July 31, 2007
Gondola Up Aspen Mountain
Saturday, before picking Jason up at the Aspen airport, we took the Silver Queen Gondola up Aspen Mountain. After a couple quick jaunts up the rock climbing wall for the girls, Emily and Jasper played on the obstacle course under Katherine's supervision while David and Paul played frisbee golf. After an hour, we met up for lunch while being entertained by a live French Horn Quintet!
Abandoned Gold Mining Town: Independence, CO
In 1879, gold was discovered at 10,900 feet, near Independence Pass, and by 1882 there were 1,500 residents in Independence, CO.
But after $190,000 in ore was found, the yield stopped, and the bust plus the harsh climate (snow cover from October to May) reduced the population to 100 by 1888. In 1899 there was a terrible blizzard which cut off supply routes, and the remaining residents of Independence dismantled their homes to make 75 pairs of skis and ski down to Aspen to escape the bleakly snowy wasteland.
We visited the remains of this old abandoned mining town.
"You know something?"
"You know what?"
Jasper is very good with his alphabet and letter sounds, but hasn't yet started putting the letters together into words. I wanted to test out his readiness for that just out of curiosity (having taught my own kids to read years ago), so I wrote C A T at the top of a yellow pad. Jasper was able to tell me the names of the three letters, and their sounds. When I told him to put them together and see what word it made, he came up with "Chrysalis?" Wow, that's a fancy word! Then I tried again with B U S. Again, he perfectly stated the letters and sounds, and then decided it must read "Snake." Okay...
On hikes and drives, whenever we passed a river, lake, reservoir, pond, or stream, we would all be treated to a cheerfully excited, "Wook! Water!"
Jasper is a very busy fellow, setting up bakeries and post offices, and planning surprise parties (to which he openly invites the special guest and then delightedly calls out "surprise!" as they enter the room). My favorite cooking moment of Jasper's this week was when he announced he was putting the finishing touches on the chocolate ice cream cake - by baking it in the oven.
It was fun getting to know you better, Jasper! I'm glad you liked my "flower" made out of apple slices and grapes, and ate it all up. You have a handsome smile and entertained us all so well this week.
July 30, 2007
Hiking at the Grottos, near Aspen
On Friday, after the cool dress rehearsal concert by the Aspen Festival Orchestra in the beautiful Benedict Music Tent, we picked up some sandwiches and had a picnic lunch at the trailhead for the Grottos, a few miles outside of Aspen. Despite a light rain, we took a fun hike over gigantic boulders and among the trees by the river. Ice and water have carved out grottos and made fun shapes in the rocks.
On the way back to the car, we crossed a little brook with a waterfall. Jasper loves water ("Wook! Water!"), so his dad helped him stick his hand in the flow without getting his shoes too wet.
Mount Sopris Horseback Ride
Thursday morning I got to take a two-hour horseback ride with my brother (who is three years older than I), my daughter and my nephew Jasper. David chose to have a quiet morning at home, since he's not wild about riding horses. This was Jasper's first real ride, and since he's only five, our friendly and capable guide, Aaron, led Jasper's horse with a rope (this is apparently called ponying, despite the fact it was a real horse named Tonto, 20 years old).
Emily rode Custis (the last name of Martha Washington's first husband), Paul was astride Breeze, and Lone Buddy carried me. Breeze got startled by Paul's backpack near the beginning of our ride, and took off at a frenzied gallop. After a few moments, Aaron dropped Jasper's ponying rope and galloped off after Paul. I was left to pray and shakily dismount, grab Jasper's rope, and remount, still praying and trying to come out with casually reassuring words to both kids. Amazingly, with two of the horses headed off so fast, the remaining three horses stayed put. Thank You, God! When Paul and Aaron returned to us at a slow pace a little later, I was so impressed that Paul had managed to stay on his horse, was not injured, and wanted to continue with the trail ride. Wow (and thank You, God, again). Breeze sure let Paul feel the power of his name. More like a gale, if you ask me. At times during the rest of the morning, Breeze was a little skittish, but there were no more serious episodes. Our trail took us past great views of Mount Sopris, with twin summits, both exactly 12,965 feet high:
Everyone enjoyed the outing. However, by the time we got home, Emily was having some sort of allergic reaction, with bumpy red marks around her eyes and an itchy face. We already knew she was allergic to cats and dogs, but now we are hoping she is not also allergic to horses. She so likes all those animals. Jason, Emily and I all love horseback riding and try to get some in whenever we are out here in Colorado - such a beautiful place to do it.
July 29, 2007
Frisbee Golf & Rainy Rodeo
Every morning here in the Colorado Rockies, the sun rises and cheerfully spills its bright blessing over Mount Daly and then the aspen trees blanketing the lower hillsides.
Every afternoon, the dark rain clouds file through the valley and generously spill their wet blessings over everything, accompanied with a side of violent lightning and thunder.
Therefore, we try to do all our outdoor activities in the morning, and retreat indoors in the afternoons.
Aside about personnel: "We" was constituted of my husband David, daughter Emily (9), my brother Paul, his son Jasper (5), and me, until our son Jason (12) joined us yesterday, after he was done with the Grand Canyon (with his grandmother). I am thankful to God that Jason made it safely through his first four unaccompanied minor flights (Virginia to Arizona via Atlanta, then up here to Colorado). Jason decided in the future he'd rather fly on his own without the special accommodations, because he didn't like waiting around until everyone was off the plane, and making others wait for him to arrive via all the other minors' gates. He's a pretty confident kid.
Wednesday morning's outdoor activity was a ride up the chairlift from Snowmass Village to the beginning of the Frisbee Golf Course. Jasper, my 5-year-old nephew, had a blast throwing his orange frisbee around the mountain. David bought us each a differently colored frisbee for easy identification in the tall grass (no green ones, which would have meant instant loss). Emily promptly named all the frisbees. The mottled purple one (her favorite and mine too) became "Gloria" and the pink, red and yellow ones had other dubbings I can't recall.
Once we made it back down to the village on foot after a few hours, Emily and I couldn't resist the Euro-Bungy Trampolines, and were able to jump at the same time next to each other. Emily did many backwards flips, but I was thrilled enough by the seemingly mile-high stretchy jumps I was making. I'm sure my screams echoed the length of the outdoor mall.
By the time we sat down for a bite of lunch, the huge clouds began delivering, so we huddled under the table umbrella, which thankfully was large.
That night, we braved an enormous thunderstorm to stay for the whole rodeo in Snowmass Village, sitting on towelled bleachers and making the most of a big golf umbrella, with kids on laps. It was worth it to see all those crazy cowboys riding bulls and bucking broncs. It was my brother's first time to a rodeo. Rodeo riders live in a very different world of pain and adrenaline and admiration. Those are some tough people. I have no photos because it was too rainy, lightning-filled and jaw-droppingly tense. One bull-rider actually got tossed by the bull's horns. He was able to get up and sprint to the gate, which he scaled as fast as the flashes of lightening before slamming to the ground on the safe side. He lay there for a minute or so, with a couple men around him, before he limped off in the opposite direction from the ambulance. Like I said, tough guys.
My toughness was limited to sitting outside the range of the umbrella and getting a little wet. I have never been to a rainy rodeo before. This is the rainiest summer in Snowmass we've ever seen. Still, the mornings are lovely and dependably dry.
Short Hike Near the House
Our first full day up in the mountains, we took only a short hike from the house while acclimating to the altitude. Mountain asters sprinkled their pale purple glory over the verdant ski slope, bordered by slender, white, whispering aspen trees.
Independence Pass, Colorado
Three quarters of the way from Denver to Aspen, we drove over Independence Pass on the Continental Divide, at 12,095 feet. The light is different, the vegetation stays close to the ground, the air is thin but pure and fresh. Newly arrived at this altitude, one has to walk, not run, lest one should get an instant headache due to lack of oxygen. The clouds feel close overhead, and an admiration emerges for all the forms of life that manage to make a living up here where the only months with an average of zero inches of snowfall are July and August and the total annual average snowfall is 337 inches.
Pool Party at my Aunt's
Emily & Jason had a great time at their second cousin's birthday pool party. It took place at my aunt's farm in rural Virginia. Emily had a buddy during the present opening (Pepper, the dog). I was able to sneak a few moments away from the crowd swinging in an awesome hammock, looking over the fields and pond. Apparently snakes climb into the trees above to rub their old skins off when it's time for a fresh version. Apart from that thought, this delightful hammock made me want one someday. The gentle swinging under the rustling leaves with blue sky peeking through was so peaceful and rejuvenating.
July 28, 2007
I Keep Trying to Post
31 July 2007, Updated to add links to the elaborations & photos
Each day I try to finish a post about all the neat blessings of our summer vacation, but we are having too much fun to ever actually publish! So I'll start with a summary and see if I can at least get this out there so my mom will know I'm still breathing. Then maybe I'll be able to add a few photos and details in subsequent posts as down time allows:
- Ratatouille at the movie theatre (made me laugh and cry, recommended)
- Pool Party for a cousin-once-removed's birthday
- Swinging in the hammock at my aunt's farm
- Feeding the fish in my mom's little pond with waterfall
- Hiking near our house in Snowmass
- Taking the chairlift up the mountain to the start of a Frisbee Golf course which led us on a hike all the way back down the mountain to the base village
- Playing bridge with my husband, brother and daughter until I was so sleepy I laid my head on the table
- Attending the dress rehearsal of the Aspen Chamber Symphony's all-Beethoven performance (including the 5th Symphony). The dress rehearsals are at 9:30am for a 6pm performance, and cost only $10 for adults, $5 for kids, vs. $66 per person for the real performance! Plus you get to see all the fantastic musicians in their "real" clothing instead of tuxes, and you hear all the comments of the conductor, with some sections repeated as they fine-tune things. The musicians silently yawn, giggle, and read books between their active portions. It's a lot of added value, from my point of view. Not to mention that we can leave anytime between movements, without offending the performers, since they're just rehearsing. Which is important with a five-year-old and nine-year-old in tow. We didn't last the whole time.
- Hiking at the Grottos with a picnic lunch in light rain, sheltering under pine trees, then scrambling on the massive rocks overlooking the rushing river
- A visit to Independence, CO, an abandoned gold mining town from the 1800's
- Teaching my nephew how to play Crazy Eights
You can see why I never got far in writing...I'd love to elaborate and provide visual support, but my shower is calling after our hike today...