Love in the time of Corona: Japow adventure

Featured

Ever since Boyfriend moved back to Australia in August we have been in a very, very long distance relationship. To make things easier, we have been planning to see each other every few months with fun trips.

I went to visit him in Australia in November. While there, we started to plan for a snowboarding trip to Japan in February.

While researching for places to stay at some of the bigger resorts, I cringed at the pricing. For one week, we were looking at least $1000 per person.

I went on to the Powderhounds website and looked into staying in Madarao. Madarao was ranked as best value for money which is what I was needing.

We booked a room at Active Life Madarao and it ended up being about half the cost.

The snow gods blessed Madarao while we were there. There are stairs underneath all that snow.

Our trip was at the beginning of February, when the fear mongering just began to start about the coronavirus. One of our friends cancelled due to the panic.

There was no way I was going to miss my chance on seeing Boyfriend and I’m a risk taker. So I partook in the surgical mask fashion around public transit. It wasn’t weird because literally everyone that comes into contact with the public in Japan was also wearing one.

Tokyo train selfie

Yeah, I know that surgical masks don’t actually protect against the virus. Supposedly only the N95 respirator mask will filter the virulent particles.

But if everyone is wearing masks it has to help keep some of the virulent pathogens at bay. (Especially since one can be infectious five days before showing symptoms.)

I found Boyfriend in a crowded Tokyo station. After not seeing each other for so many months, we hugged each other briefly and had to forego kisses due to our masked faces.

We boarded the bullet train (Shinkansen) to Nagano. It was pretty late by the time we checked into our hotel and I was hungry. We walked around but couldn’t decide on a place to eat. So we ate 7-11 food.

My first Japanese dinner

It was pretty tasty though, so I was happy. We woke up the next morning and made plans to go visit the Snow Monkeys. After a train, then a bus, then 1 mile hike we saw the macaques living the life.

After visiting the Snow Monkey Park, we had a little time before the next bus so we stopped for beers and appetizers at a cool restaurant. The Farmhouse.

Common courtesy
Menu at the Farmhouse

Afterwards, we hopped on a bus back to Nagano, collected our bags, and then took another train to IIyama. From there, the Active Life hotel staff took us to our hotel.

Speaking of traveling with bags, my snowboard bag weighed 45 lbs and had no wheels. Poor choices were made here. Lugging this thing around train stations bruised the shit out of my shoulder.

Why my bag weighed so much.

Prior to our arrival, I was worried about the snow quality in Japan. Supposedly it was the worst snow season in decades. Fortunately upon our arrival, huge snow storms dumped several feet of snow.

Our first day on the slopes we did some storm riding around Madarao, a mountain we were unfamiliar with. And sometimes I would accidentally end up on flat terrain.

My tracks in the DEEP powder. Yes, I was getting stuck here.

Our first night in Madarao we tried to eat at a small restaurant, but when we walked in it was already full of people. We walked to another restaurant and found the same issue. So we ate in the Active Life Hotel restaurant, which was mostly empty.

The food was meh. So we made sure to call ahead for reservations for the next few nights.

It continued to snow and snow and snow.

Exit from locker room.
There’s a car under there.
Bluebird day in Madarao
Boyfriend on one person lift

We ate a lot of traditional Japanese fare. Food is of course my favorite thing to experience while in another country.

Wagyu beef at Hot Pot dining. I have never seen so much marbling. Yum!
Okonomiyaki at a small Japanese family restaurant.

The trip was regrettably short at 8 days. We gathered our bags again to go to Tokyo Station where masked faces dominated. He, back to Australia. And me back to Denver.

Now as COVID 19 has escalated into a pandemic, I feel fortunate that I had a chance to experience this beautiful country with him. Because who knows when we will get to see each other again.

For the love of wine and wildlife: Australia road trip Part III

Featured

As the brush fires continue to relentlessly burn all around Australia, I am reminded about the last part of my November road trip in Australia.

We left Cape Riche and began to scope the Margaret River wine region. This area has wineries EVERYWHERE. Since we would only have a day and a half to explore I wanted a game plan.

This only a portion of the wineries. From margaretriver.com

We were going to be getting into the area around 4:30 pm. Since most of the cellar doors closed at about 5 pm, it didn’t leave us with a lot of time. We looked for a winery that would be on our way in and found Stella Bella. We were also happy to find out it was on the list of recommended wineries by Boyfriend’s good friend.

We pulled into the driveway at 4:40 pm. We were worried that we’d be considered assholes waltzing in so close to closing time. But we found a relaxed vibe with a bar full of wine patrons that did not look like they were in any hurry to leave.

Boyfriend and I did a quick tasting and bought a $28 AUD bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon 2016. This was my FAVORITE out of all the wine I tasted that week. It tingled my tongue at first sip and then the smooth flavor hung onto to your cheeks for ages.

Boyfriend said he felt high after drinking it. They must be doing something right.

With our bottle of wine in hand we went in search of our AirBnB.

It was advertised as a garden cottage and was within walking distance to downtown. Our airBnB host was a small lady with a pixie cut and an obvious nature lover. Her backyard was a planter’s paradise complete with a garden for fresh vegetables that we had access to.

Everything was environmentally friendly with not a plastic bag in sight. The only paper in the cottage was toilet paper.

It was nice to be in such an eco friendly unit, but a little intimidating that I might not recycle right or something.

There were pictures of children from Cambodia, stating that 10% of the airBnBs profits would go to a mission that she volunteers at. They spent a lot of time in the garden. Playing, singing.

She was like a character from a novel. So very stereotypical hippie.

Her son was named Banjo.

Boyfriend and I arrived at our cottage, settled in, opened our newly acquired Cab Sav, watched Aussie news, and then got to work.

I made dinner while Boyfriend formulated a scathing email to Qantas about our experience with my lost bag. Not only did I receive it a week after my arrival, it was damaged, and the promised compensation was vastly different than what I received.

It took at least an hour to write said scathing email.

The next morning we had plotted out a few of the wineries we wanted to try. The first one was the Berry Farm.

We showed up close to 10 am and tried a variety of ports and fortified wines. Which I haven’t had much of before then. They also had a bunch of jams that were just Meh.

I bought a port to take home to my roommate and wandered around the gardens which were amazing.

A fairy wren in the gardens at the Berry Farm.

Our next stop was Red gate. Another recommended winery, but unfortunately nothing there really suited my tastes. They had a funny sign though.

The large winery Vasse Felix was next and came with a larger price tag as well. Tastings were $10 where the others had been free.

I decided to go ahead and try the $10 tasting mostly because the $10 would also go towards a purchase. The tasting took forever. Because there were a ton of wines on the menu. Which was good. And I was definitely a little drunk afterwards.

Since I bought a bottle, I received the opportunity to taste a $130 bottle of Cabernet. Fortunately for my pocket book, I didn’t like it.

I was getting tipsy enough where I was ambivalent towards spending money. If I had liked that $130 bottle of wine I might have bought it.

Which brings me to our next stop.

Gralyn Estate.

Fresh from my hour long tasting at Vasse Felix, I wanted to go to the winery that was advertising a Chocolate Experience.

From what I recall from my fuzzy memory their tasting didn’t have much under $30. I left there with a box of chocolates and $65 fortified coffee liqueur wine thing.

At the time of the tasting (while half drunk already), it was the best thing ever. We had it for dessert one night and it was still good, but by the second night it tasted like weak day old coffee and baileys maybe with some whiskey mixed in. Not good.

The coconut chocolate that I bought still ranks up there for some of the best tasting chocolate

Ultimate Chocolate Experience

At this point in the day, I desperately needed food. We stopped at Cheeky Monkey Brewery since they served some reasonably priced food and of course a beer. I had an excellent IPA and sat outside admiring all the activities available to patrons.

Our last stop was Mongrel Creek Winery. A small, funky winery where when we drove up we were greeted by group of chickens and a large rooster.

When we entered the cellar door the owner and his wife were having a chat. Seems she had just returned from an abroad visit but they let us have a tasting while they caught up. Simple, easy drinking wine that Boyfriend bought 2 bottles of.

We ate a charcuterie board that evening while we drank some of our newly purchased wine. The next morning we arrived early to Lenton Brae.

The owner pictured here told us the story of how her family acquired the vineyard and how her son became a wine maker. Very cool. She also took us on a mini tour of the winery.

She made a comment about how early we had arrived (10 am) but probably was not aware that we were on a tight schedule. Our next stop was Fermoy Estate.

Fermoy Estate was probably my favorite winery. Everything I tasted was delicious making a selection difficult. Also next door they had some delicious relishes making for a complete tasting.

I ended up purchasing these.
“Fermoy Estate, has a genuine claim to fame (or claim to a Dane) as the only WA wine served at the official wedding reception of Danish Royal Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary in May 2004” from Fermoy Estate website

That concluded our wine tour. We felt that we had done well buying a few wines for gifts and a few for ourselves.

Once back in Perth, we stopped at Caversham Wildlife park. An awesome park that housed all of the interesting wildlife that Australia has to offer. There is an open area where you can be amongst their kangaroos (take selfies, pet, etc.) You also have an opportunity to take a picture with a koala. The entry fee is $30 which seemed steep originally but really well worth the cost for everything that was there.

My most favorite bird. The Kookaburra. To me they sound like wild monkeys.
It was super hot, so most of the Roos were napping.
Me and Karen. Yes, her name was Karen.

Australia Road Trip Part 2: Esperance and Cape Riche

Featured

Ever since Boyfriend had started planning our road trip he said we were going to Esperance. These other stops on the way were just bonus.

Lucky Bay Campground is THE place to stay.

Esperance has coastline after coastline of incredible white sandy beaches and turquoise water. We arrived there planning for a two night stay. After seeing the impossibly blue waters, we immediately booked a third night to enjoy its unparalleled beauty for another day.

When researching campsites for Hopetoun, we discovered sites were pretty limited. Esperance, though, is even more popular.

We booked a day ahead and there were only a few spots left at the Lucky Bay campground. At the entrance, there’s a permanent sign that states the campground is full. So reserve early!

Campsite at Lucky Bay
View from our campsite

Here the boys did more fishing (with nothing to show for it). I took picture after picture. There were kangaroos ALL over the campsite. We had a curious Joey looking for food follow us around. People DON’T feed the wildlife.

Someone wants food. Or beer. We had both.
Thistle Cove

The campground is inside Cape Le Grand National Park and there a multitude of bays and coves that you can drive to and explore. We walked to Little Hellfire Bay which was my favorite. It was a short 20 minute walk from Hellfire Bay.

Of course, I still managed to go off trail and get slightly lost on the way back. Fortunately, the Jeep trail I was following just spit back into the road.

Rock has a heart shaped hole. Romantic, right? ❤️

The main reason people visit Lucky Bay is to see the sunbathing kangaroos. Not to mention the water at Lucky Bay is an unbelievably deep blue.

Lucky Bay

One of our days at Luck Bay Campground, we hiked up Frenchmen’s peak. It takes about 45 minutes to make it to the peak. A short hike by Colorado standards, but the steepness is nothing to sneeze at. The trail is well marked, although you can diverge to explore the cool caves up top.

At the top of Frenchmen’s Peak

In the town of Esperance they have an Ocean Beach drive that has a multitude of other stunning back drops of dramatic coastlines. Totally worth it. One of the stops is the popular Twilight Cove.

Twilight Cove

In the ongoing headache of not having my bag, we had to drive into town to get cell service to call Qantas. It was now six days into my trip in Australia and my bag finally had made it to Perth.

Which, of course, now we were in Esperance. We coordinated with Qantas to have them fly the bag into Esperance so we could pick it up at the airport.

They WERE going to have someone deliver it to us. Seeing as we were at a campground with no cell service, we didn’t think it was wise to wait on them to have it delivered. Plus, that seems like a ridiculous thing to ask a delivery person to drive from Perth to Esperance. It’s almost 8 hours. Maybe they were going to fly it to Esperance anyway.

When I finally did pick up my bag, the shoulder strap clip was broken making it unusable. GROAN. Lesson here. Don’t check your nice trekking backpack.

One cannot dwell on thing’s out of your control, though. What WAS in my control was what to eat for dinner.

Since we were in town we decided on some fish and chips. My first since being in Australia. The town had a variety of options from frugal to fancy.

Hell, it’s fried fish, though. I don’t need to pay top dollar for fried food. We decided on Castletown Fish & Chips. It was a perfect mix of deep fried battered fish and fries. Not to mention the portions were HUGE.


When Boyfriend had originally told me about Esperance, I looked up things to do. One of the things mentioned was to visit Pink Lake.

On google, I saw all these images of a hot pink lake. I was thrilled. Except, apparently the Pink Lake is not pink and hasn’t been in at least ten years.

(Not) Pink Lake

The next day, we left Esperance and and began to head back west. Our next campsite was in Cape Riche.

It was a small, friendly campground with beach front sites and fire rings. The campsites were mostly empty and the camp goers all seemed to know one another from previous years. A secret spot amongst them.

The weather was the nicest since beginning my trip. Warm enough to where I could sunbathe and venture into the cold ocean water. The flies were a bit hellacious though. I had to wear a fly net covering my face if I wasn’t on the beach being protected by the wind.

A viewing area not far from the campground.
Cheyne Island in the distance
Fly mask
Beach at campground

Cape Riche was our last place to try and catch fish. And we were unsuccessful again.

Our next stop would cheer us up though. We were off to the Margaret River wine region.


Call me COVID-19 crazy

The world has indeed gone insane. Just last week I saw people were hoarding toilet paper and thought it was so strange. What does the Coronavirus have to do with toilet paper. Like, why toilet paper? It’s a respiratory virus not a stomach bug. It doesn’t give you the shits. And why hoard it all?

Now I have quarantined myself in my room and am thinking of ways to decontaminate the house as my house mates venture out into the world and carry out their jobs. (I tried to make them stay, but alas their jobs won’t allow it.)

How did I get to this state?

February 3rd- 11th. I travel to Japan. There are reports of the virus, but it’s mostly in Wuhan. Japan has a few cases but nowhere we were going. We wear masks along with the rest of the population during public transit and bring hand sanitizer.

February 11th. Before the flight back to the US I am asked if I have made any travel to the Hubei province of China. I answer no and board the plane.

March 8th. I read a blog entry about Italy being in lockdown. I love Italy and am saddened that they are unable to control the spread of the virus. Deaths in Italy are at 366 with over 2500 cases.

March 9th. I have a friend ask me my opinion on Coronavirus and I state some facts. Very contagious, high mortality rate for the elderly. Economically disastrous but not due to death. I think travel is still ok. Why are people hoarding TP? In other words, don’t worry.

March 11th. Colorado has 33 cases. I visit Keystone and go snowboarding for a few hours. I heard there was a positive SARS-Cov 2 case in Aspen. No big deal really to me. One case in a different mountain town.

I drop off some meds for a friends dog in Dillon. Then go to my dermatologist in Denver for a peel and Botox. We talk as professionals about the minor spread we are starting to see in Colorado. We discuss precautions that we are taking. Hand washing, cough into elbows, don’t touch your face.

Schools are closing. Colorado starts the first drive thru testing center in the country. Trump closes travel to Europe. Life is still pretty normal for me.

March 12th. I do some relief work for another hospital. I am trying to refinance my student loans since interest rates have plummeted. Another doctor and I discuss COVID- 19. She thinks it’s less contagious than the Flu and how many more has the flu killed. I couldn’t remember whether or not if it was more contagious or more fatal. It’s just bad for old people, right?

March 13th. Colorado has 72 cases. Governor Polis recommends no groups more than 250 people. We have our first death.

March 15th. A notification is sent by the Colorado Health Department. That there is a cluster of cases in the high country (mountains) and if you have been in the mountains last week and can self isolate for 14 days, you should. Hm. I have to work tomorrow. Veterinarians are after all an essential business.

March 16th. I go to work and decide to wear a mask on the slight risk I was exposed on the 11th. I decided it would be very unlikely since I went by myself. Only possible contaminant risks were the gondola and public restroom (which I made sure to wash hands for 20 seconds).

While at work one of my associates said she had to call the nurse triage line and CDC because she had a cough. After several hours on the phone, she was told she didn’t need to test. I made her wear a mask anyway.

I was the surgery doctor that day so I didn’t have to see rooms which was good. Following the recommended six feet social distancing from clients is difficult.

Federal guidelines state to have no more than 10 people gathered at a time.

March 17th. My friend reminds me it is St. Patrick’s day. I had forgotten. I was trying to figure out how am I supposed to practice veterinary medicine while six feet away from everybody.

Associate calls nurse line again and out of caution decided to self isolate. As our lead surgery technician, we are left with only one other surgery trained tech. Another technician decides to go home because she’s pregnant and more at risk.

Now we only have 4 techs to split between 3.5 doctors for a 6 day work week. Not Good. Stress and burnout are going to happen. Especially if anybody gets sick.

I am room doctor today. I began reading posts online on how veterinary practices are handling the new guidelines regarding social distancing. Some practices have gone to curbside practice. I continue to wear my mask and hope people stay six feet away.

My clients seem completely unaware of social distancing. I have a 70 year old client who was so close to me, I felt spit droplets on my hand as he spoke. I furiously wash my hands after said spit bath.

The rooms are supposed to be getting disinfected between each clients. But the clients are congregating in the lobby and in order to keep them from getting too close together, the receptionists put them in a room. But it hasn’t been cleaned yet.

I can start to feel the panic.

SARS cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 is about 2 times more contagious than the flu and 10 times deadlier. As I start to see the cases rise I feel the pressure of the pandemic crashing around me.

Another veterinarian at work reports that her son in law has a cough and fever. But they won’t test him because he doesn’t have any trouble breathing. Three days later, now her daughter has a fever and cough.

The drive thru testing has shut down.

They aren’t testing everyone who has symptoms and yet we are seeing the cases exponentially rise. Which means this shit is everywhere.

My clientele in Aurora consists of a lot of older people, lower socioeconomic status, and just immunocompromised in general.

They also seem to lack the where -with -all on how to protect themselves. Like why am I the only one using the hand sanitizer?!

Italy’s death count 2500 cases surge to 31,000. America is 10 days behind 108 deaths with 6300 cases.

March 18th- March 21: I finally get why the government wants us to stay home for 15 days. Because people don’t know how to sanitize and/ or stay away from each other.

I do extensive reading on COVID- 19 and become terrified about how this will play out. Basically 10 million people dying if we don’t do anything.

I read this article: https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-the-hammer-and-the-dance-be9337092b56

I worry that at work I will become infected, and then infect people, then they infect people. And then someone dies.

Fortunately, the company changed protocols for us to wear PPE (personal protective equipment). I do feel more at ease and at less risk of catching the virus with more protective measures.

But now I am worried that we are using precious resources that our human hospitals could be using.

Colorado has reported only 4 deaths. Today, I learned from a friend who works in a human hospital that she has patients dying and they aren’t certain if it’s the virus because the turn around time on the CDC test is 7 days.

Italy count: 53,578 cases 4825 dead.

USA count: 23,478 cases 278 dead (that we know of)

#stayinsidefolksbecauseicant

Road tripping the Land Down Under: Waychinicup inlet and Hopetoun of Western Australia

Rocks of Waychinicup inlet

When I purchased my flight to Perth, Western Australia, I was simply interested in cost. Which is probably why I had 3 stops to get there. From Denver to Seattle to San Francisco to Sydney to Perth. I have gotten pretty good at learning to kill time on planes so the flight times don’t bother me. Plus, I recently upgraded my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to the Reserve so I got to experience a lounge for free with my newly acquired Priority Pass during my layover in San Francisco. Yay to free self serve booze and meatballs!

The downside to all of these layovers was that it gave TSA more of a chance to screw up my luggage, which they did. When I arrived in Sydney to get my baggage checked through customs my beloved Deuter back packing bag was missing.

We reported it with Qantas and were told it would most likely be Tuesday (five days later!) before it would arrive.

Since all of my clothes were in that bag, I tried to make do with very little. Qantas baggage service said I would be compensated $60 a day that the baggage was delayed. I bought a pair of pants and underwear, borrowed some clothes that were too big, and bought some replacement camping gear.

We officially began our road trip on Saturday.

Our route looked something like this.

On our way we stopped at a small town bakery and I had my first meat pie (chicken pot pie doesn’t count.) It was quite possibly the best tasting thing I had during my entire trip. It was a curried butter chicken with just the right amount of spice, salt, and perfectly cooked pastry. Mt. Barker bakery is a must!

So yummy!

Our first camping spot was the Waychinicup campground. Our campsite was shaded by trees and backed up to a waterway. Supposedly the fees were $11 a day, but no one ever came to collect any money. The boys were keen on extreme fishing off steep rocks to attempt to catch BIG fish.

I hiked with them early the next morning to take pictures and enjoy the views.

On this hike, there were was a lot of rock climbing and some were quite slick from the swells breaking. I was wearing my trail running shoes but still managed to slip and fall hard on a rock. I used my left wrist unfortunately to break my fall and damaged my Fitbit. The steel wristband was so twisted I had troubling removing it.

After fishing proved to be unproductive, we hiked back to the campsite. A tree branch snagged my rather expensive Arc’teryx down hoody. So far on this trip, I was down one large back pack full of clothes and now a Fitbit and hoody, too.

Later in the afternoon, we fished closer to the beach at the inlet and I caught a few King George Whiting. Total fish tally: Boyfriend 0 Me 2.

When I caught the fish, I had no idea what a whiting was to be honest. I’m not sure if it’s found in the U.S. The guys had an app for identifying fish and ranked how well they eat. King George whiting wasranked as five star eating. I would have to agree.

Cheyne’s beach
One of the many snakes we saw. Still unsure of species.

We drove around to check out some of the other nearby beaches. One of the things I loved about Australia was the ability to drive on the beaches. Four wheel drive was a must. Boyfriends ute (truck for Americans) got bogged in the soft sand but after decompressing the tires we were able to maneuver through.

East Bay campground beach close to Betty’s Beach
Oops!

Our next stop was Hopetoun. The campgrounds were advertised to have hot showers which was much needed after 3 days of camping. The grounds were very clean with a nice BBQ area. It required online booking, a park entry fee and a per person charge totaling about $45.

Pier in Hopetoun was the new fishing location.
Wallaby visitor at camp.

Fishing again was unfruitful in Hopetoun. We only stayed one night, though. The next day, we packed up camp and headed to see the beautiful beaches and friendly kangaroos of Esperance.

Call 911! She’s having puppies!

It was a normal day off for me. I had just settled back into bed eating my breakfast tacos (yes I eat in my bed because I am a heathen), when the doorbell rang.

I hurried upstairs excitedly. I had been waiting for my first shipment of a wine club and was anxious for its delivery. The doorbell rang again suggesting the USPS man was going to leave if I didn’t answer soon.

When I opened the door, I saw a worried middle aged woman. I disappointedly looked around her. It appeared that she did not have my wine club delivery.

She asked, “Isn’t the girl who lives here a veterinarian?”

Uh oh. Not a good sign. It sounded like she knew my house mate was a veterinarian. On the upside she had no idea that I was one. Maybe I could get out of this one.

“Um yeah, but she’s not here right now.”

“Well is there anyway to contact her? The next door neighbor’s dog is having puppies and she’s freaking out! I don’t know what to do!”

“No, she doesn’t get off till late typically. Dogs usually figure it out on their own.” (Maybe I shouldn’t have imparted that knowledge.)

“No Bella is acting crazy, she won’t stop barking, something’s wrong!”

“Hm, why don’t you call the owner?”

“They are in Mexico!”

“Hm, why don’t you call the dog sitter?”

“I am the dog sitter!”

Oh. Well that makes sense.

Long sigh. “Ok give me a minute. I will come over.”

I hurried to put some deodorant on and be in something besides sweat pants, but didn’t have time for a bra.

On the way next door, the lady asks, “Are you a veterinarian?” Scared that I will never have a peaceful moment at home, now that the neighbors know that there are TWO veterinarians in the same house, I replied, “I’m in the field. Yes.”

What I see when I get over there is a small little terrier bitch barking uncontrollably at another lady while in an outdoor dog house.

The dog, Bella, comes up to me right away, sniffs me, I pet her. Of course seconds later she decides she wants to eat me.

I hear a whimpering noise coming from the dog house and found a cold puppy that she must have delivered right before the house sitters’ arrival. His umbilicus was still tinged with blood. He was squirming healthily.

I approach Bella again to palpate her belly for more puppies. I didn’t feel anything, but couldn’t be sure. I was holding her face away from me so she couldn’t bite and trying to palpate with one hand. Bella then proceeds to growl and bark frantically. I could tell she was unsure of how to act.

She couldn’t decide whether to nurture her newborn or defend herself against these strange people. I couldn’t decide if she was done having puppies.The house sitters couldn’t understand why she would be acting so crazy.

And Bella was seriously forgetting to clean and nurse the puppy with all this commotion.

I said we need to get her set up in a quiet environment.

We tried to get Bella to settle inside the house as it was set to be the hottest day in Denver. And these were outdoor dogs.

Once inside though, I found out that there was no air conditioning and the first floor with no air flow was getting steamy. We attempted to get Bella downstairs where there was a basement. Except now she wouldn’t let me touch her.

I found a towel and threw it over her, picked her up, and got her set up downstairs with her puppy, so she could start mothering it. Except she kept growling at me and ignoring the puppy.

I watched the puppy and Bella watched me. The puppy would roll off the dog bed we had set up, unbeknownst to Bella. I would quickly grab the puppy while she tried to attack me and then gently try to get her to lay down so the puppy could nurse.

I left once I saw a good latch.

The house sitters calmed down as I explained her behavior was most likely due to fear and being a new mom

The house sitters and I traded numbers. Apparently an hour after I left, Bella had a second smaller puppy.

This is the reason you leave dogs alone when birthing.

Also, I need to work on my palpation skills.

I don’t know why clients freak out the most about dogs giving birth to puppies. We get the call ALL the time.

“Fluffy is pregnant and isn’t acting right. She’s irritable. I think something’s wrong.”

She’s probably just nesting.

“Ummm, my dog is supposed to be having puppies, but she keeps hiding. Should I bring her in?”

No! Leave her alone. They don’t like an audience when they are at their most vulnerable.

Of course, if you have any type of bulldog or brachycephalic, ignore this advice. And shame on you for perpetuating a breed that can’t exist in nature.

That’s right. Most bulldogs need assistance in getting pregnant because the male is unable to mount the females well enough to do it themselves. Which means some weird veterinarian is jerking off a male dog to get a female pregnant.

And then those female bulldogs are unable to give birth normally requiring an expensive caesarean surgery.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other breeds that need caesarean surgery. If your dog has been struggling for hours, is way past her due date, or has weird icky green discharge, then yeah go to the ER vet.

But most dogs will figure it out on their own.

Also now is a good time to mention to get your pets spayed and neutered. Do you know how many millions of unwanted dogs are euthanized each year?

Yet because you think your dog is cute and you think you can sell it’s puppies, more and more dogs are born and end up in the shelter.

Be a responsible pet owner, save a life, adopt. And don’t get a bulldog.

Lake Tuhare (accidentally)

Our original plan was to hike the Four Pass Loop around the Maroon Bells area. It’s an extremely popular 27 mile back packing trail in the Elk Mountain Range that’s typically done in 4 days. We have been planning to hike this for over a year.

But this year’s winter snowfall kept the mountain passes covered, dashing our dreams of hiking this loop. While I love the snow and boarding in the winter, I have absolutely no interest in hiking in the snow.

Plus, neither my hiking partner nor I felt particularly fit this year. We investigated other backpacking trails hoping to find the perfect mix of interesting terrain and available bail out opportunities.

We found a hike from Crested Butte to Aspen. An in and out trail that’s about 10 miles long. The best part is there is a shuttle at the end that will take you back to the beginning if needed. If we felt strong we could always turn around and do another 10 miles. Perfect!

But apparently this too had a large snowfield that we would be camping on.

Then we found a loop(ish) trail in Holy Cross Wilderness. The Fall Creek to Cross Creek Trail Loop. It starts close to the Half Moon campground and ventures along to Lake Constantine. The Fall Creek trail continues south the the Fall Creek Pass and towards the Seven Sisters Lakes.

You can detour to an old abandoned mining town called Holy Cross City. The entire loop was 28 miles. We have only done a few backpacking trips, mostly just overnight. On previous trips, we would backpack in 3-5 miles, camp, hike the next day with a light pack 8 ish miles, then backpack out the same day.

At the time, 28 miles in 3-4 days seemed possible.

My friend and I made it to the Fall Creek trail head at about 6 pm on a Sunday. (We have a severe inability to get started early on the day of a backpacking trip). Leaving us little time to get on the trail, set up camp, and eat dinner with daylight.

So we hiked about a mile.

We began trying to find an area that was flat enough for a tent and some ways off the trail. Our choices were pretty limited as most flat places were full of rocks. If it wasn’t rocky, it was a steep slope or drop off.

We eventually decided on an area, quickly ate, set up camp, then went to bed.

In the middle of the night, a few hikers’ headlamps glared through our tent and woke us up. (We were not far enough away from the trail apparently).

Since we had a disturbed sleep, we woke up late the next day. After making breakfast, we packed up camp and were on the trail by 10 am.

We started slowly because, of course, we overpacked. My pack weighed 40 lbs which is what it normally weighs. However, for my body weight I should only carry 25 pounds. But I’m like a pack mule. Put it on me and I’ll haul it. Not this time, though. I struggled the entire trip.

Our first stop was Lake Constantine about 4 miles in. We stopped to have lunch and rest with the intent of making it to Seven Sisters Lake for evening.

Lake Constantine

Only the trail became less obvious and we began ascending at an exponential rate. There were places where it was too steep and tight to maneuver with a pack on. I would take off my pack so I could lift my pack around the steep rocks.

We followed Cross Creek until we reached a massive waterfall. As the trail got steeper and narrower, we realized we had ventured off in the wrong direction.

Exhausted by our climbing and worried that we wouldn’t have energy to make it to our intended destination, we decided to go ahead and complete the climb to Lake Tuhare instead of Seven Sisters.

Blue line is where we were supposed to go. Red Line is where we went. Oops!

Except to get to Lake Tuhare we had to climb a steep snowfield (ironically). We didn’t bring any type of traction for foot wear and falling down a mountain with our packs seemed pretty unappealing.

We somehow mustered the strength and dexterity to climb up anyway. Because we are bad ass bitches.

First view of Lake Tuhare.

And I’m glad we decided to stay the course. Lake Tuhare was everything a backpacking trip should be.

It is an isolated area with only natural beauty surrounding you. We had the entire lake to ourselves (with the exception of the marmots). Most people hike to Lake Tuhare from Constantine as a detour not as a camping site.

We set up camp, made dinner and basked in all the glorious mountainous beauty around us.

I made a delicious dinner of Mountain House Stroganoff. A friend of mine told me later that it is known in the community for being tasty. News to me, but I agree!

We settled in for the night and electively decided to not keep going on the loop. Instead we would go to the Upper Tuhare Lake the next day, then go home.

Upper Lake Tuhare

After our morning venture to the Upper Lake, we packed up camp to head back. Our only fear was the descent down the snowfield that we had climbed up.

But we managed by taking our packs off, using poles, and making little foot holes in the snow.

Once we made it down the snowfield, our anxiety lightened. We made it to the car at about 4 pm. Both of us were so tired that we were glad to not have done the entire loop. Although we still went about 16 miles in a little over 2 days.

My next backpacking trip a few weeks later, I lightened my pack to 26 lbs. I have no idea why in the hell I have been carrying so much crap with me.

Ready to hike!