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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Taking it Slow in England

By Ann Driggers
Tuesday, May 19, 2009

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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He landed safe and sound, by the way.

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Handies Peak

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Spring Ski Prep

By Ann Driggers
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Assorted footwear required for spring skiing.

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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.

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Backyard Playing

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.

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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.

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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!

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2009 Inaugural Bike Commute

By Ann Driggers
Thursday, April 23, 2009

Despite an early false start, winter has been slow to release its grasp on the high desert. This week, spring finally got its act together and provided me with my first opportunity to start the bike commuting season. One evening I spent a few minutes in preparing my noble steed, a very old, first generation mountain bike, tricked out with the necessary commuter additions of slicks and a bell. Tires pumped and chain lubed I was ready to roll. Having waited so long to get the 2009 Inaugural Bike Commute underway, it was rather a novelty, and opened my eyes as if it was the first time I had ever ridden into work. In fact I enjoyed it so much I got to thinking that I have the best commute in Grand Junction. Here’s why. A Perfect Pseudo Workout The total distance round trip is 14 miles, which strikes the perfect balance between a full blown workout, and being too short to actually qualify as exercise. Better yet, on the way in it is mostly downhill, so I arrive at work smelling as fresh as a daisy, for which my co-workers should be very grateful. Of course, its uphill all the way back, so I do in fact get some semblance of exercise and nobody cares how sweaty I am. A Pretty Cool Route Starting at the base of the red rock canyons, I cruise down the new bike lane on Monument Road, until I reach My Own Private Bridge. Currently under construction, vehicles are required to detour the Redlands Canal Bridge, leaving it all to me and my riding pleasure. Although not quite as good as last year when I had My Own Private Road (aka Riverside Parkway) consisting of four lanes of asphalt for two miles, it’s still pretty nice to avoid the detour and the traffic. Unfortunately it looks almost complete so it wont be long before I have to share it with everyone else.

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After crossing the canal and then the Colorado River, I hop onto the river trail which takes me to the Botanical Gardens. The river trail is awesome. Once the site of heavy industrial activity it has since been cleaned up, returned to its natural state, and provides habitat for many birds and critters. More often than not I will see a heron standing at rivers edge as I stop and check the size of the waves at the ‘Grand Junction’, the confluence of the Gunnison and Grand (Colorado) rivers.

The Piece de Resistance.

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Leaving the river trail, I follow 7th Street into the heart of downtown, and directly to the source of the absolute highlight of my entire commute. As I approach Enstrom's Candies, a mouth watering aroma of gooey melted chocolate, caramel, and other delightful confections ooze into the air. Nostrils flared like a racehorse I wait at the stop light, praying that it will malfunction for several minutes, allowing me to continue to soak that sumptuous smell into every pore of my body. Once in a while I lose total control of my bike. Completely of its own volition the bike steers itself into Enstroms parking lot and forces me to sidle up to the counter while justifying my indulgence with my pseudo workout.

Many pieces de pas de resistance.

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My Other Bike If there is a downside to my commute it is the return journey, late in the afternoon. As I labor up Monument Road, with the relentless sun beating down on me I start to question the sanity of declaring my commute the best in all Grand Junction. Not only is it much hotter and harder than the morning trip, there is no wonderful aroma to encourage me on. Even worse I am frequently embarrassed as I am passed by riders on their way to the Lunch Loop trailhead. As they sail on by riding their high-end mountain bikes I consider shouting out “My Other Bike is an Ellsworth!” which is really true, but then I feel bad for my faithful commuter bike and I don’t.

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