A road trip to Spring and listening to the mountains…

Views, views, views!

I love winter, really, I do, and anyone who knows me at all knows that.  I do NOT complain about snow, ice and wind chills that are in the single digits and below, but once the temps go over 85, combined with the predictable  Kansas humidity,  all complaining bets are off.  My sister says that summer officially starts when I start complaining.  I suppose that’s true, although I can’t say that I’m very proud of it.

And I still love winter, even after having spent the better part of it in real winter territory… the mountains of Colorado, and I’ve not complained yet…

Today I drove into Denver to go to REI to exchange my snowshoes.  Although I’ve used them multiple times, I’m not happy with them (a simple design flaw that results in a flapping strap, which becomes very annoying after a few hours…) .  I know that REI stands behind their product, so was hopeful to make a quick exchange and tie it in with a little field trip “to the city.”    I  enjoy my trips to Denver as a destination rather than a pass through on my way to the airport to fetch or deliver,  or on my way out of town (or into town, depending how you look at it).  It’s a pretty drive and still feels a bit adventurous to me as I really don’t know my way around, short of a few of my favorite spots.  Thank you google maps.  You’ve made trips on unfamiliar highways to places I’m not sure how to get to a whole lot easier.

I left Frisco late morning in jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, a fleece vest, down jacket, snow boots and a knit hat – clothing that was totally appropriate for the weather… here…

By the time I got to Denver, the temperature was 72.  Again, donned in down, fleece, a hat and snow boots, I did what I could to be comfortable and shed the outer layers,  but was still left in jeans, a long sleeved shirt and snow boots.  I didn’t feel out of place until I got in the store, then my boots just seemed big and clunky next to sandals and tennis shoes.  I kind of felt like I had come down from the hills…  Oh wait… I had…

The store matched the weather and had made the big switch from winter gear to summer gear and the snowshoe corner was now filled with bike gear, which meant that a simple exchange of my snowshoes was not going to happen, unless I wanted to totally switch sports and go with biking instead.  The salesman helping me was very apologetic but I assured him that it really wasn’t a big deal and I should have thought ahead and dealt with the issue a few month ago while it was still winter at REI.  While he was explaining the winter to summer shift that the store makes, I was staring down at my pile of snowshoes heaped onto the counter (did I mention that it was two pair of snowshoes?  My guests can’t opt out of going with me simply because they don’t have the equipment… I’ve got ’em covered..)  I then realized that a small rubber band would fix the problem. Maybe that’s what I should have done in the first place before hauling 75 miles to the store where I bought the snowshoes – look at them for 20 seconds,  then use the hair tie that would most likely be on my wrist and fix the problem.  Oh well.  Since I was already in the store, and already in the women’s section (hey, how’d that happen?), I quickly perused the new spring/summer inventory and found a red rain jacket that wanted to go home with me.  Spring was in the air, with rain in the forecast,  or at least in Denver.  I drove almost to Evergreen before I had to put the windows up, and even had the air conditioning on for a bit until I realized that part of the heat issue was that my seat heaters were on.  I don’t think they’ve been off since October.  Once past Evergreen, I was back in business with high 30’s,  and heat and hat quickly followed.

On a whim, I pulled off at the Bakerville exit, which is where the trail head is for Torrey and Gray mountains, my 2nd and 3rd fourteeners that I climbed back to back last summer.  I only drove as far as the trail head sign because the road was not plowed and I had a pretty good view from where I parked on the side of the road, with the trail head sign in the foreground and the two mighty peaks behind it.  It was the perfect pondering place to recall that very early morning last August, when with much anticipation and fear, I drove up that road in the dark for 2 miles of about as rough of terrain as I had ever driven on.  I was more afraid that morning than I had been during my entire Colorado stay last summer.   I was afraid I’d get stuck and even worse,  I had no cell phone signal.  But what really scared me more than anything was what was ahead…several miles up two different mountains, both measuring in at over 14,000 feet and crossing the saddle that connected them.   I needed to sit in that spot, feel how afraid I was and remember that I kept on going.

Torrey and Gray’s snow-capped peaks in the background. I know now why I needed to stop and look…
A few memories from last summer… first peak…
2nd peak…
and the view from the top…

I’m learning to listen… to everything… to the nudges that life gives you to slow down and pay attention because it’s trying to tell you something… something that you need and most likely don’t even know it.    I needed to see those mighty peaks today and remember that strength followed fear that day in August and if it did it then, I’m guessing it could do it again.  And more importantly, I needed to stop and listen to what the mountains  had to tell me…

“You did it.”

And that’s why a 3 1/2 hour round trip drive to Denver for a 15 minute run in and out of REI that did not result in different snowshoes but rather a rain jacket that I probably didn’t need, was totally worth it, but I didn’t realize that until I made the Bakersville exit detour and I wasn’t sure why I took the exit at all until I sat in front of the two mountains.  I’m glad I felt the nudge.

By the time I got back to Frisco, it was winter again – real life CO winter with wind, snow and temps in the low 30’s.  It is almost April and  6 to 8 inches of snow is in the forecast for tonite and more snow tomorrow.  I’ve not looked ahead, but think the snow trend is supposed to continue for the next several days.  Again, I love winter, but…

I heard that Spring doesn’t really arrive until June(ish) and that it’s more commonly known as mud season around here, rather than spring, which then rolls into summer.  So is that when the forsythias bloom and the tulips come up?  Through the mud?  Not that I’m doing the math, but I skied in mid-November and from November to June is 8 months.  Oh yea… that’s the other thing I heard.  Winter here is 8 months.  OK, I suppose I am doing the math.

Still…I love winter and I still love Frisco, but oh my would I like to see a forsythia dancing in the spring breeze about now.  My little jaunt through crowds of spring-clad folks at REI made me really miss the excitement of those first warm spring days that have you wanting to clean out the garage, dig in the dirt and put on clothes that aren’t fleece lined or down filled.

I’m headed home, home to Kansas, in a few days, unless the snow storm keeps me here, and if it does, then I’ll throw ideas of forsythias and tulips out the window and will slip back into down and fleece and winter and might go skiing.

Springtime in Frisco, CO

So how’d I get here anyway??

Seriously, how did I get here?  Sometime I’ll get up in the middle of the night to get a drink or go to the bathroom and in that hazy place between awake and asleep, I will ask myself that very question.  One day I’m tucked away in Leawood, KS, living my life,  planning new adventures, wondering what’s next for me,  and the next day I’m looking at the beautiful snow-covered Buffalo Mountain through a wall of windows then down to the 5th Avenue Grill across the street, wondering if carry out would be a good idea because the roads are snowy and slick and my cupboards are bare.  I wake up to vistas I never could have imagined, but here they are, presenting themselves in their full glory right through my bedroom windows.  People are now asking me which restaurants are the best, where’s the best place to snowshoe and what bus do I get on to go to Copper Mountain??  And the strange thing is, I know the answers.

I’ve been here 5 minutes.  I’ve been here all my life.  And they both feel right.

So, I could route this story clear back to my birth, a coasting downhill drive to St. Anthony’s hospital in Denver from Evergreen, my young Dad at the wheel, my anxious 9-months pregnant Mom in the passenger seat, hoping for a gas station and green lights, but I digress.  Still, I do believe that my birth and early years in the mountains of CO have played a role in all of this.

Last spring, during a ski trip to CO with the man I was dating,  I made the decision to rent a place in Frisco for a month the following summer, because I like Frisco, but even more than I like Frisco, I like an adventure.   It’s small.  It’s charming, it’s beautiful, and I knew I’d have no problem feeling right at home.  Initially, the plan was to rent a place with said boyfriend, but I decided I needed my own place, my own space, my own story.  Truly a decision whose merit I’d come to appreciate months later.

Fast forward to the months later when said boyfriend decided he just wanted to be friends, code for “I’ve found someone else, but would like to leave the door open a crack, just in case.”  This was told to me two days before my Frisco adventure month, which over the course of the past few months,  had changed to my Frisco  2 1/2 month adventure.  Once I gathered up the strength to make the initial commitment, adding to it by a month and a half was easy and even easier through email, which hardly made it seem real.  But real it was,  and with courage, fear and a full car, I headed west on I-70, ready, I thought, for what was ahead.

Initially,  my time in CO felt energizing – a new town, new scenery, new discoveries, a very big adventure, but the stars in my eyes soon faded after a few days of mornings rolling into afternoons, while I was still trying to map out my day and then it would rain and all bets would be off.  Tomorrow…. tomorrow I will do more than just put on the hiking boots. I will take them for a walk.  I was anxious and ready to dig into this new life, but what I really needed was time – time to survey the emotional damage, stop the bleeding and let the healing begin from the scars of a relationship gone wrong with previously mentioned guy.  My sister, Robin, told me to look for a book store.  Book stores are always a good place to go – to hang out, to meet people, to buy books, to read.  And so the next day I walked down Main Street and lo and behold, just blocks from my condo was a charming bookstore and tea bar.

I promptly introduced myself to the woman behind the counter, Karen, who just happened to be the owner, and was determined to not leave the store until I had some semblance of a relationship with her, albeit maybe not a let’s grab dinner relationship, just yet, but someone who I could exchange pleasantries with when I saw her.  It was an easier task than I had anticipated and we connected very naturally  (I’m sure she’d agree with this assessment…) with a lot of common ground between us,  the “only” two single women in our age group in town, for starters.  At one point she asked me if I lived here or if not, was I looking for a place in Frisco because she was getting ready to sell her place.  Not wanting to commit, to even a conversation about real estate at that point, I told her no,  I was just renting. 

Actually, I had looked at a few places for sale in town, mostly out of curiosity, and was sorely disappointed with the spaces but even more so, their price tags.  I had pretty much settled back into the mindset that I was here for the summer, that’s all, and would enjoy my time for what it was… an extended vacation.  This all changed several days later when my daughter-in-law, Brooke, was in town and Karen asked me once again if I wanted to see her condo and with some nudging from Brooke, I caved and said sure, why not.   I had made a point of bringing Brooke into the bookstore with the pretense of showing her it’s charm and all over good vibe, but in reality, I wanted to introduce her to Karen, the only person I knew in town.  I think my family worried about me out here all alone and perhaps seeing that I knew one person in town, hence was “connected” (I’m not counting the waiter at my favorite breakfast place), she could be my messenger of hope to the other children, insuring them that mom’s OK, after all she has met a friend.  Karen, said she was planning on putting the condo on the market the following week, not to add pressure, but having a look now would be timely.  The door was unlocked so we walked the short block over from the bookstore to have a look.

Now before I take you inside the condo with Brooke, I’ve got to back up and mention that two days prior (or a day before Brooke’s arrival), while taking inventory of my emotional wounds on my back deck, I saw a double rainbow.  I had only seen one double rainbow before in my life,  ironically only a few miles from where I stood that night.  The last time was on a family vacation several years ago at the gas station in Dillon, CO.  The  double rainbow last summer looked a whole lot different to me though, in part because it felt like it was only for me, appearing exactly when I needed it then quickly disappearing into the sky as quickly as it had arrived.  It was my glimmer of hope and I knew right then and there that although I was emotionally wounded and even bleeding, I was going to be OK.   I had found my soft spot to land, for now, and it was a softly colored arc in the eastern sky of Colorado.   Double rainbow, double luck and the next day was when Brooke and I would go into the bookstore for a book, an introduction and unexpectedly, the purchase of a mountain home.

After walking up the 19 interior steps inside Karen’s condo, Brooke and I reached the landing, and looked at each other with wide-eyed surprise.  She then said to me, “You live here, Laur!”  And without hesitation, I responded, “I know!”  When you know it’s right, it’s right and 10 minutes later we were back in the bookstore with me wanting to lay my claim on the condo before anyone else could.

Fast forward a few days to a meeting I had with an attorney to look over the contract, which was drawn up literally days after I saw the property,  a process far easier than I had ever anticipated.  The attorney did have one question for me though.
“What did you put down for earnest money?  I don’t see anything in the contract.”
“Oh, there isn’t any, I answered.  We sealed the deal over a bottle of wine and a hug instead.”
“Hummm, OK, well… it is Summit County!”

And that’s how I bought a house in Summit County, CO – with trust, confidence and two glasses of wine raised in a toast followed by a hug. 

I never had an inkling of hesitancy or lack of trust during the whole transaction.  The fact that Karen was  moving a short two blocks away gave me tremendous security in the whole process as I knew she was right around the corner if I had any questions or problems.  The whole process flowed with such ease that I had to keep reminding myself of the enormity of what I had just done.

Due to greater distractions, I didn’t buy the book I had gone into the bookstore for that day, but I did pick up the local hiking guide book instead,  and used it so much over the next few months that its pages needed the help of two rubber bands to keep it all in one pile.  That dog-earred pile now has a very prominent place on my bookshelf.  It represents far more than just a hiking guide to me now.  It became the guide to the mountains that eventually led me right back to myself.

I’m still overwhelmed, not necessarily by my decision, but that fate or my intention or perhaps a bit of divine intervention has landed me in such an amazing place.  I’m continually awed by the constantly changing beauty of this place and don’t think I’ve ever grabbed my camera, (correction… phone) more to catch a photo, because I swear, the scenery completely changes with the light.  Just yesterday, I was balancing precariously on the edge of my bathtub to catch a photo out of the window directly above it of Peak One with the snow sparkling through a veil of sunshine.  I felt an urgency because it may never look like that again and it was beautiful.

My daughter-in-law, Brooke, said it so eloquently in one of her blog posts…

“Doing what you think will make you happy shouldn’t be hard, but the hardest part might be figuring out what that is and that once you realize where that happiness resides, there’s no running from it.”

She nailed it and because she was right there with me when I stumbled onto this and saw the ease at which I danced into this next phase of my life, her words are backed with history.

“There’s no running from it…..”

I think all of the hiking I did last summer (33 hikes taking me across 132 miles and over 31,500 vertical feet) was as much about getting comfortable, one footstep at a time, with a new direction, even a new life, as it was about the views snagged from the top after a long climb.

“There’s no running from it….”

No, there wasn’t.  I hiked right into it, one mountain at a time, until I was strong enough to be able to see the prize, which ironically, wasn’t the view outside, but the one that I discovered inside…
of myself.  

A window to far more than Peak One…


Snow days…

I got up 3 times last night to check on the snow.  I wanted to make sure it was still coming down… kind of like insuring that the party was still going on.   I’m a little girl when it comes to snow and still feel the rush of excitement at morning’s light to see the ground blanketed in a fresh layer of white powder.  There’s a sense of familiar and nostalgia that is coming into play with this for me, first and foremost is the possibility of a snow day that a few inches of snow might bring.  Here in Summit County, CO, snow days are virtually unheard of, namely because the plows pretty much have the roads cleaned up by first light and well, it is CO and snow is supposed to happen on a regular basis, unlike Kansas, where it still feels like a bit of a surprise.

When I was in school, a pre-dawn telephone call at our house meant we got to roll over in our beds and sleep in knowing that the day ahead was ours and ours alone.  It meant leaving on our PJ’s until lunch time and eating grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup in front of the TV while watching “As the World Turns” with Mom, then piling on layers of clothes and playing in the snow until our yard’s snow was all used up, our mittens were wet and our boots sloshed on the inside with snow.  Once 3:30 rolled around, the magic of a snow day was over and time returned to normal, regardless of the projects we were in the middle of because 3:30 was the end of our school day and at 3:31, we were on real time, once again.  Even with a 3:30 end, snow days were longer than any other day because they were 100% bonus and were ours to spend as we wanted, unlike Saturdays, or even weekdays, that came with the dreaded list of chores or have to’s, such as going to school.   Because my parents subscribed to the philosophy that  if it was too snowy to go to school, it was too snowy to go out (as in outside via a car), we were “stuck” at home all day, which really was a good thing as our creativity was put into play out of boredom. Empty shoe boxes were refashioned into hip homes for Barbie and her girlfriend, Midge, four pieces of furniture in the bedroom I shared with my older sister were arranged and rearranged in an effort to make a small room seem big and magazine pictures were glued onto poster board (or whatever we could find) and tacked onto the wall.  I once made a collage of only eyes, which I thought would be straight up cool.  It wasn’t.  Neither was the one with lips that followed.  Ahhh, snow day crafts.  You worked with what you had, which was always an ingredient short, it seemed.

My Dad was the high school guidance counselor and unlike today, when the school closings scroll across the bottom of the TV before you even go to bed, the phone call from the school superintendent came early in the morning.  I don’t know if that meant that Dad then had a list of people to call in a phone tree fashion, or how it was that the superintendent called him and not someone else, but that’s how it worked and honestly, I didn’t really care.  All I knew was that getting to go back to sleep for another few hours was a gift like no other and could only be appreciated during that brief roll over in a warm bed moment. There have been mornings in my life that I swear I’d empty my bank account to have that option….  a feeling like no other.

When we had a snow day, Dad had one too, which made the day even more special.  His snow day routine always started with making homemade bread, a scent that still makes me feel warm and squishy inside, and takes me right back to the deliciousness of sleeping in while life continued on around us… bread getting made, for one.

There was no early morning phone call from the school superintendent, or the smell of freshly baked bread to wake up to this morning, but I did experience the thrill of throwing open the curtains upon wakening and getting to bask in the beauty outside of my bedroom window of 6 inches of snow blanketing the ground this morning.  Pure joy.

Hablando español, finding my confidence then quickly losing it on Copper Mountain…

I had a pleasant surprise this morning while waiting for the Copper Mountain bus to go skiing.  A man who I had noticed earlier taking the iconic Main Street with mountains in the background photo of Friso, approached me and said “buenos dias,” followed quickly by a “good morning.”  I responded with a “buenos dias,” which brought on a conversation about the beautiful sunny day, the mountains, the blue sky and the fact that they don’t have snow in D.F., Mexico (Mexico City).  His wife then came over and he asked me if he could take my photo.  I thought perhaps I had misunderstood the Spanish and offered to take his photo with his wife.  No, he assured me, he wanted a photo of me to show people back home, because it would be something they maybe had never seen before. It took me a minute before realizing that  it wasn’t just the snowy mountains he wanted in the photo.  He wanted an accessorized skier, from helmeted/goggled head to booted feet holding skis and pole to be the subject of his photo.  The mountains and blue sky were just the background.  I was happy to oblige and as he and his wife were walking away, I called them back and asked if I could take their  photo.

While on my ride to Copper, I realized what it was that had felt so odd to me while conversing in Spanish with this man.  I was speaking Spanish in a coat and mittens.  My Spanish has always flowed from sandaled or bare feet, and never while wearing a coat.  This was a first.  How limited my experiences had been!  I miss speaking Spanish.  I miss the wonderful feeling of throwing words together that you THINK are right, while trusting instinct on conjugations, then receiving a positive nod from the person you just rattled off to along with an answer because they understood you!  Every sentence seems to get better at that point.  I also had to wonder what in the world brought them all the way from Mexico City to this little town of Frisco, CO.   Just looking at their photo makes me smile for some reason. 

My quick Spanish conversation before headed off to ski, gave me the boost in my confidence that would later be tested.  Over and over and over again.  I spent the next six hours in a private ski lesson, which had me rethinking almost everything I was doing to the point that I questioned even turning at all, parallel or not.   Tiger, my teacher, and yes, that’s his real name and he’s not in his 20’s, or 30’s or even 40’s, is a very smart man who uses a lot of physics analogies to explain to me what my skis and I are supposed to be doing, so instead of shouting commands that I’d understand like “lean forward, push your right foot down to go left, use your edges, you are amazing…”  I heard things like “centripedal force, edge angles, calculations of side cuts,  mass to the inside of your turning radius and pulling g’s… have you ever been in a small plane???”
OK, now we’re talking.  I said had I not only been in a small airplane, but I used to fly them!  Bad choice to give that information to Tiger.  From then on, all future explanations were made as if we were both sitting in the cockpit of an airplane, Tiger, clearly sitting left seat.  Although he wasn’t a pilot, he had logged enough left seat time in small planes with friends that he clearly knew what he was talking about and his comparisons to skiing did make sense… for a while… and then they didn’t.  At one point, towards the end of our 6 hour lesson, while in the lift line, he started in on the flying an airplane to skiing comparisons and asked me if I understood.  Now for those who know me, you know when my patience is gone and I’m tired, things go south quickly.  I paused a few seconds then said, “Yes, Tiger, I do understand that, but I’m not in an airplane.  I’m on skis and I’m tired.  Did I mention what a good instructor he is?  He smiled, shook his head yes and we got on the lift and headed up the mountain for a nothin’ but a fun run.  And it was.  It’s always good to end the day on a fun run that even if it was only in your head, you knew you looked good and were carving out those turns like a pro.

Tiger, the ski instructor

Laurie, the student

Views for days…

Skiing can be frustrating, but it’s views like this that keep you going up for just one more run…