angry edamame huckleberry syrup grilled brie porcini and caramelized onion sandwich thai sweet chili sauce


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that happy place

September 7th, 2014

Recipe: thai sweet chili sauce

Between trail runs, huckleberry picking, dinner parties, work, and other stuff, we managed to carve out a little weekend for a backpack out of Crested Butte. It had been on the calendar for a couple of months when last week we got wind of an advertising stunt by a “beer” (I use the term loosely) company to be held in the town of Crested Butte for the very same weekend. I emailed Jeremy and asked if he still wanted to go. He replied that no one attending that event was going to be anywhere near the backcountry. So true. So thankfully true.


hiking up from schofield park

we dropped our packs at a junction and ran this quick detour to get a view into hasley basin

at the junction below frigid air pass



We had not hiked out of Schofield Park before, but were familiar with it as a potential emergency “exit” from a previous backpack we did in 2005. Back then we began the Four Pass Loop out of Aspen. It is likely one of the most popular backpacks in the state of Colorado. The route crosses four 12,000+ foot passes in roughly 24-26 miles (depending on where you start and end) and loops around the iconic Maroon Bells through some of the most stunning high country you could imagine. From the Crested Butte side, you can access the loop from Schofield Park. Jeremy and I hiked a few miles of new (to us) trail before linking up with the Four Pass Loop and heading up to Frigid Air Pass. As we rounded a boulder and gained a small bench in the terrain, a little tarn next to a trail junction sign was immediately familiar. I blinked back tears. The last time we were here, Kaweah was with us on her very first backpack. I took a photo of her resting at the base of the sign. The significance was that she was actually resting. She never stopped charging ahead until we set up camp for the day. Then she would curl up, fall asleep, and snore loud enough to scare away the bears.

celebrate wilderness

fireweed looking fiery! autumn is coming

icy cold stream crossings felt great on sore feet



It’s been over two years since our last backpacking trip as Kaweah’s care demanded more attention and time. Our preference is to backpack before or after the crowds of summer. The backcountry becomes that much more enjoyable when we have it to ourselves. Backpacking is one logical extension of hiking. Trail running is another extension of hiking, but in a different direction. Still, all three share the same goal for me – to travel the high country. I feel better when I spend time hiking or running through mountain forests up above treeline and into the alpine meadows. It makes me stronger, clarifies my thoughts, brings me tremendous joy.

jeremy on frigid air pass overlooking fravert basin

looking back toward the maroon bells (on the left)

at geneva lake basin (snowmass mountain on the right)



On the trail, we plucked juicy red raspberries, one enormous sun-warmed wild strawberry (enormous for a wild strawberry, but smaller than a dime), plump twisted stalk berries, and several huckleberries to nosh as we hiked toward our destination at the lake. Once in camp, I was more than happy to get off my feet and fall asleep to a rising moon and the sound of small animals scampering around our tent. I used to stay awake all night in my early days of backpacking, listening for bears, deer, elk, porcupine, mice, anything that would come poking (and nibbling) around camp. Maybe it’s the impenetrable bear canister or the long miles of the day caught up to my body or getting older, but sleep comes easier. Maybe I’m just happier.

my view from the tent

ready for a well-deserved sleep

delicate frost in the morning



Or maybe it was the morning frost that coated all of the plants at lake level? Or MAYBE it was the fact that I had packed jalapeño potato chips on this trip? In summer, we like to do no-cook backpacks if the trip is less than 3 days. It means no stove, no fuel, no cook pot, no clean up. Jeremy tends to select sweet snacks like chocolate, fruity chewy candy, cookies. I go for the savory snacks: crackers, salami, and jalapeño potato chips (Tim’s Cascade is the best brand, just ask Diane). Salt is what I crave on the trail. I must have it! But the spicy is that added bonus. Spicy is happiness. I recently learned to make some incredibly easy happiness – Thai sweet chili sauce – which just makes things even MORE happy.

water, sugar, cornstarch, salt, rice vinegar, water, garlic, thai chilis, fresno chilis



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beat the heat

September 3rd, 2014

Recipe: arnold palmer slushie

It got hot again.

This is not unexpected, but I was hoping that we were done with the crazy hot. Erin and I set off for the mountains again in search of our treasures (that would be huckleberries, and you knew that because you know I have a problem an obsession). We spent 13 hours on the trail and in the hucks, picking and chatting and straightening our sore backs and picking and stretching out our cramped legs. Squatting to check for purple berries, I squinted up at the clear blue skies and blazing sun. Our normal afternoon thunderheads did not develop that day – we only got cloud relief around 4 pm and they were puny little clouds at that! Sometimes when I stood up to stretch my old lady muscles, I would spy Banjo, Erin’s pup, sleeping in the shade. It’s okay to envy a dog, right? Colorado mountain dogs have the best life. Banjo never showed any interest in the hucks, whereas Kaweah would have been all up in my business trying to eat them… that or she would have zeroed in on the nearest animal carcass or poop pile in which to roll. Good times.


he’s thinking “you don’t have anything good to eat, do you?”

banjo is an incredibly well-behaved dog



Actually, that day wasn’t so bad in terms of heat. Wednesday was bad, I mean hot (thus bad), because I had a chocolate shoot. I consume a good bit of water on a daily basis, but especially on hot days. It is my beverage of choice. But on special occasions I will spring for an oh-so-refreshing Arnold Palmer, which is half lemonade-half iced tea. The last few times we hosted dinner parties, I made lemonade and iced tea for non-alcoholic beverage choices to offer our guests. And no one wanted iced tea or lemonade! They all opted for the Arnold Palmer. My friend, Luke, taught 3-year old Felix how to make an Arnold Palmer. When Luke took a sip, he said, “Mmmm mmmm mmmm!!!” We made one for Felix in a juice glass and when he tasted it for the first time, he mimicked his father and grinned, “Mmmm mmmm mmmm!!!” Another fan of the AP has been added to our ranks! But for those extra hot days, you need to take it one step further.

lemons. ice, black tea, water, sugar

pour boiling water over the tea leaves

let it steep

boil sugar and water for your simple syrup



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the month i love

September 1st, 2014

Recipe: huckleberry crisp

Helloooooo September! There’s something wonderful about a month that means you get to add one to your age, a month which ushers in the fall colors, a month where the likelihood of an early season snowstorm is quite high. It is a particularly busy time for us, making it all the more astounding that we managed to have friends up for dinner over the weekend. It feels like all of the unfinished business of summer (or the year, for that matter) is being crammed into the few remaining weeks leading to autumn, before we begin hunkering down for winter (which I welcome with fully open arms). You never have enough time to get everything done no matter how little sleep you get.


dinner party with awesome friends, new and old

chocolate espresso cheesecake, chocolate cookie crust, whipped cream, helliemae’s chili palmer salt caramel sauce

in two days we had four queen of the night blossoms open!

starting to close by early morning



This is a magical period in our Rocky Mountains. Waking up before sunrise isn’t as puke-inducing as it was two months ago, and yet I can still find lovely huckleberries in the backcountry. Yes, the obsession is ongoing and all-consuming. Last week Jeremy and I went for a hike and stopped to pick hucks on our way back to the trailhead. After 90 minutes, I had collected three times as many berries as he had. I fired him (nicely) and he was happy for it, so everyone wins. It’s most fun to pick hucks with someone who loves picking them as much as I do, which is why my friend, Erin, is the perfect hiking and huck-picking companion. First of all, her dog is awesome. Secondly, Erin is my pragmatic, even-keeled, no nonsense, independent mountain gal pal. There is a lot to be said for a friendship that is free of drama and full of huckleberries.

lots of hucks!!!



I’m realizing that the huckleberries I foraged last year were at the very very tail end of the season. They were small and more red than purple. This year’s haul is full of choice purple-blue FAT berries that are as big as small blueberries, but taste way the hell better! So my rate of huck gathering has doubled thanks to the abundance and general hugeness of the the berries. This means I’m a little more willing to make something that requires a lot of berries as I have already got a good stash in my chest freezer to carry us through to next summer. Pies and crisps are the sort of recipes that demand high volumes of huckleberries. Twelve cups of hucks is a lot of hours of labor, but I really wanted to make a crisp – so I made a couple of individual crisps.

sugar, rolled oats, huckleberries, butter, melted butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar, more sugar, almond slices, flour, port



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