Archive for the ‘Hobbies’ Category

Rain forest blurs by on the Road to HanaOn Day 3 in Maui we got up early to hit the Road to Hana!  This is a tourist must do, so if you’re a tourist… you do it.  It is a road in fairly poor condition.  That is probably because all those tourist keep driving on it and wearing it out!  But it is far from a tourist trap, it is well worth the drive.  It takes you through and to some of the most beautiful parts of Maui… if you’re one of those people who like tropical paradise anyway.

We got up early to head to the other side of the island.  The goal was to get to Paia and the start of the road to Hana before the traffic got too heavy.  We planned to drive fairly straight through to the end so we would have time to hike the Pipiwai Trail.  Then we would stop on the way back if there was anything else we were interested in.  The traffic was not too bad as we headed from Lahaina to Kahului.  There were some low clouds on the mountains, but it was a pretty clear morning otherwise.  We decided we would want to stop at Paia on the way back, it looked like a nice small village with several interesting shops.  We kept driving steadily until we got to the halfway point.  We didn’t stop along the way but we definitely enjoyed the drive!

Nice view from a very wet Road to Hana

There is a sign at the halfway point along the road that is also “conveniently” right beside a roadside stand that sells snacks and different varieties of banana bread.

Near a fruit stand halfway to Hana

 

We got snacks, drinks, and Wendy got some very tasty banana pineapple bread.  We wanted a little longer break from the car so we decided to sit on some picnic tables near the stand.  I got there first and noticed a small beautifully colored bird on a small wall beside the picnic tables.  I managed to get one good picture before he flew away.

Red Crested Cardinal as we took a break halfway to Hana

Then it was back on the road!

Zipping along the Road to Hana

I took a few quick pictures of falls on the way by, like this drive by shot of the three bears falls, but we did not stop again until we were past Hana.

Drive by view of the 3 bears falls on the Road to Hana

The temperature and humidity were big factors in our day again.  It was well over 80 degrees and very humid by the time we started our hike along the Pipiwai Trail.  We took a wrong turn at the beginning… I’ll take credit for that… and ended up on the 7 pools trail.  I realized we were headed toward the water instead of inland after less than a quarter-mile, so we turned around quickly, but it had been all down hill to this point, so it was all uphill on the way back.  By the time we got to the start of the trail we were already very hot and sweaty!

Heading up the start of the Pipiwai trail

The trail continued uphill through the Oheo Gulch.  The first sign I noticed was quite a serious warning.

Warning sign on Pipiwai trail near Falls of Makahiku viewpoint

As I looked up the trail past this sign I saw that my friend Dave had obviously ignored the warning as he was standing right on the muddy edge of the cliff.

Dave looking out at a water fall on Pipiwai Trail Maui

My first thought was, “What could possibly be worth standing there?”.  As I walked up to see what he was looking at I realized it was indeed worth looking at, although I stayed a little further back and still got a great view of the falls of Makahiku.  Although it is hard to put this picture in perspective, the falls are about 180 feet high!

Falls of Makahiku

Next we came to a quite impressive Banyan Tree.  Unfortunately my camera had began to act up.  Between the humidity and sweat it began to have issues focusing and was taking mostly terrible pictures.   I did get one more decent picture that I snapped quickly as we walked by of a double falls below the trail.

Small double falls beside the Pipiwai Trail in Maui

After that picture I ended up taking better pictures the rest of the hike with my Samsung phone.  One of my favorite places of all time came next, it was a huge bamboo forest.  The trail cut through it up the hill, but you could see very little beyond a few feet off the trail.  I really didn’t get as many good pictures as I wish I had, but I’ll share a few.  This one was near the start of the trail.

Jenny and Wendy near the start of the Bamboo Forest on the Pipiwai Trail

I took a ton of pictures on this part of the trail.  The lighting was amazing, but I never quite got the picture I was shooting for, this was one of the trail…

Photo stop in the Bamboo Forest on the Pipiwai trail

and this one looking up, where the best I could get.

Bamboo Forest Pipiwai Trail Road to Hana Maui

This last one was actually on the way back later but I like it because we are all in it and it also shows the wooden pallets that were on parts of the trail.  There were also a couple of bridges.  You can tell we were on the way back because Jenny and I were soaked to the bone.  We were sweating, but not that much… we had decided to take our chances and go under the water fall at the end of the trail.

All of us in the Bamboo

 

After the bamboo forest, the trail continues though a very lush jungle.  It was actually a few degrees cooler in the bamboo than on the rest of the trail.  We missed the coolness as we finished up this last part of the hike up to Waimoku Falls.  We stopped just before the falls to have lunch on some rocks in a small stream.

Having lunch on the rocks in the stream near Waimoku Falls

There was an easy trail to a place to view the falls, but while Dave cooled off in a pool below the rocks, and Jenny and Wendy got the lunch together I decided to explore downstream.  The stream came to a merge point with another stream coming from the direction of the falls, so I decided to head that way.  After a little boulder jumping I got to a place where I could see the falls through the trees.

Sneak peak of Waimoku falls

I was ready for lunch, but my curiosity got the better of me so decided to continue on to get a better view from this angle.  It was a very nice view and worth the effort.  I headed back the same way I had come after admiring the 430+ foot falls for a bit.  It was time to have a sandwich and relax a bit.

Waimoku Falls

After lunch we all headed to the regular trail to the falls.  The trail stopped well back from the falls with a lot of warning signs to stay out of the area below the fall.  I imagine when there is heavy rains this area could fill with water very quickly.  We decided to go “a little” closer.  The path to the falls crosses the stream early then you walk along a very rocky path.  From this angle the view of the fall is not bad either!

Waimoku Falls as we approach on the trail beyond the warning signs

 

I tried using my phone’s panorama mode to get a picture of Dave and Wendy near the base of the falls.  It turned out OK… they were a bit blurry, the falls are a bit distorted, and the whole picture is a bit over exposed, but I still love this picture.  Waimoku Falls is very impressive from this angle.

Dave and Wendy under Waimoku Falls

Jenny and I decided to take a little more of a risk and go in the pool below the falls.  Rocks and branches can come over the falls easily with the water, so I don’t recommend this to anyone.  We definitely cooled off though. Initially we both went under the falls.

Taking a shower under Waimoku Falls

I could not tell if Dave got the picture so I came out to ask. There was definitely no way to hear under the falls.

I came back out to ask if Dave had gotten the picture

Just to be sure I went back under one more time.

Enjoying a shower under Waimoku Falls at the end of the Pipwai trail

We enjoyed the hike back out nearly as much as the hike in, but everyone was glad to get back to the air-conditioned car by the time we finished.  Although we had planned to do more stops on the way back, very few places were open, and we were ready to get back to civilization.  I did get a couple of nice pictures on the way back though.  We all decided if we moved to Hawaii we wanted this to be our front yard!

Beautiful trees and yard along the Road to Hana

 

I also liked this view of this small village just off the Road to Hana.

View of a village by the sea on the Road to Hana

 

We decided to stop in Paia for dinner.  We had heard great things about Mama’s Fish House, but we were definitely not dressed for it.  We decided to go much more casual and eat at the Flatbread Company.  It was a bit warm in the restaurant, but heck it was warm everywhere, but the pizza and cold beer were great.

When we got back to Lahina, we were ready to just shower, hang at the condo, relax, and visit.  We decided to get back to the beach the next day.  Our third day in Maui had been terrific, but it was also quite a workout.  We were ready to do a little more relaxing and there’s no better place to do that than in Hawaii!  I’ll continue in another post soon.  Hopefully I’ll finish this before we go back!  (Dave and Wendy were actually back in Kauai just a couple of weeks ago on a trip Dave won at work… very jealous.)

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.

My Blog is Five

Posted: August 27, 2015 in Blogging
Tags: , ,

My blog is now five years old. I have posted 212 posts over the past 260 weeks. I kept a one post a week pace up for the first 3 years, a three post a month pace up for the 4th year, and this year a miserly 1.5 post a month pace. Last year I decided to lower my goal to meet my output, this year I’m going to go goal-less! I still enjoy blogging and I plan to continue adding to this blog.

I’m not looking for excuses, I’ve just sat down to write less, but I like to do a little reflection on the blog’s birthday.  This has been a full year, a little lighter on the adventure and major challenges, and a lot heavier on the friends and family. Not a bad trade-off, but less to write about.

My home projects have been less “post worthy”, but not less work, or less important. I actually checked quite a few things off my list this year.

We had our main public living areas painted not long after we moved in. The hardest part of that effort was picking the colors. It took weeks. Writing the check to the painters was an effort too, so I committed to painting the bedrooms and upstairs rooms myself. I painted the master bedroom, master bathroom, the shared bathroom on the second floor and the laundry room this year. Although these efforts fit the “Weekend Project” category, writing about painting is about as exciting as watching paint dry – not to put down any of those painting blogs out there. The biggest lesson learned is one I already learned during my garage floor coating experience, and apparently forgot already. Paint needs to be stirred… even if the store just mixed it… even if you just stirred it not long ago… just stir it again! Although no one else seems to notice it, I notice the areas that aren’t quite the same color and hopefully that will help me to remember to stir the paint more often next time.

This year I also attempted to do a repair of our couch to tighten the springs. We would just buy a new one, but we prefer to keep the old one and to keep letting the dog share it with us. It’s not a bad couch, it was just a little saggy and soft. I did research online, found some good info on how to use rope to tighten couch springs.  I took pictures of the process… just in case it turned out amazing and I wanted to write a post.

Couch Spring Tightening Project

It did turn out pretty good, but definitely short of amazing. Although I didn’t do a post I will share a couple of lessons learned here. First pick rope that doesn’t stretch. The rope I used was cheaper, and easy to work with, but stretched. I pulled it tight while attaching it to the springs, but it still continued to stretch after I finished. Second, evaluate the condition of the foam in your cushions. If the foam is too soft, no matter how good a foundation the cushions sit on, the couch will still feel saggy. We still plan to keep the couch, and it is better than it was, but it was not an amazing transformation or blog-post-worthy project.

Another, un-post-worthy project this year was installing shelves in the dining room for a picture wall. We love the wall, and it made putting up family pictures a snap, but I failed to get any pictures during the installation, and even the pictures I got after the installation really don’t do the project justice. It just looks better in person.

Family Picture Wall

Laying out the placement of the shelves and making sure they were level was not easy, but I don’t have any great tips to share about that… just take your time. However, the hardware that came with the shelves included spring-loaded wings for inside the drywall when the holes didn’t match up with a stud (almost none of them did). The instructions looked easy, but in practice when we got ready to slide the shelves onto the screws, the springs would pull the screw heads flush with the wall. It was very frustrating. My wife came up with a brilliant idea to use tape to hold them away from the wall. I simply wrapped scotch tape around the screw between the wall and the screw head and it kept the springs from pulling the head against the wall. It worked like a charm! To describe all that for a real post, I would have had to take at least one shelf down and taken pictures. If I could have gotten a good representative picture of the finished project I might have made that effort. Obviously that didn’t happen, but we are enjoying having the pictures up!

As far as some of my planned blog improvements I put in my post a year ago…I have done some work to make it easier to find some of my favorite older posts, but I could do more. I’m not completely happy how some of the things I’ve done so far look on a smart phone, so I’ve been putting off doing more until I solve those issues. There is only so much you can do with HTML tables. I need to brush up on some more modern HTML techniques. I’ll try to take the time to do that this year.

The last year has been my worst year in the last 9 years for staying in shape. I started out the year with some injuries from chronic over training, so I decided to take a break. The injuries cleared up… but the break has lingered. With a trip to Hawaii fast approaching, it’s time to get back to running and working out!  I’m also hoping to do at least one half marathon next year.  That won’t happen if I don’t start a consistent routine now.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog for 5 years. A lot has changed, but it doesn’t seem like 5 years has gone by. Life is definitely not slowing down. Although I’m busy and can’t always sit down to write, I will definitely keep at this blog. I enjoy writing and the blog still helps motivate me to live a full life. I have no shortage of things I want to write about, I just need to plan my time better so I have time to sit down and let the ideas turn into posts.

Now it’s time to blow out the candles and eat the cake (ok maybe I better skip that this year)… Happy Birthday Blog!

In Part 1 of our bike ride we had ridden from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. As we left Sausalito we realized that the map the bike shop gave us was missing a few details when it came to the rest of the trip. We stopped at a Vons to get water and snacks, to ask for better directions, and to come up with a plan. It was still pretty early in the day and we wanted to make the most of it. There were actually two different routes/destinations on the biking map: Old Mill Park in Mill Valley slightly to the west, and Tiburon. We decided there would be time to visit both if we hurried. Old Mill Park is not a big park, it was actually a little bit of a letdown for us, but I think that is only because we did not have time to explore our options from there.

Old Mill Park

If we had wanted to (and had time) we could have hiked up the hill above Old Mill Park on a combination of roads and trails to the larger trail system in Muir Woods. It is only about a mile walk from the park to the edge of the Muir Woods National Monument area. Although that sounded very appealing to me, this was not the day. We would be meeting our friends for dinner in a couple of hours, and that did not leave enough time to take a hike.

Our route from Old Mill Road to Tiburon was a little less direct. Highway 101 gets in the way, so we had to loop back south to cross it. We cut through a nice neighborhood to get out of Mill Valley, and then across a park, which was fairly nice although the bike path was not well-marked through the park. The next mile we shared the road with traffic on fairly busy roads beside California 101. This was our least favorite part of the trip. We were glad to get back to a less busy route on the other side of 101. At this point the marked bike trail took us on a small road that runs parallel to Tiburon This was our least favorite part of the trip. Not far up this road we came upon a sign for the Richardson Bay Audubon Society and Sanctuary.

Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary

We decided to stop for drinks and snack, and because the Audubon Center had a very inviting gate…

Very inviting gate into the Audubon Center

we decided to take our break inside the fence. The grounds were large and there were large areas of natural vegetation. There was also a very cool house…

House inside the Richardson Bay Audubon Center

and a great view to San Francisco across Richardson Bay and the larger San Francisco Bay beyond the house.

View to San Francisco across Richardson Bay

We enjoyed our break and the views. I took lots of pictures. However, it was eventually time to continue our ride. Dave and Wendy were done at the emergency room, were back at the condo changing, and then would be driving over to meet us in Tiburon for dinner. If you do the ride to Tiburon, I would recommend stopping here for the unique views. The place seemed fairly deserted on the day we visited, but there may be days when there are more things going on. Regardless it is a beautiful place.

Just a short ride further up the smaller road that runs beside Tiburon Boulevard and we came to a bike path that runs near the water beside Richardson Bay.

Bike Trail to Tiburon

The day had turned into the perfect day for a bike ride. Not too hot, not cold, and we could see well across the bay. The tops of the Golden Gate Bridge towers were visible across the bay as we rode along the path.

View of Richardson Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge from the bike trail to Tiburon

The bike path eventually moved closer to Tiburon Boulevard, and then joined with it a couple blocks from the ferry landing. We got there ahead of Dave and Wendy, so we locked up our bikes and checked out the options for dinner and the ferry schedule. The view to San Francisco from the ferry landing in Tiburon was amazing.

View to San Francisco from the end of Tiburon Boulevard

There were a few options for dinner that were right on the harbor. We decided to check out Sam’s Anchor Cafe while we waited. It was a casual place, and we got seats on the back dock overlooking the marina. We were hungry, but wanted to wait for dinner before getting food, so we decided to have a couple margaritas while we waited.

Margaritas at Sams Anchor Cafe

The view of the marina was surreal in the early evening lighting.

View of the harbor and San Francisco from Sams Anchor Cafe

Although we were very relaxed at Sam’s, we thought the view would be better back at the place nearest the ferry landing, Guaymas Restaurant. We were more in the mood for Mexican food and we wanted to be sure not to miss the last ferry. It was a relaxing dinner, the food was good, and Dave and Wendy seemed much more relaxed now that Wendy had been thoroughly checked out. We were not rushed, but we also weren’t quite ready to leave Tiburon when the ferry pulled up to the dock. We had no way to carry the bikes back other than the ferry, so we grabbed our bikes and boarded the ferry for the trip back to San Francisco.

The ferry from Tiburon heads toward Sausalito first. The sun was getting lower causing more shadows on the shore, some pale red light on the island behind us, but it was still high enough to light up the scattered clouds above us.

Ferry from Tiburon to Sausalito

The view of the Golden Gate Bridge was still from a distance, and the unusual lighting made it tough to get a good clear shot. It looked much better in person!

View of Golden Gate Bridge on ferry from Tiburon to Sausalito

We had plenty of time to check out the views while we were docked at Sausalito. A couple of other ferries passed by and there were several other boats in the area too.

View from Ferry at the Sausalito dock

As we pulled away from Sausalito the marine layer was coming over the ridge line. The road we came in on earlier in the day is visible in this picture too. We hope to spend more time in Sausalito on a day that is less busy.

Ferry pulling out of Sausalito marine layer coming over the ridge

Even though the sun was lower, we were much closer, so I was able to get a better picture of the Golden Gate Bridge as we headed toward San Francisco on the ferry.

View of the Golden Gate on the ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco

The sun was low enough in the west that the clouds had turned red in the skies above San Francisco bay.

Red sky on ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco

Although I took many pictures on the ferry, not very many of them turned out. It’s hard to take pictures when you’re moving fast, the ride is bumpy and very windy, and the light is very low. I did get one more that I like – this shot of the moon behind a cloud over Alcatraz.

Moon over Alcatraz on ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco

It was completely dark by the time we got to the dock in San Francisco. We unloaded our bikes and carefully road back to the bike shop. They have a fairly straight forward after hours turn in process. Then we headed down to the Hyde Street Cable Car “end of the line”. The line was reasonable, so we waited and road the Cable Car up the hill toward our condo. We got off at the Cable Car Museum and had just a one block walk to our condo.

Riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge had been on my bucket list since our visit to San Francisco in 2012, when we did not quite have enough time to do it. We’re really glad we were able to get it in this time. There are lots of other things we would like to do in San Francisco, but I would not hesitate to do this again.

We had one more day in San Francisco to look forward to before heading to Lake Tahoe for a few days. We decided to explore on foot and on the cable and streetcar lines. I’ll cover that in the next post for this trip.

This year, 2014 was a long hot summer in Southern California. It is always hard to tell exactly when a summer ends in San Diego. I usually call a summer over when we have several cool/cold nights in a row and the rainy season starts. This year San Diego’s summer was longer than usual and ended, by my definition, between mid November and the beginning of December. So 2014 was a long and very busy summer for us!

We started out the summer by finishing up our training hikes for our Grand Canyon rim to rim hike. We did at least 9 “Afoot and Afield in San Diego” hikes in April and May of 2014, including a really good training hike up El Cajon Mountain in temperatures near 90.

Jenny taking a break on the peak of El Cajon Mountain May 2014

The Grand Canyon hike was just one of the highlights of this summer for me. It was my second rim to rim hike at the Grand Canyon and I applied all my lessons learned from the previous hike to make this one even better. What really made it special for me was that I did it with my wife. She had led me up Half Dome in 2011, having done it several times herself before, so this was my chance to share a special and challenging hike with her. My cousin and youngest son also came along. The hike definitely lived up to the “challenging” label, but it was also a special experience in one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever visited.

Curved trail cut out of red rocks North Kaibab Trail

This was our 4th summer with season passes to the Green Flash Concert Series at Birch Aquarium above the Pacific in La Jolla. We have never been disappointed by the music at any of these concerts, they have a very laid back crowd, good food and adult refreshments, but in the end it’s really all about the location, the view, and usually a spectacular sunset!

Sunset at the September 2014 Green Flash Concert at the Birch Aquarium

We were so busy with other things, that we decided to get tickets to a few less concerts than usual this summer, but we still made time for some of our favorites like Jack Johnson, Dave Matthew, Steve Miller, and Journey. We also saw James Taylor at the Hollywood Bowl. Seeing him has been on my bucket list for years. One of my all time favorite singers! Although we had decided to slow down a bit when it came to concerts, we didn’t feel like we could afford to miss seeing Paul McCartney at Petco Park in San Diego either. He had not had a concert in San Diego since 1976, and we both loved the Beatles, so… we made the time and spent the money for this one!

Paul McCartney singing Let Me Roll It - Petco Park September 28 2014

The staycation we planned for Oceanside went even better than planned. Although we love to travel, we wanted to get our family together for some fun this year, and this seemed the best way to make that happen. We rented a 3 bedroom condo in Oceanside with my wife’s brother Randy and all but one of our combined 9 children came for at least one day during the week we stayed there. We also had other friends and family join in the fun. We had plenty of beach time, BBQ’d some Juicy Lucy’s, enjoyed some terrific homemade fish tacos thanks to our nephew Brian, sailed in Oceanside harbor, kayaked at La Jolla shores, played a few drinking games, roasted some marshmallows at a campfire on the beach, and enjoyed a terrific ocean view all week! This turned out even better than we had hoped and we will be doing this again in the future.

Early evening view from the Oceanside Pier - July 9 2014

We were so busy this year that I’m still catching up on posts for some of our activities. One post I still haven’t gotten done is for our trip to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, also in July of 2014. We had a great time with our great friends Dave and Wendy on this trip, seeing some new sites, and having some new experiences in two of our favorite places. Of course there are still lots of things we still want to do so we’ll just have to go again sometime soon! I’ll put a link to the post here when I finish it… until then, here is a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge I took from the Marin Headlands.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands - 27 July 2014

We also had a great time visiting Iowa and Nebraska again this year. This has been a regular summer trip for us. Most of my family lives in Iowa, and even though my wife’s family is from the Los Angeles area, her sister Wendy lives in Nebraska. So luckily we both have reasons to make this trip as often as we can. This year we attended a nephew’s wedding (always great to have an event that brings a lot of family together in one place) in Iowa, went to Nebraska to visit in the middle of the week, and returned to Iowa to celebrate my Mom’s 75th birthday! Although there was a lot more running around we had a great time. Family is very important to both of us!

Iowa - Nebraska 2014

I was also able to spend a day in Copenhagen this summer at the end of a work trip to Denmark. It was well worth the cost in money and time to add this to the end of my trip. I’m not sure if I’ll get back to Copenhagen again, but hope to travel with my wife to Norway at some time in the future, and it would be a nice side trip to visit both Denmark and Sweden while we are there. Nyhavn was one of my favorite parts of Copenhagen and I found myself drawn back there several times during my short visit.

Nice sailboat docked in Nyhavn

Although those were the major highlights of the summer, we found ourselves having to squeeze in some other things where we could. We had annual passes to Disneyland that we thought would fill in some open weekends. Instead we found ourselves struggling to find a free Sunday to get up there. We also happily “squeezed in” a couple days a week to spend with our new Grandson Cash! He has been in fact the major highlight of 2014! It’s amazing how much a baby changes in 9+ months. We have loved being part of his life and can’t wait to see all the changes 2015 bring.

We actually have very little planned for 2015 so far. This is intentional. We found that we were so busy this summer that we ended up being pretty inflexible when opportunities came up. We hope to return to Yosemite this year, but won’t formalize that plan until we can schedule campsites. My daughter is getting married in July – really big plans there! Beyond that we hope to be available to spend as much time as we can with our family and friends next summer. I can’t imagine a better plan than that!

(Final Note: This will be my 200th post once I push the publish button. Although it seems I have less and less time to maintain this blog, I still enjoy writing here as much as I ever did. So maybe I’ll use some of that “flexible unplanned time” to spend a little more time here…)

We had covered a lot of ground on our very early morning 3 hour walking tour of Copenhagen. After I dropped my coworker at the airport and turned in the rental car, I took the train back to the hotel for a nap. I knew I would be limiting my options for the rest of the day, but it had been a long week and we only had about 4 hours of sleep before going out to walk around that morning. Although I planned to nap for 2-3 hours it was closer to a 4 hour nap and after 1 in the afternoon before I got back up. A shower cleared away the grogginess from the nap. It no longer looked like rain, but there was a cool breeze as I walked back over to the train station to head back downtown Copenhagen. I decided to ride past the first downtown station at Kongens Nytorv and to get off at the Nørreport metro station. As I walked out of the station I was surrounded by an overwhelming number of people on bikes and bikes parked everywhere. If you’ve never been there, it is hard to explain just how many bikes there are in the city of Copenhagen. I’ve looked through all my pictures and none of them come close to showing the sheer number of people on bikes and the number of bikes parked in every part of the city. Just outside the metro station there were several two level bike racks. This is a picture of just one of the bike racks nearby.

One of the bike racks in Copenhagen

The Nørreport metro station is near Rosenberg Castle, but it was nearly 3 before I got there and I didn’t want to take the time to do a tour, if I could even get in one at that point. I decided to check out some of the other parks/gardens we had not walked through during our early morning walk. The first one I walked into was Botanisk Have (Botanical Garden). There is an amazing variety of plants in this garden including waterlilies in the pond near the center of the garden.

Waterlilies in the Botanisk Have pond

I could also see the reflection of what looked like a large greenhouse on the pond. I later found out that this is one of the Faculty of Science buildings for the University of Copenhagen.

University of Copenhagen Faculty of Science building on the grounds of the botanical gardens

My favorite part of the Botanical Gardens was a fairly large hill with a meandering cobblestone path, a man-made stream (water feature), completely covered in very unique plants. I took several pictures the showed the paths and stream close up…

View of the path and stream Botanical Gardens Copenhagen

and with a wider perspective.

Wider view of the path and stream Botanical Garden Copenhagen

Most if not all of the unique plants in the Botanical Garden were labeled.

Most of the plants were labeled Botanical Garden Copenhagen

I wasn’t keeping notes, but I don’t remember seeing the same plant twice. There was quite a large variety of plants.

Large variety of plants Botanical Garden Copenhagen

As I walked along the winding pathway…

Long meander path Botanical Gardens Copenhagen

I discovered favorite clusters of plants…

One of my favorite hillsides Botanical Gardens Copenhagen

sneak peaks of the unique buildings…

View of the buildings from the hillside Botanical Garden Copenhagen

and wider views of the unique buildings over very unique looking plants!

View of the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Science building Botanical Garden Copenhagen

As I made my way toward the Kastellet the next park I walked through was Østre Anlæg. There was a long angled pond in the middle of the park surrounded by trees. A much less formal and more kid friendly park than the Botanical Gardens.

Østre Anlæg

As I exited Østre Anlæg I crossed the street to a market area near a metro station. I decided to go in a get a sandwich and drink to enjoy as I walked around Kastellet. As usual there were tons of bikes parked in front of the metro station.

Bike rack in front of the Metro and market across from Østre Anlæg

I crossed the street again to the park path around Kastellet. I found a bench not too far along the path and had a seat to enjoy a late afternoon snack. I had a pretty nice view of the old windmill inside the fortress.

Windmill at Kastellet Copenhagen

Although we had walked partially around the Kastellet on our early morning visit we had not walked all the way around and it had been too early to walk inside at 5 in the morning. I started my walk about where we had left off earlier and walked across the moat bridge…

Kastellet moat bridge to south entrance

to the south entrance.

South Entrance to Kastellet

I carefully read the brief description of Kastellet, its history, and the fairly long list of rules for visitors.

Kastellet History and Rules Plaque Copenhagen

Inside the fortress walls are cobblestone streets between old red barracks.

Barracks inside Kastellet Copenhagen

and at the other end of the street a view of the Commander’s House.

The Commanders House Kastellet Copenhagen

Rather than walking out the south entrance, where we had already walked in the early morning, I decided to walk up the ramp to the eastern fortress walls. At of the five points of the star-shaped Kastellet, well at least the two I visited, is a cannon for defense of the fortress! This is a view of the cannon from the point of the Prinsessens Bastion.

View from Prinsessens Bastion of Kastellet

Not only was there a cannon, but they were prepared with a neat stack of cannonballs, just in case!

Kastellet cannon with a stack of rounds

You can walk all the way around the bastions of Kastellet, but I decided to just walk the eastern portion of the fortress from the south entrance back around to the north entrance where I had entered. I took my time and enjoyed the views inward and out across the moat. There were several types of wild flowers including these red poppies.

Poppies on the Bastion of Kastellet Copenhagen

My Grandmother was in the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary for 50 years. I remember wearing a red Remembrance Poppy wrapped around a button on my shirt every Memorial Day growing up. Poppies have been a symbol of remembrance for soldiers who had sacrificed their lives in war since World War I. A poem “In Flanders Field”was in large part responsible for this association. Seeing these poppies growing on the sides of the Kastellet’s bastions brought a lot of memories back.

As I write this post it also brings up other fond memories of my Grandmother. My Grandmother, Mother, and my Aunt Betty visited us in Oahu in the early 90’s. We had a great time, but two things stick in my mind in particular. The first was a visit to the North Shore. It was the winter so they got to see the really huge surf that the North Shore of Oahu is so famous for. On the one beach we visited my Grandmother asked me if I would be going in for a swim. I looked at the waves which were very strong 6-8 feet swells with a big shore break and said that I better not. About 30 seconds later a young local girl walked past us. She could not have been more than 10 years old, maybe younger. She walked right into the water and swam out past the break to ride the swell up and down. I looked at my Grandma and said, “Well I guess I probably could go in…” She smiled and I got in the water. It looked a lot worse than it was. At another beach it was an even a little calmer and my Grandmother, in her late 70’s got her feet and legs wet in the water also!

The second story involved her service in the Women’s Auxiliary. While they were visiting us we went to the main Air Force Exchange at Hickam. In those days, they checked ID’s as you entered and you had to sign in guests if they did not have a military ID. As I signed them in, the woman at the door let them know that they could not buy anything and that I would get in trouble if they tried to. I’m not sure what we were looking for, probably just getting a few things for the beach. Anyway, after about 15 minutes I heard my name called over a public announcement, with instructions to come to the checkout area. My Grandmother had tried to buy a few things, nothing big. The clerk was explaining why she could not pay for her stuff and my Grandmother was explaining that she had been in the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary for 35+ years and she thought it would be OK. I bought the stuff for her, she got to share the pride of her service, and I got a warm and lasting memory of my Grandmother!

There was a different model of cannon at the Gevens Bastion, and a view of St Albans Anglican Church where we had started our walk that morning.

The Cannon guarding Grevens Bastion Kastellet Copenhagen

As I left the star fortress of Kastellet, I turned east toward the water’s edge, then south to walk back toward Nyhavn on a slightly different path than we had taken on our earlier walk. As I approached the summer palace of Amalienborg, an impressive building to the east across the narrowing channel caught my eye. I later learned that this was the Copenhagen Opera House.

Copenhagen Opera House

As I turned and walked toward the entrance of the square in the center of Amalienborg, I stopped at a fountain to get this picture of the water rising from the fountain with the Marble Church visible on the other side of the square.

Marble Church viewed from the fountain on the east side of Amalienborg

I didn’t enter the square as we had been in there already, but I wanted to see Nyhavn with businesses open, and filled with people. Actually I couldn’t get enough of Nyhavn, before I left Copenhagen I would visit there at least 4 times. The skies were still cloudy, but the buildings are so brightly painted it is hard to tell.

Nyhavn Copenhagen

I walk the length of Nyhavn this time, and checked out some of the history of the place. One of my favorite places was this Gelato Shop!

Gelato shop Nyhavn Copenhagen

After the Gelato, I decided I needed to walk some more so I walked through the Strøget shopping district. Although these shops were open also, I was more in a walking mood than an shopping mood. I enjoyed the architecture and fountains of the Strøget area…

Fountain in the heart of the Stroget shopping district

and there were some unique coffee stands.

Interesting Coffee shops Copenhagen

However, I decided to just pass through and check out another park before the sun set. Ørstedsparken was one of my favorite parks in Copenhagen. It may just have been the early evening lighting, but I found the park relaxing, and very beautiful. I decided to head toward a walking bridge in the middle of the parks large pond.

Walking bridge in the distance in Ørstedsparken - Copenhagen

As I walked toward the bridge I was glad that it had drawn me deeper into the park. The views as I passed around the pond/lake were spectacular. On one side of the lake the dark greens of the plants and their reflection on the water contrasted with the white buildings in the distance.

Dark Green vegetation surrounding one end of the water in Ørstedsparken

As a passed the bridge and continued my walk around the entire lake the greens brighten, there were more flowers. This looks like a completely different place, but it is was just a different side of the same park.

Lighter green plants and blooms on the other end of Ørstedsparken

I had to cross the bridge before heading out of the park to see more of Copenhagen.

Crossing the bridge in the middle of Ørstedsparken

As I left the park it was starting to get darker, but I was not ready to head back, so I decided to head toward the Metro Station at the Forum which was past a series of lakes. When you see these on a map it looks like a portion of a river. It even feels like you are crossing a bridge over a river as you pass between the lakes on the road. As I passed between two of the lakes on a broad road I noticed an older lady feeding some swans. I don’t think I’ve every seen this many swans in one place before!

Swans in Peblinge Sø - Copenhagen

The rest of the walk to the Forum St Metro Station was pretty boring. I got on the train intending to head back to the hotel, but when I got to Metro stop at Kongens Nytorv I decided to take another look at Nyhavn. It had started to get very dark, but I was able to get this photo of the large anchor at one end of Nyhavn.

Nyhavn Anchor at night - Cpenhagen

Then it was time to head to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. I had a long flight the next day. Since I turned in so early I woke up fairly early again the next morning. I decided to check out of the hotel, check my bag with the concierge and head back to Nyhavn one more time to get that coffee I hadn’t been able to get the day before. I got off the train at Kongens Nytorv (Kings New Square) station again. The metro station is on one side of the square and Nyhavn is on the other. There are some beautiful building around the square. Because there was construction going on in the center of the square it was hard to capture the beauty of the whole place, so I took some close-ups of some of the buildings. The metro exit is very close to the Hotel D’Angleterre.

Hotel D'Angleterre - Copenhagen

I crossed the square on the south side and got a closer view of the front of the Royal Danish Theater.

A closer look at the inside of the domes on the front of the Royal Danish Theater Copenhagen

The coolest part of this building were the domed ceiling above the second story balconies on the front of the building. Very ornate.

Royal Danish Theater - Copenhagen

I walked down the “less busy” side of Nyhavn and found an open cafe. I had a pastry and coffee and talked with a mother and daughter from the US who were heading out on a cruise later in the day. The weather wasn’t forecast to be good, but they had booked months ahead! I wished them luck on the weather and started heading back to the metro station. It was time! I got a couple more good pictures with my phone. One showing a very nice docked sailboat.

Nice sailboat docked in Nyhavn

Then a final picture of the colorful buildings lining this small harbor.

Colorful Nyhavn

My one day in Copenhagen had absolutely been worth the delay in heading home and the few hundred dollars it cost me to stay an extra night and day. The city of Copenhagen is beautiful, and the culture is very different from San Diego’s. I had planned to hit a few of the main tourist spots – Kastellet, Nyhavn, and Strøget. Kastellet and Nyhavn were awesome, Strøget was OK, but since I wasn’t planning to do a lot of shopping, not on the top of my list. I would definitely like to visit Copenhagen again. Maybe as part of a trip to Norway and Sweden! The big surprise to me was how much I enjoyed the city’s many gardens. They were well maintained and very lush for a place with such a short growing season! I highly recommend a walking tour of Copenhagen’s gardens if you are lucky enough to spend some time there.

My blog is now four years old. I have posted 194 posts over the past 208 weeks, so I’ve fallen behind my goal of 1 post a week, this year for the first time. I thought about doing a little “catching up” over the past few months, but we had 3 vacations in the last 3 months and I also had a couple of business trips. I posted 38 posts in the last year. Rather than beating myself up about it I plan to lower my goal this year to 3 posts a month. When I look at my “Honey Do” list for the house, and my “better do” list at work – not to mention plenty of grandson time, I’m sure I won’t be sitting on the couch a lot!

Although the blog has changed over the last 4 years, its main purpose has been constant – to celebrate living a full life. With four years of posts on the blog some of the standard widgets and tools for giving access to these posts are starting to fall short. Some of the things I did in the last year have helped in some ways. I’ve kept my sidebar tool for my “Favorite Posts – So Far” up to date. This has made it easier for people to find many of my favorite posts (usually vacations and adventures). However, the list has gotten long and unwieldy, so I plan to do some consolidating. I’ll create a summary page for places I’ve been multiple times and have many posts for (such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, San Francisco).  These summary pages with have a table of posts and include a thumbnail picture from the post. I can put this same table at the end of each of these posts to make it easier to find the information a person may be interested in.

On my homepage I’ve added some links using the built-in post categories on my homepage using my most common categories for posts that don’t fit into my favorites so far list. But this just brings people to a long continuous string of posts. I would rather have it bring them to a list of posts with descriptions. I have a couple of choices to make this happen.
1. Change my theme to one with more tools. (This would be quite a bit of work to reformat many of the posts – especially the pictures.)
2. Brush off my HTML skills and do it myself. I’m leaning toward doing this, but with 194 posts and growing, this could be a bit of a chore to maintain.

Year four of the blog had a couple major events planned. I ran the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon. I didn’t achieve my time goal due to a late training injury, so I plan to do another at some point. However, I need my Achilles tendon to heal first. I see some physical therapy in my future! We also did a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike. It was terrific despite the heat and a lingering cold.

I don’t have firm plans for any big adventures in 2015 yet. There’s at least one wedding to plan for, and maybe more! If we can find a date I would love to have a family camping trip to Yosemite or Sequoia. But we’ll have to see where that might fit in. I will continue with my goal of doing all 250 hikes in San Diego County. This will likely take 5-6 years even if we stay on it! As soon as my Achilles is healed I will start training for more runs. I love the half marathon length, but I know I can get a much better time on the marathon than I did at last years Marine Corps Marathon.

It’s hard to believe another year has past. Life is definitely not slowing down. I have absolutely lived a full life for the last four years. The blog has helped me stay focused on planning and living life whether that revolved around a milestone adventure, or just enjoying the local area more. I don’t plan to give up living this way or blogging about it any time soon.

Now it’s time to blow out the candles and have some cake… Happy Birthday Blog!

On the 30th of October 2013 Google offered me a custom URL for my Google+ account. Being one of only a few Eric Rial’s out there I figured I better jump on it to avoid missing out on the coveted google.com/+EricRial URL! Well at least it is coveted by me and some guy in Argentina. At the time I accepted this great offer, I wondered what it would mess up. I figured it was Google after all, so they probably had this all figured out.

As I sat around waiting for the soreness to pass from my first marathon I was also noticing my blog statistics were going down. This happens all the time as what I’ve posted in the past becomes less relevant and drops in search results. Over 80% of the traffic to my blog comes from search engines, so I’m used to the ups and downs. However, this drop seemed different. It wasn’t so much up and down, as down and down! A drop of over 70% over the past 3 weeks in average daily post views! So I decided to check around. It didn’t take long to see the problem. I tried out some common search terms that bring people to my blog, and didn’t immediately see my posts in the results. I looked closer, and they were there, but my Google authorship picture (from Google+) was missing! Even I had difficulty distinguishing my post from the rest of the results. Unless you are in the top couple results you are less likely to “get the click” without something to draw the person’s eye to your post. I knew that when I first set this up last year, but after this skid in post views I’m was true believer!

It only took a few minutes to search (authorship photo in Google results) for the instructions to set it up again. I couldn’t even find the link I had put in – possibly removed as a dead link? Then I watched for the photo to show back up. It took a while for it to come back for all of my common search results.  It also took from November 2013 until March 2014 for my post view statistics to recover.  I have other theories on way my stats went down… the top of the list is that my Mom quit viewing 30 posts a day.  That’s not likely, she’s my biggest fan!  Anyway, the stats came back, but then I noticed again in my search results no longer had my picture again in early July 2014.  I was concerned.  I found out that Google had decided to stop putting photos in the search results.  This concerned me and I assumed my statistics would tank again.  However, July was my best month so far and August is looking even better so far.  Google claims removing the photos won’t affect traffic, and I guess maybe their right.  Maybe it doesn’t matter… maybe there is some other reason my stats tanked last October.

I guess I’ll never know.

[Note:  Please don’t like this post if all you want is for me to “check out” your posts on increasing traffic.  I’m not obsessed with traffic, never plan to earn a dime from this blog, and think all such schemes are scams!  I blog because I enjoy blogging and to celebrate living a full life.  If all you do this for is because you think you’ll get rich convincing people to click to and buy a system to “make money online”, then good luck to you!  I won’t be joining your “movement”! I’ll just keep plugging away writing what I enjoy writing about. If someone enjoys reading it so much the better.]

Jenny and Sean cross the first bridge on the North Kaibab descent
Our hike into the Grand Canyon started early on the morning of 2 June. The best times to do this hike, the way we did it, would be the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of October. So we were just outside this “prime time” window. The North Rim lodge doesn’t open until the 15th of May so if you want to stay there, you have to go after 15 May. This is an incredibly popular time to schedule a Rim to Rim hike. If you also want to stay at Phantom Ranch in either a cabin or one of the bunk house, then good luck to you. It is very difficult to get through to the reservation line on the 1st of May a year+ earlier. Even for our June trip it took me over 45 minutes of dialing to get through to make my reservations. Although I would have preferred to go on the 17th of May, in order to have the best chance of cooler weather, the reality is that it can be very hot even then. To satisfy my curiosity I looked up the weather reports for the last two weeks of May and the first week of June for Phoenix. It is hard to find a good source of accurate weather for Phantom Ranch, and Phoenix is a very good (but not perfect) match for the weather you’ll experience at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Amazingly it will be 30+ degrees cooler on either the North or South rims. So for May 2014 the weather for the last two weeks would have been… Phoenix May 2014 Temperatures So if I had gotten really lucky and gotten my first choice for reservations at Phantom Ranch, the 17th of May (giving us 2 nights at the lodge), the temperature would have been 104 on the day we hike in. The temperatures for June 2nd were only slightly higher at 110 degrees. Phoenix Temperatures June 2014 Remember these are actually Phoenix recorded temperatures. I think the highest temperature we saw hiking in was 105 degrees, in the shade. The interesting thing is we could have hiked even as late as 21 June without seeing significantly hotter weather. But when you are scheduling a hike like this you want to play the odds, and you have a better chance for cooler weather in May than June. There were some days as low as 90 degrees.

It doesn’t matter whether it is 90 or 115 degrees when you do this hike be sure to be careful, it is not an easy hike, and it is very easy to get in trouble with those temperatures.  If you think you can just “charge on” even if you are feeling the effects of the heat you’re mistaken.  It won’t cool down for a long time! If the heat starts to take a toll on you or anyone in your group, slow down, take advantage of the shade and cool streams next to much of the trail. Manage your time, especially if you are on a schedule, but if you can wait it is much cooler and there is a lot more shade around 4 pm. You should also get a very early start. Before sunrise once there is enough light to see the trail is perfect.

We didn’t start late, but we did start after sunrise. We took the early shuttle from the North Rim Lodge to the North Kaibab Trail trailhead. After a group picture at the trailhead…

Group picture at the North Kaibab trailhead

we hit the trail.  We were all carrying extra water because a leak in the transcanyon pipeline made it very likely that we would have limited water stops on the hike in. We were told that only the first water stop at the Supai Tunnel and if we wanted to go out of our way, the water stop at Roaring Springs would be reliable.

Although starting early is smart, if you start before sunrise you will miss some of the most beautiful scenery on the entire hike.  The start of the trail is a gentle descent, with a sandy/dusty soft trail surrounded by trees and the canyon walls.

Jenny and Sean ahead of me near the start of the North Kaibab Trail

It was cool, clear and the lighting was perfect.  Great day to start our hike.  For me this was a familiar trail, but for everyone else there was a new discovery around every switchback.

Jenny and Sean one switchback ahead of me on the North Kaibab trail

Even though we had left the North Rim behind, we still had a few Aspens to walk through.

Jenny hiking through the Aspens near the top of the North Kaibab trail

I stopped at a large flat overlook just off the trail to catch this view to the South Rim and beyond. Except for being just a little lower, and the terrific morning light, it looked about the same as it did from the lodge.

Large overlook along the North Kaibab Trail

A little further down the trail and we came to one of my favorite photo spots. There are large pillars of sandstone at a couple switchbacks in a row. A good place for a group picture!

A favorite photo spot along the North Kaibab trail

This picture shows the obvious transition from one layer to the next. These layers are what make the Grand Canyon the Grand Canyon. Based on where we were, still fairly near the top, I believe the top layer is Coconino Limestone, and the bottom layer is the start of the Hermit formation.

Obvious division between a limestone and shale layer

You can find more on the geology of the Grand canyon here.

My last Grand Canyon rim to rim hike was in the fall of 2010. I expected a lot more blooming plants this time. We had seen a lot of blooms during our training hikes in San Diego. Although it was greener this time, I only saw a few blooming plants. This New Mexico Locust (best guess) was the most impressive.

A blooming New Mexico Locust on North Kaibab trail June 2014

As we descended further, leaving the rest of the world behind, we noticed one reminder of the modern world…

X marks the spot

Our progress was only slowed by one thing… we were camera happy. I knew this was one of my favorite parts of the trail, and I had really built it up to the others in the group. Two of us were carrying the cameras, me and my cousin Mike. It didn’t take long for the two of us to fall behind!

Mike posing for a picture camera at the ready

The first break was at the water stop just before the Supai Tunnel.

Supai Tunnel water and bathroom stop North Kaibab Trail

Our water was still nearly full as it was cool and downhill to this point, but we topped them off anyway (anticipating unreliable water access due to the leak in the pipe). Unless you are carrying very small water containers this stop is not very necessary on the way down, but I’m sure it is appreciated by anyone going up the North Kaibab trail.

Even if you don’t need to, check out the stairs to the restrooms… it’s the prettiest toilet entry I’ve ever walked through and Jenny looked lovely standing at the top of the stairs too!

Jenny on the stairs to the restrooms at Supai Tunnel

After taking the mandatory group pictures in the tunnel…

Jenny Sean and Mike in the Supai tunnel

Eric Sean and Jenny in the Supai tunnel

We continued down the trail. This was one part of the trail where my memory failed me from my previous hike. When I pictured the trail just past the Supai Tunnel, I pictured it as very red and curved. But that part of the trail was actually 15-20 minutes below the exit from the tunnel. The rocks and trail were red, and beautiful…

Red rocks below the Supai tunnel

and we soon could see the first bridge on the trail below us.

First glimpse of a bridge below us on North Kaibab Trail

After passing a cool overhang,

Jenny and Sean passing under a large overhang on the North Kaibab trail

lots of switchbacks,

Switchbacks on on the North Kaibab descent below Supai tunnel

and some steep descents,

Looking back up a steep descent on the North Kaibab Trail

we finally came to the curved red rock path. It’s obvious why that part of the trail was so strong in my memory. It is definitely one of my favorite parts of the North Kaibab Trail descent.

Curved trail cut out of red rocks North Kaibab Trail

After another 20 minutes of descent we paused for this picture above the first bridge on the trail.

Jenny just above the first bridge on the North Kaibab Trail

I waited just above the bridge to take a picture of Jenny and Sean crossing the bridge, which is the picture at the top of the post. As I crossed the bridge I took this picture of the canyon below the bridge. I can imagine the water roaring over these rocks in the spring as the snow melts. I’d love to get that picture!

View of the canyon below the first bridge on North Kaibab trail

We paused for a break in the shade just after the bridge. The trail was switching sides of the canyon and we would be in the sun much more of the time after this break. We started to feel the heat more and began regretting all the pauses for pictures! We headed back up hill for a short distance and then followed the trail as it hugged the side of the canyon.

Eric Rial on the North Kaibab Trail June 2014

One curved section of the trail is obviously being formed by water pouring down the side of the canyon.

Kaibab trail passes  by an interesting formation in the side of the canyon

The rock formation has multiple drops forming ledges that you can climb up or down onto. I climbed up a level, and my cousin Mike climbed down a level to pose for this picture.

Mike stepped down a level for this photo

Then we came to one of the two parts of the trail where my “somewhat dormant” fear of heights kicked in last time… and again this time. I knew this part of the trail was coming and had intentionally dropped back to get this picture.

Jenny and Sean taking a break along the North Kaibab Trail

I shouted ahead for Jenny and Sean to stop so I could get the picture. Sean shouted back that they should be taking a picture of me… that I should see what they were seeing. After a few exchanges of “you should see what I see” with my youngest son, I walked over to hang out with them. As Mike came around the corner, I agreed with Sean that the view he had been seeing was pretty cool too!

Mike pauses along the North Kaibab Trail

Although it was getting hotter, the views were still slowing us down. Another favorite part of the trail for me was next. It is a switchback that goes out away from the canyon wall toward a rock monolith…

Jenny walks toward a switchback near a rock monolith on the North Kaibab Trail

then back toward the canyon wall. This forms a nice platform for taking pictures of people as they go under a rock outcrop and walk along the trail following the curve of the canyon wall.

Jenny and Sean walk under a rock outcrop and along the curved canyon wall on the North Kaibab trail

A little further down the trail I noticed a familiar and memorable view. It was at this point on Day 1 of our October 2010 Rim to Rim hike that I thought I saw a woman carrying an old fashion parasol. Then she seemed to disappear. Although I was still sick (laryngitis) and it was hotter, there were no phantom visions this time.

North Kaibab Trail winding along the canyon wall

The lower you go the warmer it gets! The warmer it got the happier we were to spend a little time in the shade!

Resting in the shade on the North Kaibab Trail

Although we were getting closer to the bottom, the canyon walls and rock formations had not changed much yet. We passed another rock formation formed by water just around the corner after our shady resting place.

Another water worn rock formation on the North Kaibab Trail

About a minute later as I snapped this picture of my son Sean about to round a corner I noticed a large patch of green trees just ahead. We were just about to see Roaring Springs!

Sean about to round a corner with evidence of Roaring Springs just ahead

As we got closer we could see the trail down to Roaring Springs just to the right of the green grove of trees.

The trail down to Roaring Springs to the right of the green trees

This “optional” trail is about a half mile long. Usually by the time you get to this point “optional” trails have lost any appeal they may have had during planning. However, things were different this time. The last status update we got on water stops before we left the North Rim was that water access was not likely to be available beyond the spigot at Roaring Springs. So our 14 mile hike on Day 1 would be extended to 15 miles, and we would get a chance to see Roaring Springs a little closer.

On the way down the “optional trail” I snapped this picture of Roaring Springs (zoomed in quite a bit).

View of Roaring Springs from the trail - zoomed in for a close up

Unfortunately this would be the best picture I got even though we got closer. It’s amazing to me that Roaring Spring flows year around out of the side of the canyon wall. In fact it is the main source of fresh water for the resorts on both rims and There is a fresh water pipe along all 23 plus miles of trail and a series of pump houses used to pump the water up to the resorts. Click this link (An Investigation of Energy Use, Potable Water and Wastewater Treatment at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona) for a good explanation of how the process works.

The extra time we spent walking to and checking out Roaring Springs meant that it would be later/hotter for the rest of the hike but I’m glad we took some time to investigate the area while we were there. Jenny and Sean had some snacks and hung out in the shade while my cousin Mike and I worked our way through some dense (and creepy crawler infested) plants along and across an informal trail that meandered toward the falls below Roaring Springs. We were persistent enough to at least get to a small side falls before we turned around. The transcanyon pipeline cut through the area, but it was still a cool place.

We snapped a few pictures – this is the best one of Mike…

Mike on a rock below Roaring Springs

and Mike took this one of me.

Eric Rial below Roaring Springs Grand Canyon National Park

After we scrambled back along the overgrown path to the watering stop, we filled all of our containers and continued on the trail toward Phantom Ranch. I’m going to continue describing Day 1 of our hike in my next post. My favorite part of the entire hike was behind us, but by no means is the rest of the hike disappointing. It’s just that the North Kaibab trail between the North Rim and Roaring Springs is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to!

Next post in this series: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 4 – Part 2: Roaring Springs to Phantom Ranch)

List of all my posts for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike Posts (Oct 2010 and June 2014)

View from Tecate Peak in Southern San Diego County

One of the most satisfying feelings in life is feeling the sense of being grounded. The dictionary definition of the word asks more questions about a person than it answers.

I’ve heard other phrases in my life that I also equate with a person who is grounded such as “knows who they are and they’re happy with it”, “comfortable in their own skin”, and “right where they want to be in life”.   The classic view of a person who is “grounded” is of a person who is that way because that is who they are and nothing can shake them. People like that might exist, but I think anyone is capable of being shaken loose from their roots occasionally. Sometimes it is better to let yourself drift for a while than to hold on to a self-image that no longer works. I believe you won’t be able to hold on to that “grounded” feeling for long if your self-image doesn’t match your situation!  Although I haven’t always felt that I was “grounded”, I can definitely think of four times in my life I felt that way.

When I was young and we lived just outside of my hometown, even though I spent a lot of time alone, I remember being very happy. I had a close family, felt I knew who I was, and where I fit in the world. Of course things have a way of changing, in fact they never stop changing. I hit puberty (never a likely time to feel grounded), my parents divorced, and we moved in to town. It is hard to feel grounded when the “ground” is shifting underneath you.

But I found my way and even though I was a rebellious teen, I felt grounded. I’m sure my Mom would feel differently about that time in my life, but I was happy with much of my life. I started working, had a more social life, a terrific best friend (who is still my best friend today), and I learned a lot about myself. But high school doesn’t last forever! After high school the ground shifted yet again. Behavior that worked when I had fewer responsibilities became a huge problem. I didn’t know where I was headed and no longer felt even a little bit grounded.

Eventually, I decided that a major change was necessary. I decided to join the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is a terrific organization and I loved every minute of my 21 years of service, but I can’t say that I felt particularly grounded during my first four years in the Marine Corps. I was constantly moving around, meeting new people, and learning even more about myself. I wasn’t particularly happy with some of the things I learned, so I decided to make some changes. At the end of my first enlistment I met a woman, got married and started a family. Responsibility and family allowed me to finally feel grounded again.

The years I spent married and raising young children was a defining time in my life. I was absolutely exactly where I wanted to be. I never wanted it to end! We were married 20 years. We were happy at least 80% of the time for the first 17. Unfortunately we were only happy about 20 percent of the time the last three years. This was different for me than after high school. After high school I didn’t really know who I was.  Now I did! I was settled in my career, I was a father, and I wanted to be a family man. That included coming home from work to my family. My self-image no longer completely fit my situation. I saw my children several hours a week, not every night. I came home to an empty apartment, and I didn’t have a long list of interests to fill my life with. The interests of my youth – going to the bar, playing pool, and the rest of the things young men do, felt like a pretty hollow existence compared to what my life had been.

I didn’t all at once decide to “find myself” or to live a fuller life. In fact I did what a lot of people in my situation do, I jumped back into a relationship very quickly. I thought I could rebuild what I had lost. I thought all I needed was someone to come home to and then everything would be “good” again. It didn’t work out quite that way. I ended up married and divorced again very quickly. Although it was a 3 year relationship I was not able to regain that feeling of being grounded. After that experience I was even more “out of sorts”. I really was adrift except for one thing, my youngest son moved in with me.

I wish I could say that with my son there I had decided to just enjoy having my son there, not worry about dating, and take some time to build a life, but I didn’t know I needed to do that.  I was a single parent, dating, and dealing with the challenges that all of those things together bring. It didn’t leave a lot of time in my life for self discovery. It didn’t take long for me to see that this wasn’t the way to happiness. I pulled away from online dating, focused on doing my own thing, not for years, but for enough time to find something that I could build on.  I also started blogging. My first blog is no longer around. It was a 60 post in 60 days nonstop rant. I wasn’t ranting at the world for “what they were doing to me”. I was ranting at myself! I needed to change some things. It was too late to “Join the Marine Corps” again, and that is not the kind of change I needed anyway. I needed to accept that I wouldn’t go back to where I had been before. Besides, my kids were mostly grown and the nest was emptying out. I started to hike, and run, and sail more. I started going to plays and more concerts than I had ever gone to before. I also accepted the friendship offered by a terrific woman I was dating before my “60 posts in 60 days” rant/melt down. Again I wish I could say that I let this go slowly, that is absolutely what I needed, but I didn’t. After a few months I asked her to date again. At least it wasn’t because I needed to date, it was because I thought she was terrific and I didn’t want to lose her.  However, I did commit myself to taking the dating slowly, and to continuing to find myself. I knew I needed to fill my life with not just the company of another person, but with my own interests if I was going to ever be happy again.

Much of the rest of the story is already told in the posts I’ve written for this blog over the last 3+ years, so I’ll skip to the good part.  Last week I was rocking my grandson to sleep and my beautiful, tenacious, adventurous, wonderful wife bent over to give me a kiss and one word came to my mind – grounded!  I was grounded well before this, but I felt it more strongly than ever before at that moment.  I could not be in a better place. I cannot imagine a different life. I know exactly who I am and I’m happy with that person (well mostly). I know that there is change out there somewhere in the future. I don’t dwell on it… but it will come. Until then I will live every day to the fullest and continue to feel grounded!

When we bought our house a little over a year ago we decided to add an upgrade for surround sound wiring in the family room. Although this was a fairly expensive upgrade considering the much lower cost to put in wires before the drywall was even up. However, it was not expensive compared to what it would cost after the drywall was up, so we went for it. We did save about a third of the cost by only having the wiring installed, and not adding the speakers. I’m comfortable cutting drywall, connecting wires, and repairing any drywall that needs to be patched. The upgrade was supposed to include “caps” on the ceiling, which I assumed would make my life even easier because I would know exactly where to cut the holes for the speakers, but there were no caps in place when we did the final walk through on the house. Although there was a little push back the developer agreed to put in caps when I pointed out that the title of the upgrade was “Surround Sound wiring with caps”

Last month I bought a set of 6 inch two-way speakers so I could install the speakers. I got out the tools/supplies I would need: a utility knife to cut the drywall, a stud finder, a ladder, a wire cutter, a wire stripping tool, a drop cloth, and a Phillips head screwdriver. The speakers came in pairs and each speaker pair included a set of instructions, a tool to remove the grills, and a template for cutting the speaker hole.

Like most of my weekend projects, I have never done this before, so I expect I will learn somethings along the way and have a few surprises. Once I had everything I needed handy I got right at it.

Step 1: Climb the ladder and remove the first cap.
Step 2: Close your mouth when the amazement of no hole under the cap fades…

Removing Surround Sound Pre-Wiring Cap

Apparently (at least it was apparent after I removed the cap) the installer had screwed the cap directly into the ceiling. Since, this was not what I was expecting it caused me to immediately become more cautious. Even though I was less comfortable I decided it would be fine as long as the caps were positioned on the ceiling in the same locations as the speaker wires. They looked like they were right but I wouldn’t know until I cut the hole.

Step 3: Mark the studs around the cap location with a stud finder to properly place the speaker.
Step 4: Use the provided template and a pencil to mark the cutout location.
Step 5: Use a utility knife to cut the drywall along the line.
Step 6: Stop cutting when you feel a stud behind the drywall as you push the utility knife into the drywall.
Step 7: Remark the studs in the correct location (even if it is in the center of your first marked cutout).
Step 8: Redraw the cutout in the correct location.
Step 9: Be thankful you didn’t cut further before you found that stud!

Locating and marking the first speaker hole.bmp

Step 10: Double check there are no studs behind your marked cutout. OK, triple, then quadruple check that there are no studs behind the marked cutout.
Step 11: Carefully cut along the correctly marked cutout lines with your utility knife and remove the piece of drywall.
Step 12: Note the speaker wires behind the cutout.

Speaker wires behind the first cutout

Step 13: Sigh of relief… only 4 more to go!

Before moving on to the other cuts I wanted to complete the process on one speaker, by installing it, connecting it, and hearing the sweet music come from it!

Most ceiling speakers do not “mount” to anything in the ceiling. They clamp on to the ceiling using turnout clamps that move into position and tighten up as you tighten the screws on the front of the speaker.

Step 14: Pull the speaker wire down through the cutout.
Step 15: Separate the wiring and strip about 3/8 inch of the sheathing from the wire.
Step 16: Remove the speaker cover so you can access the screws for clamping the speaker to the ceiling.
Step 17: Connect the speaker to the wire from the ceiling.
Step 18: Ensure the rotating clamps are rotated in and insert the speaker into the cutout.
Step 19: Tighten the screws in the face of the speaker until it is held firmly in the hole.

Connect and install the speaker in the ceiling cutout.bmp

Step 20: Remove the cover from the speaker wire cutout near your media center.
Step 21: Connect each speaker wire to a “hot” speaker wire coming from your stereo receiver until sound comes from the newly installed speaker.
Step 22: Mark the wire to match the speaker location if it is not already marked.

That’s all it takes to do one speaker location! Not too bad, but a couple of lessons learned.

For the second speaker I was more careful. After marking the cutout location and before cutting I checked the cutout location for ceiling joists very carefully. Of course I found an unexpected one. Due to the width of our family room there was a support beam running across the house right where I had marked my cutout. Although the speaker cap was on the side of the beam closest to the wall, it didn’t look right, so I cut on the other side of the beam = jackpot – second set of speaker wires located. I installed the speaker, connected it, marked the appropriate wire and prepared for speaker 3.

Speaker wires were on the opposite side of the support beam than the surround sound cap

I had gotten lucky with speaker 2, but the fact that the speaker caps were not marking the actual location of the speaker wires was a big concern. The last 3 speakers were all lined up so they would be in the same void between joists. If I got the first one right I would be good to go for the rest. Unfortunately, when I pulled down the cap and marked the joists I found that the cap was almost perfectly centered on the junction of a joist and the beam! I was pretty sure which side of the beam to look on, but had no idea which side of the joist the wires would be on. This time, ignoring my previous logic, I guessed that the speaker would be closer to the wall. I think I let my “wishes” get in the way of logic. I wanted these speakers closer to the wall, so that is where I check. No joy – my first empty hole.

Third cutout with no wires in sight

It was time to call the builder and complain about the way the speaker caps were placed and get some assistance locating the wiring before cutting any more holes! It took about a week to get the speaker wire installation technician out to locate the wires, but he was very helpful. He located the wires, drilled an access hole in the ceiling joist, and pulled the wires into the void I had placed the cutout in. While he did that for the first one, I cut the last two holes. He quickly pulled the other speaker wires and I had the last three speakers installed less than 30 minutes later. Once I connected and tested the whole system I installed the speaker covers and then took a break to enjoy the fullness of the new sound system.

Sorround Sound speaker with cover installed

I still have to patch the holes from the speaker caps (and my one small extra cut) and do some touch up painting, but we were able to enjoy the surround sound while watching a movie that night. As expected there were some surprises, and I learned a couple of lessons along the way, but I’m glad I saved some money on the speaker installation, and we’re very happy with the way it turned out.