Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas Song- Short and Sweet

On the first hour of xmas was a stand of beautiful trees
On the second hour of xmas, we ate two slices of pumpkin pie
On the third hour of xmas, three grey jays stole my trail mix
On the fourth hour of xmas, my four limbs made a snow angel
On the fifth hour of xmas, we counted Five Snowy Peaks!

A nice hike on Rattlesnake Mountain to Stan's Overlook was the backdrop for this little song on a beautiful day in the foothills. Wishing you all a Happy Holiday!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bike Dreams and other bits of my subconcious

It must have been the half jar of Nutella I ate before going to bed. I had some weird dreams. They started off with my car disappearing from what seemed like a legal space at Pike Place Market (where I would never drive), so I assumed it had been stolen. My friend lent me his cell phone to call 9-1-1 but the reception was so bad that the dispatcher couldn't hear me and hung up on me.

Then came the sad part; my Surly was gone from my bike room and, if that wasn't sad enough, here's the kicker- I thought to myself, "well, I'm not riding it anyway". My bikes are crying out to me after not being ridden for 3 months due to an injury (of mine, not the bikes, though they do need a little work) and my subconcious is hearing the call.

Then I was at the airport, ready to leave for Costa Rica and talking to the pilot (uh, were we having a drink together?). It was then that I realized that my plane ticket was the of paper variety and was in the car that was stolen. He winked at me and said he would let me on the plane without a ticket. And I imagined myself in a jungle, with no way to get back home.

I really need to find a better compliment to peanut butter than nutella.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Soggy Bottom Hikers

Wet. From the trail up to (and a little bit through) my boots. From the drips coming down from the leaves and needles as I brush by them. And wet, coming down in cat- and dog-sized drops, puddles from the sky, sheets not from the bed I wished I were still in but from the sky. As wet as you can get. That's a Sunday morning hike in November in North Bend, the foothills town slammed up against the mountains, serving as a congregating place for rain clouds in Western Washington. "This sermon will now begin- clouds, drop your moisture!"

When three out of four hikers carry umbrellas on a hike, there are some assumptions to be made: it's really raining, these are experienced hikers and someone is going to get soaked. When we made the summit of Cedar Butte and had the option of stopping for a snack or hurrying back to the trailhead to eat our lunches in the car, the hiker sans umbrella voted for the latter. Soaked, indeed!

My peanut butter and nutella sandwich tasted ever so good in the warmth of my car, heat blasting and tushy toasters on high.

(the photo above is not from the hike, but it was another time that I felt totally soggy)

Thursday, November 5, 2009


42,000 is the number of people who die in car accidents every year, the number of people who have been killed by leftover explosives in Vietnam, and the number of attendees at Obama's Inauguration Ceremony at the Convention Center in Washington, DC.
And on November 1 in New York City, 42,000 runners made their way from chilly Staten Island through the rest of the boroughs (Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx) to Manhattan and into full-of-fall-foliage Central Park for the New York City Marathon.

And they all passed by my parents' apartment where I was staying while visiting family. I went down to First Ave at 59th Street and wedged myself into the crowd, partly to get warm but partly to get a decent photo. One guy yelled, "we love Paula!" (Paula Radcliffe was the favorite in the women's race) and I asked if he was her biggest fan. He replied that everyone there was her biggest fan today. That's New York for you, excited about everything, waiting 6-deep along a city street to see their favorites, their friends and 40,000 or so other runners. There were flags from many nations, amplified bands playing upbeat music and people dressed up in orange, the color of the sponsor, but also the color of the season. I found a great vantage point from atop a discarded mattress on the sidewalk and tried to steady my camera as a woman near me bounced and swayed to the music.

I returned to the apartment in time for lunch and we watched as the stream of runners grew thicker, the middle-of-the-pack runners crowding the lower roadway of the Queensboro Bridge. I could hear screams from the crowd and loud music and I felt a nervous energy that wouldn't allow me to sit still. When my dad announced that he had to go to the wine shop for some Montepulciano, I eagerly volunteered to accompany him, feeling the need to be near the crowd of fans. At seeing the hordes, the blocked streets and the police officers and cars piling up on side streets, my dad panicked over how we were going to be able to leave the city, imagining that all routes north would be blocked while trying to get to my sister's house in Connecticut.

Once in the car, we just had to make a few "New Yorker" moves and we were cruising north. That put to bed the marathon for the day, but I caught back up to it via the NY Times' excellent coverage the following day, where they devoted an entire section to the race, from many different perspectives and listed all the 42,000 names of the finishers. Pictured at right is Meb, the winner of the men's race. Paula, Nike's "Running Royalty", had tendinitis troubles and had a bad day but was treated royally by a fellow competitor and fan and eventual race winner for the women, Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia. In New York, even the competition cheers on the runners.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Phrase of the Day

Bone marrow edema.
How does that group of words make you feel? A little uncomfortable, I'm guessing. Most people don't think about their bone marrow. It's like the floorboards in your house- you know of them, may have never seen them, but they're there and are doing their job. So, imagine coming into the kitchen one morning and seeing a big bulge in the floor- you've got an edema!

Now imagine the walls are also banged up, like someone trashed your place while you were asleep or, more likely, when you were doing something fun that makes you totally oblivious to the pounding of your walls and cabinets. Yup, that's what I have, a bruised bone and swelling of the bone marrow. Nice ring to it, huh?
How did I do it? Well, it wasn't from doing something in my bedroom that made me totally oblivious. Most likely, it was from years of snowshoeing, scrambling and hiking with a (Mountaineers-approved) heavy pack on. Yes, I had fun, lots of it. Snowshoeing up to mountain tops in deep snow for hours so I could teleshoe downhill for 20 minutes with a grin on my face that was so wide, I swore my smile was going to tear my face all the way to my ears. Totally high, totally blissed, totally oblivious to the inner workings of my knee and the forces that were acting upon it. Or scrambling to a ridge top, like I did this past summer, in the Teanaway in July and Lake Stuart area in August.

All for a great photo- oh, what I won't do for a great photo! Sure, I was sore afterwards, but that's what Ibuprofen is for, right?
That's what makes me part of the "I Generation". We all carry it and we know that taking a couple before going to the mountains and then maybe a couple more when returning will set you right, allowing you to climb the stairs back to your bedroom, allow you to go out and follow the sun another weekend.

That system broke down a couple of months ago when, after a scramble at Lake Stuart, my knee started locking, hurting like hell and not allowing me to climb back to my bedroom. After x-rays and an MRI (not nearly as bad as everyone tells you it is- YoYo Ma helped), it was determined that my cartilage has been worn down and I have the afore-mentioned bone bruise (contusion). Each doctor I saw tried to draw information out of me about a supposed "blow" to my knee. Did I fall? No. Did I jump, landing on one leg? Nope. Did someone beat me with a baseball bat and somehow I have repressed the memory? Not likely, though possible if there could be litigation monies involved.

Another year, another injury, another medical mystery. Unlike the floorboards, this one isn't quite so easy to fix. At the moment, I am waiting on pins and needles (sorry, just a little acupuncture humor).

Monday, October 12, 2009

All hail the bicycle- a brief review of David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries

photo from site

In the September 24 issue of the Seattle Times, Andrew Matson reviews David Byrne's new book, Bicycle Diaries, by saying, "it's not really about cycling". Obviously, Matson is not a cyclist or somehow misses out on the fact that the ruminations by Byrne while in different cities around the world are coming from him while perched atop his bicycle. No, it's not about cycling and aerobic threshold or lactic acid or gear ratios or that other technical regurgitation that you can get by reading Bicycling or a cycling training book. But it is about the very heart of cycling and the special point-of-view that it affords as you roll, human-powered, through a town, taking in details that would otherwise be missed from a car or train.

David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries is exactly what the title implies: if only your bicycle could write and give the perspective of a slow-moving mode of transportation ("faster than a walk, slower than a train"). He compares riding through a city with all of its offices, shops, storefronts and people to "navigating the collective neural pathways of some vast global mind". Everything about that area can be gleaned from a bicycle, as you observe situations as they happen and can interact, instead of just observe, like you would from a car.

The cities he writes about (and he does mention Seattle, saying many areas are very rideable) are those that he has visited for a performance, stating that cycling helps him stay sane when he has lost his bearings from plane travel and multiple time zone crossings. It is a compass of sorts that steers him in the right direction, his legs feeling a familiar movement in the spinning of the pedals and his brain following along, freeing his unconscious mind to think and to catch up to the present.

For parts of the book, I have to agree with Matson's review in that it isn't about cycling because it becomes much larger than that, as Byrne delves into the history and development of the cities he rides through. Cultural, lingual, socio-economic, all the components that make cities either into livable, dynamic areas or into wastelands of shopping malls and parking lots. But it is always the bicycle that he comes back to, as his source of grounding and finding of place.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Photography Summer Camp

After spending 3 days hiking mid-week in the Twisp area of the North Cascades, I packed up and headed over Washington Pass, stopping to take stunning photos at the lookout, of course, to the North Cascades Institute, an Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake within the National Park. Upon check-in, I received a name badge with a note inside to remind me of where my dorm was located: Fir 2, reminiscient of my mom pinning my gloves to my jacket when I was five. The campus has multiple buildings: the main office, classrooms, 2 dorms for weekend students and more for graduate students, a dining hall and areas for composting and maintenance.

The Outdoor Digital Photography class was housed in the Fir dorm while the Carnivores (they were studying them, not being them) were in the Cedar dorm. We had a schedule of activities like field trips and classroom editing (no Capture-the-Flag) and meals in the dining hall. Our instructor, Benj Drummond, is a photographer who specializes in Climate Change, something that has been recently adopted by the National Parks as a hot (no pun intended) issue. After introductions with my fellow classmates and an overview of the class with Benj and his assistant, Emily, we wasted no time by getting up and moving to the Dining Room. The food
at NCI ranks high in importance, unlike most summer camps that I have had experience with- No bug juice here!. The food they serve is sourced locally and organic, where possible, and included lots of vegetables and salad, pork, chicken and great desserts. I wouldn't go there just for the food, but you definitely won't go hungry.

We went out for some shooting behind the center, where there are trails through the trees, a photogenic stream and a shelter for instruction. It had beauty in its own ways, though the photo subjects weren't my regular materials, as I tend toward landscape photography in the mountains. But the importance is to find beauty everywhere and it wasn't hard to do in that setting.

That night, our instructor, Benj Drummond, showed two presentations. One
was from his personal project about Climate Change and how it affects people in different communities around the world, the other about a partnership between the North Cascades Institute, North Cascades National Park, and the National Parks Foundation that brought 19 high school students from all over the country to the North Cascades to experience climate change firsthand. Here's the link for more info: . His photos are amazing and the message is clear and informative.

We spent Saturday and Sunday hiking and walking in woods and to a lake (yes, I went swimming), finding more subjects for good photos. Here is a sampling of what I shot.

And, no, I was not homesick for even one moment.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Assistant Trail Angel for a Day

After my mostly-berry-picking hike on Saturday, I headed toward the Pacific Crest Trail's north trailhead at Snoqualmie Pass so I could intersect with Chris' hike group because he and I had planned to go for a swim. (Yes, it was not ideal weather for a swim, being 50 degrees and moist air, but my swim addiction is strong and causes me to act irrationally at times). At the signpost for the trail, a couple sat eating and I figured they were one-way hikers waiting for a ride. We said hello, then I headed up the trail, running into Chris and his group a mere 15 minutes later. Upon returning to the trailhead, we struck up a conversation with the hike couple that were sitting there and their story soon unravelled. They were through-hikers on the PCT, having started in mid-April from Mexico and were recently discouraged by the heavy downpours and the impending closure and 20-mile detour north of Snoqualmie Pass due to forest fires burning in the area. They were waiting to find a ride to the Stevens Pass area so they could continue on their trek.

I really wanted to help them out, as I have read about so many accounts of through-hikers who were the recipients of people's generosity, usually being invited back to their house for a shower and a decent meal but also for being driven to nearby towns. This practice is known by through-hikers as Trail Angels. I was going to be heading over Blewett Pass, but not until Monday. Then Chris spoke up and mentioned that he would be leading a hike the next day to Tuck and Robin Lakes which branches off from Deception Pass where the trail intersects with the PCT. The PCT hikers' eyes lit up- what a great coincidence! And Chris lives at the Pass so he invited them over to spend the night. And I followed them back to his place.

They are Alicia and Alfredo, she from Portland, Oregon and he from Milan, Italy. Their story is unbelievable, as this journey on the PCT is only a fraction of their 13 years of adventures. Alicia started out from San Francisco on a sailboat with a (now previous) boyfriend with the goal of sailing around the world. Along the way, they met up with Alfredo, doing the same, yet solo. And, just as I have read of in many around-the-world sailing diaries, the two found each other, ditched the other guy, and continued traveling together all around the world. They have been together for 7 years, both in small quarters on the sailboat and on trails on all continents. Alicia mentioned places like Indonesia, the Seychelles, Vanuatu- she could teach a class in geography and hold every 5th-grader completely captivated by her stories, I am certain.

Chris and I finally went off to swim (or attempt to) and left Alicia and Alfredo to rest and relax. Our expedition wasn't quite as successful, as the lake we chose had a muddy bottom that sucked our feet in and required a long walk out into the water while we were exposed to wind and cold. I called it our "chicken swim" since we finally turned back, me clutching my arms around my chest, trying to keep warm. When we returned to the house, Chris re-introduced himself to his guests and I caught myself staring, trying to remember what the "before" picture had looked like. They had completely transformed from sweaty, dirty, trail-worn hikers to nice-looking people. We ate dinner, complete with Chris' homemade berry ice cream, which Alfredo beamed over and was given the bowl to finish and then it was off to bed for everyone.

In the morning, I didn't even have to ask how the hikers had slept; the look of a restful, good night of sleep in a soft, warm bed showed on their faces. After breakfast, we all packed up and met Chris' hike group outside. I gave Alicia and Alfredo my email address so they could get in touch with me if they came to Seattle and also to ask me for bike advice, since their next adventure was starting to sound like a bike tour across the US. As I drove toward home to get ready for my next adventure, I felt refueled with the fire of adventure travel and was grateful to Chris for letting me be a Trail Angel for a day, through him.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Conversion

By my own admission, I'm not a shopaholic. I don't even consider myself a "shopper". In fact, I don't like actually going to a store to buy clothes; I tend to be a situational shopper- I just find something I like while out and about or grocery shopping or traveling, whatever the particular situation.

So it is with great astonishment, as I see my closet is filling up, that I have to admit that not only do I like to shop (online) but that I have an obsession with a particular brand of wool clothing, Ibex. It began so innocently with an order of their super-soft 17.5 micron merino wool polo shirt. I loved it and it was on sale so I bought 2 more in different colors. They fit well, are versatile and styled nicely. This was happening around the same time that I convinced my bike club, COGS, to get wool jerseys with the club name on it.

With Ibex, I figured that their softest merino clothes are beautiful, durable, less stinky than synthetics and a hell of a lot cheaper than the Scottish cashmere that I had been dreaming of, so I allotted myself some shopping funds and headed off to their website.

I got an email from Ibex one day and their full-zip sweaters were on sale and in a deep red color that would accentuate my dark hair. I bought one and, again, it fit well, with sleeves long enough for me yet still just right in the torso, something that is increasingly hard to find. Then I found that my rain gear wasn't quite up to snuff and Ibex makes a softshell Pingo jacket (not to be confused with pinga, a word in Spanish that you shouldn't use) and it was on sale. Oh, and just for fun, I threw in a pair of their boy shorts to wear snowshoeing. Maybe that's a little too personal but I couldn't believe that wearing wool undies could be so comfortable. I was on a trip and accidentally sat on my hydration tube, soaking myself to the skin. But the wool kept me warm and they dried in a flash.

Then, I received confirmation that I was an addict. Ibex sent me a survey, promising free shipping for life in return for answering a few simple questions. Well, you can only imagine where that has lead to. While the ordinary people (like you) have to pay tax and shipping, I am spared the latter. And they always either have stuff I want on sale or price reductions in their outlet. And they are so nice in reminding me with friendly emails.

Recently, just when I thought I had kicked the habit, I was lured by their 50% off sale and decided to finally purchase a longsleeve top I had admired since last season. The Razzle, a jacquard print top with shaping darts and an invisible 13-inch zipper made in their softest merino wool. It makes these cool August days more bearable because I get to wear my new, classy Ibex wool top.

Where this will all lead to, I don't know. Am I a more enlightened person because I am converting my closet into wool? Are there a bunch of New Zealand sheep out there who are standing around, shivering in the cold? I don't know the answer but if you want to start an addiction of your own, Ibex can be found at their website and also (usually) at Second Ascent in Ballard.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This is why I backpack

This is why I backpack. This is why I put 40 or more pounds on my back and hump up a mountain. This is why I endure mosquitos, black flies and the occassional yellow jacket. This is why I eat reconstituted mush from a plastic bag that I have heated up water for while squatting around a little stove on a rock. This is why I sleep on an ultra-lightweight three-quarter length inflatable mattress that doesn't pad my hips and I have to put my pack under my feet so they won't be directly against the ground. This is why I spend an hour of the day throwing a rock tied to a rope over a branch, trying to properly hang my food bag from bears and rodents.

This is Lake Stuart with a backdrop of Mt Stuart and the Enchantments.

Here is the slideshow.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cycling vs Hiking in the Blogger World

Take a scroll down the side of this blog and note that currently, all my blog links are for bicycle-related blogs. There is a lot of diversity: a carfree oft-touring cyclist, a self-proclaimed cycling snob, a group in that posts videos of their "members", in summary, a lot of creativity, humor, different points of view and interesting musings.

So why haven't I been able to find something comparable for my other favorite activity, hiking and backpacking? I did have a pretty cool site for Ed Viesturs' Ascent of Everest which included daily video reports from the airy heights of the rooftop of the world but now that the expedition is over, it's not nearly as compelling to read so I replaced it with another cycling blog.

Cyclists have a lot to write about: fashion, style, how shorts become transparent over the years... whereas hikers only choose between cotton and not-cotton, having (hopefully) forgotten that long-ago style of longjohns under shorts. Cyclists report on what their idols are up to in the Tour, Giro or Hour Record whereas hikers stick to themselves and maybe the travels of their friends. Cyclists are concerned with etiquette on the road and how they impact and are affected by cars while hikers' concerns have to do with port-a-potties at trailheads and washouts that the FS may never get around to repairing.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that cycling is more than just a sport, a form of exercise or an activity. It's a lifestyle. A lifestyle with a whole different wardrobe, a cupboard full of electrolyte drinks and gels, a line of black shorts and wool jerseys hanging out to dry, three weeks a year when you're glued to the TV, when planning what to wear you consider whether or not it will fit in your pannier, making grocery shopping into an adventure and reconfiguring your living space for your bikes.

With that said, I will be taking a month or so off from cycling to keep things fresh (in my legs as well as in my mind) and doing a lot of hiking and backpacking. So stay tuned for my attempts to make hiking seem nearly as multi-dimensional as cycling.

And if you have any ideas for hiking blogs that are interesting, drop me a line.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

just for fun

I sent this email to a friend who recently got married on a beautiful day in Seattle, letting her know the behind-the-scenes story of her wedding, from my perspective.

I thought I'd fess up to what we did right before your wedding...

The story goes like this: how do you appease two friends on the same day, one who is leading a bike ride from a park, the other who is getting married up the road from said park?

We drove to the park near Salty's with our bikes and dress-up clothes in tow. We rode with Gary, et al for maybe a bit too long, but we were waiting until we got somewhere that we'd know how to get back to the start from. That never quite happened so we had to guess on how to get back and we were mostly right. But by then it was too late to make it over to Coleman Pool for a shower so each of us took water bottles into the restroom and "showered" (I was at least able to completely wet my hair and comb it out, preventing helmet hair).

We got back into the car, hit the A/C button and drove up the hill to your wedding. It was so hot that I don't think it would have mattered if we had properly showered.

We felt like we had done something mischievous, impressing our friends with the tale.
The ride was good, the wedding was even better.

A photo Gary took (in front of bathrooms, of course) is attached. Don't I look surprised!

It was a very good day.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Music in the Mountains

A relaxed trip was how it was advertised. A 2-day backpack into Bean Creek Basin in the Teanaways at a leisurely pace; I was concerned I would have too much experience to fit in. At first, that was true, as the people I talked to were on their first or second overnight trip. We waited well past the meet up time of 8:30 at the Park & Ride in Seattle, then did the same in Issaquah. If this had been a piece of music, the tempo would be Largo, molti Largo, as in- as slow as you can get. It was just a little frustrating as my Type A personality (and other's, too) tried to relax and just let things happen but the conductor in me was falling asleep at the podium, baton falling from my hand.

We finally got on the trail some time after noon. The way was very hot and dusty and steep in spots. But we took breaks, lots of breaks, although we moved at a decent pace, picking up to andante. Once in camp, at a lovely setting next to Bean Creek, we all set up camp, filtered water, photographed flowers and prepared for dinner. When Jack, the leader, announced his plans for a sunset scramble up to the ridge, the tempo started to pick up more syeadily, which is not to say that we were rushing, but at least we were setting goals within time constraints, moving into the moderato tempo.

On the trail, it felt like the tempo was Allegro; or maybe that was just my heart pounding in my chest. I hadn't scrambled in a long time and had only been on one other backpack trip this year, not giving my legs enough time to transition from cycling. Jack was a good leader, as he stopped at regular intervals so we could regroup and rest shortly (presto), before setting off again. Up a steep section with loose rock we went and soon (gasp!) topped out on the ridge, with the sun and wind beaming down on us while a knock-dead view of Mt Stuart and the Stuart Range lay ahead.

In the morning, it was time for another adventure after breakfast and we took off toward the ridge near Earl Peak. From that ridge, we were able to see more of the Stuart Range and those who wanted to go higher did. For me, the day's attitude was moderato and so I lingered on the ridge, soaking in the views. After the knee-shaking descent (I often sing to myself while descending), we were back in the flowers and packing up to break camp. On the drive out, we stopped at Jack's fave post-Mountaineer trip restaurant in Cle Elum, Los Cabos, tucked away behind the Safeway on the edge of town where I didn't pay any attention to the conductor or my baton; I just enjoyed the coolness of the a/c and the good food and companions.

The star flower of the weekend was Scarlet Paintbrush. For photos of that flower, many others and our fabulous views, go here.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Marmot Pass Backpack

Cast of Characters: 11 Mountaineers
Location: Quilcene River to Marmot Pass on the Olympic Peninsula
Time: Fourth of July Weekend in brilliant sunshine

Act One
Scene One
The whole party readies themselves for the hike up the Quilcene River trail on a hot day, then revels in the shade of big trees along the route. At the first camp, the party rests and two take advantage of a mountain see-saw while others cool off in various stages in the river. Further up the trail, the flowers take center stage, as the group notes gatherings of Columbine and Indian Paintbrush (sounds of delight). Camp Mystery is chosen for the two nights of camping and tents go up at various rates of speed, transforming the area into a small village. This is followed shortly by copious amounts of food cooked and passed around by each member of the party- a veritable smorgasbord. When the food must be hung in a tree, a couple of women make futile attempts, then ask one of the men, who swiftly and accurately throws up 4 lines over a high branch.

Scene Two
On the second day, everyone gathers up their day-hiking gear and sets out for Marmot Pass at 6,000', enjoying views and flowers on the walk. At the Pass, there are decisions to be made about the party's dayhike destination and so 3 delegates are elected to lobby for each of their chosen destinations. Views and an easy-to-attain lake are chosen and the group sets off for Buckhorn Lake.
Swimmers, in various stages of undress, interrupt the fisherwoman floating around the lake in an inflatable raft. One of the guys holds the record for longest swim.

Act Two
Scene One
One of the women is dissatisfied with the quality of the food bag rope in the tree and makes attempt to refine the way it hangs. A crowd gathers to watch the woman. The rock clears the branch but does not drop down low enough for even the tallest of the women to grab. Attempts are made with a large branch to pull the rock down, with mixed results (laughter). A different woman uses the branch with success and, in trying to put the branch down on the ground, pulls the opposite end of the rope so the rock rises back to its original height. One of the spectators falls on the ground, laughing and panting. The remainder stand and laugh but give a cheer when the pair of women have success with their rope/rock scenario.

Scene Two
The date is the Fourth of July and a few of the party talk of going up to Marmot Pass to watch fireworks in the distance. After some peer pressure, 4 women depart up the trail, with warm clothes and headlamps. The fireworks are very small and short of spectacular but it is a beautiful night. While descending toward camp, the women hear a noise behind them and presume it is an animal but keep hiking. The woman in front turns arounds, claims she sees an animal's eyes and strides off down the trail, leaving the other three to fend for themselves. Shortly thereafter, a man with a dog and no headlamp passes them in silence.

Act Three
Scene One
The group packs up their gear to hike out to civilization. It is only then that a few make the revelation that, against the wishes of the trip leader, they each made an excursion up to the Pass for another view. The leader is happy that they all made it back without incident and shows no emotion. The party hikes out, making one more stop at the lower camp to cool off in the river. At the trailhead, there is much transformation, as most people brought a change of clothes. Hugs go all around as everyone says goodbye and gets into their cars.

Scene Two
One car of five women gets stuck in traffic 20 miles from the ferry. By the time they reach the ferry ticket booth and the attendant tells them they will get on the next boat, they cheer and clap, just likethey did when the rope was freed in the tree. This time, though, the attendant takes a bow.
For more photos of this drama, go here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Goose Tour Day 8: Osoyoos to Penticton

Last Day

The last day of good things are no fun to write about (or think about) because they end and then the good part is over. I always find the end of trips to be so anti-climactic, as they are often followed by a long bus ride or drive home, in this case.

All I'll say is that it was a nice ride back to Penticton and our cars, maybe one of the nicest
rides of the week in terms of low-traffic roads and weather.
42 mi/ 1,750'

For more photos of the Tour, go here.

For route information, see this Bikely site.

Here are some parting photos:

Enjoy the ride because the ride is all there is!

-Quote of the day at Copper Eagle Cafe, Greenwood, BC

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Goose Tour Day 7: Grand Forks to Osoyoos

Pope Doug

Whenever a day begins with Nalesniki (blintz), it will be a good day. And so it began at the Russian eatery in Grand Forks when Marie and I were craving something other than pancakes and toast. We saw Nalesniki on the dinner menu but made a special request and the cook was happy to make it for us (or he bitched and moaned about those damn Americans reliving their Russian-Polish pasts). Whatever.

The road out of town started to undulate and then climbed more steadily up toward Eholt Pass. I was on my own for a while until I was startled by Pete coming up behind me. The grade was not steep at this point so when he kept moving up the road, I jumped and got on his wheel. The vortex effect was even stronger than the other day and I was sucked in and soon was shifting into my big ring, moving along at 18mph. The climb had leveled off a bit and we were accelerating. I should say Pete was accelerating since I didn't feel like I was doing anything except holding on to my handlebars. The last bit steepened a bit but I hung in and then there was Marie, greeting us at the summit. One pass down, one more to go later in the day. I unweighted Pete and waved goodbye, for he was off to roar downhill.

After the descent, we came upon Greenwood, a town worthy of the name of my neighborhood in Seattle. The prominent feature of the town was its quaint storefronts and, most notably, the Copper Eagle Bakery & Cafe, a gathering point for all passing cyclists. I went in to use the restroom and saw the "Quote of the Day" on the wall that now graces the bottom of my emails: "Enjoy the ride because the ride is all there is". Yes, the ride in a larger sense, of course, but we cyclists like to think everything is about us.

After lunching at a park by the river, I set off with Doug and Steve toward the bigger climb of the day, up Anarchist Pass. Anarchist Pass? Is there a big population of Anarchists in Canada? Did they fight a battle against the Green Party there? No one seemed to have any answers. While the history that happened there has been forgotten, the ride up it won't soon be. The three of us found ourselves on a hot, steep, busy highway. Doug's GPS was reading 7% but, due to the conditions, I would round that up to 9 or 10% in real-feel grade. I let out a yelp as we passed a rocky section where the heat was reflecting off the rocks and was baking me. How hot does it have to be for rubber to melt?

After a while, we got a break from the climbing and the guys figured we had made our first summit. I wasn't so sure since my cue sheet implied some other nastiness was before us. The numbers didn't seem to make sense.Then, off in the distance, I saw what I dubbed, "The On-Ramp to Hell". It was a long, steep stretch of road that climbed straight out of the valley (we were currently descending- what a waste) and up, up, up to a point we couldn't quite see. All that and heavy traffic, too. I got into my granny gear and started spinning and Doug was next to me, doing the same. I asked him, "Is it sacrilegious for a totally secular person to begin to pray for their own benefit?" He responded that praying was good anytime and there would be no repercussions. Oh, god....

We all made the summit and it was 11 miles shorter than I was
calculating in my head, even with the bonus climbing after reaching the true summit, complete with sign and pretty flowers. I guess Anarchists are ok after all. Dottie was driving the SAG and wished us well, telling us it was time to relax. Apparently, Dottie had not been briefed on the descent into Osoyoos. My cue sheet said it would be steep and winding.

But nothing was mentioned about the strong crosswinds that would move me from the inside of the lane to the outside. I knew things were bad when I saw the tandem of Chris and Kim pulled over, instead of enjoying the cruise down. Chris said, "watch this!" as he poured
water over his rear disk brakes. They could have cooked a squirrel on that thing- what a waste of water. Then he adjusted the brake to act as a drag brake that would slow down their rate of descent and we set off together, with me passing them soon after thinking that was a very odd sensation- to pass a tandem on a descent. It was like the time I was learning to skydive and the instructor said that I would black out for a moment because my brain couldn't figure out why I'd just jumped from a perfectly good working plane.

Just before my hands gave out from squeezing the brake levers, I was in the town of Osoyoos and headed for our hotel and, more importantly, the lake. I had been the Lantern Rouge for a good part of the day and now it was time to celebrate.
80 mi/ 5,000'

Friday, June 26, 2009

Goose Tour Day 6: Castlegar to Grand Forks

Unofficial Rest Day

Though I didn't log many miles today, at least I accomplished something, as Steve pointed out. He and I had planned to ride together today, a day of climbing for 24 or so miles up to Paulson Summit. We turned out of the parking lot, went under the highway, then up an on-ramp with an 8% grade to the Highway and the start of the climb, just like that. I guess I was get on with it and have it be over sooner or something. I dropped Steve. And I wondered to myself how we were going to ride together when he was way the hell behind me. So much for that! And there was a fair amount of traffic on the road so if we did ride together, talking (which is what makes a climb go by faster) would be nearly impossible.

Then there were the trees, lots of them; the scenery was all trees.

Mostly live evergreens but some stumps and some logged trees and some old tires by the side of the road. No one to talk to and nothing to look at. Just then, the van came by and I think Doug was driving it. I waved, he waved. I waved more, he waved more. More waving ensued, until he figured out I wasn't just being super friendly-perky on this boring climb with repetitive scenery and old tires and he pulled over. Somehow, pie emerged from the back of the van and, by the time HB and Marie rolled up, it was clear that I was way more interested in eating pie than I was in climbing for a couple more hours. At least I shared, the pie I mean.

My role for the rest of the day was as photographer which made me plenty happy. It was my chance to photo the fronts of my friends, rather than the butt shots I had been taking. As we approached Grand Forks, I got out of the van and got paceline shots of nearly half the group. That evening, several people showed their photo slideshows and I was lucky to be able to show mine on Chris' computer. HB, being the prepared guy he is, had his orchestrated to music.

For dinner, the motel proprietors shuttled us to a restaurant on the edge of town that had a big room for all of us and lots of variety on the menu. From the upstairs window, we watched deer graze while we waited for our food. On the way back, we were told about the area Doukhobors, a religious sect of Russian immigrants. They were most noted for their form of protest: disrobing in public and I wondered if my family tree intersected theirs.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Goose Tour Day 5: Nakusp to Castlegar

Wheels to the Sky

All I could think of while riding today was which truck that ornery driver from the ferry was behind the wheel of. Well, that and also I was thinking of not riding because I still felt tired. It seemed like we rolled a lot of miles out on busy highways, ending with a construction zone. But there was also a very nice stretch along Slocan Lake which climbed for 6 miles and ended at an overlook where we had lunch and then a descent that intersected a rainstorm. A lot of variety!

A glimmer of something caught my eye when I rolled into New Denver and I went to go check it out. The van said "Bicycle Doctor" on the side of it and it had bicycle parts ornamenting its hood and bicycles and wheels stuffed inside of it. I took a look around the house that the car was next to and saw more "Bicycle Hospital" vehicles. Then I looked up and, upon noticing the gorgeous mountain view, saw that bicycle wheels led straight up to the sky- check out the photo!

What saved the day from being just another grind in the saddle, aside from Slocan Lake and New Denver, was the Kettle Valley Road that we turned off onto for the last bit before arriving in Castlegar. Rolling hills, an old bloke on a bicycle, a helicopter perched in a tree (not making this up) and HB taking photos from the SAG, with Tom S also making movies from the saddle.
Sylvia, in the SAG at the outskirts of town, teased us with just a few miles to go. "you're almost there", she said confidently, until we had to climb another hill and pedal a few more miles.

When I arrived at the hotel, I was done. I checked in, grabbed my bag and made my way upstairs. I slid my card key in the slot one way, then another, then I gave in to my fatigue and crumpled outside my door, landing crooked but gracefully, I'm sure. I was confident that eventually someone would come and probably help me and I was right, as a figure soon loomed above me. Luckily, it was Jay and not some random guest staying at the hotel. He opened my door, scooped me up and wished me well. Rest up, tomorrow is a day full of climbing to the sky.

90 miles, 4,700' gain

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Goose Tour Day 4: Nakusp Rest Day

Rest Day

At 1 a.m. this morning, my roommate Marie and I found ourselves unable to sleep. We thought we might be too hot so we opened a window or too hungry so we got out some snacks. I proposed an idea that we streak around the building, envisioning two naked girls running wild through the parking lot, with all the guys sound asleep and oblivious. I don't know which was funnier, thinking about it or doing it because we didn't do it. Sorry to disappoint!

After breakfast at a little bakery cafe that Chris parked himself in front of and that did indeed have the very best muffins, it was time to get to the task of cleaning our bikes. But this was nothing like when I clean mine at home, in my dining room, with Bike Lust and a rag and lube. No, Kent had set up a veritable bike spa with four stations that would clean every area of the bike and leave it looking shiny and new and ready for more abuse.

Now it was our turn to treat ourselves and a bunch of us (Tom S, Kent, Bill, Marie, Marilyn and I) set out for the Nakusp Hotsprings. They were of the tame variety and more like a swimming pool than a hot-spring but it didn't require a hike on our sore legs and there were chairs out in the sun. The chairs were not too comfortable to nap on, but I gave it a good try anyway. It was at least nice to go somewhere that didn't require us to turn pedals, as we went in Tom's van.

After returning to town, I made the discovery that the bakery sold pie by the slice. I convinced them to sell me the whole pie since it was late in the day and I promised to return the pie dish. It was at first intended to be for dessert that night (to share) but I was too full and instead purchased containers to put it into so I could be assured of keeping up my pie intake for the next few days.

The evening brought rain and I went down to the lake to read and took shelter in the Japanese Garden. The town of Nakusp has some beautiful features for being such a small community. There is a lakefront walkway with gardens all along the way, including a Japanese Garden. There is a sandy beach with a volleyball court and also a skate park to give those young rascals something to do with themselves. After walking around town a few times, it was as though I had already become a local; I saw familiar faces who waved and smiled at me. What a great place to spend a rest day.