Saturday, November 7, 2009

Write of Passage - Day 3

August 4, 2009: Sydney, NE to Steamboat Springs, CO (323 miles)


"This is a view to which nothing needs to be added...This scenery satisfies my soul."
~ Isabella Bird, 1879
A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains

Isabella was right...the Rockies lack absolutely nothing. Oh, how my soul was satisfied today! Every minute, every vista...unbelievable. While this was Cote's first trip to the Rockies, it's actually my second. My parents brought me here when I was 12, some thirty years ago. As a young girl, I remember being blown away by the sheer size of the mountains....but today, as an adult, it was their unmeasurable beauty that captivated me. This place is simply indescribable. In fact, I'm anxious about even attempting to write today's journal entry, as there are no words powerful enough in the english language to describe what we saw. These mountains are majestic, monstrous, and magnificent. See? That's the best I can do, and yet I still fall so far short....
Cote and I started our day by checking out the small town of Sydney before getting back on I-80. Since the motel we had chosen last night was nestled right next to the very first Cabela's ever built, Cote insisted that we go inside. (She wanted to compare this outdoor retail giant with the newer version back home.) Once again, the excitement level for me was struggling to reach "root canal" on the meter reader. But it was 8 a.m., Cote's face was full of adventure, and she was ready to seize the day. We pulled up and went inside.
The place was a let-down, in both size and swagger. There was no towering mountain teeming with taxidermy, no bubbling brook trickling with trout. Just a few racks of clothes, some odd and ends in outdoor gear, and a couple second-rate stuffed animals. Cote's enthusiasm could not be curbed, however. She quickly explored the store, snapped a few shots, and even found herself hamming it up with Mighty Joe-Handsome, who just happened to be lounging in a floor model hammock.
By 9:30 we managed to route ourselves back to the highway, and head towards Cheyenne,Wyoming. According to the map, we had a decent stretch of time before we reached the Rockies, so I decided to unpack one of the questions I had brought along with me on this trip. Just a few weeks ago, Cote had broken off the 15-month relationship she had had with her high school boyfriend. The breakup wasn't easy, but Cote knew it was necessary. The fit hadn't been right, the differences between the two had been apparent for some time. Nevertheless, she was still healing and still letting go.
Although I knew Cote was ready to move on, and she knew I totally supported her decision, I didn't want her to miss any life lesson in all of this either. It was possible, in her rush to put the past behind her, that she might dismiss the relationship without so much as a backward glance. Or worse, come to think of the past year as a huge "waste" of time. I didn't want that to happen. In every relationship, no matter how long it lasts, there is something brought out, brought up, or brought to your life. It may be a quick jolt of laughter, or a long term commitment. A new outlook, or a new look within. The relationship may change the compass settings of your life, or brush the fog from your view, making your path that much clearer. Over the past 15 months, this relationship had planted seeds of growth and maturity for Cote. I didn't want the sprouts to become raked over and buried under mounds of muck and mud.
So I composed my question carefully. I turned to her and asked....."Cote, knowing what you know now.....what will you look for in your next relationship? What are some of the qualities you liked about "M" and what are some that were missing for you?" The question opened up a flood of conversation, sprinkling water on the soil of her past year. It also revealed a few stray weeds, which we plucked from the ground together. We talked about the good, and the not so good, the obstacles, and the break-throughs. What she learned, what she liked, what she would repeat, and what she would leave behind.
As our heart-to-heart grew deeper, the mountains in the distance grew closer. Before we knew it, we had turned south on Highway 25 at Cheyenne and crossed over the Colorado border. We were headed for Trail Ridge Road, one of the more scenic routes in the Rocky Mountain National Forest. (or so I had read in one of the many brochures that had littered my bed last night.) We had a day to play in the Rockies, we wanted to make the most of it.
As we entered Estes Park, on the outskirts of RMNF, I was overcome with childhood memories. The mountains before me sparked scenes in my mind from 30 years ago. All of a sudden, I had the urge to call my dad back home. I pulled over to the side of the road, right in front of this Welcome to Estes Park sign, with the Rockies looming large behind
it. I dialed his number, and after a few quick rings, his voice came on the line. I immediately said, "Dad, guess where I am." Somehow, (to this day I still don't how), he knew and guessed correctly. Then he started reminiscing, pulling his own memories out for me to see while I sat there in the Colorado sunshine. Suddenly it was 1978 and I was 12 years old again.
"Let's see, if you're just outside of Estes Park, that means you drove through Big Thompson Pass. I remember you kids throwing snowballs at each other when we stopped at the Continental Divide, and then you got sick. Do you remember that? How we had to take you to the hospital in Denver?" He talked about Pike's Peak, Grand Lake, and how if he could, he would do it all again someday. He told Cote and me to enjoy ourselves, to see as much as possible, and drive safely. And that he loved us.
My Dad. My lifeline to days gone by...
From here on out, the day was wild! We drove up Trail Ridge Road, and stopped at every lookout we could find. We hiked, we climbed, we snapped picture after picture. Not one, however, came close to capturing the magnitude of beauty before us. Cote explored every inch, sometimes right out to what seemed like the very edge. We discovered hidden lakes, and encountered hillside elk. We drove to the highest point (12,183') and back down again, oohing and ahhing at every vista. (Side note: the whole way I was secretly praying that we wouldn't run out of gas....I know what you're thinking, but it wasn't because I wasn't paying attention this time. I actually thought we would have plenty of fuel to cover the 50+ mile stretch of Trail Ridge Road, but once the car started climbing these incredible mountains, the gauge started dipping...drastically! Come to find out, there is not one gas station to be found inside the RMNF. Who knew?? But eventually we reached the other end, and at Grand Lake we fumed our way in to the one and only filling station around.)
We played in the Rockies until well past 5 pm. (We even brought two huge fallen chunks home with us.) But like I said earlier, trying to describe it all would be impossible. So I think I'll stop right here, and let the pictures below do the rest. Let me just close out today's entry by saying we took the very winding, very lonely, Highway 40 west out of the RMNF, heading towards Steamboat Springs, to spend the night. It took us almost 3 hours to reach our destination, and it felt like we had driven hundreds of miles. Yet according to our map, we hardly moved an inch. We'll have plenty of driving to make up tomorrow, but I wouldn't change a minute of today.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for taking us along on the road trip. Up to this point, we have traveled each mile, crossed those states in unison - but we somehow always take a side trip from here to visit Dean in the monastery at Snowmass, CO.

    We never have visited Estes Park - but you are correct about the beauty and the overwhelming presence of the mountains. The Wasatch range of the Rockies sprinkled our backyard in Midway, UT and everyday I promised myself that I would appreciate that gorgeous view. While our landscape here is drastically different, yet beautiful in it's own right, I do miss the mountains and their striking presence. Thanks for the car ride!!

    Looking forward to more Mom and daughter adventure.....


Powerful Words

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable. ~Kahlil Gibran