02
Nov

I’ve been playing around with Animoto and they have a really neat tool I used to create a quick video from still images. You can also use video clips as well but I didn’t have any from the deer hunt. After all, it’s only 5 days of hunting and we got out for 2 of the 5.

It took me about 10 minutes to put together this quick 30 second (30 second vids are free, longer vids require a paid account) as a test. Turned out pretty good, IMO.

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

I was talking with my uncle the other day about hunting strategy. He knows I like to hike long and far to get “way back” into some spots where I’m sure to be alone. He’s hunted for 50+ years and he’s got a theory about the close to road spots that are hidden and overlooked.

So yesterday after my oldest boy got home from school around 3:15 we quickly packed up and headed up the Mirror Lake Highway. With thoughts of my uncle and our conversation as we left the trailhead, my son and I turned off the trail withing a couple of minutes to walk a lesser traveled ridge and find a place to sit down, in an area just a stones throw from the highway but an area I accidentally found and thought it might be a good spot.

We saw some tracks down low in spots I wasn’t thinking we’d see some and along the ridge in obvious crossover points between the aspens and timber we didn’t see any. It sure gave me pause for thought. The snow was falling lightly and my 11 year old was getting ready to find a spot to sit when I saw a big pine tree on a bare ridge/point and said that we’d circle around to that point and sit down for the rest of the evening.

We crossed a few tracks which was encouraging as we made our way to the point. As we came up to this big old pine tree, sitting all stoic on the rounded ridge, I told my boy to walk further on a bit and see if there wasn’t a better place to sit as there were no rocks here. As he walked off I ranged the area – 278 yards to the clearing where we had come from, 156 to the timber cross canyon, 74 to the bottom of the draw.

Just then I saw antlers moving through the exact opening I just ranged in the bottoms and a nice little buck walked through and turned to come up the hill towards me. I motioned for my son to hold up as he was just 20 yards from me making his way back to the tree and surely would be seen from below if the deer lifted its head. I had told my son we’d take any buck with 3 or better on one side so when I saw this guy had a little 4 on one side and deep fork 2 point on the other I held steady, waited for him to present a good shot and just like that the hunt was over.

This is where he landed, and the far tree on the left is where I was standing. I hit him while he was next to the small snow covered pine trees and as he was walking up the hill.

It started to snow a bit more as we pulled the buck back into the bottoms of ravine, made quick work of quartering him up and stacked him in the new Blacks Creek pack I recently picked up (the Featherlight Barbarian). It handled the load very well, in fact better than other packs I’ve hauled with, as we hiked down what turned out to be a perfect trail along side the dried up creek bottom back to where we had deviated from the main trail. By 8:15 we were back at home to a disbelieving wife/mom who couldn’t figure out how we got up there, got a buck so fast and got back home. I just told her we didn’t go “way back” to find the buck.

Spring has definately sprung and when that happens I turn my attention to skiing as many lines as I can squeeze in before the bike, trails, camping and hiking become the only alternatives.

Mount Watson stands tall at 11,527′ amidst a number of other peaks like Bald Mountain, Reid and Notch Peak near the Bald Mountain Pass off the Mirror Lake Highway in the Uintas. Mount Watson isn’t really that impressive on paper, but what’s most inspiring is the east face, particularly when seen from Bald Mountain pass as you’re heading down towards Kamas. It’s also the first major peak you catch a glimpse of as you pass the Provo River Falls around mile marker 23.

I was on a recon mission yesterday, not thinking I’d make the summit. But it shouldn’t surprise me that I would go anywhere but to the summit, despite the 5 miles of road I had to skin to get to the Trial Lake turn off. The drive and desire to summit a mountain, particularly one I’ve talked about for years is quite simple, elementary even. Skiing down said mountain is icing on the cake.

From the Trial Lake turn off, it was another 1.5 miles of skinning to the base of the mountain as my route took me across Trial Lake, through the woods that later in the day would smell and feel like a warm summer day, then booting up the southeast ridge as I made the summit.

(Click on the thumbnails below to see the photos larger)

The feeling of standing on top of a mountain you’ve looked at for years is unique and rewarding.

The views from on top were tremendous and my up close and personal inspection of the East Face was motivating. The upper 2-3 turns may be some of the spiciest skiing I have yet to ski, approaching 60 degrees. I didn’t ski it, opting to reserve that treat for when I return with my friend Jim, so I ventured down the north ridge. After getting to a more mellow spot where some sled heads had been high marking, I dropped in for a few turns in some tricky wind crusted snow.

The trek out was smooth although I wished for better wax and nordic skis for the kick and glide down the 5 miles of the Mirror Lake Highway to the car. It was a great day in the mountains for a solo adventure. I’m looking forward to returning for the descent of the East Face proper.

Mount Watson, Uintas

02
Apr

I had a funny interaction with Anna the other day. It went something like this:

I was sitting on the bench in our mud-room getting my shoes on to head to work. Next to me was a stack of mail with the picture she’s holding of Uncle Sam.

Anna: Daddy, who is that?

Me: It’s Uncle Sam

Anna: He looks mean. What does he want?

Me: He wants to take my money

Anna: All of it?

Me: Yep, as much as he can get.

Anna: (after some thought and reflection, and said with a serious look) Daddy, that’s not nice, not at all

Me: (trying hard not to laugh) No baby, that’s not nice at all is it?

Sometimes these precious moments need to be recorded.

I don’t recall from my years of being a Boy Scout or even as a boy scout leader that I went on that I ever took a book (aside from the Scout handbook) on a campout. But as McKinley, my oldest son who just turned 11 and joined the local Boy Scout Troop, was packing for his first campout he asked if he could take his book along. He was asking his mother, a devote reader herself, if it would be ok and although she thought there was no way he would have time to read, how can you say no to a child who wants to read? So he packed his book.

This campout was the Klondike Derby with winter camping in snow caves that the scouts had built the previous week. I arrived at the camp after work on Friday night and once the evening activities including dinner were done I found the cave that McKinley and I would share. Upon entering the cave to find an uneven floor, stalactites on the ceiling and about 18″ of headroom we commenced to sculpt the cave.

McKinley kept insisting it was fine, but I knew better. About an hour later we moved into our cave, complete with a shelf for gear, enough headroom that I could sit up without becoming claustrophobic, and enough space that both of us fit with ease. McKinley knew that I had a Mountain House Blueberry Cheesecake in my pack and a Jet Boil.

CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO SEE THEM FULL SIZE

As we got settled into our bags, with my ultra bright Coast H7 headlamp making it as bright as noon, McKinley asked if he could read. Of course I said yes. So while he dove into a book, I boiled up a little water and made dessert. When it was ready, with some music from my iPhone playing, we downed some awesome Blueberry Cheesecake. He turned to me and said, “Dad, I’m pretty sure that the other kids aren’t having as good of a time as I am. I’m pretty lucky to have my dad here.”

I was the one that felt lucky.

A few years ago when it came to backcountry skiing, life didn’t exist outside the Cottonwood Canyons, or to be more precise, life didn’t exist outside of Little Cottonwood Canyon. But with the move to Kamas, my discovery of the Uintas, the dream of “built the skin track and they will come” that was my Mount Aire project to name a few spots and I’ve discovered that life is well lived outside the epicenter of the Wasatch. That’s not to say I haven’t fondly reminisced of my days there and the lines, both big and small, that I’ve ticked off the list. Let’s just say I’ve not made it a priority to get to LCC.

That is, until last week.

Wednesday the report was 2-3″ in the surrounding areas and 6-9″ in the epicenter. I could no longer deny it’s pull so I resisted the tractor beam of upper Little Cottonwood and happily set my sights for the epicenter for my first voyage of the season. My few text messages to generally willing partners yielded a shut out so I would be going solo. As such I chose the simple route – Days Fork via the Flagstaff directisima. I was well rewarded with 3 laps of stellar pow that on occasion got all over my face.

A LITTLE COTTONWOOD CLASSIC – Sunrise lighting up Cardiff and Superior

It was while soaking it in Wednesday afternoon that I booked my return flight to LCC for Thursday morning with a timely text to Daren hoping that I might have company…and company is what I got. 4 others to be exact, including a split boarder named Aaron that graciously endured my rants about my last experience with a split boarder. Thankfully, he would redeem split boarders for me.

I was surprised that we were first up the skin track on Flagstaff with another 3-4″ of fresh. Then again, it was a prime day to tag Superior and a number of guys were headed in that general direction. I knew Days would deliver and didn’t hesitate to keep to the plan. The skin track was extra slippery and most of us toiled a bit. The sunrise and views were a great diversion from the toil and anguish of the skinning.

(CLICK THE IMAGES TO SEE THEM LARGER)

After cresting Flagstaff and looking into Days Fork I knew it would be another classic Happy Days kind of day – 2-3″ of new on the south side with 6-10″ of new on the north side. The best part? We had it to ourselves. We all stood there with the uneasy elevator style “after you”, “no, please, after you” courtesy gestures to which I gladly offered up a “May I?” and dove in.

I’m not sure if it was Aaron or Adam who started to speak first, but when everyone had arrived at the bottom of Days I said something to the effect of “I think I’m gonna need more of that” to which they both cited, in unison the famous line from Oliver Twist: “Please sir, may I have some more?”.

And more we got…and were filled. Evidence:

Yes, even splitboarders can rip it. ;-)

Just playing around in Photoshop with a photo I took last week on Flagstaff as the sun peaked over Patsy Marley. The original is in the middle on the top row. Click on them to see the large version.

Any favorites of the bunch?

12
Mar

We moved to Kamas just over 4 years ago following 1 year of “building” our house. We’ve never regretted the move, despite what may appear to some as living light years away from civilization. The Kamas Valley is home and I hope that never changes.

With living in a rural town there are certainly some allowances and things that happen here that you just shrug (or shake your head), smile and say, “Only in Kamas.” This is about one of those things.

This past summer we inherited some chickens and so began the saga of raising…er, putting up with chickens. First came the chicken coup, which took me a couple of months to complete in all that spare time I’ve got. After all, I couldn’t build just anything simple, it had to be complex. Sheesh.

Our little chicks grew up and became two nice white chickens, a hen and a rooster named Scooter (hen) and Pecky (rooster). Finally Scooter started to lay eggs which we enjoyed gathering up and eating. We even lost a few to Annapurna throwing them down when to her surprise her brother “caught” her picking them up from the coup.

Then one day I came home from work to find that the typical molting of feathers was an abundance of feathers. As I approached the door my neighbor Doug called out as he headed in my direction. The details were fuzzy but it included hunting dogs on the loose, big ruckus, feathers, dead chicken, guy pulling up in his truck, dogs in back, dead chicken on top and then speeding off. Hmmm…ok, so we were down to 1.

Fortunately the hen had survived and the owner of the dogs came back later that night to break the news to me. He promised to replace it and I asked if he would give us a hen vs. a new rooster to which he agreed. Better that than a call to the animal control officer.

Over time the new chicken never materialized and Scooter became more lonely, stopped laying eggs and started to wander. One Sunday as we left for church Scooter was doing her thing but when we returned she was nowhere to be found. To this day she has never turned up. Chicken-napped? Perhaps. Gone looking for love? Likely.

So we were out of the chicken business…for about 4 hours until a knock at the door produced our replacement chicken, a black and white hen that had some tail feathers missing but otherwise looked quite pretty. The kids named it Rocky. Our friends who have 30 or so chickens gave us a rooster named Spot so that Rocky would have a friend and mate so we were back in the chicken business with a pair.

It soon became evident that chickens and Kendall don’t have the same schedules. Kendall works late, Chickens like to talk to other chickens very early and with a few flocks in the neighborhood (after all, this is Kamas) it’s a chicken chorus. Then one day, Rocky our hen, cock-a-doodle-dooed?!? In reality, our hen was a rooster. No wonder Rocky wasn’t laying any eggs. So what to do with 2 roosters? We were encouraged to put them down and cook them for dinner. I’m too busy was a good excuse.

Then one day another dog, this time a husky, grabbed Spot and then there was one. The kids shed tears, feathers were spread about in the snow, evidence of a struggle and the fate of Spot.

Another few weeks passed with winter storms and frigid nights and Rocky grew more lonely and vocal, to the point of annoyance. But then it happened, a chicken miracle – Spot showed up, gimping and looking as dirty and dejected as a street bum. This was the turning point, the beginning of the end. Rocky, was likely ecstatic, but in his excitement became extremely protective and started to chase off anyone that would come near and peck them. What was once a skiddish chicken had become quite aggressive and bold.

After a couple of weeks of care, it was evident that Spot wouldn’t get better so when animal control came by to get a stray cat from our neighbor, we had them take Spot away. Then Rocky flipped out. He would cock-a-doodle-doo all day and all night as if calling for his long lost buddy Spot. He started chasing cars, yes, chasing cars and worse yet, chasing passing pedestrians, often kids or moms out for walks. Staring people down became his past time and preying on the unsuspecting ankles of those walking by.

It was then that the news came of 9-1-1 calls about an aggressive chicken, our very own Rocky, chasing and harassing people, even bike riders. The local police officer, who happens to live across the street, said that he had more calls about our chicken than anything else after which he said “Only in Kamas”. The writing was on the wall – Rocky’s days were numbered.

So farewell Rocky, your time has come. Even as I type I’m preparing for the end, but not with a hatchet as you might suspect. With the upcoming Turkey season and my recent adoption of hunting with a bow, I figured I could practice my skill and help the neighborhood and town return to the peaceful pace of life by shooting Rocky with my bow.

You guessed it, Only in Kamas.

It’s a hard thing to be a backcountry skier in Kamas, that is if you are looking for a ski partner. I’ve been able to lure a few friends up from Salt Lake over the past years but most only come once. I understand the tractor beam power of the Cottonwood Canyons.

So I find myself venturing into the Uintas solo and that suits me just fine. The time breaking trail gives me time to ponder and think, and generally appreciate my state in life – blessed, relatively fit, healthy…happy.

After making it to the top of this run (below left), I saw that a party of 4 were enjoying the skin track I put in so I dropped in for 1200′ of beauty pow and headed cross canyon for more solo ventures.


image left – the boulevard
image right – looking back at my track from across the canyon

But as I was skinning up the cross canyon lap, I wished that Cynthia was here to share the beauty and the clean crisp air so I hatched a plan. If she had fed Asti and if McKinley would watch his brothers and sisters I could make it back in time to grab her skis/skins and head up the Mirror Lake Highway to go for a quick ski tour before dark. I think she was surprised, and she definitely was stoked as we packed up things to head out. As we drove up the highway she kept saying how weird this was but how exciting. I was reminded of how much I love this red-headed girl of mine.

The skiing was simple, the landscape enjoyable and the company sublime.

Love birds:

My friend Daren and I set out to finish the year off right – with a ski tour into Beartrap where we had gone immediately following Christmas day. Skies were blue, powder was plentiful and the only tracks we managed to find were the ones we put in.

It was one of those days where the snow was plastered to all the trees, leaving them blanketed in a beautiful white flocking. I got a little artsy with the photos.

(CLICK THE IMAGES TO SEE THEM LARGER)

Daren is a new comer to the world of backcountry skiing but I knew that with his bike racing background and all around stoke for fitness and nature’s beauty that it wouldn’t take much for him to be hooked. This sort of thing can be contagious and my hunch was right – he was grinning from ear to ear all day. Wouldn’t you be if this were you?