When I wake up to see tendrils of fog hanging from the streetlight, or rain-wet roads, I know we have arrived unequivocally in autumn. Apparently, September used to hold potential for the first snowfall as well, but that hasn’t happened in the past decade. These wetter mornings tend to punctuate strings of sunny blue autumn days – the kind of days that inspire you to plant bulbs and buy pumpkin-spice flavored things.
I had a longing to see the aspens this year. Leaf peeping is all the rage in September in the Rockies. In fact, it’s so much of a rage, that I have avoided going up into the mountains – especially into Rocky Mountain National Park – for years.
In the town of Crestone, CO you might see more new age crystal shops, long gray beards, and man-buns per capita than any place in Colorado (okay, you’re right…there’s Boulder – but let’s face it, Boulder is not what it used to be). With that going for it, the drum circles, and the ‘hey dude chill out’ attitude, I could almost be back in Santa Cruz.
Instead of sitting on the edge of an ocean, this town sits on the edge of the San Luis Valley – a wide-open, sandy plain dotted with sage and grasses. The town is nestled right up against the dramatic flank of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It’s well known for being a new age spiritual center – thus, all the hippies. The permanent population numbers at about 150, but summer can bring in thousands of people a day, visiting Buddhist shrines, attending yoga or meditation workshops, or just browsing the local art.
Looking across the ‘ocean’ of the San Luis Valley.
I’ve been called a tea snob. Yes, I’m one of those people who buys organic fair-trade loose-leaf tea in fancy, boutique tea shops. It’s my weakness (along with chocolate). You can imagine how excited I was when I heard about the Lake Agnes Tea House above Lake Louise. Combine hiking, fabulous views, with a break for tea and biscuits, and it sounds like a recipe for a perfect day.
We saved the Lake Louise area until a bit later in our week in Canada, and I was glad for that. This is probably the most popular place in Banff, and it’s one of the few spots in the wide-open Canadian Rockies where you might encounter a sea of people.
Tourists milling about on the edge of Lake Louise – everyone trying to catch the splendor.
Visiting Canada is, in many ways, like coming home. It’s full of familiarity – just as familiar as pulling up to your front curb and walking down the path to your own front door. Everything is just where it should be. Until you reach up to turn the knob on the front door and find that someone has replaced your round knob with a lever (this happened to me once). From then on, everything makes you feel slightly out of balance. In Canada, it’s the plastic feel of the money and the very interesting accent of your waiter that keep you grounded in the fact that you’re not in Kansas anymore (or, in my case, Colorado).
But, really, what is there not to love about Canada? From spectacular landscapes to wide-open, uncongested freeways, free health care, maple candies and ice wine. Canadians might complain about the low value of their dollar compared to the US dollar, or about long winters…but, hey, wanna trade – our president for your prime minister?
Bike trail across the Bow River in Canmore.
There is a Japanese term, shinrin-yoku, which basically means ‘forest-bathing’. This is the idea that a forest holds healing properties, and you can take advantage of that by ‘breathing it in.’ In South Korea, they’ve adopted this idea on a national level, and are moving toward establishing ‘healing forests’ through the country, as an antidote to city living. This is running through my mind as I hike the ridge above Fort Collins, ‘breathing in’ a small grove of beetle-killed trees. Do damaged forests have the same effect?
It’s June 1st, 2017. My mom died three years ago on this day. And while I contemplated a grey tangle of branches, the POTUS was pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord.
Since I moved to Colorado more than 12 years ago, the pine bark beetle has transformed the landscape of the Rockies. Warmer winters have allowed the infestation to spread through most of Colorado.
When I was about 5 years old, I had to explain to my 80-year-old great-grandmother how a tape recorder worked. She asked me lots of questions, and I patiently explained all the buttons. I’m sure she was humoring me, but I felt so surprised that someone so old wouldn’t know how something works. “She grew up in the horse and buggy days,” my mom told me when I asked her about it, “Imagine how much change she’s seen in her lifetime!”
I remember thinking that it must have been really hard for her to keep up – given how fast things were moving. I felt lucky to have been born after such big technological revolutions as tape recorders and televisions. I wouldn’t have such a hard time keeping up. (Ha.)
Pasque flowers on the trail to Gray Rock.