2017, so far

2017 cdsc_0857ontinues to feed our adventurous outdoor spirits. The kids have snowshoed, gone sledding, and of course hiked. Introducing our kids to new activities has been interesting. For example, when Joe took MJ down the sledding hill we learned that MJ doesn’t like sledding. As he distanced himself from Joe, after getting off the sled, he continuously said, “no thank you!” It was cute and unexpected. Similarly, MJ didn’t love snowshoeing. He thought it was fun for about 5 minutes. Then he just sat down and ate snow.

For our snowshoeing adventure, we went to a local golf course. In hindsight, it was a good idea to stay local so the kids could test out new activities without being too far from home. AJ enjoyed both snowshoeing and sledding. At 3 1/2 he is at a great age for trying new things.

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For the most part, we have continued to hike for our weekly outdoor adventures. AJ is a pretty solid hiker and MJ is just starting to take to the trails. Now that MJ is hiking our pace has slowed quite a bit, but that is just temporary. I have no doubt that one day our boys will out hike us. To make our hikes more interesting we joined the 52 Hike Challenge through Instagram and are using a calendar to write down the names of our hikes. So far we have gone on 8 hikes and we have gone sledding and snowshoeing. It’s rare that we decide to hike the same trail twice. There is just so much to do and see here in CO.

The following pictures capture some of our 2017 adventures so far!

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Week 52: A new begining

Well, it’s finally here. That 52nd blog of our first year of 52 Weeks of Nature. It’s been written since 2016, but with the craziness of the holidays the start of a new year we’ve been busy just living life. This blog will continue into year two and I’ll write that update soon. But first…

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We celebrated the end of our 52 Weeks of Nature challenge in November. As mentioned, the delay in publishing this post wasp partly due to politics, the holidays, getting back into our routine after the holidays and the fact that I wrote two guest posts for other blogs about our adventures which you can find here and here.

I am back now to let you know that we successfully completed year one of 52 Weeks of Nature! We celebrated the 1 year anniversary while visiting family in the Bay Area of CA. There was nothing amazing about the 52nd hike or the 52nd weekend spent outside. In hindsight, I realized that I didn’t want to celebrate the end of anything. With this challenge, our family has grown accustomed to a way of life. I saw the end of year one as the beginning of year two.

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So what do we want out of year 2? Well, part of the joy of getting outside every weekend is the spontaneity of it. We developed some themes for each month to keep things fresh, but we remain flexible about how to spend our time outdoors. The work and school week are so structured. Therefore, the weekends are prime time to be footloose and fancy-free; to get outdoors as we chose.

The monthly themes that we are excited about are Sledding and Hot Chocolate and Snowshoeing and Cider. To accompany the sledding theme I made homemade hot chocolate after each outing. The kids love my hot chocolate and so do I. In February we wanted to do more snowshoeing, but actually ended up hiking a lot. To go along with that I continued to make homemade hot chocolate. I can’t get away from that stuff.  In the winter there is nothing quite like a hot beverage to enjoy after a day spent in the snow.

Please enjoy our year in review and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy our families outdoor pursuits via this blog and our Instagram and Twitter accounts both of which are @52WeeksOfNature.

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Week 51: When it all falls down

Our post-election hike was a much-needed retreat from the election. As I breathed in the fresh air and made eye contact with fellow hikers I felt life flow back into my body. I realized that my anger could be used as a catalyst to make some real changes in my life and my family’s life. For one, Joe and I made a resolution to do more to protect the environment so that our kids, and for that matter, so that kids all over the country will continue to have access to nature, fresh drinking water, outdoor programming and active lifestyles. PROTECT THE EARTH! AND our kids access to nature!

In my experience, the outdoors is a safe space that doesn’t intend, like human constructed institutions, to separate people based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or creed (although I’d appreciate if certain counties didn’t charge a fee! How is that equitable!).

The outdoors is naturally diverse – on purpose. Imagine that! Aspen groves mix with pine trees and cypresses, shrubs, soil, water and rocks coexist to create a beauty that can’t be denied. The outdoors is the nation’s great unifier – where people acknowledge one another in solidarity with nature. I don’t think twice before saying “nice day today” to a fellow hiker. I do think twice before saying “hello” to a stranger in a grocery store.

My point is that we all breath the same air and when it’s fresh air perhaps we think more clearly, perhaps our minds are temporarily freed from the confines of negative news broadcasts. Maybe, because we are out there in nature, amongst the mountains and the sea we realize how small we are and so our egos are smaller too.

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Oh, the places he’ll go!

Being outdoors has a way of reorienting me to what’s really important and what is truly false. To differentiate between the ego and the heart is tough. That is why I get outside and as far into nature as possible when I’m struggling with something. Because it is through the connection with nature that I find my voice. My voice. And I finally understand that I am the only one that needs to hear it. Make space for yourself to hear the whispers of your soul.  The desire to be right and righteous – that’s my ego. The truth is I care deeply about people and specifically about racism, sexism, and homophobia. I am passionate about those social issues. I also don’t need to add to the boiling pot of opinions. My time and voice are better spent in action by joining and volunteering with social justice organizations, by voting with my money, by investing in my children and their education, by investing in our neighborhood school. It’s time to stop running away and start running towards social change. When it all falls down and the ceiling feels like it is going to squish me with its weight I take a deep breath and step-by-step I recommit (it’s a constant decision to do so) to my choice to walk the walk of justice for all. I may not ever see the promised land, but I’ll be on my way the rest of my life. I can’t think of a better example to set for my kids.

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Week 50: Active November

img_0182Oh my! I can’t believe I just wrote Week 50 in the title. What an adventure this past year has been for our family. We ramped things up this week because we also joined two other challenges: (1) Hike it Baby 30 challenge and (2) the #OneHourOutside challenge. Both of these challenges call for an active November. I think November is the perfect time to set the tone for your winter attitude towards the outdoors and these challenges are helping our family set our intentions for yet another active winter on the trails!

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We hiked three times this weekend. We kicked things off with a Friday “after work” stroll at Davidson Mesa which overlooks Boulder and the Flatirons. It was stunning, to say the least. On Saturday we explored Boulder some more with a hike at Wonderland Lake. While the views were breathtaking I missed the pines. So, I struck a deal with Joe and the kids to go for an additional hike on Sunday.

We opted for White Ranch Open Space. It’s been a couple of years since we have hiked the west side of the park. It did not disappoint. We covered 4.5 miles over 3 hours and spent most of that time amongst the pine trees – my favorite. Mission accomplished! I have a thing for pine trees and it has almost become a requirement to spend time amongst the pines every weekend.

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Week 49: It’s going to be great!

49-10What do you do when you have hiked all the trails in your county? You explore a new county. This month we will be exploring Boulder Country trails. And we will also be joining two global challenges to get through the month of November as healthfully and happily as possible. The challenges are #OneHourOutside and #HikeItBaby30. It’s going to be great!  What this means is that we will be adding two more hikes per week to our hiking agenda for the next 30 days. We will be going from one hike a week to three! The cooling weather (finally) and the shorter days are no match for our desire to get outside. This means we will be occasionally hiking in the dark. Fun!

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Where did this motivation come from? A couple of places…while hiking this weekend, with the kids, and Joe, I was reminded how easy it is to quit life and just accept circumstances that don’t favor our internal happiness (i.e., you don’t like your job, your house is small or too big or the layout just doesn’t work, your kids are going through a tough phase, your feel fatigued, you have no time for your marriage or friends, you feel fat. The list goes on). There are a couple of ways around the unhappiness/unsatisfied trap that don’t involve quitting and are best when practiced together. Those things are: change your thinking and get outside.

Hiking always takes me to a supernatural place where my circumstances lose their power over my happiness. I become the engaged mom who is focused on her kids and excited to share my love of the outdoors with them. I get butterfly’s in my stomach just thinking about all of the outdoor adventures in our future! Sharing the outdoors with my husband and kids is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s like my body can’t help but receive the joy of Mother Nature as I trek side by side with my family.

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On this particular hike, AJ was running from imaginary snakes and bringing me along for the ride. He would shout out “run mama, the snakes are coming!” So, I’d run with him. MJ enjoyed some time on the trail as well. He would walk for a bit and then in protest (to not being held), he’d sit on the trail until his legs filled up with the energy necessary to take a few more steps. He eventually agreed to be put in the carrier which is how we slowly but surely made our way back to the trailhead.

When I’m hiking my thoughts are positive and I feel at peace with my circumstances. More times than not, I bring this newly refreshed perspective back to my circumstances and things don’t seem so bad. Because they’re not. It’s vital to disconnect sometimes to reconnect with the beautiful person that you are. Get rid of the noise (the chatter in your head, the chatter from your friends, social media, and the internet), and go be you. Because you are awesome!

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Week 48: Cabin at the Cove

lm-cabinOutdoor living exists everywhere.  Even in places with a sparse population and little industry. Lake McConaughy is one such place. What brought us here? It seemed like a perfect new place for us to explore with our family and to meet up with Joe’s sister and her family of four. And it lies somewhat in the middle of Omaha and Denver.

We really enjoyed the expansive Lake Mac. We rented a two bedroom cottage that was walking distance to the lake. We cooked (well my in-laws didJ), drank good beer and caught up on each other’s lives. We spent the first morning figuring out how to relax on the lake as the kids played in the water and built sand castles. I was taken aback by how hard it was for me to do nothing. I love hiking because you are engaged in an activity. Sitting on the lake didn’t offer much in the way of physical motion. I mean we tossed the Frisbee, Joe and Jared went out on the canoe, I took a walk along the beach…but gosh, it was all just too stagnant. Later that same day we visited the dam (amazing!), took the kids to the park and walked along a trail.

Outdoor pursuit’s aside, we mostly enjoyed the company. It’s so great to connect with family and to give our kid’s opportunities to get to know their cousins. Observing AJ and MJ interact with their two girl cousins made my heart warm. It also made sitting on the lake and doing nothing a little more entertaining.

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Week 47: Selfish to selfless

52-iiThis weekend’s hike exposed me to a shift in my thinking. I never thought of myself as a selfish person or even a self-centered person. For better or worse, I was taught to always evaluate and favor the greater good of the group vs individual wants and needs. For example, I grew up with four siblings and that meant lots of “along for the ride” dance recitals, soccer games, and other sibling activities. It also meant sharing rooms, beds and pretty much any material item. Growing up that way lead me to believe that I was not….selfish.

I’ve recently made a surprising discovery…..I was selfish and self-centered. Well, not totally, but at the very least, I didn’t know what it meant to be selfless for someone else. Recently, I have realized that until you have children you really don’t know what it means to be selfless. Before we had children most of the thoughts and decisions running through my head were me-centric. Should I go for a run after work or catch up on The Wire? I really need a new running outfit, I bought this one last year. I am going to take it easy this weekend and do some light hiking, I have had a hard week. Having kids has altered those thoughts. Should I take the kids to a playground or library after school today? AJ’s shoes are in bad shape and we should get him a new pair. The kids need an easy weekend as they have been struggling with colds. My thoughts have gone from my needs and wants to our kid’s needs and wants. I know that seems obvious, but experiencing that feels different than I had imagined.

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I remember initially, after AJ’s birth, still thinking and striving to meet my personal goals. Now, almost all of my thoughts are of the kids and their needs. “Free time” is spent on things that need to be accomplished like loading the dishwasher or doing the laundry. In fact, loading the dishwasher is now something I do for myself. 🙂

This change isn’t bad and I do not mean to sound like another complaining parent. Not at all, I just have found the experience a fascinating experience and felt like sharing.

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Week 46: Falling leaves

Fall is an unpredictable season and you can miss the golden aspen leaves if you so much as bat an eye. It just takes a strong wind or a night of freezing temperatures to miss the golden aspen trees. So, you can imagine how delighted we were to still see golden aspens lining the streets of Estes Park. Some of the aspens were a fiery orange – they were stunning. We spent two days out and about in the town and in the mountains with my in-laws and of course our kids.

On Saturday, we went to the harvest festival and followed that up with a picnic in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). AJ and MJ are becoming the best of playmates and they have been entertaining one another without adult interference for a couple of weeks now. It’s actually kind of weird. I feel both happy and sad about the whole thing. The one thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that their new independence does not free up our time. While they are entertaining one another more frequently we are still often requested to intervene to help resolve conflict or to answer a burning question or to entertain and listen to an idea or thought (that demands our  immediate attention!). Needless to say, while they play we keep ourselves available.

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Back to the harvest festival for a quick anecdote – at one point during the festival, AJ detached from me and we lost each other. I stepped out of the line and felt an immediate lump in my body as I scanned the crowd for my boy. A mother, who was behind us in line spotted AJ and pointed him out to me. She was a life saver in a moment of near panic. AJ was just about to burst into tears when I found him. I held him so tight and we talked about the importance of not leaving mommy’s side. Prior to his momentary disappearance, I was wrangling with AJ to get him to stay with me and not run away while we waited in line. It just took a second of me looking away for him disappear. Thank goodness for the other mama and here watchful eyes! AJ stuck close to me after that and I stuck close to him as well.

A picnic in RMNP is quite the opposite of a crowded festival. The kids scrambled around more freely and the adults relaxed. We built a fire which kept us warm as the temperature started to drop. We also had the pleasure of an elk sighting. There is something about observing animals that is so fascinating and relaxing. With elk, you don’t have to worry about getting hurt as long as you keep your distance. To end the evening we made some smores. A cherished treat that my kids love and associate with RMNP.

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The next day we set off for a 3 mile, out and back hike. AJ hiked the entire time. The trail started with an incline and soon leveled off. AJ was excited to see remnants of snow. His grandpa made a tiny snowman, our first of the season, much to the kids delight. AJ only required some encouragement along the way. And food always seems to do the trick, especially if chocolate is involved. His grandpa had some trail mix and we let him select a few treats from the mix at designated spots with about a mile left to our turnaround spot. AJ was very selective and picked out all of the blue M&M’s from the trail mix. We tried to get him to pair the chocolate treat with an almond to which he responded: “I just want the chocolate.” I get totally get it. As a chocoholic myself I am sure to have passed down my love of this tasty treat.

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We soon arrived at our lunch spot where we saw what was left of the creek. We witnessed a small trickle of water make its way down the hill and beyond sight. It was enough water to keep the boys entertained after we ate our standard hiking lunches (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), along with some fruit. My mother-in-law educated us on the history of the area and we even saw some ruins from a very old house that was built during the Gold Rush era. Outdoors combined with a little history lesson is so meaningful. Being able to associate a period of time  from the past with present day scenery really makes things stick.

On the way back to the trailhead Joe and started to discuss our next 52 Weeks of Nature challenge, for 2017, and I think we are going to do 52 hikes and on each hike, we are going to learn something new about nature. Thanks, Grandma Phoebe and Grandpa John for inspiring our future adventures!

The way down was easy breezy. AJ found his snowman and decided to stomp on it! And he did so with such joy. MJ rode on Joe’s back except for the beginning and end where he hikes with AJ. They borrowed grandpa’s hiking sticks throughout the hike only returning them when they were no longer fun. Whenever we have the chance to hike in RMNP with my in-laws it feels like we are building important memories. Maybe because they are passing the hiking torch, so to speak, onto the next generation of CO lovers. It is always inspiring to observe the love of hiking being passed down to the grandchildren. Creating memories in the great outdoors, as a family, is exactly what life is about.

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Week 45: Refuge for our marriage

This weekend Joe’s parents come down to spend some time with us. This freed Joe and I up for a date day. We, of course, chose to hike. It was weird to arrive at the trail head, snag a front row parking spot, and hop out of the car having only ourselves to worry about. Joe and I laughed at how accustomed we have become to spending 15 minutes in the car upon our arrival to the trail (or anywhere really), loading our backpacks with kids, diapers, wipes, snacks and whatever else they may need. I can’t tell you how strange it was to just exit the car and start towards the trail head. It was a sad kind of weird at first, but it quickly felt normal as Joe and started to talk.

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During our Flagstaff days, Joe and I hiked all the time, and at a pace that would leave me gasping for air now. All of those hikes set the foundation for Joe and me to quickly acclimate to hiking as a twosome.  Anytime we get out on our own, we are quickly reminded of the old days, before kids, before jobs. We were married for four years prior to becoming parents and together for a total of six years. During that time we went on several adventures (i.e. a bike trip across the country, to London, backpacking the Grand Canyon). Those bigger trips were accompanied by smaller hikes and bike rides and camping trips throughout AZ, CO, and CA. We hiked every weekend! Back then we also had a community of other hikers that we would meet up with which was always fun. I say this to connect the dots to the immediate sense of normalcy that I experienced when I’m out on the trail with Joe sans kids. In the year since we started 52 Weeks of Nature, we have only hiked alone twice (this being the 2nd time). Prior to that, I don’t think we hiked alone since before we had AJ!

dscn2141Back to the route – we stayed somewhat local with our hike and beat the crowds by arriving at 8:30 am. The way up was awesome! The hues of orange, gold and red made me feel so warm inside and excited for fall. We also had some amazing views of Denver and of the Indian Peaks. One of the best things about the foothills is that you can experience nature and civilization within steps of one another. So many hikes can make you feel totally removed from city life while at the same time exposing you to views of the city that remind you how nature and urbanization coexist. Hikes like this fascinate me because they represent the dualism of humanity. On one hand, we want beautiful buildings to represent our creativity, authenticity, etc, and yet we escape to nature to “find ourselves.” This is not a good or bad thing, as I see it, just interesting.

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Hiking is a personal refuge for me. It is also a refuge for my marriage. On this day Joe and I had an opportunity to check in with each other as the couple we once were, the couple we are and the couple we are becoming. It was needed and we couldn’t be more thankful to my in-laws for giving us this time.

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Week 44: Shimmering Shades of Gold

I cannot believe that we just wrapped up week 45 of our 52 Weeks of Nature challenge. Has it really almost been an entire year since this journey began? I suppose the reason that the saying “time flies” is so frequently used is because it’s true! As the days, have turned into weeks and the weeks into months and the months into nearly a year our journey has grown from local hikes to long drives along scenic highways to more remote, although still moderately trafficked, hiking destinations.

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We have seen MJ go through two hiking carriers. The first – the Ergo and now the Deuter. It blows my mind that when we started this journey I was wearing a less than one-year-old MJ in front of me and now I carry him on my back unless he opts to walk for a bit. AJ has outgrown all of last year’s fall and winter outdoor gear and is happily sporting big boy jackets, shoes, and hiking pants. He too has a carrier, but rarely uses it. AJ is building grit, stamina, endurance and confidence as he continually faces new challenges with each outdoor adventure.

Joe and I have become much more patient over the last year – with slower hikes and frequent detours from our “planned” trips. We each take turns wrangling and encouraging our kids along the way. Sometimes we even have a moment of uninterrupted conversation. Sometimes.

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This weekends took us back to Evergreen, CO. We love Evergreen with its large pine tree population, mountain views, weather and outdoor access. At the start of the hike we studied the map and picked a loop. It was an exciting start made even more exciting by the running event taking place. There were countless kids and families running the loop we had intended to hike. Plan derailed! Fortunately, I grabbed a map and so we quickly plotted out a new route.

While the energy of the running event was awesome, I was so happy to get away from the masses. We took the first turn that we could and ended up hiking on flat terrain most of the way (our intention was to climb a mountain). To our surprise, there were several aspen groves along the way. Most of the aspens were a shimmering shade of yellow. Perfect for fall. The trail was cool as it was shaded by tall pines and large boulders.

As we hiked we were accompanied by mountain bikers and fellow hikers. The trail was mostly quiet but populated enough to ease my fear of being stalked by a mountain lion. MJ hiked a little, and AJ hiked a lot. The end.

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