I am happy to report that things are beginning to happen out on Hope Rise! A flurry of activity has occurred during the past few weeks that has all the indications that this project is really getting ready to take off. We were fortunate to have a rather dry May which allowed the driveway entrance area to dry out and firm up enough for the excavator to start constructing our entrance road. To prepare for this, the long grass and hay had to be cut, Miss Utility had to mark where any underground utilities were located (there were none), and the survey company had to mark the precise location of the all important culvert pipes and headwalls.
Now that those tasks have been completed, the heavy equipment has arrived onsite. Imagine my delight when on one of my periodic visits to the site, I saw that a large excavator had been parked on the property… the first real indication that something was brewing! Just a few short days later, we saw definitive progress, with the completion of the construction fence and two dump truck loads of concrete aggregate delivered to the site for what I assume will become the foundation for the driveway entrance area.
Although this topic doesn’t seem overly exciting, it is critically important. As discussed in previous posts, this driveway is the key to the remainder of the project. Due to the watershed, drainage, and environmental protection considerations, a well constructed road that diverts the seasonal flow emanating from a small pond on the adjacent property is necessary to ensure we have uninhibited access throughout the year, regardless of what the weather throws at us.
So all in all, things are beginning to look up. It has been a long journey to get to this point. Soon, I hope, we will have a rough driveway that provides direct access for all the construction activity to come. In the meantime, we have our own homework to do to ensure that the color, style, material and design elements are selected in the proper timeframe and sequence to avoid any further delays caused by supply-chain issues or availability of critical components.
Due to the increased prices of lumber and other building materials, we are already expecting some extra costs, so we are doing our best to stay within the allowances of our contract. So far, we’ve selected our windows, doors, siding, roof and stone, with many many more decisions to make. I am confident it will all come together in a well-constructed, beautifully-appointed home. More updates to come…
After 196 days, we finally have an approved building permit!… Yep, you read that right, 6 1/2 long months to get a building permit for a single, modest-sized home on a 3 acre lot. When we first started this process, I fully expected to have a permit in hand after about 60 days, so I was either excessively naive or simply did not anticipate the level of creative regulatory interpretation employed by county staffers to make the process as long and painful as possible.
By any definition of the word, this experience was truly an adventure. It started with the exciting anticipation of what was to come, was full of surprising twists and turns, moments of anxious hope, periods of slogging drudgery, and finally the reward of attaining the goal after so many bumps along the way.
So, what could possibly lead to such a convoluted process?
Was it the house design – No! Was it access to or location of utilities – No! Was it a problem with property line offsets – again, No!… The single issue that caused all of the delay, was the uncelebrated, lowly gravel driveway, or more accurately stated, the first 60 feet of a driveway that will ultimately exceed 500 feet in length.
The reward for all the time, cost and frustration will be the most over-engineered ditch crossing along our entire rural road. Although our future neighbors directly to our north and south have to cross the same roadside ditch, their driveways feature a single 12 inch diameter pipe simply dropped into the ditch where their driveways are located. Our entrance, on the other hand, will feature two concrete abutments with a tandem of 32″ drainage pipes. Enough drainage volume to easily control a small creek with continuous flow, not the trickle of water that typically flows during the rainy season.
But, despite the setbacks and delays we are excited to finally have the sanctioned greenlight to proceed with construction of the road entrance and eventually the house that will sit at the top of the rise… which we have affectionately named… “Hope Rise.”
It has been awhile since my last post… of course a lot has occurred in our world over the past year as we have all experienced the COVID-19 Pandemic, each personally and collectively with our own unique stories. But, this post is not about that. Rather, it is about another adventure we are beginning to embark upon…. an adventure that many of you may have already experienced, and undoubtedly an adventure in which we will encounter many “ups” and “downs.”
So, what am I talking about?… The experience of building a house! Now, to be clear, this is not about me actually doing the construction; but rather the journey that begins with an idea and eventually culminates in a new place to call “home.”
Like many journeys, this one began with a random thought, that resulted in a discussion, and ultimately coalesced into a plan. Over the years we have had a lot of conversations about where we wanted to retire and build a house. Of course this resulted in ideas ranging from the fantastical and unrealistic, to intriguing but ultimately untenable, and finally to something that was both exciting and attainable. This ultimate plan is one where we will eventually build on a 3 acre site that is less than one mile from our previous home, but has many of the things we have been looking for all along… a place of our own design in a community we enjoy, that still allows us to launch into the world for more adventures in the years ahead.
It all started in June 2019 when we approached our good friends with an idea to partition off a parcel of their farm that we could eventually develop into a homesite. We, of course, had no expectations that this was even a reasonable request or something they would want to consider, but we forged ahead anyway and threw the idea out there for them to consider. Of course there was one very important caveat had to be met: in no way did we want this “business deal” to affect our deep and valued friendship. After thoughtful consideration, they agreed to sub-divide a 3 acre parcel and sell it to us… and there begins the real adventure!
Now, 20 months after that first conversation, we are on the cusp of beginning construction. Of course, a lot has already occurred to get where we are today, including:
- Multiple site surveys to define the property boundaries, location of the homesite, and development of a site plan
- Submission and approval of a Minor Subdivision application by county officials
- House design and selection of a contractor to build house
- Application and approval for a construction loan
- Attainment of a building permit (as of this post… pending, but imminent… we hope!)
Some of this has been easy, but due to unanticipated challenges related to nearby wetlands, watershed protection considerations, and conversion of agricultural property to residential zoning, we have encountered our share of frustrations along the way. I won’t bore you with that story, but look forward to sharing the progress going forward. Now it is time to let the ground dry out after a wet winter so that we can finally begin construction. More to follow in the months ahead!…
Once again our annual rafting trip on the Rogue River was fun and memorable. With days spent floating down the river (with the occasional rough water to keep things exciting) and nights spent relaxing around the campsite, playing games and enjoying each other’s company, the stresses of the world melted away.
We enjoyed our usual flotilla consisting of an assortment of nautical vessels. We had two “Cadillacs of the River,” the large, self-bailing rafts with fixed oars; one 6-person powered paddle raft (the four wheel drive SUV of the river); and finally four single-person kayaks and pontoons (the sports cars of the river).
Our two days on the river consisted of the usual pre-float safety brief to ensure everyone was prepared for the day ahead. The only challenge here is getting everyone into the same space at the same time listening to the same message. Once the perfunctory reminders about life jackets, overboard procedures, and boat ramp logistics was completed, it was time to get on the river.
Both days couldn’t have been better… the weather was perfect and the water refreshing. In the calm waters, some took the opportunity to slip in the cool river, engage in water cannon battles, or jump off rocks, while others simply soaked in the sun. We even had a brief glimpse of Superman, who must have been taking a day off to enjoy a flight over the river…
At camp is where the real drama occurred. This was our first year at a full-service campsite with trailer hookups, and restroom and shower facilities. For the tent campers among our group, the convenience of clean restrooms and warm showers was a well-appreciated bonus. For the trailer/camper group, it was nice to have a level pad with full water, sewer, and power hookups.
The perfect setup, right?… Well unfortunately the peace and serenity of the shared campground was upset by a few curmudgeonly neighbors. These are the type of people who don’t seem to understand that when they are on vacation the “normal” standards of property rights don’t apply to a rented campsite.
As it was, our direct neighbor approached us literally as we were backing the camper onto the pad. What was seemingly a friendly welcome to the campsite, was instead a subtle “marking of territory.” It seems we were camping next to a group who reserved the same campsite year after year and wanted to ensure that the newbies (us) were aware of how the campsite “worked.” Needless to say, we didn’t appreciate the unsolicited advice when they told us where we could and could not set-up our tents and other assorted camp gear.
What started as a minor annoyance evolved into nighttime entertainment, when part of the same group of tightly-wound campers decided to pack up and leave in the dark while the rest of the camp was relaxing in their various sites enjoying the evening. So, what would drive someone to leave prematurely?… Well apparently all it took was a couple of campers “trespassing” onto the outer edges of their campsite. Without the benefit of official survey marks, it was difficult to ascertain where the boundaries of the paid pad ended and the public right-of-way began.
These “violations of personal space” were apparently too much to take for one camp group, so they decided to pack up and leave. In their haste to make a quick departure, they invariably took some shortcuts packing their gear and preparing their trailer hookup. The shortcuts and darkness resulted in over an hour of repeated attempts to get the trailer hitch properly seated. As we watched over the next hour from our chairs around the campfire, we were finally relieved (for them) that they were on their way back to what we all hoped would be a less stressful place.
Despite the drama (and in some ways because of it) this was another memorable weekend. Onward to the next adventure.
Rafting Video Links:
- Day 2: “Don and Natalie at Bailey Riffle” (1:23)
- Day 2: “Natalie and Andrew at Jump Rock” (0:24)
- Day 2: “Angie at Jump Rock” (0:11)
- Day 2: “Ron diving at Jump Rock” (0:07)
- Day 2: “High Perch at Jump Rock” (3:16)
- Day 2: “Don at Argo” (1:10)
- Day 2: “Devin, Natalie and Paddle Raft at Argo” (1:07)
- Day 2: “Larry then Mike at Argo” (1:07)
After a long and challenging climb, Ron, Karen, Alan and I stepped onto the 14,179′ summit of Mt. Shasta, and were able to enjoy some well deserved rest and spectacular views of the surrounding landscape far below us. To start this post, here are some stats from the climb:
- Over 7,200 feet of vertical climb from the Bunny Flat trail head to the summit
- Total time on Mt. Shasta (including 1 hr at the summit): 15 hrs and 5 mins
- 9 hrs 40 mins to ascend… Began climb at 12:50 am and summited at 10:30 am
- 4 hrs and 15 mins to descend… Started descent at 11:30 am and finished at 4:15 pm
Needless to say we were all exhausted, looking forward to a hot shower, good meal and some well deserved sleep, but first we had a 2 hr drive to get home… so let’s rewind to the start.
There are many factors to consider when climbing a mountain like Shasta; the route you will take, the gear needed for the forecast conditions, food and water, etc. But the most important thing is safety, and since this is such a steep mountain there is one particular skill that is important to learn… the ability to self-arrest with an ice axe. Put simply, self-arrest is a technique to quickly gain control and stop if you slip and begin an uncontrolled slide down the mountain. Since none of us are technical climbers we had to figure out how to do this, so we went to the source of all instruction, YouTube! After viewing a couple videos we felt confident in the technique and would do a little practice on the mountain before the slopes got too steep. Another useful video covered the technique to glissade… essentially sliding feet first down the mountain in a sitting position. Fortunately we did not have to self-arrest for real… if we had, the title of this blog entry would have been “YouTube Saves Lives!”
As mentioned earlier, this climb was a grueling physical challenge. Mt. Shasta is the third most prominent peak in the continental United States after Mt. Rainier (the highest mountain in the Cascade Range) and Mt. Whitney (the highest mountain in the continental U.S.). Prominence is a measure of how high the summit of a mountain rises above its surroundings; and in the case of Mt. Shasta, 9,772 ft of its total height is exposed above the surrounding landscape.
We began our climb in the dark, which in retrospect was a very good thing for three very important reasons. First, the cooler temperatures ensure that the snow pack is firm which allows good traction with crampons without sinking into the snow. Second, it allowed us to complete the long climb in one push and make the steep descent during the daylight hours when the snow was softer and more suitable for glissading. Finally, and most importantly, the darkness ensured that we couldn’t see how long and steep the climb was until we were over half-way to the summit! Believe me, when the sun finally did come up and we were able to see how far we still had to go, I think we all began to think “why again am I doing this!”
By the time the sky began to lighten and we could begin to make out the route above us, we were already above Helen Lake, a small flat area at 10,433 ft where the climbers who do this peak in 2 days, camp for the night. Still above us, emerging from the shadows, was the prominent red rock wall of the Red Banks at just under 13,000 ft. Above us, still unseen, was the final push to the summit up the appropriately named Misery Hill.
The Red Banks creates a natural dividing line between the lower slopes, from which you can’t see the summit, and the upper part to the mountain where Misery Hill lurks between 13,000 and 14,000 feet, and the last final climb to the summit rock. Pushing ourselves through the thin air and up the steep slopes took will and fortitude. We found ourselves setting small goals all the way up the slope… take 50 or 100 steps, then stop to rest… then repeat. This got us to the bottom of the Red Banks where we then had to navigate up a narrow, steep, and slippery slope. Digging in with our crampons and using our ice axes, we successfully made it to the base of Misery Hill.
Fortunately the weather couldn’t have been better with clear skies, comfortable temperatures, and little wind as we finally emerged onto the upper reaches of the mountain. What remained was the last and most daunting obstacle between us and the summit, Misery Hill an aptly named particularly steep section that begins at 13,000 feet. With our energy reserves depleted, we pushed ourselves forward on will power and the desire to stand on top of this beautiful mountain.
After nearly 10 hours of continuous climbing we stepped onto the summit and were able to enjoy some rest, a few snacks, some camaraderie with our fellow climbers, and a bit of official paperwork. You may ask, “how could there be paperwork at the top of a mountain?” It just so happens that shortly after we arrived one of the park rangers, acting in his official capacity as he reached to top, asked each of us to show our permits. Additionally, there is a logbook at the summit where climbers can sign their name or write a short reflection.
After an hour on the summit, it was time to descend and put this adventure behind us. None of us was looking forward to the thought of several more jarring hours of downhill hiking which is uncomfortable and physically demanding. So we were pleasantly surprised that the snow conditions, which were firm during our climb, had softened to the perfect conditions to glissade. Using the proper technique (thanks YouTube!), we were able to slide several thousand feet down the mountain, cutting hours off of our descent time, and saving us from additional wear on our tired bodies.
Ultimately, this experience was rewarding and memorable. Although physically challenging, we will only remember the joy of standing on the summit and the shared experience of doing this together.
Mt. Shasta Video Links:
- “Climbing above Red Banks” (1:18)
- “Alan and Karen glissading above Red Banks” (0:54)
- “Ron glissading above Red Banks” (0:37)
- “Karen and Don glissade for 9 minutes” (9:26)
- “Ron glissading below Red Banks” (1:50)
Mt. Shasta awaits and our climbing team has assembled in Klamath Falls, OR for our summit attempt that will begin at midnight tonight. Yesterday, Alan, Ron and I converged in Denver and enjoyed an uneventful flight into Medford where the summer fire season has apparently just begun. Descending into the airport we sensed the faint odor and visible pall of smoke sitting in the Rogue Valley. From there we headed over the cascade range to Klamath Falls to meet up with Karen to complete our ragtag climbing team.
During the flight, I happened to be sitting next to a pleasant gentleman from Ashland, Oregon who just so happened to be a spiritualist/healer/guru that was just returning from teaching a healing retreat in Roanoke, VA. We struck up a conversation in which I was “enlightened” on various aspects of meditation, and the holistic healing power of your own bodies energy systems. But, I also learned that Mt. Shasta is a destination for mystics, gurus and sages from all over the world, many of which call Ashland their home.
Some say Mt. Shasta is one of the seven main energy centers (called chakras) in the world. My seat mate described it as the seventh chakra, also known as the “crown,” but my research indicated it was the first chakra, or “root.” A wide discrepancy that may only be resolved with my own close encounter with the mountain!… I remain a skeptic…
Since our climb begins tonight, I think my mental preparation will have to rely on more traditional preparations like map and route study, weather reports, and practice with crampons and an ice axe. The weather report for tonight couldn’t be better, with temps in the low 30’s at the summit and light winds. So, for now the only unknown is the physical effort it will take to climb 7000 vertical feet at elevations between 7000 and 14000 feet.
While growing up in southern Oregon, Mt. Shasta (located in Northern California, near the Oregon border) loomed large and prominently in the distance south of my hometown. But curiously, the thought never entered my mind that people regularly climbed this towering presence until my sister, Karen, trained, then successfully reached it’s 14,179′ summit in July of 2014.
Ever since she shared the experience of her adventure, I’ve had a desire to climb this mountain that’s been a backdrop to my teenage years. So… during my annual summer trip to Oregon to visit family, friends, and enjoy some rafting on the Rouge River, I will also carve out some time to make my own summit attempt. I won’t be attempting this alone, though, since Karen, my brother Ron (who successfully summited in 2015), and my other brother, Alan, will be joining me on the adventure!
This is no easy feat, so to increase the odds for an enjoyable (and what I hope is an ultimately successful summit bid), I am doing what I can to prepare myself both physically and mentally for the challenge ahead. The physical part is pretty routine, essentially comprised of regular workouts at the gym, to include one of the most important exercises, the stair-climber machine. Additionally, I plan to incorporate several long hikes in and around Shenandoah National Park that feature strenuous climbs. This routine prepared me well for the Everest Base Camp trip in April 2018, so I am confident it will suffice for Mt. Shasta.
The other preparation comes in studying and planning so I have no surprises when it comes to the main event. The route I plan to climb is Avalanche Gulch, which does not require technical mountaineering skills and generally offers enough snowpack well into July to avoid having to navigate steep sections on loose scree or volcanic ash.
Since much of the climb is expected to be on snowpack, we will need to rent some essential gear from a local outfitter (crampons, ice axe, helmet), and pay close attention to the weather, snow, and avalanche conditions on the mountain to determine the optimum and safest day to make our attempt.
I look forward to sharing this adventure with my 8 followers!
The final two days of our trip to Sedona have been packed with a wide variety of fun, adventure, insight, and first time experiences. Yesterday was Janet’s birthday, so she got to plan the activities, and the first thing she wanted to do was feed the ducks along Oak Creek, a bucolic stream that runs through the resort. Of course she wanted to share the experience with her twin, Joanie, who was actually hoping to sleep in for the first time this entire week. But, Janet wasn’t going to let that happen, so they both went down to the creek and were soundly shunned by the clearly uninterested ducks. Undeterred, they returned to the room to enjoy birthday agenda item #2, mimosas on the balcony. The resort had graciously given both girls a bottle of champagne for their respective birthdays, so the mimosas were flowing freely.
While all that was going on, I was on a solo 7 mile hike in the hills above Sedona. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore some of the superb trails that provided an up close and personal experience with the red rock mesas and buttes that surround Sedona. I thoroughly enjoyed the quiet and solitude as I hiked the Brins Mesa/Soldier Pass/Jordan Trail circuit.
Upon my return, we were all ready for a delicious birthday lunch followed by our afternoon event, the Red Rock Range tour with Pink Jeep Adventures. We paired up with our fantastic guide and driver, Chip, who shared his wealth of knowledge on the history, landscape, wildlife and geology of this beautiful part of Arizona. He also gave us some great pointers on places to shop and other nearby towns to visit.
We ended the day enjoying a crackling mesquite wood fire on the terrace above Oak Creek as the sun set on another great day. Then it was an early bedtime for yet another pre-dawn wake-up.
Our final day began with a 4:45 am wake-up for our second attempt at a balloon ride. Fortunately, today’s event went off without a hitch. The weather was perfect, and even the pre-dawn temperature was a comfortable 50 degrees. After we were picked up, we signed all of the requisite waiver forms and headed to the launch site. Once there we got to watch the entire process of getting the balloon ready for flight. This was a well-oiled procedure executed by our experienced ground crew and pilot from Red Rock Balloons. The entire process from unloading the balloon and basket to full inflation took about 30 minutes. Then it was time for one of the biggest highlights of this trip… the four of us quickly climbed into the balloon, along with 12 other passengers and our pilot, Mark. After some quick safety and landing procedure instructions, Mark squeezed the control lever for the propane burners and we gently lifted off the ground.
The gentle ascent and quiet gliding of the balloon through the air are an experience I would encourage for everyone. Over the next hour, we ascended over 1000 ft, and descended to skim the tree tops. We rose up the side of a mesa then skimmed right across its top, offering a very different perspective of the rugged terrain we had been admiring all week. We even got to see a coyote ranging through a dry river bed, and a very large jack rabbit zigging and zagging in the brush below thinking it was about to become breakfast for a very large bird!
Then it was time to land. Throughout the flight, Mark the pilot, was in constant contact with the ground crew who were chasing us on the roads below. They coordinated a landing spot, we crouched in the landing position, and Mark expertly and gently touched down! This was an experience none of us will soon forget. Now we got to witness the reverse process of deflating the balloon and getting it repacked before we headed off for a post flight brunch with passengers and crew.
Finally our vacation was ending so we prepared for our return to Phoenix for our early morning flights home. On the trip from Sedona to Phoenix, we enjoyed lunch and shopping in the historic copper mining town of Jerome, AZ. This small town, nestled a mile above sea level, is literally perched on the side of a mountain that had in the past been one of the single largest copper mines in the world, producing over a billion dollars of mined copper.
Our final stop was the Montezuma Castle National Monument, one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America. This 900 year old dwelling, nestled into a towering limestone cliff, is a 50 room pueblo ruin located in a virtual oasis of lush green plants and towering sycamore trees next to Beaver Creek. Although abandoned over 600 years ago, it offers a fascinating glimpses into the lives of the Sinagua people who once inhabited this interconnected structure, and lived off the fertile land even though surrounded by unforgiving desert.
Today is Joanie’s birthday and we had planned a scenic balloon ride at dawn. Although we got in late last night, we were prepared for a 4:45 wake-up to make our designated 5:30 am pickup time.
Unfortunately, we were notified that the flight was canceled due to unfavorable wind speeds and direction. Although the day couldn’t have been more perfect, the winds were apparently too fast and were forecasted to increase at our planned sunrise launch time, which would take the balloon to unsafe areas and make the landing treacherous.
So, although disappointed, we rescheduled our balloon ride for Friday and worked on a contingency plan for the day. Since we had spent a lot of time in the car the past two days, we decided to remain in the Sedona area and take in some of the local sites.
Our first stop was the The Chapel of the Holy Cross, a unique Catholic chapel built directly into the side of one of the many red rock buttes in Sedona. The chapel features a beautiful crucifix inspired by the tree of life. The visit was the perfect way to begin the day. Interestingly, on our way back to our car, we even got a brief glimpse of a road runner skittering across the road, but still no sightings of Wile E. Coyote.
Now let me take a moment to comment on the title of this blog entry… as mentioned yesterday, there is a local phenomenon called the “Sedona Vortex.” According to local lore, there are several areas of concentrated energy rising from the earth near Sedona where visitors may experience palpable physical sensations, or heightened spiritual and metaphysical clarity. Admittedly our group of four included three skeptics, so in the interest of scientific curiosity we sought out one of these vortexes… the not-so-cleverly-named “Airport Mesa Vortex.”
To get there, we drove to a parking area near the Sedona Airport that served as the trailhead of a short hike to a rocky outcropping, paid the requisite $3 parking fee, and commenced our hike. Based on the number of people already there, we were clearly in the vicinity of this mystical vortex. After a 0.6 mile hike on the rocky trail at 4,700 ft above sea level, we reached our destination and were immediately aware of a physical sensation emanating from deep in our bodies… but alas, it was only the slightly elevated beating of our own hearts, having just completed the climb to the top of this rocky outcropping.
In the end, our conclusion was mixed… our one believer remained convinced that the vortex exists, but it’s energy must have been dissipated by the 50 people who were there. As for the other three, our conclusion was a resounding, “Vortex, Schmortex!”