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.  

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