The End of My Summer of Adventure


This weekend marks the “end” of summer adventures. I use quotes around end because, let’s be honest, does the adventure EVER end in Colorado?

That’s a rhetorical question. We all know the answer is no.

This summer I made it my mission to camp as much and as often as I possibly could. I have been to Buena Vista, Crested Butte, Kenosha Pass, Leadville, and this past weekend out in the American Basin near Lake City. It’s been one beautiful adventure after another and further increases my love of the outdoors, especially the mountains that I call home.

I’ve been camping since I was little; always car camping (even now) but mostly it has been at sites where you pay the host, there are nice little toilets and there are loads of people as neighbors. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of camping, it’s a lot of fun and gets people out. It got me out several times last year! (Plus it’s easier to find your group of people by telling them you’re at spot 13.) This year I discovered dispersed camping and now I can never go back. Dispersed camping is typically on national forest land and have defined camping spots, just no facilities, no camping host, rougher roads to get to them and far fewer neighbors. And it’s free!

I’ve stayed in some of the most beautiful spots that have just taken my breathe away at every turn. When I stayed in Crested Butte (and in the American Basin) I arrived after dark so I had no idea what the campsite looked like, no idea the views we would experience. Waking up, opening up my tent flap and uncovering the most epic of views was something I’ll never forget. Some camping spots from this summer included:     Untitled Crested Butte Untitled Leadville

Untitled American Basin

I still can’t believe how much my life has changed since moving here six and a half years ago. This is certainly not something New York City Ashley did on the regular, or even every once in a while. If you had told me seven years ago that I would climb five 14ers (mountains that are over 14,000 feet above sea level) I would have probably laughed in your face, wondered what you were smoking (or doing lines of in the bathroom) and debated the state of your mental health.

How about the fact that I can now pee outside, behind trees, rocks or even waist high skunk cabbage?  This is a pretty big feat for someone who doesn’t even like going to the bathroom in a public restroom. Now I can even do it while hiking (if I’m desperate and there’s not that many people around).

I got home Sunday night from one of my favorite adventures so far. I drove 6 hours out to the San Juan mountains to camp in the American Basin between the mountains Redcloud, Sunshine, and Handies. At the beginning of the week I had decided I wasn’t going to go. I was tired from not sleeping well (when am I not tired and actually sleeping well?) and feeling a bit hermit crab-like so I told my friends Becca and Scott that I was just going to stay home. Somehow I changed my mind, reminding myself that I had promised myself a summer of adventure and wasn’t this the last weekend to do that in? So I committed to  the trip and I’m so glad I did.

As long as you ignore the fact that my weekend started with a panic attack over an insane mountain road. Let’s just say they call it a “shelf road” and it hugs the side of a mountain. And it’s no wider than your car. And there’s a cliff involved. At night. Aaaaanyway.

I connected with old friends and made new ones. I climbed a new-to-me mountain and enjoyed pretty much every second of it. I wanted to wrap the San Juan mountains up in a bow and take them back to boulder with me. Everything about that weekend–from the laughter around the campfire, to the tent city we had to create to deal with the pouring rain, the much needed chats with friends through pristine valleys and even the wind that kept throwing everything around–was just what I needed. I drove home exhausted but with the biggest smile on my face and the most love in my heart for this crazy square state of mine.

Untitled The mountain climbers on top of Handies Peak, 14,048′ Untitled An early good morning from the mountains

Side Effects May Include Happy

Week four of running and I have some breaking developments. Not only am I blogging again (I KNOW), but I finally have gotten into the groove of running. Just shortly after writing that last post a switch went off and I’m enjoying running.

I apparently have been suffering not only from major writer’s block, but running block as well. On Saturday I went for my long run (8 miles now) and instead of my usual run for 30 seconds, feel like dying, then walking in pain for a minute, I actually ran pretty much the entire 8 miles. 8 miles of running AND I clocked 3 of those miles at under 10 minutes. I was ready to high five strangers. I would say hug but I’m not the biggest fan of hugging random strangers so high fives it is.

I’ve also noticed the switch flip in terms of my mood. I’m not going to lie, for more than a year I have been suffering from what I would say is a pretty bad case of depression mixed with a lovely side of horrible anxiety. I know part of it was because I was no longer running, or even exercising at all, and I slowly sunk deeper and deeper into the “I hate everything, I want to move, blah blah blaaaahs”. Let’s just say I was probably not the most pleasant person to be around.

This certainly hasn’t been a bad year. I got a new job back in the interior design industry after four years at the sleep clinic, and celebrated two years of homeownership in April. In July I got a new car and sold the old one in record timing. I’ve also had some pretty epic adventures, including camping most every weekend in June and July.

All this good stuff and yet my brain wouldn’t let me enjoy all the good things that were happening. While I was in the moment it was great; I was happy setting up camp at various beautiful sites throughout Colorado. I was over the moon walking through some of the most pristine, beautiful landscapes I have ever been to in Southeast Alaska. When it ended, though, I went right back to the doldrums of where I was before. My brain would not allow me to be grateful for it.

Now that I’ve really gotten back into running, and am finally in that sweet spot with it, I’m noticing a change. For one, I’m motivated to blog again. (And I promise it won’t just be about running!) The other is that I’m content. That’s a big thing for someone who has been so unsatisfied this past year, always looking around the corner to see if there’s somewhere else that could bring me happiness. Of course there was a silver lining to that: I got my travel shoes back out. Damn! I missed travel. I used to do it all the time! Every year when I lived in NYC it seemed I was jetting off to Europe, or Wyoming, or somewhere else fun and exciting. Aside from the yearly trips back to NYC, I haven’t done much traveling since I’ve landed in Colorado.

This year alone? I went to Alaska (and I could go on and on–and on–about how much I loved it) in May for ten days, spent a weekend in Seattle and will be heading out to Montreal in 4 and a half weeks for this half marathon (and some sight seeing!). I haven’t been putting travel as a priority but now I am. Thank you, depression!

The downside to all this, aside from the icky feelings and constantly feeling worn out, was that I got lazy. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to cook dinner, I didn’t want to clean my house. It took a toll on everything. I would try to make an effort but…effort. It was far more satisfying to sit on my couch and be miserable.

So it’s really nice to kick depression back to the curb. It’s nice to have my old self back again. To feel grounded, centered, and satisfied. To not want to pick up and move because I think that will solve things. So thanks running for bringing me back. I think I’ll hang on to that travel bug, though. :)

Sunflower fields forever

Becoming a Runner Again, Mentally and Physically.

About 4 weeks ago I decided to get off my ass and run another half marathon. I picked out my race, started wondering if it was possible to do it in only 10 weeks after not running in over a year, consulted with my friends and decided I was going for it.

I then immediately got a concussion.

That may have been a great, huge, glowing sign from the Universe that maybe I shouldn’t run a half marathon. I never listen to the Universe, though, so why start now? A week later, with a slightly more muddied head, I entered the Montreal Rock n Roll Half Marathon, bought a plane ticket and booked a hotel.

The last three weeks I have begun training. I have two rest days and on Saturday, I run my long run. I tack on a mile every week. I’m starting to remember how hard it is to balance a social life, dating, and running 5+ miles a day. I’m stretching myself thin and am paying for it with lack of sleep. Pretty soon, my health will remind me that I’m not Superman and need to slow the fuck down. While I haven’t learned how to say no to things, I’m super proud of myself for sticking with my schedule and running every day, even if I have plans in the evening.

I’m mastering the balancing act, but the running part? It’s really fucking hard.

I used to run all the time; I was running several half marathons a year, and had a nice pace that was easy to get into. I would always struggle the first half mile to get mentally into the run, and then I would zone out and run fairly well for the next however many miles. Now, however, not only am I struggling with the first mile, I’m struggling all throughout the second, third, fourth and fifth miles. I cannot get into that zone, I cannot mentally get into the run. (Unless getting super frustrated and wanting to cry counts as mentally getting into it.) With only 5 weeks until the race, I’m now wondering if I can actually run 13 miles.

Couch to 21.1k in 10 weeks sounds like a really bad idea right now. Oh, it sounds like a bad idea in general? You could have told me that? Noted.

I’ve tried switching up my routes, which has helped some, but my legs apparently really enjoyed their break, and really, really don’t want to run as long, and as fast, as I’d like to be running. The biggest mental hurdle that I have to overcome is that I am constantly comparing to my former running self. The self that could run 9 minute miles, get in the zone super easily and enjoyed running. The self that could take a month off and then get right back into things like no time had passed. The self that didn’t train for half marathons until the week before and still was able to have a successful run. My new running self can barely run below an 11 minute mile, as mentioned before cannot mentally get into the run, and am currently not liking it. That runners high is inconveniently missing. I know it won’t always be this way, I know a year is a long time to take between runs and helloooo, I’m 34. I am not 24 anymore. My body just doesn’t bounce back as quickly as it used to.

Why did I take a year off? It started last May with a hip injury. A hip injury I ignored. I ran the Turquoise Lake Half, followed quickly by the Leadville Heavy Half, the hardest race I have ever done. I ran 15.5 miles, up 3200 feet in elevation, and back down again, in 4 hours and 26 minutes. It was the hardest, most beautiful, most rewarding race I’ve ever done. One I want to do again.

That was the last time I ran. I was signed up for the Golden Leaf Half last fall but had to skip it due to my hip being in incredible amounts of pain. You probably wonder why I pushed myself through those races in the first place, but honestly my hip did not bother me at all during those races. It wasn’t a running injury. It wasn’t until July, August, September and into October that the pain really started. It was there before, but really reared it’s ugly head after Leadville ended. I’m finally at the point where I can run without any pain. I’ve been there for a few months now but haven’t made it a priority. So I decided to scratch my travel bug at the same time. I’ve always wanted to go to Montreal, so here I go. Forcing myself to make my health, my fitness, a priority. Something I haven’t done in a very long time. It’s really, really hard.

All I can do is just keep at it. And remind myself that if I have to walk some, or even most, of the half in Montreal will not be the end of the world. After all, I’ll be in Montreal for my first time and travel is always a good thing. Putting myself first is a good thing. I’m running, after all. Even if poorly.

around my thanksgiving table

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Tons of great food and usually a lot of laughter around the table. I rarely go home anymore and while I miss my mom’s cooking and being able to catch up with my family, I have started the tradition of hosting what we call the Feeding Friendsy, more commonly known as Friendsgiving. I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving with friends for many years but last year was the first time I owned my own home and took on a large group of people (13 to be exact). So the tradition began.

This year was slightly smaller, at only nine people (only!), and I spent the days leading up to it going all Martha on my house. Let’s just say there was a lot of glitter involved, and even some spray paint.

My current dining table, the bane of my existence (it’s oak–I hate oak–and I attempted to paint it a few years ago. It wasn’t the best paint job I have ever done so it stays covered at all times.), is pretty small. It only fits four people so it’s hard to have dinner parties. I borrowed a large plastic table from work for the additional people  last year and was able to do that again this year. With a little rearranging in my living room I am able to squeeze everyone in!


I have been really into decorating for parties this year. I’m not sure why, you would think I would always be into the decorating but this year I’ve started getting more creative. This was by far the most crafty I have gotten so far. I had a color theme of silver and gold and made name cards out of paint chips I pilfered from Home Depot, cute wine glasses out of mason jars with some fun sale ribbon and I spray painted my left over small pumpkins with some antique gold and silver paint. I even took some of my favorite wine bottles I have been saving and stuck some gold striped candles in them for great center pieces. A cheap plastic-y (very technical term) gold table cloth for the additional table matched up perfectly with my white and gold tablecloth on my main table and I just used silver paper napkins. I have to watch my money with these dinner parties, I can get a little crazy otherwise. Thank god for Target’s dollar section.


Name cards

Mason jars

Everything turned out perfectly. It was so beautiful and worth covering myself in glitter for. All nine of us fit much more comfortably around the table and it felt like an actual dinner party, with everyone sitting around a table. Usually when people come over, we stand around my kitchen island. Actually having everyone at a table, using my grandmother’s silver, all matching real plates and lit candles makes me feel like I’m an adult.

Thanksgiving tablescape

There was a lot of good food last night, plenty of laugh-til-you-cry moments, some impromptu karaoke to cheesy 80s power ballads (which eventually turned into 90s boy bands), lots of wine flowing and even more to be thankful for. I have found the best group of friends that are like family here and while we couldn’t all be together this year, it’s nice to know that I am not alone on the holidays even if I can’t make it home to my family.

Glimpses of a friendsgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, all!