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!

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.

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.

Devils Tower

The Devil went up to Wyoming, not down to Georgia…

Continuing on my trip in South Dakota, had some time to kill. Devils Tower is an hour+ from Deadwood, SD (love the 80mph speed limit!).  So it’s another landmark to visit while in the general vicinity.


Drove out there and after getting off the interstate, the general landscape is just breathtaking – reminds me why I left the East Coast for good, I love it out West. We were on this road for about half an hour. I kept pulling over to take pictures of the tower and surroundings. Of course, I would be right at the base before I knew it. Pulled up to the entry gate and love having a National Park Pass – ‘free’ entry!

Wasn’t too busy as I got there around 5:30pm. And, since this was in the summer, the sun wasn’t setting for several hours. There is a footpath around the base of the tower and staring at it is breathtaking. Devils Tower is 867 feet tall. It stands 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River and is 5,112 feet above sea level (thanks for the state NPS!). I kept wondering if any pieces of rock might fall while taking the stroll.

Some little tidbits about this magnificent location:

  • The name Devils Tower originated in 1875 during an expedition led by Colonel Richard Irving Dodge, when his interpreter reportedly misinterpreted a native name to mean “Bad God’s Tower”.
  • The movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind used Devils Tower during the shooting.
  • The magma which formed Devils Tower cooled and crystallized into a rock type known as phonolite porphyry. It is a light to dark-gray or greenish-gray igneous rock with conspicuous crystals of white feldspar.

And you can find more random stuff on Wikipedia (some of the above isn’t from there).

I have a cousin who is a rock climber and her husband is a hard core climber. I asked them about Devils Tower, and they have both climbed it. Dang! That thing is sheer vertical drop. I admire them and all climbers.

And more great pictures…

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An amazing sight to see if you’re in the SD/WY area. Note: Devils Towers is in the Eastern Edge of WY, it’s not in SD.

Badlands, SD

On my South Dakota roadtrip (this was to run a marathon in Deadwood), specifically took the road/route to drive through the Badlands in South Dakota.

Stopped at the very little (aka not really known) visitors center at the south end of the park. The view in this area is fascinating…just out there, the land goes into nowhere.



Just thinking of how people might have navigated through this land to make their way across the country to settle. I completely, absolutely admire them! Based on that, a nice tidbit of info I found during research, according to us-parks.comTrappers and traders regularly traveled the 300 miles from Fort Pierre to Fort Laramie along a path which skirted the edge of what is now Badlands National Park.

In addition to the great Parks site, more little tidbits about the area can of course be found at the endless info site of Wikipedia. What would we do without it?

A video of some views


To me, though, pictures speak 1,000 words. Would love to check out some of the hiking trails there sometime.

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Mount Rushmore

During my road trip to South Dakota, of course I had to visit Mt. Rushmore. Hadn’t been there since I was about 4 so had to check it out in a time I could truly appreciate it.

Didn’t do an official tour but just checked it out on my own. They have a great museum where you can take in so much information on your own at the pace you’d like to absorb it. In some of the information in the museum, it was amazing to learn how Mt. Rushmore was built — the climbing that was done, how the workers hung from the rocks to make it happen, the blasting, and the time they spent.

Outside of the museum, they also have a path to walk around on to see Mt. Rushmore and the presidents from different angles. Unfortunately part of the footpath was closed so not all of it could be taken it. However, it was all absolutely amazing and I was so lucky because it was a clear, sunny day. Pictures barely do this justice.


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Carhenge, Nebraska

Was on a road trip to South Dakota and taking the scenic way. As I was driving through Nebraska, I suddenly saw a sign for Carhenge (in Alliance, NE). I remember hearing about this, threw on the brakes and turned my car to check this place out.

Carhenge is a structure that replicates Stonehenge, just with the use of cars:

“Thirty-nine automobiles were placed to assume the same proportions as Stonehenge with the circle measuring approximately 96 feet (29m) in diameter. Some autos are held upright in pits five feet deep, trunk end down, while other cars are placed to form the arches and welded in place. All are covered with gray spray paint. The honor of depicting the heel stone goes to a 1962 Caddy.”

More on their site.

It was such a cool thing to walk around. So many cars, the perfect layout to appear just like Stonehenge, but with a little bit different feel. They they also have other cars they’ve added to the collection for different displays. Great way to get a break on a road trip and see something totally out of the ordinary.

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Antarctica…that’s a wrap

The final couple days on the trip to Antarctica were spend going back over the Drake Passage. We barely knew that’s where the ship was because the water was so calm, making it ‘Drake Lake.’ During this time we did lots of recap of the trip with our guides  and prepared to unfortunately finish the voyage.

At a certain time an unexpected announcement came over the PA system. Based on how fast we had been moving because of the very calm water, we were going to make a detour that is pretty rare. We were able to head over to Cape Horn! Stunning view, and it was amazing to have the water as calm as it was — many competitors in sailboat races would have loved these conditions.


After being around Cape Horn for a bit we returned up the Beagle channel to port in Ushuaia. After disembarkation we toured  the city a small bit and then went to Tierra del Fuego. Absolutely gorgeous day for it and a nice way to wrap up the trip.

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And a quick view of Ushuaia from the deck:


This was definitely an amazing trip. Not something you do every year, nor that you would do every couple. So glad I was able to check Antarctica off my list and that I have visited all seven continents. My biggest question now…what’s next?

*If you are interested in checking out this continent, I would highly recommend going through Quark Expeditions. They were amazing. You need to plan/book pretty far in advance, or at least it really helps to. This trip was booked 10+ months prior, and you don’t have to pay all at once. Happy to give more info.


Antarctica, Day 10…wow.

This was our final day of exploring on the trip. The next day we headed back towards the Drake Passage and the trip was going to wrap up. This day was absolutely amazing, all sun, light breeze and awesome views. We landed on Deception Island by way of Neptune’s Bellows.

There were buildings there from an old Norwegian whaling station and a British Antarctic Survey base. We also got to hike up this great hill and see for miles. Wanted to stay there…BBQ anybody, let’s just kick back here for a bit!

We also got to see more seals and Chinstrap Penguins for the first time!

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And videos, of course:




And where we were, Day 10, March 9: