30 November 2018

Dallas-Corbett Bushwhack Adventure

Bushwhack (defined):  to clear a path through thick woods especially by chopping down bushes and low branches.

We didn't set out to clear our own path.  On the map, it looked like we could make a nice little loop by connecting the Dallas Trail with the Corbett Trail.  I researched all the trail reviews for both.  I programmed waypoints in my fancy-schmancy new Garmin.  I even brought my ex-commando husband along for navigation support and first-aid if necessary.

My research concluded that the best way to do this route is to ascend Corbett and descend Dallas.  The first couple of miles were great.  Beautiful views in all directions.  Dry or well-packed snow-covered trail.  Weather was sunny and warm. 

The pups have come to love switchbacks - they get a kick out of looking down on us slow bi-peds.

Here I am! I'm here! I love hiking! I love snow! I'm here! I'm here!

Are you guys coming??

Looking across 550 toward Gold Mountain

West side of Bridge of Heaven.  On my "to do" list. 

Views of Corbett and Whithouse mountains from the Corbett Trail

We were having such a good time, he even let me take a selfie of us!!

After the trail dipped back into the woods from the ridge, I started obsessively checking my Garmin so we wouldn't miss the cutoff to the Dallas trail.  My Garmin showed us way off the trail.  Doug's Garmin showed us right on the trail.  Since my mere aura kills all things tech, we defaulted to Doug's Garmin and kept following the footprints in the snow.

Then the footprints in the snow ended.  Just ended.  In a beautiful white birch forest covered with sparkling virgin snow.  Both Garmins showed the trail right there.  Well, almost.  Maybe it was just right over there.  No wait - I'm sure its right over here.

Me.  Not Doug.

Now, we could have just turned around and retraced our steps back to the truck.  But what kind of adventure would that be?   None.  No adventure. 

Besides, this was a great opportunity to re-blue my land navigation skills, and even learn all the features of my new Garmin.  What could possibly go wrong?

So, right there in the middle of the woods, we had a little "Land Nav 101" refresher course.  Doug asked me which direction was south.  I pointed north.  Doug asked me which way the contour lines on the map showed us going up.  I pointed down.  Then I had an "a-ha moment" - my gut told me to walk up the little hill to the left (east, west, whatever) and I'd hit the trail.  Of course, I was wrong - there were just more stupid birch trees.  I was starting to have flashbacks of my epic failure on the Land Nav course at Ft. Benning during OBC (without the thorny bushes, snakes, spiders, and the dark of night).

Doug (as usual) came to the rescue with his mad navigation skills.  Except that ex-commandos apparently don't follow trails - they bushwhack. 

Over the river and through the woods.....

If the Elk went this way, well then I guess we will, too.

Then the wide open birch forest turned into a dense evergreen forest, with downed trees, man-eating crater-holes, and slippy-slidy chutes.  We spent plenty of time on our asses, sliding down down down.  I kept obsessively checking my Garmin and worried about all those smushed-together contour lines - because I know that means a cliff.

And then - BOOM!  We popped out on Dallas Trail.  With all body parts intact and both pups still romping along with us.  And that, my friends, is why you always bring your ex-commando husband along on bushwhacking adventures! 😎

Google Earth tour here (best viewed in Google Chrome)

Dexter Creek Trail #205

Most of my hikes are a combination of journey & destination - I enjoy both immensely.  But sometimes, I'm in the mood to just wander.  To breathe the mountain air; to be enveloped in a blanket of tall trees; to hear nothing but snow; to inhale the smell of fresh evergreen with every breath.  To not have a goal or a destination in mind.  Dexter Creek Trail was a perfect wandering adventure.

There was only one other truck at the trailhead, but its occupants must have taken a different trail because the human footprints ended about 1/2 mile in.  The rest of the way, we had a mixture of dry trail, packed snow, and virgin snow.

Great view of the Bridge of Heaven. On my "to do" list.

The trail was absolutely silent, except the occasional chirping of a bird, or the sound of an animal crashing through breaking tree limbs.  I was hoping for some wildlife sightings, especially since Sunday kept putting her nose in the air.  All we saw were tracks, though.  

We kept an eye out for this big guy.  This print was about the size of my whole hand!

Testing out the portrait setting on my new phone.  Sunday obliged.  

Like so many trails in Colorado, this one took us past the remnants of two abandoned mines.  First was the Alamadi Mine, where a near-perfectly preserved boiler of some kind just sits there waiting to be fired up again. 

I guess when your mine dries up, you just leave all your stuff behind.

Kind of like going to a museum, but with fresh air and no crowds.

Then there was the Old Maid Mine, marked by the walls of what looked like an old housing structure, and some kind of pulley thingy.

This looked like a cannon to me, but I'm sure it wasn't anything that exciting.

Virgin snow, up to my knees.  Fluffbutt had no problem hopping like a bunny right through it!

Obligatory selfie. I'm working on my selfie-smile.  The timer on my new phone helps. 

Every hike ends with a treat.  This time she didn't have to share with Finn.

Stuffed ducks make great post-hike pillows.

In bed and passed out by 1900.

Google Earth view (works best in Chrome):  https://earth.app.goo.gl/mr27CM

22 November 2018

Thanksgiving ramblings

This isn't your usual post about travels and hikes and pups.  This is just Jen rambling.  Skip it if its not your cup o' tea.

I despise Thanksgiving.  (Blasphemy!!!)  Oh, I'm totally all about expressing everything for which I'm thankful, but not on a timeline dictated by "the man", in a way encouraged by corporate America.

Before you accuse me of being a pious libtard, let me tell you a story.

Right after my cancer diagnosis, I received a package from a professional acquaintance.  In it was a "Gratitude Journal" and a note explaining that she had been through her share of medical issues and she found that just a little bit of gratitude every day helped her heal.  To be honest, my first thought was "OK, crazy court reporter lady - the doctors are cutting off my boobs next week, then they are going to poison me with chemo, and after all that, I still might die.  WTF do you expect me to write in some dumb gratitude journal?"  But, I respect the hell out of this crazy court reporter lady, so I tried it. 

At first, I filled up an entire page each day.  Then treatment got harder and there were days I struggled with finding just one thing for which I was grateful.  One day I actually wrote "Doug ordered more dog poop bags from Amazon".  (Because, when a dog poops at 5 am, you are really grateful when the poop bag dispenser isn't empty.)

Over time, this simple little task transformed from annoying chore to daily meditation.  I admit I don't write it down anymore, but every single day I take time to think about some of the things for which I am grateful.  More importantly, I now go one step further and tell people (especially Doug) when I'm thankful for something they've done. 

So that's why this whole forced Thanksgiving thing just irks the shit out of me.  My Facebook feed today is filled with people declaring all of the things for which they are thankful.  That's great - but why just once a year on a made-up holiday?  Were you not thankful for those things two months ago?  Then why did it take a corporate-America holiday to make you express your gratitude? 

Lest you think I'm just a crotchety old woman yelling "get off my lawn!!", let me tell you a story.

Last summer, I went to a yoga festival in Canada, where I attended a life-changing meditation seminar with Gina Caputo, a/k/a Yogi on the Loose.  Gina talked in depth about the Buddhist principles of attachment and reaction.  I won't bore you with an entire lecture, but the brief idea here is that living in the moment (and being grateful for every moment) requires us to acknowledge those things to which we have an attachment, and also to our reaction when that attachment is either realized or not.  Gina's example was that when she arrived in Canada the day before, she was starving, so she set out for some lunch.  She saw a crepe shop and she desired crepes more than anything she had ever desired before, because, you know, hangry.  She was attached to the idea of the perfect crepe, ending her hunger, fluffy and dripping with yummy fillings.  But the line was really long, and after waiting 20 minutes, when it was her turn to order, the server told her it would be another 20 minutes before she had her crepes.  Her reaction was to be angry at the crepe shop for not hiring more people, be pissed off about all the people in line ahead of her ordering all the crepes, etc. etc.  The idea of living in the moment means you stop and figure out what it was to which you were attached, which causes a reaction when you either get it or you don't.  By letting go of her attachment to the perfect crepe, served immediately, she could choose to either live in the moment of waiting for the crepe, or finding something else to satisfy her hunger. 

But this isn't about crepes, is it?  Nope, its about Thanksgiving (and other holidays, but that's for another post).  In that seminar, what immediately came to my mind was the whole holiday thing.  Haven't we all been conditioned to have an attachment to the perfect holiday?  There's the "perfect" turkey/ham/stuffing/pie.  There's the "perfect" tree, wreath, little white lights.  The "perfect" bottle of wine, gifts, and family gathering (where everyone is nice to each other and there is no crazy racist uncle).  We become attached to those images, those standards, and when reality doesn't live up to that image, we react.  That reaction may manifest as disappointment, or anger, or blame.  So why even have that attachment to begin with?  From where does it come?  What purpose does it serve?  Why not cook a big turkey some other day?  Why not express your love and gratitude on a random Tuesday in March (or every day, for that matter)?  Why not get together with family on January 8th .... just because?

Don't get me wrong - I'm not dissing anyone who cooked a turkey today.  I'm just telling you why I didn't.  Maybe I'll cook one next week; maybe I won't.  The idea is that I am grateful for so many things and so many people, that I will not wait 364 days to express it. 

Anyway, back to crazy court reporter lady and her gratitude journal.  Turns out we became more than professional acquaintances after that, and I now count her as one of my few trusted friends - one of those people I know I could turn to in any situation.  She was spot-on with her nudge to me to identify something EVERY SINGLE DAY about which I am grateful.  And for that, I am grateful. 

Twin Peaks

I had sufficiently recovered from my crash, and our 7-mile bushwacking misadventure (which I conveniently haven't blogged about), and needed to get in one more big hike before the snow comes this weekend.  So, I set out to do a reverse of my Alive Day hike, and hopefully bag the Twin Peaks this time.

The weather was absolutely beautiful.  Bright blue skies, warm sun, short sleeves, and good footing on dry dirt and rocks ... for the first 2 miles, anyway.  Plus, I was able to convince Doug to drive me almost all the way to the Oak Creek trailhead, cutting off at least a few feet of elevation gain.  😎

Just across from the Oak Creek Trailhead, is the "Box Canyon" sign.

Can you find Finn?

Ouray's Ampitheatre - from a few feet up the Oak Creek Trail

The last time I did this hike, I went up from the Silvershield Trailhead and descended on Oak Creek Trail.  But by the time I reached the 1.2 mile trail to Twin Peaks, I was exhausted.  So this time, I tried going up Oak Creek, which was a more gradual ascent with better constructed switchbacks.  And I was on the right side of the mountain to have sun for the first couple of miles. 

Gold Hill from the Oak Creek Trail

Where the trail splits - I asked the pups "which way?" Sunday ran up the hill, Finn ran down.  We went up.

Backside of Telluride peeking out there.

Twin Peaks.  Note the nobby thing sticking up on the right.  You'll see it again from the top.

When I reached the junction with the Twin Peaks Trail, I felt good.  I was going to bag these peaks today!  

The next mile was wicked steep.

I got a lot of "WTF is taking so long, Mom??" looks from the pups on this part.

The trail climbed around some of the red spires that can be seen from town.
This last mile was brutal.  1100 feet of elevation gain on a snowy and icy trail.  I definitely wouldn't have made it without crampons, and I wish I had had my mountaineering axe .... not because it was absolutely necessary, but I would have felt slightly more badass with it.

Just before I reached the treeline, I encountered a pair of hikers descending.  They asked if I was going "all the way to the top" and warned me that it might not be suitable for the pups.  I figured I'd assess when I got closer.  A few feet later, I was at the saddle between Sister Peak and "the top".  

First view above treeline.  Recognize that nobby thing from a previous picture?

I'm not sure why I didn't take a picture looking up - but it was a pretty narrow, snow-covered ridgeline leading to the tippity top.  Sunday (my mountain goat disguised as a dog) started to run right up the ridge.  Finn was a little a lot more nervous.  I ascended along the ridgeline a bit further, but then decided that the descending hikers were right - it might not be suitable for the pups Finn.  We also only had about 90 minutes till sunset, so I played it safe and decided to call it close enough to count.  

Obligatory selfie at the turnaround point.  I'm a lot happier than my expression would lead you to believe. 

The trip down was a blast!  Slipping and sliding down the steep, snowy parts (with only a few noticeable bruises this morning).  I was hoping to finally see some wildlife at dusk, but no such luck.  

I can only imagine how beautiful this spot is in fall.

This is where I start to get a little nervous about the sun setting while I'm still out here.

How beautiful is that lighting?
A glimpse of the RV from the trail, where I knew Doug was worrying about whether I had a headlamp.  

We made it out just as the sun dipped behind the horizon.  Perfect timing.  The unexpected bonus was that the river was low enough to cross right by the RV, cutting off another mile along the River Trail to get to the bridge.  Another awesome day on the Ouray Trails!

These little paws snuggled in really tight once we got home!

14 November 2018

Sometimes, reality is cruel.

I had all these grand plans to do a big hike today, and then meet up with some new friends for Happy Hour. 

Last night, I got my pack all ready.  Laid all my clothes and gear out.  Even pre-measured my muesli breakfast and bagged up my trail mix. 

Nothing was going to get between me and an early start to another magical day in the mountains. 

Except, apparently, my body. 

It's been awhile since I've had a "crash" (what we've come to call those days when my body reminds me that first my boobs tried to kill me, then all those super-smart doctors tried to poison me).  When it happens, I feel like someone gave me an IV full of cement, poured Clorox down my throat, and performed Riverdance on my head.   Not the best conditions under which to tackle a big mountain at high elevation.

Six months ago, I would have tried to "soldier on" or "push through" it.  It took awhile, but I finally learned that that just makes it last longer.  If I curl up in bed and declare defeat, I'm back to human much faster.

It also helps that I'm chaperoned. 

This dog hasn't let me out of her sight all day.  She comes into the bathroom with me (I'll spare you the pictures).  When I got up to drink some tea, she sat on the kitchen table and watched intently.  Then she came back to bed with me and decided to hold me down.

I think she just knows that if I get lots of rest today, we might be able to go for a small hike tomorrow.  She may be a great dog, but she still minds her own interest. 

So yeah, the reality of my body crashing today was cruel.  But the reality of my body still being able to do all those hikes I've been blogging about is pretty freaking awesome.  I'll take it.  #alive

12 November 2018

Blaine Basin

You know how I said that Blue Lakes was the "must do" hike of the area, and that it was typically teeming with unprepared tourists?  Well, Blaine Basin is the place with similar views that nobody ever hikes.  The two hikes share a trailhead, but nothing else.  Talk about solitude - on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, we saw zero humans.  Exactly the way we like it.

The trail crossed this creek 3 times.  It reminded me so much of New Hampshire.

Keep your eyes on the prize!

See the frozen waterfall way up there?

I'm pretty sure the one on the left is Mt. Sneffels, our local 14er (which I will conquer someday).

Obligatory photo of pups in the snow.

All of my favorite things in one photo.  Well, except beer.  That was later.  

Taken from County Route 7 on the way back out.  It looks so much bigger in person!

A well-deserved snack once we got back home. 

Is that a happy Border Collie or what??

This was a good hike.  Definitely would like to do this one again in a different season.
For a look at how beautiful this is in peak fall, check out our neighbor's blog post here:  https://boxcanyonblog.blogspot.com/2016/09/blaine-basin-other-face-of-sneffels.html