It a well known fact that Durango has 300 days of sun each year, the monsoon rains start on July 4th, and above all, if you don’t like the weather in the San Juan’s, wait 30 minutes. However I don’t recall a cold wet May like we’re experiencing.  Of course, if you round up I’m 69 and it’s probably time for me to start wearing three shirts and a coat in the house, but it’s just not right to be cold in May.  Sure we’ve lost quite a number of tomato plants here in the last 32 years, but that’s only with overnight temps close to 32°. Normally when the sun’s up, it’s warm, especially in our Feng Sui sunroom/office. It’s almost June and the deck sliding door hasn’t even been cracked for more than a pass-through.

webcamStanna’s put up the deck garden between thundershowers, and the drip system is installed and waiting for sun to dry out the slushy potting soil enough to need water.  All this cold wet weather is welcome because the snowpack, water levels and lakes are well below average, it’s just hard not to be outside enjoying Spring.  Every time we plan a backpacking excursion, it’s not the nighttime lows that cancel our plans, it’s the daytime lows of high 40’s low 50’s, and high 60% chance of snow/rain that discourages us.

Jacks CardIMG_2291We did have a Warmshowers guest, Jack Day, who is completing a two-year circumnavigation of the “west”, as defined by all those states west of the “midwestern” town of Des Moines, where he started and plans to finish by July. Jack was, like all the crosscountry cyclists we’ve hosted, a welcome and enjoyable guest. Jack probably takes the prize for the most gear on his bike. He even had a full-sized bicycle floor pump bungied on.

IMG_2213Jack was even game to help when I went over to friend Will’s house to finish off his 5.2 KW solar array project we’d started the week before. Mike Taylor and I had helped install the panels earlier, and this time Jack and I strung electrical-code-required chicken-wire on the back-side of the array. A task far more difficult than the initial installation.

The weather hasn’t slowed down the Purging Program though.  Stanna is in Stage III of “Giving With A Warm Hand,” sifting through family heirlooms this week: jewelry, photos and paintings, china, silver, and linens all selected to be parceled out to younger interested family.  It would be a good time to put your name on anything we’ve got, lest it goes out with the recyclables.


My only productive claim during this cold spell, is rigging a hands-free Chrome Dome umbrella set-up for my backpack.  The umbrella has accompanied me on several outings but never when it’s rained.  Just seems fitting to figure out the rig while it’s raining outside.

Eager to get back on the trail, but it looks like it will have to be after we get back from Portland in mid-June.  Hope to see Don & Janice as well as Ivan & Jeanie who’ll be there at the same time.

“If it’s snowing at the Put-in…”

IMG_0929Stanna has a saying from a river trip on the San Juan River, one March some thirty years ago, back in the last century: “If it’s snowing at the put-in, step off the raft and get back in the car and say: I’ll meet you at the take-out.”  This photo isn’t at the put-in, rather at the rendezvous point just outside of Durango last week.  Two inches of snow had fallen while we were loading the rafts for the trip to Green River, Utah, to run Grey and Desolation Canyons of the Green River.  Her advice could have applied.

It wasn’t a bad trip at all, just stormed and rained more than I’ve ever experienced on a P1010378river trip.  The online weather outlook was poor for the first day, “…high of 56 and low of 39 with 30% chance of rain…,”  but the remainder of the week to warm nicely with mostly sunny days according to the forecast.  We did have one nice day, thankfully, sunny enough to dare bathing in the river and drying off in the sun (while it lasted).

StillHowever, much of the time we were in long pants with fleece and rain jackets. We did manage a number of canyon hikes along the way.  One unusual site was a bootlegger still and cliffside rock cabin located in such a remote river canyon that we couldn’t figure out how he got his grain in and hooch out. This was situated 45 miles downriver halfway between two towns, but it was adjacent to an Indian reservation, so he wasn’t all that crazy.  Another site was the elaborate petroglyph panel featured below.

IMG_2239It was intimidating taking photos with my iPhone next to our trip-mate Jeff (note him in the bushes with his tripod mounted lens) and his Sherpa son carrying all his professional photography gear.  His Nature Revealed photography gallery is located in Durango and it was very interesting seeing him work and appreciating his “patience.”

IMG_2260Several evenings we had to cook dinner in the rain and warm ourselves with a fire in the firepan (a long-running requirement for campfires and BBQ’s in the river-permitted regions).

One particularly stormy, thundering loud and windy morning, I moved the camp stove under the teetering table and made coffee huddled on the ground below the collapsed “parawing” rain fly.  Luckily breakfast was just granola and yogurt with no need of a proper galley.

As unusual as the weather was for a mid-May desert river trip, so was the theme of the trips conversations.  Of the eight rafters, 4 were teachers with science backgrounds, one
of which enthralled and overwhelmed several of us with details about quantum mechanics (the science of the very small: the body of scientific principles that explains the behaviour of matter and its interactions with energy on the scale of atoms – Wikipedia).  “There are more atoms in a pebble than grains of sand on the earth,” “…everything is now regarded as a wave” and “all light comes from photons” –  just to give you a sense of the responses to our naive questions.  Electrons entered much into the camp and raft conversations, along with an ample portion of geology.  Learning was going all directions just like photons and electrons.

P1010331One mystery no one could explain, was just how beavers managed to chew through a number of trees almost 7 feet off the ground, near one of our lunch stops.  There was a large abandoned “lodge” close by and at least four of these higher trees lopped off above our heads.  No evidence of a perch or floating vantage point.  And snow doesn’t get that high at that elevation, even if the beaver wasn’t hibernating.

P1010335“My father wasn’t very careful with fire…,” is how one of the campfire stories started when Ed Zink livened up the sophomoric and socratic moods.  His jokes and limericks made for great company and balance to the 101-level non-traditional student questions firing back and forth to the professor.  Add in the great meals, side hikes and camaraderie, not to mention the wonder of drifting down a 90-mile section of one of the West’s remote desert rivers: this was a great trip.  Now if we could remember all that was taught and said, we’d have jokes and trivia for many more gatherings.


We’re often writing about going ultralight here on this blog and the importance of weighing everything and going light when traveling and hiking, but Stanna has taken this lightweight thing to a new level.  She read a review of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” by Marie Kondo, Home Organization Advice from Marie Kondo – and now she’s 2 weeks, 3 rooms, all her clothes and shoes into the rehab program.

The quote and often repeated recommendation espoused by Ms. Kondo’s newest acolyte is, “Pull everything out of the closest/drawer and as you  place it back, ask yourself ‘Does it give you Joy?’  If not, get rid of it'”

IMG_0521The closet and dresser drawer purge took place while I was on the Great Divide trail, so the only evidence besides a 50% reduction in clothes hanger occupancy is this photo of the dining room table.  The king-sized bed was packed with discards as well.  Fortunately some of these treasures found a home in our extended family and never made it to the thrift store.

IMG_2209Our infamous bookshelves took the biggest hit being reduced by 80%. She’s found a home for one of two of the ancient sets of encyclopedias. It appears that we’ll lose at least two whole sets of shelves. And now we’ll be able to take the map collections off the floor and onto several of the liberated shelves.  Those binders still need purging and I suspect that whole upper shelf will be freed.

IMG_2207IMG_2208Hopefully there’s not a volume or weight limit on the contributions.  The next logistic challenge is getting these volumes to Friends of the Library.

We sure hope the library still has books-on-tape since we’ve managed to horde quite a number (many of which we inherited from my aunt).

Stanna’s headed for the kitchen next, and that’s going to be the biggest trauma, because many of those shelves and drawers are filled with heirlooms from family and the French Bakery.  And then “we” need to work on the male half of the closets and dressers.  I’m not sure I get much “joy” out of any of my clothes.

Besides Ms Kondo’s best seller’s current inspiration, we’ve learned over the past several estates that it’s best to “give it with a warm hand,” rather than saddle the heirs with the nightmare of cluttered closets and cabinets.  NOTE to the family:  If you’re interested in anything, let us know & we’ll put your name on it, or call you to come pick it up.