My family and I took a day trip to Cottonwood Lake, Buena Vista, CO over the weekend. It’s a beautiful time to be a Coloradan: the leaves are turning and everywhere I look there is such beauty it takes my breath away. I was excited to take this trip for two reasons. 1, getting out into the mountains is always a thrill and 2, this would no doubt be an inspirational time. What plot ideas may come? What journal entries? I packed my camera, notebook, and pens and climbed into the back of the van.
The trip up was breathtaking. I’m grateful that my stepfather drives and all I have to do is gape at the extraordinary colors around me and make notes about my book as they pop into my mind. I’m always afraid he doesn’t enjoy the trips like my mother and I do but he says he does and never complains. Still, I owe him dinner. We stopped along the way at a small lake (pictured above), carving out a place for ourselves along the roadside and joining the other gawkers in gasping, pointing, and snapping pics. By the time we needed a restroom break, we’d reached Southpark, CO; a place nothing like the cartoon.
The facilities available in Southpark were a tad rustic: port-a-potties arranged at the back of The Jefferson Market. A sign on the door stated the port-a-potty was for use of paying customers only and I’m sure that’s why there wasn’t any hand sanitizer available until you stepped inside the door of the market. I didn’t mind buying something: I am always on the hunt for what healthy snacks might be found in a gas station. This hunt uncovered Clif bars that were not, surprisingly, out of date and fresh fruit in the cooler at the back of the store. The store itself generated waves of nostalgia. When I was young, my father was a foreman on a ranch in northern Nebraska. The closest bit of civilization was a small town named Mills which consisted of a feed store, a church, and a general store that doubled as the post office. The Jefferson Market reminded me of that old Mills general store. The plank flooring creaked under my feet as I traversed the store and there was a little of everything and not much of anything. I purchased my Clif bar, a bottle of water, a purse size container of hand sanitizer, and snapped some pics of Southpark before we headed deeper into the mountains.
We continued on our way to Cottonwood Lake and my head swiveled from one window to the other, trying to take it all in. One thing I will say for Colorado, there wasn’t a feed lot to be found. All cows we saw were in pasture which brought on more waves of nostalgia. I kept remembering my life on the ranch. I remember my brother and I being entirely alone. My father was out working and my mother had a job at the rest home in Stuart, NE. The family my father worked for were supposed to keep an eye on us but…well…they were older. My brother and I had complete and utter freedom to do whatever we wanted, as long as our chores were complete. Few days went by when we weren’t racing out to the fields to call to the horses, play in the hayloft (which we were forbidden to do) or climb trees. One thing we never did was enter the field where the bulls were kept. I remember three of them; Herefords, and their white faces never struck me as being anything but placid. But, my dad had explained how dangerous they were and put the fear of God into us about climbing over that particular fence. The hayloft rule we broke often but we never came within more of a few feet of that fence.
I remember how much I loved the horses. They would come to us when we called and allow us to scratch between their ears and stroke their smooth necks. I think my love for animals started with the horses; Queenie, Wendy, and King. I never thought about what happened to the cows my father cared for and we didn’t stay on the ranch long. My father sold up, I can’t remember why, and we moved into town. As we drive passed these beautiful, isolated homes surrounded by fields, I find I miss aspects of that life. The ranch we lived on didn’t have the wild beauty of the ones we passed and I saw several For Sale signs that gave me a deep longing. Maybe, one day, I can move here and live in this beautiful place, perhaps open a farm animal sanctuary, perhaps just write.
That longing only intensified as we reached Cottonwood Lake. The beauty that surrounded me made my heart ache. I took pictures but there isn’t any way a picture captures the feeling of peace and enjoyment being in nature gives. It began to rain so I didn’t get in the hiking I’d hoped for. I wrapped up in my rain coat and slipped into the trees for a while but returned to the car when the thunder and lightening started. Despite the lack in hiking, it was a beautiful, perfect day.