Archive | October 2011

Unexpected Encounters: Curious Moose and Mysterious Rainbows

I’ve traveled in the mountains long enough to not be surprised by anything I witness while on an adventure. However, today, I was definitely startled for a few minutes.

Today, I decided to fish Long Lake for some late season bookies, and to glimpse winter’s progress in the high country. I spent most of the day wading out (about thirty feet from the bank) slugging streamers to the fish holding at the edge of deeper water. The wind was howling, whitecaps on the lake (the photo above was earlier in the day before the winds), and the air temperature was about thirty degrees colder than in Boulder – where I started just two hours earlier. If I were not catching fish, you might have said it was miserable. Cast. Strip, strip, strip, strip. Cast. Strip, strip, strip, strip.

Then I suddenly felt a presence behind me. I turned around to see a decently large bull moose entering the water to my right. Isn’t it odd how you can just sense when something is coming up behind you? While I’m not surprised, it is the first bull moose I’ve ever seen in the area. I’m in the high country. I’m in a lake. I could see a moose. It should not really be that surprising.

Well, what startled me was his direction of travel which was toward me. Never before encountering a bull moose while standing in a lake, I didn’t really know what I should do. For every step he took toward me, I retreated a step. As he approached, he made blowing sounds through his nostrils like a terrible sinus congestion. The water was now over my waist, and I was running out of places to retreat. At 40 feet away, I decided something should be done. So, like any panicking idiot would do, I yelled at him and waved my hands and fly rod around like I was having a seizure.

His curiosity was sated. I was indeed like all the other idiots he had probably spooked in the past. Making an abrupt ninety-degree turn he strolled to the bank, went to the first stand of small trees, thoroughly tore the shit out of them with his large headpiece, and sauntered off along the bank. He was bored, but it totally made my day. It seemed like a good time to sit down, enjoy a lunch break, and let it all soak in.

Oh yeah, another pleasant and unexpected encounter? Huge rainbow trout. I was expecting to whack a few tiny brookies today, but I never found any. Not a one. In the past, I’ve never caught anything but brookies in that lake. I’ve never heard of anyone else catching anything in that lake but brookies. Today, it was nothing but rainbows. Two of the biggest were 20″ and 21″. They were slamming into streamers like a freakin’ pike. Today was a good day.

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Ten Degrees and Getting Colder

OK, it’s not ten degrees outside, but winter will be here before you can say “Achooo!” Snow is now flying in the high country, and thoughts have turned to skiing and other winter activities. However, late in the season, the snow and the cold temps get old, and folks get “cabin fever” longing for warmer spring days.

Our winters in Boulder are relatively mild, but there’s always a brief spell in January where you might not see the sun for days. Yesterday, the morning sky and cool temps reminded me of one of those dreary mid-winter mornings. I had just gotten back from photographing a few barns north of town, and I needed to thaw out. The mountains, usually visible from my door, are hidden behind a gloomy wall of white. To hell with the mid-morning run. It’s 10 degrees outside with a windchill of way-too-fucking-cold. It’s been snowing gently for two days, but last night’s wind has already scoured the yard of clean of fresh snow. The light is just weird. Is the sun going to come out, or is it going to snow again? Make up your mind, dammit. The icy cold wind cut right through my over-priced performance apparel and answered my question. I cart more firewood into the house.

The scene above (I painted last winter) is from a day like that. I took a photo of this shed out on the prairie in-between snow storms on a bitter cold January day. The light was weird. For just a few moments, the weathered shed was awash in a brilliant morning sun that quickly gave way to another wintery storm on the prairie.

If your ever out on Hwy 52 near IBM in Gunbarrel, you can see the shed for yourself. Right next to it is a nice large barn with an American flag painted on it.

Forget What You Thought You Knew About Cooking

My father-in-law just shared with me the most interesting cookbook I’ve ever seen. It’s not your grandmother’s cookbook, but it may have been your grandfather’s. Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices written by George Leonard Herter and Berthe E. Herter is well out of print (ninth edition was printed in 1964), but I suggest you go over to Amazon.com and pick up a used copy. George Herter was probably the manliness man to have ever authored a cookbook, and one glance at this book will let you know he’s a hell of a storyteller to boot.

I can’t even begin to describe this quirky book with my own words. Instead, I’ll use bits of George’s words to give you a glimpse into the book.

I am putting down some of these recipes that you will not find in cook books plus many other historical recipes. Each recipe here is a real cooking secret. I am also publishing for the first time authentic historical recipes of great importance.

For your convenience I will start with meats, fish, eggs, soups and sauces, sandwiches, vegetables, the art of French frying, desserts, how to dress game, how to properly sharpen a knife, how to make wines and beer, how to make French soap, what to do in case of hydrogen or cobalt bomb attack. Keeping as much in alphabetical order as possible.

Of course, he would start with meat – what a bad-ass. Then he includes all the other important stuff like sharpening knives, making beer, and surviving a hydrogen bomb attack. Yes, In Case of a Hydrogen Bomb Attack… comes right after the Sioux Method of Cracking Black Walnuts. Pretty awesome, eh?

As far as keeping things in alphabetical order, I’m not sure any article is truly in alphabetical order, but that just adds to the eccentricity of this book. George also often blurs the lines between fact, fiction, and personal opinion throughout his “recipes.” Below are excerpts from ten recipes. Read these, and you’ll get an idea about the rest of the book. Forget what you thought you knew about cooking. George will set you straight.

Kidneys Henry The VIII

…Henry the VIII actually never amounted to anything and would not have made a good ditch digger. The only thing that he ever did do to his credit was to highly endorse the kidneys made by Elizabeth Grant, one of his many cooks. Here is the original recipe…

Swedish Muskrat

The person who named the muskrat should forever be ashamed of himself. If he had given it a nice name such as water opossum… Swedish muskrat however is one of the best dishes you will ever eat…

How to Make Jerky

In case of an atomic bomb attack it would be very important to know how to make jerky… build a log tower about three feet square and open at the top. This is quickly done simply by cutting up small logs and sharpening them on one end and driving them into the ground close together…

How to Cook Bologna

Bologna was invented in the town of Bologna, Italy in 1463 by a man named Anthony Garcia… Today the bologna makers tell you to simply put the ring of bologna into boiling water and heat it until warm and then serve. If you want strong tasting, greasy, bologna that you go around belching all day long this is the way to prepare it…

How to Make Caviar

Caviar was originally prepared in China from carp eggs. The carp is really a goldfish and is the only fish besides sturgeon that have grey colored eggs. They are somehwat lighter gray than strugeon eggs. Beyond a doubt carp eggs make by far the finest tasting caviar. The flesh of carp no matter how it is prepared is very poor eating and few people care for it at all… If a human eats raw carp flesh for a week he will also die… Here is the original and best caviar recipe…

Confederate Baked Potatoes

Getting a good baked potato these days is next to impossible… Go to your lumber yard and buy a dozen 60-penny nails. These are large nails as thick around as a lead pencil and about five inches long. The nails will be dirty and usually a little rusted. Take the nails and sandpaper… Take the potatoes and run a 60-penny nail lengthwise through each one leaving the nail protruding out of each end…

Titty Sauce Yams

The African slave women were used in bringing up the plantation owners babies. If the mother could not nurse the baby or did not care to which was often the case, the African women nursed them. In Africa nursing women often put honey or honey mixed with water mixture on the tits of their breasts… Boil the sweet potatoes with the jackets on for 20 minutes in water…

Why It Is Impossible For Modern Women To Bake Well

The flour companies only will sell you what is known as an “all purpose flour.” This all-purpose flour is a very, very poor quality soft wheat flour with very little strength… A woman is a natural housewife, cook, and baker. Giver her idle time from lack of being allowed to bake and even divorces can result. The television moguls, of course, want her to watch their idiotic contest and quiz programs with silly, stupid masters of ceremonies who think acting silly makes them a comedian…

Spinach Mother Of Christ

The Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ was very fond of spinach. This is a well known fact… Her favorite music was that of the crude bagpipes of that time, and this is also a well-known fact. On the eve of Christ’s birth in the cave that was called a stable, her only meal was spinach… Take six quarts of fresh spinach…

Swedish Method Of Preparing Rutabagas

The only correct way ever invented to prepare them…

How To Avoid Alcoholism And Still Drink

Some people are continually bothered by the fear that they will become alcoholics. To avoid any chance of becoming an alcoholic and still drink do as follows…

In Case Of A Hydrogen Bomb Attack You Must Know The Ways Of The Wilderness To Survive

If we have a bomb attack it will be a heavy one with every major city and most of the country wiped out in less than half an hour…The would-be authorities tell you to go into your basement and put up a wood lean-to against one wall and get under it. This is the surest way to get killed in a bombing attack and is the thing you must not do…

Sunrise on the Hills

I stood upon the hills, when heaven’s wide arch
Was glorious with the sun’s returning march,
And woods were brightened, and soft gales
Went forth to kiss the sun-clad vales…

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Sunrise on the Hills (excerpt)

Fly fishing and running are two of my favorite pastimes that give me good reason to stir before dawn and watch another glorious day unfold. The following photos were taken over two different days in the past few weeks while fly fishing for pike at Lake Ladora in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

Tuesday, September 27 (on my 40th birthday)

The bright line (visible in the dark shadows just below the trees) is a large herd of whitetail deer swimming in the lake right in front of me. In the group of eight deer, there were two very large 10-12 pt bucks. Awesome sight.

Above is a (rather grainy photo) of the deer further away after the light grew strong enough for a photo. They were just swimming around for no apparent reason. They were not trying to cross the lake.

Tuesday, October 11

The light show didn’t last long this morning. I snapped a few pictures and it was gone. You can see the changes in the light between the first and second image which I took about 3 minutes apart.

Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim in a Day

In one of the recent issues of a popular running magazine, one author wrote an article about his recent experience running a double-crossing of the Grand Canyon in a single day. It was a rather entertaining essay, and the author did a pretty good job of describing the difficulty. It brought back fond memories of my “rim-to-rim-to-rim in a day” adventure I had with a buddy, Kelly Bates, back in 2004.  Below is the detailed trip report I originally posted on thoos.com. I’m re-posting it here with some additional commentary and photos in case the R2R2R sounds like fun to you.

I’m including it here in this blog, because it was on my “Bucket List,” and I’m trying to document these events before I get even more forgetful than I already am.

Also commonly know to as the R2R2R. This run is not frequently done, but usually you can find a few people attempting it any April or October weekend. You can go earlier in the year (than April), but you may have problems with limited daylight hours and possible snow on the North Rim. Go much later in the year and you may have to deal with extreme temps in the canyon. I am unfamiliar with attempts and optimal times in the fall months.

The two possible starts to the run are South Kaibab Trail (6.4 miles to the Bright Angel Campground) and Bright Angel Trail (10.3 miles to the Bright Angel Campground). I suggest the Bright Angel Trail. The South Kaibab is shorter (thus steeper and tougher on your quads), but it has no water.

Starting on the South Rim (elev. 6,860 feet), if you take the Bright Angel Trail, the first sign of life you will pass after the initial 3 miles of switchbacks will be Indian Springs (with water and bathrooms) at 4.5 miles. Near Indian Springs (elev. 3,800 feet), take a few minutes to stop and read the sign that warns, “do NOT attempt to hike from the rim to the river in a single day.” OK, you’ve been warned. From here the trail takes a more gradual descent for approximately another 3.5 miles to the Colorado River. Once you reach the river, you will traverse a sandy trail section for approximately 1.7 miles that looms above the Colorado River and eventually crosses the river at a large steel suspension bridge. Once you cross the bridge, you will come to a stone house and corral, and then 3-5 minutes later you cross another small wooden foot bridge. This is a good place to cache any food, clothes, headlamps or other gear that you don’t want to carry with you for the next 5-7 hours. Better make sure that your food containers are critter proof. Continuing on past the foot bridge, just around the corner is Phantom Ranch (elev. 2,440 feet), the only tourist facilities in the canyon bottom. Depending on what time you left the trailhead, you will probably catch a bunch of campers just waking up as it is starting to get daylight. The next 14.2 miles on the North Kaibab Trail will eventually dump you on the North Rim.

The first 6 miles (of the 14.2 mile North Kaibab Trail) are nice and gradual, and you barely notice any elevation gain. You will run through a very narrow slot canyon, sometimes only about 50 feet wide (just enough room for the Bright Angel Creek that flows through and the smooth well maintained gravel trail). Now the magnitude of the Grand Canyon begins to sink in as you run past 1.2 – 1.7 billion year old rock formations like the Grand Canyon Supergroup (sea sediment) and the Vishnu Group (metamorphosed sea sediment). While in the Grand Canyon, there are many times where you cannot even see the rim. Due to the many layers of rock formations and the different rates at which they have eroded, it almost feels like you are in a canyon within a canyon.

The next water stop is Cottonwood Campground (elev. 4,000 ft, 6.9 miles to North Rim). Here the trail get a bit less traveled, rockier and steeper. The valley also widens and, for the next 6 miles, you will be running through what appears to be a wide valley instead of a “grand canyon.” There are lots of interesting flora and fauna that can be spotted in this section including flowering agave cactus, prickly pear cactus, claretcup cactus, sagebrush, brittlebrush, pinion, juniper, yucca, scorpions, lizards, jays, ravens and a snake or two if you are really lucky.

Just when you are thinking you are getting close to the North Rim, the trail will get a little steeper and turn left (west) for the final long climb to the rim. This is usually where most people stop running and start power-hiking. After a mile or two you will come to a small house with a basketball net. Yes, there is a private residence in the canyon, and sometimes it is occupied by park personnel or trail crews. In the yard just off trail, is a small spigot next to a group of small trees. Take a few minutes to fill up here as it will likely (depending on the time of year you attempt the run) be the last water to be found until you get back to this point on your return. There are two other water points, but they are usually turned off until after the first of May when all freezing danger has passed from the North Rim. Just past the house you will see a waterfall cascading down the right side of the canyon which seemingly comes out of nowhere. This waterfall is the single water source for the entire Grand Canyon, North Rim Lodge and all civilization on the South Rim.

What lies next is my favorite section of the trail. At times the trail seems to be hewn out of the solid rock cliff wall. That’s because it is, and at places a 1000+ foot drop awaits any slips or missed turns on the trail. Be careful (especially on your return) through this section. As the trail goes farther, it gets progressively steeper turning at numerous switchbacks and even going through the small Supai Tunnel (2 miles from rim). Just after passing the tunnel, you will find more bathrooms and water (usually turned off until May 1) . Over the next mile and a half, you will begin to notice different ecology as the temperature drops and the trail will take you through spruce, fir and aspen.

Congratulations, you have reached the North Rim (elev. 8241 feet). Now you only have another 24 miles to run. The bad news – you still have about 4,800 feet of climbing to do. The good news – the next 13 miles will be one of the best runs in your life. The route back down to the river is almost entirely downhill on beautifully runnable trail. You really get to enjoy all the effort it took to get to this point.

On your return you will basically retrace your footsteps back to the trailhead on the South Rim picking up water at the campgrounds and gathering your cached food (if you had left any and the critters don’t get it). Chances are that you will complete this section in the heat of the day, so take caution and hydrate, eat and take on electrolytes. As it can get unbearably hot, a small bandana dipped in the creek is indispensable at this point, and chances are you will be glad you brought one. You did bring one didn’t you? Over the last six miles to the river, the canyon will begin to narrow again and you can take advantage of the shade it provides. If you have taken care of your body, you will have evaded any signs of heat exhaustion and can pick up the pace as you run back through Phantom Ranch and the gawking hikers who spent all day hiking there from the South Rim.

Take a few minutes at the river to get some water and food down as well as take in the sights of the mighty Colorado River. Shortly after crossing the river, you will be done with the running portion of your adventure. Shift into power-hike mode as the remainder of the trip is all uphill. At Indian Springs, the last 4.5 miles and 3,060 vertical feet of the trip seems to take forever as you climb steeply up the last 3,500 feet to the South Rim. There is water and bathrooms available at two locations on the last few miles (three-mile resthouse and one-and-a-half mile resthouse). These places make good intermediate goals as by now you are probably getting pretty tired and the rim does not seem to get any closer. Sooner or later you’ll pass by the Kolb Studio and the South Rim Trailhead. Congratulations, you can stop now.

The trailhead for the Bright Angel Trail (the most popular starting point) is located within the Grand Canyon National Park just west of the Bright Angel Lodge and the Kolb Studio. Depending on what time you start the run, it will probably be dark. So, if you get a chance, check out the location of the trailhead in the daylight so it will be easy to find when you start running. It is marked by a small sign at the edge of a gravel parking area behind a few small cottages. It is not hard to find in the daylight, but can provide a small unneeded challenge when you want to get started early in the morning.

The South Kaibab Trail is located off Desert View Drive near Yaki Point.

It was a NOT speed record by any means. Kelly and I completed the run in 18:42:30. The temps in the afternoon were well over 100 degrees. So, we took lots of photos and just enjoyed the trail. It depends on who you ask, but the total round-trip distance is around 48 miles with 13,500ft of vertical gain/loss.

Rocky Mountain High

Today, I took a few hours to enjoy both of my favorite sports – running and fishing – at the same time. There are a few trails in the  Glacier Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park that are some of my favorites, and the area just so happens to have a few great high mountain trout lakes. So, I thought I’d take the afternoon to enjoy the colors of the changing aspens and a few greenback cutthroats. Today’s destination: The Loch and Icy Brook.

It was an amazing day. The breeze was just strong enough to keep the mosquitoes away, but the lake’s bays were smooth as glass. There was not a cloud in the sky and the strong overhead light made spotting the fish pretty easy.

Oh, and it was a great run too. It’s about 6 miles total round-trip and maybe 800ft elevation gain (I’m not sure because I forgot to bring the Garmin along for the run). It’s runnable throughout the whole course. You can run another 2 miles to Sky Pond, but I didn’t get that far today.

If you got a hankering, get up into the high country before the snow starts flying. You will not be disappointed.

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