Lair O’ the Bear

It was a chilly weekend to be hiking through the snow and ice. I don’t think it was the temperature as much as the looming clouds and wind. It just felt a little darker than usual.

While some might have turned around once they hit the parking lot, we decided to give it a whirl. We had a dog and a seven year old in tow, which made for some laughs along the way. You had to be careful though, there was a lot of thick ice on the trail. I bought crampons after this hike, and I don’t think I’ll hit anything during the winter without them in my bag. A good set of walking poles really helped, but I’m sure many of you have cat like reflexes. I do not.

The hike was pretty much washed with snow the day I went out. It was pretty, but once you’ve seen snow covered rocks and frozen streams, you start to move a little faster along the trail. My hike slowly turned into me looking at my feet and where I would step next. Watching out for thick ice and exposed tree roots.

It wasn’t long before thoughts of cold days in the middle east started creeping into my head. Yeah, it gets really cold over there. There were those months where it would rain and just get really cold. The frigid moisture would seep into everything. The water would turn to slush and the mud would get deep and cling to everything. I remember going on patrols with mud caked to my knees and boots practically frozen. My fingers felt like icicles. God forbid I actually needed to use my weapon. I don’t think my fingers would have worked. As bad as the “suck” would get, there was always someone that would make you laugh.

Here I was “coasting” along on the trail with my sorel winter boots. Nice and toasty. Not the army full leather combat boots. Those boots had a way of turning into thirty pound, water-logged, trench foot inducing, leather foot coffins. Enough about that… and my winter boots.

My hands were cold and my cheeks were bitten a couple times with the wind, but it wasn’t anything that made me want to head back to the car. It didn’t even compare to those miserable moments all those years ago. We were only gone a couple hours, before we found ourselves back at the car. The whole trip was less than five miles. Even better, I returned to a car with heated seats and warm air blowing from the vents. Can’t beat that. Times have changed. Even when hikes don’t go as planned, they are still pretty great. Maybe it’s a change of perspective. Either way, it feels good to get out and be reminded of how good I really have it.

Army issued Ice Box . . and no armor. Good times.

Soup’s On

Happy New Year!!! It’s been almost a month since I last posted anything. That’s not to say that I’ve been slumbering on my couch on a Netflix binge. Granted, those days have a place. More on that another day. Maybe there’s space sometime for the story of how Netflix saved me from the Mango Fly.

This past month has been a flurry. I’ve made a real attempt to get outside, breath in the air, and stretch my legs. Making time for myself on a consistent basis really helped me deal with the seasonal chaos. I wanted to initially do a rundown of all the places I explored over the holidays, but have decided to only write about the most recent one. On a side note, a lot of the places I explored were found using a really nifty site. It pretty much organizes trails by certain conditions. Really helpful if you’re looking for something that meets certain conditions. If that strikes your fancy, try this link, or don’t. I’ve started using it to research possible hiking locations. I don’t personally know the man that runs the site, but he gave me permission to include his link here. Without further delay…

Hot Sulphur Springs, Hot Sulphur Springs, CO. –> Resort

It might smell like eggs, but the water was amazing! Some of the natural spring pools were warmer than others. Plenty to chose from! Don’t drink the water.

So when it comes to relaxing, this place takes the cake. Once you get over the olfactory blitzkrieg, it’s super soothing. You’re not going to be swimming laps here, but if you want to sit down in some really hot water and nurse that sore shoulder, this is the place to go. It costs $20 per person for a full day pass. There is a private indoor spring that is pricier, at $20/hour. I wanted to be outside and experience the surroundings while I relaxed, so I never went into the private area. I would also recommend taking a roll in the snow if you get too hot. Some of the younger bucks did it, which gave me a good laugh. There was a good crowd this past weekend, and I think everyone had a good time talking to each other and taking it easy.

After working up a healthy appetite from a full day of relaxing, there’s pretty much only one option in Hot Sulphur Springs: The Dean Public House. This place is amazing. They also make a mean Old Fashioned, if that’s your flavor. The food was delicious and the service was excellent. Not too expensive for all the food that they served you. I had the Sheppard’s Pie, which really hit the spot. It was also less than 100ft. from where I booked my Airbnb. All in all, it was just about the perfect trip away from downtown Denver.

Dean Public house building has been around since 1874!
Less than 100ft from my Airbnb! Can’t beat that!

I’m not sure what’s next in the pipe. There’s talk about possibly doing a winter 14er, but that is going to take some real research, as well as some luck with the weather. Mt. Quandary has come up in conversation a couple times, but even that seemed pretty daunting this time of year. What are your thoughts? Anyone have any experience with winter 14ers?

Senegal 2007… and the garnish.

“The gracefulness of the slender fishing boats that glided into the harbor in Dakar was equaled only by the elegance of the Senegalese women who sailed through the city in flowing robes and turbaned heads. I wandered through the nearby marketplace, intoxicated by the exotic spices and perfumes. The Senegalese are a handsome people and I enjoyed the brief time that Oliver and I spent in their country. The society showed how disparate elements– French, Islamic, and African– can mingle to create a unique and distinctive culture.”

― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

far outside Dakar, this tree and termite mound caught my attention. There wasn’t much color, so I played around with black and white. These photos are over ten years old. I was doing a lot of pointing and clicking.

Somewhere in 2007 I made my way to Senegal. It was a strange time for me. My girlfriend and I had split after deciding to get more involved in my career. Senegal would give me the chance to conduct some community/medical relief work for some of the outlying towns and villages. The chance of a lifetime! How many opportunities do you get to travel across West Africa on someone else’s dime? Yeah, not very often. That’s how it started, and I was off.

I’m not sure why Senegal has crept back into the periphery lately. There are usually obvious clues during the days/weeks that immediately bring back some buried memory. Usually a whiff of some strange spice, or odd BO will resurrect some thoughts.

Open air market in Dakar. I came here every week to buy my veggies, meat, and fish. Paleo by default.

To be honest, thoughts of my travels have been stalking me for a while now. Hiking has gotten me back outside (past the streets and cafe’s) exploring. These experiences naturally bring up similar excursions. They’re different in magnitude, but they’re still amazing in their own way. It’s been a wonderful thing. I don’t know what else to call it. So, a “thing” will have to do for now.

When this comes walking out of the brush, while you’re taking a leak, you stop and take a step back. Not necessarily in that order.
Look up on the trail. You never know who is watching you. Three Sister’s Trail in Evergreen, CO.

Now that I’m on the Senegal kick, I’m just going to add some pictures. I can’t remember what movie was filmed near those huge cannons, but I’ll call you out if you know! Of all the places I visited in West Africa, Senegal was probably the safest and most accessible. You still need to be really careful though. Kudos to you if you speak Wolof, chances are it’s not offered at the local community college, but speaking some French would be your best bet. Really, the last thing you want is to be called “CIA man”. Know where you are going and don’t stroll around alone. It was definitely safe-ish during the day, depending on where you were and what you were doing. This was back in 2007ish. I imagine Dakar and Senegal as a whole has changed a lot. I truly hope for the better. It was one of the most beautiful places I had seen to date, and left an indelible impression.

Cannons on Goree Island. West African slaver island used for collecting and then shipping slaves all over. Eye opening experience.
Vichy Cannons from WWII, Goree Island
Vichy Cannons, Goree Island

I’m going to stop for the moment. Maybe my next trip out will jar loose some memories. Thanks for coming by and taking a look. As always, feel free to leave a message or anything you might want to add. If you’ve been to Senegal, fill me in! I’m curious to hear all about your experiences there.

Thanks again, and enjoy the trail!


Sorel Buxton

I take good care of my feet. Sure, I ran around barefoot as a kid. I had some thick leathery soles back then. What kid, back then, didn’t? Fast forward twenty years, and stepping on a lego cripples me for the afternoon. You get the picture.

Like any good trooper, I wanted to do a little after action review concluding my last outing. Specifically, my boots. Probably the most important element of my outing. The weather was mild and none of my gear really stood out as, “Wow, I’m really glad I brought that with”. There’s one exception, my boots. Boots boots boots. Just to put it out there, I’m not sponsored by anyone. Heck, at the time that I’m writing this, I’ve had one or two visitors… total.. in the history of my young blog. So, take that for what it’s worth.

My last pair of boots were the Salomon X Ultra Mid GTX. They felt a little narrow in the toe box and didn’t really provide much, if any, ankle support. I know .. I know.. it’s a mid ankle hiking boot. However, it didn’t do much of anything. I hiked Mt. Elbert in them this summer, and I didn’t walk off the mountain feeling like, “Hey, these boots are the cat’s pajamas”. I checked out a larger size, and still didn’t walk away feeling great.

Before you start grumbling, I need to clarify a couple things. The Sorel Buxton is like a Abrams tank compared to the light skinned HUMVEE that is the Salomon X Ultra Mid GTX. Sorel, after doing more reading, isn’t really known for their hiking boots. They make really solid winter boots, and it just so happens that on this really mild trail, a winter boot is all that was needed. I kinda feel like I’m comparing apples to oranges here. So maybe I should just sum it up like this: for the Three Sister’s Trail, you don’t need a technical hiking boot. If you’re going in the summer, wear something that has good traction and comfortable. If you’re doing it in the winter, wear something that will keep your feet dry and warm. Sorel did just that this weekend.

My First Trip!

Beautiful rock formations along the lower tree line
I didn’t have those nifty hiking slip-on crampons, but they would have helped in certain spots!
Look what I walked in on! It helps to look up while you’re hiking! He was less than ten feet away!

So this is my first posting here on Adventures on the Trail! Thanks for stopping by and taking a look. I’m a Teacher, graduate student, and veteran. This blog provides me a little time to write and reflect. A chance to share my experiences with anyone who is interested.

This past weekend I decided to head over to Evergreen and try my hand on the Three Sister’s Trail. My last hike was a 14er, Mt. Elbert. The Sister’s only took me about three hours from getting out of my car to getting back into it. It was the perfect afternoon casual walk. Pretty easy, even with the little bit of snow and mud. To clarify, I walked the southern loop which takes you to the scenic spot on the map. I think the total mileage for that route is around seven miles. Don’t let that discourage you. I am a novice when it comes to this stuff. I just happen to do a little bit a research before I head up. Hopefully anyone reading this can bypass some of that by reading this!

What gear did I bring with? Here’s a list:

  • beanie (stocking cap)
  • gloves (didn’t wear them)
  • convertible pants from North Face
  • Sorel Buxton waterproof boots I don’t like to skimp on my feet. Eight years of service taught me that lesson. Be nice to them!
  • Thick wool socks
  • Cell phone and battery charger
  • Osprey daypack Nothing too big
  • 2L of water and a small Gatorade, bag of almonds, and another ziplock bag of granola
  • rain jacket/shell
  • first aid kit and a pocket knife
  • Walking stick to help me keep my balance –> this really helped in some of those snowy/icy areas!
  • sunglasses! Polarized please.

Who is this guy?

All things outdoors! I’m a biologist, veteran, graduate student, over 40, and a high school science teacher. Many hats, many passions. I’m here to share my experiences with the outdoors. Part of what makes a trip great is leaving with a smile on your face. That doesn’t happen when your shoes end up waterlogged, or your sleeping bag ends up shedding more than your husky. I value good gear, and would like to share that with you as well. A lot of my learning experiences have been learned the hard way. Is there another way? Yeah, there is. I read that somewhere.

I plan to post my travels, road trips, hiking and camping outings, and anything else that takes me away from my cozy comforter. There are a lot of great experiences to be had out there. Time to get outside and make some!

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