Thursday, August 25, 2011

Missour Mtn hiking and Warrior Dash Conquering

Even though the Magee's haven't been doing so much flying around the country we have been making our rounds around the state. The weekend after our rafting and Crested Butte trip was spent celebrating a marriage, a soon to be born baby and the next wave of Qi teacher training graduates as well as Chad's birthday all over again at Red Rocks. I believe we literally saw almost everyone we knew in one weekend spent here in Denver.

While it felt nice to be home I was anxious to hit the hiking trail again so my friend Stephanie and I packed it up and headed for Missouri Mtn. last wednesday. She is a flight attendant with me and we just happened to be flying a trip together so it was easy enough to plan our hiking excursion. We drove up to the Missouri Gulch Trailhead that wednesday night and spent the night on one of the many pull-offs to the side of the road. There's no actual camping at the trailhead but seeing as I had driven up this road for both La Plata and Huron, I knew what to expect.

I chose the Northwest Ridge standard route which is about 10.5 miles with 4,500 elevation gain and a Class 2. We started at 6am and didn't see anyone on the trail at all for the first hour which almost led me to believe we were on the wrong trail. When you are at the Trailhead the sign says, "Belford and Oxford" which confused me because there was no mention of Missouri on the map. Indeed most people you will encounter on this route will probably be hiking Belford and Oxford. After breaking treeline you come out into the Missouri Gulch Valley and then the trail splits at a sign near 11,600 feet marking Belford to the left and Elkshead pass to the right. Stay to the right here until you encounter another sign near 12,600 that says Elkshead pass to the left and Missouri Mtn to the right.

After the second sign the trail starts a series of switch backs over large rocks but the path is so well marked it's like climbing stairs. This part is a lot easier going up than coming down because there is some loose dirt and rock in areas. Once you reach the saddle you are afforded some amazing views of Huron and the 3 apostles and it was so clear I could see the Maroon Bells in the distance. We stopped and had lunch here before continuing on to the summit. We followed the trail along the ridge crest where we finally ran into some other hikers. There was a guy who had been ahead of us and he said the last couple hundred yards were sketchy and he ditched his pack. They also showed concern for Bebe (my dog) but I knew she could take on whatever lay ahead better than I could considering she had 19 14ers under her belt. So Stephanie and I agreed when we got to the sketchy part we would scout it out and decide from there.

(view from the saddle)
After traversing a little further over the ridge we saw the obstacle that lay before us: a 10 foot down climb through a rocky notch, then a sidehill of several hundred yards across a 40-degree slope below a sawtooth ridge. The price of a mistake here: a thousand-foot slide into a man-eating gnarl of rock at the bottom. I looked at Stephanie and said, "it doesn't look so bad" as I saw bebe was already making her way to the summit. The trick to the down climb on this part is making your body like a star and always having 5 points of contact. Once we hit the ground we just crab walked and stayed as high as we could. It's slippery here, there's nothing stable to hold on too and one slip could send you over the edge but I tried not to think about that.

(the downclimb)

(a look of the remaining route to the summit - it's very steep and loose here)

(finally made the summit!)

(14er number 20 for bebe and I)

Fifteen minutes later we arrived on top of the summit and had the mountain all to ourselves. The views were amazing and the weather was perfect but we didn't stay long as we both knew we had to go back over the ridge and up climb to safety. I must say, going back over was worse than on the way up because you loose some elevation which makes the steepness of the slope even more tricky to navigate. Again, I stayed high and used my hiking pole to dig into the dirt and find any little rock my foot could use for balance. Before I knew it, we were back on the upper ridge and ready to head down.

(view of Missouri Gulch from the summit of Missouri Mtn)

Hiking for 9 hours certainly did a number on my legs but it also helped prepare me for the Warrior Dash this past Saturday. On Friday, after Chad's hockey game, we drove up to Copper to meet our friends at a house we had rented for the weekend. The house, or shall I say mansion, was in Silverthorn and was absolutely amazing. There was about 12 of us staying there, and almost all of us knew each other from the yoga studio we work at. It gave me a fabulous opportunity to get to know these instructors better and to become more than a friendly face seen around the gym.

My good friend Sarah had an idea for us to wear red and black to channel the warrior within and lucky for those at the house I was staying at, I brought extra tulle to accessorize with. I had made red Tutu's for Sarah and I and had enough fabric to make an extra for my friend Meaghan who wanted one. I will say, knowing how to make a tutu is one of the best skills I ever learned because it has come in handy more times than once! So Saturday, after doing a Qi Fit workout (we are all gym buddies after all) we set to work getting dressed for the event.

(meaghan, Dawnelle and I in the mansion getting ready)

(pre-race looking cute)

This was my second 5k ever and the first time I have ever run an obstacle race and I will say I don't know if I could ever go back to "normal" running. There were tires to run through, fire to jump over, cargo nets to scale and of course a mud pit. This event is best run in costume and I think you will find most everyone there is decorated somehow. Of course you don't want to wear anything nice as it will get very muddy and they have a place to donate your old tennis shoes at the end if you want. I wasn't trying to win the race or anything but came in at a respectable 43 minutes where I was greeted with a medal, water and banana.

After completing the dash, my friend Dawnelle and Sarah and I ended up losing everyone on our way to get our free beer (yes you get a FREE beer after the race whoohoo!) so we ended up hanging out by the stage until we finally saw Chad walking by and I was able to get my cell phone and call everyone else. The event had where you could check a bag of things for them to hold on too such as your cell phone, keys, camera and clothing and I highly recommend bringing a change of clothes and shoes afterwards. They also had showers to rinse off at but bring a towel because it's chilly after washing all that mud off!

Post-dash we all ended up back at the house for a little hot tub action and late night dance party. I don't think I have ever laughed so hard in my life from all the dancing we were doing. It was definitely a good group of people we had to spend our time with for the weekend and I'm so glad we ended up staying at the house instead of a hotel. I look forward to getting muddy with my friends for many years to come...

(we call this the statue of liberty dance)

(hot tub time machine?)

Next up...Longs Peak and Devil Dash!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Crested Butte weekend of rafting and relaxing

This past weekend my in-laws came to Denver and we headed up to the mountains for a little weekend getaway. My in-laws have a cottage in Northern Michigan and spend almost every weekend there in the summer, so it's rare that they travel to Denver this time of year. They usually wait for the snow to fall when they can get away from the gray days of Michigan and go skiing in sunny Denver. For years they have been saying they want to come visit in the summer and enjoy a different perspective of the mountains. Well this year was finally the year.

Crested Butte is one of their favorite mountain towns in all of Colorado so it was decided we would spend the weekend here. It's also convenient for my brother in-law and his girlfriend since they live in Gunnison and have a baby which makes traveling a little harder for them. Friday morning we packed up the car (my in-laws, Chad and I) and made the 4 hour drive to Crested Butte. We decided that, since it was summer and the road was open, we would take Cottonwood Pass. If you remember, this is the pass we camped on the weekend before last for the Collegiate Peaks music festival. Chad and I had wondered what was on the other side of this pass and where it led too so we were in for a treat. After you get to the top of the pass the road turns into dirt but it's not a bad dirt road and the views are amazing:

You can see the Elk Mountain Range from the top of the pass and then it winds you down through the trees and finally to the Taylor Reservoir (which we spotted last weekend from the top of Huron!).

I would say this option for driving to Crested Butte shaved at least 20 minutes off our arrival time and is a beautiful scenic drive in the summer. Cottonwood Pass is closed after September.

Upon arriving in CB we checked in to the Elevation Hotel and Spa which was formerly a Club Med. It's right at the base of Mount Crested Butte ski resort and we had a view of the mountain from our balcony. It's mountain biking season now so we could watch the bikers come down the trails on the front side of the mountain.

The hotel has a restaurant which we had breakfast at and served as our happy hour meeting spot in the evening. I thought the food and drinks were great but the service leaves much to be desired. There's also a restaurant called The Avalanche which is right around the corner from the hotel which has a little faster service and cheaper drinks. Of course my favorite coffee spot ever, Camp 4 now has a spot on the mountain (the original is in town) which I highly recommend for your morning beverages. The hotel is pet friendly and has a kitchenette in the room and the staff is very hospitable. They also have free yoga on Saturday mornings so bring a yoga mat if you stay here. The gym was one of the best I've ever seen in a hotel (and I have stayed at a LOT of hotels) and they also have a steam room in the locker rooms. The ladies had massages and facials at the spa there which made for a relaxing end to the weekend. I can't remember the last time I've had a massage or facial so that was a special treat.

Our Saturday activity was white water rafting. This has been on my bucket list for quite some time so I was excited my father in-law had arranged this for us. We used the Three Rivers company and I would highly recommend them for any first time rafter. We did the Upper Taylor Extender trip which gives you an extra 2.5 miles of rafting. I must say I was a little nervous in the beginning when your guide gives you the low down on how to save yourself should you find yourself thrown overboard, but it turns out once on the water the paddling comes naturally. Our guide was named Emil and he did a great job navigating us through the Taylor and even getting us un-stuck off a rock when we nailed one (they call it, having an "archeology project").

(taking a break on the banks with our guide to the far right)

(white water action)

Usually in August there's not a high enough water level left to have a successful rafting trip but we had so much snow melt that conditions were perfect for our trip. I started out in the back which is a good place to be if you are nervous or don't care to get too wet. However, by the end I traded with Chad for the front where all the action is. Listen to your guide and paddle when he says and you won't be in any danger of falling out or getting hurt.

Our stay at the hotel included free lift tickets for the Silver Queen so after our spa day on Sunday we took the lift up to the highest point you could on Mount Crested Butte. I should have known better and prepared for the wind that picked up along the chair lift but of course I didn't think to wear long pants.

While the rest of the family rode the lift down, Chad and I took the opportunity to hike to the summit of Mount Crested Butte. It took us about 45 minutes from the chair lift to the top and was well worth the hike. There were quite a few people making the trek up but it's not really an easy hike once you get to the rocky part about a quarter mile from the top. There's some rock scrambling so be prepared and don't wear shorts like I did and you won't be paranoid about skinning a knee. The views from the top (elevation 12,162 feet) were amazing and you could see Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells very clearly:

(Teocali in the front with Pyramid Peak behind it - a notoriously hard 14er)

(the Maroon Bells - another goal in my 14er hiking career)

(summit bandits do it again)

The views from the top of the mountain were on par for any of the 14ers I have summitted so far but with half the work involved. If you visit Crested Butte this is a must do for any avid hiker and you can also make the trek from the base of the mountain as well.

Like most weekends when you are having fun, the time went by far too quickly and before we knew it, it was time to pack up the car and head home. While in town visiting the Art Fair that was going on we dined at The Secret Stash which is my favorite restaurant in CB and always a crowd pleaser. For having such a short weekend in such a beautiful part of the state we managed to fit almost every "must do" in. The best part, however, was spending time together as a Magee family and enjoying every minute of each others company. CB in the summer is beautiful and in my opinion it's even better there this time of year than winter. You will also find cheaper prices on lodging and shorter lines in the restaurants...well everywhere but Camp 4, but hey people need their Americano's year round!

Monday, August 1, 2011

2nd Annual Camping and 14er hiking trip - Huron Peak

The weekend of the summer I had anticipated for so long finally arrived: our second annual camping and 14er hiking trip. Last summer you may recall I put together a camping trip for all of our friends at Kite Lake. Almost all of the group hiked Democrat and then half of that group finished the loop (Cameron, Lincoln and Bross). It was an excellent trip despite the rain that plagued us at Kite Lake seeing as we were camping at 12,000feet. I decided to make this an annual event so I planned a hiking trip for our group of friends that coincided with the Collegiate Peaks Music Festival in Buena Vista this past weekend.

Unlike last year, everyone in our group took off Friday from work so we could get to Buena Vista and set up camp early. I was especially excited this year because my little brother flew out from Alabama to hike with us as well as Lyndee and Mark's friend Silha. Silha had wanted to hike a 14er with us since he found out Lyndee and Mark did it last year and so he flew all the way from Wisconsin to join us. He had bets against him that he wouldn't make it to the top from his friends back home so I made it my personal mission to make sure he made it. We all met at a parking lot on Friday then headed to Buena Vista, which is about a 2 hour drive from Denver. I chose the Collegiate Peaks Campground for our stay because it was cheap and close to Buena Vista as well as accessible for our hike up Huron on Saturday. We booked the campsite in May which was a good idea because the sites were filling up fast at the campground. I had stayed here before last year when I hiked Mt. Yale so I remembered it vaguely. Each site has a picnic table and fire grate and we ended up putting 5 tents at one and two at the other because the second site was smaller.

(campsites complete now it's time for hot dogs!)

After arriving and setting up camp we grilled hot dogs and hung out until about 7 when we headed into town for the music festival. I will say, the festival was smaller than I anticipated with only one stage and it rained on and off that night but it was a lot of fun. There were lots of hippies there of course and so we danced, hula hooped and drank ska beer. We stayed until about 10 then headed back to the campsite in anticipation of our 4am wake up call Saturday.

(me and my bro at the festival)

Undoubtedly the worst part of hiking a 14er is the early wake up call. Since I was the one who was organizing the hike it was my job to set the alarm and wake everyone up. We wanted to be on the trail by 6 and the trailhead was a good hour away from where we were staying. The road leading up to Huron can get pretty rough in spots so it's slow going from Winfield. I think we ended up parking around 6:15 and the group was off.

(ready to get our hike on)
Huron is an awesome choice for someone who has never hiked a 14er before or people who need a little extra time hiking. The trail was crowded and since we had a large group we ended up letting a lot of people pass us as we hiked. You spend the first hour in the trees and then the trail opens up into a basin with spectacular views. It's here where we got our first glimpse of Huron and the rest of the trail that awaited. I will say except for the last 500 feet, the trail is very well maintained and there was wildflowers all around. We summited at about 10:30am and I'm proud to say every last person in our group (ten of us total) made it up. I couldn't have been more blown away by Silha and Austin who came from sea level with little time to acclimate and made it up the mountain just the same. Proof that hiking really is 90% mental and 10% physical.

(break in the trees)

(breaking treeline)

(views getting better and better)

(looking over at Brown's peak)

(the three apostles)

(we made it!)
Another motivating factor for our group to get up and get the hike over with was that we had a second night of the music festival to attend. So after arriving back at camp in the afternoon (our hike took us a total of 7 hours - 5 hours of hiking and 2 hours of stopping according to my gps) we cooked up some food and relaxed. Saturday night Keller Williams was playing so, despite being tired from hiking, we all made ourselves pack in the cars and head into town. We could have easily relaxed around the campfire all night but there was music to be heard and beer tickets to redeem.

We thought Keller Williams and the Kyle Hollingsworth band were going on stage earlier than they were so we didn't arrive at the festival until about 9. It turns out we had missed Kyle Hollingsworth but we got to see Keller so that made the drive worth it. We spent about half our time at the festival and the other half at the Eddyline because the festival ran out of beer. Around 10:30 we headed back up to the campsite and toasted s'mores around the fire before heading to bed. It was quite the long and tiring day.

(keller williams)

Sunday we all slept in (as much as you can when camping) and then cooked breakfast before taking down camp. My least favorite part of camping is taking down the tents and packing up to head home. It was bittersweet knowing the weekend was over and it was time for all of us to head back home. Thankfully my little brother didn't have to fly out until about 8 on Sunday night so we could take our time making it back. We decided to drive I-70 which ended up being a mistake because of all the sunday mountain traffic. The only upside was we got some amazing beef jerky at the top of the pass in Climax.

(best roadside beef jerky here!)

In the end I couldn't have asked for a better weekend with better people to spend it with. As much of a pain as it is sometimes to plan and organize these things for a large group of people, in the end I'm so happy to do it for my friends. I enjoy hiking 14ers so much and I love sharing this hobby of mine with my friends and family. It's such an amazing thing to accomplish to be standing on top of a mountain and I'm glad to have such a fun group to do it with. I hope to get in some more camping trips with friends this summer but I'll always remember this one and all the laughs we had. I hope to continue this annual tradition and make my friends hike at least one 14er a year for the years to come!

Details from Garmin etrex Legend HCx:

stop time: 2hr34min
moving time: 4hr 36min
Moving average 1.8 mph
overall average 1.2 mph