Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Photo’ Category

Last weekend my wife and I went to Knoxville for a one our daughter-in-law’s surprise birthday party, my wife’s family reunion, and other visits. What makes this so amazing is that my wife had had health problems that prevented her from significant travel or visiting- she was in much pain and it simply wore her out. About 3 weeks ago the symptoms suddenly began to go away after almost two years of intensifying. She has been to many doctors, but mostly they could not pinpoint the problems, which are not all solved but she feels like she has a life again. She decided that the birthday party with many people would be too much for her, so I dropped her off at her sister’s house to have a quiet visit while I was at the party.

Her husband is very patient to talk to my wife at the slower pace of someone with aphasia.

I missed the surprise moment of the daughter-in-law’s arrival, but there was plenty of visiting all around.

Visiting with my six grandchildren by my oldest son and his wife was enjoyable.

My oldest son is listening to a story by his pastor. We went to church with them the next morning. You can see my sister-in-law in the pink pants getting to know one of my grandchildren.

The pastor is also a near neighbor, so the grandchildren feel comfortable with him and his wife.

I said that there were six grandchildren. The one in the green cap holding his mother’s hand in an earlier picture didn’t stand still long enough for me to get a picture. My oldest brother is a retired pastor and quite the UT fan.

My sister-in-law is quite the story teller. You can about see her spinning a yarn here to my youngest son: “Ye…eeep! It was a real humdinger.” The daughter-in-law’s brother is listening to another story with pleasure.

My third son has that “are you taking my picture” look, but his wife just smiles.

The family gathered for the reunion at Cumberland Mountain State Park on Sunday afternoon after church. Eating and talking is what you do at a reunion. Most of the participants are past playing games.

Mother and son.

Who looks more mischievous, uncle or nephew?

Brothers.

Their spouses.

The eight siblings of my wife’s family and all but one of their spouses are still alive even though the siblings range from 63 to 86 years old. They didn’t get to have a reunion last year and everyone feels like this can’t keep happening from now on, but they are blessed to still be alive and still enjoy getting together to catch up on what has happened in the last year or two. Could you point them out in order by age?

My two oldest grandsons and their father rode with us to the reunion. The others stayed back for a much needed nap. We had gone on a hike together previously, so they wanted to go again. We went down the road a short distance to the dam where we found a trail down by the creek.

The bridge over the dam is the most picturesque feature in the park.

Besides painted dots to mark trails, the park has these special trail markers, this one on Black Oak bark.

I am trying to keep up on the march in the woods.

This is fun, grandpa, but the creek water is only cool and not cold as we expected.

It floats but will it support any weight?

I had the boys in their cowboy hats and boots stand by a healthy Eastern White Pine.

After returning to my son’s home we visited for awhile before departing to my oldest brother’s house for the evening. I was focusing in on my grand-daughter, who is the first second daughter in four generations among the male progenitors. Speaking of whom, the party, reunion, hike, and visit after a week of laboring has rendered him tired. We were all ready for some rest, but content with time we had to visit.

Indeed the years are passing, and we become more desirous of renewing family ties as time goes along. God has been good to our families according to His mercy. We should love those around us and build relationships while we can, because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, though we can guess what many tomorrows will. Life is short so we best be about knowing God and knowing people while we have the opportunity, because eternity is coming. I am so thankful for the young ones coming along, and I pray regularly for their salvation, health, relationships, and knowledge base. May they know Him and give Him glory. Life is good, because God is good.

Read Full Post »

I usually like to keep my titles short and leave the depth for the text and images. I’m reversing that today. I frequently have ambitions upon arising in the morning of gettin’er done. I have learned, however, to better go with the flow, be patient with the process, and pray through it.* I only had limited time, needing to do other things in the afternoon and having every expectation of eventual rain. I finished the railing on the deck. Then I realized that I needed another load of lumber. Of course, I’m not blind, but frequently I can keep working until the need for a certain piece of lumber or hardware arises, without which I cannot do the next step. It was two hours before lunch. I can hand pick the lumber at the lumberyard, pay for it, load it with the help of guys at the store, haul it, and unload it before lunch I thought. And I was on track, lumber in the the truck, ready to go.

I hopped in the cab, stuck the key in and turned it, “Claaaack, claaaack, claaaaack, claaaaaaaaack.” How did my battery go dead? After a minute of consideration, two guys in a diesel, company truck pulled up beside me and kept their engine running. I asked the driver across our window openings if they could jump me off. “Sure.” The solenoid clacked faster, but no start. We charged it a minute, but no start. The other guy tapped the starter with a hammer while I tried to start it, but no start. We forgot to put it in gear and rock it, but I know it would not have started. We concluded that the starter was bad. They went along and I was left wondering if we were right and how to get to the an auto parts place. I called my youngest son who is a mechanic. He said the boss was out and the work was slow so he would come and check on it and take me to the parts place. He did essentially the same as we did, but no start. He took me to the parts place, I purchased the the starter, and he dropped me off and went back to work. Have you ever changed out a starter in the Lowe’s parking lot? It was warm, gravelly, and very awkward to get while the truck was sitting on the ground. And to further the suffering, there were three bolts rather than the usually two holding it on and the small wire for the solenoid magnet had a different connector so that I had to cut, strip, and crimp the old wire into the new one. The best part was that it immediately and strongly started once I had hooked up the battery cables and turned the key. I arrived home two and half hours late for lunch. Afterward, I hurried to unload the lumber because I could sense rain coming. The moment I completed unloading and stepped into the truck, the rain poured. I returned the starter core for a refund and arrived at home as the rain began to subside.

The timing of no vehicle breakdown is ever convenient, but I have no complaint. Two random guys offered to help. My son could come, confirm the diagnosis, and take me to get the part. A cashier saw me at work during her break and brought me a water bottle. I didn’t get soaked either replacing the starter or unloading the wood. It started immediately. Though there were moments of frustration trying to reach bolts in seemingly unreachable positions that I could not see, I think I passed the patience test and even chuckled a bit over the process and prayed a considerable amount. And, hey, the starter was original equipment, serving the old truck for 24 years.

You can see the case rust and easy position of the first bolt. The third one was next to the bracket above about 170 degrees counterclockwise to the first.

It seems very odd to me that the paint and label had not come off during those many before I removed the starter.

I always compare parts before installation, usually at the parts store but that was impractical this time.

I hope to finish the deck soon and show you the results, but It will get done when it gets done with whatever situational bumps appear in the road. For all the difficulty, God was kind to allow the details to work out so well. I have certainly seen worse.

*Except when I don’t because I’m still being sanctified.

Read Full Post »

I have been building decks as work arises for just over a year now, but before that when I was full time teacher, I would do projects in the summer and sometimes on weekends. The following deck was built in the summer of 2013 and turns 8 years old this month. Unlike another one that I built that had no maintenance in the ensuing years, this one has been taken good care of. I cannot find pictures of building the deck though I remember taking some. My two youngest sons helped me with the project which included replacing the front steps, installing a thermostatically controlled vent in the front porch shed roof, trimming two trees overhanging the house, reshaping the the contour of the ground above the house to direct water away from the house, and building the deck which replaced a similar one that had not been maintenanced properly. Besides being re-stained regularly since it was new, there have been improvements like the skirt underneath and the concrete pads at the base of the steps and underneath. The wall below the deck was there but has been landscaped along with other areas around the steps. Decks are certainly not permanent structures, but when taken care of properly may last and look good for more than 30 years.

Though you may take care of your deck and it may rot anyway because of circumstances of the wood quality or environment of the deck*, it is much more likely to last in good shape when you do some maintenance.

This idea of maintenance applies to all things that you own, but also applies to your body and relationships. Make time for taking care of yourself. Make time to get to know better those you love and those with whom you are acquainted. You will be happy with the result and the benefits will be long term.

*Things very detrimental to decks include intense solar radiation (south facing or reflection off of glass or radiation from brick or asphalt), residing under trees where there is much litter accumulated and constant moisture that promotes algae and mold growth.

Read Full Post »

Interacting with a friend on FB with whom I had previously climbed several years ago, we decided to get together and go climbing again. He lives near Crowder Mountain State Park and has been climbing more frequently there of late with a friend. When we arrived the expanded parking lot was already one third full at just after 8 AM: climbers, hikers, and trail runners preparing equipment and signing release forms. The friend knew the various walls and suggested that we head for the back side of David’s Castle to avoid the anticipated muggy radiation on the sunward side. When we arrived and looked over the front side of the wall, I was enamored by the prominent crack front and center. He said it was a 5.7, so I thought it would be a good climb to warm up on and lead before the sun got too hot. My friend had bought a new 60 meter rope that had only been used once. It came with the most convenient rope tarp/carrying sack. You can tell by the rocky ground that this is a heavily visited climbing site.

The crack was both wide enough and deep enough to do some serious chimneying. The sides were fairly slick from climbing use. Even more problematic were the occasional roofs that had to be negotiated. Mountain Project calls this a 5.7+. Frequently that means that some number of people would agree that most, if not all of the moves, taken individually are no more than 5.7, but taken together with fatigue and so forth, perhaps a higher grade is needed.

Here I am about 40 feet up reaching for a quickdraw to attach to the pro I have just placed. It was, as seen here, a bit awkward at times reaching equipment on my harness in the chimney and difficult to chimney my way up with equipment on.

Now about 60 feet up, you can see the several placements of gear as the rope winds up the route. My belay partner who seconded the route said I had good, solid placements on this trad route.

At 80 feet the climb goes into a cave, open at both ends. The belay station was cooled by shade and cool air drawn through the opening with a comfortable stance and a nice view. The view is toward the East and Jackson Knob just south of Gastonia.

I belayed my partner from the top. Here he comes. I holding firmly on the brake hand while I take the picture with my other hand, resulting in only a momentary lapse in rope management, though not compromising safety in any way.

Here I stand comfortably at my belay station, though you can see that even after 15 minutes I am still soaked in now cooled sweat. Just above my left shoulder you can see one side of the 7 mm doubled cordelette that extends around a chock in the crack for an anchor.

My belay partner then belayed our friend as I explored the top of the Castle. There is another way to scramble up to the top, explaining the graffiti in the upper right hand corner. Also, you can see a runner and carabiner attached to a cam as a back-up anchor to his left.

Off to the northeast is what I believe to be Marshall Coal Powered Steam Plant on the western shore of Lake Norman. It is a testament to how still and unstable the air was on this muggy day for the smoke plume to rise so vertically and high. There is a typical amount of haziness for a late Spring day in the Carolinas but not especially polluted since the power plant is over 30 miles away.

The next wall to the north of David’s Castle is Red Wall. It is said to be named after a streak in the rock by that color, but I immediately think of the children’s series that we read to our children about Martin the Warrior defending Redwall Abbey.

The next wall to the south is called Practice Wall. There were quite a few people on top of it since that is where the trail peaks. I can see a slight flash of red of a shirt, can you?

Particularly around major metropolitan areas like Charlotte, every high hill is a placement for towers, radio and cellphone, and microwave drums which are frequently beaming TV, radio and cellphone signals from other towers or stations down below.

You may have noticed that I did not have any pictures of my friend completing the climb. About 20 feet off of the ground you run into the first roof. While trying to finagle around this feature, one foot slipped off and he took a swinging fall. The frequent counterintuitive problem with falling on an easier climb is the larger holds make for more of a cheese grater surface. Nothing was broken and he walked out, but the gouge in his upper left leg was painful and contused so that it swelled quite a bit. Even before this happened he was commenting on how this seemed harder than a 5.7. Since 5.7, 5.8 is about at his limit at the moment, that gives credibility to my saying 5.7+ is a bit sandbagged.* Another interpretation is one that climbers give to crack routes. They are just different and if you aren’t used to crack climbing they seem inordinately hard. There are not many crack climbs in Western North Carolina, so I confess to this being only the third crack climb I’ve done, the others being finger cracks rather than full body chimneys.

Despite the injury, the muggy day, and steep approach, we were happy and whole at the end of the climbing.

*Sandbagged. (adjective) A sandbagged route is one whose grade belies its difficulty; an undergraded route. Derived from the idea that climbing the route would feel as if you were climbing with a bag of sand attached to your harness — i.e., the climb is much harder than it seems. Why Does Sandbagging Occur — Toprock Climbing

Read Full Post »

We have some young ladies helping with the cleaning and cooking just now while my wife is healing. One of the young women was dusting in our bedroom and bumped a framed invitation to our wedding off of the high chest of drawers. Following is the result:

The glass will be easily replaced. I began to look at the frame, remembering that it is nearly 40 years old and holds the representation of the happy day and the commitment (covenant) that was agreed to on that day. The actual covenant consisted of the vows, which I wrote and we each memorized and said to each other in the presence of God, the pastor, who was my oldest brother, and witnesses, family and friends. Following is the text of those vows. I began:

“Believing that God has brought us together to be as one flesh, a living symbol of Christ and His Church, I commit myself to live with you by God’s power and to love you with a love which God has and will impart to you through me, regardless of difficult or exalting circumstances, despondent or elated feelings. Therefore, I will be careful how I walk in Christ so that I may fulfill my duties and privileges as your Mate, Protector, Provider, and Leader. I will submit to you in Christ and I will cleave to you as my wife according to God’s Purpose.”

Then she said:

“Believing Christ is the head of His Body, the Church, and the Initiator of our union, I commit myself to live with you by God’s power and to respect you by God’s love, regardless of difficult or exalting circumstances, despondent or elated feelings. Therefore, I will be careful how I walk in Christ so that I might win you by my behavior as your Mate, Complementer*, Supporter, and Completer. I will submit to Christ and I will submit to you as my husband according to God’s Purpose. “

My thought was on how this framed invitation is a metaphor for marriage. There are cracks, various rifts in thought and conduct, but the covenant holds firm. There is rust, aging and infirmness both physical and mental, but the covenant holds secure. There is breakage, troubles financial and personal and relational, but the covenant weathers the storm still anchored. These are the marks of a God-centered marriage. Because God is in it, the covenant keeping persists, and it is based in God’s love and power.

The covenant of marriage as set forth in Scripture reveals God’s purpose for marriage, which is to illuminate His work and love for the church of God consisting of the saints of God: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord….Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:22, 25, 31-32) To state it more simply, marriage is a Christian institution ordained by God that points to Christ in all aspects.

In reality then, I am speaking here of a double metaphor. The greater one is human marriage of a man and woman representing Christ and His Church. The lesser one is our framed invitation representing marriage.

This was not the first time the frame had been damaged. After one previous fall, I had to replace the cardboard easel back. I made a stronger one from a paint stirring stick and bolted it to the hinge. The steel frame used to be coated with a thin brass layer but you can see it has yielded for the most part to rust.

And one final picture of where the invitation sits as a reminder to us, there between the flashlight and loving couple.

Besides our five children and two of our eight grandchildren pictured are three wedding day pictures. She sewed her wedding dress and the ceremony was simple and inexpensive. It’s what comes afterwards, the life together, that counts most.

*It appears that I coined a word since complementary is an adjective.

Read Full Post »

I built my second handicap ramp this year (see 1:12). It was bright and sunny and when the afternoon came a shade tree covered the spot, cooling the worksite. I would have liked to start with a landing at the door but the practical use of space necessitated dropping immediately out the door to fit the space and stay within the maximum 1:12 pitch of a handicap ramp.

I have taken to tarring the posts in the ground to lengthen the effective lifespan of my structures. A project coming soon will reveal why I set the joists on top of the posts rather than bolt them to the side.

There was some custom cutting and fitting to run the sloping ramp over the existing stoop. I felt that the thinness of the joist at this point compromised its strength sufficiently to need support, so I added a support on the step below.

I like the baluster shadows in this next picture. One should be able to tell time by them. Let’s see, Daylight Savings Time? I probably took this picture just before I left for lunch at around 12:30.

I usually put a toprail on ramps and decks, but we were keeping the cost down as much as possible. That is, of course, hard to do when lumber prices are out the roof.

The evening glow and shadows say that it is time to head for the house, another job complete. Notice the scrap boards under the landing. The two children who frequent great-grandmother’s house had already been playing under the deck.

It was fascinating to see the four generations of this family interacting and coming and going as I worked. What a blessing is a godly heritage, children to keep the elders young at heart and elders to impart wisdom and a sense of belonging and origin. I pray that I might be able to see some of my great-grandchildren and impart some wisdom for life and salvation to them.

Read Full Post »

I can frequently do spontaneous. I guess my children know that. My youngest son called me last Friday morning and said, “Do you want to go camping in the Gorge tonight.” Well, that took some rethinking the day, but I was in. By the time he got off from work, drove home to get equipment, drove back to my house, and we drove to the trailhead, it was nearly 7 PM. No worries, it was only 1 1/2 mile downhill romp to the river on the Pine Gap Trail. I really like the late evening light and shadow in the this picture with the diffraction blurring around the shadow.

I feel like they should have replaced the post when they replaced the sign. That post is on the way out.

This is a frequent scene with my sons. I can’t keep up anymore. Additionally, I don’t even want to since I am looking around and taking pictures. At one point he said, “I thought we had lost the naturalist there for a minute.” The trail, as do all of the Linville Gorge trails, starts off flat for a short distance and then plunges down between the cliffs in switchbacks or rock scrambles.

This Pine Tree had some fungal “foam” inflating on its side.

Catawba Rhododendron are not as large as Grandifolia, but the blooms are very beautiful.

We passed many looming giant hulks of dead Hemlock trees. It is sad that another grand tree has been essentially eliminated from the forest.

This may be the best picture of a trillium that I have ever taken. It is Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum).

Here is the first sighting of the river. Notice the blooming Doghobble in the next two pictures.

Just before dropping down to the camping site next to the river, the trail wound through the rhododendron, pine, oak, and Galax thicket at the top of an eighty foot cliff that was immediately over the river. I was almost made for a movie scene, but better.

The river was not as loud as it frequently is, since the water was low, but it still is exciting to hear it as you get nearer.

Following was our view from the campsite at the river when we first arrived.

Linville River

Since it is a frequented campsite, I had to range out 1/4 mile to collect down and dead branches for a fire. I saw that the sun was getting low and I must return to camp.

We sat around and enjoyed the glow of our carbon footprint accelerator. I thought about it and remembered that if you leave the wood on the ground to rot it released the carbon dioxide all the same, only slower. It warmed us, occupied us, and warmed us up to good conversation about history, new horizons, family, and even a touch of science.

Just above waterline was a mound of moss crowned with clump of bluets.

Violets are such a simple flower, but they always remind me of my wife since it one of her favorite flowers. The composition of the picture is so warm with rock, wood, lichen, Galax, violet, and even a touch of fern.

Electronic zoom on a phone camera is almost useless, but it did allow me to capture a hawk on a branch the next morning as we hiked out. Though blurry, can you see it?

After we exited the Gorge I directed my son to drive to the Linville Falls Access in order to show him the little jewel that I had discovered recently. (see “Underappreciated Little Jewel“)

We even had the privilege of seeing two young deer on the drive out. Wildlife is so hard to capture. I am amazed at the talent, persistence, and equipment that professionals use to bring such amazing images of wildlife to us. Even so, I like to see it for real in nature.

From start to finish, this little overnight outing only occupied sixteen hours. Don’t say you don’t have time to get out. Make the time to exercise the body, rest the mind, and inspire the spirit. God has made us a whole person in need of Him and desirous of the beauty of His Creation.

Read Full Post »

I renewed another deck near ruin. I had been asked to come and cut off the deteriorating beveled tops of the 6 x 6 posts so that a friend of the owner could install caps to protect the posts. Caps or top rails are a good idea because water and fungi will root a post from the top down. The owner asked me about the longevity of the deck. Upon quick inspection I saw that it had 8 to 10 16′ decking boards with rotten spots and some at ground level post deterioration and some top rail warping and rotting. Following is my effort to renew the deck.

The owner requested that I pressure wash the deck before repair and restaining and provided a pressure washer borrowed from a friend at church. The deck had not been stained in five years, a time well within the stain can’s recommendations and “guarantees”, but the elements know no such time scales. This deck is close enough to trees, though not overhung by them, to get their leaf litter, catkins in Spring, and Yellow Poplar samaras. These get down between the decking boards and collect moisture, fungi, and bacteria (read “rot”). Particularly on this deck the gap between boards was not sufficient to allow this detritus to fall through, so it collected. You can see from the picture that the stain acted more like paint, clinging only to the surface and peeling when pressure washed. That is not good and may have been a large part of the deterioration. I would not have thought much of which deck treatment to use before I started repairing them, but I have some strong opinions now.

So, time consuming and tedious as it was, I got down with my knee pads and wire brushed and whisk broomed the boards.

This deck had been put together with screws, square drive heads, so there was no warping in the decking.

I ended up replacing ten decking boards and was pleased with the ones I was able to pick out.

The caps are plastic and functional and I had to replace only two top rails and two balusters.

I feel like the end result looks like new and will last another good many years. I suggested to the owner that she treat the top surfaces yearly to prevent the deterioration that was happening. With a roller and stain the decking and top rails would take no more than 1 1/2 hours to treat. The look and longevity will be satisfying.

If you look closely, you can see the tar that I put around the base of the posts. In my experience, the interface of post to ground, an inch or two above and below grade is where the most intense deterioration occurs. Though the treated lumber is rated for below grade, and actually does fair quite well in the ground, it does not do so well at the interface. I guess the conditions of moisture, air, and temperature are conducive to rotting bacterial and fungal varieties.

By the time it weathers and she treats the decking boards again in a year, you won’t even be able to tell the new boards from the old as in this picture.

I am reminded of the preacher in Ecclesiastes who is reciting a polemic on the vanity of life. Several times he softens the blow of the discouraging speech with a commendation similar to the following: “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24) At a later time He even calls this enjoyment of life “the gift from God” (Eccl 3:13). So I end with thanksgiving to God for giving me strength to work, money for bills from my labor, and satisfaction that I have renewed a product to increased usefulness and slowed the deterioration in this fallen world for the benefit of a fellow being (in fact, fellow saint in this case). It is a gift from God that I can pass along to someone.

Read Full Post »

The sun was out, the breeze was cool, the sky was clear, then variably and partly cloudy, and the climbing was good. Showing someone climbs on a crag is fun, and I even climbed one I had not climbed. We got in ten pitches in seven hours. It wasn’t a record pace, but we weren’t in a hurry. I never get tired of this view from the top of Black Fork Cliffs. It is in my county and yet it seems worlds apart, so secluded and isolated.

Two fires in the last dozen or so years have robbed the cliff base of its shade, but that in turn is generating a fast renewal. It seems early for Frazier Magnolia to be blooming, but there it was.

Psyched again and doing new pitches he’d never been on. Notice that the rope is already on the wall. How did that happen? It’s called stick clipping. In my case, I used an extendable painter’s pole with a device on the end that holds the quickdraw (shown on the bolt in the picture). This makes the climbing safe from ground up.

We refer to such climbs as next pictured as “one move wonders” because most of the climb is very easy except for the one move he is trying to make over what looks like a “warped wall” from Ninja Warriors.

The stainless steel rings at the top of a sport climb are secure, giving a comfortable stance for looking around. The black lichen looks like pits in the rock, but aren’t. I cannot figure out the dead pine tree. Am I seeing another tree behind it cause the bizarre shape appearance of the trunk, or is it really that odd looking?

Contemplating.

Lunch snack and belayer rest. Maybe that’s what he was contemplating. When is he going to get up? The Komodo’s (a defunct brand similar to Crocks) keep my climbing shoes clean between climbs.

This rock formation looks like a spire or tower, but on the back side it really only sticks up about 10 feet above its attachment to the wall.

It looks cool even if it is an easy climb.

Notice in the next two shots my right hand, brake hand, position, as I rappel. Brake.

Feed rappel.

Broadhead Skink (Eumeces [Plestiodon] laticeps) (1): Such creatures make our attempts and pride about climbing seem rather pointless.

This is the second, and I might say, successful attempt. I couldn’t touch the move over the vertical section just after the second bolt. I saw him do it and still didn’t know what to do.

Another day out in the woods and fresh air, on the rock, thankful for the “One Who made, saved, and sustains” this world, and more specifically, me. May you see His care for you and choose to follow Him, too.

  1. Species Profile: Broadhead Skink (Eumeces [Plestiodon] laticeps) | SREL Herpetology (uga.edu)

Read Full Post »

In this day of record high lumber prices, many people are opting for deck restoration rather than replacement. It is still not cheap since there may be nearly as much labor in restoring a deck as in building a new one. Following is an example of restoration and addition.

But how many boards do you replace? Is structural integrity the only criteria? Where does longevity or appearance or smoothness come into play and to what extent? Beyond structural integrity, the owner has preference and say that should be considered. For instance, this owner specified that the surface be smooth enough of children’s bare feet. But that still doesn’t answer how many boards should be replaced and how many should be sanded or screwed down better. How many boards would you replace in the following picture?

Notice also in the preceding picture that the deck was constructed with nails, and that via nail gun. The young girls of the family regularly pounded the nails down. Expansion and contraction and warping can work the nails out where they can snag a shoe sole or strip off some foot skin. For this reason, I prefer building decks with screws. I get it. A crew is supposed to put up a deck in a day and half and move on, but the result is not the best long-term. Screws cost more and definitely take longer to install, but the result is superior. The best new deck screws have star heads, called torx screws and the most common is T-25. They are so much easier to install than Philip’s Head screws because you don’t have to hold the tool perfectly perpendicular to the screw head and press down so hard. I added some additional screws to the deck and instructed the father to have the girls extract the nails as they come up so that he could replace them with screws that I left behind for that purpose.

The railing was particularly rough. In fact, all top surfaces are typically hard hit by the combination of UV radiation, heat, , heating-cooling cycles, moisture in terms of amount, wetting and drying, frost, and freeze-thaw cycles. For this reason I advise people to treat the top surfaces once a year to increase longevity of their deck. Railing balusters and undercarriage take by far the most time to stain and amount of stain, but the railing needs to be done initially for appearance and probably not more than once every 5-8 years afterwards depending on radiation and moisture exposure. Quick visual inspection will reveal if it needs to be done. Notice that I did not say anything about the undercarriage or joists. I’ve seen 20 year old decks that were not treated and are still sound with only the slightest deterioration between the decking boards. A deck that gets considerable leaf and litter fall is in more danger of joist deterioration, but that depends on how well the decking boards are maintenanced and if the gap between those boards is sufficient for litter to fall through. Boards placed to close together gather organic trash.

The cracks in the following post are not the biggest concern. The post was merely nailed on, and over time worked loose from people using it to steady their ascent and descent and temperature variations. For this reason I bolt railing posts on with a 3/8″ galvanized carriage bolt and screws. My father used to say, “Nothing holds like a nut and lockwasher.” Nails certainly do not. The staircase railing was shaky and that made the steps shaky. I ended up completely rebuilding the stair railing and more firmly attaching the stair stringers to the deck. (1)

I thought that it was quite creative to but a planter pot in the hole and under a table until the hole could be fixed.

The new railing looks nice, is smooth, and is well attached. It bothers me that people who stain decks are so sloppy. There are products that will clean stain off of vinyl siding without damaging it.

The new stair railing bottom posts are planted two feet in the ground, painted with tar, and concreted in. The railing is solid. The old balusters were fine and reusable, which saved more cost in re-cutting than materials.

The owners also wanted a privacy fence and specified the height. I set three 4 x 4’s in concrete and bolted them to the deck. The slat boards were 1 x 4’s ripped on a table saw, meaning they were 1 11/16″ wide. (2) I might have built with wider boards but the owner had a certain aesthetic in mind. Notice additionally that I have begun the framing for the skirt to keep the dog and other critters out.

Yes, there is a 2 x 4 missing in the privacy fence. I had to take a second run to the lumber yard for a few missing boards. It is nearly impossible to go just once, especially on a repair job where new realizations of deterioration become evident. I put it in later, but didn’t want to stop work late in the day for a run to the lumber yard when I was making good progress. Also, this is the only picture where you can glance the result of the floor sander I rented.

Following are the results of the repair. Given time restraints I did not stain the balusters or skirt. The owners did. I like their taste in decor and stain color. To save the lawn and prevent wet or muddy feet, they also added stepping stones.

In two respects I had to be creative concerning the skirting. One was the transition from privacy fence to skirt. I opted for a water shedding wood ‘shingle’ that encased the uprights. The other is not pictured, a screwed in access ‘gate’ at the other end of the deck. If I hadn’t told you, you would never know it is there from looking. You never know when someone might throw or drop any number of things that go through the slats and need to be retrieved or some maintenance needed on the house that requires access under the deck.

Some of these old boards were installed incorrectly, crown down, so that water gathers on the deck. This is major reason to re-stain the deck yearly.

This flowering bush unknown to me is a great way to decorate in front of a garbage can fence. Functionality is great, but appearance is inviting. Extend this idea to God’s Creation. Ecologically self-replicating and self-cleaning and simultaneously visually inspiring and health-giving only begins to describe the depth of God’s gift to us of functionality and beauty in nature for which we should regularly give thanks and praise. Decks and such are only a vague reflection of that creativity.

  1. stairway parts- https://www.mycarpentry.com/image-files/xstair-diagram-solid-risers.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Pc601Vrgj6.jpg
  2. A 1 x 4 is actually 3 1/2″ wide (dressed lumber). If you subtract the 1/8″ of sawdust made by the blade width and divide by 2, you get 1 11/16″. The lumber yard did not have the 1 x 2 inch stock and ripping produces straighter boards anyway. Being from out of town on this job, I asked the owner if a friend had a table saw that I could borrow. A brother in Christ was glad to assist.

Read Full Post »

On my bucket list of climbs I’ve wanted to do was The Nose at Looking Glass Rock. Today I led all four pitches. This brave fellow was psyched to do it with me.

The gravel road approach was gated and we didn’t know that there was another way closer, so we walked in three miles from the Education Center.

Along the way was a nice waterfall, but checking it out would have to wait until later.

The parking at the approach trail is about 0.3 mile from the base of the rock, though quite steeply up, especially with a pack of climbing gear.

To my eye this rock face is odd both in overall shape and features called “eyebrows” throughout the rock.

I wanted to lead the climb, which is a 5.8 and well within my wheelhouse. It is a different style of climbing, however, because one must use the ‘eyebrows’ as underclings (1). The weather was pleasant for hiking and climbing, but unexpectedly cloudy, cool, and breezy at times.

It is always good to see that your belayer is alert and paying attention. You can clearly see that this climb is the most popular by the impact of foot traffic at its base. Certain climbs are called “classic”, which I have never quite understood. Does that mean people like it, it has been around a long time, that it is interesting or otherwise aesthetically pleasing, or some vague combination of all of these? After some difficult climbs we could not complete later, mostly because of lack of good protection (2), I commented that perhaps the reason you only ever hear about half a dozen climbs out of several hundred is that most are crazy hard or too run-out (3) for most people to want to climb them.

When you trad (4) climb you place protection devices like stoppers, hexs, tri-cams, slings, or cams like the one pictured here. Then you clip your rope into a carabiner attached to the end that catches your fall. This was a solid or ‘bomber’ placement. There are sections on this wall and this climb where there are handholds but no placement for protection. This results in a run-out situation. By the way, do you see how I mark my equipment?

Following is the view at the first set of belay anchors about 90′ up. Spring has just begun at this level but not much higher. My partner commented on how he likes the contrast of fresh green and gray limbs, because the gray accentuates the bright green of new leaves.

I was the lead climber on this climb. My partner was the follower. He is seen here cleaning the route, that is, collecting the protection that I had set. Notice in some of these pictures the visual illusion that the surface is not very steep, as in the foreground here. None of this climb is truly vertical, but except for a few ledges, it is a 60 to 85 degree wall.

And here we are on one of the ledges transitioning for me to begin leading the next pitch (4).

Being such a popular and old climb, I saw several old and broken pieces of pro along the route. The piton pictured is really old school.

The views were great. Note the occasional evergreen amongst the bare deciduous expanse.

It is always nice to have a comfortable place to sit when you are belaying, though it is not frequent. Notice the parked cars at the Looking Glass Mountain Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had stopped there many times in the past, had a picnic with the family there once, and several times thought that I’d like to climb this rock. I wonder if any tourists with binoculars were spying our progress this day? I think that the peak behind the peak behind the overlook is Richland Balsam.

I gave my partner a hard time, saying this picture looked like he was a model for outdoor clothing. You can see some older, though quite sturdy, bolts he is tied into. This location is the lunch ledge which is still not level but reasonable to walk around on untethered away from the edge.

The following four images from the top combine to make a 180 degree panorama from south through west to north. We didn’t stay here long because it started sleeting. Yes, it was sleeting in late April. Well, it does happen rarely on the high peaks in mid-summer.

Time to rappel back down. Once again it looks nearly flat in the foreground but isn’t. The blue device through which there are two bites of rope in his left hand is called an ATC (5).

In the following selfie you can see the reflection of not only the phone with which I am taking the picture but also one of the bolts to which I am attach and my partner is rappelling and the tree line at the top of the peak.

On the hike out we saw some wildflowers like this blue flag and May Apple.

I got closer to the waterfall, which had a 20′ overhang to its right.

This day was the first time I have climbed at Looking Glass Rock and the first 4 pitch climb I have completed. It was a pleasant day with lively conversation. I see endless views of God’s beauty in the rocks and trees and sky and flowing water. It gives rest to my mind and challenge to my body to be out in His Creation and sharing it with someone. Perhaps that is part of the reason that I share it with you. I want to you to enjoy it with me, acknowledge the beauty of God’s work with me, and resolve to get out more and enjoy it yourself. Come along with me if you like.

  1. undercling- fingers and palms facing up and pushing up to counteract downward foot pressure for stepping up.
  2. good protection- strong enough to catch you and frequent enough to prevent long falls
  3. run-out- excessive distance between climbing protection that may result in a long and dangerous fall.
  4. pitch- the distance of climb between two belay stations equal to less than the length of the rope
  5. ATC- Air Traffic Controller was named by Black Diamond and now colloquially referred to for all similar devices, sorta like Kleenex is for all facial tissue.

Read Full Post »

I was in need of going over the mountain a couple of days ago. I have done the trip so, so many times. I decided that I needed to stop on the way back to take a little hike and break up the trip. I appreciate scenes I have already seen and return to many frequently. I especially enjoy showing others little wonders of nature that I have seen. But I was alone and I longed to see something new, and it did not have to be big or impressive. I found what I suspect to be an underappreciated little jewel off the far end of the Linville Falls Access Parking Lot. Old growth forests are few in the Eastern United States. I content myself with enjoying the occasional lone larger tree. This Eastern White Pine is a healthy example.

The trail is very short. By the time you walk to the far end of the parking lot, you are half way there. The trail goes up over a little hump past several large trees and then down into a narrow notch where the park service has a bridge just right for viewing and walking up between the boulders.

In the middle of the bridge, voila’, Dugger’s Creek Falls.

On the far side of the bridge the steps go up between the boulders in such an inviting way.

Always desirous of a little adventure and a better picture, I got off trail just at the base of these stairs. Inviting though they be, they were a bit too civilized for my present frame of mind. Instead, I battled a bit of rhododendron and some small drop offs. The falls, in the 12 to 15 feet wide notch and cloaked in rhodo’s was not having it.

So, I went to the top of the falls in order to check out how and where the water squirms between the cracks and voids of the notch. If you look closely, you can see the bridge. If it were summer, I would probably wade up the stream to the base of the falls, but I don’t have a waterproof camera, so that would not be recorded.

Above the falls the creek comes rushing down into the notch, still a steep pitch with more broken boulders along the sides.

The scene is green with Galax and fern and moss.

The rock form is definitely foliated metamorphic, the layers curiously formed in waves.

The trail exits the woods onto the road just out of sight of the bridge or falls, but just before it does you get one more good view.

Not quite satisfied until I have explored every little turn and divot, I crossed the creek and worked my way under the bridge and edged up along the small cliffs. It was no use. The likelihood of wet feet or more (e.g. wet cellphone) stopped me short of completing every inch. I was satisfied with one more picture and a rock scramble back up to the trail.

On the beyond the bridge side of the trail are several plagues with quotes. The following was apt to my present situation.

The author does not say why we are in need of these things, and it is certainly true that many never consider that they are. But when I muse upon why this quote is true, it seems to me to point to the beauty of God as the why we seek the beauty in nature. We cannot now see Him, though Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) We want to see His beauty and seek it in nature. But “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:9) But no one is able apart from the righteousness that Christ imparts, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:230 As He told those questioning Him about the work of God, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29) Therefore, I look forward, not based on my merit, but His in which I trust, to seeing His beautiful, awesome visage one day, just as I seeks its tarnished and veiled reflection in His Creation I so enjoy experiencing.

Read Full Post »

Here it is!

The owner installed the chain to hang the net swing temporarily, then asked me to move the swing. An outdoor aerial silk is supposed to reside here one day.

Check out the plans. The basic concept is there, but the homeowner wanted the addition of a climbing net, a zipline, a beam for the aerial silk, and a good place to mount the net swing. For cost reasons that eliminated the slide and monkey bars. The fold down table became a doorway for the climbing net. The climbing wall got lowered from 9′ to 8′ and 7′ wide to 8′ wide. The zipline resulted in changing from 4 x 4 posts to 6 x 6 posts and adding all of those diagonals.

The zipline, due to height of the playhouse and surrounding topography is steeper than suggested. So we began to look for a way to slow the ending. I added a spring and a friend added a magnetic break. They work on the same principle as dropping a magnet down a copper pipe. Copper does not magnetize but it does conduct electric current well. Therefore, when the magnet is moving down the pipe a current is induced which has a magnet field which just happens to be counter to the magnet’s field. The magnet is slowed by this counter-EMF. So is the magnet surrounding the zipline cable. The black bungee brings the magnet back to the point for the next braking action. So, the zipline is fast but has a controlled stop.

Read Full Post »

In the last blog entry, “Something New“, I began revealing my designed big playset coming together. Now we begin to get past mere structure and on to how it will be used.

There are three doors into the playhouse level. These are for entrance and exit but also to act as railing should S and her friends want to spend the night aloft.

The climbing net will go here. The gate doubles as a table in the playhouse.

On a rainy, cold day I worked in the block shed you see in the pictures. I drilled holes and mounted T-nuts, installed 2 x 4 supports and mounted hinges on the treated plywood on my saw horses. A few days later I mounted the wall onto the footboard. The railing was a whole day job, too.

T-nuts allow moving the climbing holds around for new climbs and no boredom.

I designed the climbing wall to meet the owner’s requirement that the playhouse “grow with her.” I told her that meant that I needed to build a serious climbing wall. To wit I installed a winch in order to lower for overhanging climbs out to 40 degrees above horizontal.

Since the winch cable is only one mounting point, I installed to latches, one on each side to stabilize and strengthen the wall when slanted.

You can see the zipline is up and staining has begun. There are so many surfaces and angles that the staining took about 2 1/2 days. The A-frame for the rings and swings is in place as well.

The 4 x 6 x 20 treated beam was special order and took one month to arrive. It came straight from the sawmill they said. Notice the smooth bar in the A-frame. It is for spinning around on.

Picking out and ordering the climbing holds proved a challenge for the owner, so those came finally.

Soon I will reveal the finished product and the plans and how they changed throughout the project and why. It was slow with various delays, but it came together nicely.

Read Full Post »

I just finished a large project that took several months. Other responsibilities, weather, special order lumber, and specialty hardware delayed progress but did not prevent completion. It was an intense and satisfying project. Follow me as I show you the progress on S’s new playset.

How do you haul and install 6 x 6 x 20 poles? Picking them up saved time in getting them and money for the customer.

I had help getting them in the hand dug 3′ deep holes.

The homeowner was amazed.

Next, the local lumber company delivered the majority of the lumber.

Because the winter was very wet, the truck could not bring it to the backyard, even though there was access. I hauled two or three boards at a time on my shoulders the next day.

Even though this is in the city, a vacant lot behind the worksite conceals a family of 7 deer. There are some very nice trees and thick underbrush to conceal the Whitetails.

Day 2 involved more digging and considerable plumbing (not water, but vertical with the world) and bracing.

My two helpers were always ready and waiting when I arrived, regardless of time of day or weather.

On day 3, I put in joists, the footboard for the climbing wall, and concreted the posts. The reason for the overkill on the posts’ depth, size and concrete was the planned zipline. Take note of the copious diagonals as it comes together. This structure is stiff.

Some days were longer than others and some saw more progress. The floor was satisfying and very useful for further progress. Hanging out on an extension ladder leaned against a single post putting up long boards is difficult for one person.

The double 2 x 8’s hanging 5′ off of the back will support an aerial silk. S, who is the ten year old girl this is being built for, is taking lessons.

Day 5 saw the roof go on just in time to keep the floor dry from several days of torrent.

At about this point I lost track of what day I was on, since there were doctors’ appointments and multiple days of rain, short days and long days. I had nearly a whole day devoted to installing diagonals. The other part of that day saw the trapdoor go in. (1) I had to think like a kid when I designed this project. The trapdoor is an entrance from the top of the climbing wall. Think fun and adventure.

Can you guess where the zipline will attach? Diagonal City! Leaned against the shed are the 3/4″ treated plywood for the climbing wall.

We are along about day 8 so I will sign off for now. Another day I will show more progress on this cool playhouse. If you are interested in a playset, climbing wall, deck, and any number of other wood projects contact me through my facebook page, ww.facebook.com/decksandsuch

  1. The trapdoor image appears upside down when I load it, even after flipping it in the file. What is that about?

Read Full Post »

The opportunities to do things with my children have been spread out more as time has gone along. People get busy, new responsibilities and challenges come along, and time is stretched. So it was good to take two short hikes with my youngest two sons and a daughter-in-law. Coming from two hours away and a half hour away, they met at my house at just after 10 AM. We drove to Catawba Falls, seeing four waterfalls in a mile and a half stretch. Along the way there is an old powerhouse built in 1923 by Daniel Adams. (1,2) My son inspects the foundation and well where the generator once resided.

His wife awaits our return to the trail and bridge on this bright, crisp day.

Right next to the powerhouse is a recent pedestrian bridge from which my son is considering the course and flow of the creek. These new alloys of steel that corrode protectively are a boon for non-maintenance. The trees in this area have been left alone for probably 70-80 years and are beginning to grow decently large.

A tributary crosses the trail a little further up. Just below the trail is a large pile of boulders and little waterfall tumbling between the boulders.

To the right of the falls and pool is a curious little cave that would be a good home for a water side creature. Tree roots provide a eerie entrance curtain.

She patiently awaits our silly exploring again. The boulders are fascinating with their significant overhangs.

The Lower Catawba Falls is a double falls, the upper part caused by the remains of the powerhouse dam. The dam is perhaps a 1/4 mile upstream from the powerhouse. I feel sure that this distance along the creek is to gain sufficient head (3), and therefore pressure, to run the generator. The water looks inviting, but icicles lined the edges of the falling water from the 20 degree morning.

The biggest show is the Middle Catawba Falls. It is said to be a 105 feet cascade. I don’t know where that is being marked from, but I’d say more. I have some better pictures of it when I went with my church group in September. (see “Cascade, Not Falls“) Today I was capturing our enjoyment of the scene.

It’s good to see the guys together and happy and enjoying the outdoors.

In this picture of me you can see icicles just up and left of my head. Pictures of falls in full sunlight are hard. In person the ever changing crystals of reflective light are enlivening to the eyes and mind, but my cellphone doesn’t know what to do with all of that light.

I wanted to see the Upper Catawba Falls. So my sons and I figured out a way to get safely above the middle falls. Recorded as 55 feet high, it is the most beautiful and symmetrical of the three.

I learned a little fun activity when I was at Machu Picchu, Peru. (“Peru 4“) I would go around and ask couples if I they would like for me to take picture of them with their camera. Being a cameraman, I know you can’t take the picture and be in the picture effectively (4). Several people offered to take my picture in return. Being by myself and wanting to record my presence there, it was a welcome offer. So this time I offered an exchange. I took their picture with their phone and they took our picture with my phone. Try it sometime. People are appreciative.

On the way back down there are good views and it is steep.

Next we took a 50 minute drive to the Bearwallow Mountain Trail. I should have taken a few pictures of the very open (no underbrush) woods on the way up (5). The large field at the top with the closely cropped grass and numerous variety of towers, both old and new, was a surprise to me. The short grass turns out to be the result of regular pasturing of cattle.

We lounged and ate in the grass and calm air. There had been a cold wind on the north and west slope on the hike up, but it was calm here.

My cellphone telephoto is not good but it does reveal mountains in the county where I reside some 45 miles away ‘as the crow flies’. The little pointy one is Table Rock and the asymmetrical one two peaks to the left is Hawk’s Bill.

The soil is very shallow at the top of this peak and the metamorphised granite pops out here and there.

Sadly, the old firetower is fenced off. It must provide a truly unobstructed 360 degree view.

The largest domed shaped peak on the horizon is Mt. Pisgah. Even my old eyes could discern the huge tower that resides thereupon.

I present this similar picture for the purpose of showing how large the field is. My three hiking companions stand halfway between the two power poles awaiting my return from picture taking.

The wind was still cutting on the north aspect when we descended, but the conversation was warm and lively, like the greening grass and bright sunshine in the pre-Spring higher elevation we enjoyed this day. I am thankful to God for time outdoors with family and hope that more will come with more of my family many times in the future.

  1. catawbafallspowerhousesidephotobuck.jpg (800×498) (wordpress.com)
  2. Catawba Falls Trail Map (hikingupward.com)
  3. Hydraulic head – Energy Education
  4. I don’t consider most selfies to be effective, that is, good picture taking, and certainly not to be compared to a good portrait.
  5. I commented to my sons that the “woods is sure clear.” My youngest pointed out that it should be “woods are clear.” He was right, but it caused me to be amazed once again at the crazy language we speak. I think that the reason I didn’t have subject verb agreement was our use of the word woods. Based on reading, I am confident that past usage was “wood” rather than “woods”. Therefore, the “wood is”, referring to the forest.

Read Full Post »

It has been a busy month since I last went for a hike with my youngest son. The conditions were totally different (See “Winter Hike” for comparison.). The temperatures eased into the lower 70’s with breezy patches of clouds passing over revealing and obscuring the sunshine. We started off on a crowded trail where most everyone strolls in the South Mountains.

Soon we started off up the ridge onto a trail I observed to my son that I had not been on for perhaps 20 years. He replied that was one way to reveal your age. I did not recognize the trail, however, because it had recently been reworked because of a forest fire that cleared some areas and thinned others.

In one clearing where pine saplings were drinking in the full sunlight, we could see High Shoals Falls on the other side of the gorge. Can you pick it out?

A little snack was in order and more water than we would have expected to drink on the last day of February due to the temperature.

The old man enjoyed a little rest in the warm sunshine before continuing on. In reality, the major part of the climb was over at this point.

One hates to see so many large trees down, but there are advantages like better views, increased sunlight and the renewal it brings to the forest. On the other hand, fires also allow erosion of topsoil from rainfall, which has been heavy the past two years. Take note that every picture showing the ground has bare mineral soil. Notice also the beautiful blue skies when the camera was not facing south (glare).

When we reached the ridge, the breeze was a stiff but pleasantly cooling wind from the south. My son pointed out the peaks he had been on the day before with his father-in-law. We need to form a party of three for a hike sometime soon.

The marked overlook was down to the left of the ridge trail. It had an impressive rock outcropping, but not being near the top of the ridge, it had a limit angle of view. Also, the dude on the rock was listening to loud music and imbibing the combustion products of an aromatic herbaceous species familiar to the olfactory sensors.

I quickly took a picture of some “overly cooked” metamorphic rock with iron deposits, which was quite brittle and sharp.

Then we promptly left for a location of more sensory satisfaction on top of the ridge. There we found a less impressive rock outcropping with far more impressive view. It was the site I had remembered from many years ago but with a 270+ degree panorama due to downed trees. We could see deeper into the mountain range, across to the other side of the gorge, and east toward the Piedmont (swinging around from south to east to north in the following pictures). See if you can spot the bright shirt on the lower lookout in the last picture of this sequence.

Snack and portrait time

Earlier and further down the slope I had hoped outloud that the fire would result in a quicker transition to hardwoods as it sometimes does. You have probably already discerned how wrong I was. In fact the top of the ridge, where it is quite dry, was spread with Table Mountain Pine saplings, whose seeds only germinate with assistance of fire.

I don’t get many pictures of my son looking at the camera. A certain degree of camera shyness or camera apathy is involved, but also he may be getting back at me for those hikes years ago when I expected him and his brother to keep up. Now the old man mostly sees the his back side as he glides away. The next picture is the very top of Chestnut Knob. I am very skeptical that the top of the knob ever had a Chestnut tree on it. More likely it was named downslope where the abundant producers of food for forest ranging swine were fed.

I asked my son at one interesting turn in the trail on the way down to take my picture when I got to a rock below. That picture actually didn’t turn out so well but several before I got there did.

At the bottom of the gorge my son checked the temperature of the water. It is amazing how much a week of warm weather can warm up a creek after it had been filled with ice just two weeks ago.

The company, conversation, temperature, wind, trail, and views were pleasant. It is always good to get out into God’s Creation for a few hours to reset and recharge.

Read Full Post »

Our daughter came to cook and freeze food for us so that I could get some reprieve from a combination of outdoor and house work. While and because she worked and because the weather and other responsibilities that didn’t allow too much outdoor work, I spent some time with the grandchildren.

Besides cooking, there was also homeschool, because in homeschool, “school is never out”. Of course, the saying alludes to the fact that all situations are opportunities, like the more traditional one pictured and all others, to learn and grow.

One day we took a walk at the local greenway, except we got off the beaten path to see something different. I guess we will call it a fieldtrip.

We actually walked about 2 miles after an hour or so of playing on the Beanstalk Playfort*.

The next day brought continuous rain, so while the my daughter worked and my wife and grandson napped, my granddaughter (E) and I went to the climbing wall.

With a little suggestion and growing confidence with exposure, she began using her toes more and getting to the top more. She met a girl her age with whom she climbed abit.

This was only E’s second time climbing but she enjoyed it thoroughly.

The old man couldn’t stay off of the wall either, even though he’s been declared a bit “off the wall” at times.

The unexpected part was that E had picked up my phone and was taking pictures.

We asked the employee behind the desk and new climbing friend of mine to take a few pictures. I would like to encourage you to check out Bigfoot Climbing Gym**.

I did a traverse around the children’s wall, which was quite challenging, especially these pink and orange holds. Actually, I couldn’t go up them at all and barely traversed across*** them.

We had a fun time and I read to her several chapters of “Tales of the Resistance”, second in a three book series, over the five days they were here. All were encouraged, but I think my daughter was just tired.

*Our local playground pictured here from the website, third picture down on the left.

**https://bigfootclimbinggym.com Check out the 1st anniversary events. It would be a good, inexpensive way to check out the gym.

***Is “tranversed across” a redundant phrase, or does it communicate, as I am trying to, that as I traversed I went across these to climbs?

Read Full Post »

The temperatures have been very variable this winter, frequently ranging from high sixties to low twenties in less than forty-eight hours. We haven’t seen much snow in the valley, but the mountains and west slope have gotten consistent, though not deep accumulations. My youngest son wanted to go for a hike and I wanted to go see a waterfall that I had never seen. We started down the wrong trail, which I pretty much knew as soon as we started, but we saw a waterfall anyway. It was good to get out into the woods in some crisp air. The first picture is of the Hump Mtn heights from Mortimer Road.

Frozen gravel is an odd sight. The air spaces created by the expanding ice make it quite crunchy to step on.

If you have not seen it before, the lacy frost heave of bare soil with excess moisture is even odder to see.

I am a little out of practice, but you can tell the temperature from the position and shape of the rhododendron leaves. They droop more and more as the temperature drops and curl up in the mid-teens degrees F. The following picture shows low twenties. When we first entered the woods in a shady spot, the leaves were hanging straight down, indicating below twenty. I didn’t see any curled on this trip.

Which trail are we on? The color of the blaze tells you. The sunbeam across this Mockernut Hickory bark gives the blaze an extra apparent significance. It makes me sad to see when someone slashes at a tree. the damage to the bark can introduce disease or allow entrance by insects.

Microcosms or micro-environments have long fascinated me from the perspectives of the interactions and completeness of their little ecosystems and the photographic possibilities. If one takes the time to look, there is so much going on in the following picture. And in warmer seasons, insects, spiders, and other arthropods would be combing the surface and subsurface for detrital delicacies and with carnivorous cravings. My son mentioned that spiders can be incredibly small. Having studied spiders, I told him that the Family Microphanidae (1) required a hand lens to even see and more magnification to discern parts. I had identified a few back in the day.

Stone wall, rock outcropping, or tree bark? This one is not so hard to figure out but pictures with a narrow field of view are frequently used for puzzles. The interesting features include moss “leaves” (2) and miniature lichen scales, remnants of snow, insect bore holes, and the platy form of pine bark.

I like the open hardwood forest which has such a stark, leafless beauty in winter.

The quietness of the woods soothes, quiets, and focuses the mind. Work and societal stress are well coped with by the occasional few hours in the woods. Rhododendron thicket ahead! It means increased ground moisture and change in aspect. (3)

Chimneys in the woods are not uncommon, but this one is in particularly good condition. My son thought it might be an old store next to the logging road.

The old cookstove has seen better days. I had hopes that the nameplate was on the door, but someone had removed it long ago. It would have been cast-iron and not so deteriorated as the plate-steel guts of the stove.

My son wanted to see how thick the ice was. Given the fluctuations in temperatures lately, it surprising that it was about 2 1/2 inches. Composed of three distinct layers, it had vertical striations of air bubbles ending at clearly seen interfaces between the layers.

A full week of consistently cold temperatures would render this cascade flowing under the ice. The edges were icing.

Only a video can show this next curiosity of bubbles: Click on https://youtu.be/HAeuLXcRzyg to see the short video.

North Harper Creek Falls runs down perhaps 150 yards of 30 degree sloped rock outcropping to then fall over a 25′ cliff at the bottom. It occurred to me that the water slips into the pool and makes far less noise than most falls. The picture shows moderate flow for this falls.

You can tell it is cold when I bring out my Australian surplus army wool paints, Canadian down skiing vest, and purple heavy weight fleece pullover. As I get older it takes less cold to pull out the serious gear. We actually saw two trail runners, one of whom was wearing shorts. I guess they didn’t stand still too long.

This spot has memories. I once did a homeschool ecology lesson from this spot. As you can see from the view, this spot feels totally out in the middle of nowhere. It is about as close as you can get to it in my neck of the woods.

Right at the beginning of the trail it crosses private property. The confirming indicator is the corner marker. The government clearly marks their corners.

In fact, they are hard to miss.

I wonder if it is advisable to report an unwilling or accidental destruction, defacing, change, or removal?

Early in the hike as I was making a creek crossing, my left foot slipped on ice and plunged into the creek over the top of the boot. It could have been worse. No injury and nothing else got wet. I poured out the water and walked without a sock on my left foot for perhaps a mile. My heel began to tell me a blister was in my future, so I told my son that I would take him up on his offer to dry out my sock. We found a wide spot on the trail where there was totally bare, mineral soil. My son gathered small dead umbels (4) of flowers that he said are always dry even when it is raining. We both gathered leaves and twigs up to about thumb diameter. He got quite the hot little fire going and fed it while I rotated my sock near the base causing steam to rise from it. I have one regret concerning this blog entry. I was so intent on drying my sock that I never thought to take a picture of the fire. My son did do a thorough job of spreading the embers and stamping it out before we left. I crossed the creek at a different place on the way back.

I was thankful to be able to get out and enjoy the quiet and talk with my son and see beauty. Before we left, with the assistance of the runners’ map, we found the trailhead where we should have begun. We are determined to return soon. I thank God for the beauty of His Creation and His kindness toward me to allow me to hike for so many years and still yet.

  1. I would not be at all surprised if you cannot find any reference to that spider family name. Classification Scientists love to change things around, especially since they believe, falsely as I believe, they have found the key to classification in DNA comparison phylogenetic trees.
  2. Mosses do not have true leaves because they are non-vascular plants and lack the complexity of leaves.
  3. Aspect is the compass direction of slope, which determines amount of sunlight, drying, and temperatures.
  4. Umbels are arrangements of flowers in an umbrella shape.

Read Full Post »

I could be talking about the underpinnings of society, but that seems to be going no where at the moment. So, I’ll just talk about a recent deck repair that I did.

Two of the posts had significant bows due to warping at a knot or knots. The first one pictured is the worst since a crack goes almost all the way through the two knots on either side. Gravity is persistent and will overcome any imbalance eventually. For that reason I hand pick all lumber when I am building a deck and take back boards that are not looking like they will go the distance. Nothing is permanent and decks can be expected to last 20 to 30 years depending on how often you stain it, the quality of the original boards, maintenance, and how it was designed.

Here is it close up. I should have shown the other side so you could see how serious the problem was to the structure of the post.

The other one looked as follows. If the grain at the top of the knot split to combine the two cracks, the post would not be far from gone.

The first step was to install a temporary support. A few posts from a previous job and my trusty persuasional tool (sledgehammer) served the purpose well. I hammered the temporary up to plumb, allowing you to see just how bowed the post was.

The next step was cutting the post off and rigging a way to pulled it out of the concrete slab. The slab was added after the house and deck were built, so they poured it around the posts. My car and truck jacks worked slowly but surely.

I was surprised how shallow the post was set. The aluminum plate, badly corroded, was sitting on gravel in the hole whereas these plates were usually used to set posts on concrete. There was not too much cracking of the concrete.

I filled the hole with concrete and inserted a “J” bolt that would later secure the bottom plate.

Two days later I installed the new posts. You can see in the background that I had not yet installed the second post.

A post whose bottom can dry out will last much longer.

Next I went around and clamped together joists which had warped and separated and screwed or bolted them together as needed. Some just looked ugly and others presented possible structural problems.

That does not look good from a structural standpoint. I had to jack up the left joist a bit to clamp and screw it together.

This one looks bad but is well supported so I don’t believe it caused a real problem.

However, real or perceived, I was tasked with fixing it.

My father would always say that there was nothing better than a nut and lock washer. I have a son and son-in-law, who are Materials Joining Engineers, who would likely differ. At any rate, I must not have quite learned the lesson. However, in my defense, I find that a flat washer crushed slightly into wood works quite well.

Decks And Such (https://facebook/decksandsuch), be the job small or large, fixes the prob lem (prob-><-lem -> problem) and gets the results.

I am pleased to thank God for the strength and experience to work in this way and the flow of work that has begun in 2021. When work slacked up in December, I became concerned, but it was all part of the plan. I had back problems soon afterwards that prevented me from working. As soon as that subsided, the work started coming again. We can depend on God to provide; we need to trust Him even when things get lean.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains