Mt Sherman (and “Gale” her BFF)

I remember the first time I went hiking in Colorado. It was a couple of years ago and a few of us ladies hiked out to Ouzel Falls; ever since then I have been enamored with not only the mountains, but also the gorgeous skies they reach up to. Those days I would send pictures of the sunrises back home almost daily, which I’m sure my friends and family just loved (especially at 5 in the morning…). So often, I would just pull over and stare.

Fast forward to this past weekend- a few of us decided, as the season is drawing to a close, we wanted to try to catch Mt. Sherman (a fourteener) at sunrise. Despite my best effort to dissuade everyone from a midnight meetup, at 12:02 am we arrived at our first friend’s house to begin the journey. Up until this point, most of our hikes started in the sunshine, with just a few that required a predawn meet up. Our goal with Sherman was to be standing at the trailhead ready to go by 2:30/3am. So, being that it was about a 2 hour drive we had no choice but to leave at midnight. Official sunrise was set for 6:28, but we would need to be up at the summit by 6am to catch it all.

We met up with our next companion at 12:30 and after a quick stop for coffee and nutrition (because it wasn’t dinner or breakfast- so what do you call it?) we got on our way. The nice thing about starting at that hour is that there isn’t anyone else around to fight with for parking etc. We found the trail head with little issue, and in the darkness we nearly drove up onto the mountain itself. We parked the car, got our headlamps and windbreakers on and began the ascent.

Hiking in the dark is strange- I had only done it once before, when we hiked Long’s Peak, and then too I found myself lost in my thoughts.

With your headlamp focused on the trail ahead it’s very easy to get tunnel vision. Step look, step look, on and on in the night. A few minutes into the hike the wind started and it did not relent then entire time we were on Sherman. I have never in my life experienced gales like that. Full power and force repeatedly knocked me off of my footing- a sight that I’m sure made those around me think I was drunk.

We worked our way through the dark following my friend’s GPS and at one point we realized that we had gotten off the trail, needing to work our way back. I’ve not been so grateful for a piece of technology as I was in that moment. My mind started to run away, as we made our way back to the course, and I imagined being lost in the darkness, alone for hours. I can’t imagine that my crew would do that to me, but in the dark on the side of a peak, it’s hard to not let the enemy get inside your head…

Once back on the trail we started to move confidently forward again. Onward and upward we pressed until we reached what I barely recall reading about on the trip reports- the sawtooth/saddle. I couldn’t tell at the time, because of the pitch black surroundings that engulfed me, but we were VERY high up and there wasn’t much to either side of us. The wind was brutal and I frequently found myself touching the rock face next to me for assurance. I needed the rock to *literally* be my rock.

As I came over one ridge I realized that I couldn’t see my party, and for a brief moment Bross came running back into my mind. No no no, this is not happening again.

Then I heard “Turn off your light and sit down.’ My friends were huddled inside a windbreak and when I killed my headlamp and joined them, my eyes caught sight of a million stars.

I lost my words. The sky was amazing, the wind was calm, and here in the middle of desolation and darkness, there was an overwhelming beauty that I cannot explain.

I could’ve sat in that windbreak all night.

But, the sky to the east was starting to get warm, and we had a sunrise to catch.

My friend had his GPS out again and we realized we had less that a tenth of a mile to go for the summit. We climbed out of our little camp and pushed onward, towards the finish line. We made it to the summit a little before 6am and found a windbreak to hunker down in. After a little building, which I cannot take credit for, our hut was complete. We sat there on our throne atop Mount Sherman and watched as the sun stretched out and caught the sky. The colors that we saw that morning were incomparable to anything you can visualize and paint with, and in that moment everything was right with the world.

Looking at the Layers of Pikes

After a few minutes of enjoying the view, I started to realize that I could not feel my fingers. The wind was so bad that I was also starting to lose feeling in my face. We posed for a couple more photos and then decided we better start to head down the mountain.

Our Crew

The sun was coming up, but the brutal wind was relentless and it made the descent more difficult for me than it probably should’ve been. I had on enough layers, but the whipping wind continued to throw me off of my balance. We slowly made our way down, through the terrain that was now well illuminated and so very foreign to me.

We came over the sawtooth and around cliffs that screamed “Nope” but knowing that we had already conquered them made the process easier to handle.

The Pathway Down

The sun was well out by now and I finally had feeling back in my face and fingers. I was shocked at the number of people who were still making the pilgrimage to the top and one of our seasoned teammates was advising them of the weather. Off in the distance we could see the clouds rolling in- bad weather was coming, and these folks and their kiddos were ill prepared for what we had just encountered (and was about to get worse).

Clouds coming at Sherman

It was kind of fun seeing all the things we had missed in the darkness as we finished our descent. There was a few old mining structures that we falling apart, but somehow still there. There were many off shoots to the trail that we were on- it was crazy to think that we only got slightly off track once!

We finished our hike totally thawed out (I was relieved to have all of my digits in tact) and got in the car to head home. So many people were still coming to conquer this animal, and I don’t know if I would’ve gone with had I known all the wind we encountered.

Sherman's Epic Crew

Who am I kidding. I totally would’ve still gone.

 

Hey guys! All the photos in today’s blog are property of my friend over at images by mikel. You should probably check out his website and pictures- there are some incredible shots of things that you and I never even think to look at twice! Cheers :)

New Ink: Rescued

I got a new tattoo Monday. It was a long process, thinking about what I wanted it to say/be. For a long time I have wanted the “i refuse to sink” with an anchor on it. Then, I started to think more about this- an anchor sinks. Wouldn’t that be contradictory to what I was getting at? Then I thought “oh! I could do a life preserver” but I hated all of the images of life preservers that I saw.

Finally, I decided that I needed to think about why I wanted it. I believe that tattoos should reflect what’s on the inside. A big part of that, for me, is the spirit of being rescued. I was saved, at just the right moment in my life. One night, in my college apartment, I sat on the floor and made a deal with God, who I wasn’t even sure at the time I believed in. I told Him I needed him to save me and pull me out of my darkness, because I was done and didn’t want to do it anymore. I was isolated and at the end of my rope. The overwhelming peace that I found that night surpassed my understanding. For the longest time I lived my life feeling like I was laying on the ocean floor being crushed, and now I feel like I have been swept up and pulled to shore. Things haven’t been sunshine and roses, but they have a layer of hope that wan’t there before, and a spirit of joy inside my heart.

Monday I got a new tattoo- an outward sign of an inward acknowledgement of my salvation.

One simple word in Hebrew- rescued:

Hitzil

The Quad {that almost was}

Let me start off this post by explaining the title. Sometimes, when we head out for adventures, our expectations crash into reality. This weekend my wisdom outweighed my desire- and I’m absolutely ok with that.

About a month and a half ago my friends and I decided that we wanted to attempt “The Quad”; a collection of four 14ers that you hike in succession. The four peaks that make up this elusive menace are Mt Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross. Some important things to note: Bross’ summit is currently closed to the public and Cameron is not “technically” considered a 14er because the saddle that connects it to Lincoln, the higher of the two doesn’t dip down the required 300 feet.

Anyhow, the day finally came and my husband and I had our packs ready to go:

packs

Our friends convened at our house at 3am, and we piled into the SUVs and headed for Alma, CO. The drive to the trailhead was about 2 1/2 hours, and we needed to get started around 5:30, in order to make it off of the mountain before the storms started rolling in. Earlier in the week two different people were struck and killed by lightning and we did not want to meet the same conditions.

We made it to the trailhead at about 5:45 and after a quick stop to pose for a photo we headed out.

Crew

We decided to head up the loop backwards, to avoid a descent riddled with scree (the tiny rocks that make you slide all over the place.) Our crew organically broke out into a few different pace teams as we began our ascent. The two people who were in front pulled away pretty steadily and before too long I was at the back of the pack. I am pretty used to this and I told my husband and another friend that as long as I could see them and they could see me they should press on and I would be fine.

Higher and higher we went, harder and harder my heart pounded. Before too long I was stopping about every 40 steps to catch my breath, drink some water, and slow my heart rate. For a while, when I would stop the two people in front of me would stop as well, but as they came up over a ridge and were on the other side of the mountain, I found myself alone.

I didn’t worry about it too much until I checked my watch and realized I hadn’t seen or heard another living soul in over 45 minutes. I shouted my husband’s name and heard nothing. All at once the mountain swallowed me. I became so overwhelmed that I started to sob. I looked around a little and realized that I must have wandered off the “path” and that I was all by myself at about 13,000 feet. They say weird things can happen at high altitudes and up until that day I wasn’t so sure that was true. As I stood there, alone, I made peace with God and told Him that he could take me whenever- I was ready. I was paralyzed by fear, lost in my thoughts, and I had a dark looming sadness that was consuming me.

Then, as I hopelessly scanned the horizon, I saw my husband coming back for me. I shouted “Please, wait for me!” and he threw up the thumbs up sign and sat on a rock. Slowly and surely I made my way to him, back onto a recognizable trail and when I got to him I started to sob. He looked at me, shocked, when I told him “I was ready to die.” We sat down for a few minutes while I gained my composure. Once I felt like myself again we stood up and he promised not to leave me.

After hours of hiking into the clouds, we finally summited our first peak of the four:

First Peak

I felt a little bad because we had tried so hard to get there early to miss the storms, and it took me nearly 45 minutes longer to get to the top. Luckily, my crew didn’t seem upset, and because of our little break during my freak-out, I was well rested and didn’t need to sit more than a couple minutes at the summit. We packed up our things and descended the first peak and made our way to Lincoln.

The saddle over to Lincoln was really nice, a little jaunt across the hill, it felt like. My legs felt strong and my heart wasn’t racing as it had been an hour prior. I was still a little behind the group, but was actually able to keep up with my husband and another teammate easily.

Saddle to Lincoln

The ascent to Lincoln, after the saddle, reminded me of the Hobbit’s pilgrimage to Mordor- I expected Sauron’s eye to pop up over the summit at any moment.  We plodded along tight switchbacks, but it was nice to not be battling all the scree we had with the first peak. Up on the top of Lincoln, we could see not only the Quad in its entirety, but we could see Quandary, another 14er, as well.

Lincoln

We looked around and realized that we were really racing the clock, now, and clouds were starting to pour in. We left our lovely perch on Lincoln and headed over to Cameron, the 14er that “they” don’t count.

The weird thing about Cameron was that it didn’t really feel like there was a trail to follow to get to the top of it. We scrambled up to the peak, and within minutes of leaving Lincoln, we were at the summit of Cameron. The summit of Cameron was uneventful- it felt just like a giant empty field of scree.

Cameron

As you can tell by the photo, things were getting dark. We decided to not even stop at Cameron, longer than a photo op, or else we would have no chance of reaching the summit of Democrat before the storms. The hike down Cameron was slightly brutal. It was around this time that I started to notice something peculiar with my left leg. Each step down, right before my foot landed it would twitch. The further we went, the more noticeable the twitch was to me. When we hit the saddle between Cameron and Democrat I made the very tough decision to not attempt to continue. I wasn’t sure if I could trust my leg at this point and we didn’t have the luxury of sitting and waiting at the saddle for a half hour to find out if it would stop. I told my husband to go on with the rest of the group- he had been waiting for a year to bag the Quad and I didn’t want to be the one who stood in the way of that. When he and I decided that he would continue and I would stay, two of our other hikers also decided that they were done, due to physical ailments as well.

We watched the rest of our party make their way up Democrat, and I snapped this picture right as my husband’s head reached the skyline (you can’t see him, because he is so far away, just a tiny dot… the picture is deceiving!):

Democrat

I sat at the saddle with my buddies for about an hour and we felt good enough to start our full descent back to the car. Part of the way down was more of the scree, and each of us fell once or twice, but then we hit a meadow and it was smooth sailing. (This picture is from the car looking back at the trail we just came off of- Cameron is straight ahead and Democrat is to our left.

Kite Lake

 

After a few minutes the rest of our party got back to the parking lot. No one got struck by lightning, no one died, no one is permanently damaged. I don’t regret not reaching the summit of Democrat- like I said, wisdom had to outweigh desire.

We will head back, the three of us who didn’t make it, and we will bag Democrat another day.

For now, we rest :)

Mallory Cave Hike

A few weeks ago my hubby and I had planned on a lovely hike up Grey Rock Mountain (it just sounds ominous, doesn’t it?) but sadly we got such a late start that we decided to keep things close to home.

Looking at my “wishlist” on Alltrails.com we decided that a nice close hike would be Mallory Caves, just outside Boulder. We chose this hike because it was close, allowed dogs, and was on the shorter side of things.

Mallory Caves are known for their bat populations, and this time of year you can’t actually go *into* the cave, because you might disturb said critters. I’m totally ok with not waking up the bats…

The trailhead is at NCAR, in the foothills of the Rockies and even though there were a ton of people, the parking situation was better than most trailheads (no one likes to walk an extra 2 miles before even starting the hike…)

Anyhow, we arrived at NCAR and made our way to the trailhead, with the plan to accomplish this:

Mallory Cave Topo Map

 

There were quite a few people out hiking, it was a gorgeous day in Colorado after all, and many canine companions. Our pups seems to do mostly fine when they are in their harnesses (Lucy has an Easy-Walker and Maui has a Gentle Leader). The only real problems came when the path shrank to one person wide and you had to exercise your hiking etiquette to let people through. I had some trouble with this, mostly because for me it is difficult to get a good flow going and then stop repeatedly and restart.

As we approached the part of the trail where it started the ascent and switchbacks we noticed a ton of rock climbers out just off the trails scaling the large walls around us. I love Colorado. I was admiring them, feeling a little jealous, and wanting to see what they can see. Someday, Robin, someday.

About halfway up the mountain we were passed by a guy who let us know that the trail was covered with poison ivy and, man, he wasn’t joking. I drew my attention downward and noticed that the path we were on was literally blanketed with the stuff. I was so glad that I was wearing pants (I always do while hiking) and when we were about .25 miles from the summit (or as far as the parks department would let us go) we decided to turn back. The dogs were already traipsing through the ivy and we didn’t really want to end up in a situation we couldn’t manage.

We came back down a bit and found some huge rocks that overlooked Boulder and decided to have a snack.

Silly Husband is Silly

The pups did great, I was a bit pooped but overall fine. I was fresh off a GORUCK (proudly rocking my patch) and my body was done for the day.

We made our way back down the mountain and to the car. The nice thing about hiking close to home is that it wasn’t too long before we were back at our house and relaxing, having accomplished a lot for one afternoon.

Here is our finish picture- with a smile:

Smiles at Mallory Cave

PREVIEW: Area13.1 Half Marathon ($10 off!)

When I was in high school I was the proud owner of the first ticket sold to “X-Files” for our local theater. I was obsessed with aliens- I had glow in the dark alien stickers all over everything I owned and I was fascinated with outer space.

A lot of time has passed since then, I have grown and changed, but in the back of my mind I still consider the possibility that something is out there…

Last fall my friend and I used a sweet Groupon to sign up for the Area 13.1 down in Castle Rock, CO. I was still in my “I love running!” mode and was super jazzed about this fun race. We trained a lot, bought glow in the dark things (shoe laces!), and got our outfits ready to go.

Then the unthinkable happened- Colorado was struck with the worst flooding in ages and every tv station we turned to was filled with Emergency Alert System warnings. We watched all week as water poured out of the sky, people’s homes and lives were lost, entire towns disappeared. The Saturday of our race we made the tough call to stay home and not make the drive south for the race. It was just too dangerous.

This was the first time I had ever NOT participated in a race that I was registered for. It has bugged me ever since.

You can imagine my joy when I caught wind that the race was going to be held again this year! YES! REDEMPTION!

The only problem? That I love running! bug went away and I have been lifting, Spartan-ing, and GORUCKing…. Until last week. Watching people out in the sun, getting some miles, enjoying life appears to have brought my bug back to life. I still am a firm believer that lifting heavy and walking are the key to my goals, but there is something that I can’t deny about the way my heart feels when I run. It’s life giving for me. So, here we go again!

 

THE RACE!!! (Click here to sign up!!!)

Area 13.1 (there is also a 5k option) will be held Saturday September 6th in Castle Rock CO at 5:30pm (7pm for the 5k)

It is a nationwide Half Marathon/5K Series originating in Roswell, Georgia. This is a night race; seriously when have you ever heard of aliens invading during the day?

All runners will receive an “out of this world” extraterrestrial-friendly shirt and if needed have your choice of glow-in-the-dark tools to ward off those pesky aliens that might be hiding along the course.

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The AREA 13.1 Half Marathon/5K race was created to honor the life of Matthew E Russell, who passed away at the age of 22. Matthew had a passion to bring education and hope to the Zulu people of South Africa. His foundation supports the building of libraries and furthering higher education for children around the world.

The Invaders are coming. Will you escape? 

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I hope you’ll consider joining me for this one- it’s going to be such a blast!!!

If you are interested in getting $10 off simply use the code: ALIENBLOG at check out!

See you there!!!!!

GORUCK Light Boulder CO 2014

Oh, the GORUCK. The reason I am so sore today. Also, the reason I am so proud.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last November my crazy best friend and I decided that we should try something new and decided to use the buddy coupons to sign up for a GORUCK Light. My husband and another friend of ours thought our insane idea was a pretty good one, so they registered as well.

We weren’t entirely sure of what exactly we were signing up for, but we did it anyway. In fact, we had no idea what exactly we were getting ourselves into until we were actually starting….

We trained for this event for about 6 months. We wrapped our bricks, not really knowing what we would be doing with them. We hiked up and down Red Rocks, we lifted heavy things, we went on long walks.

buddy nae

The week before the ruck we got some fun noodles and padded our bricks in our packs, just in case we jumped or did things that made the bricks hit our heads. Like I said, we had no idea what we had signed up for.

ruck

Our event was set to start at 2pm, and we arrived at about 1pm, so we could get settled before things got going. Our Cadre Adam was still there from the night before as he had led the Challenge (13 hours…) so we stayed off in the distance while he relaxed. A few other ruckers showed up and eventually Cadre waved us over.

Our class was small, just 11 adults and we had 3 kids shadowing and 1 adult shadow (he did the challenge as well). Most of us were first timers, but the few who weren’t, proved to be invaluable.

322 team

We got started right away, after receiving the instruction that the flag always goes first (as it should) and from here on out our rucks stay on our person unless we are told otherwise.

The next, I don’t know how long, was spent doing bear crawls and crab walks. It was quickly brought to my attention that I did not spend enough time training on these two items. I just couldn’t physically do it. I would bear crawl about a yard then have to stop and breathe. Two of my teammates stayed behind to go with me, and though I still had to do my own work, having them next to me helped me so much. I was glad to be wearing a hat, because I started to tear up. I don’t love admitting that, but it’s true. I was totally and completely overwhelmed. Crab walks were harder for me than the bear crawls. They ended up being more like butt scoots. I did what I could for the whole distance and eventually made it back to the group.

crabs

We continued on doing more PT then received instruction on the dreaded buddy carry.

During training we would carry each other around, but I never had tried it with my pack. This was an experience. But for the first time since we started, I felt like I had a strength. Being a pretty big girl, I decided that I would do both legs of the carry, instead of switching and making someone carry me.

On and on the PT went and before we knew it we were lined up and following the flag into town. That’s right. We were going into the city of Boulder. We made our rendezvous and began to do some more PT.

General PT

Our Cadre gave us our first mission- to get to a high point, secure the lookout, and beat the enemy there. We sprinted through Pearl Street- where I normally tell people you see all the crazies, and today we were those crazies….

When we arrived at our high point, we had to elephant walk up the stairwells, just so we didn’t rush in and get noticed.

Elephant up

Up the stairs and then back down and we were on to our next mission- to get to a park across town.

We charged off through the city again. I was trying to keep up, and my team kept offering to carry my weight, but it wasn’t the weight that was slowing me down, it was my short legs! Single file, double file, single file, on and on until we got to the park. After a brief break, we had a relay. I felt like I actually did a good job, even though our team didn’t win. Our prize for losing was to bear crawl up the hill. Of course. More bear crawls. When we got to the top we had to roll back down and I stopped halfway because I had to not throw up. We did a fun team exercise after that, crowd surfing our teammates across us. My husband did the “arms wide open” surf, haha.

Brad zipper

For our next mission we quick trotted to another point to pick up our package.

It was…… a couch!

Couch up

It seems the Challenge crew had left it beside the creek, and we had to return it to its original location. Our team picked up the beast and we began to carry it, creek side, through town. Again we were those crazy Boulder people you hear about. Since I knew that I wouldn’t be able to help with the couch (it would’ve just hovered over me) I happily took our flag and led us along the path. We had a few people salute us, one very loud ex Navy Seal who was mad we wouldn’t let him help, and a crew of kids on the street start chanting “Freedom Couch!”

At one point Cadre had us get wet (we couldn’t fully get in the creek because it was banned due to high fast waters- 3 people had already been killed that week) but we got as wet as we could, then we got sugar cookied.

get wet

 

sugar cookie

Back to the couch and on we hiked. Eventually, we made it to the location that the couch had been taken from the night prior.

We started back the way we came and received our final mission: two of our 11 had died (plus one of the 3 children) and had to be carried back to our original location in the park. We took turns passing around the dead in a buddy carry, and I took a teammate’s pack so he could carry one of them. We hurried back to base camp, and made it in time- they came back to life!

After one more round of PT, we circled around the Cadre, and he announced our GORUCK Light Class 322 completed. 5 Hours 15 minutes, and about 8 miles covered.

nae

I learned a lot about myself- that even when I can’t do the things others can, I still do what I can and people who care about me are going to be there to support me. I learned that I haven’t arrived (not that I really thought I did) and that I am a work in progress. I remembered that my husband, who barely trained, is a beast and so strong. My best friend is my rock- just having her there, even though she was fighting her own battle, gave me strength to go on. Also, I have stamina I didn’t know I had. I love my life.

That was some good livin’.

Review: Pure LYFT Energy Stir Stick

Hey everyone!

After my crazy long weekend of working all night Friday, driving to the airport to get my mom, waking up early Saturday to drive 7 hours to Kansas, driving back home Sunday, and then running the Bolder Boulder Monday, I am officially wiped out.

Where did my college youth go?

I decided that since I am dragging, and I already had a couple cups of coffee this morning, I would use this opportunity to sample the Pure LYFT energy stir stick that I was given to try.

Lyft is advertised as a”clean caffeine” that you mix into any beverage. It has 0 calories and is made from green coffee bean extract.

My first note about this product, is that I really wish it had a different name. Not because it isn’t accurate to the product’s desired outcome- rather, it has the same name as a new ride-share company that keeps popping up on my Twitter and Facebook feeds. Am I getting clean caffeine, or am I getting a ride downtown? Confusing.

Anyways, back to the review. I am currently still doing Carb Nite (where I cycle my carbs weekly) so the only things that I am currently drinking are water, coffee, and iced tea. Using this product in coffee or tea doesn’t really make much sense, so I opted to try it in a glass of water.

The product came in a 2 pack (although I’m not sure what retail packaging would be like?)

I took out one of the stir sticks:

Lyft Stir Stick

 

The package says to open it over your beverage, and as I started to do so, I noticed why. The stick is actually a prism with tiny holes towards the bottom where the powder comes out. Luckily, I had my glass of water ready and slid it open.

After a few seconds of stirring I realized that not all of the powder had come out, and there was still some left in the tiny holes. I gave it another good swirl, and then dipped it in and out of the water. That seemed to do the trick and before long, all of the powder was mixed into the water.

Water

 

My thoughts on the taste- it’s not as tasteless as I was hoping, but it was pretty close. I would describe the after taste to be something like a hint of artificial sweetener. I think this product would’ve been better if I had iced the water and maybe added a little fresh lemon. I do feel a pick me up, but it’s not drastic like those terrible pills they used to make that made your heart race (You know, the ones they had to pull off the market? Yeah, those.) I feel refreshed, and given how I was feeling earlier this afternoon, I’ll take it.

Some suggestions that I would make, if I were producing this item:

  • Have a flavor option for those who want to have it in water. Even if it’s just a hint of lemon or lime, I think that would’ve been more appealing.
  • Have them come on a flat stick instead of in a tube (I don’t even know if this is possible, it just felt wasteful to throw the plastic out)

 

I would have to give this a thumbs up. These are each individually wrapped and I think that I could throw one in my purse (or in today’s case, my lunch bag) and not worry about them getting damaged or destroyed.

 

Please note:  I received a free sample of Lyft to review on this blog- I was not compensated for the review.  All opinions are my own, as they should be :)