Hiking Roxborough With Tommy

As part of a new series on this site, I’ll be posting reviews/reports of hikes around Colorado that are at least minimally stroller friendly.  There are no good resources for these sort of hikes online.  Hopefully someone else in my situation will somehow stumble upon this site.  A lot of trails have a good bit of elevation gain, and typically have some sort of “natural stairs” or are very narrow and difficult to maneuver a stroller through.  There are some resources for wheelchair friendly trails in the area, however these are usually low elevation gain paved trails.  The trails I’m looking for are a superset of these.

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Google Maps view of the Fountain Valley Trail

Recently I decided on visiting Roxborough State Park just outside of Littleton, CO.  The Fountain Valley Trail is located adjacent to the visitor center and seemed to be the most favorable place to go for a hike in the park.  The trail is a nice loop that takes you through the north side of the park.  It is a 2.3 mile hike that takes 1.5 to 2 hours and is rated Easy to Moderate.  There is a lot of wildlife in the park, with a large concentration of deer, rattlesnakes, and even mountain lions.  I will only visit the park in winter to avoid coming in contact with an angry rattlesnake.  On this hike, I only really saw some birds, but there were all kinds of strange noises in the brush along the trail side.

From the trailhead, there is a short walk to a fork in the trail, this is the beginning and end of the loop.  I would strongly suggest taking the right side of the fork.  Not being familiar with the trail, I took the left.  On the day we went for the hike, the conditions were pretty good.  The temperature was increasing steadily to almost 60 degrees, but there were still some snow/ice in parts.  This was a bit of a challenge to get through, but Tommy went to sleep right at the start of the loop and didn’t seem to mind at all.  This side of the loop had the best views.

At roughly the midpoint of the trail, there are some buildings that were constructed in the early 1900s by Henry S. Persse.  It looked like the stone house was open, but I decided to just look in from the outside.  Seems like a good place for danger noodles to stay warm in the winter.

On the way back, which should have been the way forward, there was a steep incline to walk up while pushing the stroller.  This was the only real strenuous part of the hike.

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Walking uphill for the remainder of the trail.

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but this was a bit of a challenge pushing Tommy and all his support equipment.  The folks in this picture got a pretty good laugh at watching me struggle to push a sleeping baby up a hill.  It was clear that this was my first time on the trail.  This side of the trail didn’t feature any red rocks, but did have some secondary trails to view points.  These were impassible with the stroller, so I had to skip them.

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The start of the Fountain Valley Trail Loop

After the climb, there was a slight decent back to the end of the loop, which really ought to have been the start.  This is where Tommy woke up and took in some of the scenery before heading back to the parking lot.

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Copying files in subdirectories to a single directory

In order to copy my files, easily to Google Photos, they must be in a flat directory structure.  Doing this on my machine is a bit of a challenge, since I’m running Mac OS and trying to easily copy files on a read only external NTFS drive.  The built in find functionality of the Finder window doesn’t really fit my needs.  This approach will work on most unix systems.

Make a temporary directory, if you don’t already have one.  For this scenario, I made a tmp directory in my home area.  I have gotten myself into trouble often enough, that I will never use the system level /tmp directory ever again.  From the Terminal in the top level directory where your images are, execute the following command(s):


mkdir ~/tmp

find . -name '*.*' -exec cp {} ~/tmp \

This will copy all files from your target location to a temporary directory in your home/user area.  Since a lot of my photos have different extensions, it is easiest to copy everything.  The post on uploading to Google Photos will come later.

What I’ve learned after one year of trading on Robinhood

About one year ago, I decided to sign up for Robinhood.  It’s basically a service backed by Google which is used to buy and sell stocks with $0 in commissions/fees.  Robinhood also offers a premium paid service for some folks that buy/sell a lot more often than I do.

Buying individual stocks is generally considered a poor financial strategy due to volatility, so my real investments stay away from single stocks.  Since there are no commissions or fees, I thought it would be fun to try and see if I how well I could do at playing the market based on my limited knowledge and some minimal research.

I put in a tiny initial investment, with a recurring weekly deposit of $15.  This represents the maximum amount of money I’m willing to try on single stocks.  My expectations are to break even overall and gain some learning when it comes to the overall market.  If it all goes to 0, I’m comfortable with that.  This area of investment represents a very small percentage overall for me.

The Robinhood app and service has been great.  To date, I have made probably around 40 trades, both buying and selling.  I have never been charged a commission or fee of any sort.  In addition to regular buying/selling, the app will also allow limit purchases.  I often use this method to purchase stock.  With this method, you can specify the maximum amount you’re willing to pay per share.

Over the year, I have learned quite a bit about the stock market.  My first trades involved solar energy companies.  I felt like the technology was affordable and made sense for a lot of consumers.  I even went pretty far into the process to acquire Solar City solar panels for my own house.  After purchasing a couple stocks in that area(SCTY and SUNE), I eventually determined that Solar City wouldn’t work for me.  In a short time, I was able to see a 25% return on the initial purchase, and knew it was time to sell.

My personal investment strategy is based off a simple algorithm.  I generally invest in companies that make a product that I use and really like.  If it’s not a product I use, it’s a product that I could see myself using.  I have also put some investments in some medical companies with great dividends.  When it comes time to sell, I only sell if I have made money.  I will never sell a stock for a loss.  This logic is almost certainly flawed, I know.

I have been a customer of Netflix since the beginning.  Overall, it’s a great service.  Coupled with a few other streaming services, it makes sense to cut the cord on cable.  I made a large(for me) buy on Netflix at a price of $85.19 per share.  The stock had just taken a dip due to some bad press.  I was confident that it would recover.  I’m still holding the stock for now at a current market price that you can check for yourself.  Depending on when you read this, it has either been a good or terrible idea.

I bought Fitbit back at a time when the stock was around $16.  At the time the expert consensus was that it would hit somewhere around $28.  I have been a Fitbit user since 2013, and generally like their products.  My first Fitbit product was the flex, I have also worn the Charge HR until it disintegrated last month.  I recently purchased the Charge 2 which has worked pretty well over the last month or so.  When the stock started to dip a bit, I decided that would be a good time to buy even more(at a perceived discount).  At the time, I thought the stock was still stronger than suggested by the price, and if things went bad, I had effectively cut down my average cost price so I could get out at a lower price.  At present time, I hold 55 shares of a stock all experts feel is a terrible buy.

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My tanking stock

I like the company and its products.  Hoping to see a recovery after Christmas.  Either way, I’m staying on the ship.

One drawback to buying and selling small amounts of stock is the tax implication.  There are some rules about paying taxes on gains from stocks.  Since I’m not really making a lot of money, the actual amount taxed is low, however tax preparation is a bit more costly.  I generally use TurboTax, and I now have to buy the more premium package to do my yearly taxes.  Robinhood does a good job of providing tax documents that ease with tax preparation.  However, the added cost of TurboTax effectively negates pretty much all gains over the year in my situation.

Overall, Robinhood is a great app that allows both small and large investors trade for free.  There are no catches other than some tax implications.  It just seems that you might want to know something about the market before putting a large amount of money in.  If you’re like me, and looking to play a few single stocks for the fun of it, Robinhood is the best way to go about it.

Redditgifts Secret Santa 2016

I have participated in a few of the reddit gift exchanges over the years.  This year I was paired up with a secret Santa that bought me a very nice bottle of Port.

Taylor Fladgate 1966 Port

This 5-year-old port retails for $300.  The average gift’s value in the exchange is around $20.  I seem to have received one of the best gifts in the exchange. 

I will update when I have the right occasion to open it. 

Going Mirrorless

The Reason(s)

I made the switch from mirrored to mirrorless one year ago.  As a non professional, the transition for me was based mostly on use of the system. I found that my camera bag was incredibly heavy and too bulky to use.  I had been looking into trying out a mirrorless system since more and more people had been converting.  I saw some amazing shots on the mirrorless system.  Finally, after a recent trip to Mexico, where I decided it was too much of a hassle to bring my gear… I knew it was time to make a change.

My canon gear consisted of the following:

  • Canon 5D Mark II
  • Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8
  • Canon EF 40mm f/2.8

This represents a large, for me, investment in the Canon system.

This bag was heavy.  Very capable, but a pain to carry around hiking and traveling in general.  I was basically using my cell phone for taking pictures in both of these situations that I most likely found myself in.

I decided on keeping my older Cannon Rebel T2i body with 2 EF-S lenses (kit lens and the 55-250mm).  These are worth almost nothing in trade, but still have some capability if I want to use a DSLR in the future.  It will also work as a good spare or primary camera if I can convince my wife to go out shooting with me.  I have managed to do this twice in the last five years.

The Trade

I traded my cannon gear at my local brick and mortar for the Fujifilm XT-10 and comparable lenses.  I chose the brick and mortar, because its a good shop with good people, I feel good supporting small business, and I was able to get a good value in trade.  I could have done a bit better if sold things online, but I preferred to get things done quickly with a lot less hassle.

I chose the X-T10 since it had the same functionality of the X-T1, including the exact same sensor at a fraction of the price.  I do miss the weather sealing, but I rarely use electronics in the rain, even my IP68 Samsung Galaxy S7.  Over the summer I was caught in a very intense thunderstorm while hiking in Shenandoah.  The camera survived.

With the trade I was able to get a brand new camera and the lenses to cover me from 10-200mm. For the above cannon gear, I was able to trade for the following:

  • Fujifilm X-T10 (new)
  • Fujifilm 10-24mm f/4
  • Fujifilm 18-55mm f/2.8-4 (new)
  • Fujifilm 55-200mm f/3.5 – 4.8
  • Battery Charger (new)
  • 2x Batteries (new)
  • $300 credit towards a prime

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The Results

Since day one, I’ve been happy with the trade.  I have carried the camera around a lot more than my previous one.  My camera bag dropped it’s weight in roughly half.  It went from 8lbs 2oz (3680g) down to 3lb 11oz(4lb 60z (1693 g).  This is significant, and a lot easier to take around.  With the exception of the telephoto, which I only use rarely, any configuration of body/lens with the Fuji weighs less than my Cannon 5dm2 body alone.

I have also picked two additional lenses. The Fujifilm 23mm f/1.4 and Zeiss 32mm f/1.8 (effectively 35mm and 50mm primes).  One of the bonuses of switching to Fuji is the price of lenses.  The equivalent Cannon lens (35mm f/1.4) goes for around $1000.  This may be an apples and oranges scenario, but from my experience these Fuji lenses are sharp.  Here is an interesting comparison of the two.  In general Fuji gear (bodies/lenses) are roughly 65% of the price of the Cannon equivalent.  For someone like myself, a non-pro with a family on a budget, it’s nice having an option of purchasing high quality gear.

With the new camera, I have been able to take a lot shots that I have been proud of this year.  Here are just a few of them:

In short, I traded a very capable camera for another very capable camera that I will have on me more often.  As the technology changes, I feel like I’m in a system where the future cost of upgrade is a lot more comfortable.

Only 10 States Left to Visit

States Left to Visit:

  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Wisconsin

Since the last time I have updated this, I have traveled to Oklahoma and West Virginia.

20160226_121437The trip to Oklahoma was a long one.  I drove straight from Littleton to the border of Oklahoma.  This was a very boring drive.  There is not much other than tumbleweeds, bad smells, and trucks on the route.  My original goal was to travel to the state line and return.  My secondary goal was to visit the town of Boise City, OK.  This town is notably the only town in the continental united states that was bombed in World War II.  After four hours on the road to get to the border, I didn’t have the energy to add the extra hour to see the bombing memorial.  Of all the states I have been to, the trip to Oklahoma has been the shortest.

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The best part of Oklahoma is turning around and seeing Colorado

I got to spend some time in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.  This easternmost town of West Virginia has a lot of history to take in; from Thomas Jefferson to the Civil War to the interesting proprietor of the Towne’s Inn.

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View from Jefferson’s Rock

The hike up to Jefferson’s rock is short, but seemed longer since I had decided to skip the shuttle bus to get to town, I  didn’t take water, and it was July.  So I walked from the visitor’s center just outside of town directly to Jefferson’s rock.  This was worth the trip.

“The passage of the Patowmac through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature. You stand on a very high point of land. On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Patowmac in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder and pass off to the sea. The first glance of this scene hurries our senses into the opinion that this earth has been created in time, that the mountains were formed first, that the rivers began to flow afterwards, that in this place particularly they have been so dammed up by the Blue Ridge of mountains as to have formed an ocean which filled the whole valley; that, continuing to rise, they have at last broken over at this spot and have torn the mountain down from its summit to its base. The piles of rock on each hand, but particularly on the Shenandoah, the evident marks of their disruptions and avulsions from their beds by the most powerful agents in nature, corroborate the impression.

“But the distant finishing which nature has given the picture is of a very different character. It is a true contrast to the former. It is as placid and delightful as that is wild and tremendous. For the mountains being cloven asunder, she presents to your eye, through the cleft, a small catch of smooth blue horizon, at an infinite distance in that plain country, inviting you, as it were, from the riot and tumult roaring around to pass through the breach and participate in the calm below. Here the eye ultimately composes itself; and that way, too, the road happens actually to lead. You cross the Patowmac above the junction, pass along its side through the base of the mountain for three miles, the terrible precipice hanging in fragments over you, and within about 20 miles reach Frederictown and the fine country around that. This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”

–Thomas Jefferson in Notes on the State of Virginia

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Harper’s Ferry, VA

At roughly the midpoint of the Appalachian Trail, the town combines views and history.

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The confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah.  Maryland to the Left, Virginia to the Right

Like most historic places I visited on this trip over the summer, I could have spent a lot more time here.

Sunrise at Rocky Mountain National Park

I was able to get up in time for sunrise in Estes Park, CO last Friday.  Here is a time lapse of the sunrise.  This is having the same tearing towards the beginning of the video as my other movies.

In other news, I am working on a complete redesign of this site along with new hosting.  Working out some issues with the domain.  Once these issues are resolved, the site will go live.