Lost and found on Torreys and Grays peaks. Me.

My first hike of the season, which was several weeks ago for me this year, always conjures up memories of my first solo summer spent in Colorado 3 years ago, otherwise known as my 66 day experiment.  Because of unforeseen circumstances, I ended up with condo rental for 2 1/2 months in a town where I knew no one.  One of my first blog posts explains this in further detail, along with how I came to buy a place in that very town a short 2 months after my arrival;  something I had no intention of doing before I made the trip.  It truly was my summer of discovery and growth and one I remember fondly every time my boots hit the dirt, but it didn’t start out well.

After going through a difficult break up, I felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest, stomped on and mushed back into the cavity where it originally sat.  The easier feeling for me at that time was to go to anger, rather than sadness.  Anger has a fueling effect, sadness, not so much, and it was that anger that became my teacher that summer and hiking became the catalyst for me to learn, not about hiking and how to do it better, safer and stronger, but rather,  about who it was that those hiking boots were carrying.  I discovered myself.  It certainly wasn’t the easiest way for me to arrive at that discovery, but it was what it was and I look back now with tremendous gratitude for things did not go as I had planned or expected.

One of the biggest ah ha moments of that summer for me was when I climbed Torreys and Grays – 2 fourteeners (mountains whose summits are over 14,000 feet and who Colorado claims 52).   I had been advised to get to the trailhead  EARLY as it’s a very popular climb with limited parking.  When you tell a Virgo, who is a tad bit anxious about doing the whole thing solo in the first place, to get to the trail head early,  plans of a pre-dawn arrival are not out of the question.  One can never be too early or too safe, or too prepared, especially when facing a 14er alone, with no more information about it than an overheard conversation and photos and text from a guide book.  So,  at barely 5:00 a.m., I began my 30 minute car journey to the trailhead, the easiest part, or so I thought. All was going as planned and I was feeling excited with anticipation and a bit smug with what I had decided to tackle,  until the road got narrower and narrower with deeper and deeper pot-holes, looking more like a trail than a road and certainly not accessible without 4 wheel drive.  Oh and to add to the scene unfolding,  it was still dark, there were no other cars on the road and I had no cell phone service.  No longer did I have AAA for my back up plan.  I could hear my pulse.

In all the wandering through the state of Colorado that I did that summer, it was that moment, on that dark path of a road, alone, that comes to mind when I think about what really scared me and got my heart to race.  It is also that moment, when I decided not to turn around, that has influenced several decisions since when I’ve opted not to turn around, whether it be a hike or a life decision.

Once  I made it to the dark and very empty parking lot, my car being the ONLY car,  I sat for a few minutes and wondered how smart it was of me to continue.  Do I sit and wait for other people?  Do I scrap my plan and go back the way I came, Buick-sized potholes and all?  With a combination of pride and perhaps a wee bit of stupidity,  I decided that I had enough invested in the whole operation to stay with the plan.  I grabbed my pack and strapped on my headlamp because it still dark out and started down a trail that I had never been on before and knew very little about.  Right this moment, some three years later,  while I type this, I’m thinking…”Seriously?  You did THAT?’   It is the “THAT” that comes to mind at some point during every single hike I’ve done since and I’ve got to confess, I’m in search of the “THAT” as much as I seek out the views, crazy as that sounds.

I walked alone following the small beam of light from my head lamp until the sun came up.  I’m guessing 10 or 15 minutes, but really have no idea, but it seemed long and lonely and given that I had never hiked in the dark, scary.  I couldn’t help but continue to ask myself if this whole idea was really very smart, yet my legs kept walking forward.  Had I stopped, I’m guessing I would have turned around.  Eventually,  I reached a fork on the trail and couldn’t remember what I had been told… go up Grays first, or Torreys?

Early morning.

While I stood at that crossroads, and surveyed the incredible early morning scenery, I saw a small group of people in the far distance, making their way towards me.  This was my cue to sit down, rearrange the things in my pack, have a snack, take a photo, waste some time and then when they’d make their way to me,  I’d stand up, watch which fork they’d take and casually follow them like it was no big deal..

“I was just catching my breath, organizing my stuff, grabbing a photo and wow, what a coincidence that all of you just happened by!”

That’s what I had planned, but I was so excited to see life on that trail that I greeted them overly enthusiastically and asked which route they were taking, as I hadn’t yet decided.  They told me Torreys and did I want to hike up with them?  Well… sure…. !!  Honestly, they had no idea.  Their generosity had saved me.  We summitted the first peak about an hour later, ate our lunch (again, they had no idea what a gift they had become to me) then made our way across the saddle and up to the summit of the 2nd peak.  While seated and catching our breath, I got a text.  Now mind you, I’ve been hiking for a few hours, had climbed around 3,000 feet,  and now sat at an elevation of over 14, 000 feet (14,267 and 14,270 respectively), literally in a different world and with a very different mind set and I get a text???  It was my daughter, Emery, reminding me to buy coconut water before her visit the next day as it helped her to adjust to the altitude.  My new best friends asked if all was OK and when I told them, with a mixed tone of exasperation and are you kidding me?,  they all looked puzzled and said, “Well, if it helps her, you really should get it for her.”  By the way, they were her age, so this all seemed very normal to them, and so I began making a mental note of my to do list while enjoying my lunch at the top of a 14,000 foot mountain.  I had to laugh,  but was quick to reassure them that by all means, I’d follow through with her request.  I think they were worried about her.

Crossing the saddle
One down, one to go…

Seven hours from my dark, lonely start, I was back in my car, making my way through the 4WD potholes, which no longer seemed the size of Buicks, but VW’s at best.  Daylight and accomplishments made it all look a lot better and far less scary and who cares that I didn’t have cell phone service?  I felt a whole lot stronger than the person who had driven in a short 7 hours ago.  I think I just might have been a little bit taller also.

Once home, I put my head in  a bag of ruffle potato chips, with a 1/2 a tub of french onion dip and a 3 beer chaser because when you hike a 14er you get to eat anything that sound good and so I did.  I had set that precedent after my first 14er climb a few weeks ago, so was simply following protocol.  While immersed in my delightful dinner,  I couldn’t help but wonder just who that girl was who had pushed through so much that scared her yet kept on going when quitting would have been a whole lot easier.  She wasn’t someone I had seen in a very long time and I was hopeful I’d see her again.

That summer, without planning on it or anticipating it, became my summer to push my personal boundaries and enter into my fear zone so many times that it began to feel comfortable.    By the end of the summer,  I had logged over 135 miles in my boots and climbed 31,500 vertical feet, in search of my boundaries, which thankfully kept moving just out of my reach, which kept me moving.  It was as if my trusty old hiking boots had become my ruby red slippers and the heels had been clicked together, only this time, they took me out of Kansas and far away from my comfort zone and made me realize that just like the ruby red slippers, I had had the power with me all along.  I just didn’t know it.

Go figure.  I had to walk, climb and sweat my way up peak after peak after peak to finally become familiar with the person who was guiding those boots and time after time after exhausted time, I’d stop that summer during a hike,  not to grab a photo or a drink or a snack or even some oxygen, but rather, I’d stop and try to absorb the moment of where I was and how far I’d come and the odd circumstances that had brought me to that point.  Stopping to absorb on a hike or life for that matter, is never a bad idea.

So today and yesterday and the day before yesterday and every day I’ve hiked since that summer of MY coming of age, when I hesitate because I’m not sure I can do it or am I setting the bar too high? or for Pete’s sake why can’t I be content with walking around the neighborhood with a mountain backdrop?,  I try my best to bring back that girl who drove down a dark road to a dark parking lot to a trail head where she had to strap on a headlamp to see the trail that she knew nothing about and say, Really?  Seriously?  Snap out of it.  You’ve got this.  And that… that right there, is what has made every bit of this journey a priceless experience for me.

Several times this past month, I’ve thought about a return trip to the Torreys and Grays peaks but have slowly come to realize that for me to venture up those two beautiful peaks for a 2nd time, would be less about experiencing their majesty and more about trying to reconnect with the girl who climbed them 3 summers ago and recreate an experience, which I know is impossible.  I can’t recreate a first time experience the second time around, no matter how hard I try.  Not surprising, those notions of a “re-climb” seem to come when I’m feeling insecure and am struggling to find my strength.  For a split second, it feels like I just might be able to find it on the Torreys and Grays trail on an early morning, using my headlamp to guide me,  because it was there once,  as if I carelessly left it behind in a heap on the trail after stopping for a breath or a view and all I have to do is go retrieve it, stuff it securely into my pack and return home.  Logically, I know it’s with me, somewhere in there, whether those beat up boots that are trying to be ruby red slippers are on my feet or on a trail or not.  I just have to remember how to find it.  Again.

Thanks, guys.


Don’t look down, don’t think about it, you can do this…


Seriously.  Do NOT look down!


Thank goodness for the guardrails… although I doubt they’d stop a car from falling off the mountain, they offer a bit of security…


Oh geez… how’d I get here?



Rocky Mountain rapid pulse.

I am a bit of a white knuckled, turn off the radio so I can concentrate, don’t really love this but will do it because I have to, kind of driver.  If he’s still alive and if he could remember, I’m sure that my driver’s ed teacher, Mr. Hankins, would agree with this.   Perhaps it was the afternoon when I was required to demonstrate my mastery of parallel parking on the busiest downtown street in the small town I grew up in,  that reinforced my apprehensions with being behind the wheel.  My unmastered skills landed me on the sidewalk, smack dab in front of the TG&Y store. Being in the driver’s seat in the well-marked drivers ed car is embarrassing enough at that age, although I’m not sure why as it is a rite of passage for most, but having to get out of the car and trade seats with your teacher so he could maneuver the car off of the sidewalk and back onto the then getting busy street due to the side show, is not a feather in one’s driving school cap.  I passed the written test with flying colors, but barely eked by on the driving section due to the parallel parking incident.  Today, many decades later,  I’m still more than happy to walk the necessary blocks to avoid the whole parallel parking fiasco.  A city girl, I am not.

I’ve had face a lot of my driving fears head on simply because it was my only choice, short of staying home, my fears of mountain driving trumping all.

Several years ago while in Santa Fe on a ski trip with the family, I had to face those fears straight on and I’m happy to say that I triumphed.  After suiting up in our ski gear,  driving up the mountain to the ski resort, my youngest, Emery, who was 6 at the time, decided that she was done with skiing and wanted no part of it, that day or ever.  Period.  End of story.  Given that Charlie had already promised to ski with the boys all day, that left me with the choice of staying in the lodge with Emery and waiting, or having a day in Santa Fe, which ultimately meant having to drive down the mountain, then back up again to pick up Charlie and the boys at the end of the day. With the options of drinking coffee all morning, which no doubt would roll into beer early afternoon due to frustration, or putting my big girl driving pants on and forge ahead with some mountain driving  I opted for the latter.  So here I am, the mom, the one in charge, the all knowing,  explaining to my 6 year-old as we inched our way down the mountain, that I was absolutely terrified and could she “talk or sing me through it”?  She seemed to know exactly what I was asking and chattered and sang and kept the distractions going, hairpin turn after hairpin turn, until we made our way to the bottom of the mountain, then repeated the performance on our way back up again.  Round two was a lot easier and I swear, when I stepped out of the car and onto the parking lot at Santa Fe Ski, I was just a little bit taller.

A similar request was made of my right seated passenger while on the long and if memory serves me correctly, in the sky bridge to Coronado Island, south of San Diego.  Barely into the drive, my fear of driving over bridges overcame my rational side and my poor sister, Robin,  had to talk me through the process all the way to the other side of the bridge.  The memory comes up every time I’m on a bridge with her, but fortunately, my fears, although still present, have waned quite a bit.  Still, I don’t think she enjoys riding right seat while I drive her across bridges.  Memories shape us, whether they’re no longer accurate or not.  Sorry about that, Robin.  If I could have pulled over a switched seats with you, I certainly would have.

Fast forward several years and once again, I find myself on roads that have my pulse speeding… mountain roads in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Mountain roads I of course expected while driving through the park, but being on a narrow shelf roads that had me feeling like I was driving in the sky, was totally unexpected.  I’m a flatlander who has spent most of my life in Kansas.  I don’t think of these kind of driving scenarios.  Thankfully, there was very little traffic and I could hug the mountain side, often putting me in the wrong lane, while keeping careful watch out for oncoming traffic.

“Don’t look down, don’t think about it, you can do this…”

With no one in my right seat, I had to take on the process of “talking her down” routine to myself by myself…

I returned home a different route, avoiding the shelf roads all together, but with a smile on my face for having done it.  Even after having done this multiple times now since I started spending so much time in Colorado, it is still a big dang deal for me that adds another layer to my driving badge of courage each and every time.

Last week I drove to Aspen to see a friend of mine and thinking I was so tech smart and clever, I simply put her Aspen address into my phone and drove, not giving a second thought to the route Google Maps would choose for me.  In my car with good music, a full cup of coffee in the holder and nothing but blue skies ahead, it was simply perfect… until the roads got tighter and narrower and the hairpin turns began.  I thought it would be for just a short bit, then back onto easy, straight, no hairpin roads, until I saw the sign….


Seriously?  The Pass I hear people talk about and most of them not in a “cool, let’s drive Independence Pass to Aspen” kind of way.  Again, I pulled myself up to the steering wheel as close as I could get (no idea about this, but it seems to make me drive better), turned off the radio so I could concentrate and started “talking myself down”….

“Don’t look down, don’t think about it, you can do this….”

And I did.  When I arrived at my friend’s house and my first comment out of the car was in regards to the white knuckled drive, she said,

“Oh Laurie, that’s a PASSENGER drive!  You don’t drive that!  It’s too scary!  You let someone else drive it, while you’re the passenger.”

Again, I think I may have been just a tad bit taller when I pulled my shaking limbs from the car.  It would appear that I am now a somewhat experienced, albeit not liking it, mountain shelf driver, who will do it if she has to, but has learned the hard way to find an alternate route rather than simply let Google Maps make the decision, because Google Maps does not know me, otherwise they’d probably suggest I look into the bus schedule.  I took a different route home.

I will never be the one to quickly say “Me!!” when the question as to who is going to drive is thrown out, nor will I ever purposely put myself in a driving situation that raises my pulse, unless I have to and although those “have to’s” are coming more and more often during my times in the mountains, I still don’t enjoy them.

I realized that I may have passed this driving fear trait onto my daughter the first time I had her out on a parking lot the size of a football field, with nary a car in sight, and she began to maneuver her way behind the wheel for the first time.

“Why are you slowing down so much, Emery?”

“Because, I’m about to crash into that light pole!”

That would be the light pole that was a dot on the horizon, barely visible it was so far away.  Bless her heart; she’s the recipient of yet another one of my traits that has worked its way down to her via genetics, the good with the bad, and she lives in Colorado of all places.  Unlike her fearful behind the wheel mom, who put her time in on the flat roads of Kansas at her age, she will conquer this fear with a lot more speed than I did because she’s will be thrown into the deep driving end of the pool on a far more regular basis than I was.  Bless her heart even more.  I have not doubt that just like her mom when the knuckles turn white and the radio goes off to concentrate, she’ll begin to talk, sing or mumble her way around every mountain pass until the comfort sets in.

“Don’t look down, don’t think about it, you can do this…”

Or maybe she’ll geographically personalize the mantra and go old school Colorado and sing John Denver.  Whatever works.

Unscheduled silver linings…


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I had been in Colorado for a few weeks with no new snow and snow melting temperatures,  so when the day came with a forecast of a few inches of snow, which overnight turned into a quick 7,  I was very anxious to strap  on my boots and skis and go play.  I’ve never been a skier who feels the need to make the first tracks down the mountain, so with the Copper Mountain bus schedule in mind, I set a leisurely 9:30 as my departure (9:35, specifically), which would have me comfortably in the usually short lift line by 10:00ish.

I made it to the bus stop (a short block from my house, 96 paces to be exact) with time to spare, but minutes before the bus was to arrive, I realized that I didn’t have my ski pass with me, so knowing full well that I’d miss the bus and would have to catch the next one 25 minutes later, I leisurely walked back to my place and grabbed my pass.  Once back to the bus stop, I realized I had neither a credit card or cash with me, so, once again, I walked BACK to my place and grabbed my credit card, this time with time to spare before my now 2nd bus choice.  At this point, things were not looking good, but I stayed the course in anticipation of the fun ahead.  While waiting,  I saw my neighbor and started talking to her and was so distracted that when the first Summit Stage bus came along,  I said  goodbye and jumped on without a thought.  When the bus driver started going a different direction that I was used to, I realized I had gotten on the wrong bus  (the bus to Breckenridge comes one minute before the Copper Mountain bus).   I could have gotten off at the next stop, but my pride got in my way (who gets off at the hospital stop with skis??  Or the high school stop??)  So, pride winning, I decided I was in it for the long haul and rode to the Breckenridge station, while trying to make the best of the unscheduled tour that I had just added on to my normally 15 minute ride.

This was a pivotal moment for me.  I could either regret, bemoan, continually look at my watch and sigh with the stupid mistake that would cost me a few hours of skiing once everything was said and done,  OR I could just go with it, and try to find the positive in the situation, which I did.  While getting off the bus to transfer, I asked the driver when the next bus to Frisco was (I was going to have to start all over on the process as there was no bus to Copper Mountain from Breckenridge), and he gave me an odd look, or so it appeared, as I could hardly make eye contact given my embarrassment.  He directed me to the stop, which had a timetable posted and with skis in tow, I got off and waited for the bus to take me to where I had just come from.  Again, make the best of the situation.

There was a woman waiting at the stop with me who was headed to the hospital as she had fallen a few days earlier and thought she may have broken a rib.  I’m guessing she was about my age, but it was hard to tell as she was bundled up in a long wool coat and a scarf that could have doubled as a blanket.  We started talking and she told me about her stupid fall (her words) and how her friend from Iowa had come to visit her and had done the same thing and was now at her house unable to get up off the couch.  She was from Alma, a small mountain town on the other side of the Hoosier Pass, and had driven down to Breckenridge (a drive that scares me on a dry pavement summer day) to catch the bus to the hospital.  She told me that she and her friend had planned on coming to Breckenridge for lunch and a nice afternoon before for the falls happened, but with her friend prone on her couch and her on the bus to the hospital,  all bets were off for fun in Breckenridge. The shift of plans, and with an out of town visitor no less, made me feel just the tiniest bit guilty for the focus I was putting on what now seemed to be nothing.  Big deal.  I got on the wrong bus.

A few minutes into the ride, she pulled a paper plate out of her large tote bag,  peeled back the plastic wrap,  and before digging in, asked me if I wanted some.  I wasn’t sure what it was and was so struck by the fact that she was toting a plate of food in her bag that I’m sure I had an inappropriate gaping mouth stare for far to long than I should have.  I thanked her, but nicely declined.  The norm would have been a Cliff Bar or maybe a piece of fruit.  I liked that she carried a plastic covered plate of food instead.  It seemed charming in an eccentric sort of way.

After she got off, my focus shifted to a mother and her two sons (7 and 9, I guessed) who’s accent told me she was likely from New Zealand.  The boys were high energy and quite frankly rather annoying and after scolding them several times and asking them to play quieter (they both were playing video games on a shared phone), she finally got up and moved to the seat behind them, in a bit of an exasperated move.  The boys got up and tried to sit with her several times, but she wasn’t having it and in an firm voice that she was trying to keep to an unnoticeable whisper, she gave them multiple warnings. With two boys 18 months a part, this was a very familiar scene to me and I admired her moxie for simply getting up and changing seats.  There was a time I wouldn’t have considered that to be “mom legal”  but maybe rules are different in New Zealand.  Although I could hardly blame her, there was a  part of me that wanted to tell her that yes, they are loud, they are annoying, they are exhausting and frustrating,  but there will be a day when they are in their late 20’s and maybe or maybe not living close by, that you will miss this…obnoxious, over-energized behavior and all.  Holy cow.  I’ve turned into that mom who looks longingly at other moms with kids who aren’t yet shaving or in make-up and heels.  Even though it’s been a couple of decades since I was scolding young boys and telling them to keep their hands to themselves,  there are times that it really does seem like it was last week.  More than once, I can remember hearing from moms a few decades ahead of me, that the time really does fly by and to savor the moment.  I’d kindly thank them while  quickly returning to the task at hand, which usually wasn’t real pretty.  Only when you have reached that point in time can you understand.  Note to all moms with kids still young enough that you’ve got a bit of hands on hips, stern faced control over them, time really does speed by and what becomes important is rarely what you anticipated.

I got off at the bus stop near my house, waited for the Copper bus and was back in route, this time the right route, and was in the lift line just short of 2 hours later than what I had planned.  Honestly, I didn’t miss all that much, but rather collected a couple of fun and interesting memories that nudged me to be present, find the good, the interesting, and the inspiration in the moment and simply be grateful because it really is the journey that is far more memorable than the destination.

I remember the sky was blue, the sun was shining and the mountain had a nice fresh coating of powder, but it’s the woman in the big coat with a plate of food in her bag and two energetic boys and their tired mom that have become the bigger memory for me that day.


Returning to my roots with the keepers of the stories at my side…

A few weeks ago, my sister, Robin, and I were given the tremendous gift of getting to step back in time for a few days and with our parents as our guides, revisited the place where we spent our earliest days – Evergreen, Colorado.

Although our time there was relatively short,  one would assume that we had lived there for decades given the many stories Mom and Dad have shared with us throughout our lives.  Because of the many stories and the joy with which they have been shared,  I grew up knowing  how very important this little mountain town was in my parents lives.

They were young, very young, 20 and 25, with a baby on the way (Robin) and were actually on their way to Oregon, simply on a “Why not?  It sounds like a nice place to live…” when they stopped in Denver to see my Mom’s parents.  While there, Dad found out that to teach high school music in Oregon, he needed a master’s degree (something that would come later and in Missouri), so they decided to simply stay in Denver.  Besides, with a baby on the way, it would be nice to have family nearby.  I love thinking about those carefree 20 somethings with a baby on the way pointing their car and trailered belongings west, without really having much of a plan.  Somehow it gives the many wing and a prayer plans I’ve had a bit more weight.

There were no teaching jobs in Denver, but while interviewing, a call came through from the principal in Evergreen with the news that the high school music teacher had not renewed his contract and through the perfect timing of a synchronistic moment, my Dad had a job and their plans to continue their journey west to Oregon were shortened to the short 30 minute drive west from Denver to the scenic mountain town of Evergreen.

Robin and I have both heard the stories, countless times, of our time in Evergreen, but to get to hear them again, with the soil underfoot, was truly a gift.  Hearing about Dad coasting down the mountain from Evergreen to St. Anthony’s hospital in Denver, my Mom in labor with me, made a lot more sense as we recently made our way down from Evergreen to Denver  – an easy coast of a drive that was a necessary choice on that day, almost 60 years go to the date, as the gas tank was near empty (he made it with fumes to spare, I’m told…).

Although Robin and I had tried to find the house we lived in when we were in Colorado  last summer,  our interpretation of Mom and Dad’s directions had us on the wrong end of the town, but with their keen memories and navigational skills a few weeks ago, we drove right to the house.  Both of our initial reactions upon seeing the nice house that sat off the road on 5 acres was… “wait… I thought we were poor” ….  Yes, they reassured us… we were poor.  They said it looked like the house had been added on to and that while it looked nice on the outside, the inside had needed work… work that Dad chipped away at when he had the gift of both time and money.   The furnishings were sparse and although Mom had a wringer washing machine, she didn’t have a dryer, so after washing the clothes, diapers in particular with two under the age of two, she’d hang them out on the line, where they would freeze dry in the arid air.  She’d then bring them in and lay them throughout the house to thaw.  For some reason, I’ve always connected with pioneer women and have sworn that I must have lived during that period of time in a past life.  This explains it.  I did.

As we sat in the drive and looked directly at our past, hearing the stories from the ones that created them, that piece of my past, that I don’t remember, became real and I understood where my love for mountains was born.  Dad told us that when Mom was pregnant with me she told him that she was not going to come home from the hospital until we had a flushing toilet IN the house.  Yes, these adventure seeking parents of mine were using an outhouse, not to mention transporting their water in  50 gallon drums.  Dad worked tirelessly at digging the leeching well near the house in preparation for my arrival, using a pick axe, a shovel and his favorite tool, dynamite.  And lo and behold, Mom had the flush toilet she had requested upon her arrival home from the hospital with me.  Simple times, but not all that simple of a request.  Still, every mom just home from the hospital with a new born and a one year-old to greet her, deserves the luxury of indoor toilet… and one that flushes no less.  It sure beat any “congratulations on your new baby” flower arrangement Dad could have gotten her.

My Evergreen, Colorado roots

Out of the many stories I’ve heard over the years, and my hands down favorite, I heard for the first time last year.  Because we were surrounded by evergreen trees, Dad would simply go to the woods behind the house to select the Christmas tree, then would drag it down to the house.  I believe it was my first Christmas (and if it wasn’t, I’m taking artistic license here) that Mom questioned the tree he brought home, wondering if he could have found a tree that was just a little bit prettier.  So, on his way home from work the following day, the perfect tree came into view with the lights of his car.  He cut it down, put it in the car and as he was pulling away, his car lights gave him a better view of exactly where the tree he had just cut down had come from… the landscaping in the front yard of one of the summer vacation homes in the area.  When I asked him what he did when he discovered what he did,  he told me that he couldn’t exactly put it back, so simply covered the stump with snow and drove home.  Given that it was a summer vacation home,  he had several months before the missing tree would be noticed.  No doubt some of that guilt waned with Mom’s overwhelmingly positive reaction to the beautiful specimen of a tree that would grace our small living room that Christmas.

“Now THAT’s what I had in mind!  It’s the PERFECT tree!”

Dad had set the Christmas decor bar high on this one…

I’m not sure how long it was before he came clean on exactly where the tree had come from and am betting that the following Christmas, it was back to the scrappy juniper Christmas trees.  All of our Christmas trees in those early Colorado days were decorated with pine cones that Mom had spray painted gold.  It was only in later years that I understood the significance of Mom insisting on adding what we thought at the time were “the tacky gold spray-painted pine cones” to our then more lavishly decorated trees.  It was a nudge to the memory of where they began as a family, and although times were very tough, they were also very good.

I love hearing their  humble roots stories – two kids with two babies eeking out a living in the mountains of Evergreen, Colorado.  Funds were so tight that when a job offer in northern Missouri came in for far more money and an unlimited high school band budget, Dad had to say yes.  He has told me several times that when they drove out of town for the last time on their way to Missouri, he had hoped for a rainy, cloudy day or at least weather that was over cast enough so that he wouldn’t have to see the mountains in his rearview mirror.  It was sunny that day.   To this day, I think both Mom and Dad would agree that it felt like the mountains were waving goodbye to them as they left them in the rear view mirror.

What a gift it was to return to those Evergreen mountains just as they had left them so many years ago and better yet, to get to return with the keepers of the stories.  Although I was always a part of the stories,  I feel a real sense of their connection to me now.

something I still enjoy.. playing in the dirt…


Mom and Dad… who still have a bit of that Colorado spirit in them….


Back in my boots…

As of yesterday afternoon, I’m back in the saddle…. or hiking boots, more specifically.  Feeling ready and anxious after almost two months of babying my injured shoulder, I ventured out on a real hike with boots, poles and a full camelback.  I hiked  Mt. Royal and although it’s not a long hike (only a mile and a half to the top), it’s not easy as during that short mile and a half, 1,500 feet of altitude are gained, translating to pretty much straight up with no switch backs.  This was a hike that I did several times over the course of my stay here last summer as it was literally right behind where I was staying so there was ease and no excuses in getting to the trail head.  It also became my measure of how much I was improving, which speaks to the Virgo in me.  My first time up was a miserable journey that took over two hours to get to the top and the last time I journeyed up last summer,  I had bettered my time to just over an hour – an accomplishment that I’m quite proud of.  While making my way down that last time and feeling quite smug with my improved time and generally efficiency, I passed my neighbor, jogging up the rocky trail and with still enough breath that he stopped to chat.  So much for my thinking I was “all that…”  I’ve learned while living part-time in this very physically active state that the safest person to compare yourself to IS yourself, otherwise you’re likely to be disappointed.

In keeping with the open and honest approach I’ve decided to take with this blog, I’ve got to back up a bit and do some re-wording.  I hiked Mt. Royal, but I did not make it to the top and I must say, it’s one of the prouder non-accomplishments I’ve had this summer.  It’s real hard for me to not barrel ahead when I can all but see the end, ignoring any physical or emotional signs that are telling me, “enough already!”  Well, yesterday probably within 10 minutes of the top, I experienced one of those “enough” signs.  Up to that point, I had been hiking like a 95 year-old woman in stilettos on ice with a tail wind… being very mindful of foot placement and with an eye on constant patrol for mud, or exposed roots or loose rocks, as I know too well that a quick slip can and does happen.  That’s the part that kind of sucks.  I rather liked that barreling ahead with an eye on the prize and full confidence that I’d summit without a scrape, take some time to revel in the beautiful views and with a proud pat on my own back, would make it down again.  No problem.  But knowing that accidents do happen has changed the way I hike – or at least I was changed for the inaugural hike.  I feel more apprehensive, more cautious and certainly more timid, yet still with the confidence that I can do it as I’ve done it before.  But I also want to do it in a manner that doesn’t require a trip to the ER.

I had to stop several times to catch my breath, totally normal, but by the time I was almost within shouting distance to the top, I started to feel a bit dizzy.  My town of Frisco sits at 9,097 feet, an altitude that can easily have an effect on even the fittest if not acclimated and that’s what I’m going to blame it on.  Having only been back in town for a little over a week, I called myself acclimated, but more than likely was not.  So when that feeling of apprehension, laced with a bit of dizziness came over me, I was very thoughtful of the messages and opted to abort the nearby summit and head back down.  As disappointing as it felt, at the same time I felt very grown up for having listened, very carefully, and followed through with what my body was telling me, which was go home… you already did most of it.  It’s OK.

By the time I got home, I had come to an easy place of peace with my decision and knew that honoring that slight twinge of a feeling was the right thing to do.  And so, in keeping with my hiking tradition of eat what sounds good post hike because I’ve earned it, I sat down to a plate full of spaghetti and several heaping forkfuls of sauerkraut because that’s exactly what my body was asking for… oh yea, and a cold beer…I mean two cold beers, to round it off.  And good it was.  I never falter on post hike refueling.   It’s truly one of my favorite luxuries of the sport.

Views of Frisco and Lake Dillon while on my way up…


The only non-climbing part of the hike… really…
Views for days…


The very majestic Mt. Royal (also the mountain I have a view of from most of the windows in my house).

Today, rather than revisit my not quite accomplished hike from yesterday, (which will happen and soon), I opted for big views, low physical expenditure.  And it worked… satisfyingly well.  The Lower Cataract Lake in the Eagles Nest Wilderness area never ceases to amaze me.  It’s not a hard hike as there’s little to no altitude gain, but it’s enough of a workout that I still get to savor the post hike accolades of feeling strong, committed and a little bit more in tune with nature than I was while driving to the trail head.  I’m not sure I can’t think of a better way to spend a sunny Sunday morning.

Accomplishments come in all sorts of packages and it isn’t necessarily the straight up journey to the top that has given me the most pride.  Yesterday it was NOT making it to the top that made me the proudest.  Next time…

Views around every corner…


Nature’s painting…



Wildflowers in full bloom…

Finding my edges on I-70… in snow, ice and fear…

Several years ago, while driving to Eureka Springs, Arkansas to celebrate my parents 50th anniversary, my brother-in-law, John, told me I was a good driver.  Who, me??  He could have told me that my hair looked nice or that my shoes were cool, both which would have likely been forgotten by now, but hearing “you’re a good driver”.. well, those words have stuck with me longer than any shoe compliment would have.  I’ve remembered it because it was something I had never heard before, possibly because it may not be true, but he simply caught me on a really good driving day.

The words that I usually hear sound more like this:

“You drive like an old lady, or… Mom!  Pay attention!  or… Do you really have to sit that close to the steering wheel???”  (which I think all three of my kids have asked me at some point).  Yes.  I need to sit this close.  It makes me feel safe.

Those were sentences that came with a history.  “You’re a good driver” was standing on its own that day, and with that newly found pride,  I tried my damnedest to prove him right the rest of the trip.

So, John may think I’m a good driver, but driving was never something I enjoyed nor did I feel like I was very good at it.  Those feelings may have been birthed on the day during driver’s ed when I was taught how to parallel park.  Obviously, the self esteem of an insecure 15 year-old were hardly considered when I was asked to demonstrate those newly acquired skills directly in front of the TG&Y store on a busy Saturday.  It’s not easy to parallel park with one eye scanning the crowds for the popular kids while the other worked solo on the parking task at hand.  And yes, that’s my excuse as to why I ended up with two wheels up on the sidewalk, while the remaining two were on the street. In the short amount of time that it took for me to trade places with my instructor,  have him get all wheels street side and trade back again, my self-esteem retreated straight back to the awkward 7th grade girl, who longed to be a cool girl who knew how to drive.

When in later years (my 20’s),  I’d dream with my girlfriends about what we’d do if we won the lottery, I was the only one who said I’d hire a driver. I didn’t even care what car said driver would be driving… just so it wasn’t me.

So back to my hating to drive but I’m evidently, I’m good at it…

The “but you are so good at it” got tested last Sunday, when two sisters (Robin and I) were taking the third sister (Susan) to the Denver airport from Frisco.  We had both bad weather and Sunday traffic,  so planned ahead and gave ourselves a large time cushion, which was smart as the weather began deteriorating rapidly once we got into Denver.  After a nice lunch and a stroll into a shop or two, Susan offered to get to the airport a few hours early with hopes that we’d be able to stay ahead of the bad weather on our return trip to Frisco.  I  tend to have a “I’ll deal with it when I have to” attitude and wasn’t really nervous until the 3rd or 4th flashing road sign that warned of ice and closed roads, which had me wondering if my cavalier attitude of “Oh no worries… I know how to drive in the mountains on ice and snow… you know, in my roots, born here,  and all that…,” needed to be re-examined a bit.   15 minutes west of the airport, Robin and I learned that I-70 was closed at Georgetown to the Eisenhower Tunnel, which incidentally had also been closed due to the weather.  The part of me that craves adventure, felt her pulse go up a bit at the thought of unplanned hotel stays and or sleeping in the car adventures that would make for a much more exciting blog post.  The other part of me, the one who had been pretty quiet with questioning confidence, began to worry about the whole driving situation.

And so the true test of my driving began.  With white knuckles clutching onto a steering wheel for dear life, Robin and I made our way through snow and ice and I-70 closing then eventual re-opening after we sat on the highway for a good 45 minutes and waited.  From that point on, we inched along with little visibility,  windshield wipers that were constantly icing up, and speeds that barely registered on the speedometer.  I was very thankful to have Robin in the right seat, reminding me to breathe, relax and go as slow as I needed to.  I was fine until I saw a 4WD vehicle turned upside with a couple of people trying to remove someone through the back window.  I made one of those of long, deep, profanity laden sighs followed by a “I can’t do this…” That’s when Robin told me to stop looking.

I couldn’t help but think back to shortly after high school when I was driving in the winter and slid on an entrance ramp to the highway.  I was driving a VW beetle, not great in the snow or ice, but I think the incident was more about the fearful me and less about the car.   I doubt my “slide” was more than a few inches, but it was significant enough to scare me to the point that right there in the middle of the entrance ramp I turned my car off, pulled up the emergency brake and walked up the ramp to a nearby gas station where I called my Dad and told him I needed help.  Twenty minutes later, without judgement, scolding, belittling or hesitation, he got in my car, backed it up off the entrance ramp and onto the dry street,  then got back in his car and was on his way. Saved.  Again.  Dad did a lot of that for me during my early driving days.

Although I’ve gotten a lot braver over the years, simply out of necessity, the combination of ice, snow and mountain roads had me returning to some of those feelings.  Whether in my teens in a poorly equipped car on an entrance ramp or in my 50’s in a 4 wheel drive vehicle on snow in the mountains, there is a point that it’s all the same.  Fear is fear and the feeling skips over any logic while it sends you back in history.

Four hours later, we made it to Frisco,  with hands cramped from a death grip on the steering wheel and shoulders that had inched their way up to the tops of my ears, where they remained until mid-way into my 2nd glass of wine.

We made it home, safe and sound, without a slide or a swerve and I felt both relieved and proud of my accomplishments to the point that I  began to think that John Clarke just may have been right.  Maybe I am a good driver…

I rode on that sense of accomplishment high for almost 48 hours, until I realized that a good driver may have paid more attention to the tire pressure light on the dashboard that lit up shortly before we even left for the airport.  Robin did a check and ended up putting some air in one of the tires while we were still in Frisco.  The light eventually went off and I just assumed all was OK.  Later, during our harried drive back to Frisco, the light went on again.  I have experienced this before and it ended up being an altitude issue (when in doubt, blame that crazy altitude…), and given all the rest that I had to deal with, I convinced myself that the tires and their pressure were just fine and that once we were down in Denver the following day on our journey back to Kansas, the light would more than likely go out.  It didn’t.  I learned the following morning at the Toyota dealership,  that I had been driving with three nails in my tire as I went to the airport in less than favorable conditions, returned to Frisco, then made the trip home to Kansas the following day… at least 800 miles.

No doubt we had a guardian angel riding along side us who thankfully, wasn’t scared off by the mountains or the weather…

Meanwhile, with every 677 mile trip I make from KS to CO and back, I’m continually trying to earn John’s assessment of my driving abilities.

Inching along I-70, east of Georgetown, where we sat and waited for I-70 to re-open.
Always a silver lining… photo opportunities.. icicles on bicycles
I didn’t take the photos, by the way…
About as good as it got…

Skiing naked…

For those of you who already scrolled down in search of the photos, sorry, there are no illustrations and no, I did not chose that title to snag readers… well, not entirely.  I do wear pants when I ski and a jacket and all the stuff that goes underneath,  but emotionally,  while standing in hesitation at the top of a steep ski run, I’m as naked as it gets.  The combination of fear, doubt and insecurity has more than once pulled me into an emotional heap that has me totally understanding what’s going on in the heads of those few people I’ve seen walking down the mountain with their skis in tow.  Believe me, I’ve looked down at my skis while contemplating their removal with a hesitation long enough that people passing me on the mountain may have thought I was praying, and I suppose I  was.  Naked.  Without clothes.  Vulnerable.  It’s me up to bat in the 4th grade and hearing “easy out” from one of the boys in the infield.  Same girl.  Same emotions, only this time I  have the benefit of experience, maturity and confidence on my team,  suited up and ready to leap off the bench when I need them,  as well as the wisdom to know what’s coming into play here.

It’s those moments of hesitation that quickly become full out fear that make the pride soar when the skis do eventually point down and go.  Those moments remind me why I continue to ski.

Last year I froze on a steep narrow section of a run at Keystone.  Froze.  Couldn’t move.  Didn’t want to move.  The person who I was skiing with and receiving instruction from, told me I had to move as I was in the blind spot for the skiers and boarders who were flying down the mountain behind me.

But I can’t….

And that’s when he told me that there was nothing wrong with taking off my skis and walking down until it felt comfortable.

Absolutely not.  That was the beginning of the nudge I needed….

To that he added the advice of thinking of some of the scariest experiences I’ve encountered in life and obviously survived.  THEN point ’em down and GO!

I thought about the first time I flew an airplane by myself… not just take-offs and landings, but my first solo cross country flight (don’t be impressed by the “cross country” in that sentence… it was only across Highway 50 from the Johnson County Airport to the small airport in Warrensburg, then back again, but still…).  I thought about the fishing camp I worked at in Alaska and being stuck in the bath house with a brown bear outside, likely weighing in at over 1,000 pounds, scratching himself on the tar paper covering.  I thought about the first speech I had to give in college and having to set my notes down because my hands were shaking so much that the moving paper in my hands became the subject matter that had my audience captivated. Yes, that was just as scary as any big bear or being up in the air in a small plane by myself.

Enough already.   I pointed ’em down and skied.  And I didn’t die.

The next time I did that run, several days later, I couldn’t even find the spot that had scared me so much.

Life experiences pile on top of each other, changing where that point sits of being afraid and being brave, but it’s always there, and that kind of vulnerability, that facing life humbly in all of your nakedness and conquering, is where the growth is.  Funny though while finding myself in the jaws of heart-racing fear,  knowing that I’ll be stronger, wiser, bigger, better once on the other side, staying right where I am and skipping the growth, sounds just fine at the time.  Not being able to move can feel like a very safe place to be as there’s little danger in standing still, right?  Peace in the pause, or something like that.  Inertia and I have have palled around a lot together.

I skied my last run of the season yesterday on a sparsely populated mountain with wind,  blowing snow and a layer of confidence that was far too thin to be able to save me had I needed it to. Why did that happen when just a few days ago, I was invincible?  My instructor, Tiger, told me the other day that skiing is 80% mental, which I suppose would have to mean that you’re only operating 20% on a physical level (likely not the way the math works on this as 20% physical hardly seems like it could take you down the mountain… in any form), but his 80% mental words have proven themselves right as rain (or snow?) countless times for me.  I didn’t have enough of a positive swing on my mental 80% yesterday to get me down the mountain with grace, dignity and clothes on.  Nope, skiing when that 80% head talk is saying “you can’t do it…easy out,” puts me high on the vulnerability scale,  exposing my naked self to the mountain, other skiers and more importantly to myself.  I recognize that girl all too well and teeter between wanting to scoop her up and tell her it’s OK, to wanting to shake her by her shoulders so hard that her teeth rattle out of sheer frustration.

I don’t think it’s always a negative thing to end on a bad run.  It gives me the motivation to get back out there and get it right the next time, even if that next time is a season away.  I know that may be backwards thinking for some, but after skiing naked, you really do look forward to being able to put on some layers of confidence and flex some muscle at those taunting voices in your head that remind you that yes, you rarely hit the ball in softball, but is that 4th grade boy who humiliated you while you struck out, once again, on the mountain contemplating difficult runs while standing on a snow-covered mountains in skis?  Yea… that’s what I thought…

No, this is not a steep run… but isn’t it pretty?
Just point ’em down and go!
And she did….

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.