Global Pandemic Pages: Happy Hour Hiking and the Bridge to Nowhere Trail


Stormy late April happy hour hike on the Bridge to Nowhere

Those who enjoy the outdoors as a stable form of recreation will recognize the term “go-to trail.” It’s the nearby trail, somewhere between easy and moderate, that you return to when time is tight, you need something familiar, or you are not in an adventuring mood. The go-to trail is as reliable as hometown friends, non-craft beer, and the restaurant down the street. You know what to expect, and it’s comforting.

Looking up Chair 5’s path

On the Bridge to Nowhere Trail, one passes three chairlifts, and skirts along the base of the ski area, moving in a southwesterly direction. The initial climb up what was formerly a green “Walk It Out” is short and steep. We have renamed in “Walk Up It.” Walk it Out is flanked by aspen groves on either side, providing colorful surroundings regardless of the season.

Aspen in April
Aspen in fall

Predictability is key to a go-to trail, and after a few dozen times you learn elevation gain is just under 500 ft. over two miles, out-and-back. You pass the lift house of Chair 5 where the trail narrows and slowly climbs to the edge of the ski area, appropriately signed to get you back to Chair 5.

Passing Chair 5 before work
Chair 5 during golden hour

Signs abound along this abandoned ski area. Some recognizable, some washed away by time and the elements.

Chair 5 marker
Sign o’ the seasons

Then, there are nature’s signs.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Sometimes even your go-to trail holds surprises. Luckily, we ran into no one or no animal.

Junipers in spring

One delight of the Bridge to Nowhere trail is the super secret juniper garden. The homemade gin was delicious, thanks for asking.

Destination fall: Bridge to Nowhere
Destination winter: Bridge to Nowhere

Global Pandemic Pages: Happy Hour Hiking


Day 10 of mountain hide-awaying, and we’ve taken to light scheduled walks after the workday. The sun at 9,000 – 10,000 feet can be relentless, and we’re of Northern European stock. I love me some vitamin D, but I dislike harmful UV rays.

Spring comes to the forest

Off we sauntered in and around our favorite empty ski hill and federal lands. Nearest town: population couple hundred. Social distancing no problemo.

Not exactly spring skiing

March and April are mercurial months, weather-wise. Our snowiest months can also be our meltiest months.

Huffing up a green run

We’re learning, living at 9,000 ft., that less is more. Ski runs, even green ones, are not gently sloped. We’re also learning how to read melting snow, crusting snow, and crested snow and where one sinks to their knees unexpectedly. Hard to believe three days ago I snowboarded down an adjacent run.

Light, happy hour flakes

The bluebird sky gave way to light snow gave way to golden hour.

The colors of late in the day, late March
The top of Chair 4

We walked in and out of snowpack, wind, weather, and flurries on our way to Chair 4 and other ski runs. Hoping to explore more, we were stopped by deep snow.

It’s like Christmas on April Fool’s Eve

Hiking an empty snow-patched mountain is one of the best ways I know to compartmentalize and forget, for a needed 90 minutes, that we are living against a backdrop of a global pandemic. The likes of which very few living humans have experienced before. Spanish Flu survivors being the exception.

Happy Hour Smiles

Every day the mountains remind us how lucky and privileged we are to be hunkering down in a beautiful place. It’s a tricky balance between cabin fever, high altitude, creaky floors, low oxygen levels, stunning landscapes and no chance ever of pizza delivery. Still we smile.

Until next time…

Global Pandemic Pages: Snowboarding an Empty Mountain in Southern Colorado


It’s been just over a week since a friend of mine and I headed to the hills to hunker down right before the global pandemic was about to change our daily lives. For(alongtime)ever. After a couple days of high winds, teener temps, and cabin fever, I struck out to snowshoe up and snowboard down the abandoned ski area next to my place.

Chillin’ at the turnaround point

After last weekend’s debacle of Denver Front Range skiers crowding into SUVs then crowding closed ski areas or nearby mountain passes (with no avalanche mitigation), I was glad to be alone. Mine is a wee little hill, but it provides the necessary social distancing I have preferred most of my adult life.

Spotty coverage

It snowed a few inches the night before. Conditions were variable.

Country and western

This was not the maiden voyage of snowshoe up, snowboard down. I’d done it once before. All I needed were good fitting snowboard boots and a backpack with sunscreen, water, helmet and goggles, and bungee cords for the transition from country to western. Shoutout to High Society in Aspen. After two decades of snowboarding, this one is my favorite.

Late season obstacles exist

A winter’s worth of snow crunched beneath my snowshoes, but two to three inches of freshies had fallen the night before.

Bluebird Day
Happy

By early afternoon it had warmed up to the high ’20s. I traded in my hat hair for a helmet.

Nature’s bench

My goal was the top of Chair 4, but a dry log beckoned me and a patch of dry grass persuaded me. Triathletes call this transition; I call it a rest stop.

Soaking in the surroundings
Don the helmet, kids

Alone on an easy blue run, still wearing a helmet. Call me paranoid. Or cautious. Late season obstacles existed, and I didn’t know where or what they were. Too many head injuries to risk. I hear ERs might be crowded right now.

Good to go

After adjusting some bungee cords and catching my breath, I enjoyed my 74 seconds of freedom on the run formerly known as Francisco’s Revenge. Then a quick hike home and back to the casa.

View from my sunny balcony
Snow things

Total jaunt time: 75 minutes. Total downhill time: 74 seconds. Total bliss. I’ll take it.

 

Global Pandemic Pages: Indigo Backdrop


Connections to other places

No one told the sky to shelter-in-place. Early spring temperatures in Southern Colorado for our medical errand to town (not COVID related). The sky was a clear blue one.

Banner yet wave

The sandstone courthouse wasn’t exactly open for business, but still stately.

Big project in a small town

The wheels of the economy turn via construction projects.

Bowling alley closed

A cartoon character dreams of strikes

Snow melts

A closed ski area has patchy, crusty snow

Rooms for rent

Ski lift chairs layin about
Ski lift swing

Global Pandemic Pages: Hiking a TenTeener in Southern Colorado


Happy at the turnaround point. 10k feet

Trying to make the most out of a global pandemic. On Friday my friend and I high-tailed it out of Denver to higher pastures in the San Isabel National Forest.

Afternoon blue sky

View of West Spanish Peak from the trail.

Late March snow

We had snowshoes but opted for Yak Trax with spikes and poles instead.

Aspen backdrop
Lovely tribute to Mr. Johnson

Continue reading “Global Pandemic Pages: Hiking a TenTeener in Southern Colorado”

Moment of Underwater Zen: Snorkeling Tahiti


Blue serenity surrounds Moorea, Tahiti
Swimming with a sting ray brings a sense of serenity and terror Christmas 2019

Staying at a five-star resort in exotic lands means you’ve got a concierge, there and ready, to plan trips for you without all the pesky language and custom barriers that come with solo traveling. After my one-night stay at the Moorea Intercontinental Resort and Spa, I booked a three-hour snorkeling tour in the lagoon just north of the resort. There were fish and rays and sharks, oh my! with sunlight-drenched water and a color I can only refer to as exotic blue.

Exotic blue fish and a few friends
Striped tropical guy

And then sometimes it’s just you and the water. Black-tip reef shark spotted but not captured. I thought it best to put the camera away and pay attention to my surroundings.

Lazy lagooning at the beach near my house after a day of snorkeling

Savoring Tahiti


Treading water in Moorea, Tahiti December 2019

The quiet stillness of late afternoon, soft billowing clouds, the lapping hug of the South Pacific, dogs barking from afar, seabird caws, children’s laughter, lush green forest, and the smell of brine. Christmas in Tahiti.

Positive psychology, the brainchild of the brilliant Martin Seligman, asks the field of psychology to study those things that make us happy instead of why we’re not. Savoring, or remembering good memories, gives us the opportunity to practice happiness. We have all savored our favorite dish, a great book, and cherished memories. As snowy February wraps up and graduate school gets more intense and the layers of life pile on, I thought it would be a good idea to savor some moments from my solo jaunt to Tahiti.

Sunset at my own private beach December 2019

Twenty years ago, reading Melville’s sensual Typee had me running to the bookstore to buy a map of Tahiti so I could dream and wonder and envision. Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence, the story of a flawed dreamer who fled to Tahiti, sealed it. I would go. Some day.

Reading nook on my front porch Christmas Day 2019

I spent hours on Christmas Day reading Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki, his account of how he and five of his adventurous friends sailed from Peru to Tahiti with no modern navigational tools to support his theory that the Polynesians had settled East to West. His tale included riveting stories about the crab they befriended, the sharks they avoided, the playful dolphins, and the terrible storms they endured while wearing fast ropes. The climax includes their getting stranded on a reef and the primitive ship that endured thousands of nautical miles being torn asunder. The isles of Tahiti and its atoll brethren are surrounded by reefs, which means Moorea, where I was staying, was an island, surrounded by a lagoon, flanked on all sides by reefs.

Fresh pineapple papaya juice at the Moorea Tropical Gardens overlooking Opunohu Bay

My new Franco-German friend and I started out early one morning to explore the calm, reef-filled waters on the southwest part of the island of Moorea. We crossed the channel, in some small way fearing for our lives, but soon entered a seascape with coral clustered into boulders.

Reefy coral goodness

During those two hours of kayaking, I savored easy paddling, the mid-morning calm, the windless scape, the companionship of a new friend and kindred spirit, the bright colors of living coral, the flitting fish, and the sense of freedom that being on vacation and having no itinerary can bring.

Kayaking out to the reef December 2019
Feeling deliciously exhausted after an afternoon swim