Thursday, August 24, 2017

Heaven in Lee Vining

The morning’s first light shined on my face, waking me from my cozy pine needle bed. It felt so good to finally be out of the heat of the desert and in amidst the pines. I sipped my shitty instant coffee sitting up against a tree in my poached camp sight on land claimed to be property of Los Angeles. What a bunch of assholes, traveling all the way up here to claim land that isn’t their’s to steal water that they don’t deserve. Some day the people of the East Side are going to band together, rise up, and kick those greedy jack weeds off of this sacred land, but I digress. The day’s objective was to ride up to Convict Lake and shuffle my tired legs up to Mt. Morrison. After bailing off my California 14ers objective, I opted to cruise home and spend a little time bouncing around some of the easier routes along the way. 

Once at Convict Lake, my cumulative fatigue made for a slow transition from bike to feet. Eventually, I was hiking up the creek, a place I’d only skied before. The change in modes of transportation always affords a different learned intimacy to a place. The steep route and scramble up to Morrison was just what I needed for the day: a little alpine fun, without too much commitment. After a few hours I was back at the bike, ate some food, and was moving on towards Lee Vining for the evening. 

Afternoon showers were moving in and a strong head wind slowed my bike to a crawl. My legs were dead and my tired mind cursed the extra struggle. Soon the rain began to fall, soaking my slow progress. Looking for some reprieve, I pulled into a rest stop where I met a guy riding his bike from LA to Portland. He wore a 80’s -esque jacket, a cotton hat, and some cutoff shorts.  We talked for a while about our trips as he smoked a cigaret, and I marveled at his unpretentious bike set up and lackadaisical effort toward his end goal. “How is this guy going to make it to Portland?” I thought, but he assured me that this was his shortest tour yet. Feeling antsy from wasting time I wished him a safe trip and hopped back on the bike. 

I rolled into Lee Vining, cool air and the scent of fresh rain blowing in my face. I reveled in the ability to be traveling by bicycle. As I neared the Mobile Mart I could hear jam band music wafting over the hills and a certain joyous energy was emanating from the nearby gas station. It was free music night at the Mobile Mart, and every dirtbag and tourist was from the area was hanging out, eating and drinking, and enjoying the night’s festivities. 

“I’m glad you made it!” I hear over my shoulder. I turned to see a scruffy man with a huge smile framed between greying sideburns. “We saw you struggling up the hill in the rain on the way over,” he said, “I’m Ed. Go get a beer and some food, you’ve earned it.” He patted me on the back and walked off. Everyone was giddily drinking and eating, and there were a group of dirt laden people dancing up near where the band was playing. The parking lot was filled with every manner of dirtbag mobile, from fancy sprinter vans to old beat up Toyotas with mismatched camper shells. People asked me about my trip, and each one had a more interesting story about their own state of travel and life. I sat leaning up against a tree drinking a tall can of Tecate and wondered to myself, “Did I die? There is no way this is real.” Right then, a lady walked up and offered me a chicken sandwich. “ Yep, I’m dead somewhere out in the Sierra, and this is Valhalla.” As I ate my sandwich, Ed came back over to talk to me about my trip. I told him what I was up to and he smiled a huge contagious smile. We talked about the East Side and about his own adventures. Eventually he bought me a couple beers and we sat at a picnic table as the sun set, discussing life values. “Get out, enjoy life, live a simple inexpensive life, and you won't have to work so much,” he told me. Ed was retired now, living in Bishop and had much wisdom to give. Eventually, as the band’s set was coming to a close, Ed wished me a good night and safe travels and wondered off to bestow his wisdom on someone else. I grabbed my bike, and bumbled up the hill to find a soft place to sleep. Before I dozed off to sleep that night I drunkenly wrote in my note book: “If there is a heaven, it is in the Sierra, specifically on the East side, and it culminates ever so often at the Lee Vining Mobile Mart.” 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

California 14er-fest

I am nervously writing, sitting here in a comfortable chair, coffee in hand. Last night I tossed and turned in a nice warm bed, obsessing over the affairs of the coming week. On Monday morning I will set out on a trip to link up all 15 of California's 14,000 ft peaks under the power of my own two legs. Starting out of Tuttle Creek I will hike and climb all of the 14ers in California unsupported, riding my bicycle between trail heads along the way. I have chosen this fashion of movement (unsupported and human powered) because it seems like the best and most pure style to do it in. Using the current Fastest Known Time as the trip's structure I am shooting to finish in Shasta 9 days after I begin.

Had I been writing this post even a month ago I would have been doing so with giddy excitement and even a bit of pride, but now only a couple days out from starting, I sit here with anxiety and nervousness stiring in my belly, reminding me that I am on the cusp of a vast unknown for me. That unknown, as I have to continually remind myself, is the ultimate reason for doing something like this, as it presents the greatest opportunity for personal grown and self discovery. Besides, no matter how much this trip scares me, it's too late now, I've already told too many people about it 😁.

I have had awesome support from Patagonia, Naked Running band, Vfuel, and Drymax socks. I also would have been totally lost with out the bag help from Javier Yanco at Yanco customs, without whom I'd probably be trying to carry everything in my hands. Lastly, the support of the Reno Mountain Runners, and anyone else who are letting me borrow your things, has been awesome!

All the Goods 

Follow along on my Instagram account: @schultefox.

Happy trails!

Erik Schulte

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Why I Hate the San Juan Mountains

I arrived back in Reno around 5:30pm on Monday afternoon. All day the vibrant sun rays stretching across the Great Basin beat against my windows, baking me in the small cab of my truck. I left Salt Lake City earlier that morning en route to home minimally using the air conditioner in an attempt to stretch the gas in the tank as far across the arid landscape as possible; less stops means I’ll get home sooner. Upon arrival I was greeted with regular rush hour “traffic” and smoke filled air from  near by fires. 

The week before I had been living in the most pristine sub-alpine valley, surrounded on all sides by steep limestone and quartzite walls. Every run began with stiff thousand-feet-per-mile trails up the sides of this canyon until you made it to around 12,000ft where you would be greeted with the most spectacular alpine terrain anyone could ask for. Monsoon season was upon the San Juan Mountains, so each day thunder showers would threaten off and on. While in the alpine you would do the dance of determining the actual threat of these storms, treading the line between ambition and safety. “Can I scoot up a little higher, or do these clouds actually mean business?”As dramatic as this sounds, these moody storms create a heightened sense of awareness as well as beautiful high alpine pastures of tuft grasses and wild flowers putting on the most vibrant of color demonstrations. After miles and miles in this enchanted land it would be time to drop back down past tree line through conifer and aspen groves with knee high ferns damply slapping at your legs as you run down hill. Once finished with your purposed route the rest of the tribe of mountain shufflers and ultra-folk would gather, enjoying the stories of each others days well spent under the power of their own legs and lungs. This is Hard Rock 100; a unique time when mountain and ultra runners ritualistically descend on the quaint mining towns of the San Juan Mountains in south-west Colorado to celebrate with the 140 people who were chosen by the Hard Rock lottery to run a big loop around this spectacular landscape. 

By the end of the week I had begun to take for granted the ease of access to a people and a place. “Lets do a 30-something run tomorrow” was a common statement you’d mention in passing. Eight hours of shared trail and alpine meadows became common place. And then, it was time to go home…Camp Hard Rock was over. I never really attended summer camp as an adolescent, but I figure this is probably what it is like when it ends. Damn.

Now, before we go on from here, let me make something clear: I love the Sierra. It is the greatest mountain range in the world (yes, I said that) and the high desert here in Reno has its own spectacular beauty and energy. Nonetheless, coming back to the heat and the stark contrast to the environment from the week before has left me jaded. Since I’ve been home I caught myself thinking, “this trail is too flat”, or “where is the afternoon thunderstorm”, or “why is it so freaking hot”. Thus, for putting these evil thoughts in my head, I now hate the San Juan Mountains. I hate how they have inspired some wild and tough individuals to put on a 100 mile foot race through them. I hate how this race brings together a unique clan of like minded people whom from the outside look to be crazy, but whom I feel more comfortable and at ease with than any others. I hate their rugged beauty as it unrelentingly surrounds you. This is surely a terrible place. See for yourself.

Mt Hayden above Ouray

Afternoon showers and some rhubarb pie. 

Beer Mile

Well, maybe I don’t completely hate them…

Monday, March 20, 2017

Vernal Equinox in Reno

The sky is filled with clouds, taking the days from bright, sunny, warm, to the cloudy days of Spring
Spring in the Carson Range, is a tumultuous time
The gently resting snowfields slowly succumbing to the sun's
        radiant heat
From below, new life frantically pushes up against the hard and crusted soil,
Undermining Winter's attempt to smother all things in white
Spring is the growing pains of the new generation, reenacting the rituals of the past
The death of winter recedes to the resurrection of the earth, much like last year, but completely new
       and different.