Very simple – Strava just (not sure how recently) added an ‘export GPX’ feature. Even people using the free Strava account (like myself) can utilize this feature. You then open Google Earth, and open your exported GPX file and boom – there is your ride/run depicted in 3D.
I often think about how ‘productive’ I am being when I have down-time from work. After finishing up my freelance gig with The Tennis Channel, I am back to searching for the next work
opportunity. Productivity shouldn’t only be measured in dollars. I’m talking about physical training opportunities, running, hiking, biking, etc. I should relish the time off from work that I have because it allows me to pursue the things I love and affords me the ability to push my body and stay in shape for the next ‘big adventure’.
With all this in mind, I managed to get out for a couple runs including a half marathon distance this past week. My left ankle (previously sprained at Burning Man) didn’t appreciate this distance very much. I don’t want to stop running but I think I will stick to less then 10 miles runs to keep the impact down and give my body time to heal itself. I am trying to help it along with LOTS of hydration and using compression after strenuous activity to help recovery. To keep the intensity up and reduce impact, I turned to biking this weekend with a nice long ride in Topanga State Park.
Since I have been in LA it seemed like I had to drive a significant distance to find good riding or trail running. This Sunday was a great instance of discovery as I learned that access to Topanga State Park is only a 15 minute drive from my house. I accessed the great trail system from the 405 highway at Mulholland drive. Parking is at San Vincent Mountain Park near the Skirball Cultural Center. From this location you can ride some serious distance on a mix of fire roads and single track.
I intended to do about 20 miles and ended up grinding out just over 30…on the single speed. While my bike choice wasn’t great, the terrain offered amazing climbing opportunities. I was able to do a loop instead of an out-and-back and managed just shy of 5,700 feet of climbing. It’s funny how I feel like the mountains here don’t even begin to compare to Colorado – true but the climbing exists. This ride offered views of the Pacific ocean with some blazing descents.
My friend Jason is one of my more regular partners when it comes to adventure. We do our best to get out regularly and motivate each other to stay active. It might seem silly for two people who live in Colorado to need motivation to get out but we all need it now and then.
Jason called me up this past weekend to reminded me that his kids were in day care on Mondays and to see if I had any plans yet. I jumped at the opportunity to get out for a couple of reasons. I have been sick this past week and have scaled back my physical activity significantly in an effort to recover and be healthy for the climbing road trip I am about to take. I was excited to get outside and enjoy some physical activity. I also have my new pack from Gregory, the Z55 which I have been eager to load and test out on a real hike. I told Jason I was in and we discussed our options in Rocky Mountain National Park.
We would be headed to the Longs Peak trail head which is off the Peak to Peak highway, a couple miles South of Estes Park. This is one of my favorite park access points (free…). Jason and I agreed to meet at the parking lot no later then nine o’clock to get started.
My drive to the trail head from Fort Collins was uneventful although I got to see a lot of flood damage on highway 34 that I had not previously seen. Houses hanging off of slopes that had been partially washed away and metal pipes wrapped around trees like pieces of ribbon were a few of the highlights. The construction crews are still busy at work, repairing pull-offs, adjusting the riverbed, and cleaning up debris.
I breezed through Estes park, buying a crappy cup of coffee at one of the local gas stations before heading South to the trail head.
When I pulled in, Jason was practically ready to go. I rolled out of my car looking like I had just woken up. I apologized for not having any of my gear ready to go. It took me about 30 minutes to get organized, change clothes, and drink a few sips of water. We decided to don snowshoes (uhggg) and got on the trail a little before ten.
Following the trail towards Granite Pass would give us the option to hike Mt. Lady Washington, Storm Peak, or the Keyhole (on Long’s Peak). We didn’t want to set a specific goal until we got up above treeline and could assess the conditions and make an educated decision. We meandered through the trees, taking our time and enjoying the fresh air. After what seemed like a long time (we both remembered it being shorter) we ascended a small snow slope and broke out of the trees. The views of Meeker and Longs were commanding.
Snow swirled in wintery dust devils high on the North face of Long’s. The alpine intensity of the sun beamed down on us like a laser and I was thankful to have my goggles. We picked a point up the valley and began the slow walk up hill. This is when I realized that my energy reserves are still quite low from being sick (or maybe it was the altitude…or both). Either way I felt like I was moving at a snails pace and I mentioned this to Jason to his amusement. He said it made him feel great to see me moving slow for once.
After what seemed like 45 minutes we had made it about half way up the rocky slopes between us and the summit of Granite pass. We decided that just making it to the pass would be enough of an accomplishment for both of us. Even though our objective was in sight, things began to get a bit more challenging as waves of wind blasted us with spindrift from the slopes above. In addition to our outdoor pursuits, both of us worked on a 14er as Interpretive Rangers. Jason and I have had plenty of exposure to high terrain and the wind that seems to persist there. Today however was a bit more extreme. Individual gusts began hitting us and we estimated them in the vicinity of 60 miles per hour. We watched as these waves of energy descended the slopes above us, excavating and launching pieces of wind-crusted snow high into the air. It was spectacular.
We continued upwards, stopping occasionally to steady ourselves with trekking poles, orienting our bodies to combat the powerful wind. We were both almost blown over multiple times before we reached the summit some time around three o’clock. On the saddle that is Granite pass the wind was less gusty and much more consistently insane, prompting me to find a large rock for shelter. I shuffled over to make room for J as he sat down beside me, a look of satisfaction on his face. We drank some water and decided that with how slow we were moving and how late in the day it was already, we better bust a move and start heading down. We decided to make a little circuit and head down a different way then we originally came up. A pleasantly angled ridge appeared to lead right back to our descent route. We put our packs back on and began hiking again.
Often times in an alpine environment or any outdoor environment for that matter, our perception of the environment can be skewed. Ill use our descent route as an example. This benign looking ridge, with it’s few rock outcroppings and snow-free crest appeared to be a great choice. After walking with snowshoes on for the better part of the day we were thrilled to have a nice tundra walk sans awkward foot attachments. The reality of the situation was that, yes – the walking was pleasant. Something that was difficult to judge however was the severity of the wind that we were about to experience. Because there was no snow present on this ridge, it was difficult to SEE the wind. As we worked our way down, the wind steadily increased. By the time we were within a hundred yards of the rock outcroppings we had seen from afar, the wind seemed that of a tropical storm…no correction, of an arctic storm. The icy blast increased as we approached the rock tower to a point at which I’m pretty sure we were being blasted in excess of 80 miles an hour. The rocky tower was big enough and positioned perfectly to deflect the wind raging up the ridge and channel it around both sides to a focal point. I stood in this location, facing the blast, leaning forwards, held at roughly a 40 degree angle by the tempest.
I had my fun for a few moments before seeking shelter once again. In the lee of the rock I was able to comfortably sit down and watch Jason approach. Watching him stumble his way across the tundra, almost being knocked on his ass brought me to the point of hysterical laughter. Once he arrived safely we both ate some more food and drank. We discussed the next obstacle, a saddle roughly 100 yards wide that we needed to cross to continue our descent. It was the low point of the ridge and a frigid cloud of spindrift scouring this exposed area made it apparent that the wind at this location might be even more intense then what we had just experienced.
As we began our trek forward our predictions proved correct. This intensity of the wind was almost enough to suck the breath right out of our lungs and we staggered across the low spot on the ridge. Spindrift pelted the few millimeters of exposed skin on our faces, making us feel as if we were being sand-blasted. Speaking to each other was pointless, we couldn’t hear a thing. As we stumbled through the invisible force that attempted to prevent our travel we managed to cross the saddle only to arrive on an exposed high point. We crouched for a moment and quickly decided to continue. After rounding this small summit we almost let out a shout of joy as we dove into some haggard looking Limber Pine. Shelter is a wonderful thing.
Our descent became much more tolerable as we wound through this dwarf forest of Pines in a place which was clearly demonstrated to us as one of the most extreme environments where life can carve out a foothold. We remarked at how pleasant the now 40 mile per hour wind was as we crossed our old footprints and regained the trail down into the Spruce/Fir forest. We walked with a spring in our step, enjoying the downhill grade and the shelter we could finally enjoy.
Just before getting to the trail head we ran into a group of four young hikers who asked if we had seen their friend. They had gotten split up as he short-cutted the switch backs while they stuck to the trail. Separated, they wrote a note in the snow for him and decided to head back to their truck. We eluded to the extreme nature of the weather up high and wished them luck in finding their friend.
Getting back to the car always creates mixed feelings. On the one hand there is relief. The safety the vehicle seems to provide reassures us that we have ‘made it out alive’ and that we are going to be ‘ok’. At the same time, reaching the car signifies the end of our adventure. We recall our hours of exposure up high in the alpine, where we can only rely on each other and our previous experiences to keep us safe. It is in those moments that we smile and know that we will go back at some point, a reassurance that the adventure is not over, we’re just taking a little break so we can rest, refuel, and do it again next week.
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?