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, May 25, 2009
Given that the season for riding H20 in its solid state is about fully cooked, I figured I might as well get after it in its liquid form. The Colorado River is officially cranking, as it takes our snowpack (and hopefully some of the dust) off to the west. Running just shy of 30,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) and about 8 miles per hour, a speedy float of the mellow but beautiful Ruby Horsethief section seemed like a good way to spend Memorial Day.
Chad and I put our two man ducky in at the Loma boat launch around 10 a.m. The river was heavily swollen with snowmelt, laced with debris and fast. Although we dipped our paddles only to steer, we zipped right on through to Black Rocks in time for lunch. When done as an overnighter, Black Rocks is the main camp spot, being around the half way point and very scenic. It also has plenty of sandy beaches, rock outcroppings for sunbathing, and a good viewpoint of the small rapid that provides the most excitement of the trip. This time, with the high water, the rapids were washed out and the beaches submerged. More than adequate compensation though, the wildflowers were blooming superb.
Having enjoyed sunshine for the first part of the trip, we noticed dark clouds were quickly building. We cut our lunch short and jumped back on the river in the hopes of making it to the take-out before being struck by lightning or battling brutal headwinds for which the next stretch is notorious. Despite a few sprinkles, we escaped electrification, sailed over the Utah state line and reached the Westwater take-out in short order. Total trip time was four and a half hours which, for 26 miles of river and a lunch stop, was really cruising.
Sweet! River days are here.
By Ann Driggers
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I'm back in England seeing family for a few days and in comparison to my normal outdoor activities, taking it rather slow. I have tried to get out as much as possible, either running or hiking, but the outdoor lifestyle is a little different here, though still good. For one, the weather is very changeable and unpredictable compared to Colorado, especially at this time of year - sunny one minute and cold winds and showers the next. I would set off on a run under blue skies and within 20 minutes I would be drenched in a downpour. Secondly, when one is reunited with family, there are large get-togethers celebrated with somewhat excessive amounts of eating and drinking. However we always justify the indulgence by playing a game of croquet or going for a long walk after a big feast, weather permitting. Walks are a big part of the english country lifestyle and I am fortunate that my family live in a very beautiful part of England, the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. One walk we did was up a valley called Farndale which is famous for its daffodils in the spring. Since the weather was rather cloudy my scenic shots didn't turn out so well. So I took pictures of some entertaining signs along the way. At the beginning of the walk we were advised not to 'injure daffodils' otherwise a fine of $5 would be incured. Incidently there was also a sign saying the fine for not picking up after your dog was $1,000! Perhaps it was $5 per daffodil?
Although the walk was only two miles one way, the food incentive was needed to coax people along the hike. This sign was posted on a fence in the middle of the hike.
Unfortunately the cafe was closed when we arrived and we were concerned that we had been without food and drink for at least two hours. Fortunately there was a pub serving traditional english fayre and Black Sheep ale, a few steps away, and we were able to reach the finish line in strong shape. Although all these walks seem rather tame, there is one family activity which is more on the extreme side.
The phrase 'only mad dogs and englishmen' came to mind as I watched my father prepare his gyrocopter for take off. Luckily this particular contraption has only one seat so I happily watched from the sidelines as he performed a demonstration.
He landed safe and sound, by the way.
By Ann Driggers
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Since it was my birthday, I chose a family ski outing to celebrate. With the news that the Cinnamon Pass road had been recently plowed as far as the American Basin trailhead, I picked Handies Peak as the destination of choice. A relatively quick and easy 14er, the crux of the trip is driving the rough road to the trailhead at 11,300 feet. After bouncing around in the truck, it was a relief to be out on the skis and start the climb. As Chad and I skinned through the undulating terrain of American Basin we scoped out the snow conditions. Below 12,000 feet the dust, deposited by numerous storms over the last month, was now exposed and the snow rapidly deteriorating. However we could see that higher up and mostly on the north faces there was some white snow left from the last storm.
The weather was beautiful, warm and sunny under bluebird skies. When we reached the final climb along the summit ridge, the wind really started kicking. It was cold enough that our summit celebrations were brief - hi-fives or rather hi-paws for Tikka on climbing her first fourteener.
From this high vantage point we were able to examine the conditions on the neighboring mountains that I planned to ski over the next few days. Unfortunately the rapidly disappearing and dust covered snow did not make any of the lines look particularly appealing. The ski down from Handies is a wonderful cruiser. Despite the cold wind, the snow had softened sufficiently to provide us with perfect corn through which we carved big GS turns.
As soon as we hit the ‘snirt,’ skiing became infinitely more challenging. Despite a drop of 700 feet in elevation we had to pole out of American Basin. In places the snow was so rotten it collapsed beneath our skis. A day out in the mountains is always good, but at some point one has to admit the ski season is about over. We decided to mothball the skis and take up other pursuits for the weekend.
By Ann Driggers
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Assorted footwear required for spring skiing.
Just about to head out for what will hopefully be four days of exceptional spring skiing. Its always a debate as to what is my favorite kind of skiing conditions. Nothing beats blower, coldsmoke powder faceshots mid winter, but spring skiing comes pretty close. Being part winter and part summer there is an inordinate amount of equipment needed. As I have been busy packing everything up, I have been reliving the spring skiing experience. Climbs start at dawn, in order to take advantage of the snow frozen by the overnight temperatures. Headlamps light the trail. As the sun rises and snowline is reached, trail shoes are replaced with ski boots, crampons and ice axe. On the summit, we rest in the warm morning sunshine, waiting for the sun to soften the snow and turn to velvety corn. When the snow is ripe, on go the skis for the descent. Just moments later and in time for lunch, we return to the trailhead. Hot and thirsty, now the sun is high in the sky. Flipflops, shorts and beer are the MO for the rest of the day. Spring skiing is a perfect combination of a winter start with a summer end. Hopefully I'll have a good trip report posted by the end of the week.
By Ann Driggers
Sunday, April 26, 2009
With the high mountains shut down due to a weather system moving through, we decided to stay home and get some chores done this weekend. Funny thing is, I sometimes forget how great we have it in our own backyard. After laboring in the vegetable garden, Chad and I escaped for our first big(ger) trail run of the spring. Since the Fruita Fat Tire Festival was going on this weekend and we wanted to avoid the crowds, Chad and I decided on the Ute Canyon trail in the Colorado National Monument. An out and back from the Wildwood trailhead is 15 miles. Too much for us early season, so we decided to set up a car shuttle and run down Ute Canyon from Rimrock Drive. Throw in the Corkscrew trail too and its a nice 8 mile run in one of the most beautiful canyons in our backyard.
Dropping off the rim was somewhat reminiscent of the Grand Canyon run we did last fall, though as Chad reminded me, about a 10th of the distance, elevation and pain. Sure enough the descent was over quickly. Once in the canyon we found the trees still bare but some indian paintbrush already poking through and water flowing in the canyon bottom.
For several miles we followed rolling singletrack through the sagebrush, until reaching the Corkscrew. Aptly named we followed the rocky trail through tight switchbacks down to the Wildwood trailhead. A short but sweet season opener. And the vegetable garden looks good too!