After waking and eating a Clif bar and a can of fruit cocktail I packed up and decided to head back the way I came. Risking being stranded behind a locked gate didn’t sound too appealing for such a short trip.
Last summer my exhaust-side pannier started melting pretty badly, so I made a makeshift heat shield on the fly to get me home. This is my replacement (also being tested!), and it seems to be working splendidly. Go me!
The road out was almost surreal in the early hours of the day. There were HUNDREDS of jack rabbits darting across the road. I felt like Moses parting the sea with is staff; all bunnies make way for the viola-tor!
In addition to testing my wacky viola and pack I decided this would be a good time to try out some cheap travel tips. Inmate JamieZ wrote a great travel-on-the-cheap thread over in Trip Planning, and I tried to follow some of his ideas ranging from cheap food and drink as well as camping for free (even though I didn’t plan that part...). Thanks Jamie! I stopped in a grocery store for about $4 worth of supplies that would hopefully last me the rest of this prep mission.
I made it to Guadalupe National Park by about 11:00, grabbed a tent site and prepared myself for the hike. I guess I’m what you’d call and “avid hiker” as I enjoy doing big hikes, mountains, canyons, all kinds of stuff. I’ve hiked a number of the Colorado 14ers, the Grand Canyon Hermit Trail, and have previously done twenty miles in a day over mountainous terrain. Despite all this I found myself huffing and puffing pretty severely as I ascended Guadalupe Peak. “No prob,” I kept telling myself, “just a little out of shape, keep breathing...” In the past I’ve been known for my low-gear power hiking up hill, but I wasn’t feeling it today, it seemed like I had to stop to suck wind at every switch back, where normally I could cruise on up. Stupid Texas, it’s hard to stay in shape here! The big cities aren’t conducive to the active lifestyle in this state. We sit in our cars, then sit at work, then sit in our cars again only to sit at home. I try to get to the gym, take walks, and anything else I can think of, but the lifestyle here isn’t geared that way. Oh well, summer is when I try to get it all back!
Getting close, I can feel it!
Whew! Made it. I sat down with the provided map from the visitor’s center and learn that it’s over a 3000 ft. elevation gain over only a few miles. No wonder I’m panting! Okay, a slight rest and then it’s time to get to work: The premier of...
PEAK PERFORMANCE!!! -ormance... -ormance...
Yup. I hauled it all the way up there. Mostly for the picture
but also to get a real-world feel for my new pack, plus I want to know if I can actually get anything done practicing out in nature. This has to be some sort of first...
I put on some more sunscreen (I’m a white, white dude) and started practicing at the highest point in Texas. Twenty minutes should have sufficed, but as I played I got in the groove and kept on rocking. I wasn’t watching the time, but I have a good feel for how time passes when I’m practicing so I’d estimate I was playing on the peak for over an hour and half. Nice! Most of my audition material is memorized so I didn’t bother bringing any sheet music up the mountain. Playing outside is a little strange, mostly because there is zero reverberation. Stringed instruments are designed to be indoor tools, and they aren’t very happy with extreme temperatures and sunlight (until now! The Black Death strikes...) so most of my experiences through my musical life have been indoors. It's not the usual view I'm accustomed to either!
I wandered about the top of the mountain as I played through all my standard excerpts listening for feedback from different geologic formations. I found some “pockets” of rock where my bat-radar was working and I didn’t feel like my sound was just evaporating into the air, and I also began to relax and not rely on the reverb as much as I normally would. Very interesting.
As I was running through some of my memorized solo Bach a hiking couple made the summit, and had quite surprised looks on their faces when they got within earshot of the viola. I forgot to get a picture of them with my camera, but they got a mini recital and lecture about the carbon fiber viola which was good practice for me. Part of this whole experiment is subjecting myself to sub-ideal performance environments to condition me to play in top form regardless of my mood and/or surroundings. The couple shared some snacks with me and were on their way as I packed up and started heading down myself.
After resting and snacking at camp for little while I still had some time to kill, so I took the ax over to the amphitheater, this time with my music stand and some music I need to learn for an upcoming music festival. My legs were tired (I usually practice standing up) so I sat on a bench learning my notes and taking self portraits. Despite my efforts it appears I got a little sun! I bet it was the reflection off the white rocks at the peak cooking me under my hat from below. Sneaky Sun.
So far so good. Tomorrow I pack up and head back to San Antonio and evaluate the test in preparation for when the “real” adventure begins.