Emerald Lake

Saturday, January 23

Back in my misspent youth, I organized a hike to Emerald Lake every year around the Memorial Day weekend. I didn’t keep track of when I started this, or how long it went on, but at one point I considered making a few t-shirts that said, “Umpteenth Annual Emerald Lake Hike”. This was my traditional first hike of the season. It was early enough that we were always hiking across snow, and both Dream and Emerald were still frozen, although not frozen enough to hike across.

Although I’m not generally a big fan of crowds when I hike, I still make it to Emerald Lake at least once a year. This time, I dragged Scott along. This was his first hike to Emerald.

As is usual, the weather along the Divide was much different than the surrounding area. It wasn’t exactly clear in Estes, but it wasn’t bad. The roads were dry until about a mile from the parking lot at Bear Lake, where we entered a snowstorm and the road became snowpacked. The Glacier Gorge lot was full, and I was a bit concerned that we’d find a full lot at the end of the road. I needn’t have worried – it was only about 2/3 full.

I was considering two different destinations: Emerald Lake and Two Rivers Lake. For a time, the trail to Odessa Lake was closed at the Flattop Mtn trail junction due to the fire last autumn. It’s open now, but the volunteers told me it has been getting very little traffic. Little enough, that is, that we’d need snowshoes rather than microspikes. I was feeling a bit on the lazy side, and there’s always enough traffic to Emerald that snowshoes aren’t needed.

To Scott, I described the hike as a “conga-line” hike. Not everybody who parked here at Bear Lake was going to Emerald, but most of them were. I guessed we might see fifty people when we got there.

At Nymph Lake, I generally try to follow the winter route rather than the summer route. I found some footprints and we followed them for a few yards, but this was not the “beaten path” and after we postholed a few times we retreated back to Nymph and opted for the summer route.

The ice at Dream Lake was covered by a few inches of freshly fallen snow. Typically, the wind keeps the ice clear, but it was quite calm today.

As has been usual lately, I’m often amused by the navigation questions I get from other hikers. I think the map at the trailhead is pretty clear. Either quite a few people can’t read maps, or choose not to. Everybody is just following somebody else up the trail, not terribly concerned with where they’re going. “How much farther to Gem Lake?” and “Is this Lake Haiyaha?” were my favorites from today. Also, standing on the ice at Emerald Lake, “Is there another lake above this one?”

A common problem with a January hike to Emerald Lake is, where to sit to take a break? Generally, if a rock here doesn’t have snow on it, it’s because of the harsh winds. It was calm and snowing, so no rocks were clear. We headed towards the western shore in search of something better than closer to the trail and came upon two young women taking pictures of each other. They had stripped down to their sports bras. Instagram culture.

We never did find a nice place to relax, so we ate our snacks standing up. Naturally, this limits the length of our break.

After our break, while we were still crossing the ice, I counted thirty-two people. Not quite the fifty I predicted, but it very well could be that eighteen people had come and gone while we were there.

On the way down, the winter route from Dream back to Nymph had gotten more traffic, so we went that way. We stopped a couple of times and I attempted to describe the nearby topography to Scott, but I didn’t do a very good job: visibility was better than when we started, but everything beyond the two large glacial knobs was obscured by snow. At one of these pauses, I spotted what looked like a brown disk at my feet. It was the bottom of a water bottle somebody had dropped. I meant to leave it at the trailhead but forgot about it. It’s a nice metal REI bottle.

Some hours later, Scott sent me a couple of Strava screen shots. It says we went 4.50 miles, which I think overstates it by a mile. It also says we averaged 1.8 mph. I really don’t think we were going that fast: I kept stopping to chat. I recall mentioning that I’m sometimes hiking with people who never stop talking, and today it was me who never stopped talking. Pot, meet kettle.

I don’t think I scared Scott off yet. He says he’s interested in going to Haiyaha this winter and wants to go on a longer summer hike, or maybe even a backpacking trip.

New Computer

A while back, my computer started giving me network errors when trying to access my local drive. This is not a good sign. Clearly, it was on the brink of disaster. So I bought a new computer. The old one lasted eight or nine years, and I hope its replacement will last at least as long. I truly hate upgrading computers. So many things go wrong; so many aggravations. So much swearing.

Last time, I spent the fifty bucks (or whatever amount it was) to buy software to make the migration easier. I think it worked pretty well, and I considered doing the same thing this time. I didn’t keep any notes on that prior process, but I have some vague memory of it doing some things I didn’t like. Not enough of a feeling to dissuade me, but enough that I spent some time looking at the actual scope of the migration problem.

The first thing I did was make an inventory of all the software I have installed on the old machine. First, I went through the Windows settings application for removing programs. I recognized pretty quickly that this was not a complete list, being that it lacked at least two programs I use fairly often. For several years, I’ve been using a program called Revo Uninstaller. I’ve found that it does a better job of uninstalling things than the native Windows program. Revo showed me a couple of things that the native app missed.

Given a good list of software, I faced the next issue. The old computer’s CD/DVD drive is broken, and the new computer doesn’t have an optical drive. Which will be a problem if I need to install software from a disk. (I later discovered later that the lack of any ability to read a disk isn’t the real problem when installing old software.)

Next, I checked my hard drives to see which programs I had saved the install files for. It has been my habit to keep these. Then, I went online to discover which programs I could download from the developers.

Given this information, I decided to do the migration manually. May God have mercy on my soul.

In the end, there were only three programs that gave me problems.


Least important of the three is a program I’ve been using to track my savings bonds. It is no longer available, the developers having moved the functionality to the web. I won’t go that route. I didn’t regularly track my bonds, but I think they’re all matured by now anyway, and I should cash them in and be done with it.

The next program in question is the one I’ve been using to make my videos. I can’t download it (short of buying the latest version), but I had the install files. However, when I ran the install program, it notified me that one of the files was corrupt. I recopied the file from the old computer and tried again, but no joy. This led me to searching the web for a replacement. I decided on Shotcut, a free open-source video editor. I’ve successfully made my first video with it, and I think I’ll be a happy user. But, even for the simple videos I make, I face a bit of a steep learning curve.

Shotcut

Finally, we get to Quicken. I’ve been using Quicken since 1994. I’ve upgraded several times over the years and am currently using Quicken 2015. Their business model has changed somewhat. They’ve switched to a subscription model. I’m not a big fan. For decades, I’ve been able to buy it, install it, and use it. I’d rather own than rent. Somehow, I don’t have the original install files. So I was a bad boy and found a copy of Quicken 2015 on a Russian BitTorrent site and downloaded it. I’m sure Intuit would claim I just stole something, even though I bought it way-back-when. So it goes.

I followed the instructions of the pirate version I downloaded and was off and running. Or, not so much “running” as “limping”. It got me to the point where I could register my copy with Intuit. After that, I got a message that, because Quicken 2015 is no longer supported, it wouldn’t update from the original release to the latest version (that I have on the old computer). And, of course, it wouldn’t let me run the version that I’d just installed.

Now that it was installed, I was hoping that it had finished doing whatever magic needed to be done with the registry. I copied the Quicken program folder from the old machine to the new and tried again. It fired up with a brand new (empty) database, which seemed like progress. After two or three tries to get it to open my database (with 26 years of data), I finally had success. This version of the program will “crash” the first time I fire it up each day, but it seems to be working just fine. It has been crashing on startup for quite a while now. I’m pretty sure it’s just trying to check for updates, and as it’s unsupported it just crashes. It only looks for updates once a day, so the second time I launch it, it works. I can find no setting that would allow me to stop it looking for updates.

One piece of software that I had no availability concerns was iTunes. I consider iTunes to be possibly the worst software I’ve ever had the misfortune to use. But I have an ancient iPod that serves me well, so I’m more or less chained to iTunes. This one should have given me no migration problems, as Apple kindly provides step-by-step instructions on the web. I followed these instructions precisely. It only took three tries to achieve success. I guess they just wanted to fuck with me: “You were expecting to see your music library here? Ha! Try again!”

One of the side-effects of downloading and installing the programs I use is that I get updated to the latest versions. Not everything updates itself constantly. I’m okay with this. Perhaps I should be paying better attention to those that don’t update themselves regularly. So far, I’ve only come across one update that has caused me any issues, which I resolved after a quick internet search.

I still have a few things to download and install, but I’m going to call this migration “done”.

I’m sure the family is happy that this process was fairly trouble-free. They expected to hear much more foul language.

The last thing I’ll whine about is this: Genae uses this computer, too. When I went to add her as a user, I learned that I can’t add users that Microsoft doesn’t approve of. That is, Microsoft won’t let me add a user to this computer, my computer, in my house, without their permission. I added her as a “family member”. There are two options for this: Organizer or Member. I will be the administrator of this computer, so I made her a “member”. She had to set up an account with Microsoft and had to provide her birthdate. Now, when I go into the users control panel, I see my wife listed as “child”. Given that Microsoft asked her age, they know she’s not a child. I really don’t like that I’m not in charge of who can use my computer. The best answer, it seems, is to remove her from my “family” and set her up as an “other user”.

With the new computer comes a new problem. I no longer have the excuse that my computer lacks the specs required to run various games, like Cities: Skylines or the latest racing sim. I will either have to devise a new excuse or succumb to one or more of these high-tech time wasters.

Garage Cabinets 4

Construction is done, so we’ll call this the last episode. No need to prolong an already tedious account with details of putting all my junk away.

In this episode, we address the workbench and some shelves for the “tool corner”.

For the workbench, I was pretty much constrained to the same size I had in the old cabinets. The utility of that “bench” was compromised somewhat by the drawers getting in the way. Not that I really used the workbench to do any work. As previously stated, it’s pretty much been used as a table more than a workbench.

Being that it would get light duty, I considered making it out of a double-layer OSB with a 2×4 frame. The more I thought about it, the less I liked that plan. I ended up using six 2×6 planks screwed and glued to 2×4’s at each end, then a single sheet of OSB for the work surface. This bench would be attached to a cleat on the wall and to the two neighboring cabinets.

Assembled and painted bench top

I tried to be very careful with the width of it. I didn’t want it loose; I wanted a pretty snug fit between the cabinets. At one point, I was beginning to think I’d made it too snug. I managed to wrestle the back of it onto the cleat and get it more or less level and propped up. I needed to shift it about an inch toward the wall, and no amount of pushing on it was generating any progress. I tried a hammer on a block, but no joy. Finally, I tried the sledgehammer. A few relatively light taps later and all was good.

After securing the bench top, I went about mounting my vice. I haven’t had a vice in my garage in my adult lifetime. When I was a kid, I made regular use of a vice. I can’t believe I’ve gone so long without one. I wanted to be sure to mount it so that the back jaw of the vice was proud of the table’s edge, so that I could deal with material that hung down below the table top. I’d have liked to have been able to mount it far enough to the side so that I had that same luxury when I rotate the vice 90 degrees, but it wasn’t possible with this vice.

I have a vice!

The last bit of work was making a couple of shelves for tools. I searched the web for ideas and found a few photos of things I might be able to do. I wanted someplace for the chargers and batteries and I needed a way to accommodate drills/drivers and saws.

Wall mounted chargers and mocked-up shelves.

Where I’ve mounted the chargers, their cords make it to the nearest outlet, so I don’t need to use an extension cord. I may find a better place later. It should be easy enough to move, just four screws into the studs. I didn’t want to paint it the same gray as the cabinets. It’ll probably be white.

I’m happy I did a mock-up of the shelves first. I cut the shelves themselves to the proper dimensions. When I was figuring out how long to cut the cleats, I found myself looking for my pencil and a scrap of paper to do some calculations. Duh! I don’t need pencil and paper! I have chalkboards!

With the shelves sized and cut, using some scraps I propped them at heights I thought would be good. After a couple of slight changes, I found what I liked.

Finished tool shelves

The garage floor is still covered with the stuff that needs to either go into the cabinets, go to the recycler, to the landfill, or to be given away. I bought a bunch of plastic bins of three sizes, and they’ll do most of the work. I still need a few more, including something like a parts bin for all the fasteners and other little bits. But I like how the bins are fitting into the cabinets.

In the left cabinet, where the shelves are farther apart, I can stack a large, shallow container on top of a large, deep container. Or, two small deep ones on a large, shallow one. On the right side, everything fits, but with less stacking.

I’m sure that when I get whatever additional containers I require, the finished product will look just as neat and tidy as it is in these photos. And pigs will fly.

Before I started, I guessed I might be able to pull this off with 32 hours of labor, not including demolition. I was off by a bit. Demolition was 4.5 hours and the rest was 69, for a total of 73.5. I didn’t have a budget for materials. I just figured I could do it for less than I paid for the originals, even if I had to purchase some tools. At that point, I hadn’t even considered getting any storage containers. My total cost was just over $1100, but if you take out the tools and containers, we’re under $800. (All costs listed include tax.)

The unexpected value in this whole project was the sheet of insulation. I’d never have been able to make all those big OSB rips without it. When I was working on the tool shelves, at one point I had some of the shelf material hanging off the edge of the insulation, which caused the sawblade to bind. I can only imagine the difficulties I’d have had if I’d done this any other way.

Garage Shelves materials

ClassDateItemTotal
Lumber11/10/202x2x8’ Furring Strip67.18
Lumber11/10/202x6x8’ #2 Douglas Fir81.61
Supplies11/10/20Formular 250 2” 4x836.38
Lumber11/10/204x8 OSB 19/32262.20
Tools11/10/20Kreg Rip Cut Aluminum Circular Saw Guide37.89
Delivery11/10/20Delivery Charge96.43
Paint11/10/20Killz 2 Primer (1 gallon)18.02
Tools11/10/20Ryobi 18volt 7-1/4” Brushless Circular Saw105.09
Supplies11/13/20Screws 8x1-1/2” T-Star20.59
Supplies11/13/20Screws 10x3” T-Star10.29
Supplies11/13/20Titebond Wood Glue4.30
Supplies11/13/20Paint Tray Liner (3-pack)3.23
Tools11/13/20Safety Glasses8.09
Tools11/13/207-1/4” 40 tooth saw blade16.22
Paint11/17/20Grey paint (1 gallon)35.46
Paint11/25/20Killz 2 Primer (1 gallon)19.21
Supplies11/25/20Paint Tray Liner (3-pack)3.23
Paint11/25/20Grey paint (1 gallon)35.46
Supplies11/25/20Screws 10x3” T-Star10.29
Supplies11/25/20Scotch Blue tape4.30
Tools12/06/20Ryobi 18volt drill/drive kit69.34
Supplies12/06/203M sandpaper 120 grit5.38
Supplies12/06/203M sandpaper 60 grit5.38
Supplies12/06/20Diablo 6pt jigsaw blade 5pk7.55
Supplies12/06/20Wood putty3.99
Supplies12/08/20Paint Tray Liner (3-pack)3.23
Paint12/08/20Chalkboard paint12.28
Containers12/10/2056 Quart container w/lid29.22
Containers12/10/2032 Quart box w/lid25.97
Lumber12/11/202x6x4’ Pre-Cut Lumber32.83
Lumber12/11/202x4x4’ Pre-Cut Lumber11.64
Containers12/14/2032 Quart Utility tub w/lid17.25
Supplies12/22/20Hex bolts ½ x 3 ½5.37
Supplies12/22/20Washers, ½”1.86

Garage Shelves time

DateHoursDescription
11/08/201.50Demo old cabinets: right side
11/09/201.50Demo old cabinets: left side
11/10/201.50Demo old cabinets: corner cabinet and workbench
11/14/203.00Fabricate left and right bases; assemble rip guide; rip 2 OSB sheets
11/15/202.00Finish cutting lumber for left and right cabinets. Size for doors.
11/16/203.50Prime coat on all left and right cabinet pieces
11/17/203.25Paint on all left and right cabinet pieces
11/18/202.75Assemble 1 side wall. We learn Dave can’t count.
11/19/203.50Assemble 2nd side wall, 3rd except for hinges. Cut/painted short pieces I was short (8 of them)
11/21/202.50Mount left side cabinet side walls to base, mount cleats to wall, attach walls to cleats. Cut shelves.
11/22/202.50Assemble 4th side wall, mount hinges on 3rd, 4th side walls, mount right side cleats, attach right cabinet side walls to cleats
11/23/202.00Cut shelves for right side cabinet, attach walls to base. Need paint, 3” screws.
11/25/202.25Fit drawer carcass into place, cut base for it. Cut most of the lumber for upper center and upper above drawers.
11/26/200.75Cut shelves for upper center and upper left half-cabinet.
11/28/204.25Prime coat on all shelves, upper center and left half-cabinet
11/30/203.75Paint on Saturday’s primered pieces
12/01/203.00Assemble/mount upper center (except for hinges)[many measurement errors, new cutting/painting required); secured 4 shelves.
12/02/201.25Secure remaining shelves, mount upper center doors
12/03/202.75Cut correct lengths of pieces for upper left half-cabinet, painted pieces, mounted cabinet (except for hinges)
12/04/203.25Mounted all doors, sanded/primed door for upper left half-cabinet as test, ripped 4 of 6 upper doors to size
12/05/202.25Ripped last two small doors, all large doors to size; drilled new holes for hardware; sanded small doors. Doors that were haning straight no longer do.
12/06/201.00Sanded large doors; applied wood putty where necessary
12/07/203.75Sand drawers, carcass; prime coat on doors, drawers, drawer base
12/08/201.50Gray paint on small doors, drawers, drawer base, edges of large doors
12/09/204.50Mount/secure drawer carcass; chalk paint on large doors; some touch-up paint; mount doors
12/15/201.00Measure cuts for workbench
12/16/201.50Cut lumber for workbench; assemble main bench part
12/20/201.25Sand, paint workbench
12/22/203.75Install workbench, mount vice on bench, mock up tool shelves, mount chargers on wall
12/24/202.25Measure and cut shelf cleats; cut slots; paint pieces; assemble and mount shelves

Garage Cabinets 3

In the previous installment, I said that cutting all the wood to the proper size and painting it before putting it together “assumes some skills that I may not actually possess”. This was not so much a prophetic statement as an acknowledgment of my own limitations. As I learned, the two skills that turned out to be in short supply are counting and measuring. In the work done to the point of my last installment, I was able to lay everything out on the floor or on my giant piece of rigid insulation. But once I had the biggest part of the structure built and fixed in place, my shortcomings came to the fore.

But I’m jumping ahead a bit. Last time, I had the carcasses of the two main cabinets built and fixed in place. I also had the shelves cut to size. I considered leaving them unpainted, but that consideration lasted about six minutes once I had them put in place. They definitely needed paint. I did all of the painting on the floor of the garage. For the shelves, I painted one side of the shelf and half the edges, so that I could pick them up when they were still wet and take them outside to dry. So each shelf got painted and moved four times: twice for primer and twice for paint. The photo doesn’t show it very well, but each piece is sitting on little pieces of scrap wood to keep them off the deck.

Once the paint coat was dry, or dry enough, I moved them all back inside and was able to stand them up, with little scrap pieces in between to keep the painted surfaces from touching each other. This meant the Lotus didn’t have to spend the night outside.

The clever observer will have noticed that I’m attaching the door hinges onto the 2×6 pieces. So each door needs one of those. I’m putting two doors in the center above the workbench and another one in the corner. Said observer will note that there are only two 2×6 pieces cut and painted. What’s not possible to see here is that nearly every stick of 2×2 is the wrong length. Most commonly, they were either an inch and a half too long or too short. The long ones aren’t a big problem, as I can cut them. But, as I can’t find my board stretcher, I had to cut new pieces to rectify the short ones.

Here’s the center cabinet in place. Attaching the vertical pieces wasn’t an issue: they got screwed to the other cabinets. The cleats that went on the wall were also trivial: they got screwed to the studs in the wall. The interesting ones were the horizontal pieces in front, particularly the bottom one. I got them all in, but that last one wasn’t pretty.

Here we have the drawer carcass offered up (but not secured, as it and its base still need paint) and the half-size upper in the corner. I managed to cut the shelf pieces correctly but got every other cut wrong. For a while there, I was thinking I’d bought too many 2×2’s. Turns out, I had just the right number after all!

Once I had all the carcasses built, I needed to work on the doors. As you’ll recall, I made everything slightly narrower than the original cabinets. I needed to rip two inches off each of the large doors and the small doors above them. In the center, I only needed to take off about half an inch. That door in the corner (that has already been primed) was the only one that didn’t need to be resized.

It took me a little while to get the doors properly mounted. Most of the hinges were correctly located, but a couple needed a bit of adjustment. Then, with the doors hung, I needed to figure out how to manipulate the hinge adjustments to make the doors hang square. Looking at the mounted door, imagine an X and Y-axis. A set screw is used to move the door closer or farther from the hinge on the X-axis. Between the two (or three) hinges, you can rotate the door a bit to make it hang square. After a fair bit of monkeying around, I managed to get all the doors square. Now it was time to start cutting.

The rip cut guide came in handy again. It took me a couple of tries to get the best technique, which was a bit stressful, as I’d only get one shot at each door. For my first try, I made a few minor errors. First, I thought I’d be better off using a finish blade on the saw as I was concerned about chipping the laminate and I was hoping to get a smoother cut. Second, I had the saw two inches from the guide rather than twenty-two inches from the guide. Third, I cut from the back of the door rather than the front.

With the finish blade, cutting was much slower and after only two cuts I’d drained the battery. With the slow cut and the short distance between the guide and the blade, I somehow managed not to get a straight cut. And, of course, the hinges got in the way of my guide. Once I corrected those errors (and waited for the battery to recharge), I was back in business.

As I cut each door, I rehung it. Pretty quickly I saw that none of them were square any longer. After more monkeying with the set screws, I had them all square again.

Having cut two inches off the doors, I needed to drill new holes for the handles. The simple solution was to use the scrap that I cut off as a jig for the drill. This gave me the perfect position, both in from the edge and up from bottom (or down from the top, if you prefer). It also ensured that my drill would be perpendicular.

Then it was back to painting. Because I was painting over the laminate, I wanted to hit the doors with the sander to rough up the surface, hoping to get the primer to stick. The inside of the door is a white laminate, and I’m happy to keep that as is. So I masked around the edges. Then it was back to the “paint on the garage floor, dry on the back deck” dance. I did two coats of primer on the faces of the big doors.

On the big doors, I was doing two colors: the edges would get the same gray as everything else while the face would get black chalkboard paint. So once the edges of the big doors were dry, they got masked off. I got about two-thirds of the way done with this masking job when I ran out of tape. A wise person would go to the store and get another roll of tape. I, however, just peeled the tape off the backs of the small doors and used that, hoping it wasn’t a mistake. I got lucky: it worked.

The chalkboard paint was interesting. It comes in black or green or a version you can tint any color you like. When I was in school, all the chalkboards were green and most people called them chalkboards except the older teachers, who still called them blackboards. In one school I attended, they had a variety of colors, including blue and pink. I figured black would be best. I’m not at all disappointed.

The texture of the wet paint was different than any paint I’ve used before. And, even though the final color is a nice deep black, when it was going on it was more like navy blue. The label on the can said it would cover 110 square feet. I have more like 35-40 square feet of door, so two coats would be 70-80 square feet. I barely had enough. I wasn’t applying it that thickly, either. The first coat was thin enough I wasn’t sure that two coats would suffice.

So this is where we stand now. All the cabinets are done and finished. The big doors are chalkboards I can use for scribbling drawings or to-do lists or parts lists or whatever. (Or, they will be in a few days. I still need to “prep” the chalkboard surface.)

But this is the project that never ends. I’m just short of 60 hours into it and still need to build the workbench. It took me a while to decide exactly how to build the workbench, but I wrestled that problem to the floor today and bought the lumber. And, of course, there’s a change order. I did some searching on the web and saw some ideas on how to store various power tools and their associated chargers. That will result in a couple of shelves in the corner above the drawers. And lastly, I’ll need to sort through all the junk that was in the cabinets to start with. Some of it will get sent to the recycling center, some will get landfilled, and most will get organized and put away in my nice, new cabinets.

Garage Cabinets 2

In the first installment, I made the simple statement “I bought some lumber.” That is true, but, of course, it’s never that simple. I ordered everything online from Home Depot but never saw any place to say that I want it delivered. I have no vehicle in which I can carry 4×8 sheets of OSB. In the end, I was asked for a shipping address, so I supplied it. It turns out that the two smallest items on my order (the only things I could fit in the Lotus) would be shipped to me, but not the rest.

I called the store to say that I need my order delivered. I got a bit of a run-around. Eventually, they said that when I got a text message saying my order was ready for pick-up, I should call and tell them I want it delivered instead. I got an email, not a text message. And it said my order was only partially ready. I called them anyway.

After some more run-around, the solution was that a clerk there in the store would delete my order and re-enter it, specifying that it’s for delivery. I’d have guessed it would be much easier for them to simply add a line-item for the delivery charge and be done with it, but what makes me think anything should be simple?

They told me to expect delivery on Friday (the 13th). I asked if they could give me an approximate time. “Give us a call on Friday morning and we’ll let you know.” So I called promptly at their opening time. I was told that it might arrive sometime around 12:30. At about nine I see a forklift dropping my lumber in my driveway. I ran out and talked to the guy, hoping there was a way to get it into the back yard. No deal on that. And when I told him the store said he’d be here at 12:30 he just laughed. “They have no idea when I’m going to deliver anything.” Why should I expect anything different?

I managed to get it all moved to the back yard by myself. It was a bit of a struggle with the big sheets of OSB, but I managed.

Here is my lumber, mostly out of the weather on the back deck, along with the carcass of the drawer section of the old workbench. I’ve covered the lumber with a tarp for when it snows, but the tarp is slightly too small and has a few holes in it. So it goes. I’m sure everything will survive.

The critical part of these new cabinets, I think, is the base. The weak base was certainly the Achilles heel of the old cabinets. The challenge here is dealing with the uneven floor. I figured out how to scribe the shape onto the lumber so I could make a reasonable stab at cutting them. I guess I finally get some real-world benefit from watching all those This Old House episodes!

The next issue I had to deal with was how to cut up my OSB. The biggest challenge is to rip two 4×8 sheets into four 2×8 sheets for the walls. Then, for the shelves, I’d need a bunch of sheets two feet by not quite four feet. I’m lucky to cut a 2×4 straight. I decided the way to go was to get the Kreg rip cut guide. Run it along the milled edge and even I can get a nice, straight cut.

I don’t have any sawhorses, and even if I did, I’m not sure I’m capable of doing an eight-foot long rip on them, so I figured the way to go was to get a big sheet of solid foam insulation and do all the cuts on my deck. I can kneel on it, I can walk on it, and it’s two inches thick so there’s no way I’ll accidentally cut all the way through it. This combination worked like a charm. You’ll spot that sheet of foam lurking in many of my pictures.

Rather than putting the cabinets together and then painting them, I figured it would be better to cut all the wood to the proper size and paint it before putting it together. This assumes some skills that I may not actually possess. The good thing is, I’m building garage cabinets instead of kitchen cabinets. Nobody wants me to build kitchen cabinets! If I’m a bit off on my cuts, my mistakes should be well hidden by all the junk I’ll be storing.

The color coat went on easier than the primer, for two reasons. First, I learned from my mistakes on the primer coat. The big pieces of OSB were no problem, but the sticks of 2×2 demanded a proper procedure. By the time I was done with priming those, I came up with what I think is the most efficient methodology. Second, the color coat dried a lot faster than the primer.

Here I am holding up the first assembled side wall. It’s pretty much square, plumb, and level. And I’m reasonably certain I have the hinges in the correct places. The challenge was in getting it secured. It’s not lined up with a stud, so I can’t just screw it to the wall. I need to mount the cleats for the top, bottom, and shelves first, then fasten the wall to the cleats. With Michael’s help, I managed to get the left side cabinet walls put up. And, because everything is easier the second time, I was able to get the right side done on my own when Michael was at work.

Here we are with some shelves in, to make sure everything is still square. In order to get the shelves in, I needed to take off one of the hinge mounts on each cabinet. And, yes, they have a different number of shelves on purpose. This mimics how I had the prior ones set up. Those shelves were adjustable, but I had them set up like this and never moved them in twelve years.

The clever observer will note that the doors are too wide. And they’re not gray, like everything else. It took me a while, but I figured out how to adjust the hinges to get the doors to hang straight. They’re too wide because the cabinets are about an inch narrower than the old ones, and the walls are thicker by an inch and a half. So the hinges are about four inches closer together than they were before. The plan is to rip the doors to size, then sand the faux wood grain laminate finish enough to take paint.

I still have quite a bit of work left to do. The drawers will fit between the left cabinet and the wall and I’ll put a small cabinet above them. And above the pegboard in the center will be a shallower cabinet, sixteen inches rather than twenty-four. Finally, I’ll build a workbench in the center. It’ll be a bit deeper than the one I’m replacing, and stout enough to handle a nice vice.

Before I began, I guessed that I would be able to complete this project in 32 hours, not counting the demolition. Up to the point in that last photograph, I’ve logged 25 hours and I’m maybe halfway done. It should be no surprise that I’m not much better at estimating carpentry projects than software projects.

Snowshoe to the Loch

Friday November 27

Today Ed led me on his off-trail route to the Loch. We met at the Bear Lake parking lot at eight and were on our way by a quarter after. I’ve been to the Loch many times, so I won’t waste a lot of words, but I will say that the weather was nearly perfect, with calm winds, a cloudless, brilliant blue sky, and a surprisingly balmy temperature near thirty. We were at the Loch by noon, and back to the car by two-thirty.

Ed digs a hole in the snow

A bit of explanation may be useful for this one. The snow here was about fifteen inches deep, near the base of a north-facing slope. It was about the average depth we encountered, being quite thin where the wind blew and piled up in other places. Ed is noting the bottom layer of the snow. That first snowfall got melted by the heat still in the earth, then re-frozen. Subsequent snow storms were obvious in the layers.

Critter tracks
A tree with a tree growing out of itself
The Loch
Part of the East Troublesome burn scar

I should have taken a picture of this in the morning, when it was more obvious that the hillside in the center of the photo had burned. I’m sure I’ll have many more opportunities for a better picture. I will note that there are signs forbidding people from walking in the moraine, but there are two people doing just that in the lower left of the photo.

Mr. Lucky

In my misspent youth, Mr. Lucky’s was a disco in Glendale, a small Denver suburb notorious for its bars and nightclubs. Disco probably isn’t the right term. It featured live music on two floors, often rock on one floor and country on the other. I recall one night there that I shouldn’t have driven home from. Luckily, I didn’t kill myself or anybody else. But this post isn’t about any of that.

Mr. Lucky was a television series developed by Blake Edwards and featuring the music of Henry Mancini. It aired for one season, 1959-60. Given that it overlapped with Peter Gunn, another Edwards/Mancini vehicle, it’s hard to resist comparing and contrasting the two.

Mr. Lucky, whose first name we never learn, was a gambler. We first meet him and his compadre Andamo (who also has but the one name) on an unnamed central American island where they flee authorities after a failed revolution. Returning to America, they set up shop as a casino on a yacht in international waters near an unnamed American city. After several episodes, they convert their operation to a high-end restaurant. (The series sponsor didn’t like the unsavory gaming aspect.) Lucky and Andamo characterize themselves as partners, but Lucky is clearly in charge: he makes the conversion without even telling Andamo about it until it is a fait accompli.

Lucky was played by John Vivyan, who was unknown to me. I felt his visage was familiar, though, in an odd sort of way. I kept thinking I’d seen him in cartoon form, perhaps, with his long face, strong jaw, and prominent dimple. Not quite Dudley Do-Right, but in the same mold.

His compadre (a term I repeat, because they used it for each other every episode) was played by Ross Martin, best known to me as Artemus Gordon, James West’s sidekick on The Wild Wild West. And by that, let me be clear that I refer to the quite enjoyable 1960’s television series rather than the abominable Will Smith movie. Andamo provides most of the comic relief. He has a slight, unspecified, south-of-the-border accent, wears frilly shirts, and chases (but seldom catches) women.

Typical banter between the two, in addition to calling each other “compadre”, includes quoting odds. “Three will get you five it’s a trap!” or “Ten to one he doesn’t have the money.” One of my favorites that shows up every few episodes is “That’s it, and that’s all!” Sometimes one of them says the whole thing, but often they split it, one saying “That’s it” and the other finishing. “That’s It And That’s All” is also the last tune on the soundtrack album.

Plotwise, Mr. Lucky mines very much the same vein as Peter Gunn. Gunn was a private detective for hire to anybody with the dough. Like Gunn, Lucky mostly takes place at night, but the noir elements are not as strong here. Lucky and Andamo don’t engage in their escapades as part of their careers. Trouble generally comes looking for them. Their yacht is used to smuggle aliens, or is hijacked, or they find a stowaway.

Peter Gunn had an ally on the police force. Lt. Jacoby was a pal, even if their dialog didn’t always sound like it. They sometimes took vacations together. On Mr. Lucky, the police were represented by Lt. Rovacs. He was played by Tom Brown, who, in spite of his long filmography, was unknown to me. It’s more of an adversarial relationship. Lucky is honest with him, but not always cooperative.

Lucky and Andamo are confirmed bachelors. Pippa Scott appears in about a quarter of the episodes as Maggie, Lucky’s girlfriend, if that’s not too strong a term for it. These are mostly early episodes, and unlike Pete Gunn, Lucky plays the field a bit. But sex and romance are not much present in the series.

In spite of Mancini’s contributions, music is not as important in Mr. Lucky as it was in Peter Gunn. The cold opens follow the same format: they all feature the same drumbeat with different instrumentation and tune for each show. When the yacht was a casino there was no live band, while one shows up occasionally in the restaurant. But I’m pretty sure the only tune this band plays is the main theme. The part of the main theme we hear over the opening credits doesn’t thrill me, but I find the longer version on the soundtrack more appealing. Oh, and Lucky’s pocket watch plays the first few notes of it when it is opened.

Given that both series were created and produced by Blake Edwards and made in the same studio, the similarities don’t end with plot and music. Many of the episodes were directed by Boris Sagal, Alan Crosland Jr, and Lamont Johnson, who did most of the work in Peter Gunn. Gene Coon, best remembered for his work on the original Star Trek series, wrote only one Gunn episode but was responsible for more than a quarter of Lucky.

And, as the two series used the same studio, it’s natural that we’d see some of the same sets. In The Brain Picker, they had a fist fight in what looks very much like Pete’s apartment.

Guest stars in Lucky were quite a bit more familiar to me. This surprised me, as they were produced at the same time, I’d have expected to see the same guests on both series. Later in the decade, both Star Trek and Mission: Impossible were produced by the same studio (Desilu). It was quite common to see guest stars show up in both shows at pretty much the same time. Gavin McLeod shows up twice in Mr. Lucky. One episode had Jack Nicholson and Richard Chamberlain. It was the first time they worked together.

I can’t resist commenting on the cars. As one might expect, automobiles aren’t as common in this series, given that much of the action takes place on a yacht. But when Lucky and Andamo do go ashore, they go in style. Early episodes feature a gorgeous 1960 Imperial Crown 2 door convertible. The steering wheel is similar to that in Peter Gunn’s Fury (that is, not quite round). The Imperial is propelled by a 413 cid v-8 pumping out 350 horsepower and driven by a 3 speed automatic transmission. Only 618 were made. Today they’re going for well in excess of $100k.

1960 Imperial Crown convertible

Perhaps the restaurant wasn’t as lucrative as the casino. In later episodes, the Imperial is replaced by a Chrysler New Yorker. I suspect that this car was the same car we saw many of Peter Gunn’s villains driving. It, too, is a convertible. In these days before seatbelts, they tried all sorts of gimmicks. In the New Yorker, the seats swiveled a bit towards the door to make egress easier.

Mr. Lucky is somewhat less violent than Peter Gunn. Fistfights are still a staple, and it’s not uncommon for a bad guy to get gunned down, but the body count is considerably less here. In Gunn, it was fairly normal to see several people (men, always men) get gunned down in a gun battle. In Lucky, a good number of episodes were death-free, and it was unusual for more than one man to die. In 1960, television was quite violent but never gory.

Overall, I think I preferred Mr. Lucky over Peter Gunn. Perhaps that’s because, with a shorter run, there were fewer weak episodes.

Garage Cabinets 1

When we bought this house I made the decision almost immediately to do some upgrades in the garage. Like most Americans, I have a bunch of junk and I decided that one way to deal with that junk was to store it out of sight in some cabinets in the garage. I also thought it would be a nice upgrade to get some sort of epoxy paint on the garage floor as it would look somewhat nicer and be easier to keep clean.

It has been twelve years since all this work was done. Over the last few years it became clear that there was a problem with the cabinets, as the doors didn’t line up any longer and the door in the corner wouldn’t open. (I managed to take that door off before things got locked in forever.) More recently, it was obvious that the whole thing was coming separated from the wall. And in the last weeks, I was concerned that the center cabinet over the workbench was about to fall off completely. Something needed to be done.

But first, let’s take a look at how we got here.

This is what it looked like when we bought the place. My neighbors tell me that the previous owner did a lot of woodworking in the garage. He certainly didn’t put much effort into shelves or workbench. This stuff is all particle board. Not enough shelving and not very deep. Certainly insufficient to deal with the amount of junk I have.

Here’s the machine they used to prepare my garage floor for the epoxy. It doesn’t have anything to do with the cabinets, but what the heck. They ground a thin layer off the floor to make it smoother and provide a better surface for the paint. Note the cracks the previous owner filled up with … something. I’d forgotten these cracks are there.

This is the best picture I have of the finished product. It’s not quite done: there is no hardware in the doors and they haven’t installed the pegboard above the “workbench”. I’m putting that in quotes now, because it didn’t take me long to realize that it’s not so much a bench for doing work as a tabletop for stacking more junk on.

All this work set me back $2,500. That’s all the cabinets in this photo, the grinding and coating of the garage floor, a somewhat upgraded step into the house, and a set of shelves in the pantry. The previous owner’s pantry shelves were very similar to the shelves in the garage. What we ended up with was a big improvement. I may have a detailed invoice in the archives, but I’m not curious enough to go looking for it. I’ll just guess that the garage cabinets were $1800 and it was $700 for the floor, pantry shelves, and sales tax.

As I said, it has been twelve years. That’s almost to the day between the last picture above and when I started taking them down. So figure the cabinets cost me $150 a year or twelve and a half bucks a month.

I recall being somewhat concerned that I was spending a bunch of money on this project, and I knew it was being built out of particle board and fastened with staples. But I was assured they’d be robust. When it all started coming down, I was sure that it was because of the materials, even though none of the shelves showed any sagging. Not even the ones holding the heavy stuff.

This picture shows most of the issues. Note that the doors on the left cabinet neither line up nor stay closed. The cabinet above the “workbench” is looking quite precarious and if you look closely you will note that the left cabinet has developed a big gap from the wall. The clock is hanging on the pegboard and the face of the trim piece around the pegboard is not quite two inches from the wall, so there’s quite a gap there. The cleat that was holding the top of the center cabinet not only came apart from the cabinet, but about six inches of it broke off each end.

The plan is to have an improved workbench in the middle, under the pegboard. It won’t have any drawers and will be six inches deeper. I have a nice vice that I’ll mount on it. If I’m ambitious, it’ll have a steel top. On each side of that, I’ll have cabinets that are essentially the same size as the ones I took down. I’ll also replace the shallower center cabinet above the bench. I won’t do a cabinet in the corner. Maybe I’ll do a small top cabinet. I salvaged the carcass that held the drawers. That might fit in the corner. This means I’ll be losing 15-20% of my storage space. I’ll have to get rid of some junk. (The cabinets on the side walls will stay.)

I spent an hour and a half each day for three days emptying the cabinets and disassembling them. I now know why the cabinets failed. It wasn’t because they were made from particle board fastened by staples. All the wood stacks up nicely; only a couple of the shelves are slightly bowed. The problem was the foundation.

The garage floor is sort of pan shaped. A careful look at the above picture shows the issue. The foundation that the walls sit on is level. The garage floor is higher in the corner on the left and right than in the center. And it’s higher in the back of the garage than at the doors. This is well done. It’s a garage and there will be water that comes off the cars, and a well-laid floor will allow the water to flow out.

The kickboards on the cabinets aren’t structural. They’re just for show. What’s actually holding the cabinets up (other than the wholly inadequate cleats) are a couple of little 4″x4″ pieces of particle board stapled to the base of the cabinet sides. A couple of these are laying on the floor next to the “workbench” in the picture of the partly assembled cabinets.

I couldn’t know this was the problem until I had everything taken apart, and even if I had known, I don’t think I’m capable of rectifying the problem. I think things were too far gone.

Now that I’ve demolished the old cabinets and all my junk is stacked up on the floor of the garage, there’s no turning back. I made some plans. I bought some lumber and some new tools. I’m about to find out if I can build a better set of garage cabinets.

Peter Gunn

In the autumn of 1958, NBC began airing a half-hour television show about a private eye named Peter Gunn. The series was created by Blake Edwards and featured the music of Henry Mancini. My first experience with those two names was the Pink Panther series of movies. I’ve seen twenty of Edwards’ movies, and I think nineteen of them were comedies. I knew Peter Gunn wasn’t a comedy, but that’s all I knew about it (other than the theme music) when I started watching.

Peter Gunn is a noir. Noirs were shot in black and white, typically featured hard-boiled detectives, and tended to emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. This is a fair description of the series, particularly the first season. Peter Gunn lived in an unnamed and gloomy riverside city that remained unnamed and in a location never mentioned.

Gunn operated out of a jazz club on the river called Mother’s. The club featured live music, cool jazz. The bartender answered a payphone on the wall, and most of the calls were for Pete. The singer was Edie Hart, who was Gunn’s girlfriend. Dialog between Pete and Edie in the first season was racy for the period, with a fair amount of innuendo. By the third season, Edie opened her own place (called Edie’s, naturally) and Pete moved his operation there. Instead of the bartender a payphone, it was the house phone and the maitre d’.

Whether it was Mother’s or Edie’s, the band was pretty much the same. Pete and Edie had some steamy chemistry, but if I’d have been watching this as it was broadcast, I’d have wanted to tell Pete to keep his eye on Emmett, the piano player. He had chemistry with Edie, too. The guy who played the piano player soon married Lola Albright, who played Edie.

Pete’s best friend, if you could call him that, was Lt. Jacoby of the police. Few warm words were spoken by either of them. Jacoby was always complaining that Pete spent so much time in his office but it was obvious he didn’t mean it.

Peter Gunn, as I said, wasn’t a comedy. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t have a sense of humor. Jacoby was a regular source of subtle comedy. Not so subtle were many of Pete’s network of informers. Several of them could best be described as absurd: the speech coach with a heavy Spanish accent who kept trying to correct his parrot’s pronunciation; an artist who “paints” using sounds; the ballet teacher who doesn’t even watch his student but continuously barks out commands; and so on. Many of them wear pop bottle bottom glasses. I give those actors credit as with those specs on, they probably couldn’t see a thing. Most of these characters show up for a single episode. Billy Barty has a recurring role as Babby the pool shark. He stands on a wooden box which he drags around the table with a rope.

One of my favorite episodes was “Let’s Kill Timothy”. Timothy is a seal. Timothy was fed the gems from a robbery. One of the robbers brings the seal to Mother’s for Pete to take care of. Pete takes the seal everywhere, including Jacoby’s office. Mother sings songs to the staff after closing, and Pete’s informant this time is the artist who paints with sound: “My art is not for sale! Exhibition only!” Very humorous. Top rate Blake Edwards.

One show that didn’t work for me was “Pecos Pete”. Peter gets hired by a Texas rancher. We learn that Pete can saddle and ride a horse. But he looks ridiculous in his spotless western garb and cowboy hat.

Pete often pays his informants for information. The typical currency is a $10 bill. Sometimes the informant is reluctant to talk: “If the bad guy finds out, I’m dead!” “Does this change your mind?” Pete offers the sawbuck. “Okay, I’ll talk!” Ten dollars seems a small reward for risking one’s life. To put somewhat in perspective, ten dollars in 1960 would get you 40 gallons of gasoline or a dozen Reubens sandwiches. Today, it’s more like four or five gallons of gas and somewhere between half and one-and-a-half Reubens.

It’s a very violent show. In the first season, there weren’t too many fist fights. There were regular beatings, but they weren’t fights. I found this realistic. The guy being assaulted (often two on one) never gets a punch in, and is pretty quickly on the ground, motionless. By season two, they fell into the generic television fist fight trope. Our hero gets jumped, often out numbered and without a weapon but prevails in the end, sometimes resulting in every stick of furniture in the room getting destroyed. Mother’s gets remodeled after one of these, and Edie’s gets taken apart on opening night.

Fisticuffs aren’t the only violence. Murder is commonplace in our unnamed river city. Nearly every episode features one before the opening theme. The bad guys always get it in the end, and very few of them survive to see a courtroom. Pete guns down dozens of criminals over the course of the run, and Jacoby isn’t far behind. If an episode has fewer than three deaths, it’s a slow night.

Life is cheap. In “A Bullet In Escrow”, Pete takes a hoodlum to the Downtown Athletic Club, which has hotel rooms. The desk clerk, a chap who goes by the name Specs, asks Pete if he’s going to take the guy up to a room to kill him and makes a couple of offers. “We got a new deal here. Health Plan – room, breakfast and we knock him off. $68.75 and you still got a rub-down coming! … Why don’t you try our introductory offer? Sun lamps, swimming pool, and we lock him in the steam room until he disappears. Only $37.50!”

Life may have been cheap, but Pete wasn’t. He charges a high price for his services: commonly $1000 or $2000 for what ends up being the work of a day or two. One woman notes that he wears a $200 suit and carries a “solid gold” lighter. Median income in the US in 1960 was $5,600, so he was doing quite well.

Music is an essential part of the show. Most everybody is familiar with the main theme. And, as I said, both Mother’s and Edie’s feature cool jazz. We don’t necessarily hear the whole song when Edie is singing, but if a client approaches Pete when she’s singing, he makes them wait until she’s done. Many of the songs she sings were big hits of the day, or at least big enough that many of them were at least vaguely familiar to me.

Then there’s the incidental music. Every episode’s cold open starts with the same simple drum and bass line. After a few bars, it changes up and is unique to the show. Sometimes it’s very short and simple, sometimes it goes on for a while. A piano comes in, or xylophone. It’s specific to the action, coming to a crescendo with the action on screen. I really enjoyed the music

I also got a big kick out of the cars. In the first few episodes, Pete drove Desoto. That didn’t last long; he quickly replaced it with a convertible Plymouth Fury. I don’t think I’ve seen one of these in real life. It took me a while to notice that the steering wheel isn’t round. It’s sort of squared off. Very peculiar.

Most of the cars in the show were Chrysler products, 1960-1962 model years. There were a few nice New Yorkers, a couple of Imperials, and I’m pretty sure all the police cars were Plymouths. There was the occasional Cadillac, of course. The oddest car I saw was a 1950 Nash Airflyte, which looks like an inverted bathtub and features front fender skirts. Pete intentionally totals this car in a roll-over accident. He walks away, but the guy holding a gun on him is killed. The same car (undamaged) shows up in a later episode in a garage. None of these cars had seatbelts, they all ran on bias ply tires and had drum brakes. They were all deathtraps compared to today’s cars and I can’t imagine crashing one on purpose. Walking away from such a crash is, shall we say, not exactly realistic.

As with the other old shows I’ve watched recently, alcohol and cigarettes are a big thing here, too. In the early episodes, sometimes the smoke is so think in Mother’s it’s hard to see the other side of the room. Everybody smokes, and nobody asks permission from anybody else. Pete doesn’t drink as much as Simon Templar or John Drake. Everybody else drinks, though. Often they offer Pete a drink but he declines.

The show was only a half-hour. Accounting for opening and closing credits, we’re down to twenty three minutes or so. Take away a few more for Edie’s songs and the writers only have about twenty minutes to tell the story. That doesn’t leave much time for plot twists, and there are few. Somebody gets killed in the cold open, somebody hire’s Pete, Pete talks to Jacoby for some background, then finds one of his informants. He questions two or three possible suspects. He tricks the bad guy into coming clean and there’s often a shootout where the bad guy is killed.

There’s not much room for character development, either. We never really learn much about Gunn, other than he served in World War II. An old friend once says, “It’s been a long time since Saipan.” Edie’s only function is to wait for Pete. They exchange sweet nothings, Pete is called to the phone or meets a client in the club. Edie complains that he’s always working. And she sings. She doesn’t feature in the plot, except the three times she’s kidnapped in attempts to get at Pete. And I’m pretty sure we never learn Jacoby’s first name.

I got a kick out of it, though. I thought it was well done. Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini made a good combination. The quality was fairly consistent: there weren’t that many outstanding episodes, but there were very few duds. Many of these old television series had some truly cringeworthy moments dealing with race or gender. I’m sure viewers more sensitive than I am may be able to point them out for me, but none come immediately to mind.

Next up is Mr. Lucky. I don’t think I’ve heard of it and am pretty certain I’ve never seen an episode. It’s another Blake Edwards/Henry Mancini vehicle, so I already have certain expectations.

Mount Bierstadt

Last week I took a little spin through the high country with some like-minded folks in the Lotus and Miata car clubs. Near the end of that drive, we crossed Guanella Pass, stopping for a short break at the summit. Here, I couldn’t help but notice, was the trailhead for the hike to the summit of Mount Bierstadt, one of Colorado’s 58 (or 53, depending on how you count) fourteen thousand foot peaks.

Standing in the parking lot it struck me as a sort of no-brainer of a hike. I’ve said many times, and my history proves, that I prefer hiking to alpine lakes over hiking to the tops of mountains. When you’re standing on the top of a mountain, there is a lot of scenery around you, but it’s all miles away. At a lake, listening to the water lap the rocks at your feet, the beauty of the place is much more immediate: up close and personal.

To now, I’ve only done two 14ers: Longs and Quandary. There is a short list of others I’d like to “conquer”, if that’s not too dramatic a word. There are two main considerations. First, I’m not a big fan of exposure, so I’ll only consider routes that are Class 1 or Class 2. Second, for the most part, I’m limited to trailheads that I can reach in the Lotus. Both of these conditions are met here. So, what am I waiting for?

Now a side note: how are Colorado 14er’s counted? There are 58 peaks in the state that top out over 14,000′. But to be “ranked”, a peak must rise at least 300 feet above the saddle that connects it to the nearest 14er peak. There are five such peaks. Mount Bierstadt is the 38th highest of the 53 ranked 14ers. If you ignored the “300 foot saddle” rule, it would be 40th of 58.

Wednesday, October 7

This trail is one of the busiest of the summer 14er routes, so I was a bit concerned with getting a parking spot. On our visit last week, both parking lots were full and most of us parked alongside the road. That was okay for a short break but wouldn’t work at all for a six or seven hour hike. I decided to leave the house at six, arriving at the trailhead by 7:30 or so. If the lower lot was full, the upper lot would most likely still have spots.

There were still several spots in the lower lot when I arrived. One of the advantages of being here on an October weekday.

I put boots on the trail at 7:32. The first order of business is to descend a couple of hundred feet and cross a broad valley (if that word can be properly used in this geography) to reach the point where the trail actually begins the climb to the summit. This broad “valley” features several hundred acres of my hiking nemesis: willow.

Hundreds of acres of willow, extending higher than the highest trees seen here

To be fair, my detestation of willow manifests when I’m off-trail. If there’s no game trail through it, it’s best to go around. If you decide to cross a patch of willow, there’s no telling how much effort will be required to get through it. Here, there’s a nice trail through the stuff. Construction of the trail includes hundreds of yards of boardwalk, and the trail looks to be regularly maintained by trimming the plants that border the trail.

In these days of pandemic, I couldn’t help but notice that this boardwalk is only three feet wide. In the photograph, we can see less than half the length of this section. The hikers in the distance are on it. If you come across oncoming traffic, there’s no way to get six feet from them without jumping off the boardwalk. In places, the walk is a couple of feet off the ground. It’s nice and dry this time of year, but stepping off the boardwalk when things are still green means stepping into a marsh.

And with the willow growing almost six feet high, it’s next to impossible to see other hikers until you’re nearly on top of them.

In the willow where no boardwalk is required, it’s somewhat easier to distance yourself from other hikers. There are lots of short paths that lead away from the trail. These, judging by the amount of toilet paper on the ground here, are latrines. Keeping in mind that this part of the hike is within a mile of the trailhead, I was surprised at the sheer number of people who, evidently, couldn’t make it back to the toilets at the trailhead. (I’m pretty sure it’s not people who just embarked on their hikes.)

After crossing the willow field, the trail starts to climb. After a while, it gets steeper. But that’s just the steep bit before it gets really steep. Then, near the top, the trail disappears about 250′ of elevation below the summit. The route description at 14ers.com calls this bit “the crux of the route” and the reason it’s rated Class 2.

The “crux” of the route. The Meyer-Womble Observatory on Mt. Evans is visible in the distance.

For much of the way, it’s clear from the trail condition that this route gets tons of traffic. Rather than a trail that’s a couple of feet wide, it’s often three or four times that. In quite a few places, it’s evident how much of the current trail is the “original” trail, with people widening it by walking on either side. Some of the steeper bits have had quite a bit of work done to remedy this. There are significant sections where the trail is a staircase of rocks.

Cairn and The Sawtooth

Even with it being an October weekday, and the parking lots not yet full, there was quite a bit of traffic on the trail. I started meeting descending hikers before I had gone halfway. There weren’t that many, and I didn’t keep track. I did keep track, however, of the hikers going my way. A group of three (with a “small” Saint Bernard) passed me in the willows and a solo hiker zipped by me nearer the top. I passed eleven hikers before the “crux”, then four more before I gained the summit. It wasn’t that I was walking any faster than any of them, just that they kept stopping. I paused to take pictures or to drink water, but only stopped for a break once.

At the trailhead, I had estimated that it would take me three hours to reach the summit. I figured I could do the first mile in half an hour, then expected I’d be no faster than a mile an hour after that. Normally, my pace slows considerably when I’m above 11,000′. This whole hike is above that, starting at nearly 11,700′. I made it a point to set a slow pace that I could hopefully maintain. It looks like I succeeded. I beat my target time, making it in two hours and forty minutes.

The weather was fantastic. There wasn’t a cloud in the skies all day, and the wind was calm, even at the summit. I didn’t notice any wind at all until I was about half way back to the trailhead at about 12:30. And that breeze didn’t last. It was cool in the morning – I wore a thermal undershirt, an Aloha shirt, and a hoodie. I didn’t take the hoodie off until halfway down the trail, and ditched the thermal layer when I got back to the car.

I spent about 45 minutes at the summit, eating my picnic lunch and enjoying a beer. There were never fewer than a dozen people up there. I didn’t see a register or a USGS marker. I asked a few people, none of them saw them either.

Frozen Lake, below. Pikes Peak is hidden in the haze.

I met two young nurses. They sat near me. I noticed that as soon as they sat down, they checked their blood oxygen level with a fingertip pulse oximeter. I asked if I could check mine. It read 93%. They were joking that, at the trailhead, one of them measured only 62%. Evidently, these devices don’t work very well in the cold.

Another young woman was asking if anybody was going to do Mt. Evans from here. She was hiking solo and without a map. In researching this hike, I didn’t look into the combination route that would get you to both summits. But judging by the terrain, there isn’t any route I’d be willing to take. She wisely gave up on her goal. She had recently moved to Colorado and was now living near Aspen. She’d started climbing 14ers this summer, and Bierstadt was her ninth. She really wanted to get a tenth before the snows. I suggested she try Quandary. She thought that was a good idea.

Smoke layer to the north

Although the weather was great, the visibility wasn’t. Normally from up at these elevations, you can see great distances. When I was on Quandary, a high school student was pointing out and naming a bunch of 14ers. We could see Pikes Peak, Mt. Evans, Longs Peak, the Maroon Bells, and many others. Today, here on Bierstadt, the only one of these I could see was Mt. Evans, which is, of course, only about a mile away. The haze was fairly uniform, except to the north, where it was thicker, presumably from the Cameron Peak fire.

As is the usual case for me, my hike back to the car wasn’t any faster than my hike up. I stopped several times to take pictures, or to give encouraging words to those on their way to the top. In greeting, people typically ask some variation of “How are you doing?” On a day like today, the answer is “Fantastic!”

Moon setting over Grays and Torreys peaks

This was only my third 14er. Maybe next year I’ll try to get a two-fer: Grays and Torreys.