Monday, September 6, 2010

Vacation Day 1

Today I made the drive into Utah. I'm staying at the Willard Bay State Park for the night. The photo is the view I have of the Great Salt Lake.
During my drive today I saw a pack of fox eating a dead cow, gross. I also oddly enough saw a cat cleaning himself on the shoulder of the freeway not 7 feet from 70 mph traffic! Crazy cat!
The steering in my car is squeaking pretty badly, I hope nothing bad happens to it! The right rear brake has an occasional squeak too :-( It's amazing what 900 miles or so can do to a car with amost 250K miles on it...
Anyway, looking forward to a restful night sleep under a star filled sky.
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Off to Colorado!

After 21 years I'm heading back to Colorado to hike some 14,000' mountains including the state highpoint of Mt Elbert. Currently I'm passing through Oregon with lots of raptors flying overhead.
The weather is good and I'm feeling great!
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Here is a link to all of the photos from this hike.
Several weeks ago Curtis called me and asked if I’d like to hike Mt Adams with him and a few others. Having recently passed on a similar opportunity I said that I’d love to join the group.
We met up at the Trout Lake Ranger Station and I learned that our group had swelled to 9 people. We got our permits and headed to the TH.
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By 1pm we were on the trail and beginning our adventure. I quickly found myself pulling away from the rest of the group and I had to try to keep that in check. I was after all hiking with a group, not solo. I eventually settled into a groove and found myself waiting up for the rest of the group several times along the trail. I felt badly for getting so far ahead, but taking shorter strides isn’t the easiest for me.
We got to a point where the snow was starting to get more consistent and we had to get up to a ridge. Heading up to the ridgeline were a set of steps kicked into the snow that were very well defined. At the top, the steps were melting out to the point where I felt that they wouldn’t last much longer. Turns out the next day they were so bad that people were detouring around them.
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By this point the other 8 in our group had separated into two groups of 4. I waited on the ridge for the first four and I heckled them from above To our east some clouds were starting to form and they looked a bit dark. I decided to try and slow my pace so we could stick together a bit better in case the weather got bad. We traversed the ridge and continued to gain elevation as he headed towards Lunch Counter for the evening. At the first campsites the easterly skies were getting darker and some clouds started rolling over the snow fields and I waited for the first 2 of the group to get close enough where they could see me and where to head to. By this point Curtis had started placing some snow wands so that the others behind had a good general idea of which direction to head in.
As the first ones got close to me I headed up a bit further in hopes of find a spot to camp that would leave us with minimal elevation gain in the morning. To my delight the highest reaches of Lunch Counter had lots of available campsites and even running water! No melting snow for water.
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Within an hour the whole group was together, well minus one whose legs were so sore from the gain that he opted to head back down to the trailhead. He probably turned around near 8500’ or so I think. The rest of us set up our tents, ate some dinner and explored the immediate area until finally retiring around 9pm or so.
We got up at 4am and I felt the beginnings of a headache coming on. I took a few aspirin, had a Clif bar and drank some water. Everybody else was getting up and shortly after 5am we were ready to head up to the summit. I started up in my normal pace minus my poles in exchange for an axe instead and quickly found myself above the group again. With the route being rather straight-forward and the skies rather clear I just continued up at a pace that was comfortable for me. I soon found a “trail” and it was much easier going since others had made good steps and my calves were not getting wiped out on the steep ascent.
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I got up to the flanks of Piker’s Peak and the group was further down, but still in sight and were once again starting to break off into 2 groups. To the east the sun was starting to rise on the mountain and it was so beautiful. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be on the side of this awesome mountain at such an early hour and to feel like I had it all to myself. I kept pushing myself forward and finally started the last push to the summit. The snow was crusty, the skies getting lighter and there was a slight breeze in the air. Eventually the summit and a small portion of the old lookout were in sight! I got to the summit and looked at my watch, it showed 7:00am. I made the summit in just under 2 hours and it felt great. I was all alone and I loved it. I explored the summit area a bit before setting my pack down and taking a short nap on the old lookout.
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After about 30 minutes on the summit a few more people arrived and I moved to they could access the summit and took a few photos for them. Shortly before 8am the first of my group showed up to join me. We bantered back and forth and over the next 45 minutes to an hour as the rest of our group trickled up. Of the 8 who left camp this morning, everybody made it to the summit. For some this is in preparation for a climb up Rainier, for others it was something to do, and for me it was a goal. It was my first volcano hike and I loved it. The only bummer part was that there were low level clouds and haze which prevented a look at all of the neighboring volcanos. After some photo ops including a group shot on the summit we started to head down.
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Two others who were at the summit decided to tag along with us as we descended to the first glissade chute a few hundred feet below the summit. It was short, but a good chance for everybody to get prepared for the long on below Piker’s Peak. Curtis gave a few newbies some pointers and they were off! One by one they followed me down until we regrouped at the bottom. As I traversed the trail from there I took off for the summit of Piker’s and a view at the north side and the top of the glacier. The berschrunds were really cool. They were about 10 feet wide and about 10-15 feet deep. I kept my distance and admired them from afar.
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I rejoined the group at the top of the long glissade chute in time to hear the first one down to say “Later bitches!!” and he took off down the chute. Others went down and I waited for the end because I wanted to give everybody else a chance to soften it up before I went down. Finally it was my turn, I took off my sunglasses and replaced them with my goggles. I wanted to go fast and I didn’t want to get blinded or lose my shades.
I quickly gained a lot of speed and I used my axe to help keep things under control. I was still cruising and got airborne a few times and I was having a blast! Soon I realized I was catching up with another from our group who was descending in a much slower but comfortable pace for his liking. I hollered ahead and he found a good spot and bailed off the glissade chute to let me pass (thanks Bill) I was cruising again and getting more air! At one point I launched out of the chute and onto the still firm suncups. I got back into the chute and soon found myself down with the rest of the group who were laughing and sharing about their rides down the mountain. Bill caught up and we all walked the rest of the way to camp. Everybody broke down their tents and such while Curt and I ate a quick lunch before we were ready to descend the mountain. We took advantage of short glissade opportunities along the way and were soon out of the snow and back on the dusty trail. We were back down to the car by 1:30 and we exchanged stories with Larry who’d had his own fun night in the back of the truck at the trailhead overnight.
By 2:00 Curt and I hit the road and stopped in Trout Lake for a not so quick burger and a slight detour (nice navigating Curt) and we were on the highway heading home.
It was an amazing trip and with the exception of one comment in the parking lot about my speed, nobody seemed to mind that I was ahead of the group for most of the trip.
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I did learn a few things on this trip. First is that I either need to do hikes like this with people who hike at a similar pace as I do, or I need to learn to slow my pace down. I do have a comfort zone that I like to have around me when I’m on the trail and it makes it hard for me to slow down too much. I will say that had the weather gotten bad I would have most certainly stayed with the group. The safety of myself and my fellow hikers is the most important thing to me. On the way up when the other 8 split into 2 groups a person from each group did have a radio and they did keep in contact.
This was an excellent experience for me and I am eager to learn more so I can be a stronger mountaineer and to be able to try to challenge myself on bigger mountains.
To the members of our group: Curtis, Bill, Chuck, Jake, Brad, Matt, Colton and Larry, thank you for sharing this fun trip with me, I really appreciate it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

MRI reveals a herniated disk

Last week I went to the doctor and ended up getting scheduled for an MRI on my lower back since I've been having problems with pain in my right leg for the last seven months. The thought was Sciatica, but I wanted to be certain since the pain was not going away.
A few days after the MRI I got a call from the doctor's office and sure enough, I have a herniated disk in my back. Today I went back into his office to review the treatment options that I have. Having gone the Cortizone shot route years back with my knee I opted to not get the Epidural that was recommended so instead I'm on an oral anti-inflamitory commonly referred to as "Mobic" and will be going to physical therapy.
In a month if I'm not feeling and relief from these two I am to schedule another appt and we will review further options at that time. He didn't mention not getting into the mountains or taking it easy, so I plan on still hiking and living my life in the way that I enjoy.
This week my trip into the mountains will be to volunteer at the forest fire lookout on the top of Red Top Mt. I try to get up here once a year and stay at the lookout for the local Forest Service Ranger District. In exchange for 2 days of "work" I get a free Northwest Forest Pass which covers the cost of of trailhead maintenance and the services that some provide (ie. restrooms, trash removal). Staying at the lookout isn't really work, it's more or less a few day getaway on top of a 5600' mountain with a few that would cost millions if it were in the city. It's kind of like my own little vacation spot for 2 nights.
I do have to keep an eye out for any sign of a forest fire and check in with the Ranger Station on a regular basis. I would say that I get more benefit from this arrangement than I give back to the Forest Service.
With that said, look for photos to come on Tuesday or Wednesday and maybe even a video if there ends up being enough good stuff to film :-)