Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Vacation in the Rockies

What follows is something like I would have posted if I posted every day of my vacation. I posted it all in spurts today, but I started at the beginning and did one day at a time. Therefore, it does read "backwards" like any typical BLOG.... so you have to scroll down to the bottom of Wed, July 23 and read each block from the bottom up to get the story in order.

Update: The pictures are here: Click Here

Monday, July 21 -- Roll 'em up, move 'em out

5:45 AM. I'm a little chilled, and I don't want to do what we must do. I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed with my wife, but tearing myself away from this place is always hard, and there's about an hour of work ahead of us before we even start the hike to the car. Roll up the sleeping bags & pads, pack all the gear, tie it to the packs. Go down to the creek and splash some water on our faces. Take a few last shots of the bog as the sun comes up over the ridge. I even took some of the little 16 second movies my camera can take. Picked up the bags, and headed down the trail to the parking lot. Changed clothes, completely re-packed the car, and headed back to Idaho Springs.

I'd've loved to stay and hike down to Hell's Hole to see what it looks like, or go back up and spend more time on Evans. One day I want to do the loop through Rocky Mountain National, but not when everybody and their dog is here doing the same thing. Or even spend some more time in the bog and smoke another pipe. No, I was lucky even to get to go at all, and though I did mostly things I'd done before (other than the camping) -- I got to share them with my best friend (other than Vicki, that is) and just experience it again. It's at least a little different every time anyway.

Even the little 9,000 foot peaks around Idaho Springs are begging me to stay as we head in for another breakfast wrap and coffee, then hit the road with the divide in my rear view mirror.

I enjoy the buttes in the high plains as my consolation for leaving my mountains. We can see Pike's Peak a little better today as we turn away from it east on 86 towards Limon. That's such a pretty drive.

We stopped for gas in Limon. There was a guy berating his wife "Hurry up! For every minute we waste here that's 6 minutes later we'll get there!" "I know", she says. "Then get moving." Mark and I feel sorry for her, but we have to laugh at the bad math. Sorry, every minute you spend there guy is ONE more minute you'll be late, no matter how you slice it. We hit the road. Got to Salina about 5:15 and ate at Bogey's. Neat little local burger place. Has some personality, but I suspect it has lost a lot of it in moving from the old diner building to the new brick one. The girl behind the counter has beautiful eyes. Mark tries to get her to talk a little about the area so he can get a feel for what's been going on. Are they still running the commercials I made 12 years ago? But she's just selling burgers and fries. 12 years ago she was 6, and she doesn't really care. Next!

Got to Olathe, KS about 2 hours earlier than I had expected. Talk about bad math. I didn't time our trip. I just assumed it'd be a 10 hour drive from Denver and add another to Idaho Springs, bringing it to 11 hours. Nope. Just under 10, WITH the stop. Wow. I can drive home tonight! Only 2 more hours and some change to Columbia. We unload Mark's stuff, talk to Cami and the kids, and Rita across the street. I call Vicki so she'll know I'll be home tonight instead of tomorrow. Fill up with gas, and head out.

It starts to rain.

About two hours later, I'm home. Vicki's asleep, and I don't wake her. Tomorrow I wind down, clean up the car, do laundry. It was a very good vacation.

Sunday, July 20 -- You see that mountain over there?

Well someday, I'm gonna climb that mountain (-ountain-outnain-ountain...)

6:00 am. Sniktau day. I could tell that being here since Thursday afternoon and camping friday and saturday night at at least 10,000 feet, we were starting to get acclimated to the altitude. Didn't know how Mark'd do on Sniktau before we got here, but judging by how he got around, I was pretty sure he could make it. It's mostly psychological anyway. Just start early, take it easy, and enjoy the view on the climb and rest a lot. The goal is the top, but it isn't. If he wants to stop, I've done it before and I'm just happy to be outdoors on such a beautiful day in the Rocky Mountains on the Continental Divide. The bog was soaking wet from last night's rain (another few hours of it), but the sun was shining. Still, that cinched any ideas of not climbing today. No fun to hang out in a wet willow bog all day.

Fortunately, the seam sealer seemed to have helped Mark's tent leakage problem and he had a decent night's sleep.

So we grabbed food and water and headed into Idaho Springs. Got coffee and split a breakfast wrap at the Two Brothers Deli (good stuff!) and headed out. Didn't get there as early as I would have liked, but the weather cooperated nicely and it didn't matter. Started the climb at 10:00 AM. Just the drive up to those majestic mountains on the divide gets my blood pumping. It is practically a religious experience. We got off on US 6 and headed up to Loveland pass. Not too many sheer drops for Mark. I THINK he's starting to trust my mountain driving skills more, but that really doesn't overcome a true phobia. He's doing very well, really.

Sniktau is a great beginner mountain for high altitude climbing. I'd never been there on a weekend, though, and the parking was practically full. There's room for maybe 15 cars, and there are about that many there. Still, nothing but nice people up there. We started our ascent at 12,000 feet. I kept saying that the first 1/3 of this climb is about 2/3 of the effort and takes just over half the time of the whole climb, as it is fairly steep and relentless in slope. Once you get to the ridge, there's up and down so you never get completely wiped out by the lack of oxygen on the second 2/3 of the journey. It's kicking my butt, and I know it's kicking Mark's, but he's got it down. Don't try to talk while you're walking. Concentrate on steady, relataively deep breaths. Breath out more slowly than you breathe in to maximize oxygen use from each breath. Set short goals, stop and rest. If you can't pick a spot for a goal, set a number of steps, like 20 or 30 depending on the slope. Rest, catch your breath, THEN take a drink of water (not before! takes longer to catch your breath if you do) and set another goal. It is really quite strange because you don't feel different when you step out of the car, and the hike looks easy until you start it.

There are several groups of people on the pass. Most climb up for 10 or 15 minutes and turn around. A few more determined souls make it to the ridgetop. And then a few more groups head for the top. We meet a few on their way down. We're both relieved to reach the ridge and Mark notes that as promised, it is easier. Later he told me that there was one point on the first 1/3 of the climb he was ready to throw in the towel, but apparently determination and the promise of an easier climb at the ridgetop pushed him on. The view is ever changing and more and more spectacular the higher you go. At first, all you can see is the mountains surrounding the pass. Soon, more peaks peek out from behind them and before long you can see the divide stretching from horizon to you, and from you to the other horizon, and all kinds of ranges to the west. You can see the Loveland and Keystone ski areas --- swaths cut in the trees. Not the prettiest site, really, but I don't begrudge skiiers their fun. It is interesting to note that you can see famous places, though, like the Eisenhower tunnel below and the little ants running up and down I-70 below. Fortunately, the rest of the view makes up for the fact that such an obvious sign of civilization is 3,000 or 4,000 feet below you.

We were the last group (of 2-- if you can call that a group) to go to the top. Got there (13,243 feet) just after noon, had lunch, took the requisite "here I am at the top" pictures, and the "Here's what you can see from the top" pictures, and got several shots of a pika and a couple of chipmunks. Last year's marmot was nowhere to be seen. But we did get some shots of the chipmunks catching and eating wasps. That was pretty amazing. It's cool out, but it feels good. The view is great. The sense of accomplishment is satisfying. It's good to be on top.

As we headed back down, there was a thunderstorm somewhere between Evans and Gray's/Torry's peak. Mottled sunlight and my changing angles kept me taking pictures of the two brothers as the thunderstorm slowly drifted behind them. We stopped at the top of the ridge to head back down the steep first part of the trail and talked to a group of brothers and sisters who had hiked up to there and wanted to know how long it would take to get to the top. I told them, but I advised against it today. To late, and thunderstorms near. One of the men had a "Missouri Golf" T-shirt on so I asked if they were from Missouri. The man lived in Kansas City and one woman lived in St. Louis. They had been at Mizzou about the same time Mark and I had. We hiked down with them... that's when we found out it was a group of 4 brothers and sisters. Their spouses were at the bottom as were most of their kids. I thought it was cool that the siblings wanted to do that together and weren't held back by their families.

We were tired, but it was a good tired. We drove around the west side of the pass, and through the tunnel so Mark could see it. 2 miles of road cut through the rock of the continental divide. Pretty neat. It was raining on the east side when we broke through, and I pointed Sniktau out on the right to Mark. "You were THERE." Now he was REALLY impressed.

Note: Sunday afternoon in the summertime is not a good time to travel east on I-70 on the east side of the front-range. All those Denver-ites trying to escape the heat and play in the mountains are now headed home. It took about 1.5 hours to go the 30 miles back to Idaho Springs. We were going to do a little gift shopping for the wives (nothing big) and wouldn't have any time to do it. A couple of stores were open. We got some things and headed back to camp.

Took our bath in the evening this time so that we could get up in the morning and break down camp and get out. I figured if we got out by 8:00 am we'd be doing good. We turned in about 8:00 pm. It did not rain, and got down to about 45 that night as opposed to 50 the previous two nights.

Saturday, July 19 -- Movin' On

6:00 AM. I'm a little chilly. I had bought a fleece sleeping bag liner for a sleeping bag so I could have low bulk as well as low weight in my pack. Vicki sent a fleece blanket along with me, which I took, and suggested I bring my winter riding tights to wear under my flannels ... which I didn't. Should've listened to her. Wasn't miserable, just a little uncomfortable. I can hear Mark chopping wood. I had woken up at 3:30 and it was clear and the moon was shining. And cold.

I hear Mark chopping wood in the background. I'm ready to get up. Nice fire... pot of coffee... yeah.... Everything is wet, which is both good and bad. Good because the danger of starting a forest fire is pretty much nil this morning, and bad because the ease of starting a campfire is pretty low. After a bit of frustration with pine needles, matches and wood splinters, we whip out the isopropyl alchohol I brought along for washing and "aftershave". Well... that takes care of getting a fire started. The partiers tents are still up the hill. Chuck and Kelly left last night when they saw the boys getting back together for another night of rudeness. The two ladies and their kids who were camped about 50 yards from us were getting up. Man the baby cried a LOT. Somehow, untypically of me, I was able to tune it out. Somehow, untypically of Mark, he couldn't. Oh well. The "caretaker" tromped through the campgrounds down the hill. We had coffee and a breakfast of granola and protien bars. Then headed down to the creek to wash and maybe to find another campsite. If the boys were coming back Saturday night for a re-schedule.... we didn't want to be there. Too bad the rudest can drive everyone else out like that. We washed in the stream - COLD!!!!!!!!!!! Probably would've washed further upstream had we realized how close we were to the campgrounds at the bottom of the hill.... because... let's just say we were being thorough. NO scogy smelling campers did we want to be. Got done and some people came hiking down the trail. We waved, packed up our stuff and went down Hell's Hole trail.

It began to move away from the creek, and we eventually hit the entrance to Mt. Evans wilderness area (there's a sign-in/sign-out sheet so they know whether or not to look for you if you go missing). Walked into a beautiful aspen grove. Several hiker groups were out by now. We even saw a family, grandma and all, hiking out with backpacks and sleeping bags and tents. If grandma can carry a pack like that.....

The trail started to go up and seriously away from the creek, and I decided to check out what the creek looked like by going perpendicular from the trail towards the creek... slogging across a short wet creek in a very heavy but not very wide willow thicket and went down the hill and started following the creek. After a little bit we came across a small and very pretty willow bog. There was a fire ring too close to the creek, and another up the hill. And a decent campsite a little over 100 feet from the water. Just what the doctor ordered. Except for the biting flies. And deet didn't seem to affect them.

So we went back up to the old camp site, broke it down, and just as we were packing the car the boys showed up and broke all their stuff down and left. The campsite was empty. But we took Mr. Caretaker's words to heart about being too close to Denver meaning that anything that close to a road is way too convenient for people to get to.

Went to Idaho Springs to the forest service office to ask what could be done to repel biting flies. They were surprised deet didn't work, but someone had heard... (ok all you Big Fat Greek Wedding fans....) Windex worked. We went to the store, looked at all the insect repellent. It was all deet based. So we bought some windex, drove back, and hiked in. We noticed a fire ban sign at the end of Chicago Creek road that wasn't there when we left. Hmmmm..... oh well. Down Hells Hole trail After a few false starts toward the creek, we found the bog.

I'd left my camera in the car accidentally. I decided it was too big a part of my enjoyment to leave there, so I told Mark I'd be back in about 30 minutes (I hoped) -- I really wasn't sure how far we'd hiked in, but I thought it was pretty short. 8 minutes later, I was down at the parking lot. Wow. Really roughing it. But Rich had said that if you hike even a half a mile in, you wouldn't ever see anyone. Also, on my way back I noticed that I had dropped Brian's latrine shovel... so it's kind of a good thing I forgot the camera. Hiked back up (took about 15 minutes to get back .... more uphill) and set up my tent.

The number of biting flies was way down from morning, but there were a few left. So, wanting to play in the creek and enjoy the little bog sitting on rocks in the creek... we doused ourselves with windex and they didn't bother us anymore.

This is where the water filter pump came in quite handy. You really don't want to pack 7 gallons of water in, even the relatively short distance we packed. So we filtered water directly from the stream into our camelbacks and that's what we drank for the rest of the trip. Very "minerally" tasting. In a GOOD way. I wanted to take a bunch of it home.

We hung out on the big rocks and broke out the pipes and smoked some nice summer aromatic from Cigar & Tobac in Kansas City. Should've brought the Gandalf pipe for this scene, but really. Who cares? The spot was beautiful. I could've used a couple more hours sunlight to enjoy it.

It started to get dark. There was thunder in the air and it was clouding up. With the fire ban on and the fact I didn't want to pack the propane stove in, and the fact that Mark was dog-tired from dodging leaks in his tent the night before, we turned in early.

And it began to rain.

Friday, July 18 -- Rocky Mountain High

Got up. No towels or washcloths in the bathroom, I had a couple sets of Brian's Marine-Corps type towels. Small but servicible. Probably great exfoliants, too, ladies. ;-) So we managed. Got some coffee, cleaned up, and hit the road up Mount Evans by 8:00 am. Folks if you ever get to the front range and don't have much time -- maybe a day to see the mountains, this is an excellent place to see it all in just a few hours. You start in the trees. Before long you can see the continental divide. You get to see about every kind of mountain terrain, a couple of picturesque lakes, bristle-cone pines, glacier valleys, boulder fields, mountain goats, marmots, and alpine tundra, and you get to drive almost all the way up a 14,000+ foot mountain. When you do get to the top the continental divide stretches from the south-west horizon to the northeast horizon. On a clear day you can see Denver Metro and Pike's Peak. Even on hazy days you can see the divide pretty well.

Stopped at various places on the way up to see what I described above. Stopped at Echo Lake, then headed past the booth where the fee area is ($10 for a 3 day pass... not bad) and continued up in the high country part of the drive. Looked out over Chicago Creek glacier valley that Vicki and I had hiked up last year... even saw a part of the trail sticking out of the woods on the other side. Mark went and sat in some of the boulders. Stopped at Summit Lake and viewed Mt. Warren and the glacier valley from the end, and headed to the top. When we got to the parking lot I dipped into my food bag and pulled out a brownie. The packaging was blown up like a balloon from the lower pressure outside and the brownie rattled around inside. Guess it was pretty airtight!

Well it turns out that Mark has a touch of acrophbia. Didn't know that. The drive to the top does have several places above the tree line where there's no guard rail and pretty steep and long drop-offs just off the road. Don't get me wrong, I sense the danger, too. But it's not a phobia of mine -- somehow my rational mind has satisfied my instinctive fears by reasoning that the road is in fact the same size as any other two-lane highway and I never go off of those, even at much higher speeds. You drive about 20 MPH up these, sometimes slower, in low gear. You have to be really negligent or downright reckless to go off the edge. But -- that's what a phobia is. The inability of the rational mind to win over animal instinct no matter how rational your mind is on a particular topic... like falling, for instance. Everyone has one or two of 'em it seems.

So we got to the top. That's when I found out that it was a true phobia and it began to sink in. I stood on a pile of rocks at the top and he had no desire to get up on anything up there where there wasn't 20 feet of flat space all around him. So he made it to about 15-20 feet from the top. Well here's the math... 20/14,264 = 0.0014 -- somewhere between one and two tenths of a percent. So I said that was close enough for government work.

Spent some time there looking at quite a spectacular view of the divide, Mt. Warren, Mt. Bierdstadt, and you could see Gray's and Torry's peaks hiding Mt. Sniktau from us -- the goal for Sunday. A Russian couple was there and took some pictures of us for us. Then we headed down a couple of switchbacks and got out and hiked across an alpine tundra meadow to an outcropping of rocks over another glacier valley between Bierdstadt and Evans. Took some pictures on some large rocks, and hung out by a big pile of rocks near the rim of the canyon. Got the pipes out and smoked a nice summer tobacco and marvelled at the view. A herd of mountain goats lay about 1/4 mile away up the meadow to the east/southeast of us. You could see the valley South Park is in, and hear the stream raging through the valley 1/2 mile below. We left about 3:00 PM, and went back to camp, stopping at the Bristlecone Pines on the way down.

We went into Idaho Springs and bought some beer for Chuck and Kelly to thank them, and some bubbles for the kids. Then headed to camp. Gave it to them and thanked them again. They said a group of kids had come up the night before about 11 and drank and partied until about 3:30, shouting the "F" word every other word... nice for the kids I'm sure. Some tents were still there. We went down to camp, built a fire, cooked and ate dinner, played some songs on the backpacker & mando -- while at about 6:30 they started showing up, setting up tents. Then we heard a motor. And the music started thumping. Mark went up to talk to them, and I stayed by the fire.

Came back down, said the party was to get "over" about 10:00. So he thought it'd be a good idea to head down to the official camp ground and see if we could rustle up a ranger. But I never got that far. While pulling out onto the "main" road, I bottomed out, gunned the engine, lurched forward and my left front wheel went off the edge of the road, leaving the car pretty much stuck. Went back down to get Mark to help get it out, and ran into a guy coming up the road.

"What are you doing? I'm the caretaker of this property."
"Well, then I was going to get YOU."
"Well, we've got two families and us camping up here, and this group of kids who are preparing to make a lot of noise for a long time and I'm sure there's rules about that out here."
"Well I talked to them and they said they were going to end the party by 10:00. You all are going to have to get along. They shouldn't be here, but they are. You shouldn't be here but you are."

Oh really...

He went on to say that he was the caretaker for the Edith Lake private property past the gate. Went on about how we're too close to Denver not to expect this kind of thing. Well, I don't have to expect people to be rude and inconsiderate. At any rate, it turns out that there used to be a locked gate at the bottom of the road leading up here, but he said "the forest service had a kiniption" and said that it was National Forest property up for another 1/4 mile to the current gate and took it down. So when he said we "shouldn't" be there, what he was saying was that HE didn't think we should be there even though the forest service disagrees with him. He helped us out of the ditch, left and said he'd be back about 9:00 to check on the party situation.

It started to rain. We decided we should get some sleep while we could. The monsoon storms like I thought these were don't typically last that long. So we turned in. And it kept raining... and raining.... and raining .... and the partiers left. And we slept well to the sound of rain and then to West Chicago Creek crashing 1/4 mile below.

Thursday, July 17 -- Endless Highway

Made excellent time. Traffic was not heavy at all. I kind of like Kansas. Everyone says it's boring but especially the flint hills, I think, are beautiful. I'm a bit of a geography/geology nut. Every time we stopped Mark asked "got the keys?" before we locked the doors. I brought my extra key along and kept it in my left pocket so that if I ever got out and locked the keys in the car, I'd have the other to get back in. We drove into Salina where Mark had lived for a year to do a little Mark reminiscing... looked for Bogey's, a burger joint he really liked when he lived there. An old diner kind of place with pictures of old movie stars on the walls. It had moved to a new building. Filled up, switched drivers, and sped off listening to a little summer-music-mix mp3 CD I'd ripped songs for over the days preceeding the trip. Cruise control would be nice on a trip like this, but my little escort doesn't have it. Switching drivers made my leg feel much better.

Before we knew it, we were across the Colorado border. Called Rich at the cabins to tell him we were approaching. Switched back to me driving at Limon, and took the scenic route (86) through Kiowa and Elizabeth (ironically very close to my cousin Elizabeth's place -- sorry, no time on this trip to visit) and to Castle Rock and up 25 to 470. Very hazy. Pike's Peak looked like a ghost shadow -- you could just make out its dark shape through the haze. Found out later 8 fires were burning. Nothing like last year though. Drove along the hog's back -- big slabs of earth tilted up like a stargate from which the mountans seem to emerge and hit I-70 again go plunge into the heart of the front range. It still seemed like I was dreaming until that point. Mark was having the same initial reaction to the mountains I had a couple of years ago.... awe. Pur-a-dee gawking awe. We were in Idaho Springs before we knew it. Went to the cabins to get the key and check in. Talked to Rich about possible campsites. He says he's very close to having the cabins sold. They've tied him down for years and he's ready to point his car towards Alaska and drive. I hopped up on a log and for the first time felt the altitude. Kansas City can't be more than 1,000 feet. The cabins are at about 8,900 feet. The feeling, when you're not exerting yourself, I describe as "almost dizzy". Rich again reccomended the end of West Chicago Creek road, about 3 or 4 miles up the road from the cabins. Said it was all national forest and game for camping. Or we could try to brave the road south of Empire where he lives and park in his driveway and camp by a waterfall on Bear Creek. Except for the 50 feet of pretty steep hill he seemed to think the Escort wouldn't have a problem with that road, and he even thought it could probably hack that.

Went back into Idaho Springs and stopped at the forest service office and talked to Adrianne -- very personable young lady. Pretty darned cute, too. She told us that a fire ban was going into effect on Monday -- they were encouraging people not to have them but technically you could. Mark REALLY wanted to camp, so it was good that we could. We asked about camping outside of camp grounds, but all she came up with was a very small campground (Mizpah) toward Berthoud Pass on 40. We drove to it just to check it out because the location was good, but we could see that it was like a very small KOA in the forest. Bleah! No way. Back to Idaho Springs to Tommyknocker's brewery where we had expensive hamburgers and some decent beer. Then back to the cabins.

It was still light -- so we decided to drive to the end of West Chicago Creek road and see what was there along the way. We knew there was an official campground at the end, but there was a forest road I wanted to check out. Got to the end, saw the campground and Sugarloaf peak in the background, saw the road with NO locked gate -- as was indicated on my map, so we drove up it. It dead-ends at a locked gate 1/4 mile up the mountain. There's a locked gate there for the Edith Lake property which is private. There was a young couple camping there with their daughter and niece and nephew. I changed pants because it was cooling off fast. Went from shorts to jeans. We hiked around the area looking for a possible good site. Found a very nice site and said we'd come back in the morning and pitch our tents. Walked up to say hello to the family up the hill. Chuck and Kelly. Very nice people. Handsome couple, good with the kids. They said they'd been there twice before and never had neighbors. Cool.

Walked back to the car. Patted my pocket for the keys. They were in my shorts in the car. Both sets. Locked in. After an initial stage of disbelief, we went down the hill again to Chuck and Kelly. We had cell phones which, even if they did work in that canyon would do us little good since we didn't have a phone book for the area or know who to call. But Chuck said they'd seen a coat hanger lying around we guessed someone had once used to roast marshmallows over a fire. The kids were excited to have something to do and be helpful, and one of them eventually found it. Mark and I tried with it for a while -- then Chuck wanted to try from the front door. My locks are coathanger proof, except for the fact that the rear driver's side lock sticks up higher than it should and there is a groove to latch onto. After about 5 minutes and a lot of luck and almost giving up, Chuck caught it and popped it up. It was getting dark. We thanked them profusely and started towards the cabin. but on the way down the one lane mountain road, two other vehicles were making their way up. Managed to let them by, but then decided we needed to turn around and go back up and "reserve" our site by pitching our tents. So I backed up into a rocky area and made about a 5 point turn to keep from plunging down the canyon and we went back and did just that.

Then back to the cabin where we played music for a brief time and both went to bed exhausted. We slept with the windows and doors open, and could hear West Chicago Creek splashing 20 feet away all night long. Cool, beautiful night.

Wed, July 16 -- Get Ready, cause here I come

Spent most of the day rounding things up to get ready to pack. I used the spare bedroom for a staging area. Went out and washed and vaccuumed the car. At the last minute I decided to go to the Wilderness store to see about a hiker water pump/filter for purifying water from a creek without having to use iodine and make it taste funny. Found one for a little less than I expected to pay and bought it. Mark and I kidded over the net that never would so few people be so prepared for so little. Filled my 7 gallon water container from the hose so we'd have a source of known good water. Toward evening I started packing things into the car. Vicki got home and it hit us that I was leaving.... she made dinner as I packed. I filled more than half of the back seat and trunk of my little escort. I started wondering about what Mark was bringing -- kinda feeling guilty. Ate and said goodbye, went to KC and spent time talking to Mark about what I had, what he needed, what he didn't need. Before I left Vicki suggested putting the back seat down, so I did that and re-arranged my stuff, and we got Mark's stuff in. The car was FULL. Went to bed around midnight, got up at 4, and we were on the road (after a quick stop at Walmart for something we forgot that escapes me) at 5:30 (oh yeah, some stick-on velcro to "mount" the mp3 player out of the way in the car -- and a toothbrush for Mark).

Monday, July 14, 2003

Doctor, Doctor, give me the news

Well hey. Had my doctor appointment. Tendonitis. Not carpal tunnel. Also had an R.A. factor blood test. I ran in to the doctor and her family at Lowe's yesterday. Negative. Cool.

Tendonitis, though, is going to be a bear to heal - but at least it's healable. Keep the inflamation down. Modify your behavior to keep from irritating it. Take NSAIDs (Non-Steriodal-Anti-Inflamatory-Drugs -- eg, ibuprofen, asprin....) when needed. When it gets inflamed, ice it down. For a few months. *sigh* Ultimately, it's good news. I nabbed an ergonomic keyboard and a track ball from the storage stash to use. We'll see if that helps.

Got most of the stuff together for Colorado. I wanna see snow on the divide from my campsite, ideally. That place by Empire sounds most promising so far if my little car can handle the road.

Got the deck watering system hooked up to every plant that needs water every day, and hooked it into the bird-bath reservoir so that won't go dry while I'm gone and Vicki won't have to worry about it.

I'm already getting separation anxiety. I was getting it over the weekend. It's a good sign, really. I don't like going away from Vicki. Once I'm gone I'm usually ok... Still miss her, but it's the whole initial "leaving" part I don't like.

Monday, July 07, 2003

I've got to admit, it's getting better

Yesterday I was at Walmart picking up some stuff for Colorado -- and the pool.... and I was in the sports section and they had these little mushy exercise balls about the size of a racketball. I wanted to exercise my grip especially on my left hand for guitar fingering, and I noticed after walking around Walmart playing with it that my hands felt better. They felt better and better for a couple of hours and then stablized at.... well, much better than they had been for the past several days. Encouraging.

It may just be carpal tunnel. TOday my left hand continues to feel pretty good... but I've stressed my right hand typing and mousing. Vicki keeps telling me "Don't self-diagnose" but I want to be able to describe my symptoms to the doctor so I pay attention to them.

Mark sent me a link to a camping checklist.... we've got most of it covered.

Put up a ground wire for the electric fence that runs up the bird feeder pole to see if we can stop the raccoons from raiding the feeders. If they touch both wires (hard not to) ... Zap! I'll report in a week.

Got the windows to replace our fogged up ones in front (they're double paned) -- they wanted $180 to install them. It was $153 for just the windows themselves. I thought that was a bit much, so I'm going to install them. They said the reason was that the retainers were unavailable and the windows were therefore "obsolete". Bunk! It's a frame with glass in it. Obsolete indeed!

Well, better get going for now.


Thursday, July 03, 2003

Hot town, summer in the city

It finally got hot. But what do we expect, it's July. Let's see, got the concrete poured for the landing outside the new basement door. We stayed home a week ago this morning to do it. (dang, haven't posted since the 19th? I really ought to get better about this).

We were going to have a graduation/birthday party for Tom who got his MBA quite recently. We were going to have everyone out here on the 4th -- but Tom's got stuff to do this weekend, and Dawn wanted to do the party special anyway-- the original plan was to have it at Dawn and Joel's. When I talked to Tom we said it would be July 12 at Joel & Dawn's -- and Tom was going to call Joel. But somehow we didn't communicate (you do that by not talking) with Joel that that meant this weekend was a no go. But all our plans fell through anyway. And Joel called last night wondering when he should show up Friday.....

answer? 10am.

He ain't heavy. He's my brother.

I was kinda bummed about spending the 4th not doing anything special anyway. Burgers and dogs and splashin' in the pool. And beer ;-) Ain't that America?

Kevin's in town. He and his wife are separating. He's taking a leave of absence at work to sort stuff out and re-position himself mentally for life. It'll probably be good for him. He pops over to use the internet connection and hang out every couple days. He bought himself a Misubishi Evolution VIII -- that's "car" for "more car than Phil will ever own". He's gotten into cars since he moved to Michigan. Gotta admit it's a pretty snazzy car.

Brian will be here working for his dad off and on all summer. He got himself a dog that his dad can't get rid of... a very cute Malamute puppy named Koti --- he wanted to name it Kodiak. I think he should change it to Kodi for Kodiak.

Colorado is coming up in a couple of weeks. I'm getting psyched. I think Mark is, too. Talk about camping by the seat of your pants, though. We have very few plans. Go to mountains. Soak them in.

Take lots of pictures :-)

I bought a new camera. Ok. Bad me. But it was a great deal, and this camera overcomes so many of the limitations my other camera has. Plus it's 3 megapixels. It's an Olympus C-720. 8x optical zoom. You have full control over f-stop and shutter speed if you want it, and you can bump the exposure +/- 2 stops instead of 1 (by 1/3 stops). Plus it has a very powerful flash that's adjustable so you don't wash your subjects out. You can't manual focus, but everything else is overridable. And it'll do 15 second movies.

I got a wide angle and doubler teleconverter for it. The doubler doesn't work right. I'm sending it back to HotDigital... they said they'll send me another or an equivalent. MAYBE in time for Colorado. I hope so. But I probably shouldn't hold my breath.

One last thing.... something's wrong with my hands. My knuckles are sore, and this has come on relatively suddenly over the past few weeks. Haven't been doing anything unusually physical to irritate them. It seems semetrical (same knuckles on each hand). Stiff in the morning. Painful without ibuprofen starting this week. It used to get better as the day wore on, but starting this week, not so much... Mom has rheumatoid arthrits. I remember mom describing her symptoms when she first got it at 32. I'm 39. I might have it, too. I sure hope not. That would positively suck for guitar. I have a doctor appointment on the 10th. They can do a lot more for it now -- still not curable, though. Wish me luck. So far, I still have full range of motion, it just doesn't feel good -- even now typing this isn't horribly comfortable.