Tag Archives: California

Skiing Squaw Valley, and my newest injury

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Skiing Squaw Valley, and my newest injury

Saturday, 25-Feb-2017

 

I went skiing in California!

Sarah and I had started skiing earlier this year, and I’ll be honest – I’d gotten pretty good, and was really starting to enjoy myself. Combine that with my friend Mike telling me all about how great skiing in California is, and that I hadn’t seen Mike for a while… well, I bought tickets and flew out. Rented get in Hood River, of course, which just added to the fun of flying. Yay huge bags!

I actually flew into Sac on Friday night, after a day of climbing with Sarah at the gym… I felt bad about running off, but she’d mentioned a desire to stay in Portland and see some friends of hers, so I figured that this would be a good excuse for us to have some individual adventures, and then catch back up the following week.

 

So I flew into Sac. Stayed at Mike’s place Friday night, and then drove out to Squaw Valley the next morning.

It was a drive. Mike and I hadn’t caught up in a while, and this drive definitely gave us time to catch up. What was normally a 2.5hour drive quickly turned into a 5 hour one, what with having to pull over to put on chains, be told that we couldn’t put chains on where we were (we were <5ft past one sign, but 10ft in front of another…), turn around, sit in more traffic, put on chains, then sit in more traffic, then get caught in some more traffic.

 

Then, after the traffic, we found out that the parking lot was full. So Mike, being amazing, dropped me off out front, and then went to get lunch while I got a few runs in.

By the time he got back, I’d done maybe half a dozen runs throughout the easy area, and was starting to feel pretty okay about Squaw. It was steep, and carved out, but definitely fun… and I was really looking forward to learning some tips and tricks from the ski extraordinaire hanging out with me.

Once Mike got a parking spot, we hit up the far side of the mountain, a lift run called Shirley. And that’s where I should have turned tail and run… it was all blues, but much steeper and more carved out than I was used to. In fact, the runs were mostly moguls… not something I’d ever dealt with before. But I gave it a shot, and our first run went pretty well.

 

Our second run didn’t.

 

I did the first half of the run well, and stopped for a quick breather about 70% the way down the run… before starting into that mogul field again. But this time, I didn’t hit them right. This time, I caught a ski, and went down.

My knee went another way. I screamed.

By the time I got down to Mike, shock was setting in. I couldn’t press down with my heel, and I was confident that I couldn’t ski out.

We asked a lift operator for a hand, and he quickly proved his incompetance by suggesting that I ski out… even going so far as to say that I needed to wait in line, and then ski down a green to get back to the lodge. Honestly, I’m like 90% certain that he was stoned… which I wouldn’t normally mind, but… you know… shock. Pain. Injured skier asking for help. Screw that guy.

 

So I walked away, and asked the next lift operator if he could help.

“Ohh god! Yeah man, get on this next chair, I’ll hold some folks back for you. What’s your name? I’ll call up, and ski patrol will be waiting for you”. THAT is how you react to someone saying that they’re in shock, and unable to ski out.

One snowmobile ride later I can’t put any weight on the knee at all, and I’m on a tram down to the urgent care area. Then two hours of waiting (1.5 hours of that in the outside waiting room), and then meeting a nurse for x-rays, and a doctor for a diagnosis.

 

Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament.

 

The four words that every skiier, soccer player, footballer, or really any athlete fears. I was told that I was now a member of that club, and that I should go see an orthopedist for an MRI within two weeks. That I wouldn’t be able to walk for a month, and that recovery could take anywhere from six months to a year.

The rest of the night was blurred. I called loved ones, then ate a huge plate of nachos. Mike helped me carry my gear into the motel room, and I settled myself into the bed, trying to learn how to hold myself to keep the knee elevated, but not painful.

I guess I’ve got time to learn, though… we’ll see how recovery goes.

Backpacking over Labor Day, in Northern California: Sunday and Monday

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Backpacking over Labor Day, in Northern California: Sunday and Monday

It’s been a while since I’ve actually packed up my pack and gone on a solid backpacking trip. I think the last time was back in 2013, maybe? And even then, it was a solo excursion – no group shenanigans for me. Just a man in the wild, alone with nothing but his wits and a ton of random gear to keep him safe.

So going backpacking with a group of five was definitely a new experience for me, especially since we’d be exploring the mountains of the West Coast…

Sunday, 06-September-2015

before heading to bed the night before, there’d been a debate between everyone about what time to get up in the morning.  The final decision, amazingly, had been, “Meh… whenever.  Let’s not set alarms”

So we slept in!  We slept all the way ’till like 9:30 or something!  it was super decadent, completely amazing.

And then when we opened up the tent flaps and looked out?  When we surveyed the domain of our campsite?  A perfect vista… literally the best view of mountains that I’ve ever seen, this amazing view over a beautiful alpine lake.

Breakfast was relaxed, but thankfully a certain Sarah brought along a really nice Aeropress, so we had some coffee along with the oatmeal.  And then… we just relaxed.  Didn’t really do anything for most of the morning; just threw some stones into the lake, played a quick game that could sort of resemble curling, if you didn’t know what curling was (basically we threw a big stone, and then tried to get close?  So sort of Bocce ball?).

Then we threw some more stones into the lake, and then had lunch.

After lunch, boredom ensued, so a quick mention of “That far peak looks like a cool place… let’s go hike up to it!” leads to scrambling, route-finding, and finally attaining a perfect ridgeline. More lunch is had, and then Sharia and Josh head down while Sarah, Dave and I press onward toward the mini-summit.

Which is beautiful! A ridgeline traverse leads to a steep section, and some nice semi-technical climbing (by the way I go, at least). Then we chill at the top to enjoy the views.

Heading down is a bit more technical; Sarah & Dave’s route-finding skills come in quite handy a few times, since there’s no real obvious trail, and there’re a ton of small cliffs that kept blocking our path.

But once we got back down to came we went right back to relaxing some more, then drank some more beer and ate some dinner.  Sarah even showed us all up by taking a swim in the lake… which was impressive, and made me a little concerned for her sanity if we’re being honest.

Two notes:

  • Yes, I said drank beer.  On a backpacking trip.  See… Dave had bought this system that comes with concentrated beer, which you re-hydrate and carbonate, and then can drink as if it were normal beer.  I tried to mix it up twice, and… well, I’m not allowed to mix the beer anymore :/
  • Dinner was mountain house meals.  If you haven’t had them… a quote that came up was that Mountain Houses are designed for “when you need some dynamite to blow up the brick shit house you’ve built in your colon”.  They’re tasty, but… yeah.  Definitely camping food in the best of times.
    Mine?  Well, it looked different, so everyone asked about it.  It’s a “pro pack” that I got in college, and had left over since then.  They asked when it expired.  I said never.  They asked me to check.  I found out that it had expired in 2013.
    I still ate it.
    I only slightly regretted that decision later.

Then, it got really cold really quick.  So we spent some more time stargazing, and headed to sleep sleep early again.

Monday, 07-September-2015

Up EARLY. Like… we’re walking by 7:15, and at the bottom of the boulder field a little after 8:00. The boulder field isn’t easy, by the way, and takes some more mad route-finding skillz, yo.  Dawg.

(Ed note: they weren’t Ben’s route finding skills.  Sarah and Dave led the way again, to great success)

As we walked out, I got hit by how tired and unused to backpacking I actually was.  I mean… I’m in good shape, but I was getting pretty worn out really quickly.  We pressed on and made it to the cars without any incident, of course, but still.  It was something of note, that I decided to keep working on during the week.

One possible reason that came up though, was the elevation that we were at.

  • The trailhead was at 6,400 ft above sea.
  • The campsite at Big Blue Lake was at 6,900 ft
  • The final peak that we hit was at ~7,500 ft

Those elevations don’t really exist in New England… so I’m taking solace in the fact that I was getting tired too quickly because of the elevation.  Not because I hadn’t been backpacking a year or so.  Totally not that.

Anyways.

We got back to the car, right?  Then we drove!  We grabbed some burgers in Yreka, explored town for a bit, and kept moving along.

Ashland was a “take a break from driving” stop; we grabbed some of the fancy sulfery water and ate ice cream! Took a walk through the park (played on a small climbing wall, listened to a guy rocking it on the Cello), then hit an amazing coffee shop, which is above a book store, and has an amazing back garden… basically an oasis of amazingness in the bone-dry Western Oregon.

The rest of the drive back up to Portland was pretty standard…

Backpacking over Labor Day, in Northern California: Friday and Saturday

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Backpacking over Labor Day, in Northern California: Friday and Saturday

It’s been a while since I’ve actually packed up my pack and gone on a solid backpacking trip. I think the last time was back in 2013, maybe? And even then, it was a solo excursion – no group shenanigans for me. Just a man in the wild, alone with nothing but his wits and a ton of random gear to keep him safe.

So going backpacking with a group of five was definitely a new experience for me, especially since we’d be exploring the mountains of the West Coast…

 

Friday, 04-September-2015

Friday was a simple day – Sarah and I had most of our gear packed independently, so we just took a bit of the evening to review what we’d packed, make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything, and distribute the group gear between ourselves. That’s something I’ll have to get used to – not having to carry an entire tent for just myself, and not having to have a complete cook set for just myself. Getting to split the weight is really a nice bonus, though figuring out food for multiple people is definitely a new challenge for me.

 

 

Saturday, 05-September-2015

Saturday… well, it started early.

We met up with Dave at his house at 6:30, so that we could get the long drive done before the afternoon really got going. But that meant that we had to get going painfully early… which is clearly always cured via delicious breakfasts.

We hit Carl Jr’s instead. It wasn’t bad. But please believe me when I say it wasn’t ideal either. Greasy delicious fast food is amazing in the moment, but fast forward a few hours when you’re still in the car… well, it was the best we had, and I’m not complaining. The burger was definitely tasty, and the coffee woke us up. So that’s what matters.

Our goal was Yreka, a town that Mike & Liz & I had camped in back during my roadtrip. Kinda crazy thing – I actually remembered a lot about the town, and was able to safely and successfully navigate the group to find the ranger station. See, we needed to get a fire permit (even for campstoves) due to the obscene fire danger in California. We didn’t find one there, of course, but it was a solid starting point.

We found a place to get the permit, realized that everyone was at lunch right around the time that we realized that we were wandering into the back office of a fire station, and got ourselves a permit.

We linked up with Sharia and Josh, Sarah’s friends who were joining us. We drove up the trail, parked, put our packs on our backs, and started into the trail.

Thing about backpacking – it’s a lot of walking. The overarching trip makes for a good story… but the meat comes from campsites and summits. Not really the walk itself…

That being said, it was beautiful, and I had lots of excellent photo opportunities.

There was hiking.

There was, in fact, more hiking.

We found a lake! It was very pretty!

We found a boulder field. It was very steep!

I got tired. I kept climbing up the boulder field for, by my estimate, forever. I stayed tired.

Then, we hit the ridgeline. My brain exploded a little. You know those pictures of mountains that you see in Patagonia ads? Yeah. I think this was literally one of those places. This was the kind of scenery that I’d been waiting for my whole life. When I started backpacking, these views were what I wanted.

Hang out, take in the sights, split up the campsites and relax. We all heated up a bit of dinner dinner, stargazed for a bit, and headed to bed with the best views ever right outside our tents.