Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The South Brother

My longtime friend and climbing companion Alan Kearney generously donated several photos for this post. Check out his website and blog here.

I count Alan Kearney as one of my mentors in the mountains. Alan took me on big trips when I was a really green climber and taught me things that have kept me alive over the years. I feel lucky if I can tick off a trip with all my buddies over the course of a summer, and Alan & I have a long history of making cool trips happen year after year.

Alan, being supportive of my Front Door Adventures project agreed to drive down from Bellingham and meet me for an attempt of the Brother Traverse in the Skokomish-Duckabush Group of the Olympic Mountain Range. This double summitted peak was named by Captian George Davidson of the United States Coast Survey in honor of Arthur and Edward Fauntleroy and climbed first in 1912 (Mountaineers, 2006). History tells it that Davidson was courting the Fauntleroy's younger sisters and wished to make an impression on their older brothers.

After a Seattle-to-Bremerton Ferry ride across The Sound, I pedaled SW around the tip of Hood Canal and North again on Highway 101 to the Hamma Hamma River Road. An 8-mile climb to the trailhead found Alan, fresh off a ski descent off Mount Townsend sipping beers. "Greetings Young Matt! ", Alan called from his perch on the tailgate as I rolled to a stop and wiped the sweat from my brow. A cold beer was soon consumed, and possibly a second, but who is counting.

Favorable June weather windows in the Great Pacific NW can unfortunately be short lived. Such being the case, one wishing to climb any of the fine summits of this great state must retain a certain amount of flexibility as the weather dictates the success of any mountaineering adventure to a large extent. Over dinner & alpine mojito's Alan I discussed the impending poor weather and agreed to forgo our Brother's Traverse scheme and go light for a single push on the standard route of the South Brother. The sleeping bag called loudly as the mountain darkness crept down the valley from the west and the 65 mile approach ride sunk in to my bones.

A 4 am alarm, coffee & muffins by headlamps, the stiffness of the approach ride ebbed as we set a steady pace towards Lena Lake. The Hemlock Trees towered through the switchbacks and repelled the light of the rising eastern sun; you have to earn your views in the Olympics as few hikes start anywhere near the 5000 foot tree line. We hit steady snow at 3000 feet and avalanche paths of 24" diameter trees snapped like toothpicks a little further beyond; nature is a powerful force. Long open slopes of snow beckoned from above.

Kick a a a feet of steep snow climbing as menacing clouds blew in & out offering a tease of the spectacular views the surrounding mountains offer. At noon, Alan and I stood in wind jackets and stocking caps on the 6,842 Summit of the South Brother 7 hours and 6,100 feet after we began our march. We couldn't see much, but I didn't really care; I was happy to be outside and on the top of something in the company of a friend.

Back at camp we drank more whiskey. Tall tales grew taller as the bottle got emptier and afternoon waned to evening. I retired to the tent and read an article that Alan gave me about the impending doom climate change will have on civilization as we know it. Being in the mountains reminds me that we are small and our time here is short. I am going to do my best to tread lightly while I am here, but the valley I walked up today was buried in ice less-than 20,000 years ago and it will fill with ice again someday. All of these things will come to pass and I am just thankful to have spent a few days stomping around the hills with my good friend Alan.

Livin' the Dream,


On the tick list for and FDA.

I have a long way to go! Hood Canal and the Olympics Mountains in the far distance.

The word "approach" in Mountaineering usually refers to the portion of the trip where you leave pavement to the beginning of technical climbing. Front Door Adventures defines "approach" from the minute you leave your house to the beginning of technical climbing. Alan Kearney shot this photo of me at the end my 7o mile approach.

Tastes like PBR...darn good after a long ride!


and up...

and up...

and up...

and up just a little further.

Summits in June, you take what you can get!

Our successful ascent was celebrated with a couple of Hagen Alpine Mojitos...

and my backcountry specialty; salmon and vegetable couscous.

Alan! Our fearless leader!

Homeward bound with a good omen ahead.

Monkey Dick Sandwich. Don't knock it until you try it!

While brewing a coffee at Potlatch State Park, and elderly gentleman approached me and chatted me up about my bike and where I was going and what I was doing. As we departed he reached in his lapel pocket and handed me a card "This could come in useful", he said and turned to walk away. I looked down and the card and was surprised to see he had handed me his Wednesday appointment card for a colonoscopy. "Excuse me sir, ah..I think you may need this", I said as I handed him back his appointment reminder. Slightly embarrassed he rooted through is pockets and produced another card reminding me of all that Jesus has done for me. Obviously he didn't know that I am both an Ordained Minister and The Gift of God.

Knowing that the World is full of lost souls in need of direction, I stashed the card in a Geocach site I found at the Historic Dalby Waterwheel on Hood Canal.

Built in 1924 the Historic Dalby Waterwheel on Hood Canal produced electricity for the Dalby home and several cabins into the 1940s. Through a volunteer effort the wheel was restored and relocated to it's current location in 2006.

What is one to do with an hour to kill waiting for a ferry?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mnt. Townsend

What a stupid goddamned thousand feet into the three thousand foot climb up Forest Service Road 25 to the Mnt. Townsend trailhead I really began to rethink my brilliant idea of using my bike to go climbing in the mountains. At the end of the day, it is just a whole bunch of hard work to get things done in good style.

The Eastern Peaks of the Olympic Mountain Range tower proudly over the Puget Sound and are clearly visible from Sunset Hill Park near my home in Greenwood. A couple weeks ago I raced my bike west in the evening light of clear spring night to catch a sun setting over the Olympics and sip on a lukewarm Ranger IPA. I hatched a stupid plan; to bag all the peaks visible from this point using my bike. I crushed my beer can against my head, pedaled home and ordered a copy of Olympic Mountains: A Climbing Guide. Despite the fact that I have been climbing mountains at a reasonable standard for the past 12 years, I had never reached the summit of a peak in the Olympics. Might as well make things interesting, eh?

The original objective for the weekend, the Buckhorn Mountain Traverse was abandoned due to a sick partner, an unseasonably high snow pack and more honestly to many Friday night beers. A late start and a 60 mile ride culminating with a 3000 foot climb deposited me at the Mnt. Townsend Trailhead in the late afternoon. A quick repack and bike stash found me stomping up the intermittently snow covered trail as the afternoon turned to evening.

As darkness approached and the fog closed in, I found a reasonably flat spot to lay my bag down for the night. Consistent with the classic NW weather inversion, as the the sun went down and the air cooled, the clouds sank into the valleys and left the peaks the of the Olympics perched under a clear star-filled night.

I woke to near freezing temperatures at 5 am and booted a path over untrodden snow to the 6,280 foot summit of Mnt. Townsend. Despite being one of the most visited summits in the range, today I was alone and felt the solitude I sought pedaling out of the city less than 24 hour before.

I don't know how long it will take me to reach all of my Sunset Park Summits, but I know that I will reach all of them by bike and be a little tougher for the process.

Livin' the Dream,


Kit for the adventure. I added a pint of whiskey for emergencies...such as waking up in the morning.

Mass transit is fair game in the FDA, plus Washington State Ferries are just pretty cool.

Time and distance have a little different meaning on the Olympic Peninsula. The "Welcome Sign" is about 12 miles out of town.

They forgot to mention the 3000 feet of elevation gain.

...and rednecks with firearms.


Wandering around on the snow by myself in the evening fog convinced me that I should probably sit tight until morning.

A couple minutes after a crawled in my bivy sack the clouds began to drop...

to reveal clear skies and a bright half moon.

Sunrise was OK. A sea of clouds over the Hood Canal and the Puget Sound.

Left to right: Mount Jupiter, Mount Constance and Buckhorn Mountains from the summit of Mnt. Townsend.

Cloudy with a chance of drizzle at sea level, splitter at 6 k!

I wore my special Reno Card Dealer shirt for the summit shot.

I am pretty sure this includes me.

Pit stop at the Hood Canal Brewery.

Next stop: Edmonds Washington.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Walk in Greenwood

A Front Door Adventure is just like it sounds; an adventure that leaves from your front door. The rules are simple, don't take a car and see what you can get done using human power and mass transit. Although most of my Front Door Adventures employ the use of a bicycle, going by foot truly embodies the spirt of the FDA in every sense of the word. Not only is walking beneficial to our health, or pocketbooks and the environment; it offers an opportunity for freedom, fun and spontaneity that the car just cannot present.
Walk Score is a website that rates the walkability of your home based on proximity to amenities such as groceries, entertainment, medical facilities, parks and public transportation. While our 500 square foot home might seen unreasonable small, with a Walk Score of 92 out of 100 it sits in one of the most walkable communities in the United States. I won't pretend that there are not some real disadvantages to living in the city, but a huge plus is that it allows us to live a life that is not dependent upon an automobile.

Livin' the Dream


My sister dropped Carter off with only one request, "Don't let him get sunburned." We both stripped to the waist and greased up for the day.

Carter was more interested in working on the Trek Mt. Train than he was riding it. Half-way around the block, Carter politely let me know that he was done with the bike ride. An early negative experience with a new challenge can jade a young mind easily and a child should never be pushed too far beyond their comfort zone. Carter and I will go on a ride when he is ready and I look forward to that day. An opportunity for an adventure by foot was born, the bike was parked and the proclamation made, "We walk from here!"

Two blocks from the house Carter decided that we should sit down and have a feast. We split a granola bar and drank water from the Nalgene. Carter spun around in circles.

Although it makes me almost sick to watch, spinning in circles is critical to proper vestibular stimulation and brain development in children. This type of activity allows the brain to integrate sensory information from the environment in the development of proprioception.

Top Ten Toys in Greenwood is the coolest store in the world for kids of all ages.

Knights, dragons and wild imaginations!

Just like his Dad, his Grandpa and his Uncle Matt, Carter likes going to the Bar! Carter's first (root)beer at The Naked City.

Great day with a great guy! Thanks Cartman!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beer Bike

Beer Bike


1. A bike dedicated solely to the purpose of acquiring and/or consuming beer.
"Nice Beer Bike man, looks good with the custom 6-pack front basket."


1. The act of bicycling with the primary objective being the acquisition and/or consumption of beer. One must not necessarily own a dedicated Beer Bike to participate in a Beer Bike, in fact any bike will do just fine.
"Honey, would you like to go on a Beer Bike next weekend?"

Two of my favorite things, beer and bicycles, are truly a natural fit. You see, riding a bicycle to often will make a guy to skinny, and drinking beer to often without a little exercise will make a guy fat. Put em' together and your're just a fit and jolly fella!

Bare with me as a I geek out for the next few minutes.

Invented in 1864 by French carriage maker Ernest Michaux, the modern bicycle is the most efficient form of human powered transportation ever invented. A human being can travel at 10-15 mph on a bicycle with the same energy output required to walk at 3-5 mph. In terms of the ratio of cargo weight a bicycle can carry to total weight, it is also the most efficient means of cargo transportation. The bicycle has changed little in the last 150 years.

Beer is what I consider and energy positive beverage. At 200 kilocalories a serving and high in carbohydrates, a decent quality IPA doesn't really qualify as a health drink, but it tastes pretty damn good warm or cold. Besides, beer outdates Jesus and that pretty much makes it sacred.

All these interesting facts naturally lead one to pose the question, "How many beers does it take to power a bicycle?" Assuming clinical conditions controlled for additional caloric intake and ideal riding surface, this is really a simple math equation.

We can use the constant of .28 kcalories a mile per pound of rider assuming travel on flat firm ground. When I plug myself into this simple equation it looks like this:

.28kcal (Calories) x number of miles ridden x 160 pounds = total energy cost in kcal

Assuming a ride of 50 miles:

.28 kcal x 50 miles x 160=2240 kcals or roughly the equivalent of 11.2 cans IPA.

If we wanted to state this in mpg of beer we would need to convert our 11.2 twelve ounce cans into gallons:

11.2 cans x 12 oz/can = 134.4 oz/128 oz = 1.o5 gallons of beer

Divide that into our theoretical distance of 50 miles:

50 miles/1.05 gallons = 47.62 mile per gallon of beer

To tell you truth, I like the math problems but don't really care about the milage. You see, the most important thing is that Jen and like to get on our bikes and hunt down a beer or two at some cool place that we have never been and then ride back home. I get to hang out with my cute wife, exercise and drink beer all on the same day! Truly, I am living the dream!

It is pretty fun to go on a Beer Bike and there is probably one to be had in your neighborhood!
Maybe you should find out?

Livin' the Dream


More than one great day has started right here at the Wild Mountain Cafe in Greenwood. Serving one of the best breakfasts in Seattle.

While beer is a fine breakfast food, I prefer eggs and toast.

Black Raven Brewing Co. in Redmond WA. Beers, peanuts, pretzels and Connect Four.

Jenny suffering in the dreadful Pacific Northwest weather aboard the Walla Walla.

Seattle is nestled between the Cascade Mountains to the east and the Olympics to the west.

Jenny refused to pedal further until I took a photo for her train-loving father.

Refuel and rehydrate.

Terrible views of Mount Rainier from Suquamish, WA near Agate Strait.

Another gray rainy day in The Emerald City.