Thursday, October 6, 2011

The First Annual Dirty Farm Trek Oct 2, 2011

The Dirty Farm Trek – Who could resist a race with a name like that? Not me, especially since it was practically in my own backyard. Well, it was about 10 miles down the road but that’s pretty close for out here.
The race was organized by the VZ Foundation a local non-profit whose goal is to have fun and raise money in support for other local charities. The winners of the race get to choose a charity of their choice to donate some of the proceeds to so it’s not just about winning for themselves.
This was an “adventure” race, something that’s becoming the latest fad in popular non-elite racing. This particular race had a set of obstacles, a variety of riddles to solve and a challenge – if you could carry and egg throughout the whole race and not break it, 5 minutes would be deducted from your overall time.
Race day was cloudy and cool, looked like rain but it didn’t happen till the race was over. Alison and I had a plan, since neither one of us ever tried anything like this we decided to not push it but just to have fun.
A lot of racers dressed up for the event. There were pink pigs, black assassins, super heroes in golden tights and capes, and plenty of farmers in bibs. The start was like a gala and it continued throughout the race.
We clamored over 4 foot hurdles and crawled under fences, slogged through water and mud, hit a slip and slide, carried tires, walked balance beams and tried to solve riddles. They were tough, some of them at least. Maybe it was because we were a bit tired and stressed but some of those riddles were pretty basic (once we were told what the answers were) and we still missed them.
We each had our own method for the egg. I tucked mine in a tiny pocket at the back of my shirt and Alison wrapped hers in her windbreaker tied around her waist. The overall winner of the race packed his egg in Twinkies. Best of all tho was the girl who tucked her egg in the crotch of her men’s underwear, which she wore on the outside of her bibs.
We arrived at the finish with our eggs intact, riddles half solved but happy. Since I was the only person over 60, I won my age category. The prize was a twenty dollar gift certificate to Ryan Styles’ Upfront Theatre and of course we all got a “Dirty Farm Trek” T-shirt. All the adults also got a free beer from the folks at Boundary Bay Brewery so it was all good. Next year – costumes!
Check out the start on Youtube. Just Google Dirty Farm Trek. 

Work or Play?

Outdoor Life requires work, or does it? I spent the summer tearing out an old rotten deck and replacing it with a raised concrete patio. In the process I shoveled 30 tons of rock and gravel and sweated over details in the pouring of concrete and the laying of pavers for the finish surface. I worked with new tools like wet saws and new materials like concrete boards (for texture on the concrete).

Most of the work I did myself, slowly. The old deck was so decayed that it went into a long-term compost pile or to the dump. Ugly old landscape block, mossy and mildewed had to be moved and eventually placed inside the new retaining wall for some of the fill. The forms were built of recycled plywood, a lot of it anyway and the design itself while inspired by the deck on Deming Rd (which I also created)  but came from within.

Once the old deck was demolished and the area was leveled I formed and poured the footing. The day was hot and the concrete hardened before I was completely finished. Good thing no one sees the bottom, (except the ducks)  it was sturdy but not pretty. 

The day of the pour couldn’t have been done with out help from relatives and neighbors. My forms weren’t as solid as I had hoped and after they were reinforced we tip toed around on pins and needles fearing a blowout at any moment.

The result was a bit rustic but it does resemble the cabin itself so I can’t be too particular with the outcome.

After striping away the forms the interior of the wall had to filled in with drain rock gravel and sand. Everything had to compacted before putting down the pavers. 

Oh the pavers! Unbeknownst  to us the company that made the pavers had a major change in coloration. The first set of pavers went down well enough but when I went to pick up more, the same brand and color of pavers were completely different. The good folks at Northstar Concrete tried to tell me it was just because the pavers I had were exposed to the elements longer but I wasn't buying it. It turned out I was right but in the process I had to remove the pavers I put down and redo everything with the new ones. We really liked the old color better but now that the new ones are down, the lighter color is "cheerier".


I then built supports for pouring the stairs. A purchase of a cement mixer and another pile of sand and gravel allowed me to avoid the cost of a concrete truck and enable me to mix the concrete myself.

With the stairs in place we partied on the deck to celebrate its completion, Alison’s birthday, and Amber’s beginning week of med school. Then I built the stairs leading up to the house door. I used commercial outdoor flooring – funny plastic stuff – to try to avoid the mildew and mold that sunk the old deck. I just hope it doesn’t get too slick.

A few days ago I used the last of the pavers to build a little flat space in front of the lower steps. Each time I form up concrete I learn something. The border for the pavers, while not perfect, is an improvement over the previous concrete work.

Surprisingly enough, for me anyway, is the increased upper body strength I attained during the process of building this edifice. I suppose I could have spent a bunch of money (which we don’t have) to have someone else build it and spent my days indoors pumping iron to achieve the same result BUT it wouldn’t have been so much fun, or brought people together in the same way.
The deck still needs landscaping, that will have to wait till next spring. Gutters were installed to keep the roof run-off from splashing up against the house and door. The hole in the left front will eventually be a planter for some delicate looking tree.  Work or play? I can’t decide. 

Dialogs Unlimited Inc 2011

Alison’s last words were “Don’t forget to hydrate” so at 3:10 AM I had a beer.

Dialogs Unlimited, Inc. is a group of men who have met annually for over twenty years to renew their friendship and test their physical prowess by climbing mountains. Colorado 14ers (Over 14,000 feet in elevation) being their favorites. September 14 10:00 PM I jumped in a car with some of them at the Denver Airport and headed east towards the Collegiate Mountain Range. 

Way past midnight I found myself two and half miles up a forest service road, one that looked like a washed out creek bed, we’re still looking for that stunning mountain home we saw in the pictures on the internet. We literally had to move boulders to find it.

The other car had left 2 hours earlier so we thought we were following them but we weren’t. Thoroughly disgusted we met them coming up as we were coming down. They had dinner, they got lost. Facing each other, neither car having enough room to pass the other, we all decided that the house we rented was an Internet scam.

House on a creek, big enough to sleep 12, free wifi, cable, washer and dryer, only ten minutes to town: It all seemed too good to be true and maybe it was. The $2,000 plus rental fee that was wired upfront was gone and we were standing around freezing in the middle of nowhere.

At 3:10 AM, on the way to Buena Vista, I had a beer. The first thing I had eaten or drunk in 8 hours.  By around 4:00 I pulled the covers over my head in a dumpy little motel room with no heat. No plush mountain home for us. Mid morning wake up and I looked around to see the ugliest surroundings that I’ve been in since, maybe, that first trip to New Orleans when I was nineteen.

Some may be polite and call it funky but imagine a room furnished with stuff purchased from a flea market. About half the light fixtures were merely empty sockets; the ceiling in the bathroom had flakes the size of silver dollars and black mildew creeping from the edges. My bed stand light was actually a canning jar filled with buttons with a metal top holding a light bulb, it didn’t work.

Crud aside at least I had a hot shower before a late morning breakfast. With the help of the chipper waitress we were directed to a rental agency and looked at a condo to rent for the remainder of our stay. We met up with the other half of our group at the Rooster’s Crow Restaurant. Just so happened the local police captain and county sheriff were there and we reiterated our tale of woe to them. They were friendly but not much help, however, it got me to thinking how we might as well see if we could gather more information about the people behind the internet scam. Also in the back of my mind I just didn’t want to believe that it was all a hoax.

I went outside of the restaurant and called the two numbers listed on the Internet site. No answer but I left a message telling them my name was Robert Lee, that I happened to be in Buena Vista and wanted to rent their cabin as soon as possible.

Not long after that I received a call back from a woman named Elizabeth who told me I couldn’t go see the rental because it was being occupied until Sunday. I told her it was OK, would she please give me directions and I could at least drive by. The directions she gave me were quite different than the ones we followed the previous night.

So off we went. The directions lead us to an area much closer to town and as we turned a corner, there it was, a most beautiful mountain home, near a creek with a fantastic view of the Chalk Cliffs – not a fake Internet scam at all.

I called Elizabeth back, identifying myself as to who I really was and explained why I had resorted to such a subterfuge. She was put out that we would even think she was involved in something fraudulent.
The place was everything the Internet ad said it was and more. Beautifully appointed, roomy, craftsman built. She even called back to tell us she would refund the previous night’s rent or let us stay another day. We opted to stay another day.

So it wasn’t until the second day we packed up our gear to go climb a mountain. Like many of the 14teeners, Mt Belford was a relatively benign climb with little technical climbing. We did miss a stream crossing and had to bushwhack a bit, but it was the elevation that wore me down.

Mt Baker Ski Area near home, along with other climbs nearby, had only put me up to about 4,000 feet. Mt Belford started us out at roughly 10,000 and then added another 4,200 feet to the top. I wasn’t used to the thin air and my progress was eventually reduced to a few hundred steps before I had to stop and catch my breath.

Along the way we saw mountain goats and broad mountain vistas, very dissimilar to the forested mountainous views of Washington State. The marmots and picas were out gathering their final goodies before winter’s onset and much of the short vegetation had begun to turn to autumns’ colors.

The ultra running training helped me a lot on the climb and based on Alison’s admonition I packed a lot of water laced with an energy powder, I had some Shot Blocks and I saved my solid food till we were about two thirds up. I was going slowly but I was ready to summit with energy to spare. About 600 feet from the top the weather turned nasty. Wind and icy snow pellets blanketed the summit and visibility was reduced to a few feet. We decided to turn back.

At the upper elevation we had climbed switchbacks composed of rocky steps, they seemed much taller and steeper on the way down. I was grateful for my recent purchase of trekking poles. Overall we hiked about seven hours and I was pretty spent by the time we returned to the car. I hadn’t bagged a 14teener by reaching the summit but it was close and a real accomplishment for me. A beer or two and a great dinner with a bunch of good guys was my reward.