Camping

This weekend some friends organized a camping trip and while we could only make it for 1 night of the weekend, it was a great time. I can’t say enough good things about the campground (except for the fact that it is already booked solid for the rest of the weekends this summer!)

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It was great to get out of the city, enjoy some fresh air (despite the rain!) and put our awesome camping gear to use.

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Here are our recommendations for those of you looking to purchase som

e gear. Although after reading this list, I might be forced to rename this post “Glamping“. We certainly weren’t “roughing” it.

Sleeping Bags: Kelty Cosmic Zero Degree Down Sleeping Bag

These kept Matt and I toast warm!

Pillows: Fillo™ Luxury by Nemo*

Sleeping Pads: Tuo Standard by Nemo*
We also had a “mattress” that you put the pads into but I can’t find that online

Grill: Coleman Perfectflow Inststart Portable Grill
Perfect for hamburgers!

Cookware Set: GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Cookset
We didn’t use this because our friends had dishes but it is so easy to pack

Fun things: Travel Hammock, the ultimate spork! and of course, Matt never goes camping without this Leatherman!

*A good friend of my works for an incredible company, Nemo, which is up and coming (or maybe already here?) in the camping world. He gave us a ton of awesome stuff for our wedding AND the company donated a bunch of sample sleeping bags after Sandy to one of our groups doing relief work in the Rockaways. I definitely encourage anyone looking for innovative camping products to visit their website.

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This is how happy you will be if you leave the city too!

14er

A fourteener is a mountain that exceeds 14,000 feet  above mean sea level and Colorado has the majority of such peaks in North America – 53 in all. So naturally, when we started planning our trip to Colorado, Matt added “summit a 14er” to our list. So after a little research, we decided to tackle Mt. Sneffles, located just 7 miles west of the town of Ouray (the inspiration for Gult’s Gorge in Matt’s favorite book Atlas Shrugged).

After a short drive from Telluride, we arrived at the access road that wound 8 miles up the mountain to the trail head. Unfortunately our ford focus rental car was no match against the rocky dirt roads. We were forced to park our car a mile from our original plan, which added 2 miles to our hike. I should have seen this as a sign of what was to come.

 

We hiked up a rocky road for 3 miles. The views were spectacular but I was having trouble enjoying them. Even though the hike wasn’t super long, it was steep and the altitude was definitely taking its toll. I was pretty short of breath and started to suffer from a dull headache.

This brought us to the upper trailhead.

 

 

 

 

 

At this point, I was pretty tired and didn’t really want to go on. However, Matt convinced me and we started the last mile to the top.

The path went from a rocky road to just rocks. I felt like a mountain goat making my way over the difficult terrain. Our pace, which was pretty good up until this point, came to a crawl. I was definitely suffering from the altitude and kept needing to stop every 50 – 100 yards.

We approached the final stretch, a ridiculously steep section that was all rock. No longer were their switch backs or a well defined path. It was just, get up any way you could. To make matters worse, there were people who were making their way down the slope. Every so often, they would yell “Rock! Rock! Rock!” and Matt and I would jump out of the way of the mini rockslide. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best experience I’d had.

 

After making it 3/4th of the way up the last bit, the altitude, my extreme dizziness and the difficult terrain proved to be too much for me. I had to call it quits. Matt was a good sport — he definitely could have made it to the top but he turned around with me.

Even though the hike was difficult, I couldn’t deny the views were amazing.

 

We made our way back down, feeling pretty dejected by Mt. Sneffles.

We decided to turned the mood around with a sweet Call Me Maybe dance off:

It was nice, that after a very long, somewhat disappointing hike, we were able to laugh at ourselves.

The day ended on a high note when we returned to the car to find this waiting for us.

So we didn’t make it to the top — that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reward ourselves, right?

 

 

 

Via Ferrara

There is nothing better than going on vacation to some place that is super cool where you know a local. On our final day in Telluride, we were fortunate enough to do a little “hiking” with my friend Andy/Tyler.

Maybe I should give a little more background to Andy before I go any further.

Andy was the type of kid who had more energy than seemed humanly possible. He exhibited that awesome, yet dangerous, combination of athletic talents and a fearless attitude. He was the best player when it came to tennis baseball, was the only kid who could hold his breath longer than Abby or me and would attempt ridiculous tricks off the diving board. There was a rumor, that probably lives on today, that one time he actually swung over the top of the swing set. And even though I hadn’t seen Andy in more 15 years, I can say confidently, that attitude/persona hasn’t changed. Even though his life has taken him all over the country and even to different parts of the world, he is still that totally crazy kid I once knew.

So when Matt thought we should take Andy up on his offer to take us hiking, I immediately knew it was a bad idea.

Andy took us to a place in Telluride that few people know about, the Via Ferrara. Up until a year ago, this was a hidden gem that only locals were aware of, that is until a reporter published information about it in Telluride magazine last year.  Thankfully, because of liability/insurance reasons, tour groups have yet to set up trips there, so the only real way to do the hike is to have a local show you the ropes. Thankfully, we knew a local.

The hike up was beautiful and Andy acted as our tour guide, giving us historical information about Telluride highlight all of the mining activities, interesting facts about the Cedar trees that line the canyon walls and stories of festivals and celebrations that capture the true essence of the town. Unfortunately, the history lesson soon ended and we were instructed to put on harasses and helmets. Suddenly the “hike” got serious.

Andy assured up it was pretty basic. Clip in,  shimmy along the rock, unclip, repeat. What he failed to mention are that there are some sections without cables or handholds. It is hard to describe exactly what it felt like to cling to a rock face 300-400 feet in the air, so I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite part of the climb was when I looked at Matt. He is usually the one pushing me to do crazy stuff. Not this time. His face was white as a ghost, his entire body was shaking and his comment was “I don’t know what the hell I was thinking getting us into this.” It was funny, for some reason that fueled me to press on. I know, we have a really healthy marriage.

 

 

 

 

The scariest part for me was definitely at what they call “the main event.” On this section there is a great deal of “exposure” which I learned means “really scary stuff.” Basically, the rock face curves inward slightly which results in a sheer drop below you. For about 15-20 minutes, you are clinging for dear life to iron rungs that were drilled into the wall god knows how long ago. Somehow I managed through it.

 

 

 

 

 

Honestly, I wish I had been able to take in the sights a little more, but let’s face it, I was scared to death.

 

 

 

Oh, and did I mention that Andy did the entire thing without a harness or being clipped in?

 

It is nice to see he is still the same kid who once swung over the top of the swing set.

Hiking in the Face of Danger

The first full day Matt and I spent in Telluride we decided to take a little hike. I told Matt that I didn’t want to do anything too crazy so we decided to hike to Beaver Creek Falls. This is a relatively easy 2 and a half mile hike to a waterfall. I had planned to hike to the falls, then turn around and hike back. Unfortunately (yet not surprisingly) Matt had another idea.

There were a couple of other people at the falls when we got there. Matt decided to ask them if there were any other options for our return trip. They told him about a hike that climbed up to the top of a ridge (note that the didn’t use the word hill) and then over to the ski area. From there we could either take the gondola back down into town or continue hiking.

Matt looked at me (as if I had any option) before marching onward and upward. We continued to climb. And climb. And climb. Soon enough I started to feel the effects of the altitude and had to take frequent breaks to put my hands on my knees, hunch over and pant. Never before had walking taken so much out of me.

We continued on for over an hour. Thankfully the scenery was incredible so I kept my complaining to a minimum. As we got higher and higher, the ridge we were looking for seemed to just get further and further away. After many switch backs, we finally started to see the path flatten out. Unfortunately, this was right around the same time that the clouds rolled in and the thunder started.

At first, the thunder seemed to add a cool ambiance. Then it started to scare the crap out of us. Stuck on the ridge of a 12,000 foot mountain is not somewhere that you want to be during a thunder and lightning storm. Matt and I proceeded to run, yes run, the rest of the way up and across the ridge. We encountered two locals who asked us if we were training for the upcoming 17 mile run that went over one of the mountain peaks in the area. We simply told them “no, we are trying to get away from the storm.”

“Silly tourists” they must have thought.

Thankfully, after a little panicking and some yelling by me at Matt (clearly this was his fault) we made it to the gondola safe and sound. What started out at an easy 5 mile hike turned into an 8 mile dash for our lives.

That’s the thing about being married to Matt – life is always an adventure!

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I Think My Husband Is Trying to Kill Me

I used to trust my husband. But now, I am not so sure.

We are going on vacation next week to Colorado where we hope to do some mountain biking and hiking. Matt has done the majority of the planning for this trip (like most of our vacations) so I am not sure what to expect. Then today he sent me this video of a hike he wants to do.

As far as I know, Matt hasn’t taken out a life insurance policy for me but maybe I should look into that…

Conquering Half Dome

When Matt and I decided to go to Yosemite, I left most of the planning to him. He talked about going on a few hikes, one in particular called “Half Dome.” I didn’t pay much attention to him during these rants… I figured “hey, I’m from New Hampshire. I practically grew up in the mountains. How hard can this hike actually be?” Well, let me tell you…hard.

When I was in 8th grade, my school spend the first third of the year preparing for our trip to Mt. Cardigan. We practiced outdoor survival skills like getting up tents, starting soil, measuring trees and analysing soil. But more than that, we learned teamwork, independence and real problem solving skills. The memories that I formed in 8th grade, particularly on our trip to Mt. Cardigan, are some of the fondest that I have from my childhood.

When Matt was in 8th grade, his school took a trip to Washington D.C. They toured the city and spent the night in a hotel. Honestly, there is no comparison between our experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I love the city of D.C. and think that the city has a lot to offer. However, going with your school won’t provide a very different experience than if you took a family vacation to D.C. That is what made Mt. Cardigan so special. It was an experience that was created by our teachers and more importantly, by ourselves.

For the past 9 years, every time Matt and I go on an outdoorsy type vacation I compare it to Mt. Cardigan. When we went hiking in the White Mountains, it wasn’t as intense as Cardigan. When we went hiking and camping in Havasu, Arizona it wasn’t as intense as Cardigan. When we went canyoning and ice climbing in Interlaken, Switzerland it wasn’t as intense as Cardigan. When we went cliff jumping in Capri, Italy it wasn’t as intense as Cardigan. Matt has grown to detest Mt. Cardigan because none of our trips can ever live up to those 4 days.

Well, after successfully hiking to the top of Half Dome last week, I am happy to report (and Matt is EXTREMELY happy to hear) that it was more intense than Mt. Cardigan. After more than 16 miles, 9 hours, 3 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,  and more than 8 liters of water later we successfully completed Half Dome.

Although we both walked away extremely tired with sore muscles, it was worth it. The views from the top were worth the sheer terror I felt while hoisting myself up the “cables” at the top of the mountain.

So now when Matt and I take our vacations, they will have to live up to the experience of conquering half dome… although, Cardigan will always have a special place in my heart.

A Walk in the Woods

After our awesome weekend in San Francisco, Matt and I left for our second adventure, Yosemite. We drove to the edge of the park on Sunday and stayed in a nice little motel for the night. We ate pizza and I was introduced to the beer, “Fat Tire” which Matt has been raving about for years. Thankfully the beer lived well up to expectations and I am now on a mission to get this beer for our wedding. I spend the evening organizing and packing, and then re-packing my bags while Matt watched his favorite TV show, True Blood. We went to bed early in preparation for our big camping experience.

In the morning we drove the remaining 50 miles into Yosemite. The views were breathtaking. It is hard to capture the sites on a camera, but we tried anyway. After finding our campground, we set up our tent and stored all of our food in our bear locker, before heading out for our first hike.

We started hiking up a 4 mile path that was a little more challenging that I had anticipated. I was sort of shocked to see so many people on their way back down, who looked like they were not in shape or dressed appropriately for the hike. I started to feel slightly pathetic as I struggled to make my way to the top, thinking that these people had done the same hike as well. Well, when we got to the top, an area called glacier point, I was surprised to see a parking lot full of cars, buses dropping people off and a large store containing souvenirs and all sorts of food. Seeing this, I felt a lot better about my struggles, as most of the people we had seen on the hike, had probably taken the bus up. It was a little weird to see such a commercialized area in the middle of our hike, but that didn’t stop Matt and I from taking advantage of it and getting some ice cream! Clearly we aren’t as hardcore as I make us out to be.

After satisfying our hunger, we continued on our hike. When we started the day, a 13 mile hike sounded like a good idea. It was about 6 miles in, that I realized that is the same distance as a half marathon. I would never go out and run 13 miles without a little  preparation. Suddenly, I felt a long way from our campsite…

Matt and I hiked on, climbing our way to the top of three different waterfalls. As hard as the hike turned out to be, the views were incredible. You don’t see sites like these in New York, that is for sure!

After 8 hours, we finally made our way back to the valley floor. With sore muscles and blisters on my feet, I was so exhausted that I didn’t mind sleeping on the hard ground, the hot temperature inside our small tent, or the bears that were walking around our campsite looking for left over food.

The good news was that we survived our first hike. The bad news was that our hardest hike of the trip was still 2 days away. Up next, tackling Half Dome…