Monday, February 1, 2016

What I've learned from my first month of weekly adventure

Christmas Eve of 2014 my husband, brother, mom and I (along with my daughter on my husband’s back) hiked the incline in Manitou Springs. Besides a November summit of Bierstadt and some hikes here and there this was my first experience climbing in winter. To do something in the winter that I had done previously only in summer was amazing because the views and challenges were so different. 

This past Christmas Eve, since we didn’t have family in town, I put the question out there of who wanted to join us for another outdoor winter experience. My friend and mentor Dawnelle answered that she’d be happy to join us with her son as well. There were 9 of us total including three kids and we made an adventure out of hiking in Three Sisters Park in Evergreen and then ice skating. Dawnelle had never ice skated in her life and was thrilled to see how many calories she was burning via her fitbit and what a fantastic workout it was. Ice skating on a frozen lake is a totally different experience than ice skating in an arena and the ice was choppy and bumpy so there were plenty of falls and bruises. Out of this adventure an idea was born….

What if we had an adventure each week of the month? What if I met her every Thursday, took her 5:30am sculptFlow class at QiFlow RiNo then we headed outdoors? The premise was simple for our excursion – it had to be something at least one of us hadn’t done before and it had to involve getting outside.
January Adventure Thursday was born.
For our first outing we went to St. Mary’s Glacier which is a popular spot close to Denver. Dawnelle had never been and I was thrilled to show her the area. We wore snow shoes but the snow ended up being so packed we ditched them at the bottom of the glacier. After grabbing coffee and sandwiches from Subway we began our hike on what was an incredibly beautiful day. We decided to see how far up the glacier we could make it then spent the rest of our time glissading down (and up and down and up and down again). While we wanted to make it up farther towards James Peak, the winds held us back and the fact that we had no micro spikes. Week one taught us that we certainly needed to put in an order on Amazon for spikes and never leave your good gloves at the base of the mountain just because the weather seems favorable.

Week two took us to Matthew Winter’s Park. I had a friend in town and after racking my brain trying to decide what would be a good activity for all, Dawnelle suggested that I leave my friend to sleep in and we’d go by ourselves. Though I had never done the loop, Dawnelle had too many times to count and she wanted to time our progress. While I’m a fast hiker, I am slowed by my love of stopping to take photos and take in the scenery. Dawnelle likes to do hikes for the fitness aspect and rarely takes photos. Together we make a good team because she sets the pace and I force her to stop and enjoy the surroundings. We were hiking as the sun came up, needed no traction and even got a sunrise double handstand in. I learned in week two that we didn’t necessarily have to drive far to find our adventure.

My idea was cross country Nordic skiing for week three. Dawnelle and I both took our little ones on this outing which required a lot more work and patience. We drove to Eldora, a place we both had never been and rented our skis and sleds here to pull our kids behind us. While the sky was blue the winds outside the trees were gusting which made for a cold start to our morning. I’ve only cross country skied twice in my life and Dawnelle had never been so imagine us out there – the blind leading the blind combined with pulling weight behind us. I didn’t count on Eldora being so hilly which wouldn’t have been an issue except you couldn’t slow down on the uphill or the weight of the sled would pull you backwards. We struggled, we fell, we had 85 year old men laughing and passing us. Eldora is the place where retirees from Nederland and Boulder come to get their turns in on the week days so we were the youngest out on skis by at least 20 years but by far the least seasoned. To say we were humbled by these seasoned veterans was an understatement. 

We logged 4 miles and both kids slept the whole time in their sleds. Afterwards we treated ourselves to burgers and French fries and a pint. The most incredible part was seeing how much Dawnelle struggled with the cross country skiing. She’s someone I regard as strong, she teaches classes all week and she’s very fit and in shape outside of the studio walls. Most students look at her in awe because they can’t do half of what she demonstrates in her classes. Yet that’s what this adventure project was about –taking us out of our comfort zones and pushing us beyond our limits. After skiing she told me she was sick as well…sick enough that any normal person would have cancelled yet she didn’t let it hold her back. “I’m not cancelling our week unless I’m dead,” she told me. The bar had been set….

True to her word even on week four she didn’t cancel. She should have cancelled because she had a 12:30pm flight to make for a training in Phoenix but she didn’t let that stop her. I came to sculptFlow then we booked it to Boulder to hike the Royal Arch. I’m such a planner that the night before D had sent me a text of a photo of her crampons she ordered and I told her I was looking up the hike. “No no don’t do that!” she said, “Let it be a surprise!” Let’s be clear – I’ve never not scouted out a hike before I’ve gone on one so this was an exercise in relinquishing control for me. I trusted her since she had done it before but part of me was nervous to not know what was in store.
The Royal Arch is a spectacular hike that’s easy to access but with all our recent snow then warm weather the trail was mostly ice. If I had bought a pair of microspikes previously that would have helped, but the planner in me dropped the ball so we each wore one of D’s. I’m accustomed to being the most prepared out of us two…I bring two cameras, all the water, a whole first aid kit, food, and basically the bear grylls starter kit. Dawnelle brings nothing because she’s a minimalist so we balance out nicely (my husband is the same way so I’m well versed). The ice on the trail made for a slow climb because it wasn’t just all ice, there were areas where we had to take the crampon on and off to keep it from getting damaged on boulders. Once we reached the top, however, the views were clear and we had the summit to ourselves. For someone who normally only hikes 14ers this has been such an amazing experience because I rarely play in my own backyard so to speak. After a variety of photos, losing her bag to the wind and having a stranger come up and retrieve it from a boulder below, we were on our way back to the car. I usually hike when there are no time constraints so having one stressed me out as I didn’t want D to miss her flight. She made it with moments to spare and our month of adventures was complete.

I’ve learned so much from our weekly experiences together. I have learned that you can have these moments if you make time for these moments. If I weren’t in sculptFlow I’d be flying or sleeping and if I weren’t outside I’d be home busying myself with things that can wait. My floors don’t have to be cleaned every day, my laundry doesn’t require my constant attention and the grocery store will be there whenever I need. I have learned that I can take time for myself and come home and be a fantastic mother and still be there for my students teaching at night. I have learned that these photos I take of our journey aren’t just for me, they are to inspire others to get out and do the same. I have enjoyed seeing these trails that Dawnelle has walked 100 times and I’ve walked once. I’ve loved being outside even when it’s cold, windy, muddy, icy and grey. The site of the sun rising over the horizon as I’m hiking has made me tear up at the site of the beauty all around me.

I’ve learned all you have to do is ask for help and you’ll receive help. From my nanny and friend who watch Charlotte so I can get out, to the people who sub my class when I’m feeling overwhelmed to the fellow climbers who take our photos or stop for a chat about conditions…there’s help all around us. I’ve logged more miles this winter than I ever have in the past and it’s all thanks to those who have said yes to adventures with me.
I’m fielding more questions now from people wanting to know where to start because they see my experience outside and want that for themselves. I’m here to say snow shoeing and hiking are literally the easiest things you can do…you just walk. You walk and you walk and you don’t stop until you’re satisfied and come home. Nature is free, the sunrise is free, the snow under your feet is free….so get out there friends and enjoy.

Here’s to another month ahead of weekly adventures and I can’t wait to see where it takes us…

Follow all my outdoor excursions on Instagram @yogimagee

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