Friday, October 3, 2014

Celebrate Your Own Backyard

As a writer I am always looking for new ideas and sometimes I find them hiding in my own backyard. Of course I have a beautiful backyard to explore.  It's called the Rocky Mountains and they are mere minutes from my driveway.  Yes, it only takes 10 to 15 minutes to cross the first hump of mountains outside Denver and be in the foothill splendor of the Rockies.

One of the great joys of this area is driving up to the mountains to see the Aspen leaves turning gold in the fall, and this year was as spectacular as always.  I have to admit my favorite year was when I drove my Mustang convertible and made the trip with the top down. This year worked well, though, since my brother drove.

He took us along the Peak to Peak highway between Boulder and Estes Park, which has some amazing views of Long's Peak as well as the entire mountain range. I had driven it before, but the colors made this drive very special.

 But the big difference this year was that I got to take roads I had never been on before, even though they are right in my backyard. We drove into Rocky Mountain National Park, along Trail Ridge Road, which had me feeling like we were on top of the world. It's the highest continuous paved road in the United States, and it sure felt like it!

First as we neared the top, there was the odd view of trees clinging to survival as we neared timberline. I remember one of my California friends being amazed at the concept of timberline  and the whole idea that there were places in Colorado where trees can't grow because of the altitude and conditions. These trees actually reminded me of the Northwest along the western coast where they are so wind blown by the ocean that only half of them seems to be surviving. I think I felt as enthralled as my friend who was seeing this part of the country for the first time.

And then we reached the top...


We were driving along a road that made us feel like we were on top of the world as we crossed over the Continental Divide.  Actually at times as we drove near the edges, I felt like we might just slide off all the way down the 12000 feet to the bottom (okay, maybe not 12000 feet, but it sure felt like we could go a long way!)  This road is not open year round -- high snows close it in the fall and keep it closed until late spring.

This highway has been around in various unpaved and paved form since the 1920s, but the byway itself was once traveled by Native American tribes as they crossed the mountains between their homelands and hunting grounds.

And, of course, as we drove I concocted a story about a city woman unfamiliar with the territory getting lost up in this wilderness and everyone had a different idea about what might happen to her. By the time we got down from our trip to the top of the Continental Divide, we had come up with plenty of ideas. Of course, mine involved a romance between the woman and a sexy guy she runs across in those rugged Rockies. As so many of our trips do, this one also inspired us to come down and look for facts about the area, and gave us all a greater appreciation for living in Colorado.

So here's a toast (with champagne from the Brown Palace, another wonderful Colorado landmark) to those places in your backyard that you might want to visit and explore... and come up with new story ideas.  And do it before it's too late. Trail Ridge Road was closed this week -- due to high snow.

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