Saturday, June 27, 2009

Staying Close to Home

It's time to get serious, here. We have got to get back to our hiking selves. The weather is getting nice and we are just itching to get away from home. We're ready to have our coffee by the sound of birds singing and trees rustling. But, since our camping aspirations were snafu'd this weekend, we decided to head to the bird sanctuary for some fresh air, some exercise, and some birds.

This bird sanctuary is very convenient, only about 15 minutes from our home. It's also extremely close to work. So close in fact, that while we were hiking, we would sometimes round a corner and be instantly reminded of Monday...

Yes, that is our work campus. Of course, its location is one of the reasons why I love working there so much. The only ones that may get their car broken into are those people who have left a few too many chocolate chip cookies on the passenger side seat that have been discovered by a black bear.

So, although this isn't exactly wilderness, it is a nice break from home and shopping; the sounds of the birds busily chirping away while hidden in the trees is still quite rejuvenating.
Also, it wouldn't be a walk in a bird sanctuary if we didn't see at least a couple of birds. Since I am addicted to taking pictures of all flowers and wildlife (especially birds), I thought I'd share one or two...
Even though terribly common, I love the red-winged blackbird, its song is so recognizable. We also saw several chickadees (my favorite), and some warblers (I'm not sure what kind), as well as a cormorant.

With all of our recent rains, the flowers were out in force and the bees were happy. This one above is lovin' life in a prickly pear cactus that is flowering with gusto.
Of course, all this excitement made for a pretty sleepy kiddo. All the excitement of the birds (and the mosquitoes) just did her in (if you examine the first picture closely, you can see her little blue hat sticking out from the side of the backpack).

Sometimes, staying close to home isn't so bad, afterall.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Planning for a Rainy Day

Planning. That is something that I love to start doing, but I never finish. I love to jot down all sorts of thoughts regarding what we should have on each trip, but it never seems to turn out that well. So, instead, I have developed a pretty extensive list that will pretty much cover everything. Of course, then I have to follow that list.

Oh, how I try to be disciplined. I try to go through each item and check them off, one by one. But, I don't and I end up scrambling around, seeing things out of the corner of my eye and making a "mental note" (hah!) that I simply must grab that. The worst is when I am running out to the truck, carrying a bunch of miscellaneous items, just as the garage door closes behind me with a very clear finality -- WHOOMP. My packing habits are, to say the least, stressful. And, each time I swear that next time will be better.

But, we've always survived...even if Darin and I disagreed as to how many clothes I would really *need* for a trip:

(And, just for the record, it turned out that NO I didn't need that many clothes)

Now that we have Kyra in tow, things are a little different. I desperately try to keep my head in the game and concentrate on everything she could possibly need/want over the course of three days/two nights. I spend so much time worrying that she has everything she needs, that I forget about us. But, as I've said, we're still getting into this. We're still working on how to babyproof the Lance camper, all the while getting Kyra used to the idea of actually touching the grass (as well as other parts of the natural world).

Can you see her conundrum in this picture? She wanted that lion, but she definitely DID NOT want to risk touching the grass. (Actually, as of today, Kyra loves to not only sit in the grass, but she will sometimes rub her face in it. Woo-hoo! There is hope for this little Spykerbaby!)

Stay tuned for our next camping adventure (as long as SpykerDad is feeling healthy enough).

I'm sure I had a point planned for this post, but ...


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Plans that Change

Our lives were going to change when we had this baby, we told each other. Of course, we were excited for these changes. We were excited to watch a little being grow and learn. We were excited to share with her what we felt were some of our greatest joys in life. We knew that how we enjoyed our hobbies would change, but we were okay with that.

Being natural planners, we decided that after our sweet baby was born, we would take turns continuing our hobbies. We would take turns skiing, hiking, climbing on the weekends; one of us would watch our little one while the other was out, continuing with life as it had always been. We would balance the joys of parenthood while still continuing to enjoy our outdoor excursions, minus the trips that required overnight trips or long backpacks.

Then, something happened...

After weeks of adjusting to (and surviving) the rigors of caring for a newborn, we began to settle into a routine. It was winter by this time. It was snowing at our favorite ski resort, Winter Park. Then, something else happened: I realized that I didn't miss skiing.

It's summertime now. I love to think about the adventures that I've shared with my husband. I am grateful for the experiences and I am so glad that we took the time to pack our weekends and vacations as full as we did.

I don't miss climbing the mountains. I am left with excitement for the future and love of the present. I am savoring the smell of Kyra's hair when I put her to bed, while looking forward to showing her some of the things that I find joyful in life. I'm also enjoying watching my husband turn into a loving father.

Sometimes, plans change when you have children. I don't regret a single minute of it.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Roughin' it City Style

What a nice weekend. We relaxed and discussed going camping. We decided not to. Instead, we went to the zoo. Ah, the zoo. The place where you can safely view bears and not worry about whether or not you'll be having a visitor that night. Although we were surrounded by children and people...not to mention penned animals...I believe Kyra had a good time. Kyra did not care so much about the elephants and giraffes as she did about the passers-by, the other children, and the activity. Yes, I have a social whose sophisticated pallette palate now includes Cheerios...
It was nice to take a breather. Camping is still something that we are adjusting to with a little one in tow. Of course, we will be back out enjoying the outdoors soon...hiking, enjoying the fresh air, and hoping that a rodent will wander near camp so that Kyra can enjoy its presence.

Until our next adventure...we'll be roughin' it *city* style.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. - Henry David Thoreau I read Thoreau's Walden as an assignment for a college philosophy class. I believe that I should go back and read it again, in my more "mature" state of mind. I remember it being quite boring and more a method of inducing sleep than getting me to think about nature.

However boring the book may have seemed when I was an 18-yr-old teen, I do believe that it has some real merit. I think that experiencing nature is a wonderful thing. I believe that you can do so from the comfort of your own home (which is why I have two birdfeeders in the backyard that Darin at times despises), but it is so much more exhilerating when you experience it in the natural world.

In nature...or in the natural world, I have discovered that by just getting off the beaten path a few miles can lead to fantastic vistas. Also, by going out during "poor" weather has led to some pretty wonderful adventures. By just allowing yourself a little effort can lead to fantastic rewards.

I hope to pass on to Kyra that the outdoors offer more than just a summit of a fourteener and that sunny, warm days can turn into hellish experiences when thunderstorms break out. I also hope to let her know that experiencing nature is sometimes giving yourself a break and letting it all in. All of the gear and all of our goals are one thing...sometimes it is the (*safe*!) "failures" that offer the best stories...

Here are some pictures from our first "failed" attempt on Yale Peak, six years ago. They are some of my favorite pictures of a missed goal (scroll down for the story...):

It was a cool weekend...Labor Day weekend actually. Darin and I were in our prime: we had climbed at least 10 or 11 14ers that summer and we were feeling very confident (over-confident?). We found a great campsite, studied the map, and fell asleep before getting up well before the sun did to get ready for our hike.

That morning, I got up to "use the facilities" (in the natural way). There was a spider on my leg when I came back into the tent...Darin and I argue about whether or not my life was in danger when the little bugger began crawling up my leg (and closer to my femoral artery). After a horrid scream "DAAARRRRRIINNNNNN....PPLLLLEEEAAAAASSSEEE HELP ME!" By all accounts, the spider was approximately 3 mm in diameter (including legs).

Anyway, we got over to the trailhead and were concerned about the weather. Marine layer? In Colorado? It probably wasn't. We could do it, though!

We started up the trail as the sun began illuminating the clouds on the hill across the valley. Breathtaking. We took a break, since I wanted to take about 4,000 pictures. We decided to look at the map. Upon closer examination (of the map), I noticed that our trailhead was nowhere to be seen. Then I saw the title of the map..."Princeton." Crap. Well, I had remembered that we needed to hike due north and make a left turn at the saddle and go...due west on the trail to the summit.

We found our junction on the saddle and began happily hiking along (after Darin discovered a pair of cheap sunglasses and an umbrella which took me at least 4 years to get him to part with). Suddenly, the fog enveloped us and we got confused. I said to him (being the keeper of the GPS), "which way is west." How confidently (there's that word again) Darin points in the direction he is walking and says "this way!" I follow. We find a trail..."yay!" I look at the trail more closely and I say, "Darin, does this look familiar?" Yes, it was the junction...on the saddle...again.

Darin pulled out the gps, which proudly showed the route we took to get back to where we started. It was comicle...I should have taken a picture of that. We started back on the trail...going west (as per the GPS compass). But, the weather was turning all the more fouler. We found a nice spot to have our lunch which overlooked another valley. We willed the weather to clear up...and we pouted.

But, I never tire of telling people the "Which Way is West?" story...and I got my own compass.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mother Nature, how do I love thee?

Why do I want to instill a passion for the outdoors in Kyra? Why is it so important that she enjoy Earth's natural beauty? I think there are a number of reasons. First, the natural world offers more adventures than the television or any video game every could. From hiking to mountaineering, ski-touring, and rock-climbing (I may have to draw the line at ice climbing), there are so many opportunities to not only enjoy nature's bountiful pleasures, but also stay in shape.

Of course, what parent does not dream about doing meaningful activities with their children? Activities that the parent enjoys are, of course, meant to be shared. Darin and I find camping and hiking to be not only fun, but rejuvinating. We feel relaxed and at ease while we enjoy the smell of pine trees and the sound of squirrels chirping. Who wouldn't want to share these simple joys with their kiddos. Plus, there aren't any gift shops...

(above)Hiking to a near-private beach on the island of Kaua'i (our Honeymoon!). Would I bring Kyra here? I'm a little nervous about the little section known as the cliff section (and, no, the picture doesn't do it justice -- those waves are a long way down!):

Who wouldn't want to share some of the most beautiful sites with their little ones? I can't wait for Ms. Kyra to get older...of course, I am loving every minute that I get to watch her grow.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Continuing Adventures...

My, how things have changed. In some ways, our vacationing has become much more relaxed. No longer do I need to plan quick meals for the trail as well as something easy to chow down (and swallow) at 3:00 AM for an early start for some peak somewhere. Now, instead of the perfect campsite near a 14er, we search for a comfortable campground (preferably with electrical hookups so we don't have to worry about how much we run the heater at night). This has allowed us to explore parts of Colorado that we otherwise may not have seen.

We had always talked about certain areas that we'd like to check out. Since peaks in the Mummy Range, the Never Summer Range, and the Gore Range do not reach the coveted 14,000', we just never made it to these areas. But, with the arrival of the camper-in-training, we now have the opportunity to explore new areas (while revisiting some of our discovered favorites).

On the other hand, what looks like relaxing camping is a very dynamic situation. Kyra, in her babyhood-ness, is constantly growing and changing. Therefore, her needs are constantly changing. Our discussions have turned from which peaks to climb next to "how are we going to baby-proof the Lance??"

We'll see how things go. The weather doesn't look so great for next weekend, so I think we'll stay local and do some more baby-proofing planning. Speaking of which ... we may need to do to the house soon enough...

Before Baby...returning from Mt. Rainier Summit (which we began at 11:00 PM the night before) in 2005...

After...Which one is really the adventure?

Friday, June 5, 2009

We have a camper!

Our trip to Jack's Gulch went suprisingly well. Although the little one had a screaming fit as we entered Poudre Canyon (and Darin considered briefly the concept of driving us all into the river), Kyra has decidedly begun to enjoy camping. Of course, the trip was made all the more successful by Kyra's Smart Wool Booties. Look at those tootsies! They are so warm!

We met "Uncle" Doug and "Aunt" Chong for our camping adventure. We offered to give them the pleasure of Kyra's company in the case where she decides that camping is not her style at 2:00 in the morning. They graciously declined.

It was unnecessary, it turned out. Not only did Kyra sleep well both nights, but she slept well during naps, as well. Even in circumstances that, perhaps, left much to be desired:
Yes, Kyra seemed to "fit in" with our camping lifestyle. She hiked hard and played hard -- relaxing around the campsite in her campchair, while drinking from her sippy cup.

She and Uncle Doug discussed tech gear and how they would both love to get their hands on a brand-new GPS device, complete with a built-in digital camera and possibly a coffee maker. Doug also discussed with Kyra what her first backpack should be -- in the case she would ever want to graduate from the fancy Kelty Baby Backpack (which, between you and me, she has no plans to as of this writing).

We had a great time. We are already excited to begin plans for our next adventure. Of course, I do need to clarify one thing: although Kyra doesn't mind being outside, if there is not a "protective barrier" (read: picnic blanket) between her and the dirty outdoors -- things are not well in Kyra's eyes. I sat with her on the ground, near a flower during our trip. That did not last long. Well, at least she won't be a dirty child...