Christmas Preparations

When I was growing up Christmas was one of my favorite times of year. I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas and Christmas time. Both of my parents went out of their way to make sure that my sister and I had the best holiday possible. After celebrating in the desert with Bob and company in 2012 and 2013 I was so ready for a cozy winter Christmas. I’m headed back to Washington on Saturday morning for more traditional fun but Sprocket and I have been doing our best to have A Merry Little Christmas all month long.

We went out and got our Christmas tree.

Christmas Tree 2014

We set up the Dickens’ Village houses and made Christmas cookies.

Dickens Village 2014

I’m even back to wearing Christmas bows in my hair (although it’s not quite as big as the ones I used to wear back in high school). This one came magically on a bottle of Bailey’s:

Bailey's Christmas Bow

With each activity, I found myself remembering so many things. Hanging my grandma’s Christmas ornaments, I remembered our annual tradition of decorating my grandma’s tree. I carefully hung tinsel on the tree and remembered my dad insisting on tinsel while Mom (faintly) protested that we found it all over the house.

Grandma's ornament

I made the candy cane cookies, butter mints, sugar cookies, and pepparkakor (Swedish spice cookies) that I grew up making. I remember spending evening in the kitchen baking and watching Christmas movies. We had quite the queue of movies to work through each December.Miracle on 34th Street (the original, in black and white never colorized), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (both the animated and live action versions), and A Charlie Brown Christmas were just the beginning.

Christmas is most seriously my favorite and I’m savoring it this year.

 

How are you getting in the holiday spirit this year?

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Christmas Tree 2014

One of the biggest things on my To Do list after Thanksgiving was to acquire a Christmas Tree. After two years of spending the holiday mobile in the deserts of Arizona, I was really excited to head out with Sprocket “to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols” in our 4-wheel drive sleigh.

Life is really tough when this is your view leaving town to go find a tree:

Tree adventure!

As I got out of the Jeep, I realized that I had neglected to pack the snowshoes but since we were already at the top of Red Mountain Pass, I opted to deal with posthole-ing to find a tree. Sprocket was unimpressed by my attempt to get a photo of him with the tree and took the opportunity for a rest break:

Cutting Christmas tree

Our tree this year came from almost 11,000′ above sea level and is just a beauty.

Christmas Tree, 11,000'

I feel so lucky that this is how I go about obtaining my Christmas cheer:

Christmas tree on Jeep

Christmas Tree 2014

The 3Up Christmas Tree, 2014:

 

Christmas Tree 2014

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Sunday Sermon

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

Jawaharlal Nehru

 

 

 

 

 

–Jawaharlal Nehru

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Thanksgiving 2014: Connecticut Peak Bagging

Thanksgiving morning I headed for the airport bright and early. After grabbing a spot in the second to the last row of the economy parking, I watched the sunrise from inside the DIA terminal and let myself feel a little bit sad that I wouldn’t be watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with some coffee and Bailey’s. All things considered, I was super excited to be headed to see Lucy and Franz get married and have a bit of an adventure.

DIA sunrise

Adventure? In Connecticut?

Yeah, I’d decided since I was spending all the money on a plane ticket and rental car that I might as well create a bit of a challenge for myself. I decided that I would try to hit all eight Connecticut pseudo-county highpoints along with the wedding in the 48 hours I’d be in the state. (They’re pseudo-counties because Connecticut dissolved them as governing bodies in 1960.)

After landing at Bradley, I got my rental car and immediately headed for South Johnson Hill, the highpoint of Hartford county. I arrived at the trailhead around 6pm, donned my headlamp, put on my snowpants, and headed out for a dark and snowy walk. The quiet and peacefulness was really appreciated after a long day of travel. (Seriously, this post can be summarized as “snowy selfies.”)

Summit of South Johnson Hill

I’d been pretty lucky with my travel plans as the state had gotten pretty hammered with a big winter storm the day before. The storm had left a lot of people without power as trees lost branches. As I walked back to my car, I saw flashing lights near the trailhead. Initially, I was pretty sure that I was going to be ticketed for parking at the end of the road even though it was clearly plowed out as a trailhead parking area. Turns out it was just a power company truck fixing some lines.

As I drove towards the trailhead for Mt. Frissell, I started looking for food. At about 7pm on Thanksgiving night in rural Connecticut (and Massachusetts) I wasn’t really sure what I would find. Fortunately, I located a Dunkin’ Donuts and snacked on a bagel and cream cheese as I continued out to the trailhead. It occurred to me that there was a good chance that the snow would be more than I wanted to tackle without boots or snowshoes but I put the decision off until morning. Once I arrived at the trailhead, I crawled into the back of my rental car and got to sleep.

Sleeping in the rental car

In the morning, I got out of the car to investigate the conditions. It was a really hard decision to make but faced with four mile postholing hike without appropriate footwear when I had a wedding that promised a fair amount of awesome dancing coming up that night I decided it was best if I put aside my adventure goals to be sure I was more fresh for the real point of the trip: the wedding.

Lots of snow at the Mt. Frissell Trailhead

I headed out for the next high point in Fairfield County. The drive took me into New York State and was absolutely gorgeous. It was a bright, bluebird winter day and cruising around and seeing the small towns was making me so happy.

Welcome to New York? Winter driving The Fairfield County Highpoint:

Fairfield County Highpoint

From there it was off to the Southwest Lindsley Peak Hills of New Haven County:

Southwest Lindsley Hills Peaks

After that quick jaunt, I decided I had time to squeeze in Middlesex County’s Bald Hill Range. It created a little backtracking for the next day but I was worried about time before catching my plane. I’m so glad I did. Friday had better weather than Saturday and it was a gorgeous walk through the woods!

Trail to Bald Hill Range Summit of Bald Hill Range Bald Hill Range

Then it was wedding time! After a quick sponge bath in a McDonalds bathroom (seriously, I guess I’m still a dirtbag at heart), I made myself presentable and headed out to celebrate with my friends. Congratulations you two. You’re an adorable, awesome couple. And you threw one heck of a dance party.

Franz & Lucy Wedding

I got a late start the next morning. Since I’d already blown the goal of hitting all the highpoints for the weekend, I figured it was way more important to spend some more time relaxing at Lucy’s parents with the newlyweds and their families. After a leisurely morning, I drove off to Gates Hill, a rather unimpressive roadside stop:

Gates Hill

I reasoned I had time for one last stop, Windham County’s Snow  Hill. I wasn’t sure what the snow conditions would be like and if I’d be able to drive my rental car up near the summit. As it turned out I had to park near the highway and hike a mile each way. I start to get antsy on days that I’m flying about getting to the airport on time and it was reaching that point. I started up the rutted icy road fretting a bit about making this happen. I decided that my mood would be drastically improved if I turned it into a bit of a run. I was wearing my TurboDown so I’m sure that my plane-mates for the rest of the day didn’t really appreciate it but sometimes you just need to go for it!

Snow Hill

All in all, I made it to the wedding, danced my face off, and got 6 of 8 county highpoints. I’ll be back for that slope point on Mt. Frissell and also for little Burley Hill!

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Sunday Sermon

“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.”

Chuck-Palahniuk

 

 

 

— Chuck Palahniuk

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Gear Review: Columbia Peakfreak Hiking Shoes

Last January I bought a pair of Columbia’s Peakfreaks–I was in desperate need of new hiking shoes since my old running shoes were not doing a very good job of protecting my feet from the rocks found in desert hiking. I spent a ton of time browsing Columbia’s offerings and rejected most as either too lightweight or too heavy.

Peak Freak Enduro Outdry

I spend a lot of time traveling off trail and therefore are always weighing the pros and cons of a lightweight trail running shoe with something a little more robust that protects my feet and ankles from rocks. I found that the Peakfreaks really fit the bill. The “welded synthetic overlays” took a little bit of abuse and are a little bit frayed but nothing has impacted the use of the shoe at all. I had a blog post all written up to tell you about how wonderful these lovely shoes were but then I went to Columbia’s webpage to get a link and they were gone.

I retired the post to the trashbin of the internet and pouted a bit. I should have stocked up!

A few months ago, however, the new version: the Peakfreak XCRSN XCEL showed up. I immediately set about procuring myself a pair. (And not just any pair but one in this AMAZING non-girly “corange/fission” combo.)

Peakfreak XCRSN XCEL

They arrived, I marveled at their beauty and then they sat in my closet waiting for me to quit it with the #damselNOTindistress nonsense and get back out in the mountains. Just like their predecessors, they’re amazing. First, I get complements on the good looking shoes all the time.

Second, and most important, they’re exactly what I was looking for: they’re comfortable, lightweight, and my feet do not take a beating when I’m scrambling around on talus or rocks. I haven’t made a direct comparison between the soles of the two versions but in my handful of hikes in the new ones (and many hikes in the old) I think the traction is improved a little bit.

I didn’t make the jump to the version with Outdry, mostly for the above mentioned awesome color reasons, which I might wind up regretting. Some of my fall hikes have had just short sections of snow where my feet stayed mostly dry but if I would have had the waterproofing power of Outdry I probably wouldn’t have gotten damp at all.

I have a foot just a touch on the wide side and these fit me great. I found that they run pretty true to size (I often have to size down a half size in Columbia footwear).

These will be my go-to hikers for all of 2015 (and yes, I’m thinking about buying more, including a pair with Outdry) and I totally recommend them for most, if not all, of your hiking needs.

 

 

These shoes were provided by Columbia Sportswear to 3Up Adventures as a part of the #omniten program for use and review. All opinions are mine. (Seriously, I do love these shoes.)

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Denver Area “Peakbagging”

One of my 2015 goals is to complete 50% of the Colorado County Highpoint list. To help me reach that goal, I decided to use some of this time on the Front Range to knock out the metro-area county highpoints. There wasn’t too much exciting about any of the four that I grabbed (the same goes for the three county prominence peaks as well) but they’re checked off the list!

Denver County’s high point is found in the middle of a busy road surrounded by strip malls. It’s not one of the prettiest places I’ve been so Sprocket and I took our photo op crouched next to the road focusing on the fluffy clouds in the sky instead:

Denver County Highpoint

Next up was Araphaoe County. Located in a subdivision, this one at least had better views:

Smoky Hill Ridge

Not my most adventurous hike:

Arapahoe County Highpoint

I made one more stop before calling it a peakbagging day, and hit the Adams County highpoint. Located on the edge of a corn field with jets flying over head into DIA, I kind of liked it in a weird sort of way:

Adams County HighpointThe next day, I decided to head out again and get the last metro county highpoint and three county prominence points. First up was Inspiration Point, Denver County’s prominence peak:

Inspiration Point Park

Inspiration Point

Then it was off to very windy Broomfield County Highpoint (I blame my squintyness on the wind):

Broomfield County Highpoint

Next it was off to Broomfield County’s prominence peak, West Morgan Hill:

Hyland Hill

And then I rounded my adventure off with a drive through a neighborhood to get as close as I could to to Adams County’s prominence point, Hyland Hill. I was too chicken about being sketchy in the neighborhood to take a photo…

 

While not my most exciting peakbagging adventures ever, it brought me to 11/64 county highpoints and 6/64 county prominence peaks in Colorado!

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Thanksgiving Break 2014: Golden

Thankfully, we get a whole week off in Ridgway for Thanksgiving. This break was totally needed! Since I had a flight out of Denver on Thanksgiving morning (!) I decided it made a lot of sense to just head over to the Front Range right away and relax rather than working on the house. This turned out to be such a good decision. Both Sprocket and I were so ready to hit the road when school got out on Friday!

Beth on the road

Sprocket

I’d planned to get to Aleya’s house and promptly go to sleep. This didn’t happen, but that was a-okay with me.

Golden, Colorado

Turbodown twins

The next day, I relaxed a little bit at Aleya’s place, did some climbing with her roommate at Earthworks, had lunch at Mountain Toad brewery, made dinner at her place, and then headed back to Mountain Toad with Sprocket for a night cap.

Sprocket

Earthworks

Mountain Toad Brewery

Thanks so much Aleya (and your friends!), I had a blast.

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Sunday Sermon

“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.”

Walt Disney

 

 

 

 

 

 

–Walt Disney

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Sprocket Says…, Vol. 38

Alright Mommy. Let’s finish this. I mean business.

Sprocket, eye and hearing protection

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Piñon Mesa Ridge

Sunday Sprocket and I drove up to Grand Junction to do a bit of shopping. I wish I would have had the stroke of brilliance just another hour earlier but at about 2pm I decided I’d had enough of the “city” and decided to head for Piñon Mesa—the prominence point of Mesa County. As it turned out, the short mid-November day was too short to accomodate about 13 miles of snowy driving and the short, but partially off trail, hike to the summit. I’ll definitely be back though—I couldn’t believe how close the La Sals and the Abajos looked from here!

Road to Pinon Mesa

Grand Valley

Snow and sunshine

Sprocket

Even though we didn’t get to the summit, walking through the cold, crisp sunlight made my heart so happy. Spending some time outside with Sprocket doing a bit racing and laughing through the snow and a little quiet staring off in the distance was just what I needed.

View from Pinion Mesa ridge

Snow and sunshine

Late afternoon. Early winter.

Sprocket

Sunset over Grand Valley

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Amanda Shires

Shortly after finding out I’d gotten the job in Ridgway, I found out Amanda Shires was playing at the Wright Opera House in Ouray. Shires plays the type of singer-songwriter alt-country music that I really love so I immediately bought a ticket.

Then, about four hours before showtime, things got even better when I learned that Jason Isbell, Shires husband, would be playing guitar. Isbell played in Telluride awhile ago and I was so bummed to miss out. (You should totally check out the Death, Sex & Money podcast Confessions of a Nashville Power Couple featuring Shires and Isbell; it’s awesome.)

Amanda Shires

The show was absolutely worth every penny and the really snowy drive home. Shires was so personable and entertaining and the venue was one of the most intimate I’ve ever attended a show at. (It almost reminded me of the Village Club Series at Bates.) Watching these two perform together was also amazing.

Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires

If you ever get the chance to see Amanda be sure to go! The show will not disappoint.

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Colorado 13er: Precipice Peak

After spending so much of October immersed in my #damselNOTindistress project, I decided that it was finally time for me to get out and enjoy the last of the gorgeous fall weather that we’d been experiencing in the San Juans. Since I still wanted to have time to get back and keep working on the house, I chose Precipice Peak. It was highly appealing as a 13er that I can see from town and it’s a pretty short hike from the 4WD trailhead in the West Fork valley.

Precipice Peak

It felt so astoundingly good to be out with Sprocket after spending so much time going from work at school to work on the house.

Sprocket and Beth on the slopes of Precipice Peak

Cimarrons

I was reminded how small I feel in the outdoors and how alive that makes me feel:

Feeling small on Precipice

Sprocket on Precipice Peak

Sprocket on Precipice

Beth on Precipice

The views from the top were some of the best that I’ve seen. I could see out into Utah spotting the La Sals and the Abajos. I could see a long ways south into the San Juans, enjoying views of mountains I’d climbed: Mt. Sneffels, Uncompahghre Peak, and Courthouse.

Uncompahgre, Wetterhorn, Matterhorn

View NW to Courthouse

We made great time heading back down the slopes. Sprocket entertained me by frolicking in the alpine meadows. ♥

Sprocket on Precipice

 

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Sunday Sermon

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

Mahatma Ghandi

 

 

 

 

 

 

–Mahatma Ghandi

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