Drove home from the San Juan’s via Leadville. The SJ’s are an incredible range, but the Sawatch can have an equally captivating splendor particularly with a dusting of snow and ice. The roads weren’t good so we puttered along slowly taking in the scenery. Late night, fast run on the mixed, snow and ice Gold Hill road. I love running fast at night, existing in nothing but the glow of my headlamp, when hard breathing and warm body meets the cold, crisp air. It’s also nice to note improvements in my pace over the past couple of weeks, as running at 9,000 ft. can be a little discouraging at times.
The day got away from me, so I decide on a quick late evening snowshoe up to Niwot Mountain. Someone drove a snowmachine part of the way, which provides for a perfect, runnable snowpack under foot. I make it a couple hundred feet below the ridge top, but the wind is howling so strong, I decide to skip the summit and run North on the Sourdough for a few extra miles. For some reason, I feel naturally drawn in this direction despite the waning light. Before long, Bella is off in the woods play barking at Lefty, our friends’ pitbull. Lefty? What’s he doing here? He is cowering under a tree, shivering on the only spot of dirt he can find, in his purple fleece jacket. No one is around. My calls for attention in either direction on the trail go in vain, muffled by the wind. Lefty won’t move. He lifts his paw up in visible discomfort and can’t stop shaking. I hold and rub him for several minutes before trying to get him to follow me down the trail. He refuses so I pick up the 55 pound brick of an animal that he his and shoulder him to carry him back to Brainard Lake. My guess is that Amy and Adriana (his owners) are making their way back along the trail to find him. It’s tough to know exactly how far from the parking lot we are in the snow so after about 30 minutes of carrying him north and now in complete darkness, I decide to retreat back to my truck. Bella seems amused by the situation, tearing back and forth on the trail and rolling in the snow. Lefty still refuses to walk so I switch him from shoulder to shoulder or carry him in an arm lock arm around his belly. We somehow shuffle our way back to the truck reasonably quickly, head to Brainard and to no surprise find Amy, Adriana and other friends geared up, readying themselves for an all night search mission. I can’t help, but reflect on the strange pull I had to go north on the trail as if I were meant to meet the little guy - a peculiar exercise in synchronicity.
Wind, wind, crazy wind! Of all elements, I find wind particularly hard to deal with. It induces a sense of desperation and angst that is hard to rationalize in the moment. With the cold winter air, things can become barely tolerable. For some reason though, I haven’t let it affect me much this year, running down in the trees mainly and not frustratingly fighting a losing battle. Acceptance of conditions always seems to ease the situation, a slight change in perspective can transform desperation into playfulness. This morning, I read Mike Wolfe’s iRunFar article The Hunt - a thoughtful and thought provoking piece. For some reason, it brought back memories of time spent in Dharamsala, India. A friend of Deanne and mine, an ex-monk who left Tibet for the US with a Western woman, organized a dinner with about 20 of the fellow monks he used to live with. One of the monks was a small boy, a reincarnation of a revered lama. We gathered in a local restaurant, in a fairly formal setting. Deanne and I were both vegetarians at the time so we ordered a couple of veggie noodle dishes. As it turned out, those veggies were the only ones on the table. The monks ordered more meat, than I’ve ever seen in my life on one table, at least 30 or more dishes. Of course, I found this rather ironic, given Tibetan monks’ vow to non-violence. Perhaps this is a suggestion that the question as to whether or not to eat meat is more complex than a simple right or wrong answer- a reflexion based on interconnectedness and respect rather than righteousness. I was also reminded of a traditional Tibetan burial ceremony, where the deceased body is chopped up and fed to vultures, to portray the body as nothing more than a vessel in this world. Conversations around death in the West are often seen as morbid and taboo rather than a direct part of our experience on this earth.
Skinned up the Jenny Creek Trail this morning outside of Eldora. Icy roads and slow traffic, had me reaching the trailhead 30 minutes late so my friend had already taken off up the hill. I’d never been on the trail so I followed his tracks and caught him just before the top of the climb. I was somewhat disappointed with the undulating terrain as I’d hoped for a more continuous climb. One lap to our turnaround point does net about 2,000 ft of vert. though so after doing two, I was satisfied with the morning. Uphill skiing really solicits the upper quads and hip flexors, but is for the most part a great way to build strength and fitness with little strain or impact. I like boards, more than skis, but I’ve come to see the utilitarian value of skiing being all around more practical for long touring in the mountains. As I feel more comfortable descending and controlling two planks instead of one, I’m also starting to really enjoy the float and glide of skiing and see why people love it so much. I’m excited to progress more this season and make long approaches to alpine climbs more accessible and descents more fun.
Ran to Brainard lake on Gold Hill road via Ward in the ice and snow to meet Geoff. We snowshoed for nearly 3 hours which was fun but also equally good to see him back out and active. We’re both signed up for the Sourdough snowshoe race in a couple weeks and wanted to check out the last section of the course. The snow was deep and sugary and we made several wrong turns, but were both hoping for similar, tough race day conditions. Nothing like a good winter slog. We met Deanne and Corlé for homemade chicken tortilla soup and bread over on Sugarloaf. On our way back to Gold Hill, Deanne and I picked up Mike Parker a long time Ward resident hitching a ride home. He’s 69 years old and has been working at the Nederland rock shop for 29 years. He was wearing a balaclava, gaiters and a thick down jacket. He hitches rides to and from work every day. At night, in the winter it seems pretty brutal so I am glad we picked him up. He gives me a couple tips on some good ski lines off the highway and reminds us that Niwot is top 10 in the world for strongest recorded winds on earth. It certainly feels that way today. In recent years, 214 mile per hour gusts have been recorded before the measuring apparatus broke. We get to talking about water and water supply and apparently Ward’s water is rated amongst the highest in the country for purity thanks to Lefthand reservoir runoff.
Quick snowshoe up at Brainard, but the wind have made the trails unrecognizable. Lots of drifts and sugar snow make any kind of running super difficult even deep in the trees. My tracks down the trail were wiped clean 30 minutes later after I backtracked to the car. Once I got home, I grabbed some clothes and ran into town to drop a roll of film off to be developed, then grab a beer with TK. I tried the Ghost Face Killah, a Twisted Pine brew, which is infused with the infamous Ghost pepper, supposedly the hottest in the world. Didn’t think much of the beer or the heat.
Ran to Boulder and back to collect my developed film, but after having an issue with the rewind button on my camera, I didn’t expect much from the roll. Indeed, the whole roll was blank, which was disappointing but part of the process of learning the quirks of a 40 year old camera. I got cold after stopping for 15 minutes at the camera store and it took me a while to get back in a groove on the uphill home. Eggs for breakfast and a stick of shot blocks for lunch before leaving the house wasn’t holding me too well. I felt sluggish and light headed nearing the upper switchbacks of Sunshine Canyon. Luckily, I ran into my neighbour with a flat tire. His VW SUV had some odd Euro wheel bolts that we took a minute to figure out how to undo. I got chilled stopped in the wind, so I hitched the last couple miles back with him, satisfied with my 3 plus hours of weaving up and down the canyons. I warmed myself by the fire when I got home with a slice of pumpkin pie and spent a good while marveling at Daido Moriyama’s work which reaffirmed my commitment to shoot more film this year. My arrogant dismissal of the Ghost pepper yesterday caught up to me when I mixed up Poblano peppers, I’d intended to use to make chile rellenos with a much, much hotter pepper. Dammit! Note to self: don’t scratch anything sensitive after handling hot peppers!
Went for a short run in the snow with dog, feeling tired from yesterday’s longer, harder effort and the cumulated hard training. The sky was playing up some interesting patterns moved by the wind. I felt like taking a drive along the Peak to Peak to snap a few shots and get in a quick ski. I skinned up into the forest on crusty, wind swept snow and after about a 1000 feet of climbing decided to turn back. My legs didn’t have much in them which made the whole endeavour rather difficult. As I was already a fair ways out from home, close to Estes, I opted for a quick run in RMNP to snap a few more shots. The ranger at the entrance booth remarked that my driver’s licence signature didn’t match that of my National Parks pass. To me, both looked like half, erased, squiggly lines of unperfected sharpy markings. You apparently have to be precise with your pen to get into RMNP. The last time this was an issue was down in Creel, Mexico. I was in the bank trying to withdraw some cash before heading into the Copper Canyon for a week. The bank clerk didn’t think my credit card signature matched my passport so he had me sit in a back room where I demonstrated relative accuracy in signing my name a dozen times on a sheet of paper before being allowed to withdraw cash. I mumbled something about being a professional soccer player and that speed signing was part of my job, but he was unimpressed. A herd of about 50 elk crossing the road held up traffic for about 10 minutes on the way out of town. Wind, sky and clouds made for a sensational spectacle the entire drive home.