As promised, the story continues. My husband and I spent days in a friendly debate about signing up for this snowshoe tour with Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES). My hesitation for the snowshoe tour was founded in my automatic disposition of nervousness. Well, that and I am out of shape and out breath (thanks, altitude). Naturally, my husband signed us up.
The drive from Aspen to Ashcroft was beautiful. The twists and turns of the road were met with the eager beauty of snow and Aspen trees. My husband chatted with the other passengers in the car about the Aspen trees and their root system. I stared out the window, carefully laying the bricks of anxiety within my brain. The tension was building about my first snowshoe trek.
The Snowshoe trek was interesting and challenging. The ACES nature guide was outstanding. She gave us several fun facts throughout the journey; they are (hopefully, I recalled them accurately):
Beavers are detailed dam builders. They often build a mud room separate from their main living corders.
Side note, I love dam jokes… it is so difficult to not make a dam joke. I did get a dam picture. The snow made it difficult to get a good dam picture.
Winter is starting later and later, every year. The concern is the lack of snow in winter decreases the accessibility of water flow to the Colorado River. Meaning, people will have less access to the water.
The woodpecker uses his or her tongue to create a shock absorber around it’s head (brain) as it is pecking on trees.
A highlight of the ACES tour was the Ashcroft Ghost Town. The Ashcroft Ghost Town is a silent reminder to all, that mining was at the forefront of the job market, for a period of time. These buildings once held its people with a single focus to break it “big” in the field of mining. It’s once booming growth descended quickly as Ashcroft’s competition for mining declined with Aspen’s to success.
The snowshoeing experience is one that will resonate within me for many years. I was scared and embarrassed by my inability, to maintain pace with group. My breathing was labored and often intense. At one point, I fell to the ground, repeatedly. I asked the guide about other means of returning to ACES cabin (the starting point). She encouraged me by reminding me that the last hill was up a head. Finally, I could do one more hill and then LUNCH!
As the trek continued, I began to muster my inner strength, slowly. Here is the thing about mustering. I am not an expert. Most days, I am not good at it. Yet, my two legs carried me through the snow, sweat, and altitude. I descended from that final hill and looked up. Beauty, wonder, awe are a few words to describe this still moment in my mind. A scene like no other. Even now, I cannot find enough words to describe these mountains, of glory and honor. I began to gently cry. Our guide read Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s poem The Invitation. My heart exploded in this spiritual union between myself and my Creator’s natural word. Yet, even now, I struggle with words to describe such an intimate moment.
Midway through the trek we had lunch, at Pinecreek Lodge. A beautiful log restaurant tucked in a mountainous dream. Literally. Large windows afforded it’s guest to feast on food and terrain. Knowing the lunch was at the end of this hill, I felt relief enter my tired bones. My recommendation for lunch are the buffalo momos.
Pushing myself through my vulnerability and hardship on the trek, taught me that the reward for the difficult hike laid within the beauty of the mountains. I was lucky enough to have a moment that was mine. A moment, that I could feel the power of attempting something difficult. I was naked and exposed; yet clothed in my yearning. A yearning within the soul to connect to the natural world.
There are many that would not have struggled with this snowshoe hike, as I did. However, I would not changed the struggle. The struggle helped me to chip away my doubts and fears in my ability to complete a difficult task. This experience taught me that without the struggle, I would not have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the view. Life’s most precious moments are often the creation of hardship. Time will continue to move forward; I hope to never lose sight of that brief moment in Ashcroft, Colorado. That moment when nature painted her glory in my heart.
Disclaimer: I am not receiving any financial compensation from any organization, group, or place mentioned in this post. These are my own thoughts, experience, and/or any recommendations mentioned.
“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow” -Anita Desai
Ya’ll, this Midwestern girl just returned from a quick weekend trip to Nashville, Tennessee, with a newly discovered southern drawl, in tow. Nashville is the known as the Music City; home to country music, delicious Southern foods, and rich experiences beckon all that enter its city limits. Partner this with a bountiful lists of decadent option for food and fun, plus the allure of being in the Path of Totality during the 2017 Solar Eclipse…you are definitely in Nashville, ya’ll.
The family and I, drove 10+ hours from Des Moines, Iowa to Nashville, Tennessee, with the only rousing stop being in Pella, Iowa, at Jaarsma Bakery to pick up two dozen Dutch letters; aka… heaven wrap in dough and almond paste. Road trips with kids require snacks, ipads, and more snacks. The landscape slowly started to shift from farm lands to rolling hills, with Nashville, on the horizon.
Family happily greeted us, as we arrived at my cousin’s home. Things in life are sweeter when family come together to make merry over food and a Solar Eclipse. Together we ventured to 3 different Nashville dining establishments.
Fat Bottom Brewery is a Nashville native owned brewery, with a variety of locally brewed ales to quench the thirst of all types of consumers. The location is aesthetically pleasing to the eye; with lights strung outside hanging over an area to play Cornhole (Bags, dummy boards, doghouse, Baggo, Bag toss, etc). My husband, a seasoned beer drinker, was pleased with his choice of their Lychee Weisse. There is a full bar for options outside of microbrews. Overall, a cozy, hipster place to hang with family and friends.
My cousin and her husband conveniently live close to McDougals Chicken Fingers and Wings, in Nashville, Tennessee. Ya’ll, chickens fingers with your choice of dipping sauces. I am just not sure that life could be any better. The kids ordered wings and a grilled cheese sandwich and I heard no complaints. Plus, each meal ends with a small cup of ice cream.
YA’LL, the restaurant, Monell’s. YA’LL, there is nothing to say except, go. Go, now! You will have to wait to get a table. You will most likely have to share a family style table, with strangers. You will be asked to put away your cell phone. You will eat outstanding Southern food. And just when you think the food will stop coming; the Monell staff will place several more options on the table. After eating at Monell’s, you will need to immediately go home, put on stretchy pants and take a nap. Go for the brunch, lunch, or dinner. Check their website, for their hours.
Let’s talk about the Path of Totality! The Solar Eclipse of 2017 exceeded all expectations. The temperature dramatically dropped and the boisterous song of the cicadas could be heard during these two minutes of totality. A supernatural moment to reflect on the universe’s ability to continue without the control of mankind. Sure, we can market these events and sell merchandise, all while singing Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart…you get the picture. There are moments that are outside of our control. These brief periods that award us a moment to be enchanted by the power of nature and for many it is a reminder of a higher power. Can we get a solar eclipse more often, please?
Overall, the weekend trip was fun, fast paced, and full of fantastic experiences. Writing about my travels is providing me an opportunity to process my journey. Traveling is much more than relaxing or hitting up the gift shop, of some major attraction. My short visit to Nashville, reminded me that my journey is a collection of moments that have chiseled my inner being, into the person, I am. Moments with good food, beautiful landscapes, and community make up a life of marvel. These seemingly short lived moments have become the foundation in which I stand upon.
“The journey of a thousands miles begins with a single step. -Lao Tzu
Home is a state of being; usually involving a road trip, with coffee in hand. Nevertheless, there are times when our heart just needs to hit the pavement and go. My Indiana roots have been calling to that still place within my spirit. With the milieu, of my community changing, the ache for Indiana returned to my heart. My short road trip consisted of 490 miles from my current location in Iowa, to my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Majority of my family members continue to reside in Indiana. Every time, I arrive in Fort Wayne, I am greeted by parade of relatives. By family, I mean cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, and at times, even their pets show up. When I moved away from my clan; I felt a lot of sadness. While, I enjoyed being in Iowa, with my husband; I still missed the closeness of the family. There is an overwhelming joy that fills my soul, when I see these people. The kids fight to sit next to me, at the table. There are countless invitations for dinner, parties, coffee, etc.
Joy radiates from my spirit, during these times; however, humility reiterates its presence by reminding me that I could never repay these people for their endless kindness and love. Reflecting on my life experiences usually fill my long drives back to Iowa. During this particular return trip, I began to ponder the impact my affectionate family had on me. A theme that emerged was my family’s ability to laugh and love each other throughout all of life’s hardships. These moments carry me through the darkest of days.
To summarize my short little road trip back home; the band, Third Eye Blind, has a lyric from their song, Deep Inside of You: “I’d walk with my own people if I could find them.” I found my people. My people are my family and I am thankful to have found them.