Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Evolution of a Recipe

At the last meeting of our town quilting club C. brought a delicious, moist loaf cake. It was fairly dark, had raisins in it, and tasted lightly of orange. It was a big hit! We all wanted the recipe. So when we held our planning meeting for this coming season, she brought copies of the recipe to share.

The first time I try a new recipe, I do just what it says: all the same ingredients, measurements, etc. It turned out just fine. The Dear One was quite enthusiastic about it, and the whole loaf disappeared in no time.

Here's the original recipe:
Blender Orange Loaf
1 large orange, unpeeled
3/4 cup of boiling water
1 egg
1/2 cup oil
2 cups flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
3/4 cup dates or raisins
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Cut orange into pieces and remove seeds. Put in blender with boiling water and blend until almost smooth. Add eggs and oil. Blend a few seconds more. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Add the liquid from blender to the dry ingredients and stir until just blended. Pour into a greased loaf pan, 9 x 5 in. size. Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes.

For the Second Version I used 1/4 cup of oil and 1/4 cup of applesauce; 1 1/2 cups of white flour and 1/2 cup of whole wheat. It turned out wonderful! It also disappeared in a hurry.

Third Version: This time I used 2 oranges to give it a more pronounced orange flavour. That worked. I used all white flour, and the oil I'm using is Canola Oil. I used white sugar this time, and instead of raisins, I used dried cranberries.

So far, this is our favourite version. I didn't use applesauce in it, but I still reduced the oil to 1/4 cup. It's plenty.

The second time I made this Orange/Cranberry loaf I decreased the amount of boiling water, as the loaf was a little soggy in the center.

By Saturday I was finding it hard to keep up with demand so I threw together my Fourth
Version using a prepared brownie square mix for the flour. After all, chocolate and orange go together well, right?

This loaf apparently didn't have enough "stuffing" to keep it together. When I removed the parchment paper after taking it out of the oven, it collapsed! Maybe I should have let it cool for a while first.

But all was not lost. I scooped it (when cooled) into a container and put it in the fridge. I figured it could be dished up in a bowl, not as a slice. And that's what we had for a dessert Sunday evening.

I picked three stalks of fresh rhubarb from the garden and put them, chopped, into a sauce pan with a cup of frozen raspberries, 1/3 cup of sugar and 2 tbs of Minute Tapioca. Boiled the mixture until the rhubarb was soft. This sauce went on top of the chocolate flop and was topped up with a generous scoop of Vanilla Frozen Yogurt.

Now that was a treat!

So here's the Final Version:
Cranberry/Orange Loaf
Process in a blender until quite smooth:
2 oranges, peel and all (pits removed)
1/2 cup boiling water.
Add to blender:
1 egg
1/4 cup of oil. Process a few seconds.
In a large bowl combine:
2 cups of white flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup of white sugar.
Stir blender contents into dry ingredients.
Add 1 cup of dried cranberries.
Pour into a greased 9 x 5 loaf pan (or line with parchment).
Bake at 350º for about 50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
The outside will be quite browned, but you have to make sure the loaf is baked all the way through.


Saturday, May 28, 2011


I got pretty obsessed with those two sweaters this past week, and maybe that was a good thing. A good thing because our weather was uniformly gloomy: low, even glowering, overcast skies, rain light, medium and heavy, a leak in the roof, water coming into the basement, no chance for an invigorating walk with my friend M. We daren't complain though, thinking of those who lost their homes to floods here there and everywhere, to fire in Slave Lake, Alberta, and to tornadoes in many states, especially in Joplin, Missouri, which was so devastated.

After that first sweater was knit I began to doubt the colour combination; it's way out of my usual range. I thought maybe just the three colours in smaller stripes?---so I knit up a small sample that way, laid it beside the sweater and thought there was no comparison. The four colour combination has it beat by miles. Well, that's good, I don't have to unravel what's already been knitted.

So I immediately cast on the ribbing for the
younger granddaughter. I had thought that would be the first sweater, already made, but that turned out bigger than I had planned. This second sweater has fewer stitches, and each stripe is 11 rows, instead of 12 rows. The finished bottom ribbing is hung on the machine, and the sweater knit up from there.

I also unraveled the two sleeves already finished, because handknitting is just not as smooth and even as machine knitting, and the sleeves wouldn't look well in the finished sweater.

When this second sweater came off the machine I started on the front bands and the neck ribbing. Using straight needles I picked up (with a crochet hook) 74 stitches along each front. Around the neck I put the 66 stitches on a circular needle. Then I can knit the front and neck ribbings continuously. It took only 8 rows to finish.

The buttonholes didn't turn out super good. I cheerfully did the yarn overs to make the holes for the buttons, but forgot to do the knit two together at the same time. So I had to do the k2 tog retroactively on a later row, and they're not perfect. I considered ripping back to them, but at over 200 stitches a row, I thought I'd let them go. I'll try making them look a little more uniform by doing a buttonhole stitch around them with a light bit of yarn.

I have some darling heart buttons in exactly these colours that would look great on this sweater, but have only one set, not enough for two sweaters, so I'll hang on with that for a while and see what I can find.

Now I have to hang those sleeve ribbings and get the sleeves knitted and sewn in. But I'm well on time with this project, so far.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tangles, tangles, tangles!!!

It just beats me how so many tangles are possible in a hank of yarn. Usually you can simply wind a ball from a loose skein of yarn. Not these skeins! Each needs to be gently picked apart, and the growing ball of yarn needs to be repeatedly eased through the tangled loops. I just don't know how it's possible for a skein to be so thoroughly tangled!

But, since my middle name is Patience (not really, it's Kathleen because I was born on St. Patrick's day) I have been gently teasing apart the tangles and winding this green yarn into balls. I've realized that it's some kind of acrylic yarn, since the strands cannot be pulled apart lengthwise. Wool would give way if you separated out a single ply and pulled on it.

Since that's the case, I've decided not to dye it because KoolAid wouldn't do the job. I kind of like the spring-like green and think it would be a good colour for a child's sweater. There's lots of it, but I decided it needed some other Crayola colours along with the green.

I shopped locally in our small town, but there was nothing in the colours I had in mind. So on the weekend when I was in Red Deer I found some bright purple, some medium bright orange, and a real lemon.

I'm planning to make matching sweaters for our two youngest granddaughters, ages 8 1/2 and 7 next August. They will likely be here for a day or two together this summer.

Today I got out my LK150 knitting machine, and whipped out the body of this cheery cardigan. The purple is a much better purple than shows on this picture.

I need to knit the plackets and the ribbing around the neck, sew in the sleeves and all the loose ends from colour changes. The sleeves match the stripes in colour better than shows on this picture. It was the light coming from the side that bleached the colour out of the sleeve on the left.

All together, I'm pretty pleased with the way it's turning out. They will be kind of nice, sassy sweaters for two young cousins.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Foam and Tangles

Well, the wine I showed in the last post got off to a fizzing good start--the next morning it had foamed all the way to the top of the pail and some had even crept over the lid and landed on the floor! I washed off the lid and wiped down the sides of the pail with a clean dishrag. It has foamed over a few times since then, but is now settled nicely down and fermenting pleasantly.

A few days later I started another smaller batch, just in a gallon carboy, from black currant juice that had been canned five years ago. I left that carboy in the back hall sink overnight, and that was a good idea, since it also foamed over profusely. It's still in the sink but is settling down now. When the foaming subsides I'll clean it up and add distilled water up to the neck of the carboy. The juice was very thick, so it won't be a problem to thin it some more with water.

On Tuesday I was gifted with a box of yarn. M. is a new knitter and had asked some advice from me this past winter. When we had our yearend party for the town quilting guild she brought her first pair of handknit socks to show me. They were excellent! She had alternated a deep blue yarn and a purple yarn, soft and a little fuzzy, for some appealing striped socks. She said she had a big box of alpaca yarns that had circulated throughout her family, and everyone had taken whatever they wanted, and would I please take the rest? J., another knitter at the table, and I starting drooling over the thought of a box of alpaca yarns! When the box arrived, it wasn't alpaca--just some of the yarn was merino, also a highly prized yarn. Other yarns were unlabeled, and some were acrylics. I still have to let J. know that it wasn't alpaca.

I sorted through the yarns and chose some that I thought I could use: some nice cream coloured merino in a 20sts/4" weight, and some similar weight merino in a bright royal blue. There are 500 grams of the cream, and somewhat less of the royal blue. Don't know what they will become yet. Perhaps the cream would make a nice aran style cardigan for the youngest granddaughter.

Then there is also about 24 ounces of this unlabeled sap green yarn. There are a few balls wound very tightly--tight enough to destroy the "spring" of the yarn. The rest is in hanks. The first hank I pulled out to wind, on the right here, was incredibly
snarled. But by carefully teasing it apart, and then feeding it onto my wool winder, I finally got it straightened out and wound into a nice, loosely tensioned ball.

It's a nice yarn and there's plenty there to knit a "february lady sweater," a pattern that I've had in my notebook for quite some time. I think it's available at www.flintknits.com.

But sap green is not a colour I can wear. So I'm thinking of overdying it with a dark blue. If the dye is not stirred completely through the yarn, I think it could turn out quite nicely marled. Since the yarn is free, I'm going to do that experiment. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Meantime the Dear One was busy in the garden, which until this year has been my responsibility. He wanted more variety than I was growing, so he more or less took over. While I was away in Chile he seeded the corn into pots in the greenhouse and yesterday he said the time was right to plant it
in the garden bed.

Remember how tall the corn stalks grew last year? They were taller than I am. But we harvested only two ears of corn from the whole bed! I hadn't seeded into pots early, as I usually do, and we had a very cold summer. So this year we have a head start, and hope to be eating fresh corn by the first of August.

They are now protected by screened forms to keep the deer from grazing on them. And if frost threatens, we'll cover them up with old sheets and blankets.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A New Batch

Our morning started with overcast skies and by 8:30 a.m. it was raining. The shrubs and trees that had been delivered yesterday needed to be potted, so Jim took them to the quonsett and he, S., R, and Ed worked there this morning, sheltered from the rain, but not very warm.

I baked some bread, as I often do on Saturday, and then decided to make a pot of Cheesy Broccoli soup for a nice hot lunch. While the bread rose, I ran around doing errands, including bringing all the bottles saved since last September to the Bottle Depot. By the time I got back the rain had stopped, but the soup and fresh bread were still greatly appreciated.

Earlier this week I had taken the remaining pails of raspberries from the freezer and thawed them in my big 12 quart stockpot. It was time to do something with that load of raspberry juice in the fridge.

When I make a batch of wine I record the amounts of juice, water, sugar and yeast in a little notebook for reference. If a batch turns out very well, I put a star beside it. I found a starred recipe that had used a variety of juices and followed those amounts.

So into the primary fermentation vessel (fancy name for this food-grade plastic pail) I put 23 cups of undiluted raspberry juice. Then I measured 8 litres of distilled water into my stockpot and added 20 cups of sugar. I heated this mixture to 140ºF and dumped it into the pail along with 2 more litres of water.

I was lucky--the temperature moderated to exactly 100ºF, which is just right for adding yeast. I sprinkled 2 teaspoons of yeast over top of the juice/water/sugar and put the lid on the pail. If the mixture had been too hot, I would have waited for it to cool before adding the yeast. If it's too hot it will kill the yeast, and if it's too cool the yeast won't begin to work.

Already now you can see the foaming action of the yeast.

Making wine from scratch this way is "by guess and by gosh" as the saying goes. Most of our wines are pretty good, and it's a nice way to use up the vast amounts of fruit we harvest here. I've had only two batches that were undrinkable. The first one was made of chopped up apples (according to a course I had taken at Olds College) that were left too long in the primary vessel. They started to rot and the whole concoction had to be dumped.

The other batch that didn't work was the only time I used chokecherry juice. We have lots of Schubert chokecherry trees on our acreage, so named because the tiny cherries have an extremely bitter after taste. According to the Hutterites (who make lots of wine) chokecherry wine is the best. So I gave it a try, but something went wrong. Perhaps I didn't use enough sugar. The wine was bitter and seemed as if it hadn't fermented properly. After I tried unsuccessfully using it as a marinade, I poured the rest out in the garden.

Last fall I made a very nice small batch of apple wine in a one gallon carboy. Right now there's a gallon of very sweet raspberry wine in the carboy. It started out as 15% potential alcohol and is now down to 5% potential. I think it's stalled there, and I think it stalled because I didn't put enough water into the mix. The specific gravity was too high. I'll try using it as a type of cordial, and if that doesn't work, maybe I'll try adding some water to thin it out.

I've always wanted to do everything "from scratch" which is why I get into all these kinds of old fashioned activities. There's something very gratifying about sitting down to a meal and knowing that most of the food came from your own garden and was prepared using simple ingredients without the mass of additives and conditioners that are found in supermarket processed foods. So here's to "slow food"--one way to good health.

Friday, May 6, 2011

All the Way Home

April 7, Thursday
Air Canada gave us a nice hot meal about an hour into the flight. I, unfortunately, got a little bit of salad and dressing stuck on top of my "windpipe" and had a terrific coughing fit. I think I alarmed the stewardess, because she later gave me not only a glass of orange juice but a whole can of Sprite, and that was a great help in getting over the cough.

I slept surprisingly well for about 5 or 6 hours overnight, in spite of being in the middle of three seats. Breakfast was served on the plane about an hour before we landed.

We landed about 25 minutes early, and that was fortunate because we both had just two hours between flights and needed to go through customs, pick up our luggage, and find our connecting flights. Getting through customs was fine, no problems, and when we found the carousel with our flight's bags, mine came through promptly, but D.S.'s nice new duffle wasn't there.

He asked an airport employee about it and was told he was in the wrong area. On the way to the baggage pickup we had seen two confusing signs. One directed people with International connections to go to the left, and the other directed those connecting in Canada and US to go to the right. He was told rather abruptly that he had made a mistake and should have followed the International connections route and he should be in area 3G.

So our time together came to an abrupt end as we had to head in different directions. We said a quick goodbye and went our separate ways. It was a quick, strange ending to our two and a half weeks together, but in some ways I was glad it came up so suddenly. The last few days I had been feeling sad that this wonderful adventure together was going to end pretty soon and this quick cutoff meant I didn't have time to cry over it!

I made my flight easily, and was even able to change my seat assignment from a 24A (window) to 13D, an aisle seat much nearer the front, always my preferred choice.

This flight landed late but Dear One was not at the luggage carousel when I got there. About five minutes later he came down the stairs and I ran to greet him. So happy to see each other again! He said I looked better than he had expected, based on my email. (I had taken time to wash my face, comb my hair and apply some makeup after I left the place. I wished I had my toothbrush, but
that was in my backpack.)

All the way home I chattered about the wonderful time I'd had. I fixed some dinner, had a shower and then a good, long nap. When I woke up there was a welcome home present for me: This beautiful bouquet of deep red roses (darker than in this picture). They were outstanding and lasted for well over a week.

Now it's back to the ordinary routine as the garden centre is becoming busy. In the four weeks since I came home there have been several string rehearsals, two concerts (since I skipped the Mozart Requiem rehearsals and performances) and Dear Sis came for a week-long visit from Arizona. Life is full and life is good!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Travel Days

April 5, Tuesday
I was feeling pretty miserable from that cold last evening, so I took some aspirin when I went to bed and slept fairly well until 4 a.m. We were both awake early, but didn't dare go back to sleep for fear of sleeping past our breakfast/taxi time. We finally got up about 6:45.

Breakfast was served to us about 7:40 and was excellent, beginning with crepes and including scrambled eggs. The taxi arrived promptly at 8 a.m. and we were treated to the sight of the sun rising over the water as we drove to the airport.

We had read in yesterday's newspaper that our flight would leave at 9:55, not at 10:55 according to the information we had. But when we entered the airport the counter was closed and there was no activity at all. Then we saw on the Departures board that our flight was scheduled to leave at 12:35. Not much to do except sit down, buy a cup of coffee and read a novel for a couple of hours. It was amusing to watch other travelers arrive, show surprise and worry that the counter was closed and empty, and then settle down to wait, much as we had. We think the earlier scheduled flights didn't have enough passengers, so they were just held off until a later time. There should have been at least three flights by 12:35. It made us grateful that we hadn't planned to fly out of Santiago that same day, or we would have been very worried about making the connection.

We were finally able to board around 12:45, and were back in Santiago around 5 p.m. We picked up our backpacks and D.S. bought us passage on Transvip, a small van that took us directly to our hotel.

I tried to use the internet while D.S. went out to buy some supper. My cold was pretty bad, and I was scheduled to wait around the airport tomorrow until evening and then go to a rehearsal. I needed to cancel that and get Jim to pick me up from the airport in the morning. I will try again to send emails in the morning, to make these new arrangements.

April 6, Wednesday
We were awakened around 1 a.m. and again around 6 a.m. by someone tromping around the room above us. Never thought of that when they gave us a second floor room!

I felt pretty feverish from that miserable cold, and will have to do my best over the next 36 hours as we pass some time here and then travel on home. D.S. had bought some more lozenges last night and I was grateful for them.

After breakfast--same menu as usual--we packed our bags, keeping out a few things to use for today, left them at the hotel and went out for a walk about. It was a summery day, and we spent time in a lovely green park.

I've mentioned how many stray dogs there are running around these cities. Well, today we finally saw a few cats and it was quite amusing. This was a tall monument in that park with this unique feature: it was surrounded by a wrought iron fence. These cats are enjoying a peaceful spot, since the dogs are not able to get through the fence.

We enjoyed some relaxation also, sitting on a park bench for quite some time, having a bite to eat, thinking back over the last two weeks. It was exactly two weeks ago that we landed in Santiago and began our adventure. In a few hours we'll take a taxi back to the airport and begin the long flight home.

I've mentioned the police presence among the crowds and today we saw, for the first time, police patrolling on horseback. They looked very fine, and strolled slowly along among the crowds. The police are always in pairs, and their presence made me feel quite safe.

By 3 p.m. we were back at the hotel and the taxi drew up. The driver claimed to be the best taxi driver in the world and asked, Did we want to go the airport in the usual 20 minutes, or would we like the super fast ride of only 5 minutes? We chose the safer alternative, although as we were zipping along in traffic with him chatting a mile a minute, waving both arms in the air, turning around now and then to look at us, we said a few prayers. But we did make it safely there.

We went through a long line to drop off our bags. D.S.'s bag was routed in such a way that he had to pick it up in Toronto, go through Canadian customs, and then find his flight to San Francisco. Didn't seem to make much sense, but the woman at the counter wasn't persuaded to route it straight to San Francisco.

Boarded our plane for home, a much smaller plane than the flight down here, and unhappily overbooked. We had been asked if we would take an alternate flight, but we both said no. The overbooking means every seat is filled and there will be no stretching out for a good sleep on this flight. We'll just have to do our best.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Winding Down

April 4, Monday
Yesterday I felt the beginning of a sore throat. Dear Son had had some problems along that line, bothering him for the last three nights, but feeling o.k. during the day. We had visited a pharmacy to pick up some lozenges and look for some antihistamines. So he gave me some of the lozenges and that helped a lot overnight.

In the morning we had our "hostel breakfast." I took a picture because this particular bun was so egregiously dry and hard, but on the picture the breakfast looks great. D.S. had three buns, since the other two people staying overnight were in a rush this morning to catch the bus to the park and took only their yogurt containers.

We stayed the morning in the hostel, packing and doing some reading. Our bus to Punta Arenas left at 1 p.m. We had the front seat with a marvelous view out the front window. But after a bit it started to rain and the good view was wasted. The defroster was going full blast and the warm air flowed straight to us. That became quite uncomfortable, as my throat was pretty scratchy.

By 4 p.m. we were in Punta Arenas and checked into the hostel we had reserved right around the corner from the bus station. We have a nice room with its own bathroom, warm and with lots of hot water for a good shower.

For supper we went back to The Pines café where we had been introduced to the "monster" burger, and ordered the same. D. S. had to finish mine for me.

Then we took a walk up to the cemetery because Carla had said there's a very fine cemetery here. And sure enough, it was large, very well kept with many interesting mausoleums. One of the most interesting features was what looked from a distance like an apartment building, but was actually a kind of "grave apartment." Each of these cubicles is a grave compartment. Pretty much all of the burials here are above ground.

Some of the mausoleums had beautiful stained glass windows. The colours here were very much richer than the camera could capture.

There were avenues of these "popsicle" trees.
Some of the mausoleums near the entrance were
extremely elaborate.

By the time we had finished touring the cemetery, I was finished for the day. The sore throat was escalating into a flu-like fever and chills. I was ready for that nice bed in the warm room at the Hostel Avenida.

Our flight to Santiago tomorrow morning is supposed to leave at 10:55, but D.S. saw a chart in the newspaper that listed that flight as 9:55, so we thought we should get to the airport no later than 8:30. Our hostess at the hostel was very gracious when we asked for an early breakfast, and also agreed to make sure a taxi was at the door at 8 a.m. to take us to the airport.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sunday in Puerto Natales

After a cold night, Sunday morning dawned
dark and windy. We had the usual breakfast of a bun and yogurt, and made some of our own "real" coffee, rather than the ubiquitous Nescafé. Here is Dear Son reading in the "dining room" dressed as warmly as possible to suit the "indoor" weather.

We ate a bit of couscous with some jam, and then went out for a long walk. First we visited the bus station to buy tickets to Punta Arenas for tomorrow. D.S. managed that
whole transaction in Spanish. Kudos!

We had seen a high green wall up the hill and went to see what that was all about. It surrounded a cemetery that was just like a small, crowded village complete with streets, alleys and houses. All very neatly kept, well painted, many sporting bouquets of plastic flowers. These "homes" for the dead were in better repair than the majority of houses in this city.

We found the city spookily empty on this quiet Sunday. Any other time we walked around in any of the three cities we visited, the sidewalks were crowded with people of all ages. Sunday afternoon it was "dead," no people walking, hardly any cars on the streets. It all seemed kind of eerie.

Because there are so terribly many stray dogs around, garbage needs to be protected and these metal "baskets" up on a pole provide that protection. This basket was
unusually ornate, but then so was the little garden in which it stood.

We came upon an avenue with a large parklike boulevard in the middle. Up on the top of the hill was this remarkable figure of a man.

This sculpture is in a small park celebrating the
origins of the peoples here. The plaque named it
"The Four Tribes" and told of the four possible
origins of the local people.

Turning around at the foot of the statue we looked down the broad avenue toward the harbour.

First we walked around a school with a large block for playing areas, including a nearby small stadium.

Then we headed down this avenue toward

harbor area. You can see on all these pictures that the streets are deserted.

In the harbor area we saw these boats, many
of them hauled out of the water, possibly for
the season. This is getting to be late in the season and felt very much like a late fall day, heading into winter. Their winter is pretty mild with the average low temperature a
"balmy" -2ºC.

It was while we were down by the water that
a group of stray dogs took an interest in us. It was the only time that happened and was probably just because there were so few people around. At no other time did I feel at all threatened by the large numbers of dogs wandering around, apparently unowned.

We did a little more shopping on the way back to the hostel. There was one shop in particular that sold lovely handknit and handwoven items that I was interested in. But there was nothing that came home with me.

Most of the houses here are very small, close together and in need of repair. Many are painted bright lime green, deep aqua blue, rosy pink. There are a few new houses scattered among them that would be at home in any major city. This interesting old house seemed to us as if it would be at home in some small Russian village.

The most interesting thing happened as we crossed the street to this house. The curtain was pulled aside and a short young woman peered out at us, waving and smiling at us with the total friendliness of a simple minded soul. Such a striking vignette that made!

So we were back at the hostel after our tour of Puerto Natales. We both like this smaller (20,000) city very much and have enjoyed the time we spent here, coming and going.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Return to Ordinary

April 2, Saturday
This morning we slept until 8 and then enjoyed the excellent buffet breakfast that came along with the price of the room. In preparation for leaving we sorted through our hastily packed stuff and repacked much more carefully. My hiking shoes were still totally wet, so I wore my black leather loafers today.

After checking out at the front desk, we had a few hours to wait for the shuttle to take us back to the park entrance where we would be picked up by bus and taken back to Puerto Natales. We spent that time partly in the hotel lounge where the view is fantastic.
We also mingled with the other hikers who were waiting for transport out of the park. I gained a modicum of fame for being one of the few who actually made it to the top of the trail, certainly the only "old geezer" to do so. There were young fellows there (from Arizona) who gave up when confronted with
all that snow.

We chatted quite a while with Carly, the Australian fellow who took our picture at the mirador. He's a base jumper and has jumped in Yosemite where D.S. lives and works.

There were two vans to transport the large group of hikers. The drivers loaded all the backpacks and started crowding passengers into the vans--more than they were supposed to carry. I took one look at how crowded it was in the back and said, "Oh, I can't sit back there! I'm way too claustrophobic." Someone pointed me to the front passenger seat which, fortunately, was empty, and I gratefully climbed in there. That was a great seat with lots of elbow room and "breathing space" and a good view of the road out of the park.

The road was more pothole than road, and progress was slow. The van lurched from side to side, trying to avoid the worst and deepest potholes. The funniest part came at the very end where we had to cross a narrow bridge to get to where the busses were waiting for us. Our driver rolled down his window to peer out his side, steering carefully and slowly across the bridge since there was only about 6" clearance on either side of the van. After we got out of the van we realized that neither van had side view mirrors! There wasn't room for them on that bridge.

We sorted ourselves into the various busses for the 2 1/2 hour return trip to Puerto Natales. Our bus had mudsplashed windows, so there was no picture taking on the way back.

We were a little concerned about finding a place to stay in Puerto Natales, since we had told Carla we would come back on Sunday and we were a day early, but when the bus left us off at the small park by Erratic Rock, there was Carla, smiling and waving at us. She gave us a key to the hostel and we went over to drop off our stuff.

Then, because we do like to walk, we went for a long walk around town. First stop was a shop where D.S. had seen a heavy duty duffle bag he wanted to buy. It was on sale, well made, and he's very happy with it. He was able to pack all of his things, including the tent and his backpack, into the new duffle for the trip home. Plus, it's bright red, so very easy to spot on the luggage carousel.

We stopped to buy some groceries for meals and then did a little shopping. I bought myself a pair of enamel earrings, with deep blue, forest green and white, symbolic of the forest, snow and sky of our hike. Also found some really neat carved wooden salad fork and spoon sets for presents.

Back at the hostel we cooked up some soup and had a bun with sliced chicken and cheese for supper. D.S. took a shower but I'm waiting for a warmer bathroom. And so to bed. Almost seems funny to be back in a city. I really loved hoisting on my backpack and getting on the trail each day, and that part of our trip is finished.