Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mon, Feb 21, 2011: Barr Lake State Park

Thanks to the amazing achievements of Washington and Lincoln, and the fact that their birthdays fall within a week of each other, we were granted a reprieve from work this Monday on President's Day. I love being able to experience a day of freedom while I know others are stuck in their cubicles. It's one of the pleasures of working in a school system. :)

I have found that dogs aren't as welcome in many places as I had originally thought. Being in Colorado, where so many people have dogs, I'm accustomed to seeing them everywhere and have never been offended or put off by the presence of someone's dog in a beautiful or quiet place. One of my favorite things about dogs in Colorado is how well behaved they are here! I searched for a while before I was able to find somewhere that I haven't already visited where Kaylee would be allowed to come with me. Barr Lake State Park was the answer, though only half of the lake allows dogs. (The other half is a wildlife preserve).

I thought that this place might be similar to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge that B and I visited last month, but I was surprised to find more trees lining the banks of the lake and blocking the view to the mountain in most places. I often find that things blocking my view of the mountains frustrates me, but there was nothing at all frustrating about these trees. They were so wonderful and strange - massive cottonwoods stranded within a lake that seemed to have burst out over its banks. Seeing the trees standing patiently within that frigid water made me feel like I was in an alternate reality of sorts, and I loved the feeling. It was like the strange, secret place that I had all to myself for the day, just to play and imagine in.
I walked up the path to the north, with the lake and trees to my left and a canal to my right, separating me from the wide open prairie.
Canadian Geese and ducks congregated in the shallow areas of the lake, and it was funny to see them swimming among the stranded trees. I wonder how often geese get to swim in trees?
Long's Peak was half-covered in clouds, but in the early morning light its sharp shapes stood out in contrast to the lazy soft mist of the clouds. One of my favorite things about the lake I was able to capture in this picture, and that is the variety of depth and colors that were present between the thick ice and the areas of shallow water.
There were several boardwalks that lead out to different areas of the lake for bird viewing, and one of them that I took had a sign next to it saying it was built by the Telephone Pioneers of America. I have no idea what that is, but I imagine it had something to do with working to provide phone services for Americans. (I just looked it up - it looks like it might be a service organization?). As I was thinking about how neat it would have been to work in the area a long time ago when it was still in the middle of nowhere, I came out to the lake and saw this:
A telephone pole in the middle of the water! It added to the bizarre surreal feeling that I was in some sort of wonderland where things that aren't supposed to happen do happen.

Mt. Evans to the south was mostly shrouded in clouds just like Long's Peak, but again I was able to make out the shape of the peak through the clouds. It's funny that the mountains were cloudy because the day was so beautifully clear and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.
I was taken by the shape of this bridge echoed in the water.
Around this time, the trees opened up and the lake presented the most wonderful view of Mt. Evans. I think this might be a spectacular place to take a picture of the mountain in the sunrise (which is something I've wanted to do since moving out here!) and I can't wait until a warmer weekend day when I can head up early and watch the sun light up that peak.

We headed back to the car and walked through a beautiful area where the trees hung over the path like willows.
This is by far one of my favorite parks I have visited in the Denver area and I can't wait to come back. There is a wonderful air of imagination and magic there, and I loved feeling like anything was possible.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sat, Feb 12, 2011: Cherry Creek Reservoir

Lately I find that I become furious with people and events more frequently than I have for years. Last weekend, I needed to get out of the house to clear my head with some fresh air and sunshine.

Cherry Creek Reservoir was covered in snow, but it was so warm out that I didn't even need a jacket as Kaylee and I tromped around the soggy grounds. There were tracks out onto the thick ice from the sleds that ice fishermen use to cart their gear, and I was able to see this happen for the first time as we walked by a man loading his sled.
Mt. Evans is the largest peak in the picture above, and this picture was taken looking just north of that. I think that the snowy peaks in this picture are in the Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park area.
Lately I have been blessed with more moments of clarity and happiness than I have experienced in what seems like a very, very long time. Now, the moments of clarity and happiness seem to be coming more frequently and lasting longer, and in the ever-growing moments I feel more and more like myself. I wish that I knew why this is happening so that I will be able to make it happen again. Both the winter and circumstances in my life have been sapping my energy, and I have finally decided that I'm tired of feeling drained. Even only in moments, it feels so wonderful to feel like myself again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sat, Feb 5, 2011: New Mexico, Pt. 3: Petroglyph National Monument

The third day of my trip greeted me brightly as the sun ignored the heavy curtains in my motel room, tucking its fingers into the spaces between the curtains and the wall to fill the room with a welcoming glow. Its fingers beckoned, "Come play with me". I pushed the curtains aside with that satisfying swish that comes when pushing aside heavy curtains in a motel room, smiled at my companion, the sun, and said "Good morning!".

The previous day, I had crossed over the Rio Grande and was surprised to randomly run into the famous river. I decided that I couldn't leave the area without paying it a visit, so made my way over to an open space area that was filled with early morning bikers and joggers enjoying the fresh air.

The river was wide but shallow and slow, and the surface was decorated by colorful ducks and geese.
I walked up the river a ways and was taken by the beautiful shadows the trees cast onto the water in the heavily slanted early morning light.
On my way to Petroglyph National Monument, I saw a hot air balloon ascending into the clear blue sky.
I stopped by the visitor's center and asked which hikes would be best for a person with a day to spend in the park. The park ranger suggested Boca Negra Canyon and Rinconada Canyon, and I figured I'd take her word for it. :)

I headed up to Boca Negra canyon first. It was a strange little area, a semi-circle of volcanic rock that had once pooled around a large hill and was left behind over the years as the large hill eroded and washed away. I hiked up the winding path through large darkly colored boulders, my head swinging around constantly as I scanned the rocks for petroglyphs.

They were not hard to spot! I kept making up names for them in my head. This one is Mouse with Lollipop:
This design almost looks like some sort of map to me.
The view of the Sandia Mountains and Albuquerque was beautiful. The tops of the mountains were lost in low clouds, but the sky was bright and mostly clear.
A hand:
On some of the rocks, the petroglyphs were clear and solitary. Some of the rocks, like this one, were decorated in many areas. I'm not sure if the petroglyphs were somehow related to each other, but they often seemed pretty random to me.
Lizard with Sun Tail:
When I reached this petroglyph, the view just seemed so odd to me. I was able to view the petroglyph, the swelling mountains in the background, and all the houses in between.... It was so bizarrely anachronistic that it made me pause for a long time just to process it.
Another view of a petroglyph juxtaposed by suburbia:
This was one of my favorites, a dragonfly:
And I loved this one because it reminded me of Kaylee:
A butterfly:
There were these interesting faces that I called The Watchers that were consistently etched into the rocks in both Boca Negra Canyon and Rinconada Canyon. It was a circle with two dots for eyes and one dot for a mouth. I didn't feel like the faces were supposed to be menacing; they really just felt like they were watching me, like they were acting as a reminder of a watchful presence in the canyon.
This is one of my favorite scenes. I'm not sure what it's supposed to communicate, but to me it looks like two bird-like people, a drum, and a star. It reminds me of all of the nights that I spent dancing at Brushwood, and I felt a wonderful and unexpected connection rooting me to the individual who created this picture.
There were several paths at Boca Negra Canyon, and this next set of pictures were taken from what I think was called the Macaw Trail. This was one of my absolute favorites. It looks to me like a really happy little guy with a long feather coming out of his head and long legs.
This was one of the most beautiful in my eyes:
This particular trail had two petroglyphs of what looked to me like freshly sprouted seeds.
I headed down to Rinconada Canyon around mid-morning, still filled with amazement and awe over what I saw at Boca Negra Canyon. I was so excited by the idea of seeing more wonderful petroglyphs and couldn't wait to start my next hike.

Some of the rocks in Rinconada Canyon had collections of petroglyphs of people, and I was fascinated by these.
This one I called the World-Bellied Person. You can see a clear spiral as well at the upper right of the rock.
A lot of the petroglyphs, especially in this canyon, have been defaced by graffiti and even bullet damage. You can see some graffiti on this rock, and also the face that I called Demon Head with Bone In Its Mouth:
Another petroglyph with sweeping lines away from its head:
I loved this little lizard. :)
More faces:
This figure I called Spiral Kokapelli:
Sometimes I just stopped and stared at these collections of pictures, wondering what they meant to the individuals who created them. Sometimes I made up my own stories to go along with them, and it would be fun to know if my stories were at all close to their real meanings.
I think this one looks like a Sun Snake:
Three People:
I see a bird and a lizard and maybe another dragonfly?
Two pairs of birds:
I really enjoyed the petroglyphs on this rock!
Circle Bird:
To me, these figures looked like Saturn but also had feet. I called them Saturn Ducks.
Paw print:
Snake and Coyote:
At the visitor's center, some of the literature said that the Pueblo were working with individuals from the park to help share the meaning of some of the petroglyphs with park visitors. It sounded like the Pueblo interpret the symbols based on the current understanding and use of symbols in their tribe. I'm really curious to know what this one means... because to me it looks like an alien with no arms wearing a skirt on sitting on one of The Watcher faces, which has become somewhat squished from the weight of the alien.
Snake and sun:
There were many human figures drawn in this format, with an inverted triangle balanced on top of a regular triangle, then an arc for arms which was sometimes extended into a circle around the figure. I called them Orion Figures because they really look a lot like Orion. This one has been defaced by bullet damage.
I'm not sure if the petroglyphs were done over a long period of time, but there were definitely some that looked a bit more modern than others. The face on this group was etched using a natural angle in the rock to divide the face and give it dimension.
Big group of petroglyphs:
A herd of some sort of animal:
This one looked like a fox to me.
More faces:
More faces:
Again, I would love to know what these originally meant to the individuals who created them. This one looks to me like a threatening alien, a bird figure, and an Orion figure.
The petroglyphs essentially dead-ended at the far end of the canyon. I wandered around for a bit off the trail in hopes of finding more, but they were entirely contained in the northern half of the canyon.
This was one of my very favorite ones, I think because it made me think of soul mates. There are two hand prints, with two spirals going in opposite directions above them.
I finished my hike early in the afternoon, and decided to head back to Denver in an attempt to miss a storm that was sweeping in from the north. I have learned from my experiences in New Mexico that the roads don't really get cleared, and heading out early in the morning after a snow storm sounded like a terrible idea.

As I drove north, I wondered if waiting would have been such a terrible idea after all.... I was able to see the imposing edge of the storm in front of me, while the sun shone all around the clouds. I hoped that maybe the storm would pass quickly and I would be back in the sun before I knew it. I hoped that the snow would hold off until I got down the pass that leads from New Mexico to Colorado.

This was the view of the storm before me:
The sunlight was absolutely beautiful as it played off the thick clouds, winking and glinting and beaming.
The colors as I drove deeper into the clouds were so beautiful: bright light turquoise blue, dark purples and grays, pinky oranges, pale yellows.
Further into the storm, the clouds surrounded me like a massive thick gray dome. The playful sunlight was almost entirely shut out, sucked up into dark, dark clouds. All around me, thick gray columns of cloud reached down to the ground as the clouds burst at their weak points and precipitation flooded to the ground. If it were spring or summer, I would have been terrified of tornadoes spawning, as I drove through alternating rain and snow. The columns looked like structural supports for the heavy dome of gray, and I was not looking forward to the moment when the ceiling collapsed onto me and inundated me with its weather.

For the most part, the storm played very nicely with me and actually respected my request to wait until I made it over the pass. The second I was down the last slope of the road and gently poured out onto the prairie, the sky opened up and began snowing furiously. I spent a scary few hours unable to tell the difference between the white prairie and the white road, and I feel that I only survived the driving experience because I was able to follow a trucker who was able to make the distinction. Night fell, and my vision consisted of a wall of flying snow, the truck in front of me, and the taillights of the few slow-moving cars on the road.

The storm was terrible until just south of Pueblo, when it lightened up very quickly, and I soon found myself driving in a misty rain with no sign of snow at all on the road. "Please just let it stay like this", I asked, and it did... again, for the most part. It was snowy again near Monument Hill (between Denver and Castle Rock), but it was nothing compared to what I had experienced farther south in the state. Looking back, I still can't believe that I was able to travel safely through that storm. I was so, so relieved when it lightened into rain, and am so grateful for how alive I felt in that moment. That's when I knew that everything would be okay.

It feels so good to be happy to be alive. :) In addition to its violent beauty, that's the gift that the storm gave to me.