“Not all who wander are lost.” -J. R. R. Tolkien
In Colorado, adventure is truly everywhere. Here, I’ll post pics and write about mine and Pacer’s latest wanderings through valleys of trees, summits of mountains, and the dry land of the desert.
Adventure Report: Pacer’s Epic Ridgeline
(Diamond Peak->Clarks Peak-> Diamond Peak; Bonus: South Diamond Peak)
I wanted to share this one because I haven’t heard about anyone else doing this full route, or even know its possible (I didn’t…this adventure came to us in three parts), and its amazing. I think I’ve got a few friends in NoCo who will love this!
We started at Cameron Pass and hiked straight up to treelike (the trail is not marked, but you can find it in the trees, to the left of the timber fall area) to (North) Diamond Peak (11,854), then basically did the full ridgeline (each peak/point) up to Clark Peak (12,950ft). It’s pretty straightforward, class 2, and sometimes you’re on a very faint trail. We did basically the same route back, with the re-summit of each peak/point…they could “kind of” be bypassed, but I also wouldn’t put your confidence in any of the side “trails”.
That description can be a bit deceiving…with the bonus of South Diamond Peak, AllTrails had us at well over 7k of vertical elevation for 17 miles (my phone died at the top of South Diamond Peak): https://www.alltrails.com/explore/recording/pacer-s-epic-ridgeline-d860edd?p=52378510
This is probably obvious, but you want to pick a good day to do this route….you’re on a ridge for multiple hours! The only bail out option I know if is at Montgomery Pass (I did read a report of someone starting at the pass then going to Clark’s Peak). From the Montgomery Pass/Zimmerman Lake Trailhead, it’s about 2 miles on the road back to Cameron Pass. You could also potentially bail heading down to Blue Lakes…honestly I don’t know if that is possible or not. There’s also just bushwhacking down to Hwy 14. However, you’re never too far above tree line, so you could be safe and carry an emergency bivvy just in case to wait out a storm. It’s nice to know your options, but really, I would just turn back if you see clouds building (you want to look towards Clark Peak and beyond Diamond Peak towards RMNP, where I usually see clouds build in the summer).
Pics, in order: On Diamond looking out toward Clark, on Clark looking out toward Diamond, fall colors, the hardest re-summit, a dog and her girl, treat-monster, view of the whole route from South Diamond Peak.
“Why am I so drawn to adventure?
I’m drawn towards awe.
The freedom and the beauty.
When I get lost in the dark,
these are the things that lead me back to myself,
back to light.”
Washington State -July
[I’ve done multiple adventures before this, but they’ve been to repeat places- Sangre de Cristos, Salida/Sawatch, Lake City—however, I should briefly mention that thanks to my sister for watching Pacer (she was recovering from San Juan Solstice 50) and her partner Sage for being my mountain buddy, I got to summit Wetterhorn Peak (class 3). We also rafted Browns Canyon for our birthday, which was a new and fun way to see the area between BV and Salida!]
Neither Pacer or I had ever been to the Pacific Northwest….which meant we had to go. And it was made even better when Pacer talked (was just her adorable self) my sister into coming. Overall, I’m going to make this post pretty quick. If you’re coming from out of state, I think September would be the best month to go. We went in mid-July and I didn’t realize it was a snow year there, and some of the routes we wanted to do were still pretty snowed in. Also, there were crazy, unpleasant mosquitoes. For the first half of the trip, we camped off of HWY 2 (north of Leavenworth) at the Merrit Lakes Trailhead. My car got scratched by overgrown plants, but otherwise the road wasn’t bad. Better yet, we saw no one the whole time (if it was a weekend, we probably would have seen a few people hiking the trail). Speaking of Merrit Lakes, we did it one evening after getting snowed out in a mountain attempt (crazy to think about when we’ve been going up 14ers and there was snow there at 4,000ft). Merrit Lakes was probably really pretty, we just couldn’t see it because of all the mosquitoes (we ran back down the trail). At our campsite away from the water, they were annoying but not terrible. If you’ve heard of Leavenworth, then you know the main (outdoor) attraction is The Enchantments. Because Pacer’s (dogs) aren’t allowed, we got a cute airbnb (“The Little Sanctuary”-no cleaning fee if you choose to self clean. Bonus two was that it was only 10 minutes away from the trailhead/shuttle) for Pacer to have a rest day—only do this if you are planning on running parts of the trail! Otherwise the 18-19ish miles takes way too long to leave a dog alone. The Enchantments Trail is a point to point, so we got a shuttle ($30 per person-pricey but worth it)…I would say the first half up Asgard Pass and the lakes were enchanting…and I’m not going to say the second half wasn’t pretty…but it was a long, hot decent, with a big chunk of flat that dragged on. We did get to briefly walk through town later, which was one of the best done tourist town I’ve seen….Barvarian themed, bike lanes, multiple grocery stores (compared Estes Park that only has Safeway and a small market), closed streets for walking. The only downside was no recycling. If I could have, I would have stayed an extra day to take my time at one of the wineries just outside of town. I also wish we had a little more time on the other side of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness/off HWY 90 towards Seattle. It was just so hard to know with snow conditions, but we did get to do a short hike on the PCT which was nice trail (some of the other trails we were on were a bit scraggly) (note 2: the AllTrails popularity ratings were much different than Colorado…unless you’re on the PCT, you’re not going to see as many people). There WAS dispensed camping nearby, just a few miles west….we eventually found it, around 9pm (lol).
This is my homestate, so just a few notes for now. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is beautiful in the spring! Just expect mud. Do not compare CVNP to other national parks. Enjoy the beauty for what it is. I probably wouldn’t camp there (they just have a few backcountry sites…if I had the money, I’d actually stay at the bed & breakfast with the chickens right next to Brandywine falls.) Also, more and more vegan food is available in the Cleveland area (with some really amazing restaurants near downtown, such as Townhall and Cleveland Vegan).
Utah-April (San Rafael Swell, Gran Staircase-Escalante, Bryce, Antelope Island)
This adventure was a much needed break and rest was the priority…the canyons of southern Utah were calling to me.
It’s a long drive to Escalante from Estes Park, CO…plus, I was also hearing good things about San Rafael Swell, so we spent Fri nigh-Sat. morning, with the plan to run/hike Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons…Pacer’s first slot canyons. Of course, its never that easy and my GPS led me to the back way down a bumpy, sandy road that eventual turned to trail…Behind the Reef Rd. I didn’t realize this until we were 40 minutes in and Pacer and I were done driving for the day. BUT, what I realized later is that 2.5 miles down Behind the Reed Rd was the canyon loop! Which honestly was fun for us and added on some running miles overlooking the canyons.
From there, we had a GORGEOUS drive to Grand-Staircase-Escalante, where we stayed Sat-Tuesday morning. We found a camp spot off of Harris Wash Rd. next to a beautiful archway tree.
Sunday: We started at Harris Wash trailhead…the thing about trailheads in the canyons is that there’s not actually a trail. You basically find the wash that leads to the canyon on just follow the canyon. While we were slightly skeptical at first, especially with all the cow poop, we wandered down the canyon and it did not disappoint.
Monday: Monday morning we drove about an hour to get to Egypt Trailhead. We only went down part-way to the overlook (following the rock cairns down), but it was so neat. If I go back (which is hard to say because the Escalante and then Bears Ears area is so big!), I’d probably explore this area more. (As opposed to Harris Wash where you basically stay flat and walk into the canyon, here you started at the top of the canyon and hiked down). We then mediated and read (and I got extremely sunburned) for the next few hours at a nearby campspot. That evening (starting around 5), we hiked (actually a trail!) to Zebra canyon.
Tuesday: Starting from the campsite, we hiked down a new canyon. Honestly, I’m not even sure what it was called (on the opposite side of Harris Wash)…we had seen a trail guide take some tourist on a day hike. This canyon was an unexpected surprise, as was the side canyon we decided to turn down.
Shower: Escalante RV Park $10…but really nice. Laundry available as well as wifi.
From there it was only an hour drive to Coyote Hollow Trailhead, just outside of Bryce. The main road is not more of a campground (though sites were decently spread out), so we drove down a bumpier side road and found a nice, quiet spot in the pine trees. (There was also a ton of dispersed camping across the road/Hwy 12.)
Wednesday: Thunder Mountain
We ran/hiked up and down the pines until we defended down the hoodoos…it was such a wonderful surprise. There were sooo many! I recommend turning around when you get to the junction/sign at 6.4 miles. We added about another .5 mile which was a bit pointless and just added to our ascent. (There’s a 15 mile loop option that would include quite a few miles on bike path, and I believe a shorter loop option as well.).
Hotel: Days Inn (Panguitch)- I DO NOT RECOMMEND IF YOU HAVE DOGS. There was quite the snafu, which I won’t get into here.
Dinner: I can’t remember the place we went to (I met up with a friend and his Aussie), but you really just have to embrace the super small, slightly run-down town. We went to a family place and I had frozen-made veggie burger, but the staff was nice and we played Sequence and created the energy we wanted 🙂
Coffee: Wanderlust Coffee
The 7.5 Fairyland trail inside of Bryce Canyon National Park may is going to go down as one of my favorite trails ever. The whole look was stunning that included some roller-coaster downhills.
After the snafu, I made the 4hr drive to Antelope Island, arriving at night to some extremely strong winds! We camped at Ladyfinger campground, which I chose because it was smaller than the other campgrounds. The campsites were pretty close together, but it wasn’t full on a Thursday and everyone there were more of the laid-back type of campers. It was also a beautiful spot to wake up to, right next to the beach.
Friday: Antelope Island
I had pretty much no idea what the island looked like after driving in in the dark, so the morning was a big surprise. It was also slightly confusing to get around, so I recommend stopping at the visitor center for a map! (The wind was also helpful in keeping the gnats away, which I heard can get really bad.). The island is larger enough to hold ultra races. Sights include both beach and Ireland-like hill side. We did the Split Rock Loop Trail…which is really more of a lollipop as you do a 2.7 mile connector trail just to get to the loop. Oh, and there were baby buffalo!
(We stayed at a Motel 6 in Salt Lake City on the way back…which was a little shady. Front desk staff was super nice, but the room did not have great energy. I had dinner with my friend at Zest…which was a little too hipster for me, but the food (all vegan) was pretty great.)
August 2021- Time to explore more of our backyard! (Northern Colorado)
Grand Lake- Dad’s Birthday Trip
Even more so than the Never Summers, Grand Lake is just up and across the other side of Rocky Mountain National Park from me. And I visited once for about an hour. This is also the area that got hit hard by the East Troublesome fire last year. The burn area was tragically beautiful.
As Grand Lake is literally surround my the RMNP, Pacer couldn’t get play on the trails…which was okay, as she had my dad to rub her belly all morning. That first morning, my sister and her boyfriend and I basically ran from our cabin to the CDT and up to the North Inlet Trail. It was most fast and smooth trail, right through last years burn. On day 2, I ran from the East Inlet Trail up to Lone Pine Lake, recommended by a friend. Amazingly, though this trail was maybe a 1.5 miles away from North Inlet, it was lush, especially on a low hanging cloud morning.
GL is a quaint little tourist town, much different from my side in Estes Park. However, if you’re going just outside of the main tourist season, I definitely recommend checking ahead on what’s open and what’s closed, as many stores and restaurants are closed Tues/Wed.
*The pic with me, Sandi, my Dad, and Pacer is actually at Twin Lakes, Co.
Never Summer Mountains/Colorado State Forest
As the crow flies, this area is just across Rocky Mountain National Park from our house. Between the mountains or canyons, its a multiple hour drive. Driving down one canyon and back up another was quicker for us, but really, a 2.5 hour drive is relatively short for us. And so, we made it to Gould, CO and found some dispersed camping off of Jct 21. The next morning, we drove back down Hwy 14 and past a momma moose and her baby (thankfully…we like moose, just not on the trail, as Pacer’s herding instinct never leaves her), and parked near the Crags Campground. Bring cash or prepared to donate extra for the $9 State Forest fee. From there, we did something of a loop to the American Basin Trailhead up to Michigan Lakes, Thunder Pass, and Lake Agnes. Overall, it was a beautiful and quiet morning (though we did get some cold rain.). In the afternoon, we did the drive over to the town of Walden so I could use the libraries WiFi and get some work done.
On Day 2, before driving back home, we drove to explore the northern side of the park and ventured up to Kelly Lake. The first part was dirt roads, before we hopped on some single track and up towards the lake. Really, it was such a neat area and its hard to believe we didn’t explore there sooner!
July 2021- Wind River Range
This was the big one on my to-do list this year. And luckily, on my sister’s too. Having her with us was a huge plus, both in terms of great company and being a safety back up for Pacer when were over 15 miles away from the trailhead.
We decided to drive in Sunday and stay at a hotel in Pinedale for the night before making the 2 hour drive to Big Sandy Trailhead the next day. We stayed at Sundance Motel right in town. The place was cute, the room small, and I would absolutely recommend it. Monday morning, we stopped at Pine Coffee Supply for a really good cup of joe before heading out.
I was a little worried about how busy the trailhead/trail would be…and yes, it was packed when we got there. I’ve never seen so many backpackers in my life. But Supergirl did great with the other people and pups on the trail. Maybe she is finally maturing a bit? We backpacked in a little over 6 miles, just past Big Sandy Lake and started up the trail to Black Joe Lake (I have no idea if that’s politically correct or not, but that’s what its called.). Truly, it was a pretty easy hike with less than 1k of gain. Lake that afternoon, we did the short hike to Black Joe Lake. I doubt many people travel there, but it was totally worth it. The next day, we did a pretty crazy, beautiful, and long loop around the Cirque of the Towers (the main attraction). It took us 8 hours, quite a bit of looking at the map, and navigating our way through trees (if we had come from the other way, we would have known the trail was re-re-rerouted.) I’m pretty sure we did the loop in reverse, it was just a bit shorter since we backpacked in: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/wyoming/cirque-of-the-towers-to-fremont-trail-loop On my map, Texas Pass was very faint…I didn’t even see it at first. It was a little tricky to find from Lonesome Lake, but once we got to Texas Pass there were quite a few backpackers (we were run/hiking).
And then we decided to add on a day to our trip to see more. We backpacked out on Wednesday, booked a hotel (the little motels in town were full, so we stayed at Baymont, which was nice but pricey…but I had good timing as I had just received my points from Hotels.com!). And Pinedale was cool to explore. We did all our errands and such, Pacer slept in the middle of the kind bed, and Sandi and I went to Wind River Brewery. The was live music, vegan tacos, vegan burgers, Weiner dogs hanging out…I mean, its hard to ask for more out of an evening than that.
Adventure, part 2, took us to the Pole Creek Trailhead (also super popular), which leads in to Titcomb Basin. Again, we hiked 6 miles in to Eklund Lake (the first option to camp). The first 5 miles were uninspiring (except for thinking about the amount of work the forest service put in to clear the downed trees). Mosquitoes were a little worse here, possibly because we camped closer to the lake. And while they weren’t as bad as I had feared, I’m still glad we decided to skip the natural stuff and go with Deet (as much as I hate putting chemicals on my body.). Since we were short on time, the next day featured a 9ish mile run to Titcomb Basin, 9 miles back to our camp spot, and 6 miles back to the car. In short, Titcomb Basin was stunning. Lakes, wildflowers, jagged peaks. Wow.
Once you got to the views (which takes awhile) the Wind River Range was truly beautiful. At the same time, I was grateful to get back to my Colorado Peaks. But its good to venture out and know where your home is.
July 2021- Lake City/San Juans/Pacer’s Big Day
As I am each summer, I was drawn back to the San Juans, and again, specifically to Lake City. Once Sandi (my twin) said she was down to do an adventure I had imagined, it was full steam ahead. And so, starting up from Grizzly Pass (and the crazy road to get there), Pacer, Sandi, and I started at 3:45am to complete “Pacer’s Big Day”: Redcloud, Sunshine, and Handies. (Redcloud and Sunshine are connected with ~1+ mile saddle. For Handies, you have to go back to the trailhead). This equated to something like 8,000+ ft and 21ish miles. The next day Sandi had to leave, so we drove back down Cinnamon Pass Rd to the Cataract Gulch Trailhead. It was a pretty sweet and mostly quiet trail. We did get a little lost by the waterfall (Sandi re-built the cairn, but you re-cross the stream at the top of the falls!), and shortly after that were at treeline. We made it just past Cataract Lake to where the trail intersected with the Colorado Trail/Continental Divide. This day was awesome in itself. F
Finally, on the last day, we did another trail on my list, as I had always camped so close to it when doing the 14ers. As expected, I didn’t see anyone. The trail starts from Agentum Site 5 (is mostly unmarked) and weaves its way into the trees. While the trail is rarely traveled, it was still easy to follow. Pacer and I made it to the valley below Cooper Lake, as Sandi had gone up to Cooper Lake 2 days before and didn’t recommend it for pups. But just getting to the valley (with a waterfall view) was worth it.
(Bottom right is a picture of Sandi with Pacer!)
A quick trip to Mohican Wilderness where my mom and stepdad have a camper, my cousin’s wedding, and some 33rd birthday celebrations!
June 2021- (+ Salida, as usual) Westcliffe & Sangre de Cristos
I’m obviously off to a terrible start updating this year, so I’ll make this quick. After a quick trip up Mt. Princeton and a short hike/run the next day with my sister and Pacer, I met my friend in Westcliffe, CO (an International Night Sky community). We decided to stay at a hotel, partially because dispersed camping is limited, at least if you don’t have a high clearance vehicle, and we wanted to check out town a bit…and he likes to shower! lol. But it was honestly a good choice, as I would have been able to walk around town otherwise…way too hot to leave Pace in the car. We stopped at Tumbleweed Coffee twice, and after doing a 13er (basically straight down the road from town), we ate at at Westcliffe Feed Store (Restaurant). Such a good choice! Absolutely great vibe, and a pretty good veggie burger, paired nicely with a vanilla porter. The next day while Pace and my friend were resting (remember to put on sun tan lotion before big mountain days!), I did a quick run on the Rainbow Trail.
March 2021- Arizona! (Grand Canyon, Prescott, and Sedona!)
7/19/20-Back to Lake City
Since the end of last adventure season/summer, I had been planning on spending a week in Lake City (one of the towns that surround the San Juan mountains). But to repeat what we love or do something new?
Mainly, we repeated. First, Pacer and I did the Handies Loop (Grizzly Gulch Trailhead to the American Basin Trailhead and back to Grizzly Gulch, or your camp spot). The next day we did Redcloud and Sunshine, before driving over to the other side of the Alpine Loop from Lake City and finding a nice camp spot just a little up on Nellie Creek Road (leading to the Uncompahgre Trailhead). But before we did Uncompahgre, we took a trip 17 miles south of Lake City to Spring Pass, heading east (?) up to Snow Mesa. THEN we dod Uncompahgre the next day. My 2002 Subaru Forester probably could have made it up Nellie Creek Road to the trailhead, but Pacer would have hated the drive. I also just really don’t mind hiking up the road when its pretty and relatively fast. And I also just love Uncompahgre and never want may days on that mountain to end. Winding down on our trip, we explored Wetterhorn Basin and go only a teeny bit lost. I knew we should have turned around after the waterfalls at the basin, but then the clouds looked like they pause coming in, so we decided to explore a loop trail that was on my map. In summary, it was not a very well defined trail. On our last day, we hiked from a trail in town up to Crystal Lake. Obviously, it was pretty, but not one I have on my list to do again. Also, not much water for pups and the lake was not at all crystal clean…it looked like there was some algae covering the top, so I had Pacer get out of the water as soon as I noticed it. Of course, I stopped at Chillin’ for coffee before heading back to Estes Park. (O, and for a shower, I went to Elkins RV Resort. They were $8, so a bit pricey, but the bathroom was clean and the water was warm! They also have free wifi.)
So far this summer, Pacer and I have been to Salida/Buena Vista/Sawatch Range twice, which you can read more about in previous posts. The one thing I will add is that we did the newly built trial up Mt. Columbia and its beautiful. Truly, the Colorado 14ers Initiative Crew did a fantastic job (can you imagine building stone steps into the side of a mountain at 13,000ft!?!)
(Pictures feature summit of Mt. Ouray, just under 14,000ft, Colorado Trail/Continental Divide Trail/Collegiate West, summit of Mt. Columbia, and summit of Mt. Antero-our second summit for both, taking different routes up.)
I’m really behind on this post! First of all, I’ll say I did another San Juans trip at the end of August/beginning of September. I wrote a blog on it so I won’t add in more here. What I do want to mention is:
Crested Butte!!! (Plus another trip to BV)
This trip was brief but special as I drove, hiked, and ran through the peak season of golden Aspens. Which brings up the other point…the town of Aspen, while still busy, and more low-key that its neighboring town of Aspen on the other side of the mountains. When Pacer and I ran Teocalli Ridge on a Friday morning, we nearly had the trail to ourselves besides one mountain biker and some cows. We “accidentally” did a mountain up Washington Gulch Rd. did on Saturday…we took a side trail and up it led! The long weekend ended on Sunday with our second summit up Mt. Harvard, which I enjoyed quite a bit better than when we did it in mid-June a few years back and encountered quite a bit of snow. Oh, and then we drove to Leadville to get a muffin and coffee at City on the Hill before sitting in I-70 traffic for hours! (Well worth it.)
8/5/2019 (Date Im writing, not dates completed!)
Back to the Sawatch Range (Salida & BV)
On this trip, first up was Huron Peak, a beautiful and relatively easy 14er just outside the ghost towns of Vicksburg and Winfield. It did not disappoint! The plan the next day was to summit Oxford and Belford (neighboring 14ers), but then my car went into a coma. So the new plan was to stand on the side of the dirt road the next morning and wait for someone to jump us. This took nearly 20 minutes, and some nice guys from Texas helped us out. Luckily, Surry the Subaru started (I knew it wasn’t a battery problem but a problem with her starter engine) and we got her to the nearest car shop in Buena Vista. The next part of the plan was to get a hotel for the day as my car part wouldn’t be in until the next morning. My car was still starting, so I probably would’ve chanced it myself and went back up to camp, but the boy thought it would be better to get the hotel. So in short, we ended up in Salida. The boy ran walk I Pacer and I stayed by the river to keep cool, and Circle R Motel was amazing at getting our room earlier. After eating lunch and showering, I rollerbladed to Cafe Dawn to get some work done. And of course, when in Salida, dinner means Moonlight Pizza and wine from Vino Salida (best dinner combo ever). To make the rest of this short, my twin and her bf ended up coming over from Leadville to BV and picked us at the car shop to run a trail that morning…what luck! I got them coffee at Brown Dog as a thank you. Post run, I picked up my car from Buena Vista Automotive (good customer service, good work, good price!), and then we picked up lunch from House Rock Kitchen and found a spot down the road by the river to eat before heading back home.
The Mummy Traverse
From the hill I live on, I can see across Estes Park to the Mummy Ridgeline, comprised of one 12,000 ft peak, and 5 13,000ft peaks. A few venture out each to do them all together. Sandi and I would be two of them this year. We had tried it last September, but turned because of the cold winds and upcoming class 3. Now that we did it, I realize what a good decision it was. This trip though, we did manage to accidentally skip the first 12er. There’s technically no trail to it, and is a quick up and down. I think we looked at the deer on the hillside, but forgot to go up. Between the class 3 and lingering snow fields, this adventure took us 11+ hours. There is no trail for the last 3 peaks, almost all class 3. It was a blissful, and somewhat intimidating, adventure. More than anything, I’m grateful to have gotten to do it with my “built in” best friend!
14,508ft to -282ft
The boy got into Badwater 135 this year, an ultramarathon that starts at the lowest place in the U.SA., 282ft below sea level at Badwater Basin in Death Valley, to the base of Mt. Whitney at 8,374ft. The first people to hike from Badwater Basin to the very top of Mt. Whitney, the highest spot in the lower 48 states at 14,508ft*, was Stan Rodefer and Jim Burnworth. Al Arnold completed the first run** in 1977. Since the boy got into the race, there was no way I was going to let him have all the fun, so via the lottery system, I got a permit to go up Mt. Whitney, my first 14er of the year since between the snow levels in CO and my schedule, I didn’t have the opportunity to climb any in Colorado. We stayed in Lone Pine the night before from there it is just a 20 minute drive up to the trailhead. I’ll keep it short, but I made the 20ish mile round trip hike and lucky enough to get to know Mt. Whitney from bottom to top! The mountains in California are so different from the ones at home…the trees, the boulders, the smells. Anyway, to keep thing short, the next day we were at Furnace Creek in Death Valley in 126 degree temps! The heat was certainly a bit of a shock to my system, but I soaked in the changes and beauty of the diversity of Mother Nature in the U.S. I’m not sure I’ll go back, but I’m so grateful I got to see such unique landscape.
*Honestly, the height of Mt. Whitney seems to change every few years.
**Running can be a very relative term.
I’m just going to do a brief overview of my wanderings thus far this summer, as it has been a whirlwind and mostly short camping trips as Colorado has gotten epic snow this year! (A good thing, truly, just not great for hiking and running at high elevations). Since mid-May was cold with more snow in Colorado, Pacer, the Boy, and I headed out to Moab. Even there it was chilly, but good weather for a dog that doesn’t love the desert. The best free camping option I have found in Moab is in the Behind the Rocks area, which also has some fun running, though maybe not as scenic as some of the other areas. Pacey and I also did a quick trip to Salida/Buena Vista, one of our go-to places. We first camped pass Cottonwood Lake, which was beautiful but chilly. We attempted to hike to a lake heading towards Brown’s Pass, but turned back because of the snowfield. Of course, we stopped to get my favorite wine at Vino Salida. The next day we did the Rainbow Trail before heading to Lost Creek Wilderness. See my blog post “Misadventures with a Moose” for more on that! I’ll also note that my twin and I hiked up Twin Sisters Peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park for our 31st birthday, which is a fun, moderate hike with great views of Longs and Meeker.
Oct 2018- We’ve Moved! Estes Park, CO
With some (okay, maybe a lot) hesitation, Pacer and I packed up our things in August and moved up to Estes Park, CO as I complete my counseling internship at substance abuse rehab center. For those of you who are not familiar with Estes Park, it sits right at the eastern base of Rocky Mountain National Park. My internship site is within a short hiking distance to the nearest trail in the park! So why the hesitation? 1) I can’t take Pacer into the park 2) town and RMNP is packed on weekends with tourists. Why I love it now? 1) We live on a hill that, half mile up the road, turns into National Forest and across the street is another park with amazing (and quiet) trails for Pacer and I to play together. 2) Now that its a little colder out there’s less people. And I realized that once you get a few miles into a trail in the park, there’s a lot less people. (While I usually do miss Pacey on my runs in RMNP, sometimes we could both use the break- me with her pulling and her wanting a break from running. Finally, at the core of it, mine and Pacer’s nervous systems are so much more relaxed living so close to the mountain and up a dirt road. I love Boulder, but honestly, I don’t think we’ll every be able to leave the (big) mountains.
July 2018- San Juan Mountains
By scrolling down this page, it’s obvious that I’ve been to some beautiful mountains. But nothing, nothing, ever surpasses my love for the San Juan mountains in Colorado. Every time I approach them, my heart lifts, my lips curl to a smile and then a huge grin. It’s like coming home. So when my boyfriend told me his work was offering to put us up in hut if he helped work a running camp, I told him not to be stupid and say “YES!” right away. And so, we started off our trip at Opus Hut, off the Million Dollar Highway, between Ouray and Silverton. Just below 12,000 ft, it sat in a field of wildflowers, with access to trails leading to Paradise Basin and Columbine Lake. After a day’s adventure, there were options to sip tea and read, relax in the sauna, and sit down to a hearty, healthy, vegan (option) meal.
In addition to our time at Opus Hut, we summitted Mt. Sneffels, attempted Wilson Peak (and made a very, to be blunt, dumb move…we missed the trail-there is always a trail- a tried to go through a Boulder field instead that led to a very scary fall from the Boy…my dog and I had already turned back), stayed with an amazing couple in Ridgway, and then made our way to Silverton where my boyfriend was pacing his friend at Hardrock 100. As amazing as the energy and people were, my dog and I are not one for crowds and decided to backpack instead. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures as I still have a slide phone and water-logged my camera last year in Wyoming. Basically, our route was Highlands Mary Trail from Silverton (gorgeous!), connected to the CT/CDT (home), continued on the CDT until turning on the Rock Lake/Rock Creek Trail (very shrubby, but Rock Lake was beautiful) and saw a moose, then hit up the Valencia Trail (an obstacle course of downed trees) to Johnson Creek/Animas River Trail/Purgatory Trail. In the section, I loved the piece up the pass by Columbine Lake (different than the one from Opus Hut) (though we got off trail for a bit-but we saw mountain goats!) and the Chicago Basin area, but I was not a huge fan of the Animas and Purgatory Trails. I guess I’m not a fan of backpacking below 9,000 ft…and the Purgatory Trail really felt like a holding place before hell…it was hot and we were tired. The only reason I got Supergirl to keep going is that I told her she was going to see her boyfriend (the Boy) soon. I think the we covered 60+ glorious miles. A journal entry from our hike:
Outside, the sky is booming,
Even through my closed eyelids, I can tell the sky is lighting up.
The rain beats heavily on my 1 person (and a dog) tent.
Inside, Pacer and I are huddled together.
She is curled up in a ball, with her head resting on my legs, at the bend in my knees.
Nothing has been more perfect.
I put off thinking of traveling overseas anytime soon. I have a “sensitive” (not easy for others to watch) dog to take care of as well as serious graduate student debt. But then my twin and her boyfriend revealed their plan of having me travel with them to Europe while they raced, and my boyfriend was willing to watch my dog. Tears where in my eyes. First up was Karpacz, Poland where my sister was running for the USA mountain running team. Absolutely beautiful place with a amazing trails made with cobblestone. Then (actually, not so quick, with a cancelled flight), it was off to Chamonix, France! I wish I remembered all the routes I did, but basically it was a lot of glaciers, going past a lot of chalets, and a heaven full of wildflowers. I got to all the trails from our AirBnB in the middle of town or taking the bus. (This post totally doesn’t do Chamonix justice, but as this isn’t a blog post, I’ll just let the pics do some of the talking.)
Another too short of a trip to the Sangre de Cristo range for 2 more 14er attempts: Mt. Lindsey and Challenger Point. This trip was a bit of a challenge…partially because of the long drives (and that the mountains were in two different sections of the range, which meant we had to drive around the southern end of the mountains to get to Challenger), but mainly because me and the Boy are still figuring out how to work as a team. There was a little fighting, a lot of not talking, and me letting out a scream across a lake at 12,000 ft. However, the land was stunning. The route on Lindsey took me back to where I did my Wilderness Intensive for grad school, which brought a good amount of nostalgia (it was a llllonnnggg 2 years ago!). The class 2+ route up Mt. Lindsey was certainly tough, which a lot of scrambling…but we made it! The next day, a bit sore and tired from our first hike, we set out on the route up Challenger Point. It was absolutely one of my favorite routes ever up a mountain. Willow lake and the waterfall below and above it were stunning…a place of In-Between. Once we got over the lake, the route became much more difficult. We made it most of the way up a narrow, nearly vertical route up to 13,800 ft, but lost the trail and with the scree and snow, it became much too dangerous for us humans, and definitely not something I was willing to risk with Pacer, so we decided to turn. I’m so happy I have the where-with-all and insight on my ego to make that call. We may attempt it again one day, as I do think we just lost sight of the class 2+ trail, maybe because of the snow or our lack our experience, but regardless just the hike to the lake was worth it!
Earlier this week, Supergirl, the boy, and I summitted our first 14er of the season (we snowshoed up Quandry in February), bringing Pacer’s total count up to 32! Mt. Humbolt is in the Sangre de Cristo (blood of Christ) range in southern Colorado. It’s a bit early in the season still to be climbing (unless you’ve got the tools/experience, which I don’t) but because it was such a low snow season, many 14ers are already clear and we had a nearly snow-free route up. An FYI for those hoping to do Mt. Humbolt: The drive to South Colony trail is not for the faint of heart, and at Lower South Colony, there is not camping. We ended up driving up part way to South Colony and stopped almost as soon as we cleared private land. Pacer and I were both panting hard with anxiety as the boy Surry the Subaru up and down the dirt “road.”
Summer is here!
Well not quite, but since I am finished with the second year of my master’s program, it is summer for me…despite the spring rain and thunderstorms we are getting in Boulder. This also means I’ll have time to work on this blog again! With that, I do have a few Wandering updates to add, though they don’t all include Pacer (sorry!):
Colorado (Winter and Spring):
So Pace and I definitely did our share of snowshoeing over the winter. Most notably, we went snowshoeing in Keystone (I don’t remember the trails, just that there was a lot of fresh snow and it was exhausting!), up Mt. Quandry (our second winter 14er summit!), and circumnavigated around the town of Leadville on the Mineral Belt Trail as well as around Turquoise Lake (wow, it seems so much longer on snowshoes than when driving around in the summer! -the road is closed in winter and is groomed for winter sports).
Oh yea…we also had the “pleasure” of running in some chilly temps while back on Ohio!
We were also planning on doing our usual spring trip to Moab, this time with our boyfriend (honestly, I think he is more Pacer’s boyfriend than mine) Joshua. Unfortunately we hit a snowstorm on Vail Pass where there was a major traffic jam. After I had a mini breakdown in the car and texted my sister, she reasonably suggest that we detour to one of my favorite Colorado city’s, Salida. While it wasn’t Moab, we ended up with quiet trails and setting that was probably a bit more Pacer-friendly.
(Couch pic in Buena Vista, near Salida, and hot dog pic in in Bailey, on the drive back to Boulder.)
Utah (Spring and Fall Trips):
So I am a mountain girl at heart (though I also have roots in the Valley). However, I’ve also begun to fall in love with the desert and canyons of Utah. Through Naropa’s Wilderness Therapy program, I’ve had the opportunity to go backpacking in quite and serene White Canyon, where I fell asleep to shooting stars every night…and had some of the coolest sleeping spots of my life. I also got to canoe and explore the Green River and some of it’s side canyons, then finish with a Rites of Passage trip in a canyon outside of Gateway (Gateway is actually in Colorado, but heading back to the canyon we crossed back into Utah).
To “close” off my summer adventures, I headed to Leadville, CO for two short trips: the first to help “the boy” at Leadville 100, and the second as 2 day trip to run up Mt. Massive with Supergirl and hike a bit.
Leadville 100 was my first time back to the 100 miler scene. It took some journaling and making sure I was mentally ready, and, for the most part, I was. Any mental “triggers” of no longer being an ultra runner, I could look at mindfully. Plus, I was helping someone else and I got the best section to pace: Hope Pass and the Colorado Trail. I was pretty exited to be back out on the CT, especially knowing alpacas would be at the aid station!
(I was super sad I didn’t get a good picture of the alpacas at the Hope Pass aid station- middle pic)
Eventually, after numerous injuries that were “ignored” before the start that could no longer could be ignored and body shut down (what I consider to be “self preservation mode”) where dizziness and the lost capacity to run took over, he did something I could not do for myself over 2 years ago: he stopped (or DNF’d in running terms). Another lesson to ponder.
A few days later, Pacer and I went back to Leadville to run up Mt. Massive. That was the only part that went mostly as planned (besides the cloudy day and falling over a boulder). That evening, as we were driving around to find a camping spot, my car started vibrating and making a nasty knocking sound under my feet. It was one of those sounds were I knew something was not good and my anxiety quickly escalated. Even more so than the car, I was worried about what I would do with Pacer, who does not do well with strangers, while the car was getting fixed.
“The boy” talked me down, saying he would drive down if needed. However, I am both stubborn and independent (both good and not-so-good qualities) and was pretty determined to figure it out myself. As always, everything worked out, and worked out better than expected, in the end. I did allow the boy to help a bit and he found the only car repair shop for us in town Coldfoot Foreign Car Repair, a one-man shop owned my Randy and his dog. Randy was nothing short of wonderful- he found the part I needed (a new right front axle), got me in that day, quoted me with a more than fair price, and sent Pacer and I on a hike right from his shop to the old mining sites.
On the way back down, I pondered a thought that had occurred to me in Montana: What if I operated on the belief that I would always be taken care of, that everything would always be okay? Because, as much as I worry, EVERYTHING HAS always worked out for me.
I also realized my new #1 rule for adventure/lesson of the summer: Expect and embrace “mis”adventure, which I guess is essentially adventure. Many things will not go as planned, which opens the door to new adventures and life lessons.
Of course, Pacer and I then got stuck for an hour at the “Tunnel” on I-70 on the way back to Boulder. Embrace the unexpected, GOT IT.
Montana was the big “finale” trip of mine and Pacer’s summer, though of course the adventures will continue.
The brief adventure report: It was beautiful, not without it’s misadventures and lessons, and long days on the trail. However, it was not the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
The longer report:
I had been planning on going to Montana for over a year. However, I’m scared of grizzly bears and wasn’t about to risk running into one with just Pacer and I out there, so we stuck to the Bozeman, Montana area.
I’ll get my 2 biggest complaints over with so I can then focus on the good stuff: 1) I couldn’t find public showers anywhere (the Swim Center only offered public showers until noon, which is no good when Im in the middle of the mountains). This wasn’t a huge issue—Pace doesn’t mind my smell and there were creeks and other ways of cleaning up slightly, but sometimes a hot shower is just nice! 2) Huge lack of free camping in Hyalite Canyon and the campgrounds were all full. The second time we camped there, I somewhat illegally slept in a “day use spot” (which there were plenty of and would have been perfect for camping) before waking up at 4 am to nightmares that my car was towed and Pacer and I wound up in a junkyard. I then drove to the trailhead and slept 2 more hours in my car.
The other downside was that between being out for 5+ hours each day and then driving to the next spot, I really didnt have enough time to read and write. I’ll have to plan that in a bit more next time, especially as Pace could use a bigger rest day (I thought I planned a rest day…but that turned into another 5+ hour day).
A brief summary of our adventures in the Gallatin Mountains:
Blackmore Mtn (Hyalite Canyon)
Lava Lake and Flattop Mtn (toward Big Sky)
Lone Peak (Big Sky)- Honestly, with all the 14ers in CO, it was silly to do Lone Peak that is out of a fancy ski resort (which I nearly always dislike) up trails that are by far not the prettiest around and has a really crappy 1.4 miles to the summit that Pacer was quite made at me for. Oh ego, when will I ever learn to resist you!
Fairly Lake & Sacajawea (and surrounding) Peak (Bridger Canyon)
Hyalite Lake & Peak (Hyalite Canyon)- waterfalls all the way up! By far my favorite trail of the trip. (In general, Hyalite Canyon was my favorite area).
This trip, I really had to balance my internal and OCD “need” to go far and long, do and see everything, with slowing down and taking it easy. If I would have listened to Pacer, who once again truly earned her nickname “Supergirl”, I probably would have been more on track.
Regardless, we were still able to discover more of the most stunning places in the country and get to know more parts of Mother Nature. (Running down Hyalite and passing a wildflower and waterfall area, outlound I told Her “Mother Nature, you are f***ing gorgeous!”)
Finally, I also realized that with all mine and Pacer’s adventures this summer, I have not found a more beautiful place, or a place that I love more, than in the heart of the Colorado Mountains. I may not always live in Boulder, but the Rocky Mountains (especially the San Juans and Sawatch Range) will always be our home.
Lesson #1: Skip looking at the forecast for Lake City (San Juan Mountains). It is usually wrong and the mountains are unpredictable anyway. (Though I do expect rain and thunderstorms almost every afternoon.)
For this short mountain trip to one of my favorite places, Supergirl and I had four 14ers mountains planned: Uncompahgre, Redcloud & Sunshine (done together), and Handies. Handies was my “first” 14er with Sandi several years ago (though I had done Kilimanjaro, a 19er, first) and I had already done Redcloud & Sunshine the year before without Pacer, who was feeling a bit under the weather. The route to Redcloud & Sunshine had been one of my favorites, I really like a cafe (Chillin’) in town, and Supergirl is en route to doing all the dog-friendly 14ers in Colorado. so I was more than happy to go back.
We started with the longest route, 16-mile round-trip up Uncompahgre. The day started off cloudy and I had some anxiety about the weather most of the way up, but Mother Nature granted us safe passage. The next day, the day there was flood warnings for Lake City, we did the 11 mile trip up Redcloud & Sunshine. We had some big puffy clouds that I don’t love at 14,000ft (literally- Sunshine is the lowest 14er at 14,001ft), but mostly sun. That afternoon, I decided to say up high and un-connected, taking time to finally meditate and read (plus, the road down from the trail head terrifies me). On the 3rd day, we reached Heaven as we climbed up Handies Peak (8 miles round-trip) to a mostly blue sky.
It seems as if Heaven is attainable if only we are willing to “hike” high enough to get there. Even on the cloudy days, I simply prayed to Mother Nature and was granted safe passage. And when I left, I understood that I could always come back. When I am still, I can find Heaven inside myself.
Earlier this week, Pacer and I changed up our new adventure routine a bit. For our short trip out to Copper Mountain/Leadville/Windham, we brought a boy. It was only a two day trip, but it was without fighting, tears, and wanting to kill each other. The fact that we both only had small, single person tents that we set up next to each other rather than sharing a double may have been the key to success…
We started off with a run from Copper Mountain to Leadville over Searle and Kokomo Pass. My twin, Sandi, started on the other side so we were all able just to do the 18+ miles one way. Supergirl and I had hiked this section of the Colorado Trail on our thru-hike two years ago and the field of wildflowers had called me back. Because of back pain and a calf injury last year, I wasn’t able to do the run in 2016. This year, I was blessed to be able to do this run with loved ones and a healthy body (and my first 18-miler in over a year!).
The next day, the boy, Supergirl, and I hiked up La Plata Peak*, the last 14er Supergirl and I had to summit in the Sawatch Range. According to one of my guide books, we took the “gentle, scenic” route from Windham rather than the traditional route from Twin Lakes. While I don’t know the traditional route, in my experience of 30 other 14ers, in no way would I mention “gentle” in my description of this route. We called it the “badass” way.
*See my 6/19/17 post, reminding me that my ego is much smaller than the greatness of massive mountain.
(The pick with the backpack is our pic from the pass in 2015!)
I had forgotten how hard backpacking is!
After hearing friends recommend the Uintas Mountains again and again, I had decided it was a must for Pacer and I this summer, so we took off for a short backpacking trip.
As usual, things didn’t go as planned. It took us nearly a day to find the right trailhead. We couldn’t find a trail (which, in the end, ended up being a good thing as we were both tired, Pacer had major backpack chafing and the loop would have added a considerable amount of distance). I fell in to a river up to my waste. And I was ATTACKED by mosquitoes.
But we also climbed to the highest point in Utah, escaped storm clouds, climbed over passes that left us smack in the middle of mountains, and filled up on water from high mountain lakes. I read “late” (relatively speaking for backpacking) into the night, cuddled with Pacer in our one-girl-and-a-dog sized tent, and slept under a nearly full moon.
At one mountain lake by Red Castle, I nearly laughed out loud. I always tell my friends that Pacer and I are going to die together. They either laugh at me or look at me like I’m crazy. Little do they know that we’ve already made it to Heaven together, even if only temporarily at the time.
Of course, this trip still left me battling my ego. I felt like I should have hiked more. Then, I cut the trip short when I noticed Pacer’s bruises (that tough little girl never even whined!) and she tired. I knew I made the right decision to go home rather than Lake City to climb more 14ers, but it still left me feeling unaccomplished. And only to my own expectations. Really, if I let myself looking into these feelings, I’ll have a new, and probably more rewarding, journey on my hands.
Last week, Pacer and I went for a mini-adventure to one of my favorite place in the world: The Sawatch Range, near Salida and Buena Vista, Colorado. This range is home to twelve 14ers and both the Collegiate East and Collegiate West sections of the Colorado Trail. Our plan was to climb Mt. Harvard and Mt. Antero, possibly adding on Mt. Columbia (usually done with Mt. Harvard if no dog is involved). The stunning beauty of the valley was only enhanced by the snow, though significantly more treacherous. It was with luck (and the guidance of Mother Nature) that we found the trail up Mt. Harvard and only made it down by sliding down the mountain on my butt with Pacer running behind me. The next day on Mt. Columbia, I may have pushed us too far and I am saddened to admit that I let my ego take over. I was nearly blown over on the ridge to Mt.Columbia, wind whipping my face, with the first signs of hypothermia setting in, making me stumble and fall on the loose rocks. Pacer was doing much better until I decided to dive down an alternative trail to get out of the wind, where we first slid down in scree and then found ourselves lost in the snow filled valley below. Luckily, I have some map skills and eventually (in near tears) found the trail. I realized while it’s nice and poetic to say “at least if I die in the mountains, I’ll be in my favorite place” but really it’s a load of crap 1) because me dying (from a stupid decision), regardless of where, will be of no condolence to my loved ones and 2) I still have a whole lot to give to the world. There is certainly risk in all adventure, but risking Pacer’s safety or taking stupid chances because of a need to summit is foolish, especially when there are so many more places to explore.
We finally finished with an “easy” 16 mile route up Mt. Antero following a 4-wheel road. I was satisfied until I realized La Plata peak, the only 14er we had not done in the Sawatch Range, might just be dog-friendly. But I knew my body was tired. I battled with my decision all night, but eventually hiked a portion of the Colorado Trail the next day where we had gotten lost coming down 2 years earlier. And so, while we had a fantastic trip, I realized I still have a lot of inner work to do in working with my ego*.
*Despite my psychology background, I’m not using in ego in the Freudian sense but in the traditional “big-headed” usage.
Pacer and I started off our 2017 adventure season with a trip to a new state for us: New Mexico! The landscape was amazing…from the Rio Grande and the desert to the snow-capped mountains. Of course, it wasn’t without our normal “mis”adventures…getting my second flat tire in a month (but finding so much gratitude to the 3 gentleman who helped us!) and starting out a hike without a map and ending up on the top of Santa Fe Baldy (I think…again, I didn’t have a map) and then back to the car 8.5 hours later.
Regardless, it was blessing and relief to sleep under that stars again and be without a constant connection to the internet!