Tuesday, June 29, 2010

July Race in Silverton

By happenstance, not planning, I've ended up doing at least a race a month this year, 6 races in 4 states. Why not keep the streak alive in July?

So we're headed to the San Juans this weekend, en'shallah, where I'm excited to spend a 3-day weekend. I had this planned last year, but the weather was clearly a 3-day monsoon (it was obvious the whole week in advance), so we called an audible. Looking good so far. If all goes as planned, we'll be camping, hiking Handies on Saturday, Ice Lake Basin on Monday, and have Sunday to enjoy the parade, fireworks, and ruhubarb festival.

Of course, in order to earn a slice of pie and ice cream on Sunday, why not run the race in Silverton, the Independence Day Blue Ribbon 5k/10k?
This fun run was created nearly 30 years ago by local runners for a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Sounds like someone is running the wrong Silverton race on the wrong weekend!

It's $20, with a t-shirt, good deal. J's gonna do the 5k, I'm doing the 10k. Otherwise, information on the course is scarce. Previous results are scarce, a couple years ago timing problems caused the results to be lost altogether. I dig the laid-back mystique though. I have no idea how to pace something like this. It's at 10k feet, but it's "only" a 10k, and it's on paved and dirt roads, not trail, so I thought maybe just drop a few minutes on a flat time here. After all, if you use Jack Daniels formula, the elevation adds just over a minute total. Figured another minute for some hills....So maybe the leaders are in the mid 30's, maybe I could aim for 40:xx or 41. Wrong!

Man, this is baseball, you gotta stop thinking! Just have fun. from "The Sandlot"

Check out these results from 2005 (one of the only sets I was able to find):
1 1 1 Ian Torrence M 31 15 39:31 06:35
1 2 2 Hal Koerner M 28 19 40:24 06:44
2 3 3 Scott Jaime M 30 28 40:47 06:47
1 4 4 Karl Meltzer M 36 16 41:31 06:55
2 5 5 Dave Heald M 26 65 41:42 06:57

Recognize any of those names? Umm, yeah. So I guess 45 sounds like a nice round (but tough) number to me! With 2 loops, even or negative split would be a good goal. But mostly, I will focus mostly on the original intent of the race: earning my thirst!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rails to Trails: Medicine Bow Trail

Medicine Bow Trail
~45 miles Round-Trip

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy does great work reclaiming abandoned railroad lines around the country, and repurposes them into multi-use paths. Advantages of this approach include the obvious reuse of existing infrastructure to provide active outdoor leisure opportunities, but another great feature is that the gentle grade required for train locomotives is also gentle enough to be accessible to anybody able to walk or ride. These trails have been more popular out East, including our former home states of Wisconsin and Minnesota, as my wife's family and I have fond memories of the Elroy-Sparta trail in Wisconsin.

Fortunately, one of the newer trails is the fabulous Medicine Bow Trail in Southern Wyoming, just a couple hour drive from Fort Collins, and I finally had a chance to check it out on Saturday. One of my goals was to get familiar with it and check it out for a possible family trip later this summer or fall -- I know it's a work in progress, and trail condition information from the National Forest line was scarce. However, I had an even bigger interest in checking out this trail, which has to do with South Dakota.

Geographically confused? Well, I've had my eye on the Lean Horse 100 in South Dakota this August for my first 100 miler. I ran it as my first 50 two years ago, and really enjoyed the course, race organization, people, and scenery, and wished I had been trained at the time for the longer distance. At 25 miles, we short-coursers turned around, and I watched with some envy as other folks pressed on into the unknown. Anyway, that course is about as 'easy' as you can get for a non-road, non-loop course, yet is also an incredibly scenic route through the Black Hills. Most of the run is on the Mickelson Trail, which is -- you guessed it -- a rail trail. Therefore, I figured the Medicine Bow Trail would be good training, since it offered a similar surface. Even better, the Medicine Bow Trail is nearly twice as high, at 9000 feet -- awesome!

The Medicine Bow Trail is currently listed at 21 miles long, so I readied myself for a 42-mile training run. However, there's a Forest Road detour around Fox Park, just over a mile in either direction, so you're looking at 44-45 miles in the current configuration. There are several trailheads along the way, conveniently spaced, and all but the northernmost one have restrooms and require a National Parks or America The Beautiful pass. Unfortunately, the only spot with potable water is at Lake Owen, near the northern terminus, and even more unfortunately, this water is currently not available. However, I somewhat prepared for this, as I had heard that the campground wasn't open yet. Therefore, the only rational (and I use that term loosely) way to do this was to start in the middle, at the Woods Creek Trailhead, which left me with a 23.5-mile roundtrip northern run, and a 21.2 roundtrip southern run, with a water/food stop at my car in the middle. Also, this TH is right off of Hwy 230, so it's really easy access and one of the closest from Ft. Collins, as the other TH's require more distance on dirt roads.

I headed northbound just after 8AM, with about 50oz of water (one big handheld, one bottle in a backpack), some food, homemade gel, and pepper spray (to be explained), but no camera (sorry). I crossed Hwy 230, and I was off into the woods. First impressions: gorgeous, as I was surrounded in a tunnel of pine, broken up by large ponds, creeks, and swamps. This section of trail, as it turns out, is the least developed, in terms of not having sufficient crushed stone to keep out plant growth, so it would be slightly slower but still quite easy for recreational cyclists.

I quickly hit the detour around Foxpark, which is a fenced-in collection of cabins (apparently there is a right-of-way dispute), but the detour was well-signed with a map. I headed out on dirt NF roads, worthy of exploration in their own right, and continued northward. The trail soon became developed in terms of consistent gravel, and also had occasionally surprising views as the trail was elevated high above surrounding wetlands. The trail itself, along the entire length, was dry with good drainage on either side.

I continued past some of the other trailheads, which occasionally denoted the distances to other trailheads. Even better, each mile is marked using the old railroad measuring reference, so somebody with a cheap watch, rudimentary math skills, and plenty of time (ahem) can easily calculate splits. The trail is also intersected by nearby motorized OHV trails, which is a blessing (as it keeps motorized traffic off of this trail) and a curse (with the occasional noise and exhaust from motorized users). Still, during the entire day, I had maybe 3-4 minutes total interfacing with motorized traffic, nothing to complain about.

I did expect to see more other folks using the trail, and I'll skip ahead and give you a grand tally here: 2 parties total walking, 2 parties total picnic-ing...and that's it, except for folks at Lake Owen itself, which was expected. I alternated between enjoying my good fortune of having the trail nearly to myself, while also wishing more people were out enjoying this gem.

Finally, I reaced Lake Owen itself, about 10 miles in, which I rightly anticipated would be the most scenic section. Folks were fishing from the shore and in non-motorized craft on the lake itself, and a few dogs milled about. Medicine Bow Peak itself poked out above distance trees. I didn't know it at the time, but apparently there's a loop trail around the lake itself. I definitely would return here and spend some time just chilling out by the lake.

But, distance to be covered. I finished out the remaining couple of miles to the Dry Creek TH, which ended near a road and wasn't terribly scenic. Here, I turned around, grabbed some food from my pack, and alternated water bottles, as I began walking for the first time.

And then, I heard a crash in the woods to the side of me, and caught a glimpse of a giant moose head bulldozing it's way parallel to me, but in the opposite direction. And here, I got the pepper spray ready as I quickly began to run again! Although he was headed opposite to me, he was also heading up toward the trail, and I didn't want to stick around if that happened. Luckily, I think he wanted nothing to do with me, and the feeling was mutual.

Back at Lake Owen again, I poked around a bit looking for the fabled water supply, but only found a sign saying it was off. No worries, as I knew would survive this section just fine, and had 3 more bike bottles in the car. That just meant I would get back to the car on empty.

I got back to the car after the first 24 miles, ate and grabbed some more food, and readjusted water bottles. I had spent the whole day comfortably shirtless, with temperatures in the low 70s, but clouds were moving in from the West, so I stuffed my rain jacket in my pack as well. Honestly, I briefly considered calling it a day -- albeit a fun, beautiful day -- already, which I sort of anticipated might happen when I reached the car. I doubted that the weather would hold off completely for the next few hours, and the distance was getting daunting, and wasn't 24 miles enough already? But the unknown lay before me, so I made myself some deals: just run a mile and see how you feel; run to the next TH; and the biggest out-and-back trick of them all, "You really only have to run halfway and then you don't have a choice!" So off I went.

The southern section was every bit as beautiful, with nice consistent gravel packed on the trail. Soon enough, the clouds came in, with occasional bursts of cold but refreshing rain. And then, thunder directly to the West. The West looked gloomy, but the South had a break in the clouds, so I figured if I got lucky I could get past the brunt of any storm if I just kept moving. Plus, I hadn't seen any flashes of lightning, let alone ground strikes, and the trail is nicely ensconced in a tunnel of trees (although many of them are beetle-kill trees, sadly, so the more realistic threat here might be wind).

The storm got nearer, but most of the thunder was behind me, so I kept moving South. Didn't see any humans until a few cabins about halfway down at a road crossing, and then I continued as the trail headed South before hooking West. Just before it did, though, a fun sign: "Welcome to Colorful Colorado!" Indeed, the trail does dip into my home state. Finally, I hit the Southern terminus at Mile Marker 67, where I turned around to head back to Woods Creek (MM 56.4).

Now the storm had held off, but my water supply didn't. Unfortunately, at this point, I was down to my last bottle. I should have known better, as I would have ideally been drinking a bottle an hour, or more, which meant I should have had at least 50% more water than I did. Part of this was due to the lack of water at Lake Owen, and the rest was due to laziness of how much water I was willing to carry and "survive." Survive I did, it just wasn't comfortable. No true emergency, as I was completely surrounded by water, but with no filter, I didn't want to risk a summer of illness unless necessary.

So about 8 miles out, I severely rationed my water, and now I was racing storms again, as I was headed back into the thick of it. Luckily, most of the thunder was now East of me, so I truly did skirt most of it. Oh, in this section, I practiced walking occasionally, as I would walk 1 minute at the beginning of a mile and then run the rest, to make sure I could make the transition and keep a consistent pace, but I still preferred to run as possible to get back.

About a mile and a half away, and I saw my first flashes of lightning -- ridiculous! Nothing cloud-to-ground, though. Reached the car in 7:30:30 (stupid 30 seconds!), pretty much exactly 10min/mile including monkey business (food and water transition, exploration, trying to get my cell phone to work), closer to 9:30/mile if I excluded the monkey business which wouldn't exist in a race. Either way, it's very possible the FKT, SKT, and OKT for this trail on foot. This is right at the training pace I'd like for Lean Horse, which I would run even slower, yet not have to deal with the pack weight and higher elevation (although Lean Horse heat would likely be worse).

(Then again, this pales in comparison to what some folks were doing in the mountains of California for more than twice as far -- WOW! I was happy to get home, settle in with a pizza and beer, and essentially refresh a spreadsheet with people's names and numbers that represented what was going in California. Awesome battles for position from Colorado folks: Anton, Nick, AJW, and Pete especially).

In sum, I felt great about getting out there, checking out the trail, and getting this run done, feeling better about my body and mind being ready for longer distances. I intend to keep training through July and August, with at least one more run similar to this one, but generally more vertical (out of sheer opportunity and enjoyment). My legs and body felt ready for more, though I did hit a low point as I ran out of water and decent food/gel. It is plainly obvious to me (now) that my mood suffers dramatically when dehydrated or hungry, something many others have observed but hard to appreciate until you're in it, so I need to avoid that situation and press through.

Back to the trail, though, what a fantastic opportunity we have right nearby! I wish more folks would get out there to check this out. I could definitely envision a great trail race (marathon or up to 50 mile) organized out here some day, with the easy TH accesses, and dirt road possibilities for extensions.

Happy trails!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pancake Mode

Good luck to all the WS runners, especially the homestate folks, and especially-especially the hometown folks. I hope to do this race one of these years, but need to do a solid previous 100 first, as I wouldn't feel legitimate and respectful enough putting my name in the lottery until I did. Very excited to see how Nick does, but also Pete Stevenson, who's doing the Grand Slam this year, but isn't planning on taking WS easy, either.

Speaking of Grand Slam, I am in full pancake mode.

This is when I'm doing something every day, mostly running but some cycling, hiking, and now swimming mixed in, the temperatures and my metabolism are revved up, and I'm so freaking hungry all the time that I have to wake up earlier some days during the week to make a full breakfast.

Not that I'm complaining.

One thing that helped was "Bike to Work" day earlier this week. It remains one of my favorite days of the year. The first year, I tried to hit as many breakfast stations as I could, while during the winter version last year, I ran instead of rode, figuring it was nice to at least get coffee during the run at a time of year when all the bubblers are off. This time, I went back to the bike, and a leisurely singlespeed roll in the south part of town.

I tried some new spots:
Panera (free coffee and bagel)
The Egg and I (yogurt parfait, coffee, coupon)
Sprouts (some OK fruit, bars, and coupon)
The Poudre Library (free LED nightlight! and good conversation about audiobooks)

as well as some other random spots along the way, finally ending with a guaranteed breakfast burrito at HP. I skipped New Belgium this year out of time constraints, and regret missing Snooze, as well as the custom-burrito place by Rolland Moore park.

All in all, a great morning for a ride!

The consistently hot but non-stormy afternoons, as well as J's sprint tri in August, have made it fun to go swimming after work when I get a chance. This is in our community pool, which is quite nice. I am in no danger of training for and signing up for a triathlon by any means, nor do I have the desire to spend hour upon hour in the pool, but it does feel like swimming more efficiently might be a good life skill, and being in a pool outside is actually tolerable. Right now, I am so inefficient and horrible at it, that I'm out of breath every couple of laps, so it's great cardiovascular training!

M-W-F mornings, 6AM, is open lap swim. I checked it out for the first time this morning, most lanes filled with older folks that kicked my butt. Which is awesome: I actually like being at the very low end of the learning curve. I'm finally old and experienced(?) enough to know it's kind of a fun place to be, so hopefully I can keep that in the mix.

X-training observations
I've given up some x-country/backcountry skiing, earlier this year, and cycling now, in favor of running, in with the idea of doing more longer trail races, and my first 100. So far this year, my races have seemed ho-hum, I feel neither faster or slower, although I guess my ultra 'speed' (I use that term very loosely) was about the same in April/May as I might have expected in July/August the last couple years. I guess I'm still hoping it pays off in the coming months, that a peak is still to come, and I hope that extra volume leads (or has led) to some resiliency against injury. That's about as much navel-gazing as you need to know right now, but in a general sense, por moi, once the body is built up to handle a given distance (again, over a few years), I can maintain and improve that without everything being running. This winter, I'll likely add more x-country skiing back in the mix, and I'll continue to use the bike when I feel like it. That is, pretty much going with whatever seems fun at the moment.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

On Top of Mt. Albert

Mt. Elbert (14433')
"South Elbert (14134')
11 miles hiking, 1 Mile elevation gain
Black Cloud Gulch, Class 1/Class 2

Mt. Albert is in New Zealand, while Mt. Elbert is the highest point in Colorado, and the highest point in the U.S. outside of Alaska or California, for that matter. So, on the day before Father's Day, 2010, J and I planned on hiking up to the top, where we dropped off some of Grandpa Al's ashes, along with Grandma Charlotte's. Neither of them were particularly mountain folk, but Grandpa spent some time in the Army down in Pueblo, and since the state high point is pretty much homophonic with his, I decided it might be a fitting tribute.

Back to the hike: there are a couple of easier options popular with peakbaggers, but the Black Cloud trail stuck out as a more intriguing option: over 5000 feet elevation gain; a beautiful, uncrowded basin and gulch with great views of La Plata and other peaks to the south; the chance to bag the unofficial "South Elbert", while spending a good couple miles on a high alpine ridge. So, this hike had a lot going for it! Otherwise, Mt. Elbert itself is less impressive and prominent than a state highpoint should be, a rather unfortunate state of geologic affairs for the serious alpinists in a state of more worthy scary, jagged peaks I suppose, but instead it reveals itself to be a democratic mountain, accessible to all.

Also, this hike was to serve as a tune-up for J to get ready for a Longs attempt this year. She's done the elevation, the distance, and bits and pieces of Class 3 and exposure. This hike added the last piece of the training puzzle, by giving her a feel for 5000 feet of gain as well as a true alpine start. One final bit of training: continuing a tradition of camping somewhere on Father's Day/Solstice weekend, albeit with camping being loosely defined as sleeping anywhere outside.

Friday after work, we were off to Leadville, in no big hurry (except I realized I forgot the camera, so we had to settle for cell phone pics!) other than to arrive in time to grab some High Mountain Pies pizza action before they closed at 10pm:

We got there by 8:30, put in a pizza order, then swung over to the liquor store for some a little beer and wine, as the restaurant doesn't serve it, but lets you bring your own in. No problem with that! I thought a large vegetarian pizza and an order of garlic bread might leave us with a few slices for breakfast, but I underestimated our (OK, my) appetite, whoops! Well, we still had 1 breakfast slice left, as well as an assortment of breakfast burritos I brought with us.

Satiated, we headed down to Twin Lakes and over to the trailhead. After reading various reports, I intended on being the first person ever not to drive past the trailhead, but this was not to be, as I passed it once, turn around at the Lodge, then passed it again. Ultimately, we arrived and saw one other vehicle parked there, and another arrived an hour after us. We made camp in the car and drifted off to sleep, though I was pretty wired and restless.

On the drive out, I warned J about every aspect of the hike: needing to leave early; the steepness; various false summits and the long view of the summit from the ridge; unknown snow conditions since last weekend; being exposed to weather (lightning and wind especially) for much of the hike. I've seen trip reports averaging around 8 hours on the low end, and other suggestions of allowing 10-12 hours, so I played conservatively with a 4AM start time.

4AM and we were off, headlamps a-blazin' and on guard for mt. lions. The trail was easy to follow and manage in the dark, and I tried to keep tabs of anything to the side or behind us that might have glowing eyes. Just after 5AM, twilight began, and 10 minutes later headlamps weren't needed. Here, just after an hour, we saw a tent pitched, as well as our first stream crossing, a makeshift bridge of logs.

Now we were near the open basin, but had a few more stream crossings to navigate. One of them was blocked by a fallen tree, so we hunted around for an easier crossing, then bushwhacked back east until we ran into the trail again.

As we made our way up the basin, the rising sun lit up the peaks behind us.

We followed the trail up to treeline, where the ridge came into view, and then began switchbacking in earnest. Now, many switchback trails (RMNP trails, CFI trail on Huron Peak, e.g.) seem to be too conservative, and you can at least appreciate the temptation to cut switchbacks, all the while acknowledging the erosion control properties of a well-planned trail, but these swithbacks were steep! The switchbacks almost needed switchbacks on some of the looser stuff. No, it was actually quite dandy, a calf workout for sure but not overly obnoxious.

It did take awhile to claim the ridge, but before that, our first objective ended up meeting the sunshine level before the ridge, where temperatures and optimism soared.

Finally, after obtaining the ridge, we could see what lie ahead: a rolling ridge and the big knob that made up South Elbert, followed by the ridge curving N-S up to Elbert itself. Snow conditions looked fairly decent, with shaded North spots holding snow of course, as well as leeward East-facing slopes on the final Elbert ridge. Wind wasn't too bad if we stayed on the East. We took a quick snack break and set off for South Elbert.

The rest of the hike was mostly Class 2, although faint hits of trail were scattered about through the talus, so most of it was picking a line across stable Sawatch rock and tundra. Dancing on the ridge, we continued to have great views to the south as well as new views to the North, while not looking ahead to the summit. J kept a great, steady pace: Relentless Forward Motion, just like we talked about, rather than getting anaerobic and taking too many breaks.

Finally, after 4.5 hours, we arrived at South Elbert, firmly above 14k feet.

Feeling good, it was time to press on. Without a cloud in the sky, we had little to worry about with the weather, and I was pleased that it was only 8:30AM. The downhill jaunt to the saddle was a fun relief more than it was an annoyance, and now the last grunt began. The left or West side of the ridge always offered solid, stable rock, but the snowpack remained nicely firm. In general, the snow ended up giving even better and faster travel without postholing. It was quite nice to have options!

After an hour, we obtained the summit, shared with perhaps 8-10 other folks (the first people we had seen after 5.5 hours of hiking) from the other side of the peak, all of them friendly and stoked to be up high on such a nice day:

I let the ashes fly into the wind, and signed my grandparents names in the summit register.

We sat down for a good 25 minutes or so for a nice, unhurried lunch break, and took in the views.

Now it was only 10AM, and time to head back. On our way down to South Elbert, we saw a solo hiker from Kearney, NE heading up in good spirits: he was the one who had pitched his tent partly in, and had his truck parked near ours at the TH. Heading down the softening snow, I alternated between running and sliding. There wasn't any great time-saving glissaditunites on this route, but I found a legit North-facing field with a good runout, and practiced sliding and self arresting.

After reaching South Elbert again, we saw a couple more parties. Among them was a woman hoisting a full-suspension mt. bike. A very nice downhill bike! She was friendly (gun-to-my-head, I'd guess "Swiss", but why didn't I just ask?) and asked about upcoming conditions: I suggested that the snowy downhill between the peaks would be a blast, but...Did you ride that up here? Are you really going to ride down past South Elbert? (Keep in mind, I am generally unflappable about this stuff, but I was momentarily flapped). She estimated ~2% of the uphill was rideable, but 80-90% on the way down. We bid her good luck (why didn't I try a "Berg Heil?") and kept this in mind as we finally finished the ridge and joined the trail again. This is more popular on the Class 1 trail from the North, but I hadn't read about it on this side, unless I misunderstood and she was making a loop out of it. I tried picture riding my bike down any part of the trail...and I just couldn't picture it. Then I tried picturing blasting straight down the tundra: maybe, but it seemed like hematoma-city. Kudos to her, though!

Where were we? Ah, the switchbacks seemed even steeper downhill, but again were in no hurry, as we were now protected from the wind, and shed layers in the warming sun. Tra-la-la-la-la, and we were back in the basin, back over the river, OK this is getting old now, time for a nap! 9.5 hours later, back at the car, where I cleverly had stashed an extra beer in my little cooler. We popped the back of the car open and piled in for a siesta, feet dangling slightly outside, the shade just cool enough to sleep. (I've seen Heaven sold as clouds and angels and harps, the chance to peer over the edge, as a voyeur, watching other people do stuff. Por moi, give me sun, and a chance to watch old videotapes like this one, over and over).

An hour later, we felt sufficiently refreshed, with enough energy to drive to town to get coffee to get enough energy to maybe eat. Oh, J promised herself fudge after a successful hike, so we procured some mint and marshmallow fudge from the tourist-friendly fudge shoppe in town, whose staff was also curiously dismayed when I asked to cut the large hunks smaller (so that we would only be purchasing $7 worth of fudge, for an immediate snack), as they seemed poised to sell $20 worth of fudge to any tourist that came through.

Anyway, fudge and coffee in hand, we now had enough energy to make it up the road to Frisco, where we stopped in by the river for some delicious Mexican food. Now, finally, I had enough energy to make it home. J declared this her favorite 14er hike. Score!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Today's word of the day:

An autotelic person needs few material possessions and little entertainment, comfort, power, or fame because so much of what he or she does is already rewarding. Because such persons experience flow in work, in family life, when interacting with people, when eating, even when alone with nothing to do, they are less dependent on the external rewards that keep others motivated to go on with a life composed of dull and meaningless routines. They are more autonomous and independent because they cannot be as easily manipulated with threats or rewards from the outside. At the same time, they are more involved with everything around them because they are fully immersed in the current of life.
-- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Utter coincidence to read something similar on another blog today.
Many folks have noticed a disproportionate percentage of science-type folks, graduate education, etc., and folks that are very driven, but not necessarily in the Type A-corporate sense. (In fact, often quite the opposite).
The new bit today, to me, was the concept of an autotelic personality, as it relates to flow.
Which is the direction of causality: are autotelic-type folks drawn to things (distance running, music/art, etc.) which fulfills their desire for a state of flow? Or does doing certain things that are sufficiently challenging and require sufficient dedication, which results in a state of flow, help develop an autotelic personality? I like to think it goes both ways. I do recall having moments of some more creative programming/software engineering that felt like this...regrettably, it's been awhile...

(Rhetorical) But, does that also mean there are millions of folks out there that just never experience this at all, in any sense?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere

Poudre River Trail in Windsor, from Windsor Beacon

Water has been the big story in Northern Colorado the last few weeks; ironically, too much of it. We went from a late spring barrage of snow in the Northern Front Range to record high temperatures, and the subsequent melt has swollen the rivers, including the Cache La Poudre through town.

On a very serious note: over Memorial Day weekend, 3 of my friends were tubing on the river with another friend from out of town, who flipped in a fast-moving section and was unable to be rescued or recovered. I feel horrible for all of them to be involved in this, and equally helpless. The best I could muster was a few bike visits and runs near the river downstream, but the river is absolutely raging, and weaving into thick sections of normally dry land. My hope is that once the river recedes, they can receive a quiet and peaceful finality to this tragedy.

The River
Otherwise, I think it's natural to be drawn to the edge of a flooding river. This reminds me of being a kid in Wisconsin, when melted spring snow in the flat area of town would run along the ditches and into the nearby swamp. Just like a fresh coat of snow, but even more rare, there's a novelty factor when the landscape is transformed by flooding.

So this week, most days I went up running along the Poudre River, to witness the awesome power of a river flowing faster than I've ever seen it. The closest access to me is my lunchtime run through the Arapahoe Bend Natural Area, so I headed there the beginning of the week. Normally, I worry about rattlesnakes hidden in the thick brush, but this week I dealt with the water spilling out and surrounding shoreline trees, then running shoe-deep across the trail. Take that, rattlesnakes!

After that, a few more miles brings me to the Environmental Learning Center, the Easternmost trailhead for the Poudre River trail, which has a fun flat dirt loop that zig-zags near the river. But first, one must cross the suspension bridge: usually a good person-height over the river, but now just skimming a foot-and-a-half or so over the river.

The foliage is wild and bountiful in the natural area, with the yellow and purple flowers breaking up the greenery. But soon, the trail starts being submerged...ankle deep, shoe deep, knee deep. The water was running with an obvious directionality, as the river was carving a new channel into the trail itself, but was languid enough so as not to pose a serious threat (other than the neighborhood mosquitoes and flies counting their fortune). A loop is a loop, so I pressed on to see how this would turn out.

I got to bottom-of-the-shorts wet, before finally rising out of the muck again. But, no rattlesnakes!

The trail returned from wade-able to splashable, and finally runnable again, as it turned back to the trailhead, as I made my usual counterclockwise loop. There's one last spot before the suspension bridge that gives a good access to the shore, so I stood on the end to check out the rage: lots of logs and debris choking various channels, while the river merely dodged and made new ones. And, what's this? A perfectly good, wooden panel, just off shore. I waded in to check it out: seemed decent enough to be missed, too good to be litter.

And so that's how I came to run back 3 miles or so, shirtless, carrying a wooden oar. Now what? I posted on Craigslist "Found". I debated bringing it up to my desk at work, but decided against it -- it smelled like Poudre. And since I ran-commuted to work, I found no choice but to run it another 3 miles home after work. Probably one of the more unusual things I've found while running, and certainly the most cumbersome.

I visited spots near the river again during the week, with a mixture of awe, fear, and respect.

The rain
After the high temperatures, we were doomed to a weekend of cool, wet, rainy weather. This effectively shut down high-elevation hiking. I saw that the HT trail race was cancelled for Sunday, so I assumed the trails would be a mess, though Nick proved otherwise. Anyway, it was National "Get Outdoors" Day, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about, outdoors and all. Through a steady downpour, I did my vanilla 13.1M MUP loop, twice, for an even marathon. Kept it very slow and steady most of the time (except for one part where I heard footsteps behind me, and sped up by over 2 min/mile for the next few miles, because my reptilian brain made me do it), and didn't even try to make a futile attempt at keeping my feet dry. The usual low-lying underpasses on the Spring Creek Trail between College and Timberline were flooded. I tried my best liquid mountaineering technique, but lacked skillz, so I just splish-splashed through the water.

Sunday brought more of the same, so I did another of the same loop. This time, the underpasses were chained off. In other words, hurdles! Hurdle...clomp, splish, splash, splash....hurdle....Basically, it's a little more fun when there's interesting in your Milk Run -- a marshmallow in your oats, if you will.

After that, I peeled the shoes off for another mile and a half cooldown barefoot around the 'hood. Had another barefoot run around the 'hood with J earlier in the week, also in a light rain, which is about my favorite conditions for it.

This all added up to my biggest week in awhile (111 or so), which by no small coincidence came a week after my lowest week (5 day's of nothin' due to freak injury). Not being able to run made me pretty anxious -- a thirsty man in the desert -- so when I got the chance again, I drank deep!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Black Hawk Bike Ban

Bicycles are banned in Black Hawk, Colorado.


As it stands, this means a town of 118 can effectively block a major thoroughfare: the road connecting Peak-to-Peak Hwy with Central City. Bad in practice, and perhaps even worse as precedent.

This aggression will not stand, man!

I have not (yet) ridden Black Hawk to Central City, but it was on The List. A google map perspective shows that Gregory St/Hwy 279 has a speed limit of 20mph. The stated reason of the ban is for "safety", for cars to be able to drive and park (I am not making this up). That is, large vehicles of any size, traveling 20mph down the main street, are clearly preferred to little bicycles which can easily match a reasonable speed in much less space.

*** Colorado Tourists ***
If you want to gamble in Colorado, I suggest Central City instead (if not Cripple Creek)!!! There is no reason to patronize ANYTHING in Black Hawk!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Square Top from Guanella Pass

Square Top Mountain
13794 feet
~8 miles RT hiking, ~2300ft gain
Class 1/Class 2
Mapmyrun Route

It's June, it's hot out, and it's time to get above treeline!
I wasn't convinced the northern Front Range was melted out yet, so I looked to the south for something a little more snow-free. Recent conditions on 14ers.com were quite favorable, so we left Fort Collins at 0-dark-30 (4:30) to get to Guanella Pass by 7am; of course, taking the long way off of Hwy 285 due to continued construction from the Georgetown side. This time, even later than agreed upon the day before, was met with some wailing and gnashing of teeth, but in the end it was agreed to have been worth it.

Parking at Guanella Pass feels like cheating, since you're already at treeline, but it's a pleasant and scenic drive on the road. I picked Square Top because of alpine lakes, scenery, (relative) solitude, and great views from the top. Still, I didn't know if I'd be able to resist the pull of Mt. Bierstadt, just across the road and 200 feet higher. Since Bierstadt tips the magic 14k mark, it's on the checklist of many, willing to do a summer conga-line. The fact that the West parking lot, near Square Top, only had 1 car on it, helped make the decision, but it was solidified by views of Bierstadt itself: not since Mt. Sherman (which we did attempt but failed to summit) have I seen such an ugly, uninspiring and bulbous mass. (I have heard rumors of Mt. Bross's offensiveness, but have not yet had the misfortune to see it).

So we headed west to Square Top, with a Class 1 trail leading to the 2 Square Top Lakes at the base. The peak is hidden at the beginning of the hike, as you do a decent amount of climbing to get to the lakes, but once you do, a cirque opens up with a variety of options for obtaining the peak. With a name like Square Top, I was worried that its summit might be flat and ugly, but the East face (shown in the first picture) presents a nice point that is particularly attractive when holding snow. An obvious route, then, rolls up the Southeast Face, a consistently steep but non-technical pitch up tundra, with views to the Bierstadt-Evans wilderness and Scott Gomer creek behind us.

As we neared the point (which turned out to be a bit of a false summit), we reached some lingering snow fields, as well as the occupant of the other vehicle at the trailhead. This turned out to be Dan, who came accompanied by the skis on his back, and 2 very energetic Doberman mixes -- sisters, it turns out. We could see the dogs zipping back and forth up above, zipping around him like electrons, turning an easy day into a 5000-foot one. As we got closer, Dan greeted us, getting ready to ski, and we gave a show of being dog-friendly, which meant they could jump on us and lick our faces, and we were cool with that!

I brought my new ice ax with me in order to play a bit. The snowfield here wasn't that steep, and the snow was pretty soft, so I didn't get much momentum on a glissade, but I still got to play around a bit, and enjoyed having the dogs keep me company.

Later, Jessica would play around on the snow a bit as well:

Dan got ready to ski down as we continued up. He remarked the views from the top, all the way out to Mt. of the Holy Cross, whereas the views from Bierstadt were entirely blocked by the Square Top cirque, and we were the only people he had seen on his hike.

Over the false summit, there was one more small bump to the peak, just shy of 13,800 feet. A leap in the air or a raised hand would get you there.

Summit shot:

As advertised, the nearly half-mile long flat summit is big enough for a football game, or just roaming around. As it was, we had the whole area to ourselves, and took a leisurely lunch.

To the West, mountains beyond mountains, including the unmistakable Holy Cross:

Coming back down, we took an improvised cross-country route. One thing I wanted to practice was route selection, being able to tell if what looked safe from afar ended up as you expected it when you got there. There were plenty of options to stay high on the ridge or drop down in various spots, J picked a route that dropped us in the ridge between the 2 lakes. I love hiking with her on a nice day -- I'm pretty sure I even saw her crack a smile on the way down.

On the way back, we saw 3 more people and 2 dogs, for a total of 4 people and 4 dogs, or less than 1 in hour, which meets my introversion threshold. Several of the other folks were just going up to the lakes, which reputedly has decent fly-fishing. All in all, a great hike with the wife! Looking forward to more of these this summer.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pilot Hill 25k

Pilot Hill 25k Trail Race
Laramie, WY

Billed as the "Oldest Footrace in Wyoming" at 34 years, the Pilot Hill 25k also has many aspects that really appeal to me: breakfast, beer, and cheap entry fee, to name just a few (and it just got better). Truthfully, they had me at breakfast, but that meant I had to run the darn thing.

So I had just mailed in my entry just over a week ago -- and promptly flown over the handlebars of my mt. bike. In my post-hematomatic condition, I hadn't run a step until the Thursday before the race, so I was quite nervous about being able to start the race, let alone finish it. I did a test run of about an hour on Thursday, though, and found that if I wrapped up my side tightly, and got past the initial pain, I was able to run without feeling like I was doing anything destructive, although my breathing was slightly constricted. I did another run Friday and figured I'd be able to do the distance. I just didn't know what sort of speed to expect, with a week off. 2 hours even looked like a great aspirational goal when I was healthy. Unhealthy, I figured a good goal would be to be the fastest runner wearing a Maxi pad, first-place in the Hematomatic Division for Males Age 34 and Under.

Anyway, found out about this race courtesy of Nick , who's done some great advertising for Wyoming racing events in the past (namely, by having fun there and winning them). We carpooled up with Frank Praznick from Fort Collins -- it was great to meet him as he's ramping up his interest in trail running. This race would mean I've done a race every month of the year so far, which in my limited running history is somewhat unusual, as I usually just focus on a couple per year, with another fun one or two thrown in. At this point, I guess I might pursue this all year: finding something fun/different each month, in addition to some key goal races.

About 40 of us lined up for a nonchalant start at the east edge of town. Since it ran partly across private property, that means you get to run "something different" for race day as opposed to the rest of the year. We were off, and took off on a beginning section of very gradual incline on sandy trail. Quickly, we were dispersed into Nick, first pack of 3 or 4, and second pack of 3 or 4, where I was trying to hang on. With no mile markers or visible reference, I had no clue about pace, so I stuck with what felt hard while matching pace around me.

Now, for a small race, they had great support of a cooler with Gatorade and water every 3-4 miles, when they could easily have had nothing or made us carry our own. With my injury, I decided ahead of time to grab Gatorade every stop, in case my body was slightly out of wack for any reason due to the blood loss, but I never felt light-headed or anything. Anyway, that cost me a little time I wouldn't have planned, but still felt good.

Like any out-and-back, the disadvantage of seeing the same terrain twice also has the advantage, of seeing the same terrain twice. The rocky, more technical sections were very solid, as the rocks were stuck tight in the ground. That is, although the bottom was sandy and loose, the rocky sections were not. The new terrain was fun variety and we weaved into some pine trees, before opening up into some nice views of Laramie, and finally getting close to the towers on top of the hill.

I was waiting to see Nick and the top few coming back down, and vascillated between wanting to see them as a sign of getting to the top, versus not wanting to see them (as a sign that they were way ahead!) Soon enough, Nick came flying down with a lead of several minutes, I finally reached the last steep section of switchback to the top, chased around the truck for a Gatorade, and headed back down, noticing the 2 guys that had been hot on my heels for a few miles.

The downhill greeted us with a fierce headwind. I got us horizontal as I could, but it would still stop me mid-stride, cartoon-like, in some of the bigger gusts, somehow blowing me back up the hill. As Frank said later, "Our hair speed did not match our ground speed." Very discouraging, but we plugged along. I was happy with the semi-technical downhills, and could actually gain some ground, but the other guys caught me and pulled away on the open flats. After them, though, I couldn't see anybody.

I figured 2 hours was out now, so I just enjoyed the rest of the run. In the last couple of miles, my bandage wrap became loose. I fiddled with it while running, and my Maxi pad flew off. Not wanting to litter, I turned around and chased it in the wind, then stuffed the whole assembly in my pocket, finishing the race with my big lump jiggling around.

I survived in around 2:04. I was enough with that in the conditions and post-injury, but really happy to enjoy breakfast, beer (great ESB homebrew from RD, Jeff), and a respite from the wind, while chatting with other runners. Various better runners in various divisions won some nice little prizes for such a cool, small race. I did not win anything "official", but went home with the coveted bloody singlet:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Runner's Dedication to Karen Bouvier

Karen Bouvier

There are people out there that are a powerful force of nature, that simply get things done. If you're lucky, you get to meet a few people like that. Immediately upon meeting them, you know this, and you wonder what there secret is.

Karen was one of those people. It turns out, her secret was as simple as valuing every day she had, and every person she met.

Among other things, Karen was known for organizing the HP/Compaq marathon running team. Because of heavy sponsorship money, some running spots are allotted to be given to non-qualified runners to be used at the sponsors' discretion. (Believe me, I fully understand the potential controversy of situations like this, and am not here to discuss this in this post, other than to offer some observations). As a qualified runner, however, I sent an email to Karen, asking about meeting up with the team, and enjoying some of the perks, which included a nifty jacket and singlet, and "team" buses.

My first impressions of Karen were virtual, via email. She sent out regular status updates to a list of runners, which generally erred on the side of containing too much information, but actually got us more excited about the marathon as it approached. In addition, her email lists used a giant, visible "CC" list, rather than a "BCC" list, which led to some frustrating (at the time) "Reply All" situations. Only later did I know that she preferred the visible list so that everyone could see and contact everyone else -- that is, making it easy for people to get to know each other.

The day before race day, I finally had the chance to meet her in person. It was clear and obvious that she was a leader that took charge of things and put people at ease about details. Keep in mind, many of the folks on the team had never been to Boston before, or had even come from abroad, so she made everything seemless for nervous and restless runners. I also met her boyfriend, Phil, who exuded as much warmth as she did but perhaps less intensity -- a good balance -- along with some other runners filtering in and out of the hotel rooms. I got fitted for the singlet and jacket, as well as some warm running gloves.

In the morning, I was debating wearing the singlet -- was it too "corporate?" Did I need to mix business with my running? In the end, I decided to wear the singlet, moreso to represent the "Team" aspect and the folks I had met. Plus, it was comfy. The team bus system worked flawlessly, and I enjoyed meeting other folks from HP. I was happy to run into John Mick from Fort Collins, as well as meeting other folks from around the world. To a person, they all recognized low bib numbers and congratulated qualifying runners, and commented on how lucky and fortunate they were -- well, we all were -- to be running such a race.

After the race, I hobbled back to the hotel room with my family and friend Jeff, where my stuff was conveniently transported and stored from the bus. Karen and Phil organized a neat reception with raffle prizes, and she gave me a Boston pin. I didn't stick around for the reception, but gladly accepted my first post-race beer from them. All runners signed a banner for Karen as a Thank You, as well, and Jessica snapped the photo of Karen and I that you see above.

All this time, I knew nothing about Karen's battle with breast cancer.

And now, through a Facebook dedication, I see that the picture I saw wasn't sufficiently flattering, so I'd also like to share another one:

I now know that she passionately advocated for breast cancer research, but she didn't put it out there in front of her ability and desire to lead and promote running, and the Boston marathon in particular. That is, she put her focus on life and living first.

Months after one of the most memorable days of my life, I learned that the HP Team "New England Initiative" was being discontinued. That is, 2009 was the last year it would happen, and Karen would no longer be a part of it, due to economic circumstances. Still, she used the same mailing list to say only positive things about her experiences, relationships, and memories.

Of course, I thought about all these great memories this April, 2010, as the next marathon rolled on. I wasn't part of it, but cherished the memories of 2009.

And then, one final use of the mailing list in May, just before Memorial Day weekend: Karen had a recurrence of cancer, and had lost the battle, at 46 years old.

Normally, you don't register as much shock when you've just met someone for minutes, but when they're such a positive force of energy, you can't believe they're gone. My wife and mother-in-law had the same feeling of denial when I told them. Personally, and selfishly, her memory is wrapped up in one of the biggest, most exciting days of my life. The best I can do is emulate a small fraction of her enthusiasm and energy. At times like these, you say, "At least we can live in her memory," but that's a trite consolation, written only by the survivors. We'd be better off with her, and we're all at a loss without her bright soul.

In hindsight, I don't know what it means to "qualify" for anything. Life has an incredible amount of luck to it. None of us are "qualified" to receive certain blessings and fortunes that others do not. The best we can do is to do our best and share what we have, and anything less is unfair to those who have less.

Thanks so much, and rest in peace, Karen.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rabbit Valley and Fruita, Colorado

Fruita, Colorado
Camping and Mountain Biking

Rabbit Valley Camping
Rabbit Valley is an excellent area to explore in Western Colorado. Go to Exit #2 off of I-70 and head south. Passenger cars can make it a couple miles unless the roads are muddy, and everyone should be prepared for bigger storms as the road crosses several washes.

I've slept in the car at the immediate entrance, and shortly thereafter are a few more informal camping spots. It is all free. Further in (below in this story) is a nice spot next to a big rock that looks like a Hershey Kiss, and there is a bathroom there as well. But, it's kind of a group spot, people are hopefully cool about sharing.

In either case, these is a great place to make a base for mt. biking or hiking, r just hanging out and seeing the stars. Petroglyphs are nearby, down the road along a wash. Trail #8 to Western Rim is a great mt. bike ride (one of the best in the state and a worthy trip) or trail run, and some bushwhacking up the hills to the west can also be interesting.

But, you're a good 25 minutes or so off the road, and another 30-45 mins to the hospital (Grand Junction) or urgent care (Fruita), so be careful! As we shall see...


With a 3-day weekend on tap, it was time to get out of town. After getting skunked on camping the last few weeks. we were looking forward to sleeping out under nearly full moon. I was anxious to get above treeline, but need to give that a few more weeks of melting out. Meanwhile, the Fruita Desert was looking delicious: highs in the upper 70s and low 80s, no threat of rain, and we had never mt. biked in what's advertised as one of the best spots in the country. I hadn't done much this year, but J & I took a quick spin after work in Maxwell/Pineridge, and got ready for the weekend. In addition, Ben was looking for something to do, too. He had never mt. biked before, and had previously cast a weary eye upon it, but was able to borrow a bike and give it a try. We caravan'ed out West.

18 Road/Bookcliffs
First stop: 18 Road/Bookcliffs area. This is a hotspot of Zippity Do Dah, The Edge, etc., along with camping spots directly next to the trails. Some background: there used to be a bunch of unofficial campspots here on BLM land, but they've been "cleaned up" by putting in fire rings and even bathrooms. The downside is that camping is officially limited to that specific, crowded area. I have mixed feelings about this, as the inability of people to respectfully adhere to LNT principles ironically leads to some development and crowded camping. I don't need to be right next to the trailhead by any means, just looking for options. Then again, I can see that having "dispersed" camping right along the road the entire way wouldn't truly be dispersed, and there are problems unique to the desert in terms of soil destruction and ruining pristine views, so I see the dilemma.

Needless to say, we didn't get a spot. Backup plan: Rabbit Valley, exit 2, which was rumored to have "more" camping spots. We headed back down to town. Another side note: driving up and back from 18 Road showed off some of the rolling paved roads north of Fruita. Although the shoulder was narrow, the quality of pavement and relatively light traffic begged for a subsequent visit on skinny tires. Yes, one could happily make the drive out there and only bring road bikes and have a great time (also true for Palisade/wine country, Moab/River Road, and Colorado National Monument).

Rabbit Valley
After the Rabbit Valley turnoff, we saw a spur road with a couple campers and cars about a half mile in the distance. It looked like there would have been room, but we decided to press on to the next campsite. The sign said "High Clearance Vehicles Only", but with cautious driving and no threat of rain, we headed to the Castle Rocks "campground," hoping that the extra couple miles of dirt road would filter out RVs and trailers.

I put "campground" in quotes here, because when we reached it, we saw one fire ring and picnic table, along with a pit toilet. Based on suggestions, I assumed this spot would have more camping than Bookcliffs, but it appeared not to be so. A pile of wood and a tent already staked claim to the prime site. A couple of guys, Ryan and Adam, were getting ready to camp as well. Turns out, they'd been there all afternoon, and hadn't seen the tent owners. They set a tent up in the same area, off to the side, so we did the same, hoping nobody would mind. Turns out, one more group came in, and there was plenty of room for all of us. Although I was surprised that we were all in the same area, truthfully, it was beautiful, and our spots were no closer (perhaps even roomier) than any state or NFS campground. It would have been hell if you ended up next to the wrong group, but everyone we met was very cool, and it was an interesting spot next to a giant sandstone Hershey Kiss:

After setting up our tents, we still had enough light at 8 o'clock to take a quick spin on the bikes, and burn off some energy from driving down I-70. I hastily assembled my bike, and headed out on sandals on my little clipless pedals. We headed up the road and up Trail 2 for about 20 minutes, which offered some gentle but consistent climbs, not much technical challenge other than a bit of sand, and then turned around for the descent to head back to camp.

This is where disaster struck.

El Endo
The normal advantage of descending the way you came is that I had a chance to scan for any trouble spots on the descent. Nothing but smoothe goodness, so I decided to let it fly. A bit too fast...My rear brake was bit loose, as I hadn't dialed it in, and I was hitting little bumps and whoop-de-doos a bit faster than I needed to, just burning off nervous energy. I was worried about catching air while not being clipped in, so I thought I should slow down a bit. I had a little trouble seeing contours in the flat light and shadow -- I should have known better -- and grabbed the front brake at the wrong time, and found myself airborn. In summary, one lesson is that the whole thing happened because I was in a goof-off/not-taking-this-seriously mindset.

I just had enough time to think "I can't believe I'm falling," but I bent my arms without locking my wrists, abd avoided cactus and rocks. I stood up and did a systems check, and got off the trail so J and Ben could keep going. They hadn't seen any of it, and thought I was just taking a break. Other than a bit of wind knocked out of me and some scrapes, things felt generally OK, so we headed back to camp.

Dusk now, with the full moon rising, we set up a fire and started cooking delicious camp food. We invited Adam over and shared some beer. He's into climbing, but turns out he's also into trail-running and ultras, and just did R2R2R last month with GZ's group. It was good chatting with him, though I think I was less chatty as a touch of pain settled in when I got up to move.

Still felt alright, though, and was excited about sleeping out in the open in our new tent. Now we had plenty of room to sprawl out and store our gear, and slept pretty well. My left hip was a bit sore, though, so I turned to avoid it.

Fruita Hospital
Around 2AM, I turned and felt the side of my hip, and was alarmed to find my hand filled with more-than-a-cupful of a warm, tight mass. Bad news. "Jessica, can you wake up? I'm sorry, I need you to get up immediately and drive me to the hospital in Grand Junction." Gamely, she got up and we got ready quickly. Ben woke up as well, and when he saw the lump on my side eclipsing the moon behind me, he said, "Oh, God."

Based on the rate of swelling, and knowing it was an hour to the hospital in Junction, I thought it was a good idea to get out immediately. It's not like I was going to sleep and find out how it looked 4 hours later. Truthfully, but I didn't say it out loud, I vaguely recalled hearing about pelvis fractures and some sort of large artery in that area that can be cut, leading to massive blood loss, shock, and death. Ugh.

Although I bemoan how much technology invades the outdoors these days, I'm grateful that our cell phones did work most of the time in the desert. Jessica did a great job navigating the bumpy dirt roads at night, and I called Junction for directions to the hospital. It turns out, there was actually a small hospital in Fruita as well, but we didn't have precise directions. We decided to gamble on finding that one, saving 15 minutes of driving.

I guess the hospital literally opened in the last few months, so the road signs and Google's phone directory weren't fully updated. We drove around a little bit before finding it on North Cherry. The door was locked, I pressed a buzzer, and 2 aid's ambled down the hallway. I lifted up my shirt to try to evoke more urgency (or at least Mardi Gras beads), but I mostly evoked a wince.

They checked me out briefly and called in the on-call doctor, as none was immediately present. I felt bad about waking someone up on the long weekend, but "that's what he's paid to do." Still, I would've preferred the whole careless thing didn't happen in the first place and that we could all be sleeping. They suggested that my femur or pelvis wasn't fractured, as I was able to walk and the blood didn't flow down into my foot when my feet were pointed together -- that was good news -- and that I "probably" would have "bled out" more if there were a major artery cut, so hopefully the bleeding was stopped or slowed significantly.

The doctor showed up in full spirits, and taught me the word "hematoma." He was going to try to drain it as much as possible. He tried a couple syringes of various size before going to a scalpel. After lidocaine, none of this hurt much at all. He was dismayed that the blood flowed slowly, yet was still bright red, suggesting something arterial. Ugh. After prodding around, we got occasional spurts of blood drain, but not a significant reduction in size. After 45 mins or so, and a call to a colleague, he decided to wrap it up tight and monitor it for a bit. He decided that heading to GJ for a surgical removal/draining would likely be worse than leaving it alone. Wanting to be in a hospital as little as possible, I agreed.

Nothing changed over the next hour or so, and there's no way I could fall asleep. He kept it wrapped up tight, and said I can head out and should "Take it easy." It felt much better being compressed -- I should have done that immediately. I asked if it was stupid to go back to the desert, and he said as long as I monitored it and it didn't get worse, I should be OK. I didn't specifically ask about biking again, and he didn't specifically mention it -- both of us, on purpose. My mind translated "Take it Easy" to doing anything less than I would if I weren't injured. They were nice enough to brew up a cup of coffee, get me some extra ice, and a prescription for Vicodin. I still have never tried it, but it's good in case of emergency, I guess.

We headed back and tried to nap, and succeeded. I slept better than I thought, but was in no shape to get up and do much of anything. I had a hard time getting up to walk, so I didn't even thing about doing anything more. We decided to stay, though, and J was OK hanging out, camping, reading, etc., while been did a little exploratory riding.

By now, the folks that staked out the spot had showed up: Mike from Fruita, and his wife Erin and 2 young daughters. He told us that a few other folks were showing up and they'd be taking over the place, but we were welcome to stay if we wanted, as we all "paid the same" for it. They seemed nice enough so we thought we might stay at least another night, and see how loud it got with the kids and everything, as well as a dog that showed up. With my injury, I was sort of a surly, immobile bear, caught in a trap, and when camping, I generally prefer quiet, peaceful reflection, so this was going to be a test, as I specifically avoid the crowded RV-and-TV camping on busy weekends.

As the afternoon went on, I encouraged J and Ben to go for a ride. I felt OK, and the cell phones worked, and there were other folks around, so it seemed like little risk. I took a short nap, and otherwise sat down in the shade, reading "Desert Solitaire" for the first time, enjoying the appropriate geographical references. Meanwhile, the shaved retriever mix, "Zinger," made his way over to me, with an apparent gimpiness in my leg. I gave him some reassuring pats on the side, feeling his pain. He came over to keep me company as well...or to bury his snout in our food bags.

The rest of the families showed up: a couple more girls, and one boy. The girls shyly acknowledged me, as they tromped around exploring the nearby sandstone. I caught on to some of their play, as they were interested in solving various "mysteries" that they devised. It was refreshing to see such imagination.

Ben and J returned, no injuries or mechanical issues. We hung out a bit and then did a bit of walking, checking out the "Castle Rock" formation up the road.

Also, within 3/4 of a mile of our camp were some petroglyphs (EDIT: pictographs?) in an arroyo, so we sought those out. It's amazing how the red coloring stands out on the rocks.

“The pre-Columbian Indians of the Southwest, whether hunting, making arrowpoints, going on salt-gathering expeditions or otherwise engaged, clearly enjoyed plenty of leisure time. This speaks well of the food-gathering economy and also of its culture, which encouraged the Indians to employ their freedom in the creation and sharing of a durable art. Unburdened by the necessity of devoting most of their lives to the production, distribution, sale and servicing of labor-saving machinery, lacking proper recreational facilities, these primitive savages were free to do that which comes as naturally to men as making love—making graven images.” -- "Desert Solitaire" by Ed Abbey

I could easily spend a weekend climbing around and exploring this area.

We headed back for dinner, some veggie burgers, Ben's deliciously improvised jambalaya, and Smore's, and we still had enough ice to keep the Tecate cold.

Slept well, and woke up feeling somewhat better. The Lump was still there, but felt acceptable when compressed. I couldn't run at all, that was for sure, but by keeping The Lump compressed, I was convinced that I could bike. After breakfast, we made plans to check out the famous Kokopelli Trailhead trails. We loaded up the car -- 3 bikes and 3 peeps all fit inside the Outback (yes, overdue for a bike rack) and headed out.

Kokopelli Trailhead Trails
As expected, the trailhead was busy, but not overwhelmingly crowded. It was the heat of mid-day, but still only in the upper 70s -- amazing for almost June. We reassembled the bikes, and settled in for the beginning of Mary's Loop. This didn't disappoint, with a nice, scarcely technical but manageable climb up to some nice mesa views.

After this, we continued past our intended turn onto Horsethief Bench, so instead took the Wrangler Cutoff. This put us on some nice desert double-track toward the cliffs and rock formations, but we soon ran out of signs and other people, so turned around. Then we took a short climb away from the main trail, which ended up dumping us onto the main, rocky descent for Moore Fun. It was decently fun, but not what we were looking for, and we looped back to the main trail, before heading up the Rustler Loop.

The Rustler Loop is a bit of an intro loop with a little bit of everything, but it flows nicely, has great views, and isn't crowded. Fun for all levels. There are little signs on the side that offer basic mt. biking tips appropriate for the surrounding terrain -- luckily, they agreed with the advice I had been giving/making up.

Kannah Creek Brewpub
After a fun taste of Kokopelli trails, it was time for some fresh beer and food. We headed to Kannah Creek in Grand Junction.

Kannah Creek didn't disappoint. It has a simple layout, looking like an old pizza place, and didn't have much for patio views, but had a great food selection: good pizzas and awesome waffle fries! Later, our camping neighbor and Fruita local, Mike, levied a criticism that their food wasn't fried enough! I thought it was awesome, fresh, and tasty. The beer was decent -- nothing stood out but all met my expectations, as I tried the award-winning Standing Wave Pale Ale and Lands End Amber. Surprisingly, Island Mesa Blonde is described as being light and unsophisticated, but it had a great crisp dryness that I could imagine all summer. The rotating list online included a couple maibocks, a pilsner, octoberfest, and Irish Red -- I'd love to come back sometime and try any of these. Oh, the afternoon Happy Hour (3-6?) was nice, 7 days a week; growler fills were $8 and allowed foreign growler fills (I shouldn't have to clarify this, if it weren't for Glennwood Canyon's lame rules); and you can buy a souvenir glass for $7 with a beer.

We took a siesta when we got back, then started a fire for some S'mores. As it got dark, we headed over to Mike's camp and hung out with all of them, and had a great time.

Western Rim Trail
Next morning, as threatened, I got Ben up at sunrise for another ride. Mike described a route off of Trail 2 that looped over to the rim of the Colorado River -- this wasn't on my map, but it sounded like fun. We had a few hike-bike-sections, but generally enjoyed the route out to the rim. We ran into a bit of route-finding and backtracking with some crossing unofficial trails, but eventually found the cairns marking the beginning of the Western Rim trail.

The Rim trail was as awesome as Mike described -- flowing, slightly downhill singletrack, mostly buff with just a bit of rocks thrown in, and great exposed views.

The rim section was over too soon, though, and we reconnected with the Kokopelli trail, which we took back. Maybe 14 miles and just over 2.5 hours. Nobody got hurt, but Ben might have gotten addicted to mountain biking!

Rockslide Brewery

On our way back home, we stopped in Grand Junction again -- this time, to check out downtown and the Rockslide Brewery.

Rockslide had a nice location downtown. No patio that we saw, unfortunately, but a cozy bar atmosphere. Decent selection of food and beer -- we tried a serviceable seaonal Bock, as well as a mainstay Rabbit Ears Amber and Kokopelli Cream Ale (which would have been better if it were creamier, perhaps on nitro). We were greeted with some complementary bread and butter, and the curly fries were, well, quite curly and delicious. I saw All-You-Can-Eat Salmon Fish 'n Chips on Thursday nights, as well as a Mug Club -- I'd be there for sure if I lived in the area!

After lunch, we strolled downtown for a bit, which had a fun selection of stores, cafes, and public art. You don't hear enough about Grand Junction, but it's worth a visit and then some. And, Fruita is well-deserving of it's reputation as well.

Next time, I'll ride a bigger bike!