Chalk Hill Thanksgiving 2016

This year’s Thanksgiving was a special one as we headed back east to the mountains of North Carolina to spend 7 days at our mountain cabin, Chalk Hill. Sawyer had never been to Chalk Hill and Kristine and I had yet to see the finished addition of the large great/game room. The new addition is incredible and really adds to the livability of the cabin.

The new addition under construction as seen last December 2016

The new addition under construction as seen last December 2016

The driveway side front entry of the new addition as seen last December 2016

The driveway side front entry of the new addition as seen last December 2016

During the first 2.5 days in Charlotte, Kristine & I went to Charlotte Country Day School to have lunch with my niece, Harper, who is in kindergarten. My sister and I both attended CCDS and was so fun going back especially to see Harper. Gosh, last time I stepped foot on campus was when I gave the Cum Laude Induction Ceremony speech in February 2013.

Leaving Eagle for Charlotte

Leaving Eagle for Charlotte

Sawyer & Harper at Brixx on a Sunday night

Sawyer & Harper at Brixx Pizza on a Sunday night

Lunch with Harper at CCDS

Lunch with Harper at CCDS

It was so fun being with Harper at school

It was so fun being with Harper at school

Love this little lady

Love this little lady

Sawyer was so excited to be with the big kids that she lined up with the kindergarten class

Sawyer was so excited to be with the big kids that she lined up with the kindergarten class

We then drove to Chalk Hill later that day. I always feel right at home at Chalk Hill with dad and everyone.

In the new living room

In the new living room

On the front porch swing

On the front porch swing

Cuzins

Cuzins

Sawyer and the coyote

Sawyer and the coyote

Me & Sawyer

Me & Sawyer

Me and my gals

Me and my gals

Me, Sawyer, Wesley, & Harper

Me, Sawyer, Wesley, & Harper

Cuzins lounging on the back porch hammock

Cuzins lounging on the back porch hammock

If only we could get those pacifiers out of their mouths

If only we could get those pacifiers out of their mouths

Sawyer & Wesley

Sawyer & Wesley

Sawyer & Aunt Evon

Sawyer & Aunt Evon

Kristine and the little cuzins

Kristine and the little cuzins

My mom organized a 2 person bluegrass band to come over for 2 hours one evening and it was so fun especially for all the little gals.

We've never really had a personal show where we are the audience before this evening

We’ve never really had a personal show where we are the entire audience before this evening

Harper got to try out the banjo

Harper got to try out the banjo

My oldest niece

My oldest niece

Kristine & I went on a few trail runs up my old favorite Bullhead Mountain, the highest mountain in Alleghany County (3,862′).

On top of Bullhead

On top of Bullhead

Kristine running the road on Bullhead

Kristine running the road on Bullhead

Some of our best friends, Cashion & Eva, came up from Brevard for an evening to visit. It was absolutely wonderful to have them and everyone loved seeing them. Turns out Cashion & Eva have since moved to Carbondale, CO where Eva’s family is located. Again, it will be awesome to have them back in state and so close to us.

My dad, Maya, Cashion and their tenement on wheels, which always looks nice parked in the driveway :)

My dad, Maya, Cashion and their tenement on wheels, which always looks nice parked in the driveway :)

Wesley & Sawyer in the sprinter van

Wesley & Sawyer in the sprinter van

The crew with Cashion & Eva

The crew with Cashion & Eva

Kristine & Maya

Kristine & Maya

So awesome to have them up at Chalk Hill. Cashion originally helped dad and I clear hiking trails and camping in the eback in the early 90s before the cabin was ever built

So awesome to have them up at Chalk Hill. Cashion originally helped dad and I clear hiking trails and camp on the land in the early 90s before the cabin was ever built

My dad and brother-in law, Ransome, organized another fun hayride as well all throughout our property. Everyone had a blast.

All aboard the trailer

All aboard the trailer

Ransome was the captain driving the tractor, but Sawyer always seemed to find herself into the pics

Ransome was the captain driving the tractor, but Sawyer always seemed to find herself into the pics

Aunt Evon & Harper

Aunt Evon & Harper

The loving Foose dog, Finley

The loving Foose dog, Finley

Sawyer loved seeing the cows, aka "moo moos"

Sawyer loved seeing the cows, aka “moo-moos”

Moo-moos

Moo-moos

Sawyer & Gigi

Sawyer & Gigi

So fun having a picnic in the pasture with Bullhead Mountain in the background

So fun having a picnic in the pasture with Bullhead Mountain in the background

Horsing around

Horsing around

IMG_2486

Cap'n Ransome, Wesley, & Sawyer

Cap’n Ransome, Wesley, & Sawyer

After the morning hayride, Kristine and I put Sawyer down for her nap and zipped down the mountain plateau to Stone Mountain State Park to do some rock climbing. Dad and I had hiked this beautiful granite slab of a mountain maybe 25 years ago, but I had never been back. Little did I know it has some of the best rock climbing in North Carolina. So, Kristine & I had brought our harnesses, shoes, rope, gear from Colorado hoping to get out for an afternoon on Stone Mountain. While Stone Mountain is notorious for its extremely run-out friction climbing on slightly less than vertical slabs, the most iconic route is The Great Arch right up the middle of the south face. I’ve heard its one of the best 5.5 routes in the county, which is funny considering we are talking 5.5. Nevertheless, we climbed a long 150′ 5.8 pitch called Block Route to get to Tree Ledge where we began the 3 pitch Great Arch climb to the top. It was a gorgeous afternoon and really warm. We got behind a party of 4 at Tree Ledge and waited for an hour until we could get going after them. We ended up passing them on pitch 2 as the sun was setting. Then, the party of 4 decided to bail off the route rather than continue to the top and their last climber, a gal named Lila, really just wanted to go to the top. We offered to just put her on our rope for the 3rd pitch and hike down with us, so she did and was very appreciative. We got to the top right at dusk around 5:30pm and hiked down in the dark for 30 minutes to the car to cap off a really fun afternoon together. I will always bring our rock gear from now on every time we go to Chalk Hill. Stone Mountain is so close and has great climbing.

Kristine approaching Stone Mountain's south face. The Great Arch is the obvious dihedral up the center of the face

Kristine approaching Stone Mountain’s south face. The Great Arch is the obvious dihedral up the center of the face

Block Route pitch (5.8) to get to Tree Ledge

Block Route pitch (5.8) to get to Tree Ledge

Block Route pitch from above

Block Route pitch from above

Kristine balancing on the crux move of Block Route

Kristine balancing on the crux move of Block Route

The Great Arch from Tree Ledge

The Great Arch from Tree Ledge

Kristine climbing pitch 1 of The Great Arch

Kristine climbing pitch 1 of The Great Arch

Beautiful...climbing in the southeast on granite is pretty good

Beautiful…climbing in the southeast on granite is pretty good

Kristine climbing pitch 2 of The Great Arch

Kristine climbing pitch 2 of The Great Arch

Kristine taking in the beautiful sunset

Kristine taking in the beautiful sunset from the pitch 2 belay

It was a hundred or so vertical feet of easy slab scrambaling after pitch 3 to the summit

It was a hundred or so vertical feet of easy slab scrambling after pitch 3 to the summit

Stone Mountain summit

Stone Mountain summit

Happy to be together

Happy to be together

Beautiful NC mountains

Beautiful NC mountains

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving together with my family.

Kauai Family Trip

Our good friend Chase Lochmiller, whom we met in Antarctica on our Mt. Vinson trip almost three years ago, was getting married on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in late September 2016. Having never been to any Hawaiian island, Kristine & I decided to make this happen with Sawyer and immediately Ken & Dianne Oelberger were on board to come with us. And, from everyone we talked to, Kauai was the least developed, most mountainous, and exotic of all the islands, which sounded right up our alley. Also, our friends from London, Harry & Halla Koppel, whom we met on Mt. Vinson as well, were making the long trip over and so it would be a great opportunity to rekindle our fun friendship we had in Antarctica together. We were so excited to spend this vacation with Sawyer,Ken, and Dianne. Definitely a different kind of vacation for us, but it turned out to be so much fun and memorable. Kauai certainly did not disappoint. We rented a functional beach house in Wainiha on Kauai’s north shore between Hanalei Bay and the Kalalau trailhead. It was a perfect location and was a 5 minute walk to the famous Tunnels Beach, where we went about every day for swimming with Sawyer and snorkeling.

Sawyer en route to Hawaii!

Sawyer en route to Hawaii!

We flew from Denver to LAX and met Ken & Dianne there for the big flight direct to Lihue Airport on Kauai. We rented a van when we arrived and drove the hour+ up to the north shore and our beach house. It was an extremely long day with Sawyer, but we finally made it to the house around 4pm in the hottest part of the day. I think it was because we were all so beat from the travel and very tired and likely because the house had been closed up until an hour or so before we arrived, but we all sort of lost it when we arrived into the house due to the extreme temperature inside the house. I know I for one was thinking how the heck I could stay here, especially sleep at night in this hot of a house with no AC. It was unbearable. Ken and I immediately took off our shirts as did Sawyer to try and cool down. The property manager, however, did show us the portable AC units in a closet we could try and hook up to the windows at least to cool 2 rooms down. So, Ken and I jimmy-rigged one of the units in Sawyer’s room and it worked pretty well really cooling down her room to 70 degrees or colder. We did a less-inspiring engineering installation in the master bedroom where Kristine and I stayed, but it worked pretty well. It did cool down at night and was much more manageable. Ken and Dianne were stronger than us (me) and did well in the 3rd bedroom without an AC unit. Still, though, shirts off for the boys and Sawyer were still a staple for the week. Despite the initial shock of the heat & humidity, we adjusted and had a fantastic week.

Our house's back porch

Our house’s back porch

The backyard

The backyard

Sawyer & I adjusting to life in Hawaii

Sawyer & I adjusting to life in Hawaii

Sawyer on the way to Tunnels Beach with the front of our house behind

Sawyer on the way to Tunnels Beach with the front of our house behind

Walking to Tunnels

Walking to Tunnels

Awesome Tunnels Beach has a reef and is just perfect for swimming and snorkeling in calm waters

Awesome Tunnels Beach has a reef and is just perfect for swimming and snorkeling in calm waters

Sawyer loved it

Sawyer loved it

Ken & Dianne so happy to be back on Kauai after 25 years or so

Ken & Dianne so happy to be back on Kauai after 25 years or so

Sawyer & I at Tunnels

Sawyer & I at Tunnels

It was so much fun & special being with Sawyer here

It was so much fun & special being with Sawyer here

Kristine & Sawyer at Tunnels

Kristine & Sawyer at Tunnels

Rinsing off back at the house

Rinsing off back at the house

IMG_1724

Despite not having full AC in the beach house, this place really had about everything else. Toys for Sawyer, beach chairs, snorkel gear, etc, a downstairs outdoor shower, a master bedroom outdoor tub and shower, great views into the jungle, very private, and a great location. We soon learned from Chase that most of these beach houses do not have AC, anyway. One of the first afternoons during Sawyer’s nap, Kristine and I drove a few miles east to Lumahai Beach to check out some bouldering I had researched on the beach. It turned out to be really fun bouldering on volcanic rock with the soft sandy beach as a crash pad. Kristine doesn’t boulder very much, but I was extremely happy she went with me. We had brought our rock shoes and chalk bags with us.

Very scenic bouldering

Very scenic bouldering

Though after a bit, the volcanic rock really takes a toll on your hands

Though after a bit, the volcanic rock really takes a toll on your hands

Me on a line called Problem D

Me on a line called Problem D

Kristine on a line called Problem G

Kristine on a line called Problem G

Lumahai Beach (north) bouldering wall. Routes can be found on mountainproject

Lumahai Beach (north) bouldering wall. Routes can be found on mountainproject

A good afternoon together

A good afternoon together

That evening we took a drive to the Kilauea Lighthouse, but it was closed. That’s ok because we had a ball chasing roosters and getting some nice pictures in the evening light.

Sawyer chasing a rooster

Sawyer chasing a rooster

Good family pic with the Kilauea Lighthouse behind

Good family pic with the Kilauea Lighthouse behind

Cool shades, Sawyer

Cool shades, Sawyer

The sun going down on the drive back

The sun going down on the drive back

The next day we all decided to give the famous Kalalua Trail a try (at least the first mile or so) to get some views of the amazing Napali Coast. We actually made it just over a mile in depite how rocky and muddy and wet it was and Sawyer walked a decent portion of it. She was beat about halfway back and in the pack she went and fell asleep. However, it was gorgeous scenery.

Welcome

Welcome

Sawyer & K hiking the Kalalau Trail

Sawyer & K hiking the Kalalau Trail

Dianne's face says it all

Dianne’s face says it all

Ken & Dianne and the Napali Coast

Ken & Dianne and the Napali Coast

Kalalau Beach is the termination of the Kalalau Trail about 10 miles further down the Napali Coast

Kalalau Beach is the termination of the Kalalau Trail about 10 miles further down the Napali Coast

That evening we went over to Chase’s wedding party/friends house they rented in Hanalei Bay. Apparently, it was owned by the real life family depicted in the movie Descendants starring George Clooney. Also, the house in which the move was filmed on the beach was immediately across the street, which I definitely recognized. We had a great time catching up with Chase, meeting his fiance Devon, who grew up on Kauai, and checking out the home.

Sawyer walking around the home

Sawyer walking around the home

The amazing home

The amazing home

The Kalalau Trail (Napali Coast)

The next morning we all woke up around 6am and K and I got ready for our big adventure of the week: trail run/hike the Kalalau Trail to Kalalau Beach and back in a day, which turns out to be about 5,000′ vertical gain and 23 miles RT. Ken & Dianne were so nice to hang with Sawyer for the day and I think they had a really fun time together at Tunnels Beach. Ken dropped K and I off at the Kalalau trailhead around 7am (only 2 miles west of our house) and it seemed like we beat the majority of folks that morning to get on the trail. Armed with a water bottle, Gatorade bottle, a backpack water bladder, and trail bars/snacks in our pockets, we went light and fast. We brought iodine tablets to purify the stream water as we had to refill several times throughout the day.

The Kalalau Trail map along the Napali Coast

The Kalalau Trail map along the Napali Coast. Click to enlarge

We tried to slowly run the first 4-5 miles of the trail, but much of it is so rough, rocky, muddy, and wet it was pretty dangerous to do so, especially on the down. Good thing is there were no people on the trail to try and get around. I had never sweated as much as I did on the Kalalau Trail with all of the humidity. I looked like I had already swam in the ocean. Anyway, the morning hours were relatively cool and in the shade as the sun had not come overhead yet.

Early morning mud

Early morning mud

Kristine

Kristine

Beautiful

Beautiful

Near the beginning of the trail

Near the beginning of the trail

Crossing Hanakapi'ai Stream

Crossing Hanakapi’ai Stream

2 miles and 30 minutes in we came upon Hanakapi'ai Beach

2 miles and 30 minutes in we came upon Hanakapi’ai Beach

And leaving Hanakapi'ai Beach

And leaving Hanakapi’ai Beach

One thing about this trail is it is A LOT of up and down. As soon as you get comfortable going up or down, the trail switches and you do the other mode. Miles 2-4 were some slow miles because of the overgrowth onto the trail and slick mud and rock. We came upon a lean-to shelter at mile 4 and I left my shirt hanging there as it was completely soaked with sweat. We chatted with a grizzled man at the lean-to laying on the bench from Oahu who had hiked this trail countless times in his 30 years of coming to Kauai.

Typical mountainous terrain along the Napali Coast

Typical mountainous terrain along the Napali Coast

Kristine and a view. Kalalau Beach is still a good 5-6 miles out

Kristine and a view. Kalalau Beach is still a good 5-6 miles out

A boat en route back from Kalalau Beach

A boat en route back from Kalalau Beach

We reached Hanakoa Valley at mile 6 (halfway point) and after that the trail really opened up, became much more runnable, and the views opened up as well. It was great.

Hanakoa Valley

Hanakoa Valley

Me and the mountains

Me and the mountains

Cruising along and still all smiles

Cruising along and still all smiles

Kristine

Kristine

I think around mile 7 was the fun and interesting portion of the trail that was pretty exposed down to the raging surf several  hundred feet below.

One of the more exposed portions of the trail

One of the more exposed portions of the trail

Kristine chugging along

Kristine chugging along

A panorama of a neat section of trail

A panorama of a neat section of trail

The trail opening up after mile 8

The trail opening up after mile 8

Getting close. Kalalau Beach can be seen right of center in the distance

Getting close. Kalalau Beach can be seen right of center in the distance

I see you, Kalalau Beach!

I see you, Kalalau Beach!

Another one

Another one

Nice meadows close to Kalalau Beach

Nice meadows close to Kalalau Beach

The home stretch

The home stretch

So, after about 4 hours on the trail, we reached Kalalau Beach. It was such a treat to be there. Many campers were camped in the trees just south of the beach and were beginning to come out to the beach. It reminded me of Leonardo DiCaprio and the island dwellers all going to the secret, remote beach in the older move The Beach. In fact, many folks were in the nude heading into the surf. We decided to not join the ranks of the nude.

Kristine and Kalalau Beach

Kristine and Kalalau Beach

Panorama of Kalalau Beach

Panorama of Kalalau Beach

Happy to be here together. Someday, we'll have to come back with Sawyer and camp a night

Happy to be here together. Someday, we’ll have to come back with Sawyer and camp a night

We ate one of our denser, larger snack bars we previously bought and rested for 20 minutes or so. We also gathered a few special coral pieces and rocks from the beach to remember it by. We said our goodbyes and began the slower return run/hike back the way we came.

The long way, but beautiful way home

The long, but beautiful way home

Coming back along the fun, exposed portion of the trail

Coming back along the fun, exposed portion of the trail

A quick little video of Kristine on the exposed portion of the trail:

On the return trip, we decided to take a detour and go check out Hanakoa Falls, which said only a half mile off the Kalalau Trail. However, it was a rough and slow trail consisting of some bushwhacking and we began to think if we’d ever see this waterfall. Finally, we reached the falls and I guess it was worth the detour.

Hanakoa Falls

Hanakoa Falls

The last few miles were slow and we were hiking by then. Lots of folks on the trail once we got back to mile 2, but fortunately the trail had dried out quite a bit so it was much less slick. We were back at the trail by about 4pm with tired legs and feet, but feeling good about our adventure. We walked the road back to our house trying to thumb and hitch a ride. We were finally picked up by some nice folks we met along the trail and drove us in the back of their pickup the rest of the way back arriving around 4:30pm just in time to see Sawyer waking up from her nap. I immediately went out to get us some much needed ginger beers and guava drinks from the Wainiha General Store as we (me) were craving these the last few miles.

The Remainder of the Week and Chase’s Wedding

We all did some more swimming and snorkeling on that Thursday and Kristine & I made it to Chase & Devon’s welcome part at the St. Regis in Princeville that evening.

Sunset over Hanalei Bay from the St. Regis

Sunset over Hanalei Bay from the St. Regis

At the St. Regis

At the St. Regis

The next morning we all went to Lumahai Beach for some exploring and swimming.

Lumahai Beach

Lumahai Beach

Sawyer scoping out the rocks and pools

Sawyer scoping out the rocks and pools

Waves against the rocks

Waves against the rocks

It was a good swimming hole

It was a good swimming hole

The gals loved it

The gals loved it

Happy girls

Happy girls

Not often do you get to stand at the end of the rainbow :)

Not often do you get to stand at the end of the rainbow :)

Harry & Halla had arrived late Friday night and came over Saturday morning to visit. We all went to Tunnels Beach and swam and snorkeled. It was so great to see them again. Its almost like we all had never skipped a beat! We definitely need to get together with them and their year old daughter soon on another vacation.

All of us at Tunnels Beach

All of us at Tunnels Beach

That evening we got ready for Chase & Devon’s wedding and drove ourselves to the Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens  for the wedding and reception. It was a great celebratory evening and was super fun to hang with Harry & Halla all night.

All dressed up as much as we ever do

All dressed up as much as we ever do

Another

Another

The ceremony

The ceremony

Chase & Devon

Chase & Devon

The reception

The reception

The four of us on the beach at the reception

The four of us on the beach at the reception

We did one more quick Tunnels Beach trip early morning to say our goodbyes. Sawyer was a tired gal after a big week.

At Tunnels

At Tunnels

One more of the three of us

One more of the three of us

After watching some early Sunday morning NFL games and a good Sawyer nap in my arms, we all loaded up the van and made our way to Lihue Airport. Little did we know that we were all in for a 2 day adventure to get back to Colorado. In a nutshell, due to limiting weight on the airplane because of turbulence, American decided to bump 20 folks off the plane. Kristine & I being two of them because we didn’t check-in the night before or early that morning. Ken & Dianne, however, did check-in the night before. So, after 6 hours at the airport that afternoon and a lot of tears and frustration, we were put up in the Marriott with food vouchers, we each got a $1,000 voucher on American, including Sawyer, and left the next day. We got home an entire day later on Tuesday evening. Ken & Dianne could have gone on without us and gotten home Monday evening, but we appreciated them so much hanging with us. Nevertheless, it was an adventure with a 2 year old, but really Sawyer did so very well. It was fun in retrospect to go through that adventure with her.

Sawyer loving her bus ride at LAX

Sawyer loving her bus ride at LAX

And, finally, we landed at DIA

And, finally, we landed at DIA

In conclusion, what a phenomenal family trip to a wonderful island. We would highly recommend this kind of trip and the island of Kauai to anyone looking to get away from the more developed islands. It was beyond special to share this trip with Ken & Dianne and especially to be able to bring Sawyer along and have so much fun with her.

Goodbye Kauai

Goodbye Kauai

Sawyer having a ball after eating at the Kilauea Fish Market

Sawyer having a ball after eating at the Kilauea Fish Market

Sawyer’s 1st Successful Camp!

After two unsuccessful camping attempts with a much younger Sawyer in 2015, we were finally successful this past Memorial Day Weekend and let’s just say Sawyer passed with flying colors! As parents, Kristine & I were very pleased. And, we did it in one of our favorite car camping/climbing areas: Escalante Canyon, Colorado. One of these unsuccessful camping attempts was in fact in Escalante Canyon over a year ago. Sawyer’s sleep was disrupted by a heard of cattle “mooing” a few feet from our tent at 10:30pm, which forced us to abandon the trip and drive back to Edwards arriving home around 2am. Live & learn, I guess :) We packed up last Saturday morning and made the 3 hour drive to Escalante in our new 2008 4-door Chevy Tahoe, which we recently bought from my parents. Its nice for a change to have a reliable truck that can fit all of us comfortably plus not having to worry if the headlights will go out :) Our friends Keith & Sarah with their daughter Melodie (a month younger than Sawyer) and dog Molly were already down there as were friends Lauren & Steve (with their dog Scout) and our good buddy Mikey. After walking around with Sawyer in the backpack trying to get her to nap while Kristine and Keith set up our mega tent and pack-n-play, we returned having had no nap because of Sawyer’s new surroundings, sights, & sounds. Around 4pm, Lauren, Steve, Mikey, Rainier, Kona, Scout, & myself all went to the Interiors Wall and climbed 5 or so routes I was pretty familiar with including the “cave” routes called Interiors (5.9-) and The Shaft (5.10a). Keith came up to check out the cave as well. Arriving back at camp around 7pm, we all hung out around the campfire, ate dinner, and had a nice evening.

Me & Sawyer back at camp

Me & Sawyer back at camp

The Chalks

The Chalks

Sawyer

Sawyer

She looks like a camping county gal in her jeans and dinosaur sweatshirt

She looks like a camping county gal in her jeans and dinosaur sweatshirt

Our tent in an amazing setting

Our tent in an amazing setting

Sawyer & Mikey

Sawyer & Mikey

Kristine & Sawyer

Kristine & Sawyer

Sawyer stayed up late! I don’t think she went to bed until around 9:30pm. Definitely the latest she has gone to bed. She didn’t even wake up when Kristine, the dogs, and I came into the tent around 11-11:30pm. Gosh, she slept well. Must be that cool and crisp desert air. I slept well, too. I always tend to sleep better in the desert than just about anywhere. We woke up around 8am and Sawyer didn’t stir until 8:30am. Kristine & I looked at each other and we both noticed that “ecstatic” expression in each other’s faces. Maybe we need to do more camping!

Gorgeous Escalante Canyon from our campsite

Gorgeous Escalante Canyon from our campsite

Morning, Sawyer! She has much nicer Patagonia long underwear than I do!

Morning, Sawyer! She has much nicer Patagonia long underwear than I do!

Sawyer & Melodie

Sawyer & Melodie

The little gals and Rainier

The little gals and Rainier

We hung around and had breakfast and took the dogs down to Escalante Creek to swim while Kristine drove out to Highway 50 to get cell service and work on getting her condo under contract. When she got back, I had packed up the Tahoe and we were ready to roll whenever we were to be done climbing. Kristine was so wonderful to hang with Sawyer and the dogs by the creek while I took Lauren, Steve, Scout, & Mikey up to quite possibly my most favorite crack I’ve ever climbed: Willy’s Hand Jive (5.10+). Maybe that doesn’t say a whole lot, but I sure do love it. Keith came up with us as well to check out our crack addiction :)

Me on Willy's

Me on Willy’s

Jam, jam, and jam

Jam, jam, and jam

Placing gear before the crux pod

Placing gear before the crux pod

Negotiating the pod

Negotiating the pod

And....success!

And….success!

Mikey did a lap on Willy’s and then we went over to setup an adjacent route called Rusty’s Cave (5.9+). Lauren & Steve took a good stab at Willy’s and hopefully learned a few trick of the trade with regard to this thing called “crack climbing”. Its definitely very technique-driven and takes awhile to hone in on the various maneuvers that work or don’t work. We left the rope up on Rusty’s cave for Lauren & Steve as I needed to head out because Sawyer’s nap time was fast approaching. Mikey and I rolled back to the car by 2pm and we joined up with Kristine, Sawyer, & the dogs at the small picnic table in the shade. We met two nice women as well at the picnic table. One had a 14 week old son in the baby bjorn. We chatted for awhile as they were both originally from Austria. The woman with the baby lived in Ridgway and her friend was visiting from Austria to keep her company while her husband was guiding in Alaska. Turns out the woman with the baby’s name was Ava House, wife of Steve House, one of the most accomplished, respected, and skilled alpinists out there. Pretty cool. I had forgotten Steve House lived in Ridgway. Sawyer promptly passed out as soon as we started the 11 mile drive on the dirt road to Highway 50. She was exhausted, but a good exhausted. We arrived back in Edwards around 5pm very happy with how things went for Sawyer’s 1st successful camping trip.

Sawyer’s Halloween & Uneva Circuit

Sawyer had her 1st real Halloween this year. She was only 2-3 weeks old last Halloween. We didn’t trick-or-treat, but we did everything else: carved pumpkins, costumes, and a great Halloween party. Next year we will trick-or-treat.

Carving pumpkins

Carving pumpkins

These big orange things are fun

These big orange things are fun

Sawyer in her dog costume that Dianne & Ken gave her

Sawyer in her dog costume that Dianne & Ken gave her

Vets and our dog

Vets and our dog

Hiking with Ken & Dianne

Hiking with Ken & Dianne

Family pic

Family pic

Learning to stand on her own two feet

Learning to stand on her own two feet

Lounging around

Lounging around

She likes this "standing up" thing

She likes this “standing up” thing

Loving her dogs

Loving her dogs

Sawyer loves burying her face in Rainie's fur

Sawyer loves burying her face in Rainie’s fur

And, of course, Kona tries to give Sawyer kisses

And, of course, Kona tries to give Sawyer kisses

Recovering from a fairly serious right elbow infection called Olecranon Bursitis brought on by dirt getting into a cut on the elbow joint’s bursa sac (as a result of off-width crack climbing), I was anxious to get out a bit longer than an hour hike or run. I couldn’t really climb, so Kona and I just went for a snowshoe up at Vail Pass. In retrospect, I should have brought the skis, but it was a good recon mission to the peaks north of Vail Pass, the highest of which is Uneva Peak (12,522′), which we frequent quite a bit in the snowy months. There was even another subtle 12er I had never visited dubbed “Sneva” that I thought I would pay a visit. Getting an alpine start of 11:30am, Kona and I followed a decent track up into the small bowl below Uneva Peak that provides very mellow and low-consequence backcountry skiing even during high avalanche periods.

Uneva Peak (at far right) with its false summit in the center of the picture as seen en route to Point 12,363'

Uneva Peak (at far right) with its false summit in the center of the picture as seen en route to Point 12,363′

We had never been up on the summit of Point 12,363'

We had never been up on the summit of Point 12,363′

Looking over at Sneva from Point 12,363'

Looking over at Sneva from Point 12,363′

30 minutes later we were on Sneva (12,242') having descended maybe 400' to Uneva Pass and up another 400'

30 minutes later we were on Sneva (12,242′) having descended maybe 400′ to Uneva Pass and up another 400′

Looking east to Frisco and Lake Dillon from Sneva's summit

Looking east to Frisco and Lake Dillon from Sneva’s summit

Red Diamond Ridge as seen from Sneva's summit

Red Diamond Ridge as seen from Sneva’s summit

Looking at Uneva Peak from Sneva's summit. I asked Kona if she wanted to go summit Uneva again for the nth time. She said she wanted to as it was such a nice day :)

Looking at Uneva Peak from Sneva’s summit. I asked Kona if she wanted to go summit Uneva again for the nth time. She said she wanted to as it was such a nice day :)

Back on Point 12,363'

Back on Point 12,363′

Kona and Uneva's final pitch to its summit

Kona and Uneva’s final pitch to its summit

Uneva Peak summit (12,522'). Always good to be on this little summit. One of the very few times I can remember essentially no wind

Uneva Peak summit (12,522′). Always good to be on this little summit. One of the very few times I can remember essentially no wind

And, Sneva from the summit of Uneva with the Tenmile Range behind

And, Sneva from the summit of Uneva with the Tenmile Range behind

With that little 5 hour outing up high in the snow, I am a little more excited for the winter months. However, I still want to do more climbing in the desert and get this elbow all better.

A map of our snowshoe jaunt. About 5 hours roundtrip, maybe 8-9 mile and roughly 3,000' vertical gain

A map of our snowshoe jaunt. About 5 hours and 8-9 miles roundtrip with roughly 3,000′ vertical gain

Sawyer at 10 months

Kristine & I both cannot believe how big Sawyer is getting and how grown up she is becoming!

Playing at the river with the dogs

Playing at the river with the dogs (maybe 9 months old)

When we were back in Maine over July 4, Dianne Oelberger had a local photographer come and do family portraits and several of these came out really nice. A few of those pics are as follows (Sawyer was about 8 months at this time):

Diane Family_070915_9392

Diane Family_070915_9435

Mallary & John_070915_0009

Mallary & John_070915_0033

Diane Family_070915_9446

Photos from our weeknight camp up on Red & White Mountain a few weeks ago:

All decked out in her jean overalls

All decked out in her jean overalls

Fun

Fun

Hanging in her camp chair with Rainie

Hanging in her camp chair with Rainie

IMG_7647

Her hair is getting long enough we need to put it up a bit

Hanging out by the fire

Hanging out by the fire

In the big peoples' chairs

In the big peoples’ chairs

Our new big tent

Our new big tent

Getting comfy and biting her lower lip, which she seems to enjoy

Getting comfy and biting her lower lip, which she seems to enjoy

Reading in the tent

Reading in the tent

Dinner

Dinner

Always gorgeous views of the northern Sawatch rising above Arrowhead

Always gorgeous views of the northern Sawatch rising above Arrowhead

IMG_7695

IMG_7697

Kona wanted in a picture

Kona wanted in a picture

Back by the fire

Back by the fire

Actually, a good family pic we thought at sunset

Actually, a good family pic we thought at sunset

I like this one a lot

I like this one a lot

And, some more pics of what Sawyer has been doing as of late:

Watching the dogs eat

Watching the dogs eat

She loves to eat and loves to make a mess

She loves to eat and loves to make a mess

Hiking the East Lake Creek trail

Hiking the East Lake Creek trail

Bouldering at the Confluence Boulder at Dowd Junction

Bouldering at the Confluence Boulder at Dowd Junction

Hiking to Beaver Lake

Hiking to Beaver Lake

A good one of mother & daughter

A good one of mother & daughter

She always loves playing tennis ball with Rainie...

She always loves playing tennis ball with Rainie…

...and receiving kisses from Kona

…and receiving kisses from Kona

Sawyer’s 1st 14er Summit

Well, you definitely never know how things will turn out with a 9 month old on just about any outdoor adventure much less taking her to over 14,000′. You just got to be very flexible as parents and go with the flow. Sometimes we do have to turn around on a hike or leave the climbing crag because she is over tired or because of any one of a number of other reasons. Sometimes she is very happy and can stretch her awake time without getting too fussy. One thing we do know is that there is no predictability :) Nevertheless, we wanted to give a 14er a go with Sawyer. Make it a nice family outing on a shorter 14er so even Rainie could go. We thought of the easy and very accessible 14ers above Kite Lake in the Mosquito Range south of Breckenridge & Quandary Peak and figured Mt. Democrat would fit the bill nicely. In addition to only being 4 miles roundtrip and 2,250′ of elevation gain, there was Kite Lake at the trailhead so Rainie could go swimming before/after to stay cool. I had never seen so many cars (even a tour bus!) at a trailhead (well, except for Longs Peak, I guess) and we had to park 1/4 mile down the Kite Lake road at about 11,800′.

Kristine carrying Sawyer in the Ergo carrier on her front side with Kite Lake behind. Fortuantely, Sawyer was asleep at this moment

Kristine carrying Sawyer in the Ergo carrier on her front side with Kite Lake behind. Fortuantely, Sawyer was asleep at this moment

Sawyer didn’t nap much on the way to the Kite Lake trailhead, so she was a little unhappy at the beginning of the hike. But, she fell asleep on the gradual hike maybe 20-30 minutes from the trailhead. This was a BIG relief to Kristine & myself.

Making our way up to the Democrat/Cameron saddle at 13,400'

Making our way up to the Democrat/Cameron saddle at 13,400′

Sawyer's K9 protectors

Sawyer’s K9 protectors

Sawyer slept for 45 minutes or so and woke up right as we crested the 13,400′ saddle between Democrat and Cameron. Hikers kept commenting to us upon seeing Sawyer in Kristine’s Ergo carrier, “Wow, there is a baby in there?” Funny stuff. We all took a break and snacked for 15-20 minutes at the saddle.

At the 13,400' Democrat/Cameron saddle

At the 13,400′ Democrat/Cameron saddle

Rainie standing guard as Sawyer gets a snack

Rainie standing guard as Sawyer gets a snack

Having had a good nap, we transitioned Sawyer to the backpack and loaded it up on my back. We love this Kelty backpack – it fits Sawyer very well. One observation that we had were the number of folks on these 14ers. Even on a Friday, the masses were astounding. I mean I know these 14ers are some of the easiest and most accessible and thus most popular 14ers in the state, but all I could think was just “wow”. I honestly haven’t been on of these popular 14ers in the summer in over a decade and the crowds these days are sure different than they were in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Sawyer and I making our way up Democrat's class 2 east ridge with Mt. Cameron behind us

Sawyer and I making our way up Democrat’s class 2 east ridge with Mt. Cameron behind us

The weather (cloud building) was a little intimidating and obviously we didn’t want to be caught out in a storm with a baby, but the weather held off just fine as we made our way to the summit. We sort of got off the trail and climbed the east ridge direct in order to avoid the crowds coming down the main trail consisting of loose scree/boulders. Rainie did wonderful on the off-trail boulder hopping and I believe people were equally impressed with 12-1/2 year old Rainie making her way up another 14er as they were with us having a 9 month old in the backpack.

Almost to the summit

Almost to the summit

We crested the summit maybe an hour and 45 minutes after leaving the trailhead. Not bad at all. The weather was holding and we got a few pics. Sawyer was really a trooper and not very much did I even hear a fuss from her – mainly just her squeals and laughs. She seems the happiest in the outdoors just like the rest of her family.

Sawyer on top of her 1st 14er!

Sawyer on top of her 1st 14er!

Mt. Democrat summit (14,148')...Sawyer did so extremely well.

Mt. Democrat summit (14,148′)…Sawyer did so extremely well.

Me, Rainie, & Sawyer on top of Democrat

Me, Rainie, & Sawyer on top of Democrat

Being on the summit reminded me of the last time I was on Democrat with Rainier and Kristine in the winter of 2004.

A younger Kristine, Rainier, & myself on top of Democrat 11 years ago

A younger Kristine, Rainier, & myself on top of Democrat 11 years ago

We then motored down the summit ridge and back onto the standard east ridge trail and back down to the saddle.

Happy that it all worked out this day

Happy that it all worked out this day

Sawyer again had a snack as I gave the dogs some food once we got well below the saddle and then she really did well in the backpack all the way back down to Kite Lake. She was a happy camper back down in the meadows on the shores of Kite lake while Rainie swam again.

A girl and her dog

A girl and her dog

Happy Sawyer

Happy Sawyer

I think I did something funny here

I think I did something funny here

It was a very memorable day for Kristine and myself and we were/are so proud of Sawyer for being a trooper up a 14er. Not that we’d want to attempt a 14er every weekend with her, but maybe another one is in the cards before the snows come. Not that Sawyer will remember anything about this day, but we are hopeful she’ll look back at these pictures and say “wow, my parents carried me up a 14er when I was 9 months old”.

The three of us with Mt. Democrat behind

The three of us with Mt. Democrat behind