Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Three day weekend, chock-full

I love weekends like this: staying busy and doing a lot of different things, but never feeling stressed or overwhelmed. And when a minor holiday such as Presidents Day extends the weekend by a day, all the better.

My wife and I had scheduled a date night for Friday, but the time was almost upon us and no plans had been made. I really didn't want to go sit through a movie I have no interest in. But I didn't have any good ideas as to what we should do. A coworker threw out ice skating as an option. I don't know if he was being serious, but I was intrigued. So after a dinner at East Moon - sushi for her, veggie rolls & szechuan eggplant for me - we went to Westminster's Ice Centre at the Promenade.

It was effectively my first time ice skating. Technically, I had gone once before when I was about 10 years old, but that hardly counts for anything. C used to go ice skating when she was a young girl in Michigan but had lost whatever skill she once had. So we were both total beginners, wobbling around the periphery of the rink. But it was so much fun, we decided that it's something we should do more often.

Saturday was to be a busy day, but in a different way. My daughter had dance class at 9am. And C was planning to go to her art space that afternoon, leaving the kids with me. So if I was going to get a workout, it had to happen early. So Saturday morning I was up at 4:30 to go running. (What is the matter with me?) I broke 17 miles for the first time, and returned home exhausted and frosty.

After a frosty morning run
My daughter, F, has been playing a lot of video games lately, some more educational than others, but none that encourage physical activity. So we had been discussing getting a Kinect for our XBox. Saturday, after lunch, I packed the kids up and we went to pick one up. F spent much of the afternoon jumping around the living room playing River Rush and some of the other games that came with it. I think it's going to turn out to be a good addition to our home entertainment setup.

Sunday has been long-awaited, as F and I had tickets to see Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. I found out a few days before that this month's Neat Market - a local vegan pop-up market - was going on that day as well. So we all went downtown, checked out the market, went over to City, O' City for lunch, and then got dropped off at the performing arts center for the show.

F at the opera
F did really well at the opera. Imagine, anyway, the best case scenario in asking a 6-year-old to sit still and be quiet for three hours (without falling asleep). She had lots of questions about what was going on, and she got restless, but she was able to read a little bit of the text on the caption screens. And we both had a really good time.

On Monday, while the rest of the family was sitting at the breakfast table, I headed out to the South Mesa Trail Head for a hike up Shadow Canyon to South Boulder and Bear peaks. Snowshoes were unnecessary, but I was happy to have some traction control strapped to my shoes. It was probably one of the most strenuous hikes I've done, partially owing to the fact that my legs were still a bit sore from Saturday's run. But it was also incredibly rewarding.

On Bear Peak, above Boulder

Bear Peak

View 2012/02/20 08:39 in a larger map

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Adidas

Back in October, I think it was, a gentleman at Boulder Running Company helped me pick out a new pair of running shoes. He set me up with a pair of Adidas Adizero Aegis 2s (is it just me, or have apparel names gotten really complicated?). I instantly loved them. "They're a fairly unassuming shoe," I told him. "I don't think I would have picked them off the shelf on my own." When it comes to picking out a new piece of gear like this, it is definitely worth it to go to a specialty store where a knowledgeable salesperson can help you find the right item and the right fit.

In the intervening months, the shoes have begun to wear quite a bit on the soles. So I ordered a new pair online. And always mindful of Doran's Law[1], I'm tempted to stockpile the things if I ever find a really cheap source.

Is shoe shopping really blog-worthy? I don't know. But it allows me the opportunity to share (inflict?) this childhood memory with you all.

I frequently find myself dropping brand names on this blog. I should point out that I've never materially benefited from doing so. I just like to share my experiences with the gear that I have, and it doesn't do any good to refer to those items in generic terms.

[1] Doran's Law, originating with the Denver Mad Scientists, states: "If a thing is good, they will stop making it."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hiking Hall Ranch

Another weekend, another great hike. I didn't have a lot of time, and I wasn't really in the mood for deep snow and hard-to-find trails, so I went out to the foothills to check out Hall Ranch, just west of Lyons. It's a trail I've been wanting to visit for a while, and I think I'm smitten.

View 2012/02/12 08:51 in a larger map

According to the signage, this trail is usually pretty muddy. My truck's thermometer said it was 13° F when I arrived at the trail head, and the ground was well frozen. So I thought I was in luck. By the time I finished, the temperature had risen 10 degrees, but it was enough to thaw out the ground. I have this totally non-scientific theory that not only does water boil at lower temperatures at higher elevations, but ice also melts at correspondingly lower temps. I guess it's really just a matter of radiant heat from the sun through our thinner atmosphere, which causes more disparity between the temperature of the ground and that of the air.

Hall Ranch trail head
The snow was pretty thin and packed down early on. Farther along the trail, it got deeper, but not enough to require snowshoes or any kind of traction device. I started off heading west along the Nighthawk trail.

I saw mountain lion tracks (twice) for the first time on this hike. What a thrill!
Mountain lion tracks
There was a herd of deer near the first set of puma tracks, but they didn't seem to be perturbed, so either the mountain lion had moved on, or it was doing a fine job of hiding. There were two bucks in that herd, one of which had lost one of its antlers.

A herd of deer
Gorgeous scenery was all over the place, but there were some especially nice views where the Button Rock trail intersects Nighthawk.
At the Button Rock trail intersection
I followed Nighthawk, and then took the southern part of Nelson Loop trail. There is an historic ranch house there. I would love to have a home in that kind of setting.
Nelson Ranch house
Soon after the ranch house, I saw the second set of mountain lion tracks. This time the cat followed the trail for a while before heading off into the trees. The thought of following that thing was a bit unsettling, so I wasn't altogether disappointed to find that we were parting ways. Soon thereafter, I saw another deer, which appeared to be a much more suitable meal for a mountain lion than I would have been.
More mountain lion tracks
During the last four or so miles of the hike, I decided to do a bit of trail running. Mostly for fun, but I also needed to get back home by 1pm. But a slip on a rock, resulting in a pretty good bang to my left knee, convinced me that I ought not to be in that much of a hurry. There was still plenty of good scenery to be had.
A view along the Bitterbranch trail
As always, I had a great time. And it was refreshing to actually get to complete my route instead of getting turned back by deep snow drifts. I think I'd like to revisit this trail in the summer, hopefully when it's dry, to see what it's like in other seasons.
A happy hiker with his winter beard

Monday, February 6, 2012

Snow, finally

It's been one of the warmest, driest winters ever here in Colorado. I haven't looked at the data, but it feels like it. So I'll make that statement as though it's authoritatively true.

But all that came to an end on Friday when we got blanketed by a nice two-day snowstorm. Which made Sunday a perfect day to get out and enjoy some proper winter recreation. On the recommendation of a friend, my snowshoes and I headed out to the Hessie trail head at Eldora. It was a beautiful day, and the snow was great.

Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

Technically, the hike began well up the road from the trail head, since the road wasn't plowed beyond town. I made my way to where the Woodland Lake and the Devil's Thumb trails part ways, and explored both branches a little bit. On each I found myself part-way up some really steep off-trail slopes that I couldn't quite climb in the deep, unpacked snow. So grudgingly I turned back. On the return, I stopped by Lost Lake, just a little way off of the main trail. I sat on a stump, eating a snack and taking in the wonderful scenery.

Lost Lake

Contrasted against the bright blue sky, everything was muted tones of white, green, gray, and brown - colors that excite me in winter as surely as the more vibrant shades of other seasons.

On my way back toward the truck, I stepped to the side of the trail to let a couple of in-bound skiers pass. One of them said, "If you'll excuse my saying so, you look really happy."

I hadn't really noticed how much I was beaming, I guess, but being out on the trail for a few hours has that effect on me. "I am," I replied. "It's a great day to be out here."

Hessie Trail