Most people do crazy stuff when they turn 40 - the classic midlife crisis type affair. There's buying a snazzy new car (does a 4WD Merce...

Dec 30, 2011

Section House Hut Trip

Our last big adventure for the year was a snowshoe/hike hut trip. Nick's been slowly accumulating gear for trips - hoping to eventually transition to back country skiing. The last big purchase was the Osprey Kode packs so we could carry the snowshoes and all our gear. With that, it was time to actually get out and try a hut trip. At that late date, there weren't many openings in the 10th Mountain or Summit Hut systems. There was plenty of room in Section house - a restored railroad boarding house perched on the top of Boreas Pass. It was also a shorter hike in, so perfect for testing gear out.

On Gold Dust Trail - heading up towards Section House
We approached the hut from the East side - parking at the Gold Dust trailhead. It was already pretty windy out, but the trees down in the valley shielded us from the wind. Hearing the creaking and moaning of the old pines was a little freaky at times - especially with the number of trees down along the trail. To Nick's dismay, there wasn't much snow down low and the trail had been tracked down into a firm path. Our snowshoes stayed on the packs for most of the hike. As we got higher, the snow got deeper and the wind picked up more. I was post holing a little and almost stopped to put on my snowshoes a few times. But it was never bad enough to really make me want to stop. Then as we neared Boreas Pass road and approached the tree line, it was time to bundle up. That wind was cold! And the snow had been blown into drifts feet deep along the trail. As we neared Section house, the reason for the name "Boreas Pass" was perfectly clear. A howling north wind scoured the pass and surrounding mountains. We were lucky - it was a clear day and we could see for miles. A storm would have reduced visibility to nil!

As the first group to reach Section house, we claimed our beds - on the main floor so we were close to the fire and didn't have to deal with stairs all night. Then off into the woods to do some exploring. We snowshoed up the mountain to the west of the house, enjoying the deep deep snow and wishing for some skis on the way down. We didn't reach the top of the mountain, just a ridgeline at about 12,000 feet. But that was enough for me - I'm not that fast on snowshoes, especially in the deep snow. It was also getting later in the day. So back down to our home for the night. Two other people were there at that point - they had gotten the fire started and were busy cooking soup. Nick spent about half an hour chopping wood - it was still really cold in the house and the wind was starting to pick up. With snowmelt water on the stove and fully stocked woodpile, it was time to relax and enjoy the evening.

Exploring the ridge to the west of Section House -
you can see the hut below me to the right
Unfortunately, with communal huts, the experience is only as good as the company. Six late arrivals to the house proved to be rather annoying, with a complete lack of common courtesy and respect. Small things like taking all the pre-boiled water to cook with, making a huge mess in the kitchen and not cleaning it up well at all, spreading all of their stuff out everywhere, and most annoying - not taking their snowy boots off when the got in the house. They spent the whole time tramping around in boots, leaving small piles of snow to melt into freezing puddles. And with four men in the that group, Nick was still the only one to lift a finger and an axe to chop wood.

We woke up to near whiteout conditions. A storm had blown in overnight. Nick and I ate quickly and bolted for our hike back down to the car. This time, we decided to take the road down, just for something different. For the first two miles, the wind was miserable - howling around us, driving the snow. We were lucky it was to our backs! Then as we descended into the trees, the wind abated. We were left with a idyllic winter scene with deep powder, snow covered trees and flakes gently falling. Beautiful and so peaceful. The only sounds were our snowshoes crunching into the snow and our breathing. We didn't see any wild life - just plenty of rabbit tracks darting across the road. As we got lower down the mountain, the snow diminished and it was off with the snowshoes for the rest of the hike. It was a long hike, but easy as the road followed the old railroad grade up the pass. It did start getting tedious as we hiked further and further with feeling like were were getting anywhere. Finally, the trees opened up and we were treated to a snowy view of South Park and the city of Como. Almost done! We reached the car just as another wave of snow rode the wind down from the mountains.

On Boreas Pass Road
For a first time trip, it was fun. A few things to work out, especially with food. But I think the gear Nick's gotten will work really well. We'll do a few more snowshoe style trips, then start looking at skis next year. Something new and different for the off season!

Dec 19, 2011

Kittens causing chaos

Ahh, the joys of kittens. We decided to start leaving them out of the bathroom more at night and during the day. They are almost four months old now and it's time to start giving them a little independence. Too bad Miss Sasha is a little clumsy! Last week she knocked one of my spider plants and my rosemary off the banister. That was a bit of a mess to clean up and the plants did not survive. We had rosemary potatoes for supper that night. Then a few nights ago I was in my office working on Nick's jacket when I heard the distinctive sound of glass shattering on stone. Into the bathroom they went as I cleaned up wine glass shards from the kitchen floor! Sweeping, mopping and vacuuming to make sure all the splinters were picked up. A few hours later, Sasha knocked DumDum's food dish off. At least it was onto the towel on he floor. Made cleaning up easier. And hopefully the last thing she'll knock over - my prickly pear cactus. Amazingly the plant and pot survived the fall. George was with us and Sasha cowering upstairs. Dirt was scattered all up and down the stairs. Into the bathroom they went so the mess didn't get any bigger. And when I dragged the vacuum out, everyone scattered!

Last night was quiet, so hopefully I've managed to fully kitten proof the house. And Sasha decided to curl up with us last night. She's got a loud purr, for sure. And when she wants some snuggles she's not afraid to ask. Meow!

Dec 10, 2011

Skinny tire suffering

As usual, the colder months are providing time to work on my bike. It's still a huge weakness when it comes to my Xterras, so the more work I can put in, the better. With a borrowed power tap on my road bike, it was time to join the group road ride. I'd heard stories about the chaos and carnage, but also that it would a good way to build some speed and punch on the bike. My goal for today was to just stay in the group, follow some wheels and hold on the best I could. The group was really big today, lured by the crisp temperatures, low wind and sunny skies.

As we rolled out from Starbucks, I hung close to the back of the pack. I've never ridden in a group that big and wasn't as comfortable as others in the middle. I also didn't want to cause someone else to crash! I was doing well, keeping up with the pace and following the mild accelerations. Then the group turned right to head south on Mark Sheffele road. There was a slight uphill, followed by a long rolling downhill. And at the top of the hill, the group hit the gas. I quickly drifted all the way to the back, then off the back! I completely missed the acceleration and was off wheels in a hurry. I put my head down and dug deep. But the gap wasn't coming down, no matter how hard I pushed. I was just about to resign myself to a lonely ride by myself when a guy drifted back from the group. He waited for me and we started working together to rejoin the group. Okay - he was doing 95% of the work at that time and I was doing a lot of wheel sucking!

Then bad luck - the pack got a green light and we hit a red light. We were on our own, but still planning on chasing. Just after the light, there were two more riders on the side. One of them had a flat. We stopped to wait with them and now the group was four. Time for a team time trial to try and close that gap! I have never ridden a team time trial and wasn't entire sure how much I would be able to help. On my first pull through, I was able to hold the pace for a while - but much shorter then the guys!. I got the timing for hopping back in line down pretty quickly and didn't miss time it once. It was a good group - I was able to stay on the wheels and never missed a pull. Even though my pulls were shorter then the other three, they let me take  everyone I was supposed to.

We didn't catch the main group. We were about a mile and a half behind. So when the pack came by heading north, we turned around and rejoined them. Time trial mode over - but the experience of following some strange wheels made me a little more comfortable in the pack. I was able to stay with the large group, following the accelerations. We rolled through Ft Carson, then split into two groups - one heading towards the Broadmoor and the other continuing towards downtown. I decided to just head home and followed the group heading towards the Broadmoor. A good workout - hard and much faster then I had anticipated. Hopefully next week I won't miss that first acceleration and will be able to stay with the group the whole way!

Dec 9, 2011

Rock Canyon Half Marathon

The Rock Canyon Half marathon, put on by the Southern Colorado Road Runners is a great local event with a fun and challenging course and a good end of season race. I hadn't done it in a few years so decided to take advantage of my Pueblo connections and test myself at the 13.1 distance. It's been a while since I ran a half so I was hoping for good weather and fast competition. Well, one out of two isn't bad! There were plenty of speedy women on the starting line, so I am really happy with my 1:29:26 and second place. The woman's winner Ellie Keyser turned a 1:23:13 and was out of sight for most of the race. The weather on the other hand was far from good, with sub freezing temps, gusting winds and enough snow to make sections of course a little slick. I can't thank the volunteers who stood out in that weather handing out water enough. Just running was cold and I was fairly warmly dressed!

My morning was pretty easy thanks to Micheal O allowing me to stay at his house. An easy warm up with a few spare clothes in a bag so I had some options and I was at the staging area in Pueblo's City Park. I finished my "warm up" and decided take advantage of the options I had. SInce my toes were already numb, that ,included wool socks and a nice warm vest. It wasn't super windy then, but I was afraid that the wind might pick up. If it didn't, I could aways unzip my vest. I left my hat on and grudgling changed into my lighter weight gloves. My hands always get warm, so I knew it would only be a few miles of cold. But while I was all bundled up by running standards, there were still plenty of people in "race attire" ie shorts and lightweight shirts. One person was even wearing a tank top and arm warmers! Just nuts, in my opinion.

The field was much bigger then the last time I'd raced in Pueblo. I found a good spot near some other women and waited. I wasn't planning on starting super fast and the thin layer of ice under the snow in City Park affirmed my choice of trail shoes. At the fun, the mass of runners surged ahead - two women were quickly out in front, running faster then I wanted. I settled into a steady but still fast pace along side Connilee and Rochelle. The first two miles are two laps around city park, then we dropped down to the Arkansas river. I got a small gap from the other two, but wasn't moving any higher in the field. The two women were already out of sight along the twisting bike trail. The course had a few inches of snow on the bike path and a little more along side. But the footing was okay and I was able to maintain the pace I wanted. Rochelle and Conillee caught back up about mile four and we ran together for several miles. I took both my gloves and hat off, hoping that the wind would stay light.

But it was not to be. Just after the nature center the course got on a dirt road that paralleled the cliff walls. And those walls formed a wind tunnel, sending the artic wind howling into our faces. It was like hitting a barrier across the course. We all slowed drastically as we fought into the wind for the next mile. Then back into the trees alongside the river. This is the fun part of the course - a double track trail meandering among the trees. I took advantage of my trail running experience and my trail shoes to prize open a bit of a gap from the other two women. The leading men were starting to come back on the trail af that point, so I know I was running well. Up to the dam at Lake Pueblo, then across the carnival bridge. I hate running across it when there are other people. The bridge bounces and throws your foot strike and gait pattern all out of wack. But all part of the charm...

Now I was on my way home. I did some math at the nine mile mark and while my original goal time was out of reach, I would still be able to break 1:30. I just needed to keep the pressure on. With just four miles to go, I picked up the pace as best I could. And then we hit the wind agin Back straight into my face. I actually put my hat back on! But I was able to work through it and still keep up a decent pace. But time was ticking away... I found a few more seconds on the flat bike path after the nature center, hoping it would be enough to make up for the hill looming at the end of mile 12. It was. I made the last turn to home and saw the finish clock tick over to 1:29. A little sprint and I crossed in 1:29:30. I was actually second overall - one of the woman in front of me had pulled out. But at that point, I just wanted to get some warm clothes on! It was a good race under some pretty adverse conditions. Everyone who finished should be proud of them selves. And a huge thank you to all the volunteers who stood out in that cold for hours to give use water. Not an easy job in those temperatures...

Dec 8, 2011

The Sounds of silence

Or the sounds of bike tires crunching on snow. A string of freezing days after Saturday's snowstorm left a few inches of crisp and dry snow on the shady trails. The trails exposed to the sun were melted but frozen, making last night's ride nearly perfect. The temperature was a little chilly but the trails were quiet and the air still. It was just me and Stacy for the night's adventure so we met at my house, bundled up and headed to Stratton. Once we got on single track the only sounds were of our tires crunching against the dry snow. It was cold enough to freeze my breathe but the steady pace as we meandered thru Stratton and up the Chutes. At the top of the chutes we stopped to admire the view. Colorado Springs sprawled out I front of us, the city lights twinkling in the frigid air.

Then onto Columbine. We took the second drop into Colimbine, opting to enjoy a little more downhill. Normally I would put warmer gloves and another layer on for the downhill but decided not to. I was pretty comfortable and we weren't going that fast on the downhill. I'm still a little cautious around those switchbacks at night! But the trail was in good shape and I was able easily clean them with the light from my Ameobas. We were both having a great time until just before the bridge. Then all of sudden the temperature plummeted. Probably because we were getting close to the creek, but my fingers, toes and nose went numb in a matter of minutes! We reached the bottom of Columbine and Stacy asked what I was thinking. Did it just get really cold? Since we were both freezing and she didn't have another layer, we bolted down the road back to my house. Time to warm up! It took a while but the ride was worth the thawing pain. It's always fun to be able to get out on such a quiet night and ride with friends!

Dec 1, 2011

Wild Rice Stuffing

This a little late for Thanksgiving, but I wasn't gonna post a recipe I hadn't tried. This is a good alternative to the traditional bread based stuffing. It has good flavor and a nice blend of textures. It is also a good complement to the rest of the meal.

Bring to boil
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups of rice. A blend of wild and brown rice works best. Black rice will discolor the broth

Simmer for 35 minutes or until rice is tender

While rice is cooking:
- Grate 1 1/2 cup carrots
- Grate 1 cup parsnips
- Chop 1 cup onion
- Chop 1 cup turnips
- Chop 1 cup yellow peppers

Add to rice and return to boil
- Add 2 tbs parsley and basil
- Add any other spices to taste

Simmer for 10-15 minutes
Remove from heat
Stuff turkey