Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lookout and Signal Mountain from Dunraven

I've been below treeline for too long, it seems, so anxiously got out to Montana Mirador y Cerro Senal (aka Lookout and Signal Mountains).

Good writeup at Senor Nick's place as well as Rob's, so no need to re-hash all of it. Glad to save some trouble and get some beta from there. This report is mostly to give you an idea what condition the conditions are in...and a surprise sighting on Signal.

I had been up to Donner Pass as a duathlon, but didn't have enough energy or time to check out the surrounding peaks. I wimped out and drove this time, but then was able to complete the loop, slowly.

I followed went counterclockwise from Dunraven and followed all Donner Pass signs, and also agree with Nick that the "2 mile" and "2.5 miles" signs are off by 2 miles. Last time I was up there, I was thinking I must be going reeeallly slow.

I tagged Lookout for the first time. Luckily, I think the "1 Mile" sign from Donner Pass junction is a bit of an overestimate. The first "1/2 mile" (there is another sign) is probably just over a quarter, and then the trail gets rocky as it heads up and then just disappears, so it's more of a bushwhack and then a scramble up a rock outcropping, with great views:

The advantage here is checking out the remaining route, which rolls along ridges through thick trees. Then, head back down to Donner Pass. I should've paid attention to my exact route up, but instead bushwhacked south and southwest. Since it was near noon, following my shadow for direction was no longer working very well, so I was glad to have brought my compass. I lucked out and essentially hit right at the half mile sign.

Next is a few miles of rollers, and then finally, glorious tundra!
Finally, my favourite sort of terrain, melting out from the summer. Then, at the top, even more glorious views:

In the previous picture, you can see the only real spots of snow on the trail. The trail descends and then curves to the left (Southeast) on Bulwark Ridge. At treeline, for maybe ~1 mile, there are a few short snowfields to cross or avoid.

Easy enough to find the trail after each snowfield -- I can imagine how difficult routefinding can be here with consistent snow coverage. The next half mile is snowmelt running straight down the trail. All of it is manageable and at least the snow here provides some needed drinking water ("hydration," in the parlance of our times). No need for extra gear -- the trails are ready, just a bit of extra time for the snow.

After the snow and chunky-monkey stuff for a few miles, the trail surprisingly opens up for a few miles of straight, fun downhill. Otherwise, in monsoon/storm season, I might suggest a clockwise route. That puts you on Signal first (which is prettier, anyway), and marginally closer to where most storms start (every little bit counts!), then leaves you to duck into the trees for the remainder and consideration of Lookout as optional.

The Sound and Fury

Lastly, I saw something new on a hike/run like this: motorcycles on the top of Signal! You don't see this every day (zoom way in, top left of center):

...because it's illegal! The summit is most definitely in Comanche Peak Wilderness, which doesn't even allow bikes (or hangliders, in case you were wondering). Much of the trail is not in the Wilderness area, so even an inspired peakbagger could have stashed the bikes a mile or two lower. Luckily I was already down or it would have severely spoiled my mood. But, I heard them as they hooted when they got to the top. Congratulations, guys -- you are able to sit on a seat and turn your wrist accordingly!

Anyway, 'tis the season to get up to the peaks...on foot!

Triple Homecoming

I passed my preliminary exam, which is exciting.
The very next day (after some sleep), we moved back up to Fort Collins, then started unpacking on Sunday. I will be commuting to Denver but hopefully and generally able to work from home as I ramp up research.

On Monday, we drove 15 hours straight to Minneapolis (we both lived 2 years there and loved it), where we spent a great few days with friends; then down to Madison (4 years there for me) to see another friend, and ultimately southeastern WI (where we both grew up) to see more family and friends. Then back up to Tomah, WI, for a family reunion on J's side, which was also great fun, meeting new people and getting to know others better.
Immediately after, a 15-hour drive again and we were back.
This was the first time we rotated drivers this much, and it worked beautifully. The old way was for me to drive ~10-12 hours until my eyes go sideways, and then pull over but find out J is also too tired to drive so we both need to take a nap. I must be getting old (or tired of repeat scenery, I like to think!) but shorter stints worked well this time.

Great to be back "home": to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and ultimately Fort Collins!

Much to catch up on, Blog-wise: reading everyone else's, and excited to see how WS turns out. I need to post Dinosaur NM from Mem Day, as well as Minnesota and Wisconsin tidbits-of-interest and pictures.

Bike to Work Day Thoughts

Happy to be back in the Fort...mucho to catch up on!
I skipped Bike to Work Day today -- one of
my favourite days of the year (I'll catch up on the winter one, which I like more) since I worked from home today. Hypocritically, I ended up driving today (out of town). But, I did ride to Horsetooth for a run yesterday, which was great. There must be a Tuesday night bike ride, as I saw many mt. bikers getting ready to ride around 5:30. Kudos to the two guys I saw riding up to the trailhead...maybe 25-30 that drove up. I know it's a tough spot to get up there after work, so my maxim is more of a suggestion than a rule (lest I be found guilty of numerous hypocrisies):

Minimize driving to exercise when you're in town

I think about this mostly when I ride past the 24-Hour Fitness parking lot.
Looking forward to catching up with the trailrunners soon -- a few folks ride to the Tuesday run and we end up getting to the Trailhead Tavern faster than most of the cars!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

QotD from Trek CEO

Every time a motorist sees a bicycle, they should say, "Awesome. That's one less car than I have to deal with here."
-- John Burke, CEO of Trek

Good interview from Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Taste of Louisville Half Marathon Result

PR, NYCM guaranteed qualifier, BB A-wave qual, Top 5 -- all the stretch goals I had in mind for a perfect race (for me).

Hope that's not too self-indulgent, but pretty stoked, I definitely wanted this based on the (admittedly First-World) stress of the last few weeks. That's sometimes exactly what running is good for.


Fun course, great event, great town (we had never been there before!), more later when I have time. Grabbed (free) beer then headed back to finish the last 3 miles with J. She was a bit disappointed and didn't feel well all day. But she is an absolute rock in how she multi-tasks and stays patient, picks up the slack when I cannot, and is absolutely the best part of my life. Despite her walking and having pain while running, we turn the corner where the finish line came into view a quarter mile out, and she just picks it up without hesitation and starts running again! Awesome.

And she got me into running in the first place!


Actually raced a bit for position, which was fun (doesn't usually apply when I race at my pace/distance). First and last miles just under 6:00. Able to pick up a few spots along the way with even pacing and patience, and the high-schooler just in front of me was checking his shoulder a bit. Nice meeting some folks out there, and a big shout out to 2nd-place finisher Jeff Buechler, who is fast but also just goofing off and having fun a bit, but a class act that clapped and cheered even when J and other finishers were coming in.