Thursday, May 28, 2009

Busy Week

Julie is home! It was a long cool week with dreary gray skies. The weather was unusual for this time of year. It rained lightly several times during the week. It was the first rain since last fall so it was welcomed even though it made the week seem longer, darker and more quiet.

Merrian Crater wearing a cloud cap.
Merrian Crater in the distance is wearing a cloud cap. (Larger version)

A few days ago I saw the first Bullock's Oriole of the season. Scotts Orioles arrive first around the time the hummingbirds return. Bullocks are about two weeks later. It seems like we have many more Orioles this year. Last night within a hour I counted about thirty-some coming to one of two feeders.

Bullocks Oriole.
A Bullocks Oriole photographed through a window glass and protective bird netting. (Larger version)

While Julie was gone I made two trips to Payson to pick up 20 feet of culvert 60 inches in diameter. The man had 26 feet for sale but when I arrived he wanted to keep 6 feet for his son. I'm going to cut the culvert into sections for raised garden beds. I fenced an area larger than my current beds so I have additional room. The cost was only $10 per foot!

A 14 feet section of culvert 60 inches in diameter. A few quick cuts with a saw and I'll have several more raised garden beds! (Larger version)

A Rock Squirrel came through the yard recently. It's been two years since I last saw one inside the fence. The last one was drinking from an Oriole feeder that was hanging from a dead tree. This squirrel was digging into a berm where I bury fruit and vegetable waste from the kitchen.

Rock Squirrel.
On a rainy morning a hungry Rock Squirrel dug into the berm where I bury fruit and vegetable waste from the kitchen. (Larger version)

Last weekend I built and hung a gate on the garden so this weekend I hope to plant. Temperatures this week have been getting down to about 37 degrees but this cool spell should end soon.

We've ordered new windows for the house. I picked them up three weeks ago and hope to begin installation this weekend.

We've been busy lately. Busy is OK when I control the schedule and have plenty of wildlife to cause me to stop, watch and take a break!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Change in Plans

We never went to Clear Creek or to the falls as planned.

The trip from the rim to Bright Angel campground on Monday was more tiring than previous trips. One hundred degrees isn't unpleasant given shade but the sun can be brutal. Julie and I discussed our plans and decided not to go all the way to Clear Creek. Tuesday would have been nine miles of sun without shade and without any source of water. Our back country permit was good for the area east of Sumner Wash so we chose to spend Tuesday at Phantom Ranch and hike past Sumner Wash in the evening hours.

About 5:15 PM we started the climb up the Clear Creek trial. The sun was above us much of the way so we hiked in shade and some weak sunshine. When we reached the top a strong wind kept us dry and cool. We found a campsite and pitched the tent in the twilight. The night sky was beautiful.

On Wednesday morning we rolled out early, made sure the tent was securely anchored, filled our pockets with food and began the return trip to Phantom Ranch where coffee and bagels awaited. During the day we moved from moment to moment depending on the whims that struck us. That's what made the trip good. No agenda. No destination. No plans.

Wednesday evening we returned to our campsite and another beautiful night of solitude.

During the trip we met several people: an Asian family from San Diego, two friends from Boston, a mid-west couple who own a bowling alley, a Pennsylvania man who turned 60 on Saturday and took a solo celebration hike while his sister cared for his wheelchair bound wife. One of my favorites was two radiologists. One was 72 and the other 79. They were slow, stiff and past their primes but they were still going. Inspiring!

The friends from Boston confirmed our decision to abandon our plans to hike the plateau to Clear Creek. They started the climb up the trail at 7 AM with four quarts of water each. One made the statement "the sun was brutal". He said they needed six quarts of water. At one point they had to erect a tarp for shade because they couldn't keep going. On their return they started late in the day, hiked until after dark and completed the hike in the early morning.

I had planned starting at 4 AM and would have carried five liters of water each. We would have made it but it would have been hot and I would have had to start out with about 65 pounds. That sounds like work.

I'm glad we changed our plans and had a few lazy days.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Exceeded Our Expectations

Our Grand Canyon trip exceeded our expectations. We're home and back to busy schedules. Julie is in Texas visiting her family and I'm trying to squeeze in an inopportune task. I'll write about our trip later in the week. Until then, here are a few photos.

Taking a break in the shade.
Julie taking a break in the shade at a switchback in the trail. She looks cool and relaxed in spite of a temperature of 100 degrees and having descended 4,000 feet in seven miles. Looks are deceiving. (Larger version)

Julie climbing the Clear Creek trail.
Julie climbing the Clear Creek trail on a search for a camp site for the night. (Larger version)

Camp site on the plateau.
A bad pre-sunrise photo of our camp site on the plateau. The tent is the small grey spot in the bottom center. The stars and moonlight on the landscape were unforgettable! (Larger version)

Sunrise on the canyon and plateau.
Sunrise on the canyon and plateau as we prepare to pack for the day and leave to escape the sun. (Larger version)

The boat beach near Phantom Ranch.
The boat beach near Phantom Ranch was busy with boaters coming and going and hikers cooling off in the Colorado. (Larger version)

Julie sitting in the Colorado River.
Julie sitting in the Colorado River. A boater checked the water temperature -- 57 degrees. (Larger version)

Cooling off in Bright Angel Creek.
Cooling off in Bright Angel Creek near the campground. (Larger version)

Drying my feet.
I'm waiting for my feet to dry so I can slip into my boots. (Larger version)

Unexpected visitor.
We had lunch beside the creek. I never felt anything but happened to see this fly on my toe. He wasn't disturbed by my movement to take this photo. (Larger version)

Julie reading.
Julie borrowed a book from the Phantom Ranch canteen and read it lying on a table under a tree. During the hottest part of the day we read, talked, slept and moved with the shade. (Larger version)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Fun Begins with Statistics

Our packs are laid out, food is organized and plans are being finalized. Sunday evening we leave for the canyon and will spend the night in a lodge so we can get an early start on Monday.

Our itinerary is Bright Angel camp ground Monday night (9 miles), Clear Creek Tuesday/Wednesday (9 miles), a day trip to Cheyava Falls on Wednesday (10 miles), return to Bright Angel on Thursday (9 miles) and back to the South Rim on Friday. A total of 46 miles before side trips.

Julie took the lead in planning the food. She did not buy dehydrated meals but put together a varied menu that seems perfect to me. I got curious and researched caloric needs for this trip.

May basal caloric need is 1,770 calories. Hiking nine miles on level ground would require 1,410 additional calories. The nine miles climb out of the canyon on Friday with an elevation gain of 4,600 feet will require 1,730 for a total of 3,180 to 3,500 calories per day. Julie will need 2,224 to 2,744 calories per day. I didn't include the weight of our packs when calculating these figures so we'll get to eat more. We've packed 16 pounds of food for the five days.

Normally before a trip I weigh our full packs but not each item. This time I weighed things separately.
    Paul - 39.4 pounds total
  • Pack - 5.6
  • Tent - 5.4
  • Sleeping Bag - 2.2
  • Thermarest Pad - 1.2
  • Stove, fuel, water filter, first aid kit, lantern, metal food sack - 4.8
  • Food - 16
  • Water - 4.5
    Julie - 15.2 pounds total
  • Pack - 6
  • Sleeping Bag - 2.2
  • Thermarest Pad - 1.2
  • Pillow - .4
  • Cooking Utinsils - 1.2
  • Water - 4.2
There are a few items omitted from the above: change of socks, camera, treking poles, two water bottles, etc. Tuesday will be the heaviest day because I'll double the water plus a little. However, we'll have eaten Monday's food and we have only a thousand feet climb. Since there's no shade or water across the plateau we'll start about 4:30 AM and avoid the hottest part of the day. The last day will be our lightest since we'll have eaten most of the food.

The high temperatures on the South Rim will be about 80 degrees, on the river 99 to 101 with lows at night in the upper 50's. I'm assuming Clear Creek will have a high of about 95 degrees and a night time low of 55 degrees.

I doubt there will be much if any water at Cheyava Falls since it's late in the spring and it's dependent on the snow fall on the North Rim. It would have been better to have taken this trip a month or six weeks ago but work schedules came first. The term ended last week so Julie is off for the summer. This is the earliest we could plan. Regardless, it will be enjoyable to watch a few drops of water fall 800 feet. Even if we decide not to go to the falls there are Native American ruins in the area to be enjoyed from a distance.

Statistics, numbers, details! They may sound boring but they are part of planning a safe and enjoyable trip.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Time to Plant Corn

She came in smiling while carrying a bag and said "It's time to plant corn!"

Hopi seed corn.
Hopi seed corn. White corn on the left, blue in the middle and sweet corn on the right. (Larger version)

A few months ago a co-worker offered me some seed corn. About a month ago she told me they had planted corn near Sedona and that she would bring in the seed when the time got closer for planting locally at our elevation. Now is the time.

We talked for a few moments and she explained how the Hopi planted the corn by placing four or five seeds together. Being in a desert environment they plant in low areas where summer rains will provide more water.

I don't know how well corn will do but I'll have an enjoyable time trying to get a few ears.

Before my friend left she asked if I wanted some Hopi beans.

Oh, yes!

Now, I've got to find a good way to reciprocate and show my gratitude. That's a good problem to have.

Monday, May 04, 2009

First Sighting

Julie saw the first snake of the season. Yesterday, as she was nearing the steps to the deck, she heard one rattle and saw it crawl under the steps. She called me and went for the camera. I could never find it.

Hopi Rattlesnake.
Hopi Rattlesnake. (Larger version)

This morning I put out feed and water. I walked by the snake without noticing him (her?) but saw him beside a fence post as I returned. I find it interesting how the brain learns to recognize their distinctive camouflage patterns. A few moments later I watched a young rabbit walk close by the snake oblivious to his presence.

It's fascinating how they circle and nestle into the ciders. Tonight he'll be gone but the distinctive circle will remain.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Functional and Beautiful

I first heard of the concept of the functional being beautiful in 1965. I was in New York City with the high school Key Club touring the United Nations. The young lady conducting the tour pointed the the exposed concrete beams in the ceiling of a large auditorium and made a comment that the architect believed that the functional is beautiful and did not need to be hidden behind a decorative facade. That's the only thing I remember about the tour. At the time it was a novel idea that took permanent residence in my memory.

Functionally I need my cisterns downhill from the house below the level of the roof so I can collect rain water. I need them situated above the level of the raised garden beds. I need the garden in an area with adequate sunshine. I need an area where I can build a garden shed and greenhouse without cutting trees. The only area that satisfies these functional requirements is an area just outside the front yard fence.

View of front yard.
View of front yard from our deck. (Larger version)

I like this location. I'll be able to to sit on the deck and watch the garden grow. Every time I arrive home the first thing I'll encounter is the garden. It will never be out of site and forgotten.

I like this location. It's functional and adds a sense of beauty to my world.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Blue Zones Trench

I'm in the process of fencing the garden. Last weekend I cut enough posts for the fence but set only the corner and gate posts. My next step was to bury a barrier to prevent rabbits and gophers from digging under the fence.

A few weeks ago I bought three metal garage doors for $10 each. By disassembling the doors I have metal panels that are eight feet two by fifteen inches which are ideal for a barrier. Pocket gophers can burrow as deep as 36 inches but are unlikely to do so in my situation. About 12 inches deep I encounter a layer of cinders and, in some areas, caliche. The closest burrows that I've seen are almost a thousand feet from the garden. I think I'll be fine with 15 inches of barrier.

I needed to open 150 feet of trench 15 inches deep. Because it's getting late in the season I thought about renting a trencher and doing fence and water lines from the house to the cistern to the garden in one day. But, I read the Blue Zones book. It told me what I already knew. Healthy, vivacious older people have been active all their lives and continue to be active and engaged in manual labor. By hand digging the trench I would benefit physically as well as not contributing to the recovery of a bad economy.

I have the task half finished. Only 75 feet left to trench and I'll be ready to stetch the fence fabric.

Door panel beside open trench.
Door panel beside open trench; facing south toward the gate. I'm putting the gate on a corner at 45 degrees to the fence.

East side completed.
East side completed. Facing north.