holiday

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Distillery

Jalepenos

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.

crested beauty

With a strict fire ban in place around the majority of Colorado for the Independence Day weekend (aka, no fireworks), Matt and I headed to Crested Butte to get our color fill from the wild flowers. I had read that Crested Butte is the Colorado capital for wildflowers, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to be greeted with so many and of so many varieties. They only last for a moment or two each year, and I am so grateful that we got to witness them in full bloom.

Holy WildflowersGothicMatt had read that the best place to see the wild flowers in action was on a trail to Judd Falls. To get to Judd Falls you travel through the creepiest little town I’ve ever been in – Gothic. If anyone knows anything about Gothic, I’d love to be enlightened. To me, it feels for sure like it’s either the location of a cult or the set of the Truman Show.

Judd FallsWe camped at the trailhead to Judd Falls our first night in Crested Butte. Right outside of Gothic there are loads of camp sites that require a fee. It was a holiday weekend, so as you can imagine almost all of the sites were full. That being said, even if they were open, we wouldn’t have stayed there. One of the stipulations of camping with Matt is we never allowed to pay to camp… apparently on principal. Also apparently this is god’s country, and we should be able to camp wherever we want.

Somehow, he always manages to find a place to set up camp at no cost… even if it means we’re setting up in the dark. It’s a characteristic I admire.

Anyway, we (maybe illegally? I don’t think so… but maybe) set up camp at the trailhead. Hooooowever, imaginations are strong with this crew, and talk of bears and mountain lions (paired with Penny’s perked ears and protective instincts igniting) did us a disservice. Moments after falling asleep, I thought I heard growling in the woods. I sat up to hear better, and woke everyone else up in the process. It was overwhelmingly scary for whatever reason (ahem, prospects of being eaten), and the executive decision was made to relocate to the car. We frantically started moving our supplies from the tent to the car, and by we, I mean Matt. Crippled by fear, I was walking the same pillow back and forth from the tent to the car, car to tent. Thanks Matt for getting us relocated safely – sorry I’m so scared of bears.

Judd Falls159Wildflowers are much better than terrifying animals that want to eat you.

wildflower 4wildflowers 1wildflower 2wildflowers 2133 (2)Wildflower CapitalHorses in wildflower pasture

fire hike finale

Despite the shorter work week flying by, I’m still wishing for extended Memorial Day vacation days. I just love that summer is here and I live in a place where new adventures are ready to be embarked upon every weekend – every day if I didn’t have “work” standing in the way. Oh to win the lottery…

Monday holidays are the best, because you feel great all day knowing that you’re supposed to be working, but instead get a free relaxation pass. Matt and I were hurting from our trip up the Manitou Incline (him more than me due to the busted knee and elbow that followed his “parkour” mishap), but we wanted to do something productive. So, we traveled 10 miles south of Sedalia to the Devil’s Head Fire Lookout.

Just 2.8 miles round trip with a 950 ft. elevation gain, the Devil’s Head trail is a lovely way to spend a few hours. The trail itself is wide and lined with tall Aspen and Pine trees. Once you get to the top there is an open space to enjoy a picnic and soak up some sun rays for a while.

There’s also a (terrifying – holy cow is it high) staircase that leads up to the only fire lookout in Colorado that is staffed by the National Forest Service. Climb up to the lookout for a trip down the spot’s memory lane, to meet the rad ranger who has spent 29 years of his life up there – peeping for fires every 15 minutes – and for a view that spans 100 miles in all directions.

All in all, it was a great way to spend a lazy day and to close out a wonderful Colorado holiday weekend.

Don't let the name fool you - this is a wonderful, relaxing hike appropriate for everyone.

Don’t let the name fool you – this is a fun hike appropriate for all.

A shaded, tree-lined trail. Perfect for the pair that had one too many Memorial Day cocktails the night before... ahem...

A shaded, tree-lined trail. Perfect for the pair that had one too many Memorial Day margaritas the night before… ahem…

The Ranger's cabin. A quaint spot that has seen some rockin evening fires. And some overly large cougars.

The Ranger’s cabin. A quaint spot that has seen some toasty evening fires. And some overly large cougars, apparently.

Impressed with the historical significance and the stunning views of Colorado.

Impressed with the historical significance and the stunning views of Colorado.

We were here.

We were here.

Dedicated to the cause - for 29 years.

Dedicated to the cause – for 29 years.

And... the obligatory posed photo atop of the world. Pikes Peak is somewhere back there I hear...

And… the obligatory posed photo atop the world. Pikes Peak is somewhere back there I hear…

I’m kicking myself for not taking a photo of the staircase up to the lookout. I was so scared coming down it that my legs nearly stopped working, and shook underneath me the entire way to the bottom. I suppose you’ll just have to go experience it for yourself and report back.

part two : manitou

Why is it that weekends are never long enough? Even though mine was four days, I still would love two or three more. Alas, back to work we go, but fortunately I have some wonderful moments to reflect on.

After returning to Denver Saturday, Matt and I treated ourselves to a delicious dinner at Izakaya Sushi Den on South Pearl Street. Oh, Izakaya, you never disappoint. Gorging on sushi and wine was the perfect way to unwind after a somewhat frustrating (albeit, beautiful and memorable) camping trip. I once again – and again leading to crippling guilt – poisoned Matt and fed him sushi with gluten in it. On accident, I swear, but it never makes the guilt any less. We’re still figuring out the whole celiac thing, and I hate when these slip ups happen – for the sake of his poor tummy.

A lovely open air patio to spend an evening eating tasty everythings on.

A lovely open air patio to spend an evening enjoying tasty everythings.

This makes my mouth water just looking at it. Please note the spicy tuna gluten culprit top-right. Sorry, Matt.

This makes my mouth water just looking at it. Please note the spicy tuna gluten culprit top-right.

Although all the hikes we originally had planned on doing over the weekend were covered in snow, Matt came up with a fabulous game plan, and Sunday we headed to Manitou Springs to embark on the Manitou Incline.

It’s a popular endeavor, but if you’re unfamiliar, this is one challenging (but doable!) hike – in my opinion, at least. It’s only about 0.9 miles to the top, but with inclines as steep as 68% (gaining over 2,000 vertical feet in under one mile), I can safely say I struggled through it. The incline is located just outside of Colorado Springs where the Air Force Academy is, and there were some incredibly fit fellas that sprinted up and down that thing. I take solace in the amount of people stopping to gasp for breath just like me.

Daunting at the bottom, gorgeous at the top, fulfilling to say I’ve completed.

Manitou Incline

My view from the bottom. Preparing for the dirt, sun, and loss of breath to come.

Manitou Incline Colorado Springs

The holiday weekend crowd was rough. The incline was just made legal in January 2013, so it’s a popular spot right now. I’d recommend going early to fight the crowds AND the heat. We got a late start around 10:30 a.m.

And here we are at the top! It took us just over an hour, but we did it.

Celebrating the victory on the trail back to the bottom.

Celebrating the victory on the trail back to the bottom.

A word to the wise - pretending to be a parkour master moments after finishing the Manitou Incline may lead to serious bloody injuries... just saying.

A word to the wise – pretending to be a parkour master moments after finishing the Manitou Incline may lead to several bloody injuries… just saying.

The gorgeous view on the trail back to the bottom. Don't forget your sunscreen!

The gorgeous view on the trail back to the bottom. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

buena vista bust

I took Friday off of work to get a jump start on Memorial Day weekend fun. Matt and I headed up to Turquoise Lake in Leadville to set up camp, but were met with what looked like the scene in The Lion King when Scar and the hyenas took over the pride land. That is to say, it was barren and utterly depressing. Hardly any water in that beautiful lake! So we ventured south to Buena Vista for the night. Unfortunately, again, all the hikes we wanted to do are covered in snow because of a ton of late snowfall. So we’ve retreated to Denver for the time being to regroup and re-strategize our weekend plans. Here’s to part two of the weekend!

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almost here

Too excited to sleep!

Memorial Day is nearly here! And with that marks the beginning of my camping and hiking season. Matt and I have spent tons of time lately mapping out the summer – all the places we want to visit, hikes we want to at least try, and adventures we’re hoping to experience.

Pumped. See you next week, Utah!

Almost There – The Muir Project from The Muir Project on Vimeo.