Scientific Frontiers

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

I was young and adventurous, which translates to “Anything is Possible”. I was 26, I had sped through a couple of real jobs, so I had life figured out. The microcomputer revolution was beginning and I was going to be a part of it.

The Gateway to Steamboat – Rabbit Ears Pass

The rationale of doing this from Steamboat Springs was a bit skewed economically, but in line with my passion.

Lester Smith at Trappers Lake

My father helped me move back to Colorado which offered us a bonding opportunity. Taking him backpacking to Trappers Lake in the White River National Forest was a highlight for us. Now settled in Steamboat I had to figure out how you do start your own business. There was no roadmap for starting up a computer store in 1980. There were a few ComputerLands that worked in large metropolitan areas and there were Radio Shacks for the hobbyists, but how was I going to make this happen? I had written a software program on my Apple that calculated and tried to manage Coal Testing Data. However, the managing part was a challenge without a random access storage device. Floppy Disks or even hard disks had not come to the Apple II yet. So I fell back on my original entry into computers and chose the HP 85 desktop computer with a somewhat random accessible high speed tape drive. This was the best option at the time and I totally immersed myself into programming as winter set in. My college buddy Jeff (as referenced in previous post) moved in with us and we set out to launch our computer store. This part of the adventure would hopefully generate revenue to live on but probably more important it connected us to the microcomputer revolution that was just taking off. We came up with the name “Scientific Frontiers” for our company and my sister helped us incorporate. We found space to rent for a store in Steamboat Square above the popular Mazzola’s Italian Restaurant. We bought the cheapest best looking chairs and tables we could find, made some signs and started learning how to acquire inventory. Hewlett Packard was extremely helpful and we focused on Commodore Computers for our core offering and more affordable Atari computers to tap into the entertainment appeal of these new computers. The local newspaper reporter, Ross Dolan, wrote up a nice article to help us launch Scientific Frontier’s Grand Opening on January 30, 1981.

Surprisingly we did survive for a while by selling HP devices to the various engineers in the area. We sold Atari computers to the affluent Steamboaters wanting to play a better version of Space Invaders and the Commodore PET to the new aspiring programmers. However, our real money maker was the Commodore 8032 computer that we sold to most every small business in town. The Commodore offered a dual floppy disk drive that allowed for the software to reside on one side and data on the other. BPI Business Software was our flagship solution along with VisiCalc on the Commodore.

Jeff was our Business Software Expert

I provided the hardware support which was mostly about winging it to keep these early devices working.

It was a fascinating time to be immersed into the birth of microcomputers while living the good life in Steamboat Springs. This is what your 20’s should be all about. Just follow your dreams because there is no failure at this time of your life. Connie also got to follow her passion by getting the opportunity to run the Steamboat Repertory Theatre. So talk about about a strange group of Steamboat friends: Thespians and Geeks.

Snow Day

We would typically have some of the actors stay with us at our Logan Street rental. This is also when I learned to Cross Country Ski since I rarely had enough money to downhill. Although, if we did get a major dump of snow, Scientific Frontiers would be closed so Jeff and I could go skiing. Summers were the best since it was mostly just the locals enjoying their mountain paradise. We did have ballon rodeos and some strange promotions such as a professional boxing matches and vintage car races to help promote Steamboat, but for the most part it was our town. The Yampa River Raft Race was about floating down the river consuming mass quantities of beer, unfortunately this race was cancelled a few years later due to excessive trash. The Winter Carnival was and still is a major event to get the locals through the toughest part of winter. Nothing better than watching the lighted man ski down Howelsen Hill. This was also when I started dabbling with backpacking. I think I had a frame pack and equipment capable of surviving in the summer temps, but I did discover the awesomeness of the wilderness around Steamboat.

Scientific Frontiers was always a financial struggle but it lasted into 1983. The Steamboat Pilot (newspaper) Office Supply Store decided to get into the microcomputer game and they had far more clout than we did, so they got the Apple franchise and later the IBM PC so the writing was on the wall for our demise. But what a great run it was. Our HP rep alerted me to a job opportunity at Union’s Oil Shale operation in Parachute Creek which turned out to be my next Adventure.

 

Stevens Pass to Stehekin

I had completed my warm up treks and was ready for a new Adventure. I had not done Stevens Pass north on the PCT, but I had done Suiattle River access to Rainy Pass, so that first portion of the PCT Section K was at the top of my list. It is a long stretch of 107 miles and lots of vertical, oh well, no problem other then carrying enough food. I planned for 10ish days knowing that I don’t have an appetite on the trail which would allow me to stretch my provisions if needed. Weather was going to be excellent except that it was warmer than usual. My travel logistics were easy starting with spending a night in Chelan Lake State Park, leaving my car at Lady of the Lake long term parking, catching the free metro link bus to Wenatchee and then taking a Trailways bus to Stevens Pass. I was on the PCT going north by 3:00 pm on July 27th. However, this trek seemed more daunting then usual. I had not been solo for a number of treks and the distance was 30% longer then I had even taken on. My mind was telling me how nice it would be to be sitting on my deck drinking a beer and my legs were already telling me they were tired. This is always the challenge, to force yourself to just do it and after a few days you know it was the right call, because getting out there is what it is all about. Unfortunately key comfort factors were not in my favor. Temperatures were flirting with 80 degrees and the bugs must have just hatched. The positive was that water was not an issue and the wild flowers were good. So I was “On the Trail Again”.

First Night’s Campsite

Lake Valhalla

My goal for the first night was Lake Valhalla which push me a bit. I chose a campsite in a meadow where I discovered just how aggressive the mosquitoes and flies were going to be. But I was generally so tired at my campsites that I was content with escaping the bugs and getting to sleep. My goal for the second day would be Grizzly Peak thinking that the bugs would be better up high. This was only about 9 miles and not that much vertical, but it was hot.

My campsite plans for Grizzly Pass were fine except that the bugs were worse up high, so I did not hang out side much to enjoy the view.

The third day took me past Pear Lake which appears to be very popular due to alternative trail access options. I decided not to climb to Lake Sally Ann and opted for a night at Pass Creek which turned out to be much better with respect to the bugs. The goal for the next day was Indian Pass.

I was told about a great campsite by taking a trail from the Indian Pass sign. Yep, it was primo complete with a toilet, campsites in a thicket of trees next to a large meadow. However, the bugs were the worst yet. That night was kinda weird because a herd of deer bedded down around my tent. The next day would be about Red Pass.

Campsite plans were to deal with the ford of White Chuck Creek and camp on the north side. This ford complete with a buckled bridge and getting your feet wet was rather refreshing with a nice campsite reward.

The next climb would be Fire Creek Pass but I was wearing down so I opted to camp somewhere around Fire Creek. This section was a low milage day for enjoyment, bugs were not bad and the views were awesome. My body was wearing down since I had burned all of my easy fat and I needed to start eating more.

Fire Creek Pass was another beautiful event with plenty of snow, probably the most difficult of the trek.

On the way down I got the word that Milk Creek was an overgrown mess and that I could get water on either side. So my plan was to cross Milk Creek get water and find a campsite somewhere up the other side. The problem though was that for a mile before Milk Creek the overgrowth was so bad it was essentially bushwacking and the same was true on the north side. It was getting late in the afternoon, it was hot and the bugs were horrible as I tried to fight my way up from Milk Creek.

I was really getting tired so I was beginning to consider camping on the trail if I had to. It did not look good for finding flat ground for a campsite, but then I see a sign that says “Toilet”. Thank you God, I really needed to stop, there was no toilet but there were a couple of campsites. Now I needed to recover for the climb over Grassy Point the next day.

This was a tough day, the body was dead but I think the gorgeous scenery carried me over Grassy Point knowing that it was then down to the Suiattle River with one more huge climb to go. I opted to camp next to Vista Creek and take on the Suiattle River crossing and climb the next day. Turned out to be a great campsite where I had my first fire.

At the major bridge over the Suiattle River I took a long break to recharge my body and iPhone. I had about a 3500′ climb ahead of me so I just wanted to knock off as many miles as I could before camping.

I ended up at the Skyline camping area where there was a large Forest Service work crew just setting up.

Suiattle Pass

Now the climb up and at least a little over Suiattle Pass. I was dragging but I made it to a nice campsite just over the pass complete with the most bugs of the trip.

It was Thursday August 6th and I had about 18 miles to go but it was mostly all downhill. I wanted to get close enough to High Bridge that I could catch the shuttle at noon on Friday. The hike down did have some more small climbs and the weather was changing to a light rain, plus I was running into more overgrown trail so I felt that camping at Swamp Creek 8 miles out from High Bridge would be fine. Plus I was soaked from the waist down due to the moisture off the overgrowth.

Almost to High Bridge

It was a nice last night on the trail even though it did rain off and on all night. But it was dry when I packed up for my final 8 “easy” miles to go. Not so easy as in some more up and downs with plenty of overgrown trail. The sight of High Bridge was so welcomed.

High Bridge

The normal Stehekin shuttle is not running this year, however, the Stehekin Valley Ranch is providing the service which gives you a hour layover at lunchtime to at the Ranch, just right for fueling up on a burger. I then stopped at the Stehekin Pastry Company where I had the best piece of Cherry Pie I think I have ever had.

I then set up camp in the National Park Lakeview Campground and proceeded to down a few brews from the store before it closed at 4:00 pm. The next morning I went back to the Bakery for breakfast and had a nice 2 mile walk back to get ready for my ferry ride back to Chelan.

Goodbye Stehekin

Overall a great trip, but it was also the most difficult trek I have ever completed and now 4 days later I am just starting to feel recovered.

NIPSCO – Life Changing Time

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

What was I thinking? I was a young professional enjoying a great lifestyle in Northwest Colorado. Yes, life was good, but I started thinking I could make it better, but to do that I would need to expand upon this new career as a chemist.

MitchelPlant

Dean Mitchell Power Station

So I started applying at other power plants around the country and an option that came up was to be a plant chemist at NIPSCO’s Mitchell Power Station in Gary, IN. So I rationalized that Gary would not be terrible and access to Chicago might be cool, etc, etc. We moved to the armpit of America in the Spring of 1980, finding a rental home in Hammond, IN, for my new job in Gary. It took about a week for us to start making plans for how we could get out of this place. I now understand how that young man with an adventurous spirit justified this move, but at that time I had no idea how life changing it would be.

I think the tone was set when I took my required physical exam for the job. I was from Indiana but I had changed into a free spirited mountain man from Colorado. During the exam the nurse asked me if I smoked. So my reply was, sure I smoked some marijuana occasionally, but never tobacco. It never crossed my mind that one should not divulge such information. So three days later I was asked to appear in the plant directors office where I was greeted by plant leadership. They asked me if I knew why I was there and I truly did not. They said, no one has ever answered the question about smoking the way I had. OK, now I realized what I had done and where I did it. I took a moment to speak, but then with great confidence I said: “Look at it this way, I am the most honest person that works here”. And they bought it. I assured them that I would never be under the influence of marijuana while at work and they could totally trust my work ethic. I still cannot believe that I did this, but I totally understand where my state of mind was that allowed me to.

Connie and I were making the best of this home. We rented a fairly cool old house in Hammond. Connie got a job as a legal secretary, we got to visit our family in Indiana, we checked out Chicagoland. I was enjoying the chemist job helping them create more standardized testing procedures.

Our pets were dominating our attention since Coco was about to have pups, Rusty was playing the father dog role and Barney the Cat was establishing his turf. Unfortunately, Barney did not understand the ways of the urban cat gangs. He had been missing for a few days when he showed up all torn up from fighting. We patched him up but he went right back out to retake his turf and we never saw him again. CocoPuppies80We were sad but also a bit impressed by Barney’s determination. Soon Coco had a litter of 12 cute australian shepherd puppies and we were knee deep in puppy poop in our basement. Unfortunately, Coco developed an infection that prevented her from caring for her pups as we might have hoped so Connie and I provided assistance with baby bottles. It was intense for a few weeks and we lost 2 of the pups, but soon we had crazy playful pups all over us.

If we had lived anywhere other than in the Chicago area we could have made some pretty good money off those pups, but soon it was just about finding them good homes, which we accomplished.

It was starting to warm up and the Indiana humidity combined with the industrial pollution of the area was motivating us all the more to escape this horrible place. AppleIIComputerLandA volcano named, Mt St Helens, erupted in the Northwest which created red skies in Chicago that looked like there was a fire in the heavens. Why were we here? But then I discovered a computer store called ComputerLand that was selling the Apple II computer. OMG, I could own a computer. I was obsessed and scraped together enough money to buy the Apple with a monitor, cassette tape drive and thermal printer. There were very few programs available so I started writing my own, quickly realizing that I could develop supporting programs for the chemist work we were doing. There was a dream evolving in my mind where I could envision my new evolving skill parlaying into a computer career. It was also about this time when our plant’s labor union decided to go on strike.

I quickly learned that a strike in the industrial armpit of America was a significant event. Unions in this area were in solidarity when it came to strikes, so when NIPSCO management did not budge and our workers went out on strike it was no longer safe for us non-union strike breakers to conduct our lives as usual. We went into a total plant lockdown where the administrators, supervisors and plant professionals took over responsibility for running the plant. Oh yes, and they paid us triple our salary which would financially pave the way for my exit.

This experience was fascinating to watch the process whereby company management had to prove that they did not need the union workers. The line was drawn and the two sides were facing off which is why we initially had to stay in the plant for like 10 days. Then it was something like out for 3 and in for 7 days at a time. Accomodations were made for us to sleep in areas converted to dorms, but I asked if I could bring my parent’s camping trailer on the property and stay there. 69ShastaTrailerAnd they said yes which sort of set things up for me to stay more independent which is what I had always been since I don’t think anyone else had ever taken a job there from Colorado. We went about our jobs along with some new assignments but we did have free time and everyone seemed to showcase some hobby or personal interest. A coworker who I had gotten to know was a serious saxophone player so I got to observe what that life looked like. For me it was about my computer but I also had this desire to play frisbee on the turbine floor. To do that I had to find someone who could throw so that I could have fun with my acrobatic catches. I guess we were all just trying to show off. But I was learning a lot about people.

VHSBetaFor entertainment we were fortunate to be living at the time of the VHS and Beta Tape battles and no real legal control over the pirating of current run movies. So we were actually watching movies that were in the local theaters. But the ultimate entertainment night would be on my shoulders. I was telling people about my Apple Computer and that I had some games on it. These were typically simple text oriented games but I started to get some of the guys to checkout my football game. A simple play by play where you would run a play or choose a defense and the computer would randomly provide an outcome for the play. I found a way to put in our own names for the players which gave me the idea to create a game based on our own plant groups playing each other. Somehow the hype took off and everyone ended up in the cafeteria one night with my computer displaying the football game action projected onto a screen. We played an entire game where my computer was giving play-by-play results which included the names of most everyone in the room. These hard core power plant professionals went wild cheering for each play and I just made it run.

Keeping all of this in context: I’m a 26 year old chemist who came from Colorado and by then everyone knew how I had answered the smoking question and I am orchestrating one of the weirdest parties that I could have imagined. I think that is when I realized that anything was possible and I decided to take my strike pay winfall and move back to my beloved Steamboat Springs, CO, to develop laboratory software and open a computer store. I called Jeff, my college buddy who had just graduated with an MBA and degree in Law to see he wanted to join me. Connie was all in and left for Steamboat with the dogs. Soon after that I resigned from my job at NIPSCO and finalized my move back to Steamboat to launch my new adventure.


Next Post:

Scientific Frontiers – a computer business in Steamboat Springs, CO in the early 80s.

 

Timberline Trail 2020

StartSignI still believe that the 41 mile Timberline Trail around Mt Hood is the finest backpacking loop in America. It just has it all with adventure galore which is why it was the theme of a Podcast I did. This was my 4th year to take on the Timberline, which I use as my age/health meter, and I am pleased with how my old body held up this year. Bryce again joined me for this year’s trek, we failed on our attempt last year in mid June due to snow and weather.

ZigZagCanyon

Zig Zag Canyon

This year there was about as much snow but the trail was more navigable. Last year the beautiful portion was the first 2 days which served as a good memory for the wet weather that dominated the first 2 days this year.

Each year I think about going counter clockwise around Hood but each year my analysis of conditions steers me clockwise. Paradise Park is a great first night goal to warm up your hiking legs and prepare you for the grueling descent down to Ramona Falls and then back up the ridgeline to mid-mountain. This year’s trek started out with beautiful weather for the view from Paradise Park.

I had already decided that I wanted to checkout the most western campsite at Paradise Park located next to some tree cover. This turned out to be a fortuitous decision since a heavy wet fog moved in just as we had finished setting up camp. PPCampsiteThe trees gave us some relief from the wet fog but by morning it didn’t really matter, everything was damp and we were set for hiking in a mist.

On the trail you quickly adapt to being cold and wet which actually serves as a great motivator for knocking off miles. The emerging Rhododendrons on the lower trail help as well.

Your first concern is making it across the Sandy river, this year we got advice to go up stream where there were a couple of small logs providing a dry crossing. By now it was essentially raining so passing through an empty Ramona Falls was not as inspiring, but Ramona Falls is still one of the most beautiful places on earth.

RamonaFalls

Now begins the most challenging part of the trek, climbing about 2400′ over 8 miles taking the upper route but cutting over before Bald Mountain.

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I had hoped to go all the way to McNeil Point but the rain and low cloud cover nixed that option. We opted to camp at Glisan Creek because we saw a couple of spots that were relatively dry under the trees. Bryce was totally inspired to start a fire relying on his Air Force survival trainer expertise, I was impressed. As for me, I really got chilled after setting up my tent and needed to get in my sleeping bag to warm up. It was still raining and seemed to be getting colder. An hour later I emerged to Bryce’s fire ready for dinner. We went to sleep that night hoping for the rain to stop.

We awoke to blue skies with great anticipation to be warmed by the sun. The goal for the day was to get past Cloud Cap, maybe even go up to Cooper Spur, however, this next section was going to be physically challenging for our tired bodies.

We hiked over a lot of snow but unlike last year there had been plenty of people before us to set the trail.

Some of the stream crossings presented you with a decision to trust using the snow bridge, but no real danger.

This day was crystal clear giving us some of the best photos I have of the north side of Mt Hood.

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The challenge for the day was crossing Eliot Creek and it was not about the creek crossing but instead about getting down to the creek. The water was running high probably from the previous day’s rain and the sunny day so it was not obvious where we would cross. There is a huge tree that provides an excellent bridge down from the trail entrance, however, you do not see that crossing option at first.

This is the canyon where the trail had to be rerouted in 2017 due to a slide. The 20 feet or so of drop off to the creek is a mixture of loose dirt, rocks and boulders. Getting from the trail entrance to the log bridge crossing was flat out dangerous. You could not trust any rock to step on and when a large rock started to slide you had be be extremely careful not to get dragged along with it. I don’t remember this descent to the stream ever being so loose, maybe it is just an early season issue. But somebody could get killed here, so I think it is time for some sort of a reinforced trail down to the stream. Now the climb up to Cloud Cap and all was good. As we climbed east from Cloud Cap our weary bodies enticed us to camp near the head of Tilly Jane Creek in a really nice sandy area.

We were able to dry everything out and enjoy a wonderful evening underneath Mt Hood.

Morning broke with more beautiful weather motivating us for our climb above treeline over high point which is one of my favorite areas.

MorningCapOnHoodThe weather was all over the place with sun and fog but it was a great temperature for the climb.

And then you descend down Gnarl Ridge to Newton Creek which presents a unique landscape of a really harsh existence for vegetation.

The Newton Creek campsites are excellent and within an easy distance to hike the following day, however, I thought that I remembered a spot near the upcoming waterfalls.

Unfortunately just after we left Newton Creek it started to rain and I was not finding those campsites so we ended up camping between Gemini and Voyager ski runs in Mount Hood Meadows Ski Area. The campsite worked out just fine and set us up for a relatively easy final day hike back to Timberline Lodge.

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I do love hiking through Mt Hood Meadows Ski envisioning how I will ski down those runs next winter.

WhiteRiverCrossing the White River was more difficult then I remember, but it was a beautiful day.

The 1000′ climb up to the parking lot always seems tough but the motivation of your reward, Halibutthis year Halibut Fish & Chips, at the Barlow Trail Roadhouse, puts a hop in your step.

This years Timberline Trail Trek may have been the best yet. The still early season, unpredictable weather with pretty good awakening of flowers and no bugs made for a great Continuing Adventure.

Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

StrawberryMtnWildernessStarting June 22, Bryce and I spent 5 days backpacking in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. It was one of those perfect weeks for weather, crowds, bugs, but a bit early for flowers. The Strawberry Mountain Wilderness is an island in the high plains of Eastern Oregon surrounding Strawberry Mountain which climbs to over 9000 feet. SMWSignWe accessed the wilderness via Prairie City with great meals in and out at 1188 in John Day. From the Strawberry Lake Campground we planned on spending the first night at Strawberry Lake which is only 1.2 mile in. If this area was anywhere but in the middle of nowhere it would be overwhelmed by hikers and campers. But it is 3.5 hours from Bend or Boise and 6 hours from Portland. The lake itself is pristine and there is fairly good fishing.

StrawberryLake

Strawberry Lake

We got to the lake in late afternoon and just missed getting the primo campsite on a grassy beach next to an inlet stream. BryceFishingBrookHowever, we took the campsite at the south end of the lake and immediately caught our Brook Trout dinner. BrookTroutOur plan was to do the loop starting with Slide Lake, however, Brook, decided that she did not want to carry her backpack and just took off to avoid her duty. Well, if you have followed Brook’s backpacking over the last few years you know that we have had some similar issues. Brook is complicated and this trip was her test for the 2020 season, and she failed. Of course she was not lost but she wasted half of our day as we had to look for her. The outcome was to spend another night at Strawberry Lake and do a day hike up to Strawberry Falls and Little Strawberry Lake.

Bryce decided to haul his float tube up to Strawberry Lake since it was not that far and it did turn out to be a nice recreational option. Bryce had some success fishing from it, but we also just used it to cool off in the lake.

Strawberry Falls and Little Strawberry Lake are must see. About a 1.5 mile hike further with some climb which set into to motion a gradual daily routine to get in better shape and acclimate to the altitude.

Hike to Strawberry Falls & Little Strawberry Lake

Strawberry Lake is at about 6200 feet but we would eventually top out at over 9000 at the end of the week by taking daily hikes.

The purpose of this wilderness get-a-way was to explore the Strawberry Mountain area but also to get in shape for the 2020 backpacking season. What I quickly realized was that it was about acclimating to elevation since I live at 300 feet. Each day I could feel my body adapt to an extra 1000 feet. I am so glad I did this since it should set me up well for the Timberline Trail around Mt Hood in another week.

Night 2 at Strawberry Lake

Night 2 at Strawberry Lake

We ended up camping at a different spot on Strawberry lake on our second night. It was on the east side of the lake with a much nicer view of the lake and stars. Our plan was to backpack to Slide Lake or further and still keep the loop option open to us by circling back to Strawberry Lake. However, I still had my eye on that great grassy beach campsite on the SW side of the lake. We decided that if that site opened up before we left for Slide Lake we would go take it over and then just day hike to Slide Lake. That is exactly what happened which set us up for camping the rest of the week at Strawberry Lake and just doing day hikes. This is not my normal strategy but in the case for this wilderness I now feel that it was the most attractive option.

Hike to Slide Lake

The hike to Slide Lake pushed most of the 1000′ vertical at the beginning and it was probably the steepest climbing we did all week, so the heart was pumping but it hurt so good.

SlideLake

Slide Lake

Slide Lake is beautiful with a hike that provides views to the East with a view point of Prairie City providing a cell signal. From this point on the trail flattens out with occasional small snow fields.

Strawberry Lake Grassy Campsite

Strawberry Lake Grassy Campsite

You can hike around the lake which offered us some nice fishing holes. Hiking back to our primo campsite on Strawberry Lake made for a very complete day.

We were feeling really good about our exercise progress so we went to sleep that 3rd night hoping to hike to the summit of Strawberry Mountain on our last full day.

The hike from Strawberry Lake to the summit of Strawberry Mountain would require about 9 miles and a 2800 vertical climb. We got to pass by the falls again and then up into the meadows below the ridge-line over to the final summit ascent. The problem was getting to the ridge-line which was guarded by an imposing wall of snow. It probably would have been wise to have our ice axes but our drive to get to the summit gave us the motivation to take it on. We were careful and the snow was more firm in our ascent which helped a lot. Coming back down would present some new options.

Once on the ridge-line you traverse over to the north side at about 8700′ and your pumping heart is telling you that you may have come far enough, but you do need to finish the climb to the summit at 9038′.

Strawberry Mountain Summit

Strawberry Mountain Summit

After communicating with our families thanks to cell service on top we began our return to Strawberry Lake knowing that it would be so much easier going down, however, we still had the snow ridge to contend with. Bryce decided to glissade down it.

The glissade did look like fun but I opted for the conventional descent. The hike back to Strawberry Lake was an awesome end to a great week of hiking in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. LastNightCampOne last night on our primo campsite just enjoying the beauty of this place.

Colorado Ute Chemist

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

ConnieGregStmBt78I did have a degree in chemistry so I was checking out job opportunities and wouldn’t you know it, I landed a job as a chemist for Colorado UTE Electric Association’s power plant in Craig Colorado. I was probably never thought I would work as a chemist, but then again, this was not serious chemistry. A Chemist for an electric generating station had to perform basic water, coal and emissions testing that really just required some knowledge of chemistry and the aptitude to learn. Plus they did not pay very much so they were definitely looking for novice chemists. But it was a real job, working for a real company, so I had to adapt to this new culture.

CraigPowerPlant1&2

Craig Stations 1 & 2

When I started work in late 1978 there was one new 400 MW plant in operation and a second 400 MW plant about ready to be started up. Colorado Ute was sort of a conglomerate of rural electric associations based in Montrose providing electricity to the western slope of Colorado. However, the power plants planned in Craig were more about satisfying the electricity needs for California. Plus new environmental concerns were forcing electric utilities to be more responsible about the dangerous emissions that had been polluting our country since the industrial revolution. I had no clue how electricity was produced, but it sure did look exciting. This was all happening in Craig, CO, because of easy access to fairly good coal.

Accepting this job ushered in all sorts of new responsibilities. Where to live? Craig was a boom town now with no available housing so Colorado Ute built a mobile home park on the outskirts of town and that was the only option.

CraigTrailer

Our Mobile Home and Subaru in Craig, CO 1978-9

We went to Denver, bought a 14×72′ furnished mobile home for $14K that would be delivered to Craig. For my first week of work we stayed with friends in Steamboat Springs, however, I never made it to work on my first day. It 49 degrees below zero and my car was totally frozen. It was devastating for me to make that call to my new employer telling them that I could not start my car. Our mobile home was delivered at the end of that week, however, utilities would not be hooked up until the following week. Connie and I went to Craig to check out our new home that weekend and decided to actually sleep in the dark cold trailer one night. We were a bit naive thinking we could be warm enough sleeping on our new bed when it was below freezing outside. I swear the trailer felt 10 degrees colder inside. But we were excited about this new life, it was truly going to be an adventure.

80ClassicSteamboatBarn

Access to Steamboat sure did Help

Work as a chemist was fairly easy to learn, we were mostly concerned about calcium in the water/steam that could plate out as silica on the turbine blades along with the BTU and sulfur content of the coal we were burning. ColUtePeopleMagazineCover79

I was rather surprised when I appeared on the cover of the Colorado-Ute magazine highlighting an “article about what life was like in Craig, CO“. The startup of the second generator was exciting as there is great concern and optimism associated with such an engineering feet. Overall I was into this sort of professional life. Connie worked as a bank teller but then doing research for a local Title Company.

79WesternKnollsCOUte

View of Power Plants from our Land

We must have assumed we might stay in Craig because we bought a 5 acre plot of land that we planned on building a log house on someday. Craig, CO, was a unique experience, good people but also a bit rough. I played in a basketball league and a flag football league where I was the quarterback until I got my jaw broken.

I got to ski a fair amount in Steamboat and definitely took advantage of the surrounding wilderness for hiking and fishing. Oh yes, we added another animal to our family. A local rancher, Joni Voloshin, who worked with me offer to give us a beautiful Red Australian Shepard if we agreed to let her have a litter of pups. The local ranchers were trying to increase the population of Aussies so to help prevent them from being stolen.

This job as a chemist was good in that I now believed I could do so much more. Our lab’s new Varian Atomic Absorption machine opened doors for me especially thanks to the HP 85 Computer that controlled it. I discovered that I could program these new micro-computers to do so much more. CoUteLabVarian

I was becoming restless and believed that I should make more money as a chemist so I applied for other power plant chemist jobs all around the country. I got an offer from NIPSCO, Northern Indiana Public Service, to work at a plant in Gary, IN. I was young and into the Adventure but who in their right mind would move from Colorado to Gary, IN?


Next Post:

NIPSCO – Life Changing Time

I decided to advance my career as a chemist by applying for jobs with more opportunity. Somehow I ended up in Northern Indiana working at NIPSCO’s Mitchell Power Station.

TheHikePodcast

TheHikePodcastPromoMy podcast interview on TheHikePodcast was released today. The producer, Lori Prima, does a great job with her podcast, it is truly a labor of love. Our session which was focused on the Timberline Trail and the PNW turned out great. Brook, @aussiebrook, even got some recognition. Hopefully it will help paint a better picture of backpacking and hiking opportunities around Mt Hood.

Listen via Apple Podcasts, or via Buzzfeed.

I have never done a podcast before, however, I have listened to many on subjects I am interested in.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/225790/4039745

Sharing stories that inspire us to explore, wander and live

Lori’s podcast, TheHikePodcast, has really impressed me because it is a more relaxing venture into the topics associated with exploring hiking and backpacking opportunities. She provides a diversified array of recreational topics covering the entire country. I highly recommend that you checkout TheHikePodcast.

Life is crazy in our country right now, but hope is carrying each day until I can return to the wilderness. Brook and I should be backpacking the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness the week of June 22nd.

Opal Creek

Beginning Opal Creek TrailOpal Creek is my easy get-away overnighter located about 45 miles east of Salem. Unfortunately the last 8 miles is by far the worst pot hole infested forest road I have ever encountered. Opal Creek is a very popular 6.5 mile partial loop that takes you by a couple of nice waterfalls and access to a truly opal colored pool on Opal Creek. Early on the trail you are greeted to some impressive bridge work to allow you to navigate around a mountain.

Then you pass by an old copper mine that is blocked off. The trail is actually a road until you transition into a loop by crossing over the creek to the south side, the north side takes you to a limited access community of Jawbone Flats. Just before the split you encounter old machinery that used to be  the remains of the Merten Saw Mill, circa 1940s. Right after the mill equipment look for a path south down to the creek, this will take you to Sawmill Falls.

Opal Creek Brook Waterfall

Sawmill Falls on Opal Creek

Once you cross over Opal Creek on a really nice bridge you find yourself on a true forest trail.

And we are talking a lush Oregon mossy green trail. TrailAboveCreekThis is a beautiful stretch somewhat above the Opal Creek that takes you to various campsite options. I have camped up here 4 times and I think every time I chose a site closer to the opal pool, however, this time I decided to try the campsite that requires a short steep decent to get to it, but the location on the creek is superior. CampsiteI do think this is the best campsite. It is April 8th, a beautiful day of sun and 70 degrees temp.

I totally enjoyed the late afternoon just sitting by the stream watching how the sun would paint various painting on the tall trees as it set.

Brook also enjoyed herself searching for the perfect stick and wading in the stream.

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About a half mile further up the trail you come to the opal pool and cascading waterfalls by the bridge that takes you over to Jawbone Flats.

GregBrookBack at camp Brook and I soaked up some more nature. Brook got caught by a sunbeam. Sunbeam BrookThe evening was cold but humidity was low which kept everything fairly dry. Brook’s first backpacking trip 4 years ago was on this trail and it is the only time she has ever come into the tent. I wish she would sleep in the tent “but no”, as an Australian Shepherd she must stay on guard and protect her human. In recent trips though she tends to sleep next to the tent trying to lay against me. Sometimes this works out and sometimes she nearly collapses the tent. The trek out the next day was just as beautiful.Opal Creek from Bridge

Snow Mountain Ranch

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

SnowMountainRanchSignI again fell back on my maintenance man experience and landed a job at the Snow Mountain Ranch located between Winter Park and Granby Colorado. I’m not really sure why this option played out, might have had something to do with the foreboding reality that I was probably ready to take on a real career so I needed to make this last random fling worthy. Snow Mountain Ranch, SMR, is a beautiful piece of mountain property under the flag of the YMCA of the Rockies. In August of 1978, summer was winding down and SMR was hoping to improve winter usage by catering to skiers. They gave us a trailer to live in which was a bit rough but all in all this was turning into another great adventure. Connie worked some in the office and I set out to work on the many maintenance projects throughout the property.

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Old Barns with view of Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests

Snow Mountain Ranch was the step child to the YMCA camp in Estes Park, but it had some great features, just not as much traffic. They had dorm type lodging geared to youth camps and church retreats. They had cabins available to rent or supplement other large group retreats. They had various outdoor recreation options along with a very nice gymnasium which also doubled as a roller skating rink. I totally appreciated the beauty here, but I did struggle with the lack of connectivity. I think there was only one phone and no TV which presented a problem for following my Denver Broncos.

We were truly embracing the moment realizing how unique this opportunity was while putting off that career commitment pressure. SMRCabinsHowever, my resume was being circulated. So for now I fixed more toilets, beds and roofs and Connie took care of office duties. One strong memory that I hold on to reflects back to when I was repairing a roof on a beautiful Autumn day looking out at the west side of the front range mountains thinking that life couldn’t get any better. Steve visited once and we totally scored on catching large trout in a nearby beaver pond. I also created one of the first frisbee golf courses by mapping a course around the ranch sometimes even cutting down a tree and painting the stump red to act as the target pin. Some evenings we would go over to the gym and roller skate or shoot hoops. Our dog, Rusty, was also really enjoying this life, although this is where he learned about, skunks, porcupines and not to jump off a moving truck to chase a deer.

Life was fairly easy but we did have important projects going on. The director of maintenance for the ranch was a man that I quickly came to admire. He was probably in his late 30s with far more expertise than would be needed to be working at a YMCA site like this. What I learned was that he had sacrificed his promising career in engineering to live at Snow Mountain Ranch because he had a special needs child who benefitted from what life at the ranch offered. I was the young buck who was a bit green with respect to some of our jobs, but he let me learn. I totally loved learning how to run a backhoe digging trenches for water lines.

We were also building a few cabins so there was basic construction work going on, however, I wasn’t typically included in those jobs. They got to a point when they needed to pour the foundation for a couple of cabins but they were not able to acquire any cement in the area. However, we could purchase bags of portland cement in Ft Collins, but that would require us to drive over Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park to pick it up. I was expendable and so they asked me to drive our heavy truck over the mountains to pickup the cement. This seemed like a good adventure until it wasn’t. It was the end of the day when I was driving back over Trail Ridge and the weather was starting to deteriorate. trailridgeroad_banner_688x250I knew that the truck had a spare gas tank but when I needed to switch I realized that I did not know how to do this. I was approaching the summit from the east when I ran out of gas, I guess I was hoping it switched automatically. Oh Shit, it was dark and I’m out of gas on a narrow mountain pass with a very large truck full of cement. Another truck finally came along, but the driver also could not determine how to switch over to the spare gas tank. So he offered me the option of following him (coasting) down to Estes Park. I was supposed to stay right on his tail incase my brakes failed. We crept down the mountain with my heart pumping rapidly. Well we made it down to Estes Park where the Estes YMCA Camp came to rescue me. I was educated about the spare tank and refueled but it was late. The folks at YMCA Estes recommended that I wait till morning but I knew I needed to get back partly because Shadow Mountain needed the cement but also because Connie and I were scheduled to go somewhere the next day.

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Elevation Profile of Trail Ridge Road

So I headed back out over Trail Ridge with snow flakes coming down, no driver side window and fearful thoughts about how I would descend the other side down into Grand Lake. I then realized why they have runaway truck ramps and there weren’t going to be any for me. I was totally petrified driving about 5 miles an hour down the mountain and arrived back at Snow Mountain Ranch around about about 4 am.

We had adopted Winter Park as our connection to civilization but it was a bit of a drive. I remember getting a speeding ticket while driving there in hopes of watching a Broncos game at a bar. The officer didn’t buy my excuse for how I did not notice how fast I was driving because of how beautiful it was out and how much I was anticipating watching the Broncos. Autumn was turning cold so we were making plans for coping with winter at the Ranch. Connie really stepped out of her comfort zone and landed a job to work as a ski lift operator at Winter Park. I think she had gone through orientation when we found out that I landed a job as a Chemist for Colorado Ute in Craig, CO. They were in the process of running one 400 MW coal fired power plant while building more. The Adventured Continued.


Next Post: Colorado-Ute Chemist

I got a job as a chemist for Colorado-Ute’s Power Plants in Craig, CO. This was the beginning of my various professional careers but this was also out on the frontier a bit.

Boulder Colorado

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

Boulder, Colorado, was and is a very cool city. Sure it is a college town in a beautiful setting next to the Flatiron foothills, but in the summer of 77 it had its own post Vietnam era independent vibe. Outdoor recreation was a growth industry. Frank Shorter helped to promote Boulder as a Mecca for long distant runners. Celestial Seasonings was evolving as a Tea provider supporting a very popular Red Zinger Classic Bike Race. 78BarneyCatPearl Street was the place to be. And this is where we ended up soon after marriage. We started out living in an apartment at Lake Tantra but soon ended up as the managers for Hill House Apartments at 10th and Marine. We also got our first pet when we got to Boulder, a cat we named Barney. Steve showed up occasionally and we were spending a lot of time playing frisbee, enough that we decided to enter the Colorado State Frisbee Championships that was held at the cU camp in Boulder. Our specialty was acrobatic throws and catches, which impressed the crowds but we did not have all the other disciplines down well enough to be a contender.

Sometime that summer as I was phasing out of Colorado International and preparing to attend Colorado University, I hooked up with Mock Realty Property Management under Ken Mock, which led to our opportunity to manage Hill House Apartments. This deal gave us an apartment and a small stipend for managing the apartments. The better deal though was working for the contractor who was responsible for reconditioning all of Mock Realty properties when their tenants moved out. tulagiI got paid a lot of money for throwing on a new coat of paint in these properties. Connie was working at the Penny’s Auto Center and doing some books for our apartments which all translated into a good enough financial situation to enjoy Boulder. Pearl Street was just a short walk, the Walrus became our favorite restaurant and we spent many a night on the Hill typically at Tulagi’s.

Studying with Barney’s help

Of course the reason for being in Boulder was to advance our intellectual and artistic endeavors. I did take the 2 courses I needed to graduate from Indiana University along with a few other very interesting Chemical Engineering classes. It was Igor Gamov’s course on chemical flow dynamics that actually got me interested in computers. The course allocated a nice chunk of computer time in the CU Computer Center to work on some flow dynamics programs. I think I spent 90% of my time focusing on that small component of the course. I even resorted to begging for more computer time even though I had completed all assignments. However, the seed was planted especially when I overheard a grad student talking about accessing the computer from his apartment via a terminal. That same course also offered some great field trips to experience chemical processing. The visit to the Climax Molybdenum Mine in Leadville was way cool and the tour of the Coors Brewery in Golden ending with an extensive tasting session was a fitting way to end my college time at CU.

Connie was pursuing a degree in Theater at Indiana U. but pulled out with a year and a half to go. However, she utilized this Boulder opportunity to study with Samuel Avital at “Le Centre du Silence” mime school and took acting with Robert Benedetti at University of Colorado in association with the Shakespeare Festival. I guess we both participated a few times in the script created for watching the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Boulder Theater. We also did a lot of hiking in and around the Boulder front range and continued to ski as much as possible. We had a few great nights skiing at Eldora Ski Mountain. Overall there always seemed to be plenty going on in Boulder. 

Barney the cat was working out for us, so we decided it was time to get a dog. We went to the Boulder Animal Shelter in hopes of finding the right dog in need of adoption. As we walked through the kennel there was a Black/Gold/White Shepard type dog that was sitting in silence amongst a kennel full of barking dogs.

We knew this dog was meant for us, however, he was not available for adoption for at least another week. Connie reminds me that I went back to the kennel everyday to sit with our hopeful new pet. When adoption was finally granted we named our new dog “Rusty”. The animal shelter required that we get him fixed but I felt like he needed to experience his libido so we got him a vasectomy. A few years later after too many runoffs for the smell of a female in heat we decided to get Rusty neutered. Rusty and sometimes Barney joined our walks down to the Boulder Creek parkway.

78GregArapahoeFalls

Falls up Boulder Canyon

 

I still had a connection to my Christian Ministry roots so when I came across an opportunity for a paid Youth Leadership position at Mt Hope Lutheran Church I talked Connie into the commitment and we were sort of put in charge of the Senior High Youth Group. Maybe this was the initial stimulus which led to Connie becoming a Chaplain in later life. The experience was pretty cool culminating with a major effort to take the group to a youth conference in New Mexico. This was definitely a test for us to be grown-ups and I think we did OK. As the school year was winding down I landed a job at Arapahoe Chemical working as a plant operator. They were not hiring just for a student summer job so I failed to let them know that I was a student. This was also when I bought a Honda 550 motorcycle from a friend with plans to ride to Steamboat Springs for a short get-away. I was not an experienced rider so when I hit loose gravel on a turn coming back from Steamboat Lake, off the road and over the handlebars I went. This was one of those times when I believe God must have been looking over me since I was not wearing a helmet and I could have easily hit my head on the many large rocks in the field where I came to rest. I did, however, rupture a kidney which required a hospital visit and many days of recovery in Steamboat.

Boulder77VWSnow

Crazy Snow storm in May of 78

Well, Boulder had been great but that Adventure spirit was rising again. We even considered riding that Honda around the country which is what we told the church as the reason for our resignation. But of course a new adventure always presented itself. This time we were headed to Snow Mountain Ranch a YMCA property near Winter Park.

 


Next Post: Snow Mountain Ranch

Ended up as a maintenance man again at the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park, CO. This was a brief Adventure in very beautiful part of the Rockies as I was considering how my career needed to get started.

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