Wild Wild West: Our Utah Ski Adventure

(To note: our trip took place in late January, only a month before the Coronavirus shut down mountains, towns, many businesses and drastically changed our lives….so feel extremely lucky to have had this time!)

Living out west, deciding to head where the mountains were in reach, has been one of the best decisions we have ever made.  The joy that we both get, during all seasons, really can’t be matched and wouldn’t be possible had we not decided to take a leap of faith and pick up our life to move to Colorado. In the winter, we find ourselves giddy each time a forecast calls for the fluffy white stuff and for the past two years have bought the Ikon pass, which allows us to adventure to other mountain towns all over the state and country to explore. This year, our beloved ski crew decided to head to the mountains of Utah, where several mountains we had never experienced beckoned. We found a fabulous home at the base of Brighton ski resort to rent for the first half of our trip, where 13 of our closest friends would snuggle in to mountain living for the weekend. Mike and I had decided to extend our stay for 11 days – as I would be able to work from wherever and our Investment property was finished. During the middle of the week, I had planned to stay with a long-time friend who lived in Park City, and then a second fleet of friends would head out for another long weekend. Our mountain adventure would be epic!

Mike and I left Denver on a Thursday, early afternoon to head to Brighton, where we’d meet 13 of our closest friends. Our buddy Zach, was heading out from the east coast to ski with our crew, so we scooped him up from the airport, stayed in Salt city for the night (experiencing some of the Utah bar scene at Squatters Pub). The next morning, we had continental breakfast and fresh POW for breakfast at Alta. This mountain, with it’s jagged peaks, steep chutes, plush trees with deep, deep powder between, could not have promised more. There’s really something to experiencing a brand new mountain, one you’ve never set skis on, that amplifies your excitement, gets your adrenaline flowing. Especially with fresh snow to float around on. Our #powningtown group explored the steep, steep terrain, zigged through the trees and lapped the zero line resort all afternoon, smiles permanently fixed on our faces!

We found our way to Brighton, where our house (The Great Western) sat at the base of the mountain, for a ski in ski out treat. It wasn’t quite time to check in yet, so we headed to Molly Green’s, the Apres A-Frame mountain bar. Complete with a moose-head and waitresses with dreads, we got some beers and cheers’ed to an amazing first day. At 4pm on the dot we went over to the house to check out the digs. Literally a 30 second drive over to the house, the ski in ski out feature was super clutch! Within 30 minutes of us arriving, the rest of our Colorado crew started showing up, piling their ski gear, food and lots and lots of beer into our mountain chalet. The weekend had officially started!

That night, we feasted on a soyrizo veggie bake, got silly over a game of fishbowl & discussed which slopes we’d slay in the morning. Solitude won out and we all agreed to get up and at em’ around 8 to hit it. I had breakfast duty, so as soon as I awoke, threw in my pre-made egg bake and we hit it. The crew walked over to the Millie D lift where we were able to ski all the way from Brighton over to Solitude, where the blue bird skies and great snow kept us smiling all day. Mid-afternoon, we all met up at the lodge where snacks and beers were drank. There were 13 of us, so it was pretty impressive that for the majority of the day, we all stayed and skied together. The terrain was extremely impressive, something for everyone, and the terrain was as aggressive as you wanted it, with shoots, bumps and steeps. An awesome day had by all, with amazing weather. By early afternoon, Mike, Zach and I decided to call it and head back for some apres & hot tub goodness.

The next day we awoke early and got out in the Wasatch mountains for some back country goodness with a good friend from back east. He had lived in Utah for the past 15 years and knew the area well, plus had been a guide. Utah had very different canyons with parking lots for all the back country fanatics. We parked, booted up, and crossed the street to Mill D North Fork trail. When we got to a fork in the path, we chose to go the route less traveled and wow, it was a slick boot packed trail, that gave us a run for our money with our AT gear. Finally, we found the trail that shot up the mountain, straight up it seemed like, to extraordinary views.  The day was perfect, amazing blue-bird skies, a steep approach (about 2,000 feet of vert) and an awesome crew. In total, we got 5.35 miles in and the pow was fluffy and light. After heading back to the car, we headed to The Silver Fork Lodge and Restaurant, where beers were drank and the biggest plate of nachos were eaten.

That evening we were pretty beat, so headed to the house to hot tub, headed to the Brighton Store to check out the goods, then drank a few before hitting the hay early. The next morning, we awoke to snow, so headed into Brighton where we had fresh trees all day! I had never been to Brighton and the mountain didn’t disappoint. That night we went back to the Silverfork Lodge for this first crew’s last meal together before most headed out. It was a beautiful evening, with great friends and good food!

The next day, I had to work, so we headed to Park City where we spent the next few days with a buddy of mine who I’d been friends with since middle school. That night he took us on a night skin up Deer Valley Resort, where he told us casually ‘to duck if we saw a cat’. Yeah, it was super cool! We skinned up, trying to stay close to him (he’s fast AF!) and found ourselves at a fort tucked into a tree halfway up a run. A buddy of Patterson had built it years ago, spent every Sunday there, and it was a cherished place. Patterson fired up the small stove and we cheersed to one of the coolest dinners I’ve ever had! The night got better when after dinner we skied down into a posh lodge in Deer Valley and listened to a free concert with Young the Giant. Epic night in Park City!

The next two days were uneventful for me, as I worked, while Mike skied Deer Valley – although we did have a great dinner with Patterson’s little girl. We said our goodbyes and thank yous for letting us crash and headed into Salt Lake to finish out the weekend with the second crew! We rented a house in Salt Lake, about 40 minutes from the slopes, and it was super cute with a hot tub. And the girls who drove out had brought Winnie!!

Next few days were bluebird, full of great fun (no fresh snow) and lots of laughs. I even got to see my cousin and his kids for dinner one last time.

Looking back, now in May 2020, with the ski season cut short, this trip has new meaning to me and I appreciate the time I spent in the beautiful mountains, with the best ski crew ever. Cheers to skiing in 2021!

Adventures in Maine: The way life should be, continued

Our Maine adventure continues…

Day 5 on Lower Goose Island 

Today, Luke was on his way to spend the Labor Day weekend with us – Yay, more of the Lawrence crew! Since he lives in Boston, he left super early and made great time.

While Robin and Scott headed out to grab him from the main land, Mike and I kayaked around Lower Goose, heading counter-clockwise, towards the Goslings. The tide was going out, and the back side of the island had a number of boats docked, supposedly a party spot. We pulled up to a small beach to check the shore out, but it was a protected area for birds, so we headed out, passing the Dugas’s, our neighbors to the east.

We would take a property path hike to his compound later that afternoon and what he had created was nothing short of incredible. Paths that were covered in wood chips, there were no piles of fallen trees, as they had been put in the wood chipper. His home had solar power, built only several years ago, not several decades. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love our rustic cabins. But when we strolled past his cabins and peaked in the window at the gorgeous wood, bright and cheery kitchen with what looked like butcher block counters, it was hard not to get cabin envy.

The afternoon was spent continuing camp closing, taking down and scrubbing our gutters, storing pots and pans up in the crawl space in the kitchen, and cleaning. We were going to get lobsters and steamers that evening, so most of the crew headed out on the boat to grab lobsters.

Robin stayed back to enjoy the quiet, something that was truly unique to our precious island. We zipped around to the backside of the island, to a very bare bones, but awesome lobster joint where we got lots of good lobster and some steamers.

The guys decided to tackle the brush situation that was trickling down the side of the hill onto the beach. As trees and branches fall, or chopped down due to rot, they’re just thrown onto the pile, awaiting a good old fashion bon fire. Which is exactly what happened!

Beers were cracked and the flames flew! My Uncle Scott ended up getting attacked by a bee hive that the guys had been trying to pull into the fire, and he fell down the hill, thankfully not getting injured.

That evening we feasted inside, as the winds had changed suddenly, so it was a bit gusty and had even cooled off quite a bit. After the feast we shot some of the firecracker mortars my dad had left. A great day, filled with everything glorious Maine has to offer!

Day 6 on Lower Goose Island

The next day we woke, had a big pancake breakfast with fresh blueberry jelly my cousin had made. Fuel for the day, which was filled with more closing fun. That afternoon, we headed to Dolphin’s Marina to have a delicious lunch, gorgeous cocktails and a lovely day at sea.

Luke had to head back to Boston afterwards, so they dropped us off and we scooted around the kayak before putting it up for the winter. It was a beautiful afternoon, the grey coast of Maine whooshing by with each paddle. After our spin, we carried the kayak up and put it in the basement for the winter. Robin and Scott came back, so we hung on the porch, as the weather had turned a bit drizzly. That evening, since we had had such a late and big lunch, we munched on cheese, veggies and drank good wine. It was our last evening on the porch, so we savored it!

Day 7 on Lower Goose Island  

The sun rose on our last day in Maine and I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad, although we had had a wonderful time on the island. We spent the last day packing, sweeping our cabin, taking our shutters down, and closing up more of the main cabin. Even though the day was grey, it still held such beauty. Maine has been ingrained in my memory since I was young, and every year I get to spend time on the island, it become a more a part of me. Knowing we had to leave and I’d not set foot on the island’s soil for a full year had me a bit sad, but we had had an amazing trip, full of adventure, history (my Uncle Ted had written a biography that I read during the rainy afternoon), work, and beauty. As the Goosecraft, the boat named after my poppa, carried us back to the mainland, I waved goodbye to camp Lawrence and couldn’t wait to get back next year.

Adventures in Maine: The way life should be

Maine, the way life should be. I’ve been heading north to the land of pine and salty air since I was a baby. My great granddaddy Lawrence purchased 30 acres on Lower Goose Island, 15 miles east of the coast of Freeport Maine in Casco Bay, in 1921. And it’s held a special place in my heart since I can remember and since we’ve moved to Colorado, we’ve realized how even though it’s harder to get to, it’s something we must do every year, as my soul craves it!

This year, we headed to the Island later then years past, Labor Day, so it would just be Mike and I for half of the time, with my Aunt & Uncle joining for the Labor Day weekend. Our journey began at 4:45am the Tuesday before Labor Day, where our Uber scooted us to DIA, where we took an easy flight brought us to Boston. We rented a car, seeing Matt Murray of The Penguins in line (Mike shouted Go Flyers, so kept it classy!) and we jetted off to the Maine Beer co, one of the most delicious places on earth. The drive took a bit over two hours, not bad at all! We had only munched on nuts & plane snacks, so ordered a delicious mushroom pizza to go with our IPAs. They didn’t have any Dinner, so we ordered a Water & Wood and Mo. And oh my lord they were good! After two beers (and lots of carry out bombers!) we headed out to grocery shop for the week. You really have to meal plan when you’re heading to an island, even when you do have a beautiful boat to zip around on, it’s just not as convenient to shoot out of you forgot something. On the list: lots of veggies, black bean burgers, boat beers. Yup, that pretty much covered it!

When my poppa passed away, his kids bought a boat in his honor, keeping it docked in South Freeport Brewers’ Marina. We’ve kept a boat here for the past 30 plus years, and the convenience of carting your things right down the gang plank is equivalent to a ski in ski out condo. Nothing beats it! With the boat being new, I had to ask the dock boy which slip was ours, even though it raised his eyebrows a bit. “Hey, excuse me, I think this is our boat, so if we find the keys, we’re just gonna take it. Cool?”

Thank goodness it was the right boat and the name was a ringer: Goosecraft. That sea air, after a year away, almost made me tear up as it rushed toward me. Flaps open, boat beers in hand, we had arrived. Lower Goose is about 15 miles north east of Brewers and in the new boat, takes about 20 minutes from slip to dock. Arriving at high tide makes the carting of groceries and luggage a breeze, so a few quick trips and we were officially maniacs.

There are three sleeping cabins on the island (technically four if you count the main cabin that does have a futon and single bed in the corner): Sunrise, Sunset and the Merriman. Mike and I had never slept in the Sunrise together, although Mike had slept there about twenty two years ago when he first came up with my family for he first time. Wild!! A new bathing porch had been put on. Few years ago when a tree had fallen on it and it was the best shower I’d ever had! We picked the Sunrise to set up shop in.

We unpacked and headed down to our dock to moor the boat, just in case the seas got rough, the new boat wouldn’t slam against the dock all night. I rowed out to the mooring in the dingy and Mike scooted out in the boat. It was going to be an amazing sunset, so we moored the dingy and took the boat for a quick sunset lap. And it did not disappoint! I was so looking forward to the days that stretched ahead, full of the beauty and calmness that Lower Goose Island brings.

Sunset on Casco Bay

Day 2 on Lower Goose Island

Our first morning in Maine and Mike was up with the sun. I myself slept in until 7:30, which was so delightful seeing as I’m normally up by 6. Having set up the percolator the night before, coffee brewed within 10 minutes and can I say there’s not a better cup of coffee I’ve found in the world then one brewed on Lower Goose Island. The views from the main porch are spectacular and there’s no better way to start the day. Some fresh Maine blueberries, a broiled bagel in the new stove and we were ready to go! 

Our plan that day was to kayak to Bustins Island, one of the busiest and most populated island in Casco Bay. Having read most of my Great Granddaddy Lawrence’s diaries, I learned he had rowed to Bustin’s every morning during the summers he lived on the island to pick up milks, eggs and his mail. The bay was beautiful and the current remedy to assist our paddling, although Mike kept telling me to keep my oats down lower as the wind would blow the drip back on him. It was just shy of 2 miles and took about 45 minutes from our dock to Bustins main dock, not too bad! 

We tied the kayak around the back of the main dock, so as not to block any other boats from docking. Due to the amount of houses on Bustins, the ferry would come once a day from the main land to carry over people and the mail. Last year, we did t make it over to Bustins,  even with the close proximity to Lower Goose Island. It was nice to explore the bay.

Off to the right of the gang plank was a small outbuilding that served as protection from bad weather for those waiting for the ferry. It’s funny I had never noticed it in years past, but Maine weather can be finicky, especially on the water, so makes sense to build some protection. Around the bend was the main building on the island, which used to house a store, restaurant and post office. The post office is still up and running and our family still has a post office box. Flyers about island bike rentals, monarch butterfly preservation clubs and local painters on the mainland. A true community lived here!

We headed out counter clockwise, around the island, getting great views of the cottages on the island, which were as old as 1896! A new build full of wood got us curious, so we peaked through the windows and ended up talking to the builder. He was constructing it for someone and had worked on several others on the island. Mike let him know we’d be heading up to live on Lower Goose the summer of 1921, so if he, MAC, needed any help he’d love to work with him. He gave us a card, Cody Cottages, so we could be in touch.

The trail around Bustins passed the coolest cabins with the best views. Many had veggie gardens, which planted a seed that we’ll need a large garden for when we live on the island! It was a beautiful day, so lots of the Bustin-ers were out and about – it was the most people I had ever seen on the island ever! Our island walk took us past a new house on the island, so we peaked through the windows  and heard someone calling out. Turns out the man was the owner of a custom cottage building company. The home was gorgeous, wood every where you looked, and he had apparently done multiple cabins on Bustin’s as well as around Casco Bay…Mike got his card!

We completed the mile plus walk and got back in our kayaks to jet over to our Lower Goose. The rest of the afternoon was spent in true Maine fashion…relaxing by the dock, cooking by lantern light, and eating on the porch. A beautiful first day!  

Day 3 on Lower Goose Island
There’s something about sleeping in a cabin in Maine, in the crisp quiet air, that makes you want to never leave. Our second morning in Maine, Thursday, was just as beautiful as the first, and we both slept well and were fully rested to explore Casco Bay.

Our plan was to head to Eagle Island that morning to check out Admiral Peary’s summer home. Peary was the first to Treck to the North Pole without any aide of mechanics or technology, just a ship he had made for the icy waters and the help of the Inuits and a dog sled. His gorgeous cottage had beautiful views to the north east, water on all sides, no obstruction out any of the Windows. A really spectacular piece of property. I had been out to the island many times over the years, and not much changes. You could almost see Peary’s family sitting around the huge dinning table with the taxidermy lobster hanging in the dinning room. The original portion of the house didn’t include a kitchen and we learned that when he first built the main house and cottage, he planned to have all meals cooked and eaten in the cottage, which he learned after a few years wasn’t very practical, so built a kitchen onto the main house.
In the great room, there was a giant triad of a fireplace, with three hearths and three different types of rocks, all gathered on the island. Peary was a taxidermist, so there were all types of water birds and birds of prey, a polar bear in the replica study. The narwhal tooth hung above the window adjacent to the piano that he apparently took with him on his expedition. Upstairs rooms were cozy and quaint, almost identical to how I remember them when I was a young girl.
After getting our fill inside, we headed around the nature trails outside that weaved through beautiful gardens Mrs. Peary had planted. One trail took you along the sea coast, dipping down onto a rocky beach. It was a gorgeous Maine afternoon and we were so glad we made the trip over.

Our afternoon was wide open, so once we got dropped off by the intern park ranger, who had actually spent the previous summer in Rocky Mountain national park, we headed out towards Halfway Rock, where a lighthouse and small carriage house were the only two buildings. It was the furthest I’ve ever gone out into the wide open ocean, due to our previous boats’ capacity. Well, this boat could handle the trip and we whizzed by, rolling waves and blue skies. Nothing beats sea wind in your face!

Pauls Marina was next on the docket, for lunch and lobster. The rain was expected later that afternoon, so we thought picking out and purchasing our dinner early was the move.

My cousin Michael texted on the way back about popping over after work, so we told him to grab a lobster and head on over! The icy waters were calling our names and we put bathing suits and and swam in the icy waters in front of camp lawrence, a tradition you have to do! Thank goodness it was a warm day, the sea felt awesome and made our porch shower that much more delicious!

As we were finishing showers, we saw Michael zip up in his boat, just in time for happy hour on the porch. The evening was awesome, full of catching up, hypnotizing lobster and a beautiful sunset to close out the day. We went to bed with sunsets on our eyelids and lobsters in our bellies.

Day 4 on Lower Goose Island
Friday morning on the island and we were excited to have newcomers! Aunt Robin & Uncle Scott were headed up to close camp, so we had set an alarm to get up early and head to LLBean in the morning. After porch coffee, some trash collection to take over to the mainland, we took an early morning boat ride to dock and head to Freeport. Robin & Scott would scoop us up in the boat later, as they’d be at the marina before 10. Puttering around the huge LLBean store, we found great sales on summer stuff, boat shoes, flip flops for Mike. I even got some Christmas presents while there.

Maine Beer Company was releasing their Dinner, a delicious double IPA, so after almost 2 hours, we headed out, not without popping into the bike shop, where argot the lowdown of local mountain biking trails, along with maps of the hut system at sugar loaf, where you can bike from hut to hut. Put it on the bucket list for sure!
It was definitely beer thirty, so we headed to Maine Beer co for some delicious wood burning pizza and scrumptious beer. The place was our Mecca! We wrapped up and headed to the marina, where Robin & Scott scooted us over to LGI.

That afternoon we started closing up the Merriman, sweeping out the cabin and taking down gutters, putting on shutters and covering mattresses. We then took a property path, did some more closing in the main cabin, taking down pictures, putting away pots and pans we weren’t going to use and generally packing up a bit. It was the first time I had closed camp so it was good to see the procedures around what gets done. That evening, we had wine and a homemade vegan lasagna Robin had made, with a gorgeous sunset to wash it down.