Thirty Thursdays: 2 Night Camping Trip

The summer after we started dating, Chap introduced me to a type of landscape I hadn’t yet explored – the Colorado mountains.  In the heat of summer in Tulsa, a summer trip to hike is always on the mind.  The next winter, I conquered the winter mountains and learned to snow ski.  After that trip, we decided my next Colorado adventure should be a 2-night overnight camping trip.  I put it on my 30 before 30 list and it was planned a few months later.

Preparations

I had zero camping gear.  No boots, no sleeping gear, no suitable outerwear, no hiking socks, no tent, no backpack and no clue.  Just a lot of workout clothes (those came in handy!).  Luckily I had a team of two clients supply everything I could have imagined needing, right down to a hatchet.  Big backpack, smaller backpack, fleece jacket, rain jacket, water bottles, bear spray, headlamps and the list goes on.  Chap was able to supply everything else we would need (tent, blankets, water filter).

I packed everything I could think of.  Our not-so-specific plan was to land in Denver, stop at REI so I can get hiking boots and further our plan from there (pick a place to hike and camp).  Very much a team of flying by the seats of our pants.  We asked one of the REI employees to make a suggestion for the rest of our itinerary.  With his help, we decided we would head to hike up a 14er and then drive over to Indian Peaks to camp.

Hiking Mt. Evans

Neither of us had fully hiked a 14er before and we were both up for the challenge.  I can’t remember exactly how we decided on Mt. Evans, I think the employee helped us and Chap thought there was some passageway connecting to another peak.  It’s all a little fuzzy because of what unfolded after.

If there is any lesson to be learned from the following story, it’s that you should ALWAYS listen to the park rangers.  And the second lesson is don’t begin a hike to the summit in the afternoon.  We started our hike up Mt. Evans in the early afternoon, after being warned by a friendly park ranger that it wasn’t a good time to be going up, “afternoon storms will be rolling in.”  Well it seemed to be clear enough to us (idiots) and I was eager to get moving after hours in the car.

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Heading up Mt. Evans

We made it to the spot above and stopped for a picture.  This is where we debated continuing on or not.  I’m a go-getter and really wanted to make it all the way around the crest so we kept on.  It looked clear enough (see the sun behind us?!).  As we climbed, we encountered some goats and a few other hikers, two of whom passed us up to continue on.  The temperatures dropped so I put on my windbreaker and hood.  It started raining, and even hailing a little bit.

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Rain and hail

Just after this picture was taken, a little bit of chaos ensued.  Chap looked back at me and says (I’m taking his word for it, otherwise it’s the best prank he’s pulled on me ever), “Do you feel that hail on your jacket?”.  And yes, there was a little bit of hail but then his eyes got wide because my hair was standing straight up.   He threw his hat to the ground because he realized the sound of the “hail” on his hat was actually static electricity in his ears.  I still had no idea what was going on and he shouts at me, “Do you have anything metal on you?” and I was like, “I don’t know, a zipper, my phone, the keys what is going on”.

“We gotta get down this mountain as fast as we can.”

So, we started running.  We’re not really talking so that we can focus on jumping and stepping down the uneven terrain.  I’m ready at any moment to throw anything that I think is metal off my body, including the car key.  After about a half mile run down the mountain, we found some cover underneath a rock and I am ready to camp out and call it good.  But Chap said we had to go for it or we’d be stuck there for hours.  Just a few minutes after we resumed running a giant clap of thunder and flash of lightning struck somewhere behind us and I think for the first time in my life I actually thought I might be killed.  I was kind of anticipating the lightning strike on my body as we ran and also thinking about how grateful I was for Fit Camp and running as I ran for my life down that mountain.

We obviously made it down to safety and lived to tell the tale, but learned those two lessons on the way down.   The storms stuck around for a while, all along the towns on 70 so we decided to bag the first night of tent camping.  I’d had enough of mother nature for the day and wanted a sheltered room to sleep in, and some pizza.

Camping at Indian Peaks

After a semi-restful night at a roadside motel near Granby Lake, we set out for our hiking adventure.  Our new plan was to park the car, hike in with our camping gear, stay the night and hike back out in the morning.  After filling up with plenty of coffee and delicious breakfast, we visited the ranger station for a map and headed into the trail.

The weather was perfect, and I was especially grateful for the sunshine after our eventful storm adventure the day before.  All the excitement I wanted today was to see a moose.  We walked and walked, talking and talking.  My shoes were comfortable and the trail was ever changing.  It wasn’t a strenuous hike but a beautiful trail through the trees and sometimes through open valleys with the mountains on both sides of us.

We took our time, stopping at waterfalls for pictures and taking plenty of snack breaks.  I don’t think we really had an end point in mind, we were just looking for a soft place to pitch our tent after about 5 miles into the woods.

We set up camp and continued along the trail to Crater Lake.  The water was so crisp and clear!  Chap got in, but it was way too cold for my tastes (snow melt basically).

By this point in our trip we had run out of pre-packed water and were down to using a filter system.  I was a little wary of it but what choice did I have?  We stopped along a stream to fill back up, and then returned to our tent for a camp-cooked meal.  Chap, ever on the search for the best view, hiked us up past our tent to the top of a little rock formation.  It was perfect and beautiful.  There aren’t even any pictures because I knew that they wouldn’t do the view justice.  We sat up there cooking our freeze dried food and watched the sunset.

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It was hard to sleep for a few reasons.  The cold.  A tiny fear of wildlife.  The hard ground.  And the freeze dried food wasn’t sitting well in my stomach.  Or maybe it was the filtered water.  Either way, I was a big fan of this camping adventure, until we woke up the next morning.  We’d brought a shit shovel with us, because you’re supposed to cover your tracks and I was so hoping to not have to use it on our 36 hour adventure.  But that was not to be the case.  Was definitely not a fan of that just as my digestive system was not a fan of the home cooked meal.

After I returned to camp, we packed up and headed on our way out of the park.  I love the hiking aspect of camping, so if we can figure out a way to incorporate bathrooms and more comfortable sleeping arrangements in the middle of some long hikes, I’m game forever.

We ended this trip with a gigantic nap before we went to see Eric Church and Maren Morris at the Red Rocks.  A big bucket list trip!

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Refreshed after a shower and giant nap!

Do you have any good camping stories?  Or tips to help me out next time?

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Thirty Thursdays: Red Rocks Concert (and Eric Church)!

When Chap and I went to Colorado for the first time (my first time ever) in 2015, I was completely mesmerized by the landscape.  We hiked Rocky Mountain National Park, White water rafted, ran a half marathon and climbed all over the Red Rocks.  As we were driving back to Tulsa, in between my sobs, I decided I wanted to see a concert at the Red Rocks.  And what a great thing to have on a bucket list.

Eric Church comes into this because he’s long been on my list of concerts to see.  I was supposed to see him in graduate school, had my tickets and everything but it was right as I was gearing up to move and I just couldn’t swing it.

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Light packers?!

When I saw that he was playing at the Red Rocks, it was such an easy decision to jump into.  And lucky for me, Chap is fairly easy to convince to go to Colorado – even for country concerts.  This time around we’d planned to camp (also on my bucket list), hike and end the trip with the concert.  I’ll have to write about the camping and hiking later, maybe next week.  But after a few days of some crazy weather and being one with nature, we crashed at our favorite Air Bnb, the same mountain castle we stayed in last time.  Unfortunately it’s a little out of our price range now so it’s our last time there.

We were so tired.  We’d been driving for a while, after spending the past two days hiking our way to Crater Lake and spending the night in a tent somewhere along that trail.  My sleep was pretty fitful that night because of discomfort, cold and a tiny fear of bears.  So, as soon as we got to our castle, we showered and passed out hard.  I woke up a little bit before Chap, to read about the parking and drinking protocols for the Red Rocks Amphitheater.  And I about leapt off the bed with excitement when I saw that my fave little songwriter Maren Morris was opening for Mr. Church.  I’m not ashamed to say I was legitimately more excited to see her than Eric (sorry, man).

The wait to get into the venue wasn’t too bad.  It rained on us a little but we had drinks and the company of the Church Choir (what Eric calls his fans) and it’s good company y’all.  Funny, good country company.  Seating was pretty open so we picked a seat in the middle and waited for Maren.  The views while we waited were amazing.  Storms performed an intense show as a back ground to the stage and the night air was perfect.

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I loved both shows, the venue and my company!  It ranks high up there with my favorite concerts.  Eric is amazing, and I’ve seen him again in Tulsa since – if you like his music, I highly recommend seeing him live.  Maren is a little powerhouse vocalist and I love that she writes her own music.  I will always try to see her live if she’s close (or hell, I’ll go back to the Red Rocks to see her!)  Her lyrics just speak to my little soul.

This is a little side note for those of you still with us.  Maren and her band were on our flight back to Tulsa the next morning.  I realized it too late and didn’t get to sit in the empty seat next to her, but Chap did!  And he didn’t even get an autographed napkin for me or anything.  I didn’t talk to her while we waited for our bags because I never know what to do with famous people.  This is not the first time I’ve been with some low-key (not high-key like Tom Hanks you know?) celebrity and not known what to do.  What would you have said?

Have you been to the Red Rocks?  Who did you see?

Exploring the Red Rocks

This is one of the final installments of the Colorado diaries.  It’s been so fun to re-live and tell my adventure stories to you.  I’m getting sad all over again that it’s ending for a second time.

I think the Red Rocks were my favorite and most majestic thing that I saw.  It’s definitely hard to compete with the incredible Rocky Mountains, especially when I was able to get all up in them. But come on.  These rocks look like they jumped out of the earth.  Simultaneously at the same angle.  For several miles.

If you remember from the race post, the route took the runners right past the Red Rocks at the end of the run.   I decided after that burger, a shower and a nap that I was ready to hike through the park.  Unfortunately there was also a huge electronic music festival happening that weekend so I didn’t get to see the actual amphitheater.  And our hike amongst the ancient rocks was a little spoiled by all the concert-goers running around in not enough clothes and too much substance.  But, what do you do (crop them out of photos).

We took a short hike through the park and I stopped to play around with dancer pose.  I’m amazed my quads and knees bent that way for me!

Besides the spectacular red rocks contrasting with the greenery and the blue and white in the sky, this park had the biggest dandelions I’ve ever seen!  I just had to get a picture.  I’ll never be so excited about weeds again (especially since they require daily maintenance in my home garden).

We left the park discussing the incredible experience it must have been for those rocks to shoot up out of the earth with such force.  And so long ago!  It’s crazy to think about.  We tried researching the history of the formations but I got lost between the large spans of billions of years “The red rocks likely jumped out of the earth during a shift in plates in the Pennsylvania period sometime between 35 and 70 billion years ago.”  That certainly is a lot of room for error.  I’m thinking they don’t really have a clue what went on back then.  And no, those numbers are not exact.

 On our way out of town Monday, I couldn’t resist one more stop at the park.  And despite our sore knees and quads and calves, we couldn’t resist a hike to the amphitheater.

Let me just say, if I lived in Colorado, I would live at this amphitheater!

There was some hiking to be done before we actually got to the entrance (which was breathtaking in itself).  But then, we sort of crested the top of the theater and once I looked over the edge it was like a personal trainer’s/fitness enthusiast’s dream world.

Just rows and rows of stairs.  And people doing all sorts of activities on them.  Together in groups, or suffering alone.  Dogs too.  And all set to the backdrop of the mountains and Denver in the distance.  For free.

It was amazing.  What is even more amazing is my pathetic attempt to run up those stairs on post-downhill-half-marathon legs. Let me tell you it requires quite a leap to get from one level to the next and I had not a drop of power in my legs.  The video of it is hilarious but I think mine and the camera guy’s laughs at the end take the cake.

So, for the rest of the evening I’m going to brainstorm ways for me to actually be able to live there.  I’d run my bootcamps in the morning and attend music shows, movies and other concerts in the evening.  Maybe I can be the keeper of the weeds.  Or find some land and build one of those tiny homes on it.  Feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments, and then don’t miss this site if you’re traveling through Colorado!

Rocky Mountain High

This trip to Colorado has been in the works since January.  I had just started dating a guy (the same one I tortured with 13.4 downhill miles) who was escaping almost every other weekend to go skiing in Colorado.  I’d never been snow skiing.  Never been to Colorado outside the Denver airport.  Never really been to the mountains.  Well he wouldn’t shut up about them.  And it started our longest running dispute yet – mountains or beach?  If you know me at all, you know what I’m voting for!  (If you don’t know me, it’s the beach).

Heading West!

Heading West!

He convinced me to start saving for a ski trip and when I realized that a trip for a starting-from-scratch skier would be upwards of $1,000 plus hours of ski school, I thought maybe we should plan a summer escape-the-Tulsa-heat trip.  So we did.  And then naturally the race-planner in me thought I should see what races were going on in the area.  Read more about that adventure here.

Since he’d been so many more times than me, we decided he would plan most of the trip – the travel, and the adventure days.  I planned the days surrounding the run.  Because of this we ended up leaving Tulsa after 10pm on Wednesday to drive through the night.  When we pulled out of the driveway we had nowhere to stay Thursday or Friday night (his days, but my nights were booked).

Early in the trip, all smiles!

Early in the trip, all smiles!

I did the best I could to stay awake and provide entertaining company but inevitably fell asleep from about midnight until 2am.  The man doesn’t function after 2 am so we looked for a place to stay in Limon, CO.  Not a single vacancy in about 8 hotels.  I loaded up on some coffee and nibbled on dry cereal to get us to Denver.

We cruised right past the city headed for the mountain town of Estes Park.  One of his favorite places is Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) so that was our first big destination after breakfast in EP.  We stepped out of the car and it was like we’d transported back in time to March in Oklahoma.  Beautiful temperatures!  And the views of the mountains were incredible.  Estes Park is a darling little mountain town with plenty of restaurants, lodging, a lake and very close to RMNP.

Incredible views.

Incredible views.

We paid $20 to get into the park.  You could very easily drive most of it but my tour guide had some hikes he wanted to go on and that sounded awesome to me.  Was sick of the car.  Our first stop was a trail called the Alluvian Fan – it was a short semi-circular hike towards a waterfall.  We had to climb up a bit and this is the first place I really felt the elevation affect me.  I was winded way faster than I should have been hiking to the water.

It was a lot of fun working our way up the rocky path next to the waterfall.  I realized at this point that my fairly minimalist Kinvaras were not the best hiking shoe and if Colorado is to be a regular place for us, I need to invest in some.  The rocks were like a giant playground for adults – I even slid down one like a slide when I couldn’t figure out how to climb back down.  This part of the park had been subject to severe flooding from a dam break almost 33 years ago to the day we were there.  Water flooded the area we were standing in, as well as part of Estes Park.  We briefly entertained survival strategies if we heard the deafening roar of water coming down the mountain and ultimately agreed on the fact that we’d both not survive.

We returned to the car to drive higher up into the mountains – stopping on trailheads that had markings we thought indicated waterfalls.  On this particular hike we chatted about traveling and where we would each like to go next.  There’s a long list.  I had a kiddo moment and hung upside down from a tree – or maybe it was the lack of sleep and oxygen levels…..

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Monkeying Around

Monkeying Around

A few more back and forths in the car winding up the mountain and we decided it was time for a nap.  We pulled over into some shade, reclined the seats and snoozed for almost an hour.  I know for sure the lack of sleep was a contributing factor but I don’t know how the elevation played into it.

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More playtime

More playtime

Tour guide had a particular trail in mind – Chapin’s peak.  Once we found it, I noticed a sign that listed important items to take with you: whistle, high-energy food, sunscreen, weather-proof clothing, water and other survival essentials.  We had water and food.  But I’m here typing to you so everything worked out.

This particular trail took us through green pine trees, up some rocky staircases and finally to the side of the peak where some elk were grazing.  This is where we decided to veer off-trail and make it to the summit.  I honestly didn’t think we’d get there.  It was a long way up.  We’d already been hiking for probably close to an hour but I was enjoying my company and the scenery so thought we might as well give it a shot.  The terrain was lumpy grass mixed with some kind of variously sized rocks.  Tricky to say the least.  But something clicked on for me mentally and I decided we were gonna get to the top.  It was really hard to breathe and I was dizzy a few times but am so glad (like always!) that we made it to the top!

Climbing company

Climbing company

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Once we made it to the top, I naturally was drawn towards the edge of the mountain.  We’d been tipped off by another hiker that it was a pretty steep drop off and he wasn’t kidding!  I found a safe spot to sit on the edge and we relaxed for a bit, catching our breaths and taking in the views.  Across the valley we saw a thunderstorm roll in across the mountains.  I watched rocks drop down below us and sat next to a big patch of snow that hadn’t yet melted.  I wasn’t cold though!

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At the top, on the edge!

Learned an important thing about my tour guide – he’s afraid of heights.  But I coaxed him down to the edge with me and he was able to stand it for a few minutes.

On our way back down, we wanted to encounter the herd of elk we’d passed on our way up.  The terrain was tricky to handle on the way down and we both stumbled.  More than once.  Eventually we found our old trail and the family of elk.

By this point in the hike we’re both pretty exhausted again and very hungry.  We were also a little bit lost.  I entertained myself by asking survival strategy questions.  “What if a bear appears on the trail?”  He was going to jump into the nearest gathering of evergreens while I was going to freeze and distract the bear with the beef jerky by tossing it down the valley.  Pretty sure I’m the survivor in that scenario.

Once we’d found our way back to the actual trail – we stumbled across a whole bunch of the elk.  I watched them for a while, pretty fascinated.  They just ate and didn’t seem to mind the few pairs of tourists watching and taking pictures.

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We finally made it back to the car and continued the drive up the mountain to the Alpine Lodge.  Here we stopped for food – chicken soup for me and then forged on down the other side.  We had to pause for another nap and apparently I stopped taking pictures.  The last time he was in this part of the park he saw a moose on the side of the road so we each looked hard on our respective sides and I swear I imagined one into being.  We were about to exit the mountain area and head towards the lake when we passed a group of people taking pictures on the side of the road.  It was a baby moose and mama eating in the trees!

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What an exciting and exhausting first day we had!  We stopped for pizza in Frasier and then found a hotel for the night, crashing pretty quickly.  I needed rest for our next big adventure…..white water rafting.

Puerto Rico: El Yunque National Forest

Our second day in Puerto Rico started off just the same as any other in the lives of fitpros….with a run!  I love that I have running to help me see new places.  Running and walking make the experience with a new town so much more intimate.  You can smell the beach, feel the breeze on your face and take in your surroundings better.  We did a four mile run along the coast and into Old Town.  I was really pleased with the walk/runability of San Juan.  And there were plenty of other adventurers out with us despite the weather being similar to Texas and Oklahoma currently…humid and warm!

Erin and I decided that one of our main objectives to make our trip feel the most worthwhile would be to see the rainforest.  We were staying in San Juan, on the Northeast coast of the island of Puerto Rico and the Yunque National Forest was about a 40 minute drive a little farther east and a little more inland but completely worth it.

I could tell when we were getting close as the land started to rise up a little bit around us and turned into a more lush and green landscape.  Puerto Rico definitely has that tropical beach feel throughout the island but it was turning into simply tropical.  We paid $4 each to get into the Rain Forest Center but there was only a small trail, some maps to pick up and the museum.  If you’re just interested in the main rainforest sightseeing, you can skip the visitors center and save your money.  (Although I like to think it goes to a good cause 🙂 )

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The Park is set up so that you can drive all the way to the top, choosing to stop at whatever sights and tangent hikes you wanted to along the way.  We were all in for this excursion so tried to stop at all of them!  I’ll take you through one by one.

La Coca Falls

Our first stop was La Coca Falls, a crystal clear waterfall coming down the base of the “mountain”.  We stopped and took some pictures and then wandered over to ask the guide where La Coca Trail started.  He tipped us off in broken but clear English to some of the better sights, and encouraged us to skip La Coca Trail.  So we did, and everything else he suggested.

Yokahu Tower

We hopped back in the rental and drove to the next sight, Yokahu Tower.  Europe taught me to love climbing to the tops of towers for better views of the city and I knew we were in for a great view at the top of this one.  We climbed just over 100 stairs to reach the top and be greeted with an incredible view of the top of the forest as well as the coastline.

La Mina Falls

Our next stop was the one I was looking forward to the most.  The guide at La Coca Falls told us to take the Palo Colorado trail down to La Mina Falls.  He then challenged that if we were brave girls we would get in and go swimming in the falls.  I’m not sure where I had seen that there would be swimming available but I was ready with my suit on under my outfit.

We hiked down for about 30 minutes commenting on the dense forest around us, wondering what makes a jungle different from a rainforest (jungles less dense and usually close to a water source) and groaning about the inclined hike that would follow the swim.  We walked next to the water that would eventually fall over into the pool and it was crystal clear and cool.

Once we reached the falls I stuck to my brave girl challenge and slid in carefully.  The water was clear enough to see the uneven surface at the bottom but I couldn’t tell how deep it was so I was cautious.  I’m a big cold water wuss so it was a big accomplishment for me and I’m so glad I can say I swam in the rainforest!

Mt. Britton Tower

After the falls we had only one stop left.  There’s a different hike, upwards of two hours one way, to get to El Yunque Peak and we briefly entertained the idea of conquering it the following day (quit the entertaining after the hike to Mt. Britton).  So we settled instead for a 30-45 minute hike up to the tower. It was steeper than the hike coming back up from the Falls but we were of course jazzed at the thought of  a challenging hike.  Again, worth it.

On our way down we ran into a girl whose family is from the area and asked her where we should grab some food unique to the area.  She told us about a town just a little more east called Luqillo and that we could lay on the beach too.  There was a strip of 50+ little storefronts in this town and we found number 31 at her suggestion.  Erin and I split a seafood paella and mofongo (some sort of local plantain dish).  I didn’t really care for either BUT feel more cultured for trying.  Then we found paradise on a small beach.

We only left because a rainstorm moved in on us.  An appropriate ending to our rainforest adventure 🙂

Hello Tulsa!

This past weekend I was on the road again to Oklahoma.  The drive isn’t so bad – it’s about three hours north to Dallas and then another four from there to Tulsa.  The landscape this time was absolutely beautiful.  I think I missed the blooming of the sunflowers by a week or two (those are spectacular along 35 N to Dallas) but there was still plenty of green pastures with pops of wildflower color.

Plus I had a cute travel companion.

Travel companion

Travel companion

We drove straight to an appointment to close on a house!  On an earlier spring visit to Tulsa, I went to three open houses with my friend Katie and on the third one, I knew I wanted this house.  It’s hard to explain, just a feeling I had.  I put an offer on it and now here we are!  Miley and I will be in Owen Park and I love the historic feel of our neighborhood.  There is a park with a track and pond close by for us both to run in.  The best part is the front porch, just waiting for a good porch swing.  Miley likes the chickens in the community garden next door, and I sense some potential trouble there.

Homeowners!

Homeowners!

Miley and I hung out in the emptiness for a while (right after we set off the alarm and met the Tulsa police department…) until Katie and Justin brought over dinner and some folding chairs.

Empty.  And full of possibilities!

Empty. And full of possibilities!

I’ll give you a full tour of the house another time but for now, check out my second favorite feature (after the porch of course) – my office space!

Where all the workouts will be created!

Where all the workouts will be created!

So, that was our first task for the weekend.  A big, adult task.  The next one was hosting the inaugural running group from Foolish Things on Saturday morning.  Katie, Alexis and I spent the morning on a 2.4 mile run.  We started downtown and then met up with the Midland Valley Trail to head back into town.  A great start to a running and coffee community that I can’t wait to see expand!

Runnin' Fools!

Runnin’ Fools!

Then I had hours to fill in my new town.  So, Miley and I set out on foot to check out some trails.  The first one is called the Midland Valley Trail and runs through downtown.  It’s comparable to the Greenline in Memphis and the Monon in Indianapolis in that it’s nicely paved and has a few stops with water fountains.

On the Midland Valley Trail

On the Midland Valley Trail

Meeting up with the River

Meeting up with the River

We ended up along the Arkansas River and tackled some mega hills to head back to downtown.

A little farther out of town we were tipped off to a place called Turkey Mountain and dodged some thunderstorms for a hike.  This trail is a little more like Eagle Creek in Zionsville or the Greenbelt in Austin in that it’s dirt and woodsy.  Miley loved it!  There were little spots of water and plenty of hills.  She met her first turtle too!

A little outside the city.

A little outside the city.

The hills here will be great practice 🙂  I anticipate many Sundays spent on the mountain with the little monkey.

Hill training

Hill training

I also anticipate my running expanding to trails a bit, an exciting new realm of possibilities!

Trail running

Trail running

It was a wonderful, productive and active weekend in our new home!  I’m looking forward to being there permanently in August, and visiting a few more times before then for more exploring!

What do you love to do for activity in Tulsa?  Have you been to Turkey Mountain?