The Ultimate Trip and Gearlist(s)

It’s 2F outside as I sit here in the comfy chair, sipping coffee from the 28 oz Yellowstone NP trout mug. Our neighbor two house down just, as he does whenever snow gives him the chance, cruised by in the process of snowblowing the entire sidewalk on this side of the street. He greated/accosted me as I was leaving Sunday morning, bundled up, pack on, snowshoes in one hand, inflated packraft in the other. Just like when we lived in Moab and the neighbors could never figure out why in a desert you’d constantly have wetsuits drying on the front porch railing: we’re a bit odd. Anyway, our neighbors a Bobcat fan (Montana State, Bozeman), while as I’m a alumnus I’m presumed to be a Griz fan. The Griz lost the annual “brawl of the wild” Sunday due to some apparantly humiliating fumbles. If I were in charge, I’d do away with the football team, their scholarships and gratis private tutors, and put that money towards bringing the undergrad graduation rate up (only about half manage it within 5 years of matriculating).

We Americans must look odd, sometimes.

On that note of international adventural cooperation, I’m taking Hendrik’s Goof-off Tuseday challenge. I’m not yet at work, and as the minutes pass it’s looking less and less likely that drifting snow last night will have closed the office. Upstairs in the case management bullpen we were all a bit squirrely and goofy, enlivened by the extreme weather and distracted by the short week.  Bit irrespective of the weather I’ll have to make my way up to Columbia Falls for some home visits late this afternoon, and into the office tomorrow to finish some reports before we drive down to Missoula to fly to Des Moines, via Denver.

Visiting Des Moines isn’t my idea of an Ultimate Trip.  In fact, deciding on just one seems like a more substantive act of intellectual parsimony than I care to undertake this morning, so I’ll list and discuss a few different trips, in order from the most esoteric and theoretical (in implementation) to the least.

1) Lhasa-Dharmsala Trek

A reenactment of the Dalai Lamas trek walk into exile, and a way to see some amazing high desert and mountains at the same time.  Requires suspension of geopolitical disbelief.  Start in Lhasa (in making this up from looking at Google sat) walk a bit north then west.  Avoid roads, visit villages, check out those lakes and isolated sub-ranges.   Got to be some packrafting.  Reup and repsyche in Ngari before crossing the Himalaya and ending in Dharmsala, which my sister tells me is a lovely place to relax and spend some time.

I imagine you’d want to do this in high summer, and even so that it’d be rather cold and dry.  So a good down sleeping bag, or perhaps a down and Pertex quilt from Nuntak would be in order.  A hooded Shaka as well, for the cold nights.  Fleece gear, neo socks, and paddling pants for the cold waters of the Himalaya.  Maybe I’ll make that version of the MLD Thing I’ve been thinking about, and bring it along.  My Yukon Yak of course, and a new all-carbon, 200 cm, four piece Werner Sho-gun paddle.  I’d bring my Trailstar, my North Fork pack, Sportiva Crossleathers, and other odds and ends.

That’d be cool.

2) The Arctic 1000 route, with packrafting and a food drop

This is where I start with trips that I hope to do fairly soon.  The arctic sounds fantastic, new, and the Arctic 1000 route sound the same, so long as I get to packraft and not carry 40 lbs of food at the start.  In June, before the bugs and after the snow, of course.  With whatever deviations Roman recommends to maximize stellar walking and fun boating.

I’ll bring the Yak, homemade PFD, Werner paddle (Forrest’s was sooo sweet), North Fork pack, Trailstar, paddling pants, and fleece gear.  My standard kit with a few blingy refinements, really.

3) Spring Bob Marshall traverse

This is a trip I plan to do over a three day weekend in May, as wilderness classic training. It will require the right combo of water coming up, but snow still hanging around.

Start in Benchmark, float and then trek up and over White River pass, float the White River and then the South Fork almost to the reservoir.  Trek over into Long Creek, down to the Middle Fork, float down to West Glacier and have a burger while waiting to be picked up.

The gear list for this one will be fast and light, and what I actually expect to take.

Yukon Yak, Aquabound Shred paddle, inflateable PFD, helmet.  All-pack, ridgerest pad, emergency bivy sack.  Paddling pants, NRS Expedition socks, homemade Epic/Pertex anorak, pile pants, pile jacket (I want a Patagonia Los Lobos).  Snowpeak 600 mug, food.  I’ll sleep Mehl-style, around the fire, and be moving 20+ hours a day.  I’ll also need my fast shoes and adjustable poles for snow travel, and perhaps some Hillsound Trail crampons as well.

Other dream trips that will happen this year include a winter descent of The Narrows in Zion, and years of creek to raft in Glacier and the Bob.

Thanks Hendrik, it’s going to be good.

Summer Vacation (1.0)

It was a very nice long weekend, with more to come.

I’m tired. Not just muscle tired, though that is most present this evening; I’m tired in my soul. I dug deep, squeezed out a great ride Saturday, and now I’m ready to rest and rebuild. I want to go camping, wake up, drink coffee and read in the camp chair, and do yoga in the pine needles.

The story of the KMC was all about endurance and experience, using a mind much stronger than last year to keep the pedal pushed, but not too far. It was good.

The morning started cold! I built a fire around 430 to ease the discomfort, though that helped continue the tradition of starting late. Only 10 minutes this time. I felt horrid for the first hour, as usual, with frozen hands and feet clumsy until things loosened up. Chad was lacking a map or much of a clue, and I was glad to have him stick close for the first 80 miles. I didn’t hesitate to stop or get ahead, as usual Chad can diesel back up no problem. Halfway through the Rainbow Rim, I looked back on a switchbacked section and saw that he wasn’t there. Should I wait? Slow down? Leave his sorry ass to get lost? I split the difference, pushing on and having fun through the singletrack, then sitting down under a tree at the end to eat an orange and some cheese. He was about four minutes behind me.

The climb up to the route’s highpoint was tough, though having a ton of water made it merely a nuisance. The store was most welcome. I grabbed a couple sodas, an ice cream bar, fritos, and a danish. Chad and I got a bag of ice, and I chowed. As I was stuffing my dromedary and bottles with ice, Nathan pulled up (as we had been expecting for a while). He was pretty cooked. Neither he nor Chad were eating much, a sign I could relate to from last year. I was feeling pretty good, and when Chad teamed up with Nathan I jumped at the chance to run off guilt-free. Riding with company is awesome, and can be the most efficient way to ride, but I knew that on that day, I would push much harder solo. I plugged into the iPod and headed out for the last (and hardest) third of the route.

It took most of the first five miles of rolling gravel to get my food settled. I felt slow at first, but once the fuel kicked in and the sweet singletrack started, I was on fire. I reigned myself in on some of the loose, golfballlimestonerock strewned climb, saving the matches for later. On and on, down into gorgeous meadows, up into the woods (usually off the bike a bit), along through the aspens and pines, and back down again. Brilliant riding.

Soon enough, the smallest most delicate aspen grove yet came, and forest road 213. The moment of truth, and no hesitation. I was finishing today. I did drop part of my danish as I tried to eat on the bike and crank along as fast as possible, which was sad. I continued trying to stuff down food, looking forward to the big descent.

The descent was quite rowdy, plenty of rubble and chunk. The Leviathan rules the endurance roost in these moments. That evening Brian remarked that the washboard took it’s toll on him and his Moots hardtail. It was only on the worst parts that I evened noticed it. Very soon, I was at the East Side Game road. The antipenultimate stretch. I stopped for a few minutes in what seemed like the last bit of pine-shade, to kill a bottle and my fritos. I wanted to keep the granny cranking ability around as long as possible.

The game road was what I expected: tough, especially at the beginning. It’s rough and 4×4 rocky, and hugs every drainage as it contours along the base of the biggest level of the Kaibab upwarp. The first couple were by far the biggest. Bomb down, granny back out, repeat. Only one short bit I found unrideable, but plenty of slow moving.

I did get a bit annoyed that the big climb took so long in coming, but the Pinon-Juniper skeleton forest, flowers, and debris flows from the Warm Fire were entertaining, and I wasn’t feeling bad, just tired and hot. My ass did hurt, and I was if nothing else looking forward to hiking for it’s relief.

I got my wish soon enough. Nice, hard, mindless. Push up, look ahead occasionally to pick the best footing, keep pushing. I hopped back on to ride in a few sections, but for the most part doing anything but walking would’ve been a waste. I was quite calm at this point. The climb wasn’t that long, the nine miles after were mostly downhill, and I was going to finish in less than 14 hours unless something stupid happened.

And nothing did really. The wetter spring, which had provided some amazing green all day, caused even more profligate overgrowth, making an already faint AZT worse. I had to stop once and backtrack to find the damn thing, and managed to loose the trail on the road even earlier than last year. Maybe next year I’ll pre-ride and mark, though the last half of the AZT is consistently downhill such that I don’t think the road is much of a shortcut, if at all. Alas, I just wanted to be done. And soon I was.

My legs hurt. Andy gave me a beer, which was very welcome. Eventually I motivated, got up, changed, and ate some stuff. Felt more like a human, talked, laughed, soaked it in, slept like the dead.

The next day saw a late rise of 0600, a two hour breakfast, hanging out, and a journey down to the North Rim lodge by M, Chad and I. Pints of Hefe, a pizza, and the nice new chairs on the porch, with one of the world’s best views. Heaven.

Later that day we tracked down our friends Phillip and Ariel in St. George. They had spent the day making wedding plans, and we got to help them test out some catering at Famous Dave’s BBQ, which was very welcome for my constantly hungry self. Laughs, memories, happiness. Old friends I hadn’t seen in many months, we felt right at home, like no time had passed at all. Back to their place in Cedar City, for Guinness drinking and a game of Texas Hold ’em.

The next morning Phillip was off to work, counting birds and such for the Forest Service. Ariel and I went to a kickass, ass-kicking yoga class, taught by an anatomy prof from Southern Utah University. A good combination. I’ve let my core work lapse, a lot. Ouchy on the core, but my legs felt wonderful for the rest of the day. Wooooonnnnderful. Best yoga class ever. I went home, woke M up, and we spent the rest of the day until Ariel got off work, hanging out and doing very little. That afternoon the three of us went to the park, killed a pint of Ben and Jerry’s each, and played Bocce. Ahh, recovery.

M and I headed off to Zion to do Mystery Canyon Tuesday. It was hot. M’s fickle stomach, and the heat, were a bad combo. She bailed, and I pushed up to get through one of my favorite canyons without too much imposition on M. Back in the day I’d soloed in, car to car in the Weeping Rock lot, in less than five hours. This was in February, with postholing down the steep hill initially, and drysuit-cold water at the end. This time, I logged 2:10 from the head of the canyon to ropes-pulled in the Narrows, with rusty rope work. I think sub-4 Weeping Rock to Sinawava is very doable.

It was hot, but I’m pretty used to it now, drank tons of water, and had fun. Rapping into the swimmer that is the spring on the penultimate rap was heaven, and I got a round of applause for making it down the last rap from the hungry tourist hordes in the Narrows. I forget occasionally how many damn people come to Zion in the summer.

Fortunately, we’ll be back October 17th for the wedding.

It was too hot to sleep low. We got Pizza n’ Noodle in town, and fled back to the Kaibab to sleep. Up, and back home. My legs hurt, and I was getting cranky as the morning wore on and the heat grew. M took over, and I got a Slurpy, and made it home. Barely.

And tomorrow, it’s time to flee to the high Sierra, and then Zion again, for more than a week.

I’ll be back, eventually. There is a reason I scheduled vacation at this time in the year.