Saturday, September 27, 2014

Snow Mountain Ranch - Reflections on Previous Trips

I write this sitting at a table by The Buckboard, a tiny general store and cafe outside of the guest relations building for Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park. It is the annual weekend for the families of AVS to gather and have fun. We rent a large reunion cabin with many bedroom, a few bunk beds, lots of couches, a large fireplace and a nice kitchen with double appliances.
I’ve made this trip almost countless times, but this time it is different from any other. This time I traveled alone. Instead of listening to my family, or to the music the kids have picked out, or to the stories the kids and their friends tell each other, I am listening to Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other, and the World by Claire Fontaine and Mia Fontaine (Apr 2, 2013), a sequel to a memoir I read about a mother and daughter. In many ways this trip is bittersweet.
Driving up the mountain, the van is slower than it used to be, just like me, but we are both happy to make the journey. The aspen leaves have been turning a bright golden yellow hue and must be at their peak as they shimmer an almost unreal color of nearly neon yellow gold. Other aspens stand amongst them in a more stately. calm shade of red. If I had not been wanting to get up the mountain before dark, I would have stop to take some photos. I figure those can be taken tomorrow.

Going up Berthoud Pass from Denver the I think about time I took Ellie and Kohlton sledding at the top of the pass. They took a few epic lines down the mountain and ended up many more hairpin curves farther than I had expected. It was a fine adventure for them and I was happy to witness it, even from the distance of a driver not taking part. I think about the photograph of Ethan in his team uniform as he squats near a small mountain stream. It was taken on the way home after he and our friend, Greg, had raced at Winter Park in the Epic Singletrack Series. Snapshots like those play like short films in my head, preserving the time, the memory and my feelings. Coming back down the other side of the mountain, I am reminded of the trips on the road from the many times we went to Snow Mountain Ranch for bike camp or races. I think about the time when the kids were 13 and ten. We raced down the road next to the cars that held their team mates, both sets of kids making faces, silly noises and gestures. It was a full and wild time that I felt, even then, to be privileged to be part of. I think about the many times on that road when we were on our way to go camping the night before a race, of the time that a bear came knocking at the tent of one of our companions and I slept through most if it. I think about sitting around the small camp fires, enjoying s’mores and singing songs - as many as we could remember the words for. I think about the times when the drive home was silent because the kids were exhausted from the effort they put into their races. I think about the year that I visited the llama farm and brought home hand-dyed fibers that I later knit into a hat or the time when I escaped with a group of other kid-free mothers to sneak off to the hot springs less than a half hour away. That adventure felt so decadent at the time.

I also reflected on the place I am in my life now. The kids are nearly grown. Ellie and Kohlton have already spent the day up here because they can now drive themselves. Ethan is back on the boat working as the engineer, readying the boat for transit to San Diego. As I think about my life, I also listen to the book about a mother and adult daughter’s journey on an international scavenger hunt. Their first stop is in China, a place I plan to visit at some point in my life. I think about what my life will be like sans the nearly constant attachment to my children. It makes me feel both sad, and excited to launch that new journey for myself.

As I turn into the Snow Mountain Ranch property I realize that the state of the grounds is akin to a metaphor for my own adult life. When we first began to come to Snow Mountain Ranch we would turn off of the highway onto a thin, dirt road that was cut through a green, lush, dense forest of towering trees. After driving through that fragrant tunnel we would emerge into a new world where everyone felt safe, happy and ready for fun. Many years later there was a pine beetle infestation that felled most of the forest. For two years the entrance was like going through a bone yard of a long lost magical era. At times my life has felt the same. But time marches on, those trees were cut down and repurposed. Now there is a forest in miniature where the trees are much shorter than I and sport a bright, hopeful green.

Here's one of the popular snacks that we made for the crowd.

Ginger Spiced Nuts and Chex Mix

½ cup Sugar
1 tea. Ginger, ground
½ tea. Red Pepper or Cayenne Pepper, ground
½ cup Butter, melted
2 cups Corn Chex
2 cups Rice Chex
2 cups Wheat Chex
2 cups Mixed Nuts
2 cups Pecans
2 cups Cranberries
2 cups Raisins
¼ cup Crystallized Ginger, chopped

Mix the Chex and nuts together, set aside. Stir the ginger and red pepper/cayenne into the melted butter.

Stir the butter and spice mix into the nut and Chex mix. Stir to combine. Stir in the sugar to evenly coat the mix.

Now you can

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