She Left Her Heart In Colorado
The mountains are calling and I must go. ~ John Muir
She's ready. She's so unbelievably ready... So ready, in fact, that she's not even phased by the ungodly time of a 4am departure.
If you knew her, you'd know that she has spent the better half of quarantine drooling on a pillow in various 14 hour waves. So imagine the shock of seeing her bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 3 am with only 5 hours of sleep, ready to conquer the craziness of KCI airport no less! Wake her up to that degree for any other reason and she'd be like an unforgiving rabid banshee...
Not this time, however!
No, this time, she's going to march herself right into that TSA line and plant herself like a tree. She's not going to allow the usual little annoyances of airport affairs to affect her: little kids running and screaming, business travelers sloppily eating their Starbucks Southwest Veggie Wrap to the point where you can hear every rhythmic chew, teenagers attempting to cut through every crack and crevice in the line as all they have is a shoulder bag and would go unnoticed (although I always notice), oh and let's not forget about the big, overly saturated fella behind you who has no sense of personal space and some part of his body unfortunately kisses yours (and it better not be hand to cheek or else he's getting a punch in the face).
As she and her lover navigate the treacherous TSA line like cattle (all that's missing is a cattle prod), she's all but daydreaming about the natural wonders and adventure that await her just 600 miles away...
Not long after TSA do they arrive at their gate- non stop to colorful Colorado! As her lover adorably drools on her shoulder, she glances at all these other beautiful people who are going to the same place as she: What are they going to Colorado for, she wonders? For vacation like her? For business? Would she see any of these people again? Perhaps atop one of Colorado's steepest mountains? Unanswered, these questions remain.
Her thoughts- they are soon interrupted... and by a most jovial older man, sitting just a short distance across from her:
"He's tuckered out, huh?"
She chuckles and responds with, "It was a late night. Unfortunately, those don't mix very well with early mornings."
The old man chuckles and shakes his head. He appears to be by himself. Can't be any older than 80, she'd guess... Seated in front of the window, he sports a bright red and yellow Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts and boat shoes. Perfect airport attire. He has white hair, but his head is balding. He almost looks like the acting legend, Ed Asner, except his eyes are softer. He doesn't need to be smiling for her to see that this is one sunny senior citizen. His eyes- soft and gentle- smile even when his mouth does not. He has creases by his eyes, accentuated most when he grins from ear to ear, similar to the dimples on his cheeks that are still quite defined despite his aging skin.
"What has you going to Colorado?"
She can tell he is sincere in his question. Refreshing, as most just opt for the usual idle small talk.
"Just need a vacation. I went to Colorado for the first time last year and absolutely loved it- have been dying to go back and my boyfriend has never been so we decided just to go for it! Why are you going to Colorado?"
He chuckles, leans forward in his seat and claps his hands together as if he's about to make a proclamation of sorts.
"Oh I'm going to see the grandkids. They keep saying they're gonna get me on the slopes, but every year I tell 'em- they can't teach this old dog new tricks! What do ya'll plan on doing there?"
She chuckles at this old man's joke and obvious love for his grandchildren.
"I love it. Tell you what, I have yet to be on the slopes myself, but why don't you and I give it a shot and together and we can show your grandkids that you, in fact, do have some tricks left up your sleeve!"
He gets the biggest kick out of that and nods in agreement. He tells her that if they meet again and there's a mountain nearby, then they will do it.
She feels a strong connection with this man, yet she's only known him for a few minutes. Perhaps this comfortability stems from her roots; she's always related so well to the older generation; they enjoy talking with her just as she much as she enjoys talking with them. And in that airport, that's exactly what she does.
She proceeds to enlighten this jolly, good listener of a man on all her plans the minute her size 6 shoes reach Colorado soil.
First thing's first: gotta rent a car. She won't drive the car, of course, but he will! She'll be too busy admiring and capturing the scenery, hence the Cannon camera around her delicate neck. The car in question will be an economic compact sedan as they will be doing a good amount of traveling. They'll make their way through Denver, a most awful city to drive in, until they reach their hotel in Snowmass Village, CO- The Westin Snowmass Resort.
The mountains become visible when outside the city of Denver. Upon entering Snowmass Village, a cascade of frost-tipped mountains will appear just after a loop on the highway pulls them into view. Reason #2,342 why she doesn't drive- distraction. Vision of the mountains will be similar to that of her very first time- she won't be able to peel her eyes away nor control the steadfast shutters of her camera. Her lover has seen mountains before, but never the Colorado mountains so her hope is that at least he will be able to contain his enthusiasm and awe while keeping all four wheels facing the proper direction on the road.
Her lover, after getting a small taste for the mountains on the drive in, will soon be salivating with hopeful restlessness as he won't be able to contain his excitement for hiking one of these glorious monstrosities come tomorrow's sunrise.
After waking up to a beautiful mountain view, the two will embark on a journey to the Continental Divide of the Americas. This is a mountainous range of large proportions and is set at an elevation of 14,278 feet. On the ride up, prepare for some popping of the ears! There are many twists, winds and turns on roads far too steep and narrow for two way traffic (yet somehow it is)- #2,567 why she doesn't drive- poor spatial awareness.
At long last, they will reach the end of the journey and welcome a most breathtaking view. Ears still a popping, they will attempt a hike. I say attempt because hiking in Colorado is not easy and certainly not for the faint of heart. At elevations of 14,000 feet, many people achieve altitude sickness. It is not fun. Shortness of breath, nausea and light headedness can strike simply being in a car in Colorado- let alone hiking up a very steep mountain where the air only gets thinner.
They shall hike up the greenery and inhale the crisp mountain air, only stopping to rest should the need present itself. The higher they hike, the more likely it is they will encounter some lovely glaciers- you know, the little bit of snow you find on the caps of mountains from miles away on the ground? While it looks like just a thin layer from down there, up close and personal it is actually miles wide and many feet deep at various different points. More often than not, you can't go around, but instead must trek through layers of freezing cold snow- sometimes as deep as your thighs. It feels as though you're going to plummet straight through the earth because with every placement of your foot, you have no idea how deep you're descending until the moment you reclaim footing on the earth- be that at the height of your ankle or your waist.
Hopefully they shall make it to the top like champs and proclaim themselves king and queen of the world. They will celebrate however they choose- with a rain shower from a water bottle or a kiss on top of the world- whichever will do as long as they take the time to relish the accomplishment. Then they will hike all the way back down and rest in their eco friendly sedan.
They will return to the hotel after a very exhausting, yet rewarding day. Showers will be taken and then a feast will be had... where is this feast found, you might ask? A few hundred yards away from the hotel, in fact, at a joint called Slow Groovin BBQ...
For all barbecue lovers out there, this is the place to visit. They will not only serve you the best alcoholic beverages you've ever had, but they have the best BBQ mac n cheese you'll ever have- oh holy comfort food! One might also enjoy a platter of poutine: cheesy french fries smothered in gravy and cheese curd goodness. If you fear cholesterol, don't eat here, but the rest of you meat lovers need to make a trip out because you definitely won't regret it. Oh, and enjoy a friendly game of darts while you wait for your feast.
The next day, they will venture to a most magical destination: Breckenridge. Breckenridge is a small town at the base of the Rocky Mountains Tenmile range. It's elevation is 9,600, so not as much ear popping action here. On the way to Breckenridge, you must pass through a lot of country side. On one stretch of road, you're literally taken through a valley of mountains so towering that you're unable to see them fully. This winding road through the valley is usually desolate, so you can really marinate in all it's majesty. A few hundred yards across flat grounds you'll find a few houses in this valley. It's honestly the most amazing, peaceful, and inspiring piece of scenery you'll ever witness.
Once in Breckenridge, they will enjoy viewing the mountains just as much as they will enjoy the people and spirit of the town. The people of Breckenridge have a one of a kind charisma that is infectious to the next person. They will encounter a lot of tourists as expected, but they'll be sure to find a few gems of the town- whether it's in the ma and pa ice cream shop where they give scoops of ice cream the size of a newborn baby or at the beef jerky outlet where you'll encounter the oxymoronic charm and sarcastic nature of a leprechaun running the store. He will befriend them immediately. As will the sweet, small town girl behind the counter at the watch emporium who also possess enough salt and sass that you'd think she belongs in New York City, New York instead of Breckenridge, CO. They will explore this teeming town and never want to leave, but alas, they will have to.
Her lover will be in for a surprise when he sees where their trip leads them next... paragliding over the mountains. Tandem of course- wouldn't want anyone to get hurt! They will sign their lives away on a flimsy little waiver and then drive to a clearing 16,000 feet in altitude where they will grip each other's hands and sprint right off a cliff...
"No no no, you're giving me a heart attack just listening to that! Are you crazy?"
Her new friend couldn't help interject at her harrowing tale and just as she is about to respond, she hears the intercom overhead proclaim: Now boarding all passengers for non stop to Colorado.
Coaxing her lover away from her soaking wet shoulder, she informs him that it's time to board. As he gathers himself, she says goodbye to her new friend. Both to their feet and arms outstretched, she gives the old man a warm embrace.
"I'm sorry I talked your ear off this entire time. I hope you have a wonderful time with your grandkids."
He lets her go and looks out the window at the plane that's waiting to take us up, up and away...
"Don't apologize, kiddo. I really enjoyed talking with you and hearing about your plans. Take good care of yourself."
Just as he turns to walk away, he looks back and says with a smile on his face:
"And hey, I'll see ya on the slopes."
Holding the hand of her other half, she chuckles and replies back a most appropriate salutation:
"Yes, I'll see you on the slopes."