29 July 2011
16 July 2011
From where I sit right now my right leg looks deformed, midway between my knee and foot, off to the outside of my shin, is a lump which has moved from golf ball sized to approaching tennis ball. There's a similar lump forming on my left leg, just below the tendon at the back of my knee. Apparently we shouldn't have complained about the mosquitoes on the descent from Mount Elbert – they've sent their friends in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks to pay us a (not so) little visit. These ones haven't played nicely either, biting in all the irritating places, my lip, between my fingers, my toes, the arches of my feet, my Achilles tendon, as well as all accessible skin, and some not (apparently these guys can bite through t-shirts). I'm covered in bites to the point where I might be scaring small children, Brad has about five though you wouldn't know it to hear how much he hates them. Gil has fly screens, but apparently these aren't entirely mosquito proof. They do keep out the lion's share, but enough to make life irritating somehow get through, we think via the air-conditioner in the roof – moths to arrive via this entrance point. This has seen the arrival of two games, flicking at the window screen so that the 30 on the outside fall off, and the more annoying, Brad getting angry and slapping madly at 3am.
Yesterday I concluded it was time to turn off the laptop when I Googled “mosquito borne diseases in North America”. But if I am ever to get one, it won't be in some tropical third world country, it'll be here.
Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park are very close together, essentially you exit one and enter the other. This should have meant moving from one into the other, for a week of more of national park fun. Unfortunately, during another moment of planning failure, we reached the end of our visit to Grand Teton with insufficient fresh fruit and vegetables for any time in Yellowstone. When I say insufficient, I don't mean we were short a few things, we literally had a plum, a potato and a rather sorry looking stalk of celery. Yum! So we detoured via Yellowstone (a detour which resulted in a roadside sighting of another piece of big ticket wildlife) to the nearest town with a hope of having a supermarket, Cody, Wyoming. Cody's slogan is “Cody is rodeo”, so what else were we to do, but attend the night rodeo which runs every night for about three months, something they're also quite proud of. Somewhat to our surprise it was more enjoyable than expected, and whilst some of the events (namely steer roping) seemed cruel, I suspect these are same ones that actually occur in “cowboy real life”.
We managed to secure ourselves seats above the cowboy pen/mounting yard/whatever it's called, so had an excellent view of the dynamics and events behind the scenes as well. Entertaining event of the night went to “invite every child under twelve into the arena, line the 40 plus kids up across it, then let three calves with ribbons tied to their tails loose” with a prize for those who obtained a ribbon. Hilarious when some of the kids were tripping over just getting into the arena.
15 July 2011
10 July 2011
06 July 2011
Colorado has a number of mountains more than 14,000 feet in elevation, affectionately known as Fourteeners, so what else were we to do, but climb one of them. We probably didn't need to choose the highest of Colorado's peaks, Mount Elbert, to be our Fourteener, as it also happens to be the second highest peak in the United States, although by only about 60 feet (roughly 18 metres, we climbed ladders taller than that at Mesa Verde). So the day after our rafting trip, with slightly sore backs and arms, we set off on what had been described as a 7 hour fairly easy hike. Whoever wrote that description is prone to exaggeration or flat out lied. And to the person (maybe the same) who decided that switchbacks would add unnecessary length, and that going up was an entirely sensible idea – our legs and lungs disagree.
Fairly early into the hike, I told Brad I didn't think I would make it, a phrase I would repeat at regular intervals throughout the rest of the upward journey. I'll be the first to admit it wasn't my finest hour, and I thought I would have to withdraw my earlier claim to new found fitness and keeping up with Brad.
It was part way through the gravelly rock layer (we'd already passed through Aspens, evergreens and a grassy-ish layer) things started to seem as though I was hardly able to walk ten steps before stopping to rest again. In an attempt to prove to myself I was making progress, I started counting my steps (and I was making progress, about 200 steps each time). After several rounds of this we came across snow covering the path with no foreseeable way around. It looked shallow and firm enough to cross, and it was, until we were nearly midway and Brad went down thigh deep. Several more such steps later I thought I'd found firmer snow and set out on my own path, only to go down thigh deep too. Did I mention we were both wearing shorts? Over a week later, my legs still bear the cuts and bruises from the snow. Before too long, headaches set in, and the hike began to get a little soul destroying. The angle we were approaching the summit from made it look as though other peaks were higher and we still had a long way to go. As well, it looked as that, if in fact the closest peak was the highest, the actual summit would be unreachable due to snow and we would come so close, only to fall short.
The peak was in fact the nearest one, and not unreachable and after almost exactly six hours we made it to the 14,440 foot (4401 metre) high summit. Snowy peaks (all lower than us) stretched far on all sides, but sadly the sense of achievement and being on top of the world (or perhaps just Colorado) was overcome by our pounding headaches and the knowledge we still had a long trip back down.
After a very late lunch and a few photos, we started our decent, which was as tough on our knees and ankles as the climb had been on our calves and thighs, though without the need for frequent rest stops. The snow drift was no kinder to us either despite our approaching it from a different angle. It was however kinder to the only other group we saw on the hike, half a dozen teenagers who we'd leap frogged most of the way up. We felt old and boring as they fearlessly slid down on their stomachs.
Some stats just for the achievement file:
Total hiking time: 10 hours
Overall elevation gain: 4890 feet/1490 metres (this doesn't take into account that we had some downhill bits that had to be climbed again)
Total distance: this is in debate, according the internet it's just over 9kms each way, we started a little ahead of the trailhead by setting out from our camp site. Brad was tracking our hike on his phone and we still had a fair way to go on the upwards journey when the battery died. At last check we were at 9.81kms. Therefore we estimate the round trip to be approx more than 20kms.
Post hike nap: 14 hours
No, we didn't magically tele-port from Zebra Canyon to mid-way through Colorado, along the way we visited the very aptly but not very creatively, named Arches National Park, so called for the rock arches which are continually forming,
Definitely no more dirt road adventures for Gil.