In The Black Hills

The pine forests and granite peaks of the Black Hills of South Dakota are rich with Old West history, and despite the breathtaking natural beauty it's impossible to ignore the legacy of greed when you visit. These hills used to be rich with gold and freely roamed by a large community of America's native people. Now Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore stand at odds, representing two very different versions of our shared American history. One side is told by the federal government, the other is remembered by the Lakota Nation. 

These photos are from a camping trip to Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park. Though small (and man-made) this lake was truly an oasis in the vast grasslands of Wyoming and southwestern South Dakota. 

Camping = Roughing it
Well, not exactly!
This cup made the trip all of the way from this event last year. Remember?

One morning, we hiked a riverside trail into Sunday Gulch. The scenery was gorgeous and the air was fresh and filled with the scent of ponderosa pine trees. 

We drove to Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial but didn't feel like paying entrance fees of $11 and $20, respectively. These are sculptures of mammoth proportions, and you don't exactly have to be up close and personal to see them and appreciate their scale. I don't have a picture of Crazy Horse, which is in the early stages of its construction, but to give you an idea of the scale and proportion: Mount Rushmore is 60 feet tall; the Crazy Horse Memorial will be 560 feet tall.

Weekend Getaway: The Badlands

I haven't yet mentioned on the blog that I'm officially living in Boulder now. In the past four weeks I've moved into a new apartment in a seriously convenient location and transitioned into working a new job.  It's been busy and exciting! I've put a lot of energy into filling the apartment with furniture, decking the walls with maps and artwork, and familiarizing myself with the neighborhood. I've also become part of a new team, sharing the vision of two endearingly quirky women and their stylish minions as we work together on a new boutique project.  

In the hustle and confusion of the move, the excitement of a new job, and the joy of living with my love, I lost weeks on end to non-stop action. Until last weekend, that is, when Marc and I roadtripped to South Dakota, of all places. 

We had four days not otherwise spoken for by work, climbing trips, and other obligations, and those four days were staring us down, demanding that we pick a new and interesting area to explore. Lots of ideas were thrown around, but in the end too many of them required a flight or would take us south into triple digit heat. The Black Hills and the Badlands beckoned. 

For two and a half days we car camped in Custer State Park in the Black Hills (post to come). On the third night, we drove further west to a small town called Wall. I'll say that although the Wall Drug Store draws lots of tourists, the main attraction of staying in Wall was its proximity to Badlands National Park.

The first (and only) thing we did in the park was the Badlands Loop, which takes you on an hour-long drive with plenty of stops for panoramic views, fossil replicas under glass, and poorly marked mini hiking trails. Peering out over the jagged and jutting formations in oppressive heat with the earth crumbling beneath our feet if we got too close to the edge - that was an experience that helped us to understand the term "Badlands," which comes from Native American and French names for the area, which translated describe the land as being bad to cross. Makes sense, doesn't it?

Sunny Days

Who wouldn't want to walk around the Village on a day like this? Farmers' Market, Art Show, Jazz Music, Patio Dining, and plenty of other things that Deserve All Caps.  <3 Sunday :)

Rocky Mountain Climbs: Clear Creek Canyon

Yes, this is a post about rock climbing. 

BUT. If you're looking for a post with words in it like flake, jugs, cams, cruxes, sport climb, dynamic moves, or any type of rating scale reference, this is not the place. I'm a total novice on the rock who is fortunate to go out with some excellent climbers and learn. And slice up my hands. And sweat it out on tiny foot holds with forearms so pumped I think they'll have to be amputated if they can ever pry me off the wall. 

Of the seldom glamorous but always exhilarating life experiences I've had in Colorado, this one's up there. I didn't even reach the anchor (the top of the route) but I learned some valuable lessons and didn't give up at the most challenging moment of my ascent. That's a win for me.

SO. On Tuesday, Marc and I went out to Clear Creek Canyon with friends Rudy and Hunter (below) to climb. 

We left early that morning, drove into the mountains, parked on the side of the highway, and hiked up to the routes. The direct sunlight was already brutally hot when we arrived at the site. The view was incredible.

After taking turns on some fun, mild routes - for four hours - the pros wanted to try something a little edgier. While Hunter is a rookie like me, Marc and Rudy have been climbing together for years. They headed over to Officer Friendly (rated 5.11B) to master the overhanging climb. Marc took a fall. He calls this photo "dancing with the rock."

Undeterred, he got up a second time. Rudy had already placed gear on the route that Marc had to 'clean' (remove) and he finally nailed it. Straight to the top. That's my baby. After that he was chillin' pretty hard. I was still having a minor heart attack.

One major perk of having a Monday-Tuesday "weekend" is the uncrowded hiking trails and climbing routes. These spots really fill up on the weekends, and who really wants to wait in line to experience nature?



Rocky Mountain Hikes: Hanging Lake

In the past few weeks I have rarely stayed in the mountains on my days off. Whether I'm in Atlanta for a wedding, Denver for a conference, or Boulder to search for an apartment and a job something always seems to be drawing me down from my high elevation. I decided that a staycation to explore the areas around Vail was in order. 

Colorado in the summertime is a pick-your-own-adventure outdoor-lovers' paradise. The internet is rife with articles ranking the best hikes, climbs, bike trails, and campsites. Habitually making the list of primo rocky mountain hikes is Hanging Lake: a 2.4 mile roundtrip hike to a gorgeous travertine lake atop a cliff. 

And so, for my most recent Monday-Tuesday "weekend" I found myself headed for the Hanging Lake Trailhead near Glenwood Springs with my sunblock, my sneakers, and my boyfriend. 

The trail gets steep and rocky but levels out frequently. There is plenty of shade and a cool breeze coming from Dead Horse Creek, which runs downhill alongside the path. The trail is relatively short but challenging. In terms of difficulty I'd say it was similar to the Delicate Arch Trail in Moab, but easier because it of the lush scenery, shaded trail, and motivation to get to the top.

I mean, this is difficult... 

But isn't this worth it?

The boardwalk surrounding the lake can be completed in 10 minutes or less. Contact with the water is not allowed to preserve the delicate ecosystem that the lake contains. After scrambling onto some rocks for a better view and posing for some photos, we continued uphill to Spouting Rock.

Spouting Rock is only one minute further along the trail past Hanging Lake, and it's totally worth it to get misted by this icy cold waterfall.

All said and done, we completed the hike in around two hours.

Before doing this I had no idea that Colorado could offer such lush scenery. Passing through the arid red sandstone desert that is often associated with this state on the way to the trail, it was really surprising to find this gorgeous turquoise blue lake resting so high in the cliffs of Glenwood Canyon.

I'd highly recommend it if you're staying in Vail and have half a day to make the hour(ish) drive to Glenwood.

Happy Daddy Day

My high school graduation. This picture cracks me up!

This week is Father's Day AND my father's birthday.
So let's celebrate dad!

If I wanted to give you a quick picture of my father, I'd say: My dad is an attorney who works hard and plays hard. He's very charismatic and bumptious. He's intelligent and loves sports - the Philadelphia teams. And he's raising seven kids. I say seven because even though I'm the oldest, he's still teaching and guiding me! Here's a quote or two he might find funny, should he decide to check in with Dylan Crossley:

"A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty."

Or the short and sweet: "A father carries pictures where his money used to be."

Feast! Vail

{Maple Fig Glazed Lamb Bites with Goat Cheese and Walnut Dust}
Panzano, Denver

{Nobu Lobster Taco}

{Spicy Tuna Tartare}

{S'mores Cupcake}
Mountain Cupcakes

Queen Bey

While we're on the subject of mountain scenery, can we talk about this BeyoncĂ© for H&M minidress? Specifically, the fact that it only costs $14.95? Can't wait to wear this one.

I'm not certain you can buy this online... May only be available in stores. I found mine at the King of Prussia Mall in PA last week while visiting my family. Snatched it up in the fraction of a second it took for me to see it, fall in love, and wrestle the last small off the mannequin. Don't mess.

Mother's Day

We all love our mommas (I hope) and today is the day to shout it from the rooftops (or convey it in a silent hug, for the less exuberant sons and daughters out there). My mom is my #1 fan, and she is up for anything. She's ready when I want to...

Cruise the Venetian canals...

Wander through markets in Aix-en-Provence...

Run a 5K...

Toss pizza in Florence...

 Reunite in Nice...

Ride bikes in Hyde Park...

Karaoke in Avignon...

Stumble down the steep streets of Gordes...

Chill on a Roman aqueduct...

Or freeze my butt off in Vail.

How cool is she? Thanks, Mom <3