Adventure Tips: Snowshoeing in Colorado

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. DSC_1729
  • 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.

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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.

 

Devoted Traveler in Nashville, Tennessee

Quick and dirty account of our recent trip to Nashville, Tennessee. Review on 3 restaurants and our Solar Eclipse 2017; Path of totality experience.

Monell’s Restaurant, Nashville Tennessee

“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.

Kids waiting patiently to eat at Monell’s

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.

Sign above doorway at Monell’s Restaurant, Nashville, Tennessee

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? 

Solar Eclipse 2017; Path of Totality, Nashville, Tennessee

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

 

The Bad Mood That Started In 1980

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My family has this inside joke that we say about grouchy people. It goes like this, “we haven’t seen (fill in the person’s name) in a good mood since 1972.” However, upon much reflection, I have realized that my bad mood started around the day of my birth.

The idea of living a cheerful, positive approach is appealing. Unfortunately, this was not the disposition I received when my personality was being formed. Thank you, Creator; thank you parents (I am working on my ability to accept personal responsibility, for my grouchy self, at a later date). My mood has steadily improved over the years, especially with the introduction of coffee, in the daily routine and leaving those pesky teenage years in the dust.

While it can be argued that many factors impact one’s mood. According to Merriam -Webster’s Dictionary, mood is defined as, ”  a conscious state of mind or predominant emotion.”  Basically, my predominant emotion is despondency with a dash of melancholy, mixed with an unending flair for the dramatics. Or just plain grouchy, if you prefer the quick and dirty description of my emotional state.

I do not strive for an state of irritation and most days, I am in a decent mood. Irritability has long been a foundational component of my ability to move forward. I like to call a coping skill. Not your typical run of the mill,  traditional coping skill or one that is even encouraged, however, one that has awarded me the ability to sustain difficult days at work, difficult situations, etc… Even as I read & words written, I am thinking, that is some bull shit. Irritation and anger not only have stunted my relationships; it has impeded my ability to take responsibility for my actions, words, and thoughts. Ironically, my level of irritation coincides with my anxiety, as well. Irritation and anxiety are a partner made in the deep throws of emotion, some call it passion; I call it a heavy burden.

Today, I left work. Again, I felt tired, anxious, and pissed off. Now, to be honest, I have consistently complained about every job I have had. I drove home in silence, with thoughts of despair running freely in my mind.  I made dinner. The kids ate. The cat and dog were fed. I tried to shake this dark, tumultuous mood brewing. I wanted to pack my personal affects and drive away. Instead, I snuggled my dog and made a cup of tea. Slowly the noise within settled. I sat on my porch, ate a lemon muffin and listened to music.

The point is, I had a choice. One moment to take ownership of my time on this earth. I wish, I could tell you I just finished hiking the Appalachian Trail  or created the new Google.  There was no great battle of success. There was one simple moment that I purposely sought out an alternative to the story (or, mood). The essence is in these little victories.

Life lessons will always challenge those that seek refinement of the inner self. I am by no means an expert on this subject. The unfeigned me is unsure of how to fix the inner struggle with self. I am by no means an expert on fixing oneself. However. I leave you with 5 suggestions from my own experience with this thing called life.

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  1. Do something you enjoy. Today, I made delicious lemon muffins and tea
  2. Read the book: The Little Book of Hygee, Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking.
  3. Stop letting others decide your mood. Only you can control how you react and/or feel.
  4. Find a small way to live out one of your dreams.
  5. Go create that inviting space that gives you the ability to relax and enjoy life.

“With coffee, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy?” -Oscar Wildish

Peace Found in Utah

Traveling to Zion National Park gave me an opportunity to appreciate the beauty within the natural world.

Zion National Park, Utah

“Love her, but leave her wild.” -Atticus, To Kill a Mockingbird

There is a fire deep within my Mid-Western soul that longs for the beauty of Earth’s mystifying elevations. Having stood looking up at a myriad of mountain tops, canyons, and cliffs,  throughout various trips, during my life; I am reminded of the significance these stone monuments have played in my journey.

During my early twenties, I participated in a project trip to Ecuador. This was my first experience in seeing the Andes Mountains.  Never will I forget the impact those looming mountains had on my inner being.  The stillness of each curved rock as it created a barrier between earth and sky still remain fresh in my mind. The insignificance I felt, standing before these great thrones. I remembering contemplating my hopes, dreams, and fears in those moments. The mountains have always been intrinsic to my spiritual being.

Zion National Park, Utah

Fast forward to my late twenties, the unforgettable days of being in Utah’s Zion National Park. The sun was slightly hidden beneath the Navajo Sandstone that make up the stone features of Zion Canyon. A canyon created from the flow of the Virgin River; the river’s flow continues to frolic beneath its carved creation. My journal was in hand diligently writing the soft words of my soul, seeking to preserve my keen memories of those days. God’s presence was known to me in that canyon. 

Zion National Park, Utah

I knew peace in those days. Lush green landscapes beneath the colors of goldenrod kept within Zion’s kingly rocks. A calmness that can only be prescribed by the natural world. A natural world only created by a higher power. Like all trips, it ended. I prepared to return to my daily routine of being ruled by clocks and bills. I vowed silently before the Zion throne to return again. 

Many years have passed since those days in Zion National Park. My heart still yearning for one more adventure in Utah’s recreational sanctuary. 

Go visit the wondrous scenery of Utah’s Zion National Park!

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine

We Are All Weeds

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” – A.A. Milne

Weeds are everywhere. These wild plants annoyingly arrive in Spring and nest in our yards, until they are removed.  Yet, maybe these unwanted plants are just waiting for the right individual to cherish their unique qualities. Maybe, we have judged them harshly by their obnoxious disposition. Perhaps, the weed is simply a representation of the inner struggle many feel to rid themselves of the unwanted or competing items (or people) surrounding them.

There have been many times in which I have judged others harshly. Mostly, from my own place of insecurity. Like the weed, I find myself competing for metaphorical ground space with others. Demanding attention from others, stealing the sunlight, etc; you get the picture.

I am trying to create a gentle space within my own thoughts to cultivate a positive perspective on people, experiences, and myself. Just like weeds, thoughts have the ability overrun the garden of the mind.