The accessibility of Utah hikes to major metropolitan areas is unparalleled. Going from the hustle and bustle of city life to the cool, relaxing clime of the mountains, in less than a half hour, is invigorating. And many of the hikes are extremely accessible and family friendly. One of these is the hike to Cecret Lake up Albion Basin. We hiked it in June of ’09, right after Snowbird closed for the season. Had I brought my skis, I could have skied in the morning and wakeboarded in the afternoon! Pretty awesome.
The hike was a blast. At the time, it was just Brenda, Ashton and I and Ashton was less than a year old. My sister Alisha came along with my sister Janelle and her husband, Bryan and my brother Dallin and his wife Shannon.
The dirt road exiting from the Albion Basin parking lot quickly turned to snow. I had always wanted to be up in Albion Basin at this time of year. While we were too early for the flowers, which are famous up there, we did catch the bright greens of foliage meet the bright white of the snow, something I had always wanted to see for myself. It wasn’t quite like the contrast of New Zealand or the Alps, but it as still spectacular.
It was a carefree day. My family is very talkative, and we were all just engrossed in conversation, moving from the surroundings to the politics to business to future plans to homes and who knows what else. Over every ridge, the conversation would be interrupted by me exclaiming how beautiful everything was. Brenda would roll her eyes as it was still the same as last time!
We ended the hike at the top of Sunnyside. What a difference a simple 800 vertical feet makes in the weather! We had only brought light clothing and the 9400′ crest was exposed to the wind rushing up the canyon. It’s crazy- as we descended, it seemed like the temperature rose with every step. We didn’t get to finish our lunch up top as we were all huddled up trying to block the wind, so we ate and talked and sometimes yelled excitedly as we descended.
Ashton kept a smile on pretty much the whole time. I think he was the star of the show. He was so happy. He was born to love the outdoors. He was surrounded by awesome vistas, had his favorite toy, a free ride and most of his favorite people in his world with him, so why wouldn’t he be?!
This is the first in the Daily Dream series. Daily Dreams are meant to take us to a place that not everyone may have the opportunity to personally visit. One place that I never thought I’d visit was Peru. That all changed when I married a Peruvian, whose family made vising the fatherland a condition of approving the marriage 🙂
There are many reasons for visiting Peru. For the surfer, there are found some of the longest rides in the world, including Chicama, which is the longest left-handed ride in the world. For the mountain climber, there is Huaraz, the main center for beginning treks in the Cordillera Blanca, in which is found Huarascaran, highest peak in Peru and 6th in South America, at a whopping 22,205 feet, and Alpamayo, which was declared the most beautiful mountain in the world in an international survey by climber Tonni Hiebler. For the archaeologist, there is of course Machu Picchu (stay tuned for later post). For the anthropologist, Lake Titicaca, with Los Uros people inhabiting the lake’s floating islands (stay tuned for later post). And for the ornithologist (my original ambition as a young kid, actually), there are Los Condores. All in all, Peru is an adventurer’s dream.
The most spectacular excursion of this incredible trip was the one to see Los Condores. I studied humanities in college, and in humanities, whether its in music or literature or art, there is a story, there is structure. There is a beginning, middle, climax, and conclusion. There is adversity and triumph. And there are people. Our trek enjoyed all those elements, which is what made it so memorable for me.
Not everyone was physically able to go see the Condors, including my wife, who was pregnant with Ashton. As such, it was Richard, my father in law, Chris and Ricky, two of my brothers in law, and I who embarked.
We started our journey in Arequipa, which sits above 8,000 feet. We went with a tour group, riding in a 16-passenger van with folks from Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Argentina. Reaching Colca Canyon, where the Condors nest, required two days. The first leg of the drive involved nearly 8,000 feet of ascent!
The rise in altitude was particularly hard on Chris and a couple of others in the group, such as those from the Netherlands, who literally came from below sea level. We stopped at this outpost on the altiplano to buy some Mate tea, which helps with altitude sickness; take pictures with the Llamas (and I think Vicuna) and stretch our legs. Chris’ pain reached the point where I thought we should maybe turn back. He was pale in the face and had thrown-up more than once. I give the little guy credit for toughing it out.
Shortly after departing we encountered haggard, half-bent grandmothers carrying what looked like 60 pounds of hand-made vestiture for sale. I bought some super cool matching gloves and scarf plus a hat. I thought it was all incredible stuff and dirt cheap when converted to dollars. I was flabbergasted by these two old ladies walking alone on the altiplano in the middle of nowhere along a seemingly interminable highway to sell some clothing for like 10 soles. What a will to survive. I paid whatever the asking price was. Back in the van, Richard laughed so hard because apparently I had been ripped off. In my mind, though, I was willing to pay whatever they asked just to say I bought something from two of the most determined ladies I had ever met.
Along the way we saw huge herds of Vicuna in the high plateaus. They were incredible, very graceful, very peaceful and undisturbed. The high-point of the first day’s drive, both physically and emotionally, was reaching the summit of the crest of the road’s winding path through the mountains. It topped out over 16,000 feet and the views were spectacular. Chris was still feeling nauseous, but the Mate and the views were working.
From the apex, we descended down to Chivay. The descent made everyone feel a little better, especially Chris. On the ride to the crest, everyone was bustling with activity. We made friends with everyone in the car, especially the Spaniards, who had only recently been married. I was particularly interested in the Spaniards’ honeymoon in New Zealand. They really got me excited to visit there. In contrast, the descent to Chivay was quiet, contemplative and restful.
Chivay sits at over 11,800 feet. So, we slept on the top of Mount Timpanogos for the night! The weather patterns there are ones of extremes. Daytime warmth turns to bone-chilling cold very quickly. The paper-thin walls of our hotel called for sleeping in our clothes, jacket and all. Luckily I had brought my ski jacket. Unlucky for Chris and Ricky, they did not. Unfortunately, both were feeling the effects of head colds combined with altitude sickness the next morning.
The bright sun coming up over the mountains and the anticipation of the day’s adventure improved everyone’s spirits. The tour guide did a great job of making all aspects of the drive from Chivay to Colca Canyon memorable. They made time to stop and appreciate the culture and history of Chivay and the surrounding environs, which deepened the experience.
Finally getting under way to the real prize, the condors of Colca Canyon was not the climax. Arriving at the overlook to see the condors was not the climax. Not even seeing a condor in the shadowy depths of the canyon or the lofty skies above was not the climax. The climax came when we experienced the true grandeur of these magnificent creatures swooping right over our heads. What a sight. What an experience. To be in Peru, in the Andes, at over 12,000 feet, sharing the view with the Condors in all their natural splendor was otherworldly in feeling.
We all sat and enjoyed the scenery, the serenity and the majesty. It was fun to be with family and newfound friends.
The return to Arequipa was memorable for the people. It was really fun to hear everyone’s story. The car was a hive ofconversation, excitement and “did-you-see-that-one” questions. The group from Netherlands was backpacking through South America, the Germans were on enjoying their summer break and the couple from Spain were continuing to see the world during their honeymoon stage. They were all really great and fun people to have on such an excursion.
I love my babalicious wife, Brenda. We are exact opposites in pretty much every way. I grew up swimming my whole life. That girl can barely keep her head above the water. I am a thrill-seeker and she is a home-body. I believe in corporal punishment for the kids when necessary and she is a pacifist. I love camping and she detests the thought of bugs. I love the cold, she hates it. I love snow, she dreads it. She loves talking about feelings, I’m “dead inside” according to her. She enjoys all these TV drama series and I don’t touch them with a ten-foot pole. She’s a bit of feminist in a way (she’ll deny it) and just hearing the “F” word gets my blood boiling (little exaggeration there…). You get the picture. And these are not clichés. Anyone who knows us at some point has scratched their head about how we ever got married.
One thing we have in common is we strive to make each other happy – which usually involves some form of “major” sacrifice of our inner being’s deeply held tenets of how life should be.
Last weekend, for example, my brother Darrin was in town on a family ski trip to The Canyons. My family and I all went up. It was a breakout day for Ashton as he and his cousin Ava just killed it all over High Meadow. I had never seen him ski that well. And Oliver was just as happy as pie (see fun video below). When we got down to the car, I was exhausted and really hating the hike to get off the mountain (walk, gondola, walk, cabriolet, walk, load up – Canyons has issues there) and was definitely PO’d, but overall felt pretty awesome about the day. Brenda on the other hand, could only think “nightmare”! It was a real sacrifice for her to come along.
For Father’s Day 2013, Brenda’s gift to me was a free day to go hiking. This was a real sacrifice for her as it meant a Saturday alone with all three of our psychotically energetic kids. I decided to head up to Lake Hardy with my cousin Jeremy Bikman (Bikman) and my buddy Jeremy Goff (Goff). Brenda probably predicted it, while I thought “nah, I can turn around”, but a hike to the lake turned into a summit of South Thunder. Whoa. What a hike.
The first leg of our journey was done by mountain bike. Holy &@%$balls! I had been diligently doing P90x and am naturally a strong climber, but I had never experienced uphills like some of those I encountered on our way to the 2nd Hemagog, by bike, on a jeep/service vehicle/hiking/what the heck trail. My quads were hashed before I reached the 1st Hemagog and I was thinking “I’m toast.”
Between the 1st and 2nd Hemagog, we encountered crazy amounts of underbrush jabbing into the narrow hiking trail, enough so that we finally decided to ditch the bikes and continue on foot. I was so nervous that we were never going to see our bikes again. Either someone was going to get a 5-finger discount on about $12K worth of hardware or they were going to be lost to mother nature.
Now in true Lorin Bird fashion (and I think true Bikman fashion as well), we had no idea where the trail went after the 2nd Hemagog. I’m not sure I even bothered to consult anything before I went on the hike. (As an aside, I think I’ve been lost so many times that not being lost would be an aberration. Lost is the norm for me, I guess). It gets into a scramble to Lake Hardy and then a scramble from Lake Hardy to the summit. There are cairns, but you continually lose them. In the end, all you do is look up, guestimate on where it is you want to go, and then try to go there.
We all brought enough water for Lake Hardy, but nowhere close enough for the summit. Ha ha, there would have been three dead dudes on the side of some cliff if I hadn’t by some luck decided to bring my Katadyne water filter. It wet our whistle from Lake Hardy all the way to the summit and back down.
Lake Hardy was incredible. It really is such a beautiful lake nestled in a bowl that seems to sit atop a stand, looking out over the valley, as the mountain falls away steeply below and there is something of gorge that cuts away south. It was here that I faced the moment of truth. And of course I cracked! Bikman turns and says, “Bird, you know we have to summit right? Ask for forgiveness later, dude.” We both looked up at the “summit” (ah, the wonders of false summits) of South Thunder and it looked sooo close. It stared at me, taunting me, tempting me, beckoning me like a siren. And like one of Odysseus’ men, I was oh so easily enraptured. “Onward and upward my good man.”
Now the classic Wasatch Scramble began. I love Wasatch scrambles precisely because I hate them so much. The more I hate them, the more I want to conquer them. I couldn’t turn back, though. The thought of the view spurred me on. My quads had already been destroyed in the first couple hours of endless uphill biking. That wasn’t going to change. “Might as well make the pain worth it, right?” I thought to myself.
We had no idea where we were going. As we hit the crest of the false summit and looked over to Lone Peak and down Bells Canyon, we just started wandering around the ridge wondering where the heck the summit was. We knew it was to the right (east), so we headed up and east. Somewhat comically, I stumbled upon the summit as I came around some rocks and realized “hey, I’m at the top!” I then jumped up some rock ledge and really onto the top for a completely unobstructed 360-degree view. Wow, what a view! I couldn’t savor that view enough. I still go back and look at the view. I filmed the whole view with my GoPro and this really gives you perspective on how amazing the Wasatch is. And to think I only drove 30 minutes to reach the trailhead! Accessible and Incredible.
Goff had had chronic knee problems and the scramble down was brutal! Oftentimes, we were jumping from boulder to boulder, pounding the knees with ever leap. It was an incredible feat in my book that Goff finished it given his knee condition. That dude started popping the Ibuprofen like candy!
There were a couple times when my heart started pounding as we came to a cliff or a ledge on the way down and thought, “uh-oh, we’re lost. We’re SOL on this one.” But miraculously, like it miraculously happens on all my other hikes for which I’m never quite prepared, we would find some crazy chute or little ledge or a hole in the rocks (literally) to make our way down. It always looks so different going down than going up!
If you’ve been wondering, yes, we found our bikes. And it was the sweetest feeling in the world at the moment. Lets just say “3 hours up, 20 minutes down”!
We were gabbing away on the bike ride, gabbing away at the 1st Hemagog, gabbing away at the 2nd Hemagog, gawking and gabbing at Lake Hardy, gawking and a little bit of gabbing on the summit, but pretty quiet on the way down to Lake Hardy, almost silent from Lake Hardy to start of trail again and dead silent from there on out! I think we were all focused on getting off that dang mountain (OK, I know I was). Once back at the car, we looked at each other, looked up, said, “wow, that was one sick hike,” didn’t say much else and headed home to load up on more ibuprofen and a hot bath.
For me, when I got home about 6pm, Brenda just said, “3pm, huh? Lake Hardy, huh?” “But babe, you should have seen this thing. I couldn’t resist! Hey, Father’s Day, right?!” Eyes roll, but it was cool. Ask for forgiveness later 🙂
All in all, it was one hell of a hike- 12K vert car to summit to car, with 3 hours of uphill biking, all the while merely “on a hike to the lake”!
Welcome to the “Mountains of My Life” series. Part 1 of 2
A brief intro to my thinking
I believe in building sub brands or naming/formalizing everything I can. This makes things more memorable. It can also provide opportunity to create acronyms; and as I used to work in the medical field, I take every opportunity possible to help the world have even more acronyms. Its the least I can do.
With that said, I have scheduled, at this point, three regular series: Mountains of My Life Monday (I know, it’s Tuesday), Hellish Hikes Tuesday, and Daily Dreams Wednesday. If anyone thinks of series titles that begin with “T” and “W” for the last two, that’d be cool. I only plan to post once a week, so that means it will be, at this point, 3 week before I post again for “MOMY” (and so the acronyms begin…).
This post is a meant only as a preview to the series, an introduction. Parts 1 and 2 together come nowhere close to covering all of the mountains, climbs and hikes of my life, but instead highlight my favorites. Furthermore, I try to be as succinct as possible in describing the climb, because each climb will have its own, in-depth post, as part of the series.
The Mountains of My Life
It’s lucky that I’m a great driver, otherwise I probably would have caused a ton of accidents by now as I looked out my car window, staring at the mountains like a man stares at a beautiful woman. Mountains are…precious to me. Here are some as a preview to the series. Each had a lesson for me.
Mount Superior: Rise Above the Fray
You see this pic??! ‘Nuff said, right?
Superior is amazing. My buddies Eric Miller, Jeremii Van Komen and I climbed it in November of some year that I can’t remember while we were all in college. We started out below the clouds and then went into the clouds and then climbed above the clouds. While we climbed, I was pretty bummed because for better or worse, in the end I climb for the views and to feel closer to God.
When I was stuck in the clouds, it was still enjoyable but certainly a let down, as the clouds obstructed the view. That disappointment hanging over me only made the summit, with its incredible, awe-inspiring views, that much sweeter. That’s a life lesson.
King’s Peak: Never, Never, Never Give Up
When I climb and have my heart set on summiting, my thought is “the rest of the world be damned.” So, when my brother Dallin says to me, about 12 miles into the climb, early on the 2nd day, “Yo, I forgot to break in my new boots. They’re too small. I have an insane blister. I’m not making it, dude,” all I could think was, “Well, that sucks for you, man. See you in 8 hours.”
I think he saw the perturbed look on my face, and said, “You know, I’m gonna climb this thing in my Sanooks.” His Sanooks??! And he did it! Do you know the amount of scrambling on King’s Peak? I will go into more detail in a later post, but this is actually a great story. Oh, and he brought his fiancé on the hike, who I didn’t think had a prayer in hell of making it. But she did. The efforts of these two to finish the climb is a life lesson. More on this climb later (probably in “MOMY” and “HHT” series, each with their own slant).
Provo Peak: Choose Your Companions Wisely
As I said, I aim to hit the summit every time I climb. I’m not sure if I can live with myself if I don’t. I think we all want to reach the pinnacle of our lives, as well. And it’s hard for most of us to accept mediocrity or failure. We also want to get to where we’re going with the people we love, care about and enjoy being with. We certainly try to avoid associating with people that drag us down or hold us back.
The same is true in climbing and hiking. Now, I’ll say that my companions on the trek up Provo Peak are folks that I love, care about and enjoy being with. But, on this particular day, a couple of those companions held me back! I didn’t choose my companions wisely. This leads to another maxim: choose the right companions for the goal at hand. We didn’t summit, only made it to the ridge. And look, I’m still wigged out about it. I have to climb it again. (Note: These are still my best friends! Its just good to know before you go that people have to be to class by 5 🙂 If any of my friends on that hike are reading this, I still love you guys and I am not bitter in the least :)) But, choosing one’s companions wisely- that’s a life lesson.
And that’s Part 1 of 2. Hope you enjoyed the pics as much as I did. I never tire of the views.