Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Summer Wrap-Up

Although I know there is plenty more summer weather to come, I have transitioned into the next phase and have left my carefree summer ways behind…yeah right.  Anyway to (semi-)briefly recap the summer: 

On July 1st I woke up to the sound of snow plows.  I was sleeping on top of Loveland Pass, the coldest place along the way, after escaping Denver, which was experiencing uncharacteristic humidity at the time.  It wasn’t powder, but it was fresh and I snowboarded on it, as nearby Arapahoe Basin (ski area I happened to have a pass to) was still open.  I managed to get in a few runs before it got too soft and then passed through Leadville for the night to begin my planned loop. 

Fresh snow on July 1st on Loveland Pass

My only real objective for the summer was to do the famous Four Passes Loop in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, which is in the mountains between Aspen and Crested Butte, Colorado.  Realizing (at the beginning of July) I still needed to give the high country a few weeks to dry out, I planned to keep myself occupied with lower lying trails and exploring the towns of Crested Butte and Aspen

And I did just that.  I ran on a lot of trails.  The first few weeks included hundreds of soggy stream crossings.  My friend and former co-worker Ben (who was also circling Colorado) met me in Crested Butte and joined me for a week and half.  After a couple more scenic and soggy runs and beautiful camping spots, we made our way to Aspen, which required us to drive down out of the high country into the fiery gates of hell for part of a day, reminding us how perfect summer up there is.  In the Aspen area we hit a bunch of popular trails including one leading to the ridiculously, amazing Conundrum hot springs.

Trailhead to Conundrum Hot Springs (near Aspen)

After Ben took off, I headed to the trailhead for the Four Passes Loop, where I parked for a few nights before starting the loop.  The loop is 25ish miles.  I decided to backpack the loop instead of running it in one day.  Although easily doable in one day, I thought I should take two days to go slow and take it all in.  I was happy with that decision and the decision to bring a camera, which I hardly ever do.  Definitely worth the extra weight this time.

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness on the Four Passes Loop (near Aspen)

Next, I spent about a week in the actual town of Aspen.  Aspen was pretty happening after spending weeks out in woods.  I had a good time there.  Two friends, Lilian and Stephen, both of whom I know from working with at the Rainbow Lodge in Northern California, were living in Aspen.  It was great to see both of them and nice to have places to stay in the crazy metropolis of Aspen.  I also found a future live/work spot (where Stephen was living/working), right in downtown Aspen.  After I had enough of all that, I made my way back to the most authentic of mountain towns…Leadville.   

Leadville is a special place.  It was the first placed I lived after leaving the Midwest (about 6 years ago).  I have lived in half a dozen other places and visited hundreds and have never found anything even remotely comparable to Leadville. 

In Leadville, I stay with my friend Wizard.  Aside from cooking and cleaning for Wizard, I spent most of time running on Leadville’s fun and windy eastside singletrack, laying low, and formulating my next move.  While spending a lot of time sitting on Wizard’s porch (that we built while I was there), I realized why I am so picky about weather.  Leadville spoiled me forever.  At 10,200’, the summers are perfection.  I have not found anywhere better…and I have been looking.  Dry and sunny with highs in the mid-seventies…everyday.  Then it completely cools off every night.  Very comfortable.

Wizard and Joe on this deck (that we built one afternoon.  We were both surprised it actually turned out okay.)

During my stay in Leadville, the town was a flutter with elite athletes (and spandex) as I was in there the three weeks leading up to the Leadville 100 mile mountain bike and 100 mile trail running race.  It is definitely inspiring to be around so many people who are there to compete at that level. 

Leadville during the 100 mile mountain bike race.

I then made my way to Denver via the Frasier Valley (where I spent last winter) and spent a few days running and exploring the surrounding high country.  After a final morning run on Berthoud Pass, I flew to Chicago.  This was my first trip home in over a year and a half.  I kept pushing it back, because I knew I would be going for my high school friend, Rocio’s, wedding at the end of August.  The whole trip was awesome.  I had tons of fun with my family, finally got to see Katy and Doug’s house, spent time with my Grandmother, Kali came to visit me from Ohio, and Rocio’s wedding was a great time and something of high school reunion for me.  The whole trip was really fun and really busy.   And the weather was super mild.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit half the people I was planning to, so I’ve decided (almost definitely) to spend the month of December there.     

Rocio at Burger King, right after her wedding ceremony.
(Picture by her husband, Abel)

Back to…Camp!
Just prior to leaving for Chicago, I applied for and got a fall seasonal job in Northern California.  Upon my return to Colorado I had one week to make it out here.  After retrieving Mama in Denver, I quickly made my way back into the hills.

On September 1, I again woke up on Loveland Pass, ready for the next phase.  No snow this time, but nice and blustery up there.  After breakfast with Wizard in Summit County and hitting all the sweet thrift stores in the Vail corridor, I slept on the Colorado/Utah border, before a huge push across Utah and Nevada the next day.  I took a new-for-me route across Nevada (RT. 50 instead of Interstate-80) and made it to Carson City that same night.  The next day I stocked up in Carson City and then made my way up to the incredible Tahoe Basin, where I spent three days running and swimming before moving into my current diggs.

Fallen Leaf Lake

I’m am currently back at the lovely Standford Sierra compound on Fallen Leaf Lake near South Lake Tahoe, California.  Since spending the spring of 2010 here, I knew it was only a matter of time before I made my way back to this special place.  It is an incredibly easy place to be, as work/home/play is all right here.  The hardest part is there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do everything we have access to.  So, until next time, I’ll be here, trying to do it all.