Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Life's Journey

I was sifting through some of my old blogs (I have moved and changed blogs many times over the course of the years) and found this piece I had posted on one called, "Life's Journey." The author is unknown but I love the meaning to this and thought I would share:

Do not undermine your worth by
comparing yourself with others.
It is because we are different that each of us is special.

Do not set your goals by what other
people deem important.
Only you know what is best for you.
Do not take for granted the things closest
to your heart.

Cling to them as you would your life, for
without them,
life is meaningless.
Do not let your life slip through your
fingers by living
in the past nor the future.
By living your life one day at a time, you
live all of the
days of your life.
Do not give up when you still have
something to give.
Nothing is really over until the moment you
stop trying.
It is a fragile thread that binds us to each

Do not be afraid to encounter risks.
It is by taking chances that we learn how
to be brave.
Do not shut love out of your life by saying
it is impossible
to find.
The quickest way to receive love is to give
The fastest way to lose love is too hold it
too tightly.
In addition, the best way to keep love is to
give it wings.

Do not dismiss your dreams.
To be without dreams is to be without
To be without hope is to be without
Do not run through life so fast that you
forget not only
where you have been,
but also where you are going.

Life is not a race, but a journey to be
savored each step
of the way...."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Walking on top of Colorado

Another weekend in a row we were fortunate to have our friends Neil and Meghan in town. Back in July our friend Kim decided to get tickets for the Colorado Rockies baseball fan appreciation game (complete with fireworks!) for Friday night and N&M took it as an opportunity to hang out with all of us in Denver. We decided that since we were all going to be together another 14er hike was in order because as we all know by now this is our favorite past time. Mt. Elbert was the natural choice since it was two hours closer to home for them and, being in Leadville, was obviously not far from home for us.

Mt. Elbert, at 14,433 feet is the highest peak in the Rocky Mtns. of North America. It lies in the San Isabel National Forest and is the second highest in the United States after Mt. Whitney in California. After studying the trail routes on I decided we should take the East Ridge instead of the Northeast Ridge which is the standard route. The reason being that the elevation gain would be less (4,100 instead of 4,700) and at the upper trailhead it would only be 8 miles roundtrip instead of 9. If you take this route however, it's a good idea to have a 4wd vehicle with good clearance so you can park farther up the trail. From the lower lot it's 12 miles roundtrip so you can imagine the further you park up the road the shorter the hike. Of course there wasn't a lot up here, just some pull off's on the road. With the Aspen's in full yellow color the drive was gorgeous up the road. Sadly a lot of the Aspen's had already lost their leaves but as you can see from the pictures we picked the perfect weekend before they all fell off:

aspen field that's half lost their leaves

close up of the trees driving in

off roading time!

Another reason for starting at the shorter trail was that we had our friend Sarah with us who has never hiked a 14er before and just moved to Colorado this summer. She's an old friend of Chad's and had sent me a message saying she really wanted to join in our next adventure. Knowing we had Mt. Elbert planned I happily invited her along and she accepted. She met at our house at 5:30 am and, after a slow start we were out the door. We reached the start of the trail about 9am. Chad has done Elbert before several years ago so we relied on him to guide us through the brush we had to bushwack through to get to the Colorado Trail which meets up with the Elbert trail.

this bridge has seen better days

on the colorado trail before it meets up with the Elbert trail

finally on the right path! the summit bandits - Neil, Meghan, Anna, Sarah, Malia, Chad and me
and Marley of course, bebe was romping around elsewhere

Getting to the right trail wasn't a problem but coming back we took a wrong turn so pay close attention when you go this way as to where the trail splits off.

The first half of the trail was gorgeous hiking through Aspens. These are, without a doubt, my favorite tree and the colors reminded me of when Chad and I had our engagement pictures taken in October several years ago!

You just never know when the leaves are going to start changing and one they are gone they are gone for the year so you have to enjoy while you can. And enjoy I did

Near 11,400 feet the forest opens up to some small meadows and then at 11,7000 the trail levels out before you climb about 3/4mile up and across the hillside towards Elbert's east ridge. There was a great open field with views of Mt. Massive and Sherman and Turquoise Lake which made an excellent stop for snacks and enjoying the scenery.

Meghan and Malia coming to join us

wait, is that snow I see? fortunately there wasn't a lot to contend with

Chad and neil sharing a rock. If you look really hard you can see sherman off in the distance to the right

The more elevation we gained the better the views became and it was such a clear day you could see for miles. We had amazing views of the Twin Lakes which I remember first seeing with Chad after we had gotten engaged and were driving home over Independence Pass coming from Aspen. While there was a lot of elevation to still gain and the trail was steep the trail stays consistent and we never encountered any talus or scree. At about 13,000 feet we took another break and a chance to enjoy the day:

Malia making it up, no tears or anything this time!

Our version of Advanced Base Camp at 13,000 feet

If you can't laugh, hiking is going to seem a whole lot longer than you like

Sarah and I with the Twin Lakes in the background

REI ad in the making, ready to keep going! Notice chad's already left us in the dust as has Sarah

Just above 13,600 feet the trail turns left and continues around the south side of the peak and 200 feet after that you begin to traverse west and turn right to begin the final climb to the summit. There are, of course, several switch backs at this point and the trail gets a little rockier but nothing too intense. I personally hate switch backs and did not find these to be long or terrible at all and from here the summit was in full view urging us onward and upward. Before we knew it we reached the top which, by all accounts wasn't too crowded for a Sunday. The top was even warm with hardly any wind which is rare for that altitude. Malia and Meghan were about 10 minutes behind us so we all got to enjoy the top together and of course the amazing views:

The couple that hikes together stays together! With La Plata in the background to the right (rounded looking mtn)

I just can't help but jump for joy

Long way down from the second highest point in the US

Team Summit Bandits do it again, and hopefully have another convert to our cult of hiking :)

We stayed on the summit for about 20 minutes talking to fellow hikers, snacking and marveling at how lucky we got for such a perfect day to hike. It took us about 5 hours to reach the top. Of course, what goes up, must come down so we bid farewell and started the 4 miles back down to the car.

Mt. Massive we will see YOU next year!

For some going down is easy, as evidence by Malia being last up but leading the pack down...yes that's her Waaaay ahead us followed by Chad and Neil. Chad actually got so far ahead at one point I had to yell at him to slow down. I don't think splitting up a hiking group is ever a good idea and hiking down it's easy to get carried away and forget your group is far behind you. It's also a safety issue because if you are too far ahead or behind you could get hurt and no one would know or be able to find you. Sarah's knee where her ACL was replaced was bothering her so she took her time and I stayed behind to make sure she made it ok. She was first up to the top but the coming down was rough on her knees and I wanted her to take her time and not feel rushed. I know how much a knee injury sucks and the mtns. are not kind to them!
Regardless I didn't mind taking my time once we hit treeline, it gave me an excuse to enjoy the Aspen's one last time:

As I mentioned earlier we had a bit of a time finding where we had exited the trail earlier and bushwacked to get back to the dirt road we parked on. We ended up a little farther up than expected and had to cross this dead tree over the water. Sarah showed us how it was done:

Finally at about six we reached the car just as the sun was casting it's last light on the forest.

Understandably we were all exhausted at this point and looking forward to heading home. The hike definitely took a little longer than expected which put us right in the line of traffic on I-70 on the way home. We said goodbye to N&M and went our separate ways home.

To date I think this was my favorite hike. The moral of this one just seemed so much better than any others before and even though we are such a diverse group with different ability levels we all made it to the top and had a blast doing so. The weather was so warm I only had a thermal on for half of the time and the sun was so bright and warm we all ended up with sunburns. Let that be a lesson in using sunscreen! The only thing I would have done differently is carry a less heavy pack. I carried my framed backpacking pack and it weighed a good 30lbs I would guess leaving me with some nice bruises on my hips today. I'm still fine tunning my day hike packing and after running out of water last week I wanted to make sure I was more than enough prepared. I am sure as time goes on I'll be even better about guestimating how much water I need. I know I overloaded in the snack department but hey, at least no one went hungry!

I can feel the hiking season coming to a close which leaves me a bit sad. I hope I can get Wetterhorn in as well as round two of Mt. Sherman with my mom before any real weather hits. Of course the mtns. are the boss and what they say I abide by. I just count my blessings they've been good to me and my friends so far and have brought us all a little closer together...

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Suicide Mission - Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak was up next for the Summit Bandits (as we now like to call's an inside joke involving a ski mask, campfire and kitchen knife) this past weekend. At 14,110 feet it's the 30th highest in elevation ranking in Colorado and one of the only two that has a road to the top and the only one with a Cog railway (which happens to be the world's highest). It's the most visited mountain in North America and the second most visited in the world behind Japan's Mt. Fuji. Every year they hold an Ascent run and a Pike's Peak Marathon because the standard route from the east slope is exactly 26 miles round trip. Needless to say, as we found out at 6am on Saturday morning while trying to find parking, it's quite the crowded mountain.

Our original plan was to hike halfway to Barr camp then spend the night in a cabin there and finish the trek the next day. Meghan sent me a message earlier in the week however, to say that all the cabins were full and it would probably be best to attempt the hike in one day. We could stay at her uncle's house in Colorado Springs then drive to Manitou saturday morning and hike to the top where her uncle would meet us to drive down. Essentially we had to get a ride because the hike is 13 miles one way and at the rate we hike, it has taken us in the past about 10 hours to do 12 miles roundtrip. Could we handle 13 one way, nothing but incline the whole time? We were about to find out.

Chad, Meghan, Neil and I with our dogs started up the Barr trail at 6am. There were quite a bit of hikers and runners on the trail but as the day wore on the herd thinned out. We joked that the hike was a vortex because people would pass us but we would never see them again. On most 14ers there is only one way back down so everyone that goes up you see again at the top or on their way down later. Apparently if you aren't running back down you are either getting a ride or taking the Cog train. This was also the most over prepared I have felt on a hike. Most of the people I saw weren't even wearing hiking boots or carrying much water. If it weren't for the length I'd say it would make a great beginner hike because the trail itself is very easy. Unlike most 14ers the trail isn't a huge scree field and there was plenty of aspen's to shade us for the majority of the 13 miles. In fact, it would have been an enjoyable hike if it weren't for one thing:

It was too damn hot.

Last chance for water, gatorade and snacks at Barr Camp. If only we had known

At 80 degrees this is the hottest 14er hike I have ever experienced. We were hot, the dogs were hot and the heat led to thirst. Our thirst eventually led to running out of water. My worst fear. Keep in mind Chad and I had about 6 liters of water between us and Meghan and Neil had camelback's and extra canteens as well. There were even streams for our dogs to drink from here and there (don't worry I always carry water for bebe, her thirst comes before mine even) but it just wasn't enough. Once we broke treeline there was another stream so I filled up my empty nalgene bottles for the dogs but we didn't want to drink the water unless we had to for fear of getting giardia (a microscopic parasite that lives in water that has been contaminated from the feces of an infected animal). Thankfully some VERY nice hikers stopped on their way down from the top and gave us some water and gatorade because I guess they could see how much we were struggling the last hour and a half of our hike. Of course, it didn't hurt to have the dogs with us and people are almost always compassionate to animals and in this case their caretakers as well. The fact that it was almost 4pm at this point must have alarmed them as well because, well, the sun was starting to go down and we still had a ways to go until the top.

tuck and roll down? wouldn't that be easier?

The beauty and the curse of Pikes Peak is that all throughout the hike on Barr trail, you can't see the summit. You might get a small glimpse through the trees here and there but for the most part it's like walking in the dark. Most 14ers you can at least see your target (or the false summit of your target) from the beginning but not Pikes. We were, however, treated to hundreds of beautiful yellow aspen's changing color that lit up against the blue cloudless sky.

For having so long a hike, we were fortunate to have amazing weather the whole 13 miles.

breaking treeline but still a long 3 miles to go

the final push to the summit begins here

Reaching the summit of Pikes Peak was, we all agreed, lackluster. It's quite an accomplishment to hike that far all uphill in one day but there's a sense of defeat when you reach a parking lot at the top. The cog railway and the road bring hundreds of tourists in daily funneling them into a gift shop and restaurant.

we finally made it!

Most of the people up there had definitely not chosen to hike the route as evidence of their clean appearance. The highlight of the summit was enjoying some of their world famous donuts, which, is a mystery in itself how they can make them and get them to turn out so amazing at that altitude. Buyer beware, however, the chocolate ones cost $3 each. Yeah I think it's a ripoff too so go for the plain...a steal at $1.88 for 2.

While I really enjoyed the Barr trail, spending the day with the Summit Bandits and eating donuts I'm happy to say I will never hike Pikes Peak again. It was long, tiring, and had a disappointing finish. I guess what makes the 14ers so special is usually their remoteness and how few people make it up to the top with you. It's hard to say, but there's an unmistakable camaraderie among your fellow climbers when you make it to the top. People congratulate you. They appreciate the effort you put in because they did it too. You may only share the summit of some of the mtns with 1 other person or there could be 20. Regardless you all feel like champions no matter how long it took you to get there. Pikes Peak was a tourist trap which felt like any other thing of beauty that's been taken over by commercialism. I'd say if you weren't interested in hiking to the top, at least take the Cog railway and experience something new. At$35 a car to drive up the road, there are much prettier free drives all over the state you can experience....

although you know it wouldn't kill you to walk instead :)

Obligatory summit photo which I'm sure every tourist has taken a picture with this sign

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pizza in Portland

This past week I worked my first 4 day trip in a very long time. I usually detest 4 day trips because I don't like being away from home that long and if I get stuck with a bad flight attendant it can make the work week miserable. This week, however, I had luck on my side as I was not only overnighting in various great cities but I was also working with nice, predictable crew members.

A few weeks ago I had seen a segment on the Food Network with Anthony Bourdain where he travels around and eats at various local restaurants. On this particular episode he was in Portland, Oregon eating at a pizza place called, Apizza Scholls. I sent my cousin in-law, Alia a message asking if she'd ever been to this place because it looked simply amazing. She hadn't so I suggested we needed to check it out if I were ever in the area. As it just so happened, this trip I had a Portland overnight on Wednesday and she has Wednesday's off. So I sent her a message and shortly after arriving to the airport she picked me up and we headed over to Apizza Scholls which is in the SE Hawthorne area. There are quite a few restaurants and shops lining the streets and it's an eclectic area of town perfect for hippy people watching.

I know what you may be thinking, pizza is pizza and what makes this place so special that Anthony Bourdain and I would want to visit? In a world of mass produced pizza this place stands out. They open at 5 every day and only stay open for as long as they have pizza and close at nine regardless. You see, what makes this place so special is they hand mix there dough. According to Anthony no one he knows, not even in New York (and he's a New yorker) does this. It's only made of 4 ingredients: water, yeast, flour and salt and takes 24 hours to ferment. They never freeze their dough so they can only make as many pizzas as they have dough for. When they run out they are out and customers lining up at the door are turned away. Whatever dough is left at the end of the day is used for their croutons.

Apizza Scholls has also earned the nick name, "Pizza nazi" (I'm assuming after the "soup nazi' on seinfield) because you can only have three toppings on your pizza with only two of those being meats. All of their ingredients are from local farms and also fresh, never frozen and the philosophy is that keeping the pizza simple allows you to taste each ingredient; that too many ingredients will not allow the pizza to cook at the high temperature of 650-900 degrees they cook them at.

All the pizza's are 18 inches and you can either build your own or choose from their specialty pie menu. Alia and I decided to have a half and half pizza so we could explore more than one flavor. We chose the "Apizza 'Margo'-rita" and the "Tartufo Bianco". The first was your basic margarita pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, romano, fresh garlic, olive oil and basil. The second however, was different than anything I've ever tasted. It was mozzarella, romano, sea salt and truffle oil. Truffle Oil is infused with truffle mushrooms that are highly prized in the food world.

Truffle hunting is big business during truffle season, which generally lasts from fall to spring. Each year, trufficulteurs use specially-trained dogs that find the buried treasures, usually at night. In the past, female pigs or sows were used to hunt for truffles, as the pungent odor that the truffles emit is similar to that of a male pig. The sows were difficult to hold back once the truffle was located, however, and would readily consume the expensive delicacy. For this reason most hunters now use truffle dogs.

The taste of a truffle is often compared to garlic blended with an earthiness or pungent, mushroomy flavor. They are most often served uncooked and shaved into foods like pasta, salads, or omelets. They are also served in light sauces, on fondue, or pizza.

Of the many varieties of truffles, some of the most famous are the Italian white truffle, the French black truffle, the summer black truffle, and the March truffle. The white truffle, often referred to as the white diamond, is considered the rarest type of truffle, demanding one of the highest prices. In general, truffles are among the most expensive natural foods the world, selling for hundreds or thousands of dollars per pound.

I hate mushrooms with a passion but the truffle has always intrigued me and being that truffles are harvested in Oregon I assumed that the oil used in this pizza had to be good. The pizza had such a unique flavor I can't even begin to describe it. It definitely had a garlic and almost oak/wood type smokey flavor. Alia and I agreed it was definitely one of the most interesting pizza's we had ever had.

The restaurant itself was unique as well. There were only about 5 tables and they seat you family style. It's not a very big place with a small waiting area of couches up front and a bar in the center so people can have some way to occupy their time while waiting for a spot. I was glad we got there about 5:30 because by the time we left an hour late the place was packed and there was a long wait I'm sure. We didn't want to take the risk of waiting or having them run out of dough so if you ever go eat here, getting their early is a must.

I feel so fortunate to have friends and family all over the country. While it isn't often I get to see some of these people it's so nice to have something to look forward too when I have an overnight in their city. I guess that's a great perk of my job that I am fortunate to be able to meet with friends at random intervals in time. While the pizza was amazing the company was even better and I definitely enjoyed my time in Portland and hope to return again sooner than later!

If you're ever in the area be sure to Check out Apizza Scholls:

4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd


open monday through saturday 5pm-9:30pm

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fat Tires and Glaciers

This weekend was the first in many that I have actually stayed in the city this summer. With so many few nice hot weekends left in the year it's hard not to want to head into the wilderness. However, Saturday was the much anticipated Tour de fat ( and it was on my top list of things not to miss this summer. Since my life as a Miller Promo girl is over I can actually enjoy events now like this instead of standing inside a liquor store trying to bribe people with t-shirts to buy miller lite.

I knew how much my friends Meghan and Neil would enjoy the Tour de Fat so I invited them to come to Denver and stay with us. It took a little convincing (it is a 5 hour drive for them after all) but they came and I was so excited. Tour de Fat is an event put on by New Belgium Brewery which is based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. The goal of the festival is to raise money for bicycle and environmental charities. The event was held at City Park and was free but then you could pay $5 for a beer token (bonus: they are good for the next year if you don't use them all!) and then stand in line and use your tokens towards one of several of New Belgium's brews. They encourage everyone to dress as their alter ego promoting that, "when everyone is weird, no one is" so of course we dressed up. Beer and costumes, just so happen to be my favorite two things:

The group. Of course not everyone got as dressed up as Malia, Chad and me.

The weather was perfect, if not a bit hot and it was the best people watching ever. Nearly everyone was dressed in costumes ranging from store bought (Optimus Prime or Captain America) to home made (two girls dressed as peanut butter and jelly with a baseball bat). Since it's an event to promote and sponsor biking, they had a bike parade, tons of bike parking and the vibe could not have been better. Some of the highlights of the day included, what I call, "The circle of death" where they let about 10 or so people in at a time to ride bikes like this:

I was told the founder of the company makes all these crazy bikes and then lets people at the event ride them...or try too anyways, most looked impossible to master. Hence the helmets they make you wear.

This provided great entertainment to watch. They also had three stages with bands and comedy acts, food from local eateries and bikes placed randomly around the park that you could test out. Even better than all of that was, we found, Port-a-karaoke:

Yes, they actually had taken a handicap Port-o-potty and made it over into a karaoke party booth. Of course, we all had to pile inside and test it out. I've never had so much fun singing in my life. If you know Malia and I you know we center all our parties around karaoke, alcohol and costumes so this was the icing on the cake. Unfortunately, the Tour de Fat was over at 4pm so we headed over to the Sunnyside music festival.

We were still in costume and this was a much more tame event so we had a few slices of pizza and listened to a little music before heading home.

Malia came to our house later that evening for a cookout and to spend the night in preparation for hiking Mt. Elbert the next morning. The problem was, after our day in the sun no one really felt like waking up at 5am to drive to Leadville to hike. So Sunday we ended up hiking St. Mary's Glacier. Neil and Meghan had to head back to Crested Butte anyways, so I picked a short 1.5 mile roundtrip hike that was right off I-70 (exit 283) and nine miles up a windy road. After a few wrong turns we finally found the trailhead which was crowded with cars on the left side of the road. While we barely broke a sweat hiking, the views of the glacier and the lake were beautiful.

(Malia and bebe on what was left of the snow on the glacier) I read that there was perineal snow in this area but did not find this to be the case (a little disappointing!) This is, however, a very easy spot to get too and would make a nice day trip especially for anyone wanting to bring an out of town guest. We saw several people hiking with ski's in (to ski what I'm not sure because this ice block was nasty and small) but I have heard this is a popular spot for back country skiing and boarding in the winter. It wasn't a 14er so there was no glory in the hike, but the view was still spectacular and we all enjoyed the leisure in the hike:

I was so glad to have Neil and Meghan in town with us for the weekend and have enjoyed having our friendship grow with them these past few months. Sometimes I think all it takes is having one common obsession to bring friends closer together. I am enjoying all these adventures with my friends that every weekend is brought and can only hope to find new crazy things to enjoy all winter long!