Fun Barrier

PotterVilleWe bought our adventure this last week right along with hundreds of thousands of other Spring Break revelers in Florida. Julia, our 10+ year-old granddaughter, got to pick a personal week with the grandparents anywhere in the lower 48 for her 10th Birthday present.  To no one’s surprise, of all the American cultural highlights and recreational opportunities in the continental United States, she picked Potter-ville, also known as Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando.  Fortunately we had the presence-of-mind to curtail the amusement park experience to two days, and she took maximum advantage of the operating hours, affording us 14 1/2 hours the first day. Since we didn’t manage to break the “fun barrier” on the inaugural visit, we did a touch-n-go at the motel that night, and were in the line with the first 5,000 people the next morning.

RocketI managed to accompany her on all the class 5 rides and Stanna did her turn on the class 3 versions that only evoked cries of glee rather than those higher class rides where excitement verges on terror. For a guy that hasn’t been near a roller coaster in 50 years, I was amazed I didn’t coat my seat companions with something intestinal, and you evidently have two or three choices to “void” your system.  There has to be something deeply tribal about wanting to wait in interminable lines for 110 seconds of “joy”.

Orlando – where you pay to park, pay to play and pay to pee (not really), but you line up to park, line up to play and DO line up to pee.  I guess it’s no secret that these theme parks can get “sold out” as was the case at Disney World (when they reached capacity of 100,000) the same day.  If it weren’t for the cold front here (high today of 62), I figure the Universal twins would be at capacity as well.  crowdIt’s standing room only in Harry Potter World and the only way we beat the 120- minute wait time was to start our queue at 9:30 PM and only wait 75 minutes.

Lines at the 8am day-two start flag were in the single digits for about 45 minutes.  Probably ’cause it was 48 degrees and windy, but by the time we made it half-way round Islands of Adventure the 9:30 am lines were over 120 minutes and Hogsmeade was virtually grid-locked.

followingJulia never slowed a beat during the ordeal, I mean experience.  And we really lucked out as she chatted-up another 10 year-old girl and her 15 year-old brother escort on the second trip on the Dragon Challenge front row class 5+ ride, and the newly bonded best bud’s trekked and traipsed round the two adjacent parks for the next 12 hours.  We simply shadowed the triumvirate, paying for sustenance and nutrition as necessary.

It is worth revealing several important facts about the two Universal Parks:  First, purchase an “Express Pass” for the first day, totally ignoring the usurus charges for the privilege of cutting to the front of the lines. 90- to 120-minute waits can be cut down to 10 to 15 minutes.  Second, there actually are several adult-enjoyable rides, the best known as the Forbidden Journey in the Hogswort Castle (Harry Potter Land) and the Spiderman ride is also quite remarkable, as it has similar mechanical, sensory and visual effects that put realism in your gut.

lastcarAs you can see we were virtually the last car left in the mega-car-park after 14.5 hours and 12 miles walking the first day.  A good time was had by all.


Guilt Free

milkshakesThese strawberry milkshakes will always be remembered now when passing thru Blanding, Utah after five days of backpacking in the Escalante and Cedar Mesa slickrock hiking arenas.  These “small” over 10″ tall versions were a fabulous fortuitous find recommended via Yelp! in the first town where we could get a cellular signal on my iPad.  I’ll have to admit the mushroom and swiss hamburgers hadn’t been delivered to the table yet. But that’s the reason we workout and do these strenuous feats isn’t it? So we can binge on those forbidden fruit shakes?  Now I’m eager to head back to southern Utah to burn up more calories and earn the reward.

Actually I’d like to take any of you back to this IMG_0879desert playground for day hikes or even backpacking.  One comment I’ve always made was that I’d get around to exploring our “backyard” for recreation once I got grey and now it’s all the better since I’ve adopted the ultra-lite base weight philosophy.  You really need to try backpacking with the same load you might take for a day hike.  This recent trip my base weight was 10.9 pounds for IMG_0892everything excluding consumables of food and water; a new low for me and I’m soon to go sub-10 pounds once I get my new pack.  Mid March was just about the first week that hiking without post-holing in snow was possible and mid-50 daytime temps were probably as low as I’d like to spend on the trails, but all the hiking and biking in the Durango area is still snow-bound.

Mike Taylor, his lab Ryler and I, first hiked the Boulder Mail Trail between Boulder, Utah and Escalante, which was a 11.5 mile mule-packing trail between those two historic Mormon towns.  What was special about the trail is that the first 6.5 miles is almost all on sandstone slickrock with pinon and juniper offsetting the rich red rocks.  Much of the trail is IMG_2583marked with sandstone rock cairns to keep the hiker from descending a “pour-over” or otherwise unscalable route.  At the mid-point of the Mail Trail you wind thru the Death Hollow creek bottom which on this occasion was backed up by a fresh beaver dam.  We opted to turn round at Death Hollow and search for another loop.

IMG_2604Our second 3-day trip (just over 24 miles) while we were in the region, was to hike the Fish Creek and Owl Creek loop on Cedar Mesa which turned out to be spectacular as well.  Similar slickrock but this time it was along much steeper canyons that once was the terrain of the Anasazi Indians who are now called the “ancient pueblo IMG_0884peoples”.  We saw granaries, cliff dwellings and petroglyphs that aren’t on any of the trail maps.  Let’s go back soon, so we can pause for those strawberry milkshakes on the way.

Got a Lefty

tgleftyNo, the front fork on the bike in the photo isn’t broken or the front wheel not inside the forks.  The front “fork” isn’t a fork but a single-sided front shock with an axle originating on the left side.  Hence the “lefty” designation.  Cannondale has been making these lefties for a number of years and even racing them.  This 2012 was only used a few times at the end of the season and was forkavailable so the rider could move up to the 2013 models.  I rode it twice, once around town and then had a chance to take it to Farmington where I rode the Road Apple mountain bike trail for just over 2 hours.

The Road Apple trail was dry already and fortunately it was a super day with temps in the low 60’s.  I rode with my nephew Chris and his friend so I got a fast first-of-the-season introduction to the trail, the bike and my off-road and single-track handling.  At just over 22 pounds it climbs super and although I can’t go as fast downhill on trails as the guys half my age, the bike catches-up pretty damn quick.  We averaged almost 11 MPH over 24 miles of rolling hills and close to 2,000′ of elevation gain and loss.  It’s a hard-tail so it may not be as comfy on an all-day ride but with tube-less tire you can soften the ride plenty.  I’m looking forward to “tricking-it-out” with bike-packing gear for some longer rides.

In the Google Earth image below you can see the course just north of Farmington, NM (about 50 miles south of Durango) and see the La Plata Mountains in the far-ground.


Sand Canyon

Sand CanyonFinally able to get back on the dirt, but I had to drive west to McElmo Canyon almost to the Utah state line at an elevation of 5,600 where the snow is only in the shadows of the Juniper.  Sand Canyon is a Heritage site of the Ancients that has mostly south-facing trails so the snow is virtually gone and it’s only muddy behind the trees shadows.  IMG_2514There were very few on the trail when I started at 10 AM but the parking lot was over capacity by the time I finished the 7.36 mile loop.  Only saw one other hiker past the one mile point and and two pairs of mountain bikers on the back side of the loop.  Weather was blue skies with scant high cirrus clouds and temps probably hit low 50’s by mid-afternoon.

SandCanyonTrailHad fun Friday getting my gear organized and tweaking my spreadsheet of weights.  Disappointed to learn my empty daypack was 4 ounces heavier than I’d posted last year.  Guess I’ll have to start looking for alternatives since I’m supposed to be going UltraLite these days and that 4 oz is the same as my Spot Locator, which I want to keep using.  (Good thing I got a haircut before the hike or I’d really be carrying too much)  Base weight for day hiking carrying a reserve parka, fleece hat and gloves is right at 4.5 pounds.  The whole kit was 9.4 pounds with two liters of water and food.

Audiobook for the trail was The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow.  Wish I could say I understood most of the math and theories but it was really interesting and I’d highly recommend it even without comprehending the evolution of probability theory.