Thursday, January 30, 2020

Thursday Hiking with Jax: Hurrah Pass

Jax is so happy to be back. We're hiking every day. Today, despite up Hurrah and back, about five and a half miles, Jax was crazy all the way up and back. Kept jumping up in the air biting at my gloves, and pushing me from behind, just looking for trouble. Twice on the way up and I lost track how many times on the way back we just set down in the road and glove fought or wrestled while he ran and rolled all over the place. He just couldn't get enough.

It was cold when we started out but looked like the sun was going to break out but half way up it hadn't. I was bundled up good though and Jax hasn't had a hair cut in awhile so we were good.
Then it did break out and I was sweating like crazy by the time we got to the top.

Was nice just sitting on top for a half hour or so. Probably mid 40s with some 50s coming next week. Hard to believe I'm about a month from going to get Kobae already and six weeks from the disc tournament which is sold out and has a waiting list and five people on the waiting list for rooms. I emailed Doug to see if he'd drop his price from $700 a night for his hogan and he went down to $500 but nothing less. I'm not even going to ask anybody. I get $425 for the main house. I read the World Championship Disc tourney is in Ogden Utah this year.

I have three weekends sold out this spring already and most all of the nine days of Jeep Week is gone. I've rented Linny's room out for about 15 days in the next two months because everything else was taken and I've got two weddings this year, and probably a third by next week. I'm going to have to find somebody to work here sooner than I thought because clearly I'm not going to get anything done when I can go hiking every day.

Living in the Boonies: Different Perspective

Really wet the last month or so and I noticed grass under the tree yesterday. Reminded me.

One really hot summer when Linny and I were here nothing grew or even tried. I think we reached 118 one day and that winter we reached 18 below so over the course of the year 136 degree swing.

Linny slept most of the way to Salt Lake and when I stopped to get gas Linny got out to stretch, probably about five or six years old. She called me over by the sidewalk and said "Tom, look, grass." Later that same year we drove back up to a hockey game and checked into the hotel. We both walked around our room for a minute looking and I said "Linny, where do you think they keep the drinking water." Linny said "Maybe we can drink the water out of the sink?" After the game we walked over to Applebees and as we're walking through the parking lot, Linny stopped, staring at a Ford Fiesta. She looks at me and says "Ford makes cars?"All she'd ever seen was trucks. A month or two later Ford announced they weren't going to make cars anymore just SUVs and trucks. I don't know if they ever did.

Wednesday: Hiking with Jax

Jax and I went over to Last Hurrah to pump a little water but the hose was frozen again and then the sun came out and I forgot all about any work. Time to go out with my hiking buddy.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Tuesday Afternoon

I've been trying to put together in my head the things I have left to do before the season starts and I'd about got it figured out, couple little loose ends but mostly done and a time frame. Then Jax showed up and frankly all I want to do is go hiking. I looked to see what time it was suppose to be the warmest time of the day and it did get up to about 40 but right when we headed out the wind came up and it didn't feel like 40. When we got up on top by Doug's hogan there were a lot of mountain lion tracks.

I went out to throw hot dogs tonight and there, for the third time past the fire pit, was the face with four eyes. I threw a hot dog to the right and one to the left and two eyes went in each direction. That's a big relief. Still that could have gone bad too. It could have been one eye up and one eye down that went in each direction but they were level. After finally getting all the eye colors sorted out and identified to which critter it belongs to I didn't want to play dimensional eyes and identify creatures of the night by how many eyes they had on their face.

My raven teacher and I had some nice conversation this morning but it was going so well I didn't want to break it up and got get the camera so I'll keep the Go Pro by the door now. We talked for 15 minutes and Jax kept staring at me like what is this new game we're playing as it was first time he witnessed it. For the first time I spoke first and raven teacher mimicked my raven talk responding in kind. Another raven came along and got teacher and they left together. Ten minutes after they were gone a male shape shinned hawk landed in the tree and I had to yell at him to get him to leave. I'll tell raven teacher tomorrow and see what teacher can do about it. 

The Return

Everyday for a week I wake up and it looks like this.
Then Sunday I wake up and it looks like this.
Michelle didn't respond to email or phone calls for weeks. Then last week, two days in a row, she sent me a picture of Jax. Then an email saying he'd be back on the 23rd.......approximately. Then on Monday she calls and says she'll be going by the I-70 turnoff to Moab about 7pm and to meet her there to get Jax. I call at 5pm before I leave to make sure she's on schedule and says, traffic was bad, then there was a snowstorm, so she's still a couple hours away. Then she ran into an hour or two of fog before Grand Junction. At midnight Michelle pulls in to the alien looking gas station at the turn off to Moab. Was a long night as we didn't get back until 2:30 this morning but in retrospect Michelle did go a long ways out of her way to make sure Jax made it back to Base Camp.

Jax jumps out, we greet, he jumps in the truck and before daylight even hit this morning he was scratching at the door not to go to the bathroom but to go hiking.I waited for some sun and my hiking buddy has returned.

Saturday, January 25, 2020


Nations emailed to say the truck was ready. I had been mapping routes to hike in and get it but with the snow I bailed on that plan and riding my trials bike in I bailed again. But I was running out of the individual bottles of propane so I stuff seven of them in the back of the Jeep and drove in to get the truck and switch them out. I've stuck a propane heater in the living room, one in the office, and one in my bedroom and it's way easier then burning a whole bunch of wood. Usually it would take me four loads of wood to get through the winter and in those days they were about $130 a truck load until I found my current wood guy who's about $80. Then there is hauling it back, carry it into the living room containers, get the fire going and it takes a little while to warm up. The propane heaters are almost immediate if you're close enough. So big saving on time and easy to change them out plus it looks like my winter costs will be about half versus wood. The up front expense is more, heaters, hoses, propane tanks, but the money and time savings are a lot.

This is what every morning since Tuesday's snow looks like. The sun just never breaks through.
There were no tracks in the road going up Hurrah and there were two part way down the other side that looked like they started up and turned around. Without tracks in some places it might be hard to make out the road but since it's straight up on the right and straight down on the left there's no problem on Hurrah.

It got into the 40s and the snow was melting quick slopping up the road. Somebody had issues.
On the way back the truck drove like a dream after ten years plus getting beat up on this road. Nations said they had to replace almost every part in the front end. Was five hours before I could get back with other errands and a lot of snow had melted.
I think one of the reasons I have driven so many vehicles out for people rarely touching bottom while they say they hit a whole bunch of times on the way in is from all my years riding competitive trials events. I'm really good at picking a line without suffering myself or the bike, and now transferred into guests vehicles. But I was really surprised though since I was the only set of tracks going out and back starting on Hurrah how often I took a different path in the road on the way back than I had taken on the way out. I think it was about the first time I had actually been able to compare with the absence of all other tracks.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Tuesday Morning

Winter is not quite done with Base Camp yet. In fairness to the weather people it didn't say partly cloudy this time. It said 20% chance of sleet.

Breakfast at Tiffanys 2 (White-tailed/House Finch)

Here's a couple videos of the white-tailed antelope squirrels eating sunflower seeds. Some have been doing it for a while and others are a little clumsy.

Two videos of house finches eating sunflower seeds and even with no hands the pros can pick up a seed, crack it as their head is moving up, swallow the seed, spit out the shell, and pick up the next one is about three seconds.

Breakfast at Tiffanys #2

At the second feeding location, under the deceased cottonwood tree, there was a slight depression that something had dug out and I stuck the GoPro there. There are a lot of videos but since I took these on Monday it's snowed considerably and I'm socked in with cloud cover way slowing down the processing time of the videos. Just putting these four on took four hours so I'm limiting it to the Red-winged blackbirds. They are so nervous all the time but in fairness I've never seen a hawk take one or found the remains of one taken by a hawk. I'll do the others another time. I enlarged the videos to watch them better. If the arrow is not center the video won't be either. I can't figure out why some of them aren't centered. If that's the case better to click on the videos name or number.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Breakfast at Tiffanys #1

Some Stuff

I'm walking by the Jeep taking stuff out to the garage and thinking I must have four flat tires it's setting so low to the ground. Then I remembered I left a month worth of sunflower and bird seed in the back when I was in a hurry to turn around and go drop off the truck and get the side by side.
Just Venus for planets shines in the night sky and it will light it up all the way deep into Spring. Jupiter is already coming up in the early morning despite having just disappeared a month or so ago but between the Anti Cline and Hurrah Pass I can't yet see it. There are a lot of stars though with no competition from light. I've pulled all the solar lights down throughout the property and will just hand out head lamps if folks need them. I bought 40 something for the movie people and go almost all of them back.
Was a little spooky last night. I walked outside just after dark to throw some hot dogs to the parking lot and put the bowl out in Kobae's yard for the foxes, put a few in the rafters for the ringtails, others under the porch for the skunks, and two in each bowl on the porch for the raccoons. After I had gotten all 30 of them distributed I came out a little later when it was completely dark threw some more out and just as I turned to go back in I saw a twinkle above the wood pile over by the fire pit. I looked at it longer and it was two sets of eyes, one right above the other. they seemed to be coming from the same face, not one above the other. I thought maybe my eyes were just messed up from staring at the computer screen all day but looking to my left I saw a fox come up the parking lot and just one set of eyes. I looked back over by the woodpile and the face had two sets of yellow eyes one above the other. In theory ringtail or raccoon since the eyes were yellow but that's all I know.
I have a new ringtail. It's so cute. I hear one of the other three, or maybe two of them, chasing it around sometimes at night across the roof and hissing at it, I think trying to drive it off so they don't have to share the hot dogs but it's the first one here each night. Just like all the others in their early days here when I'd put the hot dog on a marshmellow stick and put it up by them it would run away but I saw it a couple nights watching the other calmly take hot dogs off the stick and it's getting better. Still it snatches the hot dog off the stick like it might go away all of a sudden.

Friday, January 17, 2020

I Got a Letter from Will

About a year ago on the blog I told a story. A story about my friend Will Lutz. Here is is.

When I was in town yesterday I picked up my mail at the post office. There was a letter from Will. I kept trying to understand while I was driving back. I just kept staring at the envelope.

When I got back I put it on the table and brought everything in from the Jeep. It's been a little over a year since Will passed. I opened it and there was a note from Carol, Will's mom, and a card from Will.

Hello Tom:

When Will and I were traveling back and forth to the hospital at this time last year he said he wanted to write letters to special people in Let's Play, to tell them how much he loved this company and working with all of them. He said "Mom, you bring your laptop and I'll tell you what to say and you can clean it up and make it sound good. If I make it through this, I can save them until next Christmas and send them then. If I don't you can send them for me."

We made a list and he told me what he wanted to tell you and I brought my laptop the night before he was scheduled for his second surgery but after awhile he was too exhausted and said he would finish them tomorrow....his tomorrow never came....And now Christmas is here, so I am sending you this little gift to remember Will and to tell you what he said."

I opened Will's card.


Thank you. I know you had your doubts about me but you gave me the opportunity and challenged me to become one of your super hero managers. I know Base Camp changed your life but I wanted you to know that it changed mine as well. I regret not being able to visit you one more time before all this but hope to see you when it is over.


Definition: 95% chance of snow

You know what partly cloudy looks like. It's white and is usually three to six inches deep on my porch.

Here's what 95% chance of snow looks like. Maybe it's in that cloud over by Dead Horse Point?

After a couple days of above freezing weather here's how many boots you can pack with mud and spend 30 minutes on the porch cleaning.

Slow, Expensive, Time of the Year

This is the time of the year to get everything fixed and ready for the coming season. For vehicles, by myself, the first and last one are the issue. Getting the first one in the shop and then finding a way back. For me that was the newer Polaris and hiking back.

The truck needs massive front end work. It's going to be really expensive. I want to coordinate when all the parts come in with when the Polaris is ready so I can limp in with the truck and drive the Polaris back, no long term hiking right now, it's too cold. On Tuesday I contacted Nations about the truck and all the parts weren't in yet. I contacted Mad Bro and they weren't done with the Polaris. On Thursday I ran out of hot dogs and bird seed, and almost out of me food so time to go to town. I took the Jeep since the truck is barely alive.

My bigger purpose was to go around to the vehicle rental places and see if anybody would cut a deal for people that wanted to come out to the lodge so they could leave their vehicles in town. I didn't get a good deal anywhere. Better to fly into Salt Lake or Grand Junction and get a rental there. More driving but the savings on both the airplane ticket and vehicle rental is massive.

I had breakfast with Kathy who is a Lyft and Uber driver and she's willing to do something to drop people off and pick them up, maybe in the $100 range somewhere. I met with a side by side place and they said they could do the same. I talked to Navtec but it's expensive to get people in and out here with their big boat but we cut a deal for them to do accommodation packages with two day rentals here and then down the river to Lake Powell and we scheduled the first one for August in the main house.

I swung by Nations right when the UPS truck pulled up and they said all my truck parts were there. I drove over to Mad Bro and they said they were just finishing up the Polaris work and it would br ready in an hour or so. I started thinking maybe I'd come back into town on Friday to change out vehicles. After I'd done all my errands and got myself and all the little people a couple weeks of food, driving back to Base Camp the weather report on the radio was 95% chance of snow on Friday.

I got to the lodge unloaded, fed the birds, checked email, and got in the truck and headed back to town. It was cold, really cold, but I was bundled up on the drive back in the side by side and survived it. Better than 95% chance of snow.

I found this dead frozen cow on the other side of Hurrah. If she moves to the other side of the road anytime soon then I'll start believing that UFO theory that somebody put out on the Facebook site for Base Camp that Heather told me about since the dead cow last year changed sides of the road after a week or two.

Booking Sites, Things Learned, Maybe a Triology, I Hope Not

For the first couple years I didn't take guests. I was tired from 100 hour weeks at Let's Play for twenty years or so. I had the managers and a few friends come out and that was fine. I'd sell just enough stock each month to make the payment. Then I let somebody stay and they told somebody, who told somebody else and it turned into a semi job even when I retired from Let's Play.

Then three years ago I bought the place next door. Last Hurrah. I still was only taking referrals from people that had stayed here and told them not to post comments on web sites about their stay because I was trying to keep from having a job. There was so much work to be done next door and improvements to be made and it doubled the mortgage payment and then some I soon found myself losing $10,000 or so a month and I can't do that for very long.

I put the lodge and Last Hurrah on Trip Advisor, Home Away and it's affiliates including VRBO, Airbnb, Glamping Hub, and there might be a couple more. That was September of 2018. The first month I got three or four bookings, in October six or eight, November nine or ten, and then the reviews started coming in and well now I'm buried and have no life for much of the year, well at least not the one I retired to get. The revenues are five times what they were just two years ago.

I'm not going to post any pictures of a computer screen so here's a few pictures I took out wandering around that didn't quite fit in the story of the day and now I'll use them just to break this up.
All of the booking sites are a little different but mostly along the same lines. They all have a calendar for each unit, I have nine, that links with the other sites if you set it up right. Then if somebody books on one site it automatically blocks those dates on the other sites so there's no double bookings.

However what I learned was that HomeAway and VRBO have somebody send you a request you have 24 hours to make a decision. That doesn't always work for me. They send in their request for dates and I respond telling them to bring food and anything they want to drink besides water cause there's no stores out here and though they probably won't need four wheel drive but they will need five or six inches of ground clearance. Most SUVs, Jeeps, and trucks have that. Most sedans and vans do not. I also add that it will take an hour to get here and if height is an issue for them there will be lots of issues on the way up and down Hurrah Pass. Sometimes they don't respond or cancel the request and sometimes they're checking with everybody or making sure they can get suitable transportation. HomeAway though wants me to accept or reject them within 24 hours. Their computer program is set up that way.

If I don't accept or reject while I'm waiting for a response back from the potential guest within their 24 hours, the request expires, they block the dates on all the other booking site calendars, send me an email saying I'm a loser, and send the guest who is still checking an email saying I didn't respond in time which is unacceptable to them and the request expires. If it happens twice to the same listing they suspend my listing so it doesn't show up on their websites.
I can reinstate it but I don't. They think they're teaching me a lesson to not be irresponsible but they aren't. 70% of my business now is online bookings. The other 30% being previous guests, referrals, and people that visited while passing by or just stumbled upon me. Of that 70% Airbnb is probably 60% of the online business. So I changed it to only link the airbnb calendar to the others but not the others to airbnb. Whenever there is a booking on airbnb it blocks the other calendars. When there is a booking through somebody else then I go block it on airbnb which blocks the others. So they are just linked in one direction now. I have to remember to put all bookings on airbnb or risk a double booking of which I've had two in the three years and I moved them to a different rental. In most cases the unit still books it just doesn't book on HomeAway so they're really hurting themselves and their income more than me. I've talked to them about it and nothing is going to change. I keep a spreadsheet on my desktop that I can look at quickly but I still screw it up occasionally.