Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore 
Sunday, January 28, 2018, 09:47 PM - Trips
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I worked out with my family to hold Christmas a little early in order to jump on another sailing adventure with Alejandro and crew. I landed in Phuket at 1am on Christmas day, couldn't get to sleep until 4am, and was headed to the marina by 9am.

Yacht Haven Marina had a chill vibe on Christmas. The charter company walked Dro and I through the boat systems on our 38’ Lagoon, “Hermione” while Taylor (‘T’), Hannah, and Nicole filled the galley lockers. I'd done a fair bit of research on catamaran construction and operation but it was nice to see familiar equipment aboard. I was also happy to operate as first mate for another trip. Skippering is stressful and I was happy to do another chartering dry run before I try it on my own.

We got out of the marina at 1pm and tried to make it up to Koh Hong. The day was particularly hazy and I wondered if we'd get blazing sun at any point on our sail. There was about 1 knot of wind, so we motored our way north and eventually gave up at Koh Phanak near dusk. (Some mooring information is here, but the definitive guide is the Southeast Asia Pilot.) We jumped on the dingy and I motored us around the karst features. We noticed a bunch of tourists heading for a cave so we decided to check it out as well. We were lucky and it was nearly low tide because the cave was actually an extensive underground river and it took us back in a serpentine path until we discovered light! We looked at each other and said, "can we fit through there!?" We ducked under the limestone arch and popped out in a hong (Thai for 'room') in the middle of the island. It was incredible. None of us were expecting to re-emerge in the middle of the island so it was wild. Just as we did it, the kayaking tours started coming through the “Bat Cave” tunnel; we were lucky to have gotten the solo experience just before dark. We paddled back through the tunnel back to our boat for dinner. (Here's our GPX/GPS tracks)

The next morning, I was up by 5am (thanks jetlag). By 6:30, I couldn’t wait any longer and I popped my head into Dro and Nicole’s deck hatch and started singing the James Bond theme song. I wanted to get to the island before it was overrun with tourists, and my ploy worked. Dro jumped on the helm and I operated the windlass. We motored for about an hour while people started waking up. We passed Koh Hong with a small hong and vertical islands. It's amazing how the island cliffs spring straight out of the sea--such strange, mindblowing geology. The longtail boats were zigzagging around with the first tourists, but we were ahead of the larger tours. Since Khao Phing Kan and Ko Ta Pu (James Bond Island) are in such shallow water (less than 2 m according to our charts) we decided to anchor off Koh Yang and dingy over. Unfortunately, the wind was starting to pick up and we were heading straight into it. The couple foot waves were enough to soak everyone on the boat and we needed to bail, with our way-to-small-to-be-effective bottle. T declared this is exactly how James Bond would have arrived on the island. (That is if he didn’t have a seaplane.) We managed to stay afloat to land at Ao Phang Nga National Park and walk the path up to the beautiful overlook on Ko Tapu (เกาะตะปู, “spike”). Khao Phing Kan also include some other cool caves and neat limestone features for exploring. We caught this island at low tide so we could get close to JB island. I convinced T to re-enact the scene from The Man with a Golden Gun, but was disappointed that no one saw (or remembered) the film.

Back aboard Hermione, we raised sails and finally got enough wind to properly cruise. Motoring at 3 kts is nothing compared to 6-7 kts on a beam. It’s quiet except for the waves and wind and boat creaks. Such a lovely day cruise down to Ao Nang. Ko Kudu was gorgeous and I wish we could have stopped – worth checking out the next time we’re in the neighborhood. Dro and I took turns sailing, although he gave me plenty of shit when I got caught in the lee of an island near Ko Pak Ka. We anchored at Ao Nang around 3pm and went ashore for snacks, beers, and to pick up Travis, Sarah, and Dee. Generally, we’d just order up a load of food across the menu and eat family style. That was a fun way to explore the Thai culinary experience, especially when getting particularly adventurous. We loaded up everyone motored south to Railay (Rai Lei) Beach for the evening with dinner and drinks ashore. With the new crew, I bought out a sheet and pillow and slept on the trampoline of the catamaran. It was chilly, but waking up with the killer view and the birds singing to me was heavenly.

In the morning, we popped around the corner to Ao Phra Nang Beach at Tham Phra Nang. Everyone grabbed their snorkeling gear and dove in. I headed through the tiny islands to the south east and out along the cliffs. The water visibility was poor, so the snorkeling was so-so (big fan coral and barrel sponges) but the island features were great and the little caves and cliffs were fun to explore. I climbed a rope to get to what I thought would be a fun little deep water soloing spot, but the rock was so sharp, I couldn’t make it up to the smoother stone and fell 5’ back into the ocean – nothing very exciting. I headed back to Princess Cave and found Travis, Sarah, and Dee on the beach. A bunch of climbers are playing around on some routes in the caves and we watched them, like the hundreds of others congregating on the beaches by speed boat and longtail.

About noon, we went back to Ao Nang and picked up the last two crewmembers, Michael and Gail. After resupplying ice and a few other provisions, we pointed our boat south and anchored north of Ko Dam Khwan “Chicken Head Island”. The snorkeling here was far better and I spent nearly a couple hours exploring. Watching the branded sea snake hunt was a particular treat, but the schools of parrotfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, and damsels across a backdrop of anemones, brain coal, clams, staghorn coral, and plate coral was just as awesome. I chased the schools around with my GoPro gleefully. We had the whole crew assembled at this point, so it was fitting to have finest sunset of the trip that evening. From the trampoline, hammock, and foredeck, we watched the golden sun drop through the craggy islands on the horizon with our happy hour drinks in hand. Travis fired up the drone and flew it around our boat at sunset to capture the moment from 1000’. The footage was spectacular. There were 7’ long coffin-like berths in the front of the pontoons. They were slightly claustrophobic, but I realized I could pull the cushions out to sleep on the tramp without losing heat through the netting. That helped a lot.

In the morning, we continued South, stopped for a lunch snorkel at Bamboo island. The visibility continued to improve as we moved out of the delta into deeper waters. Large coral heads towered 10 feet above the ocean floor and I played around diving deep. On shore one of the longtail drivers was playing around with a small ray to the delight of the tourists. We then headed around the east side of Phi Phi Dom (the northernmost Phi Phi island). We stopped off at the monkey beach on the west shore of Ton Sai Bay. The monkeys were feasting on fruit the tour boats brought, but weren’t shy either. When a new longtail landed, one monkey jump on the boat stole a plastic juice bottle from a woman’s hands, jump to shore, and popped the cap off expertly.

We filled water at a floating pier and anchored on the west side of the bay. A couple dinghy rides later we were all ashore at Phi Phi (Pronounced “Pee Pee” and often written “PP”). We feasted on mango sticky rice at the Mango Garden, sipped beers on the beach, and had dinner at Anna’s. I tried three different dive shops before I found one that would pick me up on Hermione on their way out of the bay. Eventually, Phi Phi Scuba Diving Center agreed and in the course of 15 minutes I had my gear picked out and paperwork squared away—although I didn’t have my passport or dive certifications so I may have guessed at a few numbers.

At 7:30am the next morning, a yellow PP Scuba boat pulled up to Hermione and we were headed to Ko Bi Da Nok. I met the divemaster “Thaiman” from the Netherlands and my dive partner, Rob, from Seattle who was working on his divemaster cert. We three and two Chinese divers geared up and hobbled over to the back of the boat and took a big stride into the Andaman Sea. It was cloudy so the reef didn’t glow, but the visibility was 10-12 m. We circled down and around the island. We saw 3 black tip reef sharks, an eel, loads of starfish (and feather stars), clams, fans, trumpetfish, etc. Despite being a ‘beginner’ dive site, the current was stiff and the Chinese woman could barely move forward because she kicked with her ankles bent. Funny but annoying. We did a surface interval at Maya Bay on PP Lee and then dove Mushroom Coral. I talked Thaiman into letting Rob and I have more autonomy, so this was a much nicer dive and I could explore at my own pace. We dove down a cliff to 18 m and saw Clark’s and False Clown Anemonefish (Nemo!) in their anemones, a couple rays, lionfish, a lobster, Giant Travelly, Slugs, whip coral, plate coral, sponges. Greatly enjoy that one. When we got back to PP, I was surprise to Hermione still anchored. So after our debriefing, I texted Dro to link back up with the group. It turned out they wanted a little more shore time for hiking, massages, and in the case of Dee, a commemorative world map Thai tattoo on her left shoulder.

After lunch and a short downpour, we did a little provisioning, and then sailed down to Maya Bay at Phi Phi Lee for the night. This spot is super popular because it’s the beach from “The Beach” and everyone wants to be like Leo. We snorkeled around to a few spots on the north side: a secluded beach and a cool tidal cave. In the cave, the waves were amplified and knocked me off my feet. It was fun, but a little unsafe and I did end up strapping my shoulder. That evening, riding the high of diving and duty-free scotch, we blasted music into the bay while dancing under the stars until midnight. The next morning, I lay bleary-eyed on the foredeck around 6:30 when I heard 3 loud longtails cruise past. I jumped up and ran around the boat yelling, “let’s go, first dingy to the beach now!” as I released the lines and dropped the boat into the chop. People were taking their time getting up, so Dro, Nicole, and I headed in to the fabled Beach. It was already swimming in people at 7am and we only made it about 10 steps before someone asked us to pay the park fee. None of us had money, so I returned to the cat for cash and the 2nd load of people. Admittedly, it was a very nice beach—if it weren’t for the hundreds of people. We snapped a few pictures but didn’t wait around for more invaders. We swung around to the other side of the island to poke around in Pileh Lagoon. This was stunningly beautiful as well, but wasn’t as crowded since it didn’t have a beach. After a dingy loop, we headed south to Ko Ha Yai.

Ko Ha Yai had a set of islands with different geological formations, described best as a bricklayer best effort after gallons of Chang beer. There was a cool arch island that we could swim through and the snorkeling was the best of the trip. The coral was diverse and vibrant and fauna abundant. I enjoyed joining huge school of Yellowback Fusiliers. We then headed to Ko Lanta for our evening anchorage. We originally planned to eat at a nice restaurant recommended by the guidebook, but after waiting for an hour, we found a different spot down the beach, where the steamed lemon red snapper was potent but very well done.

The following morning, Dro woke me early to make a major sail all the way back north to Ko Yao Yai. I was very worried that we’d get trapped down south and couldn’t pull off this big leg, but the winds locked in from the NW and we cruised 6+ kts. As we rounded PP Dom, I put us on a beam reach and watched our speed climb to 7.5-8 kts. Awesome. As we came to the southern tip of Ko Yao Yai, the darkening storm clouds seemed particularly ominous. The winds were only 14 kts, so we keep the sails out, but this was a mistake. Dro was at the helm, suddenly we had sustained 30 kts and Michael and I went into crazy action. We managed to get the boat into the wind and fuller the genoa and drop the main. It was clear we should have seen this coming and reefed, but we didn’t. In the action, one of the jib sheets flapping aggressively wrapped under the galley port hatch handle and broke the window. We enjoyed getting the breeze through the galley, but should probably have closed those while under sail. Some good lessons learned and ultimately about $200 shared between the 10 shipmates. We motored the rest of the way to our anchorage outside Yao Tai Beach Resort. We managed to do 52.1 miles in 8:35 with 5.3 kts (6.1 mph) average and 7.8 kts (9.0 mph) max; by far the biggest sail of my life.

We knew that Ko Yao Yai was a Muslim island, but assumed that westerners would still have easy access to liquor on New Years Eve. This turned out to not be entirely true, but we worked a deal out with a beach restaurant to BYOB, so we brought our remaining liquor to shore. I found someone willing to sell beer and the crew danced until midnight, when the pier lit up with fireworks. For the record, laying on a white sand beach in Thailand watching fireworks light up the Andaman Sea is a great way to ring in 2018.

Way too early the following morning we headed back to Yacht Haven Marina. We topped up our diesel for $80 and went through the checkin procedures. I was in a hurry to meet my girlfriend, Jess, at the airport, so I said my goodbyes and took off for the next segment of the adventure. Jess didn’t have an international phone plan so we preplanned to meet at the southern end of the airport. I was relieved when she triumphantly showed up on the far side of the world. We taxied to our hotel and explored old town Phuket by foot. We got a nice lunch with Changs, Coconuts, and curry and visited the Hai Leng Ong (Dragon) Statue, Wat Mongkol Nimit, the silly Phuket Trickeye Museum, and got Thai massages at Kim’s. For dinner, we met Dro, Nicole, Michael, and Gale at Tu Kab Khao. Then we said our goodbyes again, but this time for real, and then Jess and I began our great trip south.

We had a “ferry” booked the next morning, so we asked the front desk to get us a taxi. The nice lady called a few taxis said they were far away and then looked over to her counterpart, as if to say something secret, and then called another person. She said we’ll have a driver out front in a couple minutes. We were surprised when a decaled Mitsubishi rally race car pulled up and waived us over. The interior was covered in auxiliary gauges for monitoring, presumably, the engine and turbo pressure and temperatures. He blasted Mexican, Thai, and English techno all the way to Rassada Pier – quite the wake-up. But then we sat around for an hour while ferries loaded and took off. To my surprise, we were loaded into a smaller speedboat with triple 250 HP outboards. We pulled out into the open water and proceeded to get knocked around in 4’ waves all the way to Ko Lanta and then down to Ko Lipe. We covered 135 miles at ~30 mph and by mid-afternoon we were deposited dazed on a beautiful beach in southern Thailand. The island is entirely walkable and popular as a low-key destination for families. We grabbed some fruit on the way to our hostel and then walked out to the beach through the impoverished ghetto. On the other side, photogenic beauty reappeared. We did a short snorkel, but the tide was so low it was hard to find routes through the coral. Jess still thought it was great since this was her first time snorkeling! I was also her first time backpacking, in the travel sense. She was making the most of it, but was struggling with a persistent cough. I always hate traveling while sick, but she seemed unfazed. That evening, we snagged beers and walked down sunrise beach around to sunset beach. Normally this wouldn’t be possible, but because the tide was so low we could sneak through the rocky areas. Then we crossed the island to the southern beach and had a tasty dinner on the beach with Mai Tais and G&Ts. We took the Walking St back to the hostel and perused the wears, trinkets, and eateries. This evening was definitely a highlight of the trip.

The next day, we tried to catch the sunrise on sunrise beach but it was cloudy. Instead we walked the beach and checked out all the beached longtails. The 2-meter tide is very aggressive so half the day the boats can’t clear the reef. As the tide returned, we did another snorkel and then set out to catch our ferry to Langkawi. Unfortunately, I assumed it was the same timing as the previous day as that boat was to head on to Langkawi, so we ended up missing our speed boat and had to go through an annoying process of getting another one. Fortunately, getting stranded in paradise isn’t so bad and we saddled up on the beach to wait to go through immigration. A few hours later we found ourselves in Malaysia in a driving rainstorm. We taxied to our hostel, the Honey Badger Hut (I couldn’t not stay there), and we headed for Kampung Lubok Buaya and wound up at Lavazza Café on Cenang Beach for dinner. It rained more. We tried to Uber, but after 25 minutes and no progress from our driver, we just walked back to the Hostel in the rain.

In the morning, I let jess sleep in and went out to gather breakfast. I found it surprising that the large grocery store we visited the night before wouldn’t open until 10am. Luckily a place next door, Siti, was open and a woman with a hijab was cooking made-to-order roti canai with a honey sauce – way better than traditional donuts but probably no healthier. I did really like all the fishing boats in the small river in the vicinity of 6.303155, 99.722448, so I stopped to get a few pictures on the way back to the hostel. Jess was up and ready to go when I got back. We had our breakfast and Ubered to the Langkawi Cable Car. It’s a bit like Disney Land around there, but we managed to find it a ride up to the Langkawi Sky Bridge. The storms had moved off, but the visibility was still poor from a low-lying Malaysian haze. We hiked up to the top of the mountain and then down to the arcing Langkawi Sky Bridge. The suspension bridge used a single internal tower, which is very cool architecturally and mechanically. There were also a couple transparent floor tiles on the walkway where we could stand over a hundred feet of nothing, and did the trick of giving our hearts an extra beat.

Back at sea-level, we hiked up to base of Seven Wells Waterfall and then the hundreds of steps up to the upper pools. We were hauling our full packs at this point, so Jess and I were dripping sweat by the top. Fortunately, this area was a great spot for locals and tourists alike to cool off in the humid midday heat. We had fun relaxing in the pools and watching the local long-tailed macaques hunt for natural foods and human refuse. We had arranged for an older taxi driver to take us to the ferry terminal at 1:00, but when we got back down at 1:00, we asked the driver to wait while we got some food. The price for a meal is incredibly about $2 and exploding with flavor. This seems to be the universal case in Malaysia.

After this, our driver slightly raised the price of our pre-negotiated drive by about a dollar. I lightly protested but he explained it was documented on the sign at the Oriental Village but forgot the amount. Then he went way out of his way to make sure we saw the sign, in what I took to be an over-the-top gesture of honesty. After that hiccup he zipped us across the island to the Ferry terminals in Kuah. Along the way he showed us his circa 1993 military photo and explained that he was part of the UN peacekeeping operations led by the US military in Bosnia. I got the sense he was impressed with the leadership in that conflict because he started referring to me as ‘sir’ after I said we were American.

A far more relaxed ferry ride dropped us off in George Town on Penang Island. The city was sizable, but the area around Fort Cornwallis was quaint with small shopping areas like “Little India”. Actually, this area was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 because it represented an exceptional example of a multi-cultural trading town in Southeast Asia with unique architecture and lifestyle. The rain came and went so Jess and I were happy to drop off gear at our hotel. We visited Kapitan Keling Mosque and tried to get a drink at the rooftop bar of the Kontar, but lightning prevented anyone from going on deck. Instead, we found a dim sum place and I gorged on dumplings until I couldn’t see straight. Jess managed to exercise self-control, which I couldn’t understand as we were being faced by an endless supply of such wonderfully scrumptious packets of happiness. Somewhere along the way we also snagged a quarter of a durian. It’s a horrifically stinky fruit but tastes ok if you pinch your nose. Jess and I watched in amazement when a small Asian woman devoured an entire fruit without gagging.

In the morning, we walked in the rain to a ferry to a bus station that took us to Kuala Lumpur. I think taking the train would have been slightly nicer, but the bus worked out well. Then we took a metro across town to the Bukit Bintang district and our 5-star Marriott across the street from the Pavilion KL, a grandiose shopping center with Louis Vuitton, Prada, and other fashion shops that I had zero interest in visiting. We walked the surface streets past dozens of construction jobs to the Petronas Twin Towers and KLCC Park. It was interesting to see the famous bridge halfway up the towers by day, but the towers were far more spectacular at night when they seem to glow with rings of light. The evening was unexciting: we strolled the mostly-closed KL Citywalk and purchased a celebratory Pina Colada (which is taxed something like 300% because Malaysia is a Muslim country). We did finally figure out the series of skyways on the way back to the hotel though, so that was far more pleasant to stay out of the rush-hour traffic.

On our final day in Malaysia, we took the metro to Batu Caves. Initially, we (accidentally) visited a very strange, neon-powered collection of ‘psychedelic dioramas’ in Ramayana Cave, named because the oddly sculpted characters depicted the Indian story of Ramayana. Feeling confused, Jess and I walked along the shops until we discovered the actual Batu Cave, along with hordes of tourist buses. We climbed the 272 steps past the golden Murugan statue to the monstrous Cathedral Cave. Passing through this cavern, you climb another set of stairs to an open limestone room with a Hindu Temple and mischievous monkeys. We saw one woman have her lunch striped from her hands. On our way down the main stairwell, we decided to do the Dark Cave tour. It included nice cave features (columns, curtains, stalactites, gour pools, etc.) and critters (crickets, bats), but we didn’t see the famous trap-door spider. We did some fast shopping at the gift shop and then it was Ubering to the hotel and airport to head further south.

The way the flights worked out, Jess got to Singapore a couple hours before I did. I met her at our hotel and we linked up with Mervyn, my first grad school advisor from Georgia Tech. We hadn’t seen one another for 12 years (!) but hit it off talking about complexity theory, former colleagues, and the future of technology. He was nice enough to show Jess and I to a section of town tourists don’t often visit: Eminent Frog Porridge. A Chinese run establishment that served bowls of whole cooked frogs slathered in sauce. The frogs were pretty good actually and I ate a couple of them. But Merv wanted to give us the authentic Singapore experience and ordered a feast of chili crabs, prawns, fried rice, and veggies. It was a flavor rollercoaster. We then got a couple drinks (including a Singapore Sling for Jess) at the Bungy Bar at Clarke Quay. It was nice to sit along the Singapore River and reminisce about a part of my life that seems so long ago.

Early the next morning, Jess and I were on a plane heading back stateside and somewhere around 24 hours of travel later we were comfortably back in burque.
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Red River Race Camp 
Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 03:31 AM - Weekend Fun
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After a very scary year, the UNM lobos are racing for at least a couple more years. So it was an absolute pleasure to go up for my 5th Red River Race Camp with the Lobos. Where else can you ski with some of the best racers in the world?! This year, Jeff, Jon, and I paired up with Nicky - a local racer from Taos - for two days of race training. Here's a little taste of his casual skiing:

Unfortunately, with the exception of the torchlight, no one skied anything except the bunny hill. That's global warming for you. I suppose we need to get used to it.

However, we worked a nice progression and I was carving an okay turn without flailing all over the place by the end of the camp. It's also a fun time to socialize with the student athletes and Sandia racers in proper apres style. Jeff and I were in the camper so we hosted a couple parties 'down by the river' -
hilarious in their simplicity: all it takes is a jambox and rapid lightswitching to have a good time. Red River is also so tiny that the UNM van kept crossing paths with us. Friday night, we got a lift to Bull of the Woods and Saturday we got a lift to the banquet. I started thinking everywhere we'd go headcoach Joe would show up with the magic bus to take us to our destination. Until next time Lobos!

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Moab Biking and Canyoneering 
Monday, December 4, 2017, 02:36 AM - Week activities
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I had been feeling bummed I didn't get a Moab trip this fall, but then a large international work trip fell through so I got my chance. (Thanks Indian Consulate in Houston.) Jess and I went up with the camper after she got off at the hospital and overnighted by the Narraguinnep Reservoir outside of Cortez. In the morning we dodged the Pronghorn and snuck over to the Needles Overlook - a spectacular view of Canyonlands. We had the place all to ourselves since it was early on a Thursday and a little hazy that morning.

We set up in the usual spot at Grandstaff Campground and then asked around at the Negro Bill Canyon for a lift up to the top. After talking with a half dozen folks, a nice couple volunteered to shuttle us to the top so we could canyoneer Medieval Chamber. We headed down the wash from the radio tower, past the Fins and Things 4WD road, and then rapped into Medieval Chamber. It's a tight, short canyon but a super neat spot. Then you walk out to the top of Morning Glory Arch. I had always dreamed of doing a simultaneous rappel off the arch after seeing Justin and Leigh do it years ago. It was too scary for Jess (and for me) to start normally, so I muntered partway down with a 2nd rope attached to the normal anchor to a nearly free hanging position and then had Jess rap off the other side, connected to me. I think this is a nice safe way to do it for others who are more risk averse. It does take a little coordination operating two lowering systems and rope skills to pull the anchored rope while free hanging.

After hiking out of Negro Bill Canyon, we still had a little daylight so I suggested we go to Delicate Arch. The Arches NP road construction and short daylight made us give up early and we ended up at Double Arch for the beautiful cloudy sunset.

In the morning, Jess headed off on a couple hikes while I joined a big group (Briana, Josiah, Dave, Laura, Melanie, Nate, Andrew) to mountain bike Mag 7. Briana thought it would be great if I had a rainbow beard, so that happened... There was a howling West wind that helped us cruise the beginning section through Gemini Bridges, Bull Run, Arth's Corner, and Little Canyon. At that point most of the group bailed and headed back to town via Gemini Bridges Rd., but I talked David and Josiah to continue on the Gold Bar climb to Gold Bar Rim and Portal. Everyone was saying it was going to be tough (and stupid), and they weren't kidding. The climb was mostly doable but very punchy. Then at the top the riding becomes extra difficult. I was say the three of us pushed it pretty hard, but still ended up walking about 50% of the drops. The storms and nightfall were rolling in on us at this point, so it was particularly annoying that I burped my rear tire and then rolled it off the rim in back-to-back technical sections. I couldn't re-seat it with a CO2 so I had to throw in a tube. It worked. We slowly picked our way down Portal as it traverses a massive cliff-face. The pucker factor is high, and the skill-level to ride this stretch is equally extraordinary. Hikers, asked how many of us we started with and we responded, "8 riders, but only 3 survived this far." Then Josiah piped in that David's full-face helmet was so he could have an open-casket funeral. David, Joe, and I rounded the point, ripped much of the bottom section (except the switchbacks and narrow slots), and cruised out to the road right at sunset. We were all fully stoked at our accomplishment! That lasted about 10 minutes until we had to fight a 30+ mph headwind home in a driving rainstorm to Grandstaff Campground. Once we arrived everyone had packed up and left for a VRBO, so we piled in the camper, passed out food, beers, and cooked some stew for bonky Dave. Mission accomplished.

The next morning, Jess and I decided to do another canyon in Arches while the rest of the group went climbing. We did Big Horn Canyon on a cold but clear morning. The tunnel was fun and the wondering around on the plateau is just neat. Jess got the hang of overhanging abseiling and somehow I rope-burned the back of my neck trying to manage 170m of ropes on the first rappel; but otherwise the canyon was straightforward.

It was the weekend before Thanksgiving, so I wanted to go out to GGBY. I hadn't seen it before, but I was interested in the rigging and hoped I might be able to go out onto the spacenet. It's a drive to get out to the Fruit Bowl, but we arrived on quite a scene. Everyone was packing in gear for the week-long party. A few of the shorter slacklines were bring strung up and the longer ones were being rigged - apparently the poor weather had slowed their progress. Sketchy Andy and a collection of eccentric individuals were coordinating the work. It's definitely a neat location and looked like loads of fun. This year was different because the base jumping wasn't allowed and there was more regulations, but I think the spirit will certainly live on. Hopefully I can get out on the spacenet sometime in next few years.

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Tandem Cycling to Santa Fe 
Monday, October 2, 2017, 04:12 AM - Weekend Fun
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I've started getting better at talking Jess into difficult adventures. Most recently we rode a tandem to Santa Fe from Nob Hill. Town and the canyon went fairly quickly, but riding up to the Triangle started to hurt a little more. The tandem isn't really designed for climbing, but it certainly has great gearing for spinning. We ran into a nice couple from Scotland by the Lazy Lizard who were on the final legs of their version of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. I apologized for the hazy weather but they reminded us they were from Scotland. "Oh right, you're feeling right at home then." They said that they were pleasantly surprised at New Mexico and were going to finish up in a few days so they could go to the Balloon Fiesta. We told them that was a perfect idea and wished them luck.

We got lucky with a nice South tailwind on the cruise North, otherwise I don't think we would have cleared the hill into Madrid. I was cranking with all my might and we barely made the pass. It was only at lunch in Madrid that Jess confessed that she stopped peddling for a while when she got tired on the climb. I decided to push it a bit on the decent into Madrid and we topped out at 49 mph in an adrenalin-packed bumpy roller coaster into town. We had a big NM lunch at The Hollar and then rushed north to catch the railrunner back to town. It was difficult, but lots of fun with such as wonderful lady. Jess's biggest ride ever! 62 miles with 4100' of climbing.

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Building a cycling speaker setup  
Thursday, September 21, 2017, 01:57 AM - Work
Posted by Administrator
I built a music box for a tow-behind bike trailer. Check out the schematic and video for all the DIY details.

Batteries - $37
Battery Charger - $15
Waterproof Switch - $10
Volt/Power Meter (optional) - $19
Bluetooth Audio Amplifier Board - $49
0.625-in x 4-ft x 4-ft particle board/plywood - $13
Polystyrene Foam Board Insulation (vibration resistance) - $13
Speaker Terminal(s) - $6
100+ W Speakers - Wide range of prices, but less than $40 is possible.
Spare wire, screws, caulk, etc.
Total cost: ~$180
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Mega Bike + Hike Sandia Adventure with Jess 
Sunday, September 17, 2017, 10:04 PM - Weekend Fun
Posted by Administrator
I convinced Jess to join me for a multi-sport adventure that turned into a rather major endeavor. We started at 7am at the Tram parking lot and biked down Tramway, up Route 66 (Reaper Ride) to Tijeras, and up the hill to Canyon Estates Trailhead. Jess really struggled up the final climb, but we took some time to rest and rehydrate while we locked our bikes up. After the break, we hiked past Travertine Falls and up to South Peak via the steep CCC Route. We summitted just before noon and enjoyed all the wonderful views from the top. For some reason (probably boredom), I downloaded the cachly app and started hunting for a few geocaches as we worked our way north via the Crest Trail to the Tram. I found a couple ammo box geocaches and we happily wrote messages about our fun day. The weather was good, but my hip flexor and IT Band weren't happy about the 8 miles to the Tram. We also randomly ran into Emily who was doing a S-to-N crest solo backpacking trip. She was having hip pain, but refused any help - which I could certainly relate to. I was definitely hurting by the time we made it to the Tram.

Long day out with stats something like the following:
Total distance: 30.2 miles (without tram)
Total climb: 6500 ft (without tram)
Bike: 17.4 miles, 1200 ft climbed
Hike: 12.8 miles, 5300 ft climbed
Moving time: 7:23
Total time: 9:58

(Hiking Portion is Highlighted)
Larger. GPX

Also, fondue dinners are fun!

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Boundary Waters Canoe Trip 
Thursday, September 14, 2017, 02:56 AM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
I took a much-needed week off work to join my parents and three of their friends for a canoe trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) Wilderness in upper Minnesota against Canada.

I got lunch with Daimon and his wife in Minneapolis - a real treat since the last time I saw him was for his wedding 5 years ago. Then a van full of excited southerners towing a trailer and 3 canoes showed up and whisked me north. We stayed in a small motel between St. Paul and Duluth that night as the rain poured down. I hoped the weather forecast was right and we would have lighter weather during the next week. Luckily, I convinced the rest of the team to take a detour to get Betty's Pies in Two Harbors on or way to our campsite and put-in at Fall Lake Campground. We had pie for dinner and we had pie for breakfast. It was fantastic.

The next day, we headed north. We portaged around Newton Falls to Newton Lake, and quickly reached Pipestone Falls, and portaged again. On the first one, Mom and I found someone with a cart to help bring our gear across, but on the 2nd we were on our own for the 1/4 mile walk. I threw the canoe on my back for the walk, but halfway through the middle thwart broke - so we set it back in place, carried about our business, and started dreaming up campsite remedial actions. Back on the water, we paddled our way up Pipestone Bay of Basswood Lake and saw a Bald Eagle leave his perch and cruise the shoreline. We did a quick, albeit jungley, hike to Azion Lake for lunch. The entire day and all the lakes were glass. It was quiet and eerie. Eventually, we found a chipmunk-operated campsite on the south-side of Pipestone Bay and set up camp around 1:30pm. With plenty of time before dinner, the whole gang took a swim and then Steve, Kurt, and Andreas fished while the rest of us heckled them.

The next morning, Dad cooked some of his legendary pancakes while Andreas and I fashioned a new yoke for the canoe. Using a hand saw, we were able to notch a section of pine tree to do the job (and it held for the whole trip!). Needless to say, we got a later start. In general, canoeing is such a relaxed way to travel through the world, aside from the portages, of which we did have one to cross over to Back Bay. At first the weather was calm, but eventually a south wind set in. Mom and I struggled into a moderate headwind through the shallow waters of Back Bay and wondered why there were thousands of dead insects on the water surface. Too cold? Natural life cycle?

The group separated some, but we regathered on an unnamed island on our way to Hoist Bay when we ate lunch. When we got to Hoist Bay, we took a 90 degree turn ENE and the winds turned to our favor. We slid past Canoe Island and Norway Island before finding a suitable, unoccupied campsite on Washington Island. More swimming. More Fishing. And Mom and I cooked Quesadillas for the crew. Steve served up a couple small-mouth cooked in southern spices.

The next day was difficult. Winds rotated to the North and we were battered making our way up the US-Canada border to United States Point. The chop was getting large enough that Dad and I were politely asked to stay close to the Andrea/Mom canoe (we rotated teams). This day I got my first taste of paddling "the barge" which was our only plastic canoe. The other two Kevlar canoes slid through the water with an estimated 76.3% less drag. After fighting the wind and chop, we turned the corner and headed West toward Basswood Falls. Surprisingly, even with the wind at our backs, the waves still made this a tough stretch. This area does not allow motors, so we were suddenly alone - at least for large portions of the day, which was nice. It felt like a wilderness area. We stopped off for lunch on a beach and looked at Canada. M&A snuck into Canada, while Dad and I may have drifted into international waters. Definitely a different scene than our southern border. Eventually, we found a campsite we called, "Camp Blowhole" because it was on the blowhole of the island that looked like a whale. It was well sheltered and we pasted the time looking at the moss and lichen that covered the island. Mom, entertained the group with a crossword puzzle that lasted a surprisingly long time (days).

We decided the leave the tents up and do a day trip to Basswood Falls the next day. We walked down the Basswood River for about a mile inspecting whatever flora and fauna (eagles, an otter, and more chipmunks!) we came across. That night we tried to catch the Northern Lights - Andreas said it would be the highest probability of catching them that night based on the NOAA data. But we didn't see anything except a wonderfully starry night.

The following day we battled another headwind south toward Pipestone. We hoped we could float through the creek from Jackfish Bay to Pipestone, but beavers had dammed it, so we had to run another short portage. On the other side, we stopped off at an awesome cliffside campsite to take in the views and rest a bit for the final push south. We paddled another hour+ into the gale until we made it back to our first campsite, where we were greeted by Charlie T. Trouble our favorite food-stealing chipmunk. Lathered on the DEET and killed a handful more mosquitoes, the state bird, for the 5th night in a row. The weather held off until that night, when a ferocious thunderstorm came through camp, but the rain had stopped by morning.

The final day was fairly easy, even with the two portages. We knew the way and a few of us were ready get off the water. It was a fun trip, great to see the world from a canoe, and the bugs were actually manageable.

GPS data
Approximate Distances:
Day 1: 6.8 miles to Pipestone Bay
Day 2: 10.3 miles to Washington Island
Day 3: 9.8 miles to "Whale Island"
Day 4: 5.45 miles, day-tripping to Basswood River
Day 5: 10.7 miles to Pipestone Bay
Day 6: 6.6 miles to Fall Lake
Total: 49.65 miles of fun + a few miles of canoeing on Day 0 to go fishing with Steve.

And Here's a video my Mom put together of the trip:

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Josh's 30 Birthday  
Thursday, August 10, 2017, 05:52 PM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
Like my 30th Birthday, my Mom wanted to do something fun for my brother for his 30th. She created an elaborate medieval/fantastical plot involving a bunch of people in the family. I had three roles: the first was to give Josh clues to start a treasure hunt that my parents would conduct to give him Amtrak tickets to Chicago (where he would meet his cousins and a family friend); the second was to give him a time and place where he would get a weapon (super soaker) for the final battle with the evil king; and the third was to be taken hostage, rescued by Josh, and help him kayak down the river battling river enemies to the king.

For the first clue, since we are both getting into cybersecurity work, I thought it would be fun to create do something with encryption. I sent him the following message:

Lord Marcel,

Nearly 40 years ago, Knights Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman created a tool for exchanging information between kingdoms. I must use this tool to securely send information from the land of Adobe as there are many eyes watching our movements.

Your secret code was recently sent via text. The public key is (n = 597782322723352841, e = 65537).

Use your code to decipher my decimal messages by converting to hexadecimal and then to text. As an example, 454340527577251408658717599750907599391754895552930391484449 is an unencrypted base 10 birthday message.

Please await my next letter for instructions.

God speed,
Earl of Tillay

P.S. 16172526842824332 486461013351423796 372855876819966270 173013308343788726 175628482683316976 51457655426288031 112532939420200262 103102526154905960 212110150840885429 116036075239775253

I sent him the private key in a text: "162568843699643261"

Without going into too many of the details, Josh was required to perform RSA decryption of the coded message. The description of how to do that is here. And the python code to do that is here (for all your programming needs).

A few days letter, he sent me a message indicated that he figured it out and I sent him the coordinates for his first clue for the scavenger hunt that my parents put together. He managed to complete that and get his tickets to Chicago. Yay!

The next round of puzzles (to give him the water gun) was a little more involved. It started with me sending him a link to this image:

which, read which had a bunch of clues. The solutions to the puzzles are here.

With a couple hints, and a couple required corrections on my part (whoops), the solution was determined to be "421261450043257479" or "/c3.pdf" when decrypted. That led him to

He got back to me fairly quickly with the solution: White Fire Mayhem. And I told him where he could meet up with someone who would give him his water gun :) It's not easy turning 30!

For the extended, weekend party, Jess and I flew to St. Louis. The first night we had dinner at Josh's with Mom and Dad. Then we drove down to Washington, MO to pick up Grandma and take her down to the Huzzah for a beach picnic and float. We also visited grandpa in the old folks home.

The following day, we woke up early and Dad, Josh, and I competed in the Wood River Triathlon. Dad did a great job with the swim (most people just walked on the pool bottom and should have been disqualified) and came in 21st out of 234 with a 8:15. I jumped on my Dad's (small) road bike and did my best to ride the turny course. It was six laps with six 90 degree turns, so it was hard to keep the speed up. I managed to take a wrong turn into the staging area after my first lap (not much signage at this event), which probably cost me ~20 seconds. (I've got all my excuses lined up.) In the end, I averaged 20 mph for 33:20 and 25/234 although I would have been 17th without my navigational mistake. Not too bad. And Josh suffered a couple laps (4 miles) to bring us on home with 2nd out of 10 for the teams (the first group was pretty stacked).

After that we headed back to Washington, MO where we (tastefully) shackled Josh and put him in his own van with instructions on how to find me. I left in my parent's Prius with Mom and Jess, while Dad, cousin Tim, and aunt Holly came separately with the kayaks. There were a few complications with instructions, but eventually I was freed of my captors' restraints and on the water with Josh in a couple kayaks loaded with water guns and water balloons. Ready for battle, we navigated through the drunk rafts and eventually came across captured Maid Jess along with three in the king's legion. There was a water battle, and I don't really know who won, but I'll say it was us.

We jumped off the cliff and floated down to Uncle Jim's place on the Meramec. There Josh vanquished the evil king and saved the day! We played around in the river a little more, BBQed, and eventually headed back to WashMo to rest. The following day, I had one last visit with grandpa before indulging in a bottle of Chambourcin at Montelle Winery and catching our flights back to ABQ - although the trip was ultimately delayed a full 12 hours with back-to-back mechanical and weather issues.

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Mountain Rescue Mission on Muralla Grande and Training on Torreon 
Sunday, August 6, 2017, 09:52 PM - AMRC
Posted by Administrator
This last week was packed with a couple fun rescues and trainings. On Weds, a couple climbers attempted to climb La Selva, but ended up on Excitable Boys and then found their way over to the football field ledge. From there they decided that it was too risky to rappel because they didn't know if they would find a place to build an anchor. So they hung out while we got our team up to the top of Muralla Grande and built a system with the 1200' line. I rushed home from work at about 5:00 and with the help of Hans' quick truck driving skills we were on at IB by 6:00 (impressive!). A couple teams were already out, so I carried the TerrAdaptor legs down. Those are really awkward to haul.

Hans, Ang, and I built the TerrAdoptor and I watched the edge while Craig was lowered and raised 400' to pick off the two uninjured climbers. We had awesome throw on the mainline and eventually a nice army of firefighters and cops to help haul. The weather was nice and it didn't end up raining so everything worked out well, especially for the climbers.

Then this weekend, Supra led an interesting training with a couple fallen climbers. Elena and I were on the strike team and found the subjects on the top of Torreon. On of the climbers was dead and the other had a femur fracture and pneumothorax both with impaled object puncture wounds. I haven't done a lot of medical lately, so it was a good WFR refresher for me: running through SAMPLE taking vitals and monitoring the patient while the raise system was constructed. Oh and I also built a nice traction splint for the femur fracture out of Elena's trekking poles! Matt came down on the litter, we packaged our patient, and then I joined the haul team on top. The final stretch of getting the little through a 4th class boulder field was a challenge, but otherwise things went smoothly, albeit a little slower than desired. It was a nice training and Elena got to learn a lot, exclaiming in the debrief that it was the "best training ever!"

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Vegas, Baby! 
Monday, June 5, 2017, 04:27 AM - Trips, Weekend Fun
Posted by Administrator
Jess was getting together with old friends, Kristen and Keith, in Vegas for the weekend and she invited me out to stay with her. I said, "Sure!" We all met up at the Luxor on Friday morning and then went out to the Rehab pool party. Their friend, Josh, just moved out to Vegas so he acted as our official tour guide. Beach balls, swimming and loud music was a great start to the trip. It was super warm so the margaritas were tasting especially good. We all headed out to First Friday on Fremont St. where they have live bands in addition to the booze, gambling, street performers, and outdoor alcohol vendors. After strolling up and down the well-lit street with movie screen canopy and ziplines we ubered back to the strip and worked our way through the casinos back to the Luxor for bed. Nothing too insane, but it was fun.

In the morning the group went over to the Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. It was short but pretty nice with a few tube walkways. The gang then headed north along the strip hitting up casinos, bars, and any shiny attraction along with way. We had a great steak dinner at Mon Ami Gabi across from the Bellagio, before the rest of the crew took off for the airport. Jess and I nearly ran to catch the Cirque du Soleil at the MGM Grand. I think this show was the highlight of the trip. The hydraulic stage was awesome and the way that used it to play out different fight scenes was spectacular - especially when they were using the 'arrows' to traverse the stage.

The last day, I had to gamble a little just to say I tried it. Jess and I bet on black and won. Then we bet on 12 and lost. I played a couple hands of blackjack and lost. I did double my $1 in the dollar slots, but ultimately lost about $50 over the course of the weekend. We we're very good gamblers - but Keith and Kristen managed to win $200 at the Buffalo slot machine (and probably spent similar quantities to do so) and Josh won $1000 with a royal flush on bar-top poker on Fremont St., but with the quantity of time he spends at such things that does make sense (he's a blackjack and poker dealer and has a strong affinity for slot machines). I can see the appeal though - it's a rush to see the next card or roulette wheel spin.

Jess and I went to the Bodies exhibit at the Luxor. I had seen it in L.A. 10 years ago, but it was still fun and educational. We headed up to New York, NY to ride the roller coaster, but they had it shut down due to wind when we got there. Instead we wondered through Cesar's Palace, Mirage, and Treasure Island and got ice cream. So I think I can say I've done Vegas now and I did a little gambling, so I can cross that off the old bucket list.

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Iron Horse 2017 
Thursday, May 25, 2017, 03:51 AM - Weekend Fun
Posted by Administrator
Jeff wanted to do the Iron Horse this year, so I decided to provide company on the long climb. Plus Emil had a Citizen's Tour pass up for grabs and Kendrick wanted to get rid of his MTB race bib so I weaseled my way into an unofficial omnium for the weekend. Jeff wanted to give Sheliah a bed for the night, so I brought the camper up and stashed it at Tom and Jordan's cabin by Lemon Reservoir. It was a beautiful spot with nice pine forest near the Florida River. Verena and Nicole were also visiting Tom and Jordan so we had a fun little AMRC bike crew.

Somehow my front road bike tire delaminated on the drive up on the car, so on the race morning, I had to run around town and get a new tire. Got lucky to find a shop with time to do the work, but went with the Specialized Armadillo, thinking it would be like the GatorSkins. Wrong. It was way heavier and I could feel that sucker on the climbs. But, the ride started out well. I used my punchiness to stay in the lead peloton and crossed the Hermosa train tracks in 6th place (same spot that I flatted two years before), but this time I stayed with the leaders for another mile through the rollers until the big climb. Then I sat there and spun. The weather was supposed to be cold, but it was a warm sunny day and I wished I had not worn the long pants. I stopped at the first aid station for a clothing change and sunblock. I lost Jeff early on, and the rest of the crew was in the races, so I just worked my way up the mountain with random groups. Close to Purgatory Jeff caught me and was looking strong. It was cool to ride together for a while, but then I latched on to another group and he didn't chase. Toward Coalbank Pass, Jeff passed me and I couldn't climb hard. I really wasn't feeling strong, but there was a nice tailwind so conditions were good. At the top, I stopped off for a snack with Jeff, but decided to continue because I figured he'd catch me on the Molas climb. As it turned out though, he had to take the descents slow because of a rear hub issue and I didn't see him until the finish. I ripped the descents as usual but couldn't put myself into the hurt locker on the climbs to better my prior race time (even with the flat). Total time was ~4:43 (3:39 moving) for the 49 miles/5900 ft. I was actually 2.5 min slower this year compared to two years ago! That's pretty embarrassing -- but I'm fatter these days too. Luckily the train had some kind of mechanical issue so I handily beat the train when it rolled in at 12:30pm. It was nice of the snow to hold off this year too!

We gorged on some food in Silverton and headed back to Durango fairly quickly. J&S headed off to Phoenix while I rejoined the AMRC folks for a BBQ birthday dinner at their neighbor's snazzy cabin. I passed out early after a couple beers. The following day I headed into town around 11:00 and checked out all the festivities. At 2pm, my 19-34 M group launched for the mountain bike race. Instantly I could feel the exhaustion from the day before and that right about the time the climbing began. A good chuck of the riders were off their bikes and pushing on the first climb in multiple areas. We then meandered through the mesa top and dropped down to the ski area where there was a 2nd brutal climb were the majority of the riders were pushing their bikes. I cleaned the first portion to the turn, but then got off to save my legs and lungs. Then it was hairpin switchbacks back into town. I came in completely beat, went through the log obsticles, and then climbed the ramp through Steamworks (the only reason to do the race). That was super cool to hear the crowd yelling at you as you go through a brewery in a race! Then it was back out for two more hike-a-bike climbs on loose trail but then the pro group went blasting past me on the ski hill climb - they are so strong! I must say that I wasn't feeling this course at all (I think it would have been better the original, reversed direction; but they switched it because someone smashed their face into the window last year, so now we rode up through the brewery.) I relaxed a lot (too much really) in the 2nd lap because I knew I'd be in last pack of riders and I accepted it, but was able to ride my own pace for most of the final lap and actually shaved a few seconds (yay for negative splits!).

16th out of 27
Lap 1: 36:14.40 (15th out of 25)
Lap 2: 40:50.50 (16th out of 23)
Lap 3: 40:41.50 (12th out of 23)

Elevation gain 2,350 ft.

Then on Memorial Day Monday, I joined the team for a highline training and rode the litter and not my bike :)

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12 Hours of Mesa Verde 
Monday, May 15, 2017, 02:49 AM - Weekend Fun
Posted by Administrator
It's been a while since I've posted anything, but I'm hoping to back-fill stories of the last few months soon...

I participated in the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde mountain bike race for the 3rd year in a row. And unlike the last couple years, I didn't get rain/snow/sleeted on in the middle of my first lap. Spencer led out with a reasonable first lap (1:33) and I followed up with a so-so 1:35 without any of my patented red-lining/blow-up antics. They changed the course this year so it was a little longer at 18 miles. I did get passed like 20 times early and then I managed to have a minor crash around mile 5 on a little drop by a cliff - I didn't see the line until super late, cut right onto a babyhead, and laid the bike over. My shifting and confidence was a little rough from there on.

Josiah put in a nice 1:36 for Team Beercanical's 3rd lap. I felt I didn't leave enough on the course my first time out so I hammered a little more on my 2nd. The wind was kicking up quite a bit by this point, but it shockingly felt like a tailwind more than a headwind. I felt stronger and kept 'smooth is fast and fast is smooth' mantra close to the heart, but I somehow came in at 1:37. How strange. Josiah didn't have a good 3rd lap (1:45), so there wasn't any hope of Spencer getting in before the 5pm cutoff to force my 3rd lap; so that meant it was time to head back to camp to start the party!

(Shotgun transition)
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St. Patties at St. Paul Hut 
Sunday, March 19, 2017, 04:54 AM - Weekend Fun
Posted by Administrator
A mostly AMRC crew went up to St. Paul Lodge to get some nice skiing in with friends. Andreas was training for Denali so I gave him some training weight - a 1/6th barrel of training weight - and the party was on. Jeff and I built a little booter out front for people to hit, but I think only me and Kevin did it.

Justin, Mike, Jeff, and I planned to ski off McMillan Peak to Silverton and come back up, but Justin broke his binding so we climbed to Red Mountain No. 3 and shot the north aspect. Then we climbed out of Champion Basic to the Red No. 2 ridge and dropped into corkscrew gulch (20A) back to 550. Justin got over into the sun-baked area and triggered a nice R2D2 wet slide, but easily skied out of it.

The following day we did something on the other side of the road. I'm sure it has a name, but I can't recall what it was.

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Mountain Collective Ski Trip 
Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 03:32 AM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
Jeff and I took the A-liner camper around to 5 Mountain Collective ski resorts over two weeks. We'd been planning this trip for years, and actually wanted to go up to Canada to ski 3 other resorts on the pass, but work/life obligations got in the way. At any rate, here's a movie that I put together of our excellent trip!

"The lightly anticipated and highly sensational "Dirtbags on Skis" has it all: powder, costumes, bad decisions, crashes, humor, and a healthy dose of bromance. This film, brought to you by Why We Do It Productions, will leave you wondering how they did so much skiing without a GoPro."

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Cold Adventures - January 2017  
Saturday, January 28, 2017, 11:27 PM - Weekend Fun, AMRC
Posted by Administrator
I attended an excellent scenario-based AMRC training on a brutally cold, windy Saturday morning. Hans and I we're on the strike team with Aspen and we discovered a patient had fallen off the limestone band of the Sandias near the Tombstone. Hans and I traversed around to reach the subject, while Aspen sorted out her plan for extraction. I clipped in the subject, before noticing it was a prospective member of the team and fellow Sandia ski team captain, Evan! Hans attended to the broken leg, while I worked on securing the patient to another tree above and boiling water for hot soup/tea. Frank came down and we loaded Evan on the skedco and worked him up the limestone band. I cleaned up the ledge while others hauled the patient to the parking lot. Car-to-car in 2 hours! Not bad.

The next day, Sunday, Jess and I joined Jason and his new dog, Dante, for a Embudo loop hike up to Oso Pass. Similar to this. It was actually a pretty solid hike of 8.5 mi with 2400' of climbing. Dante was loving every minute of it too!

The next weekend, I was lured up to Taos with a 10-12" forecast. I drove up early on Saturday, but without any signs of a storm, went to Black Rock Hot Springs with Bonnie, Dave, Josiah, and Briana. The camper banged its way through the mud and snow to John Dunn Bridge and to a wonderful little spot overlooking the Rio Grande. After a nice long soak, we headed up the hill to the ski valley for the St. B party. The next day only had about 3-4"--a complete disappointment--but we all made the most of it by hitting all our favorite steeps.

The next weekend, it was only calling for 2-3" but the snows came, and they came hard! Jess and I went up and skied with Jeff on Friday for a great powder day. We hit an untracked Donkey Serenade for deep powder turns and lapped the What Chutes and Highline. Unfortunately, I choose very poorly for my last run in the Waterfowl Area where I dropped the lip and got about 1/2 turn in before hitting a big rock and then pinballing for 30 feet through a rock garden while my skis skittered across the obstacles. It was awful, but I was luckily uninjured. Now I remember why I never enter from that spot!

(This looked good, but it was a rock garden!)

Saturday was the first Corporate Cup race of the year at Red River. It was snowing like crazy so the conditions were a little questionable. I skied my standard middle-of-the-pack speed. Then Jeff, Jess, and I explored the limited, but untracked terrain in Red. The Aspens were particularly nice. At the end of the day, Jeff decided to stick around for a Sunday pow day at Taos. Jess had to work, but we found a ride back for her with some of the Lobo team. Back at the camper, I had to shovel for a good hour to dig out from a day of heavy snow.

It snowed fat until 11pm and Jeff and I wondered around the TSV happy in the fact the next day was going to be excellent. Bonnie spotted us and made us come in to the Blonde Bear for a beer, but we turned in early. The next day was a 13" day at Taos and one of my favorite days on skis. Not much was open early, but Jeff and I got waist-deep fresh tracks in Pollux and Castor. Then we slipped over to an untouched chute in Lorelei Trees and lapped hikes: Cuervo, Sauza, Billy Sol/Two Bucks, Wild West, and Juarez. I showed Jeff the cliff that spenser hit in Sauza. I chicked out, but went for it and completely cratered. We found one of his skis 200 feet down the mountain! At the end, we linked up with Briana and Dave for a couple runs. What a killer day!

(Jeff sending the Sauza cliff)

(Jeff's missing ski... after cratering)

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Aspen and Telluride for New Year's Eve 
Tuesday, January 3, 2017, 01:23 AM - Trips, Weekend Fun
Posted by Administrator
Jess, Jeff, Sheilah, and I took the camper up to Aspen for New Years. Jeff and Sheliah got a place with some other friends in Snowmass but I scored a deal through the mountain rescue community to crash at Mountain Rescue Aspen's cache to save some cash. Keith gave us the grand tour of the multi-million dollar facility with all their cars, snowmobiles, climbing wall, kitchen, locker room, laundry, etc. It's truly impressive.

On New Year's Eve we hit Snowmass and Jess and I skied for 1/2 day before Jeff and I went out to find bigger lines. The snow wasn't fresh but it was still fun to explore a new place. We hit KT Gully, Possible, Split Tree and at the end of the day, Jeff found a ~8' drop at Rock Island. I couldn't commit to the cliff - and ultimately wouldn't hear the end of it for 24 hours. For NYE, we found a little bar called The Red Onion in Aspen where Keith knew the bartender. We snagged a booth and Jess and I rang in the new year with champagne and a kiss.

(Cliff I chickened out of)

The next morning, the slopes were unsurprisingly and pleasantly empty. Jeff and I went over to Aspen Highlands and beat ourselves up on frozen bumps in Steeplechase bowl before Highland opened. We caught the snow cat to the halfway point with a pile of stoked skiers and then hoofed it to the highland peak summit at 12,392'. The views were wonderful and the run down Ozone was wonderful. At lunch we caught the bus to Aspen Mountain and linked up with Keith, who's on their ski patrol. He directed us under a couple closed ropes to a little place patrol "reserves for themselves and their friends." It was only a few turns, but they were the softest we'd found in the last couple days.

That night I dropped Jess off with Mario and company to drive back to ABQ, while Jeff and I headed to Telluride. We stopped at Lance and Bobbi Jo's in Ridgeway for the night and camped out on the street. Leigh, Justin, and Arthur were also there so it was great to catch up with their family.

In the morning Bobbi Jo loaded us up with egg and bacon bagels and we drove the hour over to Telluride. We found a place to park in the 72 hour lot and then began exploring. I quickly fell in love with the place because they had a whole cirque to play. Sadly Palmyra Peak wasn't open, but we took a couple laps in Black Iron Bowl and hit a great powder line in the (unnamed?) chute on skiers ' left. That night we headed to Smuggler's Brewpub for dinner and watched the dramatic Penn State vs USC Rose Bowl Game. After making friends with the locals, we agreed to ski backcountry the next day with someone. In the morning, I said I texted him saying that I would need to borrow skins because I didn't have any, and I never heard back. Oh well. Instead Jeff and I did a couple laps on Bald Mountain, Revelation Bowl and the frontside steeps. Ultimately, after 4 days of hard skiing, we threw the towel in the early afternoon and headed south.

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Christmas 2016 
Sunday, December 25, 2016, 11:28 PM - Trips
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I spent a week back in Southern Illinois and Missouri for Christmas. I caught a ride from Josh down to Alto Pass and we started right away with tree-decorating, Christmas songs, and overeating. The rest of the family came down the next day and we hiked up to Bald Knob Cross in a light drizzle. It was the 27th annual winter hike for my dad and I, but I can't remember it raining any other year.

Kathy, Twy, and Gabe joined for caroling and a hilarious game of reverse charades. Grandma stole the show with her ice skating impression and knack for being one or two cards behind. We also got in a family game of HORSE, held the family annual photo competition, opened way too many gifts, and Tim attempted to show me how to Ripstick.

Before flying back to the Southwest, I visited the uncles in St. Louis and my grandfather in the old folks home in Washington, MO. The family time was great.

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Red River Race Camp and Bull-of-the-Wood Yurt 
Monday, December 19, 2016, 11:49 PM - Trips, Weekend Fun
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Jeff and I took the Aliner pop-up camper to Red River and snagged a perfect little camp spot in the forest by the resort parking area. We skied a 3 days with instruction from the Lobos alpine team. It was especially great to ski with Nick because he grew up in Taos and is one of only a few NM racers to make the team. By the end of the three days, I was feeling good on my skis and running gates as well as I ever have (mediocre). Unfortunately the camper was an ice box without reliable heat and the temperature dropped to 1 F. Our breath put a layer of frost on everything in the interior of the camper. One of the perks of supporting the Lobos is that they sometimes offer corporate cup racers tickets to basketball games - so I was lucky enough to snag a seat in the box seats at the Pit later that week.

A couple weekends later, we broke with tradition and moved the Bull-of-the-Woods Yurt trip up to Dec. I brought Jess up with me on Friday and we skied a day inbounds in a whiteout blizzard. It wasn't that fun with the high winds. We met up with Spencer and hiked up to the yurt. I borrowed Leigh's sled and used it to schlep a 1/6th barrel of Marble Pils up the mountain. With me thoroughly weighed down, Jess and I were about the same speed so it worked out well. It did take a very long time, especially through the 5-6 downed trees, and I hurt pretty bad making it up from Taos Ski Valley (9,300') to Bull-of-the-Woods Meadow (10,800'). Fortunately, Spencer was able to break trail for most of the upper stretch.

Jeff came up later and strapped a box of pizza to his pack. In one of the trees, the box popped open and littered the trail with pizza slices. He tried to gather them all up, but managed to miss a couple. Later, Briana was coming up the trail and said that she was feeling really hungry but didn't to take the time to dig through her pack for food; when what should appear in the center of her headlamp glow, but a slice of pizza from the trail gods! She said she didn't even think twice about it and just picked it up and ate it. Once everyone made it up, we cranked the fire and drank merrily.

The following day, Jeff and I took a little tour up to Bull-of-the-Woods Mountain. The snow conditions were extremely unstable and the slope by the trail keep releasing as we hiked up. On the summit, it was freezing cold and the winds were howling. We concluded we couldn't ski anything steep, but we could work down the spine. A few turns into the descent, we dug a pit to check conditions. There were 40 cm of heavy dense wind slab on 30 cm of facets: a very bad combination. The column test failed with one hand tap at the boundary, and the Rutschblock test showed the whole upper layer slide on the facets. Scary! I was starting to think we might have bitten off more than we should have, but we skied the most conservative line we could find through the trees and quickly linked up with a mountain bike trail that took us back to the main road/trail. Definitely very scary conditions for any backcountry skier. Back the yurt, even more people trickled for night 2, making our total party crew 15 people.

Sunday, we cleaned up and skied back to the TSV. My sled was loaded with trash and I had to hold a power wedge all the way down the steeps. Unfortunately, on a couple of the dead tree crossings, the trash bags were punctured and I leaked a few items. Jeff was behind me though, so it helped pick up my mess. Back at Taos, it was chilly but clear and Jess finally got to see the place. We skied the backside for a few laps and then hit the Bav at the end of the day for dinner. Good times in the mountains. But then I spent a couple weeks recovering from a cold that was shared around the yurt...

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Lost hikers in TWA Canyon and the AMRC Rescue Challenge 
Friday, December 9, 2016, 05:39 AM - Weekend Fun, AMRC
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I responded to a mountain rescue pageout for a couple lost hikers in TWA canyon. The last cell phone ping we had, put them on the trail directly under the tram, so Justin, Aspen, Leigh, Frank, Pete and I caught a lift up the tram to the top to search from the top while another team headed up Domingo Baca. As it turned out the ping was way off - and we were at the coordinates when the other team found the patients (approximately 1 km away). They were in good condition, so we walk them out with the other team.

Andy put on another skills-based rescue challenge this year. We did rappelling, ascending, knots, mechanical advantage, and crevasse rescue stations this year by the Eye of the Sandias. It went much smoother than in years past, and we finished up close to noon so we could hold the annual party on time. This year, I proudly earned my 5-year AMRC service pin.

Oh, and we've started up the Karl and Rose weekday night rides again. These are dark and chilly, but a great way to get a few MTB miles in during the winter.

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Niagara Falls and an Aussie Reunion 
Friday, December 9, 2016, 05:02 AM - Trips
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I traveled to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls for the 2016 IRED conference. I had a great view of the falls from my hotel and snuck in a trip on the Hornblower (e.g., Canadian Maid of the Mist) at the end of the conference. There is sooo much water there. If we could only pipe that to New Mexico!

The other fun piece of this trip was I reconnected with a lost friend, Adam, in Buffalo. We hadn't seen each other in 12 years, but had done a few great trips together when we were both foreign exchange students at the University of South Australia. I couldn't believe how young and excited about exploring I was at that point in time. It was so cool to see him again! And it wasn't long before we were reminiscing of our adventures:
- The overland trek in Tasmania, where I did battle with the opossums and tassie devils; we climbed to the top of the acropolis, and cranked the heat by burning coal in a small cabin by Lake St. Clair.
- Camping on the beach in Freycinet National Park where we named the camp wallabies Wallace and Gromit.
- Watching sunrises in Uluru in the red centre.
- Tim Tam Slams on the Legendary Ghan train ride from Adelaide to Alice Springs.
- Cheering on Port Power in Aussie Rules Footie.
- Drinking wine in the Adelaide park for Forth of July.
- Goofing off on the Kangaroo Island tour.
- My junk bike with the bent front wheel and how I was too cheap to take a cab back to town after the pubs closed so I walked the 10 km train line from Glenelg to downtown until the sun rose one Saturday night/Sunday morning.
- And all our classmates, that I have long lost track of...

I was happy to meet Adam's wife and kid and take a walking tour of Buffalo. The town was clearly in a period of revitalization and the waterfront was awesome to stroll.

Unfortunately, I had to take a last-minute trip to DC for the halloween weekend, but Briana hosted a Monday night party for a few folks. My costume this year was an injured cyclist - how original!

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