All I can say, is that this is my favourite ski destination in Colorado so far! Great slopes, great powder, super cool town. Enjoy the video!
I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that I love whitewater kayaking.
I used to paddle a LOT. In fact, my life revolved around stream flows back in 2006 and 2007. I would chase the rain and drive from Ottawa to Tennessee to West Virginia in order to get on new and fun rivers!
After a bit of a hiatus, I started working with an incredible organization, Team River Runner, which helps wounded veterans and their family in health and healing through paddlesports. There is a chapter here in Colorado Springs and I’ve been working with them since 2013. Most of the paddling I’ve been doing lately has been in support of Team River Runner, however I did get a chance to paddle some rivers at my skill level this summer!
The season started in April, with two great paddling days. The first was on Easter Sunday when a group of us met and paddled the Arkansas River with easter bunnies strapped to our boats and some even wore bunny ears!
The second was the following weekend when a girlfriend and I went to beautiful Steamboat Springs for some skiing. The snow was very icy and the hills a little painful, so we skied one day, then went into town and she fly-fished upstream while I spent a couple of hours surfing a the fun Charlie Hole on the Yampa. What fun to combine winter sports and summer sports in one trip! And, the Subaru was able to handle us and all the gear!
Then in May we brought three Team River Runner chapters together for CKS Paddlefest in Buena Vista. We have a great campground owned by a veteran that we get to use each year. This year, we had veterans from Salt Lake City, Denver and Colorado Springs together for a fun weekend of paddling, watching freestyle events, checking out company booths and relaxing by the campfire. We were also blessed to have a personal whitewater clinic led by world-class pro paddlers Emily Jackson and Nich Troutman!!
A week later, I was a student on an American Canoe Association Level 4 Whitewater Kayak instructor course put on by the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center and Whitewater Attainment. This was a challenging course for me, having rusty skills and working with young, spry kids in their 20’s! I worked my butt off to keep up with them on the river, and secretly collapsed, exhausted in my campsite at the end of each day!
Through the rest of the summer, we held pool sessions and ran class I-II river trips for Team River Runner down the Arkansas River. I also taught beginner classes at the local lake in evenings after work.
I also managed to squeeze in a great run through the now historic Brown’s Canyon with two awesome paddling chicks, Tara and Becky and two play sessions at the Pueblo Play Park!
In September I was given my first opportunity to run Waterton Canyon near Denver. Four times! What a great III-IV run with access to walk back over and over to run it again. Here’s the video from that great day!
One of the highlights of the season was an incredible opportunity to assist on a three day Team River Runner leadership clinic through the Ruby/Horsethief and Westwater Canyons of the Colorado River. What an incredible experience and to work with veterans pushing their limits on some higher class III whitewater!
I have such a feeling of accomplishment from this season, and really enjoy paying my passion for paddling forward to others!
I grew up in Ontario, Canada. In fact, before I moved out to Colorado, I had never lived anywhere else. Mountains were never really a part of my life. I knew they existed but had never been given the opportunity to experience them first hand.
I learned to ski at Horseshoe Valley Resort, north of Toronto. Horseshoe Valley has a difference in elevation of 308 feet. Another place in Ontario where I have skied is Calabogie Peaks, which apparently offers the highest vertical drop in Ontario of 761 feet.
My new home resort, Keystone Resort near Dillon, Colorado has a difference in elevation of 3,128 feet. Just to give you an idea of what I’m used to and what I’m experiencing here in Colorado.
So, back to mountains. To be honest, I don’t know how I managed to live the majority of my life without being surrounded by mountains! My first time experiencing mountains was in Bosnia and then Switzerland. It was astounding to see them jut out of the earth as if they were the most powerful things nature had to offer. It was terrifying driving switchbacks in Bosnia with no guard rails. It was exhilarating noticing the thinner but cleaner air.
When I cycled through the Canadian Rockies, I was really nervous. I thought, how can I possibly get my little bike up those HUGE mountains? But the mountains can be forgiving. There are ways to get through them without going straight up. Valleys and passes assist us in being able to experience their majesty without as much effort as we might think.
Although they can be forgiving, they are also not to be messed with. When I climbed Kilimanjaro, I truly learned to appreciate that the mountains are boss. We passed many people who simply couldn’t handle the altitude, returning down the slopes with looks of defeat on their faces.
Since I’ve lived in Colorado Springs, the form of Pikes Peak follows me wherever I go. I can drive into the mountains each weekend if I want to. I truly feel as if “The Mountains are Calling”, and I truly feel as if it’s where I belong.
Date: 5 April 2015
River: Arkansas (Pinnacle Rock)
Level: 434 cfs
Paddlers: Me, Frank, Sharlene, Ed, Katy, Jose, Jim, Jim, Rich
On Easter day, many people have their traditions. Church, staying at home, easter egg hunts, chocolate, the list goes on! I am proud to say that I did not consume ANY chocolate yesterday, but I did participate in a pretty cool tradition here in southern Colorado! The Annual Easter Bunny Paddle on the Arkansas River! The local paddling group, Pikes Peak Whitewater Club gathered folk for an easy paddle followed by a potluck picnic on the shores. I considered myself lucky to be invited along. The rules of the Easter Bunny Paddle is that each paddler had to attach a stuffed bunny on the bow of their boat. Some even took it a step further and duct taped bunny ears to their helmets! Note for next year: find bunny ears for my helmet.
This section of the Arkansas was one I hadn’t paddled before, and it was at low water so for this big water boater, it was a bit of a challenge maneuvering my short playboat around rocks. The Pinnacle Rock section was a fun class III run, which apparently gets even more awesome as the water level rises!
The weather was so great (23 degrees celcius) along the way, we saw fishermen along the shore and families having Easter picnics and having fun along the river. It was so great to see people taking their children out on Easter and spending it in the outdoors together as a family!
Enjoy the photos!
One of my Colorado Bucket List items is to check out Aspen, Colorado. The place where all the celebrities go to show off their cool ski suits, stay in their million dollar condos and generally live the good life!
I was able to snatch up this sweet deal for the last weekend in March. $250 got me a room in a luxury condo, 2 days of lift tickets at any of the three nearby hills (Aspen, Snowmass, Buttermilk), a Wine & Cheese welcome, and shuttle transportation to and from Colorado Springs. Sweet! How could I say no?
So here’s what I found. Aspen is pretty darn cool. The area is simply gorgeous, the condos are out of this world (I shared a three bedroom, four bathroom condo with five friends), the shops are amazing, the restaurants are divine, and the overall vibe is one of relaxed enjoyment. Even when we went to the Ajax Tavern for dinner (which had amazing food, but not-so-amazing service), as I looked around the restaurant I noticed every table was full of conversation, laughter and interaction. There was a decided lack of smartphones – people were actually conversing with each other AND having fun!
Here are a few photos from my super weekend! If I can snag a deal like that again next year, I’ll be all over it!
Yes, I missed a few. And it’s no longer April (in fact, it’s no longer May either)!
So I have lived in Colorado Springs for just under a year now and the over 14,000 foot Pike’s Peak has been looming over me almost every day, watching my every move. The mountain is to the left of me as I drive to work and to the right of me when I drive home. It is standing there directly across from me as I walk out of my westward facing front door. The only time I don’t see the peak is when the weather systems roll in and the entire mountain range is engulfed in clouds. Even at night I can see the light flickering from the top of the mountain.
Pike’s Peak was named after Bridagier-General Zebulon (if anyone knows the origin of that name, please let me know) Montgomery Pike who “discovered” the mountain on an expedition to find the headwaters of the Red River. Ironically to me (the Canadian in Colorado), Brig.-Gen Pike died in battle during the war of 1812 in York (now Toronto – so sorry about that Americans, I’m glad we’re friends now).
There are three main ways you can get to the top of Pike’s Peak:
1. The world’s highest Cog Train: For $36 a head, you can ride the train to the summit of the mountain. It lets you off for about 30-40 minutes while you scramble to take #summitselfies and try the freshly baked altitude donuts, before taking you back down to the bottom. Total trip time: 3.5 hours.
2. Drive the Pike’s Peak Highway: Pay between $10-$12 at the tollgate (hint $2 off coupon) and drive all the way to the top! Not for the faint hearted though – although the train probably isn’t either! There aren’t any guardrails, and the right just simply drops off the side of the mountain. My husband was like, “Jenny, you can get a little closer to the right. You have lots of room. You don’t have to crowd the line,” to which I retorted, “No, I’m good. Thanks for the advice but I’ll just keep driving up the centre of the road.” Also, word of advice, if you don’t have hill assist on your car/truck, don’t ride the brakes on the way down or you’ll have to stop halfway to let them cool off. Not good for your car, and you really don’t want to lose that thing that will stop you if you need to!
3. Hike it: The Barr Trail ascends 7,900 vertical feet in just over 11 miles. You could do it in one day – the average ascent time is between 6-10 hours – or you can spread it out over two days and stay at Barr Camp half way up. Doggies on leashes are allowed! How do you get down? Have a friend meet you at the top, take the train, or hike back down another 5-7 hours! (I’ll opt for the train…)
Some neat events based on Pike’s Peak:
The Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb: every year in June, racers of all shapes and sizes test their skills and fear of heights to race to the top of Pike’s Peak. I wanted to go and watch in person, but once you’re up there you can’t get down until after the race is over. Haven’t decided yet.
The AdAMan Climb: Every year, a select group of climbers ascend Pike’s Peak on December 31st (actually I think they start on the 30th) along Barr Trail and pop off Fireworks at midnight to ring in the new year. Here’s the view from Garden of the Gods with my first-time attempt at using a tripod in pitch black and no professional skillz to try and get a photo of this cool phenomenon.
Date: 24 May 14
River: Arkansas Stone Bridge to Salida
Level: 1600 cfs
Paddlers: Me, John, Herman, Rich, James, Hyrum, Chloe, Andrew, Traci, Tom, Mike, Seosaimh
CKS Paddlefest is a great Colorado kick-off to the summer paddling season, held in Buena Vista, CO. This year it aimed to raise money and awareness for local youth in Chaffee County, Colorado.
We set up a nice little camp on the side of the river. The weather forecast wasn’t looking great for the weekend, but we still managed to get a camp of 20 people! For the second year in a row, Air Force cadets from USAFA joined us to help as shuttle bunnies. There’s no better feeling than not having to run shuttle! It makes the logistics so much simpler and lets us focus on our time on the river.
Our river crew was a crew of 12. We had a combination of experienced paddlers, paddlers from last year, and brand new river rats. Our rule for this trip was that each participant had to have a minimum of two sessions in the pool to make sure they understood the basics.
When we run the river, we take a variety of boats with us in order to accommodate all of our paddlers. Two paddlers this time around chose the sit-on-top kayaks, which looked so comfortable – like paddling a couch down the river. I was jealous with my legs jammed into a short playboat!
Our run down the river went great! The weather was surprisingly nice, and our new paddlers were kicking butt! We discussed hand and paddle signals so we could communicate from afar on the river, and we practiced paddle strokes, ferrying, eddy catching and just plain fun rapid-riding! Weeee!
Overall, the run between Stone Bridge and Salida is a class II run, but further down toward the town, there is a low head dam with a paddler chute along river left. The chute is a three pool drop, but at this level were without major consequence. We had all the paddlers get out and look at the chute from the shore, and had some of our more experienced paddlers demonstrate the lines for us.
We set up communications at the top, middle and bottom of the run along with throw ropes and live bait in case we had to jump in and grab boats, people or gear.
We had a couple of swimmers at the chute, who were able to eddy out quickly and boats were gathered at the bottom. Everyone had a blast going through the rapids! Later when we arrived at the Salida play park, however we had a mini-yard sale. We claim we did it for the benefit of the spectators on shore! Our river rescue skills allowed us to make sure we didn’t lose any gear, and the cadets were waiting for us in town to load our boats and head back the FOB.
Here’s a little video of our day on the river. Hopefully we have convinced a few more people to come out with us on the next river trip!
I have never lived outside of Canada before. In fact, I’ve never lived outside of the province of Ontario! I grew up an army brat to a Health Services Officer in the Canadian Forces. We shuffled our lives back and forth between the Military Hospital in Ottawa and the Military Medical School in Borden, with one slightly offset posting to Kingston.
When I found out there was an opportunity for me to move to Colorado Springs, I jumped at the chance. Not only would the weather be better, I would be pretty much in the centre of the U.S. with easy access to flights across the country. This was my chance to see more of the states!
So for day three of the #AtoZChallenge (which is really still day one for me because I’m catching up on my letters), I would like to talk a little about what it’s been like being a Canadian in Colorado!
Let’s see, the view: for starters, I can never, ever, ever get sick of the view of Pikes Peak every morning as I drive to work. No matter the time of the year, the majesty against the wide open skies of the prairie-desert is awe inspiring. I have probably taken a hundred photos of the peak since I’ve been here.
The weather is strange here: I have been referring to mother nature as being ‘bi-polar’. Before “winter” came along, weather was crazy! (I use it with quotation marks because winter here, is not really winter, if you’re comparing it to winter in Ottawa or Barrie, Ontario. We’ve had about four or five snow dumps here, where the snow pretty much melts the next day. There’s a 24 hour sidewalk shoveling bylaw after a snowfall here, but most of the time we sweep the snow, or wait for it to melt within half a day!) During the spring, summer and fall, it was like clockwork. Around 2 p.m., we would see clouds making their way over Pike’s Peak, and within half an hour, it would be raining like I’ll get out, complete with lightning, thunder and hail! By 3:30 – 4:00 p.m., the sun would be back out and everything would be completely dry!
Prices: One thing that I’ve always had a hard time with, is the huge discrepancy in prices between Canada and the U.S. In fact, there have been a few times where we were able to get Canadian items cheaper in the U.S. And what’s with the permanent price difference on the spine of paperback books? At one point when the Canadian dollar was really strong, we were paying an extra $5+ for the SAME book, taking into consideration the exchange rate. Don’t even get me started on gas. Canadian gas is taxed up the wazoo. What used to cost me upwards of $70-80 to fill up my husband’s truck, now costs a little over $50. I was worried when I came down here if we would be able to afford to live the same way as we did in Canada, but to be honest, even the groceries are cheaper!
The people: I know everyone says that Canadians are really friendly, however, I have never noticed so much friendliness as I have here. Customer service is still customer service. I’ve never felt like I’ve been inconveniencing and employee (except once), and even at my work, people I don’t even know say “hello” in the hallways!
Now that I’ve finished singing the main praises about being a Canadian living in Colorado, let me set the record straight. It’s not all butterflies and bubble gum.
Crime (hey that starts with C as well): The crime unnerves me. I think it’s also the fact that the media down here tend to REALLY enjoy reporting on crime. Shots are fired EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. in Colorado Springs. Banks and 7/11s seem to be robbed weekly. I just found a website that PROJECTED crime data in the city for 2014! In September of last year, we had 25 homicides so far! That’s a lot! In Canada, I’m always shocked when someone gets killed. Down here it seems to be a regular occurrence!
Fall Foliage: I really miss the vibrant red, orange and yellow that appears in eastern Canada during the fall. Now Colorado has it’s own autumn trademark, the glimmering golden shimmer of the mountain Aspens, but there’s something about the leaves in Ontario that I really miss.
All-in-all, I feel truly blessed to be in Colorado. It is an active state – no shortage of things to do outdoors! I have gotten some great skiing in this season, and already planning some trail hiking and whitewater kayaking in the mountains in the coming months. But, there’s a part of me that is still so proud to be Canadian, and gets homesick for those little things (like ketchup chips) back home. Oh and I’ll always spell it centre and colour, even though WordPress doesn’t like it and tries to tell me I’m spelling them wrong. And I don’t miss Canadian winters though! No way!