Monthly Archives: February 2014

Planing the trip to CA

I’m writing to you all from Fort Collins, Colorado today.  The weather here is warm and while the mountains seems to continue receiving consistent snowfall, the flats are drying up nicely.  I’m going to attempt a re-cap here before discussing my plans for the next few weeks.

Since returning to the Front Range from Salida, where we experienced an epic weekend of powder at Monarch mountain, I have been running all over the place.  I have spent some time with my girlfriend Megan in Fort Collins, attending a few of her classes.  Most memorable of those was a natural resource class in which we had an interesting lecture focussed on water law in the Western United States, a lecture that immediately made me think of the lack of water I am going to be experiencing in Southern California while on the PCT.

I have also recently re-united with a former co-worker from the Forest Service who was just accepted into a Smoke Jumping program in Alaska for the upcoming fire season.  Fantastic work Kael!  We caught up over some sour beers and exchanged stories from the past two years.  Kael is in the process of training for his upcoming work season and I joined him for a 7.5 mile run near Horse Tooth Reservoir, just West of Fort Collins.  We encountered lots of snow and had a great time.  Has it really been months since the last time I did some trail running?  I felt great and got a boost of confidence regarding my fitness level at the moment.

Megan, her friend Annie and I took a weekend trip over to Tabernash, Colorado and stayed with some College friends of mine.  We got two great days of skiing in at Winter Park, with great snow and a fantastic guide (thanks Andy).

After returning from Grand County I got in touch my friend Chris who was on a NOLS semester course with me in 2005.  We got together in Clear Creek Canyon to celebrate Chris’s birthday with some ice climbing and then drove back to Summit County for a brewery crawl that evening.  The following day I enjoyed Chris and his friends’ company for a day of skiing at Keystone.

From Summit County I headed back to the East side of the divide to stay with my friend and climbing/skiing partner Jason and his family.  They are the best hosts.  We ate some amazing food and Megan drove down to join me for a day of skiing at Loveland.  We had 5 inches of fresh snow from that evening at it continued snowing all day while we enjoyed some of the less-traveled terrain in the vicinity of lift 8.  Megan headed back up to school and I stayed around for one more day of skiing at Loveland.  The snow my second day was very wind-affected and I skied a short day before heading back to Fort Collins to have a wonderful Valentine’s day dinner with Megan.

Megan and I also managed to get back to Clear Creek for an afternoon of ice climbing.  We also recently just got in an afternoon of dragging at North Table Mountain in Golden, Colorado.

I also managed to find a used Thule cargo topper for my car.  Finally I have a bit more room inside to manage all my belongings.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks.

So here I am in the present.  Hanging in Fort Collins, starting to put together our (Megan and my) plants to drive to California in March.  As of now our route looks like we will be headed to Indian Creek for some climbing, then to the Grand Mesa (also in South-Eastern Utah) to hike to some Anasazi ruins.  We will then drive to the Grand Canyon for some camping and hiking before heading to Red Rocks in Nevada for some loooong desert multi-pitch climbing.  After Nevada we will be driving down to Joshua Tree for a bit more desert climbing before arriving in Los Angeles where our road trip will end (insert sad face here).

After that long recap, I find myself listening to some notes I have recorded in the past few weeks on my new voice recorder.  The idea was to get a tool that would help me remember writing ideas which seem to escape my mind just as easily as they materialize.  The most intriguing thought that Id love to explore with you right now is the idea of coincidence.  What exactly is coincidence?  Can we use coincidence as a way to explain events that seem linked together?  Is coincidence merely a tool that we use to help rationalize certain decisions that we make in life?The actual question that I recorded for myself three weeks ago was: Are coincidences us changing our consciousness to help convince ourselves that we are taking the right path or making the right decision in life?

Google defines coincidence as, ‘a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection’.  In my life right now coincidence takes the form of events that seem to be telling me that right now is the time I am supposed to be hiking the PCT.  Clearly all the decisions we make in life lead us to certain outcomes.  Making the conscious decision to hike the PCT this year has led me to take certain steps to make this dream a reality.  Coincidence comes into the picture in the form of events that seem to conspire or convince me that my decision to hike the PCT is a correct decision for me at this time in my life.  A good example is meeting ‘Hot Wing’ this year in the town of Nederland.  He is an avid long-distance hiker and offered me lots of great advice about my ambitions.  Another great coincidence is the fact that my father lives in Los Angeles, a great jumping-off point for the PCT.  Something that logistically makes getting on the trail easier for me (easier then the CDT or AT at least).  These are simply two examples and there have been other coincidences that I only vaguely remember at this point.

Without diving into my own personal examples any further perhaps any of you reading this can share some of your own examples?

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PCT – on the trail in a month!

Well, I am roughly a month away from beginning my thru-hike of the PCT.  Lately my days have been comprised of planning my drive out to California, repairing gear, and enjoying my last few weeks in Colorado.  I have recently been looking for blogs written by 2014 thru-hikers to get a better idea of start times for folks this year. It looks like people are aiming for starts as early as March 1st. As an avid skier I am usually paying attention to the snow falling all over the country. I have been aware of the low snow year that California has experienced and this makes me slightly anxious to get started with my hike.  Seeing trail closures due to wild fire has also gotten my attention.  All I can say right now is that this may be an exciting year regarding the trail and I can’t wait to get started. Until next time.

Chasing Powder

I think I finally understand people who are addicted to white powder.  I just indulged a powder addiction myself (snow not blow) for three days at Monarch, a ski area just outside of Salida, Colorado.

I love Monarch Ski area.

I love Monarch Ski area.

Let’s rewind for a moment.  If you read about my recent trip to Utah you know that I got totally skunked in terms of snow in that part of the country.  Ill pick up where I left off.

Jason and I had been camping and hiking on the San Rafael swell, a remote area north of I-70 in Utah.  Because we had cell service I was able to keep an eye on OpenSnow, my favorite website for keeping up on the weather.  The minute we saw major moisture headed towards Colorado with favorable predictions, we immediately broke down camp and headed East.  It was Tuesday and our plan was to drive back to the Front Range, re-organize our gear, do laundry, and head to Salida, Colorado, on Wednesday, just ahead of the storm.

Looking at the sky on Wednesday morning, you wouldn’t believe that Colorado was about to get one of the biggest storms of the season, but the radar didn’t lie.  Lots of Pacific moisture was headed our way and we put our

Breezeway liftline faceshots for Jeremiah.

Breezeway liftline faceshots for Jeremiah.

faith in the predictions as we re-packed the car and hit the road.  As we left Conifer, some higher clouds came into view, promising loads of snow in the near future.

Our drive was uneventful but provided some musical entertainment.  Jason is one of the more knowledgeable sources of music education in my life and he enlightened me with some artists such as the Rollins Band, Kool Kieth, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, and others.  I always come away from our adventures with new music to listen to.

Our room at the Days Inn in Salida was pretty standard.  Nothing too fancy,

J shredding.

J shredding.

inexpensive, and a continental breakfast makes life a little easier when you are trying to wake up early to get to the hill before the chairs start turning.  That evening we grabbed some food at Currents, a solid choice in Salida if you want descent food at a reasonable price.  We were not disappointed.

When I woke up Thursday morning, pumped to ski, I was a little worried.  Aside from being overcast, there wasn’t any new snow on the ground and temperatures were slightly above freezing.  I had to tell myself, ‘Monarch pass always gets snow, it’s always snowing up there even if it isn’t snowing in Salida.  Jason and I ate some food, got our gear together, and hit the road.

Faceshots all day long at Monarch

Faceshots all day long at Monarch

As we began driving up highway 50 I slowly felt better and better as snow began falling the higher up the pass we drove.  By the time we pulled into the parking lot at Monarch, there was at least 10 inches of snow, conditions were looking great.  Oh, and the parking lot was empty.  I love skiing during the week.

Without describing every run, I’ll say that those three days of skiing were some of the best turns I have had this season.  We received roughly 36″ of snow over three days.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.  Until next time friends.

Powder turns on Outback.

Powder turns on Outback.

Utah, Solitude, and the San Rafael Swell

Have you ever had conditions that were so terrible for skiing that you just couldn’t motivate yourself to actually ski?  This was the unfortunate case for our trip to Utah – they haven’t image (2)received any new snow for more then two weeks.  Our friends Jeremiah and Grace explained the state of affairs to us as we unpacked our things.  They mentioned the weather conditions; ‘severe clear’.  Any resort skiing was not looking very good and ice climbing in the canyons is treacherous – delaminated and deteriorating quickly.

Jason and I had planned our trip to Utah months in advance, J taking the time to look at data and pick a less popular resort that was guaranteed to have snow for us.  Well obviously there is no guarantee with the weather, and to J’s credit he tried.

After making the eight hour drive to Salt Lake we weren’t about to give up without trying on our big ski trip for the year.  Our hosts fed us some incredible vegetarian food and the next morning J and I packed up our gear and headed for Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon, hoping that we could at least find some corduroy to dig into.

image (1)The drive up Big Cottonwood is an awesome journey through millions of years of sedimentary rock.  We were both amazed how close all this skiing is to downtown Salt Lake – it took us thirty minutes to get to the mountain.  The weather was warm with blue skies and we hoped that the awesome terrain we were looking at was going to be fun to ski.  After our first lift ride we were amazed at how hard-packed the snow was, bulletproof is a good description.  No worries, it was warm and the snow would soften up as the day progressed right?  Unfortunately not and except for the occasional patch of soft snow, everything looked glazed and nothing was easy to dig into.  We were both hesitant to ride the way we usually do, worried that we might lose and edge and hurt ourselves.

Discouraged, we left after a short day to regroup and make plans.  We already had two hotel nights booked in Ogden in anticipation of skiing Snowbasin later in the week but with the conditions we experienced at Solitude, neither of us wanted to spend any money on lift tickets.  That night I re-learned cribbage with the help of our hosts and the next day J managed to get a full hotel refund.  We talked a bit and decided to head South towards I-70, DCIM101GOPROpr-positioning ourselves to do some camping and hiking but so that we were prepared to head back to Colorado – a storm is on the horizon.

 Jason and I had the idea to head to Canyonlands National Park to do a short backpacking route in the Needles District.  We assume that the park would be relatively empty – a circumstance that we welcome when looking for recreation opportunities.  But we had been keeping a close eye on opensnow.com for weather updates from the moment we left Salt Lake and things were beginning to look promising for the central mountains of Colorado.  We both have Loveland passes which include days at Monarch, one of our favorite small (by Colorado standards) ski area.

We drove roughly three hours south to an area just North of I-70, an area known as the San Rafael Swell.  This collection of wilderness study areas is free to recreate in and promises solitude, it is BLM land after all.  Arriving after dark, we couldn’t see our surroundings but we knew that we picked a nice secluded spot for some camping, hiking, and we had cell service *gasp* so we were able to keep an eye on the weather to help us make an educated decision regarding our goals which were originally to ski/ride some powder.

After a cold (fucking cold) night, we packed our gear for a day-hike.  Our man Joel (www.opensnow.com) was calling for high amounts of snow, now with high confidence for the central mountains, numbers in the double digits made our decision easy; we were imageheaded back to Colorado (after a nice hike).  We did a small loop into the canyons in the area, hiking in on a trail with terrible signage (24k scale topos are a must in this area for easy navigation) and hiking out off-trail across the mesa tops.

We spent the rest of the day packing our things, and driving back to the front range.  With our sights set on Monarch, we are feeling positive.  Hotel room is booked and the forecast is looking very promising – with the possibility of over 30 inches of snow in the next three days.  The adventure continues – until next time friends!