We took a 4 hour horseback ride through Horseshoe Park. It started out as a beautiful cool, sunny day. At the half way point we got off the horses to stretch our legs and have a snack. I had packed walnuts, pumpkin seeds, dried pineapple, and prunes; plus a bottle of water. As we ate our snacks we saw clouds forming over the mountains. We were glad we had started our ride at 8 am, and that we would be back at the barn before a storm hit.
But this was not an ordinary summer thunderstorm. The clouds turned black, the wind picked up, and light rain started falling. Suddenly there was a loud crack of thunder, and the horses shied. The wrangler tied the horses on one side of the trail, and sent us to the other side. We were caught in a hail storm. We had raincoats, but only our daughter had a hood. Our clothes stayed fairly dry, but our hair was quickly drenched. Lightening was striking much too close for comfort.
Finally the hail stopped and the lightening moved on down the valley. We got back on our wet horses. Our hands were so cold we could hardly hold the reins, but the ride was even more beautiful in its own way. The hailstones turned the ground white, and it looked like fresh snow.
Before we could picnic, I had to go to the grocery store. I was standing in line with cherries and oat bread, wanting something warm to eat. I thought of sweet potatoes. There is a microwave in the motel office. I got out of line and picked out two sweet potatoes, one for me and one for my son. They were so delicious. I had brought sushi nori wraps from home. I had one wrap with roast beef and one with sesame butter. My family is curious about the seaweed, but not curious enough to try it yet. They had their sandwiches on oat bread.
An old hymn is running through my head, "I've seen it in the lightening, heard it in the thunder, and felt it in the rain. My Lord is near me all the time."
We took a 5.4 mile hike from the Wild Basin trailhead to three waterfalls. Most of the way we were within the sound of rushing water. It was physically strenuous, but emotionally peaceful and relaxing. Copeland Falls is in two steps: an upper and a lower falls. Calypso Cascade takes a long drop, then tumbles down further over rocks. Ouzell Falls has lots of water and creates lots of mist. All three were beautiful in their own way.
My daughter and I were ahead on this trail. We had a really good conversation about high school issues - the kind of conversation that is hard to initiate at home, but comes natural on the trail.
Dinner was at Timberline Steakhouse. I ordered liver & onions. It came with three side orders: a salad, a steamed vegetable medley (fresh green beans, carrots, yellow squash and zucchini) and potatoes. I was not going to eat the potatoes, but someone else at the table couldn't stand to see them go to waste and snatched them.
It would have been an ideal Type O dinner, except they cooked the onions with bacon. I discarded the bacon, but could do nothing about the bacon grease that was on the onions. This was the first major avoid food on the trip. It was disappointing because I had tried to order carefully.
Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park to Grand Lake brings back a song from my college years:
I'm on the top of the world
looking down on creation
and the only explanation I can find,
is the love that I've found
ever since you've been around.
Your love's put me at the top of the world.
At the Alpine Visitor Center we took a short trail to an overlook. It is a steep trail that climbs to an elevation of 12,005 feet. Three years ago I had to stop several times, and was breathing hard when I reached the top. Today I was amazed to find that I am in much better shape. I kept a steady pace (10 pound camera bag and all) and was not winded when I arrived at the top. The view is indescribable - you really are at the top of the world.
Rare tundra plants are identified along the trail. My husband pointed out Alpine Parsley and said, "Here's something Mom hasn't tried yet to feed us on that Blood Type Diet." Ha Ha - very funny.
After we crossed the Continental Divide, we saw a moose grazing in a swampy area near the Beaver Ponds. I've seen moose in Canada and Wisconsin and Wyoming, but there are only 50 in Rocky Mountain National Park, and it was a thrill to see one. On the return trip, we saw five big horn sheep grazing above timberline, another rare July sighting.
Lunch was at the Boardwalk Cafe in Grand Lake. I ordered a veggie omelet and substituted a side salad for the hash browns and toast. What an outstanding salad it was, containing several different greens including fresh spinach and dandelion. There were chunks of broccoli, carrots, celery, and even a generous helping of jicama. I had a little bottle of extra virgin olive oil in my backpack to use for dressing. The owner worried that the omelet looked lonely on the plate without the traditional breakfast starches, but I assured her that I was very, very happy.
We picnicked in our motel room and watched a movie tonight. Seedless black grapes were on sale at the local grocery store. I had never tried them, and they were sweet and delicious. My son had a turkey and roast beef sandwich; my daughter peanut butter and jelly; my husband soy cheese with a little turkey. No sandwich for me! I mixed a small can of spinach and a can of tuna with a little olive oil.
We hiked in the Bear Lake area today. First we took a short loop trail around Bear Lake itself. There are lots of good memories associated with Bear Lake, and walking around it is like renewing an old friendship. Then we set out on the more ambitions Bierstadt Lake trail. It is a lovely hike through the forest. Suddenly you break out of the trees seeing the lake and a beautiful view of Longs Peak, Flattop Mountain, and Hallett Peak. Letting everyone make their own trail mix turned out to be a good idea. We sat on the rocks and munched our snacks, and enjoyed the view before returning to the car. In all we hiked a little more than five miles. Not bad for our first day at high altitude.
I am a photographer as well as a writer. Everywhere we go on vacation I carry a backpack with 10 pounds of camera equipment. I'll shoot about one roll of slide film per day on this trip. I'll also have stronger shoulder and leg muscles by the time we get home.
Dinner tonight was at the Big Horn Restaurant. Their buffalo burger looked good to me. Buffalo is a Type O beneficial, but it is next to impossible to get where I live. Unfortunately the side choices were fries, onion rings, mashed potatoes or 3-bean salad. As I read through the menu, I had noticed grilled liver and onions. Our waiter was a nice German exchange student. I asked if I could have grilled onions, like the ones served with liver, as my side order to a buffalo burger. He was agreeable. I discarded the bun, and ate my buffalo patty with a knife and fork along with lettuce, sliced tomato and grilled onions. My son chose the elk burger. I presume that elk is ok since venison is beneficial.
As we travel I'm going to record how we eat and how we exercise.
On long travel days we eat as we drive - we call it "eating on the fly". We collapse one seat in the van and put the ice chest and food box there. It's a table where the kids can play cards or stack back packs most of the day, but at mealtime, I move to the back seat and become a short order BTD chef. For myself I had tossed all the leftover vegetables from the refrigerator into a plastic dish. There was leftover brisket and leftover chopped steak. I mixed half of each into the vegetables. With the other half of the beef, I made a thick sandwich for my son. My daughter had peanut butter and jelly on sprouted bread. My husband had a turkey and soy cheese on sandwich. I sliced apple and nectarine for dessert.
Exercise on a travel day is tough. I did almost two hours of 5-minute isometrics when it was my turn to drive. (If you don't remember 5-minute isometrics, go to my archives and look for a blog by that name in May). When we got to our motel, I walked laps around the building, going up or down every time I came to a staircase.
It is a tradition that our first meal the night we arrive in Estes Park is at Taco Bell. The Type As, like the burritos, and I get a taco salad. Tonight they were out of taco salad! I was tired, hungry, and disappointed. Everyone else placed their order; I said I would walk around and see what I could find to eat. Across the street was a locally owned Mexican restaurant called Taco Baja. The menu offered lots of choices. I ordered taco salad with beef and black beans, but no cheese or sour cream. The owner was a friendly man who tried to guess what diet I was on. At first he thought vegetarian because I said no cheese, then he remembered the beef. When I said Blood Type Diet, he said, "Oh, my in-laws do BTD; have for years. They own a spa in Arizona and tried to get me to come down and open a Blood Type restaurant."
As I walked back across the street, my son saw me coming. "Mom's smiling," he said. Indeed I was. Instead of an ok taco salad, I had a custom made Type O taco salad. The consensus is that next time our first meal in Estes Park will be at Taco Baja.
It is so good tonight to be in the shadow of the mountains again. I made my first trip to Rocky Mountain National Park when I was 9 months old, and I never tire of coming here. My husband and I often dream of retiring nearby. I cannot look at the majesty of the mountains and believe that they happened by chance. I cannot look at the intricate way our bodies are formed and believe that we randomly evolved. "I lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1