Adventures in Colorado: Dinner with the Cows

Part of me wishes I had photos to share from my impromptu, mini, sunset hike this evening. One, so I could paint a better picture of what I’m about to describe. And two, so I could remember it more vividly myself.

The better part of me is glad I don’t. I stood quietly in the moment, gaining a full appreciation of what surrounded me. Our phones usually extract us from reality. My lack thereof ensured I was fully immersed in the experience.

Farewell to a Stranger

We gathered at Boulder Reservoir to wish farewell to Debbie, as her new journey awaits in Billings, Montana. About 20 of the fittest individuals you’ve ever seen, eating the ultimate paradox of sugar-filled muffins & carb-loaded corn chips, with two completely empty vegetable trays lying beside them.

Debbie is hardly a stranger, but we’ve only known each other for about a month. On paper, I was clearly the outsider. But at the Reservoir, I was just another one of the gang. Community: It’s what holds this world together, and it’s also a main component of CrossFit.

By now you might be wondering where the cows come in. Well, there were no cows at the farewell party, nor was dinner served. But when the group decided to head to Rayback Collective for something other than chips & muffins, I went to crash a different kind of dinner party.

There’s no doubt my body would benefit from a short, easy run. But my soul knew it’d be foolish to ignore this view.

Marshall Mesa

I’ve been here once before. It was a surprisingly warm day back in February, as I was just getting to know my new home. Back then, there were livestock signs, but no actual cow sightings.

I had nothing planned as I drove away from the Reservoir. A combination of the outside temperature, the angle of the sun, and the way it reflected off the flatirons, led me to the Marshall Mesa trailhead.

The sun was falling. Temperature dropping. The clouds, rapidly changing shape. Beautiful sunsets are a dime a dozen out here in Boulder. It’s hard to catch ’em all, but there was absolutely no reason to miss this one.

Fast or Slow

As has become somewhat of the norm out here, I found myself caught between running & stopping to enjoy the view.

There’s no doubt my body would benefit from a short, easy run. But my soul knew it’d be foolish to ignore this view. First, I stopped at an overlook about 0.3 of a mile in. Honestly, probably one of the best views of the flatirons in all of Boulder.

My curiosity of a new trail was enough to convince me to pick up the pace. Just as I did, the livestock had other ideas. I quickly found myself in the company of about two dozen cows. Hungry cows. With hundreds of acres of food in all directions.

I don’t want to say I was an uninvited guest, but I didn’t exactly feel at home. I was most certainly a visitor, but to be honest, they didn’t really seem to mind.

A Circle of Fear

I didn’t want to disturb them. They were on the trail, and I wasn’t about to walk through 4 foot high grass just to go another 0.2 of a mile. It was the universe giving me a sign that I should turn around and enjoy the last few minutes of the beautiful sunset behind me.

Ever so slowly—as cows only know how to do—they began circling me like a gang intimidating an adversary. I know they aren’t particularly aggressive (unless their calves are nearby), but they are LARGE animals. And I was outnumbered 24-to-1.

As they made their way toward me, I stood very still—somewhat scared that one of them would get mad that I disrupted their dinner, while also maintaining faith that they somehow knew I was vegetarian, and am totally on their side!

I kept one eye on the sunset. The other eye over my shoulder as a few grazed through the grass, only about 5 feet away.

I was 50% afraid, and 50% smiling. Smiling because, while I will never know exactly how a cow feels when she’s eating grass, they all seemed really happy.

You know the smile your aunt has when her 3-year-old niece shoves that piece of cake in her face, and makes an absolute mess? These cows were shoving grass in their face in much the same way, and in a very back-to-nature kind of way, it filled me with joy.

Happy Cows?

As the rollercoaster of emotions often goes, my mood abruptly shifted.

I began noticing the orange tags on their ears. One of them passed in front of me, “UO” branded in large capital letters on his back. “B96” on the butt of another.

Just as I saw these cows as happy creatures enjoying a meal together, someone else saw them as property. B96 and UO #5. Were they still being used for dairy, or would they be converted to steaks as early as tomorrow?

I’ve been experimenting with my diet over the past several months. Being vegan for several years has provided me immense perspective, not only on animals & food, but on the world at large. I’m incredibly thankful for that.

I have added eggs routinely to my diet, so I am no longer technically vegan. But I have definitely not reintroduced meat. These cows tonight, with the happiness that I witnessed UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL… they should get to enjoy their life eating, not being eaten.

From Livestock, Back to Humans

The days are really long right now, but even long, summer days must come to an end. It was almost 9 o’clock, after all. As I ran out of light, cows no longer in sight, I started the return trip back to my car.

With the cows behind me, and the sun tucked away behind the flatirons, there was nothing to focus my attention on. My mind wandered. Perhaps the universe was at it again…

  • Night time brings out the stars & the moon, both of which I know how much she loves
  • She doesn’t eat meat either, and might’ve shared many of the same thoughts about UO #5 and B96
  • I can’t help but wonder how she would’ve reacted as the cows began surrounding us (mostly, though, if she would’ve been able to remain quiet the whole time 😉
  • She was 2 hours away, presenting her thoughts to a group that is very important to her, and she might’ve even been wrapping up her talk at the same time I was finishing dinner with the cows

Whatever the reason… my mind went to her.

Who is she, you ask? She’s the girl I’ve been dating the past 4 weeks, and she’s a pretty awesome young lady. Who, let’s be fair, deserves way more than to be the final few words of a story about cows. She’ll get her own article one day. Heck, it probably needs to be a book—which, she would write way better than I ever could. You’d laugh so hard, it’d take you weeks to finish it. But I digress…

The conversations we’ve had over the past month have been unlike any I’ve had in a long time.

We go deep. We get sidetracked. Somehow we find our way back, and dig even deeper. Then we laugh over something silly. And do it all over again… before realizing it’s 5am and we just spent the past 10 hours talking to one another. What?!

Like I said, a book someday. But for now, I’d like to leave you with this final thought.

Whose land is it anyway?

↑ Get it?

Whose line is it anyway?

These cows… they were here first, way before we made this trail. Way before mountain bikes were invented. We’re visiting their land, not the other way around.

How many other things out there are we taking for granted? Are we calling “ours?” Who does it really belong to? What kind of process did it undergo before taking on its current form? And who or what was sacrificed in the process?

All fairly straightforward questions, but ones we don’t ask that much anymore. I challenge you to start asking them.

At a time when we’re becoming increasingly connected to a virtual world, we’re becoming more and more blind to the beautiful world that existed long before we ever got here. If we don’t start asking these questions now, I’m afraid our kids might not even have a chance to.

Adventures in Colorado: Liberation in Shadow Canyon

Today’s run is a tough one to put into words. Ya kinda “had to be there.”

But if I were to sum it up in a few words, it was powerful and liberating.

Powerful, because of the mighty winds that whipped through the canyon on my way up.

Liberating on the way back down, as I let gravity not only solidify my connection with the Earth, but control my descent back down to the trailhead. There’s something about rocky, technical downhills that make me feel as close to a bird as I might ever experience.

Instead of more words, I’ll just leave you with a few pictures that, believe me, don’t do it justice at all. But they’ll at least start to paint the picture…

The Cost of a 3-day, Cross-country Moving Trip

It’s far faster & cheaper to fly, but driving allows you the opportunity to see so much more.

Those who know me well know that I’m a big fan of the following:

  • documentation
  • seeing just how far I can make a dollar go

I realize not everything in life needs to be documented, but for those who are financially conscious, you might find this useful. Or perhaps you’ve just wondered if it would be cheaper to drive somewhere instead of fly.

In this article, I’m going to break down every dollar I spent while driving 1,680 miles from Richmond, VA to Boulder, CO.

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Adventures in Colorado: Wide Open Space

Wide open space, howling wind and dogs. Lots and lots of dogs.

I got a lot of work done this morning, so it was time for a break. It’s been 3 days since my last run, so I looked up an area close by on Google Maps. It looked like a trail, and I’m more interested in exploring than I am a workout right now, so let’s give it a go.

About 6 blocks from my house, there’s a quaint, suburban neighborhood with beautiful Summit Middle School tucked in the center. At the end of Tantra road, a wide dirt trail continues towards a small parking lot. The entrance clearly had my name on it.

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Adventures in Colorado: Running with Livestock

I’ve spent the first few days in Boulder unpacking, getting to know my roommates, grocery shopping, and picking up a few things that just didn’t quite make the cut for my road trip. Today, it was time to explore.

After driving through, and arriving in, crappy conditions, the weather has been beautiful all weekend. Upper-40s to mid-50s during the day, with the golden Colorado sun shiny all day long.

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Traveling Stream of Consciousness – Siesta Keys

Dude, why are you sprinting down the moving walkway, with your wheely bag, only to stop abruptly right behind that woman? Not cool, bro.

There’s a woman on the plane drinking a diet Coke. 10 years ago, I’d see this as normal. Today, I want to grab her arm before the bottle reaches her lips, and yell, “Stop! It’s been poisoned.”

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Off The Grid

It’s been 5+ years since I took an entire week’s vacation. I mean a true vacation, not thinking about or doing any work the entire time. I’m doing something a little unconventional (but if you know me, you shouldn’t be that surprised).

Started with 2 Things

Two things that I haven’t done in a   l o n g   t i m e:

  • stopped at a McDonald’s
  • went through the drive thru

I almost forgot how those things worked. Both of them.

I wanted a coffee for my drive to Wintergreen. I wanted it fast so I could get on with my vacation. McDonalds happened to be right there (seems like they’re everywhere, doesn’t it?!).

As much as I despise McDonalds for — well, almost everything, really — I’m actually glad I chose this one. Before your head flies off in sheer amazement, let me explain.

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Boone, NC Mountain Trip

A beautiful week in the mountains with some of the most awesome people on the planet. This one is more personal, for me, because I know I’ll want to reminisce on it again soon. But if you like the mountains and/or interesting headlines that suck you in… you might enjoy it, too.

My friend Janice, the videographer in Durham who organized the trip, put together a short video recap of the week. It’s also perfectly titled, “Mountain Love,” which both together & separately, are really powerful words.

Suzy Goes Bananas

Janice runs into the store real quick to pick up some notebooks. She’s a teacher, OK, so don’t judge. Well… unless they were wide-ruled. Then you can definitely judge.

While waiting, Dave decides to take a little stroll through the parking lot. You know, just to stretch his legs for the lonnnnng, 10-minute drive.

Little did he know, Suzy needed to “stretch her legs”, too. And evil Suzy had a little something up her sleeve.

After an old-fashioned, western-movie staredown—and some shaky camera work by sister Karen—Suzy took aim.

And I’ll let the video tell you the rest…

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway Sign - Group Shot

Just for the record, we’re all incredible karaoke singers. And we’re even better when Janice has her volume set to “I can’t really hear much else around me.”

And Suzy graduated from bananas and moved on to mix tapes. Girl makes a mean compact disc for a road trip.

Surfing & Searching

We stopped at a scenic overlook on the Parkway. However, seeing as there was no scenery to look over (stupid clouds), Suzy & I decided to make it an action-shot overlook. Suzy did the surfing. I did the searching. And we both did it on top picnic tables.

Hey Karen, can we get those pictures off your phone, please?

Grandfather Mountain Hike

Boone NC Grandfather Mountain Hike

4 friends, 2 dogs & one common Grandfather. We love ya, pops.

OK, so he’s not really our “pops.” But he was the perfect going away present to culminate an awesome trip.

Grandfather Mountain profile trailWe hiked Grandfather Mountain on our last day in Boone. Toby (that innocent-looking, golden-brown chow pictured above) tackled his first true mountain hike… like a champ. Murph dog & I got some quality bonding time in. I even let him sprint his way down the trail for a minute or two. The little guy was itching to let loose the whole hike, so I had to run with him for at least a 1/4 mile or so.

Nothing too out-of-the-ordinary. Just peaceful flowing water, mud beneath our feet, fresh mountain air, beautiful views, lush greenery & light conversation. The simple things in life…

The Grandview Restaurant

The Grandview was the morning breakfast spot. A 5-minute walk from the house, and a “grand view” of Grandfather Mountain. And they accommodated our request for a “plate of hash browns topped with whatever vegetables you have.” Hey, it’s a diner & there were 2 vegans in the house. Sometimes you gotta get creative.

Mountain Grounds Coffee Shop

Mountain Grounds coffee shop in Banner Elk was homebase for getting work done. Peaceful little place with great service. A good energy for being productive. Ha… too bad I played way more Candy Crush than I did work.

The Vegan Threesome

One night we went out to dinner in Boone. Forget the name of the place, but it was a build-your-own-burrito kind of joint. And build one, I did. A mighty tasty one.

All your typical stuff to start with… rice, beans, lettuce, onion, etc. And then I added in the real flavor. Pineapple, corn & guacamole… seriously, it’s an orgy in your mouth.

They should name this thing after me. And I’d like to call it the: Vegan Threesome

I would show you pictures, but the things I did to this burrito are illegal in all 50 states… and Mexico.

Seven Devils

I’m not sure why they call them devils, or why there are seven of them, but this was the town I did my first run through. Did I say town? I’m sorry, I meant mountain. This is the mountain I did my run up, not through.

I was on the hunt for some mountain trails, but had trouble finding some near the house. I was running along the main road when I saw a giant yellow sign. It said “Warning” in huge letters at the top.

“OK, sign, you have my attention. What’s that all about?” I asked.

“Steep grade & sharp curves ahead.”

Done. Sold. Say no more. This wasn’t a sign, but an invitation. “Welcome to Seven Devils, Dave. Please come in, and come up. You won’t regret it.”

The next 2.5 miles consisted of the most elevation I’ve ever climbed in a 2 mile stretch. Up, up & up, as the road kept winding back-and-forth in each direction. And although I know I would be gassed if I ran the whole thing… I kept running. I was determined to meet the devils… all seven of ’em.

Seven Devils, NC Mountain Run

1,100 ft. of climbing & 2 miles later, I reached the [Rocky] Top. I had a brief spiritual moment when I looked down into the valley on the other side of the mountain. There’s something so powerful, yet so humble, about ascending mountains on your own two feet.

The run back down wasn’t quite as fun, but I was more than happy to pay that price for my experience at the top.

Price Lake

While driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, we stop at Price Lake. The girls walked the dogs & took pictures. We bumped into a family walking the other direction on the trail, and asked them how long the trail was. 2.3 miles. I asked the girls if they would mind if I ran around it real quick, and met them back at the car. They were fine with it, as long as I made it back in 20 minutes.

What a FUN twenty minutes!

Slippin’ & slidin’ on mud, ducking under tree branches, splashing in mud puddles, leaping over water barriers, flashing across wooden bridges… halfway point I stopped for a beautiful view and some O2… continued through a campground, past an amphitheater, back onto the Parkway for a brief stretch, and let the trail take me back home. 21 minutes of muddy, awesome, trail running. Ahhh 🙂

Dave at Price Lake Sign, Blue Ridge Parkway

Soooo… when are we going back?