Monday, April 16, 2012

Best New Show

HBO's "Girls."

Loved it.

The 2012 Backpacking Season Beckons

I first took the kids out for backpacking in 2003. Brian, 15; Jim 13. We did several trips into the San Diego backcountry and hiked up to and camped near the peak of Mt. San Jacinto (above Palm Springs) a couple times. Got the little buggers into shape.

In truth, I was using the kids to figure out how to take Mrs Elliott into the backcountry. She said she'd like to take a trip and I figured I'd use training them as rehearsal for taking my lovely wife into the wilderness. I bought two expensive zip-together sleeping bags.

But back to the kids. The hikes took on a life of their own and culminated in a six-night trip in the Sierra Nevadas in 2003. We entered from from the east side -- from Lone Pine, I think -- hiking up to and over New Army Pass, to camp for two nights beside Lower Soldier Lake, fishing and exploring, before, regretfully, heading back out.

I never took the saucy and sweet Mrs Elliott on the trip I was working so hard to make easy and perfect for her because I got fat, and my ankle packed up on me. I hung up my backpack.

But, huzzah! in 2009, I got ankle surgery, found a nutritionist here in Bend, and lost 55 lbs.

So last year, 2011, September, I took a short overnight backpack trip up to Lancelot Lake in the Cascades, loved it, and invited my son Jim (who now lives here in Bend) to take an overnighter with me a couple weeks later -- and even in the rain, wind  and cold, we had a delightful adventure.

So we're thinking we'll take two or three backpacking trips this season.

Mrs Elliott has also allowed that she might enjoy an easy overnight backpacking trip, too. (For this I am considering going to a place like Sparks Lake where you can kayak across to shoreline camping sites on the far side where cars cannot go.)

And I'm planning a couple of short two-night easy solo trips and a five-night solo hike someplace like the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Inspired, I have been poring through my backpacking gear, the stuff I used last season, the stuff that was lightweight stuff ca. 2003. Some of it is still perfectly fine gear. Some of the bits are heavier than they need to be but upgrading is very expensive and I have to keep within a tight budget; but others items can be upgraded for close to no money at all by being smart.

For example, ten years ago I packed a fancy Evernew titanium coffee cup (52 grams):

But how about a lighter cup/bowl that is lighter, insulated and lined (the way I like my women):

Believe it or not, this aluminum soup container -- with its snap-on lid (making a useful place to store items such as a tea ball, some gunpowder tea, and a tiny alcohol stove while hiking) -- is eight grams lighter than the fancy titanium cup.

Eight gram? That's not even a third of an ounce!

But at my advanced age of geezerage, every gram counts. They all add up: you gotta carry them. 28 grams are an ounce, 16 ounces are a pound; after miles on the trail each pound wears out the old joints and ligaments and the bottoms of the feets.

It's only April, sure, and there are a few car camping trips in the High Desert lowlands to take before the Cascades open up for old guy backcountry exploration, but I'm already geeking out, weighing everything to within a gram and recording it, examining different combinations of gear to find the lightest setup for the high season, for the shoulder seasons, for the short and long solos, and for the two-person trips.

I'm questioning which items I really need and discarding them or combining two or more items together to make a multi-use item (example: replace Ace bandage and roll of duct tape [used for sprained ankle and repairing things, respectively] with a single roll of leukotape athletic tape: coaches tape up ankles, and the tape can be used for repairs).

I've found a lot of redundancy that way. is a great resource if you're trying to get away from the marketing hype of shops like REI who sell quite good but expensive gear.  Check out the forums, it's driven by people who love backpacking, are unimpressed with marketing hype, evaluate the entries into the market, and are ruthless about shaving ounces.

I'm having a lot of fun preparing for the upcoming season.

At least my kind of fun. Geeky fun.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Oh Yeah, the Lawn needs Mowing

The small lawn on the North Terrace (read: front yard) is still biding its time, but the grassworks on the south side of our palatial residence (read: house) are showing incipient indications of  growth. Need to get some organic lawn fertilizer (slower, more robust growth) and break out the push mower. 

Meanwhile, as I type this, the sun is shining through the window in the kitchen, brightly and hotly on my right side. Feels springy. 

IN OTHER NEWS, we had our brilliant carpenter, Mike Accardo, put in a fine-looking door at the bottom of the stairwell. 

The lowest floor of our house is used by Mrs Elliott's and my two home businesses, the upper for our private living space. This will make heating the place more effective. The bottom level is heated by a wood stove, the upper by a gas furnace which we put in in 2009. 

But the open stairway sucks hot air up from the lower floor and sluices cool air back down. So the staff has to feed wood into the stove all day long. On the average, they go through close to four cords of wood every winter to keep that downstairs warm. 

So I think that closing off the stairway with the new door means that the folk downstairs will use less wood to keep the office warm.

Though the upper floor will not receive the benefit of the heat from the lower level, I like the tradeoff: wood is messy and has nasty and polluting combustion byproducts. Sure, t's rustic and charming -- I'd have a wood stove in our bedroom in a heartbeat if the room were large enough, but in an office environment having to keep hauling wood into the place to stuff the stove is a pain. 

We'll burn less wood for downstairs and use more natural gas upstairs. Gas is cleaner and it doesn't need to be hauled stick-by-stick. I bet our neighbors downwind will appreciate less wood smoke. 

Besides, the office staff downstairs are a bunch of wussies: if it gets below 74F they start whining. 66F is fine by me for the upstairs. 

I have advanced technology: sweaters.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Couple Hundred Yards, At Best

Snow's coming down pretty hard right now, at 3:30 pm. When it's clear, Mrs Elliott and I can see well past the Old Mill's iconic smokestacks to Bessie Butte and beyond that to the Paulina Mountains. But now we got these big fat lazy snowflakes coming down -- slowly, lazily. My horizon has shrunk to less than 200 yards.

I see the tops of trees no more than two blocks away and after that it's a total whiteout.

I could watch this forever. It's warm in the house, we have enough juniper firewood to last the rest of the Cold Times, I have a nice glass of Tempranillo, Eminim is on the stereo, and Game of Thrones, Season 2, starts tonight.

I'm told it is crackerjack.

My Dear Ko-Ko

Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner
Bend local treasure and Eastside apologist H. Bruce Miller compares Jack Elliott to handsome, young Nanki-Poo, the emperor's son, in Gilbert and Sullivan's fanciful The Mikado.

Nanki-Poo sings,
We welcome the hope that they bring,
Tra la,
Of a summer of roses and wine,
Of a summer of roses and wine.
And that's what we mean when we say that a thing
Is welcome as flowers that bloom in the spring,
But Lord High Executioner Ko-Ko unhappily faces the prospect of having to marry a disagreeable elderly woman or suffer a painful death. He is of no mind to care for the flowers that bloom in the spring. He sings his sour rejoinder:
The flowers that bloom in the spring,
Tra la,
Have nothing to do with the case.
I've got to take under my wing,
Tra la,
A most unattractive old thing,
Tra la,
With a caricature of a face,
With a caricature of a face.
And that's what I mean when I say, or I sing,
"Oh, bother the flowers that bloom in the spring."
Poor Ko-Ko. We can understand his despair. The woman might live a long, long time.

But here in Bend, these showers (and sunshine) promise us a summer of roses and wine, another year of reservoirs and lakes filled with clear, fresh water for all, happy little birds and other small critters, and, yes, a whole bunch of flowers that bloom in the spring.

Tra la.
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