Monthly Archives: July 2015

Tuesday Talk: On Gratitude

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There is a common sentiment that floats around. I hear it from friends and family; I read about on blogs and in articles. It’s inevitable. It’s a part of life, a part of the human condition.

The sentiment?

Time passes too quickly.

We’ve all had that feeling before. The feeling where the days just pass by, the weeks, the months, the years. Suddenly life feels like a blur and we wish we could have slowed down, put on the brakes, and soaked it all up.

In my own experiences with this feeling, I’ve found only one solution.

Gratitude.

Each time you stop to look at a moment through the lens of gratitude- each time you realize your ‘luck’ at just being there- the moment extends. When you stop to really look at a moment, suddenly you’ve slowed down enough that you notice the sounds and smells around you, the way things feel. You see the moment with wonder. You wake up.

What got me thinking about this most recently was some unsavory weather conditions on a backpacking trip. All day I had been freezing, curled up in my sleeping bag in a hammock. Mid-afternoon, we found ourselves inside of a cloud, in the middle of an hours-long drizzle. No more fishing, no more sunning on a rock reading by the lake shore. But I kept realizing I was smiling. Being a human, and being that sometimes things like being cold make me grumpy, I started to wonder why it felt okay this time, why I felt so calm. I didn’t feel like our trip was ruined, not one bit.

The trees on the ridge looked beautiful in the high mist. The ploppy sound of the raindrops was funny. I could hear a distant stream gurgling, and it was calming. My body was so cold that I could feel every toe and finger, every muscle flexing to keep warm; the cool air on my cheeks reminded me of childhood nights playing outside so long that my cheeks felt this exact same way. The search for sun behind the clouds was hopeful.

There was absolutely nothing to do but sit there and notice the things around me. And I began to feel that all these things were good things after all: beauty, funniness, calm, childhood, hope. And I began to realize how lucky I was to be there in the rain to notice them all. What an ordinary and awesome moment.

It was gratitude sneaking up on me, reminding me of its effect. 🙂

Life is changing. Things are ending. Things are starting. Right now, and almost always. With this I wonder how long I’ll be able to so vividly recall that rainstorm, that time when my senses were so awake, when I felt like the luckiest person in the world just to be in the middle of it, thankful for that snippet of time.

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Overnight to Lake Evelyn and Horseshoe Lake

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Lake Evelyn

Lake Evelyn

Hiking Information:

Mileage: 2.49 to Lake Evelyn one-way; 6:10 to Horseshoe Lake one-way

Elevation:10,023 feet at trailhead; 11,158 feet at Lake Evelyn; 11,245 feet at Horseshoe Lake

To get there: Take Hwy 40 out of Winter Park toward Kremmling. Turn south on CR 3, then head left (east) on CR 32 (FSR 139). Follow CR 32 for 4.7 miles. Turn right at the sign for the Lake Evelyn trail, FSR 136. Follow the dirt road for 3.9 miles to the trailhead. CR 3 and CR 32 are well-maintained roads, and the road to the trailhead can be slightly rougher and rockier (still do-able in a Subura Legacy!)

With energy and momentum and five days in a row to play outside, we set out on our first backpacking trip of the year.

It seems to me that no matter how many times I go backpacking, the first trip of the year still finds me awkwardly packing, overpacking, and just plain forgetting where things fit best. So it was with slightly overloaded packs that we set off from the Lake Evelyn trailhead.

Our original intention was much loftier: to start from the Byer’s Peak trailhead, cut off at the Bottle Peak trail and drop down to Keyser Ridge and then Lake Evelyn. As we got glimpses of the backside of this route on our way up the Lake Evelyn trail, we were glad we took the easy route this time.

To reach Lake Evelyn, we climbed steadily for more than two miles through lush, green forest. This, and the wildflowers that are starting to pop out, are the result of an unusually wet Colorado summer. We could feel an unfamiliar humidity around us, and the shade of dark clouds passing overhead.

Upon arrival at the lake, we quickly realized we had it all to ourselves and took the long away around to find the designated campsites. This small lake is not Grand County’s most charming, but cozy and scenic nonetheless. The lake is backed on one side by Keyser Ridge, graggy and gray, and is otherwise surrounded by healthy forest.

Hearing early thunder, we quickly set up a tarp shelter and strung the hammock up below. Alex, excited at having seen quite a few fish in the lake, went off to fish while I took out my book. We were starting to understand why our packs were so heavy: a tarp, a hammock, books, fishing gear. But we can carry just about anything for two miles, we figured :).

Hanging out in the hammock with some hot tea, watching the rain fall.

Hanging out in the hammock with some hot tea, watching the rain fall.

We listened to this thunder roll for hours before sprinkles, and a subsequent 4 hour drizzle, came our way. Now the extra weight of that tarp and hammock were well worth it. Instead of laying flat on our backs in our little tent, we passed the hours swinging in the hammock, mosy-ing around under the shelter, attempting to perfect the angle of every rope and anchor so as to drain the rain properly off the tarp (Alex), and trying to stay warm with hot tea and whiskey. We hoped for sun; we looked for bright spots through the trees, but none ever came. A miraculous fire was started- three cheers for waterproof fire paste- , dinner was made, and then it was off to bed.

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The view from Keyser Ridge, above Lake Evelyn.

The view from Keyser Ridge, above Lake Evelyn.

We were lucky to have a dry night, and woke up to early sun coming through the trees, only to watch it disappear behind early clouds. A pancake breakfast, things shaken dry, packed up, and stashed in the woods. By mid-morning we were searching for the trail to Horseshoe Lake.

The trail from Lake Evelyn to Horseshoe Lake begins at the far end of Lake Evelyn, almost directly across the lake from where the trail to Lake Evelyn ends. It is faint at first as it climbs steeply away from the lake, but becomes more defined as it winds and climbs toward Keyser ridge. There is a sign on the ridge indicating the Keyser Ridge trail to the left and right and the Kinney Creek and Horseshoe Lake trail straight ahead. The Keyser Ridge trail is well-defined and easy to spot but the Kinney Creek/Horseshoe Lake trail is faint near the sign. Look directly behind the sign, walk from there and the trail become more defined. The first portion of this trail drops with no thoughts of hiking ease and liesure; we knew it was going to be a steep climb out. Dropping, dropping, dropping down the face of the hill, the trail eventually follows Kinney Creek. At the bottom of the hill, there is a sign indicating Kinney Creek trail, but no sign for Horseshoe Lake. However, there is a clearly defined trail to the left of the end of the Kinney Creek trail; this is the trail to Horseshoe Lake. For all of that coming down, we are now made to go back up to get to Horseshoe Lake! Ascending aside, this was slow-going due to the great amount of horsey damage done to the trail: erosion and mud and holes deep enough to swallow half a human leg. This trail climbs through lush, healthy forest as well, passes by multiple rock fields, and through two meadows that look up on the backsides of the mountains we look at from our porch. We sat only briefly at the lake to snarf lunch and wonder about the intent of yet another set of dark clouds.

Lunch at Horseshoe Lake

Lunch at Horseshoe Lake

But with our days in Grand County dwindling, we didn’t need the lure of perfect weather to get us out for this trip. We didn’t have a desire to accomplish anything, to conquer a peak or rack up miles. We just needed that faint promise of the mountains, that familiar feeling of being so in the mountains we forget about all the changes coming up, all the items on our to-do list. How lucky we are to just sit and watch the rain, listen to the thunder, hope for sun, and soak up the mountain magic.

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Hiking Info from Hiking Grand County, Colorado by Deborah Carr and Lou Ladrigan. And some photo cred to the wonderful Alex Romanyshyn!

Tuesday Talk: Popsicles and Portuguese

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We are in a tug of war right now: enjoy our dwindling time in the States as much as we can and simultaneously prepare for our upcoming departure to Mozambique. Be here, but be thinking about the near future…a lot. Enjoy the present, but prepare for what’s coming up. Between playing outside and packing boxes, spending time with family and spending time researching I think we are doing a pretty good job of balancing our tug of war.

Mostly, it’s manifesting in two ways: eating a lot of popsicles (and frozen treats of all varieties) and working every day on Portuguese.

That pretty much says it all.

As we begin to realize the many small things we will do without for two years- like frozen treats- we don’t hesitate at all to enjoy them almost daily.

And as we begin to realize the vastness of this upcoming change, we work on the one thing we can right now that we know will help us feel more comfortable in Mozambique: learning the language.

Happy Tuesday, and here’s to two and a half more months of happy treat-eating and independent language study.

Bike ‘N Hike: St. Louis Lake

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Biking/ Hiking Information:

One-Way Distance: Biking  3.01 miles, hiking 2.82 miles

Elevation: 9,520 feet at the biking trailhead, 11,532 feet at the lake

To get there: From hwy 40 out of Fraser, turn south on County Road 72- toward the tubing hills. Stay right at the fork. Follow the curve for. 3 miles and turn left on County Road 73, aka St. Louis Creek Road. Follow this road for 8.7 miles.

Bumping over rounded rocks, I think about my lifelong vague discomfort on the seat of a bike. I am tense and dodging, trying to keep up my speed on the steady uphill, but being slowed each time my tire rolls over another rock. I am on my lowest gears, and still struggling. I stop to clear mucus from my nose and throat, to open my lungs and catch my breath- I’ve never enjoyed a deep breath in the hunched posture that comes with biking.

This is not my favorite thing.

Certainly not on the way up, and not even really on the way down, when I find myself overcome with images of cracking bones on rock.

But still, I try.

And I suppose I am okay at mountain biking; I’ve never crashed (knock on wood!).

This close-to-home excursion to St. Louis Lake is my second mountain biking adventure of this summer. The way up always just sucks. But if I let go of the fear of falling, I find that I kind of like the way down 🙂

We bike for about 2.25 miles before crossing a small but quick stream that flooded over the trail this year. After .75 more miles, we are at the hiking trailhead, and stash our bikes in the woods before continuing on.

I am not sure how common the combined bike/hike trails are in other areas of Colorado, but there are quite a few near Fraser. The biking portions are usually on old dirt roads that were once open all the way up to the hiking trailheads. In an attempt to conserve this area for future use, the National Forest Service  began closing the roads further down so that the trails were harder to access and wouldn’t be overused. Part of me thinks that making things less accessible is just plain rude, the other part of me sees the reason for needing to limit how much these areas get tread on.

P1220706Anyhow, after the 3 miles of biking, walking just feels good and natural! The hiking portion of the trail starts out following the creek, and then continues to climb steadily, with short spurts that are steeper and short spurts that flatten out. We are happy that the trail is cool and shaded. In the last mile or so, we periodically cross patches of snow, left in this high country even in the last days of June. In contrast to this late-season snow, the wildflowers are beginning to bloom, dotting the forest with yellow and white and the occasional deep red. For this last mile, we are awarded views of the rocky peaks that back St. Louis Lake. After what feels like a long 3 miles, we reach the small lake, and notice immediately the thin patches of ice that are still floating around its surface.

From here we are up close and personal with the peaks that hug the lake, and are also able to enjoy more distant views of some of the mountains that create the eastern border of Grand County. Alone at the lake, we rest to take in the views and recharge with lunch and beer ( a little liquid courage for that bike ride down 😉 ). As we head down, we chat with two other women who are just arriving at the lake; the length of the trail certainly does keep this lake feeling somewhat remote.

Jaunting quickly downhill, we stop to peg the occasional snowball at each other and peek through the trees at the building afternoon storm clouds. We reach our bikes as sprinkles start coming down. I get on, keeping in mind the aggressive stance that Alex has taught me when bumping over obstacles. It’s a quick and blurry ride back to the car.

With lush forests and awesome views behind us, it was another grand day in the Grand County outdoors.

Hiking Info from Hiking Grand County, Colorado by Deborah Carr and Lou Ladrigan.