Today was Monday

It’s hard to believe that in just a month, it will be a year of lockdowns, shelter in place, and two weeks to flatten the curve.

I have been too busy lately worrying about much of that. My life these days has already been sort of a shelter in place, since I moved back up to the mountains in my hometown in Colorado, where this time of year, it is too cold to do much else besides stay inside.

I’ve been slowly getting the house in order and yesterday, when I picked my son up in the Front Range, I stopped and got a larger fridge. Right now it’s hard to find a full sized fridge, and if I could, the shipping costs up here would kill me, so I have two mini-fridges now that keep everything just cool enough. I actually like it. One fridge for veggies and leftovers and things I don’t need all the time, and another fridge for milk and meats and things I use all the time. I couldn’t put a turkey in either of them, but I don’t like turkey, so it’s fine.

It gets the job done.

I’ve got a small kitchen, which is very rustic. I am my own dishwasher now. Honestly, I don’t miss having a dishwasher all that much, but it’s usually just my son and me. We had my parents over for dinner a little over a week ago, so there were a few more plates and forks to wash, but otherwise, it doesn’t take much longer to wash a sink full of dishes by hand than it did to rinse everything, load it into the dishwasher and run a load, and likely still not have everything come clean.

There is something to be said about washing your dishes by hand, which I think people are missing out on a little bit. It forces you to take a little time. It’s very meditative.

Tonight I have been organizing, sorting, washing dishes, cleaning cabinets and the stovetop. I have everything just about how I want it with the exception of adding in some counterspace and a different water heater. There are few repairs and renovations to make, but what do you expect out of a 108 year old house?

Some might call this kitchen run down and run in fear, (the same people who are nervous about everything and like to cry about it), but seriously, in some places in Europe, this would be considered rustic, charming, old world. As I’ve said, it’s a work in progress. The way people light their hair on fire about this sort of thing, you’ve think they never saw Under the Tuscan Sun. Not every house is perfect. Not every kitchen is a dream kitchen. It used to be that people just lived and they made due with what they had. There is something to be said of that, and I know that for the last six years, I was very spoiled.

Yesterday I was able to write a little, which felt great. The day before I wrote much, much more. I feel like I’m getting back into the groove again, and maybe that has a little to do with getting settled in. My office is nearly exactly how I need it to be, complete with my Keurig, my books, and now steady wifi signal. Penny spends most of the time with me while I am writing, or bothering me to play fetch. My son does his online schooling in an environment with few distractions and good accoustics. I am hoping to get back into podcasting, but it’s hard to do this when you don’t have guests.

We keep busy, watch shows together, play fetch with Penny, and usually everyday there has been a reason for my folks to come over or for me to drop in and see them. We have lightsaber fights and walk the dog a few times a day, where she often just sniffs around in the snow until we have to go back inside. Once the weather warms up, I’ll get cracking on more renovations, but right now, the idea of having the doors and windows open to ventilate paint fumes is not putting me in my happy place.

It’s strange how the family landscape changes. We don’t watch a lot of tv. If we do watch together, it’s in the office and it’s Disney Plus or Netflix. We sit close in a little room and I don’t miss having a big TV or a couch. I think in some ways these things have divided families over the years.

Everyone needs a den!

There are some things to get used to. The altitude is one. Not really for breathing, since we’ve acclimated, but more how things cook. Heat dissipates so much more quickly, so it takes about ten minutes to boil a pot of water instead of four or five. Once dinner is ready, you eat fast if you like hot food, because it cools off very quickly. Sometimes the wind is awful, but this house has weathered through over a hundred winters, and probably has another hundred in it.

There is something nice about not having to sit through stop lights at intersections, or having to spend money for ANY kind of entertainment. In the city, boredom usually motivated us to go on the town and buy just random stuff to keep us entertained. We haven’t really felt that urge here. Trips to bigger towns are planned out, since they don’t happen very often and everything up here is expensive anyway, so you try to economize. $50 gets you a lot further in the city when it comes to groceries in the city than it does here, but jeez, to have to fight the traffic down there just to get anywhere…I’m not sure if it’s worth it sometimes.

For now, i think I like visiting the city, and I’ll stick to my mountain town for home.

Extreme Hiking in North Park

A couple summers ago I decided to take advantage of a long weekend and head out at dusk to do some solo camping/backpacking.  I picked an area I was familiar with, since I had hiked and camped there a number of times.  My friends and I just used to refer to it as the Mountain.  To others it might be better known as the Cabin Creek area.  For a number of years, it was undeveloped, being on the other end of ranch land which prohibited public access to the area.  Laws changed, however, in the 1990s, opening public lands again, regardless of who owned the land in between access roads and public lands.  This also opened the area up to logging, which was instrumental in building roads to access timber, but also played a part in cutting out all sorts of old growth pine forest.

When I got to the trailhead, things were a lot different.  I hadn’t been there in at least 15 years.  Back then, a buck and rail fence with a gate marked the entrance.  The trail started off as a logging/service road that crept up through dense lodgepole pines until you reached the footpath which snaked its way up the mountainside, some of it very steep, but still obvious for the most part.  Twenty years ago, a friend and I hiked this area with three feet of snow on the ground, when there was no trail and we had the physical directions of Up and Down as a guide. Up lead to timberline, down would eventually take us to the valley floor and presumably a road.


The other path less traveled

So much had changed.  Logging had erased any sign of the trail and after hiking along the road for a while, I soon came to realize that it was leading me north, miles away from where I needed to be.  So, I decided to break off from the trail.  With 50 lbs of gear in my old aluminum frame pack, which hadn’t been used since the last time I climbed this mountain, I had food for a few days, a tent, a sleeping bag, and a water filter pump.  In recent years giardia had found its way into creeks that as a kid, I would have drunk from without a second thought.

A hawk circled above me, calling out once in a while, reminding me of its presence.  I decided to use the same logic.  I knew that a trail meets the ridge-line of the Medicine Bow mountains at some point and from there, I could find the original trail I had missed on my ascent.  Straight up the side of a mountainside, through heavy pine forest, with a 50lb pack is not as easy as it sounds.  Especially when you are out of shape (nearly 20 lbs heavier then than I am now), asthmatic, and at about 9500 ft. above sea level.  And climbing.

Slow and steady wins the race, however, and eventually I found myself on top of “Sheep Peak” which is one of probably 400 Sheep Peaks in the state.  I’m glad I took the path I did, because this is what the alternate route was.



Looking over North Park from Sheep Peak

Along the ridge, I was able to follow cairns, but I realized I was miles north of what I remember hiking in the past.  I kept on, following the ridge south, my feet killing me, my heart still racing from the climb. My pack was coming apart and if I wanted more water, I would have to drop down below treeline to find a creek to pump as it was fairly dry up on top.  The wildflowers were out.  Mosquitoes were kept at bay by the wind, but it was a warm, breezy day.  No signs of lightning yet on the horizon.

I continued along the crestline trail, snapping pictures on my camera phone.  Up at 11-12,000 feet, by yourself…there is no feeling to describe it.  I could see the patchwork below of clearcuts.  Though they look like eyesores, they actually provide areas for wildlife to gather and allow people to see more than just trees from their vantage point.  In time, the aspens take over, then the pines return.  All part of the cycle of life for an alpine forest.  Other than the few logging roads and the occasional tag, the Rawah Wilderness area is mostly untouched.  Difficult to reach, especially from the North Park side, I might have been the only person to take the path I had in decades, if not ever.  As a solo hiker, this is something you need to keep in mind, since one missed step could mean a snapped ankle or bone and you are essentially screwed.

The area has also become reacquainted with mountain lions, bears, and is choked with moose. Moose are possibly the most aggressive animal in North America and they will jack you up.  In wild terrain such as this, I carry a loaded pistol for protection against animals, for my own safety.  It would also be a decent way to signal for help if needed.  Three shots in succession is the universal code for emergency.  Whether or not there is anyone nearby to hear it is the question.  Along the way, I dropped a knife, as well as part of my backpack.  Those items are gone, ready to one day be excavated by an archaeologist in a civilization completely unknown to us.  Offerings to primal gods of forest and crags who hold onto such things.


Wildflowers.  Very tired legs.  Rocks and stuff.

To the west, the clouds were forming into thunderheads.  I was tired, and one of the straps had completely come apart, making me feel like a big man on campus with his book bag slung over one shoulder instead of a backpacker.  My legs jerked with sewing-machine foot from the climb and didn’t seem like they were going to stop anytime soon.  As I hiked north, things became more familiar and eventually, I decided rather than be stuck on a mountaintop in the rain with a leaky tent that hadn’t been used in twenty years, with a backpack that was falling apart and a body that was screaming for help, I decided to use the obverse of my logic and hike back down the mountain.  I could see parts of the old trail through the trees.  A switchback.  A clearing.  A rocky outcropping.  I got a bearing with my compass and using my orienteering skills I set off down the mountain.

The path down wasn’t much easier than the path up.  Recent rains had made the ground slippery.  The trail, when I did come across it, hadn’t been maintained in years, making it impossible to follow.  Even with a new set of boots, it was hard to keep your footing.  Sometimes I found myself sliding down the mountain, trying to keep my pack in one piece as it continued to shake apart with every step.

Finally, I reached the trail and followed it back to the original, once-familiar trailhead.  Three clearcuts had nearly erased it from existence.  No trail was marked here anymore.  The mountain was claiming the path as its own again. By the time I reached my car, lightning was pummeling the peaks and the skies had turned dark.

Since then, I have gotten in better shape, my equipment has been replaced and upgraded, and although solo backpacking is a thrill, I have more people who will come with me now.  This summer, I am hoping to tackle the trail once again.  Better prepared. In better shape.  And ready for adventure this time around!


Looking south towards North Rawah and Clark Peak