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Vacation 2009: Stanley

I'm Back: aka self portrait at Goat Falls

Self Portrait of me standing under Goat Falls

I’m not sure a photographer ever gets a real vacation.  If we do… this “vacation” was the closest I’ve come to a “real vacation” in a long time. Being half photographer half computer guy, I didn’t do any computer work while I was gone, so at least that half of me had a real vacation. Don’t get me wrong, it was a vacation, there were days where I could have fit the photos I took on one roll of 35mm. Other days were centered around photography and filled my largest memory card. My camera was never more than a few feet from me, ending up with over 1500 photos. Joy and I met my parents in the Stanley, Idaho basin for a week camping trip. Well, it was supposed to be a week, but we got there a few days early and left a day later clocking in at 10 nights in camp. The morning we left we were pulling out of camp and we both decided that it had been a good trip, but we were ready to go home; that is, for me, what made it a great vacation. I was actually ready to go home. We had an amazing trip though, I hiked thirty two miles of trails in the Sawtooth Wilderness plus a bit of bushwhacking here and there for large rocks and waterfalls. Hiking destinations in the Sawtooth wilderness included the breathtaking Sawtooth Lake and Goat Falls a spectacular (cold) 300 foot waterfall. (pictured).

In addition to hiking in the sawtooth wilderness, I also spent time in my old stomping grounds of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness; Dad and I caught a bunch of fish on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. I also took everyone up to the headwaters of the Salmon River where puppy could jump across the river.

I got most of my photo todo list done. There was one shot that I really wanted to get but the stars weren’t in alignment. Or rather the moon wasn’t. Many of you have seen some of my star trail photography. I scouted the place for my next major star trail photo, but the moon wasn’t cooperating within the time frame I had. I’ll be running the night sky simulator to find a couple days and times when I can travel back up to Stanley to take this three hour photo. The window is very tight and the weather will have to be perfect, and I have two months to take the picture or wait another year. hmmm.

The above photo was a self portrait of me at goat falls. I love waterfalls! nothing I’d rather photograph….   The perspective doesn’t do it justice as this was setup for the self port; Goat Falls is an amazing place, this torrent of water makes a 300′ fall from the top of the photo to my feet then continues on an amazing cascade down to the valley below.

This was the last of my hiking destinations in the sawtooth wilderness. One leg of the tripod was on a rock, the other two in a pool of water. Joy would have taken the photo except she was on a rock a couple hundred feet down the hill reading a book to the dog. Shortly before we got married her and I were climbing on a waterfall in Lemhi County near the Salmon River. She fell 90% of the way down it (30-40 feet). I thought she was seriously injured. We were ten minutes from radio coverage. An hour drive to the nearest paved road; another half hour to the clinic. Or lifeflight an hour to a real hospital. She wasn’t as badly injured as I thought, so we ended up not taking the helicopter ride that day, instead we bandaged her up, gave her some pain medication and made it back to town in record time to have my mom (a nurse) check her out. Nothing broken, major bruising, serious pain for a few days and some scars left, but we laugh at it now. Oh, but she’s banned from waterfalls.

Anyways, we got an daylight early start for this hike but it was still amazingly hot. So I was happy to pull the waterproof cover over the camera backpack and spend some time getting soaked.

It’s back to the real world now. I have 1500 more photos in my queue to go through and post process. I have a todo list a mile long from the next trip and I’m further behind everything I was behind on before we left. It was an amazing trip; I’m glad to be home.

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Trust the dog – search training jasper

Working Jasper posed

Jasper is nice enough to pause search training for a moment to pose for a photo

A few of you on my facebook and twitter have seen me post updates about doing search training with our six month old border collie, Jasper. When he first started getting his play drive as a young puppy we started doing some chase exercises in the parks. I’ve worked with and around search and rescue dogs in the past, namely a few times when I assisted S&R as a communications liaison with the forest service. I’ve always been impressed with their intelligence and drive the dogs have and how much fun they have with it. Though it can be an emotional drain on them too as I found out on a search where we located the remains of the victim.

Border Collies are working dogs. They need a job. Especially Jasper considering his long bloodline of working cow dogs. I don’t have cows. Sheep would do. I don’t have sheep. I’ve even seen them herd ducks. I don’t have ducks. And he doesn’t pay attention to the neighborhood’s resident mallard. He gets plenty of exercise with Frisbee and “catch-it” and now he’s taken up swimming. He has amazing, borderline obnoxious play drive. He’ll out play you at anything. I’ve been working really hard to exercise him mentally. His hour morning walk with joy, at least an hour of swimming/frisbee/fetch/catch-it in the evening and all the normal dog play in between do well at keeping him exercised and happy. But this dog has brains and I want to make him use it.

So, soon after he fully developed his play drive I did some research, read a couple books and picked a couple of minds. I decided to start training him as a search dog. I could have trained him as a bird dog. I don’t care to much for bird hunting. Could have trained him as a bear dog. heh, no way, I don’t have the energy to hunt bears using scent dogs. Plus, Border Collies aren’t typically bear dog material. Same goes for lion hunting, not my idea of fun (the chasing dogs up and down mountains all day part). Either way, these are sporadic activities at best. We need something that we can do on a weekly basis. Agility was a high option. Still is, but everyone with a border collie (not on a ranch) does agility.

So search training it was. We started off with some cute chasing games in the park then went on to hide and seek in the park. He loves his hide and seek. Doing search work in the park is one thing, doing it up in the mountains is a whole different game. Once he was 100% comfortable will all terrain and used to trails and off trail walks we slowly started doing search work with him up in the mountains. We started back with the basics but he quickly wanted more. This week was his first real week of scent work in the woods.

Last week we took him up behind Shaffer butte and worked with him on scent trailing exercises. Basically hide and seek, but nothing too hard. Everything started on the scent trail and fresh trails. He was 100%, a few times he’d take shortcuts where he was air scenting but most of it was nose to the ground tracking.

We only had his short leash so keeping up with him was a chore. He’s still a puppy so doesn’t get off leash in public too often, he minds well when he wants to, but can get distracted. After the first exercise I had to let him off. This time after waiting for Joy to get hidden I gave his command took off his leash. Wow, talk about speed. Instead of running out the trail for a hundred yards like Joy did before she got off the trail jasper turned straight up the mountain at full speed. I did my best to keep up with him and could hear his collar jingling but the dog was on a mission. Over the river and through the woods. ok, no river, but lots of dense brush. I was starting to worry, I was sure he was off course probably chasing a deer scent or something. He took a hard left turn and headed back out the ridge. I wondered if I’d ever see him again. So I gave a couple of quick ranging whistles I could hear him faintly in the brush. I gave a recall whistle and he started to come back to me, but stopped and went back away from me. I was really worried. Seconds later “Good Boy! What a Good Boy!” I stepped around a tree and could see Joy and Jasper playing tug, his reward. When I got to her, I was a bit confused. The plan was for her to be only a few yards off the trail as another warm up. What I didn’t realize was the trail made a couple of switchbacks and she was only 10 yards off the trail. Jasper had caught her scent in the air and decided to skip the trail. Joy told me that he was only feet from her the first time I whistled and he started to move toward me then caught her scent again. I just knew the dog had it wrong… yeah.

Tonight we went up there, fully prepared and planning on training this time. We had his tracking line, a small bell (much like a hiker’s bear bell, if one chose to wear such an obnoxious item) and since we’d be finishing around sunset, his red flashy led light. All attached to his favorite trail pack.

Working Jasper candid

Jasper's candid portrait during search training in the Mountains

Tonight was all about air scenting. It was gonna be tough as the winds were quite random, in direction only, constant in speed (7mph). We setup the problems paying more attention to the terrain, wind and vegetation. Joy does most of the hiding, but we switch it up with me occasionally. We’d hide in a defined area but I wouldn’t know exactly where she was so I couldn’t affect the dog except by watching and learning his body language and reading wind/terrain. With his 50′ line it was a lot easier to work with him and learn from him. The third problem I didn’t have a clue where Joy was hiding. Really, she was outside the area I thought she’d be in. His body language indicated he was sure about the scent as we intersected the maintained trail she had been on for a portion of the hide. We got past where I thought she was going to be and onto an open low sage hillside. His body language started showing he wasn’t so sure. With this not so sure attitude he started off down out of the open into the thickest brush he could find, nose to the ground. Going back and forth at random. With him not 100% sure and me knowing that joy wouldn’t hide down there I gave him a quick range whistle he looked at me and started back my way. We went back to the trail, the last place where I knew 100% he had her scent and started again. He walked in a large circle and bolted down the hill back into the thick brush, nose to the ground. “Good Boy!” “That was so Good!”   hmm….    You would have thought that I’d learn my lesson from last time. When I whistled he was on the other side of a tree and some dense brush just uphill from Joy. But, we did get back on the scent for sure and after talking to her about the path she took in there, it makes sense that he (err, we) got confused.

We finished the night with a couple more air scenting problems, increasing in difficulty but all successful followed by a quick fun one.

Now, I don’t know if jasper will ever put on a search and rescue jacket. Don’t know if he’ll stay interested or progress far enough to be good at it. Don’t know if we’ll ever get him with a search dog trainer to try it out for real. But I do know this dog had a nose on him and the brains to back it up, especially when I don’t get in his way.

We’re going to continue working with search problems with Jasper over the next couple of months to see how he progresses. Week after next we’ll be spending a week in Stanley. We’re going to work longer searches and search for other people. If he can stay interested in the longer searches and work well with other people, I’ll be seriously considering calling up some of my S&R friends for some additional training. But right now, if Joy or I get lost in the mountains; Jasper is the dog! He will find us, if you just trust him.

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Field Day 2009

I’m putting some finishing touches on my packing for field day 2009. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a yearly amateur (ham) radio event. To the American Radio Relay League, our primary US club, it’s an “operating event.” To some it’s a contest, to some it’s a public relations opportunity, to some it’s a emergency drill, to some it’s a chance to make a lot of contacts, to some it’s a social event, to some it’s just a day to go hang out in the mountains and “play” ham radio.

This year I fall more toward the last option. In years past I’ve run field day for an emergency communications team, some years I was operating to for points, one year I did VHF only… This year? Well, this year me and my 6 month old border collie are going to head up in the mountains somewhere, park the trailer and enjoy the weekend. Joy couldn’t go this year due to work, I didn’t have any prior commitments with any team or club so jasper and I will be flying solo.

I’ve got a spot picked out in Boise county (no the city of Boise is in Ada county) it’s not as remote as I’d like to be but given time constraints it’ll do. For you VHFers it’s on the grid line of DN23 and DN24. I’ll be operating as “W7ATC 1B ID” I’ll be operating 100% QRP (5 watts) too. I’ve done some QRP Field day work in the past, but never the whole event. Mostly PSK31. To get the computer ASUS EeePC and radio within my battery/solar power budget for 24 hours I have to run low power. Actually I will probably only work about 16 hours of the event, technically looking at my power budget I could run 20 watts but dropping down to 5 gets me a higher points multiplier.

For those of you who are ham radio operators. I’m trying to set up a schedule with a couple people, here is my plan for

(all times mountain)

Friday night:

7.285mhz SSB at 8:30pm
14.285mhz SSB at 9:00pm
14.070 PSK31 at 9:30pm

Saturday Morning:

Saturday morning before field day starts I’ll be monitoring 7.268.5mhz SSB from 10am till 11:30am it’s the “Noon Net” frequency.

It should be fun, always is. Operating at QRP power levels this year is going to be a challenge.

Seven Three

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Welcome Home Jasper

Tired Puppy

After an adventurous trip back from Salmon on Saturday night/Sunday morning bringing him home, we welcomed Jasper into our home. Jasper Wallace Palmer was born to “Lucy” and “Boomer” on November 29, 2008 (also our wedding anniversary). He’s a “working bred” Border Collie from Lemhi County, Idaho. His pedigree are all working cow dogs from the Salmon area including his grandfather which was brought to the US from Wales to work as top dog on one of the best ranches in Lemhi County. While he won’t be working cattle, Jasper will stay plenty busy as an active member of our family.

I’ll ofcourse have plenty more about Jasper as he grows up. Especially as he decides what activities he’ll enjoy most. (roller blading? mountain biking? Fishing? Hiking? Frisbee? Tennis? Tracking? Photowalks? Catch?) He’s got a lot of options. For now, he’s just a clumsey little guy exploring his new world. Bursts of energy followed by equal bursts of nap time… he’s already 90% house broken, knows his “kenel” and loves teething chew toys smeard in chicken ” puppy kong” sauce then frozen. He doesn’t mind car rides, doesn’t particularly care for baths, but loves being wrapped up in a towel and brushed to dry.

Welcome home Jasper!

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Jasper Wallace Palmer

We’ve got some great news. We’ve been looking for a dog and found out via my dad, some friends of ours have a litter of Border Collies. We’re getting one!!! Jasper Wallace Palmer was born on Nov 29, 2008 in Lemhi County Idaho. That happens to be Joy (my wife) and I’s wedding anniversary 🙂 Jasper is red purebred border collie and comes from a line of great cattle working dogs only a couple generations removed from Scotland. It’ll be a few weeks till we get him home, we can’t wait!

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