Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fruit Cake

This week I received a late Christmas gift from my sister, a fruit cake.

For many years my mother baked a fruit cake each Christmas. I don't remember when the tradition started but it was some time when I was a kid, maybe before my memory begins. After I left home she began mailing a large fruit cake each year in a round metal tin. I rationed the cake and and made it last until the end of January. It became the only gift I anticipated. Shirts, ties and other material gifts I could easily buy for myself. The fruit cake was different, special, something I couldn't buy. I've had fruit cake bought at a local store. No, thank you, but not now, not ever.

My mother told me once about her first fruit cake which she baked some time after she and my father married. It was dry, hard, unpalatable, not a success. She cut an apple in half, placed it cut-side down on the cake, wrapped it in waxed paper, put it in a tin and let it set for a few weeks. In the end her father and my father ate it but she always questioned their motives. She wasn't convinced the cake was good and thought they ate it out of politeness and concern for her.

As Mom got older and ingredients became more expensive the cakes became smaller, less than half the size of the large ones. I knew there would come a time when they would stop due to her death or a serious decline in health. I think the last cake was baked with the help of my younger sister. Finally assisted living and a nursing home brought the end of the cakes.

My sister's first cake is excellent! If I did a blind taste test I would be unable to tell it from my mother's cakes. The only clue that Mom hadn't baked it was the missing pineapple rings, walnut and cherry halves decorating the top. I clearly remember them because they became a reason to over eat. Cutting to the left of a nut or cherry made the piece too small, cutting through them was unthinkable for some non-rational reason so the only solution was to cut to the right which made an over sized piece.

It's been over ten years since I have had a piece of fruit cake. It's good to enjoy it once again. Even better than the cake are the memories and the relationships with my sisters.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Mistake

Julie and I went to work today two and one half hours late due to a mistake I made. I am unable to multitask. I cannot talk, think and mix grout at the same time.

I was mixing about three-quarters of a bag of grout and added too much water, way too much water. I added the remainder of the bag but the grout was like soup, unusable. It was late in the day, too late to got to town, get more grout and finish the job enjoyably.

Completed kitchen tile.

Maggie appears to be inspecting our work. Actually she's pacing while waiting for her supper.

We decided that Julie would make the trip for another bag while I worked on another project. This morning we got up at 5:00 AM, had breakfast, grouted the floor and made it to work by 10;30.

On Friday we'll seal the grout. The finished job should look good.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kitchen Tile

This is the weekend we chose to lay the tile floor in the kitchen. We've had the materials for months but other priorities took precedence.

Yesterday I prepared the area and installed concrete backer board. This morning we gathered the tools and began work. By supper time the job will be finished.

Laying kitchen tile.

Laying kitchen tile.

We extended the area to be tiled to include the outside entrance door so we can come in on a durable surface. This area will necessitate cutting a few tile at an angle near forty-five degrees.

Area ready for tile.

Aread ready for tile.

Soon, after an appropriate period of procrastination (on my part, not Julie's), we'll take out the remaining carpet and install laminate. We're both looking forward to a carpet-free house.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Theory

I finished my most recent backpacking trip feeling not good but better than good. I never feel muscle soreness but normally I feel stiff and my knees ache. Not this time.

We increased our mileage on the second day which gave us a short third day and an even shorter last day. When we got back to the car I was surprised by our speed. I felt better than I've ever felt after a climb out of the canyon.

Preparation for the trip doesn't offer an explanation. I did not do anything to prepare. I walked as much as is normal and wore a forty pounds weight vest only occasionally. No hill climbs, no stairs, no weight training, nothing special.

Part of the explanation has to relate to new trekking poles. A few weeks ago I bought a pair that are a little on the heavy side but are strong. I made a conscious effort to use them to relieve the stress on my knees especially on the long steep down hills. This helped but doesn't fully explain the difference.

Here's my theory.

Julie stretches every morning and has done so for the last few years. She has books and videos on yoga. I sometimes watch her and wonder how she can do some of the stretches. Months ago I tried some and failed matching her movements by several inches. I enjoyed the experience so I started stretching daily. After several months I could do a few of the things that she does regularly. More time passed and some of the stretches seemed easy so I started trying variations that are more challenging. I glanced through her yoga books with the intention of selecting new stretches.

Daily stretching! I think this is what made the difference.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nankoweap Experiences

I thoroughly enjoyed the Nankoweap trip. It was a good blend of weather, scenery, effort, history and the unexpected.

I felt fairly well when we left the parking area. Within a quarter mile I was struggling to breathe. I would take a breath and have to force it out. I began wheezing. If I didn't know better, I'd say my daughter inherited asthma from me. I was in trouble. But, I know better! I was hurting bad, really struggling and couldn't back out. Todd was with me and it takes months to get a permit. I kept going and tried to keep up with his pace.

After a couple miles we had climbed several hundred feet and the wheezing and struggle to breathe eased up and I began to feel more normal but extremely exhausted and out of energy. We had agreed to stop for something to eat on the rim before entering the canyon so I kept going anticipating that stop. When we did break I drank a quart of water and had a large lunch. Afterwards I felt good. In retrospect I should have eaten two breakfasts, the small one I had at 2:30 AM and a large one about 8:00 AM before we left the parking area. Also, I should have locked the cats out of the bedroom that night.

Nankoweap Trail Profile.
Nankoweap Trail Profile. We started at the lower north access point (rather than the higher west access) and hiked up to the trail head so we were never over 8,000 feet as shown in the upper access point in the graphic.

We each took six liters of water with plans to cache two liters at Marion Point for the return trip. A short distance beyond Marion Point we came upon a gallon jug. Someone had cut the top from the jug and placed it beneath a ledge in a shaded area. About ten or twelve feet above almost two feet was snow was melting, running down the face of the cliff and dripping into the jug. We took the time to fill our bottles.

Unexpected water source.
We found an unexpected water source. A couple hundred yards beyond Marion Point we filtered snow melt water.

Early on our first day we discovered a problem with our plans. I had gotten a permit for five days but Todd thought we would be out on the fourth day and had made other plans that couldn't be altered. I had scheduled us for one night at Tilted Mesa, two nights by the river and the last night at Tilted Mesa. This would have broken the trip into four equal days with one day in the middle for exploring. We quickly changed out plans to the first night at Tilted Mesa, the second night at Nankoweap Creek and the last night at Marion Point. By doing this we would be able to drop our packs when we reached the creek and make a quick, light trip to the river and granaries before returning to the creek for the night. This would increase our mileage for the day but would make the next two days shorter.

Filtering water from Nankoweap Creek.
Filtering water from Nankoweap Creek. This was our main source of water

The first night on Tilted Mesa was excellent. I've seen videos of tents being destroyed by winds on this exposed ridge but we had a gentle breeze and temperatures in the forties. I got a little warn in the down bag. The night by Nankoweap Creek was the best. Soft sand, a quiet breeze, sounds of the creek, a bright moon and singing frogs. Shortly after I stretched out and began reading I heard something trying to get into my trash bag that I had placed close to my backpack. I didn't see anything but I rearranged things within easy reach. A short while later I heard it again. I sat up and saw a large, healthy, well-fed mouse chewing on the trash bag. He wasn't scared by my movement or the head lamp. I gave him a crash course in literature with my book which propelled him into the darkness. He never returned.

Camp site one at Tilted Mesa.
Camp site one at Tilted Mesa.

I fixed supper by a large boulder on the edge of the creek. It provided a seat and a wind break for the stove. As I was watched the stove a lizard ran up the boulder, hopped on my lap, ran across, jumped back on the boulder and ran behind a group of small boulders stacked on top of the large boulder. For the next several minutes he (she?) would come out look at me and return to a hiding place. It's little things like this that add to the enjoyment of a trip.

Camp site two by Nankoweap Creek.
Camp site two by Nankoweap Creek.

The last night was an adventure. We climbed to the top of Tilt Mesa and took a break from about noon until 1:30 PM. The morning's breeze developed into a noticeable wind during our break. By the time we got to Marion Point the wind was serious. As we selected camp sites for the night I looked for low, protected areas. Todd wanted a level area. I selected a cramped area on the leeward side of the ridge that was protected by a high spot and a Juniper on the wind side and brush on the other side that prevented rolling over the edge into the canyon. About 7:00 PM I estimated the winds at sustained fifty or sixty miles per hour. I asked Todd what he thought the gusts were reaching. He replied seventy which seemed to confirm my estimate.

About 7:30 PM I crawled into my sleeping bag and tried to read for a while. I thought I would finish the book that I began two nights earlier but the wind made reading difficult. Occasionally a stray gust of wind would circle the Juniper and inflate my bag like a balloon. I decided it was time to stop reading, get my arms inside, pull the draw strings tight, put a scarf over my mouth and expose only my nose and eyes. The purpose of the scarf was to keep wind blown grit out of my mouth.

It wasn't a bad night. I slept well and woke only two or three times for brief periods. Once an exceptionally strong gust hit my back and rolled me over on my face. I awoke with the thought "that must have been an eighty miles per hour gust". The next morning Todd said the wind was moving his legs and he was wishing he had chosen a less exposed spot.

Camp site three at Marion Point.
Camp site three at Marion Point. I kept my backpack close so I could roll it on to my sleeping bag to prevent it blowing away.

These are a few of our experiences. We saw fish entering the creek from the river, watched rafters on the river, passed other backpackers, watched gray-green frogs with yellow legs, bemoaned the gnats and had an enjoyable time.

I wish we could have had the fourth night and fifth day but it was a good trip, an excellent trip. Even the windy night was enjoyable for me. I came out of the canyon feeling fine, as if I had been on a gentle stroll which is ironic given my struggles for the first three miles. I've never felt this good at the end of a trip. No soreness, no aches, no stiffness, no pain in my knees. I think I know why. I'm not certain but I have a theory and that will be the subject of my next post.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nankoweap Trail in 31 Photos

The Nankoweap trip was perfect!

When I was researching and anticipating the trip I was unable to find photos that gave a good feel for the trail. Following are 31 photos that give a sense of what to expect.

The trail divides into four distinct sections: trail 57 from House Rock Road to the Nankoweap trail head (3 miles, climb 400 feet, descend 400+ feet, climb 1200 feet); the Supai traverse from the trail head to Tilted Mesa (4 miles, descend 1600 feet); the descent of Tiled Mesa to Nankoweap Creek (4 miles, descend 2600 feet); the junction with the creek to the delta on the Colorado River (3 miles, descend 600 feet). At the Colorado the climb to the granaries is about 750 feet.

House Rock Road.
House Rock Road. The parking area is about 23 miles away and takes one hour to drive. (Larger version)

Saddle Mountain.
Saddle Mountain and the saddle are visible for miles. (Larger version)

Start of trail 57.
Start of trail 57 that leads to Nankoweap trail head in three miles. (Larger version)

Trail 57 ravine.
After climbing about 400 feet the trail descends into a rivine and drops over 400 feet. (Larger version)

Snow melt in trail 57 ravine.
Snow melt more than doubled the water in the ravine in three days. The small creek was crossed several times (Larger version)

Snow on trail 57.
A few areas of snow remained near the top of trail 57. We were knee deep in snow in one spot. (Larger version)

Looking down trail 57.
Looking back on trail 57 from the rim. The climb was about 1200 feet from the bottom of the ravine. (Larger version)

Start of the Nankoweap trail.
Start of the Nankoweap trail. There was no snow on the trail for the first two miles and then only a minor amount. (Larger version)

Nankoweap trail at the base of the cliffs.
Looking ahead it's impossible to see the trail which follows the base of the cliff for the first four miles. Marion Point is visible in the background. (Larger version)

Early section of the Nankoweap trail.
The unmaintianed trail rises and falls continuously as it meanders close to the edge or cliff due to obstacles. (Larger version)

View on the Nankoweap trail.
The views on this section of the trail are fantastic. (Larger version)

Nankoweap scary spot.
The section of the Nankoweap known as the Scary Spot. (Larger version)

Marion Point.
The stone pillars mark a camp site at Marion Point. (Larger version)

Marion Point Camp Site.
The Marion Point camp site is small and exposed. We had strong winds all night with gusts we estimated at 70 mph. (Larger version)

Tilted Mesa.
About two miles past Marion Point the trail drops down from the Supai layer to Tiled Mesa. (Larger version)

Climb near Tiled Mesa.
There is an interesting climb near Tilted Mesa. The tree makes it possible to climb both directions without removing packs. (Larger version)

Tilted Mesa camp site.
The camp site at Tilted Mesa is larger than Marion Point but just as exposed to wind. (Larger version)

Tilted Mesa section of the trail.
The trail down Tilted Mesa is about four miles in length. (Larger version)

Tilted Mesa constructed trail section.
The contours of the mesa are followed as the trail works around rather than straight down. (Larger version)

Tilted Mesa switch backs.
At a few points there is no option other than switch backing straight down hill. (Larger version)

Nankoweap easy section.
At the base of Tilted Mesa is the easiest section of the trail. Short but welcomed. (Larger version)

Nankoweap Creek.
From the junction with Nankoweap Creek it is three miles of boulder hopping, scrambling and multiple crossings to the Colorado River. (Larger version)

Colorado River.
The first sighting of the Colorado River is welcomed but not spectacular. (Larger version)

Nankoweap Granaries.
The granaries at Nankoweap are about 750 feet above the river low on the vertical cliff. (Larger version)

Firt group of granaries.
The first group of granaries are impressive. (Larger version)

Looking in a granary.
The first granaries are easy to access. (Larger version)

Second group of granaries.
The second group of granaries to the left of the first are more difficult to access. I was able to take photos inside the granaries only by holding the camera high above my head. (Larger version)

Third opening to the left of the second group of granaries.
The third opening (out of sight in this photo) to the left of the second group of granaries is the most difficult to access. (Larger version)

Missing section of ledge.
A six feet section of the ledge is missing that leads to an area below the third opening. Not obvious in this photo is a small protrusion that supported almost half of the outside of my foot and enabled me to step across. (Larger version)

Nankoweap delta, Colorado River and cliffs.
The cliffs on the opposite side of the Colorado are 3000 feet high. (Larger version)

Colorado River from below the granaries.
Colorado River as seen from below the granaries. Visible in the larger version of the photo is a rafting party setting up camp on the beach. (Larger version)

In another post I'll describe some of our experiences.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

By Its Cover

I stopped by a used book store today to get a book. I went to the WWII section and looked for something small and light with yellowing pages. New books tend to be larger, heavier, printed on weightier paper with weightier ink. I've heard it's not wise to judge a book by its cover but I want something small and light to carry in my backpack. I found only three choices. The elimination of two was easy. I selected Kriegie: Prisoner of War by Kenneth W.Simmons. It is copyrighted 1960 and cost 35 cents at that time. I paid $2.50 for it.

I've almost halfway through The $64 Tomato by William Alexander. It's been thoroughly enjoyable but it's too large and too heavy to carry. My backpack is ready. I weighed it and was surprised: 48 pounds. I like to draw the limit at 40 pounds but we won't get to water until the second day so I'm carrying extra.

Preparation for this trip hasn't monopolized my time lately. In fact, I got ready quite a while back. The thing that has interfered with blogging is preparation for a gardening class that I'm teaching on April 2. It's a four hour class and I want to do a good job. I've been reading sections of the Arizona and California master gardener manuals, library books, gardening books that I own and doing web research. All of this work is being distilled into electronic presentations along with show and tell items. I've found this preparation extremely enjoyable.

It's 8:07 PM. My alarm will sound in six hours and twenty-three minutes assuming I've set it correctly. We rarely use an alarm and Julie always sets the clock. I've never done it and yearn for the old, easy mechanical clocks rather than the high tech electronic imitation. Julie is in Texas. I phoned and asked instructions.

I'll be back in a week!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Spring Break

Next week is spring break. Normally I procrastinate if possible. I get topo maps early, read trip reports, search out photos and think about an upcoming backpacking trip. But, when it comes to getting out the equipment and packing I generally wait to the last minute. That's not usually a problem since everything is cleaned and stored after a trip in preparation for the next adventure. But last year I procrastinated too long. In the end I finished packing about 11 PM and had to get up at 2:30 AM to start the trip.

This time, however, it's been different. The front bedroom is full of equipment. Last year I took a twenty degrees synthetic sleeping bag and the night time temperatures pushed it to it's limit. This time I'm taking a ten degrees down bag. I checked my water filter, lubricated the o-rings and put a coffee filter over the intake. Batteries for headlamp and camera have been charged and the permit has been stacked with maps. The last thing to do is pick up a few additional items for mid-day meals. Everything else has been checked, cleaned, completed and laid out next to my backpack.

Last week I phoned the Back Country Information Center to check on the condition of the road to the trail head and the depth of the snow near the trail head. The road off the blacktop is twenty-seven miles long and should be fine the entire length. The ranger advised snow shoes for the three miles from the end of the road to the trail head. We'll be climbing the north side of a mountain to get to the canyon rim and the snow may be deep. I read a report from May of last year that indicated there was one to two feet of snow in the area at that time. But, we had anticipated this and already had snow shoes laid out with other equipment.

This is my third trip with Todd. I've arranged to meet him at 4 AM Monday morning for the three and one-half hours trip to the north side of the canyon. My son phoned two weeks ago and canceled. We tentatively discussed another trip in the fall. I'll miss him.

Last year for spring break Julie flew to Dallas to spend the week with her son, daughter and spouses. This Saturday she leaves for Amarillo to visit parents, sister and extended family. I'll miss her.

This time next week I should be camped on the Colorado River at the Nankoweap delta.