Thursday, December 31, 2009

Holidays, and losing a friend.

Wow, have I been busy! The holidays are such a crazy time, I am definitely ready for a little break. Over thanksgiving Erik and I went mountain biking in Fruita, CO and Moab, Utah, then flew to PA to visit his parents.

Christmas has been an exciting affair. I flew out to Santa Barbara for two weeks to visit with family and be generally overwhelmed by rich food, drink, and social interaction. Now I am back in Boulder and am pretty much wiped out. I pick up Erik at the airport today and am very excited to see him. However our happy reunion comes with a veil of sadness. Our first pet, Ping pong, has passed away. :(

Ping pong was a Chinese dwarf hamster that I purchased over a year ago when I was feeling very isolated and lonely out here in Colorado. She helped me through some rough times, and while she was small, she was a great comfort. She loved her yogies and running on her wheel. I had trained her to crawl into my hand, but if I wasn't holding a treat she would generally bite me. While i was training her to come to my hand, she was training me to have a treat! She was the best hamster anyone could want. Her quirky personality and would always shine through. Adorable. She had a good long life for her species, and was very well loved. She will definitely be missed.

You will always be loved and remembered.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mountainbikes, Snowboards and hiking boots, oh my!

It's been a little while since I have posted here, but for good reason! I have been busy living life, which aside from my current lack of incoming funds is pretty sweet right now.

Erik and I went on a mountain bike ride a couple weekends ago up at Hall Ranch in Lyons, CO, and man is that some sweet singletrack! The ride up is pretty mellow, and the ride down is a ton of fun. I've heard that Hall Ranch is some of the best singletrack in Boulder County and I'd have to agree. With plenty of water bars and natural features, it keeps you on your toes. The section of tight switchback at the bottom is great for whipping around those corners. I'd say cornering is my weakest point, so that little tight section is great practice and a lot of fun! We saw a group of deer on the way up. Very cool.

A deer at Hall Ranch

Erik's friends Jimmy and Kayna stopped through on their way from Montana to Texas and we went on a nice hike up to the Flatirons. It was a perfect day for it. Now I think it would be more of a snowshoe than a hike. Speaking of, it's about time to break out the snowshoes!

It has been snowing in the Rockies!

In case you didn't get the memo, it has been a great early season here so far! We have already had 3 big snow storms, and many of the ski resorts are already open. I have managed to make it up to the mountains twice so far. Once to Loveland and once to Breck on opening weekend!

The loveland trip was pretty sweet. Erik's friend hooked us up with a couple of free passes and the snow was very good for this early in the season. I bet it is even better now. The drive up was a fiasco, however, and I ended up out of the car pushing the escort up a section of I-70. We will never take that car in a storm again! We ended up buying chains in a small town off the highway, so we were able to make it to the resort with a couple hours left to ride. It was all worth it though to shake the rust off the old legs and get back into the groove!

Breck was a ton of fun. I drove up with my friend Jen and we got to the resort at ~11am. There were crazy long lines, but the slopes were pretty open! We went on a couple runs, then met up with some friends and had a margarita. On our last run we cut a corner and got some powder turns in! I was nervous that I was gonna trash the base of my new board, but the call of sweet powder won me over and I decided to risk it. It totally paid off, and we got some great turns in with no damage! Hooray!

Erik and I are going to head to the mountain this weekend with the snowboards, mountain bikes, and hiking boots and see what adventures we can get into. The plan is Friday snowboarding, then out to Fruita, CO or Moab, UT for some riding. Hopefully we can get out to Moab and hit the Whole Enchilada, but the top might not be open due to snow. There are a ton of good trails out there though, so we will have a blast!

Then it's off to the East Coast for thanksgiving. I just got a bunch of new clothes with some giftcards I had laying around, so I am super stoked. I got a sweet argyle sweater and a bunch of Roxy long sleeved thermal shirts, so I am ready for winter! I'm off to Costco to return some stuff now.

Check back soon for an update of the Thanksgiving break festivities!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

First snow in Boulder! Whaaaat?!

It is my day off today so I thought I would catch up on some blogging. This last weekend we had some crazy weather here in Boulder. I woke up on Saturday morning and was greeted with this view from my balcony:

Winter wonderland!

Quite the snowy site! This much snow in early October? What is the world coming to? I was expecting snow from the weather report, but not quite so much! I have been riding my bike to work as I live extremely close, but today with all the snow I decided to walk. Here are some shots of the walk across Scott Carpenter Park that morning:

Bike path through Scott Carpenter behind the sledding hill. There were a few kids out sledding! :)

More snowy bike path!

It is now sunny and crisp out, with some high clouds. This weekend we will be hitting the low 70's! Quite the switch. Colorado has some serious weather! You know what they say, "If you don't like the weather in Colorado, wait 5 minutes!"

Well, I'm off to contact my landlord to get the heat fixed. We just can't manage to keep the pilot light lit, and if this crazy weather keeps up, we will definitely need the heat. Especially since Erik is recover from a very sudden but brief onset of pneumonia. He is doing much better now and is on antibiotics, but he was really sick for a couple days. His midterms and this crazy weather must have lowered his immune system. I'm glad he is better though. So stay warm and stay healthy everyone!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

New layout! Huzzah!

I decided to change the layout of my blog. The other one was just not jiving with my vibe. This one is much better in my opinion. In other news, Erik had a lovely dinner waiting for me when I got home from work. He made some fabulous apple chicken sausage in Jalfrezi sauce with white rice and garlic naan. It was totally delicious! What an amazing boyfriend I have!

We popped open a bottle of 2007 Muir Wood Pinot Noir to enjoy with the meal. I highly recommend this wine! It has a strong fruity nose, and tastes of ripe berries and oak. Very smooth, mellow tannins. Really nice finish. Erik is now studying at the kitchen table and I am in my PJ's and down booties, ready to settle in and watch Fringe on Hulu. I am working a lot this week, which is good because it will make up for some of the days I missed going to grandad's 89th birthday! The trip was a big success. It was so nice to see everyone, and hang out in San Francisco and San Carlos. My little cousins are still as adorable as ever, and the weather in SF was perfect! I can't wait for my parents to come and visit me here.

Boulder is definitely experiencing fall in full force. The air has been crisp and very autumnal. The leaves are changing just brilliantly. Every day I walk along the creek to work, under the shade of yellow and red maple, aspen, and cottonwood trees. It is a lovely little walking commute, though today it rained and snowed! It was cool though, because I got to wear my Marmot down puffy that I have so missed. That is the warmest most fluffy jacket ever. I am so glad to be working so close to home, and able to stroll across the park right to the front door. I hope the leaves have not all fallen by the time my parents visit! And if they do, there is nothing quite like seeing the flat irons dusted with fresh winter snow.

Next post I promise some more pictures.... Probably. ;)

Boulder Gear Swapmeet! We need one!

Between the two of us, Erik and I have a bunch of gear we want to unload. Our condo isn't huge, and all the extra stuff just creates clutter. We have enough stuff (and good quality) to have a very nice garage sale, but here's the rub: we don't have a garage, yard, or driveway! So how do we unload this stuff?

The stuff we want to get rid of:
-vintage road bike (needs some love to be ridable)
-road bike helmet
-women's snowboard with bindings (good condition)
-a couple of mens snowboards (good condition)
-some extra bindings
-a variety of alpine and cross country skis
-miscillaneous outdoor clothing, snowboard jackets, goggles, etc.

I know I could sell it all on craigslist, but that would mean writing many a CL post, and having to be home and available for a lot of people to stop by. I just don't want to deal with all the back and forth. I would rather sell the stuff for less money if it meant less hassel. So I came up with an idea. I want to have an informal Boulder gear sale/swap! The seasons are changing and many people need to suit up for winter, or might want to unload some summer excess. A gear swap would be the perfect solution!

It would go like this, I would talk to all my friends about it, post it on facebook, craigslist, a bunch of forums etc. and name a date, time and location. Then everyone interested would bring all the gear they don't want to this location at the specified time and date, and sell or trade it to all interested parties who show up. I think it would be an excellent solution! The only problem is I don't really have a place to do it. I was thinking the park by my place would be a good spot (Scott Carpenter park, with the skate park). I'm not sure what the rules are in Boulder about having this kind of thing at a city park or something. I tried to look up holding an event at Scott Carpenter but came up empty handed. Maybe there is a warehouse or events center somewhere? The other issue would be weather. Now that it is getting cold and with rain and snow on the menu for the rest of this week, it makes an outdoor event like this a little tough. I would like to have it on a nice sunny day where people would be inclined to browse, etc. The weather here is pretty unpredictable, so my guess is there will be more warm weather coming up before winter really settles in.

I think an event like this would also help build community. People could come and hang out, talk gear, and help each other out. I don't know if I will get it together to organize something like this, but it would be cool....

Maybe I will just sell it all on craigslist.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park: Chasm Lake

This last Sunday I embarked on a 8.4 mile hike with a group of friends in Rocky Mountain National Park. The destination: Chasm Lake. This trail offers everything a hiker could ask for: wildlife, creeks, waterfalls, wildflowers, a gorgeous lake and spectacular views. When hiking at elevation it is always important to be prepared. The weather can change quickly in the mountains, and a lovely summer day can turn to a hypothermic rain, snow or hail storm in minutes. Be sure to pack some warm layers and plenty of water. And definitely bring rain gear. Get below tree line if a storm is on its way. Lighting danger is very real! And remember to tell someone where you are hiking and when you plan to be back, so if you don't show, someone will know to call the authorities and look for you!

The Chasm Lake hike begins at Longs Peak Ranger Station on the east edge of the national park. The cool thing about this trailhead is you don't have to drive all the way up to Estes Park (a nearby town and the general gateway to RMNP) and you don't have to pay to enter from this area! There are restrooms near the trailhead in the camping area, and it would be wise to use them before setting out. The trailhead is located at 9400 feet with an elevation gain of 2360 feet over the 4.2 miles to the lake. This puts the lake at 11760 feet in elevation. This can put an amazing strain on the lungs and legs if you are not acclimated to the elevation. Luckily, living in nearby Boulder that sits at around 5600 feet, the elevation is not too crazy. But you can definitely feel it!

Yay water features!

We started on the trail at around 10:00am, though later we wished we had embarked a bit earlier to have more time to enjoy the lake at the top. The hike begins with a steady climb on a nice wide trail through pine trees and boulders, with the occasional squrrel in the trees. While winding up through the pine trees hikers pass near several creek and waterfall areas, as well as a few creek crossings with convenient little foot bridges. The areas near running water are green, mossy, and cool, and make excellent rest spots to catch your breath.

Pretty little waterfall!

After hiking through the trees, and a cascading creek crossing, hikers are greeted by a lighting warning sign! When you see this sign you know you are about to bust out above treeline. It is important when hiking to be sure you are below treeline if a storm begins to move in. With lighting it's one strike, your out!

Warning! Lightning Danger!

As you come above treeline the pines and evergreens get shorter and stumper, and are eventually replaced by shrubby groundcover and windswept rock. The first view of Long's Peak as it bursts over the horizon is stunning. I can't wait to hike to the top of that monster!

The first view of Long's Peak

A meandering but nevertheless strenuous trek across the open boulder-field brings you the the Long's Peak trail junction. Here there is a hilarious little solar powered bathroom that desperate hikers can take advantage of before continuing down the trail another .7 miles to Chasm Lake, or branching off to head up a grueling 10+ miles to the summit of Long's Peak.

Crossing the boulder field

From this point forward, the trail is dizzyingly spectacular. A wide singletrack contours the edge of a steep slope. The Diamond on Long's Peak (a famous granite rock face for climbers and mountaineers) looms in the background, while the forground is the cascading Columbine Falls. Look for Blue Columbines, the Colorado state flower, when you near the falls and the waterways that follow.

The goal is in sight!

Beyond the falls lies a wetland area filled with ponds and streams. Watch for marmots and pikas near the trail. They make for an adorable photo-op! There is another solar powerd toilet in this area located near a picturesque emergency ranger hut if the need arises. If you are hiking late in the season this area is easily negotiated, but in the earlier season it can be packed with snow and ice, so tread carefully!

Blue Columbines line the trail

After a short yet lung busting scramble up the final leg of the trail you are greated with the site of Chasm Lake spanning before you at the base of the Diamond. This vista is massive. The scope of the peak before you is hard to grasp.

Chasm Lake with Long's Peak in the background.
I couldn't fit the whole thing in the shot!

Here we sat in the shadow of the mountain, eating our lunches and chatting, when the clouds started coming in. We made a quick exit as hail started to fall, and made it down below tree line well before the lighting and rain kicked in. Luckily we had all packed rain gear and some warm layers. Our hike back through the pines was a wet one, but what an experience! I definitely recommend Chasm Lake to anyone looking for a little morning adventure. I can't wait to hike Long's Peak one of these days!

Friday, September 4, 2009

And then there were cows!


This last weekend Erik (my boyfriend) and I decided it would be a lovely day to go on an easy mountain bike ride. I chose a trail that I thought would be pretty mellow based on distance and technical ability. The trail I wanted to ride is called Foothills trail, which goes in a big loop. It is a wide, level path with only a few easy uphills and one slightly technical downhill section, but there are gorgeous views of the plains and the mountains. This trail is located just East of Boulder, and winds through the open plains and around some picturesque ponds and reservoirs. But the coolest thing about this trail is that it cuts right through the center of a working ranch!

Now riding through a ranch is very interesting, as we discovered. There are a lot of cattle gates that you need to go through to connect with the bike-able portions of the trail. These gates are spring loaded, and if one isn't paying attention it would be easy to slam your bike frame in a metal gate (ouch!). I usually dismounted to go through these gates, but Erik became pretty skilled at balancing on his bike while opening and shutting the gate gently (he refuses to unclip from his pedals unless absolutely necessary. I ride with flats, so I don't have the clipped in obsession).

Erik during a rare dismount

But the thing I did not expect on this ride were the cows! We had to ride our bikes quietly and carefully through an entire herd of cattle! I was pretty crazy riding slowly next to a huge animal like that, hoping that the squeak of your brakes doesn't startle it into running you down (I am told cows are docile animals. I still think they are kind of scary)! There times when I was forced to get off and walk, or drag my bike off the trail to make room for a passing bovine. One gate presented a particular problem as there was a huge bull standing just on the other side (pictured above). We hung out at this gate for a while trying not to make eye-contact with the big bull, and eventually he decided we were not a threat and moseyed (or maybe it was more plodding) off. Plus the trails had a fair number of steaming cowpies deposited conveniently in your way.

Careful...careful...think calming thoughts....

All in all it was a great late morning/early afternoon ride in an area of Boulder we don't spend much time in. This weekend we are hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park to Chasm Lake. It should be awesome! I will definitely post about the trip. My goal is to hike Long's Peak at the end of the month. Chasm lake is only 8.4 miles round trip, but Long's Peak is a rugged 16 miles! Not bad for a day hike! Long's Peak is one of Colorado's 14ers, so named because it is over 14,000 feet in elevation.

Wish me luck this weekend, and on my journey to the top of Long's!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Climbing: Totally and ridiculously fun!

So last week the boyfriend and I finally took the plunge.... We joined a climbing gym (were you expecting something else?). We joined the Boulder Rock Club, witch is a totally sweet climbing gym in Boulder with free massage and yoga classes (yes free!) and unlimited climbing during the length of your membership.

Climbing indoors has become a popular way to keep in excellent climbing shape during the off-season of the cold winter months . Some people climb indoors year-round to practice technique and stay in the best shape possible. The stronger and more skilled the climber, the safer the sport. Now I am not in any particular climbing shape as I am just getting into the sport, but man is it an intense workout! I have never experienced anything that is quite so full body and complete. A climbing gym allows you to tackle this dangerous sport in a relatively safe controlled environment.

Traditional climbing requires a multitude of expensive protective gear, ropes, anchors and devices. To climb in the gym, all you need is a harness and belay device. It helps to have climbing shoes, but they are not necessary. A harness and belay device can be rented at the gym if you don't have your own. Every climber in the gym is required to pass a belay test before they can climb. Belaying is the act of holding on to the other end of the rope that keeps the climber secure. The rope is run through a belay device, or ATC, and the belayer if able to use the device to create friction and control the speed of the rope running through it. With this technique the belayer can catch the climber if he falls. It is very important that your belayer knows what they are doing and is trustworthy and attentive, as they are the only thing keeping you from falling to injury or possibly death (hence the test!).

A climbing gym is set with routes, which are hand and foot holds you use to climb the walls. These routes are marked with colored tape and the difficulty is posted. These routes include everything from easy vertical routes to cracks, overhangs and extremely difficult sport routes.

Another option that does not need much protective gear or ropes is bouldering. Bouldering is like climbing, but the routes undertaken by boulderers generally keep you closer to the ground and are often incredibly difficult. A boulder "problem" as they are called, can take many attempts to solve. Often boulderes will use crash-pads in case of a fall. This is a thick mat placed under the climber that they can fall on to prevent injury. For even more control in a fall, there may be a spotter that can guide the climber's fall. Bouldering can be undertaken anywhere. There are often bouldering areas in a climbing gym. It is normally undertaken on any big rock or rough surface. I have seen people boulder on the sides of stonework buildings!

So far we have climbed at the gym a number of times, and it is crazy fun! I have this amazing ability to completely trust technology, and I am naturally comfortable with heights, so I think I am on my way to becoming a good climber!

I bought a new harness yesterday (pictured above), and I am so stoked about it! It's a Black Diamond Iris women's harness. It's contoured to fit, and very lightweight and comfortable with auto-locking buckles. It was a little more expensive, but so comfortable I couldn't say no. This harness will be supporting me in a life or death situation, so I think it justifies spending a little more money. I also got a new belay device, so I will no longer have to swap back and forth with the boyfriend. I can't wait to get back to the gym!

Climbing works out every muscle in you body, but the big ones are the forearms, shoulders, upper back, and grip strength. The day after my first big climb I could barely cut things with a serrated knife! In climbing when your forearms are totally worked, it's called being pumped, and man were my arms pumped! I also felt some nice muscle soreness in my shoulders and arms. As the weak links in you climbing get stronger (usually forearms and fingers) you start to feel the burn in other areas, like your core. Have you seen climbers? They are almost always totally ripped (men and women) with those perfect, lean, yoga-bodies. I'm totally hooked!

This is a good example of how getting fit is so much easier if you have an activity that you enjoy and are passionate about. Going to the gym and spending two hours on the elliptical in tortuous boredom will not help you get as amped about fitness as spending a couple of hours mountain biking or playing sports with your friends. Find something you enjoy, start small, and keep with it! It's amazing how much it will improve you mood, health, and general well being. I find that getting started is the hardest part. Once you are going, momentum can see you through. And if your fitness activity is something you look forward to, that's the best! I can't wait to

Till next time, I'll see you on the wall!

Monday, August 3, 2009

California here I come!

After much deliberation, careful planning, re-planning, canceling those plans and making new plans, the BF and I have decided to embark on a long, arduous journey of enlightenment and self discovery. Well, not really. In actuality we have decided to drive to California to visit my family for a few weeks (it probably will be kind of arduous, but whatever...).

Whenever I am preparing for a trip, I always make a detailed packing list tailored specifically for the adventure ahead. This trip that we are taking will have 4 main elements involved. Those elements are as follows:

-General social gatherings

These 4 activities all have very specific packing requirements. One of the reasons we decided to drive instead of fly was to allow ourselves the luxury of bringing our road bikes to California with us. These day it costs about $150 to check a bike on a plane, and that is if you are incredibly lucky with the weight and surcharges of your particular airline. This cost does not include the stress and inconvenience of having to lug an enormous bike box around in an airport. Been there, done that, not looking forward to repeating it. So the bikes will be on the roof rack on the drive to CA.

The camping aspect of the trip will primarily take place on the drive to and from CA. At 17 hours, this trip is nothing to scoff at. And if you are a weeny like me, you definitely do not want to drive 16 hours in one go. This would entail all the camping gear be easily accessible in the car. It will be much more important to be able to find my headlamp than my hairdryer when pulling up to a sketch-ball campsite at 3am in the middle of nowhere (note to self, don't forget headlamp).

The beach is fairly easy to pack for: Bikini, towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, done. Let's hit the sand.

Now for the social aspect of the trip. As i will be visiting many friends I have not seen in a while, it is important that I make an excellent impression. The general idea being that I look fit and happy, and that we have a blast doing whatever. It is hard for me let loose and have fun if I feel severely under or over-dressed for the occasion. This means a variety of outfits must be packed, including, but not limited to: bonfire-wear, club-wear, restaurant-wear, party-wear, hiking-wear, chillin-wear, etc. Many of these items will be able to cross over, but forgetting any one thing could be very inconvenient.

The most important thing to remember is your wallet with valid ID, money, and a credit card. If everything above is forgotten, anything essential can be purchased. I'm going to California, not the African rain forest, jeez. Remember this simple exersize to help anyone avoid Pre-trip "Oh my god, I know i forgot something" Panic Syndrome:

Think: What am I really doing on this trip? If you forget to take your Italian leather boots spelunking, does it really matter?
Look: What do I have on me right now? If you have the clothes you are wearing, comfy shoes, some money and an ID, you can get out of almost any scrape in this fine country of ours. A cellphone makes it even easier. If you are leaving the country, add passport to that list, and you're good to go.
Relax: Take a deep breath. Hysterical panic avoided. Bon Voyage!

So now that I have a detailed checklist, have mapped out my activities and planned for every possible situation, I will probably just wait until the last mimutet and throw a bunch of stuff in a duffle bag. Awesome.

As long as I have my bikini, wallet, and sunglasses, it's going to be a good trip. :)

Till next time....

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Stepping into the unknown.... (Ditching a job in an unstable economy)

On Thursday the 16th of July, I gave my two weeks notice at the job I have held for the last year. I finished my last day of work yesterday, and I feel relieved, nervous, and excited. Many people have questioned my decision. How could I quit my job in such an unstable economy? Do I have another job lined up? The answer is no, I don't have anything in the works. I quit my job with very little idea of what I am going to do now. I needed a change.

Millions of people drag themselves to work day in and day out to a job that they can't stand just to pay the bills. I respect those people for keeping at it, especially if they have a family to support. But I refuse to be held by the "Golden handcuffs," as my boyfriend refers to them. The golden handcuffs are what holds you to a job you would otherwise have left long ago. It's the fear of losing the money, holding you this position. What if you can't find another job? What if you can't make enough money somewhere else? What will my friends and family think? It's easier to stay and be miserable than to take a risk. This is why so many people are unable to leave jobs they hate, no matter how depressed they may become. No matter how negatively it has impacted the rest of their life. The golden handcuffs have chained them to their desk. I have decided to find a new direction. I want take a break from the 8 to 5 and find out if I am really on a path that will lead to my happiness. I don't know how this story will play out, but I plan to see it through to the end. I am nervous about finding another job that I enjoy, nervous that the job market is not as good as it once one. Employment is no longer a guarantee for a young, educated girl like myself. But it is a chance I have decided to take.

During this time of change I plan to focus on myself. I not only want to make changes in my professional life; I am on a mission to improve my health, nutrition, and general well-being. I want to get back into taking care of myself and maintain the active lifestyle that keeps me happy and healthy. And to eat the foods I that will make me feel energized instead of exhausted. Regular exercise, healthy foods and good nutrition, and spending more time in nature. I have been neglecting these things for the past year, and it is time to take this chance to refocus. It's time to live clean!