Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sarah Young's Birthday

Today Emily, Chris and I drove out to Cody and Nicole's house in Shedd, OR for a birthday brunch for our awesome new friend Sarah's birthday (actual birthday on Monday).  There was a ton of amazing food including eggs, multiple types of bacon, french toast, fruit, mimosa's, eclairs, etc.  We got to meet our adventurous counter-parts that Sarah has monthly adventures with - We'll have to meet up for trips this Spring - and we got to catch up with Cody who we never get to see anymore for some reason.

After the brunch Emily and I drove to Eugene for the afternoon to get her Dynafit bindings mounted at Berg's and for me to try on new ski boots as mine are almost 12 years old now and the oldest piece of equipment I have now!  I found a pair of Technica's I really liked and will wait for the REI 20% off sale to consider getting them.

Later in the evening we met up with Sarah and her friends at our place for a few drinks before heading to Bombs to see Brothers Gow + Synrgy play.  Emily, Chris and I had originally planned to go skiing on Sunday but after looking at the weather and considering the 3 hour drive to and from Bend to get to Tumalo (the only place not raining) we decided it wasn't worth it.  Therefore I was able to endulge a little more booze and we ended up finishing off a bottle of rum between the bunch of us before even going to the bar with Danielle, Scott, Sarah, her friends, Chris, Emily and I.  It turned out to be a relaxing evening of conversation with some good music in the background as we chilled in the back bar.  Emily and I really like Sarah and are excited about having her along with us on our coming spring time adventures in the Northwest.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Disney World for Nick's 30th Birthday

Earlier this past Fall Emily received an email from her sister in law Jen who had come up with a crazy plan to surprise Emily’s brother Nick for his 30th birthday with a family trip to their favorite vacation destination, Disney World.  On the email was her parents and her other brother Chris and his wife Julia in Portland, ME.  With nearly all of our vacation time from work over the past few years being used for weddings and family visits back to the East Coast I’m not gonna lie when I say I wasn’t initially enthusiastic about the trip.  After wrecking my knee last year we had to postpone our planned trip to Hawaii, the one trip that would actually be just for the two of us and suddenly this trip was threatening to postpone Hawaii for yet another year and going back to Florida (not a state high on my list of places to visit) just 2 years after being there for Kevin and Alexa’s wedding didn’t make me feel any better.  I have books upon books of vacation destinations around the world I want to explore and here I was headed back to the fattest state in the country.....

Even though I wasn’t too excited about the trip I knew it was very important to Emily that we do this for her brother Nick and after discussing it we both realized that we would have to choose between Christmas with her family or this trip just 4 weeks later.  We were surprised to find tickets to Orlando from Portland to be under $400 while Christmas tickets for a quick 3 day (that’s all the time we could take) home for Christmas were running double that.  It was an easy choice, yet a sucky choice as we were then forced to spend Christmas away from family in town.  But staying in town for Christmas and only planning on missing 3 days for the Disney Trip left us enough time to take 6 days off for a Hawaii Trip later in March.  
So, I was appeased and after really missing family over Christmas I found myself really excited to see her family again.  I wasn’t so excited about going to Disney World though as my perception of running around with Mickey Mouse characters wasn’t really my ideal vacation but work had been so stressful over the holidays that I was up for anything.  Therefore I went into the vacation looking to de-stress from my job but with very low expectations, especially after I found out we would not have time for the rollercoasters at Universal Studios or Busch Gardens.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!  I ended up having a truly fantastic time and my perception of vacationing at Disney World as an adult has completely changed.  Click the link to read on.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

First Real Day of Resort Powder 2012

Today at Ski Bowl Emily, Chris and I had our first real serious day of powder skiing.  Earlier in the week the forecast had called for a few inches which turned into over a foot and a half between Saturday night and Sunday.  We had left town with a friend of a girl named Christina who plays soccer with Emily that Chris had picked up to meet her already at Government Camp with a few other friends.  We left town at 5:30 am.... yes, you read that right, 5-freakin-30 AM.  It actually turned out to be a great plan as the three of us were able to rip fresh tracks down upper bowl all morning while Dan went off to meet up with Christina who also was just learning to alpine ski.  

After a morning of ripping it up in the powder we met up with the others at the warming hut for a few pitchers of pilsner urquel, the staple beer of Ski Bowl.  I had forgotten that Emily and I were on the Rogue Trip in 2009 with Christina who was from Argentina.  After the beer Emily, Chris, I and a Christina’s friend headed off to shred some more pow.  I definitely began to push myself on a few drops in upper bowl working my way up to around a 6 footer before I felt my knee was being pushed to hard.  Yes, this is a far cry from the 40-50 footers I had been dropping the previous few years.  I now told myself that I would simply try anything that Chris would jump off of.  With him being new to skiing the past few years I figured this would be an achievable limit for me on cliff drops... until he starts to get really crazy..

We skied until about 3:30 when my knee had become dangerously week and I told Chris that Emily, who was freezing at this point, and I were headed down the mountain to chill in the car with Kya until they were done.  When we got to the car we turned on the heat for Kya who seemed to be shivering a little and Emily threw some snowballs for her which is one of her favorite activities.  Chris came down shortly after and we all headed home, thoroughly exhausted from our first real day of resort powder skiing.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mount Defiance!

This weekend I really wanted to challenge myself physically and with the ski areas still devoid of snow I decided on a challenging hike in the Columbia Gorge for Chris, Emily and I to check out.  At 5,000 feet Mt. Defiance is the high point of the Columbia Gorge and a wicked steep climb starting at the Columbia River at only 200 feet and climbing to the top in just 6 miles.  This essential meant a trail so steep that it felt like climbing a steep building staircase non-stop for over 4 hours to get to the top.  It was just about hiking a vertical mile in just six.  = A challenge.

We were able to reach the trailhead of the hike at Starvation Creek at about 10am in the morning which I thought would give us plenty of time for the 12 mile loop hike up Starvation Ridge to the summit and then back down the Defiance Trail.  Before we left to head down the trail which started along I-84 we took a side trip to check out the beautiful Starvation Falls.  

Once on the steep trail we climbed quickly past moss covered trees up to a clearing of massive power lines with great views down to the Columbia River below.  The shadows of the steep hillside we were ascending could be clearly seen on the river below with the sun rising to the southeast.  We could see tons of small fishing vessels below on the Columbia just north of the massive dam and clouds from the morning fog continued to hug Wind Mountain on the Washington side of the river.  

From there it was a very steep ascent for the next 4 miles with the occasional viewpoint over the gorge to the north for vistas of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams.  It was a great opportunity to test the capabilities of the new 300mm zoom lens Emily had gotten me for Christmas.  Kya seemed to be having a great time on the hike and didn’t seem to be as tired as we were heading up the steep Starvation Ridge.  

Chris had finally decided after years of hiking and skiing with me to try listening to music on the hike.  He and Emily both admitted that it gave them a lot more energy.  After 3 years “I told you so” doesn’t really cut it.  I held off on music for a while because I use Spotify to stream most of my music nowadays.  To my surprise I found that I had reception the entire way up the mountain (probably due to the huge antenna’s we would later find at the summit).  I decided to put on some bluegrass tunes and enjoyed the music for the rest of the hike to the top, only losing the signal a few times.

At about 3,500 feet we hit snow.  Thankfully it was warm enough that the trail hadn’t become a layer of ice and was instead slushy underneath our boot treads.  This allowed us to keep up a good pace all the way up to Warren Lake where we stopped to check out some bear prints headed out across the frozen ice.  We briefly lost the trail there in the snow but then picked it up again.  It was deceiving where we were because the summit looked just ahead of us at every turn but seemed to get further and further away.  Eventually the snow got deep enough for us to put on some gaitors to keep it out of our boots for the rest of the trip to the top.  

We were following the trail of an EveryTrail guide I had downloaded to my phone but at a certain point it became easier to just follow the footprints of a few others who had climbed the day before and earlier the same day than us.  They definitely went off trail but were headed in the right direction so we just followed.  Eventually we popped out onto a wide snow-covered road leading up and around the mountain to the summit.  It was obviously a maintenance road for the towers on top.  We trekked up the road and made it to the summit at about 2:15 which was just over the time I had hoped to be at the top.  There were great views down to Hood River and to the north side of Mt. Hood which was in a haze and shadowed by the sun to the west. 

We snapped a few photos at the top of the mountain, ate some lunch and then started our descent at around 2:30.  We made great time down the mountain at the expense of our knees and legs.  My legs are built for climbing but with a knee injury and descending most of my recent hikes over the past few years on skis my legs really took a beating with my left surgery knee shaking with every step I took.  By the time we got down to the river again it was dark and we had to traverse east back to the parking lot at Starvation Creek.  We passed by a couple more awesome waterfalls but it was far too dark at that point for any photos, although we did get a couple great shots of the full moon rising over the Columbia before reaching the parking lot at around 5:15pm.  

The entire day I had been off my time predictions by just 15 minutes.  All three of us and Kya were all exhausted after the hike with the dog passing out in the back of the Prius immediately upon leaving the lot.  We stopped for some quick food at a Burgerville in Troutdale before the 2 hour ride home.  For 3 days after I would be limping around the office with extremely sore legs but happy I had pushed myself and accomplished my goal.   5,000 feet of ascent and 12 miles in day is nothing to scoff at.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Guacamole Challenge!

Tonight Jason, Jenn, Chris, Emily, and I along with Danielle and Scott headed over to Mike and Jess’s for a guacamole challenge get together.  The idea was for everyone to make their own version of guacamole and see which was voted the favorite at the end of the night.  Emily made a good one but the one that won it all had garlic in it and Jason and Jen got second with their mango infused guacamole.  Knowing that most people like garlic I called the first and 2nd place winners correctly as I challenged Chris at a game of darts.  This time we had brought our wet suits over but we all couldn’t fit in the hot tub together so we passed.  This was the last time we would see Mike for a while as he would be taking off for Alaska for several months.  It was a fun party and I definitely had my full of guacamole!