What Fresh Hell Is This?

Earlier this year, I ran a mountain relay race and it did something to my brain. It made me want to up my running game. I mean, distance? Yeah that’s kind of cool. Maybe someday I’ll run a marathon. But running uphill at 12,000 or 13,000 feet where you’re struggling for oxygen and then being pulled down the other side by gravity so fast that your legs can’t keep up and you nearly trip over your own feet and tumble down a ravine? That’s where it’s at. And that’s how I ended up spending money on more ways to torture myself. Continue reading →

The 14,000 Foot Summits of 2019

Despite the late start to 14er season this year, due to the massive amounts of snow over the winter, my friends and I managed to get in just as many peaks as in other years. Dedication to the cause! Not that I ever plan to hike them all—Class 4s with full climbing gear are definitely not for me—but it simply wouldn’t be a summer in Colorado if I wasn’t on the tippy top of the state at least a few times. Here are the five I ticked off my list in 2019.

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Ghosts of Colorado Past

At the end of June, I flew my dad out from Buffalo for a little visit. The last time he was here, four years ago, I lived in downtown Denver, by Union Station, so we did a lot of city activities. This time, I’m a Boulder gal and much more outdoorsy, so the itinerary was quite different. We made a huge loop from Boulder to Glenwood Springs, down to Ouray and Durango, across to South Fork, and then back up to Boulder. We visited some natural wonders, like the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Great Sand Dunes National Park, but the main purpose of the trip was to check out old mining towns. My plans were somewhat thwarted by the massive dumps of snow Colorado had all winter, even as late as June 21, which meant some of the back country roads I wanted to take to get to the most remote places were still closed the last weekend of June. But we got to roam around plenty of places that were good fodder for the imagination. And I’m sure my dad was happy that he was saved from more jostling around in my SUV than he already got.

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It’s Just Something In My Eye

Back on April 28th, Trotsky and I hiked up to the Eagle’s View in Reynold’s Park. When we got to the 250 degree view at the top with a sea of green trees below and unique rock formations poking through and the snow-capped Rockies way out in the distance, I must have gotten a little dirt in my eyes because they got red and watery. Okay, okay, fine. I confess. I teared up. I had waited so, so, so long for this winter to be over, to be able to linger in the sunshine at the top of a trail and not hurriedly push through, shoulders hunched against the cold. To inhale the scent of the pine needles with every step and listen to the birds singing about the arrival of spring. To find a dry spot to sit down and share a picnic with my old dog. I was unbelievably happy in that moment and got a little carried away.

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Well I Would Hike 500 Miles

My two year unofficial hiking project is complete. Yeah, I missed my mark by a few weeks (February 19, 2017 to March 9, 2019) but close enough. In just about two years, I’ve completed 100 distinct hikes. I use word “hike” loosely in this context to mean anything from a two mile stroll up a wide, well-maintained, packed dirt road at sea level with no elevation gain to a nine mile, 4,000 ft + elevation gain, nine-hour slog that sometimes required my hands to pull myself up the steepest spots. Some of these were trail runs, some were on snowshoes, and one was completely through water that was waist high at some points. What they all have in common is that they were in nature, not on any kind of pavement. Sure, I put hundreds of additional miles on my feet in this time, roaming around Zurich, Venice, Milan, Madrid, Beijing, Shanghai, Portland, Kansas City, and so many other great urban areas, and I completed countless recreational runs on pavement and duplicated many hikes, but this post only counts unique wilderness missions.  Continue reading →

On the Fifth Day of China: Gasping for Air

My weather app indicated full sun the day I flew to Xi’an, and plenty of sun was to be had from 36,000 feet on my flight in, but on the ground, as the photo on the left below demonstrates, no sun was visible. China’s air quality issue is well known but until you are in it, you can’t really understand how it affects you. Within 15 minutes of landing in one of the oldest cities in the world and one of China’s most polluted, a tickle began in the back of my throat. The weather app also indicated “Unhealthy Air Quality for Sensitive Groups.” I don’t consider myself a “sensitive group” and I’ve lived in plenty of heavily polluted cities in India, Russia, and elsewhere, but maybe a decade of clean, blue, Rocky Mountain skies has altered my ability to deal with smog. That tickle quickly turned into a scratch and then a persistent cough that cleared up briefly as I moved on to Shanghai but then returned with a vengeance. I don’t know how the Chinese do it. I don’t think those ubiquitous face masks can help that much. Continue reading →

A Decade of Rocky Mountains

Today is my 10 year anniversary of living in Colorado!

loading up at jim's truck stop

In Buffalo, NY, early in the morning on August 22, 2008, making the final adjustments for the 1,530 mile drive. I’m wearing my favorite Buffalo sweatshirt. I still have it.

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Some Love for Boulder

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Boulder is the friendliest place I’ve ever lived. People of all ages and situations are polite and helpful and always have a smile for you. I’ve struck up conversations in the most random places with people I wouldn’t ordinarily talk to. But why not? Doing so seems normal to me now. Why not make connections, no matter how small, with the people sharing your space? You never know what might come of it, and if nothing does other than a good feeling, that’s great too. This post, however, isn’t going to focus on the lady behind me in the grocery store or the guy at the table next to me in the coffee shop. It’s about the people who work for the city of Boulder and for the benefit of its citizens.  Continue reading →

Sanctuary 2.0: Zorro the Wonder Cat

On June 2, 2016, I went to a local animal shelter and brought home what was supposed to be a barn cat. I lived in a house that was built into the side of a mountain where mice and other small critters were common invaders, so I thought it would be good to have an outdoor cat to help keep them under control.

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Within three hours, the cat ran away and I was crushed. It was out there in unfamiliar territory populated by bobcats and foxes and other potential cat-eaters. There was little to no water anywhere. I was sure I had sentenced it to death. But still hopeful, I sent an email to the neighborhood asking people to keep an eye out. About a week later, one neighbor reported having seen the cat beneath his porch, but he was unable to catch it. A week after that, another neighbor reported having seen the cat at the bottom of the mountain where my dirt road met up with the main canyon road, and where there was a stream with fresh water. Both neighbors who lived at that intersection began to see the cat repeatedly, so I got a humane animal trap and filled it first with Fancy Feast and later with some really stinky canned mackerel. I checked that cage twice a day on the way to and from work. Sometimes the food would be gone but the trap still untriggered, as if something larger, like the mountain lion also living in that area, had stuck its paw in and swiped it. Continue reading →