In a Fall’s Winter

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The feeling is ephemeral and can only be felt in a fall’s winter.  The trail under my feet was packed snow.  The sun glare refracting off the snow rendered my hat useless, but I smile when I glint into light, so most everyone waved at me today.

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Karen and I survived Halloween another year.  It was cold with the temps quickly dropping below freezing after the sun went down.  Karen was haunted by all sorts of horrific creatures throughout the night, but Scooby Doo was close by to keep her safe.

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The East Boulder Trail wasn’t all snowpack.  There were spots of pure mud.  I’d steer wide, but that wasn’t always possible.  On the return, I was running atop a thin ridge covered in a few inches of fresh powder when my inside foot planted on a slope of mud.  I caught most of myself with my hands in a push-up landing, but my face hit the powdery snow full on.  It was cold, but after six miles, I was warm.  As I returned to my feet, I looked up to see the Indian Peaks covered in a soft, white blanket.  That’s how I felt on my trail, cozy with the sun and snow.  It felt good.  Only in the fall’s winter.

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Running Errands

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Selfies are good for knowing when it’s  time to get a haircut.  I can barely remember what life was like before we had digital mirrors.  My girls wouldn’t know.  I suspect they’d watch a youtube video to figure things out, like I imagine they do when they need to address and mail a letter.  Ellie asked me to take a package to the post office for her today.  Like they card you at the post office.

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Had an awesome run today.  My thoughts focused on my current novel, which is how writers get shit done.  Ran eight miles and added a good thousand words to the story today.  You can find Ellie at the post office.

An October Run

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My running trail dies every year, a slow decay as the sun’s rays angle lower on the horizon.  The air is cooler, the sun softer.  Colors are more varied, yet demure.  Rich in maturity.

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On my return, as I run up the water tower hill, I see fresh snow on the Indian Peaks.  My legs respond with vigor.  My lungs are fuller.  There is no better time to run than in a Colorado October.

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After seeing everyone’s HOCO photos this weekend, it occurred to me I forgot to post one of Ellie from a couple of weekends past.

 

Argentine Trail

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The word Argentina is derived from the word silver, which in Latin is Argentum.  This is also why Ag references silver on the periodic table.  Argentina was initially called Terra Argentea for the land of silver.  But the Argentine Trail that rises out of Silver Plume was a trail of gold today, buried under the golden aspen trees that grace the forest along I-70.  If not for the history of silver mining in the area, I’d recommend renaming it Aurum Trail – gold is Au on the periodic table.

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Jen, one of my running mates, joined me on the trail today, along with her husband and kids.  We ran this, mostly to see the aspens, but also because it’s a fairly gentle grade, rising 900 feet over three miles.  Of course, it starts at close to 9200 feet.  And Jen shot off from the trailhead like a rocket, so I had to beg her to walk a few times on the way up.  My cardio is not up to Jen’s level.

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We made it to the top, which is called Pavilion Point, where a fireplace is all that remains of an old miner’s home.  Despite the elevation, this trail is very runnable.  The grade is so gentle because it used to support a narrow-gauge railroad that hauled the silver down into Silver Plume.

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I’d be remiss not to add a senior photo of Ellie Rose, that her good friend Chase took of her in the fall colors.  I would argue it’s Ellie Rose who makes the fall colors look good, but it’s just a great time to get outside.

Fall Weekends

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The grasses that hem in my trail run have turned brown.  The air has cooled.  Signs of nature’s seasonal shutdown abound.  It’s effect on me is far from melancholy.  I perk up in late September.

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Perhaps remnants of the school cycle still kindle my biorhythms.  Thinking of school takes me back to Round Rock, where I attended high school at a time when they only had one instead of six.  Maybe I’m thinking of it because I was recently there, having brunch with my sister Nan on Main Street.  If it looks like everyone in that photo is staring at their phone, they were engaged in a Pokémon GO event.

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I was in Round Rock to spend time with my Mom.  She’s in the fall of her life seasons.  Thinking of that does make me melancholy, but as you see, she can still put on a smile.  It’s the funniest thing, when she smiles for the camera, she begins laughing.  It’s like the camera tickles her.  We gave her a photo album of Brit’s wedding for her 86th birthday.

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Mount of the Holy Cross

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Rob and I met up at Kirby’s Cosmos BBQ, Friday in Minturn, a few miles past Vail.  We later dispersed-camped in the Holy Cross Wilderness.

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We woke early and hit the trail at 6:30 am, when there was enough sunlight to hike without headlamps.  We first drank coffee under the moon and stars, unfiltered from the light pollution of cities in the clear 35° air.

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Saturday’s objective was to summit Mount of the Holy Cross, a fourteener south of Vail.  The twelve mile, roundtrip trail started at the Half Moon Trailhead.  It consisted of two hills, the first was a thousand foot climb, the second was a three thousand foot ascent.  The aspen were just turning bright yellow.

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We passed by two tired women descending almost as slowly as we were climbing. This section of trail resembled a steep staircase.  One of them called out, “It’s easier in the rocks.”  Most everything above tree line was a boulder field.  I can’t explain why she said it, or what she meant by it.  When is hiking through the rocks ever easier?

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Near the end of the hike, we saw a couple of hikers stopped on the trail ahead of us, apparently talking.  As they saw us approach, they departed, going separate directions.  The one hiking toward us turned back around and shouted to the other, “You should also look into the Ten Commandments.”

As he neared us, I saw that much of his outfit, including hat, sunglasses, scarf and shirt, were all sporting a red, white and blue striped pattern.  And he might have been wearing make-up.  Very eye-catching.  He looked as if the clown in Stephen King’s It made babies with Uncle Sam.  There was something off with this guy.  He was either going to start preaching the Bible to us, or shred us with an AK-47, but he passed without incident.

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Hikers, in their trail reports, generally describe this as an exhausting hike.  It was.  It was six miles of vertical in each direction, with about 5500 feet of elevation gain, and took us close to nine hours.  There’s camping at the trailhead, but an even better camping spot along a creek after the first hill.  That would make reaching the peak before sunrise more doable.  Incredibly beautiful views and a memorable hike.

 

 

 

The Wedding Performers

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I must have a thousand wedding photos.  Expect to keep seeing them.  This blog post features the wedding performers.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Brit and Eric’s wedding showcased some great local talent.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Ellie Rose’s wedding toast.  That speech qualified her as one of the key performers.  She didn’t prepare any material.  Or she did, but she lost it.  It seemed to me she was making it up as she went.  She was quite comfortable in the spotlight, and she made Brittany laugh.

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Ben and Rachel sang the first song during the ceremonial aspen tree planting.  They played and sang Make You Feel My Love, from Adele’s 19 album.

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Brit used to sing in Ben Westlund’s band False Summit, back in college.  He has a sweet voice that would fit in with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

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Rachel is Brit’s partner in their band Girlfriend Cult.  Karen and I get out occasionally to Denver to listen to them play at local brew pubs and coffee houses.  They have a nice sound.  I’ve never heard Rachel sing as beautifully as she did at the wedding.

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Brit’s good friend and mentor Monica Augustine wrote and played an original song – Captivated – for Brit and Eric’s first dance.  How special is that?  Listen to it below.

My favorite song by Monica has always been Telluride.  You can listen to it here on Spotify.

The Wedding Hike

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Estes Park was an ideal wedding venue for out-of-state guests who enjoy the outdoors, because the town is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Eric’s father Doug, and my niece Jessy’s husband Bryan, went fly fishing.  No doubt, some of the most gorgeous fly fishing in the world is in RMNP.  I took four Texans on a massive nine mile hike to the summit of Flattop Mountain.

You can see how well-groomed the trail is here at the start.  The Bear Lake trailhead was packed with over 100 cars, but very few hikers took our trail up to Flattop Mountain.  With 3000 feet of elevation gain in the 4.4 mile distance, it’s one of the park’s more challenging adventures.

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I extended invites to the two dozen or so friends on our private wedding FB group, and I had four takers – all from Austin, Texas.  I was confident these four could do it.  My brother Steve, pictured above, was the oldest in his low 60s, but he’s a Mahoney so I knew he was up for it.

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Karen’s brother Steve, pictured here above tree line, still rocks Austin with his band the Rite Flyers.  He lives for epic stuff like this.

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An avid athlete, Laura doesn’t shy away from adventure.  She is so fit, I don’t think she noticed the altitude rise from 9400 feet at the trailhead to 12,200 at the summit.  She did comment on the cold winds up top, but then she had just left 105° in Austin.

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Laura’s seventeen-year-old son Zac is so fit, he appeared to climb this hill sitting down.  I’ve been on trails with him before and he’s an experienced hiker.

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With Longs Peak as a backdrop, Laura clearly won an August snowball fight with her son.

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Laura and her son were naturally the first to summit Flattop Mountain.  The two Steves and I maintained a more gentlemanly pace.  Other wedding guests still enjoyed the outdoors by wandering around Estes Park and some of the nearby trails.  The five of us will remember Brittany and Eric’s wedding for this epic hike.

 

Brittany Noel Got Married

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A life is measured by milestones.  Cairns marking babies’ births and daughters wed.  It’s not the years darlin’, it’s the miles.  Monday’s mile marker flashed the last twenty-seven years before me.  I revisited them during the wedding toast I gave to Eric and Brittany.  You can view them here.

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I thought I might experience melancholy and cry.  The emotions that came surprised me. Despite what some might tell you, I don’t think I cried.  We were facing a strong sun during the vows.  I know I wasn’t the only one with the sun in my eyes.  The surprise came from thoughts of my expanded family and the sharing of future life events via Eric and Brittany.  It just seems to me that raising a family, and the continuing familial growth via your children’s union is what life is all about.  It was a feeling that took me back to Brittany’s birth – seven weeks premature.  She was a little four pound peanut.

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Born December 6th, she was still in her incubator on December 26th, having spent Christmas with the other little preemies.  The doctors were close to transferring Brittany to Children’s Hospital in Denver, but she proved resilient.  Twenty-seven years later, I enjoyed the pleasure of walking her down the aisle.

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And I have an expanded family with the Wright clan whom I expect to spend many more happy events with like our weekend in Estes Park.  Eric’s parents, Doug and Julie, live in Boston.  Julie told me to begin training to run the Boston Marathon with her soon.  Eric’s brother Brad, his wife Priscilla, and their newborn Oliver, are from Dallas.  They all drove down to Austin last Christmas to join us for dinner.

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Ellie Rose might mark my next milestone.  She experienced a taste for weddings this past weekend.  I hope my suit still fits when that day comes.

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The photos have just begun to come in.  Expect to see many more, courtesy of Hannah Kate at happylandic.com.

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Cybersecurity is Complex

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Is that true?  Is security really any more complex than other IT disciplines?  More so than virtualization?  Or AI?  No, it’s not.  It is different.

I ask this question of myself, as much as whatever audience reads my blog, because I’ve encountered this for so long at different companies where security is a subset of a larger portfolio of products.  The argument is that security is too complex for sellers.  Subsequently, additional skills are needed to assist the seller to close the deal.  That part might be true, but sellers should have the confidence to begin a security discussion on their own.

I found this argument especially ironic when I returned to work for a telco.  In my mind, telcos invented security.  I was a firewall admin in 1994 when some AT&T gentlemen, Cheswick and Bellovin, published Firewalls and Internet Security: Repelling the Wily Hacker.  As a firewall admin, that was my bible.  I can speak first hand just how deep the security skills are at telcos.  Still, the sellers there, as much as anywhere else, tell me they find security complex.

There are two reasons sellers perceive this.  One is the specifics around deploying a security policy.  The other is culture.

A telco seller slinging circuits encounters many complexities in the turn-up of his or her set of products.  Very often they are coordinating the activation of an MPLS circuit – which they might call IP VPN.  A product name that drives some security people nuts and could be a topic for another blog.  Back to point, the seller might attach a managed firewall deal with the circuit, and have it provisioned to include an intrusion prevention system.

The complexities associated with tuning firewalls and intrusion prevention systems could be true for the security policies with other security tech, but FWs and IPS are examples I’m most familiar with.  Ideally, the implementation process will take three weeks.  Could just as easily take three months though, after the turn-up of the circuit, before the seller can commence billing on the deal.  Why is that?  Security must be more complex.

The issue is that customers don’t always understand their environment.  They don’t know all the valid applications communicating to and from their premises and the Internet.  Implementing a security policy that blocks all traffic not explicitly allowed is a discovery process.  For the seller managing the customer relationship, having to explain why the IPS pattern-matched their nightly data backup routine as a DoS attack, security is complex.

I’m theorizing more on the culture aspect, but I believe it’s equally responsible for the perception of security complexity.  There are two types of security experts.  Chris, who served in the military in Signals Intelligence, advanced to special forces, then transitioned to the commercial sector with a stint at the NSA before joining a major MSSP, represents a formidable talent.  The Colonel Flag type, he could tell you, but then he’d have to kill you.

The other type is Jen.  Her office bookshelf is stacked with technical journals and her Goodreads bookshelf is also ninety percent nonfiction.  She dresses in khakis and a white button-down.  The Cult-of-the-Dead Cow Type can recite the baud rate of every modem she ever used for her CompuServe subscription before the Internet was a thing.

Chris and Jen might not attend RSA, but they never miss BlackHat or DefCon.  They learned their tech the same as everyone else, on the job.  But they spend extra cycles reading SANs security newsletters, and listening to podcasts like Security Now and Colorado=Security.

Chris and Jen belong to a community.  You see this in some other industries, but it’s rare for other IT disciplines.  Even the programmers’ groups on Reddit are half made of these security experts.  Disaster Recovery experts don’t meet up on weekends to shoot guns at the range.

This community isn’t impossible to join.  Chris and Jen drink beer and are as socially inclusive as database architects.  But security is more than just a job to them.  A career might be the correct word, I feel there might be a better one.  There’s a reason Chris and Jen are experts.

Since I’m taking liberties with stereotypes, let me say that Sellers listen to podcasts more than any other humans.  Consider listening to one of the two I linked above.  You’ll find the content engaging.  And be comfortable starting a security conversation with your clients.  Let them know you have Chris and Jen on your team to take the discussion further.  It’s not hard.

 

Part III: Water, Rock, Man

I hiked with George once. We got lost on the Continental Divide Trail. We ended it eating breakfast at a cafe, offically closed for a private party, in Silver Plume.

My Name is SCHOOLS

“Weather is one of the things that goes on without you, and after a certain amount of living it is bracing to contemplate the many items not dependent upon you for their existence.” Thomas McGuane, Weather

Where I live, we do not observe the changing Autumn leaves with melancholy, or wait out the cold, dark Winter, or burst with life at the coming of Spring. We have days short and reasonably cold, and then days long and unreasonably hot. But I know there are seasons up high, and my year turns around following the melting snow, and beating the first flakes of September, and seizing the moments between that new life and the long, silent sleep that follows. You can confirm an entire life in that breach.

And here I am, inside my tent, waiting out the rain. Wind River surprised me with the quantity of water I’d have to…

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Aspen

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Given the choice, I’d choose to live in Telluride, but Aspen is very nice.  I spent the weekend there with my running tribe in a house with unbelieveable views of Mount Sopris, Capitol Peak, and the Maroon Bells.  Aspen has posh shops, gorgeous homes, and private jets piled up like discarded legos, but I was there to spend time with friends and run a 14 mile trail run.  It was all good.

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Jen 1, in the yellow jacket, and Jen 2 standing in front of me, and Rych in the white jacket, would finish 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the 50-59 year age group.  During the nearly four hours it took all of us to cross the finish line, we experienced a steep, glute-burning, 3,000 foot climb, an equally steep, thigh-crushing descent, bloody falls, and old-growth, aspen-lined trails.

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I mostly followed Rych and Dave up the hill, then ran with Jen and Jill, pictured here ahead of me, across the top of the ridge.

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Jen 1, shown above, has been my neighbor for the last twenty years.  She has a family blessed in athletic abilities.  Her son and daughter run on the Niwot HS cross country team, one of the top prep programs in the country.  Even her husband Kelly, a state champion wrestler in his prep days, continues to sport the athleticism of a man half his age.  Jen passed me in the final four miles while I was performing my cool-down routine.

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The real stars of our running tribe were our two marathoners, Bob pictured above crossing the finish line with his wife, Jen 2, and Keith pictured below with the bloody arm.

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Keith and Bob crossed the finish line near the 6 hour mark.  Mountain trail runs are notedly slower than street events run below 10,000 feet.  Mountain trail runs are tough.  Keith told stories of passing puking runners, and of a lady near the end who asked him if he would share some sunscreen.  Knowing his lotion was stashed deep in his pack, he declined, telling her they were only two miles from the finish.  She pleaded, “but I’m a ginger!”  Keith forged ahead, telling us later, he’s no fucking aid station.  Mountain trail runners are tough.

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While I was out of town, running tough miles, Karen threw Brittany Noel her bridal shower.

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Just as well I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have known what to wear.  Karen said Brittany was over the moon with joy.  It was a big weekend for all.

Thirty-Two Years

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Karen and I enjoyed the garden at the Greenbriar Inn Thursday night to celebrate thirty-two years.   Our conversation was less nostalgic, and instead focused on our daughter’s upcoming wedding.  Nothing against my childhood, it was fine, but life for me didn’t start until I married Karen.  I imagine Brittany Noel might feel the same about her life thirty-two years from now.  There’s nothing quite like growing a family.

It’s common to hear people say marriage takes work.  It has its ups and downs.  All those cliches.  I don’t know.  Maybe I’ve been blessed.  Life has hardships for sure, but marriage, fatherhood, life over the past three decades has been a dream for me.  I would change nothing and repeat everything – given the chance.

Okay, maybe I would pick a cooler month to get married.  But then Brittany Noel isn’t getting married deep in Texas like Karen and I did.  Her nuptials will be high in the mountains.  I wish her and Eric all the love Karen and I have experienced.

Box Sets & Writing Conventions

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If three books are a trilogy, what are two books?  You could call them a duology, but I think people tend to call anything other than three books simply a series.  There’s still so much I don’t know about writing.  I’m ignorant of many of the standard conventions.

But there are conventions.  There are formulas for writing and you ignore them at your peril.  On the series topic, all advice is to write them.  I didn’t think I would but I had one more cyberwar topic I couldn’t squeeze into the first novel, so I did write a second in order to discuss hybrid warfare.

The advice was that writing books in a series will promote additional sales, because people will go back and buy the earlier books.  I’ve seen that.  Four of my last five book sales were of my first book.  The second book has clearly rekindled interest in my first novel, Cyber War I.  Some people are buying both at once.  I think others are from the hundred promotional copies of Full Spectrum Cyberwar that I signed a couple of months ago at a tech conference in Austin.  Some of those books are converting into sales of the first novel.

I am going to write a third in the series.  In fact, I’m 10,000 words into it already.  Not understanding conventions better, I’m not confident it will be a true trilogy.  I suspose it will be.  But it will be twenty years into the future and a different genre – cyberpunk and a mystery rather than a tech thriller.

Another convention I broke was on my cover art.  Even self-publishers tend to purchase unique cover art.  They’ll spend from $200 to $400 with a cover designer.  I simply licensed art from stock photos.  From some of the writing blogs I read, I sense that’s frowned upon.  Still, I really like my covers because they so clearly say cyberwar.  They break convention though, not only in that they come from stock photos, but because they are on a white background.  Not unlike the first Jurassic Park novel.  But cyberwar and cybercrime books are expected to have dark backgrounds.  Maybe a hooded figure, or for some reason, a grid overlaying everything says “tech” to buyers.  I don’t know if my cover is hurting my sales or not.  I do know that writers care a great deal about their covers, and that covers do indeed sell books.

I’m committed to following the cover convention for book three.  I already licensed the photo I want, but it’s a bit racey and my family of girls have censored it from FaceBook.  It’s so perfect though in how it captures my protagonist.  I have time still to decide.  It’ll be the obligatory dark cover, in addition to being a bit sexy.  I have posters of my book covers hanging in my office.  Probably won’t be able to hang that one up at work.

Flattop Mountain

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Don’t you think this is an easy enough route?  On paper, it’s fairly straight-forward.  Park at Bear Lake Trailhead, as big and well-groomed a thrailhead as you will ever find.  This trailhead presents numerous options for more pedestrian hikes to various lakes.  I took the less-pedestrian trail that runs above treeline to merge into the Continental Divide Trail in a photopunk moonscape of alpine flowers.

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I drove through the ranger gate at 6:15am, and it was open for free.  Rangers have told me before that parking fills up by 7am. There are other trailheads along the drive, but this trailhead is a great place to start so many hikes.  The difficulty of the hike depends on which direction you go onto the Bear Lake Loop Trail.

You take the left trail—the epic hike ends, you see pretty new lakes every mile or so after cresting shallow hills. You take the right trail—you climb this hill, and I show you Colorado from the top. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth.

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The trail hits treeline about half way up, time and distance-wise.  Treeline is also about two-thirds up the 3000 feet of vertical.  The rocks are covered in alpine flowers here that should still be around in late August.

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This section of trail, just before cresting Flattop Mountain, is convered by snowpack still. I suspect some of this will remain in late August too, but it’s passable.  I’ll have a few pairs of trekking poles for those who want them.

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The top is surreal, like Mars with grass and flowers.

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The views were great the entire hike.  At the top here, you can see Longs Peak behind me.  There is an awesome view of the Keyhole and the Ledges on the northwest side of Longs Peak.

I know Nancy, Steve, my brother Steve, and really, most of you could make this hike.  It took me a little under four hours.  Expect five.  Like this post if you’re interested Sunday morning.