Mount Evans

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Ed on Guanella Pass

The best hikes begin with camping.  I’m pictured here at dusk beside my one-man, Big Agnes tent, perched about a hundred yards from the upper parking lot on Guanella Pass. Signs posted in the parking lot say “no camping”, but the guidelines aren’t clear.  A reasonable person would believe that to mean within fifty yards.  We weren’t alone.

It’s been about a year since I’ve been camping and I will tell you that I enjoy it as much as the next day’s hike.  It’s mostly the stars that I find so special.  Absent the ambient city lights of the Denver metro, the night sky is absolutely stunning.  The first stars to become visible are actually planets, first Venus, the evening star, followed closely by Jupiter and then Mars appears as a red twinkle.  I have thoughts watching their light emerge from the darkness of early man viewing the same night horizon thirty thousand years earlier and maybe learning to count to three.  Soon after the arrival of Mars, too many stars flood the night sky to count.

mountain goats

We woke at 4:30 and hit the trail an hour later, after packing up and enjoying trailhead coffee.  The upper parking lot was filling up and the lower parking lot was completely full, with fifty or more cars parked along the road.  If you’ve hiked Mount Beirstadt, then you know how crowded that trail is.  With the pass sitting above tree line at 11,669 feet, Mt. Bierstadt is one of the most attainable 14ers in Colorado.  But Rob and I didn’t take the trail up to Bierstadt.

Still in the willows, we turned left at the creek crossing.  There’s a faint, unmarked trail that follows the banks, until it disappears in the willows.  The trail existed on some map Rob studied before our hike.  A map he left at home.  Having a map would seem wise when entering the forest and mountains of Colorado, but we knew where we were and about where we wanted to go.  We shuffle parked our other car at Echo Lake, on the other side of the mountains that lie in front of us, roughly thirteen miles easterly from Guanella Pass.

Rob on Mt Evans

I can tell you the trail didn’t exist on the map I studied before hand.  It’s safe to say, there is no trail, so we bushwhacked our way through the cold, wet mud and willows in a pointed direction to the saddle that sits north of Mount Bierstadt.  Trails did emerge at times, animal trails no doubt.  Rob’s general tactic when having lost the trail is to proceed upwardly toward higher ground.  There was no debate, up was where we wanted to go.

We encountered climbers at the top of the saddle.  Rather than presenting a trail down the far side, turned out the other side of the saddle is what climbers call the black wall, a sheer cliff with a thousand foot drop.  Our trail was another quarter mile uphill and to the right.  It’s actually a loop and we continued up Mount Spalding, and eventually to Mount Evans itself.  It’s not an easy trail, at times more of merely a route marked by cairns.  The climb was exhausting.

Ed on Mt Evans

Of course, you don’t have to hike for miles to reach Mount Evans, there’s a paved road that allows visitors to park a hundred or so feet below the massive pile of rocks that form the peak.  As far as we know, we were the only hikers atop Mount Evans who arrived via the unmarked trail from the Guanella Pass direction.  This is a rare mountaintop that is reachable by paved road.  I very much recommend it.  Visitors were taking pictures of mountain goats as they stood in line for the restrooms by the observatory.  Where else would you find that experience?

Our descent was just as brutal as the climb up.  The first thousand foot drop from the peak contained switchbacks as tight as a staircase, and the steepness continued for several thousand more feet, hammering my thighs and quads to where I still can’t descend the stairs in my house today without holding onto the railing.  We reached the Echo Lake Trailhead after thirteen miles and nine hours.  Another epic hike in the books.  Can’t wait to get back out there.

Dirt Trails

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Two days in a row running the East Boulder Trail, up and down the white rock cliffs.  These trails are easy, soft dirt, compared to the rocky mountain trails out around Lyons and Left Hand Road.  These dirt trails are a better fit for my current state of fitness.  The true mountain trails are so technical and I’ve lost some of the requisite skills of negotiating my footfalls along the path.  And they are much, much steeper, causing me to walk more than run.  I can generate a little bit more momentum over these dirt trails.  I can take my eyes off my feet and enjoy the views of the Indian Peaks.  You can see them in this photo, just over the crest of the hill in front of me.

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The East Boulder Trail contains rolling hills through grasslands where, centuries earlier, the buffalo roamed.  Now I roam these hills, and have for the last twenty-eight years.  The grasses are nearing waist-high in some places.  We’ve been getting some good rain so far this season.

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I ran all the hills, on a six mile out-and-back, yesterday.  It might have been cooler yesterday, and I ran really well.  Today, not so well.  No doubt, my legs were tired from yesterday.  I swear to you, the same hills were steeper today.  The trick is being able to climb the first big hill on the return without stopping.  My experience is if I stop there, like I did today near the top, then I’ll walk the final hill that leads up to the water tower – which I did today too.

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Regardless, this trail always gives me a workout.  And the downside of each hill on the East Boulder Trail is generally rewarded with a nice view like this.  Sometimes, running in the mountains, you can’t see the forest for the trees.  The East Boulder Trail though always gives you an awesome view.  I will never tire of my runs on this trail.

 

Fräulein Ellie

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Ellie has been texting back photos from her first week in Austria.  They prompt me to recall Audrey Hepburn in the 1954 movie, Sabrina.  I won’t be surprised if she returns with short hair.  Or maybe the modern-day equivalent, a tattoo or piercing.  Brittany tells me it’s more likely that Ellie will simply return with new clothes.

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More likely, Ellie will return with expectations of drinking wine at dinner.  She’s yet to obtain her driving license, but that’s not a requirement in Austria for imbibing adult beverages.  Three more weeks of Ellie exploring Europe.  Life won’t be the same when she returns.

Letting Go

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DIA 2

A big trip for me when I was 16 was driving three hours across Texas to the beach.  Ellie wanted to leave the country.  I know, we all do.  We dropped off Ellie at DIA yesterday to fly Lufthansa to Austria – on her own.  Just watching her navigate the security line by herself was hard for Karen and me.  Letting go, one vacation at a time.

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We embarrassed her with our photo-taking, tracking her progress through security like parents sending their 5 year old off to their first day in kindergarten.  Ellie navigated switching flights in Munich – Europe’s 7th busiest airport.  She arrived in Graz around 2pm CET and called us to let us know she was safe – 6am MDT.  She’ll be visiting her childhood friend Izzy for the next four weeks.  Karen and I will be adapting to life as empty-nesters.

The Irrigation Ditch

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I don’t talk up the irrigation ditch at N. 83rd St. on the Lobo Trail enough.  Back when I ran big distance, fifteen and twenty milers, its strategic location three and half miles from my house was a life saver on hot summer days.  Nowadays, I would argue running seven miles is easier than running six.  Sloshing around my hat in that cool snow melt and putting it back on brings my legs back to life.  More than anything else, that stream brings me back home.

irrigation ditch 2

The air is still a bit hazy from the fires down in Durango.  Running a few miles Thursday gave me sniffles and a sore throat.  Risked it today because the weekend is my only chance to get in any real miles.  I think the air is better than Thursday.  My buddy La Plata said it rained good down in Durango yesterday.  Natural hydration.  Helps me on my runs and the best response to those forest fires.

They Grow up so Fast

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Lea Marlene

We watched Brit perform a couple of skits Friday night at the Lea Marlene Acting Studio on Pearl Street.  Come to think of it, we watched her last Friday too, singing at the Denver Bicycle Cafe.  She’s become our go-to event for Fridays, no doubt risking over-exposure.

Camilla Susser

Brit acted out scenes from Steel Magnolias and The Importance of Being Earnest.  Brit played Shelby, returning home pregnant for Christmas in Magnolias.  As you can see in the photo, Brit played pretty, young Cecily in Earnest.

Brit with ellie n rachel

We hung around a bit afterward for the cast party.  Brit was happy, as you can see in the photo above with her friend Rachel and sister Ellie.  Brit is in her mid-twenties now, and it’s special to still go watch her perform, like we did when she was a child.  She’s engaged now.  I expect events will change.  Brit will turn her focus to her family.  We’ll still have Ellie for a few more years.

The Cyphers

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steganogrphy

I belong to a covert writing club.  We publish on the deep web.  Like using steganography.  I probably shouldn’t say anything more.  It started from a private invite.  We publish privately to promote creativity.

If any of this sounds illicit to you, let me define terms.  The dark net is where people conduct nefarious transactions.  Dark net sites are generally also part of the deep web, but the deep web is not inherently bad.  It’s simply web sites that have not been indexed by search engines or otherwise have their access obscured.  The metaphor is of an iceberg.  We use the Internet that’s been indexed for queries.  That’s the tip of the iceberg.  The vast majority of the web is not visible to us, like the deeply submerged section of the iceberg.

This started out as a way for us to hone our craft.  It’s also a good method to draft snippets of dialogue for later regurgitation in other works – for me, my novel.  I’m considering submitting my current writing for review, sort of like the conventional writer’s discussion group.

I’m relating this under my novel category because I think it’s a novel approach (forgive the pun) for writers to practice their craft.  Your contributions can be easily copy/pasted years into the future into derivative works.  A post today by one of the other writers spoke to me so directly, it felt unnatural.  Like the narrator had a Gods-eye view into my life.  That’s impressive writing that does that.  Not only will I benefit from the writing exercise, but I expect to read some really good stories, exclusive to my private group.

 

The Art of Slow

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“I’m in no rush.”  That’s what I told myself today as I parked at the trailhead.  I should be back on the LoBo Trail where I belong, but I deferred a run last October to this October.  The course runs upwards of 60 miles through Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon.  Over three days.  We’re in summer today, I felt it, but fall is up next.  I need to train on a mountain trail.  But I could give up thoughts of constant running today, on this trail.

At Heil Valley, I always warm up on the Lichen Loop.  I was out early enough to avoid directly overhead sun.  My current state of fitness won’t let me enjoy running up to the top of the Wapiti Trail.  I ran over a mile of it but didn’t make it to the top.  I don’t think it matters, and didn’t then.  I just need to run up and down a mountain trail.  Doesn’t matter how I do it.  Could be more of a power walk, with stops to drink water.  Sometimes it was.

Part of the technical aspect of running such a rocky mountain trail requires attention to control.  For me, control highly correlates with slow.  Part of my plan already.  I was good.  I carried a water bottle, that’s how slow I started out.  I don’t know if I ever actually increased my pace, but I felt like I did at times.  Steep trails kill.

So I walked when needed, knowing that I would before I ever stepped out of the car.  I would try to run when going past other hikers and bikers.  Think what you want about me, appearances matter.  I typically pass bikers on the way up.  Not today though.  Probably not for a couple of months, if I train.  I ran strong though at times.

Whenever my lactate level would allow, I’d unwind over the dirt and rocks, and when I exceeded my lactate threshold, I either slowed down, or, with increasing frequency, I walked. Even the walking was a training experience.  Both cardio and  technical.  I re-introduced myself to trail running today.  It’s going to be an uphill climb, but starting is the hardest part.  And I’ve started.

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I know that I developed a pattern of streaking through sunlit meadows faster than the darker woods.  It just seemed smart to expose myself to the unrelenting rays of the sun today, as little as possible.  At times, I swear I could see beams of light slicing through the grass in front of me.  I think this photo above proves I didn’t imagine it.

I think, never stopping to walk with full sun exposure, was what got me home today.  Could have been the difference.  Hard to say sometimes whether it’s the heat or the hill.  Today it was both so I optimized my slower running to cooler parts of the trails.  That’s environmental leverage.  And because I carried water with me, I practiced a little hydro management too.  Point is, pace doesn’t matter.  Everything on the spectrum from walking to running  today counted toward the training I’m going to need for October.

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Running and walking with control, which is harder than you think on the downhills when you do it fast, meant that no matter how slow and controlled my pace was, I was getting something from it.  Technical training from my foot placement decisions.  Cardio from my random pace and the hills.  As I passed an older couple, one called out something to me and I replied back with something witty that made them laugh.  Then I laughed.  Going slow allowed me to take photos.  It was a good run

A Light Rain

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7 miler

I don’t look up at summits.  I look over them.  I’ve been struggling lately to increase my distance beyond five mile runs.  I do that by not turning around until after three and a half miles.  I’ll do the math for you.  Were I to complete my runs, I’d get in seven miles.  I keep falling short, having to walk in the final mile.  That makes six for any readers having trouble keeping up with the numbers.

I’m okay with that.  Aiming high and falling short is the best path to the top.  Forward progress is my only true goal.  Today I ran all seven.  Could have been the cool temps and light rain.  Still, I wouldn’t have run seven if I only attempted five.  See how that works?  Bring on more rain.  Tomorrow I aim for eight.

Mileage is Trending

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Garden of the Gods 2010

I used to run.  A lot.  I ran high school cross country my sophomore year and have identified myself as a runner ever since.  Even during those twenty or so years, raising kids and chasing career, when I rarely ran, my self-image was still of a runner.  This photo marks when I got back into road racing in 2010.  See that old man behind me who looks like he’s a few steps away from death?  This is at the five mile turn-around during the Garden of the Gods ten miler.  He was 68 years old while I was 48.  He finished two and a half minutes ahead of me.

I was just getting back into running then.  Returning to form was a journey.  Debilitating injuries.  Plantar fasciitis.  Arthritis in my symphysis pubis.  Lost weight at a rate of five pounds per year.  Worked my way up to a hundred miles per week.  Never ran more than seventy in college.  I started running a couple of marathons each year and became competitive for my age division.  Then my running came to a stop.

A year ago, I determined to focus on my career again.  I expected an impact to my running but not the addition of twenty-five pounds and two inches to my waist.  Damn.  The real surprise though has come in the last couple of weeks when I’ve tried to increase my mileage.  Simply trying to run five miles was leading to pain in my left leg.  It’s an insult to my pride that I can only run five miles now, but injury too?

I think I understand the cause.  My left foot pronates.  That’s fine until a runner over strides.  Modern shoes, as in shoes since the late ’70s, promote over-striding.  As a response to overcoming injuries after I got back into running, I trained myself to shorten my stride.  That wasn’t as easy as I just made it sound, but it remedied my plantar fasciitis.

What I discovered is that I am so flipping fat, I can’t run with a shorter stride.  A shorter stride requires a quicker cadence, and I’m no longer in shape enough to run with a quick cadence.  My muscle memory has me trying to run with a shorter stride, but I start breathing so heavy that I scare walkers in front of me as I come up behind them.  I believe my legs autonomically corrected my stride to be longer, so that I can breathe.  This lead to pain building from over striding.

I was able to figure that out on my own.  And this week, I’ve run with enough repetition that I think I’m improving.  For the first time since I ran my last marathon, almost a year ago to the day, I’ve run four times in the last seven days.  I do well with repetition.  I’m pretty excited.  I feel like my mileage is trending in a good direction.  I don’t have to run a hundred miles a week, but it will be nice to firm back up again.

Blue River

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You might not know that Blue River is a town.  It’s more like just the rural space south of Breckenridge, Colorado.  The 65 mile long Blue River running through it collects itself from Quandry Peak and the slopes of the Ten Mile Range, then flows north toward Frisco, through the Dillion Reservoir, and finally empties into the Colorado River in Kremmling.  Our friends Scott & Julie let us stay in their Blue River cabin for the weekend, something Ellie wanted to do for her birthday.

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Ellie brought some friends up with her to celebrate.  Brit came up as well and they all stayed up late playing games.  I woke up early the next morning to a half foot of fresh snow.  I made coffee and read Comey’s “Higher Loyalty”.  Despite my running blog where I try to present myself as athletic and adventurous, I’m a sucker for passive activities as well.  Reading a novel in a big leather chair with snow falling outside the window is as good as it gets for me.

It occurs to me the last book I read was in the political genre.  I guess I’ve started others but lost momentum and haven’t finished them.  I won’t comment on the political aspects of Comey’s book, it’s just a good read.  My interest was in Comey’s writing.  I was fascinated after reading his memos by his writing style.  I take notes all day long at work, sometimes on paper but mostly using Evernote.  My writing style when note taking doesn’t deviate much today from 30 years ago when I used to furiously copy down details in college while capturing information from a lecturing professor.

Comey writes memos with the flair of a fiction writer.  I know, that might be telling.  Seriously though, he adds adjectives and describes obscure observations on the mood of a room for simple record keeping.  It makes for great reading so I knew his book would be good.  It is.  He had a storied career and there is so much more than what he writes on the Trump saga, from telling mobster stories to prosecuting Martha Stewart.

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Karen wouldn’t let me stay inside all day.  We went snowshoeing on the Willow Trail at the Nordic Center.  It snowed most of the day but wasn’t cold.  Snowshoeing is my favorite couples sport to do with Karen.  So peaceful in the trees.

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This trip was for Ellie but I enjoyed myself too this weekend.  I needed a break from working every weekend.  I probably enjoyed reading inside the comfy cabin the most, but there was good social time, and of course the snowshoeing.

Slate River Valley

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This is our Austrian exchange student Caroline’s first trip to Crested Butte and the Slate River Valley, so naturally we stopped for a quick pic when we crossed the Continental Divide.  Monarch Pass sits 200 miles from our house, assuming you duck into BV for a bite at the Eddyline Brewery.  Ninety minutes later, we checked into the Elevation Hotel & Spa.  Don’t ask me to explain the holes in these girls’ pants.  I blame the influence of Emma Gonzales.

Ed

Karen and I hiked Friday morning from the Slate River Trailhead.  The snow was packed hard enough that we left our snowshoes in the van.  Not a great snow season for Colorado, but there’s enough.  We trekked along another trail above town after lunch.  We’re learning our way around Slate Valley.  If you’re not familiar with Crested Butte, it sits in a gorgeous valley, north of Gunnison and south of Aspen.

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The girls got in a full day of snow boarding.  So warm they didn’t need their ski jackets.  Tomorrow should be even warmer.  Nice views from the mountain with the clear skies and full sun.  BTW, Camp 4 Coffee is the best in CB.

coffee shop

We’ve yet to eat out at places we’ve been before.  As good as we know they are, we’re still exploring this town.  We ate at the Last Steep tonight.   Looks like a cheap sandwich shop but will surprise you.  We do plan on pizza at Secret Stash tomorrow though.  Too good to ignore that one.

Izzies

 

hashtag deletefacebook

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Sure, go ahead.  Delete Facebook.  Or better yet, just add the hashtag and don’t do it.  I chuckle over the irony when people post their intentions to take a pause from their social networking addiction.  Seems to me like they rarely make it past three weeks.

I don’t care if Facebook lost billions in market cap in this latest brouhaha over consumer privacy.  Like anyone else, cry me a river.  I also have little doubt their market cap will return before year end.  Just like every major corporate hack, Target, Sony, Heartland, their stock takes a dip and recovers in less than a year.  And while I don’t care about Facebook, if forced to pick sides, I’ll stand by Zuckerberg.  As culpable as they are for their own inactions, just like with prostitutes and drug users, the politico positioning is to punish the victims.  And it’s pretty clear why.

The reason is clear when I read the op-eds in the Saturday morning papers.  Editors can finally take a departure from their vigilant stance as Trump apologists by directing their angst against Facebook.  There is no collusion and Zuckerberg is responsible for the Russian election meddling.  No better misdirection than an unloved corporate scapegoat.

I don’t think anything will come of this but the one thing I could get behind is if this leads Zuckerberg to stop pushing the lies about Facebook not being a media company.  Talk about some brazen bullshit.  They direct 20% of this country’s advertising dollars.  That’s the real story for me because I know Americans won’t change their privacy concerns and habits from this.

Even if you delete or pause your facebook account, you won’t stop looking for a free digital lunch elsewhere.  Facebook has two billion users, they aren’t going away from this.  Social Networking might lose this battle but technology will win the war.  Remember John Henry in his epic battle against the jack hammer?  Spoiler alert.  Tech wins.

Fat & Slow

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I like to blog on my good runs.  My fast races.  Those moments where running is almost an out of body experience of exhilarating performance.  Today, I’m just thankful for not ever speaking ill of slower, less fit runners because right now, those are my people.    Running fat and slow is certainly less satisfying but I’ll take it.  So happy to get in my one run each week.  Sad that I can’t seem to run both Saturday and Sunday, but I’ve learned to take and enjoy what the trail gives me.

I never ventured beyond the Brushy Creek Regional Trail as part of my trip to Round Rock, but I got in a couple of six milers.  My positive spin is that these massively slow runs in the Texas spring have contributed to my acclimation to heat and humidity.  Part of my prepping for the summer conditioning plan.  All part of the master plan.

I didn’t do much of anything down here outside of working my 12 hour days and spending what time I could with my mom.  I’d get up at 5am to spend some quality time sitting together in the morning, both reading the paper and watching CNBC.  Our conversations would center on her top concerns, and occasional family history.  I have to say, old people are extremely regular in their tendency to reference BMs and constipation in a sentence.  By the time my work day was over, it was nearly her bed time.  I did get some things done around the house and went to church with her on Sundays.  Roasting a chicken at this very moment.

Wish I could have met up with friends.  Sorry I couldn’t hook up with George at the 512 Brew Pub.  I did however sample multiple locally crafted IPAs.  512 was my hands-down favorite.  My brother-in-law, who plays tonight at the Carousel, told me last night to try their Pecan Porter. I head home Wednesday night.  Glad to have had the opportunity to visit.

SXSW

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IMG_1776Hah, fooled you.  This is not a blog covering the digital creatives that descend on Austin in March.  I am however in Austin.  I realized my mistake upon arrival at ABIA yesterday.  Conditions inside the terminal were claustrophobic.  Thank God I didn’t try to rent a car.  Still not sure how I scored a ticket on Southwest for under $100.  Must have beat the real crowds by a few days.

DIA was packed too, with home-bound skiers.  As bad as I’ve ever seen it.  Southwest maintains a seemingly random pattern of kiosks in front of the ticket counter for travelers to claim their baggage tag.  People didn’t know how to queue up efficiently.  It didn’t help that an agent walked around barking out instructions that there is no line.  No idea what she meant by that.

The lady directly in front of me panicked when her turn came.  She fumbled around in her purse for identification or her smart phone.  Her bag didn’t just spill, it literally exploded its contents onto the floor.  Apparently stressed, she shrieked like a banshee out of frustration.  Like in a scene from Home Alone, a hundred travelers all hushed themselves to stare at her as she sunk to her knees, sobbing, to collect her belongings.

After all this, my flight wasn’t full and I was able to spread out with my newspaper.  My brother picked me up and we stopped for lunch at some pub in the Domain.  I quaffed a 512, a locally crafted IPA.  Pretty tasty.  Looking forward to some more local food and beverages, and hopefully a few trail runs, over the next several weeks.