Wednesday, January 27, 2016

So long, Napalm

Not so long ago we had to let go of our cat, Napalm. He had been with Wendy since he was a little kitten, which was just before we met.

He was about as cute as a kitten could be, all giant paws, bat ears and a consuming lust to chase strings. I remember running him around the living room with a sparkle toy practically nonstop. I still have a shirt that’s full of pulls from his little kitten claws running over it.


He grew up into a good sized cat – almost 20 lbs at his peak. He also got pretty shy at some point. For a while he would barely come near us unless we chased him down.


After a while he got more used to us. He used to sit next to me in bed and purr loudly, trying to get some petting. He always was kind of an idiot though, so he’d be way too far away to pet half the time. Nonetheless, that’s when he got the nickname “Little Buddy Cat”, which was mostly ironic to begin with.


When we moved into a house without air conditioning, we started getting him shaved in the summer to keep cool. Wendy may have taken a few… liberties… with his hairstyles.


Despite the occasional teasing, and no matter how big he got, he was always our Kitten. Farewell, buddy cat.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Music Canyon and Zero-G Canyon

Hm, so apparently when I said "ease back into it" I was subconsciously thinking a pace of one post every two or three years. Whoops. In my defense, it's been a damned busy couple of years. I'll get to that at some point. But for now, I thought I'd post a few photos from a recent canyoneering trip to Music and Zero-G canyons, which are in the San Rafael Swell area of Utah. (By the way, all of the photos are clickable for larger versions).

We drove out during the day, which is actually a luxury compared to our usual post-work departure. It turned out well, because we got there just in time for one of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen. These photos don't even do the clouds justice - they were the most vivid red possible. I think the red sunlight reflected off the red rocks and got a little extra saturated.

A campsite that does not suck. THE CLOUDS ARE ON FIRE!

We were camped at the Hidden Splendor Mine site. Most of the mines in the area were uranium mines, but they're closed now. There's still an airstrip there, though it looks more like a slightly run down gravel road. It's also on a low point, with cliffs on three sides, so you'd need a pretty brave or stupid pilot to fly in there.

The next day we headed out early to do Music Canyon. It's a long one - three miles of approach hike, a couple of miles in-canyon, and then a six mile exit hike down Muddy Creek back to the campsite.


The canyon itself is quite pretty, full of the flowing rock forms and interesting lighting that we all love about the canyons.

Looking down a little "staircase"

This particular one was also full of sticky, clinging, slippery clay-based mud. In places it was a foot or more deep and would try to suck the shoes right off your feet. But the bigger problem is that it makes you lose traction, which is not really ideal. Thankfully we had no mishaps.

Most of the group is actually in this photo, but two are way off in the distance.

Deciding whether to sneak around that little corner of rock with the not-great footing, or go through the pool of muddy water. I believe he opted for the water.

Kendre doing her thing in the canyon

Here's some of that interesting light I was talking about. On the left there Bonnie is setting up a rappel for the rest of us weaklings. She was the only one of the group that free climbed down the entire canyon. She also climbed back up a section that the rest of us rappelled... twice. Bonnie's a badass.

Alcoves make for a good picture frame, right?
Canyons go by pretty fast - you gotta take a rest when you can.

High style is the name of the canyoneering game
High style is the name of the canyoneering game

The wind had blown a dusting of white sand over everything - it looked like snowfall. Which might happen in the winter, but not in October.

At the exit of the canyon proper, standing on the bank of Muddy Creek.
This is at the end of the canyon proper, on the bank of the aptly-named Muddy Creek.

Canyon Crew after the canyon. Lee's friend had given her some fancy soap hoping for marketing photos... instead she got this. Oh well.
A little celebration at the end of the canyon!

Wading down Muddy Creek.
So we started the long hike downriver. It's actually rather pretty. It's a bit like the Narrows in Zion. It's not as impressive, but it's similar.

There's always time for a selfie!

Bill slogging his way down the Muddy.

The following day a few of us headed out to do Zero-G, a well known canyon on the other side of the Swell. The name comes from a well-known "jumper" in the canyon - a permanent, spring-fed pool deep enough to jump into. 

Approach to Zero-G Canyon
Here's a look into Zero-G from the rim during the approach hike. As usual, the canyon itself is deep and dark. 

Zero-G packs a lot of variety. There are some nice open areas, and some very squeezy parts. 

This is a relatively famous "jumper" in Zero-G, a deep spring-fed pool that's always there. But I had the depth checked first anyway. Woohoo!
And here's the famous "jumper." It's definitely a rush. And yes, I did have someone check the depth just in case. 

This is the exit of Zero-G. We actually came from further back into the cliff, and only a little bit higher up.
The exit of the canyon is this tiny crack above a pool. Bill had skipped the canyon that day, so we were lucky enough to get photos of ourselves. This may look a little bit high, but it's not a problem. You actually have to try to get out of the crack because it's so tight, so falling out is not a concern.

Getting ready for a swim Made it out!
And there you have it folks! There are more photos on SmugMug. And I'll try to sneak in some more blog posts soon.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hiking - Shelf & Solitude Lakes

I thought I'd try to ease back into blogging a little bit, just in case anyone out there is still persistent enough to keep reading. Actually, if you're still reading I think we've gone past "persistent" into "stubborn".

So, let's look at a few of the photos I've been collected during my blogging hiatus. Today, a few from a hiking day trip up to Shelf and Solitude Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. This trip was back in August, so I'm only a few months late...

It's actually a pretty long hike, about 11 miles round trip and quite a bit of vertical. The first bit is plenty nice, though initially rather crowded as it's off the popular Glacier Gorge trailhead and goes past Alberta Falls. After a few miles you get to the lake pictured above, which is Mills Lake if I recall correctly.

Hey look, I was actually there! I figure you need at least one photo of me standing around, mostly because it makes the background look that much prettier by comparison.

The last couple miles of trail to Shelf and Solitude is actually an unofficial trail, and as such isn't marked nor very well traveled. Luckily a marmot appeared to block our path just as we got to the turnoff. He literally stopped us from going too far. So if you ever want to go there, remember to just hike until you see a marmot and that'll be the turnoff. Actually wait, instead just follow Debbie's directions, they're much more reliable than that damned unreliable wildlife.

So did I mention there's a lot of climbing on this trail? The unofficial part of the trail goes basically straight up the valley wall. It's probably steeper than your average staircase for about a half mile or more. Most of the bottom is in a pine forest, but then you break out into a bolder field. I took this photo looking back down that super-steep slope. Notice how you can't see any sky - that's not because I cropped it out. It's just that steep.

But here's the payoff! Shelf lake is just ridiculously pretty - big wide waterfalls into a placid alpine lake. After seeing 10 or 20 high altitude lakes you might start to think they're all the same, but this one is really something special.

And after a relatively short climb you get to the source of those waterfalls, Solitude Lake. Also a pretty one, though to be perfectly honest I like Shelf a little bit better.

Here's a panorama of Shelf Lake I took on the walk back down. Might be worth clicking through for the big version if you're into that kind of thing.


So that's pretty much it for Shelf and Solitude Lakes. I highly recommend them, but only if you can hack the 5 mile hike, followed by a climb/scramble 1000+ feet up a non-trail in about half a mile, and then going back down. Oh, the hike tops out around 12,000 or 13,000 feet. Even then, I'd take a buddy - it would be easy to slip and hurt yourself on the way down. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Road Trip Technology

We’ve taken a fair number of long, complicated road trips in the last few years. Along the way I’ve worked out some habits for staying organized and minimizing stress. In the past those strategies have involved a lot of toner and paperclips, but now that we’ve each got two mobile devices I figured we can do better. 

I like to plan out our route in advance, and I’m a total sucker for turn by turn directions. I’d love to just use Google Maps on my phone, but I want something that works even in the middle of the mountains where there’s no reception, or the middle of Utah where there are no towers. Besides, I hate trying to type addresses on a phone or tablet while driving. My solution is pre-generating all the directions and saving them to my phones. This takes a few steps, but it isn’t all that difficult. First, sit down at your laptop or desktop and generate your directions with Google Maps as normal. Hit the “Print” button. When you get to the printer selection dialog, instead of choosing a printer choose “Save to PDF” (or whatever your equivalent is). This will, surprise!, save a copy as a PDF file. I used Dropbox to sync the PDFs from my laptop onto my tablet and phones. The only gotcha is that Dropbox won’t automatically download the files to your devices. You have to open up each PDF on your device. That will force Dropbox to download and save them on your device.

I also like to have copies of my itinerary, hotel confirmations, ferry schedules, and anything else I might useful on the road. So I just used the same “Save to PDF” trick on all of them. Usually all those receipts are just overkill. But when you roll into your hotel at 10 PM and the clerk tries to tell you that your reservation is for next week, those hotel confirmations are priceless.

All those directions and itineraries are nice, but if you want to improvise a bit a road atlas is indispensable. Again, Google Maps would work if I could be assured of connectivity. Since I can’t, I needed a different solution. A little searching turned up a free app called Maps With Me that does exactly that. You can download full maps for pretty much anywhere in the world. I spot checked some neighborhoods I’m familiar with, and the maps seem to be about as detailed and accurate as you would get on Google Maps. They weigh in at about 50MB per US state. There are versions for both Android and iOS, which is a nice bonus for those of us with no OS loyalty. Since it’s free and easy to set up, I put it on all four devices, so we don’t have to worry about which one has the maps.

Last up, keeping your homebound family and friends informed. There are plenty of options for letting Mom know you’re not dead, and/or rubbing your friends’ noses in the fact that what you’re doing is more awesome than what they’re doing. Facebook and Twitter are popular for this, but I’ve avoided them ever since burglars started using that info to find empty houses. Instead, we’re setting up a Glassboard for the trip. Glassboard has all that location-photo-messagey goodness of Facebook, but it’s complete private so the nefarious nightcrawlers won’t know we’re gone. Plus, when we get home I can export the entire contents of the board into a zip file. That makes a really easy scrapbook or journal of the trip. You also get copies of all the uploaded photos and videos so you can dump them into Lightroom, iPhoto, Picasa, or wherever you like to keep photos. Copying photos out of a zip file is way easier than trying to coerce them out of Facebook. And yes, it’s true, I’m not exactly impartial on the subject of Glassboard. But it’s still a good tool for the job. Really.

That’s it for my trip tech this time out. Do any of my twelve avid readers have other ideas for travel tools?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Defending America from Terrorists and Zombies

While we were in Vegas for the aforementioned minor ceremony, we received some disturbing news. It seems that Las Vegas was being invaded! By terrorists and zombies, no less! For some reason these terrorists and zombies had decided to start this invasion from a gun range… and not the part of the range you fire from. More like the part you fire at.


Shooting guns at The Gun Store. If I recall correctly I shot a Thompson submachine gun, a semiauto AK-47 with a foregrip and red dot sight, and an M249 SAW with a holo sight and bipod. Matt fired the SAW, an M14, an M9 pistol, and the AK-47. Wendy fired an M4, the SAW, and the M9. Mom fired the M4 and the M9.

You might think that Mom, tender soul that she is, would not partake in such violence. Au contraire, she was right there on the front lines. She showed no mercy, not even for zombie clowns. You can even see a spent shell casing traversing the middle of the photo. Turns out she's a pretty good pistol shot, too. I'll have to keep that in mind before crossing her.


Shooting guns at The Gun Store. If I recall correctly I shot a Thompson submachine gun, a semiauto AK-47 with a foregrip and red dot sight, and an M249 SAW with a holo sight and bipod. Matt fired the SAW, an M14, an M9 pistol, and the AK-47. Wendy fired an M4, the SAW, and the M9. Mom fired the M4 and the M9.

Their tactics seem ill-conceived, but then zombies and terrorists are not renowned for their great intelligence. In any event, we headed over there to do our duty and defend America by firing lots of guns.


Shooting guns at The Gun Store. If I recall correctly I shot a Thompson submachine gun, a semiauto AK-47 with a foregrip and red dot sight, and an M249 SAW with a holo sight and bipod. Matt fired the SAW, an M14, an M9 pistol, and the AK-47. Wendy fired an M4, the SAW, and the M9. Mom fired the M4 and the M9.

The only thing worse than a zombie is a Nazi zombie. Wendy is preparing to explain the error of his ways. Apparently explaining things makes her very happy.


Shooting guns at The Gun Store. If I recall correctly I shot a Thompson submachine gun, a semiauto AK-47 with a foregrip and red dot sight, and an M249 SAW with a holo sight and bipod. Matt fired the SAW, an M14, an M9 pistol, and the AK-47. Wendy fired an M4, the SAW, and the M9. Mom fired the M4 and the M9.

Matt, in a rare moment of uncertainty. It’s not a zombie, it’s not a terrorst. Should I still shoot it? If I recall correctly, he went with “Shoot ‘em all a whole bunch and let God sort it out.”


Anyway, it was a great time, if a bit pricey. If you’ve got any interest in firing some fully-automatic weapons while defending our fair nation from not-too-bright zombies, I encourage you to try it out.

There are a few more photos up on my SmugMug, too.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Vegas style

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So you may have heard the vicious rumors that I ran off to Vegas and got married to some woman. It’s amazing how these things get started and just take on a life of their own. But I’m here to set it straight. Not only are these rumors vicious, as I previously mentioned, they’re also true. Weird, right? Believe me, I’m just as surprised as you are.


Taking a little nip of liquid courage in the limo

Did that flask have something to do with it? Nah, not really. I was already wearing the suit, so it was far too late.

For some reason people get really into pictures of weddings. I still think it’s kind of an odd tradition, since people in suits all look pretty much the same, and especially once you find out what those crazy photographers think they can charge. But since people refuse to be dissuaded, you can see the photos here for a little while. I was a little busy, so I don’t have many photos of my own


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After the actual ceremony, we took a quick jaunt to the (in)famous Welcome to Las Vegas Sign. For some reason I thought it would be empty out there. Of course I was completely wrong - it’s quite the tourist attraction, with its own parking lot and everything. So we just snapped some photos and headed off for dinneer.


They did a much better job of posing than I did.

And there's a photo of my brother and his lovely lady in front of the sign. Why did I include that photo? Well frankly, they hit that pose with a lot more style. So just go ahead and mentally erase them out of it and put Wendy & I in there, okey? Thanks, I appreciate it.