Mountain Karma

Have you ever had one of those phrases that someone uses that you like so much that you adopt it?  My friends, over the years, have picked up one of ones I’ve coined (though they generally point it at me) B P O C (Bastard Piece of Crap).  OK it’s not a NICE phrase, but when appropriate, it fulfills a specific need to call someone a unique name.

The one I am referring to in this post though, was first heard by me while climbing Mt. Baker.   It was a windy afternoon, and the guide was warning us to hold on to our trash.  (Wrappers from candy or power bars.)  It was a simple sentence but it resonates with me to this day.   Continue reading “Mountain Karma”

Yes but you sleep on Ice

Anyone who knows me knows I get cranky when it gets hot!  I prefer it to be between 65 and 70 degrees (given the choice) and I will run around all day in shorts and a t-shirt.  I have two friends, Trish in GA and Gina in AZ who think I am nuts.  Though they both were born, bred and raised in WA, they both love the warm weather where they are now.

Michelle, who calls herself a lizard just looks at me, shakes her head, and tells me “Yes, but you sleep on Ice!”   She’s actually telling the truth, more than once I’ve spent the night in a tent on a glacier, one giant river of ice!

Denali NP, Talkeetna glacier
Denali NP, Talkeetna glacier

There is a reason I am bringing this up in today’s post. Continue reading “Yes but you sleep on Ice”

Great Day for a Ride!

Its time I come clean.  I have been stretching the truth a bit for the last couple years.  When asked, I have said that I have conquered every hill I have ever attempted on my bike.  Well there was one in which that was not entirely true.  3 years ago I tried this hill.  I got about 4.5 miles from the top, and called it quits.  Now granted, I was out of water, (I didn’t follow my own rules this time) and it was hot. So I blamed needing liquids. Truth be told, It kicked my ass.

I did this same route 2 years ago, but I hung a right and ended up at the highest paved point in Washington State.

Enumclaw to Mt Rainier
Enumclaw to Mt Rainier

So a good route!  But still hadn’t completed the one that beat me.  Nope, never gotten to the top of Chinook Pass!

imageIn Washington, we have the Cascade Mountains that divide Easter and Western WA.  I live in Western.  there are 5 main passes.  Rainey, Stevens, Snoqualmie (i-90) Chinook and White.  Chinook has always been my favorite.  I camped there as a kid and it takes you in Mt Rainier.  Since it is narrow and steep, they close it every year in the winter, and one of the first signs of summer is when it is open.

I was up at 4AM and out the door at 430.  It was supposed to be Hot so I wanted to beat the heat!  I drove to Enumclaw, famous for the King County fair (which no one attends) and the last real grocery store if you are going camping.  I parked at Safeway, and I was Eastbound on hwy 410 by 6!

Its nice, 410 has nice wide smooth shoulders and for most of the trip, the road parallels the White River (named for the grayish white color due to being fresh off the glacier.)

imageimageimageUntil you get to the park entrance, its 32 miles of rolling hills, with only one town (if you can call it that) Greenwater.  Two stores, a tavern and a porta potty.  (Guess which I used!)  However, when you leave Greenwater, the scenery starts getting more rustic.

I had to pull over to see Skookum Falls, they aren’t the most spectacular, but they are one of my favorites.

imageimageSoon thereafter, you hit the entrance to the park and the real ride starts.

imageit’s about 12 miles from the entrance of the park to the 5430 ft top of Chinook pass.  It’s a steady climb, but luckily for me, it is shaded the whole way.  I was passed pretty early on by a peleton of 20 somethings, and two old farts.  The O Fs fell out of the pack pretty quick and I ended up passing them later.  Of course I was passed by this 75 pound girl with steel cords for legs and some poor guy who was just trying to “Keep her in sight”  Not sure if he was stalker or boyfriend, but if he could keep up with her, more power to him!

Sadly Rainier herself was clouded in

imageimageBut she was still pretty!  Sometimes her being cloudy makes you notice the other things in the park 🙂

The climb was steady, but NOT brutal.  I am not sure if I am just in better shape, or it’s just not as hard as I thought it would be.  I passed the spot I turned at before and stopped for lunch.  And gave myself a bit of a scare.  I dropped a Nuun tablet into an empty water bottle.  Then as I went digging for the spare water I packed, I heard this loud hissing!  I was sure it was a flat tire!  Nope, the bottle wasn’t bone dry and it was the tablet.  WHEW!

From there on it got a little easier!  I hit snow country (it doesn’t all melt till the end of July) and there was a ton of run off going on!  This is where being on a bike is nice!  I can pull over ANYWHERE and get a picture! Thats how I got theses.

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The road starts running into switch back, but being more level I was making better time!  Better yet, being surronded by snow was natural air conditioning.  VERY refreshing!  I came around a corner and saw Tipsoo Lake!

imageYes I know it looks like a snow field, but if you look closer you will see there is water.  I have to be careful when I snowshoe here in the winter!

imageTipsoo is the last landmark before the top, and the road got steeper.  Soon though, I saw this! The top of the pass!

imageAfter crossing it I decided I needed to climb up there!  I traveled up he for 40+ years and Had no idea this was not just a sign, its a bridge!

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imageAll in all a great ride up!  The best was yet to come though!!  12 miles of downhill, no pedaling and hitting 30 + mph!  It took just under 2 hours to climb, and 20 minutes to go down!  I was smiling ear to ear!

Sadly,the hill ended and it was back to town.  88 miles, 8 hours (including food and picture stops).  I’ve decided I need to do more biking in our National Parks, we have 3 within driving distance of my house.  Its beautiful, the cars give you room, and it combines my need to ride with my need to be in the mountains!  OH!!!  and the downhill is a kick in the pants!

And for the record!  NO hill I have ever attempted has stopped me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was it a Waste of Time?

On Friday, the odometer on the bike hit 12000 miles.  When I finally got to the house, the legs felt as if I had done the entire 12000 at one time. I was beat and it was time for a weekend off.  No riding.  And go figure, it turned out to be NICE both days! (Bet it woulda rained if I had ridden)

It was good for the legs to rest though.  They will be ready to ride home from work 3 tines this week, then hit the Flying Wheels Century on Saturday.  It’s a tough one, so I better be rested.

12000 miles is 4 one way trips across country (roughly).  I only started riding seriously in 2008.  I started pondering, how far and where would I have ridden if I had started earlier….

Between 1995 and 2007, 12 years, I focused primarily on trying to climb Mt.  Rainier.

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14410 ft of big assed mountain.  You can see this thing from almost anywhere in the state, and the snow  stays on top all year round.  4 times I tried, 4 times I was turned around by a body that just did not function that high.  I was great until Camp Muir, 10000 ft:

Camp Muir, overnight camp for Summit push
Camp Muir, overnight camp for Summit push

But after that i was shot!  That’s 4 attempts at climbing, 4 payments to guides, and 12 years of training for the big mountain.  I had some successes with smaller mountains, Mt Baker and Mt St Helens:

St Helens Summit
St Helens Summit

But never bagged the big prize!

So the thought has hit me from time to time, did I waste my time trying to climb that sucker, AND giving my poor mom gray hairs every time I tried.  All those years I could’ve been riding from here to forever, and had 4 or 5 times the amount of miles!  More stories to tell, pictures to share…

But then I went back to some of the pictures I took while hiking…

First Snow showing on Hwy 410 (closed for the winter) on the way up to Mt Rainier

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I love both these pictures, natural ice sculptures, and only those willing to strap on snowshoes would ever see them.  Plus, they will be different every year.   Could be less than 10 people in the world saw these exact things.

Rainier has MANY sites I have seen over the years:

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All of these were snapped along the way for a training hike.  

Another favorite place is Heather Lake.  Just a quick up and back hike, up hill most of the way, but some of the things you see:

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He’s a funny looking guy in this picture, but you can see how big the stump is and only imagine how big the tree was.

These are all day hikes, less than 1-3 hours from my house.  So many to choose from, with 2 mountain ranges around me, there is no way I could hope to list them all, let alone hike them!

 

 

My travels also too me to Alaska, Denali National park.  I have posted some of those photos before, but I will only put up two this time.

Denali
Denali

 

My favorite celebration.  Wine at Denali Base Camp.
My favorite celebration. Wine at Denali Base Camp.

 

 

After flying in by skiplane to land on a glacier, and seeing mountains like this all around me for a week.  Climbing, a small peak, snowshoeing and completely in awe of everything I saw around me.  

Sitting here, sipping wine, waiting for our planes, knowing it better be here soon or we will be snowed in for 3 extra days.  But really not caring if I was.  We still had food and all we needed.  I loved every minute if it even pulling the heavy sled while carrying the 40 lb pack.

Many times you will hear people say (those you know and those who get paid to speak to and inspire you) “It’s not about finally getting to your destination, it’s about the journey getting there.

Now like everything I think you need to take that in context.  If you are stuck on a plane, with no window seat, heading for Disneyland or Key West, it is TOTALLY about the destination!!  I want to get there and start enjoying myself!  the inside of a plane with a bunch of smelly people I don’t know is NOT that much fun.

HOWEVER, looking at these and literally hundreds of other pictures I have taken over the years.  The hikes and climbs I took to get in shape, or for the pure fun of it.  The views, the trees, the lakes, and streams, waterfalls and avalanches.  In the sun, rain, snow or fog.  I have seen and experienced things that few of my friends ever have.  

I had camp robber jays land on my boots when I was leaning against a rock to beg for a piece of a cliff bar.  I’ve seen a huge rock slide falling off the lava dome in the crater of St Helens. Not to mention seeing the newest glacier in the world inside the same crater (fire and ice baby).

I’ve seen lighting striking as I RAN down the mountain from Camp Muir, and a mountain goat slowly moseying right through when I had planned to put up my tent.  I’ve seen the milky way as we took off at 1 AM from 10000 feet, and flew a kite at 11000 waiting for the group to come down.  

Eagles, hawks, humming birds, chipmunks and once, in the distance, a wolverine.  

Yes, it true, I could’ve ridden more miles had I started earlier.  But there is no way in hell I wasted my time!  It really is about the journey, and the bike riding is not the end, it’s a continuation!  There is a lot more see in this journey, and I may never get to the “destination” nor want to! 

Thanks for sharing part of the journey with me!  

 

 

 

Short Term Memories

I’ve noticed nowadays that conversations I am having with people, that in the past would have been nothing out of the ordinary, now result in my walking away thinking “HUH, that would be a decent subject for a blog post…” 

Well that happened at work a few days ago when I was talking to Bridget in the lunch room at work.  We were talking about rides in general, and we talked about how tired we can be at the end of a long ride.  Then she said the phrase that made me start thinking about this post.  “It’s a good thing we forget how hard things are, otherwise we might never do it again…” 

She’s right!  There have been times I have been in the middle of an endeavor, be it a climb, run, hike or ride, and I can distinctly remember saying “If (sometimes it is not when but if) I finish this thing I will NEVER do it again!”  Case in point the Highpass Challenge.  Two years ago I was pushing it, digging deep for everything I had left.  Splitting my remaining water between drinking and pouring it over my head.  (it was 90 outside.)  When I knew I was going to make the time cut off, I KNOW I said never again! 

This spring I found myself wondering if I could get a silver medal instead of a bronze if I did it again… 

I HATED getting out of a sleeping bag at midnight on a glacier to climb a mountain.  It just seems wrong…  Loved the stars (the second time when I finally thought about looking up) but it still seemed wrong.  I tried Rainier 4 times!  And it wasn’t till the wakeup call in the subsequent attempts that I would say “OH YEAH!  This is the part I didn’t like!” 

I know I told Michelle that after doing the Seattle to Portland (STP) in one day, I was done with the ride…  Yep you guessed, I’ve started wondering if I could better my time…   Why not!  Who doesn’t love 15 hours on a bike! 

I also believe your mind erases certain aspects of what we do as well!  Again, with the STP, I found myself going UP a steep hill going into Napavine.  Now I gotta tell ya, not only do I not remember the hill (I said to myself “Who built this damn hill??), I somehow blocked out the whole town of Napavine.  Granted its not a big town, and I do remember the long downhill afterwards, but the uphill slog into it and the town itself, nope, did not exist last time (and yep I checked, same route….)  I remembered all the other towns…. 

It doesn’t need to be an athletic event for this to happen.  Recently I was looking at some pictures and saw a Roller Coaster at Silverwood theme park and I saw Aftershock!  I immediately started thinking THAT looks like fun again!  I should go!!  The youngest kid and I had a blast!  Then he pointed out, “Hey I thought after the 3rd time you almost puked, you were done!”   Oh yeah forgot.  Or Disneyland in general, “OH yeah it will be a blast!  Love Disney and everything about it!”   But then you get there and you remember  “Oh yeah, the crowds and lines suck, who are all these people and why are they here when I am!”

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 Even TV shows or movies.  I am going to show my age here, but I used to watch Land of the Lost when I was a kid (there was a recent Will Farrell remake, stunk!)  Cartoon network had a marathon of the old ones on one day.  I gathered the kids to watch with me!  You will love it!!  (I was heard to say…)  OK, yeah not so much, it was a terrible show!!!  (On this I will take a bit of a mulligan, I was 35 years ago!!) 

How many of us have said “I WILL NEVER DRINK AGAIN!” while experiencing a hangover…… (but wait, alcohol kills brain cells, this may not be a good example….) 

I am sure all of us can come up with examples of when this has happened to us.  And think, those things that you remember NOT so fondly and know you will NEVER do again (My one halfathon!) must have really stunk.  Otherwise we would have forgotten the bad parts and going out again! 

I started wondering why our minds work that way.  Is it a trait passed down from cavemen.  Tog and Mog, hunter gatherers, go out hunting for saber tooth tigers, and each, though bloody and battered bring one home!  Mamog, the cavewoman, is very excited to get fur coats and dangly tooth earrings from the both!  

Mog, being the smarter(?) one, thinks to himself “Ooga, booga, unga umgawa!”  (Which translated for those of us in the future means “THAT sucked!  I am never doing that again, next time I will gather acorns!”)  

Tog on the other hand, as soon as the wounds heal, starts thinking, “Hell that wasn’t so bad, I wonder if I can get a bigger cat, or even a cave bear!” 

As both are competing for Mamog’s affections (and cavewomen were MUCH more materialistic than ladies who read my blog today!) the offerings of acorns just couldn’t compete with fur coats.  Tog got the girl, and passed down through the eons of time, the ability to block out the worst parts of the adventures! 

I for one owe that caveman a huge thank you!  Every year I sign up for something new, and even more challenging than the year before.  I don’t think about the training involved, the hours on the bike, the rides in the shed, the crappy weather I will endure, I just think about the crossing the finish line, and the feeling of accomplishment when I am successful.  Hmmm maybe it’s not that we just forget, maybe, just maybe, the feeling at the end makes it all worth it!   

Either way, I think I still owe Tog a beer!

The $6 Down Payment that Could Shape My Riding Year!

It’s March 1st ladies and gents!  I’ve had that day marked on my calendar for quite a while!  What is March 1st you ask?  No it’s not my wife’s birthday, or our anniversary.  I am not WAY late for Valentines Day nor did Easter come early this year.

It’s the first day you can enter the lottery (anyone feeling lucky?) with a $6 fee (shoot I’ve paid more for bad beer) for Redmond Cycling Club’s    R A M R O D 2013!  Anyone who has read this blog from the beginning knows I have one big ride each year, and I have finally reached the point that I think I can pull this one off!  What is the R A M R O D you ask?  (Well even if you didn’t) From the website we see:

RAMROD 2013 – Thursday July 25th
  RAMROD [Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day] is the Pacific Northwest’s premiere one-day ultra-marathon cycling event. It combines the incomparable scenery of Mount Rainier National Park with a challenging course featuring 10,000 feet of climbing over 152 miles. The course begins in Enumclaw, WA and takes riders through the rolling hills near Eatonville, Elbe and Ashford before entering the Mount Rainier National Park.  You’ll be challenged by three climbs: a 12 mile ascent to Inspiration Point (4,850 ft), the 3 mile Backbone Ridge climb and the challenging 9-mile Cayuse Pass ascent (4,694 ft).  Join us for another great edition of this classic ride!

I think the “by the numbers” helps explain it even more:

1 Mountain    
152 Miles    
800 Riders    
10,000 Feet of Climbing

English: NPS map of Mount Rainier National Par...
English: NPS map of Mount Rainier National Park Français : Carte du Parc national du Mont Rainier. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To me, it’s the one ride I have always looked at and wondered if I would ever be able to pull it off.  That is one BIG mountain, and I have done some of the hills around it Chinook Pass (well almost, more later on that) and Sunrise Visitor Center are two memorable and VERY steep HARD rides.

Why now? I pulled off the Highpass Challenge 2 years ago, within the allotted time, while wearing running shoes.  I didn’t have clips yet (yes we will discuss that later as well) not even baskets on my pedals.  You know you are the odd man out when someone says “You are going to ride this wearing those??”  Yep and got a finisher’s medal and backpack to prove it!  This year I am clipped in!

Holding the bronze medal after the High Pass Challenge!
Holding the bronze medal after the High Pass Challenge!

Last year did the Seattle to Portland, 206 miles, in one day. and aside from a sore tush, I was rarin’ to go!

Now add to it the stupid reason.  My ex wife had a best friend whose husband I could not stand, but I couldn’t figure out why.  Then looking at this ride it hit me.  When I was new at this biking game, anytime we discussed it, the “I completed the RAMROD you know” would come up.  Lord I wanted to punch that man (but I digress).  So instead of punching him (chances are I will never see him again), I will complete the ride as well!

So why the lottery?  The National Park only allows 800 riders.  This is a ride many people use to challenge themselves.  In a normal year 1700 – 2000 people sign up for the lottery.  This means the odds could be 60-40 against me!  (So if anyone has a rabbit’s foot or other good luck charm they could give an extra rub for me, it would be appreciated….)

I won’t find out until the first week of April if I was selected.  Then there is the waiting list if I DON’T get selected.  This means training without knowing for sure!  MUCH harder, but I can do it.

I am looking at plan B rides, but nothing is drawing my interest.  Any ideas?

Think good thoughts for me folks!

The Day “Mountainstroh” was Born

This may surprise some people, but I have NOT always been the almost in shape, outdoorsy, bike riding, hiker guy you see today.  Yes, it is true, there was a time there was no Mountainstroh.

Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoyed the outdoors. As a kid my family would go camping more than any other type of vacation.  We’d drive to Mt Rainier,

I was the tall one!
I was the tall one!

or walk through the Ape Caves near Mt St. Helens.  I’d leave camp for hours in search of firewood (This can be translated into “Exploring the woods around us without brothers and sisters tagging along!)  There were many times I would leave enough wood in our site for the next two families! (Except for the time my dad built a fire so big the army sent a helicopter to check it out…but I digress…)

During and after my time at Washington State University (GO COUGS!),

The Strohs Bros!  I was NOT the tall one, and check out the wall paper
The Strohs Bros! I was NOT the tall one, and check out the wall paper

there were still camping trips, but these revolved more around beer, girls, water skiing or some river rafting.  Nothing to do with being in shape, but hell, back in my 20’s I could eat ANYTHING and never gain a pound, and lord knows there was enough beer consumed to float a horse!

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In November of 1995 I was a cubical jockey, working for a local insurance company.

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My buddies and I were on a soft tip dart league (We made it to state twice!), but throwing darts does  not provide lot of exercise.  There is, however,  plenty of beer drinking while throwing darts!  Funny though, now that I was in my 30s  pizza and beer seemed to be making jeans tighter…

So there I was, minding my own business, when a coworker came up and said “Hey, I just signed up to climb Mt. Rainier, want to try it too!”

rainier

I did not know this at the time, but this was the moment Mountainstroh was born.  If I would have said no, I would have saved $1000s on equipment, 1000s of miles on the station wagon, and who knows how much in first aid supplies/ibuprofen.

I would also probably be 300lbs, and not NEAR as full of happy experiences as I am, and no one would be reading this right now.

I spouted “SURE, why not!”  He immediately made plans for us to climb Mt. Si.  A local 4 mile long,  4000 ft elevation gain trail in the Cascades.  Halfway up  since he didn’t stop once, I almost lost the Sausage egg mcmuffin and coffee I had for breakfast (well you need energy when hiking right?) I was  hiking in jeans, with cotton long johns underneath, a cotton flannel shirt (I hadn’t learned that “cotton kills in the mountains)  and carrying my old college book bag.  The mountain gods took pity on the rookie, and I made it to the top, just barely.  That’s when I  was told “Good job, I took the hard way!  I knew you could make it!”  I decided it was too much work to push his butt OFF the mountain so I just laid there and tried to breathe.

I had no idea what was involved in climbing Rainier.  And in June, Climbing to Camp Muir (10000 ft point of Rainier, and the toughest “trail” in the state while carrying a bowling ball (yep really)) I realized it was NOT to be that year.

My first trip
My first trip
Camp Muir, overnight camp for Summit push
Camp Muir, overnight camp for Summit push

However, I was able to climb Si, and other trails, with a 40 lb pack, non-stop, I was stronger and in better shape than I had ever been and MUCH better equipped.  I was wowing people with pictures I had taken and places I had gone. It was fun!  Even coming home one day with 50 mosquito bites (I counted them) on my chest (rookie mistake #245 that year,  I forgot to reapply bug spray) didn’t dampen my new-found joy.!   I was never athletic in school, never lettered, and yet I was doing things that others only wished they could do!  It was addicting, but addicting to something healthy and good!

That single conversation started me down the path of 18 plus years of adventures.

Skydiver Stroh sticks the landing
Skydiver Stroh sticks the landing
Summit of St Helens
Summit of St Helens

As we know, I never made it to the summit of Rainier, but I’m good with that, and I have just begun sharing my adventures and accomplishments with y’all!  This is what has led me to cycling 10000+ miles!  More importantly, there are still a helluva lot of miles left in these legs, and I want to use them all.

End of First STP
End of First STP

I like this man Mountainstroh (I hope yall do as well)  and I am VERY glad I was at work and hadn’t played hooky to play darts the day he was born!

My favorite celebration.  Wine at Denali Base Camp.
My favorite celebration. Wine at Denali Base Camp.