Thursday, June 27, 2013

Week Three: Veni, Vidi, Vici.

What is a "good fight"? It is a tricky statement to analyze.

Approaching "good" from a moral perspective we could say it is for some ethereal higher cause. It might be for honor or some kind of "justice". A fight for your beliefs or a way of life perhaps. An entirely different picture of the "good fight" is presented if you look at "good", though, from the usage of something that is favorable. That good fight might be a hard day in the gym, or turning out that extra mile after you already ran the 10k. A good fight might be that day you can't get psyched enough to get on your bike and commute to work. No deeper metaphysical philosophy here, just you verses Newton's first law.

There is a problem that can arise here though. The problem is when you start looking for these "good fights" because somewhere along the line you overcame that "laziness". Finally after months of trying, you got into that habit of waking up at 5:30 am to do your morning run. Actually, you have managed to keep that schedule for quite some time, but you miss something. That masochistic endurance athlete deep inside you wants to fight something, things can't always flow correct. That something is yourself, somewhere you still want to be lazy, just so you can fight being lazy.

Of course you can't get lazy, that isn't the solution. In my experience, at this point all you can do is accept that even though your "good" there are tons of people out there that make you still look lazy (like those crazy fools who ride their bike to a marathon) You don't relish your accomplishments too long, you just shoot for something higher. One day you might slow down and take a break, only to realize just how high you have climbed.

 Day 14 - 6/17/13: A Meeting With "The Don"

My time of convalescence due to over consumption of alcohol gave me some time to reflect a bit at the "ant camp". I realized that I really wanted to paddle my canoe but the only place I knew of that had paddling near was on the other side of the mountains in Angel Fire. The idea of crossing two mountain passes (one there and one back) just to paddle for a few days was not going to be worth it.

Feeling refreshed I decided to pack up from "ant camp" and head to a near by trail head to climb a small mountain. At my last hotel stay in Taos, I roomed at the "Don Fernando Hotel". I even noticed a street with the name. The small mountain: Don Fernando Peak. At just a bit over 10,000' and still under the tree line, it can be seen from Taos and overlooks it.

The hike was nice with great views all around but I got pummeled by one of the Don's thugs. Taking one of the lesser hills on the ridge line I didn't quite feel up to tackling this little peak. I pushed on and a second thug got me. Apparently my meeting with The Don was getting me into trouble. I was going to be climbing in Italianios Canyon and I wanted the blessings of The Don.

Deep down inside, though, in my tiny little world of dissatisfaction, all I could think about was going canoeing. I decided to leave The Don and his group of thugs to find a place to canoe, and did I find a place to canoe...

I remembered noticing on the map something about a "Rio Grande Canoe and Kayak Race Course" on the Rio just outside of Taos. I made for that section on the map and saw there was a nearby campground. It turned out that the canyon created by the Rio Grande was recently set aside as Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. It is the most recent addition to public lands having been set aside this past March when President Obama used the power of the Antiquities Act. That being the case the campgrounds were fantastic and the river was mostly calm. The park road ran along it for 6.5 miles and had numerous put in points. Suddenly, I knew I could self shuttle this river and I knew what I was doing tomorrow but there was still time to have fun today:

There was some great mountain biking in the park also. You could ascend one route to the canyon rim or follow the Rio Pueblo through its canyon. After a decent bike ride around I decided it might be nice to set out on a little hike.

My short hike led me to some great views of the canyon and then a really special spot came around: 

Petroglyphs. Sweet. Now only to transcend some meaning....

Overall it was a great day and one that needed to be celebrated. I called upon the power that was granted to me by a fellow journeyman. 

... The Screw-nicorn.

Day 15 - 6/18/13: A Grande Day.

I woke up early to do the "self shuttle" and actually had everything ready to go by 9am. On the steps down to the boat launch, while carrying my canoe, I had a really "quaint" meeting with one of the desert residents: 

Oh hey Ms.Cholla!


I fell into it and had a great half hour of removing cacti needles from my arm. Some were about a 1/4inch deep and left a little bruising. (I actually pulled one out the other day over a week later) Getting my act together I check out the signage on the river front and get a bit giddy and the prospect of what it implies:

Class II eh? this is gona be a step up from the Buffalo! 

Once on the water everything felt right. The weather was perfect and the scenery! There is something very unique about viewing a great canyon from its river. It's not like the trails that follow the rivers. It is much more intimate. 

The class II rapids that I encountered were overcome very nicely by my canoe. I only had one issue on the worst of all the rapids. The wind had picked up going up river. It was so strong that on flat sections it was creating white caps going up river. I had emptied my canoe of gear and hiked down stream a bit to drop it all off. This way I could run the rapid dry and not risk destroying my gear if I swamp the canoe. As my bow comes over the small one foot "waterfall" a gust of wind blows my bow far to port and I come over the falls parallel to it and perpendicular to the flow of water. I do not know how I managed to salvage it and not swamp the canoe. I was fairly shaken by the incident but soon I was laughing at the whole escapade. 

I got back to camp by 1 pm and relaxed in the hammock by getting into an excerpt of Edward Abbey's "Down the River". Appropriate reading I would say.

Day 16 - 6/19/13
I really enjoyed my evening yesterday of reading in the hammock and I decided to take a day of leisure. Waking up very late I made a huge pancake breakfast that was consumed at the great breakfast hour of noon. I followed my breakfast feast with a day of reading but, cabin fever and restlessness get to me before the day is done. I decided about 5pm to go mountain bike back up the rim route and watch the sun set. 

OH look the Jeep!

Rio Grande Del Norte from mumblefords on Vimeo.

Day 17 - 6/20/13: Italianios Canyon, Lobo Peak

My morning in the canyon got me thinking about some things I had read recently. I was reading about a National Geographic expedition that went to the Amazon to conduct a census of unknown tribes (how you do that they never explained). On meeting one of these tribes all three weeks of their food supply was consumed instantly and without their knowledge. The tribe, they would later find out, had no concept of "later". There was something slightly beautiful about that perspective.

I got up and went back down to Taos to do some more laundry and get resupplied before heading north to the Taos Ski Valley area. My plan was to camp at the Italianios Canyon camp ground. Driving in I could see some lenticular clouds forming over the moutnians.

Upon getting there I realized that it was only a trail head and not a campground. It was a bit late for any real climbing, past 2pm, but I could just backpack in and find a place. I get together a light pack with only about two nights and three days of supplies and head out. The canyon was one of the most spectacular mountain canyons I have been in.  It was a bit too narrow and often had tons of contrast of light and dark, making it terrible for pictures.

When I made it to a good view I realized that there was no action at all in the sky. It was totally clear.

and thats when I got a crazy idea. I could sleep on the summit of Lobo Peak, the mountain up Italianos! I decided to go the full 8 miles up to the summit and try it. Aside from the 30mph wind the summit was really nice.

The billowing cloud is not a thunderhead. It is the West Fork Fire. (I mistakenly say that its the "colorado springs fire" in the video below)

I decide to bivy in one of the small valleys to block the wind. I decide that it will be best to sleep on the small patches of snow for minimal impact on the alpine environment. As the evening falls it gets cold fast and for the  first time on the trip I get "down with it".

Lobo Peak/Bivy setup from mumblefords on Vimeo.

Day 18 - 6/21/13: The Solstice.

I do think it is a bit funny that on the summer solstice I woke up at 12,115', while sleeping on snow, in 29 degree temps. That is something I did find a bit funny. I got up and packed up camp to head back to the car. I got there at about noon after messing around in the canyon for a bit. It was only a 6 mile drive to the actual Taos Ski Valley from the trail head so I was there instantly. I set up camp at the base of the Bull of the Woods trail head for my shot at Wheeler peak tomorrow. Setting up my tent I realized that somewhere along the lines I ripped my tent fly on my Hubba.

I saw that there was a ski shop/gear shop in the little village . I hoped they would have a patch kit. They did not sadly. I did get some information on a new route up Wheeler peak though. Recently the forest service installed some switchbacks from Williams Lake. That meant that I could do a loop hike over an "out and back" route.

In the village I found the local watering hole and burger joint and got to talking to some of the summer employees. I met Pep-pe who was from Alps in southern France. He was one of the cooks for the St.Bernard hotel and also a super friendly guy. After a few drinks he invited me over to the hotel to see it. I was a bit hesitant at first but I agreed considering I had nothing else to do today. It was a great idea. He showed me the old hotel and brought me through the kitchen, gave me a good beer and then explained to me how soon some music students would be by for practice. Curious about this I looked around and found a baby grand piano. It was game time. I got to play for a good forty minutes much to Pep-pe's delight.

He told me the students were very talented and I got around to meeting a few. Students was a bit of an understatement for these guys. Some went to Juilliard. I found out that they would be putting on a concert tomorrow night at 8 of some Brahms and Debussy. I was not going to miss that after my climb of Wheeler.

Day 19 - 6/22/13: Wheeler Peak

I didn't quite make my alpine start for Wheeler. I got on the trail for 6:30am. I encountered tons of people on the trail and tons of these guys:

Colorado blue columbines. Your in the wrong state guys!

It was actually a really gentle route up to the alpine. Steady uphill but not nearly as bad as some of the stuff I have been hitting. Once in the alpine it was almost like being in a huge meadow, at 11,000' though...

OH, hey there is the ski valley!


Once on the west side of the mountain and up on the ridge the wind started kicking. Getting up to 30mph again and keeping the wind chill just at freezing.

The last big hill before the main ridge was one giant switch back system that seemed to have about 15 hikers on it. Talk about a crowded mountain!

The summit was easy to reach actually, no technical climbing or scrambles, just a gentle hike. A bit disappointing for the highest mountain in New Mexico.

Woo! Summit Party! Who brought the beer? The dog?

I was happy to see so many people up there actually. I enjoy talking to them. Its strange how on the summit of a mountain you have a small collection of America. People from the mid west, north, pacific NW, Atlantic coast, who could have thought that a mountain top could be so cosmopolitan. The population seems inherently transient though.

Coming down the Williams lake route was a great choice. It offered some great views of the peaks.

The best part about this route though was the ending. The trail let out right in the Ski Village at the main ski lift and right next to an outdoor bar and grill with free live music.

I enjoyed the latin funk band they had very much and was looking forward to my night of chamber music. At about 730 I went over to the St. Bernard and found Pep-pe who had prepared for the guests roasted duck for the event. Being I was not at the dinner I was not included in this feast but Pep-pe, being the good guy he is, "hooked a brotha' up". Waiting in the bar for the music to start I met a young man who was a horsepacking guide in the valley. He was decked out, cowboy hat, spurs, the whole 9 yards. The guy was actually a pretty decent mountaineer and we talked about climbing prior to the show. It was a bit funny we went from talking about mountains to talking about the Romantic period. The music was great although the Debussy went places I would have rather it had not.

Day 20 - 6/23/13: To the Rado'

The day hath come, when I can finally get to Colorado. I sleep in a bit knowing that I am only going 100 miles north to Great Sand Dunes National Park. It looked like they had bathrooms and showers so I was willing to pay the fees of the National Park.

I could see this moutnain range all the way from Taos when the smoke was clear. It had to be Blanca peak and the closer I got to it, the bigger it looked. I'm gonna climb that this week, I was thinking in a bit of fear.

Once at the dunes I found out they did not have showers, or internet. I paid for a site in the main campground only to find a backpacking site just a half a mile down a trail from the campground. I asked the ranger if I could transfer my payment to a back country site to get some seclusion from this bustling campground. Thats when I found out backcountry permits were free. I guess I have happily donated 20$ to GSDNP. (it was a self pay station = no refunds)

my campsite ended up being in a burnt out pinyon forest. As a storm started to roll in it became a very creepy place.

It never rained though and the sunset provided some nice shadow play.

An ominous omen for next week? hopefully not!
* * *
Veni, Vidi, Vici? maybe I like the words of the Hero Peter Venkman better,"We came, We saw, We kicked its ass!"


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