Friday, April 29, 2016

The first week

After arriving in Boulder on Sunday, Beat and I quickly settled into new routines. Beat woke up early to run into work — the shortest route is about ten miles one way, along the rocky singletrack of Bear Canyon. He also tried two different routes over Green Mountain, because who wouldn't want to bag a peak on their way to work?

I've been getting up early as well to chase away an obnoxious woodpecker who has taken up residence outside the house, and feed the goldfish in the outdoor pond. They were surviving just fine before we arrived, but I've taken a liking to the fish and now think of them as "pets." Although I have several projects that should take priority, this week I found myself pulling a camp chair next to a window and working on my Iditarod book. I figure I can probably finish quickly if I keep momentum, and it's going well. Fun project in an ideal setting. I'm stoked on life right now.

There were a couple of trips to town, but mostly I hung out in the mountains and loved it. I've felt hints of how living up here might become lonely, but it suits me. I made plans to have coffee with a couple of local journalists next week, and I have no doubt I'll start to meet folks on the trails. Hopefully I don't become too much of a hermit, but having scenic, private spaces to write and all these trails out my front door is ideal. Beat loves having his own space and a burly human-powered commute into work, plus he's enjoying his new job, so this is pretty much the dream.

Views from Walker Ranch. I enjoyed exploring all these new-to-me trails on foot, but I admit I have been pining for a long bike ride. It's difficult to guess when I'll be up for riding again, and that's frustrating. My hand has better dexterity and strength, but still a lot of numbness. Earlier this week I attempted to use two trekking poles to cross a few creeks, and felt electric shocks of pain from the pressure. I'm looking into getting this properly checked out and hoping a something magic like a cortisone shot will fix everything, but ugh.

It's funny how working on a memoir-type project helps me piece together specific details that I'd all but forgotten. While re-mapping the events of the first day of the ITI, I remembered a crash on the glare ice of the Skwentna River, about two miles from checkpoint two. I've convinced myself this crash is the likely culprit for this injury. A wind gust caught me off guard and washed out the rear wheel, and I landed directly on the palm of my right hand. Specifically, I remember now an electric shock of pain through my wrist, and the stem was knocked out of alignment. I put that crash out of my mind because there were (embarrassingly) so many others during the ITI. But it fits the profile of acute CTS, and explains why I had no issues at all until I arrived at Skwentna Roadhouse, where my right hand was suddenly and inexplicably numb (I'm generally very aware of my own physical discomforts, because I'm really quite a pansy when it comes to pain. There was no hint of numbness before that point, even a couple of hours earlier.)

Anyway, the cause of my injury isn't really important, but it seems an easier mystery to solve than finding the solution. A small storm moved in on Tuesday night, leaving a dusting of snow for a beautiful but brisk morning commute for Beat.

I admit I waited for the sun to warm up before heading out for my own run along Beat's main commuting corridor, Bear Canyon. Something about this trail — the steep sideslopes, boulder-choked stream crossings or power lines — reminded me so much of the Tour du Mont Blanc in Chamonix. Beat reminded me that the rocks and trees and pretty much everything looks quite different here, but I think it's uncanny.

I looped around to climb Fern Canyon, which is a mean route, just mean. The trail is more like a staircase of boulders and roots, ascending 2,100 feet in just 1.2 miles — average grade of 32 percent and a max of 60 percent. I'm already bogged down by the altitude, so I wheezed my way to a 57-minute mile (and two tenths) to ascend Bear Peak. If I make Fern Canyon a regular part of my afternoon routine, I figure I'll either finally achieve the mountain running fitness I've long desired, or blow up my lungs entirely. 

Selfie on top of Bear Peak. I took many selfies this week. I make no apologies. I'm just so excited to be physically present in this place.

I could see my house from the top! It did take some deep zooming in Photoshop to find it again in this photo.

One of Beat's colleagues from Mountain View was in town for a few days and came to check out Beat's new digs. Beat was excited to show off the self-designated camp spot on the property.

On Thursday a spring storm arrived, dropping a couple of inches of wet snow. I took the more direct route to Bear Peak, and found my new favorite six-mile "run." (Six miles is a common distance for me because it was generally what I could cover on my local California trails in one hour. It is going to take me a while to run any six miles out here in one hour. This run took 1:27.)

Friday brought a few more inches of snow. It was not quite the spring snowpocalypse we were promised, but I did have a great time splashing through slush puddles and dodging powder bombs from low-hanging branches. And yes, I had to re-create the bench selfie at Walker Ranch.

Of course, a late-April snow means it's colder inside as well as outside. The empty house becomes a bit chilly, so in addition to running ten miles to his brand new job, Beat has been busy teaching himself to use his new chainsaw, and gathering and splitting wood. I can't be of much help with my bad hand, sadly, and he hurt his back while using the ax. But we still prioritized firewood gathering.

This is what it looks like when Californians move to Colorado in the spring. I've spent the past month running in temperatures topping 90 degrees, so any cold acclimation I ever had is long gone. But Beat and I are both enjoying the nesting process in the snowy Rockies.


  1. This looks like the ideal life to me. Quiet place to write and trails out the back door.

  2. I agree with Mary. It's so much easier to picture you here running in Spring snow than it is picturing you in 90 degree California weather. Looks like you and Beat are really enjoying this change in environments. Beat's got to be loving his new commute.

  3. living vicariously through your reports of settling here. Totally re-experiencing the excitement we felt moving here from the midwest a couple of years ago.

  4. The Fountain Formation (the Flatirons, etc.) is such wonderful rock....

  5. Awesome! I am very happy for you an Beat.


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