Breckenridge, Part III: Peak 8

On our first visit to the Breckenridge Ski Resort on Saturday, we had wanted to ride the “Colorado Super Chair Scenic Chairlift,” which goes up to the Alpine Camp on Peak 8. But the last chair goes up at 3:30 pm, and we didn’t get to it in time. So that was on our list for Sunday. We didn’t have any particular plan for what we would do when we got to the top, until we bought the tickets and they gave us a QR link to a trail map. We took one look at the map and resolved to summit Peak 8.

We got there early in the day, so we had the chairlifts mostly to ourselves.

The Alpine Camp consists of a restaurant called the Vista Haus, the Epic Discovery Fun Park with ziplines and other activities, and a wealth of trailheads for exploring the local peaks and forests.

The first part of the summit trail is actually a service road. It’s steep, but broad and smooth.

The views are wonderful all the way up.

The service road ends at a little ranger lookout station. From there the trail is narrow and much steeper.

We had agreed that we would head back down at 2pm whether we had reached the summit or not, to ensure that we didn’t miss the last chairlift at 3:30. At one point I realized that I might not make the summit in time. Elizabeth wasn’t struggling at all and I didn’t want to slow her down, so I told her to go ahead and claim the peak for the honor of the Silkotch name. She was like, “Okay, see ya.”

That structure she’s climbing past is an out-of-service ski lift, the Imperial Express. According to the signs it’s the highest ski lift in North America.

I kept chugging along…

…and actually did make it to the summit!

Elizabeth found a geocache box that had been converted to a visitor log. We both signed it.

The views were hazy from all the wildfires, but still phenomenal.

The lake in the distance is the Dillon Reservoir, the one we had stopped to admire on the drive up.

We chilled at the top for a while and then started down at about ten minutes to two.

We stopped at the ski lift station to snap a pic…

…and spotted a couple of ptarmigans! Another wildlife first for us.

We continued down and made it back to the Super Chair in plenty of time.

We felt like we had walked enough for one day, and decided to beat the traffic rush back to Denver.

Breckenridge has won our hearts. We’ll be back for sure.

Categories: Animals, environment, Family, Geocaching, Life, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Home for the Holidays IV: Little Mountains

This is the little mountain at the end of my Perris friends’ road:


I resolved to climb it every day of my stay, to counteract the debilitating effects of too much holiday feasting and revelry. I ended up skipping a hike or two, but not many. After the first couple of days the little mountain didn’t feel like a workout anymore, so I widened my range until I had scaled all of the immediately local peaks, such as they were.






I found this embedded in the top of a random peak. I have no idea what it means or why it’s there.


At one point my uncle came to visit from Phelan, and requested a tour of my little mountain range.

We got a really nice view of the balloons that day.


But most of the time I hiked alone. I really wanted to climb the big (relatively speaking) mountain on the other side of the Expressway next to Lake Perris.


I hadn’t climbed that one since I was in my teens or early twenties, way back in the day. It’s not really a mountain you want to tackle by yourself though. If something went wrong, help would be a while getting to you. On the last hike of my stay, I compromised by setting my sights on a handful of geocaches around its base. I didn’t expect to have time to get to all of them, and in fact I only got to two of the caches and didn’t actually find either one of those. Without a real gps unit it’s really just a guessing game trying to figure out which pile of rocks you’re supposed to be searching under. No regrets though, it was a beautiful hike.






The second geocache that I searched for was supposedly next to this big rock face.


I tried to climb that once, without equipment, in one of my younger and more foolish years. I didn’t get very far. To give a better idea of the scale of this thing, here are some arrows pointing to people who were climbing it when I snapped the pic:


That hike brought back a lot of memories. Two decades ago I used to ride Stormy on those trails.

The next day Steve dropped off Luke and Elizabeth. And if I’m completely honest, I will admit that our reunion was a little disorienting for me.

As I said in an earlier post, this was the longest that the kids and I had ever been apart. The first couple of days, I missed them like hell. I texted them to make sure they were okay, and felt a surge of relief every time Elizabeth posted to Facebook. But they were obviously having a fine time, and so was I, so I stopped worrying and began to enjoy the break. And there I was in this place where I had spent some of my carefree single years, with nothing to do but hike and play with my old friends and act like a kid again, and it was very easy to slip into that old mindset. And then suddenly the kids were with me again, and of course it was great to see them and catch up and everything, but…there was a very small part of me that had a hard time letting go of my rediscovered freedom. It was just…disorienting.

The next morning we headed back to Texas. By the time we arrived in DFW, the weirdness had passed and I was back in parenting mode. We all agreed that, while it was wonderful to see our old friends again, SoCal no longer felt like home. We’re just not desert people; we like trees and grass and rain. We like Texas.

I do kind of miss the mountains, though.

Categories: environment, Family, Friends, Geocaching, Life, Travel | Leave a comment

Home For the Holdidays, Part III: Geocaching

I’ve been curious about geocaching for a long time, but until recently it was mostly a theoretical interest. A few weeks ago it ocurred to me that DFW might have more to offer geocachers than Anza did, so I checked it out and sure enough, the whole Metroplex is teeming with caches. During the week before the kids and I left to spend Winter Break in California, we went searching for four nearby geocaches. We only found one of them. Since I don’t have a real gps unit, I just use an app on my iPad that pinpoints the location of the cache; unfortunately my iPad only connects to the Net via wi-fi, so it can’t always pinpoint my location with much accuracy when I’m out and about. If I’m looking for a cache in the woods, for example, the app can’t really tell me where I am beyond just guiding me to the right general patch of trees.

When I mentioned my interest and troubles on Facebook, a couple of my California friends who are active geocachers offered to take me around their own stomping grounds and show me some tips and tricks for finding caches. I happily agreed.

Brief tangent: by the time I got to California the Saturn was overdue for an oil change, and it had also developed an unsettling steering wheel shudder whenever I used the brakes. So two days after Christmas I took it to my regular mechanic in Temecula to have it looked at. I got there bright and early, but they were already having a busy day, so all they could tell me is that my car would most likely be ready to pick up by the time they closed at five. I left them to it and walked the three miles to the Temec library, where I settled in to work on my book.

I had only been there for an hour or two when I got a text from my friends, asking if I felt like going on a geocaching adventure/tutorial. Whoot!

They drove up from Rancho Cucamonga to pick me up. They had never done any geocaching in the Temecula area, so we decided to search out a few local caches until my car was ready and then head back to Rancho Cucamonga for the advanced class. In their basic geocaching tutorial I learned about lamppost caches and “boogers” and magnetic “stickers” and the ubiquitous popularity of ammunition boxes and Altoid tins. Somewhere in there the mechanic called to tell me that my car was suffering from a case of warped rotors and that they couldn’t get to the repairs until the next morning. So I left the Saturn in Temec, rode back to Rancho Cucamonga with my friends and embarked on a geocaching adventure extrordinaire.

Without revealing any actual locations, here are a few of my favorite caches:





There was a trackable in the gauge, so I brought it back to Texas to place in a local cache.





The weather has been cold and dreary since I got back to Texas, but the kids and I managed to go on one small geocaching run the day after we got back. We found two out of three that time, using the tricks I learned in California. As soon as it warms up I’m looking forward to devoting more time to it.

More California pics to come!

Categories: books, Christmas, Friends, Geocaching, Life, Travel | Leave a comment

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