Practice Vacation

It’s been a long time since N and I have had a proper week-plus vacation together. Sure, we’ve stolen some long weekends this year, to Utah, to Yosemite and to Mammoth. But those in the travel biz would call those “short breaks”, which in my book doesn’t qualify as a ‘real’ vacation.

So I’m really looking forward to the two week trip we’ve got planned to France later this year. It’s been a long time since I took that much time off, so I figured a training vacation was in order. Nothing special, just a week away somewhere that wasn’t Tahoe. Bend’s a close enough drive, and offers much of what we love (outdoor recreation, good coffee and food), plus, N’s parent’s live there. And they have a dog that wears out our old lady – built in doggie day care!

It was a most relaxing week despite the unusually warm weather that was apparently my fault (karma really is a bitch). Our days consisted of mountain biking, hanging out with his parents, and reading, with the odd jaunt into town for coffee or lunch. It was blissfully unscheduled.

One area of my practice vacation that I didn’t do so well on was the photography. Sure, the trails in Bend are swoopy singletrack fun, but I didn’t stop much to take photos (or when I did, I would inevitably get N in the shadow). So, the pickings were slim from the trip.

riding without a seatpost

it's more fun riding *with* a seat. trust me on this.

About the only photo I have is from the last day, when the screw that held my seat to the post shattered at the beginning of the final descent. N takes such good care of the bikes that we never have the typical maintenance issues on the trail…just the extreme ones, like a 10 year old screw disintegrating. So, seatless, I was forced to channel my ‘inner Marla’ and stand up in the pedals for the remaining 7 miles, most of which was downhill, some of which was pump-track like with the jumps and turns. I did make it to the trailhead in one piece, which admittedly is more than my bike could say.

Overall, practice vacation went well, even though it didn’t involve TSA, passports, another language, and a different currency. I’m feeling like I’m ready for the real thing at this point. Time for real vacation.

My hiking buddy

For most of her life, Soleil has been my favorite hiking buddy.  She was there before I met Nils, and was there long before I realized that mountain biking was actually more exhilarating than hiking.  She’s accompanied me along numerous Lake Tahoe hiking and running trails, and knows the Desolation Wilderness better than most people.

My hiking buddy is now 10, and the hip dysplasia that she was diagnosed with 8 years ago is a little more prevalent.  She’ll still prance and frolic and pick up large sticks, but she’s decidedly stiffer the next day.  The days of 20+ mile hikes are over, so our adventures together are a little less extreme.  Yet she’s just as exuberant about a 20 minute walk in the nearby meadow as she is a 10 mile hike.  (Yes, there are lessons there for me.)

Most of this summer has been spent in the bike saddle – or on my roller skates – so the dog’s not had the same volume of hikes as years past.   I’ve only begun to make it up to her as the leaves change, which isn’t a bad thing, given that autumn is one of the nicest hiking seasons here.   The past few weekends have brought us quiet trails, colorful leaves, and some terrific views.

As for the mutt, even at 10, or 70, depending on whether you count dog years, she’s still able to climb the 3,000 feet to summit Tallac, and still garner the adoration of dog-loving passersby.  And when there’s someone watching, she’ll still prance with a large stick like the overgrown puppy I like to think she still is.

I know she’s getting older, but I’d like to think we’ll have another few seasons of hikes ahead of us.  After all, there are lots more large sticks out there.  And loads more prancing to do.

Happy birthday Nimtard.

Eastern Sierra Antics: Mt. Wood

After such an epic winter in the Sierra, I figured that the spring corn skiing season would be equally as fab.  What little we have had has been fun, but it keeps being interrupted by a return to winter.

We had heard about the possibility of weather moving in yesterday, but decided to go ahead with Operation Eastern Sierra anyway.  Mango margaritas were taunting me loudly, and after a long week I needed to get outta Dodge.    We met our friend Fred at the Whoa Nellie Deli on Friday night to discuss Saturday plans over fish tacos and jambalaya.  Fred really wanted to hit the Cocaine Chute, a steeper line near the Dana Plateau.   I wasn’t into boot-packing up a chute (ski boot issues make that the equivalent of stabbing needles in my eye), and decided to take the dog and head to the less extreme terrain of the lower apron of Mt. Wood.

As luck would have it, a friend of mine pulled in right behind me not moments after I’d parked, so Soleil & I joined him and his friends.  This made route-finding on the initial climb dead easy, since all I had to do was follow.  The climb up is pretty direct (read: up), and once we reached the lower apron of Mt. Wood it was literally a straight line up.  As my friend & his pals continued up the steep, icy bootpack to the summit (whose steep angle my camera couldn’t capture), the dog & I lapped the lower slopes, which were corning up nicely.

Turns out the descent from the near top of Mt. Wood wasn’t as soft as hoped, due primarily to the cold east winds that had been gusting all morning.  That said, it only about 1,000 feet out of their 4,000+ foot descent though, and the winds did ensure that the lower elevation snow didn’t get too sticky, even at 2.30 pm on our final descent.

All of us milked the remaining few thousand feet of silky corn, including the dog, who had a few spectacular wipeouts as she tried to keep us with us.

It was definitely one of her bigger days of the season, and she was pretty happy to get back to the truck.  Truth be told, so was I.  My ‘easy’ day ended up being about 8 hours with over 4,000 feet of vertical.   And a lot more fun than I imagined.


Making hay while the snow (still) falls

Much to the chagrin of about half the local population, winter is just not ready to say goodbye.  This week brought more snow – and cold temps – to the area, leaving roads icy, open-toed sandal wearing women cold, mountain bikers frustrated, and powder loving skiers and snowboarders very happy.  As one of the latter, I only really had one opportunity to get out, so yesterday after work I convinced a friend to join the dog and I for a quick lap.

Admittedly we were both slightly skeptical about what snow we’d find on April 28th, even though Squaw Valley had been crowing about the 15″+ it had received on the upper mountain.  We quickly realized that there was a not-insignificant amount of snow.  Enough that we had to work a bit to break trail.

Skinning in powder

We opted for a lower angle pitch, and the snow was fluff on top of a nicely consolidated base.  Face shots were had by the dog, and while the humans didn’t get quite that, it was an elegant sufficiency, especially considering that some of us figured we’d seen our last powder day of the season last week.

As it snowed on and off again today, I’m very tempted to set the alarm for a dawn patrol tomorrow.  After all, the endless winter has got to end sometime, right?

Winter, she returns

Winter appears to have returned to Lake Tahoe, with 3-5 inches of new snow locally. Due to some cosmic screwup, Reno and the Carson Valley got more snow than the Tahoe area did – upwards of a foot.  So while folks down there were digging out, we headed to Luther Pass to look for some wind-deposited winter snow.

Despite it being a holiday week here, with everyone and their mother’s uncle on the roads, we encountered very few fellow backcountry skiers today – just a group from the local community college taking an avalanche certification class.  And even after a week of springlike weather, the snow today bore none of the crusty and firm characteristics I’d expected.  Just boot to shin deep fluff.

No photos were taken today (bad light, too cold, and having WAAAY too much fun to stop), but we did get home to find that the dog, apparently grumpy that we left her and her aging hips behind, had decided to clean all the dishes in the sink for us, leaving detritus all over the kitchen.  While admittedly post-haste, we thought the muzzle might serve as a reminder why impromptu kitchen cleanup isn’t such a good idea.

Tip of the Day

If you need to induce vomiting in your dog after she’s chowed down on more than a few pieces of raisin bread (raisins being toxic to dogs), a plastic bike water bottle is a good mechanism for pouring the hydrogen peroxide down the dog’s throat if you don’t have a turkey baster handy for this task.

Why and how I know this is a whole different story. Dog’s OK now though.