Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vagabond Ranch

Dave planned a hut trip for us and eight of our friends.  The main huts in Colorado get booked a year ahead of time, so we had to resort to a lesser known hut, the Vagabond Ranch.  As it turned out, this "hut" was a lodge with electricity and running water, three full bathrooms, and a hot tub!  We didn't really realize this until right before we left.  I was very happy to have all of these awesome amenities! 

What made it somewhat different than your usual vacation is that we had to hike in on snow shoes and skis with full backpacks full of our clothes, food, alcohol, and games for our three day trip.  Some of us had some pretty heavy packs!  The hike in was 3.7 miles, the last half of a mile was a bit up-hill.  I think Dave's GPS said we climbed only 800 feet total over those 3.7 miles.  It was in a nice valley along a river.  We hiked in in three separate groups due to people's class schedules on the last day before spring break. 

Circles indicate our hike in, from west to east according to the GPS.  Red path indicates our snowshoe on Saturday.  Dave and Melissa hiked part way up the big mountain on the right, which is Cascade Mountain.  The ranch is located where the circles and red line meet. 
Temperatures outside must have been 50 degrees!  About 200 feet into our hike, we all stripped off our jackets and as many layers as we could, some hiking in t-shirts.  We got to the ranch and were in awe at how huge it was.  It took us a while to realize we should get a fire started and got both of the wood burning stoves roaring, which kept temperatures comfortable indoors. 

Our first night we made pizzas.  Dave made home-made dough the day before and we made six pizzas with different combos of ingredients for the crowd, which was half vegetarian.  We are particularly into a white pizza with mozzarella, basil, figs, a balsamic-brown sugar glaze, and olive oil.  Yum!  We also had some pepperonis and red and green peppers along.  We managed to pump out six pizzas and a gluten free one for me.  I just use the Udi's crust, which was nice and light in my pack. 

I always think its funny when people pack for a trip and pack heavy things like wine and beer, but sure enough, we had ample supply of both, plus some whiskey and peppermint schnapps to go in the hot coco!  Game playing ensued and we all had a chance to relax before making our ways to our bedrooms. 

We were instructed by the owner of the place to use the beds, but that the sheets wouldn't be cleaned, so we had to just sleep in our mummy sleeping bags ontop of the beds.  Let me tell you, this was insanely comfortable!  I even woke up in the night from being too warm!  When has that EVER happened on any of my trips involving a mummy bag?  Unfortunately, I was still in recovery mode from my recent bout of Fifth's Disease, which was identified a week earlier with the help of a lovely rash that appeared on my joints along with a sore throat, fever, and sinus headaches that went along with it.  I had a minor coughing fit, probably due to the hike in and the dry air in the lodge, but solved it with a well-planned cough drop next to my bed.  I had issues again the next night with a headache and congestion, but these were minor compared to my previous two weeks worth of symptoms.

On Saturday we had pancakes and bacon for breakfast while I had gluten free oats with raisins and cinnamon/sugar and coffee.  Oh how we all love our morning coffee!  We had a hard time getting started in the morning, lingering over breakfast for a long time enjoying the view.

Finally, we decided that the telemark skiers would climb one of the areas on Cascade that were not prone to avalanches.  Due to the extreme hot weather, avalanche danger was extremely high.  The snowshoe-ers would hike south along the valley, and the cross country skiers would go behind the cabins on another trail.  We made our way down the valley along a creek, had a nice lunch, got caught in a few 3-foot holes, and headed back.  We were just about to the cabin when I got a walkie-talkie message from Dave and Melissa who had finally reached their destination on Cascade and were about to ski down.  Unfortunately, my batteries ran out before I could reply, but I sat outside, hoping to see them descend the mountain.  It turns out that the snow was extremely sticky, so they had a hard time getting in any good turns on the way down.

Sprite and I snow shoeing 3.6 miles on Saturday.
A few of us got wind of a sledding hill, so we grabbed two sleds and headed for it.  We intercepted Dave and Melissa on their way down the mountain and we goofed around on the sledding hill for a while.  I had this boogie-board-type sled that was super entertaining.  At one point I went down it on my butt, got going too fast, so I put a foot down to slow down and ended up going down backwards.  It was good fun! 

We returned to the lodge to find that everyone else was in the hot tub!  We took our turn after them.  The hot tub was in a heated room in the building next to ours where the groundskeeper lives.  We enjoyed some Swedish fish in the hot tub and each got a warm shower afterwards, complements of the solar heated water from the sunny day. 

Dinner our last night included garlic bread (I'll share this recipe with you as soon as I get my hands on it!) and spaghetti.  We had garlic butter left over from the bread, marinara sauce, and pesto all as options for the noodles.  I was in heaven!  I had brought my own quinoa noodles.

While everyone was playing games later in the night, I made gluten free monster cookies from dough I had put together earlier in the week and froze.  They were a big hit! Apparently I've been meaning to blog about these, because I have a picture on hand.  Here's the recipe.  I don't use nuts (yuck!), but sometimes add raisins.  You can find gluten free oats on that webpage, or Bob's Red Mill usually has them at my local grocery store as well. 
Flourless Monster Cookies made with gluten free oats. 
Saturday night I fell asleep on the couch reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I highly recommend.  I woke up to find most people still playing games!  We all hit the sack for another great night sleep.  We had oatmeal for breakfast on Sunday and were ready for the hike out by 10:00!  We made our way out without any stops.  I broke out my ipod for some music to keep me motivated during our long journey.  (Snow shoes can get a little boring after the 9th mile in them in three days.) 

We made our 2.5 hour journey home, but Hwy 6 was closed between our first and second car in the caravan due to a wild fire, which is very close to the town of Golden.  High winds, dry conditions, and warm temperatures are not helping this situation.  Friend Jon got some great pictures of this, which you can find here.  Here's one of my own as we drove by:

Wild Fire near Golden, March 2011.
We had a late lunch at our favorite local establishment.  Eating nachos outside after a long hike and drive is a great way to top off a trip!  We got home, unpacked, and watched "The Social Network," despite Dave's pleas to never watch it.  It was, by far, one of the worst movies made in recent times, despite it almost winning Best Picture, sorry Dave!  We ate separate dinners, then had some puppy chow and mead as a snack during the movie. (I'm telling you this for a reason...)  We even played two rounds of Ingenious.   

We fell asleep and both woke up at 2:00am feeling feverish, sweating, and with awful stomach aches.  We spent the rest of the night puking, Dave much worse off than me at a rate of once per hour.  In the morning I checked with our friends to be sure no one else was sick, it was only us!  That rules out food poisoning from lunch, we didn't eat dinner together, and all that's left is puppy chow (chocolate, peanut butter, rice chex, and powder sugar) and mead.  Maybe it was a virus?  I called the nurse since we were too pukey to get into a car and she said there is a virus like this going around, but who knows.  She said we should try dramamine to stop puking and then gatorade to avoid dehydration.  Two hours after my last puke session, I ran to the grocery store to stock up on gatorade, bananas, saltines for Dave (pure gluten), dramamine, and pedialite.  Dave got the dramamine, I didn't bother since I was decidedly done.  We managed to drink about a glass of gatorade/pedialite mix all day and were in and out of sleep during a Lord of the Rings marathon that got us through the day.  We had awful body aches and headaches before getting a great, uninterrupted sleep last night.  Today, we tried solid food and won, but are still tired and sore. 

And THAT is how we kick off spring break Colorado style.