Howdy Texas–Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Day 1)

Welcome to Texas, where everything is bigger, right?  I debated how to present Guadalupe Mountains National Park to my readers (I decided by the day) because I spent three and overwhelmed myself with activities.  Regardless, I barely scratched the surface. This is a park I will certainly return to.

From Carlsbad I drove to middle of no where Texas in the rain. Literally, I think the closest “town” is 35 miles away.  Iso-Iso-Iso-lation.  Love it.

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i was wearing my “so much excite face”

I immediately went to the visitors center, picked out my RV spot, awkwardly bungeed a tarp up in a 50 mph wind storm, and made friends with the rangers.  Because the weather was less than ideal, I took a rest day and blogged from the welcome center (they had free wifi, rad)!

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i’m one of those people who likes taking photos of signs

A little history (I watched the video in the visitors center):

The Guadalupe Mountains are an example of an ancient marine fossil reef that formed 260-270 million years ago (that’s a really long time)!  During that time the tropical ocean covered portions of what is now Texas and New Mexico.  It took millions of years to form the 400 mile long horseshoe shaped Capitan Reef.  Eventually the sea evaporated and the reef was entombed in a thick blanket of sediments and mineral salts until one day a mountain building uplift exposed the parts of it we see and can climb today. I mean how cool is that?  This is why we need to protect our planet. Congress designated 47,000 acres of the Guadalupe Mountains for protection under the 1964 Wilderness Act making it the largest wilderness area in Texas.


The next day…game on.  I had things and stuff I definitely wanted to do.  Climbing Guadalupe Peak, the Texas high point (8,749′) was top on that list.

During this trip I went to sleep with the sun and awoke with the sun, which is good because Guadalupe Mountains National Park cannot decide if it lives in mountain time or central time, so I never quite knew what time it was.  I have never felt so healthy and in tune as I did when I was living in this natural circadian rhythm.

I joyfully started up Guadalupe Peak in a heavy fog/light drizzle.

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trail starts right out of Pine Springs campground, so super convenient

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I wore many layers, like I was starting up a Colorado 14er on a crisp morning but it was jungle humid and reminded me of Hawaii.

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The gains were no joke.  Texas trails are sustained steep and loose with zero reprieve. Despite having my heavier camera pack and the difficult trail conditions, I moved quickly and made good time to the summit. The fog lifted as I climbed which made for a spectacular inversion. I later discovered this is rare and I am lucky to have experienced it.

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yay inversion!

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paint brush

I had the trail and the summit all to myself.  In Texas early start times are not a thing, win for me.

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summit

So of course I danced around like a dip shit.

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It was only 8:30 in the morning and I only had one thing on my mind, El Capitan which sits next to Guadalupe Peak.  I am a bush wacker, I see something I want to climb, and I climb it.  Trails be damned!  Unless you are in Texas and then it’s totally normal to be shut down.

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the capitan rejects the pint

I am still nursing an ankle injury.  It’s still shaky situation but I had to at least try to get El Capitan.  Initially I descended off the wrong ridge because the terrain appeared a little more lax.  It was not, and dumped me back onto a switchback of Guadalupe Peak trail.  I then re-climbed 400ish feet to attempt the other ridge I had been eyeing.  I broke out my one pole and started the most disgusting bush-wack of my life.  Immediately, I was stabbed by that horrid Agave plant.  Injected in the calf with an inch long dagger, I stopped on the ridiculously steep slope, broke out my first aid kit and pulled the thorn out with tweezers.  I could not get it with my hand because it has a super slippery outer texture.

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i hate you

This is a rather large one, the smaller ones hide themselves, are easier to brush up against, and have stabbers equally as terrifying. I was making little progress as the desert shrubbery is impossible to navigate.  I was zig-zagging at the same elevation which went on for eternity.  Next I ran into an Agave that stabbed through my shoe. Once again I had to preform thorn removal precariously perched on the side of an unforgiving slope.  But on-wards I stubbornly continued, fueled by determination.  I then heard the unmistakable sound of a black tailed rattle snake. Nope.  I slowly climbed out of hell back onto the trail where I proceeded to re-roll my ankle.  Winning!  It popped back and only hurt for 5 seconds, YAY!

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I tucked my tail between my legs and bopped back down to camp listening to my favorite playlist.  Rejection is a funny thing, it only hurts when you don’t try.  Guadalupe Peak and my failed attempt at El Capitan gave me 9.6 miles with 3,500 feet of gain.

I made lunch at camp and decide more exploration was in order.

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i’m a classy gal

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pasta and veggies…i eat like a queen

I made friends with one ranger in particular, Mike, who is lovely. He advised me to go do the Salt Basin loop trail via an old road a little ways outside the park.  I had a hard time finding it but when I did I was very pleased.  Coordinates are 31.86331N and 104.83668W. Once again I had the whole place to myself.  This loop gives incredible views of El Capitan and Salt Basin.

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old trailhead worth finding

This was one of my favorite trails.  I was able to find some scrambling and sit and eat snacks while enjoying tremendous views.  Some of my best times in the park did not come from planned activities but from random things Mike suggested.

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mean muggin’ El Capitan

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salt basin

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glorious moments in time

This loop is 5.2 miles with 900 feet of gain and was on the more runnable side of trail I met in the southwest.  Ranger Mike later shared these photos with me, taken from an area I ran through.

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look closer…..

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pissy

I went back to camp and made friends with all my neighbors.  My first day in the park was a delight.

“Real freedom lies in wilderness, not in civilization”

 

 

Carlsbad Caverns and the like…

Blogging while adventuring is incredibly difficult.  I have hundreds of photos to go through, rarely have wifi, and quite frankly I would rather be activity-ing.  But alas my friends the adventure of the pint continues…

I left you in the Sandia Mountains, from there I went to Bottomless Lakes State Park in Roswell, New Mexico.  I used to watch the television show “Roswell” so I was excited to see the city.  It was quite normal sans alien everything, everywhere.

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everywhere….

Bottomless Lakes State Park was an absolute s-show to get in and out of because of extensive road work in the area.  The Bottomless Lakes are a chain of eight lakes that are actually sinkholes ranging from 17 to 90 feet deep.  They were formed when circulating water dissolved salt and gypsum deposits forming subterranean caverns. Eventually the roofs of the caverns collapsed under the pressure of their own weight and filled with water forming the existing lakes.

I had lunch before going on a high noon run in the hot desert sun. The reward was a half hour swim in Lea Lake (the only one they allow visitors to swim in).  I have mixed feelings about state parks. Some are gorgeous and well maintained while others are riddled with trash and graffiti.  This park was full of rowdy street youths.  I cut my run in half and spent 45 minutes picking up trash.  If you want to party in protected natural places, clean up after yourself, it’s that simple.

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it’s vegan

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after being viciously attacked by an angry gang of horse flies

From Roswell I drove to Brantley Lake State Park which is just south of the town of Artesia and about 20 miles north of Carlsbad. I chose to camp here because the RV joint in Whites City (right outside Carlsbad Caverns) got terrible reviews.  I hit the jackpot, my camp spot was perfection.  There was a large covered picnic table and I had a prime time view of the lake which is at an all time high.  I have grown very fond of picnic table top yoga. My view as I cooked and yoga’d.

File May 28, 6 50 58 PMFile May 28, 6 48 19 PMIn the morning I went to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

DSC_0371The cavern is the kind of place where a person can really hear themselves think.  I did the entire walking loop and ran back up (there is an option to take an elevator but I don’t pass on vert, especially not the opportunity to run out of the interior of the earth).  I believe the whole endeavor was around 4 miles with 1,200 feet of gain.  I walked nearly two miles into the earth which I am still trying to wrap my head around!  Human beings are inherently self driven and therefore incredibly self centered. Nothing will compare to how small and insignificant I felt standing below the massive Stalagmites.  The entire experience was truly humbling.

A word of advice, if you are a photographer and want really good photos, take your tripod. I was wearing my small running pack and had my Nikon in my hand.  The cave is VERY dark, meaning I had to shoot at a higher shutter speed, meaning I had to hold the camera super steady and I have very shaky hands.

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entrance

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the only flash photo I took, going down

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whales mouth

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column

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stalagmites

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stalactites

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big room

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aragonite crystals

Once I was done getting my cave on I went and talked to the ranger about possible running/hiking trails in the area.  We came up with Slaughter Canyon, but first I needed some lunch.  I went to Rattlesnake Springs and made myself noodles and proceeded to pass out in the shade for about an hour.

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all to myself

The ranger warned me I would not be running Slaughter Canyon, she also warned me of some evil plant (called lechi leechi, century plant, or agave) that sends people to the emergency room by injecting an inch long thorn strong enough to puncture a car tire into the shin bone.  She even made a point to bring me outside and show me what it looked like.  If you follow my journey I will document my numerous run-ins with this hellacious beast (I wasn’t stabbed until Texas). I would be lying if I wasn’t saying in my head, “clearly she doesn’t know what I am capable of running” and, “plants don’t scare me.” Well….this was my first experience with desert “trails”….and…there was no running.

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road to slaughter canyon

File May 28, 6 54 02 PMThere was no one at the trailhead.  It was the definition of desolate.  It was 90 degrees with zero opportunity for shade. I started off with a light jog and immediately tweaked my ankle. The trail was comprised of every sized loose, polished stone.  I settled into a fast hiking pace until I hit the flowery field of doom. Here is where I first encountered the “fist wasp” as I so accurately named it.  This thing is as black as my hair, the size of a fist, and flies directly at your face.  There were hundreds of them.  I run for many reasons, sheer terror is not one of them, but on this day it was.  I never found out what fist wasp actually is, but it definitely pollinates.  It got to the point they didn’t phase me anymore.

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field of terror

The desert is full of the most horrifyingly beautiful species of plant and animal and I am pretty sure I encountered it all.  Incredibly difficult terrain is an understatement.  I did an out and back through the canyon but decided I wanted more vert so I hiked up to the barred off Slaughter Cave.  Here the rangers give tours of the Christmas Tree formation for an extra fee.

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looking down on slaughter canyon

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I absolutely love New Mexico.  Stay tuned because next is Texas.  I can’t wait to share the Guadalupe Mountains with all of you ( :

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there’s more to come….

“I’m attracted to your rawness, your unguarded way of living.  There’s life in that.”

Albuquerque’s Backyard: The Sandia Mountains

Today is a rainy travel day, so I decided to relax, drink some coffee, and write about my time in the Sandia Mountain Range which backs up against the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  This range looks unimpressive from the road but once I went in, well mind blown.  The La Luz trail is rugged and lonely…just the way I like it.

I stayed at the Turquoise Trail Campground on the east side of the range, meaning it was a bit of a drive to the trailhead but well worth it.  For 18$ a night I had a nice little camp spot, with electricity, clean bathrooms, a hot shower, laundry, wifi, and Bradley and Deb who run the place are the kindest people I have ever met.  A large group of college students surrounded my site a few hours after I arrived.  They were very loud and I needed to wake up early to climb.  Deb allowed me to pull my car in a quiet RV spot and I had a wonderful (albeit cold) night of sleep.  During my two night stay I got to know Deb and Bradley and deemed them my new favorite people.  I am learning that this road trip is not just about the things I do but about the people I meet.

camp

that camp life

food

culinary camp artist

The goal was to climb Sandia Crest Peak.  I ended up summiting Sandia Crest Peak and Sandia Peak due to an unforeseen snow/ice event.  Read on my friends, this is one you don’t want to miss.

Sandia Crest Peak (10,678′)

Sandia Peak (10,378′)

13.4 miles

5,300 feet of vertical gain

6 hours

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the mess I made

I started at the La Luz Trailhead on the northwest side of the mountain (35.21966N 106.48073W).  It was a chilly morning but I melted away miles as the birds chirped and the woodland creatures yelped at one another.  There are a lot more birds in the desert and they are far more colorful than in Colorado.  I enjoy bird watching. I carried my new Lowepro bag which holds all of my camera gear.  At some point I will do a review.  I cannot run if I carry my camera gear, so fast power hiking was the name of the game, although this trail is very runnable…until…we will get there.

There is actually an infamous trail run that does the La Luz trail in its entirety.  Will I be back to run this?  You bet!

trail run

The surrounding terrain is stunning.

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shark fin

I became obsessed with that shark fin looking thing. There has to be a route up it?

Around five miles in, things changed.

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3 more miles of treachery

The trail went from dry and easy to follow to the most dangerous hard packed ice-snow I have ever encountered.  Traction was a must and I did not have any.  To make things even nastier the trail switch backs up (straight up) a boulder field, so the ice and snow precariously covered loose rock.  My progress slowed to a snails pace and all my attention went towards keeping my ankle safe.  It was also necessary to keep from slipping off a cliff.  I guess they lose a few people on this trail every year (that’s what a ranger told me).

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the start of the difficulties

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stairs of death

It basically got worse and worse until I finally topped out in the parking lot of Sandia Crest Peak, you can drive up this mountain. There is also a large restaurant and gift shop on top.  What is so crazy is the La Luz trail is about as back country as you can get and then boom urban decay.

summit

viewGoing back down the La Luz trail was not an option, self preservation.  After a brief conversation with a ranger I decided to take the tram down.  The Crest Trail brought me through two miles of absolute slop to the summit of Sandia Peak which also triples as the top of the Sandia Ski Area and the top of the tram ride.

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Sandia Ski Area

I believe the best adventures happen when nothing goes as planned.  If I did not hurt my ankle, I never would have taken this trip which has been amazing.  If there was not treachory on the north side of the mountain I never would have stumbled upon the radical tram ride down.

tickettramThe last thing I needed to do was connect the bottom of the tram back to the trailhead where my car was parked.  Conveniently enough the Tram Trail does just that.  This tacked on another 4 miles and 1,000 feet of gain.  I ended up with nearly the same mileage and more vert for the day.  This makes for a happy halfpint.  Also the desert is in full bloom which is hard to describe stunning.

farewell

I stood atop only to come back down.

flowerAfter some much needed food and a little picnic table top yoga I decided to head into Albuquerque to try my hand at night photography.  It was absolutely tornadic, complete with lightning bolts to the head but it was fun running around the empty city trying to get “the shot.”

skyline

wittle skyline

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Until the next time my friends…stay tuned ( :

“All I want is an open heart on an open road”

Exploring Santa Fe

It was a little hard for me to settle into the idea of exploring Santa Fe.  The mountains are always calling.  Having had the biggest mileage/vert week since my ankle injury, and planning some bigger climbs in the coming week, a rest day was in order.  In the end I am super happy I wandered Santa Fe, it is a very unique city.

image1 Santa Fe

So there is this church, The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and it is gorgeous.  It was top on my list to see.  I made three passes before I actually got in (strange hours and mass) but did not take any indoor photos out of respect, although I think you can.

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Church door

Next, I climbed to the top of Cross of the Martyrs Park, there are nice 360 degree views.  I imagine this would be a great spot to watch the sun set.  At the top is Fort Marcy.

image1 Fort

At this point I had been up for a while and wanted some coffee and food.  A quick google search produced Betterday Coffee Shop, an off the beaten path hipster joint.  The latte was great, the super dank vegan burrito was even better, but the music was the absolute best (ya Tupac).  They also have nice restrooms, strong wifi, and an interesting flow of patrons.  I met a older man who told me to go check out Loretto Chapel.  It did not open until 10:30 in the morning so I killed more time in downtown Santa Fe.

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Shops, restaurants, and weird art make up Santa Fe.  I aimlessly wandered around as I waited for Loretto Chapel to open.

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I am not sure about other days but on Sunday’s there are vendors selling jewelry and art EVERYWHERE.  I found some beautiful $130 rings and laughed out loud about spending that kind of money on something I was guaranteed to lose.  There was a lot of activity in the center of the city at Palace of the Governors.

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My last stop was the Loretto Chapel and it was well worth the three bucks to get in.  Back in the day the chapel was a Romen Catholic church, now they do weddings and pack people in like sardines.  But it’s beautiful, seriously, and there is an epic stair case that enshrouds a mysterious construction.  It is a miracle I was able to snap a few photos sans people.

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And that’s the fast and fun way to do Santa Fe.  Now back to the mountains……

Welcome To New Mexico

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I am not really great at sitting still.  I have always had an abundance of energy, kind of like a puppy that you need to run until it passes out.  That being said, here is a day in the life of me and New Mexico. 

I made my way from Santa Fe to Bandelier National Monument around 7 a.m. in a foggy down pour.  Moral was high but I was convinced I would be exploring in the rain.  The park is 48 miles northwest of Santa Fe and has some beautiful archaeological sites, but has been ravished by fires and floods.  I watched a 10 minute video on the flash flood of 2013, it was epic.  The cave dwellings, ancient foot paths, and mesa houses were built out of the flood zone.  The ancestral Pueblo people were smart.

I must have good karma because as I parked the rain tapered off and the sun poked out.  There was only one other car.  The park was mine for the taking.  The first thing I did was run Falls Trail.  This trail used to go all the way down to the Rio Grande river but numerous flash floods ravished the area preventing hikers from going any farther then Upper Frijoles Falls which is a total stunner.

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Upper Frijoles Falls

This was one of the most peaceful runs I have ever had.

The clouds were beginning to build again but I decided I should take the self guided tour and experience the history Bandelier boasts.  The main loop trail behind the visitors center did not disappoint.

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cave dwelling

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On the way back to my car I stumbled across a sign pointing towards the Alcove House, meaning, I had to investigate.  This ended up being the coolest thing I did all day.  First off, rain deters people from going outside which is great if you enjoy having special places all to yourself.  In order to attain the Alcove House you have to climb four 40-60 foot ladders and make your way through some ancient narrow foot paths.  I had an absolute blast.

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Alcove House

After I left Bandelier I drove Route 4 through the Jemez Mountains in search of a natural and free hot spring.  What I got was a surprise blizzard (and eventually a hot spring).  There was snow…. a lot of snow, accidents…a lot of accidents, and suicidal birds (I think they liked the salt on the road).

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With some effort I found Spencer Hot Spring.  It was a difficult and slightly dangerous hike (steep and slick) but SO worth it.

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found the hottest water

After a good amount of soaking and relaxing I braved the cold snowy ground and changed out of my bathing suit for the slip and slide out.  At this point I planned on going back to Santa Fe and doing Santa Fe things but instead decided to check out Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

Tent Rocks is a small national monument located in the middle of privately owned sacred land.  The ranger who greeted me was very nice and told me to go run Slot Canyon Trail.  Once again I was outrunning the rain.  This trail was an absolute gem.  It winds through narrow canyons, passes underneath the tent rocks, and then aggressively climbs to the top of a ridge.  A nasty storm rolled in as I summited.

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Yucca in full bloom

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so much innuendo

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Tent Rocks…….and more innuendo

At this point I was happy, dirty, hungry, and ready to pass out.  And that’s a day in the life of a halfpint.

“Life is not a problem to be solved but an adventure to be lived”

Pimp My Ride: Phase II ~ Interior Decorating

So I officially took too large a bite out of the apple of life.  I have eighteen million activities I am involved in and zero free time.  The blog is suffering but this is one that needs to go live before I leave on the first leg of my adventure.  If you shall recall, weeks ago, I tore my two door Honda civic to shreds and built a bed inside of it.  If you do not recollect, I suggest reading this.

It took me about five minutes driving around to realize there were some pressing issues.  First off the bed was sliding all over the place.  Easy fix:  I went to Home Depot and bought two four foot long bungee cords and attached them to the front of the bed (part in back seat) and some super conveniently located secure knobs in the trunk…it’s as if Honda knew I was coming.  Problem solved, bed stays put and I can still lift both ends up to access storage.

The second issue was the four legs holding the back seat section up were spinning and flailing about.  Another easy fix.  I reinforced each leg with two “L” brackets.  This was more of a forearm workout then I anticipated, but did the trick.  I guess I won’t REALLY know until I start sleeping on it but I have spare parts if a fix is necessary.

I love sleep, it may be my favorite activity.  It’s easy to say, “I’m going to live in my car for 10 weeks and sleep on a thin piece of foam,” but deep down I knew I needed a real mattress.  I began the unpleasant task of ripping out the foam that Meredith and I stapled down.  I was so glad we used 5,000 staples as I lay precariously wedged feet in back seat, head in trunk, popping staples out of the wood with a butter knife.

ripping out foam

so much fun

Guess what?  There is no mattress in existence that fits the exact specs of halfpint’s trunk bed.  So I ordered this guy and channeled my inner ghetto rigging skills.  Luckily it had a zipper and I was able to open it up and cut it to meet my needs.

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I then zipped it back up and safety pinned the excess flab.

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Next on the list was lighting.  I knew I wanted soft lighting for the back seat so I could do stuff and things without draining the car battery or having to deal with a lantern or head lamp.  I found some really nice LED battery operated globes on lights.com.  They last 90 hours on two AA batteries which is most likely enough for the entire trip. I reunited with my staple gun.

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party lights

party lights

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File Apr 26, 2 07 02 PMCurtains were the biggest issue.  A girl needs some privacy.  Also I am a vampire and sleep in a completely blacked out room at home.  I searched high and low for a rear window cover and two side window blockers but came up empty handed.  And then BOOM, it hit me, magnets.  I bought some sticky magnet tape, some circular magnets, and some vampire black fabric and designed custom window magnet curtains.  I cannot sow so Meredith stepped in and made it happen (love you girl)!

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mer Mer

the lovely Meredith

boom cat

BOOM CAT!

I still needed a privacy curtain to separate the front of the car from the back.  This led to many ridiculous attempts at jamming a shower curtain rod between the two sides of the car.  Fail, fail, fail.  Finally I decided on a curtain rod that I could staple to the roof.  The jury is still out on if this will hold up.

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402 2After the test trip through the South I may pull it out and staple fabric directly to the ceiling, but I think you need to see out the rear view or something.

I then shifted my attention to details. I bought a shoe organizer, cut it up, and attached it to the passenger seat.  Makes for a great place to put stuff I don’t want to lose and need easy access to.

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I also bought a patio chair cushion to appease my ass.

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I found a small rechargeable fan on Amazon.

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Having long hair is great but incredibly hard to keep clean and tame.  I am not one of those girls who “does their hair,” so my collection of head bands, buffs, and hats is extensive.  I bent up and old hanger and made a holder for all my dirty hair hiders.

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I then put together an “emergency kit” that sits in the trunk underneath the bed with the full size spare tire.  The things that I think can save my life, my car’s life, or prevent any major delays in the trip are: a water filter, duct tape, malleable copper wire, vice grips, a flat head screw driver, a Phillips head screw driver, the stuff to change a tire, a piece of wood to help support a jack if I need to change the tire on mushy ground, jumper cables, para cord, carabineers, more para cord, a staple gun, flares, matches, a lighter, a sowing kit, hydrogen peroxide, a tarp, bungee cords, a hunting knife, band-aids, ace bandage, butterfly stitches and the like.  I think that covers it and I am positive if need be, I could make things happen with those ingredients.

Well that is a wrap and I am off to see the world (and by world I mean the western half of continental United States)!!!

ADIOS

peace out homies

 

Plymouth Mountain (7,295’)

trail

photo @b.tormanen

Distance: 5.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,330 feet

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Time: Running~ 40-70 minutes, Hiking~ 90-180 minutes, Meandering~ should not take longer then 3.5 hours

The Draw: Deer Creek Canyon Park is very close to Denver and has 12.8 miles of trail.  There is good forest cover providing shade on hot summer days.  In the spring, streams and waterfalls run right next to the trails providing a nice soundtrack.  Be warned, in the winter with snowfall followed by a melt/freeze cycle, sections of this route turn into a bobsled track and traction is recommended.  This is one of my favorite local parks.  Expect wildlife, lots of greenery, and great views.  There are also really nice picnic spots along with flush toilets at the trailhead.

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have a picnic

What You Need: When I run this route I do not carry anything.  If I add more miles I carry a handheld water bottle.  At most you will need a small pack with water, a snack, and a light rain coat.  Have a good trail shoe and something to take photos with. 

Trail Head: From C-470 take the Kipling exit.  Turn west on W. Ute Avenue, then west on Deer Creek Canyon Road.  Turn left on Grizzly Drive and then right into Deer Creek Canyon Park.  There are signs that direct off the Kipling exit and plenty of parking at the trailhead (which is paved). (39.54374N 105.15170W)  This park is open to hikers, bikers, and dogs, although there are marked hiker only trails.  Observe all signs and clean up after yourself and your dog. 

The Route

viewThere are many routes to explore in Deer Creek Canyon, the route I will be describing leads to the summit of Plymouth Mountain and is the most direct.  There are two options from the trailhead: Meadowlark trail or Plymouth Creek trail.  Meadowlark is a half mile longer, hiker only, and gives nice westerly views, while Plymouth Creek trail lives up to its name and winds up the mountainside next to, you guessed, Plymouth Creek.  I suggest trying both, simultaneously.  Go up one and down the other…..and you thought I was kidding.  Either way they eventually conjoin and turn into Plymouth Mountain loop.   

view

There is a rather large waterfall right off of Plymouth Creek trail but shrubbery ruins a killer photo op.  I have a saw in my trunk.

waterfall

shrubarrific

trail

After Meadowlark and Plymouth Creek become one a set of stairs appears and the trail aggressively climbs for a bit, embrace it.

stairsPlymouth Mountain trail is a gorgeous 2.2 mile loop that circumnavigates Plymouth Mountain but we are on a direct mission to get to the summit so pass by a turn off on the left about 1.5 miles from the trailhead.  There will be another major junction at 1.9 miles (39.52935N 105.16058W), stay left and continue up Plymouth Mountain trail.  The trail that goes right will lead to the 2.5 mile Red Mesa loop (also highly recommended if mileage is your thing).

As the trail winds up Plymouth Mountain things gets really beautiful.

me

photo @b.tormanen

sun

hey you sunhole

It’s about right now an apocalyptic storm rolls in.  At 2.4 miles from the trailhead there will be signs for a “scenic view” on the left.  Take this 0.4 mile trail to the end and enjoy views of more shrubs, just kidding, east towards Denver and north towards Boulder look nice.  The actual summit of Plymouth Mountain is on the left hand side along the way at (39.52969N 105.15693W) and requires some semi-skillful moves to attain.

PM

summit of Plymouth Mountain

view

Brandon

impending doom

Return to the trailhead the same way you came, or finish the entire loop, or go explore Red Mesa loop.  Life is full of choices.

goodbye

photo @b.tormanen

“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures” ~Lewis Carroll

Mount Galbraith Loop

Hellooooo and welcome back!  As the vision for my blog comes to life I ask myself the important question, why am I doing this?  The answer: because I feel like I have valuable information to share with the world.  I get asked a lot of questions about food, gear, and trail so I decided to add a “gear review” tab, where… you guessed it, I will be reviewing gear AND I decided to divide “adventure” into three categories.  One category will cover activities outside the state of Colorado.  One category will cover adventures in Colorado but over an hour and a half away from my apartment in Golden.  One category (potentially my favorite) will cover my local trails.

After I bought my first pair of trail runners I began exploring the Jefferson County Open Space parks.  These trails and mountains have a very special place in my heart.  They are my home.  They are my sunshine on a cloudy day, even if the cloud is shooting out quarter size hail.  There are so many glorious routes to be found within a stone throw from Golden and perhaps a baseball hit from Denver.

I want to share my link ups, my secret mountain summits, and the trails only a few know about with you, my fellow outdoor enthusiast.  My goal is to have a place to direct those who ask my advice on the best trails near Denver.  Whatever your poison (trail running, mountain biking, hiking, meandering, frolicking), this section of my blog will be sure to satiate.  These routes also serve as excellent acclimation hikes for those coming from sea level who are looking to push altitude in the high country.  Beef up those red blood cells!

Please remember to respect our planet.  Jeffco open spaces did an incredible job building an amazing network of trails, stay on them.  Walk through mud, puddles, slush, and ice, not around.  Trail widening is not cool.  Do not harass wildlife.  Do not throw trash on the ground. In fact, leave a little room in your pack and pick up the trash of those who do.  DO NOT leave bags of dog shit on the side of the trail.  There is simply no excuse.  In other words, don’t blow it, good planets are hard to find.

Without further ado, the Mount Galbraith Loop, with bonus summit (7,169’).


Distance: 4.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,005 feet

Difficulty: Moderate (some extra rocky sections)

Time: Running~ 35-70 minutes (unless you are super human), Hiking~ 90-120 minutes, Meandering~ should not take longer then 3.5 hours

The DrawThis loop provides views in all directions.  There are beautiful wildflowers in the spring (my favorite season).  I always see deer gangs grazing and cold mountain streams run through the route.  It’s a beautiful loop on the shorter side right outside of Golden.  This route can be done year round but be warned it is rather difficult with substantial snowfall.  I caused a mini avalanche on the east slopes during a mid January day.  In the summer it is hot, go early in the morning or later in the evening.  The parking lot is small and fills up quickly on nice weekend days.  There are bathrooms (hole in the ground, no running water) at the trailhead.

What You Need: When I run this loop I do not carry anything (unless it is high noon in July and then water is a must).  At most you will need a small pack with water, a snack, and maybe a light rain coat (storms can sneak up).  Have a good trail shoe and poles if that is your thing.  Have something to take photos with, because how else will facebook and/or instagram know that you did something with yourself?

Trail Head: This is a hiker only park (no bikes).  From highway 93 (runs through Golden) take Golden Gate Canyon Road west for approximately 1.5 miles.  The dirt parking lot and trailhead will be on the left hand side of the road.  (39.77379N 105.25420W)  If you are a nerd like me, you love coordinates.

The Route

Start by heading south on Cedar Gulch Trail.  Cross a small foot bridge and walk along a nice creek for a few minutes until the trail turns left up some rock steps and begins to aggressively climb. 

DSC_0417

DSC_0418

In the spring the trails come to life.

Pasque

Pasque Flower

cactus

Cactus

allergies

Allergy inducing hell.

sac

Leaf eater creation sac.

I absolutely love this burned tree.

burned tree

After about 1.3 miles and a 525 foot climb the Cedar Gulch trail intersects with the Mount Galbraith Loop (39.76493N 105.25233W).  You are faced with a choice, go right (counter clockwise) or go left (clockwise) around the 1.6 mile loop.  I prefer to go clockwise, although going counter clockwise will make rockier sections of the trail easier to navigate as you will be going up them instead of down.

DSC_0446

If opting for a clockwise loop, Nightbird Gulch trail will intersect from the left.  This is a neighborhood access trail, continue straight along the Mount Galbraith Loop.  After a bit more climbing some nice views of Golden and Denver open up.

Golden

Looking east towards Golden.

Lone tree

dead tree

There is a nice lookout as the trail turns southwest (39.76162N 105.25028W).

Look out

Look out.

South

Looking South towards Lookout Mountain.

west

West.

The Mount Galbraith Loop is exactly as it sounds, a loop that circumnavigates the summit of Mount Galbraith.  But I like actual summits, so one day I found my way to the top.  There are a few social trails along the loop but they can be confusing.  The easiest way I found is to head northeast around (39.76315N 105.25627W) or wherever your spidey skills tell you.  Just be aware the terrain is not all rainbows and sunshine.  The summit is easy to spot (look for the highest rock outcropping).  There is also a register.  I love summit registers!  If going for the summit, tread lightly as there is no established trail.

me

Boulder

North towards Boulder.

register

Sophisticated summit register.

log

Log. I am certain Galbraith is actually 7,169′.

Whether or not you go for the summit keep an eye out for a tricky section of trail on the return.  I always miss this rocky left/down turn.  I built a cairn to remind myself (39.76295N 105.25730W).

cairn

Cairn.

In March of 2011 the Indian Gulch Fire burned 1,600 acres on Mount Galbraith.  That will be the answer to your question, why are all these trees black?

burned

Dark and mysterious.

The remainder of the loop will weave in and out of the forest.  There are steep rocky sections where the trail can be easily lost.

ROCKS

The trail.

With a bit of care you can stop yourself from rolling down the mountain side.

The loop and your adventure will come to an end as you take Cedar Gulch trail back to the parking lot.

If you have any questions feel free to ask in a comment and/or let me know if you do this route.

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“The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man”

Cenote Hydration

There is nothing more important then the gear one chooses to tackle adventure.  Whether you are trail running, mountain biking, mountaineering, snow shoeing, backpacking, camping, or even road tripping, you need stuff.  Without a doubt the most important “stuff” is that which holds hydration for a day(s) of exploration.  As humans we can survive some time without food (well I can’t) but water, now that is a different story.  I have tried every bladder on the market.  Osprey breaks.  Camelback is expensive.  But Cenote is perfection and local to Boulder, Colorado.  I fully support local.

First check them out here

The only time I don’t carry a pack is if I am on local trail runs under 10 miles and the temperature is below 65 degrees.  Any other time, I need water and I do not like carrying hand held water bottles as they make my hands go numb.  I also prefer having free hands.  I have every type of pack from minimalist to full on winter mountaineering and the Cenote hydration system fits in most.  Cenote hydration comes in two sizes; 2 liter and 3 liter.  The 2 liter is perfect for day trips into the high country or back packing.  The 3 liter is a good size for longer winter mountaineering adventures.  I do wish they made a 1 liter that fit into my minimalist Nathans vapor trail running pack.

What I really like about Cenote bladders is the price.  They are inexpensive and of very good quality.  For example you can get a 3 pack of 2L bladders for $23.99.  This means put whatever you would like into the bladder: red bull, sports drinks, beer, tequila, chocolate milk……

They are also the only recyclable hydration system on the market.  If you know me, you know how important this is.  If you are too lazy to drop your used up bladder into a recycling bin then upon request Cenote will send you pre-postmarked packaging and do it for you.  Now that is the level of commitment I like to see!  It is important to support companies that share your values.

Cenote bladders are easy to use.  There are only two parts: the bladder and the [cap, hose, and bite valve].  The bladder is very easy to fill and the cap very easy to screw on.  I know this sounds silly but I used to fear putting on my Osprey bladder cap.  If it was not threaded perfectly it ended up slowly leaking into my pack throughout the day (this happened on more then one occasion).

bladder

Don’t judge my dirty sink.

Cap

Don’t judge my dirty floor.

I also really like that the cap part comes completely off of the bladder.  This feature makes the bladder easier to fill and easier to dry which prevents mold build up.

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Cenote spares no quality when it comes to the bite valve.  It is thick and beefy and easily locks into the on and off positions.  I have also had problems with leaky Osprey bite valves.  I tend to chew mine to total destruction.  It is as if Cenote knows exactly who their audience is.

Bite valve

On position.

Lastly, I love the three hole feature at the top of the bladder.  Mostly all of my packs have a feature that can utilize these holes to secure the bladder.  Or I can hang it from a tree while I am camping and funnel beers because who doesn’t like climbing mountains hung over?

Millet pack

Cozy in my Millet Pack.

And they send you a rad postcard with your order telling you they will check in with you and make sure you like the system.  How many companies do that?

postcard

I have hiked many a time with my Cenote hydration system and I LOVE it. Once again go check out their website here. I highly recommend giving them a try. I am a customer for life.

5 stars out of 5 stars

Gold star

The Best Adventures are Random Adventures

In my years of exploration I have found the best days are the unplanned ones.  The days where you get lost in laughter and conversation with friends, the days where you lose track of time and end up in weird places, doing weird things that you never intended. That is exactly how Saturday unfolded.

RMNP

Rocky Mountain National Park

Initially Meredith, Chris, and myself wanted to hike to Sky Pond, a 9 mile round trip adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park but a spring storm system decided to dump four feet of snow in the mountains.  The weather for the past several days in Colorado has been its typical wacky self.  Spring time in this state is always crazy.

TreesStill that did not deter us from trying.  Saturday was a National Park free entrance day so we headed to the Glacier Gorge trail head.  Apple maps/GPS is a steaming pile of garbage so we ended up touring the YMCA facility near the park which pushed our start time to 11 a.m.  This was fabulous since we all woke up at 5:45 a.m. in order to start by 9 a.m.  The last time I used apple maps I found myself on private property trying to cross the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in a 2WD car.  You could say I have officially learned my lesson, real maps, always.

We really did not want to use snowshoes but it took Meredith and I about five steps on the “trail” to realize we needed them.  Chris opted to post hole which was incredibly entertaining to watch.

StartSNOW

photo

Attempting to take a photo of the elusive double sacked sex pigeon.

Post holing

Post-holing is fun!

With some effort we made it to Alberta Falls.  I really wanted to work on photographing water but there was so much snow the falls was reduced to peanut size.

Alberta Falls

An engulfed Alberta Falls (this is normally a large water fall).

We continued on until we could take no more.  The returning downhill bothered my ankle but I was overly grateful for some mileage and vert at altitude.

Cone

Friends

Friends

We headed to Estes Park and had lunch and beers at The Local Grill.  I had eaten there eight years ago when I first moved to Colorado.  That is the only other time I’ve visited Estes park or gone through the main entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. The food is okay, the beer is delicious.

Estes

Estes Park

Favorite

Favorite

On the way out of town we stumbled upon a curious sight, the Stanley Hotel.  Chris and I had never been so…detour.  The Stanley hotel is where Stephen King wrote the shining and it served as his inspiration for the Overlook Hotel.  How have I never explored this place?

Hotel

Stanley Hotel

Lovers

Lovers

After being tourists we headed to Lily Lake (off CO 7), also annihilated by snow.

road

CO-7

Lily Lake

Lily Lake

Bridge

beer

So much yes.

love

Out of all the beauty this planet possesses, there is nothing more beautiful than true love.

Then things got a little weird, as they usually do with us.

Chill

Max chillin’ at Lily Lake

dick

Sometimes you get hit in the head with a giant snow dick.

 

foam

Why wait until after the run to beer, beer while you run.

On my way home from Chris’s apartment the sky did some crazy things and I stood outside in the middle of four storms and took photos.  I LOVE these moments.

sky

flatirons

The flatirons making an appearance.

 

Was a great day! Until next time my friends….

“And at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling.”