Friday, December 14, 2012

Back to Colorado!

The Barker family at Crested Butte
Yep, we finally did it: the Barkers have moved to Colorado. Wow.

Under the St. Johns Bridge, just steps from
 our home in Portland
After 9 years in Portland, the coolest little big city on the West Coast, we've pulled up stakes and moved to the mountains. It's crazy. NoPoGirl and I both had stable, fantastic jobs and a huge family of friends. We raced bicycles sometimes several times a week, worked as ski patrollers on Mount Hood and raised our children experiencing the best that Portland had to offer. 

But we've always dreamed of moving to the mountains. There were times we thought we wouldn't realize our dream until we retired because of my career. But, late this summer, I applied for a position as the Director of Marketing & Media Relations for Western State Colorado University. It was a dream job: an opportunity to combine the skills I had spent a lifetime developing to help tell the untold story of one of Colorado's greatest educational institutions. 

I flew to Colorado to interview for the job when Tygh, our son, was only 2 weeks old. Six weeks later, our life was packed in boxes and the Barkers were leaving Portland for Gunnison, Colorado. It's been tough, though. It was heartbreaking to leave our friends and the life that we had built. This move has been one of the scariest things we've ever done as a family. NoPoGirl doesn't have a job. Of course, as a teacher certified in Spanish, ESL, Language Arts, etc, etc, etc, she's incredibly qualified and should find work. But, for now, we've cut our household income in half to chase a dream.
As I write this, we're surrounded by boxes in our rented town home steps from campus. Gunnison, a town of just 6,000, is at 7,700 feet deep in the heart of the Rockies. We are surrounded by 14,000 foot mountains and live 30 minutes from Crested Butte Ski Area.

It is a dream come true; an opportunity to raise our children in the mountains. We don't know a soul in this town. But the possibilities of adventure, friendship and family are thrilling. 

The Coolest Job

I'm resurrecting this blog after another exciting career change. Those of you who, for some inexplicable reason, have stuck with this blog over the years, will remember my 12 year long career as a local TV news reporter documented in this blog. You'll also remember that, in 2009, I left my amazing job at KATU in Portland for a job as a Communications Officer at Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime. I got to work with the real life heroes: men and women who risk their lives every day to protect 440,000 citizens in the Portland suburbs. For more than three years, I worked closely with these spectacular people and represented them as I managed strategic communications and public affairs for the fire district. I got to ride in fire engines, man a hose line in a burning home, and became an EMT. I also got to roll up my sleeves and do all kinds of really in depth strategic communications work. I couldn't wait to go to work every day.

NoPoGirl and I, however, have also always dreamed of living in a mountain town. For more than a decade, we fantasized about living close to the skiing, rock climbing, and mountain biking that we love. But I've always had a job that requires residency in a big city.

Portland was the perfect compromise: An vibrant, growing city that allowed us to bike everywhere and develop deep friendships with great people who share our passion for the outdoors. We immersed ourselves in the local bicycle racing scene, joined the Mount Hood Ski Patrol, and found great jobs.
But we've always wondered: What if we found an opportunity in a place where we didn't spend 6 hours every weekend driving to and from the mountain to go skiing? What if we found a place where we didn't have long commutes to work? This fall, it happened. A university in Colorado came calling, and we answered.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Monday, November 21, 2011

Powdery Start to Ski Season 2011/12!

Mount Hood has received 4 feet of snow in the past few days and it is fantastically Coloradoesque blower powder. The Barker family woke up at 0500 and headed to the mountain for our annual pre-Thanksgiving ski patrol shift at Timberline and we were rewarded with a rare sunny day and knee deep powder.

And Hazel? Yeah, she did laps on the bunny hill for three hours. She remembered last season's skills as soon as she unloaded the lift. Not bad for a three year old!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Escape From the Green Blob

The forecast looked pretty soggy and, with NoPoGirl on injured reserve, we decided to skip cyclocross racing and drive to a clear spot on the radar this weekend.

We shared some valuable family time in the trailer and enjoyed a campfire under the stars along the banks of the Deschutes River.

Luckily it's snowing in the mountains, so we're hoping to be skiing by Thanksgiving. Bring it!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall in Portland on the Mountain Bike

Sometimes it's these final few weeks of Oregon's cyclocross season that are most precious. It's the calm before the storm. The leaves crunch beneath your feet, the days are foggy in the  morning but still dry. The riding is fantastic and many of us are in the best shape of the season.

I've been racing a lot of cyclocross this year and doing well. I've spent many nights racing through Forest Park by headlamp, alone and with friends, training in the dark after work.

 Today as a classic, soggy November storm loomed on the radar, some buddies from my team (Ironclad) and I set out on our mountain bikes to steal a few more moments in this dry weather before the skies open and rip the leaves from the trees. It will be a soggy, dark winter. But I'll treasure these gorgeous fall days racing through the woods with my friends. And man it's fun to go fast!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I've been clleaning out the filing cabinet. Here are a few gems:
10 years ago I married my best friend, and skiing, rock climbing, traveling and bicycling partner in Estes Park, Colorado. A decade later we still find an amazing adventure around every corner. I'm the luckiest guy in the world.
I grabbed the above newspaper from a soggy newspaper stand in New Orleans 3 days after the levees burst. For three weeks my photographer and I endured incredibly challenging conditions covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I went two weeks without showering and met some of the most inspiring and resilient people I've ever encountered.
And finally, here's a photo from just before graduation at CU a long, long, long time ago. Wow.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Weekend on bikes

Sunday found Eryn, Hazel and I riding 30 soggy, pine needle and leaf-covered miles of the Banks Vernonia trail. My legs were fried from a cyclocross race the day before at Heiser Farms and we wanted to rest and spend some time as a family.
The 21 mile long Banks, Vernonia State Trail follows old railroad tracke between (you guessed it) Banks and Vernonia. The old railroad grade provides an easy spin through quiet, fern covered forests with no other traffic but other cyclists.

We had a fantastic time together but my legs were in pretty bad shape after my lackluster performance at the Heiser Farm cyclocross race.

I placed 10th out of 30ish riders at Heiser which is consistent with my habit of placing top third in cross races. I rocketed out of the start in 2nd place and should have performed better. Unfortunately, the day before the race, I made the decision to run 5 miles in the morning and go for an hour ride the evening before the race.

My fault.

Great weekend though!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Cyclocross Season

I've actually been training for cyclocross this year (it helps being married to a super motivated, super fit bike racer wife) and I've had my best results ever. Funny: if you ride your bike a lot you do better at races. Go figure.

Muddy Nights in Forest Park

The sun is setting early, it's raining and cyclocross season is in full swing. The past two rainy years have been a little demoralizing, weather wise, for the Barker family. But as the days shorten and the leaves start to turn, I'm trying to embrace this Northwest Fall and get out in the rain and dark and enjoy it anyway. The past couple of weeks have found me riding solo and with friends on the cyclocross bike in Forest Park. When I get home, I'm soaked, muddy and freezing. But I think I'm a little happier. And soon it'll be snowing in the mountains.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Yup, I'm still here

I'm going to blame a combination of my Apple computer and a poor Blogger interface for my pathetic lack of posting.

First, the Apple: We download all of our photos under NoPoGirl's profile on our computer. I can't post from my profile on our Apple because the two profiles don't talk to each other. I'm pretty tech savvy, but it's a nightmare.

Second, the Blogger interface is pretty darn cumbersome compared to other platforms that I use these days.

But I love my blog. Do I let it die? Or do I just start posting as if I never quit?

Anyway, here's what I did this weekend: NoPoGirl and The Hizz were in Texas for a family event, so I took part in a Man's Weekend with a couple of my buddies from the bike racing team at Smith Rock. We rock climbed for two days and saw some amazing stuff. The most amazing thing that I learned is that I'm no longer a 5.10d rock climber.

We did, however, have a chance to appreciate the spectacular place we call home and climb some fantastic rock.

Hey, that was easy. Maybe I'll post again. If I have access to more photos.

Monday, November 15, 2010


NoPoGirl and I chased each other through the snow on a rare Saturday trail run below Mount Hood this past weekend. The snow crunched beneath our feet as we traced deer tracks down an old hunting trail. The air was crisp and smelled like pine trees and decomposing leaves from the deciduous trees that had just dropped their leaves. We were cold, we were tired, and we felt free.

I can't remember the last time we went running together without Hazel. We're pretty adventurous parents and we're proud to drag our little tike across the Northwest but, sometimes, a married couple needs some time to decompress.

The Barker household has been non-stop lately as we both juggle parenthood, new jobs, a full cyclocross race schedule, NoPoGirl's position on the ski patrol council, EMT classes two nights a week for me, and the list goes on.

Last month, I left town for 10 days on the east coast to attend the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. I book-ended the trip with visits with friends in DC and NYC. It was incredible, but while I was gone Hazel developed a stomach flu and NoPoGirl did NOT have an easy time. When it was almost over and I was almost home, NoPoGirl graciously booked us a weekend together in November in Dufur, Oregon.

Dufur? Where in the hell is that?

Exactly. Dufur is not necessarily in the middle of no-where, but it feels like it. The tiny community of 600ish sits in a small valley about 15 miles south of The Dalles and 25 miles east of Mount Hood. There are virtually no trees. The sun shines. It is fantastic.We first stumbled upon Dufur racing and riding bicycles. The village sits on Forest Road 44, which climbs 2,000 feet from Highway 35 and then plunges more than 20 miles down out of the trees and into the barren, rolling hills of central Oregon.So NoPoGirl conned her sister and brother in law (thank you Ailey and Ritchey!) into coming to Portland and watching Hazel (they took her camping in a yurt on the beach) and we struck off to the dry side of the Cascades.
Our lodging: The Balch Hotel. The Balch is a magnificent old restored hotel that was built in 1907 and, at the time, was one of two buildings in town that had electricity. It's now operated like a bed and breakfast, complete with delicious meals and the friendly atmosphere that encourages guests to get to know each other.

NoPoGirl and I spent Saturday trail running below Mount Hood and reading books, followed by an afternoon massage (I swear the therapist, who's the Sheriff's daughter, was trying to kill me. Awesome!) and an evening 3 course dinner complete with local wine. It was divine. Sunday we fueled up on another fantastic breakfast and struck out cycling on the hilly, empty farm roads around Dufur. As the miles (and cows and wheat fields) rolled by NoPoGirl and I settled into a groove and smiled. It was like the good-old days, just a LOT more expensive.

We indulged, we escaped reality temporarily, and tonight when we returned to a smiling toddler and a wrecked house, we were both thrilled to be home.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Wife is Amazing

Have you met my wife? She's an amazing person. She encouraged me to become a father. Best decision ever. When we're rock climbing, she forces me to do my best on the rock and give everything I have. She had an awesome job, but it wasn't hard enough, so she quit the job at the wealthy, upper class school and transferred to a school where she faces more of a challenge. She's an awesome role model for her daughter, who adores her.
And this fall? This fall NoPoGirl decided that she was going to take cyclocross racing seriously. The results thus far? Better than ever. Today she placed 3rd at the Battle at Barlow. She has a coach, a new bike, and she's giving it everything she has. What a bad-ass.

And she still has time to be an amazing, supportive wife. She makes me a better person, and I love her more than I can ever put into words.

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Let me be honest: I may be really outdoorsy and fairly athletic, but I'm hooked on my BlackBerry. I'm fairly type-A when it comes to work, emails, and maintaining friendships, and so I spend far too much time on-line.

Well, there comes a time when we must all unplug, and the far north end of Lake Chelan was the place to do it.

I've heard about the village of Stehekin since I met NoPoGirl. She spent a summer building trails in the North Cascades but never made it because it was so remote. Now, 7 years after moving here, we finally had a summer vacation in the United States and the desire to go somewhere new.
There are no roads to Stehekin. The only way to get to this town is by hiking 20+miles, flying by float-plane, or taking a boat ride that lasts several hours. There is no mobile phone service, no TV, and one satellite pay-phone. It is paradise.
Stehekin is built along the far north shore of Lake Chelan, 55 miles from the town of Chelan. The village is surrounded by towering peaks that climb thousands of feet from the water. The lake is more than 1,000 feet deep in places and, just across the lake from Stehekin, one mountain rises up more than 7,000 feet in less than 2 miles.
There isn't much of town in Stehekin. There is a resort at the boat dock with a small store and modest restaurant, a bakery a few miles up a road from town and a ranch that serves meals. NoPoGirl and I stayed at the Stehekin Landing Resort, overlooking the marina and the heavily glaciated North Cascades.
After three days and two nights, we had just barely begun to scratch the surface of this amazing place. There is a lifetime of trails to hike and mountains to climb in the North Cascades. We left inspired by the mountains and closer than ever as a family after unplugging from the rest of the world.