Lumpy Ridge Hike & Poudre Canyon Camping

During our last few days in Colorado before we met up with friends for a wedding near Denver, we explored Rocky Mountain National Park and then camped in Poudre Canyon (that’s pronounced POO-DER) (that’s right, best name ever).

 

First stop in RMNP was a small but beautiful picnic area below the tree line

RMNP is amazing. I think I enjoyed it more than driving up Pike’s Peak. But that could just be because the drive up Pike’s Peak is terrifyingggggg and the drive up into the mountains of RMNP is a little tamer but not at all less breathtaking. I couldn’t get over how much snow was up there. So much!!! There were people hiking up and skiing down. They had just barely opened the road for the summer and I could tell why, snow drifts on both sides of the roads! We ate our lunch at a picnic table in the middle of the snow, it was amazing.

 

So much snowwwwww!

Picnic in the snow!!

Getting into the alpine zone

Below treeline again, check out that sky

We saw pikas and bighorn sheep and coyote and a giant elk that I feverishly pulled off the road to take pictures of.

 

This isn’t the best picture of the sheep (bottom right) but I loved the background

Bighorn sheep making an exit

I’m pretty sure this is an elk…but maybe a moose?!?!

I can’t explain how much I enjoyed RMNP and I wish we’d had more than one day to explore. Pictures do not do it justice.

 

I had really wanted to get a hike in while we were in RMNP but the timing wasn’t going to work out, so I found a hike just outside the park that looked good. It was located at the Lumpy Ridge trailhead….another great name!!! We didn’t have a ton of time as we had to get to our campsite about 2 hours away in the Poudre, set up, and then find a place to watch game 3 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. So, we set out for a quick 1.5 mile hike.

RMNP in the distance!

Hiking through some pretty forest

Lumpy Ridge

More views of mountains in the distance, can’t get enough

 

Yay hiking!

It turned out to be exactly what we were looking for. Some elevation gain, mostly in the beginning of the hike, and gorgeous views of the mountains we had just been exploring in RMNP. We saw a couple other hikers but for the most part we had it to ourselves which was really nice.

After that quick hike we booked it to our campsite to set up in the rain, before making a quick fire and then dinner, and then over to the amazing Mishawaka, a bar/restaurant/music venue directly on the Poudre River, where we were able to watch the hockey game. The bar tender and other patrons were, in true Colorado style, amazingly nice and we all cheered on the Capitals to a win!

Eggs and bacon over the fire in the morning!

The best campsite I’ve ever had, right next to the river

Bye Poudre we miss you!!!

A special shout out to our my friend Stephanie who recommended both the Poudre Canyon and The Mishawaka. It was one of our favorite parts of the trip!!

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Boulder Hike of Death

A few days into our Colorado vaca we made our way back over the mountains to the town of Boulder. On our first morning in Boulder we wanted to get a hike in, so I grabbed a trail map from our hotel lobby and picked a trail that was marked as moderate, the Royal Arch trail out of Chautauqua park. Well folks, that trail should have been labeled HARD AF. Because it was. It was only two miles to the pinnacle, but it was switch backs and rock scrambles galore and we were exhausted by the time we reached the top!!

This way to lung overload

Again….when am I moving to CO?!?!?!

The beginning of the trail was so tame!!!

The view at the top was superb and the arch was amazing, although of course my immediate worry was that today would be the day it toppled over a smushed us. Thankfully, that was not the case and we sat up there re-hydrating and taking pictures for a bit before heading back down. There were some rain clouds in the sky and I definitely didn’t want to get stuck up there in a thunder storm! The two miles back down, which I had eagerly anticipated being so much easier than the two miles straight up we had just done, proved to be more of a challenge than I wanted. The stress on our joints coming down, down, down was intense. Still not as bad as going up, though. Eff that.

Here come the rocks

Only pic I got of the arch because I still couldn’t breathe

Views from the top!

I believe that’s Boulder University down there

So overall, despite my many stops on the way up and complaints about how I couldn’t breathe, it was an amazing hike and I would absolutely do it again. Maybe not for another year or so, give my mind a little time to forget how miserable I was on the way up. But isn’t that the best thing about hiking?! You feel awful going up but then the payoff of arriving at the top and the feeling of accomplishment afterwards always keep you coming back for more!!

Sky Meadows State Park, VA

Sky Meadows State Park, VA

I found a hiking partner! For limited time, as she’ll be returning to Chicago at the end of June, but still, yay for someone to share nature with!! Most of my hikes thus far have been solo, which I actually enjoy, but it’s always fun to have someone to grumble to when the trail is steep! A good friend of mine, Lynne, has the most amazing family, and her cousin Lauren is back in VA for a couple months and she reached out and said she’d be interested in joining me on hikes!

So since she’s in Northern VA (my enemy) and I’m in the Baltimore suburbs I thought I should find some place we could meet up. I’ve been dying to get into the Appalachians in VA but driving 3.5 hours didn’t appeal to me. I looked on Google maps (seriously what did I do before Google maps existed? It’s the best), found some green area north of Shenandoah, and randomly happened upon Sky Meadows State Park in VA on the map. It’s a little less than 2 hours away from me with no traffic, so still a jaunt, but turns out it was tooootally worth it!!

Pretty cabin at the visitor’s center

Lauren and I met at the park at 8:30am. I like to get a jump on the trails because getting to a hiking destination and there being no place to park is reallllll irritating, especially after driving two hours. Plus, I wanted to get a good hike in before getting home to watch the Caps play at 3!! We ended up being some of the first people in the park that morning. It was much colder and windier than I expected and I was glad for the first time that I had brought my hat and gloves and fleece. Normally I way over pack and end up lugging around all my cold weather gear. Finding the trail proved to be a bit of a conundrum but eventually we got on track. My plan was to do a 4.5ish mile loop around the park. The initial couple miles were mostly uphill, some rocky, then the trail branches off to the north on the AT, and then veers east (are’t you proud of me for knowing which direction we were going?!) back towards the visitors center.

Snack break view!

We took a snack break at Whitehouse Lookout which provides a fantastic view of the small town of Paris, VA and beyond. The wind was really whipping up there so after we finished our snacks we decided to get back on the trail. In about a mile the trail heads back into the woods, where we saw an amazing tree that looked like it had split into four trees at some point. Very cool.

Exploring the fun tree

Hiiii!

At around 4 miles we ran into an intersection in the trail and a sign saying our trail went one way and the other way headed to backcountry camping. We had been discussing doing some backcountry camping so we thought we’d head that way and check it out. We were sooo glad we did!! There were such great campsites tucked into the side of the hill! And even better than hardcore backcountry camping, these sites had fire rings. Everybody loves a good campfire. They had nice tent pads and access to primitive toilets and were all about a 1 mile hike from the parking lot, so no cars allowed. We were so excited we immediately found a weekend in June we both had free and booked our favorite of the sites! Here we come backcountry camping! We just have to figure out how to keep our food stuffs away from the bears…..

So, after taking our camping exploration detour we hiked a total of 5.8 miles that day! Oh! I forgot to mention that Lauren brought her dog, Taco! He is super sweet and was great company on the trail.

I thought this was a fantastic picture but it looks like I focused on the trees in the background instead of Lauren…oh well, still a good representation of the fun we had on the trail!!

Week 17, Goal: 51, Hiked: 46.4

Here are some other photo gems from our hike, we realllly lucked out on a beautiful hiking day!

Hello tick grass….

View from the beginning of our hike

After a good section of uphill you come to this lookout spot, so pretty!

Learn to Backpack Like a Lady

Ever since last fall when I was suddenly struck with the realization of just how little I was getting into the great outdoors, I haven’t stopped thinking about trying out overnight backpacking. I’ve been doing well with getting outside and going for walks and hikes, but I want to immerse myself in nature!! I want to get away from all the people and pavement and cars and cars and cars and cars and strip malls that is most of Maryland. Sadly, as is the case with most hobbies, backingpacking equipment is priceyyyyy AF. So I’ve been stalking sales and borrowing and inheriting some items here and there. I have a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and now backpacking pack. I still need to figure out water filtration system, backpacking stove, and how the fuck you hang your shit in the air so that a bear doesn’t eat it, among some other items. Maybe a multi-tool. Maybe some fucking mace.

So last week my friend Kate and I went to a Women’s Backpacking Basics class put on by REI. It was pretty informative but a lot of the info could be found on the web. The best part was that since it was for women it talked about a lot of obstacles men don’t have to deal on the trail. AKA we can’t pee standing up and we get periods and being alone on a trail as a woman can be dangerous.

The instructor didn’t seem as concerned as I always am about being stalked and murdered in the woods. I’m never concerned before my hike. Before my hike I’m all like The chances of that happening are so low, that’s just being paranoid, I just listen to too many true crime podcasts, just my anxiety talking, bla bla bla. And then I’m out in the middle of the forest and I see someone else on the trail and I immediately jump to HE IS A MURDERER!! God forbid some poor guy be hiking a trail and catch up to me, then he’s not only a murderer, in my mind he’s a murderer THAT IS CHASING ME. So I think I might want to invest in some mace, juuust in case.

My biggest hang up with actually going on a backpacking trip is not actually maybe I’ll get murdered, it’s more omg I will have to sleep alone in the dark in the woods. And I will definitely have to pee in the middle of the night. And I hate the dark. So I will absolutely be paralyzed with darkness fear. And every forest movement noise in the middle of the night will be terrifying. Sunlight = safety and darkness = NOPE. I’ll have to work on that.

So, while it’s not like I’m going to take off on the Appalachian Trail anytime soon (the whole having a job, maybe getting a kid soon, being a responsible adult thing gets in the way), I do think I’m going to attempt an overnight trip at some point this summer/fall. Hopefully Kate will come and we can be scared of the dark together. Or at least tell each other comforting things like that wasn’t a bear, it was just a large boulder crashing through the bushes.

Isn’t it Spring Time??

Why is it still freezing out?!?!?!?

On the first day of spring my area of Maryland got its one and only good snow storm of the year. And it wasn’t even all that great! But we did get a snow day out of it so I suppose it was acceptable. But the fact that it happened mid march….and now in early April it’s below freezing when I’m waking up….that is incredibly unacceptable in my book. Yes, when it’s 90 degrees and humid a month from now I will also complain about that!!

So today I went for a three mile walk around a local quarry with a friend around 8am. It was about 30 degrees and chilly but it was a gorgeous walk and it was great to catch up with my friend and hang out with her and her cute pup. Sadly my shin splints were crushing my soul for the first two miles. However, they usually adjust a couple miles into any walk or run and that’s exactly what they did today. So the third mile of our walk felt great and my legs were all warmed up for the hike I had planned for after the walk!

After leaving the quarry I headed over to local hiking trails at Soldier’s Delight Natural Environment Area. I’ve hiked here before but I decided to mix up my route this time and try a trail I’ve never done before. I parked at the visitor’s center and hiked northeast on the Serpentine trail until it hit the parking area on the road and then crossed the road and made a large loop combining the Dolfield, Red Run, and Choate Mine trails, circling back around again to the parking area and then back to the visitor’s center using the same route I came in on. All in all it came out to be about 3.6 miles. It was mostly flat but had a good bit of water and mud to hop around and some hills here and there.

I only saw one other person out on the trails which was great, having nature to yourself is always the best. I love seeing other people enjoy nature, especially kids, because I think it’s so important to get out into the woods….but man do I hate hearing other people when I’m out hiking!! I don’t wear headphones while I’m hiking because 1. I want to try and soak in the calming sounds of birds and wind and 2. I don’t want a murderer or bear to sneak attack me from behind!! Today when I passed the only other trail-goer I had my cell phone pre-dailed to 911…too cautious you say? Oh definitely, for sure, but I’d rather be safe than sorry later!!

So we’re 14 weeks into the year (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE!? Wasn’t it just New Years Eve??!!). If I were averaging 3 miles a week I’d be at 42 miles hiked. I’m currently at 28.4 miles for the year, putting me 13.6 miles behind schedule. I’m realizing that if I want to make longer hikes a priority I have to schedule them in advance since they take up such a long chunk of the day between the drive to the hikes and then actually completing the hike. I’m going to work on pre-scheduling some longer hikes so that I can work on catching up to and passing my weekly goals so come winter I’m ahead of schedule!

Here are some pictures from today’s gorgeous hike!

Week 14, Goal: 42, Hiked: 28.4

30 Day Beach Countdown

Ok, so I started counting down to the beach…somewhere about 80-90 days out from the actual vaca. I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited for a vacation. I’m not sure if it’s because I genuinely NEED a vacation (I do), or because I’m SO EXCITED to hang out with AWESOME people, or because it’s THE BEACH, or because I get to subsist solely on quesadillas and BUD LITE LIME…it’s probably all of those…but I am way more excited for the beach than I usually am.

However, in preparation for the beach, I’ve been trying to lean out a bit, or at least maintain my current physique (that word makes me sound like a badass, maybe a better description would be ‘current body status’) … and it is NOT going as planned!! For one, I have an extreme case of Adult Senioritis. This is something I’ve just made up. And it doesn’t really make sense, since it’s not like work is ending and I’ll be out for the summer. But in my head, that seems to be the case. All I want to do is summer activities like barbecue, eat bad food, drink margaritas and rum runners and bud lite limes, and play yard games. And yet, I’m at work Monday – Friday, only dreaming of these activities. So when the weekend comes, it’s hard for me to drink water, eat well, and exercise it up. Like I said…all I want to do is eat, drink and play.

I decided I needed something that would keep me in check, so I signed up for group training at my gym (#bestgymever). Knowing that I would have to keep a food diary, and would be working out hard, I thought that would help me stay in line. OMG I couldn’t have been more WRONG. Pretty much as soon as I was starting to track my food, the Stanley Cup Playoffs started. Well, my husband and I have no cable, so we have to go out to bars to watch. And then my teams started losing. So clearly, I drank like a fish and ate wings like a boss. Fail #1. Then, husband and I went on a weekend trip to Chincoteague & Assateague Islands, in VA (you know, with the wild ponies). We had a GREAT relaxing and fun weekend. But it involved fried seafood and mimosas and ice cream sundaes for dinner. So basically the best weekend ever, although clearly not helping me on my goals to fitness before the beach. Fail #2.

When we started the group training program at the gym, we were supposed to write down some goals for ourselves. Mine were drink no more than 2 glasses of wine per week and no other alcohol (fail), stop eating cheese (extra fail), drink 100 ounces of water/day (semi fail). Clearly there is work to be done in the inhaling of food department. However, my lifting goals are going well. I wanted to increase my weight on Turkish Getups, which I’ve been working on diligently, and I wanted to make my way to 25 pushups (real ones) in a row, which I’m SO CLOSE to. So, overall I guess everything isn’t a wash, since at least I’m making strength progress.

I’ve gotta get it together in the nutrition department, though. Unfortunately, as much as it is annoying to hear, it’s incredibly true when ‘they’ say “Abs are made in the kitchen.” For sure they are. And I can tell you they are NOT made at the liquor store, nor at the chinese buffet. But wouldn’t it be AMAZING if they were?!

So, since I’ve been real lazy about blogging as of late, I’m gonna try and up my game in both nutrition AND blogging, and try to keep up my progress as we near beach week. OMG beach week WHERE ARE YOU, I need you now.

Did I mention I want to buy a skim board to use at the beach? Probably a bad idea, as I will most likely end up with a broken something or another, but they are SO FUN.

Here are some pics of my epic fail meals. Not only do these delicious treats keep me from my goals, but they make my body punish me in a hardcore way. I certainly paid in pain for all of these. But sometimes, the pain is worth the snack delight.

 

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Fried clams, fries, and hush puppies…what?!

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Pineapple sundae with almond joy icecream. holy yum.

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Is that a Ledo’s Pizza with sausage and bacon and a gluten free crust?! Yes it is.

The War FOR Gluten

I’m annoyed. This post is a little TMI and full of swearing. Just a little disclaimer.

I’ve posted before about how my dumbass body decided a few years ago to stop tolerating several different kinds of foods. Gluten being one of them. I would get sick. Curled up on the couch moaning in pain sick. I stopped eating gluten, among other things, and I DO NOT get sick anymore. Not ever.

And I didn’t make that decision based on a fad that I heard about on my Facebook feed. I went to the friggin doctor, and he told me I had Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. Which was basically like going to the doc’s and having him punch me in the stomach. No more pizza, pasta, paninis, etc, etc…it was saddening. Some people don’t love food. I’m not one of them. I LOVE FOOD. And it loves me back. The doc also told me to cut back on dairy, and to limit processed foods. His reasoning for this? Simply because the human body was made to process certain foods, and weren’t meant for others. He said NOT EVERYBODY has this issue. (Clearly, or everyone would be shitting their brains out all the time, since the American diet is so processed foods heavy.) But obviously, I didn’t make the cut, and got a crap system that only craves meat and veggies and rice and saddness, while I crave pizza with extra cheese, a plate of nachos, and fettuccine alfredo.

So adjusting to this diet has been a serious challenge for me. It literally MAKES ME SAD that I can’t eat things that I like. When I go out to eat it SUCKS that I can only order a very small number of menu items, all the while being terrified that it will make me sick and ruin my time. When I go over a friends house, I’m embarrassed about these issues, and I don’t want to be a HUGE PAIN IN THE ASS, telling them they can only serve me meat and veggies….Hello, I can only eat expensive shit, do you still want to hang out?!

So here’s why I’m annoyed:

I’m annoyed for 2 reasons in regards to this video.

1. These idiots clearly don’t double over in pain when they eat gluten, and they have probably just jumped on the GF train to lean town, because IT’S TRUE, cutting gluten out does help you lean out. Just like eating low carb does. Cause gluten is found in a lot of carbs. HOWEVER, the dumb bitch who says RICE has gluten in it is misinformed, because rice is the SAVING GRACE of eating gluten free!!! (cause it’s gluten free, get your facts straight)

I’m not saying this isn’t funny. I love the second guy with the strange creepy cough thing going on. But all of you, stop making gluten free look like such a frivolous thing. Not all of us are trying to get six pack abs (Ok, that’d be awesome, and I clearly do care about fitness, but let’s be honest, if I could eat pizza without feeling like crap all the time, I WOULD DO IT)

Anyhow…

2. Why the eff do I need to know what gluten is to know that it hurts me? Do you ask cancer patients to explain their disease to you? (shut up, I’m not comparing my issue to cancer, IT DOES NOT COMPARE, calm down) Do you ask kids who are allergic to nuts to explain what makes them allergic? No. Because if something doesn’t work inside of you, if you are broken in some way that causes you pain, people aren’t supposed to grill you about it.

Yes, these people had it coming, because they are dumb. However, this attitude towards people who are gluten free is going to permeate throughout society, until everyone assumes that if someone says they are gluten free, they aren’t doing it for health reasons, they are just following a “fad.”

Let me tell you, it isn’t a “fad” that I’m following when I don’t eat gluten. It’s a sad fact of my life that now my body doesn’t WORK PROPERLY.

So, yes, I’m annoyed when being gluten free is referred to as a fad. And I get angry when people assume I’m just trying to lose weight (I usually am ANYWAY, but that’s not the point). And it saddens me to see people posting this video all over Facebook with negative comments about individuals who have to eat gluten free. Maybe instead of having an opinion on something you know nothing about, you should be thankful you can eat a SANDWICH without worrying about how much time you’ll have to sprint for the bathroom.

Hm, I feel a little better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest. Here’s what set me off in the first place:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/14/gluten-intolerance-fake_n_5327420.html

Good thing we have the Huff Post around to give us such stellar medical advise. The quote at the bottom: “There are a lot of people that hear from their friends, ‘I got off gluten and I sleep better, the sex is better, and I’m happier,’ and then they try it and they feel better, too. The power of suggestion.”

To this man I have a few things to say…

1. Who the eff would give up pizza and pasta for better sex and sleep. That is ridiculous. If you can’t make those happen on your own, you’re a complete ass.

2. How about this instead? “I got off gluten and I didn’t feel like I was going to shit my pants anymore.”

More convincing?

I thought so.