Red Woods & Red Wine | Part 1

For as many wonderful weekend trips Matt and I get to experience here in Colorado, we had never been on a vacation just he and I. Like, a real: “we’re going to buy plane tickets and plan lodging and create an itinerary and we can do whatever our hearts desire because it’s just you and I, boo” type trip. But we amended this over Labor Day with a trip we’re affectionately referring to as Red Woods | Red Wine 2014.

As a team, Matt and I have a tendency (dare I say… talent?) for cramming as much as we can into as little a time frame as possible. And this weekend was no different. We had four days total, and determined the fairest way to prioritize our activities was to allot two days to each person. 2 days given to Matt to plan, and 2 days for me. We flew in to California, and to kick things off we headed north, close to the Oregon border, where we trekked into the Redwoods and spent the days among the giants.

Redwoods Road TripWe got in late Thursday night, and by the time we rented a car and got on the road it was after 9 p.m. … and we still had a 6 hour drive ahead of us. Matt being the gentleman he is (well, more like… Matt knowing what a monster I am when I don’t sleep), he let me grab some road trip rest while he pounded an XL Mountain Dew and put the pedal to the metal all night long. When I woke up, we were driving along the northern California coast, through the early morning fog. It was quite the treat to be greeted by the lush landscape.

We hadn’t expected to be driving along so close to the shore, so despite some chilly early-morning temperature, we were compelled to pull over and run up to the water. It also provided the less-than-perfect opportunity to change into our hiking gear for the day, which involved Matt stripping down to his skimpies on the side of the road as traffic whooshed by. I kept my goodies to myself and changed in the car.


IMG_2345IMG_2348Upon arriving at the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park we were so excited that we jumped out of the car and took pictures inside the first tree we saw. You’ll notice I hadn’t even tied my shoes before hopping inside.

IMG_2390 IMG_2420 IMG_2427 IMG_2465I realize there are a lot of pictures of trees here. Having experienced them, I find them incredible and worth sharing, but I’ll spare you of ALL the bark-based photography, and just include my favorites. On our first hike of the day we ran into the Boy Scout Tree, a massive behemoth of  a tree in an old growth forest, just off the main path. We tried our best to demonstrate just how large and daunting the size of this guy was, but it just doesn’t do it as much justice as being there… which is something I can say about all of these.


I guess to put it somewhat into perspective, Matt’s about 6’2″ and his wing span is… whatever the wing span of a 6’2″ dude is.

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I give everyone permission to make fun of Matt for his sad faces and “dejected middle schooler” appearance in each of these photos. In his defense, he was really overwhelmed with the awesomeness we encountered. And this… was just the first part of the first day. Matt had planned wisely.


Semi-Hiking Mt. Huron

Although my bum old lady knees kept me from completing several of the hikes I wanted to this summer, that doesn’t mean I didn’t try. Well… at least it doesn’t mean that I didn’t go along for the ride. Late July Matt set his sites on Mt. Huron, at 14,003 foot peak just outside of Buena Vista and Granite, Colorado. While he got up at sunrise to set out for the summit, I slept in an extra two hours (maybe the only silver lining of these knee problems, if it can even be considered a silver lining) before attempting whatever portion of the hike I could do before my knees started to hurt.

I wasn’t sure how far I’d make it, but as it turns out, it wasn’t far. I got about a mile before the throbbing began and I made the decision to sit and wait in the sun until Matt started his decent and reached me. But, what I did get to see was absolutely breathtaking. What pains me so much about having to stop, is Matt reached the peak and told me it was the most beautiful view of any 14er he has climbed. #fomo #megafomo

When I’m sorted I’ll have to go back to see for myself.

Here’s the view we were met with driving in the night before:

Mt Huron Drive IMG_2115 IMG_2120

It was a gorgeous day – maybe the best weather I experienced all summer. Which obviously completely rubbed in the fact that I couldn’t fully participate. But I got to enjoy the coolness of the tree cover and climb over several creeks and brooks that lined the trail.



I realize these just look like big rocks, but their colors and their imposing size were something to take in on a summer Saturday.





Don’t let my smile fool you, I was saddened on the news of the views from the summit. But I guess it’s not a huge surprise. Fortunately my discovery of newly bloomed wildflowers and their bumble bee counterparts colored the mood. And then of course there’s the photo of the victor post mountain conquering.

It’s also worth noting that the drive to the trailhead is full of fantastic Colorado moments. From killer camp spots – to historical ghost towns that used to be booming mining metropolises – to a crystal blue lake that was incredible for hawk-spotting, the trek is worth the views.


Mount Massive & Mountain Goats

April and May this year were on the chilly side, and June was downright rainy. It’s an understatement to say the weather this summer has been off, and between wet weekends and some knee problems for Matteo, our summer hiking season is off to a late start. We hope to remedy that this weekend, with an aim to climb Mt. Elbert in the Sawatch Range on Friday.

The last 14er we conquered was also in the Sawatch Range: Mt. Massive. The peak of Mt. Massive actually overlooked Mt. Elbert, and if the views from Elbert – which I believe is the highest 14er peak in Colorado – are anything like Mt. Massive’s, then we have a reason to climb.

Massive was the last 14er we did last year in late August, and despite an early start we didn’t reach above tree line levels until after the early afternoon clouds began rolling in. Fortunately, they were something to look at.

Clouds on Mt Massive.jpg

Cloud Cover Mt Massive.jpg

Unfortunately, they had the ability to throw us off completely on how close to the peak we actually were. Several breaks ensued.

Mt. Massive Resting.jpg


Mt. Massive is the second highest 14er, and the trail begins in the lush San Isabel National Forest. The trail is 8 miles round trip (climbing from the trailhead at 10,500 feet to the peak at 14,421 feet), and the first 1.25 miles you wander through bushes along a river through a peaceful forest. A scenic start to an all around scenic hike.

Peak of Mt Massive 14er.jpg

The obligatory photo at the peak.

More Wildlife Mt Massive.jpg

This hike was a little unique compared to other 14ers I’ve done – specifically due to the amount of wildlife we encountered along the trail.

While resting and refueling at the peak I noticed that we were being approached by a mountain goat – I’m guessing it was a nanny lady-goat from the horn size, but what do I know – and her baby. Listen, I know pretty much all wildlife Hulks out when they have babies around, and I have to say, upon seeing these two bounding up the peak like it was no big deal and approaching us without fear, I was more than a little nervous. I mean, look how tiny the baby is.

Some folks from out of state were on the peak with us, and actually started moving toward the pair – which I tried to express wasn’t a great idea. They got the picture when momma goat juked at them full-speed as Matt and I cautiously were backing away. But not before we got a few pictures to document this special encounter.

Mountain Goats Mt Massive.jpg Defensive Daddy Mt Massive.jpg

I never cease to be amazed at the things we get to do with our weekends in Colorado. Although incredibly unconditioned and starting my hiking season well into the year, the prospect of gorgeous views and encounters like this will hopefully propel me to the peak this weekend. God speed to myself and my fellow out-of-shape adventurers.


As I mentioned, last summer, I completed my first 14er when I hiked to the top of Mt. Democrat.

Democrat is part of the “Decalibron” trail – a trail that passes through the peaks of four 14ers: Mt. Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross. We went back this past weekend to tackle the rest of Decalibron. #Calibron

I have no idea how long it was, or how much elevation we gained, but I CAN tell you that I’ve slept soundly the last three nights, and my legs are just now recovered from being tired tired tired. I will also note that It’s a very strange feeling to be what I can only describe as “Mountain Hopping” – knocking out three in a day. A strange feeling, indeed.

1 - Cameron's Up there! 1 - Climbing Cameron 1 - View from Cameron1 - Cameron

View from the top of Mt. Cameron! Now, off to Lincoln. This particular hike is GREAT for anyone who easily loses their way on trails. The entire way the trail is very distinct and visible. See below – from the top of Cameron you can see your way all the way to the next peak!2 - Headed to Lincoln2 - trail to lincoln

2 - Mt Lincoln Seal

At the top of 14ers there SHOULD be geological markers (if you can find them). I was only able to track down the marker at the top of Lincoln. I love them so so much. It’s like finding a little piece of treasure where you’d least expect it. 2 - Lincoln Summit TWO! Summitted Lincoln! And off to Bross…

3 - Trail to Bross

Again, off to Bross following a totally defined trail. Check it out moving all the way off to the left.

photo-83 - BrossFinally made it, and not a moment too soon. Gorgeous. Exhausting.

3 - Mt Bross Summit3 - Bross Summit 4 - Long road down

The one really difficult portion of this hike was the way back down. Just when my legs thought they couldn’t take anymore, I forced them to do more. Returning to the base down the back of Mt. Bross you follow a trail that’s under reconstruction – i.e. you follow a trail that is loose rock, narrow, and pretty steep for a really, really long time. The dogs were barking.

4 - Nearing the bottomView from the bottom! Phew! Glorious glorious flat land!

dryer thoughts

Last summer, Matt and I hiked Mt. Democrat, the first 14er on the Decalibron trail – which ultimately leads you to the summit of four 14ers. It was my first 14er, so we skipped the final three, and took Peak 1 as a well-earned victory.

This summer, we’ve made it a goal to tackle the last three, and have planned to do so for like, the last 4 weekends. But, without fail, at the end of every week the weather in Alma shows nothing but thunderstorms lasting the entire weekend. So we’ve skipped it… until now.

Matt is determined to finish Decalibron this weekend no matter what. And guess what, it’s predicted to thunderstorm all weekend again. When I told him the news last night, he told me (in fewer words) to pack a raincoat. Hrumph.

So, I’m asking everyone to send dry thoughts this way. Not for forever (because we sure do need all this good good water), but just for Saturday morning, to keep my tootsies dry and my body unelectrocuted.



steamboat springs water weekend

In true summer form, life is slammed.

That didn’t stop us for getting up to Steamboat Springs last weekend for our friends’ annual “Structure” party (aka, a party at an unfinished structure that they are building – that is super impressive and far beyond any construction endeavor I’d ever consider embarking on).

We got in late Friday, and spent Saturday in a state of utter relaxation. After a much needed snooze, we gobbled up “breakfast” around 11 a.m. at BeauJo’s pizza. You’ve heard of New York style pizza, Chicago style pizza, and now you can add to your list Colorado style pizza. True story. I think “Colorado style” can be described as braided crust, dipped in Colorado honey. It’s good. Regardless, they (carefully! read: no cross contamination) make a great gluten free pizza, and we happily partook in the Hawaiian version this particular day.


Then we headed up to Fish Creek Falls – an extremely gentle, “well trafficked” hike that leads to an impressive waterfall. We spent the majority of the day lounging in the water before heading to explore downtown Steamboat.

Warning: lots of Penny pics to follow…

Greenfish creek falls photoObligatory posed photo with Penny in front of the falls.

WildflowersYep. More wildflowers. #cantstopwontstop

4Colorado Waterfallup close and personalUp close and personal with the Fish Creek Falls.

7 a naturalPenny is NOT a natural swimmer (but I think she likes it). Note the amusement on everyone’s faces as she struggles (rude).

Witness here her absolute state of panic as she gets help through the “rapids” (worth it, I think, to click through to the bigger picture to get the full force of the expression):

8 Pure Panic8 Kickin It9 Exhausted, guysExhausted, guys.

Sunburns acquired, we headed to downtown Steamboat for gelato, shopping, and margarita drinking/strawberry eating by the river (not pictured, but certainly enjoyed).

11 downtown10 Steamyboat11 1312 pig penPig pen… get it? No? Fine. I do what I want.

To push relaxation to a whole new level, we tubed the Yampa River on Sunday. Apparently this is just something Steamboatians “do” on their weekends. My only experiences tubing prior to this were snake-infested on the Black River in Missouri (no bueno). Tubing reaches a whole new level when you’re surrounded by gorgeous green mountains and don’t have to worry about being kidnapped by toothless hillbillies (Karie, you know what I’m talking about…).


If there was a rock, I crashed into it. Well worth the bruises.


And finally, what’s an amazing weekend of recoup without a gorgeous drive home? Can’t wait to get back and do some further Steamboat exploring – a trip, I think, to be saved for crispy crispy fall…

16 Road Home 17 Home

beyond the wildflowers

The main purpose for visiting Crested Butte was to peep the wildflowers, but we did some other fun things along the way.

Cottonwood Pass

Big Horn SheepThe Cottonwood Pass is rarely open, and we seized the moment. An excellent choice – the drive was peaceful, green, and cut 40 miles off our trip. We even ran into some sheep friends hanging in the river.

Downtown Crested Butte

Downtown Crested Butte 2Our first day we spent some time exploring downtown Crested Butte. Even in the most hipster parts of Denver, I have never seen so many bearded folk on bikes.

Most enjoyable, we popped into the Montanya Rum Distillery for some spicy samples and fresh, tropical drinks.



Montanya Rum

Montanya Tasters

rumAfter a morning hike through Judd Falls, we got ambitious and decided to tackle the peak of Mt. Crested Butte. It was late in the day, so instead of hiking from the base, we decided to take the lift halfway up. While paying for our lift tickets, the woman working told Matt, “It’s already 1:15, by time you get off the lift it will be 1:45, and the lift stops running at 2:45. You won’t be able to make it up to the top and back down in an hour. It’s not possible. You’re going to have to tack on an extra 2 miles to get down, but good luck.”

I knew the moment we got off the lift we’d be running. Not a great move to tell Matt he can’t do something. I instantly saw in his eyes, “challenge accepted.”

Up to Mt Crested Butte

Climbing Mt Crested ButteI was right. Dude made me work. So much so that I completely lost my breath and was seeing spots and started, essentially, crying. Girl’s gotta get in better shape. (this is me fake smiling because I’m so tired at this point – taken by Matt who was light years ahead of me)

Carins on Mt Crested Butte

man vs wildman vs. wild

View from the Summit

Mt Crested Butte SummitGrizwold view from the top. Snap a couple of pictures, then “Gotta go!”

Also, get yourself to the top of Mt. Crested Butte. For real. You’ll have an incredible 360 view of gorgeous mountains.

Oh, p.s. we made it back to the lift at 2:43 p.m. Good work, team.

brewery in crested butteFor putting me through momentary mountain-running hell, I was treated with a round of tasters at the Eldo Brewery and Tap Room – and by treated I mean, this whole tray of tasters ran us 4 bones. Their, uh, slogan (?) is “A Sunny Place for Shady People.” You’ll find this to be a true story – good beer, strange place. Check it out.

Also check out that look on Matt’s face… Since he found out he has Celiac Disease, I think this number one struggle and frustration has been cutting IPAs out of his diet. Being in a brewery is a major temptation – and borderline torture – for this guy (although, full disclosure, the IPA sample seen here was fully consumed by him, not without severe repercussions), but I have to give him props for his willingness to still accompany me.

photoThree little indians wrapped up in a tent to end the weekend.