Extreme Cold

I go for a walk every day, even when it’s extremely cold. I try to keep my eyes open for beauty, and sometimes I remember to take a picture.

Yesterday morning, walking in the icy mist by the river on the Tunnel Island hiking trails, I got this.

Iron & Ice

Iron & Ice

 

Today, our extreme cold warning came back, so I waited until the afternoon. The wind died down, but it was still bitterly cold down by the river.

Fenceposts

Fenceposts

 

You might be wondering why I shoot landscape photographs in portrait mode. It’s partly because I like the depth of having the near foreground start right at my feet, and it’s partly because I like to save them as wallpaper for my computer monitor. Yes, I have my 27″ monitor in portrait mode, for writing, so I resize and crop the images to 1200×1920. You can click on the pictures to see them at that resolution.

Those letterbox pictures at the top of my blog are also my own work, by the way.

Dog Story

We writers are known to be cat people. When it comes to walking on a keyboard, dogs are useless. But I married a dog person, and for decades, she has wished for one.

Voila!

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This is Piper. She is, according to It’s A Dog’s Life, a Husky cross. Crossed with what, they don’t say. Her reddish coat, bushy tail and narrow snout make me wonder if she’s part fox.

She’s large enough to hike with me, but small enough to not pull Caroline right off her feet. She’s unbelievably quiet and tranquil, but a fussy eater.

We went to Tunnel Island today. I hike there a lot, and I even do a little trail maintenance now and then, such as clearing fallen trees with a Swede saw. This was our second visit together, and although it is common practice there to let dogs off the leash, after less than a week together, I wasn’t ready to turn her loose just yet. I’ve been using a retractable leash to give her a little freedom of movement.

There was a blanket of fresh snow on all the trails, and once we got to where the A and B trails forked about a mile from the parking lot, there were no more footprints. We’d be breaking trail. We did the easier A trail last time, so today I picked B. Piper trotted happily ahead. She hesitated at the first footbridge, but after pausing to look through the planks at the ravine below, she decided it was okay with her if it was okay with me.

All went well until about halfway round the island. Then an off-the-trail excursion to look at a squirrel got her tangled in the undergrowth. Rather than floundering uphill through the deep snow in the bush to get her, I coaxed her to come back the way she went in. That went well enough at first, but as she tried a little too awkwardly to negotiate the last sapling, she pulled right out of her collar. And took off.

She sprinted down the trail right out of sight, but I was reassured when she came back to check on me before running ahead again. She was acting like all the other dogs I meet on Tunnel Island, the ones who have established relationships with their humans. I let her have her way for twenty minutes, then I realized that if we got separated, she had neither her collar nor her tag to help people reunite us. When she waited at the next junction to see which trail I wanted, I gave her a treat and put her collar back on. But not the leash. She was having way too much fun, and she was being pretty responsible. We carried on like that for a while, and I decided that I would reattach the leash when we approached the parking lot and the highway. She was with me, more or less, all the way to the railway bridge. She paused there to see some ravens, and I figured she’d catch up like before. But a couple of minutes later, when I went to see about putting her leash back on, she was nowhere in sight. I called for her, but she didn’t come. We’re only so-so on her coming when I call.

I backtracked to the railway bridge. No Piper. I returned to the car in case she had outrun me in the woods somehow. No Piper. I went back to the bridge and checked the pond and river for dog footprints and broken ice. Nope. At the railway bridge, there were dog prints that looked like hers. They didn’t go near the water. They went up to the railway tracks.

I clambered up the steep, snow-covered embankment. No dog, and I could see a long way. I called some more. The pawprints went along the tracks. Were they even hers? I saw a few spots of blood. Had she  fought an animal, or been hit by a train? Up ahead there were ravens on a kill.

Fussy eater, my ass. What does a husky cross like better than dog food? A deer carcass. This one, lying by the tracks, was mostly reduced to hide. Piper was happily gnawing on it. The ravens were not impressed.

She let me put her leash back on. I reeled it all the way in and we returned to the car handcuffed together. She obediently got in. I didn’t give her a treat, but she found one on the back seat from earlier.

At home, we were tired from our adventure and napped together on the couch. Surprisingly, Rufus, our male cat, came and joined us for a few minutes. He has been rather leery of Piper. She has done nothing to upset him, in fact she’s been the soul of animal diplomacy, avoiding eye contact and showing studious disinterest by lying down or scratching herself when he is in the room. It’s working. He is slowly getting bolder about approaching her.

We have another week before we must formally adopt Piper or return her. I think it’s working out. But we’ll be going to evening classes.

Seattle to Portland via Ape Cave

Seattle to Portland is not a long drive, so we planned a diversion to  Ape Cave, which is actually a lava tube under Mount Saint Helens.

It was a lovely change from the I-5 to drive through the winding two-lane road to Cougar, Washington and make our way uphill to the site.

We had lunch at a picnic table on one of the trails to the cave entrance.

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The official recommendation is warm clothing and three sources of light. I carefully set out a hoodie this morning, but left it in the car when I went back for something after lunch. It is just above freezing in the cave, (6°C) and very breezy in the narrower parts of the passage. Caroline wore a sweater and still got cold. I’m glad we had all the lights we did. Our headlamps were all but useless, casting a dim glow. It might have been possible to walk by that light, but it wouldn’t have been easy. What worked best were the pair of tactical flashlights I picked up for the trip. I’d been second guessing the usefulness of such a narrow beam, but they were ideal, penetrating all the way to the next bend and revealing ceilings high overhead.

I’m calling this novel research, as parts of Bandits are set beneath a volcano. Right now, those scenes are in draft form, with the basic plot and dialog written. Walking through the lava tube gave me a much better understanding of what it would be like; it wasn’t as straight or as dry as I had imagined. I look forward to rewriting sections where I have Raven suffering from thirst. There’s water, but mostly in the form of drips; actually trying to drink the water would be frustrating. The footing varied from flat and gritty to jumbled rock. That’s perfect for my story.

Once we were done with that, we resumed our drive to Portland. When we got out of the car in the hotel, we were stunned. They’re in the middle of an extreme heat warning here, and the jeans and t-shirt that were so inadequate in the cave had us wilting in the parking lot.

The Titanium Hiking Staff Project

I like to hike in the woods. A stick comes in handy on steep sections of trail, and it gives my arms something to do.

At first, I improvised a hiking staff from a five-foot rake handle. I frapped a section with string for a grip, and shoved on a rubber cane tip from the drugstore.

But I wondered- if I had a light metal tube, could I pack it with survival gear and first aid supplies? Aluminum would work, but what I really wanted was titanium. The price was a deterrent, but I finally ordered a five foot length of one inch welded titanium tubing from Online Metals.

While I was waiting for it to come, I started picking up things to put inside: a space blanket, fire starters, a small compass, a tiny roll of duct tape, water purification tablets, a whistle, fishing line and hooks, a first-aid booklet, triangle bandages, surgical gloves, chewable aspirin. Total weight, about 250 grams, or just over eight ounces.

Step One: Paint. The titanium tube arrived with the specs stenciled all over it. I’m not 20150521_115059Csure other hikers want to meet a large man with a metal pipe in his hands, so I primed it with red oxide and applied a faux wood-grain in chocolate acrylic glaze. I used a nubbly rubber glove for the graining, and the overall effect is a dark brown grain like teak. I applied a clear-coat to protect it.

Step Two: Ends. A one-inch rubber cane tip for the foot. These have steel discs inside, so the metal tube does not cut through them. For the head end, I wanted something versatile. I chose to fit the top with a broom-handle thread so that I can attach different tips. I used a lathe to turn down the handle of a SOG Spirit for this purpose, and epoxied it into the tube with the threaded portion sticking out. I found a wooden paint-roller handle that is threaded to take a broom-handle for painting ceilings. I cut it down and rounded it off to make a knob for everyday hiking. It has a decorative metal ring that looks nice on the staff.

Step Three: Frapping. The one-inch tubing is a little small for my grip, and slippery. Paracord would be best, but the closest I could get locally was some polypropylene braided cord with a 200 pound breaking strength. I wound about forty feet of it around the staff at elbow height in two layers. To do this, I mounted the tubing on a dowel spindle so that I could turn it easily. I started at the lower end, wound my way up for about ten inches, then tightly back down again. Then I tied the loose ends with a tight reef knot and fused the ends to the metal with a lighter. The knot is almost invisible. Unwound, the cord could be used in a myriad of ways, from building a shelter to suspending food from a tree.

Step Four: Packing.

Hiking Staff

Contents. I did get the space blanket more compactly rolled after several tries.

The space blanket was the biggest challenge. Although it was folded into a compact rectangle not much bigger than a deck of cards, rolling it into a slim cylinder was harder than I expected. The key was to refold it into a larger flat rectangle of the right length, squeeze all the air out, roll it tightly around a welding-rod spindle, and draw it tight with adhesive tape at regular intervals. The blanket came with an added bonus; it’s bright orange on one side and printed with diagrams showing how to use it for shelter and so on. It went in first, and slid right up to the head end. Next up, all those loose items. I rolled the first-aid booklet up tightly and taped it like the blanket. I packed some of the loose items into little ziploc bags, then I used heavy duty aluminum foil to make a pair of cylindrical torpedoes filled with the odds and ends, and slid them in. That prevents the contents from rattling or shifting and jamming. Plus the aluminum foil can be used to fashion a cup or a reflector. The last items in were the ones I thought I might need in the biggest hurry; the first-aid supplies. Repeated attempts to roll the triangle bandages into a neat cylinder were pathetic. Finally I just used a chopstick to stuff them in, tied together like a magician’s kerchiefs. The safety pins and the tiny scrap of paper with sling and bandage diagrams went in with them. When the staff was nearly packed full, I squeezed in the whistle and the surgical gloves, and left the tail end of the triangle bandage right at the end where I could grab it and pull it all out. Then the rubber cane tip went on.

Empty, the titanium staff is lighter than the wooden rake handle, and would likely float. Fully loaded, it is just over a kilo: 1070 grams (or 2lbs, 6oz). I find it a comfortable weight. You may have noticed that I carry water purification tablets, but not any kind of water container. Emptied of it’s other contents, the titanium staff will hold 650mls of water, about right for one tablet.

A few months after I wrote this post, I reconditioned, repainted, and repacked the staff. You can see an update here.

PVR 7.0

Once a week or so, I get only half a night’s sleep. Last night was that night. I got up and went down to the deserted coffee shop to read on my Kobo. It was oddly quiet between 0300 and 0600.

I did manage to nap a little before breakfast, and then Caroline suggested busing out to the Marina for our morning walk. That went well, the very first bus we saw was the right one. We strolled through the peaceful residential area surrounding the golf course, away from the big hotels.

I reverted to my old habit of scoping out the licence plates on cars. American plates included California, New Mexico and Utah. Mexican plates, besides the obvious Jalisco and Nayarit, included the Federal District, Agua Caliente and Guerrero.

Twenty five minutes into our walk, we reached the highway again. Rather than retrace our steps, we walked back to the Hilton, hiking along the highway past the Marine hospital, the Harbour Master’s headquarters and Wal-Mart. That gave us about an hour, and since we didn’t get properly started until nearly 1000, it was getting warm by the time we finished.

Right now, I’m waiting to pre-select our seats for tomorrow’s flight home.

Picks & Pans

We have a late check-out and an afternoon flight to Winnipeg today, so I have time to wrap things up. We walked a loop up one side of the Rideau Canal and down the other. There are tons of fit people in Ottawa. Caroline gave up all hope of redeeming her hair and wore it in a ponytail.

Here is a look at some of the best and worst of our road trip from Ottawa to Bar Harbor and back.

Restaurants

Caroline’s pick: Leunig’s Bistro in downtown Burlington, Vermont. Truly transcendent duck, cool location on the Church Street pedestrian concourse. Honorable mention to the Café Provence in Waterbury, Vermont. Her pan: Pizzeria Verità in Burlington, Vermont. The beet salad was all beets, no salad, and she didn’t like the pizza much, either.

Tim’s pick: the BUZZ in Ottawa, Ontario. Sure the food was good at Leunig’s, but it was crowded and noisy. At the Buzz, you could have delightful food and conversation. My pan: the West Street Cafe in Bar Harbor, Maine. I ordered the wrong thing, but if I was back in Bar Harbor, I’d go somewhere nicer to look for the right thing.

Hotels

Caroline’s pick: the Best Western Waterbury/Stowe in Waterbury, Vermont. Beautiful building with a conservatory for the pool and whirlpool tub, an arcade with air hockey and pinball and a truly amazing restaurant. Great staff, too, that helped with an internet problem and suggested walking options.

Tim’s pick: the Best Western Victoria Suites in Ottawa, Ontario. Wonderful suite that made it easy for me to blog at the desk in the front room while Caroline slept. Terrific location within walking distance of restaurants, downtown, and the Rideau Canal, helpful staff.

Unanimous pan: the Best Western Adirondack Inn in Lake Placid, New York. Lugged my fifty pound suitcase and all our other junk up a flight of stairs to discover a small, noisy room with a fridge in the closet and no desk. Older properties like this have so many challenges – drafty windows, small rooms, inadequate wiring – that it’s hard for them to compete with newer buildings. But they weren’t  gracious when we balked.

Towns

My pick for visiting again, Bar Harbor, Maine. Tons of places to hike and cycle, abundant seafood. My pick for moving to permanently, Ottawa, Ontario. I’m not a city person, but this place could convert me. My pan: Lake Placid, New York. I was hoping for the outdoorsy charm of Bozeman, Montana, but it’s tightly nestled in the mountains, more like Banff, Alberta, and that gives it a crowded, touristy feel, as if nobody is actually from there.

Caroline’s pick, Burlington, Vermont. Loved the ambiance of downtown and the Lake Champlain waterfront. Her pan would be Bennington, Vermont. It wasn’t hideous or anything, we would just try to stay somewhere with more to offer next time.

Walking

Our pick: The Carriage Roads of Desert Island, Acadia National Park, near Bar Harbor. Smooth enough to cycle, quiet enough to walk with weights, vast variety.

Our pan: Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Our hotel was awkwardly located, so we did an urban walk to Memorial Bridge and the adjacent park. If I went there again, I’d do more research in an effort to find something more tranquil.