Wednesday, August 2, 2017

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH

We're back from a vacation in Estes Park, Colorado, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. 

My mother rented a lovely property on the outskirts of town, called The Ranch House.   Actually, there are two houses, and the property can accommodate up to 18 people.  The setting is ideal, nestled in the mountains, with gorgeous views.

Watching the sunset on our first night

We stayed at this same house four years ago when my dad was still alive.  It was bittersweet being here again.  We didn't have a very large crowd this year.  We topped out one night with 12 of us, so we had plenty of space to sprawl.

Days were filled with hiking.  The weather was much cooler than it's been in past years, which was pleasant.  We were never tempted to polar plunge on a hike.

One of our favorite hikes is the hike to Ouzel Falls.  We've done it before, but never tire of it.  The trail has its ups and downs, but is fairly easy, plus we pass several waterfalls.

The soothing sound of the water is appealing

Eileen, Anne and Mary in front of the falls

Another day, we hiked the Gem Lake Trail, but turned around early before reaching the lake due to the lightning and threatening weather.

Eileen, Mary, Jason and Anne take a breather on route toward Gem Lake

Love the greenery and the floral scenery

It is nice to relax on vacation and not be in any particular hurry.  There is a lovely lake within a 15-minute-drive of the Ranch House called Lily Lake. A flat trail circles the lake.  It is less than a mile to walk the loop, and a perfect trail for my 84-year-old mom to do with us.

Mary, Mom and Eileen relax at Lily Lake after our walk
The wildflowers seemed more colorful than last year.  Maybe our timing was better this year, because it seems we hit it in full bloom.

Purple Mountain Harebell catches our attention

As do the bright sunflowers

Rocky Mountain thistle

We were fortunate with not only the flora, but also the fauna.  Gerry was prepared, with his good camera and the telephoto lens.

We spot a few moose before we hit the hiking trail one afternoon

We took a drive one morning along the famous Trail Ridge Road, otherwise know as the Highway to the Sky. 
We see this herd of elk from afar on Trail Ridge Road

Isn't this pica cute?


We enjoyed home-cooked gourmet meals each evening.  One night my mother served homemade stew.  Gerry grilled salmon another evening.  We also feasted on lasagna, and rotisserie chicken.  All were delicious, but I'd have to pick Jason's dinner of tomato-garlic pasta with chicken sausage, kale, salad and crusty bread as my favorite meal of the trip.

Yum-yum!

I'm glad for the time together with my family, and grateful to my mother for renting the property.

Back row - John, Eileen, Anne, Jason, Uncle Neil & Gerry
Front row - April, Aunt Ann, Mom, Mary, Dylan and Nell









Thursday, July 20, 2017

GOLDEN TROUT WILDERNESS

Once again we participated in the Golden Trout Wilderness workshop.   We love this week in the Sierras!  This was our fourth time, which makes us "regulars" in my opinion.

It is a no-brainer vacation for Gerry and me.  The price is right, and the travel is minimal.  (It is about a 3 hour drive to Lone Pine, and then less than an hour from Lone Pine to the wilderness parking lot.)  The camaraderie is superb, the naturalists are excellent, and the scenery is spectacular!

This year, we were fortunate to have naturalists Adam Lieberg, a wildlife field biologist, and Daniel Kruth, whose focus is geology.  They provided a wealth of knowledge, plus they are fun and interesting young men, and great hike leaders.  In the evenings, the learning continued with presentations.  I especially loved the Bear Rub video Adam shared with us.  (Check out this short under-four-minutes You-Tube.  You won't be disappointed!)

We didn't take much, since we have to backpack it in three miles from the parking lot to camp.  We took only minimal gear.  I don't mind being a bit stinky, so wearing the same hiking outfit several times is no problem for me.  We do have hot showers twice while we are there, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.  It gets cold at night (down into the 30s) so we did bring warm clothing, plus rain gear, and our sleeping bags. Meals are provided, so we didn't have to worry about food.

Arrival at camp Sunday afternoon at 3:00 pm, after a 3-mile hike.

Golden Trout Wilderness Camp is a special place.  The camp is a lovely home away from home.  We have our own private tent-cabin.  And, there is a log cabin which serves as the dining hall, reading room, etc.  Chef Marcus returned as camp chef.  He upped his game this year and all the meals were quite good. 

Our tent is the third from the left.

Our log cabin and dinner hall

Hiking every day is a pleasure.  Being away from technology is also a real treat.  No emails, no TV,  no internet, no radio, and no politics!

I also love when we arrive back at camp in the late afternoon following a hike, and  have time to hang out and relax.  I usually write in my journal or read a book.

Gerry relaxes post-hike.  Comfy!

Wildflowers galore.  Lots of purple.

Shooting Stars

I might as well wear the color of the day on the next day's hike to Cottonwood Lake.

Gerry captures me from afar with his telephoto lens

Beautiful vistas every day and everywhere in the Sierras.

So happy to be here.  Who wouldn't be?

I am not sure why, but the birds were particularly active this year.  There were several expert birders in our group who shared their binoculars and their knowledge on the various species.

Red-breasted sapsucker. 

Clark's nutcracker

The geology is fascinating, as is the poop. When you are on a hike with Adam, you spend a lot of time examining scat. 

Pica poop

I never tired of seeing  nature's bouquet of wild flowers.

Common Madia

Mountain heather

Our wilderness week lasted from Sunday afternoon until Friday morning.  Every day was a fun-filled adventure with a glorious hike.

A gentle stream, close to camp

A scenic mountain lake, our destination one day

Nothing lasts forever, and our week ended all too quickly.
But, the memories remain etched in my mind.

A day in paradise up at lake #5

Gerry navigates the "rock path" on the way back to camp

To quote our former governor, Arnold Schwartzenegger, "I'll Be Back.!"  You can count on it.





 






Thursday, June 29, 2017

Wedding Celebration in Charlottesville Virginia

As my sister Eileen remarked to me several months ago, "Families tend to get together for funerals and weddings. I much prefer the latter."  This was her prelude, which ultimately led to her planning of the wedding celebration of her son Stephen, and his beloved betrothed, Alison, in Charlottesville, Virginia.  

Stephen and Alison exchanged their vows on April 15, 2017.

"I do."  "I do."
It was a small affair, with only the immediate family in attendance.  After the brief ceremony,  the couple went to the nearby mountains on this glorious day.

Mr and Mrs Stephen Gomez. 
Time for a family photo of the groom's family.

Laura, (sister of the groom), Jose, (father of the groom) Alison, Stephen, and Eileen (mother of the groom)


My sister Eileen and Alison's mother Chris decided to throw a wedding celebration party for the happily married couple. They selected the evening of June 24th.  I was definitely "in" and booked my flight to DC. Gerry decided to join me. My mother was also "in", as were my sister Anne, her husband Jason and daughter Nell (Colorado) and my brother Paul (Anchorage, AK.)  We gathered from far and wide to spend time together with the Gomez clan in Charlottesville.

We stayed at Eileen and Jose's house.  They were gracious hosts, and kept us very well fed.

Jason, Anne and Eileen relaxing in the back yard.  It is so lush and green here!

A trip to Charlottesville isn't complete without a visit to the University of Virginia.   Eileen and Jose are both alumni of the University, and acted as our guides when we toured the beautiful campus on Thursday morning.

A view of the main campus lawn.

One of the several red brick buildings of the University.

What better way to spend the hot and muggy Thursday afternoon than tubing along the Rivanna River!  We kicked back and relaxed on this 1.75 mile stretch of the river.  It was pretty, calm, and so refreshing.

Friday we drove roughly an hour to Richmond, VA.  We visited Jose's sister and her husband who were very gracious and served us lunch in their lovely home, a waterfront property along the James River.  Afterwards, we visited the Virginia Historical Society museum  in downtown.   The museum (free to the public) provides a fascinating look into the history of Virginia.

We are welcomed upon entering the building.



One of several large paintings, that tell the story of the Civil War.

Saturday we visited the IX Art Park in Charlottesville, described as a public, non-commercial, interactive space for spontaneous dreaming.  Definitely, worth the visit.

The immature 58-year-old that I am, appreciated the butt wall.
 
My brother Paul Button at the Butt.
My mother, a former librarian, found her ideal display at the IX.


Mom is happy as can be, amidst all the books.

Nell and Anne are content just to swing.

As are Jose and Mom. 

And Paul, too.

Eileen needed a little more action.

Giddy up!
We left the IX and headed to Carter Mountain Orchard on the outskirts of Charlottesville, which offered spectacular vistas of both the countryside and the city below.


Gerry, on the balcony near the Bold Rock Tap Room.


Love this view of the "city."

The highlight of our Charlottesville trip was the wonderful wedding celebration Saturday evening at the Doubletree Inn in Charlottesville.  We arrived at 5:30 pm for family photos.  The party started at 6:00 pm.  Nearly 100 of us joined the betrothed on this memorable evening.  We enjoyed the conversations, our dinner, and the dancing that followed.

An unofficial photo in front of Eileen and Jose's house before we leave for the party.

The mother and father of the groom:  Eileen and Jose.

Seeing Stephen and Alison together is precious.  They are so very much in love and we are happy for them.

They take the floor for the first dance.

We stayed up way past our bedtime Saturday night.  We arrived back at the Gomez residence shortly after 11:00 pm.  But, it was nearly 1:00 am when Gerry and I bid my siblings goodnight and exited their living room to go to bed.

Our flight back to L.A. wasn't until the evening, so we had a final opportunity to see more of Charlottesville.  We drove to the old town, and walked down the main street which was lined with cafes and shops.

Pedestrian friendly old-town Charlottesville.

I can not overstate how gracious Eileen and Jose were as our hosts.   Nor can I overstate how much it means to me to have been there with family.