High Mountain Doings

From 8200 feet along one side of the Upper Arkansas River Valley in central Colorado, my blog is about many things: travel including river and bicycle trips, and other experiences as well. The focus is on photography, not lots of text.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Wolf's Glen, Samiel, and Fearsome Magic

On my way down from the hills today, I continued with How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, a series of 48 lectures on audio CD with professor Robert Greenberg. It's a course from The Teaching Company.

In Der Freishutz, Karl Maria von Weber brings us exceptionally dark and fearsome music about the visit of Max to Wolf's Glen, a terrifying place. There, within a circle of stones, Max deals with Samiel--who is the devil in disguise. One of numerous stories about deals with the devil, this one involves the dramatic and fiery casting of seven bullets, six of which will hit their targets in a shooting contest but the seventh will go where Samiel directs. The initial result will be quite favorable, but then the devil will have his way! This is the usual ending of such "deal with the devil" stories. This one, about the happenings in Wolf's Glen, forms one of the most dramatic stories in all of opera. Der Freishutz brought forth a new direction in opera. This probably included The Witches Sabbath in Symphony Fantastique by Hector Berlioz. Importantly, it is said that Weber made Richard Wagner possible.

Photo Workshop Prep, and Reverse Blogging!

As you may know, what appears topmost in a blog is what you posted last. I'm not used to that yet! To read about preparation for our June 3 photo workshop in the hills SE of Buena Vista, scroll down and read back up.

Some Photos

Signpost Along the Way

More Photo Workshop Prep

This is a sequel to Adventure in the Hills (April 9), an exploration of the area where Pat Nolan and I will conduct a photo workshop on June 3, 2006. We'll rendezvous in Hartsel, drive south , and turn west. After exploring what I find to be a bizarre and lonely corner of South Park, we'll head into the hills. We'll drive along the very crest of the range in some places, crossing over south of Kaufman Ridge into the vicinity of Bassam Ridge and Bassam Park. We'll drive down a really nice canyon that includes a cozy little alcove, and then drive to a spectacular overlook of the Upper Arkansas Valley. We'll finally emerge onto Highway 24 between Trout Creek Pass and Buena Vista. Pat and I scouted the area this morning.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

watchful Brownie

Brownie keeps a close eye on Blake while he was here finishing my new house doors!

Doors are all in, and stained. The trim was painted to match the walls. I'll be much warmer when summer wanes and it's dark and frigid outside.

The new doors don't leak cold air all around, like the old ones did.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Almost Time!

I started getting my river raft ready to go. This includes getting the trailer ready to go, too.

The raft was off the trailer for a while. I'd taken it off real quickly one day in order to haul some wood down to Anrahyah's house project. Today, I put it back up onto the trailer with the help of Blake, who had come by to do some final work on my door project.

Used to be, I had a wider raft than I do now. So I'm about to saw three inches off each end of the cross members on my trailer. My Hyside 14' raft will ride fine, and the trailer will be a lot easier to back into the garage. I'll leave enough so that if I ever do need to haul a bigger raft, I'll be able to do it. Principle: You do what needs to be done but not more!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Chemistry Course?

I was talking with an acquaintance in Salida the other day. When I was teaching, what did I teach? Chemistry. "Ooooooooooh, ugh...all that math!" And many teachers do it wrongly, making their students memorize (usually at the expense of understanding) a lot of routine stuff. When I taught chemistry, the periodic table hung on test days right where it usually hung. If there was a problem involved, I gave the relevant atomic weights right on the test. But could I teach a course about the concepts of chemistry, without the various calculations?

An hour later I was in the Salida Burger King, outlining a possible chemistry course on a napkin. A course covering just the essential concepts, not getting into calculations involving gas laws, stoichiometry (how many grams of product would you get from xx grams of starting material?), and so forth. Perhaps the principles of quantum mechanics--the mathematics of which are from another world anyway. Can equilibrium be taught without equilibrium calculations? I think so. What makes something an acid? What does oxidation mean?

This is an interesting concept. Maybe I'll work it up and see if Colorado Mountain College is interested in such. It wouldn't be transfer credit, and I don't even feel like writing any tests!

An Education in Washington

Anrahyah and Charlie still have their middle school students in Washington, DC. What an amazing trip this is! I know what planning went into it, down to using Google Earth to figure out walking routes from one place to another. Air transportation, subway travel, ground travel, a boat to Mt. Vernon, and a temporary home in Largo, Maryland.

Education doesn't get any better than this! The students have homework packets that included a scavenger hunt for things in the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian! Some of the homework got done on the White House lawn.

A blog of this trip, with postings from both teachers and students, and many photos, is at http://crestonecharter.blogspot.com

The Nature of Things

Attended a workshop on nature writing on Saturday. It was actually a workshop applicable to any sort of writing, slanted in many ways toward the natural world.

First was the writing of short poems. Write what? I hadn't written a poem for about 45 years, and that one wasn't any good. I used to think a poem had to rhyme, and I'm particularly bad at that sort of thing. I was reminded that rhyming isn't strictly necessary, but I still didn't try it. Anyway, I wrote a few lines about a piece of fruit that Katie had put on the table. Mine was a green chili. What I wrote isn't good enough to put here, so I won't.

Then another, this time about something that had been impressive. In my case, it was how a cold fog had filled our valley a couple of mornings before, accompanied by light snow.

So now I'd written two poems, for an approximate average of one every twenty two years. This will probably do me for a while since real poems are written by the likes of Robert Frost, not by me. I feel strongly that if I can't write a good poem, then I won't write poems at all.

An exercise followed where we were led around outside with eyes closed, feeling the texture of things. Granite, wood, metal, dirt, plants, and a bell. Then an introduction to haiku, which was a little over the top for me, though I can see how some would get into it.

Then an exercise where we wrote a letter as to a friend, telling about a place we'd been, or where we imagined ourselves to be. I imagined the first couple of miles of a San Juan River trip. I always wonder about the people who were there long ago, who left petroglyphs on the walls. I know what the petroglyphs look like, but what was it like to be one of those people?

Thought has developed over the years from when nature was the enemy, and wild country was where the devil lived. Finally, there appeared John Muir, Edward Abbey, and Rachael Carson. I won't get into the backwardness of certain politicians who are in office today.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Two Good Days in One

Tuesday was a good day for me, and a good day for my friend Anrahyah, her co-teacher Charlie, and for their students.

Good for me because I picked up about 3000 copies of Arkansas River Guide from Vision Graphics, a printing company in Loveland, Colorado. Sold three dozen of them on the way home, and I'll be heading into Buena Vista soon to deliver more. Books will be on their way to distributors and to amazon.com. A thousand more copies will be shipped to me. Books are very heavy and I didn't want to overload my small truck!

Tuesday was a good day for Anrahyah because she and Charlie departed with their middle school students for their trip to Washington, DC. They left Crestone Tuesday evening, and right now they're probably in the air enroute to Baltimore. Tomorrow, Washington! This has involved lots of work and planning, and now it's underway. It will still be work, not a vacation. But it's happening. Their school blog is www.crestonecharter.blogspot.com

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Adventure in the Hills II

This is the southwestern corner of South Park. The road from the hills comes down to the strange little village of Badger Creek which seems to consist of old trailer houses and many defunct vehicles. I'd never gone over the hills into this part of South Park before, so this was new. It was rolling country, somewhat stark and yet beautiful in the afternoon light.

Being there felt like exploring exotic terrain on the other side of the world. Say, the wilds of Mongolia. But it was less than 30 miles from home. The area felt strangely isolated, as though I were in a world that did not include anything else. No Denver, Los Angeles, or New York City. Even nearby Buena Vista., Colorado, didn't seem to exist anymore.

The hills continued, though I'd expected flat country. South Park is generally a high, relatively level basin that's about 9000 feet high, surrounded by mountains. But this corner was a little different. The road out (Park County 53) was about 20 miles long and quite magical in the afternoon sun. My feeling of exploration did not go away.

I finally reached the pavement of Highway 9 about a mile southeast of Harsel. Ah, familiar territory once again. I drove over Trout Creek Pass and down to the car wash in Buena Vista. Then to the Mexican restaurant. I noted the contrast of these in comparison to what had just seemed so strange and wild.

Adventure in the Hills

Adventure in the Hills

What an adventure today, while scouting out locations for our early June photo workshop!

I drove east from Buena Vista as though going to Colorado Springs, and turned south on the road that goes to Aspen Ridge. I turned off that into Castle Creek Gulch.

Great exposures of exfoliated granite with aspen trees in front that are still leafless. There will be leaves there for our workshop, of course.

I didn't know where I'd end up today, but I merged onto a more major dirt road. After rechecking a familiar Arkansas Valley overlook, I backtracked and went toward South Park on that more major road (Road 187).

Friday, April 07, 2006

Workshop Plans

Plans for a local photography workshop started coming together today. I drove to Colorado Springs and met with my friend Pat. She's been doing photo workshops for a while now. In June, we'll do one together for part of a day in the hills just east of Buena Vista.

My job is to scout out the exact locations. There are some really nice places up there, but of course we need to have them nailed down exactly so that the actual event works precisely. The places I have in mind overlook the Upper Arkansas Valley (here in Colorado, of course).

We'll figure out our schedule of activity, and workshop dates, and then we'll go ahead and do it. Additional workshops will happen in various other places this summer near Buena Vista.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Very late this evening, I sat here at my computer studying proofs from the printer for Arkansas River Guide. I approved them all, so now the big presses can roll.

Used to be, the printer would send me a proof by overnight carrier. I'd approve it, sign it, and send it back. But this time, I elected to do it online. This was a new thing and I wanted to try it.

Took about an hour, because I had to approve each page individually. See? There's a real advantage in keeping things short and snappy!

I found it difficult to judge the "grind," or how much each page is offset away from the gutter, to make up for the gutter. That had caused a problem with my last river guide, but it looks like it'll be OK now. I'll find out soon enough, because they're gonna print it!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Face to Face

I was in my garage a few minutes ago, near the south window, when a group of twenty or thirty deer wandered by. On this third day of April, they were eagerly seeking whatever small green shoots had come up.

Pickings have been "slim to none" all winter. A few of the deer had fairly sleek coats but most were a bit on the ragged side. Some of them looked young, but not like fawns. Yearlings, maybe? I don't know.

I turned off the light inside the garage so they couldn't see me, and stood at the window watching. Some of the animals were about two feet away. All were within about fifty feet.

I wanted to go back to my house, but I didn't want to open the garage door and make the deer run. That would cause the expenditure of much energy, and I doubt the deer have much of that to spare this time of year. So I got a long close look at them. When they moved off, I opened the garage door and went back to my house.

It was an interesting, up-close look at survivors of a long winter.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

End of Winter?

You know winter isn't gonna last too much longer when you can go outside in your tee shirt to get firewood!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Prius Mileage

I've had my 2004 Toyota Prius since February, and it's averaged probably 42 mpg. Not quite what I expected, but still much better than any other automobile I'd ever owned.

An article in Scientific American , current issue, talked about hybrid cars. All autos will get better mileage in warmer weather, and less in the dead of winter. The point was made that hybrids are considerably more sensitive to temperature than other cars. The Prius is a "full" hybrid.

Well, that week it happened to warm up. It was mid-March and the Prius' mileage took a big jump! The car is now averaging very close to 50 mpg.

This is with temperatures in the forties, rather than the twenties. I'm waiting to see what happens when summer comes around.