Hitting a Wall

I’m not going to beat around the bush here. As the title of this post says, I am hitting a wall. In running, in writing, in a lot of things in life at the moment. When you’re constantly in motion and constantly turned on you reach a point where you feel invincible and you just keep pushing as hard as you can, until something inevitably stops you…

I’m not writing as much because it’s been hard to find the time. I am trying to cook as much as I’d like to but am feeling less than inspired about meal planning and maintaining an overall diet plan. I can’t do yoga as much as I’d like because I always have to run. I can’t get my house cleaned up because I need to take the dogs out. I can’t take the dogs out because I need to work around the house. I can’t work on my project because I can’t even weed through my primary email, because I’m still trying to get caught up on my work email. I can’t hike because I’m entertaining company. When I’m done entertaining company I’m already on Pinterest looking for new ideas. I can’t sit on the couch and watch a movie because I’m out with friends. I haven’t been able to catch up on shows because I fall asleep every time I hit the couch.

Tradeoffs. Opportunity cost.

Recently I saw an article about a statement by Randi Zuckerburg (Entrepreneur/Former Facebook Employee) that goes “Work, sleep, family, fitness, or friends–pick three.” She calls this the entrepreneur’s dilemma but really it’s a dilemma that we all face.

It’s more than work/life balance because for so many of us the line between work and life is completely blurred. Even those of us who aren’t out there building tech companies (which is actually what I do for work…) have family, friends, diet, exercise, dogs, homes, and countless side hustles that we’re devoted to and passionate about. Picking just three is not an option.

My long runs should be up to about 17 miles at this point and I keep tapping out at 12.5 miles. I’m frustrated. I am sticking to plan on the rest of my training. I slowed down my pace for my long runs to allow my body to adjust to the distance. I was feeling good yesterday and then BAM at 12.5 miles the body said “No more!”

As I was walking my last 3 miles yesterday I texted a few runner friends to complain, seek reinforcement but mostly to ask what the hell am I doing wrong? A friend messaged me back “Are you just exhausted?”

I knew that training for a full marathon was going to be time consuming. I loved training for the half so much, but it did fit pretty perfectly into my already established routine. Training for the full has been a lot. I’m starting to have some self doubt. Can I even do this? Is it worth it? Maybe someday I will look back on this and laugh, but it doesn’t feel that way now.

Am I just exhausted? Quite likely that is the answer. Now that fall is here and the summer of craziness is over, it’s time to slow down and recreate some balance.

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When there’s a mirror on the wall, it’s a perfect time for self-reflection.

We sold our tickets to Riot Fest this past weekend because we knew we just couldn’t do one more thing. I started the week of with yoga and some writing time. I am going to cut out one day of running this week to devote to something else, probably more yoga and writing. We have a nice Saturday hike planned. One thing about living where we live is that no matter what is going on, there is no therapy better than getting out into the mountains.

What do you do to get back on track when you’re feeling overwhelmed and uninspired?

 

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Running for Your Body & Your Brain

I’m using today’s post to work out a summary that I’m doing for another project so I am going to get back to running and fitness for a minute here.

Don’t fret, I will tell you all about Europe in a series over the next week or two. Spoiler alert: it was AMAZING.

I’ve also been walking around with a heavy heart due to the tragedy and turmoil that we’re experiencing in the world right now. I have a lot more to say in that regard so expect more like my last post going forward.

As for today. I’m not ready to share the full details of my project just yet but the task at hand is to compile a list of positive impacts that running has on physical and mental well being. Why should people think about starting running?

There is a ton of information out there supporting the benefits of running. Every time you head out for a run you are working your muscles, joints, bones, lungs, heart, and brain. Running is truly a full body workout.

Physical activity is great for the body and necessary for achieving and maintaining optimal health. We are not meant to sit all day! (#sittingisthenewsmoking) It is important that each person choose an exercise program that works best for them but my focus here is specifically on the activity of running because it’s my fave ❤

I’m interested in both how running physically changes your body and your brain. 

In addition to overall fitness, running has been shown to have the following physical benefits:

  • Increased muscle, joint and bone strength
  • Improved blood circulation and cardiovascular health
  • Increased brain plasticity and memory
  • Decrease in stress hormones
  • Running can get you high. Seriously 🙂

I wish I was a neuroscientist but I’m not so I’m going to refer you to this interview on Marathon Training Academy that discusses the running<>brain connection in more detail. MTA Interview with Dr. Wendy Suzuki. 

With regular running the brain can actually change and grow. Aerobic exercise aids the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain associated with memory, in generating and retaining new cells. Really cool stuff!

The mental benefits that are not so obvious are what I’m most interested in. Running improves all aspects of your life. This is a bold statement and one that I think most runners would agree with.

Regular running has been shown to improve mood. Running can help with depression. Running boosts self-esteem. Running can help people overcome many challenges and adversities beyond just fitness and weight loss.

Check out the Runners World Human Race Podcast. Each story profiles a person or a group of people who literally changed their lives through running.

Running is a sport where progress is very clear and tangible. If you want to run 5 miles, you have to start by walking 1 and build your way up. Anyone can do it but it takes time and dedication. I think that most people are surprised and satisfied at what they can achieve by following a simple training schedule. Goal setting, hard work and sense of a achievement are all benefits of running that can translate to other parts of life.

I don’t have a crazy transformation story but speaking from experience, when I am active my outlook is positive and I am more productive. When I take a break from working out, I notice that my mood starts to slip. My body is pretty sensitive to activity and diet changes (aka mostly I’m just moody and hungry) so I have to be careful to maintain a balance. If putting on my sneakers and doing something I love helps keep me on an even keel, count me in.

Not everyone is going to be a runner, I get that, but how do we make sure that people who may be interested in running get the opportunity and direction to get started?

Not a runner? The podcast that I link to above analyzes running, walking and HIIT as they relate to mood improvement and the activity that has the most significant impact is… walking!  So get moving!

Have a wonderful day out there people.

Here’s a neat sign I found in Lodo this morning. Generation Wild is a movement created by Great Outdoors Colorado to inspire kids to reconnect with nature. Good reminder for all of us.

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Human Lives Are Not Wedge Issues.

Last week the President of the United States of America openly defended a hate crime and refused (still refuses) to sincerely denounce or blame the hate groups that are responsible for the crime. From the moment I heard about the events in Charlottesville, the death of Heather Heyer and the flurry of incoherent rhetoric that has transpired since, I have been reeling. As I mentioned in my last post, I tend to keep my political and social commentary off of the internet but I feel strongly that I need to raise my voice.

There have been a lot of times when I’ve felt that because I am a middle class, white, millennial that my thoughts on many of the social issues that plague our country and our world are not valid. My goal here isn’t to pretend that I understand or empathize. My goal is to express my solidarity to everyone who is out there fighting tirelessly against injustice. I stand with you. While there are countless things going on in this country and in the world that I don’t agree with and that I am just plain angry about, I am focusing my energy in this post on the most recent events.

Donald Trump, the President of the United States, has over and over again shown that he is a racist and a bigot. He again has made his stance clear this time by defending the Alt-Right which is made up of extremist white supremacist groups including the KKK and neo-Nazis. NAZIS, as in people alive today who idolize Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust. People who overtly spread hate to others because of their race, religion and viewpoints.

These groups are not only dangerous in what the preach but even more so in that that outwardly promote physical violence.Their hatred is so rabid that they actively work towards the realization of a modern day ethnic cleansing i.e. they believe in mass murdering of a group of people because they don’t like them. As most recently evidenced by the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer in Charlottesville and the Alt-Right’s response to it.

A lot of news outlets have been referencing this VICE Special Report on Race and Terror and I implore you to go watch it. Albeit short, this look at some of the key people involved in the Alt-Right movement is terrifying. “I think a lot more people are going to die here,” says white nationalist, Christopher Cantwell, in the footage.

Donald Trump’s response and continued discussion about the events in Charlottesville is reprehensible. His campaign platform and his behavior thus far in office has emboldened extremists in and, let’s call it what it is, terrorism, worldwide.

How does someone even become a white supremacist? At what point does a person decide that hate and negativity are admirable ideals? Surprisingly to me, although maybe it shouldn’t be, a lot of the Alt-Righters are young – they are my age.

I grew up in a town where racism was rampant. The school that I attended from K-12 had zero minority representation both among students and faculty. There were confederate flag vanity plates on the pick up trucks in the parking lot. It would take more fingers and toes than you have to count the number of cut off t-shirts that could be seen on a daily basis claiming that the wearer was a “Redneck”.

When I was a Freshman, there were kids in my high school that were openly members of the KKK. Go ahead, read it again…you read it right.

 

 

As solid an upbringing that had, I was misunderstood at times. I once had a kid grab me by the throat and call me a “freak” in the stairwell at school. I am the girl that got called into the principal’s office for wearing an anti-Nazi pin on my purse, a Marilyn Manson patch, a spiked collar… Everyone shuddered at my hand written t-shirt that said “Oppressors be warned, all dreams come true someday”(The Unseen, thank you very much). Let’s be honest, though, I was a typical angsty teenager.

Here’s the thing. Despite being an honor student, I was denied acceptance to the National Honor Society. Later in high school I wrote a personal essay denouncing the KKK. An essay which was later nominated (by my amazing English teacher) for an award and lost because, from what I understand, the judges “didn’t agree with the subject matter”. Oh that Melissa, always stirring the pot…

TL;DR When I was 15ish my dad took me to a KKK rally that was happening in our town. My parents 100% do not support the KKK, but they wanted me to see it. I didn’t want to go because I didn’t care. It ended up changing my life.

I’m not going to rehash that essay here, although I still read it sometimes and am proud at how my teenage mind decided that hate is fucking terrible and wrong. I was outraged by the fact that these people were allowed to spew their hate on the steps of the county courthouse, that they had children in robes up there, that they were too cowardly to show their faces.

We talked to protesters. Their stories were horrifying. We talked to people who found burning crosses and KKK paraphernalia in their yards. People who lived in fear for their families lives because of the color of their skin. Yet, even though their lives have been threatened they were still there, unmasked, standing up to hate. It was inspiring.

I’ve never really asked my parents why they decided that I should go that day, but I know that I am LUCKY to have parents who exposed me to such harsh realities when I was young. Then gave me the foundation and support to make the right decisions and then allowed me to be strong willed and outspoken about what I believe in.

If it weren’t for my parents (and punk rock) I don’t know if I would have learned it any other way. I am in fact suggesting that love and acceptance vs hate and bigotry are learned behaviors.

At some point, I feel like I kind of gave up on trying to be a force of change. When you’re young, you set out to change the world. As you mature and realize just how many walls stand in your way, especially when you grow up in rural conservative town. You adapt to pick your battles or fight your battles in more subtle ways.

Now is not the time for subtlety.

 

When Donald Trump was elected President, I was in complete disbelief. There is really so much to say here but I’m going to stay focused. I understand people’s opposition to Hillary Clinton, that’s not what I’m here to discuss. BUT. Donald Trump’s campaign was based on nothing but slander, hate, fucking the system, and fucking all of us.

I have opinions about the system of course. I am a registered Independent. I do not believe that a two party political system is a sustainable path towards progress. The two party system thrives when we as a people are divided. The two party system is the reason that Donald Trump is in office right now.

Dichotomy is in the best interest of politicians as it pits the masses against each other. When there is confusion and adversity among the people, the politicians and their inner circles maintain and strengthen their power while everyone is distracted and looking the other way. Opposing viewpoints on issues such as taxes, foreign trade and the economy are one thing, and all in the spirit of the game I suppose.

Creating opposition where any human is ostracized for their race, nationality, gender, sexuality or any other fundamental attribute is a cruel and dangerous game to play.

Human lives are not wedge issues. 

I am not naive enough to think that it’s within the realm of human nature to live in total peace, but when the people in power are driving hateful ideology it is important that we band together. Part of the job of the President of the United States is to be a moral leader. Donald Trump is failing us. He is making this country and the whole world a more dangerous place. That is why I feel compelled to speak up right now.

We should not be a danger to each other. We all have so much to teach each other.

As I am travel overseas for the next couple of weeks I will do my best to exude the kindness, positivity and acceptance that I believe we should all embrace. I hope to see some awesome sights and meet some incredible people and have some stories to share with you when I get back.

To everyone out there fighting the good fight, thank you. #RESIST 

A disclaimer, a recipe and a few random thoughts.

This is going to be a short one. I have A LOT of feelings about what is going on in the United States and the world right now, it is very scary and disheartening.  I usually lean away from discussing politics on the internets but I feel that since I’m writing more openly now, it’s important that I express my thoughts. I am working on a post that I will share with you next week. Then, I am going to take a break from writing while I’m on vacation through early September.

In the mean time… That meal plan I talked about earlier in the week, yeah, I never wrote it. My mind has been occupied with other things. Here is one recipe I tried that turned out great!

I started with this Paleo Veggie Mushroom Burger Recipe from Lexi’s Kitchen. I was all set to follow the recipe exactly until I pulled out my mushrooms and they were slimy.

Instead of mushrooms I cooked up some broccoli and cauliflower to replace the mushrooms. I nixed the red pepper flakes and added turmeric. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The sweet potato helped bind the patties so they did not fall apart like a lot of veggie burgers do, and the flavor of the sweet potato and walnut really came through.

I ate the patties with spinach, sauerkraut, avocado and my fave toppings – Paleo mayo and Cholula. Super yum.

A few other quick things. 

I had a really good 7 mi pace run on Wednesday.

Jim saw a BLACK WIDOW in our back yard yesterday. Eeek.

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HOLY S#!+

Brand New released a new album, Science Fiction. Still emo. (Yes they are)

I watched What the Health, one of the newer food documentaries on Netflix, and though they make some valid points about the food industry it is pure propaganda. Get your information elsewhere.

Finally, have a great weekend! Do something to promote positivity, the world needs it right now.

 

*Almost* Falling on My Face

My mom and sister visited over the weekend and that’s a wrap for visitors this year. We had a great time visiting Garden of the Gods, doing Yoga on the Rocks and taking in some mountain air with an evening in Breckenridge. I love being able to share the mountains and sweet Colorado living with friends and family. It was especially fun for my little sis to spend time with the dogs who she affectionately refers to has her niece and nephew. The doggos will surely miss the attention!

Now that I’m back to “normal” life it means seriously buckling down on training and diet. When you have visitors almost every week it’s hard to find time to shop and cook and sleep and exercise can fall by the wayside. It can be frustrating and make you feel a little out of control.I haven’t missed a day of training but admittedly the quality of my workouts has taken a bit of a hit.

It’s a fact of life that sometimes you fall down. Literally and figuratively.

Apparently tripping and falling while running is a thing that happens to all of us runners, eventually. I’ve only had my first couple of experiences lately. Twice now I’ve almost completely bit it and of course had an audience for both occasions.

It goes something like this. My toe catches, I feel my other leg come forward as to continue the run but the caught foot is still extending back in the air, not reaching the ground to brace my stride, panic sets in, I notice the position of my hands, arms, face, which one would hit the ground first??

I know I’m not always going to be so lucky but in both instances, I grasp on to whatever balance I can find, airplane arms, my torso is horizontal to the ground while my legs feel like they’re spinning in circles to keep up with the trajectory of my body. After a couple of seconds of that, I am upright, breathing a huge sigh of relief and continue running. Nothing to see here, people.

The first time this happened I thought,”Sh!t, f*ck, omg, that was scary”, but also “This is why I do yoga!” Maybe run, trip, fall, and try to keep your balance should be a new yoga pose…

I desperately want to avoid a falling down & getting back up cliche here but it’s too perfect! You can hone your focus, strength and technique but there will always be things that are out of your control i.e. when running, gravity and inertia. Same with everything in life the only thing you can control about a situation is your reaction to it.

Since my diet has also been falling flat, I am mapping out a meal plan for the next two weeks to get my butt back on track. Stealing some ideas from the Paleo Leap 2 Week Plan and adding some other great recipes from my collection. I will share more on that later in the week.

My lunch today and one of my favorite summer go-to’s is a very simple salad:

  • 2 cups spinach
  • 5-6 strawberries sliced
  • 1/2 cucumber chopped
  • 1/2 avocado
  • a drizzle of evoo

The cucumber strawberry combo is just perfect. Fresh with contrasting flavors, textures and colors.

I hope you kick Monday’s ass and as the little things inevitably come up throughout the week don’t let them get you down, remember how strong your foundation is. ☮

 

 

 

Running Routes in Europe

This summer has gone by so fast! That means that our big travel month is right around the corner. We’ve had Euro-trip flights booked for a while but really just got into the nitty gritty details over the last week. I seem to expend all of my Type A-ness on running and nutrition now and have been uncharacteristically lax when it comes to all other aspects of my life. This is probably not a bad thing.

Now that we’re making plans I.AM.STOKED. I got my new duffle, booked our housing, started making museum, food & cafe to do lists and, duh! began looking for running routes! There was a moment when I thought I’d just take a break from working out while on vaca but yinz know I won’t be able do that. My goal is to get in one good run in each city.

I found a great website and app called STRAVA which I’m going to mess around with. I’m not sure if it’s worth paying for Premium access but without signing in you can access some great local guides with maps, mileage and descriptions of running trails by city.

See LONDON

See PARIS

See AMSTERDAM 

I am seriously excited about London because we are staying right by Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens which has a perimeter of up to 4.3 miles – blimey! I can run that a few times with a giant smile on my face 🙂

Anyone out there in London, Paris or Amsterdam have running tips for me, or wanna schedule a meet up run!? Or want to loan me a washing machine, because I’m only planning on bringing one work-out outfit…

Climbing Gray’s Peak – First Fourteener!

I hiked my first fourteener this weekend and it was nothing short of awe-inspiring! From the early morning start, to the physical and mental challenges along the way, to the moment that you finally crest the summit; the whole experience conjures up a range of emotions that are eventually succeeded by the sense of accomplishment that takes over when you finish the hike.

So, what is a 14er and why are they so special? A 14er is any mountain with a peak elevation of at least 14,000 feet. Fourteeners are found in only four states in the US – Alaska, California, Washington and Colorado cashes in with the most at 53 (or 58 depending on what definition you use).

The tallest peak in Colorado is Mt. Elbert at 14,433′.  The tallest peak in the Contiguous US is Mt. Whitney in California at 14,494′. The tallest peak in the Continental US and in North America is Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska at 20,310′.

As altitude increases, the air gets thinner, pressure increases, and the amount of effective oxygen decreases. Between 5,000′-7,000′ is the altitude at which the average person may begin to experience mild altitude sickness including trouble breathing, nausea, headache, etc. Those already acclimated at Denver’s Mile High altitude of 5,280′ are not immune, but will feel the effects at closer to 10,000′.  When you climb a 14er the altitude can pose as many challenges as the fundamental difficulty of the terrain.

The best way to approach the challenges of climbing a 14er is to be prepared. Here are a few tips you’ll see everywhere, that I can also validate.

  1. Make sure that you’re in at least decent shape with no medical conditions that would be aggravated by strenuous activity.
  2. Pack lots of water. When you think you have enough water, pack more!
  3. Snacks are your friend! Granola bars, sandwiches, fruit, carrots. I actually used the Jelly Belly Sport Beans (that I have been hesitant to use when I’m running) and they were great.
  4. Wear a good pair of hiking shoes or boots that have tread and make sure they are broken in.
  5. Layer up. The temperature can change drastically and quickly.
  6. Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat.
  7. Check the weather. Late morning and afternoon storms are always possible in the mountains and they can be dangerous. We got lucky with a hazy but mostly cloudless sky.

After some debate on which mountain we were going to tackle, it was decided that we would do Gray’s Peak in Arapahoe National Forest. Gray’s Peak at 14,278′ is the 9th tallest peak in Colorado and is connected by a ridge to Torrey’s Peak, the 11th tallest at 14,275′. Thus by crossing the ridge you can summit two 14ers in one day.  They are Class 1 and Class 2 mountains respectively. I’ve seen discrepancies in the total out and back mileage ranging between 7-9 miles. We clocked in right around 9 miles round trip for Gray’s Peak and the folks who did the double play and hit Torrey’s were probably closer to 11 miles.

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When you have a group of friends together it can be tough say “We are not going to stay out and party on Friday night so that we can get up and hike on Saturday,” but when you live in Colorado you find yourself making that decision quite often. It’s always worth it.

The trails in Colorado are highly trafficked and the 14ers, despite their challenges, are no exception. Early arrival is a must.

With a 3am wake up call, Jim, me and 6 of our friends set into the mountains. Gray’s Peak is about an hour and half drive from Denver on I-70 West. You exit at #220 Bakersville, and you’re *almost* there.

Thankfully our friends did some research so we weren’t surprised when we encountered a 3 mile dirt road that, even on a good day, could give an AWD vehicle a run for its money. We also weren’t surprised to see that there were hundreds of other people there at 4:30am, all vying for parking at the end of that dirt road at the trailhead.

Note, there is a parking lot you can use if you don’t want to traverse the dirt road but it’s a special place reserved for those who opt to trade a few extra hours of sleep for another 6 miles tacked on to their hike.

Driving into the mountains when it’s dark outside gives off an eerie feeling. You know that you’re amidst something spectacular but you can only barely make out the rocks and ledges that you are narrowly driving between. The drive up the dirt road was turbulent, and all along we had our fingers crossed that we were still early enough to get parking space when we cleared it. We did!

It was just before dawn and the darkness was broken up only by the lamps bouncing around on hopeful hikers heads. A couple of our friends had head lamps. I did not. I thought about what it would be like if no one had lamps or cell phone flash lights and we let ourselves adjust naturally to the darkness a la the Pleiades installation at the Mattress Factory; but I was glad to have the light.

The trail starts across a foot bridge under which you can hear a stream lapping at the banks in the chill morning air. Some sparsely placed 2x4s create steps that assist with the adjustment to walking on a grade. It seemed like everyone started out at a quick pace, which slowed as all of the different groups started to disperse along the trail. After a few minutes (or longer) of pushing hard through the darkness, the sky lightened and we could see the magnificent wall of the Continental Divide to the left and vague outlines of the peaks and valleys that surrounded us. It felt like waking up from a deep sleep.

We stopped for a moment to catch our breath and to take in the surroundings. The sun peered up over the wall and yellow, red and purple wildflowers popped in the soft morning light. We were in a rolling meadow which was in stark contrast to the stately gray peaks that stood, what looked like, so far away.

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Before sunrise.

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After sunrise.

Onward we went. If you think about the distance left to traverse, you’re inevitably going to psych yourself out. You have to stay in the moment. Watching that each step is on a steady stone. Every turn in the trail opens up to more turns. After about an hour of hiking, the landscape changed from green to brown. The rolling meadow was starting to shrink in the rear view.

The sun moved across the sky but the chill never left the air. I layered and un-layered. My decision to bring a beanie proved to be a good move – having my head covered helped to regulate my body temperature. Also, never underestimate the power of a lightweight windbreaker. I’m a baby when it comes to being cold. The temperature in the low 40’s was really quite perfect.

Eventually we were at the foot of the mountain. The point where you look up and see nothing but rocks and switch backs. Little to no vegetation. Up and up.

This hike, as I imagine all 14er hikes are, was a mental game. The terrain was tough and there were very few spots where the grade leveled out to the point where you could relax. It was a grueling leg work out that was accompanied by shortness of breath.

After 4 hours of hiking, we made it to the top of Gray’s. Some of us had stopped a couple of yards from the top to wait for the rest of the group to catch up. Together we scrambled the rest of the way to the summit. Being with loved ones made it even sweeter.

The view behind us was that which we had admired on the way up and a 360 view opened up exposing a mountains beyond mountains that stood lower than we stood at that moment. At the top I felt small yet larger than life at the same time. I’m not going to get all Thoreau on you, but being on the top of a mountain is one of the most incredible things you can experience, and when you work really hard to get there the payoff is even greater.

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Summit of Gray’s Peak, 14,278′

A few friends crossed the ridge and hit Torrey’s peak as well. I opted to start the descent from Gray’s. If you’ve ever hiked anything you know that coming down is no cake walk. It took almost as long to get back to the bottom as it took us to get up. We passed familiar sites and twists and turns that again seemed never ending.

All in all it took us 8 hours round trip. We left tired, hungry and satisfied.

As with most things of this nature, I’m hooked and pondering the next one. 🙂

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Resting on the way down.