Saving the World through Mushrooms

I just went to a presentation by the wondrous Paul Stamets. This guy is one heck of a speaker. PLEASE go to anything offered by him in your area. You will not regret it. Scout’s Promise.

This quirky and intelligent man let his love for mushrooms really show. He laughed. He cried. He got super-duper scientific. He stumbled over his words in excitement. I can’t even describe fully the topics he went in to. He shared this video and it made me so happy to watch. And so now I will share it with you!

Almost a minute into the video, there are some mushrooms that I think have such personality. They seem to shyly peek up from behind a log. Too cute. Enjoy.

Never Stop Climbing

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Note the beagle in the lower left for scale.

My mother and I busted out 20 runs on the ski slopes. It was only 1:00 pm, but we felt accomplished and pretty exhausted and decided it was alright to head home. My mom is a nature-nerd. She is always trying to identify birds, animal tracks and trees, so as to keep her outdoor skills in tip-top shape. Along the drive away from the snowy slopes she spotted some Bristlecone Pine trees. I have always been pretty poor at identifying these super old and magical beings. Her mention of them reminded me that I had wanted to show her this GIGANTIC Bristlecone Pine on my friend’s ranch. I immediately took a detour.

My friend, Sergio, is about my mother’s age. He was honored and worried that I was bringing her to tromp through the thigh-high snow to see his prized tree. He wondered if she could make it through, getting snowy and quite a workout. I assured him it would be fine. We made it out to the tree and she immediately began to examine it: the burn scars from fires past, broken limbs, knots and little holes in the bark. I feel like these holes are just calling for me to Imageleave little treasures for future explorers. Sergio was so proud and happy to share his tree-friend with us.

I got the urge to climb this tree. It had been quite a long time since I had climbed trees as I don’t find evergreens too inviting. But this one has perfectly spaced out limbs spiraling up its trunk. I lofted myself up and began the journey towards the sky. Finding a spot to rest and observe, I felt so connected to the tree. I’m not sure I’ve EVER climbed a tree while there was so much snow on the ground. It just never occurred to me as an option. Where has my adventurous side been!?

Slowly swinging myself down, I figured we were just about to head out. I dusted pieces of bark off myself, turning my back to the tree. When I turned back around, the two super-adults were up in the tree; what a surprise!
I was so delighted to see that they were not afraid of falling and hurting themselves. I get so caught up trying to help youth enjoy the outdoors that I often forget about adults. But these two did not need my assistance. They actually gave me hope for my future in nature. Their enthusiasm and willingness to merge with our natural surroundings put a huge smile on my face. That is what I have to look forward to as I age, and I’m happy to witness it in my friend and my mother.

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Log Rolling

What? Log rolling classes?! Offered at the South Park Recreation Center?!?! Yes. It’s true. How could any athletic person turn down an opportunity like that? Well. I guess some folks could, but I wasn’t about to. 

Instructor Sam Hadley has been log rolling for 20+ years. Whoa. What 7 year old says to their parents, “I want to balance precariously on a moving object floating on water”? I’m not sure that would fly with a lot of parents these days. There is an ever increasing fear of injury for children. In my childhood home, there were two great big trees. I would climb to the very tip top of them and never had too much concern for falling the 30+ feet down. I remember how my mother would dismiss me for the afternoon, allowing me to explore my neighborhood for hours with my friends unattended. Sometimes I would come home a bit broken, but what great experiences I had. Once in a minor bicycling accident I rode over my sister’s head. I’ll never forget that….

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Instructors Sam & Adam showing us how it’s done.

 

But I digress. Sam is awesome. She makes this tricky activity look so simple. She doesn’t even fall off the log; she simply slows down its rotating speed and pops off by choice. I was impressed and enthusiastic that I could accomplish something kind of similar. 

Two steps and an instant fall. Bruised shins. The elementary aged children in the class were dominating me. They were good. That low center of balance really works to their advantage. The splashing into the pool made “failure” less irritating and much more fun. I am pretty sure I smiled the entire time. And boy was I tired by the end of an hour, constantly rotating between two children, one teen and two adults on the log. 

 

HIGHLY recommend this unique activity to anyone who has the opportunity. If you’re in Fairplay, they offer an hour class every Tuesday evening. Take advantage. Explore.

Beaver Creek Snowshoe

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Just minutes northeast of Fairplay is a delightful hiking area on Pike National Forest. I simply call it Beaver Creek, the body of water that streams past the trails, even though I think its technical name is a series of numbers. I like my name better.

My friend came through for a visit and we wanted to go snowshoeing. Honestly, the trail was so well packed down that fancy snowshoe gear was not necessary. But we did get the extra exercise from lugging those fat feet around and got the opportunity to do some minor off trail trips.

We struggled to get ourselves out of the house with an overcast snowing sky. Once we managed to make the short drive, the sky cleared up and the sun shined down on us. It was beautiful. We ran into other adventurers along the way: snowmobilers, cross country skiers, other snowshoers, hikers. I absolutely enjoy seeing signs of my fellow community members relishing in the great outdoors.

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My favorite sight was coming across a primitive teepee atop a hill, overlooking the mountains surrounding us. Sometimes I struggle to know how I feel about people “leaving a trace” such as these. I have been ingrained to follow leave no trace principles, making sure to diminish any signs that I have been outdoors; preserving the purity of the land for others to enjoy in the same fashion as I had.

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I certainly see the point to LNT ethics. I even have a favorite one: Be Considerate of Other Visitors. This entails thinking of how the noises you make affect passersby, proper yielding to others on trails, locations you choose for picnicking and camping. I even take it a small step farther and try not to wear “loud” clothing and gear. I don’t mean loud as in noisy, but more along the lines of bright and disruptive of the sight others are trying to see.

And yet, I have to admit that I LOVED seeing this teepee. I didn’t care how it went against everything LNT. I imagined that a couple brought their two children out last summer for a romp in the woods. The sweet children were taking their time, getting tuckered pretty quickly. Their little legs needed to take a rest. Mom started to balance three dead, skinny logs on one another. Dad added four more logs. It soon becomes a team effort and they scavenged for more and more downed and dead trees. The final product: a wilderness sanctuary and memory. And they got to share it all with me. Thank goodness for breaking the rules.

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Breckenridge – Peak 6

“Is it going to be this windy over the pass?”, my brother asked me as we drove from Fairplay to Breckenridge.

“Oh no. Don’t worry. Usually the weather is opposite from what it is here. It’ll be great. I promise.”

I am such a liar.

Trees became more sparse as we rode up the Kensho Superchair, exposing us to the harsh winds. I encouraged a few strangers to board with us, hoping that they would help to block the wind. No such luck. That wind blew straight into our faces. Swaying and rocking in the wind, we finally make it to the top.

My first run I went skier’s left and heading down double black diamond Wonderland. As I drifted in the wind I found it extremely difficult to see anything. It was snowing, the lighting was flat and the wind was whipping up a cloud of white in front of me. I couldn’t quite tell where or how fast I was going. I was given the feelings of vertigo. It was kind of nice. An endorphin release and a ski-high ensued. Awesome.

Wonderland was not as difficult as the rating let on. I barreled through it to get into the trees and out of the wind. Whew. Finally some relief. Now for some fun in the trees! It was calm in there with piles of untouched powder. I popped out somewhere after blue run Nirvana and made my way back to the lift. At first ascent, I thought there was no way I would subject myself to those winds again. But after the fun in the trees, I couldn’t help myself. Back up the lift I went!

Ok. Let’s try skier’s right. I rode along the line of the lift, taking blue run Bliss down. It is such a smooth ride. Once again, in a vertigo stupor, I couldn’t tell my speed or exactly where to go. It was as if I was riding a wave. Or among clouds. We went into the trees between the lift and blue run Deja Vu. It was calm. Quiet. Peaceful. 

“I’ve been impaled!”, I yelled.

“It’s okay. I hit limbs all the time. Just brush it off and keep going.”, replied my riding partner.

“I don’t think you understand. There is a hole in my jacket and a small limb sticking out.”

“Oh. Well. That sucks.”

“At least there’s not a hole in my arm…”

Ok. One more time. That ‘wave-riding’ was too much fun not to do again. We head back up, watching as other riders admit defeat from the battle with the wind and ride the lift back down. Repeating the previous ride, my brother is seemingly blown over by the wind. Hilarious. A little scary, but more funny than anything. As I catch up to a gathering point for us, I get my ski caught and 100% face-plant. When I pulled my head out from the snow, one of my skis has come off and is lying across my head. I’m sure it was amusing to witness.

We pulled ourselves together and headed for the same patch of trees as before. I didn’t fare as well this time, falling a few turns here and there. Snagging my pole strap on trees. Getting my upper body somehow stuck in tree wells. Using trees to pull myself back into upright positions. My rein on Peak 6 had come to an end. I truly cannot wait to do it again. So. Much. Fun.

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Note: Due to the crazy weather, I didn’t dare try to take any photos this day. Sorry! You’ll just have to let your imagination do it’s thing.

Alternative Super Bowl Sunday

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Sitting around the TV, eating chips and dip while watching the Broncos get pummeled. I’m so glad this wasn’t how my past Sunday played out. Expecting the out-of-doors to have low attendance, I headed over to Buena Vista to try out a new trail.

My destination was the Avalanche Trailhead, out towards Cottonwood Pass. Part of me felt that the name should tip me off to stay away, particularly when there was a bunch of fresh snow. But I’m not scared! Perhaps slightly foolish?

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I’m super familiar with this location in the summer, using it as a great free camping spot (shhh…. don’t let the secret out too much). The Colorado Trail heads straight through this area and I thought it might be a good spot to cross county ski, especially with all the recent snowfall.

Our plan was to head across the creek and follow the flow of the water. Unfortunately there were no tracks laid out for us to follow. We crossed the road from the parking lot and traveled through the campground, blanketed in a thick layer of snow. Middle Cottonwood Creek was still flowing, which made it difficult to find a good place to cross. But we eventually did.

I have never had to lay tracks for a cross country path before. They’ve always been waiting for me; calling for me to glide over them. Putting in my 

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own path was very hard. I did not make much progress, sinking in deep every few feet. Even though my distance was lacking, the overall experience was plentiful. It was quiet, except for the trickling of the creek. The trees were beautiful as well as the views of the mountains. I declared it a success, but in a different way than I had expected from the start.

After all that hard work, I needed to relax. Luckily the Cottonwood Hot Springs was a short drive. Once again, I was anticipating absolutely no crowd due to the football game. I was wrong! There were quite a few people hanging out in the wonderfully warm waters. As much as I enjoy having a quiet space outdoors to myself, it is always satisfying to know that others are taking advantage of the opportunities as much as I am.

Powder Day at Breck

My Drive to Breck

My Drive to Breck

Powder days. Some people love them, others don’t have the skills to manage them. I’m somewhere in between. The only way I’ll get better is by diving face first into all that snow.

My buddy, Daniel, and I headed out to Breckenridge yesterday after 26” of snow had fallen. I was super excited to try a few new things: my new Smith Turbo goggles, my new cloudveil ski pants, my new Outdoor Research jacket, and some rented Salomon skis. I’ll report from top to bottom.

meI wear glasses. All the time. Contacts aren’t for me one bit. So when it comes to goggles, I need to wear my glasses underneath. Once I’ve skied a few runs, my body gives off some heat and fogs up not only the goggles but my glasses underneath. Double fog. It sucks. Seriously. So I bought a pair of Smith Phenom Turbo Fan Goggles. They have this little battery operated fan inside that when turned on is intended to reduce the fog. I gave it a whirl. Indeed, the fog was eliminated. It even has a boost mode to get that fog out crazy quick! I had two complaints. #1: It hums. I can hear it hum while skiing, which sort of distracts me from my downhill-Zen-zone.  #2: It was difficult for me to tell if I had it in the boost mode or not. That might just be something I get used to with time. Overall, I could see clearly for almost my entire day.

 

Empty Lifts at the End of the Day

Empty Lifts at the End of the Day

The FIRC Thrift Store in Breckenridge can have some stellar finds. For me, it was a pair of women’s Cloudveil shell pants. They are a smidgen too big, but for $25 I’m not complaining about a never used pair. I wondered about them being simply shells if I would be warm enough on the slopes. They certainly passed the test: I didn’t think once about my legs. I wasn’t cold. I wasn’t hot. Just a great middle ground. They have three waterproof zippers that held everything I needed. And my favorite part, there are waterproof zippers all down the sides of the legs for optional ventilation. I couldn’t be happier with these pants.

A couple of months back I took part in an eBay auction hosted by Leave No Trace. I got a couple of sweet brand new items for super reasonable prices, included an Outdoor Research Women’s Envy Jacket. Because of the auction, I got the jacket for only 40% of its retail price! It’s a great shell that I have worn a few times before. I wanted to mention it today because of an issue I had yesterday. I became entrapped in this jacket. The zippers would not release. I could slide up and down, but never to completion. I love this jacket, but it has now become a pull-over-the-head garment. I need to figure out how to fix this, or ask Outdoor Research to trade it for a new one. Do they do that?

Friends

Friends

I’ve been trying out a few skis, renting from High Alpine Sports in Fairplay. They have super great customer service, and I really wanted to buy some skis from them. When I went in yesterday to pick up some pre-arranged skis, they had another pair set aside for me to consider. They were a beautiful pair of blue Salomon: BBR S-Shape powder skis. Of course with all the new powder, I had to try some powder skis. I have never had more fun with a pair of skis. They kept me afloat (most of the time) and kept me at a great speed. With all the smiling they caused, I went back today and bought them from the rental store. They definitely deserve to be in my permanent collection.

A great day with some good outcomes. I hope that the trend continues!

Climbing Hills & Rocks

DSC03768Volunteering is an activity that brings great joy to me. It had been a while since I had an opportunity to do so. My mother and I made plans to lead a guided snowshoe hike at Mueller State Park. Leading up to the day there was warm weather and absolutely no new snow. Despite all my wishful thoughts, it was obvious at the trailhead that snowshoes were not necessary. Something that I have learned about leading outdoor activities is that the greatest tool can be flexibility. I popped on my crampons, kept my encouraging smile on and down the trail we went.

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Almost all trails at Mueller State Park start downhill and end uphill. With knowledge of the terrain you can plan for the uphill slope to be the more gradual direction. Or the downhill, if that’s what you are hoping for. Desiring the prior plan, we tackled Preacher’s Hollow in a counter-clockwise direction. The exposed slope was mostly melted with scattered patches of ice. The group tromped down while chatting, getting acquainted with one another. It’s amazing how much in common we had for being mostly strangers.

Our Route, Marked in Yellow

Our Route, Marked in Yellow

The closer we got to the bottom of the hike, the more the ice presented itself at our feet. Let me tell you, the crampons work. No slipping for me. I felt pleasure in the crunching and scratching below my feet. It’s so wonderful when outdoor gear really works as it should.

We reached the bottom in a leisurely 40 minutes. Now for the uphill climb. The trees surrounding us brought real snow to our path! We were also in the presence of the gorgeous rounded Pikes Peak Granite boulders. These rocks are one of the many reasons I enjoy time at Mueller State Park. We made the climb with scattered breaks. At one point, a rabbit attempted to dart across the trail and ran straight into our feet. He quickly darted back towards his original direction, hiding in the shrubs. After another 40 minutes, we completed the 2 mile loop and arrived back at the trailhead.

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Well wonderful. How do I like to celebrate a hike-well-accomplished? By going to the climbing gym. A wonderful gym in downtown Colorado Springs was my destination. It had been a year and a half since I had the pleasure of rock climbing and I was elated to strap my harness and shoes on at CityRock.

Route one. Boom! I destroyed it.Bouldering

Route two. Yikes. My entire upper arms and hands got so tense and refused to relax.

We took a break and continued with some bouldering.

The gym was really packed with people spanning all ages. Children, teens, middle-agers, mothers. There was such a great energy there that made me feel like I was accomplished no matter when I decided to call it quits. Definitely one of my favorite climbing gyms and a great end to my day.

Grouse Creek Hike

ImageI went on this hike over the weekend in Minturn, Colorado while visiting a friend. The trailhead was easily accessible and quite popular. Even though the temperature was just at freezing, the full exposure of the sun’s rays really made the hike warm. I even de-layered to the bare minimum.

Located on White River National Forest land, this trailhead branched off into a small maze of options. We opted for a loop, which is almost always my preference. There were snowshoers, hikers, cross country skiers, sledders and snowmobilers taking action on the hills. Because of their activity, snow on the trail was packed down and we opted to leave our snowshoes in the car, proceeding on foot.

Even though the parking lot was next to a busy road, the noise pollution quickly 

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disappeared and left us in a snow covered forest of silence. This trail was beautiful. It meandered uphill through evergreen forests along a still flowing West Grouse Creek. There were not too many stretches where the elevation was constant, sending us on a continuous climb. The farther we traveled, the less snow packed the trail became. All three of us began to sink in every few steps, making us look as though we were limping. At one point we post-holed all the way up to our hips!

We made it to the top with a view looking down into the valley. The hike down was straight, exposed and well-traveled. No more sinking into soft snow. It was a perfect downhill line to the parking lot. We wished we had brought along a sled to ride down. Next time.

 

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Our 5 Mile Route, Marked in Purple

 

Ken’s Cabin

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I spent the past couple of days embarking on a new adventure for myself: an overnight backcountry trip in a snowy winter wonderland. I’ve spent time camping in the winter, but it was in Texas. No snow. I was really excited to try something new and a little bit scary.

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The Crew: Me, Krishna and Mom

To head up to Ken’s Cabin, we parked in Breckenridge and began the cross country ski up. Oh boy was it a blustery day to travel towards the Continental Divide. Luckily the windy snow was blowing at our backs and not our faces. The route was along an old railroad, which is closed to vehicles in the winter. The farther we went along our path, the less traveled it became and more it became difficult to see where to go. At times, the wind would scoop up a load of fresh snow and create a complete white out.

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Baker’s Tank, Our Halfway Marker

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Remnants of a Season Passed

We trudged along, one ski climbing in front of the other. It was not all that steep, but a long trip. The last third of the ski I began to get whiffs of a phantom-fire. My sweetheart, Krishna, went on ahead and was tasked with heating the cabin up. I kept thinking, “That’s a fire I smell. This cabin has got to be just around the bend.” No. It was not around the bend. Or the next. Instead I was faced with gusts of winds that nearly knocked me over. Four hours after leaving the trailhead, I finally reached Ken’s Cabin with great relief.

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Ken’s Cabin at Boreas Pass on the Continental Divide, 11,481 Feet

The one room cabin had everything needed for the overnight stay: a kitchen, two beds, a wood burning stove, and plenty of water in the form of snow. The only electricity was provided in the form of three light bulbs powered by solar panels. It was windy outside, but toasty warm and calm inside. We spent our evening making delicious food and conversation.

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Our Route, Marked in Green

In the morning, we took our time making breakfast and cleaning the cabin for the next visitors. I entered us into the logbook with a great flip-art of our trip. We headed down the mountain, the six miles taking me only three hours to glide. I greatly enjoyed the downhill gliding over the uphill creeping. As time went by, the path became more and more traveled. Where the previous day I longed for the signs of others to show me the way in the snow, today I wished for the solitude of the woods to extend longer. The weather was much more mild and enjoyable than the previous day with an occasional sun peeping to say hello and snow flurries falling from above to kiss us goodbye. 

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