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.