I am a sentimental sap when it comes to reflecting on a year of life lived in adventure. I’ve already gotten all saccharine while writing the Feasting Fort Collins Best of 2015 post, and now it’s time to do some more mushiness on the Fresh Air Fort Collins Best of 2015. It’s just what I do as the New Year approaches, especially when going through the highs and lows, the lessons learned, the accomplishments and failures, and sacred solo time spent in the mountains… while I still have time to spend.
I love New Year’s Eve for this very reason – it’s a toast to life. It’s celebrating the incredible experiences that were had and making a commitment to keep on living life to the fullest. Honest to god, Fresh Air Fort Collins is a big part in making that happen in my own life, so much that I can say that writing this blog has been life changing for me. I hope some of the posts over this year have helped you find your own awesome Colorado adventures.
Here’s what the Fresh Air Fort Collins Best of 2014 looked like, even though it was a short writing year. Now that I have over a full year of under my belt on here, it’s time to sort through it all and see what stood out as the most exhilarating.
Thank you so much for following along with me on these crazy fun escapes. I look forward to sharing many more mountain adventures on here. Happy New Year and may 2016 be filled with breathtaking mountain moments for you!
*click on the title to read the whole post…
The free avalanche clinics are pretty much an outline of what you’d learn in their full avalanche courses (which run $300 with field training). If there’s one thing I learned in the free clinic, it’s that you need to register for their field courses if you really want to learn anything. I need to up my knowledge more if I’m going to hike up in higher elevations during the winter, and this clinic made me realize how little I know about being in avalanche areas.
We’d stop to take off layers and enjoy the view of the city below us. Not once did we have to pull out our headlamp. The snow was bright, almost looking like the mountain had been sprayed with shaving cream – soft, fluffy mounds of bright white with tinges of purple and blue highlights. It was gorgeous.
Colorado Parks & Wildlife hosts a full moon glow stick trail event a few times during the winter at the Center. They line the Gould Loop with randomly placed glow sticks and set up a hot chocolate and cookie stop in one of the cabins that line the trail. Everyone wears glowstick bands during their snowshoeing or cross-country skiing experience. There’s also a potluck aspect to this where you can eat dinner before or after your excursion.
Colorado wildflower viewing is one of the most beautiful aspects of trail time in the Rocky Mountains. Chances are when you see a Colorado postcard, it’s going to feature a photo of a mountain covered in wildflowers. They are like the sprinkles of the mountains. Everyone loves sprinkles.
I’ve been wildflower hunting for over a year now, starting mid-summer in 2014 and picking back up again when the blooms started this spring. Wildflower hunting on hikes has added a really fun twist to my already lovely hikes around Northern Colorado. They have become my Pokemon, where I feel like I have to collect them all. I get the biggest ear-to-ear grin when I spot one that I haven’t photographed yet. It’s nearing ridiculous.
I would often drive by the Big South trailhead in upper Poudre Canyon and think to myself, “I will hike that trail this summer.” But, for some reason or another, I never got to it. I missed hiking this trail for a good three years, thus landing it on my Colorado hiking bucket list.
Upper Poudre Canyon is my favorite part of the canyon to hike in. The subalpine forests are absolutely gorgeous with thick green conifer trees and crystal clear creeks. If I were a pioneer settler coming to live in Colorado in the 1800s, I would have lived up there. I think this made skipping Big South that much more painful every year.
Well, this was the year I checked it off the list, and I have to say that this is probably my favorite trail in Poudre Canyon (so far). It is absolutely beautiful following the Poudre River into the Comanche Peak Wilderness, through a lush forest with stunning canyon views.
Last summer when I took over Fresh Air Fort Collins I got right on top of the Best Campgrounds in Poudre Canyon guide. It has been a wildly popular post and has helped a lot of people find their favorite local campgrounds. I’m not a campground camper, never liked it, and many other readers wanted more details on dispersed camping. So right after that I started working on the Dispersed Camping guide. I had to stop short because the roads were a little too rough with mud and ruts as a wet fall rolled in. I had to hold off on the rest until this year.
Well, after many miles of driving county roads, nights of camping out there myself, and lengthy trips to the Canyon Lakes Ranger District Forest Service Office to go over maps – it’s finally here: How To Go Dispersed Camping in Northern Colorado.
Cirque Meadow is absolutely breathtaking. It is the most gorgeous spot I’ve ever camped – period. There are seven designated campsites around Cirque Meadow, each one numbered and labeled with a tree name. Poudre Wilderness Volunteers has the location points, but they aren’t hard to find.
There’s something magical about being in the trees in solitude, listening to the wind through the branches, watching the birds flitter about you, and being 100% comfortable in your surroundings. No fear of impending danger, no second guessing your confidence. It’s an art to go alone.
Hunting requires a zen-like level of mountain patience. It takes the ability to lower your expectations to the point of preparing yourself to come home empty handed – and be OK with it – to be successful. I felt like my mountain addiction this summer really solidified my mindset for hunting this season. I was completely prepared to work really damn hard for that elk, while also having the patience of a monk when things didn’t go as planned. Filling a freezer with meat is always the goal, but I understood that it was never to be counted on.
I had mentally prepared for this hunt all year.
And that’s not all! If you follow Fresh Air Fort Collins on Instagram, there were awesome adventures had that are posts in the works!
Snowshoeing to Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Disappointment Falls and Lady Moon Trail
Hiking to Ruby Jewel Lake in State Forest State Park
Hiking to American Lake in State Forest State Park
Hiking to Odessa Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park