Monday, August 25, 2014

Grand Teton Climb (Thank you Yara, Charlie, Kyle, Nathan)


I pull myself up the last pitch to the top of the Grand Teton. Eleven hours after our start this morning, exhaustion engulfs me and I rest. My eyes take in the powerful view around me, but it is overwhelming. So I focus on the things I can control in this moment. I remove my tight purple climbing shoes and allow my cramped toes a brief release. Then I move on to my granola bar. I slowly unwrap the packaging and take a few bites, noticing that Charlie has already finished his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and is antsy to get moving down the mountain. Finally, I am able to lift my eyes, fully breathing in the world below me: the lush Jackson valley, the Idaho crop circles that are usually only visible from a plane, the endless chain of peaks, glaciers, and hidden alpine lakes. It is a masterpiece. I note my discomfort as the fine details of the landscape disappear. There are no fungi, bacteria, or soil organisms down there. There are no wildflowers. There are no snakes, birds, or rodents. But the human influence is strong. I can see the roads, the airplane trails in the sky. I hear the fifty or so other people struggling to reach the top of the Grand as well.  I wonder how many people have breathed in this same worldview and how many have ignored it.

I am often confronted with the difficulty of explaining my major, Earth Systems Science. But it seems so natural when I think of standing on top of the Grand. Above the LCL (lifting condensation level) of the clouds, I could see the connectivity of the world; that each element (atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere) blends with the next (that the divisions and categories are man-made). If one wants to know the earth as it is, one must be aware of the entirety. I could not imagine myself choosing to value one part over the others. How could I pick a specialized study as was asked of me, when that choice would skew my perception to something I could never trust? From atop the Grand, with a view that both expands one’s vision of the world and shrinks it, I felt renewed passion for my chosen major. Especially with the human piece more pronounced in my mind than ever before.

It was time to move down the mountain when we noticed large storm clouds in the distance. With care, we managed two repels and a lot of scrambling down boulder fields, placing feet precisely so as to not disrupt the loose rock that can kill a hiker down slope.  We made it back to the lower saddle as the rain started. We filled our water bottles with glacial melt and looked down the large canyon that promised another 4 hours of hiking ahead. The wet rock presented further challenge to my tired feet and dizzy mind. But it was a relief to be able to see parts of the trail that were not visible during the morning hike. 16.5 hours after the start of the day, we made it back to the cars. And reentered the human world of comfort and categories.

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View from the top of Grand Teton

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Saving Landscapes: Experiencing the Icefields Parkway by bike and foot



The fluorescent lights of the campground bathroom seem assaulting at six o’clock in the morning but the brightness brings out the colors in the wings of the moth that sits trapped in a puddle of water on the counter. Beautiful modeling of greys, blues, greens, yellows and oranges form a mosaic that captures my attention and, perhaps because I am tired, I see, in micro version the landscape of the Canadian Rockies. For six days we have peddled and hiked our way from Banff, through Lake Louise and across the Icefields parkway, to Jasper.


Graced with beautiful weather, my hands look tan against the white sink as I wash my face and brush my teeth. Six days away from Internet and text, I feel a stillness in my core that is rare and welcome. A pulse from the corner of my eye draws my attention and I realize that the moth is still alive. Again, I am taken, as if in a vortex, into the landscape of its tiny wings. I see, in the grey greens, the tall, majestic peeks of the Parkway. Unlike our own Colorado and Wyoming Rocky Mountains, the craggy peaks of Northern counterpart seem untouchable, almost frightening in their grandeur.


Only three days ago we arrived at the Columbia Icefield and while preparing to walk to Athabasca glacier, we spoke with a native Albertan whom was ironically clad in a short-sleeved Hawaiian T-shirt. He boasted about the Canadian Rockies and said he liked them much better than the Colorado Rockies. While it seems impossible to compare such desperate beauties, his commentary caused me some introspective, contrasting thought. Perhaps, I conclude, the Colorado Rockies are neither as grand nor as impressive as those of the Parkway, but the biodiversity of Colorado and Wyoming seems to easily surpass these scarce, silent lands.

Athabasca Glacier
When we finally deensconsed from the Albertan’s musings, we walked, first in silence, from the parking lot to the Glacier. Becca breaks the silence when she laughs and says, “Maybe six and a half hours of uphill peddling made my legs just a little tired.” The day before we had done what may have been the hardest ride of my life. After completing forty miles of gradual uphill, we had climbed steeply for two and half hours.
Half way up the CLIMB!
Sunwapta Pass
My metabolism continually licked at the anaerobic threshold for the full climb just as the roaring tour buses licked against our left shoulders threatening to force us from the road. Christi and I giggle and tired legs and our laughs combine with the wind on the glacier to reminding us of our connectedness with this barren landscape.
With each step we pass rings of glacial recession. Shortly after the dirt road had excited from the highway we had biked past years labeled 1925, 1952, 1962…. Now, as we walk, we pass a 1972 sign, then 1982; we see, perhaps, the rawest, most visible evidence of climate change. Christi reminseces that this was the year that she first visited the park. A sign attests to the impacts of global warming on the Athabasca glacier that is, quite literally, slipping away. Sad, my glance, sinks to the rocks below where glaciation has left scars on the land. The scratches, such visible evidence of the constant dynamic breathing and shifting of the glacier. I am reminded of graffiti as the markings seem as violent in nature and as representative of a marginalized structure, defeated, but clinging to life.
Glacial Scouring
My eyes, beginning to adjust to the fluorescent lights of the campground bathroom, have now appropriately been transfixed by the blue-greens on the moth’s modeled wings. Freed by the violent etchings of the glacier’s recession, is the silt that runs downstream forming, what to me is the most beautiful feature of the Parkway, the glacial lakes.

Tangled Falls
Our first day of biking was interrupted by trickling streams and, when we crested a particularly steep climb, we were met by the view of Bow lake. Nearly glowing aquamarine, the blues mixed with the greens more pleasingly than any gemstone. Awestruck, we had pulled our bikes into the overview parking lot where at least fifty motorists, cars idling had their heads sticking out of their RVs. Quickly we were accosted by two Chinese men traveling in a Hummer Jeep; they wore leather and bandanas and with an SLR, they chased us through the parking lot exclaiming, “One, Two, Three” as they shot one picture after another. Though for a moment we felt like three famous female warriors being chased by the paparozi, the feeling quickly faded when we saw the idling Hummer engine.
Bow Lake
Each night, once tucked safely in our tents, Christi’s was reading to us from Al Gore’s book, Our Choice. “Carbon dioxide produced in the burning of these fossil fuels accounts for the single largest amount of the air pollution responsible for climate change.” (Chapter 1). Between the parking lot of idling RVs, Hummers and rental cars, I suddenly felt trapped in the juxtapose between the rising water levels of the glacial lake and the very emission of the greenhouse gases causing the melt.
The moth’s body heaves slowly once again and my attention is brought, only briefly, back to present. The creamy whites in the micro-landscape quickly take me back to the wide glacial U-shaped Valley where the Sunwapta River follows a braided path.
Braided Sunwapta River
After cresting the second of two mountain passes - Bow Pass is followed by Suwapta pass – we had ridden, knuckles white towards the north, Athabasca Glacier growing smaller behind us with each roll of our wheel. The steep grade had finally moderated and a wide shoulder had opened. The sun sparkled across the white glacial silt and it seemed that we were lifted on its rays as we spun along with the rippling water. Becca would later dup this Zen Riding.

With the warmth of this memory, I realize that the deep yellows on the moths wings contrast with the assaulting fluorescence of the lights but they are reminiscent of the sun during our last night at camp. After five and a half hours of more Zen Riding than the day before, we had camped at Honeymoon Lake. Elated by the fact that this campground name literally meant that there was (as the Canadians would say), “a proper swimming lake”, Christi literally bounded off of her bike directly into to the lake. We had swum for nearly a mile, finding the view from the middle of the lake to be most pleasing. In honor of the ski team slogan “Stoked 365”, we dubbed this view, “Stoked 360 (degrees, that is)”. For, to the East were the Flatirons called “The Endless Chain”.

Honeymoon Lake and the Endless Chain
To the South, we could still make out the Columbia Icefield and to the West and North, craggy peaks jutted above the trees. Our swim was topped off by an incredible spaghetti dinner (Christi’s homemade sauce). As we sat at the picnic table, the sun began to set and I felt warm and peaceful. But I also felt something else, something I had never felt so strongly before. It was as though I was connected to the sun, and as it shone through the trees, I was connected to them too. It was- at the risk of insinuating that I had simply spent too much time with our Dr. Bronner’s soap - as though we were all one.  On the nights that our moods shifted away from the analytical writing of Al Gore, we had read The Four Agreements but Don Miguel Ruiz. Perhaps his words explain best what I was feeling, “What you will see is love coming out of the trees, love coming out of the sky, love coming out of the light. You will perceive love from everything around you. This is the state of bliss. You perceive love directly from everything, including yourself and other humans. Even when humans are sad or angry, behind these feelings you can see that they are also sending love.” (p. 124).

Becca in Bliss
With this I take the flat end of my Tom’s Whitening toothpaste and gingerly set it down next to the trapped moth. As though it was waiting for this very escape it moves its antennae and then steps on leg quickly after another onto the dry safety of the toothpaste tube. As it leaves behind its watery grave, I wonder if it is through love, love of the earth, love of each other, love of everything that we will escape what seems to be the inevitable watery grave of climate change. 
Athabasca Glacier

Link to all our photos: https://plus.google.com/photos/117369265576998549824/albums/6048695906356047265?authkey=CMay3rqc_dqqqgE 

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Superheroes!

I spent yesterday writing a letter that can be sent to alumni, family and friends but I also had simply wanted to tell a story about the evolution of our superhero team! I was only able to include stories of some of our superhero athletes but please know that you are all superheroes to me!


It was a crisp day in October of 1998; the leaves on the cottonwoods were just beginning to turn a golden yellow color and against the brown backdrop of the northern prairie, it was a day on which everyone knew why the University of Wyoming’s school colors were brown and gold. My sister Becca was attending a UW Club Day and in her long sleeve Nordic ski T-shirt, she was recognized by fellow Freshman, Dennis. He could not help but recognize her shirt and enthusiastically told her that they were trying to start a Nordic Ski Club. Becca returned his interest and said, “…and I have volunteer coaches for you.” Thus, for Christi and I, an adventure that is entering its seventeenth year began.
The 1998-1999 season came with all the logistics of establishing a new program. We were able to field a team of four women and two men. Christi and I, first year graduate students, would often rise at 4 am. I would drive to the lab, start cultures, set up that days experiment so that I could be done by 3:30 pm to change into my coaching paraphernalia. Scholar by day, coach by night; slowly, it became who we were.
Two seasons passed, the team began to grow and Christi finished her Masters degree in Instructional Design. It was at USCSA Nationals in 2001 that I found myself standing in a puddle of melting snow on the Bogus Basin ski trails. It was over 50ºF and the women had just headed out on their second of two laps to complete their 15 kilometer freestyle race. Two of our women were in the top pack and likely to earn top ten finishes but much can happen in a second lap. My heart had the familiar flutter of nerves and I shook out my legs in feeble attempt to counter the epinephrine surges. But as the women rounded the turn before the last uphill, my heart leapt into my throat as I saw that our top woman, Erica (#1), was easily in the lead. In a screech that I am fairly sure shook Northern Flying Squirrels from their perches, I said, “You Rock My World!!”. Cold, clammy and still screaming, I hardly registered that Holly Brooks had passed by me in second place. This lack of vision was due to the fact our second woman had rounded the bend and was headed up the last uphill hot on Holly’s heels. I needn’t say much more than the fact that, “When Angels Deserve to Die” was Brooke’s theme song to relate the intensity in her stride and in her eyes.
That day, in 2001, was the first day that our women, having finished 1, 2 and 9 stepped to the top rung of the podium. It was also the spring before the summer that I defended my Masters degree in Biochemistry. Christi and I bought our first house, our first new car and Xena (our cat), fresh from the Alleys of Leadville, decided I was her person. Like the multiple nodes of a polyphasic dichotomous key, all of the facets our life were intertwining to form the root from which we could build, in our every volunteer hour, the most unique ski program in the Nation. And what of the day job? As a summer instructor for the Upward Bound Program, I had fallen in love with classroom and like water, forceful and certain of its path I tried to fill every possible hour of my day with teaching. From the General Chemistry lecture hall to the Medical Microbiology Lab and eventually to the virtual spaces of fully online biochemistry, I focused on facilitating student learning. Christi became the technology guru for the College of Education and spent her everyday cultivating expertise in usable educational technologies. These were, of course, always tried first on the ski team officers and athletes.
Each year, we welcomed more athletes who had joined teams in the East or Midwest and had difficult experiences that brought them to UW. Injured and sad, the love of skiing lost, healing became a way on our team. Christi and I were pushed everyday to further our own education, to be better able to answer our athletes’ questions, to more effectively facilitate their learning, healing and growth.
It was a hot day during a fall overdistance run in 2003. We were happily bounding along the dirt roads of pilot hill when I found myself surrounded by the women’s team and Erika (#2) overflowed with questions. She wanted to better understand the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates and I found that my knowledge was insufficient. I knew the chemistry but less of the application. This, coupled with having unexpectedly being awarded a very late NCAA post-graduate scholarship sent me back to school for what I now think of as the Renaissance in my own education. Classes in Exercise Physiology and Anatomy morphed into Sociology and finally Adult Education. I unearthed, watered and was fortunate to have the compost of so many educators with sexy minds to nurture new interests. Perhaps the epitome of those minds was Christi, whom in 2006 completed her PhD in Instructional Technology and Adult Education. Together, we discovered and intellectually nurtured a passion for social and environmental justice in education and coaching. Into our coaching we brought philosophies of humanism, feminism and Paulo Freire’s Social-Emancipatory philosophy. We began integrating Friday coaching lectures on topics ranging from the metabolism and biochemistry of alcohol consumption to the impacts of low intensity training on immune function. Our coaching became integrated and holistic.
Professors by day and coaches by night? Perhaps. But each day the lines began to blur more and with this integration came simultaneous success on the ski trails. On the wall of the College of Agriculture hangs a picture of me. Below the picture, teaching awards are listed but no-one’s eye is likely to linger on these for I am sporting a super trendy 1985 femme mullet. Forever held in time, this picture, taken in 2006 was a tribute to the first overall USCSA UW Men’s team Victory. The women having taken this honor two times prior, the men had a goal and a bet. Riley and Joe, now seniors had won that bet and after the relay, I had sat in our Maine Vacation Rental, Riley on one side, Joe on the other as they cut my then long hair. Perhaps this hair loss was a catalyst, for since 2006, both the men and women have repeated their victories three more times.
It would be a lie for either Christi or me to say that we did not feel the thrill of each one of those victories. In fact, each day as I walk down our stairs I am surrounded by picture after picture telling the story of sixteen years of coaching. Each day I stop to stare at a different year and I relive the emotions of that time. However, our greatest pride stems from the fact that our athletes are more than just athletes. In order fund our race seasons, the athletes do year-round volunteer work. Working concession stands and selling T-shirts in the late nineties morphed into football parking and art auctions by 2005. However, as our coaching became more holistic, our athletes’ fundraising became more meaningful. We began volunteering to rake lawns at no charge; donations were welcome. We started painting houses and doing manual labor. The athletes would rake one lawn for a donation and the lawn of the elderly neighbor for which they would receive no monetary compensation. But, the payoff could not be measured, for our team became a pivotal part of the Laramie community. Faculty began calling us when they had been injured. Our athletes would go to their house, chop wood and mow the lawn. Simultaneously, some of the athletes began to join Christi on the Shepard Symposium Committee. As a team, we began presenting at the Symposium on Social Justice. By late spring of 2009, our team was becoming green as quickly as was the prairie. This growth fed not only the quality of the undergraduate experience but also the postgraduate opportunities. After finishing her degree in Chemical Engineering, a four-year academic All-American and team President, Melissa interviewed for jobs and found that they were forthcoming whenever she mentioned the ski team activities that had formed her leadership. Both Ava and Fitz found that navigating the intricacies of Law School was easier having lived through the sometimes-stressful dynamics of team leadership. Becca, now head of the High Plains USSA Region began her ski leadership as team president. Adam’s (#1) interviewers had trouble wrapping their minds around an undergraduate club that could raise more than $50,000 in a single season. And yet, the socially situated, community-based and environmentally advocating nature of our fundraising had only just begun.
The clock ticks over to 8 am and Ben comes bounding into my office. A Chemical Engineering major and currently one of the students taking my online Biochemistry class, Ben begins to bubble about his research attempting to encase living cells in polyethylene glycol beads. His beads, currently surrounded by surfactant are being difficult to purify and we immerse ourselves in a long conversation about the biochemical principles that might enable him to achieve a purer prep. Stoked with our conclusion, Ben literally bounds out of his chair. Every time I see this bound I am elated for Ben came to us very broken, overtrained and mentally and physically drained. I almost chuckle with this thought for it would be very difficult to convince anyone that Ben had been broken. He leaps out of the office and leaps right back; he seems the very icon of our current team slogan: 365 Stoked!
He says, “By the way, is Kyle here?”.
Kyle, now my advisee for three years and our athlete for more than four - the 2013 Overall USCSA Champion - works in our lab down the hall. His current project focuses on phytoremediation of uranium mine tailings on the reservation near Riverton. Also, currently my Biochemistry teaching assistant, Kyle works forty hours a week, trains 12-20 hours a week and – as outgoing team President - does volunteer work in the surrounding spare moments. I relate that I think he was there and we walk down together to chat. Kyle immediately apologizes for not getting as much biochem grading done as he should have because he was writing a summary of impacts on immune function due to high sugar diets for the ski team blog. Ben bubbles to Kyle about his polymers and asks him if he wants to look at them on the dark field microscope. Ben has already removed the scope and is preparing before Kyle can even say yes. I leave the two who are now engaged in conversation so that I can get back to work. However, as I steal just one more proud glance, for just a moment I believe I see a flash of the colors of Captain America and as Kyle bumbles out from behind his homemade uranium barrier, dropping his awkward paper planner, I am reminded of Clark Kent.
Upon returning to my office, I hear my computer bing. An email from our incoming team President and defending USCSA National Overall Champion, Sierra, announces yet another Trash-2-Treasures pickup. Now our largest fundraiser, this environmental justice project is unique to a Western University and was Sierra’s Brain Child. Like nearly a dozen of our athletes with Environment and Natural Resources Concurrent degrees, Sierra loves the Earth with the strongest type of Agape that I have ever observed. On this day in late July, the team has packed full more than five storage units with furniture and other household items that would have been sent to the landfill. They will clean and re-sell these items locally at prices that even the most resource-limited incoming graduate student can afford.
“Bing”, a second email pops into my inbox. Another email from Sierra asks if I might possibly have any suggestions for characterizing the mychorizzal fungi on which the Yellowstone black squirrels feed. She must be in between her Physics II class and her GCMS runs in the Chem lab. I wonder how she even had time to find a phone booth.
I settle down to answer he email but my eyes are distracted. They settle on the pictures on my door that tell the story of these many years of teaching and coaching. I see Pat, in one picture he is in his brown and gold lycra skiing to a top three finish at Nationals, in another, he is in suite and tie as last year’s Outstanding Graduating Senior for the University of Wyoming! Next to him is Elise; her face is on a Laramie Boomerang article where she is writing about food justice. One might glimpse a view of this superhero through the trees that surround ACRES Student Farm. In her ‘close to the earth’ gardening clothes one might have no idea that last year on the trails of the Enchanted Forest, New Mexico, she skied to the best NCAA Division I finish that one of our athletes has ever had. In fact, she earned USSA points that would nearly enable her to start a World Cup.
Perhaps Christi and I are the luckiest coaches in the World. For last year we were honored to travel with these ‘superhero athletes’ to Trentino, Italy where we raced in the World University Games. With generous support from the University and the Laramie community, our fundraising efforts topped $100,000. This year we have been invited to represent the United States again at the Games in Slovakia. While all of us look forward to this opportunity, I believe that the thing to which we look most forward is the process that will enable us to get there and to be ready to compete. We will run, ski and bike over many mountains together and while we are doing so our ‘sexy minds’ will take us to conversations ranging from the role of mast cells in allergic response, the cofactors of PEP Carboxykinase to the many ways in which we might liberate people and the environment through sport. It is only with your help that Christi and I can continue to nurture this fully holistic, integrated program. Alumni, we miss and love you! Friends and previous supporters, we thank you for your unending assistance.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Epic mountain run in the Tetons!

We had an epic plan on Saturday morning, after a week of fun workouts and working all day we figured we could spend most of one day playing!

There was a loop that we thought we might be able to make up Teton Canyon, it looked to be about 16 miles, and it was calling us!

There were a two known potential problems with said loop. First, we had to bike 7 miles up a dirt road to get to the trailhead, not something that's uber appealing before and after a 16 mile run. Second, although we had three maps that showed a trail connecting the loop one map at the bike shop didn't show the connector.

We figured we would give it a try and if we weren't what we figured was half way time-wise at 2:30 then we would just turn around and come back.

It turned out to be a brilliantly executed plan with really only one hiccup, I forgot the bike locks... A little sketchy to leave two bikes for several hours not locked to anything BUT I broke out a couple binding devices: inner tube, rubber band and zip tie, and connected the bikes in as many random and annoying ways as possible so that if someone wanted to steal them I hoped they would just decide it was just too much trouble. We simply were NOT going to give up on this adventure!

The first 3ish miles were fast and fairly flat, we'd already run them on Wednesday so we knew what was coming. The we started up the Devil's Stairs to the shelf on which we would run a large chunk of of the loop. My knee has been doing amazing but it didn't feel good going up Devils Stairs and we were a little worried we wouldn't make it around the loop. However, at the top, when I wasn't going steep up anymore, it was fine and we started to move again.


Rachel and I agree that this was one of the top three runs we have ever done and it was stunning! We ran for about 3 miles along the shelf, beside snow fields and the whole time with the peaks of the Tetons, including the Grand, so close we could almost touch them!



We made the top of the long shelf right at 2:30 and although we were only 7 miles into the run, with an anticipated 9 to go, we figured it was about half way time-wise, since it was basically downhill all the way back. We were stoked!!!

Rachel stoked at half way!
Snow Algae

Across the top! Can you see Sierra, Nathan, Kyle and Yara on the top of the Grand?


Here I am!
The run down started amazing and fun and then we found a whole new set of uphill, not a ton but another mile, which was kinda annoying until it opened out on a beautiful alpine meadow. So magical to run through it!

Stoked to be headed down!
Then the downhill started in earnest and the next 5 miles were tough. We were both a little tired with legs that were no longer as responsive as we would like and the flies and horseflies were tough! There was no real complaining though because the scenery still couldn't be beat and whenever I got a little tired I would just look up!

Finally we hit where we started the loop and only had 3 miles to go! Yay! This section was the nicest running of the trip and we would have flown down it earlier but now we were kinda at the hobble stage. Still beautiful!

We stopped about a 1/2 mile from the trailhead to sit in the cold river and then fervently hoped our bikes would still be there since we were exhausted, thirsty and hungry and just wanted to go home! Luckily the bikes were there and we road the 7 miles to the house where we had a lovely lunch, shower and nap (Christi)/work (Rachel)

Here is the Sport Tracker of our trip minus the bike back to the house: http://www.sports-tracker.com/#/workout/boggsarosa/3ktjlrit2ajjibuc

It was a magical adventure in a truly mystical place!

Friday, August 01, 2014

More from Alta!

It's be an awesome few days since the last post full of quality work, biking and running adventures, amazing places and fantastic food!

We've done four adventures since the last post and have already racked up almost 15 hours of OD training for the week!

On Tuesday we did a fantastic 40 mile road bike around the Teton Valley. Through Driggs and Victor and back. It was amazingly beautiful with the backdrop of the Tetons the entire trip!
Hot Air Balloons over Driggs
We then came back to the house for an amazing breakfast of eggs and Latkes and then walked the 100 yards to the Alta Library to work for several hours. We did miss our Senior Center crew but the convenience just couldn't be beat!

Wednesday we once again got up early to have an adventure before our work. We road 6.5miles up a dirt road to the trailhead for Teton Canyon where we swapped our helmets for hats and our shoes and started trail running.

WOW! Rachel and I have run on some amazingly beautiful trails but we've never seen one more beautiful! It was like the flowers were trying their best to impress us! It was especially poinent for us because it is my very first trail run since I injured myself in Jackson on the 4th of July. I haven't been able to run at all but I could on this run and I almost cried from the amazingness of being able to run AND the beauty all around us!

Wildflowers and canyon walls!

Rachel overlooking the valley we just ran up.

Gratuitous Selfie

After another amazing brunch featuring Rachel's signature omelettes we were back to work - IN THE HOUSE! The internet was fixed!!!!

Thursday we thought we'd head north to another trailhead, it looked to be just a few miles further of a ride so we didn't worry too much but we soon ran onto one private road after another until we basically had to go all the way to the highway and back up to get to the trailhead. We had also forgotten to pack food so when we finally got to the trailhead, after 1:45 of riding on dirt roads, we decided we'd better just head back or we would bonk hardcore! Although not as epic as the day before it was still an amazingly lovely 30 mile dirt ride and our newly repurposed cross bikes are rocking!!!!

So beautiful!

This morning (Friday) we were starting to get a little tired and we have a truly EPIC day planned for tomorrow so we just road up to Teton Canyon again and ran for about 45 minutes up a different trail and then came home for brunch and work. 
Only 15 minutes up the Trail!

We are planning a trip into Driggs this afternoon to have lunch with Nathan and to get food to make Sarah a birthday dinner!

Come back for tomorrows EPIC Adventure!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Alta, Wyoming - the other side of the Tetons!

I hesitated to write anything after Ben's & Sierra's epic adventure but thought I'd tell everyone about our trip thus far.

We are currently renting a vacation home in Alta, Wyoming, on the other side of the Tetons. You might ask yourself 'Why?' and it would be a good question. Basically we are waiting for Becca, who is doing the U-16 Regional ski camp in Jackson. Rachel and I could not afford to stay for a week in Jackson so we found a lovely spot right over the top of the pass. As soon as Becca is finished we will drive to Banff, Alberta and bicycle tour the Icefields Parkway to Jasper! 

This is the view from our back porch!
The view from our back porch in Alta, Wyoming.
Our plan was to find a place with internet so Rachel could finish the grades for her class and I could work on getting her class ready for the fall semester. This was a lovely plan but we soon found that the internet at the rental was basically broken! Everything we have to do needs internet! Rachel is doing online office hours and my class is actually an online class so....Internet had to be found.

The closest internet we could find was actually in Driggs, 6 miles down the road. We are without a car, Becca has Clifford at the U-16 camp, but we have both our road bikes and our touring bikes so we hopped on the bikes, put our computers in the touring trailers and headed for Driggs on Sunday afternoon, Rachel had office hours at 4pm. It turns out that all the places with internet were closed for the night but we found someone at the Community/Art Museam/Senior Center/City Offices and asked where we might find a place to get online. She said Driggs has free city internet! Yay! We sat outside the building, on the grass for 2 hours and were able to work before riding back to our house and watching a lovely sunset on The Grand!

The next morning we had a fantastic ride from our house to up Grand Targhee Ski Resort. I mean UP! To give you an idea of the grade it was 9 miles and took us 1:15! The downhill was great fun and the entire ride was wonderful and beautiful with very little traffic.
The view on the bike ride!

Rachel had two office hours today so after breakfast we once again rode down to Driggs for internet. Behind the Multipurpose building with free internet we found a lovely picnic table and immediately commandeered it. It was wonderful and perfect but soon the sun and the 87F heat began to work it's way up the table and we started getting nervous, what to do....

Our lovely picnic table!
We were about to go in search of somewhere in air conditioning AND internet when an older man from the senior center told us that together we had more computing power than Neil Armstrong on the Moon Landing and that we should come inside because of holes in the ozone in this area and besides lunch was about to be served in the Senior Center. It's difficult to resist such charm, as well as air conditioning, power, internet and lunch, so we joined a lovely group in the Senior Center for wonderful and interesting conversation, minestrone soup, homemade bread and salad. After which we settled down to work until they didn't kick us out. After 2 hours of working the woman in charge said she was locking us in and we could stay as long as we wanted, just make sure the doors are closed when we leave! Seriously rocking people here!

We worked until 5 and then had a lovely dinner of some of the best Thai ever and then came back to our trusty picnic table for Rachel's 7:30-8:30 office hours. After they are finished we'll ride our 6 miles back to the house and sleep to be ready for more adventures tomorrow!!!

WHAT Adventure

     Once upon a time in a land not so very far away there was a fest. "What Fest?" you might ask... Exactly. In this not so very far away land there was a boy named Ben and a girl named Sierra and they very much enjoyed music and dancing and adventure. Because of this mutual appreciation for radness Sierra and Ben found themselves at the aforementioned What Fest; a great gathering composed of eclectic local-ish hipsteresque musicians and the roving band of hippies that accompanies such musical entities.  Now music and dancing and shenanigan-like behavior is great by itself, but when these ingredients are combined with a liberal dose of adventure the result is straight-up raditude. Sierra and Ben, both holding advanced degrees in adventure studies, realized the potential for a heightened state of awesome and began implementing project A1, (the "A" stands for Adventure:) Project A1 would utilize a not so top secret algorithm for assured maximum stoke:
[(Endurance +  ΔH20 + Wild Wilderness)*Looping]^1.5 sketchiness = Awesome
 Sierra, the mastermind behind the real world implementation of this well known formula, designed project A1 as a 5 stage adventure. The following is a story chronicling the sequence of events that transpired that day


Saturday July 26, 2014

-- Prelude:
Ben awoke to the smell of warm fluffy pancakes and Sierra's voice announcing the completion of "stacks on stacks of flapjacks". Extricating himself from the maze of limbs entrapping him, Ben groggily poked his head out of the tent and narrowed his eyes at the onslaught of brilliant summer sunbeams. Sierra's face sharpened into focus; armed with a spatula and with the glint of impending adventure in her eyes she announced that it was time to consume the stacks on stacks of flapjacks so as to get an early start adventuring. Not being one to discount the merits of maximized adventure time, Ben's head quickly disappeared back into the tent. As he leapt into action an indistinct voice trailed out from the recesses of the tent asking if it was past noon yet. "Nope!" bubbled Sierra, "Its 8 AM"! A chorus of mumbles and groans emanated from the unzipped tent fly as Ben tumbled out, Fully dressed in sheik matching red and black running shorts, shoes, singlet, and signature bandana. As they gulped down the delightfully fluffy flapjacks, Sierra raised an eyebrow and commented on the unique flavor of the savory golden pastries. "Do these sort of taste like beef"? Hmmm pondered Ben. "Yup".  "They tots do". "Thats because I used the same griddle we made burgers in last night" Smiled Sierra. "Extra flavor"!
     Finishing up their beautiful breakfast, Sierra and Ben bid goodbye to their fellow hippies preparing for a tough day of day-drinking and hopped in Sierras signature blue Ford explorer bound fast for high adventure!

--Stage 1:
Our two adventure aficionados headed east away from the densely populated metropolis of Encampment Wyoming (population 52) and towards  the first target location of their adventure: Six Mile Gap Landing on the North Platte River. After turning on to a winding dirt road wandering the rolling hills through sage brush and cattle land, the two pulled into a dusty gravel parking lot overlooking the breathtaking North Platte valley. Here they unloaded their two boats, made lunch, pumped water, and proceeded to carry everything down the steep trail leading to the rivers edge. After making several treks up and down the hill (and Ben commenting several times about it's potential for hill bounding if not for the foolishly placed stairs) they finished ferrying their essential gear and hopped back into the Explorer and stuck out to find destination two of their adventure.
     In order to complete all 5 stages of adventure, Sierra and Ben needed to find Pickeroon Landing, a location approximately 9 miles down river from Six Mile Gap. It was here that both stages 2 and 5 of their adventure would begin, and as such a necessary point to drop their vehicle. As they drove further down winding dirt lanes that crisscrossed the sun scorched prairie, they noticed an ominous sign warning of terrifying terrain and almost certain imminent death. Unfazed, our two heroic adventures laughed in the face of such trivial travel warnings, confident in their ability to rally the explorer up Mount Everest if the need should arise. As Ben smiled to himself about the juxtapose of the brown prairie against the blue sky, he noticed that the  point where to two met in front of him seemed to be getting rapidly closer. "Odd", he thought. "I wonder what's up there? Ben did not have long to wait before he found out. The dusty ground immediately in front of the explorer fell away into the sky as the previously flat prairie dove into the abyss. Ben and sierra slowed and looked down in awe as the road before them forked, either diving straight down into the great chasm before them, or skirting it's edge before plunging in snaking spasmodic switchbacks down the sheer hillside. Sierra cut the engine and Ben jumped out to determine which path would be more feasible. After an extensive survey of the landscape the two adventurers leaned back against their trusty transportation and looked at each other. Without saying a word they both knew what had been decided. "I just don't want to risk him". Said Sierra. "I Know”, replied Ben. "He isn't the young truck he used to be"... "It would be a lot for him". "Well then" Said Sierra, "Stage two starts from here?" It could be a long walk with the boats later on" Ben said raising an eyebrow and peering into the canyon depths." "We can deal" Intoned Sierra in a deadly serious manner as she shrugged back her shoulders and leveled her steely gaze on the crazily careening road before them.
"Stage 2"? asked Ben, clipping on his water belt. "Stage 2." Sierra replied as she shouldered her hydration pack. "Stage 2".

--Stage 2:
Carefully picking their way down the treacherous hill our two adventurers set off on stage 2 of their epic journey; The goal of this stage being to find the trail that reportedly parallels the river, then follow said trail up-stream to the gear drop site from stage 1. As the two neared the bottom of the canyon they were met with another surprise. Rather than finding the river and Pickeroon landing, they were met with a sharp turn as the rode plummeted further down into another valley, unseen from above. After running for what seemed like an eternity the tell tale rush of water finally greeted their ears. Glancing at his Polar RS400 watch, Ben grimaced. " "It's been almost 45 minuets" he said glancing at Sierra. "all downhill". Shrugging, Sierra turned, matter-of-factly replying, "It'I’ll be longer than that carrying the boats back up".  With a dry chuckle Ben turned the corner and was met with the sight of the river. Loping up to the sandy boat landing he peered out across the iron-tinted water scanning the far shore for any sign of a trail. "Doesn't look like much" He said. "I guess we cross and see what we can see". Ben and Sierra forded across the foam crested rapids of river and came upon a campsite with a well traveled gravel road leading away from it. Not seeing any sort of foot trail, the two began to run up the road looking for anything that might betray the presence of the mysterious trail they sought. After making several unsuccessful attempts to follow trails only to have them dead end, the two struck out into the woods. Bushwhacking a short distance through thick foliage near the river's edge, they soon emerged onto a great swath of prairie and began to bound up river. Leaping over scrub and sagebrush like gazelles our two adventurers soon happened upon a slender footpath wending it's way over the sage speckled hillside. The trail, for indeed this was the trail they were looking for, paralleled the river, but became less and less well traveled the farther they progressed. After fighting through more and more frequent walls of vegetation, Sierra and Ben rounded a corner and were met with the sight of their trail tapering off directly into the roaring water of the Platte. Having no choice but to cross, our heroes bravely soldiered through the rushing water and up the steep muddy embankment of the opposite shore. With fingers crossed Ben scrambled atop the embankment. hoping against hope he would emerge onto the trail, he stood and peered into the maze of towering pines surrounding him. "Hells Ya"! He exclaimed, "I think I've got it"! Sure enough, a thin path making its way up river was worn into the forest floor. Sierra and Ben continued their run, muscular legs relentlessly pounding the hard-packed earth as they drew ever closer to their destination. As the miles passed the trail became noticeably more established and they were greeted    increasingly often by the sight of lone fly fisherman standing in the dancing waters; patiently flicking long lines of yellow in lazy arks through the sparkling air.
Several GU's and a cliff bar or two later our adventurers burst out of the woods and into the Six Mile Gap Landing. After many long hours of running (3:00 precisely) they had finally conquered stage 2.

--Stage 3
Indescribably pleased that the food remained where they had hidden it, Sierra and Ben set about completing the most important stage of their journey; Stage 3: Refill and Refuel. Scarfing down PB&J at a rate approaching the speed of light the two lazed along the lush riverbank and soaked up warm rays of sun as they ate. Upon finishing their feast, they once again made the hike up the long dirt hill with tragically misplaced steps to restore their water supply. "Were going to need it", said Sierra. "We still have the hardest stage ahead of us".

-- Stage 4
 Stage 4 finds our dynamic duo set to float down the mighty Platte river. Armed with inflatable ducky boats stashed during stage 1, Ben and Sierra Boldly embarked on the second half of their "really skinny squiggly loop". A short time into their voyage it became clear to the travelers that the level of the river was a tad too low for optimal floating conditions. To compensate for this minor inconvenience, the technique of "distribution" was implemented. By lying down in a ducky and dangling ones legs over the side, it was discovered that a minimum clearance between river bed and boat could be achieved. utilizing this technique Sierra and Ben were able to traverse even the shallowest sections of the river with ease.
     Time during this stage seemed to slow, and our adventurers found themselves at deep peace with both themselves and the world around them. Wandering down the river under the sweet summer sun they closed their eyes and breathed in the rustling of the trees and the sighing of the wind. They listened to the sparkling water whisper secrets to lazy water striders and learned to be swift and silent from wise brook trout lurking in its deep dark pools. Lost in that place somewhere between thought and seen they dipped their toes into the cool creek and smiled back at the sun as slowly stage 4 slipped away.

-- Stage 5
 An abrupt area of rapids marked Pickeroon Landing and thus the take out point for our amicable adventurers. Squealing into the eddy, Ben and Sierra stumbled out of their boats and shook themselves to clear the lazy float from their leaden limbs. They had almost made it. Only stage 5 remained; the last and most challenging. Deflating their duckies and rolling their equipment up in them they hoisted the soaking sandy boats above their heads. Shoulders rippling with muscle the two powerful athletes squared their load and glanced at one another. "ready?"  asked Sierra. "Damn right I am" replied Ben. "Lets do this". At that the two turned and powered up the the trail towards their penultimate purpose and headlong into stage 5.
     streaked in dirt, sweat and grime our heroes carrying their herculean load marched step by step up the great hill. Each step a struggle they heaved great gulping gasps of air as with every footfall they ascended higher into the waning evening sun. After what seemed like an eternity the pair looked up and found themselves confronted by the hill. That precipitous piece of insanity to which the trail grimly clung to was all that remained between them and the end of their journey. Resituating his load Ben squared his shoulders and with wild cry broke into a run. Legs pumping and heart pounding he focused every once of his will into slaying the great beast. nearing the final precipice and glancing up he could see the red rays of the dying sun silhouetting the figure of their car--it's looming shadow like that of some great primordial giant. With a final burst of speed he surged over the top and onto the steppe. Raising his burning arms to the heavens  he held his boat aloft and proclaimed to all the world that he had conquered what from that point on should be known as Bitch Hill. Collapsing in a heap Ben was presently joined by Sierra. "We did it" he gasped. "Stage 5 is done". "Were done"!  "I can't believe it" exclaimed Sierra. "We really made it"
After savoring their victory for a moment the two adventurers packed away their gear and climbed into Sierra's trusty Ford Explorer."Where shall we adventure now"? asked Ben. "Oh, I don't know" replied Sierra with a smile. "Wherever the wind takes us I suppose".

And with that, they drove off into the sunset.


- The End (until next weekend;)