Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Megapost: Colorado Adventure 2016 - Rockies Hiking, Geocaching, and Breweries

When 1000+ people attend a single Geocaching event, it's called a Mega.  The most famous one is Geowoodstock, which is held in different cities each year.  This year was its 14th anniversary, and someone brilliant decided to hold it in Colorado, home of the 14ers, or 14,000+ foot mountains.  Hiking + Geocaching + Beer... everything that I like.  Too perfect to miss.

We meant to fly out on Saturday night, but a flight delay pushed us into a re-booking the following day.  We still did a lot the first day, first hitting Avery Brewing in Boulder, followed by hiking the Flatirons.

This was the 10th Brewery Tour that I've done.  They always cover certain things, like the 4 must-have ingredients in beer.  But each one always has something special about it.

1. Heinekin in Amsterdam, NL - my first.  Lots of marketing, a tasing lesson, a draft pouring lesson.
2. Sam Adams in Boston, MA - Tasted raw hops, had a tasting that walked through a couple of styles.
3. Lagunitas in Chicago, IL - the tour took us in a catwalk above the factory.  It also spoke a lot about the history of the company.
4. Sprecher in Milwaukee, WI - also makes soda.  Beers all taste sweet and low-quality.
5. Westbrook in Mt. Pleasant, SC - no free samples, but superb beers.  Had a canning line, and it's in my home town.
6. Goose Island  in Chicago, IL - was at the brewpub with only a single small room holding all of their equipment.  Had a tasting together.
7. Mill Street in Toronto, ON - Personal tour, got to taste schnaps made from the same ingredients as one of their beers.  Also a pretty small facility since it was at their brewpub.
8. Highland in Asheville, NC - they had a special campus with a park.
9. Dogfishhead in Milton, DE - Mecca destination.  Visited their brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, afterwards.  Had high ABV samples.

Which brings us to...

10. Avery in Boulder, CO - After another catwalk tour, we got to sample an incredible Raspberry Sour, where the guide led us through 4 ways of smelling a beer (which is a big component in our ability to taste)...

  • "The Doberman" - Quick sniffs, with your nose about 3-5 inches from the beer.  Get fruit esters.
  • "Long Southern Draw" - long smell.  Pick up raspberry.
  • "The Drive-by" - start on one side of your nose with one nostril, and bring it across to your other nostril... you may notice that one is more dominant than the other.
  • "Retro-nasal" - take a half oz in your mouth while holding your nose, suck some bubbles in, wine-style, and swallow.

After that, it was time to go hike.  It was surprisingly hot out there in Boulder.  The trails there are pretty confusing, and a map looks like a spiderweb.  We went back and forth a few times, before finding the trail that we wanted to hit.   The hike itself was fantastic, with the unique forms of the Flatirons.  There were some steep scrambling sections, and near the top, there was a nook you could squeeze into to get a great/scary view.  Along the way, there was also a huge stream of immobile rocks, like something an avalanche could've caused.  There were also the most massive dandelions that I've ever seen - like baseball-sized.

The next day, we went to Estes Park, a city next to Rocky Mountain National Park.  We got geocaches on the "Across the Divide" geotrail, which awards different levels of coins, depending on how many you get.

After getting some caches, we headed into the park, where we hiked Bear Lake to Nymph Lake to Dream Lake to Emerald Lake.  It was beautiful, with some snow still on the trail.  Some of the most beautiful trails I've seen.

Took a video of what it would've been like to run on it.  The first few hours in CO, I felt like my head (temples) were feeling some pressure or something (could've been the plane, rather than ambient altitude).  However, the longer I'm here and the more I exert myself here, the better it feels and the more I crave running at altitude.  It makes me feel so invigorated.  Maybe one day, I'll do another trip here, where I just run trails (or power-hike, if it's steep).

Got a couple of other geocaches on the way back to the hotel, including a devious one.

The next day, we went back to Rock Mountain National Park, and did three Ranger-led tours, which my dad really likes.  First, we did a Tundra Walk near the Alpine Visitor Center, the highest national park visitor center, elevation-wise.  The Tundra is above the tree line, so only small plants low to the ground can survive the wind and cold and everything else.  There were many wildflowers out.

The sunflowers here don't actually turn towards the sun.  They face East, to get the morning sun, and they stay facing East, since the winds blow from the West in the afternoon.  That's my favorite fact.  We saw Elk and a Marmot out there, too.

Next, we went to Bighorn Basics, a talk about Bighorn Sheep.  Unfortunately, the talk was at 2pm, after the peak time of 10am-1pm, when the Sheep typically visit the pond to drink water.

We went back into Estes Park after that, to finish grabbing some caches to get a wooden nickle coin.

That evening, we went on a special Twilight walking tour.  The topic was "darkness".  They come up with very unique and interesting topics, these Rangers do.  We discussed senses and what it would be like if there was no darkness (always day), along with the history of Sprague lake.  My dad really enjoyed it, and it was a special way to celebrate his birthday.

The next day, it was time for our biggest hike... tackling Gray's Peak and Torrey's Peak.  I had done Gray's Peak back in 2009 with a good friend from college.  We only got to do Gray's, because I accidentally dropped my backpack down the mountain when I laid it down on snow slopes.  We submitted before heading back down, where she somehow spotted the backpack and braved a snow field to retrieve it.  It was a good choice to take my dad to, since I was familiar with it, and it was close to Denver.  

Our original plan was to go the following day, but the weather forecast was not so good that day, so we moved up the attempt by a day.  We therefore had to make a long drive to get there, and we set out late in the morning.  Like last time, a kind person gave us a ride to the trailhead from where we had parked, since normal cars can't handle the whole road to the trailhead.  

It's not bad at all to repeat a trail.  It's always changing.  Last time, I went in mid-June, when there was snow everywhere (which did melt in the lower elevation by the time we had gotten back).  It had been really windy that time.  This time, there were wildflowers out, and the sun was bright.

It was cool to note various landmarks from my previous adventure.  At one spot, we took a picture that matched one that I took back in 2009, by the same carin.



Other sights:

 Re-enacting an infamous event from my previous hike here:

Video close to the summit:


 Even Paddington Bear got in on the action:


 Time to go down and up the saddle, to hit Torrey's.  On the way up, my dad's fingers got tingly, and a descending hiker told us that storms may be coming soon, so I power-hiked 10 minutes up to get to the summit and take some pictures, before coming back down.

My dad felt fine from there on out.  Made it back down! 

So much fun.

That night, we stayed in Central City, CO, in a casino.  What's great about that town is that they try to preserve as much of the old buildings as possible.  The visitor center had a really great lady there named Darla, who was so nice to talk to.  She has great stories to tell about her family history there.  I recommend paying her a visit at the Central City visitor center, if you're ever in the area.

We drove through the Nevadaville ghost town with old gold mines (where I got a few geocaches), before heading towards Colorado Springs.

Back in Denver, we did our first Geocaching event of the trip, a Brewery tour with lab caches, where we had to visit 7 different breweries or distilleries, to find secret words to log online, along with getting samples.  While waiting for the event, we explored downtown a bit.  There were nice statues in Commons Park, and there was also a much-favorited TB hotel.

Finally, time for the Lab Caches.  Nearly 500 people came out.  We waited in line for a bit to get our mini-glasses and punch cards.  The website went live right after I found the code, so I ended up being the "first to find" at the first brewery.

Fortunately, the tour's points were all fairly close to each other, and a number of the locations were walkable.  We finished the 7 spots in about 2 hours.

What a fun way to cache while enjoying a bunch of great breweries!

The next morning, we went to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, home of petrified forests at an extinct lake.  It was pretty cool to learn about how these got formed, and how fossils got formed.  It took many 1-in-a-million events for many of the fossils to get created.

(prairie dog, I'm guessing)

 After that, I went to the Olympic Training Center.  When I was in 4th and 5th grade, I was obsessed about the Olympics.  I made a 2-person club for my sister and I about them in 1996.  Whenever we had story writing assignments in school, I wrote about the Olympics... adventures of Izzy.  It got to a point where my teacher suggested that I expand my horizons a bit. The center felt a lot like a college campus, except instead of classrooms, you had training buildings for various sports.  

(I like this quote)

 (their strength center... I'd like hanging out here!)

 (An Olympic medal-winner in Pursuit Cycling)

(Paddington for the win!)

That night, I learned of a workout challenge that a Facebook Group that I'm in (that stemmed from the Spartan Race Hurricane Heat class 080) was going for.  The goal is for each person to chip away at a large number of reps in various exercises, preferably over 90 days, although I think it'll take longer.  So I went to the gym and knocked out what I could over 50 minutes (with stretching in between, about 2 hours).

I was so sore for the next couple of days.  Even allotting 100 days, it would mean 3 miles of running + 1 mile of rucking with 20lb + 50 burpees + 50 pushups + 250 jumping jacks + 50 lunges + 100 flutter kicks (4 kicks = 1 flutter kick) + 1.2 min plank + 100 mountain climbers + 50 sit-ups + 250 incline steps. It will definitely be a motivating challenge, though.  We'll see how it goes, and how various strategies work out. 

I tend to need/like lots of rest between workouts, to recover and avoid injury.  It has worked well for me in the past 7 years.  I've marked some exercises as low-impact, others as high impact, some are pure cardio, and some I may be able to even do in the office when I need a break without having to get on the floor or get too warm (squats, and perhaps lunges).  Some are counting normal life walking via fitbit as part of the mileage, but I'm not sure that I'll be doing that.

The next day, we went to the Garden of the Gods, which reminds me a bit of Sedona, AZ's Cathedral Rocks.  We set out late after sleeping in.  It started sprinkling some, and we were fortunate to get a parking spot on the south end.  It was fun to explore the formations.  Each angle gives you a unique experience.  It's so pretty, and it's amazing how some of them are standing.

(It would be so cool to climb here)

The next day was the main Geocaching event - Geowoodstock 14er!  They had different levels of registration, with different levels of SWAG.  I went for the "Mountaineer", with a shirt, a patch, 2 large and nice geocoins, an event pathtag, a 6-pack of satellite event pathtags, a water bottle, a neck wallet, and a backpack.  They were all nice and pretty high quality.  I loved the designs, too - they did a great job on the 14er theme, and everything looked really cool.

At the event itself, we played cornhole, found a couple of gadget caches (had to wait in line, since many were out there doing the same thing), found 3 more lab caches, waited a long time at food truck lines only to have the trucks run out of food because only half of the scheduled trucks turned up, browsed geocaching vendors, "discovered" various trackables, swapped trackables, and took pictures at the iconic GEOWOODSTOCK letters.

(a fun geocache - find the log!)

(trackables, organized by desired destination/goal... you get to take out as many as you check in)

(hello, skele-friend!)


This was my first mega.  I had read about what goes on at Geowoodstock, and it didn't sound like there were a whole lot of organized events and things to do, and it kind of turned out that way.  Still fun and interesting to try, although I think I'll try a different mega event next time, like Going Caching.  The SWAG and theme-ing was awesome, and I really liked the brewery lab cache tour.  But the main event may be a one-and-done for me.

That night, I did a workout.  I wanted to get in at least one run at elevation, to help with training.  I did 5.0 in 40:20, 8:04 average, at 1 degree of incline (I usually do 2, but I think I need the extra help at elevation).  It was kind of warm in there, too, at 78 degrees.  From the start, it was kind of hard, and it's difficult to say if it was the elevation, or the heat.  Normally, treadmills are pretty accurate.  This one may have been saying that I hit my splits a little fast.  8:31 (vs. 8:35 that I expected), 8:20, 8:11, 7:56, 7:20.  Oh well, maybe it makes up a bit for the elevation challenge.  

The next morning (after like 3.5 hours of sleep, since I had done my run at 9am), there was a Geowoodstock 14er satellite event at Red Rocks Ampitheater, to watch the sunrise.  The natural ampitheater happened to face East, which made it a great place to catch it (although the sun came up on the far, far left side).  You could see the silhouette of the city, too.  Sunrise was at 5:38am, so it was kind of surprising how many made it out.

Since I had gotten so little sleep the previous night, I spent most of the rest of the day sleeping.  In the evening, we did make it back out to Dinosaur Ridge, where there are dino footprints and some fragmented (or at least not that intact/ well-formed) bone.

(all those footprints!  so many years later!)


On our last day, we had a red-eye flight, so we had nearly a full day to go back to the Rockies, to do the second half of the "Across the Divide" geotrail.  In the morning, I did get in another strength session, to try to knock out some more of the Deez Nutz workout challenge.

Burpees: 30
Pushups: 25+20+20
Jumping Jacks: 50+100+100+75+100+100
Squats: 105+70
Flutter Kicks: 50+50+35+45+45+35
Minutes Planking: 3+2+2
Mountain Climbers: 100+75+65+60
Sit-ups: 150+30

We got the Grand Lake caches pretty quickly, and passed through the national park before getting our coin.  It must've snowed in the past week, because the snow wasn't there throughout all of the fields in the tundra last time.

Can't wait to come back!  Hope to get some more 14ers, and maybe run/power-hike some mountains.  And maybe visit another brewery.

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