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.

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