Dexter Creek Run

Sprocket and I inched our way out of our summer doldrums with a run-hike up Dexter Creek trail last week. I’d muddled through summer with anxiety levels that regularly crept higher and higher but I just kept pushing through and working more hours. When I reached the end of my double shifts, I knew it was time to get back on the trail.

Mining ruins

The first half mile was a bit of a grind. It was up hill, I was tired, and it was a bit late in the morning for it to be nice and cool. After that first bit though, I found my stride, we jogged the rolling hills and hiked the steep ones. I marveled at the mountains above us while Sprocket galloped along the trail.

Dexter Creek drainageAfter a couple of miles, we came to the Wilderness boundary and decided to head back down the hill; I was well aware that we’d likely feel just this little bit in the morning.

Uncompaghre Wilderness

Back in the car, on our way down the hill I spotted this lovely looking little pool. We stopped and I took a refreshing mini-ice bath before going back to town.

Dexter Creek

I’m so glad to be back on the trail. It was almost immediately that I felt back to being myself. The anxiety melted away and the joy of the mountains happened. It’s totally magic.

Mt. Rainier National Park: Reflection Lake and Pinnacle Peak Trail

My sister and I had been scheming to get the boys out hiking during my trip home for months. When the day finally came around we had two of the three boys and got a much later start than we’d hoped but the webcams were showing absolutely gorgeous bluebird skies at Mount Rainier National Park so off we went.

Once we drove into the park, I woke up both boys from their naps so we could start looking at the views as we drove up to Reflection Lake. Will, the youngest, continually exclaimed “Look at the huge mountain!” This was not reserved for the grand dame, Rainier, but also bestowed on craggy Tatoosh Range peaks, and wooded unnamed peaks. His excitement was adorable and we all happily spilled out of the car and ate our sandwiches looking at Reflection Lake.

Reflection lake

Reflection lake

After a few photo opportunities, we headed up the Pinnacle Peak Trail. I never dreamed we’d make it to the saddle (okay, I dreamed about getting there and then ditching Emily and Kevin with the kids while I summited) but I was so impressed with the boys for making it almost a mile up the trail. 3 year old Will lead the charge up the hill on his first hike ever!

Heading up the trail

Will on the trail

Trail

Rainier mostly was out of the clouds for us and it was pretty hard to not just stare instead of climbing. Thankfully, our whole (tired) way down, she was in our faces.

Lady Rainier

I waved at Pinnacle putting it aside for another day with different goals. Today was about being outside with family.

Pinnacle Peak

Hiking with my nephew

Kevin Jr. and I even got in some bonus “scrambling” while we waited for his younger brother to descend the trail.

Beth and Junior

After the hike, we headed to Paradise for a quick swing through the visitor center and gift shop. Settled back in the car, it was clear that all five of us had enjoyed our day. There was hand holding hiking, exclamations of joy, and laughter disproportionate to our less than two miles traveled.

Hiking with nephews

 

Last Dollar Mountain

I had Tuesday off and I had grand plans of climbing a 13er and enjoying the day with Sprocket. I slept though two alarms.

Rather than be frustrated at getting too late of a start to do what I’d planned, I quickly made a new plan, one that perhaps better acknowledged my deep weariness but also nodded to my need for some mountains. We drove to the top of Last Dollar Road and then made our way to the top of Last Dollar Mountain, 11,120′.

Last Dollar Road

The hike was short, just about a half mile to the top, and although steep by non-San Juan standards, we fairly easily attained the ridge. My pup and I spent about twenty minutes marveling at the Wilson group, smiling at the sound of an airplane leaving Telluride beneath us, and just having a little cuddle.

Sprocket on Last Dollar Mountain

Wilson Group

Hi Telluride

Our summit wasn’t anything overly grand and RuthXJ did most of the work but it was exactly what I needed to remind me of just why I live in Ridgway.

Beth and Sprocket

Cuddles

 

Last Dollar Mountain

Ouray Hiking: Abrams Mountain

Abrams Mountain is visible from Ridgway, perched right above the town of Ouray. At 12,801′, it is disproportionately prominent in the skyline to its size when compared with other peaks in the Sneffels range. I’ve been up to the Brown Mountain ridge a couple of times but I’ve never hiked it all the way out to the summit of Abrams. (Abrams’s summit it hidden by the tree in the left third of the photo below.)

River views

After work yesterday, Sprocket and I went to the river so that he could frolic and swim. I threw the stick for him and laughed as my retriever would get the stick out of the water but would not bring it back to me. He, on the other hand, would come dripping wet and look at me expectantly. Eventually, I noticed there were hardly any clouds in the sky and it only took me a second of deliberation before we were headed back to the house to get Ruth.

Red Mountains

The climb from the Brown Mountain jeep road up to the saddle between 13er Brown Mountain and the ridge to Abrams is steep. It took me 25 minutes to attain the ridge in just a half mile (maybe I can improve on it another day when I head to Brown?). Our light was fading rapidly but there was still enough light to make our way along the sometimes rocky and sometimes grassy ridge.

Brown Mountain hike

The ridge was more complex than it had looked on a map and I made a mental note to stay on the absolute crown of the ridge on the way back to the Jeep. Heading downslope too early would be a huge mistake since only one drainage would take me back where I needed to go, any others would either cliff me out or drop me far from my car.

Mount Abrams hike

As we made our way out to the summit, I chuckled a bit at myself. I was functioning on four hours of sleep and by all logical measures, where I should have been was in bed. Instead, it was 9:30 and I was still hiking away from the car. I’d already decided, however, that addressing my mountain deficit was way more important than my sleep deficit.

Sunset from Brown Mountain saddle

Brown Mountain Ridge

Summit of Abrams from the RidgeSadly, my iPhone was no help in capturing the beauty that was hiking the last bit to the summit in the almost total dark. We summited without headlamp and without a moon as the last streaks of sunset faded over the Sneffels Range and Log Hill Mesa. The wind was blowing but it was warm and I briefly regretted not having a sleeping bag to stay and wait for sunrise. Sprocket and I just sat together as the darkness became complete. I finally felt like I was breathing easy. We could see the lights of Ouray, Ridgway, and all the way up to Montrose. The Milky Way was coming out.

Sunset streaks

Knowing that I had plenty to do in the coming days and a long hike back down the ridge plus the drive down the mountain, we didn’t linger too long.

Summit Selfies

I regret nothing.

Dallas Trail Escape

Sprocket is really bearing the brunt of me working a ton of hours so when I got off at 6pm one evening last week, we headed up County Road 9 to take a short hike on the Dallas Trail.

Ruth XJ and Mears Peak

Beth and Sprocket on the Dallas Trail

From the minute we pulled into Box Factory Park, this cheesy grin stuck itself to my face and didn’t go away for a long time. The air smelled absolutely amazing, the rain seemed to be holding off behind the Sneffels Range, and the wildflowers are out in force.

Wildflowers

Sprocket

Beth and Sprocket

Sprocket loves our hiking runs where he sniffs his way up slopes and careens down the hills with his ears and tail whipping all over the place.

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Sneffels Range

Dallas Trail Views

Hayden Peak

Meadows and mountains

I think the two of us definitely needed that decompression time. I’m going to make a lot bigger effort to take advantage of all the hikes that are so close to me during these precious chunks of time.

To top it all off, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset on our way back to town:

Sunset

Sneffels Range Sunset

Sunset

Green Mountain Trail Run (Hike?)

I’ve been working my tail off but last week, I didn’t work until early evening so Sprocket and I headed out to savor summer a little bit. It was warm but not near as warm as it’s been this past week so we headed to the Stealey Mountain Trail to do some exploring. The start of the trail was pretty flat so I made a bit of an impulsive decision to start running.

Chimney Rock

Less than a mile from the car, the elastic fell off my braid so I was rocking the long hair down which was hot. Sprocket seemed to be enjoying the run so we kept on going.

Happy Selfie

We took a little bit of the long way around which opened up views to the Sneffels Range and Uncompahgre as the trail trended downhill.

San Juans

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As we doubled back to the east, Courthouse mountain dominated the skyline. Our pace slowed a bit as we started to move up hill but we were totally just out enjoying the day.

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The highlight of Sprocket’s day was crossing a couple of streams that were low enough to allow him to just splash around and cool off a bit.

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We tried to find a pack trail that was supposed to take a very direct route up to the saddle but it just seemed to be gone. It was pretty steep and starting to get hot so we just took it slow and savored the views back towards Castle Rock:

Views

We finally rejoined the quad trail route and made the final push to the summit of Green, or Stealey Mountain. The summit was heavily treed so there weren’t a whole lot of views but the green and the sun was heavenly.

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Handsome baby

Not too shabby, SP, not too shabby:

Hike + Trail run

Twin Peaks Trail

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting The Bro’d Trip‘s Justin and Adam for a few days. I’ve known Justin via the internet for a few years but I interacted with Adam for the first time as he stepped out of their rental RV. Justin and Adam are traveling the country for a year in their Sprinter van but when there was a valet company … incident, they continued on in the RV. (Happily they’re back in Arizona to retrieve their van now!)

As we all know, I’ve been working a lot so I wasn’t the best host. Fortunately, the guys had some work to do so they availed themselves of all the best work spaces in Ridgway (Provisions, Cimarron Books & Coffee, and the lovely Ridgway Public Library). Life on the road can’t always be pretty views; I well know the busy life of a traveling blogger!

The Brod Trip at work

Sunday afternoon, however, I pretty much insisted that we all get out and do some adventuring. While they’d taken Sprocket to the reservoir while I was at work, I couldn’t let them not get into the mountains while they were here! Sprocket was clearly happy to be on the road and quickly abandoned me to hop into “his” spot in the front of the RV.

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I always struggle with where to take people hiking when they visit me since most of our trails around here are pretty darn steep so combined with elevation most of my guests really struggle. (Have a Ridgway-Ouray area hike that doesn’t kill people but also shows off the mountains? Let me know!!!) We went to Twin Peaks trail because the views are pretty darn amazing but there is also some pretty good shade. It’s steep but there’s also the option to bail and do the Perimeter Trail. My guests elected to continue up the “steep and difficult trail” route towards the summit and I was more than happy to oblige.

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I’m pretty sure I hiked the whole time with a really dopey smile plastered on my face because these mountain views just do not ever get old. I’m totally happy to just stare out at them. Sometimes Sprocket is a jerk and whines at slow people but I really am just happy to be outside.

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Hi, Ouray! You’re really quite pretty.

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I think Sprocket was pretty happy to be outside checking out the views.

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We weren’t able to scramble up to the true summit (to my chagrin) since it is on a sort of separated knob with a really exposed climb to the very top. We all hung out on the almost-summit and enjoyed being surrounded by mountains. After we couldn’t handle the hunger anymore, we jogged our way down the mountain and headed to the Adobe Inn for dinner.

Herman Gulch Hike

My next goal for our little roadtrip was Pettingell Peak (13,553′) just off of I-70 near the Eisenhower Tunnel. Pettingell is the highpoint of Grand County and I was itching to give it a try. Unfortunately, Sprocket seemed a little bit tired when we got to 12,100′ above Herman Lake and I wasn’t super comfortable with going up the steep snow slope (especially since Sprocket has a bad habit of rolling on snow slopes). Not really feeling up to pushing it, I decided to turn back.

The day, despite the lack of a summit, was glorious. It was beautifully sunny and we had the whole basin all to ourselves. I am so excited that it’s summer and is alpine time!

Herman Gulch

Herman Gulch

Sprocket in Herman Gulch

Hiking with Sprocket

Rocky Mountain views

Views south through Herman Gulch

Pikes Peak & Devils Playground: El Paso & Teller County Highpoints

The main goal of our roadtrip was to start checking off some peaks on the County Highpoint list again. I hadn’t gotten one since summiting Bushnell back in March so it was high time to make progress on the goal. Since this time of year is a little tough in terms of access, I had limited peaks to choose from and decided to go ahead and drive up Pikes Peak since I would not only grab the El Paso County Highpoint on the summit but also the Teller County Highpoint, Devils Playground along the way.

Pikes Peak Toll Booth

We arrived at the toll booth quite awhile before they opened but happily passed the time chatting with some other people in line. I even made some coffee on the stove in the back of the XJ for the drive. I snapped a couple of shots of the mountain going down the road but most of them turned out really well framed just like this one:

Pikes Peak

When we left the toll booth, they’d said that because of high winds on the summit, the road was closed at mile 16 although they were fairly confident that wind speeds would drop and we could continue up at some point. I wasn’t too upset since mile 16 is where Devils Playground was located. We arrived and immediately started up the small slope. Sprocket was delighted to be playing in the snow. He ran right up to the summit and stood on the rocks and waited for me. Clearly, my dog knows what’s up. Teller County marked my 46th Colorado County Highpoint!

Devils Playground from the road

Devils Playground Summit

View from Devils Playground

With perfect timing, the road opened all the way to the Pikes summit when we were just below the Devils Playground summit. I had so many good laughs watching SP frolic his way back down to the Jeep. He definitely knows how to have fun.

Sprocket on Devils Playground

Just a couple minutes up the road, we reached the summit, my 47th county highpoint in Colorado! It was pretty windy so we didn’t stick around too long before heading back down the mountain.

Pikes Peak Summit

 

 

Running & Maintaining My Sanity

Every week a new article about how exercise and the outdoors help us feel happier. We retweet the articles, share them on our Facebook pages, and think to ourselves “I didn’t really need a study to tell me that.”

FS 105

But the minute life gets busy, exercise and adventures are the first thing to get set aside. When there are deadlines looming and to-do lists a mile long “I’ll do it later” turns into “I’m too tired, maybe there will be time tomorrow” and then tomorrow fills up and before you know it, weeks have gone by.

In the midst of my blitz to the end of my teaching program and the end of the school year I’ve let my fitness regimen lag a little bit but I haven’t let things go entirely—and the fact is that I can’t. I feel a little bit strange about this (re)realization. It’s nothing new to me that my mood is immensely better, that I’m more efficient at home and at work and just  a generally happier person to be around when I take the time to workout but I haven’t quite made peace with that yet.

I require exercise to be a functional adult.

Sitting at my desk last week towards the end of the day, I could feel this unspecified dread bubbling up within me. I was caught up on my teaching program requirements, only a normal amount behind on my grading, and my belongings were well on their way to being packed and moved to Ridgway. And yet: this weird, depressed, anxious, sad sort of feeling permeated around me and I didn’t want to teach or accomplish anything. I debated whether I could just spend the evening in bed cuddling with Sprocket.

Happy dog

At home, knowing the answer to “Can I really just be lazy tonight?” was a resounding NO, I changed into my running clothes. “Just do two miles,” I told myself. “You’ll feel better.” Just shy of two miles in the damp spring air, it all clicked and I changed my route to add another three. My mental clarity returned and the run felt good.

I have accepted rationally that I need the run, the yoga, the strength and core work. I need it to be the happy friend, teacher, daughter, co-worker, granddaughter, sister, aunt, and stranger that I want to be. Can I function without exercise? Sure, but not at the level I want to. Mentally, I feel almost defeated by this realization. Knowing is power, yes, but I’m not sure that I feel okay knowing that my grasp on happiness is as tenuous as that.

“At least it’s not drugs!” I think. I ponder the intersection of endorphins and the self-confidence that has grown in my body’s abilities (and, if I’m being honest, at least a little in its appearance). There is no sweeping epiphany though, no “This is how you live your best life.” Instead, there is a quiet knowing that I need that time for myself to be me and a searching for acceptance of that fact.

Grand Mesa