Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Everyone knows the John Muir quote ‘The mountains are calling and I must go’ – especially if you live in Colorado. This year marks the 45th year of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, where the gorgeous San Juans are the back drop for a 4 day music festival with Bluegrass legends, camping and all the outdoor adventure you want. And we answered the call.

Our amazing crew has been true festivarians for years, knowing the ins and outs of navigating the festival and we were lucky enough to be included in the gang. Mike actually got a gig working backstage security, a paying gig where he’d work a 6-8 hour shift everyday/night and in return get two meals a day, a free camping & festival ticket, and $400. It was a no brainer! Planning started months before the actual event so we knew what to pack, although there’s nothing that actually prepares you for the amazingness that is the Telluride Bluegrass fest, especially the way Whitney (Queen B of camp TC) does it.

Our caravan headed out of Arvada late morning on Wednesday June 20, packing Mike’s F250 to the gills. Our girlfriends, Stacia & Anna, carpooled with us, making the 6 hour ride super fun, with car games galore! We stopped at Eddyline, in Buena Vista to break up the trip & grab some delicious lunch and beer. A citra IPA & quinoa salad hit the spot!

Telluride welcomed us around 5:45pm, the perfect lighting to unload. Our site was in Warner field, a converted baseball field that would serve as home base for the next four days. Navigating to left field with loaded wagons and wheel barrels, we shuffled back and forth unloading all the gear, food & booze. The views were absolutely amazing…We had arrived! Whitney, Dusty & Kelly had taken the gondola to mountain village for a free Little Smokies show, so we grabbed brews and set up our camp. The compound the early crew had assembled was nothing short of phenomenal. Complete with a kitchen, cooler tent, multiple hanging lights and decorative lanterns, our camp was by far the most impressive setup I had ever seen! The crew had come in early to line up at 6am Wednesday to set up shop and damn their efforts paid off! Instead of being crammed into a small patch, our compound spanned 25 by 50 feet, with 10 tents, 5 sunshades and an open space where the grills and kitchen was set up. Glamping isn’t even the right word to describe the fabulousness!

After our tents were pitched, we headed to get our wristbands (our tickets for all 4 days of camping & music) then headed to High Pie (where we had watched the Birds victory at this years super bowl). Huge pizzas were ordered, beers were drank & gratitude was felt all around for making it safe. Back at camp we found the early crew and decided to head over to Town Park, another campground that had authentic dirt, trees, rolling grounds and elaborate shanty towns set up. In a number of these were musicians strumming, picking and singing Bluegrass.

Small hippie dressed crowds gathered round to watch and sing along, creating a woodland concert. A really beautiful and unique night!

The next morning we arose early for the first tarp run. If you’ve never been to TBF, this is a foreign concept, but the seasoned veterans have it down to a science. You stand in line to receive a ticket, which gave you a spot in line later in the morning to run inside the venue to reserve your spot for that days’ lineup. The lower thre number, the better chance at reserving a good spot! Whitney had teamed up with another group to ensure we’d get the best position for the day.

This year they randomized the numbers, giving the first person in line just as much chance for a decent number as the 200th person in line. And they had 750 numbers! Once Larry (the ticket handler) arrived, the crowd arranged into a semi-straight line, we got our numbers (47 was the day’s winner!) and headed back to camp for more coffee and burritos. Whitney had made over 90 for the group (although I packed all my own plant-based food) so we munched and conversed about that day’s activity before the music.

A few of us decided to mountain bike on Telluride mountain, so headed to the gondola (which was free!) to ride up. The trail would take us all the way back to town, flowing mostly downhill. A super fun, not too technical, 11.6 mile ride, with some loose turns, rocks and roots to navigate. A wonderful way to spend the early afternoon, pre-music. Heading through town on bikes was super fun too and so convenient to be able to bike straight to camp without touching a car.

I got lunch together when we got back: Bahn Mi rice noodle bowls with homemade pickled veggies and baked tofu. Totally hit the spot! Mike had to work the 4 to 11:30 shift, so after lunch headed out while we got ready for the afternoon of music. Our campsite was a stones throw from the venue, making it extremely convenient to shuffle back and forth for more water, booze, snacks or reprieve from the music and sun.

Our tarp runners had reserved two clutch spots, one up front and a sun-shaded spot in the back, equipped with blankets, tapestries and chairs to enjoy the scene out of the Colorado sun. We had quite the hookup, courtesy of the TBG veterans in our group.

The Wood Brothers were the first set I caught that day & they did not disappoint! We saw them last summer in Steamboat for a free concert…they were awesome! I’m with Her followed, a beautiful women group with amazing harmony.

Throughout the afternoon, I’d pop over to see Mike at his post, which was at the entrance to backstage: total VIP. The crew headed back to fix some food before that evenings’ headliner Tedeschi Trucks Band…which was an amazing show! Susan has the most beautiful voice and with the lights, sky, and amazing crowd, it was truly a spectacular Day 1 of the festival.

The night was low key after the shows’ end, but some went to Town Park in search of strummin’ & pickin’. A day for the books!

Friday arrived with coffee, burritos & talk of another MTB ride. Holly, Jaime, Janine, Steve, Mike and I headed back up the gondola to headed down Village Way, to Jurassic Trail, to Meadow way. Well, while taking a loose turn, my back tire fish tailed, I braked and flew over the handlebars, scraping and bruising quite a few places on my body, including my chin, both palms, ankle, knee, inside of my elbow and upper thigh. A mess!

Shaken, but not defeated, I got back on the bike and we rode down, this time going a short ways to make it to the Telluride Brewery.

Oh sweet nectar to wash away the pain! This small brewery had over 20 beers on tap, including a kettle sour, Senor Gomez, that was absolutely thirst quenching. Thoroughly watered, we hopped on our bikes and rode the 4 miles back to town. In one of the pavilion areas we happened upon a beautiful sounding violinist. The beauty of the TBF weekend – music everywhere!

Back at Camp we decided to hit the river after our lunch, so changed into swimwear and jumped into the icy waters. Woah, it really wakes you up!

Refreshed and rejuvenated, we sunned ourselves dry & headed back to camp, where Mike changed for work, and I chilled with the crew until heading in for the Infamous Stringdusters, followed by Emmylou Harris. I headed up to the front for the legend Emmylou, who is still rocking it at 71. Back to camp for fresh libations & food before heading in to see Greensky Bluegrass- Whitney’s favorite!

Mike let me know that he’d be allowed to get 10 of us into the pit, which was the VIP section in front. So, at 10:15, a few of us were ushered to the front to watch the best act of the weekend! A total once in a lifetime experience!! We hung for awhile that evening, Mike having just gotten off his shift, then headed to bed to snuggle (it was 40 degrees out!)

Saturday was a little slower getting up, although Mike had to giddy up to work….so, Amanda and Kelly stood in line for the tarp run, Mike went to his security detail, and I hung in camp and drank coffee!  Afterwards, I headed into the venue, our co-team lugged in a couch & we all hung to listen to the tunes. The weather was phenomenal!

A few took a short hike up to some small waterfalls – so I joined, thinking I’d save my energy for the Via Ferrata we were planning to do later (unfortunately, we didn’t end up going, dang it!). That left me sleepy, so I headed back to the compound and laid about….in our amazing spread of a camp! The crew came back to grub, Mike got off work (although he went back to the VIP area to eat dinner, which was apparently gourmet, and he completely rubbed it in!) then we all headed back into the venue until about 8ish, when we headed back to give our girl Nicole a surprise birthday celebration.

She was ringing in her 30th, a new decade, in one of the most beautiful towns, with one of the coolest crews (ok I’m biased). A really remarkable night for a remarkable girl! We had some brownie cake then headed into the front row for Leftover Salmon – which Mike was able to get us dead center yet again. It’s good to know people with orange hats. The night was incredible!

Sunday morning was even slower than Saturday, as you can imagine after 3 days of bluegrass, early mornings, late nights, camping shenanigans and fumanchoos (don’t ask!). My girl Stacia and I headed to hike Bear Creek falls, a beautiful 5.6 mile hike to a waterfall, steep without being unbearable, and just enough to get the heart pumping, sweat dripping, landing us in one of the most beautiful valleys in Colorado just gorgeous!

Mike, Dusty, Jaime, Holly and a few others biked the same trails I ate it on….and all met back at camp, where another river bath ensued. Mike then left for work and I, beat with happiness, hung back at camp. I only made it in for a bit that evening, knowing we’d have to leave uber early, but with a happy, full heart. Monday morning we hit the road to reality….leaving one of the best festivals, best weekends, best feelings I’ve gotten from a group of people gathering in one place to celebrate life, music, love, and the beauty of nature. It was my first Telluride Bluegrass Fest, but won’t be my last!

The Kick Off to Summer

The days are longer, weather has warmed and the nights stretch beautifully on…it is summer in Colorado. It’s a magical season in the mountains, one that lasts a tad longer than most states, due to the arid environment. A friend recently reminded me that summer is only 13 weeks – which seems awfully short, especially as you get older. So, what do I want my next 13 weeks to look like? Last weekend,  Memorial Day weekend, I got a taste of what I’d like this summer to be flavored with: camping, good friends, scrumptious (mostly) healthy food, good beer, biking, and outdoor adventures.

Friday came fast after a busy week of investment property milestones (we passed our plumbing inspections & 2nd story structure inspection) and a crazy work week filled with back-to-back meetings and fire drills. We had been invited to head down south to Canyon City, about 40 miles south of Colorado Springs, to enjoy 30 acres of private land, complete with a disc golf course and mountain biking trails close by. You had me at 30 acres! Being almost 3 hours from Denver, after a severely hectic, but productive week, we left Arvada around 6, avoiding some Friday, Holiday traffic and stopped at Trinity Brewing. This brewery is one of my all-time favorites – an amazing beer selection, with barrel aged sours abound, and an extensive veggie/vegan menu to boot. Ordering the 7 day sour, some seitan vegan wings, and some veggie sammies (Mike tried a Beyond Meat burger and he is now obsessed!). It hit the spot!

Sufficiently fueled, we carried on our way, making the last two hours just as it got dark. The piece of property was quite a bit out there, and we were very thankful to have detailed directions from Anthony, the owner.

We arrived at the private gate that carried us up and around the bumpy, rocky road, coming to the shelf section that made my heart beat extremely fast….I literally leaned over towards Mike as if that would have any impact on balancing the truck! It was a no fall zone for sure, yet we made it to the top of the shelf unscathed, turning right at the big pile of rocks and coming to the big open parking space. It was rather dark, although we saw the light of the campfire and our crew, so we had arrived!

The set up was quite impressive, even in the dark! While they didn’t have running water or electricity, there was a whole sudo kitchen, complete with solar powered lights. After pitching our tent, with only the light from our headlamps to guide us, we joined the few who were still up for a celebratory beer (at that point it was close to 10). It was going to be a good weekend!

The morning brought campfire coffee (nothing beats that!) and bike plans. In the light, the property was even cooler, expansive, with tree coverage, designated areas for hanging, and a disc gulf course (that we would experience later that day). The day plan was set: some would bike Oil Well Flats, some would hike around the property, and we’d all meet back later.

The girls were going to do one trail (there were a ton to choose from) and the boys another. Our friend Janine had the most experience on us, so led the way.

In the arid climate, you have to ensure you have plenty of water and sun screen and probably should head out early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the heat….not 11am, in the thick of the day.

After several hours in the hot sun, one cliff dive, one cactus encounter, one lost biker, and almost seven miles….we finally all made it down to the car! It was a technical ride, one that I felt great on, although it was difficult, but not going to lie, we were all pumped to see the truck!!

 

The few beers at the car quenched our thirst just enough to make it down to Fourmile creek to soak in the river. It. Was. Magnificent. Cool water to soak our sore feet in, friends to rehash tales of the trail, and a beautiful day to enjoy. It sure was a fabulous Saturday.

The river had soaked into our bones sufficiently, so we headed up to the compound to decompress at camp. After eating some lunch (avocado and hummus sandwiches) we settled into camp. There were different areas to hang in….a Mala coloring book station, bean bags, a horseshoe pit…it was an adult playground! Cocktails were poured as well, a pineapple fizzy thing that was amazing and made from pineapple vinegar. Who knew!?

The games wound down and we all decided to head down to play some disc gulf. Anthony had made the course himself, including the baskets, made from old bicycle spokes. It was impressive, with undulating hills, barriers of trees to try to avoid, and wild flowers everywhere. The boys team went first (we let them, of course) followed by the girls.

Stepping up to each hole, whipping the Frisbee discs, having to hunt for discs among the trees and branches…it was really, really fun! Team girls only played 9 holes, but still had a blast. Wine was beckoning, so we headed back to the compound.

That night’s meal was a new favorite: stuffed peppers with chipotle black bean crumbles & brown rice. Anthony & Laura had grills and propane stove tops set up, so cooking was really easy.  After dinner, we went to watch the sun set, the light of dusk shedding a pink hue on everything. It was magical to be out here, and the beauty wasn’t lost on any of us.

We headed back to camp and sat around the fire, listening to good tunes, having smores and enjoying the Coloradical night.

The next day we packed up and headed home, but the weekend had kicked off the summer in the best possible way. It’s going to be a good summer!

 

Back Country Hut Trip Extravaganza

Spring is in full swing in Colorado, which means we’ve traded our skis for hiking shoes, mountain bikes and sunscreen (although sunscreen is 100% needed all year round in this mile-high climate!)

We ended the ski season in a big way this year: a back-country hut trip! The 10th Mountain Division is a series of backcountry huts within the mountains of Colorado, named to honor the men in WWII who trained in central Colorado. They are truly something special and with the amazing season with the crew coming to an end, what better way to end it in style.

Our last weekend at our Silverthorn ski condo coincided with our back-country adventure, so we all headed up on Friday to sleep one more sleep in our ghetto condo. Oh, the games of eucher that were played there. Saturday morning, we arose, vacuumed the horribly stained condo rug (Stacia, it’s good enough!) and headed to Leadville, where the Turquoise Lake trailhead would lead us to the Skinner hut…up, up, up 11,620 feet to the glorious hut.

The gang pulled up to the trail, we unloaded the booty, and packed the sled full to the brim. Mike and Dusty were our two trusted guides, the fellas who had researched, printed maps, studied routes, yes we were all putting our faith and trust in them. Plus, they had the two snowmobiles and could pull us all in the 8+ miles before the steep parts of the skinner hut route.

Stacia and I agreed to be pulled first, so we grabbed the water skiing like rig they had fashioned to the backs of their mobiles and held on for dear life. It was incredibly warm and there were several sections we had to scrape over due to the lack of snow. Needless to say, it was a hell of a lot easier than skinning in would have been….and the group that followed us would tell us their horror stories when they finally made it to the cabin!

Stacia and I got pulled in safely and as the boys drove up hagerman pass, attempting to drive up and around to the top of the skinner hut. The loaded up snow mobile sled had all the goods, so we were going to have a kush weekend in the remote cabin. Or so we thought. We’d find out several hours later that the road was impassible, the gang had to go all the way back to the car, load up as much as they could carry on their backs, and skin the whole way with heavy, heavy packs. The steep terrain I took on over the next 4 miles really didn’t compare to what the rest of the crew had to deal with!

Stacia and I made it to the hut after 4 hours, stopping for a leisurely lunch, enjoying the beautiful, serene quiet of this beautiful back country terrain. Upon arrival, we noticed the sled booty wasn’t at the hut, so we began to worry. A group of 4 guys were there and had had the same experience with their snow mobiles, having to leave the sleds and pack all of their belongings to bring up to the cabin. They had a radio, so Stacia and I went outside for better range and tried to radio the group, hearing that they were all ok, although they couldn’t hear us, we could just hear them.

Mike burst through the door a few hours later, followed by the rest of the crew, who were all exhausted after hours of delirium from heavy packs and trekking. I rooted through the food that actually made it, we all poured drinks, and cheers’ed to arriving safely after a grueling day. A true Coloradical experience at one of the hardest 10th Mountain Division Huts out there.

The Hut had multiple places to hang – the big kitchen, with multiple gas burners, a huge wood burning stove, an ice box cut into the side of the cabin to keep the perishables, then three large picnic benches for community style meals. Down two small stairs was the large family room area, with benches lined against the windows, another large wood burning stove to keep the room nice and cozy. Hooks were everywhere, so our gear could dry out, and racks hung from the ceiling for our skins. Sun streamed through the windows and although the back porch was covered with sun (we couldn’t even see the benches!) it was sunny and bright. In the back, past the kitchen and front door, there was a large sleeping area, with sleeping spots for 18, including two rooms. The back was rather chilly, so Mike and I opted for the middle row of sleeping spots and the crew filling in around us.

Once a few cocktails had been consumed, we started making dinner – Ramen for all! Most of the ingredients made it up (sans the sriracha & chili sauce) so I chopped, diced and unpacked all the goodness and we all settled in. Our tribe had arrived safe, we had whiskey and wine, and our bellies were full of veggie ramen. It was a good day and we all went to bed exhausted and happy.

The next day, we woke, put the coffee on the stove and pulled out our maps to pick out routes for back country touring. There’s truly nothing better than coffee in the mountains, with your tribe, on a beautiful sunny winter morning.

Some of the gang were leaving that day, with a number of us staying Sunday night and enjoying a full weekend of back country adventure. Those leaving packed up and scooted out, while the rest of us (Dusty, Molly, Mike, me, Ryan & his friend Kristin) suited up for a tour.

We spent the day skining up and over to the North East, skiing down towards Turquoise lake. I was pretty sloppy on my back country skis, not having had a ton of practice on them over the winter (my own fault for not skiing on them more, as Mike likes to point out).

But, it was still fun, so after the one run & having to skin up the steep stuff, Molly & I chose to head back to the cabin and hang for the rest of the afternoon. Wine was poured, gear was shed and the mountain afternoon was thoroughly enjoyed.

When the boys got back, the party continued, with a full on dance party, game of shuffle boards were played, and snowball fights were had. It was the perfect Sunday funday.

That evening, we watched the sun set on in the back of the Skinner Hut, atop the big snow pile, with the beautiful sky ablaze. We went in as the sun set, had a fabulous spaghetti dinner, and all turned in early. A perfect ending to a glorious day!

The next day, we skinned out (I skinned out the way we came up while the other peeps took the back country way out and skied down). Meeting up down by turquoise lake to ski the rest of the way out. The day was extremely warm, so when we got down to the trail head and started getting pulled out by snow mobiles, there were patches of pretty slushy slow, making our arms and thighs ache. As we got lower and lower in elevation, the snow started thinning until finally we had to bail and take off our skis while the guys went and got the truck. We were pumped to put another amazing Coloradical weekend in the books!