A Vacation from Vacation? Nah... It's All Good.

Phew... are we tired.

Since Friday afternoon, we...
 - went ice skating
 - nearly set a new record for a grocery bill
 - went to two holiday parties on Saturday night
 - hosted 7 of Chloe's friends for a "pizza and movie" event
 - got a couple of bike rides in (K)
 - went caroling
 - went to Christmas Pageant rehearsal (C)
 - baked cookies (well, Peggy did that)
 - went to a Christmas Tea (an annual tradition for PnC)
 - did a monster cleaning of the home
 - did some shoveling (it's snowing as I type... could get 5-10")
 - got a couple of gym workouts in (KnP)

And coming up, we...
 - will be picking up my sister and her family at the airport tonight (awesome!)
 - will go bowling tomorrow (of course)
 - go skiing for 3 days (VERY awesome)
 - visit the Denver aquarium (probably)
 - have a beer and burger at Mountain Sun (hopefully)

But, you know what?  It's a good tired.


Season Kick-Off on the Planks of Questionable Judgment

A lot of the ski areas in Colorado have been open for a couple of weeks -- a few since mid-October -- but we haven't been able to join our skiing brethren on the slopes.  Well, that is, until this (past) weekend.

After dropping Chamberlain off at his home away from home and picking Chloe up from school, we began our 2 hour, weekend-away drive to Breckenridge, CO.  Nestled in the Rockies West of the Continental Divide,"Breck" sits at about 9,600 feet and averages about 300 inches of snow a year.  We got to our hotel around 5:30p, dropped off our boots and skis at the on-site valet, and made our way to our room.  We unpacked and chilaxed, then walked to town to get some dinner.  We would have loved to explore town more, but it was getting late, and cold, and we had a healthy dose of skiing ahead of us so we called it a night.

Peggy and I awoke to whispers of "Is it time to go skiing yet?" at 7:00a Saturday morning.  To Chloe's mild disappointment, there was still another 2 hours until the lifts started running.  What made matters worse, at least in the short-term, was that she could see a lift, because it was only 100 yards from our hotel.  That proximity, though, was nice later on when it was actually time to don our gear and walk over to the lift to get on.

Shortly after 9:00a, after retrieving and putting on our ski gear, making our way over to the lift, and getting an updated trail status map, we got on the Quicksilver lift to kick off our 2009-10 ski season.  Peggy and I were curious during the first run to see how much Chloe retained from last season, her first on skis.  And to our surprise and joy, it appeared as if she pretty continued where she left off.  We spent the first couple of runs on the greens just to get a feel for things again, and then, on Chloe's prodding, made our way to some blue (intermediate) runs.  Though being open several weeks, Breck was only at about 20% of capacity, in terms of trails being open.  Lucky for us, those that were were mostly beginner and intermediate, with a few advance intermediate ones sprinkled in.

Later in the morning, as some snow flurries were coming down, we began to hear some loud, thundering booms.  I thought it was thundersnow happening somewhere in the nearby mountains, but came to learn from a lift operator that it was explosives being set off to initiate avalanches in the back bowls.

After a timely lunch break -- both in terms of hunger and warmth -- we began exploring trails on another peak.  By this time, thankfully, the skies began to clear some and we were able to get some glimpses of the peaks of the Continental Divide to the East.  It was shortly after this time that Chloe's legs started getting tired (and/or her brain remembered that there was a pool and hot tub at the hotel), so she and Peggy went back to the hotel, and I stayed out for about another hour and an half. 

Saturday night was another night in town at a restaurant, as coincidence would have it, I ate at back in June 2007 while out here to do the Ride the Rockies bike ride.  (A little tip:  if you ever eat at the Salt Creek Steak House, try the Elk London Broil... it's de-lish!).

A snow storm visited the area on Sunday, and so our skiing this morning was similar to Saturday's start:  cold, with blowing snow.  But unlike Saturday, the skies showed no chance of clearing.  We got to explore Peak 7 and Chloe had her first experience using poles, but even those fun experiences couldn't ward off the effects of the cold.  Around 11:00a, we made our way to a restaurant at the base of Peak 8, where Peggy and Chloe stayed to warm up. I left in order to make my way back to the hotel to get the car and our belongings.  Because there was no skier drop-off at this base, they had to take the gondola into town, where I met them.

The snow was still coming down pretty hard, and we had heard horror stories about traffic in the mountains on Sunday afternoons during ski season, so instead of doing a sit down lunch at a local restaurant, we decided it was best to eat on the go and begin heading East sooner rather than later.  As we got on the Interstate, we realized that was a good call, as traffic was light but largely staying in one semi-cleared lane as we approached the Divide.

Three hours and a lot of windshield cleaner later, we were back in sunny-and-40-degrees Boulder, looking forward to our next skiing excursion (which is in less than 2 weeks!)

(Pictures, top to bottom: the view East as the weather cleared on Saturday; mid-hill view of the town of Breckenridge; view from the top of the Beaver Run chair [elev. about 11,300 ft.] and Torreys and Grays peaks in the background; Chloe wondering why she's not in the hot tub yet; the Apr├Ęs Ski Girls.)


The (Very Cold) Hunt for the Schrammel Christmas Tree

We joined our friends the Teagues for a trip up to northern Colorado for a weekend in the woods to both 1) spend some time in a rustic cabin just hanging out and 2) harvest a Christmas Tree for our homes.

We left Saturday morning and started heading towards the Red Feather Lakes area of the state, which is about a 2.5 hour drive NNW of here, stopping in Ft. Collins for brunch. It was a great drive for we not only got to see a new part of our home state, but got to see some pronghorn and big horn sheep along the way.  We arrived at the cabin early afternoon and promptly got the fireplace and gas furnace going, and got the cars unloaded.  The cabin lacked some modern touches (e.g. running water, indoor plumbing) but it made no difference, as we settled in and enjoyed watching the many whitetail deer running around the wood.

We've heard that this was another beautiful area of the state, and it appeared so during the drive.  Unfortunately, we weren't able to get many expansive views for the much of the visit as a cold front came in Saturday night.  A very, very cold front, bringing nearly constant flurries along with it. 

How cold?  We woke up Sunday morning -- the day of our Christmas tree hunt -- to -4 degrees.  After a hot breakfast and putting on every piece of warm clothing we could find, we drove to the place where we were going to get our Christmas trees. 

Now, this was no average Christmas Tree excursion.  It was, at least in theory, about as Rockwellian as one could get:  we would board a horse drawn sleigh, be taken into the forest to both get our trees as well as enjoy some hot chocolates and cookies in a cabin, and then have the horses pull us and our trees back to our cars.  Theory, though, has a freezing point of -1 degree, which was the temperature when we got out of car to begin the sleigh ride. 

Multiple layers of blankets and Christmas carols couldn't keep the spirits -- or hands, feet, or faces -- of Chloe and Evan warm very long.  And the driver took notice, for the 2 Belgian draft horses pulling our sleigh -- Zeus and Apollo -- picked up the pace noticeably.  Suffice it to say that we arrived at the cabin none too soon.  We went in, huddled around the wood stove, and enjoyed the hot chocolate.  John and I then headed out to find a tree for our families. 

Unlike Christmas tree farms that I was used to back East -- where there were neat rows of trees that one could easily walk in between, and the trees were somewhat evenly spaced mostly symmetrical -- we were hunting on a hillside in the forest, where few of the trees have the qualities just mentioned.  So, the hunt took a while (thankfully, the constant movement of walking up, down and across a snowy hillside staved off the effects of the cold.) 

After what I'm guessing was about 30 minutes of searching, I found our tree.  I cut it down, dragged it through the forest a little, rolled it down an embankment, body-slid down said embankment, and took it over to the cabin where it awaited to be tied on to the sleigh.  John's quest ended shortly after mine, and we both went in to warm up some before getting back on the sleigh.  Not only were we glad to have brought back trees for our families, but we were glad to see our kids were in much better spirits as well (whipped cream hot chocolate and cookies have a tendency to do that, it appears.)

It was then back on the sleigh for the ride back to the parking area.  A few carols and a few laughs later, we were there.  After tying down the trees to the top of the Explorer, we headed back to the cabin to pick up our dogs and belongings and begin the drive back to Boulder, where things were much warmer... it was 10 degrees here when we got home.

(Pictures, top to bottom:  Chloe and Evan watching deer around the cabin; Me holding a sleeping Dulce; Peggy hanging out with Zeus and Apollo; KnPnC.)


Please Allow Me to Introduce...

Mr. Chad Dillon Cooper.  He's a crowntail betta fish, and the most recent addition to the Schrammel household.  He'll be residing in his aquarium on Chloe's nightstand for what we hope is a long, long time.