A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Slow White Fluffy Death (ski day)

I have skied 6 times since I moved to Colorado and none within the last 5 years. Between the cost and joining the weekend salmon run of front range skiers who clog the roadways and are far more tolerant of gridlock than I, it is a mountain sport I never picked up. Sensing an opportunity for easy entertainment, Ted invited me to join he and Nadine for a day of skiing. Picking up the scent of athletic shame in the wind, Becky instantly signed on too. I know this trio wanted to witness a day of expletives, slow speeds and dives onto the slopes, and frankly I would not want my friends any other way!

It was snowy on the way up and Winter Park was reporting 7” of new snow. A soft cushion into which to cast myself.


While I have not skied in years, I had gotten down a few intermediate slopes in the past, so I knew I would be fine on the beginner runs. Since I had hyped up how hopeless I was Ted and Becky (Nadine was in a lesson) were both surprised at my ability to make turns. Their encouragement led us to a blue slope, where, with additional tips and and tutelage, I did not disappoint, in either skill or entertainment.


I took a sideways fall that left skis and poles scattered on the slope behind me, as though I had an eject button for all items attached to my appendages. A mouthful of snow muffled the sound of my cursing. Yet, my ears could detect an “are you OK?” that was was immediately followed by peals of laughter. Upon righting myself I look upslope to this:


Upon catching their breath and wiping away their tears they were kind enough to collect my gear. This was by far the most dramatic tumble of the day, which was great, as we got a lot more skiing in than expected since I did not spend 50% of the day on my back.

The jury is out as to whether it is a sport that could embrace me like it has so many other Coloradoans. Yet, there were a few moments during the day where the slope was just the right pitch, I was balanced on my feet and it was effortless, just tilting hips and moving back and forth in the flow of gravity.   It is that moment where everything falls away and a friend passes on each side feeling the same thing, that could convince me that strapping on planks and braving cold and traffic is not such a high cost after all.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Golden City Brewery

Golden City Brewery (GCB) is a bar, tasting room, beer garden and brewery rolled into one. It quite literally occupies the backyard of the owner and has been serving freshly brewed beer for 17 years.


Its claim to be the second largest brewery in Golden is a bit if humor, as the Coors brewery is located their as well. As you can imagine, there is no comparison between the two…multi-acre industrial complex versus a backyard of beer enthusiasts.


Pictured above is John and Becky, who upon completion of a 90 minute trail run had no problem convincing me that my first visit to GCB was in my best interest. The only difference in opinion, I prefer to drink from a larger vessel.


That is pitcher of IPA that John and I were sharing and we would have both been willing to wrestle over the last pint’s worth. It was delicious, with a hoppiness that had a very subtle bitter at the ending.

The scene was social, with most everyone knowing everyone else. Banjo music, some a capella singing, the din of a crowd and a beer amongst fellow enthusiasts was an excellent accompaniment to the general joy of transitioning from the work week to the weekend.

Dog friendly!


Lastly, it is a cribbage bar! Cribbage is a game I enjoy and consistently lose at. if you are setting yourself up to fail against cribbage veterans, it may as well be with a backdrop of excellent beer.

This post does not need another picture, but it is too nice to hoard. Pale of color, bubbles of carbon dioxide hugging the glass and the sunlight from deep in the western sky.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mt Democrat and Mt Lincoln

After our success on Quandary Peak, Alan and I were ready to put some more miles on our boots and attempt another 14er. There is a collection of 14ers that wrap around cirque near Alma, CO. Of this group I still had not stood atop Lincoln and Alan had yet to summit Democrat. With 13 miles ahead of us we were glad to have the extra daylight in the evening, as we knew a slog lay ahead.

Pictured below is Alan with Democrat in the background.IMG_5374

As often the case in the winter, the road is not maintained, so we had 2.75 miles of hiking to reach the summer trailhead. The trailhead features two bathrooms, one with a door frozen shut and the other with a door that had evidently been left open.


While resting at the trailhead and enjoying food and drink, we opted for a ridge climb as opposed to the lower angle standard route. The terrain looked doable from our vantage point in the valley floor.

Outlined below is our intended route.IMG_7228

It got steep fast and the rapid pace we had set slowed considerably.


The slow pace was no problem as we viewed the day as a tortoise and the hare sort of adventure, which is what one needs to do in the rarified air at 13,000 feet. That is, find a pace you can maintain and stick with it. The problem we ran into was a ~70 feet of steep snow to cross. We had no crampons but we could have managed without them. But we also lacked the ability to determine snow conditions and avalanche potential. In addition, neither of us had avalanche beacons or shovels as we did not intend to cross avalanche terrain. After staring at the slope for 5-10 minutes we determined it was not worth it and turned around.

It is the first time Alan and I have had to make this decision as a team. It is always a good test and it was good to see that neither of us applied any pressure to go for the summit. Instead we opted to live to climb another day and began our descent, which was long. I got back to the truck to realize I had lost my keys, but that is another story.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Long Shadows of the Afternoon

Tony Kerr, who has appeared before in posts regarding mountains such as Rainier and Mt Neva, rides past my apartment twice a day as part of his bike commute. With the fortuitous combination of a short workday and excellent weather I decided to join him on his ride home.

Tony and I have a funny habit where we downplay our fitness levels in comparison to one another. I have been running a lot so Tony has mentioned multiple times how hard it will be to keep up in the mountains. I kindly point out that he rides 20+ miles a day and often skis on the weekends, therefore it will be I who suffers. This ride was no different, with Tony noting how his large front chainring makes acceleration a challenge. I parried by noting that I was not wearing cycling specific shoes.

If this guy tells you he is out of shape do not believe him.


If this guy tells you he is out of shape believe him.


Just like our hikes and climbs, we were well matched in pace and temperament, and both enjoyed the company and effort. The route south is mostly uphill, and I will now sound like a grumpy old man (get off my lawn!), this ride was headed directly into a headwind. My return trip home was great though, all the pedaling and cursing I experienced when southbound, turned into effortless joy with the wind at my back.

I have fallen out of bike riding over the last few years, viewing it as a mode of transportation more than something to do for the sake of pleasure, essentially just riding for the sake of riding. This ride brought back that sense of pleasure. The simple act of moving through space and being immersed in the landscape at a pace and scale that only a bike can provide is not to be underestimated. The awareness of the environment, noting shifts in temperatures as you cross over drainages, small grade changes, and the sound of the wind and traffic mixed, means you do not have those stretches where you cannot remember what you just passed, which seems so common when driving. Also, you get to see wildlife!


I do not think this heralds a return to the bike seat, but will likely get me out a bit more. Regardless of whether I ride not, I will still rue the alternative.


Friday, March 18, 2011

This Cat is Not Real

  I rode past this cat in the window recently.


It was so perfectly cat like, sitting on the window sill, watching the world wake up, eyes staring up at a bird I had not noticed…so I stopped to take a picture and realized it was perfectly still. Not a surprise since it turns out to be made of porcelain. I pass it daily and now enjoy a laugh at myself.

Denver has been enveloped in warm weather as of late, with temperatures even breaking into the 70’s one day this week. I have spent more time on the bike because of it, even baring my feet and generating a little extra vitamin D.


Cyanide and Happiness

Cyanide and Happiness is a web comic featuring revolving four writers, all of whom possess a sense of humor that speaks to me. This means the comics are irreverent, potentially offensive in nature and range from potty humor to complex adult behaviors. The artwork is simple, a slight enhancement on basic stick figures, but it gives the narrative even more power.


This next one is for my childless friends.


If either of these were offensive I would suggest NOT clicking the link above as there are plenty of pieces treading in more questionable terrain. If you enjoy laughing and wasting time on the interwebz while do little to nothing for your intellectual side, then I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Denver B-Cycle

Denver’s bike sharing program, Denver B-Cycle, came out of its winter hibernation on March 14th. In a creative effort to distribute the bikes across its system, as well as earn a ton of exposure, it invited its annual member to be part of the of St Patrick’s Parade. A friend, Andy, did a much better than I capturing images of the day, so see his blog for more pictures.

Pictured below is 250 bikes awaiting distribution

Riders en route to the staging area

We were the only bikes in the staging area, but there was no shortage of trucks. Note the license plate and the owner diligently waxing the vehicle.

Two days later, in a moment of self-identified bike nerdiness I walked the two blocks to the bike station nearest my apartment, all the while witnessing a beautiful sunrise…

…only to find an empty station!
Ho hum. I walked another four blocks to the next station and still only had a 17 minute commute door to door.

Monday, March 14, 2011


My dear friend Dave passed away two years ago today. I cannot even recall, but I was likely 12, and had no idea that a pre-pubescent kid and a mid-20’s quadraplegic could form such a bond.

Pictured below is us playing backgammon. If you look closely you will see two of my tiles on the point, meaning I was at a disadvantage and Dave was savoring the poolside setting, the warmth of a Virginia in July and most importantly the situation my brash and aggressive style had put me in.

VA trip 021

Well, I played tonight, and like in days past rolled with my left hand for Dave and tried to emulate his more conservative style of play. This time it ended in my favor, but I would take a lifetime of losses just to have one last game with him.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

South Park Saloon

Alma, CO, located at 10,500 feet and home to approximately 200 people, would not be considered a hotbed of culinary creativity. Yet, for people who spent several hours slogging up Quandary Peak in high winds and low temperatures, its offerings are not to be passed up.
Within the shadows of numerous high peaks, the South Park Saloon offers up American and Mexican food, as well as pizza. A surprising cultural polyglot for a space that identifies more as a bar than an eatery.
Depleted of electrolytes, we (Alan and I) started with chips and salsa, knowing that it would get to the table within seconds and deliver a much  needed shot of sodium. The multi-colored chips were coated in coarse salt and pepper and paired with a chunky salsa. Chunky to the point that you wondered if the tomatoes were sliced not with knives, but via a series of karate chops.
We had hit that point where any food was bound to be excellent. Tostitos with Pace salsa could have landed in front of us and we would have sworn  it was the rapture. Knowing that, this was still a solid effort, and obviously not something that had just been dropped off by Sysco.
Next up was the pizza, which considering it was baked at 10,500 feet, was impressive. It was far greasier than any pizza I have recently consumed, but with a solid hiking effort behind us, it was put down guilt-free.
In summary, should you find yourself in need of sustenance after having climbed Lincoln, Democrat, Cameron, Bross or Quandary, or have spent the morning at the Bemrose Ski Circus, stop in as it is better than the offerings in Fairplay.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sweet Action is Always Good

Sweet Action Ice Cream is a delectable ice cream parlor located at 52 Broadway. Plenty has been written at the local and national level about this place, singing high praise for its variety and quality. I am not a member of the “ice cream-gentsia” but am happy to add my voices to the chorus of praise.

This weekend is their two year anniversary and features an oreo-centric menu, so I queued up for a coffee/oreo combination.Coffee dominated with the occasional oreo crunch, and as a frozen yogurt eater, the creamy texture of real ice cream was sublime. The smoked porter was not as smoky or porterish as I hoped, but the Stranahans Whiskey Brickle has the potential to lead me down the path to morbid obesity. It is dessert whiskey!


Sweet Action also offers vegan friendly options. I know, I know, vegan ice cream…what is this world coming to? It too is delicious and just as creative in flavors, as evidenced by this chocolate on chocolate “single scoop”. Disembodied hand not included.


I have been three times in their two year existence. In an effort to show more compassion to myself, this number shall be increased. I still need to try the homemade ice cream sandwiches and continue to enjoy the whimsical ice cream themed artwork.




Sweet Action Ice Cream on Urbanspoon


Alan and I climbed Quandary Peak (14,265 ft) today. This represents the first 14er I have climbed in calendar winter. This represents departure from the norm and shows the strength of the mountains’ siren song, as I am one to avoid subzero temperatures and high winds.


Breckenridge is at 9,600 feet, our trailhead was another 1,400 feet higher, thus even colder. Put two 6 foot men in a truck, tell them the weather outside is below zero, without considering wind chill, and then sit back and watch what amounts to a confined space yoga class as they don a variety of gear. I was excited!


It was calm to start. It was like a backdrop to winter tourism in Colorado. A fresh layer of powder,the trees lightly dusted, sunshine peeking over the high ridge to our east and “snow” quiet. I love the silence that accompanies snow, when all sounds are muted or muffled and for a short period the rough edges of the world are softened.


We could see wind driven snow, but had largely been protected from it as we were below the mountains eastern flank. This changed at 12,000 feet, where balaclavas and ski goggles went on. Walking in these conditions is an isolated experience. Your field of vision is narrowed since your head is lowered to avoid wind. And the wind and balaclava conspire to make hearing one another a challenge. It becomes an exercise in watching your feet move forward.

It had been since August that I was above treeline. The thin air and steep slope work to slow you down, but the reward of infinite views push you on. The singular focus on movement through the steep alpine environment was a welcome relief from the mental chatter and overall confusion about life I have been feeling otherwise.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Banff Festival of Mountain Films

The Banff Festival of Mountain Films just came through Denver. Genevieve and I went to these many years in a row, actually starting in Washington DC. To say it changed the trajectory of our life would be accurate. See here, as this idea was spawned by a film we saw as part of the festival.

I have not been in a few years, but an invite arose so I met some friends for an evening of beers and movies.The opening sequence is designed to generate excitement. The Paramount Theater sold out, with 1,800 people in attendance. You could tell the makeup of the crowd by the reaction to various clips. Skiing gets a good response, mountaineering is cheered and climbers throwing dynamic moves from their high perches is welcomed with a cacophony.

I thought the two best films were the first two shown, with the remainder of interest, but not nearly as eye catching.

The first film was Lifecycles. Sponsored by Shimano, it showed plenty of bike manufacturing and the obligatory shots of riding fast through the forest. What I liked though was the riding on the plains of Saskatchewan. The tricks being thrown are impressive, but not nearly as much as the wide open landscape. 


The lack of visual clutter reeks of infinite possibility and the opportunity for stillness. I know this is over-romanticized and I would be stir crazy after day 3 in Saskatchewan, but I can fantasize about the simple life I would surely carve out for myself!

The other film was Still Motion, which was created using still photos from motion triggered cameras. Being a sucker for wildlife and having help collect similar images in the past, this movie could do no wrong.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ba Le Sandwich

Located in a rundown strip mall at 1044 South Federal Boulevard, Ba Le Sandwich looks no different than any of the other countless ethnic eateries littering Federal Boulevard. Yet, it stands out for its banh mi, a sandwich on a baguette made of wheat and rice flour, of Vietnamese origin.


The baguettes are baked in-house, hence the french bakery mentioned in the sign, and are perfect. A crunchy exterior and a light and chewy crumb awaiting. They are loaded with cucumber,onion, cilantro and a shaved meat of your choice. Beef, chicken and pork are all represented in multiple fashions. The BBQ pork has a tangy flavor that slowly morphed into heat, leaving me to wipe my lips repeatedly as the long slow burn set in.



A majority of the sandwiches cost ~$3.00, which given the flavor and being on a fresh baked baguette is mind boggling.

In addition to sandwiches, sweet sticky rice, in a startling array of colors, and other sweets are available. As are meats. Note that MSG is the 4th ingredient of the headcheese roll. It was a tempting purchase as it would be a like an umami express in terms of savory flavor, but heart health triumphed over pig snout laid across crackers.



With sandwich in hand, and a day off from work, it was off to Mt Morrison to meet Alan for a midday climb. The weather here has been near 60* all week, so it was a little surprising to find a bit of rain and a few snowflakes falling. This passed quickly, leaving us with cloud cover for a 33 minute ascent of 1,300 vertical feet.


I have climbed Mt Morrison numerous times, but never tire of it. The rhythmic movement combined with the steep grade pushes out all but the immediate concerns. Where is my next step? Will this rock shift? Can I pick up the pace? Should I slow down? For someone whose mind hops about like a well rested rabbit this is a welcome respite. I have tried meditation and will likely do so again, but this sort of effort, although punishing at times, puts me into the moment more consistently.

Ba Le Sandwiches on Urbanspoon