Sunday, March 8, 2009

It's the Altitude

Boulder sits in the Colorado foothills at about 5,300 feet. One of the things I loved about living in Boulder was the proximity to the mountains and mountain towns at high altitude, usually starting at about 9,000 feet, that offered great outdoor activity. I adore getting up into the mountains and hiking and just enjoying the freedom and air. I love being at high altitudes, views are tremendous there. I have done some amazing hikes through Colorado and know that I've seen things you can never see from a car. But I also love short road trips. One that I was particularly fond of was driving to Nederland for breakfast at a quaint little breakfast bar and then taking a nice relaxing ride over the Peak to Peak highway (it is a two lane highway that runs from one 14k peak to another) and it's incredible majestic views that lead to Estes Park, where lunch may be in order. Then it could be either back to Boulder or over Trail Ridge Road (the highest paved road in America) and dinner at the Grand Lake Lodge, and then home, or a stay over at about 9,000 feet, where I have found I always sleep really well. The really great thing about Colorado is the endless assortment of outdoor recreation and unbelievable beauty to behold on a regular basis. It really is very easy to simply turn your head here and see something absolutely breathtaking. I really believe there is nothing more beautiful than the Colorado mountains. I think others have thought so as well and have staked a claim at their base.

And then there are those who have decided living at high altitude year round suits them better. And following is how they celebrate life in thin air (maybe Nederland should consider and oxygen bar):

NEDERLAND — The snow began to pick up Saturday afternoon in Nederland, making the
muddy ground at Chipeta Park even more slippery. Still, Gordon's Ghouls looked confident as they stood poised at the starting line.

"Five! Four! Three! Two! One!" The large crowd surrounding the obstacle course counted down with the race's announcer. When the orange flag dropped, the Ghouls lifted their sturdy wood coffin and took off toward the first hill of ice.

This was the first time any of the seven team members had participated in the coffin race at Frozen Dead Guy Days. Donning ghostly white face paint with hollow black eyes and tears of red rolling down their cheeks, they joined a field of theme competitors, which included the Irish,
NASA astronauts and Charles Darwin.

"I don't think there's really a good reason for anyone to run in this. It just looked like fun," said Gordon Kearns, the team's namesake.

There was an incentive — $300 was on the line for the first-place team. The race was set up in a one-on-one tournament style, with the winners moving on to the next round. Losers were burdened to go enjoy the food, beer and live music from the event's nearby main tent.

Frozen Dead Guy Days is Nederland's way of celebrating the end of short winter days. It parties in the spirit of Grandpa Bredo Morstoel, a cryogenically frozen corpse who remains chilled in a shed above town thanks to monthly deliveries of dry ice that keep his temperature at minus-60 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the coffin race, each team builds its own vessel that one of the members will lie in. The other six must carry it around the track, trudging through a mix of gravel, mud and ice that makes traction a challenge.

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