After retiring from the Army in June 2013, I got pretty lazy in terms of physical training. Sure, I continued to hike and snowshoe. But that is not the same as keeping myself ready for the needs of the service. As a result, my cardiovascular fitness dropped while my waistline increased. I needed a kick to get myself working to get back in shape. With 24 miles of hiking the Grand Canyon ahead of me, I have the kick I need. I’ve been working pretty hard for a about five weeks to slim down, tone up, and improve my breathing and heart rate. The workouts have been a mix of weight training, targeted cardio, and increasingly long hikes involving hills. As a result, I’m pleased at the progress I’m showing in the mirror, and I feel generally a whole lot more energetic. But I’m still chubby, and I still have a long way to go in my cardiovascular readiness.
The biggest obstacle to faster improvement is the result of a bout that I had with a disease in 2002 that would become known as SARS. My experience with SARS left me with between 75% and 80% lung capacity, destroying many alveoli by drowning them in the fluid that filled my lungs. As a result, I hit lung capacity problems before I hit maximum heart rate when exercising. When I get to that point, I start to suffocate. I must admit, that’s pretty terrifying. But my workouts have been including exercises to carefully bring me up that point so my body can adapt. Three things seem to be happening. First, my lung capacity seems to be coming closer to maximum heart rate. Second, my resting heart rate is lowering. And third, I’m learning that I’m pretty effective at using will power to lock down on panic. Also, all this training is taking place at around 9,000 feet above sea level. So when I’m hiking out of the Grand Canyon to maximum elevation of just under 7,000 feet above sea level, I’ll feel like I have all the air in the world!
Regardless of the outcome of all this, I feel great! And I think that soon I’ll be resuming activities that I used to really enjoy like bicycling. So I’m looking forward to where this leads.
For some reason I love making packing lists. Maybe that’s because packing lists are an early part of my preparations to travel. And I LOVE to travel.
So I’ve essentially typed up two packing lists for the Grand Canyon trip. The first I made is for what I will carry on my person and in my backpack on the way down. The second is for the stuff I will use while camping at the North Rim Campground that will stay behind when we make our thru-hike.
I sent the walking packing list to my fellow traveler, Chris for a reality check. I’d hate to get there and find that I’ve overlooked that one critical thing that could make or break the hike. With great input from Chris, I wrote the list out on a piece of paper (using a wood pen I turned – booyah!) because my packing lists always morph over time.
Then I found all of my camping and hiking gear and threw it into my spare bedroom. Hopefully, I have no overnight guests anytime soon. With backpacks ranging in size from 42 to 100 liters, I will be able to take everything I need. Of course, if I go over 65 liters, my pack will be way too heavy for the climb out, and I will owe myself a face punching.
By the way, the carpet shampooer and my Mom’s hat are not part of the packing list.
After packing and repacking and revising my packing list and repacking again, I’ve indeed found that my 65 liter pack is more than adequate. I could probably fit everything into a 55 liter pack, but my two options in my current bag stable are a 42 and the 65. So my compression straps will be doing their job.
With the weather warming and the need to start prepping proper footwear for the trip, my thoughts turned to boots. I had a pair of Lowa Renegade boots that I swear are the best boots known to man. But after years of faithful service from them, I finally destroyed them late last summer. Over the colder months, I was good with using my heavier Lowa Tibet boots.
The Army issued me a pair of Danner Combat Hikers. For some reason, I keep giving these boots a chance (and regretting it every time). I’ve come to the conclusion that friends don’t let friends do long hikes in Danners. Usually when I hike in these, I get some unexplained very cold feeling in my feet (regardless of outside temperatures). This time, after only a short 2-ish mile hike, I was experiencing something I’d never experienced before: Plantar Fasciitis.
I think the next step is to put these boots into the trash, something I should have done a long time ago.
Not long after the hike, I had the good luck to receive my REI member dividend statement in the mail. With that and a 20% off coupon, I was off to my local REI for another pair of Lowa Renegades. Several hikes later, my feet couldn’t be happier. So I’ve got my footwear for the trip.
So the issue of foot comfort has been addressed.
As to the overall packing, I suppose I won’t fully finalize the list and do my final packing until late the night before I leave. It usually seems to go that way.
So it seems that fellow photog, Chris Brandt of M. Chris Brandt Photography has become my epic adventure brother. Snowshoeing Rocky Mountain National Park? Done! Wandering Monument Valley, Utah? Check!
Now, we have our next adventure in the hopper. In mid July, we will be hiking the Grand Canyon from the North Rim through to the South Rim. “Why mid-July? Isn’t that crazy?” you ask? We’re doing it mid-July because that was the last available time to get a place to stay at the bottom of the canyon. And yes, it’s probably totally crazy. At least that is what my UPS delivery driver told me when I told him what the Campmor boxes were for.
Our route will take us from the North Kaibab trailhead on the North Rim, down Bright Angel Canyon to Phantom Ranch, then up one of two routes to either the South Kaibab trailhead or the Bright Angel trailhead on the South Rim. For reference, you can click the map below for a new window with a larger version. The map comes from the NPS Trip Planner.
For reference, if you’ve visited the Grand Canyon, you’ve likely been to the South Rim. That is where the lion’s share of the facilities are, and it’s open year-round. By comparison, very few people visit the North Rim. Since the North Rim is unexplored territory for the both of us, this is where we will start our adventure. Here is the schedule as we have it sketched out:
Day 1: Chris meets me at the South Rim. I drop off my Jeep, I chuck all of my camping and hiking gear into his Jeep, and we make the drive to the North Rim. Our first overnight is camping at the North Rim Campground.
Day 2: We spend an entire day exploring the North Rim. As this will be the first time on that side of the canyon for the both of us, it promises to be a rewarding day. Also, the day will allow us to get an idea of the kind of heat we’ll be dealing with (since it is, after all, going to be mid-July in the desert). Then a second overnight in the North Rim Campground.
Day 3: We’ll be up early, throwing packs on our backs, and making our way into the Canyon. 14 miles from the start, we will arrive at our home for the night, Phantom Ranch. We will have food and bunks waiting for us when we get there. We will explore the bottom of the canyon, and we will most like find a few good day and night photograph opportunities.
Day 4: Up early again, we will make our way up the southern wall of the canyon. Depending on the route we take, we will either have eight or ten miles of UP! When we get to the top, we’ll take a quick break, look at all the tourists, and then hop in my Jeep for the 4-hour drive back to the North Rim Campground where we will rejoin the rest of our stuff and have our final overnight.
Day 5: A hearty handshake, and Chris will head south to his home and family while I make my way northeast to Chez Tommy.
I can’t wait!
Another 4:30 wakeup to get another sunrise. We rolled into the park, found the spot that we scoped out yesterday, and set up tripods and cameras. The temperature, by the way, was around 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Normally, this isn’t such a big deal since we were bundled up properly. But the 25 mph wind gusting to 50 mph really made the morning a challenge (especially since we’d worked our way on top of an exposed hill to ensure a good view).
Yeah the view was nice, but with a wind chill adjusted temperature between 4 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit and wind blowing so hard that it was attacking any openings in the insulation, I was feeling a little unpleasant. But the sun soon came. And when the light hit the tops of the peaks, it was beautiful.
Soon enough, it was time to leave. Really. Time to leave. We were freezing. And at that point, our plans changed. We were initially going to head to a trailhead and start snowshoeing. But since we were both frozen, we decided to go to breakfast instead. It was my fault. At least Chris convinced me to do real breakfast instead of donuts.
On the way out of the park, we stopped for a few shots. For those that have known me for a while, the bench in the picture below is where I took the video of a bunch of elks honking at each other.
Then came breakfast! Chris worked through a healthy meal while I was killing chicken egg, cow, and salt-cured pig. After that, we were back into the park. Here is the first after-breakfast shot:
As we climbed towards Many Parks Overlook, Chris had a little trouble deciding where he wanted to take his next picture. This led to a bunch of U-turns. We finally decided to take pictures both places. I liked this spot where I kinda poached the shot that Chris wanted to take:
While I was setting up for this shot, Chris couldn’t decide whether or not he wanted to leap over the stream. I was waiting with my finger on the shutter button for him to go. But in the end, he decided to turn and walk away from the stream. When I started to whine about it, he spun around and jumped:
Chris headed off to shoot a beaver pond. When he returned, we started to work our way out of the area. Chris has floating nicely on top of the snow. But about 10 feet before he reached the roadway, he sunk his whole leg in.
So I worked my way along a different route. I thought I was going to make it all the way. I was formulating snappy comments in my head when I punched through the snow all the way up my leg. My witty comments evaporated in my head as Chris burst out in laughter. Both Chris and I made our ways out of our sunken predicaments by laying on our backs and wiggling our ways out to the road. We got back to the Jeep and headed up to Many Parks. Though I got some shots I was happy with the other day when I was there, today turned out to be not so great. So we headed back down the hill. I got some nice shots on the way:
Then we headed down and out of the park. On the way, I took a cheesy Jeep picture:
We got back to our lodge, and since we are leaving tomorrow, we both went to our rooms and packed our stuff. Then we went to the local brewery for chow and beer. That turned out to be a good way to close the trip.
At 4:30 this morning, the time had come to wake up. I’d spent a nearly sleepless night because I was so excited about getting out for some snowshoeing. I finalized the stuff in my pack, dressed in my layers, and went to warm up the Jeep. At 5:45, I ran into Chris coming out of his room, and we packed the Jeep for the day ahead. At about 6:15 we rolled into the parking lot for the Sprague Lake Loop trailhead, ready to get sunrise pictures. I pulled my thermos of coffee out and was getting ready to pour myself a cup when Chris exclaimed, “We should get some pictures of the moon setting over the frozen lake!” He was, of course, absolutely correct. So out came the cameras and the tripods, and we were then headed over to the ice. We took the loop trail to the far side of the lake and set up our rigs and began to fire away. Here is my favorite of my moonset pictures.
After photographing the moon and its reflection on the frozen lake, we worked our way around to the west side of the lake for sunrise shots.
Once I was satisfied with my sunrise shots, I pretty much packed up and headed for the coffee that was in a thermos in the Jeep. Chris, looking for good pictures of the initial morning sun hitting the mountain tops, took off in a sprint to the other side of the lake.
Our next destination was the Glacier Gorge trailhead. Out came the snowshoes, poles, and backpacks. Ahead of us was a two-and-a-half mile hike to Mills Lake. The route required a bunch of uphill shoeing on our part. Mills Lake was a place in the park that I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time. And once we reached it, I was beside myself with excitement. I think I described myself as a “Jack in the box”. The view across the frozen lake was beautiful as it led my eye to the high snow-blown cliffs on either side.
We were the first people of the day to make it to this point in the park. For some reason, I found that thrilling, adding to my euphoria at reaching the lake.
Then it was time to head back down. We made quick time back down to the trailhead, occasionally stopping for an uphill shoer or to take a quick picture.
Starved, we jumped in the Jeep and headed straight for lunch. Lasagna. Delicious!
We took a break for a couple of hours and then headed back out around sunset. The night’s sunset wasn’t really that spectacular. But we got a couple of shots. Chris saw something he wanted to get a shot of and took off at a sprint, again. This time, he lost his footing and ended up on the ground. But a quick laugh later, he was back on his feet and headed for his prime shot. Here is a shot I got at that time (no, not of Chris recovering from his fall).
It has been too long since I took a road trip. So when my good friend and fellow photog Chris Brandt said that he would be in the Boulder, CO area, I suggested a trip to one of my favorite places, the Rocky Mountain National Park.
I showed up in Boulder on the night of 14 January and crashed on the couch in Chris’s hotel room. Then we got up in time to catch pictures of the Flatirons as the morning’s first light hit them.
Then we were off to the north. We arrived at RMNP about noon. Our intent was to scout the place out and decide where we wanted to start our photography snowshoe adventure the next day. But we couldn’t resist a few pictures. The wind was gusting up to around 50 miles per hour, and it was stinging us with ice crystals. Here is a picture of Chris, challenging nature as she threw sheets of snow at him.
I was dumb and forgot my gloves and snow hat at the lodge. But I was still able to get my hands out of my pockets and get a few shots…
Regan and her mother, Nancy, showed up at about 11:30 in the morning, and we were ready to shoot. Our plan was to shoot pictures or Regan in both of her cheerleading outfits and then in her street clothes. I used a two-light set up, one light with a 24″x24″ softbox and the other with a softbox of 18″x50″. Initially, I used the 18″x50″ as my key light and the 24″x24″ to illuminate the background. I also had several reflectors set about, and the background was white as the first part of the shoot would be high-key. I shot my Nikon D800, mostly using my Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens. I also used my Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G for a few shots. Regan prepared herself in her first outfit. To get her used to positioning herself as per my direction, I started with only headshots. Then as she relaxed, I backed off to get more of her uniform.
We decided to take down the high-key background and put up blue seamless to match Regan’s school colors. I swapped the 24″x24″ softbox for a standard 10″ reflector and used it as a hair light to separate Regan from the background. I then had my partner, Lauren (who was kind enough to act as my assistant that day) hold an off-camera flash to provide illumination for the blue seamless.
When we were done shooting Regan in her uniforms, she changed into her street clothes. While she was doing that, Lauren and I swapped the blue seamless for a black background so we could shoot some low-key shots. For this, we only used one light (the one with the 18″x50″ softbox).
And we finished outside in the trees. Outside, I permanently switched from my 70-200mm to my 50mm lens. However, the snow kept us from spending a lot of time out there. So we only got a few shots, with plans for a future outdoor shoot.
I needed a printer with the capability to print CDs or DVDs in ones and twos. After a little internet research, I settled on the Epson XP-800. I went to the store, picked one up, brought it home, set it up, and tested it. No matter what I tried, I could not get it to display its ability to print CDs/DVDs. The option just would not show up on any of the print menus. I was trying through the bundled Epson Print CD software. I looked for the solution in both the Apple and Epson support pages, forums, and blogs. No luck.
I finally stumbled on the solution. It was so simple that I felt like a total clown. But since I couldn’t find it anywhere else, I will put the solution here.
First of all, the included data disc has an old version of all the drivers and applications. Don’t use it. Instead, go to the Epson XP-800 Drivers & Downloads page. I visited it just now, so here is the link. If you are running something other than OS X 10.8.x, hit the refresh button so the site can determine the OS you are using. Once at this site, download the “Drivers and Utilities Combo Package” which you will find under the Drivers heading. Next, if you plan to use Print CD, download it from under the Utilities heading. Now you have an updated version of the applications and utilities that are on the bundled disc.
Use the newly downloaded Drivers and Utilities and Combo Package to install your printer. Then install Print CD if the combo package doesn’t do it for you.
Now here is the important part. (Click on any image for a larger view in a new tab)
Notice that next to Kind, the display reads “EPSON XP-800 Series-Airprint”. The AirPrint part is the OS X default print utility. And it is the problem preventing you from printing CDs/DVDs. So delete the printer using the ” – ” button below Printers. Here is where it is at:
You will be asked if you are sure you want to delete the printer. Confirm the deletion. Then press the plus button you will find here:
In the resulting box, in the main window select “EPSON XP-800 Series Bonjour Multifunction”. Then in the USE dropdown menu (where AirPrint is selected by default) select “EPSON XP-800 Series”. Once you’ve done that, finish off by clicking the “Add” button.
You will come back to the main Print and Scan page. Set the newly added printer as your default. Then your window should look like this:
Notice that next to Kind, you do not see the word “AirPrint” next to the printer name. You’re all set.
If you choose to use Epson Print CD, you will need to set the printer. So in the application, click File then click Print. Here is the menu you will see:
Notice that, next to Printer, the display reads Not selected. Simple fix. Above that, click the Select Printer button. In the resulting menu, select “EPSON XP-800 Series” and click OK.
Now, next to Printer, you will see EPSON XP-800 Series. Happy printing!
Okay, so this set of blogs is leaving the straight timeline and starting to bounce around as I get to pictures. This entry is about my visit to Bodie, California. Bodie was a gold mining town whose boom took place from 1877 through the late 1880s, but who steadily declined in population in the early 1900s, to officially be be abandoned in 1942.
Bodie is now a California State Park with well-preserved buildings and other period pieces like old cars and buggies. Walking through the town and looking in the windows of the abandoned structures, it would almost seem that the residents just decided to leave everything behind when they left.
But time has naturally taken it’s toll on the town. Though the buildings are generally well preserved, they are obviously weather beaten inside and out. This, of course, makes for fantastic photography.
Following an outstanding day in Monument Valley, we started talking about what we could do to keep up photographic momentum the next day before returning to Phoenix to close the trip. After much discussion, we decided on Sunset Crater National Monument (landscape around a dormant volcano) and Wupatki National Monument (ancient Native American Pueblo remains).
Sunset Crater National Monument opens with open flowered meadows with surrounding mountains. We, of course, stopped for pictures, here.
We then moved onto a brief stop at the visitor center and then onto the lava fields.
We actually didn’t remain long in the lava fields before we were headed to Wupatki to see the pueblos. The first pueblo we encountered, Wukoki, really set the tone for me. It was an impressive multi-room structure with great views of the grassy landscape all around.