Sunday, February 24, 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy

Joan and I have completed 5 weeks of volunteering here at Echo Bay and so far it's been everything we could have hoped for. The upper campground where we are located is quiet and comfortable; the temps have ranged from mid to high 30's overnight to low 70's when the heat wave passes over. Some mornings we've woken up to see snow on the mountain tops across Lake Mead.

Usually we start our workday in long sleeves, but are quickly down to short sleeves. Lots of blue sky and the occasional windy day or evening. Our 32 hour work commitment passes quickly each week and the work keeps us active. For the last 2 weekends we've had 35 - 40 college seniors and graduate geology students from Flagstaff tent camping in the campsites adjacent to ours. They are learning how to map and document the various layers of strata in the desert. They even had a test while they were out in the field last Saturday. We are working on a project for our boss Tim. Over the last few years use at the upper campground has been very low; most campers preferring to use the lower campground nearer the lake. As a result of the lower usage, a couple of the loops have been unused and have become overgrown. The 2nd weekend in March we have a group of 30-40 'star gazers' coming out and they have asked to use the 4th loop because of its remoteness and 'screening' from other light sources in and around Echo Bay. They will be setting up portable telescopes and we might expect to see as many as 200-300 visitors stopping by to see the stars. Joan and I took on the project to clean out and prepare about 30 campsites for this group. It's turning out to be quite a job!

We took a quick drive up towards Zion National Park one afternoon. We're intending to spend a couple days here before we head to Colorado, but the weather forecast for this week was for snow with temps in the teens, so we decided to just take a quick ride instead. On the southwest side of the park is the small community of Virgin. We decided to turn here and drive up Kolob Reservoir Road rather than go into the park. It was a great decision.

This road travels 18 miles and rises 3000' in elevation along the way. A few houses and small ranches, but most of it is open range, with the road dipping in and out of National Park land along the way. We could see the peaks in Zion and the vistas were fantastic.

Along the way we saw 2 small herd of deer....had to wait for some of them to cross the road before we could proceed. As we got further in and started climbing we had to turn back due to roads begin closed because of winter snow still on the roads.

We've had several visitors over the last few weeks. Joan's cousin Theresa and her husband Brian called. They were riding their motorcycle and wanted to stop by. We hopped on our bikes, rode out about 15 miles to meet them and led them back to Echo Bay. We spent the afternoon talking and planning a jeep ride. Brian has a bodacious jeep he's transformed into a rock crawler that he's promised to take us out on. A couple days later we got a call from Jim and Sandy inviting us to dinner with them and our old bosses from Mt Hood Mel and Terri. We met them at Arizona Charlies and thoroughly enjoyed visiting with old friends for the evening. A couple days later Jim and Sandy came out and we took them through Valley of Fire and on a short hike through Anniversary Narrows. And last weekend Joan's girlfriend Terri flew into Vegas from Seattle for a quick vacation. We drove into town and went out for a steak dinner.

One of the NPS employees Bill called and invited us out for a hike. On Tuesday we loaded up and headed out to hike Cleopatra Wash. We took the jeep off-road about 3 miles to the edge of the wilderness area and then hiked down the wash for about 2 miles. We had to stop about 3/4 of the way down the wash when we came to a 8' flow over that we could not get around. Several large boulders had wedged themselves in a narrow portion of the wash requiring hikers to rock climb a risky rocky slope or climb over the rock barricade using rope (which we didn't have as we were hiking not mountaineering). On the way out we cleaned up about a mile of the off-road trail picking up beer cans, broken glass, shotgun shells and even an 8' piece of carpet. The desert is so pretty this time of year and it's really disappointing knowing that there are so many off-roaders unwilling to 'protect' those desert views by picking up after themselves.

We are having a great time hiking and off-roading; and we're seeing lots of wildlife. Besides the eagles and big horn sheep we've also seen wild burros and horses at different times.

Stay Tuned. More to Come

Thursday, February 7, 2013

When You Assume You Make An Ass Out of Me and ……..Well, Just Me This Time

Another week of volunteering and we are very happy with our decision to work here at Echo Bay. Joan and I enjoy being outside and the weather here has been fantastic. The overnight temps are usually in the 40’s or high 30’s; but we can go outside with just a flannel shirt or light jacket to start our job. And once we've been pruning and raking for a while we’re usually shedding the long sleeves for a t-shirt. And with both of us working it doesn't take long for us to make our 32 hour commitment. As a result we usually take a couple of extra days off during the week to hike or off-road.

Friday our boss asked us to help with ‘signing’ the marina. Echo Bay has a large marina with docks and storage for hundreds of boats. The current concessionaires’ contract has expired and unfortunately no one bid to renew the contract. The marina was constructed 30 years ago utilizing some materials that have since been determined to be detrimental to the lake. Those materials must be removed from the lake within the next 2-3 years and the new concessionaire would be responsible to complete that work. Our job on Friday was to post ‘No Trespassing’ signs throughout the docks. The NPS will probably be responsible to remove the docks in the near future. Hopefully in 4-5 years a new bid will post to rebuild the marina. In the meantime the lake ramps are still open and we are seeing many boaters coming in every day.

Saturday we went back into Valley of Fire and spent a couple of hours hiking in and around Mouse Tank. Mouse Tank was named after the legend of an alleged outlaw Indian named "Little Mouse” that hid out here in the 1890's. There are natural depressions in the rocks that hold water for long periods of time after a rainfall; because of the mild climate and shading rocks the water may last for months. This area is also known for the many petroglyphs that can be found on the canyon walls.

We worked the next 3 days and decided to take a day off to combine a little 4-wheeling with a hike. Our destination was The Narrows. We drove down to mile marker 16 and turned off-road onto Callville Wash North. A short while later we turned onto 94A and headed towards Anniversary Mine. Along the way we passed several abandoned/closed mine shafts. After exploring the area in the jeep for an hour or so we drove to the edge of ‘Wilderness’ area, beyond which no motorized vehicles are allowed.

We donned our backpacks and started through The Narrows. Absolutely gorgeous. Pictures don’t do it justice. They can’t give you a proper scale. Make sure you check out Joan's Facebook page for lots of these pics!

The path through the Narrows is probably 400-500 yards long before opening into a large wash. We stopped at the end of the Narrows and had lunch before heading back towards the jeep.

On Thursday I decided to tackle a problem that I've been working on since we decided to go full-time almost 2 years ago. Our RV is wired for cable and satellite TV. I've been working with Dish Network regarding some problems we've experienced with our DVR and finally got to speak with a tech (Krystal) that was able to help me understand many of the peculiarities with my specific setup. I have a WineGard automatic antennae and have been unable to fully utilize it because I didn't have 2 cables between the antennae and Dish receiver. I've never been able to utilize the satellite connection in the RV because I couldn't find a signal when I connected to the satellite connection at the rear of the RV; rather I've had to use the single cable TV connection and manually switch the cable back and forth between the Dish receiver and/or TV depending on where we were staying and whether we had access to cable service. Over the last 2 years I've spent numerous hours pulling out drawers, looking under and around sinks, cabinets & basements and communicating with Monaco to determine how the cables were prewired and where I might find connection points or splices. I decided today would be the day I would either find the information I needed to correct the wiring or run new cables from the rear of the RV into the living room slide where the Dish receiver is located. I spent about 3 hours retracing cable runs, clearing out the basement, up on the roof, even pulling off some of the fixed side panels of the RV to identify where the cables were run. Guess what I found out……..NOTHING NEW! I still had 6 cables coming out of the wall behind the TV. What? 6? Why do I have 6? 1-roof antennae; 2-rear TV; 3-exterior TV(we don’t have one, it’s just prewired into the basement); 4-rear cable TV connection; 5-prewire for roof mount antennae; 6-rear satellite connection. That means there’s no splice between the rear satellite connection/roof satellite connection/main TV cabinet! But that also means my original ASSUMPTION about the cabling was wrong. Let’s look where each cable is connected. Okay, yeah that one is good…..two is good….3 OK…..4 fine…..wait a minute……what the &#%^ is the Auxiliary? I don’t have an auxiliary so why is one of the cables connected to it? Could this be the elusive satellite cable? A dash out back; a quick switch between connections…..and……..YES! I swear I heard a chorus of angels singing….the ‘auxiliary’ cable is actually the satellite cable! I finally have access to the satellite cable and can use it as the 2nd cable needed for my antennae! And it only took me about 50 hours! I ASSUMED all the cables were correctly connected when we bought the RV. What should have been a 10 minute job kept me guessing for 2 years. Never ASSUME! You know what happens! 2 hours later I had the RV put back together. Joan and I can now watch different programs at the same time as well as recording something while we watch something else!

Shout out to the Ritten Clan! February seems to be Birthday Month. Happy Birthday to 4 of the 7 kids:
Michael, David, Joan & Paul

And a belated (sorry kiddo) January HB to my sis Vickie!

Stay Tuned. More to Come.