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.

 

 

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!

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.

Cacciatore, Fort Collins, CO

A great small, local Italian restaurant in Fort Collins is Cacciatore at Heller’s Kitchen, located in Jessup Farm.

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Have visited a few times and never had bad food or drink. Drink-wise, what I love is their wine on tap. My favorite is the Tiamo Barbera. Their notes on the wine are 100% organically grown, full bodied, deep berry flavors, lovely finish and slightly dry. What I like about it is that though it says full bodied it’s not overly heavy, and as mentioned it’s just slightly dry. When you get a bottle of it, they bring it out in a flip-top bottle. Great stuff.

Their menu has a good mix of selections, Italian-wise. Last time I went the two of us at the table split two dishes.

As you might have read before if you browse my posts, I love Brussels Sprouts. So when I noticed them on the menu, it was time to finally try them.

Brussels Sprouts sauteed with garlic, sundried tomatoes and pancetta.

Amazing flavors with all the ingredients coming together. Happiness was…

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We also opted for a pizza, the Fig & Prosciutto Pizza, caramelized onion, goat cheese, port reduction.

When I find a non-cow cheese pizza, I’m in love. This is also one of my favorite pizza concoctions. It’s nice and light, with flavors blending together. The crust on this is very light, too.

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Great dinner. I believe they have good Happy Hour specials, too, but not sure what they are. I see coupons come out for them in the mail every so often, so tend to actually use them. Check it out.

Table 79, Steamboat Springs

Last time I was in Steamboat Springs, CO was able to visit one of the local restaurants, Table 79.

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They have a nice variety of tapas/small plates on the menu, as well as some entrees. I love having lots of things to nibble on so we chose a few on the smaller options to check out.

SMOKED ELK & CHORIZO MEATBALL / 4 // sweet corn succotash, sun dried tomato aioli

You do indeed get 1 meatball, but it’s a good size. The corn was delicious, as was the main part of the dish.

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DEVILED EGG SALAD / 10 // spicy greens, cornichons, snow peas, pepita brittle, paprika champagne vinaigrette

They told us it was sort of a disassembled salad…what? They don’t just kind of mash up a hard boiled egg with a bunch of stuff. They nicely spread it out on a plate. Very unique and really good!

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TUNA POKE / 11 // toasted sesame, pineapple, fiery sticky rice, avocado

The sticky fried rice the tuna sat on was quite nice, great presentation. Good taste overall.

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CRISPY BRUSSELS SPROUTS / 7 // table spice

I love Brussels sprouts and this didn’t change that thought, just reinforced it.

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So, great experience. We also sat outside on a lovely evening. Service was wonderful, as well. Check it out if you’re in the area. Cheers.

 

Climb Hard Cider

Colorado has plenty of breweries, but luckily I am finding cideries, too. A local one Wilbur’s (ahhh…) told me about was Climb Hard Cider. They are just down the street in Loveland, which means I need to go check them out in person soon.

Picked up a 6-pack of their ‘Apple’ cider. I say that because they have quite a few options available, one being vanilla, which sounds quite interesting. Now, based on their website they have both a dry and semi-dry apple cider. No where on the can does it say which one this is and nobody at Wilbur’s was sure.

Based on the taste, I’m guessing it’s the semi. Regardless, it was 6.1% ABV, 100% real fruit and tasted great. Crisp, refreshing and was too easy to drink.

Check it out if you can grab it at your liquor store. If you’re in the area and want to visit the cidery, let me know.

Cheers!

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Mama Roni’s Pizza, Ft. Collins, CO

A benefit of moving to a new place is that you get coupons for a bunch of discounts and FREE stuff. And I’m not talking BOGO, but just plain and simple free. One of them that I recently took advantage of was the Mama Roni’s Pizza coupon. It was for a medium pizza of any kind.

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Pizza is always interesting for me since I’m the lactard (more commonly known as lactose intolerant). One of my favorite pizzas is one with BBQ sauce and chicken. And, they happened to have it on the menu!

BBQ Chicken — Hand-tossed crust with our own tangy BBQ sauce, chicken, red onions & chopped bacon

What I had to inquire about is whether it had cheese (since it’s not in the description). It did and I was also sharing this pizza with a non-lactard. So, they were awesome and made half the pizza with cheese and half without. I’m also not a huge bacon fan. I love ham, prosciutto, pork tenderloin, just not bacon. So they nixed that.

So, I had the free coupon and it was for pickup. This was not initially a problem. The problem started when I put the pizza in my car and had to drive 2+ miles homes. The smell, the smell, the smell…that was tough. I’m glad I put the box in the back of the car.

Got home, opened it up and off to the eating. Such perfect crust. Not too thick, not too thin and not greasy AT ALL! The ingredients were in perfect balance, too. The cheese side was apparently great, as well. Will have to check this place out, again.

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Laundry

Laundry doesn’t normally sound like a good thing. But in Steamboat Springs, CO it’s something that is not so bad. Visited Laundry Kitchen & Cocktails one evening to check out the latter part of their name.

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We arrived not long after they opened and (nonetheless) had to wait awhile for a couple seats at the bar. Fortunately that gave us some time to pour over the menu. So, when we were able to snag some seats, we were ready to place our orders.

We opted for:

Fresh & 43 — Berry infused vodka, licor 43, fresh lemon juice, orange bitters, soda water, fresh fruit garnish

Smoke & thyme — Finlandia vodka, pear/apple puree, St. Germaine, mezcal, fresh lemon juice with a raspberry, thyme sprig garnish

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Both were amazing. So fresh, so much flavor. Definitely unique. One of the best parts was watching the bartender make them. One of those seasoned guys who can make any and everything and has a great time doing it. We would have loved to stick around for longer and even order some food, but had to get back to the house for dinner. Will definitely head back there for another round and to check out the dinner menu. Cheers!