Sewn Up

SewingHandsCold weather locally kept us inside this week, so it was time to check the list of projects.  Long list, but the most appealing project was to fit out a new set of bikepacking bags for the upgraded mountain bike.  I’d spent an afternoon, before hiking into the Grand Canyon, penciling out the design for three new bags: a frame pack, a “gas tank” and a “jerry can” (as referred to by Revelate Designs, whose bike bags I admire and seat bags we already own).  You can buy bags off the shelf but they aren’t custom enough for how I want them.

PatternThis is the third set I’ve sewn up, so it’s mostly a matter of figuring out exactly what you want – where.  Making the patterns is easy with construction paper, and mocking up the actual design sizes works best, as in the case of my penciled-up gas tank bag at 10″, didn’t give me enough straddle width, so I cut the pattern down to 9″ before cutting any fabric.  Our 3’x5′ kitchen island makes a great layout and work InsideOutcounter especially with the similar sized lined and graphed craft mat for a protective surface.  Cutting fabric with a roller knife makes layout and cutting even easier.  Hardest part is figuring what you want on the inside, as those attachments, velcro straps and mesh netting all need to be sewn on before you assemble the sides, top and bottom.  Great for keeping that aging mind from atrophying.

Experience reminded me to add neoprene padding to the inside bottom surfaces so that tools, MapMountyour camera or iPhone don’t rattle against the frame as you go down those mountain trails.  And I’ve added still one new innovation in the form of a map holder.  Last several tries and the most recent Southern Tier ride challenged me to come up with a simpler, closer and easier to read map holder.  We’ll see how this iteration works.

Now there isn’t an excuse not to transfer that ultralite backpacking gear to the mountain bike a knock off another section of the Great Divide trail.Packs



Granite Veg Project

GraniteProjectThis sand bank doesn’t look like it has several hundred new plants, but it does.  Prior to the Grand Canyon Vegetation Restoration project this spit of sandbar was primarily Tamarisk which had overtaken the camping and recreational aspects of this unique location on the Colorado River just above a 7-8 scale rapid called Granite at mile 93.4.  A very popular large overnight camp for boaters making the 225 mile run down the Colorado River from Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek and beyond.  The camp and beach are also destination spots for hikers descending the very popular Hermit Trail from the south rim to the Grand Canyon and those stopping at the Monument Campground about an hour up Monument Creek to the south.

Our trip was the finale planting of nearly 500 plants where they had spent several prior trips in November and January when they removed hundreds of invasive Tamarisk.  In Feburary they transplanted about 120 Willows and Cottonwoods about 7 feet deep such that their bases were at water table depth.  Two palates of local seedlings which were greenhouse grown on the Rim and later wintered in Phoenix were helicopter onto the beach the day before we arrived for planting.  Plants included Mesquite, Hackenberry, Dactura, Bridlebush, Catspaw and several other for the riparian level plus several grasses at the water level. It wasn’t easy to keep track but I think they planted well over 700 plants in the two efforts.  After planting the most difficult of all was watering each with a 5 gallon bucket of water from the Colorado many steps below.  Ten people could get the watering job done in about a hour the first day, but by the third day it took 50% longer as fatigue set in.

HandSawPlanting took a day and a half and the next days were spent covering (camouflaging) our devastation with hand gathered mulch, stowing tools and supplies in the cache, inventorying, and mapping the site.  Plus we managed several hours each of weeding and eliminating about 200 more Tamarisk that escape the earlier eradication.  As the photo shows Tamarisk can reach a girth of greater than 6 inches in just 10 or 12 years according to the tree rings.  Sawing them off at ground level prior to herbicide treatment is no easy task with an eight inch hand saw.

A number of interesting things took place as we participated in the April venture.  A Colorado River Guides training trip came in the first day and provided us with their camp kit and food for their 20+ and our 10 volunteers.  Accompanying the guides were experts on various topics for guide education such as geology, ecology, fisheries, and more.  We were treated to a number of mini-seminars on the beach ,after dinner and breakfast, during their overnight stay.  One of the best was a professors’ 20′ sand graphic of how the Grand Canyon and Colorado River had different and separate development stages with the earliest Colorado River running eastward to the great inland sea that spanned Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and parts of Kansas.

Last HourThe Hermit Trail down to the Colorado is a formidable 10 1/2 mile hike in itself and so popular that hikers must vie for backcountry hiking permits just to stay in the remote IMG_2809campgrounds.  Out trip down not only featured the daunting one mile descent in altitude thru the eons of stratified canyon layers but we endured a Spring wind and rain storm (with short bursts of snow) that was so strong that you virtually had to “hold on” to rocks at times.  No photos of that downhill trek as it was difficult enough just to unbuckle packs to get on rain gear.  CactusHowever as all things are in the western mountains by afternoon the storm abated and we shed our rain gear and finished the descent into camp under cloudy skies.

Climbing back out to the rim is (IMO) far easier on the legs, than long steps down are on the knees.  And fortunately UP Coblesthe canyon colors and Spring flowers where showing more vibrant color contrasts.  Even without the infamous high summer temps we consumed over 3 1/2 liters of water on the exit.  On the right is near the top of the trail and said to be over 100 years old when the Union Pacific workers improved the trail for train visitors on mules to visit deep into the canyon.  Unfortunately this quality of trail doesn’t last more than a few hundred yards out of the over 10 miles.  See if this Panorama below will enlarger on your screen.GanitePanoMed

Grand Volunteer

hermitTrailLucky enough to snag a trip down into the Grand Canyon with the Granite Camp Planters  on their finale to the 2012 Tamarisk eradication program along the Colorado River corridor in the depths of the Grand Canyon.

According to the National Park Service website Tamarisk, commonly known as salt cedar, is an exotic (non-native) shrub or tree that grows in dense stands along rivers and streams in the west. Tamarisk, introduced to the U.S. in the 19th century as an erosion control agent, spread through the west and caused major changes to natural environments. Tamarisk reached the Grand Canyon area during the late 1920s and early 1930s, becoming a dominant riparian zone species along the Colorado River in 1963 (following completion of Glen Canyon Dam).

The impacts caused by tamarisk in the southwest are well documented. These prolific non-native shrubs displace native vegetation and animals, alter soil salinity, and increase fire frequency. Salt cedar is an aggressive competitor, often developing monoculture stands and lowering water tables, which can negatively affect wildlife and native vegetative communities. In many areas, it occupies previously open spaces and is adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions. Once established in an area, it typically spreads and persists. Exotic Tamarisk Management – Grand Canyon National Park

zPack34#I’ll be trying out my newest ultralight acquisition a zPacks ArcBlast (15.5 oz 52 liter) made of cuban fiber sail cloth.  Unfortunately I’ll have to load it up for the descent on the Hermit Trail down to Monument Creek with up to 34 pounds of load.  My base weight will be 12.3 pounds but we’re required to carry 4 liters of water (8 pounds) and approximately 15 pounds of group food (which isn’t the dehydrated versions I normally carry).  Fortunately I’ll only have the 12# plus 8# of water coming back up the trail and the water weight will decrease by the hour.

Warmshowers Season

The season has started and we got our second batch of cross-country bicyclists this week, hailing from Deutschland.  Thomas and Micheal are biking indirectly from New York to San Francisco, or Brooklyn Bridge to Golden Gate as they explain.  Cold fronts drove them south thru Asheville, North Carolina and thence to Oklahoma, into New Mexico and into Durango.  They plan to hit Zion National Park after Mesa Verde in our neighborhood, before the run through Las Vegas, Sequoia National Park and up to the San Francisco Bay Area.  It’s always fun to have these folks drop in because we enjoy hearing their stories, comparing notes on gear and showing them Durango.GermanWS

It’s unusual to see a recumbant bike around town and very unusual to see a full size recumbent with 700Cx28 wheels.  Micheal is a serious promoter of these models, extolling the comfort, distance and mileage you can get before needing a rest.  He’s managed over 325 km (just under 200 miles)-day on one of his former versions.  On this tour they’ve averaged about 100 miles a day (or about 30 days out of New York to Durango via Georgia), with a best day of 160 miles.  They are carrying less than 30 pounds of gear each including tent and full camping gear.

I had to ask if I could sit/lay in his recumbent, as I’ve never had the opportunity.  Definitely a different style of riding.  Note the steering is left-right levering rather than turning.


Left Coast of Florida

GulfWe quickly slid from the throngs of East Coast Florida Spring Breakers to the Left Coast where the crowds and waves on the Gulf coast were down to almost nothing by comparison.  The promise of beach time was the allure and winning proposal but as you can see the water, while warmer than the local air temperature, just wasn’t warm enough to get fully immersed in.  However, Stanna found one of the few remaining 50’s beach resorts nestled between the high-rise versions that overwhelm the current St. Petersburg beach-scape.  This place was perfect in our eyes with all single story one-bedroom units double barrel shot-guned between the highway, the water and those boxy 10 story condo buildings.  Light and bright, with contemporary furnishing, fixtures and appliances, only the checkered tile in the showers belied the true age of these earlier get-a-way resorts.  The biggest hit with Julia was the HEATED pool which she only exited once the cooling 6 o’clock shadows of the neighboring behemoth chilled the air.gulfsunset

Since an AirBoat ride in the Everglades didn’t strike a note of interest for our 10 year-old charge, we settled on a canoe paddle down the Hillsborough River just northeast of Tampa. Turtles This was a reality version of one of those Disney rides where you had to paddle your own locomotion and the wild animals were closer, more naturally animated and live.  The Canoe Escape Canoe Escape: Canoeing the Hillsborough River near Tampa, Florida offers 2, 4 and 6-hour self guided adventures providing various water craft and return shuttles JuliaPaddlingfor a very modest price considering it’s in Florida.  We opted for the 4-hour (there is a intermediate State Park with water, picnic tables and restrooms every 2 hours), so we got to finish our week in Florida with a real adventure.  First thing that you’ll see is turtles everywhere (in the sun) and then the variety of bird life is wonderful (with a crowded regions of 100’s of Turkey Vultures), and of course what would a Florida water source be without gators, lots of alligators.  And not all of them were sunning on the sunny banks.

HillsRiverSeveral very large ones, just down stream of our meandering progress, submerged themselves just like Disney would have, as we trepidaiously paddled forward right over their last known position.  HalfGatorJulia paddled the first 4.5 miles and after our lunch break took the middle canoe spot and became the photographer and got several good granddaddy alligator shot which I hope to include.  You’ll have to settle for “half a gator” until we can get those sent from Oregon.  We’d recommend this short adventure for anyone because it’s amazing to see such wildlife so close to a metropolitan area.  This was a wonderful finale to our week long Florida adventures.