Thursday, October 28, 2010

It Takes Three

I've been struck with a rhinovirus.

I could tell you that I have a common cold, but "rhinovirus" sounds much more intriguing. Actually, the way this thing has hit me, I feel more like I was struck by a rhinoceros. I wish I owned a photograph of a rhinoceros, so I could post it here for emphasis, but rhinos don't inhabit Estes Park. Unfortunately, rhinovirus do. 

I've learned a lot about this nasty little bug the past five days. (How did we ever research anything before the internet?) The details would only bore you, so let's just leave it at this. . . I've got my netti pot, hot Tazo mint tea with lemonade and honey (a recipe given to me by my friend at Starbucks), a hefty supply of chicken noodle soup and orange juice (mucho gracias to my beloved husband), and a pile of books and movies. This rhinovirus is doomed.

Ok, enough of all that. Let's get down to business. I usually post weekly photos when I blog, but since I've been quarantined in our apartment the past five days, I haven't been able to get outdoors with my camera. However, I've been looking through my wildlife photographs and found these taken in Big Thompson Canyon about ten days ago. Do you think these Big Horn are making a statement?

Ok, ok. If you don't like that one, how about this photo of a lone ram?

I was thrilled to finally photograph Big Horn sheep. They are stunning animals.

Next week I hope to be back up in RMNP with my hubby, camera in tow. Speaking of my husband, while walking by a new store in town this morning, The White Orchid, a placard in the window caught his eye. The words about Christian marriage written by Tertullian, an early Christian author, made quite an impression on him. When he got home he told me what he had read, and we looked up the text on the internet. The words were written by Tertullian around 200 AD in a letter to his wife:

How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice.

They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in Spirit. They are in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit.

They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another.

Side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another, they never shun each other's company; they never bring sorrow to each other's hearts… Psalms and hymns they sing to one another.

Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present, and where He is, there evil is not.

We printed off the words and posted them on our refrigerator door. It's a visual reminder of the kind of marriage Dennis and I are committed to have. We can't do it by ourselves. Christ must be at the center of our  union. It takes three.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Peaceful Existence

Our peace shall stand as firm as rocky mountains. -- William Shakespeare

I've been thinking a lot about peace lately. Not as in world peace, but rather as it relates to me as an individual.  "Simple pleasures" has been a theme on this blog in the past, and I believe that it is the simple pleasures in life that help promote a peaceful existence. 

We certainly enjoyed a peaceful afternoon yesterday at the Red Barn Pumpkin Farm in Eaton, Colorado. 

The owners, friends of ours, sent us home with a nice collection of pumpkins and other Fall goodies. 

As much as we enjoy trips to the Front Range, it always feel good to get back home. Dennis commented yesterday that we're "mountain people", and I have to agree. There's just something about high altitude living that appeals to us. We enjoy the peaceful environment and count ourselves fortunate to be so close to Rocky Mountain National Park, which never disappoints.  

Take this morning, for instance. We grabbed our Starbucks and drove to the Park, arriving just as the sun was coming up.

The red glow through the golden aspen was stunnng.

I was very excited to see this bull and his harem. It's the largest herd I've seen to date. Dennis says he's seen harems as large as 700, about 10 times larger than this one.

We had seen this crowd earlier, but the herd was so spread out then that I couldn't get a good shot of all of them together. 

I did enjoy snapping this photo of a few of the cows in the water, though.

While photographing the herd, I noticed another bull approaching the harem. He had been bugling from a distance, but now was closing in on the cows. The defending bull made a beeline for the challenging bull.

The challenger left with little fanfare. (Hey, let's face it. The defending bull didn't get a harem this size on charm alone. He had to be a formidable opponent.) 

Now the owner of the harem begins bugling to round up his girls. (I wonder if this guy gets any peace.)

On the outskirts of the herd, the young bulls -- or "spikes" as they're called -- spar and hang out together. Their time will come. (The spike hunkered down in the grass looks pretty peaceful.)

These beautiful rose hips in Endovalley spoke peace to me.

"Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." 2 Peter 1:2

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Life Like a Vacation

Yesterday's morning jaunt to Rocky Mountain National Park reminded me, again, why I love living here.

Barely in the Park ten minutes, we spied these two bucks on the mountainside.

The gloriously gold aspen greeted us.

Majestic snow-capped mountains tower over Endo Valley.

The Alluvial Fan showed its lovely Autumn colors.

Not to keen on being photographed, this spike made a run for it.

This bull elk didn't seem to mind the camera at all.

When I came back a little later, he watched me from his resting spot in the grass. 

A magnificent fenced-off area of Endo Valley soothed our souls. 

Mallards, nestled in a far corner of the water, pleasantly surprised us.

Trees clothed in Fall finery lined the drive back to Estes Park.

This morning we ate breakfast at The Other Side restaurant. Our twenty-something server, from Texas, has resided in Estes five years. We asked him how he likes living here. He grinned, looked out the window next to us, and waved his hand toward the mountains. "It's a great place to live," he gushed. "Every morning I wake up and get to see all this.  I feel like I'm on vacation every day."

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Lefty Gets A Lesson From Bud On Butting

I love it when something completely unexpected happens on an ordinary day. Today was one of those days.

It started early this morning as Dennis and I were on our way to RMNP for our daily devotions. We noticed cars pulled over to the side of the road. In Estes Park this can only mean one thing. . . WILDLIFE. Somewhere nearby is an elk, bear or other member of the animal kingdom in a Kodak moment. This is why I try to never leave home without it. My camera that is. 

As soon as I saw the objects of the traffic jam, I grabbed my trusty Olympus while Dennis executed a U-turn for a better camera angle. Once positioned, I snapped a photo of two butting bulls, right in front of us.

Now the thing that's really interesting about these particular butting bulls is that they are not fighting. I know, I know, it looks like they are fighting, but trust me. . . they aren't. What they are doing is more like sparring. The bull on the right is gently pushing the bull on the left across the highway. Slowly. Very slowly. And the bull on the left is obliging. He's not putting up a fight at all. When we first saw the pair, they were in the grassy area on the far right of the photo, engaged in what appeared to be practice butting. Turning their heads to the left, then to the right. Gingerly locking and unlocking their racks. No signs of aggression. 

Here's something else that's interesting. Lefty has lost one of his antlers. You probably can't see it in the photo, but his left antler is gone. At some point in time, he lost an antler to a stronger bull. But I don't think it was this one. My theory is that Lefty got clobbered in a fight, found his buddy on the right, whom I shall refer to as "Bud", and told him what happened. Now Bud, being the outstanding friend that he is, takes Lefty aside and teaches him the art of self-defense. Lefty will be better prepared for the rut next year. 

Take it or leave it, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

When the Grass Looks Greener

Sometimes you have to leave home to appreciate it.

Dennis and I left our homestead in Estes Park on September 14 to embark on a seven day driving excursion along the Western Slope. Mix two parts wanderlust with one part curiosity over lower real estate prices in other parts of Colorado, and you've got a surefire recipe for hitting the road. So, with our packed bags in the trunk and new red Rubbermaid cooler in the back seat of the Honda, we headed south on Route 36 to Boulder, where we picked up I-70. We lunched in Idaho Springs and then drove through Vail and points west to Glenwood Springs (known for its natural hot springs).. At a rest stop just outside of town, we stretched our legs and I photographed the surrounding area.

Then we took Route 82 to 133 at Carbondale.  A detour on winding, bumpy Avalanche Creek Road, off Route 133, took us to a beautiful wooded valley with a lovely stream. Dennis painted a watercolor there.

I planted myself near the creek.

Water like crumpled cellophane wrapped itself around copper rocks and washed over smooth purple stones, sending ripples out to the pebbled beach.

From Avalanche Creek we drove to Redstone, a charming village sixty miles south of Carbondale. We stayed overnight at The Redstone Inn.

After a delicious complimentary breakfast the next morning, we drove about six miles south to a spot on Crystal River. Dennis painted while I took photos and worked on chapter twelve of my novel.

Several hours and one watercolor later, we broke camp and drove on to Marble, known for its prized, snowy white Yule Marble.  

Both the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were constructed using this amazing metamorphic rock. At one time Marble was the third largest industrial city in Colorado, but the marble market died during WWII and the Colorado Yule Marble Company with it. We toured the fascinating ruins of the Marble Mill Site.

We were the only people at the site, and I have to admit at times it felt a little creepy.

Maybe it's the writer in me -- a vivid imagination -- but the setting seemed perfect for a Stephen King story. 

I expected something ominous to jump out at me from behind the marble monolith partially hidden in the trees. I'm just happy we were there in early afternoon and not in the evening. Picture this place on a cloudy, full-moon night; wolves howling in the background

From Marble we drove through McClure Pass on Route 133 to Paonia and Hotchkiss. We stopped to photograph Beaver Ponds, west of the McClure Pass summit.

We picked up Route 92 at Hotchkiss and drove to Route 65, where we headed north  to Cedaredge. Farms on the mesas there are lush and bountiful. After a great dinner at RJ's Steakhouse in Cedaredge and a good night's sleep in a mom and pop motel, we drove south to the Stockyard restaurant in Delta. Great breakfast and a delightful waitress. Farmers and ranchers all around us. The parking lot, especially, had a country ambience.

From Delta we drove to Montrose via Route 550. After a couple of hours in a real estate office looking at property listings, we tipped our hats and traveled on to Ouray, where we had lunch. After a walking tour of the quaint little town, we found a shady spot with a view. Dennis painted a watercolor and I wrote.

Next stop Silverton, for a "Thee Pitts - Again" BBQ takeout. We enjoyed great pulled pork sandwiches, scarfed down on the way out of town. See, it was late in the day and our overnight destination of Durango loomed over an hour away. Just outside of Silverton we photographed an abandoned mining camp.

The first half hour of the drive from Silverton to Durango gave me a bit of the heebie-jeebies. It's a two-lane highway with steep drop-offs and no guardrails. Dennis kept pointing out the beautiful sites below, to which I replied, "Honey, I absolutely cannot look down. This is freaking me out." I kept my eyes straight ahead until the road had properly twisted around the mountains to where the drop offs were on the side of the opposing traffic. Whew! That was close.

By the time we reached Durango, we were exhausted. We found a little motel just inside the city and hunkered down for the night. The next morning we drove downtown and found a great place for coffee and bagels, "The Durango Coffee Company". We took our coffee and food "to go" and headed for the train station. 

The Durango and Silverton Narrow Guage Railroad train has run continuously for 128 years. Now it is strictly a tourist train, but originally it carried passengers and supplies to the gold and silver mines in the San Juan Mountains, and brought the ore back. The locomotive is steam powered. I enjoyed watching the conductors board the excited passengers into the cars. 

I found the anachronism of the engineer drinking a Starbucks coffee too fascinating to ignore. 

From Durango we drove east on Route 160 to Bayfield. We had discovered a house on the river there, through an online real estate site, that we wanted to check out. Kind of a funky place that most people probably wouldn't consider, but it was just the kind of thing we like. As it turned out, we couldn't see the house until the next day, so after lunch we drove to Mancos to check out an art gallery and then back to Durango for the night. An Artwalk was scheduled for that evening, so we strolled through the galleries, and later enjoyed a Chinese dinner. The next day we saw the house. We were tempted, but the price held us back. The deer seemed a little sad to see us go.
After our Bayfield appointment in the morning, we got back on Route 160 and traveled farther east to Pagosa Springs (another hot springs location). We managed to work in some creative time along the way at the border of the Ute Reservation in the Chimney Rock region. 

Dennis surveyed the landscape before finding the perfect scene for a watercolor.

I found a shady spot to sit and write.

We arrived in Pagosa Springs in the afternoon and set up real estate appointments for the next day. Then it was off to an al fresco dinner at Alley House Grille. What a meal! Wow! We shared the humongous house salad and the Ahi tuna. Excellent food. 

After viewing several homes the next day, with no success, we traveled on to La Veta via Route 160. Not far out of Pagosa Springs we came to Treasure Falls. Definitely a photo op.

Later that day we arrived in La Veta, a very pretty, little Southern Colorado town nestled in the foothills of the Spanish Peaks. I had spent a good deal of time learning about La Veta and searching the real estate listings online before we left Estes Park. Dennis is pretty familiar with the town and he looked forward to showing me around. We first drove to Cuchara in the San Isabel mountains, about fifteen minutes away. 

Then it was back to La Veta for a driving tour of the town. Since the town's population is less than 1,000, the tour didn't take too long. We got a room at The Ranch House Inn and, along with our room key, received an invitation to a special church service featuring a guest singer. The church building happened to be conveniently located right behind the motel, so we accepted. It turned out the service was really a concert and personal testimony. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to eat dinner before the event started, and about an hour and a half later we got up and left to find some food. The La Veta Inn seemed to be the only restaurant open, so that's where we ate. It took awhile for our food to arrive, so we munched on cornbread muffins while we waited. The grilled chicken salads we had ordered were pretty tasty.

The next morning we found a real estate office and arranged to view a number of homes the following day. We spent another night at The Ranch House and ate -- where else? -- at The La Veta Inn. 

Before our meeting  the next day, we drove to a nearby gas station to get some breakfast. Yes, I said "gas station" and "breakfast" in the same breath. Seems most restaurants there don't serve breakfast and the bakery, which does serve coffee too, is only open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  (I began to think we were in Mayberry.) On the way to the real estate office we spied a fox. A real beauty.

We looked at a number of homes. I'm guessing ten total, from victorian to contemporary.There are some great deals to be had in La Veta right now. The last house we toured, just a few blocks from downtown, seemed to meet our needs. Heading back to Estes on I-25, which we picked up in Walsenburg, Dennis and I discussed the possibility of relocating. It seemed like a good move. 

After we were home for a couple of days and had spent time praying about our decision, it became clear that we should just stay put. We live in a beautiful setting and there seems to be no reason to make a major change at this time. Our motivation for purchasing a home now is the low interest rates. We haven't found anything here within our financial resources that meets our needs, and we don't want to overspend. Still, is that reason to go elsewhere? Maybe we'll feel differently later, but for now Estes Park is home and we will continue to "count it all joy" while we wait for the Lord to direct us.

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:12-13