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.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Old Monarch Pass

Pictured above is the summit of Old Monarch Pass. This was the route of Highway 50 until 1921. The highway now crosses the continental divide maybe a mile south of here. The old road is now a cross country ski route, also traveled by snowmobiles. In the summer, you can drive over, and go down the Gunnison side of the mountains.

See this site for the history of Highway 50.

Today I drove to the Monarch Ski and Snowboard area, visited with my friend Anrahyah (who kindly offered me part of her lunch!), and then went cross country skiing on the Old Monarch Pass road which is just uphill from the entrance to the ski area. I think it was about 1:30 pm.

The snow was in great condition, high enough that it wasn't melting on this relatively warm day. The summit of the pass is a bit over 11,300 feet. Coming down was kick and glide most of the way.

At the bottom, a man asked me general questions about skiing the area, and then looked to be putting on his skis. A lady who had started just ahead of me was still on the mountain somewhere.

After a slice of pizza and a drink (at ski area prices), I drove down the mountain and home.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Solar Heat!

Anrahyah left a phone message this evening...her soon-to-be finished house was now "toasty warm" inside! The creator of her solar heating system had turned it on a couple of days earlier.

So it works! This was an exciting occasion for us both.

There had been one cloudy day and one sunny day with the system on. I do not know what part the propane backup system played in getting the rather large volume of water up to temperature, but it must have had a part. From now on, solar energy should be doing the trick most of the time.

But however the water got warmed, heat is radiating out through the basement floor, and through the adobe mass of the warm walls inside.

Simply stated, Anrahyah's solar system is a way of collecting solar energy in the eight solar panels that are mounted on her roof, and re-radiating that energy inside her house. A large tank stores warm water so that heating continues through the night, and on cloudy days. If there are several cloudy days, the aforementioned propane backup system will warm the water.

There will be much monitoring of the amazing system, but this is a milestone!



A neighbor of mine turned out to be in the snowmoving business. He came over this morning and did my driveway, and a bit around my garage. In the place pictured, I didn't realize how deep the snow was! It was very hardpacked, too. Now I've been in and out with my Prius, starting to save money to offset what this snow job cost.

I'm half-expecting our normal, temporary February warm-up. If it happens, the snow that was in my driveway until today will not be melting there, causing a muddy quagmire. If it snows again, which it certainly will, quick action with a shovel will cut down on the accumulation.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Snowy Winter

This is the look of my driveway this weekend, after I spent a long time shoveling it. The 4WD truck goes in and out rather easily, but I haven't wanted to try the Prius yet. It's not a snow car and if it gets stuck here, I can't go anywhere in either vehicle.

The wind was up today, so snow was drifting in as fast as I could shovel it. We haven't had a winter like this for about five years

Shoveling was great exercise today, but I'm thinking about finding somebody in the business of plowing driveways.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Lots of Driving With a Voluminous Load

I'd just expressed my willingness to drive anywhere if that were needed to pick up house materials for Anrahyah, whose house is nearing completion. Residing on my computer where I hadn't seen it yet was one from her asking if I'd drive over to Carbondale the next day and pick up a load of insulation!

So on Wednesday the 10th, I drove my Toyota Tacoma north toward Leadville, over Tennessee Pass, west on I-70 to Glenwood Springs, and then south to Carbondale. In summer, I would have gone over Independence Pass and through Aspen. But it sure ain't summer right now!

Carbondale appears to be a community of people who "get it." The Building for Health Materials Center is there, and was the nearest source for a type of insulation made at least in large part from ground-up Levis. It promises to be better than the more common fiberglass--which I just learned is illegal in Minnesota because its R-value actually goes down when the temperature goes lower than 25 degrees!

Above, the Building for Health store in Carbondale. Below, Cedar Rose, the proprietor. Their website, with lots of interesting products and books, is www.buildingforhealth.com

Packing six large bundles of insulation into my truck (with a shell) would be difficult. Four of them went rather easily into the back, and another--with enough maneuvering and pushing--finally went into my "extended cab" behind the seats. I don't have a four-door truck, but the model with a jump seat.

I tried to put the last one in the passenger seat, angled downward in front. It fit, but then I couldn't work the gearshift! Out it came again.

I went inside to tell Cedar I'd be over again, and she said I could tear open the package and stuff the strips wherever they fit. Aha! I didn't know I could do that without it falling all over the place. So I opened it, and started stuffing.

It worked. I only had use of my left mirror, so I had to drive home like I'd done a few years ago when I drove big trucks for a while. I stayed mostly in the right lane except where I knew a left turn would be coming up.

I drove home in bodily contact with the insulation, and I do not itch! I would not have allowed myself to be in such contact with fiberglass insulation. I like this a lot better, and it'll have a higher R-value. The latter will greatly reduce an imbalance between porch and main floor with Anrahyah's solar heating system. The rest of the house has sprayed-on insulation.

I continued on down to Anrahyah's this morning. The porch, still pink here, is the space in question. Note the solar panels on the roof. The house has several "warm walls" and tubing underneath the basement. Down there is a large warm water tank and a control center for the system, with a network of tubes and valves.

On the way home, I could use all my rear-view mirrors!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

More Good Snow!

This is as far as I went today--about 20 minutes up the Hancock road above St. Elmo, which is up Chalk Creek Canyon from where I live. The mountain in the background is the southern flank of Mt. Princeton. A maintained road comes up from the Upper Arkansas Valley.

The snow was excellent again this time. Several inches of new snow had fallen a couple of days earlier.

This rock, snow, and trees were very near the beginning of the Hancock road, where I happened to stop to tighten my boot laces.

Both photographs were corrected in the LAB color space, which allowed me to easily remove a reddish cast from the top photo, while leaving the bottom one slightly on the warm side. I thought it looked best this way. Importantly, use of the lightness channel let me hold a suggestion of detail in the lightest snow.

As I was putting on my skis this afternoon, down the road came Ed, my dentist, on his skis. He and some family members had been out doing what I was about to do.

Cross country skiing is a full body exercise. It uses about every muscle you've got! That's why I like to get out even for short ski sessions.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year's Afternoon Skiing

It was late in the afternoon on New Year's Day. I decided that if I wanted to go cross country skiing this day, I'd better hurry.

So I drove up the Chalk Creek road into the mountains, to a parking area just a short distance from St. Elmo. On the way up there, I saw a sleigh being pulled by two horses on the side road along Chalk Creek that serves as a residential street. That sleigh had probably not been used for about five years--the approximate length of our drought. Back to back snows (though well short of the blizzards in Denver) have changed the scene a little around here!

I arrived at the parking area near St. Elmo at about 4:20 pm, and the days are still short. Putting on the skiis, I went up the road another hundred feet or so, and turned onto the Hancock Road. The snow was plentiful and excellent!

Never in my life have I said a kind thing about snowmobiles. But even I must report that on that day, they had left a very skiable track--not full of porpoising as usual, but good. A single ski track in the snow would have been even better, but I'll take what I can get.

I stopped worrying about the end of daylight, because I noticed a nearly full moon over my shoulder. Sometimes I'll go skiing in the moonlight on purpose. Hmmm....maybe tonight!

I stopped after not too long, because I really just wanted some exercise. Gliding back down felt good. I often ski on the Old Monarch Pass road, but that's steep enough that I'll need to slow myself. Not so on the Hancock Road! The slope was just right.

This had been a good thing. After that, I took myself out for a holiday dinner in Buena Vista.