Saturday, December 24, 2011

That's How I Roll

I had always imagined it as a summer adventure, but when the benevolent high pressure gods and the little Apple device that seems to run my life aligned for the winter solstice, I had to move the Mount Si project forward a few months.   I explained the logistics of the plan to Jenny she just shook her head and smiled.  She has learned that protest and logic have little impact on my decision making processes and that going on my little adventures makes me an easier person to live with.

That's just how you roll Matt, was all she could say. 

4:30 am comes pretty early to a guy on vacation, but a little self-doubt can do wonders for a fellow's motivation.  Something that climbing has taught me over the years is that you're much less likely to epic if your adventure ends before darkness falls.  When you are tired, cold and hungry, lack of daylight always seems to  confound the situation further. Armed with such wisdom and only about eight hours of daylight on the shortest day of the year, I departed from the Front Door in Greenwood with a pound of homemade fudge and two beers at the unpleasant  hour of 5 am.  Regardless of how this one turned out, I knew I was going to get lots of practice riding in the dark and wanted to be back on familiar ground when the sun went down.

I arrive at the end of I-90 bike path in Issaquah at 7am after pedaling east for two hours in the icy darkness of the Seattle winter solstice.  The temperatures dropped steadily into the high 20's as I climbed out of the layer of marine fog that enveloped the city, across Lake Washington and through the urbanized foothills of Bellevue towards the Cascade Mountains.  Previous FDA's had brought me this far before and while certainly not lost, I really don't know how to get to where I want to go next.

My Dad Jim always says it is better to be lucky than good, and I am certainly more the former than the latter.  As I pull over into the IHOP parking lot to check my map and regroup, I nearly run into a cyclist that I quickly size up as member of the Seattle Ranonneurs Bicycle Club.  I wipe the frozen snot from my face and politely ask to be pointed in the right direction of the Issaquah-Preston Trail.  Despite having just completed the 200 km Solstice Ride, Bill gladly went out of his way to guide me to the trailhead on his way home.  Bicycle culture is rich with people willing to pay the kindness forward and assist other two-wheel travelers.

Pavement soon gives way to a dirt path and frozen mud puddles as I pedal into a rising sun that burns through the tall evergreens throwing off a haze of vapor into the cold blue sky of a perfect winter morning.  Moments like these make all the work worth-while and reminds me that reward often only comes with great effort.   The Issaquah-Preston Trail connects to the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail and I soon find myself climbing steeply around Lake Alice into a strong headwind blowing out of the Southeast.  I pick up the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, put my head down and push into the shadow of Mount Si.   A little to my surprise I arrive at the trailhead right on schedule at 10 am.

I swap shoes, hydrate, choke down some more fudge and begin my 4000 foot stomp up the Mount Si trail. In less than two hours I dump my trekking poles at the base of the summit pyramid known as the haystack and carefully scrambled the last 300 feet rock to the summit.  In the summer conditions the  haystack is a straight-forward class 3 scramble, however the melt-freeze cycle of the winter has plastered a layer of compact snow and verglas over the rock.  I keep repeating the mantra don't f**k up as I carefully climb, brushing snow and ice off of holds and sticking the rubber on my shoes to the areas of dry rock.

I pull the final feet to the summit smearing my feet on the icy rock as the steep west face of Si falls a thousands of feet under me to the Snoqualmie River Valley.  I sit at the summit for a couple minutes and take it all in.  Mount Rainier dominates to the south, the Olympics fill skyline 100 miles to the west, the skyscrapers of the Seattle are still barely visible through the winter haze as the sun hangs low in the southern sky.    This isn't this first time I have stood on the top of Mount Si and likely won't be the last, but this one gets etched a little deeper in my brain.   Maybe it's the blue in the sky or the bite in the air.  Maybe it's the sting in my frozen fingers or the deep ache of fatigue settling in my legs.   Or maybe it's because this way of doing things feels pure, clean and sustainable.

The truth is it's all of these  that make this moment special.  I won't say it's the easiest  or quickest way of getting to top of something, but I certainly find it to be the richest.   Like my wife says it's just how I like to roll, and it brings me a deep sense of joy and satisfaction.

The breeze picks up and I am snapped back to reality as the sweat on my body chills, running a shiver up my spine.  Halfway there I remind myself as I throw my pack over my shoulders and  set off retracing my steps back home to my Front Door.

That's how I roll,


 With ample sugar and fat, fudge makes a pretty darn good endurance fuel.  In addition, eating a pound of it in a single day will leave an aversion to Holiday Cookies until Christmas 2012.

The other kind of fun.  

I was really amazed at the ease and relative safety of traveling from Seattle into the Cascade Mountains by bicycle.  Part of the Mountain to Sounds Greenway, nearly the entire route to Mount Si is on designated bike/pedestrian paths or shared use roadways.  Truly a classic FDA! 

The Issaquah-Preston Trail parallels I-90 with 7 miles of gravel connecting the City of Issaquah to High Point Way.

The Preston-Snoquamie Trail is a 7-mile paved regional trail that is also part of the regional Mountain to Sound Greenway.

 Mount Si from the town of Snoqualmie.

The Snoqualmie Valley Trail is a 31.5 mile crushed gravel that connects to the cross-state John Wayne Pioneer Trail.  

Although we have had one of driest Decembers on record here in the Pacific NW, we are still at 80% of our normal snow pack.  The trail up Si is mostly snow covered from 2500 feet onward.

 Mount Rainier:  FDA Summer 2012

Eastern front of the Olympic Mountain Range with the skyscrapers of Seattle barely visible center right

Snowman, my constant companion.

The question mark tree.

D brought the hounds up to Si for the day and we met on the trail for an early afternoon beer. Darren likes beer too.

The last 20 miles of the day were difficult, but honestly one of the best parts about endurance events is the head space that it puts you in.  I snapped this photo on the I-90 bridge and the scene captures well how I was feeling at the moment.  Tired and focussed with the end near, sights and sounds start to to blur into one as you retreat inward to the singular task in front of you:  keep spinning.

A fine recovery meal by Russian River Brewing.

A am a simple man.  Meat, cheese, bread and greens.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Front Door Adventures has been pretty quite for the last couple of months; work, house projects and bad weather have kept me close to home and truthfully, at times living my life more or less by bike really doesn't inspire much creative writing in me.  It is not that I haven't been riding my bike,  I get up every morning and pedal to one of my jobs and try to avoid getting killed in a city where bike infrastructure and sustainable transportation in general lags decades behind cities like Portland and Munich.  I thought about a blog entry titled, "What in the hell am I trying to prove anyhow?", but thought better of it.    While readers of Front Door Adventures know that I like to exhort  the virtue of both commuting and recreating by bicycle, I have to admit that sometimes it can kind of suck.  I still strongly believe that embracing a little suffering in life ultimately provides one a Reference Point from which to recognize and appreciate comfort; but I also certainly understand how the gray, wet and cold misery of November in the Pacific Northwest can get to even the most optimistic of bicycle affectionado.  It can be hard to find joy in thirty-nine degrees and rainy.  
Yet I persevere, I ride through the rain, sleet and traffic because it makes me feel better about my life not to have my car shoved up my ass, and like Ghandi said We must be the change we want to see in the world.  

Just when I am about to give up hope,  historic high pressure returns to the Northwest and and a perfect cold, crisp winter day invites.  My friend Darin came down from Bellingham this weekend and hopped in on a FDA from Seattle to the top of Tiger Mountain with only the slightest of apprehension (How do we get to Issaquah without riding on the freeway?").   Despite working 60 plus hour weeks for months and never having ridden a bike more than 30 miles in a day, Darin handled the the 50 mile  ride and 7 mile stomp up and down 2500 feet of elevation gain in fine style.  It was really nice to be using my bike for an adventure again and great to have a buddy along for the ride.  I had almost forgot how fulfilling going on a human powered adventure could be!

Livin' the Dream


Darin, feeling like many vitamin D deficient NW residents as we emerge out of the trees and above the clouds on the West Summit of Tiger Mountain.

Darin Berdinka is my climbing hero and my friend.  He is also on the cutting edge of outdoor fashion.   

The High School Trail  begins behind Issaquah High School and climbs steeply on an unmaintained trail to join the Section Line Trail and on to the the West Tiger Summit.

Not very warm.

Summer 2012:  FDA to the top of Mount Rainer.

The city of Bellevue above Lake Washington.  Glacier Peak on the far left of the photo.

Movember has come to it's sad end.  My Stach is better than last year, but not quite respectable enough for full time wear yet.

Recovery meal by Ninkasi Brewing Company, Eugene, OR.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sleep Over

The Fabritius Boys came for a sleep-over with Aunt Jenny and me a couple weeks ago.  It is likely that at some point in history our 101 year old 500 hundred square foot home housed a family of four rather comfortably, but times have changed and so have children.  At 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 Carter and Taylor are busy, curious, and constantly asserting themselves as individuals as they seek their place in the world.  That is nice-speak for they are both completely nuts! 

Jen and I kept the boys on the run and showed them how we get around in the city and have fun doing it.  We took a bus ride and an urban hike to the best park in North Seattle.  We walked to the local Elementary school made up some games with a baseball bat, a rubber chicken, and a Nerf ball.  We took a bike ride to the lake and went for a swim.  Aside from a few time-outs, scraped hands, backward diapers (my fault) and flying shoes,  the weekend went smoothly and I had a really great time with my nephews.  I hope they enjoyed the time with me as well. 
The more time I spend with these boys that I love so dearly, the more I respect and honor people who make the commitment to bringing children up in this crazy world.  Parenting is the ultimate in self-sacrifice and the most courageous and introspective adventure anyone can ever embark on.  I respect those who are brave enough to walk the path and I am thankful that my sister trusts me enough to let me be a part of my nephews' lives.

Livin' the Dream


 Pit stop at Carkeek Park in North Seattle.  The boys both walked over 4 miles without complaint from the bus stop on Greenwood and Holman the Puget Sound.  

 When you're this cute, you get a ride from a sucker now and then!

 Rock art was an unforeseen big hit with Carter.  I watched him lift a stone equal his body weight, carry it 20 feet plop it down on the patio and begin madly scribbling rainbows of chalk.  Stone after stone was carried, colored and lifted to display on Grandpa Bench.

 Carter, preparing for the Art Show.

A well designed developmentally appropriate play structure at the Greenwood Elementary playground.   Notice that the design of he structure is conducive to the body geometry of a two year old child.  According to Dr. Larry Bruya of Washington State University,  level of challenge must be be equal or slightly higher to the skill level of participant to retain attention and encourage play.  Taylor threw himself at  this balance and coordination implement  over and over  for nearly 15 minutes.  He begged to stay longer, but Carter called Code Brown and lunch was ready at home.

 Aunt Jenny's homemade smoothies are good.

 Not to sure about the ride in the chariot to Greenlake.

Attitudes improved dramatically after a swim and an ice cream.



Among my many marital duties is planning Jenny's and my annual anniversary adventure.  While it is true that this trip has historically included a sufficient amount exercise, I hardly think it deserves the "Jenny proves she is tough enough to be married to Matt another year trip" designation it has come to be known by among Jenny's co-workers and friends.  I guess that time Jenny got a moderate case of Rhabdomyolysis  on a climbing trip and hobbled around work for a week left lasting impression.  That which does not kill us make us stronger.

I have become wise over our four years of marriage and learned that what is fun to me is not always fun to my lovely wife, and planned this year's outing accordingly.  The first Adventure Cycling Magazine I ever picked up listed the Canadian Gulf Islands as one of the best bike tour destinations in the world.  Being within easy striking distance of our home in Seattle, the islands quickly moved to the top of the Front Door Adventure tick list.  

While a cyclist could easily spend a month exploring this beautiful and unique archipelago, Jen and I were limited to 5 days by the constraints of time (damn those jobs!).  Without too much of a plan, we caught the Victoria Clipper in Seattle and were deposited on Vancouver Island three short hours later.  Despite being the most expensive aspect of the trip, the convenience of not having to deal with car was well worth every penny paid.  The best thing about traveling by bike from home is that you are on vacation the second you lock your front door and hop in the saddle.

The Gulf Islands certainly lived up to their reputation and did not disappoint in any way.    Jen and I spent  five sunny days riding, eating, drinking and getting to know each other a little better.  My Dad always told me it is better to be lucky than good, and I certainly got lucky when it comes the woman I married.  Beyond beautiful, kind and smart, Jen is tough as nails and  an excellent companion both at home and on the road. 

Livin' the Dream


Built in Bergen, Norway the Clipper IV catamaran can reach speeds of 30 knots.  The 5 am start and gray Seattle skies produced such inspiring photography as seen above.

The Galloping Goose Regional Trail starts less than 1 km from the Clipper terminal and begins a network of regional bike trails that connect Victoria to Sydney BC and the Gulf Island Ferry Terminal at Schwartz Bay.

The Galloping Goose Trail gives way the Lockside Regional Trail, a network of paved and gravel paths, bike lanes and shared use roads.   35 km of care-free, low-traffic pedaling! 

Fulford Harbor, Salt Spring Island.

Ruckle Provincial Park on Saltspring Island.  With over 75 walk-in/bike-in sites on the water, an operating farm and clean toilets, Ruckle is popular destination for cyclists and families alike.   

Although my wife is a trained chef, cooking by the Jetboil is an art born out of experience.  The time I spent living in my truck has really paid dividends in my life.  Jenny enjoying steamed cous cous with fresh zucchini, salmon and Parmesan. Bon apatite!

Many artists call Saltspring Island Home.  Roadside Toad was my personal favorite piece.

The original Green Roof.

Despite being nearly 100 miles north of Seattle, Saltsping Island enjoys over 85 days of sunshine a year.  Often the Gulf Islands are referred to as "Canada's Banana Belt".  Jenny enjoying ripe blackberries the second week in August, a full month before we do in Seattle.

You can't go far on Saltspring without running into a roadside stand of fresh produce or home baked treats.  

I bought Jenny a peanut butter ball that was almost as big as her head!

Another rainy day on traffic congested roads with terrible scenery.

 Jenny loves it when I grab her bottom rib.

My soon to be released sports nutrition book will be titled Bread, Butter, Beer, Bacon and Coffee:  Your Path to Nutritional Salvation.

Oh yeah, eggs too.

After two days on Saltspring, we hopped a Ferry to Galiano Island.

Jenny enjoying the view from Bodega Ridge Provincial Park, Galiano Island.

Spotlight Cove, Galiano Island.

Retreat Cove, Galiano Island.

Laughlin Lake Reserve, Galiano Island.  An unmarked trail led us through a 1/4 mile of swamp grass to the largest body of fresh water on Galiano, Island.

At first I thought that the ground was covered with crickets, but closer inspection revealed thousands of tiny frogs so thick that one had to be cautious of stepping on them as you walked.

The Hummingbird Pub on Galiano operates a school bus shuttle service between Montague Harbour and the center of commerce on the island free of charge.  Smart Business!

While Victoria is a great place, something about the city makes me a little uptight.  Beer makes everything better.

Off into the sunset., Victoria B.C.