Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Mexico Thanksgiving

Each year, J and I try to head to New Mexico for a quick getaway to another world.
Cities and towns like Santa Fe and Taos have a different vibe and history that is unmatched in North America, and the surrounding landscape of the "Land of Enchantment" evokes imagination and wonder.

Plus, they've got Trader Joe's.

So with a few days for Thanksgiving, and in celebration of J's 30th birthday, we headed down to Santa Fe. As usual, this will end up being mini-restaurant reviews, since a big point of going there is to eat.

We stayed at Pueblo Bonito inn and enjoyed the rooms and hospitality. Rates are very reasonable and it's got cozy rooms and a great location. Breakfast is a simple buffet.

Most importantly, the rooms have kiva fireplaces.

I'm almost afraid to go to New Mexico in the summer, because I enjoy it so much in the fall and winter. The elevation and dryness of the air means that the temperature drops quickly and noticeably, but a stroll around town ensures the consistent aroma of burning pinon. And, not being natives, we're also not bound by law to wear layers of expensive scarves and boots that Santa Feans need to avoid hypothermia, apparently, when chile serves the purpose even better. Also, the late Fall means expanses of gold, green, and brown, along with snow, which looks best in the flat light and shadow of a low sun.

La Choza
We arrived just in time Wednesday night to make a quick run to TJ's and then tried La Choza for dinner. La Choza was recommended since it's owned by The Shed, which has been one of our favourites, yet was supposed to have lower prices while still having great food. The top Google search, in fact, shows very good *lunch* prices -- but the dinner prices still start at ~$13-$15 and chips and salsa are not included (d'oh), although sopapillas are. Even still (and we did order chips and salsa), I finished my food quickly and could have eaten a bit more (not healthily, mind you, just sayin'.) Santa Fe Nut Brown though (just like at The Shed), always good stuff.

Thursday proper, with most things closed, we pretty much slept in and had breakfast at the inn, being pleasantly surprised with a light dusting of snow and blazing sunshine. The rumor was that the big cold front was coming through New Mexico and Colorado on Thursday, butit seemed fairly nice in the morning. We pretty much chilled out and I kept a promise to J not to make us run around and do a bunch of stuff. In the afternoon, though, she took a nap and I snuck out for a run up Picacho Peak.

Picacho Peak

Picacho Peak is a little knobby point in the foothills above town, part of what looks to be a great trail system known as the Dale Ball trails, known for good mt. biking on one side and hiking on the other. I headed generally through town up Canyon road, hoping that the knobby thing ahead of me was the peak since it looked sufficiently interesting. (Not much further past Picacho is the higher but more bulbous Atalaya Peak).

I'll admit, around this time I felt kind of in a bit of a funk, with many things either going on or not going on in life. School has been busy but I can't say different than expected; I've been limited in running somewhat both with time and a persistent abdominal/groin pain (though it's not as bad as before, and doesn't hold me back on trail running or skiing -- it's just there). Enough of that whining though, you didn't sign up to read about that: I really wanted to mention because, ultimately, I felt significantly better after this run (why do things like that continue to be surprising?) as well as discussions with J about how, yeah, we pretty much have it really good (usually I'm the one doing that reminding) and everything in our control can and will get better. I guess that has something to do with Thanksgiving.

So yes, it didn't feel as cold as advertised -- and why should one's feeling about the weather be based on what's advertised? -- so I headed out in shorts and a long sleave shirt. I caught the unmistakable scent of masa being cooked, in addition to wood smoke, and started thinking about fossil fuels versus wood, thinking about how wood is so much more fresh and humane and direct and intimate, like eating a fruit, versus some artificial and unknown heavily-processed concoction. I probably then started thinking about food after that.

The TH toward Picacho was on the right (South) side of the road, and the trail system is nicely marked at each trail intersection. It's only a couple of miles to Picacho, and starts out somewhat steep and switchbacked, and with the snow and shadow there is potential for ice, but in this case it ended up being the perfectly runnable cottony snow that feels exactly what a children imagine when drawing clouds or heaven, then most of us forget again until we tread on fresh snow.

I encountered just a few parties on the trail, with a few saying things like, "Nice work" or "That's studly" while kindly yielding, which is nice but was really a very short, routine run on what ended up being a very pleasant, windless afternoon. "Black Friday?" Give me a trail day on Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I promise you'll see the best of humanity. Go shopping the next day, and you're purposely choosing to see the worst!

At the top were great views in every direction. Here, I met a group: Jeff, Lucas, Gemini (my first Gemini!) and ? (unintroduced wife). All were in great spirits, and everyone was from out of town (California), visiting Jeff, the oldest of the group, who lived in Santa Fe (near the bottom of the trail) and gave a brief description of the surrounding environs. Atalaya was very close but required a descent to a saddle in the trees, and I thought I'd be pushing my time allowance, so I spent some time up top chatting and then headed down, figuring I'd tack on something at the end if I had any extratime. Jeff had headed down first out of paranoia of "holding up the group" -- I encountered him shortly but found him running - he made me laugh because he was so self-deprecating but obviously gets out and hikes and runs when he can. I hung behind him and chatted a bit, then decided to head back down. I did have some extra time so I took a longer loop around between marker 30 and 31, when I encountered Jeff again, almost at the bottom, sweaty and *way* ahead of the rest of the group.

"Did you happen to see a blue glove?"
Crap, I did -- sometime after passing him near the top. I didn't know if somebody else going up or down would see it, so I had left it. Since I knew where it was, I headed right back up again, thinking I'd probably see the rest of the group and find out if they had picked it up. Turns out, they bushwhacked in a different direction and were probably 15 minutes back, and the place where I had seen the glove was actually pretty close to the top, so I ended up going up about twice, though it's more fun when there's kind of a reason or a "quest." The guys said they'd jog down now that they were back on the trail, so we all jogged together and chatted.

Anyway, I got back in around 2:15 and felt significantly better.

Thanksgiving Meal
First, we had sushi and $3-buck Chuck in our room, then took a stroll around town.

We were waiting for 7pm, when we would join friends John and Kelly from Fort Collins for dinner. Jessica works with Kelly, and I've met them briefly twice: the first time, coincidentally, we saw them while waiting for a table at Snooze in Ft. Collins. They had an hour wait, but instead we shared a table and I enjoyed meeting them. We never had a chance to get together before moving, but they were at J's birthday party the previous week, and talked about how they were headed to Santa Fe for Thanksgiving! So we decided to meet up for dinner at Los Mayas.

Los Mayas Restaurant
We decided against typical (and more expensive) Thanksgiving faire for New Mexican instead. We had a cozy table at Los Mayas next to a fireplace, and enjoyed delicious chips and salsa with our meal. They only had bottled Mexican and American beers though, and prices seem to have gone up a bit. The food looked beautiful on big square white plates, but I was dismayed to have large, big white gaps between my food, mostly because they were (silently) out of both the rice and pozole that are supposed to accompany it, meaning that I stood a good chance of still being hungry. Another strike was that my "green chile and cheese tamale" ended up being an "(implied pork and) green chile and cheese tamale." Still, what I had was delicious, and I'm only being picky because there's so much emphasis on having a delicious meal that you can only really get in New Mexico, but this isn't really a problem in the grand scheme of things. I'm just telling you, The Shed, Pasqual's, and Tia Sophia's (breakfast) are still at the top.

We headed over to Del Charro Saloon for some drinks.

Now that's a fun place, as we sat in a covered patio with a fireplace and heat lamps, enjoying Santa Fe Brewing Co. beers, cocktails, and great hot mixed drinks. I really enjoyed getting to know John and Kelly more, as we all seemed to have quite a bit in common.

Tia Sophia's
By Friday, the tourist throngs were back out and things lost a bit of their magic. The Shed had a 1.5hr wait, so we had lunch at Tia Sophia's (only had breakfast there before). They're quick, attentive, and have a solid menu -- nothing stands out as great for lunch (prefer the breakfast menu) but everything is predictably very good.

We headed back Friday, so it was a quick trip, but fun as always. Lots to be thankful for!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hoosier Daddy

My alma mater, the Wisconsin Badgers, beat the Indiana Hoosiers

Undoubtedly, great numbers for spectators.
I guess I'm a "sports fan", too, but more a fan of these numbers: 18 (inches) and 13,000 (feet).

I decided to dust off the backcountry skis and check out Hoosier Pass for the first time. Generally, I wanted to check out the Bemrose Ski Circus trails. In my mind, I pictured clowns, elephants, and whimsical music -- always whimsical music! But in this context, "circus" is the European term for a junction of a bunch of a bunch of different roads (e.g. London's Picadilly Circus) or an interconnected ski area (e.g. Austria's Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Ski Circus, which seems to have everything including a dischotheken)

I took 285 from Denver and got there from East Denver in exactly 2 hours. Not as close as I'd like, but nice to avoid I-70. Not much snow all the way through Fairplay/South Park, but finally started picking up as I climbed out of Alma. Sure enough, a winter wonderland as promised at the pass itself.

I parked at the parking lot on the West side, and saw a dude, Clint, who just came up the pass. He told me "there's no love" out there, as it took him awhile to hitch a ride up to his car which had been left overnight, but told me the snow was good and talked about various routes off the ridge on the West. By the afternoon, saw a few cars with great bumper stickers, more friendly folk, and friendly dogs. Definitely a scene there that I dig, way better than the resorts.

Plenty of good options and an easy, accessible ridge from the West side, which I didn't know anything about. Later I learned that snowmobiles (ugh) are allowed on that side, but hopefully there are enough options to keep everyone satisfied. But I stuck to my plan of the Bemrose Ski Circus,and headed out clockwise around the main loop. It's generally flat with only occasional dips, a great spot for x-country or snowshoeing. The trail was already packed out to Bemrose Creek, where it ended abruptly without an obvious trail. The map shows a trail following the creek itself, but being early in the year, plenty of willows were still poking out.

So, too, was Hoosier Ridge to the East.

This early in the year, avalanche danger is generally high. I am certainly no expert (never will get there, but working on it), but the maxim is, "enough to ride = enough to slide." You could argue that there really wasn't even enough snow to ride, as plenty of vegetation was poking through. I decided to follow a mellow ridge to the North of Bemrose Creek, as far as I felt comfortable. Much of it was wind-swept with just a few inches. But, large sections were rock-free, so it was possible to keep the skis on.

I zig-zagged my way up, but took longer than I thought. A dark cloud had been coming in from the North, which was kind of neat when it was partially below me:

I was only a couple hundred feet from the summit, right below the steeper section of bare rock, and the clouds were moving in fast. I no longer could see the summit with the clouds and wind picking up the snow, and decided on a new rule: Don't climb solo on something you can't see

Plus, the view below was becoming obscured, and I needed to be able to see a line to safely avoid rocks, or I would have had to descend very slowly.

So I turned around, a little disappointed at not getting on the peak in front of me.
But what about the descent? Funny, I was mostly looking forward to the ascent, as I am a sketchy descender on these narrow, short backcountry skis and soft boots. I've had a little success at the resorts, but generally am happy enough on rolling trails in the backcountry. I had ascended today only because of the mellow angle, and having enough width to cut back and forth across the fall line to control speed. I want to get better at this.

I started a little shaky, but then it happened: I linked together a couple of halfway decent, useful telemark turns. For all that work, I though, yes, this is a pretty cool way to go down a mountain.

So no summit for the day, which wasn't entirely planned anyway, but a fun descent and a great workout, more familiarity with the skis and a new area, and no I-70. Not bad for November.

I'll certainly be back to explore more. Across the street? Northstar Mtn. and Quandary.

I'd especially like to do a winter ascent of Quandary and Sherman this year, and could use company.
Anyone let me know if interested (snowshoes generally OK depending on what/when). I hope to do more of this this winter, I didn't do as much last year as I would have liked, but I'd like to learn and push the daily elevation more this year.


Threw my name in the hat for WS100, we'll see what it brings.
Rooting for Alex and Brandon to get in as well.

Popular race, of course. I remember being enthralled reading about it in "Karno's" book 5 years ago, after meeting him at a book talk. We can all joke about that, but I'll admit still that some of that really got me intrigued about ultramarathons (keeping in mind I had barely done a few half marathons at that point), precisely and ironically because of the lack of glamour of the whole thing when he talked about training and running at night, etc.

Anyway, this race and Hardrock are the two I'd most like to do, and (lacking a HR qualifier) it would be most convenient to do them in that order!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


J and I headed to Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay for a couple weeks in January. Stoked.

Posting here on the blog not in the "brag on Facebook" sort of thing (I hate that, and wonder why I'm even on Facebook when that's half of people's updates), but to look for any suggestions people might have. No lodging or anything yet. Besides city stuff in the 2 major cities, definitely going to see some vineyards (J's wish is to find out where our cheap but passable Concha y Toro comes from) and hope to get to the beach for surfing. There are some gorgeous mountains in the north as well, figuring out where to go and how to get there (generally prefer mass transit abroad -- one of the major advantages -- but have to figure out how far of the city we can get). Ordered a pile of relevant used books: besides the travel aspect, I love Latin American culture, land, and history.

Flying into Santiago; in Chile for more than a week; bus to Mendoza; Mendoza to Buenos Aires for a few days, with a day-trip to Colonia, Uruguay.

Rushed as it is, so not going to make it to Patagonia. Realistically, J said she wouldn't want to spend the whole time trekking, so that's a separate trip that'll have to be without her.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Evergreen Mountain

~(10-12 miles)
~2+ hours, plus some scrambling

I hadn't run at all for a week since my lower abdomen started feeling sore, and with the great weather, I was dying to get out to some trails. It would've been a perfect weekend to spend the whole time in the mountains, but I only had a few hours. Thursday's test run went alright, so I decided to check out Evergreen Mountain. I know JP gets out there frequently -- turns out he was there earlier in the day.

It takes about 50 minutes for me to drive there (ugh), but I really enjoy Parmalee Gulch up through Evergreen. I decided to park and start from the lake and take the Dedisse trail connection before heading up Mt. Evergreen itself.

I felt sluggish chugging up the hill, but enjoyed it immediately after crossing a creek and heading into the trees. Hung a left at Three Sisters and then started heading up Evergreen Mountain. Not feeling too fast, and not even sure how many miles this route is, but sped up a little bit when I didn't know where the summit was and my watch was getting close to an hour. On the way up, saw no runners, but hikers that moved out of the way, and a fair share of mt. bikers. I generally wave the mt. bikers down to 'keep going' while I stay right on the edge of the trail so that neither of us have to give up momentum or stoke.

Had a few minutes up top to myself:

which reminds me, two people commented on how awesome it is to be shirtless in November (yes!)...met Bryan Anderson and his son Evan up there. Bryan asked if I was a "Leadville or Pikes guy"...I demurred about not having run those (not sure how much people know about other races), but then figured out he was totally into the scene and had done various flavors of Leadville distances and modes (bike and run), and also volunteered other years (which just reminded me how much I need to volunteer for something). I commented on how cool it was that his son was up there riding already and how lucky he was, since we both hadn't started this stuff until our 20's or later, in his case.

Started stiffening up as I headed down, mostly from lack of running as well as extra biking, but passed a couple timid mt. bikers going downhill(!), even though it's fairly non-technical, so I made it my goal to stay ahead of them the rest of the downhill (I could see if they were getting anywhere close on the switchbacks). I made it down to the trail intersection at a bench, then pulled up for a map check as they caught up and passed. I intended on taking a different route back and ended up with a wrong out-and-back repeat for an extra mile, but then got back on track. Saw an interesting rock outcropping on the Three Sisters trail so quickly scrambled up that for a view.

I was thinking about how my abdomen was feeling better, but then I sneezed and it quickly reminded me that it's not quite there. It doesn't really hold me up running, maybe I feel it a little bit downhill if at all, but it's not perfect. I'll still avoid speedwork and core work for a bit hoping that it gets 100% eventually.

Otherwise, a great afternoon. I really like it up there: 12 bikeable miles from Echo mountain, 28 from Mt. Evans... On the way back, I passed the RTD sign and pulled over to check the schedule: 40 minutes to downtown Denver. I tried convincing J when I got home that we could realistically live there. Except for the housing price thing, d'oh.

Another great trail in Evergreen. I like the Dedisse connection as well, and I can see why Alderfor-3 Sisters is popular for mt. biking, as the trail is fairly buff and rideable all around.

Vail/Eagle County Justice is an Embarrassment

Bike rant.

Despite the highly-touted snow and terrain at Vail, I've purposely boycotted (OK, closer/cheaper options also help) actually skiing at Vail since I'm clearly
Front Range riff-raff.

However, just when I was thinking about maaayyyybeee giving it a shot this season, I read this story from CARD about why the DA Mark Hurlbert dropped felony charges (abruptly and without warning) against a driver who
* veered off the road
* hit a cyclist (the cyclist is a surgeon, by no means riff-raff)
* "left [him] for dead" (victim's words, as he was hemorrhaging from the brain -- luckily somebody else stopped)
* kept driving through Avon, then stopped at Pizza Hut to make a phone call...
* ask for his 2010 Mercedes to be towed for a bumper and side-mirror repair!

The best (worst) part? Since Erzinger is a director in private wealth management, “dedicated to ultra high net worth individuals, their families and foundations,” a felony charge would have to be reported within 30 days.

So, the DA decides to drop it to a misdemeanor:
“Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession, and that entered into it,” Hurlbert said. “When you're talking about restitution, you don't want to take away his ability to pay.”

Emphasis mine. Even though a felony would theoretically affect anyone's "job implications" and "ability to pay", there are special laws and rules if you are incredibly wealthy. This DA just had the audacity to say it out loud.

Will Vail/Eagle County residents put up with it?


Pedaling and a Pint

...or three.

One last week of great weather in Colorado, but my abdomen was still ailing me. I decided to take a full week off of running, but hit the bike instead. Ended up with 3 decent rides in the last week, with no significant intrauterine pain (a good sign), though I still feel it when I cough, sneeze, or think about doing a situp. More on that as time goes on.

Leaving my apartment on a bike requires much monkey business to get into a groove. Yes, there are some great bike paths, such as the Highline Canal Trail which stretches over 70 miles, but many of them are not entirely practical for transport. I used to be able to get out and crank on county roads and highways immediately.

Falcon Brewing, Parker
However, I still have the pleasure of exploring new territory. I've never actually been to Parker, so that seemed like a good goal. The Cherry Creek trail roughly gets there, but has some gaps and twists. Luckily, I brought a printed map...which fell out of my jersey pocket. I kind of wandered around a bit before picking up Jordan Rd., which is a halfway decent N-S route. Finally got passed the "Welcome to Parker" signs, when I started looking for Parker proper. Had a hard time finding it, ended up on the bike paths again, when I saw a map, showing that "Main Street" was nearby. So I did find the downtown, which was very small but quaint. I recognized the Falcon Brewing Company logo, and stopped in for a quick pint. It's a decent brewpub that seemed like a fun place with great service. They only had a couple house beers on tap, in addition to some visiting beers (bonus). I tried the Hog Daddy Amber, which was incredibly thin and light. I guess that worked well for having to ride back home, but didn't have the body and flavor I'd expect. Still a nice place though, not as much a destination but worth checking out if you're in town.
This ended up being a 50-mile roundtrip with some of my detours.

Dry Dock Brewing, Aurora
Been wanting to check out Dry Dock due to great reviews online, and its only 7 miles from my house. But first, made a detour to Aurora Reservoir to soak in the last of summer in November:

Got to explore more of the bike trails in Aurora itself, which were nice, as well as some rolling hills on the roads. Man, I love hills, so that felt good, took some aggression out. The loop around the lake is longer than I would have thought due to the jagged shape, and the miles are marked: a nice place on an uncrowded weekday. Nearest I can tell from the signs, the entrance fees truly are for vehicles only. Heading back home gave me another even 50 miles. There is a dearth of bike lanes and painted shoulder lines in Aurora, but I did find a bright white one on Quincy that appeared brand new. After a few miles, I came upon some cones that blocked the lane off, and then a painting truck. I asked the guy if he painted the line, he did and smiled-- I thanked him and told him I "just used it."

But for every positive...
Quick rant...Skippable
I did decide to take Hampden, as traffic was relatively light mid-afternoon. There are three freaking lanes in each direction, but no shoulder. I was pinned to the right side, when a convoy of large construction trucks violated my 3 foot space and gave a honk, which did nothing but startle me. Now I did see them coming, and I had barely enough room on the side, but I need to set the scene up for you: these trucks were 3 abreast, at the back of a pack (meaning there was nobody behind them for a quarter mile), speeding up needlessly to a clearly visible red light ahead. No, I was not riding with my head down and headphones on -- like I said, I know who's around me in situations like that. It's incredible how little we ask or demand out of driving. And, had something happened to me, my poor wife (I've warned her about this many-a-time) will have to deal with armchair yokels telling about how bikes shouldn't be on the road, and why wasn't he on the taxpayer-funded bikepath that's only 3.8 miles north of that route, or why didn't he take the 3-times-as-long Route "X" instead, or his red bike and jersey weren't as visible as a blaze orange bike and jersey with a blinking headlight would have been, or I saw a different cyclist ride through a stop sign the other day and therefore they all suck, blah blah blah. I'm getting old for this and don't seek out crappy conflicts, I just need to get used to the area, and then I will take the longer-but-safer routes. Yes, Google-map "Bicycling" option -- Got it, but it's not perfect (see, "Huron Street", below).
/End Rant

Actually, that was the only negative encounter all week, and it was on a road that I didn't really want to be on in the first place. Not bad, considering. Looked forward to a pint at Dry Dock.

Dry Dock doesn't serve real food -- some snacks, and a free popcorn machine (bonus), but it is all about beer. The attached store sells homebrew supplies. It has a large patio, taken up at the time by cigar smokers (you decide if that's your thing or not). However, you can bring in your own food, and there's Mexican, Chinese, and sushi nearby. The beer board has a host of award listings on it, in addition to 2009 GABF Small Brewing Co. of the Year. I was debating, when a local barfly named Tim said I should try the hand-pulled Old Ale. He offered me a sip of his, so I did -- then demanded a refill from the bartender, ha! Excellent choice. I had a taste of the oat malt stout and vanilla porter as well, both very good. A great place that I look forward to visiting again. Unfortunately, nothing to drink for the missus, and the only other drawback would have to be the growler refill prices. They "start at $8" but I think that was only the IPA, other stuff was $10-$20+. So I don't know if I can make this a regular refill spot. But I would consider this place worth going out of your way, even as a destination, if you're into beer and visiting the Denver area.

Old Chicago, Fort Collins
Another great day of weather on Friday. There was some talk of going to a friend's event on Friday in Fort Collins, but I called J numerous (7) times throughout the day and she didn't answer her phone. The logical thing was to ride my bike up there unannounced, about 75 miles, and hope to catch a ride with J but figure out the details later if it turned out I couldn't. I've done Denver to Fort a few times for various reasons, but I had wanted to do a door-to-door (apartment to old condo) ride anyway, and the weather wasn't going to be any better. On the road bike, I roubaix'ed my way through the sandy, soft-surface Sand Creek trail before Platte River North -- a section around Commerce City which was surprisingly enjoyable. Then I crossed over 25, some ugliness in getting over there to Huron Street, which was green on Google maps but not all that pleasant up into Northglenn. I found a few official bike trails along the way, pursued some of them to dead ends, basically ended on Huron again. That's as much as I printed out, happy when it finally opened up to CR7.

Happy to be on County Roads -- able to crank along without stopping or navigating. Played the game where you hit a dead end, then head West again before the next Northerly road. Also played the game where roads unexpectedly turn to dirt, been there before, and you debate pressing on (always) or turning around (never), even if you get yourself into 4 miles of choppy roads. This is where Boulder tri-geeks on $5k bikes curse their GPS's or call for a ride, but the only thing I cursed was the washboards as I flew down the hills (not wanting to skid on dirt) and hoped the dirt isn't too loose at the bottom. It did lose its romanticism after awhile as I was slowed down big time going up the hills expecially. Finally got closer to Mead and got pavement back.

J finally answered the phone when I was almost in Loveland, saying we didn't have plans anymore. Then she was somewhat annoyed(!) at me -- what? I was cool with whatever, thinking it was a bonus that I could carpool with her on the ride home. But it was perfect time for happy hour at Old C's, the one on Harmony where my name is on the wall -- twice -- lots of good memories. Mother in law Debbie met us just like old times, and I saw a few coworkers as we sat out on the patio. Just before heading home, we called friends Neil and Deej and stopped there....Ended up driving home around midnight. Good times!

It took an 'injury' and lack of competitive running events to get me back on the road bike a bit more for the first time in months, but glad I did. Red bike, you've taken me lots of neat places -- thanks!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Denver Film Festival

Denver Film Festival going on now, 3rd-14th of November.

On the schedule, this quote:
"It's like a marathon, only without all the senseless running."

Good point. Hope to check out at least one or two of these.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fairmount Cemetery

Feliz dia de los muertos!

Running routes in the 80247 (border of Denver and Aurora) certainly have some differences than other parts of the state. Trying to run on the sidewalks can be a deathwish, for example, as there is a palpable difference in driving skill and regard for pedestrians. That doesn't mean there aren't beautiful areas available to run and ride -- you just need to look. One of my favorite haunts, in fact, has ended up being the Fairmount Cemetery, where the residents mostly leave you alone, where you can run without fear of being hit by a car or assaulted with bad puns.

An old cemetery is a rare treat in the new West. (Rich White European) People simply haven't lived here long enough to have died here long enough. After moving from the midwest to Southern California, we were most certainly deprived -- land was too valuable for the dead, outside of military cemeteries (e.g. Pt. Loma), which can be inspiring and humbling in their uniformity and scale, but lack the heterogeneity of a civilian cemetery. One exception was a very small but tourist attraction in Old Town San Diego, and we enjoyed visiting there during Dia de los Muertos.
Fort Collins has one decent cemetery near City Park, but it's small, and the sidewalks on the West/Shields side aren't the best. And, the Poudre or Spring Creek trails are much better options but they don't go near the cemetery. Loveland has a decent one that I've ridden my bike past dozens of times en route to the mountains, but again, not easily accessible for running.

So Fairmount Cemetery has been a welcome surprise in the urban wasteland of Aurora/Denver. My run to Fairmount cemetery is an enjoyable mile and a half or so down the Highline Canal trail, and then plenty of serpentine roads and paths that wind through the cemetery itself. It has taken me several runs just to discover the basic layout of the cemetery -- the second-oldest continuously operating cemetery in Denver. There are many different sections, including a military section, and loose organizations of ethnicity (a specific Greek, Jewish, and Korean section, for example). All of these people living together in harmony, dead: we could learn something from them.

Generally, I run through the historic, old sections with objective irreverance. Headstones are great to play with words, by scrambling and anagramizing names, or looking for recognizable ones (For mtnrunner2: Is objectivism dead?)

or to play with numbers, by doing math -- particularly subtraction -- and nodding at results that make sense, like 80 or 90. But there is also a children's section, which is the one with the most balloons, toys, and fresh flowers, where I cannot help but think of general unfairness. I do not run through this section often, but the message is never far from my mind.

In addition to simple headstones, there are numerous large, ornate statues, symbols, and crypts.

Even more impressive are several historical landmarks dating to the 19th century, including the Ivy Chapel, which is "13th-century Ecclesiastical High French Gothic Revival style."

As my wife can attest, I am a sucker for church architecture (I actually don't know anything about architecture, and don't care to -- I just like looking at them!) -- in addition to classics like Notre Dame, Montmartre (which I entered in running clothes, during mass, at 11PM), Sistine Chapel, Westminster Abbey, I've dragged her to numerous other churches and chapels in Western Europe and South America, including one chapel made of human bones. (Be prepared for a future writeup where I connect at least 4 Denver churches in a run someday, but I'd like to be able to go inside each one). In my expertise, I can tell you that the Little Ivy Chapel is impressive for it's use of gargoyles, cool looking doors, pointy things on the roof, and general awesomeness:

My shadow has darkened the door a few times a week since moving here; sadly, it's never been open when I've been there.

In any case, Fairmount Cemetery is a peaceful, beautiful and quiet place to run in Denver -- a great place to check out, not check in!