Archive | June, 2014

so here’s the thing about new jobs…

28 Jun

They take over your life!

I’ve essentially moved into the Inn at Keystone…ala “Eloise“, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for short stories about the magic of Peru. Having said that, that last few episodes of “the peruvian chronicles” are in the works, but in the meantime here’s a snapshot of the last few weeks. Come visit, I happen to know the manager at a cute little mountain hotel :).

In training for the USA Pro Challenge

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Frisco BBQ Challenge

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Hummingbird visitor off the deck

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Good morning from the Inn at Keystone

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Hike up to the 7:30 Mine in Silver Plume, CO

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Abbey Road and Gucci pup

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Summer storm over Lake Dillon, Dillon, CO

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Tommy moved next door! 

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Ska Brewing Company, Vinifera Stout 

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Drinks with the girls at The Warming Hut

yum

 

 

the peruvian chronicles, day 4…RATED PG-13

19 Jun

12 times. 

I had been up hustling, with my headlamp aglow, between my soft, warm bed and the cool tiles of the bathroom floor.
 
12 times. 
 
And no, I wasn’t really feeling any better; in fact it felt as if I had taken an invisible sucker punch to the gut.
 
Alas, the show must go on and an eight mile descent from the “Peruvian Flats” at 12,900 vertical feet to the Cloud Forest at an elevation of 9,414 feet, was on the books for the day.
 
So I popped a few Imodium, sucked down some Gatorade, and strapped on my big girl boots, all while silently praying to the travel gods that there would be some good “potty breaks” on the trail.
 
Outside the sun’s early morning rays danced atop the razor sharp edges of the Vilcabamba Range. Donkeys and mules brayed as porters loaded the animals with luggage, food and water. And although it was was crisp 32°, the heavy, wet air from the jungle that lay just below, mingled with the cool mountain air causing water particles to cling to what little oxygen they could find at nearly 13,000 feet above sea level. 
 
It was a blue bird day, a complete 180° from the weather that the GBB encountered the day before crossing Salkantay Pass. And as we trekked downhill the excited chatter and good-natured banter that had accompanied us during the first few days of the trip, returned.
 
It was no secret that I was feeling a little…ahem…shitty. So each time I fell behind for a “photo opp”, a series of fart noises would emanate from my brother, Tommy, as he wandered ahead, keeping pace with the group. Laughter would ensue and then I would be left in peace to take care of business. 
 
As we descended, our scenery evolved from snow and ice and dramatic glaciers that nearly touched the sky, to a thick overlay of ferns and towering trees creating a canopy under which we strolled. Bulbous avocados littered the ground and hung heavy on drooping branches. Orchids, rhododendrons, Lady Slippers and Lupine decorated the scenery bringing a wide range of magentas, sky blues, happy yellows and oranges to the endless greenery.
 
As we reached our final destination, perched high atop a steep hill overlooking an orchid garden and the vibrant Colpapampa Valley, brightly colored hummingbirds flitted in and out and around our heads; perhaps in greeting, perhaps in defense, but nonetheless providing the group with a feeling of lightness and joy.
 
On a side note…don’t drink the water.
 
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the peruvian chronicles, evening edition

9 Jun

After the day’s long, snowy trek up Salkantay Pass our arrival at Wayra Lodge had been punctuated with “oohs and ahhs” as the Garbage Bag Brigade lowered their weary bodies into the steaming waters of the bubbling “yacuzzi”. As we settled in, feeling our tired muscles loosen, almost immediately, a single ray of sunlight lit up the pinnacled summit of Humantay.

The sunlight, the wispy clouds, and the steam filled air stole the breath out of the weary travelers, until one by one, with their mouths agape, “wows” were uttered around the tub.

As if the silence following the chorus of “wows” were a cue, the single ray of sunlight multiplied until the surrounding peaks were illuminated in a mosaic of dreamy yellows and oranges.

Puka Puka, Salkantay, Pumasillu, and Tukarway

The jagged edges of the magnificent Vilcabamaba Range were ignited in the early evening light, as if lit up by licking flames that could only have been sent by the Sun.

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….

“C’mon. The clouds are gone. Ya gotta see the stars,” said Ricki, turning to me as we took the last few savory bites of our evening meal.

I excused myself from the table, grabbed my jacket and followed him to the center of the courtyard, careful to dodge the land mines of donkey droppings that littered the grassy knoll.

“Look over to your left, above the chimney of the Lodge,” instructed Ricki pointing up over my left shoulder. “It’s the Southern Cross. It can only be seen in the Southern Hemisphere and for the Inca’s signified Cuzco, the center of the Incan empire.”

“And over here, at the very bottom of the Southern Cross, you can see Yutu, in English it means Tinamou, a bird that lives here, in Peru.”

The lull of Ricki’s voice, the crash of the river below, and ribbon of stars nestled deep into the navy of the night sky. I was lost in the ancient magic of the Incas.

Urcuchillay, Atoq, Hanp’atu, Mach’acuay. The Llama, The Fox, The Toad, The Serpent.

I was humbled at the enormity of it all.

Humbled in the meaning that can be found in the inky black sky in the midst of the ancient spirits. The honor in the education that I was being provided. And the fact that these constellations served as a map to lead others home in the dead of the night and as a method of teaching the young ones important life lessons. 

I let the magic in the moment fill the inner reaches of my being; and my soul, my entire self, let go.

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Photo Credits: Tommy Sims, Tommy Sims Dezigns

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we will return to our trip to peru momentarily…

8 Jun

we will return to our trip to peru momentarily...

In the meantime, enjoy a glimpse into summer in Summit County.

the peruvian chronicles, day 3

7 Jun

“Oh, it’s just the Peruvian Flats,” explained Ricki, one of our fearless leaders, as he pointed towards the summit of Salkantay which sits at a modest 20,574 feet above sea level. 

I looked at him doubtfully, my brain lurching at the irony of his statement, and then cast a glance at the clouds that seemed to be closing in on us in a somewhat menacing manner.  

“Oh, and expect rain at the top. It rarely snows up there,” he said nonchalantly, as he pushed back from the breakfast table and strode down the stairs to prepare himself for the eight mile hike up and over Salkantay Pass (elev. 15,213).

After spending much of the previous day doing our best to dodge whipping rain and howling wind, it was decided that garbage bags were imperative in keeping our belongings rain free. So we swathed ourselves in big, black garbage bags, draping them over raincoats, over gloved hands and in some cases, for those whose boots had proven to be less waterproof than advertised, over socked feet inside boots. 

Similar to the day before, we began our trek amidst a deep fog. A fog that was so fluid, that it seemed to be alive. It floated and undulated through the air, cradling us in its soft, wet arms before dropping us into torrent of wind and rain.

 A climb of 2,522 vertical feet, before lunch, was the crux of our trek up through the “Peruvian Flats”. A climb that featured 12 hairpin switchbacks, a rocky, muddy trail that became slicker and sloppier as the morning wore on, trains of mules lead by weathered porters in sandals (?!?!), and a cocktail of Gatorade and Clif Shot Bloks that were passed down our line from leader to porter like a sacrament. 

We weren’t the only ones enveloped in the mist and rain. The monumental glaciers that stood sentinel over the valley were shrouded in clouds, casting only the briefest of glimpses of their mighty peaks out to their waiting public. 

“13,000 ft!” shouted Steve as he ever so dutifully reported the altitude at 500′ increments to the group.

And as though Steve’s report of 13,000 feet was an sign for the heavens to open above us, the mist and the rain turned to snow.

SNOW. 

Now as many of you know, I live in the land of the snow. And don’t get me wrong between the months of October and April I live for snow; heck, I have a tendency to be a bit of a powderhound when conditions permit, but once May 1 rolls around Mother Nature and I are in a month long fight, which tends to see me on the losing side. That said, I was mildly impressed that Mother Nature’s snow curse had hopped continents to find me.

I shot Ricki a look that plainly said, “no snow, huh?” and he shrugged his shoulders and offered me a bewildered smile. 

As we rounded the last bend of the upward trudge, at about 15,000 feet above sea level (officially 780′ higher than I have ever been), towering cairns became visible through the dusty white snow that was swirling through the cold, wet air. 

“213 feet to the top of the pass!” announced Steve, as if on que.

We trudged onward with a renewed sense of determination. Another 213 feet and the rest is all downhill!

A round of cheers exploded out of The Garbage Bag Brigade as a sign proclaiming, “Abra Salkantay”, appeared through the sea of white.

“We’ve made it to the top of Salkantay Pass!” exclaimed Pepe, “How about a snack?” he questioned, a trace of a grin curling in the corners of his ever smiling mouth.

Pictures were taken, hugs were shared and high fives and pats on the back announced the excitement and relief felt by the group. 

We had summited our Everest. 

As promised, the rest of the trek was downhill. It snowed until we fell below 14,000 feet where cows grazed on rocky outcrops that merged with leafy green ferns and hot pink and yellow wildflowers. 

Our next lodge sat at 13,900 feet, right on the brink of the entrance to the palatial glaciers guarding Salkantay Pass and the Amazon jungle. Shortly after we arrived, the clouds broke, offering The Garbage Bag Brigade the chance to shed their black, plastic layers and gape at the mighty peaks towering above us. 

Mother Nature approved. We had passed Salkantay’s test and the deep jungle greens mingling with the stark grays and whites of the glaciers and the late afternoon sun casting a pinkish, blueish glow upon the landscape, was our reward. 

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the peruvian chronicles, day 2

2 Jun

“It’s a little foggy out there,” someone commented over the clink of silverware and the munching and slurping of breakfast juices and cereals.

For me, strawberry yogurt with a sprinkle of crunchy, nutty quinoa. Muña tea, no sugar. One egg, scrambled with cheese, hold the tomatoes. And a glass of passionfruit juice, filled all the way to the brim.

“Don’t worry, it’ll burn off,” said someone else, taking a swig of their coffee.

“No, no, no, rain is in the forecast. Not too much, but wear your rain gear,” instructed Pepe, as he wiped his lips with a perfectly square napkin and pushed his chair away from the table. 

Outside, it was a little bit more than a little bit foggy. It was a deep, thick, engulfing mist, that swaddled the mountains and kissed the valley floor.  

And it was humid. Wet actually. Water particles clung to hair, to lips, to cheeks and penetrated coats, hats, gloves, and shoes. Yet, the water that clung to the atmosphere was so full of air, that it felt as if we were receiving kisses from the clouds.

Our destination was Humantay Lake, located just two miles and 1150 vertical feet above the Salkantay Lodge. It would be an easy day, with some vertical that opened up to a turquoise lake fed by the glacial waters of Humantay. We’d spend a few hours relaxing by the jewel-toned lake, perhaps enjoying a dip or two in its chilly waters before heading back to the lodge to enjoy the views from the “yacuzzi”. 

Alas, the weather had other plans. The higher we trekked, the wetter the conditions. Mist turned to rain, which turned to sleet, which turned back into rain. 

A piercing, cutting rain. 

No longer intimate brushes with Mother Earth, rather sharp, icy stings biting your skin. 

“Head for the lodge!” shouted Pepe at the top of the climb, fighting to be heard over the blowing wind and rain.

We turned back towards the lodge, craning our necks in hopes of a glimpse of Humantay Lake in all its turquoise glory. 

As we descended, the rivers began to fill, gurgling as they began their long descent back to the valley floor. Boots squelched and squished their way through the mud; rinsing again each time the creeks crossed the muddy, brown path.

Our arrival at the valley floor queued the rain to stop and the blanketing mist to return. We were soaked to the bone.

I removed my boots, stripped off layers upon layers of wet pants, shirts, socks, and jackets.

As I entered the warm, fire-lit lodge, I took one last look over my shoulder and caught a glimpse of Salkantay casting a wink in my direction before disappearing again behind its curtain of clouds. 

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