September 6, 2007

The Grandstand Passion Play of Delbert and the Bumpus Hounds

If anyone out there has never seen a fox in real life, come up to the Pack Station around dusk and you will see several thousand of them. At least it feels that way. They are getting into everything.

And they bark and snort all night long, at times seeming to nag me for some better garbage. We try to keep the lids closed on the dumpsters and empty any cans with food in them, but they will attack all kinds of things. They have eaten innumerable bowls of cat food, an entire 35 lb. bag of dog food, dozens of hot dog buns, half a box of ketchup packets and squirt bottle full of Eric's Carolina Vinegar Sauce. Last week they stole a dozen packaged muffins and got into a bag of 4-way grain for the goats. They have even pooped on the hay bales in the Feed Room.

I am annoyed by how cute they are because I can't bring myself to hit them with the BB gun. One of them is especially friendly and I have named him "Curly" because he has a deformed tail that curls up and around like that of a Chow dog. I suppose I'm not helping the epidemic by tossing slices of smoked turkey to him.

I typed the above last night for posting today. Overnight they foxes somehow managed to destroy a nylon canopy (click on the thumbnail) and they even urinated in the cat food bowl.

We Were On a Break!

I needed some space. I was feeling smothered and I needed time to think. Oh sure, I read some other blogs, but I didn't write for any of them. In fact, it only made me appreciate this blog more.

Actually, I was taking this blog too seriously. In the introduction I said that my intent is to record canyon life, however dull the story may be. I got caught up in trying to come up with clever titles and attempting to be entertaining. Also, I mostly just type with my two index fingers so a blog entry can be time consuming. Enough excuses. I will try to write here more often.

P.S. Speaking of clever titles, I don't know what this one means. I'm a mountain man, so I haven't even seen that TV show, and I sure as heck don't know what it means to be a lobster.

June 13, 2007

My Garden part III: Roll Out The Barrels

Well, the garden I planted around the Pack Station porch and deck was a complete failure. Not because I didn't now what I was doing, but because of inconsiderate people who stepped on my plants, allowed their dogs to dig them up etc. (see My Garden in November '06 to see what the first garden looked like). Sue and I decided a long time ago that pots or planters were the way to go. I wanted to use a variety of the large and extra-large Mexican pots, the kind with an aged-looking paint job so they're not that awful bright orange. It turns out they are not as easy to find as they were a few years ago, and we didn't look very hard anyway. Then we kinda forgot about the pots, although the subject half-heartedly surfaced once in a while.

I hadn't put my brain into landscaper mode in quite a while, but it finally occurred to me what to use for the garden plants. Whiskey barrels! Actually, what you mostly find are red wine barrels (that is, the wine is red, not the barrels) made of oak. They are also commonly called half Oak barrels. Whatever you call them, they are rustic looking, inexpensive, tall enough to keep the dogs out of the flowers, and durable enough to withstand a car backing into them.

So, a couple hundred bucks and one hour's work later we have three nicely planted barrels at three key points in front of the store. Hopefully they will be filled in for our anniversary party on July 14th.

June 7, 2007

Construction Time Again

I know what you are all thinking: "Hey! That's the name of a Depeche Mode album. It marked the transition from simple melodic synth-pop to the industrial." No? Well, nevermind. I don't REALLY know anything about 80's New Wave music. Anyway, there is a lot of construction going on in the canyon. I've told you about all the trips Brad and I made up Winter Creek to cabin #139. That project is finally finished and the cabin is now sturdier than it ever was. Although to look at it you wouldn't think that more than a little touch-up work was done. Most of the work was done to the foundation, and a new kitchen floor. One would notice the new roofing, however. Mike Pauro and Cam Stone really did a great job, as usual.

Mike and Cam are now working on cabin #128 in Winter Creek, near Hoegee's Campground. A lot of the siding had rotted at the bottom. Poor drainage around the cabin was mostly to blame. Most of the cabin sits on the ground and the siding, which was a little too low, wicked water up through the end grain. It also affected the 1 X 4 corner trim.

Now, it was recently written on the Forest Service review of this cabin that the owner, Linda Pillsbury, was to do something to close the few gaps between the ground and the cabin. She could have taken the functional yet tacky route and just stapled some hardware cloth, but she took the opportunity to repair the wood, close the gaps, and prevent future rotting all at once. But how do you close the gaps and prevent the wicking on the sections that sit on the ground? Well, you don't entirely isolate wood from water, but you can reduce the wicking by keeping the end grain off the ground and use a horizontal trim piece at the bottom, a piece that can easily be replaced if it rots. Secondly, the sides on the ground have concrete walkways that run along the edge of the cabin. Mike used reinforced "scratch & brown" stucco to build a water-shedding berm that closes the gaps. The front of the cabin, which is off the ground, was sealed with more of the stucco and large rocks.

So, why am I telling you all of this? Shouldn't it go on Mike's blog, if he had one? That's a legitimate question. Maybe I'm filling space because I feel embarrassed by the one poor, pitiful entry for May. Mostly it's set-up for all the packing I did. All that material didn't get two-and-a-half miles into the forest on its own. Oh, and the donkeys helped a little, too.

The biggest problem with this job, for me and the donkeys anyway, was that cabin #128 is clad in T-111 siding. That's the plywood with phony-looking grooves cut in it to make it look like individual boards; it's essentially heavy-duty paneling. And it comes in 4' X 8' sheets. Fortunately, only the very bottom had rotted and we did not need to bring in full 4 X 8's. Unfortunately, Mike didn't want seams running around the bottom two feet of the cabin. If he could have cut each sheet into four 2 X 4 pieces, they would have slipped into the saddle bags. The bottoms of the windows on the cabin are at 47 inches. If he replaced all of the siding from that point down, he could then cover the seams with a 1 X 4 trim piece that matches and lines up with the window trim. So we had to pack in 4' X 4' sheets of the T-111; and that means top-loading.

I haven't done much top-loading in a long, long time. Not too long ago I took a steel headboard out of cabin #83, but that was fairly easy because it slipped over the crosses of the saddle; and the trip back to the Pack Station is easy. The same went for the bed frame that Brad and I packed out of cabin #59. But it's whole different ball game when dealing with the flat surfaces of plywood, and traveling up Winter Creek with four sets of switchbacks and seven-and-a-half stream crossings before reaching cabin #128. Besides that, each piece weighs 30 pounds and there were 22 pieces!

Kim had a top-loading frame that bolted onto one of the old wooden saddles. It never worked very well and the last time I tried to use it was almost two years ago, when Deb repaired the roof on cabin #70. I only made it as far as cabin #35 from Roberts' Camp, and I wound up throwing it in the stream out of spite. After I delivered the rest of her plywood on a dolly, I picked up the top-loader to salvage the bolts, but that still left us without a top-loader. I had to come up with something to fit our new saddles that have aluminum arches.

The arches are adjustable, so the left and right sides bolt together with a single bolt at front and back. I cut a four foot length of 2 X 3 pine for each pair of arches, I drilled a hole in the center of each 2 X 3, and bought longer bolts with wing nuts to hold the boards to the saddle. But with only one bolt on each, it would pivot from side to side. So on each board I drilled holes to each side of the center hole, and inserted bolts long enough to butt against the insides of the arches so that the 2 X 3's could not wiggle. OK, so now we have a sturdy platform for the plywood, but how do we keep it from sliding off?

Tying the plywood to the 2X3's would not be steady enough. It seems like it should work, but as is the case so many times in packing, a seemingly logical solution does not work in real life. Sue and I made one run to cabin #128 with a single donkey. We eventually got the load there, but we had to constantly readjust and tighten the ropes. So my idea was to use good old-fashioned C-clamps, one at each end of the 2X3's to hold the plywood tightly to the top-load boards. I didn't want to just screw them in because it would be more difficult to remove if we had an accident, and I wanted a system where we wouldn't need to carry a screw gun. A test run with the C-clamps around the parking lot proved hopeful, but the clamps I bought would only reach around two sheets of the plywood and the top-loader. Plus I wanted to make sure the plywood wouldn't twist on the top-loader. So I got bigger C-clamps and added L-brackets, one to each end of the 2 X 3's.

The next trip up Winter Creek, with both Slim and Bill, went beautifully. We had to stop once to tighten the rope that holds the wide-load cinch, but learning from that experience, we needed no adjustments for the second run. Just one more modification to the design, which I will try tomorrow, is to use bungee cords to fasten the extra cinch and hopefully speed the loading process.

Now don't you cabin owners get any bright ideas. Mike had a special circumstance in that the cabin was remodeled in the sixties, back when they could drive materials in along the check dam construction road. We are still discouraging the use of plywood, T-111, OSB, particle board etc. It's ugly, it's not historically accurate, it's unnecessary and it's a pain in the ass to pack. So if you still insist on using any of these, the special handling charges will still apply to 4' X 4' sheets. You will not only be a good and responsible cabin owner to use board construction, it will save you money in the long run, when you compare the packing charges.

May 14, 2007

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

It's been three weeks since my last post. Where have I been? Well, I've been here at the Pack Station, and in The Canyon, the whole time. But we have been very busy. Weekends are packed up here and weekdays have been booked with packing. Naturally this leaves little time for blogging, but I usually squeeze it in.

What really derailed me was my old computer. It kept rebooting on its own, many times wouldn't boot at all, there were conflicts between graphics software(?), broken-down RAM sticks, etc, etc. I kept throwing good money after bad. So I have my first ever NEW computer; until now I have only owned hand-me-downs! So I bought a new Windows machine with Vista Premium, three times the processor speed of my old one, twice the RAM and six times the hard drive space.

You may have noticed the new look of my blog. I got so excited by "computing" again that I looked into cascading style sheets. This one you see here started as a free template, but I changed it quite a bit, including my own Photoshopped image of the barn (home of the Bunkhouse).

The "About Me" and "Other Stuff" pages are coming soon, as well as photos of my new ride. Watch for bear photos on the News Page of the

April 24, 2007


The day after I saw the bear, Miriam Skarin at cabin #7 found some bear scat in her yard. Her cabin is at the bottom of the gulch that starts at the Pack Station. We found some scat here too.

On Tuesday, Sue had a man come up to fix the screen doors. While driving to Chantry, the repairman, Bruce Costantino - The Screen Bee, spotted a bear on the road in broad daylight. He managed to snap this photo about 3/4 mile down the road from the Pack Station. This appears to be smaller and younger than the bear I saw in the loading dock.

Our local ranger, Kevin Hunt, says that we may be seeing more bears in the front country this year because the high country is so dry. Cabin owners make sure you don't leave any garbage inside and campers make sure to hang your food.

Click the photo inset for a better look.

April 21, 2007

Things That Go "Bump" in the Night

Tonight some of the Pack Station cats weren't getting along. They banged my bunkhouse door as they chased each other in and out of the cat door, they kept knocking things over and several times my dog, Sergeant, had to break up a fight. So when I heard a big "crash" outside, I figured it was another cat fight. I could tell it came from the loading dock, eight feet away from my window.

But then I wondered if it could be a person out there rummaging around for something to steal. There were still an awful lot of cars in the parking lot when I went to bed. So I grabbed a flashlight and peeked my head out the door. Sure enough, there was someone all in black investigating the items in the loading dock. He had knocked over the garbage can. He didn't notice me at first, so I asked "Hey! What are you doing out there?" He just looked at me for a few seconds, a bit surprised I guess, then ran away fast on all fours.

One of these days I am going to get a photograph of a bear at the Pack Station.