The Kindness of Fellow Hikers

I just have to put this out there, over the course of the last 7 months we have come across a fantastic array of fellow hikers.

In the beginning it was those few encouraging words they would share as they saw me struggling up a relatively easy trail that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Those other early arrivers who would come to the super busy Front Range trails to beat the crowds and get in a speedy workout but still took the time for a smile, “good morning” & “Enjoy your hike”.  The no judgement looks I got from them as I huffed and puffed while they passed by me,  all red-faced and sweaty.  It was just what I needed on those days I wanted to give up on my journey.  They helped me focus on what I wanted to achieve.

As we have become better at hiking, built up some stamina and I dropped some weight, there was more of a kinship with those early risers who we could tell we were also dedicated hikers and trying out new, more challenging hikes.  The ohhhh you have black diamond poles, any advice you can share on picking good poles?

The last 5-6 hikes we have met some really great people who were excited to share their experience with us and help when we needed it.  At Upper Mohawk Lake    it was Bonnie and Jim who helped us stay on the path at the beginning of the scramble so we didn’t make the same long mistake they had made years before and we avoided adding a few hours on to our hike.   At Twin Sisters, it was the cute couple who told us about Chasm Lake just under Long’s Peak diamond as must do since Long’s Peak wasn’t in our skill set yet.  At Chasm Lake, it was Lowell who let me try out his fisheye lens so we could get a picture with 180 degree views and gave me lots of tips on photography and how to learn more about it.  Then there was Brad, who overheard my type 1 diabetic husband call help to me because his blood sugar had dropped to 50.  Brad, who is also a type 1 diabetic, helped me get Aaron back up and gave us some of his supplies that he felt worked better than what we had at keeping his blood sugar at safe levels during these challenging hikes.  He was also nice enough to just keep me company as Aaron got back to a place where he could start to interact with us again. 

I have always loved to hike, even at my heaviest and least active but this new community I am starting to meet has really cemented that love for me.  As we work towards new challenges, I am so excited about who else I might meet and hope I can do for others what so many nice hikers did for us!

So here is a BIG THANK YOU to all my fellow Hikers!!!

Mount Flora Trail-Berthoud Pass/ Between Winter Park & Empire 9/29/12 ( Our first 13ner!!!!)

Continental Divide Trail > Mines Peak Road > Mt. Flora Trail ( Part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail)

Starting Elevation:  11,315FT

Ending Elevation:  13,100FT (Total Elevation Gain 1800Ft)

Trail Length:  6.4 miles officially, my fitbit said 7.5 miles.  It took us 2:45 going up and 1:30 coming down.

Trail uses:  Hiker only after you get off the Mines Peak Road.

Degree of difficulty:  Difficult to Strenuous, mostly due to the elevation

Bathrooms:  There is one at the Berthoud pass trailhead parking lot and, but keep supplies handy it is heavily used, just in the time it took us to get ready to hike at least 10 cars pulled in off of Berthoud Pass just to use it.

Pets:  Dogs must be leashed

Fees:  None

I picked this one out of the Falcon guide: Best Hikes near Denver.  It was the perfect distance as well as giving us another increase in elevation to help get us more practice with high altitude hikes.  We knew this was likely to be the last weekend we could work on our elevation hikes and sure enough it snowed this past week above 12,ooo ft.  But the weather was going to be so perfect and we decided it was worth trying to get this last one in before it is all front range hikes focused on building our stamina until next spring.  When we pulled into the parking lot it was a mad dash to the bathroom/warming hut  and man it was cold outside about 35 degrees.

Park on either side of the lot, the trail starts both at the Continental Divide Trail sign( northeast side of the lot) and goes across the parking lot to the Mines Peak Road ( Southeast side of the lot).

We parked by the southeast side right at the Mines Peak road part of the hike, but our smooth move last week of adding a couple of miles on to our trip by not reading the book carefully had me being extra cautious.  This led me to walk over to the Northeast side of the lot, only to stupidly walk back across the trail to the Mines Peak road and past our car….again.  Fortunately there was only 3-4 people there to witness this awesome move in hiking navigation.  We hiked up the road through almost 4 switchbacks when the Mt. Flora Trail Head came up at the curve on that 4th one, we stayed straight on the single track.

From here it was pretty straight forward, as we got closer to the saddle between Mines Peak( on the right) and Mt. Flora( leftish- straight ahead) the wind really picked up and the snow was now regular.   Here we had a really pleasant surprise, one of my coworkers was headed down with her husband, and Wendy is my hiking superhero so seeing her there was a great rush.  The trail than climbs what other hikers referred to as a false summit, past this boulder bump just keep moving it is half a mile to the summit from here.  It is a pretty flat summit and there is a nice little wind shelter just to the left of the big cairn, which was a nice break at that point in time.   It was COLD!  Fortunately we had packed a lot of stuff to keep us warm, hats, neck warmers, mittens….. if we needed it, we also had long underwear tops and bottoms along with extra socks.  Aaron carries a nice backpack and it holds everything we need in case of multiple situations plus water for him.  I always joke that for every pound I lose, he has to add it to the backpack for him.   It works for me but eventually I will probably have to start working with my own backpack…. We did not take our time capturing images on this one because of the cold, we gave ourselves 20 minutes and then packed up and headed down to a warmer altitude.  So our pictures aren’t too great….

There are 2 real challenges to this hike, first and most important is the altitude while the distance isn’t great, 2:45 hrs to climb to the top seems reasonable as we had to keep stopping and getting some good breathes in.   The other was the wind and then snow that final mile, but we prepared for it.  I could not believe how many hikers we passed on the way down that didn’t look nearly prepared enough to make it to the top and that is a shame because the views were beautiful!   We turned around and went down as quickly as we could and the once frozen path with snow was now icy then muddy as we got further down.  After the directions I will post a few more pictures of our last altitude challenging hike.

Directions:  Take I-70 west to exit 232, US 40 west.  Follow US 40 for approximately 14.4 miles up through Empire to the top of Berthoud Pass.  You will see Berthoud Pass Trailhead Parking lot there on your right and you are at the trailhead.

Weight in day 9/28/12 -4.4lbs!!!!!! 41.8 LBS down 48.2lbs to go!!!!

Seriously, -4.4lbs this week!  I have never lost that much weight in one week unless I was using some now illegal substance, in the form of a weight loss pill.  And honestly I have no idea how I did it.  I just did my regular workouts, 50 minutes of Elliptical Monday – Thursday before work, my walk before lunch 4x this week, weights 3x and then tried to move before dinner all 4 days for at least 30 minutes.  We had taken weights off last week because we needed a rest but then picked them back on Monday…maybe that was it?

Or maybe my body just finally realized I am serious and decided to cooperate for once!  Which I am thrilled about!  The more success I can have before the holiday season, the more incentive I will have to stay on track when all those yummy fatty foods are passed my way!!!  I have been doing a happy dance all morning and I imagine I have a goofy grin on face!

Bring on the hike for tomorrow, at 41.8 lbs lighter, I should be running up it!!!

Chasm Lake Trail, Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park 9/22/12

Chasm Lake ( Long’s Peak Trail > Chasm Lake Trail)

Starting Elevation:  9400 Ft

Ending Elevation:  11,800 Ft ( Total Elevation Gain 2400Ft)

Trail Length:  8.6 Officially (unfortunately we made the mistake of passing the Chasm Lake trail by almost a mile so my fitbit said 12 miles)  We spent probably 6-7 hours total actually walking.

Trail Uses:  Hiker and some horse access only

Degree of Difficulty:  Difficult to Strenuous (mostly due to elevation and the final scramble up to the lake)

Bathrooms:  At the parking lot, and at 3.8 miles at the trail junction and at the base of the scramble up to Chasm Lake although these last 2 are a little interesting.

Pets:  None Allowed

Last week when we reached the summit of Twin Sisters, one of the hikers up there mentioned that if Longs Peak wasn’t in our future we had to at least check out Chasm Lake which is just below diamond of the Peak.  The other challenge we discussed was getting to see a sunrise at one of our summits.  We only have a few more chances to get some higher altitude hikes in before the weather changes  and this sounded like the perfect one to try next.  Add to that, the parking challenge at Longs Peak it was also the right one to try to summit by sunrise.   So we set our alarm for 2AM and struggled to get any sleep like kids on Christmas Eve.

We got to the trailhead at 4:15 AM and in a pretty decent sized parking lot, there were only 5 or 6 spaces left and the cars were steadily coming in.  I had read about this parking situation everywhere, Long’s Peak is a highly desirable 14ner  to bag and at 7 miles to the peak those trying to meet the challenge get there early.  We were the only hikers who just wanted to get to Chasm Lake by sunrise so the pictures of the trails  were taken on the way down.

The Trail itself is not really too difficult, it has a nice steady grade all the way up  some rocks and steps to help with the climb.  It starts at the Ranger station where you have to register with your trip details; destination, party size and when you started and expect to be back down.  We did have to wear headlamps and it was cold, about 30 degrees so we were bundled up.  It was weird and exhilarating to start hiking this early, the stars were so bright and it seemed like they were just getting closer and closer to us as we climbed.  Since it was our first time on the trail, we didn’t know what we weren’t seeing either so it was all headlamps of other hikers and just path below our feet.  The first trial junction comes up quick, just .5 miles in go straight(left) or right, stay straight(left) to Chasm Lake:

At about 2 miles in we were getting close to the tree line and the Alpine tundra:

Past this sign there is a footbridge to cross over the falls/stream.  I am actually really proud of our progress, after just 30 minutes to acclimate to the altitude we started really moving trying to get to our summit as the sun was rising but in the end we were too slow, we reached the next trail junction in a little over 2 hours and the sun had just risen.  There is a privy here to the left and by privy, they mean a very short walled box with an outhouse vibe so you are head shoulders in view of everyone coming by ….or waiting their turn… or checking out the view.   There is then a simple paddock,signage with 2 trail options, one to the left and one to the right, GO LEFT.  We messed up here, twice!  Our maps were simple and misleading we initially started left but looked at the maps and decided it must be wrong so we turned around starting up the Longs peak trail.  About 20 minutes up that way I finally pulled my book out and read through it and saw the error  of just consulting the map.  Back down we went.

The trail goes down passing Peacock lake and Columbine falls.  The stream feeding those falls continues across our path  on a ledge, then up the side of  where we had to go to get to Chasm lake.


The scramble

And then we were there:

We had some lunch, well whatever meal it would be at 9 AM when we woke up at 2….  We relaxed there for an hour before we headed down taking pictures like crazy.  It was so beautiful up there and peaceful, it seemed like maybe the scramble kept many hikers at bay.  This is a busy trail especially on a beautiful day with no threat of storms, which is perfect for such a hike!  Plus with all the Aspens changing colors the golds mixed in with the green was stunning!  The only down side of the endeavor was that we have all this haze in the air from fires to the west and northwest of us so all the other ranges were obscured in the haze.  After the directions I will post some more of our pictures from the hike


From Denver take 36 through Boulder and then on through Lyons.  In Lyons you will have highway 7 ( left lane) meet up with 36 (right lane), at the stop sign go left onto 7 and take it for 24.6 miles to the junction of Longs Peak Area and mile marker 9, turn left onto Longs Peak and drive 1.1 miles to the parking lot at the rangers station.  The trailhead is to the South of the Rangers station.

Weigh in day 9/21/12 + .4 LBS


Ok this week I had my first weight gain in 6 1/2 months of starting this journey.  I felt pretty bad yesterday that I didn’t have another success, but the truth is the whole week was off.  We did a photography class last Saturday and then did a our hike on Sunday and it from there it seemed we couldn’t get on track…..

Aaron reminded me that the journey will not be easy and that there are no shortcuts in a lifestyle change.  If it was easy, I would have succeeded years ago.  When we saw this sign on our hike this morning, it really brought it all home for me.  It wasn’t a great day yesterday or a great week and I could list a million reasons why I think I gained weight back instead of lost.  But the truth is change is hard and beating myself up over my first setback will only make the rest of journey harder.

So I will chalk it up to a learning week, and I will not spill out the rest of the gallon to explain the little bit spilled milk that dropped yesterday!

Here is too a better week next week!

Twin Sisters Trail, Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park 9/16/12

Twin Sisters Trail

Starting Elevation:  9200 ish Ft

Final Elevation:  11400 ish Ft ( total gain in Elevation of 2200Ft)

Trip Length:  7.2 miles is what I found officially everywhere…My fitbit tracked just over 9 miles but we wandered a lot for pictures.

Trail Uses:  Hiker only mostly, there is limited Horse access.

Degree of DIfficulty:  Moderate to Strenuous due to elevation gain, high altitude and the steady incline for the entire way up.

Bathrooms:  None on the trail or at trailhead .  Lilly Lake has one, although we didn’t find it but due to taking the scenic route to the trail ( we got lost) we didn’t look very hard.

Pets:  None allowed

Ok we picked this one solely on the fact that Fall/winter is coming and we have a short window left to keep trying these higher altitude hikes before the weather makes them too dangerous or beyond our skill level.  I found it in this book ; A Falcons guide  Best Hikes Near Denver & Boulder.   It said the hike was a good one for amazing views and it was so right!  The views at the top were indeed amazing in all directions!  So worth doing if you can!

We started at 8:30 and it took us a solid 5 hours round trip, about 2:48 going up and 2 -ish going down.

The trail is initially marked very well, but there are no other trails that will cross your path.  That means there is then no other signage but the path is obvious.

It is a nice sized path, big enough that you could easily pass other hikers if necessary.  It is a rocky path with a steady incline almost the whole length of the trail one way to the summit(s).

We pushed ourselves a little harder at the beginning in hopes of getting to the summit faster than the past 2 weeks of high altitude hikes.  But with a gain of 2200 feet over the course of 3.5 miles, the incline kept us pretty slow going.

It is mostly shady  throughout the lower part and you get peeks of Long’s peak and its brothers and sisters all around.  At around a mile in, there is a nice clearing and you get an unobstructed view of Longs peak in all its glory:

The next mile and half is a lot of the same, lodge pole pine and peeks of the mountains…lots of heavy breathing and the body check by those hikers passing by.  For the 3rd week in a row I was chubbiest hiker on the mountain, oh well I am doing it!  As we got closer to the top, there were more and more Aspens showing up and they were in full fall beauty all golds and stunning.

From this point, the trees started to thin and we moved from Rocky Mountain National Park to Roosevelt National Forest.  There is a small break from all the switchbacks here and a little leveling off, but it doesn’t last long.  All too soon you are back to  the “twisted” part of twin sisters and switch-backing it again. When you finally break through to the last bit of climb to the saddle, it is hard to keep your footing….not because of the path, but because the views are non stop amazing.  I know I would have moved faster if I had blinders on, but really this is why I am doing the hike  in the first place.  It was simply stunning the whole way up.

When we came on the final ascent, it looked like a scramble but it wasn’t that hard really. The path is easy to follow and not very difficult, we actually just held our poles up to save time.  I proud to say my extra conditioning this week helped with the pole thing, they were not nearly as difficult to deal with this morning as they were last Saturday!   Plus you fly through the final ascent, we saw groups ahead and behind the whole way and they speed in which we met each other was surprising.  Everyone was so happy too and I get it now, it is satisfaction of making it up to the top to really see it all.

At the saddle you have a couple of choices, you can do both peaks easily if you want. The East one on your left is the higher of the 2 by just a few feet.  The west one has a very easy path up and passed the Building/solar panels on your right.  Straight head is a 3rd peak, I have read a couple of things about this peak….it is unidentified mostly but one webpage said it was the actual peak named Twin Sisters and to get to it requires serious climbing gear and skills.  The east peak has no defined path and is only a few feet higher than the west peak… but will take some solid bouldering skills so we picked the west peak.

Around the building and up is a slight scramble, so easy compared to Upper Mohawk Lake.

At the top it really astounding and I feel like I say it all the time, but this is another reason I love Colorado.  All the trails we have done are stunning, I am starting to think this is heaven on earth!  I keep waiting for a bad one, but this wasn’t it.  The weather is really tricky here, we picked a perfect day today and had great weather, but it is always windy at the top of Twin Sisters.  With all high peaks, there is a threat of a storm moving in after noon so go early.  Check the weather and be prepared!  On this particular peak if a storm moves in lightning is your greatest threat so be smart.  The mountain will always be there, turnaround if the weather changes and don’t take chances.  

It is a straight in and out trail, we turned around and went back down after lots of pictures, I will put the directions after some amazing shots!

Directions: From Denver take 36 through Boulder and then on through Lyons.  In Lyons you will have highway 7 ( left lane) meet up with 36 (right lane), stay right on 36 to Estes Park for about 21 miles.  Take Colorado Highway 7 south from Estes Park about 6 miles to Lily Lake Visitors Center, on the east side of the highway. Follow a short gravel road to the left of the visitor center 1/4 mile to the trailhead. Parking is limited, additional parking is available at the visitor center.

Weigh in Day 9/14/12 37.8 LBS down 52.2 LBS to go!

I am super happy with a weight loss this week of 1.8lbs and a little shocked too!  I have to say it was an up and down week in terms of motivation, but on Tuesday I was surprised and ridiculously pleased that Lilly Sue over at Lilly Sue’s Bites and Brews awarded me the very inspiring blogger award ( I am still working on that post and trying to follow the rules).  It was a surprising lift to my attitude and helped me stay on course all week.  There is something about knowing other people are rooting for you and watching your journey that really made the difference for me, who knew?  So THANK YOU again Lilly Sue!

I changed my workouts a little this week by increasing the resistance on my elliptical from 10 to 11 and then on Wednesday I started carrying my trekking poles in an effort to toughen up my weak arms.   I have to say by Thursday I was exhausted while doing my workout, but I still did it if not with the same intensity I had earlier in the week so I am going to celebrate the fact I at least finished.

I also had reflexology again on Monday and I am not totally sold on if it is helping or not but I love the attention my poor abused feet are getting!  It is supposed to help detoxify the body and get things working right again or at least more right then they have been…. it is only my second session but I do feel better!

Thank you all for your support and kind words this week, it was a tremendous help!

Oh and as a shout out to my best supporter, my sweet hubby Aaron….Congratulations on your awesome weight loss too!  Although you didn’t need to lose the weight, it  looks great on you!  I am so proud of you!

Trekking poles

Two weeks ago we made the decision to get some trekking poles.  This hit us as a necessity while we were slipping and sliding down the wet scramble at Upper Mohawk Lake noticing how much easier those with poles seemed to be doing.  Plus my knees are constantly grumbling to me about all this extra weight and what I expect them to be able to do, poles are supposed to help take off some of strain on your knees.  Since it was Labor day weekend and REI was having a great sale, we picked up their brand poles for an additional 25% off.  It was a good deal and while they aren’t the best ones out there, I think they will give us a good idea of what we want to grow into, they are good training wheels so to speak.   I went for ones that collapse with easy locks, made out of aluminum with cork grips.  They are 8.8 ounces, which seemed so light in the store.

Last weekend we used them on the Butler gulch trail , not because it was such a steep trail and it made sense to use them, but to try to get used to them.  I am glad we did it, it was surprising how hard it was to carry those stupid poles up and down the trail.  By the end I was like a tired little kid dragging my teddy bear behind me and all the more grumpy by how easily Aaron seemed to be doing with them.  He was just bouncing down the trail without a care in the world and he is already carrying extra weight with the backpack full of goodies(he did later confess that is was a little harder than he expected too).  So what to do….

We already do weights about 3-4 times a week, elliptical 4 times a week ( at least) and walking 3-4 times a week as our standard exercise regimen outside of our weekly hike.  Aaron suggested that with our elliptical sessions we should carry the poles( so smart)….so that’s what we are doing.  I chickened out on Monday and Tuesday because I also increased my resistance for the first time in months, but I did do it this morning and it was exhausting!  Hopefully after a few weeks of that my wimpy arms will start to buck up and deal with it since my knees have been carrying the burden of my bad lifestyle for some time.

I will let you know how the trekking poles work out, this weekend’s hike is definitely the type of hike that needs to have poles along!

Butler Gulch, Empire/Idaho Springs CO 9/8/12

Butler’s Gulch Trail

Starting Elevation:  10,500ish

Final Elevation :  11,900+ if you go all the way to the Jean Mine  ( 1400 ft elevation gain)

Trip Length: 6 miles round trip, if you aren’t over protective of your lower carriage civic that doesn’t seem to like the way the road looks after the parking lots.  If like us, the dirt road freaked you out, walking from the parking lot to the trailhead might add another .5 miles total.

Trail Uses:  Hiker, Biker, Horses, snow shoe – no motorized vehicles

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate – mostly because of the altitude

Bathrooms:  No – must be ok with peeing outside so pack your ziplock baggie and toilet paper.  There is an outhouse on the paved road going to the access road and out, the Bend picnic area is closest- all part of the National Forest.

Pets:  Yes, dogs are allowed  and can be off leash as it is in National Forest …

One of  my husband’s coworkers told him about this trail in July and that same week I had read about it on a blog I have been following on hiking.  It seemed like a good choice because it was close to the same elevations we did last week and was decidedly described as something not too challenging outside of the elevation part of it.  After 3 weeks of progressively harder hikes we needed a week of something a little easier.   From what I read, the best time to do this hike is June/July- ish as the flowers are AMAZING or to snow shoe it in the winter.  We of course went today so there were no flowers or snow but it was still a great hike and beautiful, as it seems everything is in Colorado.

We got there pretty early considering the hour drive, and we were walking by 8AM.  It is right by the Henderson Mine outside of Empire,  there are 2 parking lots on the left shortly after you get on the dirt road, you can park here and walk up to the trail, it’s not far.  Or you can continue up the road and then park by the gate at the start of the trail, along the side of the road.   My little Civic started crying when we were at the parking lots, so we decided walking was better than bottoming out the car and just parked it.  We were probably over-cautious, but we are Chicagoans at heart and dirt roads are foreign to us, well me really and I was driving.

The trail is essentially the old road up to the old mine….it is nice and big and has a steady incline.  It is covered with trees and runs along a stream , it also requires you cross over this stream several times throughout the hike.  We started early so it was relatively cold on this September morning, in the 40’s, and completely alone.  There was one other car in the parking lot but it looked like it had been there for a while.  For all of our talk of wanting to be alone on a trail, it was kind of weird.   I had a small heart attack when we scared a large bird ( sounded HUGE) and it took off  with its enormous  wings beating very loud, and this is completely irrational, but I immediately thought BEAR!

At about  1.5 miles, we had crossed the stream 3-4 times when we came up to the falls they aren’t huge but still lovely!

The trail did increase in its incline from this point, but really the altitude is the bigger challenge. It is not too long from here to reach the bowl and old mine that is our goal.   Coming out from the trees was really beautiful, suddenly we were there.  The trail wound around the shelf to the Jean Mine, which has a lot remains of when the mine was active:

This is a great hike, we are coming back next summer to see the flowers everyone else raves about.

When we headed back down, we came across a few groups ( 6-7) of hikers and they were all so nice and chatty!  It was the least crowded trail we have done yet and it had the nicest hikers.

Going down was fast, had we not killed time taking pictures we would have cruised through the whole trial in probably 3-3;30 hrs, but we have a new camera and can’t stop playing with it so it took us much longer……

There was one thing that was really annoying, I couldn’t find a map of the trail anywhere.  There are topography maps but they weren’t that detailed and hard to print off.  Otherwise this is a must do!

To get to Butler Gulch take 70 west,  exit #232 – Highway 40 towards Winter Park/Empire go 9-10 miles on highway 40.  Turn off of Highway 40 at Henderson Mine Road heading due west for 1.8 miles towards the Henderson Mine. Just before the mine, a dirt frontage road splits off and parallels the paved road.  Continue on this dirt road until the parking area right at the junction with the Jones Pass Road.  Park along the side of the road by a large gate or at the parking lots at the beginning of the frontage road.

Some more pictures:

Weigh in Day 9/7/12, 36 LBS down – 54 LBS to go….


Another week and I am still on track.  I didn’t hit a big number but in my world I am thrilled with losing any weight at all, just .6 …… but when I woke up on my weekly weigh in day I had a monthly visitor waking up with me which means that any weight loss is a huge achievement.  I don’t know about you other girls out there, but I bloat up at least 2 pounds every month at this time.  I am going to celebrate this small loss – BIG!

My week started out great because I actually got to buy a pair of hiking pants from REI on Sunday.  They don’t fit great but they fit and in a few weeks they will be perfect.  I am thrilled, we will hike into the fall and I will actually have the proper clothing for the first time in years.  I won’t have to make plus sized clothes work in ways for which they weren’t intended for much longer…..

I know next week will be a challenge but I am going into it with a great attitude!