Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September in Lake City, Colorado

             Ahhh... September in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
             While I'm savoring the visual feast of golden aspens and elms this week, treat yourself to these scenes of Autumn in the Colorado Rockies.

             Click on any picture to enlarge.

An early September morning—looking south
on Lake City's Silver Street.
Historic cabin in Capitol City, Colorado.  During the silver mining boom
this mountain town, (now practically a ghost town),
had hopes of becoming Colorado's State Capitol.
Aspen-framed peak.
Autumn fishing on the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River.

View of two 14,000 ft. peaks near Lake City.
Uncompaghre is on the right, Wetterhorn is the
tall jagged peak on the left.
Lake San Cristobel near Lake City, Colorado.
To view more autumn photos from the Colorado Rockies, please visit this post:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

24 hours at Grace Note Farm in Pascoag, Rhode Island

         The Grace Note.  In music it’s a small addition or embellishment, connected to greater things.  In Rhode Island it’s Grace Note Farm—a Bed and Breakfast Inn in Pascoag connected to state forest land and enhancing guest’s experiences in pastoral living.

I visited Grace Note Farm in October of 2011.  Owner Virginia Sindelar met me at the door, then showed me to my room at one end of the sprawling farmhouse while relaying this story:  18 years ago Virginia quit her job as a musician and moved from an oceanfront house in Massachusetts to northwestern Rhode Island in order to “get away from the uncertainty of hurricanes” and start a new hobby: horses.  This 1730 farmhouse and its 94 acres seemed the perfect place to pursue her dreams. Virginia lives here with her mother “Nan”, her dog, several horses, chickens, “Eyeore” the donkey and “Peanut” the pony.  

The bucolic setting of Grace Note Farm in northwestern Rhode Island.

Guests may choose to relax or to indulge in a variety of activities on the farm.  After moving into my suite I met Edna Kent, the local historian who led me on a tour through farm and forest.  We walked the wooded trails in filtered sunlight with American Chestnut trees and Red and White Pines towering overhead.  Edna picked a sprig of soapwood, a plant that always blooms during blueberry season.  After gathering blueberries a person would rub the blooms of sapwood in their hands; the friction caused the blooms to lather, cleansing blueberry stains from the skin.  Nature, in all its elegance.  We continued our tour past an old cranberry bog, hints of fall color appearing in the landscape. 

Old Cranberry Bog on the property.  Autumn's brilliance arrived late
to Rhode Island last year.

Edna and I returned to the farmhouse where Virginia had dinner waiting.  The three of us sat down to a candlelight home-cooked meal of baked chicken with stuffing, garden vegetables, and for dessert—almond cake.  After dinner, while Edna built a fire to warm the great room I met Nan, a delightful lady with a sharp wit.  Nan retired to her room and Edna pulled me aside to tell me that Nan has a birthday coming up on October 23rd.  What’s so special about that?  Well, Nan will be 101 years old!  This is a woman who was buying groceries when I arrived at the farm today.  She helped with dinner and with the dishes.  Tomorrow morning she’ll be feeding the horses and cooking breakfast.  Nan, what’s your secret?

Nan poses after finishing the breakfast dishes.
Her secret to living past 100?  Keep busy and don't think
about aging!


A stay at Grace Note Farm is a 24 hour affair and Virginia had plenty of activities to fill my second morning and afternoon at the B&B.  In the morning I met horse trainer Leslie Lucas who gave me a 90 minute lesson with “Charlie” a small Morgan.  I’m a novice on horseback but Charlie was a sweetheart; after my lesson I was tempted to make Virginia an offer to buy him.  But I didn’t.

Rita and Charlie.  You can tell he's a great horse just by
looking at him.

Horse barn at Grace Note Farm.  Charlie is peering out
from the far door.
         Nan put lunch on the table—butternut squash soup and apple-walnut salad.  After the nourishing repast I met Virginia’s friend Polly who brought her pony “Popcorn” to the farm to be shoed.  Traveling with Polly was a macaw named “Barkley”, who likes to ride on Popcorn’s back.  Polly demonstrated Barkley’s riding abilities while her little terrier watched from the sidelines.  I asked Polly:  “What’s your little dog’s name?”  “Toto”.  Of course.  Polly is a regular one-woman dog and pony show.

Toto and Barkley wait patiently while Popcorn
is with the farrier.

Barkley mounts his custom saddle and he's
ready to ride.

         My stay at Grace Note Farm ended with a massage given by therapist Lisa Ivens, a perfect end to this incomparable 24 hour get-away.  Interested in experiencing Grace Note Farm for yourself?  Visit this site:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons in Dry Fork Gulch, Utah

       “This is a blast—the most fun I’ve have in ages!”  Mark’s words echo through the twists and turns of Peek-A-Boo slot canyon in Utah’s Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

My husband Tim and his friend Mark are in the middle of a 250 mile bicycle ride through southern Utah.  I’m driving the support vehicle.  (More about the bike ride in future blog posts...)  

An early start in Boulder allows the bikers to arrive in Escalante by late morning.  I pick them up in our SUV and soon we’re bouncing over Hole-In-The-Rock road’s washboarded dirt surface.  It’s a sweltering August afternoon when we reach the trailhead where we discover vehicles from Washington, Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada and New York.
Descending from the trailhead to Dry Fork canyon we pick our way across slickrock and sand.  Peek-A-Boo’s entrance is a quarter mile along the wash, 12 feet above our heads.  Using hand and foot holds to scale the wall we enter the hanging canyon and are transformed into kids on a playground. 

Mark and Tim descend into Dry Fork wash.

Tim steadies himself for the climb into Peek-A-Boo
while Mark waits to lend a hand.
          With flexibility we thought lost with age, we drop through an arch passageway, climb hands-and-feet over protruding rock walls and slither through sinuous turns until we leave the slot and emerge in a wide, sandy wash.  Then we turn around and do it all over again.

Tim emerges from the donut hole near the
entrance to Peek-A-Boo slot.

Rita and Tim playing peek-a-boo.
See how this slot got its name?

Tim snakes his way through the canyon.

There are rattlers in here!  We saw a dead snake but no
live ones during our hike.

            A half mile away the entrance to Spooky slot canyon calls our names.  Mark enters the canyon and walks through passages so narrow he has to inhale to navigate them.  Three-quarters of the way through the canyon a fallen boulder prevents him from completing the trek.  But Mark is still beaming when he exits the canyon.  The most fun we’ve had in ages?  We’d all have to agree.

Mark in the dark, narrow confines of Spooky.


Leaving the National Monument we return to the town of Escalante and check into The Slot Canyons Inn.  After showering the red dirt from our sweat-soaked bodies we meet at the Inn’s outdoor restaurant—North Creek Grill.  Local, grass-fed beef is the signature dish and it’s melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
Dessert arrives as sunset bakes the surrounding rocks with an orange glow.  From the adventures of biking and hiking to the luxuries of The Slot Canyons Inn, it’s been a most gratifying day.

The Slot Canyons Inn, Escalante Utah.

Al Fresco dining at the North Creek Grill.


How did Peek-A-Boo and Spooky receive their unusual appellations?  Josette-Marie Rex, proprietress of The Slot Canyons Inn, relayed the story:  Josette-Marie recently attended a town potluck dinner where she met two women whose father—a sheep rancher—discovered the slot canyons while tending his flock over 60 years ago.  The rancher took his little girls to the two canyons to play; in the dark, narrow passageway they proclaimed “Oooh, this one’s spooky!”  And in the other corridor they played peek-a-boo behind the serpentine corners, shouting “Peek-a-boo, I see you!”  The women are now in their 70’s and the names they gave the canyons many years ago are perfect depictions of these two spine-tingling playgrounds.  

Want to experience the fun of Spooky and Peek-A-Boo?  Visit this site:

Pamper yourself after hiking the slot canyons and enjoy the hospitality of Josette-Marie by staying at The Slot Canyons Inn.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wildlife Sightings in Southeastern Utah

         A billion prairie dogs scurrying through dry-grass meadows; forty million antelope thundering across the plains; two million desert bighorn sheep prancing from boulder to boulder in the red rock desert.  What a sight to behold . . .  in the year 1812.  But it’s 2012, two hundred years later, and I consider myself fortunate to have seen the two prairie dogs, ten pronghorn antelope and two bighorn sheep my family and I spotted on a recent trip to southern Utah.   
      The above species are now all-but-gone from the deserts, mountains and meadows of the southwestern United States, victims of America’s westward expansion and—for the prairie dog—of federally funded extermination programs.
      Enough sermonizing; I suppose we should be happy that any wildlife exists at all in the midst of our settled and developed world.  For examples of the species we encountered in southern Utah in July, see the photos below.  Then picture yourself in the west as it existed in 1812 . . .

Two pronghorn antelope near Goblin Valley State Park.
They blend in well with their surroundings; it's habitat loss—not hunting—
which has greatly reduced their numbers.

A kit fox steals away from our Goblin Valley campsite
in the early morning light.

Sagebrush Lizard.  As far as we can tell, lizards are
still abundant in the desert.

A prairie dog peeks out from the rocks.  I believe this may be a
highly threatened Gunnison Prairie Dog—its numbers
have declined over 98% in the last 100 years.

This desert bighorn sheep was foraging near Grand Wash Trail
 in Capitol Reef National Park.
We were delighted to see she had a tiny lamb with her!

        In addition to the animals shown in the photos above we spotted a desert cottontail, a jackrabbit, several other species of lizard, and Johnny Depp—on the outskirts of Moab while filming The Lone Ranger.  (That counts as a wildlife sighting, doesn't it?)
        For more information on the wildlife of southern Utah (minus Johnny Depp), visit this website: