"Those with stronger wills
will stand so still they
grow their roots away from it
But oh to use those roots
to feed the leaves that do
indeed grow towards it.
Oh the space above our heads is useless
unless we do reach for it.
Ain't it funny that all we have
Is all we know
And all I know is flight"
The last week or so I've had occasion to really dial in my gear for the upcoming Appalachian Trail trek. I've got a pack that packs just right, a great shelter that is both sturdy, light, and quick to set up and take down. Most importantly I have a pair of strong, healthy legs that are adapting well to carrying a greater load at a reasonable pace.
On Monday, Luna and I got dropped off at Turquoise Lake and completed a 7 mile stroll back to town while carrying about 28 lbs. We completed the route in 1 hour 39 minutes and some seconds. The route was a steady climb of about 550 ft, pretty trivial compared to the AT, but I was still delighted to maintain a pace of about 4.25 mph.
Tuesday I had a little window in a long day of working that allowed Luna and I to get out for 31 minutes. We ventured up the hills in the backyard for 2.1 miles and 500 ft of gain. Despite the climbing and snow on this short outing, we were right around 4 mph once again. Tuesday night, Mel, Luna, and I made it out for a nordic ski, which is always a pleasure; even more so on a clear, quiet night when the sky is speckled with stars.
Thursday rolled around, I rolled out of bed. I glanced at the thermometer and saw it was a whopping 5 degrees out, I then looked at the day's projected high in Boulder and saw that it was 55(?!), so we went there. We hiked a 3 mile loop from Chataquah Park (carrying ~25 lbs), scrambled about halfway up the second Flatiron (not Luna's favorite activity), and headed back home.
When we got back to Leadville, there was a package on our doorstep. Inside the package was our Tarptent Stratospire II. I tossed it in the pack (~18 lbs), grabbed the poles, strapped Luna's pack on and went out to try my hand at setting it up. It was dark, snowy, and cold; I figured if I learned to set up the tent for the 1st time in the dark it would be good preparation for the AT, where I expect to be setting up the tent at night frequently after long days of hiking. I'm not sure how long it took me to set up the tent, but it couldn't have been very long as our trip was 3.15 miles in 58 minutes (including set-up/break-down time).
The Stratospire II is a really cool structure that I look forward to really getting out in the field: I'll review it more throughly once I come to know it better.
I worked Friday morning and, just after my shift, received a proposition to catch a ride up to the Vail Winter Mountain Games to participate in a snowshoe race. I was really on the fence about it, with the possibility of a storm blowing in and making for a tedious drive back home, but after glancing at the website and realizing that 1) Snow is cool, 2) Snow is cooler when you're racing in it at night, and 3) I could race the 5k event with Luna, there was really no question.
Around 3:30 Sage and Sandi pulled up, picked us up, and we made our way up to Vail, enjoying the snowy scenery. Notch Mountain, neighbor to Holy Cross, looked absolutely incredible rising from the valley.
We parked, picked up our packets, and hurried to get to the startline. Sage and Sandi took off with the 10k start, and Luna and I waited for the dog wave, which started about 20 seconds after the 5k human wave.
We bolted past as many folks as we could through the chute and had ample breathing room to settle into a groove on the first loop. Luna was a good sport; she sported her Ruffware harness that she'll be wearing on the AT.
Snowshoeing is hard work. We ended up finishing 1st among the dogs, and 2nd overall in the 5k, though.
Meanwhile, Sage and Sandi grunted it out over some grueling climbs and twice the distance against stiff competition to finish very well, 3rd male and 5th female, respectively.
The atmosphere they create at the Vail Mountain Games is truly exceptional. There are a lot of people working really hard both in the events and behind the scenes, it is a truly beautiful thing.
These guys (Pigpen Theatre Co.) are doing really cool things, check them out: