This Friday afternoon I'll slip out of work a little early and head home.
Once there I'll double-check that I've got all my gear in order: Backpack, tent, sleeping bag, food, fire, water, bugspray, sunscreen, fishing pole & tackle, pistol. Keaton will be in the garage as I do this last-minute sanity-check to ensure we're ready and I'll use that time to foster more excitement about our trip. I'll cinch up the pack and chuck it in the back of the GMC. I'll ask Keaton if she's gone over her pack, made sure she's rightly-provisioned and is ready to go, I'll get her emotionally involved and also be giving her a lesson on what to bring for a successful overnight backpacking trip. I'm hoping she'll be full of anticipation and excitement and anxious to get on the road and on the trail.
We'll head up the mountain around 4pm so we can park and put feet to earth by 6:30pm. We'll race the sunset to try and get to camp, 2mi in from our starting point, by dusk. After setup and a late dinner we'll have a small permit-be-damned fire and roast marshmallows and bundle up against the nighttime chill. Come morning we'll wake with the sun and eat a backwoods breakfast, I'll ask her to help me get it ready and be part of the team, while contemplating the beauty of God's creation and the benefits of solitude. No Saturday morning cartoons, no couch to lounge on. In the heat of the day we'll go bug-catching, try fishing in the creek, throw a Frisbee, hunt for some Geocaches. We'll take a light lunch wherever we are around 1pm. Around 4pm we'll pack it in and I'll again require her assistance - she's going to walk away knowing she was an integral part of our camping success story.
We'll be back home again by nightfall Saturday, a short 24hrs later and returned to the comforts of home - don't want to overdue the "fun" on our first daddy/daughter sojourn.
I can't wait.
Hey Pat I'm sorry, but I killed your hops.
I know you entrusted them to me while you're overseas for a couple years, and I'll admit the task really wasn't that hard. Two big buckets of dirt that need water and sunshine so the hops growing in them don't die. Well I gave them a prominent spot on the sunny-side of my backyard, you know the side I plant the garden on? Yeah, and they are also within reach of the sprinkler's throw so I know they got enough hydration. I even weeded them regularly to ensure they weren't being choked out.
Heck, for the entire first year you were gone the actually grew like gangbusters (whatever that analogy is supposed to mean, I have some doubts about "gangbusters'" potential for growth myself (look close, there's a plural possessive mixed into those quotes, it makes sense but it's hard to see)). They climbed out of their buckets and found the twine I'd strung upward to the fencepost and trained around it. They wound up all green and leafy (but never actually flowered, so their viability for brewing was questionable even before the matter was finally settled upon their brown and desiccated death). They made it to the top of the fence and struck out for freedom; ran out to the sideyard and entangled with the decorative shrubs out there, all harmonious-like. I kept checking them for flowers, thinking maybe I could "harvest" a couple for you and freeze them or something... as a lark.
Sometime after that first year one of the pots was colonized by ants. I knew it had happened, but not only was there not much I could do about it but I actually figured it might be beneficial for the root system. I'm not saying this ant manifest destiny is what did that one pot in, but I guess they could've been feasting on the roots and I'd have been none the wiser. The anted pot did seem to turn first, though. It never grew as vigorously, was less leafy and overall healthy-looking than its partner. Were I one of those vegan connected-to-the-earth types I might think that the vibrant one missed his runty friend and simply wasted away in despair after its loss.
And now it's just one big sad funeral scene out there. We had some bad wind last week when a storm blew through and it toppled the pot of what used to be the stronger of the two. It's now laying on its side halfway down the slope, threatening to spill its contents, which probably didn't happen only because the roots of the weeds growing within held the stuff together. Later today I'm planning to go out there and right the poor thing, say some benediction and get on with the grieving period so I don't feel too bad reclaiming the soil for other purposes. Like the Bible says - dust to dust.
I'm shrugging. It happens. I owe you some hops.
This Saturday dawned with a blissful five hour preview of Spring.
I was up early and had the house thrown open entirely, every window and every door, before the big hand was on the eight. Around 9:30am, having lounged about the house for a few hours and enjoyed a few cups of coffee, I decided to fire up the compressor and put some air in the bike tires. You know you've not been riding your bike enough when every time you want to haul it down and go for a roll you've got to inflate the tires. By 10am I was bidding the family farewell, my headphones already on my ears and my helmet in hand. I hit the road with a vague idea of a two hour loop I wanted to do.
I always try to go somewhere new. This morning I rode alongside a large undeveloped ridge northwest of our house. I was riding through neighborhoods and along developed trails, I kept looking at that ridge, all green and full of trees. It was blocked from the subdivisions by a high wall, but I wanted up. I decided to ride the length of the wall. I did this for maybe a mile, not long, and found a way around. Through a No Trespassing sign and around a gate and I was on a dirt access road, obviously intended for future home construction as there were completed drainage systems and buried sewer lines with manholes. Didn't look like there'd been any work done for quite a while though.
At the top, after one huff and puff of a ride (where, I admit, I hopped off and walked for a while it was so steep), the dirt road followed the ridgeline into the distance. I was rewarded with perfect solitude and some amazing vistas of town, city, lake, and forest. I rode leisurely along the ridge I stopped near a big oak where the view was particularly impressive. That's when I saw that someone else had been here before me, and had a great idea. They'd built a series of sitting platforms into the oak with castoff wood. There was a crude ladder leading up, and footholds nailed in along the way. I felt like Tom Sawyer, and thanked the resourceful teenagers I imagined laboring on the thing out loud.
I dropped the bike and climbed up to take the perch with the best vantage. I brought my water bottle and my music and just sat there swinging my legs. I sent a few texts to a few friends, sending pictures of my explorations. The ride was so awesome. I saw a turkey and a coyote and "found" a waterfall and the treehouse thing and a charted a whole new awesome loop-ride I can do on another day again. I made it back to the house just a little more than two hours after I'd left. Now I want to go again. Bring Keaton, maybe a sack lunch. A little secret wildnerness (well at least a few acres worth) in the middle of suburbia.
It rained the rest of the weekend. Goodnight.
Tuesday and the week plods along.
If you're caught up to yesterday's entry you know that I don't feel like I spent near enough time away from work to "bond" with my newly larger family. I did, however, use what time I had wisely. I tried to spend purposeful time with both Keaton and Cohen. However, since time with Cohen chiefly amounts to napping together on a couch, I'll share here about some daddy-daughter time that Keaton and I had last week.
We joined a friend and his son (also a good friend of Keaton's) on a hike to a local waterfall. We left early and grabbed breakfast along the way and had a gorgeous day for some fun in the water, sight-seeing, hiking and even some basic four-year-old-compatible rock scrambling. Keaton was a champ, and followed my instructions well, practicing safe climbing during the hairiest parts of the short ~200ft ascent. She did slip on some decomposed granite a couple times, once falling enough to scrape her calve before I could pull her up (we had a strict "always hold daddy's hand while climbing" policy for just this reason). Here are some pictures of the expedition (please excuse the sasquatch escorting her):
We spent more than a few hours wandering around, wading, and enjoying creation. And in the end Keaton was immensely proud of herself for making the haul to the top (we were proud of both the kids, as they both did really well on the little outing). In fact we talked about getting them each a "climbing" or "hiking" badge ala Scouts or something to tout their new experience (maybe I'm not properly conveying the amount of pride they each felt in their efforts... but it was a big deal for them both).
I've been making regular trips back to that waterfall in my head at my desk this week...
T-minus one week and counting suckas. This baby is coming. Time to write.
Coming off our family sickness I made the call to stay home Tuesday and rest. My body needed it and I wanted to keep an eye on Sharaun after she'd lost so much fluid during her bout the day prior, make sure she re-hydrated appropriately. Around noon Keaton got a little restless, having tired of reading and coloring and me not wanting to feed her any more TV shows to pass the time. And, since I was feeling a mite better myself, I decided we'd tackle some father-daughter project to both keep her occupied and get her out of Sharaun's hair so she could rest and recuperate.
I decided we'd turn the apricot harvest into jam. See, the apricots were a disappointment to me. The tree produced a ton for its small size, I was happy with that, the fruit was good-sized and ripened well, and the birds didn't destroy the crop as in years past (I think they had their fill on plums, which is fine - since there were at least a hundred of those things I had some to spare for the birds). But the fruit itself just wasn't that good. The flavor was lacking and the texture was mushy and just unappealing. A pretty big disappointment for a tree I planted with hopes of a yummy yearly harvest. So I had this bowl of apricots that I was 1) extremely proud of and 2) bitterly disappointed in (I wonder if this is how my folks felt when their straight-As whiz-kid teenager overdosed on psychedelics... just a random thought), and I figured I'd try to salvage the harvest.
When I made this decision I didn't have any jars, any canning pot, and tools, and equipment, nor any idea how to make jam. But heck, how hard could it be? But we actually had some pectin in the pantry (I have no idea what for) and it had instructions for making any type of jam or jelly a body could ever imagine. Looks like all I'd need would be an insane amount of sugar, some canning jars and a big pot to cook them in. Right then... Keaton and I set off to the store in search of jars and made a phone call to a friend to see if we could borrow her canning pot and jar-holding crimper things. An hour or so later we returned home together all ready to make our first foray into the world of preserving (sometimes they call this "canning," even tho there are no cans, right?).
A few hours later we had eight jars of what turned out to be some pretty dang delicious apricot jam. Keaton helped by pitting the fruit, measuring out the sugar, and even stirring the hot fruit slurry. We had a great time and I like the apricot jam a heck of a lot better than I did the apricots themselves.
Tuesday and I haven't worked yet this week. That's my kind of Monday.
This weekend Doug and I left our pregnant wifes at home and spent two nights in Yosemite valley. It was a quick trip, giving us just one full day in the park, but the plan was to somehow find a "workaround" for the new trail permitting system the park has implemented for Half Dome climbers and summit Sunday. When we made our reservations over a year ago, there was no permit requirement for the cable ascent, and we've always been able to just go and summit. And by the time we learned of the new requirements the permits for this weekend had already sold out. So, we were apparently stuck.
My idea, however, was to go find out just how high you could climb sans permit. A couple questions to rangers and I learned that the permits are truly just to limit cable traffic (not Mist or Muir trail traffic to Happy Isles), and that you're OK going as far as Sub Dome with a permit. This means you can post up right there in the saddle below the cables and wait for law-abiding permitted people to chicken out (I've seen it happen many times with folks who make it that far, I'd guess it's something in the 40% of folks range). I queried two rangers and neither saw any issue with begging permits off those who'd given into fear and decided forgo the cables. So, if you're willing to be a permit-vulture I think you could make a permitless day-ascent pretty easily.
But, I didn't think the plan through until it was too late and we had already decided to just to a morning hike to the top of Nevada Falls. Even then we were asked three times by permit-checking roving rangers (I don't think I imagined their heightened presence over years past) if we planned on summiting. So even though we didn't summit, the hike was amazing (as it always is), the weather was fantastic, and the barbecue dinner along the Merced later that afternoon with friends was a perfect cap to the day.
The only thing missing from our Father's Day was our wives and progeny.
As an added weekend bonus, about a third of the fruit on the plum tree was ready to pick before we left for Yosemite, so we grabbed that this evening with the help of the ladder.
Last night Sharaun and I laid in bed until 2am, talking.
Been a while since we've done that, actually. But sometimes the best time for just talking is when there's not much else that's doable (six months pregnant... remember?). When the mind is tired and everything else has already been thought about or talking about or watched or read or listened to. Being up so late and being tired and knowing I should be asleep but wanting to continue our conversation reminded me of way back when we were dating. Sharaun would sneak the phone into her room and we'd literally talk all night. Wasn't all night last night or anything, but for an old man like me who has to wake up at 6:30am to fix some sprinklers before going into work... it's close.
The weather has been so fantastic here lately. Warm, sunny. Things are green and budding. The grapes Keaton and I planted are already putting out nice thick growth and we'll be training the strongest of them to wires this weekend. The fruit trees are all flowers and buds, aside from the orange tree which, despite showing strong growth and having a good healthy look, just doesn't seem to want to flower. The blueberry starts we planted only a month ago are full of leaves and the raspberry a friend gifted me from his lot seems to be taking to its new home. Driving home from work today with the windows down I decided that I'm going to try and start biking to work again come Monday. I'm done saying I'm going to make it an everyday thing, I never have and obviously won't... but I'll do it again when I can.
I think it's time to go to bed now. It's dark and I seem to be done writing. Usually those are signs. In the end I'll just noodle around online until Sharaun makes her move and end up following her. She mostly leads on the "time for bed" thing. And I'm still not writing right.