Footnotes 1/30-2/5/14

» Posted by on Feb 5, 2014 in Blog | 9 comments



I went to the climbing gym with TK and Caroline this evening. I’ve been very irregular over the past 3 or 4 years and this was only my second time climbing indoors since I’ve lived in the Front Range. A chalky haze fills the air, making my eyelids puffy and adding a slight blur to my vision. The color coded tape marking dozens of routes overwhelms my senses as I try to match hands and feet in the proper sequence. My upper body dreadfully lacks endurance so it doesn’t take long for my energy to wane. It’s a strange feeling, seeing a sequence, knowing that you can do it, but finding there is a disconnect between how clear and simple my brain makes it out to be compared to the actual strength in my arm and fingers. I thrash around on the plastic for a few hours, exhaust myself, but ultimately come out satisfied with the session. I wish to make a more concerted effort to improve my strength over the winter, with the prospect of better outdoor lines to be climbed in the summer.
After the gym, I make a late, headlamp lit run up Sunshine Canyon back home. I feel surprisingly fresh working my way up the hill despite the acute lack of motivation for self-propelled locomotion preceding the start of the run. I like when a feeling of emptiness and exhaustion comes around with positive force instead of turning into a bonky, slog fest.


Went for a ski with Cameron mid-afternoon at Moffat Tunnel, outside of Rollinsville. The snow had been coming down steadily for the past few days and today was no different leaving several feet of fresh, untracked powder on the trail. We labor our way to just below Heart Lake before turning around. We attempt to ski some of the steeper slopes, but the terrain back to the truck is mostly too shallow to make any decent downhill progress. We re-attach our skins for the nearly the entire return trip save a few, sweet steeper and faster spots. Neither of us are too bothered about the lack of adrenaline driven descending, revelling instead in the hard, sweaty business of lunge stepping through deep snow. We grab some food at the unexpectedly excellent Rollinsville bar, before parting ways with me heading on to Leadville for a snowshoe marathon the next day. I make it to Black Hawk before traffic slows to a hault. It’s early evening on a Friday and I’d expected some weekend ski traffic so I’m not too bothered with the delay. Traffic is moving particularly slow though, slower than usual. Inching along the road, I’m frustrated when a car comes racing by on the shoulder of the freeway. What the fuck is this guy doing? Shortly thereafter a couple of police cars hammer by as well, followed by an ambulance and more police cars. I’m starting to think a semi is crashed across the road completely blocking the freeway. I’m now past Idaho Springs, but it takes me a full three and half hours to reach the next little town of Lawson. I stop to get gas and figure out what is happening. The place is buzzing with an end of the world type of atmosphere. There are cars everywhere, it’s snowing and people are loading up on snacks (rations) in the gas station. The attendant tells me there’s been a high speed car chase possibly linked to a bank robbery in Denver and the driver’s been shot. I-70 is now closed until further notice, but things should clear up after Georgetown that I can reach via the frontage road. While the excitement of the situation draws me in for a minute, I’m quickly reminded of the time it’s taken me to drive the last 7 miles and that I won’t reach Leadville until much later that night, if at all. I reluctantly decide to forgo the marathon and make the 3 hour drive home in the gradually worsening weather.




To make up for the missed snowshoe marathon, I decided to head north on the peak to peak from Gold Hill to get some laps in on the skis outside of Allenspark. I first read about there being good skiing around there after a little online research lead me to a random thread about the area on a ski forum. The thread had some heated, foul attacks about sharing any beta about the good places to ski despite the fact that the uphill track is on a forest service road and the start of several popular hiking trails. This made me wonder what type of potentially negative interactions I might have encountering locals while skiing through their trees. No such issues happened though and in fact it was quite the opposite. I passed a few people on the gradual 2,000 foot climb up to the ridge, but exchanged little more than out-of-breath greetings as we were all working the sticks and planks hard. Nearing the top though I caught up to two older guys, who had the challenging task of leading the way up the hill, breaking trail. Without me prompting them to do so, they launched into a detailed explanation of where to find good shots through the trees and where not to head to avoid avalanche danger. I thanked them for the insights before enjoying some quad-burning turns and then repeating the exercise twice over.


After yesterday’s successful outing and some new found confidence in skiing through trees I decided to look for some good lines closer to home. I skinned up to Niwot ridge via a mix of the Mountain Research Station access road and off trail meandering. The way I picked wasn’t great, but proved to be interesting for the thought process that emerges in trying to find a clean line up the mountain and my relationship to the land, especially without a map or GPS. The process is a bit like trying to untangle a complex puzzle, following contour and ridge lines to find the path of least resistance. The breadth of intimacy with a space that one gets from venturing off the trail is greatly increased. The forest is dense in these parts and flat shallow spots often interrupt the continuity of the climb. This isn’t so much of a problem going up, particularly since breaking trail is so demanding, but doesn’t offer much in terms of a speedy descent.  All in all, I enjoyed the outing which I punctuated with another lap up to Niwot ridge, staying this time solely on the MRS road.




I’ve decided to start meditating more regularly. Deanne told me that the previous executive director of MESA (Moving to End Sexual Assault) teaches a yoga class focused on the mental transformative power of yoga practice in dealing with trauma. It’s a fascinating topic and a simple reminder for me to spend more deliberate time actively engaging in exercises to develop the mind.  So, I sat for 20 minutes today. I didn’t have any expectations, nor do I intend to have any with my meditation practice, but do feel that it will be beneficial.
I ran up the ridge north of Lefthand canyon early this morning with dog. I marched up easily despite the snow, following large frozen moose tracks. That is until Bella spotted the moose 200 feet above us, pinned her ears back and went for the chase. Argh! I’ve never seen a moose this side of the Peak to Peak highway. Usually, Bella is cautious with larger animals, only herding deer or hunting rabbit. We couldn’t see much of the moose, only its rear which is what I believe precipitated her chase. No matter how much I yell or tell her to stop her instincts completely take over. It’s as if nothing else in the world matters. She returns after 10 minutes or so thankfully still alive. Moose are the wrong animals to play with.
I finish the day with a run into town, followed by another session at the climbing gym which leaves me completely wiped. Despite the cold, I savor a pint of ice cream on the drive back up hill with Deanne who finishes class absurdly late, at 10pm.


I catch an early morning ski with Cameron. We skin a few laps outside of Allenspark. The track is deserted and couple new inches of powder make for fast yet soft descents. I like that I’m a beginner skier as I can attack each descent with an unencumbered mind. Each mistakes yields direct feedback and I have no preconceptions of how exactly I should be performing each move. Rather, I just try, feel and try again. Powder is forgiving, trees aren’t so much. This forces an alertness and a commitment that induces fast learning.
Tonight was Deanne and my fifth wedding anniversary, which also marked 10 years of being together. My grandfather proposed to my grandmother after 4 days of meeting her. They were married for 60 years. We share the same anniversary date, which is a reminder for Deanne and me of the wonderful long life two people can share together.
For our first date, we had pizza and beer. Chatting away, I ate most of the pie and when it came down to the last slice I told her it was hers. She thanked me stating that she’d only had one piece. Things haven’t changed much as we celebrated our 5 years at a pizzeria. She knows better than to share with me now, so we split everything up right when we received the order. We drank wine, instead of beer since the place was Boulder fancy and being from France, I should know a thing or two about wine, but truthfully I don’t.
Ten years together, that’s a third of my life, a long time to be with someone. Yet, through the ups and downs, the good and the bad times, there’s been no waning in my love, no fatigue. Rather, there has been a refinement of the subtle, a deepening of the intangibles, of the small things that make for the most wonderful of relationships.


Slogged up the north ridge above Lefthand canyon. I couldn’t get into the run today. I felt a little tired, but generally off, unable to tune in to my surroundings. I hate when that happens. The harder I try, the more frustrated and clumsy I get. I probably had too much coffee as I am accompanied by an angsty, jittery feeling most of the way up the hill. Bella’s snout is stuck in animal tracks. She has that wild, frenetic look, like she’s about to bolt. Not in the mood for a chase today, I desperately try to keep her tight by my side which isn’t helping me get into a groove. Before the ridge, we run into the dilapidated frame of an old mining cabin. Nothing about it denotes any recent use, other than a small pile of firewood, neatly arranged in a teepee shape in the crumbling fireplace. I sit in the cabin’s remains for a few minutes and am reminded of a quote my mom recently sent me from Joanna Scanlan, “and I remember the sensation of being in the imaginative space of the poem and not being in the real world, and I just loved that feeling. That remains the case – that I think I prefer the imaginative space to whatever is going on for real.”






  1. Joe- The third shot down is fantastic. Great work.

  2. Those are some great outings. For two years in a row — on the exact same turn on the road to Rainbow Lakes — I saw a momma moose and calf. I wonder if they have anything to do with the one you saw. The young one was curious, the mother tried to hide, not at all aggressive like I’d heard, although there was no adult male.

    Like the picture of Bella through the ruins. Dogs and their snow…

    • I’ve seen a lot of moose up by Rainbow and Brainard, but never this far east or this low (9k). I did see an elk once up there really close up, which is quite the animal as well.

      • Strange that you say that. I’m far away from you ( New Hampshire ) but I’ve noticed the moose in lower areas this year . A high elevation for me is 3800 ft. but that typically is where they hang out . This year they are in the valley which is only 1000 ft .

  3. Congrats on the anniversary. Nice commentary there.

  4. Your writing always comes across as very sincere and thoughtful Joe. Even these daily footnotes. You have a real talent for writing, thanks for sharing.

  5. Your writing, as always, is quite inspiring. – Happy anniversary, too!

  6. Love your black & whites. They complement your narratives nicely. Happy Anniversary. /stemple

  7. Joe,

    As usual, fantastic blog. Great site. It’s amazing how you change things up with your training. Take care.


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