First Attempt at Old Baldy

My goal for the hike this weekend was to really test myself, not only physically, but also mentally, as I prepared for my 2019 14er. To accomplish this goal, I knew I needed to get into elevation and I needed a fairly steep climb. I chose the hike to Old Baldy, for two main reasons. First, it was far enough away from town that I thought I had a chance at avoiding Fourth of July tourists. Second, Old Baldy is a Class 1 13er, which I figured was enough to test me, but also not be too crazy. I couldn’t find a track for Old Baldy itself, but using the trail track for South Arapahoe Peak, it looked to be about 6 miles round trip, with about 2500’ elevation gain. Perfect little test.

When I got to Fourth of July road (perfect time to go), it was way later than I planned, about 10:30am, and I was warned by the rangers that there wouldn’t be any parking, but I could go wait for someone to come down. I decided to take my chances. Fourth of July road is pretty rough, and I’m glad I had my Outback, though I saw several sedans making the journey. I wasn’t worried about clearance, but it was rocky enough that I worried about a flat tire. It was about 4 miles of bumpy, rough road before reaching the parking areas and trailhead. There were a few parking areas along the side of the road, and miraculously I found a spot in one of these.

This photo doesn’t do the road justice on how bumpy it was to this point

I would guess there were maybe 20 road spots. At the trailhead, there were another 30 or so spots, which were all full. Parking along the street added another half mile, each way, to my journey.

Starting up Arapahoe pass trail, there were several small stream crossings, and it was rocky terrain. There were certainly no “easy” steps. The views were spectacular, and Old Baldy looked ready to be conquered!

The snow melt from our late summer snow created quite a few streams and waterfalls that had to be crossed. I have to imagine later in summer, a lot of these may be dried up. I only had low top hiking boots, which said waterproof on them, but I wish I would’ve had something more waterproof for this hike.

Most of the people there were going left to Diamond Lake. Will have to check that out next time too!

There were several small patches of snow along the way, which were well packed from other hikers, but were also very slippery from the sun melting them. Hiking poles would’ve been a plus today, but I didn’t have too much trouble traversing them.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking for a little while…

Needless to say, the views were absolutely spectacular. There’s not much I can say that could come close to describing the beauty. It was truly one of those moments where you just stand back in awe.

The snow wasn’t too bad, until I reached the turn off for Arapahoe Glacier trail, which split from the Arapahoe Pass trail.

I started encountering pretty deep snow, post holing up to my hip a couple of times. This, combined with the several streams I had walked through, created quite the puddle inside my boots.

Sinking in this deep wasn’t fun in shorts..
I kept telling myself if I could just make it through this little snow, I would be clear up there…

Due to the snow and the lack of other hikers, it was incredibly difficult to follow the trail. At one point, I found myself just scrambling to try to find footprints. Shorts and a t-shirt was not the proper attire for this trek.

Looking back on my route up. Not sure if this was the trail or not… Probably not…

I stopped at one point on a rock I found, in the middle of a snow field, to take them off and try to dry my feet in the sun. It quickly became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to make it through with my current gear. Not only was every step a challenge, with the threat of sinking three feet down looming, but I knew that I was going to have to come BACK through all of this on the way down.

Perched on my rock, surrounded by snow. This was as far as I made it before turning around
Struggling to find the trail on my way down, but it made for some spectacular pictures
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Afternoon storms on their way to make life fun for those that are going up at this time..

I ran into a little (I think) marmot on my way down. I got as close as I could, before he scampered down the mountainside.

Hey there little guy!!
Aaaaaaaand he’s gone!

It was disappointing that I didn’t reach my goal of conquering Old Baldy , but my journey was far from disappointing. I personally think this is, overall, my favorite hike I’ve been on in Colorado thus far. It had off-roading to get there, waterfalls, stream crossings, snow, wild life, and spectacular views. I couldn’t have asked for any more!! You can rest assured that I’ll be back to finish this hike.

Our First Camping Adventure

Coming to Colorado, one of the things that Carly and I were looking forward to was the plethora of incredible camping that was within a couple hours of us. With wedding planning last year, we weren’t able to get out at all, and to make things more difficult, we didn’t even really have camping gear. This year, we made it a commitment to get our gear and get out there in the mountains.

With Carly’s birthday coming up at the end of the month, camping was something that she really wanted to do to celebrate, and last weekend was one of our few free weekends in either May or June this year to do it. We were committed to going, but the weather forecast sure wasn’t giving us any confidence that this was an ideal weekend, with a high of 50 and rain forecast for Saturday. The weather is unpredictable enough in the mountains and the forecast fluctuated enough during the week that we decided to give it a try. The worst that would happen is that we would have all of our gear ready to go for the next clear weekend.

On Friday, Carly made trips to REI and Walmart to gather supplies. She got the tent, accessories for cooking over the fire, food, an air mattress to sleep on, and even a sweet machete for me (which I definitely enjoyed). One item that we didn’t get, that would end up being a lesson to us both, was sleeping bags. We have a fairly heavy down comforter along with numerous blankets, which we thought would be enough to keep us warm through this first trip. More on that later…

Friday night, when I got home from work, we went through everything that Carly had gathered, packed up what we could, and also prepared as much of the food as we could. The weather was still a bit iffy, but we were all in at that point!

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Last year, on our drive to the Mt Bierstadt trailhead, we passed numerous turnoffs along the road, Guanella Pass, where people were camping, and we had dreamed about coming back to find our own spot. We figured that it would take us around an hour and a half to get to where we were wanting to go, so Saturday morning we woke up early, packed the car with the rest of our stuff, and set out on our journey to camp in the mountains for the first time together. The weather still wasn’t giving us much hope early in the drive..

Driving to Camping

Once we reached Guanella Pass and started north from Highway 285, we didn’t make it too far up the road before we came to a “Road Closed” sign, with a barrier blocking the road. We hadn’t made it far enough to reach the turnoffs, and I started to think that this journey might be over before it started. There was a fork in the road maybe 20 yards before the barrier that led to a campground, though, so we figured we’d give that a shot. We had come this far already! We didn’t go far down that road before arriving at the campground entrance, with yet another “Road Closed” sign and barrier blocking our way. We were discouraged, but the dirt road we were on continued, so we decided again that it was worth it just to drive down and check out what was down there.

As we were driving down the road, we spotted a sign that said “no dispersed camping next 1 mile”, which seemed to indicate that dispersed camping was allowed after that next mile. The road was very rocky and I’m glad we had the Jeep, because we probably wouldn’t have made it in a smaller car. We went the next mile through the trees and emerged to find numbered sites with a tent symbol on them, and, more importantly, nothing stopping us from setting up camp! It was an incredible feeling realizing that we hadn’t come all this way for nothing. The area was beautiful, private, and had amazing views. Now it was just a matter of driving down the road until we found a camping spot that was speaking to us. We wanted to be somewhere that had sun, shade, views, and was close to the creek that ran along one side of the road. We kept track of our favorite campsite numbers as we kept driving another couple of miles, reaching campsite 30 before we had it narrowed down to a few. Being the extremely indecisive people that Carly and I are, it took quite a bit of deliberating before we decided on the one we picked. Ultimately, I think we made a good choice!!

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Carly started unloading the car, and I started setting up the tent. Even though I was pretty sure what I was doing, it never hurts to read the instructions before you start..

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With Carly’s help along the way, I got the tarp down and got the tent set up without too much trouble. The wind made things a little interesting, and the rubber mallet we brought to drive the stakes in broke on us, but we got the tent up nonetheless.

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Within an hour or so, we had everything set up! I built up the fire pit a little more and started a fire for us, so we were ready for the inevitable temperature drop once the sun went down. For now, though, the sun was out and we were ready to chill to the maximum. We cracked open a couple brews and sat in our chairs looking up at the snow capped peaks. This is what we came for!

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After a little while, I thought it would be a good idea to go exploring the forest around us in search of wildlife. Carly set up the inside of the tent wonderfully, and was perfectly content just hanging out there instead of looking for bears.

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I didn’t find any wildlife in the trees, which is probably a good thing, because I realized quickly how easy it is to get lost in a forest without any real landmarks. The silence in the trees was both peaceful and creepy at the same time. I didn’t want to venture too far off without having cell service or Carly knowing where I was.

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After I managed to find my way back to camp, our afternoon seemed to fly by, with us shifting over to the fire when the sun started to disappear behind the pines. Since we hadn’t eaten lunch and it was quickly getting cold, we began preparations for an early dinner. We built the fire up bigger so that we would have plenty of coals to cook on, and also to keep us nice and warm while we waited for it to burn down.

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When the coals were getting close to just right, we whipped up Carly’s world famous foil dinners that she used to make at camp when she was younger, and threw them on the coals to cook, along with a few jalapenos for good measure.

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The foil dinners and jalapenos took about 45 minutes to cook, and without really knowing when to open them up, they came out cooked absolutely perfectly. We chowed down and were absolutely stuffed from our dinners, but that didn’t stop us from quickly getting into the stash of s’mores that we brought. We ate more s’mores than we probably should have right after dinner, but they were just so good I don’t know how we were supposed to stop.

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We hung out around the fire for a while, playing gin rummy with our own made up rules (since neither of us knew what the real rules were), until the sun started to set and darkness began to creep in. We retreated to our tent for the night and fully intended on continuing to play games in the tent, but with it being so cold away from the fire and with the blankets wrapped around us, we fell asleep almost instantly. Going into the trip, we were a little worried about wildlife in the night, but neither of us heard a thing other than some light sprinkles at one point. What did end up really waking us up was the cold. Like I mentioned earlier, not getting sleeping bags proved to be a mistake, as the temperature dropped into the mid 30s, and we woke up shivering. Finally, around 5, I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to just get up and get the fire going again, because there was no way I was getting warm in the freezing tent.

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Once Carly woke up, we broke out our camping stove and I made some coffee before Carly cooked us some delicious breakfast tacos. We even had some moose walk by our camp, our first wildlife spotting!

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We started packing and cleaning up, while the fire died down enough for us to put it out. We said our final goodbyes to our incredible first camping spot, put out the fire for good, and headed out. We did a little more exploring on our way out, but we were both tired from our adventure and ready to get back down the mountains to our home.

North Table Mountain – Golden, CO

Since we returned from the excitement of our honeymoon, we’ve been taking it pretty easy and trying to spend our time relaxing on the weekends. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t been on any adventures though! One beautiful Sunday afternoon this October, it was warmer than usual, and we really wanted to get outside and go for a hike. On the drive from our house to Boulder, I have driven past North Table Mountain Park in Golden numerous times, always thinking that I would like to see what it looks like at the top. The two “table mountains” in Golden are distinctive mesas that you’ll definitely notice if you ever visit the town. You might have noticed one or both of them in Coors commercials too, since the brewery sits right next to them.

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On our way to the top. The colorful trees were incredible this fall in Colorado!

I can’t say for sure how long the trail to the top was because I forgot to turn my tracker on, but it wasn’t too long, maybe a mile or so. It was steep though and it was a good workout for the both of us, especially since we hadn’t hiked in quite a while. There were other people mountain biking and running up the trail, and the trail was on the easier side of things.

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We made it to the top!

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Denver in the distance!

As you would guess from the name, it was fairly flat once you made it to the top. Being on top of it for the first time, I realized just how big it really was. There were miles of trails that zig zagged across and around the outside, and we chose a small loop around the edge that took us back to where we came up.

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This was as close to the edge as I wanted to get, but Carly lives on the wild side!

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Just hanging out, no big deal..

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The North Table Mountain hike was very rewarding for the effort, and I plan on recommending it to anyone that comes out to visit!

Anyone that knows us knows that we can’t visit Golden without stopping in to the Coors brewery tasting room for some complimentary brews!

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Some bonus adventures/pictures from the past few weeks!!

Carly and I went for a really cool “urban hike” on the Big Dry Creek Trail in Centennial. It was pretty incredible to have a trail like that right in the middle of the city, because it certainly didn’t feel like the city was around you. We ran into this really cool bird along the way!

 

Colorado sunrise at the train station on my way to work!

Our dog son, Stoney, enjoying the snow we got!

The moon and Venus (I think?) one morning as I took Stoney for a walk. The sun is just starting to peak above the horizon!

We love visiting the Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton when it’s nice outside!

Becoming Mr. and Mrs. Keller: Part 2

Friday, September 15th

Friday morning we woke up after an amazing night with our friends, and it was time for our welcome picnic. Carly, my mom, Aunt Robin, Matt, Heather and I set up an assembly line in the kitchen to make the sandwiches for everyone. It didn’t take long before I didn’t have a job, because I couldn’t get anything to work. I was particularly bad at trying to get the cheese slices apart (don’t ask). While last minute preparations were being made, I took a drive over to the picnic spot we had picked out. It looked perfect on Google Maps, but we figured we better go check it out quick before everyone else showed up.

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Some friends I met along the way

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The spot was absolutely breathtaking and everything that we had hoped for!

We had hoped that this would be a fun activity for everyone that was in town, but with the wind coming off the lake, it was a little chilly, especially for the grandparents. We decided to take the hike to the falls before we ate lunch, just to give ourselves a little warm up. It wasn’t a particularly difficult hike, and I would recommend it for most people because of the pay off once you reach the falls! giphy (4).gif

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Taking pictures by Adams Falls! The Aspens changing color were incredible

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The views were surreal!

20170915_13043220170915_130352With the wind blocked by the trees and the sun shining, it was a beautiful day outside, and it made for a very enjoyable hike. Once we trekked back down to the lake, we hung out around the picnic area a little while longer as we ate our sandwiches, but I think everyone was ready to get somewhere warmer before too long.

After the picnic, it was time for the rehearsal dinner. We practiced the ceremony with everyone that was involved and decided last minute details of how it was going to go. We wanted to keep the whole thing short and sweet, and my brother, Matt, was thoroughly prepared for the task. I felt confident that he would keep us on track and everything would go smoothly the next day.

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Practicing the ceremony!!

We ordered barbecue from a local catering company in Grand Lake, and it was some of the best barbecue we have had, especially in Colorado. Almost everyone that was coming to the wedding was in town at that point, and it was awesome having all of the two families together. Steve started us a bonfire on the beach for the younger folks, while the grandparents and the rest of my family hung out around the gas fireplace.

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We might’ve all smelled like campfire at the end of the night, but it was so much fun having all of our closest friends in one place with us. We knew from the beginning of the night that we didn’t really have any good ideas of what to do when it was time to put the fire out, but when the time came, we had to do something. The best that we came up with was grabbing the metal rake that was there and spreading coals out. Then, by some miracle, it started pouring rain right as we were spreading the coals out, and solved our problem! We decided that due to the campfire smoke smell, it was probably in our best interest to stay around the gas fire the next night in our wedding clothes.

Wedding Day!!

I woke up to some small flurries falling outside, and I’m not sure if that’s good luck on a wedding day or not, but it certainly wasn’t good luck for our round of golf that morning. While the girls were getting the venue ready with flowers and rearranging the bar, the guys went golfing at Grand Lake Golf Course.

IMG_8314.JPGI’m glad that I had thought to bring my flannel lined pants, otherwise I’m not sure I would’ve made it through the round. The few precious moments where we got some sunshine were the most incredible feelings ever. We would all stop to soak in what little sun we could.

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I don’t even know what I shot that day, because it really didn’t matter to me, and the course was incredible. We grabbed a sandwich at Cy’s Deli in Grand Lake before they dropped me back off at the venue to get ready.

Becoming Mr. and Mrs. Keller: Part 1

The week that we had been planning for months, and had been dreaming about for just as long, was finally here. We felt like we had everything ready to go for the best week of our lives, our wedding week.

Carly and I drove up the morning of the 13th with our cars packed with the wedding dress and suit, decorations, favors, alcohol, and much more.  The Aspen trees were just changing color and looked like little gold streaks in the sea of evergreens. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.

We arrived at the venue, Riversong Reunion Lodge, and met the owner and renter, Kami, to go over last minute details. Upon arriving, the venue was just as magical as we remembered from when we visited almost two months prior. After Kami left and before others arrived, Carly and I took the time to enjoy the place by ourselves, including laying on the sleeping porch together.

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That afternoon, my family members that were in town worked to get a few things set up, including stringing the lights over where the dinner would be served on the wedding night. It took a few tries and a few different people, but we got them just the way we wanted.

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That night, while my family was celebrating my Grandma Branch’s birthday in town, Carly and I picked up some burgers and pulled pork sandwiches for Carly’s family and friends at Sagebrush BBQ in Grand Lake. Stormie and Rainie were driving in that night and were having trouble finding the venue, so they met us in town as well, and we showed them the way back home. We ate our sandwiches and then relaxed around the gas fire all night before going to bed.

September 14th

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The next day, we woke up early and had planned to head to the Hot Sulphur Springs as an event with everyone included that was in town already, but almost everyone decided it was “too cold” for the hot springs. So Carly, Rainie, and I decided to visit by ourselves.

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The attendant at the check-in desk let us know that the pools were arranged coldest to hottest, going up. Since it was a little chilly out, and because we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, we thought we could handle the hottest pool. We were absolutely wrong. It only took a couple of seconds before we felt like we were lobsters cooking. The smell of rotten eggs was also not something I was expecting, though I’m not sure why I wasn’t since they are Sulphur springs. After deciding the hottest pool was way too hot, we decided to go back down and then eventually work our way slowly back up to where we were. We tried almost every pool in the place, really enjoying the ones a couple steps below the hottest (around 105 degrees).

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After we drove back from the hot springs to the lodge, it was time to get ready for the ATV ride. We wanted the ATV ride to be more fun for our wedding week, so we told everyone to dress up in a Jurassic Park theme. Since we were the main couple of the week, we dressed as the main couple from the original Jurassic Park, Dr. Alan Grant and his wife, Ellie Sattler. Carly absolutely nailed it with her costume, and I might be biased, but I think we were the best dressed ones there.

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Besides the freezing cold rain shower that hit us for about 10 minutes, the ATVing was a blast! We were given a map of where to go, but the problem was that we never really knew where we were at. We got lost a lot, but, hey, that’s part of the fun. The highlight of the excursion was when we were following Kyle at the front, with Steve behind us, and we were going about as fast as those things could safely go (or was it even safe?). I feel sorry for everyone else that was stuck behind Mason during that stretch. We were dirty and tired by the end, but it was amazing.

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After our ATV adventure, there was a surprise bridal shower for Carly with the whole family and wonderful food and drinks before we headed into Grand Lake to meet our friends. We tried Sagebrush again, but it was too busy for how many people we had, so we had drinks at Pancho & Lefty’s across the street. We met an overly enthusiastic local that bought Carly and I drinks, and it was a good time all around. A great way to kick off the week of festivities!!

Visit to the Denver Botanical Gardens

The plan for the weekend was to hang around the house and tackle a lot of our wedding planning that has been neglected, but waking up Sunday, Carly and I decided that we needed to do something fun. Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to receive a season pass, with guest pass included, to the Denver Botanical Gardens through my work, but even though we had talked about going plenty of times to pick them up, we still had yet to go. The interesting thing is, if you look on TripAdvisor things to do in Denver, the botanical gardens is the top attraction. It has always seemed a little odd to me in a city like Denver, that has so much to offer, that the botanical gardens would be number one, so we decided that today was the day that we had to find out for ourselves.

It was a perfect morning for walking through gardens outside, with just a light coolness in the air, but not too much to where it was chilly. It’s not too far of a drive from our place in Centennial to the gardens, which are just south of downtown. We arrived around 930am and there was still plenty of parking in the garage, so we parked and proceeded to pick up our passes.

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Apple tree trained to maximize the growing area in a small space

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A group of succulents with a kaleidoscope to view them through

As soon as we walked through the entrance to the gardens, it became apparent that this place was going to be incredible. You are greeted by towering shrubs, large greenhouses, and every color of flower imaginable. They gave us a map when we entered, but we quickly decided that strolling wherever our hearts took us was going to be the most relaxing way to see the gardens. We could’ve tried to plot out a path to see everything, but then we would’ve been there all day, and honestly, probably would’ve got lost in the beauty anyways.

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The highlight of the visit was in the “sensory garden”, which encouraged you to experience the plants with all 5 senses, where Carly touched the fern plant and discovered that the leaves of a fern move when touched. Her reaction was priceless!

After walking for awhile, we realized just how big the gardens really were. We just kept walking and walking, hardly seeing the same thing twice, even though we were just wandering aimlessly. The experience was incredible, and Carly and I decided that we would definitely be coming back to see things that we may have missed.

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All in all, I would highly recommend the Denver Botanical Gardens to anyone visiting Denver as a beautiful, relaxing way to enjoy some of nature’s most gorgeous plants right in the heart of the city!

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Don’t mind me!

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A magnificent Chihuly glass sculpture

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Water Platter

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Grape vines creeping through a whole section of the gardens

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Finally, Our First Fourteener

Earlier in the week, Carly and I had discussed another “training” hike for a fourteener, like our Carpenter’s Peak hike back on the Fourth of July, but as I was looking for a good one, Carly said “why don’t we just do the fourteener?” I was a bit surprised because she’s been the one that has been hesitant to do it, but after making sure she was serious, our plans changed like that.

Through a little bit of research, I have found that Mt. Bierstadt seems to be the consensus for easiest first fourteener, so that had been our first target for some time now. I looked at pictures and descriptions of the trail, and felt confident that, if we took it slow, we would be able to make it.

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We made sure to hydrate the day before, and packed our reservoirs full of water, knowing that we would probably need it all. We also made tortilla wrap turkey sandwiches, and brought some of our favorite everything pretzels. We were ready.

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The drive is about an hour and a half from where we are in Centennial, and we knew that we needed to get there early to avoid the notorious Colorado afternoon thunderstorms and to avoid the crowds that we were warned would be there if we got there too late. We left our house at 5:30am, which was a little later than we would’ve liked, and arrived at the parking lot along Guanella Pass at about 7:00am.

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Sunrise on the drive up!

The drive up was easy, and you really didn’t feel like you were climbing to 12,000ft, for the most part. The parking lot was completely full (it’s not very large), but there was plenty of parking along the street, so we just took the first spot we saw and pulled behind another car. Looking up at Mt. Bierstadt, it seemed a lot more daunting than it ever had on Google Earth, but it was finally time to tackle our first fourteener.

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The rightmost peak is Mt. Bierstadt

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The hike actually starts off going downhill, which isn’t exactly the way I expected to start the climb up a mountain, and takes you by a serene mountain pond. A couple reviews we read mentioned that they saw a few moose taking baths in the pond early in the morning, but they weren’t there today. There has been significant rainfall around here lately, and the stream that we had to cross was a little bit higher than it probably normally is. It was a bit tricky to get across, and Carly got her sock wet in the stream, but we made it across fairly unscathed.

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After about a half a mile or maybe slightly more, we actually started going uphill, but it wasn’t difficult at first. It starts out fairly gently sloping, but that gives way to the switchbacks before too long. The elevation starts to become apparent when the steepness increases. Our breathing started becoming harder and harder every time we’d complete another section, but we both felt like we were plenty prepared for this.

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On our way, fairly high up the mountain (I’d guess maybe 13,000 ft), we finally ran into the moose! There were two of them, but we didn’t get too close because there was quite a crowd behind them. They led us on the trail up the mountain for a little while before veering off and galloping majestically off on their own. We watched them go as far as we could before they finally disappeared from sight. That was definitely a highlight of the hike and an unforgettable moment.

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After a couple of miles, it started to become clearer to us that maybe we should have trained slightly more for this before starting. It was a really steep climb, and every step and every breath became harder. We stopped more frequently, which was necessary to catch our breath, so we didn’t risk getting altitude sickness and cutting our trek short. We stopped and ate our sandwiches on a rock along the trail about 3 miles in, before the final big push up towards the summit.

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Feeling a little rejuvenated from our lunch, we got up and started climbing once again. Our legs were burning and there were a few times where we asked ourselves if we wanted to keep going up. Full disclosure, I am terrified of heights, and that was starting to become an issue for me above 13,000 feet, especially with wobbly legs. Thankfully, there weren’t too many spots that tested my nerves, but it certainly was starting to come into my mind.

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We reached a flatter, plateau with some snow left before a very steep, very rocky stretch to the summit. It felt like it was only probably a couple hundred more feet up from this point. This was the last place on the hike that I felt like I was safe and on solid ground, and where I wasn’t feeling vertigo from the heights/elevation.

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There was a very steep drop off on the backside of the mountain, so we decided to climb towards the summit on the frontside where we had come from. This last stretch was a “scramble” in the truest sense of the word. It was up to you to pick the path that you felt comfortable with, and you just had to go for it. We made it though, we climbed up over 14,000ft!!

We seized the incredible opportunity to take some pictures and videos while we were in the clouds, literally on top of a mountain. The feeling of being above all the other surrounding mountains is a surreal feeling, and one I’m sure didn’t help my vertigo, but I also can’t discount the incredible feeling of being up that high. As terrified as I was, it was an exhilarating feeling that adrenaline rush, and that amazing feeling is something that I think could eventually overtake my fear on these types of hikes.

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While I think we could have spent hours sitting on top of the world, the dark clouds were gathering fast, and we knew it was a long ways down from there. As difficult as the uphill climb was, the descent back down the mountain was not any easier.

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It was reminiscent of our Carpenter’s Peak hike, where we thought the hard part was over, but our legs were shot from the climb. Breathing was no longer an issue, as we were descending it became easier and easier, but the toll it took on our knees was immense. The other issue fresh in our minds the whole way down was the fact that we really had to pee, but there were no trees or bushes to hide behind to go, so we held it and we kept hiking faster.

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I made a comment at the beginning of our trip that it was going to be a good feeling when we saw the bottom again, crossing the stream the other way and passing by the mountain lake again, and I was not wrong. It felt so good to finally be close to the parking lot again. Since the hike had started downhill at the beginning of our day, we had one final push uphill back to our car. I was physically exhausted, but being that close to the car gave us the motivation we needed to get up the hill and complete our hike.

We survived our first fourteener!! While I would never let anyone describe it as easy, the reward at the top was absolutely worth the effort to make the climb. I’ll be looking forward to our next fourteener, and recapturing that heart-pounding sensation of truly being on top of a mountain and being on top of the world.

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(I forgot to stop my tracker before we started driving after getting down, but you can compare to the one at the beginning of the post. It took us about 3 hours moving)

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Anniversary Hike to St. Mary’s Glacier

​We decided almost as soon as we moved here that we needed to do the same hike to Saint Mary’s glacier on the anniversary of our engagement, so today had definitely been in the works for months. Just a couple of weeks ago we even made a new addition to our hiking repertoire in anticipation of this hike. We purchased a Columbia backpack cooler to carry our picnic in today, and I’m sure for many picnic hikes to come. We knew based on prior experience that the parking situation was a little slim at this trail head, so we knew we had to set out early. Also, as a word of caution, there is a $5 fee for the parking, so we made sure to stop at an ATM on our way out. It only takes approximately an hour from our place in Highlands Ranch to get here, and the drive seems to go by really quickly. I guess it’s all the traffic in Denver that makes it feel so smooth. We arrived around 11am, which was definitely after we wanted to, and the parking lot was already full with cars circling like sharks for any spot that opened up. This wasn’t our first rodeo, and we just stopped in the circle drive until someone was leaving, instead of continuing to make the circle of insanity. It only took us about 5 minutes to find a spot, so we counted ourselves lucky. Seems to be the theme lately, and I’ll definitely take it.

With the cooler backpack in tow and Carly carrying the water and picnic blanket with her backpack, we set out on our anniversary journey.

I have to say, there were much less nerves this time carrying a picnic as compared to a year ago carrying the engagement ring. As we started out, it became clear very quickly, that we were much more acclimated to the altitude and the hiking than we were a year ago too. We powered our way up the hike, which is fairly steep for how short of a hike it is, only taking a couple breaks to catch our breath. Last year, it was every hundred feet or so!

The feeling when we made it to the lake was just as exhilarating though. We found the spot where the magic happened last year, which looked just like we remembered; however, there were a few people sitting on our rock (yes, it’s OUR rock now!), so we made our way around the lake a bit in search of the perfect picnic spot. The spot we found was serene and peaceful, and even though there were a lot of people around the lake, we felt alone in our one little world. I was starving by the time we made it to the top, so we laid out the picnic blanket, and I promptly retrieved my turkey sandwich to start eating.

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The day could not have been any more beautiful, with a few fluffy, white clouds floating lazily across the sky, which provided just enough cooling time to make the sunshine enjoyable when they floated on their way.

The relaxing sensation is a familiar one lately, with the couple of picnics that we’ve taken, and it’s something we plan to continue doing to take full advantage of the beautiful countryside that is our home now.

 

Summiting Carpenter’s Peak

Carly and I have started a small “Colorado Bucket List”, which consists of things that we really want to do while we’re out here, and it’s meant to be a list that is continuously updated as we complete things and think of new adventures. It’s a way to keep track of ideas when they spring up, so we remember them when the inevitable “what should we do this weekend?” comes up.

One item on our list in particular has been there even before we moved out here: climb a 14er. A 14er is a 14,000ft peak, and there are numerous hikes that reach this elevation in Colorado. We have read and have been told by friends that Mt. Bierstadt is the first fourteener that you should do, but we decided we should test ourselves a little bit before we jumped right into such a challenge. The Mt. Bierstadt hike is about 7 miles round trip, so we were looking for a hike that was similar in length, but at a lower elevation, so we could work our way up.

After a little bit of searching, we settled on the Carpenter’s Peak trail in Roxborough State Park, about 20 minutes south of Denver. The trail was an out and back, at about 6.3 miles round-trip, according to AllTrails. A good challenge, but not something that was going to be as rough as a fourteener. It was also at a much lower elevation.

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We arrived at the parking lot around 9:30am on July 4th, and the parking lot was pretty full already. We didn’t have too much trouble finding a parking spot, but I would recommend getting there a little earlier if you don’t want to worry about waiting.
We had filled up both of our backpack reservoirs the night before, so we had sufficient water. We also had packed a couple of sandwiches, trail mix, and some other snacks in my backpack for the trek. Feeling prepared for what was about to come, we set off on our adventure.

The hike started off pretty steep at first, with a series of stairs to climb, but the sign did warn that this was the strenuous trail. The trail was nice though, and we expected to be tested. It leveled off a bit after the first mile or so, to where it was at least a gradual climb and not stairs, which was definitely easier to manage.

It was an extremely hot day, with full sun baring down, so any time we came across some shade, it was much appreciated. Unfortunately, the shady spots were few and far between. We had plenty of water and sunscreen, though, so we journeyed onward.

We were certainly exhausted by the time we finally reached the summit, but the views were absolutely gorgeous, and made the hard work worth it.

We spent some time taking the view in, and taking some pictures, but it was time to get into some shade in order to eat our sandwiches we brought. Just below the summit, there was a nice shady spot under a tree, and, since neither of us wanted to hike very far before eating, we decided this would be the place.

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We ate our lunches and relaxed in the peace that nature brings for a little while longer, but eventually it was time to make our descent. I think both of us underestimated the toll that the downhill portion would take on our legs, and knees in particular, but it was painful. I think it was at this moment that we both decided maybe we weren’t quite ready for a fourteener yet, and made me glad that Carly had talked me out of doing it today.

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All in all, it was a great hike, and gave us a good idea of where we were at physically, in terms of whether we would be able to make the Mt. Bierstadt hike or not. While we both made it without any issues, our legs are both going to be sore for a few days I have a feeling.

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Entering the Lair O’ the Bear

One of the things that drew us out to Colorado was a time we came on vacation, while we were still living in Tulsa, and stayed in a tiny home in Golden. It had no air conditioning and was definitely outside of our comfort zone at first, but we felt a certain peace by being so close to nature.

A couple of pictures from our tiny home adventure:

Drawing upon that experience, the weekend of July 1, 2017, we wanted to feel that peace again, so Carly and I set out to have a relaxing picnic in nature. After doing a little searching, I came across Lair O The Bear Park and the Bear Creek Trail, described as “shady, close to the creek, and plenty of picnic spots”. Sounds like exactly what we were looking for!

We arrived between 11:15 and 11:30 am, and the parking lot was already full, but we decided to make the loop around the lot, hoping that someone would be leaving and we could have their spot. Almost right away, there were a couple of cars backing out. It was our lucky day!! I even made the comment to Carly that “this never happens!” Feeling the good vibes about the way the day was going to go, we parked and geared up with my backpack full of picnic treats, ready to tackle the trail and find the perfect spot.

We followed the Bear Creek trail, and there were quite a few people along the creek, stopped and enjoying the beautiful day. It wasn’t crowded by any means, but there were certainly people around. There were plenty of short offshoot trails that connected the main Bear Creek trail to the creek as we walked along, so we decided to continue hiking up the trail until we found an offshoot trail where we felt like we would be left alone.

I started my AllTrails tracker a little late into the hike, but gauging from the distance of our return, we hiked approximately 1.2 miles down the trail (far left black dot). File_000

As you can see, it was an easy trail to get there, with barely any elevation change. The trail was wide, allowing Carly and I to hike side-by-side, which is something we really enjoy, but can’t ordinarily do.

We picked one of the offshoot trails and followed it to the most perfect, serene spot on the creek, where there were a few fisherman fly-fishing.

As they were fishing, we assumed they would be quiet and decided that this was a pretty amazing spot, even if we weren’t totally alone. We set up our picnic blanket underneath a shady tree by the banks, and we were ready to relax!!

We unpacked the picnic that we had brought, which consisted of sandwiches and snacks (classic picnic!!), and enjoyed our day along the creek.

The water was extremely cold at first, and I could only keep my feet in for 30 seconds at a time before getting back out, but eventually my feet went numb and I was able to wade around while Carly relaxed. Feeling the ice-cold water flowing around my feet and ankles immediately made me feel like I was one with nature, even if just for that quick moment.

We spent a few hours at this spot, watching as a fly fisherman journeyed into the spot in the creek right in front of us for a few minutes, catching only a few small fish that he threw back. It was exciting for us watching the fly lure float down the river, only to disappear when he got a bite. After watching him, Carly and I decided that fly fishing would be something that we’d like to try!

All in all, it was an extremely successful picnic, and a spot that I’m sure we’ll be coming back to visit very soon. It was fantastic to get back in touch with nature and recapture the feeling we had when moving out here!