Monday, September 28, 2009

The Ledge

Each time I hike out of the Grand Canyon I begin planning another trip. Last May I settled on a five day backpacking trip called the Royal Arch Route. I'd like for Julie to go but she's opted out, a decision that I understand. I've found myself in the position of going alone or finding someone who enjoys backpacking, can get the time free and will commit to making the trip.

I've approached a few guys. One said no that his knees couldn't do it, another said yes then canceled due to work, some said maybe. Finally, one guy committed.

This trip is rated 9 out of 10 for difficulty. Part of the problem is water availability which is why I decided on a trip in March rather than a hot, dry month. It's a route that doesn't follow a developed or maintained trail for the entire loop so route finding is a concern. Two or three years ago an experienced couple from Salt Lake City got lost for a few days on this route and had rescue teams searching for them. There's a 20 feet repel along the way. But, the main concern is "the ledge". Everyone is concerned about the ledge and the 40 feet drop.

Here's the pertinent portion of the National Park Service's description of the route.
Just before the eastern arm joins the main stem of the drainage hikers are presented with an impassable pouroff. This obstacle can be circumvented on either side but it's safer on the right (north). Follow a series of ledges along the north side of the canyon to a talus slope and descend to the bed of the drainage below the fall. If you chose to bypass the pouroff on the left side prepare for a thrilling traverse along an exposed ledge only a few inches wide. Both bypasses are cairned at the top and bottom of the pouroff so choose wisely.
I've searched the web for trip reports and photos. I've found only 12 photos of the ledge and two of the alternate route. It appears the adjective "thrilling" is appropriate. In one trip report a guy crossed the ledge then realized he had left a camera strap so he had to cross back to retrieve it. Triple the thrill!

In the collage below the ledge is marked in red. Photo 13 (see the large version) shows the alternate route being taken by the man in the bottom of the photo while a friend watches from above.

I read trip reports by two men who had hiked every developed trail on the south side of the canyon. They saved this trip for last. Both said it was the best of all hiking they did in the Grand Canyon.

The friend who committed to making the trip did so with a disclaimer: only if we take the alternate route. I'll drive to the canyon on November 1 to get the permit for next March. Four and a half more months of anticipation.

Ledge collage.
Ledge collage. (Larger version: 1383 x 1938 pixels)

Nurse Julie

There is one euphemism that I find irritating. Fixed! As in, "we had our pet fixed". Doesn't make sense. The pet wasn't broken and didn't need to be 'fixed'.

We have a young cat that we had spayed, neutered. We had her broken.

Maggie wearing a collar.
Maggie wearing a collar.

Julie and I have no children together so I've never seen her mothering sick children. However, it's at times like this that I see her maternal instinct. She takes care of the cat like she's a nurse in ICU. Normally we keep the bedroom door closed to keep the cat out day and night so the room is hair and dander free. The last two nights Maggie has slept with us. I've been asked to move furniture to keep Maggie from jumping. I've closed a doorway that has no door to restrict her movement. Special food has been offered since the antibiotic should be taken with food. Food and watering bowls had to be changed temporarily since the normal bowls weren't compatible with the collar to prevent her from licking the incision. She lifts Maggie to and from elevated furniture rather than permitting her to jump.

Maggie wearing an ace bandage.
Maggie wearing an ace bandage.

Yesterday Julie became concerned that Maggie couldn't groom herself while wearing the collar so the fixed an ace bandage around her midsection and removed the collar temporarily. Maggie immediately began an hour long grooming session and became more perky.

I enjoy watching Julie take care of Maggie. It's reassuring. If I ever get old and sick then I know she'll talk good care of me. I think Maggie and I are fortunate to have a nurse.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


We started off as strangers, different ages, different backgrounds, little common ground. I felt like an unwelcome transient moving temporarily into an established and closed neighbourhood. Some conflict followed. The end was an unexpected but welcome surprise.

Several months ago the team with which I work had to vacate temporarily the building in which I'd worked for the last seven years. Office space was limited and I was the last team member in the building and agreed to remain for the expected three months until some maintenance issues were resolved. Without warning I was told I was to move to an office in another building. An email from a vice president told the team the move was temporary and not to get settled.

I found the office assigned to me and discovered I had an office mate who had occupied half the room for several years, perhaps as many as nine. The office reflected his character. Lighting, framed photographs, personal books, small items, a guitar. I introduced myself and made an effort to find a point of contact. I commented on his guitar and told how I owned one in my mid-teens and attempted to learn to play but have no musical ability.

A few days passed and I received a confusing and unclear phone call based on a complaint that had gone up three levels and back down to me. The complaint was that I was too loud. I have some hearing loss that I acknowledge and was louder than I realised. My reaction was frustration and a degree of anger. I would have prefered to be told personally rather than get five other people involved. Relationships should be based on honesty and openness.

In response I approached my office mate directly. I asked him about the complaint and tried to do so in a non-threatening way. In the end I assured him I would lower my speech volume. I did this consciously and made some other changes. I began scheduling calls when he was not present and conducting meetings with co-workers in their offices or in a conference room.

Each morning when I arrived I spoke out with a hearty good morning and attempted to add some safe comment about the weather, some event on the commute or something that seemed appropriate. The anticipated three months passed and things settled into a polite but restrained relationship in need of a point of connection.

One day I noticed he had a stack of books about sailing and I questioned his interest in the subject. It was rewarding to listen to his enthusiastic response. He told how as a child he had lived on a sail boat with his family and hoped to own a boat some day.

More time passed and a co-worker came into the office and asked my opinions of wind generators. She was reading the debate about a proposed commercial wind farm near Flagstaff and knew I have a wind generator installed. As soon as she left my office mate questioned my knowledge and wanted some help. He has found a sail boat and was leaving the University. He needed to install a solar electric system on the boat and was struggling to decide what was needed and the size of the system required. We talked and I tried to answer his technical questions.

As the next few weeks went by I noticed he began saying hello some mornings before I got the chance. His voice communicated something good, something positive. Our relationship was more relaxed, more natural.

I don't work Fridays and yesterday was his last day. On Thursday I went to work prepared to say goodbye. One of the last things I remember him saying was that he had "enjoyed" sharing an office with me. I thought that was the end.

Yesterday evening I was in town and had to stop by the office to print an email. Upon unlocking the door I saw a guitar in a case on my desk. On top of the case was a note.
"What a pleasure having you as an officemate. I'm leaving my lights, kettle and guitar for you. You may feel like you got no music talent, but dude, here's the secret: ever body got a song inside. Let yours out! Best of luck to you!"
I'm grateful for the gifts. I'm more grateful for the note, for his kind words, for the knowledge that we bridged a gap and parted with good memories. These are the best gifts.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hodge Podge

Hodgepodge is a word used to describe a confused or disorderly mass or collection of things; a "mess" or a "jumble". According to Wikipedia.

Here's my hodge podge for today.

Mary Oliver has a new volume of poetry entitled "Evidence". It contains this quote by Soren Kierkegaard: "We create ourselves by our choices." I like this!

Last night I saw about three-quarters of a PBS program about Wallace Stegner. Interesting!

Julie had supper in town with two friends while I waited on her. I always get a sense of pleasure and satisfaction whenever the group has a night out. I'm not certain why but I do.

I've been trying to read Edward Abbey's "The Monkey Wrench Gang". It's not doing it for me.

Received the latest issue of Mother Earth. Nothing new or surprising but it contains three timely articles about projects that I've started or am about to start. Borders on serendipity.

Julie and I ordered new motorcycle pants. I failed to notice one small line that instructed us to add one inch to waist size when ordering. I can wear them but not comfortably. An exchange is underway.

Every few years I read about motorcycle safety. The fastest growing casualty rate is among older riders. I find that interesting. I began riding 43 years ago and have owned five motorcycles. I wonder if these facts make me more or less dangerous.

This is my 499th post to my blog.

This past week rather than eating on the deck we ate breakfast inside on some mornings since the temperatures are dropping into the thirties. It has been months since we ate inside. I don't like eating inside.

We have one nectar feeder that isn't empty. I saw one hummingbird this morning. I think I'll refill another feeder just in case there are others migrating and needing energy.

Julie is taking a yoga class. She's inspiring me. This morning she challenged me to try Downward Dog. I felt pain and she laughed. I like her laugh.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Garden Plans

It hasn't been an outstanding summer for the garden but it's been a good season. We've given away some vegetables which makes it a good year. I've enjoyed the experience.

I have 457 square feet of raised garden beds though not all beds have been planted to date. I have materials for twelve more round beds that I may build by next spring. This will add 235 square feet. Before installing the new beds I want build a garden shed and greenhouse. Last spring when I laid out the fence and beds I left room on the northeast corner for the building.

Evolving Garden Layout.
Evolving garden layout. The shed/greenhouse and cold frames will be built as soon as possible. (Larger version)

The driveway to the house passes the corner of the garden which makes it convenient but does impose one limitation. If I expand the garden to the east then I am left with a triangular area smaller than I would prefer. However, to the northwest I have several hundred square feet of open ground with a decent slope that I can use.

Last weekend I picked up two loads of composted horse manure and will pick up two or three additional loads tomorrow and Saturday. I have more than enough for the garden and am planning on using it for landscaping next Spring.

My experience this summer has inspired me to try a few things to extend the growing season and to attempt a few vegetables in containers in the sun room this fall and winter. Last winter we raised peppers and tomatoes. This year I'm going to try a few other items.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Horned Lizards

I watched for horned lizards when my grandsons were visiting in July but failed to find one. Since then I've seen several. C'est la vie.

Large Horned Lizard.
Large Horned Lizard. I walked past this guy but my son saw him and picked him up for a photo. The larger version shows their magnificent detail. (Larger version - 1.3 MB)

Young Horned Lizard.
Young Horned Lizard. I was working this weekend and saw this small lizard as he rushed to hide under a two-by-four. (Larger version)

Camouflaged Horned Lizard.
Camouflaged Horned Lizard. In the Sedona area the lizards are more red colored to match the color of the soil. (Larger version)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

874 Miles

Sunday morning started cool, bright and cloudless. We had found a hot springs about 70 miles north that looked attractive in the photos on the web so we made that our destination for the day.

On the trip north we passed the childhood home of Butch Cassidy and The Big Rock Candy Mountain that is known by some through the title given to a song. However, it appears the song preceded the naming of the mountain.
Shortly after the release of the song in 1928, some local residents, as a joke, placed a sign at the base of cluster of some brightly-colored hills a short distance north of Marysvale, Utah near Fishlake National Forest naming it “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” They also placed a sign next to a nearby spring proclaiming it “Lemon Springs.” The Big Rock Candy Mountain Resort currently sits at the base of the hills and is a major hub in the Paiute ATV trail. Wikipedia

When we arrived in town we couldn't find the springs since only a few streets were marked with signs. I phoned to get directions and was told the springs were "awesome". We found them but neither Julie nor I felt awe. The large fiberglass swimming pool had been abandoned. In the deep end a healthy stand of cat tails were growing. The source of the water was on a hill behind the pools so we kept open yet skeptical minds and walked up the hill looking for awe. We never found it though we did find plenty of decay around the premises. It had looked so good in the photos. We chose to change our plans and mapped an alternate route back to Panguitch through some remote land with different scenery.

When we arrived back at the B and B our hostess met us at the door and said "I'm glad you're back". She went on to explain that her nephew had driven the road to Bryce Canyon and had passed a motorcycle accident. The road was covered with blood and men were holding up sheets to hide the body (or bodies) from passing traffic.

We've been in Utah on Sundays and knew it might be a challenge to find meals. On Sunday evening we checked the restaurants in the center of the town and found them closed. We walked several blocks north to check on the only remaining restaurant and found it open. The menu wasn't filled with healthy choices but we didn't leave hungry.

At the booth behind us an old gentleman talked constantly. When I went to the register to pay he was still talking and asking about the building in 1947. The clerk pointed out the original portion and the additions since then. Next, the gentleman asked about employees and discovered one woman who had been an employee in 1947 was still working and was in the dining room at the moment. He turned to the woman with him and explained he was going into the dining room to speak to the waitress. He had traveled through Panguitch in 1947 and had eaten at the restaurant and she might be the person who had served him.

On Monday morning we arranged breakfast at 7 AM. Peggy, the owner of the bed and breakfast, served us and asked if she might join us. We sat with her eating and talking for an hour. Julie asked if she shared her recipes and was told that she shared all of them and would email that to her. It was a good ending to an enjoyable stay.

We stopped in Kanab, Utah, for coffee and Page, Arizona, for lunch. Our last stop was in Cameron, Arizona, at the historic trading post for cold drinks and fruit. We arrived home after traveling a total of 874 miles.

I was pleased with the motorcycle. In Marysvale a man walked over and asked "1982 or 83?". I replied it was a 1983 model. He said that he had a 2007 model now but had owned a 1982 model and had put 107,000 miles on it. On our trip we passed 134,000 miles. I was cautious when I bought the motorcycle but the man I bought it from had owned it since February of 1984, had maintenance records and spare parts and had kept it in a garage. I looked at his property, his garage and the other things he owned and knew he took care of his property. His wife is 72 and no longer rides with him so he bought a new cruiser and decided to sell the Interstate. After this trip, I'm convinced we made a good frugal choice.

Rest break between Page, AZ, and Kanab, UT.
Rest break between Page, AZ, and Kanab, UT. (Larger version)

Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Cedar Breaks National Monument. (Larger version)

Julie preparing for a cool morning.
Julie preparing for a cool morning. (Larger version)

Saturday, September 05, 2009


We almost made it under sunny skies. About 36 miles south of Panguitch a dark cloud just to our west began dropping warnings of impending rain.

Sometimes I think I live a charmed life and that was one of those times. I began looking for place to pull over and get dressed for rain. I noticed a sign that said 'rest area one-half mile'. Perfect! We traveled US 89 the entire trip and it was the only rest stop I saw over the 288 miles. After dressing for rain we traveled the eastern side of the cloud and never felt more than a few drops occasionally.

Panguitch, meaning 'big fish' in Paiute, is a town of about 2000 population and has one intersection with flashing four way stop lights. The bed and breakfast, The Red Brick Inn of Panguitch, dates from 1919 and was the Panguitch Hospital. The doctor and his wife, a midwife, lived in part of the hospital where they raised six children.

Peggy, the owner, has been gracious. She is a relaxed person who doesn't require registration forms, enforce arbitrary rules or shun conversation. She keeps chickens and serves fresh eggs. Since the Inn is closed in the winter and she returns to a home in California I asked what he does with the chickens. "Oh, I return them to the owner. I just borrow them for the summer."

I didn't notice one detail until Julie mentioned it. There are no keys for the guest rooms. Personally, I like relaxed and informal.

This morning I woke to dark skies and the sound of rain on the roof. We had asked for breakfast at 7:30 so we had a leisurely start to the day. After eating we walked around town. Julie stopped at a thrift shop operated by volunteers for the local hospital. She bought a long-sleeved tee shirt for $1. Today was half-off day. I noticed a group of motorcycles with license plates from British Columbia. I spoke to one man and learned they had left Mexico yesteray morning. There were 450 in the rally riding from Canada to Mexico and back.

After the fog and clouds lifted we rode to Cedar Breaks National Monument and hiked a portion of a trail that led past a 1,600 year old Bristlecone Pine. On our return to Panguitch we saw a down pour as we neared town. We arrived to wet steets and rain about a mile beyond our destination. Once again we enjoyed the edge of the cloud. Later in the day we walked to a coffee shop in a pleasant shower that felt wonderful.

The day ended with a ride to a restaurant in Hatch, about 17 miles south. The clouds were spotty and the setting sun was bright. We had supper at an outside table before walking to an antique store across from the restaurant. The lady who owns the business is a talker who has never met a stranger. We bought nothing but enjoyed he conversation.

That's a small glimpse into a few moments of our day. As I read it, I'm convinced I live a charmed life -- or as least I lived charmed day. Everything was great!

Thursday, September 03, 2009


I have a rule: never check the weather forecast. I settled on that rule many years ago when I realised weather forecasts are reasons not to do something. It's too hot, too cold, too windy, too something -- cancel plans, stay home and wait for better weather. Myself, I prefer to make plans, forget about weather forecasts and accept whatever I encounter.

Julie doesn't follow my rule. She checked and the probability for rain in southern Utah is 50% for the next several days. Tomorrow morning about 7 AM we leave for Panguitch, Utah. We're riding the motorcycle and expect to get wet.

I like to travel without a fixed itinerary, schedule or reservations but this is a holiday weekend. As a precaution Julie phoned Panguitch and discovered there's a rodeo in town and rooms will be limited so she made reservations for three nights at a B & B.

The town's location is perfect for short day trips to Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, hot springs, four or five scenic drives and some state parks. We've been to Bryce, Zion, Grand Staircase and the area but have never visited Panguitch or Cedar Breaks.

Another rule that I obey is 'always have one or more things to anticipate: trips, evenings with friends, something to plan and build -- something enjoyable'. I get grouchy when I don't have something to anticipate.

Regardless of the weather, I'm looking forward to this trip with Julie and I won't be grouchy!