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Past month

Started: 2007-09-22 15:49:12

Submitted: 2007-09-22 17:23:33

Visibility: World-readable

The highlights in my life during the month since returning from two weeks in Australia:

On Thursday, 23 August, I took the day off work and hiked both South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak from Shanahan in south Boulder. I headed south along the Mesa Trail, hiked up Shadow Canyon, turned left at the saddle at the top of the canyon, and approached the summit of South Boulder Peak just as it started raining. With thunder around me, I tagged the summit and headed back to trees a hundred meters below the summit to wait out the worst of the storm. (In a moment of weakness, I forgot to bring my rain coat.) The rain subsided as I summited Bear Peak and headed down the peak's north ridge to Fern Canyon and back to my vehicle. The rain returned once I headed east from the Mesa Trail, brining marble-sized hail. I found another tree to hide under until the storm subsided. I passed the water tank that made a popular running destination while in cross country ten years ago at the beginning of my senior year at Fairview. I wondered about kids a decade younger than me who were beginning their senior years at Fairview and running cross country.

The next day, Kiesa and I flew to Oklahoma City on an exciting new plane, an Embraer E-170. (I chose the flight from similarly-priced flights to fly on this particular plane, which I hadn't flow on before.) The occasion was an auspicious birthday for my mother, which won't actually happen until the end of October, but this was the only time we could actually get my entire family together, before Bethany and Willy head to their respective schools on opposite coasts. On Sunday we celebrated my mother's birthday and Willy and I showed slides of our most recent adventures (mine to Australia and his Grand Tour of the East Coast.) We returned on Monday.

Thursday, 30 August proved again how my standards for what constitutes a "reasonable" hike within certain criteria is evolving. After work, I drove to Chautauqua, hiked south along the Mesa Trail, headed up Bear Canyon, and ascended Green Mountain the long way around, then descended Saddle Rock to return to my vehicle about the time it was getting really dark, for a total of eight miles after working some reasonable approximation of a full day. After seeing no one in Bear Canyon and only one person on the south-western approach to Green Mountain, the descent via Saddle Rock seemed crowded by comparison; I could tell the hikers were new CU students excited by the prospect of climbing Boulder's new and exciting mountains but a little uncertain about where exactly they were going. (The first group I encountered was a hundred meters short from Green Mountain and still thought they were climbing up to the Flatirons, three kilometers behind and a thousand vertical feet below.) I discarded the idea of actually eating supper and instead opted in favor of a muffin at Caffe Sole for Hacking Society.

On Saturday of Labor Day Weekend (the first day of September), I drove to Hessie (through the last kilometer of four-wheel-drive road that proved once again to be exactly my speed in Motoko) and hiked the fifteen-mile Devil's Thumb loop: north-west from Hessie to Jasper Lake and Devil's Thumb Lake, then climbing sharply to the Continental Divide and turning south along the High Lonesome Trail to King Lake, where I turned east and headed back to Hessie along the King Lake Trail. Over half of the excursion was on trail I'd never hiked before. At Devil's Thumb Lake, nestled under the craggy Devil's Thumb above treeline along the Continental Divide, I waded ankle-deep into the lake, in my amazing waterproof hiking boots, and photographed my feet. It was obviously late summer: there was no snow in sight and the tundra along the divide was dry and brown. High clouds covered the sky while I was exposed above timberline, and I could see rain to the north in Granby, but neither rain nor lightning threatened me. While hiking along the top of the world, I played "Adventures in Solitude" on my iPod from The New Pornographer's fantastic new album Challengers.

We thought we lost you
We thought we lost you
We thought we lost you
Welcome back

After descending to Rollins Pass, I encountered people again in the form of two dozen cars parked at the edge of the wilderness. I descended past King Lake and the turn to Bob and Betty Lakes and slogged on, downhill, to Hessie. I encountered a guy wearing the same thirty-year-old Kelty aluminum external-frame backpack my father uses and commented on the survival of the old packs. I ran low on energy by the last few miles but made it back to Hessie, found Motoko, and headed home.

I'm sure I did something on Sunday before Labor Day, but I don't actually remember anything. On Monday, Labor Day itself, I broke tradition and, for the first time since 2003, didn't attend Louisville's Labor Day parade. I drove to Rainbow Lakes and hiked up the Glacier Rim Trail, overlooking the City of Boulder's watershed (defended by glacier cops and ominous signs) to overlook Arapaho Glacier. I planned to hike to the summit of South Arapaho Peak, and possibly head over to North Arapaho Peak, but when I reached the saddle the summit looked impossibly steep (despite being a class-three climb) and exposed. I also decided I didn't like the look of the imposing clouds moving in from the west, but the real reason I decided not to attack the summit was that I wasn't doing as well at 12,500 feet as I hoped. (This may have had more to do with not consuming sufficient calories than altitude itself, but the end result was I wasn't feeling great.) I ate lunch overlooking the glacier, listening to frequent pops and cracks as the mass of ice and snow moved and settled. I could see James Peak to the south-west and the valleys in which I hiked two days earlier, but my view to the north was obstructed by the east ridge of North Arapaho Peak.

While I ate, a twin-engine prop plane flew over the saddle on which I sat, clearing the ground by no more than a few dozen meters, and dropped into the watershed in front of me, banking in front of Mount Albion before heading out of the valley to the east.

I headed back down the trail to Motoko, encountering only the briefest rain, although I could see heavy rain to the north around Brainard Lake.

After work on Thursday, 6 September, I considered my conflicting options for what to do over the next twenty-four hours. That night, my options included Hacking Society and The Big Lebowski at The Boulder Theater; the next day, my original plan called for me to climb Longs Peak (on my birthday), but I wasn't sure if I was up to a fifteen-mile round-trip to 14,255 feet, especially after my less-than-stellar performance at Arapaho Glacier on Monday. I ultimately decided that I couldn't be sufficiently certain about my performance at altitude to hike Longs, which left me free to see The Big Lebowski with a few coworkers. (My office is immediately next door to The Boulder Theater. Bands park their travel busses on Spruce outside my office, their fans queue in front of the building, and I can hear their bass through our common wall while they warm up.) The movie was distinctly amusing, and seeing it in a theater of rabid fans didn't hurt.

I woke up early Friday morning, on my birthday, and drove to Mount Sanitas for a dawn ascent. (The short loop to the top is almost beneath my dignity for an after-work hike; these days I tend to prefer longer hikes.) Ideally I would have preferred hitting the summit at dawn, but I didn't want to wake up quite that early; instead, the sun rose as I was driving down the Diagonal into Boulder; by the time I hit the trailhead the sun was well above the horizon, but I had a great hike and managed to catch a glimpse of James Peak, illuminated in the early-morning light, from the summit.

I showered and ate breakfast in the office and managed to get some work done, but I wasn't terribly excited by the prospect, since it was my birthday and all. I took a lunch excursion to my favorite independent record store (Bart's CD Cellar, on the 1000 block of Pearl, west of the Mall) and bought They Might Be Giants' new album, The Else, and a used copy of their well-regarded 1990 album Flood.

For my birthday, Kiesa gave me Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (special thanks to Swinyar for clearing up the confusion I created by improperly identifying the game), which is a fantastic addition to the Metroid Prime family. It's obviously purpose-built for the Wii, taking full advantage of the motion-sensitive Wiimote for aiming. (Locking on took a bit of getting used to, since the default requires me to both lock on and aim properly, but once I got used to it I realized I liked it more, because it gave me more freedom to shoot ahead of my target and to fire at specific portions of my target, which is especially useful with Metroid Hatchers.) The game started with more upgrades than the past two Metroid games but still left plenty of upgrades to be discovered through the game. The story at the beginning seemed a bit heavy-handed, and I wasn't used to playing in concert with actual NPCs on my side, but soon the important NPCs turned into enemies and all was right with the Metroid universe.