Monday, October 7, 2013

Welcome to Heavy Hiking

I maintained this blog from October, 2008 to October, 2013 - five years and 500 posts.  Most of the posts are about long-distance hiking and backpacking, ultramarathons, mountaineering/scrambling, and generally spending time in the great wilderness areas of the American West.  I also wrote about food and restaurants I liked and disliked, music, travel, and other non-work-related interests, including a surprising number of posts about development in my neighborhood, the Denver West Highlands.  Over the last few weeks I had fun adding some old scanned photos in order to round out the total number of posts to 500.  Blog highlights include my hikes of the Colorado Trail and Arizona trail, a month on the Pacific Crest trail, and longer trips to Switzerland and New Zealand.

I will continue to post photos at Flickr, may be more active at my nascent Twitter account @WillStenzel, and will also post updates here on other online developments.  Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

HHPF! #22 - A few old ones

I think this was my second backpack: 

Every year for five or six years, my Dad and I backpacked Pictured Rocks.  Some years it was nice, some years it was rainy, and one year there was a huge outbreak of deer flies.  It was a good place to learn how to backpack.

This is from about the same time:

Ryne Sandberg!  I don't remember if my Dad or I took this photo.  I remember an usher letting us down close to the field, but not too much else.  It's a great shot.  

HHPF! #21 - Mt. Shasta

Mt. Shasta, 1990 (I think).

HHPF! #20 - The lost Poland trip, 2004

(HHPF intro here).

I have a friend who disappeared for a year to Poland - we went to go see him in Wrocklaw (and he just finished his first novel).  It was a dashed-off trip that became unique and indelible in hindsight.  A day before we left, I realized I was about to try to travel post-9/11 on my old replacement passport made at the Nepal embassy - it had a old cracking photo of me glued onto the first page, and my nose had chipped off.  It literally looked like a ten-year-old's attempt at cutting and pasting a passport.

At that point there was no other choice but to simply go.  Sure enough, at Schiphol the customs woman decided not to let me into Europe.  Somehow we got around that, and then we were on another flight to Berlin, where I was flooded with old memories of when I was seven, when there were tanks and soldiers everywhere, and I cried because I couldn't go to East Berlin.  This time, we got on a train, zipped by the Brandenburg Gate, and I wondered where all the time had gone.

We found Ian, and he took us around to see the local sights.  I expected to settle in for a few days of this, but instead Catherine made motions across the map and soon we were hiking across the Tatras:

Each little lodge was more beautiful than the last, and each time we went through the same routine - the warden would be convinced we were German, refused to accept that we didn't know the language, and was then astonished to find we were actually American.  We would then devour large amounts of bigos and try to figure out where to go the next day.  We didn't want to show my passport again, spent a day or two hiking through snowdrifts, and then eventually by some guys in jeeps with guns on either the Czech or Slovakian border(s).  We ended up in the Czech Republic in a town called Harrachov that had hot showers, a huge ski jump, and several restaurants that serve pig knuckles.

It was all wonderful, and it should have been a jump off for a dozen similar trips - especially because it had been basically free.  Instead, it became a one-off dream, at least until last summer, which, in retrospect, makes it seem even more special.

HHPF! #19 - Nepal, Dhaulagiri

Dhaulagiri, Nepal - 1996.

HHPF! #18 - Jarbidge Mountains

Here's my Forest Service work truck, somewhere near the Jarbidge Mountains, Nevada, 1995.

HHPF #17 - Horse

Mexico, 2004.

HHPF! #16 - Colorado Gators

I know what you're thinking - that's just terrible hair.  I admit it - what can you do?

Just another day in the San Luis Valley at Colorado Gators. I like that Blanca Peak is in the background.

HHPF! #15 - Red Desert

Here's the old Red Desert gas station/cafe/motel, I-80, Wyoming, in maybe 1998.  I took this photo on a long road trip that began in Newfoundland.  In 2003 I came this way again, and it was gone.  Here's a real photographer's description.  

HHPF! #14 - More White Mountain

(HHPF intro here).

My new scans are in - I didn't get enough WMRS from my last post, so here are two more:

I was working up at Barcroft Station when a real spring storm hit - it was at least 70 mph wind outside, and snowing like crazy, while I was sitting inside watching it all through that big front window.  Like an idiot I tried to get that old suburban to move a few days later, and got it stuck instead.  I did get the old Cat D6 going to push some of the snow around.

The year before, at about the same time (May), they were doing a high-altitude physiology experiment with some pro athletes at Barcroft.  They got stir crazy, and two of them tried to hike over White Mountain out to Boundary Peak and back.  Two days later, one of them came back with a broken arm, and she had to leave the experiment - both of them said it was terrible.  That was music to my ears - I got a ride up to Barcroft with my bike, hiked out and back, and then rode back down to Crooked Creek station.  The wind was bad up on the ridge - it was blowing and blowing, and I felt like I was being freeze-dried.  I found one of those wonderful desert range cowboy camps along the way - got off the ridge, set my tent up behind a few Bristlecones, and honestly I think I was reading Proust at the time and listening to the wind whistle away.  It was a good night.  When I got back, I was so windburned they said I looked like a tomato.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

HHPF! #13 - Alaska!

(HHPF intro here).

I lived in Alaska in 1997-1998.

These from a backpack in Denali in a general loop over several passes - I have the route written down on a map somewhere and may update this post at some point.  Nadine had been a ranger there, and when we went to get our permit she made wide motions across the map while the rangers made serious faces.  It rained for several days, we nearly were swept away on a few river crossings, and when the sun finally came out, the tourist helicopters buzzed us endlessly.  Grizzly bears everywhere, caribou everywhere, endless blueberries - and I just kept thinking that, hell, we were in the Alaskan front-country:

These are from the winter I lived in Seward:

I have many more photos of Alaska somewhere, but it's unlikely I'd have the time to scan them.

HHPF! #12 - Bishop/Sierras salad days

(HHPF intro here).

In 1999 I moved to Bishop to work at the White Mountain Research Station.  I spent eight days at the Crooked Creek station (10,200 feet), and then had six days off to backpack in the eastern Sierra.  I spent a lot of those days off climbing the California 14-ers and some other peaks.  The first photos are of the mountains, and the remainder from the Station:

(Middle Palisade approach)

(on Middle Pal)

(Mount Abbot, one of my top-10 favorite climbs)

(Mount Langley)

(Looking north from Mount Langley to Mount Whitney)

(Mount Muir)

(Mount Russell summit)

(Mount Williamson)

(Palisades Dusy Basin)

(Split Mountain)

(Starlight Peak)

(Thunderbolt Peak)


HHPF! #11 - PCT 1999 (and 1998)

(HHPF intro here).

I found some old scans from my snowy 1999 PCT hike.  These are all from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows, where I intended to return and keep hiking north after a few weeks.  Of course, life happened instead, and I didn't make it back until 2010.  At the end of the post, I throw in a few photos of my 1998 PCT hike.

The first photo is of my bag at Kennedy Meadows - I hiked the Muir Trail plus the rest of the trail to Tuolumne straight through, and being young and stupid, set out with about an 80-pound bag (note camp chair, natch).  It was early season, and incredibly snowy - postholing up to Forester Pass was one of the most difficult experiences of my life.  I didn't see a person on the trail the entire way except on Mount Whitney.  Even that turned out to be epic, however - it was a snow wallow, and a lightning storm on the way down sent sparks out the tips of my wool gloves.  I learned my lesson(s), and soon moved to the Owens Valley to hike and climb the Sierras properly (see next post).

1998 photos: