November: It’s a wrap (except I have yet to wrap up August, September, or October)

It would appear I’m down to weekly updates these days so I’ll take what I can get, especially with the busy holidays coming up. In 2018, my resolution is to do better! Here’s the ’411.’

Thanksgiving was great despite the fact it’s probably my least favorite holiday. Football. Food I don’t like (except for the pies and rolls). But it’s sure nice to have Jamie’s family in Salt Lake City. We had a nice, leisurely day eating, playing Pictionary and watching movies because nothing says “Happy Thanksgiving” like watching Poltergeist. For Black Friday, Jamie’s mom took Hadley shopping (bless her heart) while Jamie and I hit a few stores. No, we’re not those crazies who get up at dawn to fight the crowds but went to stores like Ross and TJ Maxx that were ghost towns. We need to take full advantage of every opportunity when we’re in the “big city.”

After shopping, I took Jamie’s sister hiking with Jamie, Bode and me. I lived in SLC for five years after college and was a trail-running beast–I knew every single trail along the Wasatch Front during those glory days. I was going to take them up one of my favorite hikes, the Living Room, but Lisa doesn’t hike much so we opted for something a bit more mild behind Red Butte Gardens. Until Jamie and Bode thought it would be a good idea to take a sketchy trail straight down to the base. Lisa did fine; I almost died (worst knee pain ever). I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy yelling at Jamie but this is a collage Lisa posted.

I’m still actively searching for a part-time job. Business is still going well for Mile High Mamas and I’m loving all the VIP holiday invites and travel gigs I continue to pass up.  I’m not good in this waiting place–I’d rather delve in head-first, particularly when we’re under so many financial strains like needing to buy a new car. We’ve proven we can mostly get by as a one-car family but winter driving and my out-of-commission Pilot will be another story completely. My friend Kelly is a Presidential Diamond doTerra rockstar who is drowning with work and a move next month so I offered to help out in December. It’s a win-win. She needs assistance, I need some extra cash.

Related: Remember that BYU job they assured me was mine? I was curious to see who they hired instead. They were looking for a writing ventriloquist (someone who could write in several voices for different shows/series, be engaging, funny, etc.) so I tracked down some of their material and it was so bland, boring and BLAH that I could’t believe I was beat out by such a terrible writer. I’m not sure if that makes me happy or sad. Mostly sad because it really was the perfect position for me.

We moved into our house a little over a year ago and I still miss our Colorado friends like crazy. We have friends, even some good friends, but they just don’t socialize like we did in Colorado. I’m not sure if it’s because people have larger families or are busier here but I’ve struggled that we don’t have adventure buddies. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m the one doing the inviting and I’m burned out from always being That Person. So, I was thrilled when my friend Sarah invited us and another family to her Uncle Brandt’s cabin overlooking the Tetons in Idaho. That trip deserves a separate post unto itself but it has been one of my favorite adventures since moving here.

BYU has had one of its worst seasons in their football history so we didn’t buy tickets (and really, who could top last year’s AMAZING EXPERIENCE?) However, my friend Julie called me at the last minute and offered up her tickets. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Jamie, how busy are you today?” Him: “Really busy.” Me: “That’s too bad because Julie just called and wants to know if we can use her BYU football tickets. The game starts in an hour.” Him: “EVERYONE GET READY. WE HAVE TO GO NOWWW!!!”


Fortunately, BYU’s basketball team is doing much better. Jamie’s dad has season passes so we recently enjoyed a nice date night. I really like this guy despite the fact I’m a sports widow when both football and basketball are in season. And that he takes me down precipitous cliffs. 

Utah has no snow. I won’t expound any further upon my displeasure. A few weeks ago, we attended the Winter Kick-off Party at Park City Mountain. The free eats and alpine coasters confirmed we’re THOSE people who scream at anyone ahead of us who dares to brake. 

I’m trying to make lemonade despite my lack of lemons. Jamie and I did a lunchtime hike at Soldier Hollow this week (where Bode is supposed to start ski lessons in a few weeks). It’s lookin’…BROWN.

This photo was taken moments before the wipeout of a lifetime and a sprained arm from playing Pokémon Go a.k.a. Blood Sport.

Some of my favorite hikes are the ones no one knows about and my friend Mindi is the Queen of Off the Beaten Path! I was so happy to hike Sid’s Canyon with these fellow Colorado-turned-Utah gals…even if the steep climbs kicked my butt.

And today, I went mountain biking. I have a map that says there is a perimeter trail around Jordanelle Reservoir but my explorations navigating broken bridges, streams, mud pits and ice in the Rock Cliffs area testified otherwise.


“That Amber, she sure is a smart girl.” #saidnoonever .

P.S. I’m totally bringing my kids back there.

Top 15 Park City Adventures in the Fall

I’ve long skied Park City in the winter, cruised down the alpine coaster in the summer but have never been there in the off-season.  Park City’s fall has unfolded like a gorgeous wave, starting with the crimsons and burnt oranges of the oaks and maples, and ending with the pure liquid aspen gold.

Though I’ve wanted to adventure daily, I’ve been limited on time between chauffeuring kids, household chores and work but I’ve made a point to get out at least a few times a week. Near the end of our stay, I stopped in to White Pine Touring for a map of area trails and was pleased to discover I’d managed to hit all the major hubs. Not bad for a rookie!

Here’s a recap of my Park City adventures:

1) Biking around the base of Park City Canyons Village did not suck. Their $21 hamburgers did. 

2) Biking the Millennium Trail from the townhome to Gorgoza Park. This paved trail system provides connectivity throughout the Snyderville Basin and Park City and goes for miles.

3) Willow Creek Trail. This was a fun one to unearth. I was planning to explore the trail that winds down to Historic Main Street when I discovered the Willow Creek trail system that winds around 66 acres of undeveloped open space under a conservation easement with Utah Open Lands. Willow Creek Park is one of the best in Park City.

4) No worries, I took the trail to downtown Park City another day and was not disappointed.

5) Nighttime strolls up to the base of Canyons Village and fun photo filters. This was taken literally right outside our door.

6) Shoe Tree Park. This one was a delight to uncover during my bike ride along the McCleod Trail/ Willow Creek/Hwy 224 Connector  that extends from Kimball Junction to Downtown Park City. You know a town is cool when it has a funky park with shoes, cowboy boots and even ski boots in the trees.

And strange red moss nearby.

7) Deer Valley is a splurge but for girl’s night, we had a glorious time exploring the trails adjacent to the St. Regis. Luxury ain’t free but these fall colors were.

8) If you’re going to do just one exploration in Park City, I highly recommend following the paved trail to the picturesque white barn known as the “McPolin Farm.” Heaped in history, this 100-year-old barn received national status as an Historic Landmark.

Launching kids in the air en route: highly recommended.

9) Most of my mountain biking expeditions had been on paved or easy trails but this was my foray into singletrack and it might be my favorite fall ride ever! Skid Row: I highly recommend it. #ThingsINeverWould HaveSaidBeforeMovingtoParkCity

10) One of my longtime bloggers connected me with her sister Sheri who moved to Park City last year. You’ll never find me in her hot yoga class but a friendship was borne as we climbed Ecker Hill.

11) Trailside Park. I took a different route home from dropping off the kids and stumbled upon an irresistible network of trails and bike park. When I got out of the car to explore in the rain (without the proper gear, of course), the song “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder” played on the radio. No chance of that with wonders around every corner in Park City.

12) My friend Kristen lives in my dream home in Jeremy Ranch. Literally right at her fingertips is the Glenwild Area’s expansive network of trails. She, Lexi and I had so much fun exploring one day…

…that I had to return a few days later to explore the Flying Dog Trail. 

13) Guardsman Pass Scenic Byway connects Heber to Park City to Salt Lake City. I have only three words for this view of the Heber Valley: Oh. My. Gosh.

14) Round Valley wasn’t particularly scenic (unless you like sage brush and scrub oak) but for the novice mountain biker, it’s a pretty amazing place. I tackled a couple of different trailheads: hiked from The Cove (and got a bit lost before meeting Jamie for lunch) and mountain biked Silver Quinn–the paved trail from Quinn’s Junction–to City Park and then hopped on the adjacent singletrack for a wild ride on Rambler. 

14) The Rail Trail is a highly-touted abandoned railroad corridor-turned-non-motorized path that travels 28 miles out of town. I biked 6 miles from the White Pine Touring trailhead to Prospector and it was so underwhelming (unless you like cows that run in front of you) that I did a big loop by biking along the Old Highway 40, crossing to the other side, following Silver Quinn through City Park and then reconnecting with the Rail Trail. At least the ride back was considerably more scenic. Sorry, bovines. You needed to MOOOOVE over.

15) Mid-Mountain. My friend Dave has been raving about his love for mountain biking the famed Mid-Mountain trail at Park City resort for years. An intimate and spectacular trail that sits at about 8,000 feet, it spans 28 miles. There are many options for places to start, one of the most popular being Silver Lake Lodge at Deer Valley. Since we lived at the “finish line” a.k.a. Canyons Village, I planned to do it backwards…but didn’t realize it’s quite a trek just to reach mid-mountain. And so I did a couple of mini-treks that started right in our Sun Peak neighborhood at Rob’s Trail. The problem: I was always short on time so could only hike a couple of miles. 

On another day, I set out to walk around the Sun Peak neighborhood when I discovered a higher access point for Rob’s trail so did a big loop but was frustrated not to have time to reach Mid-Mountain. I came home and ranted to Jamie [without taking a breath]: “I started to take a neighbor walk but then discovered even more trails and I had to take them even though I didn’t have any time, water or supplies and there are even more trails I have to go back and explore because I couldn’t hike them all today and I’ll NEVER be able to hike them all and…curse you, Park City!”

Jamie [without flinching]: “I don’t know if you’re lying to me or you’re lying to yourself.”#TheEntireDynamicOfOurMarriageSummedUp

A week later, I set out to hike that higher access point for Rob’s Trail off Bear Hollow Drive. I was pressed for time: we had our house’s walk-through that afternoon so I needed to make it quick. From the very beginning, it was absolutely my favorite hike in Park City.

I was having a grand ol’ time minding my own business when, for the first time, I saw the turnoff for Mid-Mountain. Could the Holy Grail of Park City backcountry be near? I checked my watch; I was running out of time. I was determined to get as far as I could and, if needs be, turn around. I ran into two women who’d just returned from Mid-Mountain and I breathlessly asked how much farther. They checked their altimeter. “You have about 1 mile to go.” I kicked it into high-gear with a faster hiking pace and nothing, NOTHING could have prepared me for what awaited me when I turned the last bend to see the very cradle of the mountain in a pathway of golds and greens.

Mid-Mountain was everything I’d dreamed of…and so much more. I could have explored for hours but I was on deadline. For the first time in over a year, I ran. At first, I was tentative to spare my knee but after a few minutes, the familiar rhythm returned to me and I blissfully raced down the mountain, rejoicing how much I missed this freedom of flight and I NEEDED to get back into it.

Until I woke up the next morning and realized I had twisted my uninjured knee and it took me a full week to recover. But you’d better believe Mid-Mountain was worth it.

7-Eleven Day at Play

One of the things I’ll miss the most about Colorado is our posse of friends. I love that when I get one of my hairbrained ideas, I can send an email out and my friends respond. In droves!

July 7 is the hallowed day when 7-Eleven offers free small Slurpees. The kids and I wanted to bike over to get one so why not make an event of it? I invited our peeps to come hang out and then play in Van Bibber Creek with us afterwards.

Best. Friends. Ever!
The girls look sweet but they were actually plotting a movie party at our house the next night. Sucker that I am, I obliged.

We introduced many of these friends to our secret spot in Van Bibber Open Space and I was surprised so few knew about it. In fact, my friend Amy rides through there a lot and didn’t even know there was a creek. I felt honored to pass the torch to the new generation.

Of course, a Van Bibber adventure isn’t the same without a Bike-off where we compete to see who can make it through the creek without falling off. Shockingly, everyone made it through multiple times without incident, even when I did a couple of runs as The Mom Representative.

Bode’s crossing

Kids being kids, they decided to up the degree of difficulty and had splashers on the sidelines.


But in the end, they were the ones who got sprayed the most…and none of us minded one bit.

Life Lessons from my Mountain Bike

The last few weeks have been incredibly stressful [not] selling our house with delays on the permit to build our new one (while feeling frustratingly in limbo), my Mom’s rapidly declining health, financial worries, graduation parties (for dear friends’ kids Jordan, Aidan, Erin and Whitney), Hadley’s Sixth Grade Continuation, her YW New Beginnings and birthday bash, a going-away party, helping at a wedding reception and so much more.

Yesterday, I just needed to get away so I grabbed my bike and, despite foreboding skies, headed up to Boulder. When I arrived at my trailhead, I thought I was going to blow a gasket when I saw the parking area now requires a $5 fee. Welcome to Boulder: the land of incredible vistas, pot-smokers, liberals and where you pay to play. I debated turning around right then but reminded myself YOU NEED THIS so sucked it up.

During that 1.5-hour ride along the Dowdy Draw Trail and Community Ditch network, my mind and attitude started to shift.

Life Lessons on My Ride

1) It’s OK to dismount and hike the technical sections, even when there are others around you who are smoothly navigating them.

2) When the rain comes, it doesn’t always pour so hold off on seeking shelter. Sometimes patience is the answer. This, too shall pass.

3) A difference in perspective makes all the difference. As does reading this inspiring/sobering story  Please Let Me Have Him One More Day in the parking lot after my ride.

 In desperation, I said a silent prayer. I pled with my Father in Heaven to help me feel comfort and find peace. Then, right at that moment everything in my mind went quiet. The chaos in my head subsided as I clearly heard the reminder that the Lord has blessed us with everything in our lives… EVERYTHING, including those special chubby-cheeked linebacker sized babies! All that he asks in return is that we be willing to sacrifice whatever he may ask of us. Are we willing to sacrifice to follow His will for us?… I felt as if the Savior was sitting right beside me. Not as a friend and colleague, but as a much wiser and older brother who knows much more than I. He was offering to help me through this. He was not going to force me to believe and become One with His plan, but instead he was offering it to me. Offering me the choice to join in his embrace and completely turn my life over to him, including whatever obstacles I might face … or I could try to do it on my own.

4) The light will come. As I slowly climbed up the Greenbelt Plateau back to my car, the clouds parted and I was rewarded with green velvet, a profusion of wildflowers and sunshine gold.

The Adventure Converts

In some instances, I’m really good at saying “no.”  Altogether now:

“Mom, can I play eight hours of video games?”


“Mom, can I have my tenth cookie in an hour?”


Easy, right? Where I struggle is when my kiddos are begging for an adventure which, quite frankly, rarely happens. We’re usually just active enough that they enjoy their downtime but on the second week of summer break, Bode came to me complaining he and his buddy Sean had nothing to do.

“Do you want to bike to our nearby open space park, play in the creek and get Slurpees after?”

Slurpees? Creek? Bike? You betcha!

We invited Sean’s sisters Sydney and Maddie, Hadley and our neighbor Sadie to join us. We’re only a 15-minute bike ride away from a glorious 133-acre park with wetlands providing habitat for waterfowl, amphibians and insects, open meadows and a creek. The water is usually very shallow but with all of our rain, it’s a knee-to-waist-deep river.

This picture right here? This. Is. Summer.

Hadley and Bode delved right in but our friends were tentative, not wanting to get their clothes wet, skirting bugs, losing flip flips, squealing about mud. However, after forging through the river, climbing over branches and logs, their adventurous spirits kicked in and they started having a blast.  I took this video at the beginning and I chuckle at their reaction:

And this at the end. They all attempted the river on their bikes except for Bode who was having mechanical difficulties. He won’t get off so easily next time. Here’s Hadley:

Yes, they are obsessed with slow-motion videos and made me capture each of them.

“Next time, I’ll more prepared to get wet,” Sadie exclaimed.

“Yeah, I have some old tennis shoes I’ll wear instead,” proposed Maddie.

“I told you guys we were going to the creek and we’d be getting wet,” I countered.

“I know,” said Sadie. “I just wasn’t expecting this.”

This meaning mud, water, bugs and zero inhibitions. It’s called Adventure 101. Give me your kids and I’ll dirty and toughen them up for the day, so long as you promise to do arts and crafts with mine.

It’s Bode’s first ever guest blog post

And that boy doesn’t disappoint as he tells it straight about his Avid4Adventures:

From stinky, dead bloated fish.

To the girl who wiped out mountain biking and her “skin folded off.”

To his hiking bathroom breaks.

To freaking me out when he rocked the boat.

To kicking his sister’s butt rappelling.

Read all about it here.

Adventuring with Broadmoor Outfitters

For the third year in a row, we were able to return to The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs for Hadley’s birthday. As I was going through my pictures, I realized I never posted about our previous trip–waaaaaaay back in February when I was asked to write a story for their magazine about Broadmoor Outfitters, their onsite outdoor adventure company.

The funny thing is, we had better weather in February than we did over Memorial Day weekend. OK, it’s not that funny. We’ve had a month of non-stop rain, a real rarity in Denver. And though I’d much rather have inclement weather than 100-degree days, I’m ready for my trails to dry out.

During our visit a few months ago, we did it all:  Geocaching at The Broadmoor, a snowy hike and geocache up North Cheyenne Cañon, a mountain bike ride down Gold Camp Road, topped off by rock climbing Garden of the Gods.


It started with our leisurely treasure hunt around the grounds….

From there, we drove up North Cheyenne Cañon, grabbed our GPS units and hiked up Gold Camp Road, a former narrow gauged railroad bed that hauled ore from Cripple Creek to Colorado Springs. There were occasional patches of snow but when we crossed North Cheyenne Creek to start hiking the Seven Bridges Trail, I could have sworn we’d passed through an antique wardrobe into a frosty Narnia forest of ice demons, fairies and a snow queen.

We traversed a couple of the hike’s seven bridges before our GPS unit alerted us we were close to our cache…but then the arrow pointed us off-piste. And way up.

“Wait, we’re supposed to ditch the trail and hike straight up this steep slope?” I queried.

Audacious Hadley didn’t wait for the answer as she and our guide Kurt forged up the mountain in knee-deep snow. Bode and I (the more cautious ones) applauded their progress from the trail while Jamie (maybe the smartest of us all) rested on a boulder. 

And yep, that’s my kid in a T-shirt. She’s half-Canadian.

Mountain Biking

From there, we grabbed our mountain bikes. Though the pitch was moderate, the serpentine, mucky road’s precipitous cliffs and snowy patches still thrilled. I nervously barreled through pitch-black Tunnels 1 and 2 and I vowed to have my eyes checked after my blind foray with the dark side. 

At one point, Kurt pulled off the road, stashed his bike and beckoned us to follow him down the Columbine Trail, a route which leads all the way to the Starsmore Discovery Center at the base of North Cheyenne Cañon. We only hiked a couple of minutes but earned the view of a thousand hours of exertion. The canyon was a staggering cacophony of glimmering snow, velvet-green forests and Pikes Peak Granites’ milky and smoky quartz, pink feldspar and black mica.

From our perch, we could see where the mountains met the foothills and plains with The Broadmoor in the epicenter of it all.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is not my outdoor-loving family’s forté but I knew if we were to be successful, it would be with Broadmoor Outfitters.  We were given our choice of four main routes and I opted for the easiest with nothing to prove beyond having a positive experience and staying alive. Our guide climbed up and built an anchor off the bolts that are secured into the sandstone, gave us some final safety instructions and Hadley generously volunteered me as the guinea pig. Gingerly, I shouted “on belay” and started climbing.

Unlike North Cheyenne Cañon’s granite, Garden of the God’s blush-colored sandstone felt more forgiving with plenty of ledges to rest and “flakes” to grab onto. It didn’t take long before I summited and dizzy with excitement, I marveled at the expansive red-rock sea that had been created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago.

The rappel down was my favorite part and I was greeted by a shocked Bode. “You didn’t think I could do it, did you?”

“I gave you about a 50-50 chance.” He looked ill with anxiety. Vertical rock climbing walls are the nemesis of a judicious kid.

Jamie at the summit

Jamie and Hadley easily reached the top but Hadley froze during the rappel and it took a while to coax her down. And then there was Bode. To combat his apprehension, he had been bouldering at the base envisioning himself as the first American Ninja Kid Warrior. When it was his turn, he tore up and down faster than anyone and was dumbfounded when his feet touched down.

I see a future for him on Mount Midoriyama.

Valentine’s Day Weekend

It was Valentine’s Day and after a full day playing in the outdoors, we were thrilled to have our first 5-star dining experience at The Broadmoor’s Penrose Room. The whole evening is a blur–from the moment we stepped off the elevator and Bode exclaimed, “this is faaaaaaancy,” to the Caesar salad they prepped right at our table to dancing to a live band with mortified Bode (Hadley was equally embarrassed to be swung around with her father) and being so proud of them for their good manners.

Of course, it helped that we had schooled them for a month about proper etiquette, threatening any lapse would be not “Penrose Worthy.”

I think it’s important to expose the kids to different beliefs so we opted to go to a non-denominational service at the Pauline Memorial Chapel located on property. The founder’s wife Julie Penrose oversaw its construction in 1919 and between the considerable collection of religious art and artifacts from Europe, dramatic bell tower and high high buttressed walls,  it reminded me of the early Christian basilicas. It was such a beautiful, moving experience!

The Broadmoor’s famous brunch wasn’t too bad, either. Unless you’ve spent the entire weekend stuffing your face with gourmet food.

At one point, Bode put down his fork, let out a big sigh and said, “I’m not full but my mouth is tired from having so much delicious food in it.”

First World Problems at The Broadmoor.









Southwest Vacations: An iguana bike ride, a too-late discovery and farewell (Cancun Day 4)

Just tuning in? Be sure to first read:

Southwest Vacations: When Getting There is Half the Fun (Cancun Day 1)
Southwest Vacations: The Flowrider’s Hilarity and Beach Bumming (Cancun Day 2)
Southwest Vacations: A Snorkeling Adventure Within a Misadventure (Cancun Day 3)


Biking Explorations

A three-night trip with Southwest Vacations wasn’t nearly enough time to explore the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort. But thankfully our direct Southwest Airlines flight home didn’t leave until 2 p.m. so we had an entire morning to explore. Since our previous three days had been dedicated to the beach, we opted to check-out some bikes and explore the property’s 55 acres of lush tropical foliage.

Moon Palace implements a wildlife monitoring system that has classified 29 reptile species, 112 bird species and 15 mammal species that live and breed in the resort’s natural areas. We were ecstatic when we spotted a white-nosed coati lurking in the jungle and my daughter almost ran over an iguana (chalk those up to things that never happen in Colorado.)


While at the resort, we spent every moment together but my kids were counting down the years until they’d be old enough for the state-of-the-art Wired Teens Lounge. That is, until we stumbled upon the Playroom during our bike ride, a veritable kid’s wonderland geared to potty-trained kids up to age 12.

From various game rooms, an American Ninja-warrior-style play area, outdoor playground, mini-spa, fashion runway to practice the catwalk, a movie theater, arcade, toddler area, Xbox room…the Playroom had it all. What we had intended to be a 5-minute stop turned into an hour and we had to practically drag them out.

For once in their lives, the kids were begging for us to ditch them and we were frustrated we didn’t have enough time before our flight home for them to be ditched.

That is what I call a lose-lose situation.

Our Sad Farewells

Twenty-four hours prior to departure, Lomas Travel called our room to confirm our pick-up time for the airport (usually I’m the one trying to track them down tour operators confirmation).  They were right on schedule, we easily navigated Cancun International Airport and boarded our Southwest Airlines flight to Denver. As we were taking off, I turned around to see this girl of mine.

Sun-kissed. Hair braided. Personalized bracelet. In just four days, she had turned into a Mexican Senorita as she marveled at the wonderland below she had been fortunate to experience.

And so had we all.

It’s a Wrap

Southwest Vacations Shuttle Bus Friends

We arrived in Denver to a cold, snowy night. We collected our luggage, bundled up and loaded the shuttle bus to our car in long-term parking. There were two other couples sitting near us and we started talking.

“I’m so bummed to be home.”

“Me, too. We just got back from Cancun.”

“So did we!”

“Us, three!”

Coincidentally, we had all booked our trips through Southwest Vacations and had been on the same return flight. When I asked about their experience, the younger couple replied, “We had some problems with our hotel the first night. We called Southwest Vacations and they switched us to a different resort with no problems at all.”

The other couple echoed their approval, raving what a smooth trip they’d experienced.

I chuckled. Sure, we’d had some minor bumps in the road due to our own ignorance but it was one of our least stressful vacations ever thanks to being able to pre-book our flights, excursion, resort and transportation.

And finding ourselves in the back of that shuttle bus with those couples was just a reminder of what a small world it is with Southwest Vacations, and that they truly bring the world to you.

Waterton Canyon: A glorious “in between a rock and a hard place”

October 2013 has been one of my favorite months ever. The reason? I’ve been in between a rock and a hard place…in a figurative and literal sense. I’m between projects, have more time to myself than usual and am learning the value of how to just slow down time; that leaving the house at 6:20 a.m. for boot camp and going at warp speed ’til my head hits the pillow is not an optimal way to live.

I’m impatient, I admit it. I feel like The Next Big Thing is around the corner but I’m not sure when or how it will manifest itself. I’m torn between valuing my rare free time while the kids are in school and the nagging guilt of helping our financial situation.

Spring and fall are called the “shoulder seasons” in mountain country…a sort of in-between before the main events of winter and summer. I’m experiencing an in-between season in my life, which is both unsettling and gratifying. But I always have to be moving so I’m trying to remind myself that any progress, no matter how slow, is still progress.

In the interim, I’m seizing the day and knocking off as many bucket list items as possible. One of those is biking the entirety of Waterton Canyon in Littleton, Colorado. This 7-mile-long canyon marks the beginning of  the famous 486-mile Colorado Trail, which roller-coasters its way through six wilderness areas and eight mountain ranges from from Denver to Durango,  topping out at 13,271 feet.

The year before I met Jamie and still lived in Utah, I biked the very end of the Colorado Trail in Durango (read about that adventure and my first 14er in Solo in the San Juans: Exploring Colorado’s Highway to Heaven). Fast-forward 12 years and I biked the beginning of Colorado’s premier long-distance trail. I’m great at beginnings and endings; it’s just the middle stuff that gets murky sometimes.

My family has hiked a portion of Waterton Canyon a couple of times and I attempted to bike it a couple of years ago but didn’t get far on my heavy, outdated mountain bike. But I had no problems last week navigating the wide, relatively flat gravel road beside the South Platte River on my new 29er. A fair number of people were hiking, fishing, running and biking the lower portion of the canyon but the crowds dispersed the further I rode and my only companion was a lone bighorn sheep.

I monitored my distance by the six rest areas, all named after different animals that live in the canyon: Mule Deer, Blue Heron, Black Bear, Mountain Lion, Rattlesnake, and Bighorn Sheep. Signage at each outpost educates you about each of them.

October is such a generous month with its fall colors on display. Everywhere you look the world is giving back.

Upon nearly reaching the Strontia Springs Reservoir (which is closed to the public) and Denver Water buildings at mile 7, the flat, multi-use road arced upward, leading to a much narrower singletrack to the some of the wildest inaccessible backcountry in the Rocky Mountains.

I hid my bike behind a tree and started hiking the Indian Creek Trail. While Waterton Canyon was expansive and broad, I was inundated with trees–making me feel a bit nervous in this inaccessible wilderness.

I’ve spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours by myself on the trail but for some reason, this felt different. Though it was beautiful, I felt nervous to be so completely alone. I’m used to hearing the subtle movement of hidden animals in the trees but after about 40 minutes of hiking, I heard breathing. I called out, hopeful for a human voice but was greeted by silence. Bear sighting signs littered the canyon and I deemed that as my sign to high-tail it back and collect my bike.

I arrived at the car three hours later after biking 14 miles and hiking about 3 miles. I then proceeded to get hurt (wait for it) on the hitch while I was putting my bike in the car.

You win some, you lose some when living between a rock and a hard place.


Getting there: From Denver, take I-70 west to C-470. Take C-470 east to Wadsworth Boulevard. Take a right at the bottom of the exit ramp and drive 4.2 miles. Turn left on Waterton Road. The parking lot will be about a quarter of a mile down and on your left.

My Evil (Murphy’s Law) Twin

We’re trying to navigate the road of being a one-car family since the accident. I thought it would be easy with both of us working from home but between driving kids around, meetings and errands, I’m finding how much I’d just get up and go whenever I wanted.

And confirmed I’m really really not a homebody because I’ve been stuck at home more than I’d like.

Fortunately, my neighbor Monica saved me from the house and suggested I show her the Ralston Creek Trail on our bikes today. I woke up bright and early this morning to pump my tires, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is one of my Top Five Least Favorite Things To Do right after moving, dieting and dying.

We loaded up our bikes into her SUV and drove to the trailhead. And then,

“Uh oh.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Look,” she said, pointing to her two flat tires.

She encouraged me to go without her but I stubbornly said I’d wait while she drove back home to pump her tires (it was too much of a pain to load both bikes in the back of her vehicle again).

And so I waited. And waited. And waited some more.

Eventually, she showed up…with her husband’s bike.

“What happened?”
“I couldn’t get the air compressor to work. It needs a different valve.”
“You have a road bike like mine and need a presta adapter to pump the tires.”
“I called Jamie to come help but he was busy. So I called my husband (who is out of town) and he said to just take his bike.”

In the end, we had a great ride but leading up to that point? It was hanging out with myself.

And not in a good way. :-)