Category Archives: Adventure

Steamboat Springs Ski Bum

It is the middle of autumn 1976 and I no longer have a job at Rabbit Ears Lodge nor do I have a place to live. But I was fortunate to get a job as a maintenance man for the Holiday Inn in Steamboat Springs. I guess my resume was strong with a few months experience as the maintenance man at Rabbit Ears Lodge. So Steve (Indian? Friend from Rabbit Ears Lodge) and I headed into Steamboat. I went to work and Steve looked for a place to live. We met at the Tugboat that first evening when Steve was excited to tell me that he found us a place to live just above the Tugboat with a couple of girls from New Jersey. Seems like I remember thinking, oh well, The Adventure Continues. Turns out it was a fairly sweet deal. The girls had the lease on an apartment with a main bedroom for themselves and a loft for Steve and I right in the heart of Steamboat Square or “Party Central”. I can’t remember if Steve got a job, but he did pickup some income dealing pot to the locals.

Our female roommates were not really our type so there were no sexual tensions, however, we sure did have some spats about the use of the apartment. Steve and I quickly became socially connected which in turn helped our roommates. TugboatBar-GrillIn many respects the Tugboat was our living room. We spent a lot of time playing pool and forecasting how great the ski season would be. The Tugboat and Ski Time Square was an iconic landmark during the development of the Steamboat Springs Ski Resort. Across from us was the Sheraton Hotel that encompassed the entire ski base area. There were a few condos and and some private homes, but hardly the ski area development that now covers everything down to highway 40. I was officially living the life of a Ski Bum waiting for it to snow.

My job at the Holiday Inn typically focused on fixing the plumbing but I would also be called on to drive the hotel bus which was actually a converted school bus. Not sure if I got a commercial upgrade to my drivers license but I probably should have. I did have a stressful/embarrassing event when I was tagged to drive a group of visiting travel agents around Steamboat. They wanted to go up on the mountain as far as the roads would take us, however, a blanket of 4 or 5 inches of wet snow greeted us on a dirt road which may have been today’s Apres Ski Way. Well as I started up the incline I lost traction and the bus started to slide back down the hill. Luckily nothing was up there and we only ended up stuck. This was before cell phones so after apologizing to my passengers I had to hoof my way to a phone and call for help to extract our guests off the mountain.

This time in Steamboat for me was a search for my rite of passage into my adult future. This also translated into how to manage that freedom that comes with adulthood. Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll consumed our free time and I was taking it all in while trying to manage my consumption. This small community of 20 somethings was burning the wick at both ends and I was starting to question the sanity of such an existence. Luckily I had a serious girlfriend back in Indiana who helped to keep me grounded in discussions about a more stable life passage. However, I guess my adventurous spirit justified taking it all in. Keep in mind that America was coming out of the Hippie movement which glamorized trips on hallucinogenic drugs such as psilocybin and acid. Regretfully, I agreed to take an acid trip which was about a 24 hour commitment initially to wild hallucinating fun that faded into the painful reality that your body was not supposed to be treated this way. I do remember a fairly comical event from that trip. There were a few of us who ventured out into the night wanting to play in the snow. We found ourselves over at the Sheraton’s outdoor swimming pool that was empty and frozen. We thought it would be fun to slide down into the pool on the slick icy coating. We ended up in the deep end where there is that gradual drop-off from a depth of about 4 to 9 feet. And of course we could not climb back up the incline due to the ice. I can’t remember how long we were there contemplating our predicament, but it was a bit hilarious. I’m not sure how we did get out, but it gave me a a good reason to avoid hallucinogens forever thereafter.

I had come to understand that this loose life style was not for me, but I had to navigate this current environment as best I could. Thankfully, I did benefit from the experience that this beautiful Colorado ski town was offering. I explored the surrounding area of Routt National Forest and Steve and I actually went backpacking up to Gilpin Lake. My passion for this place was growing so I was looking for a way to continue a life in Steamboat Springs, although on a more responsible path. I had even heard about the curse: In 1881, Colorow, a Ute Indian leader declared: “Those who come to the Yampa Valley to live will never be able to leave.

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Future Wife Connie who is still my Wife (& my dog Cindy)

My girlfriend, Connie, and I would talk about what it might be like if she joined me in this beautiful place. Out of those conversations my heart moved me to officially propose marriage over the phone and her acceptance included the stipulation that I come home to validate to her parents that it was going to be OK for their 20 year old daughter to quit school and move to Steamboat Springs. OK then, I got off work on a Friday afternoon and drove 22 hours straight to Indiana to ask for Connie’s hand in marriage and arrange for a way that she could join me at the beginning of the year in Steamboat. I must have sold myself well but I think this really happened because Connie’s parents knew she was going to do this with or without their blessing. I drove back to Steamboat an engaged man with a lot to think about. 

It was early December and there really wasn’t any snow on Mt Warner, Steamboat’s ski mountain. Everyone dependent upon the ski industry was getting really nervous. They were trying to trigger snow by seeding the clouds with silver-iodide, they were even enlisting Indian medicine men to offer their influence. But it didn’t snow, we were officially in a drought. If the ski area lost the Christmas revenue it would be a disaster, so the local merchants loaned their physically capable staff to go up on the mountain and shovel snow out of the woods onto the ski runs in order to officially open for Christmas. I participated in this effort which generated a weird kind of camaraderie but it didn’t really work. The Ski Corp officially closed right after Christmas and the snow making equipment industry was launched. I opted for new plans to bring Connie out to Denver at the beginning of the year, where we would find jobs and reevaluate our next step. The wedding was planned for May.


 

My Dog is Complicated

My dog Brook, @AussieBrook, and I just returned from a perfect backpacking overnighter to Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain. The weather was perfect thanks to a temperature inversion that kept the Portland area under a blanket of fog. This was important because I really needed to give Brook a positive backpacking experience since our early summer outings had soured her on the whole backpacking thing. You see, Brook, an Australian Shepard, is complicated. She is a typical Aussie in that she wants to herd, protect and keep me aware of everything.

She is 4 years old and has been backpacking with me for 3 seasons. The problem relates to how Brook will totally sacrifice her own comfort to ensure that I am protected. This translates to her only sleeping outside and typically finding a strategic vantage point from which to keep watch through the night.

WetBrook

Hiking out in a snow/rain storm 6/19

Frankly, I would rather she slept in the tent to help keep me warm, but I do appreciate her concern. However, as I mentioned, Brook is complicated. I have never had a dog that I needed to negotiate with. This year those negotiations centered around her deciding that she did not want to backpack with me. This objection relates first to the fact that she hates to ride in a car, I think this relates to her not having control of her environment. However, the real objection arose from our early season treks where she was the victim of some really bad weather. The photo above is from an overnighter to Ramona Falls in early June to investigate the Sandy River crossing in preparation for an upcoming Timberline Trail Trek with friends.

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Morning at Eden

On that Timberline Trek Brook showed her disinterest in the overall trip but cooperated just fine until the weather deteriorated. After we got hit with a snow storm, Brook disappeared by positioning herself back up the trail letting us know that she was done. In this negotiation with her we agreed to end the trek. Back home when I was preparing to go on my Lofoten Norway adventure it was obvious that Brook wanted nothing to do with it. This was OK at the time because Brook was not invited to Norway or the later Colorado Trail treks, so essentially Brook got her wish and had the summer off from backpacking. Since returning home I have been looking for an opportunity to take Brook on a positive outing. I even purchased her a new winter jacket to help get her through those cold nights.

Well our recent overnighter to TDH mountain was all that I had asked for and better. From my perspective the view from TDH of Mt Hood and the many other mountains to the north is a backpackers treat. BrookJacketClear skies is a must but getting comfortable temperatures in November was more then I could have hoped for. We made it to our campsite around 4 pm and setup camp in preparation for darkness to hit early. As the sun went down it got really cold, probably got to 38 but the breeze was out of the west and it felt good. Brook ended up laying next to the tent close enough to be laying next to my legs. Again, I would have loved to have had her in the tent, but at least she was staying close. The first time I got up I could tell the temperature was rising, it felt great and I could tell that Brook was also happy with it. She hung out next to the tent until about 1 am which was a real positive. Overall she seemed very happy at sunrise and showed her appreciation with many kisses.BrookKiss

The morning was spectacular with an awesome view of Mt Hood. Brook had a wonderful time terrorizing the local squirrel population as I enjoyed a leisurely morning taking in the view.HoodGood

I think Brook may be mellowing a bit in her objections to backpacking, but I will make sure that our next outing, probably next Spring will be a pleasant one for her.

HoodWide

However, I leave this trek with a concern. I do not think I have ever seen so little snow cover on Mt Hood.

These views of the south side of the mountain are from 110519 and 110818. The problem is not a lack of snowfall but more rapid melt-off due to higher temperatures.

Summer of 73, Indy 500 and Secretariat

It is May 1973 and I am finishing up my first year of college. The Vietnam War is winding down and Watergate is ramping up. The Second Quarter is faintly calling me to seek my passion. However, I’m still going through the motions to pursue the passion that was typically prescribed to a midwestern kid with an aptitude for Science and Math. I should become a doctor, own a big house and become a member of the Country Club. That “Dream” appeared to be alive and well after earning a 3.7 GPA for my freshman year at Indiana University in a premed curriculum.

The month of May for Hoosiers is mostly about the Indy 500, however, attention is also given to the Kentucky Derby, won that year in record setting time by a horse named Secretariat. Secretariat then won the the Preakness later in May which stimulated talk of the first Triple Crown of horse racing in 25 years. But the Indy 500 was the big show and I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend via a friend’s access to a press pass which got us into the track the night before the race. This was an unbelievably fortunate opportunity for a couple of 19 year olds. That night before the race was surreal. We strolled through Gasoline Alley, kissed the bricks at the finish line and gazed out over the raucous crowd partying outside the track. I know that we spent the night inside the track but I don’t actually remember any sleep. We did not have a ticket so we positioned ourselves at an excellent view point in the infield of the first turn.

Start of 73 Indy 500 from indymotorspeedway.com

Start of 73 Indy 500 from indymotorspeedway.com

Rain was the big issue holding up the start of the race for many hours but finally it was about to begin. This was so exciting because it was the first time that I had ever been to the actual race. I had never even seen the race live, you see, if you lived in Indiana you could only listen to the the race on the radio. The pace laps were complete and the roar of the start of the race was deafening until the sound of crashing cars and smoke rising from the end of the straightaway took over my anticipated moment. A terrible mishap had occurred during the start, single cars passed by us and then I so vividly remember seeing a wheel roll all the way around the first turn. It started raining soon thereafter, there would be no race on that Memorial Day May 28th, 1973. In fact rain only allowed for an abbreviated 133 lap race to be completed 2 days later ending after the fatal crash of Swede Savage.

We Hoosiers transitioned out of the somber mood of the deadliest Indy 500 May ever as we started out summer. I got a job working at the Purdue University Agronomy Farm doing something special to alfalfa plants for some professor’s research. My best friend, Rick, and I umpired little league games or were playing basketball in the evenings. I was in-between serious girl friends so dates were not happening a lot. It was a great summer in Lafayette, IN. On June 9th Secretariat did win the Triple Crown by Winning the Belmont Stakes in stunning dominance. Rick was more in tune to horse racing but it was I who pushed that we should go up to Chicago on June 30th to see Secretariat run in the Arlington Invitational.

A road trip to Arlington Park was a fairly big effort for 19 year old boys who would have to borrow a parent’s car, luckily our 3rd amigo, Pager, had a car, a 63 Chevy Biscayne, and he was up for the adventure. As usual I was the one who worked out most of the logistics. We did a pretty good job navigating our way to the park for a full day of horse racing. Rick knew a bit about betting the horses since his father had taken him to the track a few times, but this was all new to me. Pager was commissioned by a neighbor to place the lucky number bets of 4-7 and 7-4 on the Daily Double.

So the number 4 or 7 horse had to win the first 2 races. We had a winner in the first race but our horse in the second race named “Go Father Go” was a bit of a long shot. Well what a thrill we had cheering “Go Father Go” to victory in that second race meaning we had a Daily Double Ticket worth $600. So here are 3 young men looking at $600 and greed won out. We decided to keep the money and tell Pager’s friend that we did not get to the track in time to place the bet. We were actually very fortunate to have gotten there in time so we rationalized that we deserved the money. We all felt a bit guilty about this, but oh what day we would have with some real money to play with.

Secretariat (with Ron Turcotte up) at Arlington Park, Chicago Sports memories Blog

We did not increase our winnings but we did not lose it all either. The opportunity to see Secretariat run was awesome. Secretariat was challenged by only 3 horses so the betting was on Secretariat or any of the other 3 to win. Secretariat won in an impressive performance and paid $2.10 on a $2.00 bet. I bet $20 on Secretariat and won a buck. It had been a great day at the race track and now we had plans to find a good restaurant on the way home. We were feeling quite bold as we strategized how we should order a drink with our meal. The problem for us was that we had no clue what drink we should order. Pager only knew of a drink named “Manhattan” so that is what we would order. We figured that if we flashed a $100 bill they would think we were old enough to drink. I can only imagine how stupid we must have looked as we tried to be cool ordering our dinner and by the way we would all like a Manhattan as well. Well the restaurant really didn’t care so we all got to experience our first mixed drink and then boast to each other all the way home how well we handled ourselves.

Summer ended and we all went back to our college lives. But something was different, I was starting to truly think about my future. The concept of adventure was creeping into my decision process. When I pictured myself as a doctor I saw a stable career serving a community of patients for the rest of my life. But that did not translate as adventure to me. I would not classify the Indy 500 or the trip to Chicago as great adventures, but I do think that I gained confidence in knowing that adventures were out there and that I wanted to experience them.


Next Post: Leaving Indiana 76

Ending my college time at Indiana University in 1976 highlighted by the Hoosier Basketball NCAA Championship and then I was off to Colorado as a Presbyterian Missionary and having the all to real experience of the Big Thompson Flood.

I Lost to the Lost Coast

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Ready for the Lost Coast

I headed into my Lost Coast Trail backpacking trip confident that I would accomplish my goal to hike from Mattole Trailhead to Shelter Cove and return. I knew it was going to rain a couple of days, but the forecast called for 10 mph winds. I also knew I had some bad timing for when the low tides occurred during the first part of the week. But I did not dig deep enough into this data to be properly prepared for what was ahead.

The drive down to northern California through the Redwoods was great, my car loves roads like the Redwood Highway. I visited the BLM office in Arcata first thing Monday morning to get my waterproof map, so with that map also on my iPhone equipped to use GPS, I was well prepared for navigation.

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The low tide on Monday was not going to allow me to get past the first high tide hazard stretch so I had a leisurely hike past a herd of cattle to end up camping next to the Punta Gorda Lighthouse. It was a beautiful evening as I overlooked a beach full of seals.

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First Stretch of Tide Challenged Coastline

Low tide on Tuesday was at 9:33 am at 3.2 feet, so I entered the beginning of this 4 mile stretch before 9:00 am. Based on most reports I had read this stretch was not going to be a problem even if you were a few hours on either side of low tide. Unfortunately, I did not consider the actual height of the low tide. The trek through this segment was tough even without navigating the dangerous rock points of which there are about 5 that are really challenging. Some you can climb up and over, but the rocks were really slippery probably due to the higher then normal waves preceding the approaching storm. So I worked my butt off hiking over the beds of football size boulders. As I neared the last few hazard spots it seemed like it was far more dangerous then it should have been.

DifficultPoint

A Challenging Point

Then the last point before Spanish Flat nearly did me in. It was a point where you had to go between a large rock as the waves were crashing, however, it was all under water. As I tried to see around the corner to determine what I was up against I caught a full face on wave that nearly pulled me into the ocean. At that point I couldn’t worry about waiting for the best wave timing so I jumped into waist deep water and made it around. I was soaked but relieved to have survived.

Spanish Flat

Spanish Flat

I stopped at Spanish Flat, put on dry clothes and checked the tide tables to discover that the low tides that I was experiencing were the highest low tides of the year. That explained things, but now I was concerned about the next day’s stretch of tide hazardous coast with another 3.2 foot low tide, not to mention my concern about coming back from Shelter Cove.

 

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Beginning of Spanish Ridge

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Spanish Flat Campsite

I decided to camp at a nice beach fortress just below Spanish Ridge. The winds were gaining strength which was good for drying out but it was also a bit foreboding knowing that rain was on the way. Yep, the rain started at sundown and the wind just kept getting stronger. It was time to reevaluate whether I should press on to Shelter Cove.

I knew it was going to rain all day so I decided to stay put through Wednesday with plans to head back to Mattole by hiking up the Spanish Ridge Trail over to the Cooksie Spur Trail on Thursday. This was a nice campsite and I was able to get out a few times during rain breaks. This video will give you an idea about how I spent Wednesday.

I was up before sunrise Thursday morning with my backpack ready to go, just needed to take down the tent. I was so happy that it had not been raining for a few hours and the tent was dry. Unfortunately all hell broke loose at sunrise. The rain and the wind hit what I would call typhoon force. My line holding my tent fly broke, my tent stakes were being uprooted, water was rushing in so I had to go. Taking down a tent in gale force winds is challenging but I captured everything, but somehow lost my reading glasses. Of course I was instantly soaked but my Marmot Gore-Tex jacket was taking care of me.

ClimbingSpanishRidge

Climb to Spanish Ridge Trail

I decided to go straight up the side of Spanish Ridge and intersect with the trail which worked out fine thanks to the map I had with GPS location on my iPhone. The wind was blowing from the south so it was mostly going to be at my back.

My goal was to climb the 2400 foot verticle of the Spanish Ridge Trail and then take the Cooksie Spur Trail over to Cooksie Creek since I would need water. TroubleLocationWell half way up the climb (see blue dot on map) I was realizing that this wind was a real problem. As it whipped up the slopes it must have gained even more power, so much so that I was barely able to stand up. Then I really got hit, actually blown off my feet, and I was a 240 lb object. I was totally expose at this point, no trees or large rocks to shelter behind, so I laid face down next to a small rock that gave my head a little relief. I was pinned down about 45 minutes with the wind occasionally lifting me when it hit me between my body and backpack. Oh yes, and the rain was as hard as you could imagine. So here I am face down trying not to be blown off the mountain and I’m getting cold. The night before I had listened to a chapter in Lawton Grinter’s book “I Hike” about his experience with hypothermia, so I knew that the shivering, loss of feeling in my hands and feet and the desire to burrow were typical of hypothermia. What was a bit fascinating from being in this predicament was getting a taste of what it may be like to face the real possibility of death so my conversation with God was with great urgency.

Of course the human spirit doesn’t just give up, I had to do something because my current situation was hopeless. I fought to stand which was really hard because my legs were not working as I would have liked. Something told me that I needed to climb out of this, however, I had no way of knowing what was ahead, but my GPS map at least assured me that I was on track. I walked with my back to the wind using my trekking poles as braces to counter the force and I made it to an area where a small cornice offered some relief from the heavy wind. At this point I knew I had to warm up so I pulled out a wool shirt to add a layer under my rain jacket. Buttoning that shirt with my cold fingers was far more challenging than I could have imagined. However, this accomplishment seemed to give me new motivation to press on at all costs. And pressing on was brutal. There were a few sections where the wind was at my back so I used it to essentially fly up the mountain, however, coming to a stop was never pretty. Then my backpack cover blew loose but was still attached to my backpack creating a spinnaker type sail that dragged me for 20 feet. In between my attempts to move forward I spent more time on my face trying to regroup. Overall it took me about 3 hours to travel about a mile through the really bad section of the ridge.

BeginningCooksieTrail

Beginning of Cooksie Ridge

Of course I did finally make it to the top and when I got off the Spanish Ridge Trail and onto the much calmer Cooksie Spur Trail I was singing praise to God for allowing me to live. From the looks of the map I knew that the Cooksie Trail was also going to present an exposed ridgeline so I opted for the best tree sheltered spot to pitch my tent with the goal to get into my sleeping bag and warm up. That evening was not great but it was so much better than what I had just experienced. I was very content to make it through the night with just 13 ounces of water. I had dry clothes, mostly wool, so I did eventually warm up.

The forecast for Friday was sunshine which held true, so I set out with the need to get to Cooksie Creek for water. I also decided that I had had enough of the Lost Coast and I really wanted to hike back to my car with dreams of a good meal and warm bed. But the hike out Friday turned out to be a lot tougher than I expected. Thank God for my GPS map locator since finding the trail to the creek was rather confusing. For some reason I thought that the trail was going to follow the creek back to the coast, but as I kept examining my map I realized I must cross the creek and then climb 650 feet and another 2 miles just to get back to the coast.

SwollenCooksieCreekWell of course the creek was swollen from all the rain so crossing it created some anxiety. Unfortunately I lost my backpack rain cover as I was crawling over a log for part of the crossing. I was really bummed about the simple climb because my legs were dead tired, but the weather was great and the motivation to end this trip lifted my effort. This was a typical view as I returned to the coast.BackToTheCoastThe first beach segment on this final coastal leg required navigating a few difficult points but it was at the (high) low tide. Surprisingly I ran into a single woman just entering this difficult stretch and it was an hour after low tide. I warned her that she might want to reconsider trying to make it to Spanish Flat, and I’m not sure what she decided. The rest of the hike out was not dangerous but it was exhausting.

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Final Stretch with the sun going down

Walking on loose sand with tired legs was tough, but the motivation was strong and the sunset was beautiful.SunsetGoodbye

When I finally got to my car at sundown (long day) I was met with yet another disappointment. I noticed that my gas cover was ripped open and then I noticed that all of my windshield wiper blades had been stolen. This was just so rude. Luckily I intentionally had less than half a tank which probably meant they didn’t get any gas. However, if it had been raining that would have been one dangerous drive back to Ferndale. I did get to Ferndale and I had possibly the greatest NY Strip Steak ever and a much needed warm bed.

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