Monday, July 31, 2006

Climbing the Uintas

Since brevity was not a feature of the last post, I will make an effort to be concise here. Today was yet another banner big adventure day. Bright and early at 10:30 this morning, four of us piled into, you guessed it, Mike's Astro van. Destination: the Uintas. Since my "seat" was lying prone on a board in the back and since the Astro van is not a window-rich environment, I have absolutely no idea how we got to our destination, but after just shy of two hours of blind jostling, there we were.

The particular spot was Ruth's Lake. There is a pretty easy three-quarter mile ascent to the climbing crag. There you will find at least a dozen bolted sport routes ranging from 5.7 to 5.11+. Actually, we did not explore the entire area, but there were clearly several other climbing areas in the immediate vicinity.

The highlight of the day for me was successfully leading a 5.8 route WITHOUT DYING! This was actually the first route I have ever lead, so it was pretty sweet. Coming down off that high, I achieved the lowlight of my day by failing to lead a 5.9 route. My punishment for that offense was a couple of gouges from my shin. It has been at least a month since my last climb, so the blame for this failure, as usual, falls squarely on my fat ass.

The weather in the Uintas can be a bit unpredictable; thunderstorms tend to form without much warning. Fortunately for us, the weather remained quite lovely the entire day save for about two minutes of sprinkles. Post-climbing, we ventured over to Ruth's Lake where I had my second naked swimming session in as many weeks. I had never taken a dip in any of Utah's mountain lakes (no the Great Salt Lake doesn't count) and I was pleasantly surprised that I did not develop hypothermia.

The trip home took us through Evanston, Wyoming. It had been a long day of climbing and drinking beer by the lake, so by the time we reached Evanston mass starvation had kicked in. It being quarter til ten on a Sunday evening, our dining options were limited, but the gods smiled on us when we found Lotty's Family Restaurant with it's neon "Open" sign blazing. If you are ever in Evanston, this is the place to go. They have two sections at Lotty's: one for smoking and one for second-hand smoking, your choice. Also, the adjoining bar added much ambiance. You know you've picked the right restaurant when you can rock-out to U2's "Where The Streets Have No Name" while eating your cheese omlette and hash browns. I didn't notice the plaque, but I think it's safe to assume Lotty's earned at least the four diamond rating from AAA.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sailing the Great Salt Lake

When you hear about fun stuff people have done in Utah, the Great Salt Lake just does not come up. Having lived in Utah for over five years, there are a couple of things I have learned about the lake. First, it stinks. Approximately once a fortnight the wind shifts such that the aroma of the lake is perceptible in the city. It's never really that bad, but it's enough to make the unaccustomed think "what is that smell?"

Today, however, was the day that all prejudices were put aside. My buddy Mike invited me to go sailing on his boat in the Great Salt Lake. What the hell, I've been on an adventure streak and there was no reason for me to break it. This was to be an evening sailing outing. Mike, who does not often mention his sailing adventures, decided that the wind might just be good enough.

We arrived at the Salt Lake Marina with plenty of daylight left in the sky. Suprisingly, there was no line at the boat ramp, so went right to work putting the boat in the water. Equipped with a swimsuit, two water bottles, sunscreen, and no fucking clue, I set foot in the Great Salt Lake for the first time. As it turns out, Mike knew what he was doing (of course), and so before I knew it we were sailing. Now, by "sailing" I mean that I was sitting on the bow rowing with a kayak paddle while Mike operated the rudder.

Before continuing with the story, some description of the Salt Lake Marina is in order. The marina is located on the South end of the Great Salt Lake just off of I-80. There is a protected bay with docks holding a hundred odd boats. All but two or three of these boats are sailboats. The most interesting characteristic of the marina is that it smells like raw sewage due to the rotting brine shrimp carcasses filling up the top six inches of water.

Mike commented that this was the worst that the marina had ever smelled. I tend to recall the lake being slightly more vile when I had the occasion to be near the lake a couple years ago for a Third Eye Blind concert at Saltaire, but that could have been the stench growing stenchier in my mind with passing years.

Eventually I applied enough strokes to get us out of the marina and onto the open water. The stink diminished markedly at this point, but the overall nastiness of the lake was still quite strong.

Oh yeah, I have forgotten to mention another very important property of the Great Salt Lake. I must have repressed this one. There are brine flies all over. The brine fly, or ephydra riparia, congregates with millions of its brethren atop the surface of the Great Salt Lake. From my observations, the flies tend to achieve their densest congregations on top of what appears to be feces floating the water. In this particular situation, upwards of ten thousand flies may be landed on the same quarter inch diameter piece of shit floating in the water. These flies have the positive property that they do not seem to bite. They also suffer from the negative property that they love to land on human bodies and creep around on your skin.

Also, this post would be wholly incomplete without a description of the brine shrimp. In the Great Salt Lake, there are approximately a jillion brine shrimp. They are small, white (when alive), and don't do much. When peering into the water, you do find yourself thinking "so this is what it would look like if the entire population of Utah blew a snot-rocket into the Great Salt Lake."

So back to the open water. Well, we did not get far; the wind was not blowing. A couple of times it gusted enough that I could perceive movement, but for the most part nada. The only logical thing for us to do at that point was to drink beer while swimming in the lake! Remember that this isn't fresh water and it isn't even the ocean; this is supersaturated brine and thus the buoyancy is outstanding! For reference, when standing straight up in the water, my head and neck were out of the water without me doing anything about it. Suspending the reality that I was in a cess pool, this was a pretty awesome experience.

A couple beers and a lot of paddling later, my adventure on the Great Salt Lake came to an end. All that was left to do was eat tasty mexican food at the Taqueria Lolita. Mmmmm, costillas de puerco...

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hello, World!

The exclamation point on the post title may be a bit of an exaggeration. Being a chronic introvert and a reluctant participant in society, opening the kimono to the world is not exactly a comfortable endeavor. Nonetheless, here we go.

Some explanation for the blog title is in order. First, the black trunk actually exists. Here is the black trunk ...

I took special care to tweak the image giving it its ominous and mysterious look (that's what sepia tones do, folks) because what is inside are my deepest darkest secrets. That is not exactly true. This is the box into which I throw items that both hold value such that I cannot bear to part with them and that I do not want anyone else to see. Photos of old girlfriends, cards from Mary the babysitter, and kind notes from friends are all mainstays in the black trunk. There may even be a yo-yo in there.

(By the way, I may alternately refer to it as the "black chest" or the "big black chest"; I was a bit reluctant to name the blog that because I think it's really rude to disappoint people searching the intarweb for porn.)

That said, have actually not gone through the contents of the chest in a long time. I normally use the trunk piggy-bank style.

It is probably worth me answering the next relevant question: why? I have considered writing a blog for a long time. Prior to right now, I had several rationalizations for why not to write a blog:

  1. Everyone was already writing a blog, including my brother, and I am one who takes pride in not following the herd.
  2. I had already had soooooo many un-blogged adventures that my blog would neccessarily be incomplete and therefore bad.
  3. I do not like writing.
  4. I do not like taking photographs.
I have systematically declared each of these to be bullshit. Thanks to my brother, I know I can exceed the quality of the herd. Number two is so obviously crap that it is not worth discussion. My new friend, Erin, has sparked a renewed interest in writing. And I still do not like taking photographs ... but I do derive considerable pleasure from tweaking them.

So why not? It's not like anybody will read this anyway, right?