The First Pancake

April 8, 2013 at 5:31 pm

The First Pancake Phenomena is well known. You always throw out the first pancake. Your pan is too hot, or too buttery, the pour was too big, the flip was too small, for whatever reason, you always throw away the first pancake.

The same rule applies to trying just about anything again for the first time in a long while. Your first time back is going to be rusty, painful, and generally disappointing. You just have to get through that first time to find your rhythm again.

Red Rocks west of Denver

Red Rocks west of Denver

Last fall, we finished up the camping season with three great trips to Vedauwoo. Then the trailer went into storage, and I went into work mode, and the months passed. But as the sun started staying up longer, and the snow started melting, we knew it was time to get back outside.

Last weekend we had our First Pancake (aka Shake-Out) camping trip of the year. It’s almost guaranteed to not go according to plans, so we try not to make many. We are almost guaranteed to forget something important, so we camp close to home. Things are almost guaranteed to go terribly wrong, so we try to keep it simple.

On a short hike... is that a snake?

On a short hike… is that a snake?

This trip, like so many other shake-out trips, had some wrinkles…

… We ran out of propane as I was packing up the trailer, but didn’t realize it until we were ready to leave. At that point, it was after 6p on a Friday night, and we couldn’t find a place that was open to fill the tank. Since it was going to be very cold on Friday night, I did not want to head out without the ability to heat. So, we decided to stay home Friday night and leave first thing Saturday morning.

… We got lectured by the staff at the campground, specifically one lady who decided since we were “clearly new at this” that she needed to explain everything to us. Granted, we have never been very good at the whole RV gig. And her complaints about our propane tank being held on by only a bungie cord were completely valid.

… Since we did not camp on Friday, I brought all of my bathroom stuff into the house. And did not realize I had forgotten it until about 8p on Saturday night. All of my prescriptions were back at the house, so I drove home on Saturday night. Happily, it was only a half hour trip.

A picture is worth a thousand words

A picture is worth a thousand words

Even with all of these wrinkles in our first pancake, we still had a really fun weekend. We toured and hiked around Red Rocks Amphitheater. We wandered around downtown Golden, running through parks and throwing rocks in the creek. G had a great time playing around the campground, and slept really well in the camper. And we made it through our first pancake. On to a summer of good rhythms and great adventures!



Au Bord de la Mer a la Plage

July 6, 2012 at 7:00 pm

When I was younger, we took year after year of week-long family vacations to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. When I was 16, my brother and I took a fast little sailboat out in the sound, and raced through choppy waves and high winds. When I was 17, I sat on the beach and watch tanned surfer boys play in the waves. When I was 18, I bought a blue coffee mug that I was sure would help get me through long college study sessions.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina

Later, I married an awesome tan boy on that same beach, and I still have that coffee mug.

Mark and Katy, married on the beach

This summer, we brought the whole family back for a week in an amazing beach house right along the shore. This time, we had a new family member!

Mark and Katy, now plus one!

It’s amazing how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same, since we first started these beach vacations. I have no digital pictures, no blog posts or Facebook updates from those old trips to remember them by.

Fireworks shot off for miles along the beach on the 4th of July

And this time around, I made some beautiful pictures, but the most special moments did not get caught on film.

Osprey hunting at dawn

Watching G squeal with fright and joy when the first wave chased him away from the ocean.

Playing in the surf with Grandma and Grandpa

Waking up to a storm over the ocean, and seeing four bolts of lightening strike the waves at once.

Sunrise on a stormy morning

Hanging out on the porch with my family in the cool breeze of an ocean night, waiting for a full moon to rise out of the haze.

Sunset and beach houses

Being surrounded by three big dolphins that came over to check me out on my stand-up paddle board.

Kate surfing baby waves with the SUP

A quiet dinner with Mark in the restaurant where we held our wedding reception.

Mark and G in the waves

I still love this place.

Life is good on the beach

This job has its perks! (Tropical Travels – Part 2)

January 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Mark and I had one day to ourselves on my working trip to Honolulu this winter, and we decided to spend it on an afternoon boat trip to see Pacific Humpback whales. These whales travel thousands of miles each year from the northern pacific to Hawaii in the winter where they birth and care for their young calves. Mark and I saw distant whales on our previous trip the the islands, but I was hoping to get a little closer this time, and we weren’t disappointed!

Views of the west (dry) coast of Oahu

I made reservations for an afternoon with Ocean Joy Cruises about two weeks before the date. Their pictures and description of their unique and lovely catamaran-style yacht really hooked us. Plus, they offered pick-up from near our hotel in Waikiki, and were very reasonably priced.

Our very nice speed-boat/catamaran the Kai Oli Oli!

We had a really nice afternoon to get out on the water and cruise around looking for whales and dolphins. In the morning, we got great views of a huge pod of Spinner Dolphins, who lazily surfed the swells in clear tropical water.

This was a big pod (~50) of Spinner Dolphins

Our cruise complied with “Dolphin Smart” by NOAA, so we cut power to the engines when the dolphins were sighted, and drifted along in their wake for close to an hour. Eventually, some of the curious guys came up to our boat to check us out and we got a really great view!

My camera gets sprayed by a dolphin!

We had a few sea turtle sightings and then headed over to reef for about an hour of snorkeling. This reef was deeper and less exciting than some we saw in Thailand, but Mark and I still had a great time swimming through the huge schools of tropical fish. And this time, I did not end up with sea urchin spikes in my fingers.

Sea Turtle surfing the little swell

After snorkeling, the boat headed out to deeper waters for the whales, and the crew pulled out a pretty nice hot buffet lunch. I was eating a pile of kalua pork and fresh pineapple when we found two whales, an adult and a calf. We watched as they rose slowly through the surface, taking huge breaths of air and enjoying the sun for a bit. I didn’t grab my camera right away because I was so hungry, and I got exactly one shot before they disappeared below the surface, not to be seen again.

Pacific Humpback Whales

One last thing, at the port where Kai’Oli’Oli was moored, there was a big industrial-looking area full of weird boats. Turns out, it was a construction area for movie ships, and the Black Pearl was sitting there, out in the Hawaiian sun, slowly being deconstructed.

The Black Pearl was anchored nearby

So, it was a really nice day, in all. Mark and I both managed to escape sunburn, and were back in Waikiki around dinner-time. We watched the sunset on the ocean one more time, had fantastic udon noodles for dinner, and then caught a red-eye flight back to cold, snowy, Colorado.

This job has its perks! (Tropical Travels – Part 1)

January 17, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Yes, grad school is rough. It’s stressful and competitive and overwhelming even if you haven’t had a baby recently. But, I have to admit, studying tropical climate and weather has some nice perks – like the occasional working trip to Hawaii.

Tropical Afternoon

This year, I went to the University of Hawaii in Honolulu for a 3 day workshop on Tropical Atmospheric and Oceanic dynamics. Mark had enough miles left over from our trip to Thailand a few years ago to get his ticket for free, so he tagged along with me. My parents even agreed to come out to Colorado and watch the kiddo for us, so we had a baby-free trip to Hawaii! I spent three days in a conference room talking about atmospheric waves, coupled convective oscillations, models and observations, while Mark ran amok in the city of Honolulu.

Coco Puff from Liliha Bakery

On his first day in town, Mark spent the day on the Hole-in-the-Wall Food Tour, where his guides drove him all over the city to taste the unique flavors of Honolulu. Mark said of the tour:

Our hosts were Matthew Gray and Kiera. Matthew used to be a celebrity cook (cook for celebrities) and Kiera is his fiancee and a local who knows everything so you get a good deal of personal knowledge of Honolulu as well as some good food history and cute stories.

Local-boy plate: Spam musubi, ahi poke, and pineapple!

The Hole-In-The-Wall Food tour was a great way to start off the trip. The tour was a great way to get familiar with the city while eating lots of interesting treats and learning a great deal about all the people and cultures that Honolulu grew from. Note that the tour wasn’t native Hawaiian food, that would only take a few minutes (eat a pineapple, turn your nose up at some poi and then scarf down some Kalua Pork). These foods are the unique foods of the city. Often it is the food of another culture that has been tweaked by the local Hawaiian influence. We had a wide range of foods from many cultures. If I had to pick a favorite of the day it would be the “five layers of heaven roast pork” (see picture). The first layer of heaven was layer of fat fried so crispy as to essentially be a fried pork rind followed by meat/fat/meat/fat to create deliriousness. On the sweet side, the chocolate cream puff was certainly the winner. We had bizarre fruits, a tasty cocktail, lots of snacking and even of a tour of one of the last by-hand rice noodle factories left in the world. It was a great day out.

Five layers of Heaven roast pork in Chinatown

He spent the next two days wandering around Honolulu. After learning basic navigation from the food tour, he was able to take busses around the city to the giant flee market at the Aloha Stadium and back to Chinatown in search of more layered pork heaven. He even found a CrossFit box in Waikiki and participated in one of their workouts.

Mark doing L-Hangs at CrossFit Waikiki

After my last day of meetings and conference work on Thursday, we got in an hour or two of beach time together, and I was finally able to unwind. While some people might accomplish this with alcohol and napping in the sun, I rented a paddlebaord and went out on to the water for a couple of hours.

Kate on the paddleboard

I have tried regular surfing a few times, but this was my first time on a paddle board, and I really enjoyed it. The board was huge, and easy enough to sit on, but standing was tricky for me. I eventually found the rhythm and was able to stand-up, paddle and catch a few little waves! At one point, a giant sea turtle swam right under my board, and scared me so bad I nearly dropped the paddle!

Kate standing up and paddling!

In all, it was a great trip. I got to participate in a lot of great science, and Mark got to enjoy Honolulu from every angle. We had one day free on Friday before our red-eye flight out of town, and spent it on a whale-watching tour that was fantastic. But I’ll leave that for another post…

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

Thailand Elephant Trek

March 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm

When reading guidebooks and planning our trip, I had decided against riding elephants in Thailand. Everybody talked about how horrible animal exploitation was, how poorly treated the elephants were, how the keepers kept them starving and worn down, and how westerners perpetuated this problem.

She had kind eyes.  And wanted bananas.

Evidently, since these guidebooks were written, some of the Elephant keepers in Thailand have wised up a bit. At least in the area we were visiting, “Elephant Eco-Tours” were advertised in all of the tourist shops. We decided to try one out that proclaimed the outfit was run by a village cooperative that treated the elephants like members of their own families. And we were glad we did.

The rider sat on the head, and we rode on the back

Videos and photos after the break…

Sunset Snorkel

March 5, 2010 at 8:53 pm

After the first taste of snorkeling from the Deep Water Solo’ing trip, Mark and I wanted to do more. So, we signed up for a “Sunset Tour” with a local dive shop. This worked out great for us. The boat didn’t leave until 2p, so we could climb in the morning and snorkel in the evening!

Looking for Nemo

Electric blue fish

There’s a lot of fun pics in the gallery for this one too! Videos after the break…

A Thousand Splendid Sunsets

February 26, 2010 at 1:09 am

Thailand Sunset
Thailand Sunset
Thailand Sunset
Thailand Sunset
Thailand Sunset & Giant Bats
Swiming at sunset
Kate and Mark loving life in Thailand