Ginnie and I are on a genuine, live, for-real vacation. And it feels like one! My mother’s side of the family, whom I don’t really know that well, has a reunion every other year. One of my cousins (a retired Army Colonel) and his wife, are the organizers. They travel around the country in a motor home and check out locations — perform “reconnaissance.” They look for sites that have a variety of accommodations from RV parking, to tent camping, to motel rentals and everything in between. Past sites have been the Grand Canyon, the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. This year they selected Grand Lake, Colorado, which is just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park as the destination. Not only do they select the site, but they plan out group meals and activities. Groovy. All the work had been done for us — we only had to suit-up and show up. This is the first year I (we) have attended — (being the black sheep of the family, I was never invited until this year). Ginnie has made a respectable man out of me, I think.
On our way, Ginnie and I over-nighted in Loveland, Colorado where I used to live. The next morning, we toured Loveland’s Benson Sculpture Garden. If you’ve never been to Loveland’s Sculpture Garden, this is a must stop of bucket-list proportions. There are close to 150 sculptures in this garden (half dozen or so are added yearly), each one being a “Wow!” moment. Somewhat of a hack sculptor myself, I was immensely inspired.
Then it was over Trail Ridge Road to Grand Lake. On the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, we came upon a group of motorists pulled over to the side of the road. People were milling about, pointing and gawking, cameras in hand. Ginnie buzzed down her window and asked what was going on. “Baby moose and its momma,” we were told. I stopped and grabbed the camera. Unbelievable. Ginnie and I had never seen moose in the wild before, let alone a baby with its momma. I now have a great action-photo of a baby moose that I will definitely frame. This one photo made the whole trip worthwhile, and I looked upon it as an omen that we were going to have a great vacation. I was right. During the week we photographed deer, elk, fox, a bull moose, eagles, humming birds, chipmunks, squirrels and marmots, as well as breath-taking scenery. Colorado has such an abundance of wildlife and beautiful vistas that are not too camera shy.
Our week-long vacation in Colorado included a visit to the Holzwarth Fish Camp, a train ride on the Narrow Gauge Railroad from Silver Plume to Georgetown, panning for gold, a drive to the top of Mt. Evans, white water rafting, hiking, ATV sight seeing, horse back riding, a ski-lift ride and a visit with an ole high school/football buddy in Ft. Collins. He told me I looked like my dad, which set me back on my heels. It seems the harder we try not to become our parents, the closer we get.
Ginnie and I were dismayed at the destruction of trees by the pine bark beetle. The mountain sides, in many places, are carpeted with brown, dead trees — a toothpick effigy looking like a war zone. However, we could see and were told by a park ranger, that it’s a natural process clearing the way for new growth of aspen, spruce and juniper. Dead pines also make great habitat for birds and other critters. As with man, monocultures open the door for disease and pestilence.
Where will the family meet in 2020? The Colonel is making a big pretense of, “Letting the family decide,” but we pretty much know he already has his mind made up. He wouldn’t be The Colonel otherwise.
Contact Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526 or firstname.lastname@example.org