Monthly Archives: August 2017

ECLIPSED 2017

It was ALL Dave’s fault…. last year suggesting that we all meet up to watch the solar eclipse. Lander, WY was located in the area of totality… on the southern edge. Just happens that Lander is our hometown –  Tilly and I had already  planned to be there visiting my parents during that time.

Although we would be able to observe the full eclipse from our backyard… the totality would be short (30 – 40 seconds reported by  my father who did watch it from the backyard). A bit of research and I discovered the the center of totality would pass almost exactly through a favorite fishing spot of ours….  we call it “bass lake” although I have never caught a single bass there. There we would be able to experience the longest period of totality & it was only a 50 minute drive from home -ON an ORDINARY day.

 

 

We headed off at 8 am … early enough to get to the Lake, set up our site and be ready for the start of the eclipse – about 10:30 am local time. As soon as we left town the traffic was heavy . At every roadside turnout , people were already parked parked – easy chairs set up. Anywhere they should pull out into a field they were set up…

It took us an extra 30 minutes to get to the turn toward Bass Lake… which was still 11 miles north. As soon as we were 1/2 mile from the highway, the crowds were left behind. There were other people at Bass Lake but we were able to set up inner own picnic shelter…

 

The spectacle began:

First “BITE”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crowd cheered!

 

 

 

 

 

                                                  HALFWAY!

 

 

 

The Crowd grew SILENT…

 

 

 

 

                                          TOTALITY

 

The Crowd went wild!

 

 

 

I had spent a lot of effort trying to figure out how I could watch and photograph the eclipse without damaging my camera(s)… Plan A was to ‘project’ the suns image through my spotting scope onto a poster board … but the more I experimented, the more cumbersome the set up was. Plus, keeping the suns image in the center of the poster board as the sun  moved was a pain.

I, finally went simple … a cardboard tube with a filter cannibalized from a pair of ‘eclipse glasses” … Afraid to use my DSLR I opted for my slightly better than a “point and shoot”  Lumix… besides the cardboard tub fit the lens better…

 

MY efforts were rewarded with  a picture  of the “Diamong Ring”… The sight when the suns rays just emerged as the totality ends…

NOTE: For those of you already screaming “PHOTOSHOP”!!!

 

This is the image of  my Lumix display- just after taking the shot.

 

 

Knowing I would be totally focused on the sun photos and wanting to remember the full experience,  I set up my other “point and shoot” to video the lake as the totality occurred…

 

We had taken a picnic lunch with us … so we spent a leisurely 2 hours eating and relaxing… knowing the roads would be crowded as people had begun scurrying quickly off after the totality was over…. OUR drive home would be “EASY”

I have never before driven LA RUSH HOUR traffic in Wyoming … and hopefully, never will again. 2 1/2 hours to drive 40 miles…

OH YEAH!

THANKS DAVE!

PRE-CAMINO DAYS – GETTING READY – ON LOCATION IN LANDER WY

Decision made…return flights to Paris reserved and bought…Denver hotel booked …

NOW WHAT?

We made the official decision to walk the Camino Francés on August 1st, 2017. The week before that, already deep in discussion with each other about when, where, and for how long to go, we’d had a FaceTime discussion with Harold (introduced by friends), who has walked the Camino 9 times starting at the age of 71! The result of that conversation created an impulse to jump right in and to buy our airline tickets. We were so enthused and excited. Michael and I tend to jump into things fairly quickly so this time we promised each other we’d wait for a week to see if we still felt as enthusiastic and certain about taking this giant leap of faith…..faith in our joint emotional and physical stamina! While we waited, we started physical training, planned what to bring, ordered our “Credencials de Peregrino” (from http://www.americanpilgrims.org), and ordered a great resource recommended by Harold, “A Guidebook to the Camino de Santiago,” by John Brierly.

Brierly’s Book – highly recommended!

Two separate credencial’s. The one on the left is the one we used in Switzerland. The one on the right is the one we’ll take to Spain. We still hope to complete the Swiss Camino.

The credential folds out accordion style. As you walk the Camino, you get stamps at the chapels, churches, and pilgrim hostels where you visit/stay at.

Our Physical Fitness Preparations:
We started to train quite seriously; spending as much time on our feet as they would allow….shorter distances at first, slowly increasing over time and interspersing the walks with the odd aerobically challenging cycle. From this point on, every walk would be in the boots/trail shoes we would wear on the Camino and would include daypacks and filled-to-the-top camelbacks. On the first 2 days we were content with a 7.5 km and a 6 km walk (both on paved, level surfaces). After that, we started increasing the distance, terrain, and elevation gains of our walks/hikes. I soon discovered that the boots I was using, wouldn’t cut it; my toes were constantly in pain from hitting the ends of my boots. Not only were the boots a bit too short, but my feet had grown accustomed (over the past 14 years of living in hot climates) to being in sandals and flip flops. Solution? New boots. I bought some Salomon trail shoes in a half-size larger than I would normally wear. At the same time, I purchased some super thin and silky liner socks and some merino wool over-socks. My feet love their new abodes and are now allowing me hikes of 24km!!

Lander, Wyoming is the perfect place to train for the Camino. Not only is it extraordinarily beautiful with a moderate climate, it has an abundance of hiking and biking trails all at ELEVATION….which is excellent….if I can hike steep uphills for 10 km at 7 – 9,000 feet, then I should find it a walk in the park at the lower elevations of the Pyrenees in Spain. One of our favorite places to hike is a park developed for mountain bikers, hikers, and horseback riders called “Johnny Behind the Rock.” We also love Sinks Canyon. Here are a few pics.

Johnny Behind the Rock (JBTR)

JBTR Hike with Mike’s Dad Marvin who’s 88 this year!!

JBTR Red Ridge – a favorite trail of ours now!

Squaw/Baldwin Creek cycle – 25 km.

Hike up Sinks Canyon from the state campground all the way up to Fossil Rock. !0 km up and another 10 km down. If you enlarge the pic you will see the road as it hairpins up the mountain.

 

Another hike up Sinks Canyon from the state park but this time to Bruce’s Campground up to the falls, a total distance of 14 km.

Taking a rest break looking out over the Popo Agie River (pronounced Poposhia).

At the top. You can see the falls top left of the pic but doesn’t do them justice. This was our first hike with loaded backpacks.

Today, we hiked 11 km at “Johnny Behind the Rock” with fully loaded packs. I carried 21 lbs and Mike carried 25 lbs. Lots of ups and downs and we hiked without stopping. Took us three hours. We are pretty pleased with ourselves and oh-so-happy we started training when we did. Soon we’ll be in Laramie, hiking in the Snowy Range which is at even higher elevations.

Here We Go, Again…

Dreams & fires are alike ….some are extinguished  … some burn out… others die out, smolder… then some new fuel and a breath of air and they reignite.

It’s been almost 2 years since our ‘shakedown’ walk in Switzerland on the Jakobsweg… 100km in a week. A test of our desire to walk the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James). We discovered that not only was walking the best way to see and experience the countryside and people but, we really enjoyed the challenge of carrying all our necessities on our backs 20+ km each day to stop at a hostel populated with others with similar intentions.m shakedown . And so, OUR dream/plan became –  work one more year save [Our lives are bound by one financial stricture – absolutely  NO DEBT. Saving up rather than ‘borrowing’ is our mode…]  and prepare for the three month walk from where we left off in Switzerland through France and Spain to the Compostela de Santiago in Spain, a 2300+ km journey. BUT, when in early 2016 we had to commit to another year teaching at a dysfunctional school, the stress on our physical & mental health was a price higher than we were willing to pay.  We retired from teaching and returned home.

We thought the dream extinguished,… but, it was merely smoldering until a breath of air and some added fuel changed everything. For Tilly and I the ‘air’  was the question ‘if you had only 30 days to live… what would you do?’ Both of us immediately  thought of the Camino journey we had abandoned.  Our fuel was the follow-up “ IF those things are so important WHY NOT do them NOW?” The fire was re-kindled.

Our first question wasn’t “Can we afford it?” but rather “What do we do to make it happen?”  I jumped into “RESEARCH” mode… within a day I had a spread sheet detailing the daily expenses, travel costs and associated costs (storage for our 5W and truck). We could consider 30 days, 45 days & even up to 60 days. But the three month journey that would take up where we left off in Switzerland would have to wait until we added a few more $ to the travel fund.

When your plans don’t fit your circumstances THEN it is time to take the hint and alter the plans. If we started in France, we had the perfect window of opportunity … Late Sept – October and November …60 or so days. We could use our accumulated air miles to lessen the cost – although in the end it only saved us 20% or so as we jumped through hoops & miscellaneous expenses of transferring and purchasing the extra air miles to make it all work. Having used all our air miles; next time I will just hunt the cheapest flights online… less work and certainly less aggravation.

So 10 days after the decision to go… only first nights hotel and the flights are booked. If it had not been so prohibitive cost wise I would not have booked a return fight home…. then we would have had no deadline. So I booked our return from Paris 67 days after our arrival… almost twice the time most folks take to complete the journey… alleviating the ‘deadline factor’. Once we arrive in Paris – we can be like the pilgrims of old …take it one day at a time… accepting what comes.

In the last few days though, I have come to realize that our ‘journey’ doesn’t start when we first put our feet on the trail in France. It began nearly 3 weeks ago when we committed our selves to this – our “Pilgrimage” or just a very long walk?  What’s the difference? A Pilgrimage to me, implies a journeying with an spiritual or religious intent. My interest is not in seeking enlightenment or an life altering epiphany. It is merely to walk a long way and see what happens…. it is about ‘being’ moment to moment in the now…

But I think my easy explanation to anyone who asks WHY, will be  “Because it’s there” (George Mallory’s reply when asked why he wanted to be the first to climb Mt Everest.)

A MASS OF MOZZIES – Exploring Green River Lakes, WY

Originally, we intended to spend two weeks ‘boon-docking’ at Green River Lake – a destination 50 miles from the nearest town – in Wyoming. However, our one and only grand-daughter’s second birthday in Laramie, family members to visit in Lander, and a good monthly rate at the Maverick RV Park in downtown Lander caused us to re-evaluate our plans. After settling into the RV park and after several visits with family, we finally set off to explore the Wind River Wilderness.

In Lander, we are on the eastern side of the Wind River Range. Our exploration required us to cross the range and get to the western side. We didn’t want to do that pulling a 33’ fifth wheel trailer so we packed our camping gear and headed off ‘trailer-free.’ We took HWY 28 out of Lander, over South Pass and headed for Pinedale. Crossing South Pass put us on the western side of the Wind Rivers. We could have continued on paved roads all the way to Pinedale but in the spirit of adventure, we decided to take the turnoff to Big Sandy which put us onto a well-graded gravel road winding through range country. We saw lots of trucks pulling travel trailers of all sizes and types. We could easily have pulled our fifth wheel-oh well! The day was sunny; the scenery spectacular; snow-covered peaks, miles of meadows/grasslands/wild flowers, and numerous ranches. Wyoming produced……we saw cowboys on horseback moving their stock from one range to the other!

Where we turned off.

Following the signs.

What we look like.

Views along the way.

All too soon, we reached Pinedale, a quaint, western-themed little town.

A bit of history.

Stopped for lunch at the Wind River Brew Pub.

Great place.

Mike had always wanted to revisit Fremont Lake a short jaunt north of Pinedale and check it out for boon-docking and kayaking possibilities. We followed the road up and up and up some more to an elevation of 10,000’ at the end of which was a small state campground. This time we were happy not to have the 5W as the road was narrow, rough, and climbed so high. We could get the 5W to the top but there was no easy access to the lake; the only access we saw was at the bottom south end of the lake, before we started climbing. There were some possibilities for dispersed camping lower down.

Small “ranger station” at the top for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to get maps and advice.

View of Freemont Lake from the top and of the storm brewing.

On the way back down, there seemed to be storms brewing all around us and sure enough, as we returned to Pinedale and were leaving the gas station, it started to rain. We headed first west and then north, towards Cora, on HWY 352. The rain turned into a driving hailstorm, making it impossible to have any kind of conversation inside the truck.

After the storm – hailstones everywhere!

One moment we could see the mountains and the next….

…they disappeared behind the clouds.

We entered the Bridger-Teton National Forest where the road turned to gravel once more.

Entrance to the park.

On the road to Green River Lake.

No sooner had we crossed the cattle guard than the road meandered through meadows along the Green River. The landscape lived up to its name….Green, green, and more green! There are many opportunities for dispersed camping all the way through the park from beginning to the end along the Green River. We saw lots of RV’s parked along its banks and started to feel a bit sorry we hadn’t brought ours too.

We reached Green River Lake Campground at around 4pm and spent the first hour looking for, finding, and setting up our ideal camp. It was at this point that we started to seriously regret not bringing the 5W…..you guessed it……MASSES OF MOZZIES….. TRUE MOZZIE MISERY! I have never experienced mosquitoes like this before. I was covered head to foot with homemade bug spray which worked well previously on other mozzie attacks. But, these Green River Lake pests were more determined than any I’d ever experienced before so we pulled out and applied the second line of defense….packets of bug repellent-soaked towelettes containing DEET, which we rubbed on our clothes….to no avail. They bit us anyways. Thankfully I’d prepared dinner before leaving home…foil wrapped packets of veggies and salmon in parchment….so we quickly threw them on the grill and tried to sip a Happy Hour drink while cooking.

Our campsite for the night.

Covered in beach towels for protection!

We had to sit inside the truck to eat and by then, I couldn’t have cared less whether I ate or not, I was so miserable. We cleaned up and decided to go and see the lake. It lived up to its reputation for beauty. Not only was it wildly beautiful, it was also sunset time so everything was bathed in the orange light of the setting sun. We felt vindicated, even as we were being eaten alive.

First view of the lake.

To the south.

To the southwest

Southeast

East

8 o’clock rolled around and we had no choice but to crawl into the tent to escape the tormenting mozzies. We read for a while and then fell into an uncomfortable sleep (not used to sleeping in sleeping bags on pads) waking up often to roll over and commiserate with one another between bouts of scratching ( I know … you’re not supposed to scratch) mozzie bites. Once we woke up to the howling of wolves….that was really something to hear! There we were, in the middle of the night, discussing how cool (or not) it was to hear these wolves and about the fact that there never used to be wolves in this area – that their population had exploded right out of Yellowstone.

Next morning, our plan was to kayak to the end of the lake but a poor night’s sleep, the prospect of having to deal with mosquitoes….well….plans changed. we headed home. Safely insulated from the bugs in the truck, we enjoyed the drive back to where we had entered the Teton – Bridger Wilderness area.

At this point, we decided to explore further, taking the Union Pass Road over the Wind River Range.

We came from the road to/from Green River Lake on the right in the pic and and followed the sign to the left.

It was a very rough road but worth every bump. It was gravel all the way and wound through ranch-lands, open range, and mountain meadows (where we hoped to spot a grizzly but saw only deer and antelope.)

We headed across this beautiful direction towards the left of the mountain and started climbing.

Another sign – great names. We did NOT stop at Mosquito Lake!

Beautiful views all along the route.

Even the cycle tourists like this road.

Meadows filled with flowers….no wildlife though.

In one area the meadows were covered with blooming thistles.

No wonder we didn’t see much wildlife – they are so well camouflaged.

At the top of Union Pass….

Spectacular views in all directions!

Still snow in mid July!

Heading down the other side into Dubois….

A beautiful trip. I got to see parts of Wyoming many travelers to the state never get to see.