Buffalo Soldiers

Tatanka!

Anyone who has driven I70 through Colorado has seen the mighty Buffalo Mountain. It’s that hulking, skull-shaped mountain you first see when you emerge from the west-bound side of the Eisenhower Tunnel and start the long descent into Summit County. It’s the broad-shouldered peak looming over Dillon and Silverthorne with the massive avalanche path down the south side. All these years and I’ve never climbed it. Time to fix that. Continue reading

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Search for El Dorado

I’ve lived in Boulder County for 17 years now and have somehow never climbed Eldorado Mountain.  So, naturally, we decided to run up it at night.

Eldorado is an 8300′ peak adjacent to the much more traveled but similar in altitude Bear/South Boulder Peaks and Green Mountain up above Boulder.  Challenge #1 is that there’s no established trail; instead you follow well-trodden trail through Eldorado Canyon State Park and then take the path of least resistance up the north ridge of the mountain.  Challenge #2 is that permits are required to climb Eldorado (easy to obtain, but still, requires paperwork). Continue reading

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Mixed Signals

The exact border of RMNP is apparently not well defined.

Sometimes, the best mountain trips are the ones where you just say “F-it, I need to go to the mountains! I don’t care if it’s a Thursday!” and you just go to the mountains on a Thursday (or Tuesday, or whatever).  Ideally, you’ll have a mate or two you can scare-up on short notice, but this is not necessary.  Ideally, there’s a trail, but again, optional. Mountains are the key item in this philosophy.

In this case, the mountain in question was Signal Mountain at the very north-eastern tip of RMNP, the mate was the mostly-indomitable Ben, and the trails were Bulwark Ridge, the Signal Mountain Trail, and the Lost Lake Trail (about half of which were not covered with blown-down trees at a density of 1 per hundred feet).

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Caving the Flatirons

Poking around in holes in the ground. (Mike I. photo)

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, and since Scout Troop 78 hasn’t been able to do our usual spring and summer weekend-long outings, we’ve had to invented some shorter, small-group hikes on weekends. For the inaugural trip, I joined a fellow scoutmaster and seven boys on a tough bit of off-trail exploration as we discovered caves in the Flatirons.

First up was Harmon Cave on the slopes of Bear Peak. Harmon Cave is a bat hibernaculum and entry is blocked by a huge iron gate (the bats can get in and out, but Scouts can’t). Instead, Scouts explored the Harmon Flatironette and got a great view from up top. Continue reading

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Project Louisville

Fixed it for you.

All things considered, my family was in pretty good shape when the COVID-19 pandemic hit everything changed: jobs doable remotely, kids learning remotely about as well as can be expected, plenty of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, full liquor cabinet and supplies on-hand to brew a batch of beer.  The ski areas all closed down, backcountry skiing was irresponsible on several fronts, camping was verboten in most jurisdictions, and even my informal running club decided to go on hiatus for a while.  Social distancing was the buzzword of 2020 and everyone was urged to stay home except for essential trips. I definitely don’t do well being cooped up in the house 24/7.

Live view of every runners’ back yard in March of 2020.

Fortunately, Colorado realized that it was futile to try to keep everyone indoors at all times and that mental health is a big part of physical health.  As long as I can get outside the house for a run, I can get through this.  So, what project can I adopt to keep myself exercised, exorcised, perspirated, motivated, ventilated, and the safe side of going completely off the rails while stuck at home? 

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Backcountry Skiing Is Not Everything

Looking back on the 2019-20 backcountry ski season.

Normally the backcountry ski season would just be getting good with warm temperatures, plenty of spring snow, and plenty of sunshine.  This year, the virus has us all locked down.  I mean, technically, I could get out there and ski by myself or socially isolated from my pals, but all things considered, this is a good time to stay close to home.  This is a good time to not need a mountain rescue, even more than usual.

Still, I managed a bunch of backcountry ski trips this season and they were a highlight worth celebrating in this truncated season. Continue reading

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2020 Ski Season (inbound version)

The sign of a good season.

And just like that it’s over.  Typically in March, the spring skiing season is just getting started with lots of sunshine, warm temperatures, mushy afternoon snow, and sitting around in shirtsleeves on the patio with an apres-brew.  I’ve always known in the back of my head that my own personal ski season could come to a premature, ignoble end (probably because of some catastrophe on the slopes or wrapped around a tree) but I didn’t expect it to end for everyone!  Now is the year of CoVID-19 and social isolation is the phrase of the day.  Judging from the early cases of the virus in Colorado, ski lifts are a really good way to pass diseases around, so all areas are shut down as of mid-March. Continue reading

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2019 Retrospective (B-Sides and Rarities!)

As we finish another trip around the sun, it’s time for reminiscences (whether you like it or not!)  2019 was a notable year with a lot of Life Stuff (a new career, planning for what is effectively a new house, a lot of Scouting activities) which got in the way of the more major Fun Stuff.  There were a lot of ski trips (20+), but a paltry number of running miles (barely 900!).  Only a few adventures were made into full-blown blog posts — maybe there wasn’t much I considered “significant”, or maybe I just didn’t have the time. 

However, 2019 was still pretty packed with adventure, fun, beauty, and good fellowship.  Thus I’m resurrecting my old “B-sides” format from earlier years to highlight some of the B-Side adventures of 2019. 

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Redemption

I took the old bib along on the race this year because it didn’t get to finish the trip last year.

Are you going back for revenge this year?”  Last year, I fell and broke my arm at mile 9.7 of the Moab Trail Marathon… because I was a complete jackass.  It was my own arrogant self who did that and I have only myself to blame; I only owe it to myself to seek a better outcome.  The desert owes me nothing.

Not for revenge.  Redemption.

364 days was enough time to recover from a “magnificent” fracture, some fiddly surgery, a few new permanent cyborg enhancements, a lingering “discussion” with my now-former insurance company, and a borderline-debilitating fear of falling while running.  It was also enough time to forget quite how gut-punch beautiful this course is and learn anew how tough it is.  Spurred by my tales from 2018 or perhaps just to keep an eye on me and my orthopedic health and welfare, a number of my indomitable running pals had made the journey with me this year.  Time to race!

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Scouting Quandary

If we look blurry, it’s because of the early wake up.

Early one September morning, eight scouts from Troop 78 set out to climb Quandary Peak (14,265′).  In Colorado, 14ers are a Big Deal and all Coloradans remember their first climb of one of these lofty summits the way other folks remember their first kiss.  Quandary is often mentioned as one of the easy 14ers, but all this really means is that it’s a safe route, the trail is good, plenty of parking, and it’s not too far from the Denver area where most of the people live.  However, even an “easy” 14er is a hard climb!  To gain the summit, you have to climb 3400′ of elevation in 3.7 miles while gasping air with 1/3rd less oxygen than even most Colorado folks are used to.

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