The US Pro Cycling Challenge

August 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm

This summer, we were thrilled to have a pro cycling stage race roll through Colorado! I’ve been a fan of pro cycling through most of Lance Armstrong’s career, and I was super excited to try to get a chance to watch the same riders battle it out in the mountains near my home!

Spectators write on the road

The race actually came down the highway near our campsite for the weekend, but we spent most of the day Saturday on an epic-ly wet bushwack, and missed the show. On Sunday, we rolled the baby and dog and trailer out of the mountains and down to Golden, hoping to catch a glimpse of the pro riders as they raced their last day.

Info bike

Of course, things didn’t go quite as planned, and we ended up hiking about a mile and a half with G in his stroller and the dog down the side of a busy road. But, we got a spot on a hairpin curve just before the course heads up North Table mountain, and waited expectantly for the riders.

Jelly Belly rider attacking

The race was far more of a speeding circus than I expected. Cars announcing the arrival sped by. About 30 cops led out the race. Team cars piled behind the riders, squealing their tires as they flew around our corner. And the riders themselves flew past in all their lycra-clad glory.

A long line of riders

It was awesome.

Team cars

The race heads up Lookout Mountain

Camping and Hiking near Acorn Creek

August 27, 2011 at 1:33 pm

It’s 9am, and my pants are drenched from mid-thigh down. I’m trudging through a field of grass and wildflowers that are higher than my waist, and soaking wet. There’s a trail down there somewhere, but mostly I follow Mark, who has G (sound asleep) in the backpack and doesn’t seem to be bothered at all by the moisture or lack of trail or 60 degree slope of the hill.

How did I get here?

Sitting in a field of wildflowers

The answer to this question isn’t as simple as our usual “Hey, let’s go camping!” reason for getting out. This story starts with Mark’s friend from work, John, who is a bow hunter. It’s opening weekend for Elk via archery in Colorado, and Mark suggests that we follow John up to his hunting grounds. John will hike into the backcountry, with his wife and gear, and if he bags an elk, he’ll … do something (details are sketchy here) … to alert Mark. Then on Sunday, Mark will hike in to the kill site, and pack out as much meat as he can. For our trouble, we can have a little elk for our freezer.

Sounds like a pretty good plan!

The Gore Range

We drive up to the Acorn Creek trailhead, about 11 miles north of Silverthorn, Colorado, on Friday night with the baby and trailer. John and his wife have their truck and camper-top parked in the lot, and Mark pulls our camper up next to them. It’s pitch dark and raining buckets outside, but G and I hang out with John and his wife in their (very nice) camper for a while and chat about the upcoming hunt. Eventually, we crawl into bed and sleep to tinking of rain on the roof of the camper.

Morning Mountains 1

On Saturday, John knocks on the door to let us know he’s hiking out at about 5a. G is trying to wake up, and Mark and I are trying to get him back to sleep. I don’t think we succeeded.

We all have breakfast, and pack our own gear up slowly through the morning. Eventually, we set out to explore the trail that we are parked at the trailhead of. The Acorn Creek Trail is, supposedly, four miles of lightly-used and slightly inclined hiking up the slopes of Ptarmigan Peak. After about a mile and a half, we enter the Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness Area, and at 4 miles, we intersect the Ute Peak trail at an 11,000ft+ saddle in the ridge line.

It turns out “lightly-used” means that we have the whole trail to ourselves during the day. It also means that the trail is barely (just barely) more than a bushwack in most places for the first 2 miles. And with all of the rain the previous night, these overgrown fields are sopping, sopping wet.

The trail started to get a bit vague here

We keep an eye out for Elk as we hike, but aside from some tracks, we see little evidence of them. The trail is steeper than it looked on the map, and I’m having less fun than I’d hoped. We stop for lunch at an amazingly beautiful spot, and then hike another half mile or more to see how far we can get in the afternoon. The answer is “to that big rock, where we turn around.” Wish we hadn’t forgotten our GPS. At about 12:30, a cloud rolls over the ridge in front of us. It’s dark, wispy gray, and rumbles threatingly. We turn around and head for home.

Lunch with a view

The hike down take half the time of the hike up, and the rest of our afternoon is spent lounging around the trailer. I try to take a nap. G pops the door open once and tumbles out. Mark makes friends with some of the homeowners who live next to the parking lot. And we don’t hear from John until late Saturday night. He leaves a garbled message on Mark’s phone, and we get the gist – no Elk shot today.

Oh well, at least we got to enjoy a day in the mountains. We had amazing views, an adventurous hike, and a quiet evening (after G fell asleep, of course). I can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend!

Has anybody else had unexpected adventures this summer? Share your stories of bushwacking goodness in the comments!!

Morning views from out campsiteWatching the alpinglow light up the Gore RangeMorning mountain viewsG after breakfast in the trailerHiking up the slopes of Ptarmigan PeakGreat views of the Gore range from this trailSitting in a grassy field in the mountainsClouds build over the Gore rangeWILDFLOWERSA spider web in the morning.G napping as we hike into the wildernessThe trail started to get a bit vague hereBut the views were still amazingBlue skies all aroundTrail, what trail? GAHFunny pine treesViews of mountains in the Ptarmigan Peak WildernessTaking a break for lunchBigger clouds building over the distant mountainsStormy skies?Stormy skies?We turn around before the passMorning skies are gorgeous the next day tooPre-dawnNice views to the northOur camper 1Our camper 2

The Warrior Dash 2011!

August 20, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Last year, Mark signed up for the craziest day of obstacle-coursing, costume-wearing, beer-drinking, warrior-screaming fun that we have had in a long time! I, of course, was pretty darn pregnant at the time, so did not get to participate in the obstacle course or beer drinking, but I had a great time anyway. This year, well, things were very different!

Kate after Warrior Dash

We made our reservations for the race last year, just after the last one finished. One great thing about the Warrior Dash is that they run “heats” all day long. People sign up for a time, and you can run through 3 miles of crazy, scary, fun, painful, messy obstacles anytime during the day. So, Mark picked a race in the morning (11a) when all of his friends were going, and I picked one in the afternoon (3p). This way, we were able to take the baby along with us, and just take turns watching him!

Mark's gang at the start line . Mark and friend jump over fire! . Mark's gang after the race!

The race was held at the Copper Mountain ski area, and the course ran over 3 miles along the base of the mountain. There were about 12 different obstacles on the course that ranged from running through hanging tires, belly crawling through a deep mud pit, climbing up a 30ft “ladder” made of 2×4’s about 4ft apart, and then sliding down a near-verticle wall on the opposite side, and, of course, jumping over fire!

Kate goes into the mud... . Mark comes out of the mud! . Kate jumps over fire!

Even though I was not in very good shape, at all, I finished in a (relatively) decent time of about 53 minutes, and Mark, who still claims he “ran slowly” finished in about 39 minutes, only 2 minutes slower than last year. G did great that day, napping in our friends’ condo in the afternoon, and playing in his PeaPod tent in the evening. Beer was consumed and warrior-screams were shouted.

Another great part of the weekend was our campsite in Dillon. We parked our little trailer right on Dillon reservoir, and enjoyed mountain views, glorious wildflowers, and lovely sunrises all weekend long.

Sunrise over Dillon Reservoir . Wildflowers . Our campsite at Heaton Bay . G hanging out in the camper

After our race, we headed back to the trailer for a nice warm shower, hotdogs over the fire, and the best sleep I’ve had in months.

G asleep in the camper

Crag Baby Gear Necessities

August 19, 2011 at 1:03 pm

When Mark and I announced our pregnancy, our family (and some friends) were quick to warn us about how our lives were “about to change forever!” and “so much for the rock climbing!” Well, our lives certainly have changed quite a bit, but we’re still getting out and rock climbing!

G is now almost 10 months old, and he’s already been climbing with us five times this summer. This doesn’t make us kids-in-the-wilderness experts, but we have found some gear that is extremely helpful. We love sharing tips to help everybody get out with their kiddos, so if you’ve got a little one at home or on the way, definitely check these out!

My boys in the mountains

1. Kid Comfort 2 by Deuter (

The first major hurtle in climbing with babies is actually getting to the crag. Well, the first hurdle is getting out the door, but I can’t help you with that. The second hurdle, then, is the approach. Your transportation setup can change depending on the approach requirements, but most of our crags are at least a short hike away. We picked up the Deuter at REI when G was six months old, and he’s probably spent 40 hours or more riding around in it since then. He’s really grown to like the backpack a lot, and Mark has almost gotten it adjusted perfectly for him.

When hiking to a climbing area, we usually have all of G’s stuff packed into the Deuter. It has a lot of extra storage under the seat, and then we’ll tie the PeaPod (see below) to the outside. Mark usually carries the baby, and I’ll slog up the trail with *everything else*, though I usually pawn the rope off on a friendly helper (aka over-encombered friend or unwilling accomplice).

So far, the Deuter has held up to a lot of use. It worked well even when he was a tiny baby, and has grown with him since. It has a lot of storage space, and is not too heavy. The pack adjusts through a large range, so I can carry G around in it as well (and I have the tiniest of torsos). The biggest problem we have with this pack is that it is tricky to get the baby into it. The clips on the harness are so low in front of the baby that you have to really shimmy and worm your hand down inside to get at it. And half of the clips are ‘adjustable’, which means they slide around on the webbing and you have to go digging for them every time you buckle your wiggly-one in.

Babe in the Woods

2. PeaPod by Kidco (

This little tent forms the center piece of our crag-side setup. It is a lightweight, but surprisingly large self-setting up tent (in other words, just let go and *whoomph* TENT). It comes with a little air mattress and pump, but we leave those at home. G naps pretty well in this, and he plays pretty well in it too. At the crag, he can nap zipped up inside, and I don’t worry about flies or mosquitos feasting on him. We’ve taken this to a lot of places where G needs a contained or protected play area, and it has worked out well.

It is not strong enough to work as a playpen, so if the baby is awake, they will need to be supervised. And it does not provide much shade by itself, so we bring blankets to lay on top of it, or look for shady places to set up. But it does, and I speak from experience here, protect your baby from ranging crag dogs, hungry bugs, and blustery desert winds.

Munchkin Formula Dispenser
3. Powdered Formula Dispenser by Munchkin (

While I do agree, breastfeeding is the healthiest option for our babies, not everything in parenting works out exactly as you might hope. For us less-milky moms, formula has some really nice perks at the crag. Instead of relying on a single set of boobs, anybody can give the baby his bottle, so mom can keep at the belay-slaving or proj-working all afternoon if she wants. Also, feeding baby his bottle does not require searching out a quiet, private spot for feeding. G can suck down a bottle while Dad yells beta from below with no problems. Finally, having formula on hand means I will not have to wrestle and squeeze my tiny boobs out from under my sports bra at all during the day, and this makes me happy.

It took us several outings to figure out our favorite method of formula storage and dispensing. But the system we have ended up with works great. We fill up a formula dispenser (as shown above) with measured six ounce servings of powdered formula. The powdered stuff does not require refrigeration or coolers, and can be left sitting in a pack all day. We also store six ounces of filtered, non-flouridaded, baby water in each of three bottles, with screw-top caps (like these), and pack a plastic baggie with the nipples and extra bottle parts. When G gets thirsty or tired, we just mix the powder into the measured water, shake, and serve!

Mark and G relax with a snack

If you are as crazy as I am, and worry about water sitting in plastic bottles all day long, we have found that Dr Brown’s glass bottles are VERY sturdy. They will add a bit of weight to the pack, but they hold up great to our climbing abuses.

Soy Genius Hoodie
4. Insect Shield Hooded Shirt by Soy Genius (

The weather in the mountains changes quickly through the day, and I constantly struggle with the best way to dress G for our climate. In one day of climbing at 9000ft in Estes Park, we can go from 80’s in the sun to 30’s and snow on the hike out, so the best option for everybody is to pack layers. I have brought this lightweight Soy Genius shirt along with us on almost every outing so far. It is UPF rated 50, so blocks sun and keeps sunscreen usage down. It breathes well in warmer weather, and insulates nicely if there is a slight chill.

And the best part? The insect shield repellent is woven into the material, and from my testing, it does seem to work well. Soy Genius assures us that “Insect Shield® requires no re-application and cannot be swallowed; it’s not harmful to the eyes or skin and is appropriate for infants and pregnant/nursing women.” I am not sure what it is made from, but so far, the mosquitos and biting flies have left G alone while he wears it, and he has not developed any crazy side-effects.

So, the verdict on babies at the crag? Totally do-able! Especially with the help of some good gear, pre-planned organization, and helpful stuff-carrying, baby-entertaining, rope-gunning friends.