Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vancouver Olympics inspires me to sit down for a while

It's funny how the Olympics can inspire nations of normally healthy people to give up exercising and spend a whole week sitting around watching athletes play hockey. I know that I spent the whole week doing very little actual physical activity while I was inspired by the best of the best athletes in the world. How ironic.

I also got to know a little more about our good Canadian friends up north. In the past, they have blended in with American culture, except for their occasional habit of saying "eh?" and always mentioning whether a person being talked about is Canadian or not (did you know the Barenaked Ladies are Canadian?). At the Vancouver Olympics, however, Canadians were out in force to reassert their national identity and prove that they could be just as loud and obnoxiously dressed as any American could be.
I spent several days this week up in Vancouver soaking in the warm glow of the Olympic spirit.
I watched the Canada/Czech semifinals hockey game in a bar down in Yaletown, just outside the hockey rink itself. When Canada won, the streets around the stadium filled with fans who high-fived strangers and spontaneously broke out into song and cheers. It was like being at a Halloween party where everyone around you decided to dress as a Canadian. I also wandered around town with some friend from North Vancouver for the weekend. They were critical of the spending for the Olympics for the last seven years, but while it is here, they are going to enjoy it as much as possible. Prepare for a national Canadian hangover on Monday, however.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Canyonlands in February

I visited Canyonlands yesterday with my father and step-mother, mainly because it is too snowy in Moab to mountain bike. However, with a high of 40 degrees and a beautiful sunny day, this was not a day to miss. We drove an hour and a half down the highway to the Needles district, stopped by to say hi to the lonely ranger at the Visitors Center, then set off on a day hike from Squaw Flat Campground to Chesler Park. We never saw another person all day. Needles was all ours.

The trail system in Needles District felt a bit more primitive than in other National Parks. We scrambled up and down a few steep ledges and drops that while capable of being handled by fit septuagenarians, definitely felt typically untrail-like. The winter season had erased some of the marks of the thousands of tourists of distant summers past, and patches of snow still languished across the trails along northern slopes and in other shady spots. The trails were well-marked with cairns, however, and every interesection was well-signed. Otherwise, I would have felt a bit disoriented as we traversed over low ridges and dropped into canyons and washes as our path meandered crazily across the park.

Arriving at Chesler Park, we discovered that much of the day had slipped away, and so we picked up our pace a little on our way back. To ensure that we would minimize any problems getting back before dark, we came back down the nice, wide Elephant Wash to reconnect with our outgoing trail and follow it back to the car rather than heading down the longer, as yet unexplored Big Spring Canyon. We realized that we did not have a flashlight along, and I hear it gets very cold and lonely in the canyon when the sun goes down. Our hike went smoothly, and we arrived back at the car at 4:30pm, then headed back to Moab for Thursday night burgers at the Moab Brewery. Total time: 6 hours; total distance: 12.5 miles.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Double AssKicker Cougar/Squak Trail Run

I've been playing around with my GPS to see what it would take to map some of my trail runs. Yesterday I did a favorite of mine, which we coined the "double asskicker" route on Cougar/Squak. The first couple climbs seem fine, but by the time I get to the third one, I'm worn out, and the last one really works me over. Here's the basic route:

From Redtown TH at Cougar, head up Cavehole trail. Turn R on the Coal Creek Falls. Turn L on Quarry. Turn R on Fred's. Turn L on Shy Bear. Turn L on Wilderness Peak.
Drop down Wilderness Cliffs Trail, then L on Squak Connector Trai down to highway.

Go L on highway for 100 meters and cross highway to Squak West Access Trail. Continue to follow this trail until it merges onto a larger road (I forget what it is called). Head R and continue to climb. Follow signs at this point to Central Peak.

At the peak, head down the gravel road for 200 meters and then take a L onto Summit Trail. Take a R on Phils Creek Trail and follow this trail contouring and descending south then west all the way to the South Access road. Turn L down the road and follow it almost all the way to the main road. When you can see the parking lot for the Squak Mtn Trailhead through the trees on the left (there are bathrooms there, by the way), turn R onto trail that says "Central Peak 3.2". If you go a little too far and turn R at the trail just beyond this one, you will end up doing a loop on a short interpretive trail.

Follow this trail (Bullit Gorge Trail) back up the mountain. There are a couple intersections where a right turn will take you quickly back to the South Access Road, whereas the left turn will keep taking you up the mountain. Stay left on these - they should probably be marked with a sign saying that the Central Peak is to the left. There is also one unmarked intersection 10 feet after crossing a bridge over a large creek in which you should turn right and head up the mountain, where a left turn takes you who knows where, probably eventually into a housing development or something.

Higher up, you will come across a sign for the Perimeter Loop Trail. Go L here, following the Perimeter Loop Trail around the west side of Squak West Peak. At the next intersection go L on Chybinski Loop Trail. After a very short uphill, this trail drops all the way back down to the
West Access Trail. Turn L and follow West Access Trail back down to the road.

Cross the highway back to Cougar Mountain and back up the Squak Connector Trail. At the intersection where you earlier turned onto the Connector Trail, go straight/leftish onto Wilderness Creek Trail, and stay R a short while later, heading back up Wilderness Creek. The trail climbs for a mile back up to the upper intersection of the Wilderness Peak/Wilderness Creek loop. Turn L here onto Long View. There are a couple of intersections with access trails that I do not remember very well. Stay on Long View (R at an intersection or two), then turn R on Deceiver, then follow this to Shy Bear. L on Shy Bear. L at intersections with Far Country Viewpoint. Drop down to Indian Trail road at bottom of hill. Turn R. Turn L at De Leo Wall Trail, then immediate R onto Wildside. L at junction a half mile further on with larger road, then continue fairly straight through many intersections, following signs for Wildside for another half mile. When trail exits onto gravel road/trail, jog L, then R onto trail again and go over creek. L onto another gravel road/trail which takes you quickly back to Redtown.

It is best to take the Greentrails map for Cougar and Squak. There is usually also a decent trail map at the trailhead for Cougar Mountain, but you will need the Greentrails map for Squak.

Total Distance: 19.5 miles (I added a little to GPS measurement of 18.7 miles due to small twists and turns on the trails that GPS doesn't pick up)

Total Elevation Gain/Loss: 5370 ft (verified by both GPS and altimeter watch)