Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Locusts: Part Two

Dennis and I first met each other in Gunnison at a 5k in 1986.  The town has changed a lot since then but not so much that it’s lost its feel, it’s the crusty old ranchers and the college, and the tourist industry.

This weekend was our 28th anniversary, a day we share with our friend Kirk Apt’s birthday. Kirk, Keith, Dennis and I have a long, shared history as friends. They live in the Grand Junction area now and we don’t see them nearly as often as we used to.

We wanted to go up to Crested Butte and Gunnison for the weekend and take the girls with us. It would be their first longer road trip than 3 hours, and their first time staying in a hotel. Kirk and Keith were planning to go up to Crested Butte, too, so it was a perfect opportunity for us to get together again.

We left Fort Collins Friday morning ahead of the worst weekend traffic, with lots of stops along the way- lunch in Buena Vista, our property, the Mountain Spirit winery near Salida and then over Monarch down into the green Gunnison Valley along Tomichi Creek.

That same feeling (link to old post) came over me as we descended from Monarch Pass, into the promised land…

We stayed at a motel on the east end of town, we checked in and then we went into town and took the girls for a walking tour of Western State campus. They loved swimming in the old irrigation ditches at the park and on the streets in town.

We planned Saturday around being with Kirk and Keith. We met at the Brush Creek trailhead. Dennis took the girls for a hike and a swim since he’s not running for hours yet.  Keith went ahead of us as she is a road runner and a lot faster than we are. Kirk and I stayed at leisurely pace and his friend Ben ran with us.

We ran a 15 mile loop most of the way around Mt. Crested Butte that dumps us out at Gothic. It goes on single track trail in and out of meadows and aspen forests, skunk cabbage and wildflowers, spruce and lodgepole pine, between about 9000 and 11000 feet. There are some good steady climbs and gentle descents.
Once we hit the turnoff that heads toward Pearl Pass there were no more motorized vehicles. No more locusts on their dirt bikes and ATVs making noise and tearing up dust.

Finally, peace. For five solid hours. I could hear the birds, the wind blowing the aspen leaves, and creeks flowing and rolling over rocks. It was a perfectly clear day with few clouds in the endless depth of blue. The wildflowers were out, the early season ones were in full bloom- lupine, skyrocket, bluebells, mules ears. The cows weren’t out yet, so things were still in good shape, the water was clean and the trails were clear without cow pies and deer flies.

It was dry for the area, still green, but it felt more like July than June. There was hardly any snow left up high. I used to ride my mountain bike on these trails back when I lived here, before I became an ultraunner. I could remember the rides and trail runs vividly. Views in every direction, of avalanche chutes and dry ski runs and snow cornice-topped red mountains.

We saw a few mountain bikers and a couple other runners, but for a Saturday on a summer weekend, it was surprisingly quiet. The tourist season doesn’t really get going until closer to July. I kept asking Kirk the names of the mountains as I couldn’t remember from 20-30 years ago. More memories flooded my head. Sensory overload.

On our run Kirk and I caught up, as we haven’t seen each other in at least 7 years even though we still talk occasionally. We took our time, at a good hiking pace and running the smooth descents and a few flats.

I felt good. Even though I struggled with the altitude the whole way, as long as I stopped to catch my breath and bring my heart rate down, I was fine. I felt lightheaded the whole way, but it was a good lightheaded. Another 1000 feet higher and it wouldn’t have been a good lightheaded!

I sprained my ankle slightly the week before, so I was a little concerned about the trails, but I forgot how smooth they are. I taped it and brought my ankle brace just in case, but I didn’t need it.

After about 5 1/2 hours, we got to Gothic.  Kirk and Ben went toward Mount Crested Butte, and I went into Gothic, where Dennis and Keith were waiting for me. We hung out at the buildings and I got some cold lemonade. Then we took Keith back to her car at Brush Creek.

That was my longest run since the 24 hour in April.  My legs felt fine, I felt strong with the climbing and running, it was just the lack of oxygen that was difficult.

We went back to Gunnison to get cleaned up and then headed back up to Crested Butte where we met Kirk and Keith for dinner at Donita’s. I worked at Donita’s bussing tables for a short time before I started coaching at Western State College in the late 80s. While we were there we saw people I’ve known since those days- Kay, Heli, and another woman, Jenny, whom I knew from 30 years ago. It was funny, she remembered me as “the runner”.   

Town has a lot more retail development and houses all around, things look newer and shinier, but fortunately the locusts were few. It wasn’t busy at all, we walked right into Donita’s at 6 pm on a Saturday evening and got seated right away. By the time we left it was getting busy.

After, we headed back to Gunnison for the night. The sky was very hazy, there was a big fire north of Durango near Purgatory. To the south you could hardly see anything.

I needed this for my psyche, for a calm feeling, after 2 weeks ago being up in the mountains with all the freaking locusts.

Sunday morning, we planned to meet Duane Vandenbusche, Dennis’s old coach from Western, at the W cafe for coffee. We had an enjoyable conversation and it’s always great to see that he never changes. Now in his 80s, he’s sharp and still remembers everybody and everything, and he looks great.

Then it was time to head back over the hill. We got in line behind the locust train over the passes back to Denver.

The extra 3 hours of driving each way was worth it. One more pass, and that sweet sage smell in the air...spruce, lodgepole pine, along with the aspen and arnica.

Coming back is like coming full circle in life. This is where living started.  

I am thankful that I have the memories from when I lived here and got to explore the backcountry before the throngs of people came. When you could go out and not see anyone else all day.

But there’s still some peace here, there is escape possible, you just have to choose your timing wisely. Until the next adventure...

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Locusts: Part One

First we made the dumb mistake of trying to go up to the mountains for part of Memorial Day weekend.

Lately Fort Collins has been getting to me. It's getting bigger, the traffic is much worse than it was even 12 years ago when we moved back after our stint in Arizona. It bothers me when I go out for walks in some places and cannot seem to have any space to myself- people are crawling everywhere. So I started having escape fantasies of going up to the mountains this summer, to our little piece of the earth near Trout Creek Pass overlooking South Park.

Bad idea.
I am really not as much of a misanthrope as it sounds. In the city is one thing, but don't mess with my peace and quiet.

I am thankful for the memories I have from the 1980s and 90s when things were still relatively quiet and you could go places without being overrun by these loud dust-making machines, and people were not as maniacal about their motorized toys and guns.

And the weather seems drier and the roads get dustier and there's more fire danger, we've had beetle infestations and people make a lot more impact on the forest when camping with these massive vehicles. Whatever happened to car camping with a tent?

I guess it's time to start looking for a different way to escape- a different place to escape.

We bought our little piece of peace 21 years ago. It doesn't feel peaceful anymore. It feels exposed, overrun with people who don't respect peace and quiet.

People suck.

 The place is crawling with them. They consume everything. Peace and quiet, for one. They are pigs. They leave their trash everywhere.

And noise. They love to make noise. They have no concept of respecting the creatures who live here in the forest.

They drive giant bus-sized RVs with all the luxuries of home and then some. They attach these huge trailers- horse trailer size- that have multiple dirt bikes inside them, or rickety, noisy flatbed trailers with 2 or 3 ATVs on them.

It’s actually quieter in the city because at least you don’t have people shooting guns or riding ATVs. But you have the lawnmowers, leaf blowers, which follow no reasonable schedule of operation, completely unpredictable. And occasionally you get the nutbag driving a testosterone-fueled mufflerless terror truck- usually some big burly white guy with a baseball cap on his head, in various orientations, with an American flag decal somewhere. And sometimes they have those coal-roller things that spew black smoke. 

There is nothing scarier than a white guy in a baseball cap driving aggressively in a big, loud pickup with an American flag decal on it, add a Christian symbol and it's even more fear-provoking. To me, that is the picture of white straight male Christian entitlement, and resentment of all of us who are not. 

It’s come to the point where there is no place to escape. It makes me very sad and I'm losing hope in humanity. We have a dying planet because people are completely disrespectful of its ability to sustain life. They strip the commodities along with the amenities for their own short term gain. Plundering the resources without giving a thought to the lives that might be affected by their assault. 

I'm so tired of the mentality that says we have the right to do whatever we want, it’s public land. 
But there should be places where you can go and shoot and places where I can go and have peace and quiet where they don’t interfere with each other. How about respect and dignity and safety without fear. 

Reminds me of the poem The Bloodless Sportsman by Sam Walter Foss. Click on the link to read it. Please do, you must, I insist.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Donuts, Jackfruit and Pinecones

No, it's not some kind of Euell Gibbons breakfast throwback. (If you're too young to remember Euell Gibbons, google on it.)

Yesterday I had a couple of small misadventures during the day.

Act I. Donuts

I started out early going to the Donut Friday run, because it was National Donut Day. I decided to take Velcro and Gypsy with me, and they were extremely and surprisingly well-behaved. They tried to steal Nelly's donut and begged for Colin's powdered sugar donut, but they mostly sat in the shade and drank their water. Even though the donuts were free, I didn't have one. Didn't sound appealing.

Act II. The Pinecone

We only got about 4 miles in that morning so I decided to take them for a few extra miles while it was still cool, afterward, on the Power Trail.

About 50 meters from the car I was running directly into the sun and didn't see a pinecone in front of me on the sidewalk, and I stepped on it and rolled my ankle. I heard and felt a pop and it hurt!!

As I was bent over, recovering as the pain subsided, wondering how much damage I did, I could see my summer plans disappearing into the ether.

I walked slowly back to the car, girls attached. It seemed okay, but I knew on a fresh injury you sometimes don't feel the extent of the damage.

I got home and iced the crap out of it. It felt like I rolled forward, more anteriorly onto the front of my foot, my lower shin and the top of my foot seemed to be where the damage was.

Alternating with ice on and off all day, I finally got the guts to see if I could walk around. It didn't feel too bad, a bit tender, but I managed to walk around the block slowly without much discomfort.

Act III. Jackfruit

Lately I've been experimenting with vegan food, just to wean us away from meat, make our diet healthier, and add some variety to our usual meals. We eat healthy meals except just a little too much meat. I've been an enabler of sorts, Dennis likes meat, and I tend to do most of the cooking and I steer toward fish whenever possible. But I'd refer to eat much less meat. I've tried convincing Dennis in the past and it lasts for a short time and somehow it always backslides.

I have been wanting to try cooking some vegan meals for a while and finally put my foot down. And it's been amazing- Dennis likes it and hasn't complained. So I must be doing something right. We've had a lot of quinoa, sweet potatoes, avocado, veggie burgers, and a few other things. But one thing I had not tried, that I was curious about, was jackfruit. I've seen the things at Whole Foods- they are huge and look like this big green oblong orb with bumps all over. Not the most appetizing-looking outside.

But I heard the texture resembled shredded meat. I thought that would be perfect for Dennis. I bought a can last time I was at Trader Joe's and have procrastinated on opening it. Since I was stuck in the house with my ankle I decided to try cooking it.

I looked up a few recipes online and found one using canned jackfruit. It reminded me of a sloppy joe recipe. You cook the jackfruit in barbecue sauce with some onions and peppers and spices, and then shred the jackfruit chunks. Easy enough.

I opened the can and drained and rinsed the jackfruit. It looked kind of gross, with these things that looked like bloated seeds, they reminded me of little baby alien heads floating in the liquid. I kept working and managed to shred the parts that looked like shredded meat anyway. The other parts of the fruit were sort of gelatinous and I smashed them as well as I could. The whole mixture looked unappealing. After the cooking process was done, I tasted it.

The texture reminded me of chewing on little baby alien heads. And it didn't taste all that great either, despite the recipe. Maybe it was the brine they were soaking in, in the can.

I put it away in the fridge and tried to figure out what went wrong. I came back to it after an hour and reheated it to see if I might have a different take on it. It was the taste and the texture- I just couldn't do it. It gave me the chills- sort of like drinking mag citrate before a colonoscopy. I chewed on a few bites and it was just too gross. I dumped the rest of it down the sink and mentally scratched it off my list. I decided to ask on Facebook to see if anyone had any jackfruit cooking advice.

I found out you can buy it in the refrigerated section of a grocery store- so maybe that will be the way to go. I am willing to try it again, but the texture really grossed me out. I'll keep you posted if I have success next time, but I'm going to need some time to forget this experience.

As it turned out, this morning when I woke up, the top of my foot was a little puffy and tender, but not bad. I can walk, no problem. I'll take the weekend off and ice it, see if that takes care of it. I'm glad it wasn't worse. Maybe I should put some frozen jackfruit on it- might be a better use of it!

I guess I'll use my extra time this weekend when I'm not running to find a new recipe...or maybe I'll eat a donut instead!