Monday, September 6, 2010

Some Lessons Learned

So what are the lessons from the last three months.

1.  Doing what we have done brought us both a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction.  I've lost weight and am generally much healthier.  And I'm in far better shape than when we first camped at Grand Canyon.  Didn't reach the ten miles/day goal, but made substantial progress.  That's the upside.  What's the downside?  Beats me!  I don't think there was one.

2.  I knew I needed a "time-out" from The Sea Ranch, that my health had suffered from my last 18 months on the Board, that I'd gained weight from nervous eating, and that I was woefully out of shape.  What I've learned is just how much stress I was under - and the determination not to let myself get stressed out that way again.  The Sea Ranch isn't worth dying for.

3.  As noted, we can happily live a simple, "pack it all in the Prius," life.  Time to get rid of a lot of clutter.

4.  It's nice to be back in the house at The Sea Ranch, but we're both looking forward to being in a tent again, soon.b

Of Camping and Campsites

We had a great time tent camping, getting better and better at it as we gained experience.  Waking up in the morning was a delight.  And being within the parks made us a part of them in ways that wouldn't be true in a lodge or motel.

We learned that almost all campers are a generous, considerate bunch.  They quieted down by 10:00 pm, either got up quietly in the morning or slept in until 8:00 am or later.  Didn't intrude on each other's space unless invited.

We blundered into doing some things right:
- Our Coleman tent has a 10'x10' floor and a peak height of 6', meaning we could stand in it and had plenty of room for stuff.
- After the mess-up with the two twin-sized air mattresses at the Grand Canyon, we bought a Coleman queen-sized air mattress and slept well thereafter.
- Probably the highest-quality thing we had was the Kelty Eclipse double sleeping bag, rated for 30 degrees.  We had diddled around buying it, but Mel Cotten in San Jose had one in stock when I stopped there on our way to Arizona.
- We got a four-piece teflon coated cookset, just what we needed - and no more - in a compact package.
- Andy taught us about plastic tubs.  We used two - one for food, one for cookware, placeware, and clean-up stuff.
- We abandoned using the big ice chest when we went out for the second time in July.  The small one worked fine - for us; wouldn't have worked for a larger family.

Yes, we learned we had to live by KISS - after all, you can only get so much stuff into a Prism that, in bear country, must carry everything but the tent, sleeping bag, and camp chairs wherever you drive.  We also learned we could do just fine living so simply.

Campsites:  Our favorites were the ones we stayed the longest - Signal Mountain in Grand Teton and Wapitit in Jasper. 

Our least favorite was Lake Louise - it was just OK - even though the campsite, G11, itself was pretty, private, and very functional.  But the facilities were crowded by folks who were not as quiet and easy as those in other campgrounds - the term, "ugly Europeans," came to mind.  Going back to Lake Louise, I'd look into one of the other nearby campgrounds.

Mather Campground at the Grand Canyon is extremely well-run by the concessionaire, Xanterra, and would probably rank near the top if we had been more experienced.  The facilities - showers, laundry, and restrooms are clean and convenient.   Wasn't impressed with the big, cafeteria-style restaurant in Mather Village, but the deli in the General Store was first-rate.

Bryce is run by the National Parks Service and Wapiti at Jasper and Lake Louise are run by Parks Canada.  Bryce seems well run, but struggling with deferred maintenance.  The Parks Canada folk are pretty impersonal and the campgrounds are not kept up as well as, say, Signal Mountain.

Signal Mountain is run very well by the concessionaire, Forever Lodging - good staff who were are frequent, friendly presence.  We did have to go to Colter Bay Village, about six miles north, for laundry, showers, and the General Store and ice cream.  Grand Teton Lodging is the concessionaire there - and for the Jenny Lake and Lake Jackson Lodges, too - and they do a first rate job.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Salt Lake City and Home

We got to Salt Lake City mid-afternoon on Wednesday, the 25th, for a calm few days before driving back to The Sea Ranch, arriving the afternoon of Tuesday, the 31st.

It's always a pleasure to be with Pam and John and we had a good time, mostly talking.  Couldn't get far from the mountains, of course, since wherever one goes in Salt Lake City, one sees the Wasatch Range.

And to top that off, we went downtown to the I-MAX theater at Clark Planetarium to see "Conquest of Everest: The Wildest Dream," telling the stories of George Mallory's ill-fated ascent in 1924 and of Conrad Anker's re-creation of Mallory's ascent, inspired by Anker's discovery of Mallory's body in 1999.  Anker develops a scenario providing circumstantial, but probably not conclusive, evidence that Mallory made it to the summit before he died.

Compared with Everest, our mountain-top experiences were pretty puny, but having been on the summit of Whistlers, near Jasper, gave us some appreciation for the Herculean and seductive challenge of Everest.  If we have come back with anything, it is a fascination for the geology of mountains.  Starting with the Grand Canyon, carved into a high plateau, the hoodoos of Bryce, at eye level, to the hoodoos of Banff and Jasper, 5000' above the glacial valleys.  So distant, but so connected.

On Monday, we left Salt Lake City, going south to avoid thunderstorms and the boredom of I-80.  We headed down US Route 6 to Ely, then took US Route 50 (the loneliest road in the world, so the signs say) to Carson City.  Again, we were in the mountains, crossing range after range, including the ranges that delineate the Great Basin.  It's forbidding country, but with a beauty to it - wouldn't want to live there, but nice to drive through (if you are not looking for the non-existent rest stops).

Yesterday, we had an easy drive from Carson City to Reno, down (and I do mean down - 7200 feet at Donner Pass to sea level in less than 100 miles) I-80 past Sacramento and Fairfield, across our favorite back roads past Napa and Sonoma, to Petaluma.  We knew we were home again when we stopped for the familiar goodies at Trader Joe's.  Then the 1.75 hour drive to The Sea Ranch, and a quick trip the Post Office for an almost full garbage bag of mail.  (New unit of measurement- one tall kitchen garbage bag = eight weeks of mail, including about 30 credit card offers).  The house looks, feels, acts the same as before we left, although surprisingly, the grass in the front grew the past seven weeks - it's not supposed to do that in July and August.

So, in the past seven weeks, the Prius took us 7707 miles at an average of 49.4 mpg.  Not bad considering the mountains we climbed and the roads we drove....

Now it's time to fill in entries on the blog with pictures, post a couple of concluding entries, and then reluctantly say "good-bye" to it - but only until the next installment of the National Park Adventures - this was too much fun not to continue with more.