Kinsee and I went to San Felipe with her family and Derrik for Thanksgiving. More pictures on Flickr.
Kinsee and I went to San Felipe with her family and Derrik for Thanksgiving. More pictures on Flickr.
Lake City, Colorado is the spot where Alfred Packer ate five of his fellow travelers while stranded in winter 135 years ago. I’ve heard that Packer is the only person convicted of cannibalism in the US, but I’m not sure if that’s true. You might know Alfred Packer from the fantastic Cannibal: The Musical, a musical retelling of his story.
We headed out early Saturday morning for Lake City, Colorado, about a three hour drive up into the mountains to do some backpacking. Some friends were supposed to meet us there, but they decided to take the “short cut” over Cinnamon Pass and couldn’t make it over, so it was just Kinsee, Walter, Mona and I. The trail was only 4 miles but over 2000 feet of elevation gain. It got steep in some parts but not too bad. We got to Waterdog Lake and were the only people up there.
I was a little disappointed that the surrounding mountains weren’t more rocky and that there was no good beach or jumping rocks at the lake, but it was nice regardless. We camped around 11,100 feet and the weather was perfect. As is usually the case (unless you’re in a canyon) the hike out was much quicker and easier than the hike in.The physical geography of Southwest Colorado reminds me so much of that of Andean Patagonia, from El Calafate to Bariloche.
Below are some more pics from Lake City and Waterdog Lake.
I’ve been in Bayfield for about a month and a half now, but haven’t really done too much exploring until now. This past week my brother and sister came out to visit and we did a bit of the touristy stuff.
Sunday afternoon we headed up US550 to Ouray.
We went to Wiesbaden Hot Spring Spa where they have a “vapor cave” a dark cave with water piped in from the hot springs at around 108F. It was hot. We couldn’t stay in there for more than 10 minutes or so. Luckily they had an outdoor hot springs pool as well.
(On a random-small-world-note, before we left in the morning I was looking at Twitter and saw someone post saying her and her family were visiting Durango and headed to Ouray for the day. I sent a message about maybe meeting up, an impromptu tweetup of sorts) and then forgot about it. That night when we got home I got a message back saying she didn’t see it in time, but was at the hot springs at the same time we were!)
After three hours at the hot springs we were hungry! We had lunch at O’Brien’s Irish Pub and then stopped by the Ourayle House Brewery for some beer. (I’ll be posting about that at BeerNBikes.com soon).
The next day I had to work but that night we went down to Ignacio to go bowling at the Rolling Thunder Lanes. My sister and I both bowled in a league as kids, so that was fun.
The next day we went out to Pagosa Springs. Even though it’s only 30 miles away I hadn’t been there yet. We stopped by Pagosa Brewing Co first and had dinner and beer (which I wrote about at BeerNBikes.com) and then went out to the Pagosa Hot Springs. They were less hot than the vapor cave, but hotter than the other pool at Wiesbaden which was pretty nice. They had about 20 pools or so, we went in maybe 10 of them. It was a much different experience. We all sort of felt like we were at a miniature golf course because of the way it looked.
(Another random-small-world-note, someone from Twitter was at the brewery at the same time as us also, we found out about it the next day!)
It was fun having my brother and sister come out to visit and explore the area with us. Anyone else that wants to come out, there’s plenty more to explore.
I did two very Durango things this past weekend.
Saturday I bought a mountain bike. Mountain biking seems to be huge here, and I can understand why, there’s a lot of open space and beautiful country around here. I’ve been road biking for a few years now and I felt I should start mountain biking out here. I picked up a used Yeti F.R.O. hardtail. I’ve been itching to get out and ride it, but it was snowing Saturday. Expect some pics and more about this bike on BeerNbikes.com.
Yesterday the weather was nice, probably perfect for mountain biking on some of the trails that dry earlier in the year than others, but instead Kinsee and I went up to Durango Mountain Resort for some winter sports action. It was my first time on a snowboard (I want to ski, I’ve never been skiing either, but Kinz insisted I try snowboarding first). She said I did good for my first day, I’m not sure if she’s being nice or what, but it seemed like I spent almost as much time on my butt as I did on my feet. I stayed on the bunny slope, but stood up quite a bit. The snow was hard packed so when I fell it hurt. After one good run of standing up the entire way I fell hard on my ass and decided it was time to hit the bar. Kinsee went up to the real slopes and got in some good runs while I read the paper and spent some time in the sun.
I’m sore today but look forward to giving skiing a try next year.
Last Sunday afternoon, while most people in San Diego were watching the Chargers lose to the Steelers I was out enjoying an unseasonably hot day in January with a bike ride through La Mesa and up Mount Helix. One of my new years resolutions this year is to train for, and ultimately ride in, The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. The Iron Horse is a 47 mile race/ride from Durango to Silverton Colorado. The idea behind it is the race the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train from the start in Durango to the finish in Silverton.
I’ve never ridden 50 miles, but I have no doubt that I can do a 50 mile ride. The part that starts to worry me is the two 10,000 foot mountain passes between Durango and Silverton. Living in coastal-California all my life, I’ve only been above 10,000 feet a few times, and never ridden a bike up that high. It’s going to take a lot of exercise and training to get ready for this.
So Sunday I donned my new lyrca shorts (those padded spandex like shorts road bikers wear), bike jersey shirt and rode off in the 85F+ heat. I only rode about 15 miles, just warming up, my first time riding in quite a while but it felt good. I was huffing and puffing as I got to the top of Mount Helix, which isn’t a good sign seeing as its only 1000ft or so above sea level, but I’ve got time to work on that.
Unfortunately toward the end of my ride the freewheel on my maintenance-neglected bike siezed up, so I need to do some serious cleanup on it, and probably take it into the shop for a tune-up. Luckily I’ve got my fixed gear I can ride for a while.
I’ll be posting periodic updates here on my training progress and hopefully come the end of May some pictures and my results.
The REAL ID Act allows the Department of Homeland Security to disregard all environmental laws to protect our borders. I don’t think they’ve started filling in the canyon on the border near the Tijuana Estuary yet, something that will cause all sorts of environmental problems with run off, erosion and effect plenty of birds, but it’s in the works.
Today I just read a story about the DHS using the REAL ID Act to start building roads in designated wilderness east of San Diego in preparation of building the triple border fence. Wilderness designation is supposed to keep the land free of human influence, a road and border fence are definitely human influence. A couple of years ago a border patrol spokesman said the area wouldn’t need fencing because the rugged land was fence enough, but apparently something has changed and they’re going ahead with it anyways.
One of my favorite things about much of the designated wilderness areas east of San Diego on the border are that they’re not wilderness for humans. There are few trails, few natural wonders for people to visit, but plenty of wide open space for the environment to be left alone. What wilderness designation was meant for. But no longer for the Otay Mountain Wilderness Area.
The blog post linked above (and here it is again in case you missed it, because I think it’s important to get the word out) is the first mention of this I’ve seen. Nothing in the newspapers, no other press. The DHS is doing a lot of stuff with very little public input.
A few months ago I was reading through The Paris Review when I came across a story called Diary of a Fire Lookout by Philip Connors (you can read an excerpt online, and maybe find it at the library to read the rest). It’s a diary of the authors time spent as a fire lookout in the rugged Gila National Forest in New Mexico.
Fire lookouts are becoming more and more rare as modern technology encroaches upon the task of spotting forest fires. Which is sad because some of my favorite writers spent summers high up in a lookout tower thinking, writing, and watching for signs of smoke. Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels. Ed Abbey’s Black Sun. Doug Peacock spent some time as fire lookout after Vietnam, I’m not sure that he ever wrote about it, but it probably helped clear his head and help him to readjust.
As Connors’s story shows, not all fire lookout towers have been shuttered, but most aren’t in service anymore. The Forest Fire Lookout Association has a list of links to retired lookout towers available for rent, most from the US Forest Service.
A recent article in the UT talks about the old fire lookout tower on Palomar Mountain reopening to be staffed by volunteers.
There’s something romantic about fire lookout towers, spending all that time in the woods. The solitude. The open space. The few journeys into town, via steep mountain trails, to get supplies. The chance encounters with passing hikers. Connors’s story captures the mood perfectly.
Full moon rising 6/6 by Jeremy Stanley. Creative Commons 2.0
Tonight’s full moon will be the biggest and brightest of the year. In fact there won’t be another full moon this bright for eight years. Because the moon orbits the earth in an elliptic orbit, not circular, there are times it is much closer to the earth than others. Tonight’s moon will be approximately twenty-eight thousand miles closer to earth than normal. A moon this bright hasn’t been seen for fifteen years.
The moonrise will take place around sunset and will appear fourteen percent bigger and thirty percent brighter than most other full moons. As the moon rises in the sky it will appear smaller and smaller. However this is just an optical illusion, the moon stays the same size throughout the night. No one can fully explain why this occurs, but it is believed that it has to do with the way we perceive objects near the horizon.
Unfortunately for us here in San Diego, the weather forcast calls for partly cloudy skys becoming overcast throughout the night. Hopefully the clouds will stay at bay long enough for us to see this once in a decade bigger, brighter full moon. So head to a highpoint at dusk and watch the moonrise.
You can read more on NatGeo.
I went camping at William Heise County Park in Julian this past weekend. It being December and all, I was a little worried about the cold, but when I looked up the weather forecast I realized that December in the Cuyamacas is like July in the Sierra Nevada. I’d never been to William Heise Park, I guess the fact that it is so close to Julian and a county park rather than state park always kept me away. I was a little bummed we weren’t driving the extra hour out to Anza Borrego, but was looking forward to checking out the area around Julian.
Driving east on I-8 we decided to stop by the new(ish) Liars Club in Alpine. I always liked the Liars Club because they had a ton of good beer on tap, but I didn’t like the bar itself. It was pretty small and in Mission Beach. Well, the new location in Alpine isn’t much better, but the building itself is a lot better. There was plenty of seating and the same friendly bartender serving good beer and giving samples of stuff he thought I’d like.
Back on the road we were heading up Highway 79 past Lake Cuyamaca when I drove over a newly paved patch of road. I realized this is where there used to be a grate in the road. What I always assumed was a cow grate. Cows won’t walk over grates, so this was an easy way to keep them from moving too far. It made me wonder if those grates are now unnecessary because no one is raising cattle out there any more, it made me wonder if it’s becoming suburbanized. I was a little disenfranchised by this. But what happened later more than made up for it.
We got to the campground and met up with Kinsee’s friends. As we were sitting around the slowly dying fire before calling it a night, we some movement in the distance. As our eyes adjusted from looking away from the fire we could tell it was a group of deer. About five of them only 10 meters away in the meadow watching us. They moved around for a while but kept their eyes on us for quite some time. Even though we could hardly see them it was exciting, this was only the second time I’ve seen deer in San Diego and it made me hopeful that maybe the San Diego backcountry is still a little wild after all. There was no cloud cover the first night so the stars were quite the sight as well. Nothing like the dessert of Sierra’s, but a lot more than we can see in the city nightly.
The next morning we were awoken by a lot of loud birds and even some wild turkeys. My brother warned me that they were mean, but when trying to photograph them they just ran away from us.
We went a couple short hikes, one to a desert viewpoint above highway 79. It was a clear day and we could see all the way to the Pacific Ocean to the west and to the Salton Sea to the east. The view of the desert wasn’t as good as from some of the mountains off Sunrise Highway were the drop from mountains to desert happens, but it was a great view.
That night we were supposed to go to the Observer’s Inn, a home made/DIY of sorts observatory outside Julian. I was told it’s a two hour lecture/show by a retired engineer that loves astronomy and has five telescopes setup in his observatory. Sadly the weather turned bad and clouds rolled in obstructing the view, so we didn’t go. It sounded like a good time though.
The camping was good at William Heise, we had almost the whole campground to ourselves. There isn’t too much hiking from the campground, but it made for a relaxing weekend.