Monday, December 10, 2012

Escaping the rain

While I enjoy my work bike commute here even if it rains, I have not taken my mountain bike on trails yet. I guess there is a deep resistance in me to go mountain biking when the weather is "bad" or trails are wet and muddy. I did venture out to the mountains though, last weekend skiing at Stevens Pass in a foot of fresh powder was great, made even better by a 2-hour drive to the slopes and $40 lift ticket. This week, Stevens Pass got four feet of fresh snow on friday and six (!) feet Saturday.
I start to get it, when it pours in Seattle, it dumps powder couple of hours worth of drive away. So when a group of colleagues organized a snowshoeing trip to Mt. Rainier, I signed up, thinking, well it is not going top be as much fun as off-piste skiing the steeps and deeps, but perhaps I would try to get an aerobic workout on snowshoes. The Paradise area at Mt. Rainier looked very different than three months ago when I was there last.

Paradise, photo by Bob
Snow was deep, deep enough to make my large borrowed snowshoes sink while breaking the first track of the day. After a couple of hundred meters, I was breathing hard and the trail was downhill.

But after a while, I got the rhythm of making small steps and trying to glide on the surface and I was surprised how fast I was moving. Given the time I had for this hike, I went fast for about an hour and half before I had to turn around.

The trail theoretically looped back to the lodge but I was afraid to venture into the untracked terrain, since besides a sandwich, water and couple of power bars, I had no special gear with me. Starting the climb back in early afternoon, the clouds broke and some rays of sunshine made the scenery even nicer, if that was even possible.

I have to say that this three hour walk covering a distance of probably four miles was amazing, besides the obvious beauty of the surrounding nature, and for the intensity of exercise. I am still a firm believer in skis as the right tool for moving in or on snow, but this new experience was great. A huge Korean barbecue which concluded the day made it just perfect.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Who's listening?

Now, I'm not much into urban legends and conspiracy theories. As a kid, I used to read lots of sci-fi books, but today, as a scientist, I am always surprised how primitive those ideas were to the real adventures in science.
There is one observation that has been nagging at me for a while, though. It probably has no statistical significance, but coincidentally it happened again this week, just couple of days after I spoke about it with my colleague at work. Here it is: has it ever happened to you that you had a conversation with somebody about something, and then your smart phone would display ads or news articles related to the topic you had talked about? And I mean just talked about, never went online to explore it or sent emails about it etc. I swear it happens to me. My explanation is simple: Apple, Google, the Russian mafia or whoever, sometimes turns your phone microphone on and eavesdrops on your conversations. Sounds crazy? I guess.... Here is what actually happened this week: yesterday, I had a lunch break conversation in the kitchen of our company about the abundance of long and steep flights of stairs around Seattle. A group at work goes running sometimes and we would ascent stairs on East Howe St. as a warm up on our way to the water tower in Volunteer Park (more stairs inside). Just a block away, I found even longer flight of stairs, at East Blaine St. So we just chatted how it came that steep hills of Seattle are so rich in these moss covered slippery stairs, which are great for running up until your calves burn with lactic acid.

This morning I made a coffee and ate breakfast while surfing Google news on my iPhone. And there it was: among local Seattle news (if it wasn't enough the darn thing knows where I am!) was a note on a new book release: Seattle Stairway Walks: An Up-and-Down Guide to City Neighborhoods by Jake & Cathy Jaramillo. These guys have also a nice website and a blog at What a great idea! So for my today's lunch break run, I went both up and down on long flights of stairs and also snapped a few pictures.

So if Google (Apple?) happens to be also reading this blog, please, keep eavesdropping via my iPhone and bring me news about more trails and fun places to run or bike. For encryption purposes, I could always switch to Czech, at least until my son who studies computer linguistics in Brno, gets a job with one you non-evil corporations.