Friday, January 24, 2014

January Vegas family trip, 2014

Drew's parents came to visit us in Las Vegas this month.

 I had a stunning view on my flight down.

As they had been on some insanely early flight, Drew and I left them at the condo to nap and have some down time while we pedaled out a quick ride. 

When in Vegas, hit the town!

Later that evening we feasted at a fine Italian restaurant, compliments of Drew's mom. Yummy.

Since Drew's parents had never seen a Cirque du Soleil show took them to "O", the water one.  
Waiting for the show.

Even though Drew and I had seen it before, it still awes me. After the show we wandered the casino for a bit to take in the glitz.

 Dale Chihuly glass art on the ceiling. Love that artist. 

Science Day

The next day, after such a rough night on the town, sleeping in was required.  For East Coasters, that meant about 8 am Pacific time. Oh boy.

This day was science-engineering learning day. We visited the Springs Preserve.

 Playing with the Leonardo exhibits

  A bridge with no fasteners - intriguing for Engineer Mom. 

The Springs Preserve is an interpretive park on the site of the once-flowing Las Vegas Springs. Spanish explorers named the area "Las Vegas" (meaning "the meadows") because of the springs and the greenery surrounding the area.  The springs dried up decades ago due to over pumping.

The higher area to the left side of the picture was one of the spring heads before the water table was drawn down by over pumping. 

   This little hummingbird only sat still for a couple of seconds. 

  The depression in this photos used to be a big spring pool.  It is almost always dry now. 

After the morning at the Preserve, we drove out to see the new bridge at the Hoover Dam.  For some reason I don't have any pictures of this excursion; however, I do remember the parents being impressed.

That's about all we did besides visit and enjoy each other.  I'm looking forward to seeing the folks soon.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Happy Birthday, Jim!

To remind me of fun summer times, I either go to Southern California to race my mountain bike like I did this past weekend, or I look at old pictures from the summertime.  I was doing the later this morning and found these party photos and videos from when a bunch of us celebrated a friend's birthday by renting the PedalHopper to go bar hopping in downtown SLC via group pedaling effort.

Here is the machine.

The Pedal Hopper
 It comes with a driver, but you supply the pedal power.

Here is an action video.

It was a hoot!  Not every chair has pedals, so we rotated who had to sit on the seats with pedals.  Somehow, Rhonda managed to never sit on a pedal seat!

I would guess our max speed was about 15 mph with the big boys on the pedals. 
Shelly, the organizer, even made us party trays to keep us fueled.

Bystanders gawked and took pictures.

 For our two hour rental, we were allowed 3 bar stops.
Shelly, right, supplied the party hats too.

Birthday Boy Jim, center, surrounded by friends.

After bar hopping, we devoured pizza at Settebello Pizzeria. Yum.  Fun times for a fun friend.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Thanksgiving Day Hike to Notch Peak

Yeah, yeah, I know.  I am a slack blogger.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy blogging anymore, it is just that my New Years resolution for 2013 was to not stay up until 2 or 3 AM blogging. I did OK in 2013 but that means fewer posts.  So anyway, here is my account of Thanksgiving, only a little over a month late but with no 3-AM mornings.

The reason

Drew, being the junior captain that he is, had to work on Thanksgiving; and I, being the state employee that I am, was prohibited from working on Thanksgiving.  What to do without my honey?  A couple of friends invited me over, but I didn’t want to be the odd friend out.  I decided that if the weather was good, I would take Dewey on an excursion to hike Notch Peak.  The weather was good, so off I went.
Notch Peak has been on my peak-bagging list since 2007, when I first saw it rising magnificently above the desert floor when I first starting working in the West Desert.  It gets its name from the notch it makes in the skyline.
The geology was a draw for me too.

Cambrian- to Ordovician-aged carbonate rocks (limestone and dolomite) make up the cliff (one of the tallest carbonate cliffs in North America). Pink, Jurassic-aged granite is exposed at the foot of the mountain, and scattered deposits of white, clayey marl deposited in Lake Bonneville during the late Pleistocene are present on the valley floor.
Notch Peak is in the House Range in the Basin and Range province.  A cool feature of most of the ranges in the Basin and Range is that they have one very steep side caused by uplift along major normal faults with, in this case, over 5000 feet of displacement, and a less steep side that is not faulted as much, which usually provides a hiking or driving route to the high elevations.  The picture above is, obviously, the steep side.  I hiked up the other side, but climbers scale this side and base jumpers launch off the top.  

The approach

I took off headed south from Salt Lake Wednesday afternoon, making it to Delta around dark and just as fog was settling in.  My plan was to spend the night at the RV park in Delta, but they wanted $27 just for me to plug Dewey to shore power so I could have hot water at the sink. With the fog and the other ratty campers there, I was mildly freaked out and decided I would be better off on my own out in the desert. So I motored west, following the directions on the pages I had printed from this site.
The directions were good, but still, I was slightly disorientated with the ground fog.  I followed the directions to a BLM-managed picnic spot and tried to drive farther toward the hiking trailhead, but 2WD Dewey was unhappy about the 4WD road, so I found a corral and parked for the night.  Just me, my bike, and my van in the eerie fog. 
I drank a glass of wine, ate some cold leftover enchiladas (had been counting on the shore power at the RV park to heat those in the microwave Crying face), packed my bag for the hike, and set my alarm for 5 AM.
No, goodness, not to hike! I dragged my warm self out into the frigid desert night to try to spot Comet Ison and Comet Lovejoy. Strain as I would through binoculars, I could find no fuzz balls. I did see a whole universe full of bright star though and a big shooting star, which satisfied my stargazing urge.  I crawled back in the penthouse for another snooze until the sun came up to warm up my house on wheels.
As morning broke, I had my first good look around at my camp spot.
I was underwhelmed by the site of the mountains (in the background) that I would be climbing.  Because they didn’t look very big, they must have been far away!

DSC05150But looking the other direction (east) was uplifting.  Look at that ground fog – translate to smog in Salt Lake Valley – that I was high above.
After too much time futzing around* with the next-to-worthless Mr. Heater Little Buddy heater, I bundled up and jumped on my old mountain bike to ride about 3 miles on a 4WD road to the hiking trailhead.
*My second favorite thing** about doing outdoorsy things by myself is that no one is waiting on me. I can futz and procrastinate all I want.
** My first favorite thing is the solitude, duh. 

Along the way is an old stone cabin. 
By 10:10 I had stashed my bike and was underway on the trail up Sawtooth Canyon.
2013-11-28 10.03.47
I was slightly disturbed by the amount of snow at the trailhead, but even more than slightly disturbed by the 8-inch deep snow only a little ways past the trailhead. 

As I was only going to gain elevation and would be in a canyon for 3/4 of the hike, I was concerned that the snow would a) slow me down so much as to preclude finishing the hike by dusk and b) make the rock-scramble portion of the hike treacherous.  Had it not been for one set of brave footprints to follow, I think I would have turned back. My thought was, “if this guy/gal did this hike in the snow, I can too!”  Weird how just the trace of a forbearer made me feel less alone, although the tracks were obviously more than a few days old.
The first ~ 1 mile of the hike was pretty tame, save for the snow.  I tried to make good time.  Then the canyon got narrower and deeper. 
There were many kinds of trees and shrubs hiding in the shadowed depths of the canyon, where water must occasionally accumulate.
The second coolest* part of the hike is this massive log. It doesn’t look that huge in the picture, but believe me, for a tree at about 8000 feet on a dry desert mountain, it is huge.
*The first coolest is the peak, duh.

The log is just before the rock scramble.  I was actually pretty worried about this next part.  My friend Steve had reported that the climbing was not trivial, and with the snow and ice and the fact that I was alone, I was keenly aware that a slip could be very bad. I had an emergency GPS locator beacon and enough clothes and supplies* that I could safely stay out one night if I got hurt, but I really didn’t want to test my gear in that way.  I stepped carefully ahead.
*I also carried my bicycle pump and spare tube all the way to the peak and back. Forgot to stash them with my bike. Ultralite hiker fail.
I tread so carefully that I didn’t take any pictures! Now that means I was concentrating.  I double checked each foot hold and made my way up boulders and along ledges.  After about 20 minutes of this, the canyon widened out and I was back to striding out again. Whew.  It was 12:30 after I cleared the scramble.  I had 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach the peak or I would have to turn back in order to make the trailhead by dark. It was going to be close. 
I hoofed it up up up, barely stopping to look back at where I had come until this vista.
Just a little farther now to the saddle, and then finally, some crazy drop off views.   

I reached the saddle at 1:25. My drop dead turn around time was 1:45.  Could I sprint to the top in 20 minutes? 
It didn’t look good, but I had to try.
17 minutes later, I was at the top!

The peak

The actual peak is a tiny bit anticlimactic because it is hard to stand right at the edge – at least if you are sane and traveling alone and it is slightly breezy.  Others apparently do not have this problem.
This is as close as I could get.
It was really hard to get a picture that showed how high and steep the cliff is.  Some sources say the completely vertical part is 1500 feet high but if you include a couple of benches is it 2250 feet high. The edge, though, is rocky and a little loose, so I was too chicken to stand on the edge.  Usually I love that kind of thing, but this cliff was too much for me. Plus, I had promised Drew I would not. Winking smile
I took a bunch of pictures and sent texts to a couple of people (yes, reception!) saying I had made it.  Then I started down.  At the saddle I snapped a couple of rock pictures that I didn’t have time for on my push to the top.
The descent
By this time, I was about half an hour behind my ideal schedule.  I would have to make significantly better time on the downhill than I did coming up. Again, I was worried the slippery snow would slow me down, but, except for ultra carefulness on the down scramble, I made good time, only stopping to ponder geology a couple of times* and take a few photos, including this one.
*Maybe my third favorite thing about solo excursions is that I can ponder geology any old time I want.

I made it back to the trailhead at 4:40, about 35 minutes before dark and with plenty of time to retrieve my bike and ride back to Dewey, however, I had to take a few minutes to chat with a young couple that motored up to the trailhead in their big truck at the exact moment I walked up!  I had not seen or talked to anyone for more than 24 hours and had not expected that I would see anyone out there on Thanksgiving Day.  I was actually pretty disappointed that they showed up, but I guess I don’t have the market on solitude.

The meal
Back at the van, I got out of my sweaty clothes and cooked up some delicious, non-traditional Thanksgiving food.
I spent the rest of the evening reading magazines and texting with my family (yes, reception at camp too), keeping one ear alert for any intruder’s vehicle.

The return
Friday, I intended to explore a nearby Contact Canyon.
Contact Canyon is so named because it follows the geologic contact between an igneous intrusion and carbonate rocks, but two things stopped me in my tracks: 1) my knees were shot, and 2) the road was too snowy and slippery for Dewey.  Instead, I checked out a warm sunny outcrop of Tertiary Skull Rock Pass Conglomerate.
Sooner or later, I would make my way home to Salt Lake, where Drew was headed as well.  We’d have a wonderful late Thanksgiving celebration, but the hike to Notch Peak will stand out in my mind as one of my most memorable holidays yet.
P.S. It is 2:22 AM as I post this.  Good thing it isn’t still 2013.