Monday, September 28, 2009

A Cyclocross race has its own pattern and heartbeat. If you have a chance at winning(which I do not), the first lap is a high intensity chess match of positioning. If you get snaked or end up behind someone slow or crash prone, it is almost impossible to climb back up the field. The first lap is also almost completely adrenaline. You settle in actual breathing in the second lap. Given the pacing and tension in the first few laps as you angle for positions and attempt to settle into a sustainable pace, I end up with random songs or thoughts stuck in 5 second loops in my brain, not unlike a scratched lp or cd. Everything is immediate and quick and there is simply no room for thoughts or songs to develop beyond their main point or hook.

For the first 3 laps all I could think of was an endless loop of the refrain to Judas Priest's "Painkiller." I don't really love Priest, but they are catchy enough to give me a chuckle now and again. By the second half of the race I actually settled into complete thoughts, though I was still left with a need to rewatch "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" from 1986. It's simply amazing and frightening at the same time. Completely hilarious, and the Priest songs kind of rock. It is below across 2 youtube clips and totals 17 minutes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The weather was not optimal, but it was not as bad as it could have been. It could have easily snowed. It varied between 37-47 degrees, was cloudy, and intermittently rained. While never terribly comfortable, it never became too uncomfortable to not leave the truck. The park was full blown orange and red, with the spruce the only green to be found.

The scorecard (in order):
2 Bull Moose
A single grizzly eating berries
A snowshoe hare.
A sow and a cub atop a mountain ridge digging furiously. Dirt and rock flitted through the air. The image was striking and crisp as it framed itself on the ridge with overcast clouds in the background.
Sheep everywhere, all the time.
A half dozen Ptarmigan in what seemed like their full white winter colors. This seemed a bit early, but maybe we just don't want to accept that Denali will be covered in snow within weeks.
A single wolf walking slowly in a small yellow clump of grass. After watching for a few moments in binoculars the other 3 bedded down wolves came into focus. 4 wolves!
2 large Bull Moose and a nearby Cow, which was wearing a collar of some sort. The bulls were very close to the road and quietly stood still as the shutters clicked away.

After a 10 hour round trip to Kantishna we were ready for dinner, a warm campfire, and a good night's sleep. Even though the chilly weather obscured the mountain and we did not see any of the seemingly ubiquitous Caribou, it was a beautiful day in the park and how disappointed can you be when you had the chance to observe wolves?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This coming weekend is a big one. A few months ago we won Denali road permits – Becky on Sunday the 20th and me on the 19th. Normally the single gravel road in Denali is accessible by National Park tour buses, thus avoiding the congestion and bumper to bumper traffic found in Yellowstone, particularly in places where animals are visible or close to the road. In Denali the bus ensures that the roads never become Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It’s a good system.

For a 4 day weekend every mid September the road opens up to public traffic, providing you have sent in your $10 entry fee and been luckily chosen. Last year Becky and I ended up donating our $20. Her brother quit trying a few years ago after only donating endlessly to our national parks service. This year is the big field trip. He’ll be hauling up the fifth wheel and we’ll drive up separately on Friday night to collectively set up camp at the Riley Creek campground. It looks like we will hit 50 degrees as a high this weekend, but late at night it will hover around 32. Thankfully the canvas tent has a potbelly stove in it, which I understand often makes it too hot. That’s a chance I’ll happily take. My nylon tent is making the trip and if need be I’ll use it, but I hope that doesn’t happen. I’ve camped before where we’ve found the previous night’s soup frozen solid in the morning, so I know I could handle 32 degrees, though I’m quite certain that I would rather not do so. Hey, the mosquitoes should be dead come dusk though.

Camping in Denali and being able to take our time snaking through the single gravel vein slicing its way across the vast tundra is a privilege. The snow has not flown yet and we must snatch our moments from autumn before it does.