Pines to Peaks (and a Bon Appetit's Cold Soba Salad with Summer Vegetables)

Our Colorado-Relocation-Project has gotten a reprieve, a lifeline if you will. We decided to give the job hunt another 6 months instead of packing up at the end of August. If jobs line up, we get to stay. Hip, hip, hooray! If it doesn't come together in that time, we have to move back to New York City (what's the opposite of hip, hip, hooray?) I've joked that if we go back east you'll find me at Bellevue hooked up to a Lithium drip, but I am only partially kidding. So keep those fingers crossed and here's to hoping that it works out for us.
Now as much as I love it here in Colorado, raising two small boys while my husband commutes back and forth from Brooklyn can be a bit challenging. Usually I get a teeny-tiny bit blue when we pile into the car and drive him back to the airport at the end of a visit. I know that we will see him in a few weeks, but I can't help feeling a little bummed. He does too. As do the boys. I suppose this is how military families feel, but at least my husband isn't going off to battle. Okay, he's battling "the system" and fighting on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised, but I think we can all agree that it's not exactly the same thing. Anyway, I find that taking a nice hike the day after he leaves helps me clear my mind and the boys love it too. 

This time around I found myself wanting to go to a pine forest, which had something to do with the recent article I read at the gym titled Colorado's Forests Are Bugging Out with Bettles. Usually I prefer not to read anything too heady while on the elliptical, and I have a tendency to opt for trashy, pointless, gossip magazines. But they weren't available at the gym last week, so I picked up a copy of the most recent Westword and got reading...
The article answered a lot of questions I had regarding the beetle problem, which is responsible for destroying vast swaths of forest pine from the mountain states all the way up into Canada. The piece had a lot of good background information and presented some solutions that may curb the damage. I won't flesh out any of the points that were made, as I am not a forester, an ecologist or evolutionary biologist-- but definitely read it if you want to learn more. 
I wanted to check out what was going on with the pines and I found a hike that looked great. The "Pines to Peaks" trailhead was only 10 minutes from Boulder, which is only about 35 minutes away from our house. I decided to make a day of this pine forest pilgrimage, so we did some cooking before we left. I made a Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Summer Vegetables (delicious) and I brought along some honeydew carpaccio for dessert. It was perfect. 
We saw female deers and a few fawns too. And then Otis pointed to a sign and yelled, "Lion!" I nearly lost it. We were, in fact, in mountain lion territory. And although a sighting is extremely rare, there were instructions on what to do and what not to do if you meet one of these predators. 
Now I can fight off a street pigeon, but a mountain lion? I don't think so. I picked up some rocks and put them in Otis's hiking bucket...just in case.

There are lots of healthy pines, but these trees have succumbed to a beetle infestation. Pine trees secrete a resin (yellow goop) that can help defend against the beetles. But there hasn't been a lot of rain and that affects the trees and their resin quality. Well-watered pines can defend against thousands of invaders. An ill-watered tree can not. The beetles are also being observed at higher (and higher) elevations. 
That said, the vistas on the trail were magnificent and there were tons of wildflowers too...

About 10 minutes away from where we did our hiking are these beautiful homes in Boulder's Mapleton Historic District

 Then we went down to the pedestrian mall and walked around. Before I knew it, I found myself in front of Tee & Cakes on 14th Street (how did that happen?). After a day of hiking (and carrying two kids part of the way back down the mountain) I felt like a special treat was in order. I got the s'mores and they were so good... 
 ...and this is what I brought along for our picnic. (Photographed at home, not on the hike!) 

Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Summer Vegetables (Adapted slightly from Bon Appรฉtit, July 2012)
Yield 4-6 servings
Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Sriracha (hot chili sauce)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
8 cups matchstick-size pieces mixed summer vegetables (I probably had about 6 cups and I used carrots, cucumbers and radishes)
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
8 ounces buckwheat soba (Japanese-style noodles) or vermicelli noodles
1/2 cup (loosely packed) cilantro leaves with tender stems
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds (you can use white too, but I prefer black)
Whisk first four ingredients in a large bowl. Add vegetables; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain. Run noodles under cold water to cool them; drain well and add to bowl with vegetables. Add cilantro and scallions; season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle sesame seeds over and serve.