Sunday, November 24, 2013

August in the blah life

I already had a post about the most fun thing I did in August (the 4 Pass Loop). So, what else did I do?

We made the pasta – well, mostly Seth made the pasta. He crafted a seriously beautiful Italian parsley-filled hand-cut pasta:

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I ran the zombie run 5k with Lacy. This is an event where volunteers dress up like zombies (their makeup is professionally done) and they try to grab the three balloons you have secured to a belt around your waist. If the zombies successfully get all three of your balloons then you have not survived the zombie apocalypse.  We did not survive…


The zombie run was actually pretty fun and I did run faster than usual as some of the zombies gave good chase. Some were very aggressive and others were just run-of-the-mill zombies. If you run it in the future, don’t be afraid to bat away their hands.

We saw Rodrigo y Gabriela at Red Rocks Amphitheater. They played part of the show with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. It was a lovely and surprisingly energetic show. Here is Seth doing the parking lot thing prior to the show:

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Of course, we had many a garden harvest in August, which was actually pretty fun. Every time we went out to the garden there seemed to be more and more vegetable and fruit bounty. Here are shots of two such evening garden runs:

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We made the good foods with some of the garden products too! One evening we had grilled scallops and nectarines with corn and tomato salad. Grilled nectarines are surprisingly tasty, especially on a fork with a bit of scallop drizzled with basil sauce and fresh garden tomato.

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There was also hiking! The night before hiking Mt. Princeton (14,197’), we camped at ~12,000 feet. It was pretty chilly but dry and clear and we were surrounded by mountains.

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We rose to a rosy sunset and those mountains lit up amazingly:

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The hike to Mt. Princeton wasn’t 100% dog-friendly with all the boulders and some scree, but Dempsey powered through and eventually was more nimble than we were.

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We also got some hiking in at Vail when we were there for a wedding. We hiked Notch Mountain, which has a wonderful view of Mount of the Holy Cross.

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So, August was actually pretty full of activity and ripe fruits and vegetables and wonderful dinners and maybe not as blah as I at first thought…

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Garden and growth

We planted our garden May 4th and by September 21st it has grown wildly. We even tried an experiment with ground cover plants (plants that grow low to the ground). We planted chicks and hens, pink chintz thyme, old man’s bones, “Heidi” moss, and “ruby stars." Below is a shot of the planting in action. As you can see, the plants were pretty small and compact at the start.


Here’s a shot from above of the same plants several months later. The thyme (bushy plant on the right) has grown to be full and lush with little white flowers (and kind of in the shape of a heart – I hadn’t noticed that previously). The “ruby stars”  (sort of top left) grew quite a bit as well and developed lots of purple flowers. The “heidi” moss really struggled (you can barely see it in the far left of the photo). The chicks and hens didn’t grow a ton but three new chicks appeared from the two we originally planted!

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Then there are the garden boxes. The beginning days were captured in a previous blog. However, I have provided a shot of what we started with back in May:

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By late September the tomatoes have taken over and the serrano plant is producing overtime. Here is a shot of the tomatoes and hot peppers (basically one garden box):

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Here’s a shot of the other garden box with the brussel sprouts and green and red bell peppers (it had snap peas, lettuce, radishes, and carrots, but those have come and gone).

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I wish I could say that I also grew as a person over the summer, but, alas, I don’t think that happened much. I worked and rode my bike and hiked and knitted and visited towns in Colorado and spent a good amount of time in the car, but I can’t say I know myself better now than in May. It was still a good time though and I thoroughly enjoyed the garden and watching it grow and change and produce over the months.

Monday, September 2, 2013

2013 July Outdoors summary

My blogging has taken a back seat to other summer activities – tending the garden, making yummy foods, getting together with friends, and, of course, hiking! I haven’t gotten out quite as much as I had hoped but I’m generally satisfied with what I’ve been able to do – as far as hiking goes. Here are a few photos from some hiking trips.

Mt. Audubon

Jess and I hiked Mt. Audubon (13,223’) mid-July and had perfect weather and a great time. Even though the hike starts from the Brainard Lake recreation area, we were able to get a parking spot near the trailhead. Also, for a 13er, the hike is of reasonable length (about 8 miles) and isn’t super steep.

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The hike up was stunning as the “diamond” on Longs Peak became more and more visible the higher up you got:

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These are some shots from the top:

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It was pretty windy at the top, so we got a few shots and headed back down.

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We spent a 3-day weekend in Telluride, CO and were able to do two hikes!

First was the relatively short (4.5 miles) Eider Creek Trail Loop, which didn’t take us above tree line but did take us through some fairly mature Aspen forests.

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It was nice and short for a late afternoon hiking effort, and it did open up to give views of the surrounding mountains.

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The second hike was to Navajo Lake. This one was a bit longer (about 10 miles) and did take us above tree line for some stunning alpine meadow hiking. It was one of those perfect hikes where you get a good amount of forest hiking as well as wide open sky alpine hiking.

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The destination, Navajo Lake, sits at the foot of three 14ers, Wilson Peak, Mt. Wilson, and El Diente. It was humbling to sit by the lake and take it in. Unfortunately the clouds didn’t lend to great pictures while we were there, but here is one shot from the lake:

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Our post-hike meal was tasty pasta and a bottle of red wine at the Telluride Bistro. Food seems to always taste better after a good outdoor effort and this was no exception. We sat outside and listened to the hummingbirds and watched a dog who peeked out of a window over the restaurant and generally enjoyed ourselves.

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Next up – August hiking – stay tuned!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

4-Pass Loop!

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It took three days and two nights, but we successfully completed Colorado’s stunning, 26-mile long 4-Pass Loop. The trip was about 50 hours total and, get this, we had almost *no rain* (it sort of sputtered for three minutes one morning). It was really amazing!

Before I get into the photos, I want to give some basic information about the route and logistics.  There are some useful links below. Note that you’ll need to decide if you want to go clockwise or counterclockwise. Many of the descriptions in the links are for the clockwise route, but we did it counterclockwise, which I recommend (most of the passes are less steep to go up and I think the views are better in terms of what you look up to while hiking).

Forest Service:



It’s important to know that unless you arrive between 7:00-9:00am and there is a parking space, you will likely have to shuttle in from Aspen Highlands. The Ranger said this was a better option anyway because “critters” had been chewing the wiring of cars parked at the Maroon Bells Recreation Area parking lot. We actually saw a car parked that had chicken wire wrapped around the bottom of the car.

The shuttle ticket is $6 each (dogs are free) and it takes about 30 minutes. Also, even though the parking lot says “no overnight parking,” you can park overnight if you give them you vehicle information when you buy a bus ticket.

DAY 1: West Maroon Portal to Snowmass Lake (about 8 miles)

We started hiking right around 11:00 am on Friday morning from the West Maroon Portal and set out for Buckskin Pass

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We were visually pleased by the quantity and variety of mushrooms adorning the trail’s edge. Here are just a few:

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One of the fantastic things about this trip is that you get such a diversity of ecosystems. For an hour you’ll be hiking on the soft ground of the forest floor, shaded by tall trees, then, a bit later, you’ll be above tree line hiking up a steeper slope listening to the screeching of pika and the chirping of marmots. Next you may be treated to an alpine meadow full of wildflowers and trickling streams. You get all of that with this trip!

After hiking for about 5.5 hours we arrived at Snowmass Lake and found a camping spot. This is a beautiful lake at the base of Snowmass Peak but is pretty impacted and doesn’t have much privacy – lots of other backpackers camped all around. However, the stunning view that we had mere feet from our tent of the peak across the lake was hard to resist. 

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After the requisite pumping of the water and setting up of the tent, we got to cooking the food! Now, while backpacking nearly anything tastes good but we did think our dinner was super tasty. We had ramen noodles with sliced mushrooms, diced shallot (from the garden) and a serrano pepper (from the garden). The oniony, mushroomy, super spicy concoction was seriously satisfying. We actually started avoiding the serranos after a while because of the mouth burn.

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Day 2: Snowmass Lake to Frigid Air Pass

We were hiking by about 8:00 am the next morning. I had a feeling this would be a big day. On the drive into Aspen, we realized that the US Pro Cycling Challenge was going to start in Aspen on the day we originally planned on finishing (Monday). This would cause road closures between noon and 4pm, which would very likely cause us to have to wait all that time to start the 3+ hour journey back to Denver on Monday. So, we’d all but made the decision to do the loop in 2 nights/3 days as opposed to the originally-planned 3 nights/4 days. To achieve this, we would have to make Day 2 a long day and get some serious mileage in.

We made our way up and around Snowmass Lake towards Trail Rider Pass.

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Here are some shots from the top of Trail Rider Pass (12,420’):

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In this one you can see the trail that we would take to descend the pass off to the left:

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The trail leads down below tree line to a valley that follows a meandering creek.

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Here is a view of the valley once we reached the other end:

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The entire hike leading up to Frigid Air Pass was bittersweet. My heels started to rub in my boots earlier in the day and I had stopped to tape them up, but every step pretty much hurt and felt like something was trying to saw through my heel. However, every time I looked up and noticed what was all around me, my pain was mitigated somewhat. It was a stunning view!

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What you can’t see from the photo directly above is that there were *lots* of wildflowers. I got this shot of an elephantella in its prime:

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We were pretty excited to reach the summit of Frigid Air Pass (12,415’) and took a break to enjoy the scenery and lovely sunny summer afternoon.

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As we descended the other side of Frigid Air Pass, we started to look for a camping spot. We had hiked over 10 miles at that point and were ready to stop!

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The descent was rife with bright orange explosions of flowers – they were like little fireworks:

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We found a camp site in the alpine meadow between Frigid Air Pass and West Maroon Pass. We stopped hiking around 4:30pm and immediately pumped water. We drank *all* of our water during the day.

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Once we pumped water we started water boiling for mac n cheese with jalapeno peppers. I think that might have been the best mac and cheese I’ve ever tasted – so cheesy and creamy with chunks of deep red jalapenos (our jalapeno plant is a purple jalapeno plant and the peppers ripen to red from a deep eggplant purple).

While the water was boiling Seth indulged in the comfort of the soft ground and grass – he laid back and closed his eyes briefly. Dempsey, being very tired also from carrying his doggie backpack, indulged by his side. It was so cute:

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We got in the tent early and left off the rain fly so that we had a good view of the night sky. In fact, we woke up to clear skies and a bright moon at some point. Having no rainfly and lots of mesh on the tent allowed us to see the sunrise from the warmth of our sleeping bags:

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Day 3: West Maroon Pass to Maroon Lake

Of course, at sunrise Dempsey was ready to get up and at ‘em and greeted me face-to-face:

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Here’s a different perspective of our camp site from a small rise nearby:

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The first effort of the day was pretty much immediately ascending West Maroon Pass. Seth assured me that the marmots were singing to cheer me on and encourage me up. It was a bit of a challenge with my tender heels and tired legs. But we did it and reached the pass (12,500’) at around 9:00am.

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We were very satisfied with our efforts and looked forward to the mostly downhill hike back to the start/finish.

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I highly recommend this trip. Many times during the trip I felt like this is what it means to live in Colorado - to be able to experience this kind of outdoors and see the fungus and the flowers and the sunshine and the mountains and the happy dog.

The blah life was a little less blah as a result of this endeavor.