02 January 2016

a happy holiday...

"Happiness is only real when shared." -- Christopher McCandless

New things shared with others have made this season a happy holiday indeed.  Like much of the past six months, this time has been filled with many 'firsts.'  A few years ago on my birthday, my friend Traci gifted me with a challenge to try as many new things as I was years old at the time.  Little did she know how far that gift of a challenge would go.  Being who I am (stubborn...driven...crazy...), I'm currently pursuing 34 'firsts.'   

Understanding Ski Equipment
unfamiliar with poles, boots, and skis
Learning to Ski at Keystone
patient ski instruction from Jason & Larry
Enjoying Time with Out-of-Towners
twilight hike to Horsetooth Rock
---Jake & Karen
scenic views in the high mountains
Skiing Loveland for Thanksgiving
satisfied after our tailgating feast
Skiing Breckenridge
carving with 'bsw' newbie Kathryn
Dining on a Dredge 
floating on the river in Breckenridge
Shoveling Snow
having great neighbors is a bonus
Running in Snow
love the crunching sound of snow
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Dinners
wining and dining for the Eve
potluck dinner for the Day
Hiking within Poudre Canyon
bluebird day on Gray Rock
Snowshoeing Rocky Mountain National Park
stopping by the woods on a snowy (day)
Ringing in the New Year
looking forward to 2016 adventures
Skiing Keystone for New Year's Night
"All these places have their own moments with lovers and friends, I still can recall." - The Beatles
Check out a great musician experienced lately - click to play.

Lindsey Saunders - In My Life (cover) (Westminster Brewery & CyclHOPS)

01 November 2015

spices of fall...

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you read the title of this post?  If you are like me, my brain and my taste buds signal pumpkin spice (lattes, beers, breads, butters, oh my), clove, allspice, and nutmeg.  As delicious as the food and drink of fall may be, I'm not focusing an entire blog about some jars in my spice cabinet.  Time spent with important folks, doing both monumental and insignificant things, is what makes this season spicy, warm, and rich.

For starters, my "final" 14er for this hiking season was completed this month.  Mt. Massive is the 2nd highest mountain in Colorado, has five summits, and spans more area above 14,000 feet than any other mountain in the continental US of A.  Massive indeed!  It's right next to Mt. Elbert which I hiked in July (as described in "following cairns...").  I went with Jason, a like-minded adventure-seeker and stellar campfire-builder, to name just a few of his outdoorsy quality traits.

It was a fun road-trip to Leadville and a great (long) hike (4,500 feet of elevation gain in 7.25 miles of trail -- yes, that's 14.5 round trip trekking miles).  A beautiful blue sky was ours for the enjoying, and we celebrated our summit with mint Oreos and frothy brews.  There were several interesting groups of people at the top, including someone celebrating a birthday with champagne and cherry pie (which they generously shared).  I love the range of people out there on the trail!  Following our descent, we ate at High Mountain Pie (again) to continue celebrating the14er conquered.  Thank you, High Mountain Pie - delicious as always!
total 14ers so far = 13
The next weekend brought about a Red Rocks concert to see Railroad Earth (check them out below) with Taya and Taylor, my Colorado native friends from Fort Collins. The show was great, and we had a blast dancing around the amphitheater.  It was a gorgeous night at Red Rocks with solid folks. What's more, this time there was no rain, sleet, thunder, or lightning to cause any musical delays.
getting groovy with Railroad Earth
That same weekend, I trekked to the little town of Canon City for a Bikes & Brews fest (moral support for the "bike" half that Jason rode (and killed it)...partner-in-crime for the "brew" half).  There's not a lot that can beat live music, liquid libations, gorgeous fall days, and people-watching.  The town of Canon City is tucked away in south central Colorado.  The biggest claim to fame for the area (besides a multitude of prisons - apparently open, sparse areas are great places to build prisons) is the Royal Gorge and the Arkansas River that runs through it.  While the train ride through the gorge wasn't all that exhilarating, the views it offered were pretty spectacular.
riding that train
With all of the hiking, camping, and fire-building going on, it only seemed right to seek some balance with a night out in Fort Collins.  The gala was a fundraiser for the non-profit Child Safe - if you are interested to know more about the organization, check them out by clicking HERE.  I felt very much like a "commoner" among high society, but with Jason, Taya, and Taylor for company, it was a night full of laughter.  Besides, who doesn't like to dress up and showcase some spiciness every once in a while?
black & white...& red
This is my favorite month of the year.  Not only is it top spot on my calendar because the leaves are changing colors and the weather is becoming less humid and more crisp (wait, this is Colorado - what is humidity?), but it's also my mom's AND my birthday.  Yep, we share it!  What made it even more special this year is that we were able to celebrate it together, here, in Colorado.    
happiest of birthdays in Breckenridge

My parents came out for a couple of weeks in early October.  It was so much fun to have them here!  Now that I've lived here for longer than a minute, it was fantastic to share "my state" with them.  They were able to explore so much of Colorado, starting with Fort Collins' Old Town.  Before we headed into the high mountains for a week, my parents, my roommate Brittany, and I tried out a new (to us) brunch spot, The Silver Grille.  They have enormous cinnamon rolls and delicious mimosas -- drool worthy! 
out on the town
butter on the side?  whoa.

It doesn't normally snow in Georgia during October, so once my parents and I made it to our condo, we were like kids at Christmas (okay, at least I was) to see some dusting on the mountains.  Every view was breath taking.  We drove north, we drove south, we experienced a lot in a short time together.  We also found time to relax and enjoy being lazy, just hanging out. 

view from our condo in Winter Park
somewhere between Granby and Kremmling
We drove the entire Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park.  There were elk all over the place, both in RMNP and in Estes Park, the tourist town to the east of RMNP.  Elk are enormous, beautiful creatures (that should be given plenty of space to roam and rest, I must add).

While in Estes Park, I saw a poster for a trail race, and it sounded like a fun challenge, so I decided to give it a go.  Needless to say, the elevation of 8000 (plus) feet with a gain to 9000 (plus) feet kicked my tail.  My time wasn't spectacular, but I loved it.  I really want to be a badass trail runner someday.  Gotta start somewhere.
my cheerleader at the finish line
As a grand finale to the month, Halloween was celebrated in the best ways.  First, my coworker friends and I chaperoned a field trip to a local pumpkin farm and corn maze.  It was chaotically fun to meet students and families, all the while hanging out with these ladies (field trips are the best parts of the gig).  Then, I found my "inner personality" and made sure to flaunt it.  I'm quite sure that Rosie the Riveter and Freddie Mercury would never have been in the same crowd, but there is a first time for everything! 
finally found the perfect pumpkin
Freddie & Rosie
Some say that the spices of fall are over-rated, over-played and over-used, that it's a marketing ploy to get us to buy into "everything" fall.  I do think it may be overkill in some areas.  Apple-cider flavored Peeps?  No, thank you!  In my opinion, the best spices come from time with special people and the moments shared.

So, anyone up for a pumpkin spiced latte?
Check out some great tunes experienced this month - click to play each.

Railroad Earth - Bird In A House (Red Rocks)
Lindsey Saunders - Something (Bike & Brews Festival)
Franz Ferdinand & Spark - Take Me Out (Denver)
Misterwives - Reflections (Denver)
Shakey Graves - Dearly Departed (Denver)

13 September 2015


Change - Move - Alter - Differ.  However it may be said, these words basically mean the same thing - the process of changing from one condition to another.  When I moved to Colorado in June, it felt like I was just going on a summer-working-vacation once again.  I had a suspicion that reality would hit at some point, and with the transitions in August, it definitely has.  I love this reality.

As mentioned in my previous post "following cairns...," Long's Peak is a 14er that Madison and I had planned to conquer.  August brought about that chance.  I think we were psyched out by what we had read online and what had been shared with us from other hikers.  Both the climbing difficulty classification and the route length were beyond anything we had attempted.  Long's was the pinnacle of our summer hiking adventures.
Long's Peak as seen from RMNP
Summer in Colorado means monsoon season, indicatng that most afternoons, thunder and lightning storms are expected to roll in by early afternoon.  If on top of a summit or even above the tree line of a peak, these storms can be life threatening.  We wanted to make sure that we summited Long's and were below the tree line by 12 pm.  That time frame for the descent is usually is a safe bet.  Because of the length of the trail (14.50 miles round trip), Madison, Jimmy (our friend from Mesa Verde), and I hit the trail at 2:30 a.m.  Yes, morning...headlamps, water, and plenty of trail food in tow.
Early morning start
The first few hours of our journey were completely in the dark, among the trees.  We were not the only ones out at that time of day.  There were other determined people out there with us (determined seems to be a better word than crazy, right?).  The trek up Long's was varied which kept the hike interesting.  Trees and rivers welcomed us in the beginning.  We reached the tree line and experienced rockier terrain, traversing the slope of the peak and eventually making our way to a boulder field.  It was about this time that the sun peaked above the horizon, signaling the transition from night to day.  I love sunrises, especially out here,  as they have the potential to take my breath away.
Looking east from the trail
With the journey into the boulder field, we came face to face with Long's.  It's a mountain that demands respect and reverence, a "humble giant," as described by a friend. 

Majestically silent Long's
We crossed the boulder field and headed up to the keyhole.  At this point, we had the majority of our hike under our belt, but the journey past the keyhole was the most difficult and intimidating.  They were also the most exhilarating steps.

Looking towards the next phase
With one foot in front of the other, we followed the trail of spray painted bulls-eyes across ledges, up a trough, through the narrows, and into the homestretch.  If you want to geek out about this even more than I am, just head over to the 14ers.com web site.  It was a phenomenal climb, definitely the most memorable one, and the best hike I've ever done.  We reached the summit in one piece, celebrated as we watched the clouds build, and eventually made our way back down...safely, slowly, and surely.  Eventually we made it to the trailhead and to our sandals, 13 hours later. 
Epic weekend with a great team 
The week after bagging Long's Peak, I started back to work - same company with a transition to a different state and different grade. Our first day back involved the staff coming together in a drum circle.  No joke!  It was SO Colorado, and SO fantastic.  I really like being with the same company, knowing how they operate, feeling comfortable with my role.  The learning curve is coming by finding out the specifics of Colorado laws and the way the school operates within the state.  I've met some pretty great people through work.  In fact, a few of my coworkers and their husbands and I made it to Red Rocks to see Greensky Bluegrass and Yonder Mountain String Band.  It was a crazy, funny night that will keep us laughing for awhile!
Another night at Red Rocks
Another transition this month involved moving into my new place, Whedbee Cottage.  It's the perfect space for me, about a mile from Old Town, easy for biking, and close to trails that lead to the foothills.  I really couldn't ask for a better living situation in an adorable area of town.  I mean, it even has a gas stove and a brand new washer/dryer - my domestic side loves it!
One of my favorite places
The month involved more 14ers conquered, more people met, more music experienced, more campfires built, more explorations had.  Oh, I did finally build a camp fire all by myself (does it count if I used cotton ball and Vaseline to get it started, though?). Either way, it created a gorgeous flame for several hours.  I guess it's not only those monumental moments that count - the little moments are just as incredible.  Here's to more moments, both large and small. 
Practicing campfire skills
Check out some great tunes experienced this month - click to play each.

Steve Miller Band - The Joker (Bohemian Nights in Fort Collins)
Rodrigo y Gabriela - Tamacun (Bohemian Nights in Fort Collins)

Greensky Bluegrass - The Four (Red Rocks)

Yonder Mountain String Band  - Only a Northern Song (Red Rocks)

16 August 2015

following cairns...

During the month of July, nearly every weekend was filled with camping, meal packs, and hiking big mountains.  When hiking these mountains, usually it's fairly easy to follow the trail in the grassy areas and through the trees.  However, once getting above the tree line and into the rockier terrain, cairns are used to mark the trail.  Cairns are simply stacks of rocks placed at increments.  Losing a cairn and getting off track can be frustrating and make hikes more taxing, so it's important to follow the cairns to stay on course. 
As a refresher, there are 54 (ish) mountain peaks in Colorado that are 14,000 feet or more in elevation.  I wrote about 14ers last summer when I bagged my first peak, Mt. Sneffels (July 2014) with Mesa Verde friends.  My fellow adventurer, Madison, and I made it our summer goal to reach as many 14er summits as possible.
first 14er for 2015
We began with Mt. Beirstadt on July 3, and with it being the Friday of the holiday weekend, the trail and summit were packed!  We woke up early that day and drove to the trailhead.  It was a fun morning of a solid hike, meeting new people and making connections, a great way to kick off our hiking adventures.  On our way back to Fort Collins, we stopped in Georgetown to explore it and to have lunch.  The small towns out here are just too cool to pass up.
having a blast atop Mt. Bierstadt
The next weekend we tackled Mt. Elbert.  It's the highest peak in Colorado, and it was named after Samuel Elbert.  This, as I learned, is not the same Samuel Elbert for which Elbert County, Georgia (the area where I grew up) was named.  However, it was pretty sweet to summit the mountain.  That's probably going to be the highest my feet will take me for awhile.

breathtaking view from Mt. Elbert
That entire weekend surrounding Mt. Elbert was solid.  Madison had some friends visiting, so we played tour guides as well as fellow explorers.  We drove through Rocky Mountain National Park (Long's Peak overshadowing it like a towering giant).  Then we went to Red Rocks to see Lake Street Dive and the Avett Brothers.  Phenomenal show!  Words can't describe just how good of a night that was - laughing, dancing, singing the whole night (after the lightning storm passed)!  We camped (still not sure where), then woke up early the next day and breakfasted in Idaho Springs - again, a great small town to explore.  We drove north to Radium Hot Springs and then returned south to Leadville with a stop over in Copper Mountain for a music festival.  Yes, it was a full day!
getting ready for the RR show
We drove through Leadville and set up our camp near the trail head of Mt. Elbert, realizing we were in need of firewood (it had just rained, too).  Much to our good fortune, our neighbors in the camp ground were the most generous grandfather and grandson, Larry and Xander.  We talked to them about firewood, and then they went for a walk.  We met some other guys who were in need of it, and while we were making a plan to head back into town, Larry and Xander came walking up the path with arms loaded with dry wood.  Seriously, they were stacked!  With that, we decided to turn our camp site into a feast!  Everyone was invited to bring their food, drinks, and frivolity to our site and enjoy the evening together.  We shared food, drinks, desserts, and great stories around the fire.  After we hiked Mt. Elbert with some of our new friends, we all gathered in Leadville for a celebration with pizza, afterwards exploring it and the fun shops on the main street.
new friends met at Mt. Elbert
The next 14er that I summited was Mt. Evans.  Taya and I went for this one together since she had a mid-week day off.  As mentioned previously, usually the trails are easy to follow in the grassy areas.  However, the Mt. Evans trail was incredibly difficult to find.  We had to do a lot of willow-bush-whacking, and we often veered off course, adding some mileage to our hike.  We made it to the summit though, and it was a great hike - some climbing, some mountain goats, and plenty of laughs!  Again, we stopped in Georgetown for lunch on the way down.  If ever there, try La Lucha's tacos!
goofing off after summiting Mt. Evans
The following weekend, Madison and I road-tripped to Moab, Utah where we met up with our Mesa Verde friend Katie.  It was so good to be together again!  We camped on the Colorado River, explored some incredible arches and saw amazing views in Canyonlands National Park, and we even found a great place to watch rappelling.  Of course we made our way into Moab to check out the town including Peace Tree CafĂ©, eating there twice.  Yep, twice.
hiking through Negro Bill Canyon
The next weekend, Madison had another friend visiting, so we decided to push the hiking limits a little bit and go for two 14ers in a day.  It's not as tough as it sounds, really.  The hardest part was the trek to reach the summit of Grays. Once at the top Grays, we just returned to the saddle and headed up to Torreys.  That turned out to be a pretty interesting day, another day in which we met some great people along the hike, some that thankfully gave us a ride back to our car once at the trailhead.  We even had La Lucha's for lunch again from Georgetown, this time picnic style.  We earned it, for sure.
a two-for-one 14ers kind of day
So, during the month of July, Madison and I hiked four 14ers together, and I had one more with the hike with Taya.  That brought my total to six 14ers, and yep, I'm proud of that number.  Madison and I began making plans for several more significant hikes in August, including Long's Peak.  We were ready to follow more cairns, bag more peaks, reach more goals.
Long's Peak stands majestically tall
Also during the month of July, I became more permanently rooted in Fort Collins.  I'm now a proud owner of new wheels to get around town.  Furthermore, there became available an apartment within a little brown house, and I was able to claim and lease it for the following year.  It's adorable if you like brown, and I do! 
whedbee cottage - a place to call home
Slowly but surely, things are continuing to unfold in pretty significant ways.  It's just one step at a time, following the cairns as they appear on this journey, remaining flexible with every turn.
Check out some great tunes experienced this month- click to play each.

Avett Brothers - At The Beach (Red Rocks)

 Lake Street Dive - You Go Down Smooth (Red Rocks)

04 July 2015

blessed is this life...

...and I'm gonna celebrate being alive. 

June was packed with celebrations of people, places, and experiences.  To begin, I traveled from Georgia to Colorado.  Hugs and "see ya laters" to Jake and Karen were more difficult than expected.  I sure do love my family.  Dad and Mom (being retired and adventurous) joined, er, helped with the move.  Some of the highlights were in Nashville, St. Louis, and Kansas.

Getting those hugs to last awhile
Spectacular Ryman
St. Louis - Gateway to the West

Sunset across Kansas
Finally we arrived in Colorado, unpacked the moving truck, and continued more of our explorations.  We checked out Garden of the Gods, Budweiser, Red Rocks (Tedeschi Trucks and the Dap Kings), and Rocky Mountain National Park.  We had a blast in Cheyenne, Wyoming, feeding REAL buffalo!
Garden of the Gods
Growing beards and mustaches

Red Rocks in a hail storm
Birthday boy feeding the buffalo
My parents then headed back to Georgia.  I'm so thankful for their adventurous spirit and simple pleasure-mindset.  We had such a great time seeing the west. It was strange to take them to the airport and not fly back to Georgia with them. 
Security check in Colorado
Colorado is my home now, and it's becoming more real with each day (and I love that).  I'm looking forward to more visitors out here - There is so much to experience - open invitation!  I've settled into my temporary apartment with my roommate Madison (who I worked with last year in Mesa Verde).  Thankfully she's up for adventure even more than I am!  There's a lot to experience here, so it's going to take some time.  No problem -- I plan to be here for awhile.

We road-tripped to Telluride for the annual bluegrass festival.  What an amazing town, great people, awesome music.  We camped at Alta Lakes, hiked to Bridal Veil Falls (and beyond), and soaked in the festivarian vibes.  Being in the San Juan mountains again was one of the most refreshing parts of the road trip.

Chilly mist from Bridal Veil Falls

Mt. Sneffels (beyond Bridal Veil)
Camping at high altitude
Then (I know, there's more) Madison and I went to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks.  That was so crazy and strange for me.  After a run, we jumped in Jackson Lake. Can you say ice bath?  Our campground hosts in the Grand Tetons were Georgia natives.  Sweet people (aren't we all?)!
Jackson Lake and Grand Tetons
While in Yellowstone, I kept having flashbacks of all those things from 14 years ago!  Thanks for putting up with my ramblings, Madison.  We saw the Lake Hotel area (my old stomping grounds), hiked Avalanche Peak, jumped in Firehole Canyon River, and encountered a buffalo traffic jam.  I loved it all. 

Glad for Teddy Roosevelt
Following cairns to the peak
A geyser-infused-river swimming hole
That about sums up June.  There's been some running on new trails, locating permanent housing, meeting new folks, trying out new watering holes and cafes (Fort Collins is THE town for craft beer) - you know, the every day happenings.  More to come in future days!
In the meantime, check out some great tunes experienced this month- click to play each.

Brett Dennen - Blessed (Telluride)
Tedeschi Trucks Band - Made Up Mind (Red Rocks)
Greensky Bluegrass - Burn Them (Telluride)