Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Death Valley

Death Valley is alien. It's strata resembles Mars more than Earth. You can sense it wasn't intended for human habitation. Rem-rod and I camped out Easter night on the valley floor waiting to hear the infamous packs of coyotes sing. Effectively the first time I've ever slept below sea-level. The coyotes let us down but the scenery did not. The colorful rock formations on several canyon hikes were astounding. I visited Bad Water Basin (interesting story behind the name), at negative 282', and sampled the salt flat covering the valley floor. Ubehebe crater is impressive, as are the mineral rich hills stained shades greed and red. Death valley has an evocative history that you can almost see in the daylight. From certain parts of the park you can simultaneously observe Mt Whitney (14,505' the highest point in the lower 48) and Bad Water Basin (the lowest terrestrial point in the Western Hemisphere). DV is no doubt a collection of rare earth but way too spicy for me, I felt like I was in a microwave while the sun was up. I'm VERY glad I went, but I won't be going back soon.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Vegas Stun

For Truc's birthday she & the rat pack flew to Sin City to commemorate the event. With the help of her brother, I kept her in the dark until the last minute, surprising her in the hotel. I opted to drive down due to the furry baggage I haul around & because I was looking forward to exploring Nevada latitudinally . From Reno it was seven hours one-way & the scenery was very engaging. With each turn I saw a new dessert-scape; snowy mountains the whole while on my right and the great basin to my left littered with sage, joshua trees, dust devils, and even a misplaced lake or two. As for the road, talk about straight and narrow, my personal bests: longest straight away= 15miles, longest drive with my knee= 5miles, & longest no touching the wheel= 1.1miles=) Once in the big "V" the company was great and everything we did was an experience. My favorite escapades included the CirduSole "O" show(eight rows back center), the free water cannon show infront of the Bellagio, and sweeping games of liars dice. Luckily I left Freemont St 80$ up on roullete and high in spirits. My drive back was strikingly similiar not counting the night spent in Death Valley.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Mt Rose

My friend Gretchen and I assembeled our thoughts enough for a late start at the summit of Mt Rose(10,776') the third highest mountain in the Tahoe basin. Although there are ample backcountry lines to be had in the area we decided to go boardless, opting for a lightweight summit assult. We had on our snowshoes and lucky for Rem, he was just light enough to tred on top of the crust 95% of the time. We had no defined route, and all trails were under 6ft of snow so we began asceding along a ridge near a backcountry bowl called the Hour Glass. Eventually we came to a crest and took our first step at the monolithic Mt Rose, looming like a mountain of Mordor in the distance. It was a sunny day, and toiling along felt warm. Our routless direct attack led to us straight linning up and down over ridges on our way to the base. After 2 1/2 hrs we arrived at the foot, ate lunch, and continued up the steep south face. I noticed immediatley the direct inverse relationship between our progress and the pitch of the slope. I also became acutley aware of my appreciation for the aggressive mountaineering crampon my snowshoes are outfitted with as we climbed 2,000 vertical feet onto a vast sheet of hard crust. Rem did awesome digging in his nails like grapling hooks as he ascended. As we neared within 500 vertical feet of summit, we reached the snowline and entered a loose rock scree feild. Snowshoes came off and we climbed in a horizontal line up and over microwave sized rocks. After about fifty feet we realized this was incredibly unsafe as Gretchen, Rem, and I were all setting off rock slides. We reluctantly decided to decend back to the snowline. We then traversed laterally across the whole face of the mountain to get to the West ridge where we could ascend by hardpack again. On the ridge we found parts of the summer trail blown clear of snow for a few yards only to lead directly into solid walls of snow. Another cool phenomenon were the ghost prints left behind by a previous hiker. Apparently someone had hiked the summit after a fresh storm compressing a snow track as they went with their boots. Later as the sierra was pounded with winds up to 200mph the snow surrounding the track blew away, forsaking the reverse prints to remain. We summited at five, and unfortunatley the cold had already killed the cameras. It's a unique vantage point, possibly the one spot where you can see Lake Tahoe over one shoulder and Reno over the other. Being up so high induces an errily isolated feeling despite my crystal view of downtown, 15 miles away. Our stay uptop was brief as I had begun realizing getting caught in the dark was inexcapable. We were well off the summit when the stars came out, alternating torchlight and dim moonlight for navigation. I had a general idea of our position, but in darkness that begins immediatley where your headlamp ends orientation becomes a challenge. My GPS battery was on its way out so to conserve I shut it off and spot checked our heading every few minutes. The constant up-down of the Sierras has a disorienting effect even in the daylight. At this point Remi was becoming lethargic and would make a snowy bed for himself at every resting point. I leashed Rem to keep him going and to help pull him up the north side of the ridges which stashed deeper snow. I had begun to feel as if I were navigating a MC Escher drawing when we saw a flash of tail lights in the distance. We continue to watch as the car wound up the pass and eventually illuminated my Hel-ement. The rest was a downhill cakewalk, arriving at the car eight hours after departure. We ended the day with fine Qdoba burritos and very deep sleep. Being slightly disoriented in the wintery woods at night is just the kind of fun I like.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

John Muir

Pay attention and you might see his moniker pasted on multiple schools, roads, and trails. There's even an asteroid named after Mr. Muir, ironically his largest modern day decoration has been appearing on the back of the Cali state quarter. Johnny was quite a character, immigrated from Scotland and became the first modern American preservationist. Ever hear of the Sierra Club...that was Muir's baby. Every Yosemite visitor can thank him for his work. It's no surprise when the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Ralph Emerson wanted to visit the "Mite" they sought Muir out for one-on-one backcountry tours from the man you knew it best. Can you
imagine sitting in on those campfire conversations?

Recently I checked out some of his namesakes, Muir Beach and Muir Woods. Truc, Remi and I walked fire roads along the beautiful rocky coastline of the beach, and shortly after I looked into Muir Woods with Alex and John. Stunning rocky perching points were abundant. Both days were clear enough to see the Farallon Islands 20 miles out to sea. This is where 4,000lbs Northern Elephant Seals come to breed and 2,500lbs Great White Sharks come in high concentrations to feed. Pretty sweet stuff, that Muir is so hot right now ;-)

Friday, February 15, 2008


I had been missing familiar faces so I became homeward bound for a mid-assignment break. I flew into DC and got to ride the "blazing red arrow" Oldsmobile Alero back to Garret Co. with one of my favorite friends, Mike Fratz, at the helm. My stay was only ten days, and about ten days too short. For transportation my brother graciously, and somewhat laughingly, lent me his blazing-red-arrow. His spare car had become the garbage hauler, apparently sitting for long periods of time unventilated. I'd say its aroma was a mix of the strongest salt & vinegar chips you've ever wafted mixed with the fragrance left behind after you dump a barrell of pickle juice on your floorboards. I declared war on the odor and by visit's end it was almost back to normal, that or my olfactory sense had been burnt crispy. I was very happy to have running wheels & I owe my bro one free pickle flavored loaner car. In my ramblings about I had my share of Wisp riding coutesy of Travis, and two unseasonal rock climbing sessions with Jesse (would've been three had I not declined the midnight-inebriation-icyroof-rapelling-celebration). I was also super stoked to see one of my favoite fellow gene poolers Melanie "chicken-butt" Custer who drove all the way from North Cackalacki (<--her vernacular)with her boy friend to freeze her Floridian digits off on a howling Wisp day. We also got to do some bumbling about in a rainy, freezing, briar patch section of woods to get to our secret climbing destination. The spot might have named itself, The Shimrocks, wrap your mind around that. To top it off I saw my favorite good-old-boy band "The Davisson Bros" twice, which usually means something good is happening. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at home with family and friends. All things considered I'm very lucky to have been raised in my sliver of Appalachia. I may have had to wait for dairy cows to cross the road on the way to school in the morning, and I may not have had conveniences such as neighboorhood playmates; but my home was a prime spot for a boy to explore, and that lit a flame for outdoor recreation that defines me today. I love my corner of Mary-land, if I had to come up with theme music for my origins it would probably be a hybrid of OAR "Home", John Dever "Country Road", and Little Big Town "Boondocks."
So to quote some good lyrics:
There are few things pure in this world anymore, and home is one of the few
We'd have a drink outside maybe run and hide, if we saw a couple men in blue
But to me it's so damn easy to see that your people are the people at home
Well I been away but now I'm back today and there ain't a place I'd rather go

I feel home when I see the faces that remember my own
I feel home when I'm chillin outside with the people I know
I feel home, and that's just what I feel
Cause home, to me, is reality and all I need is something real
-OAR (<-- Maryland band;)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hot Toddy

Todd is either preparing for the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver or cross country ski trips are the red sports car to his mid-life crisis. Which works out great for me because I'm always looking for an excuse to ride four or five days in a row. Also beneficial for me, Todd is a yoga guru trained under Mr. Bikram himself. He formerly owned a studio in Texas where he stretched the likes of Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, and the Dallas Cowboys. Credentials I wont argue with when he's leading a post-riding stretch sesh.
Todd had his man-nurse action figure in tote when we had great days at Northstar, Alpine Meadows, & Sugarbowl followed by a chilly night at Boreal. He always seems to miss the powder by about 24 hours, but we had fun tag-teaming some HUGE kickers the resorts have been sculpting out of their snowpack. Todd hit his first rainbow rail and I landed my first 360s of the year. I also learned if you drop the P word on him there aren't too many cliff littered chutes he won't brave.

~Walking the path of life is like the journey of the tight-rope acrobat. Neither affords the opportunity of absolute certainty, each being constantly in, and out of balance. The objective lies in minimizing the impact of the relentless waves of chaos and creating serenity amidst undulating challenge.
-A Wise Man Nurse

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

First Runner Up

My little cousin made it out just in time for the biggest storm to hit the region in decades. The Weather Channel even came to Northstar to set up operations for broadcasting during the duration of the blast. Starting the first week of January three storm systems dumped over 11 FEET on Lake Tahoe. Driving through the passes the snow next to the road was well over SUV roofs. Gabrielle got to see tons of the white, but not too many scenic views due to the constant barrage of Sierra Cement. Gab and I snowshoed into some nearby Mt Rose backcountry for short runs and a chance to hit some atypical wilderness rails (Warning: they may hit back). She was a bit frustrated by the quicksand like powder at first (very justifiable when it's up to your waist), but by the end of the week she was seeking professional sponsors. We had epic days at Heavenly & Mt Rose and a less than thrilling trip to Northstar in torrential rain. After our week of travels Gab and I agreed that my Element might as well be a Sherman tank cause it can plow through anything. And fair warning to all you compulsive bet-takers, Punk is a bowling maverick... but more importantly never ever challenge her to a snowman making contest. All in all we had a great time together that I bet will leave a lasting impression. So, even though Gab is knocking down A's at WVU I bet she's thinking about knocking off tree runs in Tahoe.

Prize Winners

After much delay, I must recognize my first group of tourists. The Hopkins NCCU team. I have no idea who was holding down the unit because Todd, Angela, Amanda, Jess, and not least of all Molly were holding down Reno. Luckily Tahoe got one big storm or the activities would have been sans snow. We had three in a row at Northstar, and even found some stashes of powder. It was a week flavored with faulty air mattresses, belly laughs, people sleeping in closets, ice skating, and fine mexican cuisine. I think we all may be barred from Bonanza Casino for winning too much...or for asking the dealers too many questions, I'm not sure. Angela even captured some priceless video footage of Todd showing his passengers how to cross (i.e. jump) Galena Creek in his rental Dodge Nitro (Which was returned lacking a piece or two of factory plastic). By the time they left I felt at least two time zones closer to home;)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Free 411 Enlightenment

I may have told some of you, and some of you may already know...but if not I'll give you another reason to love Google. Aside from being the BEST search engine (you're a fool if you don't agree;), creating free Google Earth, and providing me with this complimentary blog they have some other awesome services.

Two of my favorite are Google SMS and Goog 411. SMS is a free text information service -it costs you whatever 1 text cost you, probably nothing. You text to: 46645 (GOOGL) for info. Within a second it texts you back your answer. You can get info on weather, stocks, games scores, driving directions, word definitions, Q&A, flight info, local info and more. For local info just use a zip code and your request...like...movies 21541 (for showtimes) or sushi 21286. It will impress you check it out here.You can even enter questions like speed of light, population of England, or who wrote Hamlet (these can be a little hit or miss).

The second service, Goog 411, I use all the time. Just call 1-800-Goog-411 from any phone. Its automated voice recognition is excellent, totally free, and very simple. Its like having the yellow pages in your phone. So easy to use, never pay for 411 again. Watch the tutorial here. FYI- I did a search for "The White House", it returned results for a government agency building in Washington D.C., I connected and a stately lady answered the phone with "The White House." I wanted to ask for G.W.B. No lie =)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Chocolate Springador Respaniel

Always by my feet
painting a portrait of friendship with his tail.

A good dog is a living lesson in virtue. He'll follow you right off the edge of the map without hesitation.
Remshot is no exception. His intelligence, adaptability, and youthful energy are impressive. I think he enjoys his changing life. Remi has gone from country dog to city dog and back again. He has swam in the Pacific, pooped in the nation's capital, walked through Redwoods, drove cross country, hiked the Sierra Nevada, summited mountains, & slept below sea level. Plenty more adventures to come...tolerating dog hair and stink-breath is a small price to pay for tremendous friendship.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Out Here

After an awesome Mt Bike ride with 1500' of vertical I stumbled on this panorama. My first look at Lake Tahoe was a stunning sunset. The trees were perfect silhouettes, fog was rising from the coves around the lake, and the very tips of some of the Sierra Nevada were starting to white out. Not too shabby. Otherwise, if I'm not playing I'm working. I'm patiently waiting for the snow, but enjoying the biking, hiking, and climbing to be had. I'm thinking of breaking myself a bronco since there are a couple herds of mustangs roaming around about a mile from my apartment. I'm not sure how wild horses adapt to apartment life though. I'll let you know...