Cross Country Skiing: Grand Mesa

Sprocket and I decided to follow up our hike of Mt. Garfield with an afternoon of cross country skiing on Grand Mesa. Sprocket had missed out on my first cross country ski adventure due to doctors orders so he was still anxious to get outside and play when he saw the snow boots:

He was ON my shoulder the whole way up to the Mesa and when we arrived at the County Line ski parking lot he was all worked up and ready to run! 

There were quite a few people leaving the parking lot at the same time and Sprocket was just excited to see people all over the place. He hardly seemed to notice all the skis and poles around (can you believe this is really his first experience with skis of any type??) and was, in typical Sprocket fashion, happy to see people but also happy to take off down the trail in front of the crowd.

Once he figured out what I was doing, he trotted happily in front of me. (And he somehow knew to stay out of the groomed tracks?)

We headed out to a viewpoint, looking south over Delta towards the San Juans. This photo does nothing to show how amazing this view was.

After taking a few photos, Sprocket got impatient and sent his message loud and clear “Mommy, let’s GO”:

In all, we went about six miles before heading back down the Mesa to De Beque.

I think I tired out the puppy.

January Fitness: New Years Resolutions

2015 was a pretty great year for my hiking goals. It wasn’t perfect and there were some mountains I wanted to climb that remained unattempted but I made peakbagging a priority and it turned out well. I did, however, climb some mountains out of pure grit and determination as I felt tired and exhausted a lot of the way up. Outside of reaching summits, I was lazy and didn’t do the work to be ready and make long hikes more enjoyable.

In the fall, I kept thinking I was going to fix things. And I procrastinated. And procrastinated some more. By the time December rolled around though, I was starting to lay the groundwork for kicking things up after the holidays. As cliche as it is, I resolved to do the work in 2016. I was going to save towards a house (as far in the future as it may be). I decided to be in summit shape and to drop the pounds that had crept onto my frame.

I dove into Training For the New Alpinism and within the first section, I realized that before I could dream any huge mountain dreams that I needed to combat my severe lack of aerobic capacity that had crept in on me over the past year and change. And guys? I’m impressed with myself.

I’d started to lay the ground work for running more in December by carefully (ever so carefully) building up the mileage on my neglected legs. I said yes to “Yoga Camp“; a perfect companion to keep flexibility going when running. I, kinda impulsively, bought a cross-country ski setup right after the New Year. I’ve found myself running at 9pm because I needed to get it in, 10 degree temperatures be damned.

And everything has gone exactly as I would have hoped. I’m feeling so much better when being active and the magical effect of exercise that makes you only want to exercise more has kicked in.

By The Numbers:

Running: 16 runs, 53.25 miles, 11 hrs (um. This is more mileage than all of 2015..)

Hiking/Snowshoeing: 5 hikes/snowshoes, 14.8 miles, 10.8 hrs

Cross Country Skiing: 2 sessions, 11.3 miles, 3hr 40min

Yoga: 20 Yoga Camp sessions, 10hrs 20min

Yup, it’s on 2016

Sometimes I dress like a Muppet when I run.

New Adventure!: Cross Country Skiing!

A few weeks ago, I somewhat impulsively bought a cross country ski package on eBay. I had no idea if it was a really good deal but $230 to my door for the whole package seemed tough to pass up, especially when my other winter wishlist purchases came with a much bigger price tag (AT ski gear, mountaineering boots and crampons for ice climbing). They shipped out right away and I waited anxiously all week for them to arrive.

Unfortunately life intervened (Sprocket had surgery, I had some Saturday teacher duties, and a friend and I went snowshoeing) and I had to put off trying it for a week.

I found myself kind of nervous as I put my boots on at the car. Why? I have no clue…

Last Saturday it was finally time to give them a spin. I headed to Ironton, just south of Ouray on US 550 where there is a groomed Nordic area that I know to be fairly flat. I put on my boots, patted a very sad activity restricted dog, and set out on the main loop having nary a clue what I was doing.

It didn’t really matter. Although I don’t think I ever found a really good rhythm and the downhills were tricky, I couldn’t complain. It was the first time I’d ever stopped to see Ironton townsite, I was surrounded by 13,000′ mountains, and the late afternoon sun was shining. I made two big loops and one repetition of an out and back for almost 5 miles of awkward shuffling around.

My words can’t do the scene justice but I know that this is going to become a regular part of my winter fitness regimen! And continue me down the path of Jill of all trades, master of none, hehe.

Kristin: Birthday #tryingstuff

Today’s #TryingStuff post comes from Kristin. Kristin is a New York City based poet who also blogs at Not Intent On Arriving (where she kindly featured me as part of her Writer’s Wednesday this winter) about travel and living life.

Whenever I imagined how I would celebrate my golden birthday, I always pictured opening my 28th year in a gold sequined cocktail dress. There would be champagne and karaoke. I would be a more perfect version of myself – fancy, social, and singing in public – an elegant version of my usual down-to-earth self. When I found myself instead sitting in the chilly lodge of the Clarence Fahenstock Memorial State Park, trading out my hiking boots for a pair of cross-country skis, I didn’t look quite like I’d pictured myself, but the idea was still the same. I was a better version of myself. I was me, but adventurous.

I was about 40 feet from the lodge when I fell for the first time. I had clipped into the fronts of my skis, and was pushing myself pretty quickly along the pre-made track when I started to feel myself losing balance even as I was gaining speed. Like I always do when I’m losing balance, I leaned heavily backward into my heels to stabilize. Apparently, this is not the thing to do when you can’t stop during cross-country skiing, and maybe when you can’t stop during other things in life. Sometimes, you’ve got to lean into it. I tumbled off to the side, and embarrassingly, couldn’t get myself onto my own two feet. A family that appeared to be at the park for tubing took pity on me and between the four of them, managed to get me upright again.

Adventurous me, I had hoped, would be instantly talented at cross-country skiing, even though I’d already tried it without much luck four years ago and even though I have been instantly talented at precisely nothing in my whole life. Talk about setting yourself up for failure. As I shuffled along to where my partner was waiting for me (a fellow non-talented adventurer, he wasn’t able to turn around and help me fast enough), I decided to let go of the idea that being adventurous was something I could succeed at and cross-country skiing something I could excel at instantly, and focus instead of enjoying myself.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the two beginner trails that were open. On our previous excursion, we had contented ourselves with trying each of these paths once, and then moving on to hillier, more difficult trails. While I think it’s important to challenge yourself, I don’t remember having nearly as good a time that first trip out, and I think it might be because we never let ourselves enjoy the process in our hurry to become experts. This time, we explored what felt like every nook and cranny of the paths we were on. We did each of the smaller loops multiple times, and then made a larger loop between the two trails and the lodge twice.

The trails led us around a level field (and past some people snowshoeing – maybe that will be our next adventure!) and alongside the lake where they have swimming in the summer. Everything was frozen-over and still, and although we were often in the presence of other skiers (many of whom blasted right past us with gorgeous form), the experience felt solitary and beautiful. For the first time in a long time, things felt peaceful and I felt like myself. Not a better version of me, just me as is: struggling to keep my breath and my balance while still taking in all of my surroundings. Somehow, after nearly three decades on earth, that was finally enough.

In total, we were outside for about three hours, and as far as I can estimate, we skied about seven miles. There were more spills, my legs and arms felt sore, and I don’t think either of us ever figured out how to ski downhill without crashing into something to stop, but it was the most fun I’ve had all winter. With the freezing temperatures lately, we’ve been bundled up inside or working out at the gym, and I think I’d almost forgotten how wonderful being outside really is.

Taking in deep breaths of cold air and completely exhausting myself on something wonderful are two feelings I haven’t had in a long time, and I didn’t realize how much I missed them. Although it was hard at times and I didn’t magically become graceful and coordinated, cross-country skiing was the best way I can imagine to start my 28th year. Now I’m looking forward to what comes next: a year of trying new things, spending more time with nature, and getting more active with the person I love.