Friday, July 29, 2005

Misc update

Ok, what's been going on...

Went to a gathering at the Elk's Lodge for Sam's birthday last Friday - kind of a thing for all Elk Member's July Birthdays. Had a good time.

Then there was the guy/kid weekend from the last post.

Vicki & I tried out a new Mexican Restaurant here in Columbia called Tequilas. Food was good, not expensive. Margaritas were just a mix, though. If I were starting a Mexican restaurant I'd make sure my Margaritas kicked butt. I'd cut down on my profit margin there and be known for great margaritas and good food.

Also misqueued with Vicki on a movie the other day. We were interviewing people and if I could leave at 4:00 I was to meet Vicki at home -- if not, I was to meet her at the movie at 4:30. Somehow I got it in my head that if I couldn't leave at 4:00 it would mean I wasn't going.

Oh well.

Also went to the Beer 101 Brewery Tour of Flat Branch with Ryan and Kristie. Now Ryan really wants to brew. I'd better get some Oktoberfest ingredients.

Bri's coming in for a whirlwind weekend of leave -- going to a wedding with Kristin, then back to Marines camp. He'll be home again near the end of August, too, then it's off to support Iraq.

Hope he has better luck getting here this time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Guy/Kid Weekend

Vicki went to the Groves' house over the weekend for a girls' weekend for Cami's birthday. Mark brought the kids here.

We smoked ribs in the Big Green Egg, took the kids to the pool a couple of times, played some on the guitars (and mandolin) -- went to the Gelato Cafe for a late night dessert.

Went out to Cool Stuff and walked downtown a little on Sunday. Stopped at Osama's Coffee Zone for a drink and a cool-down.

It's been about 103 here for the last several days. Today we're topped out in the low 90's as a cold front apprroached.

All in all, a pretty laid back weekend.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Adams Family Reunion

You can stop singing the song now.

Went up to Detroit over the weekend to have a reunion with Vicki's Mom's side of the family, the Adams. Of John Quincy descent. Not Morticia. :-)

Drove up to Fort Wayne, IN on Wednesday. Vicki and I did some work around Mom's house Thursday morning -- I powerwashed out the gutters (dang, that's a high roof!) and washed the porches off while I was at it. Vicki cleaned out behind the fridge and the cold air return and picked up sticks in the yard. And she made sure any falls I might make off the ladder -- that was much appreciated.

We got kinda wet, as the rain I didn't think would get here picked up.

Drove up to Detroit Friday afternoon. We didn't know it, but Jim & Carol were coming in from Chicago and hit Marshall about the time we did. If we'd gone to the same restaurant we would've seen each other. But we showed up in the hotel parking lot in Detroit within 2 minutes of each other.

We had a good time with them -- we get along with those two pretty well. We'll have to go see them in 'Vegas, Baby sometime. Well they actually live outside of Vegas... in the ... MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmountains.

Saturday morning didn't look promising. But the forecast was still for hot with a chance of afternoon showers -- scattered. But by the time we left for the reunion, the rain had set in, and it rained HARD, as in pull-off-the-side-of-the-road hard. And the rain continued till around noon.

However we had a pavillion, and some of the kids got to splash in the big puddles and got soaked to the bone (especially Jackie and Mike's kids). But everyone got there and Will and Joanne brought tapes of Fern/Joanne/Ev singing songs in 1956 -- people got cards out, Vicki and Karen went and picked up the rest of the food, and by early afternoon the rain stopped and before we knew it it was a full blown summer picnic with badminton and playground playing and face-wiping of kids and the occasional time-out. ;-) The husbands of the Pyles girls did a great job handling the kids letting the girls visit with their cousins and aunts and uncles. Paul & Mike came in from Atlanta. And Niki was great with all of the kids -- apparently she does a lot of babysitting/daycare for the other girls. I did a lot of visiting but relegated myself to taking lots of pictures for a lot of the day (imagine that!) I'm in the group shot, just to prove I was there. I think a few other people's cameras (Kevin's, as operated by Adriene, probably) may have a shot or two of me.

I think everyone had a pretty good time.

A bunch of us went out to Bennegans across from the hotel (the ones of us stayin in the hotel + Pam) -- and I went down to Mike's room afterward to visit with Mike and Pam. Looked up where the restaurant for the Sunday Morning brunch would be. Entered it into my GPS. We had intentions of hanging out and yammering for some time but by 12:40 we were wiped.

Had a great brunch at Kallaways, went and visited at Fern's house, then headed home. We stopped in Marshalls and ate at Schuler's -- which has a bit of history with the Adams clan. Nice ending to the Reunion weekend.

Putzed around in Fort Wayne today -- developed some pictures, went to Steinmart. I got a cool new watch and a belt there. I think Vicki got an inexpensive pair of shoes.

I never complain about women and their shoes. I appreciate their efforts :-)

I think tomorrow it's a visit with Linda Krick, and then we'll be off to the Home Office in Missouri.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

An Engaging Fourth

Brian had 2 days leave after a month of training. Add a holiday weekend, and that gives you time to spend a few days with your family.

He flew out of Jacksonville to Charlotte on US Airways, but they were late taking off and missed the connecting flight. They put him and several (10-15) people on another flight to Chicago the next morning to catch a connecting flight to St. Louis. They slept in the airport

They landed in Chicago -- and time was short to catch the connecting flight. The airline said they'd call ahead and have them hold the plane since there were so many people who had missed the first connection.

They got there in time, and they all hustled through the Airport O.J. Simpson style and reached the gate with just 2 minutes to spare. They told the people there who they were, but the airline folks said "sorry, no more boarding", and closed the gate and they watched that flight take off without them.

The next flight to St. Louis was scheduled for 11:30 am or so, and they got on that one and taxied to the runway. And the generator light came on. So back in for an hour of maintainence and they finally took off and landed in St. Louis at about 1:30-ish.

We were all headed down to Kristin's Parents' place in Warsaw to watch the fireworks on Truman lake. We left at 3:00, and Brian and Kristin were coming from St. Louis. They stopped in Columbia to clean up and to pick up a little something Brian needed for later that evening.

Got down to Warsaw and had a good time with Kristin's Parents -- they'd smoked up a brisket and some turkey. Everyone was supposed to be there about 5:00 but Brian and Kristin didn't get there until about 6:30-7:00.

We hustled it out to the lake and put John's boat in and went out and tied up with a bunch of their friends near the dam. Got in the water with some noodles, and waited for the fireworks.

In the middle of the fireworks, Brian took the opportunity to propose to Kristin. Everyone on Brian's side knew it was coming. Kristin's dad knew, too -- but he was supposed to know much earlier in the afternoon than he did. Still, everyone was happy about it. Kristin's a great girl, and they like Brian a lot.

So ... that was pretty exciting.

Brian, Kristin, Vicki, & I went out to Sam's on Sunday and did some fishing. The bluegill were biting right and left, and Kristin caught quite a few of them. We got a few largemouth's, and Sam pulled in a decent catfish. Even Vicki, who had fished but never actually caught one... caught one.

Monday we had a neighborhood BBQ - Brian, Kristin, Matt and his new girlfriend Brooke and Ken were all over. We walked down to see the fireworks. They were about like Warsaw's without the lake and without the engagement ;-)

Congratulations to Brian -- and don't fly US Airways if you can help it. They offered him ... nothing.

Old Friends

The Everetts came to Missouri from Florida to visit in late June, and they came up to see Mizzou, their Alma Mater and visit with us. I hadn't seen them since... Oh, 1990 ... when University of Miami came up and handed Mizzou's football butt to them on a platter.

I think we held them to 55 points ;-)

Guy and Carol Lynn grew up as neighbors, dated all through high school and college, and I was at their wedding in the mid to late 1980's. Guy and I had a lot in common philosophically, although at the time they were both WAY more socially developed than I was. They kind of took me under their collective wings. Carol Lynn was a pretty, sweet thing. I used to tell Guy if he didn't marry her that I would. (Like she would've had me back then ;-) ) Anyway, Guy stayed wise and married her himself and they are still every bit as in love as they've ever been -- which is cool to see these days. It's a cliche thing to say. Many people say that and it isn't really true, but with these two they don't even have to say it. You can just see it.

We met them on campus Saturday Evening and showed them all the changes (many, many changes) There were even places on campus I hadn't been since they've changed them -- and I work here. We ate at the Hiedelberg, then continued the campus tour. We had a great time and didn't get home until like 10:00pm.

Sunday I put a brisket on to smoke at 6:00am. They came over in the early afternoon.

Now I expected to have a decent time with them, but the visit blew away all our expectations all around. We had a great time talking about everything under the sun, had some drinks, showed Ashley a few chords on the guitar... the brisket turned out very good. We cheated and picked up beans and cole slaw at Buckinghams.

It was pushing 10:00 pm before we knew it. They could've stayed until after midnight and we wouldn't have cared -- but we had to go to work in the morning and they had a LONG drive ahead of them in the morning.

So I guess we need to go see them in Orlando now.

Float Trip

Sunday we left with the Williams' for the annual summer float. This year it would be 6 people... ok, 6.5. Harold & Lynn's baby Kate is a year old. They didn't actually float with us, but they camped.

After my mountain trip, I went pretty minimalist on food. Pretty much, I didn't want much preparation or cleanup. We did bring the new big monster tent, and the nights were cool and dry. We didn't even put the rainfly on.

This trip we had the air mattress, too -- a welcome change from the blue pad. I call it "Luxury Camping". Your car and all the supplies you could possibly need, right there in your car.

Jack's Fork was fairly dry this year -- we haven't had much rain -- so we floated from Eminence to Two Rivers (where Jack's Fork meets the Current).

We had a really good time. The water was cold, but the day was warm -- not too hot. Plus, when you float on a weekday 1) there's way fewer people on the river and in the campsites, and 2) it's cheaper.

Except I lost my wedding ring in the water. My good one. I've worn it on 3 previous float trips with no problems -- however, I DID lose 16 lbs this spring. (That South Beach diet. Gotta reccomend it. Vicki reached her goal, too.) That, cold water, and sunscreen probably did it in.

Fortunately, I don't have any precious gems in my wedding band. It's a simple gold comfort band. Not TOO expensive. And it isn't even my original band, so there wasn't THAT sentimental value. Still, it was my nice ring, and I ordered another. No more float trips for the wedding band.

Maybe next year we'll go a little less minimalist on the food -- it's part of the fun of the float trip.

Trail Ridge Road again, then Home

Tuesday night, Wednesday, June 15

I did not renew my lease on my campsite for Wednesday night/Thursday Morning. If the weather was anything like it was Tuesday, I'd stay all day and maybe climb Twin Sisters or Deer Mountain. But I was starting to think about getting home, especially because of the float trip we were leaving for on Sunday and I wanted to have a couple of days home to put things away and also get ready for that trip. On top of that, the Everetts would be up the weekend after that and the house was fairly dishevelled from all the road trip preparation and the associated lack of attention.

Besides, another night on the blue pad just wasn't appealing. I thought I might even leave in the evening and drive until I got tired and sleep in the car at a truck stop again. The car seat would be more comfortable.

But that thought gave me an idea. I pulled the booster seat pillow I use on long trips to hold my gas-pedal leg up to keep it from getting fatigued and took it into the tent with me. The worst part about the blue pad was my hips and tailbone. This is a thin pillow, and would fit easily in the sleeping bag with me in the right spot.

I slept well, and in the morning there were clouds. Hmmm... maybe I'll just go home this morning. But I had to break the camp down no matter what anyway, so I set about doing that. By the time I finished, the sun was shining.

I decided to check out the Morraine Park museum I'd driven by every day for the past week. It was... ok. Mostly geared toward kids. I'd take mine there if they were grade-school age. There is a nice view of Morraine Park from there as well. Got back in the car. I looked in my dayhike book and noted that the Twin Sisters round trip climb would take all day the way I hike, and it was pretty steep. I'd be very tired and wouldn't feel too much like driving far. Clouds came again, further sealing the deal. I would probably leave during the day.

I drove back up toward Estes Park. The sun was coming out again. But it was going to be on again/off again. I got to the turn-off to Trail Ridge Road. And the Mountain Gazzette motto popped into my head.

"When in doubt, go higher."

I turned onto Trail Ridge Road to go back to the tundra one last time.

The road really isn't that long, and it wasn't long before I reached the Rock Cut and Tundra Trails. It was fairly crowded, although I'm sure it gets much worse. I looked over the Forrest Canyon Overlook on the way, snapped some shots of some high, frozen lakes, and at the Rock Cut I took off up a tundra trail to try to reach a peak and take in the views along the way.

Up at 12,000 feet, the wind was pretty strong. When the winds "down there" were 26-30 a couple of days ago, they were over 80 up here. Today, they were significant. I reached one of the peaks on Sundance Mountain -- this one about 200 feet below the actual summit. There was a plaque on the rock outcropping at the peak commemorating Roger Walcott Toll who was involved in the National Park system as Superintendent for Mt Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Yellow Stone National Parks during periods between 1919 and 1935. Love of the High Country. Wanting to make it accessible to us. My kind of guy.

I scrambled up the outcropping which was 15 or so feet high, and there was the mountain index marker mentioned on the plaque. The wind was really whipping now and I was having trouble standing. I set my camera on the little 4" tripod for a peak shot of myself, and I even had trouble getting it to stay standing, but I managed. The clouds to the south and west were building and getting very dark. I needed to get down to the car in case any of them produced lightning. No cover above the treeline.

I started hustling down. I could see a storm headed right for Long's Peak, and I got a couple of shots of it as it engulfed the summit. Glad I wasn't climbing that puppy today. I wasn't moving fast enough, though, so to make up time, I decided to sprint.

Sprinting at 12,000 feet is not something a flatlander does terribly often or well, but I had spent a lot of time at 8,400 feet and above for the last week, and it was fine. I often get that winded here in Missouri on a sprint like that. I was both amazed and happy that I could make up the time.

I got back down to the car before any snow or sleet hit, and drove back down, knowing that this was it. I was headed home, about Noon on Wednesday.

I went through Estes Park to Lyons, down through a traffic-ridden Boulder, into Denver, and out 70 for the first time (I've never left Denver on 70, I've always gone through Castle Rock and out 86 - but I was in a hurry).

On the way down to Lyons, I actually got a pressure headache from the relatively quick descent. For the first time, I could see what's so attractive about Boulder. The mountain views are more spectacular than they are from Denver, for sure -- in more directions.

I could see pretty snow-capped mountains in my rear-view mirror to the North Northwest, and I gave my reluctant goodbye to them. I swear they make you want to turn the car right back around and go back. I once again marvelled at the stark beauty of the High Plains of Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas. Good darned thing I like them, too, because there are a lot of them. Upslope storms brewed all afternoon, keeping the car shaded and cool and providing some pretty lightning displays.

Tonight I would sleep in my own bed. If I didn't waste any time I could be there by 1:00AM.

I didn't. And I was.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bear Lake, Alberta Falls, Mills Lake, Glacier Gorge

Tuesday, June 14

I could see right away it was going to be the beautiful day that had been predicted.

Today I would go up to the Bear Lake area Mahtaj had told me about -- probably one of the most popular destinations in the park. I would not be alone, for sure, but what a day to do it.

After the morning breakfast and cleanup I drove up to the Bear Lake parking lot. This time I decided to use the daypack instead of the fanny pack after yesterday's experience. I had everything you're supposed to take with you on a mountain hike, including my fleece and outer layer. Compression shirt, my teflon pants and shirt I got at Bass Pro -- thin socks under thick socks. Water. Trail mix. Hat. A few emergency supplies.... and treked the 500 feet to Bear Lake. Whew. Glad I brought all this stuff!

Truth be told, the fleece and outer shell took up most of the room in my daypack. It's lightweight, but bulky.

Bear Lake was very pretty. There's a trail all the way around it, and lots of people were there from all over the world and from all walks of life. My camera was acting up. Couldn't get it to turn on for quite a bit -- and then finally, it snapped out of it. I swapped photo-shoots with a man and his wife, and went around the lake, then headed down the path towards Glacier Gorge, Lake Hiyaha, Loch Vale, and other points. Not sure where I'd end up.

The ranger at the trailhead cautioned against Hiyaha without hiking poles as the snow on the trail apparently got very deep. So I headed toward Alberta Falls.

I ran into a pretty big cascade that I thought was it, and hung out there for a while, taking pictures and soaking it in. I was getting warm so I zipped my pants legs off and rolled up my sleeves before pressing on.

And then maybe another 1/4 mile up the trail I came upon the real thing. I probably spent about an hour here, too. The area was made up of gigantic slabs of granite with a few boulders, and the falls surged and turned around a boulder, slicing a narrow channel through the solid rock maybe 4 feet wide at one point. I don't know how deep, but that water was movin'! It cascaded down a little ways and then plunged maybe 30 feet for the "falls" part of the falls. There were lots of people around, and it was about lunch time so I sat and ate some trail mix and jerky I'd brought along.

So Glacier Gorge was further down the trail -- although you could bypass it and go to Boulder Brook -- I was pretty sure Glacier Gorge and Mills Lake would be my final destination. Don't like to try to "Do" the area, I want time to enjoy it. The trail got a bit steeper and rougher as it wound up around Glacier Knob. At one switchback I turned to look at the view and I could see Estes Park in the distance. I decided to turn my cell phone on and see if I got reception. I was a little surprised, but not shocked, to get one bar! I tried calling Vicki, but the call wouldn't go through. So I hiked on.

On the next switchback, I was a little higher and I saw a boulder to stand on, so I hopped up, turned the phone on and got 3 bars! So I called Vicki and chatted with her a while while a chipmunk pretened not to be begging for food at my feet. Told her where I was and to be sure to tell Sam, and what a beautiful day it was. And continued up the trial. A couple of guys passed me with lightweight gear heading for a backcountry site in Glacier Gorge. That had been my original plan before I drove up here but this trip would be a dayhike-trip-only for me, and that was fine. Still, I couldn't help wishing I were heading up there to do what they were doing for a bit.

A couple passed me -- the guy had a Mizzou hat on. He went to Mizzou, and lives in Kansas City. Another couple really floored me. The young woman was hiking in very good hiking boots, a red plaid skirt cut a little above the knee, a cotton shell, and a pink woven bonnet. She had a backpack on, too. I got the impression that she was no stranger to any of this. Now there's an oudoors woman who's proud to be a GIRL, I thought. And you all probably know how I feel about that.... so I was impressed.

I hiked over streams on little plank bridges with one rail, and the trail varied from granite slabs where you couldn't really tell right off where the trail WAS to very well tailored steps to curb erosion to nice bridges with two rails to very rocky and sometimes loose "gravel".

Started seeing snow around 9,700 feet, and ended up with a stunning view when I got to Mills Lake.

My feet were very hot, and one of them was threatening to blister. A John Denver song (imagine that! Actually written by Eric Andersen) had been playing over and over in my head for about the last hour

Take off your thirsty boots and stay for a while
Your feet are hot and weary, from a dusty mile...
My feet were goin' in that lake!!!!!

I rounded the left side of the lake and found a large granite slab that went out into the water about 40 feet with a couple of glacial boulders sitting on it. The veiw was stunning. I didn't realize it, but Longs was just ahead to my left. From this angle, it looked like just another peak in a series of spires to the south. Cheif's Head is prominent at the end of the valley. Snow came down to the shoreline on the other side of the lake. Everywhere you looked -- breathtaking.

I took my socks off to dry and sat with my feet in the water for a good while. Then I decided to strip down to my compression shorts and shirt and get in. It's a shallow lake, probably not more than 4 feet deep through most of it as far as I could tell, so it wasn't nearly as cold as I expected -- not that it wasn't very, very cold. All I'm saying is a quick dip of my head didn't cause a brain freeze like in West Fork Chicago Creek two years ago.

I hadn't been completely wet in days, and it felt good. I knew the microfiber would dry fast, and it was black so I'd stay pretty warm in the sunshine while it did so.

The socks were pretty much microfiber, too and they dried quickly. I was probably at the lake for two hours, but as 3:00 started to roll around, I knew I'd better start back down.

I met many of the people I'd seen on the way up on the way back down, including the Mizzou couple and the couple with the woman in the plaid skirt. When I passed the point from where I'd called Vicki, some people who'd passed me while I was on the phone were there on the way down. I mentioned that and they said they thought I was on the phone with the office.

Clearly, they don't know me ;-)

Now I'd decided to spend another day since today was so nice. I got back down to Moraine Park and took some sunset shots of a cascade, a bunch of Elk, and a coyote -- then decided I didn't feel like cooking (well, I didn't feel like cleaning would be a better way to put it) and I went in to Estes Park for maybe some Pizza.

Called Vicki, and she talked me in to going to Grubsteakk or something like that where I had an elkburger served up by a pretty northern European waitress with an endearing accent. It was a good burger - a little expensive but I expected that.

And I gassed up as I headed back to camp and the dreaded blue pad.