Saturday, December 31, 2011

When There's no Snow in a Ski Town

It’s a glum aura hangs around this mountain town. December has come and gone (okay, almost) with nary a bit of the white stuff. We did not have a white Christmas. Already minimal operations at ski resorts are shrinking even further, kindling a firestorm of layoffs. No one is stoked.

Except for the trail runners.

In stark contrast to last year’s winter where I’d already had two months of backcountry powder glory on my skis by this point, we’re still running high country trails. It does a bit to make up for the fact that many trails didn’t open up until August last summer.

Is this what it’s like to live somewhere where it doesn’t snow? I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in for December.

And what do the ski bums do (besides shed a tear in their whiskey over their state of unemployment) when there’s no snow? Well, mountain biking is the obvious choice, and there’s plenty of that going on. Ice climbing conditions are better than they’ve been in a decade, but that only appeals to a select group of nut cases. I gave that up when I left Minnesota! You know what’s really all the rage in the Sierra right now?

Ice skating.

Frozen Echo Lake

Usually by the time it’s cold enough for anything to freeze, it’s all buried under 20 feet of snow. But people have been making the best of an unusual winter, and the skating is off the hook. I mean, have you seen any of those pictures of people skating on Tenaya Lake in Yosemite? How can you not want to skate across that glassy expanse surrounded by massive granite domes? I am not much of a skater, but to glide across the ice in an empty, beautiful, wilderness is pretty special.

There are four or five good lakes to skate in Truckee right now, but those Yosemite pictures I saw online really captured me. I wanted to skate the backcountry.

And who could I get to join me on a trail running/ice skating Desolation Wilderness adventure in late December? I knew before I asked that Jamie would come along for the ride – that girl is addicted to those trails.

She and Anthony joined me on Friday for a 12 mile run out to Lake Aloha, although I was the only goofball with ice skates strapped to my hydration pack.

Dear GoLite pack, you have passed the test. You're going to Hardrock, baby!

We all agreed that there was less snow than there had been out on that trail in July, and the amount of running we were able to do was wonderful.

There was still a bit of ice on the trail in places though.

We did hit some snow within about a mile of Aloha, but it was still incredibly reasonable running.

The skating on Aloha wasn’t quite the Tenaya Lake glory that I had envisioned. (There is WAY less water up there this time of year.) Although the actual skating in Truckee is better, the novelty of being out there sliding around on the ice was totally worth bringing the skates. So much fun!

Demonstrating exceptional skating technique.

This entire winter break has been somewhat of a novelty for me. My mileage has been fueled a bit by some anxiety over this 100 mile race I’ll be doing in July, but mostly it’s just been a matter of opportunity. When I think about the places I’ve run in the last four days, I can’t help but smile. Four completely different runs, in different weather and conditions. I’m blown away by the running available right now, and I’m taking advantage of every single bit.

Tuesday: Donner Lake, 10 miles on road, starry skies, 11 degrees F

Wednesday: Peavine, 14 miles on dirt, 4,000' vert, partly cloudy, 60 degrees F

Thursday: Desolation Wilderness, 12 miles on technical trail and snow, partly cloudy, 37 degrees F

Friday: Michigan Bluff to the swinging bridge and back, 21 miles on trail, light rain, 46 degrees F

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Peavine Mountain - Verdi Trailhead

Trail: Dirt roads and singletrack, often rocky and loose

Distance: Approximately 14 miles, depending on route, with about 4,000' elevation gain

Difficulty: Challenging

Trailhead: From north Tahoe, take I-80 east. Exit Verdi, and take the main road (hwy 40) for several miles through the town of Verdi. You'll see Peavine on your left. As the road curves back toward the freeway, look for a dirt pull-out on your left.

Season: Year round, with some snow in the winter months

Water: Bring plenty, because once the snow melts, the slopes of Peavine are dry. With no tree cover on much of the mountain, temperatures can be devastatingly hot in the summer and water will be important.

Trail Description: I was looking for some solid vertical gain and descent for my run, and I knew I would find it at Peavine. Jenelle joined in my plan to simply climb up to the summit at 8,200 feet and turn around. There are plenty of options for trails or roads to climb. Since there are no trees and the views are vast, it's easy to stay well-oriented. We weren't sure exactly what route we needed to take to reach the summit, but we weren't too worried about getting lost.

We began climbing immediately, and after a mile or so, our run melted into a well-paced hike. We were both thankful for a last minute decision to run in shorts instead of tights since the temperature felt unseasonably warm.

Depending on your trail choices, the climbs can be quite steep.

Summit shot with the dogs.

Most of the trails are unmarked, so depending how far you plan to go, it's a good idea to pay attention to your surroundings. You may also encounter mountain bikers and other trail users on dirt bikes or quads. Everyone is typically quite polite and will slow down to pass. 

The mountain was quiet for us and the views peaceful on the long haul up. We followed a similar route that is part of the Silver State 50 course, and I can tell you that it's much easier without 35 miles already on the legs! Still, it's early season, and this run was a solid workout for me for December. 

 The run back to the car was more pleasant than I had expected. It's a quad-pounder for sure, and some of the terrain is steep and loose. Somehow though, I felt great. Just wonderful.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Starting 2012 with 31 Days of Adventure

Author's note: Thanks to everyone who participated in fundraising for Heifer International by commenting on my blog. I took a cue from Nathan and doubled my pledge to $2 per comment and am rounding up to an even $40. It's going to "where most needed" for Heifer. Hooray!

I'm always on the lookout for adventure, as you know. So, when Katie over at Adventure-Inspired posted about 31 Days of Adventure, I didn't even have to finish reading her post before I knew I was on-board.

31 Days of Adventure is a project taking place this January, put on by Amy of Expand Outdoors and Lydia of Wander Lydia. The concept is simple: Each day during the month of January, they'll email you a daily adventure meant to challenge you and make your day just a bit more interesting. I have no idea what these adventures will be, but I can't wait to find out!

I explained the idea behind my blog's title in this post. The concept is essentially exactly what Amy and Lydia have laid out for 31 Days of Adventure. Adventures don't have to be huge in order to enrich our lives. Most of the time, in fact, adventure is all about perspective. Overcoming an unexpected challenge doesn't have to be an aggravating experience if you simply look at it as an adventure.

Here's an example: Last Friday was my last day of teaching school before the winter break. Believe me, it was painful keeping the kids focused that close to Christmas, but vacation was so close I could taste it! (Plus, I kept them busy by giving two tests on Friday. Yes, I am that teacher.) I'm fortunate to have a carpool partner who lives in Truckee and teaches at my same school in Reno. When we got on the freeway Friday morning, the road information sign immediately told us the highway was closed and we should take the next exit. Crap!

I steered us down surface streets toward the far end of town hoping we could take the last freeway entrance and get past the closure while Katie researched the situation on her iPhone. Turned out we wouldn't be able to bypass the closure and a hazmat clean up would keep us trapped in Truckee for several hours. Who would give my students their tests!?

We called a couple friends to discuss our re-route options and decided to take Dog Valley Road - a dirt road that would reunite us with the freeway in the hills west of Reno. It's a summer-only route that neither of us had ever taken, but with the lack of snow and my trusty Subaru, we decided to go for it! It turned our 40 minute drive into a 90 minute adventure through the mountains. Kind of an exciting start to the work day, and definitely a daily adventure. Our principal, who is apparently familiar with Dog Valley Rd., couldn't believe we made it in to work, (but we're dedicated teachers that way).

If you want to get involved with daily adventures in January, just head on over to the website and sign up to get the emails. If you have a website or blog, you can also add it to the list of participating sites.

Happy adventuring!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Memory Tree and Giving Cows

In my household, I get accused of being a pack rat. My husband gets accused of being wasteful. It's all a matter of perspective I suppose, but one thing is true for both of us: We each have a shoebox full of various items that hold memories - things that don't really seem to have a place to live, but definitely warrant keeping.

Many of my items look something like this:

See anything familiar in that stash?

Andrew's box is mostly full of ski passes, which, when 11 years worth are laid out in order, show the beautiful passage of time. Like school pictures for grownups. 

Last year, in an unusual fit of Christmasy nostalgia, we crafted all our items into ornaments for our tree. A tree full of memories. A new holiday tradition!

For race medals, I cut the ribbons off or tied them into decorative bows, and then added a hook for hanging. Voila:

Marathon PR from a loooooong time ago!

Andrew and I won this race together. And if you don't think canoe races in Northern Minnesota are competative, you haven't spent much time Up North. Apparently winning with a girl on your team was previously unheard of.

Some people like to make funny faces for their ski pass pictures.

Some medals don't require additional ribbons or adornments.

The Memory Tree

Something else we did last year, which officially qualifies as a tradition since this is now year number two, was join Nathan Bransford's Heifer International fundraiser.

Heifer is a great organization! In their own words, Heifer International is a global nonprofit with a proven solution to ending hunger and poverty in a sustainable way. Heifer helps empower millions of families to lift them out of poverty and hunger to self-reliance through gifts of livestock, seeds, and trees and extensive training, which provide a multiplying source of food and income.

Last year, we raised enough at Daily Adventures to donate two flocks of chicks!

Here's how it will work: For every comment on this post between now and midnight on Christmas Eve, I'll donate $1 to Heifer International. You can tweet and share to help get more comments. I'd also encourage you to visit Nathan's post and comment over there (His deadline is 6:00 PM Friday.), as well as check out the link list of other writers involved in the fundraiser. (And while you're over at Nathan's, read this post from Monday on "How Art Changes With Us" because it's completely awesome.)

In your comment here, tell me your name, where you're from, and your wish for 2011.

That's it! Thanks for helping to support a great organization. Happy holidays, everyone!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Non-Jogging and the Hardrock 100

Andrew and I spent our Thanksgiving weekend this year in Portland in the company of good friends, and excessive amounts of excellent food. I made it a point to get out on a few solid runs and was blessed with some great weather. (If it's not raining, Portlanders always walk out the door and declare it to be a beautiful day, even if it's overcast and gloomy. A beautiful perspective requiring many rainy days to cultivate, I'm sure.)

A beautiful day for running in the Columbia River Gorge

I also had the pleasure of joining Russ, Gary, and Carl for a guest stint on their podcast, 3 Non Joggers. I have to admit, it was pretty fun. 

If you're interested in listening to some running talk and quite a bit of goofing around, you can take a listen to episode #51 here in iTunes

And lastly: the Hardrock 100 lottery was today. Oh wow.


It's still kind of sinking in because truthfully, I never expected to get in. I actually had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to take things a bit easier this year after all the intense training for Western States last year. 

During my experience pacing Betsy at Hardrock, I kept telling myself the race was insane (And it is!) because even in the midst of it all I could feel my hidden desires to run it. It's like being attracted to the bad boy at school - you know he's trouble, but you just can't stop thinking about him!

I hesitated quite a bit over entering the lottery because I wasn't sure if I was really ready for this race. Then I realized that adventure is about doing things that hold a bit of uncertainty, and let's face it, Hardrock for me is more of an adventure than a race.

Besides, if I waited until I thought I was ready, I'd probably never sign up.

One of my most powerful motivators is fear, and I think it's safe to say that I will have no shortage of motivation for training this winter. The excitement is slowly growing already, and I am certain this will turn out to be the adventure of a lifetime.

Colorado, here I come! 

With Olga and Meghan in Silverton last summer.