Friday, November 10, 2017

Buck's Passing

Yesterday, we had our nearly 15-year old border collie, Buck, put to sleep.  It was a hard decision, and a hard day.  Buck was an extremely affectionate, male border collie of about 75 pounds.  We brought him home as a pup, and I think he had a good life.  We have five acres of land in Texas hill country, and we constantly have deer in our yard.  They fascinated him.  He came to me for cookies and went to my wife to play ball.  He was definitely the smartest dog I've ever known.  He would come into the den and either shake his head or put his head in my lap when he needed something.  When I responded, he would stop at the front door, the food bowl, the (cookie) pantry, or sometimes just walk to the back door.  In the 15 years we had him, I think he only had a mistake in the house three or four times--and I think those were due to feeling bad.

Unfortunately, in recent years his health had been declining.  He had cancer on his tongue a couple of years ago, and lots of bleeding--though that had stopped.  He had lost a lot of capability in his hind legs, and occasionally he had to be helped up if he was on the tile floor.  We had to get a ramp to get him up into the sedan for his trips to the vet.  He had also lost an eye a couple of years ago, and that made it harder for him to get around.  He would trip every once in a while, and more frequently recently, go down when he did so.  It was getting hard to get him to get up and go out.  And he didn't seem to like any of his food anymore--unless we put something soft and new in it. And before our recent vacation, he had been coughing and choking a bit more frequently.

We always boarded him for our vacations.  He actually seemed to like the kennel and the other dogs.  This time, when we picked him up, they told us he was vomiting and excreting blood, and hadn't eaten for the last two days.  He seemed pretty much himself, except he didn't want any cookies.  He acted like he did, but he would just lick them and let them lay.  He was vomiting occasionally on his walks, had diarrhea, and both had blood in them.  We decided it was time to put him to sleep.

My wife called the vet around 9:30 am, and they wanted us to wait till 2:30 pm to bring him in.  It was a tough several hours.  We stayed with him while they administered the shots at the vet.

I found out if you cry a lot, don't take benadryl to put yourself to sleep.  It results in a significant head-ache. 

Part of my problem, in addition to loosing a dog that I really loved, was that I felt guilty.  Was there something else we could have done to reduce some of his health problems?  Better food and water or more vet care?  Could we have gotten through this latest problem with patience and veterinary assistance?  I don't know.  I do know I don't think my wife could handle any further extended grief.  Her dad's about to go into surgery, and both her parents are getting old.  Her organization at work is going away, and she's got uncertainty there.

But this was the first time I had ever had a pet put down.  We had cats and dogs when I was young and lived at home.  But they either got hit by a car or ran off (a couple of the cats).  The grief was sudden and short, and without any guilt.  Before I got married, I avoided pets for the inconvenience of taking care of them--especially in apartments.  But after we got married, my wife wanted a dog.  We waited till we had some land for him/her, then she found a dog she wanted.  Buck.

Having Buck pass brought back memories of my mother and father dying from cancer.  Mom passed when I was in high school, from brain cancer.  It was a long ordeal (inoperable), and we were at the hospital when she passed.  It is very hard to lose her.  Dad died just a few years ago.  He had both lung and brain cancer.  Again, they didn't operate, but Dad went through chemo.  He had remarried and was living in Indiana near my step-mother's children (my wife and I were in Texas).  He didn't seem to suffer like my Mom, though the chemo was pretty rough.  He decided not to do another round of chemo.  What was especially hard was that my sister and step-mother decided to move him to a nursing home just after Christmas that year--without consulting me.  I would have preferred to bring him to Texas and our house, though he might not have wanted that.  He died two weeks after being put in the home.  During his chemo and my visits home, he seemed pretty much himself, though weaker and less active.  As far as I was aware, he didn't get the excruciating pain my Mom went through.

But the point of discussing all of this (besides releasing some of my pain), is the fact that I have some measure of guilt associated with both Buck and my Dad in their passing.  While I think I made the best decisions at the time, was there something more I could have done?

I don't plan on having another dog.  They are great companions, but I don't want to go through the grief of their passing again.

Since I don't get many readers (including my wife), I thought I would add a comment or two on similar situations.  I do not approve of abortion in most situations, nor of assisted suicide.  In abortion, the girl, young lady, or woman, must either have a hard heart or live with some degree of guilt for their actions.  I cannot imagine being in that position.  But for their sakes, and those of their unborn child, I hope they decide to keep the child, or in the worst situation, put him/her up for adoption.

Assisted suicide is a little different.  In that case, the person makes a choice that they do not want to live, and my libertarian leanings push me to accept their decision.  In the terminal stages of a disease, with significant pain, I can understand that choice.  But in any other situation, and even in that one, there may be other options for the future.  Life has too many ups and downs to bail during one of the downs.  If you lose a capability or some functionality, you work around it, just like in old age.  It's helping the suicide that I believe is wrong; you should instead try to help them to get through the down time in their life.  If you help, how can you live without guilt that maybe they would have recovered and lived years of enjoyable life?

If you read this, thanks for staying with me.  Putting down my thoughts has brought me some relief.  Maybe some day I will see Buck again...

Monday, September 25, 2017

CBS' New Star Trek Discovery -- A Disappointment

I was eagerly looking forward to the new Star Trek series on CBS.  I knew it was going to be on their pay streaming network, so I wasn't sure whether I would continue to follow it after the premier.  What does CBS do that isn't on their public channels?

Anyway, I was unhappy with the ads, oops, articles that had come out talking about the new series.  They all seemed to highlight the fact that an African-American female, playing First Officer, would be leading a Star Trek series for the first time.  No mention of any Captain.  In what military does a First Officer lead a unit?

Well, the content of the ads represented the thrust of the series.  It appears to be a social justice indoctrination that rubs our nose in white male privilege and supremacy.  And at the same time paints military members as idiots.  The Captain, as it turns out is Asian female.  The Science Officer seems to be an alien, fish maybe?  I only saw one white male on the bridge, and he seemed to be a junior officer.

Add to that, when they cut to the Klingons (it's about a new war with the Klingons), you see a peculiarly painted, up close, black Klingon.  Other than the fake face paint, that isn't too bad.  But then they have a white Klingon ridiculed as unworthy for his color.  Not just rubbing our noses in their white male privilege, but white supremacy too.

Personally, I don't like anyone rubbing my nose in their social justice campaigns.  I don't mind a diverse set of characters with various races, genders, and aliens.  But leave out your social campaigns.  I want a science fiction plot I can enjoy without the side distractions.  By the way, the Captain seems to do a good job.

Then there's the behavior of their new Star Trek series 'leader,' the First Officer.  Her most important action in this episode is to physically assault her Captain, putting her to sleep, then ordering phaser fire on the Klingons in contradiction to her Captain's order.  Mutiny.  Worse, she only put the Captain to sleep for a few seconds, and the Captain comes back onto the bridge before the fire order is completed.  An incompetent mutineer!  The episode ends showing the First Officer in the brig.

So we are supposedly going to see the First Officer get out of the brig, save the day against a Klingon attack, and take over running a Federation starship.  After she mutinees?

So no.  I am not going to pay for any future episodes of this series.  And I assume the CBS management that approved this script is putting on the same quality of shows on their new pay channel.

Worse, I had to watch over 15 minutes of the end of 60 Minutes for a late start for the series.  Whatever happened to 60 Minutes' investigative journalism?  This episode was just a focus group doing mostly Trump bashing.  Maybe 50% of the country doesn't watch CBS anymore?  And CBS doesn't worry about that segment of their potential audience?

Bottom line, unless you are a social liberal, don't bother with the new Star Trek.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Chicago Basin Thoughts and Lessons Learned

Unfortunately, you are going to have to sit through my app development thoughts before you get to the traditional backpacking lessons learned.  Hope you find these useful!

Hikers Assistant iPhone and Apple Watch Apps

Hikers Assistant for iPhones and iPads has been on the Apple Store for a year and a half now.  I developed it after my first AT attempt, and I've been improving it ever since.  However, I had never used it in high mountains where elevation seemed to be my first priority, and I found some shortcomings.

For the last couple of months, since I got my Apple Watch Series 2 with GPS, waterproofing, and a better battery, I've been working on a counterpart watch app.  Basically, the watch app gives you everything but big maps, and lets you do most critical functions without pulling out your iPhone.

Well, the watch app worked nearly perfectly.  In fact, the only problem I had was when I wanted to start the trail, and I couldn't get a GPS reading (iPhone or watch) in camp.  We were surrounded by mountains and under tall tree cover.  I suspected a larger GPS error, but I didn't expect to not be able to get a reading at all.  I can try accepting more error and allowing more time for a fix; and I will need to have some backup in code to handle such a situation.  It won't be easy for me to replicate those conditions.

As to the iOS app for iPhones.  We wanted to know what the elevation was at Columbine Pass that we were headed to.  It was on a route in the app, but I didn't have a waypoint set at that location, and hence could not get the elevation.  The day I got back, I added the capability to touch the trail and get any location's position and elevation.

Also, somehow with the GPS problems, I added a route to the set that had no route points on it.  That caused my Route Editor screen to close the app whenever I tried opening it.  And that meant, I couldn't see the elevation profiles of individual routes--such as the one going to Columbine Pass.  I've fixed that too.

The last thing that bothered me was an inability to modify routes in the field.  I had expected to do full tracks logging each day's hiking.  But with the GPS problems in camp, I couldn't start the tracks accurately.  Plus, everyone wanted to hike at top speed, so I didn't want to do quick stops to try and correct the issue with my iPhone.  I had complete routes set up, but we were only doing partial ones due to our reduced elevation stamina.  Since GPS was spotty, that left the pedometer on the iPhone and watch, but neither is very accurate.  I want to be able to split routes in the field to help me get accurate estimates of miles and elevation changes.

That's enough on the apps...


My whole fishing rig, including tackle is only about 7 oz.  But the Tenkara pole is easy to damage and is still 24" when collapsed.  I have to protect it in my pack.  It was hard to attach to my day pack.  And we didn't really get to any good fishing spots!  This is the third time I've taken a pole on backpacking trips.  Only one of those resulted in actual fishing where I caught anything.  Bottom line, unless a short, easy day is planned by water, or I camp next to a lake or nice stream, don't bother carrying the fishing gear.  When I'm solo, I seldom plan short, easy days.

Acclimating to High Altitudes and Peak Bagging

I knew from my Montana trip that I wouldn't have the same lung capacity as at lower altitudes.  I'm pretty confident now that I won't get altitude sickness.  But I had serious issues with getting out of breath on the uphills above 11,000'.  It was a lot better by the end of the trip.  My take-away is that I really need to allow time to acclimate to high altitudes, especially if I want to climb any 13,000 or 14,000 peaks.  I had thought about doing a week or two before this trip on the CDT or CT.  In retrospect, I should have done that.  It would have gotten my legs back in shape for climbing and allowed me to acclimate to the altitude.  However, I didn't have a problem with the leg muscles, we just never went far enough!

Carrying a Day Pack

My backpack was a 19 oz Zpacks cuben Arc Blast.  My daypack was an old 23 oz MountainSmith Touring fanny pack made of heavy nylon.  I like the fanny pack for day hikes at home.  But stuffed with rain gear, food, electronics and 4.4 pounds of water, it did not ride as well in the mountains.  Plus, it got wet and dried slowly after the afternoon storms.  I switched and used my Arc Blast on the last day hike, and it worked much better, especially at weight distribution.  I need to consider alternatives, but I won't take along the MountainSmith again.

Electronics and Power

Since I expected to have to charge my Apple watch daily, I took along a BigBlue 10,000 mAhr external battery.  It has a short lightning cable, a short micro-USB cable, a standard USB port, and enough power to do four full charges of an iPhone 5S.  I also carried a one foot charging cable for the watch and a one foot lightning extender cable.  The BigBlue is only 7.73 oz.  I was pretty happy with the weight and the performance.  The watch didn't take but an hour to charge, and I charged my iPhone three times.  But neither device got much below half a charge, even with full usage of GPS on the trail.


Food is always an issue with me.  This time, I lost no weight, but I reduced my body fat by 0.3%.  That means I added a bit of muscle, probably in my legs.  I took 1.5 serving portions of Mountain House freeze-dried dinners instead of my usual 1.0 serving portions.  And I supplement my dinners with a protein 'shake' and freeze-dried fruit.  I will go back to 1.0 serving portions.  I just felt stuffed.

I carried the same snacks I would take on full-day backpacking.  It was too much.  And the others never seemed to stop for breaks (at least Steve snacked on the go), so when I did, it meant I fell behind the others.  I still believe my plan of snacking on a quick 3-5 minute break every hour is the best thing to do.  It gives the leg muscles a short break, and it keeps a small drip of calories into my system.  But with this group, I would cut back on my snacks.

My lunch was again peanut butter and jelly on a tortilla.  I really like the combination, and will plan to keep something similar along for future lunches.


I did the altitude/temperature difference calculations based on weather predictions for Durango, and expected lows of about 32 deg F (it never got below 37 degs).  Plus, my friends were predicting lots of rain and afternoon storms.  With variability in weather, I took a 20 deg down quilt instead of my usual 30 deg quilt.  And I had a fleece sweater in addition to my down jacket.  Both were overkill. I never used the down jacket.  In the quilt, I only kept the base layers on.  And my head sweated in the fleece cap!  I should have stuck to my ultralight principles.  Add extra clothes when it gets cold at night.  And don't bring unneeded insulation.

First Aid Kit

This is an unusual topic for me.  I seldom have more than bug bites or scratches.  This time, I got the small puncture wound from a stick while digging a cathole.  I didn't have multiple bandaids or small tweezers.  I really need to add a couple of ounces and beef up the kit.

Closing Thoughts

This was a rare trip for me.  I usually hike at low altitudes and don't try peak bagging.  But the scenery here was better, and there were new challenges.  Even though I wasn't sure I would make it to Windom, I do regret not trying.  I want to go back!  If I try to bag a peak in the future, I will do my best to get acclimated.  I will also start no later than dawn to avoid storms.

Doing a group trip has both its advantages and disadvantages.  Going solo, I go my own speed (highway or trail), and never feel pressure other than meeting my own expectations.  On the other hand, it was really nice having folks to talk to at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Plus, it provided extra safety on the trail.  I really enjoyed the company, and hope I contributed in some small way to their enjoying the trip too!

Chicago Basin Gear List

I'm really not happy with this list.  I carried too much insulation.  Too many snacks.  I shouldn't have bothered with the day pack.  The fishing gear turned out to be useless.  I had more battery power than I needed (though I don't regret that) as I was testing out my new watch app.

Anyway, here's the list:

Chicago Basin, 4-8 September 2017

Special Considerations: Afternoon + 3 Full + Morning = 4 days of food.  Camp: 64 to 34 deg, Peaks: 54 to 24 deg.  Tent will be left up, food hung during day or carried?

Item oz (ea) # oz (total)
Packed Items
ZPacks Arc Blast 60L, Hybrid Cuben (2014) 19.8 1 19.8
Trash Compactor Liner 20 gallon 2.1 1 2.1
Backup Wallet add-on (homemade) 0.49 1 0.49
Mountainsmith Tour Pack (L, green, nylon) w 2 Water Holsters 21.8 1 21.8
Zpacks Dyneema Composite (Cuben) 8.5' x 10' tarp 7.72 1 7.72
Leki Cork Poles (Susan's) 7.05 1 7.05
MLD Superlight Bivy, Cuben, All Net Hood, LG 5.33 1 5.33
Tarp Stake Kit (14 stakes) w sack 3.46 1 3.46
Cuben Sit Cloth 54"x3' 1.51 1 1.51
Sleeping System
Zpacks Solo Down 20 Sleeping Quilt, 6'3", Std Girth, 900 Fill Power 21.3 1 21.3
Thermarest NeoAir Xlite, 72" (Regular), Inflatable 12 1 12
Stove & Cooking
Fissure Tri-Ti w Toaks 850 ml Ti Pot, 12-10 Stove 5.96 1 5.96
Cuben Pot Stuff Sack for Toaks 0.14 1 0.14
Glad Lockware Extra Small, 9.2 oz cup with lid 1.2 1 1.2
Dasani 16 oz Water Bottle (21-32 meals) 0.67 1 0.67
Gallon Baggy for Fuel Bottle 0.32 1 0.32
Aluminum foil (1' square) 0.28 1 0.28
Titanium Spoon - Folding (Toaks with bag) 0.67 1 0.67
Matches, Kitchen (book w/o cover) 0.1 1 0.1
Mini-Bic Lighter 0.4 1 0.4
ZPacks Bear Bagging Kit (carabiner, sacks + 50' Zline slick cord) 2.6 1 2.6
Loksak 12x20 odor-proof OPSAK 1.5 1 1.5
SteriPen Adventurer Opti w 2 CR123A Lithium  3.56 1 3.56
Dasani 1L Water Bottle 1.03 1 1.03
Nalgene HDPE Ultralite 1 L Wide-Mouth Bottle 3.84 1 3.84
Platypus 2 L Platy Bottle (70 oz) 1.34 1 1.34
Toiletries & Skin/Bug Protection
Vivera Retainers 0.14 1 0.14
Retainer Container 1.1 1 1.1
QiWiz Original Trowel, Ti, 6" 0.42 1 0.42
Inox Nail Scissors w cover, Matt Finish, Stainless Steel 0.88 1 0.88
Emory Nail File 0 1 0
Dental Kit Small (toothbrush, floss, powdered paste, lip balm) 1.23 1 1.23
Purell in 30 ml squeeze bottle 1.38 1 1.38
Dr Bonner in small dropper bottle w baggy 0.6 1 0.6
Sunscreen in 30 ml squeeze bottle 1.16 1 1.16
Bug repellant (Picardin) in small dropper bottle 0.6 1 0.6
Sea to Summit Headnet 0.9 1 0.9
Utilities and Navigation
Photon Freedom Red & White & UST Whistle on Lanyard 0.67 1 0.67
Silva Type 3 Compass, Explorer 1 1 1
Gerber Ultralight LST, Knife, Black Pocket 0.6 1 0.6
Electronics & Photography
Delorme inReach Explorer 6.88 1 6.88
Nikon Coolpix W300, 16 MP, 5x Optical (yellow) 8.22 1 8.22
TopMax EN EL-12 Batteries, 1150 mAh 0.78 3 2.34
SensorPush Electronic Temperature and Humidity Sensor 0.85 1 0.85
BigBlue Power Bank, 10,000 mAh, 3C-CP100 7.37 1 7.37
Aceyoon Lightning Extender Cable, 1' 0.32 2 0.64
Apple Watch Charging Cable, OPSO, 1', white 0.78 1 0.78
Gear Repair Kit
Baggy: Neo-Air, Cuben/Pertex Tape, Floss, Needle, Mini Glasses 1.05 1 1.05
First Aid
First-Aid Kit: Razor, Pin, Tape, 3xAlc, 3xIodine, 2xBandAid, 3xStrips 2.11 1 2.11
Meds: 12xBenadryl, 16xIbuprofen, 8xAcetomeniphen, 4xAmmodium 0.63 1 0.63
Hiker (Feet) Goo in green plastic container 1.23 1 1.23
Fishing - Tenkara
Nissin Pro (Tenkara) 360 cm 6:4 (11' 9", 10.5 pennies) 2.26 1 2.26
Rod Sheath, Blue CCF & Duct Tape 1.06 1 1.06
Flambeau Foam Box with Flies 1.04 1 1.04
Tenkara Line Holder, Meiho 56 0.39 1 0.39
Dr Slick ECO Black Nippers 0.25 1 0.25
Hemostat, 3 1/2" 0.6 1 0.6
Line, Yamatoyo Hi-Vis Fluorocarbon (50 m, size 3) and spool 0.88 1 0.88
Varivas Super Tippet 5X and spool (50 m) 0.46 1 0.46
Cuben sack 0.2 1 0.2
Hat / Gloves / Socks
ZPacks Micro-Fleece Hat (black) 1 1 1
Buff, Afghan Graphite (Original Buff, polyester microfiber) 1.31 1 1.31
Lightload Towel 12x24" 0.6 1 0.6
DeFeet Duraglove Wool, Charcoal (L) 2.3 1 2.3
OR Chroma Sun Gloves, M, gray, fingerless 0.88 1 0.88
ZPacks Cuben Rain Mitts 1.13 1 1.13
Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew (L) 2.1 2 4.2
Clothing Layers
SeaToSummit Ultra-Sil Nano Drysack 8 L (for clothes, Blue) 0.8 1 0.8
SeaToSummit Ultra-Sil Nano Drysack 8 L (for rain stuff, Orange) 0.8 1 0.8
ExOfficio Sport Mesh 9" Boxer Brief (M, Black) 2.7 1 2.7
Patagonia Houdini Jacket, Eclectic Orange (L) 3.2 1 3.2
Columbia Klamath Range II Half-Zip Fleece Shirt (M, grill) 7.55 1 7.55
Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket (L, gray) 5.3 1 5.3
Montbell Versalite (rain) Pants (black, L) including sack 4 1 4
Mountain Hardware Ghost Down Jacket (silver, no hood) 7 1 7
Base Weight (lbs) 13.7

Breakfast (3 oz each + 0.5) 3.5 4 14.0
Lunch (4.4 oz/day) 4.4 4 17.6
Snacks (5 oz/day) 6.7 4 26.8
Dinner (2.5 oz ea +.9) 3.4 4 13.6
Vitamins and Supplements 0.25 4 1
Fuel, Alcohol (0.75 oz/day - one meal/day - 0.825 oz/Fl Oz) 6.6 1 6.6
Water (35.2 oz/L) 35.2 1 35.2
Pad 0.9 1 0.9
Toilet Paper Small (8 squares + baggy) 0.17 10 1.7
Consumables (lbs) 7.3
Total Pack Weight (lbs) 21.0

Worn or Carried Items…
Trekking Poles
Black Diamond Contour Elliptical Trekking Poles 9.5 2 19
Duct Tape around trekking pole (5'/pole) 0.4 1 0.4
Shoes / Boots
Altra Lone Peaks 3 Trail Runners (12), Low Cut (Orange) 12.2 2 24.4
Headsweats Protech White/Grey Coolmax (w neck sunshield) 2.3 1 2.3
Patagonia Merino 2 LW Zip-Neck (LS, M, chartreuse) 6.49 1 6.49
ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh 6" Boxer Brief (M, Petrol) 2.32 1 2.32
Columbia Covertible II Pant (Sage, M, 34"L) 11.46 1 11.46
Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew (L) 2.1 1 2.1
Dirty Girl Gaiters 1.45 1 1.45
iPhone 6S Plus with Lifeproof Nuud case (space gray/black) 8.68 1 8.68
Suncloud Pursuit Polarized Sunglasses, Gray w Neck Loop 1.09 1 1.09
Reading Glasses w Case (Brown or Gray) 1.13 1 1.13
Silk Handkerchief (16x16") with elastic cord & line lock 0.35 1 0.35
Lightload Towel 12x12" 0.25 1 0.25
Pant Leg Blousing Stretchies 0.03 1 0.03
Apple Watch Series 2 2.29 1 2.29
Wallet 1.38 1 1.38
Truck Keys 1.9 1 1.9
Worn & Carried (lbs) 5.4
Body Out Weight (lbs) 26.5

Chicago Basin, Day 7, Durango to Home

Today started early.  I got a pretty good night's sleep, but woke a little after 0400, and finally got out of bed about 0430.  I took the time to do some organizing and got rid of the trash I had in my pack.

Steve had suggested starting at 0500, but the rest of us looked unhappy, so Dan suggested we be checked out and ready to leave by 0600.  I took my stuff out to the truck at 0530, and Dan already had his loaded.  We had a banana and some yogurt, and pretty soon the others showed up.

On the way out of town, we stopped at a gas station about 0600, and the price was up to $2.59.9.  That's about what it averaged everywhere till we got near San Antonio.  Most places would be out of either premium or diesel; we never pulled into a place that didn't have regular.

Like the earlier drive, the breaks and lunch were longer than I usually took.  It again took about 15 hours to get back.  We stopped at a Whattaburger for lunch.  This one was larger than the earlier one, and somewhat less crowded.  We still had to park outside of the regularly marked spots.  And they lost Ken's order.  He waited 15 or 16 minutes before going up to ask.  Then he got his money back.

Except for the Las Cruces to El Paso stretch, the interstate was pretty empty.  Nice driving.  At least until it got dark.  Then it was 80 mph on curvy, hilly roads in deer country.  Going into Durango after dark, the speed limit was only about 65.  I really didn't want to hit a deer at 80 mph.

The group split up about 10:00 pm for the last half hour home.  The others had to go down I-10 past an Interstate closure (a bridge was being torn down).  I had to go across Highway 46.  I made it home a little after 10:30, after going through a McDonalds drive-thru where the cashier did not understand what a value meal was.  Sigh...

I'll post my thoughts and gear and a planning post as soon as I can.

Chicago Basin, Day 6, Back to the Train and Durango

I woke to the headlamps flashing again.  I was normally waking about 0609, with first light, but staying in my quilt till about 0620 to 0630 when it was light enough to hike without tripping.

According to Dan, I must have woke up to the last of them leaving their camp early for a day hike.  He said they were nearly soundless except for tent and bag zippers unzipping and being closed again.

So after I did my foot care and, got into my morning wear, and put everything back in my pockets, I went out with my toilet paper and trowel.  When I got to the hillside were I had been doing my business, two of them with headlamps were still stomping around down at the base of the hill.  I went to a higher brush area near a tree to dig my cathole.  Apparently I got a good puncture wound in my index finger digging the cathole--actually a piece of bark got embedded in the quick and didn't come out for three days.  I didn't notice all the blood till I got back to camp.

Dan said that a while earlier, he had been there ready to dig his hole, when the two had come by.  He had to wait till they passed to continue.

After we got through with breakfast, and grumbling about the rude group, we started down the trail towards the Animus River.  It was about 0900, as expected.  Ken, Dan and I led off.  With Steve and Matt somewhere to the rear.  I expected Matt to go pretty slowly.

The hike down was a LOT easier than the hike up.  We got to the flagstop by 1126.  Dan had one fall on some very slippery and steep sand, but other than that, the trip was uneventful.  I don't think Ken and Dan realized that there was a 0.6 mile length of trail between the trailhead register and the river/train tracks.

Here's the elevation profile for our descent:

Steve and Matt showed up about 1145.  Matt said his knee no longer hurt.  So we had 3 1/2 hours to sit and wait for the train.  We had lunch and snacks.  I finally found a comfortable rock to sit on.  Dan and Steve pulled out their camp chairs.

I got another movie of the train before ours.  Plus some short clips of little independent cars following and leading the trains, probably checking the tracks for damage.

We made some predictions about when our train would arrive.  I based mine on the 45 minute gap between trains, and got within 30 seconds!

Dan and Steve were a little surprised that several hikers got there after the train was supposed to have departed (it was late).  There was only the one train that afternoon that was supposed to stop and pick people up.  And the Forest Service rule was no camping within 100 feet of water.  They would have had to go back up a good ways towards Chicago Basin for an overnight camp.

Well, the train ride back was boring.  We were on the wrong side, and most of our view was rock wall.  The train went slow.  We were too close together for folks that hadn't taken a shower that week.  Everyone but Matt and I had beer.  We talked a bit about where we were going to eat in Durango.

Steve wanted to stop at a Backpacking store before going to the hotel and showering.  I think he gave up on that by the time we got back and to the trucks around 7:00 pm.  Check in at the Super 8 was much quicker today.  I was urging a short shower to get downtown to the brew-pub quicker.  I definitely underestimated the time to change and shower, and am glad I got overruled.

So we got to the brew-pub (a different one) about 8:00 pm.  We had a short wait and got seated in their back room.  Dan, Ken and I had a beer while we waited.  I liked mine, but I don't think Dan and Ken were as happy with theirs as they expected.

Well, the food was good; I thought it was better than the earlier brew-pub we had visited.  But the service was terrible.  We had to wait forever just to get asked if we wanted refills.  I was out of beer and water for quite a while.  I got pretty irritated, and I think the others were even unhappier.  My second beer was good too, but again, I think Ken was unhappy with his IPA.

We got back to the rooms about 10:15 pm or so, enough time to get a good nights sleep on a soft bed.

Here are some of my day's photos.

Chicago Basin, Day 5, Fishing & Mountain Goats

This morning was much like the others, though I think Dan got up after me (not sure about that). :) Ken was up and getting ready when I got over to the camp to cook breakfast.  At 0730 he took off to meet Tom for their hike up to Eolus.  About 5 minutes later he came back.  Apparently Tom wasn't going to be ready till 0800.

After Ken took off again, and we all finished breakfast and water duties, the four of us took off down the trail a bit to look for mountain goats.  We hadn't seen them, and they were supposed to be everywhere.  Tom had said they came down from the mountains every day about 1000 and would walk near our camp.  We wanted to find them.

Unfortunately, it was bow hunting season, and the group of hunters that got off the train with us had already gotten their limit and were headed back.  Apparently they had killed one right near the trail.

As we walked down the trail, I looked up at some bluffs and saw some white dots.  After staring a while, we saw them move.  And with a 5x zoom camera, they vaguely resembled mountain goats.

We spent a while on the trail, but they didn't move.  Finally, we backed off into the woods near our camp and sat waiting for them to move.  After a while, Steve spotted one in the woods and we got some fair photos.  Steve got the best ones.

Then Dan and I got our rods out and got ready to try some fishing.  Dan had an expandable casting rod with some traditional lures.  But the creek was pretty narrow and rocky.  So he borrowed one of my fly's from my Tenkara kit.  I was a little worried about my own set up.  I have an 11'9" rod and had 30-40' of line set up for lake fishing.  It was way too much for the relatively narrow, and rocky, stream.

Well, we climbed down and Dan went a little downstream to some rocks overlooking a decent pool.  I went upstream just a bit to a stretch that wasn't too rocky and had only one downed tree near the end of the stretch.

I let my line out, and it was way too long.  So I brought it back in, nipped out a section, and retied it together at about half its original length.  I looked downstream, and Dan was clambering over the rocks towards his pool.

I tried throwing out my line more naturally, and I watched it drift towards the downed log.  It went under the log, and when I tried pulling it back, it was stuck.  So I took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants legs, and waded out into the rocky, freezing stream.  The temperature was survivable, but the medium size rocks were sharp and painful.  The fly didn't seem too hard to get back, and I went back to the bank.  Figured I needed to cut and splice to make the line even shorter.

But about the time I got back to the bank, Dan arrived.  His fly and line had wrapped around some logs, and he'd gone down to try and get it back.  But it was impossible, so he had cut it off.  He didn't want to try again.

So my fishing on this trip was pretty short.  Two throws! :)  I must say, the water felt pretty good on my feet.  I'm not sure why the others thought it was too cold to dunk their feet.

So we went back to camp, had some lunch, and chatted for quite a while.

At 2:00 pm, it rained again, but just a few sprinkles this time.  I think it stopped about the time we got to our tents/tarp.

If I remember correctly, Ken came back from Eolus about 3:00 pm.  He and Tom had done North Eolus, but had decided against the crossing of the catwalk to Eolus and the time consuming climb up afterwards.  They didn't want to risk getting caught in a storm, and some serious climbers had turned around when they saw the narrow catwalk.

So Ken bagged two 14,000+ peaks!  The rest of us never made it above 12,700'.

The rest of the evening started much like the others.  We sat around, had dinner, talked, filtered water, etc.  The plan for tomorrow, our last day here, was to get up and pack up about 0900.  Since it took us 5 and 6 hours respectively getting up to the basin, they wanted plenty of time to get back down.  Though our train wasn't scheduled to pick us up till 3:30 pm.  I figured we were cutting our time in half on any downhill returns, so we ought to get to the Animus River and the Needleton flagstop by 1200.  Though I wasn't sure about Matt's knee and how slowly he would go.

Well, the evening didn't end quietly as we expected. Right about 0730, just a couple of minutes before sundown, two ladies came up the trail, and tarried near Dan's tent site.  He walked over to talk to them.  Pretty soon another group of 10 came up.  It was now getting dark.  They all start setting up their tents right around Dan's.

Dan comes back to us, and says he pointed out that 5 minutes up the trail were empty camp sites, good sites.  He said the older of the two girls said their party had a bunch of novices and they couldn't go any further.  They promised not to party and to be respectful.  He said an older gentleman brought up the rear, and said he wouldn't have allowed them to stop next to us if he had known.  Dan said he thought it might have been an REI training trip as everyone had REI gear.

Anyway, we hit the sack as it was getting pretty dark.  Dan's tent was over right near the middle of their 7 or so tents (12 people).  My tarp was pretty close.  The other guys' tents were 20-30 feet further away.

Well, maybe they did not party.  But the loud talking, yelling back and forth and joking was not conducive to sleep.  Worse yet, every one of them seemed to have a high-beam headlamp pinned to their head, and they all seemed to walk around at random.  No red headlamps for this group.  I've got a light-weight cuben tarp, and every time one of those beams hit my tarp, it lit up like a Christmas tree.  They showed no respect for us.  Dan said they all decided to tramp down to the stream in the dark to get water--going right past his tent.

Dan said it got so loud, he finally got up and went to talk to them.  It worked, and they got pretty quiet after that.  But I didn't know that till later; I thought they had quieted down on their own.

I was thinking some very uncharitable thoughts about doing physical harm before the final headlamp shut off a couple of hours later.

After that, I got a good nights sleep... until the headlamps came on the next morning.

I didn't take too many pictures today.  But here are a few...

The three small white blobs to the upper left of the bluff are mountain goats. :)
Matt and Steve waiting for the goats to come down...
My 'best' goat photo...
And I just had to include a shot of Matt's taught tent. :)
And this is the view out of my tarp.

Chicago Basin, Day 4, Columbine Pass

This morning was much like the previous day.  Dan and I got up early, and the others struggled out.  I got into the habit of taking my toilet paper and trowel out early, before doing anything else.  The cat holes were hard to dig.  There seemed to be roots everywhere, and when you didn't hit a root, you hit a rock.  Bagging the toilet paper in ziplocks wasn't as bad as I expected, though I triple bagged it just in case.

Ken and Matt were a bit slow in rising.  They had said the night before they were just going to stay around camp today.  But they changed their minds and decided to go to Columbine Pass with us.

Dan and I left about 0845.  Matt was still filtering water, and I think Ken was packing up.  Steve was waiting for them.

I kept up with Dan for about half the trip.  When I stopped for a snack he was just out of sight, and he never stopped--till he came to a cabin and mine.  The trail to Columbine Pass is different than the one to Twin Lakes.  Through Chicago Basin, obviously it is the same.  Once it splits, today's pass does a more gentle climb through woods and meadows.  It seems lots longer, but slightly less strenuous.  And my breathing was improved.

I stopped for my snack at a little over an hour, for just a couple of minutes.  Shortly after I started back on the trail, I came to Dan, a log cabin (rundown), and a mine (looks like a small cave) with rails coming out of it.  I went in a couple of times with my iPhone and then my camera, trying to get good pictures.  The brand new, just out Nikon Coolpix W300 camera didn't want to flash, and sometimes it wasn't focusing.  So I went back in with the iPhone.  It too didn't want to flash!  I checked its settings and found the flash was off.  Then I got a couple of reasonable shots.  The mine was cool!  Water was all over the place, but you could walk on beams and rocks and steady yourself with the walls and ceiling.

Of course Dan left before I did, and I did not catch him again till we got to the pass.  After a while, the trees, and meadows transitioned to open space and desert scrub.  Ahead was this massive ridge with this little line of a path switching back and forth all the way across the ridge.  It looked like it would take forever to get up there.  I stopped for a second snack, and fairly frequent breathing rests.

Every once in a while, I saw Dan as a small spot way ahead.  As fast as Ken goes, I was surprised he hadn't caught up yet.

Just before I saw Dan get to the last traverse up to the top of the pass, I saw Ken and Steve coming up below me.  I yelled and pointed Dan out to them.  He looked like he was crossing a pretty precarious narrow path.

Dan made it to the top, at about 12,700', by 1115.  I got there about 1145, and the others got there about 1200.  Turned out Matt had made it to the mine, but turned back then because of his hurt knee.

And that last traverse was precarious.  Loose sand on rock at a steep pitch with a thousand foot drop if you slipped.

We ate lunch, took some pictures, and talked for a while.  The trail down to Columbine Lake looked steeper than the one we had just climbed to get to the pass, and even Dan didn't want to try going down to fish.

So just after noon, we started back down.  Dan and Steve took it slow on that first sandy downhill traverse.  I creeped along!!  And Ken brought up the rear.  By the time I got through the precarious steep sandy area, Dan and Steve were way ahead.  Ken and I sped up, but never caught Dan.

We caught up to Steve at another cave (oops, mine) midway between the previous mine and Chicago Basin.  Ken thought it wasn't going to rain, but I bet him it was.  We followed Steve for a while, but he was sightseeing now, and not going very fast.  Because of the threatening clouds, I decided to hoof it the rest of the way, and Ken decided to speed up too.  I followed behind him to camp, while Steve brought up the rear somewhere out of site.

Here's our elevation profile for the day:

Like the day before, it started raining and thundering at 2:00 pm, just after we made it back to camp.

Today it didn't last long, and by about 3:00 pm, we were out of our tents/tarps and gathered back at the central camp area.

Yesterday, we had talked about options for tomorrow, and the plan was to make an attempt at Windom by Dan, me, and Steve.  Matt had already bowed out because of his knee.  Ken was going to try to get to Eolus with Tom (the visiting hiker).

As we sat and talked, we first decided to try a 0730 start, instead of the 0900 we had done the last two days.  Steve kept talking about the length of time it would take us to get up there and back.  And it finally became obvious, he wasn't even going to try.  Then Ken's discussion of the last 300 yard scramble on Windom seemed to get to Dan.  He finally said he wasn't going to try either.

At first, I was pretty happy.  I was still getting winded going uphill, and I had significant doubts that I could make it before the storms.  However, overnight, my mood changed.  I thought a bit about getting up and starting at 0630 on my own.  But I didn't want to take the risk of climbing to the top alone.  Anyway, the attempt of Windom didn't happen for most of us.

The plan shifted to Dan and I trying to fish in Needle Creek.

The rest of the evening was enjoyable, but nothing happened worth mentioning.  We ate, talked, and filtered water.  Then we hit the sack.

As usual, here are some of the day's photos...