There are a lot of terms I will use if someone asks me to describe myself. Husband, dad, goofball, reader, cold and callous, hiker, cyclist, WSU COUG, Seahawk Fan and now, I will even call myself a blogger.
However, there are two terms I won’t use. The first is a writer. I have been lucky enough to get two articles published in the Washington Trails Association (WTA) magazine. It’s a small magazine sponsored by a local nonprofit organization dedicated to hiking in Washington State. To me, though, a writer is someone has either published a book that is available for sale, or regularly publishes articles (or both!). That ain’t me.
And even though I like taking pictures, I am sure as hell NOT a photographer. However, there was one time, I was in the right place at the right time! Continue reading “Point and Shoot!”→
One of the things my wife teases me about is that I listen to “old man radio” when I drive. Yep, the local AM news station. I like to know about traffic, weather, and whatever else is going on in the world. My other go to (if it’s not 80s music) is NPR, again to keep up with what is going on.
So Monday night, on my way home from dinner with the kid. I hear that a lady camping at Canyon Creek campground, in the Gifford-Pinchot National forest (down near Mt St Helens, home of bigfoot AND just so happens to be the exact camp ground my family went to a lot when I was a kid) had gone missing. The said she had a butt-pack that may have had some food and matches, and they were concerned.
Well my first thought was with matches, if she had any brains, she could build a fire to stay warm. Plus the there is plenty of drinkable water up there this time of year, all fresh glacier fed. She could be ok for while.
Well Tuesday morning, while I was sitting and reading in the lunchroom before work, someone had turned on the TV news. They had an update to the story. Turns out this is a 19-year-old girl, who left camp, at midnight, with the knife, a compass and the fanny back was going on a spiritual quest. (I like to think of it as vision quest.) Oh, and here’s the kicker, that buttpack? That was ALL she was wearing. The chick is stark naked….
OK my first thought was, there better be a whole lot of booze involved. You know, “Well this one time I had been drinking while camping and I thought it would be a good idea…”
Then I started wondering how many local teens and dirty old men would be volunteering to go looking for her.
Then I started getting irritated. Now let me say right up front, I hope this twit turns up perfectly ok, except maybe for bug bites or nettle stings where they should never be. I wish her no harm. But people like this annoy me to no end. It never fails, people go into the forests and mountains around here and think they are in a neighborhood park.
Last year a man was killed when he got too close to mountain goat and the goat got mad. His family wanted to sue the park service, luckily it got thrown out of court. Recently, there was a hiker killed on Big 4 Mountain near Mt Baker. She flat ignored the signs that have been there since I was 7 that tell people to stay off the glacier and out of the snow tunnels. They are unstable. They were complaining that there were no fences to keep them out. So it was the parks fault. Its nature people deal with it!
Now I fully admit, I have done stupid things. I always hiked alone (just like biking I preferred it that way). There were also times, I was where I should NOT have been
But I found the fastest way down, took my picture AND got right back up. And had anything happened, there would have been no one suing Mt Rainier, they would’ve just said I was a damn fool!
John Krakauer wrote a book that romanticized stupid twits like this girl called “Into the Wild“. All about a guy who went into the Alaska wilderness completely unprepared, and died. Now people go to visit the bus he lived in… WHY? I don’t get it.
Why is this bugging me? Because at least once every year, there is one big rescue of someone climbing a mountain, and people get up in arms about how dangerous it is to do this. Why should they climb and put themselves in danger only to have to be rescued. Well most climbers are well prepared, take precautions and only call when something, like an injury, occurs. To me it’s no different from calling an ambulance in the event of a car crash. Climbers pay for a permit to climb, which goes toward the costs of rescues.
But every year, people scream that the climbers should repay the cost of the rescue. That its their own fault, or even they should ban climbing. Even thought rangers will tell you they spend MUCH more time, energy and money on people getting lost or hurt on lower elevations.
So yes, I hope she is ok, I hope the local teenage boys are ready to do their civic duty and save her, especially if she has hypothermia (best cure is body to body contact you know).
But I really hope this lady doesn’t have her own kids someday. Intelligence is hereditary, and you can’t fix stupid!
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.
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:
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:
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
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:
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:
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.
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!
Prior to my days as a cyclist, I had hopes of climbing Mountains. I wanted to climb the Big 4 Volcanoes in Washington State. Rainier 14,410 ft, Adams 12,277 ft, Baker 10,779 ft, and St Helens, 8365 ft. I made the last 2, Adams I was turned around by a storm and had to tell the guide where camp was (that’s its own story) and Rainier was just too damn. After 4 attempts I gave up.
I learned a lot when I was on the mountains though, and with the exception of St Helens, I had to be careful of crevasses! These are gaps in the glacier. Some are less than a foot across, and some, like this monster
are just huge! One problem with crevasses, is sometimes they are covered with a slim crust of snow. This means you can fall through at any time! This is one reason we were always roped up while on a glacier, and the reason the guides used long poles to check for glaciers where we camped!
No one wants to get up to pee in the middle of the night and fall into a huge hole!
Some, like the picture above, the guides plot a route to go around it. Some that are a little smaller, they bridge with ladders, and boards, to make crossing easier. And some, you either step across or jump across! (Yep, jump well!)
Now, most climbs to the summit have an alpine start. This means you leave in the middle of the night! This has many advantages for safety, but, a guide once told me, it has an added benefit. People crossing a glacier when it’d dark outside, can’t see how deep it is! This means they don’t get scared! Later, when it’s light out, they can be scared all they want, if they don’t cross, they don’t go home! As far as I know, everyone has crossed coming down! (if not, I am sure there are NO pizza deliveries that high!)
To stop someone if they fall in, we learn “self-arrest”, throwing ourselves on top of our iceaxes (without impaling ourselves in the process) to keep them from falling too far.
I was given the chance to jump into a crevasse twice (once to be rescued and once to rescue myself) while my rope team stopped me from falling too far.
Then I was part of the team to do the rescue.
Let me tell you. I am honestly not sure which is harder on a guy’s body. Coming to the abrupt stop when you jump in,
or damn near being pulled into the crevasse by someone else falling in! I got home, took a shower and my upper thighs were one big bruise! We won’t even discuss other parts of the male anatomy that feel pain!
We were taught how to tie special knots that allowed us to prussic up the ropes. These knots slide up a rope, but not down, so you alternate and “walk” up your rope. In the picture above, the lower guy is someone who fell farther into the crvasse before being stopped by his team.
I made it back up, but LORD that was hard!
Now people wonder, why the hell I would do this. Well, I will tell ya, the very next day it came in handy! We were off to climb a small peak called Control Tower (cuz given it’s proximty to the Denali basecamp landing strip, it could be the tower)
We had no problem on the way up
And I made it to the top, no problem
However, on the way back to our camp, in what looked to be a flat, easy section, I stepped on the wrong spot at the wrong time, and broke through! “FALLING” I yelled as soon as I felt it let go, and my rope team threw themselves on the ice axes! I only went as far as my shoulders thanks to them and they popped me right out. But damn, for a second there it was scary!
This is what I was up there for though. Big mountains, adventure crevasses, avalanches. Flying by ski plane so close to mountains you could touch them!
In all my climbs and attempts, never once did I balk because of a slope, a rock climb or a crevasse. I had faith in my skills, and that of the guides. I completely trusted the rope team and they trusted me. Pushing 50 is too old to try again, but no one can ever take away my memories!
In husband or even boyfriend 101, certain things are taught. One of them is to beware of certain questions. The classic is when asked by your significant other:
“Does my butt look big in these<insert article of clothing here> “
This question can be the kiss of death! I solved this problem by marrying someone who’s butt look GREAT in anything! (And I tell her regularly)
This is not a relationship advice column though, lord knows that is not my expertise. Hell my wife has always said it has taken a village to keep me out of trouble, and she is correct!
Nope, the question I have learned NEVER to answer, at least not a short yes or no, is “How hard is that (ride, route, climb, hike, hill climb, or book to read)?” Now this may seem strange to you, but as you may have guessed there is a story. It ended with my name being cussed for hours by two people who listened to me say, “Hey its easy you’ll love it!”
13 or so years ago my future wife and a mutual friend of ours (I’ve always said in the past that he was an older friend of ours, but as I write this, i realize he was probably close to the age I am now, so we will refrain from calling him that!) wanted to climb Mt. St. Helens. Since I had climbed it more than once, they both came to me to ask about the climb.
The words “Hey its easy you’ll love it!” came pouring out of my mouth. Now in my defense, every time I had climbed it it was my consolation prize for not getting to the top of Rainier, Adams or Shasta. The reason I didn’t make it had NOTHING to do with my fitness. (My body shuts down at altitude) Each time I climbed it, I was in what I like to refer to as “Mountain Shape”. I could carry a 40lb pack, uphill for 5 hours non stop. Then wake up the next morning and do it again!
St Helens is only a 4.5 mile climb to the summit, and all I carried was a day pack with water, food and an extra layer of clothes. I climbed it with a buddy who was competitive as hell when we hiked, so we made it to the top in 2.5 hours, and when we went back down, it was only 2 hours to the car! This is also what I told the two of them….
Now take a look at this picture:
This is my buddy Rob (who by the way refused to ever hike with me again after this) part way up the mountain. The “trail” goes straight up from here, over broken rock, while trudging through pumice ankle-deep! This in not your normal walk to a lake or waterfall kind of hike. I neglected to tell these two this kind of detail (Say it with me: “Hey its easy you’ll love it!”)
My wife and our friend did the climb. Remember my “Ride your own Ride” post from yesterday? Well our friend refused to hike anywhere without a full pack in case of emergencies. It was over 40 lbs. (Its how he hiked his own hikes) He was carrying this pack, pulling himself up and over the boulders and rocks I forgot to tell them about. In addition, for some reason, he refused to drink during the hot dusty hike, so he was getting dehydrated. More than once he fell and my future wife had her hands full taking care of him!
My 4.5 hours casual round trip stroll became a 9 hour epic death march for them! They made it to the top, but they were CUSSING my name the whole time. I honestly believe it was the thought of chewing me out in person that kept them moving even after he fell and she had to carry the pack for a while! My wife still talks about the crinkle fries and Coors beer they had in Cougar after they got down. And YES they did chew me out (and rightfully so!)
NOWadays I take a different tack when I answer this question. I start with “When I did it I had trained for ….” “I found these parts to be the most difficult…..” “I really liked ….. but you will need to watch out for ……..” Instead of giving my opinion of what it was like, I give facts about the ride or hike. I want people to know what they are getting into!
One caveat: If I thought the ride or hike is hard then they are going to hear that! Hiking to Camp Muir on Mt Rainier or riding the High Pass Challenge is HARD!! I will still give the facts, but if I thought it was difficult, then that impresses on the asker they better be ready!
One thing, IF you ever get a chance to climb St Helens, and you are ready to train for it, it is an amazing climb!
But i will warn you now, if you ask me how hard the climb is (or the STP or if I make it to the RAMROD) you better pack a lunch, cuz it’s going to take a while for you to hear the complete answer! No more 9 hour cussing Tony sessions!
P.S. Luckily she didn’t hold a grudge since we have been married almost 3 years now! Love you babe!
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,
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!),
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!
In November of 1995 I was a cubical jockey, working for a local insurance company.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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!
I believe I have explained my method of motivating myself to ride. Each year I choose a big ride and pay for it in advance. Now I am a cheap bastard. it drives me nuts to pay for something, especially something spendy like a big ride, and then not be able to ride in it because I didn’t train! This is why I choose and register early in the year.
However, i will also tell you, that the day before each and every main event I am convinced I will not succeed. I tell myself I haven’t trained enough. Something is sore or just doesn’t feel right. I should’ve done longer rides, or more hills, or longer rides WITH more hills. You name it and I think it.
During the ride, the feeling persists until I KNOW I am at the point I am going to make it!
Now I should discuss what I mean by “make it”. What does succeed mean? This is something each of us have to do before any endeavor.
My rides are NOT races. I am not the fastest cowboy on a bike, hell, to some I am even slow! However, some rides have time limits. Last years I did the STP (Seattle to Portland) in one day. 200 miles! My goal was to get my tired butt over the finish line before it closed at 9 PM ( it started at 445 AM, 16 hrs and 15 minutes total time to complete). I didn’t care if I had only a minute to spare, but I wanted the One Day Rider patch. At 120 miles, i had a flat! Normally I can fix one in under 10 minutes. This one took 45! I kept watching the clock and the odometer and checking the trip sheet, and I was convinced I had blown it. I didn’t realize I had a shot until I was 15 miles out, with a tail wind, and just over an hour left. I made it with 5 minutes to spare! It wasn’t till the very end , when I saw the finish line, I knew I would make it and could relax.
The year before, The High Pass Challenge! 114 miles up to Mt St Helens and back. (7500 feet of total incline and it is NOT all down hill coming back!) This one had a 10 hour time limit (for a bronze medal, gold and silver had shorter time limits.) However, this time my goal was just to complete the course. I wasn’t worried about the medals, I just wanted the satisfaction of pedaling the entire course and NOT having to walk the bike at all. I drove the course the week before though, and I was sure I was doomed. There was one section with 20 miles of incline, ranging from gradual to “for the love of god” I swore I could rappel down some sections! So, when I got to the top of the 20 mile incline on the way back, I could relax, I knew I would finish the course!
Funny thing though, I got down to the last 20 miles, looked at the clock, and I had a shot at a medal. I’m a math geek, so I did the calculations and realized that if I could average over 13 for the last 20 I had it! Now if it was the first 20 miles I could maintain that speed no problem, but I had just done 94 miles of the ugliest terrain i have EVER ridden! So I dug deep. Remember though, my success point was just finish the course, i KNEW I had that Not I was just looking for the icing on top! The cherry on top of the sundae! This was flat-out fun! And yep, with 15 minutes to spare, I made it!
If I am worried each time, then why do I do it? I remember a line from “Smokey and the Bandit”. Why are we doing this? “For the money, for the fun and for the glory! Mostly for the money!” Well there’s no money in these rides! We pay for the privilege of participating. Maybe its more like the pep talk from Shane Falco in “The Replacements” before the last play of the big game, “Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory… lasts forever.” Well the only glory is self-made, or if you are lucky like I am, you have a wife who tells you repeatedly how proud she is of you!
I do it because I have YET to find a ride that can beat me. I go for harder and tougher each year, which means I train harder and better. I am pushing 50, and I can out ride some people half my age and most who ARE my age! I do it so I can look at a map and say, HELL yeah I did it. I do it so I can drive to Portland and know TWICE I pedaled to this town!
What about the confidence I need? Regardless of whether I think I am ready. I have the confidence in myself to know that I am going to give it EVERYTHING I have. if I ever can’t finish a ride, it will be because I left it all on the course, there will be nothing left in the tank. And then I will sign up for that sucker he next year!
I’ve also learned what I CAN do. I no longer fear Century rides! I know I can finish those without a hitch! In 3 weeks is the Chilly Hilly, there’s not a hill on the course that will stop me. The more you ride, the more you challenge yourself, the better you will get. The more times you succeed, the more confident you will get!
I do it because I have loved riding my bike since I learned how in the 2nd grade! It is fun, training rides, working on the bike and the big events! Pure and simple life is too short to NOT have fun!