Maximum Distress, Part 4

Here we are, four weeks into a planned two week operation, and still plenty of work yet to come. I think I can safely say that “maximum distress” now relates more to Fripp’s sense of the term (Murphy’s Law) than my own distress at seeing my car in parts on the floor of the garage. It could be that I’m just becoming used to it in that state, or it could be that we’re finally making some progress at putting the thing back together.

Today we actually accomplished a few things. The transmission is married to the motor, the starter and master cylinder are installed, and although the car is still on jack stands, the motor and trans are supported by (half) the motor mounts instead of floor jacks.

Engine and transmission, not supported by jacks

It took a bit of jockeying to get the transmission attached to the motor. We had one floor jack supporting the motor and used two smaller ones to levitate the transmission into place. This was a bit of a challenge, given the cramped quarters. But when we finally managed to apply the correct roll, yaw, and pitch and got things lined up there was much rejoicing!

Michael announced that we’d just completed the hardest part of the operation. Then we went to work on installing the starter. We used various English swear words (English, not American) on the previous step but now upped our game. A quick search of the internet got us the proper Japanese swear words and we were able to compose an incantation that did the trick on the starter.

Both Michael and Daniel think we can get the rest of the work done in one more day, but I’ll believe it when I see it. We still have a fair amount of work to do, and what makes them think we’ll be any more efficient at reassembly next weekend than we’ve been the last two? We still need to replace the passenger side motor mount and install the trans studs for the fore and aft motor mounts. And we need to borrow the use of a press to remove and replace two ball joints before we can reassemble the suspension. When that’s all done, we can replace the wheel studs.

I’m happy that positive things are happening, however slowly. Distress is being replaced by anticipation.

Maximum Distress, Part 3

Just a quick update to the clutch job. We spent about four hours but made very little progress. We officially began putting things back together today, which is a milestone. The clutch assembly went into the car, and we replaced the driver’s side motor mount (three down, one to go).

The stumbling block today was mating the transmission to the engine. Because the car is so low to the ground, there’s no room to manoeuver. If we put the transmission on a jack, it’s too tall to get under the frame. If we try to put the tranny on a jack while it’s under the car, we can’t get enough leverage to lift it up. And it’s all too low to the ground for somebody to put his body under the thing to lift it up. We will reconvene next week for another go, adding another jack to the mix.

New clutch, installed.

At one point today, I expressed my amusement that even the internals of my car are green and yellow. The axles are green, and the new clutch is yellow.

Winterlude

It has been three months since I visited RMNP. Well, I was at the back country office last week, but that doesn’t count. I didn’t actually get into the park, let alone do any hiking. I tried back in January, but that was during the government shutdown. More recently I’ve had to schedule things around work on the car, so I haven’t had much opportunity. I finally made it happen today.

I was afraid it wasn’t going to come together. Due to the recent heavy snows, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get there in the Chrysler so I’d have to find somebody to go with who was willing to drive. Luckily, Ed stepped forward and volunteered to join me for a walk in the Park.

When we arrived at the entrance station, we couldn’t help but notice that the express lane was closed. And when Ed proffered his park pass the ranger asked if his car was four wheel drive. “We really discourage continuing unless you have four wheel drive.” We pressed on, undaunted.

The road was pretty slick right away, with ice just a few yards after turning onto Bear Lake Road. We took it easy, going slower than some 4WD trucks which Ed waved by us, and made it to the parking lot without any drama.

The plan was to take Ed’s route to Lake Haiyaha. This one never gets old for me. As I’ve said before, I’m somehow unable to navigate this route on my own. I keep thinking that I should be able to find my own way, and I recognize many landmarks along the way, but I can’t mentally string it together. Eventually, though, (I keep telling myself) I’ll get it figured out.

First stream crossing.

As I’ve mentioned, the Park as gotten quite a lot of snow over recent weeks. Even though Ed has broken this route many times this season, there is little to no trace of his trail. In the depths of the forested parts, I could make out a slight depression indicating his route. But in the clearings, where the wind works full time, there’s nothing. Ed tried pointing out the signs to me on occasion – “see that slight depression there?” – it was far from obvious anybody had ever been through here.

Deep drifts

My snowshoe experience is fairly limited. I make it out only once or twice a year. So I couldn’t help but tell Ed that this was by far the deepest snow I’ve gone through. He responded that it doesn’t get much deeper. Even on snowshoes, we were often sinking knee deep. We went through a few drifts that were waist deep, and on the steeper uphill sections it was tough going. Of course, Ed was in the lead, so he was doing much more work than I was.

It was cold and windy, but that describes most winter days here beneath the Divide. At lower elevations, it was clear blue skies, but here clouds flew above the mountaintops and snow flew along the ground. It wasn’t so overcast that the sun didn’t make shadows, but it was overcast enough that the sun seemed small and distant. Surprisingly, given the amount of wind, the trees were laden with an amazing amount of snow.

In the end we didn’t make it to the lake. I needed to be back to Lyons by 3:30 or 4:00pm, and our progress was slower than usual. And, frankly, it was a fair amount of work plowing our way up the hillside. When we finally stopped, Ed guessed we had maybe another half hour at the rate we were going. Sure, I’d have liked to visited Haiyaha for a quick look at the always interesting ice there, but I’m not bothered we didn’t press on.

It was yet another beautiful day in the Park.

Maximum Distress, Part 2

Things did not go as planned last weekend with the clutch replacement. By now, we had hoped to be able to take the driveshafts to a shop to have them reconditioned and to take the flywheel to a machine shop to have it resurfaced. Neither of these things has happened. We were unable to disconnect the driver’s side driveshaft from the transmission, which was proving much more difficult than expected. Getting to the flywheel would be easier; we just ran out of steam.

Yesterday Michael and I tried to pry the driveshaft out of the transmission without success. Last weekend we tried to do this when the transmission was still on the car using a slide hammer but had no luck. Doing this with the transmission off the car adds somewhat to the degree of difficulty because it’s hard to keep it from moving.

So our first task today was to remove the clutch assembly from the car. The friction disk looks okay. Compared to the new part, the old one appears to have about half its life left. The flywheel also looks to be in good shape. In fact, it’s good enough that we don’t see the need to have it machined. Both these observations fit with my self-assessment that I’m kind to the equipment.

Friction disk

The pressure plate is another matter. The plate itself is okay. It’s just that it was tearing itself apart in an apparent effort to divorce itself from its neighbors.

One bolt hole was completely off, two more were seriously cracked

I will probably never know exactly what happened as a result of the spin. Perhaps this part was already failing. I do know that I didn’t have any abnormal noises before the spin, but did hear something I didn’t like when driving the car around the paddock afterwards. The noise was gone by the time I got on the highway. I’m pretty sure that noise was the debris inside the bell housing.

Inside of the bell housing scored by debris

The diaphragm spring has also seen better days. Looks like the throwout bearing was grinding it away. The throwout bearing is why we embarked on this repair. It’s visually intact but when you spin it, it makes an obvious noise. I hate to think of how this would have turned out if that little sucker wasn’t crying out to be replaced.

Diaphragm spring wear

We finally did manage to get the driveshaft out of the transmission. We oriented it so the bell housing was on the floor (well, on boards actually) with the driveshaft pointing up. Both Michael and I had to stand on it to keep it from moving while Daniel went at it with a big pry bar. Our first few attempts fell short, but we finally overcame friction and got it removed. High fives all around and break out the beer.

We still need to use a press to get the driveshafts disassembled to the point where we can take them to get reconditioned. Michael has that lined up for later in the week. We’re finally nearly almost close to half way done.

HD 29 Day at the Capitol

Wednesday, February 13

My representative in the Colorado House, Tracy Kraft-Tharp, hosts a day at the Capitol every year. At least, I think she does. This is the third year I heard about it but the first time I’ve attended. Of course, it always happens on a weekday and it took me this long to decide it was worth taking a day off work. Being curious about how our democracy really works, I should have done it sooner.

This is the agenda we received:

  • 8:45 am : Meet at the foot of the main staircase on the first floor of Capitol building.
  • 9:00 am : The House convenes, we will be sitting on the House floor.
  • 10:30 am : A couple of options:
    • Tour of the Capitol building
    • Public Health Care & Human Services Committee
    • Senate Education Committee
  • 12:00 pm-1:15 pm : Lunch in HCR 0109 in the Capitol Basement.
  • 1:15 pm : Business Affairs & Labor Committee (in the Legislative Services Building, on the corner of 14th and Sherman St. The meeting is in room LSB A.)

We were given a list of parking lots nearby, but I decided that rather than spend $10 to $16 on parking I’d take the train. That meant an earlier departure, but I wouldn’t have to worry about arriving at a full parking lot and needing to search for an alternate. The train stops at Union Station and I’d take the 16th Street Mall shuttle to the Civic Center station across the street from the Capitol. Based on the train schedule I’d have a few spare minutes to check out the environs.

Capitol Building, west side

I’m sad to admit that I’ve lived in Denver (or hereabouts) for forty years and have never set foot in the Capitol. The building sits on top of what is now called Capitol Hill but was formerly called Brown’s Bluff. Although Colorado was not yet a state during the Civil War, the building is surrounded by reminders of that war. It is bounded by Lincoln St. on the west and Grant St. on the east and by Colfax Ave. on the north and 14th Ave. on the south. At the top of the steps in front of the west entrance are a statue of a Civil War soldier flanked by two cannons. On the exterior wall by the doors are two plaques, one with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the other memorializing General Logan (whose street is a block east of Grant’s).

Lincoln, of course, was President during the war. Grant was the Union’s most successful general and later served two terms as President. Logan was also a general, and later served as Senator from Illinois. Schuyler Colfax was a founding member of the Republican Party, an energetic opponent of slavery, and eventually Grant’s Vice President. He is one of only two men to serve as both Speaker of the House and Vice President. Sherman St. is also here; or it would be if the building wasn’t in the way. I’m guessing that Sherman St. is named for the general and not his younger brother who served as Senator from Ohio (author of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act) and Secretary of State under McKinley.

Denver is the Mile High City. The local sports teams would have you believe the football field (Broncos Stadium at Mile High) or the basketball court is a mile above sea level. They may be, for all I know. Of course, the area is not exactly flat and any number spots may be a mile high. But standing on the steps near the door of the Capitol you are a mile high.

Mile High step

Once inside, I made my way to the base of the staircase in the rotunda. After everyone arrived, we made our way to Tracy Kraft-Tharp’s office where we discussed our plans for the day. Our first stop was the floor of the House.

The House convenes every day of the session. This is generally a short meeting. Most of the public business of legislation is done in committee meetings and hearings. Before the call to order (and to a lesser degree, during the session) the room is in a state of pandemonium. The legislators and guests on the floor are in constant motion, squeezing past each other, exchanging greetings and having short conversations. The general dress code of the legislators is business attire, but many avoid the staid shades of blue, gray, and brown and sport bright colors or plaids. Not quite as loud as the attire of commodities trading floors, but reminiscent of them nonetheless.

Our group, on the floor of the House

The session was called to order at 9:00am. First there is a prayer, then the Pledge of Allegiance. Next is the roll call. Legislators get no sick days; by the end of the roll call, a board shows who is in attendance and who has an unexcused absence. (Later in the session I did hear one or two legislators request permission to be absent at tomorrow’s meeting.) After the roll call was the approval of yesterday’s journal. The journal is essentially the same as minutes for a meeting. These were approved by a voice vote, in spite of the “nays” sounding louder than the “yeas”. I learned later that this vocal disapproval is a standing joke.

Floor of the House

Next, various guest groups were announced. These included us, the HD 29 group. There was also a group of international students and an LGBTQ group. Then a number of members announced various events scheduled for the next day or two.

With all the preliminaries handled, the House got around to some actual business. For today, this was just two items: consideration of two Senate Joint Memorials. A “memorial” in this context is a petition. The Colorado House of Representatives is asking the Federal Government to take some action. Both of these had to do with water issues along the Arkansas River.

First was about the Arkansas Valley Conduit Project. This is a project that was originally approved in the Kennedy administration. It is to provide filtered water ready for treatment to forty communities east of Pueblo. My understanding is that the project is still uncompleted. In any event, the water provided to 15 of the 40 communities violates national standards for radionuclides. The second item calls for the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge sections of the lower Arkansas River. The riverbed is full of mud and debris as a result of flooding and is in some places sixteen feet higher than usual. Because of this mud and debris, flooding is occurring quite often. Both items passed, but it is expected that neither of these issues are likely to be acted on by the Federal Government.

This concluded the business for the day, and the motion was made to “lay over the calendar” to the following day. That’s a motion to adjourn. A voice vote was taken, and just as the motion to accept yesterday’s journal was loudly voted against, this motion was also passed in spite of a raucous “no” vote. The session adjourned at 9:40am.

For the next couple of hours we split up, with the choice of a couple of committee meetings or a tour of the building. I opted for the Senate Education Committee where HB19-1008 was discussed. That’s a bill sponsored by Rep. Kraft-Tharp to bring shop classes back to schools. I think it’s unfortunate that shop classes are generally no longer offered and was quite interested in seeing how this hearing went, but unfortunately I had to take some personal phone calls and missed most of it. Rather than go in and out of the room between calls, I wandered the building.

Senate chamber

I really love these old public buildings. The Colorado Capitol was built over a fifteen year period and completed in 1901. It is mainly open space, with the large chambers (Senate, House, Supreme Court) and offices situated on the exterior walls. On both the north and south sides of the center dome and rotunda is a large atrium. The offices house the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Treasurer as well as many (most? all?) of the legislators. There are also some small meeting rooms. (Larger meeting rooms are in neighboring buildings.)

At the time it was built, the cost was about $3 million. It’s impossible to know what it might cost if built today. (The use of local materials actually increased the cost of construction. It would have been cheaper to ship marble from Italy than to transport it through the mountains.) The exterior walls are made of granite from Gunnison, the foundations are sandstone from Ft. Collins, and two different marbles comprise the interior. The floors are yule marble from Marble and the rose onyx wainscotting is from Beulah.

View from above the grand staircase

The stone in the floors looks fairly uniform to me. But the rose onyx has quite a bit of variation from place to place. I’m told that more than a thousand likenesses have been found in the in the stone, some resembling famous people. I couldn’t find either George Washington or Molly Brown. I didn’t see anybody else, either, but just as you can find all sorts of things in cloud formations, I’m sure you can see a variety of sights in this stone. Colorado rose onyx is so rare that all the known supply was used in the construction of this building.

They just don’t make buildings like this any more. There is a considerable amount of detail hand-carved woodwork that would be prohibitively expensive today. Also, there’s quite a bit of worked brass in the light fixtures and balusters. Ornamental iron is common, making up the risers in the stairwells and in the interior windows (for example, in the walls between the stairwells and the atria.) On the first floor there are also some interesting murals, featuring man’s use and transformation of Colorado’s terrain with some poetic captions.

Dome, stained glass Colorado figures, Presidential portraits

On the third floor under the dome are portraits of all the US Presidents. Well, almost all: Trump’s portrait isn’t there yet, although the little brass marker is present. Above the presidents are stained glass likenesses of various important figures in early Colorado history. Although I recognized many of the names, the stories of these men are mostly forgotten today. There are stained glass panels in several other places in the building, not limited to early Colorado history, and sometimes not limited to Colorado.

After exploring the building, I found the rest of the group and together we had lunch. After lunch we went next door to the Legislative Services Building and sat in on the proceedings of the Business Affairs and Labor Committee. This committee is chaired by Rep. Kraft-Tharp. We heard three bills: one on cryptocurrencies, one on reform of regulations of professions and occupations, and one on criminal background checks.

I’ve never been to one of these meetings before, and although I had copies of the bills I spent my time exploring instead of reading them. I didn’t take very good notes, but the process went something like this: the bill’s sponsor testifies and is questioned by the committee. Then witnesses are allowed to testify and be questioned. Next, amendments can be made to the bill. In the end there are a few possibilities. One is a motion to move the bill forward in the process and another is to postpone the bill indefinitely. Indefinite postponement is essentially killing it. After either of these motions, there’s a roll call vote on that motion. (Two of the bills passed the committee, one was postponed indefinitely.)

Rep. Kraft-Tharp urged me to testify, but I didn’t really have anything to contribute. On the regulation reform bill, there was one issue I might have spoken about, but it was clarified by the questioning from the committee.

This part of the process covers a portion of what happens to a bill in a committee. There’s much more to it, of course, but I haven’t seen any of it first hand. After a bill is passed by the committee, it may get routed to another committee. When a bill survives the committees, the entire House gets to vote on it. It will then go through the Senate and if they make any changes there’s some sort of reconciliation process. If it passes both chambers, it goes to the Governor for signing (or veto).

All in all, it was an interesting and enjoyable day. There are a couple reasons I’d like to go back and do it again. There’s a tour of the dome that I’d like to take. I’d definitely like to get a closer look. Also, I’d like to see a session of the House (or Senate) when a bill comes up for a vote to see how that process works.

Maximum Distress, Part 1

I’m a big King Crimson fan. On one of their live albums they have a track called “The Law of Maximum Distress”. I learned this week that that is Robert Fripp’s name for Murphy’s Law. I don’t want to exaggerate. It’s not like Murphy’s Law is a constant companion for me. But Murphy does show up fairly regularly. By titling this post “Maximum Distress” I’m not suggesting that everything is going wrong.

Distress is defined as “anxiety, sorrow, or pain” or “to give simulated marks of age or wear.” In psychology it is “unpleasant feelings or emotions that impact your level of functioning.”

So why am I talking about Murphy’s Law and anxiety or marks of age or wear? Well, this weekend we embarked on a program of winter maintenance for the Elise. Perhaps “embarked on” isn’t exactly true. She’s been parked for a few months now. When last we discussed the car, we had replaced two of the motor mounts. Timing is everything: when test driving the car, we couldn’t help but notice that the clutch’s throwout bearing was making noise. If we’d have noticed this before our work we’d have combined the jobs and saved some effort.

In any event, it’s time to do some major work on the car. It’s not just replacing the clutch. In addition, we’ll take the passenger side driveshaft to a local specialty shop for refurbishment (the CV joint boot is weeping), we’ll replace the two remaining motor mounts, and we’ll replace all the wheel studs. For good measure, when we reassemble the rear suspension we’ll take the preventive action of replacing the hub carrier bolts.

The reader may recall that the motor mount broke when I spun the car at my last track day. I was running on slicks and made a slight error that resulted in the most violent spin I’ve ever encountered. Actually, it’s the only time I’ve spun the car except when I had a mechanical failure. That’s happened twice, both times a sheared hub carrier bolt.

I don’t know one way or another whether this spin caused any of the other damage we’re addressing, or whether it’s just wear and tear. I’d say “normal wear and tear”, but because I’ve done on the order of forty track days (and the previous owner did quite a bit of autocross) I don’t think it falls under the “normal” category. And although I’ve only run slicks a few times, running on slicks radically increases the forces on the car.

And so it begins…

The original plan was to take a day one weekend to dismantle the car to get to the clutch. One day the next weekend we’d replace the clutch and put everything back together. In between, we’d take the driveshaft in for servicing. (We could do that work ourselves, but parts alone from Lotus cost more than having somebody else do it.) Some online research led us to a nice writeup with plenty of photos. This guy indicates the clutch job will take twelve hours for first-timers.

Now, of course, anybody who knows me knows that I’m not doing this myself, no matter how good the instructions are. I’m software, not hardware. I will mostly stand around trying not to get in the way while Michael and his friends do all the work. I’ll run to the store if we find we need something, and I’ll supply the pizza and beer.

Suspension disassembled

So when we got started yesterday, we planned to have everything taken apart by the end of the day. It was Michael and Daniel doing the work, and our good friend Murphy showing up a few times to lend a hand. At the end of the day we were still quite a way away from our goal. This is where Maximum Distress comes in for me. I’ve watched everything get taken apart. Car parts are everywhere. We’ve used every known size of wrench and socket known to man, even had to go out and buy one we didn’t already have. It would be a slight exaggeration to say it looks like a bomb went off in the garage.

Motor dropped

We worked seven hours yesterday, and Daniel came over again today and we spent another five. The fellow who wrote up our instructions said the whole job would take twelve; we’ve got twelve hours into it and we’re not quite at the halfway point.

Transmission

I have every faith that Michel and Daniel can put it all together. There really isn’t any doubt in my mind. But it’s all too much for my pea brain. Given an infinite amount of time and a patient mentor and I could probably do it. I’d undoubtedly have a few extra parts left over, and I’d have had to do many of the tasks two or three times because I put something together upside down or backwards. It would by my hell, my Maximum Distress.

Finally, the clutch!

I’ve now adjusted my expectations. I’m thinking it’ll be two more weekends before we’re done. We managed to leave enough room for Genae to park her car, so at least she’s not relegated to the driveway. But the bad news is that Michael put a bit too much effort into this given his recent back surgery. He’s now in a solely supervisory role.

More distress soon!

Mills Lake

Saturday, December 15

Chad and I hiked to Mills Lake. He drove. He didn’t want to make the trip on my summer tires in spite of my assurance that it would only be the last mile that’s dicey. We got to the Glacier Gorge parking lot around 8:30. It was about half full. In the summer, it takes me almost exactly an hour to get to the lake from the parking lot, but today it took an hour and a half.

We took the fire trail. When I came down it after visiting Ed’s igloo the tracks followed the summer trail but now it’s switched to it’s snowy winter route, up the gully. An outcropping of rock was covered with large icicles fifteen or twenty feet high.

There was a good crowd at the lake. It was pretty windy, but we stood in the lee of a small stand of pine. Even though it was out of the wind, I had a pretty nice view up the gorge. The sun is about as low in the sky as it will get as we’re just a few days from the solstice.

The view of the gorge as you near the lake is one of the most impressive views in the park. Today when we arrived there, clouds hung in giant curls from eastern flank of Thatchtop. Longs Peak  plowed the wind, leaving a wake of condensation. The wind whipped through at high speed, kicking up clouds of snow up throughout the gorge. The low sun backlit the blowing snow, showing the wind’s form; its flows and eddies.

We were there for nearly an hour. I thought we’d be doing good if we to stayed much over half an hour, but our spot was comfortably out of the wind and I managed to blather on about something or other until I sufficiently bored Chad and he suggested we make our way back to the car.

A Visit to Ed’s Igloo

Friday, November 23

Several days ago I reached out to Ed to see if he’d be interested in hiking with me today. His plans were more ambitious than mine: he said he would be going to the igloo he made the other day and spending Friday and Saturday nights there. He asked if I’d like to join him. I quickly declined, but agreed to spend the day with him. My excuse is that my sleeping bag isn’t sufficient for a November night at 10,500′ in a structure made of snow.

Earlier in the week, the forecast for the day looked pretty good. It would be mid-50’s in Denver, but windy. I don’t know why I keep mentioning the Denver forecast when I’m heading to the Park. In the summer I can count on my time in the Park being much the same as Denver, but cooler. In the winter it may as well be a different planet.

Ed wanted to meet at the Bear Lake parking lot at 7:30. That seemed a bit early for me, so I talked him into 8:00. Lately it has been taking me an hour and forty-five minutes to get to the parking lot, and when I add a few minutes to grab breakfast in Boulder and a few minutes cushion in case I run a bit late, I could leave at 6:00 to meet Ed at 8:00. As it turned out, I left promptly at 6:00 and didn’t have any traffic, so I arrived at Bear Lake at Ed’s preferred time. Which meant I had to wait.

According to the weather report, the forecast for the northern mountains was snow overnight Thursday, clearing up for most of the day, then snow again starting late afternoon or early evening. As of 7:30, the first part of that was more or less accurate. The skies were clear on my drive all the way up to the Bierstadt trailhead, just a few miles from Bear Lake. From there on, it was snowing, but not windy. Here I should mention that the Chrysler isn’t equipped for driving in snow: I have ultra-high performance summer tires on her. They’re fantastic for dry pavement, excellent in the rain, but there are few tires that are worse in the snow.

I’ll also add that the road to Bear Lake was in the worst condition I’ve ever seen. But that’s fairly meaningless, for three reasons. First, I only go to Bear Lake in the winter a few times a year. Second, I’m a fair-weather winter hiker and most times I’ve gone, I could easily take the Lotus (which is worse in the snow than the Chrysler). Third, the park service does a good job of keeping the road clear. So I made it to the parking lot without problem, but made sure to park so I didn’t have to go uphill on my way out, anticipating that conditions wouldn’t get any better.

Ed had posted a few pictures of the igloo on Facebook, but I didn’t have a great idea where it was other than the top of a little ridge with a great view. Given Ed’s range, even restricting it to within a few miles of Bear Lake, that doesn’t narrow it down much. Perhaps I should have asked him before we started, or before I agreed to go with him, but I waited until we were on our way. We stopped for a few minutes and he used his trek pole to make a diagram in the snow.

This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve followed Ed through the snow. He’s led me to Lake Haiyaha a few times and I still don’t think I could get there on his route without his guidance. I think I’m figuring it out. I think I could do it in the summer, but for some reason the terrain looks totally different to me when it’s covered with snow.

Ed leads the way

My inability to follow his route isn’t because he’s not a good guide. He is constantly pointing out terrain features. Today perhaps he was trying to show me too much. I felt it was a bit of information overload. But that may have been because I was a bit preoccupied. You see, this was a one-way trek with Ed. Because he’d be spending two nights in the igloo, I’d have to find my own way back to the car.

We spent a lot of time turning around and looking back the way we came. “Through the trees here our trail should be fairly clear. But in this clearing it will drift over. You’ll want to avoid the bottom of the gully here. Stay to the left of that log there.” That sort of thing. You see, it was snowing pretty good. The wind wasn’t as bad as it often is here so close to the Divide. But it would be hours before I came back this way.

Yours truly. This is a smile, not a grimace. Look closely: the snow is falling sideways.

Where our route crossed the trail from Lake Haiyaha to the junction with the trail to Mills Lake and the Loch, we walked back and forth along that trail so that “tourists” wouldn’t be tempted to follow our tracks. Here we discussed one of my options. I could either follow our tracks, or take the official trail. It didn’t look like the official trail was very well traveled, so I was thinking following our own tracks would be the best bet.

From here our route started getting steep. Our destination was a glacial knob at the eastern end of Otis Peak, immediately north of The Loch, and about 300′ above it. Ed knows I’m not a big fan of the steep stuff, so he gave me a bit of a pep talk. The final approach to the igloo would be quite steep. He compared it to the descent we made from the ridge on the south side of Dream Lake back in the spring. It would be that steep, but not that long, and broken into short segments.

On that final approach there was only one spot that had me bothered. It was a bit tough climbing it, as the snow seemed to want to give way under my weight. I had to be very careful to put my weight directly above the balls of my feet, which I found a bit of a challenge. At one point, I was almost crawling up the snow.

“Come stand out here on this precipice and check out the view!”

The igloo is sited atop a rock outcropping, with clear views to the east and south. Or, it would have clear views if the weather was clear. When we arrived, we could see a bit down the Bear Lake road and we had a view of Half Mountain. A cliff face of Otis was just a few yards away to the northwest, and the northern flank of Thatchtop was prominent to the south. After a quick look at the surroundings, we retreated to the shelter of the igloo for lunch.

Click on the picture to see it full-sized.

We ate and chatted for about forty-five minutes. My soda was nice and cold, but my water was colder: it was starting to freeze. This should not have surprised me, but it was a bit distressing to have to knock a plug of ice out of the mouth before I could take a sip. We set my water bottle beside Ed’s little furnace. Although it was nice and cozy inside, it wasn’t warm enough to melt the ice. Standing up, though, I found that the air was close to fifty degrees at the top, while it was more like freezing down at the level of the door.

Igloo at center; Thatchtop in background.

After lunch it was time for me to head back. When we popped out of the igloo, it was quite obvious how the conditions had changed. Visibility was just a few hundred yards. Ed kindly escorted me down the steep bits and I was soon on my way, retracing our steps from the morning. These steps, of course, were our most recent. So they had had the least amount of snow, either freshly fallen or wind-blown, obscuring them. In the trees it was quite easy to follow them. I was feeling pretty good, in spite of the degraded conditions.

Wind-sculpted pillows of snow.

The first challenging part was around a small unnamed body of water that Ed likes to call “Beautiful Lake Marv”. We had walked through an open area where the wind gets an unimpeded run. Our track was completely erased. Ed’s advice was to stay to the left and don’t go down into the gully. It took me a few minutes, but I eventually did spot our trail below me. I was able to follow it all the way down to the trail from Haiyaha.

On the way up, we didn’t just cross directly over it. After reaching it, we went along it for maybe a hundred yards, then left it. I thought I’d easily find where we gained the trail, but I had no luck. Some other hikers had come through; I followed their tracks off the trail, but they just made a short excursion to look at the stream. After a couple times up and down the trail looking for my way, I decided that the tracks along the official trail were my best bet, so off I went.

Although a bit longer, it was an easy hike out. I arrived at the trial junction in good time and ran into a few hikers. Two guys asked me how it was the way I came. I told them I didn’t go all that far. They told me they’d come up the Fire Trail and that it was pretty clear. So that’s the way I went. A few minutes later they passed me, one on skies, the other booting it. They went at a pretty good clip, the one in boots running.

By now the wind was getting pretty fierce. Even in the wooded sections, the trail was getting harder to follow. Those guys were just a few minutes ahead of me and their tracks were indistinct. Then a few minutes later another pair of hikers passed me, and shortly after that the trail was sufficiently out of the wind that it was quite obvious.

I was back to the car by 2:45. There were surprisingly few cars in the parking lot. My car was the closest to the top of the hill, and was pretty well covered by snow. By 3:00 I was on my way. I practically crawled along the road, ABS engaging quite a bit. My doors don’t lock until I reach 13mph. They didn’t lock until I passed the Glacier Gorge lot. Even going so slow, I managed to catch two other cars, who pulled over to let me by. The road was pretty treacherous, with blowing snow creating blizzard-like conditions, until about Hollowell Park. At Moraine Park, a ranger had his truck, lights flashing, blocking up-bound traffic. Clearly, they weren’t letting people go any farther. That explains why there were so few cars at Bear Lake.

So, to recap: I walked through sometimes blizzard-like conditions, up and down sometimes incredibly steep terrain, sometimes trying to follow my own vanishing tracks in the snow, then drove my car on summer tires through more blizzard conditions. Through all that, I was warm and dry. What can I say? It was another beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Motor Mounts

On my last visit to the track I ran on slicks. I was able to navigate turn 7 at between ten and fifteen miles an hour faster than on the street tires. Unfortunately, late in the day I apexed a bit early and had the choice of going off the track or lifting off the throttle. I chose the latter and for the first time in thirty-five or so track days spun the car. It was a particularly violent spin that dislodged the battery (again!) and broke a motor mount. A couple of weeks ago, the new set of motor mounts arrived.

The new parts

I was surprised to see that the inserts are black. They’re supposed to be red. The reds measure a 60 A on the durometer scale. (Hopefully I’m using the term correctly.) The blacks are 75 A, which is harder. I called the vendor and asked about it and was told that Innovative is no longer selling the 60 A for use in the Elise. I’m not sure I’m buying that. It could be that they just shipped the wrong ones. But there’s quite a bit of discussion on the web about which ones to use, so I decided I’ll install these. In theory, I could buy red inserts and replace them.

Today it’s time to install them.

Saturday, November 3

There are four mounts in the car: fore, aft, driver side, and passenger side. In addition to the various discussions I found on the web concerning the hardness, there is also quite a few opinions as to whether to replace all the mounts or not. It is not uncommon for people to just replace the fore and aft mounts, leaving left and right as stock. The original plan was to do them all, but if we run out of time I’m happy just to do the fore and aft.

The idea was that Michael and I would do it. He has a sore back, though, so he invited one of his friends to help. But Michael quickly found out that he was able to do some of the work after all, so I ended up watching and fetching tools as required. There really isn’t room under there for three people.

The guys at work

I’m sure this operation is a lot easier if the car is on a lift, but we don’t have a lift so we just put the back of the car on the ramps. It’s a little cramped, but workable. We did the rear first. It came off pretty easily

The old aft mount

The stock mounts aren’t solid and the new ones are. When we first inspected the mounts, that wasn’t clear to me. The only one we got a good look at was the rear one. I was thinking it was broken worse than it actually is. But it’s pretty broken. It’s not exactly X-shaped, but close enough. The photo doesn’t show it very well but three of the four legs of the X are cracked all the way through.

Forward mounts, new and old

The front mount was a bit tougher to replace. The bushing is pretty stout and we had to persuade it a bit to get it into place. Then there was much finagling required to get the holes to line up for the bolts.

While they were working under the car, I decided to finally “upgrade” the camera mount on the nose of the car. I didn’t give much thought to where the camera should be mounted back when I originally installed it. There are two problems with it. First, I have to take the tow ring off the car to run the camera. That’s not ideal if I have a problem on track and need to get towed. Second, because it’s sideways I need to use two little arms, one of which is essentially a 90 degree elbow. It’s not an elbow, but serves the same purpose. And because of the two arms the camera is farther from the mount itself and more subject to vibration.

Old camera mount (above, horizontal), new camera mount (below, vertical)

With the camera mount in the new location, the camera won’t move around so much and it’ll be even closer to the ground, making it look like I’m going faster! Sadly, the picture shows how beat up the front of the car has gotten. Michael and I have talked about what it will take to effect some fiberglass repairs, so I’m thinking the current beat-up state of the nose is only temporary. (The picture also shows both mounts. The old one is no longer there.)

We finished the job in about three hours. That’s just the fore and aft mounts. We haven’t put the undertray back on the car but I did take her out for a spin around the block. It’s going to take a while to get used to it. There’s a lot more vibration in the cabin. Before the test drive I was joking that it’ll be like a bunch of buzzing hornets. It’s worse than that. She really vibrates quite harshly now. I don’t think it’s enough to loosen the fillings in my teeth, but it’s quite different. On the other hand, there’s a noticeable difference in the feel when shifting gears. I never got past third and literally only went around the block, but I think it’s much improved.

In addition to only doing half the mounts, we haven’t done the trans studs yet. We probably are going about this the hard way, but so it goes. Oh, and it sounds like there’s an issue with the clutch. Michael thinks it’s the throw out bearing. Neither of us heard this noise at the track after the spin, and I haven’t driven the car since getting it home. When it rains, it pours.

Loch Vale

Monday, October 29

Things are a bit on the slow side at work, and I have a few vacation days I haven’t used. So with the weather looking good for today, I took advantage of the opportunity and headed up to the Park for a short hike. I figured I’d try something similar to my last hike – that is, a short hike to a familiar destination but try to get a different perspective by gaining a little elevation. So I headed up to the Loch, with the intention of finding a nice rock outcropping with a view of the lake and the valley in which it sits.

I wanted to park at the Glacier Gorge parking lot, so I left a bit earlier than last time. This had the side-effect of missing the worst of rush-hour traffic going into Boulder. Between Boulder and Lyons I was treated to a beautiful sunrise, which is always a nice way to start the day.

There was relatively little traffic on US 36 and now that it’s off-season, I skipped my usual detour by the hospital and actually went through downtown Estes Park. Approaching the RMNP entrance station, I saw a few temporary signs indicating that there was a chance of fog or smoke. I thought it was odd, as the weather was fine and the skies were mostly clear. In Moraine Park their electronic sign told me that the Bear Lake parking lot was already full. I wondered how that could be, given that it was 8:30am on the last Monday of October. How can there possibly be that many people there already? If the Bear Lake lot is already full, there’s no way I’ll get a spot at Glacier Gorge.

When I arrived at Glacier Gorge parking lot there were about eight cars there. Clearly the sign in Moraine Park was in error. Two of the eight cars had just arrived moments before I did. Two guys got out of one of the cars, looked at each other, decided it was too windy and got back in their car. I told them it wouldn’t be windy on the trail, but they weren’t convinced. And, actually, I didn’t think it was very windy at all, compared to what I’ve found there in the past.

Andrews Glacier barely visible

Although I’m quite comfortable deciding what to wear and what to carry on my summer hikes, I’m not that experienced in autumn or winter. I think part of my problem is my lumbar pack. It’s sufficient for my summer day hikes but doesn’t allow me to carry what I might need on a colder weather hike. Today I wore my thermal (light or medium, I forget) underwear, hiking pants, Hawaiian shirt, hoodie, and windbreaker. I had a woolen hat and gloves, and I had my rain jacket as well. I brought my microspikes and gaiters, but ended up leaving the microspikes in the car. I figured I probably wouldn’t need them, but once I got off the trail there might be enough snow I’d want the gaiters. In the end, I didn’t use them.

The day was quite pleasant. On the trail, the wind was not an issue and I didn’t think about it until I got near my destination. There was very little snow on the ground for my entire hike, while the trail had icy stretches that became longer and more common as I gained elevation. The ice was only in the shady bits, starting about halfway up the fire trail. About half way between the Mills Lake trail junction and the Loch I encountered a hiker on his way out. He was trying for Sky Pond but turned around at Timberline Falls. All he had was microspikes and that wasn’t enough for him. He was the only person I met since the parking lot.

Shortly after arriving at the Loch I started looking for a place to start climbing. As it turns out, I started climbing too soon. But it didn’t take long to run into the talus field that’s on the south side of the lake. It runs at an angle. If I’d kept to the trail for a little longer I’d have come across it and had an easier way up.

Picnic view

In planning the hike, I had considered following this talus field all the way up to one of Ed’s glacial knobs. But I found a nice place with a view of the valley that was in the sun and out of the wind. I was perhaps two-thirds of the way up the talus. There was a bit of snow here, but I easily avoided it. I didn’t want to step on some snow only to find out that there’s nothing beneath it but a giant hole.

Interesting grain, a little burned around the edges

In the talus there’s a fair amount of dead wood. Not a lot: it’s a talus field so more or less by definition there aren’t any trees. But there are a few ribs of soil here and there and over the few hundred yards of talus I maneuvered I came across quite a few pieces of deadwood. Each one showed signs of being burned. Some were subtly discolored, just a touch of brown. Others were deeply charred. I assume all these were the result of the Bear Lake Fire of 1900. Burned bits of tree can be found throughout the area, but they’re move obvious here as no trees have grown here in the intervening century.

About two-thirds of the way to the top of the talus field I found a spot with a nice view. As a bonus, it had full sun and was not particularly windy. I fully expected that any place I found that was in the sun and wasn’t surrounded by trees obstructing the vista would be blustery, but my little spot was close to ideal. It may very well be that it wasn’t as windy as it normally is in the cooler months this close to the Divide. But it wasn’t exactly calm. The small clump of trees thirty or forty yards above me sang a bit when the heavier gusts blew by.

Interesting textures

While I let the camera run, and after my picnic, I explored the immediate neighborhood. This meant hopping from rock to rock through the talus. On my way to a spot where I could get a bit of a view of Andrews Glacier, I hopped on a rock that looked to be about three feet on a side. It was a “wobbler”. I’m often concerned that some of the smaller rocks I step on will move, but haven’t had that happen with a boulder this size. Frankly, it kind of spooked me. This one had to be three quarters of a ton or so. I had a quick mental image of it moving a large area of talus; not something I want to be in the middle of. From then on, until I got back to the trail, it seemed like every rock I stepped on moved a bit. I know it was my imagination, but it had me being very careful.

After about an hour of watching the world go by, I packed up and headed back down to the trail. Along the way I came across a large upended stump. Its color matched all the other dead wood nearby, except that it had no obvious signs of burn. What it did have was a rock that the roots had grown around. I took a few pictures of it from various angles; didn’t get one that shows it very well, but so it goes.

Rock encased in wood

Back on the trail I started encountering other hikers. One couple asked if they’d passed Sky Pond. I told them that they hadn’t, and that they weren’t likely to make it past Timberline Falls given that they lacked any kind of traction devices. The next couple I came across said they were properly equipped, and I wished them luck. They looked to be fit, but it seemed to me they wouldn’t be getting up there until fairly late in the day.

The Loch

I briefly considered taking the long way back to the car and spending a few minutes at Alberta Falls. Maybe I was feeling lazy, maybe I preferred the solitude of the fire trail, and in the end took the shortcut. As I hiked out, I shed my layers ending up in shirtsleeves. The forecast high for Denver was in the mid-70’s, while NOAA predicted a high in the mid-40’s for Loch Vale. No doubt, it was warmer than the mid-40’s where I had my picnic.

Leaving the park I saw why they had signs up warning of smoke or fog: they were doing a prescribed burn on the north side of the road, covering the whole distance between the entrance station and the Beaver Meadows visitor center. By now all the excitement seemed to be over: I saw a fair amount of smoke but no flames.

Prescribed burn

Timetable

There Back
Trailhead 08:55 AM 01:22 PM
Mills/Loch Jct 09:35 AM 12:45 PM
The Loch 10:05 AM 12:24 PM
Picnic spot 10:43 AM 11:45 AM