Monday, October 9, 2017

New Tradition?

If you've followed the blog for the past year, you may remember this post: Milestones

A quick summary-

Over Keri's birthday last year, we met my parents in Utah close to Zion National Park. During that trip we did a couple of slot canyons, both technical and nontechnical. It was a blast, but not completely planned to coincide with a birthday.

Back to current times

For weeks we had been planning on spending a few days in Crested Butte over Keri's birthday weekend. Fall colors are typically at their prime and our favorite trails become radioactive tunnels, glowing gold. We had our camping spot picked out, the bikes ready, Rita was packed but the weather was unaccommodating. Below freezing temperatures with snow and rain was forecast each day we were to be visiting. Fall ran off with summer and winter was all too eager for the stage.

We collected gear from a different pile, slept in, and veered west. Moab was generally dry with modest fall temperatures and a had few canyon adventures that piqued our interest. For the second time in two years, without intent, canyoneering became our birthday activity.

No presents under there...
This year our friend Erica, who has spent countless miles running through the wide-open desert expanse, was eager for a new, more narrow-sighted experience.

What she lacked in expertise she made up with in attitude and holy shit wide eyes.

Though our chosen route lacked significant classical slots, it had no shortage of character: a dozen rappels, potholes of hanta stew, buddy assisted down climbs, hugging holly bush thickets, cross-country travel.

Dodging Desert Tea

Mixing hanta stew
Navigating the descent proved unique in the canyon world. Typically once the entrance is found, navigation is easy; one simply follows the water down hill with no escape until it spills into the open basin with obvious exit. Our route was atypical, requiring careful navigation from car to bar.

Easy navigation I
Easy navigation II
GPS proved invaluable while locating the canyon's head and during a traverse into a second drainage to avoid a dead-end. Then again, with the sun rapidly setting, GPS assisted in finding an escape down cliffs small enough that our rope ends could tickle the earth.

That final rappel landed us a lazy throw from the car. 

Long, challenging, desolate, questioning if worth doing again, but rewarding. With no headlamps required and minimal shivering the adventure compass never wavered from Type II Fun.

Happy Birthday

The birthday girl

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Tadpole Jig

I can't quite recall why we decided on a riding trip to Wyoming, but that's where we found ourselves.

Parked under the broad star filled sky, Rita, our newest family member, appeared content. Rita who?

Rita the Casita!

Having been chased into our tent by poor weather, unable to cook too many times, we'd been lightly searching for a small camp trailer this past year. Rita very recently popped up for sale locally and we had to check it out. She was just about perfect and all we'd been seeking. This trip was the farthest from home we'd ventured and our first time challenging the elements together and though her skin was lashed by rain and gusts of wind, we remained warm and dry while cooking dinner, both agreeing she was worth every penny.

It appeared that the cooler temperatures and very fall like weather convinced leaves to change over night. Trees we remembered as being green the previous day were now yellow and orange.

Crisp air amplified the gravel's crunch as our tires passed. Friendly granite boulders, eons in age, invited us to play. And play we did. Up and down, traction was near limitless.

Exploration, like changing seasons, is refreshing.

Trying hard

Fall is synonymous with football here in the US. Travis happened to be in town, unconnected to our own visit, to support his alma mater, so we thought we'd link up and see what tailgating was all about.

Cowboy pride
A sea of gold and brown engulfed us quickly and I apparently looked very lost. A stranger thrust two tickets to the Wyoming vs. Oregon game into my hand, perhaps to act as a compass that ensured we would cheer for the home team.

The beer was strong and our collective memories of the game are weak. Luckily the alarm clock's strength prevailed in the morning and we all met for a fog-clearing farewell ride.


Returning home, we found the desert welcoming. No more fearing a mid-day ride and broil. Keri must have found her confidence in the long rays of sunlight; she attacked a number of haunting trail sections.

Moving forwards

Friday, August 11, 2017

Grand Junction River Clean Up 2017

I was sitting atop a pile old tires, rebar, and other detritus perched on the bow of a bright red raft in the middle of the Colorado River. At the oars was the BLM River Ranger, with whom I'd been floating the river for the last 4 hours.

Spread out around us like ants seeking crumbs, each with an orange plastic bag aboard, were 15 other rafts, kayaks, and paddleboards. Those who came to help ranged from young to wise and greenhorns with rented boats to crusty river rats.

While we floated, smaller crafts sped ahead to walk the river's gravel bars and banks in search of another man's trash to fill their orange bag. When something too large to be transported by those on shore was found, we were hailed to pick it up. Hence the source of an ever growing heap beneath my behind.

Special Deliveries Abound!

The reason behind this flotilla was the annual Grand Junction River Clean Up. Taking place on August 5 this year, three groups of volunteers would be collecting trash on three sections of river in the Grand Valley and I'd gotten word that the organizers were looking for a photographer to document the day. I called and offered to help.

 Showing up to the put-in with camera in hand, I found baskets of fresh baked goodies and smiling faces. Fairly cool and overcast with a very slight breeze, the weather was perfect for a river work day.

The section of river I floated was touted as the clean section, being that it began outside of town and ended as the city proper began. Even still, there was no small amount of trash to be found. 100s of beer and soda cans, fishing line, an entire Wal-Mart type inflatable raft, tarps, tents, tires, plastic bits upon plastic bits, and boards full of nails all filled bags and boats.

Drink em, crush em, toss em?

 Of all this, it is the tires the I found most deplorable. Some amount of cans, bottles, wood float off as a legitimate accident, but tires are intentionally discarded. The BLM ranger I was with said he once saw a person pull up to the launch ramp and proceeded to unload and carry seven tires to the water before being stopped by the ranger!

Our group alone carried out a dozen tires of various sizes. Between the three groups, over 20 tires were carried off the river to be disposed of properly. There were many more that were inaccessible due to hazards in the water or swift currents.

There is a similar story on rivers all over the world. But change starts small and locally. My hope is that events such as this become more common place with greater participation.

Hopefully the photos, words, and stories of those who came out help raise awareness for the health of our rivers and promote a more responsible means of trash disposal.