Skiing Heavenly is Pretty Much, Heavenly!

Where do Colorado skiers and boarders go on spring vacation? To ski and ride Heavenly Ski Resort at Lake Tahoe of course. We soon found out why it was aptly named, Heavenly. We found it most heavenly. Come along on my surreal photo journey.

Heavenly ride to the top

Situated in South Lake Tahoe on the Nevada and California border there were surprising differences. The Nevada side looked out over the mountain range and remained sheltered during snowstorms. The California side was, well, you’ll see!

The Nevada side of Heavenly Ski Resort

Heavenly snow totals piled up during the week!

Skiing, snowboarding, Heavenly, Lake Tahoe

Snow clung to trees like hoar frost, making the snowy heaven complete.

Top of Heavenly

With Lake Tahoe in the backdrop on the California side, we enjoyed the incredibly beautiful landscape.

Heavenly view of Lake Tahoe

With nary a liftline, we skied most of the mountain.

A heavenly view from the top

We skied hard and played harder!

heavenly moments

When we finally stopped for lunch, we spent time pondering deep thoughts while enjoying the outdoors.

Deep thoughts

We took breaks when needed….

taking a breather at heavenly

And then skied the catwalk back home.

Check out the video! The view of Lake Tahoe is surreal.

Heavenly Ski Resort is Heavenly Family Vacation in Lake Tahoe

 

Have you gone on a wintry vacation? Do you prefer the beach? What’s on your bucket list?

Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride.

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Escape to the Stunning Chinese Garden in Vancouver!

It will be months before I work in my gardens in Colorado. Decimated by deck construction, tough winters, and dry summer months, mine are looking a little more than gnarly. While yearning to escape winter, I found my photos of the stunning Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We flew to that amazing city on our way to Whistler’s Wanderlust Yoga Festival in 2016.

Sun Chinese Garden Entry

Struck by the integration of architecture and gardens, I was swept away by one zen space after another.

Escape Chinese Garden Vancouver

A bonsai pine tree over the pond.

Gorgeous pine over the Chinese Garden pond Vancouver.

A pagoda at the top of a hill overlooks the grounds. Dr. Sun built a place in the garden for meditation. Several of those unusual rocks graced the space.

Under the Pagoda Vancouver

This stunning Chinese gem is located in the middle of Vancouver.

The Sun Chinese Gardens surrounded by Vancouver.

My husband, Danny, and our daughter, Courtney, gazed at the pond before we left the peaceful oasis and entered the bustling city.

Vancouver Chinese Garden screen

The gardens inspired me to carve out a space of my own for contemplation and meditation.

I held that position just long enough for Courtney to snap the photo. Ha! 

Wanderlust adventure ahead

Are you into gardening? Have you been to Vancouver?

Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride.

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10 Reasons Why a Challenge is Worth the Whiplash

As we get into our comfort zone of routine, we challenge ourselves less and less.

I took on a challenge last weekend and learned why facing fear and abject humiliation is important for personal growth. I still have a lot of growing up to do. Ask anyone!

I’ve been a skier since the seventh grade. It took years to master the intermediate runs and even more time on the slopes to tackle the expert black diamonds, and moguls, let alone the double blacks. I’ve been heli-skiing where the guide led me right into the trees of Canada while I prayed Hail Marys. I got the hang of it and my skiing skills greatly improved. Now I can ski just about any part of a mountain.

I skied this bowl right after I was released into the wild after double boobectomies.

Double black diamond sign at Breckenridge

Here’s the thing. You can slap on a pair of skis and make it down the hill pretty easily in “pizza position,” toes pointed toward each other like a plow. But it takes tons of practice to “carve up” the harder, steeper, faster runs. It’s a bell curve created over years and years.

Learning to snowboard is the polar opposite of skiing.

The beginning of the learning curve for snowboarding is a freakin’ headwall. It’s super hard at first and painful, but after a week or so, most snowboarders are linking turns down most of the mountain. They make it look so easy!

Years ago, I left my skis at home and snowboarded. I fell so hard and so often, I bruised my tailbone and couldn’t sit down for a week. Ouch.

A few weeks later, I decided to try again and prepared for pratfalls. I wore every pair of snow pants in the house along with children’s mittens with thumb and wrist guards. Overdressed and sweating, I could hardly move. I hoped a lesson would give me the confidence to “shred.”

While the rest of the class focused on their boards, I stood on my toe edge and looked up the mountain. After a few feet of sliding sideways, I fell backward so fast I didn’t know what happened! I smacked my head into the snow and saw stars for the first time in my life. It was a slight concussion. I toughed it out and got through the rest of the day. My butt survived, but I ended up with a nasty case of whiplash.

Flash forward fifteen years to the next challenge.

It’s been the worst ski season ever for Summit County in Colorado, at least in my memory. Days have been too warm and the snow too lean. When the weatherman predicted 50-degree temperatures on Saturday, my daughter, Courtney, suggested we all switch equipment. She’s a snowboarder and rented skis. My husband, Danny, Courtney’s boyfriend, Dan, and I all geared up for snowboarding.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous. With a partial knee replacement only three years ago, I couldn’t rely on falling forward uphill, which is so much easier on my body. Luckily, Danny brought up some sturdy knee pads and I wore elastic braces. This time, I didn’t worry about my rear end and wore regular ski clothes. It was hot outside.

While pulling on my boots, I strained my thumb. No lie! I was in denial since it was such a stupid injury. I hoped it wasn’t foreshadowing of injuries to come.

When we arrived at the mountain, I stood and stared at the toddlers on the super small bunny slope. I wondered if adults could join them. Then I noticed a longer 1% grade hill with a moving sidewalk. YES!

After walking up the small slope, I strapped on my board, scooched myself forward to slide and fell backward! I smacked the ground and heard my neck snap. Dang! Not a good start. I knew endorphins would kick in and I wouldn’t feel anything until tomorrow. There was no way I’d give up that easily.

I used special effects so it looks like I’m moving faster than 10 yards per hour.

 

10 Reasons why facing any challenge is worth the whiplash

I thought I would remember how to snowboard, but too much time had passed.

My daughter and her boyfriend watched while Danny and I took super slow turns on the 1% incline with others, age four to adult. Ha! I was cool with that.

Courtney warned me not to take the Poma lift. “It’s easier to take the chairlift.” I looked up the slope at the throngs of people skiing and riding down the mountain. I’d kill someone.

Instead, I hiked up the baby slope and rode down a few times. Then I graduated to another area for rank beginners with a 3% grade. My driveway is steeper.

Slowly but surely I got the rhythm of heel edge (falling leaf) and toe-edge. Every time I tried to link them, I face-planted. Exhausted from hiking up the hill, I tried the Poma lift. When I was almost at the top, my boot slipped from the board and I wiped out. I dragged myself out of the way. I rode my board down and tried the lift again.

With only one successful trip to the top out of six attempts, I tried again. As I approached the end of the lift, I thought I had made it! Just as I moved to release the lift, I fell hard. My elbow struck the ground and my head hit my shoulder as if someone struck me with a baseball bat. How is that even possible????

I avoided the Poma lift the rest of the day and didn’t fall. During my last two runs, I linked turns from heel-edge to toe! YES. The feeling of victory!

A successful day of challenges

That night, I woke up and couldn’t lift my head off the pillow. My neck and shoulders had seized up. As my muscles warmed up the next morning, I was able to see my toes. The pain wasn’t too bad.

Why put myself through this?

Because challenges are good for us!

It’s what we ALL did as kids. We were introduced to new activities all the time. As we age, we settle into routines and seldom try anything new. That’s a mistake.

10 reasons why you should challenge yourself:

  • Challenges provide choices. When you make the choice to keep trying instead of bailing out, it’s good practice for life in general.
  • You’re capable of a lot more than you think.
  • Every challenge builds character and confidence. This is true! I’m a real character.
  • Being out of your comfort zone presents new problems to solve. In my case, I had to learn that the lift was harder than snowboarding.
  • Taking a risk by trying something new carries over to everything else in life. I risked several limbs and a noggin and lived to tell the tale. Working out in the gym is cake compared to this.
  • Pride is won through achievement. Life is good at putting us in our place. A little bit of pride won’t hurt you.
  • Saying yes to new activities or anything else that may be uncomfortable will broaden your horizons and can make you feel proud. That’s a very good thing!
  • No pain, no gain. In this case, the pain was REAL!
  • Even if you fall short of your expectations or fail, at least you tried.
  • The more you get out of your comfort zone, the less you have to be afraid of, especially if you survive.

Bored and uninspired? Challenge yourself and move forward!I double dog dare you to make a list of all your fears. 

Now I triple dog dare you to face them.

Imagine if we faced all of our fears. Since I haven’t spoken in front of a huge crowd, public speaking remains one of my biggest. Someday, I’ll face that one head on, literally. It will be terrifying, just like edging downhill with a board strapped to my feet.

Will I snowboard ever again?

I’m traveling to Lake Tahoe to ski for a week. I hope to take a snowboarding lesson. My main goal? To take the chairlift without killing myself or anyone else. I won’t have to hike up the mountain while carrying my board.  I’ll be on my way. Three more times this season and I’ll be on the leeward side of that bell curve!

Do you avoid challenges or embrace them? Do you see a steady decline in trying new things? How could you get out of your comfort zone?

Click here for more inspirational misadventure on the Wild Ride.

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A Silhouetted Bonfire!

Last weekend, Frisco, Colorado hosted a roaring bonfire next to Lake Dillon. The Fire Department tended the blaze fueled by Christmas trees. That’s one way to get rid of them! Mesmerized by the crackling fire, I found magic in silhouettes of the onlookers.

Silhouette and bonfire

When the wind changed direction, sparks flew and the crowd moved to better locations out of the smokey haze.

Bonfire in Frisco

I had dressed in several layers to hang out in the long winter’s night. It seemed others were better prepared for the heat. A hoodie would have sufficed.

Bonfire at night

I took many videos, but the one that really struck me was a slow-motion recording of the fire. Click on the photo below to view and hear it consume the dry wood!

Have you ever been to a bonfire at night? Are you mesmerized by them? What do you do with your Christmas tree?

This post is a response to the Weekly Photo Challenge – Silhouette.

Click here for more adventure on the Wild Ride!

 

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The Wildlife in My Wild Life – Photo Essay

Since I live in Colorado, I’m always on the lookout for wildlife. I’ve spotted them on hikes, while skiing, or through a car window. Prehistoric porcupines, bear, elk, common deer, bighorn sheep, you name it. But this year, my wild life has gotten wilder. Several otherwise elusive creatures have made appearances in the most unlikely of places: My home.

Bullsnakes have made their way into my home twice. A newborn made its way through a light fixture since I found it on top of my flat file. It became a pet for the winter. The kids released it the following summer. The other must have pushed its way through the doggie door. I thought it was one of the rubber snakes from downstairs carried by our Bichon, Roxy. Nope! I put it in an aquarium until the weather warmed up and then let it go. The one in the picture was full grown (about four feet long) when I found in the garage. I picked it up and released it into the garden.

bull snake in yard

Several families of owls love to perch on and around my house. As the sun sets every night, I can hear a couple hoo-hooting to each other.

owl hanging out on roof

Two weeks ago, something hit a window. I rushed to my back door to see. A baby owl sat on the stoop. I waited until he flew away to be sure he didn’t become dinner for one of several hungry predators who lurk in our yard at night.

Last week, I heard the most annoying screeching sound. When the dog went nuts, I ran to the window. A huge owl stood on a planter screeching, “Good morning.” Ha! Worst sound ever.

Click to see the video –

While in Europe after a disastrous water leak from a demon washing machine, our wood floor guy, Nick took pictures of a lynx! Yes, this is our deck.

IMG_2653

According to my neighbor, two bobcats hung out at the front door while we were gone. Make yourself at home, why don’t ya? Of course, I never saw them after returning from our trip. Gah!

IMG_2654

In April, an enormous gold “housecat” walked around the pond. Later, I found out a young cougar has made our neighborhood its hangout. Unlike the lynx in the photo above, its tail is long. It’s a yearling and still pretty small, but the doggie door is shut until further notice. Poor Roxy.

Remember Roxy and the Coywolf? I don’t trust that she’s learned her lesson. She got lucky when that beast laughed and released her from its jaws in 2015. This time too.

Roxy in the window

As I’m typing this, I’m at a desk in the window being totally distracted by the backyard view. You never know what might take a shortcut through our property…

Our family had an unexpected visit last Sunday up in Breckenridge. I’ve seen them at Brainard Lake, at the bottom of Peak 7, but not in my neighborhood!

My husband, Danny, rushed toward me as I walked out of the kitchen. He had an insane look on his face. My first thought was whatever he would say next would be completely sarcastic. “There’s a moose in the driveway!” he screamed. Yes. SCREAMED!

Stained glass windows flank the front door. I saw a massive black shadow beyond. Instead of running for my camera, I rushed downstairs and shouted to my son who talked with his girlfriend on the phone.

He ran upstairs and used Facetime to show her the incredible sight. Right outside our picture window stood a full-grown male moose complete with wicked cool antlers. A yearling grazed nearby. We trapped the dogs in the basement to keep them from frightening the pair.

When my wild life meets wildlife

Click to see the video –

After taking a few photos, we caught our breath. Minutes later, another shadow graced our front doorway. The cow brought up the rear of the little family.

Incredible!

As the sun sinks lower in the sky, I’m still waiting for my glimpse of the elusive wildcats. It’s 4:30 and owls have begun their hooting chant. Another just landed on our roof. The raccoons will scout and a pack of coyotes may send out an eerie cry.

I love where I live. There’s plenty of room for all of us.

Click for more of my Wild Ride.

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Have you seen any unusual wildlife? Has your life gotten wilder lately?

Backpacking Challenge in the Rockies

When the opportunity for a backpacking adventure in the Rocky Mountains arose, my thoughts raced back in time to when I hiked with a group of friends from Snowmass right outside of Aspen. My girlfriend had pointed to the peaks way out in the distance and said, “That’s where we’re going.”

I had laughed.

We had started in a dense forest and emerged above treeline. Several miles and thousands of feet in elevation later, we scrambled over boulders as big as Volkswagens straddling deep dark crevices between. Near our destination, we all took baby steps while sucking in the thin air. We were over two miles above sea level.

Backpacking Challenge in the Rockies!

That night, we camped in an otherworldly atmosphere next to aptly named Moon Lake. Some of the campers woke early to climb a 14er, (a peak 14,000 feet above sea-level.) I was happy to get a few extra hours rest (I doubt that I slept), to build reserve energy and strength for the trip down. It had to be so much easier with gravity pulling and oxygen increasing with every step, right?

When we hit the boulder field again, I found it super challenging to scooch over those enormous rocks while wearing an exterior frame pack. The metal “feet” caught the rock and threw me off balance. A few times I steadied myself to catch my breath while gazing down at those gaping crevices. I breathed a lot easier once we entered the forest. When we reached the car, I dropped my enormous backpack and vowed to never go again. It was too hard.

On our way to a backpacking adventure

Decades later, I jumped at the opportunity to backpack to Sawtooth Mountain. What had changed? I’ve been weight training since March and figured I could carry twenty-five pounds a couple of miles. My husband, Danny, and daughter, Courtney, and I wouldn’t be in a race and we could rest on our way up. I looked forward to the challenge!

Danny had planned the trip. It would be a four-mile hike up to Coney Flats. Right.

“I can see Sawtooth from my house,” I said in a Palin-like voice as we packed up the truck. We would camp below its crest. It would be cool to see it all up close and personal after all the years of admiring it from afar.

When we arrived at Camp Dick to park the truck, Danny informed us that we would take a different route. We would hike six miles. Whoa! It was too late to back out now. What were two extra miles anyway? I could do it.

I picked up my pack, surprised by its weight. Large and unwieldy, I needed help putting it on. The climb would be steady but the final destination name, Coney Flats, relaxed me, somewhat. I figured the hike would flatten out.

A rocky climb

At first, we strode up the trail along with many young families. Watching little kids trucking on their short little legs inspired me to keep up a quick pace. After a couple of miles, my pack dug into my shoulders. It didn’t fit my body properly. I discovered that reaching behind and clasping my hands behind me lifted the bottom of the heavy pack above my shoulders.

Courtney and I resting after the first two miles.

Sawtooth adventure Susie and Courtney

Courtney used GPS and tracked our progress. We hiked two miles in forty-five minutes. At mile three, our pace slowed. I couldn’t wait to take off my pack and set up camp. Three more miles.

After another mile, we realized the bad news. It would take us another four miles to reach the summit. Eight miles to Coney Flats. EIGHT MILES! I’ve never been a quitter. I sighed and we continued to hike up the mountain path.

Backpacking Challenge in the Rockies

We crossed a river and hit a gravel mining road. It was hard to keep from slipping while navigating the treacherous, gravel, uphill climb. From there we thought the lake would be around the corner. Nope. We found the wilderness trailhead and then continued through a bog.

Sawtooth Danny and Courtney

When we made it to the sixth mile, Courtney gave us the bad news. We still had a long way to go. GAH! We zigzagged through the muck while swatting at various nasty pests. Finally, we hit solid ground and re-entered the forest.

A few day hikers traipsed down the trail toward us.

“How far is it to Coney Flats?” I asked. I was out of gas after hiking for four hours straight. I prayed he’d say it was around the corner. It had to be.

“About another hour,” said a young hiker.

NOOO!!! My pack felt like it held bricks instead of a sleeping bag, tent, and clothes.

The group passed and a young woman brought up the rear. She must have overheard her friend. “It’s only twenty minutes to the lake, but the river crossings are tough.”

“Thank God!” I could do this.

We marched on until the trail met the river. We had to cross it by walking over the trunk of a tree. I used a walking stick for balance. The second crossing wasn’t as bad.

tree crossing

The third was insane.

The rushing river was much wider. First, we had to step up onto a small fallen tree and balance on its trunk to cross the narrow part of the stream. I didn’t have the strength to push up on my weak left leg with the extra weight in my pack. I found a walking stick and finally stepped up. As I crossed the stream, I lost my balance. I plunged the stick into the water. It kept me upright. I made it. But the second was a forty foot crossing. Slow but sure we all made it across.

By now daylight was fading. We continued to climb uphill. When would we arrive at Coney of Flatness? We had been walking for five hours. My pack felt like it weighed fifty pounds.

After another half hour, my legs hit a wall of exhaustion. I remembered my personal trainer, Sam, who recently competed in a Half Iron Man. He said that when you become a mouth breather, your body has used all of its energy. I fought that impulse and made myself breathe through my nose.

Sawtooth

Soon the forest broke open to a beautiful meadow. I stopped to take pictures and rest. It couldn’t be far now.

As we hiked up a knoll, Courtney hooted and hollered.

“Thank the Lord,” I said.

We had made it to Coney Flats after six hours and eight miles of hiking. It wasn’t flat at all. There was a campsite at the top. As Danny and I climbed up the hill Courtney strode down the other side. “The lake is right below us!”

I glanced up at the sun. We had about fifteen minutes to set up camp before it set behind Sawtooth. A cold breeze picked up and we hustled. Just after we staked our tents, I found a much nicer and protected site out of the prevailing wind. The tents flew behind Danny and Courtney like kites as they picked their way down the narrow trail. We set up camp a second time.

Coney Flats at Sawtooth

By the time we made dinner, it was dark.

All night long, I heard little animals foraging around our campsite. I slept for about two hours. The next morning, we enjoyed the early morning sunshine. We ate breakfast, then hiked down to the lake to filter water for the trek back home.

Coney Flats Lake

We were the only people around. It felt good to breathe fresh air and stretch sore muscles. We broke camp and packed up. My backpack seemed a ton heavier the second day.

Enjoying the elixir of the gods with an elfish grin.

Susie at Sawtooth

Just like my last backpacking trip, the hike took half the time on the way down. We entered the parking lot just as rain fell in huge drops.

Danny, Courtney, and I hit the road and talked about the trip.

“I would definitely backpack again, but only if we cut down on the miles. Sixteen in less than twenty-four hours was way too much.” We all agreed on that.

I reflected on what had changed for me. I had grown up camping and had missed the quiet solitude, being outdoors, and exploring a new area. When I backpacked years ago, I didn’t need to challenge myself. I was young with nothing to prove. If I didn’t feel like doing something, I didn’t do it.

After going through a heart ablation, breast cancer, and a partial knee replacement, I wanted to prove to myself that I had completely recovered and in some ways, was in better shape than the last time I backpacked. Challenging myself built confidence. Perseverance prevailed. Next year, I’ll plan the trip.

Click for more adventures on the Wild Ride.

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Have you ever backpacked? Have you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone? Have you been to Colorado?

How to Paddleboard and What I Learned

Venice gondolierThe first time I saw paddleboarders, they reminded me of the Venice gondoliers without the striped shirts and skinny, long canoes. Then I learned it builds core, leg, and upper body strength. I’m all about exercising while outdoors. Being landlocked in Colorado, adopting a new water sport intrigued me so I reserved a paddleboard. I wondered if I would spend more time in the water than on the board. I didn’t know I would learn some life lessons too.

Union Reservoir in Longmont only allows power boats to put around and fish, so it’s a paddleboarders’ paradise. I rented a board and grabbed a paddle. I set the lifepreserver on top of the board where it taunted me. I wondered how many times I would spill and if I should put it on. I looked around at the graceful paddleboarders gliding across the lake and tensed, knowing grace was a gift given to other people. I must have been sick that day.

Paddleboarding Paridise Continue reading