Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Joys of Parenting: Getting Sports, a Milestone, and Lessons to Learn

Today was Will-J's first tennis lesson:

He did fine - he moseyed in, did what the instructors told him to do, was reasonably focused, and even made a few friends with the returning kids.  He was an average six-year-old beginning tennis kid out there on the extremely well-maintained grounds of the Gates Tennis Center.  It didn't look like much.  But I was over on the sideline just ecstatic - my boy is growing up, and has changed so much in the last few months.

See, here at Heavy Hiking we're having a quiet milestone.  Last June, Will-J and I got on a plane to Switzerland, knowing we had to take four trains and a bus across the country to meet up with Catherine, but not really knowing what would happen when we got there (or really how to even find her and/or get into the place we were staying).  It was the first day of her sabbatical work, and as I wrote then, it was a "change of pace."  Now, that pace is over, and we're changing again (or, more properly, changing back).  On Monday, Will-J enters first grade, and the sabbatical "plan" (to the extent we had one) is over.  (One other, even bigger, thing is over, too, but I don't know how, or if, I'll write about that here).    

While my memory is fading into blue skies and snow-capped peaks, Will-J really was a terror those few weeks in Switzerland.  He was jet-lagged, frustrated with the language barrier(s), and constantly overheated.  He pushed.  He threw tantrums.  Sports were difficult, and this continued through the year.  Even a few months ago, he would have to sit out a few times each soccer practice for fighting or testing the coach.

Then, in May, something clicked.  He grew up, was getting good help from his teacher, and maybe his parents finally learned some of the right ways to encourage him.  He was good at school.  He was social.  He could play sports.  In sum, we've come a long way from the Pak'n Save in a very short time.

Now, he's a regular kid  - he mobs around in soccer with the other kids all chasing the ball.  He even has a breakaway or two.  I feel bad for him that he inherited my terrible combination of slow, slow twitch muscles and large frame - he lopes around the field a step behind the fast kids, but of course never gets tired.

Until he does:

Tennis today was hot and sunny, and running around with new friends gets tiring.

There's always so much to learn.  This evening, he insisted on taking his new dinosaur tooth (from Dinosaur Ridge) to the park.  He wanted to show it to all the kids.  Of course the tooth got thrown, there were a lot of kids passing it around, it was in the wood chips for a minute, and maybe it's still there or maybe it's in some kid's pocket now.  He cried, and I was trying to figure out the best way to explain to him that maybe wasn't the best idea to start passing around the dinosaur tooth (obvious answer: tell him we'll go back out there and get a new one).

I don't know what the next year-and-change will bring - the last one was certainly eventful.  I do know that it will be a good time for Will-J, and really that's all that matters.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mummy Pass/Mirror Lake/Hourglass loop

I got away to the mountains:

This loop has been on my (unwritten, half-remembered, and always-changing) list since I went with my friend Chris to scramble Mummy Mountain (pre-blog) and looked out into the isolated valleys along the northern edge of RMNP.  It reminded me somewhat of the North Inlet/Tonahutu Creek/Green Mountain loop on the other side of the park (which I've hiked twice now, but also pre-blog).  More photos here.

I had the place to myself - didn't see anyone from the time I left the Emmaline Lake Trail junction until the Beaver Creek Trailhead on the other side of the range.  It's amazing to me that of all the thousands of cars I sat in traffic with heading north on I-25 on Friday afternoon, none of them were also heading to this beautiful place - especially to escape the record heat in Denver on Saturday.

The weather was odd but fortunate, considering the long route above treeline.  The clouds always seemed to be building up to something, but never did.  It was odd to be up so high, be so warm, and yet have no lightning concerns.  I haven't had many days where I could just laze around at 12,600 feet like it was Wash Park.

And it is a route - going from cairn to cairn above treeline:

  The RMNP Nat Geo map says "Trail Undefined:"

But there's very little trail up there indeed, even when you get over to the Hourglass Trail.  It's fun and gorgeous, but slow going, and it would have been decidedly un-fun in bad weather.  Something to keep in mind if you head up there.

Something else to keep in mind is that the Comanche Peak register is apparently not at the highest point.  I ended up going to the summit that Gerry Roach likes (per the SummitPost entry), which was good enough for me.

A trip I would definitely do again.  However, instead of heading up and over the Commanche Peak trail to the Beaver Creek basin, I would focus on the highlights - start at Emmaline Pass Trailhead, camp at Mirror Lake, take a trip up to Comanche Peak again, and then go back out the same way.  Or, what about a point-to-point down to the Poudre River Trail, and then all the way up to Old Fall River Road?  So many trips, so little time.

Monday, August 5, 2013

My 20 favorite Heavy Hiking posts

As I approach 500 posts and ending the blog, it was time to go back and re-read (okay, skim) the posts.  Here are my twenty favorite - not the twenty most popular, or well-written (assuming any of them are), but just the ones I liked seeing again the most.  As I looked through the posts, I also picked out a few trends and storylines that I'll write about in another post.

20. Canyonlands Needles District - Salt Creek, Beef Basin, etc.  This post is one of the few examples of what I wanted the blog to be about - an account of an interesting trip in a beautiful area that would be useful to other people wanting to do the same thing.  The post has slowly but surely accumulated views from actual people (as opposed to spam/referral bots).  One more note from that hike is I was carrying The Corrections, but couldn't admit yet that I just don't like Franzen.  I kept trying to read it at night, would make it through some pages before passing out, and after awhile gave up.  I think I wrote about that here at some point, but can't find it.

19. Dominguez Canyons Wilderness - the real deal.  Another post that stands out to me as really being what Heavy Hiking is about.  I'm not a fan of the phrase "ground-truthing," but that's what this trip was.  The BLM designated a wilderness and published a pretty trail map, but the trails don't really exist.  Like the Canyonlands post, people actually seem to use this one.

18. Denver Union Station.  I walked through there on my way to work every day for a few years, and it was proudly and silently doing its job while waiting to be remade into something else.  It was like a church.  It took longer than I estimated for work to begin, but then suddenly it did and I enjoy looking back at these photos.

17. Roger Federer - caffeine monster.  A lot of my posts are just quick brain farts: "Hey, internet - look at this interesting/funny/weird thing I saw."  This one is a coffee machine box with Roger Federer on it staring off into the distance and getting ready to drink seven espressos.

16. Earth Day Humbug.  In my mind the funniest Heavy Hiking post.  On Earth Day, someone decided to put an angry note on my commuter bike for taking up too much room.  At the time I was into Bike Snob, which made it even funnier.

15. The Wire.  My interpretation of The Wire.

14. Burger Time - the Cynical Food Movement.  I still like my manifesto against overpriced bad food.  This process has only accelerated in my neighborhood.  Heidi's closed, and is being replaced by yet another overpriced and bad Mexican food place.  Also, Common Grounds closed, following Generous Servings and Peaberry.

13. Stuff.  Many times I had no time to write, but would try to anyway, and end up with a train wreck of topics.  I like this one, and still think of that strange photo of tanks crossing 20th Street.

12. The Joys of Parenting: Projectile Vomiting at the Pak'n Save.  One of my favorite parenting moments - nothing teaches you humility like getting covered in vomit at a busy grocery store in another country.  

11. Meet the New Bank, Same as the Old Bank?  In 2008-09 I was working in a big silver building in downtown Denver full of people getting blasted by the recession.  During the huge October  crash, people were crying in the elevator, sitting with their heads in their hands in the lobby while MSNBC told them their retirement savings were gone, and over half the people disappeared from my office-share floor in a few weeks.  I had no idea what was going to happen - I started the blog on October 6, 2008 (DJIA dropped 800 points before recovering to 9525).  A few days later was the most active day in NYSE history and the fifth worst in history.  I didn't post again for six months (with the title "Is it spring yet?" - no one knew what was going to happen.  One day, they unceremoniously took down the big Compass Bank sign in the lobby and replaced it with big blue letters "BBVA."  To me it indicated what kind of weird world we were suddenly living in.  They were really okay with calling it "Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentina?"  They couldn't call it something else, like "Trust Bank" or "Union Bank?"  Soon after, I changed jobs and left the big silver building with my memories of those unnaturally quiet hallways, Baja Fresh breakfast burritos, and that particularly-strong-but-chemically-tasting coffee.

10. Economic Hitman.  I wanted to go see John Perkins, aka The Economic Hitman, speak.  His story didn't make much sense, and I wanted to see if he was any more convincing or interesting in person.  Instead, I got escorted out of the area for taking a cell phone picture.  It was a strange experience made stranger because I was wearing a suit and the security guard kept insisting on giving me his business card.

9. Will-J's first backpack - Lake Lomond and Mt. Bancroft.  A short trip that would have been lost to memory if not for the blog.

8. Haute Route journal (part 2).  This was probably the most scenic and fun day of backpacking in my life.  I saved this link to my favorites to re-read when I'm having a bad day.

7. Arizona Trail (Flagstaff to Utah).  Another one I didn't have time to write - I tried to tell the story of a week-long backpacking trip in pictures, and I think it turned out better that way.  One story that didn't make the post is that I absolutely had to make a difficult work call out on the trail.  I was standing on a low hill in a ponderosa stand about a day's hike south of the Grand Canyon, cocking my head to one side to get coverage.  At one point, I said something to the effect of, "I have over 100 active cases, but I'm out here standing in the middle of the woods talking to YOU and no one else - are you serious?"

6. Last Day at Loveland.  Did Will-J really ski all the lifts at Loveland in one day a few days after turning four?  Indeed he did - what a boy!  (I also love his review of Star Wars).

5. Drift Peak/Chile.  This was a turning point post, and stood out as I went through my blog more than the subsequent Chile account and a lot of what I ended up doing in 2012 and 2013.  My life was about to change from one thing into another thing, and I didn't really understand how yet.

4. This Just In!  Inception Sucks.  I wrote movie reviews when I lived in Alaska, and I suppose I've missed it ever since.  I think this one is funny - of course you can break down pretty much any movie like this, but let's admit it, Inception is a silly movie.

3. Chicago/Music.  What music meant to me growing up, and enjoying it still.

2. Rattlesnake Canyon Arches.  I did a surprising number of little trips over the last five years.  This was a particularly good one.

1.  Things I'll Never Write About.  The beginning of the end of Heavy Hiking.  By now everyone knows about the general ramifications of putting something online, but the blog still became too cumbersome after awhile (see this post for a better explanation).

I also think I'll remember my Dylan concert post as pretty good, but I wrote it too recently to tell.