Category Archives: Empty Nest

“Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.” ― William Cullen Bryant

I seriously love autumn.  I love the crisp mornings, sunny days, and spectacular colors!  It’s been a wonderful summer, and I am feeling blessed.  Daylight savings time ended yesterday, so the days are getting shorter.  Now it’s time to start counting the reasons to be Thankful, because Thanksgiving will be here soon.  My mom has already started Christmas shopping, and time is going by so fast it’s hard to slow down and enjoy the moments.  But it has been a glorious time to be in the mountains. 

Saturday afternoon after a couple of quick rain showers

Yesterday was a great day.  We had NO plans, so stayed in all day.  J loves Sundays.  He sits down in front of the NFL RED ZONE at 1:00, before the first game starts, and basically stays there until he shuffles to bed and falls asleep watching the last game.  I get football by osmosis: based on what he yells, I pretty much figure out what happens.  But I can’t watch the Red Zone.  I call it football for A.D.D.  You start watching one game, and they suddenly switch to another one when you look down to check your email…I just can’t keep up. But it makes him very happy.  The leaves up here peaked about a week ago, and we’ve had a couple of rains this week so they are all coming down.  I love the way the roads look when the leaves have just fallen. 

I spent my day reading, catching up on TV shows on my ipad, and starting a new painting.  I hope I’ll be able to capture the glorious colors I saw last week.

 We celebrated my young girlfriend’s 50th last week in beautiful Callaway Gardens! 

Dressed all in pink for dinner…we don’t like to call attention to ourselves at all!
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It was a glorious crisp fall weekend, and we had so much fun relaxing, freezing our tuccas off while biking around the property, and seeing the beautiful gardens and butterflies.  We wanted to go dancing, but the metropolis of Pine Mountain, Georgia didn’t really offer anywhere to go, so we cranked up the music and danced in the parking lot!

 We never saw another guest anywhere around, since we were in between seasons, so we kind of had the place to ourselves.  And then we went inside, changed into our pjs, and continued the dance party.  Maybe since most of us are over 50 we should act more like our age, but what’s the fun in that?

Must have been a really heartfelt song!

The horticultural center with our awesome volunteer tour guide

 J and I FINALLY played golf.  It rained so much at the beginning of the summer (over 100″ before the end of July!), and J was still recovering from ACL surgery, that this was our first time of the year.  I wish I could say I played well, but I didn’t suck as much as I thought I would.  It was a beautiful day, and we had a blast.  Hoping to play a couple more times this week.

 We were invited to a friend’s sister’s house to watch the Trick-or-Treating in Brevard.  They actually close her street and it is absolutely crazy!  I miss those days. 

A live pony!!  How cool is that?

Speaking of Trick or Treating…no trick or treating in college, but parties every day of the week!  My little activist H went dressed as one of her heroines…Rachel Carsen.  (For those of you, like me, who don’t know who she was, click on her name for more info).

 She and her friend J also dressed up as Sam and Suzy from the movie “Moonrise Kingdom“.  She told me she bought the red dress and sewed the collar and cuffs on them herself.  Who knew she could sew?

So it’s goodbye to autumn, and hello winter!  Snowmass has had almost 60″ of snow since September!  It’s going to be an amazing season! 
**I went to a party this weekend and was asked to bring appetizers.  Since they eat no dairy, grain, sugar or legumes, I was lost for ideas.  I took an awesome Cauliflower puree that was delicious, and had no legumes whatsoever.  I also took my Broccoli Hummus, which does have garbanzo beans, but it is so amazing I keep eating the leftovers by the spoonful!  I’ll post the recipes tomorrow.

Six things I wish I’d known before sending my daughter to college

It’s hard to believe, but summer is basically over.    H starts her sophomore year of college on Tuesday after Labor Day, but is already on campus, welcoming incoming freshmen.  Last year she went backpacking for her freshman Orientation Adventure, and most of the kids in her group are still her closest friends.  This year she will help lead a backpacking/kayaking trip on Catalina Island.
I’ve been thinking about this time last year.  We spent two days helping her move in to the dorm (which involved carrying a lot of boxes and making multiple Target runs, but not much unpacking, because SHE wanted to do it herself).  That was the first surprise.  I had imagined helping her unpack, putting away her things in an organized manner, hanging pictures, making the bed, etc., but in reality, she had imagined finally being able to make her own decisions about all that.  She was patient with us at first, but when I kept pulling things out of the boxes and placing them where I thought they’d go,  she finally said, between her teeth, “MOM, I’ve GOT it!”
So after a couple of meals with her, where she was obviously biding her time until she could escape to go meet her new friends, we realized it was time to go.  So we kissed goodbye, took a couple of last photos together, and watched her walk away.  Second surprise…I didn’t cry!  I actually felt excited for her and honestly, a little relieved.  We had raised an incredible young woman who was ready to take on the world, (or college, at least), and I was proud and excited for her.
I know there are lots of parents out there who are dropping off their kids for their first year away.  Whether there are younger kids still at home, or if the nest is emptying, there are many changes in store.  As the parent of an only child, it was a tremendous change for me.  Here are some of the things I learned or observed after my only child left for college.


Some kids might welcome your help with unpacking and moving in.  Not ours.  She wanted us to carry the heavy stuff and that was about it.  We teetered on the edge…It was so hard for me to pull back and let her unpack on her own.  We also caught ourselves giving last minute “advice” which I’m sure sounded to her like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Wah, wah wahhh wahhhwahhhh”.  But it was evident to us when it was time to leave, so our goodbyes were loving, genuine and quick.  H’s roommate’s mom ended up staying TEN DAYS after moving her daughter in, and not surprisingly, roommate’s transition to college was difficult, tearful, and she transferred away the following semester.  But DO turn around and catch a glimpse of her walking away…and remind yourself that this is what you’ve raised her to do…spread her wings.


Your communication with your child will definitely change.  They are navigating their new world filled with new responsibilities, new friends, and new distractions and most likely, telephone calls to mom and dad will not be on the priority list.  And when they do pick up the phone to actually make a call, it’s usually to vent or ask for specific help, like how to refill prescriptions or to please send them their favorite cowboy boots that they left at home.  When you’re aching to see her face, it’s easy to make a quick Skype call at night while she’s online, and you can get the visual fix of her smiling mug.


When they do call in a tizzy because they are having a seemingly horrible problem, whether it’s relationship, academic, friends, or some other meltdown, and you instantly put yourself in “Mommy Saves the Day Mode”, slow down, listen, ask questions, and let them get it off their chests.  Nine times out of ten, they’re venting, and as soon as they hang up the phone, go skipping off with their friends without a care in the world.  This was really difficult for me.  I was the problem-solver.  Anytime she had a problem, I wanted to figure it out, and show her the way.  The first couple of times I tried to do that over the phone, she became defensive and exasperated, and finally said, “Mom, I don’t need you to give me any advice, I just want to get it off my chest.”  Not that you will never get involved…when she had a nagging medical problem that she kept complaining about but wouldn’t actually make an appointment with a new doctor, I had to step in and convince her to take care of it.  But it’s actually very satisfying when you see your child navigate through a problem herself.  That’s when you realize you are not the Coach anymore, and gladly become the Cheerleader.


Your child is legally an adult, so the grades will not automatically come to you.  You also will not be able to call her doctor to find out about her health.  The grades thing was a pretty big adjustment to my husband; since he was the one paying the bills, he felt like he should be getting her “report cards”.   And speaking about paying the bills…the statements will come to your child.  So the communication between you and your child will be important in those aspects.  I would recommend having an understanding with your child before dropping them off at school about what your expectations are.


Flying home after leaving H in California my mind was jumbled with all kinds of memories, fears, hopes, and worries.  Watching her walk away from us to her French placement exam, I didn’t see a young woman going to college, I saw the 5-year-old I dropped off at Kindergarten, who told me that she was afraid but was going to “Face her fears”.  That became a mantra throughout her life, and I realized I needed to follow her lead.  I thought about my fears of losing control over her life, losing her in my life on a daily basis, and reminded myself that this is what we raised her for.  To be strong, independent, and her own person.  Then, miraculously,  I felt a huge relief.
Suddenly, I realized something that I hadn’t thought of amid all the planning, packing, and worrying.  I was going to have the freedom to do things in my life that I wanted to do…travel, take classes, read, and spend time with the wonderful guy I married.  We are living the life we dreamed of for the last few years, and even though I miss her,  it’s a pretty darn good life.


I think this is the last thing that really hit us.  And it didn’t really hit us until this summer.  During  spring final exams, when she was exhausted, stressed, and sleep deprived, we got a few more phone calls than usual.  She was SO excited to be coming home, to see “mommy and daddy”, and to sleep in her own bed.  Then she got home, and I think that lasted about 36 hours… during which she probably slept about 24.  She texted and skyped and spoke with her friends scattered all over the country, did the obligatory dinners with us, then, after three weeks of family togetherness, flew up to the Catskills for her summer job as a camp counselor.  After the job was completed, we had four days together before she happily left to go back to school.

She drove from Colorado to school in California with a friend…big step for Dad!

 J and I realized that even though “home” is with us, it’s not where she needs to be right now, and it’s a good thing.  She is discovering so many new things, about herself, about the world, about other people, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This year, I have some of the same feelings.  I still miss her.  I still think about her and wish I could see her face more often.  But now that I know what to expect, I have no worries whatsoever about what the year will hold…for all of us.

blvd nashville…like an old friend in a new dress!

People who know me know that I judge restaurants by the bread.  Give me a basket of warm, delicious bread and something yummy to spread on it and I instantly fall in love. On that basis alone, Nashville’s blvd is my new favorite spot.  My friend and I sat down last night and ordered the signature cocktail, the “Pinky Lee”  (Mine with gin, hers with tequila)…a pink grapefruity concoction with a sweet/salty rim.  It was the perfect way to start a girl’s night out.  Then our waiter (who was so good-looking it was hard to look away) plopped down this.

Who can pass up a soft, steaming, just salty enough pretzel with stone ground apricot mustard?  But the cornbread waffle underneath was my favorite.  Just slightly sweet, with a little salt, it almost didn’t need the soft, creamy vanilla butter served along side.  Almost…but a small smear of butter melted into the edges and it was pure heaven.  We could easily have devoured the entire basket but wouldn’t have had room for the rest of the menu, which consisted of french bistro food with a uniquely Arnold Myint southern flair.

Myint is a Nashville native whose parents own the local International Market, which introduced Nashvillians to Thai food back in 1975.  As a college student down the street in the early 80’s, I have fond memories of stopping in to grab inexpensive noodle dinners, which were very exotic at the time.  Arnold hit the restaurant scene hard here in Nashville, after a stint as a professional ice skater and a little time in NYC, and many people know him after his WAYYYYY too early exit from Top Chef season 7.  (He was way too nice to point fingers, but his partner on his final competition refused to cook the pasta early enough, and although the judges loved the taste of their dish, they were both eliminated because the pasta was too al dente. )

Arnold has a passion for international food, as is evidenced in his four Nashville restaurants…PM, Suzy Wong’s House of Yum, AM@FM (Arnold Myint at Farmer’s Market), and now blvd nashville, the metamorphasis of Cha-chah, which he closed last fall to renovate and transform into a bistro/bar/market.  I loved Cha-chah, but Myint recognized that the concept wasn’t a perfect fit for Nashville, thus the reorganization, and in my opinion, it’s a home run!

Thankfully, our friends joined us before I ate the entire basket of bread and we began ordering.  The warm brussels sprout salad…thankfully kept on the menu from Cha-chah, “le french fries”, a perfectly crisp stack of hand cut fries with six choices of coatings (We opted for the hickory salt and pepper, but I can’t wait to try some of the others, like the truffle oil and chive, or madras spiced curry), and the lamb meatballs.  The portions are large enough to share, so we plopped them down in the middle of the table and enjoyed.  And enjoyed.  When the waiter came to take our orders, we were stuffed, but still ordered the salmon and grits (rare but crispy, with grits and a drizzle of Tobasco gastrique), mashed parsnips (a parsnip/potato mash that I was happy to see on the menu after trying it at a fundraiser at Cha-chah last year), and wilted greens (yummy arugula, lightly wilted, highly flavorful). 

Photo from The Tennessean

I honestly loved every bite.  We ate until we couldn’t eat any more.  But I will be back.  There were many menu items I still want to try…Walnut Gnocchi, Quinoa Falafel Wrap, Tuna Nicoise sandwich.   There were many yummy looking dishes for you meat eaters out there as well, Cassoulet, Shepard’s Pie, Steak Frites, Croque Monsieur,  etc.  Also, it’s nice to know that their food comes from many local artisans and vendors. The only negative I could possibly say is that they were out of the premium chardonnay by the glass.  But to be honest, the house chardonnay was just fine.

I wish I had taken photos of the interior…the warm picnic tables with cushioned chairs, the cozy seating area in front, or the exterior wood, which all combine to make a very inviting, stylish, charming atmosphere.  I wouldn’t expect any less from Arnold. 

Cruising with Top Chef!

I am a Top Chef fan.  I’m talking, big, HUGE, annoyingly fanatical.  I own all 10 seasons of Top Chef, 4 seasons of Top Chef Masters, and 2 seasons of Top Chef Just Desserts (eh, not nearly as good, but when there are no new regular shows, I watch it).  I watch them over and over again.  I listen to them when I’m jogging.  I can’t explain it.  I just love the show.  I love the personalities in the kitchen.  I learn something new every time I re-watch an episode.   But unfortunately, none of my close friends watch it with me.   I’ve had to turn to bloggers and recaps for my after-show discussions.

So last fall, when I saw there was going to be a cruise, not just any cruise, but  TOP CHEF THE CRUISE!, I started working on J to go with me.  After multiple discussions (begging), he finally cracked.  He had no desire to a) cruise, or b) cruise with me dragging him to Top Chef events.  So in order to get me to shut up, he offered to pay for me to take a friend for my birthday/anniversary present.

I didn’t really care which chefs were going to be on board, to be honest.  I just thought any kind of Top Chef related events would be really fun.  But I have to say, the chefs that participated couldn’t have been better.  Not sure if Bravo hand selected them, or if their schedules worked out to allow them to come, or they had new cookbooks they wanted to promote (it was probably a combination of the three), but hosts Tom and Gail, Masters Hubert Keller and Tim Love, and past winners and contestants Richard Blais, Chris Crary (Malibu Chris), Tiffany Derry (“I’m from Beaumont, Texas”), Mike Isabella, Kristen Kish, Spike Mendelson, Paul Qui, Hosea Rosenberg, Angelo Sosa, Casey Thompson, Fabio Viviani, Brooke Williamson, and Top Chef Just Desserts winners Yigit Pura and Chris Hanmer were on board with 2,000 other top chef fans...just like me!

Me and C 24 years ago and now

It’s hard to explain, but when my girlfriend, C (who I last cruised with as a single girl 24 YEARS ago) and I joined a dinner table with eight other Top Chef fans who became our new best friends for the duration of the cruise (well, 6 fans and 2 ‘drag-alongs’ like C who had never watched an episode), I felt like I had been dropped into heaven.  We spent the first night talking about the chefs, the seasons, the episodes, their restaurants, their drama…all while C and the other drag-alongs looked at us like we were speaking Greek.  I was surprised that the chefs were mingling with us, enjoying the cruise (some of them really enjoying the cocktails!), taking photos, signing books, dancing, etc.  I thought they’d stay in their VIP quarters, come out to do quickfires and other events, but stay away from all the fans.  But they were out there, lapping it up.  Someone pointed out to me that they were huge celebrities to us, but maybe not to most of America, so maybe they were enjoying the attention. I still think it must have been tiring, or annoying at times, but they were always very gracious. 

After dinner the first night we attended a Cocktail Party and DJ set led by Hubert Keller…and there’s no way to explain the pure joy on his face as he played Electronic and Top 40 songs until the wee hours.  It was so cool to see this master of cuisine (who hosted the first quickfire of the first season of Top Chef, by the way) relax and enjoy himself like that!

Thanks to the Hollywood Reporter for this pic

As we tired of dancing we made our way to the bar for a drink and snapped some photos with Fabio, Mike, and Angelo, who were also definitely enjoying themselves.


Something weird happened to my biological clock that weekend, because we didn’t make it to bed until 3 a.m….and that was the earliest we made it back for the rest of the cruise!   Thus began our pattern of going to bed late, getting up early to squeeze in a workout (a necessity because of the sheer amount of food we ate!), relaxing during the day, and starting our adventures at night.  Since we had late seating, we normally attended the Top Chef “entertainment” at 6, then whatever was going on after dinner…we were there.    The dinners were, for the most part, incredible.  We had our choice of selecting items from the regular cruise menu, or dishes that were designed by three of the chefs onboard.  As the cruise progressed, and we realized how good the Top Chef recipes were, we all started ordered two or three each of the appetizers, entrees and desserts…just to make sure we didn’t miss anything.  Thanks to Tim Love, whose lobster cake was my hands down favorite.  I could have eaten that every night!
The first night’s quickfire was with Casey, Richard, Hosea, Malibu Chris, Spike and Kristen for our group, and the next night we had the much rowdier group-Fabio, Angelo, Mike, Brooke, Tiffany, Paul and Chris H.  The second day our quickfire was AFTER dinner which, according to Fabio, “…having this quickfire at 11:30 after our captain’s dinner, was a BIG mistake.” 
Fabio at the late night quickfire

They had obviously enjoyed their captain’s dinner, but Fabio, Mike and Angelo had started their celebration around lunchtime surrounded by their closest fans all day at the pool.  I had decided my mission was to be selected to join one of them on stage (they chose audience members to “sous” with the chefs during the quickfires).  So thanks to C cheering me on, I made a fool of myself, jumped up and down in the aisle and Fabio pointed to me and said, “OK, sparkly dress, YOU.”  So me and my sparkly dress joined Mike at the quickfire table, where he gave me a giant can of dented artichokes and an old rusty can opener and I spent most of my time onstage opening a can.  So much for showing off my mad kitchen skills.

That evening was filled with so much heckling (the chefs who weren’t cooking were sitting in a box above the stage), f-bombs, and questionable actions that they never aired it on the in-cabin TVs, which they were doing 24 hours a day…just re-ran the calmer, less fun group’s challenges.  I laughed so hard I don’t even remember what Mike cooked.  I think I chopped a few things, but I honestly don’t remember.  I do know I’ll probably never forget that night!

  Angelo was having so much fun in the lounge, dancing to Salsa music.  I was standing at the bar, watching, kind of moving to the beat, when he came over, and grabbed my hand.  I proceeded to try to follow him, but since I have NO ability to salsa,  I looked pretty stupid.  Oh well.

The third night was a deck party with Tom Collichio’s friend Milton and his band.  They were great, but it was even better when Tom came out and joined them wearing a Panama Hat and looking cool.  He strapped on a guitar and played and sang a few songs to the crowd of adoring fans, whose cheers rivaled those for any major rock star.  He was actually really good!

Our day at sea was spent recovering in a lounge chair by the pool while the chefs rotated all day long, doing cooking demos, and Q&A sessions.  Their banter with each other is really adorable.  They seem to all get along and respect each other, but it’s funny when they give each other s&*t!  I managed to oversleep and miss both autograph sessions, but lugged the six new cookbooks I bought on board with me all day (some of them not released yet) and snagged an autograph whenever I could grab someone.  On the last day I had all the signatures except Angelo’s.  I was walking down to shower after working out and spotted Angelo (a beautiful man, by the way) sitting in the jacuzzi, all by himself.  He looked at me, nodded, and said hello.  So I promptly pulled his book out of my bag to have him sign it.  I was struggling to act cool, because I don’t normally do well with celebrities.  I thought I did OK, though, until I walked into the cabin, glanced in the mirror and realized I had something hanging out of my nose.  So I’m sure I made a lovely impression on the lovely Angelo!

Of the cookbooks I purchased, Fabio’s Italian Kitchen, Mike’s Crazy Good Italian, and Tim Love’s Journal  were the ones I read from cover to cover.  Angelo’s Flavor Exposed is beautiful and his passion for food and flavors shines throughout, and the recipes are sophisticated and easy to follow.   The chefs were all very gracious and accommodating, and other than the ones who brought their small children with them, spent a large amount of time socializing and enjoying the cruise.  I’m not a huge cruise fan, but have done a few of them through the years.  I think being on board with so many like-minded people made all the difference in the world.  I would do it again in a heartbeat!


Tiffany…love her!

Malibu Chris


My beautiful friend who now might watch Top Chef with me!

Life Changes, and New Experiences

The last few months have been a time of introspection for me.  My days have changed so drastically and I am still trying to figure out what, exactly, I should be doing with my life.   J and I are spending much more time in our two favorite places (Colorado and North Carolina), now that H has graduated and flown the nest.  J works wherever we are, so we have a freedom that years ago, we only dreamed about.  Here in Colorado, I try to go to the gym as little as possible, getting my exercise in the great outdoors.  Snow skiing, snowshoeing, uphill hiking, running with ice cleats…it’s so exhilarating that the benefits go far beyond the physical.  It also gives me lots of time to think.

Spending time in Colorado is like a dream.  But it also removes me from the day to day activities that I always have in Nashville.  And now that H is not home, I also don’t have the school volunteer responsibilities that occupied my time for the last 13 years.  But starting all over in a new community, and one that has a large percentage of part-time residents, has a lot of challenges.  We’re meeting people…mostly people who work in the art galleries, restaurants, and other businesses that we frequent.  But to them, since we’re not full-time residents, it’s hard to make lasting connections.  I miss meeting other parents of kids H’s age…something that is more difficult than ever.

Being an empty-nester is definitely a paradigm shift for me.  If I am completely honest, I have good days and bad days.  I have shifted from full-time mom to part-time mom.  On one hand, J and I have the freedom to live our lives in a way we had only dreamed about for the last 19 1/2 years.  Going from micromanaging someone else’s life to watching from afar is kind of like a breath of fresh air.  Some days I can go all day without wondering if she has done her homework, gotten enough sleep, brushed her teeth, or made it home before 2 a.m.  Some days.  Other days, I see parents with their little ones on the mountain, or in a restaurant, or at church, and I ache inside for those days.  Those days when she couldn’t go to sleep without “cuddling” with me, when she wanted to ski with us, or when we sat at the dinner table and shared our “highs” and “lows” of the day.  Last night I watched “Les Miserables” and all I could think (as I cried my way through the entire thing) was how Cosette changed Jean ValJean’s life.  His quote “To love another person is to see the face of God” resonated throughout my body. 

SO…all that is to say that I have been thinking about this blog, and what it really is, now that my job description has changed.  Even though I’m not doing Mommy things full-time, I will always be her mom.  I will always worry about her, pray for her, think about her, try to guide her in little ways, and most of all, be here for her.  But in order not to wallow in the wistful, lonely moments that can creep up on me, I have to STAY BUSY.  I thank God every day for the life I am able to live.  J and I are closer than we’ve ever been.  To be married to my best friend, and share most of our hobbies, is amazing.  I don’t want to look back in four years and think I wasted an opportunity to grow, make new connections, and give back to my community.

So that’s my focus, in life and in my blog.  I haven’t written in awhile because I wasn’t sure exactly what to write, or if my life without H at home was worth writing about.  I started this as a journal of things I was going through as a parent.  That won’t change.  The things I do might, though.  Instead of living my life around H and her schedule, I have the freedom to do new things.  So I will write about them and share with you my journey as an empty nester, and hopefully you’ll stick with me.  Feel free to comment with your own experiences, questions,  worries, or success stories about kids who’ve flown the nest.

Today I signed up for a photography class at Colorado Mountain college.  J and I signed up for a locals ski clinic on Saturday.  And yesterday I took my stairmaster workout outside!  It’s been so very cold here…about 5 days of negative double digit temperatures, and no sun.  It’s hard to explain just how cold -22 degrees is.  But yesterday, the highs reached almost 20 degrees on the mountain, and the sun was shining.  So I grabbed my Icetrekkers, a traction cleat that straps onto my hiking boots and hiking poles, and headed out to the mountain.  From our back door we can hop onto a groomed ski run and go multiple different directions.  I like to have a destination, (like LUNCH!) in mind, so I headed towards the Lower Alpine lift where I could take Coffee Pot up to Gwen’s High Alpine restaurant.

I turned around on my way up and this is what I saw!

Going down…this photo doesn’t do it justice.  I wanted to sing!

View from 11,775 feet!

It was amazing!  Sunny, not very crowded (thanks, January!), and STEEP!  I just put my head down and imagined I was on the stair machine.  I have to say, those hours I spent in Nashville, mindlessly climbing to nowhere must have helped me in some way, because before I knew it I was at the top of the lift!  It took me a little over an hour to go 2 1/2 miles, but the views every time I turned around were so mind boggling, that I didn’t want to stop.  I wasn’t hungry yet, because I didn’t know how long it would take me to get there, so I didn’t feel like eating lunch.  I started down Turkey Trot, a meandering blue/green trail that leads to the Elk Camp Restaurant on my way home.  But I looked up to the right at the High Alpine lift, and wondered how far up I could make it.  I didn’t want to go up Reidar, under the lift, so I headed to Cookies, a very steep groomed trail and started going up.  I gave myself a 15 minute goal.  It was so steep at times my cleats weren’t helping much and I was sliding halfway down for every step I took.  I leaned forward, and felt like I was going horizontal.  People looked at me like I was crazy.  After 15 minutes I tried for another 15.  By then I was within sight of the top so I couldn’t turn around.  I reached the top, took a few snapshots, ate a bite of my energy bar, and headed back down.

BAM!  When I turned around to go down, the views were almost heart stopping!  I had this unbelievable feeling of euphoria…The cool, crisp, clear sunny day, surrounded by wide open views of snow covered mountains, my health, my family, a great workout…I almost couldn’t contain myself.  Some places were so steep that I had to just let go, put my arms out, and run down the hill.  Needless to say, I had the best lunch of my life at Elk Camp that day.  Everything just seemed…great.

Views from Upper Alpine

I had tried not to text H all day…(I’m still working on giving her space), but before I went to bed I asked her how her day went.  Her reply to me, “Doing phenomenal!” was the icing on the cake.  I went to bed with a smile on my face.

Third Time’s the Charm!

Two days ago J and I went to the movies.  I bought the tickets while J paid the check at the restaurant down the street.  I told the young man behind the counter that I wanted two tickets, and he told me it was bargain Tuesday, and it was only $12.00.   Nice surprise, until the guy in line for popcorn leaned over to ask the guy why he paid $16, and I only paid $12.  The boy looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said “Seniors?”  Wait, what???  I was crushed.  I thought maybe at this theatre the “senior” discount came at age 50, which would be fine, since I’m 51.  But I looked it up. It’s 62.  I was really bummed.  I thought perhaps he was just trying to be nice and giving me a discount.  But probably, he thinks all people over 50 look the same.  Or maybe it was just a bad, bad skin day for me.  What does he know, he was 12.  (But the fact that I called him a “young man” above kind of makes me sound like I’m 62.

So, yesterday, J and I set out on our third attempt to make it to Buckskin Pass.  However old I look, I wanted to prove that I could do this hike!  We’ve done a lot of beautiful, not so easy hikes, like Lost Man Loop (13,000 feet, 9 miles total), Government Trail from Snowmass to Aspen (11 miles), both American Lake and Cathedral Lake (both only 6 miles total, but lots of elevation), etc.  But this hike has been our nemesis this year!  The first time we tried was our first day in Colorado, and we made it more than halfway.  We were with our friends, and it was their first day, too, and we were all sucking wind pretty bad.  This is a beautiful hike, only 4.8 miles each way, but an elevation gain of almost 3,000 feet.  So we made it about 3 1/2 miles, to a beautiful overlook, took photos, and came home.

Last week we tried again, with another couple who were here visiting us.  They weren’t acclimated yet, so even though they are both strong and fit, we didn’t make it.  So, I was determined to see the pass.  Starting at gorgeous Maroon Lake, overlooking the majestic Maroon Bells, with the golden aspen trees looking like they were lit from within, we easily hiked up to Crater Lake, the 2 mile mark.  Crater Lake is almost not a lake right now…the drought has really caused it to dry up.  Very sad.

Maroon Lake…still has water!

We stopped for water and started the steep climb past Crater lake.  Every now and then we’d come to a clearing and marvel at the view (and catch our breath!).  Coming from the East, I am used to the multicolors of the fall foilage, but here, the trees turn mostly yellow.  I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away.  When the sun hits the golden aspen leaves, twirling in the wind, they look like sparkling jewels!  The patchwork of yellow and green of the brush on the sides of the mountains is beautiful as well.  We are so lucky to be able to enjoy such a show now, in September, and then go back home to see the October foilage in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Starting the climb

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The climb went well, as we plugged along, taking small steps to conserve energy for the climb.  When we got to mile 4, there was a sign directing us to the Pass, and looking up we could see our goal, as well as the STEEP switchbacks we still had to travel.  But we saw a couple of people ahead of us on the trail, so our competitiveness kicked in, and we made it to the top.

I have been so amazed by the wildlife we have seen here.  H says we’re “obsessed” with it…but seeing huge Mule Deer walk through our backyard on a daily basis, a little orphaned cub eating grass outside my window, a porcupine, plump little fox (unlike the skinny ones we see in Nashville), Elk on our way to dinner, a mama Bear and her three cubs in a tree outside our restaurant at dinner…it has truly been amazing.  But I didn’t expect to see three snow white Mountain Goats up on the pass!  It was a mama and two babies, and they were absolutely stunning.  We sat on a rock at the top, looking at the Bells on one side, and Snowmass Mountain and Lake on the other side, watching the goats get closer and closer to us!  They weren’t brave enough to come grab our lunch, like the goat in the cell phone commercial, but close enough to get a couple of photos.

All in all, it was a great day.  And it was a warm up for another big hike on Saturday.  I’m not going to say what it is, because I don’t want to jinx it…but I’ll keep you posted!

We made it!
The view on the way down of Maroon Lake

P.S.  STAYED TUNED…My life has changed, with H leaving for college, so my blog will be changing in the very near future!