Night Skiing Buffalo Mountain, “The Ultimate Roadside Attraction”

Heading westbound on I-70 as you exit the Eisenhower tunnel, Buffalo is the first mountain you see. When I first saw it, I never thought that one day I would be skiing it, let alone at 1:30 in the morning. In the book, “The fifty classic ski descents of North America.” the title for “Buffalo Mountain, Silver Couloir” is what I quoted for the title of this post, “The Ultimate Roadside Attraction.” I skied Silver Couloir this past spring and that in itself was quite an experience.
Tuesday, February 11th, 2020
My day started off with some fun lift served skiing at Loveland with my friend Kerstin. It was cold, like below zero first thing in the morning. It had snowed 2-3 feet only a few days earlier. The night of the full moon it was snowing with almost no visibility. We were still finding some great untracked snow days following the storm. Another reason to love “Loveland”

I went into work for the afternoon with no plans to go skiing that night. But, that afternoon I noticed Mike post about partners for a night ski tour. The moon would be rising around 9pm and almost full. Bright enough to see without headlamps. If the weather cooperated as predicted, a moonlit ski tour would be a fun experience.

So that evening, after work, we met up at the Lilypad trailhead around 9pm (9774’). It was still cold. About 5º, and I was gearing up. I’d done this skin up the season prior, but early morning as the sun rose in the springtime, and with a somewhat well defined skin track in place. What was ahead? A climb to the top of buffalo mountain topping out at 12777’.


The snow was deep, and I knew the skiing would be fantastic. The next 2900’ of elevation gain we would be breaking trail. No easy task, but with little wind and with moonlight shining over lake Dillon, it would be quite a lovely hike.

We finally summited around 1:30am. It was a bit windy, and very cold. A few seconds without my gloves on felt torturous. We had to sort gear, switch to ski mode, and get our skins in our packs. At below zero with the wind, while sitting on a mountain summit at 1:30am, this was a bit more challenging task than usual.

I was looking down at Silverthorne, Dillon, and Frisco and excited to ski the fresh snow we’d just climbed through. But I was also thinking, too far right, and the terrain cliffs out, too far left we’d end up in avalanche prone terrain. Ski carefully. We spaced our skiing apart a few hundred feet, but not so far that we couldn’t see each other. I was trying to see where our skin track was so I could follow it somewhat closely but still get some good turns in. 

Mike was the most familiar with the route. He dropped in first and told us to stay to the left of his tracks to avoid the unsafe terrain. Noted. I watched him ski away through the blowing snow, he made some turns and looked back before I dropped in. Seeing his headlamp hundreds of feet below on such a huge slope gave me even more perspective on how big the mountain is. 

I dropped in, wow, some unforgettable moonlit turns from way up high. Night skiing like this was quite an experience. After some turns on the top of the mountain, we got down to tree-line. The plan was to mostly follow our skin track out, along the ridge, and there would be some pockets that open up for moonlit turns. We were out of the wind, and Mike suggested turning our headlamps off. I did. The moon was so bright we were able to ski through the trees and easily see. Avoid the dark shadows, follow the snow, and we’d be okay. Woah. In areas it opened up enough to get some really fun turns. Around 2:45am we got back to the car. I looked back up at what we’d just skied and smiled.
My favorite part about this experience, I see this mountain everyday. On my way to work, when I’m enjoying a morning coffee, or just out for a walk. What was once a nice “roadside attraction” has now become a mountain that I look each day at and remember that night out.

Skiing year round in Colorado

Just over a year ago I moved to Summit County, Colorado. After a few more months not working and being on the road than I had initially planned, setting there was a welcome change. In my free time, I’ve been skiing and hiking as often as I can and it is quite nice to be settled after all of my adventures on the road. With the exception of a couple of trips back east to visit family and friends in New York and Maryland, I haven’t really traveled at all since settling back in Colorado.

The 2018/19 ski season in was absolutely amazing. From the time I moved to Summit County in October 2018, it snowed at least a little bit, pretty much at least once a week until May. It even snowed on the first day of summer. Many people were over it by then, I wasn’t. After all, I love skiing as my friend described in this bio he helped write last week: https://engearment.com/writers/michael-clemente/

Years ago when I was still living in Denver I took a day trip up to Breckenridge to ski 4th of July bowl on peak 10. It was a lot of fun and one of the first summer skiing adventures I’d take. Something I didn’t even know was possible when I was living in New York. A couple of years later, I’d ski the Tuning Fork on Torrey’s peak on the first day of summer. When I got back to work the weekend after that little adventure, my friend Ryan suggested, “you should try to ski all year” I kinda laughed at the idea as I thought that for sure August and September would be out. But I always thought it would be an interesting goal and fun to try. Then I moved up to Summit and we had an incredible snow season. If I wanted to ski all year, this would be the year to do it.

The ski season of 2017/18 my project was to go skiing at many resorts across the country using the MAX Pass. I ended up skiing at 22 of them and that trip was also what started this blog. I didn’t set a goal for the 2018/19 season, but skiing year round turned into one. Skiing lift served terrain until July was easy enough, as Arapahoe Basin stayed open until July 4th, but I decided that I wanted to make a goal of “earning turns” (hiking or touring to a ski line) every month of 2019. In fact, I’ve now made it 13 consecutive months and next week I should hit my goal of all 12 months of 2019. My first ski tour of the 2018/19 season was almost a year ago this week at Jones Pass.

While Colorado had an incredible year and there were plenty of places to visit, this past season I stayed in Summit, Grand, Clear Creek, and Eagle counties, and did all of my skiing within an hour of where I live. I made a few tentative plans to ski elsewhere throughout the season, but every time I planned to go, it snowed again. No reason to drive long distances through snowy weather when the skiing in my back yard was awesome. I did plenty of ski tours in the winter and spring, and the months below have links to pictures from each of them, but the writing is about skiing in the summer and early fall, and the challenges that come with skiing all year in one state.

JANUARY 2019
FEBRUARY 2019
MARCH 2019
APRIL 2019
MAY 2019

JUNE 2019:

I decided to make a solo trip out to Torrey’s one morning, an extremely popular 14er to hike, but it was early in the hiking season, and very quiet in the middle of the week. Although the line was very familiar for me, I got out there and without seeing a single person for a few miles, I was scared, and I couldn’t get over that fear with it being so quiet. I was standing only on my ski boot tips on a slope that I felt I would easily slide down. Here’s my writing from that day.

Interesting morning today. I got up early with plans to go ski torreys peak again, a line called the “tuning forks” I’ve skied this line twice before around this same time of year, and conditions appeared to be somewhat similar this time. Granted, there’s been a LOT more snow this season.
Skiing this line around this time of year requires a 2+ mile hike (approx) unless you have a truck with enough clearance to drive further up the road. Still, that would only save just over a mile of hiking. Even after that hike, there is a 2000ft ascent of bootpacking, where the assistance of an ice axe and crampons is welcomed. It’s steep. And scary. And this year very very lonely.
I started my hike around 6am, slightly later than I wanted to, but still early. About 1.5 miles up the road, I encountered a huge debris field. The avalanches this season have also been historic, and the downed trees at this point were everywhere. The snow was firm enough at this point in the day that I was able to walk around most of it then transition from my hiking shoes to ski boots. I’ve done this climb a couple of times before, so I felt pretty familiar and comfortable with the route.
I kept ascending, but there was something different this time. With the exception of a couple of hikers that I saw near where I’d parked my car, I didn’t see anyone else. The silence was eerie.
The first time I skied this route I ended climbing up with approx 20 other people. The second time, I met with 2 others, although I was still on my own. This time, no one.
I kept trying to put that out of my head and remind myself, no biggie, I’ve done this before. But I couldn’t shake that fear, what if something happened? Not the feeling I wanted to have when I’m hiking up a fairly steep slope miles away from anyone. Even from the car, it’s a couple miles drive back to the highway before I get cell serivce. And the hike back, over that debris field was going to be interesting to say the least.
I couldn’t get that out of my head. What if I fell? Would I be taking a slide all the way down the route? Would I be able to self arrest? The snow was fairly hard, and I was even having difficulty getting a foothold or a purchase with my ski boot. Even my ice axe wasn’t making a huge difference. If I waited too long, the snow would be too soft and I’d have to worry about wet slides. Already, that was a concern. It was so quiet that when I was climbing near the rocks on each side I could barely hear running water. I found a shelf by a rock and paused for a few minutes. I had another 1000 vertical feet to climb, and maybe 45 min before I had to start skiing.
I reseted on a ledge for a few minutes and then decided to ski from there. While I was shy approx 1000’ feet of my objective of the summit, I felt more comfortable making this decision. At the time felt relatively easy to make this choice. I told myself, I’ve skied this before, no need to put myself at risk to do it again. But I was also bummed, I didn’t accomplish my goal that day.
At the very least, I enjoyed some fantastic corn skiing the rest of the way down and was back in town with plenty of time to enjoy the afternoon.

JULY 2019:

This year, Arapahoe Basin was able to stay open until July 4th. It was the first time in many years, and it was also the busiest day there on record. I was there and I got one run in. But it was more fun just to people watch and be part of the party. While lift time with friends is fun, the next couple of days away from the lifts was much better skiing.
My dog, Joe, had passed away on July 2nd, and I was so sad, and I was doing whatever I could to stay active. I felt that being outside and active was healthier then sitting inside and being upset about it. Plus, I’d taken him for a short hike near that same peak only a few days earlier so I felt it was a good place to spend some time.
My friend Kent and I got up early and headed up to Breckenridge to ski the same line I’d skied on my first “summer ski adventure” many years prior, July 4th bowl. He suggested that we call it “July 5th bowl” to celebrate the occasion, which felt fitting. It would be my 3rd time skiing it, but never had I seen as much coverage as there was this year. We drive up to the top of the Mercury chair and hiked from there.
In the years past when I’d skied there, I’d hike to the top without even crossing snow, this year was different. There was so much coverage that we were able to ski to within a few hundred feet of the car. We even had to put our skins on for part of the approach.

On our way up I noticed a pretty nice looking potential ski line on the peak to our right, peak 9. Coverage looked pretty good there as well and I was thinking about skiing it sometime in the next couple of weeks. Instead of waiting, I went out the next night. I finished work and headed right back to Breckenridge.

That evening my decision to go ski felt different. I was angry, sad, hurt, and unsure of what the hell I wanted to do in the days weeks and months ahead. But this was my outlet, it was alone on a mountain. I saw a few others camping in the distance near the trailhead, but the following few hours, I was in silence. Looking at the town of Breckenridge a couple miles below in the distance to the east, but once I got near the summit, a spectacular view of the sunset (pictured above) to the west.

I made it to the summit, watched the sunset and had an incredible dusk lit decent skiing down. Hiking out was a bit different. In my rush to get up there I’d forgotten my headlamp and was scrambling in the moonlight to make it back to my car.

After that evening, it was time for me to put a pause on skiing for a bit, but not for too long. For the rest of the summer, I then decided to take up mountain biking again, for the first time in many years and got out hiking whenever I could.

AUGUST 2019:

Peak 10, Breckenridge, August 3rd 

So, next up was August, I always thought skiing in August would be too difficult, not worth it. But, living in summit county, I had a view of peak 10 from a distance almost everyday. July 4th bowl was still in. And it looked as good as it had in years prior where I’d skied it at the beginning of July. I asked my friend Justin if he wanted to join me for a morning hike and ski.

I told the story of this hike earlier in this post, but there is definitely something that made me feel giddy about doing this in the middle of the summer. You can see the road to my right in the picture
It was awesome, I was on snow in the middle of the summer and about to slide 1000+ feet down it. And the skiing was actually quite good.
But the night before I’d only slept 4 hours. The personal stress I’d been under in the days prior was high, but again, I was getting out to ski and none of those other things were important at the time.

SEPTEMBER 2019:
I had this 12 month “project” that was well underway, but it didn’t feel important anymore. I’d lost my dog, among many other personal challenges, and I was lacking motivation. A few weeks into the month went by, and I mentioned “getting our September ski line in” to my friend Wil. Our days off lined up and he thankfully coordinated this trip along with Kerstin and Aaron. Skyscraper Glacier near Winter Park looked like the best option.
A 5 mile drive from the main road on a road that required high clearance and 4wd. Then a 2 mile hike with skis and gear on a windy trail with a view of Winter Park in the distance. Upon arriving at our ski line, there was a short climb down with a 60º entry point to ski with runnels where we were standing on skis edge tip to tail. After that? 3 mile hike out.

I was excited to be at month 11 of this seemingly crazy goal, but being as unmotivated as I was, I didn’t prepare as I should have. Wind was 40mph+ sustained, I had powder skis that felt like a kite on my backpack. My ski boots broke. I was wearing shorts. There was a steep drop into our line. I was scared for a few minutes. I’d stared down these kinds of steeps before. Intimidating, but doable and nothing I haven’t been able to do before.

My friend Wil lost his ski after his first couple turns. I assumed that he was fine when he was trying to get it, then I watched him slip and take a long fall. I was standing on a steep slope and I watched him slide past me. We spoke about it a great deal afterwards, but there was nothing I could do. I just watched and hoped he didn’t hit a rock, or anything that would injure him. He called back up to me, he was okay. We never found one of his skis despite searching for an hour. We were all just grateful that he was okay. We all hiked out and chalked it up to another adventure in the mountains, but were all very glad to be back at the car.

Skyscraper Glacier 


OCTOBER 2019: 
Early in the month I wasn’t sure if there should be enough snow to accomplish this goal. It was relatively warm. Then about a week later, temps dropped, a storm came through, and the season began. Arapahoe basin opened on October 11th. That next week I was getting some great laps in off of the BML lift. But I had to earn my turns (hiking to ski)

We finally got a somewhat substantial amount of snow, and some very cold temps. Quite a contrast from earlier in the month. I met up with Mike and Aaron to ski the same area where I’d had my first day of backcountry skiing only one year earlier. Jones pass.

I planned to meet with them around 5:30am. My car said it was -8ºF when we got to the trailhead. But there was lots of fresh snow and the skiing would be quite good. We headed up a route I’d skinned up multiple times the season before, pretty much the same line I’d skied 12 months prior, which rounded out my “earned turns all year” project quite nicely.

Jones Pass, October 30, 2019 

We wanted to go for another lap, but I was just too cold. I could barely feel my toes, and I just wanted to be back in the car. I called it a day after that and headed home.

NOVEMBER 2019:

Mayflower Gulch, November full moon 

I’ve already counted 18 days of skiing this season. (who’s counting?) 2 in the backcountry. Not bad considering it’s not even December yet. I even went out a few weeks ago on the night of the full moon and again, was a bit freaked out. It was quiet, almost too quiet. But beautiful to be out there under the stars, skiing back to the car with a headlamp was a different story.

Then I went out a few days ago with a couple of my friends and we got some great powder turns near Loveland.

2019/2020:

As the 2019/2020 ski season is ramping up, I’m considering what I want to make my goal this season. For one, I’ll be taking my AIARE 1 course with Colorado Adventure Guides next week. Given that I’ve been adventuring into the backcountry for about 5 years now this is probably long overdue. My friend Wil suggested that after the course I collect snow pit data from different locations and keep a journal of the info and of how it skied.

While all of the skiing has been fun, the best part of all of these backcountry adventures are all of the people I’ve met while doing it. Many of you I’ve mentioned in this post, and this season I am really looking forward to getting out even more and enjoying the mountains with you all. Hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving and that we can all get out there to enjoy some time in the mountains soon.

Where have I been, again?

So, I’m back in Colorado again. This time for the foreseeable future. As many of you know, I returned earlier this summer for a little while, then left to visit my family after all of this traveling, and decided I wasn’t quite done. A little while ago, I wrote a log of the places I’d visited through the ski season. 
Since leaving Homer, AK I’ve been to quite a few other places both on the return to CO and since leaving there again. I hope to have some more posts up about these travels shortly. Here’s my travel route since the last update.

Left Homer, AK on April 29th
Talkeetna, AK and Denali National Park
Fairbanks, AK
Tok, AK
Haines Junction, BC
Cassiar Highway, BC 
McLeese Lake, BC
Lillooet, Canada HWY-99 to HWY-12 to HWY-1 (One of the most beautiful drives EVER)
Bridal Veil Falls, BC
Seattle, WA
Dungeness Spit, Sequim WA
Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park, WA
Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, WA 
Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA
Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, WA
Quinault Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, WA
Portland, OR
Multnomah Falls, OR
Cannon Beach, OR
Newport, OR
Humbug Mountain State Park, OR
Redwood National Park, Trillium Falls and Fern Canyon, CA
Sebastapol, CA
San Francisco, CA
Sacramento, CA
Squaw Valley, CA (May skiing)
Truckee, CA
Austin, Spencer Hot Springs, NV
Great Basin National Park, NV
Arches National Park, Moab UT
The Needles, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT
Breckenridge, CO
Arapahoe Basin, CO (June skiing)
Denver, CO (Thought I was back for good, then I left again)
Lake George, Pike National Forest, CO
Mount Massive, Leadville, CO
Salina, KS
Shenandoah National Park, VA
Bethany Beach, DE
Assateague Island National Seashore, MD
Bethesda, MD
Bear Mountain State Park, NY
Portland, ME
Camden, ME
Deer Isle, ME
Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, ME
Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park, ME
Cape Cod National Seashore, Providencetown, MA
Providence, RI
Harwich, MA
Boston, MA
Tamarindo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Catalina Islands, Costa Rica
Tenorio National Park, Costa Rica
Miami Beach, Florida
Key West, Florida
Denver, CO
Brooklyn, IA
Webster, NY
Providence, RI
Quincy, MA
Adair, IA
Denver, CO (Good to be home)

The End of the Road, Homer, AK – April 23rd to 29th

Once ski season ended at Alyeska, I decided that my time visiting Girdwood was done for the time being, I figured could always head back there after visiting Homer. While I was still considering the idea of staying in Alaska for the summer, my friend Wil suggested I also visit Homer. I’d spent an evening in Seward a couple of weeks prior, and I loved being by the water surrounded by mountains. The scenery around these towns is spectacular. I woke up on the morning of April 23rd in Girdwood, grabbed a coffee at “The Grind then got on the road towards Homer. 

On my way there, I drove past Kenai Lake and though Cooper Landing. I saw a place to pull over and after a short walk I enjoyed this spectacular view of the lake. I’d never seen water this color, it was incredible. I stood near the edge and just enjoyed the silence for a few minutes.



Another hour or so down the Sterling Highway, I also passed by one of the few Blockbuster video locations that was still open in Soldotna. What a throwback.

Late that afternoon, I pulled into town and drove out on to the Homer Spit.  Still unsure of where I’d be camping that night, I realized that there were a lot of camping areas along the side of the road out there. A small group of people had a pretty big campfire going and they were out there celebrating their friends birthday. I didn’t want to invade on their party, but there weren’t any other people on the beach, so I went over and introduced myself. Like so many other places I’ve visited up here, they were very welcoming. They said that Homer has a big tourist boom in the summer time, but I was still early for the season. If I were there in a few more weeks, the area where I’d parked would be full of RVs and other campers. But for the next week, I was sharing these campsites with only a few others. They asked me how I’d ended up in Homer, and I told with the group a little bit about my travels and what brought me up there. They mentioned that I was there at the right time, just before many of the tourists began arriving for the summer, but right after the weather had turned.




I found out that they many of them worked in some of the restaurants and breweries in town. They made some recommendations and over the next week I had the chance to visit almost all of them, it was nice to feel so welcomed so quickly. It also reminded me that there are so many good people in this world.




I woke up the following morning to a beautiful sunrise right on the beach and spent a little bit of time walking by the water. Over the next few days the weather was mixed, many were overcast, cloudy, rainy, or windy. But some were more sunny with relatively clear skies and spectacular views.



I’d been in the truck for quite a while, most of the time that I was visiting Girdwood. My second night camping in Homer the wind by the beach was so strong that I barely slept. Pretty groggy, I pulled into town and found the K-Bay caffe, where I enjoyed a delicious breakfast, and a few cups of coffee.

I had some ideas, I was thinking of finding work up there, I spent some time looking at what housing might look like, and considered what living so far away from what I was familiar with would be like. 
I searched Airbnb and found a lovely little cottage just outside of town which was a perfect place to relax for a couple of days and reflect on where I’d go from there.

I walked into town from the cottage and enjoyed an incredible dinner at Cafe Cups. One of the people I’d met on the beach a couple of days prior recognized me and welcomed me right in. I loved this small town feel, both here and in many of the other places I’d visited. 


As I was walking into town, I called my friend Rett, and I let him know a little bit about what I was thinking and what I’d been up to. I told him about my experience Heli Skiing, hiking to Byron Glacier, and the amazing people that I’d met since we last spoke. I also shared how I was so torn between staying there and how much I missed Colorado. I was enjoying the beautiful places, but I was also missing home. Rett is one of my friends who helped encourage me to take this trip and who was one of the first people who I told about these plans. It was really helpful to discuss what I was thinking about at that moment.
Part of me  knew it was time to turn back. After an amazing dinner, I returned to the cottage to write for the night and get some much needed rest.

The following morning I had breakfast at the Wild Honey Bistro. The crepes here are delicious, and the ingredients are so fresh. I spent some time there, and again out on the spit. I setup camp again, and walked to Homer Brewing.
I called my friend Wil, thanked him for telling me about this amazing place, and discussed my decision to head back. Shortly after our call, I began planning my trip back. 

I’d spent 3 years thinking about how I’d end up in AK, and now I was looking at how I’d return to Colorado in a relatively short timespan. If I was going to drive another 3000+ miles, I was going to make sure that I spent some time visiting some amazing places along the way. I did…

I still wanted to do a few other things while I was there, and one of them was a boat ride. It was still early in the season, so many of the tours weren’t running yet. I called one of them and they connected me with a water Taxi service that was running that day. Tom and Tammy operate the Beowulf and were happy to have me along for a couple of trips that afternoon. 

They took me out for a ride-along for a couple of trips around the Kachemak Bay. The first one was with the Captain and some crew of a tanker boat that was waiting to port in at Anchorage. The crew had been on their ship since February and had gone into town for the day to get some fresh food, souvenirs, and a few beers at the Salty Dog Saloon. I’m sure they were happy to be off of the ship for a bit after being at sea for 3 months. While there was a bit of a language barrier, they all seemed very interested in hearing about my travels. Vladamir even offered to give me a tour which would have been very cool, but the taxi had to head back to pickup the next ride. This was with a couple, Sarah and John who lived in ‎⁨Seldovia Village⁩, ⁨on the Kasitsna Bay⁩. They come into Homer weekly to visit and pickup groceries, etc.


We returned to the port, and it was my last night in Homer. I headed back towards the camp area on the spit, and parked right by the beach. I opened up the back of the truck, and snuggled into my sleeping bag and enjoyed the my last evening there. Some other people had a campfire going nearby. I said hello, but I wasn’t feeling very social that evening. I felt like this part of my journey was coming to an end and I wanted to enjoy my time alone.
I stayed up until it got dark at nearly 11pm, just enjoying my time on the beach.

I’d spent most of my time in Homer on the spit, and one thing I saw were quite a few Bald Eagles. Being such a rare sight in the lower 48, I was amazed seeing so many of them. Homer is also a very popular fishing destination. Homer is best known as the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World,” needless to say, the seafood there is delicious. In town, it was not unusual to see moose walking around, even right around the local shops.

Homer is also nicknamed “The end of the Road” It’s located at the end of the Sterling Highway. The spit dead ends where the Alaska State Ferry launches and can take you to other locations in Alaska, or even back to Washington State. To me, making the decision to turn around at “The End of the Road” seemed appropriate.

I still had one more stop before getting back on the Alaska Highway, Talkeetna, AK.

















Olympic National Park – May 8th to 10th

Once I left Alaska to come back to Colorado, I decided to take the scenic route though British Columbia and along the Pacific Northwest Coast. On May 6th I arrived in Seattle and got an Airbnb for a couple of nights. Back in a major city and perhaps where I felt a bit more in my comfort zone. What a contrast from the remote areas I’d been for the couple of months prior.

After a couple of nights in Seattle, I got back on the road and headed out towards Olympic National Park. Before finding a place to camp for the night, I stopped for a hike along the Dungeness Spit. It was too late in the day for me to make it all the way out to the lighthouse, after all it is the world’s longest naturally occurring sandspit, 5.5 miles to get there from the parking area. There were only a couple of other people on the beach, and it felt pretty special to walk alone for a couple of miles. 

As I walked back, I noticed one other person mediating on the beach. A very peaceful and special place. And this was only my first stop along the Olympic Peninsula. The day was coming to an end and I had to find a place to camp for the night. There is a campsite right by the spit, but I wanted to be somewhere a bit more secluded, as there were quite a few people at this campsite. And although it was close to the beach, there wasn’t quite the view I was hoping for.



Near the entrance to Olympic Park by Port Angeles, I found a great spot. Surrounded by the woods, quiet, perfect. Before setting up camp, and just after the sun had set, I made the drive south to Hurricane Ridge ski area. On the drive up, there were beautiful views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and snow covered peaks. It was windy up there and getting dark quickly, but I wanted to take in the views as long as I could. I headed back down the road to the Elwha Campground and settled in for the night. 

The following morning, I was up early and continued my journey along Route 101. My plan was to drive 101 and Route 1 for most of the coast and stop for some hikes along the way. Not too far from where I camped I drove along Lake Crescent. I could have spent days there. The water was unbelievably clear, and it was so peaceful. I parked and walked out onto a dock near the NatureBridge station and sat there for a few. In peace. I could hear others in the distance, but I had the space to myself for a time. I soaked it in. I couldn’t really believe what I’d seen over the past few weeks, only a week before that I was flying over Denali National Park in Alaska.


There was some road work ahead, so I wasn’t able to continue along 101 beyond Crescent Lake. I had to back track a few miles and continue along Route 112. I wanted to get a decent hike in that day and had a few options on my list. I’ve been using the Hiking Project app by REI to bookmark potential stops. Even with 2 sources of navigation, I ended up a little bit out of the way and drove though Sekiu. Although it would have been very cool to continue north west to Cape Flattery, that was pretty far out of the way and would have required pretty significant backtracking to continue down 101.

I turned around just past Sekiu and headed south towards Forks. I had a trail bookmarked that I wanted to make it to, and there was still plenty of time in the day. Hole in the wall, Forks, Washington.


The tide was fairly low when I arrived which was good because I was able to make it through to the other side of the wall. There was another couple over there taking pictures, but they left shortly after I arrived. Again, alone on the beach, at peace. Having only ever visited beaches on the East Coast until recently, I was not used to seeing such spectacular rock formations coming out of the water, nor was I used to beaches that were so empty. I sat there and listened to the waves rolling in for a little while before walking back. 



I drove further south towards the Hoh Rainforest.  I didn’t have much time left in the day for a long hike, nor did I want to venture too far alone, but right by the visitor center there is a 1.4 mile loop hike. A part of me was tempted to sign up for an overnight permit and venture further in on the Hoh River Trail to camp for the night, but being alone I was hesitant to head too far away from civilization. I only saw 2 other people on that whole 1.4 mile loop, and based on how empty the lot was, I’m pretty sure that there were no more than a dozen people for miles. There was more vegetation in that rainforest than I’ve ever seen in my life, I was speechless.


A little over halfway along the trail, I noticed a fallen tree that had many other trees growing from it. A Nurse Log, I’d never seen such a thing, it was very special. To see so much life growing from something that had fallen many many years ago was incredible.



It was getting later in the day with only about an hour until sunset, and I wanted to get back down to the beach and towards the campsite. I headed to Second Beach, where there is a short walk from the parking lot to the beach. A perfect spot to sit and watch the sunset and with some great campsites nearby. I was able to sleep close enough to the beach to fall asleep to the sound of the ocean. 


I couldn’t believe how much I had experienced in only a day.


The following morning I continued south along the coast and first stopped at Third beach. I climbed over tons of drift wood and spent a few minutes sitting by the water.

As I continued south on 101, I saw a turn into the Quinault Rainforest. As I’ve mentioned before, I always try to take the scenic route. It was a good call, and another spectacular drive through an incredibly lush forest, and without anyone else around for miles.

That evening, I made it to Portland, Oregon and took a yoga class before settling in for the night. Next stop, the Oregon Coast.

I cannot wait to go back and spend more time in Olympic National Park, this is a truly spectacular place which I would highly recommend visiting.

It’s good to be back in Colorado

I haven’t posted in a while, at first it was because I was going non stop since leaving Alaska. I’ve also been sorting through my writing and photos, as well as enjoying my time with friends since getting back to Denver.


I left Talkeetna, AK on May 2nd, then spent an evening in Fairbanks before driving back to the lower 48. I took the scenic route through British Columbia, then along the Pacific Northwest coast, and got to spend some time visiting my sister in Oregon and California along the way. Tons to share about that part of the trip.

Since I’ve returned to Colorado, many have asked what my favorite part of this trip has been. That’s hard to decide because there are so many spectacular places I saw and experienced along the way. There are many more stories to be told, and it is a work in progress.

I think that the most memorable part of this whole experience has been the people I’ve met. And not just in my travels, but the amazing individuals who encouraged me to do this in the first place. It’s so great to be spending time with them again. While there have been incredible sights, it’s even more enjoyable when I’ve been able to share those moments with others. Take for example the moments on my trip I shared here: Turnagain Pass and Byron Glacier

Everyday since I’ve returned, I’ve been asking myself, what next? Well, I’ve been looking for work, but now I only want to do something if I believe it is meaningful. Time is the most valuable gift we have and I don’t want to spend mine doing something I don’t love. Or at least knowing that I’m taking steps towards whatever that dream may be. A quote I posted a couple of months ago from one of my favorite DJs,  “What have you done today to take one step closer to your dream?” It’s a good one to keep in mind, and I’m trying to remind myself of that. 

Am I successful in it everyday? No, and I don’t think that anyone could be. But if we wake up and consider our goals early on, or take a few minutes to meditate, or to consider what we want to accomplish, I can almost promise that you’ll feel great about something you do that day.

A beautiful world surrounds us

I’ve had a lot of time on the road, one might argue that it’s been too much. Plenty of time alone with my thoughts. Days where I haven’t talked to anyone for more than a few minutes, sometimes at all. And just because you may not have heard from me, doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about you, family and friends. More than ever I’ve had you on my mind. Sometimes it’s hard to put those thoughts into words, or at least words that I’d like to share. I still keep a lot of things to myself. I’ve regularly checked in with my Mom and my sister so my family knows where I am and that I’m safe, but our conversations are often short.
Anyhow, that’s not what I had in mind when I started this post. I wanted to talk about what I’ve considered during my “windshield time.” The time where I’ve been driving and the road is long and I’m alone with the open road and my thoughts.There have been plenty of beautiful stops. Unbelievable scenery and views; and many detours that I’ve taken along the way.

One recent example, my drive from Fairbanks, AK to Seattle, WA. I did that in 3 days. I’d planned for 5, but I hauled, and I still took the scenic route, every time. Roadtrip tip, whenever possible… take a detour. I’ve rarely been disappointed taking a road along the way that might offer a change of scenery.

So, back to what I’ve been thinking about on the road (besides driving and finding scenic routes) I’ve been listening to a ton of music, adding hundreds of tracks to my playlists. I cannot wait to get behind the decks again and play some music. Cannot WAIT to begin djing again.

I’ve been listening to the news, not just satellite radio, but opinion podcasts on both sides. Quite frankly, I don’t know why I still do this to myself… perhaps part of me still really craves thoughtful (not hateful) political debate. I think that as a society having thoughtful discussion (not arguments) is healthy. Over the years, my views have shifted as a result of healthy conversation and I’ve grown to have a better appreciation of others thoughts as well. I still truly enjoy it. If you’re ever interested in a conversation on any political topic, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I’ve also spent a lot of time driving in silence. Thinking. Silent. On long empty roads. It starts to drive me crazy, but it’s also good for me. I’ve been trying to take note of the “running tape” inside my head. Sometimes I’ve pulled over to write things down. I played games with my trip computer and tried to see what speed would get me the best gas mileage (exciting, huh?.)  Sometimes I’d count how many cars I passed, could it be less than 10 in a hour? (The answer is yes, multiple times, sometimes even 5.) This is the time when my thoughts start to really get carried away. I found it hard to settle my mind when I had to concentrate on the road, and when there might be something else spectacular to see right around the corner

 I’ve pulled over and mediated for a few minutes, but there are times when I’ve also been on a clock and I need to make it somewhere before sunset. Driving through the wilderness at night is not only difficult, it felt dangerous. I’ve come around corners and seen elk in the middle of the road, or found that a potential campsite doesn’t exist and had to find alternate places to sleep.

I didn’t always have as much time to write as I would have liked. I took too many mental notes. Now I’m trying to backtrack and get some of those thoughts written down. Much harder than I thought, but I’m scrambling through what I have and documenting what I can. 

So many days have been overloaded with such stunning scenery.
I think that one of the things I’ve realized on this trip is that it can be incredibly difficult to realize or appreciate this “pale blue dot” when so many of us are going about our daily lives in or near an urban environment. This world really is a beautiful place.

I thought back on a period of time when I lived in New York and didn’t leave the island of Manhattan for months. Not even to Queens or Brooklyn. So sad, I lived within a few square miles, and in the past few weeks I’ve found myself in places where in places that size where there might be just as many people that lived in my building.

A few days ago, after driving a spectacular but very unpopulated stretch of road through the Yukon and British Columbia, I arrived in Seattle. Back in a major city. A place where every kind of person lives. Good and bad, happy and unhappy.

At times it’s so easy to be mad at our neighbors, someone who has wronged us, someone who annoys us, I’m very guilty of this. I’ve been beyond mad with some people over the years. But now, I’ve met hundreds of people on the road. Some who I’ve talked to for a few minutes, others who I’m still in touch with. I’ve found that the majority of people are good. Regardless of their views, or the first impression, most people are good.
This time on the road has been amazing, and I’ve wanted to share it with others. I think that everyone should spend some time seeing another part of the world.

Just like the incredible world that surrounds us far from the cities, the person who lives right next door might be just as amazing. I think that it might be harder to see that than on an open road with endless beauty, but perhaps that beauty is all around us. My challenge to myself is to find that in someone today, and the next day. I’d bet that we can all share something beautiful with a neighbor, regardless of views, in the next couple of days. I hope that I will.

Heli Skiing with Chugach Powder Guides

One thing I’ve always dreamed of experiencing up is heli-skiing, especially in Alaska where the mountains are just so huge. While the skiing at Alyeska is awesome, the chance to ski heli-ski in Alaska was on my bucket list. I was lucky enough to get a day booked with Chugach Powder Guides. When they called me back to confirm the details on Monday, I was beyond excited.

The following morning, our day was off to an interesting start. Usually, Chugach Powder Guides leaves right from the airport in Girdwood, but there was a bit of weather in the the area. They made some adjustments to their plans and flew from Palmer, about 1 1/2 hours away. Before we left, we received our safety briefing, instructions on gear, and some details on what to expect. I was very impressed how much planning goes in to just one day of skiing. Tracking the weather, getting us setup with safety gear, coordinating the groups, planning the areas we’d ski, etc… The thought of what I was about to experience was still sinking in, and from the outside you couldn’t tell, but I was psyched. I think I was just taking it all in quietly.


My guide, Nick, and I drove down to Palmer and got to know each other a bit. He grew up in New Hampshire and also grew up skiing back east. He also took outdoor education courses in Leadville, Colorado before becoming a guide. He got his start guiding ski tours and other outdoor adventures before starting as a heli ski guide about 5 years ago. What a career. I mean, everything that’s happened over the past few months has been something I thought wasn’t possible until recently. Who knows, perhaps I could end up with a completely different career in that industry in the future. No reason I shouldn’t dream about it.

 
We pulled onto the runway in Palmer and got our gear on. The helicopter would be arriving in a few minutes. It landed, they fuels up and we all jumped in. Our group was a total of 6 people, Nick and Matt who both work with CPG, a father and son who were from Maine, our pilot, and me. The heli lifted off and that was really the moment when the reality of this experience set in. So much fun. We headed east, towards the northern end of the Chugach Range, just north of the Knik Glacier. The ride alone over the mountains was spectacular, it was as if the skiing was a huge bonus. The amount of distance we covered in just 15-20 minutes of flying was unbelievable. We went so much farther than we could ski tour to, or where any road could take us. 

We landed for our first run, which was long, not too steep, but long, a spectacular ride all the way back down to where the helicopter would pick us back up. A perfect way to start the day. No one could tell, but this was the moment wheryue I shed a tear. Fortunately my goggles kept me from embarrassing myself. We were surrounded by mountains bigger than I’d ever seen, and so far away. We huddled up, the helicopter landed right by us, we climbed back in, flew up for our next one.

As I mentioned, the way these trips are coordinated are incredibly impressive. While we were skiing our line, our pilot was out flying another group of 5 to ski elsewhere. The mountains out here are so huge, that for a moment you can hear the helicopter, and then there is silence, the whole time another group is off enjoying their runs elsewhere. Plus, going from one run to the next covered so much distance so quickly. At times we reached 120-130 knots in the air. Via walkie, our guides communicate where each group is skiing, being picked up and landing, etc. Plus, back at the office, there is another person keeping tabs on all of this. They also keep close track of fuel, vertical feet skied via the altimeter, etc. Very impressive all the work involved.


Anyhow, it hadn’t snowed in little while, but we were north where it was cold, the snow was still dry and untouched, for miles and miles. Fantastic skiing. Actually, fantastic doesn’t begin to describe it, it was out of this world. 

Here’s a look back at some of our tracks:
 
And the heli landing where we took took our lunch break:


The guides met up, and assessed everything to see where we were at with fuel etc. We went up for another, this time a bit steeper entrance, Nick climbed down and built a shelf for us to climb down to and  put our skis on. We each got our skis on and again skied the line one by one. The snow was incredible. We got to the bottom and Nick even said, that was even better than I thought it would be, I agreed. I was smiling ear to ear. Here’s Nick looking down that line:

 

It came time for our last run of the day, and 2 of the others from our group decided to sit that run out. I got one more with Nick and Matt. We got out at the top. Nick was leading the group the whole day, but for this one he said to me, go for it. Whew, what a rush, and what a spectacular way to end the day. (that photo is at the top of the page)

On our flight back, I continued to take in the views and reflect on the day. The helicopter gave 2 rides, and brought our other group back to us the van as well. We had a bit of a drive back to Girdwood, and while many of the others were so psyched, I stayed mostly quiet. Richard later commented that I was smiling the whole hour and a half back. I’m pretty sure I was. That was a day I won’t forget.

It’s time to turn back

I’ve struggled with this decision, I’ve driven all the way to Alaska, and there is every reason in the world I should stay up here. It’s beautiful, there’s the small town feel I’ve been searching for, and the possibility for outdoor adventures is endless. There’s so much more to experience, I’ve only explored the Kenai Peninsula, and this state is huge and full of beauty. There is so much more, but at the same time, I’ve learned what I’ve wanted from this trip. I’ve experienced more incredible places than I could have ever, ever imagined. I’ve pushed through when it’s been hard, and found more about what I really want to do.
Trust me, my life of travel is far from finished. More than ever I’m excited to head over seas. I plan on finding somewhere tropical for a week or 2 before settling back into work. (Hawaii, Costa Rica, Bermuda, Belize, suggestions?) After all, I’ve been camping in the cold for months. I have to treat myself to some beach time.
I’ve loved the places I’ve visited, Bend, Oregon, Bozeman, Montana, and a couple of places in Alaska made my list of places I’d love to stay for a while. But there is something about Denver I truly miss.
When I left New York City in 2011, I told myself that I could always go back. I left there and I missed my friends, but I didn’t miss the lifestyle. This time it feels a lot different, I left a community of people that I love. 
But, I was also unhappy, right? Well, yes, part of me was very unhappy. I’ll admit it, I felt stuck, I was stuck. I wasn’t moving ahead in my life, like I couldn’t go where I wanted to. Just going through the motions day after day to sustain the life I’d become accustomed to. And in my spare time, escaping the city to do what I loved. Spend time in the mountains and enjoying the outdoors.
I was just on the phone with my friend Wil, and he said, “Choose to do things that bring you joy, the more that you experience, the more you can pass on.” I couldn’t agree more. So I’m going to come back and hopefully bring the same joy I’ve experienced over the last few months to others. I’ll be taking the scenic route back and it will take me some time to get settled again, plus, I’d love any suggestions you all have for a tropical destination to fly to before I come back. But, Colorado, I’m coming home. Can’t wait to see you all soon. ETA, TBD.

It’s just a couple of miles, right? Turnagain pass and Byron Glacier

Have you ever set out for a hike on a whim? Perhaps thinking that a short hike would be a little fun adventure, but instead it turns into one of the most memorable experiences of your life? That’s kinda been what my last few weeks in Alaska have been like. Except instead of once, it’s been almost every day. Whether is been because of the people I’ve met, the things I’ve experienced, or the places I’ve visited.
Earlier in the week I’d spent a day in a coffee shop catching up on some writing and a bit of work. While I was there, I overheard a few other visitors come through and ask the barista if they had any suggestions on nearby places to visit that day. One of them was to go to Portage Glacier, the other was the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. I took some time in one of the following days to do both of those. I drove out to Portage Lake, which was beautiful and visited the Conservation Center. I saw a bear, wolves, caribou, and elk.
I wanted to see a glacier close up, and I read that there was a nearby 1 mile hike to view Byron Glacier. In my experience, a 1 mile hike should be relatively easy, so I mentally bookmarked that and thought I’d go there later in the week on a day when I wasn’t skiing.


I’d also heard that there was fantastic backcountry skiing on Turnagain Pass. My friend Wil recommend that I find a ski partner sometime in the week and get out there. I’d driven over the pass on my way back from Seward a few days prior and seen quite a few people putting their gear on and getting ready to hike out there. Another mental bookmark for a place that I’d visit that week.

Rewind a few days. Earlier in the week I’d been lucky enough to meet some new friends, Kirk and Richard. They were visiting from the DC area, very close to where I grew up. We met at Girdwood Brewery after their first day of heli-skiing when I was set to go the following day, more on that experience in another post, I’ll post the link here soon. We quickly became friends and I’m grateful we had the chance to spend time together throughout the week.
Later that week we had a day where it rained at the base of the mountain, but I knew that at a slightly higher elevation it was snowing. Richard called me the following morning and asked if I’d like to do a ski tour out at Turnagain Pass. Yes, absolutely yes, as I wanted to go there and I was lucky that he wanted to go as well. We drove up the pass and as we parked met another skier getting ready to skin up the same route. We asked him for suggestions as we hadn’t skied there before and only had some notes, a photo of a map, and info we’d heard from others. He pointed out a couple of lines which we could see from where we parked and headed up.

We opted to ski a popular route on Turnagain pass is a peak called “Tin Can.” When I read about it and looked at the map. Another other popular route is known as “Todds run” but from what we could tell that would have required a much farther trek back to the car.
As I’d mentioned, it had snowed a decent amount the night before, but it was sunny and warming up quickly. It would have been in our best interest to get out there an hour or 2 earlier, but still, we were among the first tracks of the day and the snow for most our run was fantastic. We were lucky to have a skin track to follow and saw a few others doing laps off the top. As we hiked up, I was trying to stay as aware as possible of our surroundings, considering what I’d learned backcountry skiing with Wil in Colorado. I thought about the fact that it had been relatively warm for many days prior, and I looked at lines which were not too steep. I also observed a few small slides coming off of cornices on nearby routes. As it warmed, more snow slid off. Still, I felt that we were on a gentle enough slope and not under anything too steep, I felt that we were in a safe spot.

We didn’t summit, as it was a bit too late in the day, but we came pretty close and had a fantastic ski down. Lower on the mountain it had warmed up quite a bit more and the snow was a little sticky and made it a bit of a challenge getting back. Still, the turns we got at the top were well worth it on the way down. Plus, it was gorgeous up there.
The following day there was a bit more weather, it was cloud covered with some flurries. I wasn’t planning to ski that day, as I’d had 2 big days of skiing that week and knew that I’d be skiing for the next 3 days. Although I wasn’t skiing, I was up for a hike to Byron Glacier. From what I’d read it was a 1 mile hike to view the glacier. Perfect, I figured that would be a great way to spend the afternoon. I called Kirk and asked if he’d like to get lunch with me then hike out to the glacier. We had a delicious lunch at Girdwood Picnic Club before heading out. We also discussed Kirk’s business idea on ways to give people ownership of their data and a unique way of sharing their experiences through a mixed reality app. It’s a fascinating idea and I’m thrilled that he’s asked for some of my thoughts on it.

After lunch we drove out to the trail and along the way listened to some great music. I still had the mindset that our “hike” would be about a mile walk up to view the glacier. I had no idea that we’d end up in an ice cave like we did. The hike was closer to 2 miles each way, and we were trudging through snow for a lot of the way. We weren’t prepared, and we were both laughing about the fact that almost all of the gear we would need to have an easier hike up was in my car. Poles, goretex, boots, water, a lot of stuff that would have been useful. But hey, we thought it was a mile, right?
We crossed a couple of other groups, and on 2 different occasions were told that we were “About halfway” We considered turning around, but just kept pointing at the next place we’d “get to and see how we felt.” I am so so glad we did.
Once we got further up the valley and came over a snowfield, I knew there was something special there. I could see some blue ice above the cave opening. From above the opening to the cave looked relatively small. But when we walked in, it was huge and no one else was there. We were surrounded by ice that was bluer than I could photograph, a natural color that I just couldn’t capture or explain. The photos below, while awesome, don’t do it justice. The ice was also unbelievably smooth to the touch. We could hear the ice popping and cracking, the sound was something I’d heard in NatGeo videos before, but it is totally different in person and we were right by it. We stood in the cave for a few minutes, in awe of the fact that we were surrounded by ice at the foot of the glacier. We then hiked up a little bit further to some running water and grabbed a handful of freezing running water right from the glacier and took a sip. It was an incredible experience. Looking back towards Portage Lake, we could see clouds moving so quickly it was as if they were forming right in front of our eyes.



We headed back to Girdwood, grabbed a beer at the brewery where we’d met earlier in the week and went for a soak in the saltwater pool at the Hotel Alyeska.
Another couple of days of very memorable experiences, and I’m grateful to have met Kirk and Richard to experience them with.