My, time is flying. September has come and gone, and now it’s only one more week until I depart for my Indian Ocean adventure. I expect I’ll try to blog a bit more while traveling, especially while I’m on Diego Garcia (though photos might be sparse because of the slow internet connection). Here’s a very brief recap of some of what I’ve been up to the last five weeks.
Air Force Academy
Back in late August I took a day trip down to Colorado Springs to visit my friend Josh from high school, and his brother Justin. Josh gave me a tour of the U.S. Air Force Academy campus, which was pretty neat, especially since Josh is an AFA alum. The AFA Chapel was the highlight, as it’s such an iconic building. A very beautiful one inside, too. After dinner I played some Catan with Josh, Justin, and one of their friends. I’m glad I made it down there when I did, because now Josh and his wife Erika are moving back to Minnesota.
Camping Trip and Hot Springs
Eager to use my pricey new tent at least once this year, I organized a camping trip up near Steamboat Springs on Labor Day weekend with a few friends. I wanted to get away from the Front Range, so that’s part of why I chose the Steamboat area. With it being the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I was kind of nervous about finding a campsite since we didn’t have reservations anywhere. But lo and behold, we found a great spot at the first campground we visited, at Dumont Lake (9520 feet) right below Rabbit Ears Mountain — I’d argue it was even the best spot in the whole place.
After setting up our tents we drove up to Steamboat Springs to enjoy the Strawberry Park Hot Springs under the stars. We saw quite a few meteors, which was sweet. I’d been to those hot springs once before, last summer with Alex, but it’s a totally different experience at night. It’s a neat place, and the hot springs felt great on what would become a very frosty night.
It didn’t work out to camp any more the rest of this year, but I definitely plan to camp more often next year.
Yah sure, you betcha, I hosted a Minnesota hotdish party at my house a couple weeks ago! I encouraged people to wear flannel, rented the movie “A Prairie Home Companion,” and bought a copy of the book “How to Talk Minnesotan” to give away to the winner of “best hotdish.” There were a couple au gratin hotdishes, a couple tater tot hotdishes, a chicken alfredo hotdish, my beef & wild rice hotdish, a pumpkin bake, a [jello] salad, fruit salad, and a rice & beans salad. The party was a success, people loved it!
My 28th Birthday
For my 28th birthday last week a few friends joined me at C.B. & Potts for dinner. I definitely worked off my 4.1-mile run from that morning, with appetizers of buffalo wings, cheese dip, an entree of a “bacon-bacon-bacon” burger (with hickory smoked bacon, something called “chicken-fried bacon”, and chipotle bacon mayo, I just had to get it!), a free birthday ice cream cupake, and a good amount of tasty microbrew!
Weekend in Ann Arbor
Last weekend I flew to Michigan to go visit Alex. It was a very enjoyable weekend, as it always is hanging out with him. Among other things, Alex got us to the Minnesota-Michigan football game, which was a 58-0 curb-stomping for the Wolverines. Because Penn State wasn’t playing I could just sit back (or stand, since we were in the student section) and enjoy the game. Also because PSU wasn’t playing, I wore a Michigan shirt to the game to fit in. I didn’t want to get assaulted for a second time at Michigan Stadium, haha.
Another highlight of the weekend came when Alex & Anne took me rock climbing. I’d been rock climbing a couple times in the past year or so (once with Alex last year in Colorado, once outdoors this spring in Moab), but I hadn’t successfully made it to the top of a climb. This time I made it to the top of all three climbs I tried! The last two took a lot of perseverance, but I eventually made it to the top. I feel like I accomplished something, and now I’m more likely to try rock climbing again.
Also, every time I hang out with Alex I get motivation to learn how to play guitar. Maybe when I get back from Diego I’ll buy myself a guitar…
It’s going to be a busy week coming up, getting ready for my departure to Singapore and Perth, and a week after that, to Diego Garcia! Looking forward to my overseas adventures!
It’s been almost a month since I’ve blogged, but there’s good reason. August has been a very fun month so far, with friends visiting, more hiking in Rocky Mountain NP, climbing three 14ers, and even attending a concert at Red Rocks! And last weekend I didn’t even do anything.
Halls and the Rockies
At the beginning of the month Ryan & Sarah Hall came through Colorado at the end of their nearly four-week west coast road trip from Chicago. On Sunday the 31st (of July) we went hiking in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail we took followed North Saint Vrain Creek past Copeland Falls, the Calypso Cascades, and Ouzel Falls. It was nice to hear running water and waterfalls through most of the hike!
And then the following night I joined them at Coors Field for the Phillies-Rockies game. It’s neat when you can see the mountains from your seat! We were one row below the “purple row” in the upper deck (row 20), which is at elevation 5,280 feet. There were a lot of Phillies fans at the game, and I even saw one girl with a green “State Patty’s Day” shirt on (ugh). Phillies fans were making themselves heard, by (of course) lustily booing every time the Rockies catcher went out to the mound to talk to the pitcher. It was an entertaining game too, but unfortunately for the Rockies, a Phillies pinch-hitter tied the game on a home run with two out in the top of the 9th, and then another home run in the 10th won it for the red-hot Phillies, 4-3. Anyway, it was great to see Ryan & Sarah again!
Mount Bierstadt – 14er #1
On Saturday the 6th I checked off an item from my “Colorado bucket list”: I hiked up a 14er! Five of us (me, Amy, Tim, Richard, Richard’s friend Anthony) got up really early in the morning to go hike Mt Bierstadt. Mt Bierstadt is rated as the easiest 14er to climb, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy hike.
The hike started at Guanella Pass (11,669 feet), a few miles away from Georgetown, CO. The trail dips down about 200 feet to Scott Gomer Creek before rising all the rest of the way to the summit at 14,060 feet. I have to say it’s kind of annoying to start a hike up a 14er by going downhill for awhile — because that means the end of the hike is uphill as well. Anyway, I was trucking along until about 13,000 feet, when the trail became much steeper. I started lagging the rest of the way up to the top, but I made it!
It was pretty chilly up at the summit, about 40-45 degrees and quite windy. But the view from the top of Mt Bierstadt (14,060 feet) was spectacular! Here’s a video from the summit:
Here’s the view looking west (in the very center of the photo are two neighboring peaks, Grays Peak (14,270 feet) and Torreys Peak (14,267 feet)):
And here’s the view looking northeast, toward the nearby Mt Evans (14,264 feet):
My first 14er! It was exhilarating!
Here’s a final look at Mt Bierstadt from the trailhead, at the conclusion of our hike (to the left of Mt Bierstadt is The Sawtooth, the narrow, exposed path over to Mt Evans):
Concert at Red Rocks
Another item on my Colorado bucket list was attending a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre just west of Denver. At the beginning of the summer I looked up their concert schedule, and had the 12th of August circled for a concert with The John Butler Trio. Unfortunately I couldn’t convince any friends to join me (concerts are expensive after all), so I wound up going by myself. I wanted to buy a ticket in advance, but Ticketmaster had an outrageous extortion fee — they were charging $55 for a $38.50 ticket. So instead I showed up at the box office on the day of the show, and got one for $40. Denying Ticketmaster their extortion fee is definitely a win.
At any rate, Red Rocks Amphitheatre is an amazing concert venue, sitting between Ship Rock and Creation Rock, with the city of Denver visible a few miles beyond the stage. It was a perfect Colorado evening too, with temps in the upper 70s and a full moon rising. The concert itself was pretty awesome too, and The John Butler Trio played for over two and a half hours! The concert obviously would’ve been more fun with some friends, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. I left at the start of the final encore song so that I wouldn’t be trapped in the parking lot forever, especially since I had to wake up in a few short hours to go hiking.
Grays & Torreys Peaks (14ers #2 and #3)
After three hours of sleep following the concert at Red Rocks (which included five hours of sitting on a bench without a seat-back), it was time to wake up to go climb two 14ers! This time it was me, Richard, Amy, and three of the Moxness sisters (Adelle, Melanie, and Mikaela), all friends from church.
First off, the road from I-70 up to the Grays Peak trailhead is TERRIBLE. I’d really only advise going up there with a 4WD vehicle. Even so, you can only go about 3 mph because it’s so ridiculously bumpy and unmaintained. Partway up the narrow, steep road we saw a bunch of cars parked along the side, so figured we’d better park too. A guy even said, “Oh yeah, the trailhead’s right here.” So we got out our stuff and started hiking up the steep road. A mile and a half later we finally came to the trailhead. Ugh. I think we might’ve done 800-1000 feet of climb in that 1.5 miles. I’m tellin’ ya, that road was relentlessly steep. And oh yeah, there was still some parking at the lot at the trailhead. So we were already a bit tired by the time we got to the actual start of the trail at 11,280 feet.
A bit over a mile into the hike, at elevation 12,100 feet, here’s a view of Grays Peak (14,270 feet, on the left) and Torreys Peak (14,267 feet, on the right). It looks like Torreys is taller, but it’s not. Grays Peak also happens to be the tallest peak along the Continental Divide, and the tallest in the Front Range.
The hike to the top of Grays and Torryes was noticeably more arduous than the hike up Mt Bierstadt, but it’s still among the easier 14er hikes, apparently. It’s just a longer, steeper hike than Bierstadt. There are also so many switchbacks on the trail to Grays that it often feels like you aren’t making progress. Anyway, I was doing well setting the pace until around 13,000 feet again, when I started lagging a bit at the back of the group, just like on Bierstadt. But after a break I decided to take the lead again, and I didn’t have exhaustion problems the rest of the way up, surprisingly. The mind is pretty powerful, even when it’s oxygen-deprived. And on the way up Grays Peak I even ran into a fellow Penn State Meteorology alum, Beth R.! We Are… everywhere! At last we made it to the top of Grays!
Below is a view from Grays Peak, looking west (toward Keystone Ski Resort, Silverthorne, Lake Dillon):
Below is a view from Grays Peak, looking north. From L to R: Torreys Peak (14,267 feet), Kelso Mountain (13,100-something), and Stevens Gulch. Our trail came up Stevens Gulch, winding around Kelso Mountain before scaling Grays.
Below is a view from Grays Peak, looking east. In the center of the photo are two 14ers, Mt Evans (14,264 feet, on the left), and Mt Bierstadt (14,060 feet, on the right).
Grays Peak was my second 14er, and I was feeling pretty good!
After a lunch break, it was time to head down to the Grays-Torreys saddle (13,700 feet), and then climb straight up Torreys. It was steep, and brutal after having taken a break atop Grays. My body did not like going back uphill at this point, especially such a steep hill, and I struggled making it up Torreys. But I did make it, and that wasn’t ever in question.
Here’s a view from Torreys Peak, southeast toward Mt Evans, Mt Bierstadt, and Grays Peak (notice all the switchbacks on Grays!):
14er number three, and the second of the day!
I ran out of water before I made it to the top of Torreys Peak (I had 3 liters in my Camelbak), leaving me with about 2/3 of a liter of Powerade to ration on the 3.5-hr hike back down. Highlights of the way down: several snowballs suddenly whizzing by my head, mountain goats, wishing my legs weren’t horribly sunburned (I forgot to put sunscreen on them, sigh), and putting on flip-flops when we were finally done.
Approx. 12 miles, approx. 4500 feet elevation gain, approx. 10.5 hours, and two 14ers conquered. We were all exhausted and sore, but felt very accomplished!
There are many truly beautiful places on this planet. Several of them are in Colorado in the Rocky Mountains. Last weekend I saw another one of these stunningly beautiful places: Lake Isabelle.
On Saturday I went on a hike with a few friends from church, Richard, Tim, Andrew, Kyle, and Jenna (plus Andrew’s dog Jake and Jenna’s dog Buster). From the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, which is only about a 45-minute drive from Boulder, it’s only about an hour-long hike back to Lake Isabelle. The hike roughly follows the South Saint Vrain Creek a couple miles from Brainard Lake, up to Long Lake, and up to Lake Isabelle. It’s a relatively easy hike, with only about 500 or so feet of elevation gain along the way, up to Lake Isabelle and Isabelle Glacier at roughly 10,800 feet above sea level.
I intended to go swimming at some point during the day, too, but settled for wading in Lake Isabelle a couple of times. It was pretty chilly though, considering it was still being fed by snowmelt from an adjacent glacier, and that the lake still had some ice on it! After a few seconds it wasn’t so bad, especially when my feet and legs went numb! It made Lake Superior feel balmy, haha.
Now I’ll shut up and show a few photos from the hike:
Isn’t this gorgeous?! And yes I crossed over that somewhat-flimsy and unsturdy log “bridge” across the mouth of the creek in the photo above, very carefully. We proceeded to climb up on a rocky hill above the lake, which topped out just shy of 11,000 feet even (see photo below). This whole place is incredible!
What an amazing hike! If anyone comes to visit me in Colorado, I’d love to take you to see Lake Isabelle in person! As you can see, it’s absolutely stunning! I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface in my few months of living here so far. There surely are more hidden gems like Lake Isabelle, and I want to find them!
Obviously it’s taken me entirely too long to make a short post here about how I did in the Bolder Boulder just over a week ago. My overall time was 70:42. My full stats and splits are available here, and some official photos and videos from the race are available here. As I mentioned in my previous post, my goal was to get under 70 minutes. I missed that by less than a minute, so I feel like claiming it as an “accomplished” goal. At the very least, I set my goals well. I know my pace.
I was pleased with how I started out the race, but I got tired, and wound up having stop to walk five times, and was exhausted by the end. That’s what cost me my chance at getting under 70 minutes. Even so, I’m really glad I pushed myself to do the Bolder Boulder, and had a lot of fun. I really enjoyed that there were bands, belly dancers, or sprinklers to run past about every half mile or so. It really helped keep things interesting on such a long run!
Next year I’d like to try to get under 60 minutes if I can. I think that should be doable if I can improve my endurance and speed a bit in the next 12 months, now that I’ve shown I can do 5-6 mile runs. After all, when I’m this slow, I should be able to take minutes off my time pretty easily!
Tomorrow morning I’m running the Bolder Boulder 10k. It’s my first ever race of that length. I ran plenty of 5k races in high school cross country, and ran 5-mile segments of the Tussey mOUnTaiNBACK in October 2009 & 2010. I can’t remember if I ran 10k without stopping in a cross country practice in high school once, but that’d be the only time I’ve run that long. I’ve been training to get up close to that distance, though, so hopefully I’ll be able to do it in decent time. I’ll make another post about the race sometime after it’s done, but here are my goals:
Under 70 minutes: Pleased
Under 65 minutes: Really happy
Under 60 minutes: Absolutely thrilled
I signed up for an under-70 minute wave, so that’s my minimum goal. My wave departs at 8:20:30 am in the morning. Here’s some more info about the race:
Fortunately the weather looks like it’ll be cloudy and cool for the race tomorrow morning, with temps in the low 50s. Fantastic running weather. I’m grateful it’s not going to be hot and sunny!
Anyway, trying to run 10 km in any of my goal times will be a challenge for me, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I know I’m slow. I’m also starting to get a bit nervous, even though I know I’m only competing against myself and my goals. Time to try to get some sleep, gotta get up super-early in the morning!