Las Vegas!

In the car on the way back from the airport, a friend texted me, “Vegas? That’s not your style.”

I would counter that a little bit of everything alongside a big helping of adventure is my style, but I digress.

Last weekend, I traveled with some friends and my mom to Vegas to see George Strait in concert (with Lyle Lovett!!! and Robert Earl Keen). While seeing King George was the headlining event of our weekend, we had a lot of fun “doing Vegas.”

Amanda and I caught a flight out of GJ Thursday afternoon and started the party as soon as we got into the terminal. We even bought our tickets months apart and sat next to each other.  Once we landed and checked into our hotel, we immediately set out in search of food and then engaged in heavy duty people watching at the Cosmopolitan.

The next morning, my mom arrived and we headed out for brunch and some sight seeing. My friend Helen and her husband arrived mid afternoon and we had some celebratory “we’re all in Vegas” champagne at the hotel before heading to dinner and some after dinner drinks. While most of the crew headed to bed, Amanda and I went out for some dancing.

Saturday was more sight seeing but the big event was that evening. It was time to see George! There was a lot of “Do you think he’ll play this song?” talk and general excitement as we got ready for the show.

Our dinner before the show was actually one of my favorite moments in Vegas. The food was good (we ate at Tom’s Urban in NY-NY) and we might have discussed Pure Country a lot. Mom ordered ghost pepper wings and basically stared down the waitress when she was warned that they’re the hottest pepper in the world. And then, to top it all off, as we stood up after dinner Mom reminded me she wanted to ride the roller coaster at NY-NY before the concert. So we did. I might have laughed at her the entire time. I’m kind of a pro at laughing at people on roller coasters.

The show definitely did not disappoint. (Okay, well, maybe I could have listed to Lyle Lovett open for another hour and George play all night but reasonable expectations are important.)

I sang along to each and every song. When I grew up, George Strait was in the tape deck on the way to every camping trip (except when the Mariners were on) and the sound track to more than a few family gatherings. On top of that, he’s the best looking 65 year old I’ve ever seen. Anyway.

The next day, everyone other than Amanda and I had to catch early (or really really early) flights so the two of us enjoyed a lazy morning getting out of the hotel, hit up their (free) Sunday bloody mary and mimosa bar, had one last brunch on the Strip and then headed to the airport.

I had been sort of nervous about this trip: it was a motley group of people and the common denominator was … me. In the end, it was fantastic. I even get to tease my mom for the time she forgot to tip the Transformer for the rest of time: “Bumble Bee need tip.”

Cochise County Highpoint: Chiricahua Peak

After hanging out in Tombstone, I was ready to do some hiking. It was time after a long fall full of working!

The hike to the summit of Chiricahua was exactly what I needed. I made a foray up Peak 9308 with some off trail travel but aside from that summiting Chiricahua and Flys was seriously just a beautiful ridge walk in the park. Considering my low level of fitness and activity, this was highly appropriate.

In the 12 mile hike, I didn’t quite hit 3,000′ of gain but I did check off another Arizona County Highpoint taking me to 80% on the list!

Thanksgiving 2017: Tombstone & Bisbee, Arizona

My original plan for Thanksgiving was to head down through western New Mexico and do a few hikes but as home building would demand, I had to make a return at IKEA in Phoenix before Sprocket and I had an empty RuthXJ to adventure in. So, after braving the Saturday morning return line, we took off for southeastern Arizona. My plan for Sunday was to hike Chiricahua Peak but that left us with ample time to explore the rest of the day.

I was a terrible blogger who is out of practice at taking photos but we did some touristing in Tombstone and Bisbee. We struggled a bit in Tombstone because it seemed that all there was to do was tourist but I was pleased to discover that Tombstone Brewing has some pretty solid beers and that Bisbee is adorable.

Local Adventure: Hayden Trail, North Trailhead

I almost didn’t share these photos. This little adventure on the Hayden Trail didn’t seem all that “worth” posting. It wasn’t grand, it didn’t go for miles and miles (I think we did three miles round trip?) but it was a joyful hiking adventure after work with my buddy.

The views of the peaks over in the Sneffels range in the dramatic raincloud influenced light didn’t disappoint. (Actually, I don’t know if I’ve ever been “disappointed” with a San Juan hike.)

Corkscrew, Hurricane, California Passes + Mineral Creek

Earlier this summer, my friend Molly asked if I would pilot her Jeep up Yankee Boy basin while her mom was visiting. Molly drives a JK with a pretty good size lift but wasn’t really comfortable driving it off-road herself. A girl needs to know how to drive her own Jeep so we decided to take a little adventure so she could get that experience.

Cruising around the San Juans is always such a delight:

Mariners: Edgar Martinez Number Retirement

I’ve written before about my memories of my family and baseball. Most of my summer trips back to Washington wind up featuring a Rainiers game. Baseball is just part of how my family functions.

Last winter when the Mariners announced that they would be retiring Edgar Martinez’s #11, I knew that I had to make it happen. I talked to my sister and to some family members and then nothing really happened. Just before school got out for summer, I started to organize. And as a family, we ended up purchasing 13 tickets.

I am so glad this all came together. It was a fantastic day. We made a whole day of it which was fantastic! First thing in the morning, I boarded a bus to Seattle along with my mom, my sister, my aunt and uncle, my godmother, and a cousin. When we arrived in Seattle, we grabbed coffee and headed to the Mariners team store because neither my mom or I owned any Mariners gear. (I was okay with this, no one else was.)

We did a bit of touristing at Pike Place Market but our group was a bit too large to maneuver the crowds and we quickly ended up at Pike Brewing for some food and catching up.

Once we reached the stadium district we rendezvoused with the rest of our group and hung out at Pyramid Brewing. There was lots of beer and some nachos, I started a round of “What’s your favorite Edgar memory?” and we hopefully didn’t drive our nice server too nuts.

Inside the stadium, I only cried a little bit during the ceremony. But my cousins jumped in as family does and made sure to tease me a bit. I don’t think I’ve ever been at a game and watched so little of it; living so far away this was a great time to catch up with people!

Thanks family. This was definitely the event worth planning my summer Washington trip around.

Colorado 14er: Mount Of The Holy Cross

Mount of the Holy Cross is barely a 14er, with its summit reaching 14,005′, but it is not Mt. Holy Cross it is “Mount of…” which I find sort of pompous but I digress. I’d heard that Holy Cross was a beautiful mountain and I was kinda skeptical since it’s listed on 14ers.com as part of the Sawatch Range which never quite does it for me. (I have become a mountain snob, I won’t lie to you.) I was wrong. Holy Cross was a great mountain to climb. It is, however, the highpoint of Eagle County, and it was my 49th county highpoint in Colorado, bringing me to just over 78% completion!

Famed western photographer William Henry Jackson, photographed the mountain in 1873 from the flanks of neighboring Notch Mountain (Notch actually obscures Holy Cross from US 24 so it cannot be seen) while traveling with the Hayden Party. Some questions exist as to whether Jackson doctored the photo so that the cross was more distinct.

The National Museum of American History
In 1874, another famous artist of the American West, painter Thomas Moran climbed to the flanks of Notch Mountain to make some sketches of Mount of The Holy Cross for a painting. Moran’s inspiration by Jackson in turn inspired Henry Wordsworth Longfellow to write a poem “The Cross Of Snow.”

Anyway, in addition to being Mount of the Holy Cross, there’s a lake named Bowl of Tears and another snowfield called the “Supplicating Virgin.” This also finally explains to me the name of “Shrine Pass” leading from Red Cliff to I-70 near Copper Mountain (no joke this always made me think of the Shriners…). In the 1920s there was a large push to develop the area around the mountain, as well as the mountain itself, as a place for “devotion” and worship. The Colorado Mountain Club pushed back, advertising a 1923 outing as an opportunity to “see it BEFORE it is desecrated in the name of religion. It is a glorious mountain, in a splendid and so-far inaccessible setting of ragged ridges and sparkling lakes.” After their trip, they were clear to note in their report that the cross was barely visible as a result of it being late summer.

As a result of all the interest surrounding Holy Cross, President Hoover declared the area a National Monument in 1929 leading to the construction of Tigiwan Road in 1932 and 1933. The Tigiwan Community House, spotted on the drive to the Half Moon Trailhead, was built to house pilgrims and the CCC built the stone house visible on Notch Mountain from the summit of Holy Cross was built to shelter them as they viewed the cross.

Then, as quickly as it had grown, the pilgrimage movement ended in the late 1930s. In addition to economic hardships followed by World War II (and the heavy usage of the Leadville area by the 10th Mountain Division for training), for various possible reasons the cross always seemed to be less impressive than promised. (One suggestion is that rockfall happened in the right arm to make it less apparent.) In 1950, the National Monument was decomissioned by Congress.

Okay, giant historical aside is over but I owe a huge thanks to Kevin Blake’s article “Imagining heaven and earth at Mount of the Holy Cross, Colorado” for allowing me to really geek out on this.

As a hike, Holy Cross is a bit of a bear because the standard route from Half Moon Trailhead climbs about 1000′ to Half Moon Pass before descending 1000′ to East Cross Creek and only then can you make the 3200′ ascent to the summit. This, of course, means that one must also climb 1000′ on the “descent” of the mountain to get out of East Cross Creek’s canyon.

I’d given a half-hearted effort to climbing Holy Cross back in fall 2015 so I knew it’d be nice to get the climb to the Pass out of the way before going for a summit and decided to camp at East Cross Creek. I arrived at the trailhead about 2pm and really hoped that I wouldn’t wind up just getting drenched on my way to camp since the clouds were looking somewhat ominous.

Although a few drops fell on me as I started to pitch my tent, it never actually rained overnight. I had hoped to crawl into the tent and do some reading but I lasted about 30 minutes before I promptly fell asleep… at 5pm.

My headlamp appears to have jumped from my daypack, which I discovered when I woke up about 11pm, so I set my alarm to go off at 5:30 since hiking before that without a light source would be rather silly. I hit the snooze button once and started climbing up the ridge of Holy Cross about 5:45.

Notch Mountain in the background
It never ceases to feel magical to be in the mountains as the sun makes its way over neighboring ridges. This one was no exception. Suddenly, as the sun crested Notch Mountain, Holy Cross started to shine.

There’s a great stairstep-y path leading a good chunk of the way up the talus slopes before you cross a somewhat flat section of the ridge and then tackle the final steep, 500′ easy scramble to the summit.

I’d been worried the last 800′ to the summit that the weather was going to take a turn significantly before the 10am predicted by the National Weather Service but it actually seemed to get better while I was lounging at the top. By this point, I was basically dreading the ascent back to Half Moon Pass with my pack. It wasn’t particularly heavy but it was enough to just not want to do.

It was only after grinding the first 500′ of the climb out of the way that I had a chance to really appreciate that I’d gotten my 49th Colorado County Highpoint (of 64) and my 14th 14er (using the CMC list).

 

Sources:

Blake, Kevin (2008) ‘Imagining heaven and earth at Mount of the
Holy Cross, Colorado’, Journal of Cultural Geography, 25:1, 1 – 30. DOI:10.1080/08873630701822588.

Longfellow, Henry Wordsworth. “The Cross of Snow.” The Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44629/the-cross-of-snow.

“Mountain of the Holy Cross.” National Museum of American History, National Museum of American History, americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1276028.

McMillan Peak and Ohio Peak

I’ve been complaining about this on Twitter but it’s a real problem: getting an alpine start when you work until 11pm and then you’re wired and can’t sleep is next to impossible. I’d had some ideas about bigger peaks in the Sneffles range and elsewhere along Red Mountain Pass but ultimately settled on a pair of 12ers above Brooklyn Road because I could leave the house at 7:30 and have plenty of time.

Things went according to plan until I wound up behind a herd of sheep being driven up onto a chunk of private land around Red Mountain 3. I sat stopped for a bit while the herders seemed to be taking a mid morning break. Since none of them signaled to me or said anything, I put Ruth in 4-low and just started creeping through the herd. It seemed to work.

Finally, reaching US Basin, I started a pretty direct ascent up the western slopes of McMillan Peak. Sprocket was delighted to find some snow on its flanks and before long we’d reached the 12,804′ peak.

I ran down the slopes of McMillan while Sprocket frolicked his way along.

It wasn’t long before we reached the Ohio Peak-McMillan Saddle where some old mining remains were.

It was sunny and gorgeous and the mountains were making me smile so we took a little break to lay down in the alpine grass.

Or I did, anyway. Sprocket seemed to want to move on. We made out way to the summit of Ohio Peak, 12,673′, where I briefly considered continuing on to another 12er, Anvil Peak but decided against it worrying about the endurance of the SP. We made our way back to US Basin along the ridge and then descended through the most beautiful wildflower bloom I’ve ever seen back to the road.

Jackson County Highpoint: Clark Peak

With all my focus on getting the house built, my Colorado county highpoint quest was temporarily delayed. (Over a year has past since I grabbed Pikes and Devils Playground!)

When I managed to find myself with a three day weekend, I started scanning my list deciding where I should go. I finally settled on Clark as a primary objective and getting something else (perhaps a third try at Pettengel) if my old pup was up for two consecutive days of hiking. Clark Peak is not quite a 13er, measuring in at 12,951′ but it does have the dubious distinction of being the “tallest Colorado peak this far north” aka there are no peaks in Colorado north of Clark that are taller. A much less random assertion is that Clark is also the highpoint of the Medicine Bow Range.

I’d heard rumors that the 4×4 road approaching the trailhead to Jewel Lake was in pretty rough shape so when I entered State Forest State Park in the waning daylight hours I didn’t really know what length of hike we were in for the next day. As it turned out, I was able to make it 2/3 of the way up the 4×4 road and on some more examination on the way down from the peak in the morning, I’m pretty sure the obstacle where I stopped was totally do-able by Ruth (although perhaps a spotter would have made me more apt to take it on) and was also the last piece of any consequence on the drive.

The hike up to Jewel Lake went quickly and I refrained from letting Sprocket swim as I wanted him to save his energy for the stiff climb from the lake to the summit (about 1600′ in less than a mile!).

The weather was glorious so we didn’t hustle ourselves too hard up the grassy slopes, pausing frequently to enjoy the view.

I tried to spend some time at the summit but Sprocket seemed anxious to get moving so I took some photos and we started to make our way down the mountain.

Clark Peak marks my 48th highpoint in Colorado. Of the ones I have left Blanca Peak (and its associated slope point) is the highpoint of three counties and Crestone and East Crestone can be combined leaving me with 13 more outings. I’m going to try and get a couple more in 2017 but summer 2018? It’s on.