The Outdoor Junkie
The Outdoor Junkie is a blog by Ann Driggers, a backcountry bon vivant who lives to hike, run, ride, ski and climb in the great outdoors, and is most often found roaming through the red-rock canyons and mountains of Western Colorado.
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By Ann Driggers
Monday, November 30, 2009
The storms are rolling in. Snow is falling deep and fast, covering the mountains with a deep mantle of white. Fat flakes float through the air clumping on my eyelashes. As I ski through two feet of fresh I choke as the powder sprays into my face. Conditions are amazing......wait....it's all a dream! I wake and look out the window. The sun is shining again, the skies are blue and the earth is brown. Where is the snow? There's only one thing a skier can do: the passage from autumn to winter has to have an assist. The weekend before Thanksgiving I dedicated my life and soul, and those of many friends, in the name of Ullr, the Norse God of Skiing (not snow - thanks for the research, Brittany). We created our own version of a stimulus package - the Snow Recovery and Reinvestment Act - whose purpose is, and I quote directly from the document as it was written: making instrumental celebrations for snow creation and retention, equipment investment, snow sufficiency and science, assistance to unemployed (and underemployed) skiers, and their mental State and local fiscal stabilization, for the ski season ending as late as possible in 2010, and for other purposes (like having a good time). Note: with hindsight I realize that I neglected to specify when the snow was supposed to start and we seem therefore to have had a slight hiccup in the proceeedings. However I am sure it is a temporary glitch and the just rewards of our Ullr worship will be forthcoming. Here is some photographic evidence of our worship activities:
Sunday morning, we continued worship with a skin up a skinny Powderhorn:
We tried out Chair One for size. Five is a squeeze, but doable. In fact I bet we could have got six on there if they weren't busy taking the photo:
Surprisingly there were a few turns of good snow to be found. Not bad for Powderhorn in November:
And there was a nasty pile of ice, I mean man-made snow, at the base which made for a nice view of the cathedral:
And also provided some interesting skiing. Or should I say yet another option to demonstrate true worship before the altar. Now, please, purleeze, SNOW!!!! (Yes I know I am begging and starting to look very foolish).
By Ann Driggers
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Our Indian Summer came to a screeching halt this past weekend but, truth be told, we were ready to break out the skis. Today we finally got the chance. The Grand Mesa had a good foot or more of very light and dry fluffy stuff so off we went for the inaugural ski of the season, albeit for a turnless cross country outing. In fact our group of four had a diverse collection of sticks from skate skis to cross country to a leather tele set up and full on plastic tele boots and touring skis. It worked though, as Greg skated back and forth between the group like a dog which tired him out thankfully, and Chad who has a torn up ankle needed the plastic boots for support. It was a chilly day topping out at 12 degrees farenheit so we headed out a few miles on the County Line trail. It was in great early season shape with twigs sticking out in only a couple of spots, thanks to some grooming from the Grand Mesa Nordic Council. There were plenty of others out there enjoying the fresh snow and sunshine.
At the end of our ski we practiced some avalanche beacon searches, making sure the beacons and operators were in tip top working order for a winter of backcountry skiing. Twyla and I packed in six searches for the boys two so I'm not sure what that means other than I'm going to stick close to Twyla when skiing in avalanche terrain this winter.
And of course, because we were so happy that winter has finally arrived we made the requisite snow angel.
By Ann Driggers
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Other than winter's brief false start this has been the fall that keeps on giving. The leaves have been blazing yellow and orange for weeks and the weather has been gorgeous - downright balmy and bluebird skies. Although technically not an Indian Summer - the definition being a warm sunny period after the first frost and before the first snowfall - it might as well be. For sure it qualifies for being taken advantage of. Now that the clocks have changed I have been forced to play hooky from work twice this past week. Twice! I just can't help myself, it's so good out there. Both times I hit up the Kokopelli Loops out in Loma. It was not difficult to persuade others to join me in milking the final days of our Indian Summer with some sweet sunny singletrack riding. The pictures speak for themselves:
Krissy Steele leads the way on Horsethief Bench
Kate Belknap and Lenore Bryant above the Colorado River as it winds through Ruby Horsethief Canyon.
We watched a couple of rafts enjoying a fall float - lucky them too! And now I've had my desert riding fix, I am ready for winter. Bring it on!
By Ann Driggers
Sunday, November 1, 2009
The White Rim is a 100+ mile long four wheel drive road around the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park. It's very popular with mountain bikers and can be ridden in anything from one to four days depending upon one's priorities. Although I have once done the fairly masochistic one day ride, the four day trip is infinitely more fun with copious quantities of food and drink carted around in support vehicles. For a group of friends the four day White Rim is an annual event. Although I couldn't join for the full trip, this weekend I decided to make my own two day version and meet them half way. I also theorized that since I would have to ride a fair distance the exercise would offset the feasting that would inevitably take place. Arriving at Canyonlands Saturday morning, the temperature was below freezing and snow was on the ground. Since I was decked out in my Halloween costume I bailed on attempting the 70 miles by going anti-clockwise. Instead I decided to ride down Shafer and see if I could find them at the usual third day lunch spot, around 35 miles away. Initially I was quite leary of any speed fearing my honey bee costume would disintegrate. But as I buzzed down the switchbacks my wings levitated off my Camelback and created a very special visual effect, sufficient enough to garner hoots and rounds of applause from several vehicles coming in the opposite direction.
With confidence I put the pedal to the metal and hammered out 30 miles to Gooseberry Camp. Here I stopped and reviewed my attire. Costume malfunction was minor. The black and yellow striped stockings were obviously not designed to stay up after 2+ hours of hard riding. My stinger was also a little crushed by the seat, but otherwise the bee was in good shape. I was, however, famished. Luckily just five miles further on the trail I found the motley bunch of various costumed characters setting out the lunch table. Perfect timing! I filled up on turkey sandwiches and birthday carrot cake leftovers. The plan that evening was to camp at Airport so after a leisurely lunch we set off. For me this meant retracing 15 miles of my morning's ride.
The distant La Sal mountains were plastered with snow as we wound our way along the White Rim. The pace was more sedate and interspersed with a few cold beverages at favorite scenic spots along the way.
Arriving at camp the sag wagons disgorged their loads including, I was astounded to see, a set of bocce ball! There was plenty of time to enjoy the sunset on the rim above the river after setting up the tents, though we never did play with the bocce.
Pre-dinner cocktails were accompanied by homemade smoked salmon. The entree was a spicy chicken, chipotle and lime stew with tortillas and dessert included a massive bag of M&M's washed down with a bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Trick or treat? Only treats were available as the halloween festivities carried on well into the night.
The final day we had a slow start, with only 18 miles to the end of the ride. After a long breakfast we rode 10 miles to Musselman Arch. Here we stopped for another snack and we goofed around on the narrow band of rock hanging above a canyon, creating pictograph-like shadows.
The ride ends with a stiff climb up Shafer where a narrow shelf road switchbacks as it cuts through over 1,000 feet of red rock walls to reach the Island in the Sky.
By the time we reached the top it was time for another meal. I committed a White Rim foul by dropping the gallon size bag of M&M's on the ground. But after dusting them off they tasted just fine. I checked out the views from whence we came while cleaning up the mess I had made.
Here I summized that the one flaw with any White Rim trip is the calorific intake always exceeds that which is expended. Despite my shortened version and 70 miles of riding I still could not escape the inevitable. A White Rim trip always delivers a treat and never a trick and especially so on Halloween.
By Ann Driggers
Monday, October 26, 2009
As I mentioned in my previous post I have been trying to get out as much as possible and enjoy the last few days of the fall. The weather has been really fantastic here in the Grand Valley for the past couple of weeks. Too bad I spent three of those days working on the Front Range where I was unable to escape outside. Still I made up for it whenever I could. Here's a few photos from a number of different outings: Solo post work mountain bike ride out at Mary's. The cottonwoods along the Colorado River were spectacular despite the cloudy skies.
The riding's pretty great too.
A couple weekends ago I got in a nice long hike in the McInnis Canyons area to the west of the Monument. I devised a 10 mile loop up through the East fork of Pollock Canyon and crossing over into Flume Canyon on an unmarked old shepherders route. The cottonwoods in Pollock were outstanding of course.
I was all alone, at least from the two legged kind. As I ran round a corner I glanced up to see this large big horn ram keeping an eye on me.
Finally, I went out for a great mountain bike ride at 18 Road with my friend Susan Kishegyi. We were very pleasantly surprised to find the parking lot only half full and met very few other riders out on the trail. Given the popularity of the Grand Valley at this time of year it can get a little busy at the trailheads. I heard everyone was over at the Lunch Loop - great! more room for us. We rode my favorite trail combination, the Double A, heading out west, up Zippety and then back across the Frontside and down Kessel Run - as always a super ride.
So now the weather forecast is looking distinctly wintery, with snow flurries forecast here in town. It wont be long before the skis are dusted off but I am glad I enjoyed the final days of fall as much as I could.