Tag Archives: hiking

Poudre Canyon Hike: Big South

I turned 32 a few weeks ago. Thirty-two is not a milestone, and there’s no way I could “run my age” like I did two years ago, since I’m still fighting injury, but still, it was my birthday. I wanted to celebrate in my favorite way: hanging out in the mountains. We’d loaned our camping gear to some relatives, so camping was out, but we decided to drive up Poudre Canyon and go for a nice day hike. We have a book called The Best Front Range Hikes, so we consulted the Fort Collins section and chose Big South.

We left home a little later than we’d planned, as always tends to happen, and arrived at the trailhead around 9 a.m. The trailhead is farther up the canyon (48.7 miles, according to my book) than some more popular hikes, but as I told Jordan, it was my birthday and I wanted to see some quakie trees. The book claimed that the hike was within an hour of Fort Collins, but it was more like 90 minutes — not helped by road construction in the canyon. No matter, though — the skies were blue and storms weren’t in sight, so our later start didn’t matter.

The Big South trail is just before the Big South campground, which looks like a lovely place to camp, right by the river. The trailhead is on one side of a bridge, and the campground on the other, so when you see the bridge, you’ll know you’re there. We went to the campground first to use the restroom, then started our hike.

IMG_7563
You guys, the Gotta Go skirt from Skirt Sports is the best for hiking. Seriously. Check it out, and if you want it, email me for my ambassador discount. 

The trail is lovely; it goes along and above the Poudre River, which was flowing fast and full when we were there. Since it’s right beside the river, a wide variety of plants grow alongside the trail — shrubs and bushes, wildflowers, and wild raspberries, which made a tasty but not very filling snack.

IMG_7558.JPG

Big South is a nice, easy hike, for the most part — gently rolling without any major climbs. Parts would be great for trail running, too, but some places were much too rocky, at least for a trail running novice like me, and would have to be hiked.

IMG_7560.JPG
Yeah… that’s the trail. I’m not running that. 

A number of backcountry campsites dotted the trail — I think we saw 10 — so if you’re a backpacker, this might make a fun trip — not too challenging, but with lovely river views.

IMG_0116 (1).JPG

We took our sweet time, enjoying the coolness of the woods, the roar of the river, and the beauty of the vegetation around us. Big South seemed like a place we would see lots of wildlife, but we saw only ground squirrels and birds. And butterflies, like this one who perched on my hand for a few minutes.

IMG_7561.JPG

We hiked out for about 3.5 miles before turning around. My book said that the trail continues for 7 miles before dead-ending at a washout, but that the best views were in the first three miles, so we turned around and meandered back down, stopping for lunch beside the river. On the way down, we finally saw our first people of the day. We ended with seeing only four people, so the lack of a crowd was definitely a plus!

IMG_0121.JPG

Big South made for a lovely little birthday hike. I don’t know that I necessarily agree that it’s one of the “Best Hikes of the Front Range,” but it was pretty, easy, and quiet, which all make it a winning hike. If you’re in Poudre Canyon and want to get away from the crowds at Greyrock and Hewlett Gulch, consider giving Big South a try!

If you were writing a “Best Hikes of Where You Live” book, what would you include?

Tell me your favorite way to spend your birthday!

Advertisements

Southwest Colorado Adventures, Days 2-3: Mesa Verde

For the first part of this story, read this post

After lunch with my cousin and her boys in Bayfield and a quick stop for ice in Durango, we headed toward Mesa Verde. As we drove, green hillsides and winding roads greeted us, and then we saw the Mesa projecting above us, and we knew we’d arrived.

We started at the Visitor Center, where we bought our tour tickets for the next day and lingered a while, enjoying yet another stunning vista. Then, we drove up another winding road to Morefield Campground, the only campground in Mesa Verde National Park, where we checked in, then slowly circled, searching for an available spot with a decent bit of shade.

IMG_7483

Once we found a shady campsite, we set up camp, built a fire, and made dinner (this recipe — so good!). After we ate, did dishes, and drowned our fire, we headed over to the two-mile (round trip) Knife Edge trail, which the ranger at the VC had told us we had to hike at sunset. He was not wrong. All along the trail, the entire southwestern corner of Colorado — and beyond — is visible. Distant mountain ranges mark the horizon, smaller hills and mesas dot the landscape below, and unique geology lines the trail and the hills beyond. As the sun sank, its brilliant, then softening, light cast a glow over the entire valley, turning the rocks yellow, then orange, then pink.

IMG_3910IMG_7452IMG_7451IMG_3913

Knife Edge was a short and easy hike, but that view made it one of our favorites of all time. Neither my words nor my iPhone pictures can really do it justice.

We could have stayed at Knife Edge until the sun disappeared entirely, but we also wanted to catch a ranger program at the campground’s amphitheater, so we headed back down the trail as the light faded. The program was focussed on storytelling. It was just okay — the ranger was new and had some kinks to work out in her presentation — but it was fun, and stargazing as we headed back to our campsite and to bed was a perfect way to end a wonderful day.

The next morning, I was woken early by birdsong outside our tent. (Okay, I was woken by a full bladder, but then I heard the birds). When I got back from the bathroom, Jordan and I lay in bed –er, sleeping bags –and chatted until about 6:00, when I rolled out of bed and went for a 20-minute walk-run around the campground. Just down the hill from our campsite, I came upon five deer — four bucks and a doe — nonchalantly munching their breakfast beside the road. They were pretty tame, as National Park deer tend to be, and this one posed nicely for a picture before I headed on my way:

FullSizeRender (7)
He posed nicely, but apparently I can’t hold a camera still, so he’s all blurry.

When I returned from my little jog, we ate a quick breakfast, then headed out for another day of adventure, starting with a tour of Cliff Palace, the enormous dwelling that you probably picture when you think “Mesa Verde.” The ranger leading our tour was excellent, teaching us facts and theories about the history of Cliff Palace and its inhabitants.

IMG_7463
Jordan doing the Cliff Palace thing

After Cliff Palace, we drove over to Balcony House, billed as the “adventurous tour.” Of course, I can’t resist anything that claims to be adventurous, so I was really excited for this tour. We again had a delightful ranger leading the tour — he was knowledgeable, interesting, and funny. Even if he hadn’t been leading the tour, Balcony House would’ve been fascinating, sparking my imagination as I tried to picture how people had worked and lived there one thousand years ago. And the “adventurous” parts — the 32-foot ladder and narrow tunnel — were pretty fun, too.

IMG_7470
The remnants of what gives Balcony House its name (and a bunch of other tourists)

After Balcony House, we headed over to the Chapin Museum, where we refilled our waters and ate our usual vacation lunch of PBJs, sitting in the shade overlooking Spruce Tree House. This  was as close as we’d get to Spruce Tree this trip, since it was closed due to a rockslide. Darn.

After lunch, we headed out on the Pictograph Trail (which we learned is misnamed, because it leads to petroglyphs, not pictographs). We were quite hot, since we started the 2.4-mile hike at 1:40 p.m., but we had plenty of water, and the scenery on the hike was well worth a little sweat. The trail is steep in some places, with narrow sandstone steps, which made the crowd thin out after half a mile or so, leaving the trail mostly to us.

IMG_3921
Squeezing through a narrow part of Pictograph Trail

The petroglyphs were interesting, and we were glad we’d picked up a trail guide at the trailhead, as it explained some interpretations of the etchings. The ‘glyphs weren’t the only interesting part of the trail, either: remnants of walls, interesting geology, and unique plants dot the trail, too.

After the hike, we took respite in the air-conditioned museum for a bit, watching the movie and reading all the displays because learning is fun. The only thing left to do on Chapin Mesa then was to drive the Mesa Loop and look at the ruins along it. We did, of course, and while the stops were interesting, they didn’t make for very interesting pictures. Use your imagination.

We returned to the campground sweaty, dirty, and tired — the best way to end a day of vacation. Although it may not really seem “camping-ish” to have showers at a campground, we were pretty grateful for them that day. We ate dinner, showered, and collapsed into our sleeping bags, ready to get a good night’s sleep and do it all again tomorrow.

Have you been to Mesa Verde? 

What’s your favorite National Park?

 

Hiking Poudre Canyon: Mount McConnell

Hike stats:
Distance: 4.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1327 feet
Time: 3 hours
Fee: $6 to park at the trailhead
Good for: Easy hiking, hiking with dogs

One of the reasons we moved last summer was to be closer to the mountains. We wanted to be able to day hike without spending more time driving than actually hiking. We’d hoped to do some hiking this spring, but our jobs kept our weekends busy right through the end of May. Finally, in early June, we had time to start exploring.

I checked out a book called The Best Front Range Hikes from the library, and we flipped through to find one that wasn’t too far away or too long a hike. We decided on Mount McConnell, up the Poudre Canyon.

I hadn’t been up the canyon since college, and I’d forgotten how lovely the drive is. The Poudre River was full and fast-moving with fresh run-off, and the sparkling water, colorful wildflowers, and green trees made for a nice little drive.
IMG_3841

We hadn’t gotten a very early start (that’s why we moved, remember?); we parked, used the trailhead restrooms, and started hiking a little before 9:00. I was a little worried we’d be hot, but some friendly clouds kept us shaded most of the way up. The trail climbs fairly steadily for the first couple of miles, and it seemed like after every little bend, we just had to stop to take in the next bit of stunning scenery down below.

IMG_3837
There’s a pretty cool rock wall and rock field about halfway up. 
IMG_3834
One of many overlooks. The trailhead is at the campground down there. 

The trail to the summit of Mount McConnell branches off the main trail, but it’s a short jaunt to the top, and the view is incredible.

IMG_3842
Jordan enjoying the summit
IMG_3838
Hi, Mummy Range.

We lingered at the summit for several minutes, enjoying the panorama and the sunshine that had finally decided to reappear. Eventually, we started our walk back down. The trail gives the option of making this a loop hike, and we did, because why see the same scenery when we can see something new? The trail down wasn’t quite as well maintained as the trail up, but it was still easy to follow.  We did take one wrong turn — at a water crossing, the trail we needed was hiding in the shade — but we realized our mistake fairly quickly and were soon back on the right track.

IMG_3843
This stream was a trickster.

Back at the trailhead but not really wanting to leave, we spent several minutes trying to skip rocks and dipping our fingers in the icy river, talking about how glad we were that we’d moved closer to the places we love.

IMG_3844

This was a lovely little hike. Although my new book said this was about a four-hour hike, we did it in almost exactly three hours, including our wrong turn, lots of picture stops, and lingering at the summit. Even starting late, we had plenty of time to hike and dawdle and still had the afternoon free. It’s an easy and uncrowded hike, and the views from the top make you feel like you really accomplished something. If you’re in the Fort Collins area, definitely give this one a try!

Passion, Empowerment, and Delusional Optimism: 2017 Skirt Sports Ambassador Retreat

I struggle with crowds. Getting to know new people is hard. I’m shy and awkward, and it takes me a while to warm up to people before I can act like my true self. So even though I’d gone to last year’s Skirt Sports Ambassador Retreat and had a blast, I was still a little nervous (but a lot excited) about this year’s retreat. Would anyone I’d gotten to know be there? Would I stand around awkwardly while everyone else chatted and caught up, or would I be able to edge out of my comfort zone to make some new connections and strengthen old ones?

35107945335_c619058b78_k
Here I am, doing what I do best: standing around awkwardly and hoping to find a friend… (photo cred Jenn Allen, “the creative Skirt.”

Of course, I didn’t need to worry. Skirt Sports has compiled a group of kind, uplifting, and delightful women, and last weekend’s retreat, like last year’s, left me rejuvenated and inspired.

Friday night: Mixing (drinks) and Mingling

The retreat started Friday night with a cocktail party at the Skirt Sports store in Boulder. We shopped and hobnobbed, reconnecting and meeting new and new-to-us ambassadors. Noodles and Company provided our dinner (nom nom nom), and we ate, drank, and socialized for a bit before Skirt Sports founder and all-around badass Nicole DeBoom and Skirt Community Outreach Manager (and also badass) Noelle Wilson spoke to us about the company, the program, and the Skirt community in general. As Noelle put it, “This program is not about product. It’s about community.” That’s how I’ve felt at every Skirt event since I learned about the company more than two years ago.

34263774764_1de50999ef_k
Noelle and Nicole. I want to be like them when I grow up. Photo cred Jenn Allen again. 

We also had a little fashion show previewing the fall products. I even volunteered to model. In front of people. Aren’t you proud of me?! I can’t show you photo proof, though, because the fall styles are still on the DL for a while, but trust me, I did it. Also trust me: there’s some fan-tas-tic stuff coming out this fall. I need to start saving money now. (She says as her husband sets up an appointment to get new windows…)

The night wrapped up with drinks, cake, and chatting. I shouldn’t have worried about my awkward self; I had a wonderful time catching up with my Skirt family. And LOOK AT THIS PICTURE:
35067686656_63c6bfbc70_k
Do you see who’s sitting across from me? That’s Mirna Valerio of Fat Girl Running. She’s pretty much a celebrity (seriously, she’s been on CNN and Buzzfeed and a bunch of other places, and she has a book coming out in October), and she’s a Skirt ambassador, and WE HUNG OUT. The next day, we took a selfie. LOOK AT IT.
IMG_3797

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m just so excited. Since we’re here now, though, why not talk about Saturday, which was my favorite day of the retreat?

Saturday: Hiking, Learning, Inspiration

Saturday started with a hike at Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder. I haven’t spent much time in Boulder (because I’m a CSU Ram and Boulder was home of the enemy, the CU Buffs), but now that I live less than an hour from it, I need to go more — and specifically, back to Eben G. Fine. We had four options for hikes, and I took the longest one. Our group was the Snot Rockets.

34960721892_6370f1f117_k
Wearing Skirts doesn’t mean we have to be boring and ladylike all the time. Photo cred Jenn, again. 

Our hike was about 1.25 miles up a hill, and while it was hot and steep at times, the views at the top were more than worth it.
IMG_3793IMG_3794

If you looked the other way, you could see all of Boulder, including the CU campus, but I didn’t take pictures of that, because who cares.

Nicole gave us a snot rocket clinic at the top.
IMG_3796

Maybe now I can blow them without getting snot on myself. Maybe.

Although I could have stayed at the top all day, we took a group shot and then headed back down for more fun.

18921945_10100708436040573_7249188788886923771_n
Fellow ambassador Melissa has mad selfie skills. 

After our hike, we had breakfast and listened to four wonderful speakers:

  • Maria Uspenski of The Tea Spot (who also gave us tea samples and those neat bottles a bunch of people are holding in the picture above). She spoke about how tea basically saved her life. Seriously.
  •  Mary Sutter, a Skirt ambassador who taught us how to social media…we’ll see if I improve. I promise I’m trying.
  • Mirna, the bomb.com, who talked about and read a chapter from her book, A Beautiful Work in Progress. It was just one chapter, but man, it’s good. I preordered it on Amazon. You should, too.
  • Dr. James Rouse of Skoop. I’ve used Skoop for quite a while, ever since they sent me some to review (read that here), but until recently, I thought they were just a company that made good protein powder. After I listened to Nicole DeBoom’s podcast with Dr. James, and especially after hearing him in person this weekend, I learned that it’s so much more. Dr. James is one inspirational fella, and for me, his talk was the most impactful part of the weekend. He talked about “delusional optimism,” and about how it is essential for life. He talked about love, and how love should drive all we do. He suggested that before we do anything — eat, speak, exercise, whatever — we should ask ourselves, “What would love do?” Although it’s a bit reminiscent of those once-trendy “WWJD” bracelets, I love this advice. I even changed my phone’s lock screen to an image (that I stole from Google) that says “What would love do?” so that every time I open my phone, I ask myself that question. I hope it will help make me a kinder, more loving, and more conscious person .
35124512145_7a7d298387_k
Enraptured Skirts listening to Dr. James. Photo cred Jenn, again. 

Dr. James’s talk was a emotional but perfect end to the day, and we all headed our separate ways to prep for The Big Day on Sunday.

Sunday: The Race

Last Monday, my new physical therapist told me to take 7-10 days off running. Since Sunday and Monday are not 7-10 days apart, my options were 1) stay at home and pout, 2) be an idiot and run anyway, or 3) spectate this year’s 13er. I am trying to be less of an idiot, so I made a sign and parked myself about 3/4 of the way through the giant hill on the 13er course.

18813435_10103730672554283_3456892608529755302_n
My Western slope pal Kate stopped to take a selfie with me and my sign. She still got second in her age group. 

Once everyone made it past me, I spectated at the finish line. Hanging out at the finish of a race that I had once hoped to win, but couldn’t even run, was harder emotionally than I expected, but the vast amounts of positive energy there didn’t let me spend too much time feeling sorry for myself. Just like last year, I was amazed by the positivity and support that all these women exude. At most races, the last finisher comes in to a mostly-taken-down expo and maybe a handful of straggling spectators. At this race, the last spectator was greeted with screams, cheers, cowbells, and high-fives, plus a hug from Nicole DeBoom.

And that, my friends, is why I’m proud and honored to represent this company. It doesn’t matter if you’re fast or slow, injured or healthy, fat or skinny or somewhere in between, these people support you and encourage you and push you to go far beyond what you think is possible. In a world full of division, anger, negativity, and polarization, we could all use a little more of that “delusional optimism.”

Maybe we could all use a little more Skirt.

Skirt Sports Ambassador Weekend Recap, Part 1: The Retreat

Last weekend was one of the best I’ve had in recent history. I’d been looking forward to the Skirt Sports ambassador retreat and 13er (13er, not half marathon, because “it’s not half of anything”) for weeks, even though I wasn’t sure if I could make it to all the events due to house-hunting. I made it, though, and I came away refreshed, inspired, and proud that I get to represent this incredible company.

Quick disclaimer before I get into my recap: As a Skirt Sports ambassador, I get some free and discounted product, but I’m not compensated for posting about them. I’m not one of those bloggers that have 85 ambassadorships and rep a ton of companies; I’m a Skirt ambassador because I love the product and I believe in this company and everything it stands for — namely, empowering women and embracing those of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. All opinions here are truly my own.

My weekend kicked off early. Jordan had a meeting in Loveland on Friday morning, so we went up Thursday afternoon to house hunt; we stayed with a friend in Fort Collins that night. Since Logan lives in Fort Collins and is my kind of crazy, she and I decided that a 4-a.m. wake-up call and a sunrise hike/run at Horsetooth Rock would be a great idea. We were correct.

IMG_2843

IMG_2848
So excited to be moving closer to all of this!

Friday afternoon, we did some more (unsuccessful) house shopping, and then I headed up to Boulder and the new Skirt Sports store (on Pearl Street; if you’re ever in the area, hit it up!) for an ambassador cocktail reception. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous at first, as I’m a socially awkward penguin (as J says) and I didn’t really know anyone there — at least not in real life.

Of course, I had no reason to worry, because Skirt Sisters are as cool in person as online, and soon I was at ease. The tasty food (provided by Mad Greens and Kim and Jake’s Cakes) and beverages (provided by Ska Brewing and Bhakti Chai) also didn’t hurt.

IMG_2850
#yum

After some time to shop, eat, and chat, Skirt Sports owner Nicole Deboom spoke. I first met Nicole (and fell in love with Skirt) before last year’s 13er; you can read about that here. The more I read Nicole’s articles, listen to her podcast, and spend time around her, the more I admire her. She is committed to inspiring and empowering women, and her passion shows through everything Skirt Sports does, from the #REALwomenmove campaign to using ordinary women as models to the Running Start  nonprofit.

Nicole firing us up, making us  laugh, and reminding us why we were there. Photo credit: My fellow ambassador Jessi Adler.

Nicole talked about finding your word: the one word that names your purpose and drives everything you do. Her word is “relationships.” I’m not sure yet what my word is, but I’ve been giving it a lot of thought since Friday night.

After Nicole spoke, we had a little  fashion show to preview the new stuff for this fall and next spring. I can’t post pictures yet, but I can tell you there’s a lot of cool stuff coming up. I’d better start saving money now. The night wrapped up with cake, which is, of course, the best way to end an event.

Saturday morning, we met at Skirt Sports community outreach manager Noelle Wilson’s house in Lyons for breakfast (provided by sponsors Justin’s, Two Moms in the Raw, Bhakti Chai, and Noosa… yum) and a beautiful hike… complete with a few unplanned hill repeats when we couldn’t find the trailhead.

“Which way do we go?” Photo courtesy of Amy Machael.

IMG_2855IMG_2858

Also Amy’s picture.

After the hike, we split into two groups for breakout sessions. My group went with Nicole and brainstormed some outreach possibilities for the future.  These women are super smart; they had some great ideas that I’m excited to see come to fruition!

IMG_2859
Not a bad brainstorming spot, right?

After the breakouts, we came back together as a group, and Kate and Amy led a  session on selfie-taking. Maybe now I can decent pictures while I run… but I probably won’t. Knowing how to do something and actually doing it aren’t always the same thing.

Pic borrowed from Skirt Sports’ Facebook page. I love this picture: Look at all the different body types rockin’ the Skirt!

I had to leave before the wrap-up because we were doing more house-hunting, but the morning was absolutely wonderful. I’m so thankful that I had this opportunity to spend a weekend with such smart, strong, and wicked-cool women!

The weekend culminated in Sunday’s race, which will have its own post later this week. Stay tuned!

What’s the most inspiring, empowering, or exciting thing you’ve done lately?

What’s your “word”?

Turning 30 Like a Boss

Saturday was my 30th birthday. I’ve never been a big birthday celebrator, but I wanted to do something special this year. I’m not exactly the partying/go-to-Vegas type, so a weekend of outdoor adventures was much more my style.

My birthday weekend kicked off Friday night with the Chase the Moon 12-hour relay. A group of blogger friends and I did the race last year (recap here), and three of us, along with two new team members, returned this year to try to defend our title as champions of the five-person relay.Though winning would be a nice bonus, my main goal was to run 30 miles over the course of the race, because running enough miles to equal your age is a totally normal way to celebrate.

I’ll post a full race recap once the official race pictures are available, but here’s the Cliff Notes version: we thought we won but took second, due to some miscommunication and a teammate getting lost;

Cereal Killers, take 2: Aimee, Mary, me, Brooke, Malia. I'm pretty sure Mary and Malia don't blog, but they have really cool Instagram pictures, so that's where clicking on their names will take you.
Cereal Killers, take 2: Aimee, Mary, me, Brooke, Malia. I’m pretty sure Mary and Malia don’t blog, but they have really cool Instagrams, so that’s where clicking on their names will take you.

I ran my 30 miles;FullSizeRender

and the course was beautiful, especially at sunrise!
IMG_1928

Even though we didn’t win like we thought we did, running 30 miles and hanging out all night with four awesome women was a pretty darn fantastic way to kick off my 30s… especially because Mary bought me cupcakes. I had cupcakes and pancakes for my birthday breakfast. Hashtag noregrets.

To continue the weekend of me-celebrating, Jordan and I originally planned to head straight from the race to the mountains for a night of camping, Earlier in the week, though, I found out that my bridesmaid dress for my brother’s wedding was in, so I had to schedule a fitting for Saturday afternoon. Instead of heading right to the high country, we went to my brother’s house to borrow his shower and then ran a few errands.

By mid-afternoon, still running on zero hours of sleep, I was getting a little (ok, a lot) loopy, but a 30-minute catnap as we drove to the mountains left me feeling remarkably more alert. We camped just outside Golden Gate Canyon State Park, which was beautiful. Campfire + camp stove cooking = perfect birthday dinner. IMG_1934

Naturally, the refreshing effect of my car nap wore off fairly quickly, so we crashed pretty early. A quickly-deflating air mattress had never felt so good.

We hadn’t planned much for Sunday, as I wasn’t sure how tired and sore I’d be after running 30 miles. To my pleasant surprise, I wasn’t very sore at all, probably because I’d taken my sweet time and run slow and easy each lap and had breaks in between. We were both pretty sleepy, though (Jordan had crashed in the back of the car Friday night while I ran), and we lingered over our coffee at camp, so we didn’t get a very early start on our hike, but we were okay with it. IMG_1935

Once we’d packed up camp, we drove back into the park and went for a five-mile hike (Horseshoe Trail to Mule Deer Trail to Black Bear Trail and back to Horseshoe. I definitely recommend this loop if you go to Golden Gate Canyon). Enjoy this photo dump from the hike.

IMG_1939
Greenfield Meadow. I won that top in a giveaway on Brooke’s blog. Thanks, Brooke!
Frazier Meadow.
Frazier Meadow.
Hiking up Black Bear Trail required a bit of bouldering.
Black Bear Trail.
Amazing views from Black bear Trail!
Amazing views from Black Bear Trail!

IMG_1947 IMG_1949

Not long after we took those pictures, some sinister clouds started moving in, so we picked up the pace a bit and didn’t stop for more pictures on the way back to the car. Our timing was perfect: we had just enough time to get off the trail and eat our PBJs before the rain started. Win.

The best birthday weekend ever ended with a drive back to Denver, where we returned that deflating air mattress and stopped at my best friend’s house to meet her new baby, then headed back home.

If the first weekend of it is any indication, 30 is going to be a pretty darn good year.

What’s your favorite way to celebrate a birthday? 

Exploring Our Own State: Camping in Leadville

If you know me at all, you know that I’m a mountain lover at heart. Sure, I live on the plains now, but if I don’t get my mountain fix, I get antsy. Ever since we moved here, my mountain fixes haven’t come often enough. After all, we’re busy (like everyone else), and going to the mountains meant spending money (that we didn’t have) on hotel rooms. Last summer, though, I had a little breakdown, during which I told J that I desperately needed more mountains in my life.photo 2 (23)Who doesn’t need more of this?

The solution was a simple one: start camping. As a kid, I camped with my family, but I hadn’t camped since college. Jordan hadn’t camped much at all, so we knew this new experiment would be an adventure. Our Christmas lists consisted exclusively of camping gear, and all winter and spring, we kept a sharp lookout for good deals. Our biggest purchase was a tent and sleeping bags. A few months ago, Cabela’s ran an amazing deal: a tent and two sleeping bags for $200. We couldn’t pass that up… even though the tent was a 6-person and WAY bigger than we needed.

Our giant tent. My six-foot-tall husband can stand upright in it.
Our giant tent. My six-foot-tall husband can stand upright in it.

Finally, last weekend, we were ready to test out what we’d acquired. It was also our seventh wedding anniversary — perfect timing for a weekend escape. We chose Leadville as our destination, mainly because neither of us had ever been up there. This was a good choice.

We left late Friday morning, stopped and had a quick picnic lunch at the visitor center in Georgetown, and enjoyed a gorgeous drive up to Leadville, arriving mid-afternoon. We checked into Sugar Loafin’ campground (we figured a commercial campground would be a gentle intro to camping), set up our tent, and then spent a few hours wandering around Leadville. Unbeknownst to us beforehand, Leadville was hosting a BBQ and beer festival/competition, so we snagged what Jordan calls a “walkin’ around beer,” then explored the stores. We stopped at the Leadville Race Series store and asked them to recommend a good hiking/running trail (more on that in a second). Then, we headed back to the campground, built a fire and cooked some dinner on the camp stove, and spent the evening just relaxing.

Yeah. Campfire.
Yeah. Campfire.

photo 1 (25)

The next morning, we woke up early, ate some eggs and tortillas, and drove a couple of miles up the road to Turquoise Lake. Since I wanted to trail run  for a bit (because #operationbecomeatrailrunner) and J wanted a shorter hike, the Leadville Race Series store folks suggested that he drop me at one end of Turquoise Lake, where I’d run a six-mile trail, then meet him at the trailhead to Timberline Lake. So that’s what we did, and I’m so grateful to them for that suggestion. This was one of my top-three runs of all time. See if you can guess why. photo 2 (25) photo 3 (19) photo 4 (11) photo 3 (20)

Yeah. Beautiful. Plus it was completely runnable, even for my trail-newbie legs. It’s also part of the Leadville 100 course (probably the flattest, least technical part), so it was kinda cool to see part of the storied race course.

The trail ended at a campground at the other side of the lake. I misunderstood the guy at the store (and the map…) and thought that the Timberline Lake trailhead was at that campground, so I ran to the far end of it. No trailhead. I thought I was just dumb and missed it, so I turned around and ran back. Nope. Finally, on my way back to the far end, I saw a guy running who looked like he knew what was up. I asked where the trailhead was, and he told me I actually had to run up the road a little way. I felt silly, but at least now I knew where I was going.

I easily found the trailhead (after adding 1.5 miles of back-and-forth at the campground…) and started running up. Not far up the trail, I saw some cute guy.
photo 1 (26)

Wheet whew. (That’s a catcall whistle). I ran just enough farther to make my watch say 8.5 miles (because heaven forbid I stop at 8.4), then came back to hike with J.

photo 5 (8)

We intended to hike up to Timberline Lake (obviously), but about 1.5 miles in, the trail was covered by the river. We didn’t really want to wade and get our feet wet and cold, since we’d barely started hiking, so we headed back down to where the Timberline Lake Trail intersected the Colorado Trail, and instead hiked on the Colorado Trail for a while. There was no lake, but it was still gorgeous!photo 5 (9)

We hiked the Colorado Trail until we got hungry (we’re really serious hikers), and then we headed back down to Turquoise Lake, where we ate our PBJs and dipped our sweaty toes in the chilly mountain water. photo 1 (27)

We dallied at the lake for quite some time, then eventually cruised back down to town, because ice cream. By then, it was too late to start another hike, but too early to just go hang out at camp. We decided to drive over to Twin Lakes (about 20 minutes away). We’d talked about camping there, so since we were so close, we figured we’d go check it out. It was pretty, but we were glad we’d chosen Leadville.

We spent another delightful evening chilling by the fire, and the next morning, took our time about making breakfast and packing up camp. photo 1 (28) photo 3 (21)

We still left reasonably early, because we wanted to beat the nightmare that is Sunday afternoon on I-70. So we said goodbye to this view and headed back down to where it was 95 degrees. Lame. photo 4 (12)

To best sum up this weekend, I’d have to say (in my best Joey from Friends voice), “Camping? Good. Marriage? Good. Trail running? Good.” I can’t wait to go back!

This bear perfectly sums up my feelings.
This bear perfectly sums up my feelings.

Have you ever been to Leadville? 

Where do you camp: commercial campground, rustic campground, dispersed, or backcountry? (Or in a hotel. Ha.) 

Fall Classic Marathon Training: Week 7 and Western Colorado Adventures

I got an e-mail today explaining that the Colorado Fall Classic Marathon had to change its name because the Colorado Marathon folks got all worked up about it. (The e-mail was worded more professionally than that, don’t worry.) I think that’s a little petty on the Colorado Marathon’s part, but whatever. Either way, I’m still training for the same race, and Week 7 of training was a much-needed recovery week. Here’s how things went:

Monday:
AM: 6.1 easy miles

PM: An hour-ish of full-body strength training

Tuesday: 
AM: 7 easy miles

PM: Core, stretching, and foam rolling. My right hip is finally loosening up, so I guess all this foam rolling is paying off.

Wednesday:
AM: Tempo intervals for the week’s only real workout (besides a long run). I did 5 x 2000 meters with 400m recoveries. It was unusually humid for Colorado (96%…ew), so I was a sweaty mess when I finished. 10.5 miles total, including warm-up and cool-down.
photoPM: Core, etc.

Thursday:
AM: 6 recovery miles

Later AM: An hour of strength training. We were heading out of town to visit my family, so I did my strength work right after my class ended at 10 instead of waiting until later in the day. I had no idea the gym would be so busy at 10 a.m.!

Friday:
I started the day with an easy 4.3-mile run, enjoying the sunrise over the mountains.
photo 1After breakfast, we took off for Telluride. It’s not quite two hours from my parents’ house, and Jordan had never been there, so we thought it’d be a fun adventure. We took the Last Dollar Road on the way there. It was really ugly.
photo 2We had to look at horrible scenery like that for the entire drive. It was really hard on us.

When we got to Telluride, we planned to hike to Bridal Veil Falls. Turns out, it’s not a great hike — the “trail” is a road, so hikers have to dodge (and get dusted by) four-wheel-drive vehicles. But the views on the hike more than made up for that:
photo 4And the fall itself was well worth it.
photo 5After the waterfall hike, we had a picnic in the town park, rode the gondola, and went into several shops whose merchandise cost more than my monthly paycheck.

Saturday:
I had mentioned to my folks that I was hoping to get in a 20-mile downhill run while I was there, and Dad had determined which route would be best for me. He offered to drive me up to the start, and Mom and J tagged along because they love me. (As Dad put it, though, spending an early morning in the mountains is really no sacrifice).

This was my favorite run in a long, long time. For reasons that the pictures make obvious, this is one of my favorite places in the whole world. We spent a lot of time here growing up, so this run was full of memories and overall nature-loving. We saw several deer on the way up, as well as an elk who was too swift for me to get her picture.
photo 2 (1)This is where my run started:
photo 4 (1)This was on the way down:
photo 3 photo 5 (1)And this was where I finished:
photo 1 (1)Not too shabby, right? And my family was leap-frogging me along the road, so I had my own mobile aid station. That was awesome, because I only had to carry my handheld bottle instead of a big Camelbak.

This run was not only beautiful, but  also terrific downhill training. Check out this elevation chart:
elevationI was still sore today (I’m sure the seven-hour car ride yesterday wasn’t helpful), so I take that as a good sign that I’m getting prepared for the race.

Sunday:
Rest. I stretched a bit when we finally got home (I-70 traffic is the worst), but that was it.

Totals: 54 miles running, 3ish hours strength, a couple of hours hiking, and a whole lot of family time and outdoors enjoyment.

How was your weekend?

Ever been to Telluride?

 

Colorado Fall Classic Marathon Training, Week 4

I can’t believe I’m already four weeks into this training cycle.  This was an interesting week of training, seriously lacking in strength training, stretching and foam rolling. J and I sanded and re-stained our deck, which turned out to be one of those jobs that you think will take a day or two and takes an entire week, so most of my afternoons were filled with deck work and not strength training. By the time we finished each evening, we were hot, tired, and filthy, and I just wanted a shower, not another workout. Oh well. I got all my running in, at least.

Monday:

AM: 11 miles. My schedule said 80-90 minutes with the last 20 minutes getting progressively faster. I was cruising a little quicker than 5k pace, 30 seconds from being done with the fast part… and my foot slipped on some mud (or probably on nothing, but mud at least sounds like an excuse) and I fell. Sidewalks are evil.
photo (10)I gimped through enough of a cool-down to make it 11 miles and called it good. I was thankful that my only wound was a knee scab and not any real injury.

PM: 45 minutes of strength training. And thus ended my only double day this week.

Tuesday:
9.1 miles easy and a quick core workout

Wednesday: 
16 x 400m repeats with equal recoveries, 11 miles total with warm-up and cool-down. I did half the repeats on a downhill slope, but I got sick of running up and down the same street, so I moved to the flat. Not the best training decision, probably, but a better sanity decision.

Thursday: 
9 miles “easy” that didn’t feel easy at all, quick core work.

Friday: 7 miles slow and easy, then some core work

Saturday:
This was our anniversary (6 years! Hooray!). We wanted to get away for the weekend but didn’t want to spend a bunch of money, so we spent it in Colorado Springs. J’s aunt and uncle live there and are always happy to have us stay, and we hadn’t seen them in quite a while, so visiting them on our anniversary weekend was perfect.

I’d asked Aimee, who lives in Springs, to recommend a downhill run for me so I could start prepping for this marathon. She recommended the Santa Fe Trail, a rail trail that runs parallel to the mountains. It was a fantastic recommendation, as the trail was beautiful and the elevation profile was very similar to the marathon’s. I started way too fast for a long run, so the last few miles were a slog. I know I’m at risk of doing that in the race, too, so I’m hoping I learned my lesson here and will pace myself better next time.My iPhone doesn't come close to doing justice to the beauty of these mountains.

My iPhone doesn’t come close to doing justice to the beauty of these mountains.

J is an awesome husband; he got up super early, drove me to the trailhead at Palmer Lake, killed a couple of hours, and picked up my gross sweatiness 17.3 miles later. That is love, folks.

After my run, I cleaned up in a Panera bathroom (classy, right?), ate some food, and rehydrated, and then we headed to Garden of the Gods. I hadn’t been since I was a kid, and J hadn’t ever been, so it was a new experience for both of us. We had a great time. Garden of the Gods is stunning.

No filter needed for that Colorado sky.
No filter needed for that Colorado sky.

We didn’t want to fight the crowds in the main part of the park for very long, so we ventured off on some side trails — fantastic choice. We saw just a handful of other people but plenty of scenery on our 4.5-mile hike.
photo 3 (5) photo 4 (2) After Garden of the Gods, we grabbed some lunch and spent the afternoon wandering around Old Colorado City (a fun little tourist trap near Garden of the Gods) before heading back to clean up for real (as opposed to Panera-bathroom style) and go out for a nice dinner. And then we went to bed early because I was friggin’ tired. Not a bad way to spend an anniversary!

Sunday:
J’s aunt and I have talked about doing the infamous Manitou Incline together for years, but we had never done it. We decided Sunday was the day, and since J is a good sport, he agreed to do it, too. And then he saw this, and questioned his sanity (and his love for us):
photo (12)

The Incline is that little line going up that mountain: a trail that climbs 2050 feet in .92 miles. The whole trail is made of steps like these:Aunt Jan reaching the summit!

Aunt Jan reaching the summit!

It was definitely a challenge. Some people run the thing, which is insane to me. Today was supposed to be my rest day, so I didn’t even try to run. The view from the top is definitely worth the hike… it’s gorgeous! You can see the entire city.
photo 1 (5)The trail back down is longer but considerably less steep (and less treacherous), but I still didn’t run because of the whole “rest day” thing. The whole hike made for another fun morning in the great outdoors. If I lived in Colorado Springs, I’d definitely be a regular up here… it’s a great challenge, and I’d want to see how fast I could eventually do it.

So the week ended up with 64.4 miles of running, minimal strength training, and a whole lot of outdoor fun. Overall, I’m okay with that, but I definitely need to get my strength training, foam rolling, etc., back on track this week.

Ever fallen like an idiot on a run? Please tell me about it so I know I’m not the only one.

What’s the weirdest place you’ve cleaned up post-workout?

Have you ever (or would you ever) done the Incline?

The Mountains Were Calling

I love that quote…in part because I adore John Muir, but mostly because sometimes, it’s so true. For several weeks, the mountains had been beckoning, and last weekend we finally took off to visit them. It was glorious. (Please excuse the fact that the following are all iPhone pictures. Someday I’ll carry a camera like a real blogger.)

We had a three-day weekend thanks to parent-teacher conferences, and after several busy weeks, it was a perfect time to get away. We left late Friday morning (I wanted to clean the house before we left so we wouldn’t have to do it Sunday) and headed up toward Vail.

mountain driveHello, beautiful. I get excited every time we top this hill out of Denver.

We got there around 4:00 and checked in to our resort. We got a ridiculously good deal and had a full condo — two bathrooms, full kitchen, etc. It was awesome. Roughing it we were not.

It was too late then to do any hiking, so we explored the town of Edwards (where we were staying). It’s not a bad little town — pricey, but that’s to be expected in the Vail area!

image_1We walked along the Riverwalk and up into a neighborhood with houses that cost more money than I will make in my life. Impressive.

We headed back to the condo fairly early and made dinner (having a full kitchen made staying on the Whole30 much easier!), then relaxed with books by the fire. Wonderful.

fireplace

Saturday morning was chilly, so we took our sweet time about getting out of the condo and to the trail. We decided to start with Gore Creek Trail near Vail. Good choice, us. Here’s a photo dump of pictures Jordan took on our hike:

trail6

trail5

image

trail4

trail 3

rail1

image (4)The trail leads up to a lake, but we didn’t make it that high. We started getting into deeper snow, and we had zero snow gear, so we headed back down the trail and stopped to have lunch on a rock and enjoy the scenery. As Jordan said, we’d found a “viewtastic” place to eat.

We had considered hitting another trail, since it was early afternoon, but someone (I won’t say who, but it starts with a J and ends with an ordan) took a tumble on the way down. He was fine (thank goodness!) but wet and muddy, so we decided to head back and clean up instead of doing more hiking. Plus I really had to pee and was tired of doing it behind a bush.

We went back to the condo and showered up, then went back down to Edwards to dink around some more. We took our shopping very seriously.

mask

We had dinner reservations at a place called Dish, so that’s where we went after our shopping adventure. I did some research ahead of time to make sure they would have things I could eat; I had a salad and some delectable ahi. Nom nom. I was very tempted to also have a glass of wine, but I held strong and Whole30’d it along. The food was very good, though, and apparently they have a Denver location; we’ll have to hit it up!

We went to bed that night tired and happy — the best way to end a day of mini-vacation. We headed home Sunday morning… even though we were reeeeally tempted to call in sick Monday and stay another day.

 

What’s your favorite weekend getaway?

Colorado readers: What are some trails in the Vail area we should do next time? This was the first time we’d played around up there — usually we’re rushing through to get to or home from my parents’ house — and we want to go back!