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Thirty-Six II

Sun and steam rising at the hot springs. They have teepees and a geodesic dome and positively stunning views, all the live-long day.

A jaunt to Crestone, where the views are equally stunning! I love the time someone took to cut and paint trees, hearts, apples, and that sweet bird in the fence. We were fortunate enough to visit on market day, buying a delicious smoked trout quiche (locally caught!), a chocolate coconut bar, and organic Palisade peaches (the best!). Our wandering also brought us to the Crestone Artisans Gallery where we bought a painting of Mount Challenger. It’s a beauty!

Jangchub Chorten

Stupa of Enlightenment

Sipping iced lattes (with cubes made from coffee – the tops!) at the Mirage Trading Post in Moffat. What a sweet spot. In addition to fine service and beverages, they have some really beautiful art. Had we not already treated ourselves in Crestone, I would have made a purchase.

These funny sculptures were at a gas station along Colorado 17. There were two boys, probably about twelve years old, mowing the lawn, one teaching the other. It was incredibly sweet to witness.

Rough Mountain and Mount Maestas

The Spanish Peaks

Alamosa

U S A !!

 

Thirty-Six I

Thirty-six hours, that is, driving, hiking, soaking, exploring; me and the hubster, the hubster and me. Part one begins in Florissant, at the Fossil Beds National Monument. Did you know there were giant redwoods in Colorado a bajlllion (maybe a slight exaggeration) years ago? The above photo is two fine specimens fossilized by the mud flow of a serious volcanic eruption. By expert estimation, the trees were 230 feet tall and 500 – 700 years old. Jeepers. There are others, but they didn’t photograph terribly well. Sigh.

These flowers appear much, much smaller in person. T I N Y.

Abert Squirrel on the run!

Adeline Hornbek Homestead. A real go-getter, Adeline lost two husbands and two homes, but managed, at a time when women rarely owned property, to purchase 160 acres and successfully homestead. Impressive!

Look at the clouds.

Quite possibly my favorite mountain town.

Fuzzy!

These caterpillars will turn into Milkweed Tussock Moths

Emphasis is M I N E. View from our door at Joyful Journey Hot Springs. GO!

I added this photo, not because it is beautiful (definitely not), but for the story. When I peered out the window of our rented room to see if any stars were out, there was a GIANT Great Horned Owl perched on the dead branch of a tree. I hollered (excited-like, not mean-like) at the hubster that we should skeedaddle outside so he could enjoy it, and I could photograph it. The moment I raised my camera, it was off like a shot. Dinner was calling, apparently.

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One week ago, in the great state of Colorado, we took three whole days off from housework. No painting, sawing, digging, cleaning, washing, shoveling, building, or destroying. It hardly seemed believable, zooting the Mini down our sleepy street before the sun had fully risen. Westward we drove, snaking through the canyons and park lands, highways 24 and 9 and 40. Clouds low and clinging, hushing the bold landscapes of granite, evergreen, sage, and tumbleweed, a nod to Portland, an old chapter blanketing this new one.

There are pages older than Portland, too – disparate parts merging and diverging, all these stories in one lifetime. Lake Dillon, glittering and beautiful, I watched it as a child, over days, seasons, and years, barefoot and happy on Ptarmigan Mountain. So much is different now, so many more people, so many more houses, so many more cars, but that lake and my memories of it, remain unchanged. I like that.

We stayed at the Hot Sulphur Springs, not-at-all fancy but wonderful, the smell lingering, in my hair, on my skin, until Wednesday. Of the nineteen pools, we had two favorites, soaking and floating for hours upon hours, daylight to the glow of sunset to darkness and stars. We loosened every muscle and forgot every care, at least for a while. We met a doe and her fawn at our window, bid them good moring and good day, conversed with a boy full of curiosity, befriending the tiniest of snakes. I laughed and dipped my toes in the Colorado. The two of us slept like the dead. And you bet we had a slice of pie, our backsides parked on a curb like a couple of kids.

And nature, always dazzling, the bees feasting on thistle, and that tiny creature (a vole?), recent lunch for some bird of prey, nose and whiskers still intact.

Homeward bound and the beautiful Gore Range. A shame to my native state, I am not a Bronco fan, AT ALL, and would rather make a fence out of skis than actually ski. But I will cheer on a burro race in Leadville and feast on burrito after burrito, any where, any time. This was in Buena Vista. Indeed.

Missouri to Nebraska, that is, and day two of our glorious drive west. That’s the Mississippi River, running swift and high, high, high. And the view of it? One and the same Samuel Clemens A.K.A. Mark Twain had when he was a boy in Hannibal. How cool is that? Hannibal is a charmer of a town, with many of the buildings from Mark Twain’s day in fine repair and available for touring, though not on New Year’s Day at ten in the morning, for your information. We did enjoy fine hospitality and good coffee at the Java Jive, however.

Whoa Nelly! The shadow of the Mini looks rocket powered with our roof rack, zooming through the golden plains to Lincoln. The capitol building is the second tallest among America’s fine fifty. Isn’t she a beauty?

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Me and my best love, our drive west and the Mini packed tight. We had seven suitcases, three tote bags, one duffel bag, one milk crate, one Vitamix (nestled between us in the arm rest!), one computer monitor, one fire extinguisher, and one gallon of laundry detergent! The heavy burden made our car 10 miles per gallon less efficient and injured my right arm so terribly that I could not move it AT ALL for three days. Oof. But boy howdy, was it worth it! We are home. And what a marvelous drive we had, missing every bit of bad weather. We saw not one snowflake nor rain drop fall, and were treated to some of the most gorgeous landscapes America has on offer. My love for this great country has been galvanized further still, yes ma’am.

And the little white house, off of Sangamon Avenue in Springfield, Illinois, is where my Grandma Tess was born and my Great Aunt Mary lived until she was well into her seventies. Two adults, eight children, and who knows how many pets made their home in this wee two bedroom one bath. By some great stroke of luck, the current owner was sweeping the porch when we pulled up, and I asked him if we could go inside. He kindly obliged, and we spent the better part of the next hour sharing stories. Sadly for me, but great for the house, it is under renovation, with plastic and tarps obscuring the majority of the space. Thankfully, there was enough exposed to get a feel for it and my Grandma’s spirit in it, to see relatives I’ve only known in pictures puttering about, gazing out the window while washing a dish. Part of me is there now, too.

And Lincoln! It’s turned out to be quite a year for Colleen, Greg, and good ole Abraham. Gettysburg and Springfield – the train station from which he made many journeys and his final return, his law office, the old state capitol building where he worked, just one of many bronze monuments. And his crypt, which, wow, and hmmm, what to say? Evocative. If you have never been, go. Just go.

It was a sleepy New Year’s Eve, with us full up on sentimentality and hypnotized by a murmuration swirling about the capitol dome (that bit that looks like a smudge). The beat of wings the only sound we heard.

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