Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sketchy skating

We have not blogged for a while.  Just too busy working on home improvement projects, Bobke, and work, but I wanted to post a quick update about a new activity we tried: skate skiing.  It was my idea; we have lots of friends that do it and they all say it is an awesome work out.  We've seen the skate skiers whiz by us while we cruise slowly along on our classic cross country skis.  It was time to give it a whirl.

We went to White Pine Touring center in Park City, where they have lots of groomed trails.  We rented equipment, and by a stroke of good luck, my co-worker Don Deblieux, who has been a ski instructor at White Pine for over 10 years, just happened to be there on his day off, so he gave us a very helpful first lesson on the proper techniques of skate skiing.  It is kind of what you'd expect: you push your skis out diagonally like you would on ice skates or rollerblades, but the difference is you have long skis that have no metal edges on your feet and long poles in your hands that you have to coordinate with your leg action.  For me it was a recipe for failure.  I just couldn't get the hang of it, even though I have spent time on both ice skates and rollerblades.

Drew, on the other hand, seemed to pick it up naturally, and promptly left me in the dust/powder.

It was, however, an excellent work out.  I'm still not rushing out to buy new gear.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Getting above the smog and Bobke update

Grandeur Peak hike
The air quality had been pretty rotten in Salt Lake Valley on and off over the past month or so.  On those occasions that the inversion lifts and we get a clear day, or sometimes when it is still horrible down in the valley but nice and clear up top, we try to get out for a bit of winter fun.

Last Saturday after a couple of inches of new snow fell, we intended to go snowshoeing, but with our sleep-in, leisurely-breakfast, do-a-couple-of-errands on the way to the canyon attitude, we ended up not starting the hike until 1 PM.  Consequently, the trail was packed down enough that we could just walk without snowshoes.

We ended up going to Mill Creek Canyon and parking about where the orange arrow is pointing in the picture above, or at Burch Hollow for you locals.  We walked the Pipeline Trail for about a mile and a half before turning up the 3.2 mile Granduer Peak trail.  If you click on the picture above, you can see the purple arrow pointing to the trail.  After a lot of climbing, we ended up on the summit of Grandeur Peak at 8300 feet.

Here we are on the very tippy top of Grandeur Peak and that is Salt Lake City behind us.  Our house is somewhere down there about an inch to the right of my elbow.  Grandeur Peak is an obvious peak on the ridge line when viewed from Salt Lake, so it had been on my bucket list of peaks to bag for a while.

Drew clicked this cool shot of uni-directional frost on mahogany? branches,

While I posed for more pictures.

Great 9+ mile day and it felt so good to breath fresh air.

Bobke update

Drew tells me this is the engine of our little travel friend.


It sure doesn't look like anything that can get us to isolated back country campsites anytime soon. :-(

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Salt Lake pros and cons

We like living in Salt Lake City.  This town, this place, has a lot of great things going for it.  Good things: mountain biking, hiking, winter sports, close to the beautiful desert, big city convenience but really close to unoccupied wilderness, major airport, phenomenal geology. In no particular order.

But sometimes, the geography that makes so many of those good things good, makes one really bad thing bad.  SMOG.  The mountains trap the cold air and pollutants we are putting into the air.  Utah cities made the top five worst communities in the country for poor air quality today, based on the EPA Air Quality Index (AQI).

It is really super gross here right now.  From the ground, it looks mostly like fog, but a somewhat unnatural fog, and it is cold and damp and I want out.  The worst part is that I feel like if I were to go for a walk or bike ride, I would be doing my body more harm than good.  Yuck.

Another bad thing about Utah: high priced beer. 

Friday, January 1, 2010

Join Us in the New Outdoor Room?

For the past two months I have been working on designing, hiring a contractor, ordering supplies, and assisting the contractor in building the above ground structure of our new "outdoor room".  Yesterday we completed it!

Drew and I have seen galvanized metal grids surrounded by wood beams used as deck railings in Park City, the home of all things rustic but expensive.  We liked the design so used those principles to design a "modified trellis wall" to give the feeling of a partially enclosed space between our neighbors' cement block garage wall and our garage wall.  The area we had to work with is 13 feet wide by 23 feet long.
 This is the view from our deck looking back to the project area.  You can see the neighbors' cement block garage on the left and our garage on the right, and also the ugly phone pole.

This is the view from the back of our lot looking into the area where we wanted the outdoor room.  The red house is our neighbors' house, so you can see that they have a good view of our yard from both their bedroom window (upper level) and the kitchen window (lower level) from the back of their house.  We thought some privacy might be nice.
Before the plan, the area felt like a wind tunnel between what will be our lawn area and the more utilitarian vegetable garden area behind the garage at the back of our lot.  I wanted to 1) camouflage the cement block wall, 2) create a patio area for relaxing, 3) integrate a trellis so that I can grow vines.

First step was to dig holes for the concrete pylons.

 Drew rented a post hole auger, but most of the work had to be done by hand, by us, or with a rented jackhammer, by me, since I needed to take out a portion of the concrete footings for the vinyl fence in order to get the corners in the right place.

 Keep in mind this was mid November.  It got very muddy at times. 

And, holy cow, did we dig some holes!  Bring on the freeze-thaw cycle, those concrete pylons aren't going anywhere.

After almost a three-week delay waiting for the custom-sized cedar beams to be grown?, milled, and shipped, I borrowed a truck and retrieved them from CFC Fences and Decks in Provo.  Their price was 30% less than Lowe's and came just as fast.  Meanwhile, winter had arrived. 

Finally, last week, contractor Phil Dugas of Horizons Restoration Service  could begin installing the uprights.

Drew helped with the horizontal pieces.  6"x8"x12' cedar is heavy. (Also note how smoggy it was that day. Yuck.)

Here, the main structural pieces are complete. 

Next step was to install galvanized wire mesh livestock panels I bought from the farm supply store*.   I cut them to size while Phil installed. You can just barely make out the snow coming down in this picture.  That was a pretty cold day.

*More info on the panels since a few people have asked about them: The best source I could find was IFA farm supply stores here in Salt Lake City.  They are used for making livestock pens so they come in various sizes and grid dimensions. The ones we used are 16 feet long x 5 feet tall and were $52 each.  Ours are made of 3/8-inch diameter galvanized steel wire (I think it's called 4 gauge) welded in a 4-inch grid.  There are smaller or larger wire and grid sizes for different animals.  They cut fairly easily with a medium sized bolt cutter.

Drew had been wanting a table saw, so I bought one for this project to use in ripping 2x4s down to 1x1s to use as the strips to hold the livestock panels in place. I don't know who will have more fun with this toy, Drew or me.

 But Wednesday we were hit with 5 inches of snow, so I went to work at my real job and Phil took a day off. 

But yesterday, on the last day of 2009, we finished up!  Here are some finished shots.

 View from the garden area.  The wire panels didn't camouflage the concrete block as much as I had hoped, but once the vines start growing, it will look great and provide the privacy we need.
 Looking through the room to our house.
 View from the deck.  Also notice the blue and green roofed structure in the neighbors' yard to the left.  That is their jungle-gym/kid fort/sniper tower.  Another reason to get some privacy.

 View from the driveway illustrating effective blocking of the wind-tunnel and "definition of useful, distinct spaces" (how is that for some HGTV talk).

So phase one is done!  I just had to relax for a minute and imagine sitting here next summer on a flagstone patio, listening to the fountain gurgling, smelling the vines blooming, and enjoying a cool one after a long bike ride. Anyone want to join me in May?