Zen On Dirt


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Playing, not training

 

Once I gave up on racing the Ouray 100, my life became much happier.

Gone was the countdown to race day. Gone was the feeling that I had to run a certain number of miles a week, or to do a certain amount of vertical, or try to spend as much time up high as I could so that I could prod my body into building red blood cells, or try to figure out how to run downhill with some semblance of efficiency. Seriously. I feel like a dying moose when going downhill.

It felt like I’d freed myself from some self-imposed prison of training.

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Honey Badger don’t give a shit

Now, you might be thinking that I’m a little bit crazy for getting so worked up over “training” for a race. And you’re probably a little bit right.

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Momma Osprey don’t care either

But I have a complex relationship with training and racing. I raced my bike for a lot of years with absolutely zero structure, and I got pretty darn fast at it. At least fast enough to hold my own in the budding world of 100-mile racing and bikepacking.

But then I wanted to get faster. I wanted to be “pro” (whatever that means for women ultra-endurance racers, who are pretty much the bottom of the barrel as far as sponsorship consideration went at the time). So I worked with a coach, I did all sorts of crazy things with my diet, and I got even faster. I won some cool races. Set some records that I’m pretty proud of.

And after a few years, I got injured, my body gave up and landed me real sick-like, and I lost my desire to train and race and to a point, even to ride bikes.

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Ptarmigan definitely doesn’t care.

When I picked up running, I swore that I wasn’t going to race, because I didn’t want to go down the road of becoming a racer again. Been there, done that. I wanted to keep running as anxiety-free as I could. I never wanted to lose the joy of the activity.

But then racing opportunities arose, so I took them, and had fun, and then found myself heading down the road, mentally, that I didn’t want to.

And with my incredibly high level of maturity, instead of working on self-improvement and repairing my relationship with competition, I just decided that I didn’t want to deal with it at all.

So I made the bold declaration that Ouray 100 was out, stopped thinking about training, and started thinking about playing instead.

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Luckily, I managed to hook up with Meghan for a long run in the high peaks while she worked on building red blood cells for a big line run later this summer. This woman carries more joy for being up high than most, and she’ll hike/run as fast as possible, even if it means that she ends up doubled over her poles gasping for breath at high altitudes.

It was pretty funny to watch. I may have laughed a little bit. Not that I was doing any better.

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We talked a lot about Nolan’s 14, a line through the mountains that has been a niggling obsession of mine for quite a few years now. Meghan finished the 60-hour challenge last summer, so there may have been a bit of fan-girl behavior from me. ‘What was it like? What was the crux? How much faster do you think you could go?’

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I must not have embarrassed myself too badly that day, either with my fan-girl-dom or my downhill running skills (seriously, I am baffled at how people move so fleet-footed-like down hill), because when I suggested an equally long day over La Plata Peak and back to the Twin Lakes valley via Hope Pass, Meghan was in.

Well, she was in on one condition: that we could get ice cream at the Twin Lakes store when we were done.

Deal.

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With a questionable weather forecast and knowing that we had a second high pass to get over before the storms hit, we left early. Early is rough.

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We ended up on a 14’er summit with 17 women! No dudes. I’m all about rad women doing rad things in the mountains, and hanging out up high with all these women made me real happy.

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We dropped off the backside of La Plata, took a few delightful miles of CDT over to Hope Pass, and proceeded to slog our way up it. I still can’t believe that I hauled a bike up that trail during our CDT bike trip. It’s steep!

I was much tougher back then.

Or maybe just more motivated.

Nah. If I had a good reason, I’d do it again.

We finished the day with ice cream sandwiches and stoop sitting at the Twin Lakes store where Hikertrash from both the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail congregate and get resupplies. A beer offered by a thru-hiker led to a long afternoon of lounging, chatting, and burger eating. Pretty much the perfect way to spend a lovely day in the mountains, if you ask me.

Somewhere in between those two runs, Scott and I went out for a ‘Start high, stay high’ outing starting at Indy Pass. When you get to start 12k+ feet, you don’t have to put a lot of effort into gaining elevation, which is great for lazy people like us.

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Our goal was Independence Mountain, a 12k peak that receives so little attention, there isn’t even a SummitPost.com page for it.

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Probably for good reason. We got turned around by a ridge made up of rock so loose that it felt like it would collapse under our weight.

No worries. Turn back and follow the goats to higher pastures.

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We found a huge herd of them up on a hill side. Lots of babies. Lots of big males.

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They are such amazing animals.

Not wanting to disturb them, we opted our exit via a big snowfield. Scott hates traveling on snow. I think his discomfort is hilarious.

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It’s one of the few surfaces that I can actually move faster that he can. I’m all about the glissade/ski combo. Scott is about the controlled descent. I just sat at the bottom and laughed (to myself).

To add icing to an already delicious cake of a week, Colleen and Montana showed up in the Shark on their way home to PA, Colleen fresh off of finishing Tour Divide on a single speed. We’d been following the adventures of the Shark for a while, it was great to finally get to see it in person.

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Want to talk about bad-ass women? Right there. There’s one.

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Their purchase of the Shark a few years back as their full-time residence was definitely inspiration for the Scamp. The whole ‘you don’t need a lot, and you definitely don’t need a Sprinter van, to be happy and go on adventures’ approach to life.

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Do a lot with a little. Be stoked. Tell good stories. Drink too much whisky. These are my type of people.

There was a lot of joy in the week. Good people. Good runs. Good rides. Good camping neighbors. And absolutely zero worry about racing.

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And then the thought occurred to me: I wouldn’t know any of these people if it wasn’t for racing, on foot or bikepacking or whatever the drunken debauchery that single-speed events are. There’s something to be said for events that bring like-minded people together and give them the opportunity to interact.

And that thought made me pause. I still had no intention of training or thinking about training, but maybe racing itself wasn’t entirely as evil as I had it out to be in my head.


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Scrambling: Owning my amazing

I started writing a blog post about a week ago about scrambling the second Flatiron in Boulder and doing Peaks 1 – 5 on the 10-mile Range Traverse, two scrambly adventures that I was pretty stinkin’ proud of.

But I really didn’t like the post. The general gist of it was along the lines of ‘I want to push my limits and build skills in the mountains, and I got real scared both of these days, but I was also real brave, took deep breaths, and overcame, or at least semi-controlled the fear.

But I felt sort of dumb tooting my own horn about these two adventures.

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I was so proud of myself for doing it, but at the same time, people do laps up the second Flatiron every day. They scramble up far harder routes on the massive blocks overlooking Boulder.

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Inching my way up the 2nd, following the lead of The Long Ranger (check out his Highest Hundred Project that is starting in three days, seriously. Click. Do it!) maybe wasn’t that momentous of an occasion.

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The night before, my little climber brother had told me, ‘The 2nd? Oh, you can walk up that one.’ That, I learned, is a false statement.

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And the Ten-Mile Traverse was really scary to me, but people do it all the time. And they probably do it without having to straddle the kniferidges and scoot along.

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I-70 is waaaaay down there!

I’m not really doing anything that cool, I moped.

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Before the gnar. Lake Dillon in the background.

I seriously did. There was moping around a blog post. Somehow, I’d gotten sucked into the hole of ‘Since people are doing way harder stuff that this, me pushing past my fears really isn’t all that impressive or important’.

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Which is a load of horse shit.

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The Dragon. Hey Trish, what sound does a dragon make?

Every time I talk to someone about bikepacking and they say something along the lines of ‘Oh, my trip wasn’t anything compared to what you’ve done in the past’ I just want to slap them upside the head.

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Of course your trip was amazing. Own that amazingness. Embrace it! And for goodness sake, let’s all stop comparing ourselves to each other. We all get to be amazing in our own special way.

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Peak 4! We’re alive! Scott’s hair gets to be amazing.

And we all get to be beginners and fumble around and be scared and learn new things. In fact, we should all try to be beginners more often, because a beginner’s mind is the best mind.

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Own that summit register.

So anyhow. Scott and I followed Justin Spumoni up the 2nd Flatiron, and two days later, we did Peaks 1 – 5 on the 10-Mile Traverse with Trish, which are the scrambly bits of the traverse. None of us wanted to turn it into a death march to finish the final five peaks, so we went down the Colorado Trail once the exciting bits were over.

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And for someone who historically is terrified of heights and exposure, to the point of paralysis, I’m really proud. And I’m going to own that proud.

And I’m going to go scrambling again. Because it was rad, and I love learning how to do something new. Even if it scares the shit out of me.

And an extra huge thanks to Justin and Trish for putting up with our beginner-ness, showing us the way through and over the rocks, and being part of two incredibly memorable days.


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A Week with a Hound Dog

I was pretty bummed to have to go back to the Front Range for dog sitting after only a week back in the Scamp (after three weeks of house living in Boulder). I grumbled a good bit about it and actually had a piss-poor attitude about it for a while. Given that the week in Salida hadn’t exactly put me in a great mental space didn’t really help my mood.

My parents knew that they were going to travel for another week and had booked an intensive week of dog-training for Sparkles with a local trainer. And I think that, on some level, no one actually expected Huck to still be alive.

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He’s a 14+ year old hound, and when I arrived for the three weeks of dog sitting earlier in the month, he was recovering from a second inner ear infection that left him stumbling around like a drunken sailor with a crooked head and minimal bowel and bladder control. He’d recovered from a similar ear infection a year ago, but at his age…I figured my job was to keep him as comfortable as possible.

But lo and behold, over the three weeks that we were there, he continued to improve. He made motions at wanting to chase deer, still lunged at any cyclist, and would try to do downward dogs with his rickety old joints whenever the leashes came out for walks.

Huckleberry Hound Dog. Back from staring death in the face once again.

But that did leave my parents in a bit of a pickle, in that they needed someone to take care of him while they were traveling.

I guess I should consider myself lucky that I have the flexibility to help. And I do. I was just grumpy at the idea of having to leave the Scamp in Salida and go back to house living after such a short time of being “back home” in the Scamp.

But you want to know something? Hanging out with Huck for a week was actually exactly what I needed in my life. We took him up to Winter Park to avoid the heat and proceeded to enjoy mountain living to the fullest.

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A week of chill where we could go through some of the spare bikes/bike parts that we had up there. I changed out two old t-shirts for new ones. Swapped my light down jacket for my synthetic one. It was like I got a whole new wardrobe!

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A week of enjoying small walks down to the creek so that Huck could drink from flowing water, one of his favorite things in the world.

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Huck much appreciated being let out every few hours, so we didn’t really even think about trying to do anything ‘epic’. Instead, we played around on the backyard trails, keeping rides under two hours and runs at 45 minutes.

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We did a short-ish hike around Berthoud Pass, skirting the large amounts of snow still clinging to the high cirques.

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There was no agenda. No real goals. Just wandering. I thought a lot about backcountry skiing.

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And a little bit of running downhill back to the car to escape the impending storm.

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At the time I didn’t realize how badly I needed a week of chill. I didn’t realize it a week later, and I didn’t realize it a week after that either.

But sitting here, catching up on this blog, two+ weeks tardy, back to being motivated for movement in the mountains (and trying real hard not to be stupid about it), waking up not exhausted, and feeling the stoke of adventure again, I realize how badly I needed to back off from “making the most of summer” for a little bit.

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Pulled pork sandwich from Lewis’ Sweet Shop in Empire for the Ol’ Hound Dog. 

When we gave Huck back to my parent after their trip, he was fatter, more agile, and far more willing to walk on hardwood floors that he was before they left.

With hindsight, I wish I could have been a bit more appreciative of the week of rest that Huck forced. But if we always had hindsight for present situations, then we’d never have those life learning experiences, now would we?

So here’s to continuing to finding the silver lining in any situation, and trying to find it sooner than two weeks after it.


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Broken Motivators in the Ark Valley

 

“This shouldn’t be this hard.”

Scott had sat down on the side of the Colorado Trail, bike laying in the trail, at the top of a descent, a descent that was a well-known hike-a-bike in the other direction, one that we’d have to do on our way home. We were headed over to the Mt Shavano trailhead as part of a bike-to-the-hike adventure and were getting worked.

“Maybe once we get on foot, things will get better,” I’d said encouragingly.

But I knew that I also wasn’t firing on all cylinders, physically or mentally. We’d been in the Salida area for a week between dog sitting duties and had tried to approach the week as if it were our last of the summer. Three weeks in Boulder had greatly increased my yearning for high mountains, and the moment the Scamp set wheels in the Arkansas Valley, I’d hit the ground running.

And I was paying for it.

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You see, I signed up for the Ouray 100 earlier this year. It’s a cool event, and I always seem to think, when presented with an opportunity, that I should say ‘yes’ to events, because it will provide motivation to get in shape. Or something.

But (hindsight 20/20), all it really does is mess with my head.

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Once I realized that race-day was two months away, I started a mini-panic. I’d looked at the calendar. I’d mapped out 4-week training blocks – three weeks of building mileage and elevation, a week of recovery. Repeat. Taper. I started worrying about acclimatizing to high elevations, planning camping spots for the rest of the summer based on how high they were.

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Our week in Salida was the third week in a “training cycle.” I’d done two big (for me) weeks in Boulder, and the moment we set the Scamp up, I headed up Mt Antero, the nearest 14er from our camp.

It was a slog. As our friend Denny once described a ride as “There was pedaling, but there was no joy”, this was definitely a “There was hiking and moments of jogging, but there was no joy.” All I wanted to do was up my weekly mileage, up the weekly elevation gain, build some red blood cells.

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Luckily, any time at the top of big peaks is quality time in life, but the enthusiasm with which I normally approach big peaks with just wasn’t’ there.

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I blamed it on the altitude. I blamed it on the stress of taking care of one sick dog and one crazy dog for three weeks. I blamed it on Boulder.

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I blamed it on everything except for the fact that maybe my psyche has officially exited the realm of ‘racer’ and the conscious or even sub-conscious thought of training for something wrecks my head.

So I kept going. More elevation. More miles. Scott at least had the brilliance to find some off the beaten path runs from camp. The exploration made me happy. Nothing is more satisfying to me than coloring in areas of my mental map of an area.

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After a few miles of questionable deer trails, we found ourselves back on the CT. It was definitely cause for celebration.

I was still finding myself looking at the big mountains that towered over us with a mixture of dread and indifference. I simply didn’t want to put in the effort to hike mountains I’d already been up, and there was still too much snow to really access anything too deep in the hills.

So we went across the river to Browns Creek Wilderness Study area for a little on-trail, off-trail adventure.

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The off-trail was the highlight, connecting two dead-end trails that the kiosk at the trailhead had explicitly said not to try to connect due to rocks, cliffs, and steep slopes.

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It really wasn’t that bad. When I don’t get scared scrambling, it’s not bad.

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The week was progressing, but not how I had hoped. My visions of big peak after big peak, 20,000 feet of elevation, you’ve got this, let’s aim for 60 miles this week, very simply wasn’t adding up. There was some level of distress. I’m never going to be ready for Ouray. 

Luckily, our friends Dan and Elaine timed their CDT hike just perfectly to snap me out of my pity party. They’d just come through the San Juans, on skis. With too high of a snowpack to hike, most hikers had chosen to do the classic CDT flip-flop of going up to hike the Great Basin in WY. But Dan and Elaine had decided to put their backcountry ski skills to good use, employ a bit of creativity, and ski through the imposing mountain range.

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We took them out to breakfast at Patio Pancake in Salida in exchange for their stories from the trail. These two inspire me with their willingness to do things differently. After taking them back up to the trail, we told them that if they made it to Raspberry Gulch, they should detour off the trail to our camp and have dinner with us.

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They ended up making it, and we had an amazing evening eating cheesy potatoes and swapping stories. They definitely lifted my spirits. People doing cool shit. I need more of that in my life.

With only two more days before we had to head back to Boulder, we rallied for a lap of Shavano via a bike approach. The approach had 2,000 feet of elevation gain on a combination of good dirt road, forgotten dirt roads reclaimed by mountain bikers and skiers, and the Colorado Trail. We struggled mightily.

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A three-toed woodpecker guarding her nest in the tree. The baby birds created quite a commotion. 

But we continued to slog, leaving the bikes hidden in the woods at the base of the trail and starting to walk.

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The whole way up, I kept up mantras along the lines of ‘The only way to adapt to elevation is to slog it out up here’ and ‘You’ll be glad you did this later in the summer when it’s easier to move when this high.’

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But the joy. The joy of movement very simply wasn’t there. I was tired.

I was tired of thinking about my adventures in terms of miles and elevation. I was tired of being mad at my body for being tired. I was tired of feeling guilty for not doing big days when all I wanted to do was sit by the river and read a book. I hated the fact that I’d gone and looked at a calendar and mapped out an approximate training plan. I hated the fact that my shins hadn’t felt 100% for a while, yet I continued to baby them along.

I hated the idea of doing anything in the mountains for any other reason besides that I wanted to.

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I’ve been an ‘athlete’ for much of my life. I’ve done the training. The focus. The commitment. The striving to be the best.

And I’ve walked away from it.

Yet somehow I keep, through no fault of anyone but myself, getting pulled back in.

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The downhill was heaps of fun. Both Scott and I have, on some level, figured out how to run downhill without wrecking our legs. And the ride back, even with the two hike-a-bikes, was a hoot. 2,000 feet of down is definitely more fun than 2,000 feet of up.

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We were wrecked the next day. Our last day in the Ark Valley for the next week and we did next to nothing. And at first, I felt guilty.

And then I came to my senses.

I, very simply, am not  racer anymore. And I need to stop pretending that the desire to train will someday come back, because after four years, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that it won’t.

I need to stop pretending because it freakin’ stresses me out trying to be something that I’m not. I’m a Type B personality hanging out in a Scamp who wants to see new places and go on cool, creative adventures with friends. And I don’t give a shit about how many miles I’ve run in a week.

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And for the Ouray? We may spend the next month gallivanting around Colorado, and on August 2nd, I’ll decide that I want to tackle 100 miles through the San Juans after all. Or maybe I won’t.

But right now, I just want to play. Play without the worry of a big, looming, and scary goal.

So that’s what I’m going to do.


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Three weeks in the Republic of Boulder

Generally, anyone who has hung out with me for any appreciable length of time will learn that I’m not the hugest of huge fan of Boulder these days. I grew up in the Peoples’ Republic, and I think it’s just one of those cases of ‘You can never go home again.’

It’s changed. I’ve changed. No matter. I’ll always come back to visit family, even if it’s accompanied by what even I might admit is an excessive amount of whining.

But I was faced with three weeks in the Boulder Bubble to watch my parents’ two dogs.

Sparkles. Who is crazy.

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And Huckleberry Hound, who was once again trying to be the 14 year old hound who was attempting to recover from another middle ear infection that left him stumbling around like a drunk sailor. I knew the drill. I just had to keep him eating and hope real hard that he recovered as the ear infection subsided.

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So my charges were one crazy dog who I was hoping to get to some level of trained before my parents got back, and a sick dog who may or may not make it until my parents got back.

But hey, let’s make the best of any situation.

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Sparkles would.

Luckily, we were pretty tired getting to Boulder so taking a few days to binge watch Better Call Saul seemed like a pretty good use of time. Plus, the dogs needed walking, the dogs needed ear scratches, work needed to be done, blogs had to be caught up on. But eventually, the itch to do stuff descended again.

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Mt Sanitas is right behind my parents’ house and is a lovely 3.8 mile jog/hike to its summit and back. I would end up tagging the summit of this little mountain nine times during our stay in Boulder. It’s just so easy.

Luckily, we have friends who can get us out on days that require a little more motivation than putting on shoes and running from the door.

Jill and Beat wanted to do a long run at Golden Gate State Park one day. We wandered around much of the Dirty 30 race course and put in a solid 17 miles, which is a lot farther than I’ve gone in a while. Jill and Beat went on to do another seven. Just because.

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I saw on Instagram that Danielle happened to be in Boulder for a long weekend over Memorial Day, up from sweltering PHX. I immediately coerced her into a run.

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Somehow, we thought that all runners would be at the Bolder Boulder running race, which is one of the biggest 10k road races in the country, held on Memorial Day morning, and that Chautaqua would be somewhat empty.

You’d think that with our combined knowledge of Boulder, we’d know better.

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Even with lots of people on the trails, it was still worth the trip up to Royal Arch. It’s a classic, and the people watching is priceless.

Neven and I headed out for an afternoon lap of Sanitas one lovely day. Friends were definitely making the time pass, we were a week in!

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At some point in time, Jill had proposed a Boulder skyline traverse. The classic route hits Sanitas, Flagstaff, Green, Bear, and South Boulder Peak, the five major peaks that tower over town. Not being a runner when I actually lived in Boulder, I had never run most of the trails that connected the peaks. I’d never run Flag, I’d never been up South Boulder, I’d never done the west ridge of Bear. And there was a new trail off of Sanitas that I hadn’t done either. So I was in for a day of new. Which was awesome.

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After a bit of a car snafu when trying to meet in the morning, in that my parents’ car wouldn’t start and Scott was in Taos with the van, we started up Sanitas and shared the summit with 15 of our very closest friends. That mountain makes me laugh. I love it.

We made short work of the new-to-me descent, took the Red Rocks trails over to Eben G Fine park, got some water, cruised to the top of Flagstaff, got rained on a bit up to Green, and then actually got to do some running on the way over to Bear, picking up more water that Jill had cached near the trail that morning.

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I love the top of Bear Peak. I skied off it once (not the rocks, but once it turns to dirt), it was silly. We knew that weather was coming in from the west, so we made short work of the descent and the climb up to South Boulder Peak.

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Those storms? Yeah, they hit us just as we hit the trees of Shadow Canyon. As it turns out the red smooth rocks on that descent are pretty slippery. The rest were okay. The roots were terrifying. Thunder boomed all around. Talk about timing!

By the time we got down into the open fields of the foothills, the rain had stopped, the sun came out, and puddles became a joy to splash through as we made our way towards our meeting point with Beat.

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While running the whole thing as a loop would have been sexy, after 22 miles I was pretty done and was stoked when Beat showed up with snacks and Jill gave me a ride back home. That routes been on my bucket list for a while, it was a lot less suffery that I thought it would be.

At some point in time, Scott did a podcast with Like a Bigfoot, that is produced by his “kinda cousin” or “step-second-cousin”. Chris just moved to the Front Range from Virginia and we were able to line up a Sunday afternoon run on Table Mountain. We all roasted in the heat, but it was neat to see something that I’d always driven by but never had stopped to check out.

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Coors Brewery in all its glory. Yuck. 

Jill and Beat invited us to join them on a running commute to their home at the top of Flagstaff taking an off-trail route off of South Boulder Peak. Of course, this route would also tag Green Mt and Bear Peak on the way over to S Boulder. Beat was very concerned about getting stuck in the dark the whole time. We assured him that we had headlamps while we dorked around at the top of Green.

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The traverse over to Bear didn’t take too long. The flowers were amazing. Scott and I wasted some time looking for a woodpecker who was going to town on the dead trees around the trail.

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Me being me, and since Scott had never seen the top of Bear Peak, I insisted that we had to go around the corner and scramble up to the actual top of the peak. Taskmaster made sure that we didn’t spend too much time admiring the view.

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We hustled off the top of South Boulder onto the boulder field that Beat insisted led straight to his house. It was slow going, but maybe faster going that trying to bash through dead fall.

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Don’t worry honey, it’s a shortcut!

We ended up getting rained on, but we did make it to their front door before it got too dark to see. I’d say we timed it all pretty much perfectly, and it ended up being a fun little adventure.

Finally, my parents were coming home from their trip to Peru. Huckleberry Hound was not only alive, but doing well, getting excited for walks, trying to spin around in circles like his little sister, barking to seem tough, trying to chase bicycles, and posturing at wanting to chase deer.

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And for Sparkles? She learned how to walk on a loose leash, sit and wait for dogs to pass without losing her shit (most of the time), and would sit and ignore squirrels and birds if the treats were good enough. No food in the world was better than trying to chase deer though…

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All in all, a successful trip to Boulder. We ran a lot. We finished re-watching Breaking Bad and caught up on Better Call Saul. I got to see a lot of old friends. And the dogs were pretty stinkin’ awesome, even if they take a lot of work and attention.

But best of all, I got to make new memories of Boulder. I wouldn’t want to hang out there all of the time, but as far as places to go to watch dogs, Boulder ain’t half bad.


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The Final Moab Countdown

We had two more days in Moab before we had to hitch the little Scamp up and head to Boulder to watch some doggies.

I was tres, tres, tres sad.

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I really love Moab. To the point that recently, whenever we play the ‘Gun to your head, you have to choose once place to live year-round, where would it be’ game, I tend to choose Moab. And that’s saying a lot, because I love a lot of other places.

There was added sadness because I knew that the Moab good weather window was closing, and that we probably wouldn’t be back until the fall.

And I still had so much I wanted to do!

I guess these are good life problems to have.

But finally, it was time to run the energy rope out as far as possible knowing that we faced a day of driving and three weeks in Boulder, where I’m generally more apt to rest and binge on Netflix. So the fact that I woke up solidly tired on Saturday and had two different activities planned didn’t really phase me.

Mel and I had been trying to hook up for a run for the better part of three weeks, so when we finally found a time window that worked for both of us, we jumped at it. I let her do the leading, because when in a place like Moab with endless wrinkles in the skin of the earth, there are lots of neat connections to be made, and locals known best.

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The funny thing is, Mel is actually a runner, versus me who is really more of a faux runner, and when we actually ran, I struggled something fierce to keep up. I kept telling myself that it was good training for life, or something.

But two things worked in my favor. Mel is pretty dismal at knowing where she’s going, which means we got to pause a lot and think about where we needed to go next, and she’s pretty into the adventure aspect of a run too, which means that running is punctuated by, umm, more technical moments.

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I was pretty amused when we got to the top of a slot and she asked me, ‘How are you with chimney-ing?’

‘I’ve never done it before?’

‘Hmmm. That might have been something to ask you before I took you this way.’

But, I was brave, and I shimmied myself down this tiny little crack without crying. I may have mewed once or twice. Scary…but awesome. I need more of this in my life.

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We went to go see some more petroglyphs, these pockmarked with shotgun holes.

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We paid a visit to giant holes in slickrock, 20 to 30 feet deep, most of them filled with water from the last storm that rolled through. Some even had little shrimpies swimming around in them.

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After one final wrong turn, we were headed back. What I had planned on to be a sub two-hour run ended up the better part of four. And every minute of it was awesome. Even the parts where I had to run.

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Meanwhile, Elliot and Katie were driving up from Tucson for the weekend. I was banking on the fact that they’d forget that Utah and Arizona are in different time zones in the summer and would show up an hour later than they had planned. It was good that they did, because I definitely wasn’t running ahead of schedule to get back to camp to meet them.

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I picked Scott up from his morning shuttle-ish ride on my way back up, and after shoving our faces full of food, we were ready to ride again, opting for a cruise from camp on a Navajo Rocks to Horsethief loop. Which if course, took longer than either Scott or I had expected.

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But we made it back before dark (barely) and Katie made the mistake of commenting on how there was no hike-a-bike on that ride. Bad move!

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Scott and I had ulterior motives for wanting to ride Barney Rubble and Hidden Canyon the next day. Sure, the riding is great and all, but more than anything, we wanted to try to scope out the route that we had missed from the Snake a few days earlier where we’d gotten cliffed out and couldn’t figure our way down. The hope was that we’d see the route better from the bottom.

It didn’t really work out for us, but it provided the motivation to get our bikes up the heinous hike-a-bike. DSC07936_resize

We were more than happy to be pedaling once we got into the actual valley. Pedaling > pushing. I’d heard rumors of big panels of petroglyphs in the area, but wasn’t entirely sure where to look. Luckily, we ran into a pair of hikers who Scott knew from somewhere, and they were on their way to check them out. We ditched our bikes and hiked up to the cliff face with them.

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There were several major panels, and then lots of little big horn sheep and figures dispersed between them. It was definitely worth the detour.

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I’ve run this route several times, but never taken a bike on it. Mostly because the hike-a-bike is one of the worst ever.  But I have to say, once up on the plateau, it is more fun to ride it than run it. That being said, I highly doubt that my times riding it will ever outnumber my times running it. That hike-a-bike…is a a big admission fee.

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The downhill was definitely more fun on a bike. Coasting is pretty rad, even if it is with your weight far back and both brakes on hard.

I’m not sure which was the prominent emotion when we finally hit pavement – relief or sadness. It was our last ride in Moab for the spring!

But damn, it was a good one.

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We finished off our time in Moab in fine fashion. Milkshakes at Milts. A giant double rainbow over the Scamp. Cocktails with friends.

Moab is a special, special place. I’ll dream about it until we get to go back. But until then…high mountains and cool temperatures.


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A Month in Moab

We spent just about a month in Moab this spring. Compared to the six weeks that we spent last spring, a mere four weeks seemed far too short. But what a four weeks it was!

The most interesting part of it was the simple contentedness that I felt while being there. I’d arrived on a pair of legs that could best be described as ‘trashed’ from a week-long running binge in the Grand Canyon, and three days on the Kokopelli didn’t help, and really, we didn’t exactly just sit around during Girls’ Trip to the Desert and drink cocktails…there was a lot of riding too!

Last spring, there was the intense desire to make the absolute most of our Moab time. We ran ourselves into the ground, on days that we were too tired to do anything, we felt almost a guilt for wasting a Moab day.

This time around, there were many days where we were simply happy to lounge in the desert, maybe go for a short ride around a mellow trail system if the motivation was there. But the desperation to cram in as much as possible wasn’t there, at least not until the end.

I think it’s a side effect of #Scamplife. If we follow good weather and always try to park in places with amazing things to do, we simply have to have the self-control to pick and choose our energy expenditures. We have to recognize what our bodies can do, when we’re too tired to really enjoy what we’re doing, and to embrace simply being in a beautiful place on the days where we sit around the Scamp working, reading, or puttering.

That’s not to say that we didn’t get in heaps of adventuring. We started out conservative, and when we had a final departure date set, we ran out the energy rope as far as we dared.

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Alexis and Denny stayed for an extra day after our Kokopelli trip. I declared that I was too tired to ride, and thus ended up riding Bartlett Wash, which seems to be our go-to for easy rides.

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Except the riding really isn’t all that easy, and trying to corral Scott back to the car is nearly impossible. But I tend to just find my perch at the top of the hill and let him ride laps until he gets tired. Which is never, for the record.

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Scott and Pete went for their traditional post-work lap of Ahab. I tend to come along and run because I know these rides end a Giliberto’s, and Giliberto’s has horchata, and I like horchata.

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We found ourselves at a new campsite that was relatively close to Canyonlands National Park. Or, at least it was closer than it normally would be from Willow Springs, so we scoped out a running/hiking loop down to the Murphy’s Hogback.

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Things would have gone a lot smoother if Scott would have remembered to put his running shoes in the car before we left camp (you have to remember one thing for running!), but even with the drive back to the Scamp, we still had plenty of daylight. Summer is great that way.

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Definitely easier to get to the Hogback on foot than on bike. We looped the route by heading down the White Rim road and heading up a trail following a wash. I’m not convinced that sand is any easier on foot than on a bike.

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I can’t run everyday (without hurting myself), so it was good to hookup with Julie for a quick Navajo Rocks spin. We were both feel pretty worked over from our respective previous activities, but managed to eek out a 5.3 mile ride followed by La Croix drinking in the parking lot while watching Fritz the Wiener Dog wander around.

Some days you’ve got it, some days you don’t. It’s all good.

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At some point of time, full moon came around and we were treated to an amazing show over the La Sals. File that one under Special Moments.

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Back at Kodachrome State Park, I’d picked up a book on non-technician canyon hikes on the Colorado Plateau. One of its suggestions in Moab was Hunter Canyon, and it made the claim that there was an old Indian route that you could use to exit the canyon and head over to Prichett canyon or come down Hunter Rim Trail.

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The trail was real nice at first…and as most traditionally out-and-back trails go, got fainter and fainter until we were faced with bushwacking or wading through waist-deep standing water that was laced with spider webs inhabited by giant spiders. The last half mile took us as long as the previous four. I was skeptical that we’d make it to the end and then find our way out.

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But we found the route out, scrambled up it with as little grace as we could manage (I’m glad no real rock climby people come on these trips with us…they would laugh), and figured our way to Hunter Canyon Rim trail by following a pair of bike tracks and then a two pairs of foot prints.

Because of course, we’d left the actual map in the car.

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The map would have been useful when we got back to the mouth of the canyon, saw our car several hundred feet below us, and wondered how and where this Hunter Rim trail was going to take us. Lucky for us, we only ended up with a couple of miles of dirt road running to close the loop…whoops?

Maps. Maps are awesome.

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Still being camped relatively close to Canyonlands NP, we opted for a day on the Syncline trail that circumnavigates Upheaval Dome, a giant geologic feature that was caused by a meteor hitting the earth a long time ago.

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Somehow I managed to lose a pile of photos from this day, which makes me a little bit sad, but I guess that just means that we’ll have to go back and take more pictures? It was beautiful down there, and for a main-ish trail in a NP, pretty empty.

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Our bikes were getting a bit lonely, so we used them to explore a canyon near camp that we’ve been looking at on maps for a long time but hadn’t made the time to ride down. It made a beautiful loop with Schaeffer’s Switchbacks on White Rim.

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Think you could huck it?

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I love how wrinkly the earth is in Moab. Nothing is far from anything else, as the crow flies, but the ins and outs are endless.

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A rock fell down a few years ago. Cars and trucks fit under it, so the BLM has decided to just leave it. We got to climb the Schaeffer’s switchbacks at sunset, which is the best time to do it because the La Sal mountains are lighting up, and everyone else has gone home. Never have I seen the place so empty.

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Scott had some work to do on a day that I didn’t, so I opted for a quick jaunt down the Alcove Spring trail in Canyonlands.

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I ate jelly beans with rock formations named Zeus and Moses before heading back up. I hadn’t been on a long-ish solo run in a while. It was nice.

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With time in Moab running out, I schemed up a plan to try to visit a giant snake petroglyph that we’d heard about. We’d heard of two different ways to approach it, nothing specific on either route, but I had a grand plan of using the two routes to put together a big loop, starting at Pritchett Canyon, which is famous for being the hardest jeep route in Moab. We watched the rock crawlers struggle for a while before they gave up and started hooking winches up.

Jeeping looks terrifying.

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The snake was rad. Somehow I convinced Scott to keep going up the canyon, even though we weren’t seeing much sign of human travel.

‘Footprints! I think I see footprints!’ was a common refrain. Clearly, people are wandering around back here, probably just as ‘lost’ as we were.

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How do we get down there? I don’t know.

Unfortunately, from the top, we couldn’t see the exit that several people had verified existed. Maybe we went north when we should have gone south, maybe we didn’t go far enough north, who knows. But after a while, we reevaluated our plan and headed  west down a valley of fins that looked broader than the rest.

We knew that there was a very real possibility that we’d get cliffed out and have to retrace our steps…which would have made for a very, very long day.

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There are a lot of canyoneering/rappel-required routes back here, and we followed several sets of footprints to cliff edges and proceeded to curse.

But then there it was! The little sneak up a gully, down another, and we were back on open ground with a clear line of sight of where we needed to go to get back to Pritchett Canyon. We were saved!

There may have been a bit of celebration and chugging of water that had been rationed for the past several hours and eating of the last of our food. We would have made it if we’d had to retrace our steps, but there might have been tears involved.

We spent the run back to the car trying to figure out what the second approach to the Snake looked like, where we’d gone wrong, and how to do it better next time.

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The fins. Scott called it “complex topography.”

We were down to our last weekend before having to head to Colorado to watch dogs. We were determined to make the most of it. The following three weeks would be spent in Bouder, in a house, so we might as well show up as tired as possible.