Feathered Aspen



I’ll start by saying there is a way for me to put all of these photos in order, but ain’t nobody got time for that, so here’s our little weekend getaway in reverse-order:

Playing dress up

Playing dress up

Lily and Lu were fabulous in the car on the way there and back.  Some iPad George came to the rescue for the last half hour or so on each trip, but otherwise, they were just great.  Lu, especially, is a dream car rider.

Happy to be home.  Playing dress up.

Happy to be home. Playing dress up.

Our friend, Val, coordinated everything, and we’re so lucky she did!  We rented a cabin at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, and it was SO.AMAZING.  Really just the best treat ever.  Thanks, Val!  You can see our cabin in the photo below.  We packed the place with eight adults and two little kiddos, but we had a blast (hope everyone else felt the same….  The kiddos are ours, after all.).  There was a loft with two fulls, a pull out, and a bedroom with a king.  Plus a kitchen, bathroom, and gorgeous little gas fireplace.  And?!  Only 97$ per adult for the two nights, total 🙂 🙂

On the drive up to Salida, we went through Leadville, stopping over at one of our favorite coffee shops and walking zig-zags through the residential streets, fantasizing about owning one of the old little Victorians that are crammed in side by side.  But after a while, Lily got tired of walking, so we got back in the car and headed south.

View of the bridge back to the cabin (in upper left corner).

View of the bridge back to the cabin (in upper left corner).

The first day, we got there early and used the pools, complementary with our nights’ stay.  Our first trip, is was snowing a bit and we used the two conventional pools above the river.  One was warmish, but actually a bit too chilly for 30ish degrees, and the other was a bit too warm to stay in for longer than 15 minutes or so.  Both were very nice and large.

Lu LOVED the springs.

Lu LOVED the springs.

After an hour or so, we packed up to meet up with the rest of our group and get settled in the cabin.  Will and I went for a run, and then we all went down to the river.  Which was the best part, really.  Of the whole weekend/this year so far (do I overstate?).

The river pools were so gorgeous because they could be adjusted by moving rocks.  Heat bubbles up from the sand beneath, and little rivulets of ice-fed water runs over the rocks.  I especially loved finding that sweet spot that was mostly warm but with a little stream of cool for relief.

Snack break.

Snack break.

Lily enjoyed the river, but I think she was just a bit out of sorts all weekend.  On both Friday and Saturday night, she woke up puking, and she’s been battling diarrhea for a week.  We went into the doctor on Thursday, but they recommended it just run its course…  Whatever “it” is.  We’re concerned “it” might be anything that contains or even grazes garlic.

Lu and Daddy (and Lily in the back).

Lu and Daddy (and Lily in the back).

So, that wasn’t pleasant, but really it wasn’t as nearly as bad as it could have been.  At least Lily wasn’t miserable.  She’d puke and then feel fine.  I just felt bad for Joshua.  Not really the way you want to spend the night before the big race.

So content :)

So content 🙂

So yeah.  Lu adored the pools.  I adored the pools.  Joshua liked them a lot (but generally doesn’t like getting too hot), and Lily liked them a lot too, but didn’t love them as much as I’d hoped she would.  I do think she had fun though.  Joshua thinks it was because there weren’t any other kids, and while I think that could certainly be true, I also hope that she kind of gets over it.  Sorry, girl.  Your parents just don’t have many friends with kiddos.  I’m trying, but it is what it is.  Our friends without kids are pretty amazing, and our friends with kids all live almost exactly half a continent away.  Se la vie.  I told Joshua that I think my childhood was somewhat similar.  Apart from my cousins, I was used to being the oldest or just hanging out with adults.  I’d love for more playmates for Lily, but I’m also hopeful that she can learn to enjoy the company of adults and younger kids, too.

Just bliss.  Me, the girls, the springs.

Just bliss. Me, the girls, the springs.

Lu, though.  Lu was just happy as a little river clam.  If that’s a thing.



On the day of the race, we went into town last and poked around the little shops.  Salida is a pretty darn cute mountain town, so I love that this is becoming an annual thing.  It’s our second year making a family trip out of it, and it’s Joshua’s third year running it.

Love this shot of Lily in Salida

Love this shot of Lily in Salida

Joshua had high hopes for his race this year.  He’s put in a lot more miles training for this race than he had in years before, but as fate would have it, the course was just a bit sloppier than usual.  (Some parts were even postholing?!)  Anyway.  He did PR on the course by about 3 minutes, even though the course was pretty rough, and he felt good afterwards, which is great.

Daddy finishes his marathon.

Daddy finishes his marathon.

Of the people in our cabin, three ran the 1/2 and Will and Joshua ran the full.  They all finished within about an hour of each other.  While we waited, we hung out by the river and watched super hard core ultramarathoners swagger about, reminiscing over building ice caves to escape hypothermia and those races where lightening threatened to pull them off the course indefinitely.

Throwing rocks in the river while we wait for daddy.

Throwing rocks in the river while we wait for daddy.

Lily vacillated between crabbiness and enjoyment.  I’m beginning to think this is what three is like.

Exploring shops in Salida

Exploring shops in Salida



Totally sacked

Totally sacked

Breakfast on the go:  "Let's go to Salida!"  (ps this photo kinda freaks me out bc she looks like a teenager).

Breakfast on the go: “Let’s go to Salida!” (ps this photo kinda freaks me out bc she looks like a teenager).

After the race, we had lunch at The Fritz and then we headed back to the cabin.  While Lily took a nap, I went out for a nice seven mile run in the valley, and afterwards, we went out to the pools.  For dinner, we had tacos, and then we turned in early.

This morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast, said goodbye to our cabin mates, and snuck in another little wallow in the river.  The sunshine was glorious, and we fantasized about making this a vacation staple.  Hey, guys!  Wanna go to the hot springs?

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Family Vacation

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Buena Vista, Happy Birthday

Not sure how to place photos in text and in chronological order 🙂

Joshua leaning against our car between Buena Vista and Cottonwood Pass.

Sign outside of Buena Vista.

Tumbleweed 🙂

Drive-thru theater.

Road up to Cottonwood Pass. It got snowier as we went along, and we were glad to have our snowshoes.

Oscar and his grin 🙂

A view of South Park.

On Thursday morning, April 28, we loaded our little red Hyundai, turned the key in the ignition, and drove towards the mountains.

Three blocks down, we turned around and retrieved my library book, Plainsong, by Kent Haruf.

Once again, we hopped in the car, rolled the windows down, fired up some tunes, and then turned around – this time to retrieve extra blankets, just in case.

The third time we pulled away from the curb outside of our new home, I looked at the clock. It’s 9:30 AM, and I’m 25 years old. Scrolling through texts on my phone, I see happy birthday wishes from family and friends, and I think how bizarre it is to have been alive for a quarter of a century, a generation, two and a half decades. I feel old and young at the same time. My father-in-law, Tim, reminds me that I’m celebrating this birthday in the same state where I was born, and I pause to admire the symmetry.

My husband prides himself as a ‘notch-on-the-belt kind of guy.’ As we turn onto 285 heading out of the city, he catalogues my notches.

“You’ve gotten a degree, you’ve completed two years of teaching, gotten married, traveled for four months in South America, one month in Greece, and six months in Europe and India and Nepal. You have a cat and dog and a new job. You’ve lived in Minnesota, Washington, Louisiana, Wisconsin, and Colorado… Twice. I’d say you’ve cleaned up!”

I assess my resume from Joshua’s perspective, and I agree that it’s been an eventful 25 years, but at the same time, I’ve had moments when I have stopped to think about how quickly time moves and how scary it is that a moment lived is just as soon gone. I know that I’m far too young to talk about mortality with any real wisdom, but my two years in New Orleans showed me a certain fragility. Sometimes I’m afraid I won’t be able to fit everything in, and I’m terrified of wasting time. I sit in the doctor’s office, and I’ll think, “huh, I guess I’ll never be a doctor.” And although I’ve never particularly wanted to be a doctor, it makes me just a little bit sad.

But before I get too melancholy, Joshua asks me, “if you could choose a super power, what would it be?”

I think for a moment. Maybe I’d be like the fairies in Fern Gully and make things grow. Or maybe I would be a healer. That would be cool. But when I think about all the super-power TV shows, books, and movies, it strikes me that none of the heroes or villains got to choose their super-powers.

“I don’t know,” I say, “it seems like the better question would be: if you were born with a super power, what would it probably be?”

Joshua pauses for a moment. “Huh,” he says. In the silence that follows, we contemplate the immense profundity of my observation.

“I know what super power you would have,” I say.

Joshua would have the super power to intuit topography and blueprints before arrival. Although not a part of his super power, he would develop a talent for drawing topographic maps and blueprints over the years, and his skill as a strategist and memory for directions (abilities that he was born with but are not super powers – unless you consider the ability to remember 10 to 15 step directions a super power, which I guess is debatable) would make him a valuable asset in crime, war, and adventure. His weakness is an inability to sense biological matter in either landscapes or buildings before arrival, and he must be within 200 miles of the landscape or building to sense its unique topographic or blueprint layout.

Once I’ve told him, Joshua expresses initial disappointment that telekinesis passed him by, but ultimately, he agrees. “It just makes sense,” he says.

Ironically, Joshua decides that I would have the super power of healing. By touching others and concentrating, I was first able to heal basic scrapes and burns, and as I grew older and stronger, I became able to heal larger injuries. My weakness is that healing others drains me, and it takes time – sometimes even weeks – to recover from healing. That’s why I have to work out like “a chick being chased by a hamburger.” I have to keep up my strength.

As we drive, I keep a steady playlist of Adele, Mumford and Sons, Joni Mitchell, and Brandi Carlile coming through the speakers. I play all of my favorite songs (in no particular order):

I Miss You by Blink 182

Brick by Ben Folds Five

Paper Planes by MIA

Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Dreams by The Cranberries

High and Dry by Radiohead

Hide and Seek by Imogene Heap

De Perros Amores by Control Machete

Beautiful World by Colin Hay

Dixon’s Girl by Dessa

Skinny Love and Blood Bank by Bon Iver

Lay Lady Lay by Bob Dylan

Anthems for a 17 Year Old Girl by Broken Social Scene

Yellow by Coldplay

Heavenly Day by Patty Griffin

Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes

Eyes by Rogue Wave

Half Acre by Hem

Orange Sky by Alexi Murdoch

Pink Moon by Nick Drake

The Freshman by The Verve Pipe

Re-Offender by Travis

Kids by MGMT

Can’t Stop by The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Push by Matchbox 20

Desperately Wanting by Better than Ezra

Joshua has heard this same playlist over and over, but since it’s my birthday, he applauds each choice and sings along.

The road winds through passes and bends, and we steadily climb higher. Smooth hills covered in brush make way for steeper hills covered in evergreens. Two hours into our drive, we pull over to look out over South Park, a wide high-alpine plain surrounded by gorgeous snow-capped mountains, blue skies and white, pillowy clouds.

We get out to stretch our legs, and we look so good doing it, three more cars pull in to do the same. One couple is from Baton Rouge, and when we reveal that we lived and taught for two years in New Orleans, they look at us as though they think we might be lying. We tell them that our cat’s name is Thibodeaux, and they smile easily. We aren’t lying after all. The man looks out at the mountains and takes a deep breath. “Sure don’t look like Louisiana, does it?”

We agree that it doesn’t and take a moment to treasure our good fortune.

Back on the road, Joshua sings the jingle to South Park all the way to Fairplay. I entice him into doing Lesson 15 from Pimsleur, and together, we practice telling la Senora Gomez about how we want to eat and drink in the Hotel Bolivar, but we only have 73 pesos. Setenta y tres pesos. No es demasiado. Is it late or early? Tarde o temprano? Puedo pagarlo. From the back of the car, Oscar tilts his head from side to side, as if he were watching a tennis match.

We cross the pass into the Arkansas Valley shortly after noon. Driving through Buena Vista, we admire the lovely, old painted homes and resolve to explore Old Town on our way back.

Heading up Cottonwood Pass, we wonder at the enormous log cabins that dot the hillside. Who are these people, and how did they make their money? If the rich are only 10 percent of the population, they sure do have a lot of homes in Colorado.

A few miles up the road, we reach an opened gate. A sign informs travelers that the pass is closed, but if you should be fool-brained enough to try it anyway, your rescue and the rescue of your vehicle shall be at your own expense.

We drive on another 200 yards, and where the snow covers the blacktop, we stop and park. We make ourselves a couple of sandwiches and eat, sitting on our crazy creeks, gazing up into the mountains. The sun is shining.

Just as we’re about to set off on our snowshoes, a young man pulls up in a pickup. He’s outfitted with heavy winter appliances, and he asks us if we think the pass is possible. We shrug and say we would never try it in our little tin can of a car. He nods, revs the engine, and surmounts about two feet of snow, fishtailing for a hundred yards before he slides into reverse and whips back down the hill onto hard pavement. He doesn’t look over at us as he passes by.

For the next three hours, we snowshoe up Cottonwood Pass. For the first couple of miles, we walk in the middle of the road. It’s covered in deep snow, and all around us, peaks meet blue sky. Oscar runs himself ragged, scouting up ahead and racing back to check on us. He’s grinning.

After a couple of miles on the road, we turn off on a trail to Ptarmigan Lake. The snow is so deep here that we can hardly guess where the trail might be, but with luck, we find a bridge covered in snow, and we follow the gaps in the trees. Oscar bounds first with his front feet and then wriggles his hind feet up and out. Eventually, he gives up and lets us break the trail. It’s deep, and our hearts are racing from the exertion and elevation.

At an hour and a half, we turn around and make our way back. Again, Oscar races on ahead to show us the way.

Back at the car, we shed our soaking socks (Joshua resolves to purchase gators) and load back into the car. We drive back down the mountain, and just before we get back into town, we stop to take photos of an old drive-in theater. The wind is blowing hard, and tumbleweed blows across the field.

In Buena Vista, we hop out of the car and walk down Main Street. Cute cafes and gift shops have hours suited to tourists, and they’re all closed now. At the end of mainstreet, I spy an antique store that I might like to browse through, but the owner is closing up for the day. Outside, he has a chrome and pink formica dining table that I salivate over while he tells us that the wind just stopped blowing through the valley last weekend, and a good thing, too. The record low this winter was 36 below in February.

Main Street is short, and before we know it, we’re back in the car, heading South out of town. We pass river outfitters and follow the Arkansas River down to Ruby Mountain Campground. It’s empty, and we set up camp near the river.

As the late afternoon sun warms the tent, Oscar and I lay inside as Joshua makes dinner. I’m nearing the end of The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and as with most good books, it’s hard to put down when I’m less than 100 pages from the end.

The sun dips below the mountains in the west, and Joshua announces that dinner is served. Pasta with an artichoke and basil pesto that Joshua had the forethought to whip up last night, before we left.

Stuffed, we crawl into the tent and play a couple of games of boggle. Joshua beats me, as usual, and before we snuggle into our sleeping bags, we wrap Oscar in a couple of blankets. We read for a little while with headlamps, and then we fall asleep to the sound of the river.