Monday, November 28, 2016

What is Awe?




     Is it sitting on the ledge of a high mountain: looking down at treetops thousands of feet below, while a gusty wind thumps your chest and a condor carves a bank turn up a thermal draft towards the sun? Is it lying on your back and feeling the weight of perspective when stars of Milky Way are close enough to touch? Is awe that feeling of bewilderment and fascination that comes from witnessing new life or death; the taste of a vanilla milk shake with a dash of rum after being in the saddle all day; A mad talented street performer; or dawn patrol surf with dolphins? Perhaps I will start with what it is not.

     Nintendo can’t package it and a person won’t find it on Facebook.  According psychologist Dacher Keltner who heads the University of California, Berkeley’s Social Interaction Lab. “Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale that transcends our current understanding of things.”  It is reported that on average people experience awe 2.5 times per week, 75% of which is triggered by the natural world.
     Over the last few days Alycia and I set out with a simple intention: get as much fresh air as possible, watch the sunrise, and watch the sunset.  As we put up the tent on the snowy and lonely north rim of the Grand Canyon I could tell we were well on track to hit the 2.5 times per week “awe moment”.


***

     “I’m not sure if this is it,” I think to myself as we speed bump over a plow pile marking the edge of the road.  It’s dark but a couple other cars are in the lot and free of snow. No new snow on the cars means old snow and old snow means cold. And cold it is. My old tent, the Bee Hive, feels crunchy enough to crack as I stuff it away with numb hands.  Our camp looks even more pathetic in the crystal clear morning light, we’d camped off the side of the road in a pull-out on snow covered cement.



     The key to finding a good partner is falling in love with someone who is tough, in part because I have a bit of the dip-shit-gene (occurs only in men), and in part because I like long days.  Alycia defines tough.  She is always game for an endurance adventure, doesn’t complain much, and enjoys moments of awe as much as I do.

     Sometime before 5am: I reach over to wake Alycia. Her sleeping bag makes an odd creaking sound as I break it from it’s frozen dew casting with an abrupt jab to greet the day: “Are you alive?” I ask somewhat sarcastically knowing we’ve both been up all night.  A face comes to the small opening at the top of her mummy bag: “my nose is cold,” she responds. I'm first out of the tent and swear my pee should be freezing before it hits the ground.  Alycia stays in the tent making all sorts of achy moans as she rolls off her home made sleeping pad; two folded fleece blankets. My diesel car, Skid, sounds sludgy and slow to start in the frigid morning air. The temperature reads 4 degrees Fahrenheit; I decide not to tell Alycia and we drive to the trail head.

     Cursing my old stove I contemplate chewing coffee grounds.  Not what it once was and always been a bastard below freezing.


     7:30AM we start down the North Kaibab Trail into the Grand Canyon.
A trail run petroglyph scavenger hunt
     Ten hours pass and it’s dark.  We crunch our way back into the parking lot wearing microspikes and headlamps after 10,500ft of elevation change spread over thirty mind bending miles.


***

     As your friend who knows all too well how busy the holidays can get, balance out the consumer gifts with stories of joie de vivre—moments of joy for life.  Better yet go find them outside with the ones you love.  The sense of awe is a gift that keeps giving.  The only expense is muddy shoes and frosty tips. Plenty of soul food to keep your belly full.

Until next time.
Your pal,
Andrew



Friday, August 26, 2016

River Wild: Following Salmon Up the Elwha

The photo sequence below is from a recent bike and run along the Elwah River.  Headed up river from the National Park entrance we did our best to emulate a Salmon's experience, only we didn't swim or lay eggs.  After the largest dam removal in US history, all five species of Salmon are no longer banging their head against a wall.  We didn't see any fish, got lost, and had a hell of a good time running wild in the mountains. 









































Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Eastern Sierra

Up in La Sal Mountains. Watchin' the clouds roll in and we'll watch 'em roll away again.
Truckee Trails

Nasty grade. Good views.
You're awake. You're alive. Live like it.
Opening day at Whitmore Pool. Really good to catch up with some amazing folks.
First big day in Moab.  Came out of the pool around 7am and it was 75 degrees; started out on the La Sal loop with the Moab Fondo. By 12noon there'd been rain, then hail, then sun, then crazy winds on the decent back into the valley.  Feeling that weather worked and heading out for a run off the bike along the Colorado river. Best part of about the mountains? They're not predictable.
Canyon Lands

Salad mixed in a bag for dinner again?
Time for an ice float.




Mountain Dew in Mammoth.








Giant TCR = heightened experience 
Time for a snow melt shower. 

June Lake

June Lake

Alpenglow.

Fashion and sanity go down hill the longer a person is on the road...or is it the opposite?

Synced up with Mammoth Track Clubs open practice. Very nice people. 

I played with snakes while Alycia ran on the track.

Once a swimmer always a swimmer. 

Near a mom and pop ski hill outside Truckee. Managed to put together around 8,000ft of climbing in under 5.5hrs. 




Truckee Trails

Truckee Trails

Truckee and Donner Lake were very good to us. Incredible running. 

About to jump in Donner Lake after a 7 hour training day. A little loopy. 

Grown up playground

Ice bath in June Lake.

Truckee Trails

From camp on Colorado River.