Sunday, October 23, 2016

Trump, a mountain fail, and mariachis

Meego went to a Halloween party last night.  Two kids were dressed as Donald Trump.  One won "best costume", the other was voted "worst costume".  It seems that even at teen Halloween parties, people either love or hate Donald Trump.

BUT it was all in good fun.  We got our mail-in ballots a little over a week ago.  Mine still sits unmarked.  I've read through my voter's guides and have my choices ready, just not quite willing to get out the Sharpie just yet.

This turned out to be a good productive week despite my Monday ditch day.  Maybe it was because of the Monday ditch day that I felt all energized, but either way, good stuff.  The weather here continues to be super nice, especially after all that wind left.  So yesterday, I was in need of another outdoor adventure.

Several years ago, Magnum and I made a failed attempt to hike to the summit of Blodgett Peak.  We had taken a weekday to go up while our then littlish kids were at school.  The trek started out nice enough, but quickly turned sharply upward, and the "trail" became just a bunch of slipper scree.  At some point, we realized that not only would we need to continue the struggle to the top, but we'd have to then get back down the same way.  All in time to get back before Meego got out of school.

We bailed.

I think the place left a negative mark in Magnum's brain since then.  He also marks that trek as the beginnings of his knee troubles, and we'd never been back.

So yesterday, when I said we should go to Blodgett Peak Open Space, he seemed a little less than enthused.  I reminded him that there was a nice large trail system there and we didn't have to climb the peak.  We could just hike for a while, nab some geocaches...  Off we went.

Great day for it!  I think even Magnum enjoyed it as long as he didn't think of that summit!

A large portion of the area was a victim of the Waldo Canyon fire of 2012.  As we hiked through, it was good to see the grasses and other groundcover returning, but those burnt out and blackened tree carcasses have quite a Halloween-ish look, even in daytime.

Despite it being a nice weather Saturday, it didn't feel crowded at all.  The area really is much more than just Blodgett Peak, with lots of different trail branches to explore.

There were a few other hikers and bikers, some with nice adventurous pooches, but this area is really more of an attraction for locals as it's off the tourist path.

We had much geocaching success too.  We looked for three and found them all.  They'd all been there since before the fire and survived.  That be the top of Blodgett Peak there in the background of this victory pic --->

Later on, I drove Meego to the party.  He and three friends went as a mariachi band.  I saw one of the Donald Trumps along with a nice assortment of characters.  No clowns.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

for the love of Rosa

Mount Rosa is a lovely cone-shaped mountain in the Colorado Springs skyline just south of Pikes Peak.  It's named for Rose Kingsley who lived here in the late 1800's.  She was an avid hiker and the first woman known to have climbed the mountain.

Pikes Peak sits right about here where these words are  It's understandably cropped from this photo because it gets enough attention.  This post is about Mount Rosa.

As I mentioned before, Pikes Peak is named for explorer Zebulon Pike, but he never made it to the summit.  He set out from the south trying to reach the tallest point in the southern Front Range. Mount Rosa is believed to be the mountain he actually climbed.  When he got to the summit, he saw Pikes Peak to his north and west and said something like ,

"Aw, sh*t".

When Chaco and I were on Pikes Peak, he mentioned that Mount Rosa was another on his list of hikes to do.  He'd attempted the summit four freaking times, but he and his companions had been turned back by approaching thunderstorms each time.

Looking down on cute Mount Rosa, I knew I wanted to hike it too.  So we did.

The trailhead serves a few other shorter popular trails in the area, so parking is a real issue on the weekends.  Chaco's job nicely allows some flexibility on work hours, and my class this semester is pretty flexible too.  We dubbed Monday as Mount Rosa day.

Monday was still unseasonably warm and sunny, but the winds were a-whipping.  Wind gusts of 90 mph were recorded from the weather station on top of Pikes Peak, the attention hound.  We knew Mount Rosa would probably be about the same.  But... what the hell.  No lightning!

The trail begins on the enchanting  St. Mary's Falls trail, which is very popular.  By the time we got to the falls, there was no one else around, but Chaco informed me that it's a popular place for stoners to hang out and smoke pot while shirtless.

Maybe we were there too early in the morning to rendezvous with shirtless pot smokers, but now I think of it as "St. Mary Jane Falls".

The falls provide a good view of Stove Mountain, which is pretty much a sheer cliff face.

Just off the St. Mary's Falls trail is yet another memorial to a fallen hiker:

                          1948 - 2008

Yes, apparently, Eamon made it up Stove Mountain, only to fall down the steep rocks near the falls afterward.  Like the 88-year-old woman who died on Pikes Peak after her 14th climb, I think Eamon would have thought it a fitting way to go if he could choose.

Continuing onward, we were glad to learn that, although it was a very windy day, the trail was buffered, so it was actually the pleasant side of the mountain to be on.  It really wasn't until we neared the summit that we became aware of the winds because it sounded like a freight train was going by through the trees above us.  But... what the hell.  No lightning!

the view to the east was very hazy because of a raging wildfire to the south of us

The elevation of Mount Rosa is 11,499 feet and doesn't get beyond treeline. But just below the approach to the summit is this barren area that seems kind of like Mars.  Here, we were greeted by the wind.

But, the trees thicken up again, so we forged onward for the final ascent.

It was a very satisfying hike.  The trail is pretty steep in places, but not terribly so.  And until reaching the Mars surface, we were very protected from the winds.  Reaching the summit is very obvious, unlike some other mountains that have a broad mesa on top.  Mount Rosa is a true "peak", and when you're on top of it, you know, because it's a relatively small diameter.

I wore my hood up there, not because it was cold, but to keep my hat from sailing off to Kansas at 90 mph.

Chaco didn't have a hood, so just tucked his hat into his pack to keep it from sailing off to Kansas.

This pic shows Zebulon's "Aw, sh*t" view of Pikes Peak to the north.

Yes, the wind was a byotch at the summit, but this was really a super nice hike.  Of course, Mt. Rosa is  not the tourist trap that Pikes Peak is, so you have to get your own self back down again - no roads, no trains, no t-shirts...  But that's what makes it all the more alluring.

Round trip is 14 miles.  We took eight hours - five up, three down.

Great ditch day!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

marching bands, a full bladder, and backyard drama

It feels like summer around here.  Really, it's been unseasonably hot for the last few days, but I'm not complaining as long as my allergies don't come back.

Yesterday, we took in a marching band competition.  Meego and company did a nice job, taking 2nd place in their class and 3rd overall.  See Meego?  He's the one in blue with the hat...

Marching band is quite different from "back in my day".  Back then, it was more about sound, precision, and regiment.  Nowadays, there are more theatrics involved, more storytelling.  It's okay, but I think some bands go overboard.  Spare me the drama and just play some nice tunes with some nice formations and choreographed flagwork.  I think our band strikes a  nice balance between the music and marching quality and the drama.  But maybe I'm biased.

Afterwards, Magnum and I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and go play in the woods and rocks.

Last week, when I was hiking with Chaco, I realized the advantage of wearing a hydration pack instead of carrying water in bottles.  My bicycling bag - prominently featured in the last post - accommodates a hydration bladder but didn't come with one, and I never felt a need to get one.  Until last weekend.

So I got one and took it for a "field test" even though we were just going on a short easy hike.  The company I bought it from keeps pestering me to write a review, and I'm all, "GEESH, let me use it first!"  Anyway, so far so good.  It doesn't leak, was very comfortable, and I have now seen the light.

As mentioned, it was quite warm out and didn't feel at all like mid-October.  There were others taking advantage of the park, too.  Nice to see families and kids out.  One little girl, who looked like she'd just learned to walk last week or so, was stumbling along in a cute pair of moccasins with (I think) her dad.  I dubbed her Pocahontas.  This particular park is known for rattlesnakes, hope she survived!

We also managed to log another geocache.  As we were snooping the area and consulting our GPS, a couple walked by and asked if we were lost.  

"Nope, just geocaching", although it is possible to be lost and geocaching at the same time...

And not to be outdone, the cat wants me to remind everyone that he's still badass of the outdoors.  I came upon this unfolding story in the back yard.  A bird was telling me all about his awesome camouflage, when...

Not to worry, however.  There was a happy ending.  Napolion just snuck up and whispered,

"*psssst, Abby... Take my picture like this*"

It was all for show.  Let the bird think he's something.  


Thursday, October 13, 2016

I'm definitely doomed now

Last night I dumped out my bicycling bag.  It normally sits in grab-n-go mode, but I decided to go through it to see if I could lighten the load any.  As I went about pulling more stuff than I thought was in there out of every pocket and compartment, it reminded me of those "what's in your purse/glove box/pockets??" blog posts I've seen recently, so for lack of any other ideas, I present

What's in Abby's Bike Bag??

Sadly, I didn't find any long lost treasures or forgotten twenty-dollar bills or such.  But as I look at it, I'm wondering if I can go without any of it.  Here's the list:

  • Cable bike lock
  • 2 spare tubes - one for Bella, one for Alice
  • Book I'm currently reading
  • Cycling gloves
  • Spiral notebook
  • Coupla pens
  • Coupla pencils
  • Eraser
  • Wallet
  • Big honkin' lip balm (spf 30!)
  • Headband for the ears in case of unexpected cold 
  • Burt's Bees Miracle Salve
  • Bic lighter
  • Bicycle repair kit
  • Cycling glasses and case
  • Tiny first aid pouch
  • Peanut Butter Cliff Bar
  • Swiss army knife (whose is it?)
  • Spare gym ID card
  • Bicycle pump
  • Bag of hair things - ponytail holders, barrets
  • Eyeglass cleaner wipes
  • Barrier jacket and cell phone (not shown)

Sheesh, is all that really necessary?

Any one of these things on its own is not heavy or bulky at all, but it's the amalgamation that's literally like a monkey on my back.  It's not like I'm going on long commutes, a portion of them being away from civilization.

At the same time, who knows when I might be in dire need dental floss? (Seriously, why is that in there??)

In a satisfying move, I began by separating out the bag of hair things and the spare gym card, because really, those are mainly for trips to the gym.  I probably lost a whopping 2 ounces of weight at most.  But at least it got me going.  Other casualties ended up being

  • Dental floss *eye roll*
  • Cliff Bar
  • Swiss army knife
  • Bic lighter - for what?  Emergency barbecues?  (Yes, I know I live in a pot friendly state, but I don't partake)
  • All but one pen and one pencil
  • The book will only go in on an as-needed basis
  • Ear warming headband goes with the book

Aaaah, I feel so light and unencumbered now (well, not actually now as I'm not currently wearing the backpack, but y'know...)

At the same time, I'm certain now that I will be stranded on my next commute and have to kill some critter to survive because I won't have even a Cliff Bar to my name. And I won't have a knife, so I'll have to use a tire wrench as a weapon, which will cause a slow agonizing and extremely messy death.  Of course, I'll have to eat said critter raw since I won't have a lighter, and of course, critter fibers will be stuck in my teeth afterward.  

...not that I'm paranoid.


Linking up with MamaKat for this week's prompt:
5. A blog post inspired by the word: paranoid


Sunday, October 9, 2016

walkin' with Zeb

Pikes Peak was named after Zebulon Pike, an explorer in Colorado in the early 1800's.  Good old Zeb tried to reach the summit of Pikes Peak, but ended up having to give  up the arduous task.  Today, people can drive a paved road to the top or ride the cog railway.  OR, they can hike it since there is the lovely 12.6-mile Barr Trail that Zebulon didn't have.

Katherine Lee Bates wrote "America the Beautiful" (originally titled "Pikes Peak") after taking a train ride up and being so inspired.

For years, I've thought about hiking to the summit and knew that "someday" I'd go.  I FINALLY got around to it yesterday.  And, OMG, it was beautiful.  I know just how Katherine felt!

A view of the summit from the trail, once the sun came up

I went  up with Chaco, who's hiked it twice before with friends.  Wolfgang has also gone up twice when participating in The Ascent.  The three of us originally planned to go in early September, but that was right when my allergy-induced balance problems hit me.  It was a task for me to just walk out to the mailbox, let alone climb a mountain, so we kept moving our trip date out.

Wolfgang, in the meantime, used a couple of those "lost weekends" to instead take mountain biking trips with the university.  He ended up coming down with a bummer of a cold, so thought better of making the Peak trek this weekend.  Chaco and I decided to go ahead with it, though, as the nice weather days are slipping away.  Meego would've gone, but he's deep in the throes of marching band season, and alas, Magnum wasn't sure if his knees could put up with it.

So, Chaco and I hit the trail in the wee morning hours, temperature around 35 F.  The stars were still out, and it was actually kind of awesome hiking in the dark.  Despite our headlights, I did bite it once when I forgot to watch where I was going and tripped.

It was a beautiful fall day to be out.  We took our time enjoying the trail, and Chaco shared with me stories from his previous hikes and information he'd learned while researching.

After about 9 miles, we hit treeline at around 10,000 ft.  In a lovely clearing just off the trail is an A-frame shelter that, I think, the forest service built in case of getting caught in storms or just wanting a way cool spot to hang out on the mountain.

A plaque there is dedicated to this woman who died near this spot just shy of her 88th birthday during her 14th hike of the mountain.  I thought a lot about her as I worked at dealing with the hike and the elevation, thinking she'd died doing something she obviously loved doing.


I knew that the final three miles were pretty much a boulder field, and expected it to be a rather desolate place of no vegetation.  Oh, how wrong I was!  That portion of the hike proved to be the best part for me.

What looks like a lifeless area of grey rocks and dirt from below is  actually a beautiful environment of unique geological formations.  It was absolutely breathtaking, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't just the lack of oxygen making me feel that way!

Taking in the scenery

Cell phone photos can't do justice to the area.  The rock formations are like nothing I've seen before.  Couple that with the amazing views to the east, and it was a sort of magical place.  Everything even sounds different.  We weren't sure if the thin air has something to do with that, or if it's just that it's just so quiet there.

We definitely felt the effects of the elevation by this point.  We continued to slog along the trail's many switchbacks.  Our movements would easily qualify us for jobs as extras on "The Walking Dead".

With about two  miles left until the summit, the trail skirts the deep Cirque, to which my acrophobia doesn't allow me to give the appreciate it deserves.  Chaco said it's a great view into the 1500' glacial formed bowl.  I'll take his word for it and instead take a pic with the sign while facing away.

Note my vice-like grip on that sign!

Continuing onward, we eventually made it to the "16 Golden Steps", the final series of switchbacks until the summit, so named because the climb becomes a bit steeper.  Nothing like scrambling over rocks at nearly 14,000' with legs that just say, "Stop already!" into your oxygen deprived brain.  But I thought, "what a lovely name".

Here, Chaco warned me that there were "a lot of false summits".  Just when it looks like we'd made it, we'd switch back and realize we hadn't (I wasn't bothering to waste energy on counting golden steps).  "You're not at the summit until you see the train", he continued.  This the cog railway train that we would ride back down.

And soon enough, there it was - the train!  We'd made it.  Thank you, baby Jesus, and much thanks to Fred Barr, whatta guy!

What an amazing day.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

I ate a bug and I liked it

...taste of her cher-ry chap-stick

Actually, I'm not quite sure what flavor chapstick that bug was wearing, but yum!

I'm glad to say that this week marked my return to bicycle commuting after the  nearly month-long hiatus.  The balance troubles have abated nicely since I visited that therapist.  Between the exercises and the meth sudafed, I feel like an almost normal human bean.  I was also introduced to my new good friend neti pot.  Running is still a bit of a buzzed slog, but I can walk the geriatric pooch and ride a bike like a boss.

I guess I was involuntarily smiling so much on my bike rides this week that the local bug population is notably diminished.

Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful week.  Magnum and I had some time to kill yesterday afternoon, so we went to check out an outdoor RV show.  We're not really in the market for an RV, but it seemed like something different to go do on a nice day.

There were tons of RVs there, really too many to count. The show made for pretty good people-watching.  This seemed to be a different crowd than the one at the Tiny House Jamboree we recently went to.  While the Tiny Housers seemed to mainly be curious looky loos like ourselves, the RVers seemed more serious about actually buying something - walking around with yardsticks and discussing all the different features and prices.

But I'd say they were still a pretty diverse group.  Hunter/fishermen/outdoor types, older retired types, families with little kids types, childless couple types...  As for me, most  of the RVs didn't appeal to me at all.  I found them big and bulky, with too much "stuff" - multiple TVs, sound systems, gas fireplaces.  Might as well just live in a house.  One even had a refrigerator larger than ours at home.

After we'd had our fill of houses on wheels, we decided to head a little further into the hills for a short hike since there were some nice trails close by.  While in those boonies, we did search for one geocache in the area but came up empty handed when some dark cloud started moving in and we gave up.  We'll get it next time!

But it was still a nice little excursion into the woods for a while.  A few others were enjoying the trails as it's not too strenuous of a place and good for families with little kids and "old folks" alike.  I'd like to think that Magnum and I are somewhere in between those two demographics.  


Thursday, September 29, 2016

floating through high school

It's Homecoming season for area high schools.  Remember Homecoming?

The pageantry?  The athleticism?  The school spirit?  All that teen drama?

I vaguely remember.  It's been a while...

But I do remember the floats.  Our school always had a Homecoming parade on the Friday afternoon of the big game.  Each class would throw together a cheesy float based on the year's Homecoming theme, and we competed for 1st through 4th place.  I don't remember there being any particular "prize" other than the pride of winning.  Yes, a week o' fun with chicken wire, paint, and lots of kleenex!

So, join me on this little march down memory lane, won't you?

For future reference, our school mascot was the "Mighty Miners" (coal mining town, what can we say?).  Okay, so my freshman year, the theme was the uninspired "Year of the Miner".

Yeah, not a whole lot to work with there, but we created this lovely entry featuring a big ol' football helmet and goalposts on the field (ignore Mike sitting in the endzone.  He wasn't there for the crucial parade and judging)

My apologies for the black and white photo, but that's what yearbook photos looked like way back then.  Toldya I'm old.

Anyway, darned if we didn't win first prize!  Yeah, go stupid freshmen!  

For my sophomore year, the theme was "Miner Magic", which was a little better theme than the previous year, but we ended up with this sorry looking thing.

So it's like a fairy godmother thing?  Maybe?  Hard to see, but she has a magic wand and she's turning a coal bin (miners remember?) into a bin of gold.  Supposedly.  Third place.  ppfffftt.

Junior year, things picked up a little.  That year the theme was "Miner Fantasy" ooooooh.  Not a big jump from "Miner Magic" maybe, but we were determined to redeem ourselves from the creepy mannequin lady thing.  We created this awesome castle, complete with ivy vines and opening/closing drawbridge smashing a tiger (that year's opponent)

Note also that we moved into the super modern world of color photography that year.  We were robbed as the judges took pity on the seniors and gave them first place while we got second.  Fine.

So, my senior year, I felt that all the stars were aligned.  We had a super duper football team and my class ruled the school.  Surely, our float would win top prize for the theme "Miner Extra-Terrestrial".  Hey, I don't come up with the themes, I just go with 'em...

We had this great idea to make a flying saucer, complete with tractor beam, coming in for a landing on the football field.  It would bring back our glory days as 1st place freshman float makers with the field and goal posts! It would be flashy!  It would be inspiring!  It would be Extra Terrestrial!!

...or it would end up looking like a blueberry muffin.  

Okay, in all honesty, I admit that it became forever known as "The Big Blue Boob".

Yes, our last year of high school, we took last place in the Homecoming float competition. Could've used a bit more chicken wire maybe?  On paper, we figured we'd have first place in the bag. Turns out we were mistaken.

Linking up with MamaKat again for this week's prompt:

5. Write a blog post inspired by the word: mistaken.