Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Master Gardener Association

Anything worth something costs something, not monetary cost but personal costs in time and effort.

I paid the required fee, completed the master gardener training and did the mandatory 50 hours of volunteer service. I attended some of the initial meetings that led to the formation of the Coconino County Master Gardener Association but did not attend the meeting where the bi-laws were adopted.

Day before yesterday I received an email.
At the March 18, 2010 Master Gardener Association Meeting, temporary bi-laws for Coconino County Master Gardeners were approved.

Beginning in 2010, all Certified Master Gardeners must report 12 volunteer hours and 6 continuing education hours each calendar year in order to remain a Certified Coconino County Master Gardener.
A commitment of an additional 18 hours per year is fine. The additional knowledge, the contact with people and the outcomes are worth more than the effort and time I'll allocate. It's a win-win situation.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Grand Canyon News

Ten people died below the rim of the Grand Canyon in 2009. The deaths were caused by dehydration, falls, drownings and heart attacks. There were more deaths on the rim including suicides.

One of the saddest to read was the death of a 20 year old University student. Without a permit or fellow backpackers, in temperatures over 100 degrees, he got lost, made some bad decisions and ended up in a position where he couldn't descend and couldn't climb back up from where he came. He knew it was the end. He left text messages on his phone for his family.

Thus far in 2010 there have been some rescues and one death. Following are news articles about the two most recent rescues.

Two hikers behind schedule are rescued. These guys were in the Royal Arch area where we did our trip three weeks ago. They were at least four days behind schedule. The going was much slower than I anticipated which is why we kept going one day until almost 10 PM.

Man injured in a rock slide.This is the first guy's version of the experience.

Second man injured in a rock slide.This is the second guy's version of the experience.

I never worry about heat, water, getting lost, snakes or various other concerns. These dangers can be minimized with planning and caution. My only concern is falling because it can happen so quickly and unexpectedly. Week before last I fell once near the top of Point Huitzil. We were in a loose area where three sections of the trail has been eradicated by minor slides. I stepped on a large boulder to get secure footing and the boulder split into two pieces. I rolled to my right and landed on my backpack. A minor fall. My main concern was my son who was a few steps behind me with half a boulder rolling his way. He was avoiding it and trying to get to me.

In spite of some risk, I can't wait to go again.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Tree Eater

It was almost two years ago that Julie and I saw a vehicle and two people on the right of way for the electric transmission lines that lead to the gas compressor station on the reservation a few miles east of our house.

Being curious we diverted our morning walk in their direction. A man and a young female driver were doing an archaeological survey in preparation for removal of growth under the power lines. The right of way had been cleared many years earlier when the wooden poles and power lines were installed but Junipers, Rubber Rabbitbrush, grasses and other plants had reclaimed the area. The workers were friendly, showed us maps of historical roads and told about having some landowners meeting them with guns.

Months went by but the right of way wasn't cleared of growth. In late fall we noticed some pink tape marking an area but couldn't make sense of what was planned. On a sunny day in January I heard equipment to the west and assumed work had begun.

The Bull Hog.
Looking east at the Bull Hog. The equipment was parked here for the weekend. On Monday work continued to the east.

When I saw the effect it was not pleasant. I like things natural, untouched, left to be what it want's to be. The broad open swath seemed wrong. But over time I've adapted to it as the new reality. With some luck I'll live to see nature creep in an undo the work.

Cleared right-of-way.
The cleared right-of-way to the west. In the bottom of the photo is the shredded remains of a tree.

After the large snow had melted we walked west to the area where we had seen the pink tape marking an area. We found trees that had been cut with a chainsaw. Lying on the ground was free firewood, firewood close to the house, firewood waiting to be retrieved. Apparently some of the trees were in rocky areas where lava boulders prevented use of the Bull Hog. But, it seems the guy with the chain saw kept going and cut others for no apparent reason.

A downed Juniper.
A downed Juniper. One tree doesn't yield much wood.

Two years ago I paid $20 for a permit to cut up to four cords of firewood. Trees must be dead to be eligible to be cut. If they are on the ground then any size is eligible. If standing they must be 12 inches or less in diameter 40 inches above the ground. I cut mainly Ponderosa and some Pinyon. The best wood is Juniper but it's not available because of the competition for it.

The BTU yield of the three species show's why Juniper is the best choice.
  • Ponderosa 14,085 BTUs
  • Pinyon 18,737 BTUs
  • Juniper 21,958 BTUs

I thought I'd get one load of Juniper to be used for the coldest nights. I got a trailer full but there was more. In the end I picked up four loads. I think I may have enough for all of next winter.

How much is the wood worth? Locally it sells for over $200 per cord. Here's another way to consider the value.

"One air-dry (12% moisture content) cord of fuelwood equals the heat equivalent of approximately:"
  • One ton of coal
  • 150 - 175 gallons of fuel oil
  • 22,000 - 24,000 cubic feet of natural gas
One of the best benefits is that I can delay getting a permit and cutting wood until the Fall. Now I can focus on gardening, fencing, landscaping and a major construction project that Julie and I are planning.

A video of a Bull Hog in action.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Free Water

Gardening season is here. Last Saturday I hauled five loads of water. Yesterday I got two more and today I"ll get an additional two. I have two cisterns full and am working on filling the two 2,500 gallons cisterns by the garden.

The water is free!

The local water station is privately owned. It's a for-profit business that was selling water as a side line. When I first started hauling water the cost was 25 cents for 25 gallons. Then the cost increased to 75 cents for 50 gallons. Then a card system was installed which implemented a 75 cent surchange per load. I haul 250 gallons per load so my net cost became 1.8 cents per gallon.

The card system and service in general had a few problems which led to frustration in some individuals. I began hauling water from town, a distance of about 25 miles on way, so I had to schedule loads of water with other trips.

Finally person or persons unknown to me took some heavy tool and released their frustration on the equipment. The owner of the card system removed it and, voila, no water for anyone.

Then a strange thing happened. A lever, valve and sign were installed. As long as the equipment is not vandalized the water will be free.

I don't know know long the water will be free but I'm optimistic or foolish. I'm planting a large garden.

Optimistic or foolish, I have multiple backup plans. Last fall I bought 1,200 square feet of used corrugated metal. I'm going to build a trick tank to catch more rainwater for the garden cisterns.

Some day I'll get to the point that I won't have to haul water. That is assuming we don't have a repeat of last year which was extremely dry. I don't think we got eight inches of rain the entire year.

But, for now -- excluding the costs of vehicle, trailer, tank, cisterns, plumbing, fuel and time -- the water is free.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Best - Part 5

I have some wonderful memories. Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canda; Death Valley; Rocky Mountains National Park; Yellowstone National Park; eastern Kentucky and Tennessee; western North Carolina; the Smokies; Joshua Tree; Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma; and others.

Why was this trip one of the best? There are several reasons.

First, my son was with me. We spent two weeks together. Let me brag on him for a moment. Like me, he has a sedentary job. To prepare for this trip he got on a treadmill, added a weight pack, watched his diet, did sit ups and push ups and exerted much will power and discipline. He lost thirty pounds!

Second, backpacking makes me feel alive! It takes me out of an artificial environment with heating, cooling, constant entertainment to dull the senses, thousands of food choices, padded seats and noise; things that aren't part of our evolution. While backpacking I'm in a world where I feel all is as it should be.

Third, I like the self reliance. Had something gone wrong it would have been up to us to take care of the problem because we were a few days from help without 911 service.

Fourth, the variety was fantastic. Cold at night, hot during the day, dry on the plateau above the river, cold pools to wade in the canyon, snow, wind and clear skies, distant vistas and narrow canyons that created an intimate world. Todd made an interesting statement on the second day. "This hike is like every hike I've ever done all rolled into one."

Fifth, we had a controlled degree of risk that caused us to calculate decisions. Not an adrenaline rush but a heightened consciousness.

Sixth was the route finding. Rather than being on a developed and maintained trail we had to keep an eye out for small cairns of two or three stones and in some places a faint path. The topo map enabled us to choose Point Hutizil as an exit.

Seventh was hiking in the dark. It added a memorable element to the experience to climb out of a canyon not knowing what lay beyond the range of our headlamps.

Eighth was using the GPS and headlamps to find the ranger station in the dark. We had few clues as to what lay ahead other than some contour lines on a map. The decision to get close and change direction to intersect the road gave us the surprise of anticipating how close we would come.

Ninth, getting stuck in the snow on the first morning was a plus. My son made an interesting comment. "This is the first time in 39 years that I've had to dig a car out of snow." I didn't realize I had deprived him of that experience when he was young.

Tenth, the camaraderie! Each of us took the lead at different times, we helped one another pass packs up and down climbs, we watched out for one another.

Eleventh, this trip was a little strenuous which is a good thing. I asked Todd what was the roughest trip he's ever done. His reply "I thought the Boucher Trail was the toughest until this one."

This trip had more elements then many other trips. That's what made it one of the best. I want to go back again as soon as possible. I've already approached a couple guys about a weekend trip in April.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Best - Part 4

Our last day began with an easy walk to the area below Point Huitizil. We found the trail and being moving to the base of the point.

The photos tell the story of the climb.

When we arrived at the top it was nearing dark. Using the topo map I entered approximate latitude and longitude for the ranger station and we made our way cross country through trees, snow and rocky gound using headlamps most of the way. When we got near the station we shut off the GPS and turned about 45 degrees left. In the dark we could easily miss the building among the trees but we couldn't miss the road between South Bass trailhead and the station. Todd had the brighest headlamp so he took the lead. We came out of the trees and found the road. As soon as he stepped in the road he called back "stay out of the road!" The mud was deep. We walked the remainder of the way beside the road and found the station.

Julie had put three drinks, some blue corn chips and peanuts in the car. They lasted only a few minutes. It was late and I didn't feel like cooking supper.

My son turned on his cell phone and Todd and I laughed at him for expecting a signal. The laugh was on us. His phone indicate 911 service only. Was he getting signal? I turned on my phone, had no bars but got a scratchy call through to Julie in Dallas. That was the perfect ending. Nothing could have been better then hearing her voice.

We set an alarm for 4 AM and called it a night. It was a strange experience to go to sleep hoping for freezing temperatures in the mid-twenties or lower.

At four we got up, packed the last items and started home. The road was frozen.

Why was this one of my best trips? I'll explain that tomorrow in part 5 of 5.

Point Huitzil.
Point Huitzil is in the left half of the photo. There's a route out of the canyon to the top of the point. (Larger version)

Base of Point Huitzil.
Beginning the climb. (Larger version)

Todd rounds a slick rock point.
Todd rounds a slick rock point. (Larger version)

Taking a break.
Taking a break. (Larger version)

Climbing the steps.
Climbing the steps. (Larger version)

More slick rock.
More slick rock. (Larger version)

Todd photographing petroglyphs.
Todd photographing petroglyphs. (Larger version)

The crack containing the log ladder.
The crack containing the log ladder. (Larger version)

I'm standing above the crack.
I'm standing by the exit above the crack. See the larger photo. (Larger version)

Waiting to climb.
My son is waiting for Todd and me to move so he can climb the ladder. (Larger version)

Exiting the crack.
My son exits the crack. (Larger version)

Looking back.
Looking back on our climb. (Larger version)

Snow in the background.
Snow in the background. Fortunately the sun hit the area we climbed and there was no snow. (Larger version)

Group photo at the top.
Group photo at the top. (Larger version)

Sleeping at the ranger station.
My son preparing for a night on the porch of the ranger station. (Larger version)


6:20 AM this morning

Eating breakfast

Saw movement out the window about 100 yards southwest of the house


Counted 13

A reliable and a questionable source have seen mountain lion in the area

Seeing elk is exciting

A mountain lion would be more than exciting

Hopefully some day

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Best - Part 3

It was a crisp and beautiful night. The stars reminded me of the skies I had seen as a kid with better vision. We woke to clear skies and fantastic views. I had slept with my feet toward the river so the first view I saw was a butte named Explorer's Monument across the river.

Colorado River.
The rappel and the route to the river are hidden in the details of this photo. (Larger version)

Using the last of our water we made coffee and had a bar for breakfast. The sun came over the cliffs behind us and began to paint the tops of the formations in the canyon. Near the edge of the drop to the river was a seven feet tall pile of stones that demanded investigation. We did some exploring and looked back in the direction that we had come the previous night to see what we had missed in the dark.

Finally, we began to search for the route to the river. A faint path marked occasionally by a stack of stones led east, turned north and then turned back west. In a small drain we saw a pile of stones that led us north to the rim above the river. However, it appeared the path continued west before fading away. It was unclear which route was correct. At the bottom of the drain was a tree that blocked most of the passage. I leaned over the edge and saw muddy prints on the stone wall which I assumed were left by the three men whom we had met the previous day. However, this didn't seem right. The distance to the ledge and the conditions made it a tough and dangerous climb. Using the rope I climbed down to the second ledge and found what I think was the location of the rappel but there was no webbing and nothing to use as an anchor. I turned back west and followed the ledge to the next drainage and made my way back to the top. Now the need for the rope to climb down to the second ledge and vague path that we found earlier made sense. We had taken the wrong drainage which was marked by a pile of stones.

Small water hole.
We filtered four quarts of water from the small hole beside Todd on the left. My son is on the right. (Larger version)

I rejoined Todd and my son. We were out of water and the closest water was the river just one-half mile farther but didn't feel good about continuing. Todd tossed out the idea of turning back and exiting via Point Huitzil. A fantastic idea! I had wanted to start the hike via Point Huitzil so the option immediately caught my interest. Also, I had an ulterior motive as I told the guys. Julie would get home from Dallas on Wednesday and this would get us home the same day.

We started up the drainage and I saw a hole of water. We filtered four quarts of water and drank part of it. Jokingly I said that I was an optimist and that I was going to look for more water higher in the drainage. We walked fifteen feet to a higher level and found another hole with two quarts of water. We stopped and filtered it.

The hike back to Royal Arch Creek gave us views that we missed in the dark the previous night. The trip seemed short.

Back to Royal Arch Creek.
Walking back to Royal Arch Creek. (Larger version)

Walking beside Royal Arch Creek canyon.
Royal Arch Creek is on the right of our path. (Larger version)

Cautious descent.
My son prepares to climb down. We climbed up this in the dark with head lamps. (Larger version)

Pool of water to wade.
This is the pool of water that required stripping form the waist down. (Larger version)

Alternate Route.
My son pulls Todd's pack through the tight spot on the alternate route. (Larger version)

After cooking lunch and loading up on water we started back up canyon, waded the two holes of water, climbed the oblique slick rock and struggled up the steep loose climb to the alternate route. Late in the day we began looking for a camp site about fifty feet up the canyon side.

That night I lay down without giving thought to the following day. I hadn't done much research on the Point Huitzil route. I'd never read about anyone exiting; everyone had entered the canyon that way. I didn't know where to find the route but assumed the topo map would give some clue. I'd look at the map when we got near the area.

As I lay gazing at the stars I saw a meteor. It was a good end to a good day. Little did I know that the next day would be one of the most exciting hiking days of my life.

Camp site.
Our camp site. (Larger version)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Best - Part 2

The first day was the easiest. We did 4.6 miles to the trailhead and an additional four miles in the canyon. After a mile of descending trail, the snow near the rim ended and walking became easier and required less caution. We found the junction with the Royal Arch Route and turned west on the plateau. It was easy walking with distant vistas across the canyon.

About 4:30 we selected a camp site. The wind had increased and the sunny skies were gone. We unsuccessfully sought a spot out of the wind. Todd had an A-frame tarp and a piece of plastic as a ground sheet. I had taken the footprint and rainfly from my summer tent. As a precaution against wind we placed large stones over the tent pegs and tied two windward corners to bushes using some cord.

As we prepared supper dark grey clouds to the north began dropping precipitation and moving closer. I began to question my decision not to bring a tent. I pulled the rainfly closer to the ground to prevent rain from blowing too far under the sidewall. Before long snowflakes fell and I breathed a sigh of relief. Snow was better than rain!

Todd and Paul.
Todd and I standing with our backs to the snow coming across the canyon. (Larger version)

Day two welcomed us with a light dusting of snow and the promise of some sun. We were up by 6:30 AM, fixed coffee, had breakfast, filtered water, packed and leisurely set out by 9 AM. Had we known what awaited us and that the day wouldn't end until well after dark we would have started earlier.

Filtering water.
Todd and my son filtering water from beneath a skim of ice. (Larger version)

Light snow covers the upper canyon.
I pick my way up hill where a thin layer of snow covers the upper canyon. (Larger version)

Some ledges were covered with a thin layer of ice so we chose our steps cautiously but basically it was easy going. We took an extended lunch break. After lunch we dropped into Royal Arch Creek and the going became a little more difficult. In early afternoon we came to a drop of over 100 feet that required bypassing on the left via the "ledge" route or on the right via the "alternate" route. We chose the alternate as agreed months ago.

Paul and Todd.
Todd follows as I lead along the alternate route. (Larger version)

At one point high above the canyon floor there is an overhanging ledge and a tree. It's necessary to remove backpacks, get on hands and knees to crawl under the overhand and push or pull the pack along. As I walked up to the tree I heard a voice from the other side.

"Hello, want some help with the pack?"

We met a man and two young men (his sons?) returning from two nights at Toltec Beach. It was their vehicle that we had parked beside at the ranger station. They had come down the route from Point Huitzil and were returning that way. They has passed an older and younger man, the group dropped near the trailhead by the woman and her son.

Once we returned to the canyon floor the going became rough. Rather than walking on slick rock were were boulder hopping, avoiding pools of water and searching for the way around huge choke stones.

Finally we came to a large stone at an oblique angle that dropped us into a pool of water that couldn't be avoided. Using a trekking pole we measured the depth and decided we could unzip our pant legs, remove boots and socks and wade. I led the way, removed a boot, placed it near the edge of the pool and knocked it into the water as I removed my second boot. It began to fill with water but I managed to grab it before it sank. C'est la vie!

My son and Todd.
Todd drops his pack to my son. (Larger version)

Preparing to wade a pool of water.
My son, followed by Todd, is removing his pant legs and boots to wade a pool of water. (Larger version)

About 30 yards from this pool was another stone and another pool. A deeper pool. Our only recourse was to strip from the waist down. Strangely, this pool felt warmer than the first pool. It must have been at least 45 degrees.

By this time it was obvious that we wouldn't get out of the canyon onto the plateau before dark. Camping in a canyon entails the risk of a flash flood. A small rain up canyon can cause a flood fifty feet deep or more to come down the narrow part of the lower canyon. We decided we had enough water so, without stopping, we continued with headlamps.

We found the route out of the canyon and began climbing in the dark. This is a route marked by stacks of stones. In the dark we missed some turns and came to dead ends, walls or brush that forced us to back up, retrace a few steps and search for the correct way. In the dark we didn't know if a fall would end 10, 20 or 100 feet below.

Finally we made the plateau and decided to take a break. Our intention had been to get to Toltec Beach on the Colorado River. However, the river is over 800 feet below the plateau and a rappel from a narrow ledge to another narrow ledge is part of the descent.

I didn't feel good about doing this in the dark and there was not compelling reason so I decided we would stop for the night. We found the best of several bad spots, dropped a ground cloth, mats and sleeping bags. To keep from sliding down the gentle slope we placed our backpacks at our feet.

I felt good. No pain. No worries. It was a good tired feeling.

Paul sitting on a sleeping bag.
I'm about to slide into a sleeping bag for the night. The temperature dropped to the mid-twenties. (Larger version)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Best - Part 1

We're back from the best backpacking trip!

Before I left Julie asked if I had any expectations. My response was no for a variety of reasons. I don't try to plan or control the future. I like the unexpected, going with the flow, accepting and adapting to the unforeseen. Life plans a better adventure and this one was fantastic.

My son, Cheet (I may explain this nickname sometime), and I after only three hours of sleep picked up Todd at 4 AM as agreed. We drove to Tusayan and found forest road 328 without problems. A park service brochure contains this sentence. "Driving to the South Bass trailhead can offer almost as much adventure as the hike." Yes, we had an adventure.

Stuck in the snow.
Stuck in the snow about one mile down FR328. (Larger version)

Less than one mile from the highway old tire tracks ended. This road hadn't been used in weeks and the snow was getting deeper. I stopped in a bad location to discuss the situation and we broke through the crust in the snow and the frame settled on the snow. The snow under the crust was fine crystals, feather light, free of friction and traction. We spent 45 minutes getting free and back to the highway. As we worked Todd suggested the obvious that access to FR328 must be via FR328A which is accessed inside the park farther north.

We drove to the entrance to the park and I realized I didn't have my parks pass with me. When we stopped at the entrance station the kind lady said "go ahead" without hesitation rather than charging us the entrance fee. We found FR328A, drove passed the "road closed" barrier and headed south toward 328. By this time the sun was over the horizon and temperatures were starting to rise. On the way we met a truck and I slowed down to talk with the driver.

"Where you going?" he asked?

"South Bass trail head!"

"You can't get there!"


"You can't get there."

Hmmm? The conversation wasn't making much progress. I pressed for more information and learned that he has gotten stuck the day before just a little farther down the road. He had the look and the truck of an aging cowboy with weathered skin, dirty hat and bead stubble. He explained that he hadn't been to the trailhead since last November and he gave the details of the truck that had gotten stuck the previous day, a truck with higher clearance and more tread than my Explorer Sport.

I said we'd keep going until it seem wise to stop and turn back. With a raised index finger and a smile he said something like "That's the smart thing to do."

Pasture Wash Ranger Station.
We parked by the historic Pasture Wash Ranger Station. The building is no longer used but is being preserved.. (Larger version)

We continued through snow and mud for several miles following a set of fresh tire tracks. A few miles before the Havasupai Reservation boundary we met a vehicle coming toward us. The occupants were a woman and a young boy about nine years old. We stopped and the woman told us she had shuttled two hikers to the trailhead but had high centered in the snow about one mile from the trailhead and couldn't go any further. She dropped the hikers there and turned back. We were advised to park at the historic Pasture Wash Ranger Station and walk the remaining three point six miles to the trailhead. This turned out to be good adivce for an unexpected reason that I'll explain later.

Walking to the trailhead.
Near the ranger station walking 3.6 miles to the trailhead. (Larger version)

The station at the reservation boundary wasn't manned so we passed through without stopping or paying the $25 fee and found the ranger station. Parked by the building was a vehicle which told us there were two other groups ahead of us, the group tha the woman had dropped near the trailhead and the group that had left this vehicle.

Near the trailhead.
Within one mile of the trailhead. (Larger version)

We made good time walking to the trailhead taking only one break to shed outer layers of clothing to keep from getting too warm. Finally we arrived, took a couple photos and sharted down the trail.

Todd and my son.
Todd, on the left, and my son at the trailhead. (Larger version)

Our destination.
Our destination is to the plateau, turn left and pass in front of the hill in the center of the photo. (Larger version)

The top of the South Bass trail.
The top of the South Bass trail. (Larger version)

The snow near the rim was over knee deep. Sometimes the crust held our weight; sometimes we broke through and boggled around like oversized weebles. There was plenty of laughter. Someone commented that we needed snowshoes. My son disagreed. It was more fun without them.

Thus began one of the best adventures of my life.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Four and One-half Hours

In four and one-half hours, at 3 AM, we'll be getting up to leave for the trailhead while the ground is frozen.

Next Thursday we'll come out of the canyon and, assuming the road is passable, drive home. If necessary we'll spend a night at the trailhead to give the road time to freeze and get home sometime Friday. Or, we may pick up the pace and get back to the rim on Wednesday afternoon and camp at the trailhead until about 4 AM.

Max and backpack.
Max helping pack for the trip.

I weighed myself and pack -- 251 pounds -- about 10 pounds heavier then normal. I'm going prepared for snow on the rim and predicted temperatures of almost 80 by the river.

My son and I have not done anything like this in almost twenty years. This promises to be a great trip.

So, until Thursday night or Friday......

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Anticipation Growing

One week, seven days, a mere 168 hours, and I should be standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Last night I researched the condition of the dirt road to the trailhead. The news was not encouraging.
The winter of 2010 has brought much snow to the rim of the canyon resulting in the heaviest snow pack in recent memory. March brings a continued threat of these strong winter storms, warmer daytime temperatures and a marked degradation of dirt roads.

Hikers attempting to reach the South Bass trailhead via Forest Road 328 have been experiencing major problems....avoid vehicle travel altogether any time after mid-morning. ..night time temperatures dip into the low 20's...allowing some well equipped four wheel drive vehicle to reach the trailhead between the hours of 4 a.m. and 7 a.m....

Extraction equipment like a shovel, tow strap, tire chains and a winch should be carried...
The report ended with this pessimistic note.
Most backcountry areas from Tanner to Royal Arch are full during the month of March so it is very unlikely that the park will be able to shift your itinerary to a new location. Hikers wishing to cancel their permit...
There's an interesting conundrum here. Should we trust official publications from any governmental source? Given our propensity to want to assign blame it is understandable that officials wanting to avoid responsibility and repercussions will overstate the situation. Here's an example, a sign above the urinals in the men's room at the Backcountry Information Center. The sign says something like "Nonpotable water. Do not drink." (Hmmm? Are there similar signs in the women's room? Or is it just men that....OK, let's stop here.)

Dehydrated mixed vegetables.
Two pounds of mixed vegetables after dehydrating. 32 ounces reduced to 5.8 ounces.

The weather forecast for the canyon is what I expected for this time of year.
  • Today: A 10 percent chance of showers after 11am.
  • Tonight: New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
  • Sunday: High near 47. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
  • Sunday Night: Rain and snow before 11pm, then a chance of snow. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of around an inch possible.
  • Monday: Snow level 6300 feet rising to 6800 feet.
  • Monday Night: A slight chance of rain and snow showers.
  • Tuesday: A 30 percent chance of snow showers.
  • Tuesday Night: A chance of snow showers.
  • Wednesday: A slight chance of snow showers.
  • Wednesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 23.
  • Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 55.
  • Thursday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 27.
  • Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 58.
Since we're starting on the south rim there will probably be snow in shaded areas near the top so crampons or Yak Traks are a must.

But, there's always a positive in every situation. With all the rain and snow, we'll find plenty of water and won't have to carry excessive amounts.

The average low in the inner Canyon during March is 48 degrees and the average high is 71. Sounds like perfect weather. So the real challenge is get to the trailhead and make it below the rim into paradise.

Tonight at six-thirty my son arrives at the airport. The final planning, preparations and fun begins.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


One of the enjoyable things related to blogging is monitoring visits to the blog. There are a few subjects and a few photos that lead visitors to my blog from search engines. Photos I took in Mexico frequently bring visitors. This isn't a surprise.

The one that has surprised me the most is a photo that I used in a post containing the word "bald" multiple times. I didn't use "bald" in the caption on the photo. Every few days someone finds this photo and comes to the blog. Today someone visited after searching for "bald head pics". Why are people searching for photos of bald men? I find that a little strange and intriguing.

Bald photos.
My photo is in the bottom center. I'm drinking a cup tea.

Another curiosity is why my photo is being returned as number six out of 135,000 photos. I'm listed before photos of Brittney bald!

Hmmm? Maybe I need to publish a calendar with twelve bald photos.

I am amused by this.

The original post contains the full sized photo. I have another amusement related to this photo. I think I'll write about that tomorrow.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Wonderful Experience

We successfully finished the scuba class. As we drove home Julie commented "That's the most difficult thing I've ever done. It was much more demanding than carrying a backpack in 100 degrees".

The class involved ten hours of classroom instruction. We learned the physics of diving, the use of tables to calculate safe limits for single and repetitive dives to minimize the danger of decompression sickness, hand signals for communicating, safety stops and other necessary subjects.

We had eight hours at the University pool where we learned about equipment and practiced necessary skills. In the pool we removed masks and mouthpieces, replaced them and cleared them of water. There were several other skills to learn and demonstrate proficiency.

Julie and I were buddies so we practiced signaling out of air and using each others alternate air sources and other emergency skills.

Part of the requirements included swimming 200 yards without equipment (face mask, fins, snorkel or flotation devices) followed by floating for 10 minutes.

There was a lot of instruction and physical activity packed into the pool sessions. Everyone confessed to going home Saturday evening, having supper and going to bed early.

We've completed the classroom and pool instruction. To get certified we need to do the open water checkout which is four dives where we demonstrate the skills that we've learned. We're considering doing the checkout in San Carlos, Mexico, which is on the mainland side of the Gulf of California between the Baja California Peninsula and the Mexican mainland.

This afternoon as we walked for exercise around campus and discussed the weekend Julie made another comment "It was a wonderful experience". I agree.