Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Fall River Road

Monday, June 13

The wind was still whipping around in the morning. Clearly a strong front had passed giving way to very strong high pressure. That meant a few things. 1) it didn't get very cold last night due to mixing. 2) It would be mostly sunny today. 3) it would be windy for at least a while today.

After the first night I had moved my tent to site 102 about 50 yards away where a hill blocked my lovely view of the bathroom and RV's camping on the loop below. A KU graduate from Chicago -- looked retired -- pitched his pup tent up the hill from me. Otherwise, it looked pretty solitary. Plus the hill helped block the noise from the other campers. Don't get me wrong, I think they were all quite reasonable for the venue, but I like it as quiet as I can get it.

Part of the reason I didn't sleep well was the constant violent flapping of the tent. The other part was - that Blue Pad, though I'm sure better than putting the sleeping bag directly down on the gravel... really isn't very comfortable.

I went to the Visitors' Center to get the forecast. Windy all day. Up on the top of Trail Ridge Road, closed again the day after I went over, the winds were around 80mph.

I decided today to stay below the treeline due to the wind, but I didn't have a plan. I drove through Estes Park and replaced a pair of gloves I'd lost at a souvineer store, and drove back in to the park at the more northerly Estes Park entrance.... I decided to take a look at Fall River Road. When I got there, there were people shooting photos of some Big Horned Sheep, and I took a few. At that point I noticed that there were actually glass chips inside my doubler lens, so it is now officially retired. Oh well, less to carry. The camera is still fairly flexible zoom-wise without it.

I chose the fanny pack and the camelback for my luggage today -- a mistake. Turns out fleece, which I didn't need most of the day, is bulkier than I thought. Should have brought the daypack. But I managed.

I went past the "Road Closed" gate -- Fall River Road doesn't usually open to traffic until July 4, and then it's one way, up. But it's open to hikers (two-way) year round, and up to bikers discretion if they want to try pedaling up it. It's a gravel road, even though it is Old US 34. It's a pretty good gravel road though, about like today's Virgina Canyon Road. There's really plenty of room for 2 cars most places, but if traffic got heavy I can see where people might get a bit edgy ... pun intended.

Ahead you can see Fall River Canyon, and the farther up you go, the more you see the Trail Ridge/Sundance Mountain complex to the left, and Mt. Chapin's dramatically spiny backbone to the right. To your left, you're looking at north side slopes and they have plenty of snow on them this time of year. Behind you as you go up (and ahead of you sometimes on switchbacks), better and better views of Horshoe Park, even though it recedes into a larger context as you get further away from it.

I took my own picture on some boulder cliff with the Fall River canyon behind me. There were a few people coming down, and a few wandered maybe a half mile up the road and turned around. The last people I saw for the remainder of the hike (until the very end) was a retired British couple about 500 yards short of Chasm Falls. They had just been in Columbia, MO a few days before and ate at a new restaurant I hadn't been to yet downtown.

Chasm Falls was pretty and a good place to stop for lunch. I had trouble shooting the falls in the sun. I learned in the end to expose for the water and let other things be under-exposed to get texture in the water. Otherwise you get the surroundings with a streak of white where the waterfall is.

My camera apparently only goes up to f7.1 -- so my next camera will have to have smaller apateures. That would help.

I had no idea how far I'd be going today. The canyon just sucked me in. What's around the next bend? Eventually I climbed about 2,000 feet somewhere past the 5 mile marker (I only found markers 3 & 4), where I had a nice view of the Lava Cliffs up on the ridge to the left and ahead of me. I had looked at those same cliffs from much closer on Trail Ridge Road on the other side on Saturday. The wind was still a force to be reckoned with but it was starting to fall off. It was about 2:30, and I needed to get back down, back to camp, cook dinner, clean up and get everything back in the bear lockers by dark. And I didn't particularly feel like hurrying, so I needed to start back down.

As I went down, I once again noticed that the hike up and the hike down are NOT the same hikes as far as scenery. On top of that, as the afternoon sun angle got longer and longer, it offered some more interesting photo opportunities.

I had seen no one since I saw the British couple below Chasm Falls in the late morning and I didn't mind the solitude. Probably not something people get later in the summer (well, especially after they open the road to cars. I ventured off the trail a couple of times to shoot some falls where the road and the river parted. When I got back to Chasm Falls, finally, I decided to try a trail that went downstream from the falls that the Brits had told me about earlier. They thought it probably went down to the picnic area near the beginning of the road, but I soon found out it was a dead end and climbed back up out of the hole.

Got to the bottom around 6:00 or so and a guy on a bicycle passed me ... going DOWN! Where did HE come from? I stopped and talked to him at the bottom. He started up about 5:00 and must've gone by while I was off the road.

I took a cursory look at the alluvial fan as I went back up but wasn't sure what it was -- found out later back in the early 90's the Lawn Lake dam broke up that valley and all those boulders, trees, and silt washed down and got deposited here. That must've been something to see. Glad I wasn't in its way.

I went back to camp. My tent was still there, but it was on its back being held down by only one stake. The other three had been pulled up by the windblown tent. Good thing I was actually IN it last night or it WOULD have blown away.

I cooked, cleaned, and put stuff away. The sun was down. I settled in to bed -- by this time I was not terribly fond of the blue matt as a mattress, but it was all I had.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Pictures from the Trip

While time and space permits, the pictures are here.

Wild Basin

Saturday Evening + Sunday, June 12

went into Estes Park after checking out the YMCA and went to a few touristy shops. One of the first things I noticed was a reastaurant called "Molly B's" -- which was of interest because Vicki's favorite doll when she was growing up was named "Molly B." So naturally I took a picture of it ;-)

Downtown was pretty touristy, but not garish -- Idaho Springs on a little bigger scale. I looked at a few things, but it appears I'm done with "stuff"... I didn't want any "stuff". I wasn't here for "stuff", I was here to be out in the great wide open. Darkness was falling about 9:00-9:30, and quiet hours in the National Park camp site started at 10:00. I was pretty much just killing time. I got back to the camp site around 9:00 and went to bed. Tonight it would get cold, but not as cold as the previous night. I was comfortable (well, heatwise, anyway). A rain shower or two passed through -- the light, quick type.

There was a lot of condensation in my tent the next morning. With me sleeping catty-corner in the tent, the wall of the tent curved down within a foot of my face, and my breath went straight up to it. I wiped it all down. Went down and washed in the campsite bathroom, made breakfast on the ion stove, and tried to get organized. It was mostly cloudy. By the time I had it all together it had started to rain. I decided to drive to the Visitors Center to decide what I wanted to do on a rainy day.

I went to the backcountry office first, still thinking MAYBE I'd do some backcountry camping, but not being able to decide where to go, significant snow in the high country, the rain, and my general lack of organization were ganging up on that idea. But I got some useful information for future trips, and went back to the Visitors' Center.

Forecast was for rain pretty much all day. The rangers suggested I go to Wild Basin. It wouldn't be crowded, and there were some pretty waterfalls on the way up to Ouzle Falls. Cool. A chance to drive down hwy 7 through Meeker Park. Pretty drive, I'd been there in 2001.

Checked out the Longs Peak campground on the way down. Frankly, it's a place to camp before heading up the Longs Peak trail -- it's pretty enough, but it's not far of the highway and doesn't, except for two or three sites, have much of a view unless you're really in it for the trees. But if you're going to do that why not go backcountry and get away from neighbors?

Also went by Camp St. Malo's church which captivated Vicki and me back in '01, a Catholic church built from stone on top of stone, with a retreat and with Mt. Meeker as a backdrop.

And then I got to the trailhead. Got all my stuff together, pulled my hat down against the rain, and struck out. Talked to an older female ranger for a while on the first leg of the trip, but lost her of course in all the picture taking. The river was well charged with snowmelt and rain, and the falls were pretty. This was going to be a good hike for a rainy day.

I finally decided my slicker wasn't going to keep the rain out and put my poncho on (and then my hat over the hood -- the very picture of style I'm sure). The poncho showed its cheapnes by ripping itself on a branch the minute I had it on. But it was just the edge, so I stayed dry.

I lost my monopod, which had been doubling as a walking stick. I think it may have been tucked under my arm while I was shooting a waterfall from a large boulder. I heard it clatter, and I had a pretty good idea what had just happened. I looked down in the water and there it was, bobbing up and down in the water going around the boulder toward the shore. I thought "great, it's going to float to shore and I can just go fetch it"... but by the time I got to where it should have been it had filled with water and sunk. I couldn't see it, and I wasn't about to go in after it. Dang thing was $30..... but risking life and limb for $30 somehow doesn't seem worth it. I let it go.

I saw I was going to be hiking past Calypso Cascades, and I thought I had reached them at a large bridge. I was taking a few pictures there, and saw this guy packing the CUTEST little red-haired baby in a little covered baby backpack.

On the other side of the bridge there was a large boulder and I decided to take a shot of myself there. While I was trying that three hikers came upon me, and the leader of the gang offered to take it for me, and I let him... took some pictures of them as well. They introduced themselves as Paul, Nate, and Bethany. Paul is an architect in Denver. Nate (I think) is his cousin. Well one of them is, and he's either married to or otherwise seriously involved with Bethany. They were all nice people. Bethany was very sweet with a killer smile. They hiked the rest of the way with me (or I with them) to Ouzle falls, and we had a good time joking about mistaking things for features they weren't and generally had plenty to talk about.

We ended up at Ouzle Falls, about a 50' fall which Mahtaj had been to in December a couple of years ago when it was completely frozen... We were near 10,000 feet, and the rain had changed to snow, sleet, and slush -- often alternating, and sometimes coming down all at once. We took the requisite pictures. It started sleeting pretty hard and we headed back down... more because it was time than the sleet. The sleet, I somehow knew, would be brief and once we got down 500 feet or so it was back to rain, then it started to clear up.

I split with them to take one last look for the monopod, but I had passed the spot where I lost it and I caught up to them at the parking lot. Paul and I exchanged email addresses so we could swap pictures and maybe stories.

A bit later I looked up at this SUV, and saw this woman pull a ballcap of and shake her hair out a little -- one of those movements that'll catch a guy's eye. I thought "man, who's that?! She's pretty". She looked up and smiled and waved at me and I was immediately embarrassed. It was Bethany.

Stopped and took some pictures of Meeker and Camp St. Malo against the clearing sky and falling sun on the way back, and I made note of some public showers near Meeker Park. When I got to Estes Park I decided to do some laundry... I had worn the heck out of the microfiber shirts and thought I'd like to wear them again without smelling bad. So I spent an hour there doing laundry. Called to talk to Vicki, but she was at the Blue Man Group show. I took a long shot of the famous Stanley Hotel from just outside the laundromat. Went back to camp, made dinner, got in the tent and called Mark and chatted with him a while.

The wind was kicking up, and my tent was bouncing and flapping. I knew they were strong winds -- I found out later that at Estes Park (about 1,000 feet lower) the winds were 26 to 30mph gusting to 48. I believe it. My tent bounced up and down all night, but stayed together. I didn't sleep much, but frankly I was kind of excited by the conditions. It was pretty cool. And no condensation in the morning! The tent had been very well ventilated.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Trail Ridge Road

Saturday, June 11

Got up about 6:00. I was cold and wanted some hot food. I made some coffee, then some oatmeal and added the dried cinnamon apples. It was quite good -- could've been a little sweeter, but hot and "not disgusting" were at the top of the the priority list, so this was gourmet.

It had cleared up some, and I could see some of the mountains in the National Park to the East. Sun was glistening off of dew-covered vegetation. And the lovely considerate folks who had given me such a good night's entertainment began to stir about 150 yards to the north.

The same Butthead laugh was there, backed with less alchohol. A generator turned on. I wanted out of there, and I did it pretty quick.

I drove farther up the road into the National Forest .... something I should've done the night before -- and it wound up the mountain a ways along the side of the Stillwater Creek valley. I stopped at a point just under 10,000 feet and found a place in the stream that offered a bit of privacy and I went down there with my washcloth and towell to tidy up a bit. C-C-C-C-OLDDD water. But clean.

I had been a while getting up here and of course looking around at all the beauty in the Rocky Mountain morning, and it was proably around 10:00 before I left and headed for Trailridge Road, hoping it would be open. I had a pretty good hunch it would be.

Stopped at the West side visitors center, talked to the rangers, and bought a little keychain thermometer. The road had opened about an hour before I got there.

I headed up. It began to rain again, which was not what I had hoped for, but it didn't last long -- by the time I got up about 1,000 feet from the road entrance, it had stopped and there was a lot of sunshine and beautiful views of the Never Summer Range and the early stages of the Colorado River.

Naturally there was a lot of picture taking during this whole period.

The road winds up past the snowline to Milner Pass. Poudra lake was still frozen. Ran into people from Illinois & Kansas .... and from all over the world as well.

After the taking the standard "Pass" shot, I pressed on up past the treeline to the Alpine Visitors Center.

Just to the northwest of the Visitors' center is a footpath, still mostly snow covered, to a nearby 12,000 peak. I can't resist a peak so close, so I went there first. I had lots of company. It was partly cloudy, temperatures probably around 45-50 with a slight breeze. You had to wait your turn at the top for a "peak" shot, but lots of friendly folks were up there to take them for you, and I took a few for others myself. Everywhere I pointed my camera there was a fantastic view ... the kind a camera can never capture, but still there were plenty of interesting subjects to shoot and of course I did.

I wandered back down to the Visitors Center eventually, but I'm just not into stuff for the sake of stuff anymore and it was like a small version of the tourist trap at the top of Pike's Peak ... without the tram.

So again I pressed on to the Tundra Curves. Tundra is neat. These little plants get a few scant weeks out of the year to eek out some sunlight gathering/food making/storing and oh yeah, maybe 1/100" of growth before they're wolloped with a deep blanket of snow again until next ... "summer". And on any day of the summer they can be covered with snow as well!

After the Lava Cliffs (remnants from an ancient lava flow) and tundra curves you look over Forest Canyon, which eventually dumps out into Morraine Park. Right by the road near the "Rock Cut", there's public restrooms at 12,090 feet. Elevation proudly displayed over the window.

Right about here I got my first look at the flat top of Long's Peak for this trip... I was surprised to be able to see it. You forget that the park is relatively small compared to the scale of the features in it. Some of you may remember that I had planned to try to climb it this trip, but one look at it told me that it would NOT be this year. You need to do it in July, Aug, or maybe early September. Too much snow, and the Trough was full of snow probably deeper than I've ever seen if I'd dared to go up there ...and made it.

By this time I'm thinking I need to move along a little faster because I need to find a place to camp and I wanted to try to meet Brad Fitch at the YMCA of the Rockies. I knew I'd be stopping to take more pictures, but I tried to make them less frequent on the way down the other side.

I went through horseshoe park and out to the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center and asked about camping. They said they still had places open at Moraine Park, so I went and paid for a night and set up my tent in site 99. The campgrounds were nearly full -- not surprising for a Saturday evening. I cooked dinner and checked my voicemail -- there was a message from Brad. He was playing 5-7. By the time I got my dinner dishes cleaned up, though, it was about 6:30 and I decided against it -- though I did drive out there around 8:00 just to look at the place. It's very pretty.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

In Which My Faith in Mankind Gets Dented... again

Friday Night, June 10

I got my little ion stove and cook kit out and set about making dinner. Boil water, add instant beans and rice, a little cajun seasoning, and some dried texturized vegetable protien I brought along as a convenient dried protien source. Tastes like CHICK-ken. Riiight. Tastes about like whatever you add it to, but it feels like chicken.

Got my tent and everything set up and backpack hung up just as it got dark. I went to bed.

There were some people who had pulled in the campsite across the road from where I was. It was a camper/pickup. They were playing country music at a reasonable volume before I hiked over, and I could not hear it from my campsite.

That all changed when darkness fell. A few other vehicles showed up, the music went up, and the drinking commenced accompanied by loots of hooting and hollering and this obNOXious Butthead-esque laugh track from one guy that went .... on .... for ... the ... next ... five ... hours.

I didnt' sleep. They were echoing all over the valley. But unlike in a National Park campsite, there's nobody to enforce any rules. About 2:00, I'd had enough. I was kind of cold anyway. The rain and low-lying bog had left the place damp, and I'm sure it got down into the mid 30's. I threw my clothes back on, hiked back across the bog, and slept (sort of) in my car with David and Steve Gordon music going until about 6:00 am. They all went to bed around 2:00, but I'd made my decision and I wasn't going back.

I got quite cold and actually whipped out the emergency blanket... which helped. My feet got cold. But I did get some sleep.

Into the Mountains

Friday, June 10

It wasn't a terribly restful night, but I did get some decent sleep. Around 5:00 am, I woke up, put my shoes back on, and went inside.

No showers at this truckstop. Small restaurant and convenience store. I took a washcloth and some soap into the batrhoom and did a little "bath". I hate being dirty, especially smelly. For some reason, I didn't think I wanted breakfast there in the restaurant -- so I bought some coffee, grabbed a power bar and some dried fruit I'd brought, and I was on the road by 6:00 am.
Not far past Russell I lost T-Mobile reception and started getting WestLink. I gave Vicki a call. Partially because I was curious as to what roaming fees would show up on the bill, and partially because, well, she IS my wife and I do like talking to her :-)

I had my GPS with altimiter with me on the trip, and of course I was keeping an eye on it. We live at 710 feet above sea level. Salina, KS is around 1,200 feet, and from there to the Colorado border you go up to about 3,800 feet on what they call the "High Plains" [queue Clint Eastwood music].

As I approached Colorado, the general cloudiness gave way to puffy white clouds I could see over Eastern Colorado. The gravitational pull of the mountains is starting tug on the car. I can feel it.

I stopped at the first rest stop in Colorado and washed my hair with some camp soap and dried it in the hand dryer. I felt much better. Hopped in the car and cruised through Limon and got on 86 to head straight for the mountains through Castle Rock. Plus, it's a prettier drive in general than taking 70 to Denver. (Somewhere before Castle Rock, Phone Service switched to US04. ) Since I'm going to Idaho Springs first, this is probably the best route anyway.

Well, I thought it was. But there's STILL lots of construction going on around Castle Rock, and things slowed down quite a bit. Somewhere in Eastern Colorado, the GSM phone service changed from WestLink to US 590. Thunderstorms covered the front range -- still pretty, though. I drove through a doozie as I hit 470, and about then I decided to drive to the west side of the divide for the first night as I figured these were upslope storms and maybe they wouldn't be so bad on the west side.

12:04, got to Idaho Springs. 43 degrees. Raining. Hmmmmm. T-Mobile again. Oh well, one reason I'm here is lunch at the Two Brothers Deli. It's dry and warm in there. I met a vacationing retired couple there who didn't quite know what to do with the weather. It was spoiling their plans. I directed them to the Forest Service office across 70, which was where I was headed after lunch anyway. Had one of their great sandwiches and headed to the Forest Service office.

I met the couple from the Deli there. Mt. Evans road was closed past Echo Lake. Trail Ridge Road in RMNP was closed. They were directed to waterfalls in the Guenella Pass area. Me? I'm here to go over Oh My God Road (Virginia Canyon Road) because Vicki and Mark had refused to go in previous years.

This year, nobody else to consider. I was going.

It really isn't a bad road at all, although I hear back in the day it was practically a one lane road. It's easily a two lane road now, but no real shoulder in a lot of places. Still, with a little common courtesy and sensible driving -- not a problem at all. A little rain and snow flurries. That was all, weatherwise.

On some switchbacks, I stop to take pictures of Idaho Springs from above, and I can barely see Mt Evans through the clouds. You can't really see Evans from Idaho Springs down in the valley, but get up a couple of thousand feet from 70 and you can. I can also see Little Sugar Loaf off to the southwest, and I am looking DOWN on clouds -- something that I always think is cool.

The whole road was peppered with mines, some operational, some not. Every now and then you'd see a car at the bottom of a dropoff to give you a sense of forboding -- but my guess is that these proably didn't go over with people in them -- I'd bet they were junkers, pushed by locals over the edge just to see what would happen. They were obviously popular rifle and pistol targets as well. Near the top, the road is even paved and has guard rails, and there are many nice homes along the way.

Got over to Central City which at first looks like a quaint mountain town, but it's been overrun by casinos and the associated tourism so much that they've built ANOTHER 4-lane road from 70, cutting through the mountains straight to Central City -- you bypass Idaho Springs that way. Nothing to see here, folks -- move along. I took the new Parkway back to 70, then up to Empire to go over Berthoud Pass on US 40.

My car had been acting up since filling up at some station around Castle Rock. Acting up as in "no power". I'd filled with 85 octane. I thought that might be it. So I stopped in a little store in Berthoud Falls and got some fuel injector cleaner to add to the gas. It was the first time I noticed the altitude. About 9,500 feet or so. Kind of dizzy, a little disoriented -- easily confused if I don't concentrate.

From the store you could see new snow in the trees 500 feet up the mountain. "Down here" it was rain. Drove through the lane addition project construction on US 40 there and before I knew it it was snowing. Hard. The higher I went, the harder it snowed. By the time I reached the pass, there was maybe 1/4 mile visibility. The old abandoned Ski building that I saw there in 2001 was in the middle of being torn down (Guess the Interior Dept bought it and was removing it... good). Down from over 11,000 feet to about 10,000 the snow continued, then changed to rain and then it cleared out and was quite pretty.

I found some National Forest over by Granby Lake and drove in and looked for a place to camp. There were other people back there. I was a little leery because of Mark's and my experience in the national forest a couple of years ago and the partiers. But I saw a lot of retired people and RV's. It seemed like a different kind of place with lots of official signs and rules posted.

I found an empty spot and pulled my car in. I should have realized that this was a place tyically multiple people camped. Still, it was about 7:30pm and nobody else was around. I decided to hike my equimpent 1/2 mile across the bog on the valley floor and camp behind some trees, out of sight of the road.

I Guess He'd Rather Be in Colorado

Thursday, June 9

Took off closer to 7:00 PM than 6:00 as I had intended. Somewhere between Rocheport and Boonville I realized I'd forgotten my backpacker guitar. I was a little more upset about it than I should've been, and I knew it. Realistically speaking, it wasn't going to get played. It wasn't really why I was going to Colorado. I'd had these fantasies, of course, about playing it by the camp fire maybe my first couple of nights. But I wear myself out up there, and generally go to bed when it gets dark.

Three hours after I left, somewhere around Topeka as it was getting dark, I noticed lots of thunderstorm activity especially to the northwest.

Going through the flint hills, I made a mental note that, at least on I-70 -- Missouri is flatter than Kansas. There's one place I can think of on I-70 in Missouri where you have maybe a 300 foot difference between hilltop and valley-bottom, and there is actually quite a bit of that in the flint and black hills of Kansas.

People say Kansas is flat, ugly, and boring. I, for one, find it envigorating -- all that vast, open space, and you can see so far in to it. I'm in the middle of "Dances With Wolves" country. I think it's beautiful.

It is long, however, and the plan tonight is to stop at a truckstop near Russell, KS and zonk out in the parking lot. I pull in around 12:40 am and put the window shades up all around the car, put on some David and Steve Gordon (Zen Garden) music quietly on the MP3 player through the car stereo, and kick the seat back. Kick my shoes off, and pull out the pillow I brought with me.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

I'm Back...

Of course, there's lots to report, but first there's this float trip -- then I'll blog out the whole vacation.

It was good.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Herding Cats

Well, Bart's back, if I hadn't mentioned it before. Thursday morning, while waiting for Vicki to get back from the dentist, I was organizing Brian's Ipod for him and I heard the sound of tinkling liquid. It was too loud to be coming from the litter box. I turned toward the stairs, and there he was, picking up where he left off before we sent him to live with Brian.

"BART!!!!!!!!!!!!" I yelled. He immediately stopped and looked at me to see how serious I was. Then he took off up the stairs.

With good reason -- we said if he didn't stop we were going to have to put him down. I grabbed him and put him in the litterbox, then sopped up the mess and hit it with the enzyme. I didn't tell Vicki as we were headed off that day to see Brian off in Indianapolis for his deployment to Iraq. Figured she had enough on her mind.

I put one of the CatScrams at the bottom of the stairs pointing across the hallway to encourage him not to linger in the hallway. It seems to be working. He skitters by it, and there have been no more... ahem... "accidents" since then.

We went to see Brian off -- there was a special dinner for families of reservists who had been activated basically to let us know "hey, he's no longer a reservist, here's what you can expect now that your boy is an active Marine". Plus, how to get in touch with him, and a little about what he'd be doing.

Well, what he'll be doing is a lot more involved than training Iraqi soldiers and police, it seems. As a matter of fact, he seems to be part of the CAG, or Civilian Affairs Group. He'll be learning some of the language, and his job will be basically working with Iraqi civilians to re-build, re-construct -- in other words... just excactly the kind of target the terrorists like the best.

< /RANT ON >
This speaks volumes about our enemy. What should be the safest job for us is, in fact, the most dangerous. These people want Iraq to fail and fall in to their hands so badly that they use -- as their primary tactic -- the killing of civilians -- to keep chaos and disorder in place. The hope is that people will become frustrated with the fact that the new government can't keep the peace and either vote the terrorists in or simply let the terrorists take over.

Any group of a few thousand loosely organized people in any country who are willing to stoop to this dispicable level of -- ahem, "engagement" -- can, over time, cause the same amount of chaos being caused in Iraq by these villians. People don't seem to understand that.

The gleeful Bush/America bashers like to point to each little bombing and say, "look, it has failed" -- which is all the freaking terrorists want. All they have to do is kill a few people a day in some sort of dramatic fashion (explosion, beheading....) and it will run every day as a top news story. This is easy for people who have brainwashed people to blow themselves up in the name of Islam. The daily news stories magnify their puny successes -- and over time this myopic view will cause public sentiment to shift away from getting rid of them or further marginalizing them, and in the end have us turning the reins right over to these folks. If you think Jerry Fallwell et al are bad, stop and consider this.... how many dreaded Christian-Righters have you heard about kidnapping aid workers and cutting their heads off -- filming it for the world to see? Think about that next time you want to draw some sort of moral equivalence between Al Queda and the American Religious Right. I'm not a part of it, but get real!

Do Iraqis have to do things our way? No. But get serious. There are several thousand black-hearted evil people over there that want to run Iraq THEIR way -- and given a choice, I think the other 20 million+ Iraqis would take our way over theirs. And we're not even insisting on that.


Sorry, I don't usually rant on this blog -- but it couldn't be helped this time.

Ok, well Saturday I ran around and bought stuff -- food for Colorado and a few other things for the house. Then we went to see Gaelic Storm at 7 at Jesse. They were fantastic. Loved 'em. They are all extremely talented. I must say, though, that I think Ellery -- the fiddle player and probably the quietest member of the band is the one who really puts the sparkle on their sound and puts them over the top. It's not that she gets out in front of the music and takes over, but her playing weaves and winds around the band holding it all together with a silver thread.

Sunday I spent making up trail mix and dinners for the trip, and waterproofing Sam's backpack. Hung out with the neighbors for a while, then came back home. Kevin and Adriene came over and we watched some "reality" (shudder) competition on the Food Network. The little brother of a friend of Kevin's was on it... but he was eliminated last night.

And... that's the way it's been.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The last few weeks....

Busy. So why isn't it reflected here? A certain dear aunt of mine has pointed out that the posts have been severely lacking.

It's partially it's because it's been THAT busy.

Couple of weekends ago the Groves came up to see Téada, a traditional celtic music group. They are very good, and a bunch of young pups. Cami "discovered" them at Irish Fest in KC last year where she was art director (and I believe will be again this year?). Anyway, it was a small, intimate setting... the sanctuary at the Unity Center here in Columbia. The Unity Center is a kind of really, really generic Christian (mostly) church. It's kind of like to belong you have to agree that Christ, or someone like him fictional or othewise, had some really wise things to say sometimes. :-) Actually, that's just my take. I really know very little about it except what I saw when I was there.

It was kind of funny because live Irish music is generally accompanied by the audience participating by clapping and short, sharp "whoop"s at tempo changes -- the atmosphere in a church sanctuary, however generic, wasn't real condusive to that at first, but eventually the spirit (no pun intended) caught the best of everyone.

Took the kids down to Rock Bridge State Park and took the trail back to Devil's Icebox (the entrance to Conner's Cave and Devil's Icebox Cave. Stepped in and looked about a bit. Nathanial was very excited. Here's a shot up to the top of the sinkhole that you go down into to get to the caves:

This last weekend we helped Kev move, and Bri get packed. He left yesterday for Indianapolis. Tomorrow we go to Indianapolis for a seminar for how to stay in touch with him while he's in Iraq, what to expect and all that. Then we'll drive back that night. We could be home by 2:30am if all goes well.

With Brian leaving for Iraq, and Kev having the dogs, we pretty much had to take Bart back. Last week I had the carpet he'd basically ruined at the bottom of the stairs replaced. According to Brian he was well behaved the whole time he was over there -- and today is day two -- so far, so good. This was our best chance of getting him over the habit, anyway. Several months somewhere else, and clean up the old damage so he can't smell it. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

Also rented a roto-rooter type machine and routed out our sewer pipe because of a backup we had the week before when the washer went to drain.

Tomatoes are growing slowly. Probably need more fertilizer/water and definitely more sunlight.

I've been collecting everything for the Colorado trip. Got maps, park info, books describing back country campsites and trails. My equipment will all fit in my daypack -- sleeping bag, tent, cook kit, extra clothes and warmth/dry layer -- but no room for food. I ordered a Mountainsmith Outback backpack that's supposed to be 2700 cubic inches. It's about the same size as their famous Ghostpack. I'm not sure what my daypack is, but without overstuffing it can't be any bigger than about 2000 cubic inches. But the new pack isn't here yet. I have Sam's frame pack if that doesn't work out. Just tie everything that won't fit inside to the outside.

No matter, I will make do and have a good time.

I did get some WorldWide Sportsman shirts and a pair of their zip-off pants/shorts in the water-resistant teflon fabric at Bass Pro. Niiiiiiiice. I think I want another pair of those pants. They're better than the Columbia Packables I have -- fit better, and are water resistant and fast-drying.

Had molds made from my teeth a couple weeks ago to check out my bite. I've had some jaw problems so doc is checking out how my teeth fit together. It's all related. Long story short $525 for a night splint to hold me over until I decide if I want braces/a retainer later.

Oh, the car is fixed, too from the deer damage.

There's more, for sure, but that's all I can think of off the top of my head.

I need to be better about keeping this thing up to date.