Once the snow stopped falling in late June (yes – late June!), I was able to get up in the mountains. Like way up. Like up to the continental divide at 12k feet. That’s where the magic happens.
I love hiking with a goal. A lake, a waterfall, a mountain top, or just a great view. The Rockies have all of that! I spent most of my time this summer hiking up to the divide. I enjoy the long hike, the workout, the views, and just doing something most people don’t do.
The wildflowers this summer have been spectacular. Every week, a new species has been in bloom. It often looks like a garden that’s been intentionally planted.
The colors, shapes, and sizes of the flowers are astounding and pictures just can’t do it justice.
Getting there though has not been easy. I’m still struggling with a high heart rate (170+) just hiking. It’s both frustrating and depressing. The good news/bad news is that my lab work is now perfect. PERFECT. So…what could possibly be the reason? Back to doing more research.
Meanwhile, more hiking, more views, more lakes, streams, waterfalls, and joy.
So, on May 1, I became the proud owner of a mountain home. Honestly, I never really thought it could happen – buying a home as a single, self-employed woman. To my surprised, I was able to make it happen!
My new home is snuggled right up to the Rocky Mountains in the foothills at 9150ft. Wow. There are moose, deer, bear, mountain lions, bobcats, and the usual cast of smaller critters like rabbits, raccoons, foxes, and squirrels coming to my 1.25 acre yard of natural forest that includes pines and aspens.
There’s a peek-a-boo view through the trees of the mountains that are in the nearby state park. The park, Golden Gate Canyon, is just a couple miles away so I know I’ll be spending a lot of time there.
Being a mountain mamma has been on my bucket list for years. I love the fresh air, solitude, whispering pines, quaking aspens, and just living among nature. In fact, after moving in over the weekend, I had a welcome visit from a bear on Monday morning.
All this is to say, keep your goals front and center. Believe in them. And, work toward them. When you’re ready, it will happen.
So it’s been a while since I got around to writing. My bad. Lots has happened but it’s all good!
Having spent time in the mountains of Colorado last year, I made a New Year’s resolution that I actually kept! I decided I would find a way to at least spend the summer in CO to see how it went and whether it made sense to make a move here.
View from my deck
I was fortunate to find a nice room for rent in a beautiful house at 8000 ft. It’s up in the pine trees with a view of Denver from the living room and mountains from my own room. I have a french door leading to a nice deck too. My four roommates are great and we’ve created a zoo with 4 cats and 3 dogs.
Rocky Mountain high
I moved out in June and spent the summer doing weekly hikes up to the continental divide. There’s just something so rewarding about getting to the top and being able to see the other side. The trails are beautiful and once you get above treeline, you know you’re getting close. The colors of the mountains themselves, even without snow, are just spectacular.
During the summer, I joined a few Meetup groups. I’ve met some great people whom I’ve already gotten together with outside of the Meetups. I can tell they’ll be friends for life. We’ve gotten together for dinners, additional hikes, and just to hang out with each other.
Having spent the summer in CO, it made me realize that this is where I belong. It has mountains, trees, rivers, fresh air, and…sunshine! So now what?
In September, I reached out to a mortgage broker to see what my options are on my paltry freelance salary. Turns out I’m in luck! With some financial maneuvering, I can actually qualify enough to get a decent house here. Now I just need to find one! I can finally fulfill my dream of being a mountain mama. The plan is to sell the Mesquite house in January and find something up in the foothills above Golden. It’s where I feel most at home and relaxed. Who’d have known?
Freshly groomed tracks
As we begin to get seriously into winter, I’ve equipped myself with all the gear to enjoy the very things Colorado is known for – great snow. I now have classic xc skis, skate xc skis, alpine skis, and snowshoes. Getting out has been incredible and allows me to continue my passion for playing outside. If I could, I’d get out every day.
Health has been pretty good with a recent minor slide. I should be back on track in a few months but it’s nothing too bad. I have certainly become a big believer in functional medicine. Our bodies are just too complex to address one symptom with a pill. In many areas, Western medicine has a long way to go.
Looking forward to 2019, my own personal mountain lodge, making new friends, and just enjoying the outdoors!
It was New Year’s Eve, the night you make your resolutions. I knew in my heart what I wanted – I wanted to go back to Colorado. The majesty of the Rockies, the 300 days of sunshine, the seasons, the opportunities were all calling me. I made a resolution to spend the summer there somehow.
Waiting at the start
It was only a week later that I received a call from my sister asking me to come back for more work in Vail! I had a previous commitment until the middle of the month, Rally in the Valley – a three-day race with camping in Nevada’s Valley of Fire. I set my schedule to leave the day after that finished. Rally in the Valley was my first race in quite some time. Having not been well with Hashimoto’s, there was no motivation to put myself in a position of likely failure, or at least a disappointing performance. But, I had been feeling well and the race went great. I enjoyed the views, the friendships, and just being outdoors for three straight days.
I took off Monday morning for Vail with alpine skis, cross country skis, and snowshoes in tow. Staying again at the hotel I was working at in Vail, I spent the weekends trying new winter sports. I went skate skiing a few times and snow shoeing a few times. Apparently, my alpine skis were quite the hit in the ski shop and they thought they belonged in the local museum, haha. After that, I was afraid to use them since they were so old, even though they looked in perfect condition!
Looking out over Horseshoe Bend
I did spend more time with my date, who I feel so compatible with and so comfortable with. We even traveled together to his 50 mile race in Page, AZ. I had done the 50K version previously and had also been to Page a few times, so I got to be the tour guide. Along the way, we stopped at Moab, Monument Valley, Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend, and Marble Canyon. During race day, I met him at the aid stations, making sure he got what he needed before he left. He ended up placing 17th out of about 260 people! He’s an animal.
In all, I was there another two months, but made solid plans to come back. While on a hiking Meetup, I met a new friend who invited me to stay with her for May. I can’t wait to come back!
Although I had a terrific summer, it seemed (healthwise) that something was off. I was, again, sleeping 9-10 hours every night, sleeping and working with my heating pad (I was back to being cold), and gained about 7 lbs. It was in late September, when I had labs done, that my endocrinologist told me my TSH was 5.6 – higher than it was when I was first diagnosed. I was so grateful I could have kissed her! I thought for sure she was going to say my numbers were fine, it was all in my head. Luckily, she had me double my dose of levothyroxine.
Shortly after that appointment, my sister called to ask me to come work with her in Vail on a short-term project. She thought maybe one month (it ended up being 9 weeks). I jumped at the chance. Having had such an amazing time in Colorado back in August, I was eager to return. So I cleared my calendar, dropped off the dogs, packed my things, and headed back. I joined her to work on the renovation and reintroduction of the Hotel Talisa in Vail. It was a wonderful experience, outside of what I normally do. Part project management, part repair girl, part gopher girl, it was really fun and the days flew by.
Stunning fall colors
While I was there, I was sure to get out every weekend to hike and explore. One of my very first hikes was to Lake Deluge. It was a 10 mile roundtrip with 3000 feet of climbing. It was a beast! But, oh, the fall colors. It was as if the aspens were blooming. Colors of yellows, oranges, reds, and greens against a bright blue sky was just stunning. Though it was a difficult hike, it was well worth it. The pictures don’t even do it justice!
Quirky ski fence
When I wasn’t hiking, I was taking road trips. About mid-October, I took a drive up to go see the Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfortunately, it had snowed the day before and they just closed most of the park. I decided to go ahead and get out to see what I could. I left Vail heading east on I-70 then hit the Peak to Peak highway, as the quickest (and most scenic) way to Estes Park. I had no idea how beautiful that was going to be. Around every bend, the views were jaw-dropping. The mountains were out in their full glory and there were quirky sights to see along the way.
Cabin at Lake Deluge
Another memorable hike I did was to Gore Lake. The few snows we had did not melt on that trail. I was in snow for about 3/4 of the whole hike, including up to my knees near the top. The snow made the 13 mile roundtrip with 3500 feet of gain topping out at over 12000 feet, even more difficult that Lake Deluge. I could walk 10-20 steps at a time before stopping to catch my breath. But it was such a zen time to be outside. The sun was warm, the snow was bright, the sky was blue, and everything seemed right with the world. I live for moments like that.
I decided since I was a captive audience and since I love the Colorado mountains, I would see if there was anyone I might be interested in on one of my online dating sites. Unfortunately, you have to comb through pages of profiles, many of them not serious ones, to find a few gems. One of those gems that I reached out to, wrote me back and actually sounded like a decent guy. I’ve had my share of flakes. We met for dinner at a brewpub in Frisco and talked for several hours. It was such an easy conversation. We agreed to meet two days later for a hike.
Saturday, we met just east of Loveland Pass to do a 6 mile roundtrip hike up Herman’s Gulch. We walked, talked, and learned about each other for the next couple hours. He kindly waited for me when I stopped to catch my breath. At the top, we found a beautiful lake. After a brief snack, we continued over to a ridge with a great view both south and eastward. After returning back to our cars, he asked me to lunch in Georgetown, a very quaint, old mining town, where we continued to learn about each other. That’s when I found out he was leaving for 3 weeks on a trip and wouldn’t be back until just before I was to leave Vail and I wasn’t sure if there really was anything there yet.
Bighorn sheep rutting
On my final week in Vail, Thanksgiving week, my daughter came to visit. She and I worked at the hotel every day except Thanksgiving, when we took a trip north, past Winter Park. We had planned to make a big loop before heading back to our dinner reservations in Dillon, but we had so much fun exploring, that time ran out on us and we drove straight back from Devil’s Thumb Ranch. But, that was after we saw some great things along the way! Pulling off I-70 to hit I-40, my daughter saw bighorn sheep on the side of the hill. I quickly pulled over so we could take a look and take some pics. As we were watching, they suddenly began ramming their heads – it was rutting season and we got to witness it! Later on, we also saw a heard of elk.
Herd of elk
Friday before I left, I had to take her back to Denver to the airport. I knew I would be passing by the area that my date lives in so I asked if he wanted to meet for dinner. We met up in Golden, which I had never been to before. It is a charming town! Super cute, super walkable, young, and vibrant. We ended up at a little Nepalese restaurant at the top of the hill. I had never had Nepalese food before but it was terrific. I even tried the Yak. After sitting there for probably 3 hours, we got up and walked around the town for another hour. It was as if neither of us wanted the night to end. When he asked me if I wanted to go hiking in the morning, I happily accepted.
View from Golden Gate Canyon SP
We met at his house and hiked in the state park that his property bordered. Afterwards, he made me lunch and we shared pictures and stories from our pasts. Dinner, breakfast, hiking, dinner, breakfast again, and I could feel I was falling for this guy. But, the time had come that we had to part ways. I had to go back to Vail so I could pack up and head home. It was an awkward goodbye that felt very unfinished. In subsequent conversations, we haven’t decided where this will go – or if it will at all.
Back home, back to reality, it almost seems like it was a dream. If so, it is one I will continue to replay for days to come.
Well, it’s been an interesting summer, to say the least. Not having much in the way of paid work in August, I decided to take a 3-week road trip. It’s ungodly hot in Mesquite pretty much all summer long, and August was no exception. So, I dropped the dogs at the dog sitters, and took off.
First stop, Grand Junction. I spent the evening with good friends who also have a home in Mesquite. They are just such fun to be around. We enjoyed dinner and a nice neighborhood walk, looking up at the Colorado National Monument that is just outside their back door. She showed me the damage a recent flash flood had done to the creek behind her house. Fortunately, the homes were high enough that they were ok.
Next stop, Vail. My sister is on a long-term work project there and invited me to come stay with her. A free place to stay in Vail for the summer? Sure! Vail is gorgeous in the summer time. Mountains and meadows, lakes and flowers. Fresh air. I have always loved the mountains. There is something so majestic and strong about them. And, there’s that feeling once you complete a climb to the top that is just so satisfying. It’s raw beauty and nature at it’s finest.
Hiking in Vail
I hiked and explored the town and trails nearby. My sister and I went out for happy hour at nice restaurants. I attended a wonderful concert on the lawn in nearby Avon with some good friends I’d known in Seattle that moved to Colorado. I was even there for the eclipse and got some great pictures. My 10 day visit was amazing and so special. But, it was time to move on. I spent one night with my same Seattle, now Colorado, friends who suggested I drive up Mt. Evans, a local 14’er.
View from Mt. Evans
The next morning, I did just that. The narrow, winding road dropped off steeply. There were no guard rails. Fortunately, I was often on the inside lane. Once up top, the views were astounding. 360 degree views of all of Colorado. A mother mountain goat laid on the rocks with her two babies. There were remnants of an old structure made of rock. On the way back down, I stopped for a herd of bighorn sheep. They were just feet away from me, cautiously watching as I took pictures.
Iceberg Lake in Glacier NP
My adventure continued as I drove in to Denver, having lunch with friends and then dinner and a sleep over with another. It’s moments like these that I really treasure. The sights are one thing, but friendships are very special to me. That is where memories are created. Speaking of friends, I left Denver the next morning and headed north to Glacier NP to see my friend Karen who took a job as a park ranger there.
My friend Karen hiking in Glacier NP
Karen and I have become fast friends, having so much in common. We enjoyed the days hiking in the park and the chatting away the evenings of a glass of wine. We talked about hiking, working, dreams, goals, friends, and everything else two girls choose to talk about. I saw a black bear, a female moose, a male moose, a grizzly bear (through a telescope), a mountain goat, and many smaller critters. Unfortunately, there were terrible wildfires nearby that clouded the view and even made it hard to breathe.
We made way for the mountain goat
Heading back home, I stopped at one more friend’s home in Park City, UT. What a beautiful place. We also shared good times, thoughts on the world, had dinner on her deck on a warm summer night, and did some hiking. And, just like that, it was over. I was back home and back to the daily routine. Memories safely tucked away to recall again in those quiet moments.
In my post-New Year’s optimism, I signed up for two summer races. One was the Bryce race, and most recently, the Tushars race. I had been drawn to the Tushars race since seeing the beautiful alpine pictures of the area. Fir and pine give way to treeless meadows of blue lupines and yellow sunflowers. Billowy white clouds dot beautiful clear blue skies. It’s a touch of heaven on earth.
While I didn’t expect to be impacted by any heat, there was the fact that the race climbed up over 12,000 feet. Fortunately, I generally have no trouble with altitude. The race offers a half marathon, a full marathon, and a 100K, all on trails in the Tushars range, just outside of Beaver, Utah. Given my continuing health struggles, I chose the half marathon. I was glad I did.
The trail goes steeply up
It was a fairly cool morning. I wore long pants but short sleeves. I had both a water bottle and hydration pack, with snacks stuffed in the pockets. The race started at the Eagle Point ski resort, heading steeply downhill. I was surprised at my immediate high heart rate, climbing over 170 beats per minute in the first few minutes – going downhill!
Just third of a mile later, it turned uphill, climbing steadily for nearly two miles, topping out over 10,000 feet. Right away, I was not only at the back, I was last. But, I was ok with that. I fumbled around and got my music going and then started power hiking. I quickly caught up with another woman about my age and we agreed to stick together. Her name was Kim and we chatted away for the next 3 miles to the first aid station.
Our new pack heading up Mt Delano
By that time, I was feeling much better and able to go faster, but Kim and I had an agreement and I wanted to honor that. We lost a bit of time at the aid station while she used the restroom, and when we headed out, she started not feeling well. Turns out she has pretty bad asthma that is aggravated by exercise. She was only doing the race to be with her husband, but when he saw she had a friend in me, he raced his own race and left us in his dust.
About mile 5, the trail turns up Mt. Delano for the big climb. We caught up with three guys from California. They were quite nice and cheerful and one of them was struggling too. I would go about 20 steps then wait for Kim. The guys were doing the same. About a quarter mile from the top, Kim was ready to call it quits, but I encouraged her to take 10 steps at a time then rest. We finally made it to the top and the views were incredible! Sadly, we just missed the mountain goats that had been there earlier.
Kim and I at the summit
While Kim caught her breath, I asked if she’d mind if I went on back without her. I knew she’d be fine and she told me to go on. As much as I would have loved to bound off the mountain, the path was treacherous, steep with loose rocks. I carefully made my way down, putting on the breaks constantly, which made my legs pretty sore afterwards. Back at the same aid station, I took a small sip of coke and had a few jelly beans then took off again.
I was feeling good, but the trail had some pretty good ups and downs those last three miles back to the finish. I was running some of the downhills where the trail was clear enough, but the uphills were slow. I was constantly resting to catch my breath. However, I was lucky to have a large male deer run across the trial just five feet in front of me! At about 2 miles to go, the trail comes down steeply again. I happily passed a few people there and, instead of finishing last, I was only 8th from last, haha.
The best part of the day, aside from the views, was that it was the first race in a very long time that I did not throw up. I actually felt pretty good at the end, though tired. I was able to have some of the recovery food they offered, sitting around a roaring fire while I waited for Kim to finish. When she did, I gave her a big hug and thanked her for her company. I think she was happy just to be done.
Feeling good at the race has given me new hope. I do believe things are getting better, but I still need to figure out why my heart escalates to quickly. The journey continues.