Monday, June 20, 2016

Golden Gate Canyon State Park; Golden; Rock 'n' Bowl? Coach Repairs; An E.R. Visit; A Fun Dinner

After dropping Suzanne at the Denver airport for her trip to North Carolina, I drove the coach up to Golden Gate Canyon State Park, north of Black Hawk, Colorado, for some hiking. GGCSP has 36 miles of hiking trails in its 12,000 acres, located in a ruggedly beautiful area of the Front Range at elevations from 8,000 to 10,000 feet. Snowline was up around 11,000, but the weather was still crisp and dry, except for the occasional passing afternoon thunderstorm. 

My best day found me hiking 11 miles on the Coyote, Mule Deer and Raccoon trails, which ranged from easy to very difficult. 

Because it was mid-week, there weren't many other hikers out. This was a typical scene; trees, a well-defined trail, and no one else in sight.

This was one of the few relatively flat sections of trail, often used by mountain bikers. The trees were mostly aspen or Ponderosa pine, with a few hardwoods mixed in.

My favorite trail (and the hardest) was the Coyote Trail, which is only a couple of miles long, but very steep. This section of trail was typical - lots of rocks, and a few places where scrambling was required. I only met two other hikers on this trail, both older than me! (Unfortunately, I forgot to get a photo and their names.) 

There were several mountain bikers on the Mule Deer Trail. This guy was screaming down the incline and having a ball...

There are only a handful of small ponds here; this one is called Dude's Fishing Hole. Seriously. I didn't have a license, so the trout were safe... 

While Suzanne was on travel, I also had several free days in Golden, Colorado, a fun town with lots of young people on bikes. I rode almost every day, and got to see most of the city, at least from the saddle of my bike.

At one point, I came upon a wedding scene; a photographer was capturing this couple for posterity, and I thought, "Maybe I should change my hair style... wouldn't Suzanne be surprised?"

While in Golden, I met Bev Garlipp's nephew, Jeff Clark. Jeff lives in the Denver area, but works for the Post Office only minutes from my campground in Golden. He took me for a tour of Lookout Mountain and Idaho Springs, an old mining community founded in the 1850s during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush. It's now a tourist town and a bedroom community for a ski area, and we had bison burgers for dinner at a brew-pub. Jeff was a very gracious host, and I really appreciated his taking the time to show me around. 

While riding around Golden, I saw a group of guys practicing river rescue in the ice cold rapids of Clear Creek. As one big guy walked by, I introduced myself and asked him where they were from. Mark Seaton told me that they were volunteers from across the country, and that he was from Minnesota. I mentioned that I knew a few people from his lovely state, one of whom, Terri of the Frozen North, lives in a town with a really funny name, Coon Rapids. Mark said, "Well, in fact, I'm a firefighter in the Coon Rapids Fire department." Fortunately Mark has a good sense of humor and didn't throw me into the rapids for besmirching the name of his home town...

On the same ride, I came upon some street musicians (buskers?)... I was amazed to find that they were indeed outstanding classical musicians. Named The Young Trio, Michael and Napashnee are eighth graders, and little Kate is a sixth grader! I could have stayed for hours, but I had to get back to our puppies, Rudy and Gretchen.

I did have one dinner out in Golden, Bang Bang Shrimp at the Bonefish Grill. I sat down at the bar for my meal, and started talking to the couple next to me, Bob and Myrna. When I mentioned that I was from New Orleans, Bob turned to show me the logo on his purple and yellow jacket - Rock 'n' Bowl, a world-famous bowling alley/restaurant/jazz music emporium on South Carrollton Avenue, mere blocks from where I lived as a youngster in the Mid-City section of the Big Easy.  

Suzanne had a great five days in Raleigh-Durham, NC. She was keynote speaker at the Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies (ASCS) and taught her Serving Spirit course over the weekend. Bev Garlipp, Suzanne's amazing assistant, flew up from The Villages for the events. 

When Suzanne returned, I had relocated the coach to Buckley AFB in preparation for some repair work to our broken slideout. It took two full days to complete our repairs, but the manufacturer, Winnebago, paid for the parts and labor, so the coach is back to full functionality.

After our repairs were complete, we took our bikes up to a trail in Aurora for a ride. It was a beautiful day, and all was going well until we rode down a badly rutted dirt farm road. It was washed out in a couple of places, and I found the worst possible spot to try to change lines... in a matter of a split second, my front wheel had turned 45 degrees and I was... airborne... but only momentarily, and then came "impact". Some bad scrapes and bruises were expected, but after the adrenaline wore off, my right arm was almost unusable. 

I took lots of Motrin to ease the pain, but when it wasn't better 24 hours later, we made a trip to the E.R. for x-rays. Fortunately nothing was broken, but my arm still hurts like heck. The E.R. doc was also a mountain biker with scars of his own, so understood my situation and didn't say, "What's an old geezer like you doing riding a mountain bike?" He gave me a real "Excuse from work" form, so My Lovely Bride is doing all the heavy lifting this week, and I'll probably put on a few extra pounds while recuperating... oh, and please, no wise cracks about the hospital gown...

Finally, just before departing Denver for Suzanne's next event at Unity Village in Kansas City, we coerced Lynn and Jeff Hollaman over to the coach for dinner. They had hosted us twice, at their homes in Scottsdale and Denver, and we had hit it off so well, we couldn't leave Colorado without seeing them again. We had a great time, with lots of laughter and even some sea stories. We hated to see them go, but after I almost set the coach on fire with my famous Cherries Jubilee, they were probably glad to escape with their lives...

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Vail Events; Glenwood Canyon; A Serious Biker; Breckenridge; Denver; Golden Gate Canyon

We departed Carbondale for Suzanne's next event at the Vail Symposium, where she had two events scheduled. The first was her Preponderance of the Evidence talk on a Thursday evening...

Followed the next day by her Awakened Living 301 workshop. The audience was extremely receptive, and both presentations were very well received. We hope to return to the Vail area next summer.

Our stay in the Vail area wasn't all work, however. We again passed through Glenwood Canyon on I-70, one of the most amazing engineering projects in the USA. The scenery here is dramatic, the canyon having been cut through the millenia by the Colorado River. 

The cliffs rise to heights of 1,300 feet, and kayakers and rafters love the white water rapids.

We rode our bikes from the east end of the canyon to the west end, then back again. The westbound downhill was just a tad bit easier than the eastbound uphill, mainly because we had a tailwind on the return trip. (This attractive young cyclist is wearing her snazzy new Liv jersey and shorts, known in the cycling community as a "kit".)

On the ride, we met a friendly motorcyclist from Knoxville, Tennessee, at a rest stop. Warner Brannon might be considered a fanatic, because he has 11 motorcycles, many of which he has raced. (And I thought I was bad with just two bicycles!) The bike he is riding is a world-class 1,000 cc V-twin racing bike, and can achieve speeds up to 164 mph.

Our next stop was in Breckenridge, a nice (but very touristy) ski town at 9,600 feet elevation. The altitude was a bit draining for both of us, but more so for My Lovely Bride. We skipped a hard workout and did a mellow walk through town with our puppies Rudy and Gretchen. The lighting over the mountains at sunset was beautiful, though... 

... and this hole in the clouds the next day made me thankful for our brief stop here.

Then on to Denver, where we caught up with new good friends from our stop in Phoenix. Jeff and Lynn Hollaman had us over to their house in Arizona, and again at their home in Denver. We met their daughter Kelsey, Matt and neighbor Mark, and had a great time swapping stories in addition to a delicious meal. 

We also had an opportunity to catch up with our dear friends Elaine and Charlie Cunis, AKA Colonel Crusty. Crusty has had the bad fortune to be on the losing side of the Army-Navy games now for a decade or so, and had the even worse bad luck to make bets with Suzanne and me. We really feel sorry for Colonel Crusty and his US Military Academy football team, the Black Knights on the Hudson. (Yeah, Right... GO NAVY!!!)

Suzanne is now in Raleigh-Durham, NC, speaking at the Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies, and then giving her Serving Spirit course on the weekend. The puppies and I are enjoying the beauty of Golden Gate Canyon State Park, near Golden, Colorado. I even built a fire tonight, and am enjoying a small glass of Malbec beside the fire...

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Salt Lake City; Wasatch Mountain State Park; Salt Lake City Event; Slideout Deja Vu; Carbondale, CO; A Visit from SANAYA!

After an exceptional visit, we departed Zion National Park for Salt Lake City, where Suzanne had a flight to catch for a planned week back in The Villages with Her Lovely Mom Ruthie. On the day she departed, I went to the Natural History Museum of Utah, located on the campus of the University of Utah. One of the attractions here is a spectacular dinosaur exhibit. I felt like a kid again, partly because there was a school group there as well. 

NHMU also has an extensive collection of Native American artifacts, in particular from the Shoshone, Ute, Paiute, Navajo and Goshone tribes. 

Rudy, Gretchen and I then drove the coach up to Wasatch Mountain State Park in Midway, Utah, for a week of alone time. The Wasatch mountains are mostly in the 11,000 ft. range, and are home to elk, black bear, mule deer, moose and cougars. I hiked or mountain biked every day, and the puppies got out for many walks. 

Speaking of our babies, Rudy is starting to gray around the muzzle (much like his distinguished dog-dad)....

while Gretchen has retained her youthful sultry beauty (yes, like her Lovely Dog-Mom). 

Their favorite walk was on the shore of the lake by the park visitor center. Ducks and geese were present, but wisely returned to their watery home when dogs came visiting. There is a beautiful championship golf course nearby, but the mountains held more appeal for me.

On a mountain bike ride out from Soldier Hollow, where the Winter Olympics were held in 2002, I watched kite boarders flying on the windy surface of Deer Creek Reservoir. That's Mt. Timpanogos (11,753 ft.) in the background. The 47th highest peak in the lower 48 states, it is composed of limestone and dolomite, and is named for the Indian tribe that lived here since the 1400s.

I had a very quiet hike mid-week, when there were far fewer people in the woods. I also had the good fortune to see two cow moose just off the trail in a meadow surrounded by aspens. I wisely kept my distance from the pair. 

The terrain here is pretty steep, ideal for wildlife habitat, but somewhat slippery due to daily showers. Most days I saw only one or two other people in a 2-3 hour hike. 

Unfortunately, there was one section of trail where some teenagers had probably had a party on the weekend, and I did my civic duty and cleaned up their still smelly beer cans. I filled a small trash bag and dropped it off at the ranger office nearby.

On the way home, I saw this downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) looking for insects and rat-a-tat-ing on a telephone pole. The smallest of American woodpeckers, he is distinguished by his small bill. 

My final bike ride was along the Deer Creek trail, which generally follows a railroad byway from Midway to Provo. I say "generally", because the train tracks had only a 1% grade, while the bike trail had lots of ups and downs and crossed several ravines and small canyons. But the scenery was worth every bit of sweat... My Lovely Bride would have loved this bike ride, but we will have to wait until our next visit for her to enjoy it.

Suzanne returned after a week at home, and got back to work with a visit to Unity of Salt Lake, where she gave the Sunday morning message and her Preponderance of the Evidence presentation. 

That afternoon we enjoyed dinner and the delightful company of Jerry and Rebecca Arndt. We have a lot in common; Suzanne and Rebecca are both mediums; Rebecca specializes in missing persons. Jerry and I talk hiking and RVs while the ladies are on spiritual topics. (The guys also appreciate good wine and beer!) Rebecca also publicized Suzanne's event. They have been great friends, and we always look forward to returning to Salt Lake City to see them.

While in SLC, we took the time for a long bike ride on the Jordan River Bike Trail, which runs from SLC to Ogden. It was very pleasant: flat (nice for a change) with lots of curves, as it follows the Jordan River, strangely enough...  Our campsite at the Pony Express RV Park was located right near the river, and up until the hour of our intended departure, it had been a very pleasant but uneventful stay. Then, deja vu all over again... one of our coach's slideout rooms would not retract, and jammed in a tilted position. The coach was stuck in place until it could be retracted. We had experienced this problem almost exactly three years ago when the coach was brand new, so we knew what had to be done. We called a mobile repair tech, and with the aid of the amazingly helpful campground general manager, Ric Leyba, who borrowed a forklift from a neighborly RV business, five hours of work saw the slide retracted manually and blocked securely (so it wouldn't fall out on the road) for an unexpected 500 mile detour to Denver, where we had purchased it. Seems the local Winnebago dealers didn't want to deal with repairs of that sort. Our heartfelt thanks go out to Ric and his staff at Pony Express RV Park; not only did Ric spend hours helping us, but he also told us to stay the night on the house so we would be well-rested before getting on the Interstate. What a guy!!!

But before we left, we met our neighbors, three charming young people and their kids. Chris and Didiayer Snyder and Michael Edwards just finished shooting the last in a series of TV shows, "At Home with Didiayer", which is running on the Hallmark Channel. They are traveling with their beautiful daughters Savannah and Olivia, and graciously gave us a box of really cool sustainable products that Didiayer put together as part of her TV show. I hope they enjoy the bottle of wine we gave them; they were delightful, and we wish that we had more time to get to know them better.

After a brief stop in Denver to order parts for our broken slideout and to fix part of our dual air mattress bed (no naughty thoughts, please, or even snide comments about my weight!), we arrived in one of our favorite towns, Carbondale, CO. Suzanne was giving her Serving Spirit course in the town of Basalt, near Aspen, another one of our favorite places. Her two-day course was enthusiastically received by the attendees, most from the central Colorado area. 

Suzanne also gave a Getting Out of the Box presentation at the Davi Nikent Center for Human Flourishing. This was out third year in Carbondale, and many friends from previous visits attended. (We had even been thinking about looking for an acre or two in the Carbondale-Basalt-Aspen area for a summer retreat, but time didn't allow for a search this trip.)

But one of the highlights of our entire trip so far came on our last two days in Carbondale, in the form of a visit from Sanaya. Those of you who follow Suzanne's blog and Facebook posts know Sanaya as the collective consciousness of her guides. In this case, Sanaya is a real person! A couple of months ago, Suzanne heard from two women in India, a mother and her daughter named Sanaya. They read about Suzanne on-line, and have been following her posts with interest. We heard from Sanaya Ardeshir, a 27-year old musician living in Bombay, and found that she was touring the US and had an unexpected stop in Denver and would be able to meet us for a brief visit. We were thrilled!!!! We picked her up in Glenwood Springs, drove to Basalt for lunch, and then up to the stunning Maroon Bells near Aspen for a hike to Crater Lake.

It was a beautiful day, mostly sunny and with shirt sleeve temps, but as we gained elevation, we crossed the snowline boundary. Fortunately, we weren't "post-holing", which means sinking up to your crotch in soft snow, which is an exhausting and very wet exercise. Only our shoes, socks and ankles were wet, and the cold was quite bearable. 

On the way back down, it started snowing/sleeting/hailing, and the two girls were trying to catch the bits and pieces on their tongues, with limited success.

Even below snowline, the scenery was still impressive. You can see the evidence of rockslides and avalanches on several steep slopes, where lack of trees and vegetation is indicative of areas that are less stable.

Back at the coach, Sanaya offered to make us dinner (gee, that was a tough decision). She taught Suzanne how to prepare khichree, a traditional Indian dish made of rice, lentils, cauliflower, carrots, garlic, onion, and Indian spices that she brought just for us, served with cumin and yoghurt. It was a fabulous, delicious meal!!!

On Sanaya's last day with us, Suzanne gave her and Sanaya's mom (who was in Europe) a highly evidential reading. (More on that from Suzanne in her blog) Then we went on another hike, this time to Mushroom Rock about a thousand feet above Carbondale. Here you see Suzanne and Sanaya heading out to the rock while Your Faithful Correspondent records the moment for posterity. (Yes, common sense was also in play, on my part at least.)

We were truly blessed by Sanaya's visit, and we shall always remember her time with us as very, very special. We hope to see her again soon (in India, perhaps?). You can listen to her music at 

As we departed Carbondale, this view of snow-capped Mt. Sopris (12,660 ft.) left us with a glorious reminder of the natural beauty of this part of Colorado. It is only matched by the friendliness of the residents, and we are already looking forward to a return visit next year. At that time I hope to make a 4-5 day backpacking trip on the Four Passes route in the Maroon Bells Wilderness between Aspen and Crested Butte.