Thursday, February 21, 2019

The End of the Blog

I imagine it is obvious from the fact I haven't updated this in over a year, but I am no longer blogging.  I'm happy, life is good, still on Shaw, just no longer recording my life here. Thanks for the support over the years.  

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Visit From Marijke's Brother & Climbing Mt Baker

When I left off last post, Marijke and I were just returning to the islands from our long weekend celebrating our one year anniversary in Victoria BC, a short boat ride away.  Upon our return, it was back to normal for a few days: just sunshine and work, but soon Marijke's brother would be visiting us for about two weeks. We had a great visit planned full of activities and although I'd never met the guy, I was really looking forward to it.

Thus far, most of my tree jobs had been taking place on Orcas, but the Shaw jobs were starting to come in and it was sure an easier commute when you don't need a boat! This job, removing a willow that fell over, was about 10 minutes away, on the same road as my house.  I've certainly mentioned it before, but the deer out here are pretty fearless, and attracted to the sound of chainsaws and other machines.  They know that means there is new brush on the ground, and they aren't timid about getting a nibble!

A little while back I'd brought my Baja bug back up to the island, to sell actually, but it had been sitting for about 18 months and didn't want to start right away.  So using my rope puller, I tied off to a tree, the bumper of the bug, and Marijke winched it into the small car port behind the main one where I keep my truck.  Oh covered storage space, how I love it.

Now back in the late spring when I bought the truck, I'd suddenly become the owner of THREE green Fords.  This is of course in addition to our other two cars.....  None of this was intentional, all three were just the vehicles that fit what I was looking for, but I'd never gotten a photo of all three together.  It was finally time to sell the Explorer, so while I was washing that to take pictures for the ad, I washed the truck and van as well for a little photo shoot on the end of the air strip.

I'd built the center tunnel of the truck box, where wood chips are shot in from the chipper and now I finally had time to start building the tool box sides.  Like most things I build, I think I made one quick not-to-scale sketch in my  notebook and started building.  That said, I'd been thinking about the design for a long time and had a pretty clear idea where I was going, but compared to any real builder, I was just freestyling.

My shop space, which I'd been continually improving, was serving me extremely well and the slab was covered in saws, pieces of wood and other bits and pieces.  In this picture the shape of the box is done, and it will eventually have a shelf as well as two barn door style doors. 

On the mainland for a supply run.  Besides groceries and the other usual things, I had to grab a few more sheets of plywood for the truck box.  I've taken Marijke to Home Depot so many times it's a bit ridiculous.

Watching the vultures soak in the sun on a hot afternoon day.  At this time, I was probably sitting down with a cold beer myself. 

While I prefer more technical jobs, I wound up with one project that was just bucking a huge log pile into firewood rounds.  It was big logs, some over 30" and over 30 feet long.  Using my truck and a chain, I pulled the pile apart, skidded them up hill, bucked them and rolled the pieces down into the pile.  I spent three solid days doing this...

August had just begun, and with that came Marijke's brother Stijn. 

Stijn is into canyoneering and climbing and other action oriented activities, so so give him a fun introduction to Shaw, our boss Jack loaned us his Polaris Rzr to take a spin.  This thing is the turbocharged model, 168 horsepower, and has 16-18" of suspension travel.... yah it's fast, and yah, we gave it a little bit of a workout. 

Because Marijke was working for most of the time her brother was around, Stijn came with me to work and helped me with projects around the house as well.  He was an awesome help and quick learner.  Early in the visit, we went back to the firewood project and I had him marking and pulling logs with my truck which he got a kick out of.  This was the final mountain of rounds. 

Re-creating kid photos, all the rage on the internet these days and we all got in on the fun as well. 

Of course we wanted to show Stijn more than just Shaw, so one afternoon we headed to San Juan Island to look around.  We walked through Friday Harbor, and at one of the auto shops on the edge of town there was a small car show of sorts going on.  Stijn also likes American cars, so he thought this was pretty cool and saw a number of things he'd only seen in pictures before.

This whole time, beginning before Stijn's arrival, we had been dealing with smoke filled skies from forest fires north of us in Canada.  For weeks, the sky was grey, the light was dull and the air quality was pretty bad.  It was such a bummer for Stijn's visit, because of course this whole time we had been telling him how beautiful it was here, but much of it was not visible. 

Tacos on the deck.

I had another tree job on Orcas, so again Stijn joined me.  While I did some of the usual large scale work, I did a little fine pruning as well. I enjoyed the change of pace and I haven't busted out my hand pruners on a job in.... years? I used to do a lot more fine pruning back in Seattle, on the islands, not so much. 

Chipping into the truck at the end of the day.

Most customers want to keep the chips for themselves (which is why I don't need a big chip box), but today I hauled them away.  Here is the unloading system in action.  I've made some small improvements since this photo, but here we are unloading chips at the edge of the pond below my house.  Another space on the property I've been fixing up.

Having the Rawls over for dessert.

I'm not actually where the original idea came from, but we met my dad on the mainland, and headed out to climb Mt Baker.  Neither Stijn nor Marijke had ever done any sort of mountain climbing, so it was going to be an awesome experience for them. I've done pretty much all the other big volcanoes in Washington and Oregon, but had never actually done Baker, so this mountain at least would also be new to me.

Checking out glacier covered Mt Baker, 10,781 feet.  On the approach road we stopped at a pull out to look and talk about the route.  Here you can see the air was still smokey, but it wasn't terrible.

At the trailhead.  The plan was to hike up to the base camp area, do some instruction, spend the night and then head up early the next morning to summit.  From there we would head all the way back down and go home. 

On the trail as we hiked upwards.

As we got above the tree line, the mountain was again visible and the weather was looking perfect (minus the smoke in the air of course).  It's been a while since I was up in elevation like this, and I was really happy to be there.

As I said earlier, neither Marijke or Stijn had walked with crampons or used an ice axe before, so after setting up camp at the base of the snow (and with the summit peaking out above) we did some quick lessons on what we would be doing tomorrow morning.

Mountain goats wandering near camp.

Cooking dinner.

So not only was this the first time Marijke was walking on a glacier and climbing a mountain, it was essentially the first time she had really camped in a tent! 

After waking up, eating some breakfast and getting our gear on, it was time to start hiking up.  From here onward, we would be on glaciers.

The rising sun.

Me standing on what was probably a 3 foot wide bit if snow, with large crevasses on both sides.

Looking back at the rope team, Marijke, Stijn and my dad as I lead.

The final stretch is very steep, and clouds began rolling in.

Once you get to the top of the steep section from the last photo, there is a large flat-ish area, maybe 1000 feet across (?) that is the top of the mountain, and it took us 6 hours to get here from camp that morning.  Along that top, and of course on the far side from where we came up, is the highest point, a little bump, half bare, that is the true summit.  By this point, the smoke combined with the clouds meant there was really no view to be had.  A bummer for sure, but it was still awesome to be at the top of Baker, a mountain we see often from our home island of Shaw.

Getting back to camp from the summit was faster than up, but still took 4 hours, walking as a rope team almost the whole way of course.  It was more clear down below by this time, and the wild flowers were spectacular. 

Victorious back at camp. 

We had planned on packing up, hiking all the way back down to the car and driving back to the city today but the climb took longer than we had planned on and honestly we were all pretty tired.  I was able to get off a text message to my family and told them we would be spending an extra night on the mountain, returning the next morning instead.  This was totally the right call, and I'm glad we had some extra time on the side of the mountain as well because it was just such a nice place to be.

Back home and grabbing a few things at the Shaw General Store.

This little bird hit the window and was a bit dazed, so I held him away from the cats until it could fly away.

After a great visit, it was time for Stijn to return to the Netherlands the next day.  Luckily for us, the smoke finally cleared and we headed out for a scenic boat ride.  These are the seals that hang out on some low rocks on Blind Bay.

Normally in the summer you can see Mt Baker almost every day, but until today it hadn't been viable once because of the smoke.  Stijn hadn't even seen any bald eagles yet, but that day out on the water we saw both the mountain, and numerous eagles.  It was a beautiful last full day in the islands.

Catching the ferry home.  It was funny though, because in a few short weeks Marijke and I would actually be heading to the Netherlands ourselves, and would see him again soon.

One of the many projects Stijn helped me with during his visit was some tree clearing on the south side of the house.  This view, out the southern living room window, was gradually improving and soon would give us a clear view at the Olympic Mountains.

Work on the truck box also continued, as I tried to build it while using the truck for work at the same time.  At this point I had one of the tool box sides exactly how I wanted it but bare wood, so it was now time to take it all apart, sand everything, and paint it with 2-3 coats of heavy paint.  The racks that keep my firewood off the ground served well as drying racks for all the pieces as we painted both sides, and the space behind my shop was the perfect place to do it.

August 21st, the total eclipse.  Of course on Shaw it was only a partial, but it was still neat to see.  I was prepared with my eclipse glasses and stopped working for an hour or so to observe the strange phenomenon.

Working late into the night re-assembling the truck box after the paint had dried.  I put calking in between every seam to make it water proof for year around use and protection, and it was amazing how many tubes of the stuff I went through...

Haha, this still makes me laugh.  Jack was hired to build a big deer fence that would surround an orchard, and the ground was REALLY heavy clay.  Normally to build fence we just use a hydraulic post pounder that mounts to the tractor.  You cut a point on the post and just pound it into the ground like a giant nail, but the ground here was so hard that just didn't work.  Instead, each hole had to be dug out with an auger, but even that was a challange, requiring a log more downward pressure than the 3 point hitch on the tractor could create.  The solution was to put a 12 foot post into the auger mount and hang on that, in order to help press the auger into the clay and eventually dig the hole.  Always funny to see your wife hanging from a post attached to a tractor! 

Sam, a friend from high school (wow, so going back over 15 years now...) was about to get married, and for a wedding gift I decided to build him and his new wife a bench.  I had some nice looking 4x6 laying around, so after some time with a saw, belt sander, 6" screws, 3 coats of polyurethane and more hand sanding, I had built them a pretty nice looking bench. 

And on the subject of building things, I finally finished one side of the truck box!  Ugh, I felt like this project was really dragging on, but there is only so much time in the day, free days to build between days I'm working, and then of course there are the times I'm held up needing materials since there is no store on the island.  Anyways, now I had ONE of the sides done, and it looked and worked great!

Inside.  I was really happy with how it call came together, and it offered up a huge amount of storage space for all  my tools.  Milk crates fit in perfectly, and have become my go-to organizing bin for the truck.

It was time to return to Seattle for Sams wedding.  As I got off the freeway near Northgate mall and my parents house, I drove under all the new construction for Seattles new light rail system.  Having grown up in Seattle I've seen so much change in the city it's amazing.  The rail system is of course long overdue, and to watch it's progress as I visit every few months has been fun.  That said, I'm glad I don't live in a city anymore!

Friday night was the rehearsal dinner for Sam's wedding (right) and we had a pizza dinner in his parents back yard.  It was Sam who mentioned his dad had a tree company and needed workers that got me into tree work actually, so I guess I have him and his dad to thank for my current business!

The groom and our crew.  All of us are friends from back in high school actually and still see each other often.  I know that's a pretty rare thing, so I'm always happy when I take a moment to reflect on that fact.  Dan, Kelty, Brendan, Noel, Sam, Nick, me, Sazzy and Jon. 

The ceremony.

Sam and Meghans wedding was very nice and a lot of fun.  After the wedding of course was a big dinner with everyone, then the after party at the rental house.  As usual, weddings are great for bringing people together and this was no exception.  Thanks for letting me be a part of it, Sam. 

It's not often that Marijke and I are dressed up, we usually just wear dirty work Charhartts!  Because of that, I had to include one photo of us looking nice together....

Once we returned to the island from the wedding, it was time to leave again, because Marijke and I were finally headed to her home country, the Netherlands!

When Marijke returned to the USA on a 3 month tourist visa, the time in which we decided to get married, she had literally no idea when she would be able to return to the Netherlands again.  The reason for that is that if you leave the USA in the middle of the process, at least the way we ended up going about it, it isn't a sure thing they will let you back in.  It wasn't until she finally received her green card that she was able to travel freely again, and immediately after that, which was 6 months ago at this point, was she able to travel freely again and we were able to plan our trip to her home.   

She of course was looking forward to seeing her friends and family, and to be able to show me where she comes from.  Naturally I was excited for the trip as well, because I wanted to meet her friends and family as well, plus of course see the place that made her the person I fell in love with.  The plan was to spend about two weeks in the Netherlands, then about a week in Iceland on the return.  With buffer time on both ends, it would mean being away nearly a month, a long time but we were both looking forward to the trip. 


So with that, of course the next post is going to be about our time in the Netherlands and Iceland.  I got to see the house Marijke grew up in and meet its current residents, eat Dutch fries Marijke has been bragging about since we met, see her friends, ride a bike in the worlds most bike friendly country and then see Iceland together, our own little vacation and a sort of delayed honeymoon. It was a very interesting trip, so check back and read all about it soon.