Ziplining at the Canyons

“Ok, Mr. Phil, ready when you are”. OMG!! I looked down from the high platform and then at the cable stretched out before me. Now was the time for everything to culminate.

I have never zip lined so a friend and I made reservations at a place in Ocala. There are plenty of places to zip line in Florida, but here we zipped over canyons and beautiful lakes. I’m a firm believer in doing it up as right as possible and what better way to learn to zip line than over beautiful scenery.

We arrived and were part of a very small group that consisted of the two of us, another couple, and our two fun guides, Denise and Craig. As we stood in front of all our gear laid out on the floor, I felt like I was about to go skydiving.

We climbed into our gear, cinched it all up, and I just needed one more thing; a place to carry my GoPro. Denise knew exactly what I needed and gave me a helmet with a GoPro mount. Perfect!!!

All suited up and ready to go, we encountered our first zip line which was only about 7 feet off the ground. Here we learned the basics and important safety information, such as braking and self-rescue.

After going through everything and a few test zips, we headed up to our first real zip line. I watched Craig gleefully leap off and head to the next platform. Denise secured me onto the line, gave me a safety check and then it was time to totally let go of all those fears of falling and anything else related to being high and going fast.

I placed both hands on the trolley, leaned back, and a tentatively took a step off. Immediately, I was effortlessly gliding along. I was amazed at how fun it was to just glide above the trees!!
It was not scary at all and I was totally comfortable. Where’s the next one!!!

As we progressed the platforms became higher and the lines longer. With each zip, I would look around more and take in the scenery. Craig would always give us brake signals and he soon realized he needed to give me mine early. I’m not sure how I’d get going so fast, but somehow I did and I loved it.

After a few zips, I really wanted a nice long zip over something scenic so I could just glide along and take in the view. The next run was the perfect place for that!

We climbed up a platform that appeared to be several stories high and on the edge of an emerald green lake. The cable stretched so far over the lake, I could barely see the platform in the trees on the other side.

When it came to be my turn, something unusual happened; for the first time I was scared. I had been fearlessly zipping along however I had not stepped off such a high platform into thin air. I looked straight down into the water; wow, that’s a long way down! Moving beyond those fears was one of the many reasons I wanted to do this adventure.

It was not easy going off that platform, but I went and totally loved the long ride. I took it all in; the swans swimming in the lake, the white limestone cliffs, the semi fall foliage, and more.

We did a few more runs before the tour ended and I must say zip lining is one of the funnest sports I’ve done in a while. If you’ve never zipped, I highly recommend it. If you’re in Florida, here’s a link for more info: www.zipthecanyons.com

Here’s a short video compilation I took:

Sights and Sounds from Imogene Pass

I had the pleasure of experiencing Imogene Pass in Colorado. Tons of history, lots of wild flowers and the trail isn’t too difficult. Just a fun, historic drive.
Here’s a short video compilation:

Keys to the Cities; 18 pianos and lots of fun!

Is that a baby grand? We gleefully bounded off the trolley like excited kids. To our delight it was a baby grand; bright blue, top open, sitting outside against the backdrop of flowing fountains and lit by the lights of the Kravis Center. The cushy piano bench was even covered in glitter.

Oh yeah, we’re definitely playing this one!! Playing a few simple tunes under the stars, in such an opulent setting was truly unforgettable. We definitely played better here; must’ve been the awesome venue…..

If you’re wondering how you can just walk up and play a piano in front of the Kravis Center, it’s quite easy. There are 18 pianos on display to benefit children’s charities in Palm Beach County; “Eighteen used baby grand and upright pianos are being donated by the Kretzer Piano Music Foundation and local residents. School groups and professionals will be performing periodically, but the main message is that everyone is invited and everyone can play! After their public debut, the pianos will be donated to local children’s charities and community organizations, enriching lives for years to come”

The Palm Beach County’s Art in Public Places program assisted the Kretzer Foundation in developing the Call to Artists for the project and promoted the Call to Artists to 1000+ local artists in the County’s Artist Registry. As the County’s Public Art Administrator, Elayna Toby Singer was one of three judges who selected the piano art designs and connected the Kretzer Foundation to Palm Beach Counties Parks and Recreation dept. which resulted in them placing one of the pianos at Carlin Park.

Our mission was to find as many pianos as we could around downtown WPB. The fun part of the story is I have not played the piano for longer than I’ll admit in writing. I had invited my musician friend to come play while I filmed and took photos. However, that plan dramatically changed at the first stop, City Place, when my friend stated; “I’m not playing unless you play”. I really wanted to revisit the piano, but I figured I’d start in the comfort of my own home, not in the middle of City Place!

After some gracious training, I was able to join in on some simple duets and had fun. I can’t believe I just played at City Place by the fountains! After that, I was hooked and it was time to find more.

The hardest piano to find was the one on Worth Avenue. It’s tucked back in one of the alcoves; exactly where the ghost tour tells haunted stories. 11:30pm, on a windy, almost stormy night, and we played a piano in a supposed haunted area.

A few oddities occurred that made us both go “hmmm……maybe this place is really haunted”. Then, out of nowhere, a guy briskly walked by calling out for his wife and dog! Ironically, we had just seen a lady walking a dog on the sidewalk. Or did we….where these real or apparitions? Who/what else wanders Worth Ave at almost midnight? We carried on with our tunes, but after one more odd noise, we left, promptly!

We managed to find five of the 18 pianos: Clematis by the fountains, the waterfront near the docks, City Place near the fountains, in front of the Kravis Center and Worth Avenue. If you’ve ever dreamed of playing keyboard in some fun outdoor locations, this is the perfect opportunity. Even if you don’t play, come out and enjoy the artfully decorated masterpieces.

For a list of locations: http://www.palmbeachculture.com/keys-to-the-cities

Taking the Summit and Going Within

Why am I doing this!! I asked as I searched for a path up the steep mountain slope. The fourteen thousand foot summit of Mt. Sneffels was only a 1.2 miles from the trail head, but it was scary steep and covered with loose rocks that seemed to give way as soon as you set foot on them.

It was anything but easy and I had similar thoughts the last time I climbed a fourteener. As I took a break, my mind politely reminded me that I’m on vacation. Several miles away, I had a large beautiful camp site next to a crystal clear mountain stream. I could be stretched out in my reclining camp chair napping peacefully in the sun.

Instead, I’m up here breathing hard, with a heavy pack and trying not to climb up and not slide the long way down. Geez, I could take it easier on myself, ya think???

After a while my pack began to annoy me. It seemed heavier with every step and it felt heavier than it should be. It only had two bottles of water, a bag of almonds, granola bars, first aid kit and a DLSR. Yet, it felt like I was carrying a week’s worth of supplies.

The summit loomed ahead and was close enough to not give up, but not close enough to just run up. Each step required a test for solid ground with my trekking poles. I made my way up in short increments and a few times found myself in a seemingly no win situation. I can’t step forward because there isn’t a solid step ahead. I can’t step backward because I’ll fall for sure.
Now I know what a cat feels like when it climbs a tree!

As I made my way up in short increments, I encountered fellow hikers returning from the summit. Each one had two things to say: 1) awesome view, worth the trip 2) it’s slick up there and I’m glad to be headed down.

After two hours I reached the top and enjoyed the amazing, breathtaking view composed of jagged peaks set against a blue sky. Some peaks looked like they were carved and others looked like they just fell into place. I could see forever in all directions and felt like I was on top of the world. The most memorable part of sitting on top was the incredible deafening sound of silence. It was clearing and yet a bit eerie at the same time.

When it came time to leave, I peered down that steep, rocky, slope and wondered how I’d get down without falling. I watched other hikers slide along on their butt, using their trekking poles to keep them from sliding too far.

Everyone that I had passed had dirty pants from sliding or falling on their butt. I was a bit determined to get off this mountain with clean clothes. After some closer than I’d like to slides, I managed to pick my way down that mountain without falling and stayed clean.

I totally agreed with all the hikers I’d met; I’m glad to be off that steep, rocky, feel like I’m going to fall anytime slope.

So why did I do that instead of napping at my peaceful camp? I admire Sir Edmund Hillary, but my answer is much more than “because it’s there”. For me, being on that mountain forces me to face my inner self and accomplish things I’d never otherwise do.

It’s about being in the moment, for better or worse, and moving out of that moment to the next one. It’s about looking at something that appears impossible and yet finding out it’s not. It’s where I find myself and what I’m truly capable of.

Now when I’m faced with “difficult” tasks or don’t know what to exactly what to do I remember that mountain climb. If I can successfully face those unknown obstacles, surely I can figure this out.

For me, that is the beauty of exploring and challenging myself. It’s way more than the interesting people I meet or the amazing scenery and photographs; it’s about finding what I can really do and that is the greatest journey.

Finding the path in the Eliada Corn Maze

“Do you know where number 11 is?” The little girl asked. “Sorry, I’m only up to number 6”, I politely replied. Then I looked down at the map and realize d I’d lost my place. Oh no!

I’ve driven solo across the country, but finding my way through this corn maze was proving quite challenging. A friend and I were finding our way through the Eliada Corn Maze, in Asheville North Carolina. The first maze was listed at 2.7 miles in length. Definitely a larger challenge than my last corn maze!!

The corn maze has numerical check points and you punch your card at each checkpoint. The goal is three-fold; find all the checkpoints and find your way out, preferably before dark, and have fun.

We embarked and found the first couple of checkpoints relatively easily. Then there was a long stretch on the map. Actually it was a section where several trails made a circle all together. One trail was correct and the others wrong.

Right turn, then left, and the next check point should be right here. Except it’s not and I can’t see anything that looks close to where I think we should be. Uh-oh…….

My friend and I take another look at the map and then back tracked some. The trail still didn’t look familiar; we back tracked more. In a corn maze, you can’t see out or around; you have to follow the map. If you lose your bearings, like we did, it’s challenging.

Shoot, we were doing so well too!! Fortunately, it is the south and everyone was more than friendly mainly because we’re all in the same boat. “What number are you looking for?” a gentleman asked. “Six” I replied. “Oh that’s over there” as he pointed in the opposite direction. That’s nowhere near where I thought; obviously….

We said thanks and promptly found number six. Ok, now I’m concentrating on this map much harder because it’s a long stretch to the next one. For me following the map, took all of my concentration and I became “the map”. I wasn’t getting lost again.

We managed to find our way through not just one, but all three of the mazes. It was fun and a great sense of accomplishment. However, the corn maze was just the beginning of the fun.

As we were in the corn maze, I kept hearing this “whoosh” sound periodically and wondered what it was. Once I saw it, my eyes lit up. Lined up, three in a row, were air canons. You put a corn cob in the end, aim, and fire. Sometimes the corn would fall a few feet in front and other times, it sailed off into the forest. Oh yeah, I’m so doing this!!

Who knew something so simple could be so much fun!! I could’ve spent a few hours launching corn cobs into the forest. After that we hopped on the adult hay ride and took a leisurely tour. There is also a hay ride for the kids so whatever the age, anyone can enjoy a hay ride.

All of these activities benefit the Eliada Homes which are dedicate to helping kids succeed. Having been a kid myself, I’m all for helping kids succeed. It can be tough sometimes and a little help goes a long way.

If you’re in the Asheville area, come have some fun, support a great cause, and spend an afternoon at the Eliada Corn Maze.

For more information: http://www.eliada.org/get-involved/eliadas-annual-corn-maze

Here’s a very short, no frills video I took:

Turkeypen hike; mushrooms, bushwacking and great scenery

“How much farther up does this go?”….. Up being the key word as we had climbed for about half an hour and still were climbing. I knew we were on the right trail, but I couldn’t see where it ultimately went. The thick Carolina foliage only revealed the trail as you hiked along.

I had heard this trail was one of the tougher hikes on the hiking challenge and so far it was living up to its description. We were taking on the Turkeypen hiking trail near Ashville, North Carolina and it is one of eight hikes listed on the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy’s hiking challenge 2.0. When you complete all eight hikes, you’ll receive a White Squirrel patch; I just saw a couple of white squirrels in person and that was really cool! Squirrel or not, the hiking challenge is a great way to encourage people to get out and explore new scenery.

Turkey Pen/South Mills River gap would be my 4th hike in the series, and it’s rated very strenuous at 6.4 miles and elevation gain of 1,240 feet. As you stand in the parking lot there are a couple of trail options. We took the one on the left, as if you were walking in front of your car. Up is up, but I think this might have been the easier way to tackle the terrain, because you climb the all of the elevation in the beginning.

We continued the steep ascent stopping along the way to photograph the tall trees and tons of mushrooms. I’ve never seen so many different mushrooms on one trail. I enjoy fried mushrooms, but I have no idea which ones to pick so I just took photos.

Finally, we reached the top of the trail and were greeted with a survey marker noting the trail and elevation. The top was shrouded in thick foliage so it was shady, but the expansive views were hidden. Take this hike in the fall and I bet you’d see a long way.

Happy to have the hardest part of the trail behind us we descended into a lush forest with babbling brooks and moss covered logs. The guide labeled this section the Garden of Eden and it was easy to see why. Just as the Garden of Eden had a surprise, the trail had one more surprise for us.

Descending into an open area, the trail mysteriously just disappeared into a stream. There weren’t tracks around the stream as expected. It just stopped. I’m used to walking down a stream a bit, but usually you see the trail on the other side. I didn’t see any signs of trail here.

Backtracking a bit didn’t reveal any missed turnoffs and the trail guide didn’t note anything about crossing a stream. This has to be the way to go, so I decided to go scope it out and return with a report.

I picked my way over the rocks and headed down the stream. After a few yards, I found the only exit point which was through tall brush that appeared to have remnants of path through it. Although it appeared to not have been used in eons.

There were two options here; snakes or poison ivy. I’d prefer the snakes because generally they move, although in a similar area, I saw a rattlesnake hold its ground and I moved. Well, here goes…trekking poles in hand, I made my way through the dense foliage.

About 100 feet later, I exited the jungle into a wide open space and there was the trail. I’m not sure how people were getting to this section, but I think I was the only one through that overgrown area in a long time. Fortunately, there weren’t any snakes or poison ivy.

Shortly after that adventure, the trail again dead ended in a large creek. However this was noted on the trail guide and there is a trail that goes to a fun swinging bridge. I say it’s a fun bridge; it wasn’t too high over the water and was easy to make swing. I bounced, rocked my way over the bridge and just had fun playing. Don’t ask me why I found that so entertaining, but at one point I almost swung myself right into the river.

Leaving the bridge, the easy trail follows the creek with access points among the trees. One stop was too inviting to miss and I stretched out on a rock in the warm sun. The sound of the water, the warm sun, and warm rocks and I could’ve been out for a long time. I must be part cat; I enjoy a good nap in the sun, plus I had been walking for hours. Days it seemed.

The trail crosses more bridges, then makes another small ascent and ends up in the far end of the parking lot behind the sign with the big map. 5 hours and 6.4 miles later, we were done and mostly spent. It turned out to be a combination of hike and adventure, which I always enjoy.

As I took one last, long look at that creek babbling among the green trees, I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the fall. They say October is the best month to see the fall foliage. I may have to make a visit back just for that.
For more information:
www.carolinamountain.org/hikingchallenge2/turkeypen

History is in the Arches in St. Louis

arch1

I posted this story on www.bucketlistpublications.com a few weeks ago. Enjoy!

“Your tram will be at door number six” the lady said. I stood in front of “the door” wondering just where the opening was. I’m familiar with how theme parks masquerade entryways, but this one looked way too small.

Besides, I wasn’t at a theme park. I was at the St. Louis arch preparing to ride to the top. I have driven by this famous monument 3 times previously and never stopped. This time I was going to the top!

After a short movie played and the previous riders disembarked, I stood face to face with something that looked really surreal. Here was a small, round capsule with five small seats, entirely painted in white. The walls, the floor, the seats…

The soft glow of florescent lights, highlighted the bright white interior in such a way that looked like something you’d see in a movie that transported people to heaven. Hmmm….I was in the final few days of my road trip and had a few more things on the itinerary. Visiting the Pearly Gates was not one of them!!

I was the only person in my tram, not sure why. I did shower that day, but that was earlier. Considering, I get claustrophobic at times and can be afraid of heights, I almost walked out. I decided to just go; at the very worst, I’d just close my eyes.

Soon the two glass doors closed and I wasn’t going anywhere but up. The lady said it takes a minute to get the top. I’m calculating the height divided by the speed, etc. Hmmm……there aren’t any seat belts or warning signs of motion sickness.

With a groan, the tram began its slow (fortunately!) ascent. Looking out the glass doors, I could see the emergency stairs right alongside which was comforting. As I ascended higher the stairs disappeared and the internal structure of the arch was visible. The grey steel supports formed their familiar X pattern and tons of large rivets dotted the inside of the walls. I just kept trying to not think of how high I was.

Periodically, the tram makes some noises as it levels itself and it appeared to work similar to a Ferris wheel. As it ascended, it would begin to tilt, but at a certain point it’d level itself out. The ride turned out to be extremely mild and no surprises. It’s just the usual fear of the unknown and memories of people at theme parks telling me those famous last words “c’mon, it’s not that bad”

The doors opened, I bounded up the stairs to the top and Wow!! I could see everything from here. Supposedly you can see 30 miles in all directions. On one side, the river flows and the famous Eads bridge is visible. At the time of completion, in 1874, the Eads Bridge was the longest arch bridge in the world.

On the over side, the city of St. Louis stretches before you. You can easily see Busch stadium were the St. Louis Cardinals play. The capital building is at the forefront of the skyline, as well the normal skyscrapers and hotels. If you lean up to the window and look straight down, you can see the lawn in front of the arch. This is a fun reminder of just how high you are; 630 feet. It sure looks a lot higher than that!

Speaking of being high up, the St. Louis arch is the tallest man made structure in the U.S and the tallest arch in the world. The arch symbolizes the westward expansion of the United States and is part the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

After peeking out every window and snagging a few photos, it was time to head down. At the bottom, there is a museum that highlights the westward movement. My favorite picture covered wagon in front of the photo of the space capsule. We’ve come a long way!

The trip up was only $10 and around 2pm on a Friday afternoon, the wait was only about 10 minutes.

The arch is literally just off the main highway so it’s easy to just swing on in. When you’re in the area, be sure to come by and enjoy an iconic piece of American history.

For more information: www.nps.gov/jeff/planyourvisit/gateway-arch.htm

Ducky in Palm Beach

“Again?”….I mused as the big, blue, bus size amphibious vehicle drove by. It seemed every time I was at lunch downtown, the vehicle named Diva Duck would drive by. Not only that, it was always completely full of camera toting tourists.

Curiosity won out and a friend and I finally took the plunge and booked a tour on the Diva Duck. As we waited to board the big blue vehicle, I really wanted to crawl underneath and see how it all worked. Fortunately, our onboard guide gave us a quick overview of the vehicle.

While the name on the side may say Diva Duck, the real name is the Hydra-Terra and sports dimensions of 39’ long, 8’ wide, and 13’ feet high. To keep all of that moving along, it is powered by a 300 hp 7.2L Cat diesel engine, via an Allison heavy-duty transmission, Velvet drive, electronic rudder control, and 100% combined power on land and water for beaching operations. On land it can hit 70mph and on sea 6 knots.

We loaded up, headed out and were treated to a plethora of duck stories and puns. Admittedly, some of them did “quack us up”.

Riding in the open air was fun, but the highlight of the tour began with a right turn onto a boat ramp located on North Flagler drive. As we waited for the boat ramp to clear, a curious crowd of onlookers gathered. Everyone wanted to see this big vehicle make the transition from wheels to water.

Soon, we eased down the boat ramp and within seconds this behemoth of a vehicle was casually floating along. The guide noted that the vessel is said to be unsinkable and for you history buffs, they said the same about the Titanic. Thankfully there aren’t icebergs in the Lakeworth Lagoon.

Interestingly factoid though: the vessel is manufactured with buoyancy foam filled compartments and will remain afloat with all the drain plugs removed and full engine room flooding. Wouldn’t it be fun to be the people who conduct those kinds of tests!!

We floated across to the shores of Palm Beach and heard stories of famous people and their homes. Does the name Marjorie Merriweather Post sound familiar? I’ll give you a hint; cereal. More specifically, Post Cereal.

Speaking of elegant homes on Palm Beach; most all of them have towering hedges that are beautifully groomed and of course provide ultimate privacy. I thought it was just being artistic, but it’s a little more than that. Zoning rules only allow a six foot privacy fence, however, there are no rules on hedge height. I like the hedges better anyway; they add a natural and artistic touch.


As we turned and headed back, the afternoon overcast and light breeze turned to black and windy. Soon, we could see that 30% chance of precipitation heading straight for us. However, I remember the forecast said 30% chance of rain, not 30% chance of monsoon!!

The wind blew and rain came down in buckets; 10 gallon buckets at that!! The nose of the Duck confidently bobbed in the waves as we headed toward land.

The vehicle has open sides for better views so you know what that means when it rains. Yep, we were like ducks in a hurricane. However ducks have oil on their feathers so their body stays dry. We don’t and didn’t!! The cheery crew was more than accommodating with towels and wiped off our seats numerous times. It wasn’t a big deal as most of were laughing and taking pictures of each other totally drenched. It’s only rain…..

As we disembarked, drenched and a bit windblown, I must confess, I felt a little bit ducky. My friend and I laughed about being soaked and said; “We’ll never forget this trip!!” It’s those unexpected oddities that always lead to those great stories that begin with “Remember when…..”

If you’re looking for something unusual that combines a little bit of land, sea and history, then you might enjoy taking a tour. For more information: http://www.divaduck.com/

Disclaimer: I’m not paid by or affiliated with the company; I just took a fun ride and wrote about it

Rich history and Golden views in Animas Forks

What a view! I said to myself standing on the porch of the house. Several fourteen thousand foot peaks lay at the end of large grassy meadow; the house was situated perfectly to take in the view.

It’s always interesting that no matter the culture, or time in history, people always enjoy great views from home. The home I was in was famous because it was the “first” in the area to have indoor plumbing. Back in the 1800s that was something to brag about.

It was called indoor plumbing because the path to the outhouse was enclosed. Can you imagine having an outhouse down the hall from your living room? If you’ve used a pit toilet in the National Forest, you know what I mean. And I thought my cat’s litter boxes were bad…

History:
Animas Forks was initially known as Three Forks of the Animas in 1873. The name was changed in 1875 to Animas Forks to accommodate the post office. In the summer time, the population swelled to 450 people. As a side note, the town of Ouray Colorado today only has around 896 people.

The town survived the boom/bust cycles of mining from 1873 all the way to 1920. Another fun fact; at 11,200 feet the Animas Forks Pioneer was the only newspaper published and printed at so high an elevation in the United States. Other interesting facts are on the picture of the sign, just enlarge it to read it.

Walking around:
The historic site has several old buildings that you can actually go in and walk around. I enjoy going into historic places and imagining what it must’ve been like to live back then. There’s just something about being in the same room and walking on the same floor as the people who lived there in the 1800s.

Oh, and if you have to use the restroom during your visit, there are modern day outhouses just down the road about a block.

Looking away from town toward the mountains you can see Cinnamon Pass snake up the side of the mountain which goes to Lake City. To the left is the main road that eventually goes over Engineer Pass which will also take you to Lake City. One fellow explorer said it was about two hours over the pass which requires four wheel drive.

One of the most intriguing parts of Animas Forks is down the road and behind the old town. Following the dirt road through town and to the left, you’ll embark on a very rocky road. Just around the bend, you’ll see a giant old building looming ahead.

It’s sheer size and state of ruin is irresistable; you have to go see it. Again, you are allowed to walk inside the building and see the history first hand. (See the below video) Most mining ruins are dwarfed by the Rocky Mountains; this one holds its own. I believe it was the Gold Prince mine which was constructed for $500,000 in 1904 making it the costliest mine built in Colorado at that time.

Getting there:
Animas Forks is located SE of Silverton Colorado. From downtown Silverton follow the road past the museum and head toward the signs for a mining tour and Engineer Pass. The road will change to a wide dirt road and stay that way for a while. After a bridge,the road narrows and will be a little rougher.

When the road is dry, you should be able to reach Animas Forks by car; it’ll just be bumpy in spots. Or you can rent a Jeep in town and head out. Either way, give yourself some time to enjoy the history and scenic views. If you leave early enough and have a 4wheel drive, you can explore Animas Forks and then head over Cinnamon or Engineer Pass for more breath taking views.

Either way, take the time to enjoy the history and spectacular views; you’ll be glad you did.

This video starts with a pan of the surrounding area and then I walk inside, enjoy!

The hardest and most scenic half marathon I’ve completed

“Do I really want to do this?” I thought as the alarm went off at 4:30am. I am on vacation and I haven’t really trained much. In fact I haven’t trained at all. I stepped outside of the tent and the early morning sky was dotted with stars and constellations that only are visible in the darkness of the wilderness.

A cool breeze blew through the aspen trees and I continued to debate my decision. A quick bowl of oatmeal warmed me up and I decided to just do it. I had already signed up and if I just walked it, I’d be fine.

I had signed up for the Mt. Sneffels half marathon thinking it’d be a fun thing to do. I’ve run half marathons for several years, but I usually train for them. My last half marathon was in January and now it’s August. Plus and this is a big one; I live in Florida (sea level) and have only been in Ouray, Colorado (7,700 feet altitude) for a week.

This past week, I’ve been hiking which has left me gasping for air. If just hiking did that, running 13.1 miles at this altitude was sure to give my lungs a work out. I overheard one guy mention he hadn’t been running for a while and wasn’t sure how he’d do. I was glad to hear, I’m not the only crazy one out here!

Ouray (pronounced u-ray) is a town nestled in the mountain area of Colorado known as the Switzerland of America. The town is surrounded by majestic peaks, waterfalls, and post card perfect views. The early morning sun turned the mountain tops orange providing a picture perfect setting for the run.

Remember how this is a mountain town? The first mile of the course was all uphill into Ouray. What a way to start the race! The town was just beginning to wake up and the amazing smell of fresh cooked bacon and coffee wafted by. Wow, did that smell good!!! If they handed out freshly cooked bacon and coffee as we ran by, that’d be perfect.

As I ran through town, I saw things I hadn’t seen before; hotels nestled along the creek, RV camping and facilities tucked into the trees and my favorite;
the Laundromat that had several dirt bikes parked inside.

Soon, it was the two mile mark and I found one of the best parts of the run, the water station.

Just as this run was anything but ordinary so were these water stations. Water & Gatorade are standard fare for a run, but here they also had pretzels, M&Ms, and Gummy Bears.

Yum!!! I wanted to take the bowl of M&Ms with me. I chose Gatorade and M&Ms; either it was going to give me some great fuel or it was going to be colorful coming back up. Fortunately, it provided some fuel and off I went.

I’ve run numerous half marathons in a various towns, but this was the most scenic ever. Instead of hearing cars and city noise, this run was on a dirt road that paralleled a creek. Running on dirt and in the beauty of nature was a much welcome change.

The trail changed from tree lined and creek side to wide open, lush green mountain meadows. You’ve seen those post cards of an old barn, in a deep green meadow with towering peaks behind. Yep, that was the scenery. Awesome!!

Mile 9 approached and I was taking more walking breaks. That’s ok, I wasn’t doing this for time, but I didn’t want to be last either. I passed some horses grazing in the field and stopped to take their picture. A little while later, another lush green meadow appeared inviting. I just wanted to go lay down,feel the soft, deep grass around me and soak up the sun.

Maybe later, right now I have a few more miles to go before I sleep…..

The course turned toward the mountains and on both sides were meadows, dotted with cows and horses, and small babbling creeks meandering through. Wow, how beautiful and what a looong hill up ahead! This was mile 11 and it was not going to be easily taken. Fortunately at the top was a much needed water station. Gummy Bears are my new best friend!

Mile 13, only a mile and tenth to go! Half marathons are 13.1 miles, full marathons are 26.2 miles. Yeah, almost done!!! People were saying “great job” and “almost there”. It is amazing what encouragement can do!

About this time, my right calf started to complain. My legs had complained around mile two, but then decided to settle in for the haul. My back had been giving me nasty reminders since mile 7, but I was used to that. My glutes decided to voice their opinion at mile 10. All of these messages from my body reminded me, I need to stay in better shape.

I jogged across the finish line and what a feeling of accomplishment and relief!! My favorite part of every race is when they put the medal around my neck. I always feel like I’m being knighted or something special. My body gave its all and it took me the rest of the day to recover, but I’m glad I did it.

The Mt. Sneffels half marathon was the hardest and yet most incredibly scenic run I’ve completed. It happens every August so if you enjoy beautiful scenery and good run, be sure to sign up.

You have more than plenty of time to train if you start now. This year’s goodies included half off admission to the Ouray hot springs, one free beer from the Ouray brewery, a medal, tech shirt, and $5 off a show at the Opera house.

For more info: http://mtsneffelsmarathon.com/