Cabin Fever

March 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm

As the snow swirls and blows and flies outside the window, I dream of places to go and adventures to be had this summer.

I dream of tall cliffs and desert sun.

Los Hermanos de la Weenie Way

Penitente Canyon, May 2010

I dream of wide mountain vistas and thin alpine air.

Lunch with a view

Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness, August 2011

I dream of raging waterfalls and calm montane lakes.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls, July 2011

I dream of dirt in my food and sun on my skin.


Kokopeli Trail, April 2009

I dream of giggling babies and tinkling climbing gear.

Crag Baby

Lilly Mountain, July 2011

I dream of sweat on my back and miles on my legs.

Long's Peak Summit

Long’s Peak, August 2012

I dream of sore muscles, sun burns, laughter of friends, beer by the fire, and sleep under the stars. But the snow just keeps falling…

Digging Out of Our Snow Cave

February 28, 2013 at 8:36 pm

One more month of crazy around our house, and then I think we’ll be back in the realm of “normal.” This month, our family had some pretty radical life-changes, including a move from Fort Collins to about 40 miles south into the Boulder area.

Moving is fun!

Moving is fun!

I started a new job, the kiddo started at a new daycare, and Mark started his new commute all on a snowy Valentine’s Day.

The universe says "Happy first day of work! You should have worn snow boots."

The universe says “Happy first day of work! You should have worn snow boots.”

We have a new house, with our own backyard for the first time in 8 years.

Playing in our own, private dirt

Playing in our own, private dirt

I received a wonderful new camera, a Leice D-Lux 6, as a graduation present, and I’ve been wandering through the snow taking pictures of the mountains around Boulder.

Foggy, snowy morning in Boulder

Foggy, snowy morning in Boulder

We spent most of our free time this month cleaning, packing, moving and unpacking. But we did get up to Rocky Mountain National Park last weekend. Our goal was to go sledding, but there was less snow in the mountains than in our front yard. So, we played in the Sprague Lake area and had a fun day.

After walking didn't work, G decided to stay sitting and let us push him around the lake

After walking didn’t work, G decided to stay sitting and let us push him around the lake

After playing around the lake, we went back to the car, and discovered the 12V battery was dead in our Prius. We had to have a tow truck come up from Estes Park to our trailhead and give us a jump start. If you were curious, it takes about half an hour for Bob’s Towing to make it to Sprague Lake. Not too bad.

Mark fixed the car by himself, during a day of amazing electronic skill. He also created a charger for my camera from a cut-open USB cable, some speaker wire, rubber bands and a coffee mug. The purpose of the coffee mug was to contain any unexpected fires. It worked great! This is why it’s nice to have a hacker around the house.

In Colorado, winter drags on. Our springs seem to oscillate between sunny and snowy on a daily basis. The snow falls, the snow melts, and the snow falls again. Repeat ad infinitum. But it gives us time to sit quietly, snuggle with the kiddo, sleep long, and breathe.

Old Roses and Snow, it must be February

Old Roses and Snow, it must be February

Not Everyday is Awesome

February 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm

When you’re out adventuring with a kiddo, you never really know what you’re about to get. Sometimes it’s a sunny day full of dirt and giggles, and sometimes it’s an hour of crying for no reason before you pack it up and head home.

Weeks after falling down the hill

At the beginning of February, my college buddy Weeks stopped in to visit us for a weekend just after we got a big dump of snow. We rented him a set of snowshoes and headed up to a local favorite hike for a day of snow and sun. G was decked out in his snowsuit, hats, gloves, capilene base layer, and even his favorite blanket came along for the ride in the backpack.

Snowshoeing Horsetooth Mountain

But the day was super sunny and warm. We all stripped out of most of our layers, and G just cried and cried in the backpack this time. We tried pulling layers off of him, putting layers on, giving him water and food, walking until he fell asleep, but nothing would calm him down on this trip. Looking back on it, I think the sun reflecting off the snow was just too bright for him. One thing we didn’t bring for the kiddo: sunglasses.

View from snowy Horsetooth

We tried everything we could think of, but G just wasn’t happy until we were back in the car 45 minutes later. It would have been a beautiful day, and the little bit of snowshoeing we did was really fun. But, you can’t remember or predict or plan for everything in life. And this adventure was just another reminder that we’re a team of three now, and everybody needs to be up for the adventure. And have sunglasses!

Nice views from the snow

Sledding in the Rockies

January 7, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Sometimes it seems like winter in Colorado is all about extreme sports. On Monday mornings, I hear all about weekends at the terrain park, back country powder and ice climbing shenanigans. Mark and I have never been big skiers, so we usually spend the winter months in a gym or commuting to a desert crag. This year, there has been no escape to the desert, and the gym is getting old. The mountains are calling.

Warning sign

Warning sign

We pack up our warmest winter clothes and a couple of sleds we found at a garage sale a few years ago, and head up to Rocky Mountain National Park. The old Hidden Valley Ski Area has been turned into a “Snow Play” area, and my internet research leads me to believe that the sledding is excellent here.

Unfortunately, the ranger at the park entrance tells us that conditions are “Very Poor” at Hidden Valley. We drive in anyway, and find a hillside covered in hard-packed wind-blown snow. From what I hear, this is similar to what people are finding all over Colorado this year.

We stop to chat with two rangers at the bottom of the hill, before heading up to attempt sledding. They tell us that the area has seen several inches of snow this winter, but that it all blew away. Seems sad, somehow, and part of me wonders which mountain gathered all of that blown snow on its flanks?

No snow in the snow play area :(

No snow in the snow play area :(

We put the sled down, and find that there is enough of a surface for a few good runs. G really seems to be confused by the whole process. He is completely silent, wide-eyed and amazed during each ride down. He doesn’t wine or complain or cry, but doesn’t seem to understand what is going on or why. After a few sledding runs on the hard, bumpy snow, we give up on trying to get him to enjoy it and let him play in some snow drifts at the base of the hill. He giggles as he stomps around in his snow boots, and loves digging holes in the powdery white stuff.

G in the Mountains

G in the Mountains

I’m not going to lie, at this point, Mark and I take turns sledding on our own. It’s been probably 25 years since I went sledding, and even though the snow was awful, I have a righteous ball flinging myself down that hillside over and over again!

We play in the drifts and the hills until snow starts falling heavily around us. Then it’s time to go check out the Ranger station at the base of the hill. For a winter facility in RoMo, this place is luxurious. There are heated bathrooms, with flushing toilets! There is also a warming room with lots of benches, and photos and signs showing off 60 years of snow play in the area.

Mark and G demonstrate the correct usage of a Warming Room

Mark and G demonstrate the correct usage of a Warming Room

The consensus at the end of the day is that we should definitely return when conditions are better. The area was not crowded, the hills not too steep for our kiddo, and the facilities were very nice. It was a great way to go play in the mountains without having to do anything too epic or extreme.

Winter Weekends

January 9, 2010 at 8:26 pm

It’s certainly not rock climbing weather out there… what should we do??

Mark and I are going a little stir crazy right now, so we decided to splurge and go skiing last weekend. This is something we generally avoid because it is (1) expensive, (2) often cold and (3) I suck at it. I really do. I have been skiing four times in my life, and I still regularly freak out and fall, tumbling and rolling down the hill, on the easiest of greens.

But, it’s a good way to get out and enjoy a sunny day in the mountains, so with slightly warmer temperatures forecast, we left Saturday morning for Eldora Mountain Resort.

The day turned out to be beautiful, and I managed to convince Mark to stick around and coach me a little in the morning. By the end of the day, I still wasn’t making parallel turns, but at least I wasn’t face-into-the-snow on every turn either. And I had a whole lot of fun.

Mark had a great afternoon, and went home a little sunburnt and very happy. And nobody blew out a knee!

Snowshoeing to Loch Vale

December 13, 2008 at 8:39 pm

It’s been a horribly busy fall for both Mark and I. I’ve been focusing on school, Mark’s been working hard at the office, and we’ve been spending our weekends catching up or doing more work. Pretty sad, really. So, we decided to make a conscious effort to get some good, quality, mountain time in last weekend.

The snow is coming down in the mountains

We ended up snowshoeing up to Loch Vale in the Glacier Gorge area of Rocky Mountain National Park. We actually hiked this trail twice last summer, and Mark mentioned later that he wasn’t particularly happy with the choice in the morning. But the National Park in the snow is like a whole different world.

About 10 minutes into our hike, we saw a beaten path in the snow head off the side of the trail. Last summer, when we were hiking the approach to the Petite Grepon, we saw climbers head off into the woods in this direction. Mark suggested we try this trail out, and determine if it was actually a short cut, or a trail to a different destination all together. Always up for an adventure, I agreed. And we set off into the woods, off trail, with the promise of a gathering winter storm in the evening, in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The short cut turns out to be a bit long

Despite our joking about how we were destined to end up on “Storm Stories” next year for this decision, the trail was very easy to follow in the deep snow. It headed straight up the hill, and half an hour later we popped out on the marked trail, just below the split to Loch Vale. Success! I haven’t downloaded our GPS data yet, but I think we cut off about a half of a mile from this section of trail, which means we’ll be using this path for future hikes to climbs in the area.

Ice climbing

As we started up the switchbacks below the Loch, we began hearing voices in the woods across the valley. We came upon the tracks of several people leaving the trail, and followed them up the far side of the valley to where a big group of people were ice climbing. Mark and I talked to them for a bit, careful to stay out of the fall zone for the sharp ice that was raining down, or pointy axes or crampons that might be flung about.

Ice climbing on Mo' Flo' Than Go (WI 3-)

The group had top ropes set on various parts of the flow, and, when asked, declared that the route we were looking at was called “Mo’ Flo’ than Go” and was rated, according to the climbers, “um, 3?” “3+, I think” “5!” “1” “20!” “100!”, or something in that range. Mountain project says WI 3-. It looked like a fun, if short, route, and Mark and I watched for a while before heading back to the trail and finally up to the Loch.

Wind and snow blowing across the frozen lake

Last summer, I declared Loch Vale to be the prettiest spot in the park, even when it was crawling with people. It was even prettier when we showed up there at 5:30am a few weeks later, and the place was dead quiet except for the bugs and fish jumping. On Saturday, it was even prettier. The lake was frozen over, the wind tossed snow about in sweeps and gyres. There was nobody else, and no other living creatures, around at all. The whole scene was full of roaring wind one minute, and then desperately silent the next. It felt like the mountains and lake had been encased in crystal, and would remain like this forever.

The wind was pretty brisk

After a lot of pictures, and some time spent soaking it all in, we put the snowshoes back on and headed down the hill. We cruised back to the car in less than an hour, practically jogging down some sections in our lightweight snowshoes. Then it was back to our house for hot coffee and even hotter showers, as the promised winter storm blew in.

Kate at the Loch

LOST (for about an hour)

March 22, 2008 at 7:06 pm

This weekend’s adventure ended up being a lot more exciting than we expected. The plan was to snowshoe up to Montgomery Pass, which is just north of Cameron Pass. We’ve attempted this hike before, but had to back down due to strong winds. This weekend, the weather was looking better, so, at around 11:30a, we headed up the trail towards the bright fields of snow above.

Red is where we were on trail, green is where we were off

We are no longer on a trail.  More like an avalanche run-out.

We flew up the trail, hiking at a high aerobic pace and dodging skiers and snowboarders flying down the hill. There is an intersection at the top, where skiers head for the Sugar Bowls, and the Montgomery Pass trail heads to the right. Our trail to the right was a smooth field of snow between the trees, we were going to have to break trail to the pass. “No Problem!” we said, and we headed off into the woods following the little blue signs on trees that marked our trail. It was supposed to be our own version of Dylan and Ann’s dot-to-dot hiking. We got past about three dots and then lost them completely in the thick woods.

“No problem!” we said. The pass was above treeline and north of us so we headed up to the bare snow, took a long hike to the right, and there it was!

Heavy Snow

The pass was all the more beautiful because of the unspoiled snow. We were definitely the first people there that day, and possibly since the last snow. We set up a little camp behind a group of trees, where we found warm sun and light winds. I took several yoga photos, and then tramped around the pass taking shots of the smooth snow, bright skies, and sculpted trees for most of an hour. Check out the gallery for more beautiful pictures!

Kate's yoga shoot 2

On our way out, we found the blue marks showing us the trail out. We found one, then another, and then were promptly lost in the woods again. We new the highway (and our trail) was downhill and south of us, so we just kept heading that way, hoping to eventually find the trail.

The going was rough, even with snowshoes, our steps sank into the deep powder several inches. Liv was up to her belly and sliding down the hill most of the way out. We took turns breaking trail for each other as we wandered through the forest. It was exhausting, even as we were generally heading down the slope. Eventually, Mark spotted the bright colors of a skier flying through the trees ahead of us, and we triumphantly burst out of the deep snowy woods onto the packed trail. Liv looked happier than she had all day!

We cruised down the easy trail for about 3 minutes before we popped out on the road at our car. Evidently, we had managed to parallel the trail all most all of the way down the hill before we found it. We dragged our sore, exhausted bodies into the car at around 5pm, and headed down the canyon to the warmth of home.

Skiing at Eldora

February 2, 2008 at 8:16 pm

On Saturday, Mark and I met Doug, Liz, Mike and Adam in Fort Collins and headed south for a ski day at Eldora Ski Area. We met Kevin in Boulder, but missed Weeks in the morning due to some missing emails. I took a camera with me, but I didn’t take any pictures, unfortunately. Here is a map of the trails in the resort, and little labels that show where we all skied during the day.

Kevin took a full day ski lesson for his first day out. He had a great time. Liz helped me remember all the basics and gave me great encouragement during the day. We skied every single green run, and even went through “Fun Gulley”: a tiny little terrain park though the trees between two green runs. It was a great day for both of us, we both spent time working on our turns and building up confidence and feeling more comfortable on skis.

Mark started the morning with the “Elite Performance Package” for the first time ever. They gave him racing skis that were stiff, heavy, and huge, and he hated them after his first run. After lunch, he turned them in for a pair that turned a little better and had a great time exploring the mountain with Weeks. They covered a lot of terrain over the course of the day.

At the end of the day, the others headed home and Mark, Kev, Weeks and I hit Boulder for dinner. It was really nice to catch up with Weeks, especially since he’s heading to the South Pole to work as a facilities engineer at the research station down there. It’s going to be a tough eight months, with no daylight and temperatures around -100F, but it will be the experience of a lifetime, and Weeks really thrives in extreme environments.

In the end, it was a great day. Kevin learned to ski, I carved up all green runs (and didn’t cry at the end of the day!), we got to see Weeks before he leaves, and Mark didn’t hurt himself. What more could you ask for?