Friday, November 29, 2013

A Day Later

Just one more example of something to be Thankful's morning sunrise.

Besides of course all of my wonderful blogging friends.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Crisp Lake Pepin Morning

I was up and out early this morning with our thermometer reading just a smidge above 0 degrees F.  The frost was thick on the car but that goes away quickly enough with a bit of planning.  During riding season, it's very common for me to jump on one of the bikes and head to Alma for breakfast but that didn't happen today.  There were 4 wheels ridden on today, a heater, and a defroster and of course visions of some hot coffee and whip cream-topped blueberry pancakes.

The Mississippi River valley was lovely in the cold darkness, the moon still very bright at 5:30 on a November morning.  The bluffs provided stark contrasting silhouettes, framing the broad valley.  It was still early enough, with dawn far enough away for the deer hunters to mostly still be with their coffee rather than with their shotguns, though I'll bet that most of the traffic that I did see on the roads contained people wrapped in blaze orange.

Paul the owner of Pier4 (wife Marietta wasn't there yet)  the cook and Jess, our always cordial young server had the grill hot but because it was so early, the restaurant itself was still warming.  My never empty coffee cup stayed hot though and the only other patron besides myself seemed as adequately comfortable as I was.  I did hear the words "vikings"and "packers" in discussion but until the words "new stadium" came up, I stayed properly quiet.

My blueberry pancakes, topped with their mandatory only on special weekends whipped cream really hit the spot.  Other topics were discussed and with just the two of we customers there, Paul was able to come out from the kitchen and join us at the table.  Other than keeping our coffees full, Jess had a relatively easy load that early and was able to share the great news of her recently won, much deserved scholarship for school.

After this coming Thursday's holiday meal with proceeds donated to the local foodshelf, the restaurant will get quiet for a few months as we tourists and busy breakfast eaters stay closer to home.  Once the ice retreats from the Big River and travelers start moving again in March, the diner will once again be open for trade.

All of the following photos were taken from the Minnesota side of the river, both down river and up river near Lake City.  The distant Wisconsin bluffs that often get a mention in this blog are not very far these photos 2 1/2 - 3 miles distant across Lake Pepin.

Ducks enjoying the last (hours?) of ice-free water.  Most portions of the river don't freeze but Lake Pepin itself almost always does.

Lake City's Marina Point, jutting out into the river......

Looking SE downriver, the sun rising 'over' Minnesota.  In June, the sun would be out of frame on the opposite side, to the left 'over' Wisconsin.

Point-No-Point, directly above the middle of this ice covered dock watches over an almost 90 degree turn in the river.  In checking the Google for a quote I remembered that had been attributed to Mark Twain, I see that my west coast blog friends have a P-N-P of their own.

From an online reference ......
Across Lake Pepin in a northwesterly direction from Maiden Bluff, Wisconsin is Point-No Point, an optical illusion more readily seen (than unseen) while traveling on the river itself. Mark Twain described the phenomenon in his 1870's articles "Old Times on the Mississippi". Twain recalled focusing his eyes on a sharp wooded point several miles upstream and then watching it " ... melt away and fold back into the bank."

Two eagles keeping sentinel along the edge of the calm river.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wildlife Day

Just as the sunlight was fading yesterday, we were treated to an amazing light show.  It was raining lightly, the low clouds looked as though they were going over at 100 mph; some of them very dark and some almost white, all highlighted by a setting sun that was doing odd things to the landscape.

Late to the show, I only headed outside after some of the best of it had passed, in my shorts and quickly grabbing my camera.  Making a circle around our buildings (with my bright orange hoodie), maybe 100 yards at most from the house, I saw no hunters but annoyed almost 20 deer as I walked around the perimeter of our settlement.  White tails were flashing all around me, a snort or two up in the woods was all that I could hear over the wind and raindrops.

Never able to keep track of our deer seasons or bothering to, dusk yesterday must have been the end of our first season.  We typically have the 2nd week of November with orange suits in the woods, then a week off, and finally a full week again through the Thanksgiving week.  No hunters in the early light this morning and as is my habit, I was up early today and saw plenty of moving shadows against the woods and backdrop of standing cornstalks.

This afternoon, there was a turkey invasion; they came.......

They dined.....

and they left......

They don't appear to be very patient creatures.  You see them, watch a few seconds, possibly look away and when you once again look for them, they are either going or easily gone.

On the other hand, this young buck was much more deliberate and cautious, moving less and thinking more as he walked down along our line fence.  After multiple attempts to find a spot where he could fit his rack through the 7 wires that once (mostly) contained bison, he found a spot that he was able to wedge himself through.  The young does simply pop right over the top if pushed in the least......this regal guy wasn't going to expend the effort for any jumping, choosing instead a less strenuous path.

Peg had just closed a door in the house and that seemed to get his immediate attention.

It is surprising that our farmer is able to harvest anything with all of this going on.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Grand Canyon in Winter - Rest of Story

Images from my wintery trip west...

Headed to our neighbor to the south......"Iowa - A Place To Grow".....but not until it warms up.

Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel

In the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel

Frisco, Colorado

Glenwood Canyon, 2 lane road, here the mighty Colorado River

Into Utah, leaving the not-as-colorful Colorado

Near Beaver, UT

A little paint, patch the roof, ........

Rhyolite, NV

20 Mule Team (without the mules)  We TV watchers from the 60's will remember seeing these huge carts on Death Valley Days

Death Valley....the low spot without the sea.

Sequoia National Park

The big trees.....

Coop in front of a very big tree

Big snowbanks....little car

Walking around on TOP of those snowbanks, more snow beneath me than I am tall.  I've always thought of this shot as "Sleeping Bear" (not without jammies).

Out Whiskeytown way......

A snowy day at Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lake Shasta.....

Lake Shasta Dam.....

Wupatki National Monument.....

and a couple more from the Grand Canyon.  My 2nd "run in 10 seconds to get back in time" shot.  Here I'm fidgeting with something in my pack or making it look that way.

Blooming cactus along the Colorado River

Sunday, November 10, 2013

That Time Of Year Again

Snow Fence Day

I wanted to put them up yesterday, but the winds were far too strong.  This morning, once the deer hunters were for the most part out of the valley and inside having coffee somewhere, the winds were calm, or so I thought.  In my defense, early on I believe there was no wind but before I was able to finish only 1 of 2 today, the wisps of breeze were definitely present.  I believe I'd totally underestimate a good sailboating day.

Unlike some years, the ground hasn't frozen yet and this summer's dry conditions were softened with some wonderful autumn rains.  Beating the T-Posts into the ground is still a chore though.  I was able to smile about it today though.  Thoughts of the sometimes maligned Springfield Whacking Day came to mind, making the chore an easier one and brought me chuckle or two.  Today was as close as I'll get to participating in their special event.

Starting with a clean palette.....

Picking the location and the critical alignment.....


This is what I hope those wandering, blowing snowflakes see as they float down the cornfield rows.....a big, evil, wicked, mean and nasty orange wall that will hopefully make them drop dead in their tracks.  These standing cornstalks will stop a lot of snow that a cut-clean soybean field will not.

It wasn't my best 'fence put up but I've done much worse.  I only did this one today, other projects are calling and the second fence is less critical than this one to have in place.  I should still have time before frost sets in.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Grand Canyon In Winter

This morning in the car, my MP3 player was on "Shuffle", running wild, something I'm normally too cautious to let happen.  I am after all, a person of structure.  Between hearing Ed singing Blue Red and Grey on the oookulele .....

I dig every second, 
I could laugh in the snow and rain
I get a buzz from being cold and wet
The pleasure seems to balance out the pain

and recent comments by fellow blogger Keith, my mind drifted back to my time in the Grand Canyon and the weather that I experienced there.  I knew that today was the time to Post about my best experience in Arizona.

One late fall day quite awhile ago, I decided that it would be a good time to quit my job and based on a workmate's suggestion, head to Redding, California.  Eric grew up there and the more he talked of his old Stomping Grounds :), the more I was convinced that it was the place for me.

Our kids were all still in diapers (no, not really....this was long before I was in the Family Way) when I gave my notice, jumped in the old Chevy and headed west.  This was back before I'd discovered GPS and as a result my route was far from being a direct one.  There were stops in Moab, a few days in Beaver, UT that hadn't been part of any plan, through Las Vegas as fast as possible, Beatty, an amazingly fast friendship in Mountain Mesa, then  Bakersfield.  Of course there were stops at Yosemite, Kings Canyon and from there, it was getting to be high time for Redding, so the Central Valley was mostly a long, straight and direct drive.

I found a lot of what I was looking for in Redding but work proved tough to come by.  The region had long suffered a drought, the Shasta Reservoir was way down and tourism, an industry I had hoped to be a part of, was especially slow.  Eric's folks were good to me, helped me snag a couple of quick, part time jobs.  I met Annie on my own, she was still employed up near the Shasta Dam.  Before long, my quick jobs were done and seeing the very sad, long lines of people at the Unemployment Office reminded me that there were many folks there that needed work much worse than I.  Annie knew of a guy that knew of a guy in Palm Springs.....

Another trip through the Central Valley, only this time south and again, another hurried blitz drive.  Through L.A. and on to Palm Springs where there was all kinds of work but affordable housing was as or even more precious than work had been to the north.  The guys at the auto dealer parts counter were good to me, but not good enough for me to be satisfied to live in an ratty old apartment with a bunch of 20 year old guys.  One of the quickest decisions of my life had me off and gone, using the eastbound lanes of I-10, then up to Prescott, AZ and on to Flagstaff.

Humphrey Peak and some of the most beautiful hoarfrost I've ever seen.....though it may just have been the location and my's funny how that can often make a difference.

Contrail in the far and beyond distance........

Looking back, the Grand Canyon may have been one of the real, underlying reasons for me going west in the first place, I don't really know but once in AZ, the big place drew me like a magnet.  I arrived one afternoon on the South Rim to this......

The Bright Angel Trail sloping down dead center in the photo.

After obtaining a Back Country Use Permit and enjoying lots of time at the Visitor Center, it was time to set up camp.  I've become used to having a warm beer now and then (too many enjoyed in the U.K.) on my bike cold was free and I didn't have or even drink the brews back then.

So, I was set the following day and very excited to finally be able to walk down in the world famous Grand Canyon.  My grandparents had ridden mules (they never did that again) down, back in the '30's and of course I'd heard many stories about the place from Gramp and otherwise.  The next morning I awoke with one of my boots hitting me in the face.  A very strong storm had come up, it had snowed some more.  My tent's fly had blown into the pine trees, luckily the poles were in the branches where I could find them.  Everything, even me, was covered with snow and wet by the time I was able to get out and start gathering my things.  I threw everything into the car's trunk in one big pile, frustrated, cold and very unsure about my plans to go into the canyon.  I was within a micron and maybe less, of turning the heater up all the way and enjoying myself in the car, leaving that crazy place.  Something inside me, no idea who it really was, told me that if I left at that moment, I'd never again be in a place to walk down into the big hole.  Summer heat and serious-work backpacking have never worked for me, nor was that a workable combination back then.

At the last minute, I drove my snow-tired old, Minnesota-plated Chevelle on snowy, unplowed roads to the parking lot for the South Kaibab Trailhead.  I grabbed this photo a week later in the daylight, after coming back to pick up my car; it was still dawny dark the day I headed down very early in the morning.

I repacked everything, grabbed as much food as I could fit into the framed backpack and headed down, a bit drier and much warmer after having been in the car.

This is what I saw in the first few hundred yards down the trail.  Right out of the parking lot, snow was over the top of my waffle stomper boots.  Lucky for me, my jeans were quickly frozen tight and keeping most of the wet from invading over the top of my boots.  If our kids ever do anything like this......

See how much further down into the canyon the snowline is from the day before.

Looking back up.....the snow was already much less deep.

What these photos don't show and what I really wish that I could share was how windy it was.  Rounding some of these points and getting exposed to the 'breezes' blowing through the canyon was truly amazing.  I could lean forward with my pack at an angle that I never could have been able to stand at.  It seemed the clouds were racing at 60 mph as the clearing skies and warming sun began to appear; the storm passed or so it seemed.  No sooner than it got really bright, the blackness would return, the views changing rapidly.

A warning to us invincible and cocky young men about what we have already gotten ourselves into.  I can't imagine doing this on an August day.

It didn't take very long for the trail to become wet and muddy, then before long, dry as I descended.  Look closely and you can see the trail ahead.  The black clouds giving way to brilliant sunshine....and back again was inspirational, even reverent.....I don't have better words.

One of my favorite photos and always will be, looking towards the 1000' higher North Rim.  The Colorado River is down there in that crack, far down.  There's a framed 8 x 10 in my cubicle at work of this.

Going down, still going down......

My first view of the Colorado on the hike.

The Kaibab Trail is the steep one and as a result, the shortest one.  I had decided up top that I'd go down this one and use the more gradual, 9 mile Bright Angel Trail to exit.

Once again, the trail visible sloping down and to the left.

Almost down, Phantom Ranch, the Colorado on the left, the Bright Angel Creek coming in from the right.  My tent will be set up between the stream and those rocks along the right edge of the photo.  The bridge is the 2nd bridge, the newer one, the route across the river for the Bright Angel Trail.  I'm just about down to the bridge that I'll be crossing.

In the lower right corner, you can just barely make out the entrance to the tunnel to cross the bridge.  It was in here somewhere that I ran into one of the National Park Rangers.  Surprised to see me coming down, he asked where I'd been.  When I told him about sleeping in the campground up on top and starting out just that morning, he told me that the trail had been closed due to the dangerous conditions.

"It wasn't closed at 6AM" was all I had for him.

The "men" being Native Americans......

Note the soil on the bridge for the horses and burros.

Coop contemplating and Watching The River Flow.......

Looking up river at the Kaibab suspension bridge from Phantom Ranch

My bright orange tent under the cottonwoods beside Bright Angel Creek

My grandparents slept here.....inside one of the cabins.

It froze every night.....

and tried to thaw every afternoon.  I'd lift this ice out on my morning hikes, then see how much of it had melted on the return trip.  I didn't stay down long enough for it go dry.

It took forever for the sun to reach us every morning.  Between the canyon walls and low winter sun, bright light was precious.  

Bright Angel Falls, on the trail to the North Rim.

Behind the falls.......a great place to spend an afternoon or even a couple of them.

If it looks like I enjoyed my time(s) at the falls, I really did.

I've mentioned many times in conversation that viewing the canyon from the normal vantage points is of course impressive, but to really appreciate it's size and scope, you need to be part way down.  Here in the bottom, it looks like you're next to a mountain.  From the rim on top, you see a huge hole.  It was on some of the plateaus, able to look both up and down, that I was truly able to get it.

A week later, on the way out.  50-55 degrees each day in the bottom had taken care most of the snow on the South Rim, here the North Rim in the distance.

I stayed in the canyon longer than I should have, carrying all of the freeze dried food that I had when I left the car.  Margaret from Baltimore was one of the persons caring for the horses at Phantom Ranch.  She snagged a couple of meals for me and showed me things down there I'd have not seen without her.  

And then there was the group of guys that fed me trout, real corn that didn't need water added and some of the very best Tennessee whiskey I've ever had.  One evening I was in my tent, preferring to eat inside rather than outside due to cooler temps.  The stove was running right out my 'door' (never cook inside a tent) and I noticed this guy walking past in the strangest get-up I'd ever seen a backpacker in; he obviously hadn't been shopping from the L.L. Bean catalog.  Odd knee length boots, a long hip length pea coat, a jaunty cap and the oddest vision of all, carrying a grocery bag.......a paper grocery bag, no shoulder straps, no aluminum frame.   I wondered whointhehell is this Ichabod?  What comet did he ride in on?

I began to wonder if in my weakness I may be hallucinating.  No more than an hour later that same guy with another (there were other tents and campers along the creek) guy walked past with a can of corn and a stick as fishing pole.  I laughed to myself. The mystery was only getting more odd but then, not long afterwards, they were heading back the other direction, a stringer of trout hanging from their hands and the laugh was on me.

It was finally too much.  I walked down to the end of the camping area and saw a rather large group of young guys gathered around a few tables and a very warm campfire.  I went over to say hello and learned that they were all workers up at the motel, restaurant, cabins, store, etc.  Every one of them worked for Fred Harvey Concessions, the private company that runs the non-park businesses not only at the Grand Canyon National Park but at a number of other Parks around the country.  The source for the trout was obvious, but they had a literal feast on the picnic tables, nothing like the freeze dried junk I'd been eating.  I saw more than one bottle of Mr. Daniels whiskey on the table and asked with a smile where that had come from.

"Fred Harvey Concessions..."

Knowing the probable answer, I asked where the corn and other food had come from.

"Fred Harvey Concessions....", this time with multiple voices.

The guys all worked for a number of days straight for the businesses on the South Rim doing various tasks and then took their accumulated days off together in the bottom of the canyon.  Obviously in better shape than (even then) Coopdway, they'd hustle down for a few days at a time on their days off and then go up again when it was time to go back to work.

They were a lot of fun and we had a lot of fun.

Having already overstayed my agreed-to number of days in the canyon, it was time to hike out.  A lovely day that started early, I stopped at the Indian Garden campground, roughly the halfway point on the longer, less steep Bright Angel trail.  While there, "Lethbridge Jim" joined me for a rest.  We learned of each other's adventures, both in AB and in MN for a few minutes, then hiked up the remaining distance to the much busier Service area up on top, talking all the way.  As I remember it, we must have started walking faster and talking more, just to show each other what we were made of......guys will do that when pushed.

Jim decided that we needed a hot toddy together, mine tasted so good that I actually slipped off my bar stool.  Jim left to find a bus.......I think he was headed to TX if I remember correctly.  I went out to one of the benches to regather my thoughts and give my hip that was smarting from that bar stool event a rest.  There was some more adventure that day as I somewhat wearily hitch hiked the 5 or 6 miles back to my car with the 2 yahoos that picked me up in their van but I'll let that story go for another time.  The next morning (may have been early afternoon) I went to the Fred Harvey employment office to ask about a job.  I learned that they had all of the help they needed...."but if you'd like to fill out an application.....".  It was time for me to be a Midwesterner again.

East on I-70, back before the entire road was 4 lanes.  A couple of days later, I was back in MN.....and working again, paying to get my Kodachrome developed.