Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ten O’Clock Musings

Posted by: Lynne

 

NOTE: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and debated about whether or not to publish it, but here it goes! I've got several blog posts pending so I hope over the next few days to wrap those up and get them posted. Laziness.

Okay, it's late and I can't sleep. Sometimes I lay there and thoughts run through my head and they won't leave so I have to write them down. I did that quite a lot when I lived in New Jersey and had my blog, but it hasn't happened in a long long time.

I find it interesting when we have company to visit and seeing what they make of where we are living and how we live. So far every one of them as asked us if we have a land line (for phone) when their cell phones don't work right up here unless they have Verizon, for which we have a booster here at the house. Uhm, that would be a no. We are "off the grid" and have no services.

They don't much wonder about our little solar-charged-battery-operated house either because in the summer months it hums along without much thought to most people. We don't stress about electricity as much as we used to either since our new array of solar panels, new batteries and the like were installed just before we moved. We know because we live here that we can't operate multiple big usage things at the same time, such as the vaccumn cleaner and the power sucking microwave. Not that we use the microwave for anything but warming things up, melting things, and the occasional emergency defrost. We never cook our food by nuking it.

Our range and fridge are powered by propane. Even the range has nothing that uses electricity. Now to be honest, our range has been problematic since the day we brought it home. It's from Canada, what can I say? They recently agreed we had a lemon (the broiler does not work; the oven might light if we are lucky, only to go out 15 mintues later which might require another 15 minute wait before it will light again) and sent a replacement range which we just put in today, so fingers crossed. It's pretty though in all its stainless steel glory, even our neighbors think so. Well, pretty is as pretty does goes the old saying.

They don't think about water for their showers either which we take much longer showers in the summer than in the winter because of the electricity that the water pump uses to pump the water from the well.

They also can't believe that we don't have "streaming." The only "streaming" going on around here is when the dogs go in and out of the stream that trickles from natural springs that flows through the old aspen, spruce and fir woods in the bottom of our property.

We do have satelite TV and internet, although our internet is limited. Our band-width is limited (unless it's from the hours of 2:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. when we have unlimited access and also when we are asleep), so I don't watch all those videos people post on Facebook. If I want to do a blog post I upload all the photos before 8:00 a.m. 

Pretty much, I think that they believe we are certifiably crazy. Especially after seeing our drive in to town.

Yes, the roads are dirt and at most times washboarded which shake your vehicle to death. But ... we see and encounter the most amazing things on the way. Eagles are very common, both balds and goldens. Various hawks, vultures, cows, antelope, deer, badgers and the ilke. The other day we were coming back from town on the way in that has fencing. An antelope was trotting down the road  toward us and when it saw us, it panicked (like they are prone to do, such skittish creatures) and tried to jump the fence. Antelope cannot jump, they usually go under wire fencing, but in this case this particular stretch of road is not antelope friendly and has an extra row of wire at the bottom so that they can't really go under it. The antelope got caught trying to jump the fence and had one hind leg caught up and was struggling to free itself. We backed up, got out of the truck (Rick grabbed a padded blanket we had in the back) and went over to the fence. I saw that its hind leg was twisted in the barbed wire and couldn't visualize how we were ever going to free it, when after several hard tugs of the leg, the antelope finally freed itself and bounded off. Just another day! Or how about the day we saw a badger family waddling across the road and stopped to take a photo (from the safe confines of the truck) and Daddy badger tried to take on the truck and went for our tires.

Friends of ours often wonder how we cope with being "in the middle of nowhere" meaning that we are not close to a city. Rick and I have lived a pretty lush life in my opinion. We lived for many years overseas in three different countries, experiencing things most people have no clue about and travelling a lot. We've wined and dined in some of the best restaurants in France and met Paul Bocuse along the way.

I can be that woman who dresses up and goes to posh events in New York City, the Oscars (while staying at the Beverly Wilshire) or I can be the real me who doesn't put on makeup every day, gets smoky sitting by a campfire and can enjoy the simple things of life. I suppose I am probabaly a little bit of both of those people but I prefer the unfancy side of me. I don't have to have the fanciest of cars, the biggest of houses, designer clothing and all the material things that people seem to strive for these days (I mean really, who needs a car that is so snobby it doesn't even have a spare?). 

All I can say is that we are happy and where we need to be at this time in our lives, and that's all that really counts.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Total Eclipse of the Sun

Posted by: Lynne

sing along with me!

<snip>Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun <snip>

"You're so Vain", Carly Simon

Well, today we attended one of the greatest free shows on Earth, thanks to the dear old Moon and the Sun being in the same place at the same time, and we didn't have to fly our Learjet anywhere! All we had to do was get up and leave the house at 6:00 a.m., drive 2.5 hours north in light traffic, take out our chairs and wait for the show to begin.

We could not have found a more tranquil and peaceful spot to set up on except for maybe our back yard. But, in our back yard we could never have viewed the totality of the eclipse and stared directly into the sun. How many people can say that they've stared right at the sun?

Plenty of cars drove in afer we arrived, but they just drove straight past us. There was a higher ridge further on that we could see where a lot of cars were parked, and I assume they were heading there. In the above photo you can see the road snaking back the way we came from, about 20 miles in on Little Medicine Road off Highway 487.

I whiled away quite a bit of time searching for cool rocks and came home with a bag full.

 

When it started it just looked like a tiny bite had been taken out of the sun. It was really cool to watch the progression. I was surprised to find that when there was only a sliver left of the sun it was still very light even though the light was very eerie and like nothing I've seen before. I felt like I was going slowly blind although I can't describe it to you. And, here I am talking about how it looked around us and not through our glasses. Not like normal setting sun kind of light at all. More like a 360-degree sunset.

When totality finally arrived and we could take off our special glasses and look at the sun directly (when I took the first photo above), it looked like the moon had a very special quivering aura. The photo I took makes it look more flaring than it actually was, but that's just the lens. Words cannot describe the eerieness of the silence (except for those people on the far ridge cheering and whooping). It was not completey dark as we had expected it to be, but more like deep twilight. 

We had about 2 mintues of totatily where we were. For those few minutes it seemed like the Earth stood still and everything held its breath. Before we knew it the sun started to peek back out from behind the moon and it was time to put the glasses on again. It was very cool to imagine all those other people across our nation seeing the same thing at the same time. A true bonding experience!

The line of cars coming back was almost comical, but the traffic flowed smoothly and went along mostly at 70mph, with a few slow moments like below on approach to Medicine Bow. But the police in town were on top of it and directed the flow of traffic back onto Highway 287 seemlessly. Good job Medicine Bow!

We weren't going to go but I am so thrilled that we did. It was indeed TOTALLY magical.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dinosaur Fossil Cabin

Posted by: Lynne

Did you know that just a little bit north of Laramie lies one of the greatest and most well-known, important fossil beds for dinosaur bones in the world? It's Como Bluff. I've long wanted to see the Fossil Cabin which lies along the old Lincoln Highway route and was once quite the tourist attraction. We passed it on our way to Casper for the dog shows late last month, and finally stopped by this historic road stop on the way home.

The cabin is reportedly made from 5,796 dinosaur bones! I didn't take time to count them, however.

It was a sad little place as it is now, deserted and forlorn, falling into disrepair. Haunting, really. It must have been a bustling tourist attraction in its day back in the heyday of the highway, complete with a gas station. You could fill up your car with gas and fill up on history all at the same time.

You can read more about it here.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Quick Trip to the Snowy Range

Posted by: Lynne

Last weekend, when we had company, we decided on the spur of the moment to drive up to the Snowy Range. It's the closest place we know of to get "up close and personal" with true mountain peaks. This time of year though they aren't quite as "snowy" but still beautiful.

This is Medicine Bow Peak, (above) where in 1995 a United airlines plane crashed right into the side of the mountain, killing all 66 passengers plus the crew on board. In those days it was the most deadly airline incident ever to be reported. Airplanes were not pressurized back then and the plane was supposed to have kept to an altitude of 10,000 (the peak is at 12,000) and fog blanketing the top of the mountain was suspected to be the culprit, although no one really knows. 

We stopped at the top and took the short walk to Lake Marie (the spot where numerous dog photos have been made!).

(Note: This photo was taken on our last visit in July)

The flowers were plentiful, unlike the visit we made in the spring hoping to catch all the spring alpine flowers in bloom only to find them lacking. No so on this visit.

On our way back we ate lunch in the tiny town of Centennial, Wyoming at the Old Corral. Such a fun western atmosphere and really good food — we'll be eating here again.

All in all, a really nice little day trip.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fire Season

Posted by: Rick

Mid-Summer is wildfire season up here (as it is in most of the West). A small forest fire, called the Keystone Fire, has been burning near Albany, WY--about 30 miles away--for the past month. We occasionally get some smoke from that fire, but it has not spread much and is about 50% contained.

First signs of the "Pole Cat" fire.

It has been hot and dry with no measurable rain for a while, so the conditions for a wildfire are optimal. And, with idiots firing off fireworks for the 4th of July (you know who you are), campers with open fires in the woods, and occasional dry lightning, the opportunity for ignition are high.

Lynne and I had been in town yesterday morning doing some shopping to get us through another week. After we got home, about 1:40 in the afternoon, I got a call from our "neighbor" David. (I put "neighbor" in quotes because we all live on large parcels of land and our nearest neighbor is still quite a long way away). He told me that Bruce from the Chimney Rock Ranch had called to say he saw smoke rising out of a draw in Sand Creek Park somewhere east and to the south of the Running Water Ranch.

David was going to drive toward the Running Water Ranch using Bridge Road. He wondered if we'd jump in our truck and go around another way, up CR80C to FR87C and then back into Sand Creek Park from the east, watching for smoke and thus the location of a possible fire. Lynne, Destin and I jumped in the truck and took off.

When we got to the boundary of Sand Creek Park on Running Water Ranch Road, we could smell, but not see, smoke. When we finally got to the ranch location (it is no longer a working ranch but a seasonal residence of the restored ranch buildings), we turned around and could see smoke coming up from a draw directly to the east of us. Sure enough, there was a small wildfire somewhere over there.

It was now 2:28 and I called 911. I got an operator in Wyoming and once we established that the fire was probably in Colorado, they transferred me to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office where I described the situation and the approximate location of the fire. They said they'd dispatch appropriate resources.

David and Debra had joined us at the Running Water Ranch, and they took off up Laramie Overlook road while Lynne and I backtracked to FR87C, also known as Boulder Ridge Road, where we drove north for a while and then came back into Sand Creek Park on Laramie Overlook road from the opposite direction. And, sure enough, at one point we could see the smoke and even flames at the base of the smoke. I called David to report, but he and a few others were already on the scene. He gave me exact directions to the fire. I called 911 again and was routed to the Sheriff's Office where I described the exact location of the fire--turn off Laramie Overlook onto Pole Cat and climb the hill. Park where there were other vehicles and hike down the hill some. The first photo above is the scene from where our trucks were parked.

Already on the scene.

When I got to the fire, there were several people already there: Bruce, the rancher who originally spotted the smoke had driven toward it, then hiked in with a shovel. Melissa, who has a cabin nearby and was alerted to the fire by David and Debra. She had some shovels and an axe that she brought to the fire. And, David and Debra were there. All were already working the perimeter of the fire with shovels to keep it contained.

The beginnings of a wildfire.

I was surprised at how hot the fire was. There were large stumps of dead Ponderosa pine that were slowly burning. They gave off tremendous heat. And, the fire was at the core of these large stumps. So, it appears the fire had been burning for quite a while. Lightning had clearly hit the large pine that you can see at the right side of the above photo. You could see the "zipper" line where the lightning had wrapped around the tree and hit the ground. Likely, that started the dry pine needles at the base of the tree on fire and it spread to the dead stumps and surrounding grasses. Luckily, the ground was damp and there was no wind, so the fire stayed contained to a relatively small area (although it kept trying to escape while we were there).

The "girls" keeping the fire contained.

Oscar, another "neighbor" from way over on Bull Mountain drove toward the fire and on the way picked up one of our fire wagons. We have three stationed around Sand Creek Park. They are trailers with several hundred gallons of water onboard as well as a gas powered pump, a couple of strings of hose, some tools like shovels and rakes, as well as a way to pump more water into the tank if needed. Oscar showed up with the fire wagon at 3:26 and we got right to work. 

The fire wagon.

We need to do some maintenance of these wagons, I guess. We could not immediately get the storage compartment that held the hose open. And, a valve to turn on the water was stuck. But, with some brute force we got those fixed. The engine started right up and soon we had water flowing to the fire. One string of hose was enough that along with the water pressure, Debra was able to douse most of the active area of the fire.

David looks on as his wife takes charge of the water.

The scenery is beautiful, but the idea of a wild fire is scary.

I'm not sure how much water the fire wagon holds, maybe a couple of hundred gallons? It did not take long to exhaust the amount of water on board. But, the water did put down the flames and allowed us to work and turn the ground with shovels to further suppress the fire.

No that is not a sea monster, but a burned stump.

By about 3:50, we'd done what we could with water. And, the active fire was suppressed. But, the scene was till smoldering and the stumps were still hot with coals. The fire was not "out" yet by any means, but it was also unlikely to go anywhere as long as we kept working the perimeter with shovels and rakes.

No more flames, and well under control by about 3:45. Good thing, too. We were out of water.

At 3:53, the first responder arrived. A volunteer from the Livermore (Colorado) fire department arrived in a truck. He had come up CR80C to FR87C to Laramie Overlook then into Sand Creek Park where he could see the fire. He whooped his siren to let us know he was close by. He still had to find Pole Cat and get up the hill to us. As he drove in, at each turn that got closer to the fire he'd drop some flags out the window of his truck. These flags would then be indicators to those that followed where to turn to locate the fire.

He called in over an open frequency monitored by all the fire departments in the area as well as the Sheriff's office. He gave the exact location of the fire along with the status. The "locals" had established a perimeter and had the fire in control. This first responder did not carry any water, but was able to get to the scene fast, do an assessment, and rally any additional help needed.

But, before the Livermore FD could get to the site with a water truck, the Tie Siding (Wyoming) volunteer fire department showed up. They had come up Boulder Ridge Road (FR87C) from the Wyoming side and the followed the flags to the site. They had a crew of two. And water!

The Tie Siding Volunteer Fire Crew shows up at 3:53. Just less than 1-1/2 hours after the first 911 call.

Here comes more water. And, foam is mixed with the water to halve its viscosity. That effectively doubles the amount of water while helping to lower evaporation and further suppress the fire.

The crew of two, a man and a woman, began further dousing the fire with water and foam. All the while, the woman was using a shovel to turn the dirt and ash over. They were working the moisure into the ground. 

It started to get cloudy, and we could hear the rumble of thunder in the background. What a beautiful view into Wyoming from the fire site.

The fire likely started when lightning hit the tree in the background. Since the tree is alive and "wet" it did not catch. But, the dry pine needles and pine cones at its base did. They must have smoldered overnight. 

The Livermore FD water truck had arrived in the area about the same time that the Tie Siding crew showed up. But, rather than climb the hill on Pole Cat, they stayed on the other side of the canyon. If more water was needed, they could provide it. So, both fire departments played a role. Also, around 4:00 another "neighbor", Ron, showed up with a second fire wagon and some young stong nephews who could help turn the soil and finally suppress the fire.

Strong, young backs, (well maybe not the dude in white), turn the soil and further suppress the fire.

At this point, about 4:15, Lynne and I left. There was nothing more we could do on the site and poor Destin had been sitting in the truck for a couple of hours. He was ready to get home to a big drink of water and his dinner.

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