How the hell am I going to get up this rise?
I’m probably two thirds of the way up Claimjumper, a groomed blue run on the skiers’ playground known as Breckenridge’s Peak 7. It’s fifteen degrees out, Fahrenheit, and I am sweating through my clothes. Periodically, a downhill skier appears just above me and skis past. Most of them are solid intermediate skiers, descending cautiously in big, slow turns. Others fly by in a few milliseconds. One gets a foot of air off the rise. I’m in a terrible spot - uphill skiers are unlikely to see me. But I can’t figure out how to get out of the way. It’s a humbling, frightening feeling. I haven’t felt this exposed, vulnerable, and helpless on skis in over a decade.
I’m struggling not to slip down the hill. With velvet stuck to the bottoms of my skis, my skis unattached to my heels, and my boots in walk mode, I’m not sure what will happen if I lose my grip, but I’m pretty sure it’s nothing good.
I’m what most people would consider an expert skier. I’m on a blue. I’m just trying to build up some cardio fitness by getting some uncomplicated uphill exercise. I’m suppressing panic and taking deep breaths. This is ridiculous.
I wonder if the freshly groomed surface makes it easier or harder. I wonder if I should work my way to the far edge, just a few feet away, where the snow is still in a chopped-up version of its natural form.
I’m standing with my skis horizontal, edging into the surface of the snow. Every time I try to work my way to facing uphill, I start to slide. I keep trying to turn uphill and hike up using a “reverse wedge” the way I might if I were using a pure alpine setup, but I can’t keep traction. Maybe I just need to increase the edge angle more; I’m too afraid of sliding down the slope backwards to find out. My uphill hip muscles are stiffening and ache from the awkward position.
I try to side-step up the hill, but my heels are unattached, so the skis just flop rather than moving with my feet. All of my ski instincts are failing me. I wonder how telemarkers side-step; surely there must be a way? I can’t figure it out.
The other side of the run is less steep, but I’m having so much trouble just staying in one place that I can’t convince myself to slowly work my way across the hill while downhill skiers fly over the ridge. And what if I give in to my downhill instinct to flatten my skis and side slip a few feet? With skins creating friction, that can’t end well. No. I need something else.
Finally, I give in. I know what I’d do if I were on a pure alpine setup, just needing to go uphill a few feet. I try to use my baskets to snag the Fritschi bindings and lock down my heel, but the baskets have too much give and the tips are too long - I can’t use them to pull up the binding. So I flop down on the hard snow and use my hands to lock my heel down. Now it’s like I’m in an alpine binding, only with velvet under my skis. I awkwardly stand back up, facing across the hill, and start to side-step. It’s a lot more work than skinning, but a lot less stressful than trying not to slip down the hill.
That’s when my sunglasses fall out of my jacket and slide about 15 feet below me. They’d fogged up while I was standing still, so I’d tucked them away and forgotten about them. I briefly consider abandoning them or trying to pick them up on the downhill, but they’re my favorite sunglasses, they’re expensive, and they’re likely to get crushed by someone. I sigh and carefully side-step down the hill, gingerly reach for them, place them in a pocket and zip it shut, then side-step back up the hill.
At the flat spot above, I release my heels again.
I skinned up Peak 7 at Breckenridge today. It was my second day ever on skins, and my first time skinning up a resort run. It took me an hour and twenty five minutes to make my way from the base to the intersection with Lower Forget Me Not, which is more or less a cat track between Peak 8 and Peak 7. According to the trail map, Independence SuperChair covers 1320 vertical feet in about six and a half minutes; I skinned up almost the same vertical, using a less direct route.
Breckenridge has a phone number that specifically lists the daily uphill access on each peak, so I knew I was allowed to be there. Still, I felt like a trespasser until a ski patroller rode past me on his snowmobile and waved a greeting.
Aside from the incident described above, it was uneventful, peaceful, and even pleasant. The sky was a bright robin’s egg blue. On this weekday morning, I saw relatively few skiers, just a handful every few minutes. I slid one foot in front of the other until I needed to stop. I would set goals - don’t stop till I’m even with that snow cannon; with that tree stump; with the edge of that clearing. Sometimes I achieved my goals; sometimes I didn’t, but it wasn’t a big deal. I reminded myself that this was my first time up, and that I’d undoubtedly compare my future times against this one. Might as well pad it a bit.
I never really felt out of breath, so I’m not sure what made me stop. I just know I needed those breaks. One lady waved to me and we chatted for a minute; she thought I might be a friend of hers who’d been planning to skin that day. I didn’t see any uphill skiers except for me; maybe they all got started earlier and were off the mountain before the lifts started. Maybe they were all skinning up the more popular Peak 8 route.
At the top, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I’d been picturing going into the warming hut, but it wasn’t actually near where I ended up; to get there I’d have to skin through downhill skiers trying to maintain speed on the cat track. It just didn’t seem worth it. So I stopped at a trail sign by a small clump of trees, took off my skis, removed the skins, packed them up, locked down my heels, switched my boots to “ski” mode, and well - that was it. Anticlimactic. A boarder asked me how I liked my split board; I stared at him in confusion for a moment before he realized that in fact I had skis. I still don’t know what cues led him astray. Maybe the width of my skis; maybe my brightly colored clothing?
I expected the downhill to be the easy part. Expert skier. Fun blue groomer. All downhill from here. I’d been skiing powder, bumps, and trees on much steeper terrain the previous two days. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe my calves were swollen from all the uphill work. Maybe my skis aren’t tuned for groomers. All I know is, as soon as I switched my boots from “walk” to “ski,” my calves and thighs started screaming at me. I felt completely out of control, like I didn’t know how to use my edges. I was keeping pace, barely, with two parents guiding their three year old down the slope. I’d ski ahead a few turns, then need to stop and recover. I didn’t feel like I could get comfortable, even when stopped. I felt like my boots were pushing my calves forward at an absurd angle. I finally switched back to “walk” mode for the last few turns, and it was an incredible relief.
I’d been planning to maybe do a few laps and see if the T-Bar would open before I had to leave, but the way I was skiing, that didn’t even sound fun, let alone safe. I made my way down to the gondola and called it a day.
After all this, I just have one question. When can I do it again?
I wrote an email to some friends a while ago, and I keep thinking that while (or because?) it was off the cuff and without a point, it was some of my best writing in recent memory. The general theme was Objectivism and male/female dynamics. I had just read the WP article Ayn Rand’s adult-onset adolescence as well as a bunch of essays by an ex-Objectivist that I can’t relocate at the moment to link to. Anyway, here it is.
My first employer (aka, my TKD master instructor’s lawyer) gave me Atlas Shrugged. I took it as a compliment, and of course decided that I was one of the chosen few. I don’t remember if I had any concerns about it. I do remember writing “Who is John Galt?” in the margins of reports to the employer. Oh my.
I read all of the articles by the guy **** first linked. He paints a damning picture, but it’s hard to say what Ayn Rand knew at the time. In theory, the source of a sentiment / statement / assertion shouldn’t matter - it’s either valid, or it’s not. In practice, I often use my knowledge of the source as an input in the “is this something I should pay attention to?” equation. I just don’t have enough time or bandwidth to evaluate everything on its own merit. I thought the most interesting of his articles is the one in which he talked about how he used to describe himself as Objectivist, and gradually realized that the philosophy wasn’t serving him and wasn’t getting him where he wanted to go. Exactly the opposite of the intent of the philosophy.
To play devil’s advocate - an author can write books in which the protagonists aren’t meant to be virtuous. I think it’s pretty clear that Rand was writing political tracts rather than literature, which never turns out all that well (for example, Sartre’s play Antigone - it’s just clunky). But if she had simply been writing fiction, you could see the authorial exercise of trying to understand what makes a brutal murderer tick. Trying to get into his head.
And there’s this thing that’s always bothered me. I do believe in myself as the arbiter of what is right or wrong. There is law, and there is religion, and then there is morality, and I believe that I can rely on myself to determine morality, which may require evaluating a decision in terms of which choice does the least harm. So how far removed is that from the sociopath, really? I remember a college philosophy seminar talking about relative worth. If the same amount of money would buy either a grand piano or a kidney for your kid, which would you choose? Obvious, right? What if it’s for your best friend, though? A stranger in your home town? Someone in your state? Country? Another continent? I never did come to a reasonable answer. I took my mother in law to a fancy pet store, and she made not so veiled comments about the amount of money people will spend on toys for their pets while there are starving children or whatever. My dog eats better than most people ever will. I don’t feel bad about that (that’s a lie). Maybe I should, and I should sell all my fancy toys and dress in sackcloth so that I can aid those who really need it. But instead I have a $4 soy decaf mocha latte every morning, and I pat myself on the back for living within my generous means. I don’t really have an answer to this dilemma. Anyone?
(Jainists avoid harm to any being, to the extent of pushing brooms ahead of themselves to avoid trampling insects. Most people agree this is rather impractical. But … isn’t it morally correct, anyway?)
Immanuel Kant (sorry, little-used Philosophy minor) talked about whether a deed could really be good if you derived pleasure from it, and if I remember properly, at some point actually came to the conclusion that in order to truly know that you have done a good deed, you had to absolutely detest it as you did it, so that you could take all personal reward out of the equation. This is why philosophers have such a bad rap, but I’m sure (I sure hope) it was just a thought experiment. Seems to me that we probably evolved to derive pleasure from helping others, because to some extent, helping others helps us. I’m a big fan of the concept of enlightened self interest, and I’m quite sure that a million starving peasants can take down a few of the ultra rich if things get bad enough … so we should all work to keep things from getting that way. And if I feel good when I help others succeed, I think that’s a good thing.
Kant also had a version of the golden rule, which is to universalize the principal (principle?). Would you want to live in a world in which everyone did what you are thinking about doing? I find this a useful guideline, although my friend Andy has a wonderful caveat - “Do not do unto others as you would have done unto you - their tastes may be different.”
As for the “Is it a compliment to be called a man or compared to a man?” question - I only recently realized that what I thought was my feminist self might actually be more pathological behavior - that I had internalized “masculine” traits as worthwhile, and “feminine” traits as worthless … or worth less, at any rate. For years, I enjoyed participating in traditionally male arenas and getting attention for being “so cool” because I coded / did this or that aggressive sport / etc. Okay, I’m not really over that yet, but at least I think I recognize it. So to revisit the theme, is it really feminist for me to fight gender roles, or is it just self-serving? And am I actually fighting gender roles, or am I just trying to get access into the more highly respected masculine role? How supportive am I of women (and men) who are girly and don’t love dirt and grease, blood and sweat? I have to fight myself to accept people who aren’t like me. Not much of a feminist after all, am I?
I think you have to evaluate behavior both in terms of motivation (what you know of it) and in terms of outcome. But if someone develops the habit of being a more giving person just to prove that he is a more giving person - that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Does it matter that it started from selfishness? (I think it may not matter in terms of that individual’s benefit to society, but the person who inspired the change will always feel a little suspicious of the whole business.)
My old carrier’s service in this area ranged from mediocre to terrible, so when my contract ran up, I switched carriers. I also decided it was time for a system change - from the iPhone world to the Android. I’m sick of the devil I know. I want some new problems to deal with - problems I still maintain hope that I can solve.
One of my biggest annoyances with the iPhone / iTunes world was its management of audio files, and specifically of podcasts. The podcast would switch directories (often due to an iTunes upgrade), and iTunes would forget all about them. They existed orphaned on my iPhone. I eventually able to get them out with some nifty tools by Macroplant. Macroplant - you rock!
One of the cool things about the Android is that if you don’t like the built-in app, you can always get something else. For podcasts, DoggCatcher is a great tool. It does all the expected things; it also lets you set a schedule for feed syncs and allows you to specify conditions for downloads (ie, only download if you’re on a wireless network and plugged in to power).
But what about these orphaned files? I had orphans that I’d never heard from three of my favorite podcasts: TED talks, PodCastle, and Escape Pod. The first is a series of educational talks by a variety of speakers; the second two are short stories read aloud, fantasy and science fiction. I didn’t want to give them up.
The first thing I discovered: Playing them individually was a pain, no matter what audio player I used. As soon as I closed the app, it would lose the place; no big deal for music, but painful in a 45 minute story. After the audio file ended - in the case of TED podcasts, sometimes only 10 minutes long, pretty frequently - they would either stop playing anything, or play some random music file.
The second thing I discovered: Hey, wait a minute. This is what playlists are for, right? To play a particular set of things in a particular order.
The third thing I discovered: All the audio apps I could find required you to add “songs” individually to playlists - you couldn’t add a directory full of files.
The fourth thing I discovered:My Playlist Maker, an app that, well, writes playlists. The good old M3U file I’ve used for well over a decade now. Gawd. *Far* over a decade.
The fifth thing I discovered: Music playes don’t read M3U files. Even freaking WINAMP doesn’t know what to do with M3U files. This discovery has shaken my faith in Winamp. Such as it was. I mean, it was never the coolest or the most whatever, but - it was always there and did the basic job. Until now.
The sixth thing I discovered: Just Playlists. It will create playlists from directories and then, shockingly, actually play them. When some of the playlists I thought I’d created with My Playlist Maker didn’t work out, I created them with Just Playlists instead. Finally! Victory! Just Playlists even remembers my spot in the particular file in the playlist. Now that my spot is being saved and the app automatically plays the next item on the list, I’m finally making my way through all these old recordings at a decent rate.
This is pretty much the reason I switched to Android - the expectation that some things may be a pain, but that somewhere, someone has encountered that same pain and cobbled together a fix for it. The fix may not be smooth and slick and elegant, and it may have a crappy UX, but at least I can do what I need to do.
And when I saw that I could actually select a .m3u file and the UI would ask me how I’d like to read it - as a text file, as an audio file, etc - I nearly wept. Yes. I could look at the contents of the .m3u file, not just wonder why it wasn’t working. All from my phone.
That being said - I’ve yet to find an email or Exchange app that doesn’t suck. I have not been impressed with Touchdown for my Exchange integration, and I’m not that excited by K-9 or anything else for regular mail. Meh. Apple definitely wins that battle.
The last few months have been amazing. A quick trip to Wolf Creek to ski with two excellent female skiers - not to mention good friends. My first back country skiing experience, on a developing powder day. Two solo days of weekday skiing at Breck just after a powder dump - lapping the T-Bar one day, then The Burn the next. A weekend camp at the legendary Silverton, just after a one foot powder dump. Wow. Then a few days in Florida, visiting a good friend and seeing the best Mike Doughty show I’ve ever attended.
Oh. And I got a tattoo on my shoulder blade.
And on the personal front, I’ve been growing by leaps and bounds. Or at least, I’ve been having a lot of insights, and that should ultimately lead to growth.
And professionally, it also seems like things are coming together for me. I’m learning a lot.
Life is exceptionally good right now. I just wish I could have shared more of these experiences with Eric. He’s been incredibly busy, himself, so we haven’t had as much time together as I’d like. But we’ve both recently realized how much all the clutter in our house is dragging us down, so we’re both doing a lot of cleanup. It feels good to throw things away and to donate. It also helps me curb my spending, because if I buy stuff I don’t really need, I’ll just end up having to do the same thing in another few years.
I plan to sell my motorcycle and my paintball gun in the spring. I just don’t get enough use out of either of them. Honestly, I think I like the idea of them more than the reality.
The big frustration right now is our dog Loki. Loki is a sweetheart, but he’s also an energetic pup. He drives Cooper to distraction. He whines and whines till I let him out, and then he barks his head off outside and doesn’t want to come in. I know it’s partly my fault because he needs both more exercise and more training. I’ve been counting on the dogs to keep each other entertained, but that only works to a point.
I’m also working on my eating habits again. For a while now, I’ve pretty much been eating whatever I felt like eating. That was fine in the short term, but now I’m feeling the effects - my tummy is often upset, my clothes don’t fit the way they did a few months ago, and I’m generally aware that I’m eating too much sugar and too many crap carbs. I’m not going to be super-strict, but I am going to cook more and eat better. I started today. If nothing else, I feel better about myself for cooking a nutritious dinner.
I wrote all of this out by hand using my new Smartpen, which gives this more of a journal feel. Let’s see how it turns out. (Actually, pretty well - I had to fix a few words that the OCR had trouble with, but overall I love being able to write something by hand, then import it and work with it in a text editor. I think this is a keeper, if I can get the muscles in my hand accustomed to actually writing again. Youch!)
Am I a hoarder?
I think I might be a hoarder. At least, a budding hoarder. (Budding horror? Oh my.) I buy lots of stuff, and I have trouble getting rid of it. There’s the stuff that has sentimental value, the stuff that could theoretically be useful at some point, and then the stuff that I don’t want anymore, but could theoretically be useful to someone, somewhere. I don’t want to get rid of it until I find someone who would have a use for it.
Actually, I know I’m not a full-blown hoarder because I do get rid of stuff. I throw trash away, I recycle anything that’s readily recyclable, and I give away or sell some items that I don’t need. I’m pretty sure real hoarders don’t do any of those things. But I have real trouble throwing stuff away. I keep little piles of scrap metal that I could in theory recycle. Electronics I need to take to Best Buy or something to dispose of them properly. Jars and cans and plastic containers that “could” be used to store something some day. Stickers that I picked up for free at an event and now I’d feel guilty if I tossed them. But I assume that real hoarders have different motivations. I assume they …
So here are the symptoms:
Hoarding symptoms (Mayo Clinic)
And here are some explanations:
Why does someone hoard
I thought maybe my motivation for keeping stuff was somehow different from what people call “hoarding” - but it looks like I’m pretty much textbook. At least, I’m exactly like that person from the second link. (Tripod? Seriously? I didn’t know that still *existed*!)
I don’t have a fire hazard of a house with piles of crap threatening to crash on people and moldering pizza remnants wedged within the piles. But I do have a house that is unpleasantly cluttered, and coming home to the house stress me out. I do have difficulty throwing things away if they were not explicitly designed to be trash. (I throw wrappers away without trouble. I have trouble throwing away cardboard drink coasters that came in the gift bag for a BlizzCon I attended several years ago.)
I feel *guilty*, okay? I feel really guilty and awful whenever I throw anything away. And I worry I might want it eventually, and it won’t be there. And I worry that I might be throwing something away when someone, somewhere in the world could use it. And throwing something away, in many cases, means admitting that I really didn’t need it in the first place, but I bought it anyway.
And I hold onto things well past when I know I won’t be using them anymore, to the point where I can’t make money off of them and finally can’t even give them away effectively. I just gave away my old ski boots that I replaced in 2010, when I knew within an hour of wearing the new ones that I’d never go back. But I wasn’t able to give away the really old pair, probably 14 years old. I finally did throw them in the trash, but my GOD was it hard to do. I feel shitty about it. I tried to freecycle them, but they were too big for the one person who contacted me. I thought maybe there would be a sense of relief or something when I finally tossed them, but no. I just feel guilty that I waited so long to get rid of them that they were too old for anybody to want to use. And I’m sure if I just tried hard enough, someone out there would be really happy to get those boots. If I had infinite time, I would find a home for every little thing in my house that I don’t need.
Well. So this is interesting. I learned something new about myself today. Now, what do I do about it? They always say that acknowledging something is the first step, right? So this, this is pretty good, I think. *deep breath* Maybe realizing my problem will help me prevent it in the first place. Maybe I will choose to acquire fewer useless trinkets if I recognize how hard it will be for me to get rid of them.
Sorry; this isn’t really pithy or entertaining or a post about all the awesome stuff I go out and do because I’m so awesome. This isn’t a post that presents the carefully constructed image of myself that I prefer to display, and that I prefer infinitely to my real, flawed self who sometimes escapes her cage. This is just … me. And I think I’m starting to realize that I’m not quite as together as I always thought I was. I guess that’s progress.
A few months ago, when things were looking pretty rough, I asked Eric if I could quit my job so that I could write full-time. We were sitting in the Charlotte, NC airport, having a quick meal of crappy barbecue on our way home from celebrating my mom’s birthday. This was just a few weeks after I’d finally realized what was up and gone to my doctor to seek help. From various perspectives, it could be called depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, overtraining, or simply unrealistically high expectations - and I suspect that those are all inter-related. Anyway, I wasn’t feeling too awesome at the time, and staying home to (pet the dogs and) write sounded pretty great.
To Eric’s great credit, he didn’t laugh at me, and he didn’t say anything rude. He simply suggested, in an understated and kind manner, that while he would support me no matter what, he would find this idea a little less frightening if I’d actually written anything in the last year or two. Like, even a blog post.
The fact that he was willing to say “yes” to me, support me emotionally and in every other way, when my idea was obviously so half-cocked and, well, lacking in any foundation of reality whatsoever - wow. I have to tell you, my husband is awesome.
Then I did some research and (re-)discovered that writing is hard work. And getting published is even harder. And then making actual money by publishing is damn near mythical. So in a day or two, I got over that idea. I realized that what was attractive about “writing” was actually the idea of escaping all my responsibilities and basically just playing “mom” to our dogs (yes, this is the second time I’ve referenced more than one dog; I’ll get to that in a bit). I also realized that while that might sound attractive at the moment, I could probably only do it for a month or two before I started climbing the walls. And not in a fun rock gym kind of way.
I actually love my job, and now that I’ve gotten my schedule under control, can sleep at night, am talking to a professional, and oh yes, taking a little something to balance what had become extremely unbalanced, well, I am so glad that I didn’t follow my momentary impulse. Because I do love my job, and I enjoy being an employee - by which I mean, I enjoy having an employer who handles business realities and financial decisions and client relationships and all that stuff so that I can focus on what I do best.
So anyway. Dogs. Right. The last time I blogged here, I had a dog named Cooper and a cat named Oscar. Cooper is three years old; Oscar was 11 years old and had been in remission from small cell lymphoma for several years. Then Eric and I flew out to Las Vegas for a long weekend with friends, and when we came back, we found a note that Oscar hadn’t eaten anything the whole time we were gone. And so we brought her to our vet on Monday, and she put her under anesthesia and took a whole bunch of x-rays, and the upshot was that Oscar was very, very sick and that the kindest thing we could do was to never let her wake up. And so I called Eric and he came and we cried and we watched our vet, who is a very kind woman, inject Oscar with some innocuous-looking substance, and very soon after that, as I spoke to her and petted her and told her it would all be okay, my little girl stopped breathing.
And I went home and hugged my dog Cooper, and was so happy I had another furry family member so that the loss wasn’t quite as terrible as it could have been if I’d had to come home to an empty house.
And thinking about that led, more or less directly, to acquiring our puppy, Loki, the following weekend. I was looking for an adult dog, really, or one at least a year old, but that’s not how it worked out. It worked out that we got Loki, who was 4-5 months of pure trouble, aptly named. (The shelter called him Lightning. Whatever. It didn’t take me long to realize his true name was Loki.)
So now we have two dogs, and Loki has doubled - almost exactly - in weight since we got him. And he drives Cooper nuts, and he drives us nuts, but we love him to bits and I can’t imagine life without him anymore. Although I can imagine life without his habit of tearing dog beds into tiny shreds of fabric, and that would be pretty fantastic.
Last weekend’s Trek Dirt Series at Winter Park was so awesome, even lift-halting afternoon thunderstorms couldn’t ruin it. And that’s saying quite a bit.
The general format of the Dirt Series is this : there are two days of instruction. You practice basic skills the first half of each day; you ride with a coach the second half. Pretty simple, right? Except that the organizers have to group all of the students by both skill level and interest, based on a self evaluation we turned in before the camp. It’s a daunting task, but they did a great job. Throughout the weekend, I kept realizing how much work went into this event behind the scenes so that we students didn’t have to do anything but show up, learn, and eat.
I learned a lot, and not all of it was part of a formal lesson. And that’s, I think, what most surprised me about the event - the unplanned stuff. The event provides an opportunity for you to meet other female riders - some novice, some pro, and plenty in between. You also get to meet mechanics, check out bikes and gear, and maybe hear some off the cuff remark that changes everything.
My very favorite experience was riding a teeter-totter. I’d never done that before. Jess Stone, a pro downhill racer, demonstrated it first. She also showed us what happens when you go too fast - it never tips, so you end up catching air off a moving plank. No thank you (yet)! But riding it at just the right speed was a treat. There’s this deliciously terrifying moment in the middle where you think you haven’t done it right, and the board isn’t going to tip. Then you push your bike forward, and it starts to tip. At first, it’s going so slowly you don’t think it’s going to land in time, but it accelerates downward, and suddenly you find yourself riding down a descent of your own creation, and then you’re on the ground, safe and sound, and you want to do it again right away.
My other big success was with drops. On the trails, I have always rolled drops - meaning that my wheels don’t leave the ground. This is fine for short drops, but it’s dangerous (or even impossible) for longer drops. So I was extremely happy to be in one of the groups working on drops the first day, learning how to ride them so that both wheels are in the air at the same time. At first, I misunderstood some of the advice and couldn’t seem to get it right. But when I finally got it, the entire group cheered for me, and it felt soooo good!
The only real bummer about the series was totally outside of anyone’s control. Both days, afternoon storms kept the lifts from running much. That really sucked; I learned a ton on the rides, and I would have loved to have more. But on the other hand - thanks to the storms, we used the time in other ways. On Saturday, Tracy Moseley (!!!) taught me how to adjust everything on my downhill bike’s handlebars so that I could finally, for the first time in my life, brake with only my index fingers. And because she involved me in the process, I gained the confidence to do the same to my XC bike when I got home. On Sunday, after it started raining, one of the students asked our coach, Angela, to teach us some stuff. So, in the pouring rain, Angela taught us to do a front wheel lift using pedal power. I even managed it a few times on my downhill bike, each time scaring / surprising myself so much that I screamed! (What a girl …) Tracy also demo’d a wheelie on her downhill bike (all the time claiming it was very difficult), and she lifted each of our bikes up into wheelie position with us on them, so that we could feel the correct position. (As near as I can tell, the correct position is when you’re sure you’re going to fall right off the back.)
I’d like to write more, but it’s late, and I’m leaving for Winter Park early tomorrow morning. I just want to say thank you to all the people who put together and support the Dirt Series - the riders, the mechanics, the sponsors, and all my fellow students. It was a blast.
My parents visited over Memorial weekend. When I spend time with my parents, I realize how much “grown up” stuff I don’t do - I tend to spend all of my time either working or playing. Eric does more home maintenance than I do, but neither of us work up the energy to do anything extra very often. When I see our house and our yard through my parents’ eyes, I see so much that could be done to make it more comfortable, more beautiful - more relaxing. More homey.
So anyway, when my parents visited, they pointed out that the guest room was not exactly ideally furnished. And by that, I mean that one night stand was about twice as tall as it should be, and the other was an upside down laundry hamper. Forget about anywhere to set a suitcase or put away clothes. So I asked them if they’d be willing to go furniture shopping with me. With Eric’s blessing, off we went. We found a pair of night stands and a chest of drawers that look nice and make the room much more comfortable for guests. A chair in the showroom caught mom’s eye; it’s ultra-comfortable, and it looks great in our living room. And we finally replaced the broken plastic “furniture” on our deck with a glass-topped table, nice chairs, and a wooden love seat that is just indescribably cute and comfortable. Oh, I also got suckered into buying a bench that was too cheap to believe - and sure enough, it was too cheap, and I shouldn’t have believed it. The slats bend if anyone sits on it. It’s a piece of crap. I swear the floor model was in much better shape. So we’re trying to decide if it’s worth returning, or if we should just put it out in the yard as an accent piece (I think I mentioned it was really cheap, so it hardly seems worth the time and fuel to return it).
But that was all last week. Fast forward to today, and I’m still buoyed by the boost I got from my parents. Eric and I both did an awful lot today. We went to the paint store and chose a few colors we might use for the house - we’ve narrowed our choices down to three possibilities out of hundreds of HOA-approved combinations. We bought succulents for the front flower bed (finally! Only 8 years of leaving it empty of anything but weeds and, in the spring, the tulips that the previous owners planted …); I cleared out the bed and planted them. Eric worked on the interior window sills, which need to be sanded and refinished. I drove back to the nursery and bought a bunch of tomato and other plants, pots, etc and potted our first ever vegetable and herb plants in the back yard.
I can’t wait to see how it all turns out!
This is what I wrote to the City Council.
Subject: I support dog access and mountain bike access in the West TSA
Thank you for your time. I appreciate that you have a difficult task on your hands, and I appreciate that you cannot please everyone who will be impacted by your decisions. I waited to write this letter until I could attend the March 15 meeting and hear the different points of view myself.
* preserving dog access to the West TSA
* including dog access, both leashed and V&S, as part of any new trails being built
* providing mountain bike access via a N/S connector and the proposed Anemone Hill loop
I voted in favor of the last open space initiative. My hope is that, over time, these areas will be opened up to trails with dog and bike access.
Allow me to say a few words on user conflict, on dog access, on bike access, and on a suggestion to accommodate all trail users.
User Conflict and Conservation
There are examples of misbehavior among all types of trail users. There are hikers who go off-trail, make their own trails (so-called “social trails”), pick flowers and other flora, leave trash, take home “souvenirs,” and widen the trail. There are dog owners who fail to control their dogs, clean up waste, or recognize when their dogs might make others uncomfortable. There are cyclists who prioritize their enjoyment over others’ comfort. Some members of all groups use the trails when it’s simply too muddy, as evidenced by the footprints, bike tracks, and hoof prints I’ve seen on the trails. And horses routinely leave waste on the trails.
This last point suggests to me that user conflict is more a matter of perception than of statistics. If one hiker is belligerent to me, suddenly every encounter with a hiker is a negative experience. The same goes for all user groups. One negative experience is hard to erase, even with tens or hundreds of positive experiences.
I am not an expert on conservation, but as I understand it and as the second speaker on March 15 indicated in detail, several recent studies indicate that hiking and biking have about the same impact to flora and fauna.
As for the environmental impact of dogs on wildlife - I believe that if we keep our dogs on the trail, prevent them from chasing wildlife, and clean up after their waste, their impact is likely less than that of a human. Dogs don’t lose their balance and put hands on trees and lichen-covered boulders to support themselves, and because they are generally lighter than humans and distribute their weight across four paws, they have less impact to the trail. To my knowledge, a dog has never left a wrapper or cigarette butt on or off the trail, and a dog has never started a wildfire.
So, all things considered, I believe that well-behaved cyclists and well-behaved/controlled dogs have no more wildlife impact than do well-behaved hikers. This leads me to believe that when we have already decided that trails are acceptable, and we are now discussing who should have access to trails, the issue is primarily one of user conflict and perception.
In support of dogs, I’ve read of several cases where women were attacked by human predators on Boulder trails. I’ve never heard of a human with a dog, leashed or unleashed, being attacked. I also believe that bikes impart a certain safety from attack; it’s hard to attack someone on wheels.
I admit to my bias - I love dogs, and I love seeing well-behaved dogs enjoying themselves on hikes. I waited to get my dog, Cooper, until I felt I could provide a good quality of life for him. Part of his good quality of life is access to hiking trails; another part is his ability to sometimes hike with me, but not attached to me. Off-leash opportunities allow me to reinforce his training, which strengthens our bond and allows us to enjoy our hikes even more.
Dogs can also act as an opportunity to interact positively with other trail users. When my dog hikes with me wearing his bright blue pack, he inevitably gets plenty of cheerful comments. I gather from the many grins he elicits that he is a welcome addition to many people’s hikes.
Several sections within the Plan provide “Driving Factor/Benefits” bullet points for each recommendation. None of the dog-related sections provide these points, so I cannot evaluate the grounds for these suggestions. I don’t hike without my dog, so I will never see any trail that prohibits dogs. I urge you to include dog access as part of any new trails being developed, and to reconsider dog restrictions currently included in the plan. The fewer opportunities there are to hike with dogs, the more dog hikers will be constricted into a handful of trails that will inevitably see more trail impact and user conflict due to the increased traffic.
When I saw the Anemone Hill mountain bike proposal, with a bike ascent on one side and a bike-only descent on the other, I gasped audibly. What a beautiful idea, and what a wonderful way to signal that Boulder recognizes mountain biking as a valid form of outdoor recreation. Please consider restoring the Anemone Hill bike loop to the plan.
The North/South connector is another great idea - a way to reduce trailhead parking congestion and to allow those riding mountain bikes to ride instead of driving. As several speakers noted at the March 15 meeting, riding along the side of a road is risky.
More mountain bike trails will reduce congestion, and thereby reduce trail impact and user conflict, on existing trails. Fewer than 10 miles of trail, half of which is a connector, will not turn Boulder into a mountain biking destination. It will simply provide options in a region with more avid mountain bikers than bike-friendly trails. I’d also like to point out that while the bicycle options in town are fantastic, they do not provide mountain biking opportunities, any more than the Pearl Street pedestrian mall provides hiking opportunities.
The IMBA has developed solid expertise in building sustainable multi-use trails. The BMA has put thousands of hours into local trail rehabilitation and rerouting. Both the IMBA and the BMA actively educate their members about responsible trail usage and stewardship. Please recognize our efforts at building bridges - literal and metaphorical - and allow more biking access, which can only serve to relieve the pressure and reduce trail conflict.
Accommodating Multiple Types of Trail Use
Hiking without dogs is one type of trail use, but it is not the only way to appreciate the outdoors. If the only way we as user groups can share the trail is by banning one another from it, I believe we might as well just close the land to all human use, because we’ve proven that we don’t deserve access. But we ban all humans at our peril, because people who have never immersed themselves in nature also won’t miss it when it’s gone. Some people, like me, only hike with our dogs. Some people, like me, also enjoy riding our bikes on trails, both for the physical challenge and for the exposure to nature and wildlife.
I understand that allowing “dog-free opportunities” is part of the guidance underlying this plan, but I do not understand why this has been translated into banning dogs from certain trails entirely. Similarly, I don’t understand why bike access must be all or nothing. Betasso is quite successful as a trail where bikes are disallowed two days a week. Could we follow a similar pattern with dog access in the West TSA? Instead of banning dogs entirely from some trails, can we disallowed them on alternating weekends, or on one weekday and one weekend day? In this way, hikers without dogs would get their dog-free opportunities; hikers with dogs would still be able to experience all the majesty of the West TSA.
Again, thank you for your time.
I added the following when I posted the link to the Ownership post to Facebook … it seems useful enough that I’ll add it here, as well.
After years of not understanding why I wasn’t getting the recognition I thought I deserved, I realized that I wasn’t actually doing the kind of work that gets recognition. I was doing some great technical work, sure, but I wasn’t making project management’s life any easier or helping them build their clients’ confidence in our (awesome) work. News flash: my company pays me to impress the client, not to design beautiful systems that are aesthetically pleasing, but don’t help the client or can’t be finished in time. Since then, I’ve changed my approach, and I’ve actually seen almost immediate changes in how management and even executives interact with me. It’s fun being a pure technical person, but I was shortchanging myself by ignoring that in addition to my considerable technical acumen, I am also good at a lot of “soft skills” that other technical people don’t necessarily do well - and by exercising those skills, I provide a lot more value to the company. Let’s face it - unless you’re that 1/10 of 1%, your technical skills will only get you so far in a company that includes non-technical people. The hard part was convincing myself that I am not a “lesser” geek for doing this.
(And by aesthetically pleasing systems, I mean back-end code and interfaces that no one but other technical people will ever see)