Sharpening Saws and Guitar Maintenance

Sue, Jim (me), Phyllis, and Mike watching Grampie sharpen a saw

When I was young, I watched my grandfather, Grampie, sharpen handsaws. One local carpenter kept sharpening his saws before bringing them to my grandfather. Grampie didn’t say anything about this the first few times. Finally, he told the man that if he tried to sharpen his saws again, he’d have to charge double because it was difficult to undo the flawed work. The carpenter stopped trying to sharpen his own saws.

My saw that Grampie let me practice sharpening when I was twelve years old.

I recently thought of this story while straining to play my guitar that has hung on my office wall for nineteen years. The string action was high with a slight bow in the neck. The tool for adjusting the truss rod was inside my guitar case, but I thought of that carpenter and his amateur saw sharpening.

Newly adjusted guitar neck

Today, I got my guitar back from the technician at Sunrise Guitars in Fayetteville. When I played the instrument, I remembered the satisfaction I saw on my grandfather’s face when he cut through a board with a newly sharpened saw. I smiled when I felt my properly adjusted guitar neck and new set of strings.

I was glad I put this little “saw” in the hands of a professional. Now, when a chord rings clearly, I can almost hear Grampie’s voice when he’d smile and say, “Now, that saw will cut!”

Related post: Sharpening Saws and Shaping Beliefs Tells about how my grandfather’s coaching shaped my beliefs about education.

Not Living in Fear

I’m now in my 60s. I had Rheumatic Fever when I was 9. I had corrective heart surgery at age 16. Our family had medical insurance, so during a routine checkup, my childhood doctor noticed something that caused him to send me for more testing. This resulted in a trip to Houston where Dr. Denton Cooley corrected the coarctation of my aorta.

I’ve done a few marathons, half marathons, hundred-mile bike rides, and some long trails. I’m thankful for my health and for the medical folks who keep me going. For more about Dr. Cooley see my post: Gratitude to Medical Professionals, Especially on the Hills

I’m sharing this because I think some of us make faulty assumptions about those with underlying conditions. A lot of people with underlying medical conditions look fairly healthy and active, sort of like me.

I’m not living in fear, but would like to avoid COVID-19, and certainly want to avoid spreading it unaware. I’ll wear a mask where recommended, keep my distance, and follow medical experts’ guidelines to the best of my ability.

I’m not being controlled as some would say, but am taking control through my reasonable actions. Those who are obsessed with the mask issue need to let it go. They’re not helping, and may run the risk of doing harm.

I’d like to recommend hiking as one of the best activities in times like these. Social distancing is easily achieved and the exercise is good for us all.

Road Trip West


Shack outside of Amarillo, Texas

We escaped the Arkansas heat and humidity by driving west. We enjoyed a break from the humidity, but only during the evenings did the heat subside.

Rest stops were our friends on the long drive. We enjoyed seeing the historic Sierra Grande rest stop on Highway 87 southeast of the Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico.  It was perfectly placed because we stopped here going and coming.


We stopped to see the Arkansas River not far from her headwaters. It was strange to touch water there and know it would eventually run close to our home in Arkansas.


Arkansas RIver in Colorado

On our drive through Westcliffe, CO, we visited a great little store, All The Range Mountaineering and Outdoor Gear, and picked up a few maps. The owner advised us to avoid lower elevations that evening due to the heat. So, we adjusted our plans a little and continued west past Gunnison, where we came upon a nice campground alongside Mesa Reservoir close to sundown.


The evening temperatures were cool, and it was nice to be camping in the arid environment. The campsites were generously spaced with lots of empty sites, so we felt like we had the landscape to ourselves.


The next day, we continued west and passed a neighboring campground full of large RVs, so we felt fortunate to have stopped where we did the evening before.


We’ve had the Four Wheel Camper for just over a year and love it! The Raven model fits the short bed F-150 truck, and you quickly forget it’s there. Our shell model weighs about 650 pounds. If you get one loaded with accessories, the weight (and price) goes up, but the shell has what we need and gives more space to move around in there. It takes about 2-minutes to raise or lower the top and is perfect for planned or unplanned camping itineraries.


Becca suggested we visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison River National Park.  We left wishing for more time. A camping trip to this location would be worth the trip by itself.


The established trails are on the rim with backcountry permits available for the adventurous who want to scramble down to the Gunnison River.


Black Canyon

A highlight of our trip was a three-day stay at Secret Garden B&B in Ouray, CO. Billy and Charolette were great hosts and made us feel right at home. Our biggest challenge was selecting from the long menu of places to explore in Ouray. It is a tourist town, but we found it welcoming and friendly. Best of all, Ouray Bookshop was walking distance from Secret Garden. It’s always a treat to explore independent bookstores!

Jim and Becca Group


The Bachelor Syracuse Mine Tour was a good outing. Their answering machine was out of date, saying tours were canceled which wasn’t reflected on their website. When I called a few minutes later, someone answered and said they were open. Confusion aside, the tour was excellent, and I recommend it for kids and adults.


The huge electric motor below powered a two-piston air compressor and sent pressure to operate air hammers deep within the mine. When the mine was in operation, lights dimmed throughout Ouray when this motor started.



Our Alpines Scenic Tours truck

We wanted to visit some of the area backcountry, but didn’t want to get in over our heads and end up with auto damage. The Trails of Colorado is a great resource. Without it, I might have naively ended up on some rough roads without the skills or equipment needed. I have a 4-wheel drive truck, but as we got into the Yankee Boy Basin, I realized we’d made the right decision in booking a tour with Alpine Scenic Tours.


One of many scenic views in the Yankee Boy Basin

Our driver, Sam, was excellent. He had spent years driving through the area, hunting and exploring and, as a bonus, he was a nice guy. If we’d been driving, we would have passed through without recognizing much of what we were seeing. The bucket seats and open-air seating are perfect for seeing the views securely. Well worth the cost!


IMG_8710rrrBack in Ouray, it’s an easy walk to Box Canyon on the south edge of town. The City of Ouray operates Box Canyon, and it’s well worth the $5 admission. Julia McIntyre sold the land to the Ouray for $75 because she wanted it to be protected and enjoyed by others.


Walkway in Box Canyon


View down into Box Canyon

From Box Canyon, you can walk through a tunnel and easily hop onto the Perimeter Trail for a longer walk and views down into town from the surrounding mountainsides.


Tunnel on the Perimeter Trail

A short loop trail next to Box Canyon includes many native plants. I enjoyed the tall canopy of this Ponderosa Pine.

IMG_8706rr We left Ouray feeling like we’d only scraped the surface. The truth is that every Colorado town we passed through deserved more exploration but that would have to wait for future trips.

Once on the road again, we drove Hwy 550 from Ouray to Silverton then Durango making several stops along the way.


Remnants of old gold and silver mines dot the landscape along Hwy 550

The view into the Weminuche Wilderness north of Durango brought back memories of a great backpacking trip with friends several years ago.


Our plan had been to camp in the Durango area, but the heat changed our minds. We found a hotel and enjoyed catching up on messages and finding lunch at a 5-star taco trailer close to a trail system. While waiting on our order and watching cyclist and walkers, I resolved to be there before dawn the next morning to beat the heat and the crowds.

Our dinner that evening in downtown Durango included live music, which was quite a treat. Everyone wore masks and the restaurant took care to separate guests in outdoor dining.

The next morning was a great hike up into Big Canyon with headlamp. Because of my early start, I had the trail to myself out and back. It was fun to walk the sun up and watch colors come alive in this rocky canyon. 

The drive back toward home was a long one. Becca posed for a photo at the state line to share with relatives in Texas. I sat on a railroad nearby for a photo before continuing to Amarillo.

The next morning, we drove out to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, so Becca could see it for the first time, and I could see it for a second time in over twenty-five years. The ranger was very nice and allowed us to drive into the overlook at the Visitors Center for a quick look even though there were restrictions due to COVID-19 and even day visitors were required to have advanced reservations as a way to control numbers.


B.H. Warnock and Benny Simpson at Capote Falls

B.H. Warnock and Benny Simpson at Capote Falls

After returning to the entrance gate the ranger and I talked for a few minutes and I gave him a copy of my trail guidebook, encouraging him to visit the Ozarks anytime other than summer. He saw my name and asked if I was kin to a Barton Warnock. Dr. Barton Warnock, was a well-respected botanist, specializing in the Big Bend region. Dr. Warnock died in 1998 at age 86. An environmental center at Big Bend carries his name along with twelve plants named for him.

His father’s first name was Arch which was also my grandfather’s first name. We don’t know of any concrete connections, but I’m claiming him as family anyway. I like the description from Kirby Warnock’s article about Dr. Warnock. “His cowboy dress and independent attitude projected an image that didn’t quite fit the ‘tree hugger’ or ‘nerd’ stereotype usually associated with botanists or lovers of wildflowers.”


We enjoyed our drive home with heads full of images and memories. This little prairie dog spotted during my final morning’s walk seemed to be saying, “Come see us again.” We’ll definitely be back out west to scratch some more at the surface and see what we can learn.

Hiking to Granny Henderson’s House


We had an unusual break in the Arkansas heat and made a quick hike to Granny Henderson’s house just below Goat Bluff on the Buffalo River. Steve, Eddie, and I were looking forward to the hike up and out to check our fitness level for future trips. It’s a pretty tough climb, but the rewards for going down are great. The hike back up gave us confidence that we’re in pretty decent shape for elder hikers.


I’ve hiked to Granny Henderson’s many times but was excited to see it again. I ended up noticing a few things I’d not seen before.

The most obvious difference was the season. We would normally hike this trail any time other than summer. Rains had been good, so everything was a rich, lush green.

From inside the house, you can see the stone root cellar a few yards to the rear. The roof is long gone, but the rock walls still stand.

We parked our day packs on the porch for lunch and some quick exploring. I went to the attic for a close look at some of the newspapers used as insulating wallpaper. An ad for a 1927 Chrysler 50 for $750 was still visible as well as a milking machine.



The wood-burning stove still stands close to the brick chimney along with a rusted out iron pan.


IMG_7720rrThis little moth visited on the front porch during lunch. We enjoyed the vivid colors.

I paused for one more glance back at Granny Henderson’s house, thinking of the lady who lived here alone from 1951, when her husband died, to 1979.


From here, it was all uphill, literally. We took a break at the Goat Bluff Trail and enjoyed the view down to the Buffalo River.


I couldn’t resist the urge to crawl through the small hole in the bluff where I’m sure children, and adults, have easily passed through for years.


Our hike back to the Center Point Trailhead felt good. We were pleased we went down in the morning as we met around eighteen hikers heading down to where we’d been. We had Granny Henderson’s house to ourselves, which is unusual.

IMG_4354rrI’m looking forward to visiting again in the fall. If you’d like a map and trail description, check out my guidebook, Five Star Trails: The Ozarks. It covers what we hiked on this trip as well as Hemmed In Hollow Falls for an 11-mile round trip.

If you’d like to learn more about Granny Henderson, the following video includes comments from her great-granddaughter, Marietta Williams. After that is a link to a song by Still on the Hill that relates to Granny Henderson.


Musical Work of Art, a Gift for a Deserving Student

IMG_7157rrThis post is not about trails or backpacking, but music is an essential part of my life. I learned years ago what a privilege it was to be the first to give a child a music lesson. Bill Craig gave me my first drum lesson when I was in the third grade, so sharing music feels like honoring his memory for what he gave to me.

When Kelby was in the fifth grade and a student at my school, I had the opportunity to give her a simple drum lesson and later gave some modest coaching for her all-region music preparation. She went on to become a great percussionist for which I can’t take any credit, but I took pride in watching her accomplishments.

On July 12, Kelby’s parents presented a special gift to her, and I was present to record the event. She is now the owner of a Concert Model Marimba built by master instrument maker and percussionist Doug DeMorrow. DeMorrow Instruments builds marimbas, xylophones, and vibraphones for universities, orchestras, and musicians all over the country. His Concert Marimba is a work of art!

Demorrow Warnock.001

Doug and me in 1978 after my senior recital, and now in 2020.

Being present to watch Kelby receive her marimba was also an opportunity to see my college percussion teacher. Doug taught percussion at Henderson State University, where I earned my bachelor’s in music education. I reminded him that I was the first senior recital student he prepared and it was a musical high point for me.

Doug was an excellent teacher and enthusiastic about all things music and percussion. I remember watching his beginning stages of marimba building back in 1978, never dreaming that he would someday build world-class instruments as he has done for many years. After our visit on Sunday, Doug said, “Even though it has been an eternity since we last saw each other it was like that time evaporated.” I agreed. Within minutes we were discussing the differences in wood tone and sustain. He was the type of teacher who was so enthusiastic about his work that you learned just by being around him.


I arrived early so Doug helped me hear the differences in bar qualities used in his instruments.

Becca enjoyed touring Doug’s shop and seeing bars in different stages of development.


The tuning room is where some magic happens as Doug tunes the fundamental pitch and overtones for the best possible sound.


Bar tuning room

Not all bars make the final cut. Below are just a few bars that were not up to Doug’s standards for use on an instrument.


The rosewood that makes it onto a DeMorrow keyboard is destined for a long life of music-making, one of the most noble uses for this precious wood. Below is a closeup of the oak frame that gives stability to the weight of keyboard bars and resonators.


People are often surprised to hear that the best keyboard instruments in the U.S. come from Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

Doug spent hours doing final settings with the instrument, tuning each resonator for the best tone. I saw a smile of satisfaction as he played the instrument before Kelby arrived.


Kelby only learned their destination at noon before they made the drive to Arkadelphia. Once at the shop, the family enjoyed learning more about the process involved in building the instrument. Somehow, Kelby remained calm and enjoyed taking in the information before seeing her new marimba.



The presentation


Kelby’s first notes on the instrument

Kelby’s husband, Paxton, is a percussionist, too, so this marimba will be very happy in her new home!


Lots of discussion about mallets and bringing out the full voice of the instrument. Kelby immediately ordered a set of Gordon Stout mallets after some experimenting. 

Doug spent some time showing Kelby and Paxton how to adjust the resonators if they wanted to experiment with them in the future.


The resonators add to the instrument’s beauty but play an important function in being sure each note sings with a full sound. The careful adjustment of each resonator is part of the quality difference in a DeMorrow instrument.

Part of my pleasure in watching Kelby grow up has been seeing her parents’ enthusiasm and support of her musical interests. I had a front-row seat in watching their parenting since Kelby’s mom, Suzy, was my assistant principal for 16 of my 19 years at Alma Intermediate School.


Suzy volunteering as a music stand.

Before the evening’s end, the adoption was complete as Kelby began to enjoy making music on her new DeMorrow Concert Marimba. This instrument will be treasured for years to come, and it will produce great music!


Best Gifts Carry Memories


I did some shopping in Fayetteville today. Enjoyed being where 100% of the folks were wearing masks, courteously keeping their distance, and enjoying each other’s company.

As part of my retirement from a career in education, I received a gift card from co-workers to one of my favorite stores (Pack Rat Outdoor Center). I wanted to get something that would be with me for years, reminding me of work I loved at Alma Intermediate School.

I now have a great lightweight dayhiking pack and poles that will stay together and loaded, always ready at a moment’s notice.

Thank you teachers and staff for helping me get a gift that will remind me of the good times we had influencing the lives of our students. I’m looking forward to continuing my “work” as one of your cheerleaders and biggest fans.

Before we left Fayetteville, I ran into the dad of a couple of our students. I didn’t recognize him until he said, “My kids loved working with you at school.” I told him how much I enjoyed his kids, but didn’t mention that he’d just given me what I consider the highest compliment possible. One of my mentors said years ago, “It’s important that your kids know you like them and care about them.”

Now, it’s time to study some maps and plan some hikes!


Pack and poles, a gift from my co-workers. 

PigTrailLoop quote.001

Post-Hike Tasks


Packed for the hike back down Black Fork Mountain

While preparing for a backpacking trip, I realized some of my food was in my pack from the previous outing a few weeks before. Fortunately, critters hadn’t found it, but it was a moldy mess.

I learned a lesson from that unused food, so let me share some of the tasks that need to happen following any backpacking trip. By doing these things, you can make your equipment last longer and shorten your prep time for the next trip. The best time to do these things is as soon as you get home.


The kitchen

Clean your kitchen and food pantry – In my case, this means washing a small cookpot, cup, and spoon. I like to take inventory of fuel to be sure I’m stocked for future trips. Some stoves need periodic maintenance. I use an Esbit fuel stove, so no maintenance is required.

Go through the food bag, toss trash, and remove any unused snacks or food. It’s also a good idea to check dates on any food you plan to reuse. I learned the importance of this after having to eat some stale snacks on a trip.


Dry your shelter – Spread out or hang your tent/tarp/groundcloth so that it dries completely. Hang your quilt or sleeping bag and pad to be sure any remaining moisture is removed. Failure to do this can be expensive when you later discover an expensive tent covered in mildew.


Clean your clothes – I’ve learned to use gentle settings for washing and drying. After a little time the dryer, I let hiking clothes dry completely hanging out overnight. Avoid heavy smells in the soaps you use to avoid attracting critters insects or wildlife. I occasionally treat the cuffs of my pants with Permethrin to discourage ticks. It’s not a sure thing but seems to help, and the treatment lasts through several rounds of washing.


Drying shoes. Smelling good!

Take care of your shoes – Dry shoes as soon as possible after your trip to avoid serious stink and mildew! I place shoes and insoles in front of a small fan overnight. It’s alright to clean most running shoes with soap and water occasionally.


Sleeping bags and a ground cloth hanging in storage

Store your stuff – I like to store my kitchen (minus food) in my pack. Tents/tarps and bedding should be spread out or hung up until needed for the next trip. Never pack these items stuffed into a pack or folded since this causes creasing of fabrics and compression of your down’s loft.

Review your Backpacking List  – Was anything needed that you didn’t carry? Were items not needed that you did carry? Can you move an item from “nice to have” to “don’t need to have?” Answering these questions will help lower your pack weight over time.

You might have had a great idea about bug protection or staking your tarp, but if you don’t revise your packing list, the idea is lost until your next trip, which is too late. Does it sound like I’ve done this before?Backpacking List May 2020

What’s next? Keeping a future trip in development is a great motivator. The best time to start planning is right after the current trip. Here’s my simple plan for staying in shape:

  1. Breath clean air and nothing else
  2. Eat good food
  3. Move around a lot (walk, bike, row, stretch, weights, etc.)

Now, grab your maps and guidebooks and plan that next backpacking trip!

If you have post-hike tasks or rituals I haven’t mentioned, please pass them along to me. I love to steal good ideas!


Coming down Black Fork Mountain.

Lower Base Weight and a New Route to Explore


My Zpacks backpack fully loaded

For a recent mild-weather over-nighter, my pack base weight came in at 10.5 pounds. Base weight doesn’t include food and water. I was probably around 14 pounds with water and food. Steve recently upgraded his backpack to a Gossamer Gear, and his base weight is similar, so we were both traveling light.

Now, if I could find better ways to pack food that weighs almost nothing. I use powdered soups as a base with dehydrated veggies and meat added. The energy bars, GORP add more weight. Please email or comment if you have ultra-light food ideas!

Below are a few photos from the recent backpacking trip with a little descriptive information. The purpose of our trip was to try out a route recently scouted by Steven Parker, assisted by Chris Adams and me. Steven plans to present more information about this route at the Ozark Highlands Trail Association meeting in October. Stay tuned because, if you like a challenge, this might be a route you’ll want to add to future itineraries.


This rock garden bluff is jaw-dropping beautiful.

Not a scenic photo, but we found it interesting. Our thought was that this is bear scat. Anyone else want to weigh in?


bear scat

Scale is deceptive since I took this photo from downstream, but the waterfall is probably 10-12 feet.




Afternoon nap for Hiker-dog

Below was my break time view. You can’t beat fresh air, blue skies, and the shade of a tree canopy for recharging your batteries!


This waterfall was a special treat. Steven will share more about this area at the October OHTA meeting.


The photo doesn’t capture it, but splashes of color from a variety of wildflowers lifted our spirits when the feet felt weary.

IMG_5612rWe were unsure about the following bloom or early plan growth resembling a flower. Does anyone have an idea about what this is? If so, I’ll update this post. The stalk reminds us of a Devils Walking Stick, but we’re not sure. (May 10 update – Thanks to reader, Miranda Kohout for sharing that this is the early growth of a hickory tree.)


unidentified plant (8/10/20 update- It’s a hickory tree in the making)


Native honeysuckle pointed out by Steven

Hopefully, we’ll have some more cool weather for Ozarks exploring

The efforts to lighten our loads continue because the lighter the pack, the farther we’ll travel.

I’m looking forward to future trips on this same route, especially as it becomes more clearly defined. It will be fun to see Steven share specifics in October!

Retracing Scenic Highway 7 in Do South Magazine


Barn near Lead Hill

Do South bylinesI’m always honored to publish in Do South MagazineIt was a treat to share a photo byline with Reese Kennedy, my mother’s older brother. Our drives up Scenic Highway 7 were separated by thirty-eight years, but I discovered some fascinating connections. Below is an excerpt from the article and link to the digital version of  the article.

At 5-years old, I approached my mother’s older brother. “Uncle Reese, would you draw me a Texas Longhorn?” He was a soft-spoken art teacher and politely put off my request. Finally, after two days of repeated appeals…

Buffalo R at Hwy 7_1r

Hwy 7 crosses the Buffalo River in Jasper

Camden OuachitaR_2r

Railroad north of Camden where Reese and I both stopped 38-years apart.