The two summer courses I’m taking in my creative writing master’s program are coming to their end this week. Both “signature” assignments, which will end up in my portfolio, are due. I’ve been writing and revising them all quarter as I’ve studied with my fellow online students all about short story and literary genres.
It’s been a pleasure to read the work of my workshop group and to learn how to critique another writer in very constructive ways. I’ve utilized this learning with my students and their writing to good effect. Wrestling with my own writing has been more productive as well, with all the other writer-eyes reading my work as writers. Input from others is critical to a writer, so I must find more sources for willing “pre” readers.
I’ve learned a lot, and I thought I already knew a lot, about managing time. I try to keep to a schedule so I am available to my students, to my own course work, and to the daily work around the farm, not to mention hiking and the flexibility to hop up and take care of whatever might come up in a day.
I started using a new resource in a timing app I found that allows me to input daily tasks with timeframes and different sounds to let me know when to take a break, when to get back to work, and when I’ve accomplished the tasks I’ve put into the app. Mostly, I love the sounds at the ends of the intervals! With a little breather between summer and fall quarter, it’s time to pursue some publishing opportunities.
Whether I teach in a brick and mortar or online, the start of school is much the same. There are meetings to attend, to refocus after the summer and to plan all the great ideas we’ve had, to inspire students. There are schedule and enrollment issues to solve and to try to remember not to be so frustrated by them because, no matter how well things were planned, stuff still happens.
There are students we’ve had before, and loved or struggled with, who come back in new sections or just to say hi and we rejoice. Really. There are brand new students, timid and a bit frightened about what this new school or class will be like. There are parents, concerned that their kiddo gets off to a good start, or confused as to how this new thing works and why it isn’t like last year. There are countless explanations, directions and re-directions to resources that will eventually make the routine old-hat, but are causing panic here at the start.
There are introductions and connections and “wow, you did that over summer?” and shared pictures, adventures, and “I know you can do its” and “Really? That is my favorite toos” and remembering that we are in this together, student and teacher and class.
And I can already glimpse some who need a hand, some ready with a smile, some who forgot that they care, some who just want to be heard, some who have barely contained themselves all summer and want to launch into the school year, and some who come hungry and thirsty and need a safe place to rest. Teachers will be there for all of these: ready, willing, and trying to be able to do the best they can. And along the way, this hodgepodge of students and teachers will learn from each other about reading and writing our stories.
Elaine, my best hiking partner, and I hiked, along with my adult children, our last summer hike this week as teachers head back to school. We usually end our season with a 14er, but weather being what it can be in Colorado, our double 14ers were shrouded in clouds with fresh snow and rainfall and so we went to plan B.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park is such a beautiful place! With 12,000 acres to be explored, and numerous moose siting noted in the visitor center, we knew it would be a great day. We started at what I like to call the “treehouse” which is known officially as Panorama Point where there is a massive tree house-like covered deck allowing you to view incredible vistas.
From there we took the Coyote Ridge trail to intersect the Mule Deer trail, bringing us about seven-and-a-half miles back around to the tree house just as it started to rain and fog rolled in. We ate our well-earned lunches and, of course, our Salted Nut Rolls before we added up our summer hike stats for what we accomplished together.
Total miles: 80.5
Total elevation gain: 18,000 feet
We have plans to continue over the fall and winter, just one little day a month with fall leaves, winter snow-shoeing, and spring with snow and rain and flowers. What an incredible state we live in, from the plains to the foothills to the high mountain passes.
As we wind down our hiking season with school starting soon, we hit the long trail to Bluebird Lake in RMNP. Round trip, this hike is about thirteen miles and filled with waterfalls, roaring rivers and loud burbling creeks, wildflowers that must have come straight from heaven, tall old growth pines, light breezy aspen meadows, giant mushrooms, oh, and several steep inclines and a large snow field to climb to get to this beautiful high mountain lake.
This was our second trip down this trail, having gone as far as the Ouzel Lake cut-off and on to Ouzel Lake a few weeks ago. Enticing us past the sign giving us 3.3 more miles to hike were wild strawberries and raspberries! Yum. Then, it is a matter of step-by-step encouraging each other to keep going because surely that lake is just around the next bend! With our PB and J’s sweetly singing our names, we kept on going and on and up the slippery footing of the last climb up the snow field to a fill your lungs with the mountain vista surrounding the deep blue lake blessing of our destination.
I love hiking season.
The drive up the dirt road to get the Tanglewood trail head in the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area is an adventure all on its own. Riddled with pot holes and rocks as big as a Mini, you breathe a sigh of relief pulling in to the new parking area, resurfaced with rock. The early morning was on the cold side of crisp and we hiked with our long sleeves until we reached a sunny little meadow.
Following the creek along the trail, the elevation gain is fast and our breathing testified to it. The deep purple of Monk’s Hood and Larkspur lined the path, along with Purple-fringe, Elephantella, and so many more wild flowers. The twisted roots of old trees reach out into the trail as you begin the climb up “heartbreak” ridge. Thankful for switch backs and the view stretching 360 degrees around you, you reach the saddle where Tanglewood Trail ends and becomes Roosevelt Lakes Trail at the boundary of the Pike and Arapahoe National Forests.
Finding a rock to sit on, we ate our sandwiches and our Salted Nut Rolls from our fairy, took deep breaths of this incredible vista in, snapped our usual mountain top “usie” and headed back down the trail seeing everything in a completely different way. This could be due to the fact that it is easier to walk and breathe, and therefore notice, on the way down.
mini cupcakes from Mary-Peg
I turn 54 today and feel so blessed in my life because I have such loving friends and family. I live a life that I love and find joy with my husband whom I cherish and who is sheltered in my heart. I hold dear two children, adults now, who are both kind, caring, and giving. I claim a granddaughter by marriage who is always willing to go along with crazy things I come up with, and who’ll watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with me!
I get to teach and write and ride and run and wrangle cattle and farm and make jelly and sing “Don’t go breakin’ my heart” at the top of my lungs and find rest in God and see stars blazing in the pre-dawn sky and hike ruggedly beautiful trails and drink coffee and live a good life. I am blessed.
Moving away from our quest to get to mountain lakes, we hiked a trail that is near and dear to my heart this week. I’ve led umpteen ba-zillion, and that’s a lot, trail rides up this trail and many pack trips began on this trail. It is a steady climb up some 2500 feet, but what takes your breath away is the incredible wild vista awaiting you in the saddle between St. Vrain and Meadow Mountains.
As always, we hit the trail before 7, both to beat the heat and storms, and the afternoon “crowds.” Hiking through aspen groves that always brought me this amazing sense of peace on rides, was just as strong this day. We crossed little rivulets of melting mountain snow and wandered through willows and stunted bristlecone pines to the last push out of tree line and up to our high point.
A vibrant mounting blue bird greeted us, as well as a hummingbird. Wildflowers were abundant and beautiful and we dug out so many memories standing there on that high ridge. “The more the legs!” could be heard more than once. Back at the trail head, we drove down Ski Road and parked in front of Meadow Mountain Cafe for a well-earned lunch!