Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Macro Colorado

Mark and I went on a weeklong vacation to Evergreen, Colorado and basically I photographed mushrooms the entire time. The entire time. I'm only sorry because that's basically all the story I have for this blog post. 
But if you don't mind a novice's attempt at macro-photography and some miniscule backstory, then by all means, continue reading.

I guess I can relay how we got to Colorado in the first place. Back in March, around our anniversary, we were dumping money into renovating our current house so we knew we wouldn't be able to afford a vacation at that time. But we decided to plan ahead and have ourselves a belated anniversary trip. Planning that early also meant we had no idea I would be between 8 and 9 weeks pregnant at the time. Oops! 
Mark got an email alert for cheap Allegiant flights and we just picked the cheapest one on the list: Mesa Gateway into Colorado Springs. 
Our flight was uneventful other than my seatmate on my right (Mark being on my left) spilling most of his $15 double Jack and Coke all over himself and the wall of the plane. I pretended not to notice. 

We got into Colorado Springs around 8 in the evening, with our Turo ride waiting. Turo is a service similar to airbnb in that you simply rent people's personal cars from them. Through the service app, of course. The guy we rented from lived 15 minutes from the airport so he simply drove home with us in the car, and then we took over and were on our way!
We had a two hour drive ahead of us to get up near Denver, and then out of the city lights and up into the mountains. So we dropped by a Wal-Mart to pick up some snacks and energy drinks for Mark. We had the brilliant plan to skip packing any hygiene products and just buy travel size things once we got into Colorado and found a grocery store, but we literally only bought food and completely forgot about the shampoo and toothbrushes we would most certainly need. But we were already half an hour down the freeway before we remembered, and we just shrugged it off. There would be more convenience stores later.
We fiddled around with the radio, ate some snacks, I nearly bailed from the car when Mark had me open his jerky...typical road trip shenanigans. 

By the time we were pulling into the driveway of our airbnb, it was just past midnight and we were excited to get inside. The gentle burbling of the backyard brook greeted us, as well as the hosts pet cat who was waiting inside. As we unloaded our things the cat chirped incessantly until I hopped in bed and he promptly curled up in my lap. Disney Princess coronation TBA. 

Our little place was so cozy and cute. We laughed at the Western/Tuscan decor. Even on vacation from Arizona, it still looks like Arizona. 
We had a little sitting room with a coffee table, a kitchen cart with a coffee pot, microwave, and toaster oven (and general kitchen utensils), with a basket of snacks and fruit. There was a door out to the garage that had a full size refrigerator that was pretty loaded full of complimentary food. I tucked into those almost immediately, but Mark's sense of propriety kept him from utilizing the free food for a couple days. 
The bedroom was beautiful, with a gorgeous bed and armoire set. There was gentle zen music playing when we arrived, as well as a humidifier with essential oils steaming away in the corner. I ended up using that humidifier with some peppermint oil on days I was feeling particularly sick. 
To our surprise, and Mark's delight, we found that the bathroom was almost completely stocked with all the hygiene items we'd forgotten, including Mark's preferred brand of shampoo (Head and Shoulders). So all we ended up needing to buy was toothbrushes. 
It was hovering around 50 degrees most every night we were there, and we cracked a window some nights to really enjoy hunkering deep in the heavy blankets and comforters. 

As we laid down to sleep, we were unsure of what to do with the cat. There was no evidence of a cat door of any sort, no mentions in the instruction booklet on the coffee table as to what the "Cat Protocol" was, and the doors to the rest of the house were locked. We tried texting the hosts, but as I menntioned, it was after midnight and we didn't hear from them. We also tried just sleeping with the cat, as it wouldn't have mattered if he just snoozed at the foot of the bed. But with the lights off he went wandering off, mewing at the door. 
So we made the decision to just let him outside and hope for the best. I wasn't too worried, it made sense to me that if it were a big no-no there would have definitely been some instructions from the hosts. Mark was nervous about it. But we went to bed and slept soundly.

That morning, Mark was in a fit of anxiety about the cat, certain that we had sent the poor thing to it's doom. We heard from the hosts, since we weren't able to meet them at the time of our arrival, and were informed that while, yes, the cat is not an outdoor cat, he regularly escapes and had made it through the night just fine. 
Mark's cat-murdering-conscience assuaged, we had a simple breakfast, got dressed and explored the premises. Which included a picnic area surrounded with hanging baubles from the pine trees, a hammock, lawn chairs by a bridge over the stream, and immediate access to hiking up the side of the mountain. 

And thus, the pictures: 

Our first hike we wandered our way to "Maxwell Falls", which were a tad less impressive than I had imagined. But still plenty worth the effort, and I wandered around taking photos as Mark delved into reading his 1200 page book he had brought along.

I tried very hard and quite in vain to not be as pregnant as I felt, but I was painfully unsuccessful. My efforts have now shifted to trying to not fervently hate any picture Mark happened to snap of me.
I'm being only marginally more successful in this endeavor.

Mark wanted to go into Denver to visit an electronics shop that we don't have in Arizona. While we were in town, I wanted to go to a Ramen house and get some soup. So we found a place that was very cute and chill and had plastic displays of many of their dishes out in the windows out front of their establishment which I thoroughly appreciated. For $7 each we both ordered the lunch combos: a ramen bowl, three potstickers, and one of their side bowls of rice. It was a lot of food and an excellent value. I regret to say that I was disappointed in the ramen only because I like mine to be steaming hot. The soup was lukewarm barely halfway through the meal and with my currently sensitive stomach, it was difficult to get past.

Turns out, literally inside Denver, there is a huge state park with a sandy beached reservoir that we had no idea existed! We were slightly disappointed that we didn't have our swimming suits with us, but with how tired I always was right at noon, like clockwork, it may have been too exhausting to enjoy anyway.
We still read our books until the mosquitos chased us away.

On one of our return trips for lunch (aka naptime for Hope because #alwaystired), we found a gorgeous bouquet of roses placed on the coffee table with a note saying, "Happy Anniversary, Mark and Hope!"
We were constantly overwhelmed by the kindness and considerate efforts of our precious hosts. They were the perfect type of host for the kind of vacation we were looking for: present, but gave us all the space we desired.
I promptly carted the entire vase outside for a little photoshoot.

While I napped, Mark usually read his book and kept the camera nearby for any wildlife that happened to scurry into the vicinity.


We were delighted to learn that while the cabin WAS secluded, it was a mere seven mile drive into a cluster of tiny towns (one literally named TinyTown) with a handful of mildly touristy things to do.
We walked to the dam for the Evergreen "Lake" (reservoir), and ate at some local restaurants, and browsed the teeny tiny stores.

During our driving about town we noticed a sign for the "Three Sisters" hiking trail and figured, "well, now we know where that one is, so we should do it."
The trail-head had a handy map with ratings as to the difficulty of the many trails, so we chose one that started out easy, hit intermediate halfway through, and finished out easy. 8 weeks pregnant and not looking to impress anybody, hello.
Except near the end we noticed there was an off-branch that led to "Brother's Lookout", labeled as a scenic point, so we huffed and puffed our way up a steady incline to get to the peak.

The views were never not astounding.

During one of our visits to town, we were heading to a thrift shop I had noticed and found a crowd of people excitedly pointing their camera phones into the river. I thought, "the ducks must have finally showed up!"
It was a little more than just ducks.

We had spotted many deer and elk throughout the whole trip, but literally every sighting happened in town. We never saw anything big out on the trails. They had signs for moose but I never saw one. /le sigh

For our last day, we decided we would just drive into Colorado Springs first thing in the morning and spend the day down there, in order to avoid stress about making it to the airport in time for our flight at 4:30pm.
Mark had heard of Garden of the Gods, and we had seen signs for it on our way out of the city after our arrival, so we figured that would be the easiest way to kill time.
And kill time we did--driving around trying to find a parking spot! The park is free, but in order to get to any of the rocks you have to drive around the reserve and hope you chance upon an open spot in one of the eleven or so "parking lots" of about six or seven spots each.
We drove the loop one and a half times, before settling on a spot down the road a bit, having to hike back up the pavement to get to the other parking lot that had been full.
Grueling, for a weakling pregnant person, but worth it in the end.

Mark was in the mood for Thai and I had seen a little joint not five minutes from Garden of the Gods, so we went there for lunch, Mark having the spicy pad Thai and I ordering wonton soup and steamed white rice. The blander, the better.
Less than a mile from our rental car return there was a firefighter memorial park where we planned to chill until time to get our driver and head back to the airport. Mark snuck this photo of me in my natural state on this vacation--lying down.

So, all in all, our chill and purposefully laid-back vacation was still sometimes too much for my weary baby-bun-oven-body to handle. It was exactly what we needed as a couple, and as individuals, and as parents of a wolverine human child. Who barely noticed we were gone, but I wish we'd filmed the reunion because 'twas precious. 
And there you have it. Mostly boring, who-the-frick-even-likes-nature-shots-what-is-this, 100% my kind of vacation.