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.