Tag Archives: Colorado

Just breathe.

“Some men fish all their lives without knowing it is not really the fish they are after.”

-Henry David Thoreau

I still can’t believe that the Flyathlon exists. It feels like something that would come out of an awesome drunken dream…

As I was leaving the Upper Crossing Guard Station (our Flyathlon headquarters) this morning, I felt a total mix of emotions. It’s hard to explain it, but I’m going to try.I just spent 4 hours on the road, talking it over with Jason Isbell. As I was composing this post in my mind, two big hot tears rolled down my cheeks, then a whole flood more. Why? The Flyathlon is awesome. It brings together like-minded people, who want to make a difference in the world. I can let my guard down, and not worry that my concern about native trout water and the science behind our predictions will be dismissed by folks who don’t believe in data. There is quite a variety of attendees- from serious athletes to weekend warriors, seasoned anglers to excited rookies, and beer brewers to whiskey connoisseurs. These are people who spend their lives caring for our water and land working for government agencies and nonprofits, either for a paycheck, simply in the time they have left after punching a clock somewhere else, or both. I wish the Flyathlon was several days long, so I could have enough time to soak in the knowledge and stories and conversations with everyone in attendance, but that’s what keeps me coming back each year. These amazing people raised over $27,000 for Running Rivers from this race. ❤

In fact, I’m writing this post from the gorgeous back porch of a friend that I made last year at the race- we crossed paths at the turnaround point and drank whiskey together up there!

This is Kelly and I last year……and this year! Thank you for your continued hospitality, Kelly. You’ve always got my back (or a sandwich or a cold water or a Manhattan, whatever it is I may need). 🙂

I really didn’t want to leave, but I am also terribly homesick. I don’t know how to reconcile the two! I believe that traveling is very important, especially for elected officials. The world is so much bigger than we think it is, and frequent reminders of that are necessary. Mr. Mustache and I have also discovered that absence really does make the heart grow fonder. In any event, I felt like a double tapered fly line- weighted down on both ends. I have a big weight at home in Wisconsin, and it seems that every time I visit Colorado, the weight here gets bigger, too.

As I woke up this morning, in a bright orange tent (thanks, Kouba family!), I was suddenly aware of how achy I was. Everything from my curls to my brookie tattoo was moaning to me. I felt like a raisin; my eyes were dry, my lips were chapped, and my hair was crunchy.

Waking up “outside” feels so special, and I slowly stretched my legs and crawled out of the tent, gingerly easing my way around all my scrapes and bruises. I stood up, wiggled my sore toes into my Chacos, and reached toward the sky. There was this moment when something inside me told me, just breathe.

So I did. I closed my eyes, and smelled the air. It was still, and felt almost sweet, as I tried to breathe deeply up there at 8,000 feet. I heard two sounds: the soft clicking of tent poles collapsing as the early risers started packing up, and the gentle padding of puppy paws on that damp public land. The ratio of people to pups at this race was pretty impressive. I don’t know if anyone counted, but I’d guess it was close to 5:1.

There is a general feeling in the air there that I have never felt before. It sounds cliche, but I really do believe that these Flyathletes are my kindred spirits. No one there thinks I’m crazy for my devoted passion to a slimy creature and the habitat it requires. We share some kind of bond that came on instantly and put my soul at ease. I feel lucky to be able to run a race like this, and lucky to be able to fish this water, and lucky to hang with these folks.


I’ll start at the beginning. I ended up leaving home Wednesday morning at 1:30 am to make it to Milwaukee for my 5:30 flight. Since we arrived home on Sunday from our trip to Vegas, I only had a couple days to try and catch up on work and alderwomaning. Yeah, I’m making up my own verbs now. As a result of having two crazy busy days, Mr. Mustache was up late with me helping me pack, and we didn’t zip up my suitcases until after 11:00.

Enter Fitbit data: the numbers don’t lie.

I’ll be the first one to tell you that Heidi, with not enough sleep, is a crazy woman… and 1.5 hours is definitely not enough. I’m amazed that I made it to the Milwaukee airport with my wits about me. Luckily, those first flights of the day usually mean that airport security is a breeze, and it was. I was from parking lot to gate in under 45 minutes, and I had to check some luggage.

My flight was short, and freezing, so I was pretty tired when we landed in Denver. I snagged my rental car (thanks for the upgrade, Enterprise!), and headed to the adorable city of Golden. I took a cramped but helpful power nap in the backseat of my car, then sleepily sauntered into a Starbucks to caffeinate my tired body and power through some work. A few hours later, and upon the recommendation of the lovely and friendly baristas, I found myself at D’Deli. Go there. It was amazing.

Check out this salad! I think they had 41 sandwich options, and any of them can come on a salad, if you prefer.
A couple hours of work later, and I headed into Denver to meet Mamzie! ❤I love our reunions! Every time I see her, it feels like no time has passed. That’s a perk of being friends with someone for 25 years, I guess! 🙂 We enjoyed beer from the new brewery in her subdivision, and found some fantastic sushi. It was a rowdy night- we ended up in bed by 10. I needed it- I slept for 12 hours! 😉

I was super excited to have an extra day in Denver this year, as it gave me a chance to sneak in a run. Yeah, the elevation was “only” 5,500′ here, so it’s no race elevation of 8,000′, but it’s closer than my 1,000′ at home. Two miles in, and I totally missed a driveway curb (did you know that’s a thing?) and wiped out. I skinned my knee, bruised my leg, and completely shattered my iPhone screen.
I’ll spare you a photo of my road rash, and instead I’ll show you a picture of the driveway curb. 
 I spent the rest of Thursday getting an oil change in my rental car, as it wouldn’t be a Flyathlon trip without some kind of travel difficulty. I went to Walgreens and got the materials to bandage myself up, and I went to the Apple Store to get my phone screen replaced. The most eventful part of the day was when I realized that I needed to meet Mamzie at Roo Bar for the Packer game, but I wasn’t going to have my phone while it was being repaired. This meant I had to actually write down driving directions to get there. I even went to MapQuest, old school style. Luckily, I made it there, and had some faith restored in my ability to drive like we did in the 90s before GPS technology took over our lives.

The Packers won the preseason game, I found some Wisconsin beer to take up to the mountains, and I grabbed several gallons of water to take along. The well up there is unpredictable, so bringing our own water is recommended. My last memory before drifting off to sleep was hearing Mamzie giggle to Brooklyn Nine-Nine. 🙂

The next day was a blur- I packed up all my gear, drove into the city for coffee (Ink!) and lunch with Mamzie, then headed up into the mountains.
You know how it’s weird when you get into a rental car then try to parallel park? I had a bugger of a time the first night I had the car, so I wanted to prove to Mamzie that I could park it. Look at this great parking job! 😉
The drive is incredible- mountains around every corner!My rental car got amazing mileage- I can’t believe this is the fuel economy, even as I climbed the mountains. You’ll see why I chose to take it in for an oil change instead of swapping it out.I made it up to the Upper Crossing Guard station during daylight this year, and I saw some familiar faces from last year’s race. It was awesome to see my friends again!

We drank some whiskey and caught up, and I got acquainted with my adorable tentmates, the Kouba girls. ❤


It was a pretty early night, because I was tired and I knew that the race morning would come awfully early. The mosquitoes were also brutal. I found it exciting that the mosquitoes who bit me could have just bitten a moose… but I was happy to crawl into a mosquito-free tent.

Enter: Race Day

My friends woke me up to get ready for the race, and I wasn’t ready. I was plenty warm this year, but I like to sprawl in my sleep, so being cocooned in a sleeping bag was different. I also don’t usually sleep on an inflatable pillow. I inchwormed my way out of the tent and into my race clothes. My amazing friend, Brian from Iowa from Colorado made some coffee for me, so I poured it into my Yeti tumbler and hoped it would keep warm. After all these years, the thing that bothers me the most about not having a thyroid is having to wait an hour after taking my medication to drink any coffee. The first hour of my day, every day, is free from coffee. Oh, the horror!

I bandaged up my scrapes and pulled on my compression socks. I love these trail shoes!The ride from the campground to the race start was a fun 20 minute trek with two Flyathlete humans and one Flyathlete pup.I hadn’t left myself a lot of time, so I basically got my race bib (with my name and fish ruler on it), filled up my hydration pack, and prepped my fishing gear, then got ready to run.  I love the sign that is at the start- it’s made out of beer caps!Everyone was lining up and stretching out, and we gathered together for Andrew’s race announcements.

In keeping with tradition, the race starts with Andrew shooting a cheap beer with a BB gun, and as the foam flies, we head out.

Obstacle number one: the river.

I pretended to be Baby from Dirty Dancing and wiggled my way across the log. Too bad Patrick Swayze wasn’t there to cheer me on… ❤Last year, I stopped to fish shortly after that log crossing, somewhere around mile one. Since I caught a fish on my second cast last year, I tried to find the place that I fished with such success. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it. At least I took comfort in knowing that I tied up some gorgeous rainbow warriors before I left, and that was the fly that worked for me last year. I found confidence in knowing I had a fly box of money flies waiting for me.heidi-1I found a spot on the river that looked similar to last year, and strung up my rod. No luck at location number one.

I broke down my rod, and ran to the next fishy looking spot. I strung up my rod, lost a rainbow warrior, and got frustrated. No luck at location number two.

I broke down my rod, and ran to the next fishy looking spot. I got snagged by some thorns as I made my way down to the river. The area between my socks and shorts looked like I’d gotten into a fight with a feral cat, and the sweat stung in those cuts. I strung up my rod, lost a second rainbow warrior, and got frustrated. No luck at location number three.

I didn’t break down my rod, I just ran a short distance to the next fishy spot, and gave it a go. No luck. I was starting to get straight up mad. I walked to the next spot. More scrapes from some kind of devil bush, and I couldn’t even get my fly in the water. Tons of branches and bushes and all sorts of green and brown evil that overhung the water. I think that between the running and my bad attitude, I seriously started to resemble the red faced emoji.

blog-red-face-emoji-e1445976774943

I broke down my rod, and tied everything down to my hydration pack. I took a big drink of body temperature water. I didn’t even take pictures of the trail on the way up, since I was so mad. Luckily, I thought of Ben, the fish whisperer, and I knew he was waiting for desperate anglers near the finish. I just knew he could put me on a fish.

I hunkered down through the “unpleasant switchbacks” and before I knew it, I found myself at the turnaround point. I looked behind me, and saw this beautiful view……and in front of me?The check in tent with supplies!

Available amenities include:

  • curly furry sleepy puppy snuggles
  • encouraging words
  • fishing tips
  • whiskey and tequila

I went straight for the bourbon. Thanks, Laws, for being a favorite race sponsor of mine!I decided to head on past the turnaround point into the cutthroat water and see if I could find something fishy, but I ran for over a half mile and all of the areas with easy access were filled with a sweaty, happy Flyathlete. I decided to relax, turn around, head down the mountain, and try not to fall on my way to find Ben.Everything looked so fishy. Open sections of river and beaver ponds just shouted at me to stop and fish, but I couldn’t bring myself to fail again. I kept running, and put more stake in Ben. Honestly, the more I hoped he’d put me on a fish, the less pressure I put on myself.Switchbacks like the one above were prevalent. I ran down the trail on the left of the picture, then curved around and headed down on the right, and there were lots of rocks. A new running mantra emerged: Don’t Fall.Are there fish in there? You betcha. Could I get them out? Absolutely not.Dead animals left their bones behind. I love the little purple flowers. Yeah, my fishing skills may be dead, but I have little purple flowers of optimism in my heart. Ha.Before I knew it, I found Tim and Ben, two guys who were happy to try and get me on a fish. Tim helped for a while, then Ben took over. I missed a couple strikes, hooked a teeny tiny 3″ trout that flipped over my shoulder and off my barbless hook before hurdling back to the stream (sorry, buddy!), and finally hooked into this guy.I’ve never been so happy to get a fish in the net. Honestly. I owe many thanks to Ben for helping me. I am not the type of angler who typically puts pressure on myself. If I head out fishing and don’t catch anything, it’s not the end of the world! I love the experience of being there, and the riparian vegetation, and the wildlife, and the fresh air. The actual catching of fish is not the important part. I was so relieved to have caught this fish that I almost cried. ❤Thanks again, Ben. I owe you one.

It’s a challenge for me to go out West, with all my passion for native trout, and discover that Westerners don’t love brook trout as much as I do. They’re not native there. They’re taking over streams and pushing out cutthroat.

Fear not, friends. I have the solution!
Dear Western states- send all your brookies home with me to Wisconsin where we will cherish them. I’ll build them habitat, and catch all the mean brown trout, and celebrate their pink polka dots. It’s only fitting that I caught a brookie during the race, since they’re my favorite fish. ❤️

It took me so long to finish the race that my carpooling buddies were ready to head out, and so was I! I haven’t plugged in my Garmin yet, so I don’t know my time for sure. I think I was out there running and fishing for about 4 hours. At the finish line, I showed the judges my fish picture, enjoyed a cold can of hoppy goodness from Elevation, then we went back to camp. I was pumped to rinse all the dirt off my scrapes and take off my wet socks and shoes. I did a number on them…I got myself cleaned up, chugged a ton of water with some ibuprofen, and took a power nap. When I woke up, I was feeling fine! 🙂

We had so many good beers and liquors to try that I spent quite a few hours doing just that. I didn’t take nearly enough pictures of the evening, I was mostly occupied with chilling and chatting with all of my new friends!The cooler pattern matches the trailer, aptly named Trout Force One. I wanted to document my shirt from Tight Lines that we wear in opposition to the Back Forty Mine. I’ll rep for you guys in Colorado anytime!I didn’t take many pictures of the take down morning- I was so preoccupied with how lucky I feel that I was just living in the moment. That doesn’t happen often as a photographer, and I cherish it.

I started this post with reflections from the drive home, and I’ll leave you with this image from the drive. I can feel the weight of this experience changing me as I type. 🙂

Thank you, Andrew Todd, and the entire Flyathlon family, for making this experience possible. I will happily raise money for Running Rivers every year.

As always, thank you for reading, friends! I love taking you along with me virtually on my adventures. Thank you for sharing in my passion for native trout! ❤

.:heidi:.

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I can’t believe this race exists a.k.a. Rocky Mountain Flyathlon recap

I can’t believe this race exists.FullSizeRender (2)I can’t believe this place exists.

I’m talking about the Flyathlon. It’s the brain child of this incredible person, Andrew Todd.IMG_1514I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I first heard about it: a race with the motto, “Run. Fish. Beer.”

Sing here: These are a few of my favorite things…

In typical Heidi style, as soon as I heard about the race last year, I wanted to sign up. Unfortunately, it was full, so I signed up for this year’s race.

It’s held just outside of Saguache, CO, which is basically in the middle of nowhere in the mountains. FYI, Saguache is pronounced like suh-watch. No wonder people had a hard time understanding where I said I was going… I said Saguache like it rhymed with Chattahoochie (which also holds some awesome fish, in case you ever get down to Georgia…).

I had a VERY exciting and eventful trip out here, so I’ll start at the beginning…

Thursday morning: 6:00 am. I roll my curly, sleepy self out of bed. It’s difficult.

7:00 am. I’ve showered, dressed, and loaded everything into the car. I head out for MKE, the Milwaukee airport.

10:00 am. I’ve parked, and headed into the terminal.

10:10 am. My luggage is overweight. It must be the twelve beers from Central Waters and O’so. I became that annoying person in front of you at the airport, transferring gear from one bag to another. I also already have a ton of stuff, since this is a long trip. I have six days in Colorado and five days in Nevada. Temperatures ranging from 40 degrees to 105. And since I’m a photographer, I always have my camera gear. And my laptop. And I needed to bring all my trail running stuff, fly fishing stuff, and some camping stuff. I was a hot mess. I eventually got everything settled, and headed through security, and to my gate.

10:30 am. I discover that my flight has been delayed. I’m not really mad- I planned plenty of time for the flight, picking up my rental car, and swinging by REI and Whole Foods for a few race necessities before attempting the four hour drive into the mountains. I sit in MKE, catching up on work, and was able to actually sit down and eat a salad. 🙂

2:00 pm. We board the flight. I was about halfway through the boarding order, and as I was struggling to wheel my camera bag, laptop bag, and carrying my rod tube onto the plane, I heard, “Heidi! Sit here!” I looked up to discover my friend, Rich. How fabulous. I snuggled up next to him, told him all about the race, and also explained some serious anxiety I had about a big upcoming project. It’s not finalized yet, so I can’t talk about it, but I’ll let you know as soon as I can.

IMG_1428I knew Rich was coming out to CO, I just didn’t know we were on the same flight! I’m staying with my friend, Meredith, and she had mentioned that they were going to see Brandi Carlile at Red Rocks on Sunday. They invited me, and I was excited to see them and to check out that venue. I’d heard such great things!

This is Meredith. I’ve known her since we were six. Disclaimer: she’s amazing.IMG_1526Anyway, we landed safely in Denver, and my luggage arrived as well.IMG_1429I told Rich that I could give him a ride into town, since I was getting a rental car. I typically rent from Enterprise or Hertz, but there was a big business travelers’ conference in town, and they had a shortage of cars. I ended up having to rent from Budget. We took the shuttle to the Budget rental counter.

5:00 pm. We walk in the big sliding glass doors, and see this:IMG_1430I immediately told Rich that if he wanted to take the train downtown or grab an Uber, that I would totally understand. He did. 🙂 I wheeled all that luggage through the indoor switchbacks, and talked to the woman next to me in line to pass the time. She is a guitar instructor, and was out in CO to teach some masterclasses. Too cool. I’m glad we started talking, since we were there in line for an HOUR. I started to worry when doing the math… adding four plus hours to the current time equaled setting up my tent in the dark.

6:00 pm. When I finally made it to the counter, and the woman there looked up my reservation, she gave me bad news. I had messed up my online reservation, and I was actually supposed to pick up my car at a different Budget location, in Englewood. I asked if it was possible to modify my reservation, and she agreed. Yay! Unfortunately, there was going to be a $400 upcharge. I didn’t have $400, so I just stood there for a minute, stunned. I asked her what to do, because I was hoping she could help me out somehow. She said it was not their fault, so I was on my own. I asked for the address of the Englewood location, and called for an Uber. A few minutes later, the Uber driver called me- he couldn’t seem to find me. I had to ask a shuttle bus driver for directions for the driver, and eventually he found me, but it took longer than it should have, and I was trying to lug all that luggage around. I seriously put the LUG in luggage. My driver was a little scary- I just got a weird vibe from him. He was very jumpy and kept putting his left hand down on the side of his seat and making a rapid clicking noise. I didn’t know what was going on down there, and it was just freaking me out. To make matters worse, we were in serious Denver rush hour traffic, so it took us 45 minutes to get to the correct rental place. I was stuck with one heck of an Uber bill. We drove into a very industrial district- there wasn’t anything friendly-looking around. Apparently, I was supposed to pick up my car from a Budget truck rental facility- they must also have a few cars. I unloaded my luggage from the Uber, and turned to walk up to the door… only to realize it was dark inside. I pulled on the door, and it was locked. They closed at 6:00. I turned around as my Uber driver drove away. I looked at my phone and realized it was almost dead, but tried to call Budget customer service, anyway. They closed at 5:00.

::cue emotional breakdown::

I sat on the sidewalk and cried. I didn’t know what to do!

I called my trusty Denver friend, Meredith. She was in California for work, but was so sweet. She said, “Hang on, I’m going to text some people and figure something out for you.”

Amazing. Her friend, Kyle, text me an address to get to, and I called for another Uber. The next driver was amazing. He pulled up in a nice car, and when he got out, I found a kind middle-aged man wearing a tie and sweet frames. He loaded all my luggage. He even opened the door for me! I’m sure I wasn’t what he was expecting- he pulled up to the car rental place and found a tear-streaked, travel weary, curly Wisconsin woman with four pieces of luggage and a rod tube.

He dropped me off at the location Kyle gave me, and I asked for his phone number so I could call him directly the next time I needed a ride. I started wondering how I was going to get back to the rental place, and how I would get everything situated.

To make a long story short, I spent the night in a very nice hotel in Denver, and Kyle made sure I was comfortable. Thanks, friend! I’m so thankful.

This is us- look at Kyle’s cutie patootie face.IMG_1579I unpacked some of my luggage, and discovered that all 12 bottles of Wisconsin beer had survived the trip! We were asked to bring some of our favorite beer to share, so I had to make space among my clothes and gear for the important things.IMG_1436I took a bubble bath, made some tea, and slept pretty well.

Friday morning: 8:00 am. My alarm went off. I called Budget to tell them about my ordeal. I kept thinking that I was really lucky- something awful could have happened to me out there in that industrial district. I couldn’t easily walk anywhere to figure out what to do or charge my phone, especially not with all that luggage. Why did the woman at the airport tell me to go somewhere in the middle of nowhere when they were closed?! As it turns out, Budget didn’t care. I asked them if they could at least let the Englewood location know that I’d be over to pick up my car that morning, instead of the previous day, and the customer service representative’s response was, “Well, technically… your reservation is only valid for 15 hours from the time of pick up. Since you had planned to arrive in Denver at 1:30 yesterday, your reservation has already expired.” I asked to change it, and there was going to be (you guessed it!) a $400 upcharge. I couldn’t believe it. I hung up.

I stared at my phone, like I expected someone to call and explain this situation to me. Instead, I called Hertz at the airport, asked if they had any cars (they did!), and made a new reservation. Then I called my favorite Uber driver and asked if he could pick me up and take me to the airport. He said he could, but couldn’t get there until 2:00. I didn’t push my luck with a different driver- so I hung out at the hotel and got a little more work done.

I did some research on Red Rocks, and discovered that Brandi Carlile was actually playing with OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW!!!!! I lost my mind in that hotel room, jumping up and down and screaming. I love them. That helped me be in better spirits!

I hoped that traffic wouldn’t be too bad, and I’d still get to the mountains in time to meet everyone and get myself settled. My driver arrived, and he offered to take me on my errands in town and then to the airport. The traffic was crazy- I guess Denver’s Friday rush hour is even worse than Thursday. He was so kind- he didn’t want me to pay him. He felt so bad for me during this ordeal! I bought him coffee and lunch. 🙂

4:30 pm. I arrived at Hertz at the airport. Check-in went smoothly, until my credit card was declined. I had a zero dollar balance on it, so I couldn’t imagine what the problem was… until I realized that Budget must have run it every time I tried to change my reservation, so there was some kind of hold on it. I couldn’t let that stop me- so I used my debit card. A bad idea, I know… but it’s okay.

5:00 pm. I picked up my little white Jetta and hit the road.

The drive to Saguache was incredible. Around every bend, there was a new mountain. A new view. I cried a bunch on the way there. I was just so thankful to be finally on my way, and everything was so beautiful. It was storming, so I saw beautiful lightning strikes in the distance, and a few wicked rainbows.IMG_1445My ears popped as I drove up and down the mountains and into the valleys, while my cell phone popped in and out of having service.

I hit a traffic jam… I was literally stuck behind a house. I didn’t even care.

IMG_1441I knew I was racing the sun, and the closer I got to the race, the clearer it became that I would be arriving after dark.flyathlon-1There is serious value in written directions, and having the capability to follow them. I will be the first to admit that I am a GPS addict. Yes, I have a well-worn gazetteer marked with all my favorite fishing spots and little notes, but when I’m traveling, my eyes are glued to my phone’s map. Once I got within a couple hours of the race, I had no service, so no GPS. There was also no address attached to the lodge where race headquarters are located. I was driving in the dark, counting the miles on my odometer, and praying that I didn’t get lost. I didn’t. I pulled up in the pitch black, followed a gravel road, and wondered what the view would be like in the morning. Everyone had already set up their tents, and some people were sleeping in preparation for the next morning: the race.

It’s so hard to meet people in the dark. I parked, and was welcomed by a few really kind people, including my new BFF, Brian from Iowa.IMG_1492I’ll be referring to him from here on out as Iowa. We’d met virtually a couple months ago, because he’s planning a Flyathlon in the driftless region. I’m stoked. Registration is currently open, so if you’re interested in running a Flyathlon of your own this fall, check it out! I’m planning on being there. 🙂

I set up my tent (Andrew, the amazing race director, brought one for me) and unpacked the few things I’d need. I checked in for the race, got my bib and a bag with a ton of swag, and chugged some water. I was so thirsty. It was really cold, so I didn’t stay up late. I curled up in my tent and finally ate my dinner, in my tent, around 10 pm. I was exhausted after the stressful couple of days, but I didn’t sleep well. It’s my own fault- I was so cold. It got down to 40 that night, and I wasn’t prepared for that.

Saturday, race day. 6:30 am. My alarm went off. I had created a little mummy bag out of my blankets, sleeping bag liner, and clothes, and slowly emerged like a butterfly out of a very cozy cocoon. I took my thyroid meds, and cursed the fact that I didn’t have a plan for securing a hot cup of coffee. Need a visual? Here’s home sweet home.flyathlon-2It was the perfect place to camp. I saw this sign, and made sure the tent was zipped tightly.IMG_1496…And this is literally the view from my tent. Mountains were the perfect view for my morning yoga.flyathlon-3I had to sit in my car with the heat on to warm up, and I wasn’t really ready for the race. I was mentally making a checklist of required items to take with me- my gear was all rearranged for the flights, so it wasn’t all in one place. Normally, I have a detailed list of the things I need, and I lay everything out ahead of time. The crazy night prior to the race eliminated my routine. I forced myself to get out of the car and get ready, and I was in a hurry. I packed as much in my Osprey pack as I could, and grabbed the rest, including sandals for after the race (brilliant!). Noosa was one of the race sponsors, so I had some kick-ass yogurt for breakfast, with some granola that I’d scooped up at Whole Foods in Denver.IMG_1448The volunteers left early to drive to the trailhead and hike up to their posts, so I didn’t know anyone around the headquarters. I made my way around, introducing myself to people, and eventually found some nice people who let me ride with them.

Look at these friendly faces.IMG_1480I was the fifth wheel in a very sweet truck of flyathletes.IMG_1449We rode through farmland on gravel roads and over cattle guards, until we finally found ourselves with everyone else.

We took pictures of the race map with our phones in case we got lost out there.IMG_1450I rearranged my gear and realized that I’d forgotten my forceps and nippers in my luggage. 😦 Luckily, Iowa’d driven himself there, and he was more than willing to loan me his gear. Crisis averted. I checked in, and they gave me my measuring bib, which they won’t give us ahead of time to prevent cheating or pre-fishing.IMG_15679:00 am. I looked around at all the mountains surrounding me, and checked out the badasses who were lining up at the start.IMG_1452IMG_1453The trail head was adorned with this kickass sign, our logo made of beer caps.IMG_1475Andrew gave a few directions and reminders, then started the race by shooting a Busch Light with a BB gun.IMG_1456When the cheap beer started spraying, we took off.

The race had two courses- a short course of seven miles, and the long course of twelve miles. I’d been training for the long course. The short course runners went to the left, and the long course runners headed right, and straight up a hill. I stood at the bottom, looking up that hill, and had second thoughts. I ran anyway. By the time I could see the first switchback, I was already panting like a dog on a hot day, and started to worry. I stopped. Should I stop? Keep going? Could I keep going? Will something bad happen to me if I just charge ahead at this altitude? I turned around, and headed back to the start. Andrew was there, and I ran up and asked if I could switch to the short course. He said, “Of course.”

So… I took off on the short course, in very last place.  I spent the first couple miles of beautiful trail paralleled by stream, and beat myself up about changing courses.IMG_1566I knew at that moment that it was the right decision, but I was upset about it. Luckily, Andrew’s dad (a doctor!) was there to check on the flyathletes, and I stopped to chat with the volunteers. We had to cross the river, but there were a few felled logs. I pretended to be Baby in Dirty Dancing, and danced my way across.

I passed a couple people who had stopped to try and catch their fish, and I tried to focus on the trail. The brush scraped up my legs as I ran by, and the sweat stung a little bit. I tripped a couple times, but didn’t fall.IMG_14589:40 am. I came around a corner and found a spot that looked super fishy to me, so I veered off the trail and made my way over to the stream.

9:44 am. I strung up my rod, and opened my fly box.  I was planning on using a hopper-dropper combo, and after I tied on the big bug, I saw ONE rainbow warrior left from the last time I came out to Colorado. I’d seen my friend, Jon, in the airport, and he gave me a couple of his killer flies to use. I delicately tied it on, and hoped it would bring me luck. The stream was narrow, maybe four feet wide, and rather shallow, with some rocks creating riffles and some little plunge pools. My first cast went straight into a tree on the other side of the stream. Luckily, I just popped the flies right out, and…

9:50 am. …my second cast hooked me right into a beautiful little brookie.

Secretly, I was hoping I’d catch a brookie. I feel, about brook trout, the way that Western people feel about cutthroat trout. I get it.

I snapped my mandatory photo of my fish to prove I’d caught one.flyathlon-100Oh, wait- that’s my back-up photo, in case I couldn’t hook into one. 😉 Here’s my real fishie.IMG_1459I wanted to keep fishing, but also knew I’d have a rough time with the “unpleasant switchbacks” nearing the turnaround. I reluctantly packed up my gear, but my spirit was buoyed, so I skipped right along, breathing heavily the whole way.

A mile later, I ran into a snake on the path. I didn’t panic. I didn’t scream. I patiently waited for her to cross the trail, and then I ran really fast past her. I passed a few more people. I was almost to the switchbacks when I started to come across people on their way back. Those guys and gals looked awesome: happy and hardworking. I asked them how much further it was until the turnaround, and they said, “Look for the yellow tent.”IMG_1565Can you see the little yellow tent up there? I couldn’t get there fast enough. I ran past this guy, fishing his little heart out.IMG_1462I tried to run up the switchbacks, but they were so steep that my run was basically a power hike. I loved it the whole way. Challenges, baby.

And just like that, I was at the top.IMG_1464The view is gorgeous. The air was thin, so breathing was tough, but I was so happy. I almost didn’t want to go back down!

Kelly was running up right behind me, so we stayed up at the top and chatted for a bit.IMG_1465Luckily for me, these three were up there. What a welcoming committee! Look closely at the lower left corner of the photo- they’d brought provisions!IMG_1564Stranahans for me, and a little Redemption rye for Kelly. One good pull, and I headed back down the mountain.IMG_1524It was amazing. I tried really hard not to fall, because going downhill is much faster…

In fact, I had the most amazing trip ever. I tripped on a rock, and I fell for about fifteen feet. It wasn’t graceful. Eventually, I caught myself- I didn’t actually end up hitting the ground! I felt like I was moving in slow motion. I thought I should take a picture to show you guys what the rocky sections looked like.IMG_1472I didn’t have anyone take a picture of me on the way back, but the panic button on my car keys really captured my posture as I was running/falling on the way back down the mountain. FullSizeRender (1)I took one last selfie on the course, then crossed back over the river, and brought it in.IMG_1470
Here’s the finish line! IMG_1479The final point total placed me 15th out of 34, and I’m VERY proud of that.

I’m also proud that we raised over $20,000 to help organizations that take care of native fish.

Next year, I’m definitely going to do better, on both fronts!

IMG_1473One of my favorite parts about trail running is the line of dirt from where my socks end, and I knew I’d gotten lots of dirt in between my toes, so I was very excited to take off my shoes…IMG_1474…and grab a beer.IMG_1477We stuck around until the race was over, cheering each other in and drinking beer. So much good beer. As I shoveled chips and salsa into my mouth, I was so thankful for all these new friends. And the salt.

The drive back (to headquarters from the race) was just as beautiful as the way out.IMG_1487IMG_1486IMG_14851:15 pm. Once we got back, everyone started celebrating! I celebrated in my own way- I took a power nap, and woke up ready to have some fun!

This is where we were all hanging out. I loved seeing it during the daylight, since I’d arrived at night.flyathlon-6We had a kick ass BBQ dinner with mega salads from Mad Greens (another race sponsor), and I was so hungry! I spent hours talking to and meeting people from all over the country. We came from very different places but shared so many common interests.

These guys had the car next to me- they’re a father son duo. The father lives up here in the mountains, and the son works for a big marijuana facility. Their general existence was a reminder that I’m “not in Kansas anymore.” They were generous with coffee, beer, and bloody marys. I sure picked the right guys to park next to!IMG_1494IMG_1491IMG_1489A little Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. #midwestisbest

pc: Ben, the fish whispererFullSizeRender (3)We hung out into the wee hours of the night, laughing and sampling good beer from across the country. I was definitely ready to fall into bed that night. Tired muscles, full heart. I slept like a rock.

8:00 am. The next morning, I woke up cozy and feeling a little like a raisin. I stayed to help clean up, and got to know the Colorado people a little better.

I should have titled this post: A Little Jetta in the Big Mountains.IMG_1497What a view. I sat on the back of my car and drank my coffee, looking out at this.IMG_1495I didn’t take nearly as many pictures (with my camera) as usual, but I snagged a few of some of the coolest little things I saw, like this.flyathlon-10Now these people- these are some amazing people. The clean-up crew, the kick ass volunteers. The organizers. The planners. The cheering squad. The beer pouring, late-night steak grilling, welcoming team of the century. I love these people.flyathlon-9Best logo ever, on a very full trailer.flyathlon-8I had been waffling on buying a rod vault for the new Subaru, but my need has since been cemented in my mind after seeing Andrew’s. And one on every other truck at the race.flyathlon-7Many hands made clean up swift work, and we were packed and heading out in no time.

I loved the cloud of dust following us as we left that guard station behind.IMG_1499I had no service for the weekend, and part of the drive, but I filled my time with some of my favorite tunes.IMG_1500When I came back into service, my phone exploded, as expected. I couldn’t wait to text Brian all sorts of pictures and updates from the race! He hadn’t heard from me since I’d lost reception on the way up the mountain Friday night.The rough part was receiving the many messages and emails from Chase, asking me to confirm possible fraudulent activity on one of my bank accounts. Someone was using my card number all over the place, and spent over a thousand dollars. Luckily for me, Chase is awesome, and they refunded all my money… but they temporarily froze the account and deactivated my card. I hate traveling without easily accessible money. This trip has just been full of challenges adventure!

First stop? Elevation Brewing, to return the kegs and thank them profusely for being a race sponsor.IMG_1506And buying beer to give Meredith. 🙂

IMG_1505And getting a little life advice.IMG_1504We went for brunch in Salida, at an awesome brunch place- Rivers Edge.IMG_1508Yeah, baby, lobster omelette. As we walked there, we passed some awesome bike racks. I love traveling and getting ideas to bring home to my own municipality! I think all local elected officials should visit other places and gather experiences.IMG_1515The restaurant is right along the Arkansas River, so Andrew jumped in. 🙂IMG_1509Before I knew it, I was hugging my new friends goodbye, and hitting the road. I’m so thankful that I found my tribe- there are a whole bunch of people who care about wild and native trout as much as I do, who have a passion for conservation, and a love for fly fishing. They love to play hard, trail run, and they appreciate good beer. I found my people.

This race was perfect- it was well-organized and well-staffed. Everyone was so accommodating, and I can’t wait to come back and run it again next year.

Mega thanks to Andrew for putting this thing together, and props to Iowa for spreading it our way to the Driftless.

 

I followed Iowa all the way back into Denver, and went straight to Meredith’s condo. A quick shower, a quicker dinner, and a gaggle of us piled into a car to head to the concert.IMG_15597:00 pm. I was so excited, I couldn’t handle myself. I skipped up the path to the amphitheater. Literally.

I don’t even really have words to describe the experience at Red Rocks. I cried. I laughed a lot. Brandi rocked so hard. OCMS had so much energy. We sat in the 16th row and had incredible seats. I turned around, and saw Iowa, sitting in the row right behind us, just a few seats over. We drank some more Colorado beer. I danced my ass off, and sang my heart out, and swayed arm in arm with strangers and friends alike.

Here are some photos. I can’t properly explain what an amazing night this was.IMG_1539

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IMG_1555IMG_1553IMG_1552IMG_1551IMG_1550And last, but not least, here’s Meredith and I. Every time I come to visit Colorado, it’s hard to leave. Thank you for your hospitality, girl! I love you.IMG_1542The mountains are amazing. I’m going to leave you with a few lyrics from my favorite OCMS song, as they’re just resonating with me right now.flyathlon-4

Ain’t it enough to live by the ways of the world,

To be part of the picture, whatever it’s worth?

Throw your arms around each other and love one another,

For it’s only one life that we’ve got.

And ain’t it enough?

As always, thanks for reading, friends. I’ll have more about the rest of this trip later! I had too many adventures to cram in one post.

 

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Colorado Days Five, Six, and Seven

I woke up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in Denver, ready to head back to Boulder for a little trip north. A quick stop for coffee, and I was on my way- I’m definitely fueled by caffeine. I stopped to pick up Aaron, shower and change, and we hit the road for Rocky Mountain National Park.

I made Aaron stop a couple times, when I saw something pretty… and that happens a lot in the mountains!

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Traffic was crazy on the way up- I guess everyone wants to spend their weekends playing outside. We stopped at Kirk’s fly shop in Estes Park, picked up a couple flies…

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…grabbed a sandwich, saw this cool sculpture,

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and finished the trip north.

The drive into the park was pretty smooth, and it was beautiful. I kept watching for wildlife, but I didn’t see much. We looked around as we drove into the park, and speculated about where we thought there would be fish hiding out.

Eventually, we picked a spot, parked, and parted ways. I fished. I caught. Fly fishing does something to me- I cherish the peace and quiet and solitude.

The turbulence of the water was at odds with the peace in my soul, quite possibly my favorite juxtaposition. I love waterfalls.

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By the end of the day, I was tired but jazzed that I got into some trout, and I settled in for the drive back to Aaron’s. Unfortunately, I was too busy gawking out the window at the mountains to look at the map, and we got lost. It was just a couple hours out of the way, we drove through Loveland (such a cute name- it made me homesick!), and by the time we got back, it was pretty late. I love seeing the sunset over the mountains.

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The ride was pretty quiet, since hanger was setting in. Aaron barely survived the wrath of a hungry, tired Heidi. We ordered a pizza, and I fell asleep immediately after dinner. 🙂

Day Six began with a hot run on the Boulder Creek Trail. Six miles on my sixth day.

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This trail intertwines with the creek and the road like a braid, and I saw a variety of scenery!

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Boulder was preparing for their Ironman the following weekend, so I saw signs everywhere letting people know they should plan alternate routes. 🙂

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I was so hot when I finished my run that I jumped right in the stream. I advocate for cold water all over the place, and I know the science behind the water temperature needs of trout, so I KNOW how cold trout streams are… but there is nothing quite like sticking your head in one. I cooled down in a hurry. 🙂

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I started and ended my run at a busy park (Eben G. Fine), so there were two cars waiting for spaces in the small parking lot. It made my usual change-in-the-car routine a little more awkward- struggling to change out of stream-soaked running clothes in a car while you’re being mildly monitored is less than romantic. 😉 After I swapped out spandex for a sundress, I went to grab coffee and lunch at The Cup.

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I made a quick stop at Boulder Running Company to buy a perfectly tourist “Run Colorado” shirt, then I headed back to Aaron’s. A quick shower, a clean dress, and we went to Avery Brewing for dinner and beer

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The food was fabulous, the beer was great, and I was happy to relax. All these adventures were starting to wear me out!

On the way back to the car, I noticed this…

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Boulder: where even the fire hydrants are pretty.

We finished up dinner with frozen yogurt, probably the most innocent of my vices, and before I knew it, I was sleeping soundly.

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Day Seven, my last day in Colorado, started with me driving into Boulder, renting a bike and checking out the city on two wheels.

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My job as an alderperson has changed the way I think about cities, and it makes me extra interested in how other municipalities approach pedestrian and bicycle traffic. I took lots of photos and started formulating new ideas to take home.image6 (1)

I rode past my favorite Boulder fly shop

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…loved this downtown bicycle parking…

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…and returned my bike in time to head over to Celestial Seasonings for a tour of their tea factory. It was a perfect way to wind down my last day- relaxing with some hot tea.

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Since there are no cameras allowed inside the facility, I’ll leave you with this super sexy image of me in a hair net. 🙂

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I headed back to Aaron’s and starting packing everything back into my luggage. It’s amazing how much my clothes multiply while I’m on a trip. I suppose that if I stopped shopping on vacation, the problem would be alleviated. 😉

Day Eight. Coming home. Denver has a pretty cool airport.

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You’ll find me in the airport with my three necessities: my fly rod, my yoga mat, and a tripod. 🙂

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My flights were uneventful, and even with the time change and the three hour drive from the airport, I made it home in time for dinner and a nap. 🙂

More adventures to come- I returned from this trip with lots of photo shoots and meetings to catch up on.

As always, thanks for reading!

Miles this year: 350.3

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Colorado Day Two

The best part about being overtired is that when you finally emerge in the morning after a solid night of sleep, the world feels brimming with possibilities.

I grabbed my camera, my trail running shoes, and headed down to Manitou Springs to climb The Incline.

I stopped along the way when the beauty of the mountains became too distracting, which was often.

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The mountain range stretches alongside the entire highway 87 corridor, and it was such a change from my flat Central Sands home.

As I got closer to The Incline, I started thinking seriously about the challenge I was about to undertake. Can you see that little path up the mountain there? That doesn’t look so bad.

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It’s the base of Pike’s Peak, and it’s one mile long, but 2,000 feet up.

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As I got closer, I started thinking, “Yeah, maybe that will be hard.”

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“Really hard. Did I bring enough water?” Spoiler alert: I didn’t. I had my distance running hydration belt with a couple little bottles of water, and I started the climb.

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I had planned on running up part of it, and I made it exactly .1 miles before I was huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf. I was climbing next to a mom and her three kids- I’d say between the ages of 10 and 15. They were not having fun. It was really hard! They’d run up ahead of me, then stop to rest in the shade and I’d catch up. I heard the mom say, “Okay, we can rest until this girl in pink catches up, but then we’re heading off again.” The teenage girl looked at me as if to say, “I don’t want to go! Why are you still climbing, ‘girl in pink?!'” I told them both that I wasn’t going anywhere quickly, so they’d have time to rest. 🙂

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I made it about halfway up before I had to sit down to take a break, and it hadn’t occurred to me until that point to turn around and enjoy the view! It came at a great time, when I had to start bartering with myself. “Okay, let’s take one step up and take a rest. One step, one breath.” Finally, I decided to sit for a moment. I was getting sick to my stomach.

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I didn’t notice, in the picture above, the writing on that man’s chest… but he has big letters DNR on him. Either he’s a giant fan of our Department of Natural Resources, or if he had health trouble on the climb, he wanted to die up there. Intense.

The farther up that I got, the steeper the steps were. I got to a point where I couldn’t even step up like a normal step- I had to swing my leg up onto the next step and use my arms to help push myself. It was crazy. I was out of water. I thought, “I’m an athlete. What the heck is this? I look and sound like an out-of-shape elderly woman.” It was then that I saw a fit-looking man projectile vomit.

Oh, yeah. Altitude sickness. No wonder I felt like yakking myself. The point to cut out early was about 2/3 of the way up, and I saw the family again. The kids asked if they could stop climbing and go get ice cream. Their athletic mother said, “No- ice cream only happens if we finish.”

Jeez. Some pep talk. I pushed ahead.

I met a new friend and her mother, and we talked to each other to help cheer us on. We all questioned our sanity and wondered why we’d want to do that, and before we knew it, I was at the top.

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It was awesome. The view was beautiful, and the trailhead at the bottom looked SO FAR away. I really wanted some water. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to go back down the way I came up… there was a trail to run down. The fastest three trail miles of my life happened there on Barr Trail, and I kept running downhill straight to Aaron’s car.

That warm Kleen Kanteen and Nalgene full of water were a Godsend. I opened those car doors and changed out of my trail shoes into my sandals. Oh, my little toes were thankful. I rolled down the windows, made a mental note to buy some Febreeze for the car, and headed out of town.

Until I remembered Garden of the Gods. I really wanted to head back, to drink my weight in cold water, and take a shower, but I couldn’t pass up such a beautiful location. Plus, I love rocks.

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After wandering around that natural beauty for a while, I went straight to Sonic, where I drank 44 ounces of iced tea and ate an ice cream sundae for lunch. I know how to live it up on vacation!

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I only stopped once on the way back, to take a picture of this crazy looking little hill…

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Once I arrived back in Boulder, I swung through Target to grab a few things (including that Febreeze, which made Aaron’s car smell like ‘fresh linen’ instead of ‘sweaty Heidi’), took a fabulous shower and went swimming at the pool in Aaron’s apartment complex.

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It was a fabulous way to unwind. There is a Which Wich close to Aaron’s apartment, so I refueled with some amazing carby goodness, then headed downtown to have beer with the talented (and obviously sassy) Tim Romano. We talked fly fishing, photography, fly fishing photography… you get the idea.

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I made it back to Aaron’s apartment just in time to watch some TV and relax. I felt awesome… DOMS later, maybe?

Up next? Finally, some time on the water. Both on it and in it.

Miles this year: 343.65

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Chasing Adventure: Colorado, Day One

On Monday morning, all I wanted to do was sleep in. Those campers wore me out… but I brewed some coffee and got my butt in gear. I had to unpack from the camp and repack for Colorado, and I had to review my materials for that evening’s city council meeting.

I downloaded, uploaded, read, notated, washed, dried, folded, rolled, charged, dusted, packed, unpacked, and repacked. I was pretty close to having my luggage packed and ready to leave for the airport, but I had to head out for my council meeting, so I kissed Brian goodbye and left.

This is a perfect bag, in my opinion. Camera gear and fly reels combined make for a fabulous trip!

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Our 7:00 council meeting went a little on the long side… and I got home shortly after midnight. I needed to leave the house at 1:30 to get to the Milwaukee airport on time, and it took me a little while to unwind and finish packing, so I took a 35 minute nap in Brian’s arms on the couch, then headed out to the airport.

That wasn’t enough sleep. It was a rough drive, complete with the eerie quality of an empty interstate at 3:30 am, and my constant desire to stop for donuts, which tested my self control.
I made it to the airport, and as I boarded my plane, rod tube in hand, I heard someone call my name. I looked up and saw my friend, Jon Christiansen!

I was able to sleep (though fitfully) for a couple hours on the plane, and I was woken up by the jostling during landing.
Jon waited for me after we landed, carefully placed a few special flies in my hand, and wished me luck on my Colorado adventure.

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Rainbow warriors… hope you’re magic out there! (Read later posts to hear about my fly fishing successes…)

My luggage was already on the carousel when I arrived at baggage claim, and Aaron was waiting to pick me up, as well!

As soon as we drove out of the Denver airport, I saw the mountains in the distance. They’re just amazing! We stopped at Aaron’s apartment to drop off my gear, then went to drop him off at work. As I dropped him off, he said, “Two rules: don’t kill yourself, and don’t hurt my car.” He then dropped a spare set of keys in my hand and ushered me off for some “Heidi adventures.” I have the BEST friends!

Of course, I was too tired to do anything. I had meant well, when booking that early flight, but I couldn’t have known that I’d be stuck in a five hour meeting and not be able to get any sleep. I wasn’t quite ready to lose my whole first day in Colorado, though, so I grabbed coffee from Starbucks then reclined in the parking lot and slept soundly for a few hours. I’m always running around (at least) just a little tired, and I’m one of those lucky people who can fall asleep pretty much anywhere. Naps are one of my best friends! I felt slightly better after my nap, so I headed down to the pedestrian mall in downtown Boulder. It’s a beautifully designed city! After becoming an alderwoman, I look at cities much differently.

I did a little shopping, since of course I forgot a few things. Their downtown has some of my favorite stores, including Lush, Patagonia, and prAna. Yoga classes, anyone?

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It started raining, so I played in the puddles, ate lunch from a food truck, drank more coffee…

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…and visited a fly shop.

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After asking about good local water, I decided to take a short drive along Boulder Creek to check it out. Winding through mountains following a stream is one of my new favorite things to do.

Boulder: where even the fire hydrants are pretty.

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Before I knew it, I had to head back to pick up Aaron from work. We went to dinner at Southern Sun Pub and Brewery, and after a good Colorado beer, I fell sound asleep around 8 pm!

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Up next? Climbing The Incline, taking photos, and meeting a Boulder friend. 🙂

Miles this year: 339.65

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