Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Stupidest Thing I Have Done in 2009

I like to call myself the “stupidest man in the world”. By calling myself the stupidest man in the world it allows me to easily exceed anyone’s expectations of me – kind of nifty huh? Every once in a while I truly do something that makes me the “stupidest man in the world”. What I have done this time is that I have entered a bicycle touring event called “Death Ride 2009”. Just by entering a ride called that I truly do think I have demonstrated a high level of stupidity. Any ride with a name like that cannot be easy. All joking aside, this ride is going to be a very serious ride and will be the centerpiece of my athletic accomplishments for the 2009. The ride is 129 mile bicycle ride in ONE DAY. It covers 5 mountain passes and has an overall elevation gain of 15,000 feet. Needless to say it is going to be hard. The ride takes place in California and starts in Markleeville. I’ll be doing the ride with an old friend of mine who I found on Facebook – Max Holtom. I have until July 11th to train for this brutal ride. For anyone interested the details of this ride can be found at the Death Ride website - Though it is only the end of January I realize that I am going to have to start to train for this ride soon. I will really need to concentrate on my hill riding. During my last big bicycle tour – Bicycle Tour Colorado 2008, I found that I had an exceeding hard time with some of the hill climbs. I had done a huge amount of riding in preparation for that tour, but I hadn’t spent enough time concentrating on hills. I will not make that mistake again. I plan to do a lot of training in Summit County, Colorado where our “mountain house” is located. Summit County is the winter and summer playground of Colorado and has an average elevation of 9000+ feet. There are many good bike paths throughout the county that will allow me to do some serious hill climbing. The Vail Pass bike path is one example of these bike paths. This path follows I-70 from Frisco the whole way over Vail Pass and into the Vail Valley. From Frisco to Vail this is about a 25 mile one way trip with some significant elevation gain (about 3000 feet) as you climb over Vail Pass. Unfortunately Zack is not up to this level of bicycling so I am going to have to work hard to develop a schedule by which I can do my riding and have some one watching him. I do hope in the coming years he will be interested and able to do rides like this with me. But for now this kind of riding is above him. He is a great hiker now I just have to see if he has the desire to do this kind of biking.

(The above picture is of me during Bicycle Tour Colorado 2008)

Though I have classified this as one of the stupidest things I have done, I will readily admit that I am really looking forward to it. I am estimating that it will take me 8 – 10 hours of hard riding to complete this tour. I know at the end of it I will have blisters on my butt and I will be exhausted. Regardless of how hard it is and how tired I will be, the feeling of accomplishment I will have when I reach that finish line will be immense! So it may be stupid and it may hurt, but all I can say is – bring it on!!! Peace to all!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pinewood Derby Outcome and lots of other things

For those of you who didn’t catch my minute-by-minute updates regarding the Pinewood Derby on Facebook – here’s the summary…. For a while the outcome of the Pinewood Derby was in doubt. However, Zack’s car (the Mach Z) came out on top and Zack won the trophy for the fastest car in the Webelos I Den. This is the third year out of 4 that Zack has won the fastest car in his Den.
You have to love Facebook. Since I have an iPhone I can provide up to the second updates on what Zack and I are doing via the Facebook application for the iPhone. In my opinion it is so very cool! On Sunday we returned to our hiking ways and went out and did 3 miles on the Highline Canal. For some silly reason we decided to take Lex with us. Of course Lex loved the idea. But for Zack and I it made things a little harder. The temperature on Sunday was only 17 degrees – so we were cold as can be, even though we were all bundled up. Holding Lex’s leash doesn’t allow you to have gloves or mittens on your handles so both Zack and I had ice cubes for hands. Zack wanted to hold Lex’s leash for the majority of the walk. I figured “Why not?” Unfortunately for Zack, Lex decided more times than not that he wanted to take off. Well – as much as Zack held on he wasn’t going to keep Lex back. So Zack faced two choices, let go of Lex or hold on for the ride. Most of the time he just let go and Lex was off like a lightning bolt. On several occasions Zack decided to try and hold on. This meant that Zack was dragged along the ground as Lex ran full speed ahead. After a couple of times of this Zack decided it was just time to let go and catch up with Lex later. The hike was good but we certainly were happy to get back into car and get warm! Monday’s adventure was pretty low-key – Sylvan Learning Center for tutoring on writing/composition. I decided several months ago that Zack really need some help with his writing. Though he has a great vocabulary and great ideas, he really has a hard time translating the thoughts in his head onto the paper. So he is schedule to received 3 – 5 months of tutoring at Sylvan to help him write better. Though it will be a fairly large expense, it will definitely be worth it if he can improve his writing. We did not have any major adventures today except for dinner at one of Zack’s favorite restaurant – Gunther Toody’s. It isn’t anything special – it is a 50’s style hamburger joint that makes great shakes and hamburgers. Zack got his favorite shake – a Butterfinger’s shake. He loves Butterfingers. He was only able to finish half of it, so I got the rest. I did have one unique thing happen this evening. After I had completed my work for the day, I decided to take a run/walk along the Highline Canal near Arapahoe and University. There is a large park there along the canal. In the gather gloom of the setting sun, I spied a lone coyote just sitting in the middle of a field in the park. It was really quite neat as he saw me and didn’t do a thing. He didn’t run – he just sat there. Though coyotes have a bad reputation around here, he was amazing cute. I stood there for several minutes just watching him before I got too cold and had to move on. It is great to encounter wildlife anywhere! Til later – thanks and peace to all!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pinewood Derby Day!

Yes - it has finally arrived. After days and weeks of preparation - today is Pinewood Derby Day. I intend to win!! Oh - that's right it is supposed to be a race for the Cub Scouts. Somehow though it kind of feels like it is my car as I did most of the work.
Though I want Zack to do some of the work, I really don't want him cutting off a finger or two as we prepare for it. There are quite a few sharp tools used in the construction of a Pinewood Derby car, so the opportunity to loss a digit is definitely there.
Without futher ado - here is this year's Mach Z.
Here are a couple of design notes about this years model. First if you notice the white marks on some of the tires that is from application of car polish to make the wheels slicker. Additionally if you notice that the weights on the top are not perfectly aligned, that is because I am using the weights to help "steer" the car. Due to my inability to perfectly align the wheels, the car tended to drift to the right. By putting more weight to the left, I was helping to correct the drift. Having your car go 100% straight is probably the key thing in terms of winning the race. If you drift to either side then you will rub up against the side of the track.
We are off to get ready to go. We have to check-in at 11:00AM and the races begin at 1:00PM. I be sure to update and let everyone know how we did.
Til later - peace!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Palmer Divide

In many of my entries I have written that Zack and I were hiking in an area called the Palmer Divide. After writing this term dozens of times, I realized that I should really explain the meaning of it. The term is not necessarily well known except for the fact that you will hear it frequently on Denver weather forecast. The Palmer Divide is talked about in the Denver weather forecasts due to the fact that it plays such an important role in the weather of the Denver area. Storms will build and intensify over the higher terrain of the Palmer Divide. This means some large Denver suburbs such as Parker and Aurora will be subject to much more severe winter snows and summer thunderstorms. By definition the Palmer Divide is a ridge of hills, bluffs and mesas that run perpendicular to the main north-south orientation of the Rocky Mountains. This ridge runs from Limon in the east to a point several miles to the east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. It is named for William Jackson Palmer who was the founder of Colorado Springs. This graphic from 9News.Com shows geographically where the Palmer Divide is located.
Due to the height of the Palmer Divide, between 6000 and 7500 feet above sea level, it frequently receives more rain and snow fall than the surrounding region. The vegetation found on the Palmer divide is lusher than is typical for this high-plains desert. Wildlife that has been pushed out of other areas of metropolitan Denver has found a home in the Palmer Divide. Herds of elk, mule deer and pronghorn antelope can be frequently observed throughout the area. Predators have followed these herds and mountain lions can be found in the Palmer Divide. Most of the municipalities that are located in the Palmer Divide have recognized the importance of this unique ecosystem and have protected thousands of acres of land as open space. These open space areas are now the only things that stand between a continuous “monster city” between Colorado Springs in the south and Fort Collins in the north. – a distance of over 100 miles. Because of these open space areas, Zack and I have found many wonderful hiking trails on the Palmer Divide. There are trails that go through open prairie. There are trails that climb the heights of many mesas and bluffs. There are trails that plunge into the depths of canyons and gulches that crisscross the entire Palmer Divide. We plan to return frequently to the Palmer Divide in this coming year. I am sure we will find many adventures there. Some of these adventures will be good – viewing wildlife, observing wonderful sunrises and sunsets and feeling the wind in our hair. Of course some of these adventures will be more harrowing – encountering rattlesnakes, having severe storms surprise us unexpectedly or twisting our ankles in prairie dog holes. Regardless – we will love every moment of it! Peace!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The First Snow Shoe Hike of the Season

Saturday saw Zack and I in the mountains. It was our first trip to our "Mountain House" since Zack's fall break back in October. We really need the time alone here in the mountains as Zack has been dealing a lot with "anxiety issues". I thought the time alone here in the mountains would do us some good. We even decided to leave the dogs at home since Bailey would be able to do much with us in the deep snow. With Bailey's back legs still weak from breaking his back last spring, he would have had a very tough time negotiating the very deep snow pack that we have in the mountains this year.
We both took our time getting up on Saturday. We headed out for our hike/snow shoe around 10:45AM. Our destination was Ute Pass. This pass is located in the Williams Fork Range about 10 miles north of Silverthorne. To reach Ute Pass you just travel north on Highway 9 out of Silverthorne until you reach the appropriately named "Ute Pass Road". From there it is about 5 miles straight up until you actually reach Ute Pass and the trail head for our hike.
I have spent time in and around Ute Pass for the last decade. During my first trip up to the top of this pass, I was driving and nearly had an accident. Why did I nearly have an accident - there was dead cow in the middle of the road! I was drive my small little Chevy Nova at the time and had I hit Mr. Dead Cow, I would have done some very serious damage to my car.
This hike was to be Zack's first serious hike in his new snow shoes. He received his snow shoes as a Christmas present from Santa Claus. It took us a few minutes to get his snow shoes on as I had to help him do a lot of adjustments to the straps so they would fit just right. Once we were all ready to go with our cold weather gear on and snow shoes, we headed up the mountain into the back country.
I chose this hike because I didn't feel that we would have to deal with any avalanche danger. Despite that fact the hiking was very hard as the terrain was pretty steep. Within a 1/4 of a mile Zack had already informed me that his feet were cold but he was sweating so much. I got to admit, I totally understood was he was saying as it was difficult hiking. For those of you who haven't snow shoed before - thinking of walking up a very steep slope where the snow is about 4 feet deep with what are essentially big boards attached to your feet. It is kind of hard.
I did expect to go the whole way up the trail to the top of the William Fork ridge line, but I did have a goal in mind that I wanted to reach. There is an open meadow about 6/10 of mile up the trail. I at least wanted to reach that.
We only saw one other group of "hikers" on the hike. The had 2 dogs with them, so of course Zack had to stop and pet the dogs. That is something that happens every hike that we go on - Zack has to pet every dog that he sees.
After our meeting with the dogs, Zack showed new determination to make it to the meadow. We got down to some serious hiking and fought our up the mountain through the snow. The view once we arrived at the meadow was so worth it. We had a fantastic view across the Blue River Valley to the Gore Range. See the pictures below to get an idea of what it looked like.
For whatever reason the acoustics of the meadow were so unique. Every word we said echoed back to us with absolutely clarity. Zack and I had a lot of fun playing with the echos. I don't think I have ever heard such a strong echo before!
The trip back down the mountain was very quick! Going down hill on snow shoes is kind of like going down a hill on skis! We moved very quickly and were back at the car in about 20 minutes. Kind of amazing given how much time it took us to reach the meadow!
We had one other adventure this weekend. For dinner on Saturday night we went to the Mint - which is a steakhouse restaurant in Silverthorne. The unique thing about this restaurant is that you cook your own steak on a very large grill that is in the middle of the restaurant. Zack didn't want a steak so I let him cook mine. Needless to say he had a lot of fun. It was fun way to have dinner!
We hope everyone has had a great weekend. If you have Monday off we hope you enjoy the extra day of your weekend!

Sunday, January 11, 2009


If you were asked “What is the sound of wilderness – of nature?” what would you say? I am sure some people would say it is the sound of waves breaking on the shore of a sandy beach. Others might say it is the call of the wolf or the bugling of the elk. To me the sound of wilderness it is the sound of silence. It is the utter and complete silence of the desolation of the open spaces. Yes – sometimes this sound might change. Sometimes is it the sound of wind rustling through the dry grass of the open prairie. Or it is the sound of the hawk or golden eagle crying out as it goes in search of a rabbit for a meal. In the night it is the sound of the coyotes yipping as the moon comes up in the night sky. But it all comes down to the silence – the absence of sound made by man. Today Zack and I went in search of silence. We traveled west along the Front Range Mountains to the Sharptail Ridge open space. This open space area backs to Roxborough State Park and consists of thousands of acres of rolling prairie. Sharptail Ridge is part of the final transition between the plains and the high mountains just a mile further west. Given it’s location it is home to herds of elk and mule dear, the occasional mountain lion and numerous black bears.

I always think it is so amazingly beautiful when you get out in the middle of a great tract of prairie. Literally there is nothing there – just rolling hills and acre after acre of brown dried grass. I am sure some people would have a hard time finding beauty in this stark environment. But there is plenty of beauty all around – and nothing as beautiful as the sound of silence. Our hike was about 5 miles and we went over many rolling hills. As we mounted one hill top we would see another hill for us yet to climb. As we walked further and further we could see the prairie coming to an end as the scrub brush and small trees that mark the start of the mountains began. We had the whole place to ourselves. We only saw two other people during the two hours that we were out there. Each of our fellow hikers were alone and moving fast. For the most part we just said a courteous hello and let them pass us by. We did ask the second hiker – a woman to take a picture of the two of us together. But otherwise we left them pass us by without a lot of conversation and resume their journey in silence.

The weather was such that there were frequent snow showers that came upon us suddenly. This only added to the sound of silence that filled our ears. The snow seemed to eat any manmade sounds that penetrated the prairie. As the snow fell around us you could almost hear the sounds of the snowflakes impacting on the dry grass and dirt. With snow in the air the landscape took on a magical quality as an opaque hazy hung over the mountains. Our eyes were tricked with views that would appear and disappear as each snow squall came and went. We enjoyed every moment of our hike today. We did find our silence – our sound of wilderness in the beauty of Sharptail Ridge open space. We look forward to going back and experiencing this place of great natural beauty in every season of the year. Peace!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

GPS Tech

So how many GPS devices do Zack and I needed? Umm… tough question to answer since we both seem to love them. As much as I like having a GPS with me at all times Zack seems to love it even more. Whenever we go on a hike he is continuously clamoring to “look at the GPS”. On recent hikes I have given him my older wrist worn GPS just so that he can follow along and see where we have gone. Why are we both such GPS fanatics? Well – I can’t entirely speak for Zack, but I can offer my own opinion on the issue. I think it is just so interesting to see where I have been once I return home and upload the GPS track to my computer. I have a complete set of topo maps of the entire state of Colorado on my computer. Used in conjunction with my GPS device, I can see exactly where I have gone, how much elevation I have gained and how far I have walked (or rode my bike). Of course there is also the safety feature of the GPS – it really makes it hard for you to get lost.
We currently have 5 GPS units. The first is a Garmin GPS II Plus. I received this as a Christmas gift 11 years ago. It was my first and only GPS unit for over 7 years. It saw a lot of duty as I hiked and biked my way across parts of Colorado. About 4 years ago I got my second GPS a Foretrex 101. This unit came with a strap and could be worn around my wrist. When I got this unit, my GPS use began to increase dramatically. It was so easy to just strap it to my wrist and go. I didn’t have to hold it in my hand – it was basically like wearing a big wrist watch. This is now the unit that Zack uses whenever we go hiking. Over the last 2 years I have acquired 3 more GPS devices. Two of these devices, the Edge 305 and Edge 705, are specifically made for bicycling and serve as GPS enabled bike computers. They are slick and work very well. The last dedicated GPS unit that I purchased was the Forerunner 305 and it is now my most heavily used GPS. It is pretty much always with me in case I decide to go out for a spur of the moment hike or a long distance walk. It provides me with real time data on how many calories I am burning, my heart rate (if I am wearing the heart monitor), distance, elapsed time and many other items. Our newest GPS is the iPhone that I got as a belated Christmas present for myself. It has many GPS features in it, but I doubt that I will really use many of them. The iPhone is really cool in terms of what it can do. One of my favorite features is that you can add an application to Facebook that allows you to track where you are in the world via the GPS that is in your iPhone. That is pretty darn cool if you ask me! Everyone who is reading this probably now thinks I am the ultimate geek – and I probably am. However, the GPS units have added a lot of adventure to the activities that Zack and I do outdoors. We definitely feel like we will never get lost if we have our trust GPS’s in hand! If anyone would like any information about GPS devices for hiking, camping or bicycling drop me a line. I tend to know just a little bit about them. Thanks for reading my ramblings of the day. Peace!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hiking Pictures

I meant to post these pictures with yesterday's blog entry, however before I could do I needed to edit the pictures and reduce their file size. I didn't get that done yesterday before I posted, so here they are.
We got out and took a hike yesterday (Saturday - 3 January 2009) on the far western reaches of the Highline Canal near Roxborough State Park. The weather was extremely nasty and we froze our behinds off. Despite the snow and cold temperatures we had a very fun time. Zack was imagining the whole time and spun this elaborate tale that we were hunting the evil guy "Cypher". It was fun for both of us. I take my video camera with us on all of our hikes so we ended up filming a good bit of his adventure. I hope to edit some of that film and eventually post it on to YouTube.
Back to the pictures... all of these pictures were taken on our Spruce Mountain Hike. We stopped at many of the most scenic points along the cliff that ring the mesa and took pictures. Zack is doing a pretty good job taking pictures of me, but he still has a little bit to learn - so all the pictures of me by myself are somewhat questionable in nature.

Tomorrow is back to school and work for most of us. I hope it goes well for everyone!


Saturday, January 3, 2009

1 January 2009 - The Hiking Duo Conquer Spruce Mountain

Our New Year started in a wonderful way. We didn’t do anything on New Year’s Eve so we woke relatively early. It was a beautiful day here in the Front Range of Colorado and we were determined to get out and enjoy a wonderful hike through nature. Our chosen place to hike on this wonderful New Year’s Day was a place called Spruce Mountain. Spruce Mountain is located about 30 miles to the south of our home in Southern Douglas County. It is one of the remaining areas between Denver and Colorado Springs that has not been developed. Thankfully it will never be developed as much of this area has been set aside as open space. This area is very close to the Greenland Open Space in which Zack and I hiked on December 28th. Spruce Mountain is a mesa that rises up from the plains around it. It offers a dramatic backdrop to the broad open plains all around. There are several other buttes and mesas located around Spruce Mountain, but it offers the most scenic vistas. Our hike started at the base of the mesa and then wound up the northwestern side until we reached the top. The climb to the top wasn’t that bad as there were many switchbacks and the elevation gain really wasn’t that much. However due to the fact that we were climbing the northwestern side, much of the trail was covered in ice. The northwestern side of the mesa gets very little sun at this time of year due to the location of the sun in the sky. We walked carefully but still we ended up slipping and sliding during much of the climb. When we finally reach the top of the mesa, we were greeted with an outstanding view to the east. The side of the mesa is ringed with steep cliffs that drop 40 – 50 feet straight down. We stood on the top of these cliffs and looked down at the plains below. It was a marvelous way to open the New Year. The Mesa Top trail leads the whole way around mesa. At every twist and turn of the trail there are dramatic views. We savored the views and had some wonderful conversation as we walked. Zack decided that we needed to call ourselves the “Hiking Duo”. He told me so many marvelous things that were on his mind. I just positively love this time I spend with him – it is so wonderful and enjoyable. Along the way we met a couple from Monument, Colorado and we spent some time talking with them. The had some recommendations for future hikes and they strongly suggested that we stop in the little town of Palmer Lake and have some ice cream at the Rock House Ice Cream shop. You can imagine the effect that had on Zack. He was very into the idea of having some ice cream! After we left this couple we continued rambling on the Mesa Top Trail until we reached the southern most point of the mesa – Windy Point. The rock formations at Windy Point were quite dramatic so we sat down and ate our little snack there and took a bunch of pictures of each other. We then headed around the other side of the loop that makes up the Mesa Top trail. The return trip was uneventful and we enjoyed all the views as we walked along the cliff top that made up the east side of the mesa. On our way down the side of the mesa we did encounter a problem and it made me really re-think my preparedness for our hikes. As we were descending the switchbacks down the side of the mesa, I twisted my ankle. I managed to catch myself pretty quickly and didn’t really do much damage to my ankle. However, if I had not been able to correct the situation quickly there is a pretty good chance I would have broken my ankle. This really got me to thinking about my preparedness to handle any situation we might face in the wilderness. I travel with just about everything that you need to face an emergency in the wilderness. We have warm clothes, food, water and other survival gear with us. However, I really need to invest in a Colorado “Search and Rescue” license and an emergency locator beacon. The “Search and Rescue” license is kind of like an hunting or fishing license. If you are hurt in the back county and need to be rescued (i.e. carted off the mountain in a stretcher) the “Search and Rescue” license pays for the cost of the rescue. The emergency locator beacon is similar to the beacons on airplanes and ships. If you run into problems you activate the beacon and a signal is sent to a satellite which relays the distress call to a 911 call center. Search crews are then sent out to the point that the distress call originated from. These beacons are expensive – on the order of 400 or 500 dollars, but if something happens to me, I want Zack to be able to be rescued. So that cost will definitely be worth it to give us peace of mind. We didn’t encounter any other issues and my ankle is just a little bit sore. Once we got back to the car we head further south to Palmer Lake and enjoy a nice little lunch and ice cream at the Rock House. Both Zack and I hope that everyone has entered the New Year with a positive viewpoint on life and is enjoying life. Be happy! Peace!