Sunday, January 29, 2017

Lost And Found, Camera Karma

      A number of years back now, when I was more involved with the day to day around the hot spring, I was down there one afternoon and bumped into a regular at the campsite who mentioned a camera had been left behind at one of the tubs the day before. That was nothing unusual, we were always getting left with stuff, but it was better than the USE (underwear-socks-empties) we were usually left with.
"The battery had a little life left in it." Rene said, 
"I took a look at the first few pictures, but didn't recognize anyone."
   Things were more casual at the campsite back then, and I suggested he leave it at the honor-box where anyone coming back for the camera would see it. I figured someone would come along that needed a camera and take it, or someone would just take it period, but the next day the camera was still sitting there. I brought it home and put in my desk in case anyone ever came asking, but it wasn't the type of camera you would drive all the way out here to retrieve, unless there was something important, or potentially embarrassing on there.
   One day months later in a fit of boredom I recall, I noticed the camera there in my desk drawer and I thought that idea Rene had of looking to see if you recognized anyone was pretty smart. I'm not so sure I would have thought of that, I hardly know how to operate my own camera let alone someone else's. The battery was long dead, but it looked like the charge cord needed was similar to an old camera I had around, which indeed it was. Feeling not quite right about the whole affair, I managed to get the camera turned on, then doing a quick shoulder-check, figured out how to bring up the display. 
   The first image was a group of people at some family celebration, holding up glasses in toast and certainly none I recognize. There were several more increasingly badly composed shots from the function, and I just about turned it off and put it down before fumbling ahead a few frames by accident.
Hmm, the open road, scenery, a summer motorcycle trip. This got my interest up, and scrolled through several more taken at stops of interest and smoke-breaks along the way through the BC interior it looked like.
"I bet they would sure like this back, with holiday memories and all." I thought, and was about to turn it off again, feeling disgusted with myself for invading someones privacy like this when I thought, what the hell, just one more.
It was a selfie taken of the ugly camera owner and his girlfriend.
I stared at them for the longest time, not quite believing.
"Oh hell," I said ..."Its those idiots."
   Well as it turns out, I knew this gentleman, using the term loosely, and his female companion. The pair had come under my radar over time around the hot spring a few seasons previous, which was never a desirable place to be if you had less than desirable habits. The reasons were plentiful, and the last time we met was when the pair of them were kicked-out of the campsite on a long-weekend, escorted outside the property-line, and advised to keep it that way.
They would appear out here in a black pickup, at least I was pretty sure it was the same a-holes.
I thought I'd better check a few more pictures to be sure.
   There were several taken of the bike by a roadside lake, with his girl posing suggestively in her amply stuffed halter-top.
And one or two of ugly him on the bike also I could have done without.
   The progression of vacation pictures goes along fairly innocently until finally coming to picture of the bike in front a cheap looking motel room.  There followed several of each other inside of the room, with a growing number of beer cans about, and a couple empty pizza delivery cartons on the floor, very much beginning to resemble their past campsites at the hot spring.
My eyes widened when the innocent nature of the vacation snapshots began to change for the worse, and not intended for others I would think.
"I shouldn't be invading these a-holes privacy like this." I thought to myself, then thought about turning it off before hitting the advance frame button by accident again I'm pretty sure is what happened.
   "Holy Mackerel!" I exclaimed, staring wide-eyed at the back of the Fuji camera.
It had begun to warm-up a little there in the motel room by the looks of things, and garments began to join the litter spread about the room.
"Holy... smokes." I sputtered as the action heated-up a few frames on.
Talk about tattoos in odd places, and a couple of those had to of hurt I would think.
I could have done without the zoom-action shots...I thought I knew what I was looking at, but then again not so sure what I was looking at.
   As I was afraid was going to happen sooner or later, ugly bastard figures out how to set the timer and sets the camera on the dresser to get his awful self in on the shots, which I could have done without also. His first attempts the camera must have been set on the 5 second delay, which appeared to be far too quick for this inebriated pair as they didn't quite have time to get into 'position' lets say. The next picture they moved faster and the stumbling duo almost managed to pull it off. They discovered the 10 second shutter delay that allowed them to get into whatever gymnastics were in order, and maybe get in a quick pull on the beer or drag on a smoke before the camera went off, ...but not always, and there was the odd off-balance tumble caught on there too.
   Like a train-wreck you can't look away from... I tapped the frame advance.
"Oh dear..." I commented on image 35.
"Oh gross!" I gagged a few later.
"Jeez...I didn't think that was possible." I pondered at one point.
"OMG!" I marveled at the next. 
Call them imaginative if nothing else, and I can only speculate on all the leaping back and forth that was going on in between with setting the timer and all.
"Eww...gross." I winced at frames 48, 49, 50 and 51.
I was pretty much speechless from then on I'm afraid.
I thought I had seen enough of these these two before, and I was seeing far more of them than I needed to now, and what had started as a weekend excursion had gone around the world a few times, among other things.
   Thankfully, the summer holiday memories turned back to scenes along the highway, and tourist spots along the way, but soon degenerated into another well documented romp at a motel, with some zoomed-in blurry underwater close-ups of some creatures out in the motel pool, I'm not sure what I was looking at. There followed a few pictures taken at home I assume, relaxing in the back-yard at the mobile home park, then the last few of the trip out here to sneak into the hot spring again,  leaving a mess and the camera behind.
    The following season I happen to have some bad luck with cameras, dropping one face first onto a rock, and then fumbling the newly purchased replacement into a creek. Recalling the a-hole's lost and found camera was shock-proof and obviously water-proof as demonstrated in the motel pool, I figured it had been sent to me for a reason. I dug it out of the drawer, charged it up and changed-out the x-rated memory card, and despite it's colorful history, used it to take all the pictures seen on Hotspring Lodge for the past few years.
But I'm done with it now, I bought a new one last summer for my Yukon trip.

I put it back in the desk drawer once more to hold for the owner.
I always keep a look-out for that black pickup with the dual-wheels down at the hot spring campsite, just for the pleasure of going over there with a great big grin and return their camera.
So, if this happens to belong to you, feel free to come around anytime and claim it.
And by all means, make my day, don't hesitate to ask for that memory card!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Frozen Mango Surprise.

   After my previous long-winded post on my antics keeping the electricity going during the recent arctic outflow you are probably wondering how its been going. Things finally got to the point where there was not much danger of further ice related problems up at the intake pond any longer and I could get a good nights rest. Probably the only worry I had beyond the chance of any more really cold nights, would be the chance of one of those wet Pacific fronts rolling in and raising hell with everything. And there was not much chance of that, or so I didn't think.
   No rest for the wretched, this past weekend a weather advisory was issued for the south coast about a large Pacific front due to roll into the south coast within 48 hrs. It was expected to bring about much flooding in the outside world, and certain to make life miserable for any poor bugger trying to generate his electricity off a mountainside. And of course the best part being that it would be the first of a series of three 'Mango Express' to pound into BC over the next few days.
   It was still freezing-ass cold, and as often as its happened over the years, it is still hard to believe that heavy rain was on its way, soaking through the mountain snow-pack and hitting frozen ground, then taking a direct route to the nearest stream. The increased flood washing ice, snow and debris downstream and into my mountainside intake pond, after sucking debris down the line it will clog the screen and shut down the pelton-wheel generator, then more than likely the rising waters will rip my intake screen from inside the dam, fling it over the falls and smash it to pieces on the rocks below. Just like all those other damn times.
   The smart thing to do in an instance like this is shut off the water to the pelton-wheel, light the wood-stove, dig out the candles then hunker down and wait out the storm like a chickenshit, then venture out days later and repair the damage when the water goes down. That might be the smart way of doing things, but not necessarily the cowboy way.
That last dump of snow we had really buggered my trail I had beaten-in up the mountain to the intake. But as it was there was no real need to go up there with things working so smoothly. But now with the Mango Surprise on it's way I needed to get up there and get something over the end of that pipe.
First thing the next day while it was still below freezing I went down and dug a hole to get through the bank the grader made. I didn't think I was going to get very far up the intake road but after much trying clawed and cursed my way most of the way up...
...and bogged down for what I hope is the last time this year, then continued  off on foot, once more.

I got to the intake and axed-out enough ice out of the pond to get at the end of the intake. I fished-out the open Winter intake and swapped it out for my monsoon screen. It has a tighter screen and an elbow that allows it to hunker into the edge of the pond, held onto the pipe by the force of the water and has survived some mean-ass conditions. Within 24 hours this would be a raging torrent.

   A few hours after I got back the first specks of rain began to fall, turning to a steady hard rain shortly after. Though still not that warm, the snow turned to muck, and the creek began to rise. By the next day, when the first of the fronts rolled in big time the screen was still doing an admirable job up there. That evening I had intended to shut it down like a chickenshit and wait out the worst of the night, and then turn it on the next day or whenever the creek had cleaned-out. Just when I was thinking about going over and shutting it down the lights started to dim.
   Getting over to the pelton-wheel shack I see the penstock pressure is down so as I'm not surprised, I know the screen up in the pond has been overwhelmed by slush and debris, and been sucked almost flat with the suction probably. I turned the main valve off, the water would slowly build up in the penstock again overnight, and once negative pressure was on the screen the pounding water would tend to blow it free of whatever was clogging it, and once cleaner water prevailed it would be safe to turn it on again. At least in theory. So after a night of roughing-it with limited heat and no lights I went over this morning and opened the main valve and spun the generator up to speed and it has been working like a top all day. And I suppose if I can get through tonight the worst of the storm will be over, I hope.

    The continuous rain has turned the road into a skating-rink. People are warned to stay off the roads, and without chains on each end your not going anywhere. Several outfits have been marooned at the hot spring, and several more are camped where they are out on the road next to their vehicles where they slid off. A grader from the logging outfit is working its way slowly out from town, going to be a few days no doubt before it reaches here.
 And the rain comes down.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Icy Grasp Of Winter.

Although Winter got off to a slow start this year, we have certainly made up for it for the past month.
We've had several good dumps of snow, and continuing cold temperatures.

One day I'll get my tractor thawed-out enough to start and finish plowing the yard.

In for supplies to the big smoke.
Lillooet Lake, on the way to the city.

I came across one of the wandering horses there along the lake.

I stopped to chat and offered to bring a treat back for him on the return trip.
He stuck his big head in the window and blew out his nostrils, steaming-up my windows and glasses.
This freezing along the bluff at the head of Lillooet Lake is always interesting.

I should know better than to go to town on a Saturday, the traffic and parking was terrible.

As a person that generates his electricity from an already frigid creek, I could use a little less of this extended cold weather.
   But things have been going pretty good over there at the pelton-wheel shack all things considered.

 Usually if I'm going to have a problem with the system it will be up at the intake-pond, which is quite a ways up the steep mountain behind me. I had the open Winter screen on the end of the penstock and there had been no problems through out the first of the cold weather we had back the middle of December.
   There was one little event Christmas morning though when I awoke before dawn to a dark and rapidly cooling lodge. I leaped out of a warm bed, and it was awful cold when I reluctantly stepped out that door then took off with my foot-steps crunching on the frost. After some fiddling around over at the pelton-wheel it looked like an expedition to the intake-pond was in order. I didn't relish the thought of riding the quad and cranked up my stone cold pickup, the seats where hard and there was frost on both sides of the windshield when I got in, and it turned over rather slowly at first.
   As seems to happen more often than not, there had been pretty healthy dump of snow a few days beforehand, just to make my middle of the night Xmas excursion up the mountain even more interesting. I got going up the steep and narrow road and really had to put my foot into it to keep going in the deep snow. I hadn't gone very far off the main road when I come upon a tree across the road that had come down in the heavy snow.
Then had to back all the way the hell out of there and went back home for the axe. 
   I followed my ruts back to the fallen tree, got out and started chopping in the headlights. The tree was frozen solid, and I did warm-up considerably. I was only going to do one cut, and that section of tree that dropped into the snow was quite a handful to drag off out of the way. Glad the hard work was over with, I hopped back in the truck and started off once more, making it about 5 truck lengths before miring down in the deep snow for good.
   I'm a stubborn old cuss when it comes to getting the electrical power back on, and I backed all the way the hell out of there once more and went home, hoping the quad was going to fare a little better.
Well I had been damned cold riding in my pickup truck, and tearing down the road on the Honda quad was enlightening. Following the truck tracks, or as best I could, I passed the chopped out of the way tree to where the truck bogged down, and going like hell with the odd poof of snow coming over the front-rack into my face to keep me awake I managed to claw my way through the snow until it finally bogged-down to the axles and high-centered for good too. I dug it out with my hands and managed to get the pig drug around and pointed down-hill. I was hoping to get a lot further up that mountain I tell you, I knew I wouldn't make it all the way, but closer is always better. I untied the axe, sucked it up, and started the long uphill slug through the deep snow, in the dark, and at times feeling every month of my 62 years here on earth. But if a guy had to be out this time of day up a mountain-side in the pre-dawn cold, it was sure a glorious starlit night for it.
The road along the high ridge is often used by deer in the deep Winter snows, and also by the cougars that follow in their tracks. This fact is not entirely lost on me as I fight my way through the drifts, trying not to look like anything too far down the food chain.
   The problem at the intake turned out to be not too serious, with the aid of the axe once more I chopped a hole in the ice big enough to get at the screened water-intake, then holding the flashlight under my arm I fished around in there with a couple of hooked sticks and changed things out without falling in or anything.

 I climbed back out of the creek, which in the deep snow is a feat unto itself, and started off following my uphill trudge-tracks downhill. The sun had begun to come up and that frost-covered Honda looked pretty good when I finally reached it. I was glad I took the time to get it pointed in the right direction earlier, when I was warmer, and had far more ambition.

Soak them toes.
 I stopped at home long enough to get the pelton-wheel cranked-up to speed and all the heaters going then grabbed a towel and continued right on down to the hot spring for a Xmas morning warm-up, and quite proud of my old self for getting the electricity back up and running so quickly.

   A week or so later it got even colder, and once again I was awoken from my dreams in the middle of the night to an obvious lack of electricity happening. 
I got to go do something, or matters will only get worse.
"Oh Bastard" I muttered to myself, pulling on my outside gear. 
For some perverse reason, it had briefly warmed up a few days before enough to dump another big load of snow, completely obliterating my previous tracks up there. 
Some to my dismay, the frost-covered fuel-injected Honda fired right up in the pre-dawn... dark. 
They say the coldest part of the night is right before the dawn. 
And they are absolutely right. 
   Again, I knew I wasn't going to make it all the way, but it was a matter of as few trudge-steps as possible, and after many tries where I got impossibly stuck, got un-stuck and moving again, only to get stuck again, and backing up and taking runs at the unbroken trail I managed to claw and spin and swear the quad up the mountain. Not all the way of course, but with a bit of a frozen crust underneath got further up there than I did before, which I was quite happy about, even tough there was still a bit of a walk ahead of me. Before I left I managed to get the pelton-wheel running on reduced water flow, and I've been up the mountain at night many times over the years, but never when the plant was running, and on one section of the death march it was possible to look out over the cliff and see the yard-lights way down there. 
A lit-up oasis out in the middle of almost no-where, that I was keen to get back to.
   Skidding down the bank the creek to my nemesis the intake-pond, it turns out the creek flow had lowered in the cold, or some bloody thing and the intake was cavitating, or sucking air into the line and loosing head, and it dosn't take much to bugger things down at the pelton-wheel shed. The pond does freeze over, except for the whirly-pool part. I got a large section of ice chopped free and moved it over in place floating above the intake which put an end to the slurping whirlpool going on. Feeling rather proud of myself once more, I trudged my way back to my waiting machine, which even just being a little bit closer this time was a big improvement.

Several nights later...
   "Oh Bastard" I grumbled several nights later, when it got really really cold and the place was in the dark once more. 
I got out of bed and ran over and fiddled with the pelton-wheel, but there was not enough water coming down the penstock to bring it up to speed. In this cold I knew it was going to be a big problem and we were going to be down for an indefinite period. I went back over and drained the hot tub and all the water lines as best I could, those that hadn't frozen already. 
   One thing I've learned over the years, well theres been quite a few things, but one important thing I've picked-up is if there is any amount of water running down the penstock in extreme cold, don't turn it off. There was still maybe 60 gallons a minute coming down and thru the nozzle, less than a third of what it needs.
I decided there was not much I could do up the mountain, and figured I would see how far I could make it up there in the days light, fired-up the wood-stove and went back to bed for the remainder of the night. 

First on the list that morning was firing up the propane generator, it doesn't run the baseboard heaters, but it lights the place up and runs the fridge, Internet satellite, and CBC Radio.

A hole was chopped in the ice out front and water bucketed up for the kitchen and bathroom.

   That day I made it quite aways up the mountain, a bit of a crust had formed, not much of one but enough to get me up to within a couple hundred meters of the intake pond. I walked in the last grueling stretch and down to the intake-pond where it turns out a large flexible pipe that makes the bend out of the dam to the penstock has frozen from the outside in. The water in the creek is only 33 degrees, so it don't take much for ice to form. There wasn't much to be done, but as long as there was still some amount of water flowing there was hope, then returned home for breakfast.
   Later that day, I figured I better go back up there for another look, and seeing I had a trail beaten on top of the snow almost as far as the intake, it would be a quick late afternoon ride up and back.
I was a determined lad, and with no small amount of taking runs and wheel-spinning and abusing my poor machine I managed to crest the last little hill and ride along the last flat stretch and park above the intake, this was all getting too easy.
   I had the gas on full charging along sort of up on the crust a bit, pretty happy with myself, but you sure didn't want to stop or try to turn around. When I arrived at the creek crossing I got to thinking it was going to be a hell of a long ways to back the machine out of here, and got the sudden less than bright idea to charge on across the bridge and do a large circle around and come back and park.
It didn't take me long to realize I had just made one of my biggest mistakes of the week, which is saying quite a lot. I had a pretty good head of steam built-up but the machine gradually bogs down in the fine granulated snow, and despite my loud urging, the Honda mires down high-centered with all four wheels spinning freely in the snow.
"Oh Stupid Bastard!" I hollered a bunch of times while my Honda sat there steaming.
   So much for a quick trip up and back. I should have packed a lunch, and a shovel wouldn't have hurt either. My initial observation indicated that it was going to be a long walk home, and pondered the pros and cons of taking the long switch-backy road down, or simply skidding down the hillside alongside the penstock, which would be shorter, but I would sure be a snowy pissed-off mess when I got home.
   My memory isn't quite what it use to be, but I did eventually recall bogging my machine down once before within a few feet of my present location under very similar circumstances. That was a few years back now, it was such a bad day I wrote a post about it, all that sweating and stomping down  a trail. Yes that was quite a day.
I wish I had of thought of that about two minutes before, and compared to now, I was hardly even stuck then.

    The big problem is once you go through the crust, the wheels don't touch anywhere near the ground with the machine sitting on it's belly. So I start right in stomping down a trail out, which is hard work and breaking the crust just exposes more sugar-like snow.  I remembered the axe down at the intake, and scrambled down the hillside to get it, and I thought to grab the handsaw I keep there for cutting pipe or sawing a hole in the ice. The axe helped considerably in getting the crusty snow from out under the machine, and I ended up using the handsaw to chop-up the center crust. Theres no traction in that granulated snow, and I gave up at one point, figuring my best bet would be to get going for home as it was getting late in the day. But I'd start in again and move a foot or so. I tried driving ahead to get a run in reverse but I'd just get stuck up there, then have to re-dig and swear my way back to where I was.
    It seemed a hopeless situation, but they say if you can move an inch, your not stuck, and I kept at it, with the cooling-fan running and snow steaming off the engine I ground my way down to the ground eventually and so very slowly, inch by inch, I found myself out of the dip and back on the level. Somehow, after much sweating, swearing, digging and sawing I got back up on my tracks and very thankfully backed it all the way the hell out of there. After a couple days the water running down the penstock melted out enough ice from the inside of the intake to run the pelton-wheel generator and civilized living was once again established at the Hotspring Lodge. So you can imagine how pleased with myself I was to get things up and running after only 3 days down.

    It is still very cold out as I work on this post, things are working great, but when I go to bed at night, I got to wonder if my dreams will be interrupted by a power interuptus.
I sure hope not, theres been another big dump of snow a awhile back, totally obliterating any trace that I was ever up there under another foot of snow, making access to the intake-screen this time something I don't even like to think about. 
Most guys my age I know go someplace warm in the Winter.
But such is my lot in life. After almost 25 years of taking on the Bastard hill in Winter, I think I might just have to give some thought to keeping an eye out for an old snowmobile or dog-team or something next summer.
But that would kind of take all the fun out of it.
One of these days I'll get that driveway plowed...