Get Lost on the South Platte River in CO’s Rampart Range

Here’s the thing about Colorado: there appears to be an endless supply of outdoor gems just a short drive from the heart of Denver. Choosing a new trail to explore brings out the worst in my inability to make decisions. There are just too many options! You can literally just pick a general direction and drive until you hit a trail — and that’s exactly what I did when my college friend Marisa came to visit from Key West.

We woke up, slathered on some sunscreen, filled up our water bottles, and hopped in the car with no particular destination in mind. After a quick pitstop for bagels, we found ourselves leaving Denver city limits and heading towards Sedaila. I had visited the area once before, so I looked for the only road I knew, Rampage Range Road, and started driving towards the mountains.Rampart Range Road along the South Platte River in Colorado.

After winding along intimidating drop offs and steeply graded hills, the road turned to dirt and we had to make a decision: should we turn my little hatchback around, or should we cross our fingers that the road is navigable and go for it? In the spirit of adventure, we went for it. Spoiler alert: my little Scion is a total badass.

Eventually, we came upon a fork in the road, and followed the South Platte River upstream until we found a trailhead. At first, I had no idea exactly what trail we hiked — my only clue was the rickety old South Platte Hotel building that sat across the street from the parking lot. Eventually, I deduced that we hiked along the South Platte River to the Strontia Springs Reservoir.The old South Platte Hotel in the Rampart Range area of Colorado.Along the South Platte River in Colorado.

Marisa is a true island gal, so it was wonderful to take her out into the mountains. She loved every minute of being on the trail, even when I insisted that we scramble up random gullies filled with spiderwebs, or when I made her perch precariously on a rock over the river to feel the cold rush of air from the gushing waters.Hiking along the South Platte River with my Topo Designs pack.A little beetle we found while hiking along the South Platte River in Colorado.

Pretty blossoms found while hiking along the South Platte River in CO. Sure, we ended up wandering a bit further from home than we initially anticipated, but deciding to get lost ended up leading Marisa and I to a wonderful new adventure we would have never discovered otherwise. By taking a few risks (mostly our brazen confidence that my hatchback would be able to handle the dirt roads), we opened ourselves up to the opportunity to explore somewhere off the beaten path.

When is the last time you got lost down a dirt road?
What’s stopping you?

Colorado List: Climbing My First Multipitch in Clear Creek Canyon

Long before the #ColoradoList adventure project was born, I had a dream: I wanted to climb my first multi-pitch route. For my non-climber readers, Santiam Alpine Club describes it as: “A technical climb that is longer than a single rope length, thus requiring multiple anchors and belay stations.” Basically, I usually climb routes that are between 40 and 90 feet tall.

Playing Hooky is a 400′ tall, four pitch route in Clear Creek Canyon.

After months of not climbing at all, I decided that it would be a fantastic idea to go from couch-to-crag on my first multi-pitch climb ever. Because, why not? It was the first time I actually met the wonderful Jason Gebauer in person, and there’s no better way to really solidify a friendship than to trust someone to belay you up four hundred feet of granite while teaching you knots at hanging anchor stations.The view from the second anchor station on Playing Hooky in Clear Creek Canyon.

I was definitely a little bit nervous as I pulled on my harness and laced up my shoes, but Playing Hooky is the perfect route for a climber looking to experience their first multi-pitch. Playing Hooky has an overall grade of 5.8 – but the pitch breakdown is 5.9 on pitch one, 5.8 on pitch two, 5.7 on pitch three, and 5.8 on the final pitch. Most climbers link the last two pitches, which is what Jason and I did.

The first pitch is undoubtedly the most difficult. There are two defined cruxes on Playing Hooky, one of which is just a few dozen feet off the deck. It was my only “fall” on the route, as I had to take to totally redo my ugly footwork while trying to reach the next hold. Surprisingly, in a situation where I would usually have started to illogically panic and cry, I took on a new perspective: I started to problem solve. I employed way more hand-foot matches than are necessary on a 5.8, but managed to work my way through every tricky section I hit.

Climbing the four pitch Playing Hooky in Clear Creek Canyon.

The second half of Playing Hooky mellows out until you hit the final exposed section and have to top out. If I wasn’t the second (meaning I was on a top-rope), I totally could have lost my head in that moment – but the intimidating finale led to the most victorious view from the top. It had drizzled on us a bit during the last two pitches, and a mean wind started blowing as I approached the final set of anchors.

After clipping my daisy chain into the anchor, my climbing blinders disappeared and I was greeted with an incredible view of Clear Creek Canyon. The cars below in the parking area looked like ants, and I couldn’t even see the bottom of the wall I had just climbed. It was a proud and empowering moment, and I am so grateful to Jason for showing me the ropes (couldn’t resist the pun).
The view from the top of Playing Hooky in Clear Creek Canyon.Katie Boué at the top of Playing Hooky in Clear Creek Canyon.Heading down from Playing Hooky in Clear Creek Canyon.

After rappelling down the route, obsessively checking ourselves for ticks, and munching on a few warm strawberries, Jason and I headed up to Lookout Mountain for a little photo-shoot he wanted to do for Mile High Clothing. We set up a slack-line between two trees, and I did my best to maintain my balance without making my signature hideous try-hard faces – it was no easy task, y’all.

My toes crushed a lot of pinecones while falling off the slack-line, but I think Jason got some killers shots – I can’t wait to see the final product! Here’s a quick shot he grabbed of me on my iPhone:

Jason Gebauer's quick shot of me slack-lining while rockin' Mile High Clothing.I am proud to say that the first tick is officially accomplished on my Colorado List adventure bucket list! Thank you Jason Gebauer for entertaining my demands for photos (any one you see of me was taken by him!), letting me steal your fruit, and being such a great climbing partner!  I’m already debating which #ColoradoList excursion I should go for next – I’m thinking a big hike this weekend. Stay tuned for more as my Colorado List project continues to grow.

What’s your biggest goal outdoors?
What are you doing to move towards accomplishing it?

The five best joints to grab a great meal while visiting Vail, Colorado

There is only one thing I do better than exploring the outdoors, and that’s stuffing my face with tantalizing food. I’m partial to local eateries, but can easily be swayed by any savory wafting scent.

During my visit to Vail, CO, I honestly spent more time gorging my gut than I did burning off those calories on the slopes. My skiing may have only made it to the bunny slopes, but my dining experiences were certainly epic adventures.

Here’s a look at the best places to grab a bite while visiting the luscious mountainside at Vail:

Pazzo’s Pizzeria

Don’t let the restaurant name fool you; I munched on nary a thin-crust nor pepperoni during my visit to Pazzo’s Pizzeria. My mother and I stumbled upon this gem while wandering through Vail Village very, very early in the morning. I had worked up an appetite, so we randomly stumbled into this shop since the idea of a slice of pizza before 10:00 AM somehow sounded fantastic to me.

Of course, there was no pizza to be had. Apparently this place cooks up breakfast, and since I was starving, I decided to nix my early bird pizza fantasies and ordered a breakfast burrito. Holy mother of tortillas – this thing was unreal. I can’t even imagine how large the flour tortilla really was, nor do I understand how all the fillings fit inside the perfectly wrapped giant. The monster was stuffed with scrambled eggs, green pepper, onion, tomato, ham, and refried beans – then slathered with a spicy red chili, salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese.

I think the picture speaks for itself, but this was hands down the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had in my entire life. I would drive back to Vail solely to munch on it again – and I’m dying to try their pizza, because it must be phenomenal if their breakfast is this good.

The Little Diner

I already blogged about my adoration for The Little Diner, but this quaint spot deserves mention while talking about the best places to eat in Vail.

The tiny countertop seating area is jam-packed by 8:30 AM, a testament to this little joint’s big servings of awesome. You watch the cooks prepare each meal in the very small kitchen area, and I didn’t see a single thing roll out of there that I didn’t want to dig my face into.

On any other day, the bursting amount of food consumed during a visit to The Little Diner would have left me napping all afternoon with a seriously bloated belly, but it’s the perfect way to begin your day when you’re planning to spend an entire day traversing a mountain with two skis strapped to your feet.

My advice? They open up shop at 7:30 – so set your alarm early if you want to snag a seat without waiting.

Vail Chop House

Sitting directly across from the gondola at the bottom of the mountain, the Vail Chop House provides pristine views of the slopes, and offers a great outdoor patio that is surprisingly pleasant during a sunny day – even if it’s only 30 degrees outside.

My mother and I set up shop at one of the outdoor tables while we waited for my dad to finish up his morning ski runs. At first, we decided to only order drinks. We each ordered an ‘adult’ butterscotch hot chocolate – and it was lip-licking, belly-warming, sticky fingers wonderful. Topped with a dollop of whipped cream, and with liquor perfectly masked by the sweetest of butterscotch liquor combined with the smooth taste of chocolate and Bailey’s; this beverage was divine.

My father finally showed up at the bottom of the run an hour, and four hot chocolates, later. At that point, my belly had digested the massive breakfast burrito from earlier, and was ready to gorge again. We sampled the miniature sliders with a side of fries, and weren’t disappointed.

This place is slightly pricey, but still doesn’t even compare to the majority of expensive eateries found in sophisticated Vail.

Sushi Oka

With two drunk parents leaving dinner plans up to me, I did my usual research on Yelp before deciding to venture to Sushi Oka for our last night’s dinner. I’ve been on a bit of a sushi kick lately, so I wanted to see what Vail had to offer.

We made our way to Vail Village from our Marriott Lodge room via the complimentary shuttle service that runs throughout the vicinity, and quickly found the sushi shop, which I had noticed earlier in the day. We started the meal with edamame and sake, score.

I must admit, while I am smitten with sushi, I’m not the biggest raw fish fan – blasphemy, I know. I ordered a fat roll topped with baked halibut and stuffed with all manner of tasty ingredients like fresh crab and creamy avocado. It was fantastic, as was my mother’s order of pad thai. Unlike the traditional flavors of pad thai, this batch had a unique hint of tomato sauce that we all enjoyed – but be warned, it is extremely spicy.

Moe’s Original BBQ

This place deserves an honorable mention, not so much for their food, but for the atmosphere.

We sauntered over to Moe’s after the first day of skiing, totally exhausted, pretty drunk, and very hungry. Much to my delight, there was an excellent bluegrass band jamming out near the bar. +100 points for the banjo music.

I’ve eaten at a Moe’s BBQ in Denver once, but never got the chance to try their version of my two favorite barbeque stapes: mac-n-cheese and baked beans. Hats off to this joint for totally satisfying my taste buds with thick, sweet beans and hearty mac that filled my belly.

Another +100 for the Pabst Blue Ribbon tall boys. My parents and I had a blast munching on ribs, sipping our tall boys, and taking in the great music.

This is admittedly not the most amazing place to eat while you’re in Vail – but if you’re looking for comfort food, no-frills service, and a hospitable atmosphere, you’re in the right place.

I didn’t come to Vail for the food, but the tasty eats I enjoyed before and after my skiing quickly became some of the highlights of the trip. Where’s the joy in spending a day burning calories if you can’t refuel afterwards?

Looking for a casual, chummy stop for an après-ski libation? Check out Garfinkle’s at the bottom of the main slope, a few shops to the right of Vail Chop House. I didn’t eat here, so it didn’t have a place on my list of the best bites in Vail – but I downed my fair share of beverages with my ski lesson buddy Kelsey after our class ended. Strong drinks, reasonable prices, and a great atmosphere for us everyday folk.

The day I became a skiing snow bunny at the top of Vail Mountain in Colorado

Note: Excuse the lack of my usual high-quality photos a la my Nikon D7000 – all of these photos were taken on an iPhone 4s due to the sketchy weather conditions on the mountain. Stay tuned for a slew of the usual photography during upcoming posts that explore Vail Village and more!

After an unpleasantly exhilarating drive into the mountains with whiteout snow conditions, a handful of hours spent snoozing on the plush pillows of the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, and a massive breakfast feast at The Little Diner, the time came for me to finally learn how to ski.

I think my favorite aspect of Vail is the accessibility of absolutely everything. The main mountain gondola, ticket area, and rental centers were situated amongst numerous restaurants and quaint shops sitting a short five-minute walk from my cozy hotel room. The more historic and happening Vail Village was settled a few minutes up the road, but all areas on this mountain are easily accessible via complimentary shuttle services.

I scoped out the crowd of eager early bird boarders and skiers before wandering around the square in search of what I needed to do to secure a beginner lesson and some sweet ski gear.

While being outfitted for my skis and boots in the warm rental facility, I bumped into another woman, Kelsey, who was also gearing up for the beginner course – instant friends, thanks to our common I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing perspectives.

My fellow snowy ski-mates included my comrade Kelsey from San Francisco, a Tampa chick who had never before seen snow, a friendly married couple, David and Michelle, a funny man named Jeffrey who had already taken a lesson the day before, and Karen, our fearless leader on the bunny slopes. We quickly lost Natalie from Tampa, as well as the female half of our married duo, but the remaining bunch stayed together for the remainder of the day.

Unlike my uncomfortable slope fumbling that I struggled with while snowboarding in Lake Tahoe, skiing came naturally and flowed like an activity I had know how to do all my life. After Karen taught us the fundamentals of our new winter hobby, the real lesson began on gently curved miniature slopes.

I am proud to say that I only fell a total of three times during my entire day – if you don’t count two incidents where my unstoppable speed caused me to just kind of sit on the snow to slow down. Where snowboarding left me feeling anxious and uneasy, skiing was a snow sport I could actually excel in. Picking up speed wasn’t a harrowing rush of adrenaline, turning was a fluid, controlled process, and by the end of the day, I had learned how to come to a safe stop on my own accord.

There’s really only one thing I can say:

I love skiing.

The weather conditions weren’t exactly ideal on this day, with gusty wind that left me flabbergasted as Karen bellowed instructions to “keep your eyes where you want to go,” while the gray snowy winds were entirely destroying any visibility in front of me. Regardless of the iffy mountain conditions, our group had a fantastic day learning the ropes and putting our newfound skills to the test.

Plus, occasional periods of particularly ugly bouts of weather offered an ideal excuse for our crew to take a break and warm our fingertips in the dining hall area.

By the end of the day, I was skiing laps down the big beginner slope and sharing the lift back to the top with my fellow skiers Jeffrey and David over and over again. Kelsey was a bit shaken after a high-speed crash into a crowd of us waiting at the bottom of the bunny slope conveyor belts, but she eventually braved a run down the beginner terrain as well – largely because I kept motivating her with the promise of free drinks if she stayed with me all day.

At 3:30, Karen reminded us that our long lesson was finally over, and our group rode the gondola back down to the Vail courtyard area. We bid our farewells, and then Kelsey and I returned our rental gear before indulging in those highly anticipated libations.

We shared tequila and whiskey shots at Garfinkles, a casual dive bar conveniently sitting right next to the slopes. Her boyfriend and his cohorts had gotten a hefty head start on the drinking, so Kelsey and I worked to catch up. We exchanged battle stories of our respective days, downed wine and mai tais, and although I can’t quite recall all the details, I remember there was a lot of boisterous laughter being exchanged.Effectively hammered (that high elevation will get ya), I returned to the hotel room where my parents were waiting to head out to dinner. We journeyed to Moe’s BBQ, which happened to be featuring a live banjo band. The funky music combined with extra tall 24 oz. Pabst Blue Ribbons, and savory bites of saucy ribs provided the perfect way to top off an extraordinary day.

I’m telling you: If you ever find yourself taking a lesson at Vail –

Ask for Karen!

She was the best instructor, and I honestly give her full credit for my success as a novice skier. Her gentle demeanor combined with a relentless motivation helped to develop my skills and foster my confidence on the mountain. Our group planned to reconnect the next day for a second lesson, but my toes once again bailed out on the cold, and with painfully swollen feet, I was unable to make it back for another early morning session.

Karen, if you’re reading this – thank you a thousand times!
I had a phenomenal experience braving the brutal weather with you
and our little crew, and am already eager to get back on the slopes.

Starting a day of skiing in Vail, Colorado with a big breakfast from The Little Diner

The trek from Denver to Vail was a harrowing experience packed with white-out snow conditions, icy roads, and the thrill of reuniting with my parents to explore the wintry Colorado mountains. We arrived at the Vail Marriott Mountain Lodge a bit around midnight, and quickly crashed into plush beds.

In the morning, we woke at the crack of dawn to make an early breakfast at The Little Diner, which had attracted my attention with rave Yelp reviews and claims that it offered reasonable prices – a miracle in this expensive ski town. Arriving shortly after the tiny eatery opened, we easily snagged seats along the U-shaped counter, which offers space for less than two dozen hungry patrons at a time. The cozy, open atmosphere of this little shop reminded me of my favorite Cuban eatery in Miami, Ruben’s. The menu offers a variety of early morning grub, from traditional breakfast skillets to sweet and savory crepes. The small cooking space is situated in the middle of the counter area, so you get a meal and an entertaining experience at the same time. My bar stool sat next to the grill, and as soon as I laid my eyes on huge chunks of sizzling hash browns, I knew I had to try them.

As usual, I ordered the traditional breakfast platter with wheat toast, scrambled eggs (with cheese, of course), homemade hash browns, and extra crispy bacon. My father opted for the chunky french toast – another dish that was prepared right under my nose, and smelled delicious. Always the elegant one of the group, my mother was keen on sinking her teeth into a spinach, mushroom, and egg crepe.

Everything tasted outrageous. Not one for fancy plates and food that looks more artistic than edible, I can always appreciate a home-style helping of hearty grub. I surprised myself by demolishing the entire platter, even though I was stuffed full about halfway through. I regret not snagging a bite of the thick french toast that was sitting just inches away from me at the counter, but I definitely enjoyed a small sampling of the healthy crepe my mother ate.

Don’t let the title or cramped quarters of The Little Diner fool you; this restaurant packs big flavor and breakfast satisfaction into generous portions that will leave you struggling to clean your plate. Being early birds, we were amongst the first handful of people to arrive at the joint, but by the time we left, the diner was jam-packed with eager snow bunnies waiting to load up on savory goodness before hitting the slopes. I wouldn’t have asked for a better way to start my first day of skiing in Vail, Colorado.

Getting stoked on the wintry Vail spirit?
Stay tuned for updates on my very first ski lesson, exploring Vail Village, and more!

Discovering my new favorite Colorado crag at Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder

Between all the chaos of moving, and settling into my new life out in the Rockies, I lost sight of the very reason I made the cross-country relocation to Denver: I’m here to climb.

I shamefully allowed two weeks of no-climbing slip by before I finally snapped one morning and decided to drive out to Boulder to check out a spot my lady friend Jane had stumbled upon. With my hiking boots still out of commission from a trip to Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, I was admittedly ill-prepared in my dainty Keds for our little uphill adventure – but when has that ever stopped me?

We docked my car at the parking lot of Chautauqua Park, near the spot I usually park to head out to Satellite Boulders – but this time we headed back up Baseline Road towards the mountains rather than hanging left and heading straight into the park. This roadside route took us to a new park I hadn’t yet seen, Boulder Mountain Park. We trudged up along the edge of the pavement until we hit a trail head that shot straight up the hillside.

The approach to the first boulders was shorter than that of Satellites, but significantly steeper. I huffed and puffed my way up the narrow trail, and after a short sprint upwards, Jane led me to these beautiful, chalky boulders. (Excuse my iPhone photos, I’m still using a 3G, so it ain’t fancy.)

     

Our first excursion out to this spot was enjoyed later in the day, and I left my climbing shoes in Denver, so we vowed to return two days later armed with the proper gear. On our second visit, we crushed the intermediate routes with ease. A little digging around on Mountain Project’s guide for the Flagstaff Mountain area informed us that I sent Plain View Traverse, a flowy V3 with a balance-intensive top out. Jane took the first send of Trail Side Direct, a reachy V2 – and then I followed suit, quickly discovering that this particular problem has a sketchy top out that beckons you to straddle a thin slice of boulder and down climb a bleak slab.

While I certainly wasn’t pushing my true limits of climbing, it felt great to finally get out to a boulder field and get a little confidence boost with these great moderate problems. This new spot has me constantly daydreaming about its sweet lines, inviting holds, easy access, and how wonderful it is to have a fellow lady climber.

On the way back to the trail head, we came across the beast pictured to your left: Hobo Cave. This gem is tucked away on a poorly kept side trail, and a small fire pit in the middle of it hints towards the origin of its name. Hurried to beat the sunset, we didn’t have time to test out any of the lines, but I’m eager to return to the cave. The holds appear to have been permanently chalked for decades, and some of the rock is smooth as a kitchen counter top – the place was oozing with history.

The point of this proclamation of my new-found love for Flagstaff Mountain? Perhaps just to further my excitement over my third return visit today. This time Jane and I will be fully prepared with two crash pads, my camera, and $5 so we can park next to the crag rather than wasting time with the lengthy hike in. My goal for today is to check out, and possibly crush, Monkey Traverse – a classic V4 that seems to be the pride and joy of Flagstaff Mountain.

Send good vibes, and keep on climbin’.

Road Trip America – Urban bouldering in the rain at Central Park in Denver, Colorado

The first two days of our time in Denver were entirely rained out, putting a damper on our plans for a full week of hardcore climbing. By the third day, we were growing restless. On Thursday, we wasted a few hours loafing around in McGoo’s house, and happened upon a link for a Denver park that housed amazing artificial boulders.

The site warned that the park was nearly always overrun with throngs of kids, making it hard to take the climbing seriously. We decided to rough out the rain and headed to the supposed climbing in Central Park anyways. Our decision paid off, because the playground was a ghost town due to the dreary weather – we had this unbelievable park all to ourselves.

Aside from the sculpted boulder formations, this park was a Dr. Seuss fantasy land with miniature purple hills, zany metal sculptures and plenty of things to swing, spin and fall off of. Despite the rain, we all had a blast. One of my dad’s graduation gifts came in handy when the rain started falling a bit harder: He gave me a camera cover for taking shots in the rain, and it was ideal for this situation.

 

Road Trip America – Frozen treats at Sweet Action Ice Cream in Denver, Colorado

After stuffing face at Bull & Bush Brewery in Denver, I didn’t think I’d have room for any dessert – but I was wrong. Local Denver lady Sara insisted that we head to the Sweet Action Ice Cream shop for some post-dinner deliciousness.

I had resolved not to touch a bite of ice cream, until Sara suggested that I try the salted butterscotch flavor – how could I refuse that? I ordered a single scoop, which was really two scoops, and dug in to one of the most creamy, salty treats imaginable.

My cup of frozen cream was flawless. The actual ice cream was thick and creamy, with none of that icy bite that I loathe. Every few bites would present a little crunch of salted butterscotch, delivered in modest amounts that never overwhelmed me. My only regret about my experience at Sweet Action is that I didn’t take the time to ask for a sample of the ginger peach flavor, which sounds out of this world. Return visit in the making?

The shop handmakes all their flavors, and is constantly updating their giant chalkboard menu with new offerings. They have all the usuals like milk chocolate and vanilla bean, plus a selection of unique concoctions like peach ginger, basil lime sorbet and pineapple upside down cake. For the discerning eater, they even have multiple vegan flavors available.

The store front itself doesn’t suggest the epic ice cream that awaits; all you see is white walls with few scattered paintings and an open air counter at the front of the shop. Don’t let their humble appearance fool you, Sweet Action recently earned accolades as one of the top ice cream stops in America by Food & Wine.


Have I mentioned lately how smitten I am with local businesses? Why would you ever go to an ice cream shop chain when you can have freshly made, locally influenced sweet treats? Top notch, Sweet Action!

Road Trip America Day 5 – Satellite Boulders and free-soloing the Flat Irons in Boulder, Colorado

Yesterday afternoon was spent exploring the climbs at Chautauqua Park’s Flat Irons. To access the area, you park along this adorable residential area, which I believe is primarily comprised of timeshare or rental mountain homes – I wanted one so bad. There is a wide concrete path that guides you up the first little foothills before the trail becomes rugged and winds up the mountainside.


Our first stop was at the Satellite Boulder area. Highlight of the trip thus far was when I hopped on my first route of the day and miraculously topped out over an arete with the classic ‘beached whale’ method. I will admit, my ascent was neither graceful nor delicate – but alas, I am a lady! If you’ve ever climbed outdoors with me, you know how much of a baby I am when it comes to topping out.

During our day, we met a few groups of awesome climbers who made our experience out at the Flat Irons even more memorable. The first was a couple, Alex and Olivia, who were just hiking in the area and couldn’t resist hopping on the rocks after bumping into us. They certainly showed us some Colorado-style hospitality, and I really regret not exchanging contacts with them before scampering off to the next climb. Alex and Olivia – if you guys are readin’ this leave me your contact so I can keep in touch!

  

After our stint at the main boulder field, we hiked up the mountain to a great lookout point, then made our way back down to climb a bit more with a few locals, and Gunner, the playful pup extraordinaire. Niko spent the rest of his energy on a V8/9, then we started to make our way back down to the main trail head.

On our way down the rocky path, we passed by a towering slab wall, which the boys of course decided to free solo. The effort began as, “Let’s just go up a bit, there’s a plenty of spots to bail out,” but quickly escalated to three pitches worth of free soloing. Niko didn’t have a chalk bag, so he relied on Matt to pass him some powdery savior until he reached a blank portion of the wall and had an Alex Honnold style freak out. He eventually made his way down the wall, and by that time Juan had scrambled his way out of view, with Matt not too far behind.

While the boys had their fun, I was left at the base of the slab to act as photographer and videographer – and tour guide, as I had to narrate the boys’ climb many times for the passing hikers who stopped to watch their free soloing. The video is pretty rough – it was my first attempt at video with my ‘new’ tripod – but I’m going to try to edit some of the footage into something presentable.

Aside from my new-found chronic knee pain, my time at Chautauqua Park was a great experience. I spotted chipmunks, miniature snow patches, and awesome springtime blossoms. Topping out that sweet boulder problem was the cherry on a fantastic day.

Next up: We’re planning to head out to Boulder Canyon with the crew and finally Mcgoo + Rob. The forecast predicts a bit of snowfall during our excursion, but hopefully it won’t be anything unmanageable.

Road Trip America Day 3 – Snaggin’ gear at the Boulder Sports Recycler in Colorado

During the few rainy days we’ve spent exploring the ‘indoor’ offerings of Colorado, we’ve visited a collection of gear stores throughout a few different cities. We bought a tent and pack at Wilderness Exchange Unlimited in Denver, and admired the books and old relics at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder.

My favorite stop was at the Boulder Sports Recycler, just outside of the downtown Boulder area. Maybe I liked it so much because of warehouse location that reminded me of Tally Rock Gym; maybe it was the unbeatable combination of plentiful, quality recreational gear and climber budget-friendly prices. Whatever the case, I certainly appreciated the sweet maroon Patagonia jacked that I snagged in my size for just $26.

This place sells everything from climbing gear and trail maps to kayaks and cycling equipment – all gently used, and reasonably priced. Juan picked up a Petzl helmet that looked like it had hardly, if ever, been worn. The staff was friendly and down to earth, and browsing the racks at the recycler was an excellent experience overall.

The Boulder Sports Recycler is easily the top gear consignment shop in the area. If you’re ever in the area, I highly suggest paying a visit to the warehouse.

Check out my review of Boulder Sports Recycler on Yelp.com.