Summer Uncompahgre Wilderness Love

I’m fresh back from a mountain adventure trip in Colorado with my husband and four awesome kids. Pretty much my very favorite thing to do in the entire world – is jaunting around on mountain tops in crisp cool air with my kids, husband, and English Mastiff. So I’m all bright eyed, bushy tailed and the happy lady this week and I’m sincerely hoping the alpine glow doesn’t melt too fast in the sizzling Houston heat. 

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Me and my 13 year old daughter at 11,000 ft. 

Nestled in the area known as the “Switzerland of America,” is the greenest, bluest-sky topped, waterfall-sliced, and of course highly peaked landscape also called the Uncompahgre National Forest. It’s an eyeball-rub-inducing place, since the views and colors are so rich your eyes can’t believe what you’re looking at is real. And it’s a wonderful place to share with nature alone, your family or loved one – with a new trail, lookout, or little mining town characterized by an old fashioned candy store around each corner. I’ve been to many parts of Colorado, and I love Aspen and Snowmass, but this was my first glance into the “Little Switzerland” and I was super smitten. Just west, the forest turns to red rock and high desert terrain, and just east it bumps into the San Juan National Forest. It’s a small hidden wonderland, lightly traversed, and thunderstorm watered to the greenest green your eyes can register dusted with designer worthy wildflowers in every shade of the rainbow. It feels thousands of miles from US megacity life, but if you live in Houston it is about an eighteen hour drive (about one good Audible novel), or a two hour flight. We drove, and so glad we did, because we became lost in Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken and the fascinating and knock-down humbling life story of olympic athlete and war hero Louis Zamperini. Nothing has ever made life seem as precious as hearing his testimony of survivorship as a POW in WII Japan. 

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I kept this on my lap as we navigated the insanely gorgeous San Juan Skyway – an essential since most roads were far from cell service 🙂 And also because I love maps.  

We spent a few unplanned days in Telluride, because we loved it there so much. We hiked to the hydroelectric plant built by Nikola Tesla (my son’s favorite scientist) and to old abandoned mines to the intrigue of the entire family.

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Gorgeous in a haunting kind of way, Bridal Veil Falls and the hydroelectric plant.

The town, views, weather, food, and overall experience was golden. Oprah just bought a new home  there, and it’s no surprise to me that billionaires live there; it’s quiet but lively, secluded from the main Colorado ski-strip traffic, and did I say it’s insanely gorgeous already? Yeah, I did, but it’s that gorgeous. 

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From the mine near Tesla’s plant and Bridal Veil Falls at sunset
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Little Valley Dweller: Telluride
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Blue Columbine Wildflower hanging on a ledge.

Some really cool reasons to love Telluride, Colorado:

  • Instant jaw dropping views & probably the most gorgeous airport landing strip in the country.
  • If you’re a music lover, they host more music festivals than anywhere in the country. Pearl Jam was arriving as we were leaving…
  • One of the nation’s most dog-friendly cities! Your canine pal is welcome in restaurants, shops, parks, and even rides the gondola with you.
  • Great restaurants, food trucks, high end grocery stores brimming with organic produce. We had amazing kabobs at a food truck, Steamies Burger Bar (really good) and couldn’t stop eating Brown Dog Pizza‘s garlic knots and spinach dip on our last night. We didn’t have a good meal while we there, every meal was awesome.
  • The cold, meandering San Miguel river winds through the town and has beaches for kids to play on and is perfect for rafting and fishing.
  • Bikes are the #1 method to get around on.
  • Trails are everywhere. High peaks accessible by foot in about an hour hike on some.
  • Cute Victorian architecture (most of it original) gives a unique Scandinavian feel to the town, which was settle by Scandinavians, Germans, and Irish during the mining boom.
  • Fantastic boutique shopping, but my favorite store was Alpen Schatz. It imports authentic Swiss gear, pet goods and apparel and I quickly snapped up a handmade leather alpine rescue collar for our Mastiff.
  • Deer, elk, prairie dogs, and (squeek) marmots are everywhere. 

So if you’re looking for a diversion in summer or fall, add Telluride to the wish list. Your dog will thank you too.

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Streetside Great Dane statue posing in Telluride.

And finally, if you’re adventurous, there’s a place near to Heaven (literally and figuratively) nearby that you can hike to and even camp (at about 12,000ft high) though there’s no official site or host there (my favorite kind of campsite) and it’s called Clear Lake -it’s just outside Silverton. You have to have a stomach that can handle a harrowing mess of the tightest possible switchbacks for a five mile climb up a 4×4 only cliffside road, but it is worth the heart rate hike once you arrive – it’s like paradise. The sky literally glows behind the mountains at night – and the stars act like they are showing off just for you with a spectacular show. We camped there with our family alone, the place all to ourselves from around 6pm until the next morning and the starry show is permanently burned in my memory now. A million times, worth it! Happy summer traveling…stay tuned because next post I’ll delve into the pared down skin and makeup routine that kept me going in five minutes or less in the unforgiving dry air.

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The blue water basin at Clear Lake, CO

Final thoughts:

 

 

 

 

 

Another South

Hailing from the likes of Atlanta, Georgia and Greenville, South Carolina predisposes one to conjuring images of pulled pork, turnip greens, hot mountains, creek beds, and so much more Southern Americana when you hear the word south. Well, I want to talk South, but I’m fresh home from, and newly in love with another South, and it feels rather traitorous. Let’s talk Southern Hemisphere, and South Pacific. Mmmmmmmm.

Never will I not love my deep American roots, but if any place could tempt me to do so, so far it’s Southern Australia. There’s more ocean and pristine shoreline than I can speak of; the air is hot, in late summer (late February/early March), but the solar heat is broken up by refreshing and bustling breezes so it was never uncomfortable. And, after a soak in the cooling soft-foam saltwater (how is the ocean so soft there?) the thermal sand makes a perfect muscle relaxer and sunbed. I confess to tanning way too much while I was there. Zero apologies or regrets either. It was superbly intoxicating to hang out on the North Sydney gold sand beaches with the uber-fit, surf-loving, friendly Australians for a week or so. Everyday, the main question was just, Manly or Palm? Whale, or Bondi? Newport, or Avalon? There are so many BEACHES. Bliss!

Off the beach, eating was more than fabulous due to the fact that most restaurants and cafes were open air and full of lively and amazing looking people (especially the fifty-plus crew! SO FIT. I am more convinced of the ocean’s anti-aging effects now than ever) in their swimsuits or shorts slurping fresh juices, noshing on almost exclusively organic or free range dishes, and leaving with foamy organic Australian milk espressos…bliss! Where are we on this, US?

This South has a lifestyle that, in my eyes, makes even coveted SoCal look like they just haven’t caught up yet. Picture: kids running home from school in their neat little uniforms – barefoot! Lush vegetation beachside, harboring exotic birds – cockatoos and parakeets, that perch on the balcony and let you hand feed them. Opening the wall of glass doors up around dinnertime for the freshest breeze to circulate. The laid-back Aussie vibe is that. Even the birds are cool and friendly. Yeah. I’ve got a thing for you, AUS.

Do I still love the mountains? Oh yeah! Have I tasted something oceanside that I simply have to have more of? OH. YEAH.

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Montana in November: Wonderland

Three days of straight road tripping is tiring, but for this girl, three days on the road from Texas to Montana means one thing: Montana. Glee ensues, and it stays! The most amazing place to be in the world. The people, the beauty, the mountain, the climate, the everything. Closing in on Montana in winter, by the way, looks a lot like this:IMG_3781.JPG

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Wyoming Skies

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One of the reasons I love road trips (besides an excuse to drink tons of coffee) is that due to the fact that I am a sky lover; road trips give you a moving sky backdrop that can be amazing at times. Take Wyoming, for example. The land of open skies and sudden weather has a new skyscape every few minutes it seems, and it’s beautiful, and gorgeous, and a very happy place to drive for hours and hours. These photos were all taken November 3 in the great state of Wyoming.

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I’ll Take Iceland

Isafjordur_1If my last name seems, well, a wee bit Scandinavian, it’s not technically. It’s Icelandic. This Carolina girl (raised in the peaceful Carolina Blue Ridge foothills) married a first generation Icelandic guy – raised half in California and half in Georgia. So while he is thoroughly American, the rest of his family is thoroughly Icelandic. All of his family, except his siblings and parents, are nestled in on the the cozy little island of Island. Island = Iceland in Iceland. Say “EES-land.” Ok. So suffice to say, we have fallen in love with the unstoppably gorgeous and untouched landscapes, and the amazing people of Iceland. Obviously Iceland will be a firm topic in this space. I hope I can introduce readers to this warm, worlds-away destination. By the way, if you have not ever been, go! In the words of Robert’s ever traveling Icelandic uncle (who always talks us into longer Iceland road trips than we thought we could bear) “You will not regret it.” Said in thick Icelandic accent. By the way, Iceland is definitely seen best by road trip.

On one of those long road trips, and trippy indeed, is the dizzying drive through the winding, cliffy, colorful and ethereal West Fjords (Vestfjordur). When we took this trip, we landed in a tiny and obscure little fishing town called Isafjordur. Our uncle took us to what he described, to our doubting heads, as the best fish restaurant in the country. Tjoruhusid turned out to be arguably the best fish restaurant in the world. Not exaggerating. Until you have tasted right off the boat North Atlantic fish prepared by an award winning chef, you have not tasted fish. In the summer you can eat outdoors by the water and the service is also amazing. We still swoon and reminisce about the meals we had there. Creamy sauces and soups and fresh vegetables sautéed and grilled and served in cast iron pans, absolutely mouth-watering food. Even the kids slurped up every last nibble. I will never forget the place, and I certainly will not regret it.

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Meet Montana.

Familiarize yourself with me or my family for about all of thirty seconds, and you will also familiarize yourself with the passion we all share – passion for a lovely last best place better known as Montana. You would be surprised to know how many Houstonians hardly can find Montana on a map. It’s low profile. It’s a secret gem. It’s the other half of me – actually, it’s nearly the whole of me. I really don’t have words that would begin to describe it. I don’t have adequate descriptions. I have the way my heart thumps when I think about it, the one-breath-away memory of the glacier air hitting my face from pastel skies on winter days, the quiet acoustics of a snow cloaked forest, and the warm touch only a small town offers. I have the color of the snow: multi-faceted, prismatic color kaleidoscopes falling onto a white bed that moves the light around in that way only a pristine snowfall can. And that’s winter alone. When the valley sheds its coat in the spring, it’s an entirely different place, a place the people that live there or visit frequently grin in a knowing way about – because they know they have found the proverbial ‘it’ that so very few know about. I have something there that remains there waiting for me each time I leave, until I return, and I wish with everything in me I could describe it you, but I can’t. All I can do is pass that on to you in hopes that one day you will make the unrivaled journey there yourself. Meet Montana.

 

Meet Montana in Pictures >

Burger in Vermont.

The weather did not comply while we were in Vermont, therefore we kept driving and hence ended up in crisp, clear Montreal. We’ll have to raincheck the hiking trip I was dreaming of, but the rain couldn’t stop us from sampling the amazing farm to table that’s in a seemingly endless supply in this beautiful place called Vermont.

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Montreal’s Le Magasin General: Grace poured out into a store & cafe.

Le Magasin General: our feet found it via cobblestone street, on the waterfront in Old Montreal, and I could spend hours and hours in this store that has the hallmark of all great stores in my opinion. That is, shopping there feels a lot more a very well traveled or a wealthy friend opening her treasures to you than a line of sales ladies involuntarily spritzing you with heady scents while spewing the current promotion and grabbing your arm simultaneously…shopping sometimes can feel more like the circus than service, but not here. And I don’t even say that in jest because quite literally there is a treasure chest, an enormous chest of drawers, each one revealing a set of remarkably affordable necklaces, bracelets, and earrings – each drawer displays a unique look. On top of that, unpretentious but beautifully affordable wares fill every iota of space in this distinct sister boutique to Le Walk-In, its seasonal counterpart. Conceptualized, owned and operated by its former fashion industry proprietor, the beaming Nicole Madore, this store is a gem among gems and a place you might find yourself visiting – and lingering.

peek inside Le Magasin General:

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