Monday, February 20, 2006

Lookout!

<-- One of only four lousy pictures I was able to take before my frozen batteries croaked. I have buy a camera that actually works in the cold. One of these days, I'm going to lose my senses and a Canon 20D is going to come home with me...

Skied to the fire lookout across from Mt. Spookaloo yesterday, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 5400' elevation. This picture is looking down the bowl to the south where people who have learned to tele tear up some turns. I think I skied right about 2000' vertical by the time it was al said and done yesterday. It was tough to tell from the altimeter because a high pressure front was moving in. My altimeter indicated I was descending while I was going uphill. Talk about bruising my fragile ego...

Tried some tele turns on the way back to the lodge. Holy crap Batman! The Atomics turn so damned fast it's scary. They turn faster than my Atomic downhills - which have more sidecut and are the same length (190). I wasn't even making bunny hill speeds and the turn rate was amazing. The super-sidecut skis are almost too much of a good thing.
The really good news is that the Black Diamond kicker skins I bought worked very well. You can't ski straight up steep inclines, but they're not supposed to let you do that anyway. Aside from the gay, post-modern leopard skin print on the bottom, I'm very happy with them. Now I can have skins with me on short day outings without the bulk and weight of full-length skins. The kickers are about 1/3 the weight and bulk of full-length skins.

The Big Lie: Women as Mondo Purchasers of Outdoor Gear

I've spent some time lately doing something I rarely do, shopping. Most of my outdoor clothing is/was flat worn out, so I've been shopping the sales replacing a lot of it. I remember about oh...a decade or a little more ago about how "women were being totally ignored in the outdoor products marketplace." Well...I hate to say it, but it was for a reason:

MOST WOMEN DON'T BUY LOTS OF OUTDOOR GEAR

See fer yerself, if y'a don't believe me: http://www.mountaingoatoutfitters.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWCATS&Category=284

What's going on at Mt. Goat is pretty characteristic of what I'm seeing in stores: mountains of leftover women's clothes at the end of the season. And so it goes with the rest as well. If you're female and you need skis/boots/poles/etc., get thee to the store now because you can get it all for 50 to 75% off.

Back in the good 'ol days when it was 75% mens/unisex clothing and 25% stuff that needed to be specifically tailored to women, you could find men's outdoor gear on the rack. Now, the men's clothing/gear is mostly sold out midway through the season and all the outdoor chains have to firesale the women's gear just to get rid of it. What's really irritating isn't so much that I can't get stuff on sale, but it's even hard to get it at full price.

The hype rarely seems to mesh up with reality. Yes, there are a lot more women in the outdoors than there ever used to be, but it's not a 50/50 ratio, nor do I think it will ever be. You have to wonder how long this nonsense is going to go on. How long can can a store/chain stay in business when they have to firesale 2/3 of their remaining inventory at 40-50+% off? I'm not bagging on women here, so don't get the wrong impression. I'm happy to see more women participating in the outdoor/traditionally male-dominated sports, but the fact is, women are not participating at the same rate as men, and the purchasing volumes reflect that.

It's just an observation of commercial reality for any of you that might be in or going into retail.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

It's All Fun and Games Until Your Eyelids Freeze Shut

Daaayuumm!! 3 hours later and I'm still cold. (And no, I'm not remotely exaggerating about the eyelids.) It was cold, but didn't get uncomfortably cold unless you were right on a ridge getting blasted by the wind. The yuppie skaters stayed close to the lodge on the tree covered trails. Only saw one other guy with the nads to ski out to the back trails.

For those of you not in on "the joke." There is a definite caste system in Nordic skiing on Mt. Spookaloo, skaters being the bourgeois or dare-we-say aristocrat class. They rule the mountain. The world revolves totally around their every whim and desire. All other skiers are only tolerated to the extent that their absence will mean higher grooming fees for the high and mighty.

The Chosen Ones begrudgingly tolerate track skis, make funny faces at anyone with backcountry gear, and they hate dogs. I mean they HATE dogs. You've never seen so damned many "No Dogs/Achtung! Der Hunden Verboten!" signs in your life. Who in the hell ever heard of skiing without dogs? Only on Mt. Spokane with its resident skate Nazi xenophobes does this kind of crap go on.

You can actually identify the non-skaters pretty quickly. They're the only ones who say "hi!" and chat with strangers while passing by.

So, guess which section of the bus yours truly gets to sit in?
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Meanwhile, back to the skiing...

It was big fun right up until frozen trees were groaning so much under the strain of the wind that you could tell the trunks were ready to explode. If nothing else motivates one to ski like hell, that certainly will.

For what it's worth, the grumpy old guy at REI was right. Fat skis want to turn. The Atomic Selkirks are about as wide as you can ski on a groomed trail and still have fun. Anything wider needs to be off trail period. Otherwise, they just want to plane and turn. Fat metal-edged skis are slow, but man, the control is almost worth the trade off. I can steer these babies by sitting in the back seat. It's a lot like my old Rossi 4SV downhill skis.

And unless I drop acid, get lured to the dark side, and buy a set of skate skis, I will NEVER, EVER go back to those crappy NNN bindings. Those things are the most worthless POS's on earth. If you have never skied a 3-pin binding with a good boot, you have no idea just how much control you're giving up with that NNN nonsense. Worst of all with NNN, if you break a binding, it's almost always at the pin molded into the boot. Once you do that, you're totally screwed. You won't be able to step back into the binding and you'll be postholing all the way back. It's more than a minor problem when you're even a mile or two back in the woods. Have it happen 5 or 10 miles back, and well...do I really need to explain?


Evil NNN Binding (left) --vs-- The binding the way God intended


To summarize:

  • 3 pin: good
  • NNN: crap
  • Free Wax Job at REI: worth exactly what I paid for it.

My only real regret is that I did not buy TWO pairs of Karhu backcountry boots when they were on sale.




No, they're not as cool as the old, leather boots, but miles better than the goofy NNN yuppie moon boots that are all the rage.

Going Soft...


The Selkirks, in North Idaho, as seen from Quartz Mtn. here in the People's Socialist Republic of Washington.

Talk about becoming everything you despise in one day. Here I am, swilling coffee and pondering the joys of frosbite versus the comfort of sitting in front of the stove. The skis are waxed. I want to ski. The weather? 10F, dropping fast...and the wind is howling.

Should I stay or should I go...?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Back in Black! (er...white)

The Travelblogue is now back to life! My old blogging software ceased to function somewhere along the line of 6.023 x 10^23 Windows updates....so it's been a while since I've been able to update the Travelblogue. I've condensed the old blog along with several forum threads that I've posted over the years. Now that it's back up and running, hopefully I'll be inclined to take more pictures.

Tomorrow we test out the new XC skis, a set of Atomic Selkirks (190cm):

Finally, I have a set of nice all-around BC skis. I may add a set of Fischer Outtabounds so I have a skis for deep powder. Somebody buy more grip tape dammit! I need more play money for skis. All the ski sales are killing me. ;-)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Limiting Out


Zuzu and I went on a little hunting trip yesterday. We actually went on two hunting trips in two days. We went duck hunting the day prior and ran into better than half a dozen pheasants on the way out. Zuzu actually ran one down and bagged it on her own. It was near sunset, so I decided to come back for the rest the next day. We picked up these three birds the next day. Apparently, I'm going to have to get Zuzu her own hunting license if this keeps up.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Mt. Roothan / Chimney Rock, Fun in the Selkirks

Zuzu and I went on a little trip today. This hike was in the Selkirks, on the east side of Priest Lake - from where I posted the paddling pictures. We drove waaaay back into the woods up to a site on Horton Ridge where a fire lookout used to stand. I originally wanted to go all the way to Chimney Rock, but I wanted to take the dog along, so we cut it just a little shy and went to the top of Mt. Roothan.



Mt. Roothan as seen from the trail.



The ever intrepid Zuzu in front of the very common layered, uplifted granite. The trail is beautiful in it's own right. It's ashen gray granite dust and the entire trail glitters from all the quartz and pyrite flakes. It's like following the Yellow Brick Road in some spots.



Gunsite Peak is just to the south of Mt. Roothan. Pretty easy to see how it got it's name. Hunt lake is nestled down below the three peaks. Gunsite will probably be the next trip. I wonder if there are trout...?



This is one of the local holy grails of climbing: Chimney Rock. You can see the convex side of the Roothan Cirque on the right. Many moons ago during a party, a couple of climbing buddies and I decided that we would absolutely be hot sh*t if we were the first to do a full on winter mixed ascent. Well, once we sobered up and actually hiked up to Chimney in the winter a little reality set in. It was so socked in we could hardly see two feet in front of our faces. I'm sorry I didn't go back. Doubly sorry, now that I'm fat and old. A mixed ascent on that sucker would have been absolutely badass.

Hello? Jenny Craig...?

What doesn't show up in the picture is the thunderstorm that was moving in from the North. Chimney Rock is colloquially known as "The Lightning Rod." Horton Ridge should have been named "Lighting Rod Alley." I've never seen anything like it. All along the ridge, virtually every tall tree on the apex of the ridge has been fried by lightning. (Well, they used to be the tallest anyway...) It's just eerie. I can only imagine what it's like during a storm up there. The thunderstorms in the Selkirks are generally intense enought to leave you with two choices: hunker down or haul ass. The only place to hunker down was beneath a table of granite between the false summit and true summit of Roothan.

We hauled ass.

Back at the truck, we saw a group of three firefighters who were headed down the ridge toward the lake to take care of several fires in the area. It was pretty funny. I saw the fires coming down the mountain, and was getting concerned enough that my first plan was to call 911 back at the truck. What did I see halfway home? The helicopter nailing them with the bucket. Anyway, Horton ridge doesn't look like it will be a real fun place to be tonight, I hope those guys (and gal) are OK. They weren't looking too thrilled about the job ahead when they left their truck. (Note to self: To lose weight, become a Hot Shot. Those turkeys are FIT! )

Another day of adventure in North Idaho.

It's days like today that I realize that I could live elsewhere, but I could never be happy.




Chimney Rock and the Roothan Cirque from the summit of Mt. Roothan. You can see the storm brewing and can actually see some rain in the distance.


Another pic of CR that better shows the two features. I think virtually all of these features were formed during the great flood when the ice dam in Montana burst. (This was a long time ago.) The Inland NW has some pretty spectacular geological history. Almost everywhere you go, you can look back into time and think about how the area came to be.

[And to the person who left the Promise Keepers jacket at the summit, please go get it yourself - it's still there. I would have drug it down but it stunk so bad from whatever $2 cologne you wear, I refused to soil my backpack with it. Is that crap supposed to be bear repellent or something? Works great as people repellent...]

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Upper Priest Lake Redux

Man did I ever need to get out today...

Managed to work out a lot of frustration on hapless H20 molecules and got to see a couple neat critters in the process. On the way out, we saw a moose calf feeding, who I named Morty Moose. Mama Moose was no where to be seen, but had to have been near, because nothing bothered ol' Morty.



Now that I'm through with indentured servitude for a while, scraggly granite crags are calling my name. You can see a couple in the background that will soon be conquered. It's really only fun to climb hills that you can actually see off the top of.

For the record, Zuzu remains unimpressed with both my navigation skills and my speed of travel. I, of course, keep reminding her majesty that I can very nearly keep pace with the motorboats through the no-wake zones.

Zuzu remains unimpressed...




On the way back, we got to meet a beaver that was just a tad camera shy:


And for the piece de resistance, when we went by the grass field, voila! Mama Moose. For the record, Mama Moose is much more camera shy than Morty Moose. Don't let that lull you into thinking that Morty is the petting type, because Mama will probably stomp you into a tectonic plate if you get between her and Morty.


Just another great day in North Idaho.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Evergreen Airshow 2002

A couple old pics from the 2002 Evergreen Airshow:


Classic Lockheed Electra





This C195 should have won a prize for best pitot cover...

Water Retrieve On the Columbia

I used to live very near a public park on the Columbia River. Zuzu
and I used to spend many a wet day there working on water retrieves.



Public water access is something of an anomaly in Washington State -
at least Eastern WA anyway. It's rare to have it all. This particular
beach is the best kept secret in Western Washington. (I plan to keep
it that way.) Oregon has it right at least on this one thing: Public
waterways and beaches belong to the people.

View From Stonehenge

Another of Hood from inside the Stonehenge monument near Maryhill in the Gorge:


Mt. Hood From Horsethief Lake


Not a recent travel picture, but one from a trip along the Columbia Gorge a while ago:

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Silver Star


Mt. St. Helens as seen from the top of Silver Star Mt. Silver Star is a great hike and isn't far from Vancouver, WA.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Silver Mt.


It's Superbowl Sunday. Whoopdeedoo. What's more fun that watching the Superbowl? You guessed it: Anything. Watching metal rust is more entertaining.

Being the contrarian I am, skiing sounded a LOT more fun than staying home like everyone else. After the first run, it was time to try out the camera phone. Behold the magnificence of the results. I guess I could be underwhelmed, but I'll just chalk the bad color, lack of focus, overcompression effects, and lack of light sensitivity up to artsy-fartsy visual "effects."

It was a good day. Not only did I get some effortless turns in, the gal behind the lunch counter gave what must have been a triple order of chili fries. (Note to self: find a way to bring chili fries during next paddling season.)

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Mt. Hamilton Hike

Zuzu and I hiked up mighty the Mt. Hamilton, which is conveniently located near Beacon Rock in the Columbia Gorge. It's a great hike. Everybody brings their dog. It's a blast.


Duncan Falls is very early on the trail up to the summit. Feel the thunder.




Wildflower along the trail. Want to know what it is? Call the freakin' Sierra Club.

If this isn't determination, I don't know what is. Zuzu is undaunted by the crumbling basalt cliffs that form the false summit on the way to true nirvana.



Mighty Mt. Hamilton off in the distance. Our goal is in sight.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Priest Lake Paddle Trip



A couple more that oddly didn't make it to my gallery travelogue last fall. These are of Priest Lake in North Idaho, not far from the Canadian border. These two pictures happened right after a close encounter with a young black bear about a mile upstream on the canal that connects upper and lower Priest lakes together. This trip was the second expedition I had to take in order to tick this one off in the tour guide. I had been there two weeks earlier and got caught in the Mother of All Thunderstorms. We barely made it to shore before the the lightning started hammering everything around us. All you could do is sit in the truck and enjoy the show.Travelling in the Idaho backcountry always seems to bring adventure. I like that.

Mt. Spokane XC Ski Area


Thought I'd update my vacation thread. This is about mid-way up on Mt. Spokane Cross-Country ski area - which is probably one of the coolest trail systems short of the Colorado Rockies. There are several huts with wood-fed stoves and plenty of wood. The trails are immacualtely groomed. And humanity, being it's lazy ol' self sticks to the lowlands. So, the more you climb, the less people there are. Grind your way up around the back side of the mountain and you pretty much will have the place to yourself. This little trip nearly got me busted by the cops. In the Fascist Republic of Washington, dogs are Verboten on virtually all state land. Mr. Ranger lost all interest in writing a ticket after seeing a trunk with a dog and hunting vest with shotgun shells all over the place. If parking permits are going to cost $42, I'll bring my pet giraffe if I feel like it.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Bonnie Lake Paddle



This particular island is uplifted granite. It's a very cool place to visit. Unfortunately, the only practical access is via canoe or kayak. AND....there's a catch: you have to paddle for 3/4 of a mile through a very windy, three-foot-deep channel in the middle of a cow pasture, then through another 1/4 mile of weeds. Yucko!!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Fishtrap Lake Paddle Trip



For my "vacation" I decided to buy a used canoe and see just how much paddling I could do in the few weeks of freedom I have left. I managed to get a really good photo at Fishtrap - a small Lake here in E. Wa. So I thought I'd share with y'all just for grins.

Thursday, February 15, 2001

Zuzu storms the beach!




















Zuzu on the beach along the Columbia river at about 9 months.