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The Grand Adventure- Day 2- 04/25/09: Phantom Ranch and around

A restful day in camp at Phantom Ranch deep in the Grand Canyon? Not so much:  a little sunrise stroll down to the river followed by a "day hike" up Clear Creek Trail towards the North Rim. The winds were at times as bad as the day before and we even got a spat of rain at the top of the hike... but at least we weren't carrying packs (except for the day pack containing essential snacks).

Early Morning Bright Angel Creek bordering the hiker's campground
Thumb 10 04_25_09 early morning bright angel creek

Thumb 11 04_25_09 deer crossing creek

Black Bridge that we had crossed yesterday (yes, there is another bridge, the Silver bridge, a bit down river)
Thumb 12 04_25_09 black bridge and co river morning

Canyon Sunrise
Thumb 13 04_25_09 canyon sunrise

Canyon Sunrise #2
Thumb 14 04_25_09 canyon sunrise 2

Our day hike, up Clear Creek Trail (we debated the no camping warning and, since we went about 3 or 4 miles up the trail, decided that after two miles there simply wasn't anyplace to camp so why bother with a warning!). We never did find the creek, making it as far as the Tonto Plateau before rain and common sense turned us back.
Thumb 24 04_25_09 clear creek trail sign

Looking down at Bright Angel Creek back towards Phantom Ranch
Thumb 15 04_25_09 looking down at bright angel creek

Clouds moving in
Thumb 16 04_25_09 clouds moving in

The bottom section of the South Kaibab Trail... this is what we hiked down the day before. No wonder our feet hurt!
Thumb 17 04_25_09 south kaibab trail

Looking Up-River
Thumb 18 04_25_09 co river looking west

Mike looking out (ignoring Jodi's admonitions about getting too close to the edge and falling off)
Thumb 19 04_25_09 mike looking out

A Lonely Tree
Thumb 20 04_25_09 lonely tree

Looking down at the Black Bridge, with the Silver Bridge far off in the distance. The river really is that green: the dams up river slow down the water flow so the river went from the brown early explorers saw to the green it is now.
Thumb 21 04_25_09 bright angel creek and co river scenic

Red Cactus Flowers... pretty much a mandatory image when in the desert (most of the base of the Canyon is a desert climate)
Thumb 22 04_25_09 cactus red flowers

Sunshine on a Cloudy DayThumb 23 04_25_09 sunshine on a cloudy day

Campsite # 14: packs had to be hung on special racks to keep the critters at bay and food stored in heavy military ammo cans for the same reason (despite these precautions, something chewed a hole in the top of Mike's pack trying to get to something spilled in it). That's my small.... very small... one- man... just barely one- man... tent.
Thumb 25 04_25_09 site 14


The Grand Adventure- Day 1- 04/24/09: Down South Kaibab

04_24_09 walkers by ruf The first day of our Grand Adventure!

It was trip that would span four days and about 37 miles of hiking down into, through and up out of the Grand Canyon. 

Three Intrepid Souls (Mike, Jodi & me) descended the South Kaibab trail of the Grand Canyon, 7.1 miles down to Phantom Ranch. It was our first time on this trail: the views were absolutely stunning. Unlike the other main trail, Bright Angel, this trail went down the side of the canyon offering amazing scenics of the Grand Canyon. It was a steep, rough trail that was a grueling first day challenge. Adding to the fun were winds gusting up to (we found out later) 50-60MPH... at one point Jodi was doing one step sideways for every two steps forward (us heavier types were somewhat better grounded).  Leaving about 9:30am, we made it to Phantom Ranch mid-afternoon, tired and dirty (South Kaibab defines The Dusty Trail) but overwhelmed by where we were.  

Getting ready to go (notice the jackets... it was about 45 degrees at the top).10 thumb 04_24_09 getting ready

A traditional view from the top of the Grand Canyon
11 thumb 04_24_09 traditional view from top

On the trail, near the top11a thumb 04_24_09 scenic top of trail

Hiking DOWN the trail takes on new meaning (notice the group hiking ahead of us at the lower left of the image for a sense of perspective)!
12 thumb 04_24_09 looking down south kaibab

13a thumb 04_24_09 dead tree scenic

While we were resting, a local inhabitant took great interest in our packs (looking for food, of course... every main stopping point had its critters)14 thumb 04_24_09 pack squirrel

And the adventure begins...

Day before Day 1...

04_09 jodi mike arrive As we prepare to jump off on a four day trip down into the Grand Canyon. No cell phones, no computers so this will be the last post until we return to "The Top." Weather couldn't be better: low 70's and sunny in Flagstaff which will translate into low 80's during day and low 50's at night down in the Canyon.

Today was all about my fellow hikers (Jodi and Mike) arriving and making last minute preparations:

04_09 adjusting pack - re-packing packs for the zillionth time,
-adjusting them to maximum comfort,
-walking around the campground with full pack settling things in,
-a bit of last minute shopping (almost forgot the Ramen noodles, an indispensable commodity),
- a big dinner tonight (thanks to Ruth, the Official Base Camp Director)

- and of course the never-ending plotting, planning and strategizing.

High-tech smoking?

04_09 njoy electric cigarette
OK, I guess this is to be expected, but it strikes me as strange and just wrong... particularly when you read the "Fine Print."

Hmmmm... the teaser says "without all the problems." Did they read their own fine print (see below)?

And don't get the wrong impression: this is for real and is not from the back of some tabloid, it is a featured item in an e-mail brochure from one of the major Warehouse Stores. Cost is approximately $90. for the "Starter Kit." Go here for NJoy's official website.

The Fine Print (click on image for clearer view)
04_09 njoy hazards

Online Backups?

04_09 carbonite logo In my alter ego (my Day Job), we place a huge emphasis on protecting the data on company computers by doing regular backups to removable or remote media (tape drives, flash drives, etc). The problem we always run into is that every backup system requires some form of ongoing human intervention:  starting the backup, selecting files, checking to make sure the hardware is working, replacing media... and on and on and on. Even using backup software, there traditionally has been some kind of ongoing interaction to achieve a good backup, that doesn't live on the computer, of critical data.

What we find is that those most needing back-ups don't do them! Sure the geeks and the dedicated users will back up (some of them don't even do it), but the casual user doesn't take the time and they are the ones most likely to have a problem. I can relate hours of horror stories about system crashes and chagrined users admitting their last backup was months ago!

The same holds true in the "civilian world," the world of home computers. Except for the geeks out there, most folks don't back up their data or only back up pieces of data from software that reminds them to do so, such as Quicken. As a result, when the computer dies, so does the data. I'm not going to trot out the statistics, look them up yourself. Suffice it to say, the amount of data lost due to hardware failure is staggering. 

I am convinced, both personally and professionally, that the solution is on-line backups, backing up to The Cloud. Recent improvements in the technology have made on- line backing up of data secure (yes, I do think the processes are secure), easy to do, inexpensive and non- intrusive (it doesn't slow down your computer or require you to do anything).

Several companies offer on-line backups, including Mozy, Carbonite and... strangely enough... Amazon. Of the systems aimed at single computers or home computers, Carbonite comes in as easiest to use and, currently, cheapest. The cost, even though they just implemented a price increase, will not kill you: a bit more than $50. per year for unlimited storage. 

In a nutshell, here is how these programs work: download and install a small program on your computer. With Carbonite, the program selects a default set of files and then you can right-click to select additional files and folders. If you are halfway organized, this is an easy task. Then whenever you are connected to the web and your computer is on, the program is working in background backing up new or changed files on an ongoing basis to Carbonite's servers located in the Boston area... with no intervention on your part, unless you want to change something. I have been using Carbonite on a couple of computers for a while now and have not seen any slow-down on my systems while it is working.

If you need to restore a file, files or your entire system, you essentially reverse the process: select the files you want, select a destination and then say GO.

It really is that simple. There is a lot more involved behind the scenes (when files backup, duplicate file saves, remote restores, etc) you can read about on the Carbonite site, but that is the big picture.

04_09 dfandserv-300x200 Click here for an interview with David Friend, the CEO of Carbonite for a good background on the company, how it works and what their philosophy is.

As with anything, there are some caveats:

1. Depending on how much data you have, it takes a while to do the initial backup. I have approximately 40GB on one of my systems and the initial backup took a couple of weeks. After that though, the backup seems pretty fast, even with big files. Full restores can take a while as well but, according to Carbonite, not as long as the initial backup (one of their competitors offers to burn to CD for a price... I recommended that to Carbonite).

2. Carbonite doesn't, by default, back up executables (.exe) files and videos, but you can manually select them. Their reasoning is that these tend to be large files.

3. Carbonite's support can be spotty and, if you have a complex file restore, the process can get a bit wonky. My experience with their support has been pretty good, except they didn't answer two information requests, but if you search the web you will find reports of support issues.

4. Carbonite's focus is entirely on the single computer and primarily the home user. They don't have a small business or company offering. It is supposedly in the works, with lots of rumors, but nothing is available now.

Bottom Line: if the information on your computer is at all important to you, back it up. My recommendation is Carbonite as a good, easy, inexpensive solution. BUT even if you do not use Carbonite, at least protect what is on your computer by backing up critical data!

Out of the side yard jungle...

04_09 side yard thumb (revised 04/09/09)

Out of the jungle that was our side yard there has arisen a new outdoor leisure area featuring rustic pavers, new storage and a genuine Design by Ruth.

Gone are the overgrown bougainvilleas that threatened not only our yard but, at times, the neighbor's as well. Gone also are the ragged desert sage plants that grew out over the walk and the half- rotted beams that served as a quasi- border along the sidewalk. In place of wasted space is a functional area that will enhance our outdoor experience.     

It took a while because we did it all ourselves... aided by many, many trips to the local Home Depot. Our friends Mark and Sandra were the lucky recipients of the 4 or 5 pickup loads of dirt that, in turn, enhanced their backyard ('course the deal was THEY had to haul it off!).

04_09 side yard 2 thumb  Our work is far from done... the project is ongoing. Next on the agenda is to dye the natural gray concrete a more pleasant color... using Ruth's famous sponge technique to apply it. Great debates are ongoing about method and color choice! And eventually electrical for lights and accessories, with an overhang extending the roof-line of the house to provide protection from The Elements (such as they are in Arizona).

 The one regret is that we don't have any "Before" pictures to accurately portray the dramatic change. In our usual manner, we jumped headlong into the project and had the plants ripped out before anyone thought to take a picture! The best we can do is a picture Jodi had of what it looked like before the pavers started going down.... imagine overgrown plants on both sides of the walkway.
Yard before

NCAA Champions

04_09 ucon huskies So the newest NCAA Basketball Champions did something no other College basketball team has done... ever: they had an undefeated season and beat every opponent they played by double- digits. They won six tournament games by an average scoring margin of 25:1 and won the championship game by 22 points.  (thanx, USAToday, for the stats).

And, until recently, this was not a front page story in most Sports sections or news reports.

Congratulations to the UConn Huskies' WOMEN's basketball team!

The Next Evolutionary Step, or maybe Devolution!

From ABC News, the story of a truly dedicated geek. The only way to improve this story is if it had been a "different appendage." The absolutely best line in the article is his description of how he uses it:  "When I'm using the USB, I just leave my finger inside the slot and pick it up after I'm ready."

04_09 cen_usb_finger_090318_mn All Thumbs: Man Says He Has USB Drive in Prosthetic Finger 

Programmer Lost Finger in Motorcycle Accident; Says He Took Advantage of It

Click here to go to the full story!

(this post was revised 04/07/09)

Desert plants in the neighborhood

It was a typical Phoenix late afternoon on Thursday's Decompression Hike: very bright, a bit of a (pollution) haze, not a cloud in the sky and a hefty breeze blowing. Not the best of conditions to render good images. So a few images of the plant life seen while hiking the big hill by the house.

04_09 thumb amongst the rocks  04_09 thumb barrel and saguaro cactus

04_09 thumb live and dead cactus

04_09 thumb white bush 

04_09 thumb white flower closeup
(in a swipe at full disclosure, the two cactus images... 2nd and 3rd above... are not really in as barren an area as it appears: the magic of Paint Shop Pro whacked the suburban landscape behind the foregrounds)