A summer I'll never forget

Truly this has been one of the most incredible summers of my life.  I can’t say enough good things about this adventure.  Over the last 3 months I’ve driven over 11,000 miles through 12 different states.  I’ve hiked hundreds of miles and climbed dozens of peaks through countless State Parks, National Forests, and National Parks.  I’ve seen some of the most extraordinary scenery I could have ever imagined.  The western United States absolutely blew away all expectations.  The people and places I encountered were simply hard to believe.  I was able to see many old friends and make many new ones.   The hospitality that was shown to me by friends and strangers was indescribable.  I can’t thank everyone enough.  Countless unforgettable memories were made this summer.  It was in a word: amazing

I know this is not the end of my journey, but only the end of my current adventure.  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings me, and for more tales, trails, and of course more tomfoolery!!!!  Come visit me in the Northwest!

Hanging out in the Northwest

Hanging out in the Northwest

Mountains and people [Part 2]

Summit of Torreys

Summit of Torreys

The road to the trail-head at Grays & Torreys was complete and utter garbage.  It was completely washboarded and there were potholes from the get go.  Great, it is miles to the trailhead and there is no way I'm going to drive to it.  So, I started walking.  From I-70 to the trail-head at it was about 3 miles and a little over 1000 ft. of gain to get there.  A kindly elderly couple picked me up just before 5am and offered to drive me the rest of the way.   It turned out to be only another 100 yards, but it was the thought that counts.  After a quick shit and some water I started out along the trail.  It was just after five and I was keeping pace with a couple in front of me.  Eventually I started chatting with the couple, James and Sheila, and as it turns out they had passed me this morning on my hike up from I-70 and felt pretty bad about not picking me up.  I told them I had debated lobbing rocks at their windshield and slashing their tires at the trail-head for the offense (totally kidding, I really didn’t care).  I continued to hike with James & Sheila until the trail forked and they headed off towards the Kelso Ridge and I continued on towards the Grays summit.  As I continued on the route I could see the clouds ripping through the area but they posed little to no danger of producing lightning.  They were little more than high altitude fog, but this fog seemed to have it in for me as it engulfed each summit as I approached.  I ended up topping out on Grays and Torreys with a solid 5% visibility.  As I was walking up to the top of Torreys James & Sheila were topping out via the Kelso route, it was nice to see them up on top safe and sound.  We trekked back to the parking lot together.  I always find it to be a much better and more enjoyable day when I travel with good people.  (I was also elated when they offered me a ride the 3 miles down to my car.)

Sitting at the top of Tabeguache

Sitting at the top of Tabeguache

A few days later I started the Shivano/Tabeguache 11+ miles trek just before 4:30 am.  It was really dark that morning and I began the trek with a couple girls from Colorado.   There was only a Cheshire Cat moon this morning and very little visibility even with our headlamps.  We made it about a half a mile down the trail when my headlamp burned out.  Fucking great, that was just how I wanted to start the day.  I was extremely grateful for my companions at this point as I would have spent a long time sitting at the side of the trail twiddling my thumbs waiting for the sun to rise.  The girls were nice enough to let me walk between them so I could see without tripping over the many rocks and trees that were in our path.  This went on for a few hours until it got light out; shortly after sunrise I parted ways with my illuminating companions as they were having some issues with the altitude and needed to stop.  I thanked them repeatedly for the light and I kept moving towards the summit of Shivano.  As I reached the summit I met up with a number of other people who were on the same path, which included a family that had driven up from Missouri.  I joined up with the trio (father, son, & daughter) and the teenage kids were leading the group.  Apparently teenagers from Missouri are completely unaffected by altitude, because they were fucking moving. FAST.  I barely managed to keep up with them, FUCK!, these kids made me feel like I was 34 for the first time in my life.   They were effortlessly hopping across the boulder fields at 14,000 feet like they were skipping down a sidewalk at sea level.  In retrospect I am really glad they put that pace on us because shortly after we made it back below tree line there were some serious lightening strikes in the area!  We said our goodbyes in the parking lot and went our separate ways.

Every mountain brings new people and new experiences, some of which are more appealing than others.  Regardless of how bat-shit crazy the people are or how much the route sucks ass, those are the things that make it memorable and worthwhile for me.


Mountains and people [Part 1]

One encounters all kinds of people in the mountains.  These giant cathedrals of rock attract all manner of people from all over the world.   People come from far and wide to marvel at the giant towers of rock and ascend to the summits of these ancient rocks.  There are 600+ peaks over 13,000 ft in Colorado, so you can imagine the number and variety of individuals that this place attracts!  I experienced a range of individuals from friendly to fucktard on this stint in the mountains, and they definitely made things interesting!

Mt. Elbert is the highest point in Colorado and one of the more popular 14ers in the state due to this very same fact.  I expected there to be somewhat of a shit show along the NFS road into the trail-head due to the popularity of Elbert and the adjacent Mt. Massive, however nothing could have prepared me for the all out barrage of backwoods lunacy I was to encounter along this road.  There were at least 3 different campsites within 50 yards of me that seemed to have an insatiable need to practice shooting their handguns.  I’m all for people’s right to bear arms however, when there are dozens of people camped within a hundred yards of you, don’t you think it may not be the best time to pop off a few hundred rounds?  I mean seriously, there are children playing 30 yards away, put the fucking pistol away you ass-clown!  I literally spent the majority of that day in my car waiting to get hit by a stray bullet.  I couldn't wait for it to be tomorrow so I could move on.  

Unfortunately, the next day brought me a whole new brand of crazy and this brand apparently rolls in giant Winnebagos from 1972. I'd never seen a motor home this big, I mean this thing made city buses look like Mini-Coopers.  It was immense.  As the 'RV' creaked to a stop, a lanky version of Captain Cave-man exits the driver side door and walks directly up to me and mutters “Coming or going?  Cuz I got pit-bulls and I don’t like to have them around people."  Uhhhh...... OK psycho, then why the fuck are you here?  I glanced over his shoulder at the mobile menace and saw a dog’s head that could have easily been mistaken for that of a grizzly bear, poking out of the front passenger window.  “I’ll be gone in an hour,” I said.  Without a word he turned and walked right back towards his lovely bear-ridden abode.  I needed to get the fuck out of here, now.  Fortunately, I was on the last set of my workout, so I finished up and was gone in 10 minutes flat.  I camped a ways down the road that night.  The next morning when I awoke at 4 am to hike up Elbert, I was convinced that a mountain lion sized pit-bull was about to jump out from behind every rock.  After hitting the summit of Elbert, I exited the area as fast as possible, rednecks with guns and over-sized pit-bulls are not my idea of good neighbors.

Summit of Mt. Elbert.  Highest Point in CO. 

Summit of Mt. Elbert.  Highest Point in CO. 

Thankfully Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford were the next mountains on the agenda, and they were miles away, and, as luck would have it, the dispersed camping area was far quieter and infinitely less hick-ish.  I found a great little pull-out less than a quarter mile from the trail-head to camp at, being less than a mile from the trail-head is a very convenient place to spend the night.  It was perfect, I can chill out, relax, eat some food, turn in early, and be primed for an early start in the morning.  I was lying in my car watching Die Hard with a Vengeance on my laptop when I heard a car pull in behind me.  I turned to see a couple guys hopping out of a VW.  Lewis and Ryan.  Lewis was a college student from Madison, WI visiting the area for the summer, and Ryan was a teacher from Denver whose brand new Jeep had just broken down on a 4WD road to the La Plata trailhead.  Talk about your bad luck.  He was in pretty good spirits for a guy who’s new ride was miles from anything that resembled a decent road.  As it turns out we were all planning on doing the Belford/Oxford combo route the next day, and agreed that we would hike together the following morning with a 4 am departure time. 

We awoke to a beautiful warm summer morning, and set about the task at hand.  Lewis and Ryan both kept a pretty good pace and were good company the entire trek.  We made great time, had really efficient breaks, and got some really good weather, so we hit both summits before 10am.  I couldn’t have imagined things going any better.  It is kind of weird how 3 different guys had set out with their own solo agendas and then all of a sudden, randomly; they’re all on the same page, doing the same route, together.  Mother nature definitely dictates all things in the mountains.  One thing is for sure though, this mountain experience was far superior to the crazy backwoods shit I had experienced the day before by Elbert.  

Sunrise on Mt. Belford

Sunrise on Mt. Belford

Getting a little altitude again.

It was nice to be back up at high altitude again.  After leaving Denver I headed up into Guanella Pass, very familiar territory.  I hadn’t been above 10,000 ft. in almost a month and not wanting to dive into anything too serious, I decided to stick to a place I know well, Mt. Bierstadt.  We’ll see how my legs feel on tomorrow's climb and go from there.  I got kind of a late start, and arrived at the parking lot just before 6am: FULL.  Already?  What the hell is going on here?  I parked on the road just above the lot, inhaled some coffee, oatmeal, and a banana, and was about ready to roll.  Only one thing I need to take care of: I needed to use the facilities..  I walked down to the bathroom to find a 20+ person line.  I guess everyone had their fiber last night!  The line looked as if it hadn’t moved since the last night.  Shit, I was already running late.  Well, I had TP in my pack, if needed, and I really didn’t feel like waiting a half hour to sit in 20 other guys’ morning stench; so I took off.

I quickly arrived at the stream crossing and there was already a contingent of idiots struggling to get across.  I waited patiently for my turn, an older gent waved me to go ahead.  I hadn’t take two steps across the slick logs, and the old man loses his balance.  He deftly grabs a hold of me as he falls towards the ice cold stream.  I had decent footing and fortunately his grip was barely stronger than that of a 6 year old girl, so down goes grandpa.  Splash, into the icy current he goes.  His girly grip was just strong enough so that he managed to direct his fall and land feet first.  When he grabbed my arm, I unconsciously blurted “WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?” right in front of, what must have been, his son and grandson (who was maybe 7 years old).  I somehow managed to get across dry while the son rushed back to help his sopping wet father, who had managed to climb out of the water on the far side.  This whole string of events happened in about 3 seconds.  When I got across, I whipped around to give grandpa and his son a dirty look, I was pretty pissed off at grandpa for trying to drag me into the frigid rapids.  However after seeing Grandpa soaked and freezing, I felt sorry for the guy, after seeing that he was not seriously injured, I continued along the route.

Geological Marker on top of Mt. Bierstadt

Geological Marker on top of Mt. Bierstadt

I reached a snow free summit at about at about 8:30.  I had never seen the top of Bierstadt without snow! It was cool to finally be able to see the geological marker.  It had always been under a lot of snow when I'd been here before.  I snapped a few pics and wolfed down a quick summit snack.  I was getting ready to head back down when my decision to skip the bathroom came back to haunt me!  Instantly I went into turbo mode, it was time to move!  I was straight up running down the mountain.  All I could think about was the bathroom at the trail-head.  I seriously would have had no problem squatting off to the side somewhere, but there was zero cover and there were people everywhere.  I had never seen this many people on any mountain, anywhere, it was ridiculous.  Even the National Park workers who were doing surveys said they had never seen anything like it.  It furthered my desire to get the hell off the mountain ASAP.  I continued my rapid descent.  I can only imagine what a guy running down a mountain who has to take a shit looks like.  Probably fucking hilarious.

The train of people coming up the mountain

The train of people coming up the mountain

After taking care of business at the trail-head (there was no line) I quickly departed the crowded lot in search of food.  As I drove down the pass, I reflected on the day's events, it had been a pretty good day.  I mean, outside of swearing at an old man in front of his grand child and racing my bowels back to the trail-head, it was good.  My legs felt great, the weather cooperated beautifully, and I was back in the Rockies.  Awesome.


The Return to Colorado

After leaving Las Vegas I wandered down to Phoenix to visit some old friends that I had not seen in years.  It a was nice visit, we grilled out, we drank beer, we went swimming in their pool, we ate pizza, I was introduced to the movie ‘Cars’ by their two year old son, it was quite relaxing….. BUT…. I was still in the DAMN desert!   My friends were from MN and had moved south to get away from the mild winters of the Midwest.  I asked them, “how do people live in this bone dry, beige-brown, hot ass fucking desert?” “Oh you get used to it.”  Get used to it!  Nope. Not this guy.  Now, I suppose if I had grown up in the frozen north and wanted out of winter then this would be the spot, 60 is crazy cold in an Arizona winter.  I will concede the point on the weather; however, I could never learn to deal with the super-dry unceasing brownness of it all.  Screw that.  So Monday morning, I finally set out with the intent of departing the desert.  I said my fond farewells and got busy driving.

After hours of driving, countless miles of construction zones, and several all out stoppages on the highway, I finally made it to Four Corners.  When I first saw the sign for cheesy tourist trap (hours before), I thought it might be kind of cool to stop and do the stupid touristy thing, you know, stand in four states at once and take a picture…….  I think I saw the ‘Four Corners’ sign in my rear view mirror.  I was not stopping at this point for anything but fuel or sleep.  As I had just topped off my gasoline, I decided to aim for a rest stop that was about 90 miles away.  No problem I thought, I’ve only been in the car for 11 hours, I can do that, no problem.  Then, as I weaved along the mountain roads I began to see a few deer. At first one, then another, then, they were fucking everywhere.  For 40+ miles I saw dozens of those beady eyed bastards crouched along the side of the road like they’re waiting for the starting gunshot at a fucking track meet.  I swear those fuckers were perfectly lined up along the outer white line just waiting to leap in front of me.  I was just waiting for one of those assholes to false start and smack right into me.  I don’t think I blinked for an hour.  Finally I reach the rest stop which looks like something out of a horror movie.  A light mist was covering the whole area, there was not one single other car there, and it was completely utterly dead silent.  Not even one cricket.  Creepy.  I think I slept with my machete in my hand.

Coors Field

Coors Field

The next day I awoke, excited to hit Denver.  I always have fun here.  I was also in luck, the Cubs were in town to play the Rockies!  A couple of my friends that live in Denver are baseball nuts so, of course we were going to go.  This could get interesting.  Shots of whiskey started of the night, which led to Jame-o gingers, which led to Buswiesers and shots at some place called the Tilted Kilt.  This place only hires ridiculously attractive women and then requires them to wear the tiniest of white shirts and tiniest of kilts.  It’s basically a Scottish Hooters with WAY better looking women.  The game was a shit show. Both the Rockies and the Cubs are pretty bad, but the Rockies being the absolute worst team in baseball gave me some hope that throwing a couple bucks on the Cubs was not a bad idea.  The cubs wonin extra innings, and we set off into downtown Denver with bourbon, beer, and billiards on our minds.  The last game of scotch doubles got a little hazy and I’m 95% sure we lost every single game of pool we played that evening, but I do know that I had a damn good time.  

Adventures in the desert

I picked up my friend, Steph, at the Vegas airport early one morning and we started making our way towards Zion National Park.  For years I had heard things about this place and I had pretty high expectations.  We arrived to lots of rain, lots of people, lots of cars, more rain, and almost no campsites.  I had heard this place had high tourist traffic, but I was completely unprepared for this shit show.  We were informed that it was a state holiday weekend and it is like this every year.  Awesome.  We eventually found a campsite right outside the park where they packed people in like sardines for $34 a night.  At least they had a shower.

Zion from the top of Angel's Landing

Zion from the top of Angel's Landing

The next morning we had gotten a backcountry permit to hike the famous Narrows but with 30-40% chance of heavy rain and flash flood warnings everywhere we decided aganist it, opting for the Angel’s Landing Hike instead.  Angel’s Landing is a 5 mile out and back to the top of a huge rock fin protruding out into the canyon.  The hike was a little dicey given that it was 1000 feet down on either side, but there were chains anchored into the bedrock and the path was pretty obvious, so I didn’t think it was too bad.  The climb would have been way more fun it if weren’t for all the jackass tourists and the numerous traffic jams they caused at every narrow spot in the route.  Seriously some of these people would have trouble walking down a flat 10ft. wide city sidewalk much less climb this precarious path to the top.   I honestly stared at some of them thinking “How the fuck did you get up here?” and “How the hell are you planning on getting down?”  Despite the all annoying tourists from Texas (I just assumed they were from the lone star state), Zion is pretty remarkable.  It is an amazing place, and I really want to go back and hike the Narrows not during flash flood season.

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

As our stay in Zion was shorter than expected we headed out for Bryce National Canyon ahead of our tentative schedule.  We got to Bryce at a decent hour, arranged for the next evening backcountry permit, grabbed a campsite, and set out for an evening hike.  In my recent travels I had been told several times about how amazing Bryce Canyon is, but all that couldn’t have prepared me for this place.  It honestly looks like you’re on Mars.  The hoodoos, rock bridges, stone arches, and spires seem to go on forever and seem to change appearance when you see them from different angles.  If you get the chance to go here, do it, it is a truly amazing place (and in my opinion BETTER than Zion).

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

Since we had a few extra days we decided we should go down and check out the Grand Canyon.  I was on board with this decision as I had never seen the canyon myself.  The drive down to the Grand Canyon was straight through the middle of the desert (imagine that) and was 6+ hours of straight driving.  Ugh.  FML.  I usually don’t like to drive longer than 4 hours at a time, but didn’t have much of a choice in this case.  As a result Steph got to experience how pleasant a person I can be when I get really hungry and spend a long period of time in an automobile.  I’ll give you a hint; I turn into an enormous asshole.    (Sorry about that Steph).  We arrived at the Grand Canyon and quickly got a bite to eat (before I started screaming at random strangers).  We found out there was a short program giving a brief rundown on the history of the Grand Canyon at sunset.  Ranger Robert did not disappoint.  He was extremely informative as well as very interesting and he timed the presentation to conclude just before the sun set behind him; one of my all time favorite sunsets.

We had planned on spending Steph’s last evening in Vegas (as she had never been there), so we hopped in the car and headed that way.  On the way to Vegas Steph wanted to stop and check out the Grand Canyon Skywalk, it looked like fun so I agreed.  We discovered two things about the skywalk that they don’t put on the flyers:

  1. It is WAY the fuck out in the middle of nowhere.  This place is at the end of a 70+mile desert road riddled with construction that has a 35mph speed limit. Gross.
  2. They charge about $80 per person for this stupid thing.   I watched a guy drop over $600 for his family of 8 without even batting an eye.   

Needless to say we passed on the opportunity to drop $80 on 15 minutes of huddling together with a bunch of strangers on a plastic bridge suspended thousands of feet above certain death.  Save your money folks, don’t waste it here. 

Fountains at the Bellagio

Fountains at the Bellagio

Vegas, baby. Vegas.  We got to Vegas early in the afternoon on Thursday.  After a few hours Steph was able to close her jaw, it had been dropped since we arrived.  I suppose it is that way for all Vegas newbies who have never seen the sheer outrageousness that is Las Vegas.  After walking the strip and a few drinks we rendezvoused with some friends and set about the business of our evening.  We started the evening by checking out the fountain show at the Bellagio (mandatory for any Vegas first timer) and then went to Bouchon at the Venetian.  Honestly some of the best oysters I’ve ever had.  If you’re a fan of raw oysters, make sure you go here on your next sin city excursion.  After Bouchon we took the LONGEST three block cab ride I’ve ever had to the Cosmo.  We went up to STK for drinks and some more light fare.  I’m a big fan of this place, great drinks, great service, and the best tuna tartar I’ve ever had.  It is a pretty sweet establishment except for the bathroom line, it sucks ass.  By the time we left STK things were getting a little hazy, we got a few drinks on our way to the Aria, and then proceeded on down to Haze, the very loud, very expensive night club.  I vaguely remember paying $66 for a round of drinks (2 vodka sodas and two beers) and hitting on the gorgeous bartender.  I don’t think this could be even counted as hitting on her, it was more along the lines of spewing forth incoherent drunken gibberish and telling her to check out my blog.  LMFAO, I can be such a drunken buffoon sometimes, how I even (occasionally) manage to get dates with women still baffles me.  Needless to say this was not one of those times.

The next day we awoke at 11:58am. Check out is at noon.  After getting a late checkout and a bite to eat, Steph and I said our goodbyes.  She was heading back to the midwest, and I needed to get out of Vegas, now.  I was looking forward to getting the hell out of the desert.  

So-Cal: Old friends and good times

Next on the list for my trip was Southern California.  I had some extra time before I met up with a friend to head to Southern Utah, and I was fortunate to meet up with several old friends whom had settle in various regions of So-Cal.  

On my south I was able to meet up with a friend from high school in San Cruz for lunch.  Lindsay had just returned from an extended stay in South America with her husband and son (whom is a deadly Uno Player!).  We met up at a great little place called the Crow's Nest (amazing bloody marys!) which was right on the water.  We exchanged travel stories and talked at length about places we’ve been, it was fantastic.  It was great ot see Lindsay again, and meet her wonderful family.  I left having had gained a lot more ideas of places I want to go and see.

Travis, Kevin & I

Travis, Kevin & I

After Santa Cruz I headed out into the desert to meet an old fellow bartender from Rochester who had settled just south of Fresno with his wife.  These people must live to host.  I arrived to cold beer, good wine (old vine Zin = my fav), a full bedroom and bath to myself, a huge spread of appetizers, and one of the biggest Ahi tuna steaks I've ever seen.  The hospitality was amazing.  The next day a mutual friend of ours, Travis, took the train out from LA and surprised Kevin with a visit.  The evening was rounded out with good pizza, beers, and far too much Jameson.  Damn good times.

The next day Travis and I headed back to LA for a little Tomfoolery.  LA is not somewhere I think I could live however; I always have a lot of fun when I visit, and this time was no different.  We hit up several places that evening including EMC Seafood & Raw Bar which had some of the best seafood, oysters, and cocktails I’ve had in a while.  The next day we had planned on going to Six Flags however due to the 100+ degree heat and our epic hangovers we decided against it. Standing in lines in sauna-like heat while fighting off the urge to effuse the prior evening’s excess (vomit) did not sound like a great idea, in fact it seemed like a fucking horrible idea.  Thankfully we opted to check out some museums and sights of LA LA land.

Bust of MR. Dean at the Griffith Observatory

Bust of MR. Dean at the Griffith Observatory

We started at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) which was currently running the Steve McQueen exhibition.  Being a big fan of Bullitt, I was actually looking forward to it.  Holy shit was I disappointed.  The exhibit was two rooms.  The first room had about a dozen pictures of shitty rolled up rugs in the streets of Paris.  The second room contained a large projection screen showing a video that was literally spinning in circles, it made me want to wretch even more than I already did.  Seriously, how is the hell is this considered ‘art’?  Good thing it was free or I might have gone off on the curator.  After MOCA we drove up to check out the Griffith Observatory.  Now when I say ‘drive’ I mean that in LA terms, which essentially means either you have the gas all the way to the floor or the brake all the way to the floor.  Who needs a fucking roller coaster when you can haul ass through LA at break neck speeds?  I pretty much stared out the window and hoped I didn’t die.  Griffith Observatory was really cool, lots of information, tons to see, and a spectacular view of the LA metro, definitely worth the roller coaster drive.  We spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking, and laughing all over the city.  If I could remember where we went, I would definitely tell you, but I can’t, so I won’t! 

Joshua Trees just after sunset in Mojave

Joshua Trees just after sunset in Mojave

I awoke the next day feeling like 3 week old garbage, but as I was due to pick up a friend at the airport in Vegas the following day I had to get moving.  I was able to dodge the LA traffic and get out of town in fairly decent time.  I needed a place to stay on my way to Vegas and Mojave National Preserve was right on the way.  I made camp in the 105 degree heat and enjoyed the sun setting over the largest concentration of Joshua trees in the world.  It was actually quite nice, despite pouring sweat all damn night, gross.

Pacific Northwest: Part 2

Umpqua Hot Springs

Umpqua Hot Springs

Umpqua National Forest: This place rocks. I’m going to say a lot about this place. Easily my favorite National Forest so far with respect to accommodations.  It has tons of REALLY nice campsites that have 10-15$ fees, a few nice ones that are straight up FREE, a lot of day use picnic areas, and plenty of places to utilize dispersed camping.  All of the camp sites I saw are along HWY 138 which shadows the Umpqua river (and they all had superb swimming holes close by).  Umpqua also has a ton of waterfalls, the most impressive of which is Toketee Falls, which is a massive 100+ foot double waterfall.  Even with all that being said, my favorite part of the park was the Umpqua hot springs.  They are simply amazing, however when you go to hot springs you have to be prepared for 3 things.

  1. There will be nudity.  The overwhelming majority of which is not the good kind.
  2. The hippy factor.  These places are magnets for people ‘connecting with mother earth’ and shit. At least they’re bathing. Sort of.
  3. The pools are outdoors. They will be a little dirty.
Toketee Falls

Toketee Falls

If you can deal with these things then mountain hot springs are pretty badass.  I have gone to 3 so far on this trip, but this was the first I stripped to my bare-ass for, mainly because I had the place to myself (save the old hippies who apparently lived on the other side of the river.  I couldn’t give a shit about them).  I was there for about 45 minutes in the nude until a young college couple showed up and I couldn’t have put my shorts on fast enough.  They really didn't need to see my goods.  The couple turned out to be college soccer players from Oregon who were on summer break and up for the day, Mitch and Nikki.  They were some of the nicest people I’ve met thus far.  We hiked to the Toketee Falls after the hot springs and then said our good byes.  I hope I see them again someday. 

Crate Lake:  Stunning. Simply stunning.  The colors of the water and rock formations are amazing.  The sheer magnitude of the crater is incredible in itself, the first time I walked up to the top of the crater rim my jaw dropped; I’d never seen anything like it.  The rangers in the park were very nice, they gave me my back country camping permit and politely told me I had to check back in when I left or they would send out a search party that I would be fiscally responsible for.  I left the station and head round the other side of the lake to hike up to the top of Mount Scott, the highest point in the park. It was a short hike and well worth the view.  You could see the high desert, the crater, and the entire lake.  After Mount Scott I hiked up to the crater rim and made camp (I later discovered this was a big no-no).  I didn’t sleep well, and I broke camp before dawn, and promptly got the heck out of there.  About an hour down the road I realized I didn’t check out with the rangers.  Shit. Fortunately when I called them I was able to check out over the phone.  Phew, just what I would have needed, to pay for a rescue team to come looking for me, when I wasn’t there.

Crater Lake from the top of Mount Scott

Crater Lake from the top of Mount Scott

Redwood National Park: Wow, just wow.  I was skeptical on how impressive trees could be, but the Redwoods of California are IMPRESSIVE.  I had seen the redwood driftwood in just last week but those were twigs by comparison, the full on old growth redwood trees are majestic.  Towering over everything else around them, they honestly make you feel about as big as a bug.  I was fortunate to get the last back-country site in the park Elam Hose Camp.  It was an easy 3 mile hike into the camp along Redwood Creek through an old growth redwood grove.  One of my favorite hikes of all time, I must have said ‘unbelievable’ and ‘are you fucking kidding me!’ 30 times a piece in that 3 miles.  I arrived at the camp just after 7 to find an extremely nice family already set-up at the site.  Noah, Mary, Jasper, and Liam had apparently just seen a black bear on the trail right by camp.  Wonderful news!  At least the site had bear lockers for the food (which are bear proof but not mouse proof, only a lone packet of oatmeal make it through the night. Little bastards).  I slept pretty soundly only awaking only a few times to what I thought was my neighbors rustling in their tent.  In the morning I was talking to Noah, and it turns out we had a black bear in our camp and the ‘neighbors rustling in their tent’ was actually a black bear checking out the neighbors packs.  My first black bear experience and I didn’t even know it.  Probably better it was that way, because I can’t say I wouldn’t have screamed like a child. I bid the family farewell and hiked back to my  car jingling my keys the whole way.  They say you should make noise so the animals know you’re coming and move along, and after last night I was taking no chances.  I jingled those damn things the entire 3 miles back to my car.

The Big Tree. 300+ feet tall, 21+ feet in diameter, 1500+ years old

The Big Tree.
300+ feet tall, 21+ feet in diameter, 1500+ years old

Pacific Northwest: Part 1

I’ve done and seen so much in the last few weeks I’m going to break it down into 2 entries and run down  highlights of the major places I stopped.

The Andy Warhol (photobomb courtesy of Jim)

The Andy Warhol (photobomb courtesy of Jim)

Portland: I can’t say enough good things about this town.  There is just so much good food, coffee, beer, and places to see.  You could eat at a different badass restaurant everyday and probably never hit them all.  I ate a lot of food here, but my favorite new discovery was Porque No?, a great little taco shop on Hawthorne (which BTW is the place to be!).  For 12$ I got a substantial amount of food and a Michelada (Tecate+lime juice+worchestershire+chili salt rimmed glass).  Flat out awesome.  If you’re looking to go out drinking, Portland can accommodate as well.  Everywhere you go there are bars of every variety: dive bars, whiskey bars, trivia bars, beer bars, Belgian bars, movie bars, etc.  You name your style, Portland has it.  I think the PBR menu at the Side Street was my favorite find.  We got a lot of Any Warhols (a pint of PBR + a Polaroid of yourself) and Cheap Cowboys (a pint of PBR and a Pall Mall).  Needless to say I was a steaming pile of worthless the next day.  I can’t wait to go back.

Hiking through the 'Hole in the Wall' at low tide

Hiking through the 'Hole in the Wall' at low tide

Olympic National Park:  Go here.  There is so much to see, which is probably why it’s ranked by National Geographic as one of the best National Parks to hike.   I spent 3 days here hiking in mountains, in mountain meadows, in river valleys, in rainforest, in old growth forest, and on the beach.  I camped on the beach with some very cool guys on a road trip of their own.  One of them, Richie, had never seen the ocean before.  He was more amazed than I was.  The night we camped happen to be the evening of the Super-Moon, which brought the tide higher than it had been all summer.  Thank goodness Richie woke me up at 1 am, because the tide was inches from my tent.  I don’t think I’ve moved that fast the entire trip.  Moving your tent at 1am with a headlamp on whilst the super-moon tide is trying to bitch slap you is an unforgettable experience!  The beach we stayed on has the biggest driftwood in the world as well which is from Redwood trees down in California.  It was immense, and also got me even more excited to see the live ones!

Iron Mountain

Iron Mountain

Willamette National Forest: Despite having very few places to dispersed camp (at least that I could find), this forest finished strong.  The hike up Iron Mountain was very cool.  Disappointingly it wasn’t very hard, but the flora and fauna were spectacular.  There are over 300 species of plants on the mountain and I was fortunate to be there when the wildflower meadows were in full bloom.  I wasn’t as quite as geeked out as the botanists I met on the trail.  They were stopping every 10 ft to look at some flower that looked just like the one beside it (at least to me it did).  These guys were serious about their plants, they knew every one by its proper Latin name. “OMG, look it’s Eriophyllum lanatum!” I thought to myself, dude, it’s a fucking sunflower.  It was a rather pretty sunflower, especially with the Cascades as its backdrop.  I didn’t hang with them long otherwise it would have taken me days to get out of there.  If you’re into plants, Willamette is the place for you.

1 month in

I've been on the road for 1 month now.  More often than not I awake each day in a new place with a new adventure awaiting me.  Most days I go to bed when it is dark wake up with the light, never knowing what new adventure the next day will bring.  Each day brings new amazing places, people, and experiences my way.  It is simply an extraordinary experience.

I cannot possibly describe what it is like to watch a golden horizon swallow the evening sun in the desert or even begin to express the feeling of seeing a sunrise of a thousand colors from atop an active volcano.  There is really something to be said for experiencing it firsthand.  A picture may be worth a thousand words but not even with a thousand words could I tell you what it feels like to be in utter awe of what you are witnessing and the appreciation for what it took to get there.

That is all for now.  I miss everyone terribly.  Come find me and share in the experience!

Mount Rainier

Hiking up to Camp Muir

Hiking up to Camp Muir

We arrived at Ashford Washington in the morning of July 4th.  There were tourists everywhere for the holiday weekend, but our thoughts were not on flags or fireworks, we were here for the mountain.  We checked into the Whitaker Bunkhouse and then went to the ranger station to get our climbing permits.  There was a huge line just to get in the park; perhaps this was not the best weekend to have chosen to tackle Rainier.  We got dinner at Wildberry, a favorite eatery of climbers that is owned by a former Sherpa from Nepal with excellent food, I highly recommend the huckleberry pie.  After dinner we did a final gear check and hit the sack, we would have gone right to sleep but the local guides across the street were having their own little celebration of our nation’s independence.  They were not quiet. 

We awoke the next morning at 630, after a quick bite to eat and and some coffee we were off.  We arrived at Paradise (alt. 5400 ft.) and registered our climb with the local rangers.  After a quick picture we began to make our way up to Camp Muir which would be our jumping off point for our summit attempt.  For this initial trek we didn’t need any technical gear so we just enjoyed a leisurely hike up the snow field.  The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day.  We got to Muir around 2pm and set up shop: tents, water, and food were first on the list.  We spoke to the rangers and learned that the forecast for the evening was 50mph winds and rain.  Fuck.  That’s just great.

Fortunately we had planned on resting a day at Muir to give us all a chance to acclimate and rest, so we just had to endure a long night of cold and wind.  If you’ve never slept in a tent in high winds, it equates to trying to sleep inside of jet engine, it is not very cool.  The wind was ripping through camp all night, and made sleeping near impossible.  When we got up around 10am we were surprised to find that the wind had died and the temperature was on the rise.  This instantly lifted our spirits as we were making our summit bid that evening. 

Nick and I on the ascent. The sun rising in the background.

Nick and I on the ascent. The sun rising in the background.

We awoke at 10:30pm on July 6th.  We made some coffee, ate some hot ‘breakfast’, gathered our gear, and set off on the route.  We got out of camp just before most of the other climbers and there were only a couple groups ahead of us on the route.  You could see the train of headlamps behind us.  It was actually kind of a cool sight.  We made our way up to the Ingraham Flats and crossed over to the start of the Disappointment Cleaver.   Why do they always name these things like that? As my brother said, “Why couldn’t they have called it Fluffy Bunny Way?”   We started climbing the Cleaver and the damn thing didn’t seem like it would ever end (which is why it was named Disappointment).  Just when I thought we were getting close to the end I looked up and could see headlamps about 1000 feet above us.  Shit.  We have a long way to go.  I just kept telling myself: one foot in front of the other, keep fucking going you pussy!

The team at the Summit

The team at the Summit

We eventually reached the end of the Cleaver, and were approaching the summit as the sun began to break the horizon.  We rounded a corner and I finally could see the volcano crater rim.  We had arrived at the top of the mountain.  It was just a short distance to the summit.  We were standing on the summit at 530 am.  We were all very proud of the time we had made on our first unguided ascent of Rainier.  A few quick pictures, some water, and a bite to eat, then it was time to leave.  Now we just had to walk all the way back down, except now we could see where we were walking.   Let me tell you, it’s a lot freakier when you can actually see that you’re crossing massive crevasses, or walking down an 8 inch path with a 2000 ft drop to your right.  We took our sweet ass time getting down, we were in no hurry.  The descent went pretty smoothly outside of a few blisters and a small route variation.  The last ½ mile was spent in silence.  We were all pretty tired. 

Descending the route

Descending the route

After a quick power nap we packed up our bags and descended back to Paradise, eager for a beer, a meal, and relaxation at low altitude.  It was a good trip.  I honestly can’t say enough good things about the team we had.  Jeong led us up the mountain like a boss; Chris was unwavering; and Nick kept the mood light.  They can be my wingmen any time.  

My first Utah experience.

I made my way into Utah from Western Colorado.  Upon arriving in Arches National Park it was 100 degrees, great, just great, this is going to be not so fun.  I’m really not too fond of the uber-heat, and don’t give me that ‘it’s a dry heat’ bullshit, it is stupid hot anyway you look at it.  I entered the park and went to the ranger station to get my back country camping permit. 

I inquire about the permit and I can immediately tell from the ranger’s expression: this is not going to be fun.  Despite her less than encouraging expression I ask where the best place to camp in the park is.  As I am asking I realize how stupid my question is.  I am seriously asking this person where the best place to camp in the desert is.  Do you know what the answer was: somewhere with shade. No shit Sherlock.

I leave the ranger station with directions to hike up a ‘dry’ riverbed, camp in a canyon, and find this cool Archway that is not on any map.  I hiked up the horsefly infested riverbed with 5 liters of water and all my gear.  I wandered around for 2 hours looking for this elusive arch sweating my ass off and could not find it to save my life.  I called it quits and set up camp in the canyon (which did have a lot of shade), however I couldn’t sleep due to the devil birds and stupid deer making noise around my tent all night.  The wildlife was apparently fond of this slot canyon as well.  I awoke at 5 am and got the hell out of that hell hole.

Me at the Partition ARch

Me at the Partition ARch

I spent the morning hiking a little over 9 miles of trails in the park to see some of the highlights of Arches National Park, which are absolutely amazing.  It was still relatively cool in the morning so it actually wasn’t that bad.  The archways and scenery in the park is just astounding.  I was awed over and over again.  I highly recommend checking the place out, just don’t do it in the middle of summertime.  When I arrived at my car from the last trail it was 106 degrees and it was only noon.   The place had turned into a damn furnace.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

Needless to say I didn’t spend much more time roasting in that open air oven.  I couldn’t have been happier to leave, especially since an entire legion of asshole Texans had just showed up and were being enormous d-bags.  I scooted out of there and headed north to try and find some cooler temps to camp in.  I found a nice little campsite off the beaten path and settled in for the night.   

Diamond Fork Sulfur Spring, UT

Diamond Fork Sulfur Spring, UT

I awoke the next morning feeling a little stiff from hiking all day in a furnace and decided to get some R&R.   I found a nearby mountain hot spring using my Roadtripper phone app and headed straight for it.   Diamond Fork hot springs are natural sulfur springs at the end of a short little hike.  They are awesome, with a waterfall and several sulfur springs bubbling up and mixing with the cold mountain water, you have your pick of temperature in the pools.  If you get the chance check them out!

After relaxing in the pools for an hour and chatting up some locals I made my exit.  The world cup soccer game was on the next day and I needed to make it to Portland by game time, so I was off like a prom dress with Utah in my rearview.  

Vail

All the different mountain towns in Colorado are great.  I have yet to find one that didn’t have anything I liked.  They all have something to offer, in fact, most of them have many, many somethings to offer.  Vail is no different.  I rolled into town about 10pm after a long day of going up mountains.  My friend didn’t get off work until 11 so I asked where we should meet.  She said go to Loaded Joe’s.  I walked by the place 3 times before I had to ask.  I walk in to blaring music and 2 other people in the place excluding the bartender.  This place looks more like a coffee house than a bar.  Point of fact, it was both, coffee shop by day, watering hole by night.  I post up at the bar.  Bartender walks over, I order.  He brings me my order and he asks how I ended up here, I explain how my friend had told me to meet her here. 

“Who’s your friend?”

“Aubrey”

“Oh shit, I know her, we’re both from Rochester”

“Shut the fuck up, I’m from Rochester!”

The next hour or so was spent bullshitting about Rochester and all its glory.  Aubrey showed up shortly after that and we had a few more drinks.  It was time for me to turn in.  I was very tired and hadn’t been drinking for a while, so we went to her ‘place’, which was a campsite.  She directed me to drive to this trailhead access, then we walked a mile back into the woods where she had set up shop.  Needless to say Aubrey is a bit of a hippy.  To be quite honest it was a really nice place.  It was an open area on a point overlooking Vail and the valley.   It was beautiful at night. 

The view from the top of the hike

The view from the top of the hike

I am an early riser.  Aubrey is not.  I awoke early and read some of my current book (A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson).  Eventually we got the day moving and decided a hike up Vail Mt. was in order.  My legs were pretty pissed at me from the day before, but I just sucked it up.  We met a very nice older couple on the way up who were going to Kilimanjaro in a month and were training.  They were spry as fuck, and man could they move!   I don’t think Kili will be an issue for these seniors. 

After the hike Aubrey told me she had a spa pass for me so I could go clean up.  I was ecstatic.  It had been 5 days with no bathing outside of water on my face in the morning.  I hit the hot tub, the steam room twice, took 3 showers, and I’m pretty sure I ruined two towels.  It was amazing.  I felt so damn good after that.

After that my stomach was talking to me, so we went to this Mexican place in, I shit you not, a bus stop.  Aubrey was hyping it up so I reluctantly agreed, besides, it was cheap.  You got a giant burrito and a cold Dos Equis for $11, by Vail standards that is cheap as fuck.  Surprisingly, it was pretty damn tasty and their salsa bar was impressive.  That being said, I don’t think I will ever chance eating Mexican in a bus stop again, ever.   I just don’t think there can be that many fabulous Mexican eateries in bus stops, and I’m ok with going 1 for 1 lifetime in that regard.

Aubrey had plans for the evening and I needed to make my way back towards Denver.   So after the burritos, we said our goodbyes and I departed Vail with a full stomach and a smile on my face.

De-Ca-Li-Bron (aka Democrat-Cameron-Lincoln-Bross)

5 2286+1038

DeCaLiBron (aka Democrat-Cameron-Lincoln-Bross)

I got a late start on the day.  Hurridly, I make some coffee, eat some oatmeal, and I’m off.  As I’m driving to the trailhead I think about the last time I was here.  It was less than a year ago.  I had gotten drunk the night before.  Hangovers and hiking up mountains don’t mix.  De-Ca-Li-Bron - 1, Jake - 0.

I was feeling pretty good, ready to try again.  I make my way up the not-smooth gravel road in my little 2WD Mazda3, eventually coming to a snowdrift about 0.5 miles from the trailhead.  Ok.  No big deal.  It’s just a little further.  I park behind another 2WD sedan and set about the t ask at hand:  7.25 miles & over 3700ft. of elevation (not counting the 0.5mi from my car).  Let’s do this. 

As I approach the trailhead I noticed about 6 or so 4WD drive vehicles that had made it through the drifts.  I had my mountaineering axe with me and I was sporting mountaineering boots.   I wasn’t sure of the conditions and I figured better safe than sorry.  I was probably a little over-prepared, but oh well.  I didn’t care, the conditions were almost perfect.  This particular route can get REALLY windy, but today it was calm.  It was a little after 8 in the morning.  As I made my way up to the first saddle I chatted with other folks on the route.  A lot of them were aiming to do the same route as I was.  Awesome.  That way if I break my ankle there will be someone there to go for help. 

The view from the saddle

The view from the saddle

I reached the saddle between Democrat and Cameron. 13,200 ft up.  I turn left and head up Democrat.  It is a pretty steep route through some pretty rocky terrain, but the path was well marked and easy to follow.  As I neared the summit there were a few patches of snow that were still pretty solid and easy to deal with, but I could tell they were softening, and fast.  As I went over the last ridge, just over 14,000 ft, I ran into a trio of girls with a tiny little furball of a dog.  We exchanged pleasantries and continued on our way.  I went up the last 200 ft and hit the summit, it’s so beautiful. Time for a quick pic.  SHIT! I forgot my camera AND my phone.  Damn it, no pics this time.  Oh well, I put it behind me and continue. 

The girls and the furball

The girls and the furball

I made my way back to down to the saddle at the exact same time as the trio of girls.  They were going on the same route I was, so we sort of started hiking together.  It was nice to have someone else to converse with, besides myself.  We made our way up Cameron and I agreed to snap pics of them the summit (to avoid more 3person selfies) and they were nice enough to agree to send me pics, as I had forgotten my camera (THANK YOU NIKI!!!).  It was a splendid arrangement.

Summit of Lincoln

Summit of Lincoln

We made our way over to Mt. Lincoln, which instantly became my favorite.  The view was beyond spectacular and thankfully the climb up was much less rocky than Democrat and Cameron had been.  There were a few groups up on top there and we relaxed briefly, chatted for a while, and continued.  As we approached Bross I thought of the warnings I read online that the summit of Bross is technically closed; I very much doubted a Ranger was going to jump out from behind a boulder and issue me a fine, however, I didn’t want to be a dick. 

The path that we were following pretty much took us straight up to the summit.  We were there before I knew it.  I didn’t see one “no trespassing” sign anywhere.  The girls didn’t seem to mind, and secretly my plan was to just say “I didn’t know where I was going, I was just following them,” if we got stopped.  (Granted I had a GPS watch with the route onscreen strapped to my arm, so I had my doubts about my strategy).  Oh well, fuck it, before you knew it we were at the summit and one our way back to the trailhead. 

Taking 5 on the way down

Taking 5 on the way down

The descent was a little taxing on the knees and got really warm the further we went down.  Making your way down slippery skree and pebbles is not super fun after climbing up four 14ers, let me tell you.  We got back to the parking lot about 2:30.  The ladies were even nice enough to give a ride the half mile back to my car.  They were all in agreement that several glasses of wine were in order.  I agreed on the craving but not on the solution.  The Breckenridge Brewery was less than an hour away and I was very hungry and thirsty.  (FYI: the Saison @BB is amazing).

End of the day: great route, I highly recommend.  Thanks again to the girls for the good company and the photos!

A little tomfoolery: Denver style

John Brooks losing his shit after the his game-winning goal

John Brooks losing his shit after the his game-winning goal

Denver is awesome, I am definitely a fan.  Only one evening and the experience was unforgettable.  I happen to be rolling with a few locals, so I was fortunate enough to get the full experience.  We started out downtown watching the US vs. Ghana is the World Cup.  Holy shit what a way to kick off the evening!  To celeberate the evening we ordered a round of Jameson shots (apparently it’s not just the Midwest where people drink that shit like water). 

After that we decided it was still a little early and some billiards were in order before going out.  We arrived at the pool hall via taxi driven by a crazy-British-lady-who-didn’t-know-Denver-AT-ALL.  After that ride we made a b-line straight to the bar.

“I’ll take Stoli and Red Bull.”

"We don’t have Red Bull, only Roaring Lion”

“What’s Roaring Lion?”

“It’s like Red Bull”

“If it’s like Red Bull, I’ll take it.”

I hadn’t taken 2 sips of that fucking drink, when I began the sneezing fit of a lifetime. I had sneezed 6 times by the time I had reached our table, then my sinus clogged up and I couldn’t breathe through my nose, 7. 8. 9. 10.   What the shit was going on here! 11. 12. FUCK!  There is only one culprit, the “it’s like Red Bull” bullshit, Roaring Lion.  I hastily make my way back to the bar. 13. 14. 15.   I patiently wait at the bar to get the bartender’s attention. 16. 17. 18. 

“Are you ok?”

“No. I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to this cheap knock off Red Bull.”

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry, let me get you something else.”

(In my head I’m screaming BITCH YOU TRIED TO POISON ME, THAT’S RIGHT YOU’LL GET ME SOMETHING ELSE!)

“Stoli and coke will be just fine.”

By the time I returned to my table I could breathe again and not another sneeze for the rest of the evening.  I had never experienced that type of an on-off switch reaction. Shit was crazy.  That damned bartender, we’d not seen the last of her.

As we shot pool we conversed about Denver and the style contrast to the Twin Cities.  They are very similar places: generally friendly people, enthusiasm for the outdoors, beautiful scenery, good music, tons of bars with good beer and whisky.  But there are many differences as well.  Twin Cities: hipster central, Denver: almost none.  Twin Cities: a few hippies, Denver: a whole other level of hippy I didn’t even know existed.  Twin Cities: Affliction/Tapout wearing D-bags, Denver: Chads and Ashleys.  This is where the conversation stopped.  What the fuck is a Chad and/or an Ashley?  It was explained to me that these are the LA equivalent of Bros (tan, trust funded, and enormously douche-y); the only exception is that there are girl versions in CO.  It was then explained that the term can be used as an adjective as well.

“How was the bar last night?”

“It was cool but it got a little Chaddy late night.”

I just about fell over laughing, I loved it.  Throughout the rest of the night I was constantly on the lookout for Chads and Ashleys.


After a few drinks and a number of games, it was time to move on.  We then discovered that the stupid bartender had given away Eric’s ID that he had given her in exchange for the rack of balls. 

“Well this other guy looked just like you and I called him Eric and he didn't say anything.”

“Okaaayyyy??????

“I’m really sorry.  Your tab is Twenty-six dollars by the way.”

Ok, let me get this straight, you give away my friend’s ID and then you’re going to charge us for allergic reactions?  I’m pretty sure the look on our faces said it all.  Eric left his name at the bar with the small glimmer of hope of seeing his ID again.  We paid and left.

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

A pit stop back at their place was needed, since Eric needed his passport to continue the evening.  On the way back we call in an order to Sexy Pizza. Yes, that is the real name, and, yes, it is really really good.  I contributed a bottle of Surly I brought with me from MN, and we enjoyed pizza and beer on the balcony overlooking downtown Denver.

Time to head out again; I told my hosts that I was in a dive bar kind of mood, they did not disappoint.  We went to Sancho’s Broken Arrow, a dive-bar lover’s paradise.  As we approach the door, Eric announces he forgot the passport we went home to get, and that he will be right back.  As Nate and I walk in, there is a $1 cover, I almost laughed in the enormous bouncers face (glad I didn’t, he was not a happy person).   We get our cans of PBR at the bar with a side of Jame-O and proceed to the pool tables.  As we make our through the tiny basement bar I noticed a group of guys standing around and for some reason people were giving them a wide berth.  Oh shit. That was the band!  There was zero stage so they just set up shop in the middle of the bar and started playing.  It was hilarious.   After drunkenly battling hippies at billiards for an hour, several shots of whisky, and a couple PBRs we waved the white flag.  We were way too whiskey drunk and it was time to go.  We walked back to the apartment and I belly flopped onto the couch and was out.

Denver, you’re awesome.  Good times.  I’ll be back for more.

Fun.

I was very disappointed in how things went on my trip up Mt. Evans.  I did myself no favors by skipping breakfast, not taking enough breaks, and getting a very late start.  Besides all that I just felt like it was way harder than it should have been. I will prepare and do better next time.  Anyway, despite 30 degrees, some pretty strong winds, and not feeling it I definitely still had some type 2 fun.

Last year on Mt. Rainier one of the guides described the 3 types of fun:

Type 1: you are having fun while you are doing it

Examples: eating good food, watching a concert, sex

Type 2: you are not enjoying yourself so much at the time, but looking back it was fun

Examples: shitty summer college jobs, triathlon training, hiking up a fucking mountain

Type 3: fun at someone else’s expense

Examples: making fun of friends to their face, watching guys hit on girls at the bar (especially when I’m working), pulling pranks on co-workers

*(for the record these are examples of what I consider to be each type of fun)

On my way up Evans.

On my way up Evans.

My trip to Mount Evans was definitely type 2.  I was not having very much fun at the time but looking back it wasn't that bad and was a good experience.  I got some good pics and met some cool folks along the way.

Now I’m headed off for a few days of tomfoolery at ‘low’ altitude. 

On to the next state..... CO

Boxwork in Wind Cave

Boxwork in Wind Cave

I’ve been in CO for a few days now, but one quick bit about SD: go to Wind Cave National Park, take the candlelight tour of Wind Cave.  You explore the caves 15 stories down by candlelight. The formations are crazy and the guides are really knowledgeable. It’s worth all 12 Amurican dollars. 

So I’m in CO now.  I rolled into Denver on Thursday and made a pit stop at a friend’s place for a quick load of laundry and a shower (it had been 5 days, it was needed). He was working the next few days so I blasted up into the mountains.  I seriously fucking love it up here.  You can camp pretty much wherever, there are organic grocers all over, and the scenery is unreal. And so far the weather has been cooperating.

Yesterday I got some pretty odd looks when I was working out at my campsite (which was 30 ft. from the road).  HAHAHA, shit was hilarious.  One car actually stopped and watched for 5 seconds. They must have either liked what they saw, or were just flabbergasted watching a guy do kettlebell swings at 10,800 ft in a mountain pass. HA!  Yeah right, who am I kidding? They were telling their kids ‘THAT, is what a jackass looks like.’  

Anyways I’ve just come off Mt Bierstadt today, I’m super hungry, and my pizza has just gotten here! Priorities! 

Panoramic from the Summit of Mt. Bierstadt. 14,060 ft.

Panoramic from the Summit of Mt. Bierstadt. 14,060 ft.

The adventure begins

I'm lying in my tent somewhere in western South Dakota writing this on my phone. It's day 2 of this adventure and so far, aside from on a few hiccups, things are going pretty well.  If only these damn bugs would quit buzzing around my tent, I might be in heaven.

Day 1 had its ups and downs. I unexpectedly met up with a friend in Sioux Falls which was nice.  He bought lunch, which was nicer. (Thanks Daniel, always a pleasure!) After that I sat in the posting lot for 30 minutes and made good use of the establishment’s wifi.  Then I hit the road heading west, until I hit the National Grassland…..

I had planned on spending the night camped out in the Fort Pierre National Grassland.  I figured it would be nice; rolling hills, nice sunset, cool breezes caressing my face as I fall asleep dreaming of mountains. Yeah, it wasn't any of that shit. Ugh. Do yourself a favor: don't fucking go there, ever. If for some reason you need to go to Pierre, SD, go AROUND the Fort Pierre National Grassland to get there.  As far as I could tell it just a bunch of fenced in pastures and farms with a couple of county roads you'd need a friggin monster truck to get down.  I mean there was fucking nothing, nowhere, nada.  I drove around for an hour and said screw it. I slept at a rest stop, which was precisely 68.2 miles away.

the quick pic from the road

the quick pic from the road

The next morning kicked off with a scenic drive to Mt. Rushmore. I'm glad I got some advice from my brother prior to arriving: Don't stop.  It's $11 to park and what the shit, it's not like you can't see the damn thing from the road.  Go early when there is no traffic, pull over snap a quick pic post that shit to Instagram, and be gone.

After the drive-by Instgramming at Rushmore I made my way up to Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park; a very cool spot with lots to do.  I ending up doing a big loop up to Harney Peak and on the way up I got to see the Cathedral Spires, which are freaking amazing. I seriously need to learn how to trad climb, stat. It looked like there were plenty of sweet climbs there and needs to get me some of that.   I'm coming back to climb those at some point, for sure.  At the tops of the hike was Harney Peak Fire Tower which is pretty cool and with an amazing view.

The panoramic shot from Harney Peak

The panoramic shot from Harney Peak

Tatanka

Tatanka

After getting back to the car I took the scenic drive through Custer Park.  Apparently the parks around here are well known for their buffalo.  As soon as I heard that I started muttering ‘Tantanka’ repeatedly trying to sound just as bad as Lieutenant John J Dunbar (Kevin Costner) did in Dances with Wolves. Holy shit, I cannot wait to see one!  I am scoping hard for these things as I wind my way through the park.  All of a sudden I come around a corner and there's a massive bull not 20 feet from the road.  Let me tell you: these things are immense.  The only other animal I've seen in the wild that humongous was a full grown bull moose.  Scary big.  This thing would have stepped on my Mazda and not even thought twice about it.  I was not about to pull over there, so I kept on driving satisfied that I had seen ‘Tantanka’ eventually getting to Wind Cave National Park, where I saw there are even more buffalo.

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Wind Cave  just so happens to be where I am camped out now, miles from anywhere, in a camp site riddled with buffalo poop (he called the shit poop, lol). The park ranger told me last night two people camped out in the back country woke up with 5 bison in their camp. Thanks dude, I needed to hear that. I just hope the slightly wooded area I chose is not where they choose to have breakfast!

Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings. Hopefully no buffalo.

I Love MN

The last few weeks have been so incredible.  The life of this homeless vagrant has consisted of spending countless hours outside, eating amazing food, enjoying lots of beers with friends, and generally just enjoying the last days I have in Minnesota.  Every day I say goodbye to different places and people, never knowing if I will ever see them again.  I hope I do. I have grown too fond of the sights, sounds, and people of MN not to want to see them again.  The place I’ve lived for 20 years will always seem like home.  How could it not?

Despite all the love I have for this state and everything it has to offer, I cannot wait to hit the road.  This moment has been building for over 8 months and is just days away.  The next adventure begins in 4 days!

Coffee

Coffee is a $30 billion dollar a year industry in the US alone.  You’d be hard pressed to go anywhere in this country and not be able to find a cup of coffee, the shit is seriously everywhere.  I really love good coffee; it is one of my most favorite things.  It gets me going in the morning, it picks me up when I’m feeling a little sluggish, and it might be the only way I can function when hungover.  Bad coffee is a different story altogether, and it is one of the nastiest vilest liquids that have ever existed.  You know you’ve had it, that stuff you get at gas stations, vending machines, airplanes, and anything out of a can at the grocery store. Shit is gross. 

It is hard to believe that a drink that originated over 500 years ago in Muslim monasteries in Yemen is now one of the world’s most popular beverages.  I wonder if Sarah Palin’s dumb ass knows that she’s drinking a traditional Muslim beverage every morning, I’d wager not.  Despite the fact that this ‘healing’ liquid had to be smuggled out of the Middle East for the first 100 years or so, it eventually made its way to India, Italy, the rest of Europe, and the Americas thanks, in part, to the efforts world’s first corporation, The Dutch East India Trading Company.  Figures the corporate world would have been on this train since the get-go.

The appeal of coffee for most people is its use as a stimulant.  I know that’s the primary reason I started drinking it (choking down Folgers in a dorm room while cramming for finals).  I’ve been so buzzed on coffee before that my eye started twitching (not recommended). There are a lot of choices when it comes to consuming this bitter brown liquid, but they are mostly derivations of 3 methods: Brewed, Drip, or Espresso*.  Brewed and drip coffee usually have between 80-175mg of caffeine per 7oz depending on the roast and method, while Espresso has about 100mg per 2 oz.  For those of you who can’t do math that means espresso is WAY stronger, about 350mg per 7oz.  So next time you want to have your skin start tingling, order a triple espresso, slam it, and brace for impact.

French Press

French Press

My go-to coffee is the French Press.  I like it because it is easy to use, easy to clean, and you can steep the coffee for longer for stronger flavor.  The key to the press system is the grind.  If you have a shitty grinder or the grind isn’t course enough, you’re screwed. You’ll be enjoying your java with some grounds.  I don’t use cheap coffee either, $20/lb, I order it special online.  I want it to come from a trusted source as well as be high quality.  If I am in a coffee shop I generally go with an Americano, one shot of Espresso and add boiling water:  simple, good, and easy.  There are a few other special drinks I order on specific occasions, try them sometime!

  • The Triple Espresso, when I know it’s go time. No better way to get your heart going fast in a short amount of time. I would not recommend if you have heart problems.
  • The Foo Foo, calories, period. These are reserved for days when I’m going to be burning lots and lots of calories.  You can get these drinks over 1000 calories.  Not for people on a diet.
  • The Cold Press, and no, not iced coffee, this is COLD PRESS, hangover cure of champions.  This stuff is crack.  It has to be. No other possible explanation from being able to take me from steaming-pile-of-worthless status to I-feel-like-I-just-got-laid that quickly.

There are a few things I need to have on the regular, and coffee is definitely one of them.  Probably why I keep a French, press, hand coffee grinder, and a jet boil in my car, you never know when you need to get that fix! 


*Please note there is no fucking ‘X’ in Espresso, so remember that the next time you pronounce it.