Category Archives: People and Places

Hiking Kilauea Just Before the Eruption

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Hiking Kilauea Just Before the Eruption

In light of the recent eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano, I wanted to tell the story of our hike down to the lava flows on the East Rift at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.   It was a strenuous long hike – 2.5 hours out and 3 hours back – with the reward of seeing the lava glowing brightly as night descended upon the island.   During the hour we spent near the constantly shifting lava flows, I remember being nervous and feeling in the pit of my stomach that the earth was alive beneath my feet.   Could the volcano blow at any moment?  As it turns out, it did not that night in late March but just 5 weeks later, it did.

This year, it was my youngest son’s turn to go on a big trip so he accompanied me to the Big Island of Hawaii.   My plan was to take him on some great adventures while also competing in the Lavaman Triathlon a second time.   When a high school friend posted some cool photos of a lava hike they’d taken on the Big Island, I wanted to check it out.   How cool would it be to hike across dried lava fields to witness real live lava flows?

Amy highly recommended the guide they’d used so I checked out the website – Active Hawaiian Lava Tours, liked what I saw and booked my son and I on the expedition.   Active Lava Hawaiian Tours, https://www.activelavahawaiiantours.com  It was a somewhat pricey tour at $135 per person but well worth the opportunity to see this awesome natural wonder.  Later, my two daughters decided to meet us for the trip and joined us on the lava hike.

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The map above shows the two main area where the Kilauea Volcano can be viewed.   The caldera at the visitor’s center to the north and about an hour’s drive south, the east rift.     Our tour at the east rift started just south of the small town of Pahoa, near the south entrance to Hawaii’i Volcanoes National Park.    We were headed to Kalapana on the southern coast – a drive that is surprisingly rural with beautiful dense palm forests lining the narrow roads.   IMG_3898As we approached the rendezvous site,  barren black lava fields stretched out several miles toward the ocean beyond.   Getting to the tour site was a bit confusing with directions like “turn just past the bike rentals” and “look for the yellow house down a block or two” and we thus, made a few wrong turns.   Turns out that the modest yellow house/cabin we were looking for was located down a bumpy dirt road in a black lava field surrounded by a few dozen squatter shacks, piles of seemingly abandoned vehicles, water tanks, construction materials and just an occasional tree or plant rising from the uneven black rock.   Talk about at the end of the road.

At the Kilauea Visitor’s Center in front of the caldera.   Photo 1:  Tristan and me.   Photo 2:  Tristan and Madelaine.  March 23, 2018

 

Surprisingly, we arrived early and waited on the lanai with several other people while our guide Matthew introduced the plan and let us use the bathroom.   He was very bubbly, informative and friendly.   Unlike other tours groups, he informed us that we would not be biking to the entrance of the park tonight but rather, driving and then walking about a mile to the gate.   That’s cool, I thought.   I was happy to walk a little more since my triathlon was just days away.

After making sure that our water bottles were full, snacks were packed and our day packs secured, we were ready.  By 4 pm, eight of us boarded a van for the short drive drive out of the black lava neighborhood and down the stark uninhabited road toward the entrance to the national park.   Along the way, there were several tents set up to rent bikes but little else.   I surmised that one could do this expedition without a guide but since parking was several miles away, renting a bike to ride into the entrance was more expedient.   At the park gate, several dozen bikes were locked to metal posts nearby.   We stopped to take photos and continued our walk down the road; perhaps a mile or so.

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About a half mile into the park, we entered the lava fields.   The surface of the dried lava was black, gravely, uneven, hilly and full of cracks.  There was no established path or direct route.  Each step was a challenge to avoid tripping or twisting an ankle.   I was especially careful and unfortunately slow, since I didn’t want to injure myself before my triathlon that weekend.   I worried that my young son Tristan might have difficulty but at 13, he’d recently grown 6 inches, slimmed up and magically transformed into an energetic and strong young man.   He was a billy goat on this trek — no problem!   My daughters Megan (21) and Madelaine (30) were similarly light on their feet.

The hike was long and rocky.   The kids taking a break for me, the slow one.

 

Our guide used GPS to set the trail but as dusk fell, we could see lava glowing in the distance — a worthy destination to aspire too.  We were joined by other small groups of people – couples, tour groups, families with small children and grandparents, college kids – hiking in the same direction.   In truth, the going was tough and the hike took hours.  By 6:30, we finally reached the fresh lava flows.   Arriving at sunset was the prime time so we could really relish the glow of the lava in the dark.

The lava flows weren’t like the rivers you might see in films, however.   They were little flows of maybe 2-6 feet extruding from crevices in the black rock.   At places, you could look over at the ridges of rock rising next to you and see the lava glowing deep inside the cracks.   There were many such extrusions and you could walk around and take photos.  Nothing was moving too fast that you couldn’t get out of the way.

At one point, my kids headed over to a larger flow about 30 feet away which required that I climb over a few mounds of loose rocks.   I hesitated since I was nervous about all the lava around me.   I took a few deep breaths and finally heeded their calls to join them.   As we posed for photos, the heat of the lava was so intense we tried to hurry.   When I turned around a few minutes later, I saw that a new small river of lava had emerged right over the path I had just crossed.   My heart palpitations had been justified!

In the distance, lava was visible on the slopes of the volcano as it rose up miles toward the caldera.   Other, more adventurous hikers made their way up there but we were content to wander around closer flows take our photos.   Our guide advised us on the most dramatic poses to maximize the affect of the lava.  As night fell, it dawned on me that the hike back might be even more difficult in the dark and rallied for an earlier departure.   Unfortunately, being the laggard in the group, my entreaties fell on deaf ears.  I  had to wait for everyone eager to see the glow of the lava in the dark.   After an hour, we set off with headlamps on and flashlights.   Although the hike back took more than three hours, everyone arrived back uninjured and full of tales of a once in a lifetime expedition.

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My three travel companions, Madelaine, Tristan and Megan.

 

After nearly seven hours on the trail, we were starving and hoping to treat ourselves to a hearty dinner.   Unfortunately, the nearest town of Pahoa literally closes down by 10 pm so we resourcefully found dinner at the local gas station — yogurt, milk, sandwich wraps, cheese sticks did the trick.   It is sobering to see the news of the continuing eruptions of Kilauea and the destruction occurring in the area that we visited.   The roads we drove to reach the tour no longer exist and quite likely, the little yellow house and its neighbors are also gone.  Perhaps, even the gas station where we found our dinner is also gone.  Our thoughts are with the residents of Pahoa, Kalapana and the area near the volcano.

A little video of the lava flow:

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Iris Love

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Iris Love
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Yellow irises in my community garden

I’ve had a love affair with irises for a long time.   They are easy to grow, easy to trade, and their colorful blooms signal the end of spring and the promise of hot summer days to come.   When my mom would come to visit in the spring, we’d visit the local iris nursery and appreciate the blooms scattered around my community garden.   She especially loved the yellow ones growing in Millie’s plot.   She LOVED it when I brought splits to her on my trips to Wisconsin.   She lovingly planted them around her home and over time, amassed quite a collection of those yellow blooms!   When she passed away last fall, her spirit came back to one of my sisters talking about yellow flowers and I knew that she wanted us to have her yellow irises.   We dug them up and split them among her four daughters to grow in our gardens.  I will always think of my mom when I enjoy the irises of spring!

After this afternoon’s sudden hailstorm – a relatively common spring occurrence in Denver, I rushed back to my community garden to check for damage to my newly planted tomatoes and was struck by the vast array of blooming irises all around.   Despite the rain, I couldn’t help but walk around and take photos of the beautiful blooms.  Here they are:

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Deep purple and yellow in Brenda’s Garden. May 28, 2018

Carol’s garden

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Jackie’s Garden

The Herb Garden

Millie and Theresa’s Garden

Charlie’s Garden

The south border next to the orchard and Brad’s Garden.

The east border along the fence.

I love how gardeners at Rosedale settle in and plant beautiful perennials for all the enjoy.   After looking at all the possibilities, I would love to expend my collection and just might be offering to help people split their irises in the spring.

The Flowering Fragrant Trails of Spring

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Just days after our last snows in Colorado, spring flowers start to emerge to brighten up the landscape and fill the air with lovely fragrances.  During this time of year,  I make it my mission to get outside as often as possible to fill my senses with the joy that spring has to offer — and actually surprised myself with how many wonderful many blooming trails I’ve visited lately.   Here are some of the highlights of my recent adventures in Jefferson County:

Crab Apple Route, Littleton,  April 23, 2018 – Blooming Bike Ride

A group of us got together to ride the 7 mile Crab Apple Route in Littleton — a 40 year old loop lined with crap apple trees that bloom for a few beautiful weeks in April.

 

South Platte Trail, April 29, 2018 – Crab Apple Trees just North of Hudson Gardens

The Sunday Run I attend with the Columbine’s Running Club is secretly known at the LTR’s (Love to Run) and we meet at Carson Nature Center every Sunday at 8 am, 7:30 in the summer.   About two miles down the trail, there is a tunnel of crab apple trees that bursts into white and pink blossoms at the end of April.    Running through this fragrant stretch of the trail is a worthy goal for my Sunday workout.   Once I reached the trees, I had to stop, close my eyes and take a few deep breaths to saturate my senses with the heady aroma of the sea of flowers surrounding me.

 

 

Writer’s Vista Park, Highline Canal, April 30, 2018 – Pam’s Last Marathon Training 

During my sister Pam’s marathon training this winter and spring, I often agreed to accompany her on the trail.   At her last training run before the big race, we met at Writer’s Vista Park to run one of our favorite trails.   It is a relatively flat tree-lined crushed gravel trail that winds through the backyards and horse pastures of Littleton.   As an added bonus, the crab apples trees were in full bloom.

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South Valley Park, May 5, 2018 – Trail Running Practice

Pam and I decided to participate in a trail running program this spring and so far, the training has taken us to a variety of beautiful trails in Jefferson County.   I ended up missing the group on Saturday morning (since it was rescheduled to the evening) but hit the trail at South Valley on my own and enjoyed the pleasant weather, spectacular rock outcroppings and many flowers.

 

 

Hildebrand Ranch Open Space Park, May 10, 2018 – Fly Girls Flower Run

The leader of our Thursday morning running group (Suzanne Buntrock) selects a different trail every week depending on trail conditions, weather and this time of year, flowers.   One of our favorites in the spring is the Two Brands Trail at Hildebrand Park. The park is accessible in two spots — in the Trailmark neighborhood near my house and from a parking lot just past the Denver Botanic Gardens on Deer Creek Canyon Road.   It runs along the hogback and wraps around my neighborhood of Trailmark.   This week, the flowers were blooming!

 

 

Deer Creek Canyon, May 12, 2018 – Training Running in the Rain

Our trail running group meets rain or shine and despite the morning drizzle on Saturday, we all met at Deer Creek Canyon Park.   The run up the trail was damp but fragrant and beautiful.   Many of us “power hiked” up the slippery trails but when the the path evened out, we jogged.   Dashing up the “stairs” was challenging and fun but definitely an exercise I might have skipped if alone.   The jog down was a nice reward after the two mile ascent.   We heard about a very challenging half marathon called “Fear the Deer” being held at the park next weekend.   Pam and I are committed to train and sign up to do it next year.

 

Chatfield State Park, May 16, 2018 – Walking Bennie along the River

My friend Suzanne is a naturalist guide at both Chatfield and Roxborough State Parks and we often meet to walk.   I always enjoy our get together’s because she is so familiar with the flora and fauna of the area and I inevitably learn something new.   On this day, we were walking her grand dog Benny who poked along while we looked at trees felled by beavers, enjoyed new flowers, found plum trees and choke cherry bushes and marveled at the running water in the river.   A beautiful day for a leisurely stroll in the park!

 

Massey Draw in Ken Caryl, May 17, 2018 – Fly Girls on the Private Trail

Thanks to Kim, a resident of Ken Caryl Valley, our Fly Girls group, could enjoy a morning workout on the Massey Draw Trail in her neighborhood.   Our hike/run started with blue skies and a warm morning.    The dirt trail ascended quickly and was decorated with mobs of bright flowers all along the route.    I was too busy snapping photographs and chatting with Jan to run too much.   We still worked up a sweat climbing up the trail and down.    A lovely prelude to our coffee talk at Atlas Coffee down the road.

 

 

Roxborough State Park, May 17, 2018 – Naturalist Wild Flower Training Hike

 

When my naturalist friend Suzanne mentioned that she had to attend a wildflower talk this evening, I was immediately interested.   How can I go?   Do I have I have to sign up?   It was a training for naturalist guides, she said, but she’ll call and see if I could tag along.   Yes, I was in.   She picked me up at 5 and we headed to Roxborough State Park and there, met about ten other naturalist guides.   The leader Ann handed me a sheet with a list of about 50 wildflowers and told me that we’d be attempting to see almost the entire list in the next two hours.  Wow!   What a treat and a mind bender.   We hit the trail with our list, pens and cardboard squares for note-taking.   The tree-lined trail was chock full of blooming flowers of every color — naturally growing in this spring forest.  Ann shared scientific detail of each flower we observed, the family name, species identifiers, uses by native Americans, color, etc.    Rather than being overwhelmed, I took great notes, many photos and left with the urge to come back tomorrow to solidify the new knowledge I’d gained.

 

Whew!    Its hard to believe I’ve been on so many trails and enjoyed so many flowers during this busy time of the year!   My gardens are keeping me very busy after all.   I’m within days of planting warm season crops so have been prepping plots, tending to seedlings, planting the last of the cold crops, weeding and shopping for garden provisions.   But busy or not,  I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to inhale the beauty of the season!

 

Spring in My Gardens, 2018

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Spring in My Gardens, 2018

Photos from March 30:  Lillian planting peas with her grandma, Terry.   Turning the soil in the raised beds.

Although its early May, I’ve already been working in my gardens for nearly two months.  Often the first trip to the community garden occurs on a warm day in late February or early March and snow may still be on the ground.  Many times, we’ve had to brush aside snow and chisel away at the soil to get our St. Patrick’s Day peas planted.  But not this year.   We had a rather mild winter in Colorado so the soil was uncharacteristically workable in early March.   My garden pals and I were thus at Rosedale digging early in the season and the peas went in like butter.

Photos:  Toasting St. Patrick’s Day with my mom’s Waterford goblets, picking up free compost and burlap bags at Allegro’s Coffee’s Earth Day Celebration, me posing in front of our robust garlic patch with Marilynn’s garden behind me.   She was my neighbor for 17 years and sadly died of lung cancer the day before this visit to our garden on March 16.

By March 16, we’d planted our first round of peas and spinach.   A few weeks later, we planted more peas with the help of Terry’s grand daughter Lillian as well as other cold crops including lettuce, carrots, beets, broccoli and more.   I was also surprised to find that many crops that typically don’t make it through the winter, survived — cilantro, rosemary, kale, chard, parsley.

Photos from March 16:  Ana,Terry and Susan getting ready to plant peas on a very windy March afternoon, our tomato cages all lined up where we plan to plant tomatoes in late May, the garlic patch growing between planks of wood for walking.

We’re off to a good start and busily prepping all the beds for the big warm season planting in just a few short weeks.  Although the weather can be deceptively nice in May, we still must restraint ourselves from planting our precious tomatoes, peppers and warm season crops until we’re safely past May 22.   Last year, we had about 6 inches of snow around May 20!

Photos from March 31:   Free tomato seeds earned as a volunteer at DUG free seed distribution, tomato seedlings planted on March 31, two trays of 12 6 packs of tomatoes and peppers growing under lights and on heat mats.

Timeline of Chores

  • March 9:  Map the garden
  • Order or shop for seeds
  • March 12: Volunteer at Denver Urban Garden Seeds Distribution — earn free seeds
  • Visit the plots and make plans for prepping the soil
  • March 16: Plant peas and spring crops
  • Fill milk jugs with water and pack in back of car
  • March 30:  Start seedlings — tomatoes and peppers in early April
  • April 7:  Attend Rosedale Community Garden Spring Meeting, pay fees and network with fellow gardeners
  • Turn soil, pull weeds, lay down burlap on paths
  • April 20:  Visit Allegro Coffee for Earth Day Celebration — pick up burlap bags and free compost
  • April 23:  Flower garden consultation at home with Shirley at http://www.mindful-gardener.com (More later!)
  • April 25:  Transplant seedlings to larger pots
  • April 26:  Scored 6-packs of broccoli and cabbage seedlings at King Soopers for $3.49/pack
  • May 1:  Plant spring bulbs, broccoli and cabbage; plant cover crop in the pumpkin patch
  • May 2: Plant broccoli and cabbage at St. Philip Donation Garden with Jennifer

Photos from April 25:  Susan working on repotting the tomato seedlings, tomato seedlings ready to transplant, individual seedlings in peat pots.

Photos on May 2:  Newly planted broccoli and cabbage with Jen Drews at St. Philip Donation Garden.

 

Aquaponics: Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot

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Aquaponics:  Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot

 

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During my recent visit to Orlando, I had the opportunity to attend the “Behind the Seeds” Tour to get a close up view of the greenhouses at Epcot.  The hour long tour was led by a young college graduate interning in the shrimp propagation lab and worth every penny of the $25 admission fee.    Laura was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and fun!

The greenhouse showcases a variety of cutting edge agricultural growing methods including the propagation of beneficial insects, aquaponics,  hydroponics and the use of sand as a growing medium — all developed to increase production of crops in smaller space with fewer resources.  Lettuce, for example can be grown much faster in an aquaponic environment with nutrient rich water.   Currently, 1% of the produce used at the Disney properties come from the crops grown in their greenhouses.

 

Parasitoid wasp raised to eat invasive insects, squash growing in water on a revolving wheel, greens growing in revolving towers.

 

The produce highlighted included herbs, greens, huge winter squashes, gourds, cherry tomatoes, pineapples, spices, cucumbers, and flowers.  I was interested to see how the trellised the tomatoes, cucumbers and melons resulted in such a high yield.   There was a demonstration of several different non soil growing mediums which included some that I already use.

 

Non organic growing mediums, flowers growing in nutrient rich water, cucumbers grown in a specially shaped container

 

One highlight were the “hidden Mickey’s” tucked around the greenhouse in surprisingly places – some of which I didn’t notice until I looked at my photos later.  The methods demonstrated looked so clean and sterile and different from the down and dirty gardening methods that I employ in my gardens.   I was also impressed with the amount of technology necessary to be successful — the right amount of nutrients in the liquid or non soil mediums, the temperature control, the use of motorized “pots” for the plants, carefully trellised tomatoes using string and likely, lots of careful pruning, etc.

 

Me posing with a huge winter squash grown in the sand, English cucumbers and squashes growing on trellises.

 

The tour provided a fascinating behind the scenes (seeds) glimpse into some very different growing methods.  I admire and appreciate  but for now, I’ll stick with my traditional gardening methods.   On the other hand, I learned a lot and have been inspired to give the Tower Garden another look when I tire of the physical labor of my community gardens.

After the walking tour, we took the “Living with the Land” ride that toured the greenhouses by water and gave us another perspective of the gardens and fish.   A great combination!

See if you can find the four hidden Mickey’s!

 

A tray full of peas growing in water and hollyhocks growing in sand.

 

Dave and I posing in the spice garden, a topiary of guess who and a trellis of cherry tomatoes growing in sand.

 

Cherry tomatoes hoisted up on strings, cherry tomatoes galore and more racks of greens.

My Hawaiian Adventure at the Lavaman Triathlon – 2016

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For years, I’d heard about the Lavaman Triathlon in Kona, HI and had secretly wanted to participate.   When my friend Sally’s husband Todd organized a team to do the Lavaman and raise $100,000 for a leukemia and lymphoma research in his wife’s honor, I decided to join the cause.  In addition to training to successfully complete this Olympic distance event, I would also be faced with the challenge of raising a big chunk of money and convincing my husband to support this BIG, expensive adventure.  I reasoned with Dave that this trip would occur in the month of our 20th anniversary so might be a great way to celebrate this milestone.

Fast forward six months and I’ve accomplished all three!!

While preparing to get to the start line, I faced some BIG challenges.   After nearly, 19 years as a SAHM, I started a full-time job in early January.   Balancing my new schedule with a busy training schedule -as well as a family and home to care for — was daunting.   I adjusted my goals from getting faster (a real stretch for me) to just being able to do the event and feel good at the end.   In the midst of all the training sessions and fundraising, my seven year old Honda Odyssey with nearly 220,000 miles broke down and needed a $1500 repair.   With plane tickets to buy, a bike to ship and trip expenses, we decided to garage the ailing vehicle and divert the repair money to the Hawaii trip.   Fortunately, my 19 year old daughter had left behind a car when she moved last fall and we were able to put it to use.   I booked my mother to watch the boys, arranged time off from my new job and talked my husband into joining me.

The Trip – April 7, 2016

Hoping to arrive before nightfall, I had booked an very early flight through LA with several connections.   Realizing only later that this early flight meant leaving the house at 3 am to catch my 5:30 am flight, I understood the wisdom of paying more money for a direct flight.  Note to self  – saving money is not worth the extra travel time or early departure.   Arriving early enabled me to participate in two days of bike and swim workouts, rest up, acclimate to the hot weather and connect with team mates.   On Friday morning, I joined the team in the lobby of the Palace Tower to hike down to the beach for the swim.   It was quite a hike – about 1 1/2 miles – along the beach and a rocky lava rock path; a trek which provided an excellent preview of the final run section of the race.   After a brief talk by our coach, we jumped in the ocean and swam a lovely half mile around a buoy in the distance.  With the exception of the taste of salt in my mouth, the swim was very pleasant.

Despite warnings about avoiding the coral near the shore, I managed to cut my toe on my way out of the water.   At the time, I noticed that my toe hurt but didn’t realize I needed medical attention until after a three mile walk and finding a pool of blood in the shower.   Having packed only carry-on bags, I had not brought a first aid kit.   Note to self — don’t forget band aids and Neosporin!   Fortunately, our team coach, Mary Carey, rescued me with the needed supplies and advised me to sit out the Saturday swim.   The cut looked pretty nasty and was very bothersome considering the extensive walking required to navigate around the huge Hilton property.   I worried about getting it infected and the possibility that I might have to quit the race.   With such an investment in time and resources, I focused on letting  the cut heal and tried to be positive about participating on Sunday.

Race Day – April 10, 2016

The 4 hour time difference between Denver and Kona made it relatively easy to get up before dawn to meet the team in the lobby at 5 am — a full 1/2  mile and an elevator ride from my hotel room.   We had been instructed to bring head lamps for the mile ride to transition in the dark but afraid that I might crash before the start line, I decided to bypass this challenge and walk the mile to transition.   Confident that the weather would be Hawaii warm in the predawn hour, I didn’t wear a long sleeve shirt and later regretted this decision since it was a windy, chilly 68 degrees.  But no matter, I got everything set up, networked with my rack mates, applied sunscreen, drank water, stood in line for body marking, got my timing chip,  took photos with team mates, and enjoyed the view of the Mauna Kea volcano silhouetted in the distance.

Choppy Swim – .9 miles

By 6:45 am, we marched down to the shore to start lining up for our waves and do practice swims.    Initially, I thought about skipping  a warm up swim to avoid a chill but later, changed my mind since my wave  was slated to start 30 minutes after the start.   Jumping in the water helped stave off some of my nervous energy and provided a good distraction since the water was warm and calm.  Of the many triathlons I’ve participated in through the years, this was one of the nicest and more picturesque starts.   I knew I could do it and only hoped I wouldn’t come face to face with a shark in the water.   For this reason, I kept my eyes closed when my head was in the water

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At 7:45, our wave was called to get in the water for the deep water start.   After a few minutes of treading, the signal sounded and we were off.   As usual, the start was a tangle of arms and legs and churning water for a few minutes until I found my space.   I had no trouble rounding the first buoy but later had difficulty seeing the course so resorted to following someone ahead of me.   Unfortunately, I passed them and had to take a few moments to breast stroke and look around.   Several times, I think I was actually sighting the swim patrol’s paddle boards and not the buoys.   Why do they use SUPs that are the same color as the buoys?   Halfway through the course, I noticed that the water was getting choppy much like the drill we’d practice in the pool with a lane of swimmers churning the water with kick boards while we swam through.   Simple — I can do this!

Windy Bike – 24 miles

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As I exited the water, I knew I’d completed the easiest part of the race for me.   I’d forgotten my watch in Denver so I had no idea what my time was but figured I’d done well enough when I saw that most of the bikes were still in transition.   Once I reached my spot, I shoveled down a pb&j, guzzled some water, took some salt, slathered on sunscreen and put on my socks and bike shoes – all somewhat difficult being wet.  After buckling my helmet, I ran down the lane to the bike start and started to face my bike fears.   These fears had prevented me from adequately training on the bike and now that I was actually facing a 24 mile bike ride, they were pushing forward in my thoughts.   During the mile ride out to the main road, I kept telling myself, “you can do this, you can do this, you can do this!”   These magic words must have helped because once I reached the highway, I was OK and happily able to focus on pedaling, enjoying the view, feeling grateful to have gotten this far and knocking out this portion of the race.   As expected, I was slow and nearly every woman I knew on the team passed me on the bike course; each one of them saying “hi” as they hurtled past me.   I tried to congratulate myself for doing well on the swim and to just be OK with the fact that I am weaker on biking and running.

The bike ride was a very straight forward out and back course with relatively easy hills compared to my hilly home state.  The only negatives were the few goats that ran out into the road and the strong head wind on the ride back.    The views were spectacular and I especially enjoyed seeing the Anaeho’omalu Bay on the ride back to Waikoloa.   At the turn around, I decided to get off my bike for a few minutes to drink water — a move I might not have had to make if I’d actually done enough bike training ahead of time.    Upon passing the 20 mile mark, I cannot tell you the sense of euphoria I felt as I approached the entrance to the road back to transition.  With one mile to go,  I had made it without a flat tire, without dying of exhaustion, without falling — I was almost to the final leg of the race!!!!!

As I approached the transition area, I hit a speed bump a little too fast and all the stuff in my stem bag exploded out onto the road.   This  mishap took a few minutes to recoup from but did not compare to the inevitable deflation I felt as I got back on my bike and faced the stream of competitors packed up and heading back to their rooms and cars after completing the race.    Uggh!!!   “It’s OK”, I had to tell myself, “they started earlier than me and besides, I am here to have a good time, not win!”.

Whew!!   I got off my bike and ran to my spot, peeled off my helmet and bike shoes and quickly, changed my shirt, ate the other half of my sandwich, tied my running shoes and dashed off to the run start.    By this time, the teen volunteers staffing the run zone were busy texting, socializing and unaware of us stragglers heading out.   I had to stop and shout for directions.   “Which way?   Hey, which way is the run course?”   Hmmm….being near the back of the pack does have it disadvantages!   I was finally pointed to a path across the lava field adjacent to the transition area.

Hot Run – 10k

I could tell right away that the day was heating up and this run was going to be a hot one.   After so many training runs during winter conditions, I wasn’t going to complain a second about finally being able to wear shorts and a sleeveless top.   Thankfully, the route was well staffed with water stations and abundant bags of ice which I positioned at the back of my neck or down the front.   About two miles in, I ran past the aid station where my husband Dave was working and briefly said “hi” as I slogged past.   As I proceeded, I saw many of the teammates who had passed me on the bike, heading back on the run course toward the final leg of the race along the shore.   Such is life!

Finish Line on the Beach (!)

Our coach had warned us to try to pick up our pace earlier on the run since the final section along a narrow dirt path just above the rocky shore followed by a trail of chunky lava rocks would necessitate a much slower speed — walking for me!  It was a hot slow journey but lovely, nonetheless.  Halfway through the run, I was so happy to have made it this far and still feeling pretty good.   As I ran past our wonderful coach at about mile 5, all I could say was “I’m getting hungry!”   The last mile seemed to take forever — especially the final 100 yard dash (?!) in deep sand.   I crossed the finish line, stumbled toward cold water and the shiny medal.   After that, I searched for sustenance, grabbing some cookies and fruit and then, headed to the shore for a quick dunk to cool off.

The water was miraculously cool.   After hoisting myself onto the beach, I sat in a stupor on the sand for about 10 minutes.  I noticed someone like me (in a sweaty tri suit) with a plate of food and realized that there was some real food for us; not just cookies and fruit!   I mustered the energy to get up, search out the buffet and gratefully, loaded up with a burger, chips, fruits, coleslaw and more.   I found another team mate and together, we parked our weary bodies in a shady spot to eat and recap the race.   Later on, my husband appeared to finish off what I couldn’t eat and wait in the line for beer.   Sitting about 20 feet away was a group of other Team Sally members, including Sally, Todd and their daughter, Hannah, I wanted to go over to congratulate them and take photos but once seated, I was immobile for almost an hour.  The toughest part of such a big athletic endeavor often comes after crossing the finish line. The getting up, the trudging back to transition to collect one’s bike and gear and then, getting back to home base all seemed improbable after over four hours on the race course.

The Icing on the Cake

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While Dave waited in the long food line at the Kona Brewing Co beer tent, I decided to take one last dip.   As I waded in, I heard a voice over my shoulder say “Hey, you passed me on the bike course!”   I turned putting my hands up and shook my head, “not me!”   The real truth is that everyone had passed me on the bike course.    But as I looked up, my eyes fell upon the most handsome shirtless man in the race – God’s gift – looking straight me.   “No, you passed me!” he said, “Some of you gals are so fast!”.   No way, I thought.  I took a deep breath and just decided to go with it and enjoy the moment.   We chatted about his hopes to do an Ironman in Sydney, his 18 year old daughter going to USC and my plans to do a half marathon with my sister.   As we turned to say goodbye, we shook hands and exchanged names.   His name was Murray.  Thanks Murray for that undeserved compliment — it was almost as good as earning the Lavaman medal.  A nice ending to a long, fun day.

 

Stay tuned for a recap of my second Lavaman in March 2018!

https://runsistersrundotorg.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/my-hawaiian-adventure-at-the-lavaman-triathlon/

April 2016

2017 Harvest Sale at Rosedale Community Garden, Denver, CO — September 23, 2017

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2017 Harvest Sale at Rosedale Community Garden, Denver, CO — September 23, 2017

The Rosedale Community Garden Harvest Sale is on Saturday, September 23, 2017 from 9 am to 1 pm.   Featured at the sale will be organic vegetables, heirloom garlic and herbs grown in the community garden.   Fresh cut flowers, homemade jams and jellies, bakery, roasted kale chips and gently used garden books and supplies will also be for sale.

Rosedale Community Garden is one of the largest and oldest community gardens in Denver with over 100 plots.   It is located on Logan Street just south of Iliff Street and across from Harvard Gulch Recreation Center.

Late Summer Produce and Planting in The Donation Garden — August 6

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Late Summer Produce and Planting in The Donation Garden — August 6

 

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In 2015, I helped start a donation garden at our family church in Littleton, CO and three summers later, the garden is still growing strong.   We donated over 400 pounds of organic vegetables in years one and two and hope to again this year.  The primary benefactor of the produce we grow is Sheridan Food Pantry.  Each Wednesday, we harvest, weigh and record the harvest before volunteers pick it up for delivery to the food pantry.

20664554_10212084087290872_4994398325057015282_nWith eight raised beds, several community plots and 30 X 30 square feet of plot space to plant, the garden is fairly large.  This year, my key partner in the project moved on to another area of ministry so I’ve been managing this project  practically on my own.  But despite her loss, I remain committed to the project and am excited for another banner year of harvests.   Stepping Stones, a center for adults with special needs has reached out to volunteer in the garden — and their help has been great.    My husband, boys and several friends have also chipped in to water and plant.  Next season, I hope to recruit more volunteers and increase the engagement of the church community as a whole.

20638649_10212084080730708_7954302197931968392_nAs with many gardens, some of the seeds planted did not come up and now that the spring crops have been harvested, there is abundant space for fall crops.   This week, I worked to prep the available space and devoted several hours to planting carrots, beets, cabbage, broccoli, beans, peas, and more.    The summer crops are producing well now and I’ve been harvesting summer squash, zucchini, squash, peppers, cucumbers, herbs and more.  Green tomatoes are growing on the vine, little green pumpkins are hiding beneath large leaves, miniature beans are appearing and the beets and carrots are almost ready to pick.

When the seeds come up weeks after planting in the smooth turned soil, it always seems miraculous to me.   Its always a joy when a thicket of green leafy vegetables emerges.   The hard work has paid off and our garden is thriving!

 

 

Garden Envy

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Garden Envy

In my travels, I visit gardens of all shapes and sizes and take tons of photos.  Always excited to visit my friends’ gardens, attend garden tours and visit local botanical gardens,  I just love to pick up new ideas and think about how I might apply new designs or planting combinations in my own gardens.   I am often as envious as I am inspired.  Here is a collection of some of the gardening ideas I admire:

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Teri’s tomatoes were protected from early season hail under the hoops. They are so tall and healthy.

 

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Dale’s potted tomatoes and trellised vegetables. Its a marvel what he accomplishes in a side yard.

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My neighbors at Rosedale in 2014, Diane and Johanna Montague, had such a perfectly orderly spring garden. Beautiful!

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Christine’s garden was already chock full of produce in late May – garlic, kale, berries, onions, greens, herbs. I loved how she used every square inch and had seedlings growing in egg cartons ready for hot season crops. Easthampton, MA

 

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At Nate and Ashley’s 2013 wedding in New Richmond, WI, the reception was held at a local farm. The little garden next to the house was surrounded by flowers and very organic in it design.

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My friend Mary’s squashes were trellised on these cool wooden structures. Hartland, WI. July 2017

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Centennial Gardens, University of Wisconsin, Madison. I love the order of this planter although I am realistic enough to know that my plants won’t conform to such order.

 

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I love the idea of a garden right outside the front door. The log Adirondack chairs, prayer flags and hollyhocks in the background all create a lovely vignette. Steamboat Springs Garden Tour, 2013.

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Spring Garden with lots of space to grow up. Spinach in the foreground with tomatoes in wall of water. Ute Trails Garden, May 2017

 

A Tour and a Taste at Tabal Chocolate

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A Tour and a Taste at Tabal Chocolate

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During my recent visit home to Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to visit Tabal Chocolate, a business owned by my high school friend, Dan Bieser.  For nearly five years, I’ve followed Dan’s journey of sourcing cacao beans from Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Nicaragua for use in making his own custom chocolate all the way to the opening his first shop in our hometown of Wauwatosa earlier this year.   All through the miracle of our Facebook friendship!   He told me that when searching for a name for his business, he discovered the Mayan word “tabal” meaning relationship.  He thought it perfectly expressed what he was trying to do with his business.  Eager to check out the new store, I googled the shop and called to see if I could sign up for one of the classes.   Making Truffles was top of the list!  As it turned out, the classes were full but Dan offered to give me a private tour!

The moment I walked in the door of Tabal Chocolate, my senses where overwhelmed by the aroma of rich chocolate.   Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath and remembered the days of my youth when we were treated to the same rich aroma driving past the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory in downtown Milwaukee.   If one could taste chocolate from merely inhaling it, Tabal Chocolate is the place.   Located in the charmingly intimate and walkable village of Wauwatosa Wisconsin, this new shop is a great place to buy locally made chocolate bars, chocolate nibs — the new superfood, gelato, cocoa shell mulch for the garden and delicious desserts created with chocolate made on the premises.

Dan greeted me at the door and introduced me to several of his friendly employees.   I was impressed with the warm inviting decor of the shop.   The space was framed by a marble counter displaying a selection of gelato, pocket candies, warm chocolate churning in a circular dispenser, wooden shelves displaying a variety of chocolate bars, bags of nibs, samples, and comfortable tables both inside and out.   The aromatic space was complemented by the warm employees and awash in sunlight from two floor to ceiling windows looking out on Harwood Avenue.    I was particularly interested in the operation going on behind the glass window at the back of the store.   Dan invited me into this production room, showed me how the cacao beans were ground and spooned out a sample of chocolate from each machine.   Sweet!

We then headed down to the basement where Dave showed me how the chocolate was  tempered and later, poured into molds.   At a counter nearby, a young employee was busy wrapping finished bars in gold foil and then, affixing an outer layer of paper labels.   It was a thrill to peek into the storage room which smelled more heavenly than the threshold above.   Imagine being accidentally locked in this room?   A sweet debacle!!   Stacks of large chocolate bars lined the shelves and Dan let me select a few discounted seconds to buy.

affrogatoBack upstairs, I selected a few more items to buy and accepted Dan’s invitation to sample their signature dessert — the Affrogato.   He told me that the parents of a friend from Italy created this dessert for their business years ago and it was very popular.   Their daughter now makes the gelato featured in the shop.   I selected hazelnut gelato which Dan topped with fresh brewed espresso, warm melted dark chocolate and fresh whipped cream.   Heavenly doesn’t even begin to touch how uniquely delicious the affrogato was.   What could be better than a mix a cold, warm, chocolate, and cool whipped cream?!   A dessert for a celebration, made to impress a date or revive difficult day?

During my visit, I visited Tabal Chocolate twice and told everyone I encountered to put it on their list.   From my mother’s hospital bed, she asked if I could bring her some cards for her to share with her friends.   Once she’s better, I am sure she will be visiting as I will be when I return to Wisconsin.   Next time, I’ll be sure to sign up for a class in advance so I don’t miss out.   Great job Dan — Tabal Chocolate is the best!

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Savoring my salted dark chocolate Bolivian bar one square at a time.

http://tabalchocolate.com/