June 27, 2020

Weekend Recap: Mountain Visit!

Although I worked all day Friday, my Thursday felt like the weekend, because for the first time in months, I had house guests! My boss and his family were driving from Illinois to Utah, and they stopped to stay with me on Thursday night before continuing the drive. I did my best to wrap up work early in time for their arrival, and after helping them get settled in, we did something else I haven’t done in months – went to dinner at a restaurant!

It was a first for all of us to do so, and I had to call around to a lot of places to even find a restaurant that was open. My town and the next few over are doing outdoor dining only, but it was pouring rain, so that wasn’t an option. But Lafayette was allowing their restaurants to serve indoors as well, and on a recommendation from a neighbor, we went to Lunada, a Mexican restaurant.

The restaurant did a good job trying to make things as safe as possible. The host and server wore masks at all times, and we were asked to wear our masks when we entered the restaurant or anytime we got up (e.g., to go to the bathroom); we were allowed to take our masks off at the table though. Everything seemed very clean, and there was a QR code on the table that we could scan with our phones to get menus rather than having to touch anything. Meanwhile, most of the tables had been removed from the restaurant to space things out, and there was only one other occupied table while we were there.

While I felt reasonably comfortable from a safety standpoint with the precautions that had been taken, and I thoroughly enjoyed the company of my boss and his family… I don’t think it was at all worth it. From everything I’ve read, the biggest risk factor for catching COVID is being indoors with the virus particles for an extended period of time. And for me, restaurants are about the experience as much as they are the food – which is completely different in this weird time. If you don’t want to cook, you can get takeout, but from my perspective, there’s nothing to be gained by sitting in a restaurant to eat right now. So while the margarita was delicious, I decided afterward that I wouldn’t be going to eat in a restaurant again anytime soon. The risk vs reward calculation just doesn’t pan out.

We came back to my place to relax and have drinks afterward, and eventually, everyone else went to bed and it was my boss’ wife and I having one last drink and chit chatting. Although I had met her before, we hadn’t spent extensive time together, and I was so grateful for this opportunity! Meanwhile, the next morning, I got plenty of quality one-on-one time with my boss, as I took him out for a trail run before they had to hit the road. The trails were unfortunately muddier than I expected, but I was able to route us around the worst of it so we didn’t make too much of a mess of the singletrack, and it was a lovely way to start my Friday 🙂

Everyone headed out at 8am, and I settled in for a busy day of work before hitting the roads myself. I was headed to my mountain house for the first time since March! While I had originally thought I’d pick up a panino (panini made with fried pizza dough) from Magusto’s down the street for dinner, it took longer than I expected to get settled in since I hadn’t been up in so long, and I ended up just throwing together a simple pasta dish and reading in bed / calling it a night early.

Unfortunately, although Friday was a quiet night, I stayed up reading a bit too late and woke up a bit too early – so Saturday, I was pretty groggy and grumpy when I woke up. I wanted to go back to sleep, but also knew I wouldn’t actually be able to get back to sleep, so I ended up lazing around in bed until 10am rather than getting up and going hiking like I had planned. I kept telling myself I’d get up in 5 more minutes, and that kept going longer and longer… until finally I dragged myself up to go for at least a super short hike, which I knew would make me feel better than being a sloth. I don’t remember the last time I’ve stayed in bed this long!

But maybe sometimes I need to relax and do this more often.

I headed over to the Game Creek trailhead, thinking I’d do the short hike up to Lionshead Rock. But when I got to the fork with Game Creek Trail to the left and Lionshead to the right, I decided to go left and take the road less traveled. I had hiked Lionshead once before, and thought it would be nice to try something new!

Honestly, within just a few minutes of getting out on the trail, I was so glad to be out there. The sun was shining, and the bright blue Colorado sky was making me so happy. The trail was definitely headed relentlessly upward, but the slope wasn’t too bad, and it felt like a nice relaxing walk. I loved having the whole day in front of me with no definite plans – it was really nice to know I could hike as long (or as little) as I wanted!

And in spite of my initial reluctance to get out of bed, I ended up hiking much longer and higher than expected. I followed the Game Creek trail all the way up to Vail!

See that hill in the way back right corner? That’s where I was headed!

I had thought I’d pop out at the top of the Game Creek Bowl (since I thought this was the same trail the Minturn Mile runs down in the winter), but as the trail headed up, I soon realized I was headed toward the bottom of Game Creek Bowl rather than the top.

Love this narrow part of the trail with birch trees flanking me on either side.

And when I finally popped out onto the mountain itself, it was on the far west side of the front side, by the adventure park near the top of the Pride Express Lift. Not where I expected, but still so cool to have hiked all the way up to the mountain!

Since I had only brought a 10 ounce water bottle with me (thinking I wouldn’t be hiking long), I was grateful to be able to refill it at Eagle’s Nest lodge. That said, I am such a camel when I hike… I accidentally hadn’t sipped any of it on the trail! But now with a drinking fountain, I made sure to drink all of it and then refill it. (And promptly forgot to drink any of it on the descent.)

The descent, though, was gorgeous – I could now see the gorgeous views that had been behind me on the way up! I particularly loved seeing the trail winding through the hills and meadows toward the top, with a gorgeous view of the Sawatch Range behind.

I was so happy running down this gorgeous single track trail all the way home – like being in a movie.

By the time I got done, it was well past lunchtime, and I quickly hurried home to shower and grab a quick bite. Then, I drove over to the Lionshead – at the base of the gondola I had just hiked to the top of 🙂 My old friend and running buddy Morgan was visiting Vail from her home in Dallas, and I got to meet her husband and dogs and catch up with her over gelato! Such a treat 🙂

And while I originally didn’t have plans for the night, on my way home from Vail, my friends Kirk and Heather dropped me a text inviting me to come over to their condo for dinner. It ended up being such a lovely evening! Heather made these amazing almond butter noodles with a recipe from Purple Carrot, and in addition to bringing wine, I contributed some sriracha crackers and hummus as an Asian-inspired appetizer… that I ended up eating far too much of. Seeing more friends has definitely taken me away from my healthy eating, but it’s probably not a bad thing for me to be a little more lax on this than when I’m at home! And I had such a wonderful time with Heather and Kirk – I am so grateful for their friendship.

The next morning, though, I was back to some solo time, which I was pretty happy about. I have come to really enjoy my alone time lately! This time, when I woke up early, I got up quickly – I remembered how happy I was the day before when I finally got out to hike, and I didn’t want to waste any of the day!

I headed over to a trail I had done before – Pitkin Lake. I knew it was going to be beautiful, and I was right!

Look at that blue, blue Colorado sky!

The other time I did this trail was in August 2019, and despite it being so late in the season, there was still a big snowfield to navigate about halfway through. Checking out the reviews on All Trails, several people referenced needing to turn around because of snow, so I assumed it was at the same spot. However, when I got there, there were a few small snow patches, but it was mostly fine. I was psyched to think I’d make it to the end, and excited that I had hit this trail just in time to be one of the first people to do it after the snow melted!

I loved being able to see both wildflowers and snow all mingled together!

When I kept going up the hill, though, I soon saw that this year’s snow pattern was different. While that area around mile 3.5 had been clear, mile 4.5 had some major snowfields. I was early enough in the morning that I wasn’t postholing too badly, though… for now. I was able to mostly keep following the trail, until I came to a rushing creek that was going to be nearly impossible to cross without getting wet. I wandered upstream until I could find a suitable crossing point, but then when I tried to find the trail again, I struggled. It took me a little bit of traipsing around to find the trail again, but finally I was on my way.

Until mile 5, when I hit another giant snowfield. This time, I couldn’t see any footprints ahead of me to follow, and it was so big and long that I couldn’t spot a trail on the other side. I gamely trudged up the snowfield in the way I thought the lake might be… and suddenly, I postholed right through the snow, dousing my left leg in a foot of runoff water below. Okay, time to call it quits!

I belatedly realized I didn’t take any pics of the giant snowfield, but you can kind of see it reflected in my sunglasses.

When I looked at a map later, I learned that I was only about a quarter mile and 40 meters of climb from the lake – so close! But I love this hike so much, I’m sure I’ll be back to do it again later in the season. Next time, I’ll learn to use the route feature on my watch so I can use that to guide me in the right direction through the snow.

The way down was lovely – I did a mix of running and walking, and enjoyed the views the whole way down.

That’s Vail in the distance – as I got closer, I could even pick out my favorite ski trails!

I was a bit slower than I anticipated, particularly since the trailhead has a three hour parking limit, but I arrived back at my car with no ticket on my window – whew. But next time, I need to force myself to run a little bit more on the ascent 🙂

I headed back to my mountain house for a quick shower and bite to eat, then grabbed my duffel and headed home, arriving just in time for the lap swim window I had booked at the pool. I was pretty tired, and really didn’t want to swim, but I felt obligated to go. My town has opened up the pools at very limited capacity, and you can book up to three 90 minute time slots each week (though usually less than that because they fill instantly). Although I didn’t want to swim, I didn’t want to waste my precious spot! As usually happens with swimming though, once I was actually there and in the water, I was glad I went… and my swimming turned out to be short-lived anyway, as a storm rolled in and forced the pool to close after only 12 minutes of lap swimming. Oh, darn 😉

I closed the weekend out with a dinner date cooking Monterey chicken – which, for whatever reason, I was really craving. I looked at a bunch of recipes and ended up just winging it and making my own, but it came out really good! I was really happy with that.

All in all, this weekend was a good mix of time with friends and time alone. However, I realized that I wished I had more alone time to read. I have been reading a lot less than I did when I was truly locked down, and I miss it! But will I turn down time with friends in order to get more time to read? I don’t want to become a recluse, but sometimes I want to say yes. We’ll see how this weekend goes.


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