Thursday, May 17, 2012

6-16 May, 2012 -Camping, Kayaking, Hiking, Bicycling, (and just a bit of work!).

We've been doing a little more to the U-Haul we've converted to a camper.  We got the solar panel mounted permanently and the charge controller, inverter and battery installed.  We also got the counter top and propane cook stove installed.  I still need to make the rack for the propane bottles yet though.  The improvements did make life a little easier when we were camped out.  We left on Sunday morning and came back on Wednesday afternoon.  We had some things to get caught up on before we left but they were mostly routine stuff we do daily anyway.

We're finished making Birch syrup.  I got a little over four pints of syrup from the sap we boiled down.  It takes a lot of sap to make a pint of syrup.  I've read anywhere from 70 to 1 up to 120 to 1 ratios.  In our case we were definitely in the 120 to 1 (or above) category!  The next time we do it we will make a few changes.  We could have begun earlier in the year than we did.  We'd also use a wider, shallower pan for boiling and maybe have a place set up outdoors for boiling the sap down.  It got very hot in the cabin the last couple of weeks.  The finished product tastes and smells kind of like sorghum molasses and I've read of people using it in place of molasses in their recipes.  It's strong flavored so you don't want to use a lot of it on pancakes. 

Scott's teaching mom and dad the finer points of sand, shovels, and dump trucks.

Now he's making sure I read the tape measure correctly when working on the counter in the U-Haul.

I use a circular saw with a metal cutting blade for cutting my steel to length.  It's a lot faster than a hacksaw.  In this case I'm running the saw off the inverter rather than the generator.

Once they were cut to the correct length I got the welder out and going!  This part is for mounting the solar panel.  I use a lot of old bed frames for my angle iron.  Mostly because they're cheap (Free!).

This is our campsite at the Upper Stillwater Lake.  We brought some toys for Scott to play with/on while we were here.  This is his first trip out in the camper so we expected some interesting times while he adjusted to the new lifestyle.

One of his favorite toys was the ramp at the back of the camper.  He had been rolling his trucks down it then got the idea to to ride his big truck down the ramp.  When the time came Susan was on one side and I was on the other to minimize any side trips he might take.

We took him out in the kayaks to explore the lake.  He went to sleep after about 20 minutes and slept until we got back to camp a few hours later.  Even with sunscreen (PF-50) he got a light sunburn.  Kind of the curse of having blond hair and blue eyes.

A shot of Upper Stillwater Lake looking north.  This is a fair size lake with trout, pike and perch.  Most people said the pike weren't biting but a camper next to us managed to bring in a few every day in the 24 to 36 inch range.

This is the outlet to the Upper Stillwater Lake.  I took my kayak down the channel to check it out.  This is taken from the lake side.  The natural spillway is jammed with old logs.  The water is clear, ice cold and a lot deeper than it looks.

This was taken below the spillway looking upstream toward the lake.

This was taken just below the log jam looking downstream.

We rode bicycles whenever we could.  Scott gets kind of heavy in a backpack but is easy to transport in the bike seat.  This is Lagoni Lake next to the Upper Stillwater Lake.  It's a fairly easy trail about 1 1/2 miles each way.  There were several blown down trees we had to lift the bikes over or go around but other than that the trail was level and wide.

This is on the Finger Lake/Hole in the Wall Lake trail.  They split on up the trail a bit farther.  It's narrow with a lot of roots and rocks to negotiate but is relatively level (by Montana standards) and a pleasant hike.  It's not good for bicycles though so I carried Scott in the backpack.  It's about 1 1/2 miles in to the lakes.  We couldn't go to the Hole in the Wall Lake because the trail goes through a bog which was just a bit deep this time of year.

The people from Oregon and Washington will laugh but this is a fairly large tree for around here.  There was a lot of old growth on the trail.

Here comes Odie down the trail.  Almost all of the trail was heavily wooded.  The shade was nice since it got into the low 80's during the day.  Unseasonably warm for around here.

There were some nice cliffs at the head of Finger Lake.  You can't tell by the photo but it's probably 50 feet down to the water. The lake is deep and loaded with fish, beaver, muskrats, and ducks.

Scott got to stretch his legs a bit after we got down to the lake level.

If you look at the picture with Susan you can see a narrow portion in the background.  We hiked on down the lake to take some more pictures and this one is looking back toward where the photo with Susan on the cliffs was taken.  The cliffs are barely visible at the head of the lake on the left.

This is from the same location in the previous photo only we're looking the other way.

This is on the way back out.  Someone has put a ladder against the cliff so that they can climb back up easier after diving off the cliff.  The cliff Susan was on in the first picture was about three times as high.

I finally bored Scott to sleep. 

This is a view of the cliff Susan was standing on in the first photo of the lake. The ladder was against the lowest step at the lower, right side.  This is one of the most beautiful lakes we've seen.  The pictures don't begin to do it justice.

We had some things scheduled for today so we packed everything up last night and headed home.  It was different being at a regular campground.  Most of the time we set up out in the woods someplace and see very few people.  We saw more people at the campground and boat launch than we normally see in a month or more.  It was nice to be back home where it's quiet!  We sometimes hear trucks on the highway 5 miles away or the ventilation fans on the train tunnel ten miles away but other than that the only sound we normally hear is from the wind and wildlife around us.

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