June 30, 2008

Heaven's Gate

Over the weekend we took a little trip to Paradise… Park, that is. Just before reaching the Paradise Park Reservoir, we turned right on a dirt road (unmarked) that leads to the Dry Fork Creek horse bridge. We were looking for a place to pull over and camp with the pickup and horse trailer.
We found our spot near a marshy area with good grass with an old road leading to a flat meadow where we thought we could set up overnight shop. The old road had a lot of branches and fallen trees in the way, all of small diameter, but making the track impassable without some work. Luckily, Steve had his trusty chain saw that even had some gas in it. He cut a path barely wide enough for the truck and trailer.
Creating the entry made for a lot of work, what with the cutting and hauling aside the branches and trunks. Even then, the passage of our rig was … interesting. Once inside the meadow, we had an ideal, very private location. An old rock campfire ring (and of course some old cans and bottles) indicated the place had been used a few times by hunters or campers.
With the campground established, we headed out about noon on Saturday for our first day’s ride. The plan was to go to Big Park, near Marsh Peak. We’ve been there several times, approaching from the Red Cloud Loop side, from the Marsh Bench road or from Massey Ranch/Horsehoe Park. We’ve seen a huge herd of Elk in Big Park. The area is wide open and beautiful in mid-summer. This time, though, we didn’t quite have our trails straight.
We went down the road from our camp, crossed the Dry Fork Creek bridge, and followed the signs and markers past Burro Park, Hells Kitchen Park, and entering Corral Park. From there, we hoped to find a trail through the woods to Big Park but we weren’t able to locate the trail marked on our Topo! Maps. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a forest service map, or we would have had a better idea where to go. We could have followed Corral Park on around to Big Park, but we ran out of exploration time. As it was, we returned to the trailer about 8PM.
The ride was 12 miles, 1600 feet elevation gain, accomplished in about 6 hours. Our travel was a little slower than usual because the trail was rocky and we had to go around or over a lot of blowdown in the spruce and lodgepole forest. Above 10,000 feet, we ran into a few patches of snow. Dandelions and buttercups were out.
Overall, the route was well-watered, a good place to spend a day that topped 90 degrees in Roosevelt, but was only in the high sixties where we were, above 9500 feet.
The mosquitoes were pretty bad back at the camp, but Wipe-On fly spray worked well on the horses. Daisy found herself a nice cow femur to chew on. We called it her Daisy Binky.
We were glad to have our cozy gooseneck trailer with mattress in the nose to sleep on. One mosquito was buzzing around inside at first, but Steve managed to zap it pretty quickly.
On Sunday, the goal was to reach Twin Lakes. We drove the truck and trailer out of our campsite and continued about 2 miles toward the bridge, where we parked in an open place beside the road. From there, we saddled up and took off. The trail was the same as the previous day until a mile or so past the bridge. From there, we diverged onto the marked Twin Lakes trail.
We stopped to eat lunch at a widened part of Dry Fork. Daisy had a great time diving into the water to fetch sticks. We rode on to Twin Lakes, where we saw a group of campers in a wall tent with their horses. We had seen their horse trailers not far from where we parked and thought we might run into them. Daisy ran over to play with their dogs. We managed to get her to come back without too much trouble. We crossed the lake outlet in water that was horse belly deep with no problem, thinking the trail ran on the other side of the lake.
After much searching around, we never came up on a real trail, but we did manage to follow enough of a game trail to view both lakes. (Later, at home, we consulted the forest service map and found that we should have stayed on the same side of the lake as the campers. Next time, that map comes with us in the saddlebags!)

Just before we turned around, we found a huge snowbank where Daisy had fun glissading down the snow. That was at about 10, 200 feet. Around the lake, marsh marigolds were everywhere in the wet areas.
The entire ride was only about 6.5 miles with 1200 feet elevation gain. We made the ride in about 4.5 hours. Not bad considering the time we spent looking for trails in rough country, and the rocky trails in general.
Conclusions: Never go anywhere in the Uintas without forest service map in addition to Topo! Maps. Bring plenty of bug spray. A return to the area in August would be good. The wildflowers will be numerous and beautiful then.

June 27, 2008

Crisis Management

Now that we’re country folk with our own little “ranch,” we’re getting an education in water control. Who knew it was so complicated? After the first irrigation, we replaced all the missing gates on our gated pipe, and Steve was even able to take apart the overall off-on valve and fix it so that the system doesn’t leak too badly when it's supposed to be off. We got proximal control on the cracks and holes in the pipe. By trial and error, we figured out approximately how many gates produce a good flow. That is, if the water is full pressure. However, if someone along the line has forgotten to turn off a valve, or someone has turned one on without letting Merlan, our ditch rider, know about it, the flow is significantly diminished, as we also discovered by trial and error. I think we now have an idea what the flow should look like, and if it’s not right, we’ll call around for a water check right away.
This last irrigation, our third, produced yet another surprise. The end cap blew off of the section of pipe watering along the side of the house. The resulting geyser got our attention in a hurry. We attempted to slap the cap back on, but there was no iron stake holding it in place, so it wouldn’t stay. In a panic, we opened up valves on the east-west line to relieve the pressure, then rushed around to see how we could rig the cap on so it might be likely to stay put. We came up with a t-post, a driver, and an inch-thick plank. Steve drove the post and stuffed in the wood to hold the cap firmly in place.
That worked. The geyser shut off. Only then did we notice that Steve had driven a stake right next to the electric power box that’s out in the pasture. Whoops. Luckily, no one was electrocuted. The house power even still worked. All was well.
The pasture is well-watered. The grass has grown 3 feet tall. Too high, actually, for our 2 horses to have any chance of munching it all down. Next project: making hay. Fortunately, our neighbor offered to cut the hay for us, since we have no machinery. Unfortunately, our gates aren’t nearly wide enough. Next project, pulling and moving posts to allow a 14 foot gap for the haymaker.
We called Blue Stakes, too. Before driving any more posts, finding out where electric and gas lines run seems wise. Luck only holds out so long.
Another day on the farm, another lesson in crisis management.

June 26, 2008

Super Daisy

Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap huge stacks of fallen trees in a single bound… it’s SUPER DOG. That’s the new tag line I’ve given Daisy.
Why, you ask? Good question.
Well behaved, she’s not.
Smart? Not so much.
Good hunter? Okay, there she’s pretty good. She has a great sense of smell and she’s quick. She can keep up with the horses on a fifteen mile ride and never even get tired. And did I mention she's sweet-natured? She is, although with a wee willful streak .
Lest you get confused and think I’m describing the perfect dog (after all, her nickname is HiLee, i.e., Highly Gifted), I must admit she’s the teeniest bit unpredictable. Today, I was leaning down to pick a weed out of the pasture, and she came out of nowhere, highly exuberant, gleefully happy, ready to greet me with love, and whopped me right in the face.
I saw stars, tasted blood, and nearly fell over. She whimpered. I think she thought I’d bashed her in the skull. And I guess I had, although I never would have planned to do it with my lip. So now I have a noticeably fat, bruised lip. (Angelina Jolie, look out!) I went to Jubilee today, and several people stared at me disapprovingly, as if I'd been in a bar fight. And who do I have to thank? Ah, sweet little Daisy Mae, my Super Dog.

June 21, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

Greg Mortenson was a climber. He attempted K-2 in 1993 and failed, nearly dying in the process when he became separated from his party on the way out. A Muslim porter rescued him, and a northern Pakistani village nursed him back to health. He experienced the kindness of these impoverished people, whose children wanted to learn so badly that they worked on their lessons outdoors in all weather, drawing numbers and letters in the dirt because they had no building in which to meet, no books, no pencils, no paper. They had a teacher only half of the time because they shared one with the children in the next village. Only a few girls attended the makeshift classes.
Mortenson promised to build them a school with decent conditions where all would be welcome. Several years and a bridge later, he managed to do so with the endowment of a millionaire scientist, Jean Hoerni.
Mortenson continued his building in other villages, helping the people, school by school. He is single-handedly fighting Muslim extremism by giving the children, girls and boys, a chance for unbiased learning.
The man’s devotion to his cause has been unwavering for the last fifteen years. He was kidnapped for 8 days, had two fatwas issued on him, but he lived on to build over 50 schools schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
After 9-11, he spoke out for his Muslim friends, begging his country, the U.S., not to lump the innocent Muslims with the terrorists. Over his ten years of working in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he watched the rise of the madrassas, which often teach terrorism at the expense of unbiased education. He urged that extremism could not be fought with bombs alone. In the end, we needed to rebuild and aid and educate the people, to convince them that Americans were friends, not enemies. For this, he received hate mail from many “Christian” Americans, calling him a traitor among other things. After the hysteria passed, more people have come to see him as a visionary, a hero in many ways.
Mortenson deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his work, if anyone does. He’ll receive one in his lifetime, Inshallah.

June 16, 2008

Elk Swim and Moose Rumble

Elk in lake and forest, moose rumbling through the woods, deer leaping over timber. Those are a few of the highlights of today's Lake Mountain ride. We started at the usual Paradise Park at the forest service border trailhead. Both of us rode our horses without boots with the goal of toughening up their hooves and allowing them to self trim a little bit. The trail isn't overly rocky, so that worked okay except on the way down, when the horses seemed footsore, especially Boss, who had been ridden without shoes on a couple of other rides lately.
On the way up, we saw that the irises and balsamroot have come out along the trail, and the serviceberries are in full bloom down low. all of the aspen leaves are out around Gull Lake.
As we approached the lake, we saw an elk out in the middle of the water. The lake is shallow, so he was just standing there about knee deep. When he saw us, he started leaping through the water, leaving a trail of wake that looked like he was skiing. Daisy was running around as if she was on the trail, but she apparently didn't see the elk and never chased him directly.
We intended to go past the lake to Bear Seep and Bear Spring, which we used to approach from the Dry Fork/ Massey ranch side when we lived in Vernal. However, soon after we passed the Buck and rail fence, the trail was totally blocked by lots of deadfall. We tried several game trails, hoping to find a way around, but we didn’t come up with one.
Giving up on the blocked trail to the Seep, we followed an elk trail that continued around the lake, leading to some nice meadows we’d never been in before. As we were going through the aspen, Daisy came up with another elk. This one didn’t run. At first, we thought she might have found a mother with young, but it turned out to be a yearling who was just curious and almost seemed to want to play with Daisy as much as Daisy wanted to play with him.
The elk seemed to be chasing Daisy, but more in a curious way than aggressively. He followed her back toward us as he tried to figure out what she was. He kept coming toward her until he happened to see the two humans on horseback. That scared the little guy, and he ran away. I managed to catch a photo of him having a curiosity standoff with Daisy.
We were feeling pretty good about our wildlife viewing for the day, but we had one more to go. As we started back down the trail toward the trailer, Daisy found a big bull moose. It rumbled off with a lot of crashing through the brush. Daisy tried to chase him for a little ways, then gave up. By that time, she had to be pretty tired. Besides elk and moose, she had flushed a deer somewhere along the way and led it a merry chase. She was very glad to get back to the stream at the trailhead, where she lay down in the water to cool off.
The day was hot, about 70 at the trailhead, and 90 in Roosevelt. Altogether, our ride was about 6 miles, 1000 feet, done in just over 2 hours.
Dark clouds were moving in and we heard distant thunder just as we arrived back at the trailer. Our timing was perfect on this one.

June 15, 2008

Rock Springs

The temperature today was predicted to reach 90 in Roosevelt, so we tried for a little higher ride than the one yesterday. We went about 2.5 miles up the Elkhorn Loop road and pulled off on an old two track on the left at about 8000 feet. Parking there, we rode up a beautiful meadow sprinkled with blue, red, gold and white wildflowers. Serviceberry and Chokecherry were in bloom, along with sunrays, death Camas, penstemon, bluebells, paintbrush, etc. We continued along the old road through shady aspen groves.
Eventually we came to areas burned in the Neola fire. We had to weave around blowdown, in and out of the blackened skeleton trees to get through. The ground beneath the blackened trees was coming back with green grass.

We found Rock Springs without much trouble. Surprisingly, the springs were marked with a wrought iron sign placed behind a tire used as a trough. An eagle scout project, maybe? The main spring was enclosed in a buck and rail fence, which Daisy easily climbed through to wallow in the water.
Daisy had a great time chasing deer. A couple of times we saw deer bounding away from her, leaping high over the sage, while she followed the best she could, like a low-flying rocket. She had to go mainly on scent since she couldn’t jump high enough to see over the sage.
On the way back, we had great views of Buck Ridge, where we rode yesterday. The temperature was seventy at the trailhead when we started near noon, and probably close to 80 by the time we returned. The ride was six miles, 1600 feet, completed in about 2.5 hours riding time.
This was a weeny one compared to yesterday, which was fine with both me and the horses...

June 14, 2008

Wildflowers from the Ashes

Today we rode Buck Ridge for the second time this year. The first time (May 17) we came to snow on the ridge, which cut the ride a little short. Today, with the high temperature at the trailhead (7000 feet) reaching 81 degrees, the snow was melted except for a few drifts in the trees, even near 10,000 feet, which was our highest point. The temperature there must have been close to seventy. Daisy appreciated those little bits of snow and was able to cool off a little by rolling around in them.
The lower part of the trail was burned in the Neola/Farm Creek fire of last June in which 3 people were killed. In many places on the hillside, the sage and pinion-juniper were completely burned away, leaving only nubs. Those areas have become meadows with lush grass and wildflowers growing in the ash-enriched soil. In other areas, the blackened skeletons of trees remain standing, but even there, the grass and flowers are staging a renewal.
As we went higher, we rode out of the burned area and came to the same forest where Boss sniffed bear scat last time. Today, we saw scat in 3 areas, and Boss seemed a little spooky the whole time we were in the forest. Even Mischief seemed reluctant to go first.
We saw many sego lilies (state flower of Utah) growing in the field where we parked the trailer. As we went higher, we saw penstemon, forget me nots, sunrays, Indian paintbrush, bee plants, bluebells, a beautiful stand of claret cup cactus, and other blooms that I don’t have names for. Above 9000 feet, the snow was too recently melted to allow flowers to bloom or grass to grow very much yet. Above 9500 feet, the aspen leaves were just coming out.
At 10000 feet, we reached a ridge that gave a breathtaking view of the high Uintas, with Mt. Emmons and Kings Peak in the background, as well as Chepeta Mt.
Counting all of the ups and downs, according to the GPS, we did 4000 feet of elevation gain, and 14 miles in five and a half hours, an excellent workout for all of us.

June 11, 2008

Reducing Carbon Footprint?

In an effort to be conservationally correct, not to mention lowering our energy costs, we’re attempting to install Gila Window Film on all of our West facing windows. I made the first attempt alone, on a kitchen window, after watching the video on “repeat” for, oh, maybe a dozen showings. I hoped I had it, hoped knowing the routine would make the job a success. Well… not.
First of all, the stuff is hard to cut, at least with the non-sharp scissors I had readily available. Working with only 2 hands, I had a tough time spraying both sides without dropping the sheet I’d finally managed to cut. And once the cover film was removed, the sticky backing kept curling up and sticking to itself or to me. Argh! I felt like I was working with flypaper, and I was the fly.
Finally got it straightened out and stuck on the window, where it belonged. The smoothing out with a squeegee worked fairly well. Not too much problem with bubbles. Of course, the places where it had stuck had a few wrinkles, and that shows a bit. The next problem was trimming the edges. The video instructions make it sound easy to use the blade and template provided to cut the film 1/16 inch from all edges. Harder than it sounds, believe me, especially using the tiny blade provided, which didn’t cut within the template worth a flip.
So, I finally resorted to a utility knife, which worked fairly well. The kitchen window, fortunately, is small, so doing one side by myself, while difficult, wasn’t totally impossible. (The photos show left side of windows with film, right side without.)
Last night, with the kitchen window behind me, I enlisted Steve to help me with one side of a utility room window (larger than the kitchen one by almost twice as much. (After the kitchen experience, I thought a less visible window was a good idea for the bigger trial.) We managed to stick it together in spite of having 4 hands. And the trimming was still a trial. We eventually gave up on the stupid template and just winged it with the utility blade. More bubbles on this one, maybe because Steve decided to take it over, insisting that I was pressing down on the squeegee too hard. However, firm is necessary or the bubbles don’t go away, as we now see.
Anyway, the results look pretty decent. And standing in front of the window panes with the sun shining in, it’s noticeably cooler with the film than without. We have a lot more windows to practice upon. Eventually, I’m sure we’ll get the hang of it. (I just hope it’s before we get to the last window!)

June 8, 2008

Missing Meadow

Beautiful, sunny day today. The temp was about 60 in Roosevelt, and in the low 40’s up Paradise Park Road, which was our destination for today’s ride.
We started about a mile and a half up the road from the forest service boundary, turning onto a two track that had a convenient pull out for parking the trailer, located at about 8400 feet. From there, we trotted and loped up the road another couple of miles and 1200 feet. Again, very little traffic on the road.
At 9500 feet, small patches of snow lay in the trees, and the road was wet. We took a turn to the right on a jeep road that had puddles, pools and even running water in places from snowmelt. We sogged and bogged on through that for a couple of miles, surrounded by a thick lodgepole forest. We got off the road and tried to find our way through the trees to a meadow area Steve had seen on Google Earth, but we never did locate it, and finally tired of dodging tree branches.
On the way down, I noticed that the aspen leaves were absent until we reached 9200 feet, at which point they were small and new. Two hundred feet lower, and the leaves were fully out and mature.
We paused to take pictures in a pretty meadow of buttercups and dandelions. Just below our trailhead, we saw yellow balsam root flowers out in force. The ride down was windy and a little cool. We were glad to have our handy, all-purpose Aussie dusters.
The total ride was about 8 miles, 1200 feet, in 3 hours.
Conclusion: Not a route we would do again. We’ll try to reach Mosby Park and Mosby Sink by another route on another day.

June 7, 2008

Lupine in the Cedars

The morning was rainy and the afternoon was looking uncertain, so we chose a nearby ride in the Cedars, maybe 5 miles west of Roosevelt. We worked the horses on a lot of sand hills, doing a total of 12 miles in 3.5 hours. We had creek crossings and rocky terrain to traverse, enough change to keep us interested. The area has abundant native bunch grass such as Indian rice grass and needle and thread. We let the horses have the occasional mouthful for a treat.

The ride turned out to be unexpectedly scenic. The sun came out, big healthy stands of lupine were in bloom, orange globemallows decorated the landscape, and we saw a number of wild peas and sego lilies and pretty pink flowers (showy rushpink?). A few prickly pear were blooming, but most were still buds. They’ll be out in force next week. I hope we have a chance to go back and see them in their glory.

June 6, 2008

Sunrays and Wind

We didn’t want to turn lazing around into an art form(as if Steve would ever let me get away with that!), so we were back into activities again today. We took horses and Daisy up to the trailhead off the Paradise Park road just past the forest service boundary. Because of rain yesterday, the trails were wet, so we used the unpaved Paradise Park road instead of a trail. No traffic to speak of. We passed one truck coming up as we were going back down. The weather held out in spite of dire NOAA predictions. The wind did pick up considerably in the afternoon, however, which urged us to opt for a “shortcut” (maybe only 20% longer?) through the aspens back to the trailer. We both wore our Aussie dusters and stayed warm enough at about 50 degrees and windy. We trotted most of the way up, gaining about 1400 feet, 8 miles, in 2 hours and fifteen minutes.
We rode the horses without boots. Steve has been reading about healthy Mustang hooves, and we’re seeing if our horses hoof shapes will change with more barefoot riding. Unfortunately, both horses seemed pretty footsore, especially on the way down. The road was mostly soft due to muddy conditions, but there were quite a few rocks. I think next time I’m using my Easy boot Bares. An occasional totally barefoot day is probably a good thing, though. Their feet will be tougher, which could save the day if we lost a boot unexpectedly.
The yellow Sunrays were out in force at the trailhead. No lupines up that high yet.

June 5, 2008

The Grandkids Visit

With the grandkids and other company gone, we are spending the day in traction, on tube feedings with added vitamins and anti-inflamatory agents. I have coined yet another new syndrome....PGCS - Post Grandkids Collapse Syndrome. I plan to market a kit with the traction apparatus, tubes, powdered feedings, etc., FAQs to follow on the blog. -Grandpa Steve

Seriously, we enjoyed the visit thoroughly. The kids are at an awfully cute age. Lucas likes to jive around and is fixated on “BIG trucks” and balls of any kind. He’s very good at drop kicking and throwing, for a two year old. He has a pair of sunglasses bought for the trip. Whenever he loses them he says “Where my sunglasses?” When produced, he proudly puts them on, most often upside down, which seems to be the preferred position.
Stella can occasionally be coaxed into doing her ballet dance routine, which she performs very well. She loves to wear skirts, takes pride in the hairstyles her mom creates for her, and has great fun with sticker doll dress-up and my little ponies. She and Lucas played ring around the rosie one evening, giggling madly each time they fell down.

Starting last Saturday, we had the whole crew here, Tess and Tim, Eric, Seth, Darleen, Stella, and Lucas. The house was a bit crowded at times, but we didn’t stay in much anyway. We took a hike to the top of Lake Mountain, and had a nice outing at the playground while the guys played golf. Seth and Stella had a short trip to the swimming pool on Monday. Seth and Lucas collected bugs.
The kids did better with the dogs this time. Last fall, they were both afraid. This time, both kids felt comfortable petting Daisy. Luke learned to feed the horses a carrot by holding onto one end and letting a horse take hold of the other end. Stella still wasn’t comfortable with that. When in the house, the kids played blocks, Luke enjoyed the toy trucks and cars, and Stella broke out the My Little Ponies. Polly Pockets seem to be popular with her. That's a new one for Grandma.
Notable grandkid-isms: Stella saying “I farted” in a secret-telling voice with a little smile and a dainty shrug. Stella, stating that her dad is like Superman, and sometimes Spiderman. (Ah, the blind faith of little children.)

Luke, after falling down in the hallway for no apparent reason, saying “I fell…” hesitation while he tried to decide what he fell on or off of… “off the ground,” he finished.

While on Lake Mountain, the men attempted to start a fire native style, from scratch, without success. After Tess, Tim and Eric went home, we did have a fire out back under the big oak tree. (Butane lighter was allowed.) We roasted marshmallows, although the kids seemed to prefer them unroasted, fresh from the bag.
On Tuesday, last full day of Seth and family’s visit, we drove to Anthro Mountain with a side hike to Nutter Springs, finishing the evening with a campfire, hotdogs and marshmallows, and a view of the sunset.

All in all, we had an activity packed visit. No wonder we’re vegging out today! Twenty-four hours of rest seem well earned. Fortunately, the weather was rainy, so we had an excuse…


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