July 20, 2019

Weekend Recap: Mount Victoria in Frisco

Weekend of July 13-14

This weekend was the first one I got to spend with Craig in the mountains with his new van. Since this is likely going to be the template for the rest of my summer, I was super excited!

So, first – Craig’s van is actually an RV (a Travato 59K), meaning it’s 22 feet long, has a bathroom (with toilet and shower), and a king-sized bed. So going “camping” with the van is hardly roughing it! But Craig just got the van two weeks ago, and was still trying to figure out all the systems. The week before, we had done a one-night test run down south in Pueblo, which helped us start figuring out all the gear to stock it with, and Craig learned a lot more from various YouTube videos about #VanLife #Hacks. (Let’s be clear that I use those hashtags with air quotes and jokingly… I think it’s a riot to tag pics on Instagram with those. So far my favorite “hack” someone saw fit to put in a video was to keep your things organized, and consider baskets. Um, no kidding.)

Anyway! Craig went up to the mountains Thursday and started figuring out the ins and outs of where it’s legal to park / stay, and after wrapping up meetings downtown around 6pm Friday, I headed out to Frisco to join him. It ended up being kind of a pain to have my car and the van, so next time, I’d like to see if we can ditch my car in one spot for the whole weekend and then just stick together with the van.

Friday night was pretty low-key. I had eaten a bunch of snacks at my afternoon meeting, and Craig wasn’t particularly hungry either, so we skipped a real dinner in favor of munching on some carrot sticks and hummus. Maybe not ideal, given that we planned to do a big hike the next day, but we also planned to go for a hearty breakfast beforehand, so I figured it would be fine!

I woke up Saturday morning hungry, as expected, but having gotten a great night’s sleep – yay! It was a little chilly in the van, since we had slept with the upper vent fan open, but we each had a big thick blanket to ourselves, so I woke up snuggled up warm and happy. I actually prefer sleeping with a cooler room temp and a heavier blanket, so this was great with me! (On Saturday night, we shut the vent fan off and it was a lot warmer, but I didn’t sleep as well – woke up in the middle of the night with insomnia and ended up reading for two hours. After reading this article about heat causing nightmares, I think I see why.)

Anyway! We headed to Butterhorn Bakery on Main Street, where at 7:30am we were part of the first crowd of customers who all streamed in when it opened. Good thing – this place is so popular that there’s often a long wait for a table! Having checked out the Yelp reviews, I decided to get the famed “eggy bread” – and while it was perfectly good, I didn’t find it especially noteworthy, which was kind of disappointing given all the rave reviews online. (For those who live in the southwest part of the country – has anyone tried the OMG French Toast at Snooze? I have eyed it for years but always opted for pancakes there; now I am afraid if I do ever pick it that it will be a similar disappointment.) However, it was certainly plenty of food – and plenty of carbs at that, which were what I needed for the hike we were about to undertake.

Craig and I headed back to the Kayak Park Trailhead where we had spent the night, and it turned out to be a good thing that we had my car and the van, because every spot in the lot was taken! We left Craig’s van where it was, and dropped my car off at another trailhead down the street, then hiked back. But also, a good thing we had to go to that second trailhead – because we saw two moose in the parking lot while we were dropping my car off!

How cool is this?! I’ve never seen a moose in real life before.

After getting back to the van, we dawdled around getting ready, and finally got out the door of the van at 9:30am. Better late than never! But really fun that we got to sleep right at the trailhead we were hiking… it made it kind of fun to go right from there 🙂

Our route started out on the paved Frisco bike trail, and then Craig directed us up a side route that allowed us to get off the paved path sooner and into the woods. Problem was, this particular offshoot of the trail still had lots of avalanche damage – including parts that were near impassable because of all the downed trees! We took our time and had some fun climbing up, over, around, and through the various trunks, which was a fun little adventure. But I was equally glad to hit the regular trail and start the hike in earnest.

When I say start for real, though, I do mean for real. This trail was no joke at all, especially coupled with the high altitude! The town of Frisco itself is at about 9100 feet, and the mountain we were hiking went up another 2800 feet from there – finishing at 11,600 feet. I had warned Craig in advance that I do really poorly at altitude (I think maybe my low heart rate has something to do with it?), but he promised me we’d take this really slowly – and he did an amazing job accommodating my shortness of breath and need for frequent stops.

I had very much overdressed for the hike – wearing full length pants rather than shorts, and a long-sleeved shirt. (Although I’m not sure I would have swapped out the long sleeve; it was lightweight and served to keep the sun off me, so I tend to wear that even in the heat of summer if I’m doing a long run or hike.) I also definitely did not need the fleece jacket, hat, or gloves I had stashed in my backpack… but better safe than sorry! I did feel pretty grumpy on the lower part of the hike, though, seeing people out for a quick ascent of Mount Royal in tanks/shorts with no gear but a handheld waterbottle. This year, with Craig’s guidance, I want to really dial in my gear and make sure I have the right stuff for me and my size rather than just the generic stuff I’ve picked up on sale over the years.

The hike was very slow going, with lots of frequent rest breaks, and to be honest, I didn’t love it. High altitude just really sucks the breath out of me, and I don’t like that feeling that I’m doing so poorly when I can see visually that the trail isn’t that hard. I’d compare it to when you’re running on one of those insidious inclines where it looks flat but is actually a 2-3% grade… so you feel like you’re working much harder than you should. We spent the first half of the hike trying to talk to each other (mistake!), and then the second half listening to podcasts – which was a much better distraction! Plenty of time for us to talk on the way down, or after the hike.

These views though…

Looking down, WAY down, on the town of Frisco (where we started). This is about two thirds of the way up.
This view is pretty darn close to the top! Beautiful.

We made it to the top in about four hours, which was definitely the longest and most challenging hike I’ve done in a while.

I did it!!
Plus – snowfields! I had to kickstep my way up this one.

But while the way down didn’t tax my lungs, it did tax my legs and feet – this trail was steep! Craig had forgotten his trekking poles, and I don’t own any (yet), but they would have really come in handy here. Noted for next time 🙂 Instead, we took a break about 2/3 of the way down and headed up the offshoot to Mount Royal, which gave our toes a little break from the downhill before we turned around at the lookout and continued to the bottom.

The clouds started rolling in for Colorado’s classic afternoon storms as we approached the bottom, and I told Craig that I hoped we could make it to the van before the skies opened up. Well, bingo – no sooner had we reached the Kayak Park parking lot than big fat drops started falling, and we headed into the van for (indoor) showers just in time. Perfect timing!

This pic is from about two thirds of the way down. Racing to beat those rainstorms!

Unfortunately, we hadn’t quite mastered the water heater in the van yet, so my shower was only about 2 minutes long as I tried to get in and out as fast as possible. Oops! But I felt a lot better now that I was clean, and we quickly headed off to downtown Frisco for dinner.

I’ve driven by Highside Brewery dozens of times on my way to Breckenridge, but never stopped in; this seemed like as good a time as any to give it a try! It was pretty low-key, and I enjoyed their Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Stout, which had perfect notes of oatmeal raisin cookies without actually being sweet. The food was a little bit disappointing, in that my “taco plate” was three very tiny tacos with no sides, but even though we had hiked all day, I actually wasn’t all that hungry, so it worked out 🙂

And then – off to bed early! I set a goal of staying up till at last 9pm (fact), and ended up super engrossed in my book (this fantasy duology) so I was up till 9:30… but then I just got wiped out and fell asleep. Unfortunately, not for long though – I woke up at 3am with insomnia, so ended up pulling out my Kindle and reading for two hours (finishing The Fates Divide and moving onto Nine Women, One Dress) before going back to sleep around 5am. But I woke up pleasantly surprised at 8:30am that I had managed to sleep late to still get a full night’s sleep – yippee!

With that rest under my belt, I put on my running clothes and headed out for an exploratory run around the peninsula in Frisco while Craig took care of refilling the van’s water tank / emptying the wastewater tank. I tried to follow a trail running route that I found on AllTrails, but when it turned out to be a paved bike path rather than an actual trail, I veered off onto some singletrack I found. It had lots of ups and downs, and I had no idea where I was going throughout, but it was a lot of fun and had some gorgeous views!

Good training for the half marathon I had signed up for in Leadville the following week, too, since the altitude was about the same.

After my run, I met back up with Craig, and we headed over to the Frisco Marina for a lakeside lunch. I got the beet burger, which turned out to be awesome! And we followed up lunch with ice cream cones on Main Street before we said goodbye and I headed back to the Front Range to knock out some chores at home and get ready for the work week.

This weekend had its ups and downs (literally), and after how difficult I found Mount Victoria, I’m not sure I’m cut out for more high-altitude hiking. But, I really loved my trail run Sunday – so I’m looking forward to spending future camping trips with Craig hiking while I run around the base, before we reconvene. My friend Amanda does something similar a lot with her husband (David mountain bikes while she runs), and I like the idea of going off on our own adventures and then coming back together to tell tales… and eat a lot of yummy stuff 🙂 It’s going to be a good summer!


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