Thursday, July 31, 2014

Introverts Unite!

Introverts Unite!  Sent along by friend, reader, and proud papa of two prodigies (one a Google Engineer, the other a golf champion) Simon M...

“…and I want to thank you for being here.”

“…and I want to thank you for being here.”  That quote will make sense when you watch this video (from whence the quote comes).  But please make sure you've finished your drink before viewing...

“We have the temerity to exist at all, so we have it coming.”

“We have the temerity to exist at all, so we have it coming.”  Thus Judith Levy concludes a beautiful and heart-breaking Ricochet post about how she's feeling right now as a denizen of Israel.

It scares me that so many Americans are neutral on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even when that neutrality is mainly derived from ignorance.

It shakes me to my core when I hear Americans overtly taking the Palestinian side and advocating the demise of Israel, as I have now quite a few times (mainly from Californians).

Neither of these attitudes reflects my America.  Thankfully, neither is something I've heard yet in northern Utah.  I hope I do not ever hear it here.  There's a nearby university, though, so that hope will likely be dashed.

I cannot for the life of me understand how someone can honestly believe in the moral equivalence of the Hamas attacks and the Israeli defense.  Something is badly broken in this world when millions of people can hold such an objectively falsifiable view.  I can say the same thing for assertions of the moral equivalence of the respective cultures.

I have no answers.  Today, only sorrow.  It feels like grieving.

I can only hope that the Israeli people find the courage within themselves to resist the outside pressures to capitulate.  They must win convincingly against Hamas, or the only light in the entire Middle East will be extinguished...

SF fans...

SF fans – a fascinating post and comment thread on the current state of science fiction, over at Eric S. Raymond's place.

I've been a science fiction fan since the '60s.  In the last few years I've been mostly mining Amazon for past works that I've never read – because I found the vast majority of the modern works pretty, but uninteresting.  ESR articulates exactly this, in a detailed way that I simply don't have the intellectual tools to do.  In the process, he lists publishing houses and authors that may well provide me with a new source of reading material!

$840 million...

$840 million...  That's how much the federal government admits to having spent on the ObamaCare web site.  That is an absolutely incredible figure.  To anyone from the software industry (as I am), it is instantly clear that there is something terribly wrong here, because that number is at least an order of magnitude too high, and probably approaches two orders of magnitude too high.  If I were to guess at a “reasonable” figure for that web site's development, it would be something more like $10 to $20 million – and even that would be making allowances for government inefficiency.

Let's break that down a little bit to see why I immediately know that figure can't possibly represent a well-run project.  Let's assume we're hiring only American software engineers (which, it turns out, was not the case).  Let's assume we're hiring only well-qualified, experienced programmers (which, it turns out, was also not the case).  A guesstimate for the fully burdened cost (that is, salary plus benefits, etc.) of each such engineer would be about $160k annually.  Now let's assume one manager for every 5 engineers (there were actually nearly as many managers as engineers), and that their burdened cost was $200k annually.  There were three years of work.  How big a team would $840 million buy us?  That would be 4,200 software engineers, and a total of 12,600 engineer-years of work.

How much is that?  Well, it's more work that it took to build Windows, Microsoft Office, and OS X combined.  Each of those projects is clearly larger and more complex – and vastly more technically challenging – than the ObamaCare website and it's back-end. 

From another perspective, though, it's not too surprising.  Large software projects are notoriously difficult to manage.  Like any veteran of the software industry, I can cite numerous examples of failed projects from my own personal experience.  Sometimes the failures are technical, sometimes business, sometimes management – or any combination of the three.  In a business, however, failures tend to get recognized and fixed relatively early, before the cost (relative to benefit) gets out of hand.  When the government is running the show, none of the usual business incentives to find and fix a problem early are in place.  Instead, there is a perverse opposite incentive, to keep the bureaucracy running – so the government's classic behavior in the face of a failed project is to throw more and more money at it.  I'd be willing to bet you that that's what happened here.

Very sad, the way my tax dollars were totally wasted here.

Virtually every development executive – no matter how bad – in every software company I've ever worked with would likely have done a better job, if given business-like incentives.

Pardon me for a while, please.  I need to go cry...

Hotel Viru...

Hotel Viru...  I stayed here once, on one of the worst hotel experiences in my life (and I have a pretty good collection of personal hotel horror stories!).  The year was 1992 (I believe).  The hotel's management hadn't yet absorbed western ways; the experience was largely unchanged from Soviet times (which had ended just the year before), right down to the not-so-little old lady who sternly dispensed and handed out room keys in the hallway where my room was located.  The highlight: my bed.  It was made from a carefully stacked collection of thin, flat cinder blocks – each about the size and shape of a half-high shoe box.  There were no holes in them; they were solid blocks.  On top of this stack was a straw-filled “mattress”, roughly 2 inches thick.  Pieces of straw stuck through the mattress and the sheet, leaving me full of skin irritations in the morning.  I'm a civilized guy – sleeping on a pile of uncomfortable straw was not my idea of fun!

I was traveling with a colleague, who told me his room was ok.  Nothing to write home about, but perfectly acceptable.  We were there on a business trip, to meet with a small Estonian company that we were considering acquiring (we did).  Several people we met from that company told us of the KGB reputation of the Hotel Viru.  I felt as though I should be careful what I said, though I didn't really have anything to talk about that would be interesting to anyone at all, much less the KGB :)

This is hard to credit...

This is hard to credit ... until I remember how ignorant so many Americans are of where their food comes from.

On another level, it's very sad.  It's as if dairy farmers never ate cheese or yogurt, or wheat farmers never had bread...

Bullshit is asymmetric warfare!

Bullshit is asymmetric warfare!  It's obviously true, but I never put the two thoughts together before.  It's no wonder there's so much bullshit in politics, then: it's a very efficient way to wage political warfare.  Just as it costs Hamas far less to attack Israel than it costs Israel to defend itself, a politician employing bullshit is going to spend far less than his or her opponent who is not.

This has led directly to our current situation, where virtually all of our politicians lead with the bullshit – in which case it's not asymmetric anymore...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Back in town...

Back in town...  And for a while this time.  I just got back (late last night) from running Debbie back down to Jamul.  We were on the road for just over 16 hours on Sunday, then I was on the road for 13 and a half hours yesterday.  I don't want to drive anymore :)

When I walked into the house last night, I saw our refrigerator and our range out in the middle of the floor, with tile installed where they need to go.  Hooray!  But ... the dishwasher was still in its hidey-hole in the cabinetry.  Turns out the installer (a kid who looked like he was about 12 years old) from Home Depot had hardwired a very short power wire to it.  So I turned off the breaker and disconnected it – only to discover that the juvenile installer had done a horribly unsafe installation job.  Yikes!  I spent the next hour on the phone to Home Depot, letting them know what I thought of their installation service (which I paid good money for).  I'm getting a refund.  I'm also not ordering their installation service again.  When I can easily do a better job myself, it just makes no sense.  If it's a difficult job, I'll hire a craftsman.  Someone who is at least 30 years old :)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

They'll raise the price of me!

They'll raise the price of me!

A brief history of lossless compression...

A brief history of lossless compression...  This is from the IEEE history network.  It's been over 20 years since I did anything serious with compression, back when I was (very) peripherally involved with the LZS algorithm (I worked for Stac Electronics and with Doug Whiting, the developer of LZS).  I see a few small errors (especially with dates) in the stuff I have personal knowledge of, but generally it seems pretty accurate.  Most everything they mention that's after about 2002 is all new to me...

Friday, July 25, 2014

House remodeling update...

House remodeling update...  There was much progress while we were gone, but also a few disappointments:
  • The barn still hasn't been started.  There have been many reasons for the slippage, mostly small things, but they add up: the original start date was “before the end of April” – and here we are almost three months after that, and we're still being held up.  The final hurdle (we hope it's the final hurdle!) is sign-off from the County planner after we got an engineer to sign off on the plans.  We should have a permit by early next week...
  • The flooring is about 90% done.  The only remaining bits are some difficult stuff in the kitchen (under the range and refrigerator, mainly), the cattery (the easiest part of the entire flooring job), the trim around the cabinets, and the several transitions between tile and wood flooring in the house.  Oh, and the two sets of stairs between the first and second floor.  Ok, maybe 75% done :)
  • The master bathroom is completely tiled, the new vanity and medicine cabinet are installed, the vanity has been measured for its granite top, and the granite slab is in the fabrication process.  With any luck at all, we can have the granite installed within 2 weeks, and a week later we should have the finish plumbing and electrical work done – and we'll have an actual bathroom.  The tiling job is gorgeous – the fellow who did it is an old-school craftsman who took his time on it.  I had a chance to talk with him when he was maybe a quarter finished, and he was having a lot of fun with it – mainly because of the materials he was working with, and the challenges of the layouts he was employing.  The walk-in shower will be by far the nicest shower we've ever had in any home we've lived in: 5'6" square, with an “ell” to keep the shower from splashing into the rest of the bathroom, even though there's no shower door.
  • Our small balcony on the second floor now has a beautiful new railing, and it's strong enough to stop a tank.  To compare it to the old railing is like comparing a toy pedal car to a Mercedes...
  • The other remodeling projects (new main fireplace, new stovepipe for the basement, etc.) were all on hold while we were gone.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Let me get this straight...

Let me get this straight...  Perfect!

San Juan Mountains Trip of 2014...

San Juan Mountains Trip of 2014...  I'm publishing the day-by-day posts (slowly), and you can see them all here.  There's a link on the right hand column, down under “Filtered Views” that will let you see these posts any time you want to...

This is an actual flower garden...

This is an actual flower garden...  It's not a painting.  It's located in Japan...

Another great optical illusion...

Another great optical illusion...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Purely coincidence...

Purely coincidence...  According to a poll I read this morning, 73% of the American public thinks it's “obviously false” that all these IRS officials had their hard disks crash at around the same time.  That poll leads to this obvious question: what the hell is wrong with the other 27%???

Works for me every time!

Works for me every time!  Via friend and reader Simon M...

What comes after ObamaCare?

What comes after ObamaCare?  ObamaGolf, of course!  Via my lovely bride:
(Receptionist) Hello, Welcome to ObamaGolf.  My name is Trina. How can I help you?

(Customer) Hello, I received an email from Golfsmith stating that my Pro V1 order has been canceled and I should go to your exchange to reorder it.  I tried your web site, but it seems like it is not working. So I am calling the 800 number.

(Receptionist) Yes, I am sorry about the web site. It should be fixed by the end of 2014. But I can help you.

(Customer) Thanks, I ordered some Pro V1 balls.

(Receptionist) Sir, Pro V1's do not meet our minimum standards, I will be happy to provide you with a choice of Pinnacle, TopFlite , or Callaway Blue.

(Customer) But I have played Pro V1 for years.

(Receptionist) The government has determined that Pro V1s are no longer acceptable, so we have instructed Titleist to stop making them.  TopFlites are better, sir, I am sure you will love them.

(Customer) But I like the Pro V1.  Why are TopFlites better?

(Receptionist) That is all spelled out in the 2700 page "Affordable Golf Ball Act" passed by Congress.

(Customer) Well, how much are these TopFlites ?

(Receptionist) It depends sir, do you want our Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum package?

(Customer) What's the difference?

(Receptionist) 12, 24, 36 or 48 balls.

(Customer) The Silver package may be okay; how much is it?

(Receptionist) It depends, sir; what is your monthly income?

(Customer) What does that have to do with anything?

(Receptionist) I need that to determine your government Golf Ball subsidy; then I can determine how much your out-of-pocket cost will be.  But if your income is below the poverty level, you might qualify for a subsidy. In that case, I can refer you to our BallAid department.

(Customer) BallAid ?

(Receptionist) Yes, golf balls are a right, everyone has a right to golf balls.  So, if you can't afford them, then the government will supply them free of charge.

(Customer) Who said they were a right?

(Receptionist) Congress passed it, the President signed it and the Supreme Court found it Constitutional.

(Customer) Whoa.....I don't remember seeing anything in the Constitution regarding golf balls as a right.

(Receptionist) There's no explicit mention of golf balls in the Constitution, but President Obama is a former constitutional scholar and he believes it would have been included if the Constitution had not been drafted by a bunch of slave-owning white men.  The Democrats in the Congress and the Supreme Court agree with the President that golf balls are now a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

(Customer) I don't believe this...

(Receptionist) It's the law of the land sir. Now, we anticipated most people would go for the Silver Package, so what is your monthly income sir?

(Customer) Forget it, I think I will forgo the balls this year.

(Receptionist) In that case, sir, I will still need your monthly income.

(Customer) Why?

(Receptionist) To determine what your 'non-participation' cost would be.

(Customer) WHAT? You can't charge me for NOT buying golf balls.

(Receptionist) It's the law of the land, sir, approved by the Supreme Court. It's $49.50 or 1% of your monthly income.....

(Customer)(interrupting) This is ridiculous, I'll pay the $49.50.

(Receptionist) Sir, it is the $49.50 or 1% of your monthly income, whichever is greater.

(Customer) ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What a ripoff!!

(Receptionist) Actually sir, it is a good deal. Next year it will be 2%.

(Customer) Look, I'm going to call my Congressman to find out what's going on here. This is ridiculous. I'm not going to pay it.

(Receptionist) Sorry to hear that sir, that's why I had the NSA track this call and obtain the make and model of the cell phone you are using.

(Customer) Why does the NSA need to know what kind of CELL PHONE I AM USING?

(Receptionist) So they get your GPS coordinates, sir.

(Door Bell rings followed immediately by a loud knock on the door)

(Receptionist) That would be the IRS, sir. Thanks for calling ObamaGolf, have a nice day...and God Bless the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

Dog alarm clocks...

Dog alarm clocks...  We got this a lot on our vacation.  We made the dogs sleep out in the living room (in their own beds).  Every morning between 4 am and 6 am, they'd push the bedroom door open and leap on us, barking for the sheer joy of it, waking us up with enormous enthusiasm...

Texas Attitude...

Texas Attitude...  Via reader Jim M.  I do believe I've met this little old lady:
One day, a very gentle Texas lady was driving across a high bridge in Austin.

As she neared the top of the bridge, she noticed a young man fixin’ to jump. ("fixin" in Texas means: has the means or abilities to take action)

She stopped her car, rolled down the window and said, "Please don't jump! Think of your dear mother and father."

He replied, "My mom and dad are both dead; I'm going to jump."

She said, "Well, think of your sweet wife and precious children."

He replied, "I'm not married, and I don't have any kids."

She said, "Well, then you just remember the Alamo."

He replied, ''What's the Alamo?''

She replied, ‘’Well, bless your heart! - You just go ahead and jump.. you little Yankee Democrat Bastard... You’re holding up traffic.”

We're back in Paradise...

We're back in Paradise...  Utah, that is, at our new home.  It's still a mess from all the remodeling going on.  Debbie and I are “camped” in the TV room, which is mostly finished.  We'll be busy today with all sorts of remodeling-related stuff, but in between I will try to find some time to post about our vacation, including photos...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Picayune and Placer Gulches, and Waterfalls...

Picayune and Placer Gulches, and Waterfalls...  We got ourselves on the road by 6:30 am this morning, in the hope of seeing more wildlife and of avoiding the July 4th revelers. The former didn't work out so well (we didn't see any wildlife at all until later in the day), but the latter worked great!

Last night we had a steady light rain for about an hour and a half. This morning the ground outside was all wet – not muddy, really, but certainly not the dry-as-a-bone that it was before. This will be very nice for keeping the dust down on the trails...

We set off up the road to Animas Forks, stopping first at the waterfall just below the turnoff to the road up Picayune Gulch. The waterfall was still in shadow with the sun so low, and there was no traffic to raise dust – both perfect conditions for what I wanted to do: to take long exposure (20 or 30 seconds) shots of the falls. I set up my tripod and happily played photographer for a half hour or so. I also practically froze my hands and feet (the temperature was in the mid '30s). The photos came out very nicely, which greatly pleased me.

Then we turned up the road up Picayune Gulch. We're very familiar with this road, having been on it a half dozen or so times before. So far as either of us can remember, we've always come down Picayune Gulch before, so going up it was a first. The lower parts of this road are through a mature fir forest with streams, ponds, and the occasional meadow – all very pleasant. There were also some spectacular mountain views along the way; there was much oohing and ahhing as we drove.

About a mile into this road, we came across a junction with Ouray County 99, a road that headed south of the road we're familiar with. It doesn't appear on our topo map, so we really had no idea where it went – but after our great experiences yesterday with off-map roads, we decided to try it. We are so glad we did! This is now one of the top four or five roads in all the San Juan Mountains, in our book. It's got everything: scenery, forest, meadows, streams, ponds, interesting mine works, waterfalls, and wildlife. The altitude varies from 10,000' to over 13,000', so there are lots of different wildflowers along the route. We explored every side route, including one that we had to cut our drive short because of snow on the road – that one looks like it might go most of the way to the peak of Eureka Mountain. There were two parts of this road that we particularly liked: a meadow we called “Five Corners” (because five roads join there) and a basin on the northeast flank of Eureka Mountain. The former is full of lush grass, lots of wildflowers, a meandering brook, marshy areas full of marigolds and Parry's Primrose, and views to beat the band. The two dogs had a wonderful time there chasing the ball up and down the knolls in the meadow. The latter is home to two substantial streams, both of which tumble down rocky waterfalls that are about as picturesque as a waterfall can be.

We spent about three hours on the short couple of miles long that Ouray County 99 is. The entire time, we had the road and all the surrounding scenery all to ourselves. We saw deer at well over 13,000 feet in two places, we saw quite a few birds (including a ptarmigan just ahead of us on the road, and a flicker flying right by our window). One of the deer (all spotted by Debbie, of course) was an awesome buck with a gigantic rack, browsing away in the willow. It was just wonderful. Much to our regret, Ouray County 99 ended all too quickly, rejoining the road up Picayune Gulch that we're familiar with from previous trips. There's nothing wrong with that road, either – we were going up it because we liked it – but it just wasn't up to the same standard as Ouray County 99.

And not more than 5 minutes after we got back on the familiar road, we started meeting ATVs, motorcycles, and jeeps – dozens and dozens of them over the next couple of hours. We continued up to the pass between Picayune and Placer Gulch, where we stopped for an hour or so to let the dogs play in a small pond up there (video), and to eat our lunch. The meadows around that area were particularly full of some of our favorite wildflowers, and I did some walking around to see them.

Then we headed down Placer Gulch, pausing briefly in several places to collect rocks for our neighbor Gracie, and to poke around old mine ruins. By the time we got to the bottom of Placer Gulch, it was 2 pm and both Debbie and I were ready to call it a day – so we turned right, whooshed through Animas Forks, and headed for our little cabin on Blair Mountain...

The start of County 99
Falls on the Animas River
A mine partway up 99
Spotting deer at the top
The basin of waterfalls
Purple fringe on mine tailings
Colorado columbine in bud
Marsh marigold
Not identified
Not identified
Not identified
Seedum and not identified
Not identified
Not identified
At the pass between Placer and Picayune Gulches
The "Sound Democrat" mine
The "Sound Democrat" mine
The "Sound Democrat" mine
A field spaniel and his human

Saturday, July 5, 2014

All over Red Mountain...

All over Red Mountain...  This morning we set out to find some interesting trails that were obscure enough that we'd avoid the hordes of July 4th weekend riders. We succeeded beyond our expectations, in particular by locating a system of trails that starts on US 550, just northeast of Guston, at the 10,320 foot level. The road there took us into a dozen or more roads – some on the map, some not – that had us traversing all sorts of different environments, visiting a dozen or so mine remnants, and taking us as high as 11,900' up the western flanks of Red Mountain No. 3. On the lower stretches of these trails we ran into a number of campers, and just a few ATVs and jeeps, but the rest of the day we had the trails all to ourselves. Compared with the chaos the more well-known trails are having on this holiday weekend, this was pure bliss for us.

Not only did we have the trails to ourselves, but these were particularly pretty trails that were full of interesting stuff – spectacular mountain scenery, tons of gorgeous wildflowers, some wildlife (though not as much as we'd have liked), mine wrecks galore, and healthy, vibrant forests and meadows. It was as pleasant a day as we could have imagined.

We sat for a while in an especially pretty place, with the FJ parked on a little knoll overlooking a meadow with a stream burbling through it. This was our lunch spot, where we had some great beef jerky, dried mangoes, pistachios, chocolate, and cold drinks. Yum! We also let the dogs out there to run and play in the grass, chasing the ball all over the place.

At one point we spotted a bird we didn't know, perched in the top of a small fir, munching on the new growth that was just emerging. Turns out that it was a bird we did know, albeit in a color variation new to us: the “gray headed” variation of the dark-eyed junco. That's a bird we know well from Jamul, but the one here looked like a completely different species – with a slate blue/grey body and head, a slight darkening around the eyes, and a big rusty red patch on its back.

We did see a bit of other wildlife – one deer, lots of chipmunks and squirrels – but no marmots or pikas today (mainly because we spent the whole day below timberline).

After finishing with the trails above, we headed for the “Amphitheater” trail just south of Ouray. We didn't like it nearly as well as any of the other trails we've been on, and it was relatively full of people. We'll just add that one to the list of trails to avoid in the future :)

We ended the day by dropping down into Ouray for a milkshake from Mouse's Chocolate and Candies – we each had a “Double Fudge Chocolate Wow” milkshake, lightly malted. Delicious!

A pretty stretch of road
through the aspens
An abandoned mine
Parked below a tailings pile
Geranium, unidentified
Hooked violet
Surprisingly close to the peak
Moss and more, in a seep
Sickletop lousewort
Porcupine damage on cabin

Friday, July 4, 2014

Little Giant Basin...

Little Giant Basin...  After our long day yesterday, we slept in ('till 6 am!) and took it easy in the morning. Debbie made us a lovely bacon and egg breakfast, and we didn't even leave the cabin until around 8 am. It was very nice to have a slow, easy day after yesterday.

On our way down the cabin road, we saw a pair of gray jays – had great viewing of them for several minutes. I stopped to walk around in the orange columbine that grows in profusion along the cabin road, at about the 10,800' level. I now have better photos of orange columbine than any I've taken before – it's easy when there are hundreds of times as many of them as you've ever seen before!

We drove nice and slow up to Little Giant Basin, but had to stop a few hundred feet short of the actual basin because of snow in the road. We had the place to ourselves for a half hour or so, which was lovely. We saw the giant pikas again (as we first spotted last year), and the marmots teased our dogs. We collected some rocks for Gracie, including some particularly nice crystals similar to what you'd find in a geode.

Our peace was disturbed all too soon, though, when three ATVs and a jeep all roared up and disgorged 10 or so people. The pikas and marmots all hid as noise and chaos filled the air. We left shortly thereafter.

After we left Little Giant Basin, we headed back down the road to Big Giant Basin, just a mile or so. We stopped there to have our lunch and watch the pikas collecting food. We saw the expected things: marmots, pikas, and chipmunks – but we also saw something most unexpected: a short-tailed weasel (Mustela ermina)! We got to watch the weasel for five minutes or so as it was apparently hunting. We don't know what it was hunting, but it didn't look like the pikas were worried. We're guessing the weasel was after smaller prey.

Just before we left, I got out to find a tree to water (in other words, I needed to take a pee). I flushed a doe and a fawn (the first fawn we've seen!), and I got up close and personal with one of the teensy little chipmunks that are so common here. He stood up on a log and just looked at me disdainfully. Debbie missed out on these sightings, much to her chagrin. My future pee outings may be accompanied :)

After an hour or so, we headed lazily down toward town. We were immediately sorry we did – it was horribly crowded, traffic was terrible (in Silverton!), and there were touristy types everywhere you looked. We got outta Dodge and headed back for a lazy evening at the cabin.

The town was sopping wet from a rainstorm they'd had earlier in the day. We got sprinkled on, but nothing more. We definitely could use a lot more rain. Ten inches wouldn't hurt a darned thing!

Orange columbine
Typical orange columbine group
Orange columbine
Spotted saxifrage
Purple fringe and
unidentified common flower
Near Little Giant Basin
More of the unidentified common flower
Pond in Little Giant Basin
Unidentified, uncommon flower
Moss campion
Buttercups and pearly everlasting
Scarlet paintbrush

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Near-zero blogging alert...

Near-zero blogging alert...  Things in Silverton, Colorado have changed – we basically have no Internet connection at all.  At the moment we're sitting in a restaurant in Lake City which just happens to have free WiFi, so I can post this.  I don't know when (or even if) we'll have a connection again while we're on vacation.

Speaking of which, it's been grand so far!  Lots of flowers, beautiful weather, happy dogs, and a gorgeous cabin to stay in.  More when we can...

Stony Pass to Lake City, Cinnamon Pass to Silverton...

Stony Pass to Lake City, Cinnamon Pass to Silverton...  Today's trip was a reprise of our favorite trip of last year – up and over Stony Pass, and thence to Lake City. There are two ways back to Silverton from Lake City (one via Cinnamon Pass, the other via Engineer Pass), and today we chose Cinnamon Pass. We chose to take this trip today partly because we hoped to avoid the heavy holiday trail traffic, and for the Stony Pass segment of the trip that worked very well – we only met a few people until we got to the Rio Grande Reservoir around noon. The segment from Lake City over Cinnamon Pass and back to Silverton was another story altogether – all sorts of people and vehicles there! We left at the crack of dawn and returned just before dark – a long day, but awfully nice.

The flower situation was … glorious. We're definitely a little earlier in the flower season, by a week or two, compared with last year. One of my goals was to see the irises on the south side of Stony Pass, and we did – but a week earlier yet would have been even better. We saw orange columbine in the forests just north of the Rio Grande reservoir, which we'd never seen there before. On the trip up and over Cinnamon Pass, we saw more Parry's Primrose than we'd ever seen before – basically every wet place over 10,500' was chock full of it. We apparently hit the season for them absolutely perfectly. We were too early to see sheep and shepherds, though – we're hoping we'll see them toward the end of our visit here.

A few miles south of the Stony Pass summit, the trail crosses Pole Creek on a ford across some gravel. We've made this traverse quite a few times before, and once (several visits back) we were turned around here by high water – something we were afraid might happen today, as the streams are running high compared with most of our experience. The creek was indeed running high, about 18” or 20” deep in the fast center channel – but the FJ took it just fine, with no water leaking inside the cab and the engine never sputtering at all. We haven't modified our FJ to handle deep water, but the manual says anything up to about 40” should be fine – so long as you don't mind water flowing in the cab :) We didn't come anywhere near that depth, and had no problem at all.

The dogs had a wonderful time playing in the snow near Stony Pass. We took several minutes of video with the two of them madly chasing a ball across the snow fields. By the time we put them back in the truck, we had two very tired puppies :)

After we crossed Pole Creek, we headed through the beautiful scenery of the Rio Grande valley, past the Rio Grande Reservoir (and several others), through some fire-damaged areas (from last year's fires that we saw the immediate aftermath of), and thence up through Slugmullion Pass (on paved roads) up to Lake City. There's a favorite destination of ours there: the Sportsman's Club. We like the people there (the owner's are Texans who come up to run the place in season), and most of all we like the food – most especially the pull-pork sandwiches. If your memory is particularly good, you may remember the tragedy of last year, wherein we ordered pulled-pork sandwiches and they only had enough meat for one (I took it). The same damned thing happened again this year – but this time, Debbie got the pulled-pork sandwich, and I opted for a sliced brisket sandwich – also delicious. The owner/cook came out to apologize for both the horrible pulled-pork shortage and the long delay (the place was very busy) – and insisted on giving us the sliced brisket sandwich for free. We actually hadn't minded the delay at all, because there was free WiFi there, and we had the first real connectivity of our trip. We both spent some time catching up on email and what was happening in the world. Afterwards we stopped by at Debbie's favorite Lake City coffee joint (she has one in every city, trust me): Jean's Beans. We both had some coffee, to perk ourselves up for the trip up and over Cinnamon Pass to get back to our cabin in Silverton.

There was very little snow, even at altitudes over 12,000' – the least snow we've ever seen up here at this time of year. This jibes with our host's assertions of very light snowfall this past winter. That's bad for everything and everybody depending on the water from the snow melt making it into the streams...

The wildlife wasn't as abundant in the morning as in our past experiences here. Possibly we're too early in the season. We saw a dozen or so deer, but no fawns. Lots of pikas and (especially) marmots, along with innumerable chipmunks and squirrels. We saw quite a few flickers (especially north of the Rio Grande Reservoir), as well as a few woodpeckers.

We had a bit of rain, just enough to wet down the dust, as we passed the Rio Grande Reservoir. There was no sign of any rain around our cabin when we got home, dang it.

At the top of Cinnamon Pass, we met a couple in a Jeep with their dog. They said they'd seen us earlier in the day, going the opposite way from us at Stony Pass. They recognized the orange FJ with the “Slightly Loony” sign on the front. Turns out they were camping at the Rio Grande Reservoir, and were making the exact same trip we were, but in the opposite direction. By a strange coincidence, the two times we passed them were at the tops of the two passes on the trip. Weird!

Just below Cinnamon Pass, on the Silverton side, we stopped near a stream and marsh that was chock-a-block full of allysium and Parry's Primrose. We let the dogs out to play and chase the ball there, and they had a great time as usual – and I got some nice video of them. Race had a great time biting at the fast-flowing stream. We don't know why he does this, but he seems to think it's great fun. At one point Debbie threw the ball over the stream to the opposite bank, and that made for some unexpected fun. First Race (easily) traversed the stream and went looking for the ball – but failed. Then Miki (less easily) waded across the stream and went looking – and succeeded, after following Debbie's verbal command to turn right. Then Miki wanted to come back to our side of the stream, but for some reason he didn't want to wade over this time. Instead, he wiggled around on the other side and then suddenly made a heroic leap – which didn't quite make it to the other side. He made an awful-looking full-belly-flop landing, half in the water and half out. We were afraid that he'd hurt himself, but nope, he was just fine.

After coming down off Cinnamon Pass, we just headed for home, our little cabin on Blair Mountain. It was very attractive after such a long day :)

Tundra Hymenoxys
Rosy and sulfur paintbrushes
Parry's Primrose
Alpine Avens
Unidentified, uncommon
Parry's Primrose
Unidentified, common early season
Colorado Columbine (bud)
Parry's Primrose
Big patch of Parry's Primrose
Purple Fringe
Western Iris
Unknown flower bud
Seep Monkeyflower
Spearleaf stonecrop
Some sort of beardtongue?