Steamboat – Part One!

Hello!

As you may know we are currently on a lovely holiday with the Channons, skiing in Steamboat Springs. It is BEAUTIFUL, although also extremely snowy!

Steamboat itself is about three hours East of us (it would be closer, but you have to go around the Rocky Mountains) and is internationally renowned as an amazing place to ski. As well as the massive Mount Werner where the ski resort is there are a few other skiing areas, as well as some lovely Hot Springs, which is what the town is named after. There are no actual steamboats, the bubbling springs just make it sound like there are 🙂

I mentioned that Mount Werner is massive, but that probably doesn’t do it justice! The town itself is at 6,732 ft above sea level, but the peak of the mountain is at 10,570 ft! The highest point that you can get to via skiing is near that, at around 10,384 ft. So, quite a long way to ski down! Although this was put into perspective for us when we found out that there are people to eschew the long gondola rides to the top in favor of hiking up the 3,500 ft themselves! Needless to say, we did not…

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So happy not to have hiked up this. You can see the town very distantly down below!

At Barry’s alarming request we started strong on the first day (Monday) having arrived to our wonderful Condo on the Sunday night! So we got up at eight, snaffled down some toast, and off we went on the first lift:

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Fun side note: All the skin you see in this picture is now red 😦

And away we went! I’m still really not good at skiing so wasn’t anywhere near the guys standard, but they indulged me with some nice Blues and Greens to get us started! Here I am, looking sort of like I know what I’m doing:

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Weeeeeeeeeeeee!

A lot of the runs are very nice and wide like this one, which makes it much easier for a beginner like me to control my speed by making lots of turns. We skied down a lot of fun runs like this, with brief breaks on the chairlift to rest our legs! After a few hours, we took a nice break up on the mountain. There are a few places to eat dotted all over the slopes that are only accessible via skis, and they had wonderful views! Here is Rendezvous, where we stopped:

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And here we are enjoying a beverage in the sun! It was an extremely sunny day which is how we ended up a little pink, but we definitely appreciated the warmth 🙂 One of the reasons that I was a bit apprehensive about skiing was that I thought it would be very cold – rest assured that this is definitely not the case! You can see that as soon as we could we threw our ski jackets to the floor and enjoyed the sunshine:

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And absolutely destroyed our drinks

And then back to it! The preferred approach to skiing with Team Channon is to get the first lift up as mentioned, and to then keep skiing until the lifts close at around 4pm with plenty of snack breaks in the middle. Skiing is pretty exhausting, so doing a full eight hours was a bit of a shock to my squishy body! Still, much fun 🙂 🙂

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Go Team!

In the evening we explored Downtown Steamboat, with its amazing food and beer! For the next day it was more of the same, although at a gentler pace since my poor legs were a little tired.

Strangely, Barry managed to pick up a hitch-hiker during a slower phase of skiing! Meet our new friend George:

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Barry chose the name 🙂

We think we picked George up when he fell out of one of the toboggans, which was probably quite a rude awaking from what we assume was his hibernation. We suspect George is a Doormouse, and a very cute (if slightly mussed up) one at that! Upon being woken up and finding himself in the snow he quickly ran over to Barry and hid in the little well under his shoe, and we think planned to stay there until spring. It was extremely cute!

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But wait, it gets cuter!

I was all in favour of us adopting George and having him live with us forever, but sadly common sense prevailed and we decided to scoot over to the edge of the slope and shoo him into the trees. This turned out to be much harder than expected. To start, Barry skied over to the edge of the slope, with George now riding on the back of the skis:

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This turned out to not be the most secure place for a little mouse, and he fell off into the middle of the run! He then sat there waiting for Barry to rescue him, which Barry did accompanied by his new assistants – a bunch of young school girls having skiing lessons! As you can imagine, some chaos ensued. Luckily George safely made it to the trees in the end!

For a bit of a change of pace after all the skiing excitement we took a day off to go and visit Dinosaur National Park, which is on the border of Colorado and Utah. As well as being a naturally very beautiful area, Dinosaur is so named because of the large collection of dinosaur bones that have been found there, many of which have been kept in situ for visitors! This all sounded very exciting, so off we went to Utah:

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It was a balmy 10°C, so on went the sunglasses!

It was about a two and a half hour drive, but well worth it. First, we were very impressed by the Dinosaur on display, which we lovingly named Cuthbert.

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Tell me that he doesn’t look like a Cuthbert

After a quite long discussion about whether his colouring was accurate (unlikely, but hard to know for sure), we headed on into the actual park.

As I said, the main feature is the big wall of dinosaur bones that have been kept in situ on display. The whole park used to be a river, and so a large number of dinosaur skeletons were located in the river bed either as a result of a flash flood, or a drought. Over the year some of these skeletons drifted apart into individual bones, but others remain in their original shape. When the river bed dried up the bones were buried, and they were excavated in the early 1900s. A lot of the bones we had seen without realising it, including the Barosaurus that is famously on display in the Natural History Museum in New York! But back to the wall:

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Apologies for the stock images! Very hard to capture the scale

It was a little bit mind-blowing, and it was fascinating to look at it and slowly be able to pick out individual animals. Strongly recommend a visit if you are in the area!

As well as the dinosaur bones, there were some ancient Petroglyphs! This is art that has been carved into a rock surface, in a similar style to cave art. Again, it was a little mind-blowing to think that these carvings had been around for such a long time, and they were very interesting! There were a few of them scattered around the park, so we did a tour of these. The style is very distinct, and often they are quite high up on the cliff walls:

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The rest of the park is also very beautiful, you can tell that the whole landscape has had millions of years to take shape. This post will very much become a photo album from now on, since the pictures really speak for themselves! There were some super distinctive layers in the rock:

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Known as Morrison Formation, for my fellow nerds 🙂

Split Mountain, so called because the rocks are at an angle, which shows a really excellent range of rock colours. Again, it is really hard to capture the scale of this, but at least I’m using my own photos this time 😉

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The weenie dots near the trees this side of the river are picnic benches

This awesomely named Turtle Rock, which again caused much debate about whether or not it did resemble a Turtle:

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Five points if you can spot it

The even more tenuously named Elephant Toes Butte:

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I’ve made spotting this one easy for you

And finally, general awe inspiring beauty:

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Seriously, just get on a plane and come to the National Park

So yes, much fun! We were in the park for a good long time exploring the many lovely things before returning back to Steamboat for the second half of our wonderful holiday!

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Bliss

We are here until Sunday, so hold tight for Part 2 of Steamboat!

Xxxxxx

Saturday in Fort Collins!

Hello! Sorry, me again! Rob is writing up a few papers at the moment, but will be back writing posts very soon 🙂

I was going to title this post ‘An average Saturday in Fort Collins’ but to be honest it was a pretty great Saturday. It was also kind of Saint Patricks day, which for those of you who don’t know is a pretty big deal in the US. Like, a way bigger deal than it is in England or even Ireland. Saint Patricks day isn’t actually until the 17th, but it’s celebrated on a Saturday for reasons that will soon become obvious. How is it celebrated, you ask?

Firstly, Parade! A big one! Big and odd…

 

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Does that say Kuck?

 

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Aah! Kuck!!!
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Oooh, balloon rainbow! Order is restored.

I thoroughly enjoyed the parade, it was nothing short of magnificent. I absolutely insist that we in the UK organise and start having parades like this ourselves. So good!

Hopefully for the UK parades we will be better prepared, but unfortunately we weren’t dressed appropriately this time. As you can probably see in a few of these pictures above, green is the colour to wear! And ideally green with an Irish slogan on it. If you want to go all in, you can literally dress up like you’re Irish. You read that correctly. We were deeply impressed by the Walmart selection:

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We felt that it showed a rich cultural respect

Again, the whole thing is kind of awesome 🙂 After a quick trip to Target, we have fixed our lack of Irish wear so that we can better blend in for the big day!

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So authentic

But back to Saturday! After the parade and an amazing breakfast at the Silver Grill (it’s so good! SO GOOD!) we carried on with our day. After the above shopping for our Irish gear we decided on a lovely drink in the sun. The traditional Irish day celebration is to drink heavily, the drink of choice being a beer dyed green, until you pass out in the street – thus the move to a Saturday. Luckily, we chose a classier route with our day drinking:

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Yes, for once Budweiser was the classy option!

There is a big Budweiser factory on the edge of Fort Collins which has an amazing restaurant/ bar/ beer garden. They also for a limited time have Clydesdales! These are big strong horses that used to pull the Budweiser carts back in the very early days, and now kind of act as mascots. They’re also placed for maximum picturesqueness (totes a word) in front of the mountains!

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And they kept grooming each other! ❤ ❤ ❤

They also had some inside the stables, looking extra fabulous and also ginormous:

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His name is Eric!

But anyway, we enjoyed our beer in the sun and it was deeply relaxing. One each was enough for us to be deeply sleepy, and wimpy US pints no less! Only 470 mL, I mean really. So, we returned home to relax in the house for a bit before carrying on with our day.

As you can imagine productivity trailed off quite sharply into the evening, but we did eat healthy salad for tea and pop into the shops once more. We went to get Rob’s skis polished, and to scout out rental skis for me. We also, after much coercing from me, dropped into the Puppy Store! It’s just so cute, I can’t help it:

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Just some of the tiny friends up for sale!

Don’t judge me! What, I’m supposed to just not look at the puppies? I’m not dead inside and I love them. Also don’t worry about the small pens, they alternate getting them out for a run around so they’re only in there when they’re sleepy. Luckily I only looked at the puppies since Rob sensibly did not let me get any of them out for petting. One day!

That’s all for now, more soon! In the meantime, Happy almost St Patricks day to you all! 🙂

Learning To Ski!

Hello again 🙂

We had much adventuring and ouchy legs this weekend! We took a trip to Snowy Range in Wyoming so that I could try my hand at skiing, and so that Rob could show off his mad skiing skills. I’ve done a day skiing before in Utah, but since we’ve got a full five days skiing in Steamboat coming up in a few weeks (yay!) practice was needed.

We decided to go to Snowy Range because it’s very close, only about an hour and a half drive away, and the drive up through Wyoming is very beautiful. It’s also a great place for beginners, with lots of nice gentle green slopes. Ski slopes are rated by difficulty, with green being the easiest, blue being next, and black being the hardest:

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Not to scale

But before the slopes, we had to check into our hotel in the adorable local town, Centennial. Although Town might be a little generous, with the population of 270 people spread over 56 buildings. That said, it looked exactly how a little cowboy town should look and I loved it:

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This was, incidentally, an amazing steakhouse. We’ll come back to it.

It was even nice enough that we were only slightly panicked by the lack of Wifi anywhere. We asked the lady at the motel and she said that rather unsurprisingly none of the big internet providers consider the town a priority, which I suppose was hard to argue with. Speaking of our hotel, the pleasingly named Friendly Store & Motel, it slightly worryingly looked like this:

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For those who can’t read it, the store sells ‘Groceries’ and ‘Meats’…

When I told my colleagues that I was spending a weekend in rural Wyoming a few of them joked that we should try and sleep in shifts so that no-one murdered us in our sleep. We now got the joke, but luckily as I said the lady from the store was very nice and the door to our room locked very securely!

So, on to the slopes. We’d talked about me having an actual lesson with an instructor, but since I don’t follow instructions well and prefer to figure things out for myself we decided to give that a miss. Instead, we got kitted up and started slow on the baby slopes.

The first big hurdle was the ski lift, where my refusal to follow instructions became clear almost immediately. You are supposed to unhook your poles from your wrists, sit on your chair lift with the skis out of the way and let the chair do its thing. You then stand up when the chair gets to the top, and ski out of the way so that it doesn’t scoop you back up again. Almost all of these things were an issue. First I kept forgetting to remove the poles and get the skis out of the way, but luckily only once caused a ski to go flying off and the lift guy popped it back on almost immediately. The top was far more challenging! I was quite worried that I would get left behind, so kept trying to stand up too early and making everything swing around a lot. Clinging to Rob was also a key part of this process, but I didn’t manage to topple him down the mountain at any point despite many attempts!

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It was all worth it for the actual ride in the middle though, which was completely lovely!

The next big hurdle was, of course, basic skiing. Skiing properly will come later! As you can imagine being able to stop when you want to is always useful, as is being able to move forward without falling over. With careful tutelage from Rob we worked on these things, and I slowly began to improve. It’s really pleasing that as you’re able to handle steeper slopes skiing gets way easier. When the slope is flatter you have to use quite a lot of energy to keep moving, and you feel less stable; when the slope is steeper moving forward is effortless so you just need to steer/ not fall over.

It also gets much easier as your technique improves! To start with I was stopping using the snowplow, where you make an inverted ‘V’ with the skis while facing forward to force yourself to stop. This was just murder on the knees, and only really works when you’re travelling below a certain speed. I’m working now on parallel skiing, where instead of stopping suddenly you control your speed by turning. You can imagine that if you’re facing down the mountain you’re accelerating quickly, whereas if you’re perpendicular then you don’t move at all. This is why skiers serpentine down slopes instead of just shooting down in a straight line, because it stops you building up too much speed. I’m by no means great at it, but happily now good enough that the whole process is no longer terrifying:

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I would even say it’s extremely good fun!

We had an amazing time, tired ourselves out thoroughly, and had regular coffee breaks since Rob is very aware of the subtle art of operant conditioning:

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I can already feel my Pavlovian response kicking in…

Some of these breaks also gave Rob a chance to show off his mad skiing skills, which have only improved as he continues to do his high altitude half Marathon training! I actually had an extremely good time making fun of the fact that his legs were almost too muscular to fit into the ski boots, I swear his calves now have three distinct leg biceps…

Anyway, here he is making me scream by pretending that he is going to crash into me, even though I am his wife and soulmate:

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Fortunately he just sprayed snow in my face instead

On the evening of our first day we went to the Old Corral Steakhouse, which was shown above in the picture of Centennial, and oh my goodness it was magnificent. I was worried that it might be a bit shabby since it was so isolated but not only did we have to wait 30 minutes for a table (pff!), it was one of the best steaks I have ever had.

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I’ll never forget you, Rare Prime Rib that I devoured within minutes

There just are no words for something so beautiful. Plus the beer was amazing and the service was great, so we were extremely happy bunnies. Already tired from the skiing we passed into near comas after our steaks.

On Sunday we had a hearty breakfast, and then dragged our aching bodies back up to the slopes for some more skiing. We’d managed most of the green runs on the Saturday, so it was time to live dangerously and try some blue runs. The first run we tried was on the far left of the map, called Seminole, and was very beautiful. Tricky, but the views more than made up for it:

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Ooooh!
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Oooooooooh!

I had two tries at flopping around in the snow like a dying seal, but mostly it went okay! Annoyingly one of those tries was right at the bottom of the mountain, on the perfectly flat ground, but c’est la vie! I was still very proud and excited.

We then moved on to the big leagues, trying out the very pretty and lightly terrifying Virginian:

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Ignore my hat, look at the slope!

Anyway, I did it! Yataaaa! All the way down without falling over once, and with only very minor cursing. You would’ve been proud, I was serpentining all over the place. So much fun!

Sadly after a few more hours hour little legs could take no more, so we packed everything up and headed back to sunny Colorado, more tanned than when we left! We now have two weeks of recovery before the amazing Steamboat. Can’t wait!!

More soon! Xx

To The Mountains!

Hello again all!

Last weekend we finally got a chance to explore the Rocky Mountain National Park, specifically Estes Park! We’ve been wanting to go for a while, so we were very pleased to get a chance to at last have a run around 🙂 It wasn’t necessarily warm, but it was certainly warmer than usual so we decided to risk it. And don’t worry, we of course took pictures!

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Terrible, terrible pictures!

But first, more about the park itself. Estes Park is the headquarters for the Rocky Mountain National Park, and contains a lot of very beautiful must see features. It’s only about an hour from our apartment and contains lots of hiking trails, wall climbing routes and amazing views. It also had a lovely nearby town, which contains the famous Stanley Hotel. This is the hotel that Stephen King stayed in, and which was his inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. This is a big selling point for the hotel, although after discussing it Rob and I weren’t necessarily sure that this was a flattering thing. More importantly Estes also contains the Twin Owls Steakhouse, which the wonderful Auntie Mary and Uncle Chris bought us a voucher for!

To get to Estes Park, we have to drive along the pleasingly named Big Thompson Gorge. This was a very pretty drive along the river, which runs through the gorge. We kept an eye out for bears but sadly didn’t see any, although we remain ever vigilant.

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We also kept a keen eye out for falling rocks, with equal vigilance…

There are a lot of things that we want to see in Estes Park and it will take us a while to see them all, but one of the things that I’m keen to see are the nearby lakes. There are various hikes around Bear Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake that looks very beautiful, and these hikes are high enough that you can see the famous Pikes Peak. It was 65°F and sunny in Fort Collins with no snow I thought this would be no problem, but I forgot something pretty basic. That something is that the mountains are both a lot colder, and extremely snowy… specifically there was about 50 inches of snow, which is just over four foot.

The trails had been very well packed down so we were able to walk along the snow without many problems (although I probably shouldn’t have worn trainers) but quite a lot of things were buried deep in snow. Luckily the initial trailhead was still visible, and we could just follow the packed snow from there. You knew if you went wrong because you dropped a foot deep down into the loose snow, which was both bracing and a pretty clear signal. Again, water-proof shoes would’ve been a pretty smart move! Fortunately we made it through to the first lake, Bear Lake, and were very proud of ourselves. Of course, this was also under 4 foot of snow…

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Still counts!

Not to worry though. The sky was blue, the snow was white, what we could see of the trees were green 🙂 Unperturbed we carried on in our travels. Once we got a little higher, around 9,800 ft, the views were amazing! The highest point in the park is Longs Peak, which is much higher up at 14,259 ft, but we’ll build up to that… And speaking of Longs Peak, extra big picture since it’s so lovely!

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We were very impressed, and stayed for a while to admire the view. We then carried on in our quest for the next lake, which was Dream Lake! It was still quite cold, about 30°F in the park, but we got a lot warmer as we walked. One of the things we’re still getting used to is how much of a difference the sun and wind make to the temperature. When we were out of the wind and in the sun it was positively balmy, but no sun and lots of wind was extremely cold. I probably felt more temperature variation over that one day that I have in the last year of living in England.

So, we hiked on happily while trying to stay in the sun as much as possible. We were walking for about two hours before we got to Dream Lake, which was extremely in the wind but happily was not under several feet of ice. At this point the elevation was an impressive 9,905 ft, and the view continued to be very lovely.

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And here I am, trying my hardest not to freeze to death!

You can see the lake to the left of the picture, looking very nice and ripply. It’s still frozen over, but less so than everything else! You could kind of recognize it as a lake, which was a big improvement. We’re looking forward to revisiting it once it melts, since it supposedly has extremely clear water that reflects the mountains. We probably need to give it a few more months though!

We also met this feathery friend, meaning we get to play a quick round of ‘name that bird’. There were two of them and they were both very friendly, and very amenable to having their pictures taken:

I have no idea what type of bird it is, so let me know! It was about the same size/ shape as a Jay or a Blackbird. First to name it gets ten points, which can be redeemed for absolutely nothing 🙂

On the way back we spent a little more time enjoying the views/ posing for album cover style pictures:

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Okay, you’ve endured enough of that for now. But to recap – very beautiful, quite cold, we’ll definitely make you walk around it when you visit 🙂

After our nice walk we got back to the car to warm up a little, and then drove over to the other side of the park to see what was what. We had been told that there was a very nice waterfall with lots of rocks to jump around, and we are always up for jumping around rocks. You’ll be pleased to know that we had enough sense not to try and take pictures while bouncing around, but we did get one of the waterfall before we started leaping around the place!

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Again, the fact that most of the water was frozen limited the magnificence, but we were still very impressed. And once we’d tired ourselves out we got to take more silly album cover pictures, to inflict on you all! Mwa-ha-ha 🙂

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“Witness the Mountains”

Sorry, I’ll stop 🙂 Anyway, we had a whale of a time. After we were done we went to one of the bathrooms to clean ourselves up a bit, since we had fancy dinner plans for the evening! As I said at the start, Auntie Mary and Uncle Chris had bought us a voucher for the lovely Twin Owls Steakhouse, which we’d booked a table for that evening.

It was only a short ride to the steakhouse, which is very near the Stanley Hotel. We were only slightly held up by some Mountain-style road blocks:

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We waited politely, not liking our chances vs Mr Elk

And when we got to the Steakhouse we saw that there were more Elk wandering around outside! It was a strong start, and all very exciting 🙂

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The steakhouse in just behind them, in the background

When we got into the steakhouse everything continued to be very fancy, with lots of pretty exposed wood. We started with fresh baked bread and olive oil, and then decided to go big and treat ourselves to some appetizers as well. Rob had the soup of the day, and I had some bacon wrapped scallops!

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Om nom nom!

Then for the main course – we both avoided the Elk that was on the menu after making our new friends, and opted for nice fancy steaks!

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Om nom nom nom nom!

It was awesome. We’d worn up a nice appetite by running around the mountains, so everything disappeared very quickly. It was followed quickly by a very delicious and very extravagant $9 glass of wine.

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Rob’s instructions were to ‘look smug’ – Aced it!

So yes, very good times all around! As you can imagine after these we were extremely sleepy, so we drove ourselves back home and almost immediately fell asleep. For poor Rob this whole experience had been preceded by an early morning 9 mile run, so we was pretty much paralyzed from the waist down at this point. He also needed his sleep for the Sunday morning 9 mile run, so early bedtimes were very important.

But more on that later! I hope that you enjoyed this blog of many pictures, and we hope to have more for you again soon!

Xx