Thursday, August 11, 2016

To go where there are no trails...

Culebra Peak is the only privately owned 14er in Colorado. Once a year for two short months, the Texan who owns the land opens the gates to hikers. There's no set calendar date his website launches for sign up but rather "sometime in May." I took to reading 14ers.com threads for information on when registration for permits would begin. My adventure wife Dawnelle had read the book I'd given her, "Halfway to Heaven," about a guy who hikes all the 14ers in one summer and decided Culebra was the one mountain she'd climb with me. The $150 price tag was her motivation to hike with me, she thought it'd be unique to conquer a mountain with no trails.

You don't turn down an offer like that.

The site was initially hacked and shortly after registration opened the dates for summer showed full. Your only options are Friday - Sunday in June and July so it's a very short window to pick a date. I read rants on 14ers.com about people who were upset they didn't get a chance to get a permit and I felt heartbroken as well. I had been checking the website every day in May and was sure I wasn't going to miss my chance. Then at the bottom of a thread on Culebra was a comment that the website was back up and running and dates were still open. I remember sitting at lunch by myself and nearly choking on my food looking at Cielo Vista Ranch's site - there in June and July a few dates were open. I called Dawnelle and asked if she was still in as quick as my fingers would dial and I booked our Friday spots right away.

We had permits. We were in.

Except there was only one permit left for Friday and 5 left for Saturday. I didn't recognize this when I booked so I had my date secured a day before Dawnelle. I emailed the hotmail address on the website and begged to let us hike together. I heard nothing back. I called a number I found on 14ers.com for the ranch (there's no number on the site) and didn't hear back. I emailed three more times and finally heard back a week later.

Yes it was OK if we showed up together, just show up in the same car and bring our receipts and waiver.

Hiking a private mountain is the most surreal thing I've ever experienced. I'm accustomed to permits and registration fees and following state and federal land laws and treading lightly. I've never paid a private party for the experience of checking a mountain off my list of 58 peaks. We drove almost clear to Taos and showed up at the gates of the ranch the Thursday before the hike. According to instructions the ranch hand would be there at 6am sharp Friday to open the gates and if you weren't there you were left behind. We weren't sure where to camp because beyond the gate was a sign that said, "Camping" and a port-a-potty but there was also a no trespassing sign on the gate. Which one made more sense? There was no cell phone service at the ranch so we drove back into the tiny town of Crestone and checked websites for any clue on where to unpack our tent. After much debate we concluded that we were allowed to camp inside the gate so we drove back and set up our site. 


There were no other cars. There was only a tiny sign on the gate saying Cielo Vista Ranch. Imagine our confusion. I knew the ranch only granted 25 permits a day and since Friday was sold out there had to be more people arriving. We tailgated at my truck, made dinner and hung out until finally a few more cars showed up. No one camped but us and one gentleman even refused our offer of hamburgers and beer at our tailgate. You'd think a small group of people that were all there for the same reason would have more interaction but people were treating it more like the night before the Hunger Games.


#ladieswhocamp

Well game on.



At 5:30am Ron arrived. He's a carhart, cowboy hat and boot wearing ranch hand who's got the fortunate job for working for a bunch of lawyers at Cielo Vista. His job is to let us in, keep dogs out, collect proof of payment and make sure we don't cause him any trouble. We all followed him to a tiny cabin with sparse furniture and crowded around a table while he gave us the lowdown. Dawnelle and I were the only ones who made coffee before we left camp and the others were eyeing us suspiciously. I made friends with Ron in the parking lot though because he was impressed by my huge Ford truck and the fact we were the only ones who camped.
"People who sleep in their cars are dumb" he remarks.

"Make sure you sign out, " he tells us at what feels like an awkward first day of camp. "I've got a lot to do and I don't want to be out looking for you while you're home drinking coffee."

Then he turns us loose.




Let me tell you what it's like to hike a mountain with no trails - it's like watching children being turned loose on a playground. Part of what makes this mountain so special is they only allow 25 people a day for three days a week two months of the year. They prefer no one follow one another because they'd rather not see the mountain be destroyed. It sounds counter productive but it's actually brilliant. You see on regular 14ers a group call the CFI maintains the trails. Over time the trails become bigger because people don't walk in single file lines. Then on the trails rain and water start to flow down these trails making them muddy making people even more likely to go off trail. The more people on a trail the wider it becomes and the more the mountain is impacted. The CFI will then have to go in, reroute the trails and close the old one to let the ground have time to heal which can take years. 
No trails means you're welcome to climb wherever you like. We saw people to the left and right and decided that the most direct route was straight up. It had rained the night before and the fog lingered in the morning. Ron had asked us if we all had GPS because people would regularly follow the wrong drainage down in low visibility putting oneself 13 miles off track. I certainly didn't want to be lost on this private property but I also didn't have a GPS so I did the next best thing - photographing our route up. Other 14ers have cairns built to show the way but on this one all but one is forbidden. At the very top of the climb before you started the ridge walk there was a very large cairn that Ron told us marked the way down towards the parking lot.

"Don't down climb before the cairn, " he said. "You might end up in New Mexico.



Noted. 

Despite starting after everyone else since we parked at the lower lot we started passing people once we reached the ridge. The clouds were coming and going but no threatening thunder so we pushed on. The thing about paying for a mountain climb, one you undertake without a guide, is that there's a part of your brain that tells you to press forward. You can't get a refund for rain so you might as well go as long as you can as far as you can as safe as you can. There wouldn't be a second chance. Once on the rocks the route became more clear because you could clearly see where others feet had pressed the rocks into place making a trail of sorts. We climbed until we were then in the clouds and visibility was gone.

Out of the mist we saw a girl approaching us. "Is this the top?" we asked. 

No, she said, we still had another 20 minutes to go. Onward we climbed into the fog until we determined, via a rock wind shelter, that this was, indeed, the top. Our initial plan was to hike the Centennial Red Mountain via the connecting ridge but the weather wasn't holding out for us. Dawnelle had forgot gloves and was wearing my socks as gloves and her minimalist shoes had become wet so her feet were cold. The wind was howling around us and clouds were moving in and out. When you're not hiking a popular peak there aren't the crowds you'd normally see so you have to consider if you get lost or stuck how long will it be before anyone notices?
at the summit


making our way down


So we climbed down. 

Despite not being a technical peak, Culebra was certainly a challenge. No trails means no solid ground through the tundra and we found ourselves side stepping rocks and marmot holes that one wouldn't normally have to worry about. The grass was slick so I took to walking in a zig-zag pattern on the way down to mimic switch backing. Fortunately the clouds had started to clear enough that the parking lot was in my line of site which took the guesswork on the down climb. It took about 5 hours round-trip for us to climb and though I would have liked to start earlier you really have no choice because the ranch chooses the 6am time. We met a couple on our way down who gave us a ride to our car then we had lunch before packing up and signing out at the cabin. On the sign out sheet is the printed code to unlock the gate which you must manually do yourself on the way out. The wet dirt road we traveled on made me glad I'd brought my truck with 4wd or we would have never made it to the trail head that morning. Driving home took longer than the hike and as afternoon clouds rolled in I looked at the Crestone's driving by and was glad we weren't on a more treacherous peak.
always causing trouble


weather improving slightly on the way down




So was it worth it? To me, absolutely. To have the chance to hike a 14er that could, at any given time be closed off to the public forever was worth the $150. The sense of solitude you have on a peak that only 23 other people are climbing that day, all through their own routes is unlike any other peak I've experienced. If you're going to hike all the 14ers or just want a special experience I'd say the drive, the primitive camping and the cost to get there are all validated. My only regret is the mountain is only open to hunters in the fall because the surrounding aspens on the property would make a beautiful fall colors hike. I'm so thankful I have someone in my life willing to take upon a journey such as Culebra Peak. In truth I would have saved it for close to last out of principal for paying for a hike. But then you realize how many other hikes, gorgeous hikes all over the state are free and it suddenly seems like a small price to pay to have the place to yourself.

Who knows, maybe I'll even do it again...





Friday, August 5, 2016

Why I gave up on my daughter...

I’ve given up on my daughter.

It’s not for lack of trying on my part – I’ve done everything I can do. There just comes a point in every parents’ life when you must admit that it’s time to walk away no matter how much it pains you to do so. I’m sure my daughter will be fine in the end. In fact, she may even be better off without me.

Friends, I’m over potty training.

When my daughter Charlotte was about a year old I had an acquaintance tell me that her daughters were both potty trained by 18 months. This seemed like an amazing alternative to changing diapers and a milestone to look forward too. So when she was a year and a half I went out and I bought a small green potty with a princess crown etched on it that sang songs anytime liquid hit the bowl. I proudly brought it home like a shiny new toy and sat it in the corner of the living room. I swapped diapers for much more expensive pull-ups and even hopefully bought some panties for toddlers.

“We’re potty training!” I announced to my husband and daughter.

As if that were all it would take.

I must say we started off on the right note. My daughter was curious about the potty and she used it here and there. The thing about singing potties is they don’t just play music when they’re used, they like to go off at three in the morning as well much to everyone’s surprise. Still, I thought we were on the fast track to having my daughter ditch the diapers and become the oldest kid in class not in diapers at school.

Then she broke her tibia and fibula.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had the misfortune of having a child with a broken leg and a cast that extends up to her thigh but it’s horrible. The cast isn’t the worst part it’s the fact your child regresses and has to relearn how to walk, sit and sleep. We couldn’t get pants up and down her leg, let alone pull-ups so we switched back to diapers. Charlotte started sleeping in our bed because she had to have her leg propped up on a pillow or the weight of the cast caused immense pain. We went from having a two-year old to what felt like an infant once again. Potty training took a back seat and we all but forgot about the princess potty. I bought a Costco size amount of pull-ups. I waived my white flag and admitted defeat.

When I enrolled Charlotte in a pre-k program at a new school this past May I lied and told the teacher she was potty trained. They encouraged the children to only wear pull-ups at nap time and to bring them to school in underwear. I broke the rules and sent her in pull-ups in favor of being sent home bags of laundry to wash from accidents all day. Then her other childcare center she’s also attending (she’s enrolled in two schools making weekdays nothing short of chaos) sent home a note telling me to send Charlotte in underwear along with several outfit changes because they were working really hard on potty training the classroom as well. My husband lamented that our daughter simply could not be trained to use a toilet. No amount of bribing or fancy potty’s worked and she just did not care if she wet her pants or wet the floor. We thought we might as well stock up on adult diapers because that’s where our lives were headed.

Then I did the unthinkable, I truly gave up. I looked around me at the parents I admired and that seems to be what worked best for all of them. I watched my friends whose child still carried around a bottle or pacifier or sleeps in bed with them – none of them seemed phased. I noted that while our child may not have been ready to give up diapers, it seemed every child around us had a “thing” they clung too. Perhaps it’s partly the parents fault for us not wanting our children to grow up; to enjoy the fact they still needed us. I know potty training is one of the few milestones Charlotte can learn on her own and I had to eventually throw away my timeline and start taking cues from hers. She wasn’t ready to let go of the diapers and that was OK because maybe I wasn’t either.

Incidentally last week I launched operation, “we’re wearing panties and I don’t care what happens to them.” I went to Target and filled my basket with toddler underwear and filled her drawer where the pull-ups and diapers once were. I told my husband from now on Charlotte was wearing underwear and I didn’t care what happened to them or how many outfit changes we went through. I took her on a 3 hour plane ride to visit my sister shortly after and brought only two diapers with me. I knew I was rolling the dice to bring a potty training toddler solo on a plane but I was through worrying.

We ditched the diapers once and for all.

So perhaps your child was wearing underwear before mine – who cares. As parents we need to stop comparing our children to one another and realize our child is unique and special and will outgrow certain habits as they’re ready. My daughter never sucked her thumb, drank a bottle past a year, slept in our bed past infancy (minus the cast incident) or carried a blanket everywhere so refusal to use the potty just happened to be her deal

I’m sure in the future I’ll have many more moments where I’ll have to stick my hands in my pockets and accept the fact she’s better off without my guidance. 

I’ve learned it’s Ok to give up on your child and let them enjoy whatever phase they’re currently in. This was always meant to be her milestone, not mine.

In the meantime I’ll just be stocking up on Clorox wipes and carpet cleaner. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Kick starting a summer of adventure

#Adventuresofnatandd kicked off two things in May: the welcoming of warmer weather and our QiTopia Summer Adventure Training Camp launch. This meant on Wednesday’s I got to adventure not once but twice every other week with the 9 girls who signed up for our training. Dawnelle took on the Monday night adventure outing and I was fortunate enough to not have to fly one week so I could join our group for my second time biking up Lookout Mountain. I will say, road biking has given me not only a new respect for bikers but for people who road bike up these steep inclines as well. I once saw people biking up Mount Evans and thought they were crazy. Now I wonder how I can make it possible.

Dawnelle likes to say, “Not every week can we climb Everest.” That is to say that not every adventure is going to be some amazing Instagram worthy event. Same is true for any hikes, runs, bike riding, climbing or vacation you take. It doesn’t have to be Bora Bora for you to enjoy your time away even if it’s just for a few hours. Our adventure day is a day when for a few hours we forget our adult lives, we silence our phones and we keep our date no matter what’s going on. Everything, and I mean everything, can be put on hold for adventure day unless one of us is dying or out of town.

For our first adventure we did something that I always said I would never do which was bike up Lookout Mountain. This is a 9 mile roundtrip ride in Golden that’s entirely uphill from the 4.5 mile start. We decided to rent bikes at The Bicycle Dr off Broadway but didn’t want to pay $70 for a road bike…so we rented hybrids for $25. The guy renting us the bikes thought we were insane and me even more so for attempting the ride on a bike that was more appropriate for biking around town. Needless to say I was scared because having driven the road up Lookout Mountain I knew there were many other cars and cyclists. I didn’t want to get hit by a car or put off other riders making their way to the top.
To my surprise everyone along the ride was friendly and encouraging. Sure these men were twice my age and had better bikes and more appropriate attire but they didn’t hesitate to holler a, “amazing job!” our way. The ride itself wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and going on a Wednesday morning meant not quite so much traffic on the road. I’ll have to say going down was worse than biking up and I’m pretty sure I burned out the brakes on that rental bike.

I wanted to test out a hike I was eyeing for our Adventure Training Camp so the next week we drove to Mount Falcon. I had recently received a hammock for Mother’s Day so I brought it along to test out. Our original goal was to trail run but we ended up just walking part of the loop, finding a spot for the hammock and enjoying the view. We both determined this hike wasn’t nearly hard enough or with enough elevation gain for the group but it would make a great family friendly hike.


For my birthday the following week I left town and headed for Moab. We were fortunate to have my in-laws arrive in town to watch our daughter so my husband and I could play. Moab has some amazing hiking and though it’s certainly kid friendly the idea of camping and driving all over the place for 5 nights with a child seemed a little much. We did it all from Arches to Canyonlands, Island in the Sky and Needles District. My friends Jessica, Nick and Randy came to join and I think we all agreed or favorite part was hiking the Fiery Furnace District in Arches. You have to get a permit from the Visitor’s Center and they only grant 50 a day of which we were lucky enough to snag one for each of us. It was a four hour adventure I’ll never forget climbing through slot canyons, dead ending on slick rock and climbing up and through terrain I’d never experienced before. What makes the furnace so special is there is no trails and you can hike wherever you like save for the dunes and crust formations inside. I would highly recommend the experience to anyone daring enough to blaze their own trail.



When I returned the following week for Adventure day, Dawnelle and I decided to hit up the Boulder Movement Collective Gym. We were two of 4 women there and the rest were men who were stronger and leaner and more agile than I had ever seen. The instructor was fantastic and we spent our time learning how to move in various ways that challenged and invigorated us. I can see why Dawnelle is so inspired for her classes after coming here to move. Afterwards we went for lunch and prepared for our evening bike ride up Lookout Mountain. Dawnelle and I had to switch our adventure training camp days so I had taken the Monday group out hiking and she took Wednesday for our first ride up Lookout Mountain. I have to say all the ladies who joined us that evening made it to the top and we had an amazing ride together.


May’s adventures kick started summer and allowed me to be afraid yet open to new experiences. I honestly do not think I could have explored the Fiery Furnace or started this adventure training if I hadn’t been prepared to go into the unknown like I had been doing through our weekly adventure dates. I think as adults we stop going to new gyms and classes and trying to learn new skills because we’re afraid to suck at something. Most of the people I see in classes or on these trails are younger than I am probably because they aren’t afraid to try. Worst case scenario I know I never have to see people I may embarrass myself in front of again and best case is that I DO like it and want to explore further. Five months of adventures and I already feel myself growing stronger, happier and braver each week. It’s certainly become an incentive to become more creative on adventures to follow…

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Adventures in Toddler Camping

Living in Colorado affords some amazing opportunities to go camping. There’s nothing quite like packing up the car, driving to the mountains, cooking over a fire and sleeping under the stars. Whether you reserve a campsite or forge out on your own will determine your proximity to civilization and amenities. The best part is camping can be an inexpensive getaway of which you need relatively little gear to do so…perhaps just a sleeping bag and a tent.

Unless of course you’re camping with a toddler.

My parents never took me for a weekend in the wild. My mother’s parents made her camp all the time so she decided when she was an adult with kids that sleeping outside on the ground was not the sort of vacation she’d choose. Luckily she had four children and we lived in Alabama where camping isn’t as attractive as a Gulf Shores beach getaway. With the exception of a boyfriend in college who dragged me along on his trips I never really camped until I lived in Colorado. My husband and I initially took camping trips born out of a necessity to have a 4am start time hiking 14ers. We rarely camped more than a night and for a while I borrowed a tent since we didn’t own one. I didn’t understand why anyone would camp if they weren’t hiking a mountain the next day because what else was the point of sleeping in the dirt?

After having Charlotte my husband and I decided to be daring and take her on her first trip when she was 1.5 years old. We couldn’t carry her up a mountain but we wanted to be in close proximity to hiking so we drove down to Buena Vista. Na├»ve as I was, I thought we could just drive into the Collegiate Peaks Campground up on Cottonwood pass and find a first come first serve spot on a Friday evening in summer. We ended up driving halfway up the pass and finding a spot off the side of the road where a fire ring was present indicating others had camped there before. It was right by a stream and seemed to be the perfect place to spend the weekend. What could go wrong now that we had a spot?


Here are some things you should know when camping with a small child. First you don’t need a pack and play in your tent. This piece of equipment which makes your life easier at home only takes up too much space camping. I didn’t account for the fact that we were going to be camping at approximately 10,000 feet and that even in summer it would be cold at night. Charlotte ended up in my sleeping bag with her socks for gloves (Mom hack!) because I didn’t bring any (Mom Fail). She still liked her milk warm in the morning so my husband would have to heat it over the fire on a skillet which took considerably longer than using a microwave. We ended up sitting in the car blasting the heat in the morning until the sun came up enough to do a little hiking.

First lessons learned camping:
1.  Take elevation into account when packing. Warm weather in the city doesn’t mean warm weather in the mountains. Also bring more clothing than you need. If pants get wet or muddy you can’t just throw them in the dryer.
2. Plan an activity. We woke up our first morning around 6am which would have meant a lot of sitting around staring at each other if we didn’t busy ourselves. Camp near hiking trails for nature walks or by a lake where you can fish. Resist the urge to bring toys or the Ipad in favor of spending time among solitude. I use the Deuter Kid comfort pack to carry Charlotte in while hiking. It has a sun shade which is a necessity plus plenty of pockets for snacks and water bottles. I was not above bribing Charlotte with fruit snacks to sit in there until she got accustomed to the pack.
3. Bring meals that are easy to prepare and eat. Unlike being at home where you can mitigate danger you have to monitor your child even more closely outdoors. Rocks, sticks, fire pits, rushing water and animals all become hazards to be concerned about. Bring a first aid kit. Don’t burden yourself cooking an elaborate meal. Make sure you have plenty of water to drink and to use for hand washing.

On our second camping trip with Charlotte last year when she was a little over two we thought we had become a lot savvier. I knew to bring lots of layers and extra blankets so our car was packed so full the neighbors probably thought we were moving. We had coolers of snacks from yogurts to sliced fruit and veggies and enough chairs for everyone. We thought we’d try our luck with first come first serve camping at the Chicago Lakes trailhead area near Idaho Springs but were again thwarted by arriving too late. With rain pouring down it seemed like going home would be a good option but I was determined. This is why you should always have a back-up plan. We drove over Guanella Pass and found a campsite at 11pm that had just opened for the weekend. The downside to being spontaneous is you don’t always get to camp where you’d like but you make do. Bring cash or checks to pay for a site in case you end up in a fee area campground.

Fortunately my husband bought a canopy to erect at the site because a hail storm rolled in the next day and we were trapped underneath it for shelter. If you don’t have a camper take into account how you’ll stay protected from extreme weather. Sure you may want to hide in your tent but if it’s meal time this just isn’t practical. Also keep in mind the size of your tent when bringing the whole family along. Although larger tents have more room for your pets and kids they also tend to be less warm if there’s to much wasted space. Colorado nights can get down into the low 30s even in summer so look for a tent that’s temperature rated. Tent makers make 3, 3 ½ and 4 season tents. In cold weather, a tent sized for the number of people is the way to go. At 30 degrees, two people in a 2 person 4 season tent will be warm at 40-45 degrees inside.

Camping with a toddler is also messy so bring the baby wipes. Roasting and eating marshmallows, playing with sticks, throwing rocks in the stream, building fires and nature walks are all part of the adventure but make for dirty hands and faces. I’m not one to track dirt into my bed at home but it’s inevitable camping so if you’re a type A cleaner like myself bring a small dust pan and brush (they make special ones for camping) to sweep the tent out daily.

When we were recently camping at a reserved site in Moab sans Charlotte I was awoken one morning by the sounds of a child screaming. I felt for the parents because having a child wake up screaming in a tent is a million times worse than them screaming on an airplane. Of course this woke the whole campground up much to everyone’s dismay. I suggest bringing noise cancelling head phones if your child is a particularly sensitive sleeper. If your child does wake up screaming and you don’t want to make enemies with your fellow campers you can always take them to sit in your car and play music. Remember your child will likely feel out of their element and if you don’t currently co-share a sleeping space this can be disruptive to everyone’s routine. Go with the flow. Even if you do annoy the neighbors you’ll never see them again.

I know for myself and my husband camping with our daughter can be a hassle but the trade-off is family time in a setting where we have nothing to focus on but each other. Use it as an opportunity to teach your child how to build a campfire, how to cook hot dogs and marshmallows and how to stake a tent. Do some bird watching, check out the stars and enjoy the journey. Even if you drive around for a few hours looking for a campsite in the middle of a rain storm I promise you it will all be worth the effort.

Happy trails!

*this blog is also featured on Denver Metro Mom's Blog


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Month Four: 4 Adventures, 4 Lunches, up to 4 miles trail running and no excuses

Wednesday is quickly becoming my favorite day of the week. Now that I’m part-time I don’t have to fly on Wednesday nights and my only standing commitment is teaching a 5pm Bootcamp for my favorite group of people at DCI. Charlotte is at school all day and when I come home I have the house all to myself which means uninterrupted nap time.

Wednesday is also adventure day with Dawnelle.

For April we did not miss a single adventure week, not one. In fact the rule stands that unless we are puking or dead we don’t miss. Am I tired from getting 4 hours of sleep the night prior? Sure. Is Dawnelle tired from getting up at 4:45am and teaching two classes prior to our adventure? Of course. Yet something happens from that moment we come together and begin our expeditions magic happens. The tired, the excuses, the overworked feeling, all of that fades and we come alive.

We kick started April with another hike up Sanitas. Since we were now committed to our 16 mile trail race in Alaska it was time to start training. We began up the east ridge this time and then ran one mile down the Lion’s Lair trail. From there we ran the one mile back to just below the summit and down the west ridge to the parking lot. We hit 17,480 steps and 7.9 miles by 2pm. I’ve never trail ran in my life and this was my first time sans water and backpack wearing tennis shoes.
                           


The Tuesday prior to our Sanitas adventure my friend Jessica and I had attempted Chasm Lake at the base of Long’s Peak but were turned away due to weather. Needless to say my legs were tired on Dawnelle and I’s hike from my 6 mile adventure the day prior. Jessica and I made a date to go back to Chasm Lake on Friday where we were able to successfully make it to Chasm Lake. While I’ve summited Long’s Peak in the summer and taken the Loft route down to hit up the lake I had never been up there in the winter. I am so thankful for my hiking all winter and adventure days because they prepared me for this very sketchy winter climb. I will say Chasm Lake was the hardest climb I’ve done in winter and by far the scariest due to the potential for falling 500 feet down a sheet of ice. We took our ice axes, studied the route and were adequately prepared for our expedition and it was an amazing day because of all our hard work.




The second Wednesday of the month was not only exciting because Dawnelle and I were headed to Colorado Springs to tackle the incline but also because we launched QiTopia Summer Adventure Training Camp that day. Our deal of the day for $100 off registration cost was good for the first 5 people that emailed us while we were climbing the incline. Our goal was to make it to the top in 39 minutes and we hit it at 37. If you’ve ever done the incline you know this is not an easy task but this was my 4th and Dawnelle’s 3rd time up there so we had the incentive to keep going the whole way. Once we reached the top we ran the 3 mile trail down then headed to lunch in Denver. I shaved 8 minutes off my previous time and proved to myself that anything was possible if I just didn’t stop and make excuses for myself. 


We also had 3 groups of 2 sign up for our Adventure Training Camp and after more marketing only have 3 spots left! I’m thrilled because our training is going to get people in shape for hiking the 14er Mt. Yale and will be filled with urban and outdoor bootcamps. Proceeds from our trip will go directly to our Alaska fund and the race in Alaska benefits Cystic Fibrosis research. So essentially we are adventuring for the good of research and funding for those who are less fortunate to have good health than us!
The third week of the month of April was free week in Rocky Mountain National Park. I took advantage of a rare Tuesday off and hit the park solo to hike to Nymph Lake, Dream and Emerald Lake and Lake Haiyaha. The weather in Denver was not so great and I was tired from flying Monday evening but I took the chance that the weather would be better in Estes and was rewarded for my efforts.
I also had the whole trail to myself once I veered off to Haiyaha.



Dawnelle and I drove up Wednesday under the threat of cloudy skies. We piled on layers and broke out the hand warmers but the weather turned and we ended up hot and shedding jackets on our way back. Since neither of us had hiked to lake Bierstadt that’s where we went and it’s a great 4 mile loop with not too much elevation gain. The views were nill at the lake due to the clouds and falling snow but we were more interested in hiking for time than views so after a few quick photos we were off.



On our way back down to Denver we stopped at the Colorado Cherry Company in Lyons which is a restaurant I’ve passed many times on my way in and out of the park but never stopped at. I’ve always been intrigued by the sign which promises pizza, beer, wine, cherry cider and pie. How could you not love that combo? Part of our adventure day, perhaps the most important part is the food we are going to eat after our excursions. We try to pick a restaurant neither of us has frequented so this fit the bill perfectly. I will say my eyes were bigger than my stomach and though the pizza, soup and bread and cherry pie seemed like a good idea at the time there was much stomach ache and skipping of dinner later.


We were fortunate that the last week of the month we had the only nice weather day for a trail run. Although we had done Matthews/Winters before up by Red Rocks the previous time was in ice and completing the loop. This time we hit the front side of the loop and ran two miles in to an overlook then two miles back. I hate regular running on concrete but there’s something special about trail running. I get to be in nature, on the trail and away from my worries just moving at a faster pace than my standard hike. I don’t carry my pack with me so there’s a lightness and freedom in my stride and Dawnelle is teaching me the art of WuWei running where the concept is going slow to go fast. As Dawnelle says, “Leave no trace leave no tracks.”



We couldn’t just trail run and have that be it for adventure day so we headed on over to Kompound Training Center for a Muay Thai class. I must say it’s intimidating to be the new kid at a studio. It’s even more intimidating to be the new kid in a place where the women wear mouth guards and know how to properly wrap their knuckles. We were totally out of our element and we loved it. We learned how to hook and jab, capture our opponent and then had lightening rounds of punching bags, push-ups and core work. Everyone was SO nice at the Kompound and the only other two girls in class were engaging after class. To be a student and put yourself in the arena can be intimidating but I’m so glad we went and I can’t wait to go back and learn more. Chances are high I’ll never be a professional fighter but I’m happy to learn a few tricks and tips along the way.



Closing on another month of adventures I reflect not only on all the places we’ve been but all the people we’ve met. From the trainers at the Kompound to the lady running Colorado Cherry Company and the guys in shorts who took our picture in Rocky Mountain National Park – half of the fun has been engaging with new people. We’ve been telling others our story and hoping to inspired more people to get out and explore the city and state they live in. It doesn’t have to be complicated and most of our adventures haven’t even cost us anything but time, some gas and lunch money. A standing date every week, rain or shine, tired or not has encouraged us to hold to a commitment we made and we’ve never regretted a single moment of our time together.


Part of the fun is not truly knowing where we will go next. May will hopefully lead to nicer weather and more trail runs but we’ve got a whole slew of summer plans and it isn’t even here yet. Don’t forget to follow our Instagram and facebook to see where our adventures lead us next….