Friday, June 24, 2016

The Long Story

So yes, I bought a new ultralight tent!
So I needed a tent to sleep in nightly while volunteering for Project ReCycle during Ride The Rockies.  My full-time current job and REI's Spring Sale 20% coupon combined to make purchasing an ultralight tent possible.  So I bought an REI Quarter Dome 1.  Posted weight is 2 pounds and 2 ounces, but I will verify that with my scale and my choice of stakes and bags.  20% off is a $45 savings so the tent cost me around $185 plus tax, so it was competitively priced with other ultralight tents.
The tent does feel light and it fits in/on my Gossamer Gear Kumo backpack nicely.  I did buy the footprint and will try camping out without the tent portion, occasionally using only the footprint and rain fly like a tarp system in the Colorado mountains to save weight.  I know I need the tent body for keeping the bugs at bay and for my privacy during public camping with Ride The Rockies.
With only setting up the tent once indoors, I do like it.  The one person sizing and side-entry is generous with space, but I couldn't fully test the tent without staking it out, as it is not self-supporting.  I'm not crazy about using the tent poles because I was planning on getting double-use with my walking pole.  The tent pole design is cool though, offering a lot of interior space for little weight and they fit fine on the side of my Kumo.  I am packing the tent in its bag on this trip due to the light weight fabric, trying to keep it from being torn while in transit.  The included stakes are much heavier than mine, so I still need to add 2 of them to fully support the tent with the 6 lightweight stakes I have.  Maybe I will need to purchase some different stakes later.
I'll learn a lot more about this tent when camping out in it 6 nights in a row during Ride The Rockies and will write a full review upon my return.  I also hope to shoot a video of the tent setup one day during my down time.
For the record, I now have all the essential equipment I need to backpack in Colorado with the exception of:
1. A  bear-proof food container-required in National Parks.
2. Microspikes for my shoes for safety on icy trails.
I would like a better-designed stove, some newer clothing and lighter weight rain pants, but will carry and use what I already have until I can easily purchase them.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer of Volunteering

A couple weekends ago, I began this summer volunteering as a crew member of Castle Rock's Elephant Rock Bicycle Ride.  I drove back and forth all day to pick up weary bicyclists and transport them and their bicycles either to the next SAG Stop for emergency repairs or back to the starting location of the ride.  I had a great time and spent the day outdoors in wonderful weather.

I have been volunteering weekly for Project ReCycle as a bicycle mechanic since moving back to Colorado in 2014, and have been recently asked to step up to a position as Communications Manager.  In this volunteer position, I am responsible for keeping calendars current, writing newsletters, coordinating media coverage, and for shooting Internet video of tutorials, events, fund raising and training.  I like the opportunity for the experience I am getting working in a non-profit and the fact I can use my previous media experience as a television news and production videographer to support Project ReCycle in their mission.  And I am still welcome to use my hands to repair bicycles.  You can read more about Project ReCycle HERE.

In mid-June, I am driving the Project ReCycle truck during the premiere Ride The Rockies event, where the PR Team will be bicycling the beautiful Colorado mountains.  I will be setting up the truck, tent and tables in the communities the ride passes through, working a SAG stop, shooting photos of the Project ReCycle Bicycle Team riders, and sleeping on the ground each night in the mountains.  I rode Ride The Rockies back in 2001 and have been looking forward to supporting this event in some way because it is so professionally executed.  It was my best supported tour by bicycle, ever.
It may sound funny that I am supporting bicycling instead of backpacking, but after I broke my collar bone in 1998 and couldn't carry a backpack, bicycling became my great love.  Many years later, with ultralight equipment and lots of bone-healing, I have returned to my first love of backpacking, making my first overnight backpacking trip in 15 years (read about it here).  I still bicycle occasionally, but not the 200 mile weeks I used to ride.  And supporting Project ReCycle has given me a great community-centered opportunity to help children with bicycles.
It is something I did in the mid-1990's too.  I picked up children's bicycles that were in the trash, repaired them and saw they were freely given to needy children in the community.  The tearful, down-on-his-luck dad who was so thankful, hugging me tightly for the gift to his child is something I will never forget.  Too bad I didn't see the non-profit business opportunity of doing this at the time.  But the people at Project ReCycle did see it, followed through, and several years later, have asked me to help them.
So, while working a media job and volunteering for Project ReCycle, I will still be getting out this summer on overnight backpacking trips, starting after Ride The Rockies.  The tent I purchased for Ride The Rockies will be my same tent for backpacking this summer.  So you see, bicycling and backpacking in my life are both related in some way.
Maybe the jobs I applied for haven't worked out as I planned, or the cool business opportunities didn't materialize, but by hanging in there and continuing to volunteer for something important to me, life is working out, and that's the lesson.  And it is working out pretty well.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Paint Mines Road Trip

A really neat place to poke around in central Colorado is Paint Mines Interpretive Park, just outside Calhan and about 40 miles northeast of Colorado Springs.  
I used Google maps to create a road trip there and was quite surprised at the amount of small farms I passed along the way. On the return trip home, I followed another plan which challenged my route finding skills plus offered more scenic views.
Paint Mines is an erosion, like Bryce Canyon, only smaller in size.  Humans have visited this site for 9000 years, mostly to collect the colored soils for use in vessel paints and body markings. Another portion of the park also interprets the early settlers who came west and settled here in the mid 1800's. I took many, many photos here and posted quite a few of them below.
From the parking lot, follow the trail and take your first right to get to the formations and geology interpretive area. At the bottom of the hill, turn right again onto the small trail that runs along a drainage. At first, the erosion and rock formations you see are small and kind of bland. But a few yards later they start to get much better. Even fantastic! 

Small paths lead left and right into the Hoodoos and spire erosion areas. Beware as these rocks are soft stone and wear easily. I will caution you here to just follow the trails as far as you can into the rocky areas, keeping the sandy ground underfoot but beleive the signs and DO NOT CLIMB THE ROCKS!  It is hard to tell just where to stop, but figure that any wear you create on the rocks means those rocks will never be seen as the same again by anyone else.  
Covering 750 acres, the total trail mileage is around 4 miles if you follow all the way around.  A Trail Map is HERE.

You will see stone that looks like poured liquid, stones that "run" down hill or pool into circles and blobs, like wet cookie dough. The colors go from white to red stripes to yellows, grays and even greens. Rabbits cross underfoot constantly, often ducking into mini caves or tunnels of stone. Some stones rise above you, creating holes through which the winds blow. Others create falls of stone, flowing stone streams with rapids of gravel. 

Off in the background stand tall windmills, creating electricity from the constant Colorado winds. The same winds sculpting the erosion around you also powers your PC and keeps your drinks cool. Wild flowers and stunted trees frame hill tops, blown grass constantly changes shapes around you. This place is quite cool!

The exposed land around you goes back more than 55 million years with centuries buried below your feet. Layers are known as Castle Rock Formation, the Dawson Formation... and much more. Colorado's light amount of precipitation will keep Paint Mines around for many years. If it rained hard, like in sub tropical regions, all this would have been gone centuries ago. All this in a county park too!
Getting there: Follow US 24 northeast about 40 miles from I-25 at exit #139 in Colorado Springs to Calhan.  (Follow Fountain Blvd through downtown and turn left onto highway 24.)  Drive through the small town of Calhan, turning right onto Yoder Road.  Follow past the fair grounds and turn left onto gravel Paint Mines Road.  Follow past a right turn in the road and park in the Paint Mines parking lot on the left.  There is a pit toilet here. The small yellow steel container beside the trail holds informational brochures with maps.

Friday, June 3, 2016

This Saturday is National Trails Day

It almost caught me unprepared this year, but you don't have to be.  Saturday, June 4th is National Trails Day.  Get out and hike, backpack, bicycle, paddle or walk somewhere to celebrate the American Hiking Society's day!
If you are in need of a trail to visit, search this site for many trails around Douglas County, plus others throughout Colorado.
In Colorado there is no shortage of trails to hike.  The idea is to use human power to propel you through the woods, prairie, mountains or metro.  See you on the trail!