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Summer of Travel - Back in the High Life Again

Oh, Colorado! I have such a love/hate relationship with this state. About half an hour after I drove across the border from Utah, I started to regret my choice to come back, almost entirely because of the traffic. Trailers, RVs, and scared tourists consistently go 10-15 mph under the speed limit on winding mountain roads and feel no need to pull over and let the people who know how to drive pass. And there are rarely any passing lanes or opportunities. After about 50 miles of this aggravation in the Telluride/Ridgeway area, I was seriously regretting my decision to come back here this summer. By the time I got to Salida, I was already over being here.

But then I settled into Salida and trail runs and unexplored mountain passes and 14ers and aspen trees and all the beauty that this state has that just doesn't exist in any other state I've been to. Seriously. Other states have their own beauty, but nothing is Colorado. When living in Boulder and having to battle the god awful traffic to get to the mountains, I missed out on a lot. I've never explored the Shavano Wilderness, Marshall Pass, the San Isabel Forest, Turquoise Lake, the Holy Cross Wilderness, Browns Canyon National Monument, and so many other beautiful places I've had easy access to this summer. Living in Salida means never dealing with traffic on I-70 or 285. It means being able to enjoy Colorado on holiday weekends without the hellish drive back to the Front Range. It made me fall in love with Colorado all over again. 

Also, having spent so much time traveling around the rest of the country now, I have a whole new appreciation for our public lands in Colorado. So much of the east coast is private but out west, anything goes. You can sleep in your car anywhere, throw a tent up anywhere, go play. Public lands are an absolute treasure. But I'm still not moving back here unless CDOT puts in some goddamn passing lanes. 

Mountains, Mountains, Mountains

I came back primarily to summit more of the state's 14ers in preparation for Bolivia. Last year, I took three months off in between Colorado and doing huge summits in Ecuador. This year, I only have a two-week gap in between. I've been working hard while I'm here to get in shape and living in Salida has given me access to so many peaks. I summitted ten 14ers and played around four different 13ers, for a total of 98 miles on the nose and 46,474 feet elevation gain of serious mountain work. I did lots of back-to-back days, and the daily gain and mileage I logged was more than I'll have to do in Bolivia on a single day. I'm as ready as I can possibly be to reach 21,400 feet next month. (You can see my mountain reports here and here and here.)


Of course, the milage and gain on mountains wasn't all I did. I went for plenty of trail runs, road roads, and a few smaller hikes. Salida Mountain Trails has built a huge network of trails and there are lots of unused forest service roads in the San Isabel National Forest that I took advantage of. 

And I couldn't resist signing up for some kind of race while I was here. I ran the nation's highest 10k - the Leadville 10k, which is part of the famous Leadville series. And even if I can't run 100 miles at 12,000 ft, I got to be a little part of the action by running the weekend before and volunteering as a course marshal at the 100 miler, where I actually got to meet my ultrarunning idol, Courtney Dauwalter

Salida Things

Salida was my home base for the summer and is a charming mountain town. I'd often stopped here in years past on the way back to Boulder from some mountain adventure or another, and I wanted to spend a little more time finding out what it was all about. Salida is about two things - deer and the river. The deer are absolutely everywhere - chilling in people's yards, eating up their gardens, strolling down the street like they own the place. I think it's cute but a lot of people here think they are pests, understandably.

Arkansas River tourism is key to this region and I managed to get out on the water twice. Once on a raft when the water was still high, and once one a kayak run out of Buena Vista when the water was much lower, but still filled with plenty of challenging rapids for two people who had absolutely no idea what they were doing and had no guide. 

I did a number of other things, like a square dance at an old homestead, introducing a friend to the joy of Pee Wee Herman's Big Adventure, and going out to live music plenty of times. Oh yeah, and Salida also has the famous Swallow building! So when my cousin Alex Swallow came to visit, we naturally had to pose in front of it. Next year, I'll have to stay there for a night


And finally, my stay in Colorado ended with four days in Boulder. Shortly after I booked my Salida trip, which was originally going to be only five weeks, a friend announced that she would be getting married in Boulder on September 17. Lucky for me, my Salida rental cottage was still available, so I extended my stay two weeks - and was able to get more 14ers in!

The wedding was fabulous! All my former Colorado hiking and running girls came in - from DC, Phoenix, and even New Zealand and we all had a wonderful night of drinking, dancing, and catching up. It was a low-key affair with a beautiful ceremony and great company. After that, I spent a few days doing all the Boulder things - the Jaipur Lit Fest, going to my annual physical, hanging out in the Splunk office and eating all the snacks, going to my old gyms, swinging by my condo to make sure it was still standing, and catching up with other friends who hadn't been at the wedding. 

All the things were necessary but I have to say, every time I go back, my feelings that I never want to be there again solidify. I discover that more of my old favorite places have closed and I feel like a stranger, even though I know my way around completely. I also see Trotsky everywhere, especially around my old condo, and I could never live there again. So while it's nice to visit, I know I'm not a Colorado person anymore.