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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Snowshoes to Brainard Lake‏

December 19th, 2009 · No Comments

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Ever since Tuesday I have been unaccountably happy. Maybe it’s because I’ve been getting out regularly or because I’ve getting a lot more long-chain omega-3 fatty acids from fish (and a lot less omega-6) or because of the 10,000 IU of vitamin D I take every day. They each are supposed to counteract depression.

My greater happiness has become a virtuous circle. Because I’m happier, I listen to my favorite music much more. When I’m home, iTunes is on almost all the time. When I’ve driving, I listen to my iPod connected to my SUV’s speakers.

Being happier, I meditate more, which makes me happier still. Months ago I bought Shinzen Young’s recording of his “Five Classic Meditations: Mantra, Vipassana, Karma Yoga, Loving Kindness, Kabbalah.” He teaches Vipassana meditation, the path that I have been following this year. But with my present good cheer I naturally gravitated this week to his teaching of Loving-Kindness or Metta meditation. As Shinzen describes it, a way to start is to envision myself smiling not only with my mouth and face but also with my whole body and smiling at everyone I see. That may bring a little happiness to them, and it certainly brings a lot of it to me.

Years ago I discovered that meditation and walking or hiking work well together. Today I discovered that meditation pairs just as well with snowshoeing.

Today I went back to the five-mile loop trail to Brainard Lake. The trail starts at 10,160 feet and climbs quite gradually to 10,340 feet at the lake. Until Tuesday evening I had assumed that the snow pack wasn’t deep enough yet. O, me of little faith!

On Tuesday evening the Colorado Nature Camera Club met for the first time at the office of the Colorado Mountain Club. I took the opportunity to ask a staff member where the CMC cabin is, because they are reputed to serve coffee to cold snowshoers and skiers on winter Saturdays, but I had never located it. She not only gave me detailed directions to the cabin but also said that just the day before she had skied there, and that the snow was great.

In fact, today I failed again to find the cabin. But the trail was firmly packed, although when I wandered off the trail, the loose snow was more than a foot deep.

The day was sunny with little wind — until I approached Brainard Lake. The snowshoe trail took me through dense forest, and the trees provided shelter from the storm. But the wind roared down over the lake, as it had every time I have snowshoed there. My most recent visit was in January. On that adventure the temperature was in the mid 30s. Today my thermometer read 22 degrees when I sat down on a rock to eat my lunch.

I wasn’t really cold, because I was bundled up almost to the max. From top to bottom, I kept my head and ears warm with a Headsokz hat and face mask that Karen turned me on to several years ago. Then, on my torso, in addition to my standard winter wear of my down jacket and fleece-lined shirt and T-shirt, I gave my new scarf its first real workout — and it passed with flying colors.

The scarf is made from the under-wool of domesticated musk oxen. It’s rightly reputed to be one of the warmest fibers on earth and doesn’t scratch like sheep wool, angora, and mohair. Called by the Eskimo word qiviut (pronounced ki-vee-ute), my particular scarf came from Nelson Island off the Bering Sea coast Alaska, where an Eskimo woman named Gladys Wheeler hand-knitted it. The wool came from musk oxen raised at the Palmer Musk Ox Farm that John and I visited in September:

Musk Oxen near Palmer, Alaska

Musk Oxen near Palmer, Alaska

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Just before I left Alaska, I bought my qiviut scarf at the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers’ Co-operative in Anchorage. They buy all the fiber from the Palmer farm. Today was the first real opportunity that I had to test out my scarf for hours in freezing weather, and I loved it.

Moving down my body, I wore my long underwear under my flannel-lined trousers with gaiters over my lower trouser legs. In my insulated boots I wore my warmest Smart Wool socks with Grabber brand foot warmers (I also used Grabber hand warmers in my gloves).

But the big tests today were of my two new packs. They were outstanding successes.

Ever since I stepped up from shirt pocket cameras to a larger and heavier SLR, how to carry it has given me fits. My first camera bag was a Lowepro that connects to the chest strap of my daypack or backpack. But that means every time I need to take off my daypack or backpack I have to unstrap the camera bag.

Then I got a small Tamrac Velocity sling pack and subsequently a large one. The large one is acceptable when I don’t need a daypack or backpack for my hiking gear, but I usually do.

Sometimes I carried my camera over my shoulder — until I tripped and fell with almost $500 damage to my camera and zoom lens. Sometimes I just stuffed the camera into my daypack, as I did on my High Sierra trek, but that’s tedious.

The solution is the Clik Elite Large SLR Chest Pack. It offers quick access to my camera without removing the pack and has a comfortable harness that fits easily under my daypack.

My other new pack not only replaces my former daypack but promises to be a light weight backpack for two or three day trips. My old daypack wasn’t a good fit for my long torso, so on the recommendation of John Horrell, the assistant leader of the High Sierra trek that I made in August, I returned it to REI and bought a Gregory Z35 backpack. I was delighted today to find that it is just as comfortable and practical as my new camera pack.

On the trail today my first stop was to photograph a large snowman that somebody made for us. While I was shooting it, a large dog came up the trail and passed me. But the snowman scared the dog so much that he backed up and almost knocked me down as he barked furiously.

Eventually the people the dog lives with came up the trail and calmed down the big dog. Their little dog was blasé about the snowman the whole time.

The big dog was a St. Bernard, of which Wikipedia says, “while generally not as aggressive as dogs bred for protection, a St. Bernard will bark at strangers.” The big snowman was certainly strange!

Two Humans, Two Dogs, One Snowman

Two Humans, Two Dogs, One Snowman

Eventually, I reached Brainard Lake.

Mount Audubon, Brainard Lake, and Me

Mount Audubon, Brainard Lake, and Me

Click on the picture above to enlarge

While I was admiring the view — between gusts of freezing wind — a young man wandered by. I prevailed on him to help me capture the moment. That made me happy.

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