Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A near-perfect weekend

Oh, so it's hump day and I'm finally getting around to last weekend.  Ah well, summer mode.  Someone commented to me today that I looked very relaxed.  I've felt relaxed too, even though I spent all of last week at an AP workshop, preparing for the next school year.  Attending the workshop made the weekend even that much better because I felt that I had 'earned' it, if that makes sense.  We didn't start out with major plans, except for Saturday night, but somehow margaritas, a trail run, pancakes, impromptu gatherings with friends all combined for a really lovely August weekend, one that I enjoyed even more knowing that such care-free weekends are numbered!

The one planned event, on our calendar since May, was a concert on Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl: Lyle Lovett opening for Willie Nelson!

Honestly, I couldn't have dreamed of a better line-up.  Okay, maybe last year when Juan Luis Guerra and Juanes played together, a concert that I missed because I was out of town.  And that's the thing - almost every summer I've looked at the Hollywood Bowl concerts and usually those that most appealed to me were when we were traveling.  So, I was a newcomer to the Hollywood Bowl, a quintessential LA summer experience, an embarrassing fact considering that I've lived in this area for 8 years now.  Fortunately, we've now crossed off "See concert at Hollywood Bowl" from our must-do list, but now we would like to return as soon as possible!  But probably won't until next year... 

Back to this concert - we'd seen Lyle Lovett before, at Red Rocks in Colorado and Disney Concert Hall, both of which are amazing venues.  He's a fantastic performer - not only because of his music but also because he brings other talented musicians together in his Large Band and really lets them shine.  I can't claim to be a huge Willie Nelson fan, but how can you not admire the man who is such a great figure in American music?  And, he's 80 years old.  While he still seems to be going pretty strong, I thought that it would be a good opportunity to see him because who knows when we'd have the chance again?

So, for this concert, the music was great, but even better was the Hollywood Bowl "experience".  I now totally GET IT - why people rave about the Hollywood Bowl.  Part of it, of course, has to do with the scenery - an outdoor amphitheatre with a view of the Hollywood sign, but a lot of it is the laid-back approach to letting people bring in their own food and booze.  I kept reading information to confirm that we really could bring a cooler and plenty to eat and drink and just plunk ourselves down and have a picnic.  It seemed just way too laissez-faire for a concert, but that was exactly what happened.  We arrived plenty early, enjoyed eating and drinking as we watched all of the people.  In terms of people-watching, this surpassed the airport.  What a variety of individuals!  We tried to guess who, out of the crowd, had attended the very first Farm Aid concert.  I think that we picked out two people as strong possibilities. Also, totally random - a woman walks by us, and Michael says, "That looks like my cousin.  Hey, I think it is my cousin!"  And it turned out to be his cousin from Oregon, in town for work and the concert.  Small freakin' world.    I'm not sure if every concert attracts such a diverse crowd, or if the Lyle and Willie combination  

Again, we enjoyed the concert - Lyle and Willie were great, of course, playing lots of favorites and the crowd often singing along.  Willie's main set was the 1978 album Stardust, which he played in its entirety, accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl orchestra.  That was all pretty low-key, but then he switched the hat for a bandana and ended with a set of some of his more outlaw songs - "Shotgun Willie", "Whiskey River", "Mama don't let you babies grow up to be cowboys" (of course!), and he concluded with "Roll me up and smoke me when I die" - a fitting end to the evening!  

I know that I said that it was "near-perfect", but I'm not sure what would have improved upon it.  Maybe this really was the ideal summer weekend!  Well, we didn't get to the beach nor did I get on the bike, so I'll stick to the near-perfect.  But that's not a bad place to be!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Active recovery in Colorado

Shew - we returned to CA late last Friday night, driving from Breckenridge to Pasadena in one long day.  It is always strange to cover so many miles and to feel that one's surroundings change so dramatically in what is a relatively short period of time, especially if you think about those settlers who made the trip in the 19th century.  Back in CA, our time in Colorado seems at least a month or two ago, but really just 10 days ago, we were able to take in dramatic, alpine views and huff and puff as we walked up a stair or two!

We spent plenty of time in Boulder glued to the TV, watching the final week of the Tour de France (old news now, I know, but while the race for first place in the GC category was a bit of a snooze fest, things were interesting for 2nd and 3rd!), and hanging out with friends and family, but we also stayed reasonable active.   I recovered somewhat quickly from Vineman, going for a a few runs and rides in Boulder, but a nice long hike appealed to both of us.  For whatever reason, we rarely do a major hike in Boulder - usually we spend time with the dogs as they sniff and explore the Chautauqua trails, but we both wanted a bit more of a challenge and also a change to our typical Boulder routine.  So, consulting our slim yet trusty Boulder hiking guide and weighing the opinion of Michael's brother, we chose Heart Lake as our destination.  Close enough to Boulder, we didn't have to wake up at an ungodly hour and were still able to hit the trail by 8:00 am.  It was a great hike and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a somewhat challenging and beautiful hike.  We started in the woods, following a stream until we hit a lower lake, and then the ascent kicked in at the very end, but the views were more than worth it!

Starting out the hike

Taking a quick break

Close to a lower lake

Breaking for lunch with a view of Rollins Pass

 Looking towards Heart Lake and beyond

After Boulder, we headed to Breckenridge to visit my side of the family - aunt, uncle, parents and even a sibling!  Breckenridge was a bit less on the "active" and more on the "recovery"side, in part because of the weather which hovered around 65 degrees high!  I think that one day it didn't even break 55!  We still managed to walk my aunt and uncle's dog on a regular basis and explored a few local trails with my parents and brother.  Our first hike, to Lower Crystal Lake proved somewhat frustrating because of the guidebook which was fairly inaccurate about the trailhead and mileage and small details such as those and much of it was on a rocky fire road rather than a true trail.  For a while, I wasn't sure if we were on the right trail at all, but we lucked out!  We did have to cross a stream or two which at times challenged our balancing skills.  Just like the Boulder hike, we were in the trees for the first part of the hike, but then the trail opened up and we walked through alpine meadows.  Normally, I don't go ga-ga over wildflowers, but they seemed particularly amazing this year!  We finally made it to Lower Crystal Lake, which was well worth the effort - great views of granite cliffs, dramatic skies, and even some wildlife in the form of a marmot and some pikas.

Stream crossing 

Alpine meadows

Finally at our destination!
Yes, we all gave my mom grief about her hat.  

The view as we returned to the trailhead

The second hike was close to Dillon and quite a different landscape - it felt drier and almost like a trail that we would have close to where we live, except for the mountains in the background.  It was also a shorter and easier trail which came as a bit of a relief, to be honest. 

Lake Dillon in the background

Still plenty of wildflowers!

The last time we were in Breckenridge with my parents, the four of us climbed a 14er.  We discussed it, and Mt. Quandary would have been the logical choice because of its proximity to my aunt and uncle's, but we opted for less rigorous challenges this time around.  As much as I enjoy tackling something like Mt. Lincoln, I've learned that I don't have to constantly push myself.  It's nice, at times, to meander along, even if it means that we don't reach the upper lake or "bag" a peak.*  

It also means that Mt. Quandary is still there for us to tackle next time, along with Upper Crystal Lake!

*A few people would probably roll their eyes if they heard me espousing the "It's about the journey, man" philosophy.