Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hanging Lake

This past Sunday we took a hike. Literally.

The hike up to Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs, CO was one of the first "must-do" activities recommended to us when we arrived. Multiple friends have told us that we needed to hike up to see this amazing, tucked away ecosystem.

Well, between Jason working 6-7 days a week since we arrived and cars parked *on* the highway at the exit every Sunday that we drove by and thought about stopping to take the trek, it took us nearly 2.5 months before we finally made the journey.

And journey it is! The signs in the parking lot, and along the paved path leading to the hiking trail, and at the trailhead ALL state the the trail is DIFFICULT. So I thought, "Well, yeah. We're climbing a mountain here, folks, it's not going to be easy."

No really. They mean business when they say DIFFICULT. I'm talking huge rocks to traverse, loose rocks, loose dirt, switchbacks, and you climb over 1,000 feet in just over 1 mile. And then you get to almost the top where you think you might die (or maybe that's just me), and then there are several large boulders to climb over with a sheer drop-off cliff next to them with only a thin, metal railing between you and falling approximately 1,000 feet.

And then you get here:
Hanging Lake in all its glory!
We made it to the top and all that led to getting to that point was suddenly forgotten. We were in a whole other world. Pristine beauty surrounding us, and it felt like another world! There was even a geocache when we reached the summit. The kids and I sat on the boardwalk and enjoyed taking in our surroundings while enjoying the snack that was promised once we reached the top. Jason continued further upward to the source of the waterfalls feeding Hanging Lake.

Spouting Rock, just beyond Hanging Lake

Yes, this is real. Doesn't it look like a fabulous painting?! I'm loving Colorado in the Fall!
Eventually, we had to start hiking back down. Amazingly, even with 3 sets of little feet (we'll get into why only 3 later...yes, we all survived!!), coming down took only half the time that climbing up did! Maybe it was knowing the trail, maybe it was motivation that we were almost done, or maybe it was just that coming down was a lot more like falling downhill for a mile! :)

View from the paved path at the base of the trail. It's very deceiving of the actual trail!
So, why only 3 sets of little feet walking the trail down? Well, first of all, I give MAJOR props to our gang of super-hikers! All four of the people under 4-feet-tall did exceptionally well hiking up the trail. Caroline, Lydia and Ian hiked the whole way and Eliza hiked nearly half, and we carried her when she allowed us to, and when the trail became too rough for her tiny legs.

Coming down, we barely made it past the super-crazy-edge-of-the-cliff section at the top before Eliza was totally sacked out in my arms. Cool, because I knew that coming down she was much more likely to slide and fall and while asleep she couldn't fight being in my arms. Uncool, because now she was suddenly a 27-pound-sack-of-sugar. I love hiking with dead weight in my arms! (Not so much.)

Well, just when I was about to ask Jason, our pack mule who was already carrying our hiking pack with snacks, water, emergency kit and whatever else my ultra-prepared husband happened to tuck away in the bag (including all of the trash that we picked up as we hiked in and out), to carry Eliza for me, he had an idea.

Jason: "Would you like to carry her in a sling?"
Me: "I was just wishing that I'd brought a long-sleeve t-shirt to tie her to my chest with, but I don't have anything."
Jason: "What if we tie 2 bandanas together and make a sling that way?"

So, apparently we had 2 bandanas in our pack "just in case", and within minutes he had tied then together to create a makeshift baby sling!

Modeling our bandana baby sling with my 27-pound-sack-of-sugar.
We made the entire round-trip hike, including an extended stop at the top in just over 4.5 hours. Not bad with 4 kids under 8 and a 30-something mama who is a loud wimp when the trail gets tough! Even better, we had no casualties.

Unless you count Jason's hiking boots.

Soles? We don't need no stinkin' soles! Umm...actually we do.
Within a quarter mile of the summit, the soles of Jason's boots began to rapidly separate from the footbed. We were hoping that he could make it to the top before they gave up the ghost, but no luck.

However, in the spirit of always being prepared for anything, Jason just happened to have an extra pair of shoes in his pack! Seriously. I cannot make this up. So, what could have been disastrous (this is REALLY not a hike to do barefoot!) was merely a minor inconvenience as he hiked the remainder of the way in his Chacos.

All in all, a great day! While it was a challenging hike, it was definitely worth the effort and work to get to the destination. At the end of the day we realized, once again, that the journey IS the destination. We're enjoying the journey.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Snowmass balloon festival

Last weekend the town of Snowmass held its annual hot air balloon festival. They have been doing the festival for many years, I believe that this was the 37th time. Over several days, they hold a race up the valley, some target competitions, balloon rides, and an evening glow. Stephanie and the kids were able to go to some daytime activities and see some of the balloons up close. They were able to ride the bus up to Snowmass to meet up with me on Saturday evening once I got off of work so that we could head to the glow together. After a meal from Big Hoss BBQ, we were able to sit in the grass and watch many of the balloonists setup and inflate. It was a fun time to run around and then enjoy the glow from 12 balloons and 3 burners.
One of the balloons standing up. Very cool part to watch.
I think that Lydia liked the balloons inflating.
Fire! Fire! We found ways to stay warm on a cool evening.

The balloonists were very friendly. Some even let people in for photo ops. Not all of our crew wanted to get in.
Here is the wide shot. Very pretty.
If you ever get the chance to attend a festival, I strongly encourage it.  We had a blast!

Next up, the season is changing in Colorado and the Aspen trees are starting to turn a beautiful gold. It's exciting to look up at the side of the mountain and see it turning from green to gold. Fall is looking beautiful, but it is also a reminder that we will not be here much longer. The job is set to wrap soon, and we would like to pull out of the valley before winter sets in too much.