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.

Follow Ann Driggers on Twitter by clicking HERE.

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The Long and the Short of It

By Ann Driggers
Sunday, January 6, 2013

January has come and with it brilliant blue skies and cold clear air. Dreams of fresh powder are, well, only dreams. We tour into the mountains for exercise and views of the high alpine and its rugged peaks. In these short days of winter the trees throw shadows longer than they are tall and in the aspens the world is full of stripes, black and white and blue.

The snow sparkles still but now decorated with frost and underneath we know depth hoar grows, silent and deadly, eating away at the stability of the snowpack. Slopes of silky, recycled powder tempt us but we stick to our plan and travel a forested ridge to a wind blasted rocky summit.

Around us the mountains of the Elk Range soar high. Mount Daly, Capitol and Clark Peaks have front and center stage and from here the jagged Willoughby ridge stretches in the distance where it meets the Maroon Bells, sawtooths in the sky. On our high, barren perch the slightest breeze cuts like a knife as it seeps through the icy peaks.

We don’t stay long as the sun sinks even lower on the horizon. We glide back down, making turns in glades and meadows cast with long, dark shadows and slalom through the aspens now streaming with golden light. As we reach the car the sun is gone.

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Powder Dreams

By Ann Driggers
Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Under the cover of darkness the snow fell in thick folds, piling high, light and deep on a cold windless night. And I sleep, dreaming of the beauty and joy of powder skiing and what the next day might bring. As dawn breaks, the alpenglow illuminates the high peaks etched against a sapphire sky and the earth lies quiet and heavy enveloped in a fresh blanket of glittering white. The promise of a bluebird powder day is born.

 

As we climb, plowing our way through the knee-deep snow, flakes tumble gently from the sky, like feathers delicately landing on my eyelashes and in marshmallow clumps in the aspen boughs. The storm is clearing and wisps of clouds float through the valleys and drift around the mountaintops. Deep in the forest the air is still, cold and brittle, and my breath is a frozen swirl in the pewter light. A frosty sunbeam streams through the thick evergreens and suddenly the space becomes luminous, filled with floating sparkly pixie dust and I am thinking it is enough to be just there, in the mountains traveling through this kaleidoscope of color and light.

Still there is more to come, as a pristine canvas of virgin velvety powder awaits. After topping out we rip skins from skis and glide silently downwards beneath laden stands of old growth trees and into the open glades. We carve arcs through the silken meadows and cold smoke roils up our chests, whirls around our heads, and sprays frothy plumes in our wake. In the eddy that follows, spindrift swirls and slowly settles. A hushed sigh is the only sound, a mere echo of the passing skier.

 

It is here where time stands still, suspended. There is nothing more than being in that very moment. Life is both amplified and focused in the bright magical space when floating between the sky and snow, dancing weightless through a blur of blue and white and, beneath my feet, feeling the rhythm of my turning skis. This is where my dreams become reality. And the reality of powder skiing on this day will become my future dreams.


 

Photos of James Lindenblatt (in blue) by myself. Photos of me (in orange) by James. 

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Fiery Furnace

By Ann Driggers
Saturday, December 1, 2012

After a morning ski and a big turkey dinner, the recent Thanksgiving weekend found us enjoying the desert once again. Given the dearth of snow in the mountains we headed out to the Moab area with a large group of friends and set up camp just north of town in the Klondike Bluffs. Although our typical MO for Moab is mountain biking, of which we did plenty, three days allowed us to get some hiking in too. We picked off some of the classics such as Negro Bill Canyon and Corona Arch which are quite amazing in their own right, but it was Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park which was the standout hike of the trip.

The Fiery Furnace is an area in Arches National Park which is a maze of fins and canyons carved out of red sandstone. Although distance wise the hike we took was not long we spent around three hours inside exploring nooks and crannies, slithering in and out of narrow slots and gazing at the fantastical shapes of the rock above us.

We hiked in the afternoon so in the depths of the canyons the light was difficult but here are some of the best shots of the day:

If you ever find yourself in the Moab area I can highly recommend this hike. Be warned that it is extremely popular and is subject to a permit system. Although we had little issue in getting in it was the end of November and considered the 'off season'. Information can be found on the Arches National Park website.

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Fiery Evening Run

By Ann Driggers
Wednesday, November 14, 2012

 

I rarely run in the evening, prefering to get my workout done before heading to work early in the morning. Today however, seeing the sky was setting up with some good cloud action, I pulled on my running shoes and headed out from the house just before sunset. And boy was I glad I did.

We've just moved (again) and are now high above the Roaring Fork Valley near Carbondale. It is a spectacular setting with 360 degree views encompassing the Flattops, the Continental Divide, some of Colorado's famous Fourteeners such as Capitol and of course the ever present Mount Sopris.There are some great trails in the neighborhood which loop around wide open expanses of rolling sage brush and through mature pinon and juniper forest. I set off with Tikka to enjoy what turned out to be one of the most dramatic sunsets I've seen in a long time.

I was also excited to see, with the fresh snow we received over the weekend, someone had started to groom the trails for cross country skiing. I ran next to the track so as not to damage it but it needs a little more snow before being truly skiable. With sunsets like these I'll be making an evening workout, ski or run, more of a regular occurence.

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Eddy Line

By Ann Driggers
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In the mountains the air is cold, the sky is full of ragged clouds, grey like raw wool, and snow has fallen on rotting leaves and barren trees. Winter is closing in and autumn has fled down river, to the desert where the light is still bright and the trees are blazing. We follow the eddy line, the seam between the seasons, as far as we can in western Colorado and beyond.  We take to the river, for what better way to experience the remainder of fall and, if we are honest, hanker for the summer that is gone. 

The cottonwood trees at rivers edge are on fire. Bald eagles, more than we can count, settle in to overwinter. They perch still and majestic on the dark gnarled branches amongst the ochre leaves, watching as we silently glide beneath on the languid river. 

In thick golden light we camp. Kick off shoes, dig and wriggle our toes in the cool sand. The song of a canyon wren cascades down the walls as the river quietly flows on. 

In the evening hours, as shadow settles over the earth, the departing sun paints the colors of the desert into the sky. 

 

The dark curtain of the cool night falls as the Hunter's moon burns bright above. We gather around a fire, warm light flickering on the canyon walls.

 

Sunrise gilds the river. A heron wades in shallow waters while high above a formation of honking geese fly south. We will the sun closer as the line of warmth creeps ever so slowly towards us shivering in the shade.

Plying the oars we take to the river again. We emerge from the deep fissure in the earth and into open pastures. The sky is bigger here and all around, the sun is warm and I am thinking I will never get tired of looking at golden leaves and the big blue sky and floating on the river. And I am thinking how can it be the winter will come and chase away the fall?

 And just as I am thinking all this, it ends. Our eddy line is no more and we take out for the final time.

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