Downhill

Yes – I’m still recapping our trip to Colorado. Seriously, it feels like we were there for a year with everything we did!

Our friends were arriving in Denver on Friday and meeting us in Snowmass that afternoon. So that gave Matt and I the morning to pack up, check in to our new condo, do some laundry and hit up the grocery store. Plenty of time to find in one more activity, right?

Since we had such much fun mountain biking the first time, we decided to do that again. Plus we’d heard that Snowmass had just opened some awesome trails so it seemed like a perfect idea.

At the rental shop, Matt and I were surprised to see so many people renting shin guards, wrist guards, padded shirts and helmets with face masks. In Telluride, we just rented bikes and helmets and were fine. Yes – I did fall a couple of times but I am not sure a face mask was necessary, I never went more than 5 mph! So when they asked us if we wanted the “safety package” we laughed and opted out.

When Matt and I took the bikes for a quick test spin around the sidewalk, we both immediately asked for our bike seats to be raised. The guys who worked at the rental store told us that they were actually at the right height, “since you aren’t sitting when you are riding, it doesn’t matter that much.”

Umm, what? No sitting? What are you talking about.

We took their word for it and headed to the gondola. As we rode up the mountain, I started to realize that Matt and I were the only people who didn’t have safety gear on. Everyone else was decked out in hardcore gear, while I was wearing spandex bike shorts and a lululemon bike shirt. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Was this just the different between Telluride and Aspen?

I decided to google “different types of mountain biking.” The results showed me that there are multiple types of mountain biking:  cross country (XC), trail riding, all mountain, downhill, freeride, slopestyle, dirt jumping and trials. What we had done in Telluride was cross country. Commonly defined by the terrain on which it is performed, XC courses and trails consist of a mix of rough forest paths and singletrack, smooth fireroads, and even paved paths connecting other trails. Cross-country bicycles are some of the lightest mountain bikes, typically between 15 and 35 lb. They usually feature suspension forks in front and sometimes have suspension in the rear.

What we were about to was downhill. Downhill biking is a time trial mountain biking event held on a course with a net decrease in elevation. As the name of this discipline implies, downhill races are held on steep, downhill terrain, resulting in high speed descents and, most commonly, with extended air time off jumps and other obstacles. Modern downhill bikes weigh between 30 and 42 pounds, and usually feature full-suspension and frame geometries that lean back farther  than other mountain bikes.

Suddenly, I was in a whole new world.

We began to make our way down “Easy Rider” a begin track. It took me a little to get used to the bike and after about 2 minutes of squatting over my bike (remember – you are really supposed to sit down) my thighs were burning. But even though it was physically challenging, and I was going ridiculously slow, I liked it. This was definitely something I could get into. and let’s face it, that face mask helmet makes me look bad ass.

 

After a few runs I was feeling pretty good about myself. So at the end of the day, we decided to take on an expert level course, Valhalla, the newest and Snowmass’ signature downhill trail.

And yes, you better believe it that Matt and I looked this intense going down it!

 

So look out, I’m planning to make my downhill debut at the X Games! Let’s just hope the sport is ready for me.

The Meatball Shack

For the second half of our trip, Matt and I ventured over to Aspen. The drive over was beautiful and Matt booked us in an awesome hotel, The Limelight. After checking in and showering off our failure from the 14er, we took to the town.

Aspen has a very different feel than Telluride. Gone were the small coffee shops and in were the high-end designer stores and trendy restaurants. While in Telluride, we fit in with our jeans and fleeces, in Aspen, we stood out. And not for the right reason.

After a quick drink at Jimmy’s (I highly recommend the margarita), we settled on The Meatball Shack for dinner.

 

This relatively new restaurants combines different meats and sauces into unique and delicious meatballs. We went with the classic beef with marinara sauce and the chicken with buffalo sauce. While both were delicious, I have a special place in my tummy for buffalo.

I wasn’t planning on ordering desert until I saw the menu.

Design your own cookie? Yes, please! Matt and I went with the original cookie dough with health bar  and salted caramel topping.

Oh yeah, and with a scoop of homemade ice cream on top. It was heavenly. And gone in about 2 seconds.

How didn’t I think of this idea? Maybe I can create the NYC version.

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?

 

 

 

The Taste of Telluride

 

With all of the hiking, biking and climbing Matt and I did in Telluride, we got really hungry. Thankfully there were plenty of options to chose from. Here’s out edible tour of Telluride.

Breakfast Spots:

Telluride boosts a few bakery/coffee shops, all located within a 5 minute walk of each other. We visited 3 different spots during our trip.

The Steaming Bean –  An electric coffee-house by day that turns into a rowdy gathering place at night. While this seemed to be the most popular place in town, Matt and I found it to be our least favorite of the three. The breakfast sandwiches we pre-prepared and the service was very slow. However, the “cool” factor and prime location of this spot will definitely keep business coming in.

Baked in Telluride – With their wide variety of breakfast pastries, donuts and coffee this place was probably our favorite. That being said, they make more than just baked goods; they also offer sandwiches, pizza, etc. I am a fan of bakeries just sticking to baked goods and breads. I think it takes away from the atmosphere and the quality of produces to branch out too wide.

The Butcher and the Baker: This small bakery definitely had the best atmosphere. Unfortunately their food didn’t quite keep up. Matt’s breakfast sandwich was again, pre-made, and the oatmeal that I ordered was too thick and prevented the toppings from getting mixed in. But again, their cute decor and homemade napkins definitely spoke to my style.

 

Lunch:

For lunch we found a couple interesting places. Typically, we were eating later in the afternoon after our “activities” and as a result, were coming into the restaurants starving.

Smuggler Joe’s: Located near the base of the gondola this micro-brewery is convenient for a post-mountain drink and bite to eat. Matt and I came here after our hike to get out of the rain and enjoy a locally crafted beer. The food was very typical bar food – I ordered the homemade chicken noodle soup while Matt chose the chili. Then we shared a buffalo chicken sandwich and fries. None of these options were bad but we definitely weren’t blown away. The beers were solid – I had the Shred Betty Raspberry Wheat and Matt had the Strong Scottish Ale.

Floradora Saloon: Right on main street, this a family owned and operated restaurant and bar offers a wide array of dishes. Matt and I sat outside and enjoyed the burger and the grilled cheese. We both enjoyed our meals and left full.

Brown Dog Pizza: The walls of this sports bar/pizza place are lined with Red Sox and Patriots posters. Naturally we felt right at home. We ordered buffalo wings and a pizza. Clearly we were really trying to eat healthy! The service was great, the patrons friendly and it was a great place to watch some of the US Open tennis while we avoided the afternoon rainstorm – something that is a daily occurrence in Telluride.

Dinner:

In addition to eating at there… (we loved it so much we ate there twice!) we found a couple other places:

Siam: While Matt loves Thai food, what really sold us on this restaurant was the live music that was being played on the large outdoor porch. They had a very large menu offering both traditional Thai as well as some more unique dishes that blend exotic tastes of Thai Cuisine with recipes from around the world including France, Malaysia, India, North America, China, Greece, Italy and Japan. I had drunken noodles and Matt opted for Chicken Friend Rice. This was definitely a good meal.

Allreds: Located on the mountain at the top of the gondola, Allreds draws people up out of Telluride for the incredible views. Matt and I decided to ride the gondola up and enjoy a glass of wine at their bar. The views were truly breathtaking. It was the perfect way to spend our last night in Telluride.

 

 

 

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.

I Like to Ride My Bicycle

The second full day we were in Telluride, Matt and I decided to go cross-country mountain biking.While I’ve been road biking for a while now, I’d never even been on a mountain bike before, let alone ride down a ski mountain. Needless to say, I was a little nervous.

After a ride up the gondola, we made our way to the first track – Jurassic. It was a single track trail (meaning it is only wide enough for one bike) that ran through a section of woods with a lot of switch backs. I was surprised to find of much the bike would skid when I would brake. However, I wasn’t quite brave enough to let myself go that fast. After a few miles of downhill, we reached the valley floor and took the river tail back into town. I survived the first run.

Unfortunately, the second trail didn’t go quite as well. After another trip up in the gondola, we made our way over the Village Trail. This one was a little longer and had a lot of switchbacks. Unfortunately, on a few of these 180 degree turns, the bike slipped out from under me and somehow ended up on top of my legs. The end result was a lot of bruises – not very attractive.

After our second ride, I needed a break. We decided to stop for lunch and some liquid courage.

Soon enough we were back up the gondola and on to our final trail, Prospect Trail. This was the longest and hardest of the three we tackled. A couple of miles into the bike, we heard a familiar noise… thunder. Unfortunately, Matt and I were finding ourselves in a situation where we were trying to outrun (well, outride) another storm.

Thankfully we made it down in one piece

Just a little muddy!

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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