Friday, October 6, 2017

Chair with a View; Homeward Bound; Frog Bikers; Salt Lake City; Carbondale and Breckenridge, Colorado


Well, it's October, and our 2017 Messages of Hope Tour is winding down. We are now officially eastbound after spending the summer out West. Here's what's been happening lately:

After being cruelly abused by our personal tormentor (er, trainer) Heather (see my previous post for details), Suzanne took off for Scottsdale and the Afterlife Research and Education Symposium, while I took a break to paddle on nearby American Lake and ease my sore muscles. The view of Mt. Rainier was impressive, and early morning/late afternoon paddling was delightful.









Our campsite was right on the water, and this was the view from my camp chair (wine glass with Zin not shown)... not too shabby, eh?















While MLB was away, I also took the opportunity to get some culture, and enjoyed the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM), where this Georgia O'Keefe still life (From Pink Shell, 1931, oil on canvas) caught my eye. I also learned about Ghost Ranch, one of her favorite places, which I will have to visit one day...


















Another favorite of mine at TAM was this mixed media by Montana artist Kevin Red Star, titled Buffalo Horse Medicine. He was born on the Crow Indian Reservation, and his work graces the Smithsonian, the National Museum of the American Indian and the Heard Museum, among many others. 

















After an exhausting visit to the museum, I simply HAD to stop at "Hello, Cupcake". (Sounded like a tart greeting to a young woman, or a sweet greeting to a tart... but I digress...) The cupcake (vanilla topped with pink vanilla buttercream and a sugar flower), was simple, but elegant. (Reminds me of me!)











Leaving Tacoma, we headed south to Portland to pick up I-84 eastbound through the Columbia River Gorge, which had spectacularly "gorge"-ous scenery. But the fire and rain gods laughed at our presumption... I-84 (on the south side of the river/gorge) was closed down because of a series of fires/rain/rockslides, so being very clever, I thought we'd follow Washington Highway 14 on the north side of the Columbia River. Everything was going swimmingly until I saw a sign saying "Tunnel Ahead in 4 miles - 12' 6" clearance". Hmmm.... our coach is 12'11" high. I did some quick mathematical calculations and figured that (a) we would not fit, without (b) taking off the three air conditioners, either intentionally with tools or unintentionally using the top of the tunnel. Option (b) would be quicker but messier. Option (c), which My Lovely Bride suggested, was to take a bridge across the Columbia and try to find an alternative route east. Knowing how smart she is, I chose option (c). Unfortunately, we found that there was no alternative route east, so we had to return to Portland for the night, where we actually found our old campground in scenic Boring, Oregon, to have a spot for us. 



The next day we proceeded north up past Mt. Hood, expecting to reach Hood River where I-84 was open. Alas, MLB was reading the latest weather forecast, with words like "winter storm advisory", chains, caution, high winds, etc... Jeez, it was September 20th, for Pete's sake!!! So, we had to divert south almost to Bend, OR, to find clear skies and moderate weather. What was supposed to be a relatively easy 840 mile all-Interstate trip turned into a harrowing epic of 1066 miles (averaging 355 miles a day, quite long when you're only doing 45-55 mph in the mountains and on backroads). The scenery changed, for the better in that there was no threat of snow, but more "deserty", like this sculpted mountain somewhere in Utah.


In Green River, Utah, I met this French family cycling from Canada to Mexico. They were two months into a six month trip, and really enjoying the US. Thinking I was a local, they asked me an important question: where the laundromat was located... I had to regret that being a visitor, I couldn't help them out. 









We arrived safely in Salt Lake City and enjoyed a break from driving for a few days. Suzanne hosted a Serving Spirit class there, and we enjoyed the warm hospitality of Kate Young and Jim Morse at the Cottonwood Country Club. (Regrettably, Your Esteemed Photographer neglected to take photos... what was I thinking?)  While I am doing a lot of walking and hiking preparing for a Grand Canyon hike over Thanksgiving, Suzanne is keeping in shape with her TRX straps attached to the ladder on the coach.  These instruments of torture were introduced to her by Heather the Slayer and developed by Navy SEALs.  If anyone thinks this is a wussy workout, I suggest you try it... it is a killer!











Carbondale has always been one of our favorite places. We had an offer to stay at the beautiful, palatial home of our wonderful friends Connie Mariano and John Weber, but our puppies might have destroyed their home, so we opted to stay in the coach. But we did have a glass of wine on their patio, with a spectacular view of the double summits of Mt. Sopris (12,965 ft), in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness of White River National Forest. The next day found Suzanne giving a presentation to the Davi Nikent Group in Carbondale. Thanks to Rita Marsh for hosting Suzanne's full-house event! 






Suzanne and I took a hike on Mt. Sopris's north slope. The day started out relatively warm and sunny...
















Later in the day, the clouds building behind us reminded me that during summer in the Rockies, one should start early and finish below treeline by noon or so, because thunderstorms often develop by noon or 1:00 PM, and one does not want to be on open rock slopes during a thunderboomer...













We next visited Kris and Wendy Reitz in Breckenridge, Colorado. They moved from Illinois to a cabin at 11,000 ft about a year ago. Here are Wendy and MLB out behind their cabin. It is September 28th, about 90 degrees back at home in The Villages, and they had 4 inches of snow that morning!  A year ago when Wendy and Kris moved to this high altitude home, Suzanne thought she would never be able to visit there due to life-long altitude sickness.  Thanks to some spiritual lessons prompted by Wendy, this visit became a reality!






Kris has climbed many of the "fourteeners" (mountains over 14,000 ft) in the area, and took me on a hike on the slopes of Quandary Peak (14,271 ft), the highest peak in the Tenmile Range. We only had 2-3 hours to hike, so we started at 11,000 ft and hiked up to 12,500 ft. Kris is wearing gloves not to save his hands from gardening blisters... it was COLD!!!
















The views were spectacular. Far below is Monte Christo Lake, where we began our hike. (For My Good Friend Bob: the white stuff is not confetti.)














We saw some furry critters on this hike: several pikas and a couple of yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris), one seen here peeking warily from his rocky burrow... he was very shy. In the Sierras of California, the marmots come right up to hikers, begging for food. I asked Kris if this isn't a popular hiking destination, and he replied that most people don't hike this route or this high, unless they are headed to climb some serious pinnacles about 1,000 ft higher up. (Fortunately, we weren't equipped for that - I haven't done any serious rock climbing in 40 years!)




 Lake Monte Christo took on a different appearance on our way down the mountain due to lower sun and intermittent clouds. There is little question that these mountains would be a fabulous place to live...















After a couple of hours, I was getting a bit thirsty... "Hey, Kris, is there anywhere to get a beer up here?" I think he thought I said, "Are there any bears up here?" and was pointing up the mountain...



We will be home in one week. While it will be great to be back in Florida with family and friends, we will both miss the mountains.