Friday, December 31, 2010

The tops of 2010

As 2010 comes to a close, ending tonight at midnight, I can't help but to reflect back on the past year. While most people make resolutions for their New Year's, I always try to set goals to accomplish by the end of one year. This gives me not only something to look forward too but motivation to work hard for what I want. My husband often times scoff's that my goals are often travel related instead of say, focusing on eliminating debt or working towards another job. Being a flight attendant, however, I can't help but look forward to places I want to see and adventures to take on in the future. Last year a few of my goals included getting another stamp in my passport and climbing 8 14er mountains. Here are a few of the highlights from my 2010 and the obstacles I overcame to achieve my dreams for the year.

1. You better Belize it -

We were supposed to end up in Peru and hike Machu Picchu but an oversold flight and the joys of flying stand-by had us headed to Belize instead. If it's anything this trip taught me is that when you aren't buying a plane ticket you must be flexible in your travel plans. Without a clue as to where we would stay or what we wanted to do when we got there we hopped aboard a Belize bound flight and hoped for the best. My 29th birthday was spent snorkeling with sting rays and eating fresh caught conch kabobs. It was the first trip in my life I've ever taken where nothing was planned out and yet everything worked out. We slept where we wanted, took tours when we wanted and ate without ever consulting a website or lonely planet book. While we still plan on heading back to Peru (hopefully next year) at least we now know that missing a flight doesn't have to be the end of the world and there are hundreds of thousands of excellent travel destinations out there if you're just willing to take the chance to check them out

2. Keep Calm and Hike on -
It may have been 2010 but this was the year of the 14er. At the beginning of last year I set my sights on hiking at least 8 of Colorado's peaks that are over 14,000 feet. My first goal was to hike Gray's and Torrey's because they were close to Denver and we could knock them out in one day with minimal driving effort. I still remember waking up at the crack of dawn and driving up that rutted out dirt road to a make shift parking lot dotted with tents and packed with SUV's. There were groups of people huddled together waiting on friends, decked out in feather weight backpacks and hiking poles. I, in my yoga pants and camel bak felt out of place. "It's only a hike," I thought to myself. "How hard could this really be?"
It took us five hours round trip and 2 days for me to recover but after reaching the summit of both Gray's and Torrey's I was hooked on hiking 14ers. The wind at the top was bitter cold and my thighs have never worked so hard in their lives but the sense of accomplishment I felt had never been greater. I began devouring books about hiking and soon Gerry Roach and became my best friends. When all was said and done I hiked 6 more mountains than my original goal and introduced my friends to the world of hiking, the likes of which they had never seen. I upgraded my boots and attire, purchased a backpack and hiking poles as well as a tent and an assortment of camping supplies. I'm officially hooked and never been happier.

3. Steamboat Surprise -
For my husband's 30th Birthday I wanted to take him someplace where we both had never been. A surprise trip where all his friends could meet us there and enjoy the weekend and celebrate him. Finding a destination that met the criteria of being close, having a variety of activities to entertain us as well as being affordable did present it's own set of challenges. Luckily we live in a beautiful state where weekend getaways aren't hard to come by; so I narrowed it down and chose Steamboat. The weekend of Chad's birthday turned out to also be the perfect time to visit Steamboat. The hot air balloon festival was taking place and, being July, it was warm enough to tube in the river but cold enough at night to make a trip to Strawberry Hot Springs enjoyable. Most all of our close friends were able to attend and best of all Chad was surprised. The town of Steamboat did not disappoint and I can only hope we can return this winter to enjoy the ski slopes as well.

4. Hartman's Rocks Rocks-
Unfortunately the hiking season did not last as long as I would have liked. In mid-October we drove to Gunnison, Colorado in hopes of conquering Wetterhorn. When the weather didn't cooperate we had to find an alternative means to quench my thirst for the outdoors which led us to climbing at Hartman's Rocks. Because Gunnison lays in a valley, you are pretty much guaranteed dry weather even if Crested Butte and beyond are miserable. My brother in-law and friends Meghan and Neil are excellent climbers and Neil had all the gear and knowledge necessary to guide me up an intimidating rock wall. This was my first attempt at climbing in years and the only time I've ever climbed in Colorado. My arms and pecs were sore for 2 weeks after the climb but the experience opened my eyes to a new world of outdoor activities. Neil even gave me some climbing shoes which I vowed to use this winter in an attempt to build up my strength for more difficult 14ers. While I had never intended to climb that weekend, I was once again reminded at how sometimes being flexible in your activity plans can open you up to a whole new world of possibilities

I would say I can't wait to see what 2011 brings me, but in truth I know that it is myself alone who brings good things into my life. You can't just sit around and wait for things to happen you have to make them if you want them. But I've also learned that you can plan all you want in life and it's sometimes life that has other plans for you. Flexibility is key whether it involves your travel plans or yoga. I know 2011 will be yet another year of me trying new things and exploring new places and I know that these experiences will continue to change and improve me. It's only by challenging ourselves that we truly test our limits and it's only by facing what scares us that we see how brave we really are. I plan on doing many things that will frighten me next year but I plan to go into them with an open mind and heart. Odd number years have always been good to me and I'm sure 2011 will be no exception....

Happy New Year's!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What to Give this Holiday Season

Ten days left until Christmas. I can hardly believe it, but it's true. And if you are like me you probably only have half your holiday shopping completed. This year I decided I would start spreading cheer in November and succeeded with putting lights up on the trees outside the house, making and mailing Christmas cards and putting together photo books to send to the grandparents. Shopping early means less stress in the days leading up to Christmas and the more thoughtful your gifts will be. If you are like me, you want your gifts to mean something, and so I've put together a list of items which will are not only thoughtful but in some cases, help others out there as well:

1. Feed Bags - Last year my sister bought me the feed one bag from The organization was started by Laura Bush and the proceeds of their products go to the United Nations World Food Program. The proceeds from the bag I got, for example will provide one child in Africa school lunch for an entire year.

The project has grown and the website has even more of a variety of products you can buy at a variety of retailers. I really like the Feed Bracelets which you can get at Forever 21 which come in an assortment of colors with each color representing the country designated to receive the 2 school meals that are provided with the purchase of every bracelet.

They also have a gorgeous feed Kenya scarf which are handcrafted in Kenya by a co-op of women and deaf artisans and provide 10 school meals to children through the United Nations World Food Programme’s School Feeding program.

2. - This website has become my best friend this holiday season. You can upload your photos (even directly from facebook) and use them to make personalized gifts for the ones you love. Since the beginning of December they have featured a Merry Deal Reveal deal of the day where anything from water bottles to photobooks will be on sale. There was an offer for buy one photobook (at $19.99) and get two free so I used that to make an album for my grandmother, chad's grandparents and my aunt. You can also use websites like to find extra coupon codes for snapfish for free shipping or a discount on your order. Check out to find out the specials they have going on right now and start crafting!

3. - Another website which I have signed up for and receive daily deals. I was able to buy 4 tickets for $20 for the Denver Botanic Garden Trail of Lights. I figured it would be something fun for my family and Chad's to do on Christmas eve and a nice gift for us to give them. I am all for giving experiences to people which is why this website is so great. You can also browse other cities and buy say, a massage or cooking lessons for those family or friends who live out of state. Groupon also lets you do a gift certificate in any amount so if you aren't sure what someone would like you can purchase an online gift card which will be emailed. It may seem a little impersonal giving a gift through email, but trust me there are so many great gifts on this site no one would be disappointed in your gift to them!

4. Etsy - If you have never visited you will be overwhelmed the first time you visit the site. There's everything handmade you could ever ask for from art to furniture, vintage accessories and hand knitted items. I like to support small business owners and I've always had good results with everything I've ordered from the earrings I wore in my wedding to stenciled wall art. I could spend hours browsing through the sellers list items and unlike ebay I've never had a problem with getting my items in a timely manner or having payment problems. If you like browsing farmer's markets or boutiques for unique handmade items this is the website to turn to when Christmas shopping.
I love these necklaces:

featured by:

5. Mercy Corps - I've advocated for before but I really can't say enough good things about this charity. I donated money to them for Haiti and immediately began receiving emails and mailings about how my donation was being put to use. Year round they feature gifts you can purchase that are perfect for that person on your list that has everything and would rather have a gift in their name that benefits others. This year I am loving their gift of yoga. Mercy Corps incorporates yoga classes into their youth programs in places like Columbia which can help kids recover from the trauma and violence they have experienced. For only $65 you can give the gift of "OM" to those who really need a little serenity in their lives.

6. Harry and David - With my schedule as a flight attendant I really don't have the time to hand bake tasty treats and send them off to family like I wish I could. This is where Harry and David ( come in. For $24 I can send a tower of treats that includes their famous Moose Munch as well as yogurt dipped pretzels, truffles, waffle cookies, fruit candies, and mini mints:

They are known for their Royal Riveria pears so if you have someone on your list who can't have sweets you can send them a beautiful box of pears and assorted cheeses instead. I've used Harry and David as a thank you gift as well for a gracious hostess.

The true spirit of Christmas doesn't come from a store or involve how many things are wrapped under a tree but the time you spend together with your friends and family. I am truly grateful to have my in-laws and my mom, dad and brother spend the holidays with us in Denver and that's all the gift I could really ask for. I do believe though, that if you are going to take the time and money to pick out a gift it should come from the heart and feel as good to give the gift as you know it would be to receive it. After all you should be excited to have someone open your gift, not embarrassed! I try to take the time to look for sustainable and organic gifts as well because if my purchase can benefit someone else who really needs the help, I feel that much better in my gift giving.

Happy Shopping!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mile High Turkey Trot

There are two people I can count on when I want to add some excitement to my life or check off something from my bucket list. One is my husband, Chad and the other is my best friend Malia. Both are up for anything at virtually any time and I've learned through time neither one will bail out on me and are there to help me achieve my goals. For a long time now I've had "Run a 5k" on my list of 'must do in life.' It started with me wanting to do The Bolder Boulder, a 10k a few years ago (which incidentally I never ran) which led to me working out in hopes to get in shape to run a race like that, and finally dumbing down my goal by picking a 5k. I figured, hey even the worst in shape non-runner can complete 4 miles. Well in that time I have become obsessed with yoga, spin and hiking and so the idea of running no longer became as important to me. Yet I still had that desire should the opportunity ever arise. Over this past Thanksgiving it did, in the form of the United Way's Turkey Trot.

A friend had suggested we signed up for this fun run/walk 5k on Thanksgiving day. Said friend had done the race last year and found it to be enjoyable. At the prospect of being with our friends the morning of Thanksgiving and knowing we had no place else to be, Malia and I signed up. As it turns out we were the only ones who signed up because the one person who told us to wasn't able to go. Obviously we were annoyed because our yoga studio was having donation based yoga classes the same day and this Turkey Trot had cost us $40. To make matters worse the weather was in the 20's and neither Malia nor I consider ourselves runners. However, we vowed to make the best of things and approached the race with a positive attitude. If nothing else, I could finally check this off of my life's list.

The amount it costs to run these races has been a deterring factor for me before. I know the money always goes to a good cause, and the United Way does a lot in the community but considering hiking a 14er is free and more thrilling, I all but dismissed paying to do something I could do free (i.e. running around a park). Malia and I showed up at about 8:30am so we could get our numbers and free t-shirts. The race wasn't supposed to start until 10:15 but we wanted to get numbers for the first corral so that we could be first out of the gate and hence finish sooner. You are supposed to pick your corral by how fast you run (and in most races you are assigned based on your times from previous events) but we figured we could handle the first slot if we just stayed in the back so as not to get run over. There were lots of people there, young and old; those dressed up for Thanksgiving with turkey hats and those dressed in state of the art running gear; serious athletes and weekend casual runners; even some with dogs. We stood in the cold for a good half hour while guest speakers made announcements on a podium above the starting line and then we were off.

The race itself was held at Washington Park in Denver. It was a lap around the outside of the park that looped inside and then finished at the top of this hill lined with a beer garden and booths with free goodies. The first two miles were through the street and some of the houses lining the way had bands playing music or people watching outside with their bloody mary's and noise makers cheering us on.

I wasn't sure how I would do running but all my other activities have me in shape enough where I never felt winded or needed a break. Malia however, was not enjoying running so I would get a little ahead of her then stop and wait. She urged me to leave her but I wanted us to cross the finish line together and so I silenced the competitive urge within and kept her pace. After all, this was supposed to be a fun event and it we weren't in this together all the way what was the point? We crossed the finish line exactly one hour after we started which isn't a great time but not bad for people who basically slow jogged/walked the majority of the race. At the end we were greeted with water bottles and free bagels from Einstein as well as energy drinks and pint glasses. According to my friends who have run other races we got jiped in the freebie department but it was just as well because we didn't really want to linger outside any longer than we had too although the temperature had warmed up a bit.

After all was said and done I was glad I participated in the Turkey Trot, a tradition that has been ongoing for 37 years in Denver. If I were to do another race I think I would enjoy something a little more competitive and in a different setting. Part of what makes hiking so alluring to me is that the mountains are spread throughout Colorado and each one has different scenery and terrain. I have been to Washington Park many times, so aside from marveling at the gorgeous houses that line the streets around there, it really wasn't anything I hadn't seen before. I would, however, recommend this race to anyone who is considering starting out running and doesn't have much experience. It would be a great event for families to attend or to give you a break from your family that was in town. I commend the volunteers who donated their time to help with the race and make sure those in attendance were set up and having a great time. As hard as it was for me to get out of bed early and be out in the cold, I can't imagine doing that knowing I wasn't even going to be running - just standing around handing out water! All in all it was a great start to the day especially knowing I could eat Thanksgiving dinner guilt free after burning those calories.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Questions from the Curious

Being a flight attendant is akin to being a circus animal - when you are working you take center stage. It's even worse if you are a regional flight attendant like I am because there is no audio or video on the plane to distract the general public from us. Like it or not, we are constantly being stared at and questioned. Since my jump seat is sandwiched between the aisle seats in the back row I'm constantly fielding questions from travelers which range from the mundane to the bizarre to the just plain idiotic. So if you've ever been curious to ask a flight attendant a question, let me go ahead and answer the most common ones we receive for you:

1. Is this your normal route? - Regional flight attendants do not have routes per say. We are given our schedules a month in advance and where we fly varies monthly as cities are added and service is taken away or bumped up. For example in the winter we do more flights to Aspen because the demand is up. As far as having a place where we constantly fly to day in and day out there's no such thing for those of us living in larger domiciles where the routes themselves fluctuate.

2. Does this job pay well? - When I first interviewed for my job I was shown a pay scale so I knew exactly how much I would make from year to year with the company. In theory the starting salary sounds great - $17.80 an hour. However, what you don't realize is that the pay is based on flight hours. I like to tell people we get paid like taxi cab drivers, from the time the airplane door closes until the time it opens. Beyond that we make a per diem of $1.65 an hour which is non-taxed and added in to our paycheck. When you first start the job you are guaranteed a minimum of 75 flight hours that we will work yet we could be away from home as much as 300 hours. So no, most of us start out at poverty level wages working more hours than we are getting paid for. All that time delayed in the airport due to bad weather? Yeah we aren't happy about it either because we are getting paid that some $1.65 whether we are relaxing in the hotel or waiting for mechanics to fix our plane.

3. Am I going to make my connection? - I would say more than half of the general public really believes flight attendants are super humans who have the capability to predict a multitude of things ranging from weather to whether their plane is going to be on time or not. In actuality we have no way of knowing whether you will make your flight or not, if they will hold it for you, when the next one leaves, or what's going to happen if you make it but your bags don't. We have no way to find out nor do our pilots. Can you imagine if every airplane in the sky clogged up the radio asking if so an so's flight would be waiting for them or not?

4. Do you like your job? - This is a loaded and unfair question really because does anyone really like their job? It can be fun and exciting but like anything called work, it can also be emotionally and physically exhausting. Our passengers, our fellow crew members, the airplane we are working on, the cities we fly to, how on time or delayed we are, all of these can contribute to a good or nightmarish day and not one of these things do we have any control over. Unlike most jobs, we can't always just take a time out and walk outside for some fresh air. So depending on the day you will get a thousand different answers for this one.

5. Is this flight going to be full? - Flight attendants hate this question more than any other and we receive it from just about everyone boarding the flight every time we fly. In truth we are given an idea on our trip sheets when we check in for our duty day about how full the flight is going to be. But delays, cancellations, people wanting to jump on an earlier flight, stand-bys, and a variety of other reasons can cause our flights to be more or less crowded than expected. We know you want to know the chances of anyone sitting in front, beside, or behind you but in truth what does it matter really? Most flights are full these days and that's just the way it is. If you like flying solo do everyone a favor and charter a private jet - you'll be much happier.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Faking it like a Flight Attendant

Traveling can be a pain, especially during the holiday season. I should know, I'm a flight attendant and for the past five years it's been part of my job to spend time in airports and up in the sky. While I can't do anything about that dreaded back row seat by the bathroom that won't recline or the guy taking up your armrest, I can offer some advice on how flight attendants navigate the world of airline travel. Follow these tips and you'll have us guessing which airline do YOU work for?

1. Pack like the pros - Everything I need for four days must fit in one suitcase which requires me to pack small and light. I've learned through my job it's OK to wear an outfit more than once (no one cares trust me) and you really only need one or two pairs of shoes. A good rule of thumb is if you can't lift your bag up and put it on top of your fridge, there's no way you will be able to put it in the overhead bin.

2. Take it all off - There's a reason flight attendants get to cut ahead in the security line - it's because we are faster than you. We know to leave our jewelry, cell phones, coats, belts, loose change and anything else in our bags until we are past security. Notice how we all wear slip on shoes as well.

3. Pack your lunch - Peanut butter sandwiches, cut up fruit, vegetables, candy bars, you name it we bring it and it saves us money and time. Contrary to popular belief you DON'T have to eat at the airport unless you like spending $10 on a turkey sandwich.

4. Bring an empty water bottle with you - Yes you can bring empty water containers through security, and guess what you can fill them up at the various water fountains around the airport. On the plane we aren't allowed to give away big bottles of water (0r even take them for ourselves!) but we can fill up your bottle (and ours) and we will happily do it for you. Ditto goes for coffee.

5. A little bribery never hurt anyone - When we fly it's on a space available basis so we know sometimes a little extra kindness is required. A bag of chocolates for the gate agent or a variety of tabloid magazines for flight attendants can ensure you'll be treated like royalty. It's a small way to say thank you for those working so hard to get you on your way as safely as possible. Trust me, it's hard to say no to the passenger who wants to change seats when we know that person just gave us a handful of treats!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Flying without the Hassel - it is possible

This past Saturday the Magees were flying through the air and we didn't even have to worry about the hassle of checking a bag, long security lines, or waiting last minute for a seat assignment. That's because we weren't flying on an airplane....we flew on a Trapeze.

I am a daily subscriber to the which sends out daily deals for businesses in the Denver and surrounding area. In July, one of the deals of the day was a 1.5 hour trapeze lesson at this place called Frequent Flyers ( which is in Boulder. It sounded interesting and at $16 you couldn't beat the price so I bought two coupons for myself and Chad. My friend Malia ended up buying one too, but with our busy schedules we weren't able to coordinate the lesson until Saturday. This worked out great because it was Malia's birthday weekend so we thought we could count the lesson in as part of our celebration.

After filling out the necessary liabilities paperwork at the front office of Frequent Flyers, we were then allowed into the trapeze room. What we were greeted with was not what I was expecting to see:

When I think of a trapeze I think of the circus. I envisioned wearing a harness and having to climb up a platform where I would then be taught how to catch a swing, how to swing on it, and then build up the courage to let go and hope the person on the other end catches me. Of course, there would be a large net if I fell. In this room I only saw four swings and four thin gymnastics mats underneath. I began to have my doubts - how am I going to fly through the air if there's no net to catch me?

We started out with a warm up to stretch the leg and arm muscles which had a little yoga mixed in there and we met the four instructors that would be working with us that morning. Then we split into groups of four and took our turns on the bar. The class, as it turns out, was more of an introduction to the art of aerial dance using a trapeze bar rather than the standard high flying trapeze we are so accustomed to seeing in circuses. We practiced getting on and off the bar, sitting and swinging, and the "animal series" which was a set of poses involving contorting your body in various positions like the sloth:

and the monkey:

Then at the end of the class they put up two of the four bars and had us take turns using the other two to practice moves which basically involved building enough momentum to swing from them hanging by your hands. I have to be honest I did not think that this would be much of a workout but by the end of class my hands and shoulders were sore and I was out of breath from running back and forth, building speed to "fly."

The Frequent Flyers group features a variety of classes for adults and kids age 5 and up. They have everything from Fabric, Lo-flying and Circus Trapeze to stilts, aerial fitness circuit training, aerial composition, aerial sling and even aerial burlesque. You can register for all the classes online and even book private lessons and birthday parties. I thought the class was a great workout and a fun and different way to exercise and all the instructors were nice and encouraging. So if you want to earn your wings and fly without the hassle check out their website: and get airborne!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bcycling all over Denver

Our good friends Meghan and Neil were in town for Halloween this past weekend and we spent the day Saturday doing what their city of Crested Butte is known for: bicycling. Of course most everyone in Crested Butte owns a bike and the town is a lot easier to get around since it's so much smaller. Since Chad and I don't live anywhere near downtown and we only own two bikes, we introduced Meghan and Neil to the easiest way to cover the city of Denver which is renting a B-cycle.

The B-cycle is a bike sharing program that Denver adopted this past Earth Day on April 22nd. Denver is one of only five cities in the United States that has a program like this. The concept is very simple - rent a bike from any one of the dozens of stations around town and return it to any station convenient whenever you like. The stations are solar paneled and all you have to do to rent your bike is to swipe your credit card, select your bike and you're off. It's $5 for a 24 hour period and within that time frame you can rent and return any bike and as long as you use it less than 30min you incur no extra fees. Use the bike anywhere from 31-60min and it's $1.60; 61-90 minutes it's $3.30; 91-120 minutes you pay $6.60 and every 30min after that it's an extra $4.40 with the daily maximum of $65. Obviously these bikes are only meant for quick trips around town with the daily rate being a little high. The best deal if you can take advantage of these bikes daily is an annual membership for $65 which allows you to check out a bike directly from the dock and not have to hassle with the station machines which can be finicky as we found out. For October they even ran a deal where you could get $10 off your membership and a free helmet.

The bikes themselves are fantastic to ride. Each has a basket on the front and a lock and key should you need to secure your bike while running an errand. They have lights on the front or back, bells, and three speeds as well as being adjustable so any person of any height can make themselves comfortable. Plus they are the easiest way to get around downtown Denver. We took M&N down the cherry creek trail, through uptown and back around and it being a Saturday there wasn't hardly any traffic at all to worry about. This is probably one of the most fun and cheapest activities you can do in the city and an especially nice way to show out of town guests around. We have even used them after a night out to ride from one end of town to the other instead of walking or hailing a cab.

I hope more cities install this program in the future. I love the concept of being able to rent a bike whenever I want and to return it at the end of the day. I wish they had this when I first moved to Denver because I didn't own a car and this would have been a great way for me to run my errands and easier (cheaper and more eco-friendly) than renting a car. You can even go online before you ride to see how many bikes each station has and how many docks are open. Take advantage now because the system is only open March through November, between then you are stuck walking through the snow!

Happy B-cycling!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Some like it Hot Hot Hot

With the changing seasons brings a chill to the air in Colorado and a tendency to want to migrate indoors...if only there weren't so many things to do outside. Between skiing, snowshoeing, ice climbing and even hiking you'll never go bored in Colorado especially not during the long winter months. Sometimes though you just want to do some relaxing for the weekend in the mountains and there's no better place to do this than the Hot Sulphur Springs.

Colorado boasts a variety of hot springs which are located anywhere from Idaho Springs to Glenwood and even as far as Steamboat. While they are all beautiful, for the cheapest and the closest weekend getaway we like to venture to Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado. It's located one hour and 45 minutes northwest of Denver via I-70 to Highway 40 (and only 30 minutes west of Winter Park). Chad and I had first visited here in May about 2 years ago before we got married when I wanted to get away for my birthday but we had to pick someplace cheap to save money. I found this place on the internet and we decided to head west and check it out. We had such an entertaining weekend here we invited our friends Lyndee and Mark to join us again this past April.

There really isn't much to the town of Hot Sulpher Springs and even less was open when we went at the end of April. Because it's in the off season you can get great discounts but you must also be prepared that even less of the few restaurants that are in town will be closed. In fact a place called, The Glory Hole (I kid not here) which has the best french toast I've ever tasted was closed this time around as was the local hot dog and ice cream store. The springs are the heart of the town and it's a wonder anything else really survives up here. What makes the springs nice though as there are only a few tourists and locals in the off season meaning the pools are pretty empty.

While you can stay on site at the Hot Sulphur Springs Resort and Spa, we always opt to stay at the Canyon Motel. Lyndee and I were able to book adjoining rooms, which we realized upon arrival, were probably the smallest rooms there but we made it work.

(four is a bit of a crowd in one room here!)
I like the Canyon Motel because they allow dogs, they have lots of free samples in the lobby area as well as free cookies and coffee, they are friendly and inexpensive and they are within walking distance of the springs. They also feature room service which is really just some heated up burritos or DiGorino's pizzas but even a frozen pizza tastes good when someone else makes it and delivers it to your room!

(Lyndee with our pizzas)
The actual Sulphur Springs Spa doesn't allow dogs, being loud or alcohol either so that's another reason for the stay at the Canyon which also offers discounted hot springs tickets. A day pass is normally $17.50 a day (I believe it's $11 or so at the motel's price) which allows you access to the pools from 8am until 10pm and you can go in and out as many times as you like. There are 16 pools total and you can also rent a private bath or treat yourself to a massage or mineral scrub.

For those who prefer to camp there's sites available at this place:

We actually met some very nice, albeit a bit creepy redneck men camping here who were kind enough to share their beer with us but then followed us around the springs all night. The campsites aren't very private and there are train tracks that run alongside but the upside is the Colorado River runs parallel to the campsites so there's plenty of fishing for the avid outdoorsman (or woman). 20 minutes away is Grand Lake which is a much bigger town for restaurants and shopping as well as boat rentals. You can also cross country-ski, snowshoe, hike, golf, hunt, 4-wheel, dog sled, horse back or hot air balloon ride in the sulphur springs and surrounding areas.

The downside to the sulphur springs, is, well, you come out smelling like a rotten egg. The Strawberry Hot Springs in Steamboat are not sulphur based so you don't have any smell to you when you come out which makes them a nice alternative. Just remember to bring a bathing suit, towel, robe and clothes you don't mind smelling of sulphur for a few washes! Of course, the Hot Sulphur Springs have more variety of pools and more privacy than any I've ever been too. All of them fit at least 4 people and Lyndee, Mark, Chad and I could sit in a secluded one towards the back of the park and be as loud as we wanted with no one around for us to annoy. Children also aren't allowed except in 4 of the pools on site which makes it nice for those wanting a kid free relaxing vacay. Glenwood springs is practically overrun by children and I had a hard time swimming a few feet (their pools are indeed the size of a swimming pool) without one jumping on my back or splashing me in the face.

With the state of the economy I hope this tiny town survives long enough for my future (grown) children to visit. The last visit I noticed a lot more restaurants boarded up and I just hope the town succeeds well into the future. I know bigger hot springs in the area will be fine which is why I feel such a fondness for this area because I really like the small town vibe. With the winter fast approaching I hope we can make it up again sometime this year to experience the place with snow on the ground. Something about snow on the ground while sitting in hot water really makes for a relaxing stay-cation.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rattlesnake Gulch

Last weekend my mom braved the world of airports, flying stand-by and flying solo to come visit Chad and I in Denver. She has come to visit quite a few times (most recently this past May for Mother's Day) so I try to vary our activities each time so she can experience all Denver and Colorado has to offer. This past summer, when she saw how into hiking 14ers I was, she expressed interest in hiking with me. She even bought some hiking shoes and did a few hikes in Birmingham to prepare. Timing was not on our side, however, and the snow came to the mountains covering any hopes of hiking Mt. Sherman - our intended 14er. The weather was still nice in the foothills so I picked a shorter day hike for us to do during her visit: the rattlesnake gulch trail in Eldorado Canyon.

(mom at the beginning of the trail)

The Rattlesnake Gulch trail is one of my favorites to take my visitors who want a good day hike. It's about 3.5 miles round trip and follows an old wagon road known as 'Crags Boulevard' up the south wall of Eldorado Canyon to what remains of the Crags Hotel which stood there from 1908 until 1913 when it burned down. The starting elevation is about 6,087 feet and the max gain if you do the whole loop is 7,080 which makes it perfect for visitors who haven't acclimated to the altitude. Chad had taken me on this trail when we first started dating, then I had taken my friend Casey and her now husband Ross and our friend Jason a few summers ago. The trail seemed a lot longer and more challenging then, probably due to the fact I now hike much greater distances with higher elevation gains and it wasn't the dead of summer. My mom did an excellent job hiking, even with her asthma and the altitude and we made it to the hotel site in about half an hour.

(My mom with the only standing structure left ironically, the fireplace)

After you reach the hotel site you can either turn around or keep going another 10 minutes or so to the Continental Divide overlook. Since there was snow on the mountains I thought we would have an especially nice view of the divide this time of year and I wasn't disappointed.

Even though I'd rather be hiking those peaks than looking at them, they are still a breathtaking site.

From the top of the Continental Divide overlook you also get a nice view of a rock wall which is popular with climbers in the area. On a clear day you can see the Denver skyline as well.

(Mom and I at the overlook)

(enjoying the view)

There is a nice bench at the top too where you can sit for awhile if you want but we decided after about 10 minutes of enjoying the sites to head back down. This is a popular trail, especially on the weekend, and the lookout gets a little crowded for my liking. I've learned in Colorado week day hiking is best if you want peace and quiet or the ability to let your dog run off leash without being yelled at. This hike attracts all ability levels though from little kids to grandparents and even though the $6 parking fee seems a bit much for the time you spend there, I highly recommend this trail for beginner hikers.

I was glad to have been able to take my mom out for a hike and even more aware that taking her up Mt. Sherman probably wouldn't have been a great idea. While I'm sure she could do it at some point, it's difficult for someone to come from sea level who hasn't spent a lot of time outdoors doing strenuous activities to just come out and hike a 14er. I know I have taken some beginners up the mountain and it can be done, but those friends have lived here and acclimated and tend to be pretty active in their lifestyle as well. Hopefully next summer my mom could come out for longer and camp at a higher altitude and give herself time to adjust to the thinner air if she still wanted to try for a 14er.

Hiking in Boulder also reminded me that while 14er season may be over for me there are still some great hikes in the foothills to discover. Chad and I once hiked almost every other weekend and it was a great free outdoors activity that kept us in shape. While the views might not be quite as spectacular it is nice to be able to spend only an hour or two hiking as opposed to 4-10. My hope is to find some great snow shoe trails this winter so that we can enjoy the snow and I can keep my thirst for hiking satisfied until next summer!

And there's always rock climbing as well!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An E.P.I.C. ski party

A few years ago I bought a ski pass so I could learn to ski here in Colorado. Ever since then, I've been on an email list where I occasionally receive information about events around Colorado. I usually delete these emails but the one I received on October 1st made me take note, the headline: The 80's Ski Party is Back.

Anyone that knows me knows I love the 80s. The movies, the music, pretty much anything except the outfits mostly because I hate looking back on pictures of myself wearing the most hideous things from that decade. The theme for this party was 80s ski wear so of course I was intrigued as this presented a great costume challenge. I sent my best friend (and fellow costume loving party girl) Malia the link to the website detailing all the information for the event. As predicted, she didn't hesitate to go with me.

This was the 7th year for the 80s Ski Party but my first time going. Although the price tag was steep, $40 for tickets, I felt it was for a worthy cause. You see, all the proceeds from the party benefited First Descents courtesy of the E.P.I.C. foundation. E.P.I.C. stands for the Endeavor for Physical and Intellectual Challenges for those in financial need. The corporation was created to provide funds to charitable causes, organizations and foundations. First Descents is committed to curing young adults of the emotional effects of cancer and empowering them to regain control of their lives by experiencing whitewater kayaking and other challenging sports in a safe, fun and supportive environment. They have 9 programs in 6 different states and served over 140 adults this past summer. Being an avid outdoor enthusiast and knowing people my age that have had cancer, I felt this foundation is doing a great service to the community. I think everyone should get to enjoy the great outdoors, especially those who have had such a life changing event as a battle with cancer.

As much as I promoted the event, no one but Malia and I ended up buying tickets. Well let me just say, everyone else out there missed a great party! Just waiting in line at the Mile High Station to get our wristbands we couldn't help laughing at the site of all the men in one piece dayglo 80s ski suites. This was one costume party where I feel the men far exceeded the women in their choice of amazing outfits. Once in the door we were greeted to the sounds of a live 80s cover band, The Champions. There was free alcohol all night which included Effen Vodka, Jim Bean and Tequila as well as beer. Food was also sponsored by Evol burritos and The Cheesesteak Connection so there were plenty of sandwiches to eat whenever you needed a break from dancing. One of the bars even featured an ice luge and a shot ski for those that seriously wanted to get the party started. 80s ski movies were playing on giant screens hanging from the upstairs balcony and when you got tired of watching that there were plenty of people to watch. You had to wear 80s attire to get in the door so the whole venue was lit up with neon pinks, greens and yellow's and you had never seen so many bad outfits in one place in all your life.

Malia and I stayed until about midnight and had the best time at this event. It turned out great that it was just the two of us because we ended up going around talking to people all night long. Everyone there was so friendly and just having a great time so the atmosphere was very relaxed. Just a bunch of people dancing on the dance floor, enjoying themselves while supporting a great cause.

While Malia and I did not go as "all out" in our costumes as we could have, we are already looking forward to next year and vow to not be outdone! This was the second time I have attended an event at the Mile High Station and I have to say it's a great location. I believe the Winter Brew Fest will be held there sometime in January. It's not a costume party so while it won't be as crazy people watching, that also means less stress on how to dress.

Some pictures from our night:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hartman's, Absinthe, Burley's, and Sherlock's

This past Friday Chad and I packed up the car and headed up to Gunnison and Crested Butte to spend the weekend. The plan was to stay with his brother Tyler and his girlfriend Brandi Friday night, hike Wetterhorn on Saturday with Meghan and Neil and stay in Crested Butte with them that night. Unfortunately, nature has a funny way of interrupting plans. Despite the fact Chad warned me there might be snow up on the mountains, I went ahead and rented a helmet in anticipation of my first class 3 climb. I wasn't going to be deterred. On the drive up, however, passing through Fairplay we saw that the Kite Lake 14ers (Demorcate, Lincoln and Bross) were covered with snow and low laying clouds. Then we reached the Collegiate Peaks in the Buena Vista area and this is what we were greeted with:

I believe I was in denial about the season. I just haven't been ready to give up my summer and 14er hiking. Coupled with the fact I was seeing this snow with my own eyes was the responses I was getting on about the conditions of Wetterhorn and how the way to learn how to climb a class 3 is not in mixed conditions. I felt defeated by the weather. I texted Meghan to tell her about the mountains and she said the Elk range was covered in snow too and that it looked like Wetterhorn would have to wait until next year. After all if every other 14er was covered in snow I'm sure Wetterhorn was too and with it being October, this snow wasn't going anywhere.
Weather wasn't going to put a damper on my weekend and I still knew with the abundance of things to do in Gunnison and Crested Butte plus great friends and family to see that we wouldn't go bored. After arriving in town Friday afternoon and meeting Chad's brother Tyler at his house in Gunnison, we walked over to the Turquoise Junction where Brandi works. Chad still owed me a piece of jewelry for our wedding anniversary so Brandi helped me select an awesome pale blue turquoise bracelet for which I can't remember the name of but it's one they are going to stop mining soon so it will increase in value. If you love turquoise or native American pottery and jewelry this place is worth stopping in and it's on the main street in town so it's hard to miss.
Friday night Neil and Meghan drove into town and we all went to dinner at The Trough. For how small Gunnison is, I still haven't experienced all of it's eateries or shops so I always like to eat someplace new when I visit. The Trough is a little outside of town on highway 50 and serves steaks and seafood as well as family style rolls and salad. They have everything from prime rib and lobster to chicken fried steak and scallops. I had the salmon which came, as all the entree's do with my choice of side so I had the baked potato. Coupled with the bread and salad it was almost too much to eat and I would say, well worth the $20 price tag. It's likely the most expensive restaurant in town (that I've ever seen at least) but the food is really good and the staff more than accommodating. Afterward we went to the Sonic for dessert where Chad's brother is the kitchen manager. You can't beat sonic for milkshakes!

Since we were not hiking on Saturday I was hell bent on doing something outdoors. I left it up to Neil and Tyler to come up with a perfect activity to which they suggested we head out to Hartman Rocks.

Hartman Rocks is open year round with the summer season extending from April to October. You can hike, rock climb, horse back ride, ski, snowshoe or (most popular) mountain bike through the single and double track trails. There are more than 20 trails on 8,000 acres of public land making possibilities for fun out here (as well as getting lost!) endless. Located just south of Gunnison, it's a high mountain dessert which is blessed, like much of Colorado, with 300 days of sunshine a year. Due to the fact there are no trees in the area, it was indeed very warm and made for perfect rock climbing weather - our goal for the day. There are an assortment of large boulders for the very popular "bouldering"- free climbing without rope and just a crash pad, but we opted for one of the many climbing routes. We were going to attempt Buddha's Belly but when we got there saw people on the route so we headed over to Beginner's Slab. If you head out here I'd definitely recommend getting a map or going with someone who knows the area because it would be easy to get lost out here and it's not like the climbing routes are advertised. Luckily I was with locals who not only knew the routes but how to belay and set up ropes as well!

Neil took me to the top of the route and showed me how to hang the rope into the bolts which are secured deep inside the rock. Then we went down to the bottom where he set up the belay and Tyler volunteered to go first. After seeing his attempt and some coaching from Meghan, I felt confident enough to go second.

Here I am getting my climbing harness checked. Meghan explained you always want your climbing buddy to check and make sure your harness straps are double looped. Then Neil and Tyler showed me how to tie my figure eight into the rope on my harness which would keep me secure. Note, I did not have to wear a helmet but since I rented one for the weekend I was determined to get my $11 worth!
Honestly, I wasn't sure how far I'd make it. I had just watched Tyler and he had gotten stuck right after this little ledge here:
You can't tell so much because it's a photograph of course but after that ledge there really aren't any hand or foot holds to speak of. So I took a break and assessed my situation:

I believe rock climbing, like yoga or hiking 14ers, is 90% mental and 10% physical. So I faced the rock and pretended like I was hiking a 14er. I told myself, "How are you going to hike the Maroon Bells if you can't even get up this?" That Dr. Suess quote began playing in my mind:
"When things start to happen
don't worry, don't stew
Just go right along,
you'll start happening too"
And you know what, it worked. I just started moving my legs, listening to my cheering partners below and things started to happen. Before I knew it I reached the top:

Or my top anyways. I could not find a solid hold past that crack and work my way up the overhang. Maybe with a little more practice I'll be able to do it someday.
Chad took his turn after me and did very well for someone who is self professed, "Out of shape.
Since Chad went to Western State he is very familiar with Hartman Rocks and spent a lot of time out here in his college days. He hasn't climbed in probably just as many years as I haven't. I was so proud to see him make in his element and he in fact made it farther than I did - he got his feet in that crack but still couldn't make it over the hump to top out. It would take Meghan to finally prove that reaching the top could in fact be done. She is a natural climber and was scrambling up the rocks on her turn before we could blink our eyes. She told me her first date with her now husband Neil he took her rock climbing so it's as embedded in their relationship as hiking is to Chad and I's.

Here we are in awe at how far she made it so quickly:

And here is my favorite photo of the weekend taken right before Meghan reached the top. Don't they make a great husband and wife team?:

There was a lot of encouraging going on here because she wasn't sure of her footing and there's basically nowhere to put your feet or your hands but somehow she made it and we were all so proud.
I think everyone should go rock climbing at some point with their significant other. It teaches you a lot about strength and trust, especially when your partner is the one belaying you. I also realized through rock climbing that sometimes you can't always see where you are going but that doesn't mean you aren't headed in the right direction. Trust your instincts and don't give up and you may surprise yourself. I can't wait to enjoy this activity more in the future and as a bonus my pecs and lat muscles are still sore.

After a full day outside we decided to head indoors to the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin in Crested Butte. I mentioned this place in my last post and it did not disappoint. Being that it's that awkward time in mountain towns between summer and winter seasons we learned the Dogwood was about to be closed for the next 6 weeks after Saturday night. This meant they were out of a lot of signature cocktails, however, they were practically giving the martini's away at $6 which is $4 off the regular price (you can still catch this deal during happy hour when they reopen after Thanksgiving). We chose to start off the night here because their cocktails are so delicious we wanted to actually taste and remember them before the real drinking of the night began.

If you like, or have ever wanted to try absinthe this is the place to do so. The cocktail in the champagne glass that I had is Ernest Hemingway's drink called, "Death in the afternoon." it's absinthe, champagne and lemon and it was amazing.

Here's Chad and I with our martini's. I don't remember exactly what was in mine except it was infused with habanero which sounds disgusting but actually gave the drink a nice firey tang to it - perfect for cold winter nights in Crested Butte.

After a few cocktails we walked down the street (I love how you can walk anywhere in town here) to the Secret Stash. While I have had and enjoyed (obviously) their pizza before, Neil turned me on to the locals favorite: the Sherlock. It's not on the menu of course, but you order a Sherlock pie from the waitress which is basically chef's choice. We also ordered an, "Everything but..." which was a vegetarian's delight complete with truffle oil and tons of mushrooms (which I hate but the pizza was good anyways). I must admit with it's variety of dipping sauces it was served with and the combo of sweet and spicy, the Sherlock was my favorite:

After a night out on the town the best part of waking up on Sunday was the promise of breakfast from the Gas Cafe. Another favorite that I mentioned from my earlier post, it just wouldn't be a complete trip to CB without breakfast from here. It's a little bit of a longer walk from N&M's house and it was chilly out so we opted for the most popular transportation in town - biking!

N&M were kind enough to let us ride their tandem bike while they rode their cruisers. This is the same bike they rode down the mountain into town on their wedding day. Yes, Meghan rode a bike in the freezing rain on her wedding day, she's a trooper! I have to say, I have never rode a bike like this before and always wanted too so check that off the bucket list. It's a little tricky to balance the weight but once you get going it's so much fun. Chad is always ahead of me biking so if we had one of these we could always be right together and it makes talking to each other easier. I am definitely adding one of these to my Christmas list!
Meghan and I went shopping around town while the boys watched football where I bought some Red Lady Tibetan prayer flags. If you are familiar with Crested Butte there's a big issue going on with Red Lady and the people who want to mine the mountain vs. everyone else who doesn't want to see it destroyed. I've always wanted some Tibetan prayer flags and these are authentic and the proceeds benefit saving Red Lady. I bought mine at the Crested Butte history museum right on main street but I am sure other stores in town sell them as well. A great cause and souvenir from the area.
Just when the weekend began it seemed it was over and time to go home. I know we will be spending a lot more time in Gunnison and Crested Butte in the future as Chad and I will be an aunt and uncle soon and we will definitely want to be back to visit our soon to be born nephew. I'm so thankful for our friendship with Neil and Meghan too and though I'm sad they live far away, I'm so happy they live in such an amazing place we get to go visit. Denver is great but I hope to be a part of the mountain lifestyle in the future. All the mountain needs is snow now in Crested Butte and our new activity will be going down instead of up!