Saturday, December 31, 2011

Stupid Products for Camping that Work......

usbackroads-stupid products for camping that really work!!!

This posting is about those products that when you first saw them you said "That is really stupid"!!  Then after you used them for awhile.....well, maybe that was not so stupid after all!!

The first product is the "chair blind".  Yes, a folding canvas chair complete with cup holder that is surrounded by a pop-up blind.  Yes, I always thought I wanted a "real" blind.  However, they are large to carry and difficult to set-up.  So after thinking about it for a bit it was either going to be the "chair-blind" or nothing at all.  The picture above shows the blind set-up.  The following picture shows the blind tied to my pack on opening day of duck season.  Yes, Bugaboo was jealous of my blind and wanted in, but was disappointed when he did not get his own chair!!  They do come in doubles!

You can use the blind for hunting, photography, fishing, or just getting out of the wind!!  It was so comfortable that several times I brought a book along just for reading.  For just $79.99.

The second product is Remote Control LED Lights.  Now why would anybody want a remote controlled light.  Sounds like the CLAPPER!!  Well I bought a pack since I wanted some LED lights for the tent trailer.  I thought I would never use the remote control feature.  Well, being in my early 60's means sometimes I have to get up in the middle of the night.  All of a sudden a lightbulb went on in my head!!  I can use the remote control to light up my path to the door.  Yes, these work and you will probably find some pretty cool uses if you start thinking "outside the box".

The last item is studded snow treads for your feet. Yeah, that's right. Studded tires for your feet. Well, up at our vacation rental cabin at Camas Meadows it can get icy. On real bad days I even put on my snowshoes just to give that extra safety margin!! Well, I bought a pair of these and let me tell they are a lot more comfortable than a pair of snowshoes!! Yeah, it really looks like a stupid idea, but falling on the ice is no longer the adventure it was at an earlier age. Buy these so they run a little small. I wear a size 8 shoe, but bought a size 4-8 womens pair. The added tightness keeps them from slipping off the shoe. I use them while blowing snow and going up and down the slopes around the cabin. STUPID idea, but it works and like I say much more comfortable than snowshoes on icy ground.

So if your camped in southern California or Arizona, these make a wonderful gift for those friends you left behind in the frozen north. Let them know you are concerned about their well-being!

So those are my stupid ideas that really work. What are yours??

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rocky Ford Creek, Ephrata, Washington

backroads information--Rocky Ford Creek, Ephrata, Washington

When winter decends on eastern Washington it comes complete with clouds and usually snow.  Fishing is sometimes possible by drilling holes in the ice.  However, one little desert spring creek stays at 52 degrees year round.  So it does get popular for those fisherman that do not want to drill holes.  Rocky Ford Creek is catch and release only for large trout.  You must fly fish.  Fortunately, fly fishing is an easily learned skill.

The only fish species found in the stream is rainbow trout.  They do grow to a fairly large size and are easily visible in the crystal clear water.  The fly of choice for me at Rock Ford is the Hollywood Caddis.   If you fly fish eastern Washington and Oregon or the interior of BC this is the fly pattern book you need!!  Highly recommended and yes it does have the Hollywood Caddis pattern.

Once you hook the fish you do need a method to land the fish.  Since I was without a net, Bugaboo, the "versatile" hunting dog, as he is known did show an interest in "retrieving" the fish for me.  Rainbow trout and pheasants appear to have similar attitudes towards Buggy.

There is a handicapped fishing dock.  It is a perfect spot for a picnic overlooking the pond, but be sure to bring your own chairs for sitting.  If you fish from the dock you need a long handled net to land the fish.  

There is a small "camping area" complete with an SST (Sweet Smelling Toilet) toilet.  You do need a Washington State Discover Pass or a Vehicle Pass that comes with the Washington hunting and fishing license to camp here.  Here is the link to the Discover Pass.

Rocky Ford is a great place for an overnight stay.  There is plenty of bird life to watch if your a birder.  Plenty of nice walking paths along the creek.  Here are the google earth coordinates for the camping area (47.318057 119.443874).  Rocky Ford Creek is an interesting place to visit no matter the season.  With a year round water temperature of 52 degrees it is a trout paradise on earth.   The commercial fish hatchery does detract a little from the setting, but it also provides thousands of fish to stock eastern Washington's lakes.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Astronomical Events.......

Astronomical Events

This is a picture of last weekends lunar eclipse taken from Camas Meadows as the moon set in full eclipse just as dawn was breaking.  We went up to our cabin at Camas due to the possibility of fog in the Wenatchee Valley and the great view of the moon from our deck and only steps from the wood stove.  The 10 degree outside temperature made the stove and a hot cup of coffee an essential part of my astronomy equipment.

This eclipse was rather typical.  Fairly bright.  Nothing like the blood red moon in 1979.  You had to look carefully to find the moon on that eclipse.  This one reminds me of a couple of eclipses when the moon rose in full eclipse.   In 2007, I was on a forest fire and set the alarm to see the middle of the eclipse.  However, before nodding off to sleep I noticed that the rising moon through all that smoke looked exactly like an eclipsed moon!!

Solar eclipses are much more rare.  The only one I "observed" was in 1979.  I had the choice of driving from Coeur d'Alene to either Moscow or Missoula.  For some reason I decided to go with Moscow, even though I had a business meeting the day after the eclipse in Missoula.  You guessed it.  It poured rain during the eclipse in Moscow.  However, when totality hit the streetlights came on for two minutes and then turned off.  So that was the extent of "watching" the eclipse.  Oh yeah, it was clear in Missoula.

We had a great run of comets in the 1990's with Hale-Bopp and others.  Hopefully,  we will get another one soon.  Unlike, eclipses comets are best viewed from a dark sky site. 

Every night something is happening up in the sky.  Here is a web site that will tell you all the activity to the second.  Cal-Sky.  Click on Intro to set your location and time.  Get the location from your GPS unit by clicking on "where am I".  Then click on Calendar and you will get a choice of satellites, comets, and all sorts of other astronomical events to the second. 

Now one of my favorites is the Iridium flares.  Here is the wilki-pedia site for the Iridium satellites:  Iridium Satellites.  When the satellite solar panels tilt just right they brighten very quickly and fade just as fast.  Sometimes they become the brightest objects in the night sky. 

A little info.  In astronomy, brightness is measured by a scale in which NEGATIVE numbers are brighter.  The sun is about -27 magnitude, with the moon at -12 magnitude.  Most stars are from +1 to +6 in magnitude at a good location.  Most Iridium flares are in the range of -1 to -5 in magnitude.

The guide gives azimuth and altitude which if you do not know the constellations will tell you where the flare will occur.  Use a compass for azimuth and just estimate altitude...from horizon to zenith is 90 degrees.

So now you know where the flare will occur.  When is also important.  Get one of those atomic clocks that reset themselves automatically to the correct time.  Remember you need correct time to within about ten seconds.  Try this site if you do not have an atomic clock:  Official US Time Clock.

Now your set.  Pick about a -5 magnitude flare.  Locate the spot in the sky where the flare will take place. 

Make sure you have a little kid, under ten years of age is preferable,  standing next to you.  Keep an eye on the official time.  Announce to the kid that in 30 seconds by simply concentrating real hard your going to make that star explode!!! 

The flare will rapidly brighten in a space of two or three seconds and then fade away in the same amount of time.   After the flare occurs, you might want to talk about good morals, getting an education and all those other things kids do not want to hear.  You will have their attention!!

Well, after the lunar eclipse the morning was also pretty special.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Day KGO Radio 810 Died

Working as a professional Forester in the mountains of the west I got addicted to radio programs.  TV was not an option as this was the days before satellite TV.  During the day, radio stations were far and few on the dial.  Usually, none on the FM dial and maybe one or two on the AM dial.

At night, however, the AM radio dial would come alive with radio stations from Los Angeles, Seattle, Sacramento, Las Vegas, and of course San Francisco.  So in the middle of somewhere, whether high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Bitterroots of northern Idaho and western Montana, or in the Sawtooths of central Idaho.  At night that AM radio became my contact with the outside world.  Yes, listening to traffic reports when you have not seen another human in 10 days does have a surreal quality to it.

Many of those evenings in a tent camp were spent tuned to KGO 810 on the AM dial from San Francisco.  I lived in the Bay Area from twelve years of age leaving for periods of time to work in the west until finally moving out for good in the winter of 1978.  So for me it was a way to keep in contact with home on a daily basis since there were no phones and mail tended to come once a week if at all.

Those days in the 1970's the broadcasting on the clear channel radio stations was all local based.  So you could get a flavor for a town and a community by listening to the programming.   I still have fond memories of tunning into a distant clear channel station and hearing the static induced by a lightning storm as it moved into the mountains.  And usually that station being interrupted by lightning static was KGO.

Now KGO was at that time was a talk radio station at the dawn of the talk radio programming on radio.  There were different points of view rotating on a three hour basis.

Over the years, the local went out of radio.  National syndication of radio shows has led to the ability to listen to the EXACT same program on 20 different stations at night!  The one station that stayed with "original" programming was KGO.  Well, a week ago that ended and they have switched to almost all syndicated programs.  Here is the link to the San Francisco Chronicle article Changes at KGO Radio.  Notice that there were only 1,058 comments on the article.

It  seems to according to the "suits" the money has gone out of radio and to cut costs they are going to syndicated programs therefore insuring that their next step will be bankruptcy as listener's start clicking the off button.  In our area, the local radio station was bought out by the "suits" which changed the programming to nationally syndicated programs.  Now they are back to "live and local" as advertisers and listeners left.  Hopefully, this is the trend and not what is happening at KGO.

There are still great radio programs out there.  Well worth the time invested.  Many of these programs are now on the internet.   Some are still broadcast on radio, but now it is difficult to find them.

So what are the best programs out there?  All interests are fair game.  Good radio programs that when you done listening you always learn something new.

Here are links to previous usbackroads postings on radio:  Long-Distance AM Radio's. and Listening to the Outside World.