Sep 072009

Just got back from a much needed break from the day to day mess and thankfully feel like I got the mental reboot I very much needed.

We spent the long weekend in Gateway, CO staying with our friends Mike and Kindra at their awesome home nestled in the heart of Unaweep Canyon.   From their house they have an incredible view of Thimble Rock and Driggs Mansion out of the HUGE windows of their great room.  I couldn’t help to just sit on their comfy leather couch and zone out, lost in what laid before my eyes.  Kindra and Mike get to spend their days living in a house that most of us want to get away to…sigh…Jealousy.

Getting Settled In To Our Mini-Vacation

The weather over the weekend couldn’t have been better, mid to low 80s with partly cloudy skies.  We did get a refreshing couple hours of rain on Saturday that cooled things off just enough to enjoy the warmth of the bonfire we huddled around that night.  It also provided the perfect opportunity for me to grab a breathtaking time lapse video from their front porch (more on that in the next post).

We also had the company of our other friends joining in the ‘reboot’.  Emily and Rob brought Owen and the twins,  Lisa and Mike brought Jack and Julianne, and Monica and sweet little Lizzie rounded out the group.  The kids were so great the whole weekend, they just couldn’t get enough of each other and were a treat to be around.

On Saturday, Kindra and Mike took some time out to ‘de-WMD-ify’ the nuclear Jalapeños and prep the traditional stuffed Jalapeños wrapped with bacon, and Karen whipped up the pico salsa for dinner.  A nice lunch was whipped up for a picnic and headed down to Gateway Canyon resort to have some fun at the park.

After nearly getting drenched by a sudden sprinkler storm and some groups pics, we headed back to take some naps.  As most napped, Mike and I discussed a place for me to gather a set of pictures for a time lapse of the growing storm.  We had hoped for a rainbow similar to the one he shot not long ago, but really never got it and the video was rather non-impressionable, gloomy, and dull.

We took the break the rainstorm gave us to eat a great enchilada and Mexican chicken casserole dinner, and spent the rest of the evening huddled around the bonfire chatting away once the rain let up.

 The Hike to the Key Hole

The next morning Karen, Mike, and I headed across the highway with our side set on the key hole sitting next to Thimble Rock.  It took us a good 45 minutes or so of bushwhacking through thick Scrub Oak, Mountain Mahogany, and Cedar trees to reach the base of the key hole.  We had to scale across a small cliff to get there, which ended up being a little hairier than I expected.  Maybe I was just a little weirded out from our last trip still.  Once we go to the key hole, it realized this things was WAY bigger than it look from the road.  If I had to guess, the opening looked like it was 50-60 feet easy.  It narrowed as it got to the back end, closer to 15-20 feet.  Climbing up through the other end revealed the expansive view of the next canyon over looking the valley.  Mike climbed back down and up the little cliff on the side of the cave the took him out to the top of a spire at the side of the large opening of the key hole.  Mike took a few minutes to take in the view, and even give us the Crazy Horse move.

Once through the key hole we continued up and around the mountain to the peak directly above it.  This required a lot more climbing that just walking up steep grades, especially when we got to the top.  I even had a close call at the top with a wobbly rock and a 10 foot drop below me…too many close calls in too short of period lately.  We spent a few minutes at the top taking in the sites, a few pictures, and hollering back at the house.  We got responses so we started our trek toward the bottom, with a big ‘?’ of what lay ahead of us as we were going down a different way that we came up.

Part way down we came across a rock about the size of a couch that was somehow just teetering on the edge of a cliff.  We did our best to get that thing to fall, but we were only able to get it to just rock a little.

On we went down through tough downhill grade and up, over, and around the thick vegetation all over again.  Karen helped us locate some of the local cactus species by using an odd technique called ‘OWW! I just sat on a **BLEEP** cactus!’’.  I think she was just showing us another way to identify them other than grabbing them.  We certainly appreciated her concern to keep us aware and to avoid these!

We finally made it to the bottom with scratched up forearms, torn pants, and parts of the vegetation lodged in our skin.  Was a bit of a rough hike, but definitely worth it.

Now the relaxation starts…

After getting back back to the house, showering and enjoying a burger and beer, it was time settle in for an afternoon of just being a pile of mush.  Mike and I fired up an episode of Band of Brothers and just vegged out.  We eventually all got back up and moving around after a couple hours.  Kindra rounded up Bubba and Prince and saddled them up so the kids could get a ride.  The kids sure had a lot of fun, but the adults just may have had more!

After soaking into the relaxation and watching the kids ride the horses, I got up and setup the camera for another run at a time lapse.  I had a good feeling about this one as the weather was choice, the sky was scattered with some clouds providing some great shadows on the valley and surrounding rocks. Unfortunately, this was about the time that everyone but Karen and I had to call it a weekend and head home.  Mike and Lisa and family left shortly after Emily and Rob’s crew, and Monica a few hours later.

Mike, Aliyah, Haley, and I took the 4 wheelers out to get Bubba back behind the cattle guard, and then took a little stroll across the property.  Haley and I were on the little 125 w/o suspension and she sure was enjoying the bumpy ride.

The night came quickly, and eventually Frog and his girlfriend showed up for our poker game.  Poker went well, but that’s because I took top prize!  It was would have been fun either way though anyway.  I kinda lucked out as Mike didn’t realized his straight with a huge pot was missing a 7. DOH!.

A soak in the Jacuzzi topped off the night, and sure helped me sleep well.  Oh, and having an actual bed didn’t hurt either.

The next morning we were up and out of there early, there was traffic but not too much.

Thanks everyone, especially Kindra and Mike for hosting this, for a great weekend!  I had a really great time with you all   I can’t wait to come back again next year!

Here’s the slide show from our gallery:

Aug 302009

A couple weeks ago we attempted the ‘Tour D’Abyss’ hike.  This ‘route’ starts near the top of Mt Evans, heads down about 800 ft. into the gulley then up the east ridge ~1500′ ft. to the summit of Mt. Bierstadt at 14060’ ft.

We started off from Mt. Evans around 8:00am.  It was a bit chilly, 28 degrees with the wind chill, but as we made our way down into the gulley it was warming up quickly, especially once we got out of the wind.

The way down was a little sketchy, lots of sand and loose rock, but manageable.  Once we got down into the gulley it was beautiful, lots of green grass and tons of wildflowers!  We made our way up to Abyss Lake along a nice smooth trail.  Once at the lake we stopped for a bit at and had a snack before we took on the ridge.

After our snack we searched around for a decent looking way to get up the ridge.  Once started, we were ascending very quickly but it sure was steep climb.  We didn’t get a break from hand-over-foot climbing until we had climbed 600-700 ft.  Once there it was bouldering over larger boulders to the ridge.  The ridge itself was very nice at the top had a great view in each direction.  After a quick break, we headed along the ridge and up another 500 ft. to the top of Bierstadt, running into a Mountain goat making a similar journey over the ridge as well.

Poor Karen was having a headache problem, and by the time we hit the summit of Bierstadt were pretty beat.  We actually discussed trying to somehow bribe someone into a ride back to our car on Evans!  LOL! Part of the problem is that we really didn’t plan very well for the trek across the Sawtooth, and by looking at it were were very unsure about how to safely get across it.  Because of this, and the sheer effort it would take to get over the Sawtooth and back up to the top of Evans, we decided to abort the mission and just head back do town Abyss Lake.

The climb down to the lake was ugly and it was much steeper than I expected.  We were literally sliding down the hill on our butts in some places.  It took us a good couple hours to make it back down the 1500 ft. to the lake.  At this point I was definitely ready for this hike to be over with but we still had to get around the lake, down the gully, and then an 800 ft. climb back up to the car.

Another hour and a half passed and we made it to the bottom of the gully where we need to head back up to the car.  I was beat down by this point and didn’t have, well ANY, great thoughts about the climb up I’m looking at. 

We started up the bottom where it was just a steep hill, making frequent stops due to fatigue and just being winded.  By the time we were half way up the ridge we were now climbing.  This was the type of climbing we both are definitely not skilled or experience at.  The type of climbing where we are requiring good handholds to make it up each few feet.  I even got my self stuck in a spot, with not much of a good hood on anything.  At once point I had even looked back down below me trying to plan how I was going to control the fall to minimize injury I was sure I was about to take.  Luckily Karen had been able to get around in another spot and had somehow found a good handhold under a boulder so she could get her foot out to get me a handhold.  No exaggeration here, I was was in a REALLY bad spot, with 400+ feet of rocks I would have just tumbled down if I had fallen.  YES, I certainly agree that at this time were we in a STUPID position.  We eventually made it to the top and hobbled back to the car.

This may have been some of the most difficult hiking I’ve ever done, and possibly the dumbest.  I certainly plan on going back to do the route I had intended to someday, but will be better prepared.

I need to say ‘I Love You’ to my Karen and ‘THANK YOU!’, you may have saved my life that day.

Here are the pictures we took: