Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Sunday, 20 April 2008

The Million Dollar Highway

From Ouray to Durango - Colorado

The thermometer read 15 degrees this morning at dawn. The campground is empty and silent except for us and several hundred birds chirping about spring. The piles of snow are beating a slow retreat.

The hike we took yesterday was an odd mix of deep snow and slippery, gluey mud. We went up a trail called “The Pinnacles” for about an hour before turning back.. Sometimes we would break though the snow crust and sink to our knees. Sometimes our boots would pick up several pounds of mud where the snow had melted. One of the things to discuss on a hike is the tracks and the scat. We saw lots of deer sign and a few bear tracks. This is the time that the bears are coming out of hibernation with new cubs, looking for breakfast.

I learned that they took out a 56 pound lake trout from the frozen lake where we are camped last year. The fishing here is reported to be the best in Colorado. Soon they will be releasing several million eleven inch sockeye salmon from the upriver hatchery. That explains the giant trout. Trout are very aggressive eaters and love little fish. We made a special trip to Gunnison to buy a fishing license. The sporting goods store was a rat’s nest of fishing tackle, deer antlers and snowshoes. A good pair of snowshoes goes for $125. I fished for about an hour and didn't catch anything. I scraped up some loose dirt and buried two boxes of worms in the ground and added a little water. They won the worm lottery...never give up.

We moved today. We drove from Gunnison to Montrose, then down though Ouray to Durango. Rand McNally thinks the winding 75 miles from Ouray to Durango is the best drive in Colorado.

The high mountain passes go up to 12,000 feet. It's good to be back to 6,000 feet after a week at 10,000 or more. The air that we breathe is 21 percent oxygen. However, the amount of oxygen available for your lungs is a factor of partial pressure of oxygen and is measured in torr. As altitude increases, the available oxygen pressure in torr decreases. The percentage of oxygen in the air is always 21 percent no matter how high you go, but it’s 21 percent of a smaller total air pressure. At sea level the partial pressure of oxygen is 21 percent of 760 torr, while at 10,000 feet it is 21 percent of only 199 torr. The older you get, the more susceptible you are to lack of oxygen at altitude. In the Air Force, we had to strap on our masks for anything over 8,000. Rapid heatbeat, rapid breathing, headaches and decreased mental acuity are a few of the early symptoms. Death is the last, most serious effect. I lost consciousness in about a minute at 23,000 feet in the altitude chamber...what a nice way to go...Euphoria, followed by nothing. They should use these on death row.

We want to see the ruins at Mesa Verde tomorrow and maybe take a hike or two.

It might take a couple of days to explore the Canyons of the Ancients. There are over 6,000 ancient pueblos up on the desert mesas. After that, there is a trading post in the desert we want to see. It's over in the "four corners" area on the Ute reservation in ther high desert.

We got satellite TV back in the Curecanti National Recreation Area (Direct), but no cell phone (ATT) or computer air card (Verizon) service. I learned how to record TV programs yesterday. The receiver is now set to record all future “South Park” programs until the disk is full. “Dr. Who” was on yesterday with a new Doctor that I didn’t recognize. Dr Who, I guess.

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