Rest & Relaxation + Nature

I love it when people visit us in Laramie, Wyoming. I love to show them our little house (on the prairie? almost), our fun frontier town, the mountains that surround us, the stark and undeniable beauty of the West.

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My parents waving from the pedestrian bridge to the oncoming trains that run right by downtown Laramie, just in the distance

Most of my family came to visit me this summer after a long roadtrip or flight/s. We explored Laramie as well as Fort Collins, Colorado (since that’s where I’ll spend much time next year). Thankfully the weather stayed sunny and warm for most of their visit, unlike the last time.

We went back to Vedauwoo (pronounced VEE-dah-VOO) for a little hike on the Turtle Rock Trail. My mom was impressed by how lush everything was. Most of Wyoming in the summer is like dried herbs on a cracker crisp- sagebrush, dust, sun, wind. But because the granite in Vedauwoo leads the rainfall into certain pooled areas, through June and July many wildflowers bloom in the shade of lovely aspen groves.

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Libby took this photo of my dad on the Turtle Rock Trail through quivering aspen leaves

The granite at Vedauwoo is unique for its roughness (local climbers don’t call it “Bleed-auwoo” for nothing) in addition to its unusual shapes. The Sherman Granite is thought to be 1.4 billion years old.

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Sam and Boone enjoying the hike through sagebrush and wildflowers

I kindly allowed Sam to struggle with walk Boone the whole hike. They both seemed to enjoy it.

Matt and I also took everyone on a more intense trail in Medicine Bow National Forest which we’ve dubbed “the ridge hike.” We originally scouted out the trailhead via online maps of the area, but it was very difficult to spot from the dirt road you take to get there. The trail eventually emerges the further you walk up the very steep hill and into the woods, and is occasionally marked by helpful cairns.

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Parents enjoying a break from hiking while the kids take selfies and contemplate life

We refer to this trail as a ridge hike because, at several points, you get an almost 360º view- from the Rockies down in Colorado to the Snowy Range west of Laramie, and out toward Nebraska to the east.

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In the distance, Sam, Libby, and Boone enjoy the eastern view

It’s also a fairly exposed hike, with few trees to cover you, despite being in a national forest. You wouldn’t want to be up there if a storm rolled in.

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Introspective Ben on the right

After living in Wyoming for 3 years, I still can’t get enough of its beauty. I am continually surprised by the openness, the almost silence, the skies, and- let’s be honest- the wind. I am afraid I’m now used to the practically empty trails (I’m told this is not the case in Colorado). I believe we saw one other person the entire couple hours we were hiking.

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Even Boone, a Kansas native, prefers Wyoming hikes

Each year Laramie celebrates Wyoming’s anniversary of statehood, July 10th, 1890, with a week-long series of events it calls “Jubilee Days.” There are concerts, a parade, a carnival, a local beer festival, and- you guessed it- multiple rodeos.

I hadn’t been to a rodeo since I moved here but, what with everyone visiting, it seemed like as good a time as any to experience the cowboy side of this state. I took my folks to the ranch rodeo which, unlike your typical rodeo, isn’t full of professional bull riders and events like barrel racing, but is instead made up of local ranch cowhands (both men and women).

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Almost got ’em!

They were all trying to do the same thing within a six-minute period: rope steers, get one into a fenced-in pen, and another into a trailer behind a shiny new truck which was provided somewhat riskily by a local car dealership. The announcer jokingly asked if there was anybody left in the town of Walden- a small ranching town in nearby northern Colorado- that day, and dozens of people in the audience whooped and cheered.

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Got ’em this time

At the beginning of each round, one participant had to stand without her or his horse on the side of the ring opposite the rest of their teammates and horses. When the timer began, another teammate on their horse had to gallop across the ring, pick up the horse-less cowhand, and they both had to ride back across the ring so the first person could get their horse. Most of the horses were okay with having two adults on their backs for that short of a period of time, but one horse wasn’t so sure. The audience began to giggle as the horse refused to go forward. Then, very slowly, the horse stepped forward in lurches, eventually bucking its way across the ring, making for a very bumpy ride for the cowboy sitting on his haunches, and uproarious laughter from the crowd.

Though the roping was of course entertaining and impressive to watch, my family was slightly traumatized by the treatment of the cattle. Sometimes the poor animals ran face-first into the metal fencing at high speeds, which resulted in nosebleeds. Despite their black fur, you could still easily see the red blood dripping from their nostrils as they fled from the horses.

After Margaret, my older sister, flew up to join us, we drove down to Fort Collins for the fourth of July.

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Old Town of Fort Collins on the 4th of July. Photo by Libby.

We walked around downtown and Colorado State’s campus, ate burgers and sandwiches at Choice City Butcher & Deli, and tried local beers at Funkwerks Brewery, which specializes in refreshing sours, saisons, and Belgian ales.

The next day everyone but Margaret departed, so we began packing the car for a trip to Ten Sleep Canyon, a rock climbing destination in the western part of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. It’s about a 5.5-hour drive, though a pleasant one, from Laramie. We were able to reserve a nice campsite (nice meaning with a picnic table and near a well-maintained pit toilet) at Leigh Creek Campground, which is at the bottom of the canyon on the banks of Tensleep Creek, for the first two nights of our trip. Though we’d never seen any poison ivy in the canyon before, the plants seemed to really enjoy living right by the creek. I’m actually surprised none of us ended up with any rashes. Anyway, after setting up camp, we went CLIMBING!

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Margaret on her FIRST EVER outdoor top-rope rock climb!

Ten Sleep is known for long, sustained, and really fun limestone sport climbing routes. This is kind of the opposite of what Margaret was used to climbing- short, powerful boulder problems. At first it was hard for her to get to the top of several climbs, even though she was strong enough to do every move of the route separately, but by the end of the trip she easily got to the top of a 100-foot climb. I hope we successfully convinced her that roped climbing is SO FUN!

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Me belaying Matt in the Lake Point area of Ten Sleep Canyon, WY. Photo by Margaret.

The approach trail to the Lake Point area, which crossed over a small CCC-built dam above Meadowlark Lake, was stunning.

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Boone on the trail toward Meadowlark Lake, through sagebrush and wildflowers, with the Big Horn Mountains in the distance

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Matt and Boone at Meadowlark Lake in the Bighorn National Forest

On our second full day in the Big Horns (our third day climbing), we decided to take a break and go for a hike instead. I’d only ever been climbing in this part of Wyoming, so I was excited to see more of the area.

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Margaret in front of a small waterfall just off the Lost Twin Lakes Trail

Matt decided on the Lost Twin Lakes Trail, just the portion that would take us to Mirror Lake, which was about 7 miles round-trip. We started at the West Tensleep trailhead, which is adjacent to a campground and picnic area at West Ten Sleep Lake.

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At two points, the trail crosses creeks in lush meadows surrounded by lodgepole pine

We didn’t start hiking until midday because we had to change our campsite to an area higher in the canyon that didn’t require reservations, but the skies were clear and the trail was practically empty. We passed a few people in the first mile, and then ran into two more on our way back, but that was it.

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Margaret and Matt on the Lost Twin Lakes Trail

Our hike was very quiet and peaceful, except for our run-in with a marmot. He stood on his hind legs atop a rock pile and chirped loudly to alert his fellow critters that we were entering their territory.

It turned out to be surprisingly difficult to spot Mirror Lake from the trail; it was somewhat hidden behind a low-lying area of pine trees. At first we weren’t sure that was the right way since there wasn’t a distinct trail down to the shore, so we kept walking for another half mile or so. We never once saw the lake again, so we turned around and walked toward the lake through the trees, away from the trail.

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Margaret at Mirror Lake

Here we drank water, ate a few Clif bars, swatted away a few mosquitoes, and basked in the cool air coming off the lake’s surface. Then we headed back for the car and to our new campsite for dinner.

There was another day of climbing and camping, and an evening of visiting the town of Ten Sleep as well as the Ten Sleep Brewing Company to escape a brief thunderstorm in the canyon. This microbrewery opened almost three years ago, and their beer is really terrific. In the summer, dirtbag climbers drive up in their dusty rigs to pay for a shower and a beer, which they drink under strings of lights and stars at outdoor picnic tables. I honestly cannot recommend this place enough. Should you find yourself in this part of western heaven, get thee to the brewery.

After driving back to Laramie, Margaret and I showered and went out for dinner in downtown Laramie during the height of the Jubilee Days festivities. Streets were blocked off for live music, dancing, drinking, and the carnival. We walked around for people-watching purposes, but were too tired to join in.

The next morning we met up with several friends to show Margaret the bouldering in Vedauwoo. Before this, she’d asked us why we don’t just go to Vedauwoo every day to climb, why we bother driving to places like Ten Sleep. After trying it herself, I think she understood why.

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Our friend Bart Cubrich on “Bombay Hooker,” a crazy-looking and very hard V6 boulder problem in Vedauwoo

Not to say that Vedauwoo’s climbing and bouldering are bad- they certainly aren’t. They’re just- well, different. They take some getting used to, both mentally and physically. Callouses help. Physical callouses. Although if you’ve built up some mental callouses, those could quite possibly help here too.

We especially enjoyed the start to “The Hatchet,” another V6, which was seemingly made for campusing, meaning only your hands are on the rock while your feet dangle beneath you. Yes, we do these things for fun.

After a quick shopping experience in downtown Laramie, I took Margaret to the Denver airport for her flight back to North Carolina. This past week has mostly consisted of me sitting inside at work and putting off cleaning and organizing our kitchen. It’s hard to be productive inside when the weather where you live is only this good for four months a year. Live on, Wyoming summer! Live on!

Love to all.

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Banff National Park, Canada

We got to Banff by driving up the west side of Glacier National Park, through the Canadian border, and up through Kootenay National Park in Canada. The highway that runs through Banff National Park is called the Trans-Canada Highway, or AB-1 (the “AB” is short for Alberta, the province).

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Driving through Banff National Park on AB-1

We stopped for dinner at the Juniper Bistro just outside of the town of Banff, which is located in the east-central part of the national park. The cafe is inside the Juniper Hotel, and has excellent views of the park thanks to a whole wall of windows. I’d say the food deserves the hype; my crispy duck was delicious. Plus our waiter was really helpful in telling us how to locate the climb Matt and I planned on doing while we were visiting the park, a multi-pitch sport 5.7 called Aftonroe.

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Another drive-by photo from AB-1

We stayed at the Grande Rockies Resort in Canmore, a town just outside Banff National Park on its eastern side. This place had a mean waterslide, and a very nice hot tub to boot.

The next morning, Matt and I awoke early to eat breakfast before our climb. In doing some additional research the night before, Matt had learned that the portion of the road you drive to get to the approach trail to the climb, Bow Valley Parkway or AB-1A southeast of Johnston Canyon Campground, is closed from 8PM to 8AM every day to protect wildlife. This meant we didn’t have to wake up super early since we couldn’t get to the approach trail until 8AM anyway.

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The view from the hike up to our climb, with Bow River in the foreground

We drove toward Banff, then got on AB-1A just north of town, and parked at a small pulloff to the left after driving about 8-10 minutes on AB-1A. A little overlook of Bow River was to the left of the pulloff. The approach trail started on the right side of the road, eventually crossing underneath some powerlines. It was a short hike (maybe 20-25 minutes), but very steep. We joked that Canadians must not approve of switchbacks. Already the view from the hike was pretty incredible.

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Matt on the hike up to Aftonroe

The last five minutes or so of the approach were filled with scrambling up scree. Finding the route was fairly easy since it’s the rightmost one on the wall. The rock in this part of the park is a very featured limestone, though in other areas it transitions to granite.

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One of the middle pitches of Aftonroe- slabby, heavily-featured limestone

The skies were mostly cloudy that morning, which didn’t bother us at all since that meant we didn’t have to constantly reapply sunscreen. We were the first climbers on the route, but three other parties began climbing after us. Aftonroe is popular for its scenery, accessibility, and easy climbing.

The rappels down were a little annoying; they took us almost as long as climbing up. Once when I pulled the rope, it coiled itself around a tree. Matt had to climb out to fetch it. Constantly pulling the rope also knocked off some loose pebbles, which tumbled past us and the other climbers to the ground, sometimes bouncing off our helmets on the way down.

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Spectacular views the whole way up!

At one point Matt had begun to rappel down another pitch while I was still at the anchor, and I saw what I thought was a large hawk coasting towards us. As it approached, I could just make out its white head and bold yellow beak. I shouted to Matt, “Look! Turn around! It’s a- a bald eagle!” We watched in awe as it soared past on some invisible current. Even from 40-ish feet away we could tell this eagle’s wingspan was enormous. It rested in a faraway pine for a minute or so, and then flew back past us, this time overhead, and then out of sight.

Afterwards I joked that this bald eagle probably didn’t understand its prominence in the country just south of its homeland. Do Canadian bald eagles have egos?

Eventually we rappelled all the way back to the ground, hiked to the parking area, and waited for Matt’s folks to pick us up. We got a late lunch in Banff at a little Cajun restaurant called Tooloulou’s, where Matt had the best catfish sandwich of his life, and John tried his first sazerac since the legal drinking age in Canada is only 18.

The next day we checked out of our hotel in Canmore and drove all the way to Lake Louise, which is on the west side of Banff National Park, west of the town of Banff. Lake Louise itself is an icy blue color thanks to the glacial silt in the water.

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Lake Louise & looming snowy clouds

From the lake, you could see the downhill ski runs in the trees above the Fairmont Chateau, a huge and fancy hotel on Lake Louise’s shore.

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John and Matt on the trail with Lake Louise, the chateau, and the ski area in the background

I planned for us to do the Plain of Six Glaciers hike, which begins on the paved trail that wraps around the shoreline of Lake Louise just in front of the Fairmont Chateau. We parked in a public lot and followed the flow of tourists to the lake. There were many signs for cross-country ski trails, which we saw before the signs and maps for hiking trails.

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Matt’s family on the trail before it splits off from Lake Louise

The Plain of Six Glaciers trail takes you up to the aptly-named Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, which was built in the 1920’s by Swiss mountaineers who had been hired by Canada’s Great Western Railway to guide tourists on expeditions through the Canadian Rockies.

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Matt in front of the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse

The Teahouse, surrounded by pine forest, doesn’t have any electricity or running water, so their supplies are flown in once or twice a season by helicopter. You can sit in their unlit rooms or out on the porch and order tea and biscuits, like we did, as well as other fare like soups and cakes.

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Inside the teahouse

They accept both Canadian and US dollars (there is a $2 fee for using a credit card since they have to manually write down your information, then run it once they’re back down at Lake Louise at the end of the day), so I paid with US dollars and received Canadian change.

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Our tea!

The well-marked and highly traveled though fairly rocky trail up to the teahouse is 4.3km long, with pretty steady elevation gain after the trail parts from the shoreline of Lake Louise. Horses are also allowed on the trail, though the horse trail splits off from the hikers’ trail a few times as the hikers’ trail narrows up against several steep rock walls, which can get slippery from snow-melt and rain. For the best views, or so we were told, you can continue an additional 1km to talus fields from which you can see Abbott Pass, in addition to those famous six glaciers.

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Socked in & snowy

Unfortunately for us, the weather hadn’t exactly been friendly that morning, and it began raining, then snowing as we finished our tea at the teahouse. The snow and clouds made it impossible to see any one of the six glaciers, but just through the fog we could get a sense for how massive the mountains around us really were.

A couple times on our way up we heard very loud, booming, echoing crashing sounds from the peaks to our left and in front of us. We could tell that the first one was an avalanche, with that telltale sound of cracking compressed snow, but the second one sounded more like thunder. After speaking with the waitress at the teahouse, she assured us there were almost never thunderstorms in that area of the Canadian Rockies, so it was definitely another avalanche. Because of where the trail travels, hikers are protected from avalanches, at least according to posted signs, from May to October each year.

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Matt’s parents and Matt hiking back down

The whole of the Plain of Six Glaciers hike, from the trailhead to the overlook and back, adds up to 10.6km with 365m of elevation gain, or just over 6.5 miles with just under 1200 feet of elevation gain. Next to the teahouse is a pit toilet and several benches and informational signs, so it’s a very well-developed area.

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John taking in the foggy view in front of the teahouse

After our hike, we drove to nearby Moraine Lake, which is south of Lake Louise by way of Moraine Lake Road. I had heard excellent things about Moraine Lake, so I wanted to make sure we stopped there quickly before leaving the park.

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Part of the view from Moraine Lake. See that icy chunk thing on the left? That’s a GLACIER!

The parking lot again was near the shoreline of the lake. There was also a restaurant, gift shop, and lodge all at the lake, so it was a pretty busy area. We didn’t have time to do any of the trails here, but we got out to take some spectacular photos, SAW A GLACIER (finally, right?), and bought some chocolate and matching t-shirts at the gift shop.

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Moraine Lake

Matt and I wore our Moraine Lake t-shirts (as well as our matching Deuter backpacks) to the airport the next day- it was adorable. We also think the t-shirts are kind of funny because they prominently say “ELEVATION: 6,183 FT.” which is actually more than 1,000 feet lower than where we live in Laramie.

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Matt at Moraine Lake

We had dinner in Banff on our way out of the park at a little restaurant next door to Tooloulou’s called Coyotes Southwestern Grill, and it too was delicious. I had sweet potato polenta with ratatouille, John had a thin-crust pizza, and Matt ordered the most tender of all beef tenderloins with fresh chimichurri sauce- yum!

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Crazy cloud formations in Banff

That night we drove back to Calgary, had some more doughnuts at Tim Horton’s, a Canadian institution, and went back to the hotel at which we’d previously stayed. Matt and I woke up super early (like before 4AM) the next morning to catch our flights, both of which ended up being delayed by more than two hours, but we eventually made it to Denver, and then back to Laramie.

Final thoughts: it is my destiny to open a teahouse somewhere. I’m open to location suggestions. Banff is one of the most beautiful places to which I have ever been and I can still hardly believe that it exists on this earth. If you even remotely feel an affinity for mountains, GO. NOW, before all the glaciers melt. Bring some warm jackets though, and maybe gloves. The next time we go, Matt and I would like to spend some more time climbing (no surprise there), maybe at Lake Louise.

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Majestic Banff

Love to all! Until the next adventure…

California Trip, Part II: Big Sur, Yosemite, and Santa Barbara

This post is a continuation of my last post, California Trip, Part I: San Francisco, about Matt’s and my trip to California a couple weeks ago.

On Monday morning, we left San Francisco and drove down to Big Sur, of which I’ve seen beautiful pictures and heard wonderful things.

Big Sur, view from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park overlook

Big Sur, view from an overlook. Do you see the skinny waterfall in the middle of the photo?

I’d read (thank you, internet) that two of the best day hikes were in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park just off of the renowned Highway 1, so we drove there, paid the $10/vehicle day fee in the parking lot, and went for two brief hikes.

Matt at the overlook

Matt at the overlook

One was not even a mile long round-trip, appropriately called the Waterfall Overlook Trail, just out to a wonderful overlook and back to the parking lot. The water was an amazing azure-to-turquoise ombré, and the beach’s sand was untouched and serene.

Hello, Pacific Ocean!

Hello, Pacific Ocean!

There were many other tourists at the overlook too, even though we were there in the morning on a weekday, which speaks to both the popularity of Big Sur and the accessibility of this particular overlook.

One last overlook photo

One last overlook photo

We then went on a longer, five-mile loop hike through the redwoods just off the coast, called the Ewoldsen Trail. The redwoods were pure magic.

Redwoods in the magical morning mist of the Pacific

Redwoods in the magical morning mist of the Pacific

The trees felt prehistoric, ancient.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, California

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, California

Matt in the redwood grove

Matt in the redwood grove

The trail followed a stream, then broke away up a long, dusty incline. We had the trail practically to ourselves. At the top, we were greeted by yet another dazzling overlook.

This photo sponsored by well-positioned rocks and a self-timer

This photo made possible by well-positioned rocks and a self-timer

The morning mist hadn’t quite cleared from the coast.

Matt on the trail

Matt on the trail

Matt and I attempted to make this hike a sort of trial run for the more intense hikes and climbs we anticipated doing in Yosemite National Park, so we rushed back down the trail toward the car to make time. On the way down, I managed to lose my footing (a theme, now?) and scraped up my left knee and the palm of my left hand pretty badly. I’m sure the other tourists in their sundresses and flip-flops were at least mildly alarmed at the sight (and smell) of me dashing down the trail, covered in dust and knee dripping with blood.

Admiring the coastal scenery

Admiring the coastal scenery

I took fewer photos on our Yosemite leg of the trip since bringing my camera along on the long hikes and climbs wasn’t practical, so many of the following photos are from Matt’s phone instead.

We continued our drive to Groveland, a small town outside of Yosemite National Park, to stay at the historic Hotel Charlotte, which was built in 1921. Each of the rooms has its own bathroom, which includes an adorable clawfoot bathtub. The owners were very kind and helpful, providing us with maps and advice for our trip to Yosemite. I was a disappointed that the adjoining restaurant was closed on Mondays, especially since the reviews are so stellar. The owners just completed renovations on the restaurant and bar, and it looked beautiful- lots of soft metals and reclaimed wood.

Our plan for Tuesday was to wake up super early, book it toward the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite, and climb Cathedral Peak. Matt had reserved a campsite for us for that night in Tuolumne Meadows, which is at a higher elevation than the famed valley area of Yosemite, so it stays cooler in the summer and has more of an alpine feel.

In reality, we woke up semi-early, in time to swing by the local coffee shop in Groveland and pick up breakfast, drove the steep and winding (and slightly terrifying) road up into Tuolumne Meadows, and arrived at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead at about 9:30AM. We stored all the food we wouldn’t be eating that day inside big, metal, locking bear-proof boxes that sat on the ground at the trailhead, and embarked with our packs full of climbing gear, food, water, and sunscreen- the essentials.

Matt & my helmet hair at the base of Cathedral Peak (behind us)

Matt & my helmet hair at the base of Cathedral Peak (behind us)

Relatively early in our trek we diverged from the main trail onto the climber’s approach trail, which was less traveled and hard to discern at points, especially when it meandered on top of some very large, flat granite features. Cairns lit the way like lanterns. The trail eventually evolved into step after granite step. I felt exhausted from the combination of uphill and heavy pack, uncertain about our success. When we reached the bottom of the peak itself, the start of the climb, we stopped for some water and a snack.

One of my favorite pictures of the trip- Matt took this of me hiking back down from Cathedral Peak, the setting sun coloring the granite peaks pink in the distance

One of my favorite pictures of the trip- Matt took this of me hiking back down from Cathedral Peak, the setting sun coloring the granite peaks pink in the distance

We climbed the Southeast Buttress of Cathedral Peak, which is a 5-pitch trad (short for traditional) climb rated at 5.6. Matt led each pitch, placing gear, and I followed, cleaning it. We deviated a little from the main route in order to follow a really fun hand-size crack section up the face of the peak. There were a couple of parties ahead of us, and a party of three behind us, so we had company the whole climb, but we didn’t feel rushed.

Our matching helmets make us look pretty cute, eh?

Our matching helmets make us look pretty cute, eh?

The summit of Cathedral Peak was quite small, maybe the size of a large dining room table.

Almost at the top!

Almost at the top!

We had expected a rappel station at the summit to assist in the descent (the climb up is just half the battle), but there was none. We searched around for several minutes, and found evidence of chopped webbing, maybe some chopped bolts, but nothing else. So I began to place my FIRST TRAD GEAR EVER ON LEAD while gingerly down-climbing from the summit of Cathedral Peak. Eventually the angle backed off and we were able to hike down.

On the descent. Cathedral Peak in the background, as well as a controlled burn in the forest

On the descent. Cathedral Peak in the background, as well as a controlled burn in the valley forest

John Muir completed the first ascent of Cathedral Peak via the Mountaineer’s Route (which we used to descend), about which he famously said, “This I may say is the first time I have been at church in California, led here at last, every door graciously opened for the poor lonely worshiper.” Thus the name- Cathedral Peak.

By the time we got to camp, set up the tent, and made dinner (ground beef, instant rice, taco seasoning, water, diced tomato, and cheese), the idea of waking up at 3AM to climb Half Dome seemed ridiculous. We decided to take Wednesday as a rest day, camp in the valley as planned on Wednesday night, and then climb Half Dome on Thursday instead. Our friends, University of Wyoming geology students, happened to be doing field work in Yosemite National Park at the same time we were there, so they met up with us at our campsite in Tuolumne Meadows to share a couple drinks before bed.

We had a leisurely breakfast at the picnic table, then parted ways. Matt and I went to a resupply/gift shop to stock up, then drove to our next campground to get set up early. It was considerably warmer in the valley than it had been up in the alpine meadows. We made lunch- mostly salami, cheese, crackers, and local beer- sat around, tried to jump start a fellow camper’s minivan (no luck; he called AAA), and reviewed our various pamphlets and maps. A little too buzzed to safely drive (hey, this was our vacation, after all!), we decided to hop on the park’s free shuttle to see some low-key (read: NO REAL HIKING) sites. We stopped at another store, hit up the Ansel Adams Art Gallery and gift shop, and did a slow-paced, relaxing one-mile loop hike on a paved “trail” to see Yosemite Falls which, at 2,425 feet, is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. Unfortunately, on the shuttle ride to the trail, the bus driver informed us that, due to the drought conditions in California, there was no water to supply the Falls, and thus no real waterfall to see. It was kind of eery to watch tourists take photographs at the base of this nonexistent waterfall, pretending there was still something to see.

We went back to our campsite, made a quick dinner, and were in our sleeping bags before 9PM. Matt’s alarm went off at around 3:45AM. We broke down camp, packed up all of our gear, drove to the parking lot nearest the Half Dome trailhead, filled up another bear box, and began hiking at about 4:30AM. This was a little later than we had anticipated, but we had plenty of company on the trail.

Nevada Falls, one of the waterfalls (with water still flowing) we passed on the way up to and down from Half Dome

Nevada Falls, one of the waterfalls (with water still flowing) we passed on the way up to and down from Half Dome

A word about the trail- it was MOSTLY STAIRS. And not nice, carpeted stairs- but granite ones, with steps designed for a 6-foot-tall man with appropriately long legs. In a series of several moments (of which I am not proud), I *allowed* Matt to take some of the weight, in the form of water and climbing gear, from my backpack, which added weight to his. Something about getting moving that quickly and that intensely before sunrise made me want to vomit. I am sure I’m not alone in knowing this sensation, no?

Gotta love those redwoods!

Gotta love those redwoods!

Eventually the climbers’ trail deviated from the main Cables Route hike, so Matt and I split off left from the pack of hikers who had accompanied us thus far. After hiking about six miles with several thousand feet of elevation gain, I was tired, but there was still scrambling to do before the roped climbing could begin. As Matt can attest, I am the slowest at scrambling up rocks- not climbing, which is different, but scrambling, especially if the rocks are large, wobbly, and nerve-wracking. I believe that this was the point at which Matt seriously doubted whether we’d successfully complete the climb.

The climbing route we took up Half Dome is called Snake Dike which, according to Mountain Project, is 8 pitches of 5.7R. Matt again led each pitch, and options for placing gear grew fewer and farther between as we climbed. Toward the top, we chose to simul-climb. Instead of belaying Matt from a static stance like normal, in order to simul-climb, I climbed at the rate Matt did, keeping the rope relatively taut between us as Matt placed gear and I cleaned it. Simul-climbing is risky, but the climbing itself was easy (the angle was low), so we felt pretty comfortable with our choice.

Tiny me, big Half Dome

Tiny me, big Half Dome, lots to climb

The place at which the climbers summit is kind of on the opposite side of Half Dome from the hikers. After taking pictures, eating lots of beef jerky, and reapplying sunscreen, Matt asked a hiker, “Where is the Cables Route?” She looked at us like we were insane (we’d already taken off our harnesses and switched back into our hiking shoes) and pointed down at the way she’d come up.

HALF DOME SUMMIT.

HALF DOME SUMMIT.

The cables assist hikers up the last 400 feet of their ascent of Half Dome. Gloves are, understandably, recommended. After coming down the cables, I was so thankful we’d climbed the thing instead.

Yay for gloves! Cables to the summit of Half Dome in the background

Yay for (pink) gloves! Cables to the summit of Half Dome (and shirtless British gents) in the background

It was a 9.5-mile hike back to the car. The trail felt like it went on forever, especially the last couple of miles. Your knees grow numb from the incessant pounding. The fact that the last bit of the trail is paved, and packed with fellow hikers, didn’t really help. As an encouraging mantra, and looking forward to the end of our vacation, we kept saying to each other, “Beach and margaritas. Beach and margaritas.” We got back to the car at about 6:30PM, approximately 14 hours after we’d begun.

The plan from there was to drive to Santa Barbara, but we only made it to Fresno before stopping at a Holiday Inn Express and taking advantage of both their nice showers and their free-pancakes-until-midnight promotion. Upon walking in the front door, the man at the front desk immediately said to me, “Yosemite?” That obvious? Yep.

The next morning we woke up very slowly and painfully, sore and sunburned. After breakfast, Matt drove us down to Santa Barbara in time for some low-key surfing lessons with his cousin Kelsey. There is no photographic evidence of my first attempt at surfing, which is as it should be, to spare all parties of unnecessary pain.

A picture of me on the beach- NOT surfing

A picture of me on Santa Claus beach in Santa Barbara- NOT surfing

Eventually Matt and I made up for lost calories with plenty of blood orange margaritas, ice cream, and seafood- a good way to end a vacation, I think. We met up with Matt’s family and caught up on sleep. We even squeezed in some climbing at a local crag called Gibraltar Rock with Kelsey, despite our very sore muscles. On Sunday I made my way back to Laramie via the Phoenix and Denver airports, but not without flight delays and missed connections, of course.

Many, many thanks to Matt, who not only planned the vast majority of this trip, but also did all the driving and most of the motivating. Thanks also to Matt’s family for putting up with us as well as putting us up. We can only hope we were coherent and presentable for the majority of the time you spent with us.

And, finally, what a way to say goodbye to summer! Today is the first day of autumn here in Wyoming- no snow in Laramie yet, thanks for asking. Until that day, I’ll just keep remembering that California sand and sunshine.

Love to all.

Utah: Land of Skiing, Land of Canyons, Land of People-Actually-Live-Here

I reckon it’s about time to write a blog post that’s not Christmas-related *sigh*. Things in Laramie, Wyoming have been pleasantly not-too-cold and not-too-windy, about which I could, admittedly, be happier. We always find reasons to complain, don’t we? There may be no wind and it may be 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but it just so happens to be cloudy and there’s dirty snow all over the road and people’s front lawns. I still won’t venture into our icy, snowy backyard to clean up the strewn mess Laramie’s wildlife has made of my attempts at a compost pile. (Thank you, Matt, for pointing this out to me, as I haven’t been back there.) And it gets dark too early. And I can’t wear T-shirts. So there.

I can’t complain too much, since I emerged from the holiday season with an electric blanket and a crock-pot, both marvelous modern-day inventions for which I have electricity and my mother to thank. Thank you!!!

Last month Matt and I drove to Salt Lake City to add on to the UNC reunion that was slowly forming there. Though it may seem we are forever away from Utah, I-80 actually crosses southern Wyoming from Laramie directly to Salt Lake City, so it’s only a 5.5-hour drive. Again, that may seem like a lot, but an all-interstate drive for us is a rarity, and it means both minimal animal crossings and well-maintained (aka plowed) roadways.

Windmills on the drive in southern Wyoming

Windmills off of I-80 in southern Wyoming

(Side note: in case you didn’t know, Matt totaled his car last summer hitting a pronghorn on a state highway coming back into Laramie. Pronghorn are colloquially referred to as antelope. They are one of the fastest land animals to tread this earth. Matt maintains that the pronghorn ran into his car, and not the other way around. I am inclined to believe him, for a multitude of reasons.)

We stayed in Salt Lake City with our fellow-UNC-graduate-and-climber-friends Kyle and Tallie. We actually visited them on the exact same weekend last year, which I wrote about here. This time, other UNC folks joined us as well – Dylan from Hong Kong/San Francisco (he just moved back to the states!); Kevin from Boulder, Colorado; and Sara, who lives in Salt Lake too. We also briefly met up with our friend Jon who lives in Durham, North Carolina, and happened to be in town for the semiannual Outdoor Retailer show, which is a huge trade show for the outdoor industry where companies like Patagonia, Mammut, Prana, Outdoor Research, Marmot, Black Diamond, MSR, High Sierra, and Big Agnes show off their upcoming goods (outdoor clothing and gear) for the spring season. We were in town the weekend before the show began, so as we were departing, all the hotels and ski areas began to fill up with people in town for the OR show.

Just driving around Salt Lake City is scenic – you are surrounded on almost all sides by beautiful chiseled peaks.

Matt on the road in Salt Lake City, UT

Matt on the road in Salt Lake City, UT

Kyle, Tallie, Matt, and I went climbing on a warm and sunny Saturday at American Fork just outside of town. The approach (climber-speak for the hike into the climbing area) at the bottom of the canyon was still snowy, but the snow on the trail was packed down enough that it didn’t require snowshoes.

Matt on the trail in American Fork Canyon

Matt on the trail in American Fork Canyon

Once we switchbacked our way up to the base of the sport climbs, the sun was shining enough to keep us toasty.

Kyle rappelling down after competing a climb at American Fork

Kyle rappelling through blue sky after completing a climb at American Fork

The rock at American Fork is a heavily featured limestone, and its white coloring allows you to more easily see holds for your hands and feet as they generate shade in direct sunlight. Unfortunately, a fair amount of the rock is still loose, meaning that both rocks can fall onto climbers from above, and that climbers can accidentally knock or pull off chunks of rock while climbing, creating potentially dangerous situations. In climbing areas where loose rock is prevalent, you’ll see climbers knocking their fists against blocks of rock in order to listen for a hollow sound, ideally indicating the looseness of the hold.

As you can see from the pictures, despite warmer temperatures, there was still snow in upper parts of the canyon elsewhere.

American Fork Canyon, UT

American Fork Canyon, UT

On Sunday we met up with Sara, Kevin, and Dylan to ski at Brighton Ski Resort, just outside the city. Matt and I endeavored to ski through the trees a little bit this time, which requires more technical prowess but also more brainpower, like mountain biking single track versus road biking.

Dylan, me, and Kevin at Brighton Ski Resort

Dylan, me, and Kevin at Brighton Ski Resort. Yay helmets!

The view from the top of a mountain at Brighton

The view from the top of a mountain at Brighton, naked aspen trees below

Brighton is a lot bigger than Snowy Range Ski Area, our local ski mountain outside Laramie, so the runs are a lot longer. You therefore spend comparatively less time on the lift getting to the top of the mountain, which I appreciate, as I tend to freeze my butt off on the ride up.

Riding the lift at Brighton, photo by Sara Leung

Riding the lift at Brighton, photo by Sara Leung

It’s been a relatively dry winter out here in the west, so there wasn’t much new snow at Brighton. We still had fun on packed powder! No ice, thank you very much.

On Monday morning before driving back home, Tallie, Kyle, Kevin, Matt, and I went climbing at Big Cottonwood Canyon (I’m fairly certain of this, although there’s also a Little Cottonwood Canyon, so feel free to correct me, everyone). Unlike Saturday at American Fork, this was cold and cloudy climbing, which is hard on your little fingers as they grasp at chilled rock.

Kyle belaying Kevin up a sport route at BCC. Do they look cold?

Kyle belaying Kevin up a 5.12 sport route at BCC. Do they look cold?

Techniques for keeping hands warm in cold climbing conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Whining about it
  • Bringing a hot drink in a thermos
  • Hand warmers in your fleece-lined pockets
  • Alternate placing hands on warm parts of the body, such as the back of the neck, the collarbones, or the armpits
  • Bringing a dog along so you can place your hands in their armpits (legpits?)
  • Go skiing instead?

After a couple hours, Matt and I said our goodbyes and drove to Brighton again to meet up with Jon who, like I said at the beginning of this post, was in town for the OR show. We bought a one-run ticket, which allows you just one ride up the ski lift, and skied down with Jon before heading back to Wyoming.

Now if we could only convince everyone to reunite in Laramie this time… what do you think, guys?

Love to all!

IMG_5573

This post was not sponsored by Black Diamond. (We just like their helmets.)

 

Mountain Vocabulary

Autumn this year is perfectly lovely in Wyoming. It’s been in the high sixties and sunny almost every day these past few weeks. Last weekend Matt and I spent the night in Denver to see a concert, but primarily to buy ALL THE PUMPKIN SPICE THINGS at Trader Joe’s. We left with pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin croissants, pumpkin butter, pumpkin cereal… you get the picture.

While reading Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire over the past few weeks, which takes place in & around Arches National Park in Utah, it occurred to me that there exists an entire vocabulary for the mountains, some of it even distinct to the high altitude – the Rocky Mountains here, the Alps, the Himalayas, the Canadian Rockies. Enjoy the quick vocabulary lesson, and comment with any additional words you find yourself hearing or using!

1. Trailhead – A very good place to start, eh? This is the beginning of the trail, usually next to a road or parking lot, and marked by a sign detailing the  name and mileage of the trail on which you’re about to embark.

2014-10 blog_trail

2. Switchback – If you’ve ever been near a real mountain, you’ve taken a switchback, which simply describes the sharp zig-zagging route a road or trail must take up a steep incline to both prevent erosion and encourage ease of accessibility, for either legs or engines.

3. Tree Line – Quite literally the “line” of elevation at which trees can no longer grow due to environmental limitations like persistent cold, high winds, and lack of moisture. Though typically associated with higher altitudes, actual tree line elevations vary widely by location. In Rocky Mountain National Park, the tree line varies from 10,700 to 11,600 feet above sea level, whereas cool summers in Chile result in a much lower tree line, at around 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level. What the tree line really means is excellent sunrise views and terrible thunderstorm conditions.

Matt and I above the tree line below Longs Peak, in the background

Matt and I above the tree line below Longs Peak, in the background

4. Scree versus Talus – [pronounced TÄ-luhs] Scree is loose rock piled up toward the base of a mountain, produced by much rockfall over a long period of time. It is by nature unstable and difficult to walk on. A talus deposit is a large area of scree. They are often used interchangeably, but “scree” is more fun to say.

5. Cairn – [pronounced KAY-urn] Cairns are used to mark trails, especially in places (like scree fields) where other trail markers, such as colored plastic stapled to tree trunks or spraypaint, is difficult. Cairns are just stacked towers of small stones to guide you on your way.

A cairn + a large stick toward the summit of Medicine Bow Peak in Wyoming

A cairn + a large stick toward the summit of Medicine Bow Peak in Wyoming

6. Summit – The highest point of any distinct mountain is its summit. Sometimes you can reach summits just by hiking without any technical equipment, but oftentimes roped climbing is required. Matt believes no hike is complete unless a summit was reached.

7. Couloir – [pronounced KOO-lawr] Often filled with scree or snow, a couloir is the steep ravine-like feature on a rocky mountain, or between two such peaks. Many backcountry skiers (and snowboarders) talk about skiing down couloirs, which I regard as highly technical and challenging!

Two couloirs can be seen to the left of this photo, in the Snowy Range Mountains

Two couloirs can be seen to the left of this photo, in the Snowy Range Mountains

8. Belay – [pronounced buh-LAY] In a rock climbing context, this is when the climber’s partner is controlling the opposite end of the rope, primarily to catch the climber (via the rope and a metal belay device) should he or she fall.

Me belaying my brother Ben up a climbing route in Medicine Bow National Forest

Me belaying my brother Ben up a climbing route in Medicine Bow National Forest

9. Anchor – At the top of a rock climb or pitch (see below), a climber can build an anchor out of specialized climbing protection gear, or can utilize a fixed anchor, if available, which usually consists of two drilled bolts in the rock, and maybe some other metal gear, like chain links or steel carabiners.

10. Pitch – Climbing routes can be single pitch or multi-pitch. A pitch describes a portion of the vertical length of a climbing route in which a typical 60-70 meter climbing rope can be used. For example, if you are looking to complete a 50-foot rock climb, that would likely be a single pitch route, since you can easily use a 60m climbing rope to reach the top and be lowered back down to the group through an anchor. If, however, you are looking to ascend a 2,000-foot mountain, there will be numerous pitches. Between each pitch is an anchor point so that the first climber can belay the second climber up behind them, and on and on.

11. Rappel – [pronounced rah-PEHL] “Rapping” for short, this is a technique many climbers use to descend from the top of a pitch or climb. Firefighters, military personnel, and other emergency workers also rappel to travel down steep terrain quickly. Usually the person rappelling wears a harness of some kind and attaches a metal rappel device to both the harness and the rope to descend.

12. Glissade – [pronounced gliss-AID] If you’ve reached the summit of a snowy mountain and you need to quickly descend, one option is to glissade, which is just a fancy word for sliding on your butt down a snowfield. If the sliding gets out of control, simply use your handy ice axe to dig into the snow over your shoulder, thereby creating friction and slowing your descent to a comfortable pace.

Get outside this weekend, even if there aren’t any snowfields or talus deposits near you! Love to all.

There Are Still Leaves!

Dear reader, I admit to taking a month-long hiatus from this blog, in case you hadn’t noticed. So, Things That Have Happened:

We’ve been in Wyoming for over a year now, which is hard to believe. (We’ve survived!!) My car was inoperable for over a month, Abe got diagnosed with hypothyroidism, Matt’s back in school, I’m taking a class at the University of Wyoming this semester – you know, the usual.

Back when it was decidedly summer, on a solo hike up in the Snowy Range (on the way back from this, my car broke down the first time)

Back when it was decidedly summer, on a solo hike up in the Snowy Range (on the way back from this, my car broke down the first time)

The weather has been surprisingly terrific these past few weeks, aside from the two times it’s snowed. Don’t worry, the second time it didn’t even stick, but it still zapped my zucchini plants. The grass is staying green, and there are still leaves! Up in the mountains the aspen have lost their leaves to the wind, but here in the valley all the deciduous trees are a shimmering yellow. Even some of the hollyhocks and rosebushes are still blooming, which is hard to believe.

I just can't get over the beauty of these mountains

I just can’t get over the beauty of these mountains

The Snowy Range is quite snowy right now, as I can see from town. Walmart has sold out of all its chrysanthemums, and pumpkin season is in full swing. I triumphantly wore shorts under a dress today, which is almost not cheating.

I call this one, "Pumpkins in Love," obviously

I call this one, “Pumpkins in Love,” obviously

Mostly it’s the little things right now. Last night I roasted a goat leg for the first time (oregano, garlic, crushed red pepper, white wine). I’m forcing myself to write more, which really means I’m just writing poems titled ridiculous things like, “Wasabi Peas Say No to Complacency.” We try to get outside and/or go climbing every weekend. Last week I upgraded and bought a real ski jacket, which feels a little like over-commitment. Does this mean I have to actually wake up early to go skiing this winter? Do I have to try the black diamond runs now? Do my skis need to get “tuned up” or whatever? So long as I can still order the hot chocolate with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles every single time.

Why do I bother raking in a state famous for its wind? Because grass that's still GREEN!

Why do I bother raking leaves in a state famous for its wind? Because grass that’s still GREEN!

It’s easy to get complacent (to which wasabi peas would say, “NO!”) about the nice weather we’re currently having. In North Carolina, I was complacent about nice weather because the weather was almost always nice, so it became acceptable to spend a perfectly sunny Saturday morning inside eating oatmeal and watching Netflix, because odds were the next Saturday would be lovely too.

Abe is always complacent

Abe is always complacent; it’s kind of his lifestyle

I remember a bouldering trip Matt, our friend Kyle, and I took in the winter. The Winter. In the mountains of North Carolina – Rumbling Bald, to be exact. I wore my down jacket and a hat, and it was excellent. We stayed in a motel (you know, because it was “cold”) and borrowed a bizarre and murderous movie from the front desk that scarred us all for life. Bouldering here in the winter is out of the question unless you don’t mind packing in a broom and shovel to dig out enough room around the boulder for your crash pad, but there are many other adventurous options, such as cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and snowshoeing (see my post about the Poker Run).

And, if all else fails, there’s always our sweet little house to keep us not-cold and not-windy.

Just before sunset, the golden hour

Just before sunset, the golden hour

Love to all.

Fear of Discomfort, or Longs Peak

Earlier I was making a list in my journal of fears I hold: fear of failure (duh), fear of the appearance of failure, fear of discomfort. It might make some of you laugh, but I really do have a fear of discomfort despite my moving to Wyoming, by far the coldest and most rural place I’ve ever lived, and despite my endeavors to spend time outside in ways that could be seen as plenty uncomfortable to most reasonable people.

Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve done, though, was last weekend. Matt, his brother Michael, in town from San Francisco, and I woke up at half past midnight Sunday morning, drove for just under three hours to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, and began the 7.5-mile hike to summit Longs Peak via the popular Keyhole Route. Longs Peak is what’s known as a 14er, a peak at over 14,000 feet above sea level. At this altitude, weather changes can be drastic and unpredictable, exposure to the elements is dangerous, and lack of oxygen can cause all kinds of problems, including altitude sickness.

Majestic Longs Peak, photo from Wikipedia

Majestic Longs Peak, photo from Wikipedia

Sounds fun, right? Or does it just sound uncomfortable? Granted, a 7.5-mile hike doesn’t sound like a whole lot, even when you consider how that’s a 15-mile roundtrip. People do that many miles or more backpacking with overnight equipment all the time. However, consider that you gain just under 5,000 feet in elevation throughout the duration of the hike, and it becomes a different story.

Several hours before sunrise, we donned our headlamps and extra layers in the trailhead parking lot, deployed our trekking poles, buckled up our backpacks, and began. Walking in the dark in the middle of the forest is an interesting activity. It’s surprisingly calming – one foot in front of the other, seeing no further than the small hazy circle of the headlamp. My body knew it was missing out on sleep, but was simultaneously and primitively exhilarated. In my peripheral vision I spied other headlamps’ beams floating between trees.

The higher we climbed, the colder it became. I switched which hand held the trekking pole so I could alternate warming my fingers inside the pocket of my down jacket. After 3.7 miles out and 2,395 feet up, we reached the first privy (aka primitive toilet). We were noticeably above the treeline. The sky above was wide and pulsing with bits of light. People sat quietly beneath their hats and hoots, nibbling on dehydrated trail food. Our packed snacks included CLIF bars, bison jerky, bananas (not for me, thanks), Trader Joe’s trail mix, and dried mango. The National Parks Service recommends bringing 3-4 liters of water per person for the Keyhole Route, so water was by far the heaviest thing we carried.

The horizon shone pink over the granite boulders while we were at about 12,400 feet above sea level. The sun peeked over the horizon. One foot in front of the other. It grew colder despite the mild sunlight; the sun seemed too far away to warm us. The wind picked up enough to blow us off the trail which, at this point, had deteriorated to mostly steps formed from chunks of naked rock.

The Boulderfield below Longs Peak, above the tree line

The Boulderfield below Longs Peak, above the tree line, taken by Michael

We began passing people going the opposite direction, people descending from the summit. This was our first hint that the wind would get worse. And then, just before reaching the Boulderfield, I did the #1 thing you’re not supposed to do on a hike like this- I fell into a stream.

My battle wound! Bruised palm & wrist

My battle wound! Bruised palm & wrist

This was especially ironic because the vast majority of the water we’d encountered thus far had been frozen, and there were chunks of ice floating in this little stream as well. I’d been about to step over the stream when a strong gust of wind (and I mean like a 50-60 mph gust) appeared, I lost my footing on the icy rocks, and I toppled over. I tried to catch my fall with my right hand (hello, purplish bruise above!), but ended up in the water confused for a second before getting back on my feet.

Thankfully the water rolled off my water-resistant Prana pants and down jacket. It promptly turned to ice on my GoreTex hiking boots. I’d been wearing a glove that soaked up all the water, numbing my right hand, so Matt switched his right glove with mine. I always have cold hands; I’ve tested negative for Reynaud’s disease, but may still have the syndrome.

Needless to say, I was somewhat disheartened. The temperature of the water had also shocked me a little, and it can be difficult to catch your breath at high altitude. Once at the Boulderfield, we reached privy #2.

By far Matt's favorite photo of the trip, taken by Michael

By far Matt’s favorite photo of the trip, taken by Michael

People have stacked stones atop one another to form rings in which you can sit and be sort of protected from the wind. I wouldn’t say I was pleased to sit for the first time in ~6 uphill miles, but my agitation-turned-anger at the wind was significantly mitigated.

Not angry at all... photo by Michael

Not angry at all… photo by Michael

While I chatted with other hikers, Matt and Michael made the short but treacherous trek up to the Keyhole, the area through which you pass to the other side of the mountain, which is much more exposed. From the Boulderfield to the Keyhole, and the Keyhole to the summit, are by far the two most difficult parts of the hike, folks say. Less hiking, more climbing/scrambling.

I can’t be sure, but from what Matt, Michael, and the following pictures tell me, the hurricane-force winds on the other side of the Keyhole made it all but impossible to summit.

"Can't... breathe!" Photo by Michael

“Can’t… breathe!” Photo by Michael

Hyped up on lack of sleep? Photo by Michael

Hyped up on lack of sleep? Photo by Michael

After goofing around up there for who knows how long, the guys came back to join me in the semi-functional wind shelter for snacks before we officially gave up on the possibility of summiting that day. Wind has been known to take people to their deaths on Longs Peak before, so I think this was a smart decision.

Back across boulders we went!

Michael walking across the Boulderfield, photo by Matt

Michael amid the Boulderfield, photo by Matt

Hiking downhill may be the least comfortable form of walking ever, especially many miles of it all at once. It finally began to warm up enough for us to remove layers of clothing on the way down. I managed to not fall in any more streams, hooray!

It was our impression that day that no one summited, with the possible exception of a few macho guys. We advised those who asked on the way down against reaching the summit, and that the wind would grow much worse.

I removed my gloves at long last about two miles from the trailhead. We started to pass people in shorts and t-shirts, and then small children, so we knew we were close.

Beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park

Beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park, shot from the drive

I celebrated at the car by quickly changing into my Tevas. It was still before noon, but felt like late afternoon. Much barbeque and beer were in order, obviously, so we stopped in Fort Collins on the way back to Laramie.

Moral of this story? Don’t fall into streams! Wear gloves! And, maybe, being uncomfortable for a relatively short time can reap big rewards, even if you don’t summit.

Love to all.