May 1 2017

Kevin Edwards 1957-2017

At CMH K2 12/29/2015

I lost my ski partner last week, in the same place I met him originally, deep in the woods. I met Kevin in 2001 when I was skiing alone deep in some remote woods at the Keystone ski area. As I was coming out of the woods I saw a man below coming out of the same area so I decided to introduce myself. We got on the lift together and discovered that we lived less than a half mile apart in Boulder, had a kid the same age and were both powder fanatics. We proceeded to ski another 3 runs in the same area and cemented the deal that became the basis of our relationship. I would show him where the powder was and he would tow me out of the flats. 

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Kevin and his posse at Great Canadian Heliskiing 4/1/2005

Kevin with his two favorite guides (to his immediate left) Greg Golovach and Terry Makos 4/1/2005

By the time I met Kevin he was already a heliskiing legend. The two photos above are from an event honoring his 100th day of heliskiing at Great Canadian Heliskiing where they bestowed on him a pair of custom skis for his achievement. Every year Kevin would put together a group of friends and bring them to this heli operation located between Golden, BC and Rogers Pass for a week of heliskiing. When I met him that first day at Keystone, we hadn’t been on the lift for more than 5 minutes before he started telling me how I had to join him up there.  Besides all the friends he brought with him he also became very close to the guides who worked there and became lifelong friends with them as well.

Kevin’s favorite form of transportation

Young and happy!

Kevin lived for those weeks in British Columbia. As he often described it, his life was 51 weeks of anticipation and one week of bliss! Kevin showed so many folks the joy of powder skiing and introduced me to so many kindred spirits. While the skiing was always phenomenal, the camaraderie was even better – fabulous dinners with good friends where we gave each other shit in between reliving just how fantastic the day had been.

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Never without a big smile in the mountains!

Leading the way!

Faster than a speeding bullet…

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Showing us all how it’s properly done…

By 2008 I was on my 4th trip to GCH with Kevin and company and that was a particularly bountiful year as you can tell by watching the videos below

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The video talent after a long day in the field…

Kevin with the man who led us to all those goodies and shot those videos!

Meanwhile back on the home front (Colorado) I decided to return the favor by introducing Kevin to my favorite powder mecca – Wolf Creek. From then on the Wolf became our sacred place – the place where we could always go to worship at the alter of deep powder – a few shots from one of our prayer sessions are below…

Up on Knife Ridge

Pure bliss going down…

Deep…

and deeper…

Kevin was the one person I could always count on to make the 9 hour round trip drive to Wolf for what I liked to call “48 hours of powder”. We’d go a couple of times a year and hike the ridge lines that surround the ski area – getting fresh tracks all day. The video below is from President’s Day Weekend in 2011 and what a typical two day trip was like for us…

So every year we would plan a trip to BC – we started moving around and checking out other places and bringing our crew with us. What we soon discovered was that the guides moved around too so every where we went we would be greeted by familiar faces.

Lunch in the Valhallas…

followed by some powder turns…

and an end of the day group portrait…

when the light was just perfect

In 2012 we decided to go back to Great Canadian for one last trip and boy was that a good decision. Once again led by the incomparable Greg Golovach we enjoyed 5 fabulous days as evidenced by the video below…

I’d follow these two just about anywhere…

I must admit that I occasionally cheated on Kevin and in 2011 was lured to Haines, Alaska by my other good heli buddy David Cole. It took awhile but I finally convinced Kevin there was more to skiing than trees so in 2013 he joined our AK crew for the first time. And of course he took to it like a fish to water…

There’s that grin again…

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In to the steeps…

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with the AK crew

After that trip the crews began to merge and we ended up with what I called the core four – me, Kevin, David and Aaron Suzuki – four guys who could easily be convinced to go anywhere and everywhere as long as there was powder to be had…

Was it something he ate?

Our first trip together was to Revelstoke, BC where after a couple of days on the hill we headed out to Eagle Pass to ski with Scotty Newsome, our old guide from SnowwaterSONY DSC

From there it was on to Valdez, Alaska where we had a most unfortunate incident. To make a long story short, due to an unexpected cornice collapse, Aaron, I and one of our guides fell 1200 feet down a mountainside. Aaron and the guide sustained minor injuries but I unfortunately turned my leg all the way around and tore every ligament in my left knee. Kevin wrote a long piece about this trip and the meaning of faith which is worth reading in retrospect. 

Kevin at the bustling Valdez airport

and the equally busy Chugach Range

One year and 100+ PT appointments later I got back on my board and headed back to BC with the gang and sampled a CMH experience at their K2 Rotor Lodge and of course, Kevin was there.

Bonding with Aaron

Tearing it up with that big smile

and mixing with the rest of the riff raff

And earlier this year, we met up with our old friends and guides Greg and Terry at Kingfisher Heliskiing and had ourselves a most joyful reunion.

Ever seen this posse before?

or this smiling face?

or the one ski trick Kevin knew how to do?

So up till now, this post has read like a most pleasant travelogue but unfortunately it does not have a happy ending. Last Friday, April 28th, while skiing in the woods with me at Loveland, something happened – (amended note – coroner now says cause of death “heart failure” from enlarged heart which is a known issue with endurance athletes – he was a triathlete) not sure exactly what and may never know but the end result is that Kevin is no longer with us. I can not tell you how sorry I am I was not able to help him when he needed me most. We were ski partners for 15+ years and chased powder all over North America together. He was there at both my highest and lowest moments and I’d like to think I helped him through some tough times but for the most part he led a charmed life on the slopes which all came to a terrible end last week. Kevin was a great guy, who made people laugh, helped everyone he could and was an inspiration to us all. I can not believe I will never share another run with him again or hear him give me shit about my liberal leanings.

Right before the last run of his life

I am going to miss Kevin so much. I was so lucky to have him as my ski partner over all these years. He pulled me out of so many flat spots both literally and figuratively. He was beloved by so many and the first to pitch in when anyone needed some help. I can not believe he is gone but if there is a heaven I know he’s skiing deep powder right now. Goodnight sweet prince…


Jan 15 2017

Return of the Fantastic Four

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp

Since the unfortunate and abrupt ending to my last trip to Alaska I have not had the great pleasure of skiing with what I call the core four – that is is me and the only three guys I know that have just as bad a powder addiction as I do. We have done numerous trips together to both British Columbia and Alaska and except for our misfortune in Valdez we have always had a fabulous time riding together. So when my favorite sherpa Kevin started raving about a new operation he found in the legendary Monashee Range, it didn’t take much convincing to get the band back together.

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

The first landing in the early morning light is a instant reminder of how beautiful it is high up in the mountains and how lucky we are to be there. The ghost trees are particularly stunning and other worldly. 

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

And then it’s time to play follow the leader…

As usual British Columbia has had a ton of early season snow so our only concern was the predicted sub zero temperatures which fortunately had passed by the time we got there. Instead we were treated to classic BC conditions – a deep base covered with a minimum of a foot of fresh wherever we went which got deeper and deeper as the week progressed.

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kevin in his natural habitat

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

David getting buried

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Aaron finding his bliss..

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Rippin time

The Monashees are famous for their old growth forest and amazing tree skiing and certainly our experience did nothing to dispel that truism. Besides providing a natural slalom course, the trees help keep the snow in pristine condition by blocking the wind and letting the snow pile up for us powder carnivores. So while the upper exposed slopes might be a little wind affected and only have a surface powder layer, the trees are invariably soft and deeeeeeeep.

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

One of the big boys…

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Not just tree skiing

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Oh chute!

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Quick, our guide’s getting away…

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on his tail

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oh, what a beautiful morning…

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

now there’s proper technique

But as you can see from the photos above there was a wide variety of terrain to keep us entertained. From tight chutes to long powder stuffed meadows there was big fun around every corner. And of course all of it had natural features to play in and jump off. And since the landings are all deep and soft, the temptation is hard to resist.

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

And the man who lead us to all this glory

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Our fearless guide, Matt

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

showing us how it’s done

Of course none of this is possible without a great operation making it happen. In this case it was Kingfisher Heliskiing whose entire staff treated us like royalty and made our every wish their command. Our guide Matt Devlin, whose attitude is best summed up by his photo above, delivered the goods run after run with a smile permanently etched on his face (not surprising considering what we had at our disposal).

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

the long commute from our lodging to the helipad…

And beyond the great skiing, delicious meals, comfy accommodations and toasty hot tub that Kingfisher provided there’s simply just the incredible scenery everywhere you look.

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

It goes without saying that the hardest part of a helitrip is leaving, especially when it’s snowing hard which is exactly what happened on our last day.

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Do we really have to leave?

The four shots above were taken on our last run and as you can see it was dumping! This would also be a good time to thank Kevin for all the fabulous photos he took (which you can click on to see larger) which are the majority of the action shots in this post. 

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

How we all felt about this trip

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

nothing like riding with good friends

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

and with all this bounty

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

no wonder his smile’s so big

As always we shot a ton of video and like last year I’m just going to post a tease until I have the time and energy to go through all the footage. It was a fabulous trip with great friends and marvelous conditions so until I see them again, here’s a tribute to the Fantastic Four – thank you guys!!!

 

 

 


Oct 25 2016

The Opposite of Powder

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

After our fabulous trip on the White Rim Trail last fall, we decided that an annual fall trip to the desert to hike, bike and camp would be an excellent tradition. This year, we wanted to check out a Colorado bike trail we hadn’t done before along with another section of Canyonlands that I had yet to visit.

Paradox Trail, Colorado

Our first stop was the Paradox Trail which runs 110 miles from Southwest Colorado to close to Moab. While most of the route is old jeep roads there are sections of single track and we decided to do the Red Canyon Loop that climbs to a spectacular overlook of the Paradox Valley.

Paradox Trail, Colorado

The climb up the canyon was fairly mellow till we hit what was described on the MTB Project Trail Page as a “short hike a bike section” near the top of the canyon. “Short” of course, is a relative term – long, steep and rocky were the words that came to mind while we trudged slowly up it.

Paradox Trail, Colorado

The view from the top as you can see from the pic above however, was well worth the effort. A perfect lunch stop and picture taking viewpoint was our reward for the earlier slog. After a bit more climbing we were then treated to a very long smooth downhill back to our car with numerous scenic vistas along the way.

State Highway 141, Colorado

 

The drive from Grand Junction to Naturita our stopping point for the night took us through beautiful canyons with towering sandstone walls on both sides. From there we headed west into Utah and into the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park. To say this is a scenic area is a vast understatement – everywhere you looked there were stunning rock formations that just begged to be explored.

Newspaper Rock Historic Monument, Utah

On the way into Needles we passed the famed Newspaper Rock, one of the worlds largest collections of petroglyphs. Our plan was to secure a camping spot for the night and then take a hike in the Needles district. 

Hamburger Rock Campground, Indian Creek, Utah

Because it was a beautiful fall weekend and thus primetime in the desert we were slightly concerned about finding a good camping spot but as luck would have it we found a primo and mostly empty campground at Hamburger Rock just outside the park entrance.

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

 

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Here I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves as it was difficult to not stop and take photos every ten steps along a 6 mile out and back hike to the Chesler Park overlook. I literally took hundreds of photos and just trying to narrow the selection down to an outstanding one hundred was a time consuming task.

Hamburger Rock Campground, Indian Creek, Utah

Then it was back to our campsite where after dinner and a fire we got to admire natures finest light show, the Milky Way in all it’s glory.

Indian Creek, Utah

 

Indian Creek, Utah

Indian Creek, Utah

In the morning the light show continued with a spectacular sunrise that had us climbing all over the rocks above our campground to get different angles on the morning fiesta. 

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

It wouldn’t be a true trip to the desert without a stop in Moab where we decided to check out the new bike trails in Dead Horse Point State Park just outside of town. We took a lovely tour through the park and then drove out to the point where the horses supposedly met their awful fate.

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

 

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

Well at least they had a nice view…

 

 


Jan 16 2016

Back in the Heli Again…

CMH K2 transport ship

Sure beats Uber…

After my accident in Valdez, one of the questions people most frequently asked me was whether I would ever heliski again. For me, the accident had less to do with heliskiing than with the inherent risks involved in riding big mountains. The big question for me was whether I’d be physically able to ride again at all, not where I would do so if I could. So once the docs gave me the okay and CMH advertised that they were having a half price sale, I didn’t think twice about booking a helitrip in British Columbia where I have had so many great experiences previously.

CMH K2

Home sweet home…

I had never previously been to a CMH operation (they have 11 lodges spread throughout British Columbia) and had always thought of them as the big box store of heliskiing. I had no doubt that they they offered a great experience, but was used to going with smaller operators and smaller groups. However they were making an offer we couldn’t refuse, so we decided to try something different and boy did that turn out to be a great decision.

CMH K2

The syndicate

The biggest difference between this trip and past ones is that we would be riding in a bigger helicopter with a group of 10. Theoretically, this could have meant fewer untracked lines, and longer wait times but in reality it meant just more folks to celebrate the amazing conditions with that we were fortunate to have all week. BC has had an excellent early season and after a long stretch of on and off snow, we managed to catch the first stretch of sunny days with cold temps and no wind to disturb our precious bounty.

CMH K2

Before…

CMH K2

After…

One of our big concerns with any heli operation is whether they “farm” their snow – that is they insist that skiers/riders stay close to one another in order to save as much untracked as possible for future groups. So we were thrilled to discover that our guides had a very much laissez-faire approach to our chosen routes down the hill. Basically all they required was that we meet up at the bottom of the hill so everyone got to enjoy fresh lines no matter when or where they started. And because the snow stability was excellent and their terrain is primarily classic Kootenay tree skiing, we got to ride steep untracked lines all day long. What else could we ask for?

CMH K2

You don’t always need a helicopter to catch some air…

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Aaron shows how free heelers do it

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Kevin with his usual cat swallowing the canary look…

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Trevor with his V for Victory pose…

Originally, this trip was going to be a reunion of our “core four” – the same group that went to Revelstoke and Valdez together two years ago. Unfortunately, one of the founding members had to drop out but came up with a worthy replacement as seen directly above. We then spread the word and picked up three more associates who ripped along with us.

CMH K2

Did I mention how beautiful it was…

CMH K2

everywhere you looked…

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and when you got there…

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there were never any tracks…

Since we had nothing but bluebird days, the scenery was spectacular everywhere you turned and the late December sunlight was glorious all day. This led to an abundance of picture taking of our very photogenic crew.

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Aaron finding his zen…

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What me worry?

CMH K2

Who took this photo?

CMH K2

Our staff photographer, Kevin Edwards, of course…

My good buddy Kevin always complains that I never give him photo credit so I’m going to publicly state right now that any good photo of me is his doing and I owe him dearly for that as well as all the times he pulls me out of a flat spot. Who says skiers and snowboarders can’t get along?

CMH K2

But enough scenery shots…

CMH K2

let’s get back to why we were really there…

CMH K2

to find deep powder…

CMH K2

to rip turns through…

CMH K2

run after run…

CMH K2

and I’ve got to say…

CMH K2

it was absolutely worth…

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every second…

CMH K2

of my…

CMH K2

rehab.

Of course, we need to thank all the great folks at the CMH K2 Rotor Lodge for the delicious food, comfy accommodations, rides to the Nakusp Hot Springs after skiing, and most of all the incredible guiding and terrain they provided for four amazing days!

CMH K2

Cool sign too…

It’s really hard to capture just how fabulous the skiing/riding was with just some still photos especially because when you’re in the middle of an incredible run, stopping to take a photo generally isn’t at the top of your priority list. Fortunately we also shot a ton of video but cutting that into something that someone other than the participants would want to watch is a rather large task. In my past life, I was once a video editor so I may attempt to do just that but for now you’ll just have to settle for this tease.

And yes, my surgically rebuilt knee held up just fine, so there will be more tales from the Gluten Free Snowboarder. I need to thank my surgeon for sewing me back together, my physical therapists for working me hard, my family for helping me in times of need and my friends for telling me I’d be back. It not only takes a village to raise a child, but also to put a broken snowboarder back on the mountain. Thanks everyone, and see you on the slopes!!!


Oct 31 2015

In the White Rim

Nothing like being able to see where you’re headed…

During my visit to Canyonlands in May, I got my first glimpse of the White Rim Trail, which I had long heard was a bike trip not to be missed. Inspired by the incredible views from Islands in the Sky, I decided to make that trip happen and luckily was able to pull it together. The tricky part was finding someone/someway to get a driver/support vehicle since I didn’t know enough folks to put a big trip together where everyone would take turns driving. Fortunately, my friend Antony who is not a mountain biker, agreed to come along and hike while Mike and I rode and then meet us at the end of the day at the campsites. Then the real challenge became reserving the campsites through the National Park Service. They’re are only 20 campsites spread throughout the 100 mile trail and between the outfitters who get first dibs and all the other folks who want to go, reserving the sites took several weeks of going online at 12:01 am till I finally found a combination that made sense for a 4 day 3 night trip.

First stop on the scenic tour

The ride starts with a huge descent from the top of Islands in the Sky down to the White Rim. From there you basically ride ride along the edge of canyons which overlook the Colorado River which half way around meets the Green River which you follow to the way out. Here’s a map that gives you a much better idea of what I’m talking about. But no matter where you are on the trail the views are amazing and the biggest challenge is resisting the urge to stop every hundred feet to take another picture.

This campsite was called “nothing special” on the various sites I researched…

but the view across the road sure was sweet…

and not a bad place to wake up in the morning

While the trail was spectacular and great easy riding, perhaps the best part was the campgrounds. We went in late October when the temperatures were more hospitable so the nights were cool but even without campfires which are not allowed it was a joy just to sit in camp and watch the colors change.

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On the road day two…

with in”spiring” views…

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around every corner…

While day one was mostly downhill, day two contained the only real serious climb of the trip (other than the climb out at the end) up to Murphy’s Hogback. But before we got to that climb there were miles and miles of fabulous scenery to ride through first.

Talk about jaw dropping views…

and canyons as far as the eye can see…

Our second night accommodations were at Murphy’ Hogback. There are three campsites at that location and all of them had spectacular vistas. We were in Murphy C which overlooked a huge canyon and next day’s ride.

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The clouds starting to roll in…

rainy hogback morning

which lead to a rainy night…

but ultimately another gorgeous day

Can you see why they call it the White Rim?

While preparing for this trip I read through numerous posts and all the National Park Service material. We had originally hoped we could do the trip with Antony’s Subaru Outback but the Park Service is adamant that you have a high clearance four wheel drive primarily for getting in and out of Murphy Hogback.  While that section of the road was slow going and ultimately not a major problem, the real challenge turned out to be mud and without our rented F-150 we would not have stood a chance.

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Our beast of burden and the fearless crew

Just another bend in the road…

which lead us to the Green River which sure looked brown on this day.

The start of the climb over Hardscrabble Hill…

which was progressing nicely till our sag wagon punctured a tire right about here…

then at the top of the climb…

and back down to the river to our campsite and one last fabulous dinner…

On day three we encountered our first real issues. After the tricky drive down Murphy Hogback things were progressing smoothly till we hit Hardscrabble Hill where on the way up the climb we discovered our vehicle by the side of the road. Originally thinking Antony had parked and gone for a hike we instead discovered that we had a flat and now had to figure out how to remove and replace a spare on an F-150. After an initial bout of cluelessness we figured it out and good thing as the nearest help was at least 40 miles away and we had not seen another vehicle on the trail all day. At this point we figured our excitement for the day was over but as we made our way along the river we discovered that the rain of the previous days had led to some serious mud ruts.

Sunset day 3

Mud day 4

While we only had to work around a short stretch of mud on day 3, on day 4 we encountered long stretches that had they been a little deeper would have been impassable. So rather than try and slog our way through we chose to throw our bikes in the truck and power our way out. While there was a nice stretch along the river that might have been nice if dry, the rest of the ride out was a long, steep and not particularly scenic grind up Mineral Road that I had no problem passing on.

A cool side trip on the way home

Did they meet aliens or what?

To cap off a fantastic trip we stopped by Sego Canyon on the way back where a number of different cultures left beautiful artwork on several rock faces. It was quite fitting that after passing through some other worldly terrain in Canyonlands that we saw what looked like pictures of aliens on the walls of the canyon. I can’t recommend doing the White Rim highly enough – it’s a relatively easy ride with scenery that can’t be beat and campgrounds that are beautiful and at least when we went delightfully empty. A big big thanks to my friend Antony for letting us bike leisurely through the landscape while he covered some very tough miles in the truck. If you should ever get the chance to ride the White Rim, do it!

 


May 5 2015

Go west young man…

On the road again…

 

After a year on the sidelines, I was thrilled this spring when I realized I could get on my mountain bike again without any restrictions. So I did what all Coloradans do when ski/snowboard season is over and headed to Utah to do some mountain biking. Springtime is the perfect time to visit before the heat of summer makes daytime rides an exercise in masochism in the Utah desert.

Where the past comes to life…

Utah is a magical place for those who like the splendor of the desert. Petroglyphs, fantastic rock formations, and all your favorite earth tones make for stunning imagery every where you turn.

Utah’s “Little Grand Canyon”

A lovely rim ride

Day one found us at The Wedge, also known as Utah’s “Little Grand Canyon”, located in the San Rafael Swell. The drive there was almost as spectacular as the views from the top as we passed numerous petroglyphs and gorgeous rock formations. The bike ride was not challenging but the scenery more than compensated.

They don’t call it “Island in the Sky” for nothing…

 

As far as the eye can see…

 

And a little snow in the distance helps keep you cool…

On day two we set out to explore the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park. We decided on a seemingly little used trail down into Lathrop Canyon. What started out as a pleasant little hike through a pretty meadow turned into a stunning descent into some classic Canyonlands terrain, each corner revealing a more spectacular view than the last.

Just another typical mind blowing vista..

 

Now I see why they call it the White Rim Trail

Island in the Sky, Canyonlands

Just to put it into perspective

Normally, I avoid scenic overlooks in national parks but the overlooks in Island of the Sky are pretty much irresistible. So after the hike we did a car tour through the park, oohing and aahing along with everyone else. And as an extra bonus, I got a good view of the legendary White Rim Trail which seduced me into reserving campsites for a return trip in October to do the trail on bike.

We couldn’t leave Moab without at least sampling one of the newer and ever expanding bike trail systems. So on day three we checked out Navajo Rocks, a nice mix of sandstone and classic desert riding. I don’t really love the hard work involved in mountain biking but I’m a sucker for the scenery and once the endorphins kick in all the grinding is long forgotten.

What everyone goes to Moab for…

 

Land of the Navajo

 

Sandstone anyone?

 

After the bike ride it was time to find some shade and water to cool down in. Fortunately for me my friend Mike knows Moab like the back of his hand and had a lovely little canyon with creek included for us to explore.

Down by the river

All in all it was a fabulous trip. And more importantly it was the first time I really tested my leg in a multi day multi sport trip and it passed with flying colors. The next big test will be when I get on a board again but until then I’m just going to be thankful that there are still plenty of summer sports that I can enjoy. I guess I really am one lucky boy…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Apr 18 2015

Happy Anniversary?

Mount Sanitas, Boulder, CO

Sure beats the Vail Valley Medical Center…

Well, it’s now been a year since my fall and surgery and my how time does not fly when you’re rehabbing from a major injury. I recently passed my 100th physical therapy appointment (including the ones in Vail immediately after my surgery) and they tell me when I hit my 100th in Boulder they’ll name a therapy table after me. It’s been a long brutal process but I’m happy to report that things are definitely looking up. While my range of motion is definitely limited and I’ll likely always have some pain and stiffness, my leg strength has almost fully returned and as you can see from the photo above I can now hike the steep hills that I’ve always used to get in shape for backcountry snowboarding.

East Ridge Trail, Mount Sanitas

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

East Ridge Trail, Mount Sanitas

My partner in crime…

Fortunately I live just down the street from one of the nicest hiking trails in Boulder and have a companion who’s always willing to keep me company on my treks. It’s been an unusually dry spring in town and we’ve taken advantage of the conditions to work me back into shape. While doing hundreds of squats and lunges at home and at PT never gets old, building strength by climbing up steep terrain is far more rewarding.

Little Scraggy Trail, Buffalo Creek

Back in the saddle again…

As an added bonus, last week I did my first mountain bike ride in 18 months and while my mind was a little nervous my body handled it flawlessly. So this summer will hopefully be filled with many more rides as I get back into my normal routines. All this is in preparation for next winter when I hope to take up snowboarding full time once again.

Valdez, AK

Before the fall…

It’s been a challenging winter watching the snow fly and not being able to get out in it. I’ve had to live vicariously through friends and other online powder connoisseurs and at times it’s been very painful. Fortunately for me, while there was plenty of powder to be had if one worked hard for it, it was not a particular epic winter in Colorado or BC, two of my favorite stomping grounds. Alaska on the other hand, (where the above photo is from) has been going off and is in one of the best snow cycles in years. Watching this from afar has made me thoroughly reconsider my vow never to go back. While Valdez is certainly out of the equation, future visits to Haines now seem like not such a bad idea. In the bigger picture, while I’m very thankful that I can even walk after the nasty spill I took, it’s been the dream of snowboarding again that has motivated me through many a long and painful rehab session.  While nothing is ever certain, the gluten free snowboarder does plan to ride again!


Nov 11 2014

It’s getting better all the time…

First snow of winter

It’s that time again

After an incredibly beautiful and extended fall season here in Colorado, winter returned yesterday with the temperature dropping 40 degrees in a matter of hours along with several inches of snow. They’re calling for a high of 10 degrees tomorrow with snow through the weekend so this is definitely not just another one of those snowboarding dreams that regularly course through my subconscious mind while I sleep. Of course, the snow triggers all sorts of conscious feelings – the most prominent being when the blank am I going to be able to snowboard again!

Just add snow

It’s now been almost seven months since my knee surgery and while I’ve made tremendous progress by committing (or submitting, depending on how you look at it) myself to an intensive rehabilitation program it appears I am not quite ready for primetime just yet. The physical therapist’s office has become my second home and I am now much more familiar with the different types and levels of pain one can endure without actually passing out. When I wasn’t gathering that excruciating knowledge, I did my best to get back out in the mountains even if only by car and then later foot (no mountain biking season for me this year). Luckily for me Colorado is just as beautiful in the summer as it is on a pristine powder day.

It's a family affair...

Road tripping with the family

Fortunately, I have a new partner in crime, a young blond I met just last year. She’s passionate, athletic and generally up for anything – just what I needed to help get through these challenging times.

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Her name is Lola – short for Lolita

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Me and my girl

Together we’ve been whipping me back into shape by hiking the local trails in Boulder. If there has been one upside to this injury it’s that I’ve been motivated to get back into hiking and Boulder certainly has plenty to offer on that front.

Our typical morning stroll

So between all the hiking and physical therapy my leg has gotten much stronger. I still however lack the full range of strength, motion and flexibility I need to get back out on the mountain. While my surgeon is very pleased with my progress and no longer suggesting the need for a second surgery, he is not at all interested in seeing me back on the slopes anytime soon. Granted, this is not surprising news given the severity of my injury but just the thought of maybe getting a few powder days in the spring has been the carrot that has kept me going through a very long and painful rehab. And given the rate at which my leg has been improving, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that I could achieve that goal. So for now, I will abide by his wishes and keep hammering away at my very incalcitrant scar tissue but come spring I may have to take matters into my own hands…


May 26 2014

May I have another please…

Vail PT

I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers…

Tomorrow marks the six week anniversary of my surgery. On the one hand I’ve made tremendous progress since then as immediately after surgery my leg was one big swollen mass that I could barely bend at all. Now I can see my ankle bones again, have had all my stitches and bandages removed and can almost bend it 90 degrees. On the other hand, it took me almost ten minutes and five rest stops to walk 2 blocks this week and I have paid dearly for everyone of those degrees of mobility. So I alternate between a small sense of optimism that it’s eventually going to be all better and a deep depression over how far I have to go.

Fortunately my two primary helpers, Benita and Miles have been very tolerant of my mood swings. Weekends are the toughest as during the week my work keeps me busy but on the weekends the days stretch out forever. Throughout my life I have always used exercise to keep me sane and my energy balanced and really I’m not sure how I’ve lasted this long without it. But I guess we humans are remarkably adaptable creatures, given no choice we keep on going and doing things that in theory don’t seem possible.

Physical therapy is the key to the road back and is both very rewarding and exceedingly painful. It’s really encouraging to hear my therapist say my knee is looking better and see it bend a little further than the last time but then the session starts and now it’s all about pain tolerance. While it feels like to me that there is a mechanical limit to how much I can bend my leg, my therapist assures me it could go further if I would only relax my muscles that are resisting and focus on something besides the pain that comes when he pushes me past what I think is my limit. I am no longer taking any narcotics so I wonder out loud if they could just knock me out for 45 minutes and do whatever they want with my leg while I was unconscious. Unfortunately that does not seem to be an option so instead I grimace and bear it and leave the sessions totally exhausted.

At home, I have a whole other set of exercises designed to do the same thing. Fortunately those involve a stopwatch which gives me an end point that I can focus on. Surely I can stand another 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10 and oh the joy when the clock hits zero. While I generally lack patience I am nothing if not disciplined so I do everything I’m supposed to and then hit the ice machine for some short term relief.

Tomorrow being six weeks also means I am allowed to start weight bearing on the bad leg. While I’m not sure how this works, it ultimately means I will be able to get rid of my crutches and while I have these new fancy ones that are easier to use, I will not miss them for a second. Having your hands tied up when you move from place to place means carrying things with you that are larger than pocket size is very problematic and means you are totally dependent upon others to move almost anything around and frankly I’m no Blanche Dubois.

I’m frequently asked what the timetable for my recovery looks like and unfortunately no one without psychic powers can answer this question. So much depends on how my knee (particularly my meniscus) responds and it seems like it’s a 50/50 proposition that they may have to go back in at some point for further work but that in the bigger scheme of things that would not be a huge setback. I was just recently give a new brace that I have to wear for the next six months 24/7 so there is a timetable on that but I’m best off not trying to figure out “whens” and just focusing on what I need to do today. Being a pessimist by nature that leads me to totally write off the next ski season but I must admit there is a tiny part of me that dreams about some spring skiing next year especially as I see my friends are already planning a trip to BC next March – highly unlikely but you never know.

I’m not really sure who I’m writing this for as no one is really interested in the minutiae of my recovery but I figure as long as I’m documenting everything else I might as well include this and perhaps it will be helpful someday in providing me perspective on the whole experience. There are moments when I still can’t believe this has happened to me and don’t know how I’m going to make it through the next year but then I remember there’s nothing I can do about it that I’m not already doing so I just sigh (or cry, depending on my mood) and continue on my merry way. I’m sure there are some bigger life lessons here but those will have to wait till further down the line when I’m looking back in a more reflective mood – right now it’s just a matter of putting one crutch in front of the other…

 


Apr 27 2014

Rehab, anyone?

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My newly refurbished left knee

First comes the accident – unexpected, chaotic and life changing in less than a minute. Then comes surgery – definitely expected, very controlled and over in a matter of hours. Last comes rehab – definitely expected, many, many variables and lasts a long, long time. The accident was like spinning a gigantic wheel of fate – could of have escaped entirely (like two of my friends did), could have easily died – ended up somewhere in the middle (major injury but nothing life threatening or overly traumatic). The surgery was brutal – 4 and a half hours, very complicated, total rebuild from scratch required but lucked out and got one of the best docs in the world to do it and went as well as it could. Rehab – just getting started down a very long road but finally I get to have some say in the matter and that feels good.

One of the major recurring themes for me of this whole experience has been the notion of luck. Never has the term “relative” meant so much. Definitely got unlucky that the cornice collapsed, lost again when I got caught in it, won the battle when I didn’t die, and could have done much better (as my two fellow tumblers did) or much worse (paralysis, brain injury, amputation – just to name a few) on the injury front. Every time I show my medical record to someone I go through the same process. First they take a look at the damage and are suitably impressed  – no run of the mill ACL tear here – and immediately ask how this happened. Then after I describe the scenario and maybe show them a picture, we’re in “you’re lucky to be alive territory”. And then, there’s there’s all the rest – what do we do now?

The first doc who saw me locally did me a major favor and quickly acknowledged that while he could fix me up, their were people close by who were a lot more experienced at this than he and I might be well suited to visit them. Like any athlete in Colorado, I was well aware of the Steadman Clinic in Vail where all the professional skiers and lots of other major athletes go to have surgery and rehab. And because I live in the state of Colorado, my insurance company considers them in network so no additional cost to use them over any other provider. This clearly falls on the good fortune side, yes?

So I call them on the phone, get a consult with surgery tentatively set and have my brother fly out to help me get there and get through the surgery. Only when I see the doc, it turns out I have a blood clot so have to have another procedure first where a valve gets installed in my stomach which means no knee surgery and another week of waiting – not the best of “luck” but not at all uncommon and once again a lot better than that clot getting loose before discovery and floating up to my heart and lungs and potentially killing me.

Finally we get to surgery – major, major damage to all ligaments and other attachments – nothing holding the leg together so they have to have three docs just hold the leg in place the whole time so main surgeon can work on it. Initially can’t find meniscus and are about to give up on that when it finally appears. All in all, surgery is a success but is that good luck that they were able to overcome some serious obstacles or bad luck that it was so screwed up in the first place?

In the end, obviously “good luck/bad luck” – none of it matters. It is what it is, gotta deal with the cards dealt, time to move on to something where I have some control over the outcome and that is rehab. Now my will and determination come in to play. Still a ton of variables (particularly how my body responds) but at least it’s no longer just a waiting game for me. Initially there’s not a lot I can do – since they had to rebuild everything from scratch there is no strengthening to be done until the new ligaments and graphs have set up. This means most of my day is comprised of short bouts of stretching mixed with long bouts of icing and seeing how far over my head (heart actually) I can get my leg without my hips and hamstring applying for amnesty. Now I was not a particularly limber guy before the accident – a yoga teacher used to refer to me as a “classic stiff white guy” (at least I hope she was referring to my flexibility) so this constant raising my leg as far as it can go is not only problematic but incredibly uncomfortable.

But once again I guess this is something that I should be “thankful” for – the biggest issues I face right now are being physically uncomfortable all the time and the resulting lack of sleep that follows. I’m not paralyzed, crippled or brain damaged (at least not permanently – in the short term the narcotics are definitely not making me smarter).  I’m making good progress so far in the mobility department – up to 65 degrees – and that is the biggest short term battle – getting as much mobility as I can before the scarring sets in.  So as I slowly evolve from glutenfreesnowboarder to ligamentfreesnowboarder to hopefully onceagainasnowboarder I’ll continue to ponder the concept of “lucky” and will let you know when I figure it out…