Thursday, September 24, 2009

Be Prepared!

Though some of you may not believe it, once upon a time, I was, in fact, a Boy Scout. And what is the Boy Scout Motto? Be Prepared! What was I not during a recent hike in the Alps? You guessed it. Prepared. That is how, I regret to say, the mountain beat me.

But perhaps I should start from beginning. Not long ago Amanda and I were on vacation in Germany and Austria with Rob and Sarah. During part of this trip we stayed in the Leutasch Valley in Austria, and we allocated one day for hiking.

For those of you who have never been to the Alps, they are extremely steep...much steeper than the Rockies. Having been glaciated several times over the last 5 or so million years, they have been carved with deep valleys. For this reason, I had assumed that the mountain tops would be relatively inaccessible to amateur hikers such as ourselves. Consequently, I was anticipating an easy hike around the scenic valley floor, before I returned to drinking beer.

Amanda and I's complete inventory of hiking supplies when we set out: One bottle of water, a camera, two pairs of sunglasses, and a map.

As a general rule, I try to avoid doing things I will regret. But here are a few items I regret not bringing (Pay attention because these will be important later): Several liters of water, food, hiking poles, and sunscreen.

But I digress...we started out on bright sunny Alpen morning on trail that passed by our Pension (That's a bed and breakfast in Germany and Austria). The trail led through a cow pasture and into the forest.

Oh what a nice Alpen stream! This hike is easy so far.

After crossing the stream we reached a cross roads with several trail markers. Rob, Sarah, Amanda, and I began to contemplate which way we should go. We had a map, but that told us little about the quality of the hike. About that time, a helpful local came hiking up the path. Somehow, he knew immediately that we were tourists. Perhaps, he was very perceptive because I can't image what about our appearance would have pegged us as tourists.

He asked us where we were planning on hiking and if we had any questions. I looked at the signs at the crossroads. One trail in particular caught my attention.
"How about the Gehrenspitze? Is it difficult?," I asked.
"Do you mean difficult or dangerous?," he replied.
"Dangerous"
"No, it's not dangerous. Children do it"

He then proceeded to describe the trail in great detail (quite accurately, in fact). It sounded like a good hike, and if children could do it...Gehrenspitze it was. We hung a left at the cross roads and headed up.

I should pause here to briefly describe the hike we were attempting. The Gehrenspitze is the mountain that loomed directly over our hotel. It's peak is 2367 meters high (that's a little under 8000 feet). Not a huge mountain, but not too shabby either. The valley floor from which our journey began was at about 1000 meters (approximately 3000 feet). So we were attempting a climb of around 5000 feet over the distance of 7 or so kilometers. Not too bad.

The first part of the ascent was very steep with many switchbacks and, at times, stair-like. The trail was largely covered with loose rocks and gravel, a surface, which, I commented to Rob, would likely cause us difficulty on the descent. (It did).

Anyone who has been hiking with me knows my penchant for running up the sides of mountains and regretting it later. This hike was no different and we soon noticed that Amanda and I kept getting far ahead of Rob and Sarah. At this point, Rob, who had remembered the Boy Scout motto broke out the walkie-talkies that he had "liberated" from the Diehls. Each couple took radio and off we went.

After an hour or so, we finally broke out of the tree line into an Alpen meadow.

As you can see, we had entered a long valley between the two peaks. The Gehrenspitze is on the left. My best guess is that the bottom of the valley (where we are standing in the picture) is about 4000+ feet. The far end of the valley (way off in the distance) was marked at 2048 meters (about 6600 feet). Looking back the way we came, we had already hiked quite a distance.

During the summer, the farmers graze cattle and horses in these high altitude meadows.

Onward we climbed. After hiking a few hours, we looked back to see our progress.

We had come quite a ways. But we were starting to get hungry and thirsty, and we had drank about half of our water. Also Rob and Sarah were somewhere behind us in the valley. But I don't see them...do you? We had read that there were numerous huts on the trails in the Alps that actually served food. We looked at our map and saw that there was hut at the end the valley on the ridgeline. We wondered if it served food, or at least had water. We looked ahead up the valley.


If you look very, very closely there is a tiny bump on the left side of the "V" shape made by the ridge line against the sky. That was the hut. We radioed Rob that were making for the hut to find out whether or not it had food and water. Rob replied that they were not going to hike to hut until we verified that there was food. Our job was to radio back what we found.

It turned out that they next part of the hike was perhaps the hardest of all. The trail became very narrow and climbed rapidly to the ridge with not a few obstacles. Along the way we caught up with the helpful Austrian who initially described the trail to us. He asked us where our friends were. "I don't know. Somewhere back there." I pointed to the valley below. "They are not afraid, are they?," he asked. "No", I replied, "just slow."

Finally, after a great effort, we reached the ridge line. I was very hungry and thirsty (Amanda seemed to be fine). There were quite a few people picnicking at the crossroads there (and yes, there were small children). Now about that hut. Oh, look there it is...

But there seem to be a lot of cows hanging out there. I guess we had better investigate...oh, no ...ATTACK COW.

It was heading right for us. It marched right up to me, and stared. "I think it wants food or something," I suggested to Amanda. I tried to communicate with it. "I don't have any food, cow," I said. I wasn't sure if it understood English or not, but most of the people around here seem to, so it was worth a shot. The reply was swift, "MOOOOOO!!!" It was not happy. It gave me a look of utter contempt and headed for a family picnicking on a blanket. The woman there started yelling "I don't have anything" in German. The now sullen cow gave up and moved on.

We hiked up to the hut, to investigate. It was just a cow hut! It was used for storing hay for the cows or something like that! So we now we have no food, no water, and another 1ooo+ feet to climb to the peak. We radio back to Rob. The hut is a bust. He responds that he and Sarah are going to head back to the hotel. I realize that there is no way I am going to complete the hike without water (I probably could have made it without the food, though). Amanda and I decide to hike on a little further to something akin to a sub-peak to get some pictures.

It was definitely worth it. Here are some of the pictures we got.

Some more cows (with a view) taunting us:
The peak of the Gehrenspitze...taunting me. The little dot on the narrow trail through the grass is a hiker:

Amanda, ready to continue the ascent to the peak, mocking our weakness:

Some of the peaks nearby with glaciers:

Looking back the way we came:


Sarah asked us to take 360 degree video from the top, which we did. I was going to post it on this blog entry, but I am having trouble uploading it. I may try again later, and add it as a separate post.

So, after taking in the view for awhile we began the long descent. On the way down, we ran into the entire horse herd.

Shortly after passing the heard, we overtook Rob and Sarah. We hiked with them for a little bit, but I was extremely thirsty and wanted to get back to the hotel and get some water...food, too. Amanda and I hiked ahead again. When left valley and returned to the steep trail through the trees. My fears were realized. The loose rocks and gravel were treacherous, especially for legs that were already tired from a full day's hike. We slipped and slid numerous times, and I think I came close to breaking my toe once. Man, I wish I had brought hiking poles!

After a brutal descent through the forest, we finally made back to the hotel, where all we had to eat was a block of cheese. But the faucet in the bathroom sink produced plenty of water. Last but not least, Amanda noticed that my neck was sunburned. If only we had brought sunscreen!

Eventually Rob and Sarah finally returned as well. Everyone was exhausted (except for Amanda). But that's okay, Austria has the perfect cure for exhaustion after a long hike...beer!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tummy Time

Amanda says that the back of my head is getting flat. So now I have to do tummy time...It's so embarrassing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Surviving in a Post-Trassie World

Certain events in human history, while seemingly innocuous at the time of their occurrence, in retrospect, prove to be tipping points, triggering an inexorable sequence of events that change the world as we know it forever. Enter Stupid Shannon. Little is known about him. Cassie (the would-be authority) is nearly silent on the issue, and Traci will speak of him only in pejoratives. Regardless, his introduction has fractured a long-standing political alliance, the ramifications of which are only now becoming clear.

To understand the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we must look all the way back to the 2001 to 2002 time frame. At that time, a great migration was occurring. Recent graduates of UVa were leaving Charlottesville and settling in Washington, DC and the inner suburbs of Arlington and Fairfax. Life was good. From the restaurants of Reston to the bars of Clarendon, the locus of social existence was rooted firmly in the Fairfax-Arlington area. Of course Loudoun County existed back then, but it was a sparsely populated wasteland of farms and rustic villages.

At some point in this golden age, Rob and Mike met Trassie, hardly aware of the crucial role that Trassie would play in their future. At first, Trassie was believed to be a single person, but over time it was realized that Trassie was, in fact, two separate human beings locked in a symbiotic relationship. Traci provided all communication with the outside world while Cassie ensured that their clothes matched and memorized crucial steps in travel directions.

Shortly after this event, the great dispersion began. Amanda and I moved to Georgia. Some other people that Rob and Mike met and whose names I can't remember left as well. Dave went to live in the woods for six months and returned as a bearded and changed man. Now he is seldom seen. As part of Rob and Sarah's self-described plot to steal our identities, they too moved to Georgia. Mike and Sarah moved to Colorado for a year. The only constant through the great dispersion was Trassie.

Meanwhile, in Loudoun County, dark forces were rumbling. Weakness in the Fairfax-Arlington social scence provided the opportunity for Loudoun to sieze control of both the Halloween and New Year's parties. Partygoers from Fairfax and Arlington were forced to make a long and dangerous journey up the dreaded "Greenway." A rapid rise in the real estate market led to the Golden Circle, a ring of towns in Loudoun county so desirable that a decline in real estate prices became impossible. Coupled with a seemingly endless supply of craft beers and '80s movies, the dominance of Loudoun seemed complete.

When Mike and Sarah returned from their one year absence, they found their central position in the area social scene had been ursurped. It was then that they formed the Fairfax-Arlington Alliance with Trassie to serve as a counter-balance to Loudoun hegemony. They even went so far as to establish a rival New Year's party (leading to the great New Year's schism of 2007). When Amanda and I returned to Fairfax in 2008 following a four year absence, we found the situation desperate, but not hopeless.

Things were looking up. Rob and Sarah hoped to move back to the area within a year, and even Dave had been sighted once or twice. That's when the bottom fell out. Sarah decided that she needed to be closer to her step-mother and chose to bypass Washington (taking Rob with her) for points farther north. Then the event that shocked us all occurred. The one constant that we had all relied on finally failed us. Trassie announced that it was breaking up and moving to a far away and mysterious place called Kansas City. Why, you ask.

From what we know, Cassie was introduced to a person named Shannon. By all accounts (and by all, I mean Traci's), Shannon is a man of incomprehensible stupidity. It is rumored that he wears a helmet to prevent self-inflicted injury. But his ownership of two dogs proved irresistible to Cassie and signaled the death knell of Trassie. Trassie decided to split into two separate entities, Traci and Cassie, and live on opposite sides of Kansas City.

The imminent departure of Trassie has led to the dissolution of the Fairfax-Arlington Alliance. We are now but four. The dominance of Loudoun is complete. Amanda and I now feel that we have no choice but to consolidate our position with Mike and Sarah. To that end, we will be moving to Oakton in the near future, and we will begin construction on what we are calling the "Ark." There we may be safe for some time. Near permanent traffic congestion makes the approach to Oakton difficult even under the best of circumstances. We may even be able to hold out long enough for Rob and Sarah to return!

But perhaps I am being too optimistic. Rob and Sarah are moving to Syracuse, a veritable paradise second only to Rochester. They are never coming back. As darkness settles in around me, I cannot help but wonder, who is this man, this Stupid Shannon.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Apalling Behavior

Some very appalling behavior has recently come to my attention, and it has to stop...immediately. It seems that quite a few of my readers think it's funny to call Meghann's new baby Viper. Well, it's not funny. It's disrespectful. Do you want her child to grow up to be juvenile delinquent or something? I'm not sure who came up with this (though I'm pretty sure it was Cassie), but you should apologize. And just to head things off, you should NOT call her baby any of the following names: T-Bone, Popcorn, T-Pain, Lunchmeat, Dunclet, Chocolate Thunder, "Izzy's future husband," Aidan, Boxcar Dru, Small Fry, Dr. Dru, "He doesn't really look like you Duncan," or Craig.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Nostalgia

You know what I could really go for about now? A nuclear sub from Little John's Deli.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Work is Fun!

Ever work 90+ hours in a week before? You guys should try it. It's fun!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

New Directions

I've come to realize that in my blind pursuit of wealth, I have lost sight of what is really important in life. I have allowed work to consume me and cloud my judgment. In the process, I almost lost what I hold most dear. It is for that reason that I will be quitting my job so that I can focus on blogging full-time.

Don't worry about me, I can subsist on donations and ad revenue from blog. I also borrowed one of Mike D's credit cards. That should help, too. I look forward to regaling you with tales from my new life as a blogger. I'm sure that sitting in front of a computer all day will lead to countless adventures. Make sure you check back soon for my forthcoming post, "Quitting your job with style (and burning multiple bridges in the process!)"