Saturday, October 17, 2015

Arrowhead, CO visit with more Dear Friends!

After a weekend with Sue Ann and Jim, from Trisha's growing up days in Kingsport, TN, we drove to Arrowhead, CO, near Cimarron, where one of my best friends from growing up in Ocala, FL, Mary Sue McGovern and her husband Doug live, in a beautiful log home at 9400 ft!  We had tried to get to their place last year, but due to some unscheduled work on the RV we weren't able to make it, so we were doubly happy that our schedule worked to visit them this year.  Mary Sue was so incredible growing up--she was just about everything you could possibly be from junior high school on--cheerleader, Key Club Sweetheart, Miss Ocala High School, valedictorian of our class, and so much more.  She won about everything there was to win.  But the most incredible thing was that none of that  ever went to her head--it was almost like she could not believe it was all happening to her, 'cause she was just being herself, never putting on airs; what you saw was what you got.  She was about the most down to earth person you could ever hope to meet, and such a giving and caring friend, with the biggest heart in the world.  If anyone needed something, she was there; if anyone was sad, or in a bad situation, she was there.  Never has there been a more loyal friend to anyone she meets.  She and I were in so many activities together, both at school and at church, and had so many memorable times.  I remember one time in our senior year, the night before our English final, I asked her to come over to our house to study together.  She readily agreed, but after spending a couple of hours going over everything I was unsure about, she whispered to my mother as she was leaving: "Now I have to go home and study for myself!"

Trisha got to meet her at the first of our high school reunions--lo those many years ago, LOL!--and they hit it off right away.  When we saw them at our 50th reunion last year, we began planning to visit them in Colorado.  Doug is a pilot, having had one career with US Customs and DEA, flying drug interdiction missions, and after that has worked for several contractors flying military support missions in the middle east.  Much of what he's done is classified, so he can't talk about it, but it sounds more than a little dangerous--thank God he's made it safe through all of this!  He is often gone for months at a time and he had just returned from a couple months in Djibouti, in Africa.  So it was fortuitous that it worked out that he was home when we visited.  He's a fascinating guy, and the tales he is able to tell are something like out of a best selling thriller!  More than that, though, he's just the nicest person, and we're so happy the two of them found each other 39 years ago.  He adores her and they are just the greatest match.

They built their gorgeous log home in the late '90's and, even though he's not an architect, Doug designed the house and planned it so that all of the windows in the kitchen, living room, bedrooms and their master bath look out over the mountains.  They are at 9400 ft. elevation and look out over an 8000 acre ranch below their house--the views of the mountains are just stunning, with tons of aspens mixed in with lots of evergreens.  The aspens were in their glorious golden colors when we were there and it was just beyond words beautiful!  They also have lots of wildlife they can see down in the ranch--we saw several elk while we were out on their back deck--as well as walking through their lot.  Mary Sue had pictures of bobcats, mountain lions, bears and deer.  We saw deer in their driveway, ravens and peregrine falcons flying off the deck.  The ranch owner doesn't live there full time, and has a foreman who takes care of the property while he's not there.  They know both the foreman and the owner, who has given them the keys to the gates on the roads and permission to use the ranch on their ATV's in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter.  They have several snowmobiles so they can share this winter adventure with family and friends who come to visit.  And in the winter the only way they can get groceries is by a 45 minute snowmobile ride!  During the summer they cut firewood to make it through the winter, and often when Doug is away for months at a time, Mary Sue is out there hauling rocks to build retaining walls clearing part of the land and chopping the firewood--a real pioneer woman!!  They are both outdoor enthusiasts, as well as bold adventurers.  Once they rode a motorcycle all the way through the US, Central America and down to the southern tip of South America!  Quite an exciting journey, to say the least.  They love to hike and Mary Sue has hiked 46 of the 54 "fourteeners" in Colorado, the mountains whose peaks are above 14,000 ft., and even did three of them in one day!  Perhaps as a result of all this activity, she has just had back surgery earlier this spring, so she's still recovering.

Since Shelley's in-laws lived in Aspen, CO until just recently, we've been able to visit them a couple of years, but always in the summer.  Their house is in the middle of an aspen grove and they've been telling us for years how beautiful the aspens are in the fall.  We've so wanted to see them in the fall, but had never been able to go there then.  So it was a special treat to be here with Mary Sue and Doug when the aspens were out in full color--they took us on an exhilarating ATV tour through the ranch, and we were able to see all these beautiful aspens, some old cabin ruins dating back to the mid-1800's, and a stately bull elk, who gave us a dramatic pose!  It was so much fun, and they took us to their favorite overlook spot, where we could walk out to the precipice and look down on the ranch owner's house and see for miles up the valley.  Just amazing.  That evening they took us to a small lodge near there house that is a favorite base for hunters--has a few rooms and a restaurant, and they of course know the owners and the staff well, as well as many of the locals.  They also invited the ranch foreman to go with us, and a number of the local folks came over to our table to visit.  After they introduced us to the young waitress, she was commenting on how she couldn't believe Mary Sue had been out of high school for 50 years, so Doug told her I was in her class--I could tell by the look on her face she was thinking something along the lines of "Wow, you must have been held back for several years, huh?"  It was a lot of fun, though, to see how well thought of they are in their community, though completely unsurprising.

Mary Sue has an incredible love of animals, too, and she was so sweet to Sophie.  They have a little cat named Princess--and she truly is the Princess in their house!  Mary Sue has made her a little habitat with leopard print fabric covering all the cushions--she even let Sophie sit up in a heated little cushion bed near the table while we ate supper!  Princess was not too sure about Sophie, but at least they figured out a way to co-exist while we were there.  Mary Sue once took in a wounded squirrel, nursed it back to health, and then kept it as a pet for 12 years!  That squirrel hit the jackpot when it met her!!

It was such a wonderful visit, just to catch up on old times, to learn all about their lives and hearing about many of the family and friends I knew growing up.  We could have talked for days, but we needed to get out of their hair, since, after all, Doug had just returned home from a 60 day absence, and there was snow predicted for a couple days after we left, so we needed to get across Monarch Pass and down to some lower elevations.  Nothing like being able to spend some wonderful time with old friends!

En route from St. George--never tire of these red rocks!

These mountains are just so different from those near us in the southeast

Some splashes of beautiful fall colors!

Ever since we saw these signs about drowsy drivers in Utah on our first RV trip they've always tickled us!

Coming into Colorado

Starting to see more aspens

Mary Sue and Doug's house

You can't get the full perspective on how high this fireplace wall is, as I was shooting from inside the foyer, but it is 2 floors at least--and the two of them laid these stones all by themselves!

Looking out their kitchen window
Sophie thought her reflection in the mirror was another doggie!
This is the upper deck, off the room where they have a full gym set up, looking down on the deck coming off the living room, where the fireplace is.
Doug says he never tires of these views, and you can see why

Looking down into the ranch--we later saw some elk in this clearing
They had a little toy for their cat, with a ball that's in a groove--the cat likes to sit in the middle and bat the ball around the groove.  Mary Sue was spinning the ball around and Sophie did her best to try to catch it--but it wouldn't come out!  So funny to watch her head going round and round as she followed it.

Mary Sue showing Trisha some family photos
A little out of focus, but you can still make out the elk down in the clearing--I was shooting from their living room deck


Doug and Trisha sitting out on the back deck--once the sun starts going down, it gets cool pretty quickly, so Doug bundled Trisha up in a gorgeous quilt

Mary Sue was so excited when I showed her this shot--she said "Doug, this looks like you're helping me with dinner!"  They love to tease each other!

We stayed out in the RV in their drive, as it was easier to have Sophie's crate there, but the next morning, she was eager to get back to see Uncle Doug and Aunt Mary Sue!  She loved them!!
Quoth the raven, Never more!
This is their driveway!

From the living room window
Beautiful blue jay
Doug showing Trisha the controls on the ATV

Not a bad little place to park the RV, huh?
Looking out over the ranch from their yard, as we were getting ready to head out on the ATV's

They are happiest when they're outdoors

And we're off!  Going out their driveway, lined by stately aspens
Heading for the ranch
Now out in the ranch

Just stunningly beautiful colors, no matter which way you looked!

"So, where do you think we should take them next?"

1850's vintage cabin on the ranch

Just love the contrast between the aspens and the evergreens

This is at their favorite overlook, where we stopped to take a break

Trisha found some pretty good sized bones just up in the woods

Just unbelievable to ride through these corridors with the golden aspen leaves covering the road

Looking down on the ranch house

This bull elk ran across the road up ahead of us and then stopped, just before he went over the ridge and looked back.  Not quite the sharpest focus, but he was a good ways away and I didn't want to risk waiting to get better focus--good thing I didn't, because just as I snapped this, he turned and ran out of sight.  This pose makes me think of the Hartford Insurance logo!
Doug took our pictures as we crossed a small stream--such fun!

The morning we left, these deer were just ambling down their driveway!
Sophie loved Uncle Doug!
Down at the base of this tree there is a small, nearly obscure, carving of a spirit woman, appearing to be emerging from the tree trunk.  A Native American man named Two Dogs who helped them build the house put this there but didn't tell them he had done it.  Some years later, one of Mary Sue's nieces was visiting and tumbled upon it in the snow and came running back to the house shouting "There's a face in the tree."  Mary Sue thought at first it must have been a branch configuration she had seen, but when she came to look at it, she found this.  Later they talked to Two Dogs and he explained that he does this at the site of every house he builds, but just never tells the owner he did it--they were the first ones who had ever found it!

As we were about to leave, Mary Sue kept saying "Doug, I want one of these!"

We left Colorado and basically just drove and drove to get home.  We did stop overnight in Paducah, KY to go to the National Quilt Museum, which was incredible.  Some amazing work and unbelievable artistry.  Alas, no pictures were allowed, so have none to post.

So now we're home, and another summer RV adventure has come to a close.  It won't be long until we start Santa Season, so the blogging will take a break for a while.  It's been another great trip and we're glad for all you readers who've traveled along with us!  Best wishes for everyone for a wonderful fall, Thanksgiving and Christmas season!