West 2018 Day 3 – Into the Grand Canyon

South Kaibab Trail

Tuesday 05/15/18

We got up early to organize and pack for the overnight at the bottom of the canyon.  After breaking down camp and packing the necessary items in backpacks we went to park the car near the top of Bright Angel trail.  Not sure if it was luck or the fact that we were there at quarter to seven in the morning, but we got a spot right next to the trailhead and walked up to the hotel to catch the 7AM shuttle.

We arrived at the North Kaibab Trailhead and were headed down into the canyon around 7:30 along with a handful of other hikers.  As usual, this seemed absurdly early to start hiking (and it wasn’t even the earliest shuttle), but around 10:30 or so it started getting hot enough that we fully understood why the early start was important – and this was when traveling downhill.  It was hot and sunny, but otherwise a not particularly strenuous hike, so we were both wearing long sleeves and hoods / hats to keep the sun off and the heat out.

South Kaibab Trail

Most of the pictures are either from the top portion – above the Cedar Ridge rest area, or the bottom as we approached or once we were in the campground.  The “middle” was the hot and sunny portion (I think the only picture from there is the mules coming up), and in addition to being more strenuous, it was also not as interesting.

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West 2018 Day 2 – Antelope Canyon

Monday 05/13/18

Back Country Office

In our deliberations the day before, we found out that Upper Antelope Canyon had openings for a 4:00 tour on Monday.  So, we knew what our plan was for the afternoon, but first we needed to get to the back country office before 9:00 to get a campsite for Tuesday night.  We did this with no problem and then once again stopped at the campground office to check on cancellation sites.

We lucked out a second time and got a site, so we hastily wadded up the tent, sleeping bags and all, crammed it into the car and relocated.  We didn’t burn too much time in that process and then headed North toward Antelope Canyon.

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West 2018 Day 1 – Grand Canyon Rim

Saturday 05/12/18


We flew out of Chicago early (6:20) and got to Vegas just before 1:00.  The only real excitement of the trip being the rebooking of the rental car through Costco to add the second driver and the momentary fear that Avis had charged a $150 fee to cancel the previous booking.  They ended up cancelling it with no fee at all, so that was a surprise perk.  Also, I’ll make a recommendation for renting through Costco – it was a better rate, on a slightly nicer car and they include the second driver for no extra cost.

As usual, the first day involved getting supplies (including a secondary supply stop for a gas canister when the first Walmart failed us) which is necessary, but not very exciting.

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Replacing the Clutch of a 2009 Subaru Outback

The Story

I guess the last post I made as about the trip to Maine.  Toward the end of the trip, aka during the drive home, I noticed that the clutch was making a slight ‘whirring’ sound when pressed. Turns out this was either the throw out bearing going out, or the throw out bearing having gone out and the metal sliding on the clutch springs.  Shortly after getting home, the slight whir turned into a full on screech as the bearing totally locked up and started grinding the metal of the bearing against the metal of the clutch springs.

I bought the parts, and following a guide I found online for a Subaru Impreza, managed to change the clutch… three times.

The first time, I used a non-OEM clutch from Valeo that according to spec would work, looked and felt like it would work, but alas didn’t work.  I thought maybe I did something wrong, so I took thing apart and tried again (attempt #2) with the same results.  I could kind of drive the car, but I could never fully disengage the engine from the transmission even with the clutch all the way down.  It was like driving a manual without synchros – if I got the engine to transmission speed matched then I could shift.  What this meant is that if I stopped the car if had to turn off the engine, put it in gear and start the engine in gear.  I did drive like this just a little bit to see if there might have been a need to wear the pressure plate in or something like that, but that made no difference. Continue reading

Maine 2017 – Niagara Falls


Rainbow Bridge

We stayed the night in the Oasis Motel in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The hotel was pretty dumpy, as it seems was the trend in that area. It probably ranked better than the Ash Fork Inn out West, but not by much. We begrudgingly gave them an extra $10 to stay parked there the next day while we walked down to the river and the falls. The town of Niagara Falls is a year round carnival, reminiscent of Pigeon Forge or whatever the town outside Rushmore was. We walked the Canadian side of the falls first and then crossed the bridge to the US side. While the Canadian side has by far the better viewing of the falls, the US side has a much more extensive park and closer access to the falls.  We wandered the park for a few hours before crossing the bridge back to Canada. Continue reading

Maine 2017 – Gananoque


The Socialist Pig

Departing Maine – we took a pretty leisurely pace getting packed up and heading out in the morning. Stopped at the visitor center and a few other places along the way as we headed back toward the Thousand Islands area of Canada.

We had chance, though getting close enough (there was much uncertainty about how far the road was passable) and possible rain were concerns, to hike the second highest peak in Maine – Sugarloaf Mountain, but we bypassed that on our way out of the state.


We had paddled the US side of the Thousand Islands area on the way out to Maine, so on the return we chose to stay on the Canadian side. We stayed outside the little town of Gananoque and drove into town in the morning.  We stopped at the visitor center and at a nice little coffee shop (The Socialist Pig) prior to heading down to the harbor for some paddling.  Finding a launch site and parking was a little bit annoying due to some construction and one way roads (I think we drove around the block three times), but we got on the water a bit before noon. Continue reading

Maine 2017 – Mt. Katahdin


The primary objective of the days at Baxter State Park was the hiking of Mt. Katahdin, the Northern end of the Appalachian Trail. We chose to ascend via Abol Trail since that’s where our camp was. Abol is a bit shorter, but steeper than Hunt Trail from what we were able to find. We got a very early start (for us at least) heading up the mountain by 8:00. I was a bit paranoid about the time and making it to the top given some of our previous adventures and the various warnings in the printed material. Turns out, the timing was a bit excessive.  I think we got to the peak just before noon and given how late it was in the season, there really was no ‘hot’ part of the day to avoid.  Also, the pictures we took of the trail map were wholly unnecessary since the trial was obvious the entire time.

Katahdin Sign

It was fun, but also a bit disheartening, to see all the AT through hikers finishing that day having their little celebrations at the top – some brought pizza, some brought beer, special shirts for photos. A couple kids (not through hikers) brought 4-person pot pies (1 each) that they ate cold. It was discouraging only because it kind of dwarfed our day-hike accomplishment kind of like we cheated and jumped straight to the finale.

On our descent, we took the side-trail that went to Abol falls. It was a pretty easy, flat trail, but the falls were not as grand as Katahdin Falls from the day before.  Still worth a few pictures.

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Maine 2017 – Baxter State Park


Katahdin Falls

We decided to spend a few days in Baxter State Park.  It was a bit of a divergence from our typical gravitation toward the national parks, but worth it.  Baxter State Park is huge and home to Mt. Katahdin. We got to the park early in the afternoon and, after a quick reservation adjustment at the welcome shack to consolidate the two nights we had reserved in separate sites, found our lean-to and set up for the evening. I had never stayed in a lean-to before, but it was nice having a clean, elevated platform for the tent and not needing the rain fly.  It was also really nice to not have to make the choice between packing up a damp tent or waiting for everything to dry out in the morning.

Moose sightings were reportedly a thing in Baxter, so we walked and drove to a few of the nearby ponds before deciding to take a hike up Hunt Trail toward Katahdin. The goal was to hike the mountain the next day, but we were going to take a the Abol trail and thus would not have passed by Katahdin Falls, the destination for the evening.  The trail wasn’t anything too challenging – just a moderate climb.  The falls are pretty substantial, but they cut through the side of a mountain, so finding a good viewpoint was a bit challenging.

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Maine 2017 – Portland, ME


Monday was a walking tour of Portland day. As is a bit of a theme, we didn’t have specific plans or schedule. We drove into Portland and lucked out with some free parking on the edge of town. We wandered the waterfront docks, shops, etc and then looped up through the heart of town. We weren’t specifically in need of any stuff and neither of us really shops just to shop, so it was mostly just a walking tour of the city. Continue reading

Maine 2017 – Acadia to Portland


We headed out toward Portland in the morning, opting for the somewhat more scenic route down the coast. Down the coast, in this case, meant highway between small towns instead of freeway. For the most part, I didn’t feel like it was “on the ocean” – not like California where you’re driving on the ocean for 10’s of miles. Looking at the map, and the timing of when we would have been driving past, I guess this impression could have been influenced by the fact that most of the run down the coast was after sunset.

The first stop along the way was at Blue Hill Mountain – only about 45 minutes out of Acadia. I’m not sure what the claim to fame of the place was, but it came up in Janet’s search for hikes so we diverted a bit. It was a pretty, and pretty easy hike up through the woods to a peak. There was formerly a tower there, but just the footings remain at this point. Continue reading