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Live, Play, Travel

A Christmas sleigh ride in Breckenridge

December 26, 2015
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Happy Holidays, everyone!

I hope you’re all having a good holidays with the people you love. Or the dogs you love. Or all by yourself with a big mug of eggnog if that’s how you like to spend the season. I don’t judge!

We’re up in the mountains right now soaking up some serious family time and not a lot of oxygen. There has been snowboarding and wine drinking and endless walks on snowy roads. Tomorrow the whole family is taking a cross-country skiing lesson (finally!).

I have all kinds of adventures planned for the New Year and lots of stories to share but, for now, I leave you with some photos from yesterday’s sleigh ride at the Gold Run Nordic Center. I’m not sure that it gets more festive than this!

Sundance and Cassidy – our steeds for the day.

Thumbs up for sleigh rides!

The whole crew! We were lucky that my mother-in-law flew in to join us in the mountains this year.

Hope your holidays were merry and bright!

If you go: We booked our sleigh ride through Nordic Sleigh Rides and had a great time! Warm blankets and hot chocolate are provided and shots of “holiday cheer” are available for purchase. Dress warm (duh!) and bring a camera!

Live, Play, Travel

Living a Big Life in a Dangerous World

December 4, 2015
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I was at the science museum with my son a few days ago when I heard about the shooting in San Bernardino. 14 dead, many more wounded. This comes on the heels of last week’s shootings in Colorado Springs and last month’s devastating massacre in Paris.

It’s not even a surprise anymore.

These events are starting to run together for me. Sure, some stand out as being especially unique – the enormity and political implications of 9/11, the shock of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, the mass slaughter of children in Newtown, the attack on the black church in South Carolina. And the ones that have happened right here in my adopted home state – Columbine, Aurora, Planned Parenthood – I can’t forget those either.

But the fact that so many others are now indistinguishable in my brain? It’s horrifying. And even more horrifying is that this feels like the new normal.

It is a goddam dangerous world out there, you guys.

But I’m not here to talk to you about terrorism or gun violence or how to stay safe – because I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. I’m here to talk to you about fear – and about living a full life in the face of it. And about how maybe these events can give us courage rather than make us afraid.

If you’re wondering who the hell I am to talk about being scared, let me assure you that fear and I are well acquainted.

I have nightmares about the people I love dying in car accidents and worry that a lifetime spent in the sun will end in melanoma. I have a very real, very irrational, and occasionally very debilitating phobia of vomiting. School shootings scare the hell out of me. I think of the “what if’s” every time I get on my road bike.

So yeah, I’m scared. But I’m not letting that stop me.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon

I’m probably not alone when I say that these events – these senseless acts of violence – make me want to curl up into a ball on the couch with my family. If your initial reaction to these horrible acts is to want to hide under the covers forever, I can’t say that I blame you. It seems like the only way to live a safe life in a dangerous world is to stop living life entirely. But locking yourself in your home is obviously not the answer.

So I ask you all to look at this a different way. I challenge you to realize that nothing is truly safe and to embrace the uncertainty. I want you to find courage in it. I want you to practice situational awareness and know what to do if the unthinkable happens. And then? Then I want you to realize that whether you live or die is still a massive roll of the dice. And that there’s no point in being afraid.

Helen Keller famously said that “security is mostly a superstition” and never has that seemed more true than today. None of us know when our time will be up or when an innocent trip to a mall or movie theater could end it all. So don’t live in fear. I’m not suggesting that we should act recklessly or put ourselves in risky situations. I’m saying that life is a risky situation. So, go. Live your life. Do your thing. Adventure, travel, explore. Look out for each other. Love each other. Not in spite of the fact that it’s a dangerous world but because it is.

 

 

Live, Play, Travel

A Ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad

November 30, 2015
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The itty bitty town of Georgetown, Colorado, is right on I-70 as you enter the mountains from the east. If you’ve taken a trip from Denver to the high country there’s a really good chance that you’ve driven past idyllic little Georgetown. Maybe you’ve stopped for gas or coffee. Perhaps you drove over Guanella Pass or used it to access the trail up Mt. Bierstadt. But have you ever taken a ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad? Because you really should.

Our Little Dude loves trains and I had been planning on taking him on a ride for a while. On our way up to the mountains for Thanksgiving we noticed the sign for their Christmas train ride with Santa. We mentioned it to my parents and the next thing I knew, we had tickets for the five of us Saturday evening. Thanks, mom and dad!

I had a feeling that this would be really cool … and it lived up to the hype. The ride would have been worth the price of admission even without all the Christmas festivities! Riding an old train through the snow covered Colorado mountains? It’s pretty great. Throw in Santa, Christmas lights, and some adult beverages and you’ve got the trappings of a pretty perfect mountain adventure that is fun for even the tiniest and least daring among us.

Watching for Santa!

Our seats were in the “parlor car” which was completely enclosed and therefore nice and warm. Snacks and non-alcholic drinks were provided and reasonably priced adult beverages (including craft beer and winter warmers) were available. The ride was around an hour long and passed light displays, old steam engines, rushing rivers, and snow-covered pines.

The highlight for the Little Dude was probably when Santa came by and asked what he wanted for Christmas (a tow-truck, apparently). This wasn’t just a quick stop to say hello. Santa actually sat down with us for a while and chatted up everyone in our group. Homeboy was in heaven.

Back at the station there were carolers, free hot chocolate, and some guys roasting chestnuts over a fire. Is there anything that says Christmas more than that? I’m not sure that there is.

If you go: Tickets can be purchased in advance through the Georgetown Loop Railroad‘s website. While the train itself was nice and warm (at least in the parlor car!), remember that Georgetown sits at 8,500 feet above sea level – the air outside will almost certainly be chilly. A lot of people had blankets, which seemed like a pretty good idea. This is a great way to break up the drive between the mountains and the Front Range but keep in mind that winter ski traffic along I-70 can be heinous so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to get to Georgetown!

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!

 

Live, Play, Travel

The Best Camp Coffee You’ve Ever Had (No, Seriously!)

September 19, 2015
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I’ve been a coffee drinker for as long as I can remember. I hated milk when I was a kid and to get me to drink it my mom would sometimes flavor it with a dollop of her coffee. I started drinking coffee more regularly in high school and what began as a way to get through 5 a.m. swim practices (and the long days of school that followed) slowly turned into a daily habit. And then an obsession.

Truth be told, I’m kind of a coffee snob. I love coffee but I only love good coffee. My morning cup is partly about the caffeine (which I admittedly need) but also about the enjoyment I get out of drinking it.

This presents a bit of a problem when camping or traveling.

Visiting coffee shops is one of my favorite things to do when I travel and I have a long list of favorites  in Colorado and elsewhere. But sometimes going to a coffee shop isn’t an option – like when you’re staying in a crappy motel in a tiny Mormon town and the only coffee shop doesn’t open until 10 a.m. Or when you’re camping pretty much anywhere.

For a long time we didn’t have a great solution to this problem. Sometimes we’d take a french press on our camping trips. That worked well as far as making coffee goes, but without running water the cleanup was difficult and messy. We tried sucking it up and using the little cans of Starbucks drinks to at least get in the requisite caffeine but that was expensive and not at all enjoyable. We dabbled in instant coffee but, yeah, that wasn’t going to cut it.

And then we discovered the Aeropress.

It’s not an overstatement to say that the Aeropress changed our camping coffee lives. Long gone are the days of trying to wash out the French press or force sub-par, sugary Starbucks drinks down our gullets. These days we enjoy really good coffee right at our campsite, in our hotel room, or pretty much anywhere else.

Why is the Aeropress so great for camping? Let me tell you!

First of all, it makes really good coffee. The coffee that comes out of it is smooth, flavorful, and completely customizeable. It’s also lightweight, simple to use, and easy to clean. Like, stupid easy. Combined with a device that quickly boils water (a la Jetboil), you can brew and clean up a killer cup of coffee in just a couple minutes. If you like coffee and you like camping, this thing should be in your kit.

Our Aeropress now goes everywhere with us. It’s been on countless camping trips and brewed us perfect cups of joe for early mornings at Kalalau. I’ve used it at home, in hotels, and even in the sheepwagon. I took it on a hut trip last winter and spent my morning playing barista for the fifteen women that were with me. Want to be popular among your outdoor friends? Have a great way to make really good coffee on a snowy mountain morning.

If you’re wondering just how easy this thing is, allow me to enlighten you!

Here’s what you need:

And that’s it!

Here’s what you do:

1. Heat your water. If you have a Jetboil, this will happen really quickly. We usually just heat the water until it boils but there is probably an exact temperature it’s supposed to be at (we’re not THAT picky!).

2. While your water is boiling, put a filter (it helps to get it a little damp first) in the bottom of the Aeropress and then scoop in your coffee grounds. It takes some trial and error to figure out the ratio of coffee to water that is best for you. I usually do two big, heaping scoops for a full Aeropress. Place the Aeropress on top of your mug.

3. Gently and carefully pour the hot water into the Aeropress. Let it sit for a few seconds. Maybe stir the grounds around for a bit. Place the plunger part on top of the main tube.

4. This is where the magic happens! Slowly and smoothly press down on the plunger and watch as you turn into a human espresso machine. This may take some elbow grease but we promise it will be worth it.

Et voila!

I’m pretty sure that making this stuff takes less time than you just spent reading this article. And did I mention that the coffee is so good?

To clean up after each cup of coffee you simply unscrew the cap from the bottom of the Aeropress and push the plunger in the rest of the way, popping out a neat little puck of coffee grounds. And you’re done. This could seriously not be any easier.

Getting the ratios of coffee to water right takes some trial and error and depends largely on personal preference. I usually make mine nice and strong because I figure I can always add more water if need be. When you’re done brewing you can customize your coffee in any way that you like. Add sugar or cream or booze (mmm … booze!) or whatever. I don’t add anything to mine because I like my coffee like I like my dogs – strong, smooth, and black.

Just like you, Maddie!

The Aeropress is equally useful and even easier to use while traveling. Long gone are the days of horrible hotel coffee. Heat up a cup of water in the microwave and you’re good to go!

How do you make your coffee when you camp? Have you tried the Aeropress? WILL you try the Aeropress?! If you do, you have to come back and tell me how it went.

This post contains affiliate links. 

Live, Play, Travel

Every Kid in a Park and the Fight to Get Kids Outside

September 15, 2015
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If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that getting families and kids outside is a passion of mine. I abhor the idea that an outdoorsy life has to end when a child enters the family. I believe that getting outside with your kids is not only possible – it’s essential.

Nature Deficit Disorder became a buzzword in the outdoor community back in 2005 when Richard Louv’s fantastic book Last Child in the Woods hit the New York Times’ bestseller list. Louv argues that, as children spend less time outside, emotional and behavioral problems begin to rise. It’s an interesting argument. I’m not a psychologist and I have no idea whether or not a lack of access to nature causes things like Attention Deficit Disorder. I’m not going to touch that with a ten foot pole.

I will, however, wholeheartedly get on board with the idea that access to the outdoors is a vital part of childhood (and adulthood, really).

 

Happy dad, happy kid. Rocky Mountain National Park.

Children learn by doing. They learn by getting their hands (and probably everything else) dirty. They need to have spaces and places to let their imaginations, and their tiny little bodies, run wild. They need fresh air and movement and the chance to explore a world that feels new and untouched (even if it only feels that way to them).

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who feels that way.

This year the White House rolled out a new program called Every Kid in a Park, granting 4th graders all across the U.S. unlimited access to federal lands for the next academic year. National parks? National monuments? National Pretty-Much-Anything? They’re all free for fourth graders.

Do you think the kids are excited?

I’ve talked before about the barriers that keep the current crop of kids from spending as much time outside as their parents but one of the things that I didn’t mention is the financial aspect. Visiting National Parks can be expensive. Starting next month, a visit to Arches National Park will cost you a whopping $25 per vehicle and other places are similarly priced. This may not sound like much if we’re talking about one visit to one Park, but if we want kids to have regular access to these special places (which we do, right?), the cost goes up significantly.

I certainly don’t think that taking kids to the big parks is the only way to get them to care about nature but I do think that it’s a step in the right direction. And if it gets parents motivated to take their kids to see some of our most treasured landmarks? So much the better.

Today’s youth have a lot of things vying for their attention – thanks to the Every Kid in a Park program for giving nature a fighting chance.

For more information or to get a pass for your fourth grader, please check out everykidinapark.gov!