2009-07-19 Mt. Victoria

We rolled out of bed at 2am and parked by the Million Dollar Bathrooms at the trailhead of Lake Louise. Before long we were geared up and on the trail by 3am. The first section around the Lake was really uneventful, well paved and a very clear trail. We hit the tea house at 4:50am and took a short break.

Looking back on Lake Louise, the “reverse tourist shot” if you will

image 12Mt. Victoria at sunrise

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Headed to Calgary

It’s only hours now until I get to get on a plane again and go somewhere!

Originally I had a course planned in early-May and it was going to be a great way to come home and see everyone, but it turns out no one else wanted to take the course! Well this time it isn’t based on a course and I’m coming up for a whirlwind weekend trip (c: If you’re up for it I think a bunch of us will be getting together at the Rose and Crown, Saturday at 7pm. Otherwise you can get me on my cell: 720-226-8549

I hope you have a great weekend, I know I will!

Success in Winnipeg

The weekend in Winnipeg was fantastic! Landed Thursday night and was met at the gate by my cousin Leigh, my sister Juli and her husband Rick; it’s always so nice to see friendly faces after getting off an airplane. I don’t think I realized just how much I liked traveling until I wasn’t doing it as much (though isn’t that always the way?) I had a stupid sized grin on my face at the Denver airport, even for a flight to Winnipeg, it just felt great to pack a bag and go somewhere!

Friday was spent at Grand Beach on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, white sand,warm water and sunshine all day long are an excellent combination. That night we hit Folklorama and the German tent was great to us (c: tall beers, singing, dancing and a fantastic night that culminated in cartwheels on the lawn!

Saturday was a family reunion out at a farm near Glenboro, tons of people I hadn’t seen in a long time and tons of people I didn’t ever know! But again, when you’re surrounded by family it’s hard to have a bad time isn’t it? Sunday started off with canoing on the Assiniboine then lead into pancakes and wrapped up with good-byes all around.

Winnipeg Bound

I’m off to Winnipeg for the weekend and am drastically looking forward to it for the following reasons:

1) Haven’t seen the family in a while, easily #1 by a long shot

2) Haven’t gotten on a plane to go somewhere exciting* in a while

* Winnipeg isn’t usually “exciting” by definition but I’m still looking forward to it (c:

The Nature of Adventure

If you’re a regular reader here you’ve probably noticed that there are two things I generally avoid talking about: work, and my personal feelings/issues. My philosophy has always been that I wouldn’t post anything here that I wouldn’t put up a on a bulletin board in a public place but for this posting I’m going to change that a little because in the last week or so some fairly major changes have come about that are a collision of work and personal issues. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all emo on you though.

First, the good news: I was offered a promotion and a chance to work in the Denver headquarters of my company. The bad news? I took the promotion and it means moving to Denver. (If reading this here is the first time you’ve heard about it then I’m sorry I didn’t get to tell you in person)

Let me say that I am unequivocally excited about the new position, it is a huge step up in responsibility and involves leading a core group with tremendous influence on the other segments of the company. I am excited and scared in equal measures about the prospect of moving to a strange new city and this has been the largest stumbling block of the whole process. I am excited because it is a new challenge and a new city and an opportunity to explore and push my own personal boundaries. I am scared for all the same reasons which usually manifest as the “what if” reasons: what if I can’t cut it? what if I don’t meet anyone? what if I hate it?…

This opportunity has taught me something else about myself though, I like challenges and I like being out of my comfort zone, I like confronting the unknown (and I like triumphing as well!) I believe life is about adventure and with the right frame of mine adventure can be found in many different places: the back yard, the mountains, the wider world, and in this case, a new job in a new city. The difficult thing with adventure is that it’s so often synonymous with adversity and how often do you roll out of bed in the morning and say “oh boy! A chance to face more adversity!”… yeah. I guess this is my way of acknowledging that this change, this adventure, will come with it’s dark moments and it’s downtimes.

Let me also say that my long term plan (adventure?) is still hazy and ill defined. Calgary will always be home to me, a home which I will be glad to see again in a few days! (June 5th actually)

So I say, bring on the adventure! Bring on the good times and the bad times and everything in between!

Have you gazed on naked grandeur
where there’s nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon,
Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?
Have you swept the visioned valley
with the green stream streaking through it,
Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence?
Then for God’s sake go and do it;
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

Four Corners and Mountain Passes

Yesterday I drove nearly 400mi and a good portion of that was deep in a Navajo reservation. The roads were made of bright red earth, packed solid and scarcely traveled. After going 40mi off the paved road I ended up at a place with a fantastic view, and tons of pets. Two dogs in particular took an interest in me and were so excited I figured the least I could do was take a picture

After I was done surveying there I made my way east and ended up traversing the “4-Corners”. It’s on an Indian reservation and the admission fee is a whopping $3! Turns out I had $3 and 20min to spare so here I am.

And just because I know you need a closeup of it, here’s the marker.

Today I headed out of Cortez CO through Durango and on the way I passed through this seemingly ubiquitous place!

Heading up towards Wolf Creek Pass the weather took a turn for the worse.

Even at +1C there were tons of riders, hardcore!

Top of the pass, should have brought my skis…

Tonight I’m in South Fork Colorado, a tiny, tidy little town with a decent pizza place and friendly folks.

Arches National Park

Today was a day of unexpected things. In the morning Robb and I split up, he headed towards SLC and I headed through SLC down to Moab UT which is about 350mi distant. As I drove further south and east I could watch the dashboard thermometer rising with the sun: 82F, 88F, 94F and then 99F even when I cruised into Moab it didn’t cross into triple digits.

Moab is a cool town, it has a great feel to it and I was definitely in the uniform of the locals, shorts, t-shirt, sandals and ball cap. I grabbed a couple of supplies at the hardware store and set out to find a hotel for the night, the drive took a long time and actually getting something done wasn’t a huge priority. Tomorrow I’m primed and ready to roll though.

After I got settled in a crappy place with a room right beside the elevator it was time to check out Arches National Park. Since I’m heading south tomorrow I may not have another chance to see it and so off I went. It’s jaw-droppingly awesome in there! Red rocks forming huge towers and arches and amazing cliffs, just spectacular. As proof, here are some pictures I took:

You’ll notice that the last one has a couple of climbers in it, and being a friendly sort I ambled over for a chat. The guy belaying is Shingu, from Salt Lake City, and the guy climbing is Rob, from Adelaide Australia; not in the picture is Shingu’s girlfriend Colby. We got to chatting about the usual stuff, where you from, whats the grade on the climb etc and it turns out that Shingu knows a few people around Canmore and Invermere, not too surprising I guess but then he says “hey, if you’ve got a harness you can tie in and climb if you like”. I probably started grinning like an idiot at this point, but I only had my shoes and chalk with my thinking that I’d probably only be bouldering out here. ‘No problem’ he says and tosses me his harness and while I’m getting ready he builds a quick one for himself out of the tail of the rope!

West face of Owl Rock in Arches National Park
Picture borrowed from Mark Goodro’s Flikr account, I hope he doesn’t mind
The climbing was pretty easy really, it’s rated a 5.9 apparently and my only problem was the gallons of sweat pouring off me as I’m grunting rather gracelessly up this pillar, at 7pm it was still 80F probably. Getting to the top was amazing though and standing on top of the tower was such a rush! The view all around the valley was more towers and pillars and cliffs all crying out to be climbed… maybe I’ll call in sick to work tomorrow 😉 I tried to buy them a beer back in Moab but they were heading off to another spot yet tonight so I sat on the bumper of my Jeep swilling cheap Canadian import beer and watching the sun go down, it was fantastic and an excellent reminder of why I love to travel.


Today was good, really bloody hot, but good. We started out in Elko NV and talked with some fine government folks about getting permission to put one of our surveys on their land. The fellow we talked to was classic, a really nice guy with a crushing handshake and his life story literally written all over him. The upper right side of his shirt had the government department he worked stitched in big blue letters while the upper left had his name deftly embroidered into it;  best of all was his Texas-sized belt buckle that read “Masters of Agriculture” along the top and “University of ______” along the bottom, just fantastic!

After we got permission we headed south of Wells NV for about 50mi or so and then pulled off the highway, through a fence and took a rough dirt road through the scrubby desert until we reached our survey spot. I twisted the key out of the ignition, opened my door to the blast furnace of Nevada weather and tossed my keys onto the dash so I wouldn’t lose them. Right about then I learned about a great feature that Jeep includes in the ’08 Wrangler, a huge hole between the plastic dash and the windscreen! My keys slipped down under the plastic, past a metal guard and snuggled into a tight little crevice inside the dash of my Jeep.

After a large amount of swearing we (me and Robb, the fellow I’m working with) decide to get the survey going and use the 4hr occupation time to figure out a way to get my keys out of the dash. The first attempt is the most basic, reach in and wiggle my fat fingers to see if I can grab the offending keys, I cannot. Robb has daintier fingers and his don’t reach either so step 2 is to take off the moulding on the side of the dash and also some little snap panels on the top… they grant access for nothing larger than a vole, and I’m fresh out of well trained voles at this point. Step 3, fold down the windscreen! Jeep builds these so you can take off the top and fold down the windscreen and live on the edge of life, but to live on the edge you need a #13 hex, not included in the set. We’re rooting through our respective toolkits and from the back of his Highlander Robb triumphantly holds up some stiff wire and suddenly we’re fishing for keys in the middle of the desert!

One guy takes up an awkward position on the seat and slips the wire into the Abyss while the second guy mashes his face against the windscreen so that he can peer into the Abyss and direct the fisherman for The Coastal Side. For 40 agonizing and tortured minutes we trade places, offer new ideas, gasp as the keys slide deeper into the dash and whoop with joy when the little metal hook finally grabs the key ring! With a carefully controlled hand and joy held tightly down I tug the wire and the keys slowly lift up out the Abyss, pass the metal guard, thuck against the plastic and then my fat fingers are grabbing them and pulling them to safety like some dangling screaming heroine in an action movie. Unlike the unfortunate supporting actress before her this one escaped the Abyss and all is well again with the world.

(Edit: I’m pretty aware of the mixed metaphor up there, one minute fishing and the next an abyss but you’ll just have to live with it, this is stream of consciousness writing after all)

Once my heart stops beating so furiously I begin to look around and lo and behold there are some nice hills in the near-distance and we still have 3hrs 20 min to kill…. 3mi later the scrabbley desert road terminates in a canyon that would be a rushing waterfall in the run-off season. With my keys tucked safely inside a zippered pocket we strike out.

My original goal was to try and climb the whole thing (1000m elevation, ~4km one way) but it’s roughly 100F outside and suddenly that seems like a loooong way. We start up anyway and it’s pretty easy going, loose rock with clumps of trees to hold it together and it isn’t long before we get a great view of the valley all around us. As far as I can tell this area is called “The Great Basin” and with valleys the width of Saskatchewan between each range I can see why. We work our way about halfway up the mountain but it’s now nearly 2pm and the heat is becoming quite oppressive so we take refuge in some shade at the top of a ridge and relax for a while before heading back down.

Tonight I’m in Wendover NV which straddles the border with Utah and it’s funny to see how the casinos spring up right as you cross the state line. Tomorrow I think will be back to Salt Lake City so I’m gonna gamble away the rent money tonight (c: