Canoeing Up Lake Chelan

10/17 to 10/22/14′ – When you sit in a canoe all day for 6 straight days you learn a few things about this timeless style of exploration.  Here are a few things Grete and I picked up while paddling up the 55 mile-long Lake Chelan in late October:

1. Canoeing is like backpacking on water.  You have a maximum speed you can achieve — and that is as fast as it gets.  Also, your shoulders are going to be sore… very sore.  A strong sense of perseverance is essential.

2. Canoes are relatively dry.  Considering that we were rained on 4.5 out of the 6 days we spent on the trip. And, in contrast to other water-travel-focused activities such as rafting, kayaking, tubing, and swimming, it is dry (so long as you don’t flip).

3. Canoes are brilliantly social.  Throughout the day our conversations ebbed and flowed naturally.  It was an easy way to pass the time and forget about paddling.

4. Even very amateur canoeists can conquer a multi-day trip.  Grete had (probably) never canoed before attempting this glorious adventure.  Also, a loaded canoe is far more stable than we thought.

5. Canoe camping is all about the luxury items.  Cooler? Of course. 10 days worth of food? Why not?  Two stoves… sure! Next time, I plan to bring more because you simply have space and it doesn’t slow you down.

Well anyways, I’m sure there is plenty more that Grete and I learned but I ought to move on to the adventure.  We concocted this idea while driving back from CO — with Grete’s ankle resting on ice.  After a wonderful wedding celebration for the new Dave and Julia Reed, we were unsure of the ability to put her freshly sprained ankle through 2+ weeks of bikepacking in Oregon, and so we racked our brains for a non-leg focused adventure to supplement our outdoor cravings.  The idea of sea kayaking came up, then slowly evolved into canoeing and the idea stuck.

When the time came to head east to attempt the week-long vacation into the North Cascades, we rallied over to my family’s old cabin on Lake Chelan to rest up.  That evening we borrowed a beautiful vintage aluminum canoe from friends at Kelly’s Resort, and got Grete her (possibly) first canoe-paddling experience on the short paddle back to the cabin.  The unloaded canoe’s stability (or lack there of) brought concern to Grete, but she was confident that packing it might help… And thankfully it did.

We loaded Gwendolyn, the canoe, up the next morning and set off to cover roughly 80 miles of the lake (40 to the top of the lake, a village called Stehekin, from our cabin and 40 back down) over the next week.  From then on we spent the majority of each day paddling, talking, taking in the remote scenery, and trying to keep dry.  We camped at five different boat-in only campgrounds along the lakeshore: Safety Harbor, Prince Creek (crawling with bears apparently), Weaver Point, Domke Falls, and Coral Creek. During the six days, we came in contact with only two other human beings (bear hunters), even with brief stops in both Stehekin and Lucerne, and saw only a couple of boats pass by each day.  The slow pace and unexpected remoteness really grew a new appreciation for Lake Chelan within both of us.  This adventure is not one I will soon forget.  Here are some pictures from the excursion!

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The Colorado Trail (hiking this time)

9/7 to 9/9/2014 – As rafting season was coming to a close, the hustle and bustle of fall travel commenced with an attempted week-long sojourn in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado.   Grete’s mother, Diane, has been plugging away at the Colorado Trail over the past few years with a stout goal of hiking every section of the trail by her 60th birthday.  As a long time Colorado resident and active member in the state’s wildlife conservation effort she has been working on the trail to gain a new perspective on many of the secluded and glorious locations she had long worked to protect.  Earlier this summer, she completed her second-to-last section on an 8-day solo excursion with pack llamas (she’s going to be my mother-in-law!).  Afterwards, she asked Grete and I to accompany her for the final bit to complete the trail.

Of course we agreed to the idea of another adventure and she set about planning the jaunt into the remote segments 22-24 (Spring Creek Pass to Molas Pass).  After months of planning and packing, we hit the road to Lake City to stay a night at the Murphy’s – good friends of Diane’s and long-time outfitters in the area.

We started our hike after being dropped off at Spring Creek Pass and the weather was pretty darn good.  The first night we nestled ourselves in the Colorado Trail Friends Memorial Yurt to keep dry with a stormy outlook in the forecast.  The next day brought us in-and-out rain storms, the high-point of the trail (13,271′), and a beautiful campsite just at treeline below an unnamed pass.  The effects of Hurricane Norbert (raging in the eastern Pacific) began to take hold sometime in the middle of the night.

That night, we mostly stayed up holding the tent down from (literally) hurricane-force winds and heavy rains.  It turns out camping at almost 12,000′ in a storm is quite exciting.  Once it was light out, we packed up as drily as we could and wandered on.  The rain gear could only do so much, heat-production while hiking seems to be minimal (compared to bike-packing and skinning we now know), and the winds were constant and cutting throughout the next day of hiking.  By the time we arrived at Cataract Lake, our spirits and our safety was compromised.  We set up our tent, boiled water and began the re-warming process while we discussed our options.

Alpine adventures are all about timing. In this instance, mother nature was not giving us clear signals or the obvious opening we needed to continue onwards.  As a group, we decided to turn off the Colorado Trail and hike out the Cataract Creek drainage.  Although only four(ish) miles by map, this was a challenging bushwhack after the trail disappeared beneath our feet.  We wandered down, eventually re-catching the trail, enjoying beautiful views of Sunshine Peak and popped out at the trailhead a bit after sunset and waited for our glorious ride back to Lake City from the Murphy’s.  Thankfully, they received our message and had hot-tea waiting upon our return.

Although we didn’t get to complete the segments and finish off the trail with Diane, we had all gained a good bit of respect for each other’s decision making, and had grown closer through the adventure.  Well, enough with the words and on with the photos…

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The Northwest Couloir of the Pfeifferhorn

3/13/14 – Well Jonny showed up for a week of skiing in mid-March and, given the stable conditions, he and those around him were able to get after it… Grete showed him and another friend, Bryce, the goods all week long around Silverfork, Solitude, and Big Cottonwood Canyon while I was stuck at work.  When that day came around to finally enjoy the weekend, our posse set our sights on one of the Wasatch classics – the Pfeifferhorn’s NW Couloir.  Jonny and I had camped below it the previous season and had a feeling we’d be coming back for the line.

So, we set out bright and early with our stomachs full of Chuck-o-Rama and wandered our way up to the top in only a few hours.  The skiing in the couloir was sketchy, wind-buffed, and bullet-proof above the mandatory rappel… PERFECT FOR ADVENTURE!  Below the cruxy and crusty rappel, the skiing improved dramatically and we each arched hero-snow super-g turns out on the apron below.  The snow was actually so good, we all went back up the apron for seconds! It was a glorious day filled with nerve-racking, butt-puckering “skiing” and spent with the best of friends.  Here are some pictures that probably tell the story a little better…

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A Couple Days in Fruita…

6/10 to 6/12/2014 – After a couple weeks of non-stop rafting work, Grete and I needed an escape, if only for a couple of days.  To get away, we headed west to Fruita, CO to bike, camp out and celebrate her birthday.  We arrived at Fruita’s desert mountain bike trail system during the heat of the day -over 90 degrees- and decided to celebrate her birthday a day early. Her gifts included some new bikepacking gear, and after opening it, we opted to head for a quick overnight along the Edge Loop and to check out the freshly constructed Sarlacc Trail.  We ended up packing through the heat of the day and hitting the trails once the temps started to drop!

That evening we cranked out roughly ten miles and found an excellent campsite off the trail just before dark.  Subtle cloud cover and a constant breeze created an excellent evening above the desert.

Waking up the next morning, on Grete’s birthday, I knew that it was a special day.  Enjoying the views over a delicious oatmeal breakfast, I decided to go dig around through my pack for a certain piece of jewelry I had been carrying around for about a month…

During the final fleeting sunburst of the morning, I asked Grete to come “check out this thing I found on the ground,” took a knee and asked her to marry me!  She said yes! I couldn’t be more excited to be engaged to the love of my life -my dream girl- Grete!

The rest of the day, and rest of the trip, was filled with blissful happiness as we camped under the stars, enjoyed our first campfire of the season, and biked around Loma the next day.  Here are a handful of pictures from the trip… enjoy!


Filed under Biking, Camping, Dirt, Photography, Uncategorized

Mt. Adams

5/13 to 5/14/2014 – After a couple weeks of day-in and day-out work on the trailer, Grete and I were hitting a breaking point… We were craving adventure, the fresh mountain air, and getting away from our monster project born in 1973.  We had been shut down a week earlier on an attempt at the Hidden Lake Lookout in the North Cascades due to (for my second time) whiteout conditions above treeline, but the weather looked good for a shot at a volcano.

A couple days before the weather broke and we headed south, I received an unexpected phone call from a Solitude patrol buddy, Cam, who was heading north from Oregon and was looking for ski partners!  Both Cam and Grete had never skied in the Cascades, let alone a classic volcano, so I was excited to get out with them in the alpine.  We had quite the drive there (10 hours rather than the 5.5 expected) due to a snowed-out forest service road, but arrived at the trailhead/snowline around 2:30am and went right to sleep to prepare for the next day.

The next morning we munched some breakfast, packed, and headed out with the plan to climb to a high camp on the Lunch Counter, sleep there, then rally onwards for a morning summit.  The climb was beautiful and the weather was spot on, allowing us to enjoy a warm, glorious evening in the alpine.  The sunset views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens were astonishing and refreshing.  The summit climb the next morning went well until ~11,800′ when a strong shot of Acute Mountain Sickness overcame Grete.  Her and myself turned for lower altitude while Cam continued on to the 12,276′ summit.  We rejoined atop the SW Chutes, waited a short bit for the corn cycle to set in, then shredded down the 4,000′ of the chutes as well as another 3,000′ back to the cars! What a trip… and here are some photos to sum it up…  Also, check out Grete’s post about skiing Mt. Adams on 14erskiers’ blog here.

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Fall Washington Roadtrip

10/3/2013 to 10/6/2013 – Last fall Grete and I were back in Washington for a short bit and took a couple day road trip to break in the new truck, Wendy. We hoped to enjoy a bit of Washington’s authentic beauty so the drive focused on both hitting the Cascades as well as the coast.  Our drive went up and through North Cascades National Park, down to Whidbey Island, across to the Olympic Penninsula, and finished back in the Seattle area.  Anyways, Grete was ecstatic about the trees and the forests and the drive was an excellent refresher for myself as well.

Hopefully there should be a few more posts soon!

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The Kokopelli Trail

10/12/2013 to 10/17/2013 – While having a glorious conversation with Jonny Cromwell in mid-September, discussing adventures during his summer in Glacier Point, Alaska and his plans (or lack there of) for the fall and winter, we came to the conclusion that another bicycle trip was in order.  A couple weeks later, Grete and I happened to be driving through Whidbey Island on a Washington state wander breaking in the new truck (Wendy) and got ahold of Jonny.  He had just gotten in -that morning- from his ferry ride back from AK and we ended up enjoying dinner, drinks, and a night under the stars on his parents’ roof.

Before we left the next morning, it was decided that Jonny would be accompanying Grete, Bonnie, and myself back to Colorado in a couple days and that we would be figure it out from there.  On the drive back to CO, we called up Dave and informed him that he would be joining us (reuniting the Dream Team) on the Kokopelli Trail in a few days.  Of course, he was down.

A week later we met-up at Dave’s mom, Holly’s, house (launchpad for all great adventures it seems), grabbed free beer from a Coors short-tour and headed west-bound.  A couple hours into the drive, we got a little distracted and ended up going skiing on Vail Pass, then continued to the desert… And the rest is history… So here are some photos to tell the story!

For further reading (and more great photos), here is another take on our glorious ride by Dave (link). A fellow bicycle adventurist friend, Nicholas Carman, was only a few hours behind us on the ride (unaware to us until we arrived in Moab) and his excellent write-up can be found here (link).

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