Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sun, Apr 13, 2008: Camp Dick

Yes, that's really what it's called.

Today the guy I'm dating took me up to his favorite campsite, which sits down a random narrow turnoff along the road crossing the mountains between Nederland and Estes Park. It was an absolutely beautiful day and although there was still snow on the ground, the sun was strong and warm. It felt so nice to hike around on the melting crust of snow that still blanketed the street... even though that melting snow concealed shallow rivers that quickly soaked my shoes and socks.

The road through the campsite ran beside a large stream, past a forested cliff, and into a meadow from which we had a perfect view of a snowy mountain peak. The sky was such a deep color of blue that it almost looked fluorescent, and there were plants and buds in every shade of green. Despite walking around in the snow with no coat on and having soaking wet shoes and socks, I was entirely comfortable. I haven't begun taking the strength of the sun for granted yet.

Today was the first time in a long time that I have felt completely at peace in the presence of another person. Sitting here writing this, I can still feel the effects of the day on my body and spirit. I feel cleaned out inside, aligned and in tune. It feels wonderful.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Thurs, April 3 to Sun, April 6, 2008: New Mexico!

((Present Day: Yeah, this is a little early. Hopefully I'll have another great adventure to share in about a week!

A friend said to me, upon learning about my Valentine's break-up, "I hope you get over it quickly so you can be ready when your soul mate does come along". If I've learned one thing about myself as a result of the relationships I've been in, it's that I don't get over things quickly. If I've learned a second thing about myself it's that everything I do, I do with the commitment of my whole heart. This results in me getting deeply hurt over things that perhaps most people would just brush off. On the other hand, I feel great joy in knowing that I live my life with all of my self and soul, and that I don't let fear of being hurt stop me from living the way I feel. And for what it's worth, I think that's pretty cool. :) He's right though, I would also like to get over it quickly... especially since I'm sure the other party is not still brought to tears by the idea of losing me. What's the magic answer for getting over someone? I'm hoping this time for me the fairy dust is in California and will be sprinkled over me as I hike, bike, sleep, cook, dance barefoot in the rain (I so hope it rains!), and stare at the ocean....))

* * * *

Off we go!

I had never been to New Mexico, so the guy I'm dating and I headed down there for a long weekend during my Spring Break from school. We drove through the mountains north of Santa Fe and stopped by a rushing stream, its water turned yellow by the sandy soil. This picture shows the color of the earth, a strange contrast to the rusty orange earth here in Colorado:

At one point during the drive, we passed a pair of deer grazing on a hillside about 15 feet from my car:

We passed through a ski resort, prompting me to wonder who ever thought of having a ski resort in New Mexico. As the oversized log cabins rusticly trekked past my window, their procession was punctuated by the most hilarious sign:

I thought that the cow was real, but was later disillusioned when we passed another sign with no cow. We stopped for dinner in Taos, a small artistic community perched in the mountains north of Santa Fe. (By the way, the mountains in New Mexico are actually pretty large, which I never realized. Many of the peaks around Taos were between 10,000 and 12,000 feet).

A cheap motel room sheltered us from the morning sun a bit too well. We rolled out around lunch time the next day and headed to the center square in Santa Fe to check out the touristy stores and wares lined up on the sidewalks.

I was disappointed by the prices on most of the items and ended up not buying myself any jewelry (please don’t die of shock). Burritos from a sidewalk vendor were lunch, but mine was so full of Mexican hotness that I couldn’t finish it for fear that I would never have feeling in my lips and tongue again. With a cloudless sky overhead, we took off for Bandelier National Monument.

The landscape in New Mexico somewhat reminded me of Wyoming, but the rocks seem either much older or much softer. The lines of the mesas and mountains were softened by crumbling rocks and washed out colors.

We stopped to look at a large group of orange rocks, pocked with holes from erosion. These rocks were suspiciously close to Los Animas, which I was told houses a gigantic military complex where atomic bombs (among other sketchy things) are tested. A little lizard scurrying through the brush caught my eye, so I got up in his face and photographed him. I’m surprised he doesn’t have 2 heads.

The canyon that houses Bandelier was beautiful and lush.

A small stream flowed through the middle and there was evidence that it had flooded multiple times in the not-so-distant past. At one point during our time in the canyon, I stopped dead and looked around me. I realized that piled on the canyon floor, among heaps of the usual pine needles, were tons of small rounded oak leaves. Real leaves! I haven’t walked among a path lined with leaves since leaving Connecticut, and couldn’t stop myself from halting multiple times to breathe their crisp scent.

This next picture is of a structure called a "kiva", which was a sacred area of worship for the Pueblo who built it. Please notice the squirrel perched on the wall in the bottom left of the picture. He sat and ate while we watched him, then ran away when another couple walked by. When they disappeard, he came back out and resumed his squirrel duties. The guy I'm dating stated that the canyon must have squirrel energy. I think that we did, either way it was pretty neat.

This next structure was a roughly circular group of buildings in a meadow of the canyon. Above it along the cliff walls were caves carved from sections of the rock. Structures were built to meet up with the caves so that their houses consisted of part adobe and wood, part shadowy rock cave.

Along the walls were many petroglyphs:

We walked through the trees to a large cave-like area in the rock far removed from the rest of the structures. In order to get up to the cave, we had to climb a series of narrow steps and long wooden ladders. It wasn’t too bad getting to the top, and we were greeted by a restored kiva carved out of the ground in front of the cave. We entered and looked around... then it was time to get back down. It took a great deal of willpower not to scream, clam up, or fall off. It was beautiful and worth the fear.

We met the second part of our squirrel energy while walking along the path back to the car. This small tufted squirrel came right up to us and ate a piece of oat bar right out of our hands:

We decided that it would be fun to take a winding road through the mountains to get to our next destination, which looked to most likely be the town of Cuba. I, um... sort of read the map wrong and thought that it would be a regular little local paved road. I was right in that both ends of it were, but for about 35 miles in between the ends, the road was approximately 1.2 lanes wide with muddy ruts at least a foot or 2 deep. I was glad to let him drive, and he seemed to think it was fun so it really wasn’t much of an issue. Hidden in the pine trees past my window were boulders and cliffs with faces that resembled those on the rocks of Easter Island, and I felt somewhat weighted by their monkey stares.

The monkeys passed and the road opened up, winding through a series of meadows softened by twilight. A small group of elk grazed beside the road as we passed (and ran into the woods when we stopped):

The most hilarious part of the whole trip happened that evening on that windy dirt road. At one point there was an open pasture with no fences to keep the cows off the road. Needless to say, they were of course all on the road, despite acres of soft meadow grass providing a much softer surface to stand on. Perhaps they were soaking up heat radiating from the road? In any case, they wouldn’t move! Even when the car was a foot away from them, several of the cows stood their ground and stared right at us in defiance. He eventually wound the car through them like a maze, and as I turned around to look at them breathing in our dust as we drove away, I saw that they still refused to move.

We slept in the car that night and somehow managed not to wake up until 9:30am. Let me rephrase that: after laying in the car awake all night, I managed to get approximately 2 hours of sleep between the hours of 7 and 9am. When I did wake up, I discovered that my glasses were missing and it looked like he had pink eye. We both had disturbing dreams of locals chasing us away from the pull-off area we’d parked in. I learned several lessons from this, namely that sleeping in the car sucks and that I need to make sure my glasses are in a safe place. (We did eventually find them, about 3 hours later, in the trunk which we had already checked like 3 times. Go figure).

We headed off to Chaco Canyon, another famous site of Pueblo construction between about 800 and 1200 AD. The complexity and sophistication of the buildings there blew me away.

This was an absolutely massive kiva, and was in the best condition of any that we saw:

This picture can’t even begin to demonstrate the massive length and height of this wall:

The wedge of rock perched on the edge of this cliff looked like it would come crashing down if someone looked at it wrong:

There were many more petroglyphs than at Bandelier, and we spent a lot of time scouring the surface of the cliffs with our eyes to pick them out of the weather-damaged rock faces.

A girl and her father poined out these aligned doorways to us, setting off a flurry of photographs from both parties:

This is a picture of the largest city in the canyon. About 70 years ago, a large part of the canyon wall fell, wiping out 41 rooms that had just been excavated. Even with a good portion of the city buried by giant boulders, it was still an impressive sight:

Throughout the day, I continued to be more and more impressed by this amazing architecture. I am very disappointed that we never learned about the advanced culture that created these structures in school. I’m sure there was a 10 minute lesson tucked in there somewhere, but not nearly as much time as I think should have been devoted to this. I shared my thoughts with him, and he added that it’s all the more impressive since they did it without using any metal. The planning and detail that was put into these structures blew me away.

I slept most of the way back to Colorado (thank you having someone else to drive!) but was awake to witness the complete transformation of the landscape that occurred along the state borders. The land changed from soft mesas and scrubby, sandy hills to rich farmland and mountains. There was literally a line of color between the states: yellow New Mexico on one side, green Colorado on the other. Since my arrival here I have thought of Colorado as lush on only a few rare occasions, but compared to New Mexico it seemed like a rain forest. A view of the sharp, snowy peaks near Durango were a welcome sight I hadn’t even realized I missed:

That night we slept in a deliciously comfortable hotel room in Durango and I just about died of happiness. It probably seemed all the more luxurious as a result of my previous night’s sleep (or lack thereof) in the car. We wandered around town and I kept smiling to myself, thinking that being in the company of someone whom I enjoy is what was missing from my trip to Jackson.

When I woke up the next morning, the first coherent thought in my head was "what? I have to go back to Denver?" accompanied by a crushing sense of disappointment. For some reason in my half-awake king sized bed-induced delirium, I thought we were going back to Connecticut. I never fully realized how much I dislike living in this city, or perhaps part of me realized it but never admitted it to me. There is nothing about Denver that I feel connects with any essential part of me; for that matter, there is little about Colorado that I feel connected to. I realized how much I miss my family and friends, and how nice it was to have someone call me on a Friday night to ask me if I had plans.

Our drive home that day was beautiful and peaceful, taking us in close proximity to Crestone and the Sand Dunes, to which I said hello in my head. I spent most of the drive stressing out about the fact that I don’t want to live in Denver anymore. he spent a good part of the drive dozing off, especially along the plateau near Crestone which is where I did most of my thinking. I became depressed and cherished the miles that separated me from my Colorado home. After I dropped him off in Boulder, I spent most of the car ride back to Denver crying and wishing that I didn’t have to return.

Luckily, I woke up the next morning with a new perspective: oh fun! I get to pick out a new place to live that I might love! I think that I will focus my thoughts toward Golden, which is a neat little college town west of Denver, snuggled into the toes of the mountains. For now, I’m not sure what to do about Denver other than realize it’s not for me and it’s not permanent. I just hope I can keep my spirits up and keep myself pointed toward new adventures on the horizon.