Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category

Time Passes

6 September 2017

It’s true, time passes faster when you’re having fun. It’s also true that if you stop doing something for a while, it’s much harder to resume. At the same time, at least for me, having that break with regular writing and playing on the radio makes it harder for me to start anything else since I have those two things hanging over my time. I want to get back into them, but…tomorrow? And then because of that attitude, I’m not eagerly starting new projects or doing other things that I want to. Not because I can’t or don’t have time, but because I have those two things hanging over me and I can’t get myself going on anything.

Milky Way from Coyote Grade in the Owyhee Foothills.

I did get out and do some Milky Way photography. It turned out OK, and I had a blast. With all the smoke lately, I haven’t gotten back out to shoot more astrophotography. Or any photography, actually. The drive just isn’t there and to be honest, I’m reluctant to just go by myself. Not because I can’t, but because I know my wife doesn’t like me going solo into the Owyhees. And I’ve sort of gotten used to having someone else along.

Excuses. Just excuses.

I do need to go back out with some settings from that shoot and try doing more and specific adjustments to the camera to attempt to get better images. I also want to take one of my telescopes out and use it to track the camera. That way, I can get some images to try stacking and see how that works to get a better Milky Way image.

In spite of that, I did do a bunch of prep for the recent total eclipse of 2017. For that, I built myself a solar filter out of PVC pipe and gold mylar sheet. A preliminary test showed the filter worked, but I am not happy with it and will probably eventually replace the mylar with newer or something else. It’s just not perfect.

My homemade solar filter mounted on the lens I will be using for the 2017 solar eclipse.

 

The sun as shot through my homemade solar filter. It’s two layers of gold mylar secured between an inner and outer PVC ring.

One of my sisters lived right in the path of totality, so it was a simple matter to head to her place 45 minutes away and observe the eclipse there.

My setup while shooting the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. We had 100% totality here.

I did get at least one decent image that I was really happy with, and one I was sort of happy with. And yes, you can see sunspots in my images, so I guess there actually are other decent images from the event.

Bailey’s Beads from the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. You can also see some solar prominences.

 

Another shot of Bailey’s Beads as the sun moved out of totality.

 

Sunspots during the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, along with the moon encroaching. This is early in during the eclipse. They’re easier to see in the full size image.

The same time I did the Milky Way shoot, I took my DJI Phantom 4 along and did some flying. I had been mentally rehearsing the remote controller stick movements for a 180 flyby where you spin around 180 degrees without stopping. Or put another way, you’re flying away from a spot looking back at it and at some point along the flight path you spin around to face the other way while you continue flying in a straight line. I’m happy to report I got the stick movements right and it worked pretty well.

And now we have a Purple Air Quality alert for the valley. That’s the color for “very unhealthy” with the next color being brick red and meaning “hazardous”. So, I’ll leave you with one last image, one that I took last night and that I call the Fire Moon. The color is due to the smoke in the air, of course.

The nearly full moon, discolored from the heavy smoke covering Treasure Valley, Idaho.

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Splashing around

19 June 2017

Last Friday was fun. Surfing Google Earth earlier that week, I noticed a potential location for doing a photography project I have in mind. So, my son and I headed out to try and scout the spot.

Short story version is that I have to try a different route in. The “road” is blocked about 2 to 2.5 miles from the site. It’s good trail in, so hiking in is quite feasible. It’s carrying in all the necessary gear that makes it a little less fun. Obviously, I’ve got the means to backpack the gear, so we’ll see. It would also take care of removing the vehicles from the photo site.

However, there’s a possible alternate route in as well. Personally, given who (BLM & F&G) blocked vehicle access to the site while allowing horses and hiking, I suspect even that other route will turn out to be blocked. After all, why would two ways way in be blocked (I already know it’s also blocked at the dam) and the third not? Especially since the hiking “trails” are actually the old road system. Gotta check it out, anyway, just to be sure, eh?

Even though the desired goal wasn’t reached, we did have a lot of fun getting in as far as we did.

We took the back route to the park but one spot got bad enough that we both agreed to turn back instead of continuing on. A tight curve, a steep drop, and a large puddle only a foot from the edge with no way to avoid it…doesn’t sound that bad, but it was questionable at best right then. Walking back to my vehicle, I saw track indicating whoever had been there before us made the same decision to turn around. We could see the bridge and the entrance to the park off in the distance from there. Rats! Foiled again!

Once we got back to the main road, we took that to the park and drove through it to the fishing spots on the other side. At the end, that’s where the road was closed by a BLM/F&G gate. Access isn’t prohibited, just vehicles.

Years and years ago a friend and I drove the entire canyon from the park entrance to the dam. There wasn’t a park there at the time but people still went there to get in some good fishing, mostly catfish. We just wanted to see if we could drive the whole way, and we did. Good thing his Blazer had good suspension! Part of that, about a quarter mile worth, was solid boulder field and we were going over them following the track!

Hmmm. I wonder, could someone have tried doing it without good suspension, vehicle clearance, and a 4×4 drive? If enough idiots…excuse me, explorers… in inapprorpiate vehicles did try to go through that boulder field and kept breaking down, that could explain why the area got shut down to motorized use. Or more likely, people kept trying to make different roads all over the place to get past that part.

Ah, well. I’m obviously going to check out the remaining access road, but I’m expecting it to be closed as well. It looks to be a much shorter hike, but it’s down the canyon wall and those tend to be a little steeper than a highway in the same place. The hike in would be fine, it’s the hike back up and out that I wouldn’t wanna be facing at the end of the day. I’ll take the level, twice as long hike over one I have to climb.

A Return to Camping

20 August 2015

It has been almost since my kids were born, around 35 years, since the last time I’ve actually done what I would call camping. I’ve been out and spent the night in a tent or in the car, as you’ve seen in my other posts and pictures, particularly the astrophotography posts. But it’s been decades since I’ve actually gone camping as in the family going up in the hills and spending the weekend in a campground.

That’s what we did this last weekend. And that’s when I discovered just how much I missed it. The really cool thing about it, though, is my wife even said how much she enjoyed it. That gives me even more motivation to get the Vardo done.

So, on to the camping….

We left Friday morning and headed up, planning to go to Warm Lake and stay in one of the campgrounds there called Shoreline. We stopped at the gas station south of Cascade to get some treats and so found out about the Cougar fire in the area. For those unfamiliar with “Cougar fire” and the like, fires in the US NW are usually named after a creek, mountain, or other geographical landmark in the area and this one was named after Cougar Creek. We called the lodge for a status, discussed the situation and decided to go on in to Warm Lake if we could. On the way in we saw some side roads off Warm Lake Road that were blocked off, including one with the sheriff sitting there to keep people out but still keep it open for the firefighters to access the Cougar fire.

The Shoreline campground was full when we got there, which didn’t really surprise me. Around here, during the summer, unless you reserve a campsite in advance, some places a year in advance, it’s hit or miss whether you’ll be able to stay in any particular campground. However, we had noticed a really nice campsite along the road to the campground, and wound up staying there with room for all of us in “one” spot: my daughter’s family (7), my son’s family (4), my sister-in-law and one of her sons (2), and my wife and I. Fifteen of us in one camper and three tents, as you can see in the picture below. No services, just campsites, but it was a few minutes walk to the lake and outhouses and water was available at the lodge just a few minutes away by car so it was really pretty convenient. Happily, the temperatures were cooler there than at home, as well.

A full circle panorama showing the campsite in the woods with the trailer, tents, hammock, trees, road.

Campsite panorama

We set up a canopy over our tables near the firepit and that served as our kitchen for the weekend. The firepit was our communal center. And of course, we had a hammock to relax in, when we could get the kids to quit playing in it.

Shows the yellow canopy we set up over the white camp tables with my daughter and her husband by them and my wife in the hammock in the foreground, playing a game on her phone.

The kitchen and the hammock.

Naturally, since it is camping after all, both nights had campfires and S’mores. We also cooked a few trout and hot dogs over the fire. One of the funny highlights was when my nephew roasted six marshmallows on his trident and crammed them between full-sized Graham crackers on top of a bar of Hershey’s Chocolate. Boy, was that one huge, messy S’more! I wish I had a picture of that to include here.

SHows a little red flatbed trailer, 4' by 8', with wooden side rails behind a blue Geo Tracker. Grey tarp creates a dome over the rails to provide a sleeping area.

The little red trailer rigged for sleeping in.

We even managed to jury-rig a small “camper” out of a utility trailer, some tent poles, and bungie cords. For a cot we had a reclining camp chair. The railing at the back was removed to provide access.

We had a blast! It was a really dusty campsite and also smokey from the Cougar fire two to three miles west of us. Because of the fire, either a sheriff or firefighter would come by each evening to advise us of road conditions. Friday night, the sheriff said we didn’t have to evacuate, but he wasn’t sure that he would personally remain camping in the area. We discussed that and decided that if we had to leave, they’d come by and let us know, so we stayed put. The next evening we learned that the fire had jumped the road and so the road was currently closed. The next morning it was opened up again, so even with the fire related conditions, we actually had a really good time and no problems getting back out Sunday afternoon.

Dutch oven cooking was supper Saturday. My son fixed up a chicken stew around noon and we maintained coals and fire throughout the day.

12" Dutch oven in coals in fire pit with lid off showing chicken stew comprised of 1" pieces of corn on the cob, baby carrots, chopped onion, chopped potatoes.

Dutch oven chicken stew

Paper plate in my lap loaded with chicken stew as described in previous picture.

Chicken stew served up! YUM!

Shows tripod created from long poles found in the area over the fire pit with a 12" Dutch oven hanging from a hook made from a small stick. Also shows other 12" Dutch oven in coals to side of fire pit. Chairs in background around the fire pit with the little red trailer and Geo Tracker in the background.

Field assembled tripod with proper lashing at top and a field made hook for the Dutch oven and coffee pot to hang from.

This was the first time in about 50 years that I made a tripod and only the third hook I made. It worked really well and we even used it for coffee in the morning. We did have one problem with the Dutch ovens that we initially blamed on the tripod: the bail on the one hanging from the tripod apparently got pulled out of shape. We couldn’t lay it over and just lift up the lid, we had to slide the lid out the side. Later, when cleaning up we discovered we’d swapped the lids when we prepped and put the food in the Dutch ovens. When we switched the lids, the bails on both ovens worked just fine. Now we know what to check next time.

Playing in the lake, Saturday, I discovered muscles I hadn’t used for decades. For that matter, I only survived three swings on the rope before I was afraid I couldn’t hang on for the next one. Come the next morning, I found I had sore muscle under the sternum and my underarms. It was a good feeling, though, and made even better when I realized I had gained back another notch in my belt by the end of the weekend.

Rocky ground with a big crack in the rock. Red Bocce ball in the crack.

That was NOT where he wanted it to stop!

One of the games we played was introduced by my nephew: Cross Country Bocce. We only played to 5 points per game, and we got a real workout. The rules were simple: start from one point and the person going first throws (yes, throws, not tosses!) the little white target ball anywhere they want. Then he or she throws his Bocce ball (one per person playing) to try to get closest to the white ball he just threw. Then the person that threw the white ball has to go find it and point out to the rest of just where the white ball was. Sometimes we could see it on the ground, but a lot of the time we couldn’t and had to try and guess what was there to deflect our balls into the right spot. Whoever gets closest (and sometimes that’s a couple of feet or more away) gets the point and throws the white ball for the next round. Repeat until someone has 5 points. With all the rocks and trees, there was no guarantee that the white ball or your Bocce ball would go where you aimed. After all, that little white ball fits between trees better, for one thing and bounces off rocks more. So we were up hills, through brush, on the road, and watching our balls roll or carom all over the place as we tried to allow for slope, rocks, trees, bushes, and so on.

Little target ball and several red, blue, yellow, grey Bocce balls on the ground around a tree. Ground is covered with twigs, sticks, rocks of assorted sizes.

One of the very few times most everyone got to the white ball.

The above is one of the few times most of the balls were clustered around the white ball. It is a picture of the type of ground cover we were playing in, too! One of the throws of the white ball was hilarious: It hit a tree, bounced off to hit a tree close by, bounced off that second tree back to the first, rebounded back to the second, once again off that back to the first…I think there were five or six bounces between the two trees before it fell to the ground. Kind of like a Japanese Pachinko game, I think. There were many more hilarious throws, too, but this one was particularly funny.

Shows my son bent over his son's shoe taping the front half back together with silver duct tape after he walked the sole off. Granddaugther stands to the side watching.

Thank heavens for duct tape!

We had at least one casualty that required major treatment. Fortunately, there was some duct tape to hand and we were able to properly ensure the continuity of the weekend. As a matter of fact, when we left for home the next afternoon, this shoe was still going strong after playing all over the place in the rocks, hills, sticks, and riding bikes.

Like I said, we all had a blast and we’re looking forward to more camping. I’m eager to get the Vardo done and get out camping with it.