Sunday, June 16, 2013

Safety glasses, hammers, and dissection

Leo is outside with safety glasses on, taking a hammer to his Ben 10 watch. He's taken the thing apart, put it back together again, and has now decided he wants the electronic components but not the big plastic case that holds it all together. He's upset that I can't find the wire strippers, now that he's cut the wires to get it apart.

Oops, now he reaching for a pull-back car and a screwdriver...

Monday, June 10, 2013

25th MIT Reunion, Boston

We went to MIT for my 25th reunion. It was huge fun. Leo got to sleep in a dorm. 

We visited the new Stata Center. It's a new building by Gehry (which means it looks very strange). It is also filled with wacky art. And robots. This is where they keep their new robot projects.

Of course, visiting Boston means eating Toscanini's ice cream! Leo also got his first hot vanilla which is like a hot chocolate, but vanilla.

And we saw the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall. This was the first time Leo's heard an orchestra. They did Pixar movie music with Pixar animation, making it very accessible for all the kids. MIT rents out Symphony Hall once a year for reunion.

And while Leo did not get to see the Sodium drop or any other hacks, we did go to the MIT Museum and check out the Arthur Gansen exhibit of crazy engineering art:

Good news is Leo still wants to go to MIT. While he hated the weather (who doesn't?) I think he really enjoyed the craziness of it all.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Leo the intrepid explorer

Leo antics in the slots

If you can't see this, go to

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Egypt 3 Slot Canyon Expedition

We really wanted to do Coyote Gulch but the 2 mile hike just to get to the slot, in the hot sloggy summer sand, sounded silly! So we declared we would do Egypt, which looked like a quick hike in and a nice slot, but nothing seemed too long. The scale on the map showed that we were only going 2-3 km into the slots. The dirt road to Egypt was really hairy and I gave up driving for Paul, the more experienced sand and rock driver, to take over. We were on trail at 11:15am, starting as early as we could from Kodachrome. It was simple to get to the edge of the slot but hard to figure out how to get in. Here Paul is pointing to the slot that we eventually drop into.

We eventually found some cairns leading us to the slickrock and we went down on the slickrock, even though some of it was steep. The potholes were deep leading into the canyon. We found an easy way in and walked into the Egypt 3 slot.

It was fantastic. We were having the time of our lives. It was twisty and potholey, and there were a lot of dropoffs. I was not completely sure we could make it back up some of those potholes. The slot was tight and twisty and there was an initial drop where you had to turn sideways, suck in your breath, hold you backpack or camelback to the side and carefully slide down the canyon. There were parts that were so slippery that you could do nothing but slide down on your butt, and hope you were wearing long pants so you did not scrape your butt on the way down (i was not). Leo tweaked his ankle at the very onset of the hike but was a trooper and stuck it through.

The slot was awesome. Then we hit the deep, big pothole filled with water. We could not find a way around that didn't result in sliding into the pothole. Paul had to strip (not knowing how deep it was) and jump in and ferry Leo and the backpacks. I had to jump in too. It was only knee deep, but it was stinky old water filled with bugs, mosquito larva, and mud of course. We smelled like that putrid water for the rest of the long day.

Then we hit a Y in the slot and went upslot on a spur. It was so tight, Leo got turned around.

We continued downslot until we hit another Y. It became a long, continuous, straight, extremely narrow slot. All our gear got scraped to death. Leo called it "boring".

Then it got really hard to squeeze through and we had to lean in, climb high sometimes, and then carry our packs sideways and then, then, Leo found the daddy longlegs. Now I don't have a problem with daddy longlegs. I've played with them since I was a kid. But In the deep, clautrophobic slots where you scrape both sides of your body trying to get through, the last thing you want to find is an orgy of 50 daddy longlegs clustered in a dense pack, doing something that you probably don't want your kids to see. There were a dozen of these clusters, sometimes on both sides of the walls so you could only hope to not scrape the cluster down your shirt. I plan to have nightmares about daddy longleg conventions tonight.

We got to the end of the slot, a bit over 2 km from our car, and where the author describes a route back to the road. But Leo really wanted to go back through the daddy longleg infested slot. So we went back through the ultra thin narrows, sucking in our chests, and hoping not to hit the bug orgies. We then thought we could climb out an alternate route through the second Y. It was 4pm.

So we headed up the wash which was immediately difficult. There was a bunch of potholes that you had to get past without getting in because they were too deep. Somehow Paul did one of those cool chimney moves and Leo just automatically copied it, since he spent most of his time messing around on the rocks doing moves like that anyway. I couldn't jam my body against one side and my feet against the other because it was too big. So I had to make an upside down V with my body, facing downward, hands jammed against the steep side and feet jammed against the other side and walk my hands across the potholes. Somehow when I was done, it required some weird balance shift thing that also freaked me out because falling from so high is not fun when you're far from your car in the desert. Anyway, we went up that wash, up the slickrock and then got confused about which rockfall we had originally descended. They all looked the same and it wasn't easy getting from one to the other. We didn't have our GPS or the topo map, just the pages from the hiking book with a hand drawn map. We walked around and over the slick rock hills arguing about the best way back. Meanwhile Leo was getting stomach cramps and intermittently doubling over in pain and it was still hot. It was 6pm. We guessed at where we were and walked up to the top of Egypt Bench, which is sort of the flat mesa top  that looks down on everything else. Our map showed that is was maybe 1/2 km walk west to the car, but the hills were uneven and we had to walk up and down too much to walk west. So we walked north, followed some other human footsteps (there generally weren't many footsteps, mostly cows, rodents, birds, and some hooved animals), staying on the mesa top. We eventually hit the dirt road and backtracked the road back 1/2 mile to our car at about 7pm. It was the longest hike Leo's ever done.

Oh, a few other things - the Forester was making funny noises on the drive out to Utah. The several hours per day on the bumpy dirt roads resulted in the electrical system going wacky a bit on Wed and then more on Fri. For example, we can't turn the lights off on the car without pulling the fuse now.

When we got to Escalante (and I kissed the ground to be in civilization), I was still traumatized by the hike out but not traumatized enough to stop myself from buying a couple more Escalante hiking books including the technical canyoneering book.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bull Valley Gorge and Lick Wash

We took hikes in the Paria Valley today, near Kodachrome, where we are staying. We thought we'd avoid the hour drive to Escalante (the town) and then the drive down the dirt road, Hole in the Rock. The first was Lick Wash which one of the hiking books said was one of the best, most beautiful hikes, with nice narrow canyons and lots of solitude, which would be nice after the Grand Central Station feeling of Bryce. It was 18 miles from the Kodachrome road, on a beautiful twisty dirt road. Well, we met tons of hikers, a bicyclist was starting his hike same time as us. And while the white sandstone was really nice, it paled in comparison to the exciting narrow tortuously twisty slots of the hikes off Hole in the rock. We did a bunch of bouldering which was lots of fun. I'd guess we did 3 miles in 3 hours. It was hot and the canyon wasn't narrow enough to provide constant shade.

On the way home, we decided to go to Willis, which was the first slot we ever did, and a really fun one with a stream through it. But as I read in the "other" guidebook about Bull Valley Gorge, we decided to try that instead. We thought we'd just go see the place where the pickup truck had wrecked in 1954 and was hanging in the gorge. But it looked so enticing, we got our gear and did a 2.5 hour (4 mile?) hike that was very exciting, a little scary, and very beautiful. First you have to walk half a mile on a scary trail skirting along the top of the gorge to the gorge entrance. You down climb in and the next 1.5 miles is just narrow, crazy deep gorge with surprises round every corner. There are some fallen trees set up to help you with the very steep dropoffs, including one that would have turned me around were it not for Leo deciding he could do it. He did it much faster than me, of course. There were huge pieces of fallen rock, some stuck in the top of the gorge waiting to fall in someday and some that you had to climb over. Lots of mud that could be avoided but we had a lot of fun throwing rocks into it. We got to do some fun bouldering here too. Leo and I were racing to be first in exploring the gorge. I'm not sure what the difference is between a canyon and a gorge, but this seemed so young, so clearly full of downed trees and recently fallen rocks. Anyway, it is now one of our favorite hikes. We definitely want to go back and go further.

Bryce Canyon National Park

We are staying at Kodachrome, really close to Bryce, so we thought we'd take a day off to hang out in Bryce, low key, get some internet and phone calls in. We did Queen's Garden/Navajo Loop which is about 2.2 miles and passes by some of the coolest hoodoos (spires of multicolored layered sandstone). It's always great to see Bryce - it looks like Disneyland and is so fanciful and enchanted and magical.

There are a bunch of tunnels cut through the hoodoos, some arches, lots of crazy chesslike pieces in rows. And a steady stream of tourists.

We explained to many people that Leo did this loop when he was 3 and that he ran up the steep switchbacks of the Navajo Loop, faster than the other adults. Well, it was hot and he was tired and it didn't seem like we'd even make it back home at the pace he was going. We had to keep seeking shade. Finally, we were at the switchbacks and steep hill up. We took a long rest and snack, and then he decided to run to the top of the trail. We hiked as fast as we could and hoped he'd stop at the top and wait for us.

Leo got his junior ranger badge too. He had gotten it here when he was three, but his friend "borrowed" it and we never got it back. He had to pick up trash, do a ranger program and do a bunch of worksheets but earned a nice badge for his junior ranger hiking vest.

In the top of the last photo, you can see the black smoke in the sky from a prescribed burn on route 12.