Our Everyday Adventures

We are not adventurers by choice but by fate – Van Gogh

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GoLite Gear Review

Post By:Jake

Recently I had the opportunity to test out a few GoLite items.  For those of you unfamiliar with the company GoLite, they’ve been manufacturing some of the lightest, most functional outdoor gear on the planet for a little over a decade.  I first started hearing about GoLite early in college (early 2000′s) and on one fateful backpacking trip in 2005 I ran into ultra-distance through hiker Andrew Skurka who was nearing the end of a 7,800-mile Sea-to-Sea through hike.  At the time, I was guiding a group of teens on a backpacking trip down the Olympic coast and on our second morning of the hike Andrew came blasting down the beach and was excited to pause and talk to us for a while.  He explained what he was doing, and that the river crossing ahead of us was most likely impassable for a group our size.  I looked him over, and looked at the gear he was carrying and thought, for sure, this person is crazy.  After all, he was carrying less than 20 pounds in his pack, and was wearing light trail running shoes!  He’d have to be crazy going that light on a trip like that. 

Sure enough, our group ended up turning around at the un-passable river crossing. We made our way back to our 15-passenger van and decided to drive up to a far northern section of the Olympic coast to continue our backpacking trip.  2-days later we arrived at the trail head, only to run into GoLite founders Kim and Coup Coupounas.  Asking them what was going on, they explained that they were expecting one of their athletes to meet them on the beach.  He was nearing the end of a 7,800-mile trek and was due at the finish line in just a couple hours.  We glanced around and thought, “that can’t be the same guy we just ran into?”  Just less than 48 hours before he was nearly 35 miles away, through some pretty rugged terrain!  It was Andrew Skurka they were expecting.  He was later named Backpacker Magazine’s “Person of the Year”.  That chance encounter was the first time I’d seen anyone actually practicing the often talked about theory of going “Ultra-Light and Fast”.  It wasn’t the last though, as that practice soon started catching on everywhere.  Packing super light gear, and only the bare essentials in order to cover a ton of ground quickly, was made possible through the emergence of companies like GoLite.  GoLite and GoLite sponsored athletes have won piles of awards and have consistently been ranked at the top of gear guide lists.  If you’ve never owned anything from GoLite, what are you waiting for.  Their stuff is affordable, and it’ll certainly enhance your outdoor experience!

The gear I got to try out was the GoLite Rush backpack, The Wildwood Trail short sleeve shirt, the Mesa Trail shorts, and the Sanitas Run pants.  I describe the Rush backpack in my adventure racing gear review here, but just to reiterate, it’s hands down the perfect choice for an ultra-light single day pursuit, such as an adventure race, or a light/fast day hike.  At 1lb. 2oz. it’s one of the lightest packs of its kind, but it certainly doesn’t skimp on quality or features.  2-Perfectly sizes hip belt pockets carry a ton of quick access gear like your camera, compass, food, headlamp, ect.. and the bungee cord net on the back is strong enough and properly sized to carry most any extra layer of clothing, a pair of running/biking shoes, bike helmet, ect…

The Sanitas Run pants are sized a bit awkwardly for me.  My body is built a little more on the short and stocky “hiker” build, and not the tall gangly “runner” build and these pants seem to be fit for the latter.  In all fairness, as there are so many different body types, it is hard to please everyone with respect to fit.  Apart from the fit, the pants are nice for cold weather pursuits.  They were hard to test due to the fit for me, but I suspect if they fit you well, the performance would be great.

The Wildwood Trail and Mesa Trail shorts are just like all the other GoLite gear I’ve ever owned, incredibly light.  They are made out of a super quick dry synthetic material, and they breath like your wearing nothing.  On brisk days, I’ve worn the shorts over a pair of tights and they’ve performed flawlessly.  I have no complaints with either piece of clothing, and when I’m ready for more clothing layers, or any other pieces of gear, GoLite will be at or near the top of my list.

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GrizzlyMan and Black Bear Challenge Adventure Race 2011

Post By:Jake

Saturday April 23, 2011 roughly 100 racers assembled in Greenough, MT at the Paws up Resort to compete in the annual GrizzlyMan and Black Bear Challenge Adventure Race. This year’s race proved to be MUCH harder than any previous version. The race includes trail running, orienteering, mountain biking, and for the GrizzyMan, white water navigation. Racers are given a sheet of coordinates, a map, and a “passport” the night before the race. During the pre-race meeting organizers stressed the rules, shared the course safety info, and explained the open format of the race. Racers had the evening to plot their points on their maps, and plan their route. At 5:00 a.m. the GrizzlyMan racers started out in the pre-dawn light, and at 9:00 a.m. the Black Bear Racers headed out on their course.

This year I competed in the Black Bear Challenge with my cousin Adam, on team “Just Cuz”. We drove up together Friday afternoon, got registered, and staged our bikes at the bike “Transition Area”. We had very little clue what to expect. We were told there would be running and biking, but beyond that we had absolutely no idea what to expect. We’d never visited the area, we weren’t sure how much snow may or may not be on the course, and we were even less clear about how far we might be expected to travel. All we knew was that we’d be on our bikes for some of the race, and on foot for the rest. For accommodations Friday night, we rented a “boxcar” at the Lubrecht Experimental Forest headquarters. The boxcar had a couple single bunk beds, a couple small desks, and a pot belly wood stove. There was one shared outhouse that we could find, between 15 or 20 cabin/boxcars, but no running water as far as we could find, although the website mentions a “washhouse” with showers so I’m sure there was water somewhere?

The 7:00 p.m. pre-race meeting Friday night was mandatory, although as they handed out race passports it appeared a couple teams decided to cancel. As we got our passports, we quickly counted and noted the 16 sets of coordinates representing hidden checkpoints. The race directors stated that last year’s racers requested a more challenging format for 2011, so they responded by purchasing 60 checkpoints for the GrizzlyMan race, 16 of which were shared with the Black Bear racers as opposed to last year’s 13 GMan checkpoints and 9 Black Bear checkpoints. They also decided to spread the checkpoints out more, and place them in harder to find locations. Thanks guys! After the meeting, Adam and I raced back to the boxcar and started plotting points. We took our time and plotted with care as these points would ultimately determine our success or failure. Plotting the points took much longer than expected and we didn’t get to sleep till around 11:30. Sleep didn’t last long, and we were up by 7 a.m., getting our gear finalized and starting to stretch out. A shotgun blast started the race at 9:00, and a pod of about 50 people started jogging away from the Paws up Resort. As the course was completely open, almost instantly people started going their own way while other teams looked confused, not knowing if they should follow or stick to their path. We hit the first real landmark, a culvert that took us under Hwy 200, and we broke out our compasses to start shooting bearings. A quick 1/2 mile run/hike later and we were punching our first checkpoint. Another compass bearing and a 1/2 mile run/hike and we were quickly standing over our second checkpoint (or so we thought). The checkpoint we had been aiming for was C2, and the checkpoint we were standing over was marked C3. Confused, we checked our map again and again, and quickly circled the area searching for a second nearby checkpoint?

Knowing we had to be in the right place, we concluded the race officials must have accidentally confused C2 and C3 when they were setting the course. It ate up about 20 minutes of precious time, but we were on our way to checkpoint #3 which we quickly found. At that point we made a beeline dash to the bike transition area. Our goal was to get on the bikes and start hitting up the furthest checkpoints first and then start working our way back towards the beginning. Checkpoint #4 came and went quickly and we started navigating deep off trail towards checkpoint “T”.

Feeling confident with our early victories and navigational success, the confidence was shattered as we spent about an hour searching in vain for checkpoint “T”. Loads of thoughts started crossing our minds on what we could have done differently, or how we could have found the point any quicker, or with less effort. In the end, given our route of travel it was just a bit too challenging to find.
We gave up on “T” after deciding it was taking too long, we didn’t want to spend the rest of the day on that single point, but giving up on T meant the next 4 checkpoints would also most likely be lost as each one used the last for the start of a new bearing. We re-plotted a course that we thought we could get a few of those points back later in our route, and we were off again, back to our bikes that we had stashed just off a trail an hour earlier. At this point, Adam started complaining about a knee or tendon injury that was starting to flare up. He could hardly walk, much less bike so we decided to limp our bikes up the mountain to the next checkpoint. Checkpoint #5 was hidden well, just inside a shallow ravine, and by blind luck we stumbled upon it quickly. Back on the trail we decided to continue to one of the highest checkpoints “V”. Checkpoint V sat nearly at the top of a mountain at about 5,040 feet. The snow pack (which we later figured out) started at about 4,600 feet.
We decided to push our bikes to checkpoint V, and continue on towards another couple high checkpoints and then “ride” down the other side of the mountains. As we approached V, we realized the snowpack was close to 4 to 5 feet thick in most spots at that elevation, and after looking at the contour map of where we started getting into the solid snowpack, it quickly became apparent that several miles of snow travel would be required if we were to push on towards the remaining high checkpoints. It was getting late in the day, and we were becoming more and more demoralized so we decided to throw in the towel and retreat off the snowpack. At 3:00 we were finally back on solid ground, and we started riding back towards the finish line. A solid hour later we crossed the finish line with a total of 6 checkpoints punched. But we at least finished within the time limit. 5:00 came and went and teams continued trickling in, all receiving a DNF (did not finish).

Our attitudes began to improve a bit after talking with several other teams. It appears we were not the only team to struggle through this year’s course. While several teams didn’t finish in the allotted time, most teams that did finish were far from getting every checkpoint. The combination of a super heavy snow year, and a bigger course with more and harder to find checkpoints proved to be a pretty tough challenge for all. Once home, I plotted our approximate course and determined we covered at least 21 miles of terrain. 10.25 of the miles were on foot, 3 of which were on snow while pushing our bikes over and under fallen trees, and post holing through razor blade sharp icy snow. 10.75 miles were on our mountain bikes. We were out for approximately 7 hours, and only spent about an hour of that time slowly searching for a difficult checkpoint. Of the six points we did find, we found them quickly and without the assistance of seeing another team standing over the point. Overall, I’m proud of our performance. Despite Adam’s knee injury, he persevered till the end. Given the circumstances and the amount of time we had to prepare our map and our course, I don’t feel we could have been much better prepared for this race. We missed a key checkpoint, that would have un-locked a few more checkpoints, but otherwise I don’t feel we could have done much better. We learned a ton from this race, and going into the race next year, we’ll have a huge advantage by simply having competed in it this year. Check out the photos, and check out my other post on our Adventure Race equipment. If you have questions about this race, please let me know!


Adventure Race Gear

Post By:Jake

This year’s Grizzly Man and Black Bear Challenge race was brutal.  It thoroughly tested competitors mental and physical strength.  Racers, and their gear, was pushed to their breaking points.  While only a 1-day event, the event was described by many to be nearly the hardest endurance challenge of their lives.  With an entirely open race format, participants get to chose their own path, and their own adventure.  Racers can turn around and throw in the towel whenever they want; provided they can navigate their way back to some form of civilization.

Knowing this would be one of the hardest races of our lives, my partner and I put in a lot of effort researching the best of the best gear and equipment to use for this race.  Here’s what we ended up using and some of the gear’s highlights. Gear marked with a * was acquired at no cost for testing purposes.  

Footwear:  Without a doubt, our most important piece of equipment.  We specifically required trail runners that were made with Gore-Tex, as we expected the course to be wet, muddy, and snowy; which it was.  Additionally we wanted trail runners with great support as most of the course would be off trail.  All three of these shoes made the top of our list, and their performance was flawless.

LOWA S-Trail GTX 12 oz $135.00*

SCARPA Pursuit  GTX 13.8 oz $125*

Vasque Mindbender GTX 13.6 oz $130*

Gaiters: As we were told to expect a significant amount of snow on the course we knew we’d need gaiters to keep the mud and ice out.  I used the OR (Outdoor Research) Flex Tex gaiters $35*.  They provided a great tight fit, and performed exactly as expected.  I have a similar pair of these that are a few years old, and the new Flex Tex are a MUCH improved version.

Pants/Shorts and Map Case:  We chose to race in shorts as the weather was nice and sunny and about +45 degrees; however next year, regardless of the weather I’ll be running in pants!  Both of us had legs that looks like shredded beef by the end of the day.  Running off trail through thorn bushes and brambles, post holing through razor blade sharp icy snow, having a bike peddle continually grind into the back of my leg while pushing the bike through snow… Any one of those reasons would have been enough to convince me to wear pants next year!  Having said that,  the shorts we did use performed great.  I could hardly feel they were there, literally.  

I used a pair of GoLite Mesa Trail* shorts… They weighed hardly anything, but would better be used for an “on-trail” race.   Next year I’ll be wearing a pair of OR Equinox* pants.

Shirts:  I used a GoLite WildWood* shirt, which was incredibly light, breathable, and all around comfortable.  Perfect placement of seams, and all around well thought out design. Next year, I may wear a compression shirt under this shirt so it doesn’t ride up under my pack while I’m running.

Sunglasses:  Sunglasses were a MUST have for the race for 2 reasons. 1.) it was a SUPER bright sunny day, and 2.) biking fast down the mountain and being forced to stay close to your race partner, it seemed my glasses were catching lots of tiny twigs, pebbles, mud, bugs, ect…

I used a pair of Julbo Pipeline Glasses with  photochromic lenses.  The photochromic lenses are super nice as during times of low light, the lens tint will lighten up making it easier to see. So you’re eyes will be protected in any light condition.

Adam used a pair of Ryders Shot* glasses with photochromic lenses.  While the fit isn’t quite as nice as the Julbo’s the price is definitely more affordable.

Backpack:  This race has a lot of required gear for every single person so running in a pack is essential.  We were specifically looking for a pack that fit close to your back, was comfortable to run in, wasn’t too hot, and was sized appropriately to carry all the necessary gear.  I chose the GoLite Rush* pack, and I saw a couple other racers with the same pack.  The Rush pack has excellent features for adventure racing.  It’s comfortable to run in, has 2 excellent side pockets for water bottles, a hydration sleeve if that’s your thing, a nice bungee net to catch any extra layers, bike shoes, helmet, ect… and a couple very nice sized zip pockets on the waste belt. One of these pockets carried my camera through the race while the other carried all my food for the day.  Overall an excellent pack.  It’d be my first choice again in a heartbeat.

Adam used a Hydrapak Selva* pack with a 70oz. water reservoir.  The reservoir was excellent, and much easier to fill than my Camelback bladder.  Overall, good size and good, close fit.  

Required Gear:  The following gear was required for the race:  Compass, Headlamp, Water carrying capacity of at least 64 oz., Space blanket, Fire Starter, Matches in waterproof container, Whistle, Bike Helmet.

Compass:  We used a Brunton 15TDCL* and a Silva Ranger.  Both performed well, but the Brunton was slightly nicer and easier to use.

Water: I used a 100 oz. Camelbak bladder, but only had it 1/2 full, while I also carried 2-16oz squeeze water bottles, filled with Nuun electrolyte supplements.

Fire Starter: We carried a Gerber fire starte*r that came with a Bear Grylls survival knife, and a Kershaw fire starter*.  We actually used the Kershaw fire starter the night before the race to start a fire in our cabin’s pot belly stove.  It was a little tricky at first, but one good spark hit the paper and started the fire right up.  Good to know we could do it if we ever needed to.

Matches in a Waterproof Case:  Adam carried an Industrial Revolutions Stormproof Match Kit*. a little bulky, but handy if you need em.  I carried a tiny old kit I had laying around from my hunting pack.  I carried a Sea to Summit small Map Case*.  While the map case was very handy and very quick and convenient, it would have been nice to pass it off 1/2 way through the day as the constant swaying around my neck was quite annoying by the end of the day. Adam carried his map/passport in his pocket.

Bikes: I used a hard-tail Fetish Cycles mountain bike and Adam used a full suspension mountain bike that has the option of locking out the tail suspension.  Overall, most of the competitors looked to be riding similar setups, either hard-tails or full suspensions that could be locked out.  We did see one guy with a cyclocross bike, and I have no idea how he could manage the course with that thing.

Food:  The night before the race Adam and I cooked up some pasta with a GSI Pinnacle Dualist* cookset.  We used just about everything in the kit.  I was doubtful at first on the size of the pot.  At first glance it didn’t look big enough to cook enough pasta for two full grown men before race day, but alas, I was wrong, it was the perfect size.  Perhaps the coolest feature with the set was the strainer holes in the lid of the cook pot.  It’s about time a company used some common sense!  Those things worked perfectly!

For race day food, I ate 1-Pro-Bar for breakfast and carried 1-Odwalla bar, 1-Kashi granola bar, and 4-home made venison pepperoni sticks–high in protein and sodium.  I also carried Nuun electrolyte drink* and sipped it throughout the duration of the race.  By the end of the race I felt great, a little bit hungry, but not too bad considering of the food I brought, Adam ate 1/2 the pepperoni sticks and my Kashi bar.

RoadID:  Before the race, Adam and I picked up a couple RoadID’s* for our training and to use for all our adventures.  When we got our race packets we noticed the big RoadID logo on our race numbers!  We just wanted to give them a special shout out and thank them for their support in sponsoring this event, and hope their support will continue as we’re REALY looking forward to competing again!


BEST OF THE BEST-New and Old Gear at the Top of the Pile

Best of the Best Award

Thoroughly frustrated with magazine Gear Review guides, I’ve decided to create my own “Best of the Best” list. This list will be my top gear recommendations regardless of if they are a brand new product, or if they’ve been around a few seasons. Frankly, the gear that’s been around a few seasons and is still making the list certainly says something about the product! I’ll highlight products in as many categories as possible, but since my gear experiences have primarily consisted of backpacking and camping gear, that’s where most of this focus will be. Gear with a * next to the name was received for product testing purposes so check back later for a thorough review on those products.

Best Backpack 60-80 cubic liters
Arc’Teryx Bora 80 6.8 lbs. incredible suspension and incredibly durable, but heavy. $375
Millet Odysee 50+10 and 60+10 * 4.4 lbs. exceptional value, very durable, great features $180-$199

Best Sleeping Bags 0-20 degrees
Sierra Designs Vapor 15 * 1 lb 15 oz. super comfy, extremely light and packable but spendy $419.95
North Face Cat’s Meow +20 2 lb 12 oz, 100% recycled materials, great value! $199

Best Sleeping Bags 30+ degrees
GoLite 1+Season Quilt 1lb 1oz, 800 fill down, incredibly light, not terribly expensive for this quality down $200
GoLite RS 1+ Season Quilt 1lb 6oz., 100% recycled materials, super light $120

Best Backpacking Boots/Shoes
Boot brands vary quite a bit with fit, so try a bunch on till you find one you like. My personal favorite is the:
Asolo Superfly GTX 1lb per boot. super comfy, not terribly expensive $145

Best Outerwear Brands
Millet makes some exceptional gear; Arc’Teryx stuff lasts and the fit is incredible; Patagonia will debut Gore-Tex gear in fall 2011; Outdoor Research (OR) is making some really durable great fitting clothing; GoLite continues to amaze me with how functional and light their clothing and gear is–not always the most durable but it will take some abuse and it’s SO stinking light.

Best Backpacking Stove/Cookwear
Jet Boil Flash and Sol * are incredible pot/stove combos if you just boil water $99 and $119
MSR Dragonfly is one of the most dependable stoves ever made and will burn any fuel $129
MSR Reactor is a pretty good pot/stove combo as well…if you can afford it $159
GSI Pinnacle Camper * 2 person cookset, pots, pans, cups, plates, ect…$119.95
Sea to Summit X-Set * packable 2-person plates, bowls, cups $25
Fozzils Duet * Origami 2-person packable plate, bowl, cup, spoon $30

Best Backpacking Food
Alpine Aire * Lots of Variety, probably best tasting freeze dried food available. meals are about $8 and feed 1.5 people
Natural High * tasty food, meals are about $6.50 and feed 1.5 people
MountainHouse * some big hit meals, some misses, Meals are about $6 and feed 1.5 people
Backpackers Pantry * excellent freeze dried meals, unique gourmet meals are about $9 and feed closer to 2 people
Just Tomatoes * freeze dried fruit and veggies. great for cooking and mixed in w/ gorp

Best 2-Man Tent
North Face Meso 22 3lb 12oz and cozy $279
Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 3lb 6oz and cozy $199

Best Backpacking Gadgets
Brunton-USB Solar Charger *-charge your camera, cell phone, GPS, MP3, head lamp batteries, ect… $166
Garmin GPSMAP 78 color display, built in basemap, upgradable micro SD memory, high sensitivity antennae, and to top it all off–it floats. $349.99

Best Backpacking Accessories
Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink * collapsible sink for washing dishes, very cool! $26.95
Sea to Summit Collapsible trowel * with storage in the handle $9.95
Kershaw G-10 * pocket knife, 1.8 oz. 3-inch blade $29.95
Kershaw Chill * pocket knife, 2 oz. 3-inch blade, nice budget knife $29.95
CRKT Eros pocket knife * 0.7 oz. 2-inch blade, titanium handle, almost weightless beautiful knife $150
Gerber Answer * pocket knife, 2.6 oz, 2.8-inch blade, FAST opening blade $63.99
Kershaw Fire Starter * 1.1oz with striker, make fire anywhere! $17.95

Best Backcountry Coffee
GSI Collapsible JavaDrip , just pour and drink, 1-cup at a time. $12.95
GSI H2JO * screws into your water bottle good for tea or coffee–make several cups at a time $9.95
GSI UltraLight JavaDrip , super light sock filter suspends over your cup, 1-cup at a time. $9.95

Best Car Camping Tent
Kelty Trail Ridge 4 , good stand up space, great ventalation, full fly, great value, $199.95
Kely Parthenon 8 , big family? need extra space? good price for a well built full feature tent. $469.95
Coleman InstaTent 4 *, need something you and your 5 year old can setup? super quick and easy available up to an 8-person version $136.99

Best Car Camping Stove
Century Standard 2-burner Stove stainless drip tray for easy cleanup. great easy design and great value $50
Coleman PerfectFlow , super easy design $59.99

Best Car Camping Luxury Items
Kelty Sleep Easy * air mattress, built in air pump for car or wall outlet, big storage tote, super comfy, queen size is $119.95
Kelty Recliner now THIS is camping! you’ll quite your job and never come home, worth every penny $159.95
Coleman Pack-Away table set * picnic table anywhere. very sturdy, well made, packable $103.99
Coleman Hot Water On Demand I’ve seen these used at several farmers markets, why not camping? Hot water on demand with a little propane burner. $249.99
Coleman Portable Sink * battery powered water pump, brilliant! $46.99

Best Car Camping Gear
Coleman Quad Lantern * modular lantern where pods clip off and can be used independent or join together for a nice central lantern. $79.99
Coleman Portable Deck Chair * very nice, sturdy camp chair $50.99

Best Car Camping Coffee
Coleman Portable Propane Coffee Maker * great tasting drip coffee without running a generator $89.99
Primus Brewfire * portable propane powered coffee maker, indoor/outdoor propane coffee maker $210

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You Might be a Backpacker IF:


I Originally posted this to the TrailsEdge.com blog, but thought it was funny enough to post here too!

1. If what’s on your back costs more than your car.
2. If you’ve ever washed your clothes while still wearing them.
3. If you’ve ever passed a pile of fly-covered dung on the trail and the flies leave the dung to follow you.
4. If you own a $75 dress suit and a $1,000 Gore-Tex® suit.
5. If you have more summit pictures than wedding pictures.
6. If a homeless person gives you his change.
7. If you prefer a tree or a bush to modern flushing devises.
8. If you have a hard time walking past a dumpster without checking its contents.
9. If you pick up food in a grocery store and think: Dang, this is heavy and put it back.
10. If you collect single serving packets of ketchup and mustard whenever you’re in a café or gas station.
11. If you’ve ever slept on your Thermarest pad when there’s been a perfectly good bed available.
12. If you grab your headlamp to walk from your bedroom to the bathroom.
13. If the gear in your closet take up more room than your clothes.
14. If dirty talk means deciding who will clean all of the gear.
15. If your dog carries a pack with gear.
16. If your biggest fight/ disagreement with your spouse is a debate over the merits of different types of filtration systems.
17. If your dinner can be prepared with 8 ounces of water, two minutes of prep time, and only requires one utensil.
18. When asked if you want to zip your sleeping bags together, all you can think is, “that’s so thermally inefficient!”
19. If you are more likely to know how many miles you’ve put on footwear than on your car.
20. If a romantic gesture involves an old Nalgene bottle with a row of duct tape and “natural” flowers picked from a field or someone’s yard…

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11-Days to go!

Only 11-days till the adventure race! Adam and I finally got together the other day for our second real workout as a team. We’re both still only about 90-95% or so coming off a couple weeks of being sick, but we’re seriously ready to kick the training into high gear. Sunday afternoon we did a run together followed by a nice, fast mountainbike ride. Adam was a bit stronger with the run, while I led the way on the bike. As we will be required to race closely together, it’s importantly that we learn how to keep a good pace, but not wear the other person out too quickly! More details of the race have been trickling out and it appears that our strongest advantage will be the orienteering component of the race. Initially I thought the orienteering component was one leg of the race, but now it’s looking like it will be a component of the entire race. So we will be required to search for checkpoints during the run and during the bike. The race officials have promised to make the checkpoints harder to find, and have promised to add quite a few more for this year. And their last promise came last weekend after their initial site visit. They said pretty much the whole course was covered in snow and unless there was a significant change in the weather over the next couple weeks we could count on LOTS of snow during this year’s race!

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Under the Ice

Post By:Jake

In what seemed like several minutes (but was actually less than a second or two), my body slid down the steep embankment fingernails driven into the icy snow to slow my decent into the frigid water. Instantly the snow on the lake below me disappeared, and I started to sink, lower lower lower, I watched in slow motion as my knees disappeared into the lake, then my waste, then my chest. As my arms spread out to stop by decent I felt my feet touch the bottom of the lake. I was standing with snowshoes still strapped on, in roughly 4 and a half feet of ice water, helpless. On one side of me stood the steep embankment I just slid down, my fingernail trail still clearly visible, and on the other, the rest of the mostly frozen lake. As I started calmly yelling to my friend to come lend me a hand, my brain quickly assessed the situation. One of my hands was empty, while the other still clenched the portable snow shovel, water filter and water bottle I was planning to fill. My options were none. I couldn’t climb up the way I came in, and there was no way out in any other direction.

Several years ago while I was attending school at Northwest College in Kirkland, WA, me and one of my professors decided to hop in the truck and run up for an afternoon of snowshoeing to Talapus Lake, just off I-90. The trail during the summer is about a mile and 1/2 from the trailhead to the lake, however during the winter you can only get as far as your vehicle will make it through the snow, about a mile from the trailhead on this day, bringing the total round trip for the day to around 5 miles on snowshoes. Flailing and sliding through the snow for a couple hours, we finally made it back to the lake. With about 30 minutes of sunshine left, we quickly went to work carving out a bench in the snow to relax. Eric fired up the Dragonfly stove to heat up some water for hot drinks, and to those of you who aren’t aware, this stove sounds like a mini jet engine roaring to life. I had emptied the last of my water into the pot of water to be boiled so I decided to walk down to the exit stream near the lake to filter more water. As I was passing by the lake my foot slipped and I started sliding down a steep 5 foot drop off, strait into the frozen lake. At least I thought it was frozen. My body quickly disappeared into the icy lake, and there I stood in the water, completely helpless.

So there I stood, yelling, and waiting for a rescue I knew would come… I hoped would come… I prayed would come. And come it finally did. After about 4 minutes in the water, Eric finally turned off the stove only to hear my faint distant sounding cries. My yells, although only 10-15 feet away, were being muffled by the snow embankment, and the only thing Eric was hearing was the faint distant echo of my cries being bounced through the canyon and across the lake. 4 and 1/2 minutes later I saw Eric’s face peering over the embankment. His eyes grew huge as he immediately grasped the severity of the situation. He quickly laid down on his belly and extended his long arm down to me. I grabbed hold with a near death grip as he started to back away from the lake, pulling me up as he went. With snowshoes still on my feet, we quickly ran back to the stove and I started to strip all my wet clothes off. Only a few minutes of sunlight was left in the sky, and there was no way we could stay out through the night, so we quickly decided to put me back into my wet clothes and try to hike back out. My limbs were numb, and slow to move, but we managed to slip and slide our way back down the mountain without further incident. Eric dropped me off at my apartment where I quickly took a long hot shower. We decided to celebrate my fresh gift of life by filling up with our favorite post hike food, endless bowls of soup, salad, and breadsticks from Olive Garden.

Several months later, I hiked back to the lake during the heat of summer. As the familiar lake came into view my mind quickly started picturing the same view with several feet of snow covering everything. I instantly pictured our bench carved in the snow, and our hot coco boiling on the stove. As my eyes stared at our carved out refuge, my head started to turn towards the lake as my brain started piecing together the events of that cold day. Half confused I stared at the lake for several minutes, there was no steep bank to fall off and slide into the lake. In fact, the shoreline near where I thought I fell in was only ankle deep water for several feet off shore. How could I have fallen into chest deep water several months before? Very confused, I started searching the shoreline for answers. At the site where I thought I fell in, several old drift logs were resting near the bank. My mind suddenly made the realization that the logs would have been sticking out of the water during the fall and winter and would therefore collect snow during the whole winter. The lake would only collect snow when the surface was cold enough to freeze (a very brief period of time at this lake). The steep embankment I slid down was actually just a deep pile of snow resting on top of the drift logs. Where I thought I fell into the lake just off the shore, was actually about 8-feet off the shore, in chest deep water. My mind raced with the thoughts of how lucky I was to survive that situation. Had any number of factors been different, chances are I wouldn’t have come out of that lake until the snow had completely melted in late spring. Although I could have been safer by not getting so close to the semi-frozen lake, we did have several factors working for us. I remained calm the entire time I was in the water, conserving what little warmth I could. Eric was physically prepared for the rescue of lifting me out of the water and up a steep embankment. We had hot calorie rich chocolate waiting upon my exit. Although I put the wet clothes back on, taking them off did give me a few minutes of the sun’s warmth, plus it gave me an opportunity to mostly ring out the wet clothes, my body heat while hiking out would take care of the rest. And most of all, we certainly had God on our side that day, working for us, putting each piece of the puzzle together.

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