Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Weekend of a Little Bit Wild

The calendar that parents were given at the beginning of the school year sure didn't say anything about Friday, November 13th being a day off of school, but a week ahead of time, there was a "reminder" in the newsletter (I love it when the school gives us a "reminder" for something that is clearly the first time they've told us). (Actually, I don't).

I thought it would be a good idea to really get out there and do something on our long weekend.  It is rare that we have a weekend with no plans and nothing going on, but we had one recently, and it ended up agonizingly boring.

Rob told me if I wanted to do something, to plan it myself.  I was apprehensive. Usually when we go on a trip, I may be the one who has the idea of where to go, but not what to do once we get there.  I'll spend forever researching, reading, mapping, and get overwhelmed by the options.  And then Rob's just like: "Okay, we'll do this, this, and this," and it turns out fine.

The idea of the place I wanted to go was Colorado Springs.  The reason why I wanted to go was because I knew of an ultra somewhere nearby (in Pike National Forest) that I might want to run next spring. Because I'm terrible on trails, I need to see the terrain before I register. And with winter approaching, the time to check out the trail is now.  It seemed selfish, though, to make the whole family go on a trip just to help me find and navigate this course.  If we were going to do this, I needed to figure out a way to make it fun for everybody.

On Thursday night, we still didn't have a plan, but I did make a practice Thanksgiving dinner from Isa Chandra's website:

Post Punk Kitchen's Thanksgiving in an Hour. It took an hour and a half, and I didn't even make all the things. The thing in front is a vital wheat gluten and chickpea cutlet. It was weird. The mashed potatoes were also kind of weird. But the roasted broccoli and gravy were good.  Anyway, I don't think this is what we are going to have for Thanksgiving.

Rob said he would take the day off on Friday, and we would take Will to a rock climbing gym in town.  We could go somewhere on Saturday and Sunday, if I planned it.

I couldn't sleep on Thursday night and was still trying to figure this out.  So I Googled "Things to do in Colorado Springs," and *bam.*  Manitou Cliff Dwellings.  Garden of the Gods.  Perfect.  We could get up and go on Saturday morning and do both of these things.  Then we could camp overnight and I could run on Sunday morning.  Win-win.

I Googled "Campgrounds near Colorado Springs," and *bam.*  A bunch of places came up, but most were closed for the winter.  There seemed to be a few options in Pike National Forest, although after a more careful look at the map, I realized this whole trip was not at all close to the trails I wanted to investigate. The North Fork 50 was actually a lot closer to Denver than Colorado Springs.  Was it worth it, trying to do all of this in one trip?

I printed out the course map and turn-by-turn instructions (the race website is super well organized) and thought, maybe it will happen, maybe it won't.  We'll see.

On Friday morning, I outlined the proposed trip to Rob, and he said sounds good.  We took Will rock climbing as planned, had lunch at Tasty Harmony (FoCo's one vegan-ish restaurant) and spent the afternoon running errands/getting ready for the trip.
Will said it was "a little bit fun." I think he likes bouldering better.

Saturday morning, we loaded up and hit the road.  On our way to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, we stopped in the town of Manitou Springs (which is adorable) for an early lunch at Adam's Mountain Café, which the internet had listed it as "vegan friendly." (It was).

Thai Noodle Bowl. This was quite possibly the best thing I have ever eaten in my life, ever.

Then onto the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.

These were amazing.

...And wait for it... one of Rob's photos, which are always better than mine:

In addition to being able to actually walk around in these ~1,000 year old dwellings (including getting to see a kiva and sipapu--a highlight of the day for me), there was also a museum where we learned about the Anasazi, and a gift shop where I could have wandered around for hours.

When we were done at the cliff dwellings, we headed to Garden of the Gods, which was less than 15 minutes away.  I had been there once before, in 2001 when I went to visit my sister in Colorado Springs (she lived there at the time), but mostly what I remembered about it was that it was crowded, and I was tired, hungry, and carsick. 

This time, it was still crowded, but it was a lot different.  Maybe it was because we've been to Utah, and I've discovered how beautiful red rocks can be.  Maybe my anti-nausea wristbands did the trick and I just wasn't carsick this time.  It was bring-tears-to-your-eyes-amazing.  My pictures don't do it justice.  You'll have to check Rob's Flickr account when he gets his posted someday.

Garden of the Gods also had one of the best visitor centers I've ever seen.  Will spent like a half an hour looking at a giant topo map and pressing buttons to make the different rocks light up and read their names.  We also looked at beautiful wall paintings and read descriptions of Colorado geography over the past several billion years.  We could have spent an entire day just at Garden of the Gods, and we will definitely be going back.

So far, my trip planning had gone very well.  It was nearing dinnertime, and the time where we would have to decide if we were going go home or camping.  We headed into Pike National Forest, drove for a while, and finally stopped at the campground I had found online.  It was super sketch. The RV sites were all full, and there didn't appear to be any bathrooms.  This was where my trip planning appeared to break down.  I said if I was going to camp someplace without a bathroom, I would much rather be in the wilderness than a commercial campground full of RVs.

So we left and drove some more.  We finally got to Lone Rock Campground, which was beautiful and wild and much closer to where I wanted to run in the morning.  There were a few other people there,  but we got a beautiful site right along the South Platte River.  It was perfect.  

It was getting dark, and very cold, so we quickly put on all our warm clothes and got the water boiling for pasta. We ate by headlamp, got ready for bed, and then climbed up into the tent.  It was only 7pm, but the temperature was already below freezing, and there wasn't much left to do besides hunker down for the night.

Our sleeping bags kept us warm, but I think we were parked on an incline, or I didn't have the right pillows with me, or something, and my back started to hurt really bad in the night.  This happens sometimes even at home, and the only thing I can do to feel better is get up and walk around. Knowing how cold it was outside, I tried to wait it out, but when I realized it was only 1:00am (and there was a lot of night ahead of me), I decided I had to get up.  I bundled up some more and tried (unsuccessfully) not to wake up Rob and Will as I descended the ladder.

It was freezing, but I had on so many layers that I felt okay.  The billions of stars in the sky were absolutely breathtaking.  The tiny crescent moon was already below the horizon, but the stars were so bright I barely even needed a headlamp as I made my way to the outhouse.  I stayed outside for a while, walking around until my back felt better, and then I climbed back up into the tent and was able to fall asleep.

We all woke up around 7:00am, and the cold that had felt crisp and refreshing under the starlight the night before now felt miserable.  I had a pounding headache and didn't think I was going to be able to run--even if I tried it, what on earth would Rob and Will do while I was gone?  It was 18 degrees.  The condensation on the inside of our tent had frozen.  The bristles of my toothbrush were frozen.  Our water and Clif bars had frozen.  When I opened my contact case, my contacts were submerged beneath a frozen layer of solution.  This did not look good.

We started the car and turned up the heat to get warm and started driving to the trail head where I had planned on running.  I drank some caffeinated Nuun and took an ibuprofin for my headache.  The roads were covered in snow and ice, and I was worried we'd get stuck, but we made it.  By then the sun was out, and it was up to at least 30 degrees.  That felt a lot better than 18.  Rob assured me that he and Will would be fine while I ran, and that I should go ahead and do it.

I was really worried about getting lost.  The directions I had were good, but I know from having done this kind of thing before, depending on how well the trails are marked, it can be very hard to follow them.  I didn't know what this was going to be like, and I had a bad feeling about it.

Rob gave me his Spot Tracker, and I had his Garmin-- both of which should have helped me navigate (or at least call for help), if I actually knew how to use them.  I put 50 ounces of water, 2 Clif bars, my trail maps, and an extra jacket into my Jenny vest and headed out into the wilderness.

The trail was covered in snow.

I realized that, perhaps, running it like this was not accomplishing my goal of trying to figure out what the North Fork 50 terrain was like, and if it was the kind of trail I could run 50 miles on.  I reasoned that, no matter how many rocks and roots lie buried beneath the snow, it was probably harder to run it this way.  It was slippery and rutted out from mountain bike tracks.  Every step was an ankle twisting affair.  There were two streams to jump across.  The descent was switch-backy and along a ridgeline at times.  But I was doing it, and I felt fine.  My bad leg didn't even hurt.  Every step I took gave me more confidence-- something I have been sorely lacking ever since I fell and thought I broke my hip on the Quad Rock course back in August, and something I've never particularly had a lot of on trails.  My pace was slow, but I liked the course, and I decided that if it works out, I do want to do this ultra next spring.

There were trail markers, and I didn't get lost.
It was much warmer by the time I'd finished the 6 mile loop, and Will and Rob were playing by the trailhead when I returned.  They'd had a great time, and I was back faster than I thought I might be.

We finished out our weekend adventure by driving home through Boulder and of course stopping at Native Foods Café for a late lunch.  

This trip was exactly what we all needed, or at least, exactly what I needed.  Anymore, I get bored with being too comfortable and need to feel a little bit wild just to feel like myself.  I'm glad we got the chance to see the cliff dwellings and Garden of the Gods, and I'm super glad I got to run on the North Fork 50 course before it got too socked in with snow.  Even camping out at 18 degrees wasn't bad.  I hope we get to take more trips like this in the not so distant future.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

AWESOME PICTURES!! Great funfilled weekend! Except for the FRIGID temps!! brrrr!! only would have been fun if I could have had an ELECTRIC blanket!!! �� Maybe best wait til spring for future camping trips!! Luv and hugs ! Mama