Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Colorado (or, “Snow, Skiing, and Super People”!)

It seems to  be a pattern. I arrive in Colorado where the weather is beautiful and in the 70s, and the next day a major snow storm hits. Not sure if the state is trying to welcome me or keep me out, but either way, it sure makes things interesting.
IMG_0376 Javier and I arrived in Colorado Thursday night. Patrick and his girlfriend Kim picked us up from the airport and we went to a march-madness-showing :) microbrewery for dinner. Friday morning Javier and I headed to Golden to pick up rental gear and run some errands, and we ended up at a sports bar that was showing the Wisconsin-Wofford game. (Wisconsin won – hooray! We won’t talk about Sunday’s loss to Cornell… ).  Patrick finished work and joined us in watching the end of the gameIMG_0377, and then we met up with Aaron, who had just picked up Justin from the airport. We went out for Mexican and had a great time catching up, drinking margaritas, and catching snowflakes with our tongues.
Saturday morning we all met up and headed out of town. A few hours later we arrived at our launch point in the Never Summer mountain range. We unloaded our gear, tested our avalanche beacons, and headed in. On the yurt trip were (left to right): me, Patrick, David, Javier, Laura, Aaron, Andy, and Justin. IMG_3997
(Background: Patrick, Aaron, Justin and I were part of “game night” in Appleton several years ago – before Aaron and Patrick ended up out in the Boulder/Denver area and Justin ended up in San Francisco. Laura is Aaron’s fiancée, and Javier is a current Appletonian game nighter. David is Laura’s brother and Andy is Aaron’s brother).
IMG_4116Our stay this year was in the Clark Peak Yurt – a tad bigger than last year’s. We settled in a bit Saturday night, with some of the guys chopping all the wood we would need (and more!)
and the rest of us enjoying the break from schlepping packs up the mountainside and a general release from access to the outside world and the gajillion things we all have going on in our “real” lives.  Laura and Aaron made shepherd’s pie for dinner (yum!) and we all played Up and Down the River (aka Oh Heck… or other names). Javier won.
IMG_4114After a half-way decent night’s sleep for most of us, we headed further up the mountain – this time with lighter packs. Here is the view from the yurt of where we went – to the right side of that “V” of trees at the top of the photo. We wanted to visit Ruby Jewel Lake, but due to concerns about avalanche safety, ended up taking a different route to a beautiful overlook. Visibility was great, and we ended up eating lunch, hanging out, and generally having a lovely time. From there, some of us headed further up the mountain (actually made it to the tree line at around 11,000 feet!), and others opted to start heading back. 
All in all, the day included time to “play” (at least - that’s what it would be if we weren’t too grown up for such nonsense) including Andy and Aaron trying to start an avalanche from above, with (unfortunately?) small success, a few blisters, a sprained thumb (Aaron had to ski the rest of the trip with only one pole :( not an easy feat), a few near encounters with trees in the big fluffy snow, snowball fights, random flips in the snow, exploration of a promising snow cave, some fun photography, and all around good times. Oh – and some exhaustion!
Sunday ended with Patrick’s delicious ratatouille, more hanging out, and more card games – this time Up and Down the River and two simultaneous games of Euchre.
What Javier Wrote in the Yurt Journal
IMG_0423 3/20/2010
Today is the 20th day of our discontent. Andy has eaten most of Aaron and no one can convince David to wear pants. The women have escaped to the outhouse. I smuggle them food when able, but I’m afraid Patrick has discovered my occasional absence. It’s been three days since anything has been heard from them. Our plan to catch dinner by running after it really fast has met little success. Justin has finally captured the rock that has tormented him for nearly a week, but the operation suffered several casualties. Rafael, Bruce, and Dean performed heroically during our entire ordeal. Their sacrifice has given some hope to those of us that remain. I’ve asked everyone to meet at the table for “Up and Down the River.” Hopefully, it reminds us of the civilization we left behind, and brings some sanity back to this god-forsaken camp.
Tell my kids that they’ve always been a disappointment to me. Alfalfa, Ripple, Twinkle-toes, Javier.

Monday morning was head-out-and-down day. We packed, cleaned up, set things in order, and headed down the mountain. It was great fun to have the skins off our skis and enjoy (except for the uphill bits) the fun part of all the hard work going uphill earlier. After re-loading everything in the vehicles, and piling our smelly selves in as well, we headed out of the mountains.
The fun in the snow wasn’t done (for everyone but Andy & David) - Tuesday was downhill skiing day! After showering at our respective places Monday night, we packed up again and headed for an overnighter in Breckenridge. 
IMG_0444 Laura’s mom Pat has a home there, and graciously allowed us to crash at their place for the night. We were within ski-boot-walking distance of the lifts, and were able to get an early start on the beautiful slopes. IMG_0455 Pat’s boyfriend Lance volunteers as a ski instructor for skiers with all sorts of disablities, and not only did he get free lift tickets for the out-of-state-ers (me, Javier and Justin), but he also volunteered to instruct me 1:1 in the fine art of downhilling! His friend Joe is apparently a world-class ski instructor, and by the end of the morning, I felt heaps more confident on the slopes. No more “purple flurry” for me :)  IMG_0456 IMG_0457It was Aaron’s birthday, so we all had lunch together and sang to him before hitting the slopes again. Hooray for another year of Aaron being around! Yippeee!
After lunch, I was ready to be with the “big kids”! Well – sort of. IMG_0703Aaron, Justin and Javier took on the Imperial (a crazy bowl-skiing adventure which requires using the highest ski lift in the country – it’s above the tree line!). It wasn’t made any easier by the complete lack of visibility and quantities of ice on the run – they came back with big eyes and wide smiles. IMG_0464 Laura had decided to snowboard for the day so she would have fun on the same slopes that the “newbie” would be on, and Patrick was working on some slower telemark skiing moves, so the three of us stuck to blue (intermediate) runs until we met up with the other three.
IMG_0461Justin had to get back to the airport Tues. night, so we said our goodbyes to him, Laura and Aaron around 2:00. Such awesome fun people… hope it’s not too long till we get to hang out again. Patrick, Javier and I decided to stick around till the lifts closed at 4. Both of them were willing to play around on the easy stuff, so we stuck to blue runs for the rest of the day and (from my perspective anyway!) had a fantastic time. Downhill is so fun – and even more so when you half-way know what you’re doing!
IMG_0477 The day ended in a rather unfortunate manner. It had been snowing pretty heavily at times throughout the day and traffic out of the mountains was so backed up that we didn’t get back to Patrick’s place till 11 when we (in normal conditions) would have made it by 7:30. Boo!! Javier had to be at the bus stop by 3 AM to head back to Appleton, and I had to be out before 8, so it would have been nice to have a relaxed evening to regroup and pack – but somehow everything got pulled together and we both made the shuttle bus back to the airport by the times we needed to be there.
I’m now on my way to North Carolina for the next bit of adventures, but if Colorado wants to keep me out in the future, it’s going to have to do better than a few snow storms to keep me away!

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