Jim and his 1953 Willys

Posted by on September 28th, 2011  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

1953 Willys

Jim is an old climbing buddy of ours from Leavenworth. He was one of my mentors when I was first learning to climb in 1977, and he has stayed a friend over all these years. He lives in climbing paradise now and has lots of cool toys, including this amazing Willys. When Sue and I went climbing over there recently he picked us up in the Willys and took us climbing to one of his secret spots up the Icicle canyon.

This old car is such a classic vehicle. It has a dipstick instead of a gas gauge, and the 4 wheel drive system under the car is unlike anything you will see on a modern car. The engine is super simple, with a carburetor the size of a pop can…you could easily rebuild it.

Jim and his 1953 Willy

Jim and his 1953 Willys

Jim and his 1953 Willy

Jim and his 1953 Willys

Jim,  Sue and his 1953 Willy

Jim, Sue, and his 1953 Willy

Jim, Sue and his 1953 Willys

9-28-11 Easter Overhang

Posted by on September 28th, 2011  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Easter Overhang, Midnight Rock

I’ve been looking up at Easter Overhang on Midnight Rock in Leavenworth for 27 years now and wondering if I still had what it takes to climb it. Back before we had kids Sue and I used to hike up there regularly to climb it’s steep walls.


Easter Overhang looking down at Fletch

I stopped going there when my knees got tired of the hike, but whenever I was climbing on Castle Rock,  it’s little brother down on the highway, I would look up at Easter Overhang and think back on the desperate moves at the roof, and the exhilaration of pulling through that overhang successfully. Was I still good enough to climb that hard? The new guide books had raised the difficulty rating from 5.9 to 5.10c. I wondered if a key handhold had broken off, because I have never been able to enjoy climbing routes rated at 5.10c. But I used to love Easter Overhang when it was 5.9.

Fletch is always game for anything, and when I suggested Easter Overhang he loved the idea. He’d tried to climb at Midnight Rock with Melanie and got lost, though he may have put up a new route by accident when he started climbing on the lower walls of Midnight.


Fletch Midnight Rock

The trail is long and arduous. You are lost in the forest the whole time and can’t see whether you are hiking in the right direction. You have to trust that the rough climbers trail, and the occasional cairns are leading you in the right direction.

At almost two hours we finally emerged at the base of the cliff and began searching for the aptly named “dead end ledge” that accesses climbs in the upper cliffs of Midnight Rock. The trail leads across some very exposed sandy slabs with dangerous drop offs awaiting a careless step. We belayed this section on the way down as it was simply too dangerous.

Once we arrived on “dead end ledge”, I felt like I had arrived at a family reunion of people I’d not seen in a quarter century. All my old favorite climbs were waiting for me: Yellow Bird, Easter Overhang, The Flame, and many others. Nothing appeared to have changed, other than some moss  growing on some climbs that hadn’t been done in a while.

Fletch led the first pitch up through the moss at the start of the “Wild Traverse” that leads to the start of Easter Overhang. It is rated 5.8, but with the moss it was more like 5.10a. I followed up to his belay and was finally able to see Easter Overhang clearly.

Easter Overhang itself is a lovely 5.8 hand crack up to the roof. There it starts to overhang as the crack widens to fists. I climbed strongly up to the fist section but missed the perfect right foothold and had to hang once 4 feet below the roof to rest. I blame tunnel vision and general incompetence. You can walk your camalots 2, 3 and 4 through this section.


Our gear on the ledge below ROTC

After my avoidable rest/hang, I continued fist jamming up to the true overhang where it gets bigger than fist. There are very nice face foot holds on the right, plus a hidden flake back in the crack that make all this work.

At the true overhang I was getting tired and was very happy to see an old fixed pin. I normally don’t trust old fixed pins, but the exposure of the overhang was getting to my head and I was happy to clip that old relic. Once I stood up on the face holds on the right, I saw that the pin isn’t really needed, as there is also a bomber yellow #2 camalot there, along with a great handjam and a perfect ledge to grab.

But then it gets tricky. The crack is spitting you out, like a bomb bay chimney, it’s bigger than fist, there is nothing to grab, I think it was even bigger than a number 5 camalot.

I ended up combining a mantle on the ledge at the lip by the piton with a chicken wing to get through that. My feet cut loose and I was hanging there…secure, but dangling over all that freaking air.

Such a cool move! I chicken winged my way up, getting stuck several times until I remembered how to chimney climb again. I was glad to have two four, and five camalots, and two big bros. I used my green (8 inch) and purple big bros in the section above the roof…nothing else would fit unless you hauled up a valley giant up that two hour approach.

The trail is in horrible shape. Back in the day I led it with hexes and just 2 number 4 friends…wouldn’t want to do that now in my dotage.

Don’t know what to say about the rating. I normally can’t climb 10c at all, so I don’t think it’s 10c. It’s not as hard as Breakfast of Champions, which goes at 10a…so maybe it is still 5.9, though only if you are good at all flavors of crack, including fist and chimneys. It’s definitely harder for me than Damnation crack, but that really only has the one hard section off the deck.


Fletch above ROTC

At any rate, it’s a stellar climb, 4 stars in my book. That transition move at the lip of the roof is just fabulous.

Instead of walking off, we traversed sideways to the rap station above ROTC, the famous 5.11c crack  climb, known as the best crack in Leavenworth. We rapped down the route and Fletch climbed it on Top Rope. It was getting late by then and we did one more rappel to arrive back on “dead end ledge”. We arrived back at the car at twilight and drove up to camp for a well deserved beer. What a great day!


Posted by on September 23rd, 2011  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Back at work again

Work starts again today and I’m looking forward to it. We have a lot to share here at CPTC and feel we have a great program for a very reasonable tuition. I’ve been having so much fun on my vacation I’m almost at overload.

It started with a trip to Squamish for 4 days, Labor Day weekend. I was home one day and then left for a 3 day sea kayak trip with my son to the San Juans: long, lazy, and semi-scary crossings on shipping lanes, and between tiny islands. My son even remembered to bring along a six pack of Mikes. That’s a smart boy we have there, all 26 years of him. He is hiking the Wonderland Trail as I write this with another friend from the ER department. 90 miles in 7 days, hopefully he has his moms knees, and not mine.

Then Sue and I went to Leavenworth for 4 days. I am so lucky to have a spouse that climbs. We met Jim the last day and climbed some cool new routes that he knew about on Cate Rock, up toward Bathtub dome. I’ve known Jim since 1978, he is 73 and still climbs very well…an amazing man we are lucky to know.


self_portrait9-2-11, 15 x 20 inches, pastel on rives BFK watercolor paper

In between all of this I have been painting and finally finished this self portrait, my second one ever in color. I’m already started on another one, which will be a three quarter view. I love the colors in this painting.

I’m seriously considering stopping facebook again. I loved being off it on my vacation, didn’t miss it at all. It is a black hole of wasted, non-recoverable time that is completely unecessary. Several of my friends and family aren’t on it at all, and somehow lead perfectly normal lives. I think it’s time.

Being off facebook would also give me more incentive to buy a dumb phone in November, instead of the iPhone 5, to replace my Droid. I never, ever use my data plan. I don’t want to be that person who is always staring at his phone, on the street corner, in the car, at the office…uh uh. Don’t want to be that person, not ever.

I like to communicate with people in person, face to face, not over some electronic device. When I feel like going the electronic route, I have this website.

There is still some sunny weather left in the season. I’m hoping to climb Easter Overhang. It used to be rated 5.9, but was raised to 10c. I’ll be finding out whether something broke off to raise the grade. Off to work for now.

9-13-2011 vacation

Posted by on September 14th, 2011  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Just returned from a few trips with family and friends. First I went up to Squamish, BC climbing with a bunch of friends for 4 days. I was home for one day, then drove north


Clint paddling his Pigmy sea kayak in the San Juans

again, this time with my son and his two sea kayaks. We paddled out into the San Jauns for 3 days east of Bellingham. When I returned from that trip, I immediately packed for painting and drove to Cannon Beach with my wife and daughter. They hiked the beaches while I painted.

Cannon Beach has changed a lot in the 6 years since my last visit. It’s now all condos, restaurants, art galleries and no parking signs. We paid $36 for the worst campsite we’d ever seen. It was on the shoulder of a gravel road that led to better spots. There was just room for the car, a broken down shattered picnic table (missing one bench), a tiny fire pit and the tent. Everything fit on the shoulder of the gravel road. But I shouldn’t complain too much, we were lucky to get it. And it was within walking distance of the beach where I painted in the afternoon, and morning.

During the morning painting session it was hazy, with only a mile of visibility. By 11 AM, the clouds rolled in and I couldn’t see the top of Haystack rock anymore, plus the wind was very close to knocking down my easel. The tourists liked my painting, one even asked me if I was selling, but I’m thinking it needs work.

We checked out of the campground and drove up to North Head light on the Columbia river where I painted this old lighthouse.


North Head Light across from Astoria, Oregon

They’ve run out of money to paint the lights, or do maintenance. The old sandstone in the base of the light is shattering like a rotten cliff. There are yellow stains of rust and mold showing through the peeling paint all over the lighthouse. It’s sad to see, as just 6 years ago they were in great shape. This painting was done in the fog, so lighting was challenging.

We drove home that night and in the morning drove up to Sunrise on Mt. Rainier where I painted the north side of the mountain from Second Burroughs, while Sue, my daughter and her friend hiked to Third Burroughs. The light changes very fast on the north side of the Mountain and I’m unsure of this painting so I won’t post it immediately.

I’ve got about 5 hours into a self portrait. I’m a big fan of wild colors. Normal color bore me, and


self portrait unfinished, 5 hours in

I love painting something with the correct values, but the wrong hues. Like a forest of evergreens fir trees, painted red. Avatar for example has blue people, but they still look real. And I’m teaching myself the art of portraiture, and knowing how far I can push the color seems important.

9-1-2011, wordpress blog online at my domain

Posted by on September 1st, 2011  •  1 Comment  •  Full Article

After about 10 hours of work and studying at http://www.lynda.com/tutorial/71212 I now have my new improved blog up and running.

I’ve not had a public blog since I started teaching. But after seeing several of my graduated students build wordpress websites, I realized it was something I needed to learn if I wanted to stay current in the industry.

I don’t have the time or inclination to re-learn what little I used to know about PHP and MySQL, but this tutorial: http://www.lynda.com/tutorial/71212 made it super easy and fun…if you like messing around with computers, and building the internet.

Me in 1968

Me in 1968

You only have to edit about 10 lines of php code, and he explains every step. You can also simply host your wordpress blog on the wordpress servers. This is much easier, and but he (the lynda guy) explains it all. This might be best if you have never managed a self hosted website.

I highly recommend the www.lynda.com website. It’s only around $35 a month, and they have video tutorials on everything you can imagine related to computers. They look like they are expanding to photography as well.

But now I’m done with this thing for a while. 10 hours of computer time is enough for now. It seemed like a good idea, I learned it, but now it’s time to move on. I have real life things to do like:

  • change the oil and sparkplugs on my truck
  • pack my rock climbing pack
  • work on my latest self portrait at my easel
  • do something other than sit at this laptop

Whenever I finish a quarter I’m always stoked to study the latest work related software like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, wordpress, etc. But as soon as a few days go by, I start to recover, and look around. There is more to life than working on computers….but you knew that right?


9-1-2011 Installing wordpress on my domain

Posted by on September 1st, 2011  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

I’ve been watching some lynda.com videos on how to start a wordpress account, and install it on your own domain name. A bunch of my graduated students have done this, and use wordpress commercially in their work as freelance web designers. From talking with them, it appears they use wordpress commercially because it simplifies the MySQL database work. MySQL databases are what makes a webpage interactive, as in:

  • blog posts
  • comments to blog posts
  • slideshows built by non-web designers
  • page up updates and configurations, again, done by non-web designers, etc.

MySQL is also used for ecommerce, but I don’t think wordpress goes that far, though I’m not sure. The beauty of hosting your own wordpress site on your domain, is that you have total control of the appearance of your wordpress site. When you host your site on wordpress directly, your address is http://johnsmith.wordpress.com, instead of http://www.johnsmith.com.

The latter is preferable, because it looks better, shows you know what you are doing, and you have more control, from a web designers perspective, that is. This has nothing to do with the quality of the content. Good content can be anywhere from a wordpress hosted site to facebook and myspace…or stapled to a telephone pole.

Good content lives on it’s own merits.

This is graffiti in a Tacoma parking garage down by old city hall.

This is graffiti in a Tacoma parking garage down by old city hall.

Sidewalk paintings in chalk are a great example of content living on it’s own merits. A great chalk painting will last until it rains because people love it and avoid walking on it.

This photo is graffiti in a Tacoma parking garage. One of my student created a short film about these artists. He told me it was accepted into a film festival, might have been in Tacoma.  He also produced this cool movie with local talent in Tacoma. He spent months editing this as a school project.



8-30-2011 Last day of the quarter

Posted by on September 1st, 2011  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

The quarter is almost over. This is the last day. Only two of my students are here, but the room is full. The Pharmacy program shares our building, and sometimes uses our lab for taking tests. They are all here, in their green scrubs, taking an online test in Angel. My students are either done with their final projects, in which case they don’t need to be here on this last day, or they are coming in later.

The Pharmacy students are different than our students. They seem so much more serious, but that is probably because they are going to be handling medicine, which is far different than pixels. We get the creative types, and we like it that way.

Both my kids got into medicine, and I watched them study. They worked super hard to get into their field. And now they have good jobs, but I don’t know how much fun they are having, or, I should say, artistic fun. Media is a better fit for someone who is creative, I think. As compared to the medical field, I mean. I could be wrong though. Maybe coming up with medical treatments is very creative.

But it can’t be creative in an artistic expression kind of way, like media can. James S. drew this figure in my Illustrator 1 class. He got a lot of satisfaction out of that drawing. And it is a skill that has some value in the marketplace. Not everyone can draw like that, no matter how long they practice. It requires a bit of a gift to see light as well as James saw it. The ability to see light and shadow is the cornerstone of visual art.

One of my students (James S.) drew this in Illustrator

One of my students (James S.) drew this in Illustrator

I need to buckle down on my grading but for some reason I’m avoiding it. Grading is like a snowball rolling down hill. The longer I avoid it the more time it has to snowball up on me.

I also need to update my curriculum for next quarter. I’m going to drop pop up windows in favor of an animated jQuery slideshow. Pop up windows are old school, very confusing for the students, and more trouble than they are worth.

Both pop-up windows and the jQuery slide show use pre-built JavaScript, but jQuery uses less of it, so I think the students will find it easier to process.

I’m looking forward to vacation. I’m going to do some climbing and some painting. I enjoy this teaching job, and helping the students who want to learn is awesome work, but it’s nice to have these breaks between quarters.

If and when I ever retire from teaching, my backup plan is to be a full-time landscape painter. It may just be a pipe dream…but I’ve always been a dreamer.