Friday, July 15, 2005

Brother News

Travis is sailing across the Atlantic right now with some family friends on a 40-some foot sailboat. He gets email access via a radio-link so we get to hear from him periodically. There's a webpage about the boat and the voyage ... here's a link to their "news" page:

It's pretty awesome. Trav sounds like he's having the time of his life.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Wheeler Peak

In the midst of all kinds of good things to write about, I've got to get this one out before I move on to other things.

My blog is becoming more of a travelogue now that the weather Out West has finally switched to summer. Yes, it's road trip season. Unfortunately this will probably be my last one for awhile since I move to my new house next week and will soon be poor. Hooray.

Last May, during our Great Western Road Trip, Matt Waite and I made an attempt on Wheeler Peak in Nevada's Great Basin National Park. We failed because it was insanely windy and cold above treeline. Also, Matt took a 15 minute fire-shit in the woods that was apparently one of the worst experiences of his life (besides spending two weeks in a station wagon with me).

So I decided to take a little trip on the 4th d'July weekend and re-attempt that climb. Part of the impetus was the chance to drive across wide-open Nevada: it is virtually impossible to set up radar traps and the roads are barely travelled anyway. I inflated the tires to high-speed pressure and cruised between 90 and 105 mph on back roads for pretty much the entire state. This speed contributed to the instant annihilation of (at a minimum) two birds, two chipmunks, and billions upon billions of Mormon crickets. My wagon has become the primary agent of unnatural selection.

[Gross aside: Mormon crickets periodically cover vast swaths of the West, much like periodic cicadas in the East but without the ability to fly. There were so many of them on some stretches of U.S. 50 that I saw a solar panel road sign warning of "slick roads, next 14 miles". They weren't kidding either. Unfortunately I don't believe their name connotes any magical Mormon capabilities ... rather it comes from the swarm of locusts that devoured the first Mormons' crops before they themselves were devoured by seagulls. The crickets, not the Mormons.]

Wheeler Peak is the second highest peak in Nevada at 13,063 feet. Fortunately the trailhead starts at a little over 10,000 feet. This pic is from about 10,500. Wheeler Peak is on the right, as is the route I took to the top.

The climb to the top pretty much destroyed me. I was fine until about 12,000 feet when it became much steeper and much more difficult to get enough oxygen. At least it was relatively warm and I didn't get altitude sickness.

I stopped often just to catch my breath. The view was pretty good.

And the best part: the top offered insane views of the backcountry in the park.

Nevada doesn't have long unbroken stretches of mountains like in the Rockies or even the Appalachians. Mountains chains here tend to be tall but relatively short, say 10-50 miles long and 5 miles wide. Some of the bigger ones are referred to as "sky islands" for their unique high-altitude ecosystems that are physically separate from other ranges by massive valleys and basins. They offer a nice respite from summer heat at lower elevations.

Yeah, anyway. That ends today's science lesson. I posted the usual pics. Ignore the ones of the dude in the bandanna ... he lost his camera on the way to the top and I said I'd email him some photos.

Final mileage on the wagon: 1776. An no, I didn't make that up ... had to drive around town for 20 minutes before I got it to tick over. Our Founding Fathers would be proud, or maybe not.