our white day

Trip to the snow.Tuesday and I took the day off (or something…) to take Keaton to the snow with her friend Matthew.

Matthew’s dad arrived shortly before 9am and we set off to the local “waffle” prefixed breakfast joint (y’know, the ones with the cat-head biscuits).  Ordered me a meat++ omelet ripe with fatty jalapenos and cheese and all kinds of sausages that had all kinds of different names.  Whomped that on down in sequential bites comprised of equal parts omelet and “homestyle” potatos.  Keaton and Matthew split a ham and eggs plate, and left their hasbrowns untouched (blasphemers).

We were on the road up the hill just after 10am.  Up a winding mountain road, we found the perfect patch of as-yet untouched-by-humans snow just before noon (had to stop for a couple kiddie potty breaks and to separate the car seats to prevent hair pulling and ear-poking).

The snow sat in thick drifts, but the sun was out and the weather was don’t-need-a-jacket warm.  Kevin (Matthew’s dad) and I ventured out into the snowfield first to see how deep it was.  My first steps and I was in to the knee.  Laboring, step-aerobics style, I lifted my foot to take another – and ended up just as deep.  We test-dropped Matthew onto the surface: guess being 15% of my weight is an advantage in deep snow – he and Keaton just dropped in a couple (manageable, as far as locomotion is concerned) inches.

Keaton whined for me to carry her for the first five minutes (that child is, through and through, one-thousand percent girl, being innately scared of everything).  After some time though, she was tromping off faster than knee-deep Daddy could follow along – quite independent.  Before long she was eating snow and peppering me with the balled-up stuff, like any good kid in the snow should their dad.

We dug holes; we built a sorry, sorry snowman (the snow wasn’t wet enough to hold shape); we pushed the kids once or twice in the saucer-sleds before they let us know they hated that; we ate white snow like ice cream; we had adult races to see who could move the quickest with each foot sunk in snow (I lost, face-down freezing-hands style).

For me, it was a Dad’s day with his daughter – and I loved it more than words can tell you about.  Here are a couple pictures, maybe they will help explain:

Gosh, those weren’t that good at all; and I look straight bald in one of them.  But, that’s it.

I didn’t even intend to write, but I had this in my head and the new Animal Collective album played loud (Sharaun’s out, Keaton’s asleep, and it’s my roost to rule for the time being) shook it loose onto the internet.

Love you, goodnight.

hey john, you can have your trail

Monday morning and, if I were the lying type, I’d tell you that I’m writing this after midnight Sunday… having just returned from our successful epic six-day JMT hike.

But, y’allz, I’m an honest Joe, so I’ll fess up: Early evening on Thursday we reached our third campsite after a long, but surprisingly bearable, sixteen mile trek and decided (in a groupthink snowball of unanimous rationalization) that we all felt accomplished enough with our ~40mi three-day adventure, and would rather be in a hotel eating a meatlover’s pizza and sipping some cold suds than bedding down again on the ground in our filthy clothes to wake with the sun and do it all again for three more days.  So that’s just what we did.  And, by late Friday afternoon we were in our respective homes, taking our respective showers, kissing our respective significant others, and easing into clean duds.

Didn’t bother me much to end early, and now that the trail has beaten us twice I think we’re officially done with it.  My pride is somewhat salved knowing we put in some good effort, and I’ve seen about ~70mi of the thing… so I count that as a neat experience.  Good enough for me, I suppose.  Oh, and I did blog while out there in the wilderness.  I saved the entries on the iPhone and upped them sometime this past weekend.  Scroll down to check them out if you’re interested.

Switching gear now, moving onto the normal stuff: I want to talk about Keaton for a moment.

Lately, she’s been protesting naps and bedtime more and more.  Saturday, for instance, she refused to go down for either – repeatedly getting out of bed, opening her door, and leaving her room. After several frustrating rounds of this back-and-forth game, I decided we need a way to “keep” her in her room (the bedrooms in the house don’t have locks on them).  So, call me a bad parent or whatever you’d like, but I improvised a door-locking mechanism out of a bungee cord and the nearby hinge of another door.  We used this “lock” with success Saturday night around 1am when Keaton just refused to say in her room/bed.  I secured her door and got back into bed with Sharaun.  And, after about ten or fifteen minutes of tearful protest she finally accepted her lot, crawled back into bed, and drifted off to sleep. Yeah, I feel kinda bad for having to “lock” her in there… but it’s what’s working for now.

Well folks, it’s creeping up on midnight and I better hit the sack and send this thing to the presses.  Love you and hope I didn’t lose you last week while the blog languished during the hike.  Talk to you soon; same place, same time.

second day: hard

Our shadows stretched out long in front of us as we made our final ascent down to the lakeshore that is tonight’s campsite. It was a long day, much more arduous than yesterday – partly because we had a 1,900ft cumulative elevation gain and partly due to the altitude and second-day soreness.

At some point during the day we all encountered difficulties, although Anthony had the worst of it – succumbing once again to altitude sickness and losing his lunch and the day’s liquids somewhere along the trail (and then twice again before hitting they sack). Erik’s also showing small symptoms of a possible cold, with a sore throat and cough. But, tomorrow is another day… and we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Actually, it’s eight o’clock right now and all of us are tucked into our bags for the night (it’s not even fully dark outside). However, we’re all more than drained and it’s just too chilly to sit around outside. So, we decided to retire early. With luck, the night will restore our bodies an spirits (and be bear-free).

Tomorrow should be a little easier, with a mostly downhill morning and a small climb in the afternoon. If we feel OK, we may entertain the idea of pushing on into the Mammoth area… but, after today, that’s a big “if.”

Until tomorrow (or when I have a connection to post this), keep sending us positive thoughts!

Day one & feeling good

It’s around 5pm on Tuesday and we’re all sitting around in a circle at our first campsite.

We ended up trekking a bit more than a mile further than we’d planned as the rangers warned us about an “aggressive” bear active in the area where we’d originally planned to stay the night. And, actually, having been able to check out the intended site on the way here, we’re at the better place.

Asking around the circle, everyone seems to be in good spirits, and I think we’re all happy with our stamina the progress we made. Then again, we’re still hiking on (relatively) fresh legs and aren’t trail-beaten yet.

It is absolutely gorgeous up here, and the trails aren’t as crowded as we expected for the holiday-led short week. I’m trying to take in more of the scenery this time around, instead of watching the feet in front of me and the terrain coming up.

Tomorrow sees us at our highest elevations for the whole of the hike, and likely our most brutal day in terms of exertion.

Wish us luck!

John Muir Trail half through-hike: 2008 re-do

Happy Labor Day folks.

Hope you’re enjoying your time away from work.

As promised, I’m posting a detailed rundown of this week’s JMT hike.  And, as you read this, the guys and I are probably halfway to the Eastern side of Yosemite National Park, where we’ll begin our journey with high hopes of finishing what Anthony started last year and couldn’t finish.  Tomorrow (as you read this), we’ll hit the trail around 9:30am after gathering our passes and bear-canisters from the ranger station.

Below you can see the waypoints we’ve fed into the GPS we’re taking, and sort of track our progress.  Day two is our highest elevation day, while day five is our longest haul.  We pass through civilization only once when we go through the Mammoth area on day four, stopping in the Red’s Meadow area and maybe grabbing a real sit-down meal and a thermal shower from the hot-springs.  Aside from that, it’s miles and miles of scenic high-Sierra backcountry.  Check it:

Sorry for the fuzziness, I didn’t do it all html-table fancy like I did last year and just used a screencap of our Excel file.

If you’re so inclined, you can click on the following links to get an aeriel veiw of where we plan to camp each night (providing we stick to the schedule above): Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday afternoon (exit point).

And, that’s about it.  If we happen to have wireless access at Red’s Meadow I think I’ll try and scramble off a quick post on our progress up until that point.  If not, look for me back here in a week.

Wish us well!

bloggin’ ain’t easy lately

Wednesday.  Sorry for the sporadic entries of late, I’ve been busy with work… and a day without time for my mind to wander usually means a night without much to write about.  Gonna be random today I think… but I want to get something out there.

Last night we had friends over for dinner.  I came home about an hour early to start the barbecue and char the meat; not a bad deal.  I can remember watching my dad barbecue for us when I was a kid, we had one of those traditional round Webbers, black – the kind like you see in those 1950s episodes of Leave It To Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet.  I remember we had some sort of Sunset Guide to Grilling cookbook which showed the novice grill chef how to form two mounds of charcoal on either side of the bowl for indirect heat.  I was always fascinated with cooking over fire, and still enjoy it.  So, like I said, coming home an hour early from work to start a fire and cook meat isn’t bad at all.

Tonight Sharaun had a volleyball game so Keaton and I got some time to hang out just Dad and daughter.  We took a nice long bath, playing in the bubbles and transferring water from one litte cup to another.  After that we got dressed for bed and brushed our hair (I brushed hers, she then returned the favor), and played for another ten mintues before getting into the crib.  We had a little tea party, and played in the “pretend pool” (which is just a comforter spread out on the ground with pillows for “floaties”).  I like when I can give her my full attention, although I admire Sharaun for doing it all day long, as it’s pretty demanding and requires putting aside whatever you might want to be doing (I mean, not to say I don’t want to be playing in the pretend pool with my daughter… but you know what I mean).

It’s less than a month now until Anthony and I embark on our “makeup” trip back into the Sierra backcountry along John Muir Trail.  This time, we’ll be four as Ben and Erik will join us as we try to finish the sixty-plus miles we failed to complete last time around – stupid snow… (what, you don’t believe me?, there totally was snow).  The four of us got together last week to have a planning session (read: pizza and beer and about fifteen minutes of me going over our slightly-modified last year’s itinerary).  I’ll go ahead and do a big kickoff entry here as that date nears, with the same kind of boring data I posted last time (I know, you can’t wait).  I think we’re all getting pretty excited, and hopes are high that we don’t get turned back by weather this year.  (In fact, the portion of the hike we plan to do this year has few “easy” outs, so we’re banking on Mother Nature being good to us).

I guess that’s all I have.  Bloggin’ ain’t easy lately.

a little bit country?

Sunday afternoon and we’re back from a great weekend away.

Up the hills, across the bridge, and down the bumpy road we went.  We sidled up to the river and stayed a couple nights, staving off the heat of the day by playing in frigid waters and moving camp chairs with the shade.  Anyway, we’re back and unpacked and the dirt’s all down the drain with our bathwater.  Sharaun headed out with her friends for a nail appointment, Keaton’s napping, and I’m sitting here watching The Magnificent Seven on this humongous TV we recently got.  And even though it, like most of the things I tend to like watching, isn’t anything near HD (what do you expect for 1960?), it really seems somehow dustier and grittier and gunfightier.

I’m gonna talk a little bit about music, hope that’s OK.

Those of you who know me likely know that I am, in general terms, not a fan of country music.  Then again, those of you who know me a little better may know that I am a fan of some “roots” type country music like bluegrass and the early 19th century country-blues of the American South.  It’s just the “modern” country that I don’t like.  And, before you country people get all on my case – I’m not even talking about the whole “crossover country” thing that’s been going down now for ten or fifteen years; I’m talking about “traditional modern” country (I know, it’s an oxymoron, but it’s what I mean).  Anyway, I’ve always known that a lot of older “roots” country represents a large black hole in what I know about the evolution of music – I’ve just never tried to dive-in and figure it all out.  But, that changed a while back.

Sharaun and I were invited over to dinner with friends, and while we were there they were playing the “classic” country channel on Sirius.  Now, I’d always known I have some sort of affinity for rootsy, early-sounding “hillbilly folk” or “honky tonk” type stuff, as evidenced by the immediate shine I took to albums like John Prine’s self-titled debut and nearly everything Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers did during the roots-country rennaisance of the late 60s and early 70s.  But, that night nearly every single track that beamed down from the satellite radio seemed like a gem.  The rough nature of the tunes reminded me of the same reasons I adore things like Robert Johnson’s scant recorded history, or things like John Fahey’s Blind Joe Death: in them you can hear the embryonic sounds of decades of music yet to come.  After enjoying the soundtrack to our evening so much that night, I decided I’d spend some time questing for a good “classic country” primer.

The problem is, to make a decent and somewhat complete introduction to the birth of country music is not an easy task.  At first I began looking for some sort of compilation, maybe Rhino Records has done something, maybe some budget-bin put-togethers that managed to put a bunch of old songs together on disc when their copyrights lapsed or something.  Turns out, though, that the history of country music is a huuuuge beast, with twists and turns and reels and reels of music.  I tried reading threads on hardcore country music message boards for tips on good catch-all comps, I browsed through Usenet groups looking for homemade lists of essential classic country, I searched the internet far and wide – and couldn’t find much.

At first, I had decided to try and make my own collection.  I would download the best-ofs from luminaries like Cash, Lefty, Hank, Willie, Mel, Autry, etc. and just cobble together my own thing.  And, that’s how I started, just grabbing (and by “grabbing” I mean exchanging cash-money for) all sort of stuff.

I didn’t get far, however, when I happened upon a description of a twenty-CD collection called The History of Country and Western. This enormous compilation spans the years from 1927 to 1951, and was put together by a German label (go figure).  After looking over the tracklist, I decided this was the holy grail compilation I’d been looking for.  Sure, there’d still be stuff stretching into the early to mid 60s I’d need (to complete my strange “bookmark” years of when I figure the music was “pure” and not the twangy lost-love crap it turned into), but this thing would give my collection a huge jumpstart.

And boy, I was right.  This is an excellent compilation.  I mean, there’s nary a bum groove on this thing.  OK so it’s nowhere near something everyone’s gonna get into, but it’s one awesome historical document of the birth of a genre.  I sat spellbound listening to them on my first run-through, which was unfortunately brief (I plan on hitting the thing hard tomorrow at work), each track a little piece of music revelation previously unknown to me.  Seriously, I recommend it to anyone.  The best part about it is that it’s dirt-freakin’ cheap.  Amazon carries it if you want to get one for yourself.  Again, it’s got the nod of my hat.

So… somehow, I’ve gotten into country (please don’t misquote me on that, and no Sugarland albums for Christmas please, I will throw up).  Makes me happy, really, because I know there are so many more rocks out there unturned – so much good music I’ve still yet to hear.  I mean, what’s next?  Reggea?  Disco?  Standards?  No, no, and no, most likely… but still, I love hearing new stuff.

Anyway, I’m about done now… that thing kinda took off and spawned more paragraphs than I figured it would.  So, I’m gonna go enjoy the rest of my Sunday evening, maybe throw together some leftover Smores ingredients with a bowl of vanilla ice cream or something… who knows.

Goodnight y’all.