2017 In Review

Looking back on 2017

2017 has probably been one of the worst and one of the best years I’ve ever had in my entire life.

It was most definitely one of the busiest years I have ever experienced. But it had a lot of fun moments.

It was definitely the most stressful year. But it was rewarding.

Grand Teton National Park

There were a lot of tears. And a lot of smiles.

There were times I wanted to quit everything and give up. And times that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

It was one of those years.

A lot of the bad included losing a step-grandparent, stressful home/work life balance, a tragedy within our cross country team, hail damage with a shifty, unethical car repair shop, loss of two pets, and probably more that I have repressed.

The good included a lot of travel, realizing love sees no bounds, a successful second year for Golden Mountain Guides, being part of five weddings and lots of time with family and friends.

I really am ready for a new year, carrying lessons from this year.

Here are some highlights from the past year…

January… started off slow. I started training to be a race director, track pre-season started, I started my #60HikesDenverChallenge (trying to hike/run all 60 trails in the 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Denver Book), we did a little bit of snowboarding and I did yoga challenge.

Walden Ponds, Boulder. Start of my #60HikesDenverChallenge

February…I did my first race as the sole Race Director (the Heart Throb 5k in Longmont), track season really starts, and we went to see the Mummies exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

See me in the background?? Literally holding back the flag from the wind as the race started. Sometimes race directors do some random tasks.

March…Ran the Erin Go Braugh 7.77k (my favorite of all the races the company I work for produces), and went to a Bridal Shower for Ben’s sister (which means wedding madness for the year starts).

Oh yeah, my outfit was AWESOME!

April… lots of work between all my jobs and my birthday month (wooo… 30 – that’s sarcasm in case you’re curious). But 30 did come with a zombie-themed escape room (we didn’t escape, for the record).

May… was full of the State Track & Field meet (one of my jumpers missed state by just a few inches – literally), running of the Bolder Boulder, and got hired for my first freelance writing job (10Hikes.com)

June…a ton of hiking (for my #60HikesChallenge and 10Hikes.com), a typical bachelorette party, and the first wedding of the year (Ben’s youngest sister) gets married. I also got a spot on a Ragnar Trail Snowmass team at the last second.

July… brought wedding #2 (Ben’s Cousin), a trip to Pennsylvania, lots of work (finished up my first 10Hikes project which reviewed the 10 best hikes in the Denver Region), and another Bridal shower (for my friend this time).

August...included another bridal shower (Ben’s other sister), a Trip to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, a bachelorette Pary in New Orleans, and Cross Country season starts.

September… Held wedding #3 (my friend), I race directed my biggest race yet (a 500 person 5k), and two trips to Moab with Ben (one for scouting and back again for guiding a 12-women group).

October…was wedding #4 (Ben’s other sister), I finished up my second freelance writing project (reviewing the 10 best hikes for Rocky Mountain Nation Park which is not live online yet), we did another Moab trip, we travelled to Florida and on a cruise for wedding #5 and I ran the Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon.

November…Cross Country season had ended but work with the running company picked up for our biggest race of the year (Broomfield Turkey Day 5k/10k). Then Thanksgiving brings some nice time in Estes Park as we prepare for the holiday season.

Relaxing in Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Sprague Lake

December…here we are, in December. This is when we try and play catch up with all of our jobs. Christmas was busy travelling between all of our families and we travelled up to North Dakota to see my friend and her new baby (baby #2 for her) and on to Dakota, IL for New Years and to visit Ben’s Grandparents. We even hit up TWO National Monuments on the way!


In the beginning of 2017, I set a few goals to focus on for the year. Let’s see how I did….

Running Goals –
1. To love running again (I do enjoy the sport again, but I’m not on a meticulous plan; I’ve going a week or more between runs sometimes.)
2. And work my way through hiking/running all 60 trails in the “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles” Denver Edition (I got 17 of the 60 done. I did take on a freelance writing job involving hiking for 10hikes.com which involved hikes that are not in this book. I hiked 50+ different hikes this year. Maybe 60 was pushing it, but not bad for how busy the year was.

Other fitness –
I like to be active in general and play in the great outdoors, but I have one specific goal in mind:
3. Climb 5.10s consistently (I got ONE 5.10 done!)
3a. I guess that means I better start strength training regularly again…too. (Well, I definitely worked out more than I did the previous year, but not as much as I had hoped. I did climb a 5.10 in the gym just a few weeks ago, which felt pretty good.)

Career –
4. I would like to see more clients with Golden Mountain Guides than last year
5. Learn more about the tourism industry, in particular, marketing. (We did see more clients than last year! It’s pretty awesome to see your own company grow! And I did learn  a little bit more about tourism, mostly through our own company.)

Other –
6. Travel to FIVE new places, in or out of Colorado. (Check X5! See above and all the travel we did this year! We even made it to at least 8 National Parks of Monuments).
7.  Learn about a new topic every month. (This gets 1/4 green. We started out strong, learning about Egyptian History, oceans, and I took a month to study Jumps Coaching (track and field). But as our business got busier, we put this one hold, only to pick it up in November, studying Mayan History)

Overall, I am truly glad this year is coming to a close. I’m ready for a “new start” of sorts in 2018.

Chasm Lake – One of my favorite photos from 2017.

Backpacking in the Grand Teton National Park (attempting to climb the Grand)

Backpacking is like day hiking on steroids. The load you carry is considerably larger and the trails tend to be longer and much, much more steep. It seems there’s no in-between.


After a few friends of ours wanted Ben’s help to climb the Grand Teton, we decided to make it a mini vacation for ourselves as well. The plan was for Ben to take me up the Grand to get to know the route better than he could from just reading about it and talking to people. Then, the next day, he would take up our two friends. That was the plan.

As an old friend used to say, “the only sure thing about a plan is the plan will change.”


Sunday afternoon, after I got home from working a race, we loaded up the car as fast as we could and hit the road heading toward the northwest corner of Wyoming. Driving through the barren landscape, I took a nap in the passenger seat as Ben drove on.

We arrived in Jackson, WY around 8pm, checked into a hotel and searched for some food while walking around the cute town. After looking around for quite a while, we finally found an affordable place to eat at a local pizza and pasta joint, Pizzeria Caldera. My baked ziti was delicious and Ben ate his whole pizza.

The next morning, we drove up the highway into Grand Teton National Park, checked in at the Ranger’s station to get our back country permits, and off we were to the trailhead. It took us awhile to get organized and ready to hike (partly due to a leaky camel-bak), but eventually we made our way onto the trails.

Super hazy from all the nearby (ish) fires

This is not the grand. This is a ridge right in front.

With a short misleading beginning, the trail starts off flat and into a gradual incline, but once it started to incline, it never stopped! The 6 or 7 miles (Ben keeps telling me something different) was the hardest trail I’ve ever hiked, let alone with 45 pounds on my back. A seemingly endless climb, loose dirt and rocks, boulders to scramble over…. 6 miles over this varying terrain challenged me beyond my ability.

This IS the trail….just right over those giant boulders…

Still looking generally happy….

With about a mile left, and at least 1000ft, I was reaching the end of my energy levels. Crying and struggling to take steps, my trekking poles kept getting stuck. With a small temper-tantrum, I chucked the poles up hill while Ben snapped some photos of my hissy-fit. I was so done with that hike. I was crying because I was tried, feeling defeated, under trained and my thoughts kept drifting  to my life and why I was feeling so out of shape!

You can’t see, but I’m definitely crying in the pictures and have just thrown my poles.

After one more tantrum (I’m not making this up), we made it closer, but still had half that ground to cover, but not really knowing how much was left (Ben didn’t even know, having never been there), I was finding it hard to keep moving. I kept looking up and no matter how many steps I took, the peaks didn’t seem to get any closer!

I look PISSED!

Not even bothering to use my poles, I dragged them behind me. Ben took this moment to go ahead to the camping spot (how he can just trek up mountains like their nothing, I’ll never know). He dropped his bags, turned around, came back to grab mine and we finished the quarter-mile to where we would set up camp.

After a quick dinner, I was asleep in the tent before the sun went down. Justly so, we had an early wake up call at 1:00 am the next morning. We woke up with an almost-full moon overhead lighting up the whole mountain corridor. With a much smaller pack, we left camp and started out on the last bit of the approach to the climb.

The view in the morning…

It was painstaking work to me. More steep hills, loose dirt and rocks, large rocks to step over… I was breathing hard within the first few minutes. This was hard. REALLY HARD. Harder than anything I’ve every tried before. And I’m not sure why.

As the hike went on, there was more scrambling, short-roping and slippery boulder stepping than I wanted to deal with. The higher we went the more nauseous I felt. Altitude sickness? Maybe. Nerves thinking about what lie ahead? Maybe. Exhaustion? Probably. A mix of all the above? Most definitely.

Trying to look happy after turning around

At a place called the Needle, I sat there thinking about the amount of rope work ahead of us and the tall peak we were about the climb. I felt like I was going to throw up.  Ben thought I looked pale. I started to get a headache and we decided to turn around before the harness needed to come on.

Days later, I’m still disappointed in myself and going over my thoughts. Was I scared? Was it all in my head? Or did I really have the onset of altitude sickness? I don’t know. I’ll never know.

After we hiked back to camp, I curled up, back in my sleeping bag again. As it turns out, a thunder-storm rolled in and that would’ve meant we would have been stuck on the summit during the storm. I guess it all works out for a reason. See, the plan always changes.

The storms raged off and on throughout the day. We found a nearby cave that we could stand in (rather than being scrunched up in the tent). We caught bits of conversation with the area guides stopping in for a reprieve from the rain while we waited for our friends to hike in.

The cave…bigger than it looks!

Eventually the rain stopped and our friends reached camp. We helped them set up camp, go over what they needed for their next day’s summit attempt, and cooked some dinner.

The rest of MY journey from here is pretty boring (except the storm on the way out, but more on that later). Ben and our two friends hiked and climbed for 11 hours to and from camp and made it to the summit! Their journey sounds amazing and I am super jealous. These two ladies from Golden wanted to do something BIG for their 50th birthday and they accomplished it all, putting me to shame!

I slept in, sat in the tent, read a book, hiked the little bit to stream to get water, read some more, ate food, and waited around. But at least I had some fresh mountain air and beautiful views!

Waiting in the tent for them to come back

The fresh water stream we got our water from…yes, we boiled it or used a Lifestraw!

Once they came back to camp, we packed all our gear back up, only a few pounds lighter from eating food, and hiked out. About half way down, a storm thundered nearby and got closer and closer. Terrified of lighting and since Ben was staying with our friends, I picked up the pace, running between clearings, catching my breath in the forested areas but banging my poles together in the woods, attempting to scare away any bears since I was hiking by myself.

Yes, there were really bears in the area and we got many reports of sightings on our way up. However, the only wildlife we saw were pika, marmots, deer and chipmunks.

Hiking out

A marmot, posing for me

It was probably a hilarious sight to see, me careening down the trail with a 40 pound bag on my back. Getting tired of running and still nervous about the lightning, I slowed my pace, feeling exhausted when I heard the magical sounds of…. A CAR HORN! I was close, I must be! I picked my pace back up, escaping the confine of the woods to the safety of my car!

This was actually the start of the hike but thats my sweet Jeep!

After dropping off our bear cans at the ranger station, we celebrated an incredible journey at the Snake River Brewery back in Jackson! The next day, we slowly got up, had breakfast at Cafe Genevieve and drove north again for some sightseeing in the rest of Teton National Park and a little bit of Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone Lake

Exploring Mt. Rainier National Park

20160426_160305(Did you know it’s the Centennial Celebration of the National Parks? It is! The National Parks Service is officially celebrating their 100th birthday on August 25th. I absolutely love and respect the National Park Service and plan on doing a whole bunch of National Park posts this month. Check out my last posts about Rocky MountainArches, Joshua Tree, and Death Valley. Next up is this one, Mt. Rainier National Park….)

Back in April, Ben, myself and a friend of ours, took a journey to Washington. It was a trip to combine many different things: a half marathon for me, my Grandpa’s Memorial service, family time, vacation and some Mt. Rainier fun.

Photo Credit: My aunt Bambi that lives out in Washington.

Photo Credit: My Aunt Bambi that lives out in Washington.

Ben and his friend Matt had plans to climb Mt. Rainier. I had no desire (yet) to do this climb, let alone the route they chose, but went with them to the National Park. I was their communication to family and friends via the internet while they climbed. While their climb is their story to tell, this left me with a lot of free time to explore Mt. Rainier National Park, or at least the parts of it that were open in late April.

Ben and Matt started toward the summit from the Paradise parking lot. This is on the South side of the big mountain. During the winter months, a majority of the roads and entrances to Mt. Rainier are closed due to snow. Winter in this area can extend into June, we were told. We were visiting right as lot of the snow was melting, but that still only left one entrance open to get to paradise, through the town of Ashford.

Ben and Matt starting their climb.

Ben and Matt starting their climb.

After waving good-bye as they started their journey, I doddled, trying to figure out what to do and see. I don’t mind doing stuff by myself, but having company on adventures is always more fun, in my opinion. Not letting being alone stop me, I studied the map for some trails I could explore. Not a lot was open but I had driven past a couple of signs for waterfalls, and thought, “I should start there!”

Leaving Paradise, as I drove down the road, I first came across Narada Falls. At first, when you look over the edge of the parking lot you can see the fast-moving river and the side of a massively wide waterfall. There’s a trail you can take to the view-point down below. I started and was thwarted by a massive wall of snow, waist-high that came right up to the guard rail. I was super bummed as another lone-hiker came. I watched him hop right up on top of the snow and defeat this obstacle (why didn’t I think of that). So, I followed!

The trail-blocked with snow

The trail-blocked with snow

 

After getting over the snow, I realized that was the only part of the trail that was difficult. The rest was snowed on and a little slippery, but was manageable. The other traveler was in town on business and decided to journey into the park for a quick trip. We helped each other take pictures, then went about our ways.

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Next up was Christine Falls. Just a quick drive further down the road and I was there. I hopped out of the car and took in the beautiful view. There was a trail that takes you up about the falls, but I was going to save that for the next day.

When traveling by yourself, you take a lot of selfies!

When traveling by yourself, you take a lot of selfies!

After getting some rest, trying local restaurants (dinner the night before and breakfast), then talking to the rangers, day two brought some more exploring.

I drove back into the park (stopping at every view-point along the way) and did the short, flat historical hike called the “Trail of Shadows”. I learned all about the town of Longmire (a health destination in the late 1800’s for people to cure all that ails them by soaking in the once hot springs and using medicine from the native plants nearby).

View from the trail, through the trees you can see Mt. Rainier.

View from the trail, through the trees you can see Mt. Rainier.

Then I drove my way up the road again to hike the trail behind Christine Falls with the destination Comet Falls in mind. The ranger did warn me that he didn’t think the trail was passable, but I decided to try it anyway, because I’m like that.

I made it about 1.5, maybe 2 miles at the most, before the trail was blocked by a steep snow slid (see picture). With better shoes and an ice ax or walking pole, I probably would have attempted it. But looking at the bottom of the slope and my trails shoes, I opted to skip it; envisioning myself sledding on my butt to the icy river some 100 ft down. No thank you!

What I would have had to hike over to get to Comet Falls.

What I would have had to hike over to get to Comet Falls. Would you do it?

The rest of my day was spent at Paradise, staring at the slope, looking for my boyfriend to return, terrified, not knowing they were staying one more night on the mountain due to weather. That’s a whole different story filled with worry, a lot of tears and looking for a hotel at 11pm.

Top of Christine Falls

Top of Christine Falls

Getting there:

  • Looks like the only way to enter during winter is from the south/west side of the park where we did, through Asford; the snow leaving all other road impassable.
  • There are THREE total entrances during the summer. We only got to see this part of the park.
  • Mt. Rainier Website

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Tips:

  • Best time to visit: Summer – Temperatures are great, roads are open and trails are passable. (Unless you’re a mountaineer, then consult mountaineering books to find out when the best time is to visit.)
  • Skiers and Snowboards: this is a magical place! You can hike up and ski down; I wish I had brought my board!

We can’t wait to go back!

Oh, by the way; the boys made it to the summit, safe and sound (and back down again)!

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Hiking to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

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(Did you know it’s the Centennial Celebration of the National Parks? It is! The National Parks Service is officially celebrating their 100th birthday on August 25th. I absolutely love and respect the National Park Service and plan on doing a whole bunch of National Park posts this month. Check out my last post about Rocky Mountain and next up is this one, Arches National Park….)

A couple of weekends ago, my boyfriend and I got the chance to make a quick visit to Moab, Utah. I had never been before, and Ben had a guiding opportunity for the area so when a friend cancelled plans with me back in town, I jumped at the opportunity to go with!

Sunrise near Fischer's Towers

Sunrise near Fischer’s Towers

We drove out on a Friday night, camped in my new Jeep Renegade and were up before the sun the next morning. While Ben met with his client, I got my running clothes on, loaded up with water (it is after all the desert) and laced up my trail shoes.

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Shot with my Go Pro Hero 4

We were all super lucky that it was an unusual day in the desert and even thought is was 90 degrees at 8am, it didn’t feel like that with the overcast skies. I got a great run/hike in around Fisher’s towers in Castle Vally outside of Moab.

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Once Ben was done working, we had a lot of time to spare before we had to head back to Golden, so we decided to check out Arches National Park, another place I had never been. I have always seen pictures of the Delicate Arch and always have wanted to see it in person.

Ben was tired

Ben was tired

We entered the park via the main entrance. There’s only one other way to get into the park, which is the way we exited, but it’s through the north most part of the park via a dirt county road and it not well-marked. At all.

After passing the other amazing vistas and landmarks of Arches (Tower of Babel, Courthouse Towers) and taking the best picture of Balance Rock, we made our way to the trailhead for Delicate Arch.

Help preserve the national parks by holding up Balanced Rack.

Help preserve the national parks by holding up Balanced Rack.

Thinking we were still having great luck with the weather, we left our car with only two 16.9 oz bottles of water even when the signs recommended two liters per person. Sure enough, the sun finally came out in full blaze and we were hiking in 110 degree heat.

We didn’t turn back because in our heads, we thought we were pretty fit people and didn’t need more water than we had. We kept going, after all it is only a three mile hike, round trip! Little did we  know (ok maybe Ben did, but I didn’t) that we would be hiking 50% of the time on rock, feeling like we were in a  microwave.

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We went through our water before we even reached the arch. Ben even gave me 90% of his water. Needless to say, we probably we suffering from heat exhaustion.

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Worth it? Totally. The arch was incredible! (Please note, I don’t recommend heat exhaustion at all. Learn from me and trust the signs; bring 2 liters of water during the hot summer months.) With polite people waiting in a line, I got my desired picture under that arch.

If you look closely, I'm under the arch! Bucket list: check!

If you look closely, I’m under the arch! Bucket list item: check!

We started our way down, making friends with a family from Texas and back to our air-conditioned car.

We really wanted to do the seven hour mile to see Private Arch, Landscape arch and more, but we just didn’t have enough time. All that means is we get to go back – maybe during a less-hot time.

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As I mentioned before, we decided to leave through the other entrance, a long, un marked dirt road. There is one more view this way, Tower Arch, that not many make it to. You can either park and hike three miles round trip or take a 4WD road. Having just bought my new jeep, I really wanted to try the 4WD trail….

4WD Fail

4WD Fail

Let’s just say, I need more 4WD practice… Ben and I had a good laugh as I stalled my car many times and got stuck in the deep sand. Maybe next time!

Getting there:

  • You can to Arches National Park via Highway 191 or 128 through Utah off I-70.
  • Highly suggest entering from the main entrance on the south side of the park.
  • Park Website

Tips:

  • Seriously, bring LOTS of water. It is after all a desert.
  • Although not a big National Park, the trails are pretty strenuous and take a lot of time. Plan for at least one FULL day or a couple of days in the park to get the best of Arches.
  • We camped (in the Jeep) out side of the park, in BLM land for $15 a night.
  • Enjoy Moab! There’s a lot of things to do in and out of the park! We noticed signs for zip lines, rafting, 4WD trips, and more!

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