Monday, June 30, 2014

Colorado, part 1

Road trip 2014 to Aspen, CO. Gosh you guys, this was a good trip. We left Monday afternoon, stopped in Amarillo for the night, and then continued northward Tuesday while racing a terrific thunderstorm out of Texas. As soon as we saw the Rockies, I was in my happy place.

Y'all know my obsession with the mountains, and this trip only fueled it. We went to New Mexico last summer and this winter, so it was time to head a little farther north. We chose Aspen because the drive there was supposedly pretty scenic. And holy CRAP you guys, it WAS. It's actually one of America's Scenic Byways, which are... scenic drives across America. Go figure. It would be super cool to check out more of them, because this baby was so pretty. This route was called the Top of the Rockies. I was kind of in awe the whole time. It is so beautiful. You go across the continental divide (which goes all the way from Alaska to the tip of South America, geography lesson!), and you're literally, on top of the Rockies. It was insane. Also, THERE WAS STILL SNOW! I guess they had an excellent winter this year, because all the mountains still had some snow on top of them. And it was slowly melting so, mountain streams EVERYWHERE. I mean, it's what my dreams are made of.

This lake that we're standing in front of is one of two twin lakes fed by the snow melt, that turn into the Arkansas River! We followed the river up into the mountains and got to see where it starts! It was a raging beast. Like seriously, super fast moving and full of rapids.

Um, still frozen lake on top of a mountain? Be still my heart. Also, Brendon and I got in a snow ball fight up here.

I know, I know, get out of here with this. Stupid beautiful. Also, incredibly COOL. I'm a terrible Texan, I am not a fan of the heat, at all. It was cold at night and lovely during the day. I had a jacket on most of the trip. I repeat, happy place.

So the drive to Aspen was phenomenal. Twisty and turny and up and down and around mountains. We ended up camping just outside Aspen in the Maroon Bells area of the White River National forest. More pictures later, but as a tease, this next photo is the rather fiesty stream coming down out of the mountains just steps from our tent. We slept to the sound of rushing water, every night. STUFF OF DREAMS!

Jester King Brewery

Y'all, I got back from a week in Colorado a couple days ago and I am so still on mountain time. There are roughly 1 million mountain pictures that I need to plaster onto the internet, BUT FIRST... Jester King Brewery!

The weekend before we headed off to the mountains we visited Jester King Brewery out near Dripping Springs. It's the coolest place, and if you are ever free on a weekend in Austin I highly suggest it. I am not a big drinker, usually one glass of wine or beer (if I finish it) makes me a happy girl, but I had like two beers at this place, y'all. It was SO GOOD. I was seriously blown away at how much I enjoyed this beer. It's very different. We went on a tour given by one of the founders and he described the beer as "funky", which is apt. We tried about four beers and I enjoyed all of them. We had a blackberry, a raspberry, some sort of porter, and then my favorite, Biere de Miel. (Which I recently learned was a tiny batch just released in June and will soon be GONE, if not already. SAD. But they're brewing a second batch, thank goodness, because it was heavenly.) The beers are so tangy and tart, seriously unexpected. They're almost wine-like. And so so so local. They get their yeast from the local flora on their property and use their own well water. Very neat. And very, very good.

The place itself is also very neat. It's basically just a bunch of picnic tables under trees and a couple of barns that have been converted to sitting areas. It's all open air (like literally, the only ac is where the beer is stored in barrels) so I wouldn't recommend going in the heat of summer. But on a breezy day it's perfect. There's also a pizza place there called Stanley's Farmhouse Pizza, that is DELICIOUS. Like Homeslice good. This whole brewery/pizza combo seriously kills it. It's such a great place to just go and chill.

Very impressed Jester King, we will be back. And I'll be searching for your beers at the store! Please make lots more Biere de Miel! The girl who never drinks will drink it allll! Just not at once.

And, because I am SO good at these types of photos, I leave you with this:

Brendon always captures my best side.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Boardwalk

How's the summer going, y'all? We're already halfway through June, how insane is that? I'm excited, because that means that the years half over, but sad because Brendon only has a couple weeks of freedom left before he starts rotations. You win some you lose some, eh? Really, the first day of summer isn't until Saturday, but whatevs. So far this "summer" has been pretty fantastic. Mr. Hogan and I have been taking full advantage of days off together and doing lots of fun things that do not involve pharmacy school at all. We've been playing outside and adventuring and I've become what I'd like to call, vampire tan. Very freckly. 

Saturday before last we were able to attend the grand opening of the Boardwalk at the Trail. The official name is the Butler Trail, but I will never be able to not call it the Town Lake Trail. Just like I've never gotten used to calling it Lady Bird Lake. 

This was very neat to attend as we are avid lovers and users of the Trail. It's probably half the reason we got into running and most of the reason why we've been able to keep it up. Now that the boardwalk has opened you can run all the way around the lake from Mopaq to Pleasant Valley (10.15 miles, which we've run!) without leaving the trail! Big deal! Previously you'd have to run a mile or so up Riverside and over 35, which was a hellish jaunt up a busy road. Now there's a beautiful boardwalk to run on instead! It is very very pretty and really neat. The Trail Foundation (the wonderful folks behind the upkeep and development of the trail, you are all angels) had a little grand opening ceremony and then a parade down the boardwalk.

The Mayor and all sorts of other important and trail loving folks cutting the ribbon! Afterwards we followed an East Austin drum line (did you know I was a band nerd in my teen years? I love me some drum line) down the boardwalk. Somehow we ended up right up front with all the important folks (we're pushy). It was an awesome experience, and such a beautiful day.

I mean, how cool is that? Who else has a boardwalk to run on?? Austin wins again. My only qualm with it is that it is almost entirely in the sun and the light reflecting off the boardwalk is a little intense. Definitely a hot stretch to run, but far better than running up Riverside. It's mostly flat! And the views aren't bad either.

You can barely see them, but they had some aerialists performing underneath 35 on the columns! Neato!

And thanks to the boardwalk we have a brand new view of our beautiful skyline. I really love this town, y'all. It's such a good place to live. We're so spoiled. Yeah the traffic sucks and a ton of people move here everyday (ahem, like us), but it's so worth it. I mean, the Trail you guys! It's such a lovely resource that I will sorely miss if we ever move. One of many, many things.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Happy National Running Day!

Oh running. Where do I begin? I hated you for so long, but now I feel like I can't live without you. Running has changed my life, fosho. I'm healthier than I've ever been (going veggie helped too!) and I feel stronger than I've ever felt. And man, feeling stronger is so lovely. It took a while, a few months really, but my body has started changing. Mostly my lower body, because lord knows I'm not lifting weights. But my legs feel tighter now. They're bigger than they were, and I've actually gained a little weight, but I'm totally okay with that. I have muscles! And you can actually see them! Calf muscles and quads and, although I haven't spotted them yet, hopefully booty muscles as well! I love the way my legs feel. Wearing shorts used to be my least favorite thing, and now I love it! My legs are still pale chicken legs, but there's a wee bit more meat on them. Meat I worked hard for. And these scrawny legs can carry me farther than I ever thought.

This all started with a silly New Years resolution. This year I made a New Years resolution to run more, and I've kept it. Probably the only resolution I've kept, ever. I've run 3-4 days a week, every week, all year. And it's June! I've run hundreds of miles. I couldn't run a full 5k in January and I just registered for the 2015 Austin Half Marathon. And I know I can do it as long as I keep doing what I'm doing. In fact, I have a good feeling I'll (unofficially) run 13.1 miles before the end of the year. 

My longest run has been 10.15 miles. TEN MILES Y'ALL. Running, nonstop. I mean, what? I never EVER thought I would ever be able to run five miles much less ten. Things are different now with the stupid stupid heat, but my legs are still working and I'm still getting out there. Running in the heat to me is like running double the distance. The heat sucks the life out of me. Running a 5k used to be cake for me, but in the heat, it's hard. And that's okay. Because it's still a hell of a workout and when it cools down this fall, I'll be faster and be able to run farther. 

I can't tell you how happy running has made me. It's been a journey, y'all. As corny as that is, it really has been. It feels so good to have come so far, and I can't wait to see what else I'm capable of. I just have to keep working at it. That's the catch though, you can't quit! And quitting is the easy way out. Because sometimes it's hard. And going for a run seems like the impossible task. But no matter how tired I am, no matter how long of a day I've had, or how bad my legs hurt, running is always worth it. So happy Running Day! Get out there and run. I promise you won't regret it.

Blanco State Park

You guys, we are taking this State Park thing seriously. Clearly. We've more than paid for our state park pass in visits already and I'm loving all the time we're spending outdoors exploring. Although I am not loving how HOT it is getting. And humid, sheesh.

Tuesday we went to Blanco State Park, which is by far the smallest state park we've been to so far. It's just a stretch of river banks, probably less than a mile long. Like, you can see from park border to park border. It's seriously smack dab in the middle of the town of Blanco and a major highway goes over it. The hiking here is seriously lacking, and it's far from being out in the woods, but it's a cute little park with excellent swimming hole opportunities. It would be a lovely thing to have in the middle of your town.

The one hiking trail in the park is maaaaybe a quarter to a half mile long. It's pretty lame to be honest. And we were EATEN ALIVE by mosquitoes. I seriously got at least 10 bites (I'm still finding them). And we found this creepy like shelter thing at the end of the trail that I guess someone is living under?

Creepy. I spotted a back pack and said, let's turn around now.

Although we didn't swim (I have a thing with water I can't see through), it seems like a pretty legit place for a dip. That square little river-infinity-pool-thing was awesome.

Oh, Mr. Hogan. The picnic areas have the coolest rock chairs, tables, and fire pits. They were made during the great depression as a public works project. So cool!

Animal friends!

After exploring the park (which really didn't take long), we checked out downtown Blanco. It's pretty cute! We did a wee bit of antiquing (I got a new dinner plate, woo!), and then had lunch at Redbud Cafe, which might be my new favorite place ever. It's the sweetest little joint with some seriously yummy grub. So many vegetarian options, which in a small Texas town is rare. They also have fantastic cookies. And good beer. And they're super nice. Man, if you're ever in Blanco, eat there!

Thanks for the good times Blanco. You're very cute.