Tag Archives: nature

Fearing I would be trapped in the hostel till the cogs in my mind fuse into a solid state I decided to take a friend up on an offer and go for a hike for a day or two and make a decision on where to go next. In the car as we drew closer to the pass and starting point speckles of rain began to accumulate on the windscreen.  At the top of the pass we picked our packs out the trunk and set out up the hill. 6pm. The clouds were low and a cool breeze swept around the hill. Walking this part of the colorado/continental trail is refreshing, staying high on easy trail in and out of trees. I knew from 2 years previous of a 3 sided wooden shelter with metal roof 8 miles away. This was the target, we drew towards the shelter at around half 8 as darkness was setting in and rain becoming heavy. To my surprise there were tents pitched around but nobody in the shelter itself. Saving a tent from becoming heavy and wet and having space to move and think it was the only logical place to unroll a sleeping bag and heat some noodles. It rained the whole night. I tried catching rain dripping off the roof but every time i placed my pot the drips seemed to change landing patterns.

In the morning the tenters joined us for breakfast. The day continued much the same as the evening before, in a semi-concious zombie state soaked to the bone and hands numbed enough to move slowly when trying to use them. I was calm and composed, trying to be at one with the rain and embrace the cold, not entirely believing myself it was worth coming out.  I fashioned what I would call a pumpkin prom jacket out of an orange coated survival bivi bag, this added a small amount of warmth at the expense of my dignity and of Sabrinas’ who hiked with me. Towards the middle of the day we arrived at the summit of Sgt. Mesa. A beautiful high hill with meadows and trees and fluffy black storm clouds a mile or two off to the side.

Sabrina said “As least the storm cloud is over there”.

Moments later lightning forked across the sky close above out heads with a tremendous crack like a wagon plowing into a concrete bunker. Where most people would stop and sit or panic the thru hiker mentality of ‘stay calm and carry on’ shone through boldly and we kept hiking along the ridge line like a couple of idiots. The addiction to hiking building, adrenaline growing, and tree cover getting thinner. The ridge line narrowed slightly and the rumbles became bombs detonating very close. Another hiker called Steven was heading the opposite direction towards the Mesa summit. I wouldn’t want to be him.

We pitched tent about half way along the 6 mile ridge close to where a tree had been previously struck by lightning. They say lighting doesn’t strike the same place twice, a myth I was willing to believe for the evening with impending rain seconds away. Pitching early did not save us from rain splashing up between the fly sheet and inner tent. This did not put me in the mood to attempt to cook noodles alfresco so we went to sleep hungry questioning why it was so. I dreamt about bears savaging the tent and other wonderful things. My sleeping pad still deflates every couple of hours waking me to the real horror of trail life, the sound of everything becoming wet. This morning was glorious, not sunny, but not raining. It was nice being high up early and having a vile concoction of triple herbal tea with extra sugar from my unofficial trip sponsor ‘the hiker box’. Three miles down the path in fairer condition was where my and Sabrinas’ path would split. I turned north and down hill back towards the road and pass. Deep house tunes blasting out (a one hour kygo mix) I ran the next 6 miles. I felt alive, this is what outdoors was meant to be.

At the roadside I stuck my thumb out and the first truck pulled over.

“Jump in!!! theres a car behind I dont want to get past me” shouted the driver.

I hopped up, “Beer?”

“Yes” I replied. The next half hour back to Salida was nice. I was Acutely aware of how bad my trainers were smelling after fording a stream the colour of cow muck. The driver seemed to understand.

Salida! I’ve wound up back in Salida! Of all the towns in all the states in America, why am I going back to Salida again? With no decision on what I will do next the Vortex has me. The sirens beckon.

‘Wakey, Wakey Rise and Shine! and don’t forget your booties, its cold out there today’

 

After The Basin, from Rawlin to Steamboat

I’ve just felt my face. It felt like it was covered in grit. I’ve looked in the mirror, its covered in salt, white from the effort and sweat. Today I cycled 85mile off road and 30 miles on. I felt unstoppable, until the climb, then i felt like a uncooked beef steak chucked over the handlebars. The end of the gravel cycle had a 1500 ft climb, but the road kept dropping hundreds of feet every few miles adding hundreds more to the ascent. All I could think is the surveyor who planned the road despised cyclists, he probably sits at the front of a log cabin on the way up. Smugly grinning each time he sees a cyclist collapsing over the handlebars with exhaustion, covered in sweat, trying to suck in air that doesn’t seem to exist. After the effort the reward was a smooth paved descent through a lightning storm towards Steamboat Colorado. It was brilliant.

 

This day started with the sun beaming at my face under the tarp sheet, the wind had been flapping it all night due to my lazy attempt of stringing it up, I envisioned it blowing away in the night but it held on.  I packed quickly, I drank a one dollar energy shot and hopped on the bike. Within a few miles a rattlesnake blocked the route, at first I thought it to be like every dead snake, stretched out along the gravel after a driver swerved to get it, but this one was slightly different in that when I drew closer and it snapped up into a coil. I hastily braked. I feel positive of my identifying this as a rattle snake due to the rattling its tail made. Fortunately the road was wide enough for both of us and I carried on with my odyssey.

I met a few CDT hikers, one called J who happened to be in the right place for a kinda cool photo. Later in the day up the pass where I rested for ten minutes I was entertained by many many humming birds. I have noticed the past couple of days the variety of birds along the way. I don’t know what they are called but keep meaning to snap some photos of the colourful ones, but it seems like effort to stop the bike and so I have only the two photos so far. I have made a few frantic grabs for my phone, but by the time the pin is typed in and camera activated, the desired shot is one hundred meters past already. And so, I sigh.

Its nice to have a motel bed tonight.

Ps. I have noticed when cycling and nearing or cresting a summit, Americans do this fist pumping action thing like a sign of victory along with an agreeing nod and big smile, sometime a ‘Yeah!!!!’. If it happens again tomorrow, I will fist pump back!! Goodnight world.

 

 

Cycling The Great Divide Basin

 

The divide basin is a large flat(ish) area that splits the rockies in wyoming. Its dusty, hot, there are lots of ticks that will try to bite you and its long. (136miles by the official bike route I think).

To get to the basin from Landers first i had to cycle the wrong way up 2300feet into a headwind. I resented this climb. I didn’t really need to cross the basin, I hiked across in 2015 and didn’t expect it to be much different. I could have taken the shorter road route but that wouldn’t be much of an adventure and i considered this a necessary evil on my trip.

I waited around Atlantic City, a small town on the edge of the basin with a few other hikers and bikers till after 4pm when it would start to cool, and set off, the water sources being about 22mile in, then 56mile, then Rawlins at the far side. I have two 1 litre water bottles but bought a couple of extra litres for just in case a flat tyre or something cataclysmic slowed me down, but i soon ditched the extra water with the thought there will be someone else out here if it goes south. I currently have a buckled back wheel and is is very slowly getting worse. hopefully it can make an extra 140miles to Steamboat springs where bike shops are plentiful.   I was very fortunate to have a tailwind for the first time and this was great motivation to keep going till after dark, knowing the next day it might be gone. I followed the tail of a storm, the clouds just keeping me in shade. The wildlife was brilliant, I had mule deer running all over, horses, cows, hares and after sundown, a coyote that kept me entertained for a while. The coyote seemed chilled, but always tried to keep behind me, if I turned to it it would back a distance away and circle again. I rode into the dark with a poor headtorch that I love, and nearly wrapped a few times hitting ruts and sand. But progress is progress.

Sunset and sunrise are worth watching, the colours are unreal, like a brilliant filter has been applied. I took an hour out in the morning to play with my camera and see what i can achieve. The night sky was so clear, lighting every inch of ground. The below video is in the divide and I think its mule deer running across my path. This was great fun to see repeatedly over 60miles.

This is the sunrise while i was packing up and getting ready to cycle. All in i wouldn’t recommend cycling the divide or walking it, but it is beautiful and a dirt road runs through it. Worth a trip for the safari.

I am trying to work out how to climb as many 14,000ft+ peaks as possible as I cycle through Colorado, maybe one a day southbound? I’m gonna finish this beer and hit the road.

Love ya’ll. Benjamin

 

 

Climbing Up A Teton

 

PRE-CLIMB

This Was a Pretty Cool Day for me that nearly didn’t happen. It started two days before, trying to collect my ice axe and crampons from the post office. I went in to enquire if a parcel had arrived and there was no parcel but the lady took my name and said she would set it aside. When I went back to collect it the next morning I was greeted by her saying. ‘They tried to deliver it but I had to refuse delivery as you hadn’t paid to have it left here, you better call UPS and find out where its gone before its lost’.

‘Thankyou’ I said in slight disbelief. I walked out and cycled back to camp.

A while later in the afternoon, and after calling UPS I found it had been take to a depot 27 miles away. On my bike I hopped and peddled as fast as I could to Jackson. I collected my parcel and cycled back. O well, 54miles isn’t too bad. When I arrived back it was around 6pm. I didn’t want to use my legs but it could have been worse.

At the campground the attendant came around for money for the night. I had only a couple of dollars left in my wallet. ‘You’ll have to go to moose to get some cash then’. second sigh of the day and i hopped on my bike and peddled the 7.5mile there and 7.5mile back. It had been a hot day, I hadn’t eaten properly and my legs were slightly cramped. This was not the easy day I imagined. Instead of 15miles, I did around 84. I rolled out my sleeping bag on a tent pitch and lay down.

SUMMIT DAY.

I woke at half 4. I was late. The plan was to be up at half 2 and start walking to the trail head. I lay there, trying to dig for that determination I had years ago. I twisted the nozzle on my camping pad and it deflated. I was committed now! No going back.

I chucked my sleeping kit into a bear box(large metal container that stores food away from bears) and pulled out my rucksack. I started walking. It was 2.6 mile to the trail head, when I arrived, I could tell sunrise was close. Half 5- I ate a choc bar, drank a 5 hour energy and started walking up. At the treeline daylight was breaking. Some of the trail i was running up. When I reached the snow in Garnet canyon I walked as high as I could then put on crampons. Up the South Fork I kept pushing fast. Suddenly it ended. The ground dropped away, I could see for miles. I was at the saddle already. It was around 7.45 am. After a few quick pics, I looked up towards the summit and started up the ridge line and into a hidden gully. It was joy, just out of the gully was good clean easy rock to climb up.  At Half 8- I was on the summit. I checked the time. Then I sat down. No one in sight. This was a pretty special feeling. The ground dropped away in all directions, I turned off my music………silence. I dithered a bit trying to get a few good pics, then after about 15 minutes I started descending.  The way down was as nice as the way up. An interaction with something natural. When I reached the saddle between the South and Middle Tetons, I decided one was enough for the day. I walked to the snow and started sliding. It was joy, glissading till it was too steep to stand. I came across another climber on the way up. ‘Butt-slide it man!!!’. And so I did. All the while fearing my lycra cycling shorts (yes I was wearing my cycling clothing) would rip and leave me in a precarious exposed position. At the end of the snow I started running, this was it, a perfect day. I reached the trail head at 11am. It was a quick day. A climber also finishing at the same time from another peak gave me a ride back to the campground. Harry and Roelie were there making lunch. They gave me fresh coffee and delicious apple and I told them of the day I had.

AFTER CLIMB.

Most would probably stop after a good alpine day, but I decided while on a roll to roll on to the next pass. a nice 43 miles , with around 8 of them near 6p.c. gradient. The flies loved me. I did not share this feeling and spent the whole ascent swinging a bottle of bear spray in the air. just over the top and I realised my back tyre was bald. I decided to change it. This was a terrible idea as the next hour was spent like a mad man fighting mosquitoes while trying to fit the new one. With the tyre barely on right i lumpily rolled down hill to the campground a mile away.

Today I cycled 103 miles to Lander where I have showered for the first time in days, this is a good thing. Tomorrow will be iced coffee and feet up.