Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Hiking Marathon...

Blue skies and sunny days abound in Durango.  The temperatures are cold (in the morning) but the afternoons are usually in the 40s and 50s. Snow does not seem to be anywhere in the near future. Ironically, the South is getting more snow than we are. To my friends in Texas and Louisiana, stay warm.

With the lack of snow, Ryan and I took the opportunity to continue mountain biking and hiking. We ended 2017 and began 2018 with a trio of hikes that totaled almost 30 miles, it was a hiking marathon.

Ryan sporting his ugly Christmas sweater during one of his rides.
Sadly, I did not take any pictures during our ugly Christmas sweater brunch party.
I guess we will just have to host another brunch this Christmas season!! 
I felt it appropriate to post these pictures from a random hail storm back in September. Little did I realize at the time, this may be Henry's only opportunity to play in the "snow."
 The first part of our Hiking Marathon began on New Years Eve day. With my parents in town to watch Henry, Ryan and I went to Telluride for New Years Eve weekend. When we originally booked the trip, Ryan had all the plans to go snowboarding. When the time actually came, the snowboard was left at home, and instead, our hiking boots and bicycles were packed.

A view of Telluride. 

Not too bad of a location for our final hiking lunch of 2017. 

Bear sporting our mountain bikes. 

Thesecond part of our hiking marathon was near Silverton. Ryan and I did this hike back in October, and thought it would be fun to try it again in the winter, see what snow we could find. We found snow, and some pretty awesome frozen waterfalls. 

Here are a couple pictures from our hike back in October. People told us the lakes were beautiful, we didn't realize how vibrant they would be. It was incredible, well worth the long hike. 

Ice Lake

Island Lake

Our hike in January was filled with more snow. The lakes were covered, but the frozen waterfalls were incredible. 

Sitting on the edge of a frozen waterfall. 

Large frozen waterfall  (upper right corner).
We heard large pieces of ice breaking off. 

Trying out my new snowshoes for the first time.
Loved them! Still learning to not step on my own feet. I took some pretty funny falls.

Our third and final hike in our hiking marathon took us to a location not too far from Durango. Sadly, we did not take many pictures. Maybe it was because we were too busy ice skating. We encountered a few frozen streams we had to carefully "skate" across. No falls, and no tailbones injured. It is definitely a hike we want to do again when it is not covered in snow. The lakes and streams we passed would be gorgeous. 

Maybe this post about a lack of snow will bring snow our way. Luckily, Telluride and Silverton have received snow in the last week. They are definitely dependent on their snow season. For now, I will enjoy the blue skies and sunshine. But, I hope we have snow before Ryan returns. I don't know how many more cold hiking marathons I can handle. Cold weather and I do not get along. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Actually using our ability to self rescue...

My parents joined us in Durango for Christmas and New Years. It was during this visit that we experienced what Ryan likes to refer to as an "Epic Three Generation Jeep Adventure."

Ryan, my Dad, Henry, and I all jumped in the Jeep. Looking back, it's a good idea my Mother decided to stay home. We were going on a Jeep adventure, show my Dad some of the surrounding area, find some snow, etc. etc. We also found ice, lots of ice, hidden under snow. As we drove along the trail, all was going well, until Bear lost traction and started sliding back. As he slid, he also began to turn, turning towards the edge of the cliff. Luckily, our tires hit some dirt and kept us from sliding off. But it was at this moment, nails dug into the seat, that I leaned forward and told Ryan, "we are going to need to use the winch." And we did, we successfully self rescued.

Can't say I took many pictures during the self rescuing attempt. This was taken after we safely maneuvered Bear. I was the driver, my Dad controlled the winch, and Ryan securely attached us to a sturdy tree. Notice the cable...

We basically attached to a tree, used the winch to turn Bear so he was no longer perpendicular to the trail and edge of the cliff, and slid down the trail to the portion that was not covered in ice. It only looks like snow in the picture, but under the snow was a thick layer of ice. Lesson learned, when Jeeping in winter, when encountering snow covered, edge of cliff paths, before proceeding, get out, check for ice. 

Henry playing in the snow.
This was taken earlier in the day, prior to our epic adventure. 

Other, less intense activities during their visit included, a ride on The Polar Express, a visit to Santa, and glasses of chocolate milk with Grandpa.

Allllll aboard the Polar Express...

A visit to Silverton to see Santa arrive on a fire truck.
It couldn't have worked out better, Henry is currently obsessed with fire trucks. 

Playing under the Silverton Christmas Tree while waiting to chat with Santa.
Not a lot of snow here, this and the Jeep adventure have been the only snow experiences Henry has had. Figures, we move to Colorado for snow, and we get no snow
(but I am not complaining, too much). 

No fear of Santa this year. He sat down and got to business.
No time for smiles. Telling Santa he wants a fire truck for Christmas. 

Nothing starts the morning better than a nice, cold glass of chocolate milk. 

I hope everyone had a memorable Christmas and 2018 is treating you well.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Do you have the ability to self rescue?

Well, I did it again. I went camping. This makes three times, and apparently the third time IS a charm because I must admit, I enjoyed it a bit more,  I am slowly (very slowly) starting to understand why people enjoy this thing called camping.

This camping experience was VERY different from my previous two trips.

1. It was only Ryan and me. Henry stayed home with Ryan's parents.
2. It was literally only Ryan and me. We did not go to a "normal" campground, where campsites are right next to each other, people are all around. We were the only two people at this camping location, literally in the middle of nowhere, beautiful nowhere, but middle of nowhere.
3. We would be going to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Our campsite was called Devil's Kitchen (does that make you feel warm and cozy?) accessible only by Elephant Hill Road (where do they come up with these names?).

Ryan knew this experience was going to be very different, and he knew he needed to make it the best experience possible. He carefully informed me the campsite had no "facilities" which means no toilets, showers or running water. What!?!? I always bring a ton of water, and I never shower when we go camping, but no toilets, No, not going to happen, this is not going to work out. Ryan went to trusty REI and purchased the nicest camping toilet I have ever seen (I don't have many, or any camping toilets to compare, but I have to assume it's the best). We had our own private bathroom for this camping trip, and I must admit, after experiencing some of the less than pleasant campground toilets, I am all for bringing our own toilet for future camping trips.

So Ryan successfully managed to get me on board with the camping toilet. Then he decided to let me know the other bit of news, the only way to access this campground was on a Jeep "road"." I say road, but it wasn't. It was a "Virginia Lee is worried that we are going to get stuck, break the Jeep, and since we are in the middle of nowhere, we will not be found and we will be stranded" road. At one point in the drive, there was a sign stating, "stay on the designated road" REALLY?!?! Thanks for the reminder, but I saw no designated road, the entire drive! Also, we had no cell phone service the entire time!

Gourmet camping meals ✔
Personal toilet ✔
Camping confidence ✔

I was ready for this camping experience. We said goodbye to Henry. Drove to Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Arrived at the rangers station to check in for our camping trip. Met a very nice Ranger. Told her what camp site we would be staying at. She asked what kind of vehicle we had. Asked Ryan a ton of questions I did not understand regarding his Jeep's capability. And then she asked one question that caused me to stop breathing, "Do you have the ability to self rescue?" My first thought, self rescue?, what, like if we break down and no one finds us, yes, we have food that will last three days. Ryan, obviously correctly understood the question because he responded, "Yes, we have a winch." Apparently that was the correct response because the Ranger smiled, and said "good."

Do we really have the ability to self rescue? Am I really ready for this? Why did that Ranger smile at me like she did? Is there something I don't know? Let the camping experience begin. I was nervous beyond belief.

We continued to drive into the park, following the Ranger's directions, and came to a large parking  lot. I started feeling a bit better, this looks good, there's a parking lot, so we can't be too far out in the middle of nowhere. By this time, the cell phone service was gone. Ryan kinda laughed when I expressed that I was feeling better since there were so many cars around, and then he pointed to the back of the parking lot. It appeared to be a rocky mountain. He said "that's the road we are going to take to our campground." Excuse me? I see no road.

So thankful for this clearly designated road. 

We successfully made it to our campsite. BEAR did an awesome job. Ryan did an awesome job. I could relax, until I started thinking we had to drive the same road to get out, but that would happen in a few days. I may as well enjoy the time in this beautiful area.

Our bathroom. 

Our bedroom. 

View of our campsite. We had our own caves. 

Exploring our campsite area. That's me way up there. 

View from our campsite. 

Ryan named this rock, Cupcake Rock. I agreed, it was the perfect name. 

Our full day in Canyonlands National Park was spent hiking. We hiked over 15 miles that day. The goal was to see Druid Arch. It was a beautiful hike, plenty to look at, and a portion of the hike was in an old, dry riverbed. It was pretty neat to think how the area must have looked when water was still flowing. The Arch was the perfect spot for a hiking lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The return hike to our campground took us through some really tight areas. After such a long hike, I was thankful Ryan brought his camping shower, and had even purchased a camping shower enclosure. Ryan was pretty proud, I showered during our camping trip. But after hiking all day, one has no other option.

We decided this Needle got tired, and fell over. 

Thankful for all the cairns to mark our way.
This cairn was in the dry river bed we were hiking through. 

Druid Arch. 

Some tight squeeze hiking on our way back to our campsite. 

To be so far out in the middle of nowhere, without anyone else around, the quietness was incredible. The stars were so bright, absolutely unbelievable. We've all seen stars before, but until you see them without any light pollution at all, it is an entirely new experience. This whole spending time in nature is a pretty cool thing. There are some incredibly beautiful areas of our country and I am thankful I am getting to experience them.

And just to let you know, we obviously, safely made it out of the campground. The drive was just as scary, I was nervous. And when I get nervous on Jeep roads, I tend to take lots of pictures to distract myself from what is actually happening. So, feel free to check out all the pictures from our Jeep driving, camping, and hiking in the beautiful, Needles District,  Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Bear successfully made it out. 

Check out the rest of our pictures:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A little boy's dream come true...

Locals have become deaf to it, even I may miss the sound, but if Henry is near, the train horn never goes unnoticed. Upon arriving in Durango (maybe even the first day) the train, train tracks, train museum, everything involving the train quickly became Henry's obsession. We waited for the right opportunity to actually have Henry ride the train. Even with his obsession, he was still a bit uneasy when he was extremely close to the train engine. The perfect opportunity fell into place. The train was hosting its annual Pumpkin Train, and Henry's Meemaw and Grandpa (Ryan's' parents) were coming for a visit. The time was now, a little boy's dream come true.....

No surprise here, Henry's Halloween costume was a train engineer. The costume started to come together this summer. First with the purchase of his train hat in Durango, and second, with the purchase of his trusty train whistle in Silverton. I decided to complete the costume with a few more purchases, and all in all, it was a success. Henry loved it.

All aboard....

Super happy and excited to be on the train. 

Loved watching everything go by. 

The train took you from the train station in Durango, to an area outside of town. They had set up a Charlie Brown themed village. 

He found the pumpkin he wanted. 


In true Durango fashion, a hike is always a great idea. A day Henry was in school, we decided to take Dave and Jayn on a hike along the southern portion of the Colorado Trail to Gudy's Rest, a look out point with amazing views.