Monday, December 29, 2014

Meme's Cafe

I've eaten at Meme's Cafe many times.  They're starting to recognize me.  It's in Springdale, across the street from the Shell station, and next door to Sol Foods.  Their food is quite good.  It's surprising to find good BBQ and teriyaki, at a French-themed cafe that specializes in crepes, in southern Utah.  

The teriyaki chicken rice bowl has fresh vegetables and homemade teriyaki sauce; not that mass-produced syrupy stuff.  Their beef brisket and pulled pork are both tender and tasty.  Their chicken and turkey plates have real meat, none of that flash-frozen pre-formed junk that's popular in tourist towns.  And the servings are large.

I haven't yet ordered a crepe.  I assume they're good because I saw a small boy (about 5 years old) announce loudly to the waitress that he loves it and he wants to return and order the same thing.  His face was covered in chocolate.  Speaking of kids, they have a neat sign hanging on the wall.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas in Zion

It snowed on Zion National Park on Christmas day.  The scenery was amazing.  A photographer would have had fun.  It was cold, about 32F, when I was taking photos.  Luckily, I got in some hikes the previous day when it was warmer.  

The next photo shows Nippletop Peak.

Here's Progeny Peak.

Most of the road was clear.  The sun was melting the snow fast.

Sections in shade were very slick.  My car slid sideways a bit on all 4 wheels (while driving less than 10 mph).  Luckily, I learned to drive in weather like this, so it was more fun than dangerous.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Land Rover Hood/Bonnet Sensor Switch

The vast majority of visitors to my blog are looking for information about replacing the hood/bonnet sensor switch on Land Rovers.  My old posts were for a 2008 LR3, but I think the information can apply to many models.  Those switches tend to fail causing the alarm system to think the hood has been opened, and so the alarm goes off. 

I noticed that the links in my posts are old and invalid.  So I decided to dig up information and links for the required replacement switch.  I have another motive also.  I'm buying a 2015 LR4 and I want to buy a few of these switches so I'll be ready for the inevitable failure.  It's super easy to replace.  The most annoying part is the embarrassing alarm activations.  In addition to the normal garage and parking lot activations, mine would go off at night when I was camping at Zion Natl. Park.  I'm sure I annoyed many other people in the campground.

Over the years, Land Rover has been assigning new part numbers for what appears to be the same part.  The latest part number that I found is: LR041431.  At around $40, it's more expensive now, but still pretty cheap.  Atlantic Pacific sells them here.  Amazon is offering them from a NJ seller.  You can find others by googling the part number.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Working Stiff

Dr. Judy Melinek's book, Working Stiff - Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, is about her experiences as a junior forensic pathologist with the NYC OCME.  I really liked this book.  It's very interesting and informative, loaded with stories of her various cases.  Beyond the ordinary, Dr. Melinek and her colleagues worked some horrific cases in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks.

I learned things only an ME would know.  For example, if you die alone, your dog will sit by your side for days or weeks like a loyal friend.  If, on the other hand, you have a cat, whiskers will begin eating your dead body after a few days, starting with the soft tissue, your lips and eyes.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Martian

If you haven't already read it, then I highly recommend The Martian by Andy Weir.  The story begins in a way that grabs your attention...

"I'm pretty much f*d.
That's my considered opinion.
Six days into what should be the greatest month of my life, and it's turned into a nightmare."

Set in the not-too-distant future with the third manned mission to Mars.  NASA astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars after his fellow astronauts abort the mission and leave, believing Watney is dead.  The story is largely told in first-person log entries by Watney.  

This is very realistic science fiction, with an unending stream of challenges Watney must solve in order to survive.  At one point, he's using the hydrazine fuel to make hydrogen, then burning that (carefully) to make water.

"Firstly, hydrazine is some serious death.  If I make any mistakes, then there'll be nothing left but the Mark Watney memorial crater where the Hab once stood."

At this point when I was reading it, I was thinking: you are insane!  You see... I have actually designed spacecraft hydrazine propulsion systems that have flown in space.  And so I happen to know how dangerous that stuff is.  It was reassuring that Weir put in the details and described a remotely feasible way this would work.  Watney didn't have a problem until he was burning hydrogen to make water.  

"Everything went great right up to the explosion."

This is a great book and I wish Weir the success he deserves.

The film adaptation is already being produced with Ridley Scott directing and Matt Damon starring as Watney.  Filming began last month and release is planned for November 2015.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Anchor Bolts in Zion

On a recent hike in Zion NP, I came across some rock climbing anchor bolts.  There were 5 of them, secured to the top of the rocks at the center of this google map.  Maybe these are seen often by others, but it is rare for me to see them.

I don't know why they are in this particular location, so I'll guess.  They might provide anchors for rappelling down into Keyhole Canyon on the left.  Rappelling from this spot would drop you between the upper narrows and middle narrows sections of Keyhole Canyon.  It would also be a big convenience for SAR teams if they had permanent anchors installed where they would likely want them.

I found the map below on this web site.  I had walked up the red route line on the right.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

As You Wish

If you like the movie The Princess Bride, then you'll like the new book As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (the actor who played Westley, aka Dread Pirate Robert).  I recenly listened to the audiobook version, read by Elwes, and it was very interesting.    

The book is full of stories about the making of the movie.  Starting long before the movie and includes the story of how Rob Reiner got his shot at the story.  It includes many personal accounts and memories from various actors as well as Rob and William Goldman.  The audiobook even includes many of these actors reading their own stories.  The book was clearly a team effort.

Cary included several nice stories about working, and bar-hopping, with Andre the Giant.   How he and Mandy learned to sword fight.  How he got the crew to let him dive head first into the quicksand; the script had him jumping in feet first, which is much less heroic.  Cary also describes a great working environment as the cast and crew were all housed together in a small UK village for the location shoots.

You can see some of these same stories told by the same people in youtube videos that were posted a few years ago, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the movie's release.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Hiking On the Bottom of Ant Hill

Ant Hill is a prominent peak on the east side of Zion NP.  It's labeled peak 6641 on USGS topo quads and doesn't have an official name.  It's located just east of Progeny Peak.  Here's a google map centered on the peak.  The photo below was taken from the top of Cockeye Falls.

I decided to explore the south buttress and avoid the scary upper section.  Here are a couple views from Google Earth with my GPS route shown.

I've been looking at this hill for years each time I hike past Cockeye Falls on my way to/from Lost Peak or The Triplets.  The slickrock slope on the south side is just a tad too steep for my taste.  The steepness of those slopes can be seen in the photos posted by 13ergirl.  Routes up the south slope are class 4 and easily become 5, so I chose to hike around the west side.  My route was class 3.  Here are a few shots along the way.

After about 45 minutes I made it to the top of the south ridge.  I found a nice spot to sit and rest while enjoying the view.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Zion NP Petroglyphs

I visited Zion NP last week.  The weather was much nicer than I expected; mostly sunny with highs in the mid 60s.  I stayed at my favorite hotel, the Cliffrose Lodge, where the pool and hot tub were still open.  I didn't see any others open when I drove through town.  I like the Cliffrose because the staff are always happy, friendly and helpful.

I decided to visit the "secret" petroglyph site to take some photos.  I figured I could have the place to myself at this time of year.  This is the worst-kept secret site at Zion.  But I'll fulfill my obligation by not sharing its exact location.  Hint: it's in Petroglyph Canyon (aka Pictograph Canyon).  The site is a 5 minute walk from a large parking turnout.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Garmin GPSMAP 62st

I've been using a Garmin fenix GPS watch for a few years and it has been great.  I like the immediate access to information that you get from a watch.  Prior to that I used a Magellan SporTrak.  The Magellan had two great features: pre-loaded topo maps and breadcrumbs (that was a big deal way back then).

My fenix has been showing its age lately.  The battery life has dropped significantly.  It used to have a battery life of 12 to 15 hours.  A few months ago the batteries would last for about 5 hours.  On a recent hike it dropped from 100% to 37% in less than 2 hours, with the same settings.  This is no longer useful to me, since some of my hikes are over 8 hours long, and when I visit Zion or Yosemite I often make two 3+ hour hikes each day.

I decided to try the Garmin GPSMAP 62st.  It has pre-loaded topo maps, so that will be nice.  I'm not a fan of models that are overloaded with gobs of features and capability.  I'm happy with a topo map, waypoints, breadcrumb display, easy download of my tracks, traversed distance, elapsed time, altitude, and elevation profiles.  That's about it.  The 62st does much more, but not as much as other models Garmin offers.

I also got myself the Garmin carry case, so the thing might last longer while exposed to the elements on my hikes (trees, brush, rocks, rain, sand, sweat, etc.).  It slid on snugly and I think it'll do fine.  

The 62st came with a carabiner clip.  I've already tried that and it worked well.  I clipped it to a strap on the side of my backpack.  That way I can reach it without removing the pack, and it doesn't swing around much while I walk.

The GPS tracks are as easy to download as they are on the fenix.  My mac mounts the device via USB and it's drag-n-drop from there.  I'll continue to use the GPS Visualizer site for converting the GPX files to KMZ files.  I welcome any tips about alternate sites.  

I'll need to remember to bring spare AA batteries on my adventures.  That's something I was able to avoid with the fenix.

The 62st isn't the same as the fenix, but I think I'll end up liking it a bit more.

Monday, August 11, 2014

PCT South of Walker Pass

Here's a walk I took this summer to escape the heat of the city.  This is a section of the PCT south of Walker Pass.  My hike coincided with the northbound passage of many PCT hikers.  Here's my track in GE, looking south.  

I'm posting this for readers who might be interested in an easy hike in the southern Sierra mountains where the air is fresh and you can't get lost.  The PCT crosses Highway 178 at Walker Pass where there's a large pullout for hikers to park.  Just start walking north or south and turn around wherever you like.  It's nicer than the crowds and smog of the city.

When I did this hike, the cicadas were out bringing the forest to life with their eerie buzzing.  The trail was littered with their emergence holes.  Several of them startled from nearby bushes and flew right into me.

I spent 4.5 hours on this pleasant 12 mile hike.  I didn't quite make it to McIvers cabin.  The weather was great.  No flies.  No rattlesnakes.  A nice way to spend the morning.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Zion: Jenny Peak and Little Jenny Peak

This is my 500th post, so I thought I'd indulge myself and reflect on the past.

Many years ago I hiked Jenny Peak and Little Jenny Peak on the east side of Zion NP.  Jenny Peak is marked on the USGS topo maps as peak 6310.  This google map is centered on it.  Little Jenny Peak is farther south, right near the cliffs above Parunuweap Canyon.  I hiked that area a lot from 2005 through 2007, but I haven't hiked it since.

Here is an old post I wrote in 2007.  It has a link to an annotated Google map I created with popup photos.  That was before I carried a GPS receiver that could export my track, so the route was crudely drawn from memory.

If you're tempted to hike this area, then I should warn you...

WARNING 1:  Jenny Peak is now off-limits to hikers.  Several years ago the park service established a research area that encloses Jenny Peak and that area is off-limits to hikers.   My hikes in this area predate the closure.  Summitpost also indicates that it is closed to hikers.  They even mention a sign that was not there when I hiked the area. 

The research area is marked in bright green on Map D of the Zion Backcountry Management Plan on this NPS page.  Jenny is in the green zone, but Little Jenny is not.  The easiest legal route to Little Jenny would be via Gifford Canyon.

I don't suggest breaking any rules or laws.  Check with the rangers at the visitor center.  

WARNING 2: This route is dangerous and difficult.  It includes steep class 4 slickrock and a lot of route finding.  I'll describe my route and show some photos here for the historical record.

My route begins at a turnout on highway 9 sized for a single car, down a trail to Clear Creek below and then heads south down a canyon.  In 10 minutes you reach a really hard part.  I know that other hikers use different routes up the hills on the left side of the canyon.  I just walk right up the steep slickrock hill.

This hill is very steep, but only in short sections.  It is steeper than the hill from Canyon Overlook up to the East Temple Saddle.  It is not quite as steep as the south ridge of Lost Peak.  Like all such hills, coming down is harder than going up.  On one hike I chose to take an alternate route down adding 45 minutes and requiring bushwacking down a very steep tree covered hill (or an easy rappel down a 50 foot rock face if I had a rope with me).  This is the view north, toward Progeny Peak, from partway up the hill.

After getting up that hill, there's a surprisingly easy way to ascend the slickrock to the west and get to Jenny Peak.  Pine trees mark a spot where you can begin a long traverse north along a natural shelf in the sandstone.  In a few places, that shelf gets narrow and kinda disappears, but then resumes.  This shot looks back down toward the pine trees at the beginning of that ramp.

Do not try this traverse if you're afraid of heights.  There's a huge drop on your right.

The hard part is reaching the pine trees.  It requires about 50 feet of bushwacking.  The Zion BC map I linked to above shows that the traverse would cross the research area boundary.

At the end of the traverse, you're at the base of a series of slickrock bowls.  Just walk up them any way you like and head up and around the north end of the peaks.

Here's the route shown on a photo I took from the top of Progeny Peak.  

Here's the route shown on a photo I took from the top of the hill directly east of Jenny Peak.

Here are some of my photos from around the summit of Jenny Peak.

This one looks south zooming in on the direction I was headed.

Here's the southwest face of the hill with the twin peaks (looking northeast).  That's steeper than it looks.  Each time I hiked it I found myself traversing, using the natural sandstone inclines.

Approaching Little Jenny.

And finally, Parunuweap Canyon from the top of Little Jenny.  I'm sorry my photography skills aren't a match for Joe Braun and others.  But I still think it's a great view.

Here's a shot of my Magellan GPS map.  This particular hike was to Little Jenny.  You can see that it skirts the top of Jenny.  I'd hiked to the top of Jenny Peak the previous summer in 2006.