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Entries tagged with “hiking


A few weeks ago, Jesse and I climbed Quandary Peak, one of the 14ers closer to Boulder. I never put the pictures up as Quandary was a break from all the increasingly frantic getting together of my collection. But as of yesterday Rumbullion is off to my editor, and that means my brain can rest a little, and blogging can happen! Yay!

Quandary is one of those 14ers Colorado people tell visiting sea-level friends is totally easy. We ran into a few of those on the trail—they all made it! But were swearing a lot by the end. By contrast, a seasoned Colorado badass parked it at a false summit and waited for his family to finish up. So, no yeah, no predicting. Anyways, because of Quandary’s reputation, this was at trailhead:

no easy fourteeners!

It’s true! Both the “easy” part and the “there are no shortcuts.”

Anyways, before we even got to trailhead, the adventure began. It was a glorious morning, and by morning I mean middle of the night practically. 14ers are a popular passtime in the summer, so we met up at 4 AM on a Tuesday to make tracks for the mountain. Woof. (And we weren’t the first cars there.) It was almost worth it, though, as there was a beautiful full moon up. Once the sky got a bit lighter, it was even prettier:

full moon dawn

Quandary, unlike some 14ers, starts below treeline. Thus you get a nice, cool, shady ascent at first. Then comes some serious ascending, made less arduous by awesome views into some old mines (Quandary is “close” to Bross), dams, and wildernesses.

Talus begins

Soon enough, however, you get into… the talus.

2013-07-23 09.43.46

Quandary is like… all talus, all the time. Frankly, it kind of sucks. My feet were more sore after this 7ish mile hike than they’ve been, in friggin Vibrams, after a 15 miler. Woof, with knobs on. Let’s say woof with double knobs on actually–see that incline? Yeah, that’s not the summit above me. Not even close. Quandary has nearly as many false summits as it does talus.

Quandary is also infested with goats:

bottleneck goat

 

We kept seeing big chunks of shed hair everywhere, and wondering if someone had brought up a pack of huskies or something. Nope, goats. Lots of them. Mean ones, too. This fellow in particular was a prime jerk, literally (in the pre-Google sense) running up on us to stand smack dab in the middle of the trail and eat grass for 20 minutes. They tell dudes—and ladies, I guess—not to pee on the side of trails for exactly this reason: pee is full of salt, goats like salt, turning the sides of trails into a big salt lick attracts ornery old fuckers like this dude. He was still feasting when one foolish hiker who had bottlenecked behind us tried to scare him, waving his arms and shouting, “Go on, goat, git!” The goat promptly became angry, lowered his head, and began to paw the earth. Bad news! People have died from mountain goat gorings, you know. Anyways, Jesse redirected the goat with the use of his magic staff, carved for him by our friend David Ardanuy. All were impressed. There was applause! Jesse got to be King of the Goats for the day.

Jesse and goat

He had me take probably 15 pictures until he was satisfied by this one.

All hardships aside, if you keep your spirits up, Quandary’s summit is actually really awesome. You reach almost-the-top after some brutal talus-strewn switchbacking, and then you traverse along to the spike. I may have gotten a bit of “summit fever” and left Jesse behind at that point, making a break for the summit at full tilt, hooting gleefully, as Jesse hung back, “playing it safe” and scolding me like a chicken about altitude sickness and whatever and blah blah blah.

But eventually, he caught up!

summit

My absolute favorite thing about 14er culture is the taking—and leaving—of signs proclaiming You Made It!! There were maybe ten under a rock for us to choose from. More people came up behind us, carrying their own and leaving them for others. People are thrilled to take your picture with the signs. It’s such a great feeling of “we’re all in this together!” as you all sit and rest at the summit. You see people who passed you on the way up, and they wave and smile; you cheer on all the people you passed. When we saw the aforementioned cheerful-but-skeptical out of towners who had been convinced Quandary was “easy” we huzzahed them and took their pictures. It’s awesome.

And then… it’s time go down.

get down

Double woof with double knobs on. See that road at the bottom? Yeah. Even so… man, I love 14ering!

Next time: pictures from my recent trip to San Francisco!

I conquered my second 14er last Tuesday: Mt. Bierstadt, the mountain that conquered me this past January. I went up maybe a third of the way with Courtney Schaffer and a few other friends, but the snow, cold, and need to slog through two miles of fresh powder along what, in summer, is just the road up to the parking area, made things a little hairy.

When it’s not freezing cold and snowy as hell, Bierstadt is no big deal:

Bierstadt is the mountain on the right. If you click on that picture you can see a little protuberance on the left-ish side of that big round mountain; that’s the summit. It’s a short hike (maybe 7 miles round-trip), and it’s essential in the summer to get up early to do it. Bierstadt’s closeness to Denver and relative ease makes it very popular, and the threat of thunderstorms in the summer means it’s much safer to start early. My hiking partner Jesse and I met up at four thirty A.M. and hit the trail at six thirty. We were not the first up there by any means.

To hike Bierstadt, you go through that valley on a series of bridges over the marshland, then wind up the ridge that’s in the sunlight in that picture. After that you head up up up but the ascent is never particularly dramatic. You do, however, reach one heck of a false summit:

Neither of those bumps is the top. Bwahaha!

Still, the absence of any hard or technical climbing to the summit makes it a breeze to get up that final ascent. You just kind of find patches of dirt and stable rocks to mountain-goat/scrabble up the whole way. I managed it easily in my Vibrams (the hiking kind).

Then you’re at the top! Someone had brought a poster to document their trip, and were passing it around:

Here’s the view from the top of where we’d come from. If you look to the right of the lake you can see a little loop of road. That’s the parking lot!

The back of Bierstadt:

Epic, amiright? That’s why people do 14ers if they’re not into the machismo aspect of the sport.

So then you go back down. No big deal, right? Well, it wouldn’t have been except that I misstepped and sprained my friggin’ ankle about a quarter of the way down. Well, I think I sprained it; it might be a bone bruise. Whatever it is, it’s still hurting. Whatever, anyways, the injury meant I had to hike about three miles back to the car. Here’s about where I sprained it:

That looks far, but it’s really just off the summit. 14ering makes for weird perspective.

The injury was not comfortable, and yet … it’s kind of awesome knowing the amount of pain I can endure and still get myself to safety, if things ever got really real on a hike. It was a hell of a lot easier with Jesse’s help though, mad props to him for tolerantly inching his way down the mountain with me in my hobbled state.

I’m off to Florida, and sea-level tomorrow, where I will continue rehabilitating my ankle!

I went on a hike for my cardio today, and it occurs to me that as hiking was one of the main motivators for my recent foray into fitness, I should probably talk about that for one of these Boot Camp posts.

Hiking, man. I live in Colorado, and so I have plenty of mountains everywhere to hike around on, up, and down. Since moving here I’ve conquered a few trails of note, some of which I’ve even bothered to take pictures of, but there are many I have yet to explore. Some of them, however, are beastly to the point that I’m intimidated to start them, so I’ve been focusing my workouts on building up my strength in my legs and increasing my cardiovascular capacity.

When I moved out here, the landscape awed and inspired me, which is why I’ve been writing (and, uh, rewriting) this novel set in the Rocky Mountains. But I had this moment of clarity a while back, as I was hammering out something about my protagonist making her way through the wilds, when I realized she was more of a badass than me when it came to hiking. I had one feeling regarding this: Total bullshit. I have no problem with her being more of a badass than me when it comes to any number of things, since obviously she is the protag of my novel and I am not competitive with my imaginary creation when it comes to any of the more ridiculous things she can do well … but hiking? Come on, I live here! It was time to remedy this imbalance. It was time … to become more of a badass.

In the fiction I enjoy consuming, writing, and editing, characters routinely do all kinds of crazy stuff. They might cover many, many miles in a day through serious terrain, solve crimes, conjure demons, invent in time travel, accomplish various feats of strength, slap a ghost, talk with beasts, wield heavy or at least challenging weapons with expertise, raise the dead, or really anything at all. Badasses are awesome, and badassery comes in many forms. And while I’ll likely never solve crimes, talk with beasts, invent time travel, or heaven forfend, raise the dead, I can get strong and flexible, hike up mountains, and even become skilled in martial arts.

Right now I’m more focused on getting strong and covering distances (though I have a guest pass to my local YMCA and I plan on checking out kickboxing and/or kendo), but still—badassery. It’s become more of a priority for me, and I’m enjoying my newfound confidence and abilities! It’s a challenging process, but totally worth it, and I recommend it for everyone who feels they have to experience being a badass on a purely vicarious level. So not true!

I just saw the preview for the Captain America movie and there was a line about how “a weak man knows the value of strength.” This is likely probable, and we lovers of genre fiction could, I suppose, extend it laterally to apply to us: “the nerd knows the awesomeness of badassery.” Hellz yes.

x-posted to my LJ

Inspired by the insane gorgeousness that is Colorado, the project I’m finishing up is set in what is now Rocky Mountain National Park. This is awesome for me, because whenever I lose my way with the writing, I can just take a drive up into the mountains and find what I need to press on. RMNP is, frankly, the most beautiful national park I’ve ever been lucky enough to visit, and its proximity to Boulder means I can really get to know what’s there–the grassy, river-cut valleys freckled by elk herds, the little hiking trails that become waterfalls during the snowmelt, the glacial peaks. I love it. It is one of the places that I feel completely at rest, even while I scramble, cursing, up a scree-strewn incline, or pick my way down a steep, flooded descent.

Last Friday, Jesse and I decided to drive over the continental divide. I can report that it is, indeed, fucking awesome. The road takes you up past the montane ecosystem through subalpine into the true alpine regions, so you really get a sense of the distinct environments in mountainous regions. The day we went, it was rainy and misty, which was fine by me. While we didn’t get to appreciate the views down the sides of the mountains, it was amazing to see clouds–giant, fluffy clouds, like you see from the ground–chasing us up and eventually enfolding us as we drove. The two times we got out to hike, we’d see wisps just drifting in front of our faces and alongside us as if it was no big deal to the clouds to occasionally take a day off and, you know, go on a hike with some people.

With the craziness that is the Gulf, the writerly people I’m fortunate enough to know have been talking about the environment quite a bit, and those posts, as well as the news cycle in general, have really gotten me thinking. Among the many notable things I’ve read, my dawgg John Glover speaks eloquently about BP, the spill, and responsibility; Jeff VanderMeer has also commented on the situation. I think what affected me the most, though, was not Jeff’s idea that we put all the BP execs in a raft and make them eat nothing but the oily flesh of dying animals (not that such a sentiment doesn’t match my own feelings on the situation), but rather, a quieter, more personal post he made, using quotes from Thoreau and discussing a favorite hike over at St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge.

The gallows humor found in the notion of taking a long drive to enjoy the environment is not lost on me by any means. All the same, I feel inspired to discuss the overwhelming wonder I felt when I was able to, via man’s genius and shame, the automobile, ascend in only a few hours up to the top of the world and hike through an alpine tundra.┬áTaking the drive over the divide was an experience as transcendent as it was depressing. These alpine regions, which we documented below, are delicate, sensitive ecosystems which will likely be devastated by unchecked climate change; the pristine forests, which in some ways look like they did a hundred, or hundreds of years ago, are being eaten alive by the pine bark beetle–a beetle that, were the winters as cold as they once were, would not be anywhere near as able to destroy tree after tree after tree after tree after tree.

The rest below the cut–large pictures follow:

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