Colorado, Family

Colorado, Days Three and Four

On Sunday, we headed up into the Rockies. My cousin drove the four of us to Breckenridge, where we had a light lunch and then walked around the shops. The leaves were at their peak of color change, and the aspens were stunning against the blues/greens of the conifers. We were all kind of pooped and a couple of us started having some altitude problems so we went to our overnight lodgings at the Frisco Lodge in Frisco and rested up. We found a few places still open that Sunday afternoon and I snagged a great hat at a consignment shop.

After a great breakfast at the lodge we did a bit more shopping, then drove around to look at the scenery. On our way back to Broomfield we stopped in Georgetown and at Red Rocks. I would love to see a concert at Red Rocks. I can understand why it is such a big deal now that I’ve been there. The geology is so unusual too.

I have to say, the clouds in Colorado were nearly as magnificent as the mountains. My attention was always drawn to them.

art, Colorado, Family

Second day in Denver

On our second day in Colorado, Cherie, Sandy and I went to explore the Santa Fe St. art district in Denver. I was itching to spend some time at the Abecedarian Gallery, which specializes in book arts. To my surprise, their current exhibition was of my favorite book artist, Daniel Essig, and his wife, Vicki Essig. I knew what to expect of Dan’s work, having taken three of his classes, but it was Vicki Essig’s work that really blew me away. It is the type of art that is difficult to photograph because it is so delicate. It was so inspiring and made my mind turn immediately to combining my woven tapestry with books and found objects in a different way.

I have to say that I am flabbergasted that I don’t have but one photo of this afternoon. I must have really been in the moment. The photo above was the outdoor area behind one of the galleries. I love how they constructed the wall.

That night we watched my cuz-in-law, the fantabulous Kenny Perkins, perform with his band at Logan’s Roadhouse. They totally rocked the house.

art, Colorado, Family

Dale Chihuly and the first day in Colorado

This sunset greeted us when we left the Denver airport on Thursday. It turned out that all the sunsets were beautiful.

On Friday, Cherie, Aunt DeLaine, Sandy and I went to the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Denver Botanical Gardens. It would have been a great visit even without the art, but the Chihuly glass sculptures combined with the gardens made the visit spectacular!

That night we all ate from the buffet at Taj, a great Indian restaurant in Boulder, then we went to the open house at the observatory on the University of Colorado Boulder campus and looked at Mars, a globular star cluster, and a ring nebula. Students were playing some form of the human vs. zombies game and one of them used us for cover as we walked back to our car. I wouldn’t mind ending up living near Boulder one day.

art retreats, Art-is-You, California, Colorado

In the air again

I’m about to head out west again, this time with my husband to visit family in and near Denver. Sandy will fly back home on Tuesday while I hop another flight to California to attend Art is You Petaluma. I will be glad to see my family, but I just can’t get up much enthusiasm for the retreat afterwards. Usually I am pawing the gate. Now I would rather come home and paint the new bathroom, get the house put back in some kind of order, and weave. I’m feeling low about Mama and the big tasks on the other side of this trip, but I paid too much for this retreat to skip it due to moodiness.

Some good news: the bathroom should be finished by the time I get back, except for the painting and window treatments. I have a loving pet sitter so I won’t worry about my critters. I’m caught up enough at work so that I should not have a huge pile waiting for me.

I know that once I get there I will thoroughly enjoy myself. I went to this one a couple of years ago and it is really one of the best, in a beautiful Sheraton which is also a marina on the Petaluma River. I’m taking classes with three artists who I really like. I’m splitting a room with the retreat vendor and she lives in Petaluma so we will probably use the room at different times. The weather forecast is great for all of it. I will get a little alone time. I will even enjoy the bus ride from the San Francisco airport to Petaluma.

I’ll come home with a couple of fabulous journals, a little more knowledge about watercolor and mixed media, a few new friends to bombard with Facebook posts, and some grand memories. That’s the good life for me, and I’m grateful that I can do it. Of course, I’ll blog it here because that’s one of the best parts of traveling – reliving it.

Colorado, National Parks and Monuments

Great Sand Dunes National Park

We greatly underestimated the beautiful uniqueness and fun of the Great Sand Dunes National Park, but it is probably a good thing. If we had stopped there on the way to Mesa Verde as we originally planned, we might not have made it across the state. As it happened, now we know of a really great place within a day’s drive of Denver to return to when we go back.

The dunes were formed by wind blowing sand into a curved valley, and topping at 750 feet high, they are the tallest dunes in North America. Medano Creek flows in front of the dunes, where a crowd of all ages enjoyed playing in the ankle-deep water as if they were at a North Carolina beach in the low tide pools. Kids made sand castles and makeshift dams, people laid out and tossed footballs and picnicked.

We tried to walk a little ways into the dunes, but were driven back by the wind-borne sand.

So we splashed our way up the creek.

The Medano Fire is still burning today. There are links to video footage on the park website.

Colorado, New Mexico

On the road again

We decided that we wanted to take a different route when we left Pagosa Springs, so we swung southeast on Hwy 84 through a lil bit of New Mexico and then north to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. We stopped briefly in Chama, NM to browse through the local shops, which were worth the stop. After my rug-buying binge I was feeling a bit over-extended, otherwise I would have totally spent some money on some raven-inspired pottery there.

As Sandy drove us through this area, I was struck the most by the beautiful high meadows covered with wildflowers, and the groves of aspen interspersed with the tall pines. I tried to take photos from our moving car, but this wasn’t very successful.

Southern Colorado

Southern Colorado

Around the time we came down from the continental divide into the flat country again, Sandy saw an odd-looking cloud on the horizon. We found out later at Great Sand Dunes that a wildfire that began a couple of weeks earlier had flared back up, but firefighters were controlling it. We probably first noticed the smoke about 100 miles away. My camera was acting contrary and I wasn’t able to take photos for a while until I took the battery out and cleaned it. I’m glad that it began working in time for the Great Sand Dunes, but it made me realize again that traveling without a camera is better for experiencing the present moment. Except I kept saying, “Dammit, that would have made a great photo!”


Pagosa Springs and the San Juan River

When we couldn’t find a room in Durango, we drove on to Pagosa Springs. There we found a cheap motel room with free wi-fi that was half a block from the San Juan River. At last I was able to stick my toes in some river water! Really, you could plunk me down on a pebble beach next to some rapids and I’d be happy staying there for the whole day. I put my thumb out to the rafters who went by, but they didn’t pick me up. I picked some horsetail to go with some yucca leaf that I picked up at Mesa Verde (it was weathered and stomped down to the fibers) and I plan to make some Colorado paper with these elements.

Later, after chorizo and eggs at the Elkhorn Cafe, we bought some handwoven rugs at the Wild Spirit Gallery. I had been looking for a handwoven item to buy on this trip, but my intention was to buy a small purse or wallet. The Navajo items were out of my price range and much of the rest seemed like cheap knock-offs or not what I wanted. I was wowed by the Zapotec weavings in this gallery. They were priced affordably but not too cheap, and the quality was excellent. Each had the weaver’s name attached to it. I bought a rug with a bird design to hang on the wall and Sandy bought a second, smaller one that I haven’t decided what to do with yet. Photos later – hopefully they are in transit.

Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park, National Parks and Monuments, UNESCO World Heritage sites

Mesa Verde National Park

Tower House

There are so many great photos that we took in Mesa Verde National Park. Not only are the ancient cliff dwellings fascinating, but the entire park is beautiful. Even the large area that was burnt by a wildfire in 2003 is bursting with wildflowers. It is difficult to pick only a few photos to share here.

We stayed at the Far View Lodge in the middle of the park. Our room had a king-sized bed and a little balcony overlooking the park. We drove in very late the night before, when a bear and a large elk crossed the road in front of us. That morning, we saw either a small deer or an antelope near our balcony. It was standing in the shade so I couldn’t tell which. Later that day we saw wild horses, the descendants of escapees from the Ute Reservation next door from a couple of generations back, and I saw an elk resting in the trees across the road from one of our stops, quietly watching our tour group.

The ranger-led tour that we took that afternoon focused on three sites: Tower House, Tri-Cities (a site where three different cities were built and the kivas have been preserved under a shelter) and Cliff Palace, the most famous of the cliff dwellings. Mesa Verde is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because its 4000+ archeological sites include the best preserved sites, and its cliff dwellings are built into alcoves in the cliffs.

The cliffs are so tall and vertical that you have to marvel that anyone would choose to live there. The Anasazi originally lived on top of the mesas in pit houses around 600 A.D. and moved to the cliffs in the latter part of the period, around 1200-1300 A.D. One current opinion is that they may have moved to the cliffs to free up more land for farming on top of the mesa. When they left the area after a prolonged drought, they dispersed into the 19 Puebloan tribes of today.

When we were told that people with heart problems shouldn’t go on the Cliff Palace tour and that the exit involved ascending 100 feet including ladders, Sandy and I huddled for a conference and decided to do it anyway. He was fine and my grip held and so we went on a tour of a lifetime through the Cliff Palace.

top to bottom: Inside the Palace, the original steps to the Palace, and EEP! the first ladder.


Please don’t shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.

Durango looked like a lot of fun. But it was at the end of a long day and I had made reservations for the night at the Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde National Park. We stopped at the historic Strater Hotel and had dinner at the Diamond Belle Saloon. The food was great and inexpensive. We tried to get a room the next night but everything nearby was booked up because of a big bike race.

Sandy bought the hip hat that you’ll see in future photos on this street. We left Durango thinking that we would reach Far View in 30 minutes, but when we reached Mesa Verde at 10 p.m., we discovered that we had 15 miles of twisty uphill under-construction roads to go. The stars were beautiful, but unfortunately we were too exhausted to stay up and look at them.

The piano was 100 years old and the piano player was talented. I wish that I could play piano like this.