Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Skinny Skis and Fat Tire Season

For me the main ingredient for adventure is the unknown aspect. I want the chance of failure, some stress. 

This last year has been a lot about growing our baby, who turned one last week. My focus has been at a micro level: does she need fed, changed, tickled or kissed. Our trips have been less adventure, more activity; camping, day bike rides, wandering in the woods. In the last few weeks I've felt a pull back towards adventure. 

 Happily mike and Santa talked and decided I needed a fat bike. Doesn't every mother? It's been on a couple of outings, including today accompanied by mike on skinny skis.  

Friday, August 19, 2016

Iceland; another land of midnight sun

Studying geography at university, Iceland was an oft cited case study of hydrology, glaciology, geomorphology and other now forgotten ~ologies. Our first long haul flight since the arrival of Ailie we thought to jump off in Reykjavik for a couple of days to taste the fish and geothermal waters.

Never strong planners, we did pull together accommodation before leaving, booking an airbnb a couple of miles from downtown.  Everything else we figured out as we needed it; airport transport, baby sleeping spots, activities.

The three of us look quite the carnival. When we pack the truck in the states for an adventure there is an average of 10 wheels accompanying us. Wheelchair, third-wheel, hand bike, baby trailer for pulling baby and my bike. Always we focus on going light, wanting to move easily and unobtrusively through terminals, terrain and towns, able to enjoy being as unburdened as possible when it comes to pushing, peddling and rolling.

For this trip we added a stroller to the mix, thinking that we could put more walking miles in and use public transport. With plans for driving while is Scotland we took the stroller base and carseat for the baby nomad, with Mike and I each carrying a duffle. 

Only having a couple of days we focused our time not on big adventures or epic miles or logistically intensive plans but on walking through the Reykjavik area and the famous Icelandic swimming pools.

We visited Sundlaug and Vesturbaejarlaug pools, opting for a more low-key local experience of the famous Blue Lagoon. The pools are more utilitarian like than the atmospheric, spa style Blue Lagoon, but perfect for us. The lack of tourists gave us the full experience, it's funny trying to navigate a country and culture where you speak one word of the language and cant pronounce a single destination. The pool culture in Iceland is pretty strict with an expectation of enthusiastic naked showering before entering the low chlorine pools and then drying off in the shower room before re-entering the dressing room.

Accessibility was overall really good. Instead of the standard 'Flybus' option from the airport to Reykjavik City we chose the local cheap bus. Again the language barrier meant that we didn't really know the details and while a good price (I think around 1/3 of the Flybus price) this route involves changing from the airport bus to a local city bus 1/2 way through.  The local buses where all equipped with a wheelchair ramp, but the airport bus was the old "bum-up-the-stairs-with-wife-carrying-legs."

The biggest surprise of the trip? Red peppers costing $10 a piece. With so much important things are not cheap. Iceland is a perfect for travel with babies. With only 300,000 souls it's tiny; crime is pretty nonexistent, the living standard is high. We packed puffy clothes and rain gear, knowing that the weather can be cold and wet. It was cooler and windier than Colorado and we used the puffy layers but got lucky with the rain.

The highlight of the trip? The geothermal hot pools, and the meal of fresh smoked salmon, bread and cheese.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Settling In - getting ready.

It's been a while...the whole summer and autumn have passed by. Thanksgiving in the States this last week.  Mike and I have been busy growing a baby and working in the "homestead" since we returned back to the Conifer house last January. Seems like we spent the summer riding bikes locally and working in the house.

While the seasonal adventure tugs at both of us, having a base has also been a great experience; all the convenience of running water, 4 burner stove, and after my parents visited us, our very own washing machine.

Our house is little and on the rustic side of things The bigger Airstream is parked just outside and is serving as a shop for Mike's metal and wood projects.

Moving wood. 

Cold and kindling
My wood work is limited to this

Mike has a more extensive wood skill set: New sink for the bathroom going in
Last ride of the year.
38 weeks...soon there will be three of us!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Skinning, Skiing, Falling and Digging: An Orientation to Winter

Back to the world of facets, sintering and hoar. (I love the winter language: this sounds so sinister...)

For the last decade I've been excited to work teaching courses through Colorado Mountain College in Leadville. These last two weeks have seen some of the biggest snowfalls of the year and a return to expeditioning in the wild winter world that can currently be found high on the Continental Divide of Colorado. 

Six men and women braved the temps and ever increasing snow amounts to haul tater-tots and bacon deep(ish) to the backcountry, their sleds full with sleeping pads and bags, puffy jackets and mitts, white gas and hot drinks. 

The goal? At a basic level to teach winter skills, at a deeper more personal level I think it is more along the lines of to discovering what it takes, preparing for longer more intense experiences, welcoming some adventure and challenge into our lives. 
Winter camping reminds me of saturday mornings; lots of plans, but then breakfast lasts till noon. Much of the experience is spent taking care of basic needs, stuff that you often take for granted ~melting water, drying socks, defrosting gloves.

Shelters, homes, castles. We made them all. This course saw tarps, megamegamids, tents, snow caves and quinzees.

Ryan in the megamegamid (AKA Gigamid) teaching about Quninzees (a type of snow cave). 

The gigamid. Our dining room, cafeteria and den for the trip.
The quinzee. As our students know this word is from the Athabaskan language. Its made from hollowing out the center of a piled heap of snow. We spent half a day heaping the pile and then, after letting it settle itself we spent another half day digging them out.

Once inside you are fully insulated from sounds, from falling snow, from the wind. We light candles inside to add a little warmth and glaze the inside. Warm and comfortable, like a human burrow.

Eating and digging are the two main areas of expertise required for successful winter comfort. When not digging our snow palaces, or sculpting snow loungers,  there is a good chance that there is cooking to be done. JalapeƱo poppers, mozzarella sticks, bacon made up the three main food groups. 

And then there is the travel ~ the turns are great. Turns make smiles, it's as close as you might get to flying, the falling was beautiful; soft deep snow to cushion the landing, huge puffs of crystal clouds in your wake, your eyes, down your fleece layers.

With new storm snow and persistent slab being the avalanche hazards of the trip, we planned lower angle slopes upon which to draw our turns.

With the dark sky and falling temperatures the nights start early and the sleep becomes long.  

Photo: Ryan Edwards
The Team; Thanks for your energy and enthusiasm. May the snow be plentiful, stable and dry.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Alaska: Return to the Midnight Sun

Back in August I returned to the land of the midnight sun to help the Colorado Outward Bound School do a brief safety review of our courses in Alaska.

Alaska is a special place, time and again I am drawn to it. It is part diesel driven, motor powered, extra-larged-sized, and part homesteader, northern lights, dip-netting-salmon-nights and wild, wild lands.

As a barely 21 year-old mountaineer I first visited Alaska with grand plans of climbing Denali. I remember my first glimpse of America; the huge trucks, native Alaskans, Carhartts, maple syrup over sausage links, REI. That time I flew onto the glacier in a little Cessna plane which landed with skis on the glacier. This time we walked. That time I spent twenty-one days living on the glacier sheltered by the yellow fabric of a North Face tent. This time it was just four, the briefest of visits, not nearly enough to satisfy a craving.

Mik and Vic. The dream team of Safety Reviewers. 

Just above Lost Lake. The ground is spongy, made of of millions of little entities all mixing together, not unlike the Ecuadorian Paramo.

Transitions: First steps onto the ice with the milky sediment filled water eroding away the ice under your feet.

Huge feet went before us, complete with nails that can shred. In this case a grizzly bear enjoying the same camping spot as we chose. 
Students adding their talons to meet the Alaskan challenge.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mexico Part 2

The 2 is pronounced dosz.

The second half of Mexico continued along the fish taco, barefoot and salt water theme of the first half.

From La Ventana we travelled between south of Todos Santos and La Paz. We camped at a little surf spot, and got crushed by the waves at Cerritos. Mike caught his first waves as a bellyboarder and is now a committed surf bum.

Sea Lion Rookery on the north end of Isla Espiritu Santo

The professionals

While I have nothing against the lifestyle of rising late, coffee, a couple of surf sets and sun-worship followed by cold brews and music late into the evening, I am always interested in the adventure aspect...you know - salt stains, warm beer, wild hair type days. The decision was made to plan a self supported sea-kayak trip to the island of Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez with our friends Chris and Rachel. With Chris having paddling experience it fell to him to be defacto leader, responsible for ensuring his fellows safety and comfort at all times. Thanks buddy.

With Mike and I sharing a double (AKA a divorce boat), and Rachel and Chris in singles we loaded up in a skiff and were dropped off at the North end of the Island close to the Roockery, with plans to travel between 25 and 45 miles to the southern tip over 4 days. I am actually not sure how far our route was supposed to be, but after the first afternoon the wind and waves grew stronger and taller and our resolve and comfort in the sea grew thinner and edgier.

Mike and I opted for a double kayak, thinking it would offer  little more stability and allow me to use the rudder for us both. The only modification we needed was additional back support which we did with a fancy crazy creek seat and some dry bags.  The tank-boat was nick-named Gordita, as all sailing vessels are females. 

Mike has plans to acquire some fatty tires for the chair, which with the Freewheel attachment on the front should be a pretty good beach rig. 

Ship-wrecked style

We spent three days on the our beach. Have you ever seen Castaway? Well there was similarities. Beach fever, sand everywhere, but no volleyball friend to talk to.

While there was no one else on our beach, a father and son paddled over from the other beach in the bay and joined us for dinner, bring a huge pot of beautifully cooked, fresh caught fish. This team had paddled 800km on what is planned to be a 2 year expedition around the Baja peninsula. Coming from a land-locked state in Mexico they had little idea about tides and waves when they started and survived the huge hurricane that hit Baja last year, sheltering in a cave. We sent them off with avocados and limes to add to their diet of fish. They gifted us a bag of quinoa.

Departing from our 4 day "expedition", loading the boats on top of the skiff. 

Diessue before Margaritas 
Mike and I had just 17 days in Mexico, and we only saw the very tip of Baja. The US news has some worrying stuff in it about Drug Cartels and other things in Mexico. I balance this with the local US news of unlawful police shootings and rioting, overall Mexico felt really safe.

While we were down there we talked about returning, perhaps with the truck to explore more of the bays, mountains, surf spots and taco stands.