Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sun, Nov. 22, 2009: The Balloon Experiment, First Attempt

I headed down to Buena Vista with a dozen balloons packed against the ceiling of the backseat of my car, a plastic bag full of carefully printed messages, and a sore wrist from a touch-up of my new tattoo. I had it in mind to release the balloons with messages safely sealed in Ziploc bags tied to their strings, expecting the wind to carry my words to my unsuspecting fellow Americans, who would in turn email me and tell me how far my balloon was able to travel.

The first snag in my plan was discovered when I got out of my car (at my favorite rest stop overlooking the Collegiate Peaks), twelve balloons in hand, and the freezing cold wind began to twist the strings into a thick, tight braid. By this point, I had already attached the messages in baggies to the balloon strings, so it wasn't a simple matter of pulling a balloon free from the tangle. No, I had to stand there and carefully extract them from each other one string at a time, while the icy wind continued to braid them tighter and further right in my hands.

I focused my efforts on freeing a cheerful pink balloon and managed to work its string free without too much trouble. Victory!, I thought, and let the balloon go. My eyes were prepared to follow it into the sky, but were surprised to see it settle itself just above the soft sand of the parking lot. Honestly, all I could do at this point was laugh. Apparently the notes and baggies were too heavy for the balloons, so none of them were going to fly. As I realized this, a large purple balloon was whipped by a particularly pointy gust of wind and cheerfully popped right in my face.

I rolled my eyes at the whole affair and stomped to my car, from which I extracted my scissors. A single snip bit through the balloon strings, releasing them from their unreasonably heavy burdens. A quick comb of my fingers through the strings and they were free, and a gentle relaxing of the muscles of my hands set them into the air, dancing merrily through the frosty air currents that whipped down from the mountains. Though I was frustrated that my flawless master plan ended up being rather full of holes, I smiled at their bright, happy round shapes dancing higher and higher into the atmosphere.

At the very least, I told myself, I was able to enjoy another beautiful sunset over the mountains...
...though this time, the mountains weren't my favorite part about the sunset. The clouds were.
The pictures don't do justice to the delicate edges of hot pink and orange that adorned the cottony gray masses. You should have been there. I was, and the balloons were, and as I gazed around me I wondered what the view looked like from their perspective. I gave a dozen balloons the journey of a lifetime, and can only hope they are enjoying themselves.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weds, Nov. 18, 2009: Waves and Days

The snow that transformed my little town into a deliciously tempting valley of down feathers is holding its own in areas of shadow, despite the best efforts of the sun and the moderately warm air that has moved in to the area. Time for me lately feels like standing at the intersection of 3 currents along the ocean shore: feeling the sway of the water as it rushes around me first on one side, then on another, then from behind me, then on one side again, then.... All of this rushing and pushing and pulling against my skin, into my muscles, into my heart and soul who know the dance of the ocean because they dance it through my veins and into my cells. And my body answers the song so readily that I begin swaying from the inside, and I realize that I don't even feel the waves anymore.

Tiny Christmas lights illuminate the main streets of my town, spilling their soft color across the mushy snow below them and sharply reflected in the ice that coats pieces of the roads. It looks like Christmas, feels like spring, and my brain still thinks it's July. There are so many overlapping calendars in the universe: swirling around my body, pushing here and pulling there, and I sway with the flow of all of them because none of them is calling me with a voice louder or stronger than the others. It's distracting to listen to it all and my brain becomes compartmentalized into tiny pieces, each little one devoting itself to a different voice. And I just want to scream. Scream with the thunder and violence of waves throwing themselves headfirst into the sand. Because then I'd know which voice was mine. And it's the only one worth listening to.

Yesterday, I asked some of my students if they celebrate Christmas. They did, and we began talking about the different family traditions that we celebrate. He shared this story: "When I lived in Mexico, we would write a big long list of everything we wanted, and my mom would get balloons and put the lists on them and let them go." All I could picture was a strong red balloon flying over the Collegiate Peaks to the prairie in Nebraska.

I remember back to a time when it was that easy to put everything that I wanted on a list and know that those things would come into my life. When the student related this memory to me, I felt chills all the way to my heart because it brought up memories of those magical moments we have when we are children: when we really believe that someone is going to swoop down from the sky and grant us our wishes. For a moment, I was given the beautiful gift of childhood belief that all I have to do is wish for something and it will come to me. I was able to feel that feeling, which I haven't felt in years, and I realized what it feels like to manifest joy. Now I wish I could figure out how to let that feeling be a reality for me once again.

This morning, I woke up in the faint gray pre-dawn light of my bedroom to see the shadowed forms of my cat's paws as they interrupted the glow from my curtained window. Her inverted body, my limbs, the bed, the blankets, and the pillow beside me were all dark shadows, merged and tangled into one solid form. I love stealing tiny moments of awareness while the world is still asleep, while nothing is sharp and moving, nothing is pressing. It's the luxury of simple awareness that I embraced as I traced the outlines of her little feet with my eyes, took in the shape of the light as it leaked through my blinds, and cuddled in the delicious warm softness of my blankets. It's amazing to look at the world when it's not looking back.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sun, Nov. 8, 2009: Return to Beak Peak

A friend suggested going for a local hike this weekend, so I mentioned Bear Peak up near Boulder. We were gifted with a beautiful, warm, sunny day as we headed out on our adventure.

I have strong memories of the difficulty of the trail I took earlier in the summer (Fern Canyon Trail), so we decided to go the longer but less steep route up the mountain (I think it was called the West Ridge trail?).

On the way, I spotted a little bird's nest in the bushes just off the path. I rarely see birds' nests in Colorado, so this was a big treat for me. :)
The trail wound us up through what seemed like a little mini canyon with a small stream running through it. In this picture, if you were to look just beyond the red rocks on the ground you would be looking down towards the stream.
Earlier this summer, I felt that the trails up to Bear Peak were a sort of damp random haven in the middle of Colorado. I wrote about it in this entry. While the ferns were all dead for the season this time around, and I didn't see any toadstools, we did find several patches of brilliant emerald green moss. Its bright velvety softness stood out even more against a background of plants bedding down for their winter rest.
The trail wound us slowly and gently upwards to the peak, and the trees began stepping aside to reveal beautiful views of the prairie and mountains. This picture is looking towards Boulder.
Though we hiked a ways distance-wise, we surmised from the glimpses of what we guessed was Bear Peak that we still had a good vertical distance to climb. We stopped for lunch in a little meadow clearing, and the warmth of the sun pouring over my face and back felt so amazing. The sun reminded me that I am a piece of nature as it relaxed my muscles and molded my being to fit the space around me. I was thinking that my friend would want to stop or turn around at this point, because the peak still looked so far away, but we decided we'd made it this far so we should continue.

The hike turned uphill shortly after that and became difficult, but not as steep as the Fern Canyon Trail. The path was sunny and warm, and we were relieved to find ourselves at the top of the mountain. This picture shows Long's Peak over to the right hand side.
Once we had our fill of the view at the top, we looked for the Fern Canyon Trail to take us back down the mountain. We followed a trail of footprints through the snow... and realized that the trail actually took us back down through the snow. We hadn't encountered much snow on our way up the other trail, so this was pretty intimidating for me. This view of Long's Peak was taken just before I worked up the nerve to start my controlled slide down the mountain.
It was *intense*. I haven't been as scared and awake and alive in a long time as I was while I navigated my way down a sheer, rocky peak via a narrow little snow trail. Literally, had I fallen too quickly or too far, or thrown my body weight the wrong way, I would have slipped and tumbled off the mountain. A little ways down, we entered the trees once again and I felt instantly relieved - I greatly prefer wiping out and crashing into a tree over wiping out and falling off a mountain. The trail remained extremely steep and slippery, and I fell over several times. The best of these was the one where I ended up caught on a tree with my legs over my head, after just telling my friend that my way was the safer way down a particular hill. :)

Relief flooded me when we finally reached lower ground where the trail was all dirt and sometimes mud, but never snow. My body and brain were exhausted from the stressful hike down, but I felt wonderful and, more importantly, fully awake and alive.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sat, Oct. 7, 2009: I'd Like to Make Myself Believe That Planet Earth Turns Slowly

I don't really write about music on here, but I have to say that lately I'm completely engrossed in the music of Owl City. He reminds me of The Postal Service, who I also adore. Sometimes I make instant musical connections with groups whose music becomes a transformational, cleansing, penetrating experience for me. Coldplay is one of those groups, as are Regina Spektor, Feist, Kings of Convenience, and Imogen Heap. Owl City is my newest one, partly because of his beautiful lyrics, which sometimes speak my truth so clearly that I feel exposed knowing that someone else can so clearly express something inside of me that I can't put words to.

For a while, a few months ago, I was having dreams in which my exes paraded through my head and interacted with me, usually a different one each night. When it was happening then, I would wake up and tell them to just go away. "I don't want to think about you anymore, you're in the past so please just go away and leave me alone". When it was happening, I told my friend about it and she expressed her opinion that my soul is working to resolve things in my past so that I can move forward without any unfinished business. Although this sounded lovely, it was frustrating to me having my exes invade my dreams every night so I continued asking them to go away, and they did.

Recently, I asked myself to open up to this experience again and told my soul that if dreaming about my exes will bring me to a place of joy, then I would like it to continue happening. Two days ago, I dreamed about one ex, and last night I dreamed about another. It tends to be the same few people running through my head: the first guy I ever dated seriously, the guy who I dated in graduate school, and the guy who I dated most recently last winter. I'm not sure if my dreams are trying to tell or teach me something, or if they're just figments of my brain trying to process memories.

In the dream two nights ago, I was dating the guy from last winter again and was upset that he had plans with his ex. He canceled the plans and tried to make it up to me by giving me a gift, but I noticed that she was there the whole time over his shoulder, though she didn't interact with either of us. He was smiling and trying to be kind to me, but I was mad at him for having her over his shoulder. The dream I had last night featured the first guy who I ever dated seriously, back in college. In my dream, he came to Colorado and expected me to let him stay with me because he didn't have anywhere to stay. He started being very controlling and manipulative, but luckily I had 2 roommates in this dream (who were 2 of my friends in real life) as well as a tall, blond boyfriend. :) The roommates and my boyfriend hid me from him and protected me, and I was able to tell him that I didn't appreciate him trying to weasel his way into my life and he was no longer welcome in my home. I think that being strong and standing up for myself were skills I lacked back when I dated him, so wish that I could have been that way in real life. I also wonder if this dream is reminding me to forgive him.

Last night, my friends asked me if I was waiting for the perfect guy - kind of in the tone of "What are you waiting for?". I was actually a little put off that someone who knows me would think I'm so clueless as to believe that there is a "perfect" person out there - and even if there was, he certainly wouldn't want to date me because I'm nowhere near perfect. :) I don't want a perfect guy. He sounds boring. But I do want to find a guy who wants to love and respect me, who will travel with me, who is intelligent and patient and nice to look at, who is kind and spiritual and forgiving. Those are things that would make him "perfect" for me. As for his negative traits... well duh, everyone has them. There wouldn't be much purpose to our lives if we didn't have something to work on while we're here. As long as he's willing to love me for all of my shortcomings, I would give him my heart in return. Especially if he will sit in the sand by the ocean with me, walk across the world with me, let me warm up my cold feet on his legs, and make me breakfast on Saturday mornings. :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sun, Nov. 1, 2009: Blue Mesa Reservoir and the West Elk Mountains

At some point on Saturday, I realized that I was going to be returning to work soon and hadn't done any solo traveling for my entire break. I broke out a map that morning and pondered the possibilities open to me. I wanted to visit Durango, but it seemed so far... and I didn't want to head somewhere I've been many times... so I settled on the Blue Mesa Reservoir, just west of Gunnison. I haven't traveled on Rt. 50 since my trip back from Big Sur this past April, and my only other time spent on the road was on my trip to Telluride my first autumn in Colorado.

Though it's absolutely beautiful in that area of the state, I think I tend to avoid it during road trips because it's so far away. On Sunday I just decided to go for it and packed my stuff for a day on the road!

The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and 50's, and as I traveled into mountains and blue sky I felt all of the troubles and worries and sadness just melt away from my body. My favorite rest stop on 285 just outside of Fairplay presented me with its typical flawless view of the Collegiate Peaks: I forgot that Rt. 50 takes you up Monarch Pass and was relieved to find it open. The mountains around me were already covered in snow, but the road was clear and safe enough for me to spend lots of time looking around! (the snow melts off the roads so quickly out here!). This now abandoned mine was built alongside the pass.
A piece of a view from Monarch Pass:
The road took me over low barren hills, the white mountain peaks of Monarch Pass receding into the distance, and presented me with the gift of the Blue Mesa Reservoir:
Oooh... water! This looks to me to be one of the biggest bodies of water in Colorado. (I just looked it up, it *is* the biggest body of water in Colorado!). It's fairly narrow but pretty long. One would think that an area with so much water would promote some tree growth, but the low sandy hills wore only the barest covering of sagebrush.
I headed up a random dirt road leading off from Rt. 50 and into the Sapinero Wilderness, following a sign that pointed to Rainbow Lake.
Colors and shapes in Sapinero Wilderness:
I decided at some point while bumping along this dirt road that I wanted to eat dinner. Not really a good idea, just in case you were ever thinking of doing the same. I ended up wearing like half of my sandwich! :P At one point while driving, I looked back and was shocked by the view:
I had been going up and up into those barren hills without even realizing it, and the result was that the San Juans poked out above the horizon. At some point near this view, I passed 2 trucks full of men wearing hunting gear and realized that perhaps "Wilderness" means "hunting ground". Hmm... time to turn around. (I never did make it to Rainbow Lake!).

And when I did, I returned to the beautiful water. This formation is called the Dillon Pinnacles:
Blue, so blue!
I took Rt. 92 around the north rim of the Black Canyon of Gunnison, thinking that it would lead me directly to Rt. 133 and up to Carbondale. I was mistaken. It wound me around hills and stretched out around the arms of the canyon, leading to a very fun ride that I fully enjoyed! It also took me up, which I didn't anticipate but fully appreciated, since the height opened the horizon again and out popped the jagged San Juan peaks for my viewing pleasure. Here is the canyon with the San Juans in the distance:
Sunset colors on a hill along Rt. 92 (incidentally, there were TONS of aspens here. It would make for a great fall drive!).
I wound in and out of curves and trees, and was finally presented with the first sight I've seen in a long time that literally took my breath away: the West Elk Mountains, bathed in purple sunset light.
The sight of them lured me forward, and fairly quickly I came to an open view of their forms:
This is my new favorite picture. :) West Elk Mountains, near Crawford, CO.
The sunset was a beautiful soft apricot melting down to the horizon.
The little town of Crawford was amazing - small, but with a good number of houses scattered around the hills, with the mountains dominating the eastern sky behind it all. As I drove through the town, I noticed many small ponds, streams, and reservoirs, and wondered where this random watery mountain paradise came from. It was hands-down one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

The apricot twilight was short-lived, and I headed up Rt. 133 in the dark - with the exception of the strong silvery light pouring down from the full moon. Throughout the course of my drive (which included another unexpected mountain pass, McClure Pass, which was thankfully also open), the horizon around me was filled with snowy mountain peaks illuminated into radiant brightness by the moon. It's amazing how much can be seen with light from a full moon shining off of snow. As the moonlit mountains passed, I wished I could stop time and live in a brilliant frozen moment for just a little while.

Even the deep, vivid beauty of the day couldn't quite cut through the heart of the sadness that is a cloud around my heart. It's still there, but I don't want it to be there. I almost feel like I've reverted to the way I felt when I first moved out here, though I don't have any particular reason to feel that much pain. I'm still working through how to let it rain on my heart and drift lightly away.

Tues, Oct. 27, 2009: Simple Prairie

I love the prairie for its simplicity, its uncompromising expanses, its clean lines and pure colors.
Driving in the prairie reminds me to cut away the layers of mental garbage that smother the manifestation of my soul on a daily basis.
Lost in the heart of a sea of hard earth and waving grass, I am reminded of the immensity of the world.
I am reminded to find beauty in small shapes interrupting long, straight lines.
The prairie surprised me when I downloaded the pictures from my Gunnison journey and found these forgotten scenes preceding snapshots of snowy mountains, water, and deep canyons.
How could I forget? I am mystified... but somehow it seems appropriate that the prairie came back to me today.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fri, Oct. 30, 2009: Snow, Manifestation, and a New Tattoo

Happy Friday, and Happy Almost Halloween!! Here in Colorado, we just spent 2 days under constant cloud cover as the sky dumped 2 feet of snow on us (at least, it was 2 feet where I live). Throughout the course of this morning, the sun has been breaking free from the clouds and for the first time in days I can see past the edge of the southern Table Mesa. I hope this is a sign of the winter that's to come, since getting any amount of snow this early in the season seems to be a little unusual for Colorado - except in the mountains, where it snows at the drop of a hat!

On the 22nd I attended an "angel channeling" at the Metaphysical Research Society in Denver. I've always associated the term "angel" with Christianity, but lately my perception of the concept has shifted and I think that maybe angels are spirits who are no longer reincarnating, but help human spirits as we move through our own personal evolutions. There were 3 individuals channeling, and they brought forth the angels Raphael, Michael, and Gabriel.

The energy in that room was absolutely electric, which was a really neat experience in itself. The angels said some things that fall into line with the way I see the world, and some other things that reminded me of lessons I've learned and let fall by the wayside. They shared that they can see the future, but the future can always be changed by us because we have free will. This reminded me of the metaphysical fair this past September, and my friend who voiced some skepticism about people who tell others the future. I guess my perception of this is that psychics, angels, and others who can see our future see it as it would be if we stay on the path we are currently traveling. When using methods of divination (such as I-ching, tarot, etc.), I like the idea of asking the question "what would be the outcome if _____", or "what would happen if_____". I don't think that anybody knows the future, for the same reason as the angels pointed out: free will. But I do think that some people can see where the path you're currently on will take you. (As far as people knowing where your path should take you next, which was another point of skepticism for my friend... I'm still undecided on that one, as is evidenced by the fact that I'm still living in Colorado!).

I had my own question (I'll give you one guess as to what it was... and a hint that it was about finding my soul mate...), but held off and really listened as the angels answered the questions of others in the room. People asked about their careers, where they should live, if they are "good enough" to have a special guardian angel, etc. And the angels' responses were all the same: what do you want? What will bring you your greatest joy? What would it FEEL like to have the job you want/ live where you want/etc? Their answer to everyone was to look inside, and then FEEL the way that having what they want would make them feel. Feel that feeling, every day, and that's how you will manifest your desires.

Wow... as a person who experiences the world through my emotions (I'm a Cancer, that's what I'm here to do!), that just makes so much sense to me! Manifesting what you want on an emotional level goes so much deeper than thinking about it and setting that intention in your head. Our emotions are a direct circuit to our hearts and souls, and it seems so powerful to be able to manifest from those places rather than our brains!

I came to a place inside of myself where I realized that no person is going to bring me joy or happiness or love. No person is going to amplify those for me or put them inside of me... so it's my job to put them there. What does it feel like to pursue joy? What does it feel like to love? I feel those things inside of me because I want to, and because they feel good. It sounded like their message was to be what you want to attract - and regardless of the outcome, it feels good to feel love: an open heart, connection, excitement in my core, awakened awareness of the world around me.

And joy - joy was their message. The purpose of our lives is to pursue joy, and though they didn't say it directly I realized that's what they were communicating. Why is it both so easy and so difficult? In order to find joy, the angels suggested to think less and concentrate on BEING. At one point, Michael asked a woman, "where's your butt?" as a way of reminding her where her body is, because that's her mode of operating in this world and that's what is important.

I know all of this in my head and have heard these same things said many times, but can't seem to integrate it into the way I live. I think that I still have too much fear, too much restraint.

That's where the tattoo comes in. :) It's on my right wrist, in compliment to the sun on my left, a constant reminder of the energy systems in the universe and the way that human beings interact with one another (see James Redfield for an explanation...). It's a bee, flower, and twig with leaves on it, and the shapes of the symbols spell "Joy". The Bee is to remind me to "be" (get it?! :) ), and is also a symbol of enjoying the sweet things in life and appreciating the fruits of our labors. It's also a reminder to regulate my diet so I don't get diabetes later in life. The flower and twig... that's just what I saw when the idea for the tattoo came into my head. I like the flower as a sign of flourishing fulfillment, and the twig as a sprig of hope and a symbol of renewal.

If I've ever shared anything in my blog that I want to pass along to others, it's the angels' message: think less, be more, and spend your days on this beautiful earth pursuing your Joy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fri, Oct. 23 to Tues, Oct. 27: Mom Visit!

For the past several weeks, my life has been filled with local outings and spending time with friends. While this has been very wonderful and I've enjoyed everything I've done, I have found myself longing for larger adventures. I actually didn't realize how long it had been until I looked at my blog one day while eating lunch at work. October 8th was my last post...? And it was just an adventure of thought, not one of body, mind, and spirit...? That was almost 3 weeks ago! I don't think I've ever let my blog go that long without being updated since moving out here, and it really made me stop and think about what I've been doing lately and how my priorities have shifted. I absolutely love my friends and the time we spend together, but the thing that brings me joy is exploring this beautiful piece of earth that I have inhabited for 2 1/4 years now. My explorations needed a jump start... and my mother provided that opportunity at the perfect time!

My father visited me when he was in Fort Morgan for a business trip in February 2009, but since then he was the only one to make the trip. My parents decided to send my mom out here for a few days so she could visit too! She had never seen the mountains before or been to many places outside of Connecticut, so I was really excited to show her some of Colorado's pretty and easy-to-reach spots. Her first day here was really a 1/2 day, and was spent shopping for Halloween costume parts for my friends' party the next day!

Day 2: Oct. 24 - Indian Hot Springs, Eisenhower Tunnel, Georgetown, and Party
One of the things I really wanted to do was take my mom to a hot springs, since a "hot spring" in Connecticut means an unexpectedly warm day in April. While it would have been great to take her to Strawberry Hot Springs, I figured something closer would be more appropriate. We headed off to Indian Hot Springs in Idaho Springs, which is nestled in the mountains about 30 minutes west of Golden.

The woman at the front desk let us wander around for a while so we could decide what area of the springs we wanted to visit. We headed down under the earth into a series of steamy, hot, dark caves (which used to be nude but now require bathing suits). I felt so claustrophobic in there that I took about 2 steps in and walked as fast as I could back to the locker room. I learned that I can handle heat and caves separately, but together they are a terrifying combination for me!

We decided on the pool instead and spent about an hour lounging around in it. My mother found the pipe where the hot water was flowing directly into the pool. It was heaven.
I wanted my mother to see a "little old West" town before we headed back down for my friends' party. We drove through Idaho Springs, and then headed west towards Georgetown. I changed my mind halfway there and decided I wanted to take her to Silverthorne instead, so she could go through Eisenhower Tunnel and see the reservoir surrounded by snow-covered mountains. This idea lasted right up until the moment we emerged out the western side of the tunnel and found ourselves bombarded by wet, icy snow. Ok so... Georgetown it is!

As tempting as it was to try to get her to eat a buffalo burger, I'm not into that kind of thing so we went to a little cafe at the far end of town for lunch. I showed her some of my favorite things in town (the old fire station tower, the jewelry shop, the old gross food at the general store - not the food they sell to eat, but their display of old food. They have anchovy paste and canned caterpillars - YUCK!).
My friends hosted a Halloween party that afternoon, so my mom got to meet some of my friends. I had to talk once again about a friend who has begun dating her ex boyfriend again (who also happens to be my ex boyfriend). Sometimes I wonder if people are trying to incite me to start drama about it, but I'm really not interested in going down that road. Other than that, it was fun being surrounded by friends and hyper little kids all dressed up in their costumes. :)

Day 3: Oct. 25 - Estes Park and The Stanley
Apparently everyone who my mother talked to about her trip to Colorado told her to go to Estes Park. For some reason this drove me a little crazy (for real people?! You really think there's nowhere better I can take my mother in Colorado than Estes Park?!), but we went with it.

The weather predicted snow all day, so I was very surprised when we arrived and the clouds had magically lifted over the Estes Park valley.
There was a small herd of elk hanging out in the park by the lake that my mom spotted as we headed into town, so we pulled over so she could experience some Colorado wildlife! (and I could too!)
The views from the lake were so beautiful: the sky above was blue but most of the mountains were still half-shrouded in gray clouds.
Here is The Stanley Hotel, as seen from the lake. It's the white building complex towards the left of the picture:
The elk were as calm as could be, and paid no attention as people snapped pictures and joggers dashed past with their dogs.We headed up to The Stanley for our Ghost Tour, but arrived early enough to enjoy some beautiful views of the town from the porch.
The Stanley Hotel:
The Ghost Tour was great!! Here is the room where Stephen King stayed when he was inspired to write The Shining. Apparently the wallpaper is ripped because people keep stealing the room number plaque (which they sell for $5 in the gift shop...).
We were told that Ghost Hunters has investigated The Stanley 14 times. Once they found a vortex in this stairway:
This hallway inspired the scene in The Shining with the 2 little girls (I think?) on their bikes:
When the tour was over, we enjoyed one more view from the porch before heading off into town.
As we left town, the sun was shining even brighter than it had been when we arrived. We pulled off for another last view of the valley:
... and headed into a winter wonderland as we approached Lyons.

Day 4: Oct. 26 - Pike's Peak and Garden of the Gods
For my mom's last full day in Colorado, we finally... fiiiinally... were the recipients of clear beautiful blue skies. This was amusing to me, since I always tell my family how beautiful it is out here and how it never rains. Ahem.

We headed down to Manitou Springs to take the cog railway all the way up Pike's Peak! Upon our arrival at the ticket counter, we learned that the train wasn't going all the way to the top today, but we figured we'd ride it as far as we could go and see what we could see.

The beautiful day promised to us didn't disappoint, and our view the whole way up was dominated by massive rocks and snow covered trees.
Years ago, the train used to be powered by steam engines, and this tower held water for refilling the engines:
We pulled just above treeline and could see right away why the train couldn't take us to the top that day. Snow was blowing EVERYWHERE, lifted and whipped around by the strong, invisible hands of winds. We stopped just past Inspiration Point (I think at about 12,500 feet) and were able to see some beautiful views to the east and south. This is Moraine Lake, which the tour guide said is the only natural glacial lake on the mountainside that's been there for a million years:
Just to the left of the darker hills in the distance, you can see one of the Spanish Peaks:
The train headed back down, and we stopped at Four Mile Station for a stretch break. People were throwing snowballs at each other and having a lovely time in the snow!

A little restaurant in Manitou Springs served us the best pierogies I've ever had, and then we were off to Garden of the Gods. By this point in the trip, I was just plain exhausted. It was very tiring to go from being by myself all the time to having someone around 24/7, even if it was my mother - who was a very good house guest! It was just a huge transition. Being worn out, I didn't take any pictures of Garden of the Gods, which was just as beautiful as the last time I visited it. My mom did borrow my camera to take this shot of Pike's Peak:
Day 5 (Oct. 27) was a half-day of cleaning up and packing, and driving my mother around some random spots she hadn't seen yet (Lookout Mountain, downtown Denver). As we drove to the airport, the mountains put on a beautiful show for us, and we admired their snow covered peaks glistening in the sunlight. Although it felt overwhelming to be around another person all the time, I felt sad as soon as my mother left. Walking back into an empty house (well, full of my cat but she's not a person!) was a strange feeling.

Now I sit in my living room, watching a blizzard of giant fat snowflakes fall outside my window. It feels peaceful to have a day of rest.