Sorbet for the Soul, Giant Wishes!

There we were, hiking down a trail in Meyer Ranch, Colorado this summer, when we came upon a meadow with the largest dandelions I’d ever seen. It’s like the universe was saying, “Hon, writing and publishing Kidlit is such a herculean ask, you need wishes big enough, loud enough, and strong enough to be carried all the way from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast. Take a deep breath and blow!”

Turns out the palm-sized puffballs aren’t dandelions, but Western Salsify whose flowers looks like a yellow daisies. Soon after, we met the infamous llamas, Stardust and OnFire, and that chance meeting was even more spectacular than hiking in the Rockies, discovering golfball-sized dandelion lookalikes, listening to the click-click-click of a flying grasshopper, passing an elderly man hiking uphill with a cannula and portable oxygen, and saying hi to many happy dogs with their people.

Then, a week ago I was on a run and stopped mid-stride to take a pic. I asked the homeowner if he’d put “Don’t Give Up” out just for me and he said, “If that’s what you need…”

It is. It’s what I need.

So, in an effort to take a deep breath and blow my wishes and energy and thoughts and words and characters and layers and stories all the way from my imagination to the page to childrens’ imaginations, I’m posting a series called Sorbet for the Soul–photos and sentiments along with literal and figurative signs which beg for my attention.

Maybe if I take a moment to blow giant wishes and absorb messages and do the thing that informs my life–finding the extraordinary in the ordinary–my herculean ask will one day soon come to fruition.

Western Salsify flower, image source: Wildflowers of the United States.

Advertisement

Llama Drama–Photo Story of Rue and Stardust

OnFire and Stardust in CO

After hiking in Meyer Ranch, CO, my daughter, aunt and I got the best surprise–we met two big, beautiful llamas. We had lots of questions! Their names? Where did they live? What were they doing at Meyer Ranch? Were they friendly? Could we pet them? And what about the chihuahuas?

Answers? The dogs are Ruth and Charlie while the llamas have magical names–Stardust and OnFire! The llamas go on regular hikes up the mountain. Stardust looks forward to meeting new people, and if she doesn’t see any she expresses her disappointment by humming. OnFire is skittish, would rather not be pet, and won’t let her “dad” trim her bangs. Ruth and Charlie don’t mind the llamas, but they aren’t big fans of the attention the llamas receive–lol!

As we asked questions, hikers and dogs passed by. A German Shorthaired Pointer named Rue didn’t know what to make of the peculiar animals standing in the meadow.

Rue: “What are you?”

Stardust: “A llama. Want to say hi?”

Rue: “I’m not sure. Do you bite?”

Stardust: “No, and I don’t spit.”

Rue: Sniff.

Stardust. Sniff.

Rue: “Oh, you’re a llama!”

Stardust: “That’s what I said, but I’m friendly. Really!”

Rue: “Nice to meet you.”

Stardust: “Nice to meet you, too.”

Rue: “THERE’S ANOTHER ONE?!”

Top Ten Cool Facts About Lake Dillon, CO & an Underwater Ghost Town

Citizens of the town on Dillon, Colorado, in Summit County stand along a boardwalk in front of commercial storefronts. c. 1887. (Photo: Denver Public Library)
A house moving from Old Dillon to the new townsite (Courtesy: Dr. Sandra Mather Archives and Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, from the Summity Historical Archives)

“Kayaking on Lake Dillon, CO” shows the lake of today–beautiful, serene, and surrounded by statuesque mountain ranges. Before posting, I wanted to find fun facts but had no idea I’d learn about a town originally built as a “stage stop and trading post” for pioneers heading west. And I had no idea that town became an “underwater ghost town!”

Pretty cool, hon!

Ten Fun Facts About Lake Dillon, CO and its History

  1. Lake Dillon is a large, fresh water reservoir located in Summit County, CO.
  2. The reservoir, which supplies water for the city of Denver, has approximately 3,233 surface acres of water and can hold 83 billion gallons of water.
  3. Over 26 miles of shoreline surround the lake.
  4. Lake Dillon is nestled along the Ten Mile and Gore Mountain ranges and bordered by the towns of Dillon, Frisco, and Silverthorne.
  5. The mountains top out above 14,000 feet.
  6. Construction of the dam that was built to create Dillon Reservoir began in 1961 and was completed in 1963.
  7. The entire town of Dillon, Colorado, and a hydroelectric plant were relocated to build the dam.
  8. The town’s cemetery and more than 300 graves were moved before construction of the dam started.
  9. The Old Town of Dillon actually sits at the bottom of Lake Dillon.
  10. Dillon is nearly 60 miles west of Denver and on the other side of the Continental Divide, so a tunnel was built to get the water from the reservoir to the city.

Mountain town to railroads to dams to a tunnel that took 18 years to complete.

Old Dillon

In 1960, the town of Dillon was bustling. Home to 814 residents, it was the largest town in Summit County. But, it also needed to move.

The Denver Water Board wanted to create a new dam and the place where Dillon sat would eventually be 250 feet under water. So, they moved the town. For the fourth time.

Dillon was originally built as a stage stop and trading post in the 1880s. At that time, it was on the northeast side of the Snake River in the Blue River Valley. The town, named after prospector Tom Dillon, was officially incorporated in 1883.

But when the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad expanded into the area, it bypassed Dillon. Wanting to be closer to the tracks and therefore have a better chance to survive and grow, the town was relocated to the western side of the Blue River.

Not long after, a second railroad arrived from the northeast. Again hoping to make it easy for expansion the town moved for a second time. This town site, established in 1892 at the confluence of the Blue River, Snake River and Tenmile Creek, allowed for one train station for both rail lines.

By the early 1900s, the Denver Water Board recognized it needed to do something to meet the growing needs of the expanding city. Eventually they decided on damming the Blue River and diverting water to Denver.

The board bought water rights for the Blue River Valley and slowly began buying land. During the Great Depression, many Dillon residents were not able to pay property taxes so sold their property to Denver Water for back taxes. They also bought land on a hillside along what would soon be the shore of the new reservoir for the new town.

By 1956, the remaining residents were told they had to sell and be out by September 1961. On Sept. 15 of that year, the process to relocate Dillon for the fourth and final time began.

Moving the town of Dillon

Those who wanted to move homes and businesses from the Old Dillon to the new town site were responsible for paying for the cost to transport those buildings. So, many decided not to and instead began rebuilding or simply moved away. However, a few did choose to make the move. At least 10 homes were uprooted and relocated to the New Town of Dillon. A new cemetery was purchased near the new town site and more than 300 graves were moved.

Once everything that was going to be moved was, the remaining buildings were demolished and construction of the dam was ready to begin.

Dillon Dam construction

Construction on the Dillon Dam officially began in 1961 and was completed in 1963. The idea was to divert water from the Blue River Basin, store it in the massive reservoir and transport it to Denver when needed.

The only problem was that Dillon is nearly 60 miles west of Denver and on the other side of the Continental Divide. Denver Water’s solution? A tunnel.

The 23-mile Roberts Tunnel, the longest underground tunnel of its kind, was drilled between Dillon and Grant, on the other side of the [Continental] Divide. It took 18 years for crews boring from each end to meet in the middle.

When water is needed, it flows from the reservoir, through the tunnel and into the South Platte River, which feeds into Denver’s water supply.

Amanda Kesting, Caitlin Hendee (Denver Business Journal)

Sources: Town of Frisco, Colorado.com, Denver Business Journal, 9 News

Horseback Riding in Montserrat, Spain

Trail ride at Three Rivers Ranch, Spain

On our excursion to Montserrat, my family hiked half a day and rode horses the other half. We descended the mountain and arrived at Three Rivers Ranch where we met Juan, a Spanish cowboy. His primary focus is his cattle which explains the variety of cows lazing in the sun adjacent to the stables. We learned that he leads trail rides as a way to exercise the horses. We enjoyed getting to know our horses’ personalities and learning best riding practices.

The beautiful countryside that is part of Montserrat National Park reminded me of Tuscany– rolling hills, vineyards, and gorgeous landscapes in every direction. Hon, I felt grateful that the day worked out so well, and that Hubby and I had an opportunity to share a full, active day with three of our four kids. We all love adventure, exploring, and being outdoors.

Writing this post reminds me of other trail rides, one of which was local and a great activity with tweens and teens. (info on that coming soon…)

Hon, do you like to horseback ride?

Hiking Montserrat, Spain

Montserrat, Spain.

Montserrat’s trails are rocky, sunny, and steep. Hon, I needed to catch my breath! We were lucky to be accompanied by a guide who knows the mountain well enough to re-route us when paths were blocked. You know what we saw? Mountain goats resting in the shade. The multi-peaked mountain range overlooks Catalonia and reaches 1,236m (4,055 feet) at its highest summit, Sant Jeroni. The other two main peaks are Montgrós at 1,120m and Miranda de les Agulles at 903m. 

The geology and nature of Montserrat Mountain Range are unusual and to preserve it, a nature park was established in 1987. In Mesozoic era, over 100 million years ago, the mountain top was under water, part of a delta area, and the sediments in the present day rock pillars were in the bottom of a river and lake. After the lake and river dried, the area was exposed to erosion, and over a long period of time, the mountain with several peaks formed.

Not just the geology is uncommon, but also the climate up in the mountain is unique, with different micro-climates. Wildlife of the park includes mammal like squirrels, boars and goats, a wide range of different birds, bats and geckos. Vegetation varies from oak forests to small flowery meadows, and altogether there are over 1250 species of plants.

Finnsaway
Climbing a vertical, rocky path.

Rock Formations, Montserrat, Spain

Montserrat, Spain

One of the highlights of traveling to Spain was hiking Montserrat. If I had more time, I would have loved to visit the historic monastery on the other side of the mountain. Montserrat, which means jagged mountain, “has had religious significance since pre-Christian times. Before Christ, a temple was built [there] by the Romans to worship Venus.”

“Miracles are attributed to the Black Madonna found in the 12th century, which is still the destination of pilgrimages today. The monastery owed its strong growth to these ascribed miracles. The basilica of the monastery was built in the 16th century, in the transition period between Gothic and Renaissance. The Black Madonna is kept in the basilica.” (Barcelona.de)

This mountain is home to one of the most important religious sites in Spain. A residence for the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, the mountain is visited not only by those seeking spiritual rewards but also by those looking for one of the most spectaculars views of Catalonia. The history of Montserrat goes back to 880 when a group of shepherd children saw a bright light descending from the sky in the Montserrat mountains.

The monks are also the owners of the Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, a publishing house that continues to operate today. It is the oldest press in the world, having published its first book in 1499. Music lovers will appreciate L’Escolania choir, a boys’ choir of sopranos and altos based at the Benedictine abbey. They perform every day at the Basilica of Montserrat.

Trip Advisor
Image source: © Jorge Franganillo

The rivers that formed the delta carried large rocks and pebbles that gathered in the delta itself, as did limestone as a result of decaying organic material. Then, some 25 million years ago, there was a shift in the earth’s plates resulting in the sea being pushed further out and the area around Montserrat being pushed upwards. As a result, the land was exposed to air, leaving the formation of rocks and limestone to suffer the effects of the weather.

Over the course of the next few million years, the rainwater and wind carved shapes into the limestone, which was relatively soft compared to the stone, producing the incredible system of curves and peaks that is Montserrat today.

The Culture Trip

Serene Scenes, Big Sur

Rushing River. Gentle Giants.

Right after New Year’s, I started a series of posts called Serene Scenes with the intention of “keeping the fresh air and wonder of nature’s beauty inside me.” I hope to find many more places to slow down, take deep breaths, and concentrate on my thoughts and wishes. I’ll share them when I do.


Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Hubby and I were hoping to see redwoods, but where? “On the western slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains, the peaks of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park tower high above the Big Sur River Gorge, where the Big Sur River enters this popular park. Walk along the banks of the river and among the redwoods, conifers, oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, maples, alders and willows.” CA.Gov

The Big Sur River “is a relatively small river added to the federal system by Congress in 1992, as part of the Los Padres Condor Range and Rivers Act, which protected 84 miles of wild and scenic rivers and more than 400,000 acres of wilderness in California’s iconic central coast region.” https://www.calwild.org/portfolio/fact-sheet-big-sur-wild-scenic-river/

Hiking through the park, we marveled at “Colonial Tree,” which has a circumference of 31 feet and is estimated to be between 1,100 and 1,200 years old. Many more of these astoundingly tall trees tower up and out of the forest canopy.

I loved the redwoods and felt the gentle giants had stories to tell. Before we walked down a path at the end of our hike, we came across a stand of redwoods set up on a hill. Thick undergrowth covered the ground, so I climbed on top of stones and stumps until I stood high up in the middle of the trees. I touched their warm, bumpy ridges and listened. It felt like they were listening to me, too, even though I hadn’t spoke a word.

For all the panoramas, beaches, cliffs, parks, Big Sur is inseparable from the majesty of the Redwoods. Beyond their might and height, the Redwoods are a spiritual presence. Often they grow in circles as if a family, and form a center that seems to drain all sound of man and forest. You stand in the center of a grove and the stillness is almost mystical. If you have never experienced what we describe, make sure to never pass a grove on a hike, go inside it, sit on a log, close your eyes. It will change you. 

Outspoken Traveler

Hon, have you seen redwoods? What did you think?

Serene Scenes, Pacific Coast Highway

Ocean, land and sky meet for miles on the West Coast.

Iconic Roadway. Gorgeous Vistas.

Happy New Year! I’m starting this year’s posts with views from my recent trip to California. The ribbon of highway that’s Route 1 hugs the mountains while topping dramatic cliffs that drop down to the Pacific Ocean. We of the East Coast (Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York Connecticut) aren’t used to seeing undeveloped coastline. The drive is breathtaking.

I’m hoping to keep the fresh air and wonder of nature’s beauty inside of me, to breathe deeply and visualize whenever I need to slow my heartbeat and find some moments of inner peace.

Wishing you the same, hon.

California’s coast-hugging Highway 1 is what dream drives are made of. The iconic roadway—which extends for more than 650 miles from Dana Point north to Leggett—offers endless vistas overlooking the Pacific, with plenty of redwood trees and wildlife sightings along the way. The most well-known (and photographed) stretch runs along California’s Central Coast from Santa Barbara to Monterey, passing by the unspoiled coastline of Big Sur.

VisitCalifornia.com

Emeralds and Angels, Hiking in Zion (Part 1)

Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park, Utah

Researching Zion, I came up with an itinerary. In the morning, we would hike the Narrows and, in the afternoon, we’d go canyoneering.

Hiking the Narrows means hiking in water through slotted canyons. Even though large rocks line the bottom of the river, we’d be dressed properly, carry tall walking sticks, and be guided by an experienced hiker. We picked up our waterproof boots and Neoprene socks at Zion Outfitter the day before, so we’d be ready to roll at 7am the next day.

One problem. It rained overnight. A lot.

The Parks Service closed the Narrows because the water level was too high. The usually clear, shallow water was now brown, swirling, strong, and deep. Even if the Park Service opened up the Narrows later, which it did, we had to make a decision. We decided to hike Emerald Pools and Angels Landing.

One more problem. Back at home, when I showed Hubby a video of hikers on Angel’s Landing, his breathing turned rapid. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “It’s just a video.” “I have no interest in hiking that!” he replied. Yet, there we were.  With Plan A shelved, it was time for Plan B.

Look what we saw on the trail.
Look what we saw on the trail.

Here's another one.
Here’s another one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emerald Pools waterfall.
Emerald Pools waterfall.

Blue sky and cascading water mesmerize.
Blue sky and cascading water mesmerize. Hubby took these Emerald Pools photos.

Our guide told us that some people rappel from top of the waterfalls!
Our guide told us that some people rappel from the top of the waterfalls!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hubby and Teen Daughter.
Hubby and Teen Daughter.

Hiking Emerald Pools was a great warm-up for the day. Our guide, James Milligan, led us to the lower and upper pools, then we hiked from the pools to the start of Angel’s Landing.

It wasn’t necessary to have a guide for the morning hikes but 1) we’d already hired him, 2) he knows the mountain so well that he efficiently led us from trail to trail (otherwise, we might still be consulting our map, wondering where to go!), 3) James could answer our many questions, and 4) having a guide gave Hubby assurance that he could hike however much–or little-of Angel’s Landing he was comfortable with!

Immense red rocks balance on top of each other.
Immense red rocks balance on top of each other.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Have you been to Zion? Have you hiked the Narrows? Emerald Pools?  Angels Landing?

Hon, I’d love to hear from you.

Sources:  Zion OutfitterZion National-Park.com, Joe’s Guide To Zion National Park

Southwest Roadtrip: The Great Sand Dunes, First Glance

The Great Sand Dunes, Colorado
The Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

Our summer roadtrip seems like a long time ago, but I’ll never forget visiting The Great Sand Dunes.

It was a long drive from the main road in Alamosa County, Colorado to the park’s entrance. Then, finding the one lane, dirt road that wound up along the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range to a parking area was a challenge. Would our rental car make it up the hill and over the rocky, bumpy path? Once we parked, the sand dunes seemed very far off, and in between us and the sand dunes was scrub, bent trees and cacti.

IMG_2305

IMG_2377

IMG_2283

Maybe it was the big sky that made the sand seem so far away, but it didn’t take long to hike down to the base of the dunes and reach a stream.

IMG_2306

IMG_1450

IMG_2373

I saw creatures in the partly submerged driftwood.  After I let my imagination stretch wide, I looked up and…

…breathed in the beauty of the dunes. 

IMG_2321