Monday, October 31, 2011

The Zombie Apocalypse Is Upon Us!!

OK, maybe not a full-blown ZA but I’m sure I saw some undead types out there. And superheroes, unicorns, princesses, fairies, lions and tigers and bears…oh, my! I love Halloween, not just for the little ones but I’m even glad more adults are getting into the act of dressing up and embracing their alter egos, both dark and light. Unfortunately it’s starting to become just another marketing opportunity – like that other holiday in December. Don’t wreck it for me, people! Keep it Unreal.

Yesterday T-Man carved a really nice little Jack the Pumpkin King and we’ve got our goodies all ready to hand out. My favourite part of this is eating the roasted pumpkin seeds. They’re half gone already. Yum. We broke down this year and bought a disposable light for Jack at the dollar store instead of a candle, even though T insisted he’s going to miss the smell of burning pumpkin. Heh. I’d rather not start a house fire myself.

In crafty news, I’m totally bummed with my Oatmeal Jacket. I’ve been struggling with the darn thing since the beginning of September! I finally thought I had finished the body and sewed the shoulders together…backwards. Then I tried it on (inside out) and it…doesn’t fit at all on the shoulder and neckline area. It’s much too wide even though it’s on gauge for a medium. Pooh. Now it’s in time-out yet again while I decide whether or not to frog it right back to the armholes and try again or whether to give it up as a total loss. The jury is still out. Now I know why there are only 9 projects on the pattern’s Ravelry page and a number of them have modifications or aren’t finished – including mine. But it looks so cute on the original model! Deceptive little bugger. Grump. Grump.

Progress is also slow on the Dark o’the Moon Gloves. The Knotty Gloves pattern and the knitting of same are working out just fine except that it’s dark yarn on teensy black needles and hard to see without good light. Not evening knitting for sure and also needs too much attention to read while doing it. For me, that slows down the production considerably.

Instead I’ve been knitting with this yarn that I bought for $.97 a ball at Michael’s the other day. (Thanks to darling Sharon’s influence! Hi, Sharon!) Aren’t these just my colours?

KroySocks 1009

I’m using a ribbed long sock pattern from Drops and so far my Autumn Kneehighs look like this:


Too bad they aren’t ready for Halloween but I can’t knit that fast! This Patons Kroy Socks Stripes yarn is considerably thicker than usual for sock yarn and the yardage per 50g ball is only 166 so I got 6 balls. And for less than the usual cost of just one ball! Hopefully that will also be enough for some fingerless mitts to match. We’ll see.

Off to work in my studio for awhile today. I need to get brave and finish some pattern drafting for new sewing projects. More anon.

Happy Halloweeeeeeennnnn!!!! Watch out for the zombies, OK? Apparently they want to eat your SKEINS!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Geezer Geyser Gazers: Part Five

I’m going to try to finish this up today. Quick before I forget where I’ve been and what I’ve done! I have lots of great photos and memories but putting them in the right order and getting the details right takes some research.

Where did we leave off? Oh yeah, Grand Teton.

Day 16 – We left Coulter Bay and travelled south to the cute little touristy town of Jackson, Wyoming, where they have huge decorative arches made out of…elk antlers. Everywhere. It’s kind of cool in an icky sort of way. I’d personally rather see the antlers on the elk! Here we turned west and were finally on the homeward run.

Right out of Jackson we groaned up the very steep Teton Pass and into Idaho and over another pass then down onto the prairie. We drove and drove past sage brush and farmland and finally reached volcanic land again. This time instead of a caldera we were on a huge multi-level lava flow called picturesquely Craters of the Moon. The campground was located in the midst of huge black cinder rocks:

Day16Craters campground

Very different from anything we’d ever camped in before! They had a really interesting visitors’ centre and we learned about the successive volcanic lava events that created this huge area. We also learned the difference between pa-hoe-hoe and a’a lava. Bet you thought it was all the same, huh?

Day 17 – It was really quite hot here so we geared up accordingly for our day driving around the loop road and walking the trails to check out the volcanic features: sunscreen, hats, water and heavy boots. Cinder is sharp!

First we hiked up a cinder cone:

Day17Craters cinder cone

See the trail? It’s there. It’s also higher than it looks:

Day17Craters cinder cone view

A view from up top. We checked out some smaller spatter cones:

Day17Craters spatter cones

You could climb up and peek inside these two. There were black paved trails everywhere:

Day17Craters trail

…because they definitely want to discourage you from trying to walk on the lava rocks:

Day17Craters lava rocks

Miles and miles and miles of this. Complete with caves formed by collapsed lava tubes:

Day17Craters lava tube

We peeked into a couple of these. There are some that you can explore but you need a permit and we didn’t have one. Also I hate caves. Except tame ones and these aren’t. This goes in for many yards and is bigger than it looks. Wish you could feel the cold air emanating from it!

This day was also T-Man’s birthday but since we were in the middle of nowhere our celebration was somewhat subdued. He didn’t really mind of course. We’re almost always away on vacation on September 25 so he’s used to not getting cake and presents. I was knitting diligently on his sweater though which apparently was satisfactory.

Day 18 – Another travel day. We were heading home so we weren’t planning more than one night anywhere from here on. We crossed the rest of Idaho and then into Oregon to a place we’ve stayed before, Farewell Bend:

Day18FarewellBend egret

That’s Idaho over there on the other side of the Snake River and an egret with his neck tucked down standing on the gravel bar. Is he in Idaho or Oregon, Pacific or Mountain Daylight Time? Does he care?

Day 19 – A long travel day where we took some scenic smaller highways through the middle part of Oregon where we’d never been before. This narrow canyon goes through the badlands and the John Day Fossil Beds. We didn’t have time to check that out though.

Day19JohnDay Fossil beds

After getting a little lost in the town of Madras, Oregon, we finally wended our weary way to Cove Palisades State Park. In the middle of the prairie farmland the Deschutes River dug an impressive canyon:


It’s a really busy place in summer but here at the end of September it was winding down so we could only stay at the upper campground, not down by the water. Our elevation made for a pretty impressive sunset view though:

Day19CovePalisades sunset

Yes, that’s a volcano in the middle there, Mount Jefferson, one of the line of volcanoes down the West Coast. We saw quite a number of them this trip including Three Sisters, Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier and of course the closest one to home, Mt. Baker. We passed very close to Mt. Hood.

Day 20 – This was shopping day in Portland which I already blogged about here. But before that we spent a little while checking out the rest of Cove Palisades. After packing up we drove down, down to the river and along the narrow edge and across a little bridge to the other side where we found these neat petroglyphs:

Day20CovePalisades petroglyphs

Apparently they had moved the rock from its original spot when the river was dammed and flooded the area. There were some tempting trails and another campground (closed) but we needed to get moving. So we drove back across the bridge and up, up to the level land and navigated our way back through the confusing side roads to Madras. From there we headed north and neatly bypassed Mt. Hood and into Portland from the southeast.

After hitting the fabric store and the book store we crossed over the Columbia River into Washington and found a campsite in the damp woods at Seaquest State Park, on the road into Mt. St. Helens. We’ve been there a number of times before so we just rested after our long day.

Day 21 – Now back in very familiar territory we zipped up the I-5 freeway to Olympia and made a slight detour left towards Shelton and T-Man’s shopping stop at Frantz Glass. From there we continued up the west side of the Hood Canal to Port Townsend.

Unfortunately this year we were too early for the fun Kinetic Race parade. But we managed to score a campsite in Fort Worden which was a definite coup because it’s incredibly popular. We played hide-and-seek in the fort’s concrete bunkers and checked out the vintage lighthouse:

Day21FtWorden lighthouse

We also spent half an hour watching river otters, a mom and her youngster, playing:

Day21FtWorden river otters

Impossible to get a better shot of them because we didn’t want to get too close.

Day 22 – We couldn’t get another night at Ft. Worden so we drove down into the old downtown area of Port Townsend to check out the shops and then caught the ferry over to Whidbey Island. There were lots of campsites available at Fort Ebey.

After a walk along the cliff and down to the beach, where I picked up a load of Whidbey’s nice smooth rocks, we staggered back along the road with bulging pockets. We stopped to watch the local parasailing guys practice their liftoffs and landings:

Day 22FtEbey parasailor

This grassy promontory is a popular spot for that activity for some reason. There wasn’t quite enough wind though so there were some pretty spectacular fails. Crazy people.

We followed our usual custom of having a celebratory glass of wine in the late sunshine on the bench on the cliff above the water. Another couple were doing the same thing a short way down and a fellow walking the trail asked whether someone was serving! It was funny but maybe you had to be there…

Day 23 – Last day. It’s only about 3 hours home from Whidbey so we had plenty of time. It was a fairly painless 15 minutes or so at the Peace Arch border crossing. Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Geezer Geyser Gazers: Part Four

I’m dithering today. It’s really noisy outside because they’re finally paving the street that they chewed up while replacing the water mains. I was going to go get my hair cut and run some errands but it’s raining so I decided to wait until tomorrow when it’s supposed to be much nicer. Meanwhile I should be doing the laundry and the vacuuming. Instead you get the next instalment of the GGG 2011. Bet you thought I’d never get around to it, huh? Oh ye of little faith(ful).

Day 14 – If you remember back to the last GGG post, we were still in Yellowstone and camping at Madison Junction while exploring the Old Faithful area. The next day we went back south again to catch up on things that we missed. First we visited the Fountain Paint Pot area:

Day14Yellowstone FountainPaintpot

It’s huge but not nearly as exciting when you can’t sense the heat, the smell of sulphur and the “blub-blub-blub” of the boiling mud. The colours were really subtle and pretty. These dead trees have “bobby socks”:

Day14Yellowstone BobbysocksTrees

The minerals have slowly seeped up into the trunks and caused them to remain standing when they would otherwise have fallen and decayed. There were lots of other features in this area to see too, which we did and then we headed to the Midway Geyser Basin for more. 

You couldn’t really see the biggest geyser here, Excelsior, due to the huge amounts of steam in the early morning air. It apparently was a regular geyser in the late 1800’s but broke itself and didn’t erupt again until 100 years later in 1985. It blew up rather spectacularly for a couple of days and hasn’t gone again since. Who knows when it will erupt again? BTW Excelsior eats hats. At least according to the number of them that we saw lurking in the bottom of the pool between the steam clouds. Fascinating.

The prettiest thermal feature here (among many) is Grand Prismatic Spring, in gorgeous green and turquoise surrounded by its huge bacterial mats. It’s the largest spring of all at 200 feet across:

Day14Yellowstone GrandPrismatic

You can’t get a photo of the whole thing, even if the steam would blow off for awhile. Unless you can fly above it!

After Midway we stopped at Biscuit Basin which includes this pretty and very deep pool:

Day14Yellowstone Sapphire

It’s called Sapphire for obvious reasons. Then we went back to Old Faithful and saw a few more things that we’d missed the day before. This one is Anemone Geyser, which has 2 vents:

Day14Yellowstone Anemone

It’s just a little guy…er, geyser, but it erupts every 7-10 minutes and is quite entertaining to watch. First it’s just a hole which slowly fills up with water, then starts to bubble, eventually spouting about 8 feet in the air awhile, then subsiding and finally disappearing with a sucking sound. The other vent alternates with bubbling up but it never gets very high. Fun!

Another good one was Sawmill Geyser:

Day14Yellowstone Sawmill

This one pumps up to about 50 feet and swirls around with a grinding sound. It’s usually erupting about 30% of the time so it’s easy to catch. One that we didn’t catch for the second try was Daisy. Elusive wench. We were too late again. After watching Old Faithful erupt yet again, we headed back to camp for a another night at Madison tired but exhilarated.

Day15 - Of course we weren’t getting out of Yellowstone without a whole lot more hot stuff! We had missed the Black Sands Basin the day before (parking lot was full – of bison!) so we thought we’d finish up the area before we headed further south to Grand Teton, which was only short drive away. Somewhere along the way we stopped to watch this grand moose:

Day15Yellowstone Moose close

No, we weren’t that close! More like:

Day15Yellowstone Moose far

Moose scare me more than bears do! We continued east over Craig Pass and crossing the Great Divide several times to West Thumb, a funny name for a section of the huge Yellowstone Lake.


Apparently this bit is a later addition to this gigantic volcanic caldera. We never even saw the main part of the lake at all! And yes, there were more hot springs and geysers here too. The most interesting were several geysers in the lake itself:

Day15WestThumb Lakeshore Geyser

This one’s called Lakeshore and apparently sinter cones don’t usually form underwater. One of these cones called Fishing Cone, was once used as a fishing spot where one could catch a fish and then cook it in the boiling water right there! Unfortunately this trick is no longer allowed. Darn.

After West Thumb we finally turned south toward Grand Teton National Park. We got a campsite at Coulter Bay on Jackson Lake. It was quite empty being nearly the last day they were open this season. Pretty lake:

Day15GrandTeton Jackson Lake

This is only a wee corner of it, an isthmus that connects that near-island to the mainland. I managed to collect some nice glacier-smoothed rocks here for my pattern weights collection. However we were a little disappointed with Grand Teton for some reason. The mountains were rather decorative. I’m sure their name (which loosely translates as “big titties” believe it or not!) was coined by some love-starved French trappers. Cracks me up. (Apparently I’m still 12.) But we found that the supposed trails were bad or non-existent, even to get from the campground to the lake. And they wanted a ridiculous $3.75 for a shower in separate tacky “Does” and “Bucks” rooms in the laundromat. Ugh. We stayed dirty. We did manage to successfully shop for souvenir t-shirts for the grandbeasties in the gift shop though. And then we left early the next morning.

Here is where I’m going to leave the tale for now. That was only two more days and it took quite awhile to tell it! I’m starting to forget what we did and in what order now so I’d better finish up before the whole trip becomes just a distant memory. And a bunch of pretty pictures.

In craft news, I’ve been spending inordinate amounts of time making patterns for the next couple of sewing projects. I now have what I think is a satisfactory basic dartless bodice pattern that I can use for a number of garment shapes. At least I can use the armholes and shoulder lines and check the body widths to make sure there’s enough room without having to redraft everything every time. Franken-patterns here I come! Next I need to add darts for a more fitted bodice. And make a basic skirt pattern. And scariest of all, a basic pants pattern. I have a satisfactory one for stretch pants but not for wovens.

I’ve also been knitting a little on my Oatmeal Jacket and a lot more on the Dark o’the Moon Gloves. These are knit using the Knotty Gloves, a free pattern by Julia Mueller. I’ve gone down to my usual 2mm needles though for small enough gloves for my tiny little hands. I’ve gotten this far:

DOM gloves_prog

And the other one is nearly that long too. I’m quite liking the pattern so far. Nice long cuffs. Yay.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Some Finished Objects For Your Perusal

Today we have some actual FOs! Yay!!! First up, there’s sewing in which my self-drafted shirt pattern came out eggzakly the way I wanted it. I’m so happy! Can you tell?

Batik Shirt

Batik Shirt (Pay no attention to the hair that needed cutting last week!)

Completed:  October 19, 2011

Fabric:  Hoffman Bali Batik, 100% .rayon, 45” wide/2 yards, purchased at Fabric Depot in Portland, OR. (Still have 1 yard remaining out of the 3-yard piece.)

Notions:  very lightweight gray non-woven fusible interfacing, 7 – 1.5cm buttons, Gutermann sewing thread: brown.

Pattern:  self-drafted v-neck shirt with wide, straight hem that hangs in a curve in front/back and points at sides, plus large patch pockets.

Comments:  This gorgeous batik called to me in the store after I thought I’d finished loading up the cart with bolts of fabrics. It’s such a lovely colour combination of golds/olive/maroon/black and blends right into my wardrobe. Then on the way home I saw a shirt in Port Townsend that inspired this project.

I washed the fabric in the machine on normal in warm water and dried it in the dryer on regular heat. I didn’t want any surprises in the washing machine later! However I was surprised when it came out of the dryer completely wrinkled but it easily ironed flat again with some gentle steam. A nice heavy rayon plain weave and a little slippery and stretchy on the bias. I used my new smooth rocks collected on our vacation for pattern weights.

I used french seams and lots of topstitching plus a very lightweight interfacing cut in narrow strips to stabilise the neck and pocket edges and a wider width for the front facings. I also used self-made bias binding on the neck edge. It looks very nice on the inside, marred only by the sloppy serging on the armhole edges. Because this fabric takes a good crease it was easy to press all the turned hems and have them stay put while stitching. The buttons were a smooth deep burgundy on top but the underside was more interesting, darker and with pockmarks giving it an earthier look. So of course I used that side up.

This shirt fits me absolutely perfectly! I think I’m getting the hang of this fitting thing at last. The only drawback is that there isn’t room under it for more than an undershirt so it will be best for warmer weather or with a sweater over top. I’ve already discovered a few good layering options in my collection. It does crease a little when I’m sitting but it’s not bad at all for rayon.

Further laundering will be much more cautious than its initial treatment. I plan to wash my new shirt on gentle and hang to dry, pressing while still damp. This should help it last longer. I’m certainly not going to take it to the dry-cleaner! Ick. There’s a good reason why I wash everything before I sew it – so I can continue to wash it without worry. I’m always amazed at how many garments are labelled dry-clean only when if the fabric (and trims) were properly pre-shrunk in the first place, it would handle a gentle washing just fine. I even machine-wash wool and silk. But then I’m brave.

Speaking of wool, next up is the sweetheart sweater that I’ve been working on since August:

Handspun Brownstone


For:  a very lucky and appreciative T-Man

Begun:  August 15, 2011
Completed:  October 22, 2011

Pattern:  Brownstone by Brooklyn Tweed (aka Jared Flood), size men’s medium.

Yarn:  my handspun NZ Corriedale yarn, natural black, worsted weight 2-ply, approximately 100g skeins (full bobbin), 125-150 yds each, 7.5 skeins or around 1000 yds. Wool was teased, carded on Pat Green Deb’s Deluxe drum carder with production drum, spun on Louet S-90 wheel, with middle whorl (8.5:1 ratio?), plied same.

Needles:  Denise interchangeables, Addi Lace circulars, Clover bamboo dpns. Sizes 4.5mm (main), 3.75mm (ribbing).

Notions:  2 – brown wooden toggles, brown sewing thread.

Comments:  This was a major undertaking! Not only a man-sized long-sleeved pullover sweater but knit completely out of handspun yarn too. I originally bought this lovely black fleece (really a very dark brown) from Penelope Fibres for the class with Anne Field but changed my mind because I wanted to use Canadian-sourced fleece for that instead. (Oh darn! The black fleece was coming to live at my house instead! Awww…) It was quite pricey as these things go but very uniform in colour and texture. Unfortunately it also had quite a number of grass seeds which I had to pick out in the teasing. Otherwise it was a clean perfect fleece. I was surprised at how easy it was to keep a fairly even yarn – although it’s much heavier than I’m used to spinning. (Good thing too because there’s another sweater out of this in the works! For me this time.) I tried valiantly to keep it soft but durable. Hope I’ve succeeded! Although I had washed the fleece carefully, the yarn needed a good hot wash in Power Scour after it was spun to get out some remaining grease. This treatment also set the yarn nicely and fulled it just a teeny bit.

The pattern was wonderfully clear and only needed a tiny tweak (slightly longer sleeves) to make it fit T perfectly. I love the short rows that extend the back and shoulders to keep it from riding up plus the back of the collar to make it snug the neck. So elegant. Swoon. And it’s all knitted in one piece so there’s only a tiny bit of seaming to do. Jared is a genius designer. I used a spit-splice to join on new yarn and you absolutely can’t tell where these joins are. Of course the slight unevenness of handspun hides a multitude of sins. Heh.

The gauge seemed to work out just right. I needed smaller needles than the suggested sizes. It was obviously worth knitting swatches before beginning! Apart from smoothing the stitches and softening it up a little, there was no change in measurements after wet-blocking. T says it’s nice and warm and he plans to get a lot of use out of his new sweater this winter.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


This is another one of my diversionary posts. Real life is getting in the way of my GGG tour report but I decided to just go with the flow. I’ll get to the rest eventually. Promise.

Meanwhile, back home life continues galumphing along. Have you seen how pretty the Japanese indigo flowers are?


Tiny soft pinks on red stems. So far the plants are holding up ok even though we’ve had a few light frosts in the mornings. Today promises to be quite warm so I’m hoping it will encourage these flowers to get on with seed production. Quick before the anticipated La Niña-induced cold weather sets in. Last year we had unusual killing frosts in November.

Speaking of dye plants, I’ve managed to chop, dry and package a second large bag of weld so now I have lots. It’s really an easy-to-grow dye plant with good light-fast colour. Too bad so many people are not fond of yellows. And it’s such a brilliant lemon-yellow too! Cooler than marigold or coreopsis yellows. Weld makes a great base for clear greens and a brightener for madder oranges. It’s a tall plant in its second year and all parts (except the thickest stems) contain the dye so you don’t need many plants to supply a year’s worth of colour. And a lifetime’s worth of seeds! Luckily they have dye in them too so I just include the extras in the pot with the leaves, flower heads and thinner stems.

While the weather has been good T-Man and I have been trying to get lots of exercise. We’ve walked a lot nearly every day running errands. Other people drive to the shops while we take a couple of hours longer and just walk. It’s a great way to enjoy the neighbourhood and the changing seasons. The gallery opening I had mentioned on Friday featuring Jorie Johnson’s felt creations was fun. We followed it up with fish and chips at Tony’s since we were already on Granville Island. I’ve had a craving for fish and chips while we were on our vacation. Not a particular specialty in Montana or Wyoming. Beef, yum! Halibut, not so much. So nice to have a craving satisfied, yes?

We didn’t walk on Sunday though. Instead we took the bikes on the van out to the Pitt Meadows dykes. There’s a whole complex of flat dyke trails out there, unfortunately gravel rather than paved but mostly not too bad. It was sunny though a little cool in the shade and we rode nearly 12 k in total. It was lovely:


And quite rural with farms full of blueberries and cranberries as well as ornamental trees and greenhouses full of bedding plants. The blueberry bushes are just getting really colourful:


Gotta grab these days while you can, right? In crafty news, I’m back knitting on the Handspun Brownstone sweater:


I’ve already used most of one of my newly-spun balls of wool and am cruising up the shoulder area toward the neck. Of course this means I’ve taken the Denise needle tips off the Oatmeal Cardigan again:


I did finish the back first though. Can you see the difference in the pockets which have been washed and blocked and the main sweater which is still in its just-off-the-cone state? The pockets are lighter in colour and much softer and more cohesive. It’s quite a dramatic change. If I’d known before I started, I might have skeined off all the yarn and washed it first. At least it wouldn’t be quite so dusty and smelling of machine-spinning oil. However, now that I’ve gotten this far there’s no point. It might change my gauge too much. I’ll carry on when I’m done T’s sweater.

So what else? I’m slowly sewing up my Batik Shirt. I’ve been having a lot of fun figuring out new combinations of old and newly-sewn clothes so I’m looking forward to adding this piece to the collection. No photos yet unfortunately. And I have lots more fabrics and ideas to work on too. Never a boring moment around here, is there? Not to me anyhow! This afternoon it’s back to the garden for some more fall clean-up.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Geezer Geyser Gazers: Part Three

Finally! Here we are again with the next instalment. Where did we leave off?

Day 12 – This was another moving day in Yellowstone. We woke up to freezing temperatures in Norris campground and shivered our way through getting dressed, breakfast and packing up. By then it was warming up considerably and we were starting to remove clothing layers. T-Man used the public phone to make a reservation at Madison campground so we didn’t have to rush to get there.

It’s only a little more than 13 miles from Norris to Madison but there are several stops of interest on the way. We joked that Yellowstone is a place of hot and cold running waters everywhere. On the maps in the book that I got at Norris (Yellowstone Treasures by Janet Chapple – invaluable) the hot stuff is printed in red and the cold ones in blue. Sometimes the hot and cold are running into each other:

Day12Yellowstone Chocolate pot

That’s one of the Chocolate Pots on the Gibbon River. It does look for all the world like a giant bubbling chocolate fountain due to the iron content that stains everything dark rust. The river appears deep indigo blue over the rust-stained rocks on the bottom.

A little further down the road is the Artist’s Paintpots. A trail leads to a loop that takes you around and up to a viewpoint where you can see the delicate colours:

Day12Yellowstone Paint pots

Each pool is different: pink, orange, green, blue. We spent ages watching a huge mud pot blub like a lava lamp. We also watched a small pool that went from calm to little bubbles to a roiling boil and back to calm  – all within the space of a few minutes - then repeat. Fascinating.

For the cold selection, we enjoyed the stop at Gibbon Falls:

Day12Yellowstone Gibbon Falls

Not as spectacular as Yellowstone Falls but very pretty in the morning sunshine. We also checked out Beryl Spring before getting set up in the campground at Madison Junction. Even with our reservation they tried to give us a very unsuitable campsite where we hung out in the road and had no space to put up the awning. So T had to go back and get it switched to something better. They seem to save any good campsites for the “big busses” which I think is a little unfair. We all pay the same amount.

We relaxed a bit for the rest of the day, apart from a stroll along the rivers. Here the Gibbon River meets the Firehole River and becomes the Madison. Remember the Madison from earlier where we camped at the spot where it plus the Jefferson and the Gallatin rivers become the Missouri? Here is much earlier along in the sequence:

Day12Madison Gibbon and Firehole Rivers

The rivers are very good fishing apparently, judging by the number of fly fisherman about. We saw quite a few good-sized trout swim away from us as we walked along the bank. Supposedly it’s due to the high calcium carbonate thanks to the geothermals. We even found a lovely warm spot at the edge of the river where several ladies were sitting and dipping their toes. Probably waiting for their fishermen.

Day 13 – This was the big geyser day. After securing our campsite for another night we drove south the 17 miles to Old Faithful. Of course there were lots of other things to see on the way! First we took the one-way loop road past National Park Mountain through the narrow canyon to Firehole Falls. Next we checked out the Lower Geyser Basin where we stopped at the Fountain Paint Pot loop walk. Clepsydra Geyser was doing her thing:

Day13Yellowstone Clepsydra geyser

Apparently she rarely stops but pauses when Fountain Geyser nearby is active. There’s water spraying about 20 or 30 feet high there. Not as huge as these things go but pretty spectacular anyway. There were many other pools and geysers too including the paint pot, bubbling mud tinted with iron oxides.

We skipped some of the stops, saving them for later, and headed to Old Faithful Village. There are several lodges and shops there including the spectacular Old Faithful Inn built of lodgepole pine, stone and wrought iron in 1903-4. It’s a National Historic Landmark for good reason! Unfortunately I couldn’t get a really good photo of it, inside or out. I just stood in the lobby with my mouth hanging open looking up!

There’s also a brand new visitors centre too with educational displays and listings of the times when the few predicable geysers in the Lower Geyser Basin are due to go off. The question everybody asks “When is Old Faithful going to go” has the joking answer “About 15 minutes after the benches are crowded”. Really it’s more like an hour to an hour and a half apart. We managed to catch it several times over two days:

Day13Yellowstone Old Faithful with rainbow

See the rainbow caught in it? So lovely. However, if that’s all you see at Old Faithful you’re missing a ton of good stuff! The boardwalk trails criss-cross to the best sights. The bison were enjoying the green space between the geothermals:

Day13Yellowstone Castle geyser with bison

That’s Castle Geyser in the background. It’s so very old that it has built itself quite a cone of geyserite. Unfortunately we didn’t see it erupt. However we did see Grand Geyser:

Day13Yellowstone Grand geyser

Which was quite spectacular – even more so than Old Faithful. We lucked out on the timing for this one since it only goes 7 to 10 hours apart and got the bonus of 3 for the price of one. You can just see Vent Geyser in front there and in between is the bubbling Turban Geyser. The neat thing about Grand is that it has huge bursts that rumble and roar. You think it’s done and it starts again spraying 200 feet in the air! It can do this up to 4 times but we only saw 2 on our visit.

There are other sights to see besides geysers here:

Day13Yellowstone Beauty pool

This is Beauty Pool which apparently is losing some of its colour. Still awfully pretty though. I loved the interesting patterns in the bacterial mats that occur either around the pools or in the runoff areas:

Day13Yellowstone bacterial mats

All different from each other. This one is Crested Pool:

Day13Yellowstone Crested pool

It has a deep centre and a ring of white geyserite. And I think this pool is our favourite:

Day13Yellowstone Morning Glory pool

It looks for all the world like its name, Morning Glory, and is about 20 or so feet across and very deep. It also is losing its colour but is even prettier than Beauty.

We walked our little feet off and still managed to miss Daisy Geyser’s eruption. By this point we were getting tired so we walked the paved bicycle trail back to the village and had an ice cream. There was always the next day to explore some more.

However we couldn’t stop ourselves from driving the Firehole Lake Drive one-way loop on the way back to Madison. We saw a bunch more interesting features including a whole steaming lake complete with paddling geese so it couldn’t have been too hot! This handsome raven posed for us:

Day13Yellowstone Raven

There are more ravens in this area than crows. They are big and cheeky and we watched one try to pick apart a pack on somebody’s motorcycle while the owner was elsewhere. It was a trick a number of them had learned because we saw it happen a couple more times. Don’t keep your snacks in something the ravens can undo! Smart birds though.

Well, I’m going to have to leave this to go make lunch for T-Man. Only got through 2 more days! Not to worry. It will go faster when we’re on the way home. More to come.

In other news, I got the garlic planted and most of the fall rye seed in. The weather has been cool but sunny and the soil is moist so it’s perfect for gardening. I’ve nearly finished spinning 2 more skeins of yarn for T’s sweater too. We’re off to a gallery opening tonight: Felt by Jorie Johnson at the Silk Weaving Studio on Granville Island.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Drive-Thru Post

Yeah, I know everyone is waiting for the next instalment of the GGG report. However, I’m having complications. My camera has decided that it doesn’t want to work with any of my available batteries. I also just got a new upgraded version X4 of Paint Shop Pro and it’s…different. Just enough different to take me some time to figure out how to process photos the way I want. Plus I’ve run out of yarn for the Handspun Brownstone Sweater so have to spin some more before I can finish it for T-Man. And in between I’m sewing up a shirt in the rayon batik fabric that I bought in Portland.

At least it’s been raining enough that I’ve been discouraged from gardening. I have more fall rye to plant, along with the garlic and some spring bulbs. Every time I try to get outside it starts to sprinkle. The soil is much too wet to work with anyhow. I’m holding out hope that the currently blooming Japanese indigo will mature into seeds before frost. Right now I have enough leaves from it and also the woad that I could do a vat of each but I’m not sure I’ll get to it. Oh well. I’m running out of things to dye anyway. I have the rest of the weld in the basement and am slowly chopping it up with the kitchen shears. I have to do it in short bursts or it hurts my hands and gives me blisters. I will have lots from this year’s harvest and there are more first-year plants in the garden so I won’t need to plant any more next spring. Have several teaspoons of seeds though! Anybody want some? How about woad seeds? Oh yeah. It’s supposed to be a noxious weed. Not nearly the PITA that lemon balm, feverfew, cornflower, oregano and alyssum are in my garden! Even raspberries that keep popping up in the pathway. Woad is pretty well-behaved in comparison.

So this is all you get for the moment. Sorry about that. I’ll get to the next part of the GGG as soon as I can. Meanwhile, go do something creative! I’m off to spin.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Geezer Geyser Gazers: Part Two

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.” - Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

So true. And I really do try to remember that every day. I can’t say I’m a huge Apple fan (though I love Ruby, my iTouch) but I do believe ol’ Stevie came up with some great devices that literally changed the way we work, play and communicate. Gone too soon – he was 5 years younger than me. RIP, man. Cancer sucks.

Anyhow, I’ve been heating up the pixels to a boil and trying to organise, edit and recall what the heck I took pictures of and where for the next instalment of the Geezer Geyser Gazers road trip. It’s really hard! So many exciting things I want to include but either the photos don’t do it justice or it’s just Too Much Information. Regardless, I’m going to give you something rather than be paralyzed by my indecision.

Where did we leave off? Oh yeah.

Day 10 – Yellowstone, the highlight of a pretty amazing trip! This was the first national park ever and it’s one of the most special places in the whole wide world. Most of it is in Wyoming but a strip on the west is in Idaho and one on the north is in Montana. It’s huge (3476 sq miles to be exact) and mostly undeveloped but all the good stuff is easy to get to by road and/or short trail. There are 5 park entrances in total depending on which direction you’re travelling in. (At the gate they charge you $25 for a week’s permit which also includes Grand Teton.) From where we left Three Forks, Montana, there are 3 roads you can take to get there. Two get you to the “side door”, West Yellowstone, while the farthest one goes in through the north end, which of course is the one we took. We meandered through the cute little tourist town of Gardiner and through Roosevelt’s Gate (Teddy laid its cornerstone himself) into the park. We hit it just at the right time of year, when the crowds are less but the weather is still perfect. Or almost perfect. It went below freezing several nights in a row but heated up to toasty warm before 10am. Talk about your contrasts.

There are limited places to stay in Yellowstone and some campgrounds were already closed for the season. We dove into the first campground we came to, Mammoth Hot Springs, (which is the only one open all year) and at not-even-noon-yet just managed to snatch one of the last available campsites. We weren’t far from the main Mammoth centre but it was a stiff uphill climb (and we only found the trail later) so we drove the 180-degree switchback instead. Once there we were amazed at the large herd of elk that had taken over the lawn of the lodge for a siesta, complete with large buck nibbling the grass, and an equal herd of tourists snapping their pictures while being kept to a respectful distance by park rangers. So funny! We had just mentioned that we hadn’t seen any elk on this trip yet.

Even more amazing were the travertine (calcium carbonate) terraces just above the tiny town. See it way down there:

Day10Mammoth Travertine terraces2

They were steaming sulphurous vapours and super-hot water was pooling and pouring down the levels like very elaborate (and stinky) marble fountains:

Day10Mammoth Travertine terraces

A complex system of boardwalks and staircases lets you see the lower section up close and a loop road gave us access to the upper terraces. This is the only place in the park that has this type of feature though we saw a lot more of the sinter (hydrous silicon dioxide aka geyserite) which here is in little walls forming pools that are either empty or full of very hot water:

Day10Mammoth Sinter pools

It looks like snow, doesn’t it? Especially with the dead trees embedded in it. Colours are added by bacteria that live even in the super-hot water. This was our introduction to the geothermal areas in Yellowstone and we were definitely impressed. Everyone who thinks that Old Faithful is all it has going for it are so wrong!

Day 11 - We woke up in the morning to an odd sound and peeked out the curtains to see that the elk herd of yesterday had wandered down to the campground and they were just outside the van:

Day11Mammoth Elk herd

Photographed through the dirty window. I wasn’t going out there! Turns out the odd sound was this:

Day11Mammoth Bull elk

Mr. Very Large Bull Elk trumpeting his success at having attracted such an immense harem! Can you imagine how the poor guy in that little orange tent felt? He crawled out later after the herd wandered further away looking just a bit dazed.

After that exciting awakening we packed up and travelled about 15 miles south to Norris Junction. On the way we stopped here:

Day11Yellowstone Roaring Mountain

Roaring Mountain is right on the road and it was really steaming in the cool morning air. It actually does make a roar with steam vents all over it. The pool in front was dry but apparently sometimes fills up with hot water. You never know where you’ll come across steam vents in this park. Even at the side of a river. There are many areas where you aren’t allowed to walk for your own safety. People have been killed here by stepping in the wrong place. They even occasionally have to move the boardwalks when it gets too hot under them.

After securing a campsite at Norris, we decided to take a side trip to the eastern area, about 12 miles away. Yellowstone is actually a huge volcano caldera and has a large loop road that goes all the way around to the best sights:

Day11Yellowstone Canyon waterfall

This is apparently the most photographed waterfall in the world, in Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. So of course we dutifully took our turn with the cameras! The canyon is quite spectacular and we took advantage of trails on both sides of it including right up to the top of this same waterfall. We also drove further south to Canary Springs and Mud Volcano:

Day11Yellowstone Mud volcano

That’s about 15 or 20 feet across just to give you some perspective. It “blurbs”! There’s a number of other geothermic features here too including this favourite:

Day11Yellowstone Dragons Mouth Spring

Dragon Mouth Spring. It roars and puffs out steam so that you might think a dragon lived in the cave! Across the road Canary Spring is bright yellow from sulphur and is the most acidic pool in the whole park. You had to watch out, even the parking lots have hot spots here:

Day11Yellowstone Parking lot

When we got back to Norris, it has its own geyser basin so we went to check it out too. This an overlook of the lower section, Porcelain Basin:

Day11Norris Porcelain Basin

The pale colours are delicate on the white geyserite and acid-leached lava: greens, peaches and yellows from the bacterial mats, turquoise blues in the pools from refracted light. Coupled with the sounds of steam vents, including serious one that roared like a jet engine, and droplets of water condensing like sprinkles on your head, it was a most amazing place and we followed the boardwalks everywhere. The upper section, Back Basin, had lots more pools and geysers, including the well-known Steamboat Geyser, which steams and spouts innocently but is actually the world’s largest – except that it hasn’t gone off since 2005. No, it didn’t do it for us while we were watching either. Another one, Porkchop Geyser, was a continuous spouter until 1989 when it exploded. Now it’s just a steaming pool with jagged boulders. It was fascinating to learn that every feature has an individual character and that they change! Maybe today, maybe in 1,000 years. Or 100,000.

Gee-whiz. Here I’ve only gotten through 2 days’ worth this time! There’s so much more and we haven’t even gotten to Old Faithful yet. More when I get the right photos sorted out. I’ve got to get out to the garden while the getting is good. I managed to get the greenhouse cleaned out and the dead summer squashes and cukes composted. Much more awaits and Ruby is all charged up with podcasts to listen to as I work.