Weekend Recap: Hiking, Biking, and Red Rocking

This was the most perfect, wonderful Labor Day weekend I can remember. I got to do so many amazing things that are so unique to my new state, and I ended it just feeling like the luckiest person in the world to get to live here! This went a long way toward making me feel better about leaving Dallas and breaking up the routine I’ve had going for several years.

On Thursday, I think part of why I was stressed about leaving Dallas was the fact that I had almost no plans for the holiday weekend. That is so not like me to have even a regular weekend that’s not completely booked, so the fact that it was a three day weekend was even more strange. I know any therapist worth her salt would tell me that I need to just relax and assume that something fun will pop up even if I don’t have plans, but I get really anxious about the possibility of having nothing to do and being bored. (I am thinking a lot lately about the Wired article I posted in this week’s Links I Love and how maybe I should start experimenting with letting myself get bored… but am not quite ready to do that yet.) Anyway, this weekend, most of my friends were either out of town or had family visiting, so I turned to another source: Meetup.com, an activity groups site, where I’ve really enjoyed making lots of new friends since moving here.

I had tried Meetup a bit when I was in New York and met a few groups of cool people that way – like the amazing Some of the Girls brunch/book club/general awesome social activities group. (Seriously, if you live in New York, go join – those women are fantastic!) But outside of that, for the most part, I felt like the Meetup groups I joined in New York had people who were looking for friends for a reason… because they were a little bit off. (I know, who am I to judge, but that was how I felt.) In Colorado, though, the Meetup groups have yielded a ton of really awesome people (and no weirdos? So far…). On Thursday night, I branched out from the groups that I had already joined and started trolling the “All Meetups within 25 miles of you” calendar to see what other groups were doing this weekend… and I found a group called Trails and Ales. How had I never heard of this one before? They had several group leaders taking trips out the next day, which is how I came to find myself up at 4:30am on Saturday morning and headed out to a 13er in the Front Range.

Our fearless leader Gretchen had assembled a group of seven to tackle Pettingell Peak, which was really close by in the Front Range. However, despite its proximity to Denver, we basically had the whole mountain to ourselves! There were a few people at Herman Lake, which was about 3 miles in from the trailhead with 1600 feet of elevation gain to get there.

Herman Gulch Trail

I loved looking forward to the sunlight ahead on this winding trail through the woods! And this first 1600 feet felt pretty easy.

Once we got past the lake, though, things got a little more intense.

Laura At Herman Lake

See that peak way up behind me? That’s where we were headed.

I warned the group right from the start that I am not fully acclimated yet – and in fact, had just come back from the “flatland” (always pronounced here with scorn, I’ve learned) 36 hours before setting out on this hike. I knew going into the hike that I was going to be slow, and I had even considered just showing up to the mountain without signing up for the group, so that I could do the hike at my own pace but know that there would be others out there. However, they assured me that they didn’t mind waiting, and Gretchen was awesome about waiting for me every 50 feet or so, so I wouldn’t even get that far behind.

I won’t say the ascent was fun, especially since I spent most of it berating myself for being so much slower than everyone else, and getting frustrated by my inability to breathe. As I had done on Mount Princeton, I resorted to a counting system to help me power through: 25 steps, timed with my breath, and then 25 (shallow) breaths stopped before continuing on. The altitude was particularly bad for me since I had just flown into town, but I’m hopeful that switching my focus from 14ers to 13ers will mean an easier time going forward. However, while it got cold and windy as we approached the top, just like my attempt at Mount Sherman, this time I came prepared with ski gloves, a hat, and way more layers. The wind sucked, but I knew that I could make it.

Final Ascent

Here’s a shot the rest of the group took of me and Gretchen making our final ascent of the (slightly unstable) rocks. Scary!

We finally made it to the top, and the wind even died down at just the right moment so that we were all able to sit up there for a while and snack, enjoy the views, etc.

Summit of Pettingell Peak

We did it!

Not too long up there, though, since we all wanted to get back down and head to Tommyknockers Brewpub for the real celebration :) It was great to get to share some food and drink with this group after our fun adventure, and I am now a huge Trails and Ales fan. Sign me up for the next hike!

I headed to bed pretty early on Saturday, since I was tired from the hike, but Sunday I set out to explore Colorado from a different perspective: on bike! My friend Kelly met me at my apartment complex and we headed out on a nice 19 mile ride that let me get used to road biking. Next weekend, we’ll be going out to Palisade for the annual Den Grand Fondo bike ride and wine tasting, so I was happy to get the chance to try out the new bike and kit that Kelly and her husband were letting me borrow!

Kelly & Laura Biking

I couldn’t find my nice sports sunglasses so I grabbed a regular pair. Pro cycling fail!

I was pleasantly surprised how quickly the ride flew by – we were done in well under 2 hours. I know that 10mph is a very leisurely pace, biking-wise, but we were taking it easy and it was on some hilly terrain, so I felt good about that. Hopefully next weekend will be easier than I think!

Biking El Dorado

And as gorgeous as this area was to ride, I know that biking the National Monument will be even better!

I spent the rest of the day lazing around and getting a lot of reading done. I’ve been reading a lot more lately now that I’m home, especially since I am obsessed with the big leather library chair I bought for my living room. I used to read 100 books a year, but this year I have really fallen off that and am at only 34 so far. It’s not really a goal I care that much about, so I wasn’t really thinking too much about it… but now I’m wondering if I should go after 75 books instead of ignoring it completely? I bet I can get closer than I once thought, especially if I carve out time every night for reading. After all, I read 8 books in the month of August, so that doesn’t seem too unattainable. Maybe this September will be back to the books for me after all!

After a night of reading, I got up early on Monday morning for another hike though – this one in town. (Well, mostly.) I started at the South Mesa Trailhead and headed up to South Boulder Peak – for an elevation gain of 3,000 feet and 8.2 miles of distance covered by the time I got back to my car! That was almost as much as I had covered on Saturday doing Pettingell, but it felt so much easier since the altitude was about 5,000 feet lower. I had a blast, and hiking solo listening to some great podcasts also reassured me that I’m not out of shape, and that perhaps I’ll do better at the bigger peaks once I can just actually live in Colorado for a while and better acclimate.

View From South Boulder Peak

Sat perched here on a rock and read for a while. You can’t ask for a better view!

Finally, I closed out the weekend with a little parking lot barbecue and then concert at Red Rocks along with a bunch of my friends.

Concert At Red Rocks

Red Rocks Amphitheater is by far the best concert venue in the country – sorry, SPAC, you just don’t hold a candle to this backdrop.

Who did we see, you might ask? (Mumbles) OneRepublic. None of us were particularly big fans, but we figured it would be great to see anyone at Red Rocks, and OneRepublic surprised us by being pretty awesome. I also loved the opening act, Saints of Valory, who are actually from Austin – so a little bit of Texas in Colorado :)

Most of all, though, I just loved being in the amphitheater with most of my Colorado best friends, getting to wave our glowsticks and watch the lights twinkling in the city of Denver in the distance, while the big red rocks flanked all 10,000 people in the audience on either side.

Glowsticks At Red Rocks

Okay, maybe not the best picture, but the atmosphere was magical.

When the band sang “Good Life,” it just felt like the perfect anthem for my move here. “To my friends in New York, I say hello,” but now I’m in Colorado for good, and it really does feel like a homecoming (even though, unlike the band, I’ve never before lived here). This weekend I got to explore so much of what Colorado has to offer, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have had the opportunity to choose to move here, what I consider to be the most perfect place in the country. This could really be a good life – a good, great life.

Comments

  1. Looks like a fantastic weekend! Trails and Ales sounds like a pretty fun group!
    Cassie @ Rural Running Redhead recently posted…Fall Classic Marathon Training, Week 13My Profile

  2. I love all these photos of you hiking (here and on Instagram)! I can’t wait to be in Colorado!
    Julie recently posted…“You’re loving life right now.”My Profile

  3. I think what you said about the people on meetup is pretty insulting. I’ve been to plenty of meetups and met some really great people (in fact, I met my boyfriend through a meetup group). I am introverted, and without social opportunities at work, I need things like meetups to get me out there to meet new people. It does not mean that there is something “off” with me and it bothers me that you’ve made that generalization about people who use meetup. You might meet an odd person here and there, but that’s true about the world in general. I’m glad this particular meetup group worked out for you, and I hope it has changed your prejudice about people who use meetups.

    • I apologize – I really didn’t mean to be insulting! To your point, I think so many people are in the same boat with not being able to meet people outside work – there are so many articles written lately about the difficulty of finding new friends once you’re out of a sheltered environment like college. I’ve participated in a whole bunch of Meetup groups in Colorado and loved every single one of them; in contrast, I felt like I had bad experiences at most of the New York Meetup groups that I joined, so what I was trying to emphasize was the different experiences I had in the two places. (In part because I know others who have had similar Meetup experiences in New York, and I want to note that it’s different in different cities and that there is also a lot of luck/chance involved.) I think Meetup is an AMAZING tool for meeting people, and I am definitely scouring the listings to find fun events and meet new people.

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