Finally getting around to the last set of photos from the dreamy Red Cone Retreat...I think I've been putting it off because I'm reluctant to let go of the residual magic!
 Morning of our last day. The arrow shows where Q is hiding under the covers ;)
 Setting off for a leisurely morning hike around the property. Ah, wildflower season! So long and drawn-out in the highcountry.
 Down by the stream. Always my favorite place to play when I was small and living on our old ranch. I loved the scents and mysteries in the scrub willow around the mountain streams...wildflowers hiding among the tall grasses, patches of unexpected mud and moss to be navigated with care, swaths of wild iris that bloom deep purple and astonishing in the late spring, waterbugs skittering on long legs in the shallow waters. So lovely to rediscover these things with my own child.
The lovely Karin Freudenberg, proprietress of the Red Cone Retreat, is quite a discovery in and of herself. Born and raised in Germany, she came to the US as a young mother, and tells us that she found the property that is now the Red Cone by way of "much adventuring and exploration". She is a hospice nurse in her "spare time", along with running the property herself. She is beautiful, charming, adventurous, and a student of the primitive arts of living off the land. This strikes home for me, since when we had our ranch, my mother was also quite the student of these arts - teaching herself to make bread from scratch in our cast iron, wood-fired stoves, growing rhubarb, lettuce, potatoes and other high-altitude comestibles in our small garden patch, and learning how to cook with native plants - cream soups made from nettles, and young cattails from the bottomland steamed with melted butter and herbs. So naturally I was enchanted to discover that Karin had taught herself to smoke and tan her own buckskin, using only natural ingredients derived from the animal itself. She showed us the buckskin outfit she'd made entirely by hand, complete with her own horn buttons and hand beading. Just look at the detail!! I am officially and deeply impressed.
 A final walk among the beautiful scrub oak on our way off the property.
 What a place! Can you see why we fell in love?
 Hopping out of the car to open a ranch gate may seem like drudgery, but to those of us who once lived on a ranch it is a sort of symbolic ritual. For me, it embodies an accordion of memory - ten years of arrivals and departures culled from the most formative years of my life. Every spring from the time I turned six to my sixteenth birthday, we made the delightful, multi-day road trip from New York to Southern Colorado, where we would summer on our ranch. Every spring, arriving after several nights of camping in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Nebraska, we would finally drive up the fifteen miles of dirt road from the tiny trainstop of Cotopaxi on the Arkansas river to the tall, rickety gate of our ranch - sometimes to discover the dreaded threat of a buckshot and dessicated coyote nailed to our gatepost - a warning from neighboring ranchers who did not share our belief that coyotes and cattle could live in harmony on the land. And every year, when we had eeked out every moment of the summer, we would leave through that same gate, locking it behind us for the winter, headed back to the highway and, eventually, the East Coast. 
So it was with a sense of that same ritual that I watched Mike close the gate on our little stay at Red Cone Retreat - a fond and somewhat melancholy farewell to a place we hope to return to soon.
 Not that the road out is anything to sneeze at...ahem!
 In fact, the road that winds and hairpins past the famous ski resort of Telluride and then through tiny but breathtakingly-beautiful Ridgeway (known as the Gateway to the San Juan Skyway) is one of the most beautiful in the West. 
As an adult, I've lived in Colorado for two decades, and that's not even counting the many summers (and occasional winters) that I spent here as a child. I have driven the back roads and byways of Colorado and the Southwest exhaustively, and I know this part of the state quite well. I lived in Durango, on the other side of the San Juans, for two years, and in Crested Butte for one. I have driven through Ridgeway numerous times, since I once helped design a house in nearby Ouray.
And yet...and takes my breath away each and every time I drive this road.
The wonder just never goes away.
 Well, unless you're a three-year-old who had already traveled 'round the world once before the age of one, I guess!
She was not quite as impressed as Mommy by the scenery, even though it showed off all its best colors for her, like a peacock in mating season. But - what can you do? She's three and blasé. Someday she'll be a teenager and even more blasé. But then, if she's fortunate, she'll make it into the fullness of life, and the world will open up its wonders to her. Oh, the places she will go!


Born of the Sea said...

I adore the way you describe nature around you, especially the part about visiting the streams. It feels as if I was there. Glad you all had fun, it seems so magical. I hope to make it out there one day!

-Morgan (Born of the Sea)
Born of the Sea <--my blog

FDChief said...

It does look like a very lovely and peaceful place.

I had to grin a little over Karin and her buckskins. Next time ask her if she read Karl May before setting out on her Western adventures...I know several Germans who were inspired by Winnetou and Old Shatterhand. More Western than the Westerners, some of them...

Tamara said...

Dear god. Hotel next time. New memories with the kidlet. Its an order.

Yoli said...

I think she will love the wandering life herself. Beautiful photos, thank you for sharing.

nadia said...

so lovely.