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!

Bringing in 2018: Reflections, Goals & Commitments

On the eve of the New Year, I sit here in my cozy kitchen, after a day in the backcoutry, a morning of yoga & dog-walking, and realize how full and intentional my life truly is. Every choice previously made has brought me to this beautiful point. And though this year has been full of lows, as well as mountains of highs, there isn’t anything I would alter. Looking back at my 2017 goals puts the year into perspective and allows me to reflect, readjust and re-charge. Here’s a look at the highlights (as well as the low-lights!)

  • 2017 was wrung in in the best possible way – In the mountains. We had a backcountry day with friends, followed by a ski house party. Our ski house crew killed it this past year, and amazing friendships were formed, stories were made, and good times were had. Despite a small hiccup in last years’ season (which I’ll write about next), I skied 28 times, including several days in the backcountry, a gorgeous trip to Jackson Hole (one of the coolest mountains I’ve ever skied and a blast of a town!) and I even brought my love of plants up to the mountain by food-prepping mountain fuel & ski bum bowls. The skiing sure was great this last year!

  • I had my first major surgery, which knocked me down for several months, tested my patience, willpower, and mental strength. In my beloved mountains, in the beautiful Sky Chutes, I fell and tore my ACL & meniscus. This backcountry injury ended my season and put forth a long recovery journey.  Despite the reality of the situation (surgery, no more skiing, physical therapy, weakening of my leg strength) I kept positive on the sidelines (Sunday Funday’s included cooking more instead of skiing & I even did a pre-surgery veggie challenge) and I documented leading up to the surgery,  the day of and after surgery, my progress, my challenges, and what I learned from the experience.  This really defined a large chunk of 2017, as it held me back from doing a number of things I had my mind set on (climbing 14’ers was out of the question) but really did open doors to new activities and allowed me to know my own strength and realize my own limitations. Only a month after surgery, I was well on my way to a speedy recovering, only to get the news from my surgeon I needed to slow down. The whole experience taught me a lot, about what I was capable of, what I needed to put energy into, how important consistency is with healing and recovery, and most of all, it taught me to be patient with myself.

  • Camping, biking and exploring reached new heights this year! Outdoor adventures and the exploration of this beautiful state of Colorado really kicked into high gear. Starting with a Memorial Day camping trip with friends near Leadville and trip to Salida (where Mike did a ton of biking), followed by a trip to Breckenridge for our first full stay at our Peak 7 Time-Share during Breck Bike week where I actually did a women’s bike clinic, followed by some low-key mountain biking.

The momentum continued, into July where dad came to visit for Lake Dillon boat shenanigans & biking (over 18 miles with dad over swan mountain!) then we headed with friends to Steamboat later in July for hiking and hot springs. August, we kept it going….we biked in the Butte,  mom and I hit up Leadville (exploring the old mining town from top to bottom, mining to museums, restaurants to railroads, to white water rafting!) and we wrapped up the month in Poudre Canyon, seeing my first Mishawaka show. October found us in the Royal Gorge, mountain biking the heck out of the area with a ton of friends. A classic Colorado summer (early fall) for sure!

  • Mike and I hit the 1-year wedding anniversary! The blog I wrote recaps the year since marriage beautifully and although I never finished writing our anniversary trip blog (we headed to Grand Junction for biking, brewery and National Monument fun!) we celebrated the year in the perfect fashion; taking our two fur babies on a Colorado adventure. It was so incredibly us.

 

 

  • My dear grandma and poppa died, both in their 90’s. My mom’s southern family gathered in Tennessee in late May to put my loving grandma to rest, while my dad’s side of the family gathered together in mid-September in Connecticut to celebrate the great life he lead. Both true family bonding experiences that I was grateful to be present for.

 

  • Our company, Happy Homes LTD sold a property and purchased another investment (May 2017), of which we are still underway with. The current property will be the biggest investment to date, where we’re doubling the existing footprint, popping the top, and heading into unknown territory. Both exciting and extremely frustrating….but a true learning experience!
  • I launched a Plant-Based Supper Club (Happy Kitchen Supper Club) in October, hosting the inaugural event where friends and family gathered to try 4 courses of plant-based goodness.
  • My 3rd annual plant-based soup swap was a HUGE hit, and my biggest event to date! Eight girls gathered, eight soups swapped. Lots of plant-based goodness going around!

  • We were grateful enough to spend both major holidays with family….Thanksgiving was spent with Mike’s Family in Asheville, where we explored the beautiful town, trails, and breweries. An ugly sweater party and nutcracker ballet kicked of the Christmas season, followed by a wonderful weekend filled with family gatherings (we hosted Christmas Eve!), Denver outings (we headed to union station and Boulder’s Celestial Seasonings), and tons of presents.
  • I traveled quite a bit for work, heading to Orlando for HIMSS17, Downtown Denver for our VAR conference,  San Diego for our national sales meeting, Chicago for our Large User Group Conference, SHIEC (an HIE tradeshow) in Indianapolis, San Francisco for Dream Force, and back to the corporate office in Horsham, PA in March, June and December. Wow, that’s a lot of travel!

 

Now I’m headed into 2018 with open arms, an ambitious list of goals, and a grateful heart.

Here are a few things I’m committing to and in pursuit of this year:

  • Spend more time doing and less time intending. I find myself cultivating ideas that could generate a wave of good, but seem to let the ideas hatch and fizzle before acting or truly developing them. I am committing to a monthly project or idea I actually act on, no matter how small. One person can truly make a difference, so I too must commit to doing so.

“Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world.”Nelson Mandela

  • Buy a mountain house. Yup, this didn’t happen this year (due to our current investment taking a lot longer than we thought thanks to the city of Denver) but we will be poised and ready this year. Oh yes, we will be poised and ready.
  • Host Five plant-based Happy Kitchen Supper Club dinners. I’m trying to be realistic with the amount of planning, recipe testing, time spent prepping it takes to make these successful, factoring in my work schedule and planned travels. Committing to five over the next 12 months is completely doable.
  • Take a trip to Portugal! 2017 was all about exploring Colorado, a bit of the US even, and 2018 has opened the door to international exploration. I can’t wait!
  • Sell our investment property. It’s been a labor of love thus far, but mostly a labor of waiting. For permits. From Denver. For the past few months. We are ready to see the awesomeness it will become.
  • Train for Long’s Peak. I have taken a forced hiatus from hiking fourteener’s due to my surgery recovery, so this will be quite an endeavor.  I’m going to start as if I’m going to run a half a marathon….because the Long’s Route is 14 1/2 miles. Actually longer than a half a marathon.

There are many other things I want to do, want to accomplish, want to commit to this year. But, to go back to my first point of doing rather than saying….I need to put these things into action, focus on my priorities first and foremost, then can add to the list Cheers to 2018 and the many adventures that lay before me. Have a healthy, happy and adventurous New Year!

 

 

Summer Camping

I have found myself letting go of making plans lately. With my ACL injury, I’m not able to do much in the activity spectrum, so plans seem silly. So a few weekends ago, with Friday & Saturday stretching before me, I jumped for joy at the the last minute plan to camp near Leadville, in the San Isabel National Forest near the clear creek reservoir. A group of friends were heading to the sand dunes and wanted to break up the trip (it’s almost 5 hours to sand dune national park). Another friend planned to climb or hike. And Mike and I wanted to escape the city, head to the mountains and be amongst nature. Despite my knee injury keeping me on the Colorado activity sidelines, I couldn’t wait! It had been a full two months since I had ventured west, into the mountains so I was ready.

Friday afternoon, we packed up the car with our camping gear (including our big fancy chairs & extra blankets, as we were car camping) and hit the road. Because we didn’t have to hike in with our gear, we brought the big tent that could have easily fit 6 adults comfortably. Because we brought the big tent, we brought Winnie and Haley (our furry babies).

Driving westbound, away from the city, we left 80 degree weather and watched the temperature drop every 15 miles. Past the small mining towns that now were filled with craft beer and tourists, the road slicing into the rocky hills. The views of the mountains as we crested over the hills still took my breath away.

We stopped in the overflow parking lot at Copper Mountain so the dogs could run around. The sky shoots mocked me from across the street, taunting me to come avenge my ACL. Next year, next year I’ll be back.

A ways passed Copper, we drove by Mayflower Gulch where Mike and I headed several months earlier as part of our AIARE I certification. Memories of a 4 degree day came flooding back, where fresh powder stretched for miles, and we trudged up the gulch to practice digging out beacons in case of an avalanche. What a beautiful weekend that was!

Leadville came into site and after stopping for water at the grocery store, we headed to the local watering hole, Periodic Brewing. Boasting the highest craft brewery in the world (elevationly speaking) we drank out delicious barrel aged porters and cold crashed IPAs and reveled in the facts: great beer on the way to the mountains to camp with friends was an amazing start to the weekend.

Sufficiently watered, we headed to our camping destination, just passed clear creek reservoir. There were multiple dispersed sites and we found a large one that fit the bill: secluded, by a creek, view for days. Last summer, we headed up the same road to the Missouri Gulch trailhead that leads to Mr. Oxford & Mt. Belford. The camping scene was a bit different for that trip, my ACL being in tact, so we hiked in several miles to the camp site.

That evening, several friends joined us, and we sang, drank and cozied up be the fire. After the hustle bustle of city life, work life, daily life, the mountain escape is a much needed oasis.

 

This past Memorial Day Weekend 2017, we found ourselves planing another mountain getaway. The weather forecast for Denver looked bleak, so we postponed the BBQ we had planned & got out of dodge, heading to Salida, a mountain bike mountain town, full of heady people, great views of the Arkansas River, and great campsites.

Heading out on Friday afternoon, we found ourselves drawn to the mountains, going high up into the San Isabel National Forest to one of the most spectacular camping sites I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending time in. The views were spectacular and the dispersed camping was plenty. We pitched our tent, unfolded our car camping chairs and made a fire pit. Afterwards, we headed into town for some exploring, beer & grub. The town, situated on the Arkansas river, is full of boutique stores, cafes & restaurants with farm to table food & lots of bike friendly people!

We landed at Moonlight Pizza and brewpub, where the local beer flowed and veggie toppings were piled high. It hit the spot and we headed back up the gravel road to our campsite with full bellies and happy hearts. The sun was setting and the light was absolutely glorious.

Back at the campsite, we collected fallen sticks for the nights fire. It turned out to be a beautiful night, clear and exploding with stars. Around 9, we watched the embers burn out, climbed in our 2 person tent with an additional 2 fur babies, and snuggled into our sleeping bags.

It was a cold morning, so when Winnie woke me up, I resisted, wanting to stay in the snug cabin of the tent. But, alas I got up and started the morning ritual. Breakfast ended up being spectacular, an experiment with skillet cooked biscuits, peppers & onions, avocado & vegan cheese topping the mess. Holy cow it was delicious!

Post plant based breakfast feast, we took our babies for a walk around the campsite and surrounding area. The views were spectacular and I gave thanks to this beautiful place. After 3 1/2 years I’m still blown away by Colorados’ beauty.

Mike spent the day biking, while I read and soaked in the spectacular views. I drove the truck into town about an hour and a half after he left, met him down in the town of Salida for some refreshment and lunch at the Boathouse Cantina, a lovely restaurant Sitting on the bank of the Arkansas review. It was a perfect afternoon!

That evening a few more campers were around, but the views were definitely not compromised and the night was spectacular. A bit colder than Friday, our fire was the perfect end to a gorgeous day.

The next morning we woke after a cuddly night with the pups and made french press coffee.  There’s nothing quite like a cup of coffee, next to the love of your life, with views of the mountains.

With my bum leg (due to the ACL injury) I still wasn’t able to bike, so we decided to head into town for breakfast before Mike headed out on his mountain bike. We went to Amicas pizza & microbrewery where we had a delicious breakfast: avocado toast topped with arugula for me & a huge breakfast burrito. It was phenomenal.

Back to the campsite where Mike suited up for mountain biking and I packed up. The sun was absolutely glorious and I cranked the tunes while putting away our little tent. I soaked up one last view of the mountains and drove the truck down to meet Mike. I snatched him up, his bloody knee and all, and we headed to Soulcraft Brewing before hitting the road to home. It was a phenomenal ending to a glorious weekend.