Outdoors

How to Get High in Colorado

Well, one way at least… Climb a mountain!

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I checked eight 14ers off my list in just two and a half months this last summer/fall.

Bierstadt, Gray’s, Torrey’s, Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, Bross, Elbert.

What is a 14er, for you non-Coloradoans? It’s a mountain peak with an elevation of at least 14,oooft. That you climb. Slowly. And sometimes, painfully. There are 53 14ers in the state of Colorado alone.

For reference, when you reach cruising altitude in an airplane, you’re at 32,000ft. So when you reach the summit of a 14er, you’re almost halfway as high in the sky as you are in an airplane.

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(Can you tell I like this blue jacket?)

The air is thin and my lungs are burning like hell and I’m probably getting wind burned. But here I am, time and time again with my same group of also self-hating friends, climbing another mountain. No one really enjoys the process of actually climbing the mountain – but it’s the summit that makes it all worth while. And the snack break at the top.

On Labor Day, we summited four different mountains in one day. Equating to only 11.2 miles round trip, but we had to leave Denver at 3a. I was not a happy camper.

I realized on the third summit of that weekend that I was hiking higher in the air than I was when I went skydiving over the continental divide (approx. 13,000ft) – how awesome is that?

One of the most rewarding summits was Mt. Elbert – the tallest summit in the Rocky Mountains and second tallest summit in the contiguous United States.

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Time is so weird on a mountain. It’s kind of sped up, but it’s also kind of like it doesn’t exist.

I never feel like I’m hiking for hours and hours on end to summit. Which is great, because 14ers are all about mindset. If you set out thinking it’s gonna suck, it will.

My brain kind of shuts off and does this weird looping thing. I will sing literally two lines of the same song over and over again in my head, for hours on end, and never realize it.

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If there’s one thing crossfit has taught me, it’s that some pain is okay. Even good for you. That pushing a little further, a little harder, a little longer, won’t kill you. That it actually feels really good (afterwards) to push past what you think you think is your limit.

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Next year, I want to take at least 10 more 14ers off my list.

Falling Down Mountains & Stuff

Ski season is coming to an end here in glorious Colorado.

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It’s my first year ever being on the mountain. The first few times I went out, I swore I would stick with it for one season but then I was never, ever strapping my dumbass into a snowboard again. I found bruises in shapes and colors I’ve never seen before in places of my body I didn’t even know could be bruised. I thought I broke my tailbone at least 7 times. The most frustrating thing ever is trying to learn how to snowboard from four different people who are double black skiers and you can barely make it off the lift.

Buuuuuuut today I just reserved my season pass for the 16/17 season. Somehow, I got my shit together and figured out how to ride and not fall on my face. Now, let’s not get carried away and say I’m great. My toesides still suck, but I can make it down the mountain at a decent speed and navigate an open set of trees. I’m calling it a victory.

I was super lucky to ride quite a bit outside of my Liberty Pass and not pay a ton (except Aspen, but that’s because it’s Aspen, duh).

Word of advice: make friends with people who work at the resorts. Make really good friends with them. Buy them beers, watch their pets, make them dinner, I don’t care. Do it.

We skied Winter Park for $25/per person/day because we have a friend from back home in Minnesota who lives in Tabernash, CO and works at Winter Park Resort in the winter.

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The very first time I strapped on a snowboard was at Loveland, and I rode there probably three more times this season. For free! Because one of my BFFs works at a dispensary and they have season passes to check out whenever. If you know someone who can get you a discount, it’s about $50/day I think.

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I usually ride Keystone. Hi, I’m lazy and love gondolas. Sorry, not sorry. Yes, a bit of the experience is lost being stuck inside on the way up. But 11 minutes inside warming up beats 11 minutes outside getting cold. On the days that it actually is cold, of course. I have the Liberty Pass so it was $299/per person for the whole season. There are some blackout dates, but they are over major holidays and since I’m from out of town, I was home for Thanksgiving and Christmas and didn’t use my pass anyways so I wasn’t too bummed about that. You can get a pass without restrictions, but it (obviously) costs a bit more. If you don’t mind missing a couple holiday weekends, which are a crap shoot of whether it is dead or a f*cking zoo, the Liberty Pass is your jam. Plus, it’s $175/day to ride Keystone so your pass is paid for in 2 visits. I think I made it out to Key six times this season.

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Then there was Aspen/Snowmass. I freaking loved it there and that’s where snowboarding finally started to click for me. We got a ski in/out resort which was awesome, plus the upgrade with the balcony and view of the mountains wasn’t bad either. We’re used to just making a day trip out of riding since we live in Denver and all major resorts (Breck, Vail, Keystone, Aspen) are no more than 3 hours away. However, it took us 5.5 hours to get to Aspen this trip… but that’s because an accident closed the canyon LITERALLY FIFTEEN MINUTES before we left the house. It was not a good drive.

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We were in Aspen the weekend before the XGames, so seeing all the hype and prep for the events and athletes was super cool. Plus, there were a lot of athletes and companies doing pre-interviews and prep that week, so we saw a lot of what I assume they were important people, because there were camera crews following them around and stuff. Idk, I don’t pay attention to anything except the beer and food in front of me usually.

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Things I learned?

  1. Too many beers means you suck more at snowboarding.
  2. Too few beer means falling hurts more.
  3. Always pack tree beers.
  4. Snowboarding is a drinking sport.
  5. I like drinking sports.

Terceira, Azores pt. 2!

Story of my life: I’m behind on posting something. But I’m just generally late doing anything and everything, really.

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I’ve been back from vacation for a week and three days. Eleven days ago, I was on an island in the mid-Atlantic caving in a lava tube and eating fresh octopus and drinking regional wine for 1,25euros a glass. Ten days ago, I was in the dead center of the state of Missouri. Today, I’m back at my desk. I’m still 97% unsure what time zone I’m in.

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The single dumbest, but greatest thing happened on the last night. We went to Quinta Dos Azores for dinner (their ice cream is the bomb, ps!) and during my directions acquisition, I came across a review by a girl (probably) my age, who was living there with her boyfriend temporarily while he played basketball, said they come there like three times a week. As we’re sitting there eating, this very girl whose life I had just stalked (way too hard) walked in and sat down right next to me! I felt like I was seeing a celebrity but not a celebrity and I couldn’t stop staring and feeling super creepy like I knew this girl but clearly I don’t know her.

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Is that weird? That’s super weird. I feel really weird over my level of excitement seeing this girl. It took every fiber of my being to not go up to her and be like “hi, I’m so creepy but I swear I’m friendly and harmless. I saw your review and it brought me here and now you’re here and I feel like that just makes us instant friends, ok have a great life, bye!” but my brother would have been mortified if I acted like my normal weirdly over friendly self.

F*cking creep.

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We also went caving in a lava tube in Praia da Vitoria, which was one of my favorite parts of the trip. We went with the same guys who took us rappelling, climbing and ziplining in the jungle. For the caving, we descended via rappel about 50ft underground and had nothing but little helmet lights to guide us around.

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We also rented a smart car to drive around the entire island on one of our last days. My favorite stop was in Biscoitos (translation: biscuits!) where the lava rock pools are. We wandered around the Calheta dos Biscoitos, which is the largest of the lava rock pools with clear blue waters that you can actually swim in. There’s also a wine museum in town, but we didn’t stop in. Kind of kicking myself for it – but I’m currently almost done drinking the bottle of red wine I brought back so it’s like I’m there. Kind of? We also drove up to the highest peak on the island, Serra de Santa Barbara (1,023m), but the clouds were really low that day and shielded the peak and the surrounding view. Bummer!

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Definite highlight was the “Tour de Azores” meal we had. It was a four course meal of regional cuisine made with local ingredients (cheese and beef from the nearby farms, fresh fish, etc.) and local wine pairings. I have dreams about the charred octopus and bread soup still. Sigh.

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Coming back, I scheduled myself yet another stressful marathon travel day. Another four airports later, it’s midnight when I land in Denver, I collect my wine stuffed suitcase and drive the 40 minutes home from the airport to shower, repack a backpack, love up on my cat and sleep for 3 hours before going BACK to the airport at 630a to head to Missouri.

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You know what state is the absolute f*cking worst? Missouri. Or Kansas. Honestly, I hate them both. Sorry not sorry, but driving in I-70 for 17 hours is not how I like to spend my life. It doesn’t usually take that long but a (semi-planned) pit stop it Wichita delayed the trip home.

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Note to self: never drive through Kansas or Missouri again.

Bom dia de Açores!

Four airports and nine hours later, I’m in Terceira, Azores Islands, Portugal. Yaaaass! The Azore Islands are a group of nine islands in the North Atlantic. Accessible via a 4.5 hour flight from Boston, 1 hour from Lisbon. Terceira is the third largest of the islands (terceira means the third in Portuguese), also known as the party island during high season.

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The island is 24 miles by 28 miles and it takes no longer than 30 minutes to drive around the entire island. Or like 16 minutes if you drive like the locals. About 56,000 people inhabit the island. Which is a f-ing miracle considering everyone here drives at least 200kph EVERY DAMN WHERE. The sidewalks are barely wide enough for one person to walk on without fear that they will be taken out by a side mirror from a passing car. The roads aren’t straight or anything, they’re sharp and curvy, so it’s a miracle there isn’t an accident around every corner. And that driving complaint is coming from a lead-footed American.

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Portuguese is the language buuuut you can get by with Spanish in a pinch. Plus, you don’t stick out so badly if you use that instead of English. Many people also speak English because they’re used to the British vacationers and now, the Americans since they are doubling incoming flight loads from Boston (from two flights a week to four).

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I love the brightly painted houses and shops that line the streets. One of the locals told me that they are re-painted every year when festival time is coming. They told me about when the bulls run the streets during these festivals. Four are tied to one rope to run the streets and a fifth one is the “surprise bull” that you really have to watch out for… the one that is called “too much alcohol”. Advice of the day: don’t get too trapped by the fifth bull.

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Apparently Americans are usually the ones run down by bulls most often because they are clueless, which is sadly not surprising. Americans: stop being dumb, please. Thanks! It’s also commonplace to get drunk and jump a rock “fence” into a bullpen and antagonize the bull and hope you aren’t the most drunk of your friends and catch the horns. There’s an American military base on Terceira and there is a specific rule banning the soldiers from partaking in the above shenanigans. Talk about fun-sucking.

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Monte Brasil, an inactive volcano, is not only an active military area… there’s also a small zoo at the top. What? Why? Who knows. But there’s deer and a parrot and peacocks – all of your typical zoo (least) favorites. Once you get to the top, there’s stunning views of Angra do Heroismo and the Atlantic.

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After a day of rappelling, we stopped with our four guides and two amigos from Spain to have a beer. Super Bock is the beer of choice, made in neighboring Portugal. It’s like Bud Light so it’s awful, but when in Azores, drink shitty local beer! They also ordered some “shrimp of Azores” …green and black olives… and I detest, despise and loathe olives. They’re like salty little assholes. But I felt bad saying “nah, I fucking hate those disgusting things”… so I ate two.

Four hours, three beers and a cheeseburger later (how very American of me) – I can still taste salty little olive assholes in my mouth and it makes me want to die.

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