In the Rockies

In the Rockies
Butler Gulch

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Mountains -- Norway and the Rockies

A view from the bus on our way to the waterfall hike in Norway

Beauty. Majesty. Inspiration. Mountains grip and inspire me. On the Norway coast, I was most overcome with the beauty from the sea where I could stand on the deck or sit in the ship's front window space and admire for a longer time than when riding the bus or hiking. 
Waterfalls between Shelf and Solitude Lakes, RMNP

Over almost twenty years of hiking in the Colorado mountains, I came to know portions of them intimately. Their familiarity never diminishes their grandeur. In those mountains, as on the Norway cruise, my photos are dominated with water. Even in the two favorite high places I may never again visit, tarns, waterfalls or lakes are an integral part of the photographs.  Many people go to Norway to hike, and I suspect that there are hikes where the mountains there resemble the ones in the photos here, from the trail above Black Lake that leads to favorite high meadows and tarns to the side, and the steep hike that results in the grandeur and solitude of Shelf and Solitude Lakes above.

The hike I most wanted to take, to a Norway Glacier, was cancelled because the trail was too icy. The hike they agreed to add to accommodate those of us missing the glacier hike was to waterfalls. It was pretty, lots of flowers in the lower part of the hike, but the trail was like that of an old roadway, rather than a narrow hiking trail. It was clearly a trail meant for tourists though nearer the falls, it was steeper. It also required a two-hour bus ride each way! My Australian seat mate shared the story of her life and the bus driver, an old native man, talked constantly too. Both were interesting, but for one who cherishes moments--or minutes--of silence, it began to feel like an assault.  Below: the waterfalls at trail's end, the bus in front of us (yes, there were 2!), flowers on the lower trail (the names of which I couldn't find for sure--maybe moss bell heather, all near Eikesdal, Norway.

 Now to my favorite Norway hike, which looked like no Rocky Mountain hike I've taken, as it was so green! This hike, fun since I hiked with my Canadian friend and a young CA couple, because we went off the trail at the top, and because on the way down, we took a narrow trail with only our group. It was five miles round trip without a lunch stop so some complained. Below, from the trail near the beginning.

At the top, off the trail, taken by my hiking friends--one of those places where I'm exuberant!

To the left, on our way down, my Canadian friend in the red shirt--lush green and a spongy wet trail. This was near Varberg, Norway.

Here are a few more photos--two very similar to photos of the Rockies, plus the seven sisters waterfalls from the jet boat excursion we took, all in the Geiranger area, a UNESCO Heritage site. I would have preferred to hike to the lake, no option here.

Above, from the bus ride through hairpin curves reminiscent of Trail Ridge Road through RMNP, though with more green as well as the snowfields.

I leave you with a wonderful view off trail above Tromso. We arrived above tree line in a large sky ride, but had time to explore. When my friend took off trying to prove that he had the stamina (though said he couldn't hike!) to rush up the trail swinging his poles so no one could get close, I went in another direction and was mostly alone in this lovely meadow. I couldn't resist taking photos of the pink moss campion, easily found in early summer in the Rockies. We also saw it in Iceland.

It's easy to tell that I enjoyed most being where I could get out in the mountains. I also enjoyed walking around Tromso, one of the towns we had a bit of time to explore. I'll include it with my time in Bergen where we stayed an extra night before heading to Iceland.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Into the Midnight Sun -- Inspirations in the Shetlands and Orkney Islands

Crossing the Arctic Circle

It was a wonderful trip! That said, it wasn't a trip I chose, but one my friend had in mind to take with his late wife and my dear friend. He did want me to enjoy it to the fullest and was very generous with the extras. I have a red Viking fleece that matched his, and turned down his offer to buy a heavy sweater from the ship's store since in Tennessee I'd rarely wear it. I had two lovely massages and a facial, all by a masseuse who was excellent. We had not one, but two bottles of champagne and cheese trays in our suite.

We were on the next to the top floor in a 2-room suite with a balcony, a feature for all cabins on this ship. The Viking Sky is beautiful, fairly new, and it was impossible to believe that with the crew, more than 900 people were aboard. Occasionally, if we ate breakfast in the main dining room shortly before leaving for the day's excursion, we would have to search for a table. Getting to a preferred lecture late might mean sitting in the far back of the auditorium, but there were no bad seats. I was always easily able to find a solitary spot in which to write on the days when we were at sea.

As I learned on our Great Lakes cruise last summer, it is nice to unpack once for the duration of the trip. That said, I would have liked more time in several of the ports, but this trip was planned to cover a large area. I walked in a few of the towns after the day's excursion or skipped something to just be in the communities. However, the places where we docked have a cruise economy so we weren't the only cruise ship in port most days as you can see in the photo looking down at Geiranger in Norway. We were the largest ship allowed down that fjord to the town.

What I liked most about cruising was being on the sea with the long light and the inspiration of  changing skies, slowly moving up the Geiranger fjord with its lovely waterfalls, moving past small farms and villages when near the shores and the spectacular beauty of nature that awaited us each day and night. I stayed up until 2 am twice on the longest days, taking photos, inspired and awed by the beauty of the skies and seas.

We began in London where I met a friend I'd known when she was studying in Boulder. We walked to the Greenwich Mean Time clock, the park around it and had a delightful visit. That evening my traveling companion and I took a boat ride down the Thames to ride the London "Eye" above. The next day we traveled to Windsor to tour the castle and eat at a local restaurant. The Queen's flag was whipping in the wind on the turret, signifying that she was in residence, not that we would have otherwise known.

Edinburgh was our second stop, but we did not see that city. Instead my non-golfer companion wanted to visit St. Andrews and see the famed golf course. The rain that day was gentle with little wind. My accomplishment was to purchase my son, an avid golfer, a St. Andrews golf shirt for his birthday, and a couple of smaller St. Andrews souvenirs. I did take my umbrella and walk through the streets of the old city, finding the spot where a young priest who was teaching Lutheran doctrine was burned at the stake, becoming the first martyr of the Scottish Reformation.

I felt a kinship with the Shetland Islands, below. However, the time spent preparing and the privilege granted to be on the committee for their once-a-year Viking Festival seemed too much though interesting to learn about. We took an excursion on a replica of a Viking "row" boat and tried our hand (and arms) at the oars. My companion thought he was the only one who got the rhythm--but then he was in front and couldn't see others. In the photo below, see the oars, those long poles that are wrapped when we weren't using them.

I skipped the last museum on the tour, walked back to a local crafts shop and chatted with the artisans, had lunch in a restaurant near the water recommended by the crafts people, and walked back to take photos of Lerwick's flower gardens.

While I would enjoy revisiting the Shetlands, I was most attracted to the Orkneys, I read Amy Liptrot's memoir about life on a remote Orkney island before leaving on the cruise, and her descriptions of the islands left me feeling familiar with them when I arrived. I chose a hike along the shore and through the fields down to the sea and the stone-built Neolithic Skara Brae preserved community that dates back 5000 years. We had a native guide (which wasn't always the case), and when I caught up with her to asked about Amy Liptrot, we had a delightful conversation about writing. She suggested that several residents would rent me a room or an apartment should I want to come there and write. It could be tempting!

That was the first hike I took with a new friend from near Toronto, nice to have someone else who both wanted to take photos and catch up with the hike leader.  We only saw the standing stones from the bus, and didn't have time to spend visiting the famous cathedral and walk around in Kirkwall, the largest town and capital of the Orkneys. That town was first mentioned in 1046 as the home of a particular Orkney Earl.

Neither of these islands had mountains in the background. The rolling hills were very green, and the beach near Skara Brae was sandy. Still, I felt a deep connection.

I could see writing a follow-up novel to the one I'm working on and have its main setting in the Orkneys.

I'll close this blog with gratitude for the time I spent exploring and being on these islands.
Next: Norway.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Returning Home

                                                           A Waterfall Hike in Norway

After a summer spent mostly away from my home in Nashville, I returned to see my surroundings and the activities in which I participate newly. It was a slow return as I stopped in Kansas to spend time in the area where my novel is set, and made a quick one-day stop in Missouri before heading home from three weeks in Colorado. After a delightful cruise, I had spent time with dear friends, was feted with a lovely party, and had several wonderful hikes. I visited with and saw grandson Sam perform in two productions, and in the Lion King, he was Scar, a great role for him! Since I'd been away for so much of the summer, I was ready to be back in my apartment but knew the return to ordinary life would have its jolts.

I was welcomed by those friends in my apartment building and quickly attended a 70th birthday party for a casual friend. My oldest--in terms of friendship--friends were glad I was back, and I was happy to see them. And I welcomed my son and daughter-in-law for a delightful evening as quickly as I recovered from my travels enough to put a nice dinner together. It was great to see all of them!

I was welcomed by my Pilates teacher with a big hug and a hearty welcome back, also by the two or three other class participants with whom I exchange greetings, though this is not a "community" class. My young dynamite CORE teacher, in whose class I had just started before leaving was delighted that I came back to the class.

The staff members with whom I volunteer at Cheekwood were very appreciative that I helped with the Eclipse party though I will attend my first docent meeting this Thursday.
                                                                      Eclipse Shadows
I got to stay with an old friend and visit another in Estes Park and take favorite hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. I had a delightful easy hike/walk with a couple I enjoy and two rain enlivened hikes with my long-time hiking friend who was visiting from California. And I joined the more robust contingent of St. John's hikers for two favorite hikes, though only one hiker was an old friend, disappointing though I enjoyed those with whom I hiked. When I returned and vowed to get up early and make the 7 am hike at my favorite Radnor Lake, I didn't expect a particular welcome as I'm not a regular, and one woman was coming off months on the Appalachian trail.  However, two or three noticed that I had returned and asked about my summer.
                                           Columbine in the Butler Gulch Meadow -- Colorado

Returning to services at St. John's Episcopal Church in Boulder is both heart-warming and emotional. Likely that will always feel like my church home, though there are many new members in the two years since I left. However, my clergy friends, the healing prayer team, who graciously invited me to join them in a training session for new members, my Daughters of the King friends and others, made me very welcome. I wondered that first Sunday, if I would feel badly when I returned to the Cathedral here, but realized the second Sunday I visited that I would be all right. That was true, as I was one of the chalice bearers my first Sunday morning service back, and served again this past week. Those with whom we serve are always gracious and I meet new people each time. Returning to Christ Church Cathedral had a bit of a feel of coming home!

My return to the centering prayer group, a group I've considered "my home group" was different than expected. The overall centering prayer leader had been away three weeks and was welcomed heartily. I was barely noticed, except for my one closer friend, with whom I had already communicated. I was facilitating that day, but a couple of nods at the beginning and a "good to see you" from the welcomed one afterward was it. I'm left with the sense that I must not contribute much to that group, and while it is the place where I am acquainted with those who attend regularly and we on occasion have lunch, it isn't a "heart" centering group, and I'm not aware of which members have a regular practice of centering other than when with the group. I'm in the rotation for facilitating--but with four of us, my next month will be November. I've attended regularly for over a year, rarely missing when in town. Now I'm wondering. . ..  Centering weekly with a group is  good practice, but I don't leave inspired or with new insights often.

My friend, Donald, at the prison was delighted to have me return, and it was good to visit with him--my most committed listener these days.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a meeting of the Nashville Jung Society where they focused on our shadow selves. While many in that group are therapists, I found the discussion heartening, others who are doing their own deep work. It meets only once a month, not enough to form relationships, but I've marked the October meeting on my calendar and will take a dream to work with--the topic next month. I long for a regular place to share with others who are going deep in their spiritual journey. Perhaps that will be found in one-on-one friendships rather than a group. I'll continue to discern about the centering prayer group.

Next, I will share about the cruise, as it was a lovely trip.