Month: May 2016

A Brief Guide for Death March Companions

I have stories from this  past stretch of days off. The trouble is, I’m not sure my mother would appreciate them. And since she is approximately 50% of my blog readership, (33% on a busy day),  I have the niggling feeling that I should retain them for my journal and find something else to discuss here. Still, I can at least provide an overview of what the last few days have held. 

The weather in town has been more pleasantly springy over the past week, and I am even sunburnt from yesterday’s expeditions. Sadly, all of the hiking trails that I have tried to locate have been snowed in/over to the point that they were unnavigable. The one trail that was more mud and dirt than snow I came to too late in the day to finish hiking and I reluctantly turned around to avoid being out past dusk. I was also worn down from the earlier expeditioning to blocked off trailheads.  

One would think that with all the mud and snow blocked areas there wouldn’t be very many people out enjoying the great outdoors. But even in the remoter areas that I have come across, there have always been several other people about, also pushing the limits of spring activity in the mountains. Hopefully this is of some comfort to my readers of last week, who managed to avoiding commenting on the content of my writing and instead criticized my traditional group of me, myself, and I.  The sad fact of the matter is that many people do not understand how to properly hike. Now, I realize that our family  substitution of “death march” for “hike” is partially a joke. But too many companions of mine have failed to realize what proper hiking parameters consist of and how to comport themselves on such journeys. For instance, hiking and walking have different boundaries which only occasionally overlap. If the path you are traveling is paved, it does not qualify as a hike. If it is unpaved, but wider than a yard, you are in a grey zone. The path ought to narrow and experience some elevation shifts and unincorporated obstacles, such as trees and rocks. If the trail rating falls below moderate, you should probably refer your activity as a ‘wilderness stroll’, rather than hiking. Naturally, these restrictions may vary somewhat depending on the average age of your party, but considering the scarcity of toddlers in this town, I feel they apply widely to the population.  When hiking, you should always be prepared for occasional water crossings and greet them with the enthusiasm they deserve.  In the spirit of Going on a Bear Hunt, if you “can’t go under it, can’t go over it, gotta go through it.” Photographic proof of the adventure is applauded, but if not participating in an official water break, the photographer ought to be prepared to engage in a certain level of catch-up sprinting. And speaking of running, the occasional daisy chain through the woods is only to be expected.  The trip outward should be conducted with moderate to low levels of volume in order for optimum wildlife spottings, while the trip inward may include such activities as singing in rounds or reciting scenes from plays.   Finally, turing around before reaching the final apex of the trail is not a decision to be undertaken lightly or for such foolish reasons as wanting to catch a movie later in the day, or being unwilling to traverse fallen tree bridges. 

Perhaps my requirements for hiking companions are somewhat stringent, but I have been spoiled with a crew who easily meet all of these expectations and more for most of my hiking history. And while I relax them occasionally and attempt an excurision with a death march novice, they make it difficult for me to carry out my ongoing discussions with the characters in my head. One of my personalities may need to invest in a GPS, though. 

The Interference of Spring Rain

The weather is weighing heavily on my mind. I agreed to be in  Avon for the summer, I am in Avon, therefore it ought to be summer. But it’s still decidedly nippy spring weather 75% of the time. There was one perfectly gorgeous evening last week when I (and the rest of the town’s tiny population) felt the uncontainable urge to head to Nottingham Lake for some sunshine and water proximity. But mainly, there has been windstorm after hailstorm after thunderstorm. The chilly winds are useful for my exercise goals, though, as they improve motivation to move at a brisk pace. Weather, however, is not the only thing putting a crimp in my grandiose plans. Take yesterday’s hiking excursion. I packed myself up and drove over to Vail to investigate the hopefully named Lost Lake trail. There was a lack of cooperation between my phone’s GPS system and the forest service page’s directions, but I was actually fine with this, because I ended up in an area of the Vail foothills where I had hiked and run during my stay there two winters past. When my phone blurted out crazed directions, I knew the location of the nearest trailhead parking lot well enough to ignore it and continue blithely on in the relatively correct direction. After some mental distance calculations and re-evaluation of ‘closed’ signs, I found the dirt road turnoff for forest road #700.  Sadly, the road only continued for about a mile before it was gated off. The trailhead I was aiming for was still about eight miles distant – not far in a vehicle, but further than I was going to travel on foot, one way. On the other hand, the road beyond the gate looked almost like hiking material and I decided to travel onward and see if any other side trails presented themselves. I explored for just over an hour, but when the road became completely snow covered and the darkening sky provided an ominous hush my self-generated noise became insufficient for company. Each swish of my feet was followed by a skittering as the snow I had pushed away slid across the icy crust surrounding me. The sound was time-delayed from my actual footstep, making me repeatedly jump in surprise and suspiciously search the trees on either side of the road. Deciding that continuing would not be enjoyable, I turned to head back downhill. This was when the clouds above began to gently release their loads. I would walk through a minute of minuscule hail, then come into a clear space, then return into mixed hail and sleet. Happily, none of the weather was overly violent and I had a jacket in my bag. Being only a fraction of the height of the trees, I could always hear the rain start to ruffle their needles a few seconds before it reached my head and the additional sounds were welcome after the stifled silence of the snow path.  I had had a pleasant walk, but I didn’t feel that it had quite met my expectations of a hike, so when I spotted a trailhead on the opposite side of the turnout where I had parked, I stopped to pull my beanie out of the car and went to explore. It looked like a perfect hiking trail, narrow, muddy, and rising abruptly through pines. Sadly, it was marked as closed for elk calving season.  Although I had avoided the lower trailhead because I was looking for new places to explore, I decided to fit in one more quick excursion in the wet afternoon. Again, I parked and headed toward the trail only to be stopped short by another elk calving closure. I was somewhat confused, as I had seen people hiking in the area earlier in the afternoon, but perhaps I misunderstood their direction, or am more sign-abiding. Between weather, road closure, and trail closure, I am grateful to have gotten my two hours of hiking in, but at the same time, I do wish there were not so many spring restrictions on my summer goals.

Adult Interaction 

When I signed up for a two year contract the spring after my graduation, I wasn’t looking forward to living away from home  and family and friends. But the contract was broken down into managable segments and I was assured that I could always return home if things went seriously south. Amazingly enough, the two years did pass and I had been new places and had new experiences and learned about my chosen field while slowly advancing within the company. After my summer home, I realized that local restaurants weren’t going to be able to offer me the scope and benefits that the Colorado/Wyoming/Utah company could. And there was a relationship I wanted to explore and enthusiastic recruiters offering me raises and more responsibilites and higher ranking postions. So I came back to Avon last winter. After communication letdowns, management changes, and a typically high level of homesickness, I’m still not certain if signing on for the summer was a case of path of least resistance, or some type of reasoned adult decision making paradigm. I currenty have more things in Colorado than I could take home with a single car trip in my current vehicle – though if I sized my car up slightly I could probably still make it work. The knowledge of being on the edge of moving to Colorado has me paranoid about buying anything more while here, which is not all bad. Paranoia has, I am sure, saved many a person from buyer’s regret. On the other hand, while going from season to season without committing to being here might keep me from panicking over having grown up and moved out, it does seem to hinder developing habits and exploring activities that could make moving here less of a fullblown panic situation.  While I don’t wish to perform personality graft surgery on myself, forcing the occasional social interation has been shown to benefit me in the past. So while my ideal scenario is wearing down a sibling until they surrender and move out to join me in this piney mountain town, my main focus for now is going to have to be adult interaction outside the workplace. I surely hope I can find a way to accompish this goal in non-stressful manner, but right now, things aren’t seeming effortless.