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June 26, 1999
a year ago

Mountain Adventure

The weekend was very hot. It reached the mid-90s, and everyone in the house and around it was just panting with the heat. Somehow on Friday Fezzik's wading pool blew over and emptied itself on the lawn. I could even see the green patch where the water was. It needed to try out some more before I could clean out all the dirt and fur and insects from the plastic.

On Saturday morning John, Paul, and I all ate sourdough pancakes. I'd cultured the sourdough by just leaving it out on the counter overnight, which meant that the temperatures were pretty warm just in the house. Afterwards we all got into Borax and headed south and west towards Jones Pass. It was one of the Colorado off-road adventures that was in a book that both John and Paul had with them. The instructions and directions to get there were very clear, and I woke up as we entered the area.

One of the features of the area that Paul pointed out were all the mines that dotted the mountainsides and hills there. An entire mountain was slowly collapsing upon itself as miners dug out the interior of the mountain in search of gold, tungsten, and other precious metals. All the rock waste was just dumped off the side of the mines, creating smooth-sided cones under each mine shaft of tan and red rock. These cones dotted the hillsides, easy to see because they were pale against the darkness of the oxidized rock that formed the surfaces.

We headed up, above all the mining areas, and hits dirt road fairly soon. The dirt road had sharp switchbacks that zigzaged up along the face of the mountains, sometimes paced by roaring streams that were filled almost overflowing. Friday night, as we were walking through Boulder, we walked by Boulder Creek and saw kayakers paddling furiously against the temporary rapids. The water up here was fast and furious as well, the heat making all the snow melt. The hillsides were patched with unmelted snow, still; but most of the ground was bare and dry, as was the dirt road for about three-quarters of the way up to the top of the pass. As we reached that point a red, soft-top Defender of pretty much the same make as Borax was headed down the mountain. We drew even with him and both he and John commented to each other, "That's a nice truck you have there."

That was pretty funny.

The guy going down also said that about two more switchbacks up there was enough deep snow to have him call it a day. We thanked him for the information and continued up. He was right, and we had to park Borax on one of the switchback curves and just start hiking up from that point.

I got a very good feeling for why it is so hard to climb Everest. We were just about at 12,000 feet, which is about half the height Everest is, and I found that I was very short of breath simply from the lack of oxygen at that level. I will also admit that I am out of shape, but it was far harder to do anything at that level, even walking up the not-too-steep switchback lanes. Wading through sometimes thigh-deep, wet snow in my sneakers wasn't all that much fun either. John and Paul decided that they wanted to go up to the top of the ridge, and I wanted to go as well, so I started up the first section of slope.

Along with the breathlessness my knee decided to start acting up, though I couldn't really blame it, as the slope was very steep and I haven't worked nearly as much on the sideways stabilizing muscles as I have on the straightforward bicycling muscles. Working my way up a fairly slippery slope got to be pretty hairy pretty quick, so after reaching a relatively flat section of the mountain, I told John and Paul to go without me. They continued up while I sat and rested for a little while. I then picked my way down, and was very glad that I hadn't on any further up because down was much harder than up. The muscles in my right leg are still weak enough that it is hard to let all my body weight down on just the strength of my right leg constantly. I can do a few times, a flight of stairs is no problem, as are two or three, but going down a mountainside was a bit much. I was very happy to reach the more level areas and then hang around the Land Rover as I waited for them to come back.

I saw them reach the top of the ridge, two tiny specs of bright color against the grey-green of the mountain and the pale blue of the sky. They were way up there. John found tiny flowers there, a patch containing hundreds of them no bigger than half a dollar bill. They could see all of the mining operation below them, as well as the snow capped peaks to all sides. The pictures that John took were pretty fun to see.

After they came down we wandered through some of the mining areas, walked through a stream that was red with rust, and I got a closer look at the rushing stream that was filled with meltoff. All down the snow-patched road were tiny rivilets rippling and gradually merging into larger and larger streams that eventually joined into the roaring rapid that I saw hurtling itself down the mountain.

From there we headed up remote dirt roads towards the Peak to Peak road. We happened upon a couple small towns that relied on gambling to bring in tourists and business, and kept going all the way to Nederland, which was the first town that John, Kathy, and I had gone to on our mountain trip when Kathy was in town. By this time it was about 4 p.m. and I was starving. We parked in central parking area and went to a little Nepalese and Indian restaurant that had a marvelous selection of food. I got a chicken tikka marsala and a mango lassi, and was very grateful for the waitress filling our water glasses every time she came to check on us. Part of the way through the meal, a big dog that looked part husky wandered by and gave me a look that I'd often seen from Fezzik. He didn't even looked at the guys. One of the locals at another table called the dog, "Come here Rat! Come here!"

Turned out that the dog is a local, and just wandered around looking for handouts. The weather was variable, with clouds and sun alternating as the wind blew. It was very cool when there was shade, and very hot when there wasn't. Lunch made me a much happier person, and with the heat I fell asleep on the ride home.

It felt way too hot to cook when I got home; but after watching a bit of the Food Channel, while Paul went off to both check on his plane and then both John and he sat out on the porch reading, I got up and started cooking. One of the spice mixes that I'd bought was for Jambalaya and I blindly followed the recipe, first browning a bunch of andoulle sausage, chicken, and shrimp then bringing to boil the spices in water with rice. When the mixture was brought to boiling, I stirred in all the meats, covered it and let it cook until the rice had absorbed as much of the liquid as it was going to. The recipe had called for seven cups of water to only two cups of rice, which made for a very soupy rice indeed. I usually put only two cups of water per cup of rice for fluffy rice, this was really sticky and almost gummy, but when I thought about the Jambalayas that I'd seen and eaten, I guess that that made some sense; but it could have been a bit dryer. As it was it was a rather large and gooey mass.

Paul and John tried a little bit as it was too hot to be really hungry, as did I. They both went back for seconds while I finished what I first got pretty easily. That was nice.

Sleep was easy after a cool bubble bath that soaked away the heat and gave me some relief from my swollen feet and hands that were starting to feel a bit swollen. My feet were still in minorly bad shape from the Con.

Brought to you by Dragon System's Point & Speak.

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