Sunday, February 28, 2010

Friday was a day of adventure! Big snow in West Virginia beckoned and we went for it. The wind was blowing hard and Adam's all-wheel drive engine was missing the same fashion, so we made a detour to Auto Zone. With the three of us amped to ski we did a Nascar worthy spark plug swap in the parking lot. Moving on, we tried to take a tiny back-road shortcut where we found the above pictured skunks. The road appeared as though no one had driven it in a week but the skunks were in the middle flopping around... we thought "oh no, they have just been hit". At a safe distance we stopped the car and got out for a look. We were relieved to find they were not hit, but merely expressing their love skunk style. We had not disturbed them, and when they broke up one headed straight towards me. I was a little scared, but he veered off and I did not get sprayed (although there was a lingering stink in the air).

At the top of the deserted pass we found the other side had not been plowed since before the big storm, so we turned around and continued our scenic tour.

We tightened the lug-nuts when the wheel started knocking (nice maintenance Adam), and we rerouted when the road was closed due to snow.
The above picture was taken almost to Mt. Storm where we had to squeeze behind the big rig to continue. We made it to Davis we were told we could not proceed to White Grass where we had planned on skiing, WV had declared it a state of emergency. Two feet of blowing snow, we were loving life!

Before to long we found ourselves a great ski-able powerline cut. The snow was light, fluffy, deep and awesome! Here's big bro pushing through snow drift.

Sweet! After a couple runs it was time to cruise the snow tires back over the mountains to Va, what a great day out.

It's been a rough winter for the deer.

We've been finding some ice to climb these days too, here's Byran climbing the gnar.

Nice job on a hard first ascent Jeremy!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ski The East!

There are those who would badmouth the skiing in the east, especially in the back-country. Most years the naysayers are right, but not this year. This is the highest snow accumulation winter on record. Back-country ski lines are everywhere! So we have been hiking (or skinning up) and skiing the Virginia steeps. There is a very good chance that these are first descents. Here's a few pictures of what fun ensues when massive snowfall and minimal work collide.

Signal Knob is near Front Royal at the northern terminus of the Massanutten range, and the power line cut is 1700 vertical feet with some very fun, fairly steep skiing. Big bro and I went directly at it from forest service land and it was about 1.5 miles of moderate skinning upward followed by about .25 of steep climbing. Totally worth it. It's an amazing run down.

Jonathan is psyched. He should be, we are about to drop in on a run nearly as good as anything he found in the two weeks he just spent skiing in British Columbia!

Bouncing through the pillows. Sweet!

Look at that form. Yea, that's my bro.

The snow was great all the way down, once the steep stuff is over its a nice cruiser grade most of the way out.

The epic Hogback mountain.
The power-line cut is 2200 ft of elevation change The top is wicked steep, wind raked, rocky, icy and narrow. The hike up the back is long and would involve a big car shuttle, so we went up the front. The best word to describe the hike up the front is brutal, but in a pinch one could use, heinous, horrible, excruciating, or any derogatory four letter word followed by -fest (##$%-fest). The hike was hard, brushy, steep and not fun. In fact there was almost nothing fun about the hike or the ski. Jeremy's wife, Christina, was my good willed companion for most of this sufferfest. Christina realized the folly of our ways and turned around before the top. Smart girl.

On the way up, before it got tough.

Finding our way around this road block was a welcome reprieve from the mountain laurel bush-whacking.

The signpost is hard to read due to the water on my lens but it is appropriate for the ski. The post reads "launch site" and is directed towards hang gliders, but it works for skiers too.

Although the park service loves us, and does everything they can to protect us, they probably don't expect folks to ski the Hogback powerline cut. They have yet to clear the old wire that lies in wait to clothesline the unsuspecting skiier. Just in case you head out to the mountain to get some fresh tracks (against my recomendation), watch out for this wire. The wire runs down the center of the run from about 100 feet below the top downward for about 1000 ft and is only above the snow where it drops off rocks and very steep areas. Watch out! Keep your tips up if you have to cross the center and don't catch it from the side mid-turn like I did in the above picture.

Fun boulder skiing.

Skiing Little Devil Stairs is a ton of fun, just watch out for the stream.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


A couple of Cardinals with cold feet warming up in the morning sun.

The snow is deep and there are fresh tracks to be skied. So if you like the snow, you should be loving life: we are. The skyline drive is closed and will be impassable without skis for weeks. So we are skiing up from the bottom and saving the descents for the end of the day! Get out there and you'll have the park pretty much to yourself so here's a sampling of the other snowbirds you might see out.

A meal with a view of Old Rag somehow always taste a little better.

The Cardinal looks like he had to much of the grain bird seed!

The Cardinal fell of the wagon (bench) but this Blue Jay was walking the straight line.

Woodpeckers don't like that stale bird seed.

Not a bad spot for a homemade snowshoe walk.

Kinda snowy for Virginia.

Had a great ski to the top of the "forever protected" Red Oak mountain (outside SNP) where you can see just about the entire central district of the park when its not cloudy. I had the pleasure of being the first one on top after the storm. Enjoyed a nice sunset before a sweet three miles of fresh powder brought me back down.

The Red Oak lookout tower.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Bring It!

I smell the blizzard in the air, Winter's bitter love affair.
I grab my coat, my hat, my jacks...I put my hat on my head and I was off again as she said,

Monday, February 01, 2010

A Four Plus Failure

This post has nothing to do with the above cool pic taken Sunday after it got cold again.

The Four State challenge is an epic long day on the trail. The challenge is this, to start on the Appalachian trail at either VA or PA and finish at the other. In the middle there are at least 40 (possibly as much as 43.5) miles of trail including the entirety of the AT in MD and a bit of WV. The goal is to finish in under 24 hours. Two out of three of our full time guides have completed the challenge. Jeremy hiked the four state years ago, and the Big Fish knocked it out this past summer with a bunch of boy scouts. Last Thursday night I decided my time had come. But how would I enjoy this pointless and painful experience without one-uping the guys? Well, I would just have to one up the guys.

The Four PLUS challenge starts in PA and the RUN ends in VA where the bike begins. It's 61 miles on the C&O Canal from Harpers Ferry (where VA meets WV) to the finish line in Washington DC. Since DC's not a state, we (I think Drew came up with the idea to add DC) just gave it a Plus. The Four Plus challenge was born! Last Thursday night I planned on being the first to complete this challenge.

It has been almost two months since I surprised myself with how well I did on my first ever long run, almost a marathon on Old Rag. So why not shock the system again and see if I could again rise to the occasion? Besides I have done several roughly 10 milers in the interim, I figured I would be good. Right?
I bounced the idea off several trusted fiends. Jeremy said to "go for it!" and offered a morning shuttle. He also said he would only shuttle me because he knew how much pain I would be in. Although Jeremy was claiming schadenfreude I personally believed him to be secretively hiding a nice person deep down, besides, I would need the early morning ride. My roommate Jesse said; "Why not, you got nothing else to do tomorrow". It was true, the forecast was a little cold, but Saturday was off also and I would need the recovery day. Jesse even offered some new batteries for my dimming headlamp. The box looked old and Jesse suggested I take my old batteries as spares as I checked the replacements. I simply bounced the old AAAs in my hand and said he should do the same 20,000 times, then he could tell me how he felt about the extra weight. Satisfied with my succinct lesson on weight savings I finished packing and hit the sack a bit late.

2:45am came early but I had to hit Walmart for food, do the bike and food stash and get to Hagerstown for Jeremy to give me the 4:30am ride to Pen Mar Park where I would be dropped at the PA line.

Jeremy dropped me an hour and a half before sunrise. His tail lights disappeared into the full moon and it felt very cold. My single layers would keep me warm as soon as I got moving. I hit the trail and was startled by the immediate leap I had to make to avoid stepping on a dimly glistening frozen deer carcass just past the gate. My light did seem really dim.

This is when I realized Jeremy and Jesse (and my Id) had conspired to kill me. Within the first half mile my headlamp was completely dead and in my pocket. I was alone in the dark on a section of trail I had never seen and the temperature was in the single degrees. I stumbled by moonlight trying not to miss the many initial turns out of Pen Mar park, Jeremy had said the start was the worst. I was sure I would "warm up" once I got on the always clear and open stretches of the AT most likely just outside Pen Mar. Not so. Just south of Pen Mar the AT spends several miles winding its merry way through a contrived conglomeration of ankle breaker talus boulder slopes before it switchbacks to the ridge. Believe it or not in this section of trail, in the dark, it is quite easy to become lost. I experienced this phenomenon several times. I would find myself on a strange moss covered boulder or in a pile of un-trampled leaves and have to backtrack yet again.

It is possible, that it always seemed to be better lit when I looked back due to the unlocked Ipod in my back pocket whose screen may have been burning from bouncing around as I tried to run. Lit screen or not, the music died about 30 min in, just 10 min after my water froze. I tried to crunch through the frozen hose of my non-insulated hydration pack for the second drink of the morning, but instead I found it plugged with ice. I had filled it with warm water and kept the tube under my shirt but nonetheless it froze. From here on I would take off the pack, break open the iced lid designed to fill up not pour from, and get a drink. This meant I would be dehydrated.

I gained the ridge as the ambient light of a soon risen sun lit the second puddle I broke through. It was my first long run for my sweet new Avia trail runners I got from Ross for 21 bucks (I might have thought they were Asics). The tennies claim to have Cantilever Technology but they do not claim to be waterproof. My second foot was now wet, but I was finally running.

I crossed three valleys and was starting to enjoy the day by the time the blister broke. Maybe it was the wetness, maybe the shoes, but I hardly ever get blisters. I taped a makeshift cover of a slippery Nature Valley bar wrapper over my Achilles and it worked. Heel hurting no longer, I moved on.

Now might be a good time to explain how doing a long trail run without much training is really dumb. It's really dumb. But I guess if you haven't figured that out yet I will give you just two more reasons. If you still don't believe in the dumbness then you are probably as thick headed as I am, and I say good luck to ya, life is hard. I will be training more next time.

Reason one, you might spill water on yourself in the cold. By the time I figured this one out the frozen open lid on my pack had leaked, a lot. The water drained down the pack freezing my keys, food, cell phone, Ipod, and emergency supplies into one mass. Then the water drained down my backside and into my right shoe where I felt the sloshing and assumed my blister had begun to bleed. Dumb.

Reason two, parts of your body which shouldn't be hurting, start hurting. In my case It was my groin. Yes, the joint on the Barbie where the leg attaches to the torso can start to hurt. It started to hurt on both sides. On the right it was starting to feel like I was back in the days where I tried to do dumb things like slide (grind) handrails on my rollerblades, and I overstretched, sprained, strained, or tore the darn thing. Dumb. I thought I learned from those days.

I was nearly 20 miles in at 9:30am when my cell phone (now warm in my pocket) thawed out and a message came through. It was the Big Fish and he was leaving for a possible rescue on Old Rag. Did I want to come along? Hhmmmmm, I could get in a warm vehicle and go pretend to be a hero, or... Die frozen and alone in the woods, in Maryland. Tough decision, I wussed out and he picked me up at my frozen food stash 30 min later. Here's a link to the Old Rag Rescue which was over before we got there.

Sorry for the long post, if you made it this far you must be a true friend. Thanks!
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