Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tarantula Festival - Coarsegold, CA

Hi all -- Dianne here.  Just a short blog for Halloween, showing some of the sights we saw yesterday at the Tarantula Festival in Coarsegold, CA.   Coarsegold is a small, friendly town near our campground that we've really enjoyed these past three weeks.

Every year they sponsor a Tarantula Awareness Festival the Saturday before Halloween.  Evidently, tarantulas are very beneficial and not poisonous, but they get a "bad rap" because of their scary appearance.  

 -- Not sayin' I'd ever hold one, like these brave little kids, but I'm not as scared of them now that I've learned more about them.  (There are no tarantulas in Indiana, of course, so I had never actually seen one before we got to New Mexico this fall).

Some of the other activities included a "Hairy Leg Contest."  These three gals came in at the top three.   

For the little kids, there were pumpkin decorating activities...

...and tarantula races, using fake tarantulas that hop when the kids squeeze on an air bulb handle.  It was fun watching them!

  Of course, the kids came in costume.

Some four-legged kids also came in costume -- you know I couldn't leave without some photos of them!  Check out the giant stuffed tarantula riding on the black dog's back (easy to miss in the photo):

This little guy must have gone to my high school (We were the Frankfort Hot Dogs -- really!)

This greyhound wasn't in costume, but you know I couldn't resist a photo of it.

We also got to see the "meet and greet" of the greyhound with two of the costumed dogs.

Here's an even bigger tarantula being held by a BIG man with BIG hands.  They may be beneficial, but you can be sure I'd let out a whoop if I came upon one of these suddenly!

We've come a long way from the festive fall displays we used to do at our stix and brix house.  The little goblin on the left is our granddaughter, Kaia, when she was little.

Here's what our festive display is this year:   

This is our Jack-O-Lantern car dressed up to scare the rodents out of the engine block!!  (There's a Jack-O-Lantern motor home similarly dressed, but one photo should suffice!)

For the whippet photo of the day I decided to use one of the older photos of the "boys" taken at our veterinarian's annual "Bark-toberfest."  There is always a photographer there ready to take photos (for a price).  We hadn't had Chaplin very long when this photo was taken.  It's an oldie but a goodie!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Yosemite Finale - At What Age Do We Stop Doing Foolish Things?

Roger here....  Flash back a couple of weeks...  Dianne and I are gawking at the views from Glacier Point (3200 feet from the valley floor) at Yosemite National Park.   I see a young man in his 20's doing the final leg of the "Four (really 4.6) Mile Trail" from the valley floor.  He is out of breath, but looks great.  His face showed a huge sense of accomplishment.  "Did you walk up the whole way?"  "Sure did!"  "Wow, congratulations."  A seed was planted.  I could do that, too.  It would be great.  Probably won't have the time to do it, but wouldn't it be great?  I could buy one of those t-shirts that brags about completing the "Four Mile Hike."  A seed was planted.  Maybe a foolish seed, but a seed, nonetheless.

Flash forward to today...  What an adventure!  I can't believe I did it.  I feel weak.  I am still taking Aleve.  Every muscle in my body aches.  My knees feel better - think they're going to be OK.  I was really concerned at the end of the hike.  I think I'll order that t-shirt on-line.

Flash back to last weekend...  I hate it that we won't be going back to Yosemite, but we have seen and done all the things we planned to do.  It is such a commitment to get there -- two hours to cover forty-some miles one-way with road construction.  Dianne and I decided that we loved our time there, but that the hassle of getting there would keep us from going back on this visit.  But wait, what about the "Four Mile Hike"?  I know that Dianne would not want to do anything that strenuous, but maybe I could do it? 

 Dianne just started a new time-consuming project (peeling the decaying Diamond Shield from the front of the motor home).  "Hey Dianne, how about me doing the Four Mile Hike one day while you work on your project?"  Look of concern, "By yourself?  I would worry.  You could:  fall off the mountain, break an ankle, get attacked by a bear, dehydrate, starve to death......."  "I'll do some research to see if it is feasible for a 60-year-old man in reasonably good health to do this hike.  I won't do it if it seems unwise.  If I don't feel like I can make it all the way up, I'll just turn around.  The return should be easy;  it's all downhill."  (Oh, how I now hate - downhill).  So I googled away.  I found a fifty-something couple who has done the hike several times.  Three and a half hours to the top;  two and a half hours back down.  I decided.  I am going to do it.  I need to pick a day with good weather and decent temperatures.

Flash forward to yesterday - a day I will always remember...  I got up at 5:30, ate breakfast, shaved, brushed teeth, and grabbed my hiking pole (thank heavens - I often forget to bring it; it proved to be vital on this hike) and my small backpack (with water, a peanut butter sandwich, gorp, and whatever other stuff I always keep in there). 

 I had already  promised Dianne the night before that I would call her when I got there, when I reached the top, and when I arrived back at the car, so I did not need to wake her.  I was on my way by 6:30 a.m.  There was very little traffic.  I beat the park ranger to the entry point, so there was no line.  The construction workers had not yet set up their one-way traffic points.  

I arrived at the trail head at 8:00 a.m. and was on my way by 8:15 -- ahead of schedule -- a good sign.   It was cold, though.  The weather forecast said the high would be in the mid-fifties, but as the photo of ice shows, it was 28 degrees on the valley floor when I began.  Thankfully, one of  the items buried in my back pack was a pair of gloves.  The exercise walking up would make the temperature bearable (and it did).  Two couples entered the trail just ahead of me.  I would not be totally alone.  On to a classic Yosemite hike....

As you can see, the "Four Mile Hike" from the valley floor to Glacier Point is really 4.6 miles.  4.6 miles of walking, and up 3200 feet, then 4.6 miles down.  A strenuous 9.2 mile hike.   The blogs I read said that the ascent was doable - not horribly steep, BUT it was continuous.  No flat sections here.

The first little stair-step section looked so interesting.  I had to take a picture.  On the way down, I grew to hate them.

As I followed the couple in front of me, pretty much keeping the same pace, a young Swedish couple began to pass me.  I stopped to let them pass, when the young man asked if I had seen the BEAR.  The bear!  Where!  "Just back there.  He was sitting in one of the oak trees that overhangs the trail eating nuts.  I looked at him.  He looked at me.  We moved on."  The young lady smiled and said, "We moved on quickly."  I told them that I did get hit on the head with an acorn (true) and wondered if the bear had winged it at me 
:-)  What nice young kids.  

On I went.  As I climbed higher, the scenery became spectacular.

During the first two-thirds of the hike, as I rose above the oak trees, Yosemite Falls was visible.  It was also audible.  Every time I turned on a new switchback, I stopped to take another picture.  The couple in front of me was doing the same thing.  We joked about this being the last picture we're taking of the falls.

Then something amazing happened that turned us into liars.  Oh, my gravy!  There is a rainbow in the falls!  As we moved upward, the location of the rainbow shifted.  I took a few more pictures :-)

The next shots show a common perspective of one of the switchbacks, followed by a 180-degree turn to show the view from the other side.

Nearing the top, Half Dome came into view through the trees.  Wow.

Then I saw a large mule deer doe in the distance.  Not a great picture, but fun to watch her.

I watched the doe for a few minutes, turned a corner, AND...  I MADE IT!!!!!

4.6 miles.  3200 vertical feet.  I beat the couple that was in front of me (but not the young Swedish couple :-)  I did it in three hours and fifteen minutes, fifteen minutes ahead of the fifty-something couple that I read about.  AND, I feel great.  My knees feel a little funny -- something new -- but, wow, do I feel great.  The sun is shining.  Time to take off the gloves and sweatshirt hood.  Time to enjoy the view while I eat my sandwich.  The gift shop is closed for the season, so I can't get a "Four Mile Hike" t-shirt, but that is OK. 

 I called Dianne and told her that I should make the descent in two and a half hours.  I lingered for a while at the top.  I took a picture of the trail head sign to prove that I was actually there, and started down.

The Goblin Boulder
After about a half mile, the first (of many) signs of trouble appeared.  Oh, no.  I have a little bit of pain in my left knee.  I haven't had a knee issue for ten years -- the last time carrying furniture down 3 1/2 stories while moving my daughter from one Chicago apartment to another.  (That same night we could be seen wheeling a computer desk on a two-wheel cart at 3:00 a.m. in front of Wrigley Field - another story.)  I digress, back to the hike... 

 Man! It is hurting a lot more and now I feel a twinge in my right knee.  I am too far up to have this happen now!  Soon I was in complete agony.  Both knees were in constant pain, but I could not rest them for any length of time and make it back down before dark.  People going up asked me, "How far to the top?"  Soon, the same people were passing me going back down.  I stopped taking pictures, because I did not care;  however, I could not resist a photo of what I call the Goblin Boulder.  The facial expression accurately describes what I was feeling.

Without my hiking pole, I am not sure I would have made it down without help.  I was truly using it as the only means of descending even the smallest of steps.  My knees hurt.  My lower back began to hurt.  The scores of people passing me on the way down offered no real reassurance when they said, "Well, there is plenty of daylight left."  I felt like Amos McCoy.  (I know that dates me.) 

 The young Swedish couple passed me.  I told them to scare the bear away before I got there.  They laughed.  (They would have carried me out, if I had asked.)  The couple that I joked with passed me.  Lots of people passed me.  I usually stopped when I heard people coming rather than show them how pitiful I was.

I measured my progress by looking at Yosemite Falls - above the upper falls, half-way down the upper falls, near the lower falls, half-way down the lower falls.  The cars looked more like cars and the trees looked more like trees - a good sign.  BUT, every time I saw the pathway below (above photo), I became discouraged.  I called Dianne to tell her not to worry, but I would be later than I thought.

Is that a car alarm I hear?  Never thought I would be thrilled to hear a car alarm.  I have to be close to the trail head.  A young twenty-something smiles as she passes the hobbling old man (me).  Then she stops.  A beautiful doe and two almost mature fawns crossed the trail.  I stopped, too.  It was a magical moment.  Then, she turned around and headed toward me, whispering, "Bear!"  I whispered back,  "Bear?"  She pointed.  

Just ahead, sitting in the trail -- a BEAR.  (Crap, I wanted to see a bear while I was here, but preferably from the car, and definitely NOT blocking my way on the trail when I was just arriving near the car.  Crap.)  The young lady joined me as we watched the bear for about five minutes, until it turned and climbed the slope next to the trail.  We waited a while and decided that he was not interested in us, and slowly moved on down the trail.  We soon revisited the doe and her fawns, as well as a magnificent antlered buck.  I don't have any pictures of any of this, as I was more concerned about not being eaten by the bear.  

The car.  I am back to the car.  I see it about a hundred yards ahead, but it is taking me forever to reach it.  The car.  I made it to the car.  The two and a half hour descent took every bit of four hours.  I called Dianne.  She was relieved and promised me spaghetti when I returned.

ONE MORE CHALLENGE.....  The five steps into the motor home.  With Dianne's help, I made it.

My dear wife had a hot epsom-salt foot bath, two Aleve, and spaghetti waiting for me on my return.  She also told me that she would remind me of this day the next time I attempted something that might be beyond my capabilities.  (By the way, the tiny blue spot under the blanket is part of my pajamas - not my underwear, or anything else :-)

Flash forward to this moment...  I really feel pretty good.  The pain in my knees and back is totally gone.  My legs have that achy, muscle-building feeling.  I lost five pounds in one day.  Would I do something "foolish" like this again?  Maybe, but not for a long time :-)

Can't forget the Whippet Picture of the Day.  This one is entitled, "Best Buddies."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mandy!

Here's a shameless blog in honor of our daughter, Amanda.  You moms will understand....
October 26, 1977 was a very important day for our family.   A tiny little girl was born on that day named Amanda.  Her friends call her Amanda, but for me she will always be "Little Miss Mandy Kay."

Mandy loved to go camping in our pop-up tent camper.  In those days, we had to bring all the baby gear along with us:  swing, diapers, pacifiers, the whole deal.  Makes me tired to think about it!

Mandy was one of those little kids who always clung to her mom's leg.  My very first memory of her in the hospital room was her putting her little arms around me, even as a newborn.  This girl came into the world with a kind, loving spirit that I can't take credit for -- she was just born that way.

She was a quirky little kid -- always had her shoes on the wrong feet, and for a stretch of a few years (as shown in these photos) EVERYTHING had to be pink.

Mandy's kind-heartedness extended to any and all animals.  Sometimes she loved them a little too much -- just ask the cats who were dressed in doll clothes and pushed around the house in a doll carriage (with one tiny pink arm holding them firmly in, whether they liked it or not!) 

One problem with being too cute for your own good, especially if you're the baby in the family, is that you tend to get away with murder.   I can't even count the times when Roger and I had to bite our cheeks to keep from laughing when we needed to discipline her.  A few incidents come to mind, like hiding her guinea pig in the door of the antique mantle clock (playing hide and seek).  Oh well, the replacement glass door was prettier than the original one anyway....
poor Squeaky, the guinea pig, was probably traumatized for the rest of its short life, though.

In junior high and high school, Mandy was often the peacemaker among her zillion girlfriends.  Her friends came from every group in the class -- she was (and is) an equal-opportunity friend.  Her loyalty is legendary.

Amanda is very artistic and creative.   She sees things through an artist's eye.  She follows her own drummer and thinks "outside the box."

She's a beautiful person, inside and out.  As much as I love the cute kid photos of her, my favorites are those below.  These photos show just what a kind, loving, patient, involved mom Mandy is to our granddaughter, Kaia, who is the center of her world.   The love just shines through in these photos:

Mandy, we're so proud of you -- you're doing a great job!!!

Happy birthday, Honey!

Almost forgot the whippet photo of the day.  Amanda isn't the only one whose birthday is October 26.  Our baby of our four-legged children, Chaplin, is eight years old today!  He still gets an e-birthday card from his breeder every year.  Thanks, Peggy and Steve, and Happy Birthday, Chaplin!  I'll make sure you have a special treat today.