Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When your backyard is beautiful, you really should play in it.

There is a trail that leaves pretty much from my front porch.

I've hiked it once.

Three months ago.

That's pretty pathetic.  Really.  There's no reason I shouldn't be out running that thing every morning.  I mean, other than the obvious fact that it goes pretty much straight up and only superhuman  mountain nutzos actually run the thing.  But really.  I should be out there.  On those days when I think about going for a run, but then don't.  You know those days when you get home and you think "I should work out, but there's laundry....and I need to go to the grocery store....and what if a bear eats me on the trail...."

OK, maybe I'm the only one that worries about that last one, but you get the idea....excuses.

People use precious vacation time and hefty doses of disposable income to get to this place that I call home.  So that they can hike their sea-level lungs up this amazing trail for a glimpse from the top.  AND I'M MAKING EXCUSES?  I have to walk a couple hundred yards to be in some of the most beautiful wilderness in the United States and I'm choosing laundry over this?

What is wrong with me?

Tonight I got out there, thanks to a friend who called at just the right time.  Those precious first few moments home.  Before you have time to snack, or make other plans.  When the idea of a workout still lingers every so faintly in your mind but before the "to do" list has had time to assert its dominance.

As we were walking, and talking, and venting, and sucking wind (again, just me really) I looked around and thought "why have I not been on this trail since May?"  This beautiful aspen-lined trail, climbing up the mountainside, overlooking a babbling stream, winding through northwestern-esqe groves, with wild mushrooms dotting fairy-tale looking mossy slopes, and wildflowers blooming in open meadows toward the top where sunshine warms you as you take in the panorama of peaks.  Below us a life-sized topographic map.  To the right, yet another beautiful sunset in the making.  Amber light warmed the aspens on our decent, and just as shadows stretched across the trail we found ourselves on my front porch.  No driving.  No traffic.

This place is amazing.  A-mazing.  But if all you see is Main Street for a while its easy to forget.

So no more excuses for me.  I'm getting out there.  Even if it just the same remarkably beautiful trail every single day.  I'll be out there.  Just because I can.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I didn't really sign up for this part

You know how sometimes you register for something thinking it sounds like a good idea at the know, from the comfy, climate-controlled, cushy couch cushion you're probably sitting on when you hit the button to register online?  But you have the week/month from hell leading up to the event, you're under-trained and over-tired, you manage to drag yourself there anyway because hey, you already paid....and then mother nature unleashes her fury in some form or another and you're thinking really....really, I paid for this?  This was not in the brochure.

Well I kinda feel like that right now.  I was all about this mountain town thing until this....until a bear just marched right up onto my patio, through the yard, and across the street in front of the house.

I mean, I get it.  There are bears around.  I know when I'm out hiking I'm in THEIR territory.  Its cool.  But when you are standing on your deck watching one just amble around on your patio and then head off down the rock path through your yard like he's out for a Sunday stroll...well, it just gets a mountain girl a little uneasy, you know?

(yes, fuzzy photo, but I assure you this is most definitely a bear.  on my patio.  at 8:30PM tonight.)

This was not the race I signed up for.  Nowhere did it say that on my quaint little 5 minute commute home at night I might encounter a big furry mammal who may or may not think I look like a fun little chew toy.  I've heard rumor of the potential but now I have seen the tall tale come to life.

Where's the race director for this mountain Ironman I seem to be living?  I want my money back.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fairy Tales and Rainbows

Sometimes it really does feel like a mythical place, this little town I call home.  A place where everyone is happy, and healthy and ridiculously good-looking.  Where you walk three minutes to get to work, and wave at your friends along the way.  You love your job, and at the end of the day you can be hiking alone above tree-line just 20 minutes from your front door looking down on this little playground in the valley, nestled in between 12,000' peaks.  Where every night ends with a rainbow and a magnificent sunset.

But this isn't reality.  Its all make-believe, right?

Or is it?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunny Saturday Means Summit Something

Perhaps there is something to this theme I started on the big, bad birthday a while back.  The "summit something" birthday expedition success seems to have trickled down into the year that followed it.

Let me explain.  Its been nothing but rain, rain, and more rain around here, but it looked like a dry weekend was on the horizon so a friend and I made plans for a post-work Saturday afternoon hike.  We're both trying to get out and see some new sights so we had picked a little hike that started off a pass out of town.  A pass, appropriately named, for the nearest peak.  A trail that neither of us were really that familiar with.

I thought this was just going to be a hike.  Maybe a couple hours.  And the trailhead being named for the peak was just that.  Named for the peak.  Not necessarily indicating a peak-summit trail.

I should know better.

The hike started off innocently enough, uphill (they ALL are out here) for a few hours through a pine forest.  We hiked along, chatting, checking out all the mushrooms, and wondering when we would break out above tree-line for some views.

I even debated about not bringing my camera.  THAT IS HOW UNDERWHELMING I THOUGHT THIS HIKE WOULD BE.  But at the trailhead I was reminded that people use this trail as a run-up to one of the 14ers and that meant we would probably be close to that particular mountain (not to mention the formation the trail is named after) so I decided to lug the big camera.  Um, ya.  Good move.

As the trail wandered up, and up some more, we finally popped out above tree-line into a beautiful basin.  Not as many wildflowers as I've seen elsewhere, but still stunning.  With a full view of the mountain range off to our right, a funky lookin' formation in front of us, and a couple fourteeners off to the left.  And when I say "off to the left" I mean, like right there, on our left.


We got to the base of the trail's namesake formation and decided to stop for a snack.  Notice I said snack, not lunch.  We really thought this was going to be a casual hike.  At this point I'm guessing we'd already been hiking (uphill) for three hours....but we weren't really paying attention and neither of us wears a watch (mountain girls, you know).

The trail seemed to end here, other than the well worn path to the 14er summits.  Which we joked about taking, being that it was an absolutely beautiful day and this particular 14er is known for making parties turn back because of inclimate weather (its a haul, and afternoon weather usually rolls in during peak climbing season).

Not really seeing a trail up we chatted about options.  Hike to a lake we could see in the distance down-valley?  Or maybe just get up to that next outcrop of rock to see what there was to see.

Wouldn't you know, curiosity won and up we went.  This debate repeated itself, minus the lake option.....should we keep going up?  What's over that ridge?  If we keep going up do you think we can see over that ridge?  Let's just keep going up until it gets sketchy.

So up, up the talus pile we went.  Eventually connecting with an actual trail.  To the point where we were finally so close we couldn't turn back.  A summit was inevitable.

It still makes me laugh how nonchalant we were about the whole thing.  A great pair on the trail, for sure.  Both of us later said we wouldn't have cared about reaching the summit, but little by little were willing to move toward it.

We were handsomely rewarded for our efforts.

I'm not sure if it was my first 14er summit that set the bar higher....pushed me enough out of my comfort zone that something slightly less exposed seemed like no big deal.....but I really did conquer some fears on the mountain yesterday.  I wasn't just following someone to the was my idea too.  I WANTED to keep climbing.  Which is new for me.  Because I'm afraid of heights it usually takes some gentle prodding to get me over my fear and beyond where I feel comfortable, but this day it was me that was doing the encouraging -- no outside help needed.

Once at the top (or at least as close to the top as we could get without ropes), we even skirted the edge around the top formation, digging our feet into the soft shifting sand-like talus to get to a little hogback with nearly 360-degree views of the mountain ranges surrounding us --- um, and a nearly verticle drop-off on one side, the one on the other side being only slightly less steep.  I have to admit, with a huge rock formation looming overhead and drop-offs to both sides, I got a little woozy and had to sit down for a second and get my wits about me.  But for the most part, I was up there, walking around confidently, and snapping photos galore.

It may be a small victory, but it was noticeable.

Also noticeable.  Blisters.  One quarter-sized heel blister in particular, that started about an hour into the climb and made for one painful post-summit shower.  But I was motivated by a post-climb sushi and pomegranate mojito reward so I gutted it out.

What a day....6 hours of work....6.5 hours of hiking to around 13,000'....and a nice little dinner.  Whew, was I happy to climb into bed after all that!  Just another reason this place is so amazing....not many places you can bag peaks after work and still make it out for drinks.

Friday, August 13, 2010

We're going on a hike and that is final

I haven't worked out since I climbed a 14er.  That was, um, well,....a while ago.  Too long ago.  But what with trying to pay rent and the monsoon season on steroids we seem to be having, finding time to play outside has been a teeny bit challenging as of late.

But last night, even if I couldn't see a window of opportunity, I was going to make one.  And I was going to drag two unsuspecting friends along with me, whether they liked it or not.  (or, actually they came along willingly because we're all going a little nutty from nature deficit disorder whatever)

So it's a weeknight.  I have been sending out "hiking later?" texts all afternoon.  "think the weather will hold?"  "its looking promising" ....etc.

Sometime around six I made the call.  We're going.  I scheduled pick-ups.  Never mind that dark cloud hovering over yonder mountain and please ignore that thunder rumbling, it looks like a beautiful night for a hikie-poo.

Yup.  Beautiful night for a hike.

Lately I'm all about seeing new things (otherwise known as get-out-of-town-whenever-possible) so we drove to a little alpine lake and decided we'd hike from there.  Did we know if there was a trail?  No.  But we had a mission.  Get up high and hope for a good sunset.

So off we tromped, in the cold, dreary, dark, windy evening.  In search of a sunset even though the sun seemed to have already retired for the evening.

As we locked up the car and trudged across a crooked, worn out pedestrian bridge to the other side of the lake the dogs romped through the water and sprinted ahead.  The conversation gravitated toward our amazement that we could find ourselves in a remote high alpine environment like this after a full day of work.

And then the climbing started.  Which ended my involvement in the conversation.

Through the trees and over a talus pile, up a windy trail through the woods, past the top of a ski run and then up another talus covered slope and around..... wasn't looking good for anything other than a few calories burned a wet walk home in the dark.  But someone in the group had patience (not me) and hope (not me) so we climbed some more, and then  waited.  Perched precariously on the side of a steep pile of talus.  We watched....

first this...beautiful, but not quite what we were hoping for.

...then, showing signs of potential....

Then it started....the good stuff....

and then everything started glowing....

and when I was tired, cold, wet, and sick of holding myself to the mountain by my toenails with camera poised....someone made me wait it out a little longer, even though it looked like it was done....

Because there were still embers left glowing on this little campfire....

And you should never turn in until the campfire is out.

However, you should remember that this means you're making your way back to the tent (or in this case, car) in the dark so REMEMBER TO PACK YOUR HEADLAMP.

We managed to get back to the car in one piece.  Watching lightning periodically light up the sky and listening to the thunder roll.  I chatted mindlessly and loudly so as to scare off any bears with my obnoxiousness.  And just as we piled the dogs into the car and climbed in -- it poured down rain.

And that, my friends, is a well-played post-work workout.  Mountain-style.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

For the moment

Yup...that's about right.  Right where I am....

....somewhere between reality and Aspen.  The real world is most certainly out there.  Somewhere.  But the view from this land of fairy tales and castles is quite lovely.  It can suck you in.  Make you forget this place called suburbia that you used to know.  Make you think that this is the only way to live.

On my commute to "work" ---

Where "work" took me today ---

Its now suburbia that seems like a faraway land.  One that weary travelers make mention of in stories of adventures, after they've returned home to this magical little corner of the world.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Tonight, there was a sunset.  

That is all.  

I return you to your regularly scheduled Sunday-night "to do" list.

(Oh, and revamped the bloggie a bit.  Change is good.)