Monday, September 24, 2012

COBS Day 8 - Swamp to Williams Peak Base Camp

These are the words, as written, of Chuck Lafean, age 16, on Course C-242 of Colorado Outward Bound School.

Up at 5:30. Chris has to go. Bil and I take Chris and Barb out to Gauging Station. Extremely long day of packing; 9 miles for patrol, 12 for Bill and me. Barb and Chris are waiting (when we get to camp). Chris just bruised her arm. Dinner and sleep. More rain.


Bill and I caught up with the patrol in the gulch just up from the drainage we had spent the night in. The hike back to the gauging station was at Christine's speed, trying to keep her comfortable. From the gauging station back, Bill and I went as fast as we could. Our total mileage for the day of 12 miles was the longest day, by far, we had had on the course. 12 miles is a long day anywhere, but over the terrain we were in and with backpacks recently filled at resupply, likely 60-70 pounds, it was pretty rugged. Having said that, I don't remember much about this day except feeling proud of myself for volunteering to help Chris.

Recently, there was an episode of the Office on when I walked through my living room, where one of the characters was just returning from Outward Bound. They seemed to be mocking his talking about the experience. I don't remember talking about OB when I got back; I am sure I did, but certainly not enough to be ridiculed. I think my climbing the side of the house was in response to the question, "What did you do on Outward Bound?" The experience changed me profoundly, but very personally. I din't know that I tried to explain it then; I'm not sure I could. I'm not even sure I understood the change fully then. If I bored anyone talking about the experience at any point I am sorry. I am sure any attempt to explain it sounded a bit like Charlie Brown adult speak...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

COBS Day 7 - Lily Pad Lake to Swamp

These are the words, as written, of Chuck Lafean, age 16, on Course C-242 of Colorado Outward Bound School.

Up at 5:30. "Real" food for breakfast (eggs, home made banana bread, orange juice, real butter, bananas). Start today's hike. Rain and then fog. Christine falls and hurts her arm. We go on. Trail always starts from nowhere and ends in a swamp. We are soaked, cold and packs are heavy (from resupply). Can't see peaks to know where we're going. Christine's arm is swollen now and we stop and set up tarp. Fear of hypothermia. Make tea, eat a lot and tell a lot of jokes. Cathy finds us. She has two trustees with her. It looks like Christine is going to have to go out, but not tonight. We decide to camp here tonight. Barb and another trustee show up. We'll wait until tomorrow to decide about Chris. Sleep.

This was a scary day. My memory, albeit romanticized, is that it had been raining for days and the "trail" was under a foot of water. Clearly we were all soaked through to the skin and Christine was in bad enough shape that we were very concerned. I recall that after we set up our tarps, we put her in her sleeping bag, but it took quite a bit to get her warm. The jokes were to take her mind off her situation a bit, and the food to stave off the hypothermia. Still, I am fairly certain that she had the beginning stages of hypothermia and was possibly in shock from the injury. She did come around a bit later in the day and we were able to keep her safe.

As I read ahead to see what to map, and these are all guesses at routes, though I do generally have beginning and an end, I am finding that my memories are in many cases very wrong in relation to my journal. This memory seems to be fairly accurate. I wish I could find the people in was on the course with, to read there journals and talk about their memories. I don't think that is possible though. Perhaps I will make an attempt though.

Friday, September 14, 2012

COBS Day 6 - Lily Pad Lake Resupply

These are the words, as written, of Chuck Lafean, age 16, on Course C-242 of Colorado Outward Bound School.

Group is supposed to be up for eight o'clock. We 4 (Bill, Tony, Steve and me) get up early and wash our hair for the first time on the course, feels great. Do some more serious rock climbing. I try to climb 3 (route not grade), fall and lose my confidence. Try 4 and don't make it. Go up on top and belay a little. The Barb (course director and one time top woman climber in the States) suggests I try 1. I do and eventually make it. (This is where the rubber meets the road! When I fell on climbing 3, I had not listened and was 10 or 15 feet off the route and pendulumed across the face  pretty good. I was done. Even 15 feet off the ground I was shaking and frozen with my heart pounding and sweating palms. So, to conquer route 1, and I was pushed hard to do this, huge. Confidence came rushing back.) Belay again. Go down to try 4 again. Make it this time. Barb now climbs 2 (hardest climb) and gets a knee jammed in the off width in the process of making it. Rates it a 5.8 or 5.9. Back to resupply. Have to use a gurney to carry food (yes, it;s that heavy). Split up food and learn fixed line techniques, both vertical and horizontal. Have torts for dinner again. Rain. Sleep!

My dad had allowed me to quit things that got uncomfortable all my life. I am not saying that as a criticism; I expect it was, in large part, to compensate for the discomfort in my life, dealing with my mother's illness. Regardless, it had been my MO. I had quit ski racing, Boy Scouts (twice), baseball, Y camp; just to name a few. In retrospect there were also many things I never tried due to a lack of confidence. I missed out on a lot of things I wish I hadn't. I probably would have quit Outward Bound if I wasn't 2,000 miles from home and in the wilderness.

Being pushed up that rock face was the beginning of a change in me. It wasn't a dramatic all at once change, but there was a beginning of an "I can" mentality that was completely new to me.

I don't believe I did anymore climbing during the course; there were one or two climbing finals; I did natural history. However, I had gained enough confidence that when I got home, and was asked by kids in the neighborhood about what I did on Outward Bound, that I climbed up the side of a house to the roof to show them.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

COBS Day 5 - Easy Pass to Lily Pad Lake Resupply

These are the words, as written, of Chuck Lafean, age 16, on Course C-242 of Colorado Outward Bound School.

Up at 5:30. Headed toward Lily Pad Lake for resupply on day 6; 7 miles so we figured we'd go 5 today and 2 tomorrow. I lead. Up one peak. On the way down the other side saw 1 big mule tail deer and a smaller one, both in velvet. Down about 1,500 feet from Easy Pass to a small lake with no name. Cathy is waiting for us. We decide to go on to Lily Pad. Bill was leading and got us lost. Map work and we were there. Had another great meal. I think we are getting the hang of it. Bill, Tony and I (oh yeah and Steve also) sleep under the same tarp. Sleep.

I remember this day completely differently. You will see by the map that I recall going completely the wrong way. I am pretty sure we didn't get into the right gulch until about 5pm, and hiked well into the dark. We had two flashlights, one at the lead and one at the sweep. I recall this was one of the those nights where you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. I don't know who had the watch, but I am pretty sure we climbed until 11pm when we arrived in the saddle of the pass. That is where we spent the night. It was very windy; so windy in fact that Christine's ground cloth blew away in the night.

Cathy had gone ahead to Lily Pad Lake; from my journal she must have been expecting us. I wonder if she was worried about us.

This is what I remember. I can't explain why I didn't put it in my journal. I thought maybe, this happened later in the trip, but there is no reference to it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Goose Eye From the Other Side

Another of Lucy the Hiking Wiener's trip reports. This one is from September 2009.

Saturday, September 5, 2009; Chuck, Ryan and I go hiking. Once again, Chuck leaves without a plan and not as early as he should...

We headed west out Route 26. This would give us greatest number of choices, I guess. First stop was at Chuck's new favorite store True North Adventurewear to pick up some trail food. Chuck is a big fan of Power Bar Gel Blasts, which are sold here. Chuck must have spoken with the guy that owns the place, because when he came out, he had decided to go the the Success Pond Road side of the Mahoosucs and do Goose Eye.

Chuck did something fun- and possibly illegal; as soon as we turned onto Success Pond Road he pulled over and let Ryan drive. My boy did great!

The trail head was quite a ways in, we entered New Hampshire with the Mahoosucs on our left. We passed trail heads for the Speck Pond trail and the trail to Mahoosuc Notch (the toughest mile of the entire Appalachian Trail). And, then, we were at the trailhead.

The beginning of the trail was a very pleasant walk in the woods. The weather was perfect! The grasses alongside the trail were pretty long and made kind of a tunnel for me. It was really neat. Chuck and Ryan laughed about the fact that they couldn't see me as I hiked along the trail. I was really enjoying this; my left front paw didn't bother me at all!

After a bit, the trail began to climb. Ryan was going pretty slow which resulted in Chuck going pretty fast; huffing and puffing along the way. Dad's legs are much shorter than Ryan's. Anyway, the trial climbed gradually like this for maybe a mile, and then got very steep. Here we hiked slow and steady, and kept going up. We were on rocks quite a bit, and I had to scramble a bunch, but I was doing fine. And, really having fun.

Suddenly, we entered a very strange and mysterious section of the trail. It leveled out a bit and everything was covered with thick green covering Chuck called moss. It was everywhere, except on the trail. Chuck pushed his finger into it and it disappeared- it was really thick. This place was almost spooky. The trees started getting very thick and closed in on the trail and the wind was howling through the tree tops. The temperature dropped down into the low sixties, according to what I heard Chuck say to Ryan. And everything was green! Very strange.

Just as quickly, the trail got steep again. And broke out of the trees. I needed a boost in several places because the rocks were just too steep. This quickly led to us being above the trees and open (and steep) rock. Boy was it windy! I managed to stay on the mountain, though the wind tried, and suddenly we were at the summit. The wind was really strong. It had taken us 2 hours and 35 minutes to climb the 2,200 feet and 3.2 miles to the summit

Chuck needed to take a shoe off and settle down behind a rock to block the wind. I laid down at his feet and instantly went to sleep. I guess the hike was more tiring than I thought. I think I heard Chuck tell Ryan that I was snoring, but I could have been dreaming.

We rested about 15 minutes and headed down.  The trip down was pretty quiet. Ryan was whistling and singing; and texting. It is probably not a very good idea to text and hike; teenagers! I was pretty pooped, so I didn't do my normal downhill dashes off the sides of the trail, I just stayed with Chuck and Ryan. It took just over two hours to get back to the car, bringing our total hike time to almost exactly 5 hours. As soon as we were there, I got into the back seat and went to sleep.

It was a super day! When we got home, we all went over to the Henry's, our neighbors. They were showing movies on the side of their house. We watched Muppets in Space and Back to the Future. Chuck had made a sleeping bag into a blanket. I was tired from the day, so I got into the sleeping bag and curled up around his feet and went to sleep. What a great day!

Monday, September 10, 2012

COBS Day 4 - Mormon Lake to Easy Pass

These are the words, as written, of Chuck Lafean, age 16, on Course C-242 of Colorado Outward Bound School.

Coordinator for the day. Up at 7:00 to wake everybody up. Had breakfast. Went bouldering and then learned a few knots and belaying techniques. On to East Pass above Timberline Lake. First day packing without Cathy (instructor). Made excellent time. Met Cathy at Easy Pass, set up camp and went to do a little rock climbing. I like to belay. Christine let me take a few pictures with her Yashica FX-2, I fell in love with it. Back to camp to dig latrine and have best meal so far on course. Went to bed. Sky was more filled with stars that Katahdin Iron Works. Tony and I saw lots of shooting stars and satellites. Got into a weird conversation. Sleep.

I never really got comfortable with rock climbing. I had done a bit with my Dad when I was younger, but even at 16 the fearlessness of childhood was deserting me.

Again, my memories don't match the map. Reading the words in my journal, I can see in my mind's eye things from this day. The contour lines on the map don't really match those images.

The terrain we were in was the most beautiful I had ever seen. Here in the East, with little exception, you hike on a trail, in the woods, with danger lurking above timberline when you find it. Here, we had been above timberline since leaving Little Sopris Lake. 

Being coordinator for the day, especially on the day when we are alone for the majority of the day, sounds very impressive. I am not sure that I was responsible for anything but waking the patrol and digging the latrine. I am have also done the dishes. Sounds impressive though!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Shakedown Hike - Caribou Mountain, Maine

Lucy the Hiking Wiener wrote this post a while ago. This is one of my favorite hikes as well!

Chuck and I went hiking today. Finally! I have waited all winter to get back out; he did some hiking this winter, but I couldn't go; my legs are too short and I just float on my belly with my legs flailing. It's pretty funny. Anyway...

He had some work around the house to do in the morning, so it was 11:30 before we got off. We were headed for the back of Caribou Mountain in the White Mountain National Forest. After an hour in the car, we were confronted by a tree across the road at a place call Pooh Corner Farm. Chuck went in to ask if we could park there while I waited in the car. When he came back he started getting ready, while I stretched my legs and checked out the scents. There were some pretty strange noises going on, so I went to investigate. It didn't take long for me to find it; it looked like a small horse (which I know about because the first place I lived with my brother had horses), but had really long ears. Hee haw! Chuck said his name was Eyeore. I let Eyeore know, in no uncertain terms, that he freaked me out a bit. I wish Chuck had taken a picture, but he didn't.

The first 3/10 of a mile was on the road to the trailhead. The woods remind me of fall; a carpet of brown and no leaves on the trees. The sound of rushing water was all around us. There weren't any interesting smells, so we just hiked.

The hike was pretty uneventful. Chuck did have to help me across two "streams" rushing with snow melt. Boy, he's out of shape; he huffed and puffed and sweat just poured off him. We ran into a couple coming down who probably thought Chuck was having a heart attack right there on the trail.

As we continued on, the going began to get tougher. Often we were in mud up to my belly, and I had a really hard time. We began to encounter snow on the trail, too. When we hit the border of the Caribou Speckled National Wilderness (that's me near the sign post in the picture), the snow started to cover the trail completely. I was having trouble going on, so Chuck turned around.

The hike out was great, I went ahead of Chuck, waiting only when I was about to go out go sight. It was fun. At one point, I found some great smells and took a short side trip, but as soon as Chuck whistled, I was back on the trail.

I made quite a mess of the car on the way home. Chuck gave me a bath (yuck, I hate baths) when we got there. I'm still pulling sticks out of my hair. Sometimes I wish I was a short-hair like Fenway and Chauncey across the street.

Even though we didn't get to the summit, it was a fun day. I'm sure we'll be back this summer to do it again.

Friday, September 7, 2012

COBS Day 3 - Little Sopris Lake to Mormon Lake

These are the words, as written, of Chuck Lafean, age 16, on Course C-242 of Colorado Outward Bound School.

Day 3 - 9/10/79

Up at 5:30 again. Went up above lake and worked on snow techniques; self arrest 4 ways and glissading. Lot of fun. Then we hiked up to the snow cornice and over it with a belay rope. Colleen turns out to have a phobia of falling. We ate lunch at the top of the pass where the cornice was, and then peaked the left mountain to do some map work. 3-1/2 hours on boulders the 2-1/2 hours on grassy knolls to Mormon Lake. Coordinator for the next day. Some people went skinny dipping. Sleep.

Approximate Day 3 Route
The peak that we climbed took us to around 12,400 feet. It seems impossible, but I don't recall feeling any ill effects from the altitude or the 60 pound pack I was carrying. I guess that is what a 16 year old body is capable of.

We were using external frame backpacks and rectangular sleeping bags. All we carried for shelter was one-man tarps; I don't recall what our ground cloths were made from; some kind of plastic, I guess. For clothing, we wore wool pants, wool socks with silk sock liners, cotton undershirts, wool sweaters and yellow rain slickers. We wore gaiters in the snow and rain. I wore a pair of leather backpacking boots, that though I still have today, I don't wear anymore. Wool and silk were the technical fabrics of the day, silk to move the moisture off the body into the wool, which continues to insulate when wet. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

COBS Day 2 - Gold Park Campground to Little Sopris Lake

These are the words, as written, of Chuck Lafean, age 16, on Course C-242 of Colorado Outward Bound School.

Up at five:thirty... jogging that distance of four miles is difficult but I make it. At aqueduct we pick up packs and do some map work. Hike (bushwack) to Little Sopris Lake, which is at about 11,400 ft. Slept under the stars. Learned alot about first aid and mountain rescue. Tony, Bill and I become fast friends and slept in the same a place. Area around Sopris Lake is beautiful. Sleep.


Until I started this, I had never really had an idea of where we were in Colorado or where we went from day to day. It is very interesting to me to be able to now see this on a map. Unfortunately, the photos I took are on the textured paper that prevents fingerprints, making them impossible to scan. I no longer have the negatives.

At Little Sopris Lake, I began to relax a little from the culture shock. That combined with the openness around Little Sopris Lake made a very strong impression on me. It was so beautiful; so peaceful. 



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Gold Park Campground - Day 1 - 9/8/1979

These are the words, as written, of Chuck Lafean, age 16, on Course C-242 of Colorado Outward Bound School.

Leave from Y at about 8:30. 3-1/2 hour bus ride to Gold Park Campground. 1-1/2 mile jog to trail head. Air is pretty thin whereas this trail head is at about 9,000 ft. At trail head we are broken down into patrols or 8 or 9. I am in a group with 8, later on this evening 9th person arrives, having missed the bus. After we are split up, my patrol (Bill, Tony, Dave, Steve, Emily, Christine, Colleen and I) learn how to cross a stream (this was not exactly a stream, and the water was moving very fast) and man this is the coldest water I have ever been in. Now we check equipment out, and take care of personal items. It starts to rain and we eat lunch under tarps we have just set up. After lunch a course meeting. During lunch Christine is cutting cheese and makes a very deep cut between her thumb and index finger. She has to go into Leadville for stitches. No antiperspirant is allowed. (How is that for stream of consciousness writing?) We eat tortillas for dinner and Will (9th student) arrives. Patrol meeting now. Then bed because we have to get up at 5:30 and run 4 miles to an aqueduct. Here we pick up our packs which weigh about 50 or 60 pounds. Sleep.

I find it very interesting how, 33 years later, the strongest memories I have are of things I just gloss over in this journal entry.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

To Serve, To Strive and Not to Yield

Beginning of September, 1979.

I was 16-1/2 years old. I am sure that from my father's perspective, I had been a challenging teen.

My parent's had divorced when I was 12 and my father remarried shortly thereafter to a woman who was closer to my age than his. I dealt with this badly. Up until he remarried, my dad and I were a team. My mother had struggled with alcohol and prescription drugs, and it was up to Dad and me to help her with that, and keep it all secret. When my step mom came into the picture, we weren't that team anymore. That didn't sit well with me.

The Colorado Outward Bound School had been featured in a documentary that Dad and I had watched. I don't know why, by it looked fantastic. I saw the challenge and the wilderness. My father likely saw the troubled teen therapeutic value. I had the money in the bank to go, and was enrolled. I think at the time, I felt like my dad had called my bluff; 23 days in the wilderness of Colorado, yikes! What had I done?

My dad, step mom and sister drove out to Colorado. I will never forget the feeling I had when I first saw the Rockies off in the distance. It was an amazing mixture of wonder, excitement and terror. That view was truly awe-inspiring.

At 5 am on the morning of September 8, 1979, my dad and I left where we were staying to drive the hour into downtown Denver and the YMCA. When we got there, we unloaded my stuff onto the sidewalk and Dad said goodbye, got back into the car and drove off. I was alone, far from home, in a big city. I was terrified! During the next two and a half hours, more and more people arrived, and at 8:30 we boarded a bus and started heading for base camp.

We followed Interstate 70 West to just the other side of Vail, where we took US Route 24 South to Homestake Rd and on to Gold Park Campground. On the way into the Campground the bus was "stormed" by the instructors and staff of the course and we were told in drill instructor style to get off the bus. Others were unloading the bus and throwing our luggage into a big pile. This was followed by being told, again drill instructor style, to get our running clothes on and pack our street clothes. When this was accomplished, they threw all of our bags into a waiting pickup truck and they all drove off, telling us to run after them.

Now, I should point out that this was at roughly 9,000 feet above sea level. I had spent the summer living at my mother's, at sea level, smoking a couple packs of cigarettes a day, and where I didn't train like the school suggested. Needless to say, as soon as I started running, my lungs began screaming at me, telling me what an idiot I was! The pickup trucks, with all the instructors and our stuff disappeared, leaving us to hope we were following correctly. Thankfully, after about a mile and a half, we found them. The time was about 12:30 pm and I was so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn't remember it.

This is how the one of the most formative experience of my life began. I had no way of knowing what was to follow during the next 23 days or the levels of my body and mind that were going to be effected by it. I wrote a journal during that trip and took a few photos. It is my intention to share those as well as the other  romanticized memories I have. I will also try to map the trip, if only for reference. I hope you enjoy reading it.