A perfect 4-pitch day route, we did the 2 1/2 hour hike up to Surprise lake and then to Amphitheater Lake starting around 10. Another short hike from Amphiteater up to the base of the the climb and we were ready to go. Ryan led all 4 pitches. The first was a pretty easy 5.5 that used most of the rope. At the top, we walked about 50 yards to the bottom of the next 3 pitches.
The climb increased in difficulty with each pitch, but the crux moves on the last pitch were still pretty easy 5.7 moves. I was very glad that a) I wasn’t leading and b) Ryan knew how to get down from the climb. The hike down was almost more challenging than the climb up. As we reached the top, a brief, but ominous thunderstorm came through and I was happy to be quickly heading downhill and not on rope any longer. All in all, a beautiful climb with stellar views and a good 2 1/2 hour “warm up” hike to the climb.
Sunday could not have been a more perfect day. The sun was shining, but a few perfect cumulus clouds filled the sky. We headed over the hill to Grand Targhee for the Bluegrass Festival and got there in time to see three awesome bands: Peter Rowan Band, The Wilders, and Railroad Earth. All three bands were amazing, but the crowd really got moving when Railroad Earth opened with their self-titled song “Railroad Earth.” And from there, the dancing never stopped. While the price was a bit steep ($50+ for Sunday), it was well worth the short drive to Idaho and the money.
Two weeks ago I joined the Travel Hacking Cartel. I heard of it through a friend and thought I’d check it out. They offer a two week trial for $1 and they guarantee you’ll earn 4 free flights a year. Seems worth the $15 a month fee after the trial period. In two weeks I have earned 50,000 miles, or two free domestic flights as I understand it. Yes, I had to get a United credit card, but I also signed up for a bunch of random surveys and programs and was able to earn about 5,000 miles that way. It’s not a bad deal and the guy who started it is pretty inspiring. He’s traveling to every country in the world before he turns 35.
I just got home from a free showing of Gasland at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts. It was a deeply disturbing, saddening, and eye-opening film made by Josh Fox. In the film, Josh travels all over the U.S., spending a great deal of time in Wyoming and Colorado, to explore the side effects of natural gas fracking on drinking water and the health of the affected communities. Additionally, he looks into the process involved in leasing public lands to private gas companies (ahem, Encana, Haliburton), and the 2005 energy bill that exempts gas drillers from EPA standards such as the Clean Water Act. The documentary follows several families who discovered their water was contaminated after the gas companies showed up. Some of them have been paid off in small sums and have signed non-disclosure papers. Others are battling asthma, full-body pain, headaches, and lesions on their brains. Some of them purchase water at the store. Almost all of them can light a fire from the water coming out of their taps.
When we asked what could be done in Wyoming, or more specifically even in Jackson, all four of the panelists were less than optimistic. At this point, the land use permits and the rights to drill were auctioned off several years ago and the best case scenarios involve either purchasing the land back from the oil companies (even though they don’t own the land, it’s BLM and Forest Service, they have the legal right to it now) or attempting to place regulations on the companies about how they drill. One of the panelists – the whistleblower from the EPA – suggested that all the companies should be subjected to a test well system. They would be allowed to build one well, show that it was causing no environmental or human health damage, and if they were in compliance with the regulations they would then be allowed to proceed with building more wells.
One of the biggest problems with the natural gas industry is that it brings in a lot of money and many of the communities who are literally dying from the toxic chemicals in their air and water, were initially in support of building natural gas wells and pipes because of the money it would bring to their communities. Jackson is no exception. The upgrades to the schools and the increase in teachers’ salaries comes mostly from oil and gas money. At some point we, collectively as a community, a state, a country, will need to ween ourselves off of oil. How much longer we have is yet to be determined, but the damage is in progress.
A few crazy facts from the film:
-Over 80,000 pounds of chemicals are injected into the earth’s crust to Frack each well
-Researchers suspect that 65 of the chemicals used for Fracking are hazardous to human health
-Fracking Fluid calls for 2 million gallons of water, hauled by 100 water haulers
PS. There is a town in Texas called Dish, TX, population 150. They changed their name a few years ago with the promise that they would all received free Dish network services for 10 years. How crazy is that???
The Giants won the World Series and it’s especially exciting for me since I’m surrounded by Rangers fans here in Texas. Love, love, love SF and the Giants. Woohoo! Here’s an old picture of the classic Hmmm Baby t-shirt. I’m lovin’ it.
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Texas is not a place I ever imagined I would spend much time. Then I fell in love with a Texan and in the past year I have visited this state three times. The first time was for his sister’s wedding and the entire visit was a fantastic experience. The hospitality, food, and scenery were all truly remarkable. We rode our bikes through the hills outside of Austin, ran along wooded paths, went to the kayak playpark, fished on the Gulf Coast, swam in the Blanco River that flows right through the neighborhood where his parents live, and hiked beautiful steep hills just a stone’s throw from our front door. We also went to Barton Springs and Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop (Lance Armstrong’s bike shop) and to the Blue Hole Swimming Hole (maybe that’s a secret name?). I thought at that point that I had done most of the adventuring one might do in that area (I had also been to Big Bend previously and knew that I could spend years and not see or do everything down there).
The second visit was shorter, for another wedding, and most of our activities were family or wedding based, or repeats of our previous activity.
In the past week though, I have once again been pleasantly surprised by the many different things there are to do here. Every day, we have been creating mini-triathlons that include swimming laps in the long river pool in the backyard, cycling fifteen miles, and kayaking a few flatwater miles on the Blanco River. A couple weekends ago we went back to the coast for a short fishing trip. Not only was the fishing fantastic (Spanish Mackerel, Striped Bass, Red Fish), but we also saw more pods of dophins than we could count. They were playing and flipping and mating and jumping out of the water. The first night we were at the coast, we spend a few hours enjoying appetizers and watching the dolphins perform. Last weekend we spend camping at Bactross Lake, an RV-type campground that was perfect for costumes, campfire stories, and music. It’s been snowing in Jackson, our winter destination, and post after post on Facebook has been abotu backcountry skiing, but at the present time, I’m enjoying the last few weeks of warmer weather and loving all the adventuring Texas has to offer.
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On October 11, Zach and I set off on the Catalina Express heading to Avalon Harbor, the main town on the island. We were only scheduled to stay for 2 nights, yet we were scheming up plans for adventures that would last most people several days. The Pacific Ocean was a bit bumpy that day and the breeze was chilly, but we were adamant about feeling the cool salty winds and looking for dolphins and whales.
Neither of us had been to Catalina since were were kids. For me it was almost twenty years ago and for Zach at least ten. As we pulled into the harbor, the place looked and felt just as I remembered it. The big casino with its beautiful red roof and gorgeous tile mosaics, the pier and the crescent bay. Once we arrived and got settled in our quaint little beach condo, we started up the golf cart and headed into town. We drove around and checked out some great views and walked along the boardwalk out to the Casino.
Recently, I’ve been told, Avalon has upscaled, but my eight-year-old self did not size things up by price or class, so I cannot speak on the matter of what Catalina used to be. What I can say is that the restaurants in town all seemed very nice with a bit of island charm. We chose a new restaurant in town that came highly recommended. The Avalon Grille is pricey, classy, and has excellent food with a bit of a beach town mellowness. Since it was expensive, we opted to try appetizers. We ordered fried green beans and the most amazing bowl of clam chowder. We later found out that their brussel sprouts are “to die for,” but not knowing that at the time, we were quite satisfied with our apps, and honestly pretty full too. They had a good wine selection, fun cocktails, and good portions. Our bill was modest and we were glad we didn’t splurge on the $99 margarita. After dinner we watched the Giants beat the Braves at the Mexican restaurant just down the street and traipsed around town a bit more before heading home.
The following day was jam-packed with activities. After making a delicious breakfast at home, we headed out. First stop: Zane Grey’s pueblo/ hotel where Zach’s granddad has a painting up on the wall. Then we played miniature golf at the island’s wonderful 18-hole putt-putt course. We had lunch at Pebbly Beach where we looked for pieces of Catalina pottery and instead found the most perfect heart-shaped rock. We took pictures at the old Wrigley Mansion and lounged on the beach at Descanso Beach, where we also snorkeled and saw many vibrant orange Garibaldis. A pina colada and some beach reading was enough to revive me for some more fun. We did a long sightseeing tour, driving all over the hills behind the town and ending up at the Catalina Conservancy. The Conservancy was closed, so on our way back into town, we stopped at a local artist’s place and observed some of his very unique and wild artwork, including his studio that is literally carved into the hillside. The place was full of incredible pottery and tilework, mosaics and sculptures and old whale bones turned into swords. A lot of love and imagination was put into each and every piece. Attempting to not overstay our welcome, we moved on to $1 taco night, a little more baseball playoff viewing, and then we set out to fish on the dock. Now the local fishing in Catalina requires a fishing license unless you fish off the dock for a specific type of fish that I can’t recall. Anyways, we used frozen peas and hot dogs and caught three keepers. So, my wonderful boyfriend went home and fried up some fish for dinner! The last thing I expected to have in Catalina was fresh-caught fish that we actually caught!
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Every spring, I try to do a few private rafting trips. This past spring a group of sixteen of us were very fortunate to spend five days on the Selway River, which is a very difficult permit to get and, depending on the water level, a difficult river to run. Running the Selway had long been a dream of mine and I jumped at the opportunity to float it. The entire experience, the river, rapids, company, and the scenery all exceeded my expectations, and we were fortunate to be on the river at the perfect, and easiest water level.
Spending five days in a remote and seemingly untouched wilderness anywhere is an incredible experience, and this one was especially notable for our group because none of us had been there before. The entire five days I felt like an explorer; the map was mostly unhelpful and everything ahead was entirely new. Because of the friendly water levels we had, running the Selway was not an accomplishment in the sense that I did something particularly challenging or that no one else has done before. But at the end of the trip, it felt as though I was part of the first expedition down that canyon, and I got to mark off a personal first descent on my river list.
To eat or not to eat is always the looming decision when I find myself wandering the aisles of a gas station convenience store. I tend to eat extremely healthy food at home and finding food without the ever-growing list of things I shouldn’t put in my body is very difficult at a gas station.
The problem is that I find myself on several long (800 mile) road trips every year. I have worked on rivers in California, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona and Texas, and air travel is difficult for many reasons, including gear, timing, and airport locations. Regardless, I drive long distances and when I am bored, I like to eat. Over the years, after snacking on many bags of peanut butter M&M’s, I’ve found a few easy ways to bring my healthy home eating habits on the road.
Here are a few tips for how to eat healthy while traveling:
Pack a snack box full of healthy snacks in advance, snacks that will last a long time, will fill you up with the good stuff, and that you look forward to eating. I like to make popcorn (in a popcorn maker) and top it with a mixture of melted butter and soy sauce or Bragg’s Amino Acids. Another good snack is dried cranberries and blueberries with raw unsalted almonds.
String cheese is a go-to, must-have item on long car rides.
Since fast food is mostly what is available for meals, try getting a couple frozen meals in advance. Trader Joe’s has a wonderful selection, but you can also get Amy’s frozen pot pies or burritos from big grocery stores. Many people don’t realize that gas stations have microwaves, so when I stop to fill up, I microwave my burrito and hit the road again.
Because I often crave sweets and fun drinks, I bring a bar of nice dark chocolate and a few different bottles juice or smoothies. Again, Trader Joe’s has a great selection of these, as do Naked Juice and Odwalla. This way, I still get a drink and a treat to satisfy my sweet tooth, but I don’t have to buy something unhealthy.
While it’s always going to be difficult to stay away from french fries, fast food, HFCS and MSG and all the other bad-for-you acronyms, bringing along some treats will make your drive more enjoyable and leave your body looking and feeling great!
Lake Tahoe Community College is offering a river guide school starting this Saturday! It’s $400 which is without-a-doubt the least expensive, week-long guide school in California. And…I’m teaching it. Along with Aaron and Ben, two other California/Arizona/International guides. We had the pre-trip orientation last night up in Tahoe and the group is going to be stellar. There is even one guy who did the guide school last year and came back just to have a fun, inexpensive, week-long river trip. The school will be held on the Merced River (4 days) and Tuolumne River (4 days).