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getting in touch with my inner colorado girl


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Fall camping in style

Fall is one of my favorite seasons in Colorado for a reason that I can sum up in two words – golden aspens. There is something magical about seeing my favorite mountains carpeted in yellow leaves. Although the Golden Leaf Half Marathon was not my most enjoyable race ever this year I still got to camp in the midst of the changing leaves in Aspen this past weekend, which was a huge win.

On Friday night Graham and I cruised up Castle Creek Road in the dark and found a campsite by oh 10 p.m. I wish I could say this wasn’t typical for us but we have definitely done some late night campsite picking in our day! Anyway, the Golden Leaf was on Saturday morning so we didn’t worry too much about finding more than just a flat place to throw our tent for one night. After the misery of the Golden Leaf was over on Saturday and I had sufficiently drowned my running woes in french fries Graham and I headed back up Castle Creek Road to find a campsite for the rest of the weekend.

photo-1Glamping.

We found an awesome campsite around 10,700 feet that was nestled in the woods off the road and right by a creek. Graham is well stocked with all camping supplies ever, so we had a pretty swanky camp with complete with a hammock, collapsable table, and a huge canopy that we affectionately nicknamed “The Pagoda”. Of course Cooper was a huge help gathering firewood while we were setting up camp.

photoOh hey Cooper. Thanks buddy!

We had a lazy Saturday afternoon setting up camp and cooking dinner. I was glad we were by a creek because that gave me a chance to clean up after running. Who needs a shower when you have cold mountain water and Camp Suds?

For dinner we made pasta with italian sausage and vodka sauce with additional fresh veggies. It was delicious! I definitely eat better while camping than in real life. I was exhausted (probably from waking up early and running a half marathon?), and we headed to bed around 9 p.m. Got to love going to bed at grandma time in the mountains!

It absolutely poured rain on the tent all night, and in the morning I was worried that we were going to have to take down all the camping gear in cold September rain. Luckily the rain cleared eventually and we were excited to find that what had been rain for us had materialized in the form of snow 800 feet above us. The mountains tops had a dusting of snow which looked beautiful against the backdrop of the half golden aspens.

noname-1Our campsite? Meh it was kind of pretty.

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Awesome shot by Graham.

noname-4Half golden, all beautiful.

noname-3Snow and aspens, does it get better?

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Reusing extra italian sausage from the night before (genius) we had scrambled eggs with mozzarella cheese, potatoes with green peppers and onions and sausage for breakfast.

aspen1Yum.

The clouds looked kind of questionable above the surrounding mountains so we worked on taking down camp following breakfast. We almost made it and got everything down but the Pagoda before the rain.

After packing up camp Graham and I were not quite ready to leave the area just yet. We headed further up the 4WD road, and the rain seemingly cleared. We parked the truck and decided to hoof it up the road. It was still cloudy but the clouds just made the surrounding mountains look mystical.

noname-6Hiking with my boys.

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Engulfed in the clouds.

noname-7We started feeling some raindrops and figured our luck was running out so we headed back to the car. It was kind of just in the nick of time as it started hailing on the drive down the road.

aspen2Hail while driving through this tunnel o’ aspens

Reluctantly we headed down Castle Creek Road back towards civilization, and a great weekend in the mountains came to an end. Hail, snow and rain, all in one day! That’s fall camping in Colorado for you – gorgeous scenery and unpredictable weather.

Speaking of snow you know what the very best part about golden aspen season is? Winter is just around the corner…!

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Conquering the Collegiates

The end of June brings many things: the summer solstice, the Stanley Cup (in years when there is an NHL lockout) and for us Coloradans the return of 14er season. While 14ers can technically be done at any time of the year conditions start being pretty optimal once the majority of the snow has melted, which is usually late June. Since my summer is shaping up to be kind of jam packed I knew I had to take advantage of the free time that I happened to have this past weekend.

For the first 14er of the summer I decided on Mt. Yale. My goal is to finish the Collegiates this summer and I figured Mt. Yale would be as good of a choice as any. I have kind of limited free weekends this summer due to all my running endeavors (Pikes Peak Marathon!) and other random planned trips so when I had no plans last weekend I was able to easily talk Graham into camping on Friday and hiking Mt. Yale on Saturday.

14er #19: Mt. Yale

After a long week of work for both Graham and me we were pretty darn happy to be skipping town and driving to Buena Vista on Friday evening. We opted for semi-lazy camping, stopping for dinner at Eddyline in town.

eddyline-restaurant-breweryEddyline – great beer and pizza!

We ordered pizza and had some leftovers which we decided to save for a post-hike lunch on Saturday. After taking Cooper for a quick walk by the river we headed up to the Mt. Yale trailhead to try and find a place to camp for the evening. Generally it’s not too hard to find a place to camp near a trailhead. However, the Mt. Yale trailhead was right off of a highway towards Cottonwood Pass, so the geography of the area made it kind of hard. I was a little, okay maybe a lot, worried that we weren’t going to find anywhere suitable to camp but we eventually found an awesome pull-off right before the official campground area. We were in our sleeping bags by 10:45 ready for the mountains the next day!

IMG_6434Nothing says good morning like a trail in the mountains.

We ate a quick breakfast of bagels with cream cheese and lox and headed out on the trail. The parking lot was full, but it wasn’t a zoo like some of the front range 14ers are. I find that the Collegiates are really fun 14ers because they are reasonably close to Denver with 1/4 the crowds. The trail started out with a climb from the parking lot, which pretty much set the tone for the entire day. The trail starts at 9,900 feet and ends at 14,196 feet in 4.25 miles (9.5 roundtrip) – a bit of a climb.

IMG_6436“You guys are you coming? What is taking so long?” -Cooper

I was still feeling the effects of the Mt. Evans Ascent from the Saturday before so the hike was a little rough for me. A few people coming down from the summit kept giving me overly encouraging comments, one person even asking, “Are you doing okay?” Apparently I must have looked like I was struggling!

IMG_6444View of Mt. Yale from above treeline.

Finally, we made it to the summit. Compared to a lot of the double summit Collegiates I did last year (Belford & Oxford and Shavano & Tabeguache) Yale really was not too bad of a hike. Surprisingly too the view was not obstructed by smoke from the many wildfires in Colorado.

IMG_6475Top of the world.

IMG_6455Cooper really steals the show in this one.

IMG_6467Dale’s and mountains, best combo ever.

We ate lunch, drank a Dale’s and relaxed on the summit for a bit before heading back down.

IMG_6469High five for mountains.

Cooper had a bit of trouble on some of the large boulders on the way up to the summit, so Graham and I headed down what initially seemed to be an easier way down the 14er. False. It turned into a slow slog down a steep loose scree field. Hiking on loose rocks is not my favorite thing in the world, so I just slowly sidestepped down the mountain. I don’t think I have ever hiked on such a loose boulder field. Once we finally made it down to the trail again we looked back up at what we had just hiked down and realized we had just walked down a steep face of the mountain. No wonder it had been so hard!

IMG_6482See that really steep part of the mountain? Yeah, we walked down that. Oops!

For future reference I recommend just staying on the trail if you hike Mt. Yale. The rest of the hike down was much less uneventful, thankfully. The trail felt deluxe compared to the scree field. Before we knew it we were back at the trailhead.

IMG_6492Back below treeline.

I was so glad we had saved the pizza from dinner the night before. It was the perfect end to the day. We headed back to Denver full of pizza, Dale’s and mountain air. I couldn’t ask for a better way to start out the summer!

14er season – reunited and it feels so good.