Vacation Part 2: Utah

Vacation Part 2: Utah

Day 4 (Friday continued): 

The scenery on the eastern side of Utah didn’t look much different than the scenery on the western side of Colorado.  The posted speed limit was 80mph so I was happily driving while Josh took in the surrounding landscape zipping by.

Once we exited Route 70, Moab would be the next town we would come across.  Despite being situated in the middle of a red rock desert, Moab was a bustling place.  Everybody either had bike racks on their cars or was driving a camper.  Despite being visitors, it was a welcoming atmosphere for us because we love spending time outside, exploring, and taking in nature.

We drove to our pre-determined camping area managed by the BLM – the Sandflats Recreation Area.  We paid our $15 at the gate, drove up the road and settled on camping in the Cottontail camping area which had 4-5 other sites available for tents.  After pitching our tent, admiring the place we would get to sleep at later, and changing into mountain bike attire, we headed back into town for our bike rentals.

We rented our mountain bikes from Chile Pepper Bikes – a bike shop well-known to Moab visitors.  They suggested trails for us, hooked a bike rack to our car, loaded up our bikes, and sent us on our way.  We left the confines of Main Street, Moab and headed back out to Moab Brands.

After scoping out the trails on the map we purchased for $2, we decided to start on EZ – an intermediate/easy trail.  We were both getting acquainted with our rental bikes and the varying terrain of Moab so this was a good way to start off.

We connected EZ to Bar-M – an easy trail.  From Bar-M we hopped on Rockin’ A which was considered an intermediate-expert trail.  Rockin’ A was complete rock – not a speck of dirt in sight.  On the east coast, I’m terrified of rocky sections (which are typically paired with a downhill); however, in Moab, I had no choice.  You can look for miles in Moab and find only rock.  To my own surprise, I wasn’t overly frightened.  There were no log overs to worry about or huge rocks to weave through.  We were simply riding ON the rocks – rocks that were relatively smooth and rather nonthreatening.

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Moab Brands

Granted, I was probably going slower than anyone else that rides in Moab but I was still riding.  We passed a group of riders that said they were from Michigan.  A guy told me I was doing awesome.  Quite surprised at his apparent observation, all I managed to say was “thank you” and I just continued riding.

At the end of Rockin’ A we hopped over to Circle-O (also an intermediate-expert trail).  I was truly enjoying myself at my own pokey pace.  Josh was up ahead riding at his own pace and waiting for me every so often.  We were enjoying our ride in a place we’ve only ever seen on Instagram.  We were finally living our Instagram dreams!

I feel that I need to share that our ride in Moab was not guided by trail markers every 100-200 feet.  Trail markers can only be found at the beginning and end of each trail, typically accompanied with a map.  So how do you know you’re still on a trail?  Just follow the faded paint line on the rock – AND DON’T DIVERGE FAR.  I remember concentrating hard on following the paint line and I would get mad at myself when I would lose concentration and move to the right/left of it by 2-3 feet.  I wanted to follow the line!

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Do you see the faded line that I’ve clearly diverged from?

Ok, back to Circle-O.  Circle-O is a 3.2 mile trail of rock.  Half-way through, Josh broke his derailleur.  It was a problem that couldn’t be fixed, so he was forced to walk about 2-3 miles back to our vehicle.  I continued to ride at my own slow pace while he disappointingly walked the line.  Role reversal!  Now I was the one waiting every so often for him to catch up to me.  I would loop back to him and then ride ahead again, trying to find the end of Circle-O so he knew he was getting closer to the car.

After, a good 30-40 minutes of walking, Josh finally got back to the car.  We still had time remaining on our day rental and I wanted to get the most out of it – especially since one bike was broken.  I went back to EZ trail and did a quick loop of Lazy-EZ.  It was flowy, it was fun, and I wish that Josh & I could’ve rode more in Moab together.  But the trail gods clearly had other plans.

With the exception of the broken derailleur, I genuinely enjoyed riding in Moab.  It was unlike anything we ever ride on the east coast.  My only Moab regret is not spending more time there.  We only saw a tiny crumb of what Moab trails offer (12.9 miles to be exact) and I just want to go back to see and experience more.

After we returned our rental bikes, we stopped at the grocery store for cold Gatorades.  Then we decided to eat dinner before heading back to our campsite for the remainder of the afternoon.

Moab Brewery was conveniently next to the bike shop so we opted for that.  We walked in, sat in the pub area, and ordered nachos.  You can never go wrong with nachos!  Josh ordered a beer and I ordered their “Ginerade” – gin and lemonade.  It was alright.  We ordered our entrees (a veggie wrap for me and a burger for Josh) but we were both rather unimpressed by the taste.  I picked through my entire wrap and only ended up eating a small portion of it.  Our review of Moab Brewery?  Nice atmosphere, good brews, ok mixed drinks, and unimpressive entrees.  Would we go back?  I’m just going to say one thing: let’s try someplace different.

After leaving the brewery, we drove back to our campsite and simply relaxed.  Around 9 PM we climbed up a few rocks to watch the sunset.  We observed mountain bikers dropping off of steep rocks and UTV’ers off in the distance.  The sunset was absolutely beautiful.  I am so envious of anyone that lives in that area or has such scenic views everyday.  It is an absolutely beautiful and unique place in our country and words nor pictures could ever do it justice.

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view behind us at our sunset rock

The stars took forever to come out.  I was fighting off falling asleep in our tent and every 10 minutes I would wake up and ask if the stars were out yet.  When they finally did all start to appear, they were EVERYWHERE!  The most stars I’ve ever seen and there was not a speck of light pollution.  I’m sure that Josh observed the stars longer than I did because I just couldn’t stay awake.  At some point in time, we were both asleep.

Day 4 stats:  12.9 miles mtb, 838 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 4,778 ft

Day 5 (Saturday): 

Let it be known that sleeping in Moab can be a struggle without the proper camping supplies.  We were sleeping on sand and all we had were our pillows, a sheet, and a blanket.  I brought in layers of clothes the night before knowing I might need them as night progressed.  Thank goodness I did because I woke up at an unknown time freezing cold.  However, the moon was super bright and the stars were still out!

I’m pretty sure I only got 3 hours of sleep in Moab between being uncomfortable and being cold.  The sun was already up by 6 AM but I tried to fall back asleep.  That lasted 30 minutes and then I decided to just go for a run.  I ran 2 miles with stiff legs and a stiff back.  It was slow but I got to see more of the Sand Flats area.

Once Josh woke up, I made myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich and we packed up our tent.  Josh stopped at the local coffee shop to get his morning dose of coffee and then we started driving again.  Next stop: Ogden!

The drive to Ogden was pretty uneventful.  We drove through a lot of desert and some canyons.  There were huge windmills too!  We swapped drivers half way through and I drove us the rest of the way to Ogden.

We arrived at 2nd Tracks for our bike rental where we were finally reunited with my brother, Michael!  We received our bikes and put my bike in our car and Josh’s bike in Michael’s car.  He was taking us to Snowbasin for mountain biking!

We drove right through the canyon to get to Snowbasin!  What a road that was!  It twisted and winded all the way through the mountain.  It was quite the scenic road!

Michael toured us around Snowbasin which turned out to be extremely scenic and quite challenging.  The trails were tough in sections, especially the uphills and rocky sections.  Josh and Michael would zip ahead of me so I mostly rode solo; however, they waited at trail intersections to make sure I was still in one piece.  The flowy sections were enjoyable and the switchbacks were nice but I was completely out of my element riding on literal mountains.

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MTB with the men

After riding nearly 9 miles, we packed up our bikes again and headed back into Ogden.  Michael brought us to Slackwater Pizza & Pub.  Pizza sounded so welcoming!  I ordered a mac & cheese pizza, Josh ordered the buffalo chicken pizza, and Michael ordered the Hawaiian pizza.

Let me just say, I am still to this day talking about my mac & cheese pizza.  It was so unique and so delicious that I wish I could order another one right now!  It didn’t have pizza sauce on it, just macaroni noodles, cheese, and a drizzle of balsamic.  The balsamic made it so good!  I am so glad I ordered something outside of my “pizza comfort zone” because I would go back there in a heartbeat – pizza stop #2 of the trip got another A++.

After satisfying our hunger, we were tired from a sleepless night and a day of activity.  Michael returned to Hill AFB and Josh and I drove to our campground for the remainder of our stay – KOA Brigham City/Perry.  We enjoyed some downtime at our cozy little cabin, took showers, and fell asleep comfortably on a mattress – a little luxury!

Day 5 stats:  9 miles mtb, 1,156 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 7,230 ft

Day 6 (Sunday): 

We slept wonderfully in our cozy cabin and woke up feeling a little less sleepy and a lot less stiff.  We enjoyed a simple breakfast and then met Michael at a trailhead for the Bonneville Shoreline trail system.

[Fun fact!  Bonneville Shoreline does not follow any shore whatsoever.  It’s not near water nowadays….but it used to be!  Way back in the day, the Great Salt Lake was so large and high up that the Shoreline trail was indeed on the shoreline of the lake.  However, now, the Salt Lake has shrunk, a city has been developed, and the shoreline trail is simply amidst the mountains.]

After a brief discussion with a snobby local (true fact) at the trailhead, we started riding.  It was a hot, the trails were narrow and rather hilly and I was just not having a good day on the bike.  After less than 3 miles, I decided I just wanted to run so that the men didn’t have to keep waiting up for me.  We put my bike back in the car and I set out for a run while Michael and Josh rode more miles.

I enjoyed a 6.8 mile run on the Shoreline trail which provided a continuous vista of Ogden and zig-zagged in and out of small mountain valleys.  The trail was lightly trafficked and I enjoyed the serenity of running in a new place.  Michael and Josh mountain biked 11.7 miles together and also enjoyed views of Ogden from above.

 

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Bonneville Shoreline trail

After we were done our excursions, we decided to eat lunch at another place Michael recommended to us called The Angry Goat.  I had a black bean quesadilla, Josh enjoyed a sandwich and fries, and Michael had a breakfast burrito.  It was a quaint and quiet pub and we got to plan our next hike.

We returned our bike rentals and drove to the trailhead for the Hidden Valley Trail.  Turns out I picked a pretty strenuous trail because the trail was sun-exposed and extremely steep.  Josh & I powered ahead after Michael decided to turn back around.  We had views of Ogden from above again.  When we reached the top of the trail we were rewarded with a field of flowers and a vista of a valley…. a hidden valley.

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Vista on Hidden Valley Trail
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view at the top of Hidden Valley

Upon descending, we decided to run sections of the trail back down to the parking lot.  The steep sections got me nervous so I slowed to a crawl, I leaped over a snake that Josh didn’t see, and we decided that, although quite challenging, Hidden Valley Trail was rather anticlimatic.  At least we got to spend more time outside!

Once we were done hiking, Michael gave us a tour of the AFB.  We then went our separate ways as it was getting late.  Josh & I picked up fresh salads at Smith’s grocery store (their equivalent to Shoprite/Acme) and we ate dinner back at our cabin as the sun was setting.

In both Utah & Colorado it seemed that sunsets were so lengthy.  Daylight seemed to last so much longer compared to the east coast.  Still to this day, it boggles my mind and I can’t seem to figure it out.  I digress.  The sun set, we showered, and then went right to sleep.

Day 6 stats:  2.7 miles mtb (me), 11.7 miles mtb (Josh), 6.7 mile run (me), 4.8 mile hike (both), 3,766 ft of elevation gain (me), 3,851 ft of elevation gain (Josh), max elevation was 6,762′

Day 7 (Monday): 

Monday morning we woke up and had nowhere to be!  We decided Monday would be our relaxation day.  Our legs were exhausted and we just needed some time to chill out.  Michael was working all day and we would spend the afternoon with him once he was done.

I enjoyed time reading my book and we discussed our adventures so far.  Then Josh got antsy and started researching nearby trails to our campground.  He discovered the Perry Canyon trailhead that was within a mile of us.  It was the hottest part of the day but I agreed to go with him.

The trailhead wasn’t clearly marked so we questioned our parking choice.  The trail was slightly overgrown and Josh became paranoid about the safety of our car.  My legs were still quite exhausted so I opted to take the car back to the campground, continue relaxing, and Josh would continue hiking/running on the Perry Canyon trail.  We discussed a time limit and potential plans for coming to pick him up.

I don’t have much knowledge on what the Perry Canyon trail was like but Josh said it was kind of overgrown and very much uphill.  He finished a 6 mile run with 985′ of elevation gain.  He showed up to the campground tired yet satisfied that he got to run up another mountain!

Still in need of lunch at 3:30PM, we decided to drive into Brigham City to get food at Kent’s Market.  We picked up two more fresh salads, cold fruit, donuts for the next morning, and a yogurt parfait.  Kent’s Market was a nice surprise and we enjoyed the freshness of their food choices!

We met Michael and his friend, Andy, at the trailhead for Adams Canyon trail around 5:30 PM.  In retrospect, this was probably my favorite trail that we hiked in the Ogden area.  Honestly, I considered it to be epic.  For starters, it was shaded.  Secondly, it followed a stream up to an awesome waterfall.  The trail was rocky and steep and at times I was climbing up rocks using my hands.  A hiker warned us of a rattlesnake he heard and I got nervous.  I don’t like snakes at all so I went into super-awareness mode.  We stopped 3/4 of the way up and the men climbed up a very high rock overlook.  Here is the picture below.

 

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Can you spot Michael, Andy, and Josh?

We continued our way up the trail until we finally reached the waterfall!  We crossed the shallow part of the waterfall’s pool of water and my Altra Superiors drained very well.  I got close enough to the waterfall to feel the mist, but not close enough to touch it.  It was cold water!

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the picturesque waterfall with Michael

While at the top, Michael & Andy climbed more rocks, and we watched a few people climb towards the top of the waterfall (crazy!).  Josh also unexpectedly snapped a picture of me modeling my Altra race top, Altra Superiors, and Ultimate Direction pack.

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We also took a selfie with Michael and Andy behind us climbing the rocks.  They have no fear!

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Group selfie

We started the hike back down to the trailhead.  I’m SUPER slow on descents so the men kept waiting up for me.  We simply got to enjoy more time out on a nice afternoon.  Even though it was closing in on 8 PM, people were still hiking up in the direction of the waterfall.  I envy the outdoorsy-ness of the people in the western states.  People out there don’t miss any opportunity to hike, bike, or run and I truly admire that.

Once again, we were eating dinner at 9 PM.  After our hike we all drove to Rooster’s Brewing Company for dinner.  We enjoyed burgers (mine was black bean), fries, and Josh & Andy had brews.  We closed the place down and then we had to say our goodbyes in the parking lot.  Michael and Andy returned to the AFB and Josh & I returned to the cabin for our final vacation night.

We stayed up until midnight trying to organize and pack all of our things again.  We were both tired but I didn’t want vacation to end.  Eventually we fell asleep, grateful for all of our vacation adventures.

Day 7 stats:  6 mile run & 3.6 mile hike (Josh), 5.1 mile hike (me), 2,498 ft of elevation gain (Josh), 1,691 ft of elevation gain (me), max elevation was 6,202 ft

Day 8 (Tuesday): 

We woke up Tuesday morning feeling tired from lack of sleep.  I became stressed about fitting everything in our bags.  I shoved the blanket we had bought at Target into my carry-on because I was determined to bring it home (and it now sits happily folded on the end of my bed).  I must have packed and repacked my bags at least 6 times in shear determination to fit everything.

Shortly after leaving our lovely mountain cabin, I received a text saying our flight was delayed.  I went into a brief panic because we had to make a connecting flight in Dallas; however, I calculated that we should have just enough time to make it.  Travel stress is the worst stress, especially when you have to end a vacation with it!

We flew over the mountains departing SLC and I was sad to be leaving.  There was so much more for us to explore and see in both Utah and Colorado.  I wanted to see more!

We landed in Dallas and the pilot drove to our terminal for what seemed like 30 minutes – precious time when you have to make a connecting flight!  We took the Skylink from our arrival terminal to the departing terminal which we successfully navigated.  Upon arriving at our departing terminal, they were just starting to board our plane.  I was starving and miserable so I ran over to the closest convenience store and bought a bag of peanuts.  Onwards to home!

Utah Stats:

  • Josh’s mountain bike miles:  28.9 miles
  • Lyndsey’s mountain bike miles:  24.6 miles
  • Josh’s running miles:  6 miles
  • Lyndsey’s running miles:  8.7 miles
  • Josh & Lyndsey’s hiking miles:  8.4 miles
  • Josh’s elevation gain (combo of running, hiking , & biking):  8,118 feet
  • Lyndsey’s elevation gain (combo of running, hiking , & biking):  7,487 feet
  • Max Elevation:  7,230′ above sea level (Snowbasin)

Combined Stats (Utah & Colorado):

  • Running  miles (both): 14 miles (Josh) and 16.7 miles (Lyndsey)
  • Hiking miles (both):  21.1 miles (both of us)
  • Mountain bike miles (just Utah):  28.9 miles (Josh) and 24.6 miles (Lyndsey)
  • Elevation gain:  13,636′ (Josh) and 12,935′ (Lyndsey)
  • Max Elevation:  10,465′ (Frisco)
  • Combined total miles explored: 126.4 miles
  • Combined elevation achieved:  26,571′

In retrospect:

Colorado and Utah are beautiful places.  I am grateful for all that we got to see and do on our one-week vacation in mountain time.  I am grateful that I got to spend time with good friends in Colorado.  I am grateful that I got to spend time with my brother in Utah.  I am grateful that we had safety in all of our travels, hikes, runs, and bike rides.  I am forever grateful that Josh & I got to spend a week together in our happy place – the mountains!

I will always look back on this vacation with fond memories.  I will yearn for the day that I get to go back with Josh by my side to climb more mountains together.  It was an unforgettable week and I will forever cherish the moments we got to spend together & with people we love.

 

Vacation Part 1: Colorado

Vacation Part 1: Colorado

At the end of May, Josh & I embarked on our greatest adventure yet – a trip out west to Colorado and Utah!  We packed every day with as many vistas, breaths of fresh air, and places as possible and came home exhausted, sore, and full of wanderlust.  Colorado took our breath away – literally.  Like most adventures, I will blog about it to reminisce in the future about all the amazing places we visited.  Perhaps by doing so, it will keep the wanderlust at bay.  Honestly though, I think it will just remind us of how wonderful, beautiful, and “us” these mountain states are.  Without further ado….

Day 1 (Tuesday):

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3 AM at the airport

Our flight departed Philadelphia in the wee hours of the morning.  We were on our first plane to Chicago by 5 AM and after a short layover we would fly from Chicago to Denver.  Once in the air, somewhere above Pennsylvania, we were able to see the sun rising behind us and the moon still ahead of us.  This was an interesting sight and made the thought of a 5 AM flight a little less bothersome.

We landed in Chicago and tried to patiently wait for our second flight of the morning.  Shortly after boarding our flight along with 90% of our fellow passengers, the flight attendant announced there was a hydraulic leak in our plane and we all had to get off and wait for another plane.  Annoyed and frustrated, we shuffled off the plane and waited for an alternate plane to arrive.  Our flight left nearly an hour later than it should have and I felt shorted for time I was losing.  We occupied ourselves with in-flight episodes of Modern Family and rest.

We finally arrived in Denver, successfully navigated the chaos of the airport, hopped on a shuttle to the rental car company, and picked up our rental car.  Within less than an hour of landing, we were driving away from the city and towards the mountains.

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Frisco, CO

I persuaded Josh to stop in Frisco which was the first Colorado mountain town I had ever visited in Colorado back in March of 2017.  Surrounded by mountains we parked and walked to Butterhorn Bakery & Cafe on Frisco’s Main Street.  We were seated immediately and were excited about finally eating a real meal.  I was thoroughly impressed and satisfied by the veggie hummus wrap with a side of quinoa that I ordered and Josh enjoyed “The Frisco” – a turkey bacon sandwich.  With full stomachs, we planned our 1st vacation adventure – a hike up Mount Royal.

We drove less than a half mile to the trailhead, put on our hydration packs, asked a local which direction to link up to the trail, and we started hiking up… up, up, up.  The hike was 1.4 miles to the peak from where we parked.  The entire hike is uphill and we were quickly out of breath from the altitude difference.  We kept trudging along and a local trail runner passed us with ease.  As we approached the peak, the wind picked up.  We got to the top and the wind was brisk.  We admired our surroundings, wandered around the peak, took PLENTY of pictures, and then decided to descend.   The hike down was just as interesting as the hike up.  Loose stone required that each step be carefully planned.  We each slid a few times but arrived back to the trailhead without injury.  Our first Colorado hike was complete!

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windy hair on top of Mount Royal

Our next destination was Angela and Phil’s!  We continued our drive until we got to our stay for the next few days!  We were welcomed happily by our friends, went on a search party for a missing neighborhood dog, and ate nachos for dinner!  Our night ended shortly after dinner and showers.  Josh and I had been awake for nearly 22 hours and we knew we needed rest for the next day’s adventures!

Day 1 stats:  2.8 miles, 1,312 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 10,465 ft

Day 2 (Wednesday): 

Thanks to the time difference between the east coast and the mountains, I woke up pretty early Wednesday morning.  Luckily when I realized it was still dark out, I was able to force myself back asleep.  Josh & I had a relaxing morning before heading out for a hike in New Castle.

We hiked up to the Mount Medaris trail system.  We passed cacti, lizards, and plenty of wild flowers.  We had a lovely view of the surrounding mountains, the entire town of New Castle, and the river down below.  It was calming to be atop such a small town.  Part of the trail was steep but we took our time and took plenty of pictures!

 

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coming down Mount Medaris

For lunch, we walked to Hogback Pizza.  It was a cozy pizza shop – perfect for a small mountain town!  Interestingly, even though the pizza was round, it was cut into squares.  The uncanny shape of our slices didn’t effect the taste in any way!  Our cheese pizza was absolutely delicious – pizza stop #1 of the trip got an A++.

Later in the day, we decided to drive to the Hanging Lake trailhead.  The hike up was enjoyable and we continued to ascend into land that reminded me of the Grand Canyon (although I have never actually been to the Grand Canyon…).  At the top, we scrambled up some rocks protected by a guardrail to our right.  The water was so pristine and blue and the waterfalls were peaceful.  There were a few other hikers at the top and a kind mom offered to take our picture (see below).

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After taking in Hanging Lake for awhile longer, we continued a short hike up to Spouting Rock.  We had no idea what Spouting Rock was, but it was quite a sight to see!  A waterfall was literally spouting out of the rock face.  For no reason visible to our eye, water was just spewing from the huge rock wall in front of us.  We walked behind the waterfall for fun and then continued on our way back down the trail.

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views from Hanging Lake Trail

After we returned from our hike, we went out to dinner with Phil & Angela.  They chauffeured us to BrewPub in Glenwood Springs.  The restaurant was huge and the staff was friendly.  I ordered a spinach salad with walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette and Josh enjoyed a burger and an oatmeal stout.  Both of us enjoyed every bite of our meals.  Another meal success!

We went to bed that night pretty worn out from hiking in the heat but we were excited for another day of adventures to come with the Dunn’s.

Day 2 stats:  5.8 miles, 1,922 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 7,306 ft

Day 3 (Thursday): 

Thursday morning we woke up pretty early to get a jump start on the heat of the day.  Josh drove us all to Snowmass Village.  We parked and took a shuttle up to the Rim Trail trailhead.  This particular trail was absolutely breathtaking – both literally & figuratively.  The singletrack we ran on was so perfect and picturesque.  The ascents kicked my butt, but the views throughout the entire run were incredible.  We saw snowcapped mountains in the distance, a lake, and the village of Snowmass.

About half-way through the run, we approached another long ascent.  Feeling extremely short of breath, I opted to powerhike most of the 2nd climb.  Josh joined me as the mountain folk (Phil & Angela) charged ahead.  It was a long climb but the view up top was awesome AND we got to enjoy a wonderful downhill lasting at least 2 miles.

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Our Snowmass run totaled 8.1 miles with 1,077 feet of gain, averaging 11:40/mile.  Our max elevation was 9,178 feet above sea level – quite high for us east coasters.  This was probably my favorite adventure in Colorado and my favorite run of our entire trip.  I still can’t get over the beauty of the singletrack we ran on.

After leaving the beauty of Snowmass, we made a pitstop at Red Rock Diner in Carbondale for lunch.  I ordered a veggie quesadilla with guacamole and Josh had a BLT sandwich with fries.  We were both quite satisfied with our meals.  Luckily, our next hiking stop was a mere half mile from the diner so when we got done we made the quick drive to the Mushroom Rock trailhead.

The Mushroom Rock trail was copious with red dirt and great views of Mount Sopris in the distance.  I felt entranced by Mount Sopris – which was still snowcapped when we were visiting.

Hiking along the ridge was slightly frightening at times and we kept questioning if Mushroom Rock actually existed.  We made it to the top and Josh & Phil fearlessly made their way out to Mushroom Rock.  Angela & I hung back, afraid to make the commitment to venture out any further.  Eventually we mustered up enough courage to crawl out further (key word: “crawl”).  We all sat and took in the surrounding views before heading back down to the parking lot below.

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peak of Mushroom Rock trail with Mount Sopris in the background

After losing Mushroom Rock Trail halfway down the trail, we ended up on Blue Ribbon Trail.  Luckily, Blue Ribbon was further away from the ridge so I was slightly more comfortable hiking down.  We all made it back to the parking lot quite exhausted from so much activity in our day so far.

We arrived back into town covered in red dirt and sweat.  Angela left for a town gathering and Josh and I began planning for adventures in our next state – Utah.  We went to visit Angela and met her co-worker.  They convinced Josh to visit the Black Dog Saloon so we walked there and Josh ordered some brews.  Uniquely, there was money pinned to the ceiling.  I was intrigued & Josh continued to enjoy his brews.

Our third and final hike of the day was Prendergrast Hill Trail with Angela.  Adopted by New Castle Running Club, we enjoyed a peaceful sunset hike up to the peak.  Our legs were tired but more time spent outside in the mountains was time well spent for us.  We felt like we had been fully immersed into the mountain town and we loved it!

We enjoyed pasta prepared by Chef Angela and then went to bed shortly after – completely exhausted from such an adventurous day!

Day 3 stats:  12.1 miles, 2,013 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 9,178ft

Day 4 (Friday): 

We departed early Friday morning for Moab.  We were sad to be leaving the Dunn’s (and their cats) but we knew we couldn’t stay forever.  However, we do indeed know that we will be returning as soon as possible!  We left the mountain town at 7:15 and began our drive to Moab, Utah.

As we were driving, Colorado transformed from lush green mountain landscapes to desert.  We stopped at the Target in Grand Junction for a sheet, a blanket, two pillows, gas, and donuts – all necessities for our adventures in Utah that will be described in a blog post titled “Vacation Part 2: Utah”.

Colorado was beautiful, memorable, adventurous, awe-inspiring, breathtaking, enchanting, and unforgettable.  Even weeks later we are both still dreaming of a day that we come back.  We are forever grateful for good friends willing to open their home up to us for a few days.  We feel more connected to the Colorado lifestyle after they shared stories of their experiences thus far.

In our 3-day stay in Colorado, we covered 20.7 miles on foot with a total elevation gain of 5,247 feet.  Our max elevation was in Frisco, Colorado at 10,465 feet above sea level.  Our days were packed with miles and long climbs and rewarded with spectacular views and cautious descents – all of which we are grateful for.

We know we only saw a minuscule amount of what Colorado has to do, see, and experience.  This gives us so many reasons to return to such a beautiful fragment of our country and we can’t wait to return.

Nevertheless, as we crossed the Colorado-Utah border we knew that more adventures awaited us.

Colorado Stats:

  • Running miles:  8 miles
  • Hiking miles:  12.7 miles
  • Elevation gain (combo of running & hiking): 5,448 feet
  • Max Elevation:  10,465′ above sea level (Frisco/Mount Royal)
15 Things I learned in 2015 (part 2 of 3)

15 Things I learned in 2015 (part 2 of 3)

If you missed Part 1 check it out here!

#6:  Your limits don’t actually exist:  This year alone I ran a 10 minute PR at the Broad Street 10 Miler in May, I hiked/ran the length of New Jersey’s part of the Appalachian Trail in three days (that’s 73 miles in three days), and I finished my first marathon in under my goal time of four hours.  With the exception of being running related, what do all of these things have in common?  Simply put, I pushed past the limits that existed in my mind and reached several goals I set this year.  While hiking/running the Appalachian Trail carrying 20 pounds of supplies on our backs, I had to push myself further than I ever had before.  The first day left me feeling mentally degraded and every muscle in my body hurt.  I hadn’t gone more than four miles ever before with 20 pounds of weight weighing down on my shoulders.  And here I was, somewhere in northern New Jersey in the great outdoors, moving forward for 12+ hours a day with only one goal in mind – get to that New Jersey-Pennsylvania state line.  My dad and I did indeed finish the trek in three days like we had planned but my limits were definitely tested during those three days.  Limits are boundaries you set in your mind.  Limits don’t exist in real life.  You can push yourself further than you can even imagine if you’re willing to ignore pain and ignore that whispering voice in your head telling you to stop.  Don’t let that whispering voice put a limit on what you can and cannot achieve in this world.  Your limits are endless.

#7:  Distance apart is just a number:  This past summer I was fortunate enough to travel to California for the first time ever to spend time with family members.  In my memory, I had never met my Aunt Mary.  The last time we were together was when I was christened as a baby and I definitely don’t have any recollection of that.  So my brother and I headed west for our first trip to the west coast.  We stayed with our cousin who gave us an amazing tour of southern California for the days we spent with her.  I am forever grateful for the time I spent in California with my family.  Since we live on opposite coasts we only get to see my cousins maybe once per year, if that.  My Aunt Mary can no longer fly so I am extremely happy that I got to visit her and listen to her stories about our family.  In the past year or so I’ve come to truly believe in the fact that distance makes the heart grow fonder.  I know this may sound cliche to some people, but I assure you that distance is just a number between two or more people.  Someone you love might live 3,000 miles away in a completely different time zone.  Maybe someone you love only lives 1,000 miles away on the same coast.  Maybe someone you love lives 100 miles away in the same state. Whatever the distance, it’s just a number.  Miles apart shouldn’t put a limit on how much you love someone.  Even though you may only see someone a few times a year, or maybe even once every 5 years, you can still love them.  As I grow up I have become more and more aware of the fact that you don’t have to spend every moment of every day with someone to love them.  I love my Aunt Mary who I have only met two or three times in the past 21 years of my life, but I love her because she loves me just the same.  Don’t let distance or time apart keep you from being close with someone.  It’s just a number, not a space.

#8:  Be happy for others:  It’s easy to fall into the feeling of being jealous of what someone else is doing.  I believe that social media fuels this issue because, as humans, we constantly feel the need to know what other people are doing. When we see what other people are doing we may become envious of their life. We may see pictures of someone on Facebook on an exotic vacation on some luxurious island.  We may see a tweet about someone expressing their love towards their significant other.  Maybe there’s even a filtered picture posted on Instagram of someone celebrating on a Saturday night with their closest friends. Whatever the case may be, I’ve come to the realization that when you see someone you love doing something they love you should be happy for them. Don’t start feeling sorry for yourself and resist FOMO (fear of missing out) as much as you can.  No human being on this planet shares the same life path.  Be happy for your best friend who is chasing after their dreams.  Be joyous for the friend who found out they just got offered a great job.  It’s okay to miss someone you love but don’t feel unhappy when you see them happy.  Share in their happiness, even if it means you have to sacrifice a little bit of time spent with them.

#9:  Don’t compare yourself to others (particularly in the running world):  As a runner, I’ve fallen in and out of the trap of comparing myself to other runners.  It’s easy to compare training schedules and the amount of miles you’re running.  You may compare yourself to other runners in attempt to evaluate your own personal fitness level.  As runners, we might tell ourselves, “well, she ran 50 miles this week and I only ran 40 so she’s obviously a better runner than me” or “he runs 7 minute pace all the time and I usually average 8 minute pace so I can’t keep up with him”.  As a runner who is immersed in the running community, sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in race results and posts about training.  There’s been numerous times this year that I’ve caught myself comparing myself to other runners.  I’ve sometimes questioned my own training routine because of this and second-guessed my ability to be a decent runner. But then one day I came to the realization that it doesn’t matter how similar or different my running routine is to other runners’ routines.  I am my own individual runner and what works for me throughout training might not work for other runners.  Likewise, what works for other runners might not work for me. There’s no reason to compare myself to others.  I am me.  I have my own special body type, my own unique feet, my own well-trained muscles, and my own strong beating heart.  I might not run 50 miles per week or be able to run four 1600m repeats at 6:30 pace – but I can run my far, my fast, and my race. When I run, the only person that I can compare myself to is me because every runner has their own unique journey that eventually leads to the same destination – the finish line.

#10:  Wanderlust hurts:  I am the kind of person that likes to go-go-go.  I don’t like sitting around for hours and wasting time but I’m constantly conflicted when it comes to traveling.  I want to go places, I want to explore the world, and I know that there’s so much to see on our planet.  More consistently in this year than any year in the past, I’ve been plagued by wanderlust.  I have never wanted to travel as badly as I do until this year.  I yearn for endless adventures but then reality crashes down on me.  I need money to travel and do fun things.  I need a job that pays well enough to go on these adventures but will also give me time off to explore for a week straight.  The picturesque places I see of mountains and lakes and open trails is calling out to me and I know deep in my heart that I can’t go to these places right now.  And that hurts.  Wanderlust seriously makes my heart ache.  When people ask me what I’m going to do with my life after I graduate undergrad I commonly answer with this sentence: “I have no idea, but maybe I’ll just go on a really long hike and never come back”.  I know this is unrealistic and maybe even me trying to avoid becoming an adult in the job world but I seriously just want to go explore.  I want to see beautiful places and meet super cool, cultured people that can share in my love for breathing in fresh air in the wilderness.  I probably sound like some crazy female bushmen or a weird tree-hugger right now but it’s the truth.  Maybe one day in the near future I’ll get to explore endlessly but for now wanderlust will stir in my heart as I await a new adventure.  After all, adventure awaits.

To be continued…

Reminiscing Last Summer’s Trip to Bermuda

Reminiscing Last Summer’s Trip to Bermuda

First, I would like to begin by saying HAPPY 26TH ANNIVERSARY to my wonderful and loving parents!  I hope you have a great anniversary day and continue to have many more years of happiness, memories, and love!  You’re the best!

Last summer, my family took a trip to Bermuda to celebrate my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary.  After marrying on May 27, 1989, my parents traveled to Bermuda for their honeymoon.  Twenty-five years later, they decided to take my brother and I back to the island that they enjoyed together on their honeymoon.  This was the first time we had ever taken a vacation to an island so this was super exciting!

Prior to landing on the beautiful island, we could tell from the plane that the water was crystal clear and NOTHING like NJ beaches.  The airport was tiny and after going through customs we got in a bus with an extremely friendly driver who would take us to our hotel.  On the drive to our hotel, our driver told us some history and fun facts about the island.  He told us where all the rich and famous people live/vacation and how their colleges differ from the US. 

bermuda
Beautiful Bermudan water

Bermudans rely heavily on tourism for their country’s income so everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming.  But it’s also important to realize that Bermuda is also a very expensive island as it is the custom to give tips to nearly everyone that does something for you.  Despite the expenses, Bermuda is a beautiful island and the residents are more than willing to answer questions or tell stories!  We didn’t meet a single person that was rude (which I must say was a welcoming difference compared to spending the morning in the hustle and bustle of the Philadelphia Airport).

mopeds
Exploring Bermuda in style

We had planned for months that we were going to rent mopeds and drive all around the island.  And that’s what we did!  Prior to departing the moped rental area of our hotel, we were given a brief lesson about the rules of the road and how to drive a moped.  I was a little hesitant because in Bermuda you drive on the left side of the road and I had never driven a moped before.  It took awhile to get used to but we figured it out!  Also, in Bermuda tourists and residents have different colored licensed plates to basically differentiate between the people who actually knew how to drive around Bermuda and the ones that didn’t (aka us).  So we set out on our mopeds to explore the island in its entirety.

We explored everywhere!  Since Bermuda is a small island, technically we could’ve made it from one end to the next and back to our hotel in one day.  But we took many stops at quaint overlooks and beaches that we came across while driving around so we didn’t have enough time to go from one side to the next (plus one end is more so for the cruise ships and we were told that it’s overcrowded and not worth traveling to).  Our beach stops usually included swimming in the beautiful Bermudan waters and pink sand (yes, Bermuda is known for its pink sand!).  After swimming in Bermuda’s waters I never wanted to take another step in NJ ocean waters again!

We stopped for dinner at a well-known place called The Swizzle Inn which is known for its walls of business cards.  It’s a custom for people to leave their business cards anywhere in the restaurant.  Upon walking in, the walls were covered with various people’s businesses/information.  My dad, since he has a business card for bike repair, left his business card in this restaurant and it will probably remain there for years and years.  I ordered a delicious Tree Hugger Nachos – so yummy!

All in all, renting mopeds for a day was awesome!  And I would do it again in a heartbeat if I ever go back to Bermuda!  If you plan on traveling to Bermuda in the future, renting mopeds is a must!  It opens up a lot of opportunity for exploration and you’ll most likely get to see things you’ve never would’ve saw if you took a taxi/bus!

jet skiing
Jet Skiing – that’s me, I promise!

Also while in Bermuda we decided to go jet skiing!  This is the first time any of us had driven a jet ski so I was excited!  We got 3 jet skis total – one for me, one for my brother, and one for my mom and dad to share.   In order for this story to continue it’s important to point out that we went jet skiing with the only company that was open that day – all other companies weren’t sending people out because the ocean was rough and choppy.  (We like to live on the edge so we went for it!)  Because we were jet skiing in open ocean water, we were instructed to go FAST.  Why?  Because in order to not hit every wave crest, you have to skim over the water and in order to skim over the water you have to hit the gas and keep it that way.  It took awhile for me to get used to just flooring it, but my brother had no problem with it at all!  He was keeping up with our guide just fine!  My parents on the other hand weren’t have such a great experience (I love you, Mom!)  My mom was terrified and my dad was stuck with my mom screaming “ohmygosh” over and over and over again!  Needless to say, my mom will never ever EVER go jet skiing in open ocean water.  My brother and I had a lot of fun though.  I would do it again in a heart beat!

family in Hamilton
Night in Hamilton ❤

We also took a trip to Bermuda’s main “city” called Hamilton.  This time we relied on public transportation.  We took a ferry to the city which led us past many harbor-front houses with beautiful views.  In Hamilton we went to an Italian restaurant that served a variety of pizza and pasta.  I got a zucchini pizza which I finished completely (and then regretted because it was a lot….but I can at least say that I finished an entire 8 slice pizza all by myself!)  Bermuda doesn’t really have a “night life” so by 8 o’clock all the stores were closed.  We took a bus back to our hotel which was fun.  The bus was very crowded but everyone was friendly and willing to help us figure out when our stop was. 

Of course, vacations wouldn’t be complete without some running.  To my surprise, although Bermuda is an island, there were hills…plenty of hills!  Our hotel was actually perched on a hill so that meant that every run ended with an uphill.  On our last day my dad and I went for a run on the beach and then found some pretty awesome beach-side trails.  I didn’t want to leave Bermuda without saying that I ran on Bermuda’s pink sand beaches so we went for a wonderful run and enjoyed our last morning on one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever seen. 

All in all, Bermuda is a BEAUTIFUL island and I would recommend to anyone that they should go at least once in their lifetime.  The water and beaches are picturesque, the people are friendly and more than willing to help with anything you need, and there are plenty of opportunities to do adventurous things.  Unlike many other islands, you can go anywhere on the island without accidentally entering a dangerous neighborhood.  Bermuda is one of the safest islands you could travel to!  I hope to return to Bermuda in the future and I am forever grateful that my parents wanted to share the beauty of Bermuda with their two children for their 25th wedding anniversary year.  It was an amazing vacation and we still tell stories about it when we need a good laugh (usually to my mom’s expense…sorry, Mom!  Love youuuu!)  Add Bermuda to your bucket list of places to visit – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

waves crashing         family beach