Thursday, September 9, 2010

Live, Love, and Serve

Red Pine Lake Trail and Lake, Wasatch Mountains, Utah, elevation 9620 feet.

It was a HOT August, Sunday afternoon and the thermometer on my bike was reading 99 degrees. Becky, Jon, and I rode earlier that morning on our bikes to the Belleview Ferry so that I could hitch a ride to Oxford and sail a log canoe race. We had a great race; winning by a good margin in the light air, but I was beat. The two water bottles on my cages were either warm or empty and I needed to ride the 16 miles home to Wittman. Upon entering Royal Oak a sign caught my eye, and then I saw the table with thermoses of water and lemonade sitting in front of the church. I was forever thankful for the cool libations.

The Royal Oak Community United Methodist Church was providing cyclists with free water and lemonade. They had a few business cards in the box, but that was all the literature there was…except the sign that said, “Live, Love, and Serve.” The four words struck me as simply perfect. Live the true meaning of those words and how could life go wrong?

I’m doing well! I’m not 100% recovered from my back, shoulder, or knee injuries, but I’m doing well and still improving. I’m able to do most anything I want, just not to the extent or intensity I once was,.... yet.

I just returned from Utah where I visited with my sister and brother-in-law and shared 5 days of adventure with them. Four of the five days were spent on trails. My sister’s house sits in a nice neighborhood of well groomed lawns with views of the Wasatch Mountains. Their development butts up to a dell with miles of mulched trails for the runner, cyclist, dog walker, or equestrian lover to enjoy. Within a 10 minute drive you can be in Little Cottonwood Canyon at one of many trail heads that lead to mountain lakes, 12,000 foot peaks, mountain meadows, and rocks for climbing. There are many miles of trails that lead to infinity, so it seems. Cyclists are everywhere on the roads and trails. Trail runners were on the mountain trails where we were hiking for the day. It was totally blissful heaven to be in that atmosphere.

I am pretty sure that multi-time winner of the Wasatch 100, Karl Meltzer, passed us on the trail Saturday afternoon. Earlier we crossed paths with Neil Kaersley, a friend of my sister, who is taking part again this year in the Wasatch 100 as a pacer for his brother-in-law, Mark Colby. (The race starts this Friday at 0500.) There was freakin electric on the trails. Neil and my brother-in-law, Jim, both said they see Apollo Ono, the Olympic speed skater, on the trails regularly. I was totally “amped” up there in the mountains. My mind has been spinning on how to figure out how to spend more time out there.

My sister, Judy, and I hiked Antelope Island, which is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake (GSL). Home to buffalo and antelope, we hiked the Frary trail. Judy sent me on to the peak after getting most of the way there, herself. Alone, I forged on to the false summit where I shortly thereafter got off trail and onto an animal trail by mistake. It looked simple enough to get to the summit; just follow the knife edge until I get there. However, after much risky climbing with Jim’s coveted Alaskan hiking stick in one hand and a backpack on my shoulders, a point came where I said to myself, “do not do anything stupid”. The realization that the limit had been reached came when I found myself perched on top of a knife edge with a 1000 foot drop down either side. My legs were straddling what looked like a steep roof peak. It was a beautiful view, but I was not able to go any further on the rocks without climbing ropes and nerve medication.

The knife edge leading to Frary Peak, elevation 6500 feet.

I carefully backtracked, but was unable to “un-climb” some of the areas I climbed up minutes before. Then I saw a hiker several hundred feel below. We screamed to each other, with me gaining the knowledge that I was “off-trail” and that she was “on-trail”. The executive decision was made for me to attempt to climb down to the trail and have another go at reaching the summit. Minutes later I found myself lodged in a chute with nothing below my feet for 40 feet, hanging by my arms (my chest and arm muscles screamed at me for the next 2 days). I was in a spot. Repeat mantra, “do not do anything stupid”.

I dropped Jim’s stick and watched it land 100 feet below me. Now, with more fingers in use, I climbed back out of the steep chute and found another way down. It took me a while to find Jim’s stick. In the process of all this, which included scrambling down rock scree, a microwave oven, sized rock dislodged because of my antics and crashed down the mountain. I could hear it smashing everything in its path as it rolled down the mountain for the next 2.5 minutes. It was so loud that I prayed my sister couldn’t hear it, for fear she would think it was me.

I eventually reached the summit and called Jim who was in his office. I told him I was “okay” and that I had Judy’s cell and I had reached Frary Peak (it had taken longer than anticipated). Then the voice in my head said, “dance naked on the summit”, so I did (the sole hiker on the trail was 2 miles back; I was alone). Crazy, I know, but maybe it was the altitude’s thin air at 6500 feet.

Later, that same day, Judy and I waded from the beach into the Great Salt Lake. I floated unbelieveably high, just like everyone ever told me. Instead of floating up and down like in a pool, I was able to have head, hands. feet, knees, and stomach out of the water while laying on my back. The GSL is much saltier than the ocean. It is all that remains of the ancient inland sea of Lake Bonneville.

Me floating in the Great Salt Lake

There is so much to tell. Being with Judy and Jim was awesome; adventure during the day, good meals and games at night, plenty of sleep, and a ton of laughs. It was a great break from my wonderful, yet busy, life in Maryland.

With Judy and Jim on the Red Pine Lake Trail, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Wasatch Mountains, Utah.

Monday morning Jim woke me early and said we’d hike to White Pine Lake at 10,000 feet plus. By 10:30 we were 5.5 miles up the trail at the lake looking at mountain goats on the nearby mountain meadow, which was straight up and down. There was ice in places and a vein of snow left over from winter. The trail was spectacular; full of vistas even an artist couldn’t render. Half way back down the trail we saw Neil again and we chatted. The trails were empty considering the number of cars in the parking lot. Shortly after we saw Neil we came upon a bull moose. We were 30 feet from him. He was really cool to watch and photo; a good sport, I’d say.

The moose on White Pine Lake Trail

By day 5 of my trip my legs had adapted well to the ups and downs of the trails and my lungs had adapted well to the altitude. Sunday, Jim lent me his mountain bike and I rode the dell until my heart was pounding out of my chest. It has been a long time since my heart rate was up that high. During adventures, I hiked in my trail shoes, but wore my new Sport Trek Vibram Fivefingers on the plane both ways, and all the time off the trails. They were too new to my feet to risk wearing them on the trail. Upon my return to Wittman, however, I ran 2.25 miles on Wednesday in them with success. I plan on running the Gunston 5K in fivefingers.

I could go on, but I won’t. Good to have some trail-tales this time. My new mantra is now, “Live, Love, and Serve” ~ Michael