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.
January 1, 2017. After a very tough 2016, full of a variety of mysterious health issues that turned out to be related to Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid disease, I resolved to get back on the running track again. I wanted to be driven to a goal, so with lofty exuberance, I signed up for the Bryce 50K in June and the Tushars Half in July. I dusted off an old training plan and, with new hope, I starting running again. Then I got my tests back.
Getting the thyroid balance right is not easy. Doctors raise your levels very slowly so as not to overdose you. Apparently, too much thyroid hormone can cause heart issues or even strokes. So you spend way too long being under-dosed. For most of 2016, I was tired, cold, foggy, and fat (10lbs up). It sucked but I was willing to be optimistic that I was on the path to getting better. Other people with Hashimoto’s seemed to be able to live active, normal lives so there was no reason I couldn’t.
In the fall of 2016, I was definitely better than I had been, but still not great. My running had slowed to just a couple days a week at a frustratingly slow pace. But, my thyroid results showed everything was fine! I will never forget my endocrinologist looking directly at me and saying, “I really don’t know what else I can do for you!” I was devastated. Was this my new life? Will I be low-energy and achy forever? This must be what it’s like when you get old. I should just accept it. But I can’t and didn’t.
Fortunately, I was listening to a podcast one day about functional medicine. It had always been in the back of my mind, but it isn’t covered by my insurance and I wasn’t yet fully convinced that Western medicine couldn’t fix me. Well, I was all over it now. I listened to the same podcast twice. Then I made the decision to give it a try. I pulled $2000 out of my savings and decided I would commit to at least 6 months to see how it goes. I made an appointment that same day.
Our first meeting was all about history. There was a lot I could say no to. But in a way, that made it harder. If there was something obvious in my past, the treatment path would be more clear. So, we started with two tests to see where I was at. The first is called a GI Map. It’s a test for virus, bacteria, and parasites in your intestines. They check for things like candida, norovirus, h. pylori, c.diff, e.coli, etc. The second test was a hormone test called the DUTCH test. It looks at your various hormone levels 4 times over the course of 24 hours.
The GI Map tests your poop. Collecting and prepping the sample is kinda gross. The DUTCH test looks at hormones in your pee. You pee on the paper and let it dry to send off. Then I waited and waited. It took over three weeks to get the results. And, the results were quite interesting! I don’t know why Western medicine does not run these as a matter of course. It turns out I tested positive for salmonella, staph, and giardia. What? I never drink unfiltered stream water. Oh, but my dog does… and he likes to lick faces. Crap. (no pun intended)
The hormone test was a bit more complicated. It showed overly high free cortisol on waking that then plummets all day. Additionally, my other hormones (estrogen, testosterone, progesterone) were all under range too. Turns out to be a sign of adrenal fatigue. Sounds easy – just let it rest. Unfortunately, it needs to rest a long time. Average recovery is 9 months. I also tested high for gluten antibodies and low for gut health. This means my intestines are as porous as can be, letting in all the bad stuff. Plus, now I have to be serious about no gluten. That really sucks.
All of this news really took the wind out of my sails. A few weeks after the results, I jogged about 7 miles on Saturday and hiked 8 miles on Sunday. Nothing hard and nothing at all compared to what I used to do. But, I paid for it for three days after. I had what is called “wired and tired” where I was anxious but couldn’t sleep, as if I had too much caffeine too late at night. Apparently, your body just does not have any reserves at all.
I am on a large handful of supplements three times a day, in addition to the normal vitamins and supplements. I have sworn off gluten, as hard as that may be. I am eating and sleeping well. I even started yoga. The supplements will treat safely and slowly versus the quick and dangerous of pharma drugs, especially the anti-parasite drugs. I’ve since gone way over my $2000 budget, but after being on these meds for nearly two months now, my need for thyroid meds has been cut in half and the nodules I have, that so many experience, have shrunk 25%!
My journey to find answers to Hashimotos continues. Some days are ok and some are not. None are what I would call good. I have done a ton of research and reading.
I was surprised to read the numerous articles that suggest Hashimotos, and autoimmune diseases in general, may have a diet component. Specifically, food sensitivities. I have never been one to feel like I was sensitive to food. But, I am open to the idea that some kind of sensitivity is causing my whole body inflammation. Unfortunately, the variety of articles suggest all kinds of possible culprits:
Raw cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, etc. – reduced iodine effectiveness)
Citrus (grapefruit, oranges, lemons, etc.)
Corn (also in everything)
Sulfites (wine, etc.)
I remember reading this one day, early on, around lunch time. I looked in my fridge and just started crying. What on earth does a person eat? One can only eat so much lettuce! I decided to start with gluten for sure, but avoid dairy, soy, nuts, beans, and nightshades. I am basically following a Paleo diet, sometimes called Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP), but not been overly strict about it. Although I am one who claimed I would be devastated if I ever had to give up my cereal and milk, it hasn’t been that bad. Plus, I am very motivated.
In the morning, I make myself a smoothie with vanilla-flavored rice milk, vanilla-vegan protein powder, spinach, ginger, banana, avocado, and frozen berries. It’s a treat. Lunch is typically a big salad with vinegar and oil dressing. Dinner is pretty plain, with a protein source and steamed veggie. I am also experimenting with gluten-free things, but they are pretty expensive. So many people claim to feel so much better in just days. Honestly, I wish I could say it was a miracle cure, but it hasn’t been. After nearly 2 months, I really don’t feel much different. I have yet to give up sugar and caffeine but may have to consider that.
Meanwhile, I continue to jog/walk (wog) at about a 14-15 minute per mile pace. It’s depressing but all I can do.