Saturday, August 24, 2013

Colorado: The Country

I love the mountains. Or I should say, I love the idea of the mountains. I love what mountains represent, the triumph of nature over man, the sheer power of the earth itself, the  rock layers and colors proving her ancient being. Inspiring.

So I was really excited to go to Colorado with our girls, who have never seen mountains before, and share in the wonder.

We were not disappointed.

The mountains were ever-present, as a landscape off to our west, no matter where we drove. And then the day after the wedding we drove to Estes Park, and were amazed by the drive itself.

On the drive to Estes Park
How is this now awe-inspiring? Look at how tiny we humans are in comparison. And we think we're in charge. Ha!

We stopped in Estes Park and had lunch. We happened to stop at the ONLY Packer bar this side of the Colorado River.
Are you kidding me?
The best part was that the family in the booth next to us was all wearing Vikings jerseys. I don't think anyone in the place outside of ourselves saw the irony in that.

We then drove further up to Rocky Mountain National Park. Wayne and I are both nervous mountain drivers, as we've experienced in previous travels to Napa Valley and Colorado Springs. We both feel like we're going to fall off the edge of the road and down the side of the mountain. I found myself leaning to the left away from the edge, even though there was no point to that. Later on we encountered more recently repaved roads which had been widened to create a very small shoulder. It's amazing the difference 1.5 feet makes in feeling more secure on the road.

We drove as far as Sprague Lake and walked around the lake, about a 1.5 mile walk, the perfect length for the kids. The sky had become overcast and it started spitting rain a little bit, but we didn't care.

We kept watching the big peaks across the lake from us, observing how they changed as we went along. We discovered that the snow we were seeing on the one large peak was actually Tyndall glacier, and at one of the stops there were photos of the glacier from the 1910s. It was sad to see how small the glacier was today in comparison. (Granted it is summer, but I bet it was the smallest summertime glacier ever.)

Looking at Tyndall Glacier from Sprague Lake. Can you see it?
Look now, it won't last forever, sadly.
Later during our travels, we had an opportunity to go horseback riding in the foothills of the Rockies. I love the way the locals call them "foothills" but we would call them "mountains." Perspective is everything.

We had made reservations for all 4 of us to go horseback riding for an hour. God bless Marissa, she said she wanted to go, but when she wouldn't get near or pet the horses I could tell that it might not work out. We got her on a horse but 2 minutes later she was crying and asking to get off. Instead of traumatizing our child by making her go, we let her get off and Wayne and Lindsey went out while Marissa and I hung back. Since we had paid for 4 trail rides I was able to arrange to have Lindsey and I go again the next day. So Lindsey -- lucky horse-loving girl that she is -- got to go twice, while both Wayne and I accompanied her once, and Marissa happily got to go shopping with Daddy on the second day of riding.

On the second day when Lindsey and I arrived a ranch hand came up to her, gave her a hug and said, "I recognize this little girl! She's the one with the big smile." She clearly made an impression on her first day by her love of horses.

Our guide, Slim,  was well-suited to the job of trail guide. He was so comfortable with the horses, easy to talk...and hilarious. At one point we came over a ridge and he called back, "Now there are two ways you can go here, the left or the right. I recommend you stay to the right." Once we came over the ridge we could see that the way "left" was actually straight down the ravine while the right was the only way you could go without hurting yourself. What a joker.

Photo by Slim, expert trail guide and bullshitter.
He told a story of coming across and killing a rattlesnake while leading a trail ride, only to have the truth be that he came across a dead rattlesnake in the road. He had Lindsey, the only child in our group, stay right behind him for both of the riding days, and they got along splendidly.

The horses were masterful at picking their way among a more advanced trail than the trail taken the day before (according to Slim). The trails looked no wider than ones humans would walk, yet these large animals took them with finesse. I simply sat back and let the horse pick the way as we descended the mountainside. We came back up through another trail and rose higher than the trail taken by Lindsey the day before (the guide pointed down to the trail they had previously taken).

The sky was immense. An intense blue in every direction, dotted with puffy cotton ball clouds. A realization of being of no consequence to the universe came upon me; our lives are little in the history of the earth. Not to say that what we do doesn't matter, but why not enjoy as much of it as we can?

I asked Slim, "Do you ever get accustomed to how beautiful this country is?" His answer: "Never."

I rode Trail Baron, Lindsey rode Valley Girl.
We had to take a picture with "Slim," whose real name is David. Super nice guy.
On our last day we visited Horsetooth Reservoir just outside of Fort Collins, which nephew Ryan had recommended to us. We didn't get to see as much of it due to Wayne's and my intense anxiety over the steepness of the hills, but we did get to see the "foothills" one more time.

Go if you haven't been. And go again if you have. I know for sure we will be back.

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