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!

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!

Adventures in Belize: Day 5

The great thing about getting to bed so early is waking up with the sun. 6:15 rolled around and we were up! Coffee by the glorious pool before we headed out to our snorkeling adventure. Because we had brought our own gear, we didn’t need to arrive to meet the boat until 10:15, so an early leisurely breakfast at The Happy Lobster it was! A delicious spinach omelet with a homemade flour tortilla and Marie Sharps habanero hot sauce hit the spot. We were fueled to snorkel!
Our group looked sea worthy and ready for adventure as we walked to the dock. Our snorkeling vessel, The Ragga Queen, was on a mooring, so the captain zipped us over in a speed boat and we were off. After a short briefing, we were off, the beautiful ocean waters leaving a nice white wake and the shore behind. Mike and I sat on the stern and drank it all in…until we couldn’t take the scorching sun, and ducked into the cabin for some shade. We had a group of Irish med students onboard, 9 in total, who were delightful and who had been traveling for several weeks before their rotations started. A 30 year old Holland lad who was traveling alone, told us he had been traveling for almost 8 months, and had been all over central and South America. Brazil had been his favorite country and he said the four weeks he had spent there hadn’t been enough. I asked how he had gotten so much time to travel without working and he explained he was in between Army tours, so had had the time and took it to travel the world. It truly makes you think, and realize, anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

Since I’m recovering this from our trip over 4 months ago, I’m going to leave it here. The trip was amazing: filled with wonderful people, fresh food, memories we will all remember forever! If you have any questions about what we did, where we went, where we stayed, please reach out!

Here’s a breakdown of what we spent – for myself, Mike and my mom:

Nickels and Dimes of Belize

Jungle lodging: Casa Santa Maria: $912 (this included breakfast each morning)
Island lodging: Caye Caulker (with a pool!): $500
Crystal Auto Rental: 4 days, $422
Dinners at Casa Santa Maria: $25 Belizean per person, totaling
Mayan Ruins: $10 Belizean per person
Benny’s restaurant: $58 Belizean (for all 3 of us)
Che Chem Ha (Mayan cave tour) – $50 Belizean per person
Belikin beers stops: $2.50 Belizean per beer – with a .25 cent deposit (you get that back when you return the empties)
Botanical Gardens: $15 Belizean per person
Du Plooys Jungle Resort Lunch: $54 Belizean