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!

 

Camping in the Butte

Summer in Colorado is truly a magical thing.  Being from the east coast I often get asked if I miss the ocean, being close to the water. I can honestly say, with 100% certainty that I do not. Don’t get me wrong, the beach is absolutely wonderful. But living somewhere that in several short hours you can be surrounded by 14,000 foot mountains, jagged peaks that pierce the bluebird sky, with miles and miles of trails to explore and views for days, well that is a true gift I have not taken for granted since moving here in the winter of 2014.

So, when a group of friends threw out an email a few weeks back about camping in Crested Butte, we were in. Crested Butte is a small mountain town south west of Denver, about 4 ½ hours from our house. A bit far for a weekend getaway, so I took Friday off from work and we set off late Thursday evening towards Oh Be Joyful Campground, just several miles from the town of Crested Butte. Driving west, before we hit Monarch pass, we decided to take a pit stop at one of our favorite breweries, Elevation. There happy hour was amazing: $1.50 off drafts! We stayed for only one, but it helped break up the trip and get us recharged for a great weekend!

We rolled into the town of Crested Butte around 7:00pm, stopped in the cute little town to grab some beer, then headed to Oh Be Joyful Campground. Our two girlfriends had gotten there hours earlier to set up the tent area – what a treat that was to roll up into the site and have the area established! There would be 18 campers total throughout the weekend, so it looked like a small village with several tents having been set up by Stacia and Amanda. A beautiful spot right next to the Slate River was wide open, so we set up our tent and joined the ladies around the fire.

There is something truly special about enjoying a campfire with friends. I had prepped mason jar ramen, so dinner was uber easy. I marinated tofu & onions in amino acids, then put them in a foil pack. I prepped mason jars full of ramen noodles, basil, garlic, then boiled some water & veggie broth & poured it in. Delicious & so easy!

The next day, we woke up to a gorgeous Colorado morning, started a fire and had some breakfast. The spot we had was absolutely gorgeous, next to a creek, so we soaked it up and reveled in the gorgeousness.

Coffee never tasted so good! And the breakfast burritos I had pre-made at home (sweet potatoes, peppers, onions, daiya cheese, tofu scramble) hit the spot!

The day stretched before us and I couldn’t wait to get into it! On Friday, we decided to split up – boys would head out to mountain bike and the girls and the dogs would go hike the  oh be joyful trail. The trail head was about 1/4 mile from our campsite, with just a small river crossing to wade through. So, we rolled up our yoga pants, took off our shoes, and headed on through. The current was surprisingly strong!

 

The Oh Be Joyful Trail started off with a pretty steep climb. Since my ACL surgery on April 4, big hikes have been out of the question, as it’s still in healing mode, so even though this hike was over 16 miles, we committed to 6 miles. Wildflowers, waterfalls, mountains. Oh, this was quite the joyful trail indeed!

Our 6.5 mile hike ended up being absolutely perfect, with a bit of everything, including a rest under some fir trees while Amanda sketched the waterfall in the distance. It was a truly lovely afternoon. The guys met us back at camp, then we all headed into the town of Crested Butte to get some drinks at the Crested Butte Public house to cap off the perfect day.

The next day’s dawn broke and we had bikes on the brain! Three of us ladies were on the same biking level – with my ACL surgery, I had to take it easy, and the other two ladies were fiercely ready, but definitely ready for a beginner trail. We suited up, threw our helmets on, and grabbed our trustee steads.

The first trail we hit was up the road from the campground we were staying at (Oh Be Joyful) so we headed to the Lower Loop trail. Nature has never been so vibrant! Wildflowers were everywhere and as we wheeled down the trails, the mountain views almost made me fall of the trail!

The lower loop was magnificent, so much so that we headed towered the upper lower loop, which had absolutely breathtaking views. A perfect blend of up hill, flowy goodness. The girls and I killed the trails and we were psyched to head back to camp to share the tale of the trails.  The gang was all there, back from their adventures, and the cornhole was pulled out and the games began. After a few games, we all decided to go to Meridian Lake, an alpine lake up a steep mile trail, where a large lake stretched out before us, and a large sandy beach covered with beach go-ers that led into the lake. Beers were cracked, toes were dipped, and some of the boys even swam to the other side. I’ve never had such a fun time at an alpine lake!

 

 

After diving in the icy lake, we headed back to the campsite to change for a night in town. Heading to town, we ended up getting a frosty beverage at The Dogwood Cabin, then heading to grab pizza at The Secret Stash.  Beautiful evening with friends followed by a fabulous sunset.

 

Sunday morning, we packed up camp, some people took off, heading back to Denver, and I headed toward the Lower Upper Loop trail, taking it all the way to town.

The views were just as great as they were the other day and the permanent smile painted on my face held all the way to the main streets of Crested Butte. It was glorious! The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Crested Butte Heritage Museum, getting a download of the start of the town, the biking history that began there, and the amazing history that happened in this awesome mountain town.  After the history lesson, I met the guys at the Public House for a beer before we too took off for home. Another amazing mountain escape in the books!