Friday, October 22, 2010

Biking with Swans

Biked 20 miles today on the Millennium and Ft. Hill Trails and saw these swans...



... as I hit 2400 biking miles for the year -- a new personal record with weeks of biking weather still ahead.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sights While Biking Today...

Today our group met in Crystal Lake, and despite the 45 degree temps, we set off to bike the McHenry Prairie Trail. But first we biked over to check out the brand new Three Oaks Recreation Area off Main Street just south of Northwest Highway. There is a paved trail from the Prairie Trail to cross Main Street and it is equipped with a flashing yellow light you can trigger to stop the cars -- and it worked -- they stopped! The area is an old quarry turned into a large lake, very similar to the marvelous Independence Grove created by the Lake County Forest Preserve District some years ago. Its amenities include picnic pavillions, fishing piers, boat rental (rowboats with trolling motors, canoes, kayaks, sailboats, paddleboats), beach, hiking trails, and a playground/spray park. The 4,400 square foot lake house will include shower/locker rooms, a concessions area and a patio.






Then we biked south on the trail. Yesterday, a huge fire hit the old Toastmaster factory along the trail in Algonquin. It has been a derelict building for many years and an eyesore to the community and bikers on the trail, and was scheduled for demolition soon. Crews were busily working on removing the embers and remaining walls as we biked past the scene...

The temperature never got above the low 50s as we biked, and the fierce cold wind hampered our return trip, but after 2 hours on the bikes, we rewarded ourselves with a stop at the Colonial restaurant. Great morning!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Videos of My Latest Adventures

Here are five videos of my adventures the last
5 weeks in Utah and Arizona...



1) An American Hiking Socierty "Volunteer Vacation" in Utah's Manti-LaSal National Forest where at 8800 feet in the Wasatch Mountains we built a 31 foot bridge...




2) A Road Scholar/Elderhostel program out of St. George, Utah, which taught us photography teachniques while visiting Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon National Parks with two professional photographers...




3) My three hour hike up The Narrows (Virgin River) of Zion National Park...




4) A Sierra Club outing -- rafting the Colorado River through Utah's Canyonlands National Park and Catarct Canyon's rapids, and including a service project of removing invasive Tamarisk...




5) A Road Scholar/Elderhostel program out of Page, Arizona, which included hiking the magnificent Antelope Slot Canyon, rafting the last remaining 15 miles of Glen Canyon, a tour down into Glen Canyon Dam, and a concert by our coordinator, Joanna Joseph...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Back home and biking...

Travel is wonderful and experiencing new adventures is exhilarating, but home is still home and the place one chooses to be located. Today it was back to biking the Des Plaines River Trail west of Libertyville with Patti and Dave and enjoying Fall's magnificent palette...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rafting Cataract Canyon and Removing Tamarisk: A Sierra Club service project

This Sierra Club service outing was a joint project of the Sierra Club, The Tamarisk Coalition, Canyonlands National Park, and O.A.R.S. (Outdoor Adventure River Specialists.) We spent 6 days on the Colorado River, rafting about 100 miles, camping five nights on the shore in Canyonlands National Park, hiking three times, spending two days assisting national park rangers remove invasive tamarisk trees to create new camping areas and restore native vegetation, and then rafting the 30 rapids of Cataract Canyon before returning to Moab, Utah.

The first 50 miles was flat water so our four rafts were lashed together and we motored downriver, stopping to hike the ruins across from Lathrop Canyon. Here's a photo of the ruins (click to enlarge photos)...



Our second hike was at the "Loop" where the Colorado River makes a sweeping 270 degree turn doubling back on itself, where we hiked up the 700 feet to the saddle, enjoyed the vistas of the river both before and behind us, and then hiked down the other side where the rafts picked us up again...



...and where we saw these petroglyphs pecked into this rock...



Then it was on to "The Confluence" where the Green River meets the Colorado River. We camped here two nights to assist the river rangers with their Tamarisk removal project. Here Gordy and Norm hike through an opening cut out by the rangers and their chainsaws so we could all access the dense, overgrown forest of invasive Tamarisk trees. These trees propagate quickly and completely take over an area, preventing access, denying light and water to native vegetation, and disrupting native fauna. The hard-working, dedicated rangers, Steve, Kyler, Clay, and Skyler busily chainsawed the tough trees and then we removed the pieces...




Below, Jerry and Mike lug a large stump to the slash pile, as Norm, left, and Tim, right look for the next area to be cleared, and Gordy in the background wrestles another log to be removed. The rangers were impressed with how efficiently we 14 volunteers cleared the downed rubbish, allowing all four rangers to concentrate on chainsaw work. Even our four river guides joined in our efforts because the Tamarisk interfere with their livelihood by dominating the river banks. Finally, the rangers applied a herbicide to the remnant tree trunks to kill the roots which can extend 100 feet into the ground and which could still sprout dozens of new trees.



After many hours of work, this huge area had been successfully cleared. All the tons of debris were placed along and over the edge of the cliff where next Spring's rush of winter melt water will take the debris down to the river level and hopefully knit with sand to rebuild beaches here and farther downriver.



We also assisted in the next phase -- the replanting of native Cottonwood trees at Spanish Bottom which began earlier this year starting with 17 trees. They were just a few feet tall when planted but now stand over 8 feet tall. Of course, since this is a high desert environment, watering is required, and this is accomplished with three huge water tanks holding a total of over 1600 gallons which feed irrigation tubes which we hand-calibrated to drip-deliver five drops of water per second to each tree...



Of course, the rangers have to come every few weeks to refill the tanks using a pump and 300' of fire hose stretching from the tanks to the river, so we unrolled and connected the six hose segments down to the river as Chris, Jerry, and Gordy position the hose to refill the tanks for the rangers...



The final adventure was negotiating the 30 rapids of Cataract Canyon. The river is much calmer this time of year, running at a mere 7000 cfs (cubic feet per second) compared to 70,000 cps and more during the spring runoff period, so class 2 and 3 rapids are the norm now instead of class 4 and 5, but it was still an exhilarating, cold, wet ride. Here's a photo as a huge wave was about to completely inundate our raft...



Here are our three Sierra Club leaders, Mike, Larry, and Gordy...



...and here are our four exceptional guides too hard at work to cooperate with the photo op (Jeremy and Paulie cooking, and in the background, Seth and senior guide Christian.)



...and here is the entire stalwart group posing after our hike up to the top of the "Loop..."



Front row: Frank, Larry W., Tim C., Dave, Chris, Steve, Larry G., Mike, and Norm
Middle (seated) row: Tim H., Chuck, Gordy, and Jerry
Back (seated) row: Joe and Rick


We had a wonderful week on the water, despite the attempts of the weather to spoil our trip. The first two days each saw an hour of 30+ mph winds blowing sand at and into our tents, which were inundated with 1/4 inch or more of sand both days even though the tents were closed up tightly. Several tents were flattened but still usable after these storms. The third night featured three hours of rather brisk winds doing the same with the sand as we tried to sleep. The worst was day four as we descended from hiking up to the Doll House formations atop the 1400 foot high cliff. As we were halfway down, the strong winds brought sand, then pea-sized hail, then a cold, biting rain. Drenched and chilled after the 40 minute wet hike back to camp, I discovered my tent destroyed by the storm...

You can see that one pole snapped and tore the rain fly in numerous places, rendering it unusable. Joe's tent was similarly totaled, but the head guide, Christian, fortuitously had two of his tents as spares which Joe and I gratefully used the final two nights. Frank's tent, which was located between Joe's and mine, was seen flying away by several who had stayed in camp. It tumbled over and over and uphill, ultimately landing against trees about 40 feet away from its starting position. Its rain fly was badly torn but duct tape made it operable. Witnesses described the wind as a vortex which seemed to hit our three tents.

Here's a video of our adventure...



More photos in my gallery.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Where Rock Meets Water -- Antelope & Glen Canyons: A Road Scholar Program

This Road Scholar/Elderhostel program is a three night "snapshot" program out of Page, Arizona, and is one of many fine programs hosted by Northern Arizona University. Included in the activities is a tour of the famous Upper Antelope Canyon, the most photographed slot canyon in the Southwest. (Click to enlarge photos.)



The colors are vivid and changing as the light changes, and the sand stirred up by visitors' feet allows you to capture shafts of sunbeam light as seen below..



The second activity was a raft trip from the base of Glen Canyon Dam down to Lees Ferry, the only 15 miles remaining of the magnificent Glen Canyon which almost in its entirety has been under Lake Powell for 50 years.

After a bus ride through the two mile tunnel which had allowed dam builders and machinery to travel from the rim to the canyon floor, we boarded the Colorado River Discovery company's rafts. The dam and bridge can be seen in the background behind our superlative guide, Jennifer...



A rest stop 1/3 of the way down the canyon offered petroglyphs for us to enjoy...


The scenery was spectacular as we rafted the canyon, with the cliffs soaring from 700 feet to over 1400 feet above us until we reached our take-out at Lees Ferry, which is also the put-in where rafters were preparing their craft for the 260 mile trip through the Grand Canyon.


The final activity was a visit to Glen Canyon Dam which creates the large reservoir called Lake Powell, the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States after Lake Mead at the other end of the Grand Canyon.



The tour featured a 50 story elevator ride down to the bottom where we got a peek through glass windows into the generator room with its eight huge turbines which generate an average of 451 megawatts representing 6% of the total electricity generated in Arizona and 13% of the electricity generated in Utah. Four units were producing power during our tour.




Below is a "runner" recently removed from service in a turbine when replaced by a newer, more efficient model. The runners are what rotate as the water surges through them, causing the turbines to generate electricity. Notice the Glen Canyon bridge high above in the background.





Here's another view of the bridge overhead, taken from the generator level. It was interesting to learn that the bridge was built first. Otherwise, workers and equipment would have had to drive over 200 miles to get to the other side. The bridge was fully constructed in California, then disassembled, and half driven to each side of the canyon for re-assembly.




The program's final night was a special treat as our superb coordinator, Joanna Joseph, played guitar and sang for us and led us in a sing-a-long.



And here are the singing/hiking/rafting Road Scholars enjoying the "concert" by Joanna...



As a bonus -- If you have time, I suggest you take the tour of Lower Antelope Canyon by yourself for only $20. It is completely different from the upper canyon.

We were a bit surprised when the guide indicated we'd be entering the narrow crack seen in this photo.



Unlike Upper Antelope Canyon where you walk directly into the slot canyon, you must descend a number of ladders or stairs during your tour of Lower Antelope Canyon, which is why it isn't recommended for people with walking disabilities or height issues or claustrophobia.

,

In this photo you can see how far the people are below me. Stifle any tendency you might have to walk as you take photos or gawk at the vivid colors and ethereal shapes, because of the possibility that there might be a ladder ahead to be negotiated...



Our guide used our cameras to photograph us under the one arch on the tour...



Sunlight created constant wondrous sights for us...



Be aware that the elevation you lost descending into the canyon must be regained by climbing 4 or 5 flights of stairs at the end of the 1/3 mile long canyon, and then you walk up a dirt road back to the parking area.

Here's a video of our Road Scholar program including Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, rafting Glen Canyon, touring the dam, and the concert by our leader, Joanna...



More of my photos of Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are available here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hiking Lower Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon, located on Navajo land near Page, Arizona, is the most-visited and most-photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest. It includes two separate photogenic slot canyon sections referred to individually as Upper Antelope Canyon or The Crack, and Lower Antelope Canyon or The Corkscrew. We were a bit surprised when the guide indicated we'd be entering the narrow crack seen in this photo. (Click to enlarge photos.)


Unlike Upper Antelope Canyon where you walk directly into the slot canyon, you must descend a number of ladders or stairs during your tour of Lower Antelope Canyon, which is why it isn't recommended for people with walking disabilities or height issues or claustrophobia.



In this photo you can see how far the people are below me. Your tendency to take photos and gawk at the vivid colors and ethereal shapes must be tempered by the possibility there might be a ladder ahead to be negotiated...


Our guide used our cameras to photograph us under the one arch on the tour...


Sunlight created constant wondrous sights for us...


Be aware that the elevation you lost descending into the canyon must be regained by climbing 4 or 5 flights of stairs at the end of the 1/3 mile long canyon, and then you walk up a dirt road back to the parking area.

Here's my report and photos on Upper Antelope Canyon.