When school is out, I head out of town. I did it in 2015 with Amanda for an epic Utah and Colorado road trip in Francis Sally Jeep. I begged off work for a couple days in 2016 to acknowledge the beginning of summer. In 2017, I drove to OKC for the Women’s College World Series and had some fun along the way.
This year, I piloted Ruth XJ towards Tacoma to tackle a flooring project for my mom. Since my house is completed, it was time to take care of some family duties. But first: ROADTRIP.
As I planned my route, I had an eye to hitting up some county highpoints. In the interest of expediency, I headed north through Grand Junction before merging onto I-70 and heading west … into a giant rainstorm.
Initially, I’d hoped to hike the Sevier County Highpoint on my departure day but the considering that I could see that weather system had deposited snow at elevations >10,000′, I took full advantage of the fact that I had lots of latitude to do whatever the hell I wanted to. Instead of taking the Forest Service Road cut off from UT-72 to Fish Lake, I continued south to Loa figuring I’d find a coffee shop or something to hang out in before going to make camp. I didn’t really see anything that was striking my fancy.
On top of that, when I hiked the Garfield County, Utah highpoint, Mount Ellen, I’d found myself drawn west to do the highpoint of Wayne County, Boulder Top (sometimes known as Bluebell Knoll), which left me with an eight mile stretch of UT-24 to my west I hadn’t driven. I hate leaving orphan road segments.
When I’d done Boulder Top, I’d passed through Capitol Reef but not done any exploring so I pointed Ruth east to catch the orphan Loa-Bicknell segment and then cruised on into the Capitol Reef Visitors Center for a little visit. Storms threatened all around but that meant the weather was cool enough for me to leave Sprocket in the car for a little trail run.
I headed up Cohab Canyon for a short adventure. I’d missed the desert. Before I’d left Ridgway, I’d been trying to get out for runs and get in better shape but the going was slow. Instead of fretting about it I soaked in the red rock awesomeness.
After my trail run (or hike or whatever), I headed to Fish Lake. I briefly entertained the idea of having dinner in the adorable vintage lodge but the menu didn’t look particularly alluring (and if I’m totally honest, Utah’s revenge of no liquor license didn’t help) so I headed out to find a camp site.
Word to the wise: the entire Fish Lake area is camping in campgrounds only. I toyed with driving far enough up the basin or back out of the basin far enough to find dispersed camping but instead I decided to suck it up and pay.
It’d been quite awhile since I’d pitched the tent and I think Sprocket had kind of forgotten how cozy it can be.
One of the best things about living in Ridgway is the access to the mountains right along side desert access. After exploring Alta, Katie and I wrapped up her trip to the Western Slope with a visit to Big Dominguez Canyon.
Big Dominguez is one of my favorite spring escapes a little more than an hour north but it is a glorious escape from lingering winter at higher elevations.
Funny story about these Sprocket photos: I tried to leave him in the car. He’d done nine miles with some elevation gain the day before so I thought I probably shouldn’t push old dog too hard. The day was definitely cool so I cracked all the windows and started to run away from the car when he totally lost his cool.
If you’ve met my dog, he’s kind of a mute. He might whine a little when he is excited but he definitely doesn’t yelp, bark, cry, and make a giant fuss. Except, apparently when you try to leave him behind when going for a run next to a river. Just like the wrapped around his paw dog mom I am, I relented and let him come. I figured if he lost steam, I’d turn around and let Katie finish the run without me.
He never lost steam. I underestimated the invigorating effects of a river bath followed by a sand roll for my old pup.
Katie, bless her heart, didn’t judge me (at least audibly) for giving in to him and commented that I’m the chillest dog mom for just letting him be dirty. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the old boy. ♥
Photos courtesy Katie Sealer. (Sprocks also made several appearances on her Instagram, including in her profile picture because he’s the best.)
Since moving into my house just before New Years, I’ve almost as equally moved into my car. In addition to a healthy commute, I’ve added a commute to an EMT class two to three days a week. Long time readers of this blog might remember that in spring 2012 I took an EMT course. Unfortunately, in all of my travels and tumult, my NREMT certification lapsed long enough that to get it back, I had to re-take the course. I figured, at once wisely and dumbly, that it would be easiest to just keep pushing forward with my crazy life and get it done with before returning to regularly scheduled hiking and exploring programming.
This has meant very little time for running or relaxing. (Twice a week, I leave home at 6:20am and get home about 10:15pm.) When I am home, I have homework to take care of and sleep to have. On top of class and teaching, I’ve still been pulling some shifts at my side hustle for that extra cash infusion.
Winter was kind of non-existent around these parts but Sprocket and I did get to do one really cool thing: one evening when we got about 8-10″ of snow, we left to do a 5 mile cross country skiing from our front door!
Having a house to come back and shower at has made it easier to grab those chances to run when they arise. Sprocket certainly appreciates having a warm place to wait for me to come home but even more I think he likes having a warm place to recover from snowy swims in the river.
I have another three weeks left of class and we’re both pumped to have a summer full of adventure!
Sprocket turned eight on Sunday. We woke up to snow gently drifting around the house and a couple of inches on the ground. I soaked up the loveliness of the light, some coffee, and the comfort of the couch for awhile before I remembered it was my sweet boy’s birthday.
There is little that my pupper loves more than to frolic in the snow. I knew the next move was to get dressed and head out for a run with him; especially since I had to head out for work shortly.
Guys, I forgot my phone.
That means there are no pictures. Which is probably fine. The weather was not particularly photogenic. The clouds were low and the snow was continually falling softly. The quiet, could not be captured on camera (even if it was occasionally punctuated by a plow on 550 below the trail).
But that also means there are no pictures of Sprocket running full out for a block and turning to look at me completely delighted.
There are no pictures of him standing in water just over his paws looking shocked I let him.
There’s no photos of me grinning in the perfect falling snow as I followed his wiggle-butt up the trail to the summit of Boot Hill.
I don’t have pictures of how perfect the little yuccas looked under their blanket of snow and how SP came to check them out with me.
There’s no video of him doing his best mountain bike impression zooming down hills to catch me after deer scents distracted him so I could get ahead.
There’s no capture of him nudging my hand before trying to get me to chase him on the path beside the river.
We put in almost five slow, snowy miles and I think I grinned the entire time. Back home, I ran in the house to capture this shot of me and my boy on his birthday. I’m a ridiculous dog owner but there’s nothing ridiculous really about loving a pup that loves life and helping me love life as much as he does.
This fall, Sprocket and I had some fun hiking and running Ouray’s trails after school. We’re so so lucky to have these trails right home!
My headlight bounces in the dark and I suddenly notice some glowing eyes on the concrete path in front of me. The deer seem as shocked as I am to see someone running down the path in the chill October night. My breath puffs a steamy cloud in front of my face and I trundle down the path.
I’m not sure what propelled me out of my warm bed with Sprocket curled up against me. I felt required to put down my excellent book, don shorts and headlamp and run. The relatable prose had somehow pulled me in so far it has pushed me out and demanded I live, right now at this minute. Life has impeded these moments of clarity and running—or rather, I’ve let my excuses get in the way of exercising. No one blames you for not working up a sweat when you lack shower facilities. No one gives it a second thought when you say, “But I work seven days a week.” No one, that is but the yourself as you feel continually less fit, less confident, less whole.
I reach the old railroad bridge and hear rustling in the bushes near the river. It could be a bear or a skunk, it is likely more deer, and in a worst case, could be a mountain lion. There is nothing to be done about the creature minding their own business out of sight and I run on. The bridge looks like the set of a Halloween movie and I attempt to capture it in a photo because I find it so ridiculous. I fail, as I knew I would.
A mile from my house, I force myself to turn around. I haven’t been running and I didn’t warm up and it’s cold. There is no need to risk injury more than I already have and I really should get to sleep. As I cross the bridge again on the return trip, I can feel my mood rise a little bit like the mist off the Uncompahgre. “I need to do this everyday,” I tell myself.
The impossibility of that looms before me; even just this week I have evening work commitments and I question how realistic it is that I’ll sort out how not to smell at work. Part of me, a big part of me, doesn’t care though. I want to feel strong again. I’ve started rediscovering social parts of myself but this, the part of me that can agree to any hike and is ready for new challenges has been in hiding. Perhaps I’ll try to reclaim that part in the dark where no one can see a bit longer; I know that’s better than not reclaiming it at all.
Running past my appliances in my yard, I glance at the house before I go into the shed. That’s mine. That’s why I’ve sacrificed the feeling of the chill on my legs and the hours for words to enter my eyes and also to exit my fingers onto the screen.
I’ve been feeling like there’s some moral to my story, the larger story, not just this run or the house or processing of lots of old feelings I’ve ignored but I can’t put my finger on it. I need to write about it more, both publicly and privately. I need to move my feet to ruminate on it more. Back in the shed, I pulled off my clothes before I could really start sweating in the warmth of my tiny home. Baby wipe basics done, I crawled in bed, pulled my pup to my chest, finished the page I’d been reading and wondered if this is what it feels like to have the pieces come together.
I’ve been complaining about this on Twitter but it’s a real problem: getting an alpine start when you work until 11pm and then you’re wired and can’t sleep is next to impossible. I’d had some ideas about bigger peaks in the Sneffles range and elsewhere along Red Mountain Pass but ultimately settled on a pair of 12ers above Brooklyn Road because I could leave the house at 7:30 and have plenty of time.
Things went according to plan until I wound up behind a herd of sheep being driven up onto a chunk of private land around Red Mountain 3. I sat stopped for a bit while the herders seemed to be taking a mid morning break. Since none of them signaled to me or said anything, I put Ruth in 4-low and just started creeping through the herd. It seemed to work.
Finally, reaching US Basin, I started a pretty direct ascent up the western slopes of McMillan Peak. Sprocket was delighted to find some snow on its flanks and before long we’d reached the 12,804′ peak.
I ran down the slopes of McMillan while Sprocket frolicked his way along.
It wasn’t long before we reached the Ohio Peak-McMillan Saddle where some old mining remains were.
It was sunny and gorgeous and the mountains were making me smile so we took a little break to lay down in the alpine grass.
Or I did, anyway. Sprocket seemed to want to move on. We made out way to the summit of Ohio Peak, 12,673′, where I briefly considered continuing on to another 12er, Anvil Peak but decided against it worrying about the endurance of the SP. We made our way back to US Basin along the ridge and then descended through the most beautiful wildflower bloom I’ve ever seen back to the road.
After Spring Break, all I wanted to do was hang out with my Sprocket. The first thing we did when we were reunited was hike/jog (aka #joyrun) the Perimeter Trail in Ouray. It was just a little muddy but almost totally snow free!
We’ve explored Mailbox Park near Norwood:
We’ve taken some runs near Dallas Divide that turned into snow trudges (it all gets the heart rate up!):
Had wonderfully warm sunny runs on and between mesas above Norwood in the Uncompaghre National Forest:
We woke up one Saturday morning to 6″ of snow in Ridgway and I was over it so we drove down 1200′ in elevation to run near Olathe:
I’ve gotten to run more in Ridgway:
I even made it up to Miramonte Reservoir one day for a run with this sweet view of Lone Cone: