30 November 2007

Taking the skis for a walk

What's more awkward than doing Class 3/4 scrambling up a mountain wearing AT ski boots and carrying a video camera? DOWNCLIMBING Class 3/4 terrain while wearing AT ski boots and carrying a video camera!

Got up Thursday morning for some backcountry turns up at St Mary's (no longer a) Glacier. The evening before I asked my producer if he wanted some weather video from the mountains for the next day's newscast. After receiving an enthusiastic affirmation, I grabbed the miniDV camera, the steady bag and packed them into my pack.

The drive up, I caught occasional glimpses to James Peak and could see the mountain was in an exhibitionist sort of mood; not much snow on it.

From a trip up James Peak this past spring. My route up was the left skyline.

Arriving at the trailhead, I could see that I would be hiking up in my ski boots before arriving to some snow. So the skis got lashed onto the backpack and up I went. The problem with my thinking was that there WOULD be snow to ski on. In fact there is NO snow to ski on. The glacier is the most reduced I had ever seen it and you could see its exposed ice heart shining duly in the sun.

Past the lake and at the terminus of the ice slope, I took off the pack and turned my attention to Fox Mountain behind me.

Once again from this past spring

So grabbing the steady bag, camera and leaving the rest of my gear near the trail, I made my way to the north ridge. Hiking soon turned to scrambling which soon turned into the camera resting inside my jacket like a pregnant belly to free up both hands. Finally at the summit rocks, I scraped a way up the west face and began my filming duties.

For a change, I didn't enjoy the exposure. I felt like a Golem with leaden feet climbing up and so looking down a hundred feet or so a couple of hands-widths to my left on the climb actually affected me. That and I also knew body first, camera second in case I fell.

When I get the footage of my video I'll post it up. While carrying my skis for nearly 4 miles wasn't my intention, I still had a shit-eating grin on my face most of the day. But then again some might say I'm not a smart man.

ARTIST OF POST - Iron & Wine. Seattle neo-folk. This song "Boy with a Coin" has also been getting heavy play in my iPod.

28 November 2007

Trail?! Who needs a trail?

Sunday after plans to go bouldering with a buddy fell through, it was up to my prerogative as to my plans. Wanted to give my thumb a break and let it heal some more so I opted for some bushwacking and climbing at Deer Creek Canyon Open Space outside of Denver.

Also decided to bring the video camera to get some much-needed practice for my series of web stories which I am to begin scribing for work starting next year. As I was making my up the snow-slapped slopes - not nearly enough for good purchase but enough to hide the occasional cactus clumped together on the rocky slope - I started thinking about how falling would be a bad outcome as I clambered up a small 15-foot wall.

Oh I knew the myriad stands of scrub oak would catch and cradle me like one of their offspring. No, for a change I wasn't thinking about life or limb nor tree or twig, I was musing about the expensive piece of equipment in my backpack that would go smash under my body weight.

Trundled down one giant knot of rock at one point but was able to spin out of the path with a good edge on the right. And finally after slowly trudging up a piecemeal path made by deer and rock and erosion I arrived at the summit.

After spending about half an hour up top I made my way back on the serpentine route of the trail. However shortly after departing I found a nice gully that would cut out about 2 1/2 miles of meaningless hiking. My route got adjusted after some warning yelps by some coyotes unseen under the pine-tree canopy below me.

Instead I found my self downclimbing some cliffs and going Tarzan as I did more a control slide down into the forest on some slippery steep stuff (snow-covered slab does not make for good purchase).

Partway down the trail I realized my trials, which more resembled the flailing penitence of a Benedict monk of the Dark Ages, took from a casualty - my sunglasses. I was rather miffed since this pair actually survived almost three years.

And of course, I screwed up my thumb again. Damn being a homo sapian sapian and my opposable appendage@

If enough snow has fallen in the mountains today, I see myself getting some backcountry turns out at St Mary's on Thursday.

ARTIST OF POST - Mobius Band. Catchy and getting heavy play on my iPod.

23 November 2007

Love lost is soon forgotten

I am none but the king of sad persuasion.
I am none but the salt for the sanguine abrasion
I am the finger of the hand that keeps the wound wet.
I am the finger of the hand that you never forget.
I am the finger, the hand - the mad persuasion.

I am none but the king of repetition.

Sometimes a verse strikes a cord. There is an amazing effect that stringing words together creates. Every once in a while it creeps up and ambushes you when you least expect it (something I've very readily related to emotionally for the past X amount of months).

A simple verse read in years pass can cause not even a pursing of the lips, as the page is lazily flipped like a shrewd shopper over a Tuesday mailing flyer or the reaction of a repetitive motion as the reader looks for the key tagwords, something that can be an orchestral accompaniment to the ennui of the moment.

Or is it that you are no longer the same person, who flippantly kept searching for a specific theme in that book? Perhaps when you look in the mirror, the reflection you gaze upon holds no semblance to one you donned; there is a vacant look in the eyes which didn't reside there before. Sometimes your skin is no longer a suit that fits snugly like it once did. There are creases and wrinkles where the corners were once rounded smooth.

It is then when you realize you are a changed person and you no longer expect to have your return ticket stamped, because you have forgotten what it was like at your starting point. And you know in your heart that no matter where the next destination may lay on the globe, it won't change the shadow whom you have become.

- Marc Jaffee. Since he is the one who scribed the verse, I should give him his due.

21 November 2007

Thanksgiving Eve

It is the night before Thanksgiving, and while the place is odoriferous with the scent of the garlic mashed potatoes I whipped up (literally), it isn't turkey that's on my mind. No a different animal is crawling inside my cranium, one that probably isn't as tasty but quite a bit more testy. I've been thinking about scorpions. Particularly a very large, very old one.

If you haven't seen/read/listened to the news the past couple of days, scientists who have nothing better to do than use miniature hammers to tap/tap/tap at rocks and brush away the earth's crumbs have discovered the fossilized remains of a claw belonging to this creature of antiquity.

Reading about it reminded me of my two notable scorpion encounters while living in Oaxaca. Without digressing - I know it's the title of the blog! - let's just say the first story involves Mexican Raid. No, not a raid by Mexicans, we're talking about the nifty cylinder of death for all arthropods. But since this is south of the border where this tale takes place at, this isn't your over-the-counter can of bug moribund. This is the chrome can sans label. This is the stuff you keep away from children unless you particularly don't like them or really want them to take a nap after being fussy after lunch.

And the scary part is this noxious brew under pressure DID NOT KILL the scorpion. Here I am afraid of having any of this stuff get in contact with my skin or clothing, less they both begin melting away.

Mr. Big Black Scorpion, he just stopped, opened up his pincers and got pissed. Needless to say, we left El Escorpion Peligroso alone and gave him as much space as needed.

Not the scorpion in question

The second story involved a late night trip to the bathroom. No mind you, the room in the house we were renting in Arrazola didn't have the bathroom connected to the building. You had to walk across the courtyard. And mind you since we are in a rural village out in the valley, I usually didn't use said bathroom at night for a quick zip down. I just found a tree, shrub, something.

Our bedroom is on the right

However the family we were staying with were up at a late hour for them and we were talking. So being polite, I grabbed my headlight and trekked over to the cinder-block structure that held the toilet. Halfway through aiming dead center, I looked over at the wall and noticed to my discomfort a just-as-beefy scorpion on the wall, INCHES PEOPLE, INCHES from my little alacran, which was getting smaller after the discovery I must say. I never wanted to be done with Trabajo Uno so badly in my life.

Off to Copper Mountain on Thanksgiving for a few turns before working Thanksgiving night. I'll be giving thanks if the 8 open runs aren't crawling with tourons. Friends Dana and Duke went today and said it was more like dodging than riding; they bailed after two runs. I just know I'll be bundling up:

Happy Turkey Day everybody.

ARTIST OF POST - Mike Doughty. Former lead singer of Soul Coughing and one of the few musical choices Tasha and I ever could agree on.

18 November 2007

Visiting the white strip of death

There is always a sweet satisfaction I get when I go cycling and past roadies in their skin-tight lycra, bigger gears, bigger wheels and little racing jerseys. While here I come plodding along on my mountain bike which is in desperate need of a new cassette and I'm donning baggy mountain biking shorts and a T-shirt; dressed as un-aerodynamic as possible.

For a Sunday with temps in the 60s - the last warmth we will have in awhile? - the path wasn't too crowded. All in all it was a nice 2-hour ride from my place past C-470 & Kipling. And thankfully there was no headwind either way. The ride wasn't in the plans for today. I originally envisioned something a little more time-consuming and involving exposure. However my thumb is still a little sore. Why do you ask? Because I bucked up my courage and visited "The White Strip of Death"

Arising at the not-quite-light hour of 6:15 am, I set out for my rendezvous with Jason. The drive up went quickly in discussion and 45 minutes later after cresting Loveland Pass, we could see it laying flatly under the caliginous sky, THE STRIP. Well actually to be precise it is four strips that converge into one mighty strip - a strip so terrifying and austere that if you came across it in a dark alley, you would turn tail.

But it's only a series of Blue runs.

Ah yes, that might be so intrepid reader. But the blueness is so blue that it burns your retinas and its firmness is so frozen it will render your quads into holiday mashed potatoes bathing languidly in a lactic acid gravy.

Soon we were sucking up our will in a redoubt of courage as we rode the lift up - THE STRIP taunting us to our left as we slowly made our way up. Wait! Are those exposed rocks underneath us.

Human ingenuity is an amazing thing. We can make coffee makers that begin brewing at a designated time, we can send submersibles down thousands of fathoms and we can pave the way for downhill skiing even when there is no snow. We just blow it.

While some might consider this a technological wonder, I consider it to be skiing on shaved ice, just add some syrup and give me a little wooden paddle spoon and I have desert.

The first run, well the first run was the first skiing since May so it was ugly. I caught an edge coming down a drop and bit it, and bit it pretty good. Apparently I nailed my left knee with the edge of my right ski, cutting a gash and bruising myself like an overripe banana - something I wouldn't discover until later that day. It wasn't until Saturday when my thumb was acting funny, and not in a Dave Chappel sort of way either. Must have caught my ski pole and jerked my hand funny during my tumble.

After that, the legs went through a renascence - refamiliarizing themselves with the motions and before long I was pushing it and turning a little less pronounced. Three hours - 11 runs and a Telemark IPA - not a bad way to spend the day before going into work. Mmmm, beer!!

Jason and I got separated - a feat in itself considering there were four runs open - on our fourth run. I started ahead of him and thought he passed me. He didn't and I kept going to the bottom and he stopped mid-mountain. It was somewhat familiar to Where's Waldo? While riding the lift I saw him skiing a couple of times and vice versa. Apparently Jason fell twice and each time wasn't while he was ripping it down the mountain - I have no qualms admitting I think Jason is a better skier than myself - but while going slowly. Such is the way with friction and gravity.

So do your snow dance - the front coming in the middle of the week is not forecasting to bring abundant precipitation unfortunately, just coldness - I'm hoping to make this a winter with copious slaloming.

ARTIST OF POST - Radiohead. There's a shocker right? The album version of this song is amazing.

07 November 2007

We're moving on down

Every so often in a person's life, there comes a time to make an important purchase. Often times this purchase is a big-item transaction, such as a bed, or a car, or a big screen HDTV. Many would take it a step further and take a long time scrutinize over something that will be not only a major investment but a financial commitment and, dare I say it, an investment - like a house or a mail-order bride.

To give you some insight onto the type of person I am, my period of mulling and introspection was invested into a household item that is utilized for much time and is in a sense a place of creation: a desk.

A few weeks ago I found myself having to replace a pine stalwart of sturdiness, that while I never was attached to; it has caused many a banged knee; it did it's job admirably, despite having to tighten screws and adjust legs to get rid of its malady of wobbliness.

In the interim, I turned to my map table. Map table? What are you trying to do Ryan, discover a lost continent? What do you have a Stella Maris as well and a bad case of scurvy?

I like maps, always been fascinated by them since childhood. I spent many an hour in the car on roadtrips with my father keeping myself entertained by discovering little towns in the middle of nowhere, distant mountain ranges and where the closest Stuckey's was.

So over a year ago I built a map table to store my topographical maps that have been useful aids for mountaineering and backpacking in Washington. Made out of pine and oak, I rather like the thing:

I mean look at the painstaken detail:

While a piece I do cherish, it definitely doesn't double as a desk very well. For one, because of it's elevated height, it was like typing while riding a chopper.

"Yo bro! You blogging now?"
"That's right Snake. I'm letting people know about my last trip in the Indian Peaks wilderness."
"Well dude, you're gonna miss the cutoff for the poker run. I hear Breathern Fast is playing at the saloon."

So the quest began and included several trips to various antique, read junk, stores. While you can find the occasional treasure, I think the antique junket is merely an excuse of packrats to make a living off their hoarding tendencies. I mean I found an old 80s stereo system with the dual tape decks and an equalizer for sale - and it wasn't even a good one - at probably the same price it retailed for 20 years ago.

My infecund journeys were ended when I discovered using Craigslist was a much lazier and gas-saving alternative. At least this way I could look at junk without having to endanger my life or contacting a STD walking down East Colfax Avenue.

Finally I found my specimen:

But alas! Somebody has beaten me to the punch. I was informed by the owner of this antique relic that was made available for a steal, that somebody was to look at it that day (As is always the case. Damn those phantom buyers). Thankfully, a lackadaisical approach by the competition and due diligence by your intrepid purveyor of maps won me my opening and I swooped in and picked up the desk today.

It needs a good sanding and varnishing to clean up the scratches and time-earned discolorments on the finish. But given I have a coffee table to build (oak & poplar), an end table (pine & oak), bookshelves for some friends (pine) and spending most of December out of town, I don't see myself getting around to it until sometime in '08.

In the meantime, the Mac is perched akimbo and already I feel more refined as I drink a glass of Merlot and listen to Baroque while I dabble on the keys, situated at a height that no longer causes blood loss to my fingers.

God bless that crazy Greek who decided to ferment his grapes!