Archive for February, 2009

Uluru

February 21, 2009

I love rock. Big rocks like cliffs and mountains, or little rocks like boulders and pebbles; I am naturally compelled to climb them, run them, admire them, stand on them. I like beaches probably because I view them as a huge collection of very tiny rocks.

Thus, the visual image of Uluru (formerly called “Ayers Rock”) has been etched in my visual memory for forty years, since I first saw it Life magazine or something. The synapses in the reptilian part of my brain went like this: “See huge rock. Very big, very dramatic, no other rocks around it. Must go climb it someday”.

So I did.
uluru

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Big Basin Waterfalls

February 18, 2009

Established in 1902, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest State Park and is a gem of the park system. The park is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains and contains the largest continuous stand of old growth redwood forest (in square miles) south of Humboldt State Park 250 miles to the north. There is over 80 miles of trails to explore passing through a variety of habitats. The most famous hike in the park is the Sunset-Skyline to the Sea Loop which passes through an area of impressive waterfalls, including Berry Creek Falls, Silver Falls, Golden Cascade, and numerous smaller waterfalls. These waterfalls are particularly inspiring in the winter after a heavy rain when they turn into swift torrents. The 10.5 mile loop (~17k) contains 2,245 feet of elevation gain and is virtually all under a lush canopy of old growth redwoods with a carpet of redwood sorrel and ferns.

Berry Creek Falls

Berry Creek Falls

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South Coast Track

February 14, 2009

Galen flew into Hobart Saturday evening and I met him the next day. He is living and working in Sydney, and he and his lady friend Kristin do an excellent blog on life Down Under. We toured the Harbor, bought some great apricots at the farmers market, and food for the upcoming South Coast Track.

This is a biggie. The South Coast Track traverses the wild and wet southern coast of Tasmania … look off to your right, and there’s nothing but ocean until Antarctica. 85km doesn’t sound long, but the track is minimally maintained, has a few big ups, and the weather is less than idyllic. This is such a big wilderness, the only way to start the route is either a 5 day walk in, or a bush plane lift to the start. At most 4 people start this each day. What’s there not to like?

Well, mud for one thing …

sct2

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Grays and Torreys Times Two

February 13, 2009

I’m training to do the Grand Traverse ski race, which is a 40-mile backcountry event that goes from Crested Butte to Aspen. Of course I should be doing a lot of backcountry skiing (duh!) but I’m a climber at heart and I can no more just go for a ski than I can go for a hike. If I’m doing either my next question is “What are we climbing?”.

Ideally I’d climb mountains with long ski approaches, but I’m not big on driving very far either. One convenient pair of mountains is Grays and Torreys. These are almost always referred to together, as once you have climbed one, it only takes 30 minutes more to climb the other. In the summer the roundtrip is 8 miles and 3400 vertical feet or so. In the winter you have to start down at highway and the total is 14 miles and 5000 vertical feet, of which more than 9 of those miles can be done on skis.

I climbed them both a couple of weeks ago with my Grand Traverse teammate Homie in 5h44m and we spent 10 minutes on each summit and some time chatting with friends on the way down. I felt by near continuous movement I could get this under 5 hours, so the next weekend I was back, alone. Unfortunately, the weather was much worse with colder temperatures and a biting wind. Then my goggles broke and I fell descending a rock-hard snowslope that I had no business being on without an ice axe and crampons. I nearly died as I cartwheeled towards the rock below and in fact honest thought it was over for me. Seconds later I was able to self-arrest.

Alas, I was still able to turn the trick, finishing in 4h39m and doing the last 3 miles on the snowpacked road in 11 minutes – you’ve got to love skis for descending! Now I’m thinking that with more fitness, perfect conditions, no mistakes, no falls, approaching 4 hours is possible for me. But more mountains are calling as well…

A full report is located here:

Cradle Mountain Run

February 13, 2009

12 years ago I flew into Tazzie (the “Aussies” like to use the diminutive whenever possible), rented a car, and thought I’d have a look around. After a day with some friends and two days left, I drove up to Cradle Mountain National Park in the central highlands. It was a wild alpine wilderness unlike anything I’d ever seen (I was on my way to New Zealand, after which I wouldn’t say that). The peaks were craggy, but not high; impressive were the bogs, the fog and clouds, the rivulets flowing everywhere, and plants I’d never seen before – nothing like the Rockies to say the least.

crm21The premier route is the Overland Track – I ran out 10km and just loved it. This track (Aussie for “trail”) was 85 km long, went up and stayed high, with no road coming close the whole distance. I was dying to run the whole thing, but the other end was just as remote as the start, with uncertain services, no bus’s, and a patchwork of small country roads rendering a hitchhike back problematic. Dang. I reluctantly turned back, vowing to return.

Which I just did.

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Travel OZ

February 2, 2009

A tear came to my eye. Maybe two. And this was while on my way to Australia, for some fun run in the sun. So what’s up?

It started back at DIA … I arrived in my usual rush, and in the few minutes before the plane was to board, went over to McDonald’s, grabbed a couple of catsup and mustard packets and a plastic spoon, and snorked down some leftover rice I had brought. Hey, those little peanut packets on the plane don’t cut it, and I’m not spending my money on airport food!

Boarding the plane, I instinctively turn right, but the Attendant asks to see my Boarding Pass and directs me left. Left? Oh yeah, I’m flying Business Class this trip. Galen convinced me that Biz Class was worth it; kick in an extra 30,000 Miles (it’s an Award Ticket on UAL), and the 20 hour transit goes much better. OK, I’m getting old, I’ll pop for it.

He was right! A cold glass of champagne, a hot appetizer, and a full meal served on linen with actual silverware made the flight to San Fran go much easier, and the cold rice of a few minutes prior embarrassingly obsolete. Had 3 hours to kill in SF, so chilled out in the Red Carpet Club, with free WiFi and snacks. I’ve been a dirtbag so long it was hard to relax because I expected to get caught and kicked out anytime. When it was time to go, I instinctively began furtively stuffing my pockets with cracker and cookie packets – hey, never know when the next meal is coming right? – but then realized – I don’t have to do this. I’m in Row 2!

ticThis time I boarded way early instead of my usual last possible second – why arrive late to the party? – and proudly turned left. The FA seriously checked my Boarding Pass this time – Biz Class to Australia is 10,000 smackers and my t-shirt didn’t look like a Brooks Brothers suit – but there it was: “Seat 2F”. Turns out there are only 2 seats per row – every seat was a window seat – I could have done vinyasa yoga in the aisle with room to spare. After decades of being a scrapper, living a great life not because I worked particularly hard but because I was adroit at “efficiently utilizing existing resources”, I had scored big time.

“Dude, check it out!”
I wanted to shout to my cabin-mates; time for high-fives all around. But everyone else had a self-contained look like they did this every day – which they probably did – so I quickly ascertained my outburst of enthusiasm would not be met in kind by the CEO of General Tupperware across from me, so I reeled it in. I’ll be really, really happy, but to myself.

So here’s your take-home from this Post: Biz Class is worth it. My Award Ticket cost a total of $112.71 (fees) … heck, I drank that much wine. So if your prize winnings from the last trail race won’t quite cover the $10K, work the Miles, bump from 60,000 to 90,000 … and let me know what you think of the Pinot Gris. I preferred it over the Sauvignon Blanc, but the Aussie Shiraz from Hunter Valley wasn’t half bad either.

COMING NEXT:

* I run in Royal National Park with the founder of Coolrunning Australia
* I’m actually here visiting son Galen and his friend Kristin – we picnic at Outdoor Cinema overlooking Sydney Harbor
* I do the Cradle Mountain Run in Tasmania (unless my knee continues to really hurt, I can’t finish it, and quickly delete this sentence so no one is aware of my dismal failure).

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