Saturday, October 31, 2009

Yurt Roof Poles

Here's an update on how the yurt is going. Last night we were supposed to leave in the bus to go visit the natural hot springs on the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, along hwy 395, for the weekend. But the bus wasn't running right, and we were in the middle of changing out all of the window seals in the baja so we couldn't take the baja either :-(

So we decided to just stay at home this weekend and work on the VWs and I would work on getting the yurt roof poles done. This morning, I set up the table saw and began choosing 36 2x2's that weren't cracked at the knots. I used John LaTorre's method of making poles which he outlines in his book, The Pavilion Book, a complete guide to buying, maintaining, and living in a Medieval-style tent. I met John at the vwcamperfamily camp-outs that we go to in the VWs. His book is awesome! I recommend buying it if you plan on making a tent or yurt, or even a tipi, because he gives a lot of good insider's tips.

36 Yurt Roof Poles
36 yurt poles which I cut on the table saw

To make the poles, I cut the corners off to make a octagonal pole. Each pole went through the table saw four times, once for each corner to be cut off. I made 42 poles total, but ended up rejecting 6 of them because they had knots or splits that made the pole weak and bendy. In the picture, the poles look striped, but this is because the redwood was exposed to the sun for a while which made them brown. When I cut the corners off to round the poles, the red, "fresh" inside was exposed. I think it looks cool like that, but I'm not sure if the brown parts would do well being coated with some spar varnish.

36 Yurt Roof Poles
Another picture of the poles

The next thing I need to do is cut the poles to size. Since I am making a 12ft diameter yurt, the roof poles need to be 6ft long. The roof angle will be 30 degrees, thus making the crown 2.5ft in diameter. I will also need to taper the roof poles to make them easier to stick into the crown.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Beginnings of My Yurt

So I decided to start building my own yurt. I've been thinking about buying one for a while, for long term camping. Maybe one day I would live in one, but not yet. Many of the modern yurts made in America are meant to be permanent structures, although they were originally built and designed by nomadic people, like the Mongolians, and meant to be moved around a couple of times a year. Pacific Yurts is a large company that makes modern yurts, but they are expensive and heavy. The smallest one they make (12ft diameter) is close to 900 lbs! And it costs about $5000, just for the base model. There is another company, GoYurt, which makes a small lightweight (250 lb.) yurt which is meant to be taken camping and stuff. But that yurt costs $4000! Being cheap, I decided to make my own. My plan is to use as many salvaged materials as possible, with out sacrificing quality. I will spend money where I have to, but I think I can make the whole thing comfortably under $1000, including all of the tools I have to buy.

A traditional Mongolian yurt. Hopefully, my yurt will come out looking like this when I'm all finished!

I found a guy on craigslist who was giving away a bunch of 2"x2"x12ft pieces of redwood. He took apart a gigantic deck awning, and salvaged the redwood pieces. Most people who do this charge for the wood because it is pretty valuable, even used! Redwood has a lot of tanin compound in it naturally, which gives it a high resistance to rot and resistance to insects. Thats actually why redwood trees live for thousands of years. Anyways, I picked up about 20 pieces of the 2"x2"x12ft sections, and I am keeping them to make the roof rafters. Since I have so many, I will also attempt to make the crown of the yurt out of them as well.

I've also found a good website for learning how to make a yurt: They had a nice picture of how the yurt is set up:

The way a yurt goes together.

So I've spent the past week beginning to build the crown of the yurt using the salvaged redwood. I bought a power sander off of craigslist, too, and a table saw from Sears. Romy already had a drill press, which came in very handy so far. Here are just a few pictures:

Yurt Crown Peices
These are pieces of the crown that I cut out of the 2"x2"s and dowel pinned together. They are drying out after being glued in pairs. After that is dry, I will glue them on fours.

Half Yurt Crown
This is what half of the main structure of the crown looks like. It isn't glued yet, so its a little rickety.

The yurt crown will be 2.5ft in diameter, and it will have cross members across the center, as well as a domed section. It will look something like this, but instead of being circular, it will be a 12-sided polygon, with 36 roof rafters.

A yurt crown.

Monday, October 26, 2009

VW Campout at Del Valle

There have been a bunch of VW campouts this month! This past weekend there was one at Del Valle, an East Bay regional park near Livermore, CA. It was very relaxing. I got to read John's book, about making tents, and I also read the Yurt Handbook. I forgot to bring the camera with, but other campers took photos and posted them online. Here are some pictures:

The group's camping station. The tent is a sunshade that John made. You can buy one, hand made, at Dragonwing Tents.

Romy and Aaron working on Aaron's orange bus. The green one is Regis's.

Our baja and John's dorm-mobile bus.

Aaron's original VW side tent.

Peter's red bus.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

VW Campout at Ocean Cove

This weekend was another VW campout which we went to. It was at Ocean Cove Campground just north of Jenner on the coast. There were 7 buses all together. The skies were clear and we could see a lot of stars at night. The mornings were foggy and damp, but the sun usually burned off the fog by 10:30am, and we had sunny blue skies during the day. The campground was right next to Stillwater Cove Regional Park (in Sonoma County) where there is protected ocean shore, and some nice scenic hiking trails along the ocean. We climbed on a few of the rock that jutted into the ocean. You could hear the ocean surf all night as the waves crashed onto the shore. It was also the opening of abalone season, so there were a lot of divers who were hunting for them under the water near the shore. Some of our neighbors had some left over abalone that they cooked for dinner (which they went diving for that day), so they came to our bus group camp, and we got to try some! It tasted like as tender as fish, but it is actually a large sea snail. It was good. The California state law is that you can only dive for abalone by holding your breath (no scuba tank), or by picking them right along the shoreline.

Anyways, here are a few pictures we took over the weekend:

Ocean Cove VW Campout
Buses at the campout in Ocean Cove Campground. This picture looks like it was taken in the 80s or something!

Ocean Cove VW Campout
Later in the day, some more buses joined the group.

Ocean Cove VW Campout
Shari and Mike's 1960 split-window bus and Doug and Stacy's early bay-window Westy.

Ocean Cove VW Campout
John's early bay-window Dormmobile and our 1977 bay-window Riviera.

Ocean Cove VW Campout
Melissa's cream colored Vanagon Westy and Joel's blue-ish Vanagon Westy.

Stillwater Cove
Hiking along the ocean at Stillwater Cove Regional Park, which was right next to the campground.

The Ocean near Jenner
A nice view of the coast near Jenner as we drove home along Hwy 1, south.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Lost Coast

After hearing so much stuff about the Lost Coast, we felt like we had to check it out ourselves. But first, we had to figure out where it was, which is actually a mystery because nowhere in California, on a map, does it say "the lost coast." Its really just a nick name for the stretch of coast where highway 1 goes inland, in the north, through Mendocino and Humboldt counties. It truly is a lost coast, since access to it is very limited. There are only about three places where you can drive a car near the ocean, and only one official town. I wouldn't actually call it a town, more like a bunch of dumpy houses that weren't swallowed up by the BLM or some other government run conservation agency (and this is almost too bad actually, because the town of Shelter Cove feels like it just doesn't belong there, to me, anyways). And with the amount of hints I just dropped about its location, I think a determined person would have no trouble finding it, so that's all I will give away - after all, I hope it remains "the lost coast."

Our journey started on Friday night. We got out of the bay area, heading north on highway 101, and we hit a traffic jam. What was unusual about this traffic jam was that it lasted a very, very long time. So long, in fact, that we had ample time to get to know our "neighbors." In California, people drive extremely conservative. They don't switch lanes, they give everybody the right of way (even when they don't deserve it) and they don't generally take risks. So the people around us at the start of the traffic jam were with us pretty much through the end of it. We had a curious jeep behind us, then next to us, then in front of us (for a while, but not for long), who could not concentrate on anything else except starring at the people and cars around him. We had a guy in front of us in a Volvo station wagon who "missed Jerry" (aka The Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia) and could not help himself but stick out his fist through his sun roof and rock out to the songs playing on his radio. Sometimes he was pointing to the sky with an index finger. Sometimes he was showing everybody he could signal the number 4 or 5 to the beat with his hand. Even the curious Jeep couldn't help but stare. We also had Miss Biodiesel in the late 70s Mercedes. You could smell her literally for miles behind! At first we though something was wrong with our baja. Nope, it was just the burning biodiesel. After a while, the traffic jam began to break up (two hours later), and we began making progress towards our destination, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, where we planned to camp that Friday night.

The last time we visited Humboldt Redwoods, in April with our friends Mark & Emma, we had a wonderful time camping under old growth redwoods for about $20/night, which was the normal price for a state-run campground back then. We expected to pull in after dark (it was about 10pm), pitch our tent, and get some sleep before we headed towards the Lost Coast the next morning. When we pulled in to the campground, we saw that the price had now increased to $35/night!!! WTF!? Suddenly it became clear that all of those California "budget" issues were really affecting us now (ignore the fact that all of the public state schools were being screwed, including UC Berkeley) but, seriously, $35? I guess that was better than the threat of closing over 200 state parks (which, thankfully was re-planned, this being one of the compromises). Since we clearly were not going to have enough time to make the $35 worth it, we decided to pitch the tent anyways, but wake up at the crack of dawn (before the campground hosts woke up, most importantly) and make a run for it before anyone knew we spent the night.

When 6:15am rolled in, we woke up, quickly packed our things, and got into the baja. Of course, being aircooled and LOUD, (we didn't want to repeat the performance, like at Mt Whitney, where we woke up all the campers at 4am to the sweet sounds of the bus starting its engine and the exhaust) we decided to push the baja quietly out of the campground. For some reason, Romy was nervous, thinking that, since the campground hosts were most likely old people, they would be up very very early, and come try to get our money for the night of camping we had not paid. I guess it was just his guilty conscious. We pushed our way through the winding loops of the campground, between towering redwoods, which looked only like large looming shadows, almost out of the place when Romy took THE WRONG TURN. And I really mean, the wrong turn, because he drove the baja straight down into a bowl - a depression - a pit, which we then had to push the baja out of!!!! Granted, the baja weights much less than the bus, but, have you ever had to push a VW Beetle up a 15% grade hill before!? Oh yeah. I forgot - the baja didn't start with the ignition. The wiring was screwed up so it wouldn't start with the key, only push starting worked. So we basically had no choice but to push it out of the depression. After the work-out of a lifetime, pushing it up the hill, we finally got it out, and then quietly out of the campground.

Since we got out so early, we had a chance to see the morning sunrise come up over the mountains of Humboldt County:

Sunrise Over Humboldt County
Sunrise over Humboldt County.

Heading towards the coast, we drove through the sleepy village of Honeydew (yes, like the melon) which we entered by crossing a one-lane, wooden bridge. If you blinked, you could've drove through the whole town. We noticed a one-pump gas "station" so we pulled over. It didn't open til 9am, so we hung out for a while. We were sitting right across from a farm which had two horses. A little girl took one of them and led it to the farm gate, near the road. She opened the gate, pulled the horse out, closed the gate quickly behind her (as the second horse tried to follow), and then stepped up onto the gate, hoisting herself onto her horse, riding bare-back. She rode it along the road, out off into the distance. The second horse, still left at the farm was furious. It huffed and trotted all around, super angry that its friend left. Seriously, for close to 20 minutes, all that horse did was make noises, and trot around pissed off. When the lady opened the gas station office, we paid for $20 of gas, and filled up. Then we drove off. That morning, after entering the protected area called the lost coast, we decided to take a hike along the mountain ridges along the ocean. Most of the coast of California is tectonically active, where the Pacific plate meets with the North Atlantic plate, creating a coastal chain of mountains. These mountains seem to plunge into the ocean at the lost coast. One moment, you'll be at the top of a ridge, and when you look down, you see a soft layer of white fog hovering over the ocean, swallowing the land.

Romy Above the Clouds
Romy above the clouds of fog.

The Lost Coast
Fog at the lost coast.

As we hiked down closer to the ocean, we met the line of fog hanging over the water. Although it was hot in the sun, the moist foggy air cooled us down pretty quickly, so we decided to eat lunch right above the fog line. It rolled past us intermittently, surrounding us in a blanket of cold white. Then it blew past, revealing our surroundings once again. We couldn't help but notice that the fog was not going to burn away under sun, so we went back up the mountain ridges, heading back to the trailhead where we parked the baja.

Fog Rolls in at Lunch
Fog rolls in at lunch.

Our Campsite in the Mountains
Camping at the lost coast.

Once back in the car, it was already past 4pm. Since it would be dark in just a few hours, we needed to find a campsite! Luckily, since we were on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) we were allowed to camp anywhere we desired. The BLM is a government agency which owns and protects public lands in the US, predominantly in the western parts of the country, similar to a National Forest, or a National Park but with much less rules and restrictions (or entrance fees). While driving in, we saw a really big and secluded place to pull of the dirt road, so we back tracked to that spot hoping nobody found it. Actually, while we were there, in the protected area of the lost coast, I saw a total of 3 people, 2 of which were hiking and camping out on the beach, so I didn't really think anybody would've taken our campsite. Anyways, we found it unoccupied, so we settled in, pitching our tent and cooking dinner. This was the view from our campsite:

Sunset Over the Lost Coast
View from our campsite.

We were perched on a mountainside overlooking the ocean. Of course, you can't actually see the water because it is covered in marshmallow fluff (fog). And oddly, as the night progressed, it seemed to be getting warmer and warmer outside. There was a warm breeze in the air. As the sun went down, we turned on the radio and scanned the channels, ultimately deciding on listening to KMUD redwood community radio, a local radio station based out of nearby Redway, California. It was reggae hour. Every commercial they played had something to do with marijuana, be it advertisement for a medical-marijuana friendly doctor's office, or for a hydroponics shop in the area. Even the radio DJ was high, but you wouldn't expect anything less out of a radio station broadcasting from Humboldt County, the place where the most marijuana is grown in the whole western half of the country!

Another Foggy Morning
A foggy morning over Humboldt County.

I honestly thought that a black bear was going to raid our campsite in the night. No such thing happened, but in the morning I heard a lot of rustling outside (probably some birds, only) so it woke me up. Of course, it was nothing. Sadly it was already Sunday, so time to start heading back south. We drove along the dirt roads through the lost coast protected area, until we hit Shelter Cove. Then we headed inland to Garberville. Garberville lies along hwy 101, so we got onto the highway and decided to stop by the "Legend of the Bigfoot" store. Who doesn't stop there? How can you not resist the wooden chain-saw carvings of wild animals, and of all things, Shrek characters?

It was a good thing we did stop, because the baja had a slow leak at the tire valve stem. Our tire was about half-flat. Luckily we had a spare, which we changed, and then went back to Garberville to find a tire shop which would replace the valve stem. No such luck, so we continued on to nearby Redway. We were extremely lucky to find Redwood Tow & Repair shop, who weren't really open, but the young guy employee left the garage door up, so we pulled in. He changed our valve stem for only $11 (which involves breaking the seal between the tire and the rim, and then resealing it) so it was all around a great deal. After that, we continued home, south. It got cloudier and cloudier, like some impending doom. The doom was probably that Monday was coming! :-)

Redwood Tow & Repair
Redwood Tow & Repair

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Mountain Biking in Joaquin Miller Park

Today we went mountain biking in Joaquin Miller Park (pronounced "wa-keen" not "joe-qwin"), which is a local Oakland park right up the hill from where we live. We took some pictures:

Here is a map of the park (click on it to see a larger version). We biked along Joaquin Miller Rd to Bishop's Walk, then along the Sinawik Trail, then to the Sunset Trail, then to the Sequoia-Bayview Trail, and finally to the horse arena. After that we left the park and biked back along Dunn Trail (which is in a neighboring park called Redwood Regional Park) back to Skyline Blvd and then home down Lincoln Ave.