Colorado 14er’s for Beginners

For many people Colorado is seen as an outdoorsy, hiking destination. The mountains definitely live up to their reputation and probably exceed it. Many hikes are incredibly difficult especially on the well-known 14,000 foot mountains scattered throughout the state. There are a few however that are very suitable for beginners both in length and difficulty. I would note that these are the hikes that I have seen lots of people get altitude sickness on. If you are traveling from out of town (or think you might get altitude sick) be especially cautious when designing your itinerary and remembered that it is always better to turn around if a member of your group is very sick, even if that means you will not reach the summit. Here are the two best 14,000 foot mountains, in my opinion for beginners:

  1. Mount Bierstadt. This Colorado mountain sits at 14,065ft tall and is located just south of the mountain town Georgetown (about an hour west of Denver). This is easily the shortest hike of all the 14er’s I have climbed. This is a shorter hike because you drive so far up, starting at a much higher elevation but beware because parking here can be difficult. Because it is easy and one of the most accessible it is very crowded, especially on weekends. I would say as long as you start early (which is necessary on a fourteener anyways due to the variable weather) you will be totally fine and stress free. The climb itself is steadily uphill since you start so high. It took our group about four hours to do the whole thing and spend time at the summit.11703110_10205811172870262_7791701265273261792_n
  2. Grays and Torres. These are separate 14,000 foot peaks but most people do them both together since they are very close together, separated only by a short saddle. This hike is definitely longer, taking us around six hours to do both peaks. It is a total of 8 miles from the trailhead up and back down. This one can also be crowded depending on the weather so I again recommend getting an early start. The other great thing about these mountains is that they are also relatively close to Denver with an hour and half drive to the trailhead.                  11753656_10205811157909888_1404692817955476857_n

Both of these hike are incredibly beautiful with amazing 360 degree views of the mountain ranges. I highly recommend climbing one of these peaks if you are up for the physical challenge because those views are definitely worth the challenge!

Erin

Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Most people would not think of Nebraska as a destination. It is more often that long state you drive through to get to places like Colorado, Tetons, Utah etc… Cornfields line the roads for hundreds of miles great a flat and uniform landscape. It is generally a predictable place that is not known to be necessarily exciting and fun. In Nebraska’s far west just before reaching Wyoming are the Nebraska sand hills. Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge is about 30 miles north of the small town, Oshkosh and south of Alliance. Although it is not a sublime place is is rather picturesque and serene. There is so much incredible wildlife and so many adventures to be had. Although many may still not chose this as a destination I highly recommend stopping by if you are driving through.

We were up there helping a professor with some research but regardless of who you go with, there is lots of wildlife to see. We took several drives around the refuge and found lots of mud turtles, painted turtles, several species of lizards and lots of birds. The sunsets and sunrises are beautiful! I didn’t get any pictures but here is the link to a previous post I did with pictures from the last trip I did.

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Erin

Bahamas Travel Diary

I just got back from the most incredible trip to the Bahamas! Here is a short version of our daily itineraries.

Day 1: We flew out super early in order to maximize our first day in Nassau. We arrived at 11:00am and got to the Atlantis marina by lunchtime. We had some time to spare before setting sail so we hit the pool and walked around for a while. Around 4:00 everyone had arrived and we were ready to leave. Boating out of Nassau was interesting because there were so many ships, big houses and palm trees. Our destination was pretty far so we all took naps as the boat rocked back and forth through the open waters. I woke up around 8:30pm to the most amazing conch chowder, which was a great way to start at boating trip! We had arrived at our destination.

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Day 2: This was the official start to our research in the Exumas. We pulled up close to Leaf Cay where we would begin our research. One of the captains drove us over to the island in the skiff. Our professors taught us how to catch and process iguanas and we hit the ground running. The island was beautiful with a long stretch of beach which we worked on for most of the day. This island in particular gets a lot of tourists coming to see and feed the iguanas. We caught and process 149 iguanas in our first day which was pretty amazing!

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Cyclura cychlura inornata

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Day 3: The winds were very clam so we took the opportunity to go to Flat Rock Cay which is an island that is much more exposed to heavy winds and big waves. The beach is also harder to pull up to, requiring calm winds. The island is very beautiful and there are some of the most amazing shells I have ever seen here. The iguana population is much smaller on this island and the weather turned pretty nasty halfway through the day limiting our iguana catching abilities. It started to rain hard and we tried to wait it out but it just kept coming so we ran back to the skiff and rode back to the Beacon Won. In the afternoon skies cleared giving way to great swimming weather and an amazing sunset.

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Day 4: Our research team split in two to cover more ground and my group went back to Leaf Cay. We caught lots of iguanas and had some really great time to swim.

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c/o Lynne Pieper

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c/o Lynne Pieper

Day 5: We hit Leaf Cay once last day. It was an incredibly successful day in terms of research but the evening definitely took a turn for me. I was netting iguanas with a professor when I fell into a hole, spraining my ankle pretty badly. Other than this though the day was an amazing one!

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Day 6: Due to my injury the day before I stayed on the boat for the day and assisted the Utah State professor and graduate student with their lab research. It was interesting to learn about their research and protocols. We took a swim in the blue Caribbean waters in the afternoon to break from all that lab work.

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Day 7: This was the second day for the group on U Cay. It is a beautiful island that has a long sandy beach and incredible tide pools. I spent some time in the morning exploring the tide pools for a long day of processing. It was a great place for swim breaks though! We say an eagle ray swimming through the clear blue waters right near us. A group of us swam back to the boat which was super fun!

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Day 8: We left Highbourne after breakfast and sailed further south to Bush Hill Cay. It took several hours but we arrived in plenty of time. There is a coral reef near the cay so it took some navigating (of our captains!) to get in close to the island. We got to the island and ate lunch before breaking off to go in search of this species Cyclura rylei which is a smaller species with longer claws and much more agile necks. The skiff ride back was pretty long because they had moved the Beacon Won to a much better place to anchor.

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Day 9: Our last day in the Exumas! Although it was the last day, it was one of my favorites. We had some great iguana catching but also amazing views from the top of Bush Hill Cay and some fun on the beach later in the day. We arrived on the skiff with lots of iguanas to process from the day before and it was incredible because the species on Bush Hill Cay has so many different color morphs. There were yellow, red, blue and many mottled iguanas. We got to see two Green Sea Turtles swimming along the shore. I snorkeled near the turtles and got to see lots of colorful fish and some interesting corals. Several of us hiked to the highest point and the 360 view was truly incredible.

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c/o Wendy Tori

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Day 10: A friend woke me up at 5:30am to watch the sunrise. We jumped in the water and enjoyed watching the sky fill with yellows, oranges, pinks and blues. A crew member interrupted our bliss, informing us that the heads were going to be emptied. With that we got out of the water as fast as possible. Fresh coffee was ready when we got out so we enjoyed that while waiting for breakfast. I spent the morning reading and journaling on the top deck while we journeyed back to Nassau. The return trip was about six hours so there was lots of time for some relaxation in the sun. We arrived at the Bay Street Marina around 3:00pm which gave plenty of time for showers and some exploration of Nassau. A group of us walked down Bay Street checking out the shops. Our designation was the Straw Market down by the cruise ships, which is a great place to get fairly cheap souvenirs so long as you can bargain (it can be a very intimidating place). We ate at The Green Parrot which is just inside the marina and the seafood was delicious. Fresh conch fritters and Mahi made for the perfect last Bahaman dinner. We walked across the bridge to Atlantis after dinner to walk through their aquarium and get ice cream. I stayed at Atlantis when I was young so I definitely remembered the underground tanks of fish and beautiful architecture. We walked through the aquarium and the casino, back out to the village which is kind of an outdoor mall. We got ice cream, which was delicious, however I would recommend getting ice cream at a shop in Nassau because everything in Atlantis is expensive.

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Captain Bruce!

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Day 11: Those ten days went so incredibly fast! The end came quickly but the last morning did not disappoint with amazing views of the harbor over that highly anticipated cup of coffee. We flew out of Nassau around 11:00am and stopped in Atlanta, reaching our final destination by dinner.

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Note: The main purpose of this trip was to conduct research with herpetologist John Iverson. He has a long term iguana study going in in the Exumas and has been researching species once thought to be almost extinct. Just as a preface, as students and universities we fully comply with ICUC rules and training.

Erin

Summer Goals

Happy Memorial Day! It is definitely the holiday that marks the beginning of summer. It is a tradition in Boulder to go to the big Creek Festival during memorial day weekend and run the 10k through our city. This year I am not running due to an injury but I definitely will be hanging out with friends at the festival. For some reason this weekend has always marked the beginning of summer, probably because school has just ended and warm weather has finally set in. Barbecue season has begun and the reds, whites and blues are in true high style.

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Blouse American Eagle (on sale!), jeans Just Black, shoes Target

Here is my list of things to do this summer:

  1. Hit the beach: Yes I feel like I somewhat already accomplished this in the Bahamas but I do love going to the beach so much and I am hoping to go once more before the summer is over.
  2. Road trip: For some reason this has become a summer staple for me! Last year Aiden and I drove around Colorado, exploring my favorite places and parks and this year we are doing a girls trip to New Mexico to enjoy some pool side sun bathing and gorgeous views. There are an endless number of road trips all over the US and they are so great because you can truly tailor your trip to what you really want to be doing.
  3. See friends and family: Although I will be working for part of the summer, this is the first chunk of time I have had at home for several years and I am super excited to catch up with old friends and see family.
  4. Go sailing: Although Colorado is not the most nautical place I grew up sailing on the east coast and have a love for it even though I am very landlocked. This year the best chance I have will be on the Boulder Reservoir in a sunfish but that will have to suffice. We also have ample opportunity for paddle boarding and swimming.
  5. Hike a mountain: Getting outside always makes me feel better about myself. It is just incredibly freeing, no matter how high the mountain or how low the valley. It is also a great activity to do with friends because it gives so much time to really talk without the distractions of the outside world.

I am sure there are many more but these are my top goals for the summer! I am very excited for all this time in the sunshine after a grey Indiana winter.

Erin

Adventures in Cincinnati

A few errands took us on an adventure to the beautiful city of Cincinnati. I decided that because the weather has been so nice I wanted to find some fun things to do outside (and for free if possible). Here are some ideas:

Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum: This first stop sounds like kind of a strange place to go visit but it is outside, free and very pretty. It is so large that we didn’t even get halfway through. There are many green lawns and some beautiful lakes spread throughout as well as many beautiful headstones and buildings. The lake we walked around had a really interesting bridge and lots of unique and beautiful trees. It was definitely nice to get out, walk around and enjoy the fresh air.

Smale Riverfront Park: This waterfront it incredible! It’s right in downtown Cincinnati along the river and it is a beautiful place to walk around and enjoy the view. The downside is that parking is kind of a pain so choose your time well!

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Other fun ideas: I love visiting the IKEA and Jungle Jims (an international food market) and there are many museums in Cincinnati  that are really fun!

Shoes Nike, Sweater Ann Taylor, Leggings Anthropologie, Scarf Pink Pinneapple, Sunglasses

Erin

Blue Vintage

The spells of warm weather in the mid-west have definitely sparked my excitement for spring style and warm-weather adventures! We spent a day in the Depot District of Richmond, IN exploring the massive furniture store and getting coffee at Roscoe’s. The Richmond Furniture Gallery is a really interesting place with lots of interesting vintage pieces. It is a massive store with three floors that are all multiple large rooms. It is definitely a place to go if you are into old, unique items. They also sell lots of new furniture if you are looking for quality home furnishings. The people are also incredibly nice and make the entire experience very personalized. The Depot District has some other great antique shops and delicious places to eat. Roscoe’s is a bar and coffee house that has amazing lunch food and yummy ice cream. They also bring in bands and speakers regularly; the day we visited they were having a 24hr Moby Dick marathon (someone had been reading on and off since the day before!).

 

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Play suit H&M (this ASOS jumpsuit is a great option and this Mumu one is too), Sunglasses Anthropologie, Bag Mango (this bucket bag, this tassel bag and this one are all super cute as well!)

 

Erin

Plaid in German Town

So the whole reason for this adventure is a bit of a story. Basically some friends and I went to a hockey game at Ohio State several weeks ago, just to get off campus and have fun. The game itself was actually super fun and the fans were pretty entertaining. The drive back however was quite an experience.

A friend was driving on interstate 70 going over 60mph and hit a coyote. We did not think the coyote could have done that much to the car however we were very wrong. We stopped at a gas station to buy some tape for a piece of the bumper that was falling off and saw that coolant was streaming out from under the car. We soon figured out that there was no way we were even going to be able to drive it to a mechanics! Anyway the car had been in Columbus getting repaired so we needed to go pick it up.

Columbus, OH is actually a nice city with lots of fun things to do! We were looking for something that did not take too long and doesn’t cost a fortune so we chose the German Village. It turned out to be a very pretty historical neighborhood. The streets and houses are mostly brick and much of the original architecture still stands from the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. I also did some shopping at Helen Winnemore’s which is a cute little shop that sells all sorts of quality items from company’s and artists in the United States. We ate lunch at the Olde Mowhawk which had incredibly friendly staff and delicious food.

Dress Zara, Boots Hunter, Belt J. Crew

Erin