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!

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.

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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Bee on a Sunflower
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
Grape vines creeping through a whole section of the gardens

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