Monday, February 28, 2011

The Silver Thread Scenic Byway

After we left the Pueblo area on our trip west in the spring of 2009, we visited the Great Sand Dunes National Park, near Alamosa, Colorado. Since I've already done a post about the sand dunes, I'll skip on to the next leg of the trip, which included traveling the Silver Thread Scenic Byway which runs between South Fork and Blue Mesa Reservoir.

The scenery was beautiful enough to make this a vacation destination in itself.

The mountain peak in the distance is the Rio Grande Pyramid. The mountain is nearly 14,000 feet high, and its north side forms the headwaters of the Rio Grande River.

A short drive down a side road led to North Clear Creek Falls.

North Clear Creek Falls

This handsome fellow was sunning himself on a rock near the waterfall.

This mountain bluebird was perched on a shrub as we were leaving the falls area.

The San Juan Mountains in the distance

Lake San Cristobal 

A little local history...a sign on the Alferd Packer Massacre Site tells this story:

"In February, 1874, Alferd Packer became lost in a severe snow storm while guiding five men from Salt Lake City to the Los Piños Indian Agency (south of Gunnison). In mid-April, Packer arrived at the Los Piños Agency - alone.

"Upon interrogation, he claimed that as each person died the other men ate the flesh of the dead. Packer said he killed only one person but only in self-defense.

"That summer, five bodies were discovered at this site. Each person's head had been crushed. Alferd Packer was arrested and accused of  murder and cannibalism. Before his trial, however, he fled Colorado.

"Nine years later, Packer was captured in Wyoming and was returned to Colorado. He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to prison for forty years. After 15 years, he was paroled in 1901.

"Until his death in 1907, Packer maintained his innocence in one of the most notorious events in Colorado's history."

A plaque on a boulder within the memorial area bears this message:

This Tablet Erected in Memory of
Israel Swan
George Noon
Frank Miller
James Humphreys
Wilson Bell
Who were murdered on this spot early in the year 1874,
while pioneering the mineral resources of the San Juan Country

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lake Pueblo State Park and Bishop Castle

In the spring of 2009, Doug and I drove out west, visiting several national parks in Colorado and Utah. I've shared a few pictures from that trip, specifically of Great Sand Dunes National Park, here. But there were so many other places and sights worthy of mention.

By the time we reached Pueblo, Colorado, we'd been on the road long enough that we were ready to stay there for a second night, giving us a day to explore the area.

We awoke refreshed and enthused at the prospect of doing a little sightseeing.  We replenished the ice in our cooler, picked up a couple of Subway sandwiches for a picnic lunch later, and headed for Lake Pueblo State Park.

Pueblo Dam

Cactus at Pueblo Dam

Prairie Dog at Lake Pueblo State Park

After spending a few hours at the state park, we took a drive through the beautiful surrounding countryside. The terrain in Pueblo State Park had been very arid. Within minutes of leaving it and heading into the mountains, though, we found ourselves in very lush, green terrain.

Old buildings in a lush green valley

One of the most fun discoveries of the day was Bishop Castle. The castle has been built by one man, Jim Bishop, who reportedly bought the property and began construction when he was 15 years old, back in 1969.

There is a Grand Ballroom

Stained Glass Windows

A 160-foot tower and a fire-breathing dragon on the castle's peak

My afraid-of-heights husband climbed that 160-foot tower and even walked out on the walkway. I waited in the ballroom. My mama didn't raise no fool.

This castle is really amazing...just to think that one man could have accomplished that. We just happened to stumble upon it on our drive through the countryside, but it was one of the highlights of our trip.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Invocation and A Look at Aging

A friend sent this video, and I thought it was too good not to share.

Mary Maxwell, a friend of the couple who founded Home Instead Senior Care, was asked to give the invocation at the company’s 2009 Convention. Initially it seemed like a normal prayer, but it soon took a very funny turn. With the timing of a professional comedian, Mary shines a very funny light on the foibles of aging, to the delight of this audience of senior-care experts. Enjoy!

Blessed In Aging
~Esther Mary Walker

Blessed are they who understand
My faltering step and shaking hand
Blessed, who know my ears today
Must strain to hear the things they say.
Blessed are those who seem to know
My eyes are dim and my mind is slow
Blessed are those who look away
When I spilled tea that weary day.
Blessed are they who, with cheery smile
Stopped to chat for a little while
Blessed are they who know the way
To bring back memories of yesterday.
Blessed are those who never say
“You’ve told that story twice today”
Blessed are they who make it known
That I am loved, respected and not alone.
And blessed are they who will ease the days
Of my journey home, in loving ways.

The saying, "Getting old isn't for sissies," is one that I find myself quoting more and more often. It doesn't refer to just the aches and pains that accompany aging, but also to the attitudes of others toward the aging. I remember how it hurt me to see store clerks and such begin to treat my father as a non-person after a mild stroke had aged him considerably. It was as if he suddenly had no value in the eyes of our society.

If we all do our best to treat every person we meet with the respect we'd like others to show us, maybe they will.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Denali National Park

Our visit to Denali National Park was one of the highlights of our trip to Alaska in 2007. It was the end of August, and the tundra was putting on its fall colors. The Alaska Brown Bears were devouring berries as if their lives depended on it, which was most likely the case.

The driver of the bus that took us into the parts of the park where private vehicles are not allowed even said that he had never seen so much wildlife on any other tour that he had driven. Here is a sampling of photos from that day.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Swinging Jay

The melting snow left a pool of water on the tarp covering our yard swing. This blue jay stopped by for a drink.

We really need to get a bird bath.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Walnut

The picture I posted Monday, of a squirrel struggling with a too-large treasure of bread, reminded me of this story that a friend and co-worker once told me.

He was returning to our city after attending meetings at our company’s world headquarters and was driving on a stretch of a U. S. highway that carries a high concentration of truck traffic.

As he drove, something caught his eye on the opposite side of the highway. It looked like a huge walnut. At this point in the story, my co-worker extended his arms into a circle in front of his body to show the size of the object he had seen.

Well, he couldn’t resist going back for a closer look. He quickly pulled his vehicle off to the side of the road and dashed across the four lanes of traffic to where the object lay. Sure enough, it WAS a walnut...the biggest walnut he had ever seen...probably the biggest walnut that ANYONE had ever seen.

Knowing that no one would ever believe such a story without proof, my friend bent down to pick up the walnut. Then, with that giant walnut cradled in his arms, he started back across the four lanes of traffic to where his vehicle was parked.

Just as he crossed the first lane and started into the second, he saw a large truck barreling down on him. He darted back toward the side of the road, but the truck turned slightly and came straight at him. He made a quick move in another direction, and the truck did the same thing. Finally, my friend made it safely back to the side of the road where he had found the walnut.

As he was breathing a sigh of relief at reaching safety and wondering how he was ever going to get that walnut back to his vehicle, the truck came close enough for him to see that the driver was a giant squirrel. 

As the truck came near, it slowed; and the side window opened. As he passed, the truck-driving squirrel called out to my friend, “It’s not as easy as it looks, is it?”

Thanks to Hilary at The Smitten Image for including this post as a Post of the Week.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Could the Groundhog Have Been Right?

Could spring really be in the air? Judging by the activity of the critters in the back yard, it seems possible. The squirrels and birds seem to be enjoying this little pre-spring warm-up that we're experiencing.

American Robin and Female House Finch in the Crab Apple Tree

Northern Cardinal

House Finches

Black Squirrel Enjoying Crab Apples

Someone or something placed some sort of bread...possibly hot dog buns...on the arm of the swing. A robin, in the lower right corner of the image, seems to be eyeing the treasure.

But this black squirrel wound up with it. He wants to carry it away, but it's a bit of an awkward load for him.

So he decides to have a snack from it before trying again to carry it.

But, lest we forget that winter probably is not finished with us yet, here is a reminder in the form of some icicles seen on a restaurant last week.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hotels, Hospitals, and Friends

Last Sunday, we packed our bags and took off for the big city about two and a half hours away, where Doug was scheduled to have surgery on Monday morning.

We had made a reservation at the hotel that adjoined the hospital, although the doctor's nurse had not really encouraged us in that direction. She said the hotel was very old and out of date, although she had heard that some of the rooms had been refurbished and weren't so bad. When we called for the reservation, we requested one of the updated rooms but were told that they were assigned on a first-come-first-served basis, apparently meaning that they would be assigned to the first people who showed up for check in. So we went early enough to try to get the updated room or, failing that, to find another room at another hotel.

We did get an updated room and determined that it would meet our needs, although it was very basic. There were two double beds, sufficiently comfortable; a desk and chair, with a lamp and telephone on the desk; an easy chair with a shadeless floor lamp behind it; and a combination TV cabinet and chest of drawers.

The walls were without any pictures or other decorations; there was no wireless internet and not even a hair dryer in the bathroom. Since I hadn't packed my own hair dryer, my hair went unwashed during our stay. Fortunately, the stay was relatively short.

The television itself was very small. It was a color TV, but the colors were pretty much yellow and greenish black...not the best means of watching the Superbowl.

The doors to the rooms were ill fitting and rattled loudly, even with the simple act of inserting the magnetic key into the lock. It was impossible to close them quietly, and the sounds of doors rattling and banging echoed in the hall. Fortunately, the room's heating unit was loud enough to drown out those noises so that we could sleep.

But the selling point for this hotel was that it was connected to the hospital by a skywalk, which meant that we never had to go outside or worry about driving in a strange city.

The view from our 11th-floor window didn't include White Castle.
We met a lady who told us that she and her husband had heard gunfire from the White Castle hamburger joint on the corner near the hotel a couple of nights before and that they had even watched the excitement of the police department's response to the call from their 11th floor window.

Then she told us that, the next night, when her husband was in the hospital and she was alone in the hotel room, someone fell or was thrown against her door. She called security, and they told her that it had been a domestic dispute.

I saw her in the cafeteria on Monday morning, while Doug was in surgery (I do have my priorities), and she told me that someone had knocked on her hotel room door at three o'clock that morning. She had called security again and had had them escort her to the hospital, where the staff set up a cot for her in her husband's room. She spent the rest of the night there.

I honestly don't know whether the lady's fears were founded, but they could have been. I never felt in danger, though.

Doug could see the helicopter pad from his hospital bed.
Doug's surgery went well. He had to spend the rest of the day and night on total bed rest and was released to go home on Tuesday. As with just about any surgery, the doctors make it sound much simpler than the patient's experience would prove to be. We've had some moments of anxiety in the days following our return home, and have been in telephone contact with the doctor's nurse on three different occasions. She reassures us that the symptoms Doug is experiencing are fairly typical for this stage of recovery. That provides a degree of comfort and eases our anxiety somewhat.

As I was driving Doug home on Tuesday, I was planning to take him straight home and get him settled. Then I was going to go back into town to get carryout for our supper. My cell phone had rung while I was driving, but I couldn't easily grab the phone; and Doug wasn't feeling like talking to anyone. When we got home, I checked the cell phone to see who had called, and it had been my good friend, Sandra.

So I immediately called her back, before even taking off my coat. She had been calling to tell me that she was going to be sending her Hubby to our house at 5:00 p.m. with our supper! What a huge blessing that was. Sandra sent her famous Spaghetti Bake, a Caesar salad, garlic bread, and chocolate sheet cake. We got multiple meals out of that and thanked the Lord and Sandy with each one of them.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

My Great-Nephews, the Athletes

Saturday, the forecast was for about two inches of snow, tops. surprise...the forecast was wrong. We wound up with about five inches of new snow, on top of the many inches already on the ground.

My niece Beckie, my great-niece Bailey, and I had already made plans to drive to another town about an hour away, where two of my great-nephews, Carson and Cooper, were to be playing in Upward Basketball games on Saturday.

The snow was coming down heavily by the time we started, but Beckie was willing to do the driving, telling Bailey and me that she "laughs in the face of danger."

This was the view (such as it was) through the windshield.

The snow slowed us down, so we weren't able to enjoy a leisurely lunch at Subway with Beckie's brother Dave and his two younger sons, Carson (9) and Cooper (almost 7) because the boys needed to get over to the church gym where the games were to be played. But we did get there early enough to enjoy their company briefly before they had to go. Beckie, Bailey, and I hurriedly finished our sandwiches and rejoined Dave and the boys at the gym.

Cooper's game was first, and Cooper made a basket! See proof in the following short video clip:

Cooper is wearing #15 in the maroon uniform. Notice the skilled and intricate maneuvers prior to the basket, followed by the pain-producing high five with one of his teammates down at the other end of the court.

Carson's game was next, but Carson was a little uncomfortable with my posting a video of him on the internet. However, he didn't forbid my posting of a still shot. So here are photos of both of these budding athletes.


They are following in the footsteps of their older brother, Curtis, who is active in several sports, as well as in band.

Curtis (Photo from 2007)

Curtis will celebrate his 14th birthday in a couple of weeks. Where does the time go?

These are three great kids being raised by two great parents (with a little help from a pretty good Aunt Beckie). I'm proud of all of them.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Time Out

I'm going to be computerless for the next few days and won't be able to update the blog during that time. I just wanted you faithful readers to know that I hadn't abandoned the blog and would return. I look forward to catching up with your blogs soon.

Meanwhile, here's a short video clip to brighten your day.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Ice and Shadows

I wasn't totally satisfied with the icicle picture that I posted on Wednesday. The sun was shining yesterday, though; so I decided to try again.

I'm just intrigued by the way these two icicles are pointing in different directions, while hanging from the same branch.

This is a closer look at the same two icicles.

This is a photo that I shot on Wednesday, as the storm was winding down. It's not perfect, but the lines and colors make it interesting.

And, finally, here is a photograph that I shot today at my niece's house. The sun was shining through the venetian blinds, casting shadows of the blinds and a house plant onto the wall.

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