By abbieredmon

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Jason and I spent a night in a teepee at Piney River Ranch, which is about an 8-mile drive down a dirt road out from Vail. The road is closed nine months out of the year because of snow. The bumps were worth it -- look at this place!

When you get to the ranch, there's a little shop and a restaurant, a place to rent canoes, three cabins, a yurt, and three teepees. There are also several trails leading up toward Mt. Powell (the highest peak in the center there).

We arrived in the late afternoon, so after we settled into our teepee, we took a little stroll around the Piney Lake. There was all kinds of wildlife.

We were super pumped about seeing a moose hanging out just 30 yards or so from the cabins, but little did we know our moose encounters were about to get a lot closer...

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Later that night, after we'd had dinner, we made a fire outside our teepee and enjoyed some wine. We watched as the moose walked up from the lake and started grazing DIRECTLY in front of one of the cabins. We're talking ten feet away! The cabins were between us and the lake, so we still had some distance, but were psyched to see him so close!

Then right as the light was fading completely, I went to the bathrooms to brush my teeth. The moose chose that moment -- of course -- to make a move. He walked past the cabins, glanced at Jason, sitting by our fire, and proceeded to choose a bush outside of the teepee next to ours for his next munching spree. The moose was RIGHT FREAKIN THERE.

And of course, I missed it.

Maybe I'm not so sad about that, though, because I think it would be terrifying. They are huge creatures.

(Our teepee was in the middle. The moose was grazing at the teepee in the back. Fortunately there was no one staying in that teepee, or they would have been trapped!)

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We got an early start for our 6-mile round-trip hike to a waterfall upriver. We were glad we did, too -- we started out in several layers, but by the time we hiked the last couple of miles back to the ranch, around 10:30 a.m., we were in short sleeves and hot!

It was a really pretty hike -- through aspen groves, then evergreen trees, across several little creeks and streams, and finally to a cool spot with lots of big, flat rocks next to a cascading waterfall to sit and have the picnic we brought with us.

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We took a little drive out to Red Cliff to see a bouldering area out there. It tried to rain on us the whole time but never really did much. We did get another sweet rainbow, though! I'm beginning to think Colorado is rainbow country.

The more time I spend in the mountains, the more I love them. I've always thought of myself as a ocean person, but I think that might just be because I basically grew up at the ocean. We didn't take a lot of mountain vacations when I was a kid. I've never been on snow skis in my whole life.

But what I've learned on this road trip is that the mountains are beautiful in the summer. I wonder if I could handle them in the winter, too... :)

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I'm going to write two entries about Hanging Lake because I have lots of photos I want to share.

This trail is short (1.2 miles), but it's a steep uphill the whole damn way. It's a really rocky trail -- sturdy shoes required. There are lots of nice bridges at each water crossing and plenty to see along the way.

We started up at about 4 p.m., when lots of folks were headed down from the lake, but we hiked in the shade the whole time, and there was nice light once we got up to the main attraction.

And what a fucking attraction! Look at this place!

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This hike is a two-fer -- a two-for-one deal.

Hanging Lake is green and gorgeous and unique, and a hundred yards or so above that, Spouting Rock is a waterfall that shoots out of a hunk of solid rock in the mountain.

Both are awesome and absolutely worth the hike.

You can't swim in Hanging Lake -- you're not even supposed to touch the water. We did some mild trespassing through delicate "ecological regrowth areas" to get some cool views from right on top of the falls into Hanging Lake (the last picture below).

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You can drive to (practically) the summit of Mount Evans, a 14er south of I-70 in Colorado. It boasts "the highest paved auto road in North America."

Jason and I made the drive on Wednesday night before camping at Echo Lake, at the base of the road.

We had an early dinner at the lodge restaurant first, and it was pouring rain for most of the drive up.

But then the rain slowed, and we came to a couple of awesome look-out points before the top, so we stopped, got distracted, and took a bunch of photos before continuing up.

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We hiked the short trail to the TOP top. THE summit. We signed the register and scrambled around on the rocks, taking photos.

After about 15 minutes, the clouds really started to roll in. Within minutes, we were totally immersed in a cloud. The view was vanishing. It was almost BETTER than the view, though -- to feel like you were inside a cloud on the peak of a huge mountain.

It sounds dumb, but I felt alive! I think this is when I realized that I really do love the mountains. I wouldn't have thought I'd love it here so much.

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On the night before I leave this amazing state, I have to say -- I'm feeling pretty fantastic about the mountains right now.

I've always been a beach person -- that's where my family went for vacation every year. I grew up in coastal states. To me, "skiing" means water skiing. I was in graduate school before I had a proper pair of snow boots. I didn't necessarily dislike the mountains, I just wasn't familiar with them, at all.

I'm still a little cautious -- after all, I visited Colorado in the summer! -- but it was totally amazing in the summer. How quickly the weather changes, the rock faces and tree-covered mountainsides, the clear air...

It's almost enough to make me think I wouldn't mind it so much in the winter, either. Maybe I'll have to find out :)