Sparky had a relative playing in a tennis tournament in Yakima last weekend, so on Saturday, we drove up there to watch a match or two. Since we were in the area and there seemed to be a considerable amount of water being let out of Rimrock dam, we decided to make a day of it and raft the Tieton too.
There are two pertinent guages on the Tieton: one right at Rimrock dam, which tells you how much water is being let out of the dam, and another just below the diversion dam about half way down the reach, which tells you how much water is left in the river after they divert a portion for irrigation.
On Saturday morning, the Rimrock guage showed a flow of 950 cfs, which is plenty of water for our small raft. The lower guage showed a flow of 700 cfs below the diversion dam, which is lower than I've ever run that section of river, but we figured the worst case scenario would be we'd have to scrape in a few places.
The Tieton is itself not a particulary challenging river: there are only two class III rapids, but it is a really fun river because it has a relatively steep gradient (44' per mile), and is a classic "continuous drop" river. That means the rapids, while in this case are not particularly big, don't stop very often or for that long. That makes this a great commercial rafting river.
The problem with the Tieton (from a commercial perspective) is that while the continuous nature of the rapids make it much more fun for the customers, it also makes the river deceptively dangerous. Especially when the water is somewhat higher, there are very few eddies on the Tieton, which makes it hard for swimmers to get back to a boat, or even to shore. Combine that with banks that are overgrown with bushes, and cold water temperatures, and the Tieton is potentially a very dangerous river.
On the other hand, during the peak commercial season in September, there are so many boats on the river (kind of like the Deschutes), there is usually someone close by to help out anyone who is swimming in the river. I personally don't know of anyone ever dying on the Tieton, which in hindsight is kind of amazing: it is a rocky, cold, continous drop river with bushy banks, with no known fatalities, whereas the Deschutes river by Maupin is a warm, "big water," pool and drop river, where four people have died just this summer.
I would speculate that people simply take the Tieton more seriously, but in my opinion, all rivers need to be taken seriously: if you are on a river, the potential to drown is always there.
Back to the Tieton. Because we know this stretch of river fairly well, Sparky and I used this opportunity to work on some specialized rafting maneuvers. Specifically, eddying out behind midstream rocks and "surfing" small reversals. This was a good level for the eddying out part: the water was low enough that there were a ton of rocks to practice on, but we only found a couple of places to practice surfing.
Was there enough water for the trip?
The short answer is yes: there were even a couple of commercial boats (much bigger than ours) rafting that day, and no one seemed to be having any problems.
The only place we really scraped (where it wasn't through inattention) was going over the diversion dam: normally the run is about as far left as possible but as you can see in this picture, that is where the water was shallowest.
Just a quick safety note: normally, it is amazingly dangerous to run diversion dams (also called "low head" dams), but this one was specifically engineered to be relatively safe to drop over.
Just a quick editorial note:
While it is true that several people have died on the Deschutes river this year, it should be noted that none of the fatalities occured on commercial trips. Without exception, the deaths occured to private boaters, who, as far as I can tell, all rented their rafts.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Posted by dogscratcher at 11:01 AM
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
A couple of nights ago about 3:00 am, I get up to use the restroom, and while taking care of business, I notice there is water all over the floor. Yes, I am sure it was water (it was cold).
The toilet was leaking. From where I couldn't tell. Not at 3:00 am anyway, so I shoved some dirty towels around the base and went back to bed.
In the morning, Sparky of course accused me of being less than accurate with my aim, but I assured her that the moisture on the floor was of inorganic origin, and she let me sleep a while longer.
When I got up, I commenced the work of ascertaining exactly what was leaking.
It turns out that the seal on the fill pipe failed, allowing water to seep down out of the tank. At least it was relatively clean water.
I was able to replace the whole innards of the tank for about ten dollars, and the job, once I got the parts, took less than half an hour to complete.
Seems pretty mundane, no big deal, why does it warrant a blog post?
Simply because I want to know what idiot designed (as far as I can tell) all residential toilets to have the fill pipe enter from the bottom of the tank?
Because residential toilets rely on gravity to flush, the exit hole for the tank by nature works best if it is on the bottom of the tank. But putting the fill hole on the bottom just puts one more spot in the system where something can go wrong. For apparently no reason.
A much better place for the fill hole to be would be on the back of the tank, above the overflow waterline. Then it wouldn't need to be sealed at all: the hose goes in, is attatched to the fill valve, all above the water! Then the only place a tank could possibly leak (as long as it isn't cracked) is around the discharge hole.
This is long institutionalized stupidity. And don't even get me started on gate valves (like the one used for our toilet's emergency shut off valve that no longer completely shuts off): what moron came up with those? Or perhaps more pertinently, now that there are commonly available far superior "quarter turn ball valves," who in their right mind would ever use a gate valve?
Don't give me the "mechanical advantage" excuse for large gate valves, it would be simple to design a ball valve with a built in mechanical advantage for use on large applications. There must be a powerful gate valve lobby keeping ball valve technology away from the masses.
Maybe there are large industrial applications where gate valves simply work better than ball valves (like here in Grand Coulee Dam):
But as far as I can tell, there is no residential application of gate valves that would ever make sense. Too many places for the valve to fail.
OK I'm done.
Posted by dogscratcher at 9:26 AM
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Triple Bridges on the Clark Fork: where you get to see two highway and one railroad bridge.
How did we get through there?:
A couple of weeks ago I took some of Sparky's relatives on an exploratory expedition to the Alberton Gorge of the Clark Fork river.
Most would probably not call it an "expedition" since the Alberton Gorge section of the Clark Fork is the single most popular rafting section of whitewater in Montana. Not to mention that it paralells Interstate 90 about forty miles west of Missoula.
For us it was an exploratory expedition because we were seeing what kind of a drive it was to get there (from Sandpoint ID). It was the kind of drive you really don't want to do that often. Though the road was great (it is mostly on I-90), it was pretty much a full three hour drive from Sandpoint.
Couple that with a three hour drive back to Sandpoint, and you have six hours of car time for a three to four hour float.
The river itself was fine: warm water, reasonably good whitewater for a roadside run, still had a remote feel when you couldn't see the freeway (which was most of the time), good access points.
We put in at the "Cyr" access area, which has a nice rail system to slide your raft down to the river. Very much like the White Salmon access by BZ Corners, but not nearly as long.
One thing they did that I thought was really nice was this map:
It gave you names and relative locations of all the major rapids. Granted it would have been nicer to have a version of the map that you could actually take with you, but I can't complain. The only place that I know that does offer free maps of rapids is the Lochsa River in Idaho (you could pick one up at any of the local Ranger stations), and I don't know if they even do it anymore.
The only negative that I had about the trip (other than the drive) was the river itself had an odor. Not a really pungent odor, but noticable nonetheless.
Most of the rivers that Sparky and I enjoy, even when they flow next to a road, don't drain large urban areas. The Salmon river in Idaho where I used to guide doesn't drain any big cities. Other than the "row out" on the Snake river (which drains the Boise valley) after the Salmon joins the Snake, I'm just not used to being able to "smell" a river.
I'm not even sure that most people would notice the smell, but my crew did.
Not that that stopped me or my crew from swimming:
but it did make me hesitate.
Overall, I give the Clark Fork through the Alberton gorge a rating of three thumbs up: one for the whitewater, one for the accessibility (especially for those already in the area), and one for consistent flows.
Though I personally wouldn't go there specially for a one day trip, it would be well worth making a weekend out of it, or bringing your equipment with you if you happen to be in the area.
And I give many thanks to these folk:
They graciously offered me a ride from the take out so I didn't have to do a bike shuttle, which would have made the day even longer.
Posted by dogscratcher at 4:15 PM
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I won't post a link (I'm almost too embarassed to admit I ever go there), so you'll have to take my word for it, but over at the Uncommon Descent blog, William Dembski's "research assistant" Joel Borofsky, has made this observation:
"The problem is, if you are not going to be dogmatic in Darwinism that means you inevitably have to point out a fault or at least an alternative to Darwinism. So far, the only plausible theory is ID."
There has been somewhat of a "pig-pile" on him by some of the proponents of science regarding his posts in which he admits that the new high school science standards in Kansas were drafted to allow ID to be taught. This does not conform to the ID party line that the new standards only allow for a "critical analysis" of evolution, and may get him into some hot water with Dembski.
Maybe not too. You never know if these guys actually pay attention to the implications of their own statements.
But I digress.
Aside from the logical and factual problems with this assertion, this brings up for me an interesting distinction.
Is ID the only "plausible" alternative to "Darwinism?"
First, this begs the question: in what sense is ID "plausible?"
All ID arguments in the end boil down to "magic." If you strip away the euphemistic language and the inappropriate mathematics, all that is left is the assertion: "You can't explain (naturalistically) phenomenon "A," therefore it happened by magic" (or space aliens, but they don't really mean the part about space aliens). If you find magic to be a plausible explanation for things, then at least in principle, you may find ID plausible.
This is why ID is so good at "explaining" things: don't understand why the physical constants of the universe are what they are (Anthropic principle)? They must have been intelligently designed (by magic). Can't understand how a bacterial flagellum could have evolved through natural selection? Must have been designed (created) by magic. Can't quite figure out how all the planets of the solar system ended up on roughly the same plane (like Isaac Newton)? It must have been magic.
Pretty much any phenomenon at the edge of our current understanding, and there are plenty of such phenomena, can be "explained" by invoking magic, euphemistically known as "Intelligent Design." The key of course is in the phrase "our current understanding." As our understanding of the universe gets better, those phenomena which seemed intractable fifty years ago aren't so "mysterious," and don't need to be explained in terms of magic.
The problem Isaac Newton had with the plane of the solar system seemed unexplainable to him except by magic, but from the perspective of today's physicists, all the planets being on the same plane is exactly what we would expect.
But I have once again digressed.
Are there any non-magical alternatives to "Darwinism?" Certainly. Lamarckism.
But Lamarckism isn't plausible you say? Only because of our current understanding of genetics and heritability.
The point being (once again) that as our understanding grows, things which may seem magical or mysterious now, can become mundane. So don't be quick to jump onto the "design" bandwagon: if past experience is any indicator, the "exemplars" that point to design now will be explained in naturalistic terms in the future.
"Design" (magic) however, will more than likely always have a bright future: until everything in the universe is completely and thoroughly understood (which won't happen any time soon), there will always be a place for "design theorists" to say, "Look here! You can't explain this: It must have happened by magic!"
Posted by dogscratcher at 3:00 PM