Sunday, November 29, 2015

I've Been Warped

I was out looking for Christmas gifts the week BEFORE Thanksgiving. Clearly, I've been warped. Usually it's Christmas Eve. As I wandered through one store, I realized I've been doubly warped. Instead of looking for Christmas gifts, I was looking at stuff that would make interesting geocache containers.

Hard to say who might end up with Lump O'Coal

or Raindeer Noses in their stocking, with the assumption I can steal the container when they're not looking.

Peppermint cookies sounded like an interesting idea, but I left all those on the shelf.

The only thing I bought in that store was a rubber duckie. I picked up an enameled bowl at Goodwill to complete the ensemble. I think I'll call this one Splish, Splash. Not telling where it might end up.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

For the Birds

While BJ was being crafty in the house, I headed out to the garage to work on a puzzle cache. I've had a really nice piece of old, straight-grained fir in my stock for years. It's too heavy for boat building, but was going to be perfect for this project. Two pieces that appear to be nailed together.

With that great wood, I wanted it to be protected from the weather so I built a two story "bird house" to protect it from the weather.

All of the bird house is built from 1/4" Baltic birch that was then varnished to seal it.

Each spot for a nail was counter-sunk and painted red and then the blocks were finished with three coats of clear varnish.

They look like nails because they are - but almost every one was cut short so that they were only for show. The counter sunk concept was to try to keep cachers from trying to use a claw hammer.

Buried inside is a bison tube enclosing the log.

I'd give more details but no sense giving the rest of the design away.

The final product - more or less. It's found a home in a tree near a park, and is seeing some activity. It's always fun to see what the cachers say in their log comments.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Black Canyon - Again

One of the challenges of multi-day river trips is that you organize them long before you know what the weather forecasters anticipate. Since we were going to be in Vegas for a week, and Kathy was going to have a day off the middle of the following week, we decided to append a Black Canyon trip to our Vegas week. Since Helen had some other shuttles in the area, we scheduled our launch with her.

It's always special to launch below Hoover Dam. The view has changed since we first did this. It was fun to watch the progress of the bridge construction years back. We end up with a much better view than the tourists on the bridge, peering over the high, solid rail.

For the first time in years, we launched as part of the third launch of the day. There were three outfitters launching at the same time, including one who had their two little dogs running loose, creating a tripping hazards. We had three boats, another outfitter had two canoes with five adults and two small children, and the third outfitter was launching four solo kayaks.

Lake Mead (the lake below Hoover Dam, created by Davis Dam at Laughlin) was the lowest I've seen in quite a while. With the lake that low, we felt comfortable snagging the little pocket camp right near the beach. I've seen this spot under water in other years. It was nicely protected from the stiff upstream breeze.

Kathy assured her tent, clothes, and chair were all color coordinated. Too bad she didn't paint the blue drum to match! ;-)

One of the advantages of camping at the Arizona Hot Springs beach is that it has the only toilets above Willow Beach, 8 miles further downstream. Toilets it may have, but it paid to come prepared.

Truth in advertising - the pump-out boat arrived the second morning, reducing the level in the tanks and refilling the toilet paper racks.

I managed to screw up my packing. I usually include a pair of shoes for in camp, separate and apart from my choice of boat shoes. This time, when I was packing I figured on including the tennis shoes I was using in Vegas for camp shoes, but failed to include them when I finished up my camp packing our last night in Vegas. BJ bailed me out since she has a total of three pair of shoes and I could fit into her Crocs, Mickey Mouse and all.

The motor raft left the dam about an hour after we did, and stopped along the way. When they went by camp, it was interesting to see a bunch of the passengers wrapped up in what were either plastic trash bags or disposible plastic ponchos, in spite of the blue skies and nice temperatures.

Because of the stiff upstream wind our first day, all of the guided day trips passed us by for lack of time. Our second day we had two guided kayak day trips, a guided hiking day trip, a large group of "outdoor educators," and several small hiking groups who all decided to some to the hot springs because of the rain west of the city. The hot spring was very busy!

I didn't take the camera up to the hot springs, but did try to get a picture of this year's version of the ladder. It's been the same ladder for many years, but lost the handles at the top in a flash flood a year ago. Now the ladder has a 4x4 post bolted to the top with a couple handles screwed to the post. Not as good as the original handles, but way better than the total lack of handles like we had in March.

We were greeted with glassy smooth water as we loaded out on the morning of our third day.

Kathy was paddling BJ's spare ScupperPro since we haven't gotten around to doing the repairs to Knot Too Shabby. I couldn't resist the reflection!

It was a slow, lazy paddle downstream as the forecast tailwind developed. The only excitement was the fisherman that caught a big striper just as we drifted by.

The tailwind continued on our drive home, almost all the way to Phoenix. Loved the improved mileage. It was nice to get home where gas prices were about 65 cents cheaper than Vegas!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Another One Bites the Dust

I'll admit - I'm often hard on cameras. I replaced this one with a new Canon SX260 that we took to Alaska a couple years ago. The Canon lasted a year so I rolled back to this one. I bought a FujiFilm X-S1 that I took on the Grand Canyon trip and other river trips, but I took this old lightweight
Olympus as well.

It started out as a waterproof camera - until the LCD cracked. The crack didn't affect it's pictures and I quit rolling my kayaks several years ago, so this one would often end up in my pocket on hikes or on the water. Unfortunately, it died recently after seven years or so of hard service. I'm pretty sure if I look on the shelf at home I'll find one more predecessor that also bit the dust.

With a Black Canyon trip in the near future, I had to make a quick choice. The forecast was for lots of wind so I didn't want to fuss with the X-S1 and its large waterproof Pelican Case. While I haven't had good luck with Canon cameras (n=1), I really like the pictures I see coming from them. There was a Fry's Electronics about a mile from where we were staying in Vegas, so shopping was easy. My new Elph 160 isn't waterproof, but then neither was the Olympus for the past three years.

20 Megapixels, 8x zoom, and small enough to fall out of a shirt pocket. Seems like lots of value for just over $100. We'll see how it likes PFD pockets, pants pockets, shirt pockets, and my geocaching fanny pack.

(I considered the Elph 170 because I liked the blue color, but apparently others did too - they didn't have any more in stock.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Slot Canyon in Boulder City?

Much of my interest in geocaching comes from seeing someplace off the beaten path that you wouldn't know about otherwise, and the challenge of finding the "hide." Las Vegas is littered with caches, but most of them are in highly public places and too easy to find. In looking for some interesting potential, we ran across mention of a slot canyon in Boulder City. Really?

We started out on the River Mountain trail which was very well signed. Perhaps too well signed if you were riding a bike or a horse.

This portion of the trail had originally been built by the CCC and featured a number of rock dikes to keep the rain water from flowing down the trail.

We left the River Mountain hiking trail and joined a multi-use trail, keep a close eye out for mountain bikes. There were lots of cars in the parking lot when we started out, but we never saw another person on the trails we used.

There were even a few cairns along the way as if you needed them to stay on the trail!

Much of the trail was fairly wide and seemed to have more boot prints than tire prints or hoof prints although we saw those as well. A chill wind was blowing so the top layer kept going on and off depending on the amount of shelter from the wind.

We got to the "slot" to find that some editorial license had been applied to description. Looked more like a gully at the start.

It never got much more than 6 or 7 feet deep, but it was fairly narrow. Apparently some bikers descend this route although it didn't look like many had been through it recently.

The rock in the "canyon" added interest to the hike. Lots of nice color.

We knew that there would be a pour-over on our way that would be a waterfall if the wash was flowing. It was dry and grippy enough that you could carefully walk down the face of it. In fact, I proved you could walk back up it since the published coordinates for the cache were about 25' from where we finally found it.

All told, a nice couple mile hike, four caches, and occasional views of the remnants of Lake Mead, almost 140 foot below full pool. (The lake is experiencing historic low levels at this time.)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas - Or Not

BJ and I headed to Las Vegas for a week, without the trailer. The morning after our arrival we went out to get oriented to the area and find a few geocaches. We started with one of the most popular caches in Las Vegas, located near the famous sign. While there, we met a couple from the UK who were finishing a trip to visit many of the national parks in the western US, geocaching along the way.

Our second full day in town was wet, and the weather was much cooler, leaving some snow on the higher elevations. We headed to Bullhead City to visit a river friend.

I was surprised to see some geo-art when I was looking at's map of caches in the area. There were several large collections of caches north of town that formed distinctive shapes.

We were going to do the K-9 set that formed a large paw print, but the gravel road to access the area was overrun with construction equipment when we tried to get there. Instead, we decided to complete the Green Bay Packer's circuit since we wanted to go to Mount Charleston and this was on the way.

The circuit for us was a bit over 5 miles of hiking in the high Mohave desert. It took us about four hours to find the 30 caches that defined the shape. Most of the caches were small ones that only contained a log,

But the "final" one (which was about mid-way through the pattern given where we started) was packed full of Green Bay paraphernalia. In spite of having a nephew and a cousin who are Packer fans, we decided to take nothing, and leave nothing.

The weather was cool enough that the Pendleton felt really good. Occasionally the breeze would quit for a while and the day would warm up nicely but when the breeze started, it flowed downhill from the snow.

We pretty much had the 5 mile route to ourselves. We saw lots of jackrabbits and sign of other wildlife. We chatted with a couple out exercising their horses and saw one bicyclist although I doubt he saw us.

We finished up the caching and even found the truck again.

Logging our finds, the caches turned to smiles. Even with the Green Bay circuit all smiling, I'm not rooting for them.

After finishing the caches, we drove up to the trailhead at Mount Charleston, checking out the campgrounds along the way. There was some snow on the ground above 6000'. The campground at 7000' had electric hookups for $18.50 a night with the senior discounts. The lower campground was dry camping and we didn't stop to find out the rate.

All told, a fun time wandering the area around Vegas. Didn't even lose any money in the process.