Allen and I both had the same idea coming away from GMT West – seeing Labyrinth played made us both long to get it back on the table. This game opened the door for the COIN series of games, providing a truly asymmetric two player gaming experience focused on the American war on terror beginning 2001. I had played two or three times before (with Jacob and Matthew I think) but never focused enough on the game to 1/ get a solid grasp on rules and 2/ understand even basic strategies for the two sides.
Allen and I played face to face last week, I took Jihadists and he the Americans. I pulled off the win, with both of us learning that an early regime change for the USA can result in a serious quagmire.
Then we each played a solo game, using the enhanced boys that came with the Awakening expansion. Seeing the boys play is a great human training approach, with limitations of course.
We played again face to face the day before I left Oregon, switching sides. I was the benefactor of some good die rolls and an American focus on good relations in the central middle east paid off for the win.
I skipped the Sunday festivities at GMT weekend so that Julie and I could hightail it up to Redding to see some old friends that have lived there for about 10 years. They went above and beyond, planning an all afternoon kayaking adventure on the Sacramento river.
Our friend Mike works at the Shasta dam do knows just a bit about the river flow. It wasn’t quite raging but did have a healthy flow, with a few challenging hydraulics to navigate – especially in our flat topped sea kayaks.
They prepared gourmet sack lunches for us all, plus had a well stocked cooler.
Saw a lot of cool birds: kingfisher, osprey, some ducks I didn’t recognize, and a big male bald eagle.
We like Redding. Their neighborhood was pretty torched up in the fires last year, with their house being one of the few to survive on their street.
Julie and I worked out our return from our long hiking and backpacking trip to pass through central California so that I could (again) attend the GMT Games weekend at the warehouse event. Despite the very high heat it was a fun weekend with several new-to-me games played. And I bought a couple of games during the attendee special sale on Saturday.
My first game was Breakout Normandy with Steve. I played the Germans while my experienced opponent took the Allies, which I think would have been rougher for me to try on a first play. I got schooled in a fun way, losing Carentan was the final straw. Steve is working on a modern war version of the same system set in Iraq and I’m hopping to play test soon.
On Friday Steve played Across the Narva, a chit-pull game at in the late east front of WWII.
Allen and others played a four played a cooperative game of Fields of Fire. I’m so conflicted by this game, having played twice but always reluctant to bring it out as it seems more like work than fun.
After an early morning game of Combat Commander: Europe (Resistance) I spent the rest of Friday playing Unhappy King Charles with Tim. This was an eight hour game resulting in another loss for me, but Tim was very patient in teaching and I held my own until the final year.
A surprise hit for me was The Battle of Kursk, a game in Mark Walker’s Platoon Commander series.
Very nice components in this game and just a few minor rules issues. I have a magazine game in this series (Poland Strikes!) that I’m bringing with me to Keuka Lake this summer.
Gene have his “state of GMT” talk on Saturday morning and company affairs seem to still be on a solid foundation.
After climbing out of that big canyon, we cruised south in AZ, stopping for a night to have dinner with a young man (former classmate and teammate of Matthew and son of close friends) in Mesa before heading south of Tucson. We had never visited my aunt and uncle’s place in Green Valley and were too close to miss this opportunity.
We loved tooling around their age qualified community. I didn’t get to play golf but we did head into Madera Canyon on Easter Sunday to hopefully do a bit of hiking. Sadly the park was so full we couldn’t even find trailhead parking, but we lucked into a short stay at a gift shop and inn where we were treated to some amazing birdwatching. On a return trip I suspect we could spend 3-4 days exploring this area.
We spent a few hours in Saguaro National Park on our way to San Diego and were still in full bloom season.
I’m not sure we would consider back country exploration of Saguaro but we do love looking at cactus and searching for reptiles. Sadly we found no Gila monsters.
Our concluding days in the canyon were some of the most relaxing we’ve ever had. It was a short, mostly flat 7 mile hike from Cottonwood camp to Bright Angel.
Right away we had to ford Wall Creek again, but this time we just went barefoot with good results. Dry socks and boots. We saw a lot of trail runners this day. They mostly just ran right through the creek.
We finally got close enough to a Yellow-backed spiny lizard for a good shot. Biggest lizard we saw in the canyon and we saw quite a few.
There was apparently an endurance race going on in Arizona that had several hikers schlepping bikes on their backs through the canyon, rim to rim. Oh my.
More geology! What you see above is an example of boudinage: sausage link shaped infiltration of Zoroaster granite into the Vishnu schist.
Back at Phantom Ranch we enjoyed two fun ranger programs (one on the California Condor, one on search and rescue) and a tasty veggie chili dinner with great company.
Julie mailed a postcard to our nephew using the mule post inside Phantom Ranch.
We departed very early on Friday morning to make the long climb out of the canyon via Bright Angel trail.
The water was flowing strongly through Indian Garden, an oasis on the south side with lush trees, blooming wildflowers, and plenty of shade and water.
Above is a view from above the Indian Garden area.
We hauled ass climbing out, even passing a group of trail runners three times (they ultimately beat us to the top) as we maintained a steady but fast pace. Things got a lot more crowded on the second half. We overtook a mule train climbing out that was apparently a training run for some out-of-shape mules needing to get into spring condition.
We escaped the canyon at about 11am, walking the extra 1/4 mile or so to the Backcountry office parking lot where we left our car.
We were very happy with the itinerary. Bracketing the big Wednesday hike with two virtual rest days (just seven miles flat) helped manage the pain of the big up-and-down day. Hanging around Phantom Ranch was better than expected, especially when the ranger programs were running.
If you want to experience the same hiking but aren’t into the backpacking elements, you can try for lodging at the Ranch and minimize the need to haul as much gear around. I wouldn’t advise a hike from the Ranch all the way to north rim unless you are staying in the lodge up there to break the trip up.