Monday, September 29, 2008

SOOOOOO Not Ready for Prime Time!

Hmmmmm..... Welllll............ (scratches head)

Not sure how Tina Fey managed to be funnier than this! YIKES! Sarah Palin should definitely wait this one out in Alaska. No wonder her handlers are reluctant to put her out in public! Its well known that these interviews are often edited, making you wonder what CBS left on the cutting room floor. But after watching this.... WOW.

I laughed, cringed, and wept for the future after watching BOTH candidates during the presidential debate. But If THIS is all Sarah Palin can offer, I almost feel sorry for the poor woman when Joe Biden skewers her in the Vice Presidential debates. ALMOST. I have a hard time feeling sorry for overly ambitious public figures who make THIS LITTLE SENSE. UNREAL.

If people get me going, I usually have a lot to say on politics, but as for this, I'm not even sure where to start! Alamedadad2 on the CBS website asked, "Does she remind anyone else of Quayle in drag?" No! She's orders of magnitude prettier than Dan Quayle could ever hope for.

For the record though, I think Tina Fey is much prettier than either Dan Quayle or Joe Biden. She's even prettier than Sarah Palin. Although at this point, I hope Tina can outperform Ms. Palin in the comedy department!

"As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska!" We've got a hot air balloon festival in Colorado too! Read my dad's post about the hot air balloon festival here!

Watch CBS Videos Online

Friday, September 26, 2008

Latest & Greatest From the Onion

I've always loved "The Onion." Many of my friends and readers may know I've always loved their often brilliant and hilarious parodies of the news media. And of course I couldn't let the 2008 elections go by without something to make everyone laugh. And for those readers of mine who don't care for my politics and/or sense of humor....

well, you'll all just have to wait until some other day.

Anyways, here's a good one about Henry Kissinger mentoring Sarah Palin on the finer points of American foreign policy!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Routines

Being unemployed for the first time in my life, things are a little dull right now. I've been trying to keep busy, but I honestly haven't done much.

I spend some of the morning perusing for jobs.

I spend time writing.

I go for a run either in the late morning or early afternoon.

I go to the Littleton YMCA and work out in the early afternoon.

I spend the evenings reading, watching TV for the first time in years, or doing any of the above.

I find this difficult at times. Getting out of bed at times is even hard. I'm wondering if I'm seriously depressed or if I'm just in a funk that will pass soon. Time will tell.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Someone Wants to Publish Me!

I've spent the last 72 hours without sleep, kept alive by coffee, red bulls, and other legal stimulants. I feverishly edit and revise my prose as it imminently awaits the presses and the scathing, unsympathetic onslaught of vicious critics. But I'm getting very excited about the prospect of my mighty words gracing the pages of National Geographic, Outside, Men's Journal, Rolling Stone and Mad Magazine, all the fabulous cocktail parties filled with America's most pretentious literati, and book signings on the Oprah Winfrey Show! It sure is nice being a successful writer!

Unfortunately I'll have to wait quite some time before experiencing any of the above. But my work did get noticed by someone only slightly less prestigious. Crip Moorey at Sail Japan recently asked if he could reproduce something I wrote in this blog two years ago. My devoted readers will recall the time I went sailing on Lake Inawashiro with the Koriyama Yacht Club. I asked him to let me edit the piece again, although I don't think I managed to improve it much. The always gracious and unfailingly kind Kyoko Nagashima kindly corrected the Japanese I wrote that day as well. ありがとう!

For those of you who have been stranded at sea for the last 20 years, Sail Japan is a resource for foreigners who love sailing and are living in, and/or sailing to the Land of the Rising Sun. Thinking about it, sailing would be a great way to visit the Asian archipelago. There would probably be countless ports and cities along Japan's coastline well worth visiting (Lots of really great fresh sushi too!) So if you sail and you're headed to Japan, this website might be helpful.

My friend Teppei will be pleased that he and his comrades are now famous in the sailing community. He's smiling already! Or maybe he's just grinning that his Koriyama Yacht Club has an enviable private beach on Lake Inawashiro and you probably don't!

Here's the link to the offending article in my blog that I wrote in October, 2006.

Here's the same article after Crip Moorey at Sail Japan got his hands on it.

Link to Sail Japan

Random link that has nothing to do with any of this here.


I'm glad I've been able to stay in touch with numerous friends of mine, as my friends are spread all over! Being as mobile as I am, I often don't get to see people for months or years after we part ways. On those rare occasions When I do get to rendezvous with friends again though, it always proves an unexpected surprise.

Stephanie Lowrance recently returned to the United States, after her third year in Koriyama City. As her family moved to Colorado during her abscence, she returned to Colorado Springs instead of her native Texas. And while I can't speak for her, I had a great time showing her around the People's Republic of Boulder. We went for a hike and then ate lunch in Boulder. Later on, I tried taking her to the Coors Brewery for their free "tours", but unfortunately tours were closed for the day. Zannen!

I met my friend Stephanie in Koriyama a few years ago, and we've run some of the same circles during my time there. I'd often see her at Peare, the gym we both frequented. She's soon relocating to the Washington DC area, where she will begin training to be a Peace Corps volunteer. I'm confident she'll do a great job.

I can honestly say that I count Stephanie among the kindest people I've ever met. Never once have I heard her say a negative thing about anyone (a trait I often aspire towards) or even hint that she dislikes someone. Nor have I heard anyone relay anything but praise and admiration for her kindness, generosity and smile. Stephanie definitely sets the bar high!
As I forgot my camera, Stephanie took the pictures of me scrambling around some Boulders in this park just outside Boulder. The Flatirons are in the picture just above.

Thru-Hikin' Friends

While I'm not completely satisfied, the Colorado Trail is now completely over and its time to move on. While it was over more than a week ago, one last event marked the occasion: April and Thatch visiting Denver. Both were staying with a friend from April's nursing program in downtown Denver not far off of 8th Avenue near Cheesman Park.

I had a good time meeting up with them, and it was a great means of closure for the trail.

A couple days later, Thatch would come and visit my house and I showed him around Denver for a few days. We had a good time together, or I did at any rate.

The Colorado Trail Story

CT: The Last Segment & Durango

My parents, Craig Hanson, and I all left Pagosa Springs early that morning and made the hour drive into Durango. After some catching up and a delicious lunch, we dropped 2 of our three cars off at the Colorado Trail Durango Terminus: both of ours. At this point, our crew drove up the primitive 4X4 road to Kennebec Pass at roughly 10,500 feet or more. Only the Hanson's Ford Explorer had the clearance to make this road, so after getting dropped off on the pass, my mother would drive back down, drop the Hanson's car off at the Durango Terminus, and then take our other car back to Pagosa Springs. Once in Pagosa Springs, my mother would yak on the phone with my Aunt Dee and my sister Noelle.

At that point, the three of us would wait to rendezvous with David sometime that afternoon or evening. If all went according to plan, Dave should pass through soon enough. And sure enough, after only 10 minutes, the "Mama's Boys" show up! They claimed they saw Dave and Elizabeth sometime yesterday and had been leapfrogging with them a bit. They suspected Dave might not reach that point till late in the night. I had my doubts, as the Mama's Boys were well known for late starts, sometimes well into the afternoon and pushing through long after dark. They probably aren't accounting for the morning they slept in, and at this point in the day, the Mama's Boys probably only had a slim lead on Dave and Elizabeth.

So after a bit, I made the short hike from Kennebec Pass towards Taylor Lake, thinking I could get a better vantage point and see Dave approaching. Dave turned out to be only half a mile behind us! Less than an hour of waiting and we'd already found Dave! And sure enough, Elizabeth was right there with him, along with her trusty sidekick, Nanook.

After an endless series of overenthusiastic greetings, and salutations, we all agreed to camp at the beautiful Taylor Lake that evening. My father even wrote an account of the event on his blog here. Dave and I went swimming in the lake. Our parent's chatted with Elizabeth. Dave and I gathered firewood. Nanook dragged her rear end through the dirt.

That evening, after spying a mysterious ceremony of people on a high ridge, an extraordinary supernatural event occurred. The mysterious, long lost White Buffalo came stampeding through our camp. Some time passed, however, before we realized this mythical creature was actually a giant husky. After attacking and invading Elizabeth and Nanook's tent, we promptly started yelling at the nearby camping party to call off the dog, which evidently answered to the name of Christina, Jessica, or something else that amused Elizabeth to no end.

We all had fun the following morning, after passing over the beautiful Kennebec Pass and getting a view of the La Plata Mountains and greater San Juan Range. We quickly descended into a valley filled with thick foliage, where David Hanson earned his new trail name: Girl Off! Elizabeth coined the new appellative after several frustrating incidents involving David's excessive flatulence! Etymology of the idiom stems from the name brand mosquito repellent, OFF!; essentially implying that David's scent repels women. But I can say that David's little "Trail Treasures" repelled members of his own gender just as effectively. All the humor helped distract from a hot afternoon of climbing out of the valley onto a series of ridges. All in all, 13 miles that day.

We found a lousy campsite near some Llama salt licks, and prepared for everybody's final day on the trail the following morning. We had some interesting conversations about the trail, and what we liked and disliked about ourselves. Elizabeth wished she were shorter. I wished I was taller. David wished he was black. Although considering the pigment of my skin in Taylor Lake, perhaps I should take a page from David's play book.

The laughter, merriment, and good spirits ended the next morning. Any remaining morale completely dissolved in the torrential rain and precipitation that woke us in the morning, forced us to cancel a proper breakfast, and motivated everyone to hike faster than we ever had before. The storm filled all the ruts in the trail dug out by mountain bikers as well, forcing everyone to wade through deep puddles. Water clinging to the foliage and brush began clinging to us as we skimmed against every plant growing up against the trail. The most miserable day of precipitation I can remember just has to come on our last day.

Finally, after a marathon 11 mile march through the endless rain, the sun came out! Unfortunately, we were less than 1/2 mile to our vehicles and the end of the Colorado Trail. It isn't long before we're in our vehicles, taking the requisite "end of the Trail" pictures, and loading up for lunch at Farquarts, a Durango landmark for delicious pizza. This was it! Then end was upon us! We convinced Elizabeth to join us for lunch. Nanook, unfortunately, wasn't invited to the party and resigned himself to napping in the back of my mother's vehicle.
When lunch finished, we all said our goodbyes. Elizabeth and Nanook were going to spend time with her friends. David and his father joined us that evening in Pagosa Springs for one last night, opting to save the 9 hour drive for the following morning. And after they departed, my parents and myself began our own drive back to Denver.

Picture Note: As I didn't bring my camera for this last segment, most of these pictures are my father's. The picture of David, Elizabeth, and Myself at the last segment in Durango is David's.

CT: Thru-Hikin' Friends

Kennebec To Durango From Andy's Fragments

The Colorado Trail Story

CT: David Hanson's Recollections

When my ankle forced an abrupt and disappointing end to my thru-hike, Dave and I split up at Marshall Pass just South of Monarch Pass. And while most of my hike had ended, Dave's journey continued without me. Below are excerpts from his Notes on events that transpired during my absence from Marshall Pass till Kennebec Pass.

Hey my friends! What a trip... I have been going solo for a hand full of days now. My friend Tyler had to leave the trail at Marshall Pass after days and miles of pain in his ankle. I certainly miss my trail partners... but there are some good things about the solitude I have been experiencing. It is something I have never known, to be alone for an extended period of time. I have learned a lot about myself that I could not have learned without solitude. I gotta get back to the trail, but I will update anyone who is interested when I finish the trail in little over a week. I miss all my friends and I can't wait to talk to yall. Love to you today.
Just arrived late last evening after a wet and rainy day hiking through the Weminuche Wilderness. That is some gnarly country. Everything is extreme and vertical. It is not very hospitable, but maybe the best stretch of trail thus far.
Leaving Creede, I had a truly beautiful experience. I was leaving the Snowshoe Lodge and heading to the post office to drop off a MASSIVE box full of excess food and provisions. I had my backpack shouldered up, and my hands full. I stopped at a gas station to look for methyl alcohol for my stove. I met a guy named David who offered me a ride to the post office, so I gratefully hitched the 4 blocks. He seemed very eager to assist me. He waited for 15 minutes while I mailed my package. I mention I wanted to use the internet before leaving town, so he suggested I come to his house and use his computer.

When I stepped inside I noticed over a hundred mounted animal heads on the wall... Deer, elk, bear, mountain lion, moose everything you could imagine. I chatted with him and his wife Rhonda. They made me a sandwich, gave me some German chocolate cake. It was great. It turns out they are Christians who see part of purpose is to have an open house to anybody at any time. They live by a philosophy of hospitality. It was so good and pure to be taken care of by complete strangers.

After enjoying their company, David drove me in his 1979 Scout all the way to the trailhead. This beast crawled past all the other parked Jeeps and 4X4's that were parked at the end of the normal road. He continued up an impossibly steep trail and drove me to the top of the Continental Divide. It saved me an extra 2 mile hike. It also added about an hour to his drive. On the way up we also ran across April and Thatch, two friends from the trail. So he picked them up and was taking them into Creede. Overall he spent about 5 hours catering to me. He went way out of his way to meet my needs. I am very grateful for the experience. It has challenged me deeply... I am very grateful to David and Rhonda, they are truly beautiful people. I'll post more on them later.
Dave couldn't stop talking about David and Rhonda's hospitality when I met up with him in Silverton. They must have been special people. Here's another musing of Dave's on material things and freedom:

Life on the trail gives one an interesting perspective on necessity. While hiking there are very few things i NEED. I need water primarily. I had a stretch of 25+ miles without any water sources and had to carry all my water for two days. Food is also a NEED. It is amazing the amount of food I can consume now that I have been hiking 15-24 miles a day. My body is now a carb processing machine. I get hungry every hour.

The last necessity is shelter. Flat ground is at a premium in certain mountain areas. So it is always a trick to find a spot near water that has a patch of 6X3 smooth ground. My pack has a few important items, an alcohol stove made from half a Pepsi can, a pot, headlamp. But I also have discarded many items that I once considered necessary. Extra underwear, gone. Kit that turns sleeping pad into chair, gone. Redundant clothing, gone. I have hiked every day in the same pair of shorts and T-shirt (I keep one change for when I role into town). The reason for keeping my "stuff" to a minimum is simple, every added luxury weighs one down. It is a hinderance. The saying goes, "an once in the morning is a pound at night".
Reflecting on the concept of need, I am more free with less. The more I accumulate the more stationary I become. The more I have to care for my possessions. It is impossible to own more than my fair share when I am required to carry it. On a tangent, everyone I meet in town says, "oh I wish I could do something like your adventure". Then they complain about their job or mortgage. But the reality is, while it may be hard to make certain sacrifices in order have the freedom to do nothing but hike for a month... it also does not require that much money.

The point being, it is easy to let the things I possess OWN ME. I need to find a job when I get off the trail to pay for my car. A car offers freedom, freedom of mobility. But the cost is a loss of freedom as far as what I do with my money.
My decision. I want to learn to live with less so that I may live more freely.

The pictures also belong to David Hanson, and was taken at some point between Marshall Pass and Silverton.
CT: The Last Segment

The Colorado Trail Story

Cheer UP!

Been kinda down about the trail. Maybe Youtube will cheer me up....

Chillin' in Pagosa Springs Again

It was nice hanging out in Pagosa Springs for a few days. The weather there this time of year is fantastic. I got a few things done, but nothing exciting really happened. Dave's father Craig came up sometime the second day I was there and took me out to Mexican food, where he gave me the latest updates from Phoenix and Dave's brother Eric Hanson (now in Colorado Springs).

I remembered doing my student-teaching internship at the local High School there in Pagosa Springs in the spring of 2004, just before leaving to go to Japan.

My parents also have longtime friends in Pagosa, the Driesens family. Jerry Driesens has been a longtime friend of my father's years ago, and they plan on rafting the Colorado River together in the second week of October, 2008. They've been in Pagosa Springs for as long as I can remember. As I recall though, they were both out of town, so I didn't visit them.

CT: David Hanson's Recollections

The Colorado Trail Story

CT: Hanging with Dave in Silverton

I rested from the trail for about a week before we got the call from David. He arrived in Creede 2 days ahead of schedule and expected to be in Silverton in about 4 days. Silverton was now the last and final resupply stop before his final destination in Durango.

David's father Craig Hanson and my own father had loose plans to go see Dave and hike the very last 20 mile segment with him provided he could rendesvous in time for Labor Day Weekend, which was now a week away.

I didn't want to be left out of the party either, so I agreed to join them. I also wanted to see Dave in Silverton and see Paul (now in Durango) before he left to Taiwan to hang out with Ipping and her family.

So I drove up early Tuesday morning to Durango where I met up with Paul for the afternoon. He was taking Ipping to the airport that night, so we didn't have a whole lot of time. But we divided up the huge pile of leftover camping food and spent the afternoon hanging out and catching up. Paul was sorry he couldn't join us for the last segment, as he had changed his plans to leave for Taiwan earlier. He also wasn't confident in his knee yet.

I then took the epic drive over the lofty Molas Pass to the sleepy little town of Silverton where I met up with Dave and met all his new acquaintances and friends from the Trail. We just hung out primarily, there wasn't any real need for me to be there. Dave had been setting a pretty grueling pace since I saw him last, and was eager for a break, so we took a day off and did a little day hiking and driving around Silverton.

We found this old abandoned mine in a deep valley just outside of town. Silverton's mining history was absolutely everywhere. Mining tails and shafts, defunct and still functioning, littered the rugged San Juan mountains in the area. We wanted to explore the shaft, but it was dammed up just past the entrance and draining a huge amount of water. Probably just as well, the water keeping us from the dangers of an old mine shaft where our own common sense and good judgment proved inadequate.
Later that evening, Dave and I met his new Trail friends he'd been leap-frogging with since my departure. Two tall skinny guys were staying next door at Dave's motel. I don't recall their names, but the duo had both earned the trail moniker of "Mama's Boys," as both their mothers were there with them, staying in another room. Their mothers had taken responsibility for their resupply logistics, pickups, and even buying them food and lodging when they got into town. Evidently in towns their mothers were just as much a fixture on the trail as they two hikers themselves!

We also met Elizabeth Perry, who would become Dave's new incidental hiking companion for the upcoming 60 mile stretch to Durango. Dave and Elizabeth had been leapfrogging since Creede, and Dave and I went out to eat with Elizabeth. She entertained us with great stories about her skiing adventures in and around her hometown of Breckenridge. And according to her story, Elizabeth was also making her second attempt on the Colorado Trail.

The following morning, I drove Dave back up to Molas Pass, where he could pick up the trail again. We picked up the resupply box at the Molas Lake Campground where Dave removed the small percentage of food that he would need for the next 5 days. I took the rest with me and headed back to Pagosa Springs to await our parents' respective arrivals and our next rendezvous on the trail at Kennebec Pass, some 20 miles outside Durango. From there, Dave, myself, and both our fathers would hike the remaining 20 miles together.

CT: Chillin' in Pagosa Springs

The Colorado Trail Story

CT: Analyzing What Went Wrong

Thru-hiking a long trail such as the Colorado Trail is a different ball game from most of the outdoor pursuits I have experience with. And while I now consider myself knowledgeable and experienced at this, thru-hiking also proved one of the few pursuits that I wasn't successful with. Close friends and family have tried to convince me otherwise, but the stark undeniable fact remains: I did not thru-hike the Colorado Trail and was not successful at attaining that objective.

My Parents and friends have also tried to convince me of the fact that an ankle injury was beyond my control, and that nothing I could have done differently would have changed that fact. Perhaps they are right. The condition of Paul's knees were out of his control and I don't begrudge him that, so why should I consider this to be a personal failure on my part? On my last day before I left, David and I were engaged in many conversations about this, and he told me himself. "Tyler, you're harder on yourself than anyone I know." Perhaps this is another part of myself that I need to work on, but that will be the topic of another post.

I seriously hoped to succeed at this, and I still hope to return and thru-hike the whole Colorado Trail completely. So as I wait for my ankle to mend, I've been pondering and considering the successes and mistakes I made in this endeavor. I'll also be analyzing which of these factors contributed to my inability to complete the trail.

So in many ways, the following is simply a way for me to analyze what to do differently next time, and the things I have to accept as beyond my control.

SUCCESSES: I agree with David that I may be harder and more demanding on myself than I should be, so I'm going to start out with some things I thought I did well.

1. LOGISTICS: One thing I did do right, I believe, was in planning and logistics for the three of us. I did my homework, developed a resupply schedule, purchased meals that were MORE THAN ADEQUATE, and managed to get everything ready on time. I located places ready and willing to keep our supplies that would be more convenient than post offices, and generally predicted what to expect along the trail pretty well.

2. DETERMINATION: I wanted it badly enough and wasn't willing to give it up until it became absolutely essential for my health and well being. I never dropped out because I was sick of the rain (even when it was tempting to do so) nor did I ever call it quits for some other reason. I'm going to try to convince myself this speaks something about my character and will.

3. STOVE: The alcohol stove, I think, proved to be the best option for a trip of this sort. Alcohol was easy to locate when we needed it, and while we paid a bit of a weight penalty for our more extended excursions, I think it was generally a good, lightweight option. I think I'll stick with this for the next attempt.

4. CERTAIN FOOD CHOICES: Some food choices proved to work pretty well: Foods that were quick, nutritious, lightweight and provided good energy and/or protein worked well. These foods include: oatmeal breakfasts, grape nuts breakfasts (when not in overabundance), certain trail mixes, Nature Valley Granola Bars, couscous, backpacker's pantry meals, and Mountain House meals.
LITTLE MISTAKES: Some MINOR things I would do differently, but didn't necessarily affect the outcome.

1. FOOD OVERABUNDANCE: I purchased too much food. I had expected to be consuming many more calories than we actually did, and so consequently, we packed almost twice as much food as was necessary. While this proved a big mistake on the first section, by the time we reached our first and second resupplies, we knew what we could leave out. Simply an error of judgement, but not one that really hurt us in the long term (except the pocketbook). We often got our resupply boxes and sent 1/3 to 1/2 of the food right back home because we knew we wouldn't eat it all. To our credit though, we NEVER went hungry, so it was probably prudent that we erred on the side of caution as hunger could definitely have jeopardized the trip.

2. FOOD CHOICES: Certain foods were never consumed at all. This was PARTLY due to a misunderstanding of the nature of thru-hiking, bad calls on my part, and partly the result of untested gear. We brought along a lot of instant Jello pudding. Good for your weekend backpacking trips, when you spend more time sitting around the campfire eating, but not good on thru-hiking trips, when you're spending more time hiking and sleeping. It just didn't find a good place in our menu.

Pancakes turned out to be the same way. Fine for long weekends in the woods when you get a late start one day for a day hike, but not so great for thru-hiking, when you need to wake up super early every day and get some miles in before rain or other events might put you behind schedule. Simple foods that were quick and easy to prepare or required no preparation turned out to be the best options. Gear also proved a factor in this. Pancakes and eggs simply don't cook well on my new lightweight titanium cookware, which is essential for a trip of this nature (more on that later).

Other foods simply weren't being consumed, but this goes back to number 1. We'd often have leftover granola bars we didn't eat either because they didn't taste as good, or some other reason. Numerous foods weren't getting eaten throughout the trip and we'd typically arrive in towns ready for our next resupply and still be carrying a surplus of food.
Foods to leave out or cut down on next time include: Jello deserts, pancakes, freeze dried eggs, fish fry, fruits (for multiple reasons), certain bars, certain trail mixes, fruit roll ups (just corn syrup really), olive oil, hot chocolate, hot cider.


1. WEIGHT. PERIOD: The fact was, we were just too heavy. This slowed our progress, especially in the beginning and was probably a contributing factor to my ankle problem. Despite lightening our loads quite a bit prior to the trip (new gear, etc.) we just weren't the fanatics about grams and ounces that we should have been. We took a filter when we could have taken tablets. We took a GPS, etc.

While I'm not qualified to quantify the effect of weight on my ankle, I generally believe, and think that I could make a convincing argument that more weight= more stress on joints. Fair or not, I conclude that every choice I made with regard to heavier gear ultimately contributed to my negative outcome.

Seriously, though, I don't need a study to prove this assertion, just look at the pictures above! Which hikers are going to have more stress on their joints? Us or Steve? Who's going to have more fun? Us or Steve? Look at the pictures again and realize that Steve not only isn't sharing gear with friends, but he's also going 12 more days without supplies. Our gang's only prepared for 6 days. I'm now a believer that ultralight is the ONLY way to go.

2. FOOD WEIGHT: The biggest reason we were too heavy (see #1 above) was due to the weight of our food. I GROSSLY UNDERESTIMATED the importance of the weight of the foods I was carrying. I recall my dad watching as I bought 100 dollar titanium cookware and an aluminum stove and said, "you're stressing about the little stuff instead of worrying about the big stuff! And with respect to our food, he was right! During our second day, we met Steve, who carried enough supplies and gear for 12-14 days and weighed half as much as any of us. He said food weight to energy ratio of 130 calories per ounce. This proved to be a lot more restrictive than I originally thought. Even our Clif bars don't meet this requirement!

With the exception of our dinners, most of our foods proved to be in the 80-100 calories per ounce. During the trail, we consumed around 3500 calories per day. So for Steve, this comes out to 27 ounces per day, or 1.68 lbs. For us, at a value of say, 80 calories per ounce, 3500 calories weighs 43.75 ounces, or 2.73 lbs. That means that Dave, Paul, and myself were carrying a little over 1 pound of food per day. For the first 6 days, this means we're carrying 6 pounds in food that Steve doesn't have to carry. So for every stride, (6 extra pounds per stride) I end up putting 6 pounds more on my ankle. This could easily accumulate into thousands of more pounds on my joints than on Steve's after only 1 mile. Considering the trial is 480 miles, this could easily contribute to my ankle problems. Steve's ankles don't need to worry about this, so he's more likely to finish without injury.

3. GEAR CHOICES: Numerous choices of gear proved to be inadequate in that they were far too heavy. My pack weighed in at 3 1/2 pounds. Had I followed the principles above on FOOD WEIGHT, I could have carried an "ultralight backpack" that weighed in at roughly 1.5 pounds. 2 pounds less by choice of pack alone, and it would have decreased more had I followed the mistake above. I had examined and even tried on a couple packs like this, but elected not to buy them because I COULDN'T FIT ALL MY FOOD in them!

And while my choice of tent worked well for three people, the concept and thought processes that went into the purchase proved faulty for a thru-hiking setting. To reduce weight I should have gone with a combination shelter/raingear/rainfly product such as Six Moon Design's Gatewood Cape. I'm already carrying raingear and a rainfly. Why should I go to the trouble of carrying extra fabric (and weight) for a shelter? Why indeed. There are several products on the market similar to this one, and we should have elected to go with these instead. Might have shaved a few more valuable ounces and given us a little more volume (to cut down further on the size and weight of our backpacks).

Going ultralight has to be a completely holistic choice. If you bring pancakes and eggs, you have to bring a spatula, etc. Bring hot chocolate and you have to bring a cup. One too many extra things and you have to buy a bigger, heavier pack (which you fill with more stuff).

4. NOT ADDRESSING MY ANKLE PROBLEM SOON ENOUGH: I really should have changed things up sooner after I found my ankle problem wasn't going away. Perhaps then, I might not be analyzing what went wrong on my trip. When Paul started having knee problems, he quickly began wrapping them and got a knee brace as soon as possible. Ultimately he faced the same outcome I did, but at least Paul can live with the knowledge he did everything he could to remedy the situation. Would things have gone differently if I'd done the same? Things certainly couldn't have gone much worse had I began wrapping my ankle the moment it gave me problems, instead of 80 miles later when it was already too late. I should have gotten an ankle brace in Buena Vista when I had the chance. Ankle injuries beyond my control or not, taking preventative action early was the correct choice, and I didn't make that choice. So I list this as a contributing factor in the outcome.

5. POOR FOOTWEAR CHOICE: My boots proved to be a poor choice of footwear. My Vasque Switchbacks felt comfortable, which was good, but for an all leather boot they certainly didn't provide the ankle support I evidently needed. This was partly due to an inadequate understanding on my part about what I needed, which may or may not have been preventable. The front wore out a lot faster than I expected as well, and as the miles accumulated, I liked them less and less. My dad expressed later that he didn't think they were great boots. If I'd invested in something with better ankle support, would my weak ankles have held out longer? Possibly. So this goes in with contributing factors.

6. LACK OF DETERMINATION: While this appears completely contrary to the text above, I realize now I could have waited a week in Poncha Springs, and tried to finish the trail after my ankle was feeling somewhat better. While it would have been ideal, it was not necessary for me to finish with Dave. Ultimately, I gave up in Poncha Springs, instead of trying something different. Thinking back, I should have stayed in Poncha Springs or camped out at Marshall Pass alone while my ankle healed instead of retreating all the way back to Denver.

This is a tough call for a number of reasons and I hesitate to write it down. I'd be pushed to a later point in the season. I would have risked further permanent injury as staying in Poncha Springs would force me to be more active than staying in Denver. Still, I made the choice to quit the trail at Marshall Pass, and sane or not, logic dictates that this must be counted as a contributing factor (although one with many caveats). I guess Dave was right when he said I was hard on myself.

MODIFICATIONS: So, I hereby resolve to make the following changes/adjustments when I attempt to thru-hike the Colorado Trail again (and THERE WILL BE a second attempt).

1. ANKLE TREATMENT/TRAINING: I'm going to get my ankle looked at soon to check for stress fractures/other problems. I need a professional opinion and advice before proceeding.

2. TRAINING: After getting that advice, I'd like to begin some sort of program to treat and/or train my weak ankles either under professional guidance or self developed. This could include weight training for the ankles and surrounding muscles, prescribed physical therapy, or another training regimen deemed likely to contribute to a positive thru-hiking outcome.

3. TRAINING: I'm also going to make sure I'm in generally better physical condition when I attempt to hike it again. More long hikes and walking leading up to the hike.

3. ULTRALIGHT: Strictest adherence to the philosophies and doctrines of the most insanely fanatical ultralight purists. Ultralight pack; foods with 130 calories an ounce or better; no extraneous luxuries such as camera, headlamp, cups, etc.; 25 degree ultralight down bag; tablets instead of filters; Gatewood Cape Shelter or similar product, I'm going to seriously shoot for an under 8 lb. base weight (weight without food)

4. GAME PLAN TINKERING: I'm going to seriously consider a more frequent resupply schedule (to cut down further on weight) that adds Buffalo Creek, Copper Mountain, and Twin Lakes in addition to the 7 points I already have. I'm not sure yet how practical this would be and this will require some homework and study, but I'd be willing to make a couple extra trips into towns if I thought it might help matters.

5. GO NORTHBOUND: In case I can't thru-hike the trail on my second attempt, starting in Durango the second time around would ensure that I get to see the parts of the CT I missed the first time around. If anything, my experience on the trail disproves the axiom that if you put your mind to anything you can achieve it. I cannot guarantee success in Round 2 by having a better plan and making wiser choices. And as little as I want to face it right now, the fact may be that my body is simply not physically capable of completing this task. Going Northbound the second time will let me see the beautiful areas I miss, and help hedge against another negative outcome.

6. TOP NOTCH FOOTWEAR: My Dad told me about a guy in Estes Park who makes custom mountaineering boots. While expensive, such an option might give me the edge I need for a successful outcome. Regardless, the best high quality footwear available should be a top priority for any second attempt, complete with any prescribed orthotics, insoles, or other accessories. Cost and money will no longer be a consideration when it comes to footwear on my next attempt. My weak ankle will obviously tolerate nothing less.

7. HEALTHIER FOOD CHOICES: You are what you eat. I think if I generally stick to the 130 calories per ounce rule it should help matters. That means either making dehydrated meals myself, or buying freeze dried meals from Backpackers Pantry and Mountain House. Those meals generally meet the 130 Rule. Oatmeal is also generally lightweight and high in calories (although I have no ratio figures) I've also given serious thought to either doing without a stove, or refraining from cooking breakfast meals. If I did without a stove, I could likely also do away with carrying not only the stove, but fuel and possibly cookware also. I think a happy medium would be refraining from cooking breakfast though, cutting down on fuel, and saving time in the morning, which is much more critical than at night.

I may add to this as time goes on, and will probably be revisiting this list prior to my second attempt to thru-hike the Colorado Trail.

CT: Hanging With Dave in Silverton

CT Hiking Photos From Andy's Fragments

The Colorado Trail Story

CT Day 28: Hitching Back to Denver

I'd never really hitchhiked before the Colorado Trail, and consequently, I wasn't very good at it. I'd finally arrived in Poncha Springs in the early afternoon and was eager to get back to Denver for what I assumed would be a bit of a recovery process. It was easier said than done though.

Several people in the Poncha Springs Shell Station told me to try a truckstop in Salida, so I quickly found a ride there. Those people then told me that if I wanted a ride to Denver, I'd need to stay on US Highway 285, as most people in Salida were bound for Colorado Springs or Pueblo. So I quickly found another ride over in that direction. I'd gotten three rides to as many locations in Chaffee County within 10 minutes. Finally, to get a ride to Denver, I left another Shell station (I'd been soliciting rides there for 30 minutes) and started hiking up US-285 after losing my patience.

I hiked for 40 minutes up the highway before someone finally pulled over to pick me up. The two Western State College students from Gunnison, CO were headed to Colorado Springs to visit friends for a week and join a protest at the upcoming Democratic National Convention. They said they could drive me as far as Colorado Springs or Jefferson, (where they were turning off). I figured I'd have more luck in Colorado Springs than I was there, so I agreed to join them till they got to Colorado Springs.

I was immediately greeted (attacked?) by the friendliest golden retriever I'd ever met. Not 0.3 seconds after sitting down the older puppy jumped up on my face and started licking me. He wouldn't stop either! So I spent most of the ride to Colorado Springs fighting off animal dander and doggy slobber to the tune of endless Phish tapes.

My dread-locked hosts were nice for the most part, and we eventually reached Colorado Springs, where they dropped me off at the Interstate-25 junction. I figured from here I could easily get a ride into the Denver area or if worse came to worse, I could call my parents or get a bus.

Well the worse did indeed come to worse. I had ABSOLUTELY NO LUCK getting a ride out of Colorado Springs. I stood on two intersections for 40 minutes each without so much as a passing acknowledgement of my plight. I finally called my parents and they found me sometime about 8 PM for a drive back to their house in Denver.

CT: Analyzing What Went Wrong

Tyler Returns From Andy's Fragments

CT Hiking Photos From Andy's Fragments

The Colorado Trail Story

CT DAY 28: A Parting of Ways

Aptly marking the new low in our drama, the weather turned bad as well. Rain, wind, hail, and thunderstorms raged all night and pounded our tent. We woke to cloudy skies, a cold drizzle, and our first dusting of snow.

Getting up that morning and walking around, I knew that the miraculous ankle recovery I prayed for never came. The wisest course of action (indeed, the ONLY course of action) was making an exit at Marshall Pass. Even if I fought the pain and managed to limp along any further I would soon be forced off regardless and risked serious permanent damage to 1 or both of my feet. Had I gone further, I'd simply be in a much worse state, in far more remote and distant country where necessary help was likely to be much harder to find.

As we left the campground, a light snow dusted us on our remaining three miles to Marshall Pass. This was the first snowfall I'd seen since leaving Japan. David offered to go with me, but I wouldn't let him. He had to finish the trail for Paul and I.

At the Pass we had hoped to find more traffic and people around, so that I might find an easy ride into Poncha Springs. That didn't turn out to be the case though, so I walked along FS-200 hoping to find a ride soon. Several mountain bikers were in the area, but none had vehicles conveniently located. I turned down their offers to call Forest Rangers for a pickup, but I turned them down and took my chances hiking down the trail.

The small, muddy Forest Service road proved quite pretty, but hobbling 15 miles to Poncha Springs in my current state didn't make any sense. I wished I'd taken the bikers up on their offer. Now it was raining again, and I wasn't making very good progress, despite the easy grade. Fortunately, a couple in the area for day hiking passed by after an hour or so. I flagged them down and they gave me a ride to the campground at O'Haver Lake. I soon got another ride into the Shell Station at Poncha Springs along Highway 285.

CT Day 28: Hitching Back to Denver

The Colorado Trail Story

CT Day 27: Approaching Marshall Pass

We started again in the early afternoon from the Monarch Mountain Lodge. 10 miles into the hike though, I was hurting.... bad. While my one ankle had been bothering me for quite some time, it wasn't getting worse. So I figured I'd keep an eye on it and hope it either got better or somehow let me finish the trail. But somewhere during Segment 15 of the CT, I wrenched my OTHER ankle. Now I was leaning far more heavily on my (supposedly) weaker ankle!

Suffice it to say, I was a hurting unit, and my temperament probably reflected the pain my feet had me in. That most terrible of scenarios I dreaded since before passing through Twin Lakes almost 80 miles prior had now finally presented itself. Malfunctioning ankles were now forcing me off the trail. Almost as bad, the pain was preventing me from enjoying one of the better segments of the trail. We spent over half a mile wading through a field of wildflowers and I struggled to enjoy any of it.

I was noticeably slowing down as we crossed the Continental Divide and again reached the CT/CDT junction. It proved to be an eerie moonscape covered in fog. But despite our fantastic surroundings, both Dave and myself were growing more concerned about my injuries. Nearly every step I took proved painful and my hobbling and limping down the trail, as I leaned on my trekking poles certainly couldn't have been healthy for my stride. Like a snowball rolling downhill, things were quickly deteriorating for my feet.
So we camped a little early that day, in a lean-to shelter near the Green's Creek Trail about 10 miles in. It lies about three miles after gaining the Divide. Dave and I spent most of the night discussing the situation (mostly me yelling and complaining about all the work I'd put into this Trail and my frustration at my impending failure). I tried to rationalize continuing, but even I knew my case was pretty weak.

Dave and I agreed on loose plans then: for me to exit at Marshall Pass, where we would see the next dirt road (FS-200) and I could likely hitch a ride to Poncha Springs. I'd give Dave the stove and we could divide up the food in the morning. If I had a miraculous recovery the next day, I could try and move 1 trail segment further to the Sargent's Mesa Trailhead at FS-855. But I think both Dave and myself knew that wasn't going to happen.
CT Day 28: A Parting of Ways

The Colorado Trail Story

Friday, September 05, 2008

CT Day 26: Reaching Monarch Pass

After a long march during a rather dreary morning and early afternoon, we finally reached the US-50 highway. From here we would hitch a ride West to the Monarch Mountain Lodge along the highway, stay the night, and pick up our resupply box(es). We had reached Monarch Pass a day earlier than planned, which made a possible rendezvous with Paul kind of difficult, but we knew we needed to make mileage.

Unfortunately, NOBODY offered us a ride from the Colorado Trail/US-50 junction the four miles up to the lodge, turning an easy 12 mile half day into a full day of hiking. We were shocked, scandalized and outraged that not one of the hundreds of cars passing us bothered to give us a ride. It probably didn't help that the rainy weather made us look wet, turning otherwise good Samaritans into anal-retentive yuppies worried about the upholstery in their cars. I'm also willing to bet most of these people had probably spent the last 40 minutes trying to pass up big trucks and RVs, and were therefore unwilling to fall back behind them.

Either way, we finally reached the Monarch Mountain Lodge, picked up our boxes, and got a room. We had a steak dinner and soaked in their hot tub. And we found the lodge to be quite reasonably priced considering its spectacular location.

We managed to finish the daunting task of sorting through our ENORMOUS 3 boxes of food. We had packed food for 3 people and still had almost TWICE what we needed. Now with only two people, much of it was going to get thrown away. We gave some of it away to some friends we made at the resort, and still shipped a lot of the food back.

After that I went outside for one last soak in the hot tub.

SHAMELESS PLUG!: The owner of the Monarch Mountain Lodge was also kind enough to let us stash three big boxes at his business free of charge and without any expectation of reciprocity. Pretty cool I thought! So if you ever find yourself around Salida, Poncha Springs, or Monarch Pass and you are in need of a place to stay, consider heading up Highway 50 just east of Monarch Pass. The accomodations are simple, but well maintained and reasonably priced. It would be an IDEAL location to stay in the winter if you were to spend a long weekend skiing on the slopes at Monarch.

CT Day 27: Approaching Marshall Pass

Report On CT Hikers from Andy's Fragments

The Colorado Trail Story

CT Day 25: Princeton Hot Springs

Trudging along. First beautiful, sunny day we've had in quite awhile. Almost too hot and sunny. We stopped at Princeton Hot Springs after 7 or 8 miles in the morning. My ankle had been bothering me some, and I was hoping the hot waters would help things somewhat. Dave was also eager for the chance to try out the waters.

Princeton Hot Springs lies near Buena Vista, and is the center of a small, overpriced resort facility at the foot of the enormous Mt. Princeton. The naturally heated waters reminded me of all the onsen hot springs I used to frequent in the Japanese countryside, although this one was decidedly American in style. なつかしいい!

After finishing about noon, we had one more small hill to climb (about 1500 feet) and then we made a long trek South in the direction of Monarch Pass. During the afternoon we managed to make tons of progress, 10 miles or so almost directly South West, making for a 16-17 mile day.
We camped early that evening, and while building a fire, Thatch showed up. This time though, April was nowhere to be seen. He was much more cognizant today, although he reported feeling only slightly better. He told us how April had left him in the dust that morning, and was probably already hitching a ride into Salida to pick up supplies. This surprised me a bit. Despite Thatch's recent lethargy, he had the more impressive thru-hiker's resume, so I figured April would struggle to keep up with him. According to Thatch though, April was just bounding with energy, and he was constantly struggling to stay with his blond counterpart.

Thatch left and came back to our camp only 3 minutes later to report sighting a "huge" black bear on the trail just up ahead. He reported that the bear probably weight 300-400 lbs and wasn't more than 150 yards away. Needless to say, we thought it prudent to cook at least that far AWAY from our tents and make sure we thoroughly cleaned our cookware.

CT Day 26: Reaching Monarch Pass

The Colorado Trail Story

CT Day 24: Leaving Buena Vista

We left Buena Vista today. We had another big climb up a hill that afternoon. Jenny Pyle was kind enough to give us a ride back to the trailhead. And after saying our thank you's and goodbyes, we proceeded on at a leisurely pace, and covering only 6 or 7 miles that afternoon.

So you could imagine our surprise when April came up on us! We thought she and Thatch had passed us 3 days ago! Apparently they went into town as well, although we missed them. Nevertheless, April was there and as chipper as ever, telling us about how Thatch had taken some medication and wasn't feeling so well.

15-20 minutes later Thatch showed up himself, and indeed, was looking much the worse for wear! To cure a headache or some other ailment, he had taken some 10 year old prescription medication his friend had given him long ago. The medication was evidently intended for severe seizures. Dazed, confused, and lethargic in every sense, Thatch wasn't doing so well!

Despite Thatch's medical disaster, they were both trying to reach the Princeton Hot Springs before dark, so they might soak their tired bones. April wasn't having much sympathy for Patch's lethargy and left him in the dust again after we finished talking. It finally registered with Thatch that April had again bounded off down the trail without him like a 9 year old on a sugar high. After that he slowly lurched forward and mumbled something about catching up with her. Hopefully he'll be OK!

CT Day 25: Princeton Hot Springs

The Colorado Trail Story