Friday, March 30, 2012

Greetings from Tahkovouri, Finland

(click on any photo to enlarge) Work has taken me to Finland for ski testing and a Fischer 2013-14 Product Line preview. After 28 hours of travel (ouch!) I finally arrived in Kuopio, about an hours flight north of Helsinki. The Lakes Region of Finland is known for great skiing in the Winter and boating and golf in the Summer. This time of the year (Spring) the days are getting longer and the sun doesn't go down until close to 10pm. Which meant after long days of meetings in conference rooms, my skiing was limited to 7pm to 9pm, which was fine with me. The ski trails in this area are community maintained and connect most of the small towns together. Also the Fins add street lights to a lot of the trails so they can ski during the short mid-winter days. To say I was happy is an understatement(video link). After the bleak winter we have had in the Sierra, the winter like conditions here are awesome. The Finnish people are very friendly and accommodating. We had great food (lots of fish) and good weather (by Finnish standards). Temperatures were between 26F and 36F most of the week and it snowed a couple of days. As I found out, this is very typical spring weather in Finland. The Classic skiing was great as our Zero skis were working great the entire week, which meant no klister and no sticky gloves.

I wish my photos did the scenery justice, but its hard to capture the expansive feeling that skiing in this area brings. Unfortunately all good things come to an end and I had to leave this Nordic skier paradise and endure a 30 hour travel return trip. I arrived home late last night, completely jet lagged and feeling hungover even though I wasn't drinking. Now I have to wax skis and get in the 4Runner to head to Mammoth for the last Demo of the year. I'll be glad when Sunday night comes as it signifies the end of Demo/Clinic season. Now I can ski a little and relax. Cheers.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

West Yellowstone Thanksgiving

 The Thanksgiving holiday was spent in West Yellowstone,  Montana this year. Why, you ask? Every year the US Cross Country Ski community descends on the small town of West Yellowstone for the season opening training camps and races. The snow was fantastic and the weather not too bad. We had some cold mornings (-10 -ish a couple days), but most days were sunny and not too windy. I really worked most of the time but I did get to ski most everyday. A typical day consists of waking up at 5:30am to get coffee and breakfast. Head back to the hotel room for application of clothing layers. Get to the Demo venue by 8am and set up tents, wax benches, skis, poles and boots. Stand all day and hand out skis. boots, poles, etc.. Take lunch break and ski for an hour or two. The Demo is usually over at 3pm, and we tear down everything until 4:30pm then race to the Hotel to shower, eat and head to the evening Expo. Stand in Expo booth and hand out stickers to racers and wanna be's. Expo ends at 9pm. Head to Hotel room and pass out. Repeat. After driving 14 hours each way and a week of the above routine, I was very happy to come home on Sunday evening. I slept 14 hours straight! Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

First Snow of The Season

Rb and I went for a hike during the first snow of the season in the Sierra. Mid October and we already have snow. Here is the two of us having fun in Thomas Meadows. Its going to be a long and busy winter!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer Boot Camp Day 7

(click on any photo to enlarge) I got up before the alarm and fired up the coffee. We were packed and walking by 5:15am. It was an incredible morning and we felt we had the mountains to ourselves. We crested Silver Pass by 5:30am and were cruising down the other side as the sun started to rise. I shot my favorite photo of the entire trip just on the North side of the pass.
After navigating some rotten snow that had frozen overnight, we strolled by Squaw Lake. I wish we could have made it here last night but it was just a little too far and as it was we set up camp in the dark. We knew today would challenge both of us, so we didn't linger too long and made good time down to Tully Hole. We then climbed 1000ft up to Virginia Lake, down 500ft to Purple Lake then back up to the Duck Lake Trail. Whew! Around Noon we were at the 15 mile mark with still 12 to go. We stopped and ate the last of our snacks, filled our bladders up for the last time and settled into a 4mph pace to try to get to Reds Meadows before 4pm. The rest of our day was a lot of sandy, energy zapping trail.
We did have some great views of Ritter and Banner with about 4 miles to go. The last mile was the longest of the trip. Finally we saw the store and all the people hanging around waiting for the shuttle to the Mammoth Mtn Ski Area. We went in to get a cold drink. After taking the shuttle down into Mammoth, we scrubbed off the trail patina and walked across the street to Miguel's to have Mexican food and beer. Another trip comes to an end. Boy - After a week of Christi mileage, I'm glad to be done!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer Boot Camp Day 6

(click on any photo to enlarge) I slept very well last night. Christi was sick of listening to me bitch and let me sleep on her pad. We packed everything we had (packs, clothing, etc.) under her sleeping bag and she was fine. She said she slept the same as if she had a pad! I felt like a puss but it didn't prevent me from taking her pad! Today we had to cross Bear Ridge and descend the 72 switchbacks down to Quail Meadows, then climb as far up Silver Pass as we could before dark. We started early as we knew we were in for a pretty long day. We crested Seldon Pass after less then 30 mins. On the way down the other side of the Pass we entered one of the buggy-est areas on the JMT, Rosemarie Meadows.
Rosemarie Meadows
The bloodsuckers were out in full force so we hurried along without getting to enjoy the green, lush meadows. As soon as we got to Bear Ridge the mosquitoes were less prevalent, and enjoyable walking ensued.
Mt Humphreys
At one point I turned around to see Mt. Humphreys peeking through the trees behind us. From the top of the ridge, the trail drops very steeply down to where Mono Creek enters Lake Thomas Edison. Some hikers will take the water taxi across Lake Thomas Edison to Vermillion Resort for their mid-way resupply. We prefer Muir Trail Ranch as there are less people and the staff at the Ranch are always so friendly.
One of the 72 Switchbacks of Bear Ridge
We tramped down the switchbacks (which incidentally are far easier going down!) and made it to Quail Meadows around 4pm. We filled our bladders in Mono Creek, soaked our bandanas and started the 7 mile 3000ft climb to Silver Pass. This afternoon I felt way better than yesterday and the climb was almost enjoyable.
We started to get close to the Pass right around dark. We found the last campsite just before the Pass proper. We ate by headlamp and crashed out in anticipation of the 27 mile hike out to Reds Meadows tomorrow. The alarm is set for 4:30am!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Summer Boot Camp Day 5

(click on any photo to enlarge) Today we had a lot of forest walking which was a nice change compared to the above treeline hiking we have had for the last 4 days. Today we started off walking slightly downhill through McLure Meadows and the entire Evolution Valley. It was very quiet and beautiful first thing in the morning. We didn't see anyone until we came to the crossing of Evolution Creek. The crossing wasn't too deep but it was big enough for us to take our shoes and socks off. We waded across and sat on the other side to dry our feet and have a few snacks to get us to Muir Trail Ranch. Once again we mailed a food drop to the Ranch and planned on being there around 2pm.

When we came to the bridge that crosses the S. Fork of the San Juaquin River, we knew we had about an hour to go until we arrived at the Ranch. We rolled in just before 2pm an collected our bucket that we mailed two months ago. Tradition has it that we put in extra goodies for eating while we are resupplying. Christi always has Pringles and this year I went for Honey Mustard Pretzels. Oh my- were they great! We stuffed ourselves while we got rid of our garbage, refilled our sunscreen, deet, hand sanitzer, water treatment drops, ibuprofen and our TP kits. With full bellies and heavy packs we set off up the climb to Sallie Keys Lakes. In the years past we have stayed across the river from Muir Trail Ranch, gone to the natural hot springs and made it a destination. This year we are on a mileage kick so we had 5 miles to go after picking up our food. MTR sits at 7790ft, the lowest altitude of our whole trip, and was easily 10 degrees warmer then what we have had the last few days. We immediately started climbing, after resupply and lunch break, and had a little over 2500ft to climb before we could stop for the night. I really suffered this afternoon. Maybe I ate too much at lunch or the heat got to me, I don't know, but I was immediately dragging ass.
Christi left me for dead on the climb as I was left in my own personal purgatory. Notice the lack of photos from the afternoon/evening hike as I was in no mood to take any! I was so thankful after three hours of climbing when we came up on the first of the Sallie Keys Lakes. We walked all the way to the end of the furthest lake and made camp less than a mile below Seldon Pass. Today was my worst day as I really was slow after lunch. Hopefully I can get some sleep and feel better in the morning. Two more long days and with any luck we'll be in Mammoth on Friday night!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summer Boot Camp Day 4

(click on any photo to enlarge) We woke to a deer sharing our campsite. She wasn't the least bit shy of us and continued feeding while we had coffee and packed up. Yesterday was a big day but we had another one today. We had the mighty Muir Pass (11,956ft.) on the docket today and from the South no less. We started our day at the entrance to LeConte Canyon (8095ft.) which is 10.3 miles from the Pass. The climb was as expected early on, we've done this climb four times so we know it well. Big and Little Pete Meadows are beautiful especially in this wet year. It is late spring in the High Sierra. Lots of water means lots of flowers. The lower part of the Pass is really beautiful. As we got above treeline, we didn't expect the amount of snow we encountered in the last two miles to the top.
Climbing the South side of Muir Pass
We had fun with the snow and the conditions. Since it was about 2:30pm when we were on the Pass, the snow was soft enough to get purchase. We have never seen this much snow on Muir and none of the other passes this year have been much more than a short snowfield crossing at the top. We arrived at the hut and believe it or not we had the place to ourselves. Every other time we've been here, the pass has been a bustling beehive of hikers taking photos and comparing war stories from the climb. It was a bit eerie to be alone up there. You feel so small and insignificant. We checked out the inside of the hut and took a few photos and headed down the other side toward McLure Meadows. The landscape is almost lunar on the North side. Just granite, sand, water and snow. It was about the only place that hasn't had mosquitoes!
Walking on the Moon
The afternoon walk was slightly downhill and pleasurable. We passed lake after lake and crossed the inlets and outlets that were swollen with snow melt. Finally we came upon the highest of the Evolution chain of lakes. This is a gorgeous part of the Sierra and were came through in late afternoon and the light was just right. Our stop for the evening is at the lowest Evolution Lake, right at the outlet. We scored a great campsite that was secluded and provided a great area for cleaning up. As I set up camp, Christi went to the waters edge and did her chores. I went to join her as soon as I finished. Man I love this area!  I hung out on the rocks until sundown. This was one of those afternoons that you never want to end. As the sun went down I took a photo that captures the beauty of this area. Another long day but tonight I don't feel tired. Christi is sawing logs as I take the last photos of the day.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Boot Camp Day 3

(click on any photo to enlarge) After a poor night of sleep I got up with the sun and started the water boiling for coffee. Christi slept better than I did and was packed and ready while I was still drinking my Joe. We still felt like we could bag two passes in a day and set off to tackle the south side of Pinchot Pass (12,130ft.). Within an hour we were on top. There were no real difficulties on either side of Pinchot and we set off down toward Lake Marjorie. The JMT drops down to the South Fork of the Kings River here and then starts the long climb to Mather Pass (12,100ft.). Mather from the North is, in our opinion, the second hardest Pass on the JMT. A tie for first is Muir from the South and Forester from the North. Luckily today our approach to Mather was from the South. We (I mean Christi) set a good tempo through Upper Basin in the shadow of Split and Cardinal Mountains. We were on top of Mather Pass at 2:30pm. Then began the LONG descent down Palisade Creek to the Middle Fork of the Kings. This downhill really enforced how long and difficult the North side climb is. From the top of the Pass, it is 10.2 miles to the entrance of LeConte Canyon and the Middle Fork of the Kings River.
The first part of the descent after Palisade Lake was the famous 'Golden Staircase". This was the last section finished on the JMT. It really is an engineering marvel. The trail builders managed to build a trail directly up an otherwise unusable, steep ass chute. When we climbed this a few years ago a deer climbed the whole Staircase about 100 yards in front of us all the way to the lake! We weren't so lucky today as it was the heat of the afternoon and the only company we had on the trail was the suffering Southbound JMT hikers that were climbing the Staircase late in the day hoping to make it to Palisade Lake. We managed to hike the entire way to LeConte Canyon making a daily total of 22 miles. Quite a day. Pretty tired tonight but we both hiked well today.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Summer Boot Camp Day 2

(click on any photo to enlarge) Today started with blue skies and mild temperatures. Our goal was to get over Glen Pass (11,978ft.) early and get close to Pinchot Pass by the end of the day. We got up and packed early as usual and after only a couple of hours we were standing on top of Glen Pass ready to descend down to the first of the Rae Lakes. This is a very scenic area between Glen and Pinchot Passes. As I've said before - this area is very popular and can be crowded. There was only a small snow field on the North side of the Pass. Once we got into the Basin we cruised by the four lakes and surprisingly didn't see anyone. There were a few people on the top of the Pass but very few in the basin. Fin Dome resides next to the second Rae Lake and acts as a gendarme for the whole basin. Once we got to Dollar and Arrowhead Lakes we knew the bridge and our turnoff for Pinchot Pass was coming up. The Woods Creek Bridge is often referred to as the Golden Gate of the Sierra. Upon crossing it you immediately turn right (east) and follow the creek up to treeline. The creek was flowing like crazy! We have never seen it this big. This could mean that our stream crossings coming up will be difficult. We walked for the rest of the afternoon and settled in at about 2 miles below the Pass. The bloodsuckers were out in full force so we retired to the tent to stretch and eat. Our first 'real' day on the trail was good and aside from hip soreness from sleeping on the ground, we were no worse for wear. Tomorrow will be a little longer with possibly two passes - we'll see how we feel in the morning. Cheers.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summer Boot Camp Day 1

(click on any photo to enlarge) When I applied for our wilderness permit in February, I envisioned a two week trip with just the two of us. As the year progressed our desire to use all two weeks of our vacation hiking diminished. So as our trip approached we decided to do a week of hard hiking (hence the 'Boot Camp') and then a week of hanging out at the lake, paddleboarding, drinking beer, etc. So on Saturday, Aug 13, we drove to Tuolumne Meadows and left the 4Runner in the parking lot. We had arranged a shuttle to take us to Independence, Ca. where we were dropped off at the Onion Valley/Kearsarge Pass Trailhead. Thus began our one week boot camp. Our plan was to average 20 miles a day for a week and come out at Reds Meadows (Mammoth) the following Saturday evening. The trip encompassed Kearsarge, Glen, Pinchot, Mather, Muir, Seldon and Silver Passes. A pass a day, or so I thought. We arrived at the trailhead around 3pm, unloaded our gear from the shuttle hoping to make it over Kearsarge Pass before dark. As soon as our shuttle drove away, I realized I had forgotten my sleeping pad. The morning was a blur of trying to get everything organized (house sitter, doggie daycare, food drops, etc.) and I'd put Christi's pad in her pack but forgot to put mine in my pack. Doooh! Standing at the trailhead with 150 miles of walking ahead of us, there was nothing I could do but suck it up. We made the pass in a couple of hours and headed down the other side to look for a spot to spend the night. Since we've been here many times before, we knew there were some good spots at the first of the Kearsarge Lakes about two miles below the west side of the pass. We found a nice spot and I took our packs, clothing, and everything we had to put under my bag to try to offer some comfort from the hard ground under the tent. First day under our belts. Tomorrow is when the real 'Boot Camp' begins.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Big One In One Day

(click on any photo to enlarge) At the end of last years backpacking trip, Funk had asked me if I'd like to hike Mt. Whitney with him and his Dad. I told him I was all in. Funk's Dad (Dave Funk Sr.) wanted a goal to get in shape for and at age 68 wanted to stand on top of the tallest mountain in the lower 48. So earlier in the year I applied for FIVE Whitney permits on different dates. To my dismay I was turned down for every one! Quite a popular mountain. Fast forward to Monday July 25. Some of Whitney's permits are available for day hikes (no overnight stay). If you arrive the day before your hike day, you can wait in line at the Ranger Station in the sprawling metropolis of Lone Pine. We were lucky enough to get three day hike permits for Tuesday, July 26. I had made a reservation online for a campsite at Whitney Portal Campground, where the 'Portal Trail' begins. We arrived at the Portal in the late afternoon, set up camp and went for a stroll to check out the area. After taking a few photos and enjoying the magnificent scenery, we stopped and ate dinner at the famous Portal Store. Their reputation with hikers is well known. Everyone says they have the best burgers ever. The burgers are just regular burgers, but after a spell on the trail, people are convinced they're eating the best thing ever! We fell asleep with full bellies and anticipation. The night before a climb is usually a restless one, and all three of us woke at 3am not having 'slept' all that much. After some coffee and oatmeal we set off with our headlamps showing the way. The first few miles are in the green, lush Lone Pine Creek drainage after which we popped out and got this view back to the Owens Valley. There was a fire burning southwest of Whitney and it added a surreal haze to the sky all day. As the sun rose, we put our headlamps away and enjoyed the first few hours of the hike. The Portal Trail starts from the east at 8500ft elevation and climbs to 14,470ft. in 10.7 miles (for a round trip day hike of almost 22 miles). No easy day for anyone, let alone a 68 year old! The trick is to drink a crapload of fluid in the first 5 hours to get you through the last 5 hours. This really minimizes the dizzying effect of high altitude. I started with 5 liters in two bladders and still had to fill a bottle three times from the creek on the way back. Funk Sr. was moving along steadily and before we knew it we were at Trail Camp, the area that most people depart from on overnight trips. From Trail Camp the trail starts to get serious and the views are expansive. The infamous '100 Switchbacks' start just above Trail Camp. Although the trail is fantastically well engineered, it really starts to gain altitude here. Unbeknownst to me, the middle section of the switchbacks has one of the highest concentration of Polemonium flowers in the Sierra.Usually you see so few together that you don't really get much fragrance from them. The patch on Whitney was so big that I was enveloped in a high sierra perfume factory. Above the purple carpet, we reached the snow and granite section where the 'Cables' section of the climb is. Steel cables have been installed in the granite, where the trail sees year around snow, for hiker safety. After navigating the cables there are a few more long switchbacks and one snow crossing that take you to Trail Crest. This is the spot that the eastern and western trails converge with the single out and back trail to the summit proper. From this spot there are about 2 miles of rock and scree that take to the top of the mountain. We arrived later than I would have liked as I had a turn around time of 1pm in my mind. We were on the summit at about 1:45pm. Funk Sr. was very ecstatic to reach the top. I could also tell he suffered a little from summit fever and was going to have a long slow hike down as he had used a lot of his reserves to get to the top. I was a bit worried but I shouldn't have been. Funk Sr. is an ex Marine and about as tough as they come. I went down a little quicker than Funk and Funk Sr. and waited at Trail Camp. I had time to dip my feet in the lake and eat a little something. As soon as they arrived I donated the rest of my food to Sr. and headed down the last 6 miles by myself. Sr. really wanted the special t-shirt you can get at the Portal Store that says " I Did The Big One In One Day ". The store closes at 8pm and we were worried that we wouldn't make it in time. So I boogied down at a brisk pace and managed to get Sr. his shirt. Funk and Funk Sr. arrived back at the trailhead at 8:40pm for a round trip time of 16 hours. A seriously long day. None of that matters. He did it. When he gets back to the office all they'll want to know is if he summited. He can proudly say "YES". Congratulations Senior. Cheers.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Actual 'Travel'!

(click on any photo to enlarge) I have been getting some shit from friends and family for slacking on the travel blog. Up to this time I haven't really had all that much fun stuff to post. Well I actually traveled to Italy for the Campagnolo sales meeting during the last week in June. Last Fall after selling the bike shop, I lucked into a job with Fischer and Swix that occupies my Winter. I really didn't want to work all that hard in the Summer as we live simply and I didn't have to work until September, when my winter gig starts again. Well I should have known better. Campagnolo came calling and I accepted a position with them selling their clothing, shoes and helmets. The Italians have had no representation in the US up until now so I'm basically pioneering the line. What that really means is a lot of work for no immediate reward. With that said the Italians flew the 7 US reps to their factory in Vincenza (30km inland from Venice) for our annual sales meeting. It sounds great but flying that far to sit in a conference room for four days is not all that glamorous. Luckily I had an extra day and a half after the meeting to explore a little. So on June 27th I boarded a red eye to Venice. I arrived with 'plane head' (similar to 'bed head' but only on one side) and went right to the hotel to check in. Prior to flying over I had asked if I could borrow one of the Campy Service Bikes for a ride and it was waiting at the hotel for me. Sweet. I screwed my pedals in and adjusted everything to my measurements and went for a ride to clear my head. Ahh - There is nothing like riding in Italy! I managed to run into a couple of the other US reps and we went to have dinner that evening. The Hotel had townie bikes so we all grabbed one and rode to dinner at the typical Euro dinner hour of 9pm. After a few bottles of wine and dinner the ride home was fun! The next morning is when work started, unfortunately. I managed to sneak out most mornings with the Colorado Rep at 6:30am before anyone else was awake. I find I am a much better listener when I've gotten a ride or run in prior. On the last day, after our meetings ended, our sales manager treated us to a tour of Trieste which was about 2 1/2 hours north of the factory. Wow! It was very beautiful. Right on the Adriatic, you can look across and see Croatia. Campy arranged a hotel for us to stay in Trieste for the night. Very Nice. There is no way in hell I would ever get to stay in a place like this on my own dime. So I enjoyed it! Late that afternoon we took a tour of a castle that was occupied by Austrian royalty in the 1400's. The history in Italy (and Western Europe) in unlike any other place I've visited. It makes you realize how young our country really is. We had a fantastic seafood dinner with local wines and forgot that we were actually in Italy for work. The next morning was just gorgeous. (Bellisima Giornata!) We had breakfast overlooking the sea. I felt very privileged. I walked down to the beach with Jeff and his wife Arianna (Colorado Reps). The story is the Austrians brought all the dirt and rock down from the mountains to actually build the beaches and the castle we visited the day before.Well beach is a bit of an embellishment - more like cement boardwalk. We laughed at the older Euro men walking around in their banana hammocks. After breakfast we all piled into the van and headed toward Venice. Our Sales Manager dropped everyone off at the airport hotel and said ciao. Some of the Reps were flying out the next morning, but five of us weren't flying out until Sunday so we had an extra day to explore Venice. All the things you hear about Venice are true - It doesn't smell that great, it is crazy expensive, and you really have to mind your shit as pickpockets and scammers are prevalent. With that said Venice is still very beautiful and must be visited. The old city is a little detached from mainland Italy so you must take a water taxi to get there. Jeff and Arianna were staying in the Old Town so we dropped their stuff off at their hotel and went into tourist mode for the rest of the day. We went to all the spots that are on the must see list. St Michaels Square, the Rialto Bridge, etc. To give you an example of just how expensive Venice is - a small bottle of water is $10 and a small beer is $15! Needless to say we weren't drinking much. After a full day of sightseeing we left Jeff and Arianna and James (NE Rep), Tom (Mid Atlantic Rep) and I jumped on the water taxi and headed back to our airport hotel on the mainland. I got back to my room at about 1am and had to be up at 4am to catch my shuttle to the airport. I then endured a 23 hour travel day from Venice to Amsterdam then Seattle and finally home. To say I was wasted was an understatement. As I write this 3 days later I still have a jet lag hangover and I haven't been drinking! It was great to get home and see my wife and dog. Its great to leave but its always better to come home. The security blanket of wife, dog, friends, and simple life is unmatched. I promise to update the blog more frequently as we have lots of great plans for the rest of the Summer and Fall. Until then - Ciao.

A quick shout out to some of our friends that we don't get to see much anymore.
K & D in NC
J & A in Chicago
B & K in Ventura
And of course our families that actually read this drivel!
We miss you guys!