A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Riding the Range, Running the River

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

Walking the Trail Alone

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

New Adventures

Most people, when they hear I moved to Colorado, say the same thing. Oh, it's beautiful but I could never take the cold. For myself, used to 100+ weather for months on end in Texas, I haven't found it to be near as uncomfortable as the wet cold in Houston. But even the biggest doubters would have loved the warm sunny weather on the mountain last week! Some of the kids and grandkids came over during Spring Break. The week was just like I had hoped it would be, what I hoped being in Colorado would be like for our family. We aren't people that have done Winter sports before so it was a new experience. We had our gear, skiing and snowboarding lessons were signed up for, equipment was reserved, and we were ready! Well, the kids were ready. I sat out the sports part of this. It was all about the kids and grandkids. My job was to make it happen and to corral the discarded gear. My reward was to watch the faces and hear the stories the kids told.  The cold weather gear we had acquired will prove handy next winter but this week we were taking linings out of coats, then ditching the coats themselves. Base layers never made the second day. Some locals were skiing in shirts and t-shirts and three fellas in footed animal pajamas were sighted riding over a cliff on boards!  Our group only had two people that had ever done any skiing or snowboarding before. One of them came down sick and stayed behind at the cabin. The other made it up the mountain with us. Both gave us some guidance in what to expect. We were in a new environment and needed all the help we could get! Skiing lessons went well but the snowboard riders had difficulty, with the exception of one of the little guys who had a knack for it. But the others gave it their best shot and made plans next time to tackle skiing! You never know if you don't try and hey, sometimes it works out and sometimes not so much. But always it's a new experience and having them is the goal! We took a shuttle up to Wolf Creek Pass since it was our first try and I wasn't sure what to expect on the drive. Some of the kids and I went through there back in December and the road was covered in ice. This week it was clear and dry! But we had a badass driver and she kept us entertained the whole trip and gave us lots of info on the area and things to do.  I've been up and down about this move I made. Leaving everything I knew and loved to move further away from family and friends. A totally new environment than what I am used to dealing with. Alone, a stranger in a strange land so to speak! More often than I care to admit I've said to myself - what in the hell were you thinking! But when that feeling comes over me I try to think well, what would I be doing if I was still at the ranch. And the answer is I would be working and crying. So I've clung to that to get me through the doubting times.  But when I saw my granddaughter's face as she came up to us after skiing all day, her first time, every doubt about whether it was the right move was erased. Even if everyone else had hated it, seeing her reaction would have been enough. But I saw it in the others too. The laughter, the wonder at the beauty and magic of the mountains, the snow, the fearless attempts they made to learn something new and a bit scary. And when it didn't work out, such as riding the boards, they shook it off and said it didn't matter, they were glad they tried it. And that they would try something else next time.  The cabin worked out great for us all also. There were 9 of us and we only used one air mattress. There were places, different rooms, to go to when someone wanted some quiet time or to watch a different TV program in the evenings though the house itself is small at 1300 sq feet. Board games were played accompanied by much laughter. The small room under the staircase, reminiscent of Harry Potter, was dubbed the Wolf Den by the two little ones and they made it their own.  We had our first campfire there and roasted marshmallows and made s'mores. We looked at the stars, finding our favorite constellations we knew from the ranch. The little guys got the sleds out and went flying down the hill in the backyard, when they weren't running up to the tree line to explore or having snowball fights! It was a great week, a great adventure. I'm in Austin right now. I came back when the kids did to get the last things I left here and to do something about my vehicles. I'm going home tomorrow. And when I get there I'll look at it differently than I did before Spring Break. We have memories there now. It's beginning to seem like home. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Different Version of Myself

I read a quote this week that said "every next level of your life will require a different version of yourself." I've been trying to work on that version of me since my move. Between the physical demands of making a move by yourself to the emotional upheaval of leaving everything familiar behind and uprooting your life, well, it's been a month to test my strength. 

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!




It had been snowing for days when Sarah and I got there. It was my first experience with snow like that and with icy, snowy roads. If Sarah hadn't been with me to encourage me, I'd have never made it to Pagosa! Not that week anyway. The driving was stressful and I got stuck in the steep driveway (thankfully, the previous owners Matt and Lisa were there shoveling the walkways and Matt got me unstuck and gave me some driving hints), and slid through a red light (no one was coming and my brakes locked up but the state trooper behind me had no sympathy). 

But the people there were the best (well, maybe not the trooper who gave me a lecture and a scolding along with the ticket. But I have been trying to be extra careful, so maybe he helped too, in his own way) and welcomed me into their beautiful snowy world, telling me they had gotten stuck too, and gone into slides, and as long as I hadn't had to be pulled out of a ditch yet, I was doing ok. Everyone I met was from somewhere else and shared their experiences with me and told me I'd love it in Pagosa. Matt and Lisa were amazing; they called to check on me, brought me firewood from their supply, sent the firewood guy over (they even told me not to pay him, that Matt was bartering with him for the load, but it was just too much to ask of someone so I paid him anyway), built a snowman in the yard to welcome us, brought me flowers, had the drive plowed and hooked me up with the snowplow guy, and not only told me to call them if I got stuck and they would come pull me out but gave me other names to call in case I couldn't get them. 

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.