Sunday, January 16, 2022

Think Like A Native

Got in a couple fun days angling during the recent holiday breaks. Unseasonable forty to high fifty degree temperatures made for some pleasant outdoors:

All are Olympus TG-4 Interval Mode images

Overall, weather was a bit too perfect. Could have settled for a bit more cloud cover. Reason two fold: (1) a bit less intense image exposure contrast (2) harsh shadows that compromise casting locations while trying to operate under the radar when moving about and positioning along the stream channel. Don't really care too much about the photos. They're only "capture the moment" point-and-shoots. Spook the native brook trout and ya' might have to work the same spot for forty-five minutes coaxing 'em out of lock down. If at all. Still, can't complain about a sunny, high fifty degree December 24th.

News Years Eve day was particularly exceptional considering a prior day of heavy rain. All the previously dry or trickling runnels descending the flanks of the hollow were flowing heavy into the main creek channel. Abrupt flows and a surging creek always seem to activate the native brooks. We most often have a bit of success when casting the mouths of these feeders, particularly where they converge adjacent pools or holes.

Was workin' this day - native brook on a #12 Hares Ear

Nice hikin' around as well:

Cool moss on this large sandstone boulder

Fungi on this old sawed log

Some colorful fungi (Turkey Tail mushroom) on a deadfall log

(Internet Source: PA Fish and Boat Commission Interactive Map)
Gotta' be impressed with the number of native trout streams here in PA

The local "backyard"

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Skiing the Altais

Finally got the first four inches of (decently) skiable snow for the season. Took advantage for a few hours yesterday. We'll take it.

Skied the favorite four mile out and back. A little over 700ft elevation gain. No base but some pretty decent powder. A bit rocky. Can't complain, other than that it is now all gone thanks to some warmer temps.

The bright sun really warmed the day toward late afternoon. Had to pack it in for the final 0.2mile at lower  elevation. The snow had really turned to wet crud. We thank the two hikers we encountered who had the perception to stay out of the ski tracks. Sad to say, you don't come across that often enough.

A couple folks over time have asked "What are those skis you guys got?"

They're manufactured by a company called Altai. The pattern is akin to a type of ski used by the indigenous people living in the Altai (or Altay) mountain region of central and east Asia. Hence the moniker. Did a bit of reading up on the area. Some hard folks. Totally subsist off the land. To them the skis are just another survival tool. 

Map location of the Altai region - borrowed from Altai's website.

Originally manufactured by Karhu skis (were called Karvers). When Karhu ceased operation years back their two Karver designers bailed and went their own way, partnering and forming Altai Skis. They subsequently did some design improvements, hence the current Altai ski. 

At the time we had been searching for an optimal approach ski for ice climbing. The Karhu Karvers were great for that as they had a ratchet-type free heel binding that was compatible with (crampon compatible) mountaineering boots. Over time we took a shine to the overall ski performance of those things. We picked up another pair and rigged 'em for three-pin touring. We particularly liked the partial built-in climbing skin. Our preferred ski touring routes always include long climbs with some steeps. There's no long steep mountain climbs in these parts that necessitate the utilization of climbing skins (it's rolling hill backwood SWPA). The fish scale pattern of regular nordic and touring skis never really fit the bill for steep climbs (at least the ones we've owned). We ski the 145cm length. The shorter length and wide base provide good maneuverability on the downhill. They're pretty easy to ski. Like anything else, there's conditions where we find they work a bit better. Others may prefer different. 

Hey, we were asked - ya' know what they say about opinions.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Walt and the Mighty Yo

 Lived and worked in upper Western New York State for four years. Quite a few years back, early to mid 90's. Work related transfer from the Baltimore/Washington DC area. Got around to a bit of climbing on the infrequent weekends that we stuck around town - Niagara Gorge, including bouldering at the 'Glen', and elsewhere along the Niagara Escarpment extending from Niagara Falls up into the Burlington-Milton region in Souther Ontario, Canada. Is a pretty nice area. Remember a couple of pretty nice long traditional lines at a place called Mt. Nebo. One had a bit intimidating overlapping roof to pull through to top out. Got to be friends with a guy who worked at Eastern Mountain Sports in Buffalo, NY, who knew quite a bit of ice around the area. Some stuff along Cattaraugus Creek south of Buffalo (around West Valley as recalled) that involved some long slog bushwhacks then rappel to the base of the routes. Some stuff too down along Twenty Mile Creek east of Erie, PA. Never ever saw anyone else nor any tracks. He wound up moving to Colorado. Have always wondered if anyone else has ever been there to this day.

(Internet Images)
A few images we found on-line of Mt. Nebo. Hope the photographer doesn't mind us using them. Thanks none-the-less.

(Internet Image)
Another pilfered internet image. Typical looking ice formation along those creek gorges. That one looks real familiar. Could be a real nightmare accessing those steep bluffs.

Through work became acquainted with another fellow - Walt. Walt wasn't an avid climber, but a climber none-the-less. He knew everything concerning rope work and rigging. He was also a hard guy. Walt was a Vietnam War veteran. Don't know what he did over there but you sensed he spent a lot of time in the jungle. Never discussed the war. Hated tents with a passion ("F*k that - I spent four years in a tent in Vietnam!") and any extended overnight trip involved a motel room on his end. You could tell he had seen some action. Hiking along one day, overheard a conversation he was havin' with a fellow war buddy along for the day, discussing another friend who was killed while walking point during one of their patrols. Sounded like they really got opened up on. Walt was a biker and rode with a group of former Vietnam vets. They liked to harass the cops when pulled over for one violation or another. Walt wore combat boots when in the outdoors, no matter what the activity. Walt was showing' us some photos one day of one of his climbing trips to the Adirondack Mountains of eastern NY State. Damned if there ain't Walt inching his way up Chapel Pond Slab in combat boots. Had to have made the route 2-3 grades harder. Walt chain smoked Lucky Strikes non filter. Walt was pretty intelligent. Walt had no bullsh*t to 'em. Walt was a hell of a guy. You liked to be liked by Walt.

Walt had done some whitewater rafting. The first few weeks of knowing Walt, he, learning that we were from SWPA, spoke once or twice of paddling a whitewater river of the region called the "Yo" (??). I finally asked 'em "Walt, where is this river "Yo" of which you speak?" He said it was in a town named "O-hip-a-lee". Walt had an affable naivety when it came to names of things and places. I put two and two together and commented "Walt - I think you're talking' about the Yough River in Ohiopyle. That's pretty much my backyard - up in the mountains". Walt must have run the Yough at a high water level on that trip. He raved about the size of the rapids, - "Oh, it was mighty". Said he had a hell of a good time. "Walt, anytime you wanna' come down and run the Yo again, just say. Have a boat and gear. I'll get a couple of buddies together and we'll go". We immediately had a trip planned for a near future Saturday.

True to form, Walt declined invitation for tent camping, preferring to stay at a local motel the night before the trip. He brought along three other buddies - recall that one was his son. We met 'em all at the motel early morning and they followed us up to the put-in in "O-hip-a-lee" after first hitting the boaters breakfast at the town community center.

Walt's dressed military issue - matching olive drab t-shirt and fatigue pants, knotted olive drab kerchief. Standard combat boot footwear. The river wasn't runnin' as mighty as described during Walt's first trip, but they still had a heck of a time. Walt's crew manned their own rental craft. Walt was clearly the captain of the ship - his booming commands of "Stroke! Stroke!" echoing throughout the six hundred foot deep river gorge.

"Ya' wanna' make a strong sharp right, paddling hard, upon hitting the channel, and miss that big rock the current's plowing into! If ya' don't and collide with the rock, you're probably gonna' flip your boat!" Watch us!! We'll go first!!!" Just do what we do!!!!" We proceeded to slam right into Dimple Rock, flipping our boat and all getting dumped into the river. Walt's crew made the turn without incident, paddling like hell after witnessing our calamity. "Your boat stood straight up in the air! I just kept sayin' please god, don't let us hit that rock!!" was a later comment from one of Walt's crew.

Typically, Wild Bill, along on the trip, put on a show at Double Hydraulic rapid for the guys. He always had a habit of goin' back up river and swimmin' the "big" rapids of the trip. Personally think that Double Hydraulic rapid is a bit more dicey at moderate water level - higher levels ya' at least get washed out of the large hole. Probably about 2.5ft OPG this day. Bill would drop into the hydraulic and disappear for what seemed like five minutes. Just when he'd have everyone up on their feet ready to scramble crafts and throw ropes for body recovery, he'd pop up a few hundred feet down river. Swimming back to shore then scrambling upstream over the river boulders, he'd return huffing and puffing, proclaiming  "I'm gonna' try it one more time!". Bill was an immediate favorite of Walt and that was a highlight Walt always mentioned when later describing the trip to anyone - "We though he was drowned!!"

Haven't seen nor made contact with Walt since leaving the area way back when. Could be he's no longer with us. Either way, we bet even God likes to be liked by Walt.


Couldn't find any suitable images of the few we currently have of our experiences while in WNY. Did find quite a few work-related. That was a pretty good assignment - we were pretty much left to our own resources, only hearing from corporate management the first of every month at exactly 10am to bitch and moan about the previous month's P&L statement. We took on any project, no matter how large or small. Never f*k'd anything up (well, not too bad):

At the time that was one of two of the largest mobile lattice cranes in the world (per the crane company). Was mobilized up from Texas for major renovation to a nuclear power plant along the southern shore of Lake Ontario. Required 60+ tractor trailers (per the local newspaper) to transport the components and another big Manitowac crane to assist assembling the thing. The bottom photo illustrates the size difference of the two cranes for a sense of scale.

One of our NDE guys magnetic particle testing the welds of the window waster suspension system of the Xerox Tower in Rochester, NY. The bottom photo is view from the top of the tower.

Scaled seismic simulation testing for structural reinforced concrete components at the (time) National Earthquake Research Center (NERC) located at SUNY in Buffalo, NY.

NERC again - testing seismic bridge bearings for a new bridge in Seattle, Washington (or was it NYC - ?)

"Jerry-rigged" shop calibration for a wire cable tensiometer for a guy who dropped it off. Just left it with the secretary and said "Call me when it's done." We're later all lookin' at it sayin' "What the f*k is this thing?!" We figured it out.

Tensile testing small diameter wire strand cable in the shop/lab.

"Hey - We manufacture this sewer pipe and a county engineer isn't letting a contractor install it unless he can prove the elastomeric joints meet (ridiculously low) pressure requirements per the project specification - we never had it tested for that. Can you guys help us out?" We rigged up this simple pressure test using a hand pump and low pressure gauge and solved his problem. The most fun was when guys would have an issue that there was no procedure for and we'd have to come up with some seat-of-your-pants solution. We'd later attempt to get some recognition from the corporate staff for our ingenuity ("Hey, nice work!). Their comment was always "You guys didn't charge enough!". We just figured F*k 'em.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sixty Years of Fantastic Four

Quite a few years back. Was doin' some work related research at a public library outskirt of Washington, DC. Wallowing through the isles of books our eye happened to catch the title of a particular volume of interest, Comic Book Prices For Collectors, or somethin' like that. Immediately pulled it off the shelf and grabbed a chair. Was a big comic book fan as a kid and had a big box of old comics, say circa 1958 - 1967, stashed away at the old homestead back in PA. Exactly 500 as we recall last count, had been years. Mostly Marvel Comics ranging from late 50's favorite war, horror and monster tales right into their early 60's transition to super heroes beginning with 1961's Fantastic Four. 

(Internet Image)
Totally unknown to us until we picked up issue #5 off the revolving wire comic rack at the local newsstand. After getting home and reading it ten times over, all the while scrutinizing Jack Kirby's brilliant artwork panel by panel, we immediately resolved to seek out issues #1 through #4. Not hard to do back then. The newsstands only kept the current months comics shelved, to be immediately replaced when the next months issues rolled in. The now "back issues" gone from the newsstand for good. There was an Outlet Store (junk shop) in town. They apparently picked up much of the surplus comics from the distributors, newsstands, grocery stores and such. That was the place ya' went to for the back issues - no Amazon, eBay and such back then. They had several large cardboard boxes of comics along a back wall. No order or organization. Considering our recollection of the size of the box of our 500 count, those boxes must have contained 800+ assorted comics. We left with issues #1 through #4 in hand. A fifth forgotten purchase gave us the stores usual bargain price of 5 comics for 25cents.

For the five FF comics alone, lets look at the values indicated in that aforementioned library collectors price guide for modern collectors pricing:

(Internet Image)

(Internet Image)

(Internet Image)

(Internet Image)

With that issue #5 listed at $10,000 - sounds like we got a heck of a deal back then - all five for 37cents. And that doesn't include the other 495 comics in that "box up in the attic" which we knew included first and all early issues of titles like X-Men, Daredevil, Hulk, Sgt. Fury and Howling Commandos and Avengers to list a few.

Hightailed it back to PA that weekend, first stop the old homestead. Took the second floor staircase two stairs at a time - the attic staircase three. Top of the staircase and a quick scan around the attic. Other than a few old suitcases and Christmas decorations, the attics bare. Back down the stairs five at a time to search out mom. 
"What happened to everything in the attic??!!"
"Oh, I gave all that stuff away a few years ago - what are ya' lookin' for sweetie?"
Somethin' to strangle her with.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

What Not: 5.14; Dumbell Pullovers; Mr. Paxton

 ... 5.10 is what 5.8 used ta' be...                                                                                                                        

... 5.12 is what 5.10 used ta' be...

... 5.14 is what 5.12 used ta' be...

... just sayin'...

Old school images - a "Good-man" and Strongman Matt - two strong "dudes" back in the day
Better times before the sport was absorbed into "pop culture"


After many years, recently ran into an old buddy who worked out regularly at a small garage gym we had back in the late '70's. Nothin' fancy - solid bar and dumbell free weights, one store-bought bench along with another home-made bench or two and home-made cable machine. A ton of plates and dumbells. Our boy Derby had a father-in-law who was a pretty good welder/machinist. Along with the benches he'd fashion some heavy plates from pilfered sewer manhole covers (hey - look what we "found"). Derby, primarily a power lifter who regularly benched 400lb+ again set the standard. Workin' out heavy even the smaller guys were soon benchin' 300lb+, including smallest guy Dale who probably weighed 165lb soakin' wet. If ya' didn't get your workout in early before all the boys arrived forget it. It always turned into a strength contest after that. Always had a good time there.

(Internet Image)
Hero of the day, 'Arnold', crankin' off some heavy cross-bench dumbell pullovers at Golds Gym, CA. Think that only one photo of our gym ever existed. No idea what happened to it.

Flashback to great times - our boy Rick is preppin' for a few sets of cross-bench dumbell pullovers. He's got the bar beefed up - 80lbs. "Hey Rick - watch the (screw) collars on those dumbells, they been workin' loose pretty easy of late".... "Don't worry 'bout me - I tightened 'em up! And double checked 'em!!". Three reps into his first set and full extension - first he get's the collar off his forehead followed by an orderly 10-10-10-10, then the bar. He drops the remaining 40lb right in his groin. The Stooges couldn't have staged it any better. The only thing missing were the sound effect chimes. Quick on the comeback, Derby deadpans "Hey Rick, what are those good for?" The place was breakin' up with laughter.

(YouTube Video)


A few days late - adding this in honor of Veterans Day. Post high school education and we had an excellent physics instructor named Mr. Paxton. Could never get into the chore of high school physics - went to a Catholic school and those female Nun by-the-book teaching methods weren't very stimulating, to say the least. Just couldn't crack the nut. Paxton's class was all guys enrolled in technical curriculum including construction, engineering, architecture and electrical. He was a retired physicist, having worked forty years for US Steel. He knew his stuff. Teaching us was elementary to him, and he'd cut loose. He had us calculating anything interesting to guys - ballistic pendulums (bullet momentum), ferry angles for canoe river crossings, crane loads and rigging, airfoil angles of attack. All real world use. All right off the top of his head, bordering on improvisation. Would only ever open the book to give ya' an end of chapter home work assignment. Of coarse, ya' had to read the chapter which was a lot easier to understand following his in-class instruction. If someone would comment upon his genius, his reply would only be "No, I've been doin' it for forty years". He even looked the part - a bit resembled 'Exeter' from the old sci-fi thriller, 'This Island Earth' - tall and thin in stature, large hands, receding silver-gray hairline with a "developed forehead" (could have been 'Professor Moriarty' right out of a 'Sherlock Holmes' novel).

(Internet Image)
'Exeter' from 'This Island Earth (1955)' - gotta' be a distant relative of Mr. Paxton.

Mr. Paxton was a World War II vet. He related the story that during the war he was stationed in the South Pacific, along with one other guy, manning a radar installation on a small isolated pacific isle. The Japs knew of the radar and island but never bothered it because they would occasionally intercept intelligence transmissions for their own use. Besides, the island was quickly defended by air if attacked. He said that after month's of isolation they would have welcomed any action.

Once a month a supply boat or sea plane would stop by. Rations were sparse. They subsisted pretty much solely on canned corn beef hash - breakfast, lunch, dinner. They'd supplement it with what they could catch from the sea and fruits and vegetables from the island. One day the supply ship arrived carrying a package from his wife back at home in the states. Excitement. Upon opening the package, however, he discovered that the cargo comprised a several dozen can supply of corned beef hash. Said he almost tossed the entire package into the sea. To break the monotony, there was additionally canned fruit and multiple packages of chocolate and vanilla cake mix, so they at least had dessert to go along with the hash.