A Little Piece of Heaven on Earth

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For our second anniversary we re-visited a favorite location in the Vedauwoo Recreation Area near where we live in Wyoming. My husband found this beautiful “crow’s nest” on top of a rocky hill and knew of it before he took me up there to camp one night. It is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been yet in my life and it’s our favorite spot to be.

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The camp site is like a bowl, surrounded by boulders and rock formations on all sides. At night, the wind can absolutely howl at this height. But we were there to watch the sun set and it was perfect, with just a slight movement of air (not even a wind) now and then. Sunset and sunrise here are magical hours.

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Everywhere you look, it’s a scene to be photographed. It’s important though, to put the camera down now and then and just take it in as God intended. On hiking up to the top this day, I took all the photos I wanted and then did just that. Put my camera away and sat with my husband taking in the views and roasting marshmallows.

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I find the trees and dead wood make their own composition just as strikingly as the far away views of mountains and plains. There is something interesting to see at every turn.

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My husband is a tireless worker and is always busy. His happy place is being outdoors and I love to see him relax when we venture here. It’s different when you’re somewhere that has quiet like this place. Even I feel it when I arrive. You are compelled to not talk so much, to sense everything around you differently and you just are different. It’s the re-set that happens when you’re in nature. It’s how we should be, but how we forget to be.

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On the way up the trail to get to the crow’s nest, we stumbled right into this pair of bull moose. They were happy to be left alone and continue to munch around the underbrush. (They seemed to realize we didn’t pose any threat but they kept a wary eye on us and never got too close).

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Once we had made it up to the crow’s nest, we caught sight of them again; this time much farther away but still on the move on a neighboring hilltop.

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There is abundant birding up here as well. We just had to sit still and watch around us and birds were everywhere, flitting this way and that, making final runs for food and what not before the sun set.

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This one seemed to set a reverie of evening light and stillness as it perched calmly in this tree. It was as if it knew the day was ending and it wanted to take it all in before retiring.

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It’s our little piece of heaven on earth. No better way to spend a special day 🙂

A Different Kind of Garden

Breathing in the peaceful solitude of The Garden of the Gods.

The other weekend marked a local road trip excursion running south to Colorado Springs, CO to The Garden of the Gods.

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On entering The Garden of the Gods, a giant plaque came into view on following the sidewalks into the midst of the open space, reminding everyone that this beautiful place was a gift – and that added a layer of appreciation to the entire visit. Truly, some family could have kept this to themselves – but generously gave it to the city for all to get to enjoy.

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The Garden of the Gods is otherworldly. It’s calm, and buffered; almost an enormous waiting room to be still, away from the world, just beyond the hills. The high walls and cliffs jutting up to form barriers between the hustle and bustle of Colorado Springs below.

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Like many of the public parks and spaces in Colorado, it’s very well-kept and a clean space to enjoy. Paved sidewalks in all directions are plenty; you could spend hours just following them all.

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While walking around I noticed that hawks and pigeons quietly held sentry on the ledges above. There was stillness here. Other than the squeal of an excited child or brief laughter, the Garden is quiet. You really don’t want to leave.

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Craggy and contrasting peaks rise in all directions.

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The landscape is otherworldly.

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It’s all fun and games until someone turns on a drone and ruins the peaceful quiet. I’m sure they got great photos, but at the cost of the peace of everyone else there (and the wildlife).

 

Frozen, Cold and Beautiful

Exploring the banks of the Poudre River on a winter morning.

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A little pre-holiday adventuring off Highway 14 on Poudre Canyon Road running towards Roosevelt National Forest, just outside of Fort Collins.

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Where it was still shaded from the mid-morning sun, the water was frozen over several inches thick. I was thankful for my wool blend base layers. It was still and silent, as if the river was asleep under an icy blanket.

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Where it was sunny, everything seemed normal. I wasn’t struggling so much with aperture settings. And I could feel my fingers on my camera.

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It was beautiful country and had countless side-road areas I’d never driven out to before. Off Highway 14, there were several pull-offs that enable you to walk down to the river and enjoy the scenery.

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The ice fascinated me more than the views actually. It was quite thick in places, so much so that you could walk out onto the water.

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I was taken by river rocks; their coloration and texture paired with the currents frozen around them fascinated me.

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While the intent was to actually head out on a hike, one can have just as good of a time wandering the pull-offs that dotted the road and never actually taking a trail.

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Just goes to show it’s worth it to leave a little room for changes in plans sometimes.

Time to Checkout and Go

A visit to my family in the mountain of North Carolina was called for. And there are times when you simply have to inform people you work with they will have to get along without you for a few days and just go.

 

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DuPont State Recreational Forest – View opposite Hooker Falls
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DuPont State Recreational Forest – Triple Falls
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Nantahala National Forest – Nantahala River
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Blue Ridge Parkway – Funnel Top Overlook
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Pisgah National Forest – Looking Glass Falls
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Pisgah National Forest – Blue Ridge Parkway – Pisgah Inn Restaurant View

I’m fortunate to venture between my current home in Colorado at the base of the Rocky Mountains and my childhood home in North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Two very different mountains and communities, but home and family are always worth the travel, no matter which way the plane is heading.

A Short Hike on Empty

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A few photos to share from a recent hike up to Arthur’s Rock at Lory State Park outside of Fort Collins, CO.

 

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View of Horsetooth Reservoir from atop Arthur’s Rock.

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I do look forward to returning to hike this very trail again, but I started out on little sleep from the night before and not nearly enough hydration. Would try it again in a heartbeat though – beautiful views for days.

A Golden Saturday

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Golden is a beautiful gem in Colorado.  This weekend took me to wander Lookout Mountain and the historic Buffalo Bill Museum.

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A note to anyone also deciding to visit on a Saturday: Be extremely cautious of the numerous cyclists who take the same, winding route up the mountain at 20mph with you.

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The views are classic Colorado at the top. However when you’re also looking for the perfect mountain peak photo, it seems there’s always a pine tree just where you point your lens.

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Next to the museum is an overlook location that you can see nearly all of Golden as well as downtown Denver and its surrounding cities, including the haze common on hot days.

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The Cody gravesite sits a very short walk from the museum.

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The museum was an interesting walk-through and displays several historic and colorful artifacts from Cody’s life. Photos, swords, rifles, pistols, costumes and a plethora of accounts of his countless ventures.

Snow Hiking in Boulder

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The NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) Trailhead off of Mesa Trail.

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The Mesa Trail system in the Boulder, CO area didn’t disappoint. Craggy mountain vistas, views of the city of Boulder, birds, spring growth, icicles and stunning evergreen forests abounded.

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The really great part about hiking in the Flatirons is that within the first 10-15 minutes of walking, you’re already seeing fantastic mountain views and photo opportunities from the trail.

At this elevation, just go ahead and keep the 45SPF with your trail bag.

A curious little fellow singing to the sun.

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The trails began out of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) property where we parked. It’s an easy drive from just about anywhere to get here and parking was plenty.

I’ve also found that while everyone is usually focused on their feet, it goes a long way to be friendly and thank those who stand to the side for you, offer a comment about spots to tackle with caution you just passed or where there’s an awesome camera shot ahead.

I’m surprised by how much plant life continues to flourish in the mountains under and through the snow as the seasons change.

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Admittedly, I was a bit worried that I would struggle with the winter out here and possibly find myself not enjoying it. But I love winter so far here! And for me this includes still getting out on weekends when to enjoy the gorgeous country that is just a few miles down the road.

Don’t Forget to Look Back Sometimes

Sunday morning, I was treated to my first hike in Eldorado Canyon State Park.

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It was a perfect day to be outdoors.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We were treated to open vistas, crystalline creeks partially frozen over and thick evergreen trees that lined wandering foot paths.

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As we neared the end of the trail, I turned and was treated to the best view of the day.

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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.