Monday, September 21, 2020

Diamond Lake

 So, in a fit of confusion about my actual age and level of fitness, I strapped on a backpack, loaded it up with what I considered a minimum amount of "stuff", grabbed my trusty companion dog, and headed to the back country. The backpack was 24 years old. The sleeping bag was new. The water filter was 24 years old, as was the camp stove. The tent, while a "backpacking tent" was not really light weight. Loaded, I had 42 pounds on my back. The first backpacking trip was to Diamond Lake, above Eldora, Colorado, a 2.6 mile hike with almost 1000 feet of elevation gain. Yes, I am that stupid.

Skittle was very excited to get to go. Little did she know the hell that awaited her.
Mapquest said it was an hour and forty-two minutes to the trailhead. We wanted to meet at 8:30, so I left about 7. It was just a little after 8 when I reached Nederland High School, the staging area for the trailhead. The officer running the roadblock directed me to get into line and wait until it was my turn to go ahead. Since my hiking companions hadn't joined us yet, that seemed like a good plan. I pulled into line and waited. My friend, T, and her three kids (A, J, and G) showed up about 8:45. We managed to move my truck to a parking space, with my stuff loaded into the back of her truck since parking at the trail head was very limited. T's truck was bigger and much more able to manage the horrible road conditions It was just after ten when we finally headed to the 4th of July trailhead, parked and loaded up.
Start of the trail. Skittle had already figured out "her" people and was very stressed that they were leaving without us. (We stayed with them for a week last year when I was out of the condo but not in my house yet, and she remembered them.)
There is no real way to make a hike that gains almost a 1000 feet of elevation gain easy or fast. It was a long, slow slog and poor Skittle took to looking back over her shoulder and bracing to help me up some of the terrain. 
I followed the pack for the hike. T and J were trading off handling Bernie (the Tiajuana dog they adopted a little more than a year ago). He was having issues with controlling his exuberance until we created the dog version of draw reins, with pressure between his front legs to keep him from pulling. We used parachute cord, but it worked. It was easiest to follow, since Skittle wanted to go faster than I could maintain when we were in front.

The trail was easy in some places and much harder in others.
This was the first waterfall we came to. By this time, J was carrying my sleeping bag, since I couldn't keep it on my bag. 
First waterfall. 
So we stopped at the waterfall to allow G to refill his water bottle, which meant unpacking a water filter and pumping. Mine was easily accessible (I expected to have to filter at some point) and I knew how to work it, since I had figured out how to use the filter before I had packed it, so doing it on the side of the mountain was pretty easy. That said, figuring out how to use the filter was pretty funny.

I read the directions standing in my kitchen, then pulled out a pot and filled it with water from the sink. I dropped the filter end into the water and started trying to pump. Nothing. I reviewed the directions, then tried again. Still no water. Aware that the filter was two decades old, I decided that I needed to check the filter tube to see if it was clear. I pulled the tube off the filter, stuck it in my mouth and inhaled. The hot water I had (mistakenly) filed the pot with hit the back of my throat and I choked (our water comes from a boiler, so just under boiling). I was standing in the kitchen, trying to inhale enough air to cough out the water that I had mis-swallowed, wondering if this is how I was going to die. I finally got my breath back and finally figured out how to make the pump work (dunk it completely into the water until the pump is primed). The boys filled their water bottles, handed back the water filter, and we headed out. 

This very cool tree was overhanging the trail, The wood was worn smooth from all of the hands that had touched it. 

This was the big waterfall about 2/3rds of the way to Diamond Lake. 
I was pretty busted by this point, and although I ate the "liquid" food I had brought, I really should have had lunch before starting the hike. 
The final 1/3rd of the trail was brutal. It is the steepest part of the hike at the highest altitude, and I was pausing to catch my breath every ten minutes or so. The temps had fallen, so I was sweating heavily when moving and chilled to the touch when I wasn't.
Skittle was a trouper, although we need to work on our selfie game.
The stream at the top. 
I was pretty much staggering at this point.
First glimpse of the lake. We had been told that Site 2 was empty and the best camp spot at the lake.
We were able to secure it and they were right. It was a very nice campsite.
When we got to the campsite we started setting up camp. It had sprinkled a bit off and on while hiking and both T and I were worried about getting shelter set up before it started raining for real. The tent was easy to set up and inflatable mats are simple now. I had also packed a super light weight down blanket for Skittle to sleep on. I used the new hammock straps to hang my hammock (and OMG, where have those been all my life?), then I got the stove set up and water heated. 
My little tent and hammock.

Nice little camp site.
I was feeling a bit of shock, stress from not eating enough and the altitude, plus just flat out exhaustion. The Mountain House Spaghetti with meat sauce was very good and I finished the double portion straight out of the bag. I fed Skittle her can of food (emptied out of the can into a quart sized freezer bag to save on trash and weight). Then I put on every piece of clothing I had brought and climbed into my sleeping bag. Skittle curled up beside me while I shivered for the next hour or so and dozed off and on.
During that time, T and her kids had gone to the lake. The boys were fishing and she and her daughter walked around the lake trail. When they got back I had gotten warm enough and rested enough that I realized how I wasn't making great choices. I stripped out of the clothes, removing the bottom layer that was still sweat soaked, and then dressed in the dry items I had. We then walked back down to the lake. Once I was dry and moving without exertion, I warmed up pretty quick. 
All the campsites are set at least 100 feet from the water, so that the water isn't contaminated by us dickhead humans. Site 2, where we camped, was farther back than that, and this was the site that greeted us as we walked toward the lake.

So the youngest boy, G, figured out how to reach under the overhang of the bank and catch fish with his hand. One of the ones he brought out, flipped out of his hand and flopped around on the ground. Skittle was very interested in the fact that something food like was coming out of the water.
 Everything was catch and release, plus not really big enough to keep.
Feeder stream into the lake.

Big rock I really wanted to climb on and sit in the lake, but didn't want to risk getting wet.
Colorado is under an open fire ban, plus this lake is camp stove only, so no way to get dry and warm if one gets wet.

The far end of the lake.
After watching the fish tickler catch numerous fish with his hands, we headed back to camp. I cooked another freeze dried meal and ate about half, feed Skittle some cookies, and listened to the kids laugh and joke with each other in that way that only sibs can do. Once meals were eaten, we had to pack up the food and trash and put them in the bear safe.
What is a bear safe? It is a container designed to hold victuals and food contaminate trash that bears can't get into. There was a warning on the website saying that the bear in the area of Diamond Lake had learned how to get food that was hung up in the tree and that a bear safe was the only option. When T told me to get a bear safe, I ordered the cheapest one on Amazon that would be there before Friday.
This is what I got. Empty it weighs 3 lbs.It's made of super durable plastic without seams that bear could get his claws into. 
Once dinner was eaten, all of the dishes, packaging, trash and wraps needed to be packed into it and the screws tightened. T's was a little shorter but bigger around and about the same weight. It's big enough it could hold a week's worth of food for one person, but it didn't fit as well as it might have in the pack that I currently have. We got everything sealed up and walked the containers across the meadow behind us to set them at the edge of the treeline more than 100 ft from our camp. I heard the bear roll T's container (she had a couple of metal spoons in hers) at about 4 am. We gathered the safe back up the next morning at least 100 feet from where we had set them out. They did their job though, since the bear didn't come into camp and didn't get into the food. 

The night was rough. I have a real hard time sleeping on the ground and I couldn't get my head to shut up. I finally, toward dawn, started repeating the mantra from Teen Wolf  "What cannot long remain hidden? The sun, the moon, the truth." I think I slept for a while then. My sleeping bag was warm, but Skittle was cold. She spent the night curled against me and I made sure the down blanket was both under and over her. Otherwise, I could feel her shiver in long slow waves. If we are going to continue backpacking, I need to get her a pack so she can carry her own food and clothing. She didn't even bark when the bear was playing boce ball with the bear safe.

Diamond Lake early in the morning, getting water for breakfast.
First thing in the morning, the boys went fishing. J and I went to the lake to filter water and then back to cook breakfast. The breakfast meal wasn't as good as some of the other meals I tried, but it was food. Skittle ate her morning can of food, and I repacked my bag. T and I had spent a lot of time talking about the options I had available with the improvements made in light weight camping gear. I think I need to decide if Skittle will be a regular companion on these outings (I really loved having her with me) and if so, can she pack her own gear? Otherwise, I would try backpacking with the hammock, rain fly, insulating pad and new sleeping bag. Of course, I have to know ahead of time that there are trees appropriate for hanging a hammock. Much to be explored.

We got camp broke down and packed up. We were ready to hit the trail by 10.
The seven of us ready to head back down the mountain.

I took it a little slower than the rest, although they were awesome about waiting on me.
Skittle knew when we got to rough sections of trail to stop and watch my progress as we moved down one step at a time. She was sooooo good, didn't pull and made sure I was okay.

Prettiest waterfall of the trip.
We ate snacks here and took a bit of a breather. The only uphill section of the trail came immediately following this spot.

Colorado aspen change overnight.
Some great color on our trip home.

T's oldest took this pic. 
Four hours hiking in and two hours hiking out including all stops and breathers. I hyper extended my knee slightly toward the end of the hike, otherwise came back in one piece. I have a good idea of what decisions I need to make and what I need to replace if I want to do this as a hobby. I was pretty proud of myself for not quitting, not crying, and still managing the 40+ lbs I carried. I do need to lighten the pack if this is going to be a regular thing.

Skittle spent the rest of the day and evening like this.

Almost at the bottom of the trail, completely wiped out and ready for a nap.
Overall, today I can feel the exertion in the back of my legs (hammies and achilles) with the biggest soreness in the lower leg just below the calf muscle. My shoulders are also bruised, especially where the strap of the pack pressed over the strap on my bra. I don't feel as bad as I expected to given the amount of effort it took, so I'm not as out of shape as I expected. I definitely use different muscle groups to hike vs riding, however.




Friday, September 11, 2020

August 2020

Despite my best intentions, I have not made it back to blog town all month. Considering how busy I've been, I guess its not a surprise. So, here is an August update:


Here are some bits and pieces of a couple of different rides the past week. His changes are getting better, although when he gets tired or thinks I'm being an asshole, his hips start to swing. The pirouettes were during our lesson. Overall, I am so happy with his development and how he is progressing. I am hoping to buy a Pivo soon, since the Pixem doesn't really work well and it takes an hour to set up.

This was the kitchen just after I moved in.

The finished (mostly) product

The other side of the kitchen.
The island thingy. 
I added hardware to the upper cabinets.
Nice real wood cabinet I purchased off Craigslist for my canning.
Updated with new paint to match the cabinets and moved into place, then filled with the fruits of my labor.
I have three more things I want to do and then the kitchen will be complete. The first will be the ceiling: patch and paint a very light grey. The second and third things are going to be a surprise, because they will have a high visual impact. I will share when they are done.

I got a call from T early in August and the first words out of his mouth were "I've been in an accident. We are okay."
The car was totaled. He made out ok, however, and a couple of weeks later, after the dust had cleared, he drove home in this:
2020 Honda Civic Coupe
Last October I purchased a hybrid camper as a gift to myself.
 It took her out on her maiden voyage early in August. The Tacoma pulled her just fine. I didn't try the shower, but having a bathroom with a toilet was amazing. 
Vedauwoo is an amazing place.

Skittle got to be special dog since she listens the best and doesn't really like Maya.
Lily got to stay home and play babysitter.

No fires here (yet).

Camp in the far distance. We had climbed to the top of the rocks.
Maya is the newest addition to T's right arm sleeve

Slightly different angle

Boo in the fruit dish being cute

Princess Leia and Boo on my computer bag just hanging out.
Maya and the malinois singing the song of their ancestors
I'll try not to let it go so long next time, but no promises.










Thursday, September 3, 2020


 I am planning an update on all the things at some point in the next, oh, four years, or this month, whichever comes first. I keep meaning too, but every time I might have a moment to do so, I'm exhausted, or the dogs need something, or I am cleaning diarrhea out of the bathtub (don't ask - just know that green tomatoes are not a puppy's friend).

So, let me regale you with a couple of videos from last week's lesson:

We always have issues with our first try, especially if we have been working on something else, because he tries SSSSOOOO hard to always have the right answer. This was after working on half-pass and homie was convinced that at any moment he would be asked to half-pass, so best to be ready.

Much better the second time around. 

Such a good boy. Maybe tonight I will try and get vids of the pirouette work we have been doing.