Horsetooth Rock

Love going hiking, and within 20 minutes of my house I have many great places. One of them is Horsetooth (Rock).

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This quick 5-mile hike starts at about 5,800 feet and peaks at roughly 7,200. I can never remember if the name of the peak is from history or looks, so I had to do some research. Protrails says, in addition to climbing info, that “According to Native American legend, Horsetooth Rock is the remains of the heart of an evil giant, slain and cut in two by Chief Maununmoku. European settlers believed the rock bore a greater resemblance to a horse tooth, hence the modern name.”

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When you go to hike the trail you park at a Larimer County site. A smart thing to do is invest in an annual pass. The money goes to the Parks; it doesn’t hurt. Otherwise you pay nine bucks a day. It’s worth it, even if you don’t end up visiting the entire amount of times you need it.

You start out with a bit of an incline on a winding trail. Then after 1/2 mile you’re on a wide multi-use trail. After 0.9 miles (yes, I’m a Garmin user) you can get on the foot-traffic only trail. That’s when it gets fun. You are in the trees, you get good switchbacks (nothing crazy), some stairs here and there. Occasionally, you get a lookout a the city.

After about 2 miles, you hit most difficult park. Less stable surfaces. But that is the true fun! There is one ‘staircase’. I usually avoid it because it’s not that easy. If I do use it, it’s on the way up, not down.

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After 2.4 miles you get to the base of the true summit where you get to decide exactly which line you want to take to get to the top. There are several. I’ve hiked this trail many times now and can’t figure out which place is the best at which to start. It’s literally about 50 feet. But, you sort of scramble/use upper body to get there. Then you’re there. You look one way you see Ft. Collins. Another way — Mt Evans, and various other snow-capped peaks, another and another, just miles and miles of gorgeous scenery. You could stay up there for hours.

You might also examine that you are on one side of the horse’s tooth. There is a trench. Unless you had Spiderman abilities you’re not getting over to the other side. I know you can (rock)climb to get there. I still have to figure out if/how you can get to the far side of the tooth/the third one.

Getting off the top of the peak can be a bit tricky. Not hard, just takes maneuvering. Then you return on the part you summited. There are some paths that go off, here and there.

The last time I was at Horsetooth, I saw wildlife, likely because of COVID-19. There were actually deer out there! I also saw a turkey (too far away to take a picture) and then ahh…a snake. Wasn’t a rattler (I say that like it’s a bad thing). Apparently it was a bull snake. That thing was pretty cool, big and long. Was fun to look at. I kept my distance, was glad I did not see a rattle on it.

In the end, a good trail to take if looking for a fun adventure. You can take in the city, feel like you’re miles away, and soak in much of what Larimer County has to offer.

 

 

The Headwall

Circa 1999, I was first introduced to real skiing, aka out West. I was able to visit family in Jackson (Hole), WY and got to meet real snow, powder, elevation and steepness. Never did I go back to the East Coast.

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The next year I visited Sun Valley, darn. The following year I went back to Jackson Hole…it’s all about who you know with the free lodging. I had learned a bit more about how to ski out there, so one of my hosts figured I needed to explore some more…the Headwall. This is something I’ll never forget. And now I go to current times and to the past.

The Headwall is a run at Jackson Hole that you must climb to. You take a lift — Sublette, to be exact. That’s after you make your way over there from the base. Then you take a run to above Cirque (bowl). You work to keep as much speed as possible so you can keep your skis on as…long…as…possible. Then, unclip and get ready.

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Going to the past. The first time I did the Headwall my host was far too kind. He carried my skis for me. All I had to worry about were his poles and mine. After that, I could take care of everything on my own.

The path to the top is usually pretty well packed (snow-wise), but it’s also pretty steep. As I write this post I am recounting my most recent trip on the Headwall, which was January 2020. I finally turned on my Garmin to track how long of a ‘hike’ this is; 0.3 miles. And, actually, I don’t think I had a Garmin the previous times I had gone, except maybe once and it likely just didn’t occur to me to track it.

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January 2020 might have been my 6th or so time taking this grand adventure. Each time, you think you’re going to be cold. Each time, I had stopped to de-layer, several times, multiple layers. You can also stop to take in the beautiful scenery and/or use it as an excuse to take a break.

This past time I’d had to ask as quick reference while skiing an hour prior how long it took to hike the Headwall because of a lunch meeting and somebody told me 45 minutes. Each person is different. It took me 14:10 (thanks Garmin and Strava).

Got to the top and don’t think I’d ever truly appreciated what all you see at the top. I just did a slow 360 several times. With the sun shining down on you, mountains around you, the town at a distance, what more could you ask for? The only thing would be checking out that snow that had been falling for the 5 days prior and really absorbing the run you’re about to take. After I decided to stop admiring nature standing still, I put on my skis. Note, putting on skis in deep powder, so not fun even on a flat surface, but you know what’s to come is good.

Got myself over to the Headwall (slope), picked a line on which to start skiing and off I went. With the snow that had fallen the past few days, it was crazy. This slope is steep. It’s (just) a black (diamond). As in not a double black. But you needed to really work that day. The snow was knee deep; knee deep powder. It was amazing perfection. It was tough to ski in, but in a really good way. It’s not something I want to ski on every run; I like groomers. I had to think about turns, and if you fall you fall into POOF. I happened to stop and talk to a guy who lives right here in Fort Collins. It was his first time skiing the Headwall, and at Jackson Hole. He has no idea why he has summited this thing!

I think it probably took me 3-5 minutes to get down this run. I thought about each turn, worried about my legs (aka injury) sometimes, loved the snow each and every second, and valued what Jackson Hole offers me as a skiing venue. Then you stop, you’re at mid-mountain. You’re done. Ok, what’s next. All I could think about is going having to go to lunch…or do I have time to ski it again? Until next time, Headwall.

 

Mel Cider

I was sitting at home and the doorbell rings. I hadn’t ordered anything online, we’re in a pandemic, stay-at-home orders in place. What is this? A very kind friend was just making a delivery to me. Talk about nice!

She brought to me one of my favorite beverages (3rd in line — wine and margaritas top the podium); cider. It was Mel Cider, or Pome Mel to be precise. What a great name! It’s produced by Colorado Cider Company and is an Apple Honey Cider. The name is pretty much a derivative of French (with some typos), pomme = apple, miel = honey.

Their quick description: “The first in our botanical series, it delivers notes of lavender and rosemary over flavors of honey and tart apples. It finishes clean and dry with hints of its signature herbs. Now a seasonal selection scheduled for Springtime!”

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It’s a light cider, with some sweetness. Ahh, the honey. I am writing this as I continue to enjoy the fine (6.5% ABV) beverage. I have finally pinpointed the unique taste that I couldn’t put a finger on that both hits that palate (then nose when I had to confirm) — rosemary (note, not having read what is posted above about the cider)! That’s not a common one. But then I, of course, inspect the label more and see green things on the left of it which are sprigs of rosemary. And the ingredient list? Apple juice, honey, yeast, rosemary, lavender. The lavender is there as well.

Quite a unique taste, great name, and local cidery, so you can’t go wrong. Cheers!

Dog Sledding

You hear about the Iditarod, those amazing mushers and dogs. Wouldn’t it be cool to do the same? Well, I had to chance to dog sled in Steamboat, CO to see what it’s like. Went through a company called Grizzle-T (jumping ahead, absolutely great if you ever want to go).

They pick you up where you’re staying and drive you about 30 minutes away from town. There were 6 of us going together, and another 6 in the group that day. During the drive they give you a rundown on the company and the excitement for the day.

You arrive at the site and see dozens of dogs; Alaskan Huskies. Per the website, Alaskan Huskies are friendly and energetic. Bred for speed, strength, and endurance, they are some of the world’s most talented athletes. Properly conditioned and with state-of-the-art nutrition, these dogs can run over 150 miles a day across some of the most unforgiving frozen terrain on earth. Sled dogs thrive in the cold of winter and love the snow!

We were told about all the dogs and their hilarious howling. Let me tell you, it got worse after the first group of sledders left. Some dogs were jealous that they didn’t get to go.

We got the rundown on mushing/being the mushers (the person driving the sled). How to steer, how/where to put your weight, how fast the dogs would go, what to expect and more. You stood on the edges of the sled and there were small brakes you could use to slow the pups down and there was a major foot brake you could stand on, if needed. You also had the ropes to steer them. These are dogs whose lives are all about sledding. They are doing nothing all day (when not sledding). So when they have the chance to sled, their energy goes from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds (in relative car terms). Those brakes were useful on downhills and turns.

There were 2 people per sled. One would mush, one would sit and do nothing in the sled, then we’d switch. It was a 12 mile course. I was the 2nd musher on my sled, so it was really neat to just watch these dogs. We’d also stop occasionally and the dogs would get switched positions. Why? They weren’t doing so well. It’s like the 2nd line coming in. Not really that bad, but somebody at the back would get moved to the front because they could give more power/pull more.

We were out there for over two hours. Each of us mushed for equal amounts of time. We went up and down hills (the hard part with control sometimes), sped up, slowed down. The guides were on snowmobiles and would tell us what to do (and what not to do). It was just amazing to see what these dogs do. And we were on basic terrain, in ideal conditions, weather-wise. After a bit you of course get the swing the things, like you’re a total pro!

At the close of mushing, you come back, the dogs are sort of tired and you just go into the cabin. They give you coffee, cider, stuff to spike it with… The dogs of course get all sorts of rewards (we didn’t get to see what all they got to enjoy.

A great morning. Would recommend doing this if you’re at any place that offers it. Again, Grizzle-T was top notch. Might have to go again. I also now appreciate even more what the mushers in Iditarod do.

Vinhos Prior Lucas, Portugal

My international trip last year was Portugal. Visited several portions of the country, which of course included wineries!

While in Coimbra, my friend and I had exhausted our tourism options for the day. It was only about 4pm so we were trying to figure out what to do. He turned to google and found there were a couple local wineries! We were able to check one out via a last minute booking at Vinhos Prior Lucas.

We arrived at 6pm (not like you would at a US winery) to meet with the owner. It was just the 2 of us (and the owner). Nice, talk about private tasting. He’d needed a little extra time to finish some other work, which was the reason for it being so late.

When we all caught up, he opened the doors to the industrial-like tasting room and showed us around. He then went through the history of him starting the vineyard. He was tired of his desk jobs, wanted to get into what he loves and started this just a few years ago. It’s a small winery, as of now “we explore 5ha of vineyard divided by 7 plots and we have laid down, enlarge the area planted with vines of more than 5 ha selected the best varieties in accordance with either the land, either with the varieties authorized by the Bairrada Region.”

As he continued to tell us about all this, we were able to taste wines in each stage of production, from essentially day 1 in metal casks to bottle. Amazing! We also enjoyed sheep cheese from him grandpa’s farm (hence him wanted to start later). Really? This was amazing. Crackers and other stuff, too. This is unreal.

More conversation came to how wine production was in process, and one specific wine. He asked if we wanted to stomp. I’d stomped by foot a couple days prior, so I was yea or nay. Come to find out, this was hand stomping! The grapes were so delicate, they needed a delicate touch. How could I say no? So much fun!

He continued telling us about the Portugese wine market as we asked him about wine cost (we were definitely buying some). While he/his vineyard is growing, it is still slow and difficult because his wine is considered expensive in Portugal. In USD, it’s $8-$12 dollars/bottle. I could have purchased a couple cases. But in his country, many people think it’s overpriced and it can be difficult to sell. I killed me to only grab 4 bottles because of suitcase space. My friend had to buy a suitcase to get his wine home…

This is one of the best wine tastings I’ve ever been on. I think we tasted 6 wines (yeah, some refills, too), and great wines, amazing. Please check it out if you visit the country. Cheers!

Sweet Bailey Jesus

I have lactose intolerance, I’m a lactard. It has cut many things out of my life. I read labels quite precisely because there can be dairy in something that shouldn’t even have it. So, one thing I don’t even waste time thinking about is Baileys (Irish Cream).

Well, a friend informed me that Baileys makes a lactose-free version of this heavenly drink now. WHAT?!? It’s their Baileys Almande, made with almond milk. Ok, now we have a problem.

Picked a bottle of this stuff up at the store. It had been probably 15 years since I’d had some of this incredible liquid. Got home and opened it up for a sip. Sweet Bailey Jesus. This stuff was incredible! And the almond milk isn’t super heavy, so it also becomes a little…dangerous. It’s also only 13% ABV, that’s the same as most wines.

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This is great stuff to sip on, throw in the coffee when needed and to have…just have. I highly recommend picking up a bottle to sample. Thank you non-dairy gods.

Sabering

Went to a party. Wine, food…champagne. A discussion started about the fun way to open a bottle of bubbles. That would be Sabering (or apparently Sabrage, per Wikipedia). You basically use a long object, slide it along the bottle until it hits the cork it and, voila, you have access to the fine liquid. I had seen this several years ago in Deer Valley and it was fascinating. Would I ever have the opportunity to do so myself?

Well, there were countless bottles available at the event I was attending, a device available and no takers at the offer to saber. I had to step up! Why would nobody want to saber (open) a bottle of bubbly? It’s one of those small dreams come true. I got a small pep talk, then all the info I really needed (line for the saber, speed, where to start). All cameras were on me. And so it went…

 

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Apparently I did well. It was so much fun. I had the bottle in hand at the end. The cork was found later. Very interesting to see the remains. Would love to open a bottle of bubbles like this each time I’m ready to say cheers!

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The Troll

After being in Colorado for a bit I had heard about this thing. This thing called the Troll. It had passed me in subtle whispers and then those words became louder.

This iconic Troll had been around in Breckenridge but was moved because it was causing issues (too many visitors). So, the new location would cause less traffic.

As a backtrack, this troll was made by Danish artist Thomas Dambo who’s made similar objects through the world. Read more in this article, too.

So, went to Breck to check it out one day. Parked in town and looked around for directions. Determined the route and got a very nice walk out of it. You then take a little walk down a path. Some of the websites make it sound like you are going to be taking a serious hike. It’s short, I was seriously hoping for more. But regardless, you come upon the troll and it’s unreal. How did he make this thing?

Great place place to check out. Try to go at a quieter time, of course. Went in the morning and there weren’t too many people. I was there in October and already has great snow.

After all was said and done, there is a parking to right where you start heading into the ‘trails’ to head to the troll. Super simple. It’s about a 1/4 mile to base.

Winter 14er

Now that I’m in Colorado I (of course, right?) have to climb 14ers. I have done a handful during the summer, but wanted to conquer one in the ‘winter’. I was very fortunate to see a post last fall from a group I follow (either 14ers.com or Always Choose Adventures) that there was going to be a Winter 14ers Kickoff (or something to that effect) in early November. It also happened to be on on my birthday, so what a great way to kick things off.

A friend of mine also happened to see the information and we decided to go conquer this thing together; it was Quandary. I had summitted Quandary before (sort of bummed because I wanted to check another off my list) but he hadn’t so it was all good. Neither of us had hiked up a 14er in the snow.

A sort of good thing about winter hiking is that you don’t have to leave as early in the morning, maybe we only left about 3:30 or 4am, vs 2 or 2:30am?

We had been in touch about what to pack, what to wear, and all else. Our bags were more than ready. When we arrived at the parking lot, we were some of the only ones there (we were heading out a little ahead of the group because we wanted to get a bit of a head start), it was still pitch black and 7 degrees. And yes, Fahrenheit. Yikes! We put on layers, then another layer, some gators, and microspikes and why not another layer. Oh, headlamp, too!

Off we went. Within 15 minutes the sun came up and I peeled off two layers (we were barely into this hike, and not above tree line). How? It’s now maybe double digits, at the lowest possible end. Well we just kept going. We were really lucky with light wind at the start.

As we continued to climb, about mid-way the wind slowly started picking up but with the sun out, it was good. It wasn’t until about 2/3 of the way up, on this really flat part of the mountain that I needed to put my jacket on, my tuque (yes, I’m a Canuck, that’s what I call it) and my gloves, in various stops. We would stop occasionally to snap pics and determine if we were good.

It was only at about 3/4 of the way up that we needed to make a decision on if we really wanted to continue. The wind start to really pick up and we had to sit for a couple minutes. Hey, snack time! Since it wasn’t insanely bad wind like we’d had before and we were both pretty comfortable, we decided to keep pushing. We were so close. And, Quandary is a pretty easy climb. And all things considered, the snow was fun! No snowshoes required. The microspikes were perfect. We could find paths from where people had been the past few days.

As with most climbs it’s the last part that’s the hardest. At towards the steep summit the wind was worse and I got down on my hands and knees at the peek to crawl toward a place we could sit for literally a minute or two to take in what we’d just done. Summitted our first winter 14er! Clear blue sky in November in Colorado, views for miles. That’s why we live here. We barely snapped pictures because of the wind and decided to get food further down. Wish we could have stayed there for hours.

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As usual, the descent is easier. I totally wish I had my skis with me on this one! Once we got out of the windy area, it was great! Layers were coming off. The snow was also getting slushy. We had started before the big group did because we were afraid we’d be slow. We bumped into them, said hi and had a great social day. There was a BBQ in the parking lot at the end for celebration, too.

Would like to do some more of these, my one issue is that I also like using the snow for skiing.

 

Manitou Incline

So, I’ve been offline with my blogs for quite awhile. I’m trying to get back into things, so have lots to catch up on. Barely know where to start.

After moving to Colorado a couple years back, there are of course some things that are required to explore. One of them I checked out was the Manitou Incline. It’s located near Colorado Springs and it’s an ascent just shy of one mile, has over 2,000 feet of elevation and just over 2,700 steps/stairs. None of those steps are of the same height or level. Also, the average grade is 45%, max grade is 68%, per Trail and Summit. More great info and stats about the Incline can of course be found on Wikipedia.

I visited this grandiose location for the first time in late August. After parking I found somebody who looked like a local and asked if she had any tips for summitting these thousands of steps. She told me “Whatever you do, don’t stop. If you need to, slow down, just don’t stop. Otherwise you won’t want to restart.” Noted.

I made my way to the base, saw all the signs telling people they are in crazy danger, etc, etc and off I went. Of course it’s not bad at the start (elevation of 6,600 feet) but then it just changes as the step height changes (and I’m not super tall) and the elevation increases.

 

There is also a crazy false summit about 2/3 of the way up. I don’t totally love stairs so it was all just a very interesting climb, considering it was less than a mile. Finally made it to the top, at 8,590 feet of elevation. The views were great, I was happy to have done it! Then I took the leisurely couple mile hike down the Barr Trail to return to my car.

I’ve gone back two times since my first and now aim to set PRs. Each time I have gotten a little faster (closer and closer to 45 minutes, within seconds). It all depends on if it’s sunny, windy, hot, etc. I did it once in November when there was some snow on (some of) the steps but still blazing sun. Once in the summer with lots of people. Always fun to see what different times of year bring. Have yet to do it in full winter.