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Started: 2012-02-02 19:42:06

Submitted: 2012-02-02 20:28:39

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Each winter one of my coworkers builds an igloo near the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel using fancy igloo-building tool called the Icebox. He invites other people from the office to join him, and I've considered but never quite made it in previous years, but this year it sounded sufficiently amusing to make the trip. Kiesa didn't have anything to do in church, so we staged a family outing under the theory that we wouldn't be very far from the car, so we could bail at any point if necessary.

I forgot how much work getting Calvin ready to go in the morning was, especially on a family expedition into the wilderness where we needed to carry not only all of our equipment but also enough clothing to keep warm in the cold. We did manage to remember Calvin's mittens (though Kiesa briefly panicked when she couldn't find them because Calvin had put them, himself, in the trunk; he spent all day correcting us when either of us would refer to his "gloves" because, clearly, they were "mittens") and all of the rest of our gear. We stopped briefly by my office to handshake with the rest of the group (which turned out to comprise solely of the expedition leader and one other guy), then headed up Boulder Canyon, through Nederland and Rollinsville, to the end of the road at the East Portal. The parking lot was filling up with those intent on enjoying the winter trails, including several groups with serious backcountry skis. It was windy out in the open at the parking lot, pushing the cold air well into frigid. We donned our gear (and I wished, ever so briefly, for a larger vehicle that could support such an exercise) and convinced Calvin that he really did want to ride in the backpack while Kiesa and I snowshoed in. He wasn't especially happy about the wind, or the exhaust fan at the tunnel, or not being able to see Kiesa as she tried to walk behind me so she could catch Calvin's boots if they fell. (He did like seeing the trains queuing up at the portal.)

About a quarter-mile from the trailhead, not far inside the formal boundary of the James Peak Wilderness, our expedition leader veered off the packed trail into soft snow and stopped a hundred meters off the trail in a small space screened by trees from the trail. We packed a circle to form the igloo's base, then began building blocks for the igloo walls. The igloo-building tool was designed to build the blocks in exactly the right place using a pole attached to a central pivot, changing the distance from the pivot to the wall on a precise pattern to build just the right catenary shape for maximum stability. Once we'd filled one block with snow, we'd pack it down, wait for it to stabilize, then move to the next block in the circle.

Building an igloo near the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel
Building an igloo near the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel

While I worked digging snow to fill the mold, Calvin tried to amuse himself in the snow but soon grew cold and bored. Kiesa carried him in the backpack back to the car, where they stayed for long enough for me to build two complete rings and start working on the third. She brought a large wool blanket to set out over the snow, and I abandoned the igloo under construction to try to heat water for lunch. I couldn't get enough pressure in the camp stove to get it to light, and it wasn't immediately clear whether there was actually very much fuel in the stove (I hadn't refilled it before leaving, thinking I probably had enough fuel), or whether the below-freezing temperature had caused other problems in the stove.

We did have backup energy bars for lunch, but Calvin wasn't especially interested in the bars and was starting to get cold, so we decided to scrub and return to civilization. We stopped for lunch at Black Pepper Pho in Boulder and continued home. I declared the expedition, our first serious winter expedition with Calvin, to be a success on the basis that we did not require the assistance of any emergency services at any point.

Well, this was a family outing. Ya know, one of those occasions where four people try to get together for an evening, and it's considered a success if no one has been murdered by the time it's over.
- Bitscape (original citation lost to time)

My other major accomplishment for the weekend was finishing the stain on the deck railing. I stripped the stain and the poorly-applied wood putty the previous weekend, and asked Kiesa to wash the wood on a warm day in the middle of the week, so the railing was waiting for me to stain. (I justified taking Saturday off from the deck because the weather forecast called for an even warmer Sunday.) I applied two coats of stain and ended up with a nice-looking deck railing. If I look carefully I can still see some of the wood putty I couldn't quite scrape away but it looks much better than it did when I started.

Stripped deck railing prior to being stained
Stripped deck railing prior to being stained
Deck railing after being stained
Deck railing after being stained

Kiesa has been painting trim throughout the house and acquiring soap dispensers and other things to make the house look better. I still need to finish organizing my stuff in the basement and take a bunch of stuff to CHaRM (cleaning up the garage in the process), but I did at least manage to spend some time this week cleaning off two old hard drives and wiping them for safe disposal. It's not unreasonable that we might finish in a few weeks and start thinking seriously about putting our house on the market.