Thursday, July 31, 2008

CT Day 10: Resting in Breckenridge

Sorry I haven't had a chance to update lately, but We've started our hike, and are now 11 days into our journey across Colorado. Check back when this is all over, as I will be making entries for each and every day of our 40 day journey, replete with photos, descriptions, and all sorts of crazy stories.

This is turning out to be far more difficult than I originally imagined. We've had a few setbacks, but nothing too serious. We're on schedule and very optimistic that we can finish. As for Breckenridge, I'm very much liking this place. A beautiful mountain town high in the Rocky Mountains, it attracts skiers all winter, and mountain bikers all summer.

In our journey, I must extend our gratitude to Mountain Outfitters here for holding our gear and giving us all sorts of help. You guys rock! Also, hospitality from the folks at the Fireside Inn is fantastic.

You can also see some photos from this part of our journey so far.

CT Day 10: Arrival at Breckenridge

CT Day 11: Over the Divide to Copper Mountain

The Colorado Trail Story

Arrival at Breckenridge Day 10

Arrived at Breckenridge early this morning. Luckily we didn't have to hitch a ride into town, as Summit County CO has a free bus system! SO, we got on the bus and booked the first cheap lodgings we could find. Fireside Inn Bed and Breakfast turned out to be a great place, and so we spent the afternoon getting sundry business done, eating hamburgers, and soaking in the hot tub.

We spent the evening with some new friends and wound up jumping around to all the night spots in Breckenridge (there aren't as many as one would think). But we needed a day of rest, so we decided to spend two days in town.

There also seemed to be some sort of Corvette convention or gathering going on. Seriously, I'd never seen so many of the muscle cars in my life! Another Corvette sat parked nearly every place you looked.

Also, a shameless plug for Mountain Outfitters here in Breckenridge! I had called them up a couple of weeks before we left and asked them if they could hold our food and supplies for us. Sympathetic to our cause, they readily agreed! So if you ever find yourself in need of outdoor gear or apparel in Breckenridge, look these guys up!

CT Day 11: Over the Divide to Copper Mountain

CT Day 10: Resting in Breckenridge

The Hikers Walk On, And On, And On in Andy's Fragments

The Colorado Trail Story

CT Day 9: Rainstorm and Getting Split Up

Longest hike yet! Over 18 miles today. The three of us would be proud of this except for the fact that it was NOT intentional. But more on that later.

We started off on one of the most beautiful mornings of our journey yet, with spectacular views of Mt. Guyot in excellent early morning light. Most of the morning would be downhill, and we correctly anticipated that we could make excellent time. We also ran into a volunteer trail crew with the Colorado Trail Foundation. They gave us fudge and refilled our water bottles.

The rest of that afternoon consisted of running up and down hills in a never ending thunderstorm. Dave and I went on ahead, as Paul often drags behind. We didn't think much of it until we'd reached our water source at about four in the afternoon. We waited 1.5 hours and STILL didn't find Paul, so we hurriedly went back to look for him when the rain finally let up. Luckily, we found him 3 miles back, looking for US! Dave and I apparently missed the agreed upon water source and overshot it by three miles!

Paul joined us at the point further along in the trial, and I ran ahead to get dinner ready. Despite this, we still didn't start eating until well after dark. The only bright side consisted of the paltry miles until we roll into our second resupply at Breckenridge sometime tomorrow.

CT Day 10: Arrival at Breckenridge

The Colorado Trail Story

CT Day 8: Jefferson Creek to Georgia Pass

Our first day on the Continental Divide proved to be quite nice, despite the lousy weather and dirt bikers tearing huge ruts in our beloved Colorado Trail. We got a slightly late start in the morning, and considering each of us wanted to pursue different things, we split up and agreed to rendezvous on the Divide near Georgia Pass.

I started off the fastest, because I wanted to climb the first large peak along the trail, Mt. Guyot. I set off on the fastest pace I could, and reached Georgia Pass at about 10:45 AM. Mt Guyot dominated the landscape from the trail, and I guessed at a route heading up the mountain's Southeast ridge. While only 13,370 feet, Mt. Guyot is still a mountain to be reckoned with. Steep talus covered slopes make for slow going and most of the mountain is very exposed. Got some great air! I was especially concerned about the storm clouds I saw brewing to the South West of me. With every step I took up the mountain, the cloud got darker, closer, and scarier.
One of the biggest danger's on Colorado's peaks is thunderstorms. Without trees to provide coverage, the risk of getting struck by lightning goes up tremendously. Moutaineers in Colorado are well advised to start their ascents at dawn (not 10:45). I climbed and scrambled up the steep ridge as fast as I could with my lungs screaming for air most of the way. And despite the great cardio workout, I knew in the back of my head I wouldn't outrun the storm. I imagine I reached the top around noon.
Once I reached the top, I didn't linger. The storm was coming my way and I should have gotten off the mountain 30 minutes ago. I snapped a bunch of pictures, shoved a granola bar in my mouth, and put on my rain gear. I put my camera back away, started down as fast as I could, and prayed for the best. It started raining, and then hailing, making the rocks slick with water. My descent now slowed to a snail's pace, I looked around at the wildly exposed ridge I was on. For any lighting that wished to strike, I stuck out like a sore thumb!
Somehow though, despite all the rain and the endless thunder and lightning behind me, I managed to make it back down to the pass, when the weather finally let up. I found Paul and Dave sometime later near a lake below a snowfield, fixing a fire to keep the mosquitoes at bay. It was only two in the afternoon, but none of us had the energy for anything more than naps and futzing around the campsite.
The sun came out later in the afternoon, giving us a great opportunity for pictures. Dave and Paul spent some time laughing about a certain topical skin care product.

CT Day 9: Rainstorm & Getting Split Up

The Colorado Trail Story

CT Day 7: Kenosha Pass to Jefferson Creek

An easy day by any standard, we only hiked 6-7 miles from Kenosha Pass up to Jefferson Creek. Dave had been longing to get some fishing in, and considering we hadn't gotten started until nearly lunchtime, there wasn't any good reason to go further. We also didn't want to start a big hill late in the afternoon. Dave fished while Paul and I hoped and prayed for a trout dinner.

There also appeared to be a mountain biking race going on. TONS of mountain bikers were coming through the trail. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this. Bike tires tear up the trail and make deep ruts down the middle of the trail, messing up the stride of hikers. Hikers are either forced to put one foot directly in front of another (like on a tightrope) or step outside the trail altogether. I blame mountain bikers as the culprit for the blisters on the outide of my feet and those annoying times when I have to give my feet a rest and walk off the trail.

CT Day 8: Jefferson Creek to Georgia Pass

The Colorado Trail Story

CT Day 6: First Resupply at Kenosha Pass

Having caught up on our scheduled mileage, we only had to make 10 miles or so today to reach Kenosha Pass on US Highway 285. My parents had loose plans to meet us at the spot, but we had stashed a box in the nearby town of Jefferson in case unforseen circumstances prevented them from making it.

So we woke up early and headed out, stopping only for a long, late morning break at a creek to wash up and get water. While there, we ran into Lint, who we learned through small talk was a seasoned thru-hiker and triple-crowner. Triple Crowners are those hardy folks who have hiked the three main long distance National Scenic Trails in the United States: The Appalacchian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. He had done over ten National Scenic Trails and had tattoos of trail logos and trail maps all over himself. He carried a big bamboo walking stick and an ultralight backpack and was doing about 20 miles a day. We would see his name in Trailhead registers for weeks to come, and were amazed at his time.

The rest of the hike was fairly easy and mundane. We made pretty good time and enjoyed the great views of the open valley.

Dave, Paul and I selected a campground near Kenosha Pass and reluctantly paid the requisite fee for the area. My parents showed up with big hamburgers, beer, elk sausage later that evening. We had a great time relaying our stories and encounters with the parental units. We were also super eager to drop about 5 pounds of useless stuff each of us had brought along. I got rid of 2 extra layers, some socks that were too warm, some cooking implements, and some other odds and ends that were simply weighing us down. Paul and Dave did the same. Paul even dropped his hand cranked radio that he had been carrying.

We also went through our food resupply and dropped TONS of food that we simply weren't and hadn't eaten during the previous week. We simply had purchased too much of the wrong kinds of food.

Despite the rain, my parents enjoyed camping with us as well. Although this picture was taken the following morning, when everything was sunny and warm. You can read my Dad's account here.

CT Day 7: Kenosha Pass to Jefferson Creek

Only 408 Miles to Go in Andy's Fragments

The Colorado Trail Story

CT Day 5: Through Lost Creek

We hiked uphill almost all day long. After ascending an abandoned logging road we finally reached our first view of Lost Creek itself. This was the Lost Creek Wilderness I recall from my memories. A lazy little stream meandering through a pristine forest of giant, stately Douglas Firs, Lodgepole Pines and Blue Spruce.

With the steep logging road behind us, the gentle grade of following Lost Creek to its source proved no challenge at all, and we made excellent time. I caught up with Paul and Dave about our lives since we parted in college.

In the late afternoon we reached a point where the creek disappeared, surrounded on three sides by mountains. Paul spotted a rocky outcropping above the trees and suggested we climb it. Dave and I were eager to get a few more miles in, but indulged him, and we're eternally glad we did. We got magnificent views of the entire valley West, where Jefferson lied. We could see the tiny town and the highway that was nearly a mile outside Denver. We also spied Pikes Peak (far to the South near Colorado Springs) and Mt. Guyot.

CT Day 6: First Resupply At Kenosha Pass

The Colorado Trail Story

CT Day 4: Return to Lost Creek

Today saw two firsts for our trip. Our first afternoon shower and our first National Wilderness Area, Lost Creek Wilderness. The Colorado Trail runs through the northern boundaries of Lost Creek and we were excited to reach it today, mostly due to the milestone showing we were making progress by reaching a landmark I knew. Dave poses as he fills out the required permit.

We started off somewhat disparaged and low on morale, despite making mileage the previous two days. A lot of this was frustration with the food and meals I had packed and planned. The meals tasted good, and proved to be easy enough to prepare, but there were two critical problems:
1. By and large the foods proved too heavy and its calorie to weight ratio was relatively low, forcing us to carry too much food.
2. We were carrying far too much food, and eating only slightly more than half our daily ration. We had enough food for 10 days, not 6!

The solution, of course, was a massive dumping of leftovers. And while we feel just as guilty as we should about our high impact camping techniques, dumping over 5 pounds of trail mix and 10 pounds of other food and fuel proved to be the only way to keep our sanity. We rationalized it by saying food was biodegradable. Either way, there's a happy little squirrel somewhere who found enough trail mix to last him and his tribe for the next 5 winters. We moved on after this.

I recall going through Lost Creek several times in my youth, mostly with my father and our old dog Pepper. As a teenager, I entered a program through Eagle Lake Camp called the "Rocky Mountain Challenge," which was basically a Christian wilderness program modeled after Outward Bound. In fact, I vaguely recall hiking through a few of these sections when I was 16 or 17 years old.

The area has changed very little since then. The area remains much as it has, a fantastically remote preserve of virgin forest a surprisingly short distance from Denver. We spent 20 minutes perched on this rock, rejoicing that we weren't miserably hot for the first time in four days.

CT Day 5: Through Lost Creek

The Colorado Trail Story

CT Day 3: Rapidly Diminishing Toilet Paper Supply

We finished trudging through the burn area near Buffalo Creek, and we were ready for some tree cover and some rain! We were on schedule for most of the morning, until Paul came down with a bad case of diarrhea that afternoon. Oh no! Now we have to stop every hour for twenty minutes so Paul can dig a hole and fill it up!

Now if David and I were disappointed about this new development, I can only imagine how Paul felt about things. He certainly looks pretty cheerful for someone being cleaned out by an intestinal bug!

It wouldn't have been a huge deal (we still made our mileage for the day), except that our roll of toilet paper was looking a lot less thick and fluffy. In fact there was far too little paper on it for comfort, considering more wouldn't be available for another 45 miles. We might have to start rationing the stuff!
On the brighter side, we could indulge our dirty minds in jokes about having the trots. Paul had Dave and I in stitches about, "the flies attacking my Hershey drops..!" We also climbed these two big boulders while waiting for Paul.

CT Day 4: Return to Lost Creek

The Colorado Trail Story

CT Day 2: A Game Plan for the Heat

The three of us figured our first mistake was not starting early enough. So we vowed to get up really early to beat the heat. We were at mile eight on the Colorado Trail and we wouldn't see water until mile 16-17 at the South Platte River. We also had a big hill to climb. We also realized this wasn't going to be a simple Walk in the Woods, no matter how much Bill Bryson makes light of the thru-hiking sport. If we were going to finish this we needed a big strategy and we needed to put a lot of thought into this, at least until we were in better physical condition.

We figured we probably wouldn't make up the mileage we were short yesterday on Day 2, but we figured we MIGHT be able to get our 12 miles in for today, so we wouldn't fall further behind. The plan was simple, but inspired, kind of. We'd get up the hill before the heat. Then it would be 5 or so miles downhill to the Platte River. We'd reach the South Platte sometime in the early afternoon and WAIT till the evening before we hiked again that day. It was just going to be too hot and exausting to do anything in the afternoon. We also had another problem: The next water after the South Platte River was 10 miles away, and 2000 feet higher. So if we hiked that evening, we needed to carry all our water for cooking. Instead, we'd simply cook dinner at the river and then get 3-4 miles done early that evening, leaving us plenty of water to reach the next source.

So we finally reached the South Platte at around 12:30 and went swimming several times. We took naps. Dave went fishing. We didn't leave until 4:30 or 5 that afternoon after we had cooked and loaded up with tons of water.

We also met a REAL thru-hiker, Steve. Steve had 12 days of food, fuel and gear on him. Yet his pack weighed only 26 lbs (11.8 kg)! He looked like he was having a lot more fun than we were. He was moving much faster too. He did 17 miles in the day and a half we did the same, and it was only noon when we met him! We felt good about our big plan when he told us he was going to do exactly the same thing. We're learning at least. In fact, he joined us for the last 3-4 miles and camped with us that night.
Steve turned out to be a wealth of information. He said our biggest problem (which we were already realizing) was food. He said all of his foods come out to 130 calories per ounce, which is A LOT of energy for very little weight. We started looking at the labels on our foods and some of them weren't even half that. Even Clif Bars didn't reach 100 calories per ounce. So if one needs 3500 calories per day, you could carry an extra pound or two per day if you have the wrong foods. Multiply that by 6 days before our next re-supply and the gravity of the situation starts to weigh on your mind (and your back and joints).

So he showed us what HE was eating. He was eating well enough, but carried almost NOTHING. If I do this again, I'm DEFINITELY going to try and do things his way.

Anyways, we hiked up the hill with him that evening, marching up a steep hill into the Buffalo Creek Burn area. A huge forest fire came through here in 1996, so we were dreading the lack of tree cover the next morning.
CT Day 3: Rapidly Diminishing Toilet Paper Supply

The Colorado Trail Story

CT Day 1: Roxborough Park to Mile 8

We woke up early for last minute preparations, email checks, breakfast, and all sorts of other sundry business thru-hikers do before a big hike. The Colorado Trail starts just a short drive from my parent's house. We had debated simply hiking out the front door, but thought why bother. We had also earlier elected to abandon the widely panned opening section, Waterton Canyon. All the thru-hikers dislike it intensely. We decided instead to go South and begin our hike at Roxborough State Park.

So we all piled into my parent's two cars and began the drive. Greeted by deer, sunshine, and brightly lit red rocks at the entrance, the day looked like a fortuitous start to our journey. Only 480 miles to go! We piled out, took the requisite, "this is the start of your big hike" pictures, and then we started up the trail. My parents and Ipping hiked up with us for the first 20 minutes or so. Then we put down our packs and took EVEN MORE group shots! Seriously though, we were all having fun.

The trouble didn't start till much later. The trail from Roxborough State Park to the Colorado Trail was certainly much prettier than Waterton Canyon, but proved to be a poor choice. Instead of climbing one hill for the day, we had to climb two. And the hill at Roxborough put us high up on a ridge right in the path of the Eastern Sun. So we got fried all morning AND all afternoon! We only managed to get 8 miles into the trail before we stopped for the evening. This trail was looking to be A LOT harder than we thought.

We did have some highlights though. The weather was nice enough that we could sleep under the stars. Which was probably a good thing because I don't think any of us had the energy to set it up. Dave also managed to kill a fly with his fart. I didn't believe it either until he showed me the corpse.

You can read my father's account of the day here.

CT DAY 2: A Gameplan for the Heat

Walk 500 Miles From Andy's Fragments

The Colorado Trail Story

Running around with Dave

I picked David Hanson up at the Airport two days before we started our hike, and all our last minute preparations began in earnest. We had about 5-7 days of food resupplies to pack and about 6 days of food to pack for the initial part of the trip. No small bit of work.

We also made trips to the REI here in Littleton, as well as a couple places up in Boulder. We first stop off at Neptune's to trade my tent out for something that can hold three people. The Black Diamond Megamid fits the bill. What do you know? They break their own return policy and let me return a tent without a receipt (which I stupidly lost). I hastily bought a new, smaller VAUDE backpack that was about 3500 cubic inches. I tried it on and bought it for the wonderful hipbelt alone. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not checking to see if I could fit everything inside it.

So now what to do? I have a larger expedition pack that's WAY too big. And I've got a brand new one that's uber comfortable, but just barely too small to take with us! Now I've got to go BACK to Boulder to return this thing AND get a new one somewhere! REI's got nothing that's very suitable. Everything they carry is too small or too big.

Finally, I find a Millet pack at Neptune's again that's just barely large enough! And it fits like a glove! This could work! I'm determined to make this trip perfect and successful! It better be perfect, because I'm SICK of shopping!

Paul Brodar and his girlfriend Ipping also showed up late that afternoon. I did have to take Paul down to REI again to find a pack cover and a headlamp. But other than that we were DONE. It was simply a matter of going over the final game plan and packing up. Now we could FINALLY all relax with some burgers and Coronas! That is until I realized I couldn't find my battery recharger and had to make a trip down to the drug store for Lithium Ion CR-2's for the inevitable day my two big rechargeable batteries would die. 10 bucks each, and I would need at least 6 of the stupid things. OUCH.

CT Day 1: Roxborough Park to Mile 8

Once Again to the Summit

Colorado Trail

Friday, July 18, 2008

Logistical Nightmare

The easiest (and most fun) part of preparing for a long hike of this nature is getting cool new gear and stuff to take with you. You can buy the latest, greatest (and lightest) version of everything. Go to stores, get stuff you like, and figure what you'll need.

The hard part comes when you realize that you need 50 days of food. For three people. The food has to be light weight. The food must keep no matter how hot the temperature. The food has to cook in less than 15 minutes (anything more requires one to carry an unacceptable quantity of fuel). The food has to be cheap. About the only food that falls into all of these categories is instant oatmeal, and you get sick of this VERY fast.
Then you realize JUST HOW MUCH food 50 days worth really is. I wonder at this point if we've gone way overboard. I've made sure we have regular meals, but I've got tons of stuff that may or may not be necessary.
And if these things aren't necessary, they are only going to weigh us down. At this point, seeing everything, I'm sure we WON'T go hungry. But we've got tons of stuff like ramen noodles for every day, instant pudding for every day, trail mix for every day, and dried fruit for every day (raisins mostly).

We'll see what happens!

Hanging with Noelle

It was strange spending time with my sister for the first time in 2 1/2 years. I wasn't really sure where to begin. While it was a bit awkward due to the wildly different paths that our lives have taken over the last 4 to 5 years, I really was happy to reconnect with my sister and see where life has taken her.

While I expected that my new nephew would demand a lot of her time and attention, during our time together in Pagosa and Denver Seth Andrew amazed me at how much time and attention that an infant (and most children, I think) demands from a parent. The unending tasks of feeding, changing, and caring for an infant shocked me. My previously academic awareness of a parent's obligations came to mind before meeting my sister, but the daily practicalities and serious lifestyle implications involved with such a commitment never occurred to me. Even the tedious task of feeding an infant turned into a significantly time consuming event. The liberty to take 50 days and hike the Colorado Trail doesn't exist. I certainly couldn't stay out all night at clubs and bars. At times even the simpler luxuries of watching a movie, or going out for coffee are often out of reach.

Yet somehow my sister does all of this with near infinite patience, relentlessly working, sacrificing, and advocating for Seth Andrew's welfare and interests. She even at times enjoys the task, and finds it rewarding. She's probably going to be a great mother.

For the time being though, I think I'd rather be an uncle. While I've only known what being an uncle is like for four days, I'm already convinced that's where its at. So asked the greatest expert I know on how to deal with my new nephew (and the projected niece), my own Aunt Dee. As the best Aunt I know, she suggested, "Just spoil them rotten. Get them whatever they want and let them do whatever they want and they'll love you!"

Sounds like a plan to me! And you know what? Seth Andrew loved the new cell phone I gave him! (And why wouldn't he... Its delicious!)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Reunion with Paul Brodar

I haven't seen Paul Brodar in almost 2 1/2 years. I count him among my closest friends and a kindred spirit in so many ways. I received an email from Paul about a week ago (end of June) saying he would LOVE to join me on the Colorado Trail. I was naturally exited about the prospect of him joining us.

Paul is a free spirit in the truest sense of the word, and I'm super eager to catch up with him during the trip. One thing that struck me right away about Paul, was that he's changed very little since I've seen him last. Most of my family and friends have changed and evolved considerably during my absence, whereas Paul seems to be happy who he is and perfectly content the way he is.

He also has a GPS! And he knows how to use it! He's definitely hiking the Colorado Trail with us!

We met up at the condo in Pagosa Springs and I got to meet his girlfriend Ipping for the first time. We headed out and hunted around for some gear he knows he needed to get. It was too bad we couldn't have hung out more together.

Waterfall in the San Juans

We headed out to this old waterfall for a day. My Dad knew this waterfall way out on Piedra Road from Pagosa Springs. I'd been out this road several times before, but never down this particular branch.

At the end of a 40 minute drive, the road ended at a small hike to a huge raging waterfall fed by the melting snows of the San Juan Mountains. Mist and Spray hit my face and body as I scrambled up boulders in the stream.

I'm excited now, as I'll be spending most every day during July and August enjoying small joys and discoveries of this nature for the following 40-50 days. I grow more excited for my adventure every day.

Unfortunately I forgot my camera and had to steal this one from my Dad's blog again.

Visit to Pagosa Springs

We went up there this weekend to visit my Aunt Dee and the rest of the Family. It was a long drive, and with 5 humans in the car, turned out to be a long drive.

We all had fun watching the Fourth of July Parade, with all the Pagosa locals shamelessly using the parade as an opportunity to campaign for county commissioner.

While we all had a good time, I think I speak for everyone though when I say we were all glad to be headed back home.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Meet the Nephew!

For almost a year now, my sister Noelle has been eager for me to meet my new nephew, Seth Andrew Holler. And my chance finally came later today when my sister arrived carrying her 10 month old Cheerios vacuum cleaner, Seth Andrew Holler.

He's still too young to walk and talk, but he manages to entertain the whole clan by grinning, making weird noises at inopportune times, scooting around on his knees, and trying to taste every random object given to him. He's definitely cute!

Always the doting mother, Noelle seems to be doing a fabulous job raising him (although a bit overprotective IMHO). I gave him a dishdasha just his size that I bought in Kuwait (he wasn't too crazy about it though) and I also gave him a used, obsolete cell phone that I also used in Kuwait. He ABSOLUTELY LOVES playing with the cell phone and finds it much more delicious than the new clothes. It won't be long before he's texting all the girls at the day care center with his slobber covered cell phone!

I was also completely shocked and amazed at how much time and attention infants demand of their parents. I always knew babies were high maintenance in an academic sense, but seeing it firsthand honestly blew me away. But I'm sure Noelle wouldn't have it any other way.

PICTURE NOTE: This photo was shamelessly stolen from my father's blog, Andy's Fragments.

Scott and Keith head off to the Gore Range

We recently got in touch with Scott Walker, longtime friend from Memphis and former owner of the Memphis Branch of Ascent Outdoors. Scott and Keith were headed off to the Gore Range. They were both exited to take the 4rth of July weekend to head up into North Central Colorado and get a Colorado Rocky Mountain High.

When they mentioned where they were going I recalled my own trip to the area in the Gore Range, including Upper and Lower Cataract Lake and the Eagle's Nest Wilderness Area. I started the trip with my father for a couple days, hiking in from a 4WD road and making the trek to Lower Cataract Lake. We then made a longer trek and met up with Leon Henklemen at Surprise Lake, who was (surprise!) leading a group of Jr. High kids from Bear Valley Church. I knew a couple of them and got to know a couple more.

Being in the 2nd or 3rd grade at the time, I don't remember a whole lot. Only a thunderstorm, a few fleeting images of the group and locations, and some rude comments that some long forgotten Jr. Highers made to me. But I do have a lot of positive feelings about the place, as I'm sure Scott and Keith will.

From Laurel and Hardy to the Three Stooges

This afternoon, as I was going through an old email account I rarely use due to its saturation with SPAM, I discovered 2 emails from longtime friend and former roommate Paul Brodar! He's evidently decided to put off preparations for his 2012 presidential bid a little longer so that he can focus on more important things: joining David Hanson and I for our Colorado Trail Through Hike!

Paul and I met in the Summer of 2001 during my stint at Friendly Pines Camp, and after hiking, climbing, and hanging out with each other up at Northern Arizona University for quite some time, became very good friends.

After University, we parted ways, and haven't seen each other for 2 1/2 years. He moved up to Durango, CO, while I went to Japan and Kuwait. He brings our team to three people now. Paul has a wealth of experience in the backcountry and the wilderness, having worked on year-round staff at Friendly Pines and having his intimate knowledge of the San Juan Mountains in Southern Colorado. He also has a GPS, solving many of our navigation problems during the trip.

I'm planning on meeting him in Pagosa Springs this weekend where we can work out details about the trip and I can show him our game plan. Here's to Paul Brodar! Our Duet is now a Trio! No longer are we Laurel and Hardy, we are now the Three Stooges! Although I'm not sure the latter is the most promising analogy.

Prep for the HIKE

From Kuwait, the only real planning for the Colorado Trail I could do was to read about the trail and surf the pages of for cool new gear to buy. I bookmarked a hundred pages of new gear, reviewing everything from steripens, to tens, silnylon tarp shelters, rain gear, backpacks, stoves, socks, boots and everything else I needed to blow a huge wad of cash on.

I also finally got my hands on the official guide book for planning the trail from the Colorado Trail Foundation. So I'm going through it and calculating how long it will take to get from point A to point B, and then calculating how much food we need for that part of the journey. While it isn't terribly difficult, there are tons of judgment calls and decisions that need to be made. Should we get our first resupply in Bailey or Jefferson? When we get to Leadville, should we hitch in from Tennessee Pass or push on as far as Twin Lakes? Should we have 8 resupply points or try and make do with 5? Tons of decisions! Will I make the right calls and march triumphantly into Durango ahead of schedule and under budget? Or will a flawed plan doom the whole expedition to ignominious failure and defeat?

In the end, I settled on a more conservative and traditional resupply schedule of 7 re-supplies. The vast majority of Colorado Trail thru-hikers have a similar plan and I don't feel I have the experience to know if I should modify things and develop a radical "outside the box" type of game-plan. So, the resupply schedule is going to be roughly as follows:
STOP 1. Jefferson at 60-70 miles. STOP 2. Breckenridge at 100 miles. STOP 3. Leadville at 130-150 miles. STOP 4. Buena Vista. STOP 5. Salida or Poncha Springs at nearly 300 miles. STOP 6. Creede. STOP 7. Silverton.

Now that I'm in the midst of all this planning and getting down to the "meat and potatoes" of things, I'm a lot more overwhelmed. Besides composing the critical game-plan, the other main item on the agenda included purchasing massive quantities of trail food.

Several trips to Costco, Super Target, King Supers, REI, and Wal-Mart are all yeilding tons of conflicting ideas, tough decisions, and all sorts of products that are filling up my parent's basement. I could go through this now and evaluate everything I've purchased, but I think I should wait until the hike is finished before I begin evaluating how things went.

SO... We'll see what happens!

The People's Republic of Boulder

After having a good day with Alison up on Mount Evans, I decided to show Alison around one of Colorado's greatest cities: Boulder. Complete disclosure demands I admit I needed an excuse to run by Neptune Mountaineering for Colorado Trail supplies, and it turned out perfectly.

Boulder lies just North of Denver, below the beautiful Flatiron slabs of rock. The University of Colorado is located there and the town is known as a haven for liberal politics, great rock climbing, fabulous microbrews, and Colorado's intelligentsia.

For those of you who don't know, Neptune Mountaineering is widely regarded as the world's greatest mountaineering and outdoors retail establishment. Only the flagship stores of LL Bean and REI could even approach Neptune for supremacy. While not the largest or the flashiest, Neptune's fanatical devotion to serving serious hardcore rock climbers, ice climbers, mountaineers and backcountry skiers (as opposed to WASPY suburbanites) makes it the best. Despite their size, they ALWAYS have exactly what you need, and can always be counted on when your local REI lets you down. Also, unlike REI, the don't carry worthless crap that makes you cringe. Everything they sell has been tested and proven and is generally regarded as good stuff. And while they carry the latest and best, they're also great for carrying all sorts of great, hard to find old school gear (got my Black Diamond Megamid tent there).

Alison loved Boulder (not surprising considering how great it is), I got what I needed, and everyone was happy. She commented that Boulder was "just like Berkely, only prettier and cleaner!" I couldn't have put it better myself.

NOTE: This picture is not actually in Boulder, Alison is on the steps of Colorado's capital Building, as we forgot to take any pictures in Boulder.

Refreshments Anyone?

After our long and grueling drive up Mount Evans, Alison and I returned to Idaho Springs, where we ate the best pizza in Colorado, Beaujeaus Pizza! For those of you who aren't familiar with Colorado Style Pizza, it works like this, you have two types: Mountain pies with their enormous moutainous crusts and Prairie pies which are much flatter (And NO, these ARE NOT the prairie pies all my readers from Texas and Oklahoma are all thinking of!) We shared a moutain pie with all sorts of toppings. I thought it was delicious!

Great Pizza! The only problem was, Beaujeaus had taken down all the napkins on the walls I remember as a child. When I was a kid and walked in, the entire walls were covered with napkins people had written and drawn on! I even wrote a few myself and planned on finding them! One of the best things about Beaujeaus was reading all the different napkins that people wrote. Now they're all gone! (Health or Fire regulations if I had to guess).

After that, we went down to Golden Colorado, seeking the much colder (and much more famous) refreshments that Golden Colorado has become famous for! What's even better, they give it away for free! I envy all the students at the Colorado School of Mines, who get this every day for free!

We went to downtown later that night for more of the same.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Alison Comes to Denver

I've known Alison Yeardley since the Summer of 2002, when we both spent the summer as counselors at YMCA Camp Marston. We've always kept in touch since then and since the time she came to visit me at the Grand Canyon.

Well, I was quite excited to host her at my parents house in Denver. So what did we do? Well, we started by driving up to the top of Mount Evans, the highest paved road in the world, and the highest in North America.

I did the drive years ago with my friend Paul Brodar, and it is still an impressive drive. The drive starts in the tiny town of Idaho Springs at 8700 feet of elevation and rises to 14,240 feet(4340 meters) near the top. There is a short scramble from there to the actual summit of the mountain.

Narrow, well placed ribbons of asphalt cling tenuously to cliffs and ridges as it charts a circuitous route up the peak. HUNDREDS of cyclists were out in force, evidently training for a race to the top of Mount Evans on July 19th.

Alison, meanwhile, snapped pictures and struggled to contain her excitement and exuberance at being on a topography orders of magnitude more interesting than her current place of residence, Houston, Texas. This is one of those times that the pictures speak for themselves!