Monday, December 28, 2009
2 day road trip to the coast. Today Carolina Beach, tomorrow...who knows. Here with Rob & Ralph. Great day of SUP surfing...all afternoon long...good rides in waist high, some bigger...found a couple of rare long peelers. Water mid 50s, sunny and air temps in low 50s. Strong offshore wind made it a bit challenging...note the spray off the wave above. More later...
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
In the last couple of months, I’ve gone on a Netflix tear with surfing related documentary films. I also caught a couple of other good non-surf films worth mentioning. So get out the popcorn...here goes...
Lets start with the latest windsurfing release that I bought on DVD…Four Dimensions. Long on quality, short on quantity. Even though the DVD has a lot of extra footage that bring the total DVD time to over 110 minutes, the actual movie itself was only 40 minutes and left me wanting more. But in that 40 minutes, there was some seriously great footage and high quality editing. My favorite part was the helicopter aerial footage of Victor Fernandez onshore backside wavesailing at Pozo.
The next three were my favorites of all the Netflix rentals I went through because of the amazing stories that were told.
Noah’s Arc -
This is the life story of Noah Snyder, an Outer Banks local who went on to a professional surfing career. The documentary follows Noah and how his eventual strong faith led to having a big impact on those around him, including his closest surfing friends, (including C.J. and Damian Hobgood, Jesse Hines, and Matt Beacham). Includes Outer Banks surfing and hurricane footage. An update on Noah here.
Bra Boys –
The story of the local Maroubra (Australia) surf gang known as the Bra Boys. Narrated by Russell Crowe, the film is centered around the three Abberton brothers who grew up in the Bra Boys gang and went on to become professional surfers. However, the story takes several dark turns that include a killing and the impact it had on the Abberton brothers and the Bra Boys. The film takes you through a lot of emotions as it was downright scary (violent fights), touching (family scenes particularly with their grandmother), and amazing (charging big waves). I’ve always been fascinated by aggro surf localism and what makes it tick (even though I don’t like it). This film shows probably some of THE most aggro surf localism in the world.
Zen and Zero –
Follows 5 Austrian surfers as they take a road trip from Los Angeles through Mexico and Central America all the way down to Costa Rica, finding waves along the way. The trip culminates with their quest to find Allen Weisbecker, author of the road trip surf classic, “Searching for Captain Zero” (which is one of my favorite reads and is THE book to read on any surf/windsurf related road trip where you’re roughing it). I loved this movie because of its road trip feel and scenes of Mexico and Central America that you just won’t get by flying in and out. If you read “Searching for Captain Zero”, then you must see this film.
The next three were also great but didn’t quite reach to the level of the other top three.
Imagine being on an Indo surf trip with Gerry Lopez, Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Rob Machado, and the Malloy brothers. Narrated by John Cusack, this film puts you right in the middle of that surf trip. It includes shortboard, longboard, stand up paddle, tow-in, and foil surfing. I can’t top this review that Distressed Mullet recently did of the movie.
Bustin Down the Door -
Narrated by Edward Norton (what’s up with the Hollywood actors narrating these surf films?), it follows the story of how Australian surfers Rabbit Bartholomew and Mark Richards and South African Shaun Tomson rose up the pro surf ranks back in the 70s. But the real story of the film is how they first hit the Hawaiian surf scene, started to win some contests there, then bragged about it in the surf mags and putting down the local Hawaiian surfers. This didn’t go over well with the locals and led to a blackballing of those surfers that included violence. Interesting story that I never heard before even though I knew who these surfers were.
Peel, the Peru Project -
A film by Wes Brown, who is the grandson of Bruce Brown (Endless Summer) and son of Dana Brown (Step Into Liquid). This follows four surf pros as they road trip Peru and hit its best surf breaks that includes Chicama, the longest left in the world. There is also very good footage of their foray to Machu Picchu.
Other movies I rented were “In God’s Hands”, a late 90s fictional movie about 3 surfers who search for the biggest wave. Interestingly enough, Maui watermen Derrick Doehner, Rush Randle, Pete Cabrinha, and Brian Keaulana play themselves in the movie and have extended parts. Shaun Tomson plays a surf photographer. There were some cheesy brooding scenes but somewhat entertaining nonetheless.
…and “The Decline: Lost Across America” - don’t bother with this one unless you like watching beer bong hits and dudes riding surf boards down stairs and putting holes in the wall with their heads…wasn’t what I thought it was going to be…just a big party surf movie and definitely wasn’t my style.
ESPN has been promoting sports documentary film with their “30 for 30” series. I happened to catch one of the movies that was about Jimmy the Greek. I grew up watching NFL Today on Sundays. It was the first and at the time, the only pre-game NFL show on TV before the advent of cable and we only had the big three networks. I still remember Brent Musberger, Irv Cross, Phyliss George, and Jimmy the Greek doing the weekly prognostication. This film brought back a lot of memories. It centered on the most colorful of the four, Jimmy the Greek and his rise to fame and his sad fall due to unfortunate racist comments he made to the press. A real rags to riches to rags story.
Finally, completely unrelated to surf documentaries…if you haven’t seen “Gran Torino”, go out and rent it now. You won’t be sorry especially if you’re a Clint Eastwood fan, which I am. He directs and stars in this movie. Eastwood is just about 80 years old and he’s still killing it. Loved this movie.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Some of the local crew, Alan and Donald, made it down to Fort Fisher for some wavesailing. I got out late on the lake on Wednesday before sunset...lots of folks out but were packing it up when I got there. It was gustier than usual on the lake. I was on a 4.6 but struggling to get dialed in since it was either 15 or 35mph and not much in between. Here's a little ditty...
Outer Banks was firing. Andy's session here and Bill's session here.
...and Hawaii was more than epic. It dominated the surf news all week and even showed up on ESPN SportsCenter. Here's a collection of the action...
If you haven't seen footage from the Eddie contest, you have to check this out...congrats to winner Greg Long...
And thanks to GP for posting these videos...
More...slow motion Peahi (Jaws)...watch it big screen...
Billabong video of Peahi:
...and great pics here.
...and Pipe Masters is going on now.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Pics are of Rob. He and I were on 8.0s and slalom boards in WSW then W 15mph wind on Lake Norman on Black Friday.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Big thanks to Josh at Windsurfing Magazine for taking it to use in the mag's e-newsletter and as a wallpaper background download from the magazine's website.....and some comments about the event here.
I took the picture with my Sanyo Xacti waterproof 720p HD camcorder, that also happens to take 9 megapixel pictures. Maybe not quite a good enough camera to use for high quality print use but good enough for web/pc use. By comparison, you can tell the difference in (I think Keith McCulloch took this pic) this pic. It's the same day, same location (Old Lifeguard Beach), and same sailor...but taken with a much higher quality camera with better resolution. But once in a while a squirrel finds a nut and I really like the pic I took even though the resolution isn't as good...probably the best I've ever taken...sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
On the other side of that equation (someone who IS good), congratulations to Janis Markopoulos for her awesome pics in Windsurfer International Magazine, along with George's great article....nice Hatteras coverage and always good to see. They have many more pics for viewing...linked from George's blog. Big thanks again to Janis for taking all those pics of everyone and sharing them.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Island Free Press updates on Highway 12 closure due to this week's storm - Includes many pictures and video
OBX Bill post with local pics
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
...and then I windsurfed in Ida's remains. First time sailing at Beattys Ford access on the west side of Lake Norman in the NE wind. Fully powered (mostly) on 5.5 and nice lovely ramps. I say that even though I'm not a good jumper...but I did have a couple of good airs as it was hard not to since sailing at Beatties Ford provides for a very long fetch to the NE. My first 1/2 hr out there it was almost perfect consistent wind. Then the gusts and lulls started to hit. But all in all a very good day on the lake. I barely even noticed the driving rain since I wore my Gath helmet. Water was relatively warm too. I started out solo but Raceboard Dude (Jeff) came out. Now I know why Raceboard Dude is called Raceboard Dude. He had his race board and race sail dialed in and was crankin' it out there with some serious speed. Sorry no pics...but stoked just the same.
THANK YOU VETERANS!!!
Sunday, November 8, 2009
A couple of weeks ago, we visited friends at High Rock Lake and got their kids on the stand up paddle boards with my daughter...they loved it even though it was a brisk fall day and the water was cold.
Fast forward to this weekend...beautiful, sunny, and 70s. My wife was out of town and I had daddy duty (1 min video...go here to see it in full HD)...
Friday, October 30, 2009
This is a short video of 4 inland and lake bound windsurfers still learning how to surf their stand up paddle boards in some fun small waves on a beautiful sunny and early fall day. It includes some footage of the local wildlife as well. This took place between 2 windy bookends to our week's adventure that included the Hatteras Wave Jam. See the "Hatteras Island Windsurfing Fall 2009" video for the rest of the week, which includes some footage of us doing some light wind wavesailing on our SUP boards.
Laird Hamilton said in Endless Summer 2, (paraphrasing) "I'd rather surf in 2 foot waves with my friends than surf in 20 foot waves with a bunch of jerks". And Dave Kalama said something similar in Step Into Liquid about surfing small waves. Cheers to that. And cheers to the big waves too of course. It's all good.
Oh, and by the way...if you don't like The Clash, there is something seriously wrong with you.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Resting between runs - couple of shots at one of the lake's islands
Rob and his purty new sail...
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
This is a video compilation of our Hatteras Island adventure in late Sept/early Oct before it got cold and wetsuits were required.
- Some of the video is from the new Sanyo Xacti HD waterproof camera. HD is a whole new ball of wax when it comes to editing. If you don't have the proper PC specs (like a $6,000 machine) which I don't, it can be a nightmare editing a final cut. Combining HD footage with regular digital avi footage (GoPro) can also be an editing nightmare when rendering. I spent way too many late nights troubleshooting these problems, lots of format conversions, error messages, restarts, etc...and I'm not completely happy with the outcome...you can see how the video is "boxed" in...I didn't have much of a choice. Click to the actual Vimeo link for the video and it shows up better for viewing. I have to rethink this whole HD thing and the editing hw/sw I have.
- Some of you aren't in the video. Sorry about that George, Ken, and Bill. Either we were on the beach at the same time and you weren't on the water when filming or the camera didn't get focused on you for various odd reasons....we just didn't have any good footage of you...sorry about that. This video comes from footage taken by Rob, Mark, and myself...and from Go Pro, Sanyo Xacti HD, and regular DV footage.
- It was a great week...period. Andy already commented on how we wrapped it up....tearing it up out in the sound under the moonlight after the sun had already gone down. That was a great experience. But what a week....it was still mostly sunny, 70s, mostly in boardshorts, wavesailing, bump & jump windsurfing, speed sailing, SUP wavesailing, along with SUP surfing in fun small waves and crystal clear water. And we participated in the Hatteras Wave Jam, which was a lot of fun...thanks again Bill!
Always looking forward to the next Hatteras trip...
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
one is waterproof up to 5 ft deep....
and the other is weather-proof (not submersible)....
both are used but in very good working condition....both also take 6 megapixel stills.
Friday, October 2, 2009
From l to r: Rob Cornwell, Mac Barnhardt, Mark Pace, Ralph Moore (photo from Rob's camera)
Wednesday and Thursday were our stand up paddle surfing days of the week here on Hatteras Island. Both days Rob, Mark, Ralph, and I paddled and surfed for hours and caught tons of waves. Its been beautiful blue sky sunny 70s days with knee to waist high waves at The Old Lighthouse Beach. The water was crystal clear. We saw several bluefish schools feeding on baitfish, dolphin jumping around, and a ray that was as wide as my paddle is long. Here is a quick 20 sec GoPro clip of me on one of the waves in front of the lighthouse....
Rob has some great photos here and video here.
...and George just posted some great pics from Day 2 of the Hatteras Island Wave Jam here that really depict the fun day we had.
Looks like back to windsurfing this afternoon....
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I have some good pics and video but it will take a while to sort through it all. In the meantime, here is a 1:40 minute teaser video...
First of all, big thanks to Bill for organizing and putting on the Hatteras Wave Jam Festival. Thanks to Andy for the wavesailing clinic and other festival responsibilities. And also big thanks to Janis Markopoulos for taking literally thousands of photos from the beach....she is very talented.
Here we are in the beautiful Outer Banks....and loving it. By our landlubbing standards, it's been an awesome week already and its still early in the week. There was no easing into the week. We began at the Hatteras Wave Jam Festival. Most of us missed the Friday action as we were arriving that evening but we got there in time for Andy's excellent wavesailing 101 clinic. I did however, arrive on Hatteras Island in time to grab a quick 30-40 minute sesh at Canadian Hole on a 4.6 as it got dark and before heading over to the clinic. Great group photo here after we scored some swag from the contest sponsors.
Saturday was contest day and a good opportunity for us lesser experienced wavesailors to get some more wave time. The winds were ESE so that put us on the south facing beaches at The Bath House in Frisco. It was side onshore winds with some decent sized waves. I was powered up on a 5.4 with some shlogging. It was a "first" day for me as I helped judge and score a heat and I sailed in a heat making it my first ever wavesailing competition. The heat was 20 minutes long which seemed like an eternity. I scored 4 decent waves in fairly quick succession and came in thinking surely time had run out. Andy and the judges were yelling at me that I had 5 more minutes! My heart was beating out of my chest (hey, lets see other landlubbing lake sailors get out there!) and I looked back out in the water, only to see my 3 heat mates down in the wash in a wind lull and trying to slog back out. So I stayed put. Perhaps I could have scored another wave....but then again maybe not. But let me tell you....even though it wasn't the greatest conditions by the locals' standards, it was pure fun and good to get some more time in the waves. My confidence level went up a notch also considering there was some serious current running on the inside.
Some of us went on to Canadian Hole for a late afternoon 20mph offshore ESE sesh in the sound. That evening, Bill brought the cookout and awards there. It was a good time had by all and we even had a blogger group photo (here). The Long Island blogger contingent was obviously missing....maybe next year we'll all be on OBX at the same time for a bigger photo. Sunday was a no wind lazy day but we ended up having a party at our house and had a great time with many of the visitors and locals from the Hatteras Wave Jam.
Monday brought SW 20-30mph winds and sunny 80 degrees. We started in the sound on 5.4s and found some great outside ramps and swell riding. We got Andy's message to stop dilly dally'an and get our butts down to Old Lifeguard Beach for more wavesailing. So we did...and boy did we. We rigged 5.4s and hit the water. There was more shorebreak to deal with, a warbly inside wash, then some big wave peak sections to get through to the outside. On the outside, it was choppy with good sized swell. I would sail back, thinking I was starting out on a nice wave, working upwind on the swell and taking my time to then go down the line....only to go down the line and the wave disappeared.
I think we got there a little late and the high tide broke up the longer lines. From our crew, Donald and Alain caught some good wave rides. Once again, it appears wave selection is my biggest area of needed improvement. I felt a little better later when some of the locals were saying their good wave rides were out of sheer luck due to the conditions, and they couldn't tell if they were even on a good wave until well after they were on it. Then the wind picked up a notch. We went for some more rides out and back. Rob, Alain, Donald, and I all got worked pretty hard in the wash. I think I recall saying something last year after the Punta San Carlos trip that I needed to go pay some dues at Hatteras. Well, I did....and took several on the head....just remembering to hold that mast tip and keeping myself between the gear and the waves. Finally got back to the beach however, and watching the locals...Andy, Keith, Olaf, Donny, and Stuart....they were killing it. Fun to watch.
Ken Kellar, Rob Cornwell, and the Lighthouse
Our crew packed it up and headed back to the sound for a killer sunset 4.6 bump and jump session that went well after the sun went down. It turned into a moonlight session as the moon had come up right as the sun went down. Sweet.
Rob has some more pics and a quick post here.
Tuesday morning, it was an hour powered up on 8.0 for some moderate NW wind. Then it was on to the Bath House beach again in Frisco for some side side-off light wind wavesailing. We all started out on floaty shortboards but it was too light. Only Ken stuck with his floaty shortboard while the rest of us got out the secret weapons - stand up paddle boards with mast tracks. It was like a conveyor belt of waveriding. We caught so many waves it was ridiculous. Good times.
We have forged new friendships this week with many people we only knew of through the blogs. It was great to finally meet so many people in person and have real live conversations with them. I talked to my wife on the phone and told her I was with "my people". I'm looking forward to more gatherings.
Looks like the next couple of days are going to be very light wind so it could be stand up paddle surfing on tap. More time on the water...
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
In the meantime, I've still been getting time on the water by way of stand up paddling and its keeping me in decent shape. SUP has been a great no wind alternative that keeps me on the water and is an outstanding core workout. Now my daughter is going out with me which is great that we've found something else we can do together. She is using my old Original Windsurfer and an adjustable SUP paddle I got for friends to use. Now its "hers" and she's getting really good now. Rob and I have been getting in some sunrise and sunset sessions.
We have also found other locals who paddle and have started to go out with them on some group paddles.
We also have a new SUP shop in the area...check it out.
Here is the video of the Intracoastal SUP race last May. Rob and I make an appearance in it...
Coastal Urge is putting on another race on Sept 26...
but I may be at this...
...and another SUP race in Charleston in October. Man its going to be fun this fall.
Monday, August 24, 2009
This photo was taken by Hayne Palmour IV at Wrightsville Beach, NC and was posted on Surfline.
Is that a wave or what?
Click here to go check out the other 300+ photos from other east coasters who experienced the Hurricane Bill swell. This is where I found that awesome photo posted by Mr. Palmour. There are pics from the Outer Banks and other spots all up and down the east coast from the weekend.
Click here for some other Hurricane Bill pics that Surfline highlighted.
...and I found this video of Hurricane Bill surfing on the Outer Banks (Kitty Hawk)
Monday, August 17, 2009
I met some of the other local sailors, including Kevin from Sunset Sailboards. Everyone was great. They must have been trying to make a real good impression on me because someone handed me a beer (thanks Jacob!) after we came off the water. Well....it worked! Seriously though, I was already all smiles when I came off the water...but the beer was definitely a bonus. Afterwards, we drove over to Candlestick Park to check out the flat water freestyle action there.
Big thanks to Aaron for going out of his way to pick me up, taking me back to my friends (and saving me a ton on taxi cab costs), for loaning me his gear, and taking me to sail together at one of his local spots. Oh...and by the way, I find it interesting that on Aaron's site, he says "I'm a bad windsurfer who just moved to San Francisco". He is no longer a "bad" windsurfer and is now ripping. He's working on some new advanced moves but I won't spoil the surprise and let him tell you once he's nailed it.
Thanks to that sesh, I was relaxed for the rest of our stay and it was a great rest of our stay with my friends. We played in the city, went for a tour of some of Sonoma and Napa's finest wineries, ate some incredible food, and got in some awesome hiking in the Marin headlands. Here are a few pics and a real quick 1 min video of some of the best views in the area.
The only decent shot of windsurfing I was able to get (other than a couple of long distance shots below). This is Kevin at Candlestick.
Highway 1 at Muir Beach Overlook looking north...we lucked out on the sunny days and little fog while we were there.
the mandatory tourist stop at Pier 39 to check out the always fun sea lions
Tennessee Cove in Marin County...one of the highlights of our hike
We stayed on a houseboat in Sausalito...this was our view of Mt. Tamalpais from the hot tub
I never get tired of this view
That was a big container ship....after he got into the bay, I watched as a windsurfer and a kiter both "wavesailed" forever "down the line" on the ship's wake
Click on these shots to check out the action out in the bay...this was the view from the Marin County side looking back towards the city and Crissy Field
Saturday, August 8, 2009
New windsurfing video coming in September from Andre Paskowski, Jose Gollito Estredo and co....here's the official trailer. I love the effects...these guys have been putting out some sweet footage last couple of years.
Click here to see the official trailer.
...and Trudy Lary put out another great compilation of hardcore Gorge action with the Poor brothers, Wyatt Miller, and co. You've seen the pictures of Dale Cook getting massive air in the magazines...now see it on video...he's literally hanging in the air.
On the other end of the hardcore video spectrum, check out Windy Waters for the summary of our hilarious madcap adventure last week. Yes, I've returned to windsurfing after taking a hiatus to the mountains and had a great hour of speed slalom sailing on the lake until the storms came....here's the rest of the story with some video of our swim across the lake....all still in good spirits.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
I put together 2 videos of our recent epic Colorado trip, about 7 minutes apiece, and tried to convey the feel of the moments we had through the music, the footage, and some special effects play. In the "No Guts No Glory" video of our Longs Peak attempt, you'll see it's a fairly dramatic interpretation of that day.
I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed putting them together. Turn up the volume!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
...It started out as a sort of bucket list item, casually discussed amongst some friends. It soon turned real when some of them actually committed to it and started the planning. There was no turning back.
These friends are ones I've known for over 20 years. They were college and rugby mates of mine and we've kept in close touch ever since, gathering for reunions once or twice a year, along with several others from that crazy motley crew.
One of them, Neil, has been living in Colorado for a while. I've been out there skiing a few times with him but up until his wedding almost 2 years ago, I had not spent any warm weather time out there. So John, Tom, and I commit to joining Neil in a 5 day Colorado backcountry summer adventure. But wait....John, Tom, and I are sea level east coasters. The plan was to go hiking and camping into the backcountry for 3 days between 9,000 - 12,000 ft elevation and wrap it up with an attempt to summit Longs Peak, one of the most technical 14,000 ft climbs in Colorado.
The 2 months leading up to the trip consisted of a lot of biking, yoga, stand up paddling, and practice hikes with a 50 lb backpack where I could find some decent climbs. The final week leading up to departure consisted of taking a daily aspirin and uncomfortably drinking a lot of water to thin the blood and proactively combat altitude sickness. If I had not done all that, I most certainly would have been in trouble. It turns out us east coasters all did surprisingly well with the altitude, but had underestimated the pucker factor of climbing Longs Peak. Maybe it was better we didn't really know what we were in for.
After arriving late morning on our 1st day, we go for a short 2 hour hike in the hills of Lyons, CO followed by some river tubing down the St Vrain. We got the impression it would be a lazy river ride since we took a bag of beers and had on flip flops. This was the first real indication we got that when Neil says, "Hey, lets go check that out", it means you might want to turn around and go back from whence you came. His lovely wife warned us but we were like, "yeah...whatever".
The hike was more like a Lewis & Clark bushwhacking trek....cactus and all. And we weren't 100 yards down the river and all of us except Neil were already falling off our tubes, getting dunked, losing our flip flops, sunglasses, and beers down the river....DOH!!! The river wasn't so lazy after all....at least not lazy enough to chill with a brew in one hand. We had to actually focus on the river. But of course, thanks to Neil, it was a great adventure and was also his secret mad cap way to get us slowly acclimated to the altitude before we set off into the backcountry the next day.
One of the many waterfalls along the way
The next morning, we're packed and off for a big early morning breakfast in Nederland before hitting the trailhead. We entered the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area in Roosevelt National Forest by way of the Hessie Trailhead. We followed the Devils Thumb Trail up in elevation approx 6.5 miles the first day, had lunch by Jasper Lake, and set up camp right under the Devils Thumb peak and next to Devils Thumb Lake.
Devils Thumb...you can barely make out our tents at the bottom
Now, Neil is not into the whole Ramen noodles and freeze dried packs for camp eating. He brought the good stuff and we ate good. Our meals consisted of chicken, red peppers, onions, seasoning/spices, bacon/eggs, coffee, pork fried rice and veggies, sausage, cheese, sandwiches, etc. However, with all this food, we had to be extra vigilant about cleaning up well after eating and putting all food related items into the "bear bag". This included anything else that had odors...such as toothpaste. We would tie the bag high up between two trees far away from camp.
I suppose a bear could have still taken down the bag if he really tried hard enough, but at least it wouldn't be near us. For some strange reason, the bear warnings didn't really bother me. The biggest thing I was worried about was the lightning. Lightning is the number one killer of hikers/climbers in Colorado each summer, particularly as you get above the tree line and are left so exposed to the weather. There is always a good chance of some afternoons thunderstorms rolling across those mountains and the weather can change in an instant. We fortunately had great weather...not one rain drop until we were almost off the trail on our 3rd day. The days consisted of high 70s and it fell into the 40s at night.
John, Tom, Mac - heading up towards the Continental Divide
Our 2nd day consisted of hiking up and over the Continental Divide on the High Lonesome Trail. I looked up a description of this trail. It read "traverse across the western exposure of the Continental Divide to Rollins Pass. Rock cairns mark the intermittent path across the delicate alpine tundra. Cleverly camouflaged ptarmigan can frequently be discovered upon close examination of the lichen covered tundra rocks." OK....that was what I was going to say, but simply put, it was absolutely beautiful. There were wildflowers everywhere. It made you want to spin around in circles and sing, "The hills are alive, with the sound of....". OK, maybe not, but we talked about it. It was wild seeing snow everywhere along the way. Some sections of eastern facing snowpack never melt. They say you can stand on top of the Continental Divide to pee and it will end up on the west coast or the east coast. Do you want to pee on California? Or do you want to pee on North Carolina?
Hiking down High Lonesome Trail towards Kings Lake Trail. We would later come back up this steep trail to watch the Continental Divide sunset.
Along the way, we found hours old bear scat....hmmm, interesting...and a mental note that we better keep a look out. We ventured down Kings Lake Trail to check out Bob and Betty Lakes. Since Bob Lake had an actual iceberg floating in it, it seemed only natural that we would go for a dip in the water. The very frigid water. Of course, this was soon after Neil said, "hey, lets go check that out". Shrinkage doesn't even begin to describe the experience. It was so cold, our feet were burning. Did I mention there was a freaking iceberg? But we got somewhat clean from all the trail dust and felt refreshed afterwards. We ventured back to Kings Lake to set up camp.
After setting up camp and having another great dinner, we saddled up to Kings Lake to see if we could get a bite on the fishing rod Neil brought. Tom was unsuccessful the day before trying to lure some fish on Devils Thumb Lake. John and I settled back on a large boulder to watch and take in the view. All of a sudden, I saw a bear running up the trail past our camp. He was already a far distance away. I yelled for the others to look up and see the "BEAR!!". The bear stopped on the trail, turned around, stood up on his hind legs and looked at us. I guess he didn't like what he saw because he turned back around and took off in the opposite direction up and over a rocky hill. Neil estimated the bear's height standing up around 8 feet...not a small one. Wow, that was excitement enough for the day.
Since we had the Neil "hey, lets go check that out" afternoon jaunt to Bob Lake and its iceberg, we were to be later introduced to John's "hey, have to see the sunset" jaunt. Now, I thought I was into sunsets. John takes it to a whole new level. At his behest, we hiked back up over 1,000 feet elevation, and back up to the top of the Continental Divide to watch the sunset. It was worth my heart literally beating out of my chest...really. Not a lot of people can say they've sat on the top of the Continental Divide and watched the sunset. Thanks John for pushing us to go. We hiked back down in the dark and with our headlamps on...calling out to Mr Bear.
Continental Divide sunset (photo from Neil)
With all the "jaunts" and circles we did, we ended hiking approx 9 miles on the 2nd day. The 3rd day was an easy hike 6 miles down the trail, into the valley, and back to the car. Even though we had eaten well on the trail, we were eager for some grub and brews in town. As Tom said, we were going to "eat like Vikings". Nederland or "Ned" as the locals like to say, is a cool little mountain town and we found our little oasis at Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery. Incidentally, Ned is the home of the "Frozen Dead Guy Days" Festival. Yeah...we were thirsty. As we started getting too relaxed, we remembered that the real big day was tomorrow and we needed to get some rest. We would wake up at 4am the next morning and be hiking by 5am with headlamps on to begin our journey up Longs Peak at 14,000 ft and a 15 mile roundtrip day.
6am - sunrise
Neil, Tom, and John with Longs Peak in the background with the sunrise light on it
We weren't even halfway up the mountain when my back stiffened up. So much so that I was really beginning to question if I could finish this thing. The last thing I wanted was for my back to have a spasm, lock up, those guys having to carry me down the mountain, and me spending the next few days in bed not being able to fly home. We weren't even to the real hard parts of the climb yet. It was getting colder and windier as we progressed higher up the mountain. We stopped for a short break. I took a deep breath and started into what I now affectionately refer back to as the "quitters speech". "Hey guys, here's the deal...my lower back is acting up and...blah, blah, blah". Those guys....god bless 'em....they looked me right in the eye and told me it was my decision. Dammit!! I stretched and decided to go a little further and see how it felt.
Beginning to enter the Boulder Field. Longs Peak to the left and the "Keyhole" to the right.
Well, it must have been adrenaline. It must have been the thoughts of regret in not having finished. It must have been the thought back as to one of the reasons I came to do this in the first place...to see what I was made of. We started to cross the infamous Boulder Field. A rocky wasteland...strewn with boulders the size of cars one after another and everywhere you stepped...you had to hike/climb over them. The hiking poles were now a liability for the rest of the way up, so away they went into our day packs.
Tom in the Keyhole shelter
We ventured through the "Keyhole"...literally an opening like a keyhole into the backside of Longs Peak. As you cross it, you enter the "Ledges". The Ledges is where you cross horizontally, then down and up across the very steep backside of Longs Peak. Now would not be a good time to find you're afraid of heights. The pucker factor really started to set in. There were a couple of sections that if you did not get your footing and hands just right, it would have been a very long and steep drop down the trough. At one point, Tom asked me how my back was doing. My reply, "I have no $#&*ing idea". I couldn't feel a thing. My mind raced through many different emotions and questioning myself...what in the world was I doing. We had to stay mentally alert and focus completely on every single step and rock we were climbing.
John & Tom - "This is crazy, this is crazy" - the final steep trough up to the top. Yes, it was as long and steep as it looks.
The four of us took our time and eventually made the steep climb up the final trough of the Ledges section. We were almost there. At the very top, it plateaus at 14,000 ft and opens up into a section called the Narrows just below the summit. At this point, the clouds were rolling in. It started to snow, sleet, and the wind wasn't letting up. Another climber was coming back down at this section (and had a helmet on!). He stopped to tell us it was precipitating and making for slick conditions on the Narrows and the final push up to the summit. As the crow flies, we were approx 200 ft away. The Narrows is another "ledge" at the top of a steep drop off with zero room for error. Its very exposed and the fact that it was slick and wet didn't bode well. Plus, more dark clouds were headed in our direction and it would take us a couple of hours to get back below the tree line. We had to think of our safety...I know, what a concept at this point. People have died at this spot. The four of us decided together this was a good time to turn around. We sat at the top point between the Ledges and the Narrows and got one last good look at the view. We had made it to 14,000 feet and felt like we made a huge accomplishment....with no regret of not pushing that final 200 ft.
Me, John, and Tom at the top...almost (photo from Neil)
It was around 11:30am and we still had to go back down 7.5 miles. We couldn't lose our focus climbing down the Ledges. It was just as much of a pucker factor going down as going up. On the way down, we passed some people who didn't seem well equipped to be on the Ledges, much less getting to the summit. You don't want to be on the Ledges or higher after 12noon when the likelihood of thunderstorms increases. As we continued on down, we passed a High Mountain Rescue member climbing up...fast...like a combo of mountain goat and Spider Man. He had someone on the radio and said he going up to rescue someone. I guess we missed this person in distress since we didn't get to the summit...or that person was climbing the more difficult vertical face on the other side. Sadly, as I'm writing this several days later, I discovered that a man did die that morning of a heart attack. He was apparently just past the Narrows at the Homestretch to the summit. If we had pushed on to the summit, we would have come across him and the people already there giving him CPR. They were right around the corner from us and we didn't even know it. From reading the newspaper account, it doesn't appear we would have been able to do anything as others were already there performing CPR in vain.
Sign in the parking lot...we didn't see it that morning since it was dark
The final 3 miles down seemed like forever as our legs were just about to give up. The sun was out again, the wind was getting blocked by the trees, and it started to get hot. However, looking back at the top of Longs Peak, we could see the clouds still rolling through very fast with the heavier wind at that higher elevation. We stepped down into the parking lot right at 3pm and it started to rain heavily. We wrapped the day back in Lyons with a great dinner and brews at Oskar Blues Brewery, home of Dale's Pale Ale among others (the Gordon Pale Ale was excellent).
Thanks to Neil for setting everything up, getting the permits, doing the planning, preparing all the camp supplies and food, and for being our fearless guide. Thanks to his bride, Connie, for the great hospitality and putting up with three stinky guys in their home. And thanks to Neil, John, and Tom for the complete experience we shared together and an adventure we'll never forget. When you're out of your mind hugging a rock at 14,000 ft, its nice to know you can look your friends in the eye and you know they've got your back.
Neil, John, Mac, Tom