Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Weddings, Walloon and Skydiving

There is never enough time in a Colorado summer to do everything it is that I want to do. This is especially true when you add weddings into the mix. Sometimes your friends get married on the exact same day and you and your husband are both in said weddings. So you split up and do your friend duty- especially since both friends did the same for you.

Our friends Kim and Bryan and Lisa and Matt just happened to be those fortunate couples to tie the knot this year. Chad has known Kim and Bryan since his college days and I have known Lisa since my sister introduced me to her in high school as, "this is my friend you are giving her a ride home." Having a car and being sixteen made me popular with the younger crowd so I tended to hang out with friends my sister's age. Lisa and I have been best friends through the various stages of our lives throughout the years. When I went to college we grew apart until my sister came to grad school at Auburn and ended up living with Lisa. Then after Lisa graduated we both lived in Birmingham together as two "single" girls in the city (Lisa had a boyfriend at the time who was long distance). She showed me the art of tapas and I got us free drinks at the bar. We spent a lot of time together in Birmingham until I got my job as a flight attendant and moved to Denver and she moved to be with her boyfriend in DC. We visited each other in our respective cities - her showing me the art of eating Ethiopian food and me showing her Vail skiing and miller lite promos and studio city living. She was in my wedding and designed my programs, helped me pick out bridesmaid dresses and made me an inspiration board, so it was only natural I repaid the favor in some small way.

Lisa and Matt took everything relatively in stride on their wedding weekend considering mother nature threw them a curveball. It was record hot temps (over 100) and a freak storm knocked power out all over Bethesda. They had to bring in fans and generators for the outdoor wedding and the carousel couldn't run but it was a beautiful wedding full of Lisa touches. My favorite was the sangria with red and white paper straws, the cupcakes and the cheese grits at dinner. They had a photo booth which I spent a lot of time in and a live band which I subjected many people to my dancing. It was a whirlwind weekend where I drank too much, stayed up way too late and made many new friends. Sometimes going to a wedding solo can be a good thing because it forces the social butterfly in you to take flight.

After Lisa's wedding I headed up North the the shelter of Walloon lake. We weren't able to make  time to head to Walloon last year and regretted it every day so we were sure to make the trip this year. The Lipps were up at their cottage this year which meant even more friends to water ski with and have dinner with on the lake. Now that I know how to slalom ski my days on the water are even better with less face planting. I will say that I tried to get up on one ski and, well that just wasn't happening this year. We also bought a wake skate where you use a short rope and ski the wake behind the boat. It's definitely weird trying to get up on a board your feet aren't attached too but once you master the feeling it's a lot of fun. I spent many afternoons saying, "ok ok just let me try ONE more time." We were at the Lake over the 4th so we  took the boat out on Lake Michigan and had a nice picnic lunch on the unusually calm lake before watching the fireworks in the Petosky harbor. Considering Colorado was under a fire ban and no fireworks were taking place I was glad to be out of town where we could actually watch a show. Watching fireworks is a treat in itself, but watching it on a boat made them even better.

In-between water skiing and boating was a lot of time soaking up the sun and yoga on the dock. Before I knew it, the week was over and it was time to head back to Colorado. Considering I had been gone almost two weeks it felt right to be back home.

Chad's birthday was the week after Walloon and being that it was during a week day we had a spread out celebration. We had a special dinner for him at the lake and then on the day of his actual birthday I made him dinner and then we headed out to Denver Beer company to celebrate with a few friends. I took the day off work so the most important gift I could give was my presence!

Three weeks before Chad's birthday I had organized a surprise present for him - skydiving. I sent a message to a select few friends to garner interest then fine tuned the plans. I decided on a Sunday because Chad and I had signed up to do the Zombie Run for your lives 5k that Saturday. It was an awesome event where we were volunteer zombies to chase the runners then we ran the 5k ourselves. The runners have a belt with flags and it was our job as zombies to steal the flags aka their "life." Despite the heat and the three hour shift we had a good race once our friends got there around 2 to run with us.

On Sunday I had told Chad to get up and that we were going to brunch. I was going to "present" him with his present at brunch. I woke up extra early and made him a breakfast burrito so he would not be mad that we weren't really going to eat we were going skydiving. I drove us all the way to Longmont, which is about an hour away and he had no idea until we got close and saw people parachuting in the sky. I still don't think he believed it when we arrived in the parking lot because his words were, "we aren't skydiving are we?" umm yes, yes we are. I knew he would be mad because it was a lot of money to spend on a experience but it was for our anniversary and his birthday so I felt that justified the cost. After arriving our friends Leanne and Chris and Sherry and Dan arrived which really set off the adventure because even after chad learned we were sky diving he had no idea that anyone was coming with us.

We chose Mile High Skydiving and they were a great company to go with. They were running an hour behind when we go there and very busy for a Sunday so if you go make sure you buffer your time if you have any plans for the afternoon. We  waited awhile until our group was called and then we were given jump suits. to put on over our clothes. Then we met the instructors we would be diving with. I don't know how they chose who gets who but my instructor was personally very awesome, witty, funny and made me feel at ease. The strap a huge harness to you, explain how to fall out of the plane and what to do after you fall out. I told my guy I wanted to spin and do anything cool we could possibly do to add to the experience. We loaded up in a truck and drove to the airport strip where we stacked into a waiting plane. Here's a tip if you want to jump first get in the plane last because that's the order they go in. In the plane the instructor clips his harness to yours and then it's time to enjoy the ride. We got up to about 12,5000 feet and they opened the door and then we were out two by two. One minute Sherry was there the next she was gone - that's how fast they move out of the plane. I can honestly say I wasn't scared, just excited  and nervous to check this off my bucket list. When you first go out the door you feel a rush of cold air but I never felt like I was falling - more like suspended by the air. After about 30 seconds I got to pull the chute and we floated down to the earth, twirling and twisting through the sky. It was one of the best experiences of my life that words or pictures cannot do justice to describe so I would encourage anyone who has ever dreamed of going to make that leap of faith. If not now, when?

It was a crazy few weeks and that was only the beginning of July, more 14er hiking and adventures to follow!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Uncompaghre with mis comadres

If I were just hiking the 14ers for fun, it’s hard to say how I would choose my next mountain each time. After hiking Wetterhorn I was anxious for another challenging class three hike. After talking with a few friends about who was willing to hike and where, I found my friend Matt was planning to attack the Lake City area and knock 4 14ers off his list. Although I couldn’t make it for the whole weekend I decided to head back up to Lake City the next Saturday after teaching my yoga class so I could hike Uncompaghre with Matt. My friend Stephanie was able to join me which was fabulous because I’ve hike with her before and Chad had a bachelor party so he was unable to make the trip. The five hour drive would have been a lot lonelier had I made it alone.

After a few hang-ups (late start, forgotten hiking boots) Stephanie and I were finally on our way to Lake City. We didn’t have to bring as much gear because Matt had rented a hotel room for the night so we planned on staying in town. This was only complicated slightly by the fact that there was an Ultra-Marathon race occurring which meant pretty much every place in the whole small town was filled up. Luckily Matt found a place and we ended up meeting him at the town square where we could see the Ultra-Marathoners finish their racing. Personally, I know people think that I am a touch crazy hiking but trying to run 50 miles in the mountains, gaining and losing elevation and doing it all in under 18 hours is REALLY a little over the top. The good news is, Lake City was as busy as I’ve ever seen it and made for some interesting meeting of people and dinner conversations. We ate at the Southern Vittles this time, which had, by far the best fried chicken I’ve had west of the Mississippi. This made for a much better pre-hike meal than the Mini Thai CafĂ©.

Despite being invited to a Lake City house party, which would have been an experience in itself, we decided to call it a relatively early night in anticipation for our hike the next day. I think Stephanie was too anxious in anticipation though and said she stayed up most of the night not sleeping and worry about our adventure. If you remember from this blog post, Stephanie had a scary experience on Missouri mtn which was the last hike she did with me last year.

We slept in, by hiking standards and were able to make it to the trailhead around 7am. The road in to Uncompaghre is a turn off before Wetterhorn and the trail was a little rutted out in places and there were several streams flowing through the trail. True to form it took a little longer to travel not that long of a distance due to having to drive slowly but it beat adding on mileage to the hike. If we hadn’t made it to the trailhead it would have cost us an extra 8 miles. The standard route from Nellie Creek is 7.25 and the starting elevation is 11,400. Like, Wetterhorn this would be another short hike minus the exposure. Uncompaghre (which means hot water spring) stands at 14,309 feet and is ranked 6th highest 14er in the state.

The weather was considerably warmer than it had been even the week before and the trail starts out, much like Wetterhorn through a valley. You can actually see Uncompaghre when you hike Wetterhorn and the similarities in the hikes were noticeable to me. The trail winds through a valley for awhile then heads up to a saddle where you track back to the right and up the peak. The trail is very well marked and, for being a Sunday, there were only about 7 other people on the mountain. We stopped at the saddle for some photos on some very interesting rocks where you can start to get a feel for the exposure that lies above.

stepahnie and me making our way up

wetterhorn in the distance

There’s a small class 3 section just before the top where you can take the trail one of two ways. We chose to head straight up and the rocks reminded me of a staircase. 

short class three section on the way up
On the way down we wound around the other side which seemed to be the easiest route in my opinion. 
Once at the top we were treated to amazing views of the San Juans as well as steep drops of the cliffs. Just looking at Uncompaghre from a distance you can tell the mountain is cut in a different way and there are lots of volcanic rocks in the valley. Even though we were the only people on the summit we didn’t spend too much time as we still had the hike down and the 5 hour car drive home. We managed to get some great photos though:

impressive views all around

matt and stephanie looking out the other direction

me and steph - 14er number three together

Matt's 50 something and my 24th 14er

On our way out of town we stopped by my favorite bakery (possibly ever). I don’t recall the name of it but you can’t miss it on the left hand side as you drive out of town. It’s not very paleo friendly per say but they have a variety of carb loaded treats which are perfect post hike. We stopped to enjoy for about half hour before beginning the caravan home.

Though a little out of the way for most 14er hikers (If you aren’t trying to check them all off your list that is), Uncompaghre is a wonderful change from the front range crowds. The hike is short, the views are stunning and the town of Lake City is a trip in itself. You can make a weekend out of it and stay in a cabin up there or you can choose to be road warriors like ourselves and do it all in two days. One of the best parts about hiking the 14ers is how it carries you across Colorado to these beautiful towns to meet people and see things you never would have imagined before. As always I am reminded that it isn’t about the journey, it’s about the destination…and taking everything in that’s in-between.

pensive looking to the west

Thanks for the great day Uncompaghre!