Standing under the shadow

I know everyone is writing and posting about the total eclipse last week. But I still feel the need to put it into words, mostly so I can remember it in the years to come. Viewing a solar eclipse is like going on roller coaster ride in a very busy amusement park: You wait in line for hours, enjoying the scenery, the snacks, and the company of friends. Then you strap into a cart and whoosh! It’s over in 2 minutes, before you even know what really happened. Afterward, you have the choice of hopping on the slow ride to watch the sun wax back to normal, or heading to your car in hopes of beating the traffic home.

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The moon’s shadow, clearly visible over the South Pacific Ocean, on the March 9, 2016 total eclipse (NASA image).

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Summer Hike #6 – Chillin’ in the San Luis Valley, Colorado

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.

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Looking across the ‘ocean’ of the San Luis Valley.

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Coming soon: The Return to Ecuador

I’ve been craving humitas lately – those soft, cheesy, sweet cornmeal cakes steamed in a corn husk. I miss eating popcorn and tostado (corn nuts) with my soup. The popcorn here in the States – even the stuff I buy at the Farmer’s Market – just can’t compare with Ecuadorian popcorn. And I’d love to have a chirimoya. I saw them in Whole Foods market one day, shipped from somewhere in the tropics. I would have to shell out about $8 for a taste – as it should be – you pay for every bit of petroleum used to get that thing up here, to a place where no one has heard of a chirimoya. I wonder if Whole Foods made any profit on those. (Aren’t you tempted to google ‘chirimoya’ now?)

It’s been nearly two years since I returned home from Ecuador. Maybe it’s time for a visit?

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Humita, wrapped in a corn husk, and an Ecuadorian tamale – usually served with coffee or hot chocolate.

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Summer Hike #5 – Lake Agnes Tea House

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.

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Tourists milling about on the edge of Lake Louise – everyone trying to catch the splendor.

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Summer Hike #4 – Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park

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From the shore of Lake Minnewanka: Mt. Girouard (somewhere on the left), and Mt. Inglismaldie (the peak on the right).

I thought Lake Minnewanka would be a good way to ease into the majesty of the Canadian Rockies – a place to meander along a lakeshore and relax a bit before our vistas became saturated with jagged, glacier-capped peaks enveloped in swirling mist. I hadn’t seen photos of it, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. At least, I didn’t think I had seen photos of it.

If you Google ‘Banff images’, you will see loads of photos of the town of Banff, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake (all of Banff’s Greatest Hits). There will be some photos from Lake Minnewanka mixed in there, but it’s kind of treated as a secondary destination in the park, despite the fact that it’s Banff’s largest lake. But, as it turns out, Minnewanka has no shortage of fabulous vistas. Continue reading

Summer Hike #3 – Canmore Trails and Nordic Center, Canada

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?

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Bike trail across the Bow River in Canmore.

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Summer Hike #2 – The ‘A’

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.

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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.

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