Family Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

With the pandemic taking its toll on everyone, it’s been a while since Carly and I have had much contact with anyone other than each other, so it was nice when my parents decided to come to Denver for a long 4th of July weekend. Planning a visit from my parents during this, though, proves difficult, because most of the things that we want to do involve going out on the town and being near crowds of people, which obviously isn’t a great idea right now. We’ve been spending a lot of time hiking around in the mountains, as it allows us to get out and about, but still be in the open air and able to space out from others. So we decided to take our parents up to Rocky Mountain National Park near Grand Lake, Colorado, but not the busy parts that you have to drive into.

We left the house around 8 in the morning and stopped once along the way to enjoy the views from the mountain pass and snap some pictures by the waterfall cascading down the mountain. It was also a pretty good halfway point to get out and stretch our legs.

Waterfall cascading down past rocks and pine trees
This waterfall is just at a stop off on the side of the road heading up Berthoud Pass
Husband and wife standing in front of waterfall taking picture
We don’t usually have someone to take a picture for us!

The parking lot of the East Inlet Trailhead is extremely large to accommodate the traffic that Adams Falls regularly sees, so it wasn’t too hard to find a parking spot, even when we arrived around 10:30 on 4th of July weekend. It was warmer than we expected, about 70, so we took a few minutes to properly equip ourselves for the journey ahead before starting on our way.

Family on a hiking trail surrounded by tree
Mom leading the charge up the mountain and setting the pace!
Husband and wife taking a selfie in front of the river
Wife sitting on tree log over the river looking away
Man sitting on log over river facing camera

The hike to the falls is fairly easy terrain and not too far from the parking lot, so we quickly made our way up, but went counter clockwise on the loop, avoiding a large group of people. This meant waiting until our way back down to go to the outlook for the falls, but avoiding large groups of people was more important at this point, and we knew we could still see it on the way back.

We made it to the meadow with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountainsides, and our journey slowed down for the many pictures that had to be taken. It really is hard to describe how incredible this spot along the creek is in real life, but it’s one of the most spectacular views that I’ve found in Colorado, rivaling some views from being on top of a mountain.

Calm water with a mountain backdrop behind
One of my favorite spots in the world
Mom and dad standing in front of mountain view behind them
Mountain view with lush green meadow in foreground

We were keeping our eyes peeled for any wildlife that we could find, especially being in the national park. While we didn’t spot any moose, elk, or deer that we hoped to find, we did run into a family of geese trolling around on a pond and a tiny chipmunk along the way.

Family looking out over the meadow searching for wildlife to see
“Is that a deer?! No maybe that’s just a person… I can’t tell…”
Geese floating on serene mountain pond with mountains in background
Family of geese floating peacefully on the pond. A little bit jealous of their home.
Striped chipmunk eating a piece of grass

We made it about a mile down the trail before deciding to turn around and head back towards the lake. It was my parents first day in town and taking them too far at elevation didn’t seem like a good idea, plus we were ready for our picnic and to take the kayak out on the lake.

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Family hiking down Rocky Mountain trail

We took the other route on our way back to go past Adams Falls, which was much more of a waterfall than it had ever been when we have been here before. We’ve always hiked this trail in September when the snowmelt isn’t nearly as abundant, and it was amazing to see it much closer to full strength!

River flowing through a forest and in between rocks
River flowing through pine trees in Colorado
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A lot more water than we’re used to!
Open meadow with lake and mountains in background

We made it back down to the lake and had some snacks and drinks that Carly had prepared, relaxing after our journey. This particular picnic area is where we had our welcome picnic for our wedding, and it holds a special place in our hearts. The warm weather today is what we were hoping for 3 years ago, but it was nice to enjoy it on this afternoon.

Family sitting around picnic table with drinks and snacks, and lake in the background
We’re a lively bunch…. Either we’re exhausted or not sure if we knew there was a picture being taken!
Mom sitting in chair looking out over the lake
Dad relaxing in chair in the shade

The picnic area also happened to be the perfect place to drop the kayak into Grand Lake, something that we’ve never done before. Carly and I took the kayak around the bend first, quickly realizing how much we were having to fight the wind on the lake.

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The open seas ahead of us…
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I promise we went further than this! This was just us coming in for a landing on the beach

Next, it was my dad’s turn to take it out for a spin, but we let him go by himself to explore wherever he wanted to!

Father and son with kayak getting into the lake
Kayak on mountain lake
My dad with nothing but open waters and mountains around him!

After our hike and being out on the water, we were all pretty exhausted, and it was time to make our way back to Denver to let the dogs out. After our wedding, every time we come to Grand Lake it has a special meaning, but this will be a day that we will all remember for a long time to come!

Summiting Bald Mountain Near Boulder

As a result of a very long series of events, we didn’t end up making it to the mountains to hike for Carly’s birthday last weekend, forcing us to reschedule to this weekend. Going for a hike for our birthdays has become somewhat of a tradition the past few years and it was better late than never! I already had the hike picked out, so it made it easy to decide where we were heading – the Sugarloaf Mountain trailhead near Boulder. Only we weren’t there for Sugarloaf Mountain. Although I’m sure we’ll return someday to tackle that magical sounding mountain, our sights were set a little further to Bald Mountain. This is not to be confused with my failed attempt at Old Baldy last year (I still plan on going back and conquering that one!) I chose this hike because this part of the state, near Nederland and Boulder, is one of my favorite parts of the state to hike because I usually see some sort of wildlife and every hike has offered a challenge, with spectacular views as the payoff. The perfect combination if you ask me.

We arrived at the trailhead a little after 10am on Saturday, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little concerned that there would be no parking that close to Boulder on such a nice day. There were maybe 10-15 cars there, and there were already people making their own spots amongst the trees. We were lucky, though, and someone left a more “designated” parking spot right when we were wondering what to do. It’s nice when things work out like that.

As I mentioned before, there are two trails from this same trailhead, Sugarloaf Mountain, which was much shorter, and Bald Mountain that was about 5 miles. Since this was actually the first time we’ve been up to the mountains hiking this year, we decided we better make the most of it and go for the longer one, and just hoped that the rain we could see all around us would hold off.

The first part of the trail wasn’t exactly promising, and we had to stop and ask people if we were even going the right direction. The cars driving down the road didn’t give us much hope either, but we pressed onward, and despite the less than stellar “trail” situation, the views were still spectacular

We eventually realized that we missed the first turn-off for the trail, which would take you around the loop counterclockwise and the way the arrows pointed on AllTrails, but we did find the second turn off that took us clockwise. Looking back, I wish we would’ve seen the first turnoff, because this direction seemed like it was much more difficult.

There were cars at the bottom of the turnoff for the trailhead going this direction, which made it easier to spot.
Starting to get steep!

The route was steep, with many rocks and loose dirt to make the risk of slipping that much higher. Looking at the pictures, it doesn’t really give it justice. We also realized (again, after the fact) that we went off the trail for a little bit, taking a shortcut which proved to be the steepest part. It would’ve been easier to stay on the correct trail if we were going around the loop in the correct direction, but again, lessons learned for next time!

Up and up we go!

We reached what we thought had to be the top of the mountain because of how steep the climb had just been, and how spectacular the views were!

Like everything else up to this point, we were also wrong about this being the top of the mountain, and continued upward. The wildflowers continued to amaze throughout our entire journey, adding that extra sparkle of beauty to an already magnificent hike. As always, at a certain point, I have to let the pictures do the talking for me, otherwise I could go on and on!

Had to stop for a quick selfie, of course!
It just kept getting better and better the further up we went!

We did finally make it to what was actually the top of the mountain, and let me tell you, the payoff at the top was worth the hard climb! We didn’t see another hiker the entire time, and could’ve spent all day at the top in the solitude, listening to the chirps of the few birds that were around us up there.

As any seasoned hiker can tell you, the worst part of any hike is coming back down. That was certainly true of this one, where the descent was almost as steep as our climb. It made every single step treacherous, and we took the tiniest steps we could as we made our way down, just hoping that our knees didn’t give out on us. As you can imagine, I wasn’t taking pictures during the worst of it, but hopefully these pictures do it a little bit of justice.

Despite there being a few spots where the steepness of the terrain made us slightly uncomfortable, it was still one of our favorite hikes we’ve been. Between the wildflowers and the spectacular views, it was everything we could hope for, and I could definitely see us coming back to do this hike again or to tackle the Sugarloaf Mountain peak. There may have been more people on that trail, but we didn’t see a single other hiker on our trail the entire time, except for right at the beginning when we asked for directions. That’s hard to achieve this close to Boulder. We found the only problem with doing a really long hike during a pandemic, though, is not being able to stop at a restaurant at the bottom for a beer! Time to start planning the next adventure!!

Trekking the Tanglewood Trail

This is another post that’s overdue, as this adventure was on September 14.

As can be said about so many other of my adventures, I had grand intentions when I set out this morning. This is especially true of my solo hikes, and this was one such hike. For some reason, going it alone gives me extra determination to really explore my boundaries and capabilities. I set out to climb the 13er, Rosalie Peak, which tops out at 13,575 feet, though my goal was more modest, as I just wanted to get above 13,000 feet at a minimum.

The trail I would take is the Tanglewood trail, with the trailhead sitting near the Mount Evans wilderness area, just northwest of Bailey. I arrived at 8:30am, which was plenty early with the generous parking available and very few visitors today. The road in was a little bumpy, which may explain the lack of people a bit, but this was still unusual for almost any trailhead this near to Denver. A review I read called this something like “one of the most secluded hikes I’ve ever been in on Colorado”. It already was shaping up that way.

The hike through the trees was a very steady incline, which was a fun challenge at first, but after a few miles of no flat spots to catch your breath, it becomes exhausting. I didn’t even notice how tired I was, though, because of the incredible beauty of the forest on this trail. There was everything you could ask for! Flowing creeks, beautiful wildflowers, towering pines, and even a woodpecker!

It was quite a journey before I finally emerged from the trees to a breathtaking view of the front range.

The journey to the top of Rosalie Peak was just beginning though, and I was starting to question if I was going to make it all the way. I was about 2 miles in, but had climbed over 1000 feet already. My legs were tired and I had another 3 miles and 2000 feet to go to meet my minimum. This was one of those times where I get crazy ideas by myself and just keep pushing. Onward it was.

Even though the trek was grueling at this point, the views kept getting better and better, and I just had to see what was at the top..

On my left as I came up the trail to the saddle was what I believe to be Rosalie Peak, but there were no trail markers or discernible trails going up. Maybe there was a trail and my mind just didn’t want me to see it so I would turn around. At this point I had hiked approximately 4 miles, gained 2,600 feet of elevation, though I was a few feet shy of only 12,000. I was well short of my goal of 13,000 feet, but I achieved the goal of finding my limit.

I placed a celebratory rock on the marker at the top of the saddle and turned to head back home, completely satisfied with my journey. Maybe next year I’ll find that trail up Rosalie Peak and keep pressing on to see what’s up there..

All in all, it was one of the best adventures I’ve had in Colorado, as well as being one of the more beautiful and challenging hikes. There was a hiccup on my alltrails track near the beginning of the recording, but you can see from my watch data that it was 9 miles and nearly 2,600 feet of elevation gain. Not bad!

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
Perfect shot of the dry and snowy trail all in one
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.

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.

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!