My grandfather used to write at least a thousand words every day, a practice he maintained most of his adult life. He wrote about everything- politics, religion, philosophy and philanthropy. From the day I was born to when I was old enough to hold a real conversation with him (which proved to be quite a bit older than he thought), he wrote journals to me about his life experiences and general social commentary. For as long as I can remember, he urged me to hold a journal myself, something I have managed to do with varying success over the years. Mostly, I tend to record my thoughts when I travel as I feel there is something in my experiences worth remembering. I am not so compelled to keep track of the more banal occurrence of my daily life. Yet, some of the more enjoyable and profound ideas I have read from my grandfather were in his daily notes from Goose Pond (the affinitive name he and my grandmother gave to the lake by which they lived).
I have decided to be more diligent with my writing this year. I cannot commit to writing a thousand words a day as I would already be several pages behind. What I wish to do though is to write at least something every day and to post a weekly update on this blog. This is not a training log and some of my thoughts will have nothing to do with running, but for the most part I will attempt to keep the topics relevant to traveling on foot in the wilds.
Honoring my commitment to explore more in 2014, I decide to run a new route into Boulder via the ridge line north of Lefthand Canyon. After a steep off-trail grunt up to the ridge, I follow an old mining road until it peters out into the sunburned grassy fell opposing Lee Hill. The recent flood created a washout, a near perfect rock-hewn trail back down into the canyon. I dodge a few barking dogs and private property signs before hitting the pavement into town. I run hard through the snow flurried night to 4th street where I stop, panting, sweat quickly cooling and evaporating. I slip into Trident Bookstore for warmth and a browse.
I bought a rivet gun this morning to repair my recently acquired new pair of snowshoes. I dislike when gear fails and doesn’t perform up to expectation, but also find it satisfying to fix things myself effectively. I’ve been obsessing over small details on the raquettes that could easily be improved to make for a much more reliable tool. I lost a screw on the way to the trailhead the other day. A rivet came loose and I lost a crampon yesterday. Trivial issues on my daily run, less so if they occurred on the Iditarod.
Over breakfast, I watched Joe Fejes set the American Record in the 6-day track race ahead of Yannis Kouros on the live feed from Aravaipa. What a self-transcendent performance. Six day racing has an odd appeal to me, a very distilled physical and mental battle. Continuous multi-day racing in general is more and more attractive to me as a route for deeper exploration. On another note, my uncle attempted to run a hundred miles at the same track event in 24 hours. He reached 85 miles after suffering from the cold early morning. I’m immensely proud and inspired by his commitment and effort.
Deanne, dog and I drove part way down to Ridgeway last night to meet friends on a 4-day backcountry ski hut trip. We camped in the truck outside of Gunnison and woke to frost and icicles on the inside of the topper. Dog has developed a liking to intense and prolonged snuggling to keep warm during the night. She milks it a bit, but it was bloody cold.
Due to terrible winter road conditions, our group of friends from Ward reached Ridgway mid-afternoon. A delayed start had us skinning into the Blue Lakes hut in the dark. We meet Ryan and his sister Lisa with whom we’ll be sharing the hut. They have a fire going making the well insulated dwelling toasty warm. Ryan, originally from Colorado, has lived in Norway for 8 years and does research in industrial environmentalism. His sister lives in Montrose. She’s transitioned from working with refugees to being a school teacher. Our friends Damjan, Adriana and Amy are from Serbia, Columbia and Kansas respectively making for an eclectic cultural mix. I appreciate the diversity of perspectives brought forth by this well traveled group. I miss the richness of our conversation that these type of encounters bring about. I make note to work on creating more of these dynamics in my daily life.
A seemingly benign ski from the Blue Lakes to the North Pole hut turns into an arduous adventure in route finding, bad snow and bushwacking. I’m on alpine touring gear, Amy and Adriana on a backcountry nordic set-up and Deanne and Damjan are on snowshoes. Dog has her paws lathered in musher’s magic wax which seems to help with snow accumulation and freezing. She expresses only marginal complaints quickly fixed with a cleaning of her paws and an increase in pace. The route from hut to hut is seemingly straight forward, but with the constraint of needing to stay on “trail” we cannot pick the cleanest line, instead resolving to chaotic bushwhacking and log hopping. The views of Mt. Sneffels are stunning and the flat light explodes in occasional glimmers of brilliances through the aspens creating a most enchanting setting. We reach the hut in the dark again. However, thanks to Adriana’s forethought in plotting the map with GPS waypoints we were comfortable in our navigation. We’re greeted to another cozy night in company of Charlie, Jeff and Sandee. Jeff and Sandee are both in their mid-to-late fifties. They remind me of my good friends Roch and Catherine who are never slowed by age and keep on getting after it, in the best of style. The trio had an even more epic trip over than us, coming from the Last Dollar hut on the Telluride side. They came within one mile of North Pole the previous night, but were unable to locate the hut. Instead, they bailed down to Ridgway for beers and a hotel room, but made the trek back up the following day. We were all glad to be sharing stories of epicness over whisky.
Charlie is a badass ski mountaineer. He and his twin brother Max have completed the Grand Traverse ski race many times. He’s also finished Hardrock among many other extensive alpine adventures. We both liked the idea of skiing Hayden Peak, a close objective, 3000 feet above the North Pole hut. I felt confident in managing the uphill skinning portion and relied on a few tips from Charlie to get myself back down the steep powdery hills in one piece. The day went extremely well given that we both has no idea what expect. We skinned and bushwhacked the steep 1500 feet to treeline on the Northeast ridge, before ditching the planks and hiking the scree on the West face back to the ridge, on to the summit. We stopped a hundred feet short of the top due to an icy slab, but basqued in all the glory of the San Juan’s for several minutes before making our way back down. I learned to plant my heels and do jump turns through the woods and managed to stay up for most of the ride.
A good trip always ends with burgers, beer and hot springs. We managed all three in a short period of time and with dodgy road conditions, Deanne and I decided to stop outside of Salida for the night. I guess we’re getting older and I just feel more relaxed about taking my time. A few years back I would have driven back, white knuckled and blood-shot eyes over the passes until I got home. There’s no rush really though. It was nice to be disconnected for 4-days from the hustle and bustle and bring that mentality forward as we re-enter the connected world.