Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
For a couple of reasons, we realize how unprepared we were for the hike. Because we dilly-dallied, we should have known we would be getting back to the cars after dark, and more of us should have brought our headlamps...even as a relative novice, I have two of these devices, and they've served me well on the Half Dome and Old Rag, but I failed to bring either of them on Duncan Knob!
Also, both Chris and Andy had altimeter watches with them - and since I am interested in getting one I wanted to see how they work. So as we prepared to start out on the summit spur of the trail I asked for an altitude check. Chris turned on his Suunto and Andy his Casio Pathfinder...
Well, it turns out there is a little chore called calibration that had been neglected in the preparation - you have to peg a current altitude on local barometric pressure (or you can get your actual altitude from Google Earth) so this function will be accurate. Even so, some variation is going to be typical in the instruments, for all sorts of reasons.
Chris had warned me about this, I guess even he, a true gear nerd, found it somewhat challenging. So this morning I did a quick check of Amazon reviews on Suunto and Casio Pathfinder altimeter watches and found that it's a common frustration. In fact, reviewers there often knock the watches down a peg because of the difficulties. There is an even more challenging calibration requirement for the compass features.
I also checked the product web sites...there is extensive information on how to calibrate there. So, I conclude that this is something you've got to get the hang of - set into the pre-hike preparation routine.
Although we don't have the best track record on this yet, it's something we're going to work on.
Here are Amazon product pages for Suunto and Casio watch examples.
Suunto Vector Wrist-Top Computer Watch with Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, and Thermometer
Casio Men's Pathfinder Solar Altimeter/Barometer/ Digital Compass Triple Sensor Watch #PAG50-1V
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I'd say this is pretty similar to how I've come to think about things, as a consultant in my case. Maybe there was something to the responsibility they gave us back then - I supervised 25 people when I was 23, for example. We never faced hostile fire in the environment I worked in, of course, but we did handle a pretty high profile assignment there during the Cold War. Here's Jeff's list of management tips:
"-What looks like mindless chaos is often entrepreneurial magic waiting to happen.
-Sometimes, the most helpful things managers can do are -- crosswords.
-Generally, the only true limitations organizations have are the ones imposed on them by management.
-Any participative management approach with great potential, when imposed on an organization from above, will turn into a mindless ritual of filling out forms to prove everyone is participating.
-The greatest minds often aspire to nothing more than doing the thing they find most intellectually stimulating.
-People who work for you, if given the simple right to screw up multiple times, will do their best never to do so even once.
-If you give people the right to screw up, they'll do their best to see that no one notices when you do.
-When you're most in a hurry, having the patience to wait for your people to come up with the right answer will save you untold embarrassment when your own inherently inane solution crashes and burns.
-When you find yourself statistically proving that morale is high instead of checking to see if people have smiles on their faces, disaster is right around the corner.
-If your operation is going down the toilet, sometimes the guy who cleans the bathroom is the best source of how to stop it and turn things around.
-Doing things right often looks sloppy, messy, and completely disorganized."
Monday, March 23, 2009
2004 - 1.27m
2005 - 1.10m
2006 - 1.09m
2007 - 1.11m
2008 - 1.09m
(Photo is from the SNP site on www.NPS.gov)
Karen Beck-Herzog, a public affairs specialist at the Park, has been making the rounds to talk about this - she was recently at the Chamber in Luray, and she outlined a couple of new programs designed to bring more visitors. The PNC article also highlights that the use of campgrounds and interpretive displays has increased, despite the decline in visitors.
The economist in me wants to hypothesize that longer stays by campers, fewer day trips by visitors from further away, and other characteristics of this type of Park use means that fees will go up and services will be stretched to meet demand. On summer Sunday afternoons, it is already unpleasant in the Skyland parking lot due to garbage and litter, for example.
Mary and I buy an annual pass and I write about the Park often - we can see it from the cabin. It's a feature we treasure. But these articles bring to mind some concerns. Time to think about how to make a contribution to conserving the place, and making it better.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I've been thinking about how to add a solar energy element to the house in Alexandria, and we want to begin doing some things along this line to the Hawksbill Cabin. Today I found information about a solar roof tile product called Sunslates. I was pretty excited to see the installation at www.sunslates.com ... then I read the finer points - 1kw for 100 sf on a south facing roof, and an estimated installed cost of $15K per 100 sf. That's going to take some planning and saving.
While the porch roof in Alexandria faces due south, and there is about 200sf installable surface there, the cabin installation would be more challenging. While the house was built with a due south perspective to maximize natural light in the main room, the roof slopes from front to back making installation of a product like this not feasible - we'll have to continue our research.
Also, a friend at work sent me this. I am not a FiOS subscriber, but I had been wondering about this..."Attention FiOS subscribers: This week we had Verizon FiOS (fiber optic internet and cable) service installed at home. After inspecting the installation, we learned that the central box they install to run the system needs to be plugged in--so we get to pay for the juice. Additionally, the TV set-top boxes cannot truly be turned off. A real energy hog!Using our trusty Kill-A-Watt EZ meter, initial estimates are that each box is drawing about 40 watts all the time. That translates to about $3.50/month. Multiply that by several boxes and it really adds up to serious dollars and carbon. The simplest solution is the Smart Strip--a power strip that kills the power to the set-top box--it really turns it off--when you turn the TV off...from www.amicusgreen.com ."
Friday, March 20, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Our area - and Shenandoah National Park in particular - is said to have the highest population density of black bears in the country. If that is a frequent destination for you, it is likely you will encounter one, if you haven't already. In fact, last year, Mary and I ran into a mother and cubs once on a hike near Big Meadow, and then I saw another late in the summer sauntering along Skyline Drive.
Evan's put together a great series of posts - highly recommended! http://wildlifeinphotography.wordpress.com/
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
First thing - get a couple more carpenter bee chambers. I trust that these things work (http://carpenterbeechamber.com/) and will be taking down the ones from last year soon (photo is of me installing a soffit mounted version last year.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
My guess is there is less than 200 vertical feet to the Duncan Knob rock scramble (if anyone has authoritative information on this, please send it along). Still it is quite intimidating on the first encounter, for a few reasons:
- There is no indication of what’s ahead until you are there;
- There are no blazes through the rock field, so you have to pick your own line – which you will constantly second-guess all the way up; and
The boulders are of all sizes and shapes, and some of the small ones are loose, as if they’ve just arrived in their positions. This movement can be unsettling (…because who knows, maybe the whole pile will come down?).
The photo above was taken midway up the scramble, during one of my second guessing moments. I was heading generally up and to the right, but wondered if this inviting flat surface – down and to the left – might be hiding a better line for me.
Finally, at the top, we found our reward. A couple of wide open flat surfaces to have a seat on, adjust our gear, have a snack and a drink, and most importantly, enjoy the views. Here are photos of Chris and Andy just arrived at the summit and a look over into Page Valley. The ridge line of Shenandoah National Park is visible in the distance.
After about a half hour at the top, we began making our way back down.
Andy, Tom and Chris got a little ahead of me and stopped, so I had them pose for this final photo.
All in all, this is a great hike. Our version was 8 miles in all, with the rock scramble coming at exactly the halfway point. That couldn’t have worked out better.
Everyone was invigorated by the experience, and we’re thinking of what’s next. For myself, I want to do Duncan Knob again sometime, probably again next spring or on a warm break during next winter. I’m also thinking of some of the other summit hikes in GWNF – including Stickler Knob, “The Knob,” and Signal Knob, if these are feasible. Some research and planning ahead on this account.
A last note here – my friend Howard at Evergreen Outfitter gave us advice that was the key to selecting this trail – so thanks again, H!
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
There is still no indication of what’s ahead at this point…hikers are still about a quarter mile from what’s really interesting about this hike – the rock scramble. This is not a technical scramble, like what’s on top of Old Rag – it’s a field of large boulders strewn about. I think the word scramble fits this experience better – while you’re freelancing your way through, you never touch solid ground, and you are using all fours to get through. And – no blazes here to guide you through to the top.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
Murray’s offers lessons, books and gear. The two-day schools for trout run on weekdays from April to May, and are two days long. They’re conducted on the Rapidan River inside of SNP. His smallmouth bass schools are done on weekends from June to July in Edinburg, and the fishing is done on either the north or south fork.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Although it varies from month to month, this averages out to about 20 visits a day (slow months were July and December, at an average of 13 and 16 visits, respectively). On the page view statistic, Hawksbill Cabin readers average about 1.5 pages per visit, which has been consistent over the period we have information for, since last June.
About half the readers are from Luray and Harrisonburg, (thanks to http://www.hbblogs.com/ – readers who aren’t familiar with this aggregator should check it out, because they will be pleasantly surprised by the vibrant community there!). The rest of the readers are folks who know me (family and friends), and then there are those finding the blog through random Google searches.
The Google search finds can be interesting. Last year, after the fire in Stanley, VA, which occurred during the same week two historic buildings burned down in Stanley, England, we had seven or eight visits from there, obviously looking for their local news.
Also, the Old Rag Hike and Half Dome Hike entries generate interest during hiking season. We’re getting hits on the periodic Sherriff Presgraves updates, as well as on Gracie’s canine renal condition (it is comforting to know that others are going through the same thing with their pets, and are sharing information about the experience).
It is a pretty humbling experience to know that folks are finding and reading the blog. And as my friend Brian, would say, “I guess this intro-net thing is going to catch on someday!”
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Winter’s getting away from us, and since I haven’t done any rigorous hiking in a few months (actually, in a couple of years…) we have downscaled our expectations. We now are planning to do Duncan Knob using one of the two routes described on the Hiking Upward site:
The final choice between these two will depend on the weather Saturday, since the access road through Chrissman Hollow closes when inclement weather is expected. Right now the forecast shows a warming trend starting Thursday going through Sunday, high of 71 expected on Saturday, with the possibility of rain.
Chris and I used the Duncan Knob hike as part of our training “regimen” getting ready for the Half Dome Hike we did back in 2005. Because this hike had some good altitude changes, we thought that the climbing would help us – I’m sure it did. But because we were doing that in the summer, and the Hiking Upward site has copious photos of timber rattlers, we never did the rock scramble to the summit, which is our goal this time.
Chris has confirmed, and another friend, Tom, is planning on joining us. There may be one additional hiker. These guys all live in the Leesburg area, where they are close to the AT, but they’ve “hiked out” all the nearby trailheads and were looking for something “extra” to try.
Howard from Evergreen Outfitters is a Duncan Knob enthusiast and suggested that it would be a good season-starting alternative to the longer hike we were looking at. When I chatted with him recently, he shared a photo or two of a group camping at the summit. My group will take its time getting up and back – if we are lucky enough to have good weather for the full circuit on that first hike, we will probably need five hours or so to complete it, as opposed to the four hours shown on the site.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
This is an accessible trail, paved with a slight incline. The .3 mile route is populated with interpretive signs that explain the geology of the ridge and Page Valley below. At regular intervals, there are little steps that lead off the trail into what looks like gathering areas where tour groups can stop and listen to guide talks.
Typical of the topography in this area, sandstone layers break through the ridge in places, and layered stones and rocks are visible along the way. But the real prize is at the end, as you crest the ridge.
They’ve built an observation platform up here that looks down to the Valley below – almost 1,500 feet down! Here are a couple of views…looking Northeast and due east. The final one is a view looking straight down from the viewing deck.
I’d seen the trailhead a few times driving through this area, but we never stopped. I am glad I did this time and hope to be able to show this place to some relatives soon.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Approaching on the path from the drive (these azaeleas will be beautiful in two months!); a look at the pool (Daris says, "not long now!"); a view of the pine trees and the road (they are just pretty); and a view looking across the brick terrace (that's the fire pit near the front door).