Doudy Draw – Spring Brook Loop hike

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In preparation for hiking the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails later this year, I’m attempting to do a hike every two weeks (or less) in the months leading up to the trip.

IMG_8035To kick off my hiking season, I decided to ease myself back into the swing of things by doing something local. I woke up early on Saturday, grabbed a Cliff Bar, and hit the road to Boulder, arriving at the near-empty parking lot around 7:15a. The air was crisp, but it was sunny and I knew it would warm up soon. I strapped on my boots, sprayed on the obligatory SPF 30, and hit the trail!

It started off as a steady ascent, and the wide, gravel path slowly turned into a rocky but well-worn trail. There were already a half dozen runners and a few bicyclists out taking advantage of the cool temps. As I walked, I marveled at the looming Flatiron mountains and appreciated the wildflowers littering the surrounding grassy foothills, thoroughly enjoying my time of reflection and solitude.

Because the weather was near-perfect and there was plethora of scenery to take in, the hike went by quickly and I was done within two hours. By the time I reached the parking lot again, cars were spilling out into the street trying to park along the road. I happily gave up my prime spot and headed back east to start my day.

Lake Helene

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Chris was in town visiting from San Diego for the weekend. Hoping for better luck at Rocky Mountain National Park this time, we filled our Camelbaks, loaded up the Battle Wagon™ and cruised up to Estes Park to hike to Lake Helene.

We arrived at the park-and-ride lot around 8:15a and ran to the crowded shuttle bus that took us up the hill to Bear Lake. Once properly sunscreened, we took to the trail. It seemed like we had chosen a less-popular route; the crowds quickly diminished as we ascended into the pines.

The trail was a steady grade upwards, but not steep enough to require frequent water stops. I brought my REI trekking poles (thanks, dividend!) to try out and found them to be pretty helpful on the hills. It was a beautiful, clear summer day and we took our time, arriving at the cutoff trail to Lake Helene in short order. After taking a rest, a few bites of meat bar, and snapping some photos, we made the descent back to Bear Lake.

When we got back to one of the earlier splits in the trail, we took inventory and decided we felt good enough to walk the 3 miles back to the parking lot. We don’t need a shuttle! The trail was mostly downhill and passed by Lake Bierstadt, where we stopped to finish our snacks and rest. The clouds were starting to roll in and it was getting warmer, but the breeze was refreshing and the view was spectacular.

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We continued on down the trail, which progressively became steeper. Rains earlier in the season had exposed many small rocks in the trail, which, combined with the current dryness and grade, frequently challenged our footing. After a mile of this, we both agreed we should have taken the shuttle back from Lake Bierstadt. We trudged on and made it back to the car around 12:30p, totaling 9.9 miles of hiking for the day. Not too bad!

IMG_5041On our way back to Denver, we stopped at the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder for a delicious lunch at Oak and to visit one of two Mont Bell stores in the U.S. Once closer to town, we stopped again for a tasting flight of sour beers at Crooked Stave and to stock up on odd beers and Boxcar coffee at the other stalls housed in The Source. A pleasant end to a relaxing day in the mountains.

Kenny’s Cabin

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On Saturday, Clark and I joined up with the 4-Players off-roading group at a grocery store in Idaho Springs. We headed up Rt 103 (Chicago Creek Road) before finding our turnoff for the USDA Forest Service road. The trail starts angling upwards as the road conditions degrade from a simple dirt road to having larger and larger rocks. It seems all the rain we’ve had this year has taken it’s toll; what we thought was a beginner-level trail was more moderate/intermediate.

We wound our way up the hillside, hidden by the shade of the surrounding pine trees and occasionally catching spectacular glimpses of the valleys below. Since I’m still figuring out the limits of “the Cherokee,” I was a little slower than the four other trucks. One of the members with a CB brought up the rear so I wouldn’t get left in the dust. I carefully chose my path, cautiously avoiding large rocks in the road by driving right up over them. I was still unsure of my clearance, so I didn’t want to risk creating new holes in the bottom of my Jeep.

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The original reason for the trip was to perform a memorial for a club member who had recently passed at Kenny’s Cabin, which is the remnants of a small log cabin on a hillside meadow found by a former club member. Kenny enjoyed the location so much that he had his ashes spread around the area after he died. Since then, many other former club members have followed suit. The cabin was presumably a mining-era relic, as there were dozens of old mines in the area as denoted on our maps.

IMG_4942We awkwardly parked the rigs, walked up the hill, and found the cabin. It was perched near the side of another rocky Forest Service road overlooking a sloped meadow of wildflowers with a beautiful view of Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt in the background. After some wandering around, a few group photos, and a toast, we saddled back up and descended from the hills as the sun began to set.

About 2/3 of the way down, I started smelling my brakes. Though I was in 4-High and 2nd gear, I was still riding them most of the time. Eventually I pulled over to let them cool off and found that they were smoking; a couple other rigs waited with me. Someone was kind enough to educate me on the benefits of using 4-Low and to use the engine to brake. Much better!

When we reached Rt. 103, it was dark. We pulled over, said our goodbyes and parted ways for the day. I had a great time bouncing over the rocks, figuring out the best approach to various rocky scenarios and getting to know everyone better. I definitely heard some squeaks I hadn’t heard before, but despite a chipped windshield and some smokey brakes (which are fine), the Jeep survived mostly-unscathed. I’m definitely ready to start making some minor modifications in order to better traverse the rougher trails and I’m looking forward to the next run.

The trace needs to be cleaned up still. You can see the jumbled parts where I tried to park my car and where we walked around in the valley.

Skiquel in Seattle

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Last January, my cousin, Lauren, organized a budget ski trip to Crystal Mountain for herself and more than a dozen of her friends from all over the country. This year was the “skiquel.” We all converged at the Green Tortoise adventure hostel in downtown Seattle for a weekend of relaxing, drinking, and camaraderie.

Friday

2-tortoise1I arrived in the PNW on Friday around noon and made my way to the hostel, conveniently located across the street from Pike Place Market. Andrea, another Colorado resident and skiquel attendee, met me in our 6-person room soon after. While walking out of the Target next door, Tracy, a swim team teammate of Lauren’s,  stopped me on the street and we came up with a plan for the afternoon over a shawarma lunch. Tracy and I convinced Andrea to join us at the nearby Rachel’s Ginger Beer bar while the other weekend participants filtered into town.

IMG_2850We tried a few ginger beer cocktails in the popular bar, making conversation with some tablemates visiting from Florida. Andy, Tim, and Kat joined us eventually. I got to say hello to Lauren, Dana, Cece and Anita before I had to part ways to head up the hill.

I made arrangements to catch up with Tim and Brian, fellow San Diego alums now residing in Seattle, over dinner and some Dunkelweiss. I Uber’d my way to Capital Hill and met Tim and his friend, Ray, at Rhein Haus (formerly Von Trapp’s) German beer hall. Brian and a few more of Tim’s local friends arrived shortly thereafter. The life-changing cheesy spaetzle that I remember from my last visit was now only available on the kid’s menu, which I had no qualms ordering from.

After an hour or so of fun and feasting, we all migrated a few blocks to Diesel for more drinks. There, we ran into many more of their friends, some even visiting from San Diego, sharing laughs and countless selfies. I had an morning wake-up ahead of me, so I stayed long enough for an Irish Car Bomb shot and found an Uber back to the hostel. It was great to catch up with Brian and Tim; our time in San Diego didn’t overlap very long, but mutual friends and Facebook have helped us get to know each other better over the years. I always enjoy seeing them.

Saturday

IMG_2880The room was awake by 5:00am and we started getting ready to meet the bus that would take us to Crystal Mountain, a 2-hour ride away. My snowboard binding had broken a week or two earlier, so I didn’t bring it with me. I hadn’t forgotten how difficult it was the year before walking 6 blocks and carrying a boot and snowboard bag , so I was happy to rent at the mountain. We stopped at a Starbucks to fuel up and arrived at the bus stop just in time to load up and find our seats. The $90 (up from last year) bus pass included our lift ticket, which, compared to the current Colorado rates, was a steal.

Somehow I scored both seats in the last row of the bus and was able to sleep on the way. It started pouring rain half way to the mountain, occluding our view of the sunrise and Mt. Rainier. By the time we arrived at the mountain at 9am, Kendall had already learned that all but two lifts were open because of high winds near the summit. I rented a snowboard, put on my gear and met him in the cafeteria, where the rest of the group had gathered to stay dry and wait until 10am, when we would get another update on the conditions.

We caught up, ordered food and beer, played games and did the best we could to entertain ourselves in the bar. A beer or two in, 5 of us decided to brave the elements and attempt at least one run. Lauren, Kim, Andrea, Steve and I geared up and hit the chair lift, but were immediately soaked. We made the best of it, taking some photos at the summit where it was snowing. The trails were traversable, but the rain and flat light made it difficult to see while moving fast. If you didn’t move fast, however, you would get stuck in the glue-like slush; obviously not ideal snow conditions. After two runs we called it a day.

10940607_10101231696122915_1966046486660764315_nIMG_2904The group spent the remainder of the day in the bar, where the selfie-stick and shotski made several appearances. You can imagine how the ride back to the city went on a bus with a dozen passengers who had spent the day in the bar. Thankfully most of the group passed out shortly after we were underway. Upon our arrival downtown, we schlepped our gear back to the hostel in the rain, showered, ordered nearby Thai take-out, and continued drinking. I sneaked off to pick up a pair of flannel-lined jeans from the nearby Carhartt store.

IMG_2907In my haste to meet the Uber driver, I had left my credit card at Diesel the night before. While everyone went to sleep, I mapped out my route and hopped on a bus. I’m still impressed by the public transportation in Seattle; it’s remarkably easy to get around on the buses and trains. The bar was pretty busy, despite the weather, but I collected my card and left. Rather than wait for the bus, I enjoyed a few minutes of solitude while walking back the 1.4 miles to the hostel in the rain.

Sunday

IMG_2913Brian had offered to show me around his new hometown on Whidbey Island, and, having never been that far north of the city, I took him up on it and managed to catch the early bus to the International District. Starbucks in hand, I walked over the train tracks to the King Street Station and took the Cascades Amtrak train north. Car 3 was mostly empty, so I took over the 2 sets of seats facing each other on the west-facing window for the 2-hour trip to Mt. Vernon, where Brian was waiting for me. While we were driving to the island, he handed me a stack of maps so I could decide how we should spend the day. After a tour of Deception Pass and Oak Harbor, we opted to explore the Olympic National Park, which meant we needed to catch a ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. The ferry had yet to arrive, so we parked the car in line and stopped at the nearby cafe for a muffin and coffee. Despite being in the rain shadow, it was still a wet day.

Thankfully, the ferry ride was only 30 minutes and we passed the time by bird-watching from the top deck. I’m fairly sure I saw an orca fin cut through the water before descending below the surface. After arriving in Port Townsend, we enjoyed a slice of pizza and meandered through the rainy, nearly-deserted, Bohemian town. We found a great record store, where Brian purchased a Lloyd Cole CD. A CD single. Not the good one. We hit the road to Port Angeles, a very commercial town where the entrance to the park awaited us. On the way, we talked of San Diego, our new cities, our adventure plans, and a laundry list of other fascinating topics that made the drive go by quickly.

IMG_2959Not knowing I was visiting a national park, I didn’t bring my passport along, though I did get the obligatory cancellation stamp. We spoke with the ranger, who gave us several good suggestions to choose from before it got dark. It was still raining, but Brian and I decided to attempt a short hike. The road was lined with steep, evergreen-lined peaks as we drove further into the park. I couldn’t believe how green it was nor that Brian had this amazing playground in his backyard. After a quick stop for supplies and fuel, we donned our rain parkas in the ranger’s station parking lot at Lake Crescent and started up the trail.

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IMG_3022We came across a handful of other hikers on the 0.9 mile loop, past the river and over two bridges to Marymere Falls. The gloomy day did not discount from the beauty of the 90-foot waterfall, accented by moss, ferns and other intense greenery. Pressing on, the trail led up a flight of stairs to another, higher view of the falls before starting the descent back towards the river. I’d estimate it was a 40-minute round trip. By then, Crystal Lake was glowing a spectacular turquoise color due to a break in the clouds overhead. The water was not warm, no.

For some reason there was only one train listed as heading southbound to Seattle that evening, and we timed our return to Port Townsend so that we’d hop on the 6:30p ferry, ride the 30 minutes across the harbor, and drive to the Mt. Vernon station a few towns over to just catch the Cascades Amtrak back to town. Apparently the destination ferry landing was in shallow water, so we were surprised to hear that the ferry could not leave Port Townsend due to low tide. The next ferry would leave at 8:15p, which meant I was not destined to be in Seattle that evening.

We stopped at a Walgreens and headed to Brian’s new apartment, where he graciously put me up on his couch for the night. The long day got to us and, after a shower, a beer and more conversation, we turned in.

Monday

The commuter train, the Sounder, was running that morning, so instead of trekking back to Mt. Vernon, Brian kindly woke up early on his holiday off to take me to another ferry landing to catch it. Unfortunately, we just missed the 6:30a boat and I had to wait around for the 7:00a departure. This left me with just enough time to power walk to the Sounder station, buy a ticket, and wait half a minute for the double-decker commuter train to arrive.

IMG_3015I arrived back at King Street Station around 8:15a and chose to walk the 15 or so blocks back to the hostel just in time for most of the group to head out to breakfast. I was the only one not leaving that day, so rather than potentially spend the night with strangers, I fired up Hotel Tonight and scored a great price on a room at the centrally-located Roosevelt. I checked out of the Green Tortoise with the group and we headed into the market for a quick egg-and-cheese-on-bagel breakfast and to shop for coffee. Lauren broke out the selfie-stick one last time at the gum wall, and then I parted ways with the group to go check into the hotel.

I had planned on Monday being a work day, intending to hole myself up in a coffee shop and give myself time to address some personal projects that had been stagnant for awhile. Before this, however, I met up with Tim for a quick breakfast at Cafe Pettirosso on his way into work.

Most of the afternoon was spent at Kaladi Brothers and Starbucks, making some progress on the projects and people-watching. Later that day, I met Paul for drinks at Canon, a highly-regarded whiskey and bitters emporium. We chatted and enjoyed snacks before migrating to Elysium Brewing Company for some local craft beer. I grabbed a slice of pizza before crashing for the night.

Tuesday

The next morning, I took the light rail back to the airport to make my journey home. It was a beautiful, clear day (go figure) and we had great views of the Cascades from the plane. I finally got back to Denver around 3:00p, where Scott was waiting with my car.

Once again, I had a fantastic time hanging out with Lauren, Dana, their wild and crazy group of friends, and Kendall. It was also great to get to know Brian and Paul better while exploring various the parts of what makes Seattle a fun place to visit. I’ll be back again sooner than later.

Camping in Leadville

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Preparing for rainThis weekend I went camping at the Printer Boy Campground in Leadville, CO for the second year in a row. After work on Thursday, I drove to Breckenridge to stay at Crowd Favorite’s vacation house overnight. My goal was to avoid the Friday crowds heading to the mountains on I-70. In the morning I worked from the house for half a day before going grocery shopping, meeting up with Keith for lunch in Frisco, and finishing the drive to the campground.

Keith and I arrived around 2:00p and, expecting it to rain, quickly found a suitable tent site on high ground. After we moved our gear inside and set up, we were able to relax as the rest of the campers arrived throughout the afternoon. We all met up around the campfire for a taco dinner, libations, and laughs.


My side of the tent

My side of the tent

Keith's side of the tent

Keith’s side of the tent


In the morning I had planned to attempt hiking Mt. Sherman, a nearby 14er. Because the weather was so inconsistent and on the cool side, I opted not to go. Also, I didn’t get much sleep on Friday night and a 6:30a departure was not welcome. It turns out some other campers did attempt the hike and reported it having very poor visibility, so I’m glad I didn’t go.

Throughout the day, the weather was alternating between sunny and cloudy/cold, raining most of the day. I gathered some campers for a drive around the lake and we stopped at a few overlooks to take pictures. There were a few trailheads along the road, so I’ll have to do some research for next year. Upon returning to camp, I spent the rest of the day napping, finishing my book, and practicing bass guitar while it rained. It was a minimally productive day.

Dinner on Saturday was chicken and potatoes paired with Breckenridge Vanilla Porter beer. We played Cards Against Humanity and sat around the campfire before everyone called it a night.

Reservoir selfieIn the morning I quickly packed up and left before breakfast was ready. I wanted to investigate a trail I saw on the way in at the Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir. At 11,000′ elevation, it was still pretty cold, so I pulled into the parking lot, took some pictures, surveyed the area, and was back on the road in order to avoid the inevitable crowds returning to Denver.

Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir

Kayaking Lake Dillon and Visiting Mount Evans

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PaddleJohn, Keith, Shon and I hit the road early on Saturday and headed into the mountains. Destination: Frisco! At the Frisco Bay Marina on Lake Dillon, we caught up with recent Frisco transplants from Chicago, Kim and Julie, (who I met through my cousin, Lauren, at the Seattle ski trip earlier in the year) to rent kayaks. We grabbed our paddles, strapped on our life jackets and launched into the reservoir.

It was a beautiful summer day and we enjoyed the clear skies, comfortable temps, and light breeze (though thankfully no microbursts) as we paddled east along the north shore. The boat rentals were for three hours, so after 90 minutes we had to swing back around. We explored the coves and islands, thoroughly enjoying the tranquility of the lake and the surrounding mountains.

Eventually we got back to the docks, changed into dry clothes and met back up across the street at Backcountry Brewery. We shared laughs and stories over brews and lunch before parting ways with Kim and Julie to begin the drive back to Denver. Despite the ominous clouds rolling in while driving on I-70, we exited at Idaho Springs to make a detour up the Mount Evans Scenic Byway.

IMG_1163The last few times I had attempted this drive, the road past Echo Lake had been closed, so I was determined to conquer my first 14er. Upon entering the park, we were greeted almost immediately by spectacular views of the surrounding valleys. We quickly surpassed the tree-line as we began to climb into the clouds. How dangerous the road could be in inclement weather was readily apparent – we don’t need no stinking guard rails! I’m really glad I wasn’t driving because I would have been paralyzed with fear around more than a few bends in the crumbling, narrow road. Hat tip to Shon for keeping all four wheels grounded and driving slow for the duration.

Shon befriends a sheep

Shon befriends a sheep

Slowly the sky began to clear as the truck tackled the switchbacks. After an hour of breathtaking views and terrifying road conditions, we reached the summit parking lot at 14,130 feet above sea level. I had forgotten what it was like to be winded from just a few stairs – Mount Evans is almost three times higher than Denver! Shon, John and I took our time climbing up the last few hundred feet to the actual summit. Totally worth the lightheadedness!

A few selfies later, we headed back to the cars and began our decent, running into a few mountain goat and sheep herds. It was still light out, so the four of us took a short hike to Summit Lake to take in the sights. For not having a Xanax handy, I did surprisingly well keeping it together getting down the mountain (my side of the truck was cliff-adjacent).

We returned to I-70 and continued our drive back to Denver, capping off what everyone agreed was a pretty great day.

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Soundgarden and NIN at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

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10530895_10202429166594495_5071992360312935896_nTwo great 90’s bands came to town this week: Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails. Alternative rock was my jam back in the day, so I couldn’t pass up this chance to see them both at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

This being my first chance to go to Red Rocks, I relied on the advice that the venue was general admission and bought 1 ticket. Contrary to this advice, the ticket arrived in my inbox with a seat row and number assignment. Panicked, I bought 2 more tickets so I wouldn’t have to sit next to strangers, though this was for the second day’s show. It seems my Red Rocks mentor neglected to tell me that some shows do assign seats. One expensive mistake.

On the day of the show, I met with my buddy, Keith, and we drove over to Morrison. We paused to shovel down a quick dinner and pre-show beer in the parking lot before hiking up the hill to wait in the line to enter. Despite our best efforts to be on time, we heard Chris Cornell and company take to the stage about a 5 minute wait from the ticket-checkers and pat-downers.

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We made it to our seats (row 29, seat 106!) just in time for Soundgarden to break into Spoonman. They progressed from one hit right to the next, throwing in some tunes from their most-recent album here and there. Their stage was pretty simple: musicians, amps, instruments and a large screen behind them projecting some trippy, moving graphics. Eventually we met up with a softball buddy, Bo, and the three of us rocked out like it was 1994. Spoonman, Outshined, and Superunknown were the highlights for me.

Here was their setlist:

  1. Searching With My Good Eye Closed
  2. Spoonman
  3. Flower
  4. Black Hole Sun
  5. Outshined
  6. Jesus Christ Pose
  7. Fell on Black Days
  8. The Day I Tried to Live
  9. My Wave
  10. Like Suicide
  11. Rusty Cage
  12. Superunknown
  13. A Thousand Days Before
  14. Slaves & Bulldozers

As the rest of the band exited the stage, Soundgarden’s guitarist, Kim Thayil, calmly drank a beer while wailing on his guitar that was now resting on top of an amp. Eventually he let it die and the crew quickly changed sets. At 8:30, Trent Reznor briskly walked up on stage and dove into his set head first with Somewhat Damaged.

Chris Cornell can’t quite captivate a crowd like Trent can, which is saying something, because he has an impressive stage presence. The visuals were outstanding; sometimes even blinding. The stage was filled with heavy fog and had 6 or so movable walls made large LEDs that displayed all kinds of things, from single colors to moving clouds to a live feed of Trent at the cellular level while singing.

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The crowd was singing along the entire time, beach balls and glowstick-filled balloons bounced around, and the exhaled smoke filled the venue, adding great effect to an already-impressive light show. Nine Inch Nails never slowed down and progressed quickly from song to song. Highlights include Terrible Lie, Burn, Sanctified, The Great Destroyer, and The Hand that Feeds, but Head Like a Hole was by far the best song of the set – crazy amount of energy!

Setlist:

  1. Somewhat Damaged
  2. Wish
  3. March of the Pigs
  4. Reptile
  5. Terrible Lie
  6. Closer
  7. Burn
  8. Gave Up
  9. Sanctified
  10. Me, I’m Not
  11. Find My Way
  12. The Great Destroyer
  13. Eraser
  14. 1,000,000
  15. Only
  16. The Hand That Feeds
  17. Head Like a Hole

As expected, NIN closed out with an encore of Hurt. We filed out of the amphitheater and made our way to the car as the second-hand buzz wore off. It was a great show and a spectacular introduction to Red Rocks.

Motorcycling to Rocky Mountain National Park

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10455421_10100930737830965_439682038303121876_nOn Friday, July 4th, I rented a 2013 Harley Fatboy from Eagle Riders, just in time to ride home through the monsoon. Thankfully, I found refuge in a bank’s covered drive-through ATM, where I hoped my setback wasn’t going to set the tone for the rental.

I put out a call for riders, but I don’t know a lot of people who ride a motorcycle, so on Saturday morning I geared up and met Clark on his 2001 Honda Valkyrie along Rt 36. The two of us continued north, past Boulder, and enjoyed the countryside along the foothills. We stopped in Lyons to re-fuel and carried on, slowly gaining altitude as we made our way along the river towards Estes Park.

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Since it was a holiday weekend we expected a lot traffic. As soon as we got to town, we had a line to contend with. Thankfully, most people were turning into the main street, but we knew to take Rt 34 to avoid the crowds. We had a sandwich made in Safeway, picked up a few snacks and drinks, and headed towards Rocky Mountain National Park’s north entrance on Fall River Road.

From there, we began our climb up into the sky along Trail Ridge Road. Even though there were an unusually high number of vehicles in the park, traffic progressed nicely. We forwent the Many Parks Curve overlook, which is typically where they close the road in winter months, in favor of stopping at the Rainbow Curve overlook. After snapping a few photos, we kept climbing and eventually got above treeline.

rmnp-moto-070514-7Hunger started to kick in, so rather than stop at the already-packed pull-outs, we rode to the Alpine Visitors Center and tore into our sandwiches and chips on a bench overlooking the remnants of snow and the beginnings of the Fall River. Unfortunately, some ugly clouds began to roll in from the northwest and, since we were fairly exposed on a motorcycle above treeline, we opted to depart shortly after lunch.

If you’re not familiar with Trail Ridge Road, it’s constructed in a way to impact the least amount of land, which means it’s been carved into some very steep hills. In many places, there are no guardrails where I would have been much more comfortable having them. Because of this, it can be difficult to enjoy the amazing scenery while concentrating on the road. Add in the mechanics of riding a motorcycle and an ever-increasing tailwind, and you can imagine that we didn’t take our time getting below treeline again.

It was getting late in the day and I had to return the motorcycle before they closed that day, so we stopped one final time to put on some rain gear, took more photos, and made our way back to Denver. Thankfully the rain mostly held off – I was not comfortable riding around corners on the dirt roads where last year’s flooding occurred along Rt 36.

Shortly after passing through Boulder, Clark took his exit and I raced downtown, re-fueling before turning in the bike at 4:46 – 14 minutes to spare! It was a fun trip to the mountains, despite the weather and not having enough time to hike to Cub Lake again. Next time I’ll convince more people to join in.

 

Settling into Denver

It’s been almost 6 months since my father and I pulled the Penske truck into the TownPlace Suites parking lot. Quite a bit has happened since then, and I figured I would take the time to write up a little re-cap before I forget it all. I’ve slowly been meeting people and making good friends. If you’ve been following me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, you’ve probably already seen snippets here and there, but ideally these would all been individual blog posts. For future reference, my Instagram feed is basically a visual walkthrough of my adventures. Anyways, here we go:

Work

I jumped right in to the new job as a Developer for Crowd Favorite in December. There was a huge learning curve to tackle – Between learning Git, Git Flow, SCSS, their proprietary systems and products, and the right ways to develop WordPress, I had my hands full. It’s only been within the last few weeks that I’ve noticed my contributions. There’s still much that I don’t know, and I’ll always be asking questions, but my coworkers are incredibly intelligent, helpful, patient, and they challenge me – a great combination to help further my career. They have some very interesting and helpful products, some I will be employing on my own website soon. I really enjoy my job and I love working in LoDo. I’ll be posting soon on the new technologies and software I’ve learned to love.

Travels

This is my year of travel. Thanks to the incredibly fortunate rental situation I’m currently in, I have done and will be doing quite a bit throughout the year.

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Maui, San Diego

hawaiiFor Christmas I traveled to Maui to see my parents’ new part-time residence in Makawao. They have a fantastic place up on the hill on the way to Haleakala, equidistant from the beach and the mountain playgrounds. We rented motorcycles and toured the island, we took a day trip to Hana, and rented a Jeep and went four-wheeling up in Poli Poli for a fantastic sunset, complete with cold brews. We explored new restaurants and they showed me their new stomping grounds.  We celebrated Christmas over pierogis and caught up with my mother’s cousin’s family. It really was a great way to unwind after the incredibly-stressful previous two months. On the way out and back, I stopped in San Diego to visit friends and catch-up. I even got to attend the annual Rondelli New Year’s Eve pool party. The short visit was nice way to ween myself off of California, though I still miss my friends there.

Las Vegas

I met up with the high school crew, along with the rest of Jon’s closest friends (and others), for Jon’s bachelor party. We stayed at the Signature at MGM Grand right off the strip. I won’t go into too much detail, but it was a ridiculous and fun first exposure to Vegas. I’m not sure I’ll go back anytime soon because that place is exhausting and a little depressing, but in small doses and with the right people, it can be a blast.

Aspen

My friend, Andy, and I took an overnight trip to Aspen to see Silversun Pickups at the Belly Up. It was a fantastic show and Aspen is a great little town, though very expensive. The Aspen Brewing Company tasting room was pretty solid too. I recommend checking it out at least once.

Alta, Utah

weddingI trekked out to Alta Mountain, outside of Salt Lake City, for Liz and Jon’s wedding. I rented a car and spent the weekend in the mountains, catching up with high school friends, some of the Vegas friends, family of Liz and Jon, and others I hadn’t met before. I was able to get a few days of snowboarding in too, and thoroughly enjoyed the scenery. The wedding was fantastic – very unorthodox but very them. They walked off the slopes in their ski gear and into the chapel. Overall it was a great weekend and I’m so glad to have caught up with everyone and hear about what they’ve been doing for the last decade. It made me miss home…

Breckenridge

My work has a duplex in Breckenridge, called Eagle’s Nest, that is available for both exclusive and shared use throughout the year for employees as part of the encouraged work-life balance. I decided to take a last minute solo trip to the mountain for the weekend to de-stress. What a place! The beautiful, 4-bedroom house is in a small development right on the bus line, which leads to the base of Breckenridge Ski Resort. I spent a day on the slopes and the rest of the time unwinding in the comfortable home while it snowed. I was a little worried about how the Volvo would perform in the snow, but it handled beautifully. I look forward to spending a lot more time here – anyone care to join?

Upcoming

If you want to meet up, let’s try to coordinate something. Here’s where I plan to go:

  • California – Some friends have put together a trip to the Southern California wine country over July 4th (and, coincidentally, my 30th birthday). I look forward to testing my developing wine-tasting skills.
  • California – In late September, Phil and I will travel to San Diego for the Depeche Mode concert with some other San Diegoites1. It’ll be fun showing Phil my old stomping grounds and catching up with the locals.
  • Illinois – In November, the Freemans will converge on Chicago for a weekend to celebrate the marriage of my cousin, Lauren, and Dana. There might also be a football game or something.
  • Florida – I’ll be returning to my normal schedule of Christmas with family in Naples. I can’t wait for those pierogis…

Housing

gilpinFor the last few months I’ve been renting a room from Jeff, a very generous home-owner in the University of Denver neighborhood and a friend of friends of friends that I know in San Diego. We have been helping each other out, as he had been traveling a lot and wanted someone to watch his home while he was away and I wanted a place to stay temporarily, while getting to know the city before committing on an apartment. I have been thoroughly enjoying living a short walk away from a light rail station and taking the train downtown to work every day. I never thought I would be commuting this way before, but I love the time before work to wake up and after work to decompress. I hardly touch the Volvo during the week anymore!

The arrangement I have with Jeff has allowed me to amass a fair amount in savings. In April I decided to start looking for real estate, rather than continue to throw money away on rent. I took my time and enjoyed looking at properties around town. It’s been a great way to really get to know the individual neighborhoods. On April 23rd I put an offer on a 3-bedroom condo in the Lowry area and I close on June 4th. It’s been quite the process, but I’ll save the details for another blog post shortly. Stay tuned!

Outings

I love Denver. Despite the initial altitude adjustment and a variety of new allergens to get used to, there’s so much to do and so many interesting places to explore here! Here’s a quick re-cap of what’s kept me busy:

Concerts

I’ve been to maybe 10 concerts in my life, 5 of which have occurred in the last 6 months:

  • Ellie Goulding at the Ogden on 2/1/13
  • Victor Wooten Band at Cervantes’ Ballroom on 2/9/13
  • Silversun Pickups at Belly Up Aspen on 2/16/13
  • Joy Formidable at the Gothic Theater on 3/30/13
  • Bob Mould at the Bluebird on 4/21/13

Baseball

A group from work and I saw the Rockies play the Yankees at Coors Field on May 7th. You can read more.

Food

pinche tacosContrary to what I heard about it being full of  “chain restaurants,” Denver is a food city. There are no shortage of interesting places to explore. I have several Foursquare lists of places to try out. Denver seems to be known for Buffalo meat and Rocky Mountain Oysters. I encourage you to Google the latter. No, I haven’t tried them. Yet.

Restaurant highlights so far:

Beer

beerIn addition to it’s culinary strengths, Denver is also a beer town. My favorite beers at the moment are Odell’s 90 Schilling and Left Hand Brewing’s Nitro Milk Stout. I look forward to the fall, when Avery’s Rumpkin makes its return. This time I won’t let the altitude get to me… At some point I’ll take a trip to the Coors brewery – I hear it’s quite the tour. I look forward to the Great American Beer Festival, also in the fall.

I’ve been enjoying the different types of beer so much that I’ve decided to take a stab at brewing. The details are still being worked out, but I’ll be brewing a red ale for my 30th birthday this year. Look for a post on that also.

Activities

The miscellaneous:

  • bikeBass guitar lessons – I’m currently in session 3 of a 4-session core class through Swallow Hill Music. Each session lasts 8 weeks and at the end of each, the class (typically of 5), will perform at graduation (recital) in front of the other classes at that time and their families. I originally thought it would be nerve-wracking, but it was a blast. We played a mashup of the Beatles’ Come Together and Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love for the first graduation, and two of us ventured through the Colorado weather to play the Beatles’ Day Tripper for the second. I’ve been enjoying these courses immensely, as I learn the foundations for bass-playing. It’s amazing how much you learn when you want to! I got to see Victor Wooten at a bass clinic at Sound Source in February, which was just awesome. My bass instructor got up and played a duet with Victor in front of everyone – incredible! I’m so glad I decided to pursue this hobby further.
  • Denver Auto Show – I met up with a few friends for the auto show in March. I am so out of the car loop!
  • Movies – Skyfall, Oblivion, Iron Man 3, Dark Skies, Oz: The Great and Powerful
  • whiskyParents visit – They came out for Easter weekend in late March – Mom hadn’t seen the new digs. Read about their adventures (and encourage them to update more).
  • Bike – In  April I purchased a Novara Buzz bike using my REI dividend, Anniversary Sale discount, and a number of gift cards. Love it! I also bought a Thule Rack for the Volvo. Let’s go biking!
  • Stranahan’s tour – Clark and I took a tour of the Stranahan’s Whisky distillery and learned all about their process and were treated to a guided tasting at the conclusion. Needless to say, I bought a bottle soon after and am considering a wait in line for a bottle of their elusive Snowflake batch.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park – Another weekend, Clark and I went to Estes Park, CO on what we thought was the start of National Parks Week (free admission!). In fact, they had changed the length of the promotion and we were a day too early. The road to the top was still closed, but there was a lot of snow on the ground and it was still impressive. Love it there! Hopefully I’ll venture to the other 3 National Parks in Colorado soon.
  • rockymtnnpAmbulance – I started to look into getting back on with a local ambulance company. There’s a volunteer/career ALS corps in Northglenn that takes on new applicants quarterly. Interestingly I can’t renew my National Registry card without a local sponsor, but I can’t get on the corps without a card. Catch-22. I’ve put EMS aside for now, though I definitely want to get back into it.
  • Masters Degree – I am throwing around the idea of getting my Masters in Computer Science at University of Colorado Denver, with a likely concentration in Software Engineering. I’ll have to take a few prerequisite courses, however. I’m waiting until I am a resident in Denver long enough to qualify for the local tuition prices. More to come.

 Overall

Awesome job, light rail, mountains, beer, food, super-friendly people, snow, happy. Come visit!

happy

Rockies vs Yankees

ballgameIt had been years since I’ve seen the Yankees in action. As much as I’d love to see the new Yankee Stadium, I had a better chance of seeing them in town. When I heard they were coming to town, I jumped at the chance to get some tickets. I put the word out at work to garner some interest, found some willing participants and ordered the tickets!

Game day rolled around and we lost 2 attendees, but the remaining six had a great dinner and pre-gaming at Lucky Pie before walking over to Coors Field. We missed the 6:40p first pitch, arriving at the beginning of the third inning. Upper tier, section 319, row 2 – great view right behind first base.

Unfortunately, Denver decided to throw some thunderstorms our way, and the ushers made us leave our seats while lightning was nearby. The wait deterred 4 members of the group and they went home, but Ron and I stuck it out. Eventually the park re-opened the upper tier and we grabbed some dry seats under the canopy in the nosebleeds near where our original seats were.

We watched the remaining 3.5 innings from there, witnessing the Yanks’ only loss of the 3-game series with a score of 0-2. Disappointing, but I still enjoyed the much-needed fun night out. I enjoyed hanging out with coworkers without mentioning work and better getting to know friends I’ve made from around town. Coors Field is a pretty nice stadium; I’d love to go see the Rockies play the Mets there later this season, maybe for a weekend game. Any takers?