The Rio Chama, the river I don’t care to see again.

2 06 2016

The Desert Monastery

I spent a recent weekend on the Rio Chama, a New Mexican River, a multi-day trip and it killed my sole over a long weekend.  It was memorial weekend 2016 and I was convinced that kayaking a 33 mile stretch of the Rio Chama was going to be a good time. With water flows at or near the 2500 CFS we had high spirits in the days before the trip. But as the launch date began to close in, a communication breakdown began to happen and death spiral ensued.


It was close to noon on Saturday the 28th of May 2016, when our group of 7 put on at El Vado Ranch. Nobody wanted to be there, let alone launch our kayaks, laden with an extra 25 pounds of gear, into the cold swift current. The goal was to kayak between 5 and 12 miles before finding a campsite and relaxing for the evening. We had a backup plan which if it had been executed would have taken us into sunny Colorado for two days of paddling the San Juan…It was just never executed.

Surprises; nobody likes them when you spent a lot of time and energy on a plan and begin to execute that idea, only to have the plan change multiple times. It is those people who can be the willow and go with the flow that make great trip leaders. I am pretty rigid, not as much as the long standing oak, but not as flexible as the willow.

It was seven days before the trip that the original plan was modified and the dates push back by a day; this was an easy adjustment. It made my additional holiday plans get canceled and other members of the team waste a paid day of vacation leave. The frustration began to set in, but people are flexible and began to adjust.

Eight short hours before go time, plans changed again, and one team member backed out. This was the team member that the original launch plan had been adjusted for, in the days leading up to the trip. It was not their fault, and the notification was early in the day, maybe we could adjust and still get on the water that night as originally planned.

Then a second team member contacted the trip leader and advised that they were still in Colorado, and by the time they traveled back to Albuquerque, they would not be able to join the team until early Saturday morning.  Fury began to set in, and the death spiral began to commence, as we realized that we could not get on the water until Saturday.

All members of the trip were notified of the adjustments, and went about preparing their boats and gear. We kept our time line and later met at the rendezvous time in a nearby city. It was there as we met back up and prepared to leave for the nights camp site that I realized our team members minds had gone sour, and me, well, I was right there with them.  We grabbed a 4 pack of Tecate and headed out of town pretending that nothing was bothering us. We all wanted to bag this trip and head to the San Juan.

It was close to 1630 hours when we arrived at Big Eddy, the take out for the run. The parking lot was packed with other vehicles. Some had play boats on the roof while others were attached to trailers loaded down with rafts. We began our search for a camp site, which as expected on a holiday weekend was not fun. All of the good spots were taken, and after an hour and a half we located a marginal camp location, which was more of a parking spot than anything else, prepared to settle in for the night.


“The Beatings will continue until the Moral Improves”

It was at this location that the group moral was obviously low. Everyone began to talk about our back up plan and wanted to leave A.S.A.P. for Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  It was clear this trip was no longer about having fun. This trip was going to be about going through the motions.  I set a dead line of 1000 hours on Saturday, as our default time to kick the backup plan into action.

Once this was set we began to settle into the evening, trying to joke around and laugh about the day. It was clearly obvious that everyone had checked out.


Camp Night 1, “Where is the bottle of Jim Beam?”


As dawn broke the air temperature was close to 37 degrees, and all of the team members were cold and began to questions whether or not they had packed correctly for the trip. We left the camping area and headed to the rendezvous point of Big Eddy to await our last team member. To our surprise he was there, looking like Cosmo Kramer, from Seinfeld.  We began to mill around getting breakfast of cold pizza and cold coffee, it was clear to him that we all had checked out. He began to question why our spirits were low and a group meeting was called.

Team members began to state why they were frustrated, cold, and just genuinely wanting to kayak on another stretch of river, or at least just hit the day run. This all mattered not to him, and he chugged forward with the plan.

It takes a special type of person to ignore all complaints and be unwilling to change. This had become less about running the river for the sake of it, and more about running the river so the commercial permits could be used for the first time in several years. It was about proving to himself that his plan was the righteous plan of action, not the plan of the trip leader. This team member was the sequoia, unable to adjust, or adapt, beyond his own ideas and thoughts.

Some would say I hold on to things a little too long when I get upset. I would agree with that, it can take me several days of working through the situation to figure it all out and let go of the frustration. It has been 3 days since our return from the river, and I am still frustrated. It is not so much that I; the trip leader had a bad plan, as much as it is the lack of my leadership that gets me hot. Had I known more about how our permits work, I could have launched on Friday like the original plan. This was the only part of the process that I did not have any information leading up to the launch date.

In the future, I will take care of every detail, and if people are late, or cannot make the rendezvous time, they need not come. I of all people hate to waste time, and other peoples time. My time is valuable and so I believe theirs is too.


MJ Running Argon Rapids in the XP10




After all was said and done we spent, two nights and three days on the trip, a trip that should have only taken two days. When we arrived at Big Eddy on Monday, after spending only 45 minutes on the water that day because we “had to camp” for a second night, I left. I left without saying good bye, I left frustrated, angry, and asking myself would I do this trip again. Deep down inside I think I will, but it will be on my own terms, with raft support, good food and way more beer.

There is not really a need to place blame on anyone person, because I could have chosen to accept the new plan and adapt. Instead I opted for resentment. So to the mighty Rio Chama, you were a fun river, but I am done with you for this season.






Positive Phototropism, Growing towards the Light

26 05 2016

Positive Phototropism: In a nutshell means this, if you put a plant in the closet, but leave the door open, the plant will grow towards the light.

In life we must bend towards that same light, doing the things that we enjoy. If we allow ourselves to get stuck in the same rut doing the same things, we will get bored and become stale.

I recently listened to a podcast on Ted Radio Hour, (TED) in this podcast it spoke about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  The list is rather basic, Food, Water, Shelter, are pretty much the bottom of the pyramid. As you get closer to the top you will find “Self actualization”.

A short google of the term yields the following definition from Wiki Self-Actualization: “The term was later used by Abraham Maslow in his article, A Theory of Human Motivation, Maslow explicitly defines selfactualization to be “the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially.”

But what does this all mean?


If all your basic needs are met, you can grow, as a person. Find your Light, no matter what it is, mine just happens to be Kayaking currently.


Turning a page. Frenchy explores a new chapter.

23 01 2016

Much like reading a good book, turning the page brings excitement and a new experience. In the great game of life, when someone turns a page or as I am calling it, “begins a new chapter” it can often times be overwhelming and anxiety filled.

Since relocating to the American Southwest, I have left behind a career that was rewarding to say the least. In searching for something new I have found that what is presented as a great place to work, is really just another corporate run retail business in the outdoor industry. A place where the staff has more formal education than the management, and usually far more experience in the outdoors.  Yet people flock to the retail store to purchase all the latest and greatest in outdoor gear. But for the truly experienced outdoor folks it is really just a bummer to walk in and be met by a sales associate that yearns to be outside. But alas this is a story for another day.

So how do you turn your real outdoor experience into a full time job? Passion. Sharing your passion with other is a great way to start, because after all they might know someone, who knows someone. Working for free and providing services to someone, that when it is all done, they can relay your hard work and determination to others and recommend you for a job or position that has not yet been created or is currently open that needs to be filled.

It was mid fall, and a friend rolled into town. He and his staff were westward bound to lead a kayak/raft trip down the Grand Canyon. I was quick to invite not only my friend, but his whole crew to my house to stay for the night versus camping at a local KOA. It was only then while we talked over shared beers that I realized to be truly satisfied, you have to do what you are passionate about. Yes, we have all heard this line before. But for some it resonates later rather than sooner.

So I am gearing up for a new chapter, one that involves more hard work, but with luck, will be far more enjoyable than continuing to push the corporate machine.

Adventure awaits around the next corner, pack your bags. “Get Change”

Stay Tuned-Frenchy10296166_497434793691995_3624873178453105249_o



Do something BIG. Do something COOL.

25 08 2013

It’s time. It’s time to do something Big, something Cool, something Different. The summer of 2013 I have traveled less and adventured differently than I have in years past. I miss my whitewater kayak, I miss weekend road trips and camping on a mountain. I have spent more time in the gym than ever before, and less time outdoors than ever before. It eats me from the inside out.

Yesterday at work I spoke to a great adventurer his name is Floyd. ( Floyd is winding down his summer riding around America on his bicycle. For what? For the Best Friends Animal Society, in Kanab, Utah. Floyd is from the Lake Placid, New York. Ya that’s pretty awesome.

While I have been preparing for this falls Ice Man Cometh Challenge mountain bike race, I have met some new adventurers on the trail. This makes for great conversation on the trail but I am longing for more adventures to call my own. This summer has been more about wedding preparations than about play. July 27, 2013 I married the greatest person ever. The wedding was a great start to a new, longer adventure, than ever before. But alas I am the red jelly bean and long for the little bumps of euphoria along the road of life.

I have been able to share two of my micro trips with others this summer which made for a great time. I am looking for a longer, bigger endeavor. While in Colorado for the wedding I spent a day whitewater kayaking with Mike and Alison on the the great Colorado River. Teaching some new skills, and learning a few new skills in the process too. We had a great trip down the river. The second micro trip was sharing a 14eer with Karen, Addison, and Little Ryan. Two days after the wedding we set off to climb Longs Peak again with two rookies in tow. A great alpine start led to a beautiful sunrise. Fickle mountain weather kept us from the great payoff of the summit, but wise mountain choices kept us alive to play another day.

The next big adventure is around the corner and I can’t wait, but yet have fallen into a state of blah with every day life. Looking for the little things to bring my spirit back around, the fall color change, a second trip to Colorado for a short weekend of fun, and another Iceman. Where else do I go for release and to rebuild the sense of spirit? “The mountains are calling and I must go…”

The Shoshone Section of the Colorado River.

The Shoshone Section of the Colorado River.

Royalview Mountain Bike Trail. Strongsville, Ohio. Thanks to CAMBA

Royalview Mountain Bike Trail. Strongsville, Ohio. Thanks to CAMBA

New gear for this seasons climbimg adventures

New gear for this seasons climbimg adventures

About halfway up the chute on Longs Peak

About halfway up the chute on Longs Peak

Just past Chasam Lake. Sunrise over the Twin Sisters.

Just past Chasam Lake. Sunrise over the Twin Sisters.

Part 3…Eldorado Base Camp and Beyond

31 07 2012

As day 4 ended moist, but without the fear of getting blown off the mountain, we hit the bags. It was the plan to Alpine start the following day (5), head up the glacier, hit the high camp and the composter and then on to the Peak, and back down to the car. Making a nice 12-15 hr day out of it, with the anticipation of a warm shower, and soft bed after the wet tent slumber party.

As we had done on the days before, we started out with a brew, and some breakfast, sun block, and today burying the tent with snow for weight; since our poles were our snow axe and trekking poles.  We left camp rather quickly after the work was done and topped the ridge we were camped next to, as we scrambled over the ridge we had a small moat to cross next to the rocks.  I was ahead of Mike and made short work of the day’s first challenge, I had a lot of pent up energy from the yesterdays rain.  As I looked back at Mike he was making his was down.

This is not too far from where the glacier swallowed Mike’s trekking pole. We were luck to escape with our lives from the hungry beast.

As Mike set his trekking poles on the rock to step down from hold to hold on this portion of the ridge, that’s when it happened. Almost in slow motion one of his trekking poles decided that it had had enough, and started to slide down the rock. The pole landed about 10 feet down inside of the moat. I peered into the great abyss and was able to locate the pole and told Mike we could get it without too much issue.  He was happy about that and continued to make his way on to the snow. As if in unison, as his feet hit the snow I hear a scraping sound as the great abyss swallowed his trekking pole into an even deeper cavernous area, only to end up as glacier food. With any luck geologist will have a great historical artifact in the years to come when this baby gets melted out of the glacial moraines.

One could only imagine the feeling of losing a great piece of gear that is good for going up but truly shines during the descent. Mike was a little more than bummed but we ventured on up the snow field of the Eldorado Glacier keeping the ridge on our right. After gaining around 500-700’ of elevation we stopped to rope up as there small crevasses beginning to show ahead and to the sides of our line of travel.

After a few hours we came up on a great hole in the glacier. We stood on a small flat spot, with the ridge on our right. The glacier outstretched in front and off to the left for a distance that can only be measured by hours it would take to walk to the edge. Following the glacier to our right and along the ridge would lead us on to the Inspiration Glacier and away from our objective.  The option from our point was to traverse left of this great hole and continuing up slope for another 30 minutes.  So after a little sunscreen and some snacks we kept on trucking.

“Good God Gertie look at the the gash on that one” -Bruce VanFossen

We knew base on our map that at the top of this slope, the glacier would level off into a large flat area and from there it would be a short walk to the high camp, composter, and our pre lunch stop.

Reaching the top of this small slope Eldorado Peak came into sight, and according to Mike my slow boring pace became  the Lighting Mc Queen pace.

Eldorado Peak was a sight to see, ahead of us lay 15-20 minutes of glacier and a few crevasses. It would be at the small rock island on the right we would find high camp, and a rocky ridge leading up to the last two hundred yards of snow climbing. The peak was snow covered and from our perspective did not look as spectacular as Mt. Johannesburg or those of Boston Basin. What was becoming apparent was the vista to our right or east, of the Inspiration Glacier and the North Face of Forbidden Peak.

We crossed the flat area without incident and Mike and I both had our minds on the composter, and after a short looky lou we found the little gem at the base of the rock island.

The best views come from stopping and taking a break. This was one stop that was well worth the time. From the vantage point of the composter you looked south across the Inspiration Glacier towards Forbidden Peak and off to the lower left was Moraine Lake. Moraine Lake was a beautiful green glacier fed lake, still covered in partial ice.

While hanging out on the rock island we were met by a party of three women, who were making short work of the climb. After a short chit chat we headed up the finial snow slope towards the peak. In many ways this part of the glacier was strange as there were several crevasses on the way up. We safely navigated around these new obstacles and kept on trucking. Kick. Step. Kick. Step. Kick. Step. Finding a rhythm was the key to making ground, for me it felt super easy, after all the heavy squats at the gym in preparation for this climb.

With a short push left we let the team of three pass us by and kick steps in the snow, breaking the trail. It was a nice relief to travel in someone else’s steps as it was way more efficient. In short order the women cleared the finial knife ridge and Mike and I started our ascent of the same ridge. This last area of the climb was probably the most dangerous, the only protection was our two pickets sunk deep into the snow. We used these to form a running belay and stepped rather carefully making each step count on its way across.

Looking carefully you can see where the picket is located

This was the main pull of climbing this peak, as it has a Himalayan feel to it with this finial knife ridge. Maximum Exposure to our left and right, for somewhere around 80’ we walked on a kicked step trail in the snow no wider than 1 foot. It led us to a wider snow covered area to which the five of us enjoyed some views, and a few photos of the summit. Yep we made it, Good Ole Eldorado Peak, and we were only halfway done with our day. The rest was all downhill from this point.

Bounding down slope we reached the rock island after a short time descending and settled on the rocks for our lunch. Tuna from a bag, or as the women called it…“cat food”… has never tasted so good. They ladies powdered on down slope and Mike and I left soon after them following their footsteps down the glacier, and back across the ridge.  It was a great day of climbing, the skies were blue all day with a light wind and a few stray clouds. A great pay off to the wind, rain, and wet tent we endured over the last few days.

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Mancation 12.2…To Eldorado Base Camp

27 07 2012

One our way back to camp the storms stopped giving us doubt about our decision, but once we made camp we enjoyed a little boxed wine and all was not for a loss, and the planning for day 3 began to take shape. While brewing dinner we discussed plans to maybe head towards the west ridge of Forbidden Peak. The weather seemed to clear up except for some wind, that would later prove to be pretty strong.  With the alarm set for an alpine start we hit the bags and started to nod off.

It had been maybe an hour when the wind began to pick up steam and the tent began to rattle and quake. Both Mike and I were trying hard to catch some z’z with the tent getting racked by the wind until it was too hard to sleep, and we lay awake watching the tent walls as they got hammered by the wind. It was not until the a few of the tent stake came flying out with some of the strongest gust that we later estimated at or above 40-50 mph, that the east wall came crashing in on us.

Talk about a site to see! Donning  mountaineering boots, long johns, we made a mad scramble to hold the tent while trying to restake what we could with the remainder of the snow getting super low due to the warm temperatures. It was apparent that the alpine start time was fast approaching, and sleep was in short supply. Once we got the tent squared away I have to admit that I was wide awake, with nothing to do but listen to the wind rack the tent and stand hyper vigilance to what I thought would be Mike and I going all Mary Poppins down the mountainside.

We never saw it coming and never heard the alarm go off, sleep finally came and we later awoke at 730. Enter the morning routine brew, eat, composter.  With the alpine start gone it was hard to think we could make the west ridge of Forbidden, summit, and back before midnight. So the plan was scratched and we enjoyed our eats, and maybe take a nap who would guess what might lay ahead. That was until we saw the bear across the creek, a few snow bridges away.

Let me be the first to say I love wildlife, both watching and eating. In this setting it was great watching this black bear look for its breakfast and catching some sun. It’s just when it starts walking your direction… things…plans can change. We watched Yogi for a while as he made his way across one snowbridge and then a second, testing every step. Work through the trees below the composter and then across the snowbridge on the creek beside our camp.

Mike donned a some noise making things (carabineers, pulleys, and the snow shovel) while I resorted to some of the same plus a few rocks…Now don’t ask why, but rocks just felt natural… So while Yogi crossed the snowbridge below us and disappeared into the pines below our tent we stood vigilant making a great ruckus and randomly chucking rocks below. We figured we were safe when a few fellow climbers appeared out of the bushes where Yogi took refuge, not looking worse for wear.

Man there went the morning it was now close to 10am. Time to evaluate the day. It was then the idea of pulled pork sandwiches and beers came to mind. Before long we began to pulled out, a day early and started back towards the car. We guessed that we could break camp and be at the car close to 4 if we got cracking while the rest was history.

We passed that evening eating at the caboose in Marblemount, and enjoying some organic blond ale from California, later pitching camp next to the Cascade River.  It was a great night.

While we were in town we hit the ranger station and grabbed some new permits for the Eldorado Cross County Zone, and  some camp brews, good ole Alaskan Never Summer Ale pushed us through for the night of gear sorting, attempted drying of socks, and repacking for the next two days of back country travel.

Starting day 4 we enjoyed our breakfast and brew of coffee, and before long we headed back up Cascade River Road for the Eldorado Trail Head. Now there is some interesting things to note about our travels here and that is the trails. There is not one trail in all of Ohio that can compare to the trails in the North Cascades, in steepness. The trail on the way to Eldorado XC area was twice as steep as the one into Boston Basin, due to the sharp elevation gain and lower starting point. To quote Mike, “this trail is a mother” and it was shaping up to be another day of walking and fingers crossed, making camp before dark.

While climbing the trail in we knew there would be some difficult route finding, or so stated the guide book. What we were about to experience was downright mentally taxing. Despite the good weather forecast it looked like some rain might be moving in to the area. With that type of change it had the ability to bring some fog. Though it would not be an issue while we continued to travel through the trees on a pretty well worn trail tread, but once we hit the boulder fields it would became a challenge.

When we cleared the trees and saw the boulder field it was one of those moments were you say..this is not as bad as (insert the last place like this that sucked)….Then the fog came back…

What we later learned on the way out was that it should have taken use maybe 2 hours, at most to navigate through the talus field, and with fog we crushed it some place around 4 hours.

It all payed off when we passed a few fellow climbers close to the beginning of the snow field. They told us about their camping spot, and that the snow was packed really nice. *read this as….less work digging our snow platform*

After a little while longer of walking upslope through the snow, with our crampons on we found the “camp site”. It was hard to fancy with all of the fog but from what we could see, which was not a whole lot, there were 6 tent platforms pre-dug just waiting for our tent. This was good as the weather was continuing to get worse and some rain was beginning to fall harder.

So there we were…tent up sleeping bags out, cloths hanging up in the tent to air out, nothing to do but wait for tomorrow. The pitter patter of the rain was nice, the wind was not too strong as we began to make some coffee and noodles. Yeppers, that’s when it happened, we both began to experience some new moisture, it was raining in the tent. This launched a full blown Homeland Security style investigation. Before long we were cutting our garbage bags, (which is what was keeping our cloths dry on the hike in) and weaving them in between the tent fly and the body with the hopes that it would re-route the water down slope. Which it did with great success, my corner of the tent had close to ½ quart of water in it when the rain stopped. And so ends Day 4.

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Mancation 12.2, The North Cascades

25 07 2012

Mancation 12.2, as it was called hatched from an idea that Mike had a while back.  The Pacific North West is known for its snow capped mountains and dormant volcanoes; know by most by Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Baker, and Mt. Rainer. According to the National Park Service it is home to the largest volume of glaciers in the lower 48 states.

Mike had been to the area multiple times before on climbing trips and had heard about a lesser known climbing area with several smaller peaks assessable one main basin area. The climbing area contained several glaciers, climbing routes, and great vistas.

Boston Basin is located a short 20 plus mile drive from the Marblemount Ranger Station, in Marblemount, Washington. After obtaining our camping and climbing permits for the back country, we head up Cascade River Road to the unmarked trailhead for Boston Basin. Getting our gear situated took some time and before we knew it we headed up the trail to hopefully find the basin before darkness fell.  The first day of out 7 day adventure was pretty long by the time we hit the trail head, but while packing our gear we were filled with a second wind, and were quite happy to be moving again after so much sitting.

It was hard to not notice the great scenery just at the trail head alone. Everywhere  l looked there were big mountains surrounded by snow and glaciers it was great!

Our  day started at 130 am when we left Mike’s house for the airport and by the time we took off, and headed up the trail it was close to 4 or 5  in the afternoon. With well over 3.5 hours of hiking we knew we would be pushing it to find camp before darkness fell. The trail in was pretty steep and we gained elevation fast. The trail on the way in was quite picturesque, with the dramatic landscape change in the 360 degree panorama, it made for passing time easy.

Cutting across the trail in several areas was melting snow and ice, and crossing those obstacles became the challenge.

Snow bridges, and open water crossing, followed by log hopping gained us access to some to the lower basin area. By the time we cleared the tree line it was after dark and we were met by a wall of snow. Climbing out on the snow after a few hours of being on the trail was a nice relief to the journey and before long we crossed a glacial moraine and found some good snow to pitch out tent for the night.  By now we were flirting with the 24 hour mark of travel time from Ohio to what would later be designated as base camp.

One of my favorite things about traveling into the mountains is the first morning. When you wake up put on your boots for the morning stretch and the scenery takes a hold of you. This trip had a lot of those moments, unzipping the tent door and just taking it all in can sometimes be a day’s work.

The first true day of being in the basin we collected our bearings and set some pretty loose goals. First and foremost was find the composter toilet which had been hand dug out of the snow by the climbing rangers a few days prior, and find the upper camp.  It is hard to get an idea on spacial distance due to the larger landscape features, what I would guess-ta-mate could take 30 minutes later turned out to be a 2.5 hours hike…

Day two we opted to head up the snow fields towards the Quien Sabe Glacier, which would later lead us to Shark Fin Tower or Sahale Mountain.  After waking up at around 0530 and brewing coffee and some breakfast we loaded our packs and headed upslope only stopping briefly at an open area to collect the days worth of glacier melt water for drinking on the hike. At day break the valley was shrouded in fog and it soon led to blue patchy skies. This “weather window” would not last long as we would later find out.

Getting to Sharkfin we observed the main route,a snow col to be blocked by a large moat at the edge of the glacier and rock. I was able to successfully navigate across the moat and onto the rock. As I edged closer to the snow col, I was again stymied by a large block of snow that had broken free from the main snow col and looked quite precarious. So after a little down climbing Mike and I opted to travel a little further up the base of the cliff band and if there was not any other route past the moat, we would bail and head to the top of Sahale for we still had a lot of light left in the day.

It was not much further we found a second snow col with a much smaller moat and quickly gained access to the 35-45 degree snow col and headed up. It was while we were locating the new route the weather was changing for the worse And after only 1 pitch of snow climbing the weather hit us and it began to thunder, rain, and sleet.  Fearing the worst on an exposed ridge we set an anchor and bailed.  

One our way back to camp the storms stopped giving us doubt about our decision, but once we made camp we enjoyed a little boxed wine and all was not for a loss, and the planning for day 3 began to take shape.