Colorado

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It rained and thundered much of the night, and we awoke to the hush of fog. Our drive to the grassland slow and deliberate, scarcely a car length ahead visible to our eyes. But it was warm, and countless unseen larks, scaled quails, and other birds sang in praise of morning. Turtles and frogs hopped along the roadside. Cows!

Then, as if it had been one shared dream, the fog lifted. We watched this hawk (a Swainson’s, I think) and another and another and another set out for breakfast, eyes steady on the plain.

The best surprise of the grasslands was learning about the canyons, places of respite for the weary bodies of my Comanche ancestors and any other body willing to make the journey. Countless more birds, and a billion insects to our party of three, all humming and buzzing, chirping and singing.

Most noticeable was the void of human sounds. We heard not one car, nor plane, nor voice, save our own, for hours, a sensation wholly magical and awe inspiring.

Then, on our roundabout drive home, we stopped at Bent’s Old Fort, a meticulously detailed recreation of the original. How fascinating to gain a clear glimpse of life in this place, some 180 years distant.

A banana cupcake with banana frosting, part of a set made Monday. A very fine end…

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Saturday morning, we sipped coffee outside, hats and sunglasses and shorts! I wandered the garden, to watch every little bit of life foisting itself into the world, quiet and furtive, in the case of weeds, loud with a fanfare of trumpets, in the case of flowers. How I love spring!

After our coffee and requisite a.m. pup stroll, we headed south, to Canon City. Which, is pronounced like canyon, not like an explosive cannon. I have heard this incorrect pronunciation a bit lately, and as a proud native citizen of Colorado, feel obliged to rectify it.

Anyhoo, I digress! My favorite Desert Canyon Farm is open for their brief retail window, and Greg and I took advantage of a beautifully warm Saturday to enjoy it. We bought all manner of plants: scarlet runner bean vines, hyssop, mint in two varieties, hot and mild peppers, kohlrabi, foxglove, rose, and more. We are thrilled, as always, to watch them grow.

The view just south of Desert Canyon Farm, with a glimpse of winter holding steady atop the Sangre de Christos.

After our plant buying extravaganza, we headed into town, originally intending just to stroll a bit and get Juniper’s wiggles out. Much to our surprise, it was Blossom Festival, with streets blocked in anticipation of a parade, and booths with people selling their wares.

There was also a Wild Bird booth! We were delighted to meet the Red Tailed hawk and diminutive Screech Owl, who was wet from a refreshing spritz of water. Both kept very watchful eyes on Juniper, who was rather to keen to play. Our girl will make friends with just about anybody!

Greg noshes on a fry pie, which was a bit like the McDonald’s pies of our youth, but much, much better. Larger, and positively bursting with blackberries before being fried to perfection, my word!

And for the best surprise of the day, we had some pretty darn fabulous Indian food in tiny Canon City! Chicken Tikka Masala, butter naan, and Keshari Kofta. The first two were most excellent, but the kofta, rather sadly, while tasty, was not as good as Mandeep’s bit of perfection at Portland’s India Oven. I keep trying!

How wonderful it was to walk about, snap photos, sit on a patio with Greg and Juniper and watch the world stroll by, anticipate the summer garden, buy honey and wonderful tinctures, nibble on pie. Almost Normal. Almost.

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A quintessential Colorado view, on high and down to the plains, probably to Kansas on a clear day.

Step back, if you will, to Friday, a gorgeous day for a drive. South to Florence, where you can wave at the Super Max and think upon what wild words are flowing from the disturbed mind of Ted Kaczynski. If he has a window view, regardless of direction, the surrounding country is rather fine. Buttes, bluffs, mountains, bleached earth, peregrine falcon sky. We wound through the Wet Mountains on the Frontier Pathways Scenic Byway, a joy for all the senses and early or perhaps late enough to spare us from the snail pace of campers inching their way to somewhere.

A late breakfast at Three Sisters, always a treat of kindly service and excellent fare, remarkable for the sparsely populated location and just shy of an I-25 Rest Stop.

Pueblo and the River Walk for part two of our adventure, with treats for humans and pups alike from Hopscotch Bakery. We shared the most delicious Pike’s Peak brownie and Juniper had her own dog biscuit. Woof!

Our wanderings took us to the stately Pueblo Union Depot with eye candy indoors and out, plus green grass and cool shade for pup lounging and cloud gazing.

Completely unrelated, but very much on rotation at this old house, some Fontaines D.C. A dream of every punk & 80s sound I ever obsessed over making a wonderfully raucous and genius band. A Hero’s Death…

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La Veta

Higway of Legends (Highway 12 portion) past Cuchara and winding to Trinidad is one splendid sight after another. Clear lakes swimming with fish and ringed with people eager to catch them. Dikes of the geological and monolithic variety punctuate the landscape and emphasize our small human stature. Old churches dot the highway, marking the old gathering places of dying and dead town squares. Then there are the scars of industry, long cold coke ovens and miles of their spent matter lining the landscape of aptly named Cokedale.

And to Trinidad, where we hoped for a quiet lunch at a recommended Italian spot but got a parade of highly imaginative vehicles instead. Juniper did NOT like the ruckus surrounding them, so we headed for tamer pastures.

Gray Jay

Cordova Pass bisects the Highway of Legends; it is entirely unpaved and definitely not for the faint of heart nor low clearance vehicle. It gave more marvelous candy for the eye, but oh, the bumps!!

 

The Apishapa (ah-pish-ah-paw) Arch bisects one of the hundreds of dikes that radiate from the Spanish Peaks. I was super keen on visiting, and taking a photo of its namesake river and valley to honor another set of Great Grandparents, Guadalupe and his wife Donaciana, who lived here at the time of the 1870 census. How I found myself in awe of the beautiful places my ancestors lived.

Quite the contrast in architecture, eh? Bubbles are a bold choice!

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Highway of Legends

Hola! This first photo is the view my Great-Grandma times four Esquipula Maes enjoyed from her property in Southern Colorado. How giddy I was, heart pitter-patter with excitement when I found the deed, dating from 1862. That was nothing compared to the feeling of my feet firmly planted and eyes taking in the beauty. And, oh, the wonderful scent of it, too. How wild the bonds of ancestry!

Jesusita Williams is my Great Grandmother times three and the source of my Comanche ancestry. She shares a headstone with my Great Grandpa Aaron, and is near her children Louis and Carmelita. I like to think these marvelous cliffs keep vigil over their graves.

I am holding a copy of the above photo, taken in almost the same location, with over a century between, my Great Uncle times four Jose de los Reyes is the bearded man with a baby on his lap. My ancestors ranched and farmed here and within a twenty or so mile radius, and Jesusita and Aaron are buried just down the road. I spent hours scouring Google maps to find this spot. More heart pumping excitement, I tell you!!

Hitchhiker

And now for the Highway of Legends portion of our journey.  A scenic byway by name, it is a spectacular unspooling of highway around the Spanish Peaks, with picturesque views for days and history aplenty. It was one of those “about time” adventures, having driven past La Veta and over its namesake pass countless times since we were children. The town is a wisp of a thing, with 800 residents at the last census, but enough to loudly cheer at a Friday night football game and support a fine grocery, bakery, booze stops, lovely galleries and tourist shops. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about Desert Expressions, where I laid claim to a finely crafted necklace and bracelet, very much of their place, sterling silver with turquoise and hand stamping. The owner was kindly and funny and let Juniper browse along with us. Our girl took the job seriously and was very well behaved.

Our guest house was wonderful and surrounded by well loved gardens, tended daily by their owner and keeper, Ernest, several cats (that’s Oscar above) and dogs. Juniper is pictured with an especially sweet playmate named Emma.

The ever patient hubster waits for me to “take my snaps.”

Do you see the faces of my ancestors?

More to come on Friday!

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