Back in the Lower Elevations

I spent all day going from the Continental Divide down to near sea level. It’s a long way down, but now I’ve got bonus red blood cells to enjoy.

Coming into Austin.

I’m glad I got to ride from Breckenridge to Denver in the daytime, because there are cool little towns, old mines, and many rocks (hence, Rocky Mountains). I want to visit every funky town and all the parks. Guess I’ll have to go back.

Once I got to the airport it was the usual lines, walks, and waits. I just tried to stay away from people. But, all was well, and eventually I got to Austin. Lesson: next time take a nonstop flight.

Everything fit.

Thanks to my giant, inexpensive suitcase, in which one will find Lee’s smaller suitcase and all my yarn, etc., I got everything I purchased or made on my trip home with ease. I’m glad Ken and Cathy talked me into that. But wow, that’s a big suitcase.

The most negative part of my trip was listening to a pilot expound on his beliefs about vaccines and other current news events. If I hadn’t just read a similar set of thoughts from someone else I know, I’d have thought he was making it up. But, no, it’s the narrative accepted by many in this country. I’m listening and learning, rather than name calling and labeling, hard as that may be. Maybe it’s good for me?

He also was not wearing his mask, the only person not eating that I saw not following the airport rule.

I’ll be listening a lot in the coming weeks and months, as all heck has broken loose in Milam County politics. I think listening is the best plan for an outsider like me. But hey, now I can vote here. Hmm.

Back with my sleeping companions. Yes. The lump is Carlton, glued to my feet.

A Last Trip Up

It was really cold last night, but warmed up with bright sun, so I decided to talk a walk at lunchtime. I wanted to do the path on the other side of the Blue River from downtown Breck, just to see what I’d see. It was a pleasant walk, and I took pictures of statues that the town has put up, as well as views of the river.

That one must have been fun to make.

The problem was that all the smells from the backs of restaurants made me hungry. After checking to see if the distillery shipped (nope), I looked for a place to eat. I ended up in the Thai/Japanese place and treated myself to some sushi.

It was quite a rustic Thai/Japanese place, no doubt because it had to fit in with the town theme, which is that everything is a mountain lodge or a mine.

Blue River

The lunch was fun. I watched dogs as I ate, since I always try to sit by a window when I’m alone. There are certainly more huskies per person than anywhere I ever have been before. At least they are in their element! They must enjoy the weather.

Happy cowboys

I then carried on, like someone’s wayward son, and just kept walking until I realized I was at the end of the historical part of town. When I turned back, it was clear that I had also passed the gondola. Should I go up? It would make my lunch hour very long…but when would I have another chance?

Sack race.

So, up I went. Perhaps it was not a great idea to go on a swinging high-rise conveyance after a large meal of fish. I did end up getting a bit gondola-sick going down, but the views were worth it! I still like that wetland area that the gondola goes over the best. The mountain views are second, and the woods (still stubbornly free of animals that I could see) are third.

I stumbled out of the gondola car at the end, and decided I needed a break, so I went in a place called Cashmere and Chocolates. Living in Texas, I do NOT need any cashmere items, but being me, I could always use some chocolates. I got one that looked like the Earth!

It contained a smoky tequila truffle.

I survived the walk back, happy to have hit my exercise goal again (I’d have to raise it if I lived here, because my heart rate finally speeds up at this altitude). I’m glad I allowed myself to be spontaneous and eat nice food and see the scenery again. There’s plenty of time to finish work now!

(I wrote this post during a particularly lengthy update process on my work computer that failed, so I had to do it twice.)

An Elevated Experience

Yet another day of fun and new sights happened yesterday, which was good. I’d gotten irritated that the Cowboys football game stopped showing on the television here, because the team was doing “too well.” I went off to climb the hills around here, and just when I discovered it was perhaps too muddy, Cathy asked if I wanted to go with them to Leadville, Colorado to have dinner at one of their favorite restaurants.

Basically, I just wanted to see more of this stuff.

Well, Leadville was the last of the places I’d really hoped to get to see on this trip, so I turned right around and came home to change out of my muddy attire. Why did I want to go there? Well, it is the highest-altitude community in the US where people are living. And it has a cool history as a spunky mining community with not only saloons and that kind of fun, but a Jewish temple and a more museums per capita than any city in Colorado. Here’s an example:

The House with the Eye Museum. See the eye?

Of course, the scenery all the way to Leadville was beautiful. I was surprised to discover that, as the crow flies, it’s pretty close to Breckenridge. But, you have to go around all these mountains to get there. It’s fine with me. I enjoyed looking at mines, trees, hills, and rocks, though we picked a bad time to drive directly west, and I picked a bad day to decide to wear my glasses that don’t adjust to the sun. Enjoy some sights, though:

When we got to Leadville, I felt as if I’d found MY place in Colorado. It sure looked like a lot of hippies lived there, judging from the art, statues, rainbow flags, and brightly colored houses. Plus, there were houses here that non-wealthy people could live in. And double-plus, there are 360-degree mountain views. Awesome is the RIGHT word for it.

There were so many fun paint jobs, stained glass windows, gingerbread, and all that fun stuff.

I found myself amused when I went to see the highest-elevation high school, hospital, churches, Odd Fellows Hall…you name it…in the US. I really loved the look of the town and the different sights. I’d love to come back to go to some of the museums and ride the narrow-gauge railroad that’s up there. I keep coming up with excuses to return here, don’t I?

Finally, we went to dinner, fashionably early as always. The restaurant, Treeline, was beautiful and in an old building.

More important, though, they had amazingly good food. I had a pasta with lamb, where the lamb was marinated in red wine and olive juice. Huh. I wonder how venison would be cooked that way? There were also crispy and saucy grilled vegetables that I loved.

There was SO MUCH food, and such good wine! And the prices were very reasonable considering the quality and quantity. I’m so glad Cathy and Ken brought me! That sure zonked me out, though. The good news is that I didn’t have to get up so early this morning, so I have been very perky so far today at work.

Take care, friends. I appreciate all the feedback that people are enjoying my photos. I know some of you are really struggling (especially Anita, who just moved all her stuff to Cameron and has to supervise the moving of my stuff the next two days). If I could give everyone a fun and stress-free weekend like I had, I’d do so!

A River Walk in Silverthorne

It’s Saturday! I was all excited that I can do stuff all day long. Cathy S. Came to get me and we went for a walk with an organized walking group. They were women in my age bracket, but they were in great shape and lots of fun.

What a pretty river!

We walked along what I think was the Blue River. It was a great trail with bridges, good paths, and fine views. I took one of my hiking poles, and it helped a bit in some places. It was fun to use.

A memorial bridge.

We saw guys fly fishing for trout. That’s such a graceful sport. I looked for wildlife, but only saw a large woodpecker. That’s okay, though, because the trees and water were plenty entertaining.

The funniest part to me was that we ended up invited into a woman’s home at the end. She was a member of the group who had just had knee surgery. She had a great sense of humor.

At the end of the paved trail, there was a fun teepee kind of thing. This lady posed as a chipmunk in it. I told her she’d be in the blog! Great humor.

I really enjoyed the walk and the conversation. I mostly talked to Cathy’s friend, Sarah, who’s interesting, funny, and so smart. But everyone told great stories and laughed a lot. It was a fine way to get exercise.

With Cathy and Sarah

The weather was pretty good, too. It was chilly at first, but warmed up to 50. It felt very warm.

Looking happy.

I wish I had people to walk with at home!

Here we are telling the third from right woman that her hat was not ugly.

After the walk, we met Ken for lunch in a restaurant with really cool decor, the Red Mountain Grill. I’m glad we went, because it sure was cool from the outside. The décor was Mexican crafts on steroids. It looked way more Mexican than the Mexican restaurant last night. But it wasn’t an exclusively Mexican restaurant.

Crazy lighting.

I had excellent eggs Benedict and enjoyed endless mimosas. I can see why the locals like the place! That was a fine end to a fun morning.

I’ll share more from today when I get up tomorrow morning. It was a wonderful day, though!

Found the Troll, but It’s COLD at the Top of the World

Thank goodness I was feeling better today. The current theory is I had low blood oxygen for a couple of days. It was the last day of those extra-early meetings for a while, so I was all energized to help people out and get work done today. Nonetheless, when Cathy and Ken said they were coming to get me this afternoon, I did not say no!

Yay, it’s a troll!

They are such great tour guides, and they seem to like to show off the area as much as I like to see stuff, so it was a fun time for all. First, we headed over to the Illinois Creek Park where I couldn’t find the troll before. There was a well-marked sign that I had completely missed before, pointing the way to the troll, whose name is Isak Heartstone, and has only been there a short while. He’s by a Danish artist and made of recycled wood.

Wooden guy in the snow

It was pretty icy today, but we slid our way to the big guy. Not too many other people were there, so we could admire his beauty. I love how he’s holding a tree in his hand.

We were sliding in this picture.

Next, Ken drove us to the other side of Breckenridge, where we took a ride on the free gondola that takes you up to some resorts way up in the mountains (but not all the way up). The scenery we saw was so wonderful. You pass over a wetland that must be great in the summer and becomes cross-country skiing area once the snow gets deep. It was just right today, with some ice and some flowing water.

We looked and looked for moose and elk but didn’t see any. The woods were beautiful anyway. I enjoyed wandering around the ski village at the end of the gondola ride. They even had another statue of Ullr. The first day of ski season was booming, but not overly full of folks. I hate to think how crowded it will be later. I’d not be there.

Back into the Subaru we went, headed to the ski sites that we didn’t see last week. I think I grew tiresome repeating, “It’s so pretty” under my breath. After a stop to get water (because Cathy had skied in brisk wind this morning and was all dried out), we headed out to their favorite ski area, which is Keystone. It was a lot of fun to look at all the beautiful river and statues there. Lots of people were skiing, so I enjoyed all the people in their outfits as they warmed up at little fires and went to drink beer. It was quite stereotypical, but still fun to see. I can see why Cathy likes it there. There will be a LOT of slopes to ski down as it gets colder and snowier.

We then headed up and up to the Arapahoe Basin ski area, which is the highest one in the US, or world, or something. It’s way up there. Lots of young people were at this resort, where there was a lot more snow. But, were we as high in the Rockies as possible? Oh, no.

Arapahoe, really up there

It was a bit snowy, but the roads we were on were so full of forest and mountain vistas that I never wanted to stop looking. Those lodgepole pines with snow nestled in their branches had me grinning constantly. I could tell it was getting colder as we went up and up on what must be one of the prettiest drives I’ve ever been on. My pictures do not do it justice.

Ahead of us, I kept seeing the mountains rising up above the treeline, all rocky, snowy, and windy. Suddenly, Ken pulled into a parking area. We were on the top of the world! Of course, I wanted to take some pictures of the Continental Divide. Cathy wanted to take a look at skiers who started from there and went down the whole way (one of their sons has done it). We got out and, um, it was a bit brisk.

The winds were so strong it was hard to walk, and it was blowing bits of ice at us. Ken stayed in the car, and I didn’t blame him. But by gosh, I was going to go look at the highest part of this pass. Who knows when I’d be back?

What a cool place.

It was not hard getting photos, but we did our best. I had one very warm hand and one cold one that took pictures. For some reason I thought this was about as fun as fun gets, and kept laughing, even though I’d only ever been colder during Champaign, Illinois winters. What a treat!

On the way down, Cathy and Ken showed me where those skiers who started at the top of the world ended up. They just sort of shoot out of the woods right where the road is. There, people wait for them, or they hitch-hike back up to do it again. That’s extreme snow sports for you.

Hitchhiking back up

We went back down and saw another ski resort, but I am running out of names. Update! Cathy reminded me it’s Loveland Ski Area. This one was near Interstate 70, which we took on the way back. It was good to see it in daylight! The sun was coming out from behind clouds, and it was magical.

Were we done? Nope, when we got back down, we went to Silverthorne, Colorado, next to Dillon, where we drove through the neighborhood where their golf course is. They often see cool animals there. We did not see anything, but the golf course sure was pretty in the sunset hour (as were the amazing homes, where I did see two more elk statues).

By then, we were getting hungry, so we tried out a tiny new Mexican restaurant hiding in a shopping center in Dillon, Lili’s Bistro. We were the only Anglo folks that evening. The food was elegant and delicious, though the place looked nothing like any Mexican restaurant I ever ate at before – all gray and minimalist. My mole enchiladas were quite good, as was the salsa and spicy shrimp appetizers. We had such pleasant conversations that only the hard chairs inspired us to leave. I’m glad we took a chance on the new restaurant!

Mole enchilada, slightly used.

Now to rest, try to finish that baby blanket (hint, it’s turning out GREAT), and get ready for some hiking tomorrow. After a pretty hard few days, I am very grateful to my kind friends for giving me such a fun afternoon.

Under the Weather in Chilly Weather

I have no idea why, but I felt awful today. I was sleepy, fuzzy headed, and stuffy. It made being all brilliant and with-it difficult. Of course, times being as they are, I was sure I had a coronavirus. I took a nap and all that, and got through the day, which was long, long, long.

At least I had a winter wonderland to watch all day. Many flurries.

You know how some days all kinds of issues come up all at the same time? So I was trying to figure out a new part of the software I document, right when someone else really wanted me to edit something right that minute, and I was scheduled to try to figure out how to get Lee verified as my spouse so he can be on my insurance. With my fuzzy head, none of that was working, when the phone rang, and it was my old professor. I got scared he was sick, so I answered it, and he was like, “Hey, are you OK?” I said I’d call back when I was less unhinged.

Cute little flakes

Nonetheless, I actually managed to solve all the problems once I stopped going around and around in my head. Go Suna. I learned the software thing, found my marriage license online, had a great talk with my former coworker about our work stuff, and had a lovely talk with my former professor. It’s all okay. I even have energy to send to friends and family dealing with their own stuff.

The best news is that the yarn came to finish Ellie’s baby blanket, and I think it’s going to work out. I’m even finishing it as I go, since the darning needle I thought I ordered did not show up.

Pool equipment came!

In the meantime, I’m just striping it up like crazy and making a square baby blanket. At least I am sure it will be blanket sized and will go with the other one. It’s in softer yarn, too, Sridar Snuggly. Too bad I’m so wiped out from a very long (but good) Master Naturalist meeting, so not much knitting will occur.

But hey, snow, yarn, online conversations, phone calls. I may have been stuck in the condo all day typing or interacting, but it is a fine life, with ups, downs, and cute little animals to cheer me up.

Good Excuse for Not Blogging

I didn’t manage to blog anything yesterday, but it was all good. After work, my friend from when I lived in Austin, Audrey, drove over from Colorado Springs to hang out with me. We used to go to church together and were in a lot of groups together, so it was good to see her again.

We were happy together.

Mostly we talked about what was going on in our worlds that doesn’t appear on Facebook and blogs, and it was great to catch up. I honestly think the best thing about this trip has been the opportunity to have really good conversations with one person at a time. You don’t get to do that very often these days, but most of my friends seem to be fully vaccinated now, so visits like this can occur.

We had an early dinner at the Mexican restaurant that’s just down the road from where I am staying. I’m glad we stopped at the statue I kept walking by before, because it was on the other side of the road. It was Ullr, the snow god, who protects people who engage in winter sports. He is one cool skiing god! It’s a great statue.

Skiing god

The food at the restaurant was really excellent, as was the “real” margarita made with fresh juice and good tequila. There was a slightly sweet tomato and onion salsa that Audrey and I both just loved. Wish I had that recipe! But the main dishes were way beyond what I expected. We both got chile rellenos, but mine was stuffed with squash and other vegetables, and served on a bed of the most divine sauce, made from sweet corn puree. It was a delightful surprise addition to the meal.

View from the restaurant. Cool restaurant on the lake.

Plus, we splurged on dessert, and I got to have tres leches cake, and a good one at that. Audrey had beautiful and puffy sopapillas.

After we got back, we talked and talked, and I knitted on a simple blanket with the same technique as the weird failed one. I’m so glad Audrey was willing to drive over!

Today she’s going to explore town while I work. I don’t have the usual glut of meetings, so I may see if we can have lunch together or something. It snowed overnight, so I’m looking forward to the sunrise so I can see it (yes, I wrote this before sunrise).

The pool, before they built the flower beds yesterday.

More later.

Looking for Birds

It is true that I got invited back to the bird feeder where I saw the Steller’s Jay last week, since it was owned by my online friend, Elizabeth AKA Liz. I now envy her greatly, because I discovered she gets to see all sorts of wildlife right from her house. I only saw this incredibly cute squirrel, though, because I got too cold sitting on the porch waiting for a fox to walk by.

I am cute.

There was also another squirrel, one of the black ones with tufted ears, as well as a chipmunk with a tail way longer than its body, but they weren’t into posing. I’m sort of glad we didn’t see any brown bears or moose, since I had to walk home around sunset.

I had a great visit, and enjoyed the beautiful home in its inside, too! I did get better mountain chickadee photos and some tiny and precious nuthatches, too. Those are sure happy birds.

The Steller’s Jay came back and we discovered that there are two variants, and these are the southern Rockies version, which has white eyebrows that add so much to their charm. It’s just a spectacular bird, and the only crested jay west of the Rockies. So there.

I’m glad I got to see some good birds, because I took a whole bunch of pictures of an owl before realizing it is one of those fake owls. I swear I’d seen it move. But nope.

After a pleasant and brisk walk home, where I figured out all the shortcuts, I was home in time to order a beautiful pizza with onion, meatballs, and mushrooms (a combo only I would love, I guess).

mmmmmmm

The pizza place had a grumpy as heck menu. Every item said no special orders and food will be delivered as ordered and don’t you dare try to get half ingredients on their darned pizzas. It fit, I guess, given that it’s New York pizza.

Since Liz and I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, we will have to work very hard to remember to do it when we go on our planned hike later! I sure enjoyed my bird watching visit, though!

Happy Reunion

Today’s highlight was a visit from a high school friend, Kathy Herzog Evans. I’m so glad these interesting people keep reappearing in my life! It was so kind of her to drive over to see me from where she lives.

We are laughing because the sun was blinding us.

We had a great time catching up on the past 45 years and finding out all we have in common. We knew we were both knitters, but many other things popped up, like being too fond of jewelry and cowboy boots.

And we love mountains.

We wandered through parts of Breckenridge that I hadn’t seen before and neither had Kathy. We found an artist area, the county courthouse and many more old houses.

Some shopping also occurred.

We looked at art, too.

We had a good meal at, of all things, a barbecue place. It was up to Texas standards, though! And the old fashioned made from local bourbon was heavenly.

Our waiter was a spitting image of Mandi’s son, Matthew. He even talked like him. I enjoyed making him talk. Plus, he took our picture and was patient with our knitting and chatting.

We came back and talked and knitted for four hours. It was a real pleasure sharing experiences and thoughts with Kathy. What a good day!

Restaurant ceiling.

Wandering Pays Off, but No Troll

I smile a lot when I’m spending time in a new place all by myself. I’m easily charmed by little things, which makes me have fun traveling, even without any big plans.

Wandering took me here!

Today was no different. I was really tired after work (I was trying to write software training material, which is always hard on the eyeballs due to all the fidgety screenshots). But I told myself I really need to do something fun each day, especially since it was sunny and not all that cold.

Stuff like this is out there! I must go see it.

So, I set out in my normal shoes and headed toward downtown. The normal shoes were there to supposedly keep me on sidewalks and off of icy trails. You can ponder a moment about how that worked out.

When I got to Main Street, I turned right, just to see what was down there. At first the most exciting thing I ran into was a gas station (you don’t see many around her in the land of the quaint). But then I spotted something good. It was a beautiful little steam engine! It was one of the ones used in the early days of the area.

I wonder if it’s heard of Thomas the Tank Engine?

There was also a little boxcar and tiny caboose that you could look into. I was giddy with happiness, because I really like steam engines. I had run into High Line Railroad Park. It’s probably a lot more fun in the summer, but I enjoyed looking at the narrow-gauge rains and train cars anyway.

I saw a sign pointing to the troll, which is a wooden sculpture that is famous here, so I headed through the ice-skating arena parking lot to find it. I used Apple Maps, but it was not where the software said it was. I didn’t fret at all, because my wandering took me to a beautiful woodland park along a pretty creek. I wanted to explore.

Want to know what my idea of rejuvenating surroundings is? This.

Hey, remember those shoes I wore? They weren’t exactly cut out for the trails going up, which I quickly realized when I saw very serious hiking dudes putting on crampons. Still, the bottom parts of the trail were mostly free of snow and ice (and I’ve learned to walk on ice), so I allowed myself to be surrounded by the huge trees, which smelled so good. That plus the happy sounds of the creek made me not care one bit about a troll, which I figure my local friend Cathy can show me when she’s back from Texas.

After some forest bathing time, I headed back. I didn’t realize how pretty it would be when I headed toward the mountains, so I almost gasped aloud. I had a great walk back, the highlight of which is a real Suna highlight. I found a house with a big birdfeeder and stood there for ten minutes watching birds, including just about the most beautiful thing I ever saw. This bird was BLUE.

I also saw a little woodpecker (not sure what kind), and those cute little chirpy things I hadn’t gotten a good enough picture of yet to ID. I figured it was some kind of chickadee, and yep, iNat told me it’s a mountain chickadee. And, of course there were crows. The pictures were too crummy to share.

I took the back road, French St., to downtown and got to see some nice places to live or rent, and some of the old houses as well. There are a lot of purple houses. I have to like a town with purple houses.

One house I admired the paint job on the corbels when I realized it was also a cute boutique having a sale. I got some tiny earrings and a surprise holiday gift for the relatives back home. It will win the most hilarious gift of the 2021 season, I’m pretty sure.

See the pretty teal accents on the corbels?

By the time I got home, the sun was behind the mountains, and it was getting chilly again. I made myself some delicious ravioli with fancy mushrooms in it. See, I can cook if I have a jar of sauce and refrigerated pasta!

I guess people get used to this. Not me so far. This is from the ice arena.

That was one successful day of wandering and surprises. Tomorrow I get a visitor!

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