Sunday, June 30, 2013

Escapade 2013, Gillette, Wyoming

We finished the roof of the shed and hurried to Rock Springs. There Renita had her annual doctors appointments and we had a little time to prepare the boat for summer salmon fishing,(kokeenee). Then it was time to head to Gillette for the Escapade.
The Escapade is an annual meeting of Escapees. or skps, which is a very eclectic group of full time/part time rvers and full time wantabees. Its filled with groups of people with very different interests and so there are only two rules. These are to never discuss religion or politics!
Arriving early we were able to park before the nstart of the rally. Most of the rvers are situated in the Boxelder campground. Its quite a ways from where we parked last time but the closer campground is unusable as a storm turned the other into a mud morass in which quite a few motor homes had to be towed out.
So we set up and its so nice to meet so many new and old friends. We even attended a pre-escapade Boomer dinner and met a fellow rock hound!
This time we are teaching a wire wrapping class and hosting a star party so we will have a lot more time to just plain relax and have fun. We already had a craft teachers meeting and Renita has signed up for several classes. Let the fun begin! Clear skies

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Perigee Moon Over the Salt Range

I always get a little irked at the newscasters whenever they hype an astronomical event. The so called special event usually leaves most disappointed. So the forecast for the perigee moon was that the moon would be eleven percent larger and thirty percent brighter.
So I went out and took a few images of the perigee moon rising over the Salt Mountain Range. It's the mountain range just to the east of where we spend the summer.. I also measured the size of the moon using the standard technique of holding my arm extended and covering the moon with a finger, (this technique is often used to show that the moon really isn't larger at moon rise then when it is directly overhead). Anyway there was no way for me to measure any increase in size, with such a primitive method.
Perhaps if I lived on the sea coast I would appreciate it more by watching the tidal changes. While it was bright the most noticeable thing was the smell of the forest fires in Colorado. It's the first time we have smelled fires this year and I hope its the last. Pray for western rains, I am not going to sign off with my usual ending this time. Cloudy skies.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Father’s Day, A Drive by Gray’s National Wildlife Refuge, Roofing the Shed

Father’s Day neared and I really didn’t think much about it. That is until my son and his wife called and invited us over for dinner. So we headed over the mountain and spent a delightful day. Patty and Matt combined their cooking skills and made heart healthy chicken fried steak, with country gravy. Patty gave me a lesson on cooking and the meal was simply great. Thanks Matt and Patty for a wonderful day!

They had also just started to receive their yearly water allotment and so we had to walk out and watch the pond filling up. Now it might not be such a big deal to most but to actually have water rights and to receive it is a huge deal in the arid west. They use their water to grow hay for wildlife, and to recharge their ground water. It was really neat to watch the water flowing down the dry channels.

The next day was a day of discovery as Dave and Jane picked us up and drove to Freedom, Wyoming and toward Soda Springs, Idaho. Freedom got its name as it was founded by polygamist’s who sited the town exactly on the Wyoming Idaho border. It got its name from the practice of the people fleeing to Idaho to escape raids from Wyoming authorities and also fleeing to Wyoming when the Idaho police would try to raid the place.

We didn’t see anyone running from the law, but we did see quite a few sand hill crane pairs nesting near Grays National Wildlife Refuge. The cranes here are in the breeding colors and are much more colorful than the drab grays we see when they winter in Texas. Thanks Jane and Dave for sharing the day with us!

So company headed south and the metal roof arrived. After spending time watching online videos, I started placing the metal roof panels on top of the felt roofing. I got into a pattern and it only took me about four hours to get the roof covered and the cap on. I almost finished but of course I messed up the order and so I had to temporally put two small pieces of white panel to finish the roof. Now it’s back to the hardware store to order another piece of the right color metal panel.

At least the shed is now dry and ready for use. Now I am waiting for the vinyl siding and the two windows to arrive, but I am not in a hurry anymore and I can now store rocks, instead of lugging them all over the country in the fifth wheel. Isn’t that what most people build a shed for? Clear skies.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Flowers and Friends and Mountains, A Picnic on The Greys River

Sometimes, most times really, it’s time to take a break and spend a day among mountain flowers, a day of exploring new places, a day in which every turn is filled with deer and beauty. So we decided to drive along the Grey’s River Road and see what we could see....

Renita and Jane packed our lunches and Dave and I our "always ready expert advice", and so we first drove the twenty miles to Alpine, Wyoming. Stopping and showing them our display we also made a stop at the grocery store and hardware before turning up Grey River Road.
About a mile, we entered the Bridger-Teton National Forest and were greeted with a good forest service display of the fifty two miles of road. It said that after that the road turned into a four wheel drive adventure, but today wasn't the day for that, we just wanted to explore.
Winding along the Grey, a beautiful looking trout stream, we were quickly passing fields of mountain flowers. Right now the dominant flower is a bright yellow flower called yellow arrow leaf and the mountains here are full of fields of the bright sunshine filled petals.
Further up the road we not only found numerous campgrounds but lots of large open spots to boon dock, which means to simply pull off and camp for free. Its something we love doing and we all quickly agreed that this is most definitely a place to spend some time.
Renita spotted two sand hill cranes, nesting alongside the stream and we all loved their bright breeding colors. They spring displays are beautiful, after seeing them in their dull drab grey while wintering along the Texas coast.
Next she spotted a deer and then another and she definitely had her eyes on as she pointed them out.
Finding a nice empty spot to picnic, Jane spread out a blanket and of course Renita saw movement in an alpine meadow. As we watched the deer grazing, it was Dave’s turn and he pointed out a family of geese parading along the river bank. Jane next spotted a hooded merganser swimming down river. I hadn't found anything, except a few rocks, maybe I should look up more often?
Trying a little panning, I didn't expect to find any gold but panning isn't just for gold but a way of finding what's in the area. It turned to be not much, but that's ok too and as we drove further I spotted several deer myself. Dave’s turn was next and he has some really goods eyes as he noticed two deer by spotting their large muley ears sticking out among the tree trunks.
We drove as far as Muffit Creek, before deciding to turn around. The road kept going and of course so did the mountains. See the Grey river is actually between two ranges, The Wyoming Range to the east and the Salt Range to the west. Of these two the  Salt Range is what we see from our place at Star Valley.
There are so many mountains here, mountains that I never new existed, and we have lived in Wyoming for thirty five years. High above us one could see ancient glacial valleys, where ice once filled cirques but now had all melted during the global warming at the end of the Pleistocene.

Our day of adventure was too soon over but it had been a beautiful day with flowers and friends and a mountain river, a day well spent. Clear skies.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Building a Shed Part II

So our friend Mark left and I continued my work on the shed. Its amazing really, how many people will stop by and watch you work. Even more amazing is when they think you are a contractor and inquire about work they need done. Perhaps the most amazing is when one person offers to help and shows up!
The next thing on my list was to make the trusses. Three days later,( not three full days but three half days), and after watching several hours of you tube videos, they were finished. I had even strengthened them from the original design. Instead of simply notching the two by fours,(and weakening them, I built an extra gusset to distribute the weight of the roof and load).
Next was framing the walls and they went up quickly.. With Renita's help I was able to get them built and up in about four hours. It actually was starting to look like a structure. Even more amazing the shape was actually square to the world, ok really close anyway!

The next morning it was time to install the trusses and we struggled to put up the first two. Jim, a new friend from Florida, stopped by to lend a much needed extra pair of hands and three hours later the trusses were up! It would have been two much for Renita and me alone. Thank you Jim!
Now company was due to arrive,(Dave and Jane), and I had hoped to be further along but it actually was a good thing as Dave turned out to be a person who had built two houses! Looking over the plans he pointed out several changes that would make it stronger and also had several suggestions as to the cut pattern for the siding and roof sheathing.
The next morning we started at eight am and after a full day, finished the siding and roof. Its obvious that its not a good time to show up as I have a nasty habit of putting friends to work, (Oh and the shed is my last project for this year so its safe to show up after we get back from the Escapade).
Now all I have left is to put on the metal roof and siding. The park has pretty rigid ideas as to allowable colors and siding type. Luckily I am smart enough to leave such choices to Renita and of course she chose sandstone/ desert beige.
Not all advice from the strangers/passersby was good as one smart person yelled out a comment as he  sped by in his golf cart. I was on the roof and so couldn't respond quickly enough. It just takes too long to spontaneously moon someone! Darn carpenters belt. Clear skies.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Building a Lapidary Shop and Our Display at Raven Lunatics Art Gallery

Well the original plan was to arrive at Star Valley in May and build a shed. That went out the window with the delays of getting our fifth wheel repaired. I was also anxious to deliver a custom necklace to Raven Lunatics Art Gallery and hopefully set up a larger display.

So after two days of sawing and packing fossil fish, I made the first trip to the hardware store. I was surprised, pleasantly, that I was able to buy a miter saw for the same price as advertised by a giant chain store ninety miles away.

Returning to the hardware store I next bought the materials for the skids, base and floor of the shed. Mark volunteered to help me build the shed and so we dug and leveled the site and then started to saw and nail the project together.

Having bought pretty detailed plans and reading several build it yourself books. It actually went together well. I was surprised how much the box shape was out of true, but as the plans said, by measuring diagonally from corner to corner I was able to square the floor. It is the first time ever building a shed and I am happy with the first step.

So the next day we went to Alpine to buy lumber for the rafters and to show Barbara her custom order. Barbara surprised us by offering us a large case work in the store. We talked about what she would like us to bring in and she even purchased a piece of our work for her personal collection.

Returning to Alpine we went to work and now have a large case of our work. Featuring tiger eye, chain mail, and hammered 14k gold filled wire and sterling neck ware, we also had enough room to set up a woolly mammoth ivory tusk display. There was still space for some more tiger eye even a small space for a display of pendants made from Wyoming stone.

If you happen to pass through Alpine, be sure to stop at the Raven Lunatics Art Gallery! My next project is to build the rafters and the walls. Then maybe I can get the fly rod out and fish for some cut throat trout. Clear skies

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Day of Fossil Collecting at the Warfield Fish Quarry

As soon as the quarryman George showed us how to split the rock our hammers were driving the thin steel into the bedding planes. Molly didn’t like the noise, so she did her usual thing and retreated to the shade of the truck and probably wondered what was wrong with us. Meanwhile Mark let out a shout of discovery and proudly showed us a complete fish fossil!

We had always wanted to go to one of the Green River Formation private fish fossil quarries so when our friend Mark arrived we decided it would be the first major trip we took. After all we were only one hundred and five miles from Kemmerer and so we headed out on a bright sunny day.

Arriving at the quarry site we were amazed at all the travel trailers. Quite a few people were actually boondocking there, allowing them to work the fish quarry without constantly driving back and forth to town. Renita quickly nixed my suggestion that we move the fifth wheel there and so we drove down to the quarry office and met George, the quarry operator.

Driving the thin steel tools into the bedding planes was exactly like my old days of aid climbing and the pinging sound was the same as when I used to drive knife blades, an aid climbing piton, into the rock walls at Devils Tower. Renita found a partial fish and yet I was finding nothing. I was so jealous of her and Mark, but it was fishing after all, (with the only difference being they were hiding in stone)!

Soon my moment arrived and I found my first complete fish fossil and the bonus is that when you uncover one you actually get two as you get a positive and a negative impression. So we drove steel and moved rock, kind of like a chain gang really, except we had paid for the pleasure. Every once in a while one of us would let out a sound as we discovered another fish fossil and our piles of rock grew.

Taking periodic breaks we talked with George and Kim who both own and operate rock shops. They both also spend the entire summer, or a lot anyway, at the quarry and so were full of advice. They both even moved rock away from the headwall and Kim told us to never turn our back on the headwall as it could collapse at any time!

Breaking for lunch we kept busy and three hours flew by. I moved the truck closer to our treasures and started to load our specimens. Mark decided to work one more rock and he suddenly hit the bonanza as he found fish plate after fish plate.

Finally loading all our fish we headed back home, but did make a stop at the Fossil Butte National Monument. During the drive back we talked of the day and how we couldn’t believe our success. None of us had ever collected so much in a single day of fossil hunting! I also realized I better get my rear end in gear and build a shed to house them. Clear skies

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Hike to the Periodic Spring on Swift Creek, Afton, Wyoming

It was the most unusual sound. Instead of the usual sounds of water cascading over the rocks it seemed like a machine was inside the earth causing the sound of the water to rise and then lower. It kind of reminded me of the sound a piston makes as it cycles through a slow revolution, but that isn’t exactly right either.

Our friend Big Mark arrived from Texas, and so after doing some house stuff we decided to make the short drive to Afton and hike the trail to the periodic spring. The spring is one of the largest known and the hike promised to be a good test of our stamina at higher elevation.

We were all apprehensive after spending so much time at the Gulf Coast, heck Mark lives in Corpus Christi, so we started slowly up the trail, not really planning on getting there but all hoping none the less. Renita was still suffering from her bronchitous and had thought about staying at the truck, but she changed her mind and headed up the trail.

So we took it real easy and stopped to look at the rocks. Being rock hounders we agreed to not pick up any samples until we returned down the gravel trail. Mark and I are both geologists and so it was kind of like old times on a geology field trip as we approached each rock face and hunted for fossils.

Soon Renita pointed out, leave it to a retired coal miner, (ok she was in the office but she did work at a coal mine), some white inclusions that turned out to be recrystallized fossil coral. Really pretty neat but it had lost much of its original structures so we moved on up the trail.

Mark pointed out some crinoid stems and we both agreed that the rock was probably Mississippian in age, (Paleozoic). The trail was really almost a road as it had been made to build the water supply for the town of Afton and so it was really well constructed and pretty easy.

About a mile upstream we reached the water diversion structure and from it we could see where the water came of of the side of the mountain. Now the spring is a periodic spring because it varies in discharge but we couldn’t see it happening as the spring runoff  had increased the springs flow, and the description had told us that the best time to hike was late summer or early fall.

Crossing the footbridge we headed up a steep canyon, formed perhaps from a fault, and the dipping rock layers told of some pretty massive structural geology. The angle of the trail increased and I for one had to pause for a bit as I could feel that I was at elevation.

An old avalanche had buried the trail and so we stopped for some images, with the spring in the background. Using my geology hammer as an ice axe I was able to kick steps into the firmly packed snow and securely climb the rest of the way to the outpouring waters.

Looking down I waved Renita and Mark off from trying to cross the snow, one slip and it could be an unwelcomed slide to the rocks and the creek below. So I reached the spring and here the trail had actually been cemented.

Not only that but the mouth of the spring had been covered, probably to stop idiots from throwing rocks into the water and disrupting the flow. I spied some really black jasper, with white inclusions and picked up a couple of pieces. Maybe I will make some cabochons from them as a reminder of the day.

Carefully retracing my steps I shared my finds with my companions and so we headed back down the path. Mark pointed out some horsetail reeds and I told him that we should also look for sedges, (horsetail is round and sedges have a triangular shaped, sedges have edges).

A water ouzel flew by and it soon waded into the fast moving stream disappearing entirely as it hunted for aquatic insects. We had all seen them before but your first water ouzel,) American Dipper), is always a special welcome back to the mountains.

A muskrat swam downstream and we passed a small cascade, which reminded me of the drive down to Seward. It was on a much smaller scale but it was still a pretty cascade. Mark found a really nice coral fossil and so the rocks have started to pile up, and that’s how it should be.

Too soon we reached the truck and headed back down the narrow and potholed gravel road. We talked of the hike and how it really was a nice pleasant time, time well spent. It’s definitely something that we will recommend to our other friends. Clear skies.