Heading Towards Fall

All over Facebook people are lamenting today as the end of summer. It seems like yes, we are heading towards fall, but I consider that summer ended when I went back to work after vacation, or for kids it’s the first day of school, or for bloggers it’s when pumpkin hits the store shelves…today is simply September 1.

I’m still trying to work out my teaching schedule. I’d had it worked out but then a few people asked to switch…it’s tough because there just aren’t times to switch to. I want to accommodate people, but I’m not entirely sure this will all work out for everybody. I’m doing my best, and the thing is, I still have several hours of openings scattered throughout the week, they just aren’t the most popular hours…I’ve had to turn down some multiple child family student requests because I only have random 30 minute lessons scattered about though, which I hate doing. I hate turning down students, but time is finite and a weekly schedule can only fit in so many students.

Of course, my mornings are basically free. Sometimes when I get stressed over finances I start to think about trying to find paying work for the morning—maybe a part time job, maybe I should learn how to teach some of those group music classes for little kids?? Or should I be doing volunteer work, or trying to find something at a school? Though I like having my mornings free for rehearsals and practicing…it’s a tough call. I go back and forth. I usually teach for 20-22 hours a week, spend anywhere from 2 to 6 hours on phone/email/paperwork for that. I’ll have anywhere from 2 to 8 hours of rehearsal, usually 2 but that just depends and then maybe a wedding gig will take up 2 to 3 hours, or maybe it’ll be two that take up 8  hours in a day. Low end I’m at 24-26 hours of work, high end well over 40 hours. Then add in practicing…this totally ranges, but I shoot for 1 hour a day, and sometimes it’s much more. (And let’s not pretend I can do what I do without practicing at all, because I can’t.) Obviously I have extra time on some weeks (this week for instance) but other weeks I am totally swamped. Sometimes I think a more regular schedule must be nice—that’s when I daydream about only teaching and playing serious music at my leisure!  But the other thing about me is that I can get bored doing the same thing over and over. I love the variety of freelancing, though this year seems like I’m more of a private teacher than a freelancer…but I definitely have gigs on my calendar for the future.

And there you have it. My super interesting random thoughts for today. I’m off to get a haircut now and then teaching and hopefully squeeze in some practicing, since that hasn’t happened yet today. Priorities!

Moonlight Ramblings

I remember back when I was in middle and high school Sunday nights were often filled with dread. Here I am on Sunday and I’m in a great mood. Welcome to adulthood, I suppose? Perhaps it also helps that I’m currently in a less-busy time of year (famous last words), that I’m at the start of the school year, and that I only have 4 hours of teaching tomorrow, so, I can’t complain.

I’m hovering between 36 and 38 students…I’m behind on reorganizing my teaching binder. I have a binder with a divider and paper for notes on each student, and I’m about 9 months behind on it now. As in, there are students listed in there that I haven’t seen since 2014. I need to update it but it just isn’t a priority. I do have a few students that need to be added though, so I should make it a priority. I keep track of all my lesson payments in this binder too—all by hand with pencil and paper. Do other teachers do the same or do most of your do it on computer? I find the “old-fashioned” way works really well for tracking attendance since I already have the book next to me for taking notes and referring to previous lessons.

This was a busy weekend of social engagements. Louie and I hit up the Festival of Nations briefly yesterday afternoon, and then we rode our bikes in the Moonlight Ramble. That link goes to last year’s post about the ride—a midnight ride with 1000’s of other bikers through the streets of St Louis. This year was a less interesting route, IMO, but I felt pretty strong riding throughout. I’ve literally only ridden my bike three times this year but my legs are in pretty good shape from hiking and running and whatnot, so I’m sure that helped. I would like to bike more, but it’s hard to fit everything in! And uphills were still challenging, especially the steeper ones.

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I would have used a different picture than that one from Instagram, but it was upside-down. I really need to figure out why phone pictures are often upside-down in Windows Live Writer but when I try to flip them they get distorted…but the picture looks fine otherwise. GRRR computer issues. There’s probably either a simple solution or none at all, I imagine. I know it’s the pictures I take that are “upside-down” to begin with but it shouldn’t matter, should it? And since that post I linked to from last year ALSO had a similar picture problem…I really should figure it out.

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I made lemon poppy seed muffins the other day. They were tasty! I ended up taking the rest of them back to my friend Suzanne’s for brunch this morning. (I mentioned her before—she and her family are visiting this week and we are friends from Clinton, SC where we grew up). Well, actually it was at her friend Susan’s house, but nonetheless. The only downside was that I agreed to a 9:30 am brunch time without thinking it through, that we wouldn’t be home from the Ramble until after 3! Oops. But it was fun anyway. I miss so many of my old friends, so it was wonderful to catch up with Suzanne this week, after so many years…decades, really. Old friends remind you of who you used to be and where you come from, and that’s really a good thing! Dear old friends reading this, please be in touch if we haven’t been! I’ve been neglectful over the past years but I’m missing you all :)

New friends are important too, though, not to make anyone feel left out. And blog readers that I don’t even know, I am so thrilled you are reading!

I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been eating “less meat.” It’s my way of thinking about it…it means that I haven’t been cooking meat at home, but I’ll eat it when served it at other people’s houses (gladly ;)) and sometimes at restaurants too. My feeling is that cutting back is making a difference, and that I’m okay with that, plus I don’t want a label.

I’m starting to feel like I’m getting back into violin playing shape. I have to say, the better shape you are in before you take 20 days off, the harder it is to get back. (duh). But I’ve got a performance of a Mozart and a Brahms Sonata in less than two weeks, so I’m working hard. I’m also trying to learn Beethoven op. 59 no. 1 for the Quartet, and I’ll tell you, that is not an easy violin part. Beethoven is so challenging, on pretty much every level, but SO satisfying! 

Other random thoughts…

I’m on the lookout for a good vegetarian taco filling recipe, so any suggestions are welcome.

Louie and I decided to subscribe to the symphony for this season—I think we have a package that includes 6 or 7 concerts. The good part is that if a conflict arises (and they will, they will) we can exchange our tickets by phone for another date. I feel strange planning to go to the symphony, for a variety of reasons (ex being a member, them not calling after officially putting me on the sublist likely because of ex being a member) but as I always say, I loved music first and so I’m not giving up concerts for that reason. I can love seeing Mahler and Beethoven and Joshua Bell without loving the organization performing it.

I’ve been watching “Bloodline” on Netflix. I don’t love it but I’m interested to see “what happens next.”

I’m still working on my trip recaps. I’m making great progress, I think, having completed 4 parts so far. My plan is to have 2 more parts and perhaps 1 final thoughts part. I still can’t believe I was on such an epic trip recently, especially after having been on an epic trip to Italy in May. This has been truly an amazing year!

And there you have it. My own Moonlight Ramblings. See you soon!

There really is no place like Wyoming (Road Trip Part 4)

Part 1: There and Back Again

Part 2: Bouldering in Boulder

Part 3: Camping isn’t so bad

Day 9: We were sad to leave RMNP. On our way out of town we wanted to stop by a donut shop that had been highly recommended, called the Donut Haus. We waited in a long but fast moving line and ordered. I was totally unimpressed…I got a nutty cinnamon thing that tasted a bit stale :( I guess St Louis may not have the natural scenery, but it has better donut shops! Seriously, people had been raving about this place…maybe I ordered poorly but I hate when baked goods look far better than they taste. ANYWAY. Louie’s fritter was a bit better but I’m still annoyed that mine wasn’t as good as I imagined it would be.

Our plan for the day was to drive to Grand Teton National Park. That’s it. It was around a 8 1/2 to 9 hour drive and we wanted to enjoy the drive too.

Let me just tell you. Wyoming is perhaps the most beautiful state on earth. I thought Colorado was great, but from the moment we entered Wyoming until the moment we left we were surrounded by the most beautiful natural scenery I have ever experienced in my life. Some parts of the state are very desolate and sparsely populated, so it might not be the place I want to LIVE but wow, just miles upon miles of unique and beautiful mountain ranges. All day long our jaws were dropping, and we hadn’t even gotten to the Tetons. We took a few scenic byways to get off the highway, which I’m sure added to the beauty of the drive.

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And then…after hours of driving, and wondering, hmm, are we seeing the Tetons, we did, and they were unmistakable, towering above the horizon. We had a reservation for a tent cabin at Colter Bay (in Grand Teton National Park) for two nights. What they call a tent cabin is a cabin of sorts with two canvas walls and lightly padded bunks. (We stayed in the tent cabin because regular campgrounds here were first-come, first-served, and I was worried they would be full by the time we arrived.)

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We drove to Colter Bay from the entrance of the park and gasped at the beauty of the Tetons. We checked into our cabin and then headed out to explore the Bay.

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None of my pictures of the Tetons really show their scope. They were overwhelmingly large and just incredibly beautiful.

We took a short hike/walk around the Colter Bay area, trying to get a better picture. We saw a bald eagle dive towards the water to catch a fish, and what might have been a beaver or maybe a muskrat swimming along the shoreline.

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After the sun set a bit further, we decided it was time to go shower and make dinner. SHOWER. For $4.25 you could get a shower as long as you wanted with hot water and everything. Since I hadn’t showered since Boulder it was definitely money well spent. And then we made dinner outside of our tent cabin. It was much like camping since we had to walk to the bathrooms and we had a picnic table AND our own bear box, but inside the tent cabin there was a wood burning stove, so Louie made a lovely fire to warm us up. We had rice and beans and canned veggies I believe and then went to bed.

Day 10:

Really we had one full day in the Tetons and we wanted to make the most of it. We decided to do what was called the “signature hike” in the Tetons—Jenny Lake to Cascade Canyon. We woke up around 6 am hit the road for Jenny Lake, which was about 20 to 25 minutes away. These parks are so big! There weren’t shuttles like in RMNP and I’d read that the parking lots could get completely full by mid-morning. Since we were so early naturally we had no trouble, and we got on the ferry to Jenny Lake around 8 am. I did have a minor breakdown involving a vault toilet and a stuck giant roll of toilet paper, but I managed to persevere without too many tears.

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A brochure said that the ferry across Jenny Lake cost a “modest fee” and I’d forgotten in the meantime what that would be. It was $15 round trip for each of us, which in my opinion is hardly a “modest fee” and is actually a “giant rip-off” but the ride saved us about 5 miles so we had to pay it or waste two hours of the day wandering through the forest rather than hiking in a more awesome place.

On the ferry ride over I was sitting next to a fellow who was with a group of people preparing to rock climb on Mount Moran the next day. That didn’t sound the least bit fun to me!

Once we got off the ferry it was straight uphill for us. Our first stop was Inspiration Point, and within minutes we were both shedding our outer layers and getting down to short sleeves. It’s amazing how cold it could be overnight and in the morning and then hot during the day.

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After the initial steep uphill to get to Inspiration Point, the trail leveled out quite a bit as it went the several miles to the Forks of the Cascade Canyon. We were enjoying quite a bit of shade and some lovely views.

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We did see some bear scat along the trail, and though it didn’t look particularly fresh we kept our bear spray handy and tried to keep up conversation as to not sneak up on any bears!

We’d kept up a decent pace on this portion of the hike and when we sat down for a small lunch at the Forks of Cascade Canyon, we decided to continue on to Lake Solitude. Partly because we felt great, and partly because another couple of hikers had been encouraging us—we joked that nothing gives you inspiration like when complete strangers tell you that you can do it! Going to Lake Solitude would make our trek over 15 miles but we thought it should be possible with our timeline, and the reviews said that each step past the Forks was more beautiful than the last. Spoiler alert: this was true!

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The trail was pretty busy overall even for such a long and intense hike. We passed very few people, but quite a few passed us! When we finally arrived at Lake Solitude..it was filled with people, including at least one person who had done the hike with a toddler on his back the whole way.

But it was beautiful, and even though the last bit of the hike was a real challenge for me due to the incline and the sun, I was so glad we’d continued.

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After relaxing and resting a bit at the lake, it was time to head back. Our return trip took even longer, I think, but mostly because we saw so much wildlife! We were constantly on the lookout for bears, because of the scat and also because we’d heard that a ranger had seen a mother and cub earlier in the day. We didn’t see any bears, but we saw marmots, several pika, lots of chipmunks or ground squirrels, and then…a family of moose. A male, female, and a young one. We watched them eating and playing in the water near the trail for a very long time!

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I didn’t get a good picture of them, but here’s the male moose.

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And a marmot.

We finally made it back down the trail to catch the ferry back. We had about 30 minutes to spare—the ferry stopped running at 7 pm and I believe we boarded around 6:30. What a day!

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Ferry selfie.

After that day of hiking, we didn’t feel like cooking, so we decided to check out a place called Dornan’s. Louie’s stepdad told us that back in the day when he had visited it was a neat little cafe down by the river where you could get really good pancakes. Well…when we got near the place the road was packed with cars pulled over on the side and loads of people walking. We didn’t realize how packed it would be, and we also didn’t realize there were a variety of restaurants, a grocery store, a gas station, and more. We found a parking spot with only a little trouble, and then had to decide where to eat—at this point we were pretty tired and overwhelmed but I thought we were too far away to try anything else. We considered the chuckwagon but were a little nervous about that so we ended up at the Pizza place. Rather than having to wait in line to order, since we were both over 21 we were allowed to sit at the bar and order there, so we got some beers, tons of water (I was really dehydrated…I never seem to drink quite enough while hiking) and got a pizza and a salad. It all really hit the spot!

We had a little bit of a drive back to Colter Bay then—I think nearly 45 minutes! The good news was that then we could sleep. The bad news was that we had to get up at 4:45 am in order to drive back south to Jackson in order to go whitewater rafting on the Snake River! Louie made a fire in the tent cabin again so that we were pretty warm going to sleep.

Day 11:

The alarm went off around 4:45 am and we got coffee going. We had to pack up and leave, and we decided since we had an hour drive to wait a bit to make breakfast. We drank coffee and loaded up. I should say—that morning I was annoyed that people had stacked trash next to the trash bins, which is a huge no-no because of bears. We worked so hard in these campgrounds not to leave anything out, and then we’d run into things other people did who obviously just didn’t care or at least, didn’t think. Luckily these incidents were few and far between and most people had a good respect for the rules.

I’d signed us up at Dave Hansen Whitewater for a scenic float trip and whitewater trip. We’d start with 8 miles just floating down the river enjoying the scenery and then 8 miles of white water rafting in an 8 man boat. It was quite cold in the morning and we got wet suits to wear.

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Obviously wetsuits are a great look for everybody. We took a bus to the river and then met our guide, Lily. Louie and I had the raft to ourselves for the first segment of the trip, which was really neat. Lily rowed and we just relaxed and looked for wildlife. We saw a bunch of bald eagles, juvenile and fully mature, other birds, ducks, river otters, a beaver, some deer, and more. It was a really neat way to spend the morning, and we also enjoyed chatting with Lily and learning about how she had ended up living in Jackson and being a whitewater guide.

Next we loaded up the raft for the hard part. I was a little nervous about the rapids, but it ended up being pretty straightforward. We did get soaked, but they weren’t too bad and it was a nice introduction to whitewater rafting. Lily was a great guide and we always knew what to do. Louie sat in the front as one of the leaders and did a good job setting the pace—I sat right behind him and let him try to block the water from me. Overall the trip was a blast and I would totally recommend it!

Afterwards we wandered around Jackson for a bit, and then drove up to Teton Village to look around.

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There was a tram there that was highly recommended but once we saw the ticket price (nearly $40 a person) we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. We’d been gouged enough in this area, so we decided instead to just head off to Yellowstone, with some stops along the way. Yellowstone is north of Grand Teton NP so that meant we would have one last drive through the Tetons.

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We saw there was a road up to the top of Signal Mountain and so we did that. It didn’t take too long and the views were really beautiful.

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I’m sad looking at these pictures though—as wonderful as Yellowstone was, the Tetons were just amazingly beautiful, and I wish I still had that view all around me. We were sorry to leave, and took a million pictures on our way north.

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Next: Yellowstone National Park!

Back to work

Things that are fun:

1. Continuing to journal and blog about our recent road trip. I love going back over the pictures and remembering all the awesome things we did and saw. More blog posts to come!

2. Planning fun activities for the fall. On deck: lots of concerts and (hopefully) a backpacking trip in the Taum Sauk area.

3. Practicing new music, including stuff for an upcoming private concert and our quartet concert in November. Lots of Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms right now.

4. Running and biking when the weather is this gorgeous! Since getting back we’ve been enjoying temperatures between 60 and 80 and have really gotten spoiled. I’m training for the Go Halloween Half Marathon on October 11 and this weather is really great for my running. And for biking: Saturday night we are riding in the Moonlight Ramble, which is a midnight race through the city. Louie and I went on a ride last weekend on the River Des Peres Greenway in order to “train.”

5. Seeing old friends. My best friend from childhood is/was in town this week and we got together for lunch the other day. I hadn’t seen her in…20 years? It was so much fun to meet her family and catch up.

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I’m sure we look exactly the same now as we did back then :)

I decided to make this list because I was letting myself get overwhelmed with what I’m not doing…and focusing on the positive stuff really helps. The rest will fall into place as it always does (with patience and hard work behind it). And transitioning from vacation to work is always a challenge…my schedule is just free enough that I have time to be a little neurotic 😉

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Camping isn’t so bad (Road Trip Part 3)

Part 1: There and Back Again

Part 2: Bouldering in Boulder

My plan of dividing the blog posts into location rather than day has meant less posts, but so much more writing in between! I might have to reevaluate my plans for the next two parks.

We left off in Boulder. Louie and I wanted to take the scenic route to Rocky Mountain National Park, so we drove from Boulder to Nederland and then took the Peak-to-Peak highway from there. It was only about 1 1/2 to 2 hours drive so we just wanted to arrive in time to set up camp before dark.

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Nederland was a cute but odd town. Evidently it was founded due to the mining boom, and at one time the hotels sold rooms in 8 hour intervals because they were so busy! You would sleep and THAT was it. It seemed (obviously)  less busy now, and more of a weird tourist place where people would buy coffee and ride a merry-go-round. But we filled up on 85 octave gas (took us by surprise at first but then we realized it was due to the altitude…we think…) and continued on our way. We had a plane to catch! Oh wait, no, we had a tent to set up.

The Peak-to-Peak Highway was gorgeous and scenic. I am too chicken to drive on windy mountain roads (I can but I go really slow and hate it) but Louie loves it. So we both had a great time! Once we got close to the park we pulled over at a place called Lily Lake for some views and to stretch our legs. People told us (people, so friendly and helpful!) that there were moose off to the right, so we booked it. And saw two moose, just eating in the brush next to the Lake.

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I didn’t get great pictures of both, but you can kind of see the second one in the background there.

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Also, there were ducks. And mountains and a large lake.

It didn’t take too long before we got to Estes Park and then Rocky Mountain National Park. We opted to purchase the annual America the Beautiful pass which gets you into all national parks and monuments and some more stuff for a year (and it seems, not only a year, but until the end of August next summer!) for $80. I’d added up our plans, and everything on it’s own would cost $90, so we were saving.

Our reservation was for three nights at Glacier Basin Campground. Check in was easy and low key, and we found our site right off the main road. All the pine trees in the area had been cut down due to the pine beetle problem, which left GREAT views, but you had to watch carefully for the stumps which had been left. We were pretty close to the bathroom, which was nice, even though you could hear the hand dryers (no hot water or showers, but yes, hand dryers—I suppose no paper towels and less mess that way!). The bathrooms were nice and clean, and we were warned about bear safety (nutshell, put all the food and cosmetics and toiletries in your car, don’t leave trash around). We set up the tent and got started on dinner…thinking back, we did that so many times it became no big deal, but this first time was really exciting PLUS I didn’t really have the hang of anything so I was pretty stressed about how to cook and get everything done.

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The tent…and what a view!

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The stove. Looks like we were making breakfast here.

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My campsite outfit. I only brought one sweatshirt and one pair of sweatpants because I didn’t realize it would be absolutely freezing all the time.

Oh, right—the COLD. I knew it would be cold in Yellowstone but I wasn’t quite prepared right away, even though I should have been. We made a fire which was nice, and we had awesome cold weather sleeping bags—“mummy bags” because you look like a mummy in them, but they ended up being the greatest thing ever for me. Louie didn’t care for them as much, but I get much colder than he does anyway.

In a nutshell, I should have brought warmer slip-on shoes than flip flops but I did not.

We had two full days in Rocky Mountain National Park. Day 1 plan was: giant hike, of course! I found a hike people recommended online that left from Bear Lake and went to the Fern Lake Trailhead.

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I probably should have considered this elevation profile a bit more. At one point, we did feel like we had been descending for most of the hike…looking at it now I see that was most definitely true.

So: Day 7: we got up early (around 6 am) in order to be ready to catch the shuttle to Bear Lake. Rocky Mountain National Park has an excellent free shuttle system within the park, but it only ran until 7 pm, and we needed to catch another shuttle at the end to get back to the campsite, and wanted to make sure we didn’t miss it! I wasn’t terribly worried as it was a 10 mile hike and that gave us nearly 12 hours—but I am a slow hiker and you just never know.

It looked like the shuttle came directly to our campground but I was mistaken and we had to walk about 1/4 mile down the road and across. Just as we reached the main road we saw our shuttle leaving…luckily they saw us too and stopped to pick us up, saving us 15 minutes plus a little more walking. We were thrilled.

They say Bear Lake Trailhead gets really crowded later in the day but at 7:30 or so we had it much to ourselves. We started out up the trail, loaded down with plenty of water, snacks, and peanut butter sandwiches. We both had walking sticks, backpacks, and of course, our cameras! From the beginning, I couldn’t get over how beautiful the hike was—points of it just didn’t even look real, as if the whole landscape were manufactured in some way.

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Right off the bat we saw a deer (or two, I can’t recall) and of course we saw tons of chipmunks. The trail climbed a bit but wasn’t too bad, and it was just beautiful. We’d had a few layers on to begin with but I didn’t need those for long. A few hikers passed us but mostly it was pretty quiet.

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As we got near the turnoff for Lake Helene we noticed another trail off to the side. We followed it up for some amazing views AND a marmot, who seemed to just be posing for pictures.

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Overall the hike was AWESOME and we had a wonderful time. We saw a variety of lakes, enjoyed amazing scenery, and thoroughly enjoyed our time outdoors. Hiking makes me feel so strong, even when I’m slow! I figure that slow hiking just means a better chance of seeing wildlife.

I wanted to post our lunchtime selfie but it’s upside down…and when I turn it it just gets distorted and stretched. Sigh.

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So the only real downside to the hike was that the last few miles were a little boring…though I’m hardly complaining since it’s really only IN comparison to how amazing the first 7-8 miles were…and then the actual downside was the nearly 1 mile walk from the trailhead to the shuttle stop, which we must have just missed, since we waited about 25 minutes. It was nice to sit down though, and we enjoyed riding around the park on the shuttle. This particular one dropped us off right at our campground so we had a very short walk!

Downside to not having showers—getting back and having no great way to clean up. Thank goodness for wet wipes and cold water? Then it was dinner and relaxing time.

Day 8:

Today was a day I was nervous but excited about. I’d booked us with New Venture Cycling for a downhill bike ride on the Trail Ridge Road. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we knew to dress warmly and meet in Estes Park at the shop at 7:30. Naturally I wanted to allow extra time (I’m nothing if not obscenely prompt/early sometimes) so we got up around 6 am. It was pretty cold at camp, but we had no idea how cold it would be up at 11,000 feet or so, where our trip would start.

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The clouds were so gorgeous that morning. More clouds meant less sun and colder though…

We had a little trouble finding the shop because it was actually behind the address they gave us, but we were still plenty early. Kerry and Brandon got us fitted with bikes and helmets, and the other party arrived. Lucky for us was that we were only 5 people riding so lots of personal attention! The guides were very friendly and incredibly knowledgeable, as learned over the course of the morning.

We headed out in a large van up to Rock Cut, which is around 12,000 feet above sea level. It was VERY cold, windy, and cloudy, but amazing.

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You’d be able to see a lot of mountains if there weren’t so many clouds there.

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The bike riding ended up being REALLY fun! We stopped at several overlooks on the way down so we had plenty of breaks, and honestly, I could have gone much faster than we did (though we went at a fine speed, and it was probably safer!) so it wasn’t like I was struggling to keep up. I was less scared on the bike on the road than I was in the van—that is to say, there was only one time I was scared and that was one place where the road was open on both sides—I took a deep breath and held on tight for that segment! But the road was amazing—the Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuously paved road in the US, and we learned so much from Kerry and Brandon about the park, historically and today, and about trees and wildlife. They were wonderful guides and we couldn’t recommend the tour more highly!

We had a picnic lunch near the bottom, and then continued into Estes Park by bike, so by the end of the morning we felt that we had gotten a really good overview of the park! There was one uphill bit, which was incredibly difficult for me, probably because I was pretty out of bike riding shape plus the altitude, but I made it. We stayed bundled up all the way down the road as well—it did get a little warmer by the end, but never so hot that I even wanted to take to my jacket off!

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After we got back to the car we decided to do a little sightseeing in Estes Park, but the traffic was so bad that we grew tired of it pretty quickly. We enjoyed a good cup of coffee at a place called Ink and Brew, and then decided to head back into the National park and do a shorter hike.

We lucked out and found the only space in the lot at the Glacier Gorge where we headed to “The Loch.” This hike also passed Alberta Falls and was about 6 miles round trip.

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I won’t bore you with poorly written details about the hike, but instead will just share some pictures and tell you it was amazing! I will say this about most of the places we visited on our trip, but I can’t wait to return to Rocky Mountain National Park for a longer visit in the future, or at least for another visit and to do more hiking. There were so many options and so many trails and we just barely scratched the surface.

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Every signpost is a decision. To continue or not to continue, to turn left or to turn right. (This could be a life lesson, but I’m really just talking about hiking.) On this day we had to turn back, but another time we might be able to continue to Sky Pond and Andrews Glacier, who knows! We got back around 6:30/6:45 pm and debated heading into Estes Park to find a shower, but decided we were just too lazy.

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The Loch was gorgeous, possibly the most gorgeous lake we saw the whole time.

So we returned to the campsite for our last night in Glacier Basin Campground. The next morning we would have to leave RMNP and head to Grand Tetons, and we were sad.

In retrospect, my favorite thing about RMNP was the lack of commercialism in the park. No vendors, no lodging, just cheap camping, free shuttles, and nature. It was fantastic. Outside of the park, sure there was plenty of commercialism and lodging and food, but within the confines of the park it really felt like a getaway from all of that, and it was truly wonderful. After all, we all own the national parks, don’t we?

I hope we can get back in the next few years…we didn’t see the west side of the park at all and there are so many more hikes to do. But you’ll see, next is Wyoming, and Wyoming is pretty awesome.

Bouldering in Boulder (Road Trip Part 2)

I think it’s time I actually look up what “bouldering” means. An ongoing theme of our trip was me misusing it. Or just using it to mean climbing over rocks, which I’m not entirely sure isn’t somewhat correct.

Part 1: There and Back Again

Now for Part 2–

Day 3: We woke up in Denver and took advantage of the excellent indoor plumbing. We drank coffee with Derek and Sarah for a bit and then took off. We made a quick visit to REI’s flagship store nearby and then drove to Boulder, which was only about 30 minutes. Leslie and Peter play with the Colorado Music Festival, well, this summer Peter was playing and Leslie was on leave/subbing due to somebody needing to take care of the baby.

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That baby. Such a cutie.

We met Leslie in their place at Creekside, which is code for really terrible housing. Thanks Colorado Music Festival! But they had the apartment fixed up very nicely for a baby and they were eagerly awaiting our arrival. After Peter got done with rehearsal we had lunch at Next Door at the Kitchen, or the Kitchen Next Door, or who really knows. It was tasty though, and that’s what mattered. Boulder is a cute town, and is honestly really busy and crowded, no matter what time of day or week, it seems, which means it’s pretty touristy, I guess? I’d visiting a few years prior but it was fun to go with Louie and also to see my little niece.

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That’s her looking annoyed that she was eating peas off the table when we were getting delicious shrimp tacos and salmon salad sandwiches and whatnot.

After lunch Louie and I needed to go meet our Air BNB host, a woman named Alexia. We’d rented a small guest cottage for 3 nights. It was easy enough to find, though a little scary as it was up a steep gravel driveway that the Corolla had a little trouble with. (Did I mention this whole trip was made in a Corolla? Packed to the gills!)

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The place was adorable—a little cabin in the woods basically. With outdoor plumbing…and no hot water. Such would be the theme of our trip. But the cabin had electricity…mostly…IMG_3926 

After getting settled we decided to head to Chautauqua to do a little hiking (we decided this was going to be a hiking intensive vacation and had no intention of being lazy, ha!) while waiting for Athena to wake up from her nap. We’d just gotten parked and started when Leslie called, so they headed over to meet up. Together we hiked the McClintock Trail to Woods Quarry, which seemed so hard at the time! Altitude is no joke!

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It was a nice hike for a late afternoon and we worked up a good appetite for Pizzeria Locale. After dinner Louie and I walked around Pearl Street while Leslie and Peter had to put Athena to bed. Louie had been to Boulder as a child and remembered seeing a “loose rope walker” called Evan from Heaven and being friendly with him. (There are lots of street performers on Pearl Street.) We didn’t see Evan, but later googled him and were fascinated.

Day 4: We woke up and had muffins and coffee in our cabin. The bathroom situation was a little funny, but manageable. The toilet required water to flush, so you’d go, flush, and then refill it with water from a bucket and refill the bucket to prepare the next user.

Louie and I decided to hike to the Royal Arch this morning and then meet up with folks for lunch. I’d hiked to the Royal Arch in the past, but I didn’t remember it being so difficult! Some of the hike was changed, but honestly, I think I just forget how hard stuff is. In fact, I’ve already forgotten how challenging the hike was. Either way it took us much longer than we thought it would take and we were at least an hour later getting down the mountain than we’d anticipated.

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I met up with Leslie and Peter for lunch and we got burritos at a place called Illegal Pete’s. I had a giant fish burrito and it was delicious. Probably illegal 😉

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We just hung out in the afternoon (I showered at the apartment…) and then for “dinner” we went to the mashup concert at Colorado Music Festival. Leslie was playing this concert instead of Peter—it was a singer called Storm Large, who none of us had ever heard up. So the mashup means it is a crossover concert or a mix of classical and popular music. PLUS they set up tents beforehand with samples of food and drink from a variety of local restaurants, so we gorged ourselves on sushi, ice cream, iced coffee, beer, and other random bites. Honestly we didn’t eat too much, but it was tasty and the price was right..especially since we had comp tickets.

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Of course, we made a quick stop at the playground. Somebody loves swinging.

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Athena might have thought Louie was too big for the swing, but she seemed to love having him swing next to her.

We took the bus back from the concert (which, for the record, I hated so much, but Louie seemed to enjoy it, so I assume I wasn’t the target audience…) to Creekside (Leslie/Peter’s apartment) and then some of us went to a place called the Dark Horse for a drink and another snack. We ended up ordered something called Rocky Mountain Oysters there, and I wasn’t too impressed 😉

When we got home to our cabin we didn’t have any power! We’d had to have our flashlights out in order to get up the stairs to it, so it wasn’t a disaster, but still, no fun. We went to bed right away then, after texting our “landlord.”

Day 5:

We woke up and Alexia had left a note saying we could use a bathroom in a nearby house until 2 pm, and that she had called the electrician. We met Leslie at the Chautauqua Dining Hall for breakfast since we couldn’t use the hotplate in the room for coffee and figured, what the heck, let’s just eat out. It was a really nice place to eat! We sat outside and they had a variety of vegetarian options—I had a “tofu scramble” and it was very tasty.

After breakfast Louie and I went to hike up Green Mountain on the West Ridge Trail. Leslie and Peter recommended it as a very different view than what you get from the Chautauqua area so it sounded like a lot of fun.

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There were some steep rocky bits but mostly the trail was really nice and enjoyable and it was fun to do a trail that actually went to the top of a mountain. After getting our daily hike in we stopped by Whole Foods and picked up supplies for lunch—Leslie and Peter had already eaten so we just headed over to eat our lunch and hang out. Once Peter was done working we all went to the Avery Brewing Company for dinner.

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Coolers are so much fun!

Avery is great for trying beers because you can order a tiny size of many of the beers. I had a few different ones, but I can’t remember what they were, except the last one, which was a raspberry sour beer. I wasn’t sure about ordering it, and then they ended up bringing me a larger glass of it by accident, so I ended up with a lot of this beer I didn’t really like, so that kind of ended my sampling. I had the “sloppy seitan” for dinner which was like a sloppy joe except with seitan instead of beef. It was really surprisingly good!

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After dinner we walked along the Boulder Creek for a bit before Athena had to go to bed. Our power was back on that night.

Day 6: We woke up and had to pack up, and decided also to take “peace corps” showers! We didn’t take selfies as Alexia had recommended, but we did get some pictures…

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Louie wanted to hike the Flatiron trail while I wanted to relax, so we ended up first eating breakfast at the Chautauqua Dining Hall again (this time I had veggie sausage gravy with biscuits, awesome!) before he hiked, Peter went to rehearsal, and I went to do laundry at Leslie’s apartment so we’d have clean clothes at the beginning of the trip. Boring but necessary…as today we were headed to Rocky Mountain National Park. The morning flew by and then it was lunch time…and Athena hadn’t woken up, so everything got a bit off schedule as we had to wait for her to wake up. Louie and I got some groceries, including a variety of trail mixes, some snacks that involved okra and I don’t know how to explain, and a few other things to supplement the rice and beans and whatnot that we already had. We went for lunch at a nearby Asian place and had some nice noodles before saying our goodbyes. And we were off on the Peak-to-Peak highway, heading to Nederland and then Rocky Mountain National Park. It was sad to leave, but we’ll see them again soon! Athena will be walking by then though, and maybe reading and talking as well…the things you miss when you live too far away :(

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.