Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gettin' Our Nature On

Karin and Hermes left yesterday morning, and I have to say that a great time was had by all while they were here. They drove 15 hours through the night on Friday, arriving at 7 a.m. Saturday morning. They took a well deserved 4 hour nap, and then Karin and I made food to pack and Hermes and Bobby went to REI to rent a tent. When they returned we packed up the ol' station wagon. Love this car, lovey love love.

I also love these boots. They have served me well this winter, and definitely kept my feet warm that weekend.
Bobby's fish eye lens had been in the repair shop, and he had just gotten it back a few days prior. He was excited to take it out and play around with it. Here we all are, ready to hit the road.
We were camping in the Poudre Canyon, which is only about a half hour drive from our house. This was our home for the night, a camp site right on the river with a fire pit, picnic table, and an old school water pump. The water was so good, I'll forgive it for being freezing cold and making my hands numb.
Tent set up time! The rented tent Karin and Hermes used was the same model as ours. I love REI. Not more than I love our station wagon, but definitely right below it.
This tent rolls up really small, goes up in mere minutes, and comfortably sleeps two. I highly recommend the half dome if you're in the market for a tent. This thing has been with Bobby about 3 times longer than I have and it's still going strong.
Hey mister. *wink*
Karin and Hermes are newly married, by the way, and this was their first camping trip as a married couple. Tent + knife pose = newlywed bliss.
Posing with our twinkie tents. Bobby is so kindly enveloping my face to keep it warm.
This was dinner- made from scratch veggie and bean chili with a sprinkle of cheese and a bit of green onions. Wheat crackers on the side because I was too lazy to make cornbread.
There was Shiner to be had for those partaking. Check Karin's hat. It's a cat. The tail popping out of the side makes me happy.
After dinner we explored along the river bank, and took advantage of the opportunity to take ridiculous photos like this. I'm pretty sure every martial arts choreographer in the biz will be bangin' down our doors when they get an eyeful of this sweet magic.
Down by the river, but without the van.
Once the sun started to set it was fire time. More importantly (or I guess, on a related note) it was s'mores and banana boat time. Banana boats consist of bananas, chocolate, and marshmallows, all wrapped up safe and sound in foil and then tossed into the coals of the fire. There they undergo a beautiful transformation into a gooey, melty, chocolately soup of sugar and happiness.
Bobby demonstrates proper s'mores building. You put the graham cracker + chocolate on the grill to heat up, so that by the time your marshmallow is toasted  covered in a fine black crisp everything is warm and melty and ready to be devoured.
Banana boat, after being fished out of the coals. I tasted this and said "heaven IS a place on earth!". It's that good.
We gathered around the fire waiting for it to burn out so that we didn't cause mass destruction, and then trundled off to our respective tents.
Our new sleeping bags worked like a dream. The sleeping pads were also great. I've never slept so well outside- well, ok, sleeping on the trampoline in a Texas summer is a little bit more comfortable, but sleeping bags are infinitely easier to transport than trampolines...
This is my Sunday morning worship service- hot cocoa by a fire, watching the sun rise over the mountains and light up the river, laughing and talking with friends in the cold mountain air. Amen and amen.
I got to share a tent with this guy. I'm a lucky girl.
Once the sun rose over the mountains and it was a bit warmer we broke down camp and changed out of our fuzzy pajamas. The agenda for the day was to hike the Grey Rock loop, and the trail head was about 6 miles from camp.
 At the trailhead- I think it's important to note that at this point, we though we'd be doing about 6 miles, round trip, and gaining about 1,000 feet in elevation... the reality? 8 miles, round trip, 2,300 feet in elevation gained.
 The bridge you cross right at the beginning of the trail.
 Since it's a loop, you can choose which route to go up/come down. We went with a steep, rocky trail with lots of tree cover for our ascent.
 Newlywed kiss break.
 Once you reach the base of Grey Rock (surely I don't have to point it out, but it's that big, grey, rock in the background :) you have the choice of going back down the way you came, going back down the other side of the loop, or doing the last .75 miles to summit the rock. Yes, that's right, in under a mile you go from here to the top of that rock! It was rad.
 But those last .75 miles are hard. I mean, this is the "trail". For more than half of it you're just scrambling over rocks, and the trail is marked by cairns- little piles of rocks that mark the way (they're arranged from bottom to top going large to small, like little totems). It's a bit ambiguous and we went off the trail once or twice, but eventually found our way back.
 The summit trail opens up into a little meadow right before the final ascent. It's nice to have this break because the last part of the trail is nothing but rock climbing.
 Case in point- that's the summit, and you climb over this to get to it.
 It's not crazy rock climbing as in "I need a rope and a harness, thanks" but it's definitely climbing, using hands and feet.
 I was so happy to be on the top! It was crazy to look down at the base of the rock and think how recently we were there.
 Karin and Hermes, surveying the landscape. We all had a snack and a water break, and then it started snowing pretty hard. Going back down was more tedious than coming up, because I really didn't want to slip and crack my tailbone on the rock, so it was slow going. Oh, and I was hiking in my snow boots, which, while warm, were quite cumbersome and lacked grip.
 To complete the loop we hooked up with the Meadows trail once we got back down to the base of the rock (Grey Rock is on the right in the background).
The Meadows trail was completely different from the trail we took up- very open, relatively low incline, and it snaked its way back and forth, switchback style, across the mountain. The view was great and it was just enough sun to be warm but not sweaty and uncomfortable.

Once we got back to the car we were all feeling every one of those 8 miles and 2,300 feet gained. After a quick stop at REI to return the tent we went home, showered, and then headed out for dinner. We were all in bed and asleep by 9 p.m. that night. I think that's a good indicator of how well the weekend went. Camping and hiking should wear you out, in a good way :)

Really, the only bad thing about the weekend is that Coloradans insist on pronouncing "Poudre" as "Pooder". Yes, I know, it's awful- Poudre Canyon is pretty terrible, huh? But I'll forgive them their pronunciation foibles since the Poudre namesakes- the canyon and the river- are a great place to camp in/by :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Into the Wild (But Definitely With a Different Ending)

Karin and Hermes arrived early this morning, and while they're napping Bobby and I are going to make a grocery run for the culinary extravaganza we have planned for tonight and tomorrow morning. I'm excited to try out our new sleeping bags and tonight will be a great opportunity since it should get down around 28-30 degrees. Tomorrow morning we're hiking Grey Rock though, and at just about 6 miles round trip, gaining in elevation, I think that will do a good job of warming us up.

I'm looking forward to veggie chili and s'mores around a fire with good friends. Hope you all have a great weekend as well!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Snowboarding, Take Two

My first foray into snowboarding (or any kind of snow sport, for that matter) was back in January when Bobby and I went with J-Ben and Pizzle during their visit to Colorado. J-Ben and I planned to take lessons, but they were booked solid, so Bobby and Pizzle were kind enough to show us some techniques, give us some pointers, and then get us up the mountain. As much as I appreciated the help, I was looking forward to taking a proper, full day lesson before the end of this season so that I could get a good idea of what I wanted next season to look like (do I like it enough to get a season pass? do I kind of want to do a once a winter thing? etc.). As luck would have it, our friend Jenny had never been snowboarding before, and she wanted to give it a try. After a bit of very last minute planning (3 days before) we had coordinated one final snowboarding day- yesterday, a Wednesday, smack in the middle of the week to avoid crowds and traffic. Our friend, Rory, let Bobby, Jenny, and I drive to Boulder and crash on her couch so that we could all head out early the next day.
 Not just early, but super early. We were dressed and out the door by 6:30. I think everyone here is thinking "We haven't even eaten breakfast yet. Put that camera away, crazy".
 It's a two hour drive to get to Winter Park, and lucky for us it had recently snowed about 3 inches. Since Jenny and I are total newbs, any extra cushion we can get for falls is good.
 Jenny, ready to tackle a full day of snowboarding lessons.
 Bobby and I, modeling our sweet beanies from Peru. At the end of the day I was in Starbucks with Jenny and a woman said "I just can't stop STARING at your beanie, I love it!". I then bent down and exhorted her to rub her hands over the little alpaca wool nubbins. What can I say, I love random, friendly, stranger interactions.
 Whoa there Bobby! Someone was very excited to be on the gondola (which for some reason is called the "Cabriolet" at Winter Park).
 Sticker stuck to the inside of said Cabriolet. I think this is the truest statement a sticker has ever made.
 Jenny, with all her gear, right before she and I hopped on  another ski lift to get to our lessons.
 The Gemini Express was going to take us to our full day lesson. We got there a little late, so we were ushered up with a snowboard instructor to meet the main group.
 It was a gorgeous day. Fresh snow, blue skies, lots of sun, no wind. Just perfect.
 I love seeing random tracks from the ski lift and wondering where the person who made them is now.
 This was where we spent the day, and this is also why it is awesome to go snowboarding at the end of March on a Wednesday. There were hardly any people there.
 It turned out to be lucky that we were late, because Ben (the instructor) stuck with us from 10:00 until 11:30, catching us up. Everyone else was in the larger group that had started at 9:30. Having one on two attention from the instructor was really helpful, and the difference between my first experience and this one was night and day. Don't get me wrong, I had a blast my first time out, but I liked this course a lot more. It was less steep, so instead of riding on my heels all the way to slow down, I could sit back and focus on learning how to steer, turn, and enjoy the ride.
 This is Jenny's first run- she did great! We joined up with the bigger group at 11:30, then broke for lunch at noon. Then we were back at it from 1- 3 p.m. A full day of learning and being corrected and taught was just what I needed. I will definitely take another lesson at the beginning of next season.
Altogether we did about 10 runs, and I only fell about 3 times! Plus, I conquered my anxiety around the ski lift. I'm not afraid of riding it, mind you- I love that part- but getting off stresses me out because you have to do it with one foot in and one foot out of your snowboard. But I didn't fall once and I'm much more confident about it. I also learned a lot more about control and that helped immensely.

Rory and Bobby were all over the park while we were taking lessons, so after Jenny and I were done we took the ski lift back down and hung out with some coffee, waiting for them. We headed back to Boulder, changed out of our snow clothes, and then went out for some Mexican food (mmmm, chile rellenos and mole). Bobby, Jenny and I drove back home and were welcomed with open arms by our hot tub after we downed some Emergen-C and water. I slept like a baby last night, but honestly I am far less sore than I expected to be today. I went to yoga this morning for my usual Tuesday/Thursday class and felt great. We'll see how I feel tonight though, when I do my C25K run.

I'm looking forward to many more snowboarding trips in my future, but I'm still happy we're moving into Spring. Although I do love the fact that living in Colorado allows me to go snowboarding (yesterday) and camping/hiking (day after tomorrow) in the same week :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mummy Bags, or, Always Be Prepared

The first time Bobby and I camped together was in Amarillo, TX on a very cold night. That kicked off a 3 week long Western U.S. road trip that involved another camping night in Moab, UT. Since we've been in Colorado, we've camped in Rocky Mountain National Park and Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. The point is, we like to camp, and we plan on doing a lot of it this summer- this weekend in fact, when our friends come into town, we're heading out to do just that! But another point is that Bobby and I have been using copious piles of blankets and old Army Surplus Store sleeping bags, coupled with too-short sleeping pads. The result is that we're often a bit cold, and we're always packing mounds of sleeping accessories that don't lend themselves well to hiking out in the woods and camping in the back country.

After every trip, Bobby mentions getting new sleeping bags. Last week, he called me from REI giddy over his new purchase- a clearanced mummy bag sleeping bag that was temperature rated to around 30 degrees. When he got home, he couldn't wait to show me. I don't know if it's just me, but I can't stop laughing anytime I see these pictures...
 I think you understand now why it's called a mummy bag...
 This. Picture. Every. Time. The first time I saw it I just laughed and laughed. I don't know why it seems so absurd to me.

Since I needed a sleeping bag as well, we went back the next night to take advantage of the clearance. I had to "try on" the mummy bags since they're more fitted than a regular sleeping bag. I ended up with the same one as Bobby, just the women's version. My picture isn't nearly as ridiculous...
 I dunno, maybe it is...
These things are fun to inch worm around in. They're a bit hard to get out of, but that's what makes them so warm. I'm excited to try them out this weekend when Karin and Hermes come in. We're camping up in the Poudre Canyon, which is only a half hour drive from our house. Once again, I love living in Colorado.