Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse on a stormy day when thoughts were heavy and choices hard.
Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse on a stormy day when thoughts were heavy and choices hard.
Sunday morning, I was treated to my first hike in Eldorado Canyon State Park.
It was a perfect day to be outdoors.
It was in the high thirties with a light breeze (brisk!), beautifully sunny and the ground ground was either hard-packed ice, several inches of snow or a slush-mud mix that you sank at least an inch down into with each step.
I was warm and toasty the rest of the day. My base layers are a merino wool mix, yet thinner than a t-shirt and worth every darned cent.
I had also picked up some proper hiking shoes the day before; a pair of waterproof Merrell hikers. Admittedly, I would have been miserable and heading home early if not for those shoes.
The views of the Flatirons from the Canyon State Park trails were stunning. Craggy and sharply defined, these paths made for a perfect starter hike.
We were treated to open vistas, crystalline creeks partially frozen over and thick evergreen trees that lined wandering foot paths.
As we neared the end of the trail, I turned and was treated to the best view of the day.
I can’t wait to head back to try other trails and do the same trail again (only this time on dry dirt vs. the snow and slush). It’s truly God’s country out here.
One of the many little lessons I’ve learned in living here in Colorado now for the last few months is that if you don’t have a tolerance for driving around a dirty vehicle for weeks at a time, you’re going to have to budget for quite a few carwashes during snow season.
It’s a crying shame to move to one of the most beautiful places in the United States and not immediately spend every available opportunity venturing out to explore. Thus I found myself, several months after setting up shop here in Colorado, not having yet driven into the mountains to do any sight-seeing.
So I opened up Google maps, looked at surrounding towns within easy driving distance, and settled on Nederland, Colorado.
After a roughly 45 minute drive northwest through the foothills and up into the mountains via more than a few gut-twisting turns and twists, I rolled into town.
It was far too brisk a day to comfortably get out and walk the downtown area (or anywhere outside the warm confines of my SUV), so the photography was mainly kept to the views of Barker Reservoir.
It took a bit of time to be able to navigate to the top of the mountain roads open to public traffic in order to find an clear view from which to snap a picture or two.
A bit further down near the reservoir itself, it was obvious that despite the bright sunshine and blue skies, the strong winds and chilly temperatures had kept the waters frozen over.
It really doesn’t do the view here justice, but I attempted to capture a panoramic shot with my iPhone from atop the small cliff above the water’s edge.
I look forward to driving back soon to this beautiful place. The start of many new adventures to come!
(The Pet Life “Collapsable 360 Vista View Dog Crate” that was fantastic for transporting my cat across the country, as seen here in a hotel, and she now uses as a cat house in my apartment).
Making a cross-country trip gets twice as complicated when transporting pets. When I began planning my move this year from Virginia to Colorado, I realized that suddenly every step along the way now had a new caveat to it that would require more thought and strategy since my cat would be with me.
My tabby cat has never been outdoors (this is how she was when I adopted her and how she has lived with me). Her only experience in a car has been short trips to the vet’s office in a small carrier. She’s never felt colder temperatures than house temperatures. I tried to put myself in her shoes (or paws, if you will) to sensitize myself to how confusing and anxious a trip of this magnitude could be for her – and how to make her life (and thus mine) easier during the trip.
Step 1: Call Your Vet and Research the Web
Much like people, every animal is different. Personalities, experiences and other factors can make driving the same trip unique to each pet. So I suggest starting with your vet. They’ve been asked numerous times already about transporting animals and they also can anticipate your animal’s needs likely better than you can.
My vet advised me to never drug an animal unless there was no other choice. He then proceeded to advise that the majority of pets, given the proper amount of space and comfort, would eventually settle into a groove for a long trip on their own.
Also, I did find several postings online from other pet owners (mostly dog owners) who I researched for how to accommodate a cat for a long trip. I looked at pictures they posted of the carriers they used, items they put in with the pet and if I was lucky, what their vehicles looked like with the animal situated.
Step 2: Start Researching Carriers/Crates Well in Advance
I tried to think back to my earliest memory as a kid being toted along to my grandmother’s house. Driving to her place required a stomach-churning trip through a river gorge and 2+ hours of mountain highways. My sister and I used every trick in the book to not get carsick (i.e. watch the middle lines, look out the windshield not the windows, etc.). But I remember what always made the trip better was when our parents drove our family Suburban with the seats laid down in the back and we could make a play space to take our attention during the worst of it. (Mind you this way back in the day when having everyone belted all the time was not as much of a focus as it is now).
For my cat, I wanted to give her the benefit of having as much space as was possible to at least sit up right, turn around and step into a litter pan if she needed to. I also had to keep in mind that this is a container, with her weight, the weight of some litter and other items, I would have to haul in and out of hotels too (so it had to be something I could muscle to through doors).
I am glad I started looking several weeks in advance, as it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Most of the travel crates/carriers are either for animals to stay lying down in, or they are too big to carry for any distance (think hotel parking lots, lobby, hallways, etc.). I took 2-3 weeks to settle on my first purchase, realize it was heavier than I expected, returned it and then finally pick the crate I ultimately went with. If you are planning a cross-country move, your time available to spend perusing the Internet for pet supplies will be minimal, so start in advance.
Step 3: Give Your Pet Time to Acclimate to the Crate/Carrier Pre-Trip
My cat knows: Crate = vet. You just need to jingle the hinge on her prior crate from another room and she is GONE. So I brought home the crate I decided on and left it open and full of her toys for a solid week before I would be moving to let her get used to seeing it.
I was floored when I opened up the front canvas and pinned it to the top the first day and she waltzed right in and happily claimed her new digs. As it turned out, she especially enjoyed hopping on top of the carrier and laying there hammock-style while I packed up my house like a mad woman.
Step 4: If It’s Large, Practice Handling the Crate
I was not prepared for how tired I would be each night when I had to stop and check into a hotel. I knew I’d be beat, but I was exhausted. The idea of having to heft her carrier with her in it and walk it through the parking lot, through the lobby, down a hallway, into an elevator and down another hallway proved herculean. I tried to book rooms close to the front but most hotels only had a meager few pet-friendly rooms.
I was driving all day long with my SUV filled to the brim with the essentials I’d need until my moving truck arrived and those few items I didn’t trust the movers with. This meant, that each hotel I checked into, I had to make 3-4 wobbly trips to the car for those items first, and then finish up only when the cat was the final trip to make.
Oh and my cat is a talker. Meaning you leave her in a strange place alone and she will meow, no howl, until you come back. I really didn’t have anything left in me each night to deal with worrying if my pet was causing problems in hotel rooms, so I made her the final trip every time checking in, and the first trip to the car checking out.
Step 5: Plan for the Unexpected
My cat was a stellar traveller after the first 30 minutes of driving. Pulling out of my old house was emotional and traumatic enough for me, but realizing my cat was howling every 3 seconds as I hit the road was of zero comfort as I contemplated the nearly 30 hours remaining drive time. As her meows got fewer, and we hit a few curves, the realization that feeding her a snack just prior to leaving was a horrible mistake. Yep. She tossed her kitty cookies all over the fuzzy carpet of her brand new carrier. And it smelled lovely.
I hadn’t expected to have to pull over and clean up quite a scene of cat vomit at a gas station. But I was able to dash in, buy some paper towels (I didn’t pack these in a handy spot – mistake), and lay down a new carpet of tripled-up paper towels to at least give her a dry spot to make it to the first hotel where I could do a better cleaning job.
I also didn’t plan on my SUV breaking down before I made it to the first hotel stop.
So there I was, stranded with an overheated vehicle, in a mountain gas station, with a cat that was carsick still and in my vehicle with no running air conditioning until a tow truck could arrive and tow us elsewhere. It all worked out in the end, but again, I hadn’t planned for what to do if I broke down (mistake – but really what can you do).
I ultimately ended up in a pet-friendly hotel for 3 days where the car dealer I was towed to couldn’t fix my SUV and I had to buy a new one (that’s a blog post for another day). I also didn’t think about being stuck there not able to leave my talkative cat alone in the room to get myself meals either (also hotel policy to not leave a pet alone). Fortunately a family member arrived to help me out during this time, but it was another unexpected situation I didn’t see coming.
Obviously, a lot can happen on a large-scale trip like moving across the country. It pays to think through the unexpected when your pet is depending on you to take care of them and maintain your own sanity too.
Step 6: You’ve Planned so Off You Go!
If you’ve tried your best to plan all of the above, it’s time to hit the road and just push through. You can’t accommodate every eventuality, but if you’ve strategized as best you can per the above, I’d like to think I and you have done a decent job preparing.
I realized, thankfully, that once we got through the worst of that first day, my cat settled into a type of “kitty zombie state”. She barely ate and barely drank anything, but slept or stared aimlessly for the rest of the 2 days of driving. She was OK, but it was her way of zoning out and dealing with the trip. Once we arrived, it took her a good week to start eating and drinking normally again, but she was just fine.
I hope this experience helps anyone else out there thinking of traveling with a furry friend. Happy trails!
If you’ve ever experienced one of those delightful days where you can’t help but spill, break or knock into everything in sight, then please see Exhibit A above as to how the day has gone. And it was in that moment, staring at my little mess, that I surrendered to the day.
Getting use to apartment living again can be a bit of a struggle when you’ve spent the last several years living in your own home in a secluded neighborhood. However, having lovely neighbors who leave beautiful snow art for you to look down on from your windows definitely swings the scales a bit to remind you that there is always good in every situation.
When I officially arrived in Colorado in June of this year from Virginia, I observed a consequence of living in an arid elevation that I had not considered: Static electricity.
The air is so dry here vs. what I was accustomed to on the East Coast that I found myself constantly getting shocked on every metal surface in my apartment, when pulling clothing from the dryer or when moving about on carpet.
And I’m not talking small shocks that are barely noticeable.
No sir, I’m talking shocks that can add new and colorful options to your vocabulary.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had my ear buds in listening to my iPhone while doing laundry, and when I’ve leaned in to pull something out of the dryer and the cord would jump to touch the cloth from the build-up and the electrical shock that raced up to explode in my ears was nothing short of painful.
Laundry is now done sans ear buds.
Over the last few months I’ve begun to subconsciously touch metal everywhere possible when I feel the charge building up while moving about. I even try to remember to ground myself before I pet my cat as I’ve unintentionally shocked her little nose countless times when she saunters up for a petting.
So while I still love the state of Colorado, the majestic scenery, the outdoor lifestyle here and all that is wonderful about this part of the country, it is definitely…shocking.
Over the last few years I’ve authored two blogs. Both were creative outlets I enjoyed toying with in my spare time. My first blog was to simply give friends and family a way to connect with me when I moved out of state and the second was intended to share my love of photography.
Since then, life happened as it does. A lot has since changed. And I left blogging for a time to sort matters out.
Fast forward to the present, and I realized I missed blogging. I missed sharing my most favorite photos and links, or doodling with widgets and the elements of themes and site design. But I mostly missed those moments where a completely random visitor would leave a comment and establish a connection of commonality.
Thus, a new blog it is, in parallel with the new life I am forging.
There will be oh so much to post about, both past and present.
More to come soon…