Visiting Colorado

January 2018

During previous “Out West” adventures, (Grand Canyon and Mt. St. Helens), we connected-up with another couple Scott and Mary, who happen to live in Silverthorne, Colorado. Under the philosophy that “no authentic invite shall go unfilled”, we arranged a week trip to visit them during the Colorado winter! On Thursday, January 11th, we flew to Denver, where we rented a car and drove the 90 minutes up the mountains, through the Eisenhower Tunnel, to their house in Silverthorne. Scott and Mary have a beautiful 3-story log cabin, at 9000’ altitude, high on the side of a mountain in the Williams Fork Range, overlooking the Blue River Valley and the town of Silverthorne. The house is built on the 1.7 billion-year-old, thrusted Dakota meta-sediments, and we spent the first afternoon marveling at the views from their house of the Gore Range, with stands of Lodgepole Pine trees visited by ospreys, bald eagles, ravens, magpies and red-tailed hawks. Scott and Mary told us about their personal sightings and local encounters with foxes, brown bears, elk, deer and mountain lions! That night, we watched the sun set behind the mountains across the valley while we ate lasagna & salad and sipped nightcaps in front of the stone fireplace.

Scott & Marys House from Road Below

Thursday night, a light snow fell, and we awoke Friday morning to continued flurries and a new, white blanket covering the hillsides. After a leisurely breakfast, we set off on a gentle hike 800ft up to the top of Scott and Mary’s community, admiring the views and uniquely-constructed houses along the way. That afternoon, we headed into Frisco where we had appetizers and drinks at the Outer Range Brewing Company – a busy local brewery frequented by locals and their families, which had a style reminiscent of old English Pubs. From there, we went to the Pioneer Ski Shop to pick up Roc’s ski equipment for Saturday, and then went to the Red Mountain Grill in Silverthorne for dinner. It was then, while observing the crowd that we had realized that we had forgotten that this was a Holiday Weekend, since Monday would be MLK Day! After an excellent salmon dinner, we headed back to welcome Bill and Sandy, friends of Scott and Mary from Denver, who came up for the night to ski with us on Saturday. We all drank wine, and then socialized until we finally called it a night and went to bed content.

View of Buffalo Mountain from the Deck
Mountain Range View from across the Valley

Saturday morning, we were up, had breakfast and coffee, and then the “boys” set off for Keystone Ski Resort “Foursquare” area, for a day of downhill skiing. Scott and Mary also own a rental condo across from the lifts at Keystone and can therefore use their condo’s parking garage to stage for skiing. After dressing, we three headed to the lift-ticket office so that Rocky could get a “Buddy Pass” lift ticket, (which, unfortunately took almost an hour), and then proceeded together to the “River Run Gondola” up to the start of “School Marm Run” – a 3.5-mile long “green” run, 2040’ down from the 11.640’ start. Since Rocky had not been skiing for nearly 40 years, Scott and Bill kept a watchful eye on him, but the old skills slowly returned, and Rocky executed a careful, but successful, run down the mountain. While the boys were skiing, the women made their way to the ski route’s finish and greeted the boys when they arrived from their first run. After that, the women, Mary, Sandy and Julie, checked out the Keystone villages and shops, of which Julie particularly liked the Gorsuch Shop which had unique gifts and interesting lines of clothing. After shopping, the girls headed to the bar for drinks and snacks, and to wait for the boys. Meanwhile, Scott, Bill and Rocky made there way back up the hill on the “Summit Express Chair Lift” to the top again, where they stopped for a quick beer at the Summit House Food Court, before again skiing “School Marm Run” – this time much faster and with fewer rest stops along the way. With 2 runs under his wings, Rocky called the day “finished” while Bill and Scott headed up for one final run of the day. All finally assembled with the girls for final drinks, before we headed back to Frisco to drop off Rocky’s skis, and then back to Scott and Mary’s for a few rounds of cosmopolitans, and a fantastic dinner of grilled steak and buffet potatoes, with rum cake for dessert. After dinner, Bill and Sandy needed to head back to Denver, and so, after goodbyes, the rest of us collected our wineglasses, and moved out onto the patio in 15-degree weather for a soak in the hot tub, while looking for satellites and watching the stars above. Once completely relaxed, we exited the tub, gathered in front of the fireplace before finally heading off to bed.

The Village Shops at Keystone
Skiiers at Keystone
Ski Routes at Keystone (SchoolMarm in Black)

Sunday, after breakfast, we headed out to the Breckenridge Nordic Center. It was a beautiful sunny day, and for very little cost, we equipped ourselves with snowshoes and boots, and began our “hike” along the “Red Trail”. The snowshoeing trail wound its way through the valley floor and up into the mountain-side’s trees, before we veered-off onto the “Yellow Trail” that took us up and under Breckenridge’s gondola. From there, we headed back down through the snow-strewn trees and beside moose meadow before returning to the Nordic Center – a fun-filled, 2-hour hiking adventure! From there, we headed to the gondola to ride up and visit Breckenridge’s Peaks 7 & 8, where the Holiday Weekend and recent snow had generated considerable crowds. We stopped for drinks and appetizers in a local restaurant, before heading back to the car, and back to Scott and Mary’s to get ready to go out to dinner. Tonight, we had planned to meet and have dinner with Nancy, the acting Society of Exploration Geophysicists President, who was planning to drive down from Denver. We met at Uptown’s in Frisco, where Nancy’s daughter, Haley, also joined us. Dinner was spent with excellent food and lively discussions of nursing and geophysics.

Showshoeing View at Breckenridge
Super-Chair Lift at Breckenridge
Blowing Snow at Breckenridge Mountain Tops

Monday morning, we took a leisurely approach to breakfast, before Julie and Rocky bundled up and put on Scott and Mary’s snowshoes, and went out for a hike around their countryside. We hiked through the adjacent woods down to near the valley floor, before returning in a roundabout way over an hour later. After a quick warm-me-up, we took out our rental car for a bit of a drive-about, and to give it a “warm up.” We drove through some of the local neighborhoods and around the growing condominium and townhouse communities. The rest of that afternoon was spent lazily before a dinner of grilled salmon and veggies. Again, we spent part of the cold, crisp evening in the hot tub with our wine, and searching for satellites in the heavens above – (Julie says she saw one!)

Julie Snowshoeing near Scott’s
Rock and Julie out Snowshoeing

Tuesday morning was spent packing our belongings, before the 4 of us went outside for a 2-hr. walk along the roads, into some of the newly developing communities nearby – Hamilton Creek & Angler Mountain Subdivisions! Along the way, in addition to the majestic views, we sighted a falcon, and 3 deer! After saying our heartfelt “Thank You’s” and goodbyes, we headed off to get a hotel in Denver for one night, to be better prepared for our very early morning flight back to Florida. Along the way, we passed the ever-present Buffalo Herd – our classic reminder of the whirlwind adventure we just had.

Falcon on Neighbors Rooftop
Deer Roaming the Area

2018 New Year’s Sailing Celebration in Grand Abaco, The Bahamas

It’s wonderful how life delivers a cascade of friendships that take you to unexpected places! Our friends in West Palm Beach, Peter & Nikki, connected with their friend Alex who used to be a Charter Captain in Grand Abaco Island in The Bahamas. Alex and his girlfriend, Heather, were chartering a sloop over New Year’s and needed 2 other couples to round out their crew, and so the six of us came together in West Palm Beach Airport on the morning of Thursday, December 28th, 2017 to fly to Marsh Harbor on Grand Abaco Island to pick up our 45ft Jeanneau named “Aequanimitas” – meaning “Equanimity” or “demonstrating a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed”! I’m not sure it was appropriate for the 6 of us!

Abaco Map

The trip began as these trips usually do with lunch at the marina followed by the guys checking out the boat and its equipment, and the girls gathering supplies at the nearest grocery and liquor stores! We did have time to take the boat out of the marina, get underway and travel south to Tilloo Cay, where we set anchor and ate a light dinner of freshly prepared conch salad.

The Aequanimitas

The next morning, after a breakfast onboard of coffee, eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast, we set sail south to Sandy Cay, an uninhabited spit of sand and rocks that hosts a spectacular offshore reef teeming with fish. After anchoring, we took the dingy and looked for a shore access where we all disembarked and explored the beach for sea biscuits, shells and sea fans that had washed-up. While the girls continued beach-combing, the guys took the dingy to the diving mooring balls where we tied-up and snorkeled a wall of coral. Among the multitude of fish, we came upon a couple of Sea Eagle Sting Rays with a wing-span of 3-4 ft., and a tail extending 15-20 ft. behind! After our fill of snorkeling, we went back to shore to pick up the girls, ate lunch on the boat, and then continued our sail south to Little Harbor, where we picked up a mooring ball and took the dingy over to Pete’s Pub and Gallery. Here, the water was crystal clear, the seafloor was sandy, and the harbor was filled with sea turtles and smaller sting rays. At Pete’s Pub, we had drinks and fish dinners, including trigger fish, wahoo and grouper, and we took the occasion to make the 200-ft. short walk over the dune to view the Atlantic Ocean.

Beachcombing Sandy Cay
Swimming with the Rays

On Saturday morning, we motored north early to Lynyard Cay to take advantage of the higher tides, where we set anchor and ate a leisurely breakfast on the boat! After cleaning-up, we set sail north to Elbow Cay where we would have to slowly motor through a very shallow passage. Along our sail, the bottom was clear to view, and we saw numerous sharks ranging 3 – 6 ½ ft. in length, a school of small tuna, sea cucumbers, and sea turtles. We even saw a small group of 6 dolphins leisurely exploring our boat. However, with the tide too low, we could not successfully cross the shallows on our way to Elbow Cay, and so, having to wait for the tide to come in, we anchored nearby at south of Lubbers at Tavern Cay for snorkeling and lunch. At Tavern Cay, a series of small rock outcrops, “Fish Hotel Rocks”, serve as home to small corals, sting rays, conchs, and bigeye fish. After snorkeling and having lunch on-board, we slowly motored on the higher tide to Hope Town on Elbow Cay. The harbor of Hope Town is a beautiful and quaint area, and after picking up our designated Abaco Charter mooring ball, we restocked groceries and liquor, before returning to shore for drinks, conch fritters and wings on the dock at “The Harbour’s Edge”, and then eating dinner aboard.

Diving for Coral

Sunday was New Year’s Eve, and most stores and shops were closed. However, after a light breakfast on-board, we all went to the Elbow Reef Lighthouse. This lighthouse was erected in 1864 and is the world’s last working kerosene lighthouse of its kind! With its octagonal mirror structure, it gives a group of 5 white flashes every 15 seconds. We climbed the 101 steps to the observation deck and took in the beautiful panoramic view of the area, before descending and leaving Hope Town to sail north to Guana Cay – home to both “Nippers Beach Bar & Grill” and “Grabbers Bed, Bar and Grille”. After setting anchor at the outer edge of the harbor, we took the dingy to the City Dock and took a golf cart across the narrow island to Nippers – a multilevel deck bar overlooking the famous “Seven-Mile Beach” on the Atlantic Ocean with loud music and 100’s of young adults drinking and dancing! After sampling the famous “Nipper’s Juice Cocktail” and joining in the party, we were getting ready to leave when two girls sitting on the railing, tumbled-over from 8 ft. up and were seriously injured. While medical attended to them, we walked back across the island to “Grabbers at Sunset Beach” where we sampled a frozen drink called the “Guana Grabber”, ate pizza, chicken tender and fish finger appetizers, and marveled at the largest catamaran “Raft-Up” any of us had ever seen – 36 catamarans in two rows of 18 – all anchored and roped together! After a bit of shopping, we returned to the boat where we enjoyed a late, light diner, and enjoyed music and cards until 11:00pm, when the first round of fireworks over the island were set off. Then, at midnight, we popped-open our champagne, enjoyed the next round of fireworks and celebrated the beginning of 2018!

Elbow Reef Lighthouse
View of Hope Town
Party at Nippers
New Years Eve Fireworks
Massive Catamaran Raft

Monday morning and a Happy New Year to everyone! After a light breakfast, we continued to motor-sail north, past the huge raft-up, to Treasure Cay. Unfortunately, a low-pressure front was moving in making for a very light wind day! But, that would be reversed with the storm that was forecast for tomorrow. Since today was a holiday, we picked up a mooring ball and went ashore to the “Coco Beach Bar at Treasure Bay Beach Resort” where we ate a lunch of mahi- and cheese-burgers, drank Gin & Tonics, rented beach lounges and an umbrella, and spent the afternoon enjoying the surf, sand, and sun. While beach-combing, we saw starfish, sting rays, sand dollars and delicate, fragile shells. We returned late in the afternoon for showers and a boat-cooked meal of chicken, potatoes, corn and beans before settling in for an early night.

The night brought the expected storm, and Tuesday we awoke to 30 mph winds out of the north, with gusts to 35 mph, and a driving rainstorm. Even though we had one day on the charter remaining, in respect for the predicted bad weather getting worse, we charted a course back south for Marsh Harbor to the south. We raised the main to before its first reefing point, and put the genoa out to its first reefing point, which is all the sail we were willing to expose, giving us a speed of over 7 knots over land! However, the mast-self-furling main jammed and the shackle holding the furling line broke off leaving the self-furling jammed and disabled! This was not too much problem while sailing and tacking towards the harbor in the south, but had to be resolved before we could enter the marina in those conditions! Finally, when we approached the harbor, we furled the genoa, and motored into the lee of an island where we set anchor, and, in a driving rainstorm, the boys wrestled the exposed mainsail to wrap it around the mast, and secure it with a maypole of the spinnaker halyard. This allowed us to motor into the Boat Harbor Marina where we docked at the T-dock and battened down for the storm. That evening, we hunkered down for the storm in the boat, cooking the foodstuff that we had left for dinner, and having a nightcap of Grand Marnier at the Marina’s Poolside Bar.

Securing the Sail in a Storm

The storm howled all night, but showed signs of let-up the next morning, allowing us to all walk to a local restaurant called “Jamie’s”, where all we had a hot breakfast. After breakfast, Alex and Heather took the ferry to visit with old friend back on Elbow Cay, and the rest of us played cards and enjoyed the facilities offered by the Boat Harbor Marina. The winds remained in the 30-40 mph range until late that evening, and with the occasional rain shower, kept us close to the boat until a break later that evening, when we walked to a local restaurant called “Snappa’s”. There we ate salads and drank wine and beer before returning to the boat. We “camped” that night on the boat, enduring the rest of the storm by playing cards and preparing to leave the next day by starting our packing.

Sunset at Abaco

Thursday morning, Alex and Heather rejoined us, and we all went to “Jamie’s” again for brunch before catching a cab to the airport and our flight back to West Palm Beach. From there, it was a short, 2-hour drive north back to our home in Indialantic. Another fantastic trip with high adventure, good close friends and new friends – what could be better!