Monday, August 25, 2008

Kwasniewski (Carnes) Girls Visit Colorado

My sister Vicki and her two daughters just left after a wonderful six day visit from Ohio. It was so good to have them here, 'cause I feel a bit isolated from my family all the way out here in Colorado. I'm super fortunate that I get along with everyone in my family. More than that, I really like my family. I have come to realize that not everyone feels this way about their family members. Lot's of people dislike their siblings, parents and other relatives. I find this odd, because I can't imagine anything my father, one of my siblings or other close relative could do that would make me dislike them. Not that they are perfect and don't do things I wouldn't do (I'm sure they can say the same thing about me). And not that they aren't different from me. For example, Vicki is religious (southern Baptist) and Republican and I am adamantly non-religious and very liberal. But they're family and they are all smart and nice and fun to be around. So, I like them and I miss them now that I am so far away.

My sister Vicki, the oldest of the five of us Kwasniewski sibs, had visited me in Colorado once before. She came out in the winter with my younger sister Chris and our brother's wife Nanako. We had a fun, but short, girls visit and did winter things like snowshoe, spa visit to Gold Lake and shop. This time it was summer and Vicki came out with 20 year old Tasha and 16 year old Tara. OK - complete truth - Tasha will be 20 next month and Tara will be 16 in November, but they are so close. My nieces (or the Niecelettes as my friend Elizabeth referred to them), are turning into wonderful young ladies. They were such sports, along with their Mom, trying all kinds of activities, some outside their comfort zone.

What, you may ask, did I do to them to take them outside of their comfort zone?!?! Nothing they didn't want to do themselves!

All three of them joined me for the weekly Tuesday Night Gurlz Ride. I can't tell you how excited I was when they said they wanted to mountain bike during their visit! Mountain biking is my all time favorite thing to do (well, teleskiing too, but that's for the winter) and I was looking forward to having my family directly experience my passion firsthand. The ride took place at Marshall Mesa, the perfect place for beginners. Coming from Ohio at about 600 feet above sea level, Vicki and the girls definitely felt the effects of the altitude here in Boulder.

Vicki on the trail

Tasha coming down the hill

Tara riding in the glorious sunlight

Despite breathing hard, they all did great on the bikes, riding over rocky sections like pros! They had a blast riding, although they acknowledged that it was hard! It certainly gave them a more intimate appreciation for what I do.

It ain't mountain biking if you're not hiking! Carnes girls struggling up the hill

There were two little wipeouts, but no one sustained more than a few scratches and maybe a bruise or two. After the ride, all of us Kwasniewskis (they are still Kwasniewskis, despite the Carnes name) joined the rest of the Tuesday Night girls for dinner and drinks at Southern Sun.
Biking family - me (Jen), Tasha, Vicki and Tara after the ride

After all that hard riding, we spent the next day shopping and getting pedicures. It's a rough life....

Pretty toes!

After recuperating from the mountain bike ride, we made a trip up to Allenspark, near Rocky Mountain National Park, for a couple hours of horseback riding at Sombrero Ranches. We had an excellent time, just the four of us girls riding with our handsome cowpoke guide Todd. The views of Mount Meeker were spectacular. We wished we had opted for a longer ride when it was over..... (next time). Vicki said they were now ruined for riding anywhere but the wild west.

Tara on her horse Freckles - Mummy I want a pony

Todd, followed by Tasha and Vicki with Mount Meeker rising in the distance

Left to right - Tara, me (Jen), Vicki and Tasha, again with Mount Meeker

Later that same day, we grabbed Jesper and Strelka for a hike up to Green Mountain (8,144 feet). Green Mountain is one of the Boulder Front Range peaks right outside of town. It's close by and provides excellent views of Boulder and the plains as well as views of the Continental Divide and the Indian Peaks. We opted to start the trail a fair bit up the mountain, as opposed to down in Boulder. We were planning to do a bigger hike the next day and I didn't want to kill my guests! It was hot and the trail was steep, but the Carnes girls did great, all of them making it to the top. Vicki was quite the trooper, as she has one messed up foot that needs ligament surgery. By the end of the hike, her little piggies were sore!

Vicki, Tasha and Tara coming up a steep section on the way to the top of Green Mountain

The Carnes girls take a break - Tasha, Vicki and Tara (showing some serious phone cleavage!)

Jesper, a thirsty pup and a thirsty niece at the summit

The next day Vicki, the nieces and I, along with Strelka, went up to the Brainard Lake Recreation Area for a scenic hike up to Blue Lake. The hike, an out-and-back, is about 5 miles total and gains about 1,000 feet in elevation. Jesper and I have done this hike a few times. It is a good one for visitors from lower altitudes, as the elevation gain is not too severe and the terrain is not too steep. Nevertheless, it starts at over 10,000 feet and climbs up to 11,300 feet, well above tree line.

Starting out in the trees, we hiked at an easy grade to Mitchell Lake, which is surrounded by Mount Audubon (13,222 feet) and the rugged Paiute Peak (13,088 feet). Then, the trail got a wee bit steeper and rockier as we pushed up through the Krumholz trees to the tundra. Once above tree line, the views from this trail were amazing all the way to Blue Lake, which is flanked by Mount Audubon and Paiute Peak as well as Mount Toll (12,979 feet), Pawnee Peak (12,943 feet) and Little Pawnee Peak (12,468 feet). We hung out at the lake and ate left over pizza while Vicki soaked her sore toes. Then, we turned around and made our way back down to the trailhead. We had perfect weather the whole day (no afternoon thunderstorms) and everyone enjoyed the hike!

The Carnes girls posing by a Cairn!

Vicki, Tara, Tasha and Strelka on a snowfield in late August (don't see that in Ohio)!!

Vicki soaking her sore tootsies in Blue Lake (it was cold!!!)

Tara, Tasha and Vicki making the hike back to the car - Bye Bye beautiful Indian Peaks!

On Saturday, Jesper was in charge of the outing (although he vetted his ideas with me). He picked a hike that would show Vicki and the girls a different aspect of Colorado. Something up high in the real mountains. Mount Bierstadt (14,060 feet) up near Guanella Pass. We got going Saturday morning as early as we could manage with two teenage girls and made the drive south and then west to Georgetown. We were not certain if we'd make it all the way up; we could be turned around by weather or physical limits of some pretty pooped flat landers. However, we were certain that the views would be spectacular even if we only made it partway.

Tasha and Strelka waiting for Vicki and Tara who were resting and chatting with this kooky Norwegian lady

Hiking UP a mountain is always hard, since you are going, well, UP pretty much all the time. Vicki's toes were bothering her, but she kept motoring on. We set an interim goal of making a ridgeline that would allow us to see a bit onto the other side. We arrived there to much cooler temps and wind, but also building clouds and one very tired Tara. So, we ate some of our subs and turned around.

Grabbing a quick lunch up on the ridgeline - brrrrr.....

Clouds building up as Tasha, Tara, Strelka and Jesper hustle down the mountain

The storm building up behind Vicki as we descend back to the car

We made it to the car only minutes before the rain came. Not bad timing! After the hike, we grabbed a snack and beers (well, Jesper and I had beers) in quaint downtown Georgetown, while an exhausted Strelka slept in the car.

My sister and her daughters had to leave the next morning. It was really sad to see them go. I like my family! I wish they would all move out here and join Jesper and I in paradise!

(I'll set up my Picasa album soon, so stay tuned for a link here.)


Nanako said...

Fabulous pics and commentary. Can't wait to visit CO again in Dec!

j (Free) said...

I agree with Nanako. High quality pics and narrative, Jen.

Wait! How'd Colorado get a Lake Brainard? Brainard is in north central Minnesota! I know 'cause it was a line in the movie Fargo...

j (Free)

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