Busy April

Suddenly, all the things on your to-do list are lined off and it’s time to start thinking about a new list. But you want to take a pause and not add anything right away so that you can relax in the lull.  That’s where we are just now.

Except for a small chip in the left-hand glass panel the shower is completed.  Without Joe’s help I’d still be in there laying tile.  Replacement glass will take another couple of weeks, but at least we can enjoy the shower now.

Five days of April were reserved for a Canyonland’s hike with UltraLIght friend Will and his Montana friends. The Utah desert is a place that you’d want to visit only a couple times in a year and April is one of them.  Day temps in the 70’s and nighttime in the mid-30’s made for a 50-mile exploration of some of the park’s hinterlands. Discovering new routes to link up trails is one of Will’s passions and we lucked out this time with two new routes confirmed.

Easter week is the busiest time of the year in this National Park with backcountry permits reserved months in advance.  However if you’re lucky enough to get one, the crowds completely disappear once you get beyond the day-hiking range.  We spent four days without seeing a soul, and only a two sets of footprints. Water is the big concern, and we were fortunate to have Will’s experience to tell us where to find those water holes.

The day after our return from the desert, I was scheduled to give a talk on GaiaGPS for the San Juan Mountain Association.  Gaia is a smartphone GPS mapping application that I’ve been using for four years, most recently on this Utah desert trip.

Will typically doesn’t need a map to orient himself in the backcountry, but confirming his location sure saves some misadventures into unknown side canyons.

Just like our UltraLIght talk a month earlier, we’d underestimated the attendance by 200%.  The Ultralight talk was standing room only and the Gaia talk had 60 people if you include me and the director.  As with all technical presentations, even though all the folks had the app in the class, they still needed practical experience.  So Saturday morning we took 20 of them on a “hands-on” hike to hone their skills.  One fact I brought out in the talk was that of the hikers our Search and Rescue group has searched for in the last two years, 9 of the 12 were day-hikers from Durango. Even locals get lost, and one testimony from a county native was that he got disoriented this winter only a mile from the road in the snowy hills near Andrews Lake at Molas Pass.  He wanted to have Gaia so that didn’t happen again.

GaiaGPS works everywhere, you might consider adding that app to your smartphone if you’re apt to venture away from the highway.

Still almost 10 days left in April and summer hasn’t even begun.


Cruiser Reunion

Really fortunate to have so many folks who were involved come to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Paradox’s loss and the rescue of the crew. Deja Vu came into town first, followed by Dragonfly, then Marion D and finally Kira (formerly Neaptide, and before that Galadriel).

It was such a popular event that we’re trying to plan a winter meet-up in Mexico next season, albeit on the hard. Finding a place that sleeps 10 shouldn’t be too hard down there.

Joe spearheaded a shower remodel while waiting for the crews to show up.  He’s probably the only land cruiser to travel with all his tools. We were almost finished by the time Al & Jill showed up so the only thing Al got to help with was discovering why we couldn’t get any water out of the shower once it was hooked up.


We had plenty of time for eating, catching up, eating, and hiking. Everyone brought or cooked a favorite dinner and dessert so the meals were outstanding.

Helen, Joe and Al joined us at the Durango Rec Center for several days of spinning and pickle ball.  Jill walked the river trail multiple times.


Finding a hiking spot when the local area is still covered with snow was no problem.  Stanna chose Bisti Wilderness area south of Farmington where all 10 of us hiked thru the Cracked Eggs, hoodoos and giant petrified logs.



Most interesting was the night we each recalled our roles in helping the Paradox crew get back to land. We played the short video of the rescue, which several had never seen.  Stanna and I remain grateful to all the cruisers, various ham radio nets, and the US Coast Guard men and women who were involved in our rescue.

Thanks to all who came.


Shower Time

Postponed for over 5 years, the condo shower is finally getting the attention it needed.  It must run in the family, because an Aunt let her shower go for so long we had to rebuild the sub-floor and replace the entire shower pan.  Ours could have been that bad, and I was expecting the worst, but it turns out the tile issues were only grout deep.

However, that wasn’t determined until the entire shower door was removed and the first floor tiles lifted.  At this point we’d already ordered all new tiles, plumbing fixtures and fancied a new glass door, so there was no going back.

Originally we’d planned to do the demolition and install after our Cruiser Reunion and our out-of-town friends had departed, but an email from Joe & Helen saying they’d like to arrive early from California spurred other thoughts.  Joe’s speciality, among many other talents and professions, is remodeling kitchens and bathrooms. And best of all he, like most our friends, would rather work on a project than sit around jawing about old times or, in this day, Trump.

The shower stall was totally demolished before Joe arrived and in two days we were ready for tile.  I’d envisioned a much more complicated shower pan, however Joe determined that our curb-less shower stall wouldn’t need floor surgery, because the gipcrete floor (part of in-floor heating was removed to expose the subfloor) provided enough depth for our new design.

New plumbing was a snap with the deployment of Shark Bite connectors and PEX tubbing, so that Stanna will have that extra hand-held shower she’s envied every time we visit a Swiss hotel.  We even remembered to place nailer blocks in the studs for that grab rail we will soon be needing.

Insulation and vapor barrier went in before the vinyl pan liner and the DuraBoard walls.


The bench and wall niche rounded out the pre-tile chores so that all remaining was the sloped cement shower pan.  Joe decided we should knock the pan out, allowing it to dry overnight so in the advent of the tile arriving on-time on Monday  we could carry on this rapid remodel. Two days in, we’re ready for tile and the reunion.



Wish we were doing something special

It’s hard to admit that we’ve not been doing anything special since our return from Thailand. Taxes was the big thing. The pile of mail was less owing to more online payments, efficiency of my sister trashing junk mail, and being gone only 3 months. One thing that took more time than usual was overcoming jet lag.  Jumping back into the Durango routine only goes so far when trying to make up for 13 hours of time difference.  Staying up until 9 PM is our primary goal, but we’re still waking at 3 AM for the first 5 or more days.

The only fun item waiting in Durango was a Thunderbolt Display I purchased from Janet while I was gone.  Overkill for sure, but I’ve always coveted a second 27″ monitor and now I get to try one. The biggest benefit besides have two screens of origami screensaver to show off our 20,000-photo library, is that I’ve started editing that photo library.

The only person I know that’s meticulous about organizing his photos is Don Pole, and we’ve never gotten close to his surgical precision. A second display isn’t mandatory to accomplish sorting, editing and trashing photos in your photo library, but it makes it more fun. As of this posting I’ve eliminated 5,000 of 25,000 and probably have another 5K to go.

The other motivation was to put my photo library in iCloud Photo Library, so that I could have all my photos on all my Apple devices.  In Thailand this year I kept wanting to show a particular photo of home or our travels and it wasn’t on my iPad, iPhone or Stanna’s MacBook.  Now they are.

I‘ve also been prepping for a reprise of two separate San Juan Mountain Association talks given last spring: UltraLight Backpacking Gear and Using GaiaGPS. Just talking or a PowerPoint doesn’t cut it for me, so designing displays, and a live demo of what’s in your pack, needed preparation. The display on the left shows shoe weights and that 6# water bottle demonstrates how much 1 Pound extra on your feet feels like on your back.  There are 10 different displays of various gear choices including food choices.  The GaiaGPS smartphone GPS mapping app talk will introduce hikers, bikers and trail riders to the app, using a large screen TV  display of my iPhone so that folks can visualize better than on a 4.7″ screen.

One habit that’s been hard to break is photographing all our meals, so since we’re back in the Southwest here is just one smothered burrito.

And for those wondering about cycling: Spin class has been there for burning calories three times a week and Durango weather was perfect last weekend for a 38-mile ride.

Our 33rd anniversary dinner, thanks to David & Pam’s belatedly-used gift certificate.  Hard not to take that food porn, but the meal was delicious.



Personal & Public Projects

Tis the season to winterize.  While some in Durango gather wood, clear the decks and yards for the snow season, we’re getting ready to get ready for another season at a lower latitude.  Not that we don’t have projects to finish before we leave; they’re just less about preparing for winter’s cold.

img_6558Stanna has been weaving a number of scarves for the Women’s Shelter on her hand loom, in conjunction with her Four Corners Weavers Guild. This scarf project accomplishes two goals for Stanna; thinning her yarn stash and providing a little holiday cheer and warmth for women in need.


img_6623Scarves are not a fashion accessory we need often, however it was about as holiday festive as this WIS volunteer could muster – when paired with a red hat on the Xmas Train – this year. The newest scarves weren’t available to me, so I wore a Nepalese one Stanna brought back from Nepal.  Odd as it seems, a man on the train asked me if I knew what one of the symbols on the scarf end meant.  He and his buddies snickered, and tried to explain “OM” to me, as I was slow to comprehend.  The language was a bit thick but I eventually realized they were talking the yoga Om our fill-in Yoga teacher encourages to utter.


img_6644Needless to say it was, once again, pretty special helping families cut their own Christmas Tree beside the Silverton Narrow Guage train tracks, 26 miles the valley up near Cascade Wye.  The railroad provides the saws, the National Forest Service designates which part of the right-of-way needs tree thinning, the WIS volunteers provide the guidance and muscle getting them to the tracks and onto the narrow gauge boxcar.

img_6550Back on the home front, it was time to repair the Netflix monitor. Our 10 year old flat screen wouldn’t light up when turned on.  The clicking symptoms were easy to diagnosis with an internet search, which found numerous YouTube videos describing how to fix the errant capacitors that have gone bad.  Parts were only $1.99 each but I’d discovered my soldering iron was on the boat.  (Funny how you find things you didn’t realize you miss, nine years later)  Amazon provided everything for less than $20, and, as the last video I watched by a DIY woman said, “Even a girl can do this”.  Lucky I passed her admonition.

So our remaining projects for the winter are a thorough house cleaning and packing for Thailand.


Once again an outstanding Thanksgiving Day with our family at the St. Paul Ski Lodge on Red Mountain Pass.  This was the 42nd year of this traditional event for the extended George Family, where it’s now quite evident that generational shift is well under way.  In the last century when we were mid-thirties and the George children were infants or speculative, we all did the planning, prep, cooking and entertaining with a handful of geriatric/senior guests. Now we are them.

img_6586The George children are teaching their infants and toddlers to ski, sled and navigate the trappings of the Lodge.  Those same grown children, now in their mid-thirties, are managing all the planning, prep, cooking and entertaining with their friends and we are the handful of senior guests (not so geriatric since we can still manage the mile climb to 11,480′ under our own steam).

img_6564img_6582Winter managed a last-minute 17″ of snow on top of a prior meager 6″ to cover all but the tallest of dried grasses and low-lying rocks.  Skiing up to and above the lodge wasn’t an option this year, so most walked or in our case snowshoed in under absolutely cloudless dark blue skies.

A much smaller crowd settled down to a 12-dish meal not including the 5 dessert offerings plus ice cream. We’d wondered if only 21 guests to the huge potluck would mean less food, but one couldn’t imagine us lacking for any traditional dish (unless it was Janet’s Brussels Sprouts plate we’ve often appreciated).  With 10 less folks attending this year’s feast, we all managed to sit around the same table in the lodge, for a change.  Of course this bountiful meal is preceded by an entire afternoon of a variety of hors d’oeuvres servings “paced” on the hour, so it was a dutiful pain to taste each of the desserts after the volunteer kitchen crew knocked out the dinner dishes.

We snowshoed out the next day just before all the left-overs were brought out for lunch. However, we did enjoy some of the remaining desserts (with whipped cream) with our breakfast.

Back to Back Busy

How did we ever find time to work for a living?  Something we hear from active retirees all the time and we’re no exception. A good routine of exercise, recreation and ADL’s img_7509-1(activities of daily living) can take up most the time in a day, but when there’s those “extra
chores” like volunteer projects, maintenance on Silverton properties, repairs, and getting ready for winter, there just isn’t any time left to get old.  It’s rumored that naps are available to senior citizens, but those coupons must be getting lost in all the junk mail. There’s hardly time to do the fun things like tech support for friends or blogging.

However, when you notice that those faces and ages in the obit’s page are your age or younger, it’s probably a good thing being “back to back busy” — not to mention lucky. Practicing the tenets of “Younger Next Year” has worked so far, and keeps the need for naps at bay.  I remember the joke about a woman who said she lost 175 pounds by getting a divorce. I’d just like to lose some of those nagging “pounds” in Silverton. And then there’d be lots more time for projects in Durango, like remodeling our shower.

Right now, we’re not starting anything new or major, just wrapping up loose ends and eating down the stores in the larder and frig. Thailand looms on the horizon in early December and somehow that sounds a bit more restful.


Looking thru the week’s photos reveals some of the chores, projects and celebrations we’ve had.

Right in the middle of “The Crown,” Netflix’s wonderful series on Queen Elizabeth, our flat screen bellied up. You Tube is rife with videos on how to repair it; best was one posted with the narrating voice saying no less than 6 times, “I’m a girl, you can do this.”

So, as per usual (or maybe 99% of the time), Radio Shack was out of stock on the correct capacitors “the girl” recommended for replacement. Amazon is sending us four new capacitors to be soldered in the TV motherboard.


Stanna got her new loom that seems like a toy compared to the last one.







She found a good home for the giant Gilmakra locally and now has a Schacht Baby Wolf that doesn’t need the entire living room.  Weaving is already underway with a warp of dishtowel yarn.

img_6479One more solar barn raising project provided a Durango home with 5kW of photovoltaics at about $1 a watt.  Twelve people showed up and 20 panels got installed in less than 2 hours.  The talking, camaraderie and lunch took another two, but that’s when the newbies get to ask questions and get excited about their upcoming installations.  Our group is close to having installed 250kW here in Durango over the past 3 years.


Stanna’s ladies hiking group is still hitting the trails Wednesdays.  As the cold, hunting season and snow close off the high country, they venture south and west.  In this photo they went south of Farmington, New Mexico to the Bisti Badlands, a wilderness reserve famous for it’s petrified logs and trees.  This week they are West of Cortez hiking in the Canyon of the Ancients, a BLM wilderness area famous for it’s ruins and petroglyphs. We’ll leave for Thailand before the ladies start snowshoeing on Wednesdays.



There was a milestone passed last week when tg finally dipped into the seventies. Our Portland family hand crafted birthday greetings, which we posted on the china cabinet for the subdued celebration.

Donna and Chris joined us for a Surf & Turf supper at Casa Condo where the service is good and prices fair. For a first time menu the food was exceptionally good.




And just to show you the holidays aren’t far off, some Forest Service WIS Volunteers and San Juan Mountain Association folks got a permit to cut 20 White Fir trees, in a specific thinning area of the forest.  They’ll be offered along with the Oregon shipment of Xmas Trees the SJMA sells as a fund raiser starting on November 22nd.  The grove in which we cut these trees was so thick it actually felt good to be taking some away.




Back in the Desert

img_6385We managed one more 4-Day trip to the desert the last week of October. All three of us were eager to test some new gear and enjoy the end of our Indian Summer here in the Southwest.  The Utah desert is very popular this time of year and securing a backcountry hiking and camping permit is difficult in the Canyonlands National Park.


nationalparkWe learned in Spring that we could come into the very bottom of the National Park (green shading) as day hikers, by entering and exploring the Butler Wash Wilderness Study Area directly south of the park. This area is some of the finest desert wilderness and deserves it’s special designation.

p1430695The only footprints in the four days were deer, bear and bobcat  (excluding the day hikes deep into the National Park where we only saw one set of human prints). Water sources are the primary reason no one goes into this region, but we’ve now scouted and recorded a number of water holes. Our trip itinerary is dependent on finding adequate water and each time we’re able to explore new canyons and routes until we run low and have to backtrack.


10/25/16 East Fork of West Fork Salt Creek

img_6400Because we’ve seen numerous bear tracks and scat in the drainages that we travel and camp, we always hung our food.

Will and Mike both had new packs to test.  Mike’s was a new version of zPacks “front zip” backpack, and Will is always testing and reviewing new pack designs for Gossamer Gear. This trip Will’s pack was a new, soon to be released, 55-liter lightweight backpack. I was able to test out my newest ultralight shelter with it’s dual doors open. However the very best addition was bringing a new UL 1.75 oz pillow. The pillow combined with a “hip hole” in the sand made for the most comfortable sleep I’ve ever had on the ground. Overnight temps were 40° and daytime temps were low 60’s, perfect weather for desert exploring.


Typical camps.

Our track went thru narrow drainages and over bands of layer rock formations.p1430689


As usual, a Good Time was had by All. And in little over 4 weeks we’ll be in Thailand.


Reworked my UltraLite Gear page and added an online UL Gear worksheet in case you’re curious.

Fun with Fotos

For those of you in the Mac world, the newest update to Photos has some very interesting “recognition” features. It’s had pretty good facial recognition in the past, but that feature has been taken to another level, Object recognition now spots things like trees, boats, beaches, bicycles, mountains and more. Another remarkable feature takes faces, dates, or a location and makes a “Memory” album from it’s recognition capabilities.


This can be helpful in finding a photo when you can’t remember the date. Or if you’re just curious to see how many beach photos you’ve got in your library by simply typing in “beach” in the Search area.




You can’t imagine how many “boats” the Search function located in my library. It even distinguished between sailing boats and boats in general.


Another feature that’s been around for a while in Photos is the ability to find a photo by location.  If you’re using an iPhone or camera that has geo-location, Photos puts those photos on it’s world map.


zoomeedinYou can zoom the map to more detail expanding a country, a state, a national park to see where each photo was taken. Yes, geo-location on photos posted on Facebook or Instagram may be problematic if you don’t want someone tagging your home, but for travel and adventure it’s  a real advantage.


I’ve used the object identification to find a specific bike packing rig I used on the Great Divide ride for example. With almost 25,000 photos in my photo library at this time it’s helpful. It’s uncanny how the software can suss out a bike wheel, or handlebars.


One new feature I’d never imagined is how the updated Photo App puts together “Memories” albums that are complete slideshows with music and titles based on a location, time period or most amazingly on two or more people, selecting only photos based on those selected people’s faces.groups

june6Photos (the application) selected a trip in 2010 that McKenny’s and Kurt and Carol were on for a “memorable” slideshow for example. What a super surprise and joy to see a slideshow featuring friends from over 6 years ago. You can change the title and/or the music with a click if you’d prefer a better title than “June 6”.

If you haven’t explored this new version of Photos in OS X Sierra you’ve got a wonderful treat coming.





Mostly Social

Mostly social things have kept us close to home lately. Chris George had his 78th and is in good form. Great fun catching up with friends and hearing about their travels and families.


img_6300Lots of tech support and a couple days working on a rental.

Spent a Saturday doing a local Solar Home Tour with Carol Martin, where we learned something at every one of the 9 homes we visited. Saw installations on million dollar homes, an off the grid earth home and an Air B & B rental not to mention regular single family homes.  (BTW our latest installation is cranking out plenty of kW’s)

Most unusual home was built by an former Intel engineer that had almost every energy trick you could think of, including what he called a “battery” of hot water storage in 3 levels of Pex tubing under his garage cement floor.

img_6298Speaking of unusual, Mike Taylor needed help removing a pack rat nest in the ventilation cowling of his engine compartment.  Toyota wasn’t interested in taking that part of his newer truck apart evidently. The nest was about 8 inches in diameter and the rodents had dragged all sorts of things up into that secluded home.  A  missing glove was funny, but the book of matches was just plain weird.

A couple of arduous day hikes kept the legs limber, but nothing overnight on the calendar until later in the month when we’ll head to the desert. Eager to test out a couple of newer UL acquisitions.

Catching Up

img_5912img_5918Catching up with friends, chores, mail, exercise and getting back into our routine.  Best was a weekend visit with McKenney’s in Ridgway, with Kurt & Carol and us driving north to stay with them.  Good friends, good food and good hikes.  Kurt isn’t shown because he took the best photos and shared them for the blog.

Drive and hiking was spectacular due to a recent snowfall above treeline which accented the fall colors with white mountain tops on the three mountain passes north to Ridgway.



We’re used to seeing various shades of Fall yellow aspens, but this year the red-leafed aspens were at their best.


One indication of time going fast is needing to renew your passports.  We’ve got our request in for another 10 years.  Hopefully the 52-page version will last this decade.

webcamThe Gilmakra Loom is gone and the living room is almost back to normal.  Still lacking a coffee table.  Stanna will order a smaller 24″ loom to replace the behemoth 48″ 10-headle model. And, it’s time to shut off the deck watering system and pull the plants, as a freeze is promised for next week.

Hardest thing has been getting back to the gym routine after 3 weeks.  Spinning and yoga has felt foreign to the body this last week. I did squeeze in a WIS hike in the LaPlatas with my UL buddies before the snow gets more serious.  Looks like “one more summer” has gone.


And if you haven’t upgraded to iOS 10 and Mac OS X Sierra, they are welcome upgrades. And I’m very pleased with the iPhone 7: It’s waterproof which should save me considerable trouble and expense.

img_5790Oh, and the solar array for C-1 finally got energized with the power company, so we have another 3.5kW contributing to renewable energy.

Happy to help or advise on installing your own solar system.