Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Happy Anniversary


On this day 32 years ago, The Bride and I did say “I do”. Over those years a lot has happened. Two children were born and raised. We have lived in five different places. Careers started and one finished. Parents and friends have passed away. Lots of good things and some bad have come down the road and we have handled them all. We are a team and I love my team-mate.

Happy Anniversary, hon.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Pitkin Hotel, A Side Story

hotel1 As I mentioned in an earlier post, the little town of Pitkin has a hotel, aptly named the Pitkin Hotel. The building was built in 1904 and not a whole lot has changed in 105 years. Electric lights have replaced the gas lights although some of the gas fixtures remain in place. The rooms are still heated by individual parlor stoves and there is but one bathroom at the end of a long narrow hall. In more modern times a passageway to the building next door was opened up and one big room serves as a dormitory and can sleep about 20 people. The building is filled with books, games and dvd movies, attesting to the quiet summer nature and the isolation of winter in this place.hotel2 hotel3 Several of the members of the volunteer team stayed in this hotel. They had been to Pitkin before and knew the owner…which is part two of the story.hotel4

JoAn came to Pitkin almost 30 years ago with a “spiritual” group that made plans to buy the old hotel building and turn it into a commune of sorts. Joan put up all the money she had and then the rest of the group backed out, leaving Joan with a big problem. She had the building and no money so she did what she needed to, to survive…run a hotel.

hotel5 It’s a hard life but she has eked out a living for all those years. This year she says is her last and she is going to sell the hotel and go to Florida where she won’t have to worry about snow nine months a year.

The picture to the left is me sitting between JoAn and her son Dusty. As much as I wanted to know more about her I felt I had pried as far as good manners would allow.

If any readers are thinking about getting into the lodging business, give JoAn a call….she’ll probably talk you out of it.

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fairview Peak, The Rest Of The Story

fairview house

The weather cleared out enough on Saturday so that we were able to go up the mountain at about 11 am. Since it was a late start we just humped sand, a door and a window to the top. Getting a late start didn’t mean the ascent was any easier although I thought it was a bit easier because I now knew what to expect.fairview plaque

Sunday and Monday we started out from Pitkin at a little after 8 am and made it to the top by about 10:30. The weather, while sunny was brutally windy….winds of 30-40 mph. It made working very difficult and by the time we got down off the mountain at around 4 pm we were pretty well exhausted….and wind burned.

Unfortunately the window we brought up would not fit the opening. The door fit fine after some major trimming with a hand saw. The Forest Service Archaeologist said that last year the hut filled up to the roof with snow because of the lack of windows and a door. Hopefully this winter the interior will remain snow free.

The other major task we accomplished was to rebuild a portion of the south wall of the lookout. A hundred years of weathering had taken it’s toll. We removed rock from the peak of the wall down to the window lintel and then rebuilt it using stone from the mountain top and mortar that we mixed on site. It was a long and complicated process to re-assemble the wall and make everything fit but several of the volunteers had done this sort of work before.

fairview visitor Several times during the week we had visitors hike up the mountain to see what we were doing. The project had gotten some publicity in the area and a few hardy souls came up to see what we were doing. Take a look at the picture to the left and see if you can see the hiker on the ridge below us…, I’m going to help by marking him with an arrow. This fellow hiked in the long way. It turned out that he had worked on this same project last year. This picture gives you a good perspective of how high up we were….and this guy was 2/3 of the way up when I took the photo!

It was an absolutely amazing experience for me. One that I will remember for a long while. I was tickled that I was able to physically do the climb every day. It was also an honor to be able to help preserve this bit of history in a little known, far away place.

I will be doing another Passport In Time (PIT) project with this same archaeologist, next month. This project will be another archaeological survey and there will be a little excavation to boot. Fortunately this project will not require as much physical stamina….but more on that later.

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures. Fairview Peak Lookout





Fairview Window









fairview work3

fairview feet

Thanks for visiting.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I’m Sill Alive – Fairview Peak

fairview pano

I’m writing this Saturday morning on Windows Live Writer for posting when I can get an internet connection. We’ve had some rain for the past day and a half making it unsafe to try and climb the mountain. Right now we’re scheduled to give it a try starting at 11 am….but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I left Gunnison first thing Thursday morning with a full water tank, empty waste tanks and a full charge on the house batteries. It only took 90 minutes or so to get to Pitkin and find the Forest Service campground that was to be home for the next 5 days or so. I had never been to Pitkin so I was excited to explore a new road. Pitkin lies about 15 miles off one of the main Colorado highways up a beautiful valley. The valley contains numerous ranches and farms and the hills surrounding the valley are dotted with mines and mills dating to the early 1880’s.pit1

Pitkin itself dates to the 1880’s as well and is a charming old town consisting of one paved street and 8 or 9 short dirt streets. Today there is only one going commercial concern, a general store that has the normal tinned food, snacks, sundries and 1 gasoline pump. There is even a “hotel” of sorts that I haven’t had a chance to look at inside. I know it will be rustic at very best.

The team met at 8 am on a clear and sunny Thursday morning and proceeded in 4WD vehicles to the jump off point. I can tell you that I was nervous about my physical ability to make the climb to 13,000 feet. I became even more nervous when the Forest Service archaeologist told us that each of us had to carry about 25 lbs of sand or lime in addition to our own gear to the top. These items were needed to make mortar to repair the stone walls of the lookout.

As you can tell from the title of the post, I survived. It took about an hour and a half to make the summit and I was pretty exhausted when I got there….but I did get there. I’ll let some pictures do the description.pit5  pit4

pit3There is a payoff for the physical exertion. The view is probably the most spectacular I have encountered in my 62 years on this earth. I suppose the view from the top of Mt. Everest might rival it, but I don’t think I’ll ever experience that. The fire lookout is just mind boggling in so many ways. What kind of effort was required to build this tiny shack to begin with. There was also a telegraph in the lookout which required those original builders to plant telegraph poles down the mountain to a mine some three thousand feet below…and string the telegraph wire. It must have been incredibly difficult to stay on top of this mountain for long periods. The can be wind is absolutely viscous. With all the rocks around, and the sheer cliffs, it is  extremely difficult to just move around safely.

By the time we were halfway to the summit high clouds moved in and made it pretty chilly. We could see rain storms all around us but we got lucky and dodged all of them. We spent about four hours tearing down part of one stone wall and rebuilding it. This required mixing mortar on site. The archaeologist had visited the lookout in May and filled up five gallon buckets with snow to use as water for the mix when we arrived. We also had to find appropriate sized rocks to use in the wall…..easy…and carry them to the hut…very difficult. After about four hours it was time to start down. The descent was a little easier but it still was plenty strenuous. No need to say that I slept like a rock that night.pit6

It rained hard all Thursday night and was still raining Friday morning so we scrubbed the project for a day. Even though the day was not the best, I went with another of the volunteers for some sightseeing in her truck. We went over Cumberland Pass into the little town of Tincup, around Taylor Canyon, Gunnison and back to Pitkin. It was a great loop and we saw lots of scenery and the remains of numerous mines and mills.

It rained again this morning about 6 am so we’re going to wait a couple of hours and see if the weather will break….Gotta go for now. Stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Re-Provisioning In Gunnison, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes Morning Well, I’m finally in a spot that I can access the internet. I arrived in Gunnison, Colorado this morning at about 9 am. Waste tanks were full, laundry needed doing and I was ready for a very limited shot of civilization.

The last week has been terrific. Wednesday I drove as far as the Great Sand Dunes National Park and spent the night in the park. I’m lovin’ the Senior Pass I got last month. With the pass I got into the park free and the campsite cost only $7.00.

The Great Sand Dunes is a magical place. A bit of the Sahara Desert in the high mountains of Colorado. I have been to the park before but it always amazes me. The picture at the top of the post was taken on Thursday morning as I was headed for Cortez and the Pecos Conference. The pictures just don’t come close to portraying the beauty of the place.rv night

My trip from the Great Sand Dunes to Cortez required me to go over Wolf Creek Pass, a notoriously vehicle hating piece of road. I had to stop once on my way down the pass because I had overheated my brakes. When I got to Pagosa Springs at the base of the pass I discovered that I had a flat tire on one of the rear dual wheels. About two hours later and $200 poorer I was back on the road. By 6pm I had made my way to McPhee Reservoir and the camping site for the Pecos conference.

The Pecos Conference was a real experience. I really didn’t know what to expect as I had never participated in something like this before. It was part hippie, part academia and part archaeology….and I enjoyed it immensely. Over 700 people attended during the two day event and about half of them camped in the large open field that served as a campground.

The presentations were short 10 minute reviews of what the authors had accomplished on their projects. Sample titles of the presentations are;

Nancy Patterson Village:”A Golden Thread” in the Mesa Verde Heartland: Social and Politipecos1cal Implications through Architecture and Ethnography


Turkey, Dog & Cottontail – A Kiva Floor Animal Burial at the Greenlee Site

Some of the presentations were a bit over my head but I still enjoyed the majority of them and I learned a lot about the ancient people of the Southwest.

The highlight of the conference was a talk by the author Craig Childs. I had read his book “The House of Rain” about a year ago and was entranced by it. The book is very much like a travelogue of the author’s hiking and camping trips to most of the ancient Chacoan sites in the southwest. Because Craig is not an archaeologist he gets to say things that most professional archaeologists wouldn’t dare say.

In his talk, Craig urged the archaeologists in the audience to make sure they told their stories to the public. He said that to not tell the story and just write a report and file it away was a disservice to the profession and negated the importance of the information they discovered.chimney2

Sunday morning I headed back towards Gunnison but I stopped late in the afternoon to tour the Chimney Rock Archaeological Site. This is another fascinating place.  About 1000 years ago residents of Chaco Canyon travelled 90 miles north of their canyon and built a Great House on the top of a high ridge so that they could observe the lunar standstill through the two upright pillars of stone at Chimney Rock. These ancient people knew enough about astronomy to know that this event happened only every 18.5 years.

The stone work on the Great House is absolutely beautiful and most of it was done without mortar because the closest source of water was over 1000 feet below the structure in the valley below. Like Chaco Canyon itself what became of the people is a mystery. After all the work they went to in building this structure, they abandoned it and disappeared without a trace.chimney1

Sunday night I camped at a Forest Service campground about a mile from the site and spent the evening thinking about what might have happened to this ancient culture.

I spent last night at another Forest Service campground about 50 miles from Gunnison. While speaking with the campground host I learned about a very special memorial to those of all nations killed in the Vietnam war. This site is on Forest Service land but the Forest Service does not publicize the existence of the monument. The designer and inspiration for this monument was a former Special Forces officer and wanted the monument to be without fanfare and to remain unknown to the public. It’s my intention to come back to this area and locate the monument. When I do I will tell you the story. It’s located near the Continental Divide and over a mile from the nearest 4 wheel drive road.

I will leave this commercial campground tomorrow morning and head back into the mountains for my Passport In Time project. There won’t be any more posts until I return home on the 19th or 20th.

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Change of Plans


One of the great things about being retired is that “a change of plans” is not a big deal. I don’t have to shuffle anything but my personal plans….which happen to be wide open anyway.

Some time in the middle of last night I started thinking about my back to back trips in the next two weeks, that I have described in previous posts. In the clarity of the darkness (How’s that for a twisted train of thought?) it occurred to me that to drive 400 miles home on next Monday and then turn around and drive 240 miles back the way I came, on Wednesday, didn’t make any sense. It would be more economical and a whole lot more fun to spend three in-between days exploring southwest Colorado and then show up at my Forest Service gig on Wednesday afternoon.

With permission from The Bride, I will leave tomorrow morning and not return home until the 19th. The only bad thing about this plan is that while I’m gone, The Bride will be leaving to join her mother in New York City to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Amazing Mets 1969 World Series win. She won’t be back  until the 25th so we will not see each other for 3 weeks. The Bride’s trip should be a memorable one and I’ll report on it when she returns. Readers may remember that her father was a pitcher for the Amazing Mets.

I will sign off for now. Sometime between the 10th and 12th I will stay at a commercial RV park so I can re-provision and do laundry. I will try and give you an update then.

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Home For A Day


Well actually it’s two days but you get the idea. The Bride and I returned yesterday afternoon for a Circle The Wagons camping trip. It was just a weekend trip, not nearly long enough but we take what we can get these days with everybody's busy schedule.

Guitar, Pic-E, Too Tall-Two Timing and K left mid day on Friday and got the campsites….and dinner all prepared for our arrival at 8pm. Guitar made a stew in his Dutch oven and I was impressed. It was not only tasty but it hit the spot because there was a chill in the air once the sun went down.

bishop5 bishop4

Saturday morning we all rode over to Bishop’s Castle which was only a few miles from the campsite. The castle is a bit of major kitsch right in Colorado. For 41 years, Jim Bishop has been building away on his creation…and creation is the word for it. It is a castle that conjures up images of knights and dragons and sorcerers. It’s a fantastic bit of construction, all done one stone at a time and with the use of only the most primitive of equipment.

Jim allows people to explore the castle on their own, as much as they like. He doesn’t charge admission but accepts donations to help him continue his work.

I visited this amazing building about 7 or 8 years ago and was amazed at what Jim had completed since my last visit. I don’t think Jim has an end point in mind so he’ll just keep adding on as long as he is physically able.

Saturday afternoon, K and Too Tall-Two Timing took a little ride in their kayak on Lake Isabel while the rest of us did a little hiking. I even found time to squeeze in a little nap in the afternoon. At dinner Saturday night we posed for the picture at the top of the post. Nose wardrobe compliments of Too Tall-Two Timing. The young lady with us is Guitar and Pic-E’s great-granddaughter.bishop2

Today and tomorrow is re-provisioning time for me. I need to empty the waste tanks on the RV and refill the fresh water tank. A trip to the grocery store is also on the list to get food and snacks for my trip to the Pecos Conference. Tomorrow morning I have a dental appointment and a doctor appointment. The doctor appointment is to hopefully, once and for all to take care of a wart problem on my foot. The doctor has twice before…unsuccessfully tried to freeze off a wart between my toes on my right foot. If she is not successful this time, I’m going to be in a lot of trouble as my Forest Service volunteer project starts in a week and a half. It’s pretty painful walking right now and a 13,000 foot mountain isn’t going to make it any better.

I am leaving for the Pecos Conference first thing Wednesday morning and spend the night at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Thursday is the registration day and the programs begin on Friday morning. It looks like the weather will be somewhat hotter than it has been so far this summer with temps in the 90’s. There is no power hook-ups at the conference campsite so it may be a bit uncomfortable during the day. There are several field trips on Sunday to local archaeological sites. After the field trip I’ll probably head to Durango and find a commercial campground so I can dump tanks and get fresh water….and even take a shower in a full sized facility. I’ll be back home on Monday and then turn around and leave on Wednesday for my Forest Service gig.

I’m not expecting to have any internet connections until I return home a week from today so this may be the last post for a while.

In other news I was accepted to one more Passport in Time project. This is another archaeological survey in far southeast Colorado. This is a continuation of a project that I did last year and really enjoyed. Read about that one here. It will be at the end of September and I’ll tell you more about it in a later post.

Thanks for visiting


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