The summer of 2014 has officially begun for me. I just got home from my last class of the spring semester, I’m not taking any summer classes, and we’ve started packing for our first road trippin’ adventure.
This milestone gave me the opportunity to reflect on my last couple of summers. It was a nice trip down memory lane. I’ve had some pretty incredible summers. Monumental. They’ve included travel to exotic locals, outdoor pursuits, laughter, joy, pain, tragedy, love, family, friends and so much more. I’m so excited for this summer, and we’ve got some crazy cool plans for the coming months.
Taking a look back, 2012 gave me the opportunity to climb the highest peak in the continent of Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro, in an effort to raise money for the Cancer Climber organization (founded by my buddy Sean Swarner.) I met the most amazing people and was humbled by the beauty and challenge of Africa.
At the summit: 19,304′ above sea level.
Approaching high camp, a.k.a. garbage camp.
Truly a life changing experience. That summer was liberating, challenging and mind-blowing. I also went skydiving, gallivanting with old friends and explored several 14ers in my backyard.
The summer of ’13 was similarly impressive. I rafted the Grand Canyon. Yes, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. I spent 16 beautiful days with 16 beautiful people in one of the most amazing places on earth. We hit the tongue and rode it straight (mostly! Oops, Lava!) for over two weeks of laughter. Thanks to LBK (Josh Kruger) for giving me the opportunity to take the trip. It was another one for the books.
Head first into the spray! Face shots for dayz.
Exploring the countless side canyons was a true highlight.
We live here right now?!? COOL!!!
So what does this summer hold for Joan and I? Sooooo many things!! Five trips back to Colorado, including a bachelor party (sorry Joan, I’ll be going solo for that!), the Dolores River Festival and 100 Miles of Nowhere, and a Rockies Reunion. We get to enjoy our family in Colorado a couple of times and play with our nephews, siblings, parents, cuzes, etc. We’re performing several times and teaching a three-week circus camp (Funtown Circus!) and exploring our new home in Flagstaff. We’re leaving for a week long camping trip in the vast deserts of Utah tomorrow. Life is good and summer is just beginning. Here we go!
This post is going to be a bit different, because I let my dog Friday write it. Well, not actually write it (her paws aren’t dexterous enough to type) but dictate and proof-read it for me. She’s approved the format and content, I was only the typing dummy. I, er, we, hope you enjoy it.
Written by Friday
HI I AM FRIDAY I AM A DOG AND I LOVE HIKING!!!!!!!!!
WE DID HIKING ON THE WEEKEND. IT WAS FUN!!!!!! WE DID HIKING ON MISSOURI MOUNTAIN AND MT. BELFORD AND IT WAS SO PRETTY!!!!!!!
THEN WE WERE ON TOP OF A MOUNTAIN. WE WERE ON TOP OF MISSOURI MOUNTAIN. I ATE BEEF JERKY AND I LOVE BEEF JERKY!!!!!!
WE WENT DOWN AND THEN WE WENT UP AGAIN. GARRISON LOVES TO GO DOWNHILL FAST. I LOVE TO GO DOWNHILL FAST TOO!!!!!!!!
TO GET TO MT. BELFORD WE WENT UP ELKHEAD PASS BUT THERE WERE NO ELK. I LOVE ELK I LOVE TO CHASE ELK!!!!!!! THEN IT HAILED AND WE ALMOST WENT BACK BUT THEN WE KEPT GOING.
THEN WE WERE ON THE TOP OF MT. BELFORD. IT WAS SO PRETTY!!!!
MAYBE WE WERE GOING TO DO MT. OXFORD TOO BUT THEN THERE WERE CLOUDS THAT MAKE THE LOUD SCARY NOISE AND WE WENT DOWN INSTEAD.
I LOVE WHEN WE GET TO THE TREES BECAUSE I CAN RUN THROUGH THE TREES AND I LOVE TO RUN THROUGH THE TREES!!!!! I AM VERY FAST!!!!
WE GOT TO THE BOTTOM AND GARRISON WANTED TO SIT BY THE RIVER. I WAS READY TO GO!!!!!
GARRISON HAD A SNACK AND I WAITED TO LEAVE. I LOVE HIKING!!!! I LOVE DAYS LIKE THAT DAY!!!!!!!
(Note from Garrison: I tried to explain to Friday that on the internet, caps lock indicates yelling, but she wanted it written that way. Even though she grossly overused exclamation marks, I think she has pretty good grammar for a dog and I like her simple phrasing. I’ll have to let her make posts more often. Good job, Friz. Regarding the mountains we climbed, Missouri Mountain and Mt. Belford are both 14ers and sit in the Belford Group of the Sawatch Range. They measure 14,067′ and 14,197′ respectively and are accessed easily off of US 24 outside of Buena Vista. Mt. Oxford, 14,153′, is often combined with these peaks and sits only 1.2 miles east of Belford. As mentioned, nasty thunderheads prevented us from the triple-header even though Friday had more than enough energy to get it done. We’ll save that summit for another day. -G)
(Note from Friday: I LOVE WRITING!!! WRITING IS FUN!!!! I LOVE HIKING MORE!!!!! THANK YOU FOR READING!!!!!!)
I feel like I’ve finally caught up after my trip to Africa. Caught up on work, rest, diet, everything.
That mean’s it’s time to play.
Weather willing, I’m aiming to hit some 14ers this weekend. Possibly hit the trifecta of Oxford, Belford and Missouri on Saturday. I hear there’s a pretty awesome meteor shower going on, so camping Saturday night could be sweet. Again, weather willing. (Tough to watch a meteor shower through the rain and clouds.)
Our August monsoon season is in full force. It’s been dumping water most of the day. We’ll see if that pattern holds through the weekend. If it does, no worries. I’ll find something to do locally. There’s always beer to brew…
This is a pretty late post for a Friday afternoon, but if you’re interested in joining me for some Colorado mountains, drop a line.
MattB is a guy you want to have around. A few phrases to describe him:
- Excellent Photographer
- Music connoisseur
- Computer nerd
Yup, when you’re stranded in the great outdoors MattB will stump you with music trivia, fix your broken digital camera and, after snapping a shot of your dumbfound expression, post it to every social networking site. Look, you’re on the front page of Reddit!
MattB was partially responsible for getting me on my first 14er (Wetterhorn Peak, 14,016′). Our families took a trip together after a great 4th of July celebration a few years back. It got me hooked.
He also introduced me to sardines as trail food. I was skeptical at first, but damn, a nice tin of fish, some mini bagels and a packet of mustard really hits the spot at 13,000′.
MattB’s not old, but he has seen me grow up in our small community. Here he is gettin’ rad back in the day:
What a punk kid.
He shreds on tele skis and a bike. Powder days are heaven, whether they’re white or brown.
Thanks for the help training, MattB. Let’s hit some more 14ers when I get back!
Really, though, MattB takes the most amazing pictures. Be sure to check out his site.
The Darkroom. Everyone knows it, even if they don’t know it by that name. It’s the pits. The low point during an activity. The point at which you want to give up, go home and cower. It’s playing the pain game.
And it’s required.
You can’t have a great time in the mountains or on the trail without getting into the Darkroom once or twice. Inevitably, at one point during your ride, you’ll ask yourself: “Why the hell am I doing this? I’m miserable. My lungs burn. I can taste blood. I’m sucking wind and everyone is going faster than me.”
You’ve just entered the Darkroom.
It’s a dangerous place, this Darkroom. It can make you quit. It HAS made you quit. It’s full of hoodoos and demons and all sorts of doubt. It engulfs you and shakes you up. You can’t focus on anything but stopping and turning around. It hurts.
There are those souls out there who intentionally put themselves in the Darkroom. Society calls them masochists, I typically call them some of my more hardcore friends. My buddy EFreson calls it “Type A Fun”. Putting yourself out there, knowing you’ll soon be in an extremely uncomfortable environment takes a certain type. Admittedly, I’ve opened the door to the Darkroom on purpose from time to time. I get inside and wonder what I was thinking when I turned the knob.
“Ouch!” I say, “Why did I want to do this?! My legs burn!” as I make my way up a silly steep boot pack.
“What were we thinking when we thought of this?” I’ll moan as we bushwhack down an increasingly narrow runoff canyon.
“You thought this was going to be fun?!?” I’ll lament in the midst of a 70mph gust on a snowy, exposed ridge.
Luckily, most Darkroom experiences are with other people. You may be in the Darkroom, but at least you’re with other people. They can bring you up, unlock the door and get you out of there. It’s lonely in the Darkroom, and it’s valuable to have partners who know how to rescue you from the depths.
But I’m glad there’s a Darkroom. Cliche, yes, but how can we appreciate the good without the bad? Being positive and happy in the mountains all day long is not realistic. It just doesn’t happen that way all day. The Darkroom has a way of teaching you appreciation and giving you perspective.
When you get into your Darkroom, how do you get out? What helps? When have you willing entered?
I know I’ve said it before, but we’ve got it made.
On Friday afternoon, MattB and I headed up Cottonwood pass with our sites set on camping high and attacking Mt. Harvard (14,420′) and Mt. Columbia (14,077′) in the morning. We knew there was a chance we’d be meeting up with JCarr at some point, who had ridden his bike over from Gunnison (he’d been training for the Colorado Trail Race).
We picked JCarr up on his way back up Cottonwood pass. “I’m thinking I’ll just ride back to Gunni,” he said. We looked at him like he was crazy and convinced him to come camp with us. “You can ride back in the morning if you’re feeling that bad,” we offered. I knew if we got him to the camp site he wouldn’t be able to pass up the hike.
A little plug for Hennessy Hammocks: these things are awesome. I’ve borrowed one from a friend several times and can’t get over how great they sleep. I don’t own my own, but it’s on my short list of gear to purchase. They pack well, are simple and provide a perfect nest. Get yourself one.
We awoke after a great nights sleep and hit the trail at a leisurely 8:30am. We made great time up Mt. Harvard and JCarr committed for the full circuit. After talking with a couple guys who had just made the class 3/4 traverse along the ridge between Harvard and Columbia, we decided that dropping down to the valley would be a wise option. Unfortunately, we picked the wrong gully to bring us to the valley floor. As the trail dissipated into loose, moving scree, graupel began to fall from the sky. Our ears were perked for any sign of thunder and we set a brisk pace down the slip and slide path. We arrived safely in the boulder field below.
The next section really took it out of JCarr and MattB. For about an hour we played connect the dots with Volkswagon-sized boulders, some of which rocked and rolled, some of which were steady as a, *ahem*, rock.
We reached a nice meadow where I refilled my water from a mountain stream. The rest of the ascent to Mt. Columbia’s summit was relatively smooth and the weather held out. We reached the top and enjoyed some of the whisky MattB had schlepped along.
Columbia’s decent was awful. Loose. Steep. Poor trail. For each step, you would slide four feet. I had to put my head down and just let the mountain take me. There was no right way to get down this face and was one of the more frustrating sections of the mountain. But that’s climbing fourteeners, I suppose.
Our PBRs were still waiting in the stream where we stashed them the previous day. We made it to the truck after a long day and cracked the beer open, ate some chips and oatmeal cream pies and let our feet rest. It was a great couple of days in the mountains.
All photo credit to MattB.
I’ve got a little hiking trip planned this weekend. If you’re interested, shoot me an email and we’ll connect.
Mattb and I plan on heading out of Gunni on Friday asap after work. We’ll start from the North Cottonwood Creek trail head off of CR 365 and hike to treeline. After camping for the night, we’ll make an attempt on Mt. Harvard (14,420′) and Mt. Columbia (14,073′). These two mountains proximity to one another makes the double header a no-brainer.
EDIT: JCarr might be joining us, but he’s thinking about bikepacking over there to meet up. He’ll put in his second attempt on the Colorado Trail Race this year and needs to dial in the gear.
The past three days have been structured training. I’ve been doing plyometrics, hill sprints, mountain bike rides and early morning runs. I’ll add in some weight training this afternoon.
Yesterday before my ride I met with Dr. Scott Drumm, a great mentor of mine. (Drumm has put an attempt into Denali (North America’s tallest point), summitted plenty of mountains throughout the states and abroad and is a super strong endurance runner. In addition to being a great Exercise and Sport Science professor, I’m sure I’m missing a lot of his other accolades.) I picked his brain on training and nutrition and he offered a lot of great insight. Drumm helped me devise a rigorous training schedule that should help me summit Kili and still feel good.
Basically: get as high as possible as often as possible. Sleep high. Train high.
Of course, there are only so many possibilities for this type of training when one has a full time job five days of the week. So…
My weekends just got taken over by 14ers.
Before leaving for this expedition, I’d like to complete the following:
- Trip 1
- Mt. Harvard- 14,420′
- Mt. Columbia- 14,073′
- Trip 2
- Mt. Oxford- 14,153′
- Mt. Belford- 14,197
- Missouri Mountain- 14,067′
- Trip 3- DeCaLiBron
- Mt. Democrat- 14,148′
- Mt. Cameron- 14,238′
- Mt. Lincoln- 14,286′
- Mt. Bross- 14,172′
Ideally, the night before each of these trips I’ll sleep high at the trail head.
Ambitious? Maybe. So’s climbing the tallest mountain in Africa after surviving cancer twice.
As long as I listen to my body and don’t push it too far out of my comfort zone, I should be fine. Right? Right.
And obviously, I’ll be looking for training partners. Anyone want to climb some mountains?
I got the email yesterday. “What does your schedule look like for July 14-29?”
Here we go. Kilimanjaro.
To tell you the truth, I had started to become comfortable with the idea that I had not been chosen. I was still compulsively checking my phone for a new email, sure, but because I hadn’t heard anything on Friday I assumed I was staying local this summer.
I assumed wrong.
I’ll go into that a bit further at another time.
Today, I have to train.
I didn’t have any exotic goals on my list this summer. Climb a few 14ers, go on a few epic bike rides. Camp. Climb. Raft. Kilimanjaro? Yeah, right! Er, actually. Yeah. Right.
So it’s time to shake a leg. Burpies, hill sprints, take it easy on the beer.
Here goes nothing…