Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Peel Tree A-Frame Cabin in Idaho


Mt. Borah in the Salmon-Challis National Forest in Idaho.

When we were camping in the Snake River Plain, the high snow covered mountains of Central Idaho to the north stood like a wall of awesomeness which we were dying to explore. A few roads go through the mountain ranges there, mostly following valleys or rivers. After we left Arco, ID, we followed the Big Lost River as it wound its way down the valley along Hwy 93. It is called the Big Lost River because as it exits the mountains, it actually disappears under the lava flows that covered the river’s pathway across the Snake River Plain long ago. Coming out of the mountains to the north, it gets absorbed or tunnels its way under the lava plain and emerges at Twin Falls, ID as a bunch of springs. As we started entering the mountain range, we were climbing higher and higher with huge snow covered mountains to either side of a small valley. Eventually we reached Borah Peak, which is the highest in Idaho at over 12,000ft. It is also close to the epicenter of an earthquake that struck in the 1980s which caused the valley floor to subside about 7-12ft. There was a national forest picnic area next to the fault where you could see the break in the ground and the 7 foot escarpment, which is basically the scar left by the sudden drop of the valley floor. It’s a deep crack, but it is filled by sediment so you can’t actually look down it or anything like that. The area has had no known recorded history of earthquakes, but geologists have seen evidence of past escarpments so they must have happened before. In fact, that fault that we picnicked next to was the reason that Mt Borah exists in the first place. Similar to Nevada, the crust of the Earth is being pulled apart there, so like a bunch of falling dominoes, the fault causes the valley floor to drop relative to the mountains, and the mountains to rise even higher.

Peel Tree A-Frame

Nicole splitting wood for our campfire at the Peel Tree A-Frame.

After having lunch, we continued up the road to the town of Challis, ID. What a nice town! It is in a valley surrounded by huge mountains on three sides. We stopped there for gas and some oil and bolts for the bajas at Napa Auto Parts. But what we were really excited about was that now we were only about 25 miles away from the Peel Tree A-frame cabin we rented from the Salmon-Challis National Forest for the next two nights. Idaho has a bunch of A-frames that are available to rent from the local ranger stations for really cheap. They have no running water or electricity. They are really off grid in the middle of the woods halfway up a mountain side and usually require a high clearance vehicle to get to because of the dirt forest roads that you have to drive down to get to them. Some of them aren’t even accessible by a car; only by foot, horse, snowmobile, or ATV. We were lucky that this one was down a dirt road that was well maintained. We turned off of Hwy 93 onto one of the only bridges that crosses the Salmon River in that area, onto Iron Creek Rd. Then we started climbing crazy switchbacks up into the mountains and into a pine forest. After about 6 miles or so of driving up the back roads, we found the A-frame cabin. We were so excited to be there! For me, there is just something really cool about living in a cabin in the middle of the mountains in a pine forest with nothing but wilderness surrounding you. We quickly settled in and explored the small cabin. There was an upstairs loft which had 4 mattresses on the floor where we were to sleep at night. You had to climb up to the loft on a ladder and enter through a hole in the ceiling. The downstairs room had two more beds and a wood burning stove for heat, and a table. There was also a huge ax for splitting wood outside. The outside of the cabin was all roof. There was also a picnic table outside next to a fire pit. That evening we had a fire outside and ate some cheese and broccoli soup. Then we moved the fire inside into the wood burning stove to heat up the inside of the cabin at night. The loft was all dark upstairs and I was kind of scared to go up there first when we got tired enough to go to sleep. Some people left huge thick candles in the cabin, so we lit them and had light in the loft. Then we blew them out when we went to sleep.

Peel Tree A-Frame

The Peel Tree A-Frame, enjoying a beer.

Peel Tree A-Frame

Two beds inside the A-Frame in the main room.

Peel Tree A-Frame

The two bajas parked outside of the cabin.

The next morning we had plans on exploring the mountains around us via the forest roads. So after having breakfast we hopped into the bajas and hit the dirt roads. We saw on the map one road wound up a mountain and at the top was Sheephorn Fire Lookout Tower. It was an old tower that was used to look out for wild fires but now is rented out to the public to spend a few nights in, like the A-frame cabin. The road was pretty steep and we had to climb in 1st gear but we finally made it up to the tower which was at almost 9,000 ft. But Nicole and Marcel we lagging behind and we lost them from our view. Romy and I climbed the tower (nobody was there) but we still didn’t see N&M. The surrounding mountains were really high still covered in snow. They surrounded us 360 degrees!

Salmon-Challis NF

Driving along the national forest road to see the fire lookout tower.

Sheephorn Lookout

Sheephorn Lookout Tower at 8,159 feet.

Salmon-Challis NF

Nicole and Marcel are splashing around in the mud!

Finally we saw N&M walking up the dirt road to the tower. When they got to the tower they told us that their baja just wouldn’t go into gear anymore. It wouldn’t drive forward! So after taking in the views on the top of the mountain at the look out, we walked down to see what the problem might be. Up high on the side of the mountain, we tried putting their baja into gear, which it was able to do, but it seemed as if the engine was not connected to the transmission anymore. Luckily we were at the highest point of the drive, which meant they could basically roll the whole way down. Well, mostly the whole way down. Unfortunately there were patches of the road that went up! Good thing we had a tow strap. The plan was to get the two bajas back to the cabin, which was by now 10 miles or so away.

Salmon-Challis NF

Hooking up N&M's baja to our rear bumper with a tow strap to tow them back to the cabin.

We started the slow journey back to the cabin, our fun exploring time cut prematurely short with a breakdown! We figured it was an issue with the pressure plate, related to the clutch. Romy also suspected it might be a broken CV joint but the boot looked just fine. So N&M started rolling down the mountain and when there were stretches of uphill or long patches where the road was pretty level, we connected N&M’s baja to our rear bumper via the tow strap and pulled them along. Our carb was still screwed up so we didn’t have as much power as we normally would have, plus we were at elevation, so we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to tow them, however, Romy switched transmissions to a bus trans just before we left Cali, which has better gearing. It turned out that the way it was geared was also good for towing so we were able to pull them all the way back to the cabin without very much issue.

Peel Tree A-Frame

Romy and Marcel working on dropping the engine in N&M's baja to investigate the cluth and pressure plate.

When we made it back to the cabin, we decided to drop the engine to get a look at the clutch and pressure plate. We figured that was most likely the problem, not the transmission since it was still shifting fine. So after jacking up the baja and letting it sit up high on two fat stumps of a tree (hey you gotta improvise for jack stands somehow) we got the engine off and on the ground. And guess what – the clutch and pressure plate were looking completely normal. Nothing was broken. We were pretty happy with that but it still had us wondering what the heck was wrong!? We had the back tires off for ease when we dropped the engine which made the axles and CV joints in plain view. The next possibility was to check them to see if they were broken somehow. So we spun the wheels and to our shock, the axle spun but the CV joint and boot didn’t on the transmission end! OMG their CV joint or axle busted! I was actually really excited because I didn’t know what a broken CV joint would look like. I think CV joints are the coolest part of a car because of how they can turn and rotate at the same time with such high speeds. If it broke, it must be a huge explosion, but the boot looked clean and normal. So we unbolted the CV joint, and looked inside. To our amazement, it was completely normal and NOT broken. But we noticed that it could turn while it was connected to the axle and that it backed itself out. And that the circlip was missing. Well, we found the circlip sticking to the transmission hidden under a gob of grease, so it must of fallen off and allowed the CV joint to back off the axle. Then the splines of the axle that hold the CV joint in place sheared and it started rotating, which basically disconnected the rotation of the transmission to the wheels. Since the transmission will preferentially spin the wheel with least resistance, it was spinning the one with the sheared splines and the baja would not move forward. Amazingly, the CV joint backed out almost the entire amount it could of, so little of the splines on the axle were damaged. In fact, all we did was take a metal file and filed the splines back. Then it was as ‘simple’ as putting the CV joint back together and hammering it back onto the axle and putting the circlip back on. We sure hoped that the problem was now fixed and that it wouldn’t back out again for some reason. But of course, we still had to put the engine back in . . . which took forever for some reason! Long story short, we were able to put the car back together and the problem was no more!!!

Salmon-Challis NF

The road back to the highway from where we stayed in the cabin.

So our cabin stay was excellent. Great views, quiet, adventurous, and it had a happy ending. When we drove out of there the next morning, both under our own power, I was really sad to leave. I want to build my own A-frame one day. They have very simple designs (the engineer in me made sure to draw up blueprints of the cabin before we left). Next we were headed into Montana to check out Big Hole National Battlefield.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Walking on the Moon in the Snake River Plain

Craters of the Moon
Driving to Craters of the Moon in the Snake River Plain.

After leaving Utah, we headed into Southern Idaho into the Snake River Plain. It was a very stark contrast coming out of the mountains in Utah and driving out into the flat expanse of the plain. We saw scrub brush everywhere and dry junipers growing out of the cracks of the basalt covered ground. The Snake River Plain is part of a long and large scar that ripped across southern Idaho. The mountains there were basically blasted flat by ancient volcanic activity which left huge calderas in its path and covered the plain in lava flows. The hot spot responsible for this is now located underneath Yellowstone, where you can see the modern volcanic and thermal activity. That is where the most modern caldera is located now, and it may erupt any time now again! To the north and south of the Snake River Plain are huge mountains, and in one spot of the plain, near Arco ID, is Craters of the Moon National Monument. There, the plain is actually being pulled apart, creating a rift where magma has been pouring out episodically. The last lava flow happened about 2,000 years ago, and the strange moon like landscape is protected by the National Monument.

Craters of the Moon

Volcanic cinder cones and lava fields at Craters of the Moon

It was pretty hot when we arrived around 2pm or so. The black surface made it feel even hotter. At the visitor center, we learned that there was a cave walk with a ranger at 4pm, so we drove around the park until it was time to join the ranger for the walk. There were a few other people with us, but we were a pretty small group. The walk started at the cave area parking lot, which was at the edge of a huge expanse of the youngest lava flow. All you can see to the horizon was black rolling and buckled lava, with a few wildflowers poking out here and there. A small strip of asphalt paved over the sharp pahoihoi and a'a' lava flows was the trail that took you out to the three lava tube caves. There were probably a lot more caves out there, but only three of them were open to visitors who wanted to explore them with a flashlight. It was close to 100 degrees out of the lava field, but when you went down into the caves, it cooled off a lot. In fact two of the caves, Boy Scout Cave and Beauty Cave, had permanent ice on the walls and floor. The Shoshone Indians used to use these caves as meat lockers and food storage. It was completely pitch dark in there, so we had to go in with our flashlights and be really careful where we stepped. Not only were there sharp pieces of lava rock everywhere, but there were slippery ice patches! We couldn't of been more than 15 feet under the surface, but it was freezing cold! Even though we were in t-shirts and shorts, we stayed in the cave for a while to cool off. It was fun!

Craters of the Moon

The paved trail over the lava field to the ice caves.

Craters of the Moon

Ice on the wall inside Boy Scout Cave.

Craters of the Moon

Marcel climbing out of Indian Cave.

We spent a lot of time exploring the caves and walking in the lava field, but we soon had to go. The day before, we ordered a new carburetor for our baja and shipped it to the KOA in Arco, ID, which was very close to Craters of the Moon. We were expecting the the package the next morning, so we decided to camp at the KOA. When we got there, they were completely full, but they had a spot in a field next to a farm with horses. They didn't charge us much, so we were pretty happy. We spent the evening relaxing with some beers. The next morning we were really anxious for the package, which was coming via FedEx Ground. When we saw the FedEx truck pull into the KOA, we almost hijacked it. Then we grabbed the package and ran back to our campsite to open it. To our suprise and major disappointment, the auto parts store (Bow Wow Auto Parts in Boise ID) sent THE WRONG CARB! We had to laugh at how retarded the situation was. So we ended up going to the post office to send them back the carburetor and ordered another one from the Buggy House in Cali. We knew the guys in the shop, so we trusted that they would actually send the correct one this time. But we had to move on out of Arco and into the mountains, so we had the next package sent to the KOA in Dillon, MT, to be picked up in two or three days. Now we were on our way to central Idaho, to an A-Frame cabin in the Salmon-Challis National Forest!

Craters of the Moon

At the KOA in Arco, ID, waiting for the carb to arrive. You can see the Big Southern Butte in the background, which is in the middle of an ancient caldera on the Snake River Plain.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Limber Flag Yurt

The place where we decided to meet Nicole and Marcel was in northeastern Utah in the Ashley National Forest in the Uinta mountains. We were driving our baja from Oakland, CA and they were driving their baja from Chicago. We met roughly in the middle at the Limber Flag Yurt, which is a 20 ft diameter yurt that is rented out by the ranger station of the national forest. There are two more in the area also. We were driving all day to get there. The morning was filled with driving through the basins and ranges of central Nevada, and the afternoon and evening we drove through central Utah, finally getting into the northeast corner by 11pm or so. In Vernal, UT, which is the closest town to where the yurt is, we called Nicole and Marcel and told them we would be there soon.

The Limber Flag Yurt

The Limber Flag Yurt, available to rent from the Ashley National Forest.

Then we headed up a bunch of switchbacks out of Vernal on Hwy 191, climbing to 9,000ft into the Ashley National Forest. In the dark, we drove down some dirt roads, until finally we got to one section of forest road 254 that was just too steep for us. The carburetor was starting to get bad, and we didn't have the full power we normally have in the baja. So we couldn't make it up and we were a mile short of the yurt! But Nicole and Marcel also couldn't make it all the way up either, and in the dark, we saw their baja parked off the road in a grassy field on the mountainside. We had no other choice but to pack our hiking backpacks with what we needed for the night and start hiking up the mountain. It was midnight, but a bright moon again lit our way. We told N&M that if they didn't see us at the yurt by midnight, then they should come look for us. Half a mile or so up the trail, we saw flashlights and heard voices. It was N&M on their way - search and rescue! Nothing like hiking up a mountain at midnight and be greeted by family. So we finally made it to the yurt at about 1am, and we were ready to go to sleep!

Dashwood in the Uintas

Driving behind N&M's baja at 9,000ft in the Uinta mountains.

The next morning, we woke up to an awesome view of the mountain range we were in, and a nice forested mountainside with pine trees and birch trees. There were wildflowers everywhere! But we didn't hike up last night with anything but the bare essentials: sleeping bag, water, and warm cloths. So all of our food was down by the car. After having coffee we hiked back down to the cars. Then we worked on them for a good few hours, fixing this and that, trying to see why the carb was suddenly not wanting to cooperate. Romy determined that the throttle shaft had too much play and didn't seal, so air was constantly leaking into the fuel system. The car wouldn't idle at all, and every time we let off the gas suddenly, the engine would backfire a lot! But we could still drive. After fiddling with it for a few hours, we decided to drive down into Vernal to see the famous petroglyphs.

Fixing the Bugs in the NF

Fixing up the bajas down the mountainside from the yurt.

Petroglyphs near Vernal

The petroglyphs near Vernal, UT.

The petroglyphs were on private property, along a sandstone cliff wall that was eroded by a river that flowed right near Vernal. The ranchers who owned the cliffs made a little parking area and trail so that the public could see the petroglyphs. And it was free, and nice that nobody tried to profit off of it. We went far along the cliffs, and saw a lot of glyphs which represented head hunters or something. Lots of drawings of men in costume and necklaces holding small heads in both hands. Weird!

Entering Ahsley NF

Stopping on the side of Hwy 191 to let N&M's baja cool down, after going up so many switchbacks. 8% grade!

Then we went back to the yurt when the sun was going down. We drove up and up and up, until we got to the turn off on Hwy 191 that took us off road to the yurt. Nicole wanted to drive her baja off road, and I went with her in the passenger seat. At first she was driving like a grandma, but then she finally picked up some speed. She just pressed down the gas and with all the speed, we made it higher up the steep part of the road then they had the night before. Nicole thought that they would have enough power to make it up the steep road all the way to the yurt if they unloaded the car a little and picked up speed and never let off the gas. So we tried it. We packed all of the unnecessary stuff into our baja, and drove N&M's baja down the hill to get a good running start. We instructed Marcel to just step on the gas and never let off until he was at the yurt. Thats one mile uphill, over dirt and rocks and uneven terrain. I started walking up to the yurt about 15 minutes before he started the drive, and when I was almost up, I just heard the baja engine in high revs and saw a little blue bug ripping up the road with a huge cloud of dust behind it! It was Marcel going crazy up the mountain! He made it all the way. The best part was, we didn't have to carry anything up the road anymore!


We made it up to the yurt with N&M's baja and now we're celebrating with a bottle of wine!

We spent the second night at the yurt with a nice big campfire outside (and one inside later in the wood burning stove) and we opened up a bottle of wine that N&M bought over a year and a half ago in Sonoma Valley, CA. They were saving it for the first trip they would take in their baja long distance. We had a ton of fun that night, and cooked brats over the open fire.

The next morning it was time to leave! The time flew by too fast up at the yurt! Before we left though, we wanted to check out how the yurt was built. Romy was examining the roof flap to see how the roof was attached and when he peeled back the vinyl, he disrupted a sleeping bat! It squeeked and after we all took a look, we left it alone. Then it was time to head out.

A Bat!
Discovering that there was a bat under the yurt's roof!

The Limber Flag Yurt

Relaxing on the yurt's front porch!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Night Shots

The first night of our road trip to meet Nicole and Marcel in Utah, we had a bright moon shining over us as we drove east over the Sierra Nevada mountains. Hwy 120 through Yosemite was just opened about one week before, so we took the opportunity to drive it. Unfortunately we got to the mountains when it was already getting dark, but the moon was so bright, we saw everything anyways! It was so light out, that we were able to take pictures at night! When we got to Tenaya Lake, in Yosemite National Park, the water was calm and reflecting the tall mountain peaks around it because of the moonlight. We stopped to take some long exposure night shots. Then when we got to the other side of the Sierra Nevada range, near Lee Vining, we stopped and took more pictures on the lonely stretch of Hwy 6 going to Benton, CA. I was soooo excited because we were actually able to capture the stars in the sky in some of the pictures!!! Here they are:

Tenaya Lake Under Moonlight
I tried to stay still while the shutter stayed open for long exposure shot.

Tenaya Lake Under Moonlight
Tenaya Lake under moonlight.

Tenaya Lake Under Moonlight
Reflection on the lake with stars in the sky!

Sierra Nevadas Under Moonlight
The Sierra Nevadas and stars in the sky! The lights are cars on Hwy 395.

Baja Under Moonlight
The baja on Hwy 6.

Hwy 6 Under Moonlight
Yellow on Hwy 6. Power lines in the dark.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Woody's Hot Spring

It seems that the weirdest people go to hot springs (and I guess Romy and I are included in that bunch). Now, let me tell you about just one example. After hanging out for the weekend at the Trainspotting II VW Campout in the Hallsted National Forest Campground, we headed over to Woody's Hot Spring which is just two miles down the road from the campground. After parking right off the road, we were eager to go check it out. The springs are privately owned, but the owners allow public use with a reasonable $2.50 donation per person.

trainspotting vw campout 110
The rules posted at Woody's.

An iron ranger collects the $2.50 at the wooden gate, and its a short walk down an overgrown trail and over a small bridge to the riverbank where the hot springs are piped into cemented rock pools. There is a larger pool which has crystal clear water, slightly above 100 degrees. Then there is a smaller pool which can fit two people in it and the water is a bit milky. We were joined by one larger guy, who was sun bathing when we got there, and a couple from Colorado who were on their way out when we arrived.

trainspotting vw campout 111
The gate to the hot springs, where the yellow iron ranger collects donations.

Now this is really where the story begins about the weird people you often meet at hot springs. We noticed that the rules posted up near the gate looked very freshly painted, and they actually were. Supposedly, at Woody's it was always clothing optional, but recently the owners started posting rules because there was some trouble recently. Now it is clothing optional only after dark. This type of restriction usually comes as bad news for regular hot springers, who love to go naked, so what we saw next was not really so surprising but it still, nevertheless, was a little strange! The man sunbathing was still technically following the rules, but just barely! He had on a black mesh string bikini bottom for men. It was literally a string that went up his butt crack, and then a mesh (very see-thru) support for his private parts. It didn't strike me at first, but then I thought, where in the world did he buy that? Did he make it himself?

trainspotting vw campout 103
The tub at Woody's Hot Spring.

Anyways, after getting over it, we started having a conversation with him. He was local, so it was really interesting to hear what he knew about the hot spring. He told us that each tub has a different source. That's why one tub is clear and the other tub has milky waters. The milky color comes from the high calcium content (who knows if that's true but its seems plausible). The sources were actually higher up the hillside and on the other side of the road. He knew a guy who could tell what mineral and metal content was in each hot spring by the way the water tasted!

Woody's Hot Spring
Romy in the high calcium tub.

Another piece of information he told us was that the tub we were sitting in was actually an old septic tank! Wow! I guess it was really cleaned out well, I hope anyways. He also told me about the numerous times that the previous tubs which were there were washed out when the river got high. So I guess that's why there is now an old septic tank there.

Woody's Hot Spring
Me in the hot spring tub at Woody's.

Well, apart from the choice of swimsuit the man had on, he was really nice and not that weird, I guess. Romy thought he was gay at first, but I never got any vibes that he was gay. He just seemed very determined to be naked yet still follow the rules that were posted! It made the trip to Woody's unforgettable! And no. . . we didn't take a picture!

This was also our first time that we went to a hot spring when it was warm outside. It was about 75 degrees and sunny, so we couldn't sit in the hot water for too long without getting warm. But luckily the river was ice cold, its source being snowmelt from the mountains. When we got too warm, we just jumped in the river, which cooled us off really fast. Then it felt nice to get back into the hot water. We saw a family of Canada Geese swim up the river and we watched them from the pools. There were baby geese and a couple of adult ones. They stayed near the shore and were pecking in the high grasses, looking for food.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Trainspotting II VW Campout

It was Melissa's turn to host a camp out this weekend, the long awaited, much anticipated, Trainspotting II event at the Hallsted Campground in the Plumas National Forest near Quincy, CA! When she mentioned hot springs, of course, I could not pass it up! Even though on Friday night, after traveling the whole day on three flights back from Maine, and getting home at about midnight, the next morning Romy and I got out of bed (reluctantly though) and started packing the bus. Sleeping bags? Pillows? Lantern and lamp oil? Tools? Wine? Cheese? Towels? Swimsuit? Check! We rolled out of Oakland in the bus about 11am and headed towards the mountains. Not even a howling headwind (which curiously changed directions so that it was always blowing against the general way we were driving) could stop us!

Trainspotting II
Our shared campsite with John.

The wind did a good job of blowing any smog or otherwise hazy shit from the air and we were able to see the snow covered peaks of the Sierra Nevadas as we bust out of the Bay Area. Its not everyday that you can see the mountains across the valley like that! Slowly, we crossed the flat expanse of the delta, getting to Sacramento, and then finally made it to Marysville, and then Oroville. Next we were starting to climb up the foothills and quickly found the railroad tracks which ran along the deep canyons. And guess what! We spotted our first train of the weekend! Eventually we entered the Plumas National Forest, and saw the sign for the Hallsted Campground (but not in time to slow down - we totally passed it and had to turn around). When we got there, there was already a gathering of VW folks, and we did our rounds, found our spot which we shared with John, and went out to join the fun.

Trainspotting II
A pot luck dinner around the fire on Saturday evening at Trainspotting.

That evening, there was a potluck dinner. We didn't bring any food for dinner, but instead brought an assortment of cheese and crackers with salami and prunes as an appetizer. Romy and I were still pretty exhausted though, so soon after dinner, we got tired and ended up retiring for the night in the bus. It has been a while since we took the bus on a camping trip because we were trying to get it tuned and fix an exhaust leak. But we figured, tuned or not, we should take it on a trip instead of just letting it sit on the driveway! Plus the baja had it's transmission and engine pulled out, its contents currently laying all over the garage floor!

Propane Stove
Our propane stove in the bus.

The next morning, we tried out our new propane stove, made for the Riviera interior. Romy found it online. We boiled water for our coffee on the stove top. It worked very well and was convenient. Much easier than using the camp stove. No pumping required, just a quick attachment to the hose coming out of the propane tank that's mounted under the bus.

Trainspotting II
The stove sits on top of the jumper seat behind the passenger front seat.

Well, after having a relaxed coffee time with the group and a small breakfast of greek yogurt and granola, we headed out to find Woody's Hot Spring, a natural hot spring that is right on the Feather River and was just two miles down the road from the campground... to be continued!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Conference in Maine

I spent the last week in a Gordon Conference on Natural Gas Hydrates in Maine. It took place on the Colby College campus, which is a small liberal arts college near Waterville. The campus was nice, and the food served at the dining hall was good. The dorms were so-so, but not bad.
I met a lot of people and learned a lot of new things related to my research. I also presented what I've been working on recently, and many people were excited about my results. All in all, I had a great time. Some of the activities that I got a chance to participate in while we weren't in lectures or listening to presentations were kayaking and taking a long walk into town to check out a farmer's market. I also relaxed next to a small pond/lake on campus and watched the clouds roll by. I saw a sun dog twice (a rainbow in the clouds)! Once from the campus, and once from the plane in the sky when I was heading home. On the last day of the conference, we all had a lobster dinner, where we were each served a 1.5 lb lobster. Mmmmmm. Here are some pictures:

Kayaking at Camp Tracy YMCA camp.

Jenn 6.10.2010
Me at the farmer's market in town (Waterville, ME).

Lobster Dinner
The lobster dinner. Yummy!

Sun Dog
You can't see it very well, but this is a picture of the sun dog I saw before I landed in Houston.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

To the Airport!

Today I was dropped off at the airport to fly to Maine for the Gordon Conference. I have an overnight flight to Boston, and then I take a bus into Maine. But we had some time to spare after dinner, and since it was nice outside, we stopped in Pacifica before going to SFO. We just caught the sun as it set over the ocean. We found a nice parking area on the top of the cliffs. Here are some pictures:

The beach at Pacifica.

At the Ocean
Romy and I on the cliffs before I headed to the airport.

Pacifica Sunset

Thursday, June 03, 2010

No Lions, No Tigers, But Bears, oh my!

On a recent trip to Yosemite, we were so fortunate to see some actual bears in the park. What was so interesting is that they seemed almost oblivious that there were a bunch of people all around them taking photos or trying to creep up closer in a way that the people surely thought was stealthy. Ha! Well, we were one of those people, I guess, and I just wanted to share some of the pictures we took of our encounters with the bear kind.

Romy spotted this bear walking back from the Mariposa Grove.

Instead of running away, it actually started strolling towards him.

Then the bear proceeded to walk right in front of him! This picture was not taken with a zoom lens! The bear is really that close!

Then it crossed the paved road, literally 15 feet in front of Romy.

There it goes, off into the woods. Even though this bear looks light brown, it is actually an American Black Bear.