Edventure in Chaos

Wednesday, June 3

I reached out to Ed the other day and suggested a walk in the Park on the last day before timed entry permits are required. He thought it was a great idea, so we agreed to meet at Beaver Meadows at 7:30am.

For once, I actually made it to the rendezvous point before he did. I parked at the top of the parking lot. A few minutes later, I spied a white sedan turning into the parking lot. “Here comes Ed,” I said to myself. He drove right by. “And there goes Ed.” He parked, got out of his car, and ran walked quickly to the bathroom. With his urgent matter resolved, he found me and we headed into the Park.

I was sort of expecting that there’d be a fair number of visitors to the Park. There was only one car in line in front of us in the express lane and only a couple of cars that needed to pay. At the Bear Lake parking lot there were only a few dozen cars. I’m thinking I’ve seen more cars there in the past at 4am. I should have looked at the license plates. I’m guessing most everybody was local. This is the third most visited Park in the system. Can it be possible that, even restricting visitors to 60% or normal, I’ll have no difficulty spending my usual amount of time there?

Ed and I arrived here without a plan, so the first topic of discussion was, “Where are we going to go?” We quickly decided that either East Glacier Knob or West Glacier Knob would be the way to go. I had a set of microspikes with me. “Ed, should I take my microspikes?” He shook his head: “You won’t need them.” And off we went.

We abandoned the trail at the usual spot and arrived at the stream in no time. Ed found the log he uses as a bridge, but the stream was running unusually high, and the crossing looked pretty sketchy. So we wandered upstream a bit and made a crossing of Tyndall Creek a bit above its confluence with Chaos Creek.We took a short break here to deploy the Deet. The mosquitoes were out for blood!

We worked our way back to Chaos Creek, still with the idea we’d head to our chosen destination. After a few minutes heading upstream looking for a crossing, we scotched Plan A and developed Plan B: climb up the hill beside Chaos Cascades. Ed had pointed that route out to me earlier when they first came into sight. There was quite a bit of snow on the south (left) side of the stream but the right side looked clear. “It is a bit steep,” he said.

Climbing the cascades

We stopped a couple times to take in the view. Ed talked about a rockfall that occurred sometime perhaps a century ago. A large boulder crashed down the cascades, ultimately coming to rest on top of some burnt logs. So he know it was some time after the Bear Lake fire of 1900. It looks to have hit a number of substantial logs, splintering them in unusual ways.

Not long after reaching the top of the cascades, we made a bit of a circle to gain the top of one of the many glacial knobs in the area. Ed has numbered them 1 through 10. We went and sat on to of Knob 3. If I’m counting correctly, this would be the fifth one Ed has taken me to.

Knob 3 panorama

Being mostly granite, they don’t have many trees on their “summits”, so they all have nice, open views of the surrounding terrain. And those views are all different, but not that different. All have commanding views of the lowlands to the east: Bierstadt Moraine, Sprague Lake, and points east. This one features a clear view of Chaos Canyon, Hallett Peak, Otis Peak, Thatchtop, and, of course, Longs Peak.

Spot the hikers

You can also see parts of the park trail from Dream Lake to Lake Haiyaha. There’s an overlook on that trail. We spotted a couple of hikers taking a break there on a large boulder. That indicated to me that the trail from Dream Lake was passable. I’ve been on it when there was lots of snow. On that occasion, I had to abandon the trail to avoid the not quite sheer drops. I really don’t like traversing steep snow, particularly when it’s atop a two hundred foot drop.

After a short break, we continued on to Lake Haiyaha. By now we were mostly hiking across snow. It was fairly dense and we seldom postholed. (If I’d had my microspikes, I’d have put them on, but it wasn’t a big deal that I didn’t have them.) Somewhere in here, we came across a bit of fecal matter on the snow. Ed suggested perhaps it was cat poo. There weren’t any footprints; this poo may as well have come from the heavens. I will leave it to the feces experts to determine exactly what beast left it.

Who left this?

When we got to the crossing of the outlet stream, Ed realized he’d abandoned his sunglasses on the knob. He headed back to fetch them while I stayed by the bridges. Before long, he was back and we continued to the lake.

We didn’t achieve the lake, though. When the trail reaches a little pond we could see how high the water was. Ed managed to make it at least half way past here, but without poles (which I never carry) I knew I’d end up getting wet up to my knees so I played the “I’m a wienie” card and refused to go any farther. So we found a place there to have our lunches.

After a few minutes, the two hikers we’d spotted earlier were making their way back from the lake. He hopped from rock to rock without difficulty but had to coax her and eventually give her an assist. They told us the view was worth the effort. Perhaps if I’d never been there, I’d have put a bit more effort into it.

While we sat there, it started sprinkling a couple of times, with a bit of graupel thrown in for good measure. It never really started to rain, but the breeze picked up a bit and things started to look a bit threatening. For about two minutes. Having eaten and rested, we decided it was time to head back. “Which way should we go?” I asked. When we were thinking we’d do West Glacial Knob, we’d decided to exit along the fire trail. But that now seemed a bit out of the way. So Ed replied, “Let’s take the Park trail to Dream Lake. Hopefully there are no big snowdrifts” Knowing that the other hikers came that way, I agreed.

At about the easternmost part of the trail, where the hiker has a nice open view to the east, because it’s on a large slab of granite that falls steeply, and there are no trees, we encounter our first drift. It’s sketchy. My heart kicks up a notch. One slip here and you’re done for. I wasn’t feeling panicked, but I sure wished I’d brought my microspikes. After what seemed like a short eternity I had my boots on dry trail again and I felt quite a bit better. This was the place I was most worried about.

We caught up to the other hikers when we came to another drift. Again, we need to traverse the slope. It’s not as precarious a drop, but steeper, with a long drop to my right. There are some trees here, but I’m not sure I’d call it an improvement. We have to go maybe thirty feet, and about halfway or a bit past, we climb slightly to where the drift is broken by the bulging granite face towering above us. Underneath this overhang, the drift is shaped like a knife. At the very end, to put boots on the trail again, you must take a couple of large steps straight down.

This isn’t sketchy, it’s treacherous.

When we caught them, the woman was about halfway through her traverse. He had gone ahead of her and was calling out instructions. He told us he’d tried a lower route, but it wasn’t as good. I watched where Ed was placing his feet. He had the advantage of poles, but he was taking his time. I followed about ten feet behind him. I kept jamming the fingers of my left hand in the snow as an aid to balance and being very careful of my footing. I was happy to reach the knife-edge, where I could put most of my left arm around something.

Safely through this ordeal, Ed turns to me and says, “That was the one I was worried about.” He wins. That one was much worse.

We had a few more to deal with, but nothing as harrowing as either of the first two.

At Dream Lake, I asked Ed who had the bright idea to go that way.

We made it back to the car at about two. I can’t remember the last time I was at the Bear Lake parking lot in June at two and it wasn’t at least 90% full. Now, it might have been at 60%. (And I think most of those people were between Dream Lake and Bear Lake.)

All in all, a glorious and invigorating day. But, yeah, it was a bit of a mistake not to take the microspikes.

She’s a Runner!

My long sort-of nightmare is coming to an end.

That’s a bit dramatic, I guess. That my car has been in pieces in the garage since October isn’t really a nightmare, even “sort-of”. It has been a source of nervous tension, though. Now, nervous tension has finally come to an end, replaced by a bit of excitement.

Sunday we filled her with fluids. Our big concern was bleeding the coolant system. Michael brought home some equipment but we lacked the proper fittings to connect it to the car. He’s used to working on somewhat larger gear.

In the end, it wasn’t a big deal. We jacked the back of the car up and started filling. We worked some air out of the hoses and let gravity do the work, topping off the reservoir as needed. After a while it wasn’t taking any more fluid so we attempted to start it.

It turned over almost immediately. We ran it only for a few seconds at first, then gave it a good visual inspection for anything unexpected. A few minutes later we let her idle for a while to warm up. When we shut her down, we topped off the coolant again.

Yesterday we took her out for a quick trip around the block. We strapped the battery down and mounted up the cameras. Once she was warmed up, we let her roll. I was joking that I’d probably stall it, not knowing what to expect with the new light-weight flywheel. Frankly, I couldn’t tell any difference at all. Granted, all I did was go around the block, so it wasn’t much of a test, but I’m happy I won’t have to make any adjustments and it doesn’t seem to have hurt the streetability.

I was a bit of a bad boy, but I felt it necessary to get on the high cam. This is the first test of the motor, after all. It was a bit cheeky, on my residential street, but it wasn’t too bad. She feels good and sounds good.

I’ll be curious to get her back on the scales. Along with the lighter flywheel, we did (most of) the air-conditioning delete. We removed the compressor and fitted a picked up a shorter belt that fit perfectly. I intend to remove the condenser when we ever get around to removing the front clam. I’ve also started a radio delete: just the rear speakers so far. I never use the radio, and if I take out the radio I can get a “radio replacement pocket” that I can use as a mini-glove box.

We’ll run it up to temp a few more times this week and next weekend put her back together again. We’ll need to take the exhaust back off to fit the heat shield, and I think the only part we haven’t put back on yet is the windshield washer reservoir.

Cub Lake

Thursday, May 28

Starting June 4, to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll need a Timed Entry pass. Last night, I visited the Recreation.gov website to scope it out. I couldn’t actually do anything, as these reservations weren’t available until this morning, but it looked promising. Each reservation costs two dollars and you can use any of the various park passes to cover your entry to the park. As I have a pass that is good through June, I should have no problems!

When the appointed time came, I logged on to the system and tried to buy a pass. I was presented with a list of choices, including a reservation to be used in conjunction with my annual pass. I selected this and continued. I was soon asked for my name and the number of my pass. I entered the number, but it told me it was invalid. I played around with it for a little while, trying different things. I could have bought a reservation and a one day pass for $27 ($2 for the reservation, $25 for the day pass). But I certainly didn’t want to pay 27 bucks a pop for a hike.

I decided the most expeditious course of action was to go up to the Park and buy a new annual pass. So that’s what I did.

I arrived at the entrance station at about eleven. The day was nice, a bit cool, mostly cloudy over the divide, not very breezy. They used to hand you a clipboard so you could sign your new card and the credit card receipt. Now they just hand you the card and receipt and tell you to be sure to sign the card when you get home.

Having arrived so late, I couldn’t hike very far. And I think, for the most part, I’m going to avoid the Bear Lake area as much as possible. I’d been talking to my brother about hiking to Cub Lake and as it was fresh on my mind, that’s where I headed. This is one of those hikes that’s short enough and popular enough that I’d be expected to have hiked it several times. But I’m thinking I’ve hiked it exactly once.

The small parking lot right at the trailhead was full, so I went up the road another two-tenths of a mile to the larger lot where the bathrooms are.

The Cub Lake trail is separated from the Fern Lake trail (and the road that leads to that trailhead) by a ridge that runs east and west. The first thing to do then, is head south around the eastern end of this ridge before turning west. The trail runs along the base of this ridge, on solid ground. The flats here are occupied by a series of ponds surrounded by grassy marshes.

This whole area was ravaged by the Fern Lake fire in 2012. The damage to Moraine Park was minimal. It’s an open, grassy lea with no trees. There are some bushes that grow 12-15 feet high; these were burned but are now growing back. As you make your way past the ponds and marshes, you begin to see burned forest. Many of the aspen seem to have recovered nicely, but the pine forest takes quite a bit longer to return.

Cub Lake used to be a fairly typical forest lake: a pleasant place to visit, but because of the trees, no great view. Now, to even get from the trail to the shore you must navigate a maze of deadfall. The slope above the opposite shore is fully burned, with just a few trees right beside the water surviving.

I was expecting to see quite a few hikers, but I enjoyed a surprising solitude. I spent an hour sitting by the lake, listening to the birds, and watching a particularly brave ground squirrel that was quite interested in the contents of my pack.

I did see quite a few more hikers on my way out. I’m not wearing a face mask when I hike, with my intention to step well off the trail when I encounter other people. A good number of hikers had bandanas around their necks that they’d pull up over their mouths and noses as I approached. But it was fairly easy to avoid being in close contact with people, so I wasn’t concerned about the general lack of masks.

Any day in the Park is a good day. I bought my new pass, spent a few hours in nature, and was able to relax a bit. So it was a good day.

When I returned home, the first thing I did was try to buy some Timed Entry passes. I quickly arrived on the screen where I was challenged for my pass number. I typed it in, double checking it, and was informed that the number was invalid. WTF?

Very frustrated now, I deleted it and retyped it. Generally, a web page won’t show you any errors until you press Enter. This one updated the error message for the pass number field as each character was typed. When I typed slowly, I saw it go from “invalid” to “valid” before I’d typed the entire number. So it didn’t want to see the last few digits. Nowhere on the page does it inform the user that the whole number isn’t necessary. It may be that my old pass was working, had I thought to cut a few digits off the end.

Having passed that hurdle, I managed to purchase two passes. I was after a handful of them, though. I did try to purchase a third one, but it wouldn’t let me. It didn’t say I had reached any limit, it just failed to cooperate any longer. No worries, I got two good days in June. In a day or two, I’ll sign back on and see if I can get a couple more.

Nearly There

Michael has been putting a few hours into the car. We’re He’s very nearly done with it. The big milestone today is getting all four wheels on the ground for the first time since… November? December?

Perhaps next weekend we’ll get it running.

Six Benchmark

It has been more than two months since I last posted anything. That’s by far the longest I’ve gone without an update. I started this blog as a sort of replacement for my personal journal. I occasionally write things that I don’t publish to the public, but it’s rare. Perhaps in these two months I should have made a private entry or two, but instead, I’ve been totally silent, even to myself. (I can almost hear the objections: “Dave loves the sound of his own voice too much to be quiet.”)

Although I don’t limit myself here, I’m generally writing about my two passions: hiking and my car. The short version is, for two months nothing has happened in those realms.

But other things have happened. The COVID 19 pandemic, for example. Early on, my family and I were largely unaffected by it. I work from home, so on a personal level, it was pretty much the status quo for me. I couldn’t get a haircut, and RMNP was closed in March, but it wasn’t a huge adjustment. The libraries closed, but Genae’s paychecks kept coming, and diesel mechanics are considered essential, so Michael was still working.

In mid April, my employers held a national meeting over Zoom to give us an update on the business. We were told that there would be adjustments. Training was cancelled. Travel was cancelled. Temporary and contract employees were let go. But there would be no need for layoffs any time soon. In the days after that meeting, I was told that there was plenty of work in the pipeline and that I’d soon be lead consultant on a project Real Soon Now.

Then, on May 1 (International Workers’ Day, for those paying attention), I got a call from my boss. I have been concerned for quite some time about my being chronically underutilized. It seemed to me there is a limit as to how long an underutilized asset could be kept. The corona virus put its thumb on the scale, so to speak, and in spite of the recent “dreaded vote of confidence” I was let go.

The last time I was out of work, I could hop in the fun car, drive up a twisty canyon road to a trailhead in the Park and take a nice, long hike. I really feel that getting out on the trails did a lot for my mental health. I could clear my mind, envelop myself in nature, breathe the clean pine-scented air and enjoy myself.

But, as I said, the Park is been closed. And the car is still in pieces in the garage. Michael has been enlisting the aid of his friends to do my engine replacement and with the COVID lockdown, the car has been on hold. I think I have all the parts and supplies required, so the loss of my job shouldn’t be an impediment, and now that there is some loosening of restrictions, Michael will have the assistance he wants. So, although the car hasn’t moved since October, there is hope that it’ll be running by June.

As to the problem of the Park being closed, there’s not much I can do.

But, for my mental health, I needed to take a hike. So I reached out to Ed and asked if he was interested in taking me up to the top of Button Rock Mountain. He took me up there back in 2012. I had to look it up. I was pretty sure it was before the 2013 floods, but that seems like a long time ago now. Anyway, he agreed and we picked a day.

Tuesday, May 12

The morning wasn’t exactly foggy, but the ceiling was quite low and the weather didn’t look at all promising. Forecast high for Denver was in the mid-60s, and the sun was supposed to shine, but that looked far from certain at 7:30am.

I only vaguely remember where the trailhead is, so we arranged that we’d meet at Ed’s place and both drive. Just a few miles out of Lyons we emerged out from under the blanket of clouds and found ourselves in bright sunshine and blue sky. Things were looking better already.

Button Rock Mountain is situated about two and a half miles west of US 36 where that road leaves Boulder County, at the top of the hill just outside of Pinewood Springs. To get to the trailhead, however, you proceed past Pinewood Springs to county road 47, the road to Big Elk Meadows. Follow this about 2.6 miles to a small dirt parking lot on the south side of the road.

Wild Basin and Longs Peak

This is national forest, and there’s a fairly large network of established trails. Ed, though, is not one for established trails. He and his friends have been working for decades on his route to the summit of Button Rock, or more accurately, a point on the map called “Six Benchmark”. The actual summit is about half a mile away. Six Benchmark has a nice view to the west: Indian Peaks, Longs Peak, Twin Sisters, and the Mummy Range. To the south is Button Rock reservoir. Six Benchmark is about 8400′ of elevation while the true summit is a few feet higher, at 8,440′ or so.

Ed is proud of his route, and rightly so. In my mind, it doesn’t qualify as a trail. Some parts of it are fairly obvious to me when I’m on it. And in a few places, someone bushwacking cross country would recognize it as a trail, but for the most part, it is much less obvious than your basic game trail. I’ve hiked it twice now (granted, seven years apart) but there’s no way I could follow it unaided.

As we hiked, Ed kept up a more or less continuous effort at grooming the trail: flicking pine cones out of the way, occasionally picking up a rock here to deposit there, that sort of small thing.

I’m sure I was less than the ideal hiking companion. My mind wasn’t exactly clear. Ed kept up a running monologue, in places describing the effort he and his friends put into clearing fallen trees and moving large rocks. But I will admit that I wasn’t always paying attention, and no doubt I occasionally failed to respond to his questions.

We hit the summit a bit after 11:00. To the east, the clouds we drove out from under were still blanketed across the landscape, with some tendrils of mist lying in the canyons. I set the GoPro facing that way, rather than over the Divide. We relaxed on the summit for well over an hour and a half and by the time we departed, the clouds below us to the east had almost entirely dissipated.

It was good for me to get out and hike, even if it didn’t serve to fully get my head in a good place. I’m aching to get back into the Park, to visit the alpine lakes I love so much.

And here’s the video. Everything is too far away for the GoPro, and the clouds that cast shadows on the camera cause an annoying strobe effect, but so it goes.

Dreamin’

Last Monday I went up to the backcountry office and got some permits.

Just like last year, it snowed. Last time it was pretty bad weather. I’ve done that drive many times in bad weather, it didn’t bother me. But most other drivers were having problems. One went into the river in the narrows. This time it wasn’t nearly as bad, just a thin snowpack, a bit slick here and there. Nobody was off the road this time.

Quite some time ago I made up a wish-list of four trips with the intention of buying two. Last year I bought three, but one was too early, the first week of July, and never had any chance of going where I wanted to go. I probably can’t count on getting to any lake much above 11,000 feet until late July.

I’m planning on attending LOG 40 this year. That’s in Salt Lake City in late September and includes a track day at Utah Motorsports Campus. Check-in is Friday, the 18th. Track day is Monday. A day for the drive back and that’s a five day weekend and should probably take the place of the third permit.

So two trips is probably the way to go.

But I bought three again. They’re all on the west side. The first is the second week of July instead of the first week, so probably too early again. The second is in mid-August and the third is a few days after LOG. I’ll have a day off at home between the drive home from LOG and the backpacking trip. Should be an exceptional week.

Their credit card machine was broken, so they told me to expect an email with instructions on how to pay. I haven’t gotten any instructions yet. I called and asked about it. The gal I talked to said she appreciated that I was so eager to pay. I told her I’d be patient and wait for the email.

Permits arranged, I headed up to Bear Lake parking lot with the idea I might make a quick visit to Emerald Lake. The Lexus has summer tires, but the road was plowed. There were a few drifts already, as it was quite windy. I got to the lot at 9 or 9:30, I wasn’t paying particular attention. There were only eight or nine cars there. I was all kitted up and ready to go when I saw that I forgot to bring a water bottle. Ah, well.

I didn’t bring my snowshoes, just the micro-spikes. I had no plans to go off the beaten path. And I now had no plans to go any farther than Dream Lake. There in the parking lot it didn’t strike me as particularly windy. And it wasn’t bad in the trees, as usual. But it was blowing fiercely at Nymph. Somebody had built a large snowman on the lake. Hallett was obscured by a cloud of blowing snow.

After checking out the snowman, I headed up the winter route. There I ran into a young couple from southwest Michigan. “Is this the trail?” They followed me up to Dream Lake. They were dressed for the weather but were just in boots, no spikes. It had snowed a few inches overnight, or perhaps just been blown down from above, who knows. There were a couple of ski tracks and at least one set of boot prints. We weren’t on a firm trail but never sank more than ankle-deep. I was happy to have the micro-spikes.

They said they wanted to go to Emerald. I described the route for them guessed they’d have no difficulty finding the way and to take care. I found a place sort of out of the wind and sat down. The couple found shelter in some trees thirty yards away for a while before heading across the ice towards Emerald. I sat there for some time. I’m sure it wasn’t as long a time as it seemed. Then I ventured out onto the wind-blasted lake to investigate the ice. A gust nearly blew me over. I didn’t stay there very long.

I ran into another couple not far from Bear Lake. They were car people, too. For some reason, I was a bit surprised to meet car people. I don’t know why I should be surprised. While I was chatting with them, the Michigan couple passed us. Clearly they didn’t make it to Emerald Lake.

I drove down to Moraine Park and found a parking place with a view and tucked into my picnic lunch. Here I will confess that in the place of my usual soda I had a beer instead.

Not a bad way to spend the day.

Car Update

The weather this weekend was glorious. Running errands in the SUV I lamented the unavailability of the fun car. But we had a bit of a milestone today.

Michael had the engine and transmission mated and ready to hoist into the car. All the good bits were on the new motor. All, that is, except for the A/C, which we’re deleting. Michael found a routing diagram for the A/C delete configuration. The other night we wound a cord around it and marked it for length.

So today we fetched the hoist from the shed and got to it. When we took the old motor out, we were an inch short on the lift. Putting this one in we had no problem with height. There was a significant amount of jockeying around. The first mount was on pretty easily. We had to make a couple of stabs on the second one. At that point, Michael said he’d accomplished what he wanted, so he released me. But he kept at it and did the other two. without my encumbrance assistance. I’m not sure I can be of much help for most of the rest of the job.

A significant milestone, I think. I’ve got to get off my duff now and buy some coolant and new pads for the rear. Oh, and a belt that best matches our string.

Some time ago Michael and I discussed driving the car around the block without the rear clam. Today he pointed out that we have nowhere to mount the battery without the clam. Still, I think it would be a kick to drive it clamless.

Bitter Wind at Lake Haiyaha

Sunday, January 26

I’m repeating myself when I say that it’s been too long since I’ve had a walk in the park. This time, it has been five weeks. So I reached out to Ed to see what he had going. He was taking a group up to Haiyaha but said they’d allow one more.

I collected Ed at his house, just a few minutes late, and we headed to the Bear Lake parking lot where we met the rest of the group: six ladies, whose names I would get wrong if I attempted to list them here. I’m sorry I’m so bad with names.

Every time I’ve had Ed lead me to Haiyaha in the winter we’ve gone the same way. This time we took a different route. I’ve seen Ed post pictures of “Beard Falls” many times, always wondering where the heck it is. Well, now I know. Pretty much. As with his other route, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to go this way without his help.

Nymph Lake

Rather than starting up the paved trail towards Nymph Lake and striking cross-country at the large boulder, we took the back way from Bear to Nymph, then headed southwest. Before long, we found ourselves at the base of a series of switchbacks that climb steeply uphill. At the top of this climb, we connected with the summer trail from Dream Lake to Haiyaha pretty much where that trail crosses the outlet from the lake.

It was very pleasant walking through the woods, where the trees protect the hiker from the wind. I’ll say, though, that even at the parking lot it wasn’t particularly windy, so I was thinking it might even be pleasant at the lake. Certainly, there was no indication of what we were to see while we were making the climb.

I always find it interesting how the snow piles up on the terrain. Often, the rocks were topped by giant pillows of snow, and in some of the open areas the wind piles up the snow, then seems to carve it into intricate shapes. I’ve tried many times to get photos of some of these sights, but the most interesting ones are often subtle, and there’s just too little contrast in the white shapes for my photographic skills to deal with.

We had a short pause just before reaching the lake to add back on some of the layers of clothing we’d removed during the climb. And sunglasses or goggles were recommended. It’s always windy on the ice of these high alpine lakes along the Continental Divide. Still, I was hoping it wouldn’t be too extreme.

It was extreme. I hauled the SLR in my pack thinking I’d spend some quality time trying to get some interesting photos of the ice. But to use the SLR, I need to take off my gloves and sunglasses. It only took me a minute or two to decide it just wasn’t worth it. My hands were cold almost instantly, and I didn’t care too much for the snow blowing into my eyes. So I packed the SLR away and set up the GoPro for the time-lapse. I’ve been here before, and I’ll be here again.

Everybody was on their own for a few minutes investigating the ice before we met up on the west side of the lake, out of the wind. Ed had an igloo not far up the slope, so we made the short climb up to it. I didn’t go in, but we dug the blown snow out of the entrance. The top had sagged somewhat since it was built. Ed didn’t think I’d be able to stand up in it.

We all noshed our lunches and relaxed for a few minutes before heading back down. I had one challenge to complete before we left: find the GoPro. I set it in the snow rather than on a rock, figuring that the wind would blow it over. Well, there is no shortage of rocks here, and the camera is small. And, I worried, maybe it got buried by the blowing snow. Luckily, I managed to locate it without too much difficulty.

Our return route was my usual route with Ed. I lollygagged a bit to be at the end of the line, to be “tail-end Charlie”. I hiked in the middle for a while but found it more comfortable to be at the back, neither tailgating nor tailgated. I could stop occasionally to take in the sights.

Since we left Nymph Lake in the morning until we regained the trail in the afternoon, we met no other hikers and saw only one set of footprints. This solitude is a common occurrence on my hikes to Haiyaha with Ed. I’d call it “high-efficiency” solitude: I usually have to walk much, much farther to get three hours of the stuff.

All in all, it was another beautiful day in the neighborhood, even if it was uncomfortably windy at the lake. I usually prefer hiking with a smaller group, but I have no complaints and variety is the spice of life. Good people, stunning scenery, pleasant weather (in the trees!).

It’s tough to beat a day like this.

The Loch

I have been aching for another walk in the Park. I was thinking it has been two months since my last hike, but I see it’s more than three. Definitely past due. I reached out to Ed to see what he had on his calendar. Thursday worked for both of us, so Thursday it was.

Thursday, December 26

I told Ed I’d pick him up between 8:10 and 8:20. For a while, I thought I’d be late. There was more traffic than I’d expected. And it was foggy. Dense enough that you couldn’t see much past your headlights. And a surprisingly large number of drivers didn’t bother with headlights.

North of Boulder the road goes alongside the foothills and up the slope I could see blue skies while everything to the east was in the soup. By the time I got to Lyons, I was out of it. There wasn’t much traffic north of Boulder. I made up the time I lost earlier and pulled up in front of Ed’s house right at 8:20.

We got to the Bear Lake parking lot in good time and met the third of our party, Judy. She’d hiked with Ed once or twice in the past. Since I can’t drive wearing my big hiking boots, I have to get ready when we get there: take the shoes off, put on the snow pants, put on the gaiters and boots, change to the heavy coat, and all the rest. Ed and Judy went up and chatted with the volunteers while I got it together.

We began by taking Ed’s winter trail to Lake Haiyaha. Or, two-thirds of it anyway. At the meadow at the top of the gully, instead of heading uphill to the right we went left. I keep thinking I should know my way on this route, having been on it several times now. Today, his trail was pretty easy to follow. He’s been working on it all season, and for most of the way I’d have been okay wearing micro-spikes instead of snowshoes, the base was that good.

Our route took us between West Glacier Knob and the eastern flank of Otis Peak, along the shores of “Beautiful Lake Marv”. Today, not so much along the shores as right across it. This is one of three unnamed lakes in the immediate vicinity that Ed has named.

Just before arriving at The Loch, we met up with the last few yards of the summer route. I was a bit surprised to see so many footprints here. The other times I’ve been to The Loch in winter, I came up the stream. The hike so far had been quite pleasant. A bit on the cool side, but no wind at all. The skies to the east were still quite clear, but above the Divide was a maelstrom, often blotting out the sun.

At the lake, though, the wind whipped in a steady gale down the valley, blowing snow across the ice. All the nice sunny summer picnic places today were instead cold, bleak stone benches blasted by blowing snow. Naturally, I had to suggest we stay here long enough to get some time-lapse video. I sent Ed and Judy to find a place out of the wind, following after I got the camera running and set in a place I thought the wind wouldn’t move it.

I found them a hundred yards or so away, in a hollow half surrounded by a fifteen-foot snowdrift. There wasn’t any place to sit, but it was out of the wind. We told each other stories until we decided standing still wasn’t the most fun thing to do, whence I went and collected the camera. It ran for not quite twenty minutes and looked to be exactly where I left it.

We left by the route I’d always used in winter: down the outlet stream. When we started down it occurred to me that my other winter trips here were later in the season. Today there isn’t nearly as much snow here as before. I could see why the summer trail was still carrying all the traffic: this was not the easiest way down.

We took another short break at the hitching posts near the bridge to Mills Lake. The snow was deep enough to make them nice benches. I ate about half my lunch here. After a few minutes, we were moving again.

Ed took us from the trail junction on a route that included the two other unnamed lakes that Ed has named: Joyce’s Pond and Zone Lake. As bodies of water, they’re not much to brag about. But all three of these little ponds have three nice attributes: they’re a short hike, have nice views, and very few visitors.

All day on the trail it was Ed leading, Judy in the middle, and me at the back. When you’re hiking, anything you say is projected forward. Being in the back I couldn’t hear what Ed and Judy were talking about. Which, actually, was fine.

I could be unengaged. I was always following, never leading. I didn’t do any navigation, I didn’t set the pace, I generally wasn’t involved in any conversation. We weren’t on any sort of schedule. It was easy walking. It was a beautiful day. I could let my mind wander. I soaked in my surroundings. I enjoyed myself immensely.

Engine Removal

It has been a bit more than a month since my last post, so I’m a bit overdue. Last time, we’d put a fair amount of effort in and didn’t even complete the install of the rear clam kit. And I made some sort of promise as to how far we’d get by the next (this) post. Given that everything we do seems to take three or four times as long as the instructions say, it’s a no-brainer that I over-promised. So it goes.

I wanted to (more or less) finish with the clam kit. The first step was to make that minor repair to the rear clam where the boot lid hinge attaches. I waited until we had a fairly warm day so that I wouldn’t have any issues with the epoxy. Given our stretch of weekends where it was cold, this simple step took a surprisingly long time. Sure, it was just a few minutes of actual work and an hour or three of drying time, but this elapsed over three weekends.

After that, Michael spent a few evenings after work tearing the car down. I’m pretty much useless for this portion of the work so I left him to it, venturing out to the garage after he was done each night to snap some photos.

Before long, he notified me that he’d gotten as far as he could and it was finally time to take the engine out of the car. Which meant it was time to go to Harbor Freight and pick up an engine hoist (some assembly required).

Silly me, I didn’t realize until we assembled it that it doesn’t include the load leveler bit. So, naturally, it was more than one trip to the store before we could get around to extracting the lump from the back of the car.

This is a major milestone.

With the motor out and the area around the back of the car more or less accessible, we figured it was a good time to test fit the clam back on the car. The word on the street is that sometimes things don’t line up exactly as expected and we might need to come up with a way to shim things so it all matches. From our quick look at things, we look to be in good shape. We didn’t tighten everything down, but everything lines up okay. That means, next time we need to get some room to work, we’re not looking at four hours to get the clam off. It should be more like fifteen minutes (famous last words).

Now let’s take a look at some (perhaps) interesting details.

I noticed what could be a date alongside some Japanese writing. I have no idea what it says. I shouldn’t be surprised to see Japanese writing inside my Toyota engine, but I got a kick out of it. Take a good look at the left side of the photo. This is why the engine has to go. That bit should be a nice machined surface and the snout needs to fit rather snugly inside the flywheel. Other than this bit of damage, the engine is still good. But replacing the crank is a bit more than we’re willing to deal with on our own. So the engine has to go.

Here’s one of the flywheel bolts. Note the damaged threads.

Here’s a closeup of the center of the flywheel. This bit mates up with the bit to the left of the Japanese writing. Not exactly a precision fit.

Finally, with the rear clam back on the car, it looks like a car again. Except for the giant hole in the center where the engine is supposed to be.

Next step is to order a gently used 2ZZ-GE long block, a flywheel, and flywheel bolts. The vendor is closed until the start of the year so I’ll need to be patient.

After a great deal of back and forth between “yes I will” and “no I won’t”, I’ve settled on “yes I will”. Yes, I will go with a lightweight flywheel. Several times now I’ve had the choice of whether to stick to the original equipment or to make a performance upgrade. So far, I’ve stuck with original equipment. Although I track the car a handful of times a year, I think of it as predominantly a street car. I don’t really want to make changes that result in it being hard to drive in traffic. But I’m going to go ahead with the light flywheel. Most everybody I’ve talked with regarding a light flywheel says it’s not a big adjustment.

One more piece of foreshadowing: There are some “creature comfort” features the car has that I never use.

One is the air conditioning. I’ve turned it on three our four times in the near-decade I’ve owned the car. It fails to cool the tiny cabin. We’ll leave the plumbing in but take out the heavy bits, the compressor and condenser. Since I never use the A/C, I don’t see the point of keeping it in the car given that with it all taken apart it’s a simple job of removing it. So we’ll need to figure out how long of a belt we’ll need as the original will now be too long.

The second is the radio. Even before I did the motor mounts, the radio was only of use when sitting at stoplights. I thought maybe I’d leave it in as it shows the time. But due to one thing or another, the time displayed was almost always wrong. I’ve already removed the two rear speakers. We’re not digging into the dashboard as part of this work, so I’ll have to take it to a car stereo place for the work. After some searching on the internet, I see I can replace it with a small storage area with a door. So it’ll be a mini glove box.

I probably need to make this video a bit shorter, but here’s us using the hoist to extract the engine.

Clam Removal

Sunday, November 17

Today we take our first steps down the tortured path of replacing my engine. Hopefully, we can get it all done in a reasonable amount of time. I have no particular target date in mind, but I’m hoping we’ll be done by March.

My goal for today was to get the rear clam off and install the “modular rear clamshell kit” from Radium Engineering. I’m not sure why they call it “modular”. There’s not a lot to it: a billet aluminum decklid hinge brace, 4 black anodized laser cut aluminum body shim pads (73% lighter than stock), 4 green anodized aluminum body shim spacers, 2 sets of precut super adhesive velcro, and stainless steel hardware. The hinge brace is available in black (“Bright Dip Black”), silver (“Titanium Silver”), or green (“Radium Green”). I went for the green. I’m not sure how much of it will be visible when it’s all done, but I felt it necessary to go with the green.

Rear clam kit, $211.94 including shipping.

The idea is that with this kit it’ll be easy to remove the clam. I’m not sure how often, after this engine ordeal, I’ll want or need to remove the clam, but if there’s ever a time to do it, it’s now. Okay, maybe the time to do it would have been last winter when we did the clutch job. So it goes.

The instructions said, “Allow 1-2 hours for initial disassembly.” We managed it in four. From now on, when the instructions give us an expected duration, we should guess how long it’ll actually take. I’m sure it’s faster if you’ve done this before, but this is our first time. The instructions were pretty good. The only surprise we had was that, because I have the Track Pack, I have a harness bar. The instructions don’t cover that possibility. There was much head-scratching and wondering what sort of parlor trick would be involved in getting it out so we could remove the rear speaker panel. We managed, and it probably only added 15 or 20 minutes.

Rear clam, temporarily sitting on the back deck.

When we finally gave up, we had the clam off but didn’t complete the install of the clam kit. The flange where the kit mounts is broken. I need to get some epoxy and make a repair. It won’t be visible, so it doesn’t need to be pretty.

Minor repair required.

In any event, as I say, the clam is off and now we have unrestricted access to the engine. Next time, we’ll complete the installation of the kit and get the car back on the ground. We have lots of parts scattered everywhere, including the seats. When the clam kit installation is complete, we can put the interior back together.

Now we can begin?

Then we can start the disassembly/removal of the engine.