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XC skiing in Banff National Park, AB; February 2018

Four of us, along with our Outing Club guide Lance Young, flew from Seattle WA to Calgary AB for several days of cold but beautiful cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in Canada’s Banff National Park.  We were all retirees (we’re the ones with the time for trips like this); Linda and Terry, originally from Ketchikan AK, had operated a seafood company specializing in the Asian market.  Photographer Monica had worked at T-Mobile.  And your humble reporter Paul formerly in IT at the City of Seattle.IMG_3849

Monday 2/5: My adventure started right after my wife Pat, daughter Alice and her partner Jenn dropped me off at Seattle’s airport.  I’d had trouble packing because Lance said we’d be snowshoeing and my snowshoes didn’t fit in my suitcase.  Also, Air Canada has strict rules against putting anything other than skis in a ski bag; and my stuff didn’t all fit in my suitcase.  So I’d brought three bags.  The agent at Canada Air’s checkin counter was horrified at what he’d have to charge me to check three bags.  He implored me to carry one bag on board.  So I hung onto the suitcase.  But as Lance walked with me to TSA it dawned on me that I had a problem.

I hadn’t packed the suitcase to pass inspection as a carry-on, because I’d planned to check it.  I found a quiet corner under a wall of Pearl Jam posters and opened it up.  It was a simple matter to gather the liquids and stick them in a plastic bag; fortunately they were all small.  (From now on I’m going to pack every bag this way; who knows what I might have to carry on board?)  But the Swiss Army knife that I meant to put in my backpack while skiing certainly would be confiscated; Pat has lost two of them that way.  Lance snatched it and headed out to the airport to meet my family and hand it off to them.  For about 20 minutes they roamed around the airport looking for each other.  Now and then my family would swing by to see if Lance was there; so I got bonus goodbye hugs.

TSA usually awards me pre-check, considering me harmless, which is convenient if a bit humiliating.  I didn’t have to take off my shoes.  I’d hit on the plan of putting all my pocket items in a vest that I could slip off.  And I was wearing a plastic belt.  So, with my hastily-edited suitcase in hand, I strolled quickly thru security.  Then I turned my suitcase over to the gate attendant to check for free.

The flight to Vancouver BC was in a propellor plane too small to fit against a boarding ramp; so we were led onto the taxiway to climb up the plane’s own folding steps.  We were seated in the mostly empty plane at widely spaced intervals, arranged I suppose to keep our weight balanced.  A 25-minute hop brought us to the Vancouver airport.  Here Lance led us thru Canadian Customs’ maze of corridors and security wickets that had been built into the ceiling of the terminal.  Canada had no intention of considering me harmless; so I had to go thru another more rigorous security screening, shoes off.  On a little shelf at the head of the conveyor belt I saw a row of abandoned water bottles and one can of mace.  I drank all I could from a bottle of water I’d bought in Seattle and added it to the shelf.  Later, Lance told us that Customs had once confiscated his ski wax because it resembled TNT.

The flight from Vancouver to Calgary AB was about 90 minutes, on a much larger and fuller plane.  As the plane landed I saw a thick layer of snow blanketing Calgary; inland and at 4,000 feet, it has prairie weather.  I’d worn flannel-lined pants and brought a goose down coat, and I was glad to have them as we wandered the rental car parking lot looking for our van.  It was a large, comfortable Kia Sedona, “The worst car for snow that I’ve ever driven,” Lance concluded later.  We overnighted at a Calgary motel.

Canmore Nordic Center

Tuesday 2/6: The forecast high for today was 10 F. / -12 C.  Lance’s GPS wasn’t working, so Terry navigated us with a paper map to Highway 2 and Canmore’s Nordic Center.  It had been constructed for the 1988 Winter Olympics, and had a good lodge and an outstanding trail system.  It was quite cold, so I dropped two chemical heating pads into each mitten and put on all the layers I had.

The forest and the surrounding ridges were very beautiful.  The snow had a peculiar dry, grainy consistency like the tiny styrofoam pellets in a bean bag chair.  It wasn’t very fast, and I kept sliding sideways on any slope.  I ventured off the groomed tracks into some woods, but soon gave up the idea.  My skis were too narrow to stay on top of the snow, and wading in snow up to my shins wasn’t much fun.  The sun lowered and a mist rose, and I couldn’t see the contours in the snow any more.  So I quit at 2 PM and retreated to the fireplace with a mug of hot tea and a cookie.

We moved on to Banff, the biggest town inside Banff National Park, and checked into The Inns Of Banff, a large, rambling hotel whose buildings seemed to have been hooked together with sky-bridges and tunnels as an afterthought.  We picked out a promising dinner restaurant, but it turned out that they only offered Mexican food.  Monica wanted something else; so she and I walked on to the Maple Leaf Grill And Bar and had a nice dinner (seafood pasta for me).

Lake Louise

Wednesday 2/7: Lance led us thru the labyrinthine hotel to breakfast.  We went to the park information center, a grocery store, and touched the hotel again; the cold in town had persuaded me that I needed my heavy fleece.  Then we drove up to Lake Louise.  Cross-country skiing here is centered around the luxurious Fairmont Chateau hotel.  (Downhill skiing is at a separate resort south of the highway.). It was warmer here, 28 F. / -2 C., and there were billows of fluffy snow.  I skied up onto the wooded ridge above the hotel, imagining that I would get to a clearing with a sweeping view of the dramatic peaks; but I never found one.  Several inches of snow had fallen since the trails had last been groomed; this gave a nice feeling of skiing on virgin snow while still having a definite route to follow.  Previous skiers had skied very neatly, leaving a pair of perfect grooves; and snowshoers had kept to their own parallel trail.  I practically had the place to myself; I met only two other skiers on the ridge.

After noon, overcast moved in and it began snowing in earnest.  I skied down to Lake Louise; it was frozen and covered in snow, and there was a groomed ski trail on it.  I figured that if the ice could hold a grooming snowcat it could hold me, so I headed up the lake.  I met some friendly Canadians (really this is redundant to say, because they’re all friendly) who recommended a frozen waterfall halfway up the lake.  They warned against proceeding any further, because they’d seen some footprints that had broken through the ice.  Monica had been here earlier, and later she told me that she’d seen ice-climbers making their way up the waterfall.  They weren’t up there when I was looking, but all the same, seeing the pale blue icefall made the long ski worthwhile.

I could hardly see the craggy ridges on each side of the lake thru the snow, there was no point in taking pictures.  I followed the shore trail to the hotel.  It turned out that horse-drawn sleighs complete with jingle bells use this trail for excursions to the icefall.  I heard single bells and scrambled up onto the embankment; a two-horse sleigh full of heavily-muffled tourists glided past, taking up the whole width of the trail.  The sleigh had bench seats furnished with red blankets.  A blade attached to the rear of the sleigh smoothed out the hoof prints.  This happened two more times.  Monica said the same thing happened to her; she’d lost her balance and rolled down the hill to the edge of the lake in front of all the tourists.

At the hotel I stood my skis in a rack that the doormen pointed out and withdrew to the lobby.  I took off, shook and packed away my layers; globs of snow lay on the thick carpet in an incriminating ring around my chair.  The rest of the crew showed up, and we had supper in the lounge (a bison burger and a beet salad for me), watching the quickening snowstorm thru tall arched windows.  Monica and I had “Glacier Warmers,” which were basically hot chocolate with booze in it.  So good!

We drove back to Banff in heavy snow.  We were passed by a snowplow and a semi that threw out a great wake of snow.  I saw a car upside-down on the shoulder of the highway.  At our much more modest hotel, Lance made a run at the ramp to the upper parking lot near our rooms but couldn’t make it.  He concluded that the steering wheel must have been installed in the wrong end of the car, because it handled snow better driving backward.  We had to walk from the front door thru the labyrinth to our rooms in our ski gear.  Later I tried the Jacuzzi; it was piping hot.  It could hold a dozen or so people, and it was.

Spray River

Thursday 2/8: The forecast high today was 7 F. / -14 C.  I couldn’t find my balaclava; I must have lost it when I took off my layers in front of the fireplace at Canmore.  (A balaclava is a knitted tube that you pull over your head and neck, with a hole in the front to see thru.  Not to be confused with a baclava, a pastry.)  As we walked around downtown Banff, my face ached.  Lance made a detour to a ski shop so I could buy another balaclava.

Due to yesterday’s snowstorm, the mountain highways were not in good shape.  So a ranger at the park center recommended the Spray River trail at the south end of town; it’s in a valley and so is protected from the wind.

Lance drove us to the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel (as luxurious as its Lake Louise sibling) and the group broke up. Monica and I got a late start, plus bad directions from the doorman.  We slithered down a steep, icy road to a picnic area at the foot of Spray Falls.  Here was copious fluffy snow; and it snowed all day.  Some people advised us to ski to a bridge, cross it, ski along the riverside fairway and take a footbridge across the river again.  I didn’t know what a fairway was; Monica didn’t know either.  It was achingly cold, my nose was running, and the balaclava was making my glasses fog up.  I had to keep stopping to fiddle with my clothing and equipment.  Monica paced me patiently.  As we crossed the footbridge, we met Lance crossing from the other direction.  He told us to ski up to the groomed Spray River trail the way he’d come down, and turn left to ski upstream or right to return to the hotel.  And then, like Gandalf having dispensed advice to hobbits, he disappeared.

We followed his tracks to a hillside trail and started up it.  But, beyond a curve in the trail, the tracks became faint.  We worried that they might be somebody else’s old tracks covered in snow.  So we went back to the bridge to look for other, fresher tracks Lance might have made.  We found none, so we started up the hill again.  But, a bit further on, the tracks were even fainter.  (Of course it was snowing all the while.). Back we went to the bridge, examining the snow-covered picnic area at its foot like Holmes and Watson.  There were some other tracks, but they had been made by snowshoes or boots.  So we skied to the top of the hill and found the groomed trail, just as Lance had described it.  Later Lance explained that he’d bombed down the hill so fast that his skis probably hadn’t made much of a mark.  Truly, nobody out-skis that man.

Skiing up Spray River was quite nice; we were protected from the wind as the ranger had expected, and the sun came out.  The recently-groomed trail had just a little fresh snow on it, fast but with enough structure to give good control.  The forest and glimpses of the river and the opposite wall of the valley were pretty, and ups and downs in the trail kept us entertained.  This trail goes all the way to Canmore’s Nordic Center, for those who have the time.  We saw a few other skiers; and we soon met Terry and Linda, who were skiing to the hotel for lunch.

At one point one of Monica’s poles lost its snow-basket; she found it in her last pole-hole, and screwed it back on.  Carrying an extra basket would probably be a good idea.  We came to a wide opening in the trees close to the river.  I could hear rapids out of sight behind a screen of trees.  I decided to sidestep down the embankment and take a picture of them.  This worked for about three steps; then the snow gave way and I rolled down the hill to the riverbank.

“Are you all right?” Monica called down.  I told her I was fine.  Then she took a picture of me wallowing in the snow.

I disentangled my skis from some bushes and checked out the rapids; as it turned out, they weren’t that great.  I sidestepped back up the embankment, but got stuck in more bushes; so I took off my skis, tossed them up onto the road and scrambled after them.  Happily, my ski bindings were in a good mood and let me clip them back on with no trouble.

We came to a clearing that might have been a campsite.  It looked like I could get a good view of the river, so I went off the road again, skiing laboriously thru feathery snow up to my knees.  I got some nice panoramas of the semi-frozen river, pale blue with “rock flour” — rock finely-ground by glaciers. Then it was time to head back.

Lance’s directions to the hotel worked much better than the doorman’s.  The group gathered for supper in front of a fireplace in the upstairs lounge.

Friday 2/9: I didn’t feel quite right today, so I took the day off and hung out at our hotel.  The rest of the group went snowshoeing up Johnson Canyon and then skiing on a trail they saw from the highway.  I never used the snowshoes that I’d gone to so much trouble to bring along.  I thought about exploring the town; but after some online research I decided not to.  The park museum was closed, the movie house had nothing interesting, and there was nothing else to do but shop.  It was too cold to just roam around.  I had the jacuzzi to myself and read and napped.  We had dinner at the Japanese restaurant in our hotel; hot sake, salmon teriyaki and California rolls for me.

Saturday 2/10: There had been some talk of skiing on the way back to the airport at Calgary.  But we had an early afternoon flight and it had been snowing for days, so Lance wanted to allow extra time for the drive.  Besides, once again it was very cold.  As it turned out, much of the highway was bare pavement.  And at the airport we discovered that our flight to Vancouver had been delayed.

I took my rolling suitcase to the carry-on security wicket as before.  It failed its scan; an agent summoned me to witness as he went thru it.  He started out by opening it upside-down; stuff fell out onto the table.  He said he was looking for a “handle,” and he wouldn’t let me help.  Was it the suitcase’s built-in telescoping handle?  No.  Was it my camera?  No.  He rummaged for a while and came up with my bathroom kit.  Inside was the culprit, my folding brush-comb.  Apparently it looked like a folding knife on the scanner.  I won’t travel with that any more!

More pictures

 

 

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Restaurants we’ll go to again

I‘ll be updating this list with good restaurants we find in our travels so we can go there again, and so you can too.

Alaska

Craig

shelter cove salmonShelter Cove Lodge: An elegant restaurant serving delicious food in the middle of nowhere, it far outpaces the pizza parlors and such in town.  1-888-826-FISH  (2016)

Ketchikan

Fish HouseAlaska Fish House: A small, airy place at the south end of the cruise ship area, next to the SE Alaska Discovery Center.  Nice view of the marina.  Wonderful breakfast, and it opens at 6 AM.  (2016)

shogun sushiShogun: An unpretentious Japanese/Chinese waterfront restaurant, half a mile north of the tunnel.  About the only relief from fast food and fish in this town.  Very good sushi, and the miso soup is an antidote for a long, gloomy Alaskan dusk.  (2016)

New Mexico

Albuquerque

Artichoke Cafe: A small, elegant chef-owned restaurant.  If you’re like me and not wild about artichokes, there are other really good things to eat here.  You’ll want a reservation. (2016)

Utah

Boulder

Devil’s Backbone Grill: My theory; if you’re a good enough chef, you can have a restaurant anywhere you want to, even in a town that has nothing going for it except fabulous canyons.  Elegant and unconventional.  (2016)

Washington

Port Hadlock

 

Ajax CafeAjax Cafe: An innocuous wood frame building on Port Hadlock’s tiny waterfront conceals a very popular restaurant.  It’s cluttered with a jumble of historical and hilarious decor, and hats.  Customers are provided with sets of trivia cards to pass the time while waiting for the slow production of excellent food.  The Wooden Boat Building School across the street is interesting, and its dock is a good place to photograph the evening reflections on Hood Canal.  (2016)

H and SScampi and Halibut: A little diner in a double-wide that serves seafood, sides and desserts in monstrous portions.  We were impressed with the salads, crab bisque and decadent chocolate creations.  (2016)

 

Seattle

Razzi’s: This pizza and Italian restaurant in Greenwood specializes in accommodating people with food allergies and sensitivities, in particular gluten-free and dairy-free fare.  And even if they didn’t, their pizza is exceptionally good.  (2016)

LUX HD450 clip-on phone lenses; an honest review

spider-link“The power of a $2,000 DSLR in your pocket!”  If only it were true.  I’ve already written about the vile practices of the LUX HD450 company.  Now let’s take a close look at their product.  The important question is “Would these lenses help me take better pictures with my phone?”  Two quick pieces of advice:

  1. No.  The best use of these lenses would be as a gift to a child.
  2. If you still want to buy them, save yourself money and grief by ordering the identical product on Amazon.

Quick sample:  The “red hall” photo at the top of this post is a fisheye lens shot, using a tripod and self-timer. Notice that the balcony in the top left is out of focus.  The black corners are the lens’ interior, as if we were looking out of a tunnel, because the lens isn’t wide enough for the job.  I wasn’t able to center the lens on the iPhone 6’s camera because the clip mount was on the edge of the phone’s body; that may have made the distortion worse.

Unpacking

The set consists of a macro lens,  a wide-angle lens with lens cap (and these two lenses arrive screwed together), a fisheye lens with lens cap, a plastic clip with a threaded opening that holds a lens, and a velvet bag.  There are no instructions; the most informative text I’ve found is Amazon’s product description.

The lenses have metal barrels; I was expecting plastic.  Because they don’t have inside lens caps like serious lenses do, they’re harder to keep clean.  The velvet bag doesn’t work well for storage.  The drawstring doesn’t close the bag very well, so they fall out.  When I grope around in it for a lens, I risk getting the lenses dirty with my fingers, because they don’t have enough caps.

The clip-on mounting system is imprecise and insecure; so it’s liable to distort your pictures.  

  • There’s no way to make sure the center of a clip-on lens is aligned with the center of the camera’s lens.
  • Unless you’re careful, you may seat the lens at an angle rather than flush against the phone’s case.
  • There’s no provision for dealing with variations in the distance of the clip-on lens from the phone’s lens.  Some phones have protruding cameras; others don’t.  And you may be keeping your phone in a protective case that increases the distance between the phone’s lens and the clip-on lens.

Macro lens

  • If you’re having trouble unscrewing the macro and wide-angle lenses, slip the end of a wide rubber band over the rim of the macro lens to protect it, grip it gently with pliers, and grip the rim of the wide-angle lens with your fingers.

These boring pictures are meant to test the lenses, not to sell them.  To minimize camera shake, I mounted the phone on a tripod and took these pictures hands-off, using the self-timer.  I’ve drawn some figures on the pictures with Photoshop Elements; I haven’t edited them in any other way.

IMG_1647

iPhone 6

Here is a test grid, taken with the naked phone.  (Please reply if you think you know what this grid is part of!)  The rows of holes should all be straight; and as the purple lines show, they are.  I used autofocus, as I figured a user of clip-on lenses would do.  The picture is a bit unfocused, even tho the phone claimed it was in focus.  To check the focusing, I enlarged the parts of the picture where the circles are.

Here’s the same grid, photographed with the macro lens.  I had to bring the phone to within 7/8 of an inch from the subject to focus it.  The pink lines show that there’s quite a bit of inward bending of straight lines (pincushion distortion).

IMG_1617

iPhone 6 + macro lens

Magnified focus test areas:

 

Wide-angle lens

A brick wall serves as our test pattern.  Here it is with the naked phone.  The white lines check for distortion.  I see slight pincushion distortion along the bottom line.

IMG_1566

iPhone 6

Magnified focus test areas:

Here’s the same wall, looking thru the wide-angle+macro lens combination.  There’s quite strong barrel distortion.  In addition, the inside of the lens body intrudes into the corners of the picture.  The lens isn’t wide enough for the job.

IMG_1576.png

iPhone 6 + wide-angle lens

Magnified focus test areas:

 

Fisheye Lens

Here’s the naked-camera test shot.

IMG_1662 lines

iPhone 6

I’m skipping the straight-line test for this picture because I expect a fisheye lens to bend the scene.  Magnified focus test areas:

Here’s the iPhone 6 plus the fisheye clip-on lens.

IMG_1692 lines

iPhone 6 + fisheye lens

Magnified focus test areas:

Conclusions

  1. The clip-on mounting system can cause distortion.
  2. The wide-angle and fisheye lenses don’t focus as well as my phone’s built-in camera.
  3. The wide-angle and fisheye lenses intrude the lens interiors into the corners of the pictures.
  4. All of the lenses have edge distortion and focusing issues.

You might have a little fun with these lenses if you’re not fussy about picture quality.  But if you’re shooting with a DSLR now, you’ll want to keep it.

If you’re already a victim, here are some thoughts about getting your money back.



Related posts

LUX HD450; bad company

spider-linkIf you’re researching the LUX HD450 clip-on phone lens, I’ll tell you up front; I don’t recommend the lens or the company selling it.  

The photo above shows the headquarters of the LUX HD450 Company on 6/9/16.  Okay, lots of legitimate home businesses use mailboxes.  But stick with me; I have more.

Many hands, one mailbox

Let’s google the address, “2658 Del Mar Heights Rd #368”, and see what else was going on here on Friday, 6/10/16:

  • Garcinia Slim Fast (also, a Ripoff Report on this product)
  • Elite Test360 (also, a Ripoff Report on this product)
  • PrimalCut
  • Jacked Muscle Xtreme
  • Natural Medicines
  • RippedMuscle
  • Miracle Green Coffee

Looks like this enterprise is not primarily a photographic equipment supplier.  I see many references in these pages to Delux Advertising LLC, which is tied to several other companies. (Thanks to David Staub for suggesting this address search.)

Web site comedy

If you click on a LUX HD450 advertisement or a “Buy it now” link in a product review, you’ll likely land on this web page.  Turn your sound down, because it’ll blast you with techno music.  Nice video.  Now let’s look more closely at the content (as of 6/10/16).  (Per their terms of usage, I’m not permitted to include images from the site.)

  • The first paragraph begins with the words “(Michael Whitfield)” as if he were the reporter.  But I couldn’t find anybody by that name online who is a journalist or is involved in photography.
  • Third paragraph; “It automatically filters your picture to the perfect setting, and works in every time of day including the night.”  But the lens looks clear; it must be quite a subtle filter, if it’s a filter at all.  Filters block part of the incoming light, so they wouldn’t be much help in the dark.  And pictures don’t have settings; cameras do.
  • “Christie from Dallas went backpacking last summer …”  I wonder how Christie recharged her phone in the backcountry?  This is fiction; that’s how.  Check the disclaimers at the bottom of the page: “The story depicted on this site and the person depicted in the story are not actual news.”  I’m guessing the same applies to the tweeted eulogies further down the page.
  • The lens brand comparison chart has a scientific look about it.  But who created it?  What are its sources?  As for the advice “Grab your set before the low introductory price is raised,” I found the same product sold by SMU Global on Amazon for $9.99.  The printing on the rims of the lenses, such as “0.67x Wide,” matches exactly.

Most of the links on the website lead to the order form, no matter what their labels say.  Home?  Order form.  Learn more?  Order form.  Once you land on the Order Form you can’t escape it by clicking your browser’s back-button.  You have to close the browser tab.

But About takes you to another advertising website.  The bottom of this page boasts “Made by LUXHD Cameras.”  Google and LinkedIn turned up no evidence that such a company exists.  If you click Home in this website, you’ll see a page with a photo of completely different lenses.  They’re also labeled “LUX HD450;” and here I thought “450” was a model number.  This website disables your back-button, too.

Fun with terms and conditions

In the lower right hand corner of the original website page, click a link labeled Terms And Conditions.  The self-obfuscating “LUX HD450 Terms Of Sale & Use” rewards the labor of reading it with some entertainment:

  • Section 3 limits the final resolution of a dispute to binding arbitration; you give up your right to go to court or join a class-action lawsuit.
  • Section 4B says that the company can take money from your charge account before it accepts your order.  Only when they ship your order do they accept it.
  • Section 4E says you can request a refund at any time — as long as it’s within 30 days of the date you made your order (not the date you received the product).
  • Section G says the company would treat a reversal of credit card charges as “theft.”  And it warns that the company monitors your online activity to use as evidence against you.  (I can see the NSA doing this, but not these guys.)
  • Section 5, by which time you may have fallen asleep, says the website’s content is for illustrative and informational purposes only.  They don’t guarantee that the product meets their own specifications, that it’s suitable for any use, that the website is correct and complete, etc.  However, Section 7E requires that any information you provide must be correct and complete.
  • Section 7D forbids you to re-sell products you buy on the website, even tho you’re pressured to buy three or more sets of lenses to get the $29-per-unit advertised price.

In upcoming posts, I’ll write about customer buying experiences and my own evaluation of the lenses.

If you’re already a victim, here are some thoughts about getting your money back.


Related posts

Photoshop Elements 11; Put an arrow on an image

Let’s use layers and the Cookie Cutter tool to make an arrow that points at something on a screen-capture image.  This is a handy tool for making instructional material.

Bring the image into PE.  Make sure that the Layers window is visible.Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 2.31.57 PM

Add a layer, by clicking the “folded sheet” tool at the left end of the Layer Window tool-bar (top right corner of screen).

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 2.22.14 PMName the layer “Arrow.”  Make the layer translucent.  Click the down-arrow next to Opacity and drag the slider tool to set an opacity you like.  Even if you want a solid arrow, do this now so you can see what you’re doing; you can change the opacity later.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 2.23.25 PM

Make sure Arrow is the current layer, so you don’t wipe out your image.  Make sure your primary color is the color of arrow you want (I’m using red).  Click the Paint Can tool in the left tool bar.  Click on the image to turn the whole Arrow layer red.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 2.24.25 PM

Click the Cookie Cutter tool in the left tool-bar.  It has several settings to pay attention to.

  • First, pick a shape; I like arrows.  Don’t worry about the direction or proportions of the shape; you’ll be able to change them shortly.
  • Make sure the proportions are unconstrained.  (Because working with “Constrained” feels like writing while the teacher controls your pencil.)
  • Make sure “From Center” is not checked.
  • For an arrow that isn’t fuzzy, make sure the Feather slider is all the way to the left.
  • Make sure “Crop” is not checked.  Crop would chop off most of your image after you drew your arrow.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 2.25.36 PM

Draw a box to cut your “cookie.”  This is the part of the Arrow layer that will stay visible; the rest of the “dough” gets thrown away.  Don’t click the green check-mark yet.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 2.26.22 PM

Move, stretch, squeeze and rotate the cookie.  If you mouse near the handles, you’ll see your cursor turn into the appropriate tool.  When it’s the way you want it, click the check.  If you change your mind after that, just Undo.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 2.27.17 PM

You might be wondering how I annotated the images in this tutorial with yellow highlighting.  I used PaintCat, a much simpler program–but it doesn’t make arrows!  8)

Southwest wilderness adventures 2016 — part 4

Central Utah

Friday 4/15:  We planned to drive west to Boulder UT today. Our way led thru higher mountains where the forecast was bad; Boulder had a 70% chance of snow showers and a high of 40 F. We drove north around the Canyonlands area to Hanksville; and bought gas and treats in the “hollow mountain” gas station, which except for its pumps is built inside a tunnel in a sandstone cliff.

Rain and snow hit us as we drove over the Waterpocket Fold ridge in Capitol Reef National Park. We paused at the visitor center. A ranger, on learning our intended route, warned us that the Boulder Mountain Pass snowplow stops working at dusk. She urged us to get over the pass quickly. Anxious about getting stranded, we bought a bag of groceries in Torrey. The storekeeper pointed out that the temperature was 46 F., too warm for snow to be a problem. “It never freezes until 4 AM,” she assured us.

Boulder PassArmed with contrary opinions, we headed up U-12. We soon saw snow, first in the trees and grass and then on the road. For several miles on each side of the 9600-foot pass, the world was white; fog obscured the mountains, and snow blew across the road. The temperature dropped to 26 F. A blurry, puny sun peered down thru the mist. That storekeeper must have been speaking of the weather in Torrey, not up here. We crept along, watching for poles and signs to stay on the road.

We dropped down out of the storm and started looking for our rental house. At first I couldn’t get on the Internet with my phone. Then I could, but Google Maps couldn’t locate the address. We saw nothing like the instructions the owner had emailed me. After three phone calls to the owner and a visit to a cafe for directions, we found a back road with the right name. I remembered that the picture of the house on the Internet had a single gable in the middle. We found a house with no number sign that had a single gable in the middle. I walked all around it in blowing snow and gathering darkness, peering under the doormats. No key.

I was for driving back to town and calling the owner. But Pat remembered hearing something about a pansy in the driveway; so we continued up the road. A few driveways later, we came to one with a plastic sunflower and the house-number we wanted. It was a very nice house; but we were a bit upset, and hungry too.

We drove back downtown (a clutch of small buildings at a kink in the highway) and had a good dinner at the surprisingly elegant Hell’s Backbone Grill. I wondered what the owner of the first house would make of our tire-marks and footprints in the snow. “It’s probably happened before,” Pat guessed.

Saturday 4/16:  The wind roared around the house during the night. It was snowing a bit during breakfast; then the clouds started to clear up. We went to the Anasazi State Park Museum in Boulder. Here are interesting exhibits of Anasazi artifacts and explanations of their technology, all based on an excavated pueblo ruin behind the museum.

This pueblo was built in about 1150, and abandoned after only 50 years. The pueblo had been purposefully burned–by whom and for what reason is unknown. We entered a replica of part of one building. Walls were formed of stones with adobe mortar (mud and stones). Small stones were used to fill in large gaps between the big stones. Ceilings were made of log crossbeams, covered by mats of small branches, covered by adobe. The ceiling was somewhat low. The Anasazi averaged 5 feet 4 inches tall–the same height as were Europeans at that time.

filntWe drove down U-12 to milepost 72, where a museum handout said there was a trail to a natural bridge on the Escalante River. We followed a faint car-track to a dry wash, and then followed the wash. Here and there pinion pines and juniper grew, or it was choked by flood debris. We came to a sandstone dome and clambered up onto it. We never found the bridge; but Pat found a sandy basin with a lot of thin, sharp, slightly curved shards of flint and chert. Flint-knappers had made spearheads here; or had done so nearby, and these fragments had been washed into this basin. Such relics are not to be removed; “Take only photographs, leave only footprints.”

Hole In The Rock Road

Sunday 4/17:  When we got up, we saw a bit of dry snow in the grass outside the kitchen window. It didn’t look like an auspicious day for wading; but we would soon be doing that.

We drove down to the Burr Trail Trading Post (a nice little café) to meet guide Keith Watt of Earth Tours for a day of hiking and canyoneering along the Hole In The Rock road. Keith was a geology PhD who’d opted out of working for corporations and academia; “If you hate your job, just walk away and live your life.” Our party also included Meera, a business analyst and amateur opera soprano from California; her dog Sadie; Ace, a local photographer, volunteer ranger and guide-in-training; and his dog Genghis Khan. This is BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, so dogs are allowed, unlike the policy of national parks and monuments.

As our SUV followed twisty U-12 into canyon country, Keith donned a wig and did a hilarious impression of local explorer John Wesley Powell, raving about how every little rivulet below Boulder Mountain and 50-mile Mountain had carved a giant canyon. “I’m glad I’m driving today instead of him,” Ace commented.

Midway between Boulder and Escalante, we turned south off U-12 onto Hole In The Rock Road. It’s named for a notch in the Glenn Canyon cliff to which it leads. The 1879 Mormon Hole In the Rock (San Juan) expedition widened and graded the hole with great labor (and dynamite) to make a passage down to the Colorado River for their wagons and livestock. Pioneers seldom afterward used the road; but it has become a route for recreational access to the heart of the Escalante canyon wilderness. This was a good dirt road as far as we went. If it were wet, of course, things would have been different.

Candyland

We parked and set off down an unpromising trail thru desert scrub. I told Ace, who was hiking rear guard, that I was going up a dry wash to pee. He walked ahead to the rest of the group and deadpanned, “Where’s Paul?”

We paused while Meera summoned Sadie, who’d found a rabbit to chase. It was all Ace could do to restrain Genghis, who was desperate to join the hunt.  Another group of hikers approached as we were about to turn off the main trail. Keith started channeling Powell again, delivering a pompous geology lecture sprinkled with Latin terms, until they moved on. “Works every time,” he chortled.

candylandHe didn’t want anybody to see where we were going. Before we left the main trail, he and Ace placed some fallen branches over the start of the side-trail, regretting that they hadn’t brought a broom to wipe out footprints. Then they led us to the trail by another route. “When you go off-trail, walk on rock to protect the plants and crypto (cryptobiotic soil, a fragile ground-cover of lichen and other microorganisms). If you have to cross sand, step on grass, or as a last resort walk in each others’ footsteps to minimize the damage. Sand in washes is okay to walk on, because the crypto can’t grow there.” Where no grazing is allowed, Keith has seen the delicate, frothy-looking crypto reach heights of 6 inches. Like Alice, he broke up any cairns he found, while muttering darkly about how the Internet is ruining the wilderness.

We hiked over several slickrock domes and crossed more washes. (Slickrock is sandstone bedrock. It’s usually fine to walk on unless sand makes it slippery. Early settlers whose metal-shod livestock had trouble with it named it slickrock.) We came to a sand-bottomed canyon whose pink and white-striped walls drew together like a funnel. Keith calls this place “Candyland.” (It has a more common name on the Internet, which I’m omitting here.) We stopped to change to shorts and put on water-shoes, left our gear and dogs in Ace’s care, and entered the funnel.

candyland canyonFirst came what seemed like an endless wade thru ice-cold water up to knee-deep. It hurt, and it didn’t get any better; “Faster!” I gasped. Keith obligingly sped up. I worried that I’d step into a depression that was really deep, but that didn’t happen. Next came a tight squeeze between canyon walls as little as one foot apart at shoulder height that met at the bottom. (This is what makes it a ‘slot canyon.’) We waded some more, then scrambled and squeezed our way (and pushed and pulled each other) thru several tight spots with coaching and help from Keith. Meera unleashed an operatic trill to test the echo.

When we’d gone as far as we could (about 400 feet) we turned back, taking pictures of the striped, fluted canyon walls until direct sunlight entered the canyon and made photography impossible. We left the same way we’d entered, with the advantages of gravity working in our favor and a bit of practice.

After drying off and changing back to normal hiking garb, we worked our way toward Tunnel Canyon, another slot canyon. A guide friend had told Keith that the water here was waist-deep; so we merely looked in. I saw a narrow canyon full of water, and was grateful to leave it at that. Part of the canyon was a double-ended cave; thus the name. But we weren’t able to see that part.

moqui marblesThe beige-colored slickrock in this area had collected spherical nodules along crevices and in shallow basins. They were heavy, dark brown and up to about 1.5 inches across; and there were millions of them. They were “Moqui marbles,” formed by iron dissolving out of sandstone and then precipitating onto iron cores. Silica also precipitated onto the cores; they were about 25% iron, and covered in rust. We’d noticed them sticking out of the canyon walls; as the sandstone erodes away, the Moqui marbles fall out and roll into low spots on the surface.

I wondered if a Moqui marble had a magnetic field. Kevin checked one with a magnet built into the strap of his eyeglasses and said apparently not. The name “”Moqui” comes from Spanish explorers’ term for the Anasazi; and from early Mormon pioneers who noticed little rooms in cliff dwelling ruins and guessed that a race of midgets, the Moqui, had built them. (The little rooms were really granaries.) I wanted to take home a marble as a souvenir. But the BLM had placed a “No Collecting” sign at the start of our trail, and I’m a good boy.

Keith picked up a clump of marbles cemented together with sandstone, commenting, “You need to be careful when you pick these up. There might be spiders under them or something.” A minute later he picked up another one and gasped. There was a scorpion on it! It was a rubber one, the worst kind; fortunately, its stinger had broken off.

Keith and Ace gave an interesting description of the Boulder community. Its population of 200 is half Mormon old-timers and half non-Mormon newcomers. The old-timers take a dim view of environmentalists (“Greenies”). “Greenies obstruct progress and take away jobs.” Keith grumbled about having to attend a boring Highway 12 meeting, but issues were afoot that he couldn’t ignore. There’s been a proposal to pave the Hole In The Rock road. And the billboard industry has been donating money to local politicians with an eye toward loosening advertising regulations. Billboards on U-12, which dances thru a series of beautiful canyons, would be a dismal prospect.

Devil’s Garden

We made another stop at Devil’s Garden. This short, easy loop trail circles a group of distinctive sandstone formations, including a sweet little arch.devil's garden

The Crack

Monday 4/18:  Hoping to locate a canyon that Keith had described, we returned to the Anasazi State Park Museum for maps and advice. The helpful attendant sent us down the Burr Trail Road that weaves thru the canyons east of town. A “No Collecting” sign was posted at the start of the road. We descended through white Navajo sandstone into the orange layer below. We stopped at a short dirt road 11 miles from Boulder, and walked down a dirt ramp into a canyon that locals call “The Crack.”

Here a small stream weaved across the narrow floor of a canyon with dramatic layered walls. A cottonwood forest within the canyon displayed fresh green leaves. Mexican grass, tumbleweed and willows lined the stream; we saw no sign of the invasive Russian olive and tamarisk trees that we’d seen along the San Juan River. Pat pointed out that the willows had dirt and debris banked up against their trunks; most or all of the canyon must have flooded earlier in the spring.

Pat at the CrackThree times we crossed the stream on “volunteer” stepping-stones. Pat noticed an interesting tree, which turned out to mark a side trail. This led us to a dry wash that climbed the side of the canyon. We found a shady spot for a snack. Then we got curious about what might be further up. From far away a canyon wall just looks colorful; but standing on it reveals a complex world.

We left our packs and climbed a steep dome above our picnic spot. Part of a ledge around the base of the dome broke under my weight; so I wanted to find a different route back down. We found a level stretch of a higher wash, and followed it down to a dirt hill next to our picnic spot. But I didn’t want to climb that hill because I might damage the crypto on it.

I told Pat I’d find a way down to the first wash and follow it back up to our picnic spot. The wash I was following joined onto a bigger one with a pink sandstone floor. This led to a drop-off that made me nervous. So I turned back, missed the side-channel I’d come out of and was lost. I saw some interesting stuff while casting around for the way I’d gotten here, including a slot side-canyon that might be the real “Crack.” But I resisted temptation, and went back to the drop-off to see if I could climb down somehow. Pat was standing in the basin below it, looking for me.

It was about an eight-foot drop, shaped like the spout of a pitcher. Slippery sand was present; handholds were not. So I walked back toward the slot canyon until I could climb over the left-hand ridge between the washes and meet Pat. This turned out to be the place I’d started from. So I slid down the dome to our picnic spot, despite the broken ledge, and was unlost.

All this fooling around had used up an hour; so we quickly hiked back to the car. Pat stopped at an organic grocery in Boulder and emerged clutching a weapons-grade dark chocolate bar to propel us into Arizona. On our way out of Boulder we saw a school bus; the driver was wearing a cowboy hat.

We drove down U-12, past the Hole In The Rock turnoff, to Escalante; then on U-89 past Bryce National Park (what a thing to skip!) to Mt. Carmel Junction. We had supper at the ’50s-themed Thunderbird Restaurant, featuring “Ho-made pies,” and moved on to Page AZ. Upon crossing the state line we gained an hour, because Arizona doesn’t acknowledge daylight saving time.

Previous; Moab area     Map     More pictures     Next; Northern Arizona

Comparing Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

As preparation for my neighborhood Democratic Caucus, I’ve made these impartial notes comparing the Dems’ two major candidates.  I’ve listed sources at the end of this post.  Keep in mind that this is a comparison at a point in time (March 2016).  To enable comparison, this is just a high-level summary; see the sources for details.

Personal

Sanders

  • Born in 1941 in New York.  Jewish.  Father; paint salesman.
  • Brooklyn College, University of Chicago; Political Science degree
  • 1962: Congress Of Racial Equality, housing segregation sit-in participant
  • 1963: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organizer, March On Washington participant
  • Applied for Conscientious Objector status; this was rejected, but he was never drafted
  • 1970-1979: Member of Liberty Union Party (anti-war); thereafter independent
  • Israeli kibbutz
  • Head Start teacher; various middle-class jobs

Clinton

  • Born 1947 in Chicago.  Father; fabric store owner.
  • 1964: Campaigned for Barry Goldwater (GOP)
  • 1968; Joined Democratic Party
  • Wellesley College, Yale University; Law degree; Yale Child Study Center
  • 1971: Senator Mondale’s Subcommittee on Migrant Workers staffer
  • 1972: Campaigned for George McGovern
  • 1974: House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Nixon impeachment inquiry staffer; allegedly fired for unethical professional behavior
  • 1974: Taught at University of Arkansas Law School
  • 1976: Campaigned for Jimmy Carter

Public service

Sanders

  • 1981-1989: Mayor of Burlington, Vermont
  • 1991-2007: House of Representatives.  Opposed the Iraq War.
  • 2007-present: Senate
    • 2008: Protested proposed bank bail-out
    • 2010: Delivered 8.5-hour filibuster against Bush tax cuts for the wealthy
    • Skipped the 2016 AIPAC pro-Israel conference

Clinton

  • 1979: Arkansas state First Lady for 12 years
    • Arkansas Educational Standards Committee chair
    • Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families co-founder
  • 1993-2001: First Lady
    • Task Force on National Health Reform chair
  • 2001-2009: Senate
    • World Trade Center redevelopment; 9/11 responder health issues
    • Supported 2001 Afghanistan invasion, 2002 Iraq invasion, enlarging armed services
    • Voted against Bush tax cuts for the wealthy
    • Voted against Central America FTA
    • Voted against Federal Marriage Amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriage
  • 2009-2013: Secretary of State
    • “Arab Spring” diplomacy
    • Military intervention in Libya
    • Advocated for women’s rights and human rights

Positions

Sanders

  • Campaign finance reform
  • Expansion of voting rights
  • Single-payer health care system
  • Environmentalist
  • Income inequality
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Pro-choice
  • Opposes fracking
  • Opposes use of GMOs in food
  • Opposes holding gun makers/sellers liable for crimes

Clinton

  • Lowering student debt
  • Criminal justice reform
  • Health care; improved coverage, lower costs
  • Women’s rights
  • Death penalty qualified supporter
  • Favors fracking
  • Favors or equivocal about use of GMOs in food
  • Has changed positions on gay marriage, trade deals

Weaknesses

Sanders

  • Vague over how to pay for social programs
  • Seems out of step with young peoples’ issues

Clinton

  • 1990s: Whitewater real estate project and bank failure
  • 2012: Benghazi attack led to accusations of State Department mismanagement
  • Used personal email address for government business
  • Financial and political ties to Monsanto

Potential to win over Trump

Sanders

  • Polls show him beating Trump by a wider margin than Clinton.  Quinnipiac University poll; 49% to 39%

Clinton

  • Favored over Trump in several polls.  Quinnipiac; 46% to 40%

Sources

Clinton, Hilary: Biography.com

fracking: Grist 9/5/14

GMOs, Monsanto: Institute for Responsible Technology 12/22/15 Washington Times 5/17/2015  Huffington Post 6/23/15

polls: RealClearPolitics

Senate: Wikipedia

Sanders, Bernie: Biography.com

fracking: Grist 1/28/16

GMOs, Monsanto: Huffington Post 6/23/15

guns: NBC 5/8/2016

polls: RealClearPolitics

Senate: Wikipedia

weaknesses: The Nation, 1/22/16

About comments

Normally, I publish all comments about my posts, unless they’re spam.  However, my policy for this post will be different.

I’ve been a moderator on another website that disallows any discussion of politics or religion, on the grounds that these topics tend to attract flaming and other stupid behavior.  I’ve seen that this is a good policy for maintaining a pleasant and respectful online community.  So that’s my comments policy for this post.