Where I've Been

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Teardrop Chronicles 2014

This will be a work in progress for some time to come...
Check back often for updates, if that's your kind of thing...
The Beginning

10 months ago my wife brought home a box from Harbor Freight Tools. Inside was a kit to build a 4 x 8 collapsible trailer frame. She shared this grand idea of building our own teardrop trailer, to take on a cross country road trip we have always talked about. With her research and a little of my own we altered the collapsible frame design into a rigid base. Then built a wooden floor base. Within a few weeks of occasional weekend work we insulated and waterproofed the base, but then we abandoned the project for the winter.

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With less than 6 months from our scheduled departure we jumped back into action in April of this year. Finally attaching the wooden base to the metal frame. Which took all of three hours. Next we decided on a shape, then cut out and installed the side walls. I found some scrap laminate flooring for free from a neighbor that was just the right amount to cover the floor. Next we had to cut off the galley from the cabin. I am 6ft 4in so I had to lay on the floor and had my wife measure my dimensions to be sure my feet and legs would fit under the galley counter. We considered building a shelf for our dogs to sleep on, but realized that would require placing the side doors too far forward. So we scratched that idea and started to frame the walls of the galley kitchen. My wife picked up the smallest mini fridge she could find on craigslist a we framed the shelving around it.

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Next was the rear hatch. This was not fun. The exaggerated curve we added to the trailers rear end provided unnecessary additional challenges when attaching the skin. If we could do one thing over it would be to end the bottom of the door at less of a curve. We had to soak beach towels and drench the wood and spent several hours struggling and risking breaking expensive building materials. We also used way more staples than would have been necessary with a better shape and maybe some cargo straps. But hey its supposed to be that cute teardrop shape right?

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With that nightmare out of the way, we ordered our side doors from Frank Bear @ teardropparts.com and found a “Fantastic Fan” ceiling vent/fan on ebay. When the doors arrived we traced the doors by holding them in place and cut out the holes with a jigsaw. Installation should have been simple but as this is our first time, we of course ran into some hang-ups- more on that later. We continued to frame out the cabin to prepare for wiring and insulation. After doing some research on electrical layouts we got serious about a plan and began to order lights and switches. Next we ordered all of the aluminum trim and sealant tape from Frank Bear as well as a “hurricane hinge”.

I called around to different sign companies, trailer repair shops and welding supply stores to get quotes for the aluminum sheeting. The Flying Wrench Services in Everett recomended that I try Pacific Welding Supplies in Bremerton. I drove out the next day to pick up 3-4x8 sheets and ordered a 4x12, which was a little overkill – a 4x10 would have been plenty long for our roof. We chose .032 inch thick “5052 aluminum”, a highly water-safe and corrosion resistant alloy. Inexpensive and Beautiful. To intall the trim we got some stainless pan-head screws from the hardware store.

There are basically two schools of thought when it comes to attaching the aluminum sheets- the float method, or the contact cement method. We heavily researched the options and decided that the float method would be far more forgiving to our lack of experience. So we caulked our screw and staple holes, and sealed the outside surface of our plywood to prevent rot caused by potential condensation build-up between the ply and aluminum – one of the main arguments for the contact cement method. We clamped the sheets to the sides and secured them with a few screws around the edge where the trim would eventually cover, and cut out the shape and the door hole using a router with a ¼' straight fush trim bit.

A bit of advise for those using the same doors – trace the opening using the flange for the inside rather than the door itself as it is about 1/4” larger on all sides than the door. After adjusting the holes, we had trouble with the included screws breaking before sinking more than halfway in. Pre-drilling the holes into the door helped a bit, but we still broke off a few more screws and had to slowly twist them out with pliers. We ended up getting our own stainless steel screws and spray painted them black to match, which worked great.

After we finished up running wire, we installed the interior walls which Steffy painted up real pretty, and then cut our high density foam padding to fit. The luan sheet I got for the interior ceiling just barely made the radius without breaking, although it did pop and crack a bit. With that done we cut a hole for the fan and installed the rest of the roof joists and insulation. The luan and then aluminum sheeting went on the roof without any issues, and we began installing the trim, starting with the hurricane hinge for the galley door. This was our process:

1. Dry fit the trim, bending along the curves and cut to length 2. Pre-drill 2-3 holes per piece and install screws to hold in place for step 3 3. Pre-drill the rest of the holes 4. Remove trim and apply sealant tape 5. Attach trim with all screws 6. Remove every other screw and apply roofing/flashing sealant to each screw hole 7. Replace screws 8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 for the other half of the screws

Steps 6-8 might have been unnecessary, as the sealant tape claims to self seal the screws as they go in, but we live in Washington and were unwilling to take any chances when it comes to water safeness.

Next we installed the interior and exterior led strips and switches and buttoned up the inside with trim and finalized our shelving design in the galley. After installing the offset t-molding and weather seal to the hatch, as well as some 90 degree clamps, all that was left before our first dry run was the brake lights and turn signals. With a little research online at www.tnttt.com the wiring was pretty simple an straightforward using the kit that came with our trailer frame from Harbor Freight. Unfortunately I could not get one of the brake lights to function properly – it had power, and would come on with the brakes, but the turn signal and running lights failed to come on. After tearing apart the wiring and redoing it all twice, I finally traced the problem down to a bad ground. The design of the brake light puts the ground on the bolts that attach it to the frame, but the paint on the frame provided enough insulation to prevent solid grounding – a very simple fix that cost me several hours of frustration.

We ordered a Power Bright pure sine wave converter for 110v power, and a smart charger for shore power, and picked up a deep cycle marine battery. Dan at Stereotomy in Issaquah wired up our truck and the trailer with 4ga wire and an “anderson” break-away connector and set up our smart charger and converter with the battery. Our first camping trip with power went great. We used some scrap aluminum to cover the counter in the galley and a small accessory shelf for the stove.

Day 1 Our little teardrop trailer was road worthy and water tight just in time for a long awaited cross-country road trip. We hit the first snag early when our brand new sine wave converter fried itself with the flip of a switch. Luckily we were still loading up so we quickly switched gears, abandoning most of our freezer meals and grabbing a cooler.

We quickly found our next problem when I failed to look up the quickest route to Boise until we were nearly to Spokane. This would be the first of many mistakes which led us to opportunity. Our last minute plan to visit some friends on the way meant that we would miss all but a few miles of Montana, but the drive through the scenic Payette River Valley was well worth the extra miles. After over 18 hours of driving we stopped for the Caribou Targhee National Forest.

Day 2

At dawn we hit the road, stopping for a walk around the town of West Yellowstone before entering the park. We dropped the trailer at camp and headed straight for Old Faithful. We stopped at a few small geyser fields along the way, including one that formed less than 30 years ago during an earthquake.

While exploring the geothermal features around Old Faithful, where we had a close encounter with a massive buffalo. We hung around just long enough to see the big geyser erupt, right on schedule of course.

Due to a couple road closures within the park we had to drive the long way around to Mammoth Hotsprings, stopped at Canyon Village first for a look at the upper and lower falls off the Yellowstone River. We nearly circumnavigated the valley, stopping at about a dozen vantage points along the way.

After driving over Mount Washburn, we passed by dozens of buffalo and stopped briefly to watch a fox pouncing on its prey. From a distance the brilliant white travertine terraces stood out among the trees and grass surrounding them. Although they were mostly dry, we were able to find some brilliant colors in a few places.

Day 3

We headed east well before dawn, regrettably missing Grand Teton National Park in favor of a faster route through the Wind River Canyon and Casper. It was over 800 miles to our next camp and the 80 mph speed limits were taunting with a trailer that's only rated for 55. When we reached the edge of the Rockies, the plains ahead stretched on out of sight.

As we neared Cheyenne we missed our planned fuel stop and chose to continue on to the next one. About 12 miles from the next station it looked like we wouldn't make it, so we took the next exit and called AAA from a small RV Park just off the highway. As we waited on hold we were rescued by Pastor Jason Crossman of the Pioneer Baptist Church, who also manages the OK RV Park 14 miles north of Wheatland, Wyoming. Jason helped us out with some gas and invited us to use the showers at the park. Some of the friendliest and most hospitable people I've met were in Wyoming. Thanks Jason for all of your help!

After a quick stop in Denver to check out the recreational cannabis scene (Which was less than impressive), we climbed west into the mountains to find a camp site near the base of Mount Elbert - the highest point in Colorado and the summit of the Rockies. Just before the town of Leadville our truck and trailer reached their highest elevation over Fremont Pass at 11,318 ft. We set up camp in the dark at Whitestar campground on Twin Lakes and prepped gear for the big climb.

Day 4

I was optimistic about the 30% chance of scattered thunderstorms until I awoke at 4 am to a torrential downpour. We bagged the planned 4:30 am start and got some more sleep. The south trail head was empty when we passed by. We reached the end of the 4wd road at 7am and parked just passed the only other vehicle and hit the trail in full rain gear a few minutes late. The 4wd trail and the first mile of trail is surrounded by aspen trees, the leaves of which had recently turned a brilliant yellow and began falling to the ground.

Around 12,000' we noticed a group of three ascending the North Ridge as Mount Massive emerged from the clouds behind them. Soon after that a solo hiker caught up and joined us for the rest of the climb. Mason, we learned, had been telecommuting from his home in Denver, but coincidentally might be relocating to Seattle, where the company is based. We climbed through occasional bouts of light rain as clouds continued to pour over peaks and ridges to the west. Steffy turned back just before a little hail storm, and Mason and I agreed to hurry up the final 800 feet and back down before any potential afternoon lightning showed up. We were treated to a bit of a clearing with decent views on the summit, where we found a laminated sign held down by a rock, but no register.

We ran most of the way down to Steffy and made it back below the tree line just in time for the sun to come out.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mount Adams via the Mazama Glacier 9-6-2014

View Mount Adams via the Mazama Glacier 9-6-2014 in a larger map

Last weekend I climbed Mount Adams via the Mazama Glacier with The Mountaineers. After seeing the lunch counter and the masses ascending from it I am very glad to have had the opportunity to use the less traveled approach from within the Yakima Nation.

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We hiked in from the trailhead near Mirror Lake on Saturday and set up in completely empty established sites at the base of the Mazama Glacier. The weather was warm and skies were clear besides some approaching wildfire smoke.

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Wet left camp at 3 am and roped up where the snow started a few hundred feet above. It was necessary to navigate around or over several crevasses including one knife edge snow bridge over the bergshrund that a few of us found to be very exciting.  We dropped ropes and harnesses at the base of a long rocky finger and scrambled over to views of the lunch counter and Pikers Peak.

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We ascended a mix of snow and lava rock to a mound of rocks below the false summit, where the true summit came into view. After a break behind the shelter of the rock mound, we stepped into heavy wind which persisted throughout the climb.

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We reached the tattered summit hut to find it completely exposed, but filled to the roof inside with snow. After a quick visit to the summit we headed down, excited to see the glacial terrain we had traveled through in the dark that morning. A few small adjustments were made to the descent route and wet made it back to camp safely and efficiently, but not without a couple fun jumps along the way.

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Thanks again Bill for leading a safe and exiting trip!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A week in The Enchantments

I have little time to breathe these days, so for now I will just share the photos from our week in The Enchantments. Details will follow as time allows...

Colin and I made good time up Aasgard pass and after setting up camp we returned to assist Art and Barb with their packs up the last 400' or so. We all made it back to camp just in time to cook a meal before the rain and thunder showed up. We spent most of the first 3 days hiding in our tents, besides a short beta gathering trip up to Enchantment Peak. On day four we set out towards Sherpa Peak, hoping to see the improving weather that was in the forecast. Unfortunately we were turned around just below Colchuck Peak due to more heavy rain.
By Saturday, the weather finally started to turn and we made a late day trip to Cannon Mountain and Temple Lake. On Sunday we got as close as we could to the summit of The Temple (any amount of research would have confirmed that rope would be necessary), and then scrambled up Mclellan Peak. The weather certainly could have been better, but a week off of work in good company is hard to complain about! Hopefully we will be back next year to finish what we started.
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