Sunday, April 23, 2017

One year in Colorado

On Earth Day 2016, Beat and I loaded up our Subaru Outback with our most prized bicycles (and not much else), then rumbled onto I-880 eastbound out of San Jose. We passed through heavy snow over Donner Pass, the verdant hills of central Nevada, 75-mph crosswinds across Utah's salt desert, then heavy rain and snow across Wyoming. The terrible weather ended almost the moment we crossed the Colorado border. The famous 300-days-a-year sunshine was out, hillsides were green and the trees were bursting with tiny green buds and blossoms. I remember smiling at Longs Peak and thinking, "I will climb you first."

I still haven't climbed Longs Peak. But we have enjoyed one year in Colorado, living in the forested hills behind the Flatirons — a home between the cliffy edge of the Great Plains and the towering Continental Divide. We love it here. Our "Ugh, Front Range" friends crinkle their noses, but really, anything that's not to love here, the Bay Area had times ten. With the exception of "people who are better than you at everything," of course. Boulder's sheer concentration of smart, fit, successful people is staggering. Still, the crowds are smaller, and traffic is negligible (of course it's still annoying.) Yuppies are prominent, but still greatly outnumbered by genuine, interesting people that you want to get to know. There are a lot of white people here. I rank among them so I certainly can't criticize. I do miss the cultural diversity of San Francisco.

Of course there are other things I miss about California. Sometimes I think back to my favorite places — the Marin Headlands, Black Mountain, Old Tree — and feel heartsick for all the days gone by. But I lived in California for five years, and I can't say I ever felt truly at home there. Our apartment always felt like the place were we slept between travels. The Santa Clara Valley was a place where I went to the dentist and the doctor, where I bided time until we could move back to Alaska. Now that I'm in Colorado, I'll probably still bide that time ... but I feel more authentic when I call this place "home." It does help to live in a beautiful house in the ponderosa forest, a place where I can both act like the hermit writer that I am at heart, and jet to town anytime to have dinner with friends, visit my cozy, locally-owned gym, shop at Trader Joes, steal a few hours of work at The Cup, eat a salad at Mad Greens (I love that place.)

It also helps that Beat is much happier in his work in Boulder. At home he has so much more space for his engineering, sewing, and gear-making projects. I feel like I should make more efforts in the gardening department (meaning, more than none.) But allergies are still a concern (I had a serious reaction last year while pulling cheat grass and never tried it again, although I can wear a mask and cover all of my skin.) Still, I can't let go of the conviction that any time spent outdoors is best spent on the move. Luckily, the daffodils returned again this spring, the columbines and humming birds are on their way, and the natural landscaping is beautiful.

Boulder has been good for my medical needs, which have become surprisingly many in the past year. I appreciate the medical professionals I've worked with here.

And of course there are the adventure opportunities. I haven't climbed Longs Peak, and sometimes I feel almost guilty for my relative neglect of the nearby mountains. There's just a lot to enjoy right outside the front door.

Similar to our first week here, the early morning greeted us with a skiff of snow. Beat wanted to go for a long run this weekend, and had designed a route from our doorstep that racked up 6,600 feet of climbing in 18 miles, on the kind of terrain where uphills are the easy part (for me at least.) Sunday was supposed to be 75 degrees and sunny. Saturday was forecast to be 55 degrees with morning showers. I lobbied for running Saturday. ("That's good running weather," I argued. "Sunday's going to be hot and the trails will be crowded. Wait and see.")

 I knew as soon as I woke up in the morning that today would be a "good day" for me. This perkiness surprised me, because I had an allergy shot on Friday and felt awful, truly awful, for the rest of the afternoon. I almost backed out of the long run before bedtime, but decided to wait and see. My pattern remains unpredictable; some days I feel mowed down; others, I feel like a bird set free. Since I take the same medications and do most of the same things every day, there's no way of knowing which it will be.

 Saturday was a "free day." On free days, everything feels relatively effortless. It's not that I can do anything amazing, it's just that the ordinary stuff isn't a battle. We set out in steady "frizzle" (fog-drizzle) with patches of slippery snow still clinging to the ground.

 The frizzle began to clear and we made our way to South Boulder Peak. Delicate ice formations still clung to the burned skeletons of trees.

 We made the steep, rocky descent into Shadow Canyon, which caused my only bout of grumpiness for the day. But I perked up on the even steeper, rockier ascent of Fern Canyon.

 In between the canyons, we made our way along a scenic stretch of trail neither of us had traveled before. The air was cool and humid, and Beat raved about the rich aroma of resin.

 The always-pleasing view toward the Plains from Bear Peak.

This was a rare section of smooth trail that made me nostalgic for California, although looking at this photo, I realize that these trees are quite small. After seven hours we were home again, soaking in the satisfaction of a hard, yet "easy" effort. It was a nice way to celebrate one year in this place. My continued physical rollercoaster means I can't reliably do any type of real training, but I'm all the more grateful for these great days.


  1. Happy 1-year Anniversary Jill and Beat! Hopefully very soon your good days will WAY outnumber your bad days, and you will be able to get some consistency in your outdoorsey adventures! And also great to hear that Beat is happier in his work...that's SO important! If you aren't happy w/ your job, it flows downstream into the rest of your life. You're living in an outdoor paradise, so enjoy it (and keep up the great posts/photos of it for those of us who don't!)

  2. Here's to more hiking and biking and exploring Colorado trails in your second year! And here's to more hard yet "easy" efforts!

  3. Yes, I Iove the distinctive smell of the Ponderosa forests.

  4. Wow. One year already! Glad you had a "free day." Hope you have many more!


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