Monday, May 2, 2011

Weather Snob

“I feel like I’m cheating at life,” my friend, Ben said to me, as we were about to drop into a steep untracked bowl at A-Basin after a short hike from the top of the lift.  I nearly keeled over in hysterical laughter.  I knew what he meant.  We were standing on the top of ridge, snowy peaks in all directions, hours into an afternoon of snowboarding in surprisingly excellent conditions.  That day we left the dry and dusty Western Slope, where we had been running and biking on luscious, desert trails for three weeks and now we were on top of the world with fresh snow.  It was fairly ridiculous, but cheating at life???  

Since there are no rules, I would disagree that one could cheat at life, but we might be cheating the seasons.  After six years of high country dwelling, this year I was ready and able to snub mud season.  Colorado's diverse landscapes make it easy, once I learned the weather patterns for different regions.  In a very short drive one can go from blizzardy paradise to sunny and 70°.  Having everything I own with me and fully supplied with gas, food and water at all times, allows me to find an awesome spot and then just stay there and take it for all it is worth until I’m over it or run out of something essential (like water or coffee).

Big Papa joins Camp Fancy-Free
This trip was especially luxurious as two friends, that I worked with this winter, joined me in their brand-new-to-them camper.  A kitchen and living room took the lifestyle to a new level of ridiculousness.  One month ago, we met up in Boulder, waited out a storm for a few days, ran on some trails, then caravanned to Moab

“What trails did you ride in Moab?” a hitch-hiker asked, while giving him a short ride.  “Uh, like, all of them,” Ben responded.   We spent about two weeks in the Moab area  and covered a lot of ground.  We slept mostly at trailheads and  would get up run or ride on a new trail, take a break, and then find another one.  Some were way beyond my biking capabilities,  so I would hide my bike behind a rock and then run the rest of it.  It was so fun.  Moab is giant playground.  Of course, we didn’t really ride all the trails, (there seems to be an endless supply) but we got around. 

Moab's Slickrock Trail
While in Moab, I ran a 9-mile race.  I had done the same race last year, when passing through on my way from Denver to South Lake Tahoe (where I spent last mud season).  While doing the same race course usually does not appeal to me, this one was especially fun, so I was excited to do it again and could not pass up the opportunity to do a race when I was there anyways.  The course was so fun (complete with a waist-high creek crossing and super-steep muddy ladder to the finish) that after an hour break Ben and I rode the same course on our bikes.  Running it was way easier for me. 

Tearing ourselves away from Moab was not easy but I was pumped for another race the following weekend in Fruita, Colorado.  Not knowing what to expect from Fruita, I made the couple hour drive eastward two days before the race.  Upon arriving, I instantly was overjoyed by the beauty.  While still deserty, it was a whole other kind of beautiful than Moab.  Less red rock and more green.  Very green with little purple and red flowers popping up before my eyes.  My excitement for the race and Fruita increased ten-fold and I had to hold back from the trails as I wanted to take it easy before the race. 

Finish line of a breathtaking course.
A couple days later I ran a 25-mile race on a spectacular loop.  The course climbed up and down the green, flower-covered hills, teetered on the edge a steep canyon walls, and towered above the Colorado River.  I was happy with my slow, sustained effort and just overjoyed to be running that far on dry trails this time of year.  After the race, I met back up with my cohorts and we found a trailhead to sleep at in preparation for the next days’ adventures. 

My recovery day from the race included a 12-15 mile (?) super-technical hike/run through two canyons that led to second highest concentration of arches outside of Arches National Park.  It was magnificent and exhausting.  We rested the remainder of the day, resupplied the following day, and headed to the North Fruita Desert area. 

The map showed a lot to trails in the area, but I had no idea, we were entering another paradise.  This area is another mountain biking playground, complete with a free campground and well-marked trails…everywhere.  The first trail I rode down, was the most fun trail I have ever rode on.  We stayed there until we ran out of water five days later. 

With no plans except for another race in a couple of weeks, we spent another night near Fruita trying to decide our next move.  Stay in this paradise or head to the high country paradise where it was dumping snow.  When it started raining we decided to head for the hills.  The rain made us realize how lucky we had been with the weather for three weeks.  Virtually perfect.  Warm and mostly overcast the whole time.  When the clouds would go away I realized it would be too hot without them.

After taking advantage of National Parks Week with a free rainy drive through Colorado National Monument, we passed another awesome looking network or trails, making plans for next time.  We spent the rainy afternoon in Grand Junction and then traveled eastward on I-70, stopping to sleep at very scenic rest area.  Sun the next morning was a pleasant surprise and we quickly made it into the high country and got in a few hours of incredible snowboarding before it started snowing again. 

Back in the hills, where we can do something with the precipitation.
We stayed up there, sleeping at spot 5-7 miles away from A-Basin, for a couple days as it continued to dump snow.  Then headed down to Denver via a stop at the dry trails of Matthew Winters Park for a run around the loop.  I’ve now been in Denver for a few days, relaxing and enjoying the greenness that has overtaken the city since I left it a month ago. 

Weather is just another thing to be snobby about.  While I can enjoy whatever conditions I find myself in, I thoroughly enjoy the freedom to mix and match.  I turn my nose up at mud, blazing heat, and above all, humidity.  Why sit around waiting for the rain to stop, when only a short drive away the rain is rideable snow and vice versa?  Weather can be added to the all-encompassing list of things that I am a snob about.