Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More Grand Canyon Photos

 There were talented photographers on our trip down Grand Canyon.  People with far better abilities and cameras than Chuck and I have.  So here are a few additional pictures, including some rapids shots.
Chuck, doing a little climbing

Granite Falls.  Chuck rowing, with Mark Smith and I punching up front.  "Punching" just means that, when we hit a wave, Mark and I lean way forward to hold the frontoif the boat down and hopefully stop it from flipping over.  

Two of the guys on our trip are professional sand sculptors.  People make a living at that?  Who knew!  So, we had works of art like this at a bunch of our camps.

This is Chrystal, legendary for its difficulty.  Look at Chuck.  He looks like he's driving a car down the freeway.  That's because, after scouting Chrystal for a long time, he decided to go down the rapid on the right side of the river.  He went so far right that we kind of missed the action altogether.  We didn't even get wet.  Right after this picture was taken, he  let go of an oar and waved to the camera.  I felt ripped off.  He made me wear a helmet for THAT?!
Chuck and Bill building sand castles

 This is a hanging garden caused by a spring coming out of the canyon wall above.  We thought this one was cool because of the minerals that had been deposited by the spring.  Water is showering down inside of all that travertine.

Granite Falls

The next three photos are taken in Lava, the biggest, meanest rapid.  The water is chocolate-colored with sediment this far down river.  Mark and I are punching again this time.

We amused ourselves in camp in any way we could think of.  Music, bad jokes, shadow theater with a flashlight held up behind a tarp, beer-pong, And king-of-the-mountain battles on the overturned inflatable kayak.
Desert bighorn

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I Don't Speak Their Language

Just in from the hot tub and cozy in my jammies.  Before I came inside, I smiled to hear the coyotes doing their thing.  I can't call it howling.  They don't howl.  They yip, bark, squeal, sounds to me like a complex conversation.  What are they talking about?  Who gets the dead thing they have just found? The sexy aroma of that bitch in heat?  Who scared the neighborhood dog?  Or are they just making noise because its fun?
For the last week, they have been hanging out in an old dump, about 200 feet from the house.

I waited until they had finished their session,then joined in


Since they don't howl, neither did I.  I just made a siren sort of noise.  I remember when I lived in the suburbs, there was a nearby vacant lot with a couple resident coyotes.  It used to crack me up, the way they would carry on when a fire truck screamed by.

Sure enough, there was a moment of startled silence, followed by renewed yipping, hollering and shrieking.  I flipped the lid of the hot tub shut and came in to bed. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Six Word Saturday

Finally!  Photos of the Grand Canyon!

I'm cheating!  I know!  I'm about to write a lot of words.  But I have some photos collected from my trip and I have a little time.

SO!  An old friend of my husband's got a long-awaited and wished-for private permit for a river trip on the Grand Canyon.  If you have money to spend on it, you can go down the Grand Canton any time, as part of a commercial trip.  However, if you are on a budget and want to go down  on your own, you apply for the annual permit lottery and pray to be chosen.  Chuck and I had been applying for years without being picked; so when Bert Adams got a permit, we were so, so excited to be asked to join him as two of the 15 people he is allowed to invite.  Chuck is an experienced boatman who has been down the Grand Canyon three times before.  I am good at cooking for a crowd and organizing food.  So Boatman and Quartermaster Brainerd were part of the adventure. I won't waste valuable verbiage today on describing what it is like to plan, shop for, pre-prep, store, organize and run a camp kitchen for 16 people for 20 days. Especially when one of those people is allergic to soy, wheat and lactose.  Oy... Suffice to say that I am enjoying grocery shopping with just one cart.  I'm getting over my Post Traumatic Shopping Syndrome. And I now have enough river karma that I should not have to do a job that big again for a looooong time!    It was successful though.  I should write a cook book.  Maybe I will...

In the meantime...

Here I am rowing Chuck's boat. Check out the umbrella Chuck installed to keep the sun off his white little wife. I started off rowing just flat water; then little riffles; then worked my way up to medium sized rapids.  When it was time to row the big stuff, though I handed the oars back to Chuck.

Rigging was a big part of our day , especially at the beginning of the trip.  Everything needs a place and has to be tied down.  After a while, it got easier; but in the beginning, we spent a lot of time fussing over rigging.
Lunch break

Lounging in camp after a long day of rowing

We got lucky with music on this trip.  Two guitars, a mandolin and people who are really good at playing them.  We had some good singalongs.
Tom, the "doctor", bandaging yet another pair of feet
These aren't my feet:  they belong to my friend Stefanie.  The most typical injury on the trip were with people who wore water shoes that didn't flush out very well.  The sand would stay in there and scour the bottoms of their feet and make open areas.  Four or five people had a lot of foot trouble.  Other than that, no real injuries.  Chuck was stung by a scorpion;and three of us were stung by Harvester ants.  Nothing more.

This is breakfast.  My kitchen was made up of three tables and a tarp to catch food scraps as they fell.  I had a military surplus medical supply box as a kitchen.
Great star and moon watching

So, when we weren't rowing down the river, we did a lot of side hiking.
Dry canyoneering

I learned some skills!

And wet canyoneering... slot canyons with leftover rainwater pools

Havasu Creek

There were a lot of things to see along the way as well.  This cave, Red Wall Canyon, is big enough that you could hold a concert in it.  We were satisfied just to jump around in it.

Sometimes, the Little Colorado River is clear and blue when it runs into the silty water of the Colorado.  But, if there have been any storms in its drainage, the water is thick with sediment.  That how we found it, so we got naked and played in the mud.  After a while, you stop noticing people's nakedness.  In this kind of situation, you can't pee in private too well; everyone knows who has gone to visit the poop can; mostly, people just sleep flopped out on the ground.  Not much privacy.

It's hard to bathe.  In the early days, when the water has less sediment, it's not hard to fill a solar heating bag and make a warm shower at the end of that day.  But as the river travels farther into the canyon, it picks up more and more silt.  To bathe in silty water, it first has to be settled in a bucket overnight, THEN warmed in the solar bag.  After a while, it just started to seem like too much trouble.  Here are Chuck's shorts, standing up on their own.
On the eighth day, the river passes Phantom Ranch.  This is the spot people hike to when they are venturing down from the rims in Grand Canyon National Park.  They can walk or ride mules,and there are cabins there for overnight accommodation.  It is a really strange thing to encounter when you have been off on your own for eight days; and plan to go off on your own again for another twelve days. There is a little shop there.  You can get lemonade, check the weather forecast, buy Band Aids.  I bought myself some Oreos and wrote postcards, because they are marked with a special stamp:  "Carried by mule from the bottom of the Grand Canyon".  Look how brown my shirt is.  It was white when it was new...
With Stefanie in the rain
We had a rainy day.  Another reason to love Chuck's umbrella.
So, rowing in the rain is not a lot of fun.  BUT!  Check out the water falls!  I found out later that there were torrential rains in Utah and Arizona, sending flash floods crashing down the Colorado Plateau and into the Grand Canyon. 

Here's my helicopter.  I had to leave the trip at Day 15, because my boss freaked out at the idea of me taking three weeks off.  There is a place called Whitmore Wash from which you can be picked up, so I arranged the helicopter ride out to a ranch on the north rim, then a light plane to Las Vegas.  I was not happy to leave early.  It was my first ever helicopter ride, though.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Kate Brainerd's Wild Kingdom

I have been missing my blog for the past two months!  The trip down the Grand Canyon was such a bitch to get ready for; and a long trip in itself.  I am a pretty good camper, but I think 17 nights are the most I have slept out in the open in a row, ever.

I planned the food for the trip:  20 days for 16 people with no outside food sources available, plus one lady who is gluten-, soy- and lactose intolerant.  I'm still suffering a little PTSD when I walk into he supermarket.
Chuck is still down in the Grand Canyon.  I had to leave the trip at Whitmore Wash, because of work.  The others will be back on Saturday.  Photos in abundance when he returns. 

When I made it to the airport in Las Vegas, I got myself a burger and fries and ate them very slowly, savoring meat, fat, abundance.  Upon arriving at home, I looked upon my bed with lust and passion surpassed only by the adoration I felt for my shower, after at least a week without washing.

Sleep has been a problem, though.  The house has been overrun by wildlife.  Chuck and I love animals and it's hard to be mean to a cute little bat, for example.  They swoop in and out of our bedroom all summer long.  One guy, though, seems to have taken up long-term residence inside and is roosted high  in the beams above the head of the bed.  In the wee hours he wakes me up as he stirs, makes his little static-y noises and poops onto the bed by my head.  It's a little gross and it's just.... startling.  He is getting on my nerves.
Not as much as the fucking bushy-tailed wood rat, though. 
Look how adorable!  Not!  He's a hassle and he's going to find himself in a lot of trouble.  We have tried many times to capture him in our live trap, but he's a crafty one. While we were gone, he ate all of my home-grown garlic.  I'll bet his breath is lousy now, and I don't give a shit.  He roams the house as if he owns it.  He paid me a very noisy visit in the wee hours - I actually thought he was a  human intruder.  Since he has jumped up onto Chuck in the bed in the past, I hollered at him and scared him off.  I discovered the attraction of my room this morning when I tried to put on my black boots and found them filled with cached birdseed he's been pilfering.
After dealing with him, my sleep was gone for the rest of the early morning hours, so I turned my attention to my pet finches that Chuck bought me for our anniversary.  I started to say hi and saw that one of them has laid an egg!  That's cool, but instead of laying it in the little nesting basket, it was smack in the middle of their food bowl.  They seem to be ignoring it.  Poor parenting skills.  I have no idea how I'm supposed to handle it.  Any advice on what to do when the finches lay an egg in the food bowl? 

Falling asleep as I edit.  Good night! 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Farmhouse Porch

Patrice, is it cool where you are?  It is so hot in Utah that we don't want to eat supper out on the deck at the moment.  I'm coming over to your place, and I have a big pitcher of iced tea.

1.  Do you like cucumbers?  Is there a favorite way that you prepare them?

I love cucumbers,and I am more than happy to eat them with just a splash of rice vinegar and a little salt.

2.  How good a housekeeper are you?

I would say I'm pretty good.  I have a chore "hit-list" that I cycle through:  dusting, floors, kitchen cleaning, tubs, etc...  This means that there is never a day in which everything is pristine all at once; but everything gets the treatment often enough that I am OK with having company over at the spur of the moment.  That's my goal.  I'm not a CLEAN freak.  I'm a NEAT freak, though, which is a little different.  I like to keep all my stuff put away because clutter makes me feel unsettled.

3.  To spend a day reading a great book in a comfy hammock would be amazing.

4.  How do you handle times when you are "down" or "blue"?

I don't get depressed very often.  I have a "down" day maybe once every three or four months - lucky me!  When I get sad, I become very unproductive and often go back to bed.  Chuck can usually cheer me up pretty quickly, though.

5.  Have you started using essential oils, now that they have become popular?

Essential oils.  Huh.  Do we eat them?  Smell them?  Put them on our skin?  Put me in the loop, please.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Learner's Permit

"Oh, my God!  I just started the car!"
Eeeeeease up on the clutch and give it a little gas.


Aaaaand brake - ARGH!

OK.  Let's start again. 

Eeeeeease up on the clutch and give it a little gas.


Monday, July 7, 2014

June Ends in Pictures

June ends on the Lower Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho.

 I need to re-pack my duffel bag.

 Mike's boat has a spot that wore almost all the way through, having rubbed on a rock during the night.
 Time for a patch-job.  The paddles prop the boat up in "dry dock".  As soon as the solvent meant to clean the area hit the scuffed part, the remaining membrane of rubber dissolved, deflating that part of the boat with a pop and a squeal reminiscent of letting go of the world's biggest balloon.  Still, the patch was successful.


 Youth, displaying various levels of enthusiasm for morning.

 The dish washing system is four tubs:  Slop (scrape off your scraps); mop (wash in detergent); rinse, bleach.  The used-up Roman candles are not part of the system.  They are the remnants of an ill-advised, dangerous, but super funny Harry Potter-esque recreation of wizard dueling the night before.
Packing up and getting ready to move

Spencer and Russell

Kaitie and Trevor

Me, with Chuck and the kids

 Nathan got some time on the oars as well. This turned into a problem.  We let him row for a few minutes on the first day; and he spent the remainder of the trip begging, pleading, cajoling, threatening, manipulating, you name it, to get more time on the oars.  On the last day when the water was pretty much flat, I finally sent him and his attitude to ride with Russell and Spencer, where he was permitted to row until his hands blistered.  He was very pleased with his blisters.
 Cooling off?  Or peeing?  That's how it works.  There's a can with a seat on it to use as a toilet when you have a big job to do; but pee goes in the river.
There are no pictures of us running rapids.  That's because I put my camera away for that part.  Along with my hat, my sunglasses and the map.  The rapids did end up claiming two pairs of sunglasses, a hat and a shoe from our group.  In Slide, the biggest rapid, we had two of the five boats flip over, but no one got hurt.  I lost my own hat rowing a rapid after Slide.  I was concentrating on the rapid when a gust of wind carried my hat away.
"Aigh!  My fucking hat!"
"Row the boat!"
It is kind of precious to me:  a gift from Chuck that he bought me at the Rugby Sevens World Cup in Las Vegas last year.  After the rapid, Chuck got on the oars and rowed downstream as hard as he could.  After about a mile, we found it and rescued it.  Happy day!
Bighorn sheep

 That chair is waiting for me and my paperback.

Spencer, panning for gold