Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I feel dirty, and I like it

I’ve been noticing a dangerous trend recently – I’ve been thinking about climbing. Sure this sounds all sweet and innocent, what could be wrong with thinking about climbing? I’ll tell you what. I’ve been thinking about climbing at times when I should have been thinking about mountain biking. I’ll give you an example: this past Friday as I was driving to Aspen for the aforementioned hut trip, I found myself staring wistfully at the mountains around me. Did I think “wow, I bet there is some kick ass mountain biking around here”? No, not at all. Instead I said to myself “you know, that might be fun to climb”. It gets worse, much worse in fact. This past weekend was one of the best I’ve had in a while, and when I woke up to a beautiful Sunday morning I knew that the perfect cap to the weekend would be to get out and ride. I’m sitting at home going through my coffee ritual and thinking about my day, when out of the blue Temptation calls. In this particular instance Temptation came in the form of an invite from my friend RJ to go climbing in Boulder Canyon.

I’ll get back to my rant in a moment, but I’d like to take a second here to say Temptation, RJ is cool but the next time you decide to come my way I would REALLY appreciate it if you take the form of a young female type. Enough said, back to the story.

To continue, what did I do? I went climbing of course. Sure I could say I had never been climbing outdoors before and I was really looking forward to trying it. I could say that my friends are cool, and I wanted to hang out with them. I guess I could even try to write climbing off as the flavor of the month – god knows I’m fickle enough (um, just for the record if any of the young female types do read this I’m just kidding about the fickle thing. Really). The thing is when you get right down to it the reason really doesn’t matter – I’ve still been choosing climbing over the bike. I feel ashamed. I feel dirty. I kind of like it.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Ghosts 1 : Mike 0

Damn that’s good coffee, but I digress. So this past Friday two friends and I headed west, bound for the snowy slopes of Aspen. Not to ski of course, that would have been crazy. No, we were going on a hut trip.

I have long dreamed of doing a hut to hut trip in Europe, and so when I heard about a system of huts in my new back yard I knew this was something I needed to try. When (3) spots opened up in a hut this past weekend, my friends and I jumped at the chance. We headed out toward Aspen relatively early, and by noon we were at the trailhead. Rumor had it that the hut was about 6 miles in, so without further ado we shouldered our packs and began to hike. It was a beautiful day, we could not have asked for better. The sun was shining brightly and the air was crisp but not too cold. Before long I found myself stripping layers and hiking without a coat – a far cry from the freezing cold winter temperatures I was expecting. After a relatively flat and well traveled mile we donned our snowshoes and began the trek in earnest. From this point on we were climbing – total elevation gain was 2,590 feet from trailhead to hut. The day progressed and so did we, and as the sun began to set we found ourselves high in the mountains by a frozen, snow-covered lake. This was wonderful news, as according to our map the hut was “just around the bend” overlooking the lake. Dreaming of dinner (and the multiple bottles of wine we packed in) we continue, sure that we will come across the hut at any second. The trail leads away from the lake, but it will curve back right? We continue. The sun is gone, time to break out the head lamps. We continue. The trail keeps climbing – higher and further from the lake with every step. Consult the map, and once again see the well marked hut positioned next to the lake. We’re not near the lake, we’re in the woods. Consider making a lake, but after much discussion decided “if you build it they will come” did not apply in this particular situation. We resolve to return to the (pre-existing) lake on the assumption that due to the fading light we must have missed seeing the cabin the first time around. Unfortunately this does not work – the cabin is not there. Stare at the map some more and mentally retrace our steps. Yup, the elevation gain proceeding the lake exactly matched the contour lines on the map, we are where we think we are. Probably. At this point our faith in the map is fading faster then an orangutan at a Billy Joel concert, but we eventually identify an offshoot trail that may lead to the hut. We retrace our steps and find the trail, but it’s obvious from the lack of footprints that this is not the well traveled trail that leads to the hut. It’s dark, our map is a filthy liar and when I listen to the wind I swear I can hear a voice chanting “kill kill kill kill”. We make the only sensible decision and decide to return to our car. With our Cliff Bar supply dwindling odds are good that we’ll be forced to resort to cannibalism at any second, so I take a spot at the back of the line where I can keep an eye on the others. From this point on things progress smoothly - the return trip was primarily downhill and we made good time back to the car. The hotel that we spent the night in was well appointed, and we had blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

I’d like to take a second to praise the two friends who joined me on this little adventure. In total we ended up backpacking for upwards of ten hours, and at no time did anyone lose hope or focus. That was ten solid hours of backpacking too – with the exception of one 15 minute dinner break on the way back to the car we really did not stop at all. Options were analyzed based on the information we had available to us, and decisions were made rationally. If I had it to do over again under the same exact circumstances I can honestly say that I would have done exactly the same thing. I would not hesitate to go into the woods with these people again.

Okay I know what you’re thinking – their story makes sense but something still just doesn’t add up. These people are experienced woodsmen, how could this happen? I agree. I mean I own wicking base layers and a windproof fleece. I carry my wine in a Nalgene bottle. I have two compasses and a shiny whistle. How could we possibly lose our way? Luckily I had a lot of time to think about this on the return trip to the car, and I now know what happened. None of us had actually met the others staying at the cabin that weekend, we just exchanged a few emails prior to the trip. Now I haven’t fully investigated this yet, but here’s my theory: The cabin burned down 10 years ago and was never rebuilt. Bill, Susie, Joe and Frita (names changed to protect the undead), the very people we had been emailing prior to the trip, all perished in the 1996 fire. That’s right, they were ghosts – spirits that had attached themselves to the remains of the cabin and were unable to leave this realm. When you think about it this is really the only explanation that makes sense. Now that I know the truth a part of me wishes that we had pushed on to find the remains of the cabin so that we could have done our part to help these lost spirits find peace. Alas it was not meant to be, but at least I am able to learn from the experience. The next time that I venture out into the wilderness I will make sure to include a small (lexan) vial of holy water in my pack. Because when you get right down to it, survival in the wilderness is really about being prepared.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Because shut up, that's why

So I think I’m going to buy a new bike. I want a full suspension bike – something with 5” of travel that will tear up the rocky Colorado trails. I’m thinking of either the Turner 5-Spot or the Intense 5.5, both of which are for sale at Redstone Cyclery. I will have a full suspension bike – the sooner the better. The thing is, that isn’t the bike I’m talking about buying. I want a dirt jump/urban bike. I don’t dirt jump – hell I don’t jump at all. I’ve never been into urban. So why would I buy a DJ/urban bike that I will rarely if ever use? Because shut up, that’s why.

Right now the weather in Boulder is cold. Freezing cold. There is no way that I am going out to ride right now. Normally this wouldn’t be so bad, I have plenty of other things to do that keep me occupied. This time however, I made a mistake. When my Thursday evening night ride was cancelled (due to sub zero conditions and um, wolves. Lots of wolves.), I stayed in and watched The Collective – an awesome mountain biking film. Within 2 minutes of the start of the film I was anxious to ride, a feeling that stayed with me for the whole film. In addition to tons of amazing looking singletrack, this film featured a lot of jumping. Now I want to fly. Maybe not high and far, but I want to fly a little. Besides, a decent hard tail DJ bike is only about $600 – less if I can find a closeout 2005. That’s practically an impulse buy when compared to spending 3+k for a custom steel hard tail or a full suspension bike.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pillow Fight?

"Nearly 1,000 people drawn by Internet postings and word-of-mouth converged near San Francisco's Ferry Building on Tuesday night for a half-hour outdoor pillow fight. The underground event erupted at 6 p.m. in the center of Justin Herman Plaza with a mass rush of shrieking, laughing combatants -- many of whom arrived with pillows concealed in shopping bags, backpacks and the like." - San Francisco Chronicle

Now that's a cool idea - I wonder what it would take to plan something like that here in Colorado. It's too bad I let laziness rule my life, otherwise I might be tempted to give it a try. Still great concept - click on the title "Pillow Fight" above for a link to the article. I am your intellectual superior! Oh wait sorry - that was the last post.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I’m your intellectual superior!

Books are good on many levels. Some have pretty pictures. Some have stories that keep us amused for hours – this can be especially useful on say the four hour flight from Denver to Dulles. Some books can be used to kill bugs, although I personally prefer a good shot of Clorox Tub & Tile cleaner for that purpose. Then there are the intellectual books. These are the ones that you put on your bookshelf to impress your friends, or read while conspicuously occupying the corner table in your favorite coffee shop. These are the books that shout “Hey look at me, I’m your intellectual superior!” Okay technically I suppose I am the one doing the shouting, but I swear the book make me do it.

What prompted this penetrating look into the literary world you ask? Simple – I recently rediscovered the library. In a (mostly unsuccessful) attempt to get more work done I have been looking for places to work outside of my home, and this search led me to the library. Although I have indeed completed small quantities of work as a result, the bigger success lies in the fact that I have once again begun to check out books and music. Don’t get me wrong, I am a voracious reader and at any given time I am in the middle of several books - I just haven't been to the library in a long time. I have to say that the variety and convenience (i.e. the fact that books are free) of the library is um, good.

Now to tie this whole book thing together in relation to my blog. One of the things that I gleamed from the few blogs that I read is that any good blog has book reviews. Not just any book either, no Hardy Boys Case Files here. No, a good blog book review should be the online equivalent of sitting in a coffee shop with your intellect held high for the world to see. Yeah. So the thing is I dislike writing about theory. Hate it actually, always have. I have absolutely no interest in delving into a characters psyche. What’s this – the story is actually a retelling of a Christian fable with a modern day twist? That’s great, love the way the author did that thing where he wrote stuff. I just don’t want to write about it myself. So here is my condensed intellectual book review. Life of Pi – interesting read, loved the ending. Shopgirl - interesting look at relationships and um, shopping. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – this one makes my head hurt, which means by definition it has to be amazing.

I think that satisfy the book review requirements for a while. I hope it does at least because I have once again reverted to pulp fiction/"airport reads", and those aren’t nearly intellectual enough to post on a blog. After all someone might read this thing.

“Hey look at me, I’m your intellectual superior!”