An Adventure to Native Lake Trail in Leadville, CO

flowerstreamThere’s something to be said about changing plans at the last minute. I planned to hike Grays and Torreys this morning. I went to bed at 11pm and even woke up and got out of bed at 4am. But then I heard the rain on the skylight in my bathroom. Back to bed. Woke up at 5:30, same thing.

Finally woke up at 8am and needed a quick change of plans. No time for a 14er, clouds were not looking so nice. What happened to 0% chance of rain? Matt and I packed up the Subaru anyways, threw Shea in and took off for Leadville and hiked an easy trail with a great view of Mt. Massive. If we couldn’t hike a 14er, at least we could look at one. We had an easy climb up to the top of the ridge before the rain started but we did get a great view of Massive before coming down to a beer at the car when the sun came back out.

 

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Mt. Massive Just Before it Rained

Sometimes life (and the weather?) doesn’t happen the way you plan it. Being an outdoor enthusiast, you have to be ready to just accept it and either stick to the plan anyway, or change the plan on a moments notice. We did the latter today. With an impending possible thunderstorm coming our way, a 14er was out. But that didn’t mean we couldn’t hike somewhere else.

I am a firm believer in adventures. Especially the type where nothing is planned and you just go by the seat of your pants. Those are always the most fun. That is when the adventure actually begins. Then it becomes more then just a hike. It’s somewhere new you get to explore, a new perspective on the mountains, your life, the rain etc. Everything is always fun when you’re on an adventure.

 

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Matt and Shea Enjoying the Day

The last paragraph of this article on semi-rad.com is what this is all about, I always think back to this whenever an adventure like today arises:

“People who have The Stoke do not hit the snooze button on their alarm clock and fail to get out of bed to go climbing/biking/hiking/skiing on their days off. They do not complain about food. They do not bail on a day in the outdoors when there’s only a 30 to 70 percent chance of rain. In the face of immediate danger, peril, or running out of chocolate, they crack jokes. Statistically, your chances of summiting any climb are increased by 50 percent if you are climbing with someone who has The Stoke. As are your chances of receiving high fives and exploding fist bumps, and in general having an awesome life.”

Nothing Beats Fresh From Your Garden Veggies

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My beets at Silvana’s.

I would like to tell you a little bit about my gardening experience. I have two gardens, one at my house and one in Silverthorne at the community garden called Silvana’s.

My first memories of gardening were at my grandmother’s house. She had a huge garden in the backyard in Maine where she grew tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, green beans, strawberries and many more crops. I would help her squish the tomato worms and pick the green beans and strawberries on a regular basis when I was a little kid. This are some of my most precious memories with her.

In my adult life, I became interested in gardening while I was in college. My junior year at Eckerd I lived with 6 other girls in an apartment on campus and one of them started and managed our campus garden. She was always bringing back loads of veggies and putting them in the fridge. I wish that I could say I went and helped her out that year, but I didn’t. I was too busy with schoolwork (I was one of those people who took 5 classes a semester and spent all my time in the library).

After that school year was over, I unfortunately was diagnosed with cancer that summer and spent the next year living on my couch during chemo. But, a lot of that time spent on the couch was researching how to beat cancer, and fresh, organic vegetables was a main concept in all of my research. So I applied through MOFGA to become an apprentice on a farm for the next growing season.

Phoenix Farm, in Monmouth, Maine is where I was hired and I worked for only half a season before some unfortunate misunderstandings between the farmer and the apprentices ensued and I had to quit. But my time spent on that farm are days I will never forget.

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The high tunnel at Phoenix Farm, June 2012.

Now, I live at 9,000 ft in the high country of Colorado, and gardening is a challenge, but its so fun and worth it. Today I picked 2 giant heads of lettuce (I donated one to FIRC), a few baby beets, a huge bag of basil, and a huge bag of kale. And the best part… There is still more out there to pick tomorrow and I get to make some delicious pesto for dinner tonight!

I am a big believer in growing your own food and eating local, and I encourage you to visit your local farmer’s markets every week during the growing season and if you are really ambitious look up to see if there is a community garden in your area and get involved! You don’t need to have a green thumb, there are always people around to give you tips on how and what to grow in your area. It’s more about having fun anyways, and let me tell you, eating produce that you grew yourself is one of the most rewarding feelings, so get out there and try it out!

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My two plots at Silvana’s

 

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Lettuce and beets from today’s harvest

Easy Fried Eggplants with Pasta

Being a vegetarian is tough sometimes. It can be so hard to go to a friends house for dinner, and the menu is BBQ. You don’t want to impose and ask them to make you something vegetarian, and you always feel a little awkward bringing your own meal. I’ve found that a lot of omnivores assume that vegetarians just eat salads and bread. Don’t get me wrong I love salad and I love bread but there are so many other options!

Recently I have been experimenting with vegan recipes, but tonight I was craving something heavy because I was so busy at work that I forgot to eat lunch.

My sister makes a delicious eggplant Parmesan dish, I would always try to duplicate it, and it never tasted as good. I never liked eggplant until I ate hers for the first time. So I changed the recipe a little bit to make it easier, and it still isn’t as good as hers, but its pretty close.

My favorite part of this recipe is pressing the eggplants before you start. It always makes me think of a bunch of old Italian ladies in the kitchen gossiping about their husbands. In fact, that is one of my favorite things about cooking, I have a big Italian family on my mom’s side and we frequently can be found in the kitchen doing just that.

This recipe can be modified many ways, but this is typically the way I make it except for the tomatoes, usually I use cherry tomatoes and slice them in half. (I apologize for my awful iPhone photos)

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1/2 cup of olive oil

1 cup bread crumbs

2 eggs

1 large eggplant

2 tsp italian seasoning

4 tbs parmesan (grated)

1 8oz mozzarella ball

1/2 small tomato

fresh basil

1 box pasta

marinara sauce

salt

 

Prep: Cut the eggplant into round slices 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. Take a paper towel and press them between the folded paper towel to get some excess water out. Layer them on a plate with a paper towel underneath, in between the layers and on top. Sprinkle salt on each layer to help draw the water out. Then put something heavy (I use a stack of plates) on the top and let them sit for at least 30 minutes.

After the eggplants have been sitting for awhile, press them one more time with the paper towel to get any more excess water out. Then they are ready to cook.

Pour the olive oil into a medium size skillet, over medium high heat (you might have to add a little more oil as you go the eggplants will kind of soak it up). While the oil is heating up, mix the 2 eggs in one bowl, and pour the bread crumbs into a separate bowl with the Italian seasoning and 2 tbs. of Parmesan and mix it up. Now, take each eggplant and dip it first in the egg batter and then into the bread crumb mix. Then plop into the oil to fry. I usually let the eggplants sit in the oil for a couple minutes on each side until they look crunchy and golden brown. As you take them out of the oil lay them onto a baking pan.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Once you have the all of the fried eggplants on the baking tray, take the mozzarella and slice into as many pieces as you have eggplant slices. Lay one piece on each eggplant, followed by a basil leaf and a piece of tomato on top and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top. Now bake it for about 20 minutes or until the mozzarella just starts to brown. And then enjoy with your favorite pasta and sauce.IMG_7617

Music is… Good For Your Brain.

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Night 2. The crowd at Red Rocks.

This weekend Matt and I went to see two Railroad Earth shows. (If you haven’t heard them, listen to them here). They are one of our favorite bands and seeing two nights while staying with good friends was a lot of fun.

Seeing live music is always such an amazing experience. While I was in the crowd last night dancing, and singing all my favorite tunes I couldn’t help but think about this presentation I did in college about how music affects your brain and for a lot of people is almost like a happy pill.

Music raises levels of dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and epinephrine naturally. These are happy molecules in the brain. This is most prominent when you hear your favorite jam or song and you get that instant burst of energy and big smile on your face. At a concert music has the power to bring strangers together in that moment. It creates a sense of unity because in essence you are sharing the same physical experience at the same moment in your brain.

Night 1. Boulder Theatre.
Night 1. Boulder Theatre.

Live music is so magical, and I am glad to say that I have spent a lot of my youth going to see my favorite bands with my friends. It brings people together in the best way. Last night I saw two very good friends of mine that I haven’t seen for awhile and being able to share the experience with them brought back a lot of good memories.

After coming home from a two day event, I feel relaxed and happy to have spent quality time with my friends and with the band that I wait to see at Red Rocks all winter long. I’m already excited for next year.

 

 

To read more about how your brain is affected by music, check these two books out;

Music and the Mind by Anthony Storr (Amazon)

This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin (Website)

Why Trail Running is Better than Road Running

IMG_3213 The number one reason trail running is better than running on pavement is impact. Impact on your feet, knees, ankles, hips etc. Pavement is a very unforgiving surface, while a dirt trail has a little more give. Trail running also can be more scenic and more challenging.

I wouldn’t classify my knees as “bad” but I definitely notice a difference from running on pavement and running on a trail. When you run on pavement you are putting a lot of hard pressure on all your joints and muscles, every time you put a foot down. When running on a trail, not only is the impact softer but you are strengthening and engaging muscles that you might not be using on the road. You have to pay attention to where you are placing each foot. There could be roots, rocks, stumps or any other kind of surprises from animals to bikers. When I run on a trail, I sync my steps to whatever obstacle is coming up next. I like to use a little extra umph to get up and over that tree root, which in turn strengthens the muscles needed for that extra push.

Trail running is also great for your mental health. It is nice to get away from your bad day at work and just take in the view and enjoy the sounds of nature. It can be very relaxing to let your body find its own rhythm to match the elevation changes. When I run on a trail I don’t usually bring headphones. I find that I don’t need them, and instead I listen to the sounds around me. I love when I am running through the woods and I can hear a stream coming up (especially for my dog so she can get a drink), or when I’ve been running up hill for what seems like forever and I turn around to see a beautiful view.

Where I live in Colorado there are lots of trails to choose from. But if you live in a more urban area and trail options are minimal, you could try to find some other soft surfaces, like a sandy beach, dirt road or grass.

And hey, you might just get lost out there on the trail, but that is just part of the fun. (As long as you kind of know your way back, or at least the direction you need to go in). As always make sure you bring enough water and watch the weather, but mostly just have fun!

 

To read more, visit these two articles from Runners World where I referenced some of my ideas:

Why Trail Running is Good For You
Train on Different Surfaces to Avoid Injury and Boost Performance