Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Tahoe Rim Trail Section Hike / Run - Day 8 - Big Meadow to Kingsbury South - 23 miles/46,594 steps/9h30

(these photos are not in the right order I'm afraid)

We'd been warned that this was a tough hike and could see from the map that it was uphill for most of the 23 miles. The day started characteristically crisp and clear. Walking uphill soon had us warmed up though. Although it was uphill the trail was mainly on nice forest single track with no preponderance of awkward rocks.

We had our first break at a high meadow after a couple of hours. Cliff bars, some peanuts and our trademark Jelly Beans and a little rest for the legs before we got on our way.

As we neared the shoulder of Friel Peak the path got a bit icy. With trekking poles things were easy enough but in road running shoes a little tricky. These icy sections stayed with us for a few miles but at least the path was easy to follow, if slippery.

We saw some awesome prints in the snow which looked characteristic of the mountain lion but I heard from a local biologist that it was just a dog. Well, it was thrilling at the time to thing we were in the presence of some big wildlife (at least to me - I was like an excitable fossil hunter).

Just for comparison, here is a photo of an actual Mountain Lion print...

We sat on the shoulder for 2nd lunch break and hid amongst the rocks to get out of the cold breeze. A beautiful spot on this sandy shoulder. From here it was about 7 miles back. Star Lake was a very pretty highlight on the way, though the trail disappeared into the lake at one point and we had to scramble across rock and brush to get around it.

The journey back took in most of Heavenly ski resort and was much longer than I remembered it from before. I guess we were pretty tired by now. I kept wondering when we would finally reach the trailhead and walk down the soon to be ski slope to the stagecoach chair lift.

Tahoe Rim Trail Section Hike / Run - Day 7 - Echo Lake to Big Meadow - 17 miles/34,585 steps/5h46

It was a little hard to get the enthusiasm to get up the morning. We managed it though. Had breakfast and got on with our getting ready routine. We drove one car to the end of the trail head and drove to the start down at Echo Lake.

The first 2 miles were up to Echo Summit but it wasnt much up in the air and we never saw a summit. I struggled to get running this early. My legs were pretty tight, especially the muscle behind my left knee, whichever one that is. The other three got a bit ahead of me (Julie ran with us today too!). After a while the path got wider and I ended up in someone's garden. I backtracked a little way and saw the correct trail and tried in vain to catch up the others. It turns out that they had ran through the garden and I was now ahead of them. It took a while before we met up at the next portion of the trailhead but from there we ran on a bit.

I found it very hard to run today but Adam and Natalle seemed to take it all in their stride. Adam was very fast early on and had to wait for us for 25 minutes at one spot about 7 miles in. It was a nice spot though so we had a break there. As we ate we had to pull little prickly seeds off our clothes and sockes.

There was quite a lot of uphill required quite early on. Some of the rocky paths were begining to get covered in ice. Safe enough for us but not for many more weeks I imagine.

On we pushed, this time Adam waited behind as he sometimes does, so he can run fast to catch us up. As we continued we saw very fresh bear scatt. We rehearsed our bear meeting behaviour and carried on, the three of us together with a sprint Adam behind somewhere.

We stopped at the next branch off the main trail and waited for Adam to come bounding along. When he arrived walking we were surpised. He said he felt like he'd hit the wall running a marathon. We had some food and sports gels and Adam had a bit of a sleep. After about 20 minutes of lounging around in the sun we roused ourselves and got on with it. We all felt pretty tired after our 33 mile day yesterday and it made us pretty slow today.

We didn't run much for the rest of the day but the path got easier as we entered the valley and headed for the Meiss ranch. We ate again there and then took a little food break before walking the last 5 miles back.

Throughout the day we saw bear scatt regularly, often looking very fresh. At one stage it seemed to be every 100 yards. It was as if a possie of bears just ahead of us was hiking the rim trail and eating berries all the way! We still haven't seen a bear though!

Tomorrow is our last day but it's a tough 24 miles, so we are already mentally preparing for that and eating a lot!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Tahoe Rim Trail Section Hike / Run - Day 6 - Barker Pass to Echo Lake - 33 miles/59,412 pedometer steps/11 hours

We knew this was to be a tough day. Last night we packed and got everything ready for a quick and early start. We were up at 5:30 and on the road by about 6:45. It was still dark outside. Julie drove us to the other side of Lake Tahoe and then up the 7 miles to Barker's Pass. We were on our feet by 7:50. We posed for a quick photo at the trailhead and started jogging. The morning was crisp and quite like an English winter's day.

The track started downhill or level and on a nice woodland trail. It stayed great for 11 miles, which we covered in the first couple of miles running all the way. We stopped for a rest and some energy bars feeling pretty good. I felt like this day was one that had been on our mind for the whole week and we had mentally and physically prepared for it. Our gear was fine tuned and we were very focused on covering ground quickly. 11 miles in so soon made us feel pretty confident.

Pretty soon we'd covered another 5 miles running. The path was perfect for running, an absolute treat. There were some fallen logs across the path from Barker's pass for a few miles. This was unusual for the Rim Trail so perhaps this is a little used part of the whole trail.

16 miles in and we felt pretty good. Now we started a long climb up towards Dick's Pass. This slowed us down considerably and sapped our energy a little. We reached the pass after quite some time. We were rewarded with some awesome views of the Desolation Wilderness and its numerous lakes. We could see Lake Aloha from up there, which was to be our last food stop. It took quite some time to descend the pass and then climb up to the lake though. The going started getting tough on the way there. As we skirted one lake, which looks like something from lord of the rings (the lake outside the mines of moria, surrounded by rocky mountains), it began to get very rocky under foot and hard going. We plodded on, our early speed just a vague memory.

By the time we got to Lake Aloha we were ready to greet it with an 'ALOHA' but were really too tired to get too excited about it. Our water was running low by now too. We thought it was 5 miles back from here but a look at the map suggested 7. I thought it was easy going from here so was quite confident. It turns out that I had badly mis-remembered this section. The stretch alongside the lake was quite up and down and often quite stoney. After that the trail climbed for a bit and then descended towards Echo Lake on a very rocky path which was relentless.

Eventually it began to get dark so Natalle got her head torch on whilst Adam and I tried to see in the failing light. About a mile from the end of the Lake I called Julie and sure enough, she was there to meet us. After a long 20 minutes we got to the car and WATER and Kitkats!

Tired, we went to eat on the way back. This time in an organic place called Spouts.

A very tiring day. The next day, we knew, would be tough.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tahoe Rim Trail Section Hike / Run - Day 5 - Tahoe City to Barker Pass - 16.7 miles/32,061 steps/5h30

Today was supposed to be a bit of a rest day.

Breakfast was much as usual with Natalle and Adam up and about early in running gear and Pete and I looking a bit bleary eyed.

We were joined by Julie and Pete for this section. Looking at the map we could see it would be a bit up and down, starting at 6,300ft and going up to around 8,500ft.

The day started with a bit of a climb for about 2 miles and then things flattened off for another 5 which we could run. Then we had a bit of a break, some jelly belly jelly beans and an energy bar.

The next section started with a climb of 2,000ft over a couple of miles to twin peaks and some nice views. This point marked HALF WAY around the whole Rime Trail for us - only 82 miles to go.

We ran on the flat for a bit, then zig zagged down for a couple of miles across some scree covered paths. Then we headed up a way to Barker Summit before dropping over the ridge and back to the car.

On the way back we headed for The Brewery in South Lake Tahoe for dinner.

Overall the day didn't feel too hard. We managed to beat 3 miles and hour including our breaks. Tomorrow is the 32 mile section, so we have an early start and have to push it. I hope we make it!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tahoe Rim Trail Section Hike / Run - Day 4 - Brockway Summit to Tahoe City - 20 miles/37,158 pedometer steps/5h 30

Officially this is 19 miles but we did the extra sections between the trail heads too, just to make sure we didn't skip any distance.

Today was quite a lot warmer, up to about 10 degrees C in the afternoon. The whole day was much easier than yesterday. I'm not sure why really but I think it was mainly because much of the trail was flat and runnable. We ran about 80% of the whole thing today ans really moved much faster. The whole thing took just over 5 hours I think. The run might have been easier also beause it was lower than yesterday by 2,000ft in general, the temperature was warmer and the previous day had been pretty tough - oh, and perhaps the neuphen for breakfast helped too.

We gave up on sandwiches and today had cliff bars at 7 and 14 miles, and of course, some Jelly Belly Beans.

We set one GPS, a forerunner, to run a virtual runner at 3 miles an hour and we tried to stay ahead of this runnner all day - we finished about an hour ahead even with breaks. Much faster than yesterday.

Here are a few pics, even including mt typical day's end feet and the skin cream, Amy got me ages ago, which worked really well on chaffing points...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tahoe Rim Trail Section Hike / Run - Day 3 - Mount Rose - Brockway Summit - 20 miles/38,233 pedometer steps/7 hours

Day 3 of our section run / hike dawned pretty cold. It was well below freezing at Incline Village below us and we hiked to 10,500ft some 4,000ft higher. We had long trousers on today, a couple of running tops, a thermal layer, windproof layer, hat and gloves. In the sun though it was quite pleasant, though the wind, when it came was biting.

This is definately the best way around to do this section. A 5 mile uphill to start, from 8,500 to 10,500. The way up was along a dirt road so was quite easy going. We used our trekking poles a little but the climb didn't really need it. The next section along a ridge wasn't quite as flat as we hoped. After what seems like a long time we found our lunch spot, a little over halfway.

The last 8 miles of the route was pretty much all downhill on good trail. By now we were feeling some aches and pains from doing 55 miles in 3 days. Adam hid it best running hard until the end - we caught him up some time later.

A good day, though a little slower than yesterday. A great route for a run though! Splendid views south to Job's Peak and North to the ranges there - I wondered if we could see Lassen today, we could certainly see a couple of big peaks to the north.

We seem to be having trouble digesting sandwiches, running soon after eating. Tomorrow we're going to skip sandwiches and have cereal bars instead.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tahoe Rim Trail Section Hike / Run - Day 2 - Spooner to Tahoe Meadows (Mount Rose) - 23 miles/40,610 pedometer steps/7 hours

We headed north from Spooner. For about 5 miles this goes up hill. Adam and Natale were disappointed by our pace and worried we wouldnt have time to finsh. We had been walking the hills and running the flat or downhill. At this point they invented the notion of a slope - a gentle hill that is runable.

The next few miles were rather flat so we made up some time and relaxed a bit. We all wanted to get halfway before lunch though, and that was pretty tough. Jelly Belly Jelly Beans helped get us there.

We were glad to find a trunk filled with water after 15 miles at the campsite. The Tahoe Rimn Trail Association supplied this in exchange for a donation (which we paid).

We eventually stopped for lunch around mile 17 at Twin Lakes, which was beautiful.

After lunch it was hard to get back into the run but we managed to run a little and walk fast too.

Ultimately we were very glad to get back to the car. The 23 miles had taken around 7 hours including lunch - which seemed pretty fast to me.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tahoe Rim Trail Section Hike / Run - Day 1 - Kingsbury to Spooner - 12 miles/26,772 pedometer steps/3h15

Adam and Natale were keen to get started with a bit of high altitude running so we ran and hiked from Kingsbury to Spooner today (12 miles) which took us just over 3 hours.

As we arrived at the trail head we said hi to a lady with her dog. I'm sure I recognized her and in the end concluded that it was probably Ann Marie Brown and her dog CJ. She's written loads of guidebooks on hiking and biking in california and has a B&B near Yosemite.

After the requiste photo shoot we headed up the trail....

Alta Alpina Annual Dinner - And my trophy!

The Alta Alpina annual dinner was great. It's nice to be part of such a well organized club full of great people. Throughout the year club members do things from putting on race series to running The Death Ride - an impressive bunch.

I had dinner with Pike, Cindy, Taylor and Jeff. After dinner they handed out the prizes, including my first place for winning the wednesday night race series in category C. Jeff came second but he missed a lot of races early in the season where I was picking up points. Most often he would beat me when we raced, though the margins diminished over the season apart from the Time Trials, which he would crush me on every time.

I'm very pleased with the trophy though. It looks great and I feel that I really earned it - there were lots of great riders in the Cs.

Alta Alpina - Season Winners in C's

Monday, October 23, 2006

Adam and Natale arrive

Adam and Natale arrived from the UK this evening. They look extremely fit - I hope I will keep up with them on the Rim Trail!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sienna's 29th Birthday

Went to Sienna's birthday with Scott, Sonja and Pete. Had great food at the Thai Basil in Carson City. The waiters brought out birthday desert and a funny hat for Sienna...
sienna birthday (29th) - Thai Basil, Carson City

Then we went for some beers in Stew's - a pub that brews its own beer. Fun but very noisey...
sienna birthday (29th) - Stew's Carson City

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I bought a car!!!!

I finally stopped messing about and bought a car. I had a massive chunk of luck this week. I've only just realized that the Suzuki Sidekick is the same as the Geo Tracker and the Chevy Tracker. Great cars and not as popular as Subarus here so a little cheaper. I found a 2001 model with 40,000 miles on it for $6,000. They paid $15,000 for it new and it still looks new now. The owners were an old couple and he was an engineer. This is one of those really really lucky finds. The whole thing is super clean inside and out and I even know what brand of sythetic oil he's used in the engine for the last 4 years.

Driving home tonight I quickly realized that this is exactly my kind of car. It's perfect. Why you ask? Well, although it's an SUV it's about the smallest one you can buy. It gets 30mpg. It's a convertible with a hard top fitted and a soft top intact. It had 4 wheel drive and an extra gear lever looking thing to move into that mode. And it has what all little boys dream of - a POWER button which makes it go faster. Dave told me it probably just makes it make more noise but I think it might do something else too. What a car, I am truly bowled over - partly because I am relieved that I have finally bought a car and can stop all that searching and messing about.

I just hope I can fit a bike in it and figure out how to make it carry skis.

Oh yeah, and the funniest thing of all is that the existing number plate is "layoff", which is kind of appropriate.
chevy tracker

chevy tracker

The guy was really nice and he was very impressed with my head torch, so in the end I gave him it. He was as pleased as punch with that, so I'm glad I did. The full tank of gas he left in the car easily pays for that.

Bear Spray - Safety Catch Removed

My condo neighbour (ie a few feet away) was sitting in his lounge tonight about 11pm and saw a big bear's nose pushing against the window. First I knew of it was the sound of logs being thrown and shouting. I must confess I had to pull the safety catch off the bear spray tonight.

Weirdest thing is that when there is a 300-400lb bear on the balcony outside the front door of your flimsy wooden condo, just 2ft from where you are sitting, you cannot hear it. The balcony/walkway skirts our 4 block of condos. The front doors open on to the walkway with a nice view of the valley and a 35ft drop to the mountain side below. Really it's more of a back door but the absence of another entrance makes it the front.

After hearing shouts and logs being thrown along the walkway outside my door I opened the blinds and looked out. No sign of a bear in the immediate vicinity so I opened the door to see my barefooted neighbour looking quite flustered and aggressive with logs in hand. He told me it was a 300-400lb male bear, though I'm sure any size of bear looks big when it has its nose on your window. I went downstairs and got my bear spray, unhooked the safety catch, grabbed my bell, and followed my neighbour along the walkway into the darkness, jingling vigourously. We turned the corner and our furry friend had gone.

It may sound weird but I had got completely cool about the whole bear thing until the last couple of weeks. It is near hibernation time and they are hungry and are clearly around the area more than before. I may yet need to resort to singing Rocky Mountain High as I walk around the place but the world is safe for the moment...

It is odd to need to behave aggressively towards an animal. An intent bear could easily break in to our condos, which would be bad news - mainly for the bear, which may end up getting shot. So, for now, we must behave somewhat aggressively towards it in the hope that it will be put off getting food the easy way.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Nothing much happening...

The big news today was that my legs felt fine today after yesterday's 17 mile run/hike. They twinged a little when I ran 6 miles at lunch but they are basically good.

Nothing else happened today. Ah well actually someone offered me a Wrangler Jeep which is tempting. It's not as economical as the Suzuki JX I was looking at but it's not too far off and it would probably complete the american experience. I'll see if I can drive it tomorrow.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ran / Hiked Snow Valley Peak (17 miles)

I ran to Snow Valley Peak with Sienna and Scott. There was some disagreement about exactly where Snow Valley Peak was. I was somewhat dismayed at first since after 6 miles we were running right past it. Then it was just amusing that the massive hill behind us, with the radio masts standing up from the top, was SNOW VALLEY PEAK. However, for the next 3 miles nobody seemed to concerned with thoughts of turning around. Eventually we met the main trail and bumped in to Dave Adams out for a mountain bike ride on the flume trail (looking very fresh after the hard part of the ride).

We came back via Marlette Lake and the new single track path. This started a little steep but eventually leveled out very nicely. This was the most pleasant running terrain we'd had and was good for 3 or 4 miles.

Back at the cars for some stretching we were a bit surprised that out pedometers had clocked up 29,000 steps or so - that will help our respective teams with the walking competition at work!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Just a dusting of snow left now


Another Visit from Big Foot

When I got home the garbage was in a state and had apparently been visited by my furry friend. It was quite unpleasant packing all the garbage back in the bin amid bear slobber and decomposing foot.

I was rewarded by finding a beautiful footprint in the snow...

My feet are size 10(UK)/11(USA) !

It Snowed Properly!

Awoke to a snowy scene and poor visibility.


6 inches?

Had a bit of trouble getting out of the Summit Village. There was a Jaguar stuck trying to go up one of the hills. She eventually reversed back and let me slip and slide past her to the top in my similarly unsuitable car. Scott later told me that chains were required up there this morning according to the highways folks.

The amount of snow was impressive and it even seemed to go down to just above 5,000ft.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Planet Enters Ecological Debt TODAY

"Growing demand eats into Earth's natural capital, say the authors
Rising consumption of natural resources means that humans began "eating the planet" on 9 October, a study suggests.

The date symbolised the day of the year when people's demands exceeded the Earth's ability to supply resources and absorb the demands placed upon it."


Which is more important? Iraq? North Korea? Or our over-consumption of the planet where we all live?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Kokanee Half Marathon - South Lake Tahoe

A load of us did the Kokanee Half Marathon. A nice trail run and pretty flat. A bit of a struggle for me having not done much running recently. I think my time was 1:52 which was not too bad but I'd like to be much quicker!

Here's Libby, Tony, Dennis, Brent, Sienna and Scott

Everyone in the picture holding a fish came in the top 3 in their age group. Dennis is worth an extra note, he was age group first by about 10 minutes I think, and was around 8th over all. During the awards the announcer pointed out that Dennis won the first ever Kokanee Half Marathon. Impressively fit. If anyone is feeling ageist, have a race against Dennis!

After the Half Marathon we went to get a few beers at Oktober fest down the road.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Passed my Nevada Driving Test

It dawned on me a bit late that Driving Licences here are important ID to have, never mind anything to do with driving. I had always been put off doing my test since I new I would have to surrended my old licence into the bargain. In the end I used a colour photocopied and laminator and surrendered that instead, which seemed to work!

The road driving test was so relaxed it was funny. The guy just chatted throughout. We drove around the block and back. Very nice indeed. I told him about UK tests and the emergency stop and he found it all quite funny.