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First—I totally forgot to link my latest Dahl post, the March edition. Mostly it’s about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but I also read The Vicar of Nibbleswicke. Fun times!


So, I went to Utah for the first time! It was amazing. My mom had heard about a place called Red Mountain Spa from a friend, and we decided to spend a few days out there, girls-style. Basically, it’s a retreat where there’s plenty of exercise classes of all types, including tabata (new to me!), TRX, yoga, etc. There’s also a spa, where you can be pampered, if you so choose. They also have amazing food, with plenty of vegan options, so I ate really well. I mean… they had vegan prickly pear/coconut/lime sorbet one night. Who knew about prickly pear syrup? I mean, other than everyone who lives in/has visited desert climes. It’s so good!

Maybe most exciting to me, however, was that Red Mountain backs up to Snow Canyon  State Park, which is… well:

Snow Canyon

Omg, right? I was awed by the vistas the first morning, when my mom and I took their “Nature Walk” where we learned all about  plants and animals native to Snow Canyon. Really interesting stuff. I got to rub my hands in sagebrush and sniff creosote. I also got to learn that apparently ephedra grows in the desert, and people will just like, chew on it, coca-leaf style, on long hikes. I declined.

Hiking on sand and sandstone was a new experience for me. Colorado is all about Red Sandgranite, which is super-slippery. I’ve fallen more than once, not just because I’m a klutz, either. But sandstone… you can Spider-man right up it! It’s amazingly sticky. Also, in Snow Canyon, the sand (and the sandstone) are a glorious red-orange, as you can see.

I got to experience a lot of that sand, as the first major hike I took was called Fern Gully, which has like, an ocean of sand in the middle of it. We tore ass through it, though, like true badasses. Actually, that’s what I loved most about Red Mountain—all the guides were so hardcore, but also so encouraging, you always felt like a barbarian hero tramping through the wilds no matter the level like you were taking. And I do love feeling like a barbarian hero.

Summit of Joan's BonesFor example… the second day, I took a hike called Joan’s Bones, which takes you up to a summit—and while usually I’m all about summits, this hike impressed me because the descent took you down the side of a cinder cone. Yes, can now say I’ve hiked down a volcano! What!

But, as the volcano was less scenic, the summit is to the left.

PetroglyphMy final day, I saw some thousand-year-old Anasazi petroglyphs. I mean, really. That is just too awesome.

My mom and I had a great time. She enjoyed the hikes she took, including one where she hiked with shelter dogs (so adorable!), and took her first TRX class. We also attended  a seminar on mediation, which was fun! We both agreed they had great staff, everyone was extremely encouraging,  positive, and enthusiastic about hydration.

Me and my MomI mean, what more could you want?

After departing from Red Mountain, we took the St. George Shuttle back to Las Vegas, where we spent the weekend. I’d never been to Vegas before… I’m not a gambler, and I also hate crowds. But I have to say, I had an unexpectedly great time! Part of that was undoubtedly the quality of the cocktails that you can (apparently) get in Vegas—some of the best I’ve had. Part was discovering that recently, Vegas has added a surprising quantity and quality of vegan food to their menus.

But mostly it was fuckin' vegasspending time with my mom and my husband (who flew in for the weekend), laughing at people and being simultaneously impressed and skeptical of the entertainments. I mean, John and I saw an animatronic frog in a cowboy hat rise up from behind an artificial waterfall to sing Garth Brooks at us. I… what?

Also, we ate beneath this friggin’ dragon!

Good times. Now I’m back, and peace and quiet is most welcome. Though honestly, I’m already missing the serenity of Snow Canyon! I hope to get back there some day.

A few weeks ago, Jesse and I climbed Quandary Peak, one of the 14ers closer to Boulder. I never put the pictures up as Quandary was a break from all the increasingly frantic getting together of my collection. But as of yesterday Rumbullion is off to my editor, and that means my brain can rest a little, and blogging can happen! Yay!

Quandary is one of those 14ers Colorado people tell visiting sea-level friends is totally easy. We ran into a few of those on the trail—they all made it! But were swearing a lot by the end. By contrast, a seasoned Colorado badass parked it at a false summit and waited for his family to finish up. So, no yeah, no predicting. Anyways, because of Quandary’s reputation, this was at trailhead:

no easy fourteeners!

It’s true! Both the “easy” part and the “there are no shortcuts.”

Anyways, before we even got to trailhead, the adventure began. It was a glorious morning, and by morning I mean middle of the night practically. 14ers are a popular passtime in the summer, so we met up at 4 AM on a Tuesday to make tracks for the mountain. Woof. (And we weren’t the first cars there.) It was almost worth it, though, as there was a beautiful full moon up. Once the sky got a bit lighter, it was even prettier:

full moon dawn

Quandary, unlike some 14ers, starts below treeline. Thus you get a nice, cool, shady ascent at first. Then comes some serious ascending, made less arduous by awesome views into some old mines (Quandary is “close” to Bross), dams, and wildernesses.

Talus begins

Soon enough, however, you get into… the talus.

2013-07-23 09.43.46

Quandary is like… all talus, all the time. Frankly, it kind of sucks. My feet were more sore after this 7ish mile hike than they’ve been, in friggin Vibrams, after a 15 miler. Woof, with knobs on. Let’s say woof with double knobs on actually–see that incline? Yeah, that’s not the summit above me. Not even close. Quandary has nearly as many false summits as it does talus.

Quandary is also infested with goats:

bottleneck goat


We kept seeing big chunks of shed hair everywhere, and wondering if someone had brought up a pack of huskies or something. Nope, goats. Lots of them. Mean ones, too. This fellow in particular was a prime jerk, literally (in the pre-Google sense) running up on us to stand smack dab in the middle of the trail and eat grass for 20 minutes. They tell dudes—and ladies, I guess—not to pee on the side of trails for exactly this reason: pee is full of salt, goats like salt, turning the sides of trails into a big salt lick attracts ornery old fuckers like this dude. He was still feasting when one foolish hiker who had bottlenecked behind us tried to scare him, waving his arms and shouting, “Go on, goat, git!” The goat promptly became angry, lowered his head, and began to paw the earth. Bad news! People have died from mountain goat gorings, you know. Anyways, Jesse redirected the goat with the use of his magic staff, carved for him by our friend David Ardanuy. All were impressed. There was applause! Jesse got to be King of the Goats for the day.

Jesse and goat

He had me take probably 15 pictures until he was satisfied by this one.

All hardships aside, if you keep your spirits up, Quandary’s summit is actually really awesome. You reach almost-the-top after some brutal talus-strewn switchbacking, and then you traverse along to the spike. I may have gotten a bit of “summit fever” and left Jesse behind at that point, making a break for the summit at full tilt, hooting gleefully, as Jesse hung back, “playing it safe” and scolding me like a chicken about altitude sickness and whatever and blah blah blah.

But eventually, he caught up!


My absolute favorite thing about 14er culture is the taking—and leaving—of signs proclaiming You Made It!! There were maybe ten under a rock for us to choose from. More people came up behind us, carrying their own and leaving them for others. People are thrilled to take your picture with the signs. It’s such a great feeling of “we’re all in this together!” as you all sit and rest at the summit. You see people who passed you on the way up, and they wave and smile; you cheer on all the people you passed. When we saw the aforementioned cheerful-but-skeptical out of towners who had been convinced Quandary was “easy” we huzzahed them and took their pictures. It’s awesome.

And then… it’s time go down.

get down

Double woof with double knobs on. See that road at the bottom? Yeah. Even so… man, I love 14ering!

Next time: pictures from my recent trip to San Francisco!

I conquered my second 14er last Tuesday: Mt. Bierstadt, the mountain that conquered me this past January. I went up maybe a third of the way with Courtney Schaffer and a few other friends, but the snow, cold, and need to slog through two miles of fresh powder along what, in summer, is just the road up to the parking area, made things a little hairy.

When it’s not freezing cold and snowy as hell, Bierstadt is no big deal:

Bierstadt is the mountain on the right. If you click on that picture you can see a little protuberance on the left-ish side of that big round mountain; that’s the summit. It’s a short hike (maybe 7 miles round-trip), and it’s essential in the summer to get up early to do it. Bierstadt’s closeness to Denver and relative ease makes it very popular, and the threat of thunderstorms in the summer means it’s much safer to start early. My hiking partner Jesse and I met up at four thirty A.M. and hit the trail at six thirty. We were not the first up there by any means.

To hike Bierstadt, you go through that valley on a series of bridges over the marshland, then wind up the ridge that’s in the sunlight in that picture. After that you head up up up but the ascent is never particularly dramatic. You do, however, reach one heck of a false summit:

Neither of those bumps is the top. Bwahaha!

Still, the absence of any hard or technical climbing to the summit makes it a breeze to get up that final ascent. You just kind of find patches of dirt and stable rocks to mountain-goat/scrabble up the whole way. I managed it easily in my Vibrams (the hiking kind).

Then you’re at the top! Someone had brought a poster to document their trip, and were passing it around:

Here’s the view from the top of where we’d come from. If you look to the right of the lake you can see a little loop of road. That’s the parking lot!

The back of Bierstadt:

Epic, amiright? That’s why people do 14ers if they’re not into the machismo aspect of the sport.

So then you go back down. No big deal, right? Well, it wouldn’t have been except that I misstepped and sprained my friggin’ ankle about a quarter of the way down. Well, I think I sprained it; it might be a bone bruise. Whatever it is, it’s still hurting. Whatever, anyways, the injury meant I had to hike about three miles back to the car. Here’s about where I sprained it:

That looks far, but it’s really just off the summit. 14ering makes for weird perspective.

The injury was not comfortable, and yet … it’s kind of awesome knowing the amount of pain I can endure and still get myself to safety, if things ever got really real on a hike. It was a hell of a lot easier with Jesse’s help though, mad props to him for tolerantly inching his way down the mountain with me in my hobbled state.

I’m off to Florida, and sea-level tomorrow, where I will continue rehabilitating my ankle!