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Showing posts from July, 2023

The Triumph of Hope Over Experience

As we did the doggie walk to our scenic ridge this evening, I caught a glimpse of white, cauliflower-like clouds.  It wasn't until we got over the foreground that I could see the forest fire clouds and smoke that are producing the moisture, which then condenses into a white cloud on top. The fire must be 50 miles away (?) in the big wilderness area in central Idaho.  Ah dear, so it fooled me at first.  Smoke and fires have not been an issue this summer, so we are due.  After all, it hasn't rained for six weeks.  Normally the inland Northwest is as dry in late summer as the Southwest is in early summer.   Shall I start preparing to leave the Northwest?  What is the point of being here, just to look at smoke and haze?  But I should wait until the Southwest shows some serious monsoons.

The Easiest Stream of Travel

 There aren't many flat places to camp in the mountains, even when you only need a small area.  Of course there are mathematical points of flatness, between the uphill and the downhill of a mountain.  A topo map shows isocline lines that are flat, but they too are too immaterial for camping or mountain biking.  That is why I was so delighted by a special type of isocline that we mountain biked on, today. By chance I found a water diversion ditch nearby.  It had a smooth dirt service road alongside it, so I followed it upstream.  The creek through the ditch was small, but it was energetic enough to make a pleasant gurgling sound.  The bottom of the stream seemed gravelly more often than muddy.  If the Little Cute One were a labrador retriever she would have been in heaven, splashing along through the water, only 15 feet from her man on a bike. We went uphill at a uniform 1 or 2% slope.  When was the last time I biked such a smooth and flat road?!  At times the mountainside was very

The "Dog" Days of Summer

We had a chance to hit the Little Cute One's favorite spring, near La Grande, OR.  It makes a great bike ride, at over 5500 feet.   She is such a thirsty little dog.  Why wasn't I willing to drink the water? ___________________________________________ While working on my refrigerator problems, I removed a plastic panel to see what was going on.  About a third of the condenser fins were clogged with dog hair.  I was able to blow the hair out of the fins using a can of the pressurized gas -- sometimes called an electronic duster can.  I had no idea there was so much dog hair there. Of course the culprit was my second dog, Coffee Girl.  In some ways I didn't mind finding this problem, because it was a reminder of a beautiful and loving girl. It is also a reminder of how convenient it is to have a dog like a poodle, who doesn't shed! After cleaning the fins, the air being exhausted by the fan became 15 F cooler.  But I am still looking into adding refrigerant to the 7-year-

How Would We Live Without a Refrigerator?

I have a 12 volt DC, chest-style refrigerator (ARB) that isn't cooling as well as it used to.  It is seven years old.  So refrigerating foods has cost me about $120 per year.  I should be happy with that. What I have now: this post will refer to this as a "12 VDC fridge." Of course I would like the next generation of refrigerator to be work out even better.  The 12 volt DC chest-style fridges are rather small (meant for 4WD guys in jeeps) and expensive (because 4WD guys use expensive everything.*)  So why not separate your RV fridge approach from 4WD culture?  Why not find an appliance that is mass-produced, non-specialized, and not priced for enthusiasts of some kind?   And if you can't get the functionality you want from a single mass-produced inexpensive appliance, then alter it, or better yet, combine it in a cleanly modular way with a second low-priced appliance? Consider searching 'converting freezer to refrigerator'  on You Tube.  You can find people

A Chance to Improve on Last Year's Camping

 For the first time this summer, I am camping in a spot I camped last summer.  In general it is fun to find new places, of course.  But in the heat of summer, novelty doesn't matter so much; getting to higher elevation  does.   So I am camped at the same site as last year and am confronted with the same problem: camping at higher elevation (in order to cool off) means starting bike rides downhill and then returning back up the hill.  Not fun! There is no profound or clever solution to this except shortening the ride, or at least shortening your expectations when you start the ride.  This technique at least overcomes your reluctance to go. There is less snow on Oregon's Blue Mountains than I seem to remember from last year.  But the flowers are better.  If this were Colorado I would be surrounded by ten other campers here.  But I have it all to myself. My camper is hiding in the shade, in the background.

A Camper's Air Conditioner

"It's only a dry heat."  That is what they say.  Perhaps today will be the hottest day of summer here in northeastern Oregon.  But it shouldn't get over 85 F in the shade at my campsite.  So far this summer I haven't used a water bladder to cool off at night, because my 7-year-old refrigerator isn't performing so well. Instead, I have used an inexpensive battery-powered fan, available online.  (Its blades are only 8" in diameter.  It has a lithium battery that charges up via a USB cable.)  I am surprised at how well this works, when aimed at the upper torso or head at night.  And it is so quiet! If a person were perfect, they would redirect their thoughts away from any source of annoyance in their life.  If you are not particularly good at that, the alternative is to add something to the background that distracts your thoughts away from the annoyance.  That technique has usually worked with noise, and it also works with heat and this little fan.

There Really Are Heroes

Watching these guys work will make you feel better than just about anything.  "Guys" also means machines.  On You Tube you can watch "timber harvesters."  They are quite impressive. It had quite an effect on me to see them making progress close to the road.  It is too expensive and too steep to thin much of the forest.  But it certainly helps to thin close to the road.  The road then becomes a barrier to fires.  And it makes the forest look more attractive. Most of the logs are moderately small in diameter.  I wanted to ask somebody what they will be used for, but nobody was walking around. It is hard to keep yourself from getting discouraged in thick, impenetrable forests.  You have to settle for open views at an occasional meadow or bald ridgeline.  Well, that is the name of the game for a couple months in the heat of summer.  

The Breath of Life in a Forest

  It is easy to preach the forbearance of discomfort, but it is hard to put it into practice.   The last day of the heat wave wasn't really that hot at 5000 feet, in the mountains of northeastern Oregon.  But there was no air, that is, no movement of air, no wind.  The lifelessness of the air made the whole forest seem disgusting.  (I need to read up on the linguistic confusion over words or etymologies such as pneuma, spirit, soul, and wind.)  And then some cold air moved in. The next morning seemed like a new world, not because it was that  cool, but because the forest was once again experiencing the breath of life.  Every square inch of your skin grins.  But it doesn't get glamorized or even mentioned a lot, probably because it is difficult to photograph.  Hopefully people will take it as a challenge, rather than photograph one more red sunset.   Maybe this would be a great place to use video rather than still photography. How wind savages a brown carsonite signpost in th

Good Tree, Bad Tree

I love a breeze in a dense forest.  I used to think that northern forests were airless and claustrophobic, with scenery being from the end of your nose to the nearest tree.  But it has turned out better than that, this summer.   It probably helps to be camped close to a large and abrupt elevation change.  But there could be another explanation.   The morphology of Douglas firs is quite noble: in the inland Northwest, Douglas firs "only" grow to about 130 feet tall.  In the coastal areas they are said to top 300 feet!  They are branchless for the first 40 feet from the ground.  And when the branches finally start, they don't extend horizontally more than 15 feet or so.  Got to figure out how I can depixelate photos without getting the funny bands in the sky. Thus there is a lot more openness than you might think.  That might help with the breezes.  In summer, nothing is sweeter.   I am not ready to renounce ponderosa forests as my favorite. (Aren't they everybody's

Not Another Badger!

  That does it!  On this morning's bike ride, we got close to another badger.  That makes it 4 badgers in two weeks.  And once again, I am so glad that the Little Cute One was on a leash.  She would have run that badger down, and then had her throat cut. I will have to look for special opportunities for her to go off-leash.  The national forest in the northwest is not acceptable for it.

Making It Work, on the Fourth

A classic Fourth of July is supposed to be hot.  I rolled into my new campsite (northeastern Oregon) a couple days before the Fourth, and braced myself for heat and obnoxious weekenders.  But it worked out much better than that. Camping at 5000 feet of altitude is comfortable in the inland Northwest.  You don't need 8000 feet, as in the Southwest.  Of course you need partial shade, hardly a difficult task in this part of the country.  At times the campsite is too shady, but that only requires moving the trailer 30 feet to expose the solar panels for a couple hours.  I underestimated the benefits of simply adding another solar panel to the roof of the trailer. The main challenge right now is finding flattish 5000 foot camping.  Simplified topographic maps help a lot. My holiday campsite is in thicker trees.  Although I used to be repelled by denser forests, I have started to make peace with them.  They serve a purpose in July and August.  With some effort, a person can visualize the