Saturday, July 2nd: Rest Day



We woke to weather forecasts that had deteriorated for riding Vail Pass, so we declared it a rest day and headed to Golden.  We planned to do a tour of the Coors Brewery, but forgot it was a holiday weekend and decided we would rather not stand in line waiting two hours to get in.  Instead we would head to the Golden Farmer’s Market.  We were quite hungry by the time we got the the farmer’s market, and quickly found the food area and fantastic tacos from “Go West Tacos.”

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While we sat at a table under an umbrella, Luke decided that he should run up Mt. Zion, a nearby mountain with a white “M” on it for the Colorado School of Mines.  He said something along the lines of “I can run up there in 10 minutes!”  But after some consideration and debate with Dave and Kevin, he settled on 25 minutes.  He was given a buffer of 2 minutes to make sure Trisha was was ok with the crazy idea, and then ran off towards the mountain.

Our view of the “M”

After 37 minutes, jumping over fences and crossing a highway, he had reached his goal.  Luke called us on his cell phone to let us know he was there.  He was super psyched, and insistent that we HAD to be able to see him.  We repeatedly told him we definitely could not see him, that the cars on the road near him were tiny from our location.  He told us he was going to be much slower on his way down, so we started walking towards the American Mountaineering Museum just down the street and told him to meet us there.

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Getting closer…
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Luke’s View

The museum was not huge, but had a lot of interesting exhibits.  We wandered around checking everything out until Luke showed up. 




As we headed back to the car, someone in the group noticed an ice cream shop, and before long we were all inside Golden Sweets getting cones of delicious ice cream for the walk back to the car.  On the drive home, we made a quick stop at Red Rocks.  Red Rocks is an outdoor amphitheater naturally created by rock formations.  Unfortunately, we were unable to wander around very much because of a concert that was getting set up for that evening.



Thursday, June 30th – Friday, July 1st – Juniper Pass 2.0 and Elk Meadow Hike

A quick check of the weather Thursday morning showed a good window for Dave, Alex, and Trisha to ride to Juniper Pass again.  So we ate some breakfast, packed up gear, and headed to Bergen Park.  Trisha was hoping that the adjustments to her bike the previous day would allow her to feel better and make it to the top of the pass.  The adjustments definitely did, she rocked the ride and even went above and beyond…. without realizing it.  Within the first few miles Alex lost sight of Trisha, before she could point out the elk on the side of the road.  Dave was the first one back to the car, seeing Trisha first and then Alex about a mile behind.  Once back at the car, he headed to the nearby lake to wait for the girls.  When Alex arrived at Juniper Pass, she was surprised that she had not seen Trisha descending, or waiting at the pass.  She checked her phone, only seeing a message from Dave letting her know he was back at the car.  She sent a message back saying she had not seen Trisha, but was at Juniper.  Dave thought maybe Trisha had turned around at the camp just before the pass, and Alex thought maybe she had gone to the lookout just after the pass.   Alex waited a few minutes before zipping up her jacket and beginning her way back down to the car with the chilly air blowing against her. 


Back at the car, both she and Dave were surprised not to see Trisha.  Since they did not have the keys to the car, and were now somewhat concerned, Dave called Luke and Sam at the house.  Sam drove down to the parking area, while Luke stayed at the house with Wes.  Alex would wait at the car, while Sam and Dave drove up towards the pass to see if Trisha had somehow gotten into a bind.  Only a few minutes later,  Alex saw Trisha riding her bike into the lot, with the car not far behind.   Turns out Trisha’s bike computer was not properly calibrated, and she was unable to tell how far she had gone, totally missed the sign for Juniper Pass, and had continued down to Echo Lake…. and down the road a bit farther.  Realizing something wasn’t right, she turned around and made her way back, waited at the Mount Evan’s Visitor’s center, thinking that it was the turn around point, and was surprised Alex had not yet shown up. 

Glad that everyone was back, and with no major problems, we made our way back to the house where we would relax for the evening.   Mike would be coming over later that evening for dinner, so we cooked up a large variety of roasted vegetables.  Mike showed up with ingredients in hand to make what turned out to be a delicious salad with homemade avocado dressing.



The following day was scheduled to be a rest day, and with rain in the forecast, we decided to do an easy 5-mile hike at Elk Meadow Park.  Soon after beginning our hike, we ran into, Angie from the bike shop, who had adjusted Trisha’s bike and assured her that she shouldn’t be to tough on herself about biking… seeing that Wes was not even a year old!  After chatting for a bit we continued along the trail.  As we hiked, Dave was dwelling on the fact that there was a trail that would take them up the the top of Bergen Peak, and we weren’t planning on doing it.  At the last trail junction, Dave brought this up, and Alex and Sam both said they would go along to the summit. 




For Alex, Dave and Sam, their 5-mile hike turned into an 11-mile hike.   They were happy they made the choice to go to the top, and take in the views.   They made the entire way back to the car, stopping for Alex to take pictures of flowers, without getting rained on!  That was a win!






bergen pano sam






Starving, as usual, they stopped at Dandelions Cafe for lunch.  They sat on the patio, thoroughly enjoying the margarita pizza they all shared, and the sandwich and salad that Alex and Dave also split.  It was a delicious meal with great service, definitely a place they would recommend!  With their hunger subsided, they ran some errands before heading back to the house.



The remainder of the evening was spent relaxing and watching Harry Potter.  To be honest, most of us relaxed… Sam was too anxious about Kevin flying in that night to settle completely.  At one point Dave made a comment about an internet server crashing, and Sam yelled at him for joking about Kevin’s plane crashing.  Later that evening, Sam headed to Denver to pick up Kevin, while the rest of the group prepared biking gear for the morning’s ride of Vail Pass before they headed to bed.

bike gear

Tuesday, June 28th – Wednesday, June 29th: Biking and Climbing

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 9.31.24 AMTuesday morning, Alex, Dave and Trisha headed to Bergen Park to begin their Squaw Pass ride.  The route would be 37 miles from the parking area over the pass, down to the Mt. Evan’s Visitor’s Center and back to the start.  After prepping our bikes Dave was off first, and soon after Alex and Trisha were on their way. 

A few miles up the road, Alex slowed, then unclipped and stopped her bike to allow an elk to cross the road in front of her.  “Did you see that?!?!” she yelled back to Trish.  Yeah… of course she saw it!  Nine miles up the pass, Alex stopped, confused by the fact that she was definitely not through the ascent, but she could see a small green sign off the side of the road for “Squaw Pass Summit” with an elevation of 9,000+ feet.  This didn’t make sense… shouldn’t that be at mile 16 with an elevation of 11,000+ feet?  She decided to shrug it off and continue along the road figuring she will make sense of it sooner or later. 

At mile 15 she sees Dave making his descent.  He stopped to talk to her, told her he was feeling great and had ridden down to Echo Lake.  He explained that he realized the actual top of the climb was at Juniper Pass, NOT Squaw Pass, but if she was feeling good she should go another mile down the road to a pretty lookout.  Despite the fact that at mile 12.5 she was feeling pretty bad after eating a Gu, she was feeling better now and would do as Dave suggested. 


Alex stopped at the view point to take some pictures before turning around to return to the top of the pass, take some pictures there, and then begin the fun descent.  Back at the car, she rejoined with Trisha who had been having knee pain on the ride, and had turned around about 12 miles up.  Rather than waiting for the girls, Dave had ridden back to the Evergreen House. 



After showers, relaxing, and napping for some,  Alex, Dave, Sam, Trisha, and Wes headed to a find some additional plates and utensils at a thrift store.  Luke went out to do the Juniper Pass ride since he had been working earlier that day.  Turns out the Goodwill nearby was actually just a donation center, so the group decided to drive to the Arc Thrift Store in Golden.  Not only did they find plates, and an awesome set of silverware, but they also found a 36-cup percolator for $8!  This might be enough coffee for the group…


Dave was also stoked to find a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sandwich container which he said he would use to house his snacks when we were out and about. 


Back at the house we were finally able to cut the watermelon that we purchased a few days ago, since we now had a knife that was big enough for the task.  We also learned that Luke had survived his ride, sustained only on Mike & Ike’s.  Apparently, he forgot the food he had planned on taking, but was lucky enough to find a package of Mike & Ike’s in the car.

After breakfast and a percolator of coffee, Alex and Dave headed off to climb at The Catslab in Clear Creek Canyon.  They had chosen this area after Alex nixed Dave’s suggestion of an area that included climbing 25 feet up a tree to a Tyrollean traverse across the creek to access an area with less than stellar rock.  Did he actually think that sounded like a great idea?

Trisha was hoping to get her bike to a shop to see if she could alleviate the knee pain that plagued her the previous day.  Maybe then, the rest of the group would join Alex and Dave for some climbing.   Alex and Dave arrived at The Catslab to find it looking pretty crowded from the road, and decided to find a different area.   They wound up climbing at East Colfax.  They approach was super easy, and despite several other groups, there were open climbs.  Alex started the day deciding to lead an easy 5.4 sport route, For the Children, her first lead since they were in The Red over Thanksgiving, so she was pretty happy.  Four more routes were done: One For All (5.5), Wild Bore (5.7), Speeding Ticket (5.6), and When I’m 64 (5.6) before they headed out with storm clouds looming nearby.




Alex and Dave headed to Denver to pick up their Triple Bypass race packets and to get Dave fingerprinted so he could update his teaching clearances.  The office they went to was AMAZINGLY fast, and they found themselves with plenty of extra time before they would be meeting the rest of their group at Lodo’s in Highland Ranch for the Triple Bypass Pre-Ride Party.  At Mike’s suggestion, we walked around Washington Park for a while.  Needing a snack before dinner, we Yelp’ed and found a small local taqueria, La Calle Taqueria and Carnitas, where we had some delicious food despite the fact the it looked less than stellar from the outside.



Still early for dinner and needing a little pick-me-up, we stopped at 303 Coffee and had some iced dirty chai tea lattes before heading to Lodo’s.  We enjoyed sitting on the deck area of the restaurant, enjoying our free food and drinks while taking in the views of the Front Range and Denver in the distance.  On the ride home, Alex, Dave and Sam enjoyed the beautiful backroads, and even got to see a mother deer and her VERY newly born fawn in a field.  Once back at the house we prepped our biking gear to ride Juniper Pass again in the morning, as long as the weather would hold out.


Sunday, June 26th – Monday, June 27th: Biking and Hiking


We woke up at 5:30 AM on Sunday to organize biking gear and get some breakfast and coffee in us before heading on our first bike ride in Colorado.  Alex also spent some of this morning time attempting to get the blog started, but instead just got angry at the new computer and problems she was having getting it to work the way she wanted it to.


We were meeting a group of riders in Georgetown, a town about 30 miles away.  The ride was a “Triple Bypass Training Ride” sponsored by Team Evergreen and Optimize Endurance Services.  The route would take us from Georgetown to Keystone by going up and over Loveland Pass, and then return to Georgetown via the same route.  The ride would cover about 55 miles and have over 6,000 feet of elevation gain.  Alex hadn’t fully committed to the ride and was actually quite nervous about riding a pass for the first time.  Luke, despite only arriving in Colorado a few hours earlier and not yet acclimated, was ready to go.  Dave was Dave… excited as always!

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training group


After lubing our chains and testing our brakes and tire pressures, we were ready to go.  A large group of about 50 had showed up for the ride, and after a few minutes of discussion about the route we were on our way.  Soon, we were out of the town and beginning to climb towards the top of Loveland Pass.  Riding in Colorado was so different than riding at home where hills were short and steep, where here they weren’t as steep but went on fooooooreeeeeeveeeeeeeeer!  Alex, not knowing how far she had remaining to the pass, and not wanting to wreck herself on day one, turned around at 13.5 miles.  Back at the car, she realized she did not have the keys, or anything other than her biking gear, so she decided to hang out near the lake they had parked at.  Two and a half ours later, much of which was spent chasing the limited amount of shade around the car, Dave and Luke showed up.  They both had made the entire ride, and Luke totally crushed it despite all that he had working against him.  Not only did he crush the ride he also mentally pulled Dave through his struggle back up the back side of the pass.  Dave had taken it a bit to fast at the get go, and found himself alternating between biking and stopping as he made his way up the back side of Loveland Pass on the return. 


Dave and Luke



After making our way back to the house in Evergreen and Sam, we showered and headed towards Denver to meet Mike for dinner at great little Thai restaurant, US Thai Cafe.  Our awesome dinner was followed by awesome ice cream at Sweet Cow.  After ice cream, Alex, Dave and Sam headed back to Evergreen, while Luke headed to the airport to pick up Trisha and Wes. 

Monday morning, despite not needing to be up early, we woke around 5AM to a sunny morning.  We spent the morning relaxing and drinking coffee before the crew minus Luke headed off for a 5-mile hike on the Evergreen Trail in Alderfer/Three Sisters Park.  Luke would be working from home that day, as he would a few days each week.  The hike was a pleasant trails shared by hikers, mountain bikers, and horses.  Seeing all the mountain bikers made us wish we could bring ours along too… if only we had a Sprinter van! 



Dave started the hike wearing Wes in his carrier, hoping to allow Trisha some time to acclimate to the altitude.  Wes enjoyed hitting sticks of Dave’s head however, before long Wes only wanted mom.  Once at the top, we stopped to have a snack, and take some pictures before making our way back down to the car.









Back in Evergreen, we relaxed for the afternoon, before Dave and Luke made a trip to the grocery store to get some additional items for dinner.  They returned with LOTS of groceries, and chased the women from the kitchen.  They prepared a delicious meal of spaghetti and meatballs with side of garlic bread in preparation for our rides up Squaw Pass the following morning.



Friday, June 24th – Saturday, June 25th – Vedauwoo, WY

IMG_20160624_074505812We woke on the sleeping platform in the car to a beautiful morning.  We lounged around camp, drinking coffee and eating yogurt and apples.  We began to organize ourselves to go climb, and decided to set up the tent to maintain our camping area while we were away.  We tossed around a few climbing areas, before deciding on climbing at Beehive Buttress, a sport climbing area we first visited during our 2012 trip.  As we began to drive to the crag, we realized storm clouds we closing in, and reconsidered where we wanted to go.  After some consideration, we decided Beehive Buttress was probably in an area far enough away from the storm clouds to allow us some time to climb.





We made our way along the bumpy and rutted dirt roads to the crag, the huffed and puffed along the short approach… oh oxygen, how we miss you when you aren’t as readily available (Vedauwoo sits at over 8,000 feet above sea level).   We worked our way along the wall, running up 5 routes before we retreated from the hot sun.




Back in the car, we drove to a nearby rest area, which happens to be the highest point on I-80.  We cooked up a dinner of buffalo mac-n-cheese on the camp stove, and began to clean up as a thunderstorm began to dump rain and hail to the ground.




Back at camp, we relaxed in the now clear weather, before the winds picked up and we retreated to the tent to nap.  Before settling in for the night we, climbed up some boulders to take in the beautiful landscape as the sun set.


Saturday morning, we packed up camp, and drove to the central park area to climb at the Clam Shell.  As we organized gear, Dave told Alex, “There is some coffee in the Hydroflask growler… it’s not the best… but it’s coffee.”  As Alex took a sip she made a face of disgust…. the coffee was terrible!  It was OLD iced coffee…. from Thursday morning!  EWWW!   Next, Dave handed her the tub of yogurt from the cooler, telling her “it’s not cold, but its not warm either….” and once again, “It’s not the best….” Soon an apple was offered, but that was not quite that fresh either :(  For Alex, this was again, not acceptable food, and she decided she was no longer trusting Dave’s food suggestions and would eat a Lara Bar instead. 

Once at the wall, we ran a few climbs, working on building up not only our slab climbing, but also our general climbing strength.  The last few months our climbing had been lacking due to a series of minor injuries sustained by Dave…. tendonitis from over climbing, bruised rib thanks to Doug, and a jammed finger from basketball.  Our climbing is not where it normally is at the beginning of summer, but the lack of climbing had allowed more time to focus on biking and prepare for Triple Bypass in July.






After climbing, we began to make our way towards our rental house in Evergreen, Colorado.  We made stops at Sierra Trading Post and Chik-fil-a.   We may have gorged a bit and ate a chicken sandwich as well as a 12-piece chicken nugget meal with fries….. each.

Soon after we arrived at the rental house, our friend Mike, stopped by.  We spent some time catching up and making plans to hike and climb over the coming weeks.  After Mike headed out, we stocked up on food at the grocery store, made salads and guacamole for dinner, and waited for our friends Luke and Sam to arrive.   Luke and Same made the drive from home along with Kaiah, Luke and Trisha’s dog.  Trisha, Luke’s wife would be flying in the next day with their son, Wes.  Sam’s boyfriend, Kevin, would be the last of our crew to arrive, he would be flying in on Friday.



Sunday, June 19th – Thursday, June 23rd – Monona, WI


We woke to our alarm at 4:00 AM…. not exactly the hour we wanted to be awake, but it had to be done. We had spent the previous day packing until we headed to the wedding of our friends Chris and Gretchen, however, the packing was not done. With tired morning grumbles, we stumbled around our apartment making the final preparations, and trips to the car. As the sun rose, and the coffee soaked in, we left our sleepy haze and officially hit the road at 6:30 AM.

The drive was pretty uneventful as drives go, and we arrived at AJ & Liz’s place near Madison, WI, around 7:45 PM. Baby Quin, now 3 months old, was already sleeping soundly in his crib. We would have to wait until morning to say hello. Knowing we were hungry, food was ready when we arrived, and we spent the next couple hours catching up with each other.



Monday morning, we were woken by Quin being laid on top of us as AJ returned to the kitchen to continue making our favorite breakfast, Migas Frittatas (Eggs, Potatoes, Corn, Beans, Jalapeños, Salsa, Avacado, Onions, Cheese, and Tortillas… you can’t go wrong!).


Monday turned out to be a day of eating, and game playing. Breakfast was followed up by pizza making. We tried something new this time… putting the dough, toppings, and more dough in a BIG waffle iron. The results were very messy and tasty, but we decided we would stick with regular pizzas in the future.



We spent the day playing a new game, Splendor (great game!) and Alex and Liz went out for a short bike ride.

Later in the evening, friends Karna, Ripal, and baby Myra came over with dinner, Pani Puri, a traditional Indian dish. The puri are the hollow fried dough balls, which you crack a hole into to fill with the potato and bean stuffing, and then fill with the pani. Pani is a mixture of water, mint, and other spices that I can’t remember! AJ and Liz had been telling us about this meal on a previous visit, and we were very excited to have it. It was delicious! After dinner we all went for a walk before Karna, Ripal and Myra headed home. The remainder of the night involved more game playing!


Dave was itching to get a long bike ride in, so after breakfast on Tuesday, he and AJ headed out. AJ would ride part way with Dave before returning home, and Dave would continue on to complete a 71 mile loop. While the boys were out, Alex and Liz took Quin for a walk. With everyone back home, we went out side to take some pictures so Alex could play around with a new camera. Once back inside, another new game was played, Viticulture. Again we give it a thumbs up… AJ doesn’t usually recommend we play bad games :o) As the afternoon turned to evening, Alex needed to get a bike ride in as well, despite the fact that she would rather just hang out with everyone. So, AJ put together a nice 25 mile loop for her, and off she went. While she was gone, the rest of the group went out for a walk and made dinner.




Wednesday morning brought a forecast of thunderstorms, so we scratched bike rides from the agenda and made another batch of migas frittatas for breakfast. We have been wanting to get a new laptop for a while, our old one was getting buggy and to be honest we never really liked it anyways. So we spent some time finalizing our choice, maxing out the coupons code rewards, purchasing a lot of gift cards at the grocery store to maximize reward dollars, and then Dave went to Best Buy to pick up the laptop (we’ve joined the Mac world), while Alex, AJ, Liz and Quin went for a long walk. The remainder of the morning was spent with runs for Alex and Dave, and tennis for Dave and AJ, before we all took another walk to Fraboni’s for lunch.


We spent the rest of the day playing more games, doing some tricky yoga which Dave escaped from to rock Quin on the porch swing, and cooking up some baked veggies for dinner.

Thursday morning, we had a slow morning sitting around before packing up the car and hitting the road around 9:45 AM for Vedauwoo, WY. Vedauwoo has become our usual first stop on our way out west. We pulled into a camping area around 11:30 PM local time (we are now in the Mountain Time Zone, 2 hours behind the Eastern Time Zone).



Thursday, August 13th – Monday, August 17th: Madison, WI

We left the Hefter’s Thursday morning, and headed towards AJ and Liz’s place near Madison, WI.  A long day of driving brought us to their door just before 11PM.  AJ had told us he was having trouble staying awake, so he would leave the door open and get up when we arrived.  We entered as quietly as we could, and talked quietly to AJ, trying not to wake Liz.  As Dave walked down the hall, he went to close AJ and Liz’s bedroom door.  AJ said “Liz is away for work.” AHHH! We didn’t need to be so quiet. If we would have known, we would have attacked AJ upon walking in the door! After catching up for a bit, a lot less quietly than before, we headed to bed.

 In the morning, we relaxed while having smoothies and lattes before unloading the car into their garage for reorganization.  Mid-day, we headed out for a bike ride, heading towards the Grumpy Troll for a late lunch.  The route to The Grumpy Troll would take us mostly uphill for about 30 miles. AJ and Dave would say that Alex started to ride “the struggle bus” within a few miles of their destination.  At one point, she needed to stop to fix her shoe, and decided to also sit down on the side of the road, eat and drink.  After much prompting from the guys, and knowledge that only 3 miles remained, she got back on her bike and peddled slowly up hill. 

At the Grumpy Troll, we enjoyed cold drinks and food, and shelter from the blaring heat of the sun.    Sitting outside however, we enjoyed no respite from the humidity.  Early on, AJ and Dave had suggested that Alex might just want to take a cab home, but after lunch she was feeling refreshed and decided that that flat to down hill return route should be fine. 

After a few miles, however, Alex’s peddling speed was not meeting the expectation of the guys, and was going to make for a long ride home. They called her a cab and peddled away.  

 Liz was home when Alex arrived, and AJ an Dave arrived shortly thereafter.  The three of us enjoyed a pre-shower shower from the garden hose Liz was using to water the flowers.   The rest of the weekend was spent taking walks, another bike ride, shopping trips, cooking, and lots of game playing.  The original weekend plan of a river trip was thrown out the window when we learned that people had been gotten sick from nearby river water.

When Monday morning came, AJ and Liz headed to work as we headed back to Pennsylvania.  After 13+ hours, we arrived at Alex’s parent’s house around 9:30PM, the last stop before officially being home.  
It is amazing how fast the summer can fly by.  Arriving home is always bittersweet.  It is wonderful to be with family and friends we have not seen in months, have our own space back again, and enjoy the everyday conveniences of regular access to showers, refrigerators, stoves, and our bed.   It is also sad to have to leave behind the freedom of daily adventures with little other worries than what are we going to eat today and where are we going to sleep? We may not have accomplished all of our objectives for the summer, but we had a fantastic time, in beautiful places, with wonderful people… so who can complain? 
Until next summer…


Monday, August 10th – Thursday, August 13th: Las Vegas to Denver

After waking up and packing up the hotel room, we hit the road and headed towards Vegas.  Doug would be flying out the next morning, and we would be heading to Denver, CO, for a few days.

With a food stop along the way, we arrived in Vegas after about 6 hours.

No matter how hungry… we still can’t eat here!

We enjoyed several bags of complimentary hotel popcorn before heading to the outdoor pool and basketball court for the afternoon.   After showers, we headed downstairs to the “manager’s reception” for complimentary dinner and drinks.  Thanks, AJ, for hooking us up with a nice hotel :o)

As evening set in, we headed to the Las Vegas Strip.  Despite the setting sun, the weather was still hot and humid as we walked down the strip, heading to Treasure Island to see Cirque du Soleil Mystere. 

After enjoying the show, we headed back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep.  As we drove to the hotel, the temperature outside was still 100 degrees… at midnight!  

The alarm roused us from our sleep on Tuesday morning, Doug took the hotel shuttle to the airport and we enjoyed a complimentary breakfast before we hit the road for Denver.

The day was fairly uneventful, just a long 11+ hour day in the car.  A random bathroom stop in Utah, however, happened to provide us with a nice break from the car.  The Sand Bench View rest stop provided awesome desert views.

As the eight-o-clock hour rolled around, we found ourselves nearing the Hefter’s home in a Denver suburb.  Apparently, not visiting last year through us off, as we found ourselves on the wrong version of their street name wondering why the house numbers were waaaay off.

After catching up with the Hefters, and enjoying one of Greg’s tasty breakfast sandwiches for dinner, we headed to bed for the night.  Wednesday morning, we woke later than we expected, and quickly showered and headed out the door.  We had plans to meet up with our friends Mike and Jenn, for lunch and a tour of the Stranahan’s  Distillary.  Before lunch, however, we needed to find a place to get the oil changed in the car.   After a detour to Starbuck’s to liven up the still sleepy Alex, we dropped off the car at a small local garage, and started walking toward’s Mike and Jenn’s place.  It was about a 3 mile walk, and Mike picked us up along the way.  We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Racines, while catching up with the pair.

After lunch, we headed to Stranahan’s.  We enjoyed the tour, and found it to be thorough and interesting.  After the tour, Mike had to head to work for a meeting, and we headed to Joyride Brewing with Jenn. After parting ways, we headed back to the Hefter’s to have dinner with them.  

Thursday, August 6th – Sunday, August 9th: Backpacking in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Morning came quickly, and in the dark we made our way towards Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks.  Alex, Dave, and Doug would drive to the starting trailhead, Marvin Pass, and unload most of the contents of the car into the parking lot.  Doug would then pick up the rest of our crew and their packs at the Crescent Meadow Trailhead, stop at the Ranger’s Station for a permit and bear canisters, and bring them back to Marvin Pass.  While Alex and Dave waited, a yummy breakfast or potatoes, eggs, and bacon was cooked up.  We were dropped off at Marvin Pass around 6:45 AM, and by 10:00 AM, our group of six was assembled and ready to hit the trail. 

 Day 1 on the trail started with uphill switchbacks, but eventually turned into mile after mile of flat, mile crushing, terrain.  Alex and Dave, spent much of the day questioning whether backpacking here instead of Yosemite was the right choice.  Doug said the views and trail were supposed to be great, but so far it was nothing but blah-ish, lacking views, and very dusty.  We hoped things improved, we wanted Carrie, Pat and Rachel to have amazing trip.  Perhaps we were being too picky, because even now they seemed quite happy.  We stopped a few times throughout the day to snack and eat lunch, and found ourselves at the Roaring River Ranger’s Station by 6 PM.  After doing some calculations, we realized we had hiked 18-19 miles that day, blowing our original goals out of the water.  Having hiked that significant chunk helped to make up for the time lost due to the flight delay, and also set us up to be able to reach Elizabeth Pass the next day. 


We found a camping area near the ranger’s station, set-up tents, changed out of our dusty and sweaty clothes, filtered water, washed up, started a camp fire, and prepared dinner.  Everyone was pretty tired at this point and lounged around the fire, enjoying a delicious Doug dinner (rice noodles, Italian seasoning, and salmon), and some of the absurd amount of wine he lugged in his pack all day.  Before long, each of us retreated to our tents to rest our tired bodies.

Friday morning, we woke soon after the sun, and each of us did our part to get camp cleaned up and breakfast prepared.  We were particularly happy that Pat made us coffee to sip on and warm us up and we packed camp. 
Around 7:30 AM we were on the trail again, headed towards Elizabeth Pass, about 11 miles away.  The terrain today turned into what we had been hoping for.  Granite peaks and cliff faces began to peak from behind the trees, and eventually come into full view.  The “ooohs and ahhhhs” of our friends made us even happier with the trail. 

As the pass drew close, we stopped at the edge of the meadow below the pass to make lunch.  The plan was tuna, green onion, and cheese in a wrap, but it quickly changed to involve cooking up some orzo to make it a heartier lunch since gaining Elizabeth Pass was going to be a tiring endeavor.  Since the break was going to be significant, we all took off our boots and gave our feet and socks a chance to dry out.  Everyone lounged and napped at some point before or after lunch.  We spent some extra time watching the clouds after lunch, nervous that they could be bringing storms.  We did not want to get stuck in the pass area if a thunderstorm was likely.  After a while, we decided the sky looked good, and made a move for the pass…. all of us except for Doug.  Doug continued to nap on ground where we had earlier had fun throwing rocks at his exposed buttocks.  We were all confident that Doug would catch up to us, the question was how soon?

Together we made our way towards the pass.  As the terrain turned steep, Dave took off quickly moving up the trail, Alex and Carrie took up the middle position, and Pat and Rachel brought up the rear.  Soon we spied Doug in his pink shirt and large pack making his way through the meadow. 

Dave crushed the elevation, and found himself sitting at the top within an hour.  As Alex and Carrie made their way towards the pass, Doug’s voice caught their attention.  He wanted them to stop so he could get some sunscreen from them.  The pair was not happy about stopping, but Doug quickly scrambled up the terrain ignoring all the switchbacks to meet them.  As they were ready to get moving, Doug asked if they wanted some chocolate and proceeded to empty the contents of his pack onto the ground in order to reach the bear canister that contained the Hershey bar.  Alex and Carrie were making their way up the rocky switchbacks, questioning their will to live and whether they were ever going to reach the top.  Alex was mentally prepared for what looked to be the end to be a trick, and rightly so.  As they came up over the hump, what was skyline turned into flatter terrain before the final push to the pass.  Before they could see him, they could hear Dave shouting a combination of encouragement and taunts for stopping.  Joyfully, but tiredly, Alex and Carrie joined Dave on the pass, about 45 minutes after his arrival to it.

The three took some pictures and settled themselves on some rocks in an area on the side of the pass that offered shelter from the wind.  Doug showed up a short while later, having had to stop to save all the wine from leaking into his pack.  A hole had formed in the wine bag, and he stopped to get water bottles from Pat and Rachel to transfer the remains into.  As Pat and Rachel came into view of the four of us, Dave wanted to give some encouragement to them.  He was going to sing to them, but instead, Doug pulled out his iPod and mini speaker, blasted some Guns N Roses, and the pair threw off their shirts to perform on air-guitars and air-drums. 

When all six of us joined on the pass, we celebrated victory…. It was all downhill after this!  We decided to cook dinner on the pass since we still had several miles of hiking before we could make camp.  Mashed potatoes, summer sausage, and fresh green beans were prepared on the camp stoves and eagerly devoured before we began to make our way down the other side of the pass.  The pass was the dividing line between King’s Canyon (where we came from) and Sequoia (where we were headed) National Parks. 

We made our way down the backside of the pass, stopping to filter water on the way.  Eventually, the sloping meadow turned into long switchbacks that would drop us into the valley below.  The views as we descended were breathtaking, especially with the alpine glow lighting up the rugged peaks.  As darkness fell, we pulled out headlamps to aid our journey to the valley.  Carrie and Doug walked ahead and located an area for us to set up camp.   Once we all arrived, tents were quickly set up, a few snacks eaten, and all of us but Doug retreated to our tents, bodies exhausted from the day.  As we lay in our tents, Doug shouted something along the lines of “DAVE! You are NEVER going to believe this!”  Uh-oh…. “This map says there is a CONCESSION STAND about 2 miles from here!”  We verified this in the morning, the map really did say “camping and concessions (summer only)” at the Bear Paw Ranger Station.  We weren’t really sure what this meant, but at worst it meant overpriced snacks… which would be delicious! 

As we heard Doug head to the tent, we heard something else outside.  It kind of sounded like a deer.  Dave stuck his head out of the tent and found it was not only one deer, it was three bucks!  One of which was quite large.  These deer were very curious and kept coming closer to our tent.  Throwing rocks and yelling only made them more curious!  It was quite the ridiculous situation, and no one else got out their tents to see this!  Eventually, we went back into our tent and ignored the curious creatures that wandered around where we slept.

We enjoyed a slow and relaxed morning on Saturday, eating breakfast and drinking coffee around a campfire.  We only had about 13 miles to cover between today on Sunday, so we planned to drop our packs off and do a day hike out to Hamilton Lakes before hiking to our camping spot for the night.  When we finally got moving, we made our way towards the split in the trail where we could continue towards our ending trailhead, Crescent Meadow, or turn off towards Hamilton Lakes.  We stashed our packs in the bushes, and only took the food, water, and other small items we would need for the 2.4 mile hike to the lake.   We meandered up and around the mountain via switchbacks, stopping for lunch at a waterfall.  When we reached the lake, we all dropped our outer clothing to take a refreshing dip before lying on the hot stone slabs to dry.  At 2:00 PM, the appointed turn-around time, we made our way back to where we stashed out packs, and made our way along the stunning and exposed rim traverse of the High Sierra Trail. 

After 1.6 miles of beautiful terrain and raspberry picking, we arrived at Bear Paw Camp.  Turns out there WAS a “concession stand”!  The camp was a walk in camping area that provided tents and cabins to hikers who reserved them.  It also provided its guests with meals.  Sadly, we could only drool over the meat cooking on the grill and twice-baked potatoes in the kitchen.  They did however, have snacks for purchase for those who were hiking through, and we took advantage!  It was an oasis in the woods!  We feasted on big delicious brownies, over-priced mini-bags of chips, and apples.  Doug kept calling for more “rounds,” but after spending $30 on snacks, Carrie, who carried the cash, shut him down with “No, wallet is closed!”

 Joyfully we made our way from Bear Paw another 2 miles towards where we would camp for the night.  It was the best day ever! 
Alex, Dave, and Doug arrived at the predetermined location first, only to find that there were no more cleared campsites.  We searched around for a bit, found an area with good spots for tents, and then cleared the tent areas of debris.  Tents went up, dinner was being prepared, and before long all six of us were together again.  We ate and relaxed, without ever using the fire ring that Carrie and Dave created, before settling into our tents for the night. 

When we arrived at the Crescent Meadow, two of us would have to drive the rental car to the starting trailhead to retrieve the Rav 4, so Dave and Doug planned to start a bit earlier than the rest of the group so they could quickly cover the remaining 9 miles, and retrieve the car.  It would take 1.5 hours to drive from one trailhead to the other, so they would have 3 hours of driving before we could all get in the cars.
Dave and Doug set off around 7:10, followed by the rest of the crew at 7:45.  The mileage to the Crescent Meadow was mostly uphill, but gradual, which made for an enjoyable hike.  Near the end of the trail Alex and Carrie crossed paths with a rattlesnake, just before hitting they started to run into lots of day hikers. 

The group of four waited for Dave and Doug to show up with the cars, wandering around the area, checking out the “big trees”.  After about an hour, Dave and Doug jumped off a shuttle bus, saying we would need to take a shuttle.  Apparently the ranger who issued the permit forgot to mention that the trailhead parking area was closed to traffic on Sundays.  Since Pat had the permit in his pack, Dave and Doug had to park at the nearest parking lot and take the shuttle to Crescent Meadow to let us know we needed to ride a shuttle to reach the cars. 

Once at the cars, we loaded our packs and headed to the ranger station at Lodgepole to return our bear canisters. 
As we headed back towards Fresno, we noticed some large cumulus looking clouds rising from behind a mountain.  We quickly decided this was actually smoke from a forest fire.  When we stopped at a lookout, we learned from fire information posting that the smoke was from the Rough Fire, the same fire that was over the ridgeline from us when we climbed the Obelisk.  The fire had grown significantly in the last week, and the smoke we could see was a pyrocumulus cloud.

Back in Fresno, we enjoyed a delicious Mexican dinner before parting ways with Carrie, Pat, and Rachel.  Not wanting to make the 6 hour drive to Vegas that night, we booked a hotel room for the night and enjoyed relaxing by the pool and sleeping in real beds.

Tuesday, August 4th – Wednesday August 5th: Prepping and Delays in Fresno, CA

After checking into our hotel in Fresno, we showered and headed out to grab some dinner and shop for our backpacking trip. Despite the list prepared for Doug’s backpacking menu, grocery shopping turned into a drawn out adventure due to the upset stomachs that caused Dave and Doug to make many urgent runs to the bathroom. The burgers they had eaten before shopping were not sitting well in their stomachs. This feeling of unwellness prompted Alex and Dave to make a “pre-shopping” run through Trader Joe’s to give us a few bags full of food that was much more our normal diet. The fruit, yogurt, granola, green juice, and kefir would fuel us that evening and the next morning.

Back at the hotel that night, Alex and Dave enjoyed sleeping, while Doug was awake through most of the early morning hours, texting back and forth with his sister, Carrie. She and two family friends, father-daughter pair Pat and Rachel, boarded their plane in Philly, only to have to get back off for a 7 hour delay.  The original plan was for us all to begin hiking that afternoon after they arrived.  It was time to start thinking about Plan B.

We spent a lazy Wednesday morning lying in the comfy hotel beds blasting the AC.  We eventually, moved ourselves to the pool and relaxed there while we also got some laundry started.  As check-out time approached, we decided to just book our room for another night, since the flight situation was not rectifying itself.  Around lunchtime, we peeled ourselves from our lounge chairs, and headed to a small Mexican restaurant Doug had eaten at when he had flown into Fresno.  After filling our stomachs with a delicious lunch from La Enchilada, we resumed lounging by the pool.  The thought crossed our minds… this is what “normal” people do on vacation, isn’t it?  We certainly were enjoying it, but didn’t think we could do it for more than one day!

As Carrie, Pat, and Rachel’s arrival time grew closer, Doug began preparing pasta salad, potatoes, and lamb steaks for dinner.  All of this occurred at the pool, with the aid of our Coleman camp stove.  We all enjoyed a fantastic dinner before heading to the parking lot to start organizing food and gear into packs and into cars.  Our trip would start and end at different trailheads, so we would need to leave a car at each and do a little transportation coordination to get us all to the starting trailhead the next day. 

Sleepily, we all retreated to our rooms for the night, eager and excited to get on the trail the next morning.