My nephew picked us up at the airport, and our first stop after landing was the DaVinci Machines Exhibition in downtown Denver - a fascinating display containing models of machines designed by Leonardo da Vinci, hand-built to scale from sketches found in his notebooks. Next on the menu for me was lunch with my bloggy friend Deb, aka Snowcatcher. (And did either of us think to take a picture of us together? Of course not - we were too busy talking.) :)
One of Snowcatcher's adorable crochet turtles, stitched in my favourite colour of lavender, with a tiny snowflake shell. (I've named her Tallulah.)
The morning is gloriously clear and sunny. Dominating the view is Longs Peak, at 14,259 feet the tallest mountain in the Rocky Mountain National Park and the 15th tallest in the state (depending on which authority you consult - I also saw it listed as 13th and 16th on various websites). Whatever its ranking, it's majestic and beautiful:
We're early for our appointment, and have time to chat with several of the guides. Then we're introduced to our mounts:
|Jack, for my nephew|
|Alvin, for my sister|
|And Smoky, for me.|
The ride starts off with a bit of excitement. About 10 yards out, a coyote is seen in the brush beside the trail. Jack (my nephew's horse) shies and tries to bolt, which startles my horse into a short run. But the horses soon settle down and we head on peacefully up the trail (though I do begin to wonder if I ought to have accepted one of the riding helmets offered by the management).
The trail offers stunning views, including this one of the cloud-wreathed Continental Divide:
Horsey shadow shot:
Jack and Smoky exchanging a few words while the guide adjusts the cinches:
The trail is rocky, steep, and mostly dry as we wind our way up the hillside. (There should be more snow, but Colorado has had a very dry winter.)
As we climb higher we begin to see at least some patches of snow along with the amazing views:
We also see plenty of deer:
All this time Tallulah has been riding in my pocket. I put her on the pommel for a moment to enjoy the sights, but the trail gets particularly bumpy just here and I don't want to drop her - so back into my pocket she goes.
The guide points out an aspen tree, referring to it as part of the largest living organism on Earth (aspens grow in colonies and are connected underground by their root systems which can cover huge areas).
We're on the shady side of the hill now, and there's much more snow on the ground:
Another mountain peak can be seen in the distance:
We come across another group of deer. Smoky (my horse), who all along has displayed a tendency to wander off the trail, now wanders again, straight towards the deer - so I'm able to get a good shot of this handsome buck:
Smoky seems very interested in the deer and would like to move even closer, but the guide says it's time to get back on the trail.
As we head down the hillside, the horses pick up the pace. (They're ready for second breakfast.) One last shot of the Continental Divide, framed by a blasted tree trunk...
...then I have to give all my attention to holding on properly as Smoky keeps trying to pass Jack and I have to keep him (Smoky) in line. (Passing is discouraged, as the guide explains, because the horses work better if they stay in the same order throughout the ride. Staying in line also protects horses and riders from sideways kicks from other horses.)
We reach the stables and climb stiff-leggedly off our horses. (None of us is an experienced rider and our muscles aren't used to this at all.) A pat for our mounts, a trip into the office for some final formalities (and to admire the collection of boots behind the desk)...
...then we're back out in the sunshine and thinking of lunch.
And after lunch, dessert. We visit a local yarn shop (The Stitchin' Den), where we spend a happy hour or so being overwhelmed by the beautiful selection of yarns.
Tallulah seems particularly drawn to this purple yarn with felted bobbles:
|Are you my mother?|
Despite the surfeit of beautiful yarns, I restrain myself nobly, and come away with just a single gorgeous skein destined for a giveaway to be held this month. (Planning a giveaway is a great excuse for buying a yarn you would never buy for yourself.) Here's a glimpse of it, with a proper Colorado backdrop:
Tomorrow we're off to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to visit a famous outlet store. Then back in the evening for the Boulder Bach Festival, where we'll be treated to a performance of Bach's St. John Passion.
All in all, it's been a pretty good birthday gift so far. :)
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