Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Coarse and Anarchistic

I like this old song. I like it a lot. It touches something deep in my core.

The Good Boy

I have led a good life, full of peace and quiet,
But I shall have an old age steeped in rum and riot;
I have been a nice lad, careful of my morals—
I shall be a grandad full of vice and quarrels.

I have never cut throats—even when I've yearned to;
Never sung the queer songs that my fancy turned to.
I have been a good boy, cowed by smug conditions;
I have tied my real self tight in inhibitions.

I have been a sweet boy, wed to peace and study;
But I shall have an old age ribald, coarse and bloody—
With white hair and red face—full of hell and likker—
When I get a bad thought I shall let her flicker.

I shall quit the good life, full of peace and quiet,
And I shall be a Falstaff steeped in rum and riot—
I shall leave the straight path, which I've walked dejected;
I shall be an old bum—loved and unrespected.


I have led a good life full of peace and quiet,
Now I shall have an old age full of rum and riot;
Yes, I have been a good lad, careful and artistic;
Now I shall have an old age, coarse and anarchistic.

Once I paid my taxes and followed every rule;
Banker, boss, and bureaucrat thought me a willing tool;
I voted Democratic and paid the church its due;
Now all those swine will have to find some other chump to screw.

Of interest, banks and credit, insurance, tax and rent,
Of lawyers, agents, generals and clerics I repent.
With this finger for corporations
and scorn for those elected,
I shall be an old bum, loved but unrespected.

I prefer the second version as sung by Utah Phillips.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Perfect Weekends

I enjoy work. I enjoy play. I enjoy playful work. The last two weekends have been a fine blend of both.

The cistern was cleaned. It took six weeks to let the water get low enough to pump the cistern dry. Using a brush, extension handle, bleach and a wet-dry vacuum we scrubbed it before refilling. Before it's cleaned next year I plan on buying extension wands for the wet-dry vacuum. I could barely reach the back bottom area.

Cleaning the cistern.
Cleaning the cistern. (Larger version)

Julie and I poured a concrete floor in our sun room in preparation for installing tile. Originally I planned a stone floor but she requested tile. Working together we mixed and poured slightly over four yards of concrete made with crushed glass.

I cut the doorway into the house and have about one hour's work remaining to finish the trim on the doorway.

The room has exceeded my expectations. I knew it would be enjoyable but I didn't anticipate Julie's ability to turn it into a irresistible piece of paradise. I'll publish photos after we paint and install the tile.

Impatience caused us to move a futon, small dining table, two chairs, round braided rug and one other piece of furniture last weekend. We'll have to move the furniture out before finishing the room in about ten days but until then we're having group breakfasts with birds and rabbits outside the glass wall.

Lesser Goldfinches.
Lesser Goldfinches. (Larger version)

This has been an excellent spring for birding. This morning I counted 25 Mourning Doves in the yard. Last week Julie saw a Roadrunner. We see about one Roadrunner per year. Here's a list of some of birds that we've seen in the last week in the yard:

  • Northern Flicker
  • Robin
  • Scott's Oriole
  • Raven
  • Black Chinned Hummingbird
  • Pinyon Jay
  • Scrub Jay
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • House Finch
  • Lark Sparrow
  • Cow Bird
  • Mourning Dove
  • Ring Necked Dove
  • House Sparrow
  • Greater Roadrunner

It's snake season again. Last year I saw the first rattlesnake in the yard on about May 10th. All summer I saw nothing but rattlesnakes. This year is different. On a trip to get a load of water we stopped to say hello to a four to five feet Gophersnake crossing the road. On the way back we saw a small dead snake on the road. Tire marks in the dirt road seemed to indicate an individual of the variety with an ochre nape went out of his way to run over the snake. It was lying on this back and the makings and colors on it's under side were beautiful. An off-white neck with faint black spots became a light pink that turned a deep pink on the tail. Julie gently touched its still soft body. Truly beautiful.

This weekend Deb and Chris, Julie's sister and brother-in-law, are visiting from Texas. Another perfect weekend is coming!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

GC Sunday

(This is my final segment on our Grand Canyon weekend. Other good things have been happening that I want to write about.)

Sunday began sunny and pleasant with a few scattered clouds. The temperatures in the Canyon had peaked at 82 on Friday and Saturday. The forecast for Sunday called for a small chance of showers later in the day. We made hot tea, had a cold breakfast and loaded our pockets with food before leaving Phantom Ranch.

Looking at the North Rim from the Bright Angel Trail.
Looking at the North Rim from the Bright Angel Trail. (Larger version)

Hiking is relaxing and offers opportunities for observation and reflection. As we starting walking I reflected on the previous two days. There is a ranger station at Phantom Ranch that offers two daily presentations. On Friday we attended a presentation on California Condors and a game of Jeopardy based on the history, flora, fauna and geology of the canyon. Saturdays presentations were on the subjects of plants and bats. We heard fascinating and useful information. At home I have a bat house, a gift from my son and daughter, that wasn't occupied last summer. I learned I need to raise it higher above the ground.

Julie looks back at the first steep climb.
Julie looks back at the first steep climb. (Larger version)

The first half of Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden is slightly over 3 miles in length and climbs approximately 1,300 feet in elevation. The trail crosses the silver bridge and follows the south side of the river before beginning a fairly easy climb. This is my favorite part of the trail.

Trees in bloom at Indian Garden.
Trees in bloom at Indian Garden. (Larger version)

Indian Garden has a campground, water, toilets and a ranger station. It's a social environment where mule riders, day hikers and backpackers congregate for a break. A woman approached me and asked if my name was something or other. I told her "No" and asked why she was looking for this man. She had taken a nine day river trip and was dropped off earlier that morning. Her sister was continuing on the remaining nine days of the trip. At Indian Garden she was scheduled to meet a man who would hike down to the river and take her place for the rest of the trip.

Taking a break at Three Mile Rest House.
Taking a break at Three Mile Rest House. (Larger version)

The remainder of Bright Angel Trail is a climb of 3,100 feet over five miles. There are two rest houses named Three Mile and Mile and a Half. Due to cold weather the water was shut off at these stops. We filled our hydration packs and set off for the next rest house. One of the best things about climbing out of the canyon is the freedom to eat with abandon. Hikers expend about 500 calories per hour so we refilled our pockets also.

Looking down on Indian Garden and Three Mile Rest House.
Looking down on Indian Garden and Three Mile Rest House. (Larger version)

I've never found the hike out of the canyon to be difficult. Julie and I set a pain-free pace that gives us the ability to talk easily. It's an enjoyable climb taking switchback after switchback being unable to see our destination above while enjoying views to the north. Our final climb was uneventful. We packed YakTrax in case we needed them on the ice pack below the rim but there wasn't much ice though there was one long stretch of soupy mud. The trail was a mixture of dry stretches, ice, mud and snow on shaded sections.

Nearing the South Rim beneath a cloudy sky.
Nearing the South Rim beneath a cloudy sky. (Larger version)

Nearing the rim we passed hikers descending the trail wearing long pants, heavy coats, gloves and scarves. By contrast I was wearing shorts and a long sleeved tee shirt. The warm sunny skies and pleasant breeze of the morning had been replaced by solid clouds and a cold wind. Shortly after arriving at the top, a brief snow shower began.

The weekend ended too quickly.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

GC Saturday

Footsteps on gravel preceded the door swinging open. "Good morning, gentlemen. It's five AM. Breakfast is in thirty minutes." I climbed out of the top bunk in the dark and headed for the one facility that was shared by ten of us before dressing and going in search of Julie.

Phantom Ranch.
A portion of Phantom Ranch as seen from an overlook on the Clear Creek Trail. (Larger version)

In the past Julie and I had eaten one supper in the canteen and had purchased sack lunches but never breakfast. For this trip we packed lunches and breakfast for Sunday morning but made reservations for Saturday's "big breakfast". The cost was $18 each and the menu turned out to be eggs, bacon (no thank you), pancakes and peach halves. Meals at the canteen are served boarding house style. The table is set and guests help themselves and pass the food down the table. The food is brought into the canyon by mules and any remains from the all-you-can-eat meals are packed back to the rim by mules.

The Dorms.
The Dorms. (Larger version)

After breakfast as the sun began to color high canyon walls Julie and I took a walk around a two mile loop that crosses the silver bridge, turns east along the south side of the river, climbs perhaps 150 feet above the river, joins the South Kaibab trail, passes thorough the tunnel, crosses the black bridge and proceeds west along the north side of the river. Along the way the trail passes Anasazi ruins and the grave of a worker who was killed in a accident while constructing the North Kaibab Trail.

The Canteen.
The Canteen. (Larger version)

Part of the group had planned a day hike to Ribbon Falls which is about 6 miles north of Phantom Ranch. Julie and I had discussed hiking up Phantom Canyon. When we got to the mouth of the canyon we saw three people wading the stream and two others farther ahead. The canyon was narrow, brush filled and partially shaded from the early sun. We changed our plans and continued north for about a mile before returning to Phantom Ranch.

Loading Mules.
Loading for the Return Trip to the Rim. (Larger version)

After a lunch in the campground we wandered past the mules. Julie pulled green grass and fed two mules as I played with my camera. I thought about asking "Have you ever kissed a mule?" but thought better of it. I could anticipate some response like "I kiss you. Doesn't that count?" Instead, I raised the camera and said "Give that mule a kiss."

Kissing a Mule.
Kissing a Mule. (Larger version)

After lunch we opted for some time alone. Julie chose to find a comfortable spot and read a novel. I chose to follow the Clear Creek trail for a couple miles. The trail climbs about 1000 feet, passes Phantom Overlook where most of Phantom Ranch is visible, and continues almost nine miles to Clear Creek.

Colorado River Below the Clear Creek Trail.
Colorado River Below the Clear Creek Trail. (Larger version)

The views from the top and the experience touched something spiritual in me. It felt good to be alive. No one broke the solitude. Flowers were in bloom, birds were singing and a few lizards scurried for cover. A breeze tempered the sun and a few clouds led shadows across the river and canyon walls. Far below rafts floated down the river and stopped at the beach. I could see the rafters but not hear them. They were in another beautiful world that was separated from my perfect world.

The Clear Creek Trail.
The Clear Creek Trail. (Larger version)

When I got back to the Ranch I found Julie sitting by the creek reading. A while later I asked "What's been the best part of the trip thus far?" "Sitting here reading" she replied. "I've thoroughly enjoyed it." I understood. The best part for me at the point was the time I spent alone on the Clear Creek Trail.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

GC Friday

We're back from paradise but...; but, I'm already planning my next two trips.

Sometimes I wonder if I would ever get enough and be ready to say no more hiking and backpacking. I rarely get excited but I looked forward to this adventure with growing anticipation. The trip was planned about a year and a half ago for August 2007 but the reservations were changed to avoid the heat of summer that is over 110 degrees.

The Group.
The Group. (Larger version)

Kevin, on the left in the photo above, was the central person in the group. He and Julie used to work together. Soria, next in line, is from Ecuador and works with Kevin's wife. Allen is an accountant who lives near Chicago. By coincidence Michelle, next in line, is also an accountant and works at the university in St. Paul, Minnesota. On the right are Julie and myself.

Kevin, Allen and Michelle met in Colorado a few years and stayed in touch. They've taken other trips together and have more planned for the future. I asked Michelle how she got into backpacking. "I was at a conference in Las Vegas. A group of us rented a car and drove to the canyon. When I saw it I said to myself I've got to get in there!" Allen likes mountaineering. He's climbed some peaks. He attempted the highest peak in Mexico and make it over 17,000 feet when the altitude got the better of him. I've experienced altitude sickness only once and know what he felt and why he chose to stay behind while the others in the group climbed the remaing 2,000 feet to the peak.

Our Destination.
Our destination isn't visible. (Larger version)

We met by the fireplace in Bright Angel Lodge and took the 9AM shuttle to the North Kaibab trailhead. The trail is 7.2 miles in length from the top to Phantom Ranch on the far side of the Colorado River. The trail descends 4,714 feet in altitude.

Mules and Riders.
Mules and Riders. (Larger version)

Adventurous people weighing less than 200 pounds can take a mule trip. Notice the third mule in the photo above. He's carrying a small girl but he was hurting. As we watched him pass going uphill he was lagging behind the second mule, his head was drooping, his tongue was hanging out and his feet were dragging over logs on the trail that prevent erosion.

More Switchbacks.
More Switchbacks. (Larger version)

"How are the knees?" I asked. He appeared to be in his sixties and wasn't carrying a pack. He used two trekking poles and was cautious with each step. "They've given out" he replied. "I owe my brother a couple beers for carrying my pack." I look ahead and saw his brother, who may have been an older brother, with a pack on each shoulder. Hiking downhill quickly becomes painful. Knees begin to ache. Years ago I knew when I had gone five miles because that's when the pain began. Now, it starts within the first mile. Good boots that are broken in, fit well and laced tight prevent blisters and lost toenails. Six years ago Julie and I hiked to Havasu Falls in the western part of the canyon. She lost the nails on both large toes from boots that were too small. On this trip neither of us had problems with our feet. We kept going down and ignored the knee pain.

Three Hikers on a Red Trail.
Three Hikers on a Red Trail. (Larger version)

The immensity of the canyon is somewhat incomprehensible. It's 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep. It's awesome to stand on the edge of a cliff and look straight down 1000, 2000 or even 3000 feet. Can you see Kevin, Michelle and Allen on the trail in the center of the photo above?

Final Switchbacks to the River.
Final Switchbacks to the River. (Larger version)

The final switchbacks that lead to the river made me think of lemonade. The canteen at Phantom Ranch sells what has to be the best lemonade I've ever had. When we arrived and Julie checked her hydration pack she found water in the hose but not in the bag. She was one drink short of emptying it. There is no water on the South Kaibab so we had to carry enough for the entire trip. After warm water the cold lemonade is refreshing.

If you look at the larger version of the photo above you can see a building and trees in the side canyon that leads a short distance to the campground and Phantom Ranch. Also, there are people on the beach.

Black Bridge.
Black Bridge. (Larger version)

There are two bridges over the river. The South Kaibab leads to the black bridge which was built in 1928. Is is used by hikers and mules. The south end of the bridge leads into a short curved tunnel. There is a newer silver bridge a short distance to the west that was designed to support a water line that carries water to the south rim. Hikers but not mules use the silver bridge.

Looking Back Across the River.
Looking Back Across the River. (Larger version)

The sides of the canyons and the area along the river were covered with scattered flowers. The canyon walls on the south side of the river show the difficulty of constructing trails. There is a trail visible in the photo above that was constructed with hard labor.

Home for Two Nights.
Home for Two Nights. (Larger version)

This is the first time I've stayed in the dorms which are segregated into men's and women's, ten people per dorm. Someone asked if I knew the others in the dorm. The answer is no other than Kevin and Allen. Meeting strangers is part of the adventure.

Well, that's the trip to Phantom Ranch. On my next post I'll have photos of the ranch itself.