Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve. Perhaps my favorite night of the year. The Christmas music at our house has turned from the jazzy and whimsical to much more traditional flavor. King's College Singers, Rita Ford's Music Box, a pipe organ and church bell album, and a Medieval carols album - along with some baroque brass just to water it down a bit but still keep the feel.
The tree is glowing, bursting with presents. Mom and Vicki are playing cards at the dining room table. I have a great Boulevard Nutcracker ale in one of our fancy pilsner glasses. I think I'd break out the Gloria Blend incense if Vicki could stand it. Oh well.

I just finished decorating about 7 dozen sugar cookies. Made the date nut bars and mexican wedding cakes yesterday. And we have the fudge and Vicki's butterscotch cornflake thingies. Brian and Kristin will be over in an hour or so for the traditional Adams Christmas Eve dinner of oyster stew & cinnamon pears.

Man, you know it's Christmas in this house.

New favorite Christmas albums for this year are Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band's "A Tapestry of Carols" (I can't get enough of her voice -- kind of like Vicki and Il Divo) and I discovered the King's College, Cambridge Choir -- those Brits sure know how to do Christmas music.

I pulled up another pretty good one today on Rhaspody -- that being the Vancouver Cantata Singers. That's Vancouver BC, not WA. Nice stuff.

Anyway, sorry for the lapses in posts. A Merry Christmas to all five of my readers (ok, so I guess a few more people than that actually read it) and especially to Katie, Sam, Matt, and my dear Aunt Pat out in Colorado -- one of my favorite states. I know Katie & Sam won't see this until after Christmas ... but I'm wishing it now.

And a Happy Birthday to my Aunt Pat as well.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

IE7 - Sucks

When I recently flashed my Creative Zen Nomad MP3 player to the latest firmware, my computer at home couldn't seem to install a driver for it. (the one at work worked just fine). So I uninstalled the previous Nomad software and rebooted. No luck.

So I decided to go out and get ALL the windows updates.

I got them, including IE7, and I could get to the device after that (it's only halfway, but that's another issue. It works well enough).

Now I leave my computer on all the time at home. I have a cable modem. It's ready to look anything up on the net I want to. Check email. Whatever. Anyway, after the updates I noticed that if the computer goes to sleep, when I wake it up network connectivity is all screwed up. Well at least network connectivity for IE and Outlook Express.

At first I blamed it on the new router. But the new router worked fine for a couple of weeks before this happened. The triggering event seems to have been around the time I did the Windows update.

And get this -- I could connect to websites with Firefox while IE was locked up and couldn't connect to anything. Outlook Express would lock up, too. Logging out of the user interface and logging back in, I think, seemed to get rid of it -- but what a pain.

I decided to go back to 6. But first, to uninstall 7. Which I did. Well, as well as you can uninstall IE from windows. No icons for it anywhere, but it was still the default browser. So when I clicked on links from Firefox, up came the "uninstalled" IE7.

I went hunting around with Firefox to find IE6 at Microsoft. It kept directing me to Service Pak 2. Install Service Pak 2 to get IE6???? But what about all those post SP2 patches? Then I have to run them again? And make sure IE7 doesn't get re-installed?

I also read somewhere that IE7 disables IE6 anyway, so it may be all for naught.

But I read somewhere else that there are instructions for going back... so it may naught be ;-)


Incidentally, I installed Mozilla Thunderbird as an email client, and Firefox is my default browser now. Guess what? The machine doesn't lock up anymore when you leave it sitting and it goes to sleep (monitor/hard drives turn off) and you wake it back up.

My review on IE7 so far??? Boooooo!!!!!!!

Monday, December 11, 2006

O Christmas Tree

Got the tree up over the weekend. Well, at the end, anyway. Friday was the Unrath's annual Christmas party, which is always a houseful of chatter. That's the gauge of the success of anything bigger than a very small party. If you have to speak up a little to be heard over all the voices. The volume of the voices. That's the measure. Once again, what I would call a huge success.

Saturday we went to Kevin & Brian's open house for the Grand Opening of their security and sound buisiness (Command Security -- go check 'em out, today! ;-) ) Kevin had built and installed the demo security, TV, & sound systems. Kevin ... and maybe Jay, another co-owner, built all of the display "walls" and installed demo systems throughout the office/store. It looks good. They have a surround sound demo room with a plasma TV, and all kinds of nifty home security and automation devices complete with monitors, video and otherwise. Makes you feel in Command of your security. And Sound. ;-)

From there we went to Bill's open house at Lawn and Leisure (fellow Elk and local farm equipment dealer) where he had a gigantic steak luncheon for like 300 people. Vicki and I watched Sam & Bill & Don & Greg play pitch in the "Lawn and Leisure Social Club" for a couple of hours, then we all ended up over at the Elks for a couple more hours. So I got nothing done that I'd planned to Saturday afternoon.

Sunday the tree had to go up. We're running out of time. We got it last weekend and it's been in the garage, still tied up from shipping from Michigan to Columbia. I'd had it in a bucket of water, and it had started taking water up pretty well by friday. Cut another inch off and brought it in.

Of course, since it was never unbound we didn't get a chance to have it "shaken out" at the tree farm. So there were LOTS of needles. But it turned out to be about a perfectly shaped tree. So I put some Christmas music on and strung the lights up. We'll probably get around to decorating it tonight.

Last night Brian and Kristin came over to watch the first half of the Bears-Rams game. Of course, Vicki and Brian are huge Bears fans. And I used to be a St. Louis football Cardinals fan, but I disowned them when they moved. And I just can't get past the idea that the Rams are supposed to be in LA. So I never adopted them. I think the team name should stay with the city, frankly. I have nothing against the Rams. Just can't seem to identify with them as a St. Louis team.

The Rams played close for the first half, but it was pretty much all Bears in the second half.

Mean time I'm in the middle of a Z-pak getting rid of a persistent low-grade sinus infection that had gone to my ears. It's muuuuuch better already. This is the beginning of day 5.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Winter Walkabout

As I mentioned, we decided to go on winter walkabout down at Cedar Creek Sunday morning. My only stipulatoin was that I had to be back by 2:30 to go to the tree farm with Brian & Kristin (and, of course, Vicki -- but that should go without saying).

We got to the Cedar Creek wildlife area before 10 am, after going and grabbing the traditional dogs and buns at the grocery store. Nobody had been on the trail since the snow. It was a virgin snow trail -- and good thing we knew about where it was, as it was, of course -- burried.

Early on in the trail is a grove of large cedar trees, and it was like entering "Christmas Land" going past the first ones, as 20-30 foot cedars loaded down with snow towered around us. The only tracks in the snow were numerous rabbit tracks and several deer tracks. Every now and then you'd see a little rabbit sized hole in the snow, and rabbit tracks leading out of it. I guess their fur keeps them warm even when surrounded by snow.

The snow was about knee deep and powdery - it moved easily. It also stuck to my dungarees, and by the time we reached the island, the bottoms were frozen tubes, practically clanking against my ankles.

We set about finding material to make a fire. Most of what we found that looked dry had been soaked in the days of rain before the snow storm and frozen -- so it didn't catch easily. We finally wandered a couple of hundred yards to a known cedar grove where we found plenty of drier dead ceader twigs to get things started. Cedar has an oil in it that helps it catch even if it isn't completely dry.

Still having trouble with the magnifying glass method, we actually ended up after several healthy tries -- using matches, because time was a factor. We didn't scrounge up much wood, but enough for a small, hot fire that melted the ice from my pants and had steam pouring off of them into the 18 degree air.

I was feeling a little queasy, though, and the smoke wasn't helping. I ended up just eating buns, because the hotdog didn't sound good. I wasn't really even in the mood for taking many pictures -- which was a shame considering the scenery. I did get some, as you can see. We never even got around to firing the guns -- usually a staple of walkabout. There are typically cans that less wilderness conscious people leave lying around and/or they've floated down the stream and gotten caught on the island. But they were all under 15" or so of snow. And it was cold. And I did need to get back by 2:30. So after a successful fire, albiet using matches -- gathering and cutting/breaking up burnable wood was challenge enough, and it was time to put the fire out and go.

I got home in time to stablize my stomach with some tums & sparkling water -- and by sitting very still for a bit. Then Brian & Kristin showed up to take us to the tree farm in Brian's gigantic pickup -- which was quite handy considering even Nifong had a thick blanket of very bumpy ice on it.

Apparently a re-enforcing front passed between the time we left Cedar Creek and the time we got out to the tree farm. The wind picked up, and it was waaaaaaaay too cold to spend a lot of time outside picking out a tree. The wind chill must have been in the single digits.

A lot of the firs hadn't been unbound, and we always get a fir. They can't grow them right here, this tree farm grows pines, but imports firs from tree farms in Michigan. And being so cold even if you unwrapped one it wouldn't fall out so you could see how it looked. Eh. In the end, they all look fine once you get the lights and ornaments on them So we (and Brian and Kristin) each got one and put them in the pickup before going into the little gnome Christmas store to look at their ornamengs, get some glogg, and pay for the trees. And ornaments. You always have to get an ornament.

Got back and thawed the trees in the garage with Mr. Heater, the catalytic propane heater. Kevin and Angela came over and joined all of us for some turkey noodle soup -- yeah, that's HOME MADE, Jack, with Reems noodles and turkey frome the carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey we froze a week ago. Real live chopped up carrots, celery, and onion. Poultry seasoning, salt & pepper. That's pretty much all it takes. And a big stock pot. I have a huge one.

After dinner we sat around and yacked a while while Angela made Vicki a necklace to match some earrings Vicki had bought in Eureka Springs -- she matched it very well. Found the beads herself and made it right before our eyes, and added a magnetic clasp. Vicki's very happy with it. Kristin was feeling pretty sick (turns out she has strep -- we found out today) and Brian and Kristin took their tree home. A bit later Kev & Angela left and we pretty much crashed.

So, that pretty much sums up the snowy weekend.


A good snow around here is 6". 8" is not uncommon. 2-4" is much more common.

We got one of those one-in-8 to 10 year snowstorms Thursday night. At first, it looked like it was going to do what most early-season snowstorms do around here -- that is, a warm layer aloft would persist long enough to ensure all we got was a bit of sleet.

The same amount of water that makes about 1" of rain makes just a few inches of sleet and about 10-12" of snow. So if it stays sleet, it doesn't pile up as much. Still, the forecast called for 10-15" in our area. But we've seen that before and been disappointed.

We went to bed about 10:30, and we had about 2" of sleet outside. The forecast called for heavy snow overnight -- a lot of it between 11pm and 2am. I got up, thirsty, at about 1:00 am. Looked outside. Still about the same amount of sleet, and it looked kind of "foggy" -- but it was probably snow.

I went back to bed convinced we'd have about an inch or two of snow on top of 2 or 3 inches of sleet.

We got up -- Vicki wanted to leave early because she wanted to avoid the traffic problems caused by people who freak out if there's even a trace of snow on the ground. I looked outside expecting to see what I had expected to see -- not a lot.
Apparently sometime between 1:00 am and 6:00 am, we got about a foot of snow. Vicki's car was smothered, and snow had drifted against the wall outside. I looked out on the deck. A good 2 feet piled up there. But it hadn't occurred to us yet that that was too much to drive a passenger car in. So we started getting ready as we watched the local weather channel and slowly it dawned on us that we weren't going anywhere today.

Paul Jackson (down the street) had stayed up all night watching it. He said we had thundersnow, and whiteout. The weather guy (we call him "Doogie" because he looks like Doogie Hauser) said it had been falling at 2-3" an hour. I know, not much for you northerners, lake-effecter's, and mountain folk. But that's pretty exciting for us here in mid Missouri. Anyway, I missed seeing it fall. I slept like a log.

I spent about two hours shovelling out our driveway that afternoon, figuring the folks the neighborhood association hire to do it had their hands full and we might not see them for a day or two. I got out to the street right when they showed up to do it. They do our street as well. The city STILL (three days later) hasn't gotten to the surrounding streets... so we're the only clear street in the neighborhood. Even Huntridge still has about 4" of packed ice on it right now, and you have to drive over that to get to our street.

We put some split pea soup on (we had the dried peas, a can of carrots, and a frozen hambone --whoohoo!). Sam came by after running snowblades on campus all day and pulling stuck cars out. He was tired and cold. So we had a fire and fed him soup before he headed home to his animals.

Anyway, we got out Saturday and did a little grocery and Wally World shopping. There are walls of snow everywhere, pushed up by the plows. Columbia doesn't have the resources to deal efficiently with a snowfall like this. And we don't get them very often, so that's ok. Traffic was very slow, there was about 4" of ice on any road that wasn't a major road, and even some of the major roads were still like that by late Saturday afternoon.

On our way home we were driving by Peking ... and it just sounded good. So we stopped in and had a nice meal there. And then had a ... "happy evening" over at Daryl's with the Williams. And it was there that it was decided Ryan and I would go on Walkabout on Sunday.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gone Wireless

Yup. Finally broke down and got a wireless router. The old laptop upstairs can now play music off of the big hard drive down here over the stereo in the living room -- or ... it can play streaming audio directly from the web.

The Thanksgiving travel is over. Winter is on it's way. Actually, after a week in the 60's, big changes are in store tomorrow night. They're talking about highs around 30 and lows over the weekend from 9-13 degrees. Real live winter.

I have the lights up and ready to go outside. I was going to wait until the weekend to turn them on -- but with snow forecast for Thursday, I probably won't be able to resist turning them on early. Well it WILL be Nov 30.

I'm about to flash my MP3 player up to the latest firmware, but it will wipe out all the music on it, so I have to back it up first. So I need a good 22 GB of free space to do that. But when I'm done no special drivers will be needed for it for XP. Plus there are a couple of little quirks I hope it addresses. I think I'll use MediaMonkey to reorganize the files while they're on the hard drive. Go with a naming convention and all. Yeah....

Lee's got me trying A Soalin' again on the guitar this year. It's kind of a carol. Christmas-esque. It's the most complex piece I've ever attempted. Yeah, I'm still having trouble with it. But it sounds so cool. I'm starting to break out more of the Christmas tunes to practice as well.

Brian & Kevin's grand opening of their new home security& sound business is this weekend -- but I'll be out in Cooper Hill, so Vicki will have to "represent". Going out to Mom & Dad's Saturday to put up some metal siding on the goat milking shed. So it's an excuse to get my rechargable drill battery replaced. It wouldn't hold a charge, and it'll need to on Saturday. Fifty bucks! I'm not sure the drill cost any more than that to begin with.

Oh, we went over to Brian & Kristin's last friday night. Her parents & brother Brian (not to be confused with her husband Brian) had come up for Saturday's football game vs. Kansas. Mizzou won handily -- and they were supposed to lose handily.... so I guess that helped make up for a couple of sloppy losses. They had lost 4 out of their last 5 before that. Anyway, we had a good time just yammering up a storm and watching the end of Shrek II. They're really nice folks (I think I've mentioned that before) and a lot of fun to boot.

Bart continues to behave just barely well enough to survive. I cut a bigger door for him to get to the litter box, and at least while Mom was here he wasn't even pooping at the bottom of the stairs anymore.

But just in case we missed it, he left us a nice present down there when we took her back.

Danged cat. And here he is just purring and looking at me.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

November Business

As in ... "busy"-ness.

Yeah, yeah. It's been a while. So, to catch up -- we spent a weekend with the Groves. Mark and Cami wanted to go to a home show and actually be able to concentrate on looking at home show stuff instead of reining in children. So we went there to stay with the kids during the day while they went.

But Nathanial had a football game.

It turns out Nathanial is the quarterback on his team. He's 6. It is kind of funny to watch 6 year olds play football. Their little attention spans aren't really all up for a game yet. At one point, Nathanial was showing a caterpillar he found in the grass to another player between plays. Everyone else was lining up way down the field. Football game??? I got a bug here!!!!

Anyway, they lost, but Nathanial did well, lobbing some pretty good passes for a 6 year old, including this touchdown pass late in the game.

He also did a decent job blocking for his running backs (that's him in the air between the defender and the running back)

Probably saw a caterpillar in the grass. Effective block, though. The kid scored on what would probably be the 6 year old equivalent of a 70 yard play.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't show you ... the cheerleaders -- little tiny voices, big huge cheers.

We sat and played guitars and cards -- Mark & me more with the guitars, Vicki & Cami more with the cards.

Sunday we went out to their land to scope out the plot for their new house -- couple of years off yet, probably. But we traipsed around the field and woods. Got a couple of butterfly shots out there. It's 10 acres of land several miles east of the airport in Missouri.

Anyway, Vicki's car had been acting up, and it got worse on the way back from KC. The computer said ithat it was misfiring on cylinder 5. I decided to get new plugs and wires for it. Simple enough, right?

Well... not really. In order to get to the back three cylinders you have to remove the air intake manifold which is connected to all kinds of things that don't just snap off (or at least they shouldn't). Fortunately, cylinder 5 was in front, and replacing that one did fix the problem. Still, I need to replace the rest of them just for "balance". I wanted to get it done before I went to Chicago for Cognos SDK training.

Which leads into the next topic -- I went to Chicago for Cognos SDK training. A three day course in Schaumburg, IL. They keep you busy during the day, and I being married and over 40 and, well, actually serious about the training -- had no desire to go see the Chicago night life. Hooters with Terry from class was as close as I got. He is from Minnesota. Neither of us had ever been to one.

And pretty much it was over priced food with over priced beer and questionable marketing practices (you want fries with that? ... well, not really, I'm not that hungry. You want fries. As if they come with the sandwich anyway. They don't. $4.00). So -- you get to eat bad expensive bar food & $4 beers while watching girls in skimpy orange shorts and t-shirts and very thick tights serve it to you. I could have had better beer and food and watched womens' figure skating for a lot less. I probably won't be back. Neither will Terry. But we've been now, so we know.

On the other hand, Aneta at the Big Horn Brewery remembered me from 7 months ago. She's about as good a waitress as you'll run across -- and I remembered that from last time. Pretty young woman, too -- so I was happy she was working and apparently in charge of my area (which was the coctail bar looking over the kitchen). Got to watch them cook my food. And everyone else's. I still hate eating by myself. Being away and alone makes you appreciate your wife and family and friends more, I decided. For the record, it was WAY better than Hooters and not much more expensive (I had a very good ribeye, fresh cooked broccoli, and fries that weren't cold or soggy (or $4). Oh... and of course, a local microbrew beer. Which kicked the pants off of any beer they had at Hooters. When in Shaumburg, go to the RAM. Great food. And I've always had great service. But then again, I've always been served by Aneta. :-)

Took off from Schamburg Friday evening to go to Fort Wayne to get Mom for Thanksgiving. We switched her to DSL from MSN dialup. And Verizon DSL has a partnership with MSN so she got to keep her MSN email and MSN explorer -- no new interface for her to learn.

Well, I'm glad I was there to do it. Couldn't get it to work. Called tech support and got some Indian dude who said they could send a tech out in the morning (Saturday!) as early as 8:00. I said 8:00 was fine. I got up and was ready. He also said that if they were able to fix it from the phone company they wouldn't call. If a tech had to come out they would. So around 10:00 I called since they hadn't just to make sure they didn't think it was fixed. We needed to leave in the morning and nobody would be there this week to straighten it out. Got another Indian dude who said no, man, nobody could come out until Monday. Well 30 seconds after I hung up with him, a local guy (not Indian) called and said he was sending a tech out. A couple hours later a tech came out. Turns out they gave him the wrong circuit. So he went back to the phone company and had it fixed in half an hour. But there were a few more calls to a few more Indians (but I think they were Canadian -- one of them said he went to Goshen college up by South Bend) to get her dialup account transferred to a Verizon DSL account. So it was all done by evening.

Aaaand we had a fairly uneventful trip back here.

We went to Kristin's basketball game last night -- she's coaching again this year. It was probably the best game we've seen them play. They won 36-33, and played hard to do it. (here she is, coaching).

We met Brian at the door by chance, so it was a family affair.

And not that anyone cares, but I just updated the firmware on my camera. Supposedly now I can use the new SD HC cards. And maybe gained some speed in autofocusing. Hopfully they addressed some battery meter issues as well.

Brian and Kristin and Kevin will be over for Thanksgiving... a holiday I like about as much as I like Christmas (which is quite a bit) and it's always better with people around. Sam's invited, too -- but we'll probably have to twist his arm.

And with that, I'll sign off. I'll try to be better in the coming weeks about regular postings.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Vacuum Cleaner Update

By the way, it turned out the problem with the vaccuum cleaner was a safety switch on the front.

You have to take the beater-bar assembly off of the cleaner to attach the hose and use hose attachments. Apparently I wasn't getting the beater bar attachment back on correctly, so the safety switch wasn't being pushed in.

So all is well, and the vacuum cleaner .... sucks ;-) Very well.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006


We went to Eminence and Eureka Springs a couple of weekends ago, after my last post. It's not that we didn't have a good time, it's just that not much to talk about happened.

It did get cold the two nights camping -- though we expected it. The first night was around freezing, but we did ok with our air mattress and assortment of flannel sheets and sleeping bags. It was a cozy bed. I had bought a catalytic tent heater, but it was the smallest model and probably made little difference in our huge, 8 (or 10?) person tent. It would probably do better in a 4 person tent.

The daytime version of the Haunting in the Hills was about the same as last year -- it seemed like they had fewer participants. Or maybe we went too early. At any rate, the guys I was with weren't real interested and we ended up going back to the campsite. The ladies had gone off to a craft show -- which was apparently kind of "bleah". Typical "gingham & hearts". Not our style. If you like yarn animals -- well apparently they were all the rage.

We had some nice camp fires, good food -- Kristie's dad and brother came, and Harold and Lynn (Harold's almost a brother to Kristie) and their little two-year old daughter were there. It was pretty laid back.

Went on to Eureka Springs on Sunday. Got there in the evening. We stayed at the Ridgeway House - nice place, nice folks. At at Ermilio's -- always a great place to eat. It was only a couple of blocks away from the B&B.

Rain (2") was forecast for Monday, and it delivered. We wandered around, umbrellas in hand. Went to our favorite cheap cheezy leather shop and Vicki got a new purse, and I got a new camera bag and hat (yes, another hat of power -- this one's a little more "Clint Eastwood".) The other hat will probably be more of a city hat from now on. It's more of a fedora. New one has a wider brim, and it's a bit more rough.

But mostly we just enjoyed rainy Eureka Springs ambiance, and of course ate lunch at Geraldi's. Then we went to Autumn Breeze for dinner, mostly for the Choclolate Sufflette dessert. Eeeexxxxcellennnnnnt.

The new vaccuum cleaner works great... er... worked great. It's a Kirby, re-built. The headlamp wasn't working this weekend, so I took it out to replace the bulb. The bulb looked good, so I went to test the contacts, but the cleaner wouldn't turn on for me to test it. ???? So, I put the light back in. Still wouldn't turn on. I took it out, cleaned the bulb, and noted the positive contact on it was filed down. So I put a dob of solder on it and stuck it back in. And the thing turned on. I finished vaccuuming. But I went to turn it on one more time and it would not turn on. It's gotta be a loose contact.

So I took the housing off. Nothing obvious. So I put it back together. Unfortunately, I didn't understand how excactly it fit back in the housing, and I ended up breaking the upper switch mount (bakalite, it looks like) tightening the screw. I JB Welded it, but it broke again the next day when I tried again. So I JB Welded it again, but then built an epoxy putty support all around it. It's great now. But it still doesn't work, so I'm taking it back for the Kirby rebuilder guy to figure out.

Cardinals are in the World Series, much to everyone's surprise -- and they won the first game in Detroit -- much to everyone's surprise.

Last night didn't go so well. The sportscast and other sports press were trying to make a big thing out of something on Kenny Rogers' (the Detroit pitcher) hand in the first inning. He washed it off before the second, whatever it was. And whatever it was, he apparently didn't need it. Or he found a better way of hiding it. But you'd think that if there were any real suspicion, they would have checked his hands even after he washed the dark spot off.

You know, now that I'm thinking about it ... they said he had an ERA of 20 (that's really, really bad) earlier this year, and now he's pitched 22 or 23 scoreless innings in the playoffs & series. Quite the turnaround. A little suspicious. But turnarounds like that are what make the sport interesting. Overcoming challenges, bettering yourself.. I think the Cardinals showed a lot of class not making anything of it.

I don't expect them to win the series, but I hope they do.

Friday, October 13, 2006


Here's another -- a time exposure

30 seconds at F32 with 200 ISO. 73 mm on my Tamron 28-300 lens. (Pentax *ist DL digital SLR)

Not stunning. But kinda neat.

Harvest Moon

Took this with the Pentax a week ago.

It's not the best picture of the moon ever taken. But it's the best picture of the moon I've ever taken.

Viva la manual settings!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

If at first you don't succeed

(Friday, Sept 29)

I decided to leave the new camera behind. It's about 2 lbs with the lens. But I needed to take a camera for a summit photo, and maybe a few others on the way up. So I took the old Olympus.

I started up the road at 7:19am. One of the reasons I got the new camera is that the Olympus had some reliability problems. Plus I had dropped it several times on the Cedar Creek hike. It's still a little bulky for a pocket, and I had to find a place for it. I ended up putting it inside my outer shirt, right above my belt.

I took a few shots with it, but quickly confirmed that this could be a successful mountain climb, or a photo taking trip. Not both.

On the road below a couple had passed me in an SUV -- a 4WD which got them to the Lily Pond trailhead saving them 2 miles. I figured they were about 40 minutes ahead of me when I reached the bulletin board at the trailhead and saw it parked there.

Note: in the first picture above, the yellow path shows our thursday hike, the green path shows the friday path. Click on the picture for a bigger version. Oh... the blue is actual data from my GPS. The second picture shows all the data, plus a yellow path suggesting how we could possibly have reached the top on Thursday. The pictures are from Google Earth.

Within 40 minutes, I reached the wrong turn from the day before. An hour, and I was as far as we'd gotten the day before. About a half an hour later, I reached the meadow Sam had reached the day before. And within 10 more minutes, I could see the treeline.

I was feeling pretty confident. I was also pretty warm, even though it was under 30 degrees when I left. Matter of fact, I had to take my hat off (I let it hang off the back of my neck on top of my pack) because it was getting wet with perspiration.

When I broke out of the trees at about 11,600 feet, the top still looked pretty far away. In fact, it was probably over two miles away, maybe two and a half or a little more. The climb was fairly relentless. The trail level rarely leveled out for long. I kept running across clumps of trees up to about 12,000 feet where they were stunted, as usual, and then ... tundra.

I call this place God's Country. Above the trees. Little lichens and tiny plants that hug the earth for cover and have a growing season measured in a few short summer weeks. I called Vicki at about 12,200 to report my progress. I'd called a couple of other times on the way up as well. It was still pure tundra -- snow was patchy at best. The views were really opening up to the south and east. The mountain still blocked most of the north and the west, but the ridge from Elbert to Parry Peak was snow covered and impressive. Twin Peaks loomed to the south.

I could now pick out the two people ahead of me on the ridge past the first horn at around 12,500 feet and I pulled out my small binoculars to verify. The were making slow and steady progress. As was I. Emphasis on slow. Between the steepness of the slope and the altitude, I was huffing quite a bit.

There were crickets chirping in the tundra, to my surprise. It was one of the few sounds I could hear. I figured they were little, but I couldn't see any.

I popped up over the first ridge and got my first look to the north at 12,400 feet, and a strong, cold wind greeted me. My hands got cold from the wind chill and gripping the poles -- which, by the way, I was really beginning to appreciate. My legs were tired. It's easy to make a misstep when you're tired. Twist an ankle on a wrong step. Lots of chances to make a mistake. The poles not only take some of the work away from your legs, but they also help you keep your balance when you start to lose it -- protecting your ankles. It'd be a long hike down with a sprained ankle.

With the cold, I decided to roll my sleeves down and put my hat back on. Matter of fact, I thought I should pull my coat out and put it on as well. But my hands were so cold I couldn't button my sleeves.
I did bring the John-e Hand Warmer along, so I got it out and filled it with butane. Got my wind-proof lighter out. Couldn't get it to ignite. Low oxygen up here? Butane too cold? Too much wind? I tried warming it up and protecting it from the wind. No flame.

I'd brought my magnesium and flint kit along as well, so I scraped some magnesium on the hand warmer wick, and gave it a few sparks with the knife on the flint. Bam! Flame. I bagged it in the flannel pouch and warmed my hands. Stuck it in my pocket, and buttoned my shirt sleeve. Put on my coat and hat, and headed for that first horn on the rocky, snowy slope to the summit.

The wind died, and I removed the jacket and the hat again. Then I saw someone coming down the mountain. I met him at pretty much excactly 13,000 feet. He had left at 5:30 in the morning. It was his camper down at the lower trailhead this morning. He said he woke up at 3:00 this morning and couldn't sleep. He was too psyched. Heh. I knew all too well what he meant. He asked me where I was from, and I told him. "Ah, a flatlander", he said. He said he was originally from Virginia. When he reached the peak this morning it was 15 degrees and a good 30 MPH wind met him at the top. He said he'd made about 1,000 feet an hour. I reverse calculated and decided that was about what I was doing and used it as an estimate the rest of the way up. He wished me luck.

I ran across a spider in the snow, which I thought was odd. I got my camera out and took a picture. I forgot to re-button my shirt, though, and later the camera fell out. The lens retainer ring popped out. I wondered if the front lens popped out, but somehow I convinced myself that it hadn't. I popped the ring back in, stuffed the camera in my shirt again, buttoned it, and moved on. Hope it is ok.

By now, "beat" was an understatement. I was doing things like counting steps to keep my mind off of it. It helped me pick my feet up. One foot in front of the other. The snow was mid-shin deep in most places, but there were tracks to step in from the people ahead of me, and I used them. The poles were indispensible. I mean -- I PROBABLY could have made it without them, but a lot more slowly, and I wanted to be to the top by 1:00pm -- 2:00 at the latest. I had to get back down. I wanted to be down by 5:00 if I could. Kind of had my heart set on an Elk Steak in Twin Peaks. Plus, you just don't need to be up there late.

The trail kept disappearing and reappearing, in and out of the rocks and snow. I strayed from it when I couldn't find it. Called Vicki from about 13,500 feet. Sam and Vicki were in Leadville, doing coffee shops, the museum, and antique shops. I could see Leadville since I first reached the ridge 1,100 feet down -- I could even make out the colorful brick buildings downtown. It was about 10-12 miles away as the crow flies.

I told them I'd be at the top in about an hour. I tried to take a picture of Pike's Peak from there, but the camera wouldn't turn on. I had that problem last year in RMNP. I hoped it would snap out of it later like it did last year.

Only sheer determination to get to the top kept me going. This was definitely work. However, the views were more than rewarding enough, and they got better by the minute. Only about 500 feet vertical now. I met the couple from the SUV ahead of me on the way down. They assured me it was spectacular. They asked me if I would have taken a ride to the trailhead. I casually said "yes", but it was no big deal ... only a couple of miles. Truth was, especially now, I would have loved it. But I never would have imposed and I didn't begrudge them for not offering -- on top of that, they had no way of knowing that that I planed on going to the peak rather than just hiking around on the trails in the forest below.

Through perseverence, the peak approached surprisingly quickly. There is a ridge about 6-10 feet wide at the top, maybe 30 feet long, and a pole with some names burned into it. When I hit that ridge, I got my first 360 degree view. It was so stunning, I didn't notice the wind at first.

I had seen Pike's Peak for most of my way up above the tree line about 90 or so miles to the West South West, standing by itself. The Arkansas River Valley and Cripple Creek area in that direction was the only direction you didn't see snow capped peaks to the horizon -- and Pike's Peak sat basically in that window (it was, of course, snow-capped).

I could see Mount of the Holy Cross to the north, and I could even make out the Maroon Bells to the west. I was looking DOWN 1,000 feet on 13,000+ peaks.

And then that wind finally got my attention. I put on my hat, my gloves, my coat, and my ear clips. I called Sam & Vicki. "I'm at the top", I said. They said "We can see you!"


They were at the trailhead parking lot below. They were using my 30x spotting scope from the car. I waved.

"Can you see me waving?"

"No. We can just see what is obviously a person up there. Something flashes white every now and then."

Is it my phone? I tried flashing the phone at them. No. And I didn't have a signaling mirror. I tried waving my camera -- and while doing that, it turned on. I was relieved. But they couldn't see the camera flashing in the sun, either.

My coat was open, and I was wearning a light tan shirt. It might be catching the sun when I turn to it. That must be it.

They said heat waves coming off the mountain would obscure me at times, but then the wind would blow just right and the air would clear up enough for them to make me out again.

They said they saw someone coming down the trail toward the car. "Ask him if he's originally from Virginia", I requested. He was. The same guy I'd met about 3 hours earlier. They told him I was at the top. He said to tell me he was surprised. He was a kidder.... he also told Vicki all I did was complain about how my lazy wife wouldn't go with me (not true!!!) and that there was a couple up there with two young children and they were doing fine (well, there was a couple, no kids, though).

I tried taking some pictures with the camera. I could focus at infinity ok, but nothing close, and nothing zoomed. It was like it was stuck in macro mode. I later figured out that I'd lost the front lens when I dropped it. So I had to use my phone camera at arm's length to take the only picture of me at the top. But I did get a few of the surrounding mountains with the regular one.

I'd planned on eating lunch at the top, but the wind and cold was downright inhospitable. I took some time to look at the views, and called Brian. I could eat down lower where my face wasn't stinging from the wind.

It took me three hours to get down. Again the poles made that possible, on top of saving my knees, they probably saved my neck. The snow had softened in the sun, and I slipped in it easily, especially in my rubbery-legged state.

Vicki and Sam met me near where Sam had dropped me off. They walked up the trail a ways to see me, and I got a big hug and a welcome back kiss from Vicki. She decided I'd be too tired to go out (actually, I kind of wanted to). I was exhausted, but in a good way. I knew I looked it as well. Plus having leftovers saved us a good $60 or $70 anyway.

So, with the help of the Hat of Power, I made it to the top. It was my first official 14er climb. I've been to the top of Evans and Pike's, but drove to the tops of those.

As far as I could tell, I was one of 6 people to make it to the top that day. It felt good. I'm glad I did it.

And yes, I'd do it again.

Port of Indecision

(Thursday Evening, Sept 28)

We sailed from the port of indecision
Young and wild with oh so much to learn
Days turn into years as we tried to fool our fears
But to the port of indecision I returned

Jimmy Buffett - Lone Palm

Mount Elbert is a big, tall mountain. from the trailhead (for 2 wheel drive cars) it's about 6 miles to the top. Over those six miles, you climb about 5,000 feet -- almost a mile. We had hiked a good 8 miles on Thursday, round trip. Vicki was beat. I was beat. My legs were sore. We'd only made it 1/3 of the way up.

I poured over the maps to figure out where we'd been, where we went wrong, and how high we'd gotten, how far to the top.

But tomorrow was our last full day in Colorado (Saturday would be a travel day back home). I wasn't going to make Vicki go with me, and I knew it would take all day. On the other hand, it was right outside the back door, and I was acclimated to the altitude. Realistically, I wouldn't be back here any time soon. There are so many other places to visit. The weather couldn't be better. One variable was the snow. A lot of snow had obviously melted over the week, but it was still hard go judge the depth from a few miles away. Plus, I'd told people last year I wanted to climb Longs Peak -- but went too early and there was too much snow. This year, I'd said I wanted to climb Elbert. "I took a wrong turn" just sounded lame for some reason. Besides, I'd never actually climbed a 14er. Sniktau was a 13er, and I'd driven to the tops of Evans & Pike's.

I got all my stuff together the night before in case I decided to go. I lightened the pack, taking only things I thought couldn't go without. I did decide to add a second bladder of water (that's 4 lbs). I went to bed, and all I could think about was trying.

I got up just before 6:00am. I think I always knew I had to go. But it wasn't until morning when I admitted it out loud. Vicki knew, I think, that I would go. Sam, though he hadn't said it to me, thought I'd regret it if I didn't.

Vicki fixed me a nice breakfast. Sam dropped me off 0.2 miles past the 2wd trailhead.

Elbert Day

(Thursday, Sept 28)

The plan was to get up around 6:00 am so we could be on the trail early. Since we didn't have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, an extra two miles each way was added to the climb. The total climb would be almost 6 miles. I had bought an Independence Pass topo map at the forest service office on Wednesday, and I could see the end of Twin Lakes at one edge.

Before we left the cabin, I couldn't find my hat. It wasn't in the car, either. I figured I must have left it down at the creek the evening before. Sam and Vicki had remembered me messing with my hair before we left for the creek yesterday -- wouldn't have done that if I'd been wearing my hat -- but we weren't quite sure. We drove down to the creek, and didn't find it. I miss my hat. That hat and I have spent most of my time in the mountains together. It keeps rain off my head, sun off my face and neck, and out of my eyes. It keeps my head warm when it's cold. Plus, I bought it in San Diego (my birth town) and I'd been looking for just such a hat for a long time. I hope it turns up later. Vicki and I needed to get climbing, and it was already after 8 by this time.

Sam dropped us off a little ways up the 4 wheel drive road -- as far as the Taurus would make it. That was about 0.2 miles. We set off, and Sam went back to the creek one more time to look for my hat. He was going to climb some and take some pictures, but he had no plans to continue to the top.

We came to a fork in the road, and there was no indication which way to go. The trail didn't appear to be on my GPS, so I looked at my map. I
saw a 4 wheel drive road that split and then came back together after a half mile or so, so I thought it didn't matter. We went up the shorter, steeper fork in the road and ended up in an alpine meadow. The view was awesome of Twin Lakes and the surrounding mountains in the morning sunlight and clear blue sky. We crossed the meadow and the road turned west, just as the map suggested, and we went through some beaver ponds and ended up by a rusted metal sign like the one at Willis Gulch -- but this one was more clear. Mount Elbert, thataway! It wound around another beaver pond, and we came to another fork. There was a large bulletin board with signs over to the left across a bridge, saying "please stay on the trail", etc. I figured the right way to go was over that way, then -- though there was no real indication. I figured the trail would wind back up to the north eventually, even though this way was southwest. And soon we came across one more fork in the road. One that went back down toward the car, the other lead up, and quickly. Again, nothing indicating which way was the right way -- just CTD trail, and arrows pointing ... well, pretty much in all directions. We trudged up the steep one in earnest. After all, we had 5,000 feet to climb.

It was some of the steepest hiking I've ever done, but it was walkable. It appeared at this point to be another 4 wheel drive road. We wound up several switchbacks, through signs that said "Public Road through Private Property Ahead, Please stay on road" or something to that effect. I knew Lily Pond was on private property, so I figured that must be it.

However, we got up to about 11,500 feet and I hadn't seen the pond yet. Something was wrong. We called Sam. He said he hadn't found the hat, and that he was sitting in a meadow. We thought it must be the one that we'd come across. But after talking to him a bit, I figured out it wasn't. I got the map out, and zoomed out on the GPS.

We were on the wrong trail, headed up a peak to the south of Elbert. We asked Sam if he'd come across a bridge. He had. He said there was a sign pointing the way to Mt. Elbert, and we thought it must be the one we saw. We must've missed something. At any rate, it was 11:30 by now and I knew we wouldn't be making the summit today.

We agreed to go meet Sam wherever he was and headed back down the old mining road. We crossed the bridge, and to our surprise there was a fairly obvious wooden sign pointing to Mt. Elbert ... the opposite direction we'd taken when we'd come to this fork. From the direction we'd come, that sign was behind a large willow bush, and facing the other way. We'd missed it completely (Picture to right: red is the way we came and went, green is the way we should've gone) We went by a few large, smelly beaver ponds which I realized was the Lily Pond area, and through a large aspen grove. Then another sign saying "Mt. Elbert" which pointed to a trail that went up... fast. Sam said he wasn't far up that trail. Vicki was tired. Heck, I was tired. We went up several switchbacks and soon got to snow, which made the trail slippery. Thank God for the hiking poles. These were new to us, but they were proving their worth today.

Still no Sam. Vicki needed to sit down, and sat down on a log right in the snow. We were at about 10,300 at this time. Sam had hiked a little higher. I told him Vick could go no farther, and he started back down toward us. He appeared within about 10 minutes.

I was bummed. I'd lost my hat, we didn't make it to the top of Elbert. We hiked back down to the car, and I noticed I couldn't focus on anything with my camera. The focus ring had come loose on the lens. Strike three. Bummer of a day, I thought.... knowing that the sights I'd seen were fabulous and I shouldn't be thinking that way.

Back up on the trail a couple of hours before as I was muttering about losing my hat, Vicki mentioned that Sam and I had gotten out of the car at Twin lakes the day before near the Elbert Trailhead parking area. It was then I remembered that I had taken my hat off -- even moved it when I moved once, but still had it laying on the ground -- so I could get down low and look through the camera viewfinder. I'd even told Sam (not that I thought it was his responsibility) "don't let me forget my hat."

Well, I remembered -- that's what must've happened. I had it at the Maroon Bells, I had it in Independence, I didn't have it at the cabin or the creek. That had to be it. It had been left on the side of 82 by Twin Lakes, and there was a decent chance someone had seen it and picked it up.

But there was a decent chance also, it being the middle of the week and less than 12 hours of daylight ... that it MIGHT still be there. We drove up to that spot. And there it was, right where I'd left it. Sam said it was a real mountain hat now, having survived a night alone on a mountain road. It's been through a lot more than that in the mountains, but I agreed, just thrilled to have it back.

I told Vicki and Sam the reason we didn't make it to the top of Elbert was ... I didn't have "The Hat of Power". I put it on. I felt a little better.

When we got back to the cabin, I tried focusing the camera on various things to see if I could get the focus ring back on right. But no matter what I did, manual or automatic, it wouldn't focus on anything. Now that's just odd, I thought. At about that point, I started looking for other things, and I noticed there is an eyepiece focus adjustment on the camera. I put it in the middle, and tried focusing again. Bingo!

There was nothing wrong with the lens after all, the eyepiece focus compensation was just out of whack. I figured out which way the focus ring went on -- and we set off for Vicksburg, a few miles south and west of us. Two strikes of my three strike day had been revoked. I was feeling better. But I could feel Mt. Elbert scoffing at me.

It was getting late in the afternoon, and we were driving west into the valley where Vicksburg lay. The sun was shining through the aspen leaves, and we were pretty much gasping at the views on every turn. Sam and I got out to shoot a lot of pictures (still need that oversized lens
hood!!!). Missouri Mountain was in this valley as well, and I was trying to figure out which one it was. We saw trailhead parking for Missouri Gulch, and across the road was parking for Vicksburg Museum. We saw a couple of cabins, but figured that couldn't be the "Ghost Town" we were looking for. A gate was closed, and it said "Private Property". So we pulled in to the trailhead parking to see if there was any Vicksburg information there. It had to be close, according to the map. There were a couple of guys, one from the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center (and I think maybe his son?) camped out there, about to make a two day assault on three 14ers, including Missouri Mt., Mt. Belford, and Mt. Oxford. I was jealous ... and interally shamed at my failed attempt today on Elbert -- all in all probably an easier climb (though I guess I don't know that for sure, but that's what I thought!) Talked with them a while, and they said they had the same problem at Elbert before -- it was poorly marked. They went up the same peak we had started up (only they went all the way to the top of it at least) So I felt a little better.

They encouraged me to try again, and I told them I was thinking about it but frankly I was beat from today's feeble attempt and I knew Vicki wasn't up for it. She encouraged me to try as well, though. A solo attempt. Hmmmmmm. Maybe. We went back to the place that said "Vicksburg Museum Parking" and a couple was emerging from the area -- that was indeed it, you just had to go back a ways to see the other cabins.

They were boarded up for the winter. As a matter of fact, it's not acutally a ghost town at all. The cabins are owned, and lived in during the summer - mostly by decendents of the original owners. Some you can rent out. There was a little of the self-guided tour the forest service office lady had mentioned. We read some of the signs and listened to a recording. Took some pictures, and went back home for a spaghetti dinner.