Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A New Life in Bozeman

Well it's been three weeks since I officially moved down to Bozeman to begin Graduate School this Fall, but I thought I would throw this up nonetheless, if nothing more than a bookmark on my life.
Lil' Champ loaded to the gills with all my stuff. Just enough space to keep from bringing too much  at one time probably.
It was fairly humbling fitting everything that I owned into the back of my pickup (and on top of it!) and heading off into the unknown of southwestern Montana. Now, it's an exaggeration to say that it is everything that I own. But at least it's everything that I would need for the first part of the semester until I could get home or hook up with my folks to get additional stuff. I mean, I'll need have to get my skis and ice tools before the snow starts falling and the those waterfalls start freezing. My house is close to campus and it takes me less than five minutes to get to class in the morning on my bike. The guys I'm living with in my dirt-bag-gotta-love-it-'cause-its-cheap basement apartment are really cool and easy to have conversations with and hang out with.
Like I said, "Good that I couldn't take too much stuff in my pickup".  My room is pretty small, but cosy and is all I need for late night studying and a good place to sleep. And when decorated... looks great! It's filled out with furniture I pilfered from the garage and found for free on the curb. Back to thrifty college living, eh?

A view of the kitchen where a lot of delicious food is thrown down.  Look at that cute face, too! The dog is Mabel, sort of like my roommate Drew's second girlfriend: she doesn't live here, but she's here a lot and often spends the night...

I'm adjusting to life in Bozeman rather well. I spend most of my time on campus, in class or in the library studying with my compatriots but there's still the occasional bit of free time to get out and explore. Slowly but surely I'm learning my way around town, both on bike and in my truck. I've been out in the hills as well: hunting, climbing, and mountain biking. I've always said I went to Abilene for school instead of MSU because if I was in Bozeman I never would have gone to class. Well, it's not that bad but the "call of the wild" is certainly there everyday. Everything is just so close by! All in all this new life in the place of my birth ain't so bad, in fact it could be tempting to never finish school...
Self-portrait after biking to Mystic Lake on Labor Day evening. 
My roommate Matt and his girlfriend Sacha. We went rock climbing at Practice Rock in Hyalite Canyon a couple of weekends ago. It's bee a while since I've been on rock, and man it feels good!
Sacha is a machine: sending what I believe to be called Practice Crack.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Yosemite National Park and No-Lights Driving

My 11th National Park of the trip. It had been incredible so far and was only getting better.
In my last post pertaining to my Fall 2010 road trip, I informed you that I had my headlight switch had burnt-out. So I raced back to my campsite at Wawona campground, arriving just before nightfall, and set up the back of my truck to spend a lovely night among the trees and fresh air of Yosemite. I made a dinner of tuna-mac, played some guitar, and bundled up against the chill in the mountain air. There was a group that was camped next to me, in a rather large 1-ton, 4-door truck and looked like they planned to sleep in a laughable lean-to style tent on an inflatable mattress in the bed of the truck. It turned out they were a group of Naval Corpsmen on leave and seeing the sights of Yosemite. They invited me over to their campfire and I had a good time hanging with new friends that night.

El Capitan at dusk.

The next morning I rose early and tried to leave camp as soon as it got light enough to drive. I got into the valley and saw some big black tail bucks and climbers hanging out on El Capitan, including professional athletes Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson. I found a place to park, still difficult at 8 in the morning, and headed off to find a place to hike. I clambered up the trail toward upper Yosemite Falls and got some good views of the watery precipice in the morning light. It was a lucky time of year, there had been some fall snow and as that was melting the waterfalls became spectacular. (I'm told that they tend to dry up a bit toward the end of the summer/beginning of the fall.)

My first view into the Valley at dusk, just before my discovery of not having headlights and my scramble back to Wawona Campground. It was a beautiful evening to say the least.

I jogged back down the trail from the Falls with the "clock ticking" knowing that I would need to get to my uncle's house in Windsor before it got dark. Even so, I took a tour of Camp IV, the famous climbers' camp complete with some famous boulders within the compound. I swung by the view of Lower Yosemite Falls on the way to the bookstore to do "the tourist thing" and get some souvenirs for my family.

Half Dome over my left shoulder in the distance.  

While in Yosemite, I had to keep remembering to close my mouth. The landscape truly had jaw-dropping beauty. I appreciated it for its natural wonder, but viewing the valley through the eyes of a climber it was incredible! I was practically drooling... Someday in my future I want to visit Yosemite with a climbing rack and rope in hand and a comrade in arms alongside me. Those granite walls will haunt my dreams until that day.

Upper Yosemite Falls.

The rest of the day went by like a blur, although the landscape of the California foothills was gorgeous in its own right. I don't think I had ever seen an avacado tree before, and there were lots of them. In my mad dash to Santa Rosa I drove through the Bay area, across the bridge from San Francisco to Oakland, and continued north. If time had allowed, I would have loved to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, but alas that's one more icon that I'll have to visit in the future. My pickup and I arrived in Windsor and the countryside where my family live, limping along right at sunset. I literally found their driveway with the light from my emergency flashers! What a relief though, to be welcomed to a strange place by my loving aunt, uncle, and cousins after some stressful driving.

Pretty stoked in front of Lower Yosemite Falls.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lookout to Lookout Adventure

After our Bearhat ski trip, the next several weekends held some great mountaineering in Glacier Park as well. Did I say that I was tired of climbing? Well maybe, but it's hard not to come back to something that gets in your bones as much as being in the mountains.
At the Apgar Lookout, 1st stop on the journey of craziness.
From the summit of East Bearhat Peak, Dad and I could see the ridge connecting Apgar Lookout (LO) and Huckleberry LO. I envisioned a fast-paced ridge-run that would take you between the two of them in a day and mentioned it to Dad. He had done it on skis several years before in what turned into an epic day with not very much good skiing to be had. It seems like that is often the case with late-spring ski touring in the mountains, and I have done my own share of slogging long miles with skis on my back and hopes of corn snow dashed.
Looking toward the Logan Pass area of the Park, Lake McDonald in the middle right.
Looking south along the ridge from whence I came.

The following weekend I put the scheme in motion. I parked at the Huckleberry LO trail head, road my bike to the Apgar LO Trailhead, and started running/fast hiking. The trail to the first LO was cake and the views were pretty incredible. Initially, I had grand visions of running the whole way, but it quickly became apparent that it was going to be more efficient to hike the steeper sections of the trail. After Apgar LO, the route jumped off trail through some pretty nasty bush whacking (I've never understood the previous term: it always seems like I'm the one getting whacked...). As you might imagine, I wasn't running. In fact it was more like scrambling over dead fall, through thick brush, up and down the ridge. Not what I expected, but what was I going to do? I had to get to my truck... The ridge went on forever, but travel became much easier when I reached the summit of Apgar Mountain. Amid views of both the Northfork and the Southwest corner of the Park, I finally reached the Huck LO. Jogging down the trail to my truck, out of water and food I was refreshed every once in a while be wild strawberries and huckleberries along the trail.

2nd Lookout of the day. It was a really beautiful day and I was genuinely smiling, not faking it to compensate for exhaustion...
All total the trip pushed 27 miles, 7 of which were on my bike, and probably 11 off-trail. Over that distance I climbed and dropped about 7500 vertical feet in elevation. Yes: I was tired and the 5 Guys bacon cheese burger back in Kalispell tasted very good.