December 19, 2007

Sweater Party

Ugly holiday sweater party was tonight. Posting pictures before we leave for Oregon. See pictures for description of why this may sound incoherent.

We are leaving for the bus to the airport at 5 am. Good night everyone and have a safe and happy holiday!

December 10, 2007


This weekend, Boulder got its first big snow storm of the year. It "hucked chunks" from Friday until Saturday night. This led to some good accumulation on our back deck (ignore the chairs that fell over in the windstorm last week that I haven't bothered to pick-up yet).

This storm provided some much needed snow for the local ski areas and I headed up to Eldora with Keith and Melanie on Saturday to practice our Tele skills. On Sunday, I went for a hike on the trails behind our house. The mixture of snow fall with no wind (a rarity around here) created some pretty looking trees.

They are predicting more snow tonight and tomorrow. Looks like winter is finally here.

December 08, 2007

Slippery When Wet

I'm back out in BFC, and it's been raining most of the time I've been back. The rain itself does not present a problem, but when it comes in contact with primitive, clayey roads, the roads become impossible to travel on. The consequence of this is that I cannot work. If I was back home, this would be a good thing, but out here it means sitting around with nothing to do but read for days on end. Don't get me wrong, I like reading, but I'd rather get this job done so I can go back to Oregon for Christmas and never have to come back out here.

Since today was the second day in a row with nothing to do, the guy I'm training (Ryan) and I drove to Ouray, which is about 1.5 hours away. We didn't have to gain much elevation before the rain turned to snow, and everything turned white except the deer. In Ouray, we checked out the ice scene (Ouray is famous for it's ice climbing and the annual Ice Climbing Festival held there every January), which is slow to develop this year due to warmer than average temperatures (hooray global warming). We also went on a few short hikes including Box Canyon, which I'd been to in the summer but not in the winter while it was snowing. The white snow cascading down through the black slot canyon was a beautiful sight that reminded me of an Ansel Adams print brought to life.

Of course, it was quite scenic outside of the canyon as well.

December 04, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree

Due to rain and snow making the job site inaccessible, I was able to come home for a few days (I go back to BFC tomorrow). Since I arrived home on Saturday night, I had one weekend day left to play with my roommates. I suggested we go skiing, but they reminded me that my foot is broken, they had all gone skiing the day before, and they already had tentative plans to go Christmas Tree hunting. So Christmas Tree hunting it was.

We cannot disclose the location of our hunting grounds, nor claim that said hunting was undertaken legally. After searching for only 10 minutes, we stumbled upon this beauty.

Possible poaching in action

From all we'd seen in our 10 minute stumble through the forest, we knew we'd find no other tree more suitable for our house. The stealth saw was revealed, and only moments later the harvest was complete.

Keith carried the tree single handedly most of the way back to the truck, through the perilous forest. A mere 100 yards from the vehicle, thinking we were home free, the forest struck back in defense of their fallen soldier. Keith was nearly blinded by the blow dealt by a particularly ornery branch hanging at eye level.

Keith transporting the harvest, prior to the attack

Luckily, I was right behind him and managed to finish transporting the tree in classic Monty Pyton fashion, "Run away, run away!" With Ashley and Melanie as lookouts, the tree was hidden safely into the back of the truck. Oh yea, Keith recovered quickly from the attack and was in good spirits again for the drive home.

The lighting and decorating process survived both of Keith's attempts to knock the tree over. There is now an ordinance in effect prohibiting Keith from coming within 3 feet of the tree.

November 30, 2007

Federal Spending

I got this off the website. It helps put into perspective where all of our federal funds go. Apparently, killing Iraqis is slightly more important than running our own country.

(In billions of dollars)

Agency 2008 Request 2008%
Agriculture 20.2 2.2%
Commerce 6.6 0.7%
Defense 481.4 51.8%
Education 56 6.0%
Energy 24.3 2.6%
Health and Human Services 69.3 7.5%
Homeland Security 34.3 3.7%
Housing and Urban Development 35.2 3.8%
Interior 10.6 1.1%
Justice 20.2 2.2%
Labor 10.6 1.1%
State and Other International Programs 35 3.8%
Transportation 12.1 1.3%
Treasury 12.1 1.3%
Veterans Affairs 39.4 4.2%
Corps of Engineers 4.9 0.5%
Environmental Protection Agency 7.2 0.8%
Executive Office of the President 0.3 0.0%
Judicial Branch 6.1 0.7%
Legislative Branch 4.4 0.5%
National Aeronautics and Space Administration 17.3 1.9%
National Science Foundation 6.4 0.7%
Small Business Administration 0.5 0.1%
Social Security Administration 7.9 0.8%
Other Agencies 7.5 0.8%

Total, Discretionary Spending 929.8 100.0%

I appoligize if this doesn't display correctly. It looks fine on my computer. Here's a summary in case you can't read it. The department of defense spends 51.8 percent of the entire federal budget. The remaining 22+ agencies spend the rest. These percentages have remained the same for the last several years.

November 27, 2007

Turkey Day

Josh and I went to visit Adam, Marcy, and Sophia for Thanksgiving. Adam has been asking Josh to visit for couple years now and we finally decided it was time to make the trip. We chose to drive so we could bring bikes, which resulted in us visiting three new states (Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas) during our vacation.

We spent Wednesday and Thursday in Rolla, Missouri staying at Adam and Marcy's, seeing the UMR campus, going for mountain bike rides, and even going for a swim. Sophia, their daughter, is just starting to talk. Her favorite word is "trash" and lucky for us this sounds like "Josh" and "Ash". So we were entertained much of the weekend by her trying to say our names. She is also learning sign language, so she can communicate many things. However, I don't know sign language and had no idea what she was trying to tell me most of the time.

Adam and Sophia

Almost immediately after finishing Thanksgiving dinner, we packed up the car and headed for Arkansas. We drove at night in hope that Sophia would sleep for most of the trip, which worked moderately well. We arrived at a cabin near the town of Jasper, Arkansas at 2 am. Adam and Marcy's friends Pam and Dave had rented this cabin for the weekend. We awoke in the morning to find that we were located on a ridge overlooking picturesque valleys on both sides. Pam and Dave recently bought land nearby and were spending the weekend removing small trees and brush around where they plan to build a house. Part of Friday and Saturday were spent adding branches to the bonfire and trying to avoid the poison oak and ivy.

Adam was very excited to climb the cliffs below the site of the future house. He and Josh scouted what looked like a good route and I went along for the top-roped first accent. Unfortunately, the climb was significantly harder than it looked from the ground. Not only were all the holds downsloping, but each time you touched the rock a bunch of lichen would come loose and fall in your eyes. We named our route "lichen-eye-zed" for this reason.

Josh working his way up Licheneyezed

Me struggling

Josh and Sophia showing off their helmets

On Saturday, we headed to Sam's Throne, a more established climbing area. The area is comprised of a cliff band leading down to a valley and an outcropping of rocks in the middle of the valley known, not surprisingly, as Sam's Throne. After a couple wrong turns trying to find our way down to the valley, we did one of the classic climbs on Sam's Throne. The rock (sandstone) was excellent and the view from the top was great.

Josh soloing to get out of the valley at Sam's Throne

Sunday, Josh and I made the journey home. Overall, the trip was excellent. My opinion of Missouri and Arkansas has greatly improved (there are trees and hills!). I can't say that I think any better of Kansas.

Old News

Since I forced my way onto this blog, I guess it is about time that I post something. So my first post is a bit tardy, but I will try to be more timely in the future.

What I have been doing while Josh is away:

Halloween. I celebrate Halloween by attending a party that included riding cruiser bikes over teeter-totters and drinking copious amounts of beer. Because I am a rational person, I was only a spectator for the bicycle shenanigans, but I did participate in my share of the beer drinking.

Spiderman (aka Andy) showing off his bike skills

I decided to dress as Smurfette this year and had great plans for my costume. But, as always, these great ideas didn't amount to much and I threw my costume together the night before. I think the high point was the smurf hat I made from felt.

Smurfette feeling very cold

Cartoon characters Smurfette and Marge Simpson (aka Brooke)

New bike. I have been talking for years about buying a new road bike. Well, I finally did it. I am now the proud owner of a fancy pants carbon fiber, full ultegra, Specialized bike that is too good for me. Josh is afraid that this lighter bike will allow me to ride faster than him. At least this is what I am hoping for.

The most expensive thing I own

November 18, 2007


I worked last weekend, I worked this weekend, and I worked every day in between.

November 07, 2007

Sesamoid Bone

Almost 6 weeks after that god-awful marathon, I finally had a chance to see a doctor about my foot pain that won't go away. The final diagnosis is that I have a fatigue fracture of the medial sesamoid bone on my right foot. I was not given a cast, but sent to get custom orthotics to make it so I can walk without putting pressure on that part of my foot. The orthotics guy is booked today, and I leave in the morning for another field assignment and won't be back until Nov. 19, only to leave on the 20th for Thanksgiving vacation. Maybe it will just heal itself. If not, I'll have to have the bone removed and that causes all sorts of other problems. If it isn't better by Christmas time, I'll have to consider a surgical option.

November 04, 2007

6 Days of Civilization

I arrived back in Boulder late Friday night. The drilling project I was on was put on hold due to logistical complexities, so I have until this Friday before I have to return to the far western reaches of Colorado. The chances seem slim that the drilling will be complete prior to Thanksgiving, so I'll insist on another break for "logistical complexities" so Ashley and I can make our planned road trip to Rolla, Missouri to visit Adam, Marci, and their daughter, Sophia over the Thanksgiving holiday.

As the new blog layout suggests, Ashley has become an official poster. She now has free reign to post at will, so look forward to some added spice from a feminine perspective. I tried to convince her to start her own blog, but she insisted that we would just duplicate everything the other said with only occasional exceptions. Guess who won that argument?

October 21, 2007

Oregon Trip

The day after the GABF, I flew home to Oregon for my granddad's memorial service. He passed away earlier this month after a drawn out battle with a brain tumor. He lived a long and happy life and was one of the most honorable, respected, and loved people I've ever met. I learned a great many things from him and, along with many other people, will miss him greatly.

I returned to Boulder this afternoon, only to leave tomorrow for some field work near Naturita, CO. Naturita is in the middle of nowhere, close to the Utah border. I'll likely be there until Thanksgiving.


About a week ago, Ashley, Melanie, Keith, and I attended the Great American Beer Fest (GABF) held annually in Denver, CO. This is the largest beer tasting event in the world. Upon entering the convention center where the event was held, we were all handed a glass with a one ounce line on it. We proceeded to drink one ounce of as many different beers as we could for the next 4 hours. Of course, we started at the Pacific Northwest corner of the room because that's where the best beer in the world is made.

GABF Statistics:

473 breweries represented
2793 beers were on tap
25,000 gallons of beer
Entry Fee - Priceless (just kidding, it was about $60 and well worth it)

Marathon Pics

I finally got a hold of some of the pictures Melanie took during our race.

Ashley and I near mile 17.

Post-race photo, trying not to appear as close to death as we felt.

October 04, 2007


For the last several months, Ashley and I have been training for the Boulder Backroads Marathon. Last Sunday the training program culminated in a final run of 26.2 miles.

At the 16 mile mark, we passed Keith and Melanie cheering for us, and I remember feeling pretty good at that point. At about mile 18, I felt Ashley pulling away from me. I kept up until about mile 20 when my quads "exploded" in a very similar manner that they did during the relay race one week earlier (see previous blog post). Shortly after the quad explosion, they began to cramp. At mile 23, my hamstrings and calves joined the cramp party.

Somehow I continued running/hobbling and crossed the finish line in an official time of 3:57:51. Ashley beat me by exactly 6 minutes. Up to mile 20, our nice steady pace was somewhere around 8:40 per mile. From mile 20 the finish my pace was approximately one minute slower per mile.

In the end, I accomplished my goal of finishing under 4 hours and beating Jake's time of 3:58:xx (mind you this was at altitude and on a notoriously slow course). My third goal of beating Ashley did not and never will happen.

My muscles that nearly ruined me during the race recovered rather quickly. My joints, on the other hand, are not so happy with me. Now, almost 5 days after the race, my right ankle and the bottom of my right foot are still pissed about my decision to run a marathon. I fear I have a stress fracture on the ball of my right foot.

That night we celebrated by drinking copious amounts of beer and eating all the junk food we so diligently deprived ourselves of prior to the race. My pre-race weight of nearly 170 lbs is probably now back up to 185 or so.

I'm now working in North Dakota, drilling holes in the ground as part of a mine permitting project. From all I've seen, North Dakota might be better off as one large open-pit mine.

September 23, 2007

2007 Colorado Relay

Yesterday morning Ashley and I finished up a race that took our team of 10 just over 24 hours to complete. Similar in nature to the Hood to Coast run in Oregon, the Colorado Relay covers 170 miles and it makes its way from Idaho Springs to Glenwood Springs. The coarse goes over 4 passes, each between 10 and 12 thousand feet in elevation. We began the race at 8:00:00 on Friday morning and finished at 8:01:27 on Saturday morning.

Our team was made primarily of Golder employees (my office paid for and sponsored the event, which is a fundraiser for Outward Bound). This time of year, the weather can range from snowing to sunny and warm. We lucked out as the sky was clear for the entire race, which meant that the day was warm (70's) and the night was cool (30's).

My legs (7, 17, and 27) involved an 8 mile downhill run from the top of Guanella Pass (-2000 ft), an 8.8 mile downhill run from the top of Vail Pass (-1800 feet), and a 5.4 mile flat run. All the downhill in the first two of my legs took its toll on me. After the second leg, my quads felt like I'd had a surgical procedure where my quadriceps were extracted, put through a meat grinder, and the resulting mush reinserted into the cavity where my intact quads used to be.

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of the race is dealing with sleep deprivation. Our van got about 1.5 hours of sleep between 5 am Friday morning and when we returned home after the race at 1:00 on Saturday. My last leg started at 5 am Saturday morning and my quads had not recovered much since the meat grinder incident. It was a painful and delirious 5.4 miles. To add to the strangeness of it all, my final two legs were in the dark, running with a headlamp and reflective vest.

Ashley's legs (10, 20, and 30) were 6.8, 4.9, and 4.4 miles, respectively. The first and longest was on a hilly trail through beautiful Aspen forests near the now infamous town of South Park, while her last two legs were mostly flat. Her final leg weaved through the town of Glenwood Springs and was the last leg of the race. As the race rules required, the rest of the team joined her for the final 30 meters of the race to the finish line.

Our team just after crossing the finish line

Our finishing time of 24:01:27 was good enough for 4th place out of 25 teams in the corporate division and 24th place overall out of 150 teams.

Ashley and me with our "bottomless" free beers after the race

September 17, 2007

Aspens are Pretty, Lightening Bolts Striking the Peak you are Planning to Climb are Not

My work sent me to the Aspen area for Friday and Saturday to oversee a construction project at the county landfill. Since I was already over there and had Sunday off, I decided to make an attempt at hiking up Snowmass Mountain. I knew the weather would be questionable at best, so I realized the possibility of just going for a nice hike in the rain. As it turns out, that is exactly what happened.

I'd been hiking for about 2 hours when there was finally enough daylight to turn off my headlamp. Right about this time, I got hit with my first thunderstorm squall, where it rained and hailed furiously on me for about 10 minutes. I continued hiking up the trail towards Snowmass Lake, hiking through and hiding from several more of these squalls on the way.

Eight miles into my hike I arrived at Snowmass Lake.

Snowmass Lake with Hagerman Peak in the Background. Snowmass Mountain is hidden in the clouds to the right of Hagerman Peak, approximately where I saw two big flashes of lightening as soon as I arrived at the lake.

It was a dramatic arrival as I hiked up Snowmass Creek, came over a rise, and found myself standing on the banks of one of Colorado's largest alpine lakes. Impressive peaks surrounded the lake on all sides except for the one I approached from, the highest ones enshrouded in clouds. Within the first few seconds after beginning to take in this amazing scenery, I watched a lightening flash that appeared to come from the vicinity of Snowmass Mountain (which I could not see through the clouds). The lightening was accompanied by an almost simultaneous boom of thunder that reverberated off the steep-walled peaks for several seconds. As if this sign from above wasn't obvious enough, I was then hit by yet another squall of rain and hail, more vicious than any of the previous ones.

I spent about 15 minutes up at the lake and watched the clouds covering the peak I had intended to climb "flash-boom" once more before turning around.

As most of the hike up was in the dark, I was amazed at how beautiful the scenery was on the way down. Golden Aspen trees, abundant alpine lakes, and the steep and jagged peaks of the Elk Range surrounded me the entire way down.

Golden Aspens on the trail

Waterfall on Snowmass Creek, immediately after it exits Snowmass Lake.

More Aspens

September 09, 2007

Pikes Peak

One way to get to the top of Pikes Peak is to drive. Another way is to take the Cog Railway Train. Both of these options will drop you off within about 6 vertical feet from the true summit. Yet a third way to reach the top of Pikes Peak is to hike the Barr Trail. The Barr Trail ascends from the town of Manitou Springs to the summit in 12.5 miles while gaining 7500 vertical feet. The famous Pikes Peak Marathon is run on this trail.

Pikes Peak

Kieth and I left Boulder shortly before 2:00 am. We began hiking 2 hours later (4:00 am), and arrived at the summit 5 hours after that (9:00 am). I decided that the summit of Pikes Peak wins the award, hands down, for the most desecrated 14er summit in Colorado. Below is a photo of Keith, sitting within a few meters of the summit.

Summit Photo of Keith

Overall, the hike was much prettier than either of us expected. The trail was well maintained and never very steep. When we returned to the car, I decided that the 25 mile round-trip hike (we ran the first 6.5 miles down from the summit) was worthy of replacing the 20 mile run that I was supposed to do as part of my marathon training program.

September 04, 2007

Blood of Christ

Over Labor Day Weekend, Ashley, Melanie, Keith, Ryan, and I backpacked into the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ for those non-Spanish speakers) mountains. The purpose of the trip was dual, and somewhat contradictory - relax, and climb three 14ers. The Sangres are known for having substantially better, more solid, rock than other mountain ranges in Colorado. Hence, the mountains are steeper and more jagged than the rock piles found elsewhere in the state.

Before I continue, let me rant about Labor Day. As labor is synonymous with work, I do not understand why a day when nobody works is called Labor Day. Actually, some people do work, and they are typically the ones making minimum wage. I propose changing the title of "Labor Day" to "White-Collar Non-Labor Day". Who's with me? I know it's a bit of a mouthful, but it's much more descriptive and less misleading.

Resume story: On Saturday we drove south to the trailhead that provides access to Lake Como. The 5-mile trail up to the lake is actually a 4-wheel drive road, nationally known as Colorado's toughest Jeep trail. It rises 3700 feet over that 5 mile stretch. To limit the physical exertion required to backpack up to the lake, I drove the 4-Runner as far as I felt comfortable, which ended up getting us about 1.5 miles and 1000 vertical feet closer. After waiting out a thunder/lightening/rain/hail storm, we made the trek up to Lake Como.

The next morning, Keith and I took off on a semi-technical excursion that nobody else wanted in on. We first hiked up a Class 4 route on Little Bear (a peak just barely over 14,000 feet tall). This was good preparation for the next phase of the tour, which involved a lot of Class 4 with a touch of easy 5th Class climbing, nearly all of it with great exposure. The one-mile ridge that links Little Bear with Blanca Peak is one of Colorado's most classic ridge traverses. The ridge is knife-edged in many parts and the faces on both sides of the ridge were often too steep for travel, severely limiting our route options.

Blanca Peak and White Bear Ridge from the summit of Little Bear

Kieth downclimbing part of White Bear ridge

Little Bear and White Bear Ridge

Little Bear from the summit of Blanca

Me near the saddle of White Bear Ridge

The crux of the traverse came shortly after leaving the summit of Little Bear. This involved an easy 5th class downclimbing move along the ridge crest in an exceptionally exposed position. After that it was mostly Class 4 until we arrived on the summit of Blanca Peak to meet Ashley and Ryan, who had hiked up the standard route on Blanca (Melanie stayed back in camp nursing an injured knee and communing with the hick Jeeping enthusiasts).

On Blanca's summit, we debated whether or not to traverse yet another ridge leading the summit of another 14er, Ellingwood Point. Keith and I decided to go for it and Ryan opted to come with us. After a fun scramble up the Class 3 ridge leading to the summit of Ellingwood Point, we promptly initiated our descent as the thunder clouds had begun to build. Our descent route picked it's way down the Class 3 west ridge of Ellingwood Point, effectively linking a U-shaped series of ridges for the day's tour. This ridge came complete with plenty of exposure, which Ryan had not previously had the pleasure of dealing with. We all made it back down the ridge safely and back to the tents in the middle of a hail storm to find one of the two wine bottles that Keith packed in empty. Apparently Melanie had spent the couple of hours before we arrived self-medicating, with the assistance of Ashley, who made if back to camp about 2 hours before Keith, Ryan, and I did.

Soon enough, Keith's other bottle was gone, as well as the bottle of wine and four beers that Ashley and I brought up.

The next morning we hiked out and drove to Great Sand Dunes National Park. The wind apparently deposits a fine-grained sand in a very localized area, forming a vast expanse of sand dunes up against the western side of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. I was never able to find the ocean.

August 25, 2007

Le Petit Elk

Keith and I set off on Friday morning from Boulder with the intent of climbing Le Petit Grepon, a classic rock climb in Rocky Mountain National Park. At the trailhead parking lot at 5:00 am, we stepped out of the car to encounter stiff winds and unexpectedly cold temperatures. After completing about half of the 5 mile approach, we stopped at a point on the trail where we could see up the valley into the region where we would be climbing. Many of the visible peaks were engulfed in clouds, and the wind was not letting up. We both felt that the conditions would have permitted an ascent of the spire, but we would have been cold and miserable for the entire climb. While still waiting for conditions to improve, we saw a lone cow elk in the creek bed below us. Keith went down to investigate (i.e. take photos and see how close he could get to the wildlife).

He got pretty close and we both took a lot of pictures. He returned back up the hill to where I was standing and we noticed a half dozen more elk within about 50 feet of us, working their way down the hiking trail. Soon enough, more elk emerged, the last of which was a 5-point bull. The small heard (about a dozen in total) slowly moved their way down the trail until some hikers came up the trail and scared the elk back past us. We must have been taking elk pictures for nearly an hour when we finally decided to head back another day for the climb. Unfortunately, it was early and a bit dark when we were taking all the pictures, so most of them didn't turn out too well. On the hike down, the clouds parted enough to reveal fresh August snowfall in the higher elevations.

August 24, 2007

Yosemite, etc.

Ashley and I left on our road trip on August 11th. We spent that first weekend in Crested Butte, Colorado camping with a group of friends. While they went out for a mountain bike ride on Saturday, we went on our long run for the week of 18 miles. We ran on beautiful wilderness trails in one of the prettiest parts of the state. Minus the horse traffic, it was a superb trail run.

We drove all day Sunday to arrive at the east side of Yosemite National Park. We spent a total of 4 days in the park: 3 in the Tuolumne Meadows and 1 in The Valley. It didn't take us long to figure out why Yosemite has the climbing reputation that it has. The granite peaks, domes, and other formations are everywhere abundant, many of them harboring fantastic moderate trad climbing routes.

Since we spent our first day lining up a camp site for the rest of our stay, it was a perfect opportunity to do a shorter introduction to Yosemite climbing. As such, we climbed a 2-pitch 5.6 route on Lembert Dome, which involved about a 10 minute approach and some fun and oftentimes awkward climbing moves.

Later that day, we went for an 8-mile run up a popular tourist hiking trail to Cathedral Lake. I found it quite enjoyable to run past slow-moving and wheezy tourists who look at you like you're crazy.

We climbed Tenaya Peak on our second day in Yosemite. This was a technically easier, but much longer route than the previous day. After about a 45 minute approach and 14 pitches of easy class 5 and some class 4, we found ourselves on the top of Tenaya Peak. The views were much more exceptional than even our pictures suggest.

After climbing some 5.6 pitches on our first day and a long multi-pitch on our second day, we were ready to combine the two and do a multi-pitch 5.6 - 5.7 route. We chose one of the most classic climbs in the Tuolumne Meadows area - Cathedral Peak. It was on this climb that we made the worst mistake of the trip - we forgot the camera. We did, however, take several pictures of the peak from Cathedral Lake and elsewhere in Tuolumne Meadows. The climb was essentially 6 pitches of sustained 5.6 with a few 5.7 variations. I thoroughly enjoyed this climb as it pushed my trad climbing skills and was extremely aesthetic.

Since Ashley was such a good sport in doing all the things I wanted to do for the first three days, she chose what to do on our last day in Yosemite. I feared she would opt to do our weekend run, but much to my delight she chose to hike up Half Dome! We justified this deviation from our training program by planning to hike the 17 mile (5000 ft) round trip rather briskly.

The hike passed a few waterfalls and smaller granite domes before emerging at a point where we could see Half Dome. Shortly after that, we found ourselves at the infamous "cables" section of the hike. Two parallel cables are strung in railing-like fashion for hikers to yard on while hiking up the final, steep 300 vertical feet. At the top I stood on the diving board (see picture below) and looked down the route that the big wall climbers take to reach the top. This was the most awe inspiring perspective of the trip for me.

We spent that night just south of the National Park at a Forest Service campground. Just before we went to bed a neighboring camper came by and told us that a bear had walked through our camp the last two nights. Sure enough, he did this again. We heard it crashing around in the woods and I vaguely made out a silhouette at one point in the night. It turns out the neighbor who informed us of the bear was the same one who left food out all over his campsite, effectively baiting the bear into camp. Coincidentally, this was the only bear we saw our entire trip - the 4 days we spent in the park disclosed no bears. The photo below shows me standing (in bear pose) where I saw the bear the previous night in relation to our tent.

The day after leaving Yosemite, we drove through Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park. The highlight(s) of this trip were all the giant sequoia trees, including the largest tree (by mass) in the world. By the end of this day, our patience with yahoo tourists grew thin. We continued our drive south before stopping for the night on top of Grapevine Pass, 60 miles outside of L.A.

We arrived in Irvine in time to meet our friends (mostly from Boulder) for breakfast. The rest of the day was spent at Huntington Beach playing in the surf, digging holes in the sand, and getting sunburned. Our second day in the L.A. area was similar, but spent at Laguna Beach. We left the beach in time get ready for our friends' (Tony and Lisa) wedding. Their wedding took place on a boat in the harbor, so showing up late would have involved a lengthy swim in a suit.

Their wedding was relatively small and the ceremony was wonderfully short and to the point. After that it was open bar and buffet for the next few hours. After docking, we ended up with the bride and groom and a slew of friends at a nearby bar. The rest is hazy.

Monday morning our plan was to wake up and drive back to Boulder, but first we had to get a flat tire fixed that we obtained in Laguna Beach. This should have taken 20 minutes, but it took two hours. Shortly after 11:00 am we were on our way back across the country. We drove straight through (with one stop at In-N-Out Burger) and arrived in Boulder at 3:30 am Tuesday morning.