Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Congratulations Paasch’s!

Well today I need to live vicariously through two good friends. I haven’t had many climbing adventures in awhile myself, but Saturday night I was pumped to get a call from Kelly and Julie. Kelly was pleased to tell me that they were eating dinner at the illustrious (to us outdoor folk) Moab Diner, after the two of them had spent the day successfully topping out on Casselton Tower, in Castle Valley, UT. Sweeeeet! Congratulations you two. You’re going to have to go back sometime…with me! :) That is if I ever manage to move from the prairie out west. I’ve been having a hard time managing to want to stay climbing when all that’s available is a 20 foot plastic/wood climbing gym full of 15-year-olds. That’s North Dakota climbing at it’s finest. I do very much want to ascend actual rock to actual heights again soon.

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Recommendation and a Confession

I have both a recommendation and a confession for today’s bloggin’. First off is my recommendation. I’m speaking of a book that I’m currently spending quite a bit of time in. Alison and I received it for a wedding present (it was on our REI gift registry, which was a sweet idea). As you all know I’m very involved in the outdoor world, and I now have the best book I’ve ever laid hands on regarding backpacking. It’s The Complete Hiker IV, by Collin Fletcher and Chip Rawlings. Wow. Colin, as I understand is in his 80’s, and has he ever done some hiking/camping/gear testing (or gear obsessing)! And Chip is younger, but equally suited to write with authority on trail speak. This book has know-how on pretty much any camping/hiking topic you can request, as well as very detailed reviews on tons of specific gear. I don’t know how they managed to put this whole thing together, but if you dig camping, you should spend $23 and buy this book. Do it. On the same note, we received another satisfying outdoor book, of which I’ve owned/read previous issues. Mountainneering, Freedom of the Hills, Ed. 7, is the climbing version of The Complete Walker IV. It doesn’t get as detailed into specific products, although it does delve into the subject of gear quite extensively. If you climb, it’s also a book you should buy. Do it.

On to my confession. Reading these books, as well as many others and magazines, I’ve found that I am always getting excited about some new (or very old) piece of equipment, or facet of the outdoors, that I need to involve myself with, in order to “complete my outdoor gear closet”. I think that then I will finally be able to just pay for gas as the trip’s only cost. I’ll be totally geared up in preparation for the adventure. I’m finally coming to the conclusion, by reading from other outdoor geeks, and through several years now into the obsessions, that I will never ever be done buying gear. Ever. Any fool could have told me this from the beginning, but what one has to understand about a gearhead is that they rationalize like crazy. Part of spending money on gear (and how it’s so easy to do it) is that you always think that whatever you are buying is bringing your arsenal to perfection, or at least bringing it way closer. And it does for a while (or a really long while depending on the piece of equipment) do a very good job at bringing success and a great deal of fun to a series of outdoor adventures. But myself, the gearhead, has to realize that I’ve essentially brought myself into a life-long commitment of buying new gear. It’s part of the sport. For many of us the gear is just as much part of the fun as the sport itself. I’m going on and on, but my basic confession is that I am coming to grips with myself, in that I will never be done with this. I am a gearhead, and I admit it. And I like it. Anybody want to go to REI?

P.S. (If one can P.S. on a blog in proper etiquette) One could worry by reading this entry, that I will be getting myself in trouble with my beautiful new wife by spending all our money on outdoor pursuits. Not so. Part of owning gear is that it must be owned. If you owe, it’s no fun. Saving up for something and paying cash makes it all the more tasty. The last thing you want on the trail is to be thinking of when some payment is due. Gearheads, after some lessens, can be responsible. :)

Monday, March 13, 2006

This week is a little sad. It’s the first time in the past five years that I am not spending the week in Moab, UT. I could technically take a Spring Break, even though I’m not in school, because my students are all away, but since Alison and I just went to CA, and plan on making a trip to CO for Casey and Sarah’s (two good friends of ours) wedding in May, we decided to save the money it would cost to make it down to the red rock goodness of UT. My bikes are sitting in my apartment (with only the Surly being fully functional; I’ve had lots of maintenance issues as of late), wondering why they are not ascending the steep grades of the La Sal Mountains, or speeding down Porcupine Rim. My cams are in my closet, wondering why I still have never led any desert crack with them. My boots are also in the closet, wondering why they aren’t spending the nights sitting under a tent vestibule being entirely smelly and covered in red sand. And my taste buds are wondering why they won’t be getting any Scorpion Pale Ale from the Moab Brewery on St. Patrick’s Day, (of course after chowing on the best green chili in UT, from the Moab Diner). It’s a little sad. But Moab will be on the travel list in the future I’m sure. Maybe someday we’ll live closer, and it can be a regular playground.
On a perkier note, I have pictures from last week’s winter camping. No Moab, but fun nonetheless. Some people think winter campers are crazy. These people haven’t figured it out yet. We’re not crazy, we just have fun differently. We see the experience in a way that others do not. Edward wrote some words that made sense in an email to me the other day. I can’t remember his words exactly, but he stated that winter camping is not just “a cold experience” as most people would see it. But rather, it is a challenge to be overcome and adapted too. It’s amazing to see what situations you can enjoy. There is more to the outdoors than going to the lake during the calm warm summer. When you see and experience all that nature has to offer you can truly enjoy it (even if it scares you a little). Just be equipped, including gear and a calm attitude. Anyhow, here are a couple shots from our little snow-camp.

Diggin' for the mornings coffee...

I can't tell if Chris is at Turtle River or on Mt. Shasta again...

Not the face of a cold uncomfortable man...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Warming up and getting antsy...

Well our internet service finally works at the apartment. Only took three weeks delay. Good job UND. They still charged us of course. Anyhow, it works. The weather is getting significantly better around Grand Forks. Not flying-wise, of course, but moral wise. It’s not bitterly cold anymore, and Spring, or at least fake-out Spring (North Dakotans can tell you all about fake-out Spring) seems to be easing into place. I’m working on the Lemond (on our sweet new Park workstand- thanks Edward and Chris!) to get it ready for action once the roads dry. It needed a new freehub bad after the past 3,800 miles; it had the stock cheapo freehub that comes on the old Rolf Vectors (not a very nice wheel- flexy as ever, and scary on fast corners- good thing I’m not a racer). Someday the wheelset will be replaced, but for now, just the freehub. I’m getting quite excited for the change in seasons. Every Spring is like coming out of a hibernation cave for the locals of my town. Winter is just so very nasty here, and you spend most of your time inside, which obviously gets stuffy and causes much outdoor itchiness. Yes, a few winter adventures happen, but the frequent fresh air starts soon when the sun decides to make it all the way up into the sky, rather than follow it’s half-hearted arc across the southern horizon during winter. My friend Chris seems to be getting the outdoor impulses as well, and if I’m still around the area in a couple months, we’ll have to scheme up some trips to the North Shore of Lake Superior. I know Alison would like to use her pack and road bike more frequently too. The Lake Itasca trips should get somewhat regular as well, being as it’s good backpacking only two hours away, and of course the road bike laps on the park Wilderness Dr are always quality. Mmmm. I shouldn’t get myself too riled up though, there will still be a bit of waiting. But not as much, Summer is closer.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Two tall ones on ice...

Haven't been writing much lately. I still don't have an internet connection in our new apartment. The University is proving to be less than helpful despite our calls. It might get fixed someday. Anyhow, thanks for the 4 season tent parents! My buddy Chris and I spent last night in the wintery mix out at Turtle River State Park in the new Jensen family winter sleeper (an REI Mountain 2 tent). Good times. Another buddy of mine happens to be the assistant manager of the park now, so he came out and greeted us after we hiked in through the foot and a half of snow (the campground is closed except for crazies like us). So we stayed up 'till the wee hours chattin' in the snow, than took the tent for a test night. It was nice and toasty for the first half of the night, then I somehow slid my way off my ground pad, and with no more insulation from the ground I woke up a bit chilly. But all in all the system works fantastic, and winter wont stop the campin'. I'll have some pix if Chris emails then to me. If not, you'll have to use your imagination 'till next time.