Wednesday, August 31, 2011

San Luis Peak

"I feel soooooo good! This makes me want to go backpacking and climb mountains."

I looked at the monstrous pack on Nick's back and at all the mountains surrounding us and thought, "Huh?"

"No, you know, real mountains."

No I don't know actually, but I'll take his word for it. I prefer walk-up mountains like many of our 14ers and Kilimanjaro or Himalayan hikes, where you may walk for days, but you never pull out any crampons or ropes, don't try to soften freeze-dried food in water that boils at 160*F, and your water doesn't freeze solid in its bottle even in your jacket. Actually, that did happen to me once going over Thorung La in the Annapurnas, but I didn't like it!

The thought of Nicolas heading back into the 8,000m peaks makes me squirm a bit, but I can't tell you how good it felt to hear him talk about how good he felt. He hasn't said that with conviction since Feb.14th. He bounded up the trail to San Luis Peak last weekend like he had feathers in his pack, while I moved as though there were lead in my mine, and it weighed nothing. Of course my evening cocktails were in glass this time, not aluminum, but still! And anyway, Nick even took those from me - adding them to his burden - hoping it might make all of us speed up as he was worried about those late summer afternoon thunder storms.

San Luis (14,041 ft/ 4,280 m) is the one in the background, and if you click on the photo to enlarge it and follow the trail, you might be able to see Acacia. Cayenne and I are behind the tree ahead of her. And our photographer Nick is on a side-peak that he just couldn't resist.

He was right to worry about storms, but we got lucky on the timing: We hiked a short hour in, pitched the tents and put all our belongings in them, made a fire, cooked the tortellinis and as we ate our last bites, the heavens opened. Perfect!

A glorious day welcomed us in the morning, and after a few hours we were already on top - our little Walker Girls very happy that there are easy 14ers too!

Nick is so happy (and proud) here. Not only was he feeling strong again, he had to work to keep up with Cayenne hiking uphill! You go girl!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chicago Basin - A Picture Story

"Is it even legal for parents to torture their children?? I DON'T THINK SO!"

The deliberate thirty paces between me and Acacia was clearly not enough as I could still hear her complain.

"I am not impressed!"

Hmm... When Cayenne chimes in you know you might be pushing it.

Luckily it wasn't long before Nick noticed pea-sized wild strawberries along the way, and the girls were soon distracted from the seven mile uphill backpack into Chicago Basin. I had tried to explain that the walk was totally worth it, but the instant gratification of the strawberries did a better job of placating them than the idea of a delayed one. It made the hike rather long but picking the flavour-packed berries helped the girls forget they were supposed to be grumbling about how hard their lives are.

"I smell chanterelles..." was Nick's opinion of the situation, and even with one eye he was the first to spot the apricot-like mushrooms on our hike into the beautiful basin. (Heureusement les gens ici ont peur des champignons et ils les laissent partout sur le chemin...Good for us!)

We cut out half the walking to this remote paradise by taking the steam train from Durango to Needleton, where we disembarked in the middle of nowhere, slipped on our backpacks and crossed a suspension bridge which led us to the well worn trail into the bowl of mountains.

Our plan was to climb three 14ers (mountains at least 14,000 ft / 4,300 m high) in the Basin: Sunlight, Windom and Eolus, but when we arrived, we got an extra treat:

Mountain goats everywhere.

Acacia took this photo.

I love this shot.
(You can see here how Nick's right hand has not yet fully healed. The thumb and index finger knuckles are still swollen and painful.)

The following morning we woke up with the goats and climbed two of their mountains, Sunlight & Windom.

Sunlight Peak behind Cayenne's head (photo taken later in the day looking back).

 Climbing the west ridge because, according to Nicolas, the normal route is too boring.

Near the top of Sunlight Peak...
... and at the very top!
On our way to Windom Peak staying as high as we can because, according to my Nicolas, the normal route is too boring.
A picnic on Windom
Cayenne checking out the Twin Lakes, and up behind them Mount Eolus and North Eolus , probably thinking how happy she was we weren't climbing them until the next morning.
Back at camp, the sky put on a beautiful show.

We had to get up before the sun because after hiking we needed to catch the train back.
Cayenne was, again, not impressed...
... but then you get to watch the sun rise and the moon set, and that's just beautiful.
Nick agreed to lead us up the normal route to the summit of Eolus, but it soon became clear that was because this is what the regular way looked like:

We made it, but I was nervous about the descent.
Is it just me, or is it normal to have your heart in your mouth sometimes??

We had house guests when we got back. The goats wait for the humans to urinate somewhere near camp and then fight over who's going to get to lick it up. It's hard to get salt in the wild, and they learned quickly this was a sure source!

We packed up, hiked out...
... caught our ride, and brought our oppressed, tortured children back home.

(To see the photos in better detail, click on the picture.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mom's on Strike

Last weekend was not one of my favourites, it's got to be said. It started out well when Michel and Ilona called to see if we'd like to come over for margaritas and gazpacho - which turned into margs and guacamole n' chips, gazpacho, potato salad, grilled sausages, wine, and a peach and blueberry tart - but things skidded downhill from that auspicious beginning.

Actually Saturday was kind of fun too now that I think about it, going to the Farmer's Market and volunteering at the Humane Society where I was this close to coming home with a kitten. She was so unbearably adorable, I wouldn't even mind if she grew into a cat, but alas, I believe Satcho would have something to say about all that.

So really it was Sunday that threw me into a tizzy. The plan was to go through the girls' closets to get rid of everything they don't wear or is too small, so I can see what we're missing for this coming school year. The first thing I noticed was that the laundry baskets were full of clean clothes they couldn't be bothered to put away, and the closets and drawers were full of folded dirty clothes. Really? How hard is this?

While I'm explaining for the nth time how the free laundry service works in this hotel, I spotted something furry in the corner. The girls are not allowed to have food in their rooms because of past messes, but that doesn't mean there's no food in their rooms... so I was hoping it wasn't a furry thing of the alive and scurrying kind. Nope. Just contraband. While the mold itself was, I suppose, living, the blueberries it was feeding on were very much not.

"This. Is. Not. Okay."

"What's up with these?" ... as I picked up some of their good clothes with something very red on them. Amazingly, no one knew. I hoped for a second that it was just washable marker, but when I picked up a damp doll's dress - a very deep red doll's dress - I knew that Cayenne had been hand-washing her kids' outfits again and not paying attention to where she was drying them, again. Argh!!

Went outside for some deep breaths of fresh air. Inhale... exh - huh? Our good kitchen knives. In the mud.


Who raised these children????

Knowing Mom was having a bad day, Cayenne decided to be helpful. I had a number of white items in the washing machine so she went ahead and started it, right after tossing in Acacia's white - and fuchsia - tie-dye sundress. When I registered that I was hearing the machine run without having switched it on, I went to check on things...

Bubbles.. pink bubbles... spewed from the washer door and down onto the hardwood floor.

(So if you happen to see a pink rug in the guest bathroom someday, you'll know why...)

My guess is when Shakespeare came up with his Comedy of Errors, the errors were actually funny. Last Sunday? Not so much!!

The good news is the previous weekend was really great. Three generations of Durango Cofmans went to Grand Junction to watch Acacia compete in the Western Slope Swim Meet where towns from all over the western half of Colorado come together with their best. Acacia did well, finishing 4th (out of 23) in freestyle; 3rd in the 100 IM (where you swim all four strokes); 2nd (of 23) in the backstroke; and 2nd (of 17) in the butterfly. She was robbed of first place in the butterfly, though. She finished a couple of body lengths ahead of the next swimmer - and she was in the final heat of the race, so she swam against the fastest girls - and she was two seconds ahead of one other quick swimmer in another heat, but for some reason they decided not to use the computer times, and used the inherently inaccurate hand timers, and gave the win to the other girl.

Acacia's not upset about it, so I should take my cue from her. It's all good, right?

(Better photo to follow))

For both performing so well and handling very graciously the ROBBED 1st place finish , I'm extremely proud of her.

Now if only the talent extended to choosing sticks instead of knives to cut up her mud pies...