Saturday, August 15, 2009

into Thin Air

Just outside of Denver is a state recreation area where you can drive to the top of a 14,000 foot peak on the world's highest elevation paved road. Usually, when a
road gets up to that elevation, no one bothers to pave it, they just leave it as dirt or gravel. I was greatful for the paving, even though my step-dad's driving left me sweaty, white knuckled and praying! To be fair, his tires only left the pavement once...
Anyway, the view was spectacular, and we actually found some snow to play in. Little Miss is posing in front of peak and snow. Down at Echo Lake we had a delightful picnic, tried out the tread on the hiking boots, and fed ducks. On the drive were the most glorious wild flowers. Colorado and Wyoming had better amounts of rain than usual, so the plants responded with gusto. At the top we saw mountain goats and a big-horned sheep. The drive down was not nearly as hair-raising as the way up. At the peak, there was a trail to the very tip of the rockpile summit, but there was also a snow patch lower down. We opted for snow, climbed carefully over chunky rocks and daughter was reminded of how icy and crunchy it was. She claimed to not ever remember snow, but she had played in it before. Its just such a rarity for a Florida child that it becomes special. Snow in the middle of summer is even more fun! There may be more snow in our future, since her appetite for it has been whetted, and now we have more north-dwelling relatives to visit.

Monday, August 10, 2009

dances with wolves? pees with horses!

The funniest thing that happened in Wyoming was the night spent in the teepee and the usual call of nature. The reason I was in a teepee goes way back to the spring when my mother was planning our trip as a driving vacation. She was researching fun things to do in South Dakota and Wyoming on the way from Minneapolis to Denver. She really wanted to do some horseback riding, but she didn't want to round up cows or just ride with a guide. She found on a website that there were overnight tours where the guides drive the chuckwagon and fix the food for dinner and you spend the night out in the wild and ride back to civilization in the morning. My mom is not known for her adoration of the outdoors, so it surprised me that she was even willing to consider spending a night in a teepee. However, the reassurance of cots and port-a-potties as well as a large strong horse to carry her moved her to make the reservation for a trip. Later, when we weren't going to drive from Minneapolis to Denver, but fly...well, I thought 'there goes that idea'. Mom surprised me again by deciding to rent a car and drive up and ride as planned. My mom and I had ridden horses enough to feel like we could do this, but I was worried about whether my daughter could safely ride. It turns out that the guide also had reservations about it and only agreed to let her ride in the chuckwagon and later on a horse as long as it was halter-led. I was fine with this, as was she, so the reservation stood. My daughter was excited that her gramma was going to spend a night in a teepee ... the closest she had ever been to camping.
The ride was great! My mom and I agreed that the first minute or two on the horse gave us a real "oh, shit!" moment when we weren't sure we could do this, but we both settled down and remembered what to do. Daughter survived the chuckwagon ride (it was bumpier and steeper than she had dared to hope). The ambiance was not all it could be since our ride just took us on a loop around a mesa, and the chuckwagon did not bring our food (the F150 did), but the view of the teepees by the river was so idyllic. We had a generous meal of overcooked chopped steaks, salad, fruit and desert and then it came time to inspect the sleeping arrangements.
Mom chickened out. Ostensibly, it would have been difficult for her to get up and down off an air mattress in the night, wander two hundred yards to the port-o-lets and repeat. I could hardly believe she didn't stick it out just to say she had done it - slept in a teepee, but she opted for the motel. My daughter was so sad not to see her gramma camp, too.
So what does a female do when camping in the pitch dark (haven't seen that many stars in years!) a fair hike from the relief station? She tries to hold it, that's what. And I did fairly well in that department, but when you have to go, you just have to go. All night I had heard the horses grazing around the outside of the teepee and relieving themselves (in great gushes of moisture), so I figured that the hike was optional. Out I crawled at four in the morning, moon up high and bright, and found a nice little spot with a slant away from the sleeping area. I dropped my drawers and felt the blessed relief, looked up and saw several pairs of eyes on me...
the horses. They had all stopped chewing, ears pricked, staring at me while I peed. Apparently, no one had ever demonstrated the human method for them. They couldn't believe their eyes and ears. It was a bit unnerving to have them all be so interested, so I finished and hurried back inside. The sun rose just an hour later. Had I known that I might have waited for the light and made the hike.