August 1, 2020

Weekend Recap: Three Peaks and Backcountry Barbecue

Friday was a busy day at work, but I capped it off with a relaxing night – enjoying sushi, sake, and The Greatest Showman on my couch! I have been wanting to see The Greatest Showman forever, and just never taken the time to do so… it was excellent.

Also excellent: this sake. Definitely would get this again!

The next morning, I woke up far too early – 4:30am! Not good when I didn’t get to sleep until 11:30 🙁 I would have gone hiking right away, but since it was still pitch black out, I headed to my computer to knock out some work for a while. Unfortunately, I got caught up in it and realized I probably should have gotten ready to hike before I started work, because by the time I looked up, it was 6am and well past sunrise. Go go go! I prefer the trails with fewer people on them.

I headed over to South Mesa trailhead, thinking I’d do Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak, and maybe add on Green Mountain if I was feeling good. I packed for all three, but truly wasn’t sure how much I’d want to do. What I really wanted was to get a long run in, so I thought I’d go up South Boulder and Bear Peak, and then come down as if I were going to Green Mountain… but potentially detour to take Fern Canyon directly back rather than hiking Green.

The Towhee Trail is totally runnable, but I walked most of it, starting out slow. Just allowed me to enjoy the views more!

Despite starting slow, I made pretty good time heading up South Boulder Peak, getting to the summit in just under two hours. From there, it was a quick twenty minutes over to Bear Peak.

Short descent from South Boulder Peak to the saddle, then only about fifteen minutes of uphill get you to the top of Bear Peak. Definitely worth doing both if you’re already doing one!

But once at Bear Peak, I had a decision to make. I headed down Green-Bear trail, mostly taking it at a walk rather than a jog (even though it was totally runnable downhill).

How beautiful is this section of the Green-Bear Trail? I always feel like I’m all by myself in the middle of nowhere, even though I’m very close to crowded peaks and trails!

But as other trail runners passed me, I felt lame for walking, so finally I picked it up to a run myself. It was super muggy out (for Colorado), but much cooler than the 90 degree day I had done the three peaks before, so with the cooler temps, I decided I was up for the challenge of adding Green Mountain. This was the second time I’ve done the three peaks together, and the ascent from Fern Canyon to Green was shorter and easier than I remembered… or maybe I am getting stronger at hiking / trail running? I hope so!

I would love to someday do all five peaks that make up the Skyline Traverse – South Boulder, Bear, Green, Flagstaff, and Sanitas. That was initially one of my big goals for this summer, but it’s 19 miles and 5800 feet of gain one way, and I don’t feel comfortable taking an Uber back due to COVID. I could run back on the Mesa Trail to avoid most of the extra vert, but that’s another 9 miles; I’m not quite ready for that kind of distance yet!

I drank a lot less water than on the last hot day I did this, but my route was also a little bit different. Last time, I started at NCAR Trailhead (kind of in the middle of the bottom of the loop), ran over to South Mesa, and then started hiking up, which meant less of a run at the end. This time, I started at South Mesa going straight up to South Boulder Peak, but that meant about a seven mile run from Chautauqua. Although the Mesa Trail stays along the baseline and doesn’t actually go to any summits, there’s still a good amount of up and down on it, so I tacked on about another 1800 feet of climb in this section.

A flat and smooth section of the Mesa Trail… good thing, so I could try to outrun the rain clouds overhead.

But the last two miles… ahhhhh. Pure downhill, and I switched from podcasts to music to propel me to go faster. I ended up running down the wide dirt road with a huge grin on my face, averaging a 6:30/mile pace… clearly my legs weren’t too tired! 18.6 miles and 5200 feet of gain – definitely a solid morning.

I got home just before 1pm, and hustled to make lunch, rinse off, and get a few ingredients at the grocery store before my scheduled pool time slot at 2:30. I kind of wished I hadn’t made this reservation, but the blessing of COVID pool reservations is that it forces me to go swim even when I don’t want to! However, the afternoon storm meant I didn’t get much in – just 500 yards before it started raining and I decided to call it a day. I had certainly gotten in enough of a workout in the morning to make up for it!

I headed home to shower and make the world’s best mac and cheese, which I was bringing to a barbecue my friends Heather and Kirk were hosting. Since they live all the way down in Highlands Ranch, I had made arrangements to stay in their guest bedroom rather than driving back after, and it was really nice to kick back and relax with a few friends and not have to worry about driving home! After making the sauce and assembling the mac and cheese, I headed down to Heather’s house to bake it off before we all headed over to the barbecue.

My sister-in-law introduced me to this recipe and it is seriously THE BEST. I could easily eat the whole tray myself.

There were about ten of us in total, but the gathering was outdoors at the Backcountry Wilderness Area pavilion – they had won the ability to host a small party there through a charity auction. Unfortunately, it started raining shortly after we all arrived (what was it with so much rain on Saturday?!), but we were able to take shelter under some tents that had fortunately been set up.

Our friend Brittney’s contribution to the feast was a gourmet s’mores bar, which I indulged far too heavily in! This combo is graham crackers, caramel-filled Ghirardelli, and a square marshmallow. Using cookies as the base instead of graham crackers was also a hit.

Heather and Kirk had been pretty selective with their invites, only inviting those they knew were being relatively safe with COVID, and I had fun hanging out and even meeting a few new people (their next door neighbors), even as I tried not to get too close to anyone. In hindsight, I probably could have done a better job with distancing; it’s hard not to get caught up in what everyone else is doing, but a few conversations with neighbors this week made me realize I’m probably not being quite as vigilant as I should be.

The next morning, I woke up before Kirk and Heather, and headed to their home gym (with their permission the night before) to hit the Peloton. This week’s Pelothon challenge was to do two live classes, and I had only gotten one in. Fortunately, I was able to catch Jenn Sherman’s 30 minute 90s rock ride, which I really enjoyed. And by the time I finished, Heather and Kirk were up – which meant it was the perfect time for me to go out and pick up donuts for all of us!

Heather and Kirk have a ritual of getting donuts every Saturday morning, but this week, I convinced them to wait till Sunday so I could join. I picked up an assortment… including their special donut of the day, which was a nutella-stuffed cronut with strawberry whipped cream.

We split that one three ways, and it was delicious, but I think my favorite was the salted caramel fritter-style donut. I like my donuts fried rather than cake-y, and it was crispy perfection! (According to the Serious Eats Doughnut Style Guide, what I prefer are “old fashioned doughnuts”, which sounds much more refined than fried.)

After saying goodbye and thank you to Heather and Kirk, I headed back up home, stopping at Ikea for some new nightstands for my guest bedroom on the way. They had a long cordoned-off line set up that wrapped all around the parking garage, but despite its length, it moved extremely fast, and I was in the store within about fifteen minutes, and out ten minutes later. Since Ikea can be such a pain to walk through, I usually know what I want ahead of time and where to find it so I can just go to the end – and that worked perfectly during COVID! The only stuff I wanted to check out in person was the patio furniture, which was conveniently displayed right next to the cash register, and I quickly determined that it wasn’t at all the weight / quality I was looking for. Ikea can definitely be hit or miss! Let me know if you have any recommendations on decent quality patio furniture that isn’t $5000.

But while I was dealing with home improvement stuff… I had one big thing happening late afternoon. I had ordered a beautiful sliding barn door from Home Depot, and now my handyman Brian was going to install it between my master bed and bath, so I’d no longer have light streaming in from the bathroom and waking me up in the morning! With the addition of the slider, I was able to open the curtains I had installed in the bathroom (there’s privacy glass anyway), so now my bathroom is extra light and my bedroom is extra dark. I love it! Meanwhile, while Brian was installing the door, my friend Heather came over and we got to catch up.

Sometimes I feel guilty about hiring a handyman to do something I could probably do myself, but this door was big and heavy (150 pounds!) and I thought it was totally worth the money to not have to deal with hanging it myself.

In all, this weekend was not very different than a pre-COVID summer weekend, which was a nice treat. But, it also makes me question whether I need to be more cautious than I am… and I think the answer is probably yes. The barbecue on Saturday was fun, but some conversations with friends made me realize that we all have different standards. I certainly don’t judge that – no one knows the best way to live in this COVID world, and we’re all trying to figure it out! But even as I respect other people’s decisions, their decisions impact me as well (in that if I hang out with people who catch it, I could catch it) – so when I do something like decline a hug, I worry that it comes off as judgmental instead of me just trying to keep myself safe. This is such a weird world we are living in!

Sending virtual, distanced hugs to all of you out there navigating the same challenges – it is certainly not easy!


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