Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wilderness Grammarian

They want the road to return to it's original condition as a road? Then they should probably keep letting folks drive on it:

Here's my favorite sentence of the Colorado trail guidebook so far: "Colorado's Mt. Guyot is neither submerged nor a volcano, but an igneous intrusion...."

That's good to know, especially because it looks like this:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Colorado Trail 3 - Kenosha Pass to Copper

I've wanted to do this trip for several years -- cross the Range and then traverse the Tenmile Range. I got to do both this weekend. The weather couldn't have been better. It's been raining incessantly in Denver, and on Thursday we had the hardest rain I've seen outside of the mountains. So I brought some extra stuff for bad weather, and it didn't rain a drop. Cool blue sunshine both days -- pure Colorado.

From Kenosha Pass the trail climbs up through Aspens to Georgia Pass. It's easy for hiking, not so easy for the few dozen mountain bikers out Saturday morning. There was a lot of mechanical noise: squeaks, chain slapping, missed shifts. And some human noise: grunting, swearing, panting. One guy lost both his real derailleur and the hanger, so he had to walk back out. Another group had a collective mechanical stop, changing tubes, fixing broken chains, etc. A huge difference between riders -- the experts flowed right past me, part of the bike, while new non-experts really struggled.

The noise stopped after the pass. There were some late snow ridges, so the bikes didn't go.

In Breckenridge, I prepared for Segment 7, a section the authors noted with much concern. The first few paragraphs of trail description note the section is "steep and strenuous," "the alpine section has a sketchy trail," and "a campsite may be mostly elusive." The book suggests "less experienced hikers" may consider hiking the Tenmile Bike Patch around the section instead.

I enjoy guidebooks not only to help me find my way, but as literature. I ended up having no reading material but the but the Wilderness Press Pacific Crest Trail guidebook for weeks at a time, and spent hours conjecturing about the likes and dislikes of the authors, analyzing their writing style, etc. Of course, most of the commentary is unnecessary. The best guidebook I own is a Sierra Club High Sierra climbing guide from the 1950s. It's a little pocket-sized book with elevations, locations of approaches, and a rating. It's all you need. If you get up to the approach basin and there isn't a campsite, well you have to improvise. No sense worrying about it if you're going there anyway.

It really seems the authors of the Colorado Trail book didn't like this section. At several places it notes the lack of campsites. My favorite is: "The steep terrain in this area would be a definite impediment to camping."

Unless of course you camp at one the numerous beautiful campsites in this section. There are maybe a few dozen good dry spots up to Miners Creek, several sites on the creek, maybe five awesome sites at the 4x4 access, a few up high near Peak 6, a few on the traverse down to the Wheeler Trail, etc. Spotting good sites became a game for me. Here's someone enjoying an obviously unsuitable campsite in a Bibler:

Here's my obviously unsuitable campsite at about 11,500 feet:

Maybe the authors wanted to indicate this section needed trail work and some better campsites. If that was the case, it worked. Also, nothing says "badass" than a Bibler I-Tent battened down tight. I've seen these things plopped down in cool spots all over the world. Nothing's getting in there. Water? Wind? Snow? No problem.

Neither range is designated wilderness, which I found surprising. Not sure why this except posslbly existing mining claims. It would be an interesting study to investigate species diversity, human impact, etc. on the Tenmile Range (obviously outside of the ski area) and a comparably situated wilderness range.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bike to Work Day

Bike to Work Day came and went. Certainly a day we all face with mixed emotions. It's nice to see everyone out riding to work, but it's a bit confusing to see a huge mob of people on the Cherry Creek bike route. Assuming everyone lives within reasonable biking distance to work (and didn't drive within a short distance of downtown and then bike the rest of the way) why only bike on Bike to Work day? Are they biking for the free bagels? Environmental guilt? Have to wear a suit every other day?

Worse is the nearly empty bike rack the next day. I bike to work because it's enjoyable -- outside, moving, and I hate sitting in the car. I assume it's enjoyable for other people, but the experience of Bike to Work day seems to convince relatively few people to switch.

Ironically, Bike to Work Day 2009 was the first time an SUV commuter yelled at me for riding a bike. As if to prove my theory Denver drivers are a cut above, he had Pennsylvania plates. I was riding up 17th St. and he brushed past me yelling "LOOK OUT!" Silly thing to yell. Look out because I might ding your H2 as you crush me? After he passed, the calm sea of Colorado-plated vehicles resumed passing me with generous room.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Water Treatment -- Giardia

If you haven't had Giardia, great. If you have, you know it isn't fun. While hiking the PCT in 1998, I lost maybe fifteen pounds, couldn't stand up straight from cramp and gas, couldn't eat, etc. I could never figure out what happened as I had treated with iodine. Then last week, after a few weekends of hiking the lower elevations of the Colorado Trail, it happened again. Same symptoms -- yuck. This time around, I had trouble finding a doctor who understood backcountry travel and it took some time to get it treated.

What happend? Maybe my toddler passed something to me, bad food, etc. Who can say? My research into backcountry water treatment, however, has caused me to change my approach.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers iodine or clorine to have a "low to moderate effectiveness" in killing Giardia. The CDC considers clorine dioxide (KlearWater/Portable Agua) as having a "high effectiveness" in killing Giardia. For Cryptosporidium, the CDC considers iodine as "not effective" and clorine dioxide as having a "low to moderate effectiveness." The CDC notes filtration is not effective in removing viruses. Doctors disagree on the prevalence of Giardia, especially in alpine areas, but generally agree the threat is greater at lower altitudes and in higher impact areas.

Surfing the various hiker sites, you find a lot of people who recommend just drinking out of the stream. This approach certainly works for some people -- a significant portion of the population doesn't show symptoms for Giardia, Crypto, etc. This approach also seems to work well in alpine areas.

My conclusions:

1. Some people don't seem affected by Giardia and therefore don't need to treat water;

2. Iodine and chlorine are at least somewhat ineffective for preventing Giardia and Crypto infestations at low altitudes or in areas with grazing;

3. Iodine and chlorine are at least partially unnecessary for preventing Giardia and Crypto infestations in alpine areas or in areas without grazing;

4. Filtering is better for Giardia and Crypto, but don't help with viruses.

For several years, I have used iodine exclusively for treating water. As most of my trips are in alpine areas, I most likely wasting my time (but certainly preventing a goiter).

My approach at this point will be to filter and use clorine dioxide. For longer hikes, and after the memory of evil gassy bloating fades, perhaps I will use just the filter. This is very much a "hike your own hike" subject; again, many people seem to be just fine drinking out of the stream.

Overall, I was somewhat surprised at what I learned. There seems to be at least a partial consensus in the lightweight hiking/climbing community that ditching the filter is an easy way to save a pound. I certainly thought so.