Saturday, January 30, 2016

Currently: January

***Three days left!!! Don't miss out on entering our giveaway contest three posts back***

Currently living/working in: “Unjobbing” in Colorado!! Unjobbing is a term I recently discovered that is apparently used by A LOT of people. It was first coined in a self-published book by Michael Fogler in 1996. It perfectly describes us: living the life we want without major, full-time employment, yet still making ends meet. 
We are no longer at the cabin, but I thought this was a good shot of "unjobbing."

Current mood: Well, I haven't had insomnia in 9 days, so I must be calm and content.  
Currently excited about: The future. It is unknown right now, but we always have a few irons in the fire!!!

Currently not excited about: Tax season. 

Currently worried about: Money. We always make sure we make enough money during the summers to sustain us through the winter, which is typically our “non-working” period. It’s no different this year, it’s just that it feels like we are putting out a lot more than usual with bigger items, such as our Wilderness First Responder class, Denali costs and other undisclosed plans!!! 

Currently thankful for: Friends and family. This is probably my answer all the time. But it is so nice to have so many people to visit all around the country, and especially here in Colorado. I haven't been the best at taking pictures at every meet up, but here are a few. 

Currently proud of: The functioning of my lungs and body at elevation. Anyone who knows me knows I struggle physically at higher elevations. But, I purposely tried to acclimatize this week at the cabin in preparation for our hut trip. Granted we only went up to 11,500 feet, but this is still a feat for me. 

Currently regretting: I love our nomad life, I do. But man, having 3 storage units in 3 parts of the country SUCKS. 

Currently amazed by: Justin’s love for yoga. After years of begging him to join me, he is sold. 

Current confession: We are letting go of a very bad caretaking experience we had in 2015. This has taken some time and J & I are still very disappointed about the outcome (we are owed money!!!), but we have finally learned to let go in 2016. 

Current guilty pleasure: In keeping with the money-spending theme, we are trying not to go hog wild while in Colorado, but we have a lot of friends and family here. This=a lot of socializing=going out! Also, as much as we don't like cities, there's always a lot to do in Denver (i.e., concerts for J). So we try to pick and choose. For example, we have gone to the Banff Mountain Film Festival every year since 2009, but missed it last year since we were in NZ. So we decided to SPLURGE and buy tickets for ALL THREE NIGHTS here in Denver next month. Oops. 

Trivia Question (no prize): Who is this guy we are posing with? Hint: He has something to do with the Appalachian Trail.
Trivia #2 (no prize): What play did I go see with Jamie? 

Currently reading: Just finished “Blind Corners” by Jeff Tabin. J had read it and rated it a “9” in our book review post, but I did not love it as much. I would only give it a 6! J just finished Ed Viesters' "No Shortcuts to the Top" and loved it. 

Currently watching on Netflix: Our time at the cabin included a lot of movies. We were going back and forth between my dad’s horror movie recommendations, some mountaineering movies and the Netflix series “House of Cards.” People have made so many suggestions for series we should watch, one of them being House of Cards. We finished the first season, but can’t say it’s a keeper for us. It was good, but the politics mumbo jumbo goes right over our heads.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Colorado Hut Trip: Section House

***Don't miss out on entering our giveaway contest two posts back***

J & I did our third 10th Mountain Division Hut trip in Colorado. Our first was to Polar Star Inn in 2012 and we did a second trip in 2013 to Shrine Mountain Inn. J's sister Jamie (SILAdventure) and her partner Rachel (DocDoc) are all about the Colorado backcountry huts, taking 3 trips a year. Jamie is a member and enters the lottery to score some hut spots every year and they have probably been to half of them. So, whenever we are in town and there are spots, we usually hop on their hut trips.

This time, it was just the 4 of us and we XC skied to The Section House Hut.
We started at the Boreas Pass trailhead, right outside of Breckenridge. The 6.5-mile trail is pretty
exposed (in a safe way), with majestic views of Breck's ski area and surrounding alpine scenery. The elevation gain is about 1100 feet, so minimal for the 6.5 miles and good for a novice. For perspective, it took us 3.5 hours to get up (plus a hearty lunch break), but only 2 hours to get down. We still had to work going down, but gravity gave us that extra push.

If you remember, J is in training for Denali. And because I am an awesome wife who contributes to her husband's success, I allowed him to be my Sherpa and carry all of my stuff. So he was carrying his Gregory Denali 100-liter pack loaded with his stuff and mine, while I was carrying my Gregory Maya 5-liter pack! Somehow, though, I was still the slowest one in the group. They don't call me Steadee for nothing ... 
The Section House Hut has not just dramatic 360-degree views of the Rockies, but a classic bit of Colorado history. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as it was built in the 1880s to house railroad workers who managed this railroad section that ran from Denver to Leadville over Boreas Pass. I still find it hard to believe there used to be a railway line over Boreas Pass at 11,482 feet!!! The indoor pictures and written history indicated a very difficult, curvy passing for rail cars that surpassed the odds and operated through the 1930s.

The high mountain cabin sleeps 12 people, so we shared the space with 3 other groups. But they were an awesome group to hang with. Maybe they were so awesome because Rachel thought it'd be good for us to bring extra beer (via sled) to share ... that could be the key to any stranger's heart.

Every hut is different, and this one had no running water, but solar-powered lights. I find "no running water" to be more difficult than no electricity ... I don't care about using an outhouse, it's more about the fact I'm a water hog. I carried 1.5 liters and drank it all on our ski up. J carried 2 liters and I drank 1 of his liters. Melting snow for water is an arduous process and don't forget we needed water for washing dishes. I couldn't possibly melt enough snow to quench my thirst. And no, beer is not a thirst quencher for me. 
Jamie & Rachel (specifically Rachel) cooked up a spectacular dinner of scallops, arugula & pasta. J & I typically eat our dehydrated meals on our backpacking trips, so this was quite gourmet for us. 

Overall, it was an fabulous hut trip, especially because we had stellar weather (the infamous bluebird Colorado skies) and we were comfortably exhausted from the workout. We hope to add more hut trips to our memory books in the future. 
Jumping shots at 11,000 feet ... no bueno. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Winter Microadventures: Pike and Arapaho National Forest, Colorado

***Don't miss out on entering our giveaway contest one post back***

As we planned, we did a lot of snowshoeing and XC skiing this week while staying at the cabin. We mainly stuck to local trails in Pike and Arapaho National Forests. There was also one hut trip which will get a separate post.

Thought I'd share some beta on our micro adventures for anyone in the area.

Tie Hack Loop
We've gone to this trail a few times in past winters, but have only completed the 5.5-mile loop twice.

Activity: XC Ski, Snowshoe, Hike, Bike (I would love to mountain bike this trail come summer)

Mileage: 5.5 miles (this time around, we lost the trail at one point because we were breaking trail, so our mileage ended up being 5.7 miles)

Elevation Gain: 950 feet (High Point 11,000 feet)

Elevation Loss: 950 feet

There are a few reasons I love this trail (besides the fact I love loops). It offers enough elevation gain and loss to get the heart and adrenaline pumping, but is still beginner friendly. We typically XC ski it for this reason, but you can snowshoe (or even hike it when there's less snow). Another reason I love it is that it is marked by reflective blue markers on the trees. We did spend a half hour route-finding this time around as we were making fresh tracks in the snow, but you just really need to look for the blue markers the whole way.

The first mile of the trail is tree-lined with Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine and aspen trees (barren this time of year) with just the slightest of elevation gain (but enough to make the return trip on skis a fast one!). When we are not up for the whole loop, we just go out and back.

After the first mile, you hit the loop. We went clockwise this time around. You hit the elevation gain on the loop right away (work hard first), climbing up to views of Sheep Mountain. Then you head out of the forest to a few clearings with views of the Mosquito Range high peaks. The trail follows an old mining road for a bit, as well as a windswept meadow of young timber trees. Once back in the full-grown, thick forest, there is just a little more uphill before you start moving a little faster with downhills.

We had to break trail almost the whole loop, which definitely harder work plowing through the snow as if it were cement, but it was fun to see only bobcat, moose and deer tracks!

Fun Fact: "Tie hack" refers to workers that used to cut local trees and shape wooden ties for railroad tracks. Each tie was 8.5 feet long!

More info here

Bemrose Ski Circus - Hoosier Pass Trailhead
The Bemrose Ski Circus offers a network of trails with 2 trailheads--one at Hoosier Pass and one closer to Breckenridge. You can shuttle cars if you want to go from trailhead to trailhead, but we always start from the Hoosier Pass parking area and there are lots of choices for loops or out and backs.

Out and Back
Activity: XC Ski, Snowshoe, Hike (if ever there is no snow, but unlikely)

Mileage: 4 miles (roundtrip) following Flume Trail to Cornice Creek

Elevation Gain/Loss: You start at 11,542 feet at Hoosier Pass and pretty much stay at that elevation the whole time, gaining and losing 100 feet the whole time.

From here, the Bemrose trails are on the northeast side of the road, across from the parking lot. This particular out-and-back follows the Flume Trail (starting to the immediate left) and follows an ledges to Cornice Creek. Hoosier Pass area is extremely windy, but this section of the Bemrose Ski Circus trail system is tree-covered, with just a few clearings and occasional views of Mt. Lincoln and North Star Mountain to the west. This route is beginner-friendly for a few reasons--the risk for avalanche is low, the trail is mostly marked with blue diamonds and there are only gentle ups and downs (elevation gain/loss of 100 feet). We were breaking trail again the whole time, so there were times the snow was a little deep and more difficult to glide through, but it was still "easy." Some of the other Bemrose Ski Circus trails gain more elevation and are more exposed, so lots of choices!
We were joined by our friend, Jason, on this trek! Jason is J's "brother from another mother," literally, they share their Oct. 6 bday!

Fun Fact: Europeans use the term "Ski Circus" for alpine areas with a network of trails and ski lifts, sometimes allowing patrons to ski from town to town.

More info here

Beaver Creek Area
The Beaver Creek trails are closest to the cabin. We go there a lot because it is so easy and accessible and there are tons of options, depending on how much time and energy we have. Here are a few options we did this time around.

Activity: XC Ski, Snowshoe, Hike (I believe you can also snowmobile here, but not certain)

Mileage: 1.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 260 feet (High Point: 10,635 feet)

Elevation Loss: 255 feet

Description: The loop starts at the parking area with a gradual ascent into the trees. At your high point of 10,635 feet, there is a nice clearing with beautiful mountain views. There is even a primitive tree tipi structure that has been there for years. I've always been curious about it. After the clearing, you head back into the forest. At another clearing, there is a nice downhill to meet the 4WD road that follows a flat, wide path back to the parking lot.
Out and Back
Activity: XC Ski, Snowshoe, Hike

Mileage: 1.6 miles roundtrip (but you can go much longer)

Elevation Gain: 150 feet (High Point: 10,370 feet)

Elevation Loss: 138 feet

Description: You follow the old 4WD road the whole way. You can go 3+ miles, but the farthest we've gone is 2 miles on the road. We typically do a 1.6-mile out-and-back, which takes you to a second clearing where trails junction off and there are great views. It is just enough ascent where the return trip can be quick on skis.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Te Araroa Speaking Tour Wrap-Up and CONTEST!!!

We were so happy with the outcome of New Zealand's Te Araroa Speaking Tour! We are so grateful to all our friends and family that came out to support us. We are also so appreciative of our sponsors for the support/giveaways. Thank you Hi-Tec, GSI Outdoors, Gregory, Superfeet, Big Agnes, Sawyer, Princeton Tec and Therm-a-rest. During our 8 stops, we gave away more than $8,600 in outdoor gear because of them!! Unbelievable!

In total, we had 374 people attend the presentations, for an average of 46 people per stop! Sign ups for every stop were maxed out and we were pretty much at room/space capacity for each. Of course our biggest event was in Denver with 133 people.

I said this already once, but we love talking about our passions and we get so much energy from the audiences. We initially thought most people coming out would be interested in the trail itself, but we had a great mix of people who had been to New Zealand and were coming to relive their memories and those dreaming of going to New Zealand. To our surprise, we did not meet anyone else who completed the whole TA (a few sectioners), nor did we have a single Kiwi (native New Zealander) in our audience!

The tour was so successful, we hope to do a second tour at some point, but that's TBD.

If you didn't get to attend, don't worry, you still have a chance to win some of the great gear from the tour in our ONLINE GIVEAWAY!!! There will be TWO winners and both prize packs are sweet, if I do say so myself.

The grand prize winner will receive about $275 in gear:
Gregory Sidekick pack
Hi-Tec gift card
Superfeet gift card
Sawyer Mini Filter
Princeton Tec Amp Light
GSI collapsable water bottles
GSI Trowel
GSI Kung Foon
Big Agnes Coozies

The second place winner will receive about $70 in gear: 
Gregory Sidekick pack
GSI collapsable water bottles
GSI Trowel
GSI Camp Cutlery
Princeton Tec Pulsar Keychain Light
Big Agnes Coozies

I am forgoing our old ways of picking a winner out of a hat and using Rafflecopter (a free service) to host the contest. What this means is all entries will run through this widget below; Rafflecopter will collect your name and e-mail address and randomly select our 2 winners! So please remember to use the Rafflecopter widget (below) for all entries! 

So here are the details:

  • Enter the contest simply by commenting--tell us which hike we should do next, or pick a state or country where we should hike. You will leave a comment as you normally would through Blogger, but click on Rafflecopter to be officially entered. 
  • Gain ADDITIONAL entries by taking any or all of these actions below. Again, verify these actions through the Rafflecopter widget below to get the extra entry.  
    • Follow us on Instagram - 1 extra entry
    • Subscribe to our You Tube channel - 1 extra entry
    • Follow our blog through Bloglovin - 1 extra entry
  • The contest will run through Feb. 2, 2016 (Groundhog Day!)
  • Winner will be chosen at random on Feb. 3, 2016, and announced on our blog on or about Feb. 3, 2016. 
  • The prize package will be sent via USPS within 30 business days of prize confirmation by the Wandering La Vignes. Any unclaimed prize within that period will be forfeited. Entrants must provide a valid mailing address to the Wandering La Vignes upon announcement of the winner. 
  • Odds will depend on how many entries we receive. Winner will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter. No purchase necessary to enter. The contest is the sole responsibility of the Wandering La Vignes with prizes provided by various companies. 
  • The contest is only open to U.S. residents (for shipping purposes). 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Our winners are announced here!


Monday, January 18, 2016


Did you know that 9.5% of our U.S. population is practicing yoga? That’s up from 6.1% in 2007. This makes yoga roughly as popular as golf

J & I are part of that 9.5%.  
That’s right, J has been taking yoga!!! Believe it or not, nearly 28% of those practicing yoga are males. 

I have been trying to get J to take yoga for-evah. His mom got him (and I) a one-month yoga pass at Kindness Yoga in Denver for Christmas. It was an incredible deal … 30 days for $30. For J, it was the deal that reeled him in. “I’m going to go all 30 days and really get your money’s worth!!” Well, we didn’t quite make it all 30 days, but we started going Dec. 28 and practiced 14 days!! This is how J & I operate. We get really into some kind of fitness routine for a period of time (i.e., thru hiking, Insanity), then switch gears. Yoga was most of January. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing have taken over, but yoga will now be part of our irregular routines. 

My point is, I am so glad J finally jumped on the “om” bandwagon. Having yoga as part of J’s Denali training will help him to have full range of motion while up on the mountain. He can even do some of these poses in his tent. 

I have been practicing yoga sporadically (like a few dozen times a year) since 2013. Without a permanent home, I can’t really get into a yoga routine. My most consistent spurts included one month of yoga with my friend Donna at North Jersey Health & Fitness in NJ, one month of yoga with my friend Tammy at Hot Asana in Danville and one month of yoga with J and his mom at Kindness here in Colorado. 

The first time I ever tried yoga was while I was living in Arizona in 2002. I fell asleep 3 times, but had a sudden craving for world peace following class. I didn't return until 2013.  

I’m not awesome at it and I still fall asleep sometimes. I don't know half the poses and sometimes I get very confused during class by the language. But overall I find when I go consistently, it definitely improves my balance, flexibility and mentality. 

I thought yoga would be the one area I could “beat” J. For the record, he is good at everything. He’s the type of athlete that can run a race with no training. I hate people like him. So it should be no surprise that he holds his ground in yoga (pun definitely intended). As the picture shows, he can even do the crow pose. Meanwhile, my favorite pose is savasana, better known as corpse.  

Funny story about J's brand-new yoga mat (Christmas present from his mom). On the way to the cabin, the winds were so strong, they blew open our rooftop cargo box. J's mat blew out into the road and was run over a few times. I played Frogger between traffic to pick it back up. It took quite a beating, but is still usable!!

Friday, January 15, 2016

10 Days At 10,000 Feet

We have wrapped up our Te Araroa Speaking Tour. I plan to do a full recap soon, but let me just say it was more successful than we ever imagined and we are trying to figure out how to launch a longer tour.

With the presentations behind us, we intend to regroup, switch gears and focus on other projects for a bit. There's no perfect place to do that than at our favorite Colorado cabin, thanks to our sister-in-law, Rachel (DocDoc) and her family (Rach, can you feel our virtual thank you hugs????). We were able to exchange some pet-sitting duties for cabin time. Win-win.

 Bailey the dog loves nothing more than to be outside in the snow. We hit the nice and easy Beaver Creek trail today for 2 miles to ease my lungs into life at 10,000 feet. 

Kosby the cat sings, "Baby it's cold outside." Or maybe he is saying, leave me alone with all the Paparazzi shots. (Rachel & Jamie require frequent pet photos as part of pet sitting duties. They go through some serious withdrawal.) 

You will here me gush about the cabin a lot because it still ranks in our top 5 places to be. Don't get me wrong, we have definitely enjoyed some nephew time this past month in Denver and we will return to them (and our professional babysitting services) shortly. But we are NOT city people and there are far too many distractions in Denver!

Distraction #1 and #2

We plan to be ultra productive and have some set goals this week while at the cabin.

First and foremost, we want to get outside and play everyday! This area receives an endless carpet of powder almost daily and there are no shortage of XC and snowshoe trails in the area. J is testing out all his layers for Denali--from boots to hats. He plans to weight himself down for practice with his pack and sled (yes, he will be pulling a sled up Denali!). This is a perfect opportunity for me to actually be able to keep up with him!!!
Our nephew Everett loves to play with all of J's equipment. He even drew J a pix of a backpack the other day. Could we have a future mountaineer in early training??

Our cabin stay will also include a lot of inside time, with the promise of a toasty fire while watching the snow fall and chilly air blow outside. I have some paying writing projects to fulfill, but I also hope to make some progress on a very big writing project I have yet to announce (stay tuned!). Plus, we have some Bean games and Netflix watching to catch up on!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Snowshoeing Colorado: Chicago Lakes

J & I took our first snowshoeing trip of the season on Saturday. We headed to Echo Lake/Chicago Lakes in Arapaho National Forest with a friend (Grant) we met during our Wilderness First Responder course.

The Echo Lake Trailhead is a little over an hour from Denver ... except when you decide to go on a Saturday and have to compete with ski traffic!! We left at 7am and sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic on 70 until we got off at Idaho Springs. Who knew so many people go skiing during the winter in Colorado?????

We parked at Echo Lake Trailhead. Almost immediately, we veered off course for a little over a mile and had a number of unnecessary uphills. In our defense, there were A LOT of footprints in the snow. In many directions.
Between the arrows - no bueno, friends, no bueno.

This is not normal terrain for snowshoeing.

Aside from our slight blunder off trail, the Chicago Lakes trail was really packed down and smooth sailing. Most people had snowshoes on, but we did see 2 guys without and they did fine. The trailhead is at 10,600 feet and eventually you get to 11,700 feet, but it's a pretty gradual climb. I'm still adjusting to the altitude, so of course I took it nice and slow.

It's supposed to be 9 miles out-and-back to lower and upper Chicago Lakes, but J & I didn't make it all the way to Chicago Lakes (Grant did though!) We made it to the Idaho Springs Reservoir, right before the Mt. Evans Wilderness boundary. In total, J & I ended up doing about 5 miles. It was a lovely first winter outing. We twisted in and out of the whipped cream-topped spruce trees and were rewarded with views of Mt. Evans, Mt. Spalding and Mt. Warren. We plan to do a lot of outdoor activity in the mountains of Colorado as part of J's Denali training. Lucky me!!