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Mt. Sanitas, You Complete Me

I figure I’ve hiked Boulder’s Mt. Sanitas trail somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 times during the 19 years I’ve lived in the Boulder area. I know there are many people who have hiked it a whole lot more than I have, whose counts are in the thousands and who regularly scale mountains 10 times as high — but I have to marvel a little bit about why I’ve kept going back over the years.

Each time it is a thigh-trembling, heart-hammering, oxygen-gulping experience. Often there is cursing.

Truth be told, the last three years have seen only two or three of those treks (something about having a kid, starting your own business, getting old…blah blah blah). So when I headed up two weeks ago — on one of those shining, 50-degree days we’ve been having this winter — it was like reuniting with an old friend.

Mountain Sanitas, Boulder, CO

Self portrait on Mt. Sanitas. Tired but happy.

I was reminded of everything I love and hate about the trail at once. I always choose the Western route up — it’s steeper, but shorter. Before long, I start to sound like a asthmatic bulldog. But just when I’m barely managing to place one pathetic, plodding step after the other, I’ll spot a welcoming little turnout, with that heartening view of Boulder sprawling out below. Or sometimes a flatter, more forgiving part of the path emerges. I catch my breath and start anew, thinking, “I might actually make it to the top today!” Only to be passed by an 80-year-old jogging up the damn thing. And the whole cycle starts again.

Mt. Sanitas, hikers, Boulder, CO

Fellow hikers often include small children, dogs and elderly folks — all of whom are usually bounding past me.

Until I get to the top. And then it’s just pure endorphins. I actually have to restrain myself from hugging all those other sweaty, smiling people perched on the rocky outcroppings, sucking down water and drinking in the views.

On the way down, my legs always feel like jello for the first five minutes, and I think, am I going to be the first person in Boulder history to have to be air-lifted off Mt. Sanitas? But then, miraculously, my legs get used to the pounding, downhill motion, and by the time I reach my car, I’m positively giddy and pretty sure I could do it all over again, right then and there.

Mt. Sanitas, Boulder, CO

So on this hike two weeks ago, I promised myself I’d make time to come back more often. In fact, I headed back yesterday, just before the snow storm moved in. It was much colder — and tougher — than the previous time. But in the end, I found myself sending up a little thank you to the clouds for holding off just long enough for me to make it to the top and back, one more time.

Bird on Mt. Sanitas, Boulder, CO

This robin seemed to be assessing the air as a winter storm moved in.

This year, we have a little one in our family who has a burgeoning obsession with Santa Claus. So when I heard he was making a visit to Pearl Street to help Switch on the Holidays, I knew we had to be there.

The weather this year is anything but frightful, so we gathered with hoards of other families in front of the courthouse in the early evening on Sunday. Around 5pm, the Boulder Chorale came onstage and sang a few carols. Then at last, Santa appeared atop the courthouse, gave a wave and, in a flash, was down on the stage in front of us (with Mrs. Claus at his side).

And with a “ho, ho, ho,” the strings of Christmas lights draped across Pearl Street, winding up trees and bedazzling the courthouse came alive. Claire shrieked with excitement!

Boulder Chorale, Switch on the Holidays in downtown Boulder

Switch on the Holidays, downtown Boulder 2012

Santa makes an appearance!

Switch on the Holidays, downtown Boulder 2012

The big man himself.

Switch on the Holidays, downtown Boulder 2012

Ta-da!

Switch on the Holidays, downtown Boulder 2012

Switch on the Holidays, downtown Boulder 2012

Winter wonder.

We wanted to stay for the free ice skating show at One Boulder Plaza, but our rumbling tummies called us away to dinner. We’ll be back next year to catch the first annual glimpse of Santa Claus, the lighting of downtown Boulder and all the festivities. Maybe with a thermos of hot cider in hand next time!

This flawless autumn day in Boulder had us seeking as much outdoor time as possible. Claire and I took advantage at Scott Carpenter Park (which recently made news when astronaut Scott Carpenter visited for a rededication ceremony). We ran around on the playground, walked along the Boulder Creek path and ran up and down the still-vibrant green hills. The ice cream truck made a call, probably the last we’ll see this year, so we dashed across the sprawling lawn to make sure we didn’t miss out. Claire’s pick: a Spongebob Squarepants popsicle, loaded with yellow and red dye #20. Wheee!
Scott Carpenter Park, Boulder, Colorado

Scott Carpenter Park, Boulder, Colorado

Scott Carpenter Park, Boulder, Colorado

Hey, gearheads! It’s back! The GoLite Warehouse sale starts Saturday, Nov. 12 at 9am. See ya there.

Hot Air Ballooning in Boulder

I used to live on Twin Lakes, in North Boulder. On summer days, we would often wake up in the morning to the “shhhhhhh” of hot air balloons passing by our condo — sometimes near enough to say “good morning” to the bright-eyed folks dangling beneath the balloon in the basket.

Ever since, I have wanted to ride in one of those balloons.

Nearly 10 years later, I got my chance. A coworker invited me up for a ride with Fair Winds Hot Air Balloon Flights, and I jumped at the chance. Despite the fact that we had to be at the launch site at 5:45am. And despite the fact that Trent, my coworker, was a self-confessed acrophobe and this was his plan for “getting over” his fear of heights.

When we arrived at the launch site, in a field just west of Twin Lakes, there was a little table set up with pastries, coffee and juice. Families and couples milled around, alternatively smiling with anticipation and yawning. Jeff, the owner of Fair Winds, greeted all of us, had us sign release froms and divided us up among three crews on three separate balloons. He soon had several of us helping unfurl and inflate the balloons.

Our cheery pilot, Jeff

Before I knew it, we were all climbing in and lifting off the ground. To my surprise, my stomach did a little flip. I looked over at Trent, who had his eyes closed and was taking deep breaths. But then, as we lifted up higher and could look out over the trees and around at the other balloons rising (there were six or seven others), it was such a peaceful and beautiful scene that any twinge of fear I had subsided. Trent seemed to be having the same experience, now with his eyes open. The balloon floated up so gently that there was nothing to give me pause besides the breathtaking scenery.

Then we came upon the sight that I will never forget: the mirror-like Twin Lakes below, reflecting the two balloons at eye level in front of us, the sunlight filtering in behind the balloons from the East and lighting everything aglow. One of the balloons, a bright red one, dipped its basket into the water.

After that, we rapidly gained altitude, and the views expanded in all directions. Beneath us was all of Boulder Valley, the still-snowy mountains beyond and the Front Range to our east.


Jeff, one of the nicest and most exuberant people I have met, would give little exclamations of “yay!” and “all right!” as we ascended. He is masterful enough as captain that he can rotate the balloon to give each passenger a good look at the view they request.

We glided over farms, houses, mansions (lots of mansions), cows, prairie dog holes, Walden Ponds and the adjacent water treatment facilities, and several  little (and not-so-little) bodies of water that I didn’t know existed. I was shocked at how lush and green the lanscape was — not the mid-summer Colorado I thought I knew.

Up high, it was warm in the sun and next to the flame, and at times, we each fell silent to reflect on the views. Jeff noted that, looking out over the foothills and mountains, he sometimes imagines what it must have been like for early explorers who travelled by horse or wagon to come upon all this remarkable beauty. And from up high, it felt like we were discovering it anew ourselves.

Eventually, we drifted down south of Empire Road in Louisville, near the Colorado Tech Center. We had a fairly smooth landing, thanks to the chase crew who met us there and guided us in. Trent looked glad to be on solid ground again, but exhaled and said, “That was so much easier than I thought it would be.” I gave him a congratulatory pat on the back.

We all helped pack up and then were carted back to the launch site in a nice, big van. Everyone was giddy and talkative. Back in the liftoff field, we gathered round for goodie bags and a send off from Jeff and the crews. Looking around at the happy faces, it was clear everyone had a great time. I left grinning ear to ear, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.

I’ve written about GoLite warehouse sales a lot on this blog. And that’s because they rock.

Looks like GoLite is taking their sales on the road, with several “pop-up” events.

There’s one starting in Boulder tomorrow morning. Check it out.

In light of National Geographic Traveler naming Boulder one of the world’s Top 10 Winter Towns, I thought I’d put together my list of favorite ways to enjoy Boulder in the wintertime:

1. Glide Around the Ice Rink at One Boulder Plaza

Each winter, the little courtyard at One Boulder Plaza becomes a delightfully old-timey ice rink, complete with music, twinkling lights and an oval shape. Okay, it’s no Rockefeller Center, but it’s usually not very crowded and is fun to hook arms with your sweetie and take a leisurely spin. On Tuesdays, if you bring a can of food to donate, you’ll get discounted admission!

2. Sip a Steaming Cup of Tea at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

Boulder’s lovely teahouse, located downtown (very near the Ice Rink at One Boulder Plaza), was a gift from our sister city, Dushanbe, Tajikistan. It was shipped here in pieces and assembled in the late 90s. Inside, trickling fountains, leafy plants and intricately carved and painted walls and ceilings make an exotic winter escape. Order a little pot of tea from the menu of more than 80 flavors, sit back and warm up as you admire the artwork that is this unique building.

3. Get Cozy Inside a Warm Brewpub

Much to the dismay of my waistline, wintertime always has me craving hearty fare. Maybe a big basket of onion rings, a batch of warm, freshly baked pretzels or a cup of cheesy soup. Boulder’s brewpubs are the place to go for this kind of stick-to-your-ribs sustenance. And best of all, you can wash it all down with a handcrafted beer. Perhaps a pint of Buff Gold at The Walnut Brewery, Java Porter at Mountain Sun or Feisty Fiddler IPA at the Boulder Draft House. Or you might opt to go on the Boulder Brew Bus tour to experience Boulder’s legendary microbreweries on a deeper level.

4. Stretch to New Limits with Hot Yoga

Boulder might just have as many yoga studios as Seattle has coffee shops. There’s one on every corner. And one winter-friendly trend among them is Birkram and hot yoga classes, where the room is typically heated to over 100 degrees. The warmth allows muscles to really stretch and your body to detoxify through sweat — which feels surprisingly wonderful in the middle of winter. Yoga Pod and CorePower Yoga are two Boulder studios that offer hot yoga.

5. Take Advantage of Sunny Days with Winter Hiking

Okay, let’s face it. Even though it can be a bit chilly here, Boulder’s average temperature during the heart of winter is somewhere around 46-49 — not exactly arctic conditions. There are enough mild days to make it possible to get out and hike or snowshoe just about anytime of year. One of my favorite winter trails is the Shanahan Trail, starting at the Cragmoor Road trailhead. A relatively easy loop takes you through open meadows and pine forests, with beautiful views of the Flatirons.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy Boulder in wintertime?

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