Monday, August 29, 2011

I did say Kissack "Adventures" ...

I think I mentioned before that one of my loves was climbing.  My long time friend Ofelia and I have been road running, trail running, weight training, climbing and just plain having fun for years.   We have been all over California to different climbing gyms, including our favorite Stonehenge in Modesto.  All this time, I've wanted to do the "real thing" in the outdoors.  It happens REI was offering classes in beginning and intermediate climbing, so on the spur of the moment, Ofie and I signed up for the intermediate movement classes (how to use non-existent hand and foot holds).  Up at 4:00 ... a.m. that is ... we were off to Roseville REI where we met up with our group.  From there, it was another hour drive to Donner Summit where we were to climb at Babylon Dome.  Well not exactly, because from the parking lot, it was another 1.5 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, all of us carrying very heavy packs with water, food and climbing gear ... then another half mile approach cross country to the base of the rocks.  The two guys have had indoor experience, the young girl on the right, none ... zilch ... nada ... NO experience at all, which comes into play a little later.
The guide is hiking around the top of the mountain to set the top ropes.  You can see we are all wearing harnesses, which we attach to one end of the rope.  The other end goes all the way to the top, through a steel carabiner and back down to the bottom, where your partner "belays" you ... basically attaches the other end of the rope to himself using a breaking device.  You are free climbing the entire way, with your partner pulling up the slack in the rope as you climb.   If you fall, he can break you ... hopefully before you fall more than a couple feet.   
This is the second climb of the day.  That's me, barely visible at the top.  I kept asking where the hand holds were.  At the gym, the holds are rather large ... most of this climbing was with hands flat on the wall, or barely hanging on by a fingernail ... which I had to file off, because fingernails and rocks don't mix!!  Our climbs were from 60 to 100 feet.
Here's Ofie climbing the same route.  You can see her rope is a little loose here.  The young girl was belaying her at the guides request so she could get experience.  By the second time she took her hand completely off the break, I told Ofie to freeze and had one of the men take over the belay.  It was an extremely hot day with no shade, and the girl had not been drinking enough water.  She collapsed in a heap at the bottom of the climb.  Good thing Ofie didn't really know what was going on .....
When these climbs were done, we packed up and climbed/crawled over car sized boulders (with our still all too heavy backpacks) to the second site, 1/4 mile away.  This is Ofie  climbing Tiger Stripes chimney.
In the above photo you can see another set of ropes to the right ... I'm attached to them at the start of this climb.  
Further up the rock, I'm pretty exhausted.  How do we get down you ask?  We place our feet flat on the rock face, lean way back and walk down the face backwards ...  putting ourselves totally in the hands of the belayer as he runs the rope through his break ... hopefully slowly!!!  I'm further up the face here.  The view is always awesome, but I try not to look down.
By 4:00 p.m., we are all exhausted and out of water.  Time for the return trek ... uphill this time ... and back to the parking lot.  Ofelia and I got back to my house about 8:30, a little worse for wear.  I have a nice raspberry on one knee where I slipped, but luckily caught myself.  Our shoulders are terribly sore from the heavy backpacks, but we both have big smiles on our faces!!!  The feeling of accomplishment is pretty huge!!!!!  Just another Kissack Adventure!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rock Climbing Gym

One of the things my friend Ofie and I do quite often is rock climbing.  We practice at an indoor gym in Modesto called Stonehenge.  On Friday, I attended her Yoga class, then met her at the college where she teaches part time ... on this particular day in the Fitness Gym.  We worked out for an hour doing mainly upper body to get in better shape for climbing.  That afternoon I got my road bike out and went for a short ride.  All of this before climbing Saturday, was not really a good idea, but those who know me, know I can't sit around!!!  As it turned out, it was a BAD idea!!!  Too much exercise can be a detriment.

Here I am almost to the top.  Ofie is holding the rope that is attached to my harness and hers.  I free climb to the top, using hand holds that are "graded" by numbers according to the difficulty.  You try to use only those holds for the rated climb you are attempting.  Should I fall, she can stop my descent.  I will still smack into the wall, but at least won't hit the floor!!  Although this image looks  like the wall is slanted, it isn't.  It is straight up.  The darker wall to the left is slanted back OVER you ... called an overhang, they are more difficult.  By the time I finished the third climb, my arms were like rubber!!!
So today, I attempted my long run!!  BIG mistake after all the workouts Friday and the climbing Saturday.  It was very disappointing to only get in four miles!!!  I was dying!!!!!  And now my shoulders are killing me.  What??  I'm not 25 any more?????  Headed for the Advil!!!

So here's my bike.  I'm trying to get some type of bike rack I can mount INSIDE my RV to hold the bike upright while traveling.  It is much too valuable to hang off the front or back of my rig, and laying it on it's side is not an option.  If anyone has any ideas, please send me a comment.  The frame is not round, but oval in shape.  I thought about hanging it from the ceiling, but fear it will bounce around too much.
I'm headed to the couch ....... see you soon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Post Script to Grand Canyon

I have hung the Navajo blanket on the fireplace and received several requests to see it sooo ..... here it is!!!
Perfect size (just luck) and the colors are great.  At the base of the fireplace are four Indian grinding stones I have collected over the years.  One even has the stone used to grind the corn.  I have to say that when I was in grammar school (eons ago), I took this particular rock with stone to school in order to make cornbread the way the Indians did ... for a Thanksgiving gathering.    I'm still picking grains of sand out of my teeth!!  You see, when you grind rock on rock, it makes sand ... which mixes in with the corn you are grinding.  When you cook it, it smells wonderful, but is totally inedible!!!  No wonder the Indians didn't live long ... they had no teeth left to chew their food!!!  Who knew??

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Natives are Restless

One more day in the amazing Grand Canyon (for this trip anyway) and I decided I couldn't miss the Native Indian dancers who put on a show at the Hopi House. This family dances several times a day, rain or shine, even in the heat of todays sun.  Awesome music and wonderful dancers, but they moved so fast most of the time I wasn't able to get great photos. Yes, I can do amazing things with my camera, but really, there are limits.  This is the front of the Hopi House.

Since buckskin is hard to obtain and pricey, most of the dancers have used a combination of materials, leather and yarn for their outfits.  First to take the stage was this little girl doing the Bell Dance.
Next was Mom who performed the Womans Dance.  Interesting that the women danced slowly and the men fast!  In this dance, the long strings moved dramatically from front to back.
Here you can see the front of her dress.  Funny too, to see the modern day influence.  Every dancer was chewing gum!!!
Before the men came on, they announced that these dancers ask for donations to help pay for their college education.  The donations were collected in a very old hand woven basket that was to die for.  To the crowds credit, they were very forthcoming.
The men performed several dances, including one to the code talkers, credited with creating and breaking codes during the war, which benefited us greatly.
Finally this very shy little girl came on and performed, madly chewing her gum!!!  Later, I realized this whole family was camped next to me in the village ... and they had a VERY cute little dog that thought he ruled the world.  After a run-in with Jessie ... it was a tie!!
At the end, people were invited to the stage for pictures with the family, which I declined.  I was able to speak to them later by my RV.
The last two images are of the treasures I purchased in Tusayan and the Grand Canyon.  I have several other pieces of turquoise that I took out of storage ... and now wear at least one piece every day!!  Each decoration has a meaning.  For example, the small silver drops represent raindrops and abundance.  The feathers, long life.
The large bracelet was a pawn item that I was able to get at a good discount.  The remaining jewelry was made by Justin Morris, who bargained with me for 45 minutes!!  In our travels, Patty and I looked at pottery and baskets everywhere.  We did find some affordable baskets, but the large pottery pieces ran $700 and up.  So when I got home, I took at second look at this piece of pottery that was from my Grandmother who lived in the southern Sierra Nevadas.  This pot was used as a planter  ... it had cactus in it for 30 years and possibly longer.  When my mom passed away, I dumped it out and have had it on my shelf ever since.  It is in great condition ... and I now.have much more respect for it and it's maker even if I don't know exactly where it came from.
I'm off to Las Vegas for a Photoshop World Convention.  Leaving my credit cards home!!!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fossils on the Canyon Rim

The rangers at the Grand Canyon provide a variety of excellent walks and informative talks.  As my trip comes to an end, I was encouraged to attend the fossil walk.  Amazingly enough, the entire rim of the canyon was a lake bed at one time, allowing for an amazing amount of fossils underfoot.  The critters fell to the bottom in the mud, and over millions of years, this mud became the layers of rock you see at the surface today.  Once the ranger shows you the fossils, you walk around looking at the ground every where you go.   Unfortunately I did not take a notebook, so I can't tell you what each of these are.  Looks like a perfect Cheerio, but I think this was before their time.
You can see the outer shell of a clam here.  Look further below for the guts!!
Foot ... okay, it's not guts ... it's the clams foot.
Same thing here ... this is the under side of the clam thing ....
Another one ... I put my glasses down for perspective.  Most were about this size.  There were also worm "dens" ... they looked like big black worms, but were actually the holes they resided in.
 Here is another finned creature.  Pretty cool to find these all over the rocks.
Lastly I found this big sponge.  You can still see it's texture.  
Exciting, huh???  Well it was when you were looking for them.  More exciting to find them in person.  Next up, Native Indian Dancing ....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Critters and Sunsets!!

I've collected a variety of images of the animal life in the park, including these gorgeous elk.  The velvet is thick and rutting season is close by.  For the most part, you can get pretty close with no problems, but I chose to take these pictures from behind a big tree!!!
These guys were walking among the trailers eating the grass grown high from leaking water hoses.  Although there were many babies, I did not get any non-blurry images ... they move too fast.
Squirrels of course are everywhere ... they even pose for you!!  This guy blends right into the background.
These Bluejays were pretty prolific and very noisy, as were the ravens.
Ravens are EVERYWHERE ... kind of ratty looking ... scavengers for sure.  Definitely carry PVC pipe for your sewer lines.  These guys cut mine right in half!!
There also were lots of turkey vultures that flew too high for me to get good images, as well as the Condors.  Condors have wing spans of 9-10 feet and are amazing flyers with faces only a mother could love.  No images here as they fly too high for the lenses I took with me.  These tiny guys kept well hidden ... I only saw two the entire time I was there, and only this one stopped long enough for a photo.
I know, it says sunsets above, but the animal life fascinates me.  Don't know what this is, but they were cute little guys!!!
Ok ... the sunsets!!  Here is the last one I photographed in the rain with thunder ... no lighting that we saw ... but standing out on the very edge of the rim.  It was later that I learned this was a very bad idea.
These amazing colors lasted for about 20 minutes.  
Can you believe it???  No adjustments here, just God doing his best work.
Up next ... with only a couple more days to enjoy the canyon, I went on a geology/fossil walk and again broke the rules to get images of the Native Indians dancing.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ooooh Ahhhhhh (Point, that is)

One of the shorter hikes down into the Grand Canyon is on Kaibab Trail.   Two main trails lead to the bottom of the canyon .. Bright Angel and Kaibab.  We had been invited by Patty's co-workers to hike down about a mile to Ooh Ahh Point one evening, but we opted to make an early start Thursday morning instead.  Loaded up with enough water and food to last us 4-5 days, we took off on our 3 hour adventure!!!  Again, we were breaking the rules and heading into the "bus only" entrance, thinking that as in the past, this meant locals too.  Dan informed us later that this time we COULD have gotten in trouble, since here you need a sticker on your vehicle to park.  As we ascended down the trail, we came upon a mule that had collapsed and did not survive.  More on that later.  All around the rim the Yucca are in full seed.
Heading down below the rim, this is a very steep gravel-slippery trail.  Still, I can see myself trail running ... well, downhill anyway!
Everywhere you look are fantastic vistas with amazing colors.  Thankfully this trail is in the shade all morning long.
When we got to the Point, there were truly lots of Oooohs, Ahhhhs and Wows!  Not only from us, but from everyone who came hiking by.  I tried to talk Patty into moving out to the edge, but she would have none of it.  Smart girl!!!

I Love This Place!!!!
Course we weren't there five minutes when the local squirrel family showed up to check out our backpacks.  Knowing that they can carry many awful diseases, including plague, we not only kept our distance, but tried to shoo them away.  No such luck ...  He's chewing on Patty's walking stick!!!
I mentioned the mule above ... on our way back to the top, the helicopter came to lift the mule out of the canyon.  Although I got several images, I've chosen to only show the helicopter kicking up tons of dust.   We surmised what happened using our best forensic investigative skills on our return climb ...  Should you get hurt in the canyon, a similar helicopter will airlift you from the canyon for around $7,000.00.
Tonight will be another magnificent sunset due to the tropical storm coming in from Mexico.  Patty and I will be there with bells on!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Trading Post Negotiations

My house is a representation of my adventures over the years, including the Chinese dining room, the Castle Keep entrance, the Tuscan kitchen (actually on my list), an eclectic living room for all the miscellaneous stuff and the Cowboy/Indian family room with rock fireplace and beam/wood ceilings.  A great addition would be an authentic Navajo blanket to adorn the floor to ceiling fireplace.  Which means BIG, which means expensive, which means a trip to the Cameron Trading Post to hopefully negotiate a reasonable price.  On the way is the Tower, by Architect Mary Colter.  It is an amazing creation at the edge of the eastern side of the South Rim, the interior of which is covered with hand painted Indian designs by a local native artist of that time.
If you look close, you can see small designs in the tower to create interest, including what looks like a condor head on the left side and hieroglyphics on the right.
Here is one image of the designs inside ... they cover all the walls ... and beautiful handmade pots act as lampshades.
Outside views are of course just as dramatic.
The trip to Cameron is just over 50 miles and along the way are many native Indian roadside stands where they sell their jewelry and pottery.  Of course we stopped at several of them.  At the very first we met a wonderful lady and I assume her daughter.  She told us the story of the Juniper berries they use in their jewelry, that the natives think it protects them ... so they even sew a few in their clothes to ensure they are not without sacred protection.  Just to show you HOW nice they were ... when Patty mentioned she was trying to make bracelets for the kids working with her at the general store (and they had broken), she was offered the wire necessary to make her own bracelets.  We were very impressed and returned on another day to purchase several of their bracelets.   Another 10 stops later for photo opps, we finally arrived at the trading post.  I had every intention of getting a blanket, but they were amazingly high priced ... well over $2000.   Since we had been told to look for the blue dot "sale" tag (ask us the sale price), we kept looking until I found the perfect one, priced at $2700!!!!  EEK!  I was however able to negotiate a price well UNDER $2000, much to Patty's surprise, and I left with my prize.
Again, the sales girl was nice enough to provide me with a picture of the lady who actually made it.  All of the wool is natural colors, made by combining different colored yarns to achieve lights and darks.  I can't wait to get it hung on my fireplace.  What could be better???  Hiking the Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point .... tomorrow.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Extreme Biking the Rim

Haven't got a clue what's happening to the font size here.  The draft looks good.  They must be having some problems .....

After lots of hiking and photography on Saturday, I snuck into the Fountain Shop and had a huge cup of ice cream.  Patty is watching her diet and I didn't want to sabotage her efforts ....  On Sunday, she and I hiked to Mather Point.  By now, I'm not sure which images are which.  Guess I need to take better notes of where I've been!!!  At any rate, later in the day Dan drove me to Grandview to check out photography sites on the East end of the rim.  I will be returning here later for evening pics.

That night, Dan cooked dinner for me since it was his day off.  BBQ steak, rice and yummy corn.  With that and the ice cream under my belt, I was quick to take up Dan's offer for a bike ride to Hermits Rest the next day.  I stole this picture from his blog site ... don't tell!!!!


We started out at his R.V. in Trailer Village ... well I'm liking this REALLY well!  It's almost all downhill ... what could be better?  Well let me tell you .. we rode to the beginning of the red route bus line, Dan loaded the bikes on the front and we "rode" the bus to Powell Point, where we disembarked for photo opps.  Extreme biking at it's best!!!  
From there, we rode on a path right next to the rim most of the way to Hermits Rest.  This is a good view of the canyon within a canyon, showing the Colorado River.  Dan spied 6 river raft boats coming down the river which I hoped to photograph.  Unfortunately they must have stopped for a break, because after 30 minutes and no sight of them, we continued on.
Pima Point was another great view ... although the smoke from the fire is still visible.
From Mohave Point we headed up to Hermits Rest where I easily talked Dan into ..... ice cream!!!  Hey, that bike ride had a few uphill parts that were breathtaking!!!  It's now late in the day and our dog family members would be waiting for dinner, so we jumped back on the bus for a short ride to Mohave Point, where we "ran the downhill" portion back to the start line.  Another great day!!!  Next on the schedule is a trip to Cameron Indian Trading Post with Patty!!!!