost.  I’ll post a review of that GPS tracking software once I complete the draft.

Right now we’re in Portland working on Daniel’s house.

Grand Ol’ Time


What goes on on the river, stays on the river, until the photos start showing up in Dropbox, that is. It probably isn’t hard to tell who didn’t get the memo about bringing a costume for the traditional costume party, but the gals anticipated it with a few extra tutu’s and a kimono.

P1010899Rafting the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River is one of the “must do’s” on most outdoor recreation people’s bucket list.  I’ve been fortunately enough to have done it six times now and it’s still awe-inspiring in it’s majesty and constantly thought-provoking in it’s creation. Relative concepts of time are shattered contemplating what’s transpired on earth as evidenced in it’s exposed layers and fossils.

P1420709Having lost the use of my iPhone camera has limited the accompanying photos to those posted in Dropbox so far.  Suffice it to say, our Maravia raft flipped (I wasn’t on the oars) early in the trip in a “hole” at Tanner Rapid.  Nothing was lost off the boat other than the two guys that swam the remaining ¾’s of that white-water rapid. The rafts are typically “rigged to flip” by lashing all the gear down with river straps and nets. In the time that it takes to corral the raft to the shore-line and get 10 people on top to “right” the raft, my iPhone (which was inside a small water-tight bag, inside a water-tight day bag) got swamped probably due to the weight and pressure underwater.


A good time was had by all as you can see by the waterfall hike up to Elves Chasm where our group enjoyed jumping out of the cavern into the pool.  The 15-day trip was designed to maximize our hiking opportunities which are some of the best experiences along the P1010888river.  Many trails and slot canyons are only accessible from the river and as such, provide somewhat unique experiences, if you forget that 30,000 people get to float the “Grand” each year.  Since the traffic on the river is limited by permits, we often hiked without other groups and the camps are such that you might never see another group near your river camp.

The Little Colorado River confluence, Matkatamiba, Havasu and Deer Creek are the exceptions where the large commercial rafting companies always take their clients each day.  During the summer season there is only one private trip and four commercial trips launched each day.  The commercial trips are 7 to 10 days and move their clients quickly down the 225-mile river; many clients are helicoptered out after the famous Lava Falls Rapid experience at mile 179.

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Since this trip was primarily to support kayakers, the group rented five 18′ commercial-sized rafts with all the trip gear from Moenkopi Riverworks out of Flagstaff. Normally we’d bring our own 16′ rafts and gear but the group opted for a fully outfitted package: boats, gear and food.  Since it was a private trip we didn’t have any guides, cooks or swampers, providing all the “man-power” ourselves.  It was a new experience to see how a commercial trip is provisioned and outfitted.  Food and menus were great and our 16 members divided into crews of 4 to take turns preparing each day’s repast.

Google Earth Map shows approximately 225 miles from below the Hoover Dam at Marble Falls to Diamond takeout on the Hualapai Reservation.

Happy to be back home, but if you ever get an chance to “do the Grand” — private or even on a commercial trip — don’t pass it up.  It’s a once in a lifetime experience.

And I’ve now invested in a LifeProof case for my replacement iPhone.