Friday, May 29, 2009

The real deal

I've already been out of my apartment for five weeks now and have been able to put Taunto to the test. It works well as a studio apartment and is actually pretty cozy, but as of this weekend, it will be the five of us living together and tenting it. My internet access will be limited to when I'm in the library or a coffee shop and my phone may be turned off more often to increase battery life.

So far, all of the skylights and the roof on Taunto have been sealed to keep out any water leaks. The water system has been tested, bleached, and flushed. We also learned how to dump the tanks. The only critical project we have left to do is to check the propane lines and test the system. Chances are that won't happen until after we're all settled though.

Our first destination this weekend will be Curtis Canyon. I don't think the RV will be going up the canyon road, but it should be a fun night of camping. The views of the Tetons from Curtis Canyon are great.

Weather in Jackson has been great. It's been consistently in the high 70's and low 80's. Last week was "Old West Days" here in town and the start of tourist season. There has been a noticeable increase in traffic downtown.

I've been trying to go on a short hike or mountain bike ride every day. I still have a lot of trails in the area to explore, but so far my favorite trails around town to ride are "Putt Putt" and "Sink or Swim". I might do some exploring and check out the trails in the pass tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gear Review: Black Diamond Alias Avalung Backpack

This is a great touring pack. It has one main compartment (top-loading) with a pull cord top for easy access, plus a small zipper pocket on top for small items. It has a separate front pocket for shovel, probe, etc. Several straps on the outside allow for adequate compression and an outer shell can easily be thrown under the top pocket. It holds skis well when boot-packing- make sure you have a ski tie of some sort for the tips (A-frame style). I've carried my EP Pro's (127mm underfoot) with this pack many times; fat skis are not an issue. Luckily, I haven't had to use the Avalung, but it could be considered a good safety device.

[ BD Alias in use, with skis attached ]

There are a few parts of the pack that I dislike, but they don't take away from the overall positive feeling. The waist belt could definitely be a little thicker for more support. I also feel that an outside attachment for a shovel handle would be much more appealing than throwing the handle in the snow pocket. Maybe my Voile TelePro shovel handle is longer than others, but I it pokes up into the top pocket when cinched down.

I put a nylon cord through the small loops on the top of the pack to secure small items down. I found this to be convenient.

Overall, I love the pack. It's the perfect size for touring (30L), holds skis securely, and is comfortable to wear. Also, the Avalung may dig into your shoulder if you buy the wrong size for your torso, so definitely try it on before buying!

Click Here
to buy the Black Diamond Alias at!

Friday, May 22, 2009

A drive to Gros Ventre

I took a drive up to Gros Ventre this afternoon to scope out summer camp sites. The weather was amazing.

[ The Benz in front of the Tetons ]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Homemade Salsa

My friend Lis introduced me to a tasty homemade salsa. It's quick, easy, and cheap.

1 can black beans, drained (I like to use a strainer and rinse the juice out)
1 can corn, drained (I'm experimenting by using a mix of corn/peppers)
1 small can of diced jalapeno peppers (Use more or less depending on desired hotness)
Tortilla chips

Mix all ingredients, chill, and serve with chips.

This is the basic version of the salsa... from here you can add tomatoes, onions, etc. to mix it up and add variety. Another version of the recipe that is also good is replacing the jalapenos with mango and adding cilantro. Try it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gear Review: The North Face Tadpole 23 Tent

I've decided to start a weekly review of outdoor gear to keep things moving during the off-season. With summer weather finally here, I'm starting off this week with one of my most important pieces of equipment- my tent.

My parents gave me the Tadpole 23 as a graduation present about five years ago. I've used it for many backpacking trips over the years and it's still holding strong. The three-pole frame is functional and allows for a quick, easy set-up. The rain fly offers adequate vestibule space. It fits two people comfortably and is a great size for a single person. Overall, it's pretty lightweight and small, making it fairly easy to find a flat spot for set-up.

[ A beautiful evening on the Alaska Range in the Tadpole 23 ]

The only downside I've found is the edges getting wet around the bottom when it rains. I don't think it's something you can really avoid, but I found that adding rope loops to the fly make staking it down a lot easier. Not only does it allow the fly to be pulled further from the sides of the tent, but it allows you to use rocks or logs to hold down the fly if necessary. This is a great help when you're on river rocks or solid ground when you might not be able to stake the fly down securely.

Click Here
to buy the Tadpole 23 at and don't forget to buy a footprint for it!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Joe's visit from CO

Joe came up to Jackson for the weekend from Colorado Springs. It was a quick two day visit, but we packed a lot in.

The bike swap at Fitzgerald's was on Saturday morning. I went there with the plan to find a cheap hardtail trail bike. Instead, I left with a beefy full-suspension. I bought a Kona Coiler Supreme. It has a 24-inch wheel set and a a Fox Vanilla fork... 6 and 6. It's a good size for me.

This bike is lighter and a lot easier to throw around than the Balfa was...not a full on downhill bike. It's still fairly heavy, but it's capable of climbing and it's incredibly fun on the downhills. Joe came to the swap with me hoping to sell a pair of rims, but instead purchased a Santa Cruz Bullit. It's a beast. We're pretty happy with the outcome.

[ Santa Cruz Bullit and the Kona Coiler Supreme ]

We were able to get out and do a lot during his short time here. We went on several bike rides, we went for a ski in the pass, and we climbed both High School Butte and Josie's Ridge. I'm learning that there is so much to do around here in the summer. There are dozens of bike trails to explore. So far I've only been on two; both are minutes from town.

The weather this weekend was great. It's been in the 70's and just in the last day or two, the leaves started to open up on the trees. Everything is turning green and even some wildflowers are starting to bloom.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New Music

I spent part of last night with Jake at the community radio station, 89.1 KHOL. He was working a show from 7-10. We found some good music worth checking out.

Old Crow Medicine Show - Tennessee Pusher
Folk/bluegrass album released in September of 2008. Bootleg Flyer covers several of their songs at Bluegrass Tuesdays.

Crystal Method - Divided by Night
Electronic album released in May of 2009. Jake is pumped on this new album...I'm pretty sure he played half the album on the air last night.

Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream
Electronic album released in February of 2009. Reminds me of the artist MGMT and Cut Copy.

Summer Stoke

Summer is just around the corner... here is a little bike riding entertainment. This guy is sick.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Skiing for Julie's Birthday

Today is Julie's birthday. We hiked Glory in celebration. It was a mix between sunshine and crazy snow/ice pellet storms. The ski down was great.

[ Gearing up for the hike ]

[ Looking down ]

[ The weather started getting pretty nasty as I got close to the top ]

[ The shelter was buried with snow... Andrew and I dug it out ]

[ The valley ]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Photo Stoke

I haven't posted much lately, so here is a little photo stoke from the last year. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Taunto is Alive!

Taunto is finally alive and well again! We had not been able to drive Taunto in five or six weeks due to starting problems. Jake and I spent a good amount of time trying to diagnose our issues.

After many hours with an electrical tester, wiring diagrams, and mechanic books from the library, we were able to figure it out. On Monday, we replaced the starter motor and all our problems were solved. It wasn't an easy task, but we did it. I think we learned a lot in the repair process, both about engines in general and the RV itself.

[ Jake reaching into the engine compartment ]

[ Getting at the starter from below ]

[ The start motor has been removed! ]

So far, we have replaced the battery, the starter, spark plugs, the fuel filter, and I repaired the PA system. We still have some work to accomplish before the end of the month. We need to put some weather striping on the roof and seal around the windows to make sure there are no leaks. We also need to fabricate and replace the skylights, inspect and test the propane lines, and replace the carpeting. It's a good project.

Slim and Ian stopped in Jackson for a quick visit on their way up to Bozeman. The weather was pretty bad for most of their stay, but we were able to get out and see the area. We took Taunto for a drive to the Kelly hot springs and then to the airport to pick up Sarah. The hot springs were pretty gross.

[ Slim ]

[ Checking out the hot springs ]

[ Soaking was a negative ]

Friday, May 1, 2009

A week in California

The last week has been great. It was nice to get out of Jackson for a while. I left for Tahoe last Thursday with Jacki, Sarah, and Lisa. After I finalized moving out of my apartment, we were on the road for the 12-hour haul in Lisa's 4Runner. He hit up Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, and finally California during our travels. It was extremely windy and we encountered several large dust storms going through Nevada. The total driving distance was right around 725 miles.

[ Our driving directions were on paper plates ]

[ Driving food - trail mix and pepperoni on crackers ]

[ Jacki and Lisa making gypsy braids ]

We reached Tim & Elizabeth’s place in Tahoe City at about 7:30 in the evening. I went to Karen and Mikaela’s to barbecue and hang out. I hadn’t seen either of them in a year so it was nice to catch up.

We woke up Friday to lots of snow. It had snowed 6-8 inches at Squaw Valley and a couple inches at lake level. The snow was heavy, but definitely fun. Tim showed me some pretty cool chutes off of KT-22. The clouds cleared up soon after our arrival and the sun started warming everything. There were a lot of shallow wet slides in the steep areas, but nothing to be too concerned about.

After a couple hours of skiing, we spent some time in the High Camp hot tub and then had a sushi break before heading home to make dinner. Friday night we went out to some of the local favorite spots, the BT and then Peter n’ Pete’s for some rounds of shuffleboard.

[ Gettin' ready to ski some pow ]

[ Afternoon heat - if you look closely, you can tell that the photo is looking in the exact same direction ]

[ Headed back to Tahoe City after some sushi ]

[ Tim & Elizabeth's place ]

[ Preparing some pre-dinner nachos ]

The weather on Saturday was incredible. We spent the day hanging out and playing games at Secret Beach on the East shore of the lake. It was a great day to be in the sun. For dinner, Tim and I made a meat heart-attack. A meatloaf roll wrapped in a bacon weave- grilled and served on a bun.

[ Exploring Secret Beach ]

[ Lisa - "The red dragon is back!" ]

[ Playing corn hole on the beach ]

[ Climbing on the rocks ]

[ Jacki and Lisa in the air ]

[ Meat heart-attack ]

On Sunday I hung out in town with the girls. We went to a few shops and then down to Emerald Bay for some good views. It was a relaxing day.

[ Scoutin' ]

[ Emerald Bay ]

[ The crew ]

We woke up early on Monday for a short ski before heading to San Francisco. It’s about a 3.5 hour drive to the coast. We stayed at the Old Heritage Marina, a sketchy motel with great views of the city. We met up with some of Tim's friends; Daryl and Kevin. After getting some pizza, went to a baseball game to watch the San Francisco Giants play the LA Dodgers. The Giants won 5-4. It was a fun night.

[ Arriving at our motel ]

[ We quickly learned that it was very secure ]

In the morning, we were all excited to visit the Buena Vista for breakfast. We had heard about their famous irish coffee. I had a great breakfast of eggs benedict made with sausage. After eating, we headed North to Sonoma; wine country.

[ Morning view ]

We spent our time in the Dry Creek Valley where there are over 50 wineries. Each winery had about half a dozen wines to taste. We stopped in at the Bella Wine Caves followed by Armida where we hung out in the sun and played bocce ball. All of the wineries in this area are fairly small. We pretty much had the valley to ourselves.

[ Bella Wine Caves ]

[ Wine tasting in the caves ]

[ Relaxing in the sun with some wine and cheese ]

[ The Two Patch zinfandel was incredible ]

[ Barrels ]

[ Tasting wine at Armida ]

[ Getting more sun ]

[ Playing bocce ]

We spent the evening exploring downtown Healdsberg, eating some dinner, and relaxing in the hot tub at the hotel.

[ Exploring downtown Healdsberg ]

[ Town square park ]

Wednesday was our last day in Sonoma. We spent the day checking out more vinyards and taking in the sunshine. We visited the Dry Creek Vinyard, Raymond Burr, Quivera, and Lambert Bridge.

[ Lunch at the Dry Creek General Store ]

[ Raymond Burr Vinyards ]

[ Chillin' ]

[ Tim & Elizabeth ]

[ Sarah posing with a corvette ]

[ Tim posing with the UPS truck ]

[ Exploring the vineyards ]

[ Up close ]

[ Are those Emmy awards? ]

I had never been too crazy about wine, but I enjoyed being able to taste so many varities and finding which ones I liked the most. Some of them were great. Every vineyard we visited offered it's own taste and feel. They were all great experiences.

On our way back to Tahoe, we stopped at Daryl's resturant Dream Farm in San Anselmo. The food was incredible and everything was made in-house. I had steak and fries topped with a really tasty blue-cheese butter. Daryl served us an abundance of appetizers with our meal followed by an ice cream dessert.

[ The girls all fell asleep ]

Thursday was spent back in the car. Lisa, Jacki, and I dropped Sarah off at the Reno airport and we continued the trip home to Jackson. We made pretty good time coming home, covering 250 miles in the first three hours. The total trip home was probably about 11 hours.

We were driving fast all the way through Nevada and Idaho and had no issues with cops. Leave it to the Jackson police to pull us over within minutes of crossing Teton Pass. We were probably within 5mph of the speed limit. Lisa talked her way out of it.