Thursday, August 17, 2017
Yesterday morning it was 44 degrees when I woke up. For the last few days, just before daybreak, I'd been pulling up the Pendleton wool blanket I keep at the foot of the bed. It was a splurge, a gift to myself when I first moved here. Rickie and I had long been in love with these blankets but couldn't justify the cost when we were often still in the 100s as Autumn rolled around, and running the AC for Christmas gatherings.
So once I had the bedroom painted white and my white linens on the bed, I ordered one in turquoise, my favorite color. It has a little orange in it, also my favorite color! I've left it on the bed throughout the Summer because I like to see it every day.
A couple of weeks ago coming back from Denver I went further South than normal, trying to scout out a road to use in Winter that doesn't involve going over Wolf Creek Pass. With my closest kids now in Denver I need to know all the ways to get there. Driving along the valley between the mountains I thought I'd found a good route. As the road began to rise, I started worrying. When I saw the signs to chain up I knew this wasn't going to be the route I was looking for! It was actually more worrisome than going over Wolf Creek Pass as that road is wide and well traveled.
But I did come upon the most beautiful view of Conejo Canyon where the Conejo River runs. The road had been running alongside the river for a while and there were occasional fishing camps with small cabins for rent. Signs at the pullover for the view said the last known grizzly bear in Colorado had been killed back in the area. There were millions of aspens and I could only imagine what it must look like when they turn yellow. I intend to return and find out!
The train that runs from Chama, which was my route destination, runs up into the area, though I don't believe it goes up to the canyon. I've added it to my Fall wish list of things to do. The train ride includes lunch according to the ladies in the dog walking group I've been having lunch with. We walk dogs at the animal shelter on Wednesday and then have lunch together. These ladies are awesome and have been doing this for years. I'm only just getting started.
Next trip to Denver I'm trying a different route that takes me over the mountains further South on the road that runs from Tierra Amarillo to Taos. Rickie and I went over this road back in 2013. I don't recall any hair raising passes, but I need to be sure. We did meet up with a cowboy on horseback and his dog moving cattle down the road. A lot of this area, including the area I had tried this last trip, is open range. Cattle are all along the road and sometimes in the road. That's life in the Wild West!
With Summer winding down I've now experienced Colorado in all its seasons. Rickie and I always came here in the Fall and that was the only season I knew until I decided to move here. With the end of August, I've seen every month and what Colorado has to offer in each. None of them has disappointed me, though the mud in Spring is probably my least favorite. Mud is my least favorite form of dirt! But even then the greening of the land and the promise of wildflowers to come offsets the mud.
I met a lady in the dog walkers group that has lived here for over 20 years. Her husband of 53 years was in the Air Force and they lived all over, originally from Syracuse, New York. They had no children. He passed away two years ago. She said there's no place on earth she'd rather be than Pagosa Springs. She told us stories of the hunters that came for many years and stayed with them. She would cook their meals and from the description of her meals, they were lucky hunters! I felt a connection to someone who's life included some of the same things mine had.
I'm slowly weaving myself into the tapestry of life here in Colorado, making a life for myself. The beauty of the landscape, the stories of the people I meet, the history I'm learning, it all winds itself into my own story. There are times I miss the ranch more than others. But it's not the actual ranch I miss, it's the life I had there with Rickie. I packed that up when I packed up the things I brought with me. It influences what I do here and it influenced where I came when I decided to move.
I'm grateful each and every day that I'm able to live this life and share it with family and friends. While I was in Denver a long time friend of my son's and his girlfriend came to spend a few days at the cabin. He left me a beautiful drawing of the cabin, which is at the framing shop right now. Everyone that comes blesses and honors this home by their company.
And Colorado blesses me. The mule deer that come out on the hill each evening and pass by going to the creek, the black bear that visits my neighbor and I have yet to see, the beautiful conifers up the hill looking like an army of Christmas trees, the first horned toad I've seen in 20 years, the stories of grizzly bears and of hunters; it's all becoming part of my story now.
And I wonder what each upcoming chapter will bring.
Friday, July 28, 2017
A lot has been going on since I last posted! Sarah, Justin, and Bixby made a huge change in their lives - lately it's been go big, or go home with us all! They stayed with me a couple of weeks while in the process of moving to Colorado from Austin. We all hated to let go of the Kanga tiny house; that was my backup plan if I was ever unable to stay alone in the country. But they found a house with a finished basement, so I still have a safe house! They decided they wanted a new adventure too so they left the house they loved and the city they'd called home for many years and off they went! They are a few hours from me but that's so much better than being two days away!
After they left here I made the hike to Treasure Falls one morning. I'd been wanting to and it didn't disappoint. I went early in the morning and there were only a handful of people there then. I had time at the top of the trail alone, just me and the waterfall! Recently I made another hike on the Piedra River Trail with a group led by an herbal shop owner in town. We learned about the medicinal plants found in this area.
I continue to try and make connections, friends here. I don't go every week but when I can I am meeting some friends at one of the breweries for live country music and drinks. I'm not yet at ease there. There are a lot of couples and I feel the loss of Rickie deeply then. But it's getting a bit easier. I keep going, not wanting to lose the new friendships I'm trying to make, to hold onto the fragile new beginnings of a life on my own.
Last week I started volunteering as a dog walker at the local animal shelter. My neighbor asked me to come with her. There's a large group of folks that go one day a week. The shelter is in a valley surrounded by the mountains and there is a two mile loop for walking. So both the dogs and I get a nice walk in. Afterwards most of the walkers go to lunch together. Slowly, in tiny bits and pieces, I'm trying to fill the empty spaces my life now has.
This week has been non-stop activity and it's all been fun! My sister Kathy, niece Alison, and grandnephews plus one of their friends, have all come to visit. We made sure to do everything we could in the three days they were here!
We started off with a hike along the Piedra River Trail. It was soon apparent that these young men were made for Colorado! Sometimes you worry that nature won't impress a generation that has grown up with technology, manmade parks with thrill rides, and even manmade rivers. But these are Cajun boys, used to bayous and the Gulf Coast and all the outdoor things associated with that area. They were suitably impressed. And if Nature was aware they were there, she was suitably impressed with them!
We found a big bear footprint at the water's edge! Our area has had many bear encounters this year. The drought has sent them on the search for food. Several people in my neighborhood have had them in their houses. Not many people in Colorado have air conditioning so there are a lot of open windows at night. That's not even a challenge to a black bear. My friend Angie was at her boyfriend's house last week when one came in the garage, pushed the door to the utility room open, and helped himself to the freezer contents. While she was upstairs! One was in my next door neighbor's garage but I didn't get to see him. I'm hoping to see one, just not in my house! Unfortunately, Colorado has had to euthanize a lot of bears this year. When they associate people with food, it can become dangerous.
We managed to squeeze in the short hike to Treasure Falls also that first day. It was packed with people at that time. The boys took the primitive trail back from the top and somehow managed not to fall off the mountain, although it was touch and go. Haha!
That afternoon we grabbed our tubes and headed down the San Juan! I had been the week before with some friends and I knew the boys would like it. It's a bit more exciting than our Llano River in Junction. You don't do much lazy floating! They've got some manmade whitewater in town and between that and avoiding the rocks along the river bottom, it's nonstop action.
Day two we headed to the national forest to horseback ride with our cowboy outfitter Larry. He had taken me and my son John and his family riding in June and we loved it! We knew all the horses by name and how they acted on the trail. We were looking forward to this ride. But, in the way things happen, Kathy and I didn't get to go, but we did get a story. It was a sad one. A bear had gotten into the corral that week and clawed up some of the horses. Larry said one probably wasn't going to recover to where he could use him for riding again, although they all survived. He showed me the claw marks on Dusty, his horse. He was short some horses that were injured so Kathy and I headed to Durango to shop while the rest went off down the trail.
We returned after lunch and while the boys went tubing again Kathy, Alison, and I went to the hot springs! I'd been trying to make it over there since I got here and never had. It was wonderful! As a senior and a local I can go for only $8, which is a big savings. Everything you hear about how hot springs ease sore muscles is true. This place has about 20 pools with different temps. We relaxed in the 104 degree one. Have to work up to the 113 one! Might save that one for winter, when the snow's on the ground and the stars are above.
Our last day was spent mostly on the San Juan river. The whitewater was gone with the snow melt so we booked a trip further down the river. This would have probably been too tame for the boys and Alison but it included some inflatable kayaks the outfitter called "duckies"! They had fun with those and we learned a lot of history from our river guide, the awesome Ben! He had been our guide in June and we were so glad to have him again. An eagle flew overhead, catching a current and circling around. "I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly...." Ali took a turn at the oars when one of the duckies came loose and got stuck on a rock. She climbed out and held us on the shore while Ben retrieved it then she got a feel for river rafting with Ben there to give guidance! We stopped for a while at a huge rock with a deep swimming hole in front and the boys flipped off that for a while. Not to be outdone by her grandsons, Kathy climbed up there and jumped off too!
Throughout the week we had some great food, local beers, Moscow Mules, and live music. It was a wonderful week. Once again the move had done what I hoped. Given me a chance to find some joy in living this life that is so precious, to give the family that loved Rickie so much a place for new adventures, things we would never have known had I kept the ranch. I felt Rickie's hand in everything we did.
It's raining outside now; we've had some showers these last couple of weeks. They call it the monsoon season here, though those of us from Houston and South Louisiana know what real monsoons are. I hope it ripens the gooseberries, wild raspberries, and other food the bears eat and sends them into the woods where they are safe. It's summer now but before long the snow will pull a blanket over both the bears and the land. This beautiful place has given me and my family both adventure and peace. For that I'm grateful. And I know, in spite of all that has happened these last years, I'm a lucky person to live this life of blessings.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Sometimes happiness doesn't find us, we have to seek it out. My friend Kerri, the Living Large in Our Little House lady, has decided to do just that this summer!
She's working extra hours each day so she can have Fridays off. And she intends to find some happy times on those Fridays! She challenges us to do the same. Most of us can't get Fridays off but you can still make time each week to do something fun. And to encourage us she's offering some prizes!
Check out her blog post at the link below or follow her on Living Large in our Little House Facebook page for details. It's super easy to join the fun, all it takes is a comment sharing what you've done that makes you happy that week.
Here's what Kerri has to say about the challenge - "Each week, I will blog about a different activity I’m going to engage in that will bring me pure joy. That will also be your “find” for the hunt. For example, the find this week is doing something I’ve never done before. I’m in my 50s and I’ve never had a pedicure! But you don’t have to spend money or even leave your house. Your find might be reading a book you’ve always wanted to read, cooking or eating an ethnic dish you’ve always wanted to try or checking out a museum in your town. It could be anything, as long as it brings you joy!"
Here's the link to Kerri's blog post -
Living Large In Our Little House Scavenger Hunt
Enjoy your summer and be purposeful in your pursuit to have fun. Time slips away from us and these days can go by so fast. I just discovered my little town has a farmer's/craft market on Saturdays in the summer and I checked it out this morning. Came home with some Colorado peaches and a cold weather hardy tomato plant to try! It was fun at the market and fun eating those peaches on ice cream this afternoon. Sometimes fun is a big thing and sometimes it's a little thing!
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Long ago when I was another version of myself, we had a couple of horses. One was a former Texas prison horse, half Tennessee Walker, half Quarter Horse. He had a star brand so we imaginatively named him Star. He was the best horse for kids and greenhorns. Larry and John were maybe 7 and 8 years old and we all learned to ride on him. I was married to their dad then and I haven't ridden a horse since that ended in 1979.
That all changed when John and Nicole and Zac and Bianca came over on vacation this week! We hooked up with a great outfitter and hit the trail! We rode in the San Juan Mountains. It was a gorgeous ride in the tall pines, wild flowers, and flowing creeks from snow melt. His horses were the best and he matched us each to one suited to us. In the small world category, he was from a town in Louisiana near where I'm from and he knew my aunt's family. We were all hooked on riding at the end of the day and I'll be going back with every other visitor that shows up!
I came to Colorado to make a new life and to have adventures. And do things I'm kind of afraid of. So a couple of days later we did something I've always wished I could do but was scared to. Rickie could have easily rafted but he was always worried about me. I'm not a strong swimmer and I'm afraid of fast or deep water. But this particular ride said it was for all ages so off we went! It was class I to class III. With enough III to make it fun for us without really worrying about falling out. Hey, I want adventure but I've got my limits! It was peak snow melt so the river was high. The water temp was 44 degrees. Our guide said we should wear these wet suits. We didn't want to but we were glad we listened to him!
Our young guide was awesome. He was originally from Ft. Worth and came to Colorado back in the early 2000s on a vacation before his Summer job started. He called them and told them he wasn't coming back. That's a story I'm hearing more and more. Our horseback riding outfitter came here elk hunting and never returned. These are my kind of people. Not because they came and loved Colorado especially but because they went somewhere that touched their soul and their heart and they said, here's my place. And had the guts to take a chance they could make it here.
I loved the horseback riding but the rafting was not only amazing fun, it was a fear overcome for me and an adventure I'd always hoped to have. It will be another thing my future visitors and I will repeat!
Sarah and her family came out this week also. They are in the process of moving to Denver and will be here, at least some of them, for a little while. But that's another blog post entirely!
One more thing happened this week and I did it alone. Rick was always planting flowers for me and the last thing he planted was a little crabapple tree. When we came to Colorado on vacation the year before he died we fell in love with all the different trees. After we got home he bought a crabapple tree and planted it in the garden. I wanted to get one for here. The nursery didn't get many in and they came in while I was in Austin the end of May. So the only choice I had when I went was one that had pink buds that opened to white flowers. I had wanted a light pink one. The woman at the nursery asked me if it had to be a crabapple. I said yes and had to hold back the tears. I eventually decided to go with the white one so I could plant it this year. Which I did yesterday. I didn't plan it but after the move I ended up with one water bottle with ranch water in it. I poured that over the tree after it was planted. We plant trees for people we love in our family and this one is for Rick.
It was quite the week here in Pagosa Springs. Riding, rafting, moving, planting. And we threw some shopping and eating in there too.
Until next time, happy trails!
Thursday, April 20, 2017
One of the things I've wanted to do since I got to Colorado was to go hiking on a real hiking trail out in the wild. I walked along the river trail downtown one day with a couple I met through my friend and realtor Diane. I asked them about hiking in the mountains and they told me of a trail that wasn't too hard and was really pretty. After we separated I ran into a fella on the downtown trail and we got to talking. He told me about the same trail and gave me precise directions on how to get there and where to park.
He said he'd lived in Pagosa for 19 years and you couldn't dynamite him out of here!
It's been a bit muddy with the snow melt so I've been putting it off but decided yesterday that I'd go today! The weather has been great here. We've been in the high 60s and low 70s most days. I've found since living here that temps I used to find cold where I was don't seem as cold here. They're shirtsleeve weather!
The last couple of weeks I've been going out to one of the breweries here in town on Wednesday to meet some new friends. My hairstylist Angie, herself from Texas, has befriended me and invited me to go. She volunteers as a Visiting Angel and one thing she does is take an older gentleman out each week to hear some good country music. It's an over 50 crowd and the band starts early at 6:00 so it's before my bedtime! Ha! A group of her friends goes there so I've met a few new people. I only stay about an hour and a half. The music is good and the company is nice.
Last night I told Angie I was going hiking on the Piedra River Trail. She said I shouldn't go alone and the bartender offered to let me take her dog! The bears are coming out from hibernation and it's always good to have a fellow hiker in case you fall. I do know this and that it's better to go with someone. But though I've met new people, I've not yet found that person that I can hang out with. Someone that is maybe also without a partner and has free time. And I may never. I'm not much of a joiner and I'm not one to wait for someone else to do something. When I'm ready to go, I'm ready to go!
There are risks involved going alone, but here's my attitude. If you think about everything that can go wrong, you'll never do anything and you'll miss out on some good adventures and experiences. There are some things I'll never do, such as mountain climbing. I know my limits. But there are things I can do. You just have to be careful, study the trail map, take water, and maybe some bear spray. Have good hiking shoes and carry a hiking pole. I read about what to do if I encounter a bear - speak calmly, wave your arms slowly, back up, and maybe sing as you walk the curves of the trail (I hummed I'm an Old Cowhand From the Rio Grande) as bears don't like to be surprised - and what to do if a cougar shows up - make yourself look bigger with your arms and jacket, yell, throw rocks, back up - and in either case, never turn and run, and in the worse case scenario, fight. And I know encounters are rare. Also let someone know where and when you went and when you return.
Angie made me promise to text her when I left and when I returned. She was my backup lifeline! And, of course, I let the kids know, though they are far away.
The trail was about 15 miles from the main highway. About half way there the paved road ends but the gravel road was ok. There are a few hardy ranchers that live out that way. Their views are amazing! I was humbled and almost breathless by the scenery. I went right to the trailhead with the directions I'd been given.
I didn't make a long hike. I spent about an hour there. Clouds were moving in and the temps were dropping. The only wildlife I saw was a little chipmunk, and some ravens and bluebirds. It was beautiful and peaceful. The only sound was the river and the wind. I was the only one on the trail today, according to the sign-in log, and I never saw anyone else on the trail.
But I wasn't really alone. I carry Rick in my heart and everything he ever taught me about the wild world. I kept thinking wow, wouldn't Rick love to see this. And maybe he does.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
I had no illusions that I would move and be magically happy. In my heart I know I'll probably never be totally happy again, the sadness will always be there. But in spite of that I believe that there is some joy left in the world for me. As the prophet says, joy and sorrow are inseparable; when one sits with you at the table the other is alseep upon your bed. I want to wake up that joy that has been sleeping for over two years now.
Sarah and I made the trip over for the closing on the new cabin. It's a great place and is a good swap for the ranch. It's a 30 year old house that has been added onto over the years. The previous owner was a flooring contractor, and he did most of the renovations, maybe all of them. The hardwood floors are beautiful, the kitchen cabinets are custom hickory, and the 4 car garage with workroom, all with infloor heating, are a carpenter/ranch hand/DIY gal's dream. It has 4.6 acres with it, including a ponderosa pine covered hill in the back.
I wasn't really looking for acreage and I didn't want a well or septic again and I wanted a paved road. But I either couldn't see myself in any of the other houses I looked at or the ones in my price range needed more work than I could afford. This cabin spoke to me and the kids loved it too. So I chose it in spite of a well, septic, and gravel road!
Later when I started buying furniture to replace what I sold with the house, one of the furniture delivery fellas was a young man from Houston. He told me he used to do HVAC and if I had any problems to call him and he'd get the parts and come fix it, or if I had any other problems, give him a call. He also told me where to go crappie fishing, and elk hunting, and what beautiful lakes and scenic places were around. The list goes on of the people that were helpful and welcoming, but more on that later.
Sarah and I had been staying at an Airbnb condo downtown, right next to the Riff-Raff Brewing. We walked the streets as the snow fell and went to the shops downtown and bought wool socks. We ate at a different great place every meal. We spent the first night in the new cabin. We slept on air mattresses in front of the fireplace where we tried to get a fire going with the oak we brought from the ranch. We made homemade soup and planned furniture layouts. That afternoon we had shared a bottle of bubbly with Lisa and Matt and our realtor Diane. It was an eventful first day!
Sarah left the next day to fly back to Austin. We spent the day in Durango before she left. That night, as I lay on the air mattress in a strange empty house, all alone, was hard. I admit I wondered what in the hell had I done! But as I thought back to how sad I had been at the ranch, I knew in my mind, if not my heart, that I couldn't have stayed at the ranch. The happiness there was gone with Rickie and only the work remained, and it was work for more than one person. It was the life with Rickie that I mourned and keeping the ranch wouldn't bring that back. I knew I had to suck it up and go on and I knew it would be a period of adjustment at the new place.
So in the next days I got out and started on the process of making the cabin mine. I bought new furniture, started putting up new window coverings and replenishing the cupboard of groceries (and whiskey). I had some painting done, and I did a little myself also, before my furniture got there, and then the place started to look like it might me mine.
My sister Kathy and her husband Derald flew over for a visit. Kathy and I tried out the new snowshoes I had bought. My first time to do anything related to snow other than build a tiny snowman from the wet infrequent snow we had in Texas and Louisiana. We trekked around the yard. I loved it and hope to do some of that in a more adventurous spot in the future. Kathy and Derald got the feel of the Pagosa area and are planning to come back this summer with kids and grandkids in tow! I look forward to that.
It's been an eventful first month. I've had ups and downs, and I expected to. Time alone will tell if the move was the right one and if the ups outweigh the downs. With most of the stuff I brought from the ranch in place in the cabin, it's starting to look like home, even if it doesn't yet feel like home. We have to start collecting memories to make that happen. We had 28 years of memories at the ranch. We're just getting started here at the Rockin' RS, Colorado Division.