First Snow

The snow finally stuck! I love snow and although it feels kind of early I am so excited about out first real snow. So it did snow a couple of times throughout the past month but it never really stuck here in town. This weekend we had some crazy weather. It was so windy, rainy and snowy on Saturday evening. A big branch actually broke off into our driveway. Sunday we decided to take a drive up Logan canyon to enjoy the leaves, the snow and try to hike (we weren’t sure what the trail conditions would be like). The trail we wanted to do is pretty steep so we decided against it but did explore some little trails. It is so beautiful right! I truly love that transition from fall to winter.

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I hope you had a fun weekend and got to enjoy some fall weather!

Erin

Best Hikes in Boulder (IMO)

There are so many amazing hikes in the front range area. If you are from the area you know just how popular hiking is (and for good reason, it is so beautiful). If you aren’t from the area I highly recommend checking it out. I thought of more and more good hikes as I was writing this post so this is by no means a comprehensive list, I just needed to stop somewhere. I will probably do a part two at some point but for now I stuck to sharing the hikes that I have either done most often or that are my favorites. I also stuck with shorter hikes (all of these can be done in under two hours) that are relatively close to Boulder.

Sanitas: This mountain is a must do when visiting Boulder. It is a pretty significant elevation gain and will take a couple of hours so I suggesting planning accordingly (hike in the morning, take lots of water and get adjusted to the altitude first).  While is on the more challenging side, the views of Boulder and the plains are incredible and it is so worth it. It might be the most popular hike in the area so I suggest parking at the base of the goat trail (Linden).

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Boulder Valley Ranch: This is area is one of my favorites for running. There are gorgeous views of the plains and mountains the whole way and you can can extend your route to cover more mileage. I also like that this is a loop, that always helps me motive myself when running. The loop itself is around three miles and it is relatively flat so it is a great place to take people who are just adjusting to the altitude.

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Heil Valley Ranch: While I went here as a kid quite a few times it had been years, I could barely remember it. I went back with some family while I was home in August and I really loved it. There is such a variety of trails. There is a short nature trail that is perfect for kids. And there is a much longer hike that goes up into the mountains. There is also a great trail back along the road that has lots of wildlife. I would say the only thing to watch out for is mountain bikers. It is a pretty popular place for biking.

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Walden Ponds: These ponds are out on the plains and a great place to take the whole family. You can explore the trails as much as you like and there is quite a bit of wildlife. It is another great option for beginner hikers and for getting used to the altitude.

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Bear Peak: This is the other more challenging hike that I am including. It takes several hours (so start early) and you gain a lot of elevation. This mountain is a great alternative to Sanitas in that it is a little less popular, parking is not as hard (you park at NCAR) and it also has some stellar views. I could not find photos from Bear Peak so these are from a hike just north of NCAR.

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Wonderland Lake: I could never make this list without including my favorite spot in Boulder. It is less than a ten minute walk from the house I grew up in and I have spent so many hours walking, hiking and even cross country skiing around this lake. The views are stunning and while there are always a few people it is not quite as busy as Sanitas or Chautauqua. While it is a short walk around the lake (maybe 45 minutes) you can do more challenging hikes up in the foothills. I love extending my run around the lake by going up to the look out on the mountain.

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Chautauqua and the Flat Irons: This list would also not be complete without including the iconic flat irons. They are just as amazing in person and I highly recommend at least a short hike in this area. It can be really crowded so I would time it well (ideally during the work day) and do a longer route to get out of the busy areas. Hiking up to the flatirons is a popular option but lots of the foothills trails connect so there are so many options.

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I hope these give you some ideas for the next time you are visiting the front range area (or if you are just wanting something different from your usual). Let me know if you have any recommendations! I grew up in Boulder (almost 20 years) and go back a ton but am still always finding new things. I actually love that about this area.

Erin

Winter Wonder

Although I love fall, I am just as psyched about winter this year! I absolutely love the snow and everything that comes with it. Wintery days by the fire, holiday cheer and the new year! There are also so many fun things to do in the winter. It is strange because technically winter does not start for another week but we have had snow in Utah for several months now!

Snowflakes
Pine Trees
Sledding
Winter White
Snow Boots
New Years
Wood Fires
Fairy Lights
Christmas Trees
Puffy Jackets
Skiing
Evergreen
Baking cookies
Ice Skating

There are so many things to do this winter. I have so much planned for the holidays and then a busy spring semester starting in January!

Erin

A Week in New Hampshire

In August I spent a week with my boyfriend’s family exploring the white mountains. I have been to New Hampshire before but never for very long. My dad’s family used to have a house there and my parents were married at Bretton Woods! There is so much to explore and I am already dreaming of going back around this time of year (fall) because I can just imagine how gorgeous the leaves are.

Exploring

I flew into Portland, ME so we spent the evening eating lobster and walking around Portland. We drove back to New Hampshire and spent the rest of the week exploring the area. I think my highlight was the Kancamangus Highway which goes through the white mountains. The views are so beautiful! There are also some hikes in this area and several historical sites. We also visited the Basin which I also highly recommend. It is a river that has carved away the rock in an incredible way. It is also not far off the highway although we did end up hiking the trail above it which is very pretty as well! We spent one of our days exploring the country roads and visiting the Frost Place. I highly enjoy Robert Frost’s poetry and seeing a place of his inspiration was very interesting. It is just so beautiful!

Eating

We had a fantastic time exploring the restaurants. My favorite was probably the Schilling Beer Co. in Littleton. Seriously the pizza is amazing and I highly recommend sitting out on the deck because the view across the river is incredible. There is also a covered walking bridge right next door and some great artesian shops close by. The Covered Bridge Farm Table in Campton is a great option for a delicious but affordable dinner. The shrimp tacos were amazing and I recommend the Ahi Tuna as well! There is also a covered bridge right next to it. Lincoln is a fun town to explore and One Love Brewery has a easy pub menu with a decent lobster roll. My favorite brunch spot was Old Main in Plymouth. The thrift shops near by are also fun to explore. I also highly recommend visiting the many farm stands for delicious fresh produce!

Staying

My boyfriend’s family rented two different houses both of which were in beautiful locations. The first was right next to a farm with some trails through the forest in the back. I spent most of my time at the second house which was up on a hill right next to the Campton Mountain ski lift. The view was amazing! Both were affordable so if you have more than two people I definitely recommend renting a house!

 

Erin

A Backpacking Adventure…

So I have had a crazy summer filled with lots of adventures and there is one kind of hilarious one that I have been dying to share.

One of my close friends from college came out to  visit me during one of my last weeks living in Colorado. We did lots of local hiking but she really wanted to do a several day backpacking trip during her visit. We planned to do a three-day, two night backpacking trip about 45 minutes west of Boulder. We chose the route because it was close and my sister had done it last summer with her friends. Hessie trailhead (Indian Peaks Wilderness) was our start and we were going to hike the trail that runs through the Indian Peaks Wilderness, up to the Continental Divide and down to Rogers Peak Lake and then Moffat Tunnel. I included a map of our route because it is a great one to do if you are looking for a relatively low mileage but beautiful trail in the Boulder/Denver area.

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The first day was a beautiful hike up through the trees from Hessie trailhead (past the town of Eldora). Once we gained enough elevation the trees cleared and the views were amazing. There are also lots of small lakes up there that are great for fishing (we met several fishing groups along the way!). King Lake is nestled just below the divide and was such a gorgeous place to break. If I do the same trip again I would get a permit and camp near that lake (you have to get a permit during the summer for Indian Peaks Wilderness but not James Peak). We hiked up above the lake and onto the divide where we walked to the parking lot and down another trail to Pumphouse Lake. We had planned on hiking further, to Corona Lake, to camp but the site at Pumphouse was so beautiful so we decided to make camp there. The afternoon included some naps, reading and Indian food on the MSR. The real story started around 10:00pm once we were about to go to sleep.

I hadn’t really thought much of the bear warning sign at the trailhead since I have camped and hiked in Colorado a lot and never seen a bear. So we piled our food away from our tents and covered it with pots, pans and our crazy creeks (this has worked well for me in the High Uintas but was a big mistake here). We just turned the lights out in our tent when we started to hear noises outside. It sounded like something throwing things and rustling bags. It was literally terrifying… sitting in our sleeping bags listening to something rummage through our food and not knowing what it was. It was at least 30 minutes of freaking out. We didn’t wanted to go outside because habituated bears can be pretty dangerous and neither of us were about to confront a bear. When it seemed quiet we got out and did some investigating. Whatever it was had somehow taken most of our food but left our pile covering the food intact. We put everything back, got into our tent and started hearing noises again. Instead of sitting there freaking out in the dark we turned our lights on and listened to a podcast/music (not sure this is the best practice but it worked for us). The next morning we were making tea and saw some marmots on the snowfield across the lake… it was probably marmots although a bear definitely makes for a better story.

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They only food we had left was our snacks (trail mix and a few Cliff bars) and a jar of peanut butter. We probably could have finished our trip as scheduled however we would have been super hungry hiking out on the third day. After some though we decided we would keep going and try to hike what we would have done in two days in one day (i.e. hike out to the trailhead). In order to get picked up we had to get service somehow. Luckily we were going straight up onto the divide which was in clear sight of Winter Park. This hike up on the divide is around 4-5 miles and is absolutely gorgeous. The 360 degree views are stunning. We started our decent back down the East side of the divide just before James Peak. The decent is so steep and pretty long (coming up would be pretty rough). There are several lakes nestled into the mountains just below the divide (at tree line). We had intended to camp here (at Rogers Peak Lake) and it would have been beautiful. There were so many incredible wildflowers and great camping spots. We continued around 6 miles down to the Moffat tunnel were my sister picked us up.

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My piece of advice regarding food on backpacking trips is: do your research! The safest thing is probably a bear barrel or hanging your food however if you are in an area with NO grizzlies it seems people generally leave their food inside packs.

Such an adventure!

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Erin

Backpacking CO Route 2018

Snowy Mountain Adventure

My mom and I went on a hiking adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park while I was home. It is so beautiful and the perfect winter wonderland. I have hiked in the park many times especially in the summer and fall. I forget how beautiful it is in the winter. As we drove through Estes Park I noted how dry it was. No snow in sight. Halfway up the road to bear lake we hit snow almost immediately. There were several feet on the ground with flakes still falling. There were a number of people there which surprised me, since the roads were icy up to Bear Lake. The high was so incredibly beautiful. We made it up to dream lake (the third lake along that trail) but turned around there since we didn’t have snow shoes and it became more difficult to walk. The photo of me jumping was at Dream Lake. As you can see it started to get cold and windy up there. The funny thing is a friend’s boyfriend proposed to her at that same spot the very next day. I highly recommend a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park during any season. It is definitely more limiting in winter and you might see less wildlife but it will be way less crowded than during the summer time.

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Jacket Big Agnes, Pullover Patagonia, Leggings similar, Socks L.L. Bean, Boots L.L. Bean, Hat Pudus (I still can’t find the white one so here is another)

Erin

Thoughts on Black Friday

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I loved having lots of family around to make food, eat food and play games with. It was truly a blast and I am so grateful for every single person. There are so many sale posts out there right now so I thought I should share some of my own views on Black Friday. While I love sales and will certainly purchase some gifts this weekend, I have come to some conclusions about Black Friday, over the years.

I am all about finding deals and waiting for sales. The problem I have with Black Friday is that is makes a holiday that has become a time to give thanks and spend time with your loved ones into something much more material. Again I am all for great sales and love to find new pieces (ie. I totally am not against a certain material lifestyle). There is a time and place for everything. Buying is something that is pushed in our faces every day via advertisement. Thanksgiving, for me, is one of very few days in the year when I don’t think about buying anything and just focus on my family, food and having some fun. I feel like Black Friday has turned the holiday into something else. I know it is not on the exact same day but it is way too close and really takes away from the spirit of Thanksgiving.

I am not at all bashing those who do participate because that is entirely up to you. People have their own traditions around the holidays and some people readily include Black Friday which is totally ok with me. I am suggesting my own alternative. For years my family has taken the day after Thanksgiving to get outside and make some fun family memories. This year we will be going skiing but other years have included hikes/walks outside. No matter how tall the mountain or great the lake, there are so many beautiful things to experience in nature. REI has a great ethic when it comes to Black Friday. They close their stores entirely and encourage people to get outside with the hashtag OptOutside.

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There is nothing wrong with big sales! I don’t have any problem with cyber Monday, I just get frustrated when the focus becomes more on buying things than enjoying time with family, especially on a holiday such as Thanksgiving. Anyways I encourage everyone, whether you participate in Black Friday shopping or not to get outside and have some fun with family/friends.

Erin

3 Beautiful U.S. Backpacking Locations

Happy Friday! This is definitely one of those weeks in which the weekend couldn’t come fast enough. I really need to get some more sleep this weekend and do some organizational things to get me ready for the next month of craziness.

I really wanted to continue adding a couple more posts on backpacking so I decided to write this one on some of my absolute favorite locations around the US. I am going to list three states however in my descriptions I actually explain exactly where within the state I recommend doing some backpacking (or at least hiking).

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Colorado: I am very biased since I am from Colorado but I absolutely love it. There are so many beautiful places to hike that this was by far the hardest to choose one backpacking location. Maroon Bells is a beautiful area and many people recommend a trip there, however I am going to talk about the Steamboat area (Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area) since I have personally had the most experience here. It is a very beautiful area and the perfect place to go to get away from the crowds. I have usually gone in August and rarely see other people/groups on the trails. The views are truly breathtaking and the lakes are freezing but clear and beautiful. I recommend getting on the continental divide and taking a route either north or south. This allows you to stay high and enjoy those views. The downside to this area is that it is very high in elevation and you have to gain a lot of elevation in the first couple days in order to get onto that trail (be cautious if you are from out of state or are not experience.

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Virginia: Western Virginia was the first place I ever backpacked. The Appalachian mountains are absolutely beautiful, so basically the entire tri-state area (North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee). I include this location because the fall foliage is definitely a highlight of any place I have ever been. Mid to late October is the ideal time to enjoy the prettiest trees in the US. I just picture walking up a mountain covered in reds, oranges and yellows and it makes me so happy! The mountainous landscape combined with the perfect colors makes for an amazing experience. This is definitely the most accessible location. There are trails everyone can do and you can go for however long you want. Just doing a day on the Appalachian Trail is very worth it!

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Utah: Although I am from Colorado and hold it very dear to my heart, Utah is my favorite place to hike. There are so many incredible national parks and landscapes and features I couldn’t have ever imagined. As far as backpacking goes, I have done several longer trips in the Uinta wilderness, which is a east/west mountain range. It is very beautiful but can be quite a challenge as there are many passes and peaks that you must climb in order to reach some of the pristine lakes and trails. There are some more populated areas with great fishing, shorter trails and interesting rock features (eg. Red Castle lake). I highly recommend this area! For a shorter trip (but pretty challenging) climb Kings Peak, the highest mountain in Utah. The last mile to the summit requires you to boulder the entire way, so allow for extra time!

Thanks for reading!

Erin

Why I Love to Backpack

This is most definitely a very different post than any other I have done, however this part of me is so important that I decided I want to include more of it in my travel posts. Some may not take me for the type of person to pack up the essentials, throw it on my back and head into the great wilderness. The outdoorsy side of me is a major part of who I am and it is why I grew and changed in the ways I did. I think it is so important to have something that let’s you forget about our society for a brief period of time. Here I will share why I love to backpack so much:

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It allows me to clear my mind and free myself from consumerism for a bit: Don’t get me wrong I love to shop, the hunt for my favorite items of clothing and decor is way I do love to spend my time. However, I think it is important to find that place, activity etc… where everything else goes out the window and you can truly be yourself. No one judges and no one is watching. It is my way of unplugging from all of the noise for a bit in order to re-organize my thoughts and stay in touch with myself. So after my first backpacking trip 7 years ago I realized how free I feel when I am out there just with a few friends wandering the mountains. I have everything I need with me so all I have to worry about is slowly making my way to the final destination.

I gain lots of perspective: A part of what I gain on each and every backpacking trip is perspective on so many different aspects of life. Most of all though is perspective on myself relative to the rest of the world, how small I am in such a great world, how small humans are. There are so many other living things in the world and it does me lots of good to be reminded of how we as humans are not the only ones. It also reminds me to be grateful for everything I have. The wilderness can be a very humbling place as you can surround yourself with the sublimity of nature.

It is a relatively cheap way to travel: So there is a lot of gear involved in planning and implementing a large scale backpacking trip but there are lots of ways to do it on the cheap. Also, once you do have gear it is a very cheap way to travel. Over the years I have collected various pieces of backpacking equipment however there are ways to find things or rent for cheaper. Many colleges and universities have rental systems. Definitely not all places but those that have outdoor programs are sure to have a center which will rent to students and employees. Many also rent to community members. This is a great option if you have never been before and are not sure you will like it. Make sure, however, that you learn how to use equipment prior to going into the field. The Sierra Trading Post is a great place to find deals on gear as well as the REI garage sales. Clothing items (quick dry, fleece etc.) are things that can fairly easily be found in thrift stores. I may do a longer post on this in the future but in summary backpacking can be a great way to travel and see beautiful places without breaking the bank.

There is so much time to really get to know people: Backpacking trips have been the best way to truly get to know a person. There is so much time and space to talk and there is nothing to hide behind. I have made some of my best friends in having experiences like this, it really takes a friendship to an entirely new level. Going by yourself can be rewarding as well but I love backpacking with other people. It brings another aspect to the experiences and you can learn so much about the people you are with.

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Erin

Colorado 14er’s for Beginners

For many people Colorado is seen as an outdoorsy, hiking destination. The mountains definitely live up to their reputation and probably exceed it. Many hikes are incredibly difficult especially on the well-known 14,000 foot mountains scattered throughout the state. There are a few however that are very suitable for beginners both in length and difficulty. I would note that these are the hikes that I have seen lots of people get altitude sickness on. If you are traveling from out of town (or think you might get altitude sick) be especially cautious when designing your itinerary and remembered that it is always better to turn around if a member of your group is very sick, even if that means you will not reach the summit. Here are the two best 14,000 foot mountains, in my opinion for beginners:

  1. Mount Bierstadt. This Colorado mountain sits at 14,065ft tall and is located just south of the mountain town Georgetown (about an hour west of Denver). This is easily the shortest hike of all the 14er’s I have climbed. This is a shorter hike because you drive so far up, starting at a much higher elevation but beware because parking here can be difficult. Because it is easy and one of the most accessible it is very crowded, especially on weekends. I would say as long as you start early (which is necessary on a fourteener anyways due to the variable weather) you will be totally fine and stress free. The climb itself is steadily uphill since you start so high. It took our group about four hours to do the whole thing and spend time at the summit.11703110_10205811172870262_7791701265273261792_n
  2. Grays and Torres. These are separate 14,000 foot peaks but most people do them both together since they are very close together, separated only by a short saddle. This hike is definitely longer, taking us around six hours to do both peaks. It is a total of 8 miles from the trailhead up and back down. This one can also be crowded depending on the weather so I again recommend getting an early start. The other great thing about these mountains is that they are also relatively close to Denver with an hour and half drive to the trailhead.                  11753656_10205811157909888_1404692817955476857_n

Both of these hike are incredibly beautiful with amazing 360 degree views of the mountain ranges. I highly recommend climbing one of these peaks if you are up for the physical challenge because those views are definitely worth the challenge!

Erin