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
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Ann Driggers
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
On a short hike in the high country last weekend it was apparent winter is closing in: frozen ground, leaves and grasses brittle, streams and springs rimed with ice. Even at the relatively low elevation of 9,000 feet the thermometer struggled to break 40 degrees at high noon. A harsh north wind blew, shaking the few leaves still hanging on, a death rattle in the forest. The mountains, just a few days ago a riot of glorious color, are now washed to a dull brown while a cap of white begins to accumulate on the highest peaks.
It is only a matter of weeks until we will be skiing these mountains, Ullr willing. In the meantime there are plenty of desert adventures to be had. We wait, some of us not so patiently, while winter bears down.