I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about injury over the last few months as I have been recovering from my various ailments.  As I was going through photos on my computer I found a few that provide a nice time line for some of the various injuries I’ve had over the last three years.  None have been extremely serious, but all have caused disruptions in the momentum of my training and climbing.  It is frustrating to start feeling good again and then be out of the game for a couple of weeks or months due to an injury that quite possibly could have been avoided.

February ’06- Frostbite due to unplanned bivy

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April ’06- Sprained neck due to avalanche

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January ’07-  Bursitis in my knee from slamming it directly into ice after falling off a bolted M-climb.

May ’07-  Frostbite pretty much all fingertips

January ’08-  Hyper-extended elbow from fall bouldering in the gym

May ’08- Sliced the pad off my right index finger three days into a three week climbing trip to Yosemite.  Left wrist starts to hurt for some unknown reason.

April ’09- After almost a year have surgery on said wrist.

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May ’09- Fall down walking downhill in the Gorge and slice open hand on a sharp rock

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I am back on the road to recovery and determined to climb, train and walk smarter.  Perhaps  if I can stay healthy for a while I can acheive some of the goals I have set for myself.  Last weekend I had an excellent trip to the North Cascades with a new climbing partner, it was a great and motivating way to start out the season!

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In the Doldrums

April 12, 2009

The Doldrums refer to certain equatorial parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.  The right conditions in these parts of the ocean cause periods of windless calm that can last for weeks.  The right conditions in these areas can also create fierce storms.

I had surgery on my wrist a little over a week ago.  Having been lost in the doldrums of injury and malaise for over a year, I can feel the winds starting to pick up.  The dreams of mountains and rivers are starting to come back.  I feel my mental strength returning and am more psyched than ever to get on it.  A storm is brewing.

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(Thanks for taking care of me Kate and Aaron, you are the best)

RIP Edward Abbey

March 19, 2009

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January 29, 1927-March 14, 1989

A Cabin of One’s Own

March 3, 2009

“And while they won’t help you build a little house, they will happily build one for you-as gargantuan a one as the bylaws let them.  All you need to do is sign ‘The Mortgage,’ the repaying of which will take you all your life.  The price?  $200,000 which, through the whimsical sleight-of-hand called interest, becomes $600,000 by the time you die…Remarkable that we gratefully slave away at mostly numbing, demeaning jobs for thirty years, paying off some thrown-together shack that any two of us could have built much better in six months, doing enjoyable, common sense work like measuring, cutting, and banging in some nails.”

-Ferenc Mate A Reasonable Life

cabin1Over the weekend Sarah and I accompanied our friends Kim and Mike to Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho.  Kim’s dad and his wife live on twenty acres of land outside of town.  Rob is a big, burly and totally awesome sawmill manager, Becca is a petite and very kind  woman with a penchant for calling everyone “honey”.  They were excellent hosts and, despite a gnarly respiratory ailment that left me feeling terrible, we had a fantastic time.  I can’t thank them enough for making us feel so welcome.

While we were there we stayed in a small cabin that Rob and Becca built on their property, set in the woods about a quarter mile behind their house.  They built the cabin from a kit and it immediately got me thinking about the potential for a future home.  They use their cabin more as a guest house/retreat sort of deal, but it definitely has the possibility for long term livability.

Their kit came from Conestoga Log Cabins with pretty much everything needed to put it together.  The company has a number of floor plans and sizes, but this is the one on they built.  Neither Rob nor Becca had home building experience before putting up the cabin.  They got help from experienced friends for two parts: squaring the foundation and putting the big support beams up.  Other than that they were on their own.  It’s inspiring to know that such a project is possible with a lot of sweat and time.  The kits are reasonably priced and cost anywhere from $11,000 to $80,000 depending on the size and design.

In my dreams I don’t have to work and I magically have the money to buy a cabin kit and a piece of land like this.  I know this isn’t realistic, but the thought of building my own house is intriguing, and not having a giant, soul-crushing slavery mortgage is even more intriguing.

While daydreaming about cabins I was reminded of an article in Outside magazine  in which the author writes about his ill-fated attempt to build his dream cabin in Patagonia.  It is worth reading.

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Getting Sick

February 26, 2009

Someone once told me that being sick makes one feel human.  Schools are germ factories and as I sit here falling into the funk of illness I wonder where I caught the bug?  Was it the special ed room?  The high school math class?  No, it was probably the fifth grade class I was in a few days last week.  Kids are gross and after almost five years of working in schools I feel like my immune system has built up some pretty strong defenses.  I wash my hands obsessively.  Inevitably, however, I get sick twice a year.  At least after this is over I will, with luck, have six more months before it happens again.

Arctic Blasted

December 30, 2008

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Situated between Oregon’s Coast Range and the Cascade Mountains, the Willamette Valley has predictable weather for most of the year: nine months of rain and generally three months of really nice weather. Typically there will be a week or so of cold temperatures sometime between December and February. It might flurry in Portland briefly, but rarely does snow accumulate in any significant amount. When an inch falls and sticks around, schools close and the city shuts down for at least two days. It’s a pretty reliable indicator that for every inch of snow two days of school are canceled. The local news stations freak out and go on 24 hour weather coverage. Having grown up in the Midwest, the whole thing is pretty ridiculous. Pulling your car out of the driveway during one of these storms is tantamount to playing Russian Roulette. Four wheel drive vehicles careen down the roads thinking they are invincible, only to realize that having four wheel drive doesn’t mean shit when trying to stop. Last year’s snowy week produced this gem of a video. With over a million views on Youtube it is a modern classic.

This year the storms hit at the most opportune time: Christmas! The cold weather started the week before schools released for Christmas break. Pretty awesome when the paycheck depends on schools being open. It barely snowed that week and the streets were fine, yet somehow it was deemed necessary to shut them all down. Go figure.

The real snow didn’t start until the following week anyway. This is my sixth winter in Portland and until this year I’ve never had to shovel snow. It dumped and dumped loads of snow further exacerbating the terrible driving conditions and shutting down stores, restaurants and the airport. My dad made it into town, from Chicago, for a nine day stay. Sarah was set to fly home to Boston on the Sunday before Christmas but her flight was canceled. Tuesday we tried to get her out again. Miraculously she was able to get on a flight to Boston with a connection in Chicago. I drove away from the airport feeling that it was too good to be true. As soon as I walked in the door the phone rang and Sarah told me the flight was canceled. I once again braved the treacherous roads to retrieve her from the airport. On the car ride home she told me she had met people who had been at the airport for three days. When they announced the flight cancellation there was much swearing, some puking and one fainting pregnant woman. It sounded intense. Back to the house for us! I’m not sure if you’ve ever been snowed in with two other people before, especially one pissed off girlfriend that was very much looking forward to going home for the holidays, but I don’t recommend it. That’s enough about that.

The most exciting part of cold weather events in the Portland area is the ice climbing opportunities that present themselves when the Columbia River Gorge freezes. This year proved to be a long freeze with a lot of ice coming in, but very unproductive for me. My bum wrist, general lack of fitness and family obligations prevented me from getting out all but one day early in the freeze. That day mostly involved driving and walking around looking at partially frozen things until the temperatures rose and it stated to rain in the afternoon. Eventually a lot of climbs came in and the ice got fat, but of course as soon as they did the temperatures warmed and the rains came. Such is the life of an Oregon ice climber.

A day and a half of rain wiped out what snow remained on the ground, erasing the evidence of the epic arctic blast of ’08. It is now as if it never happened and we are returned to our regularly scheduled program. Enjoy the New Year, another arctic blast lurks just around the corner.

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Holiday Jeer

November 29, 2008

I know that Thanksgiving has now come and gone, but I feel bad that I didn’t get to implement my hopeful new tradition of reading passages from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States to get everyone in the holiday mood. It is thus that I present you with this nugget of oft forgotten history:

Powhatan watched the English settle on his people’s land, but did not attack, maintaining a posture of coolness. When the English were going through their “starving time” in the winter of 1610, some of them ran off to join the Indians, where they would at least be fed. When the summer came, the governor of the colony sent a message to ask Powhatan to return the runaways, whereupon Powhatan, according to the English account, replied with “noe other than prowde and disdayneful Answers.” Some soldiers were sent out “to take Revendge.” They fell upon an Indian settlement, killed fifteen or sixteen Indians, burned the houses, cut down the corn growing around the village, took the queen of the tribe and her children into boats, then ended up throwing the children overboard “and shoteinge owtt their Braynes in the water.” The queen was later taken off and stabbed to death (Zinn 12).

In the interest of being somewhat historically accurate, the Thanksgiving we generally think of at Plymouth didn’t happen until 1621, but you get the idea. Happy Holidays!