James Taylor at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

On July 23rd I had the extreme privilege of attending a James Taylor concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre just outside of Denver, Colorado.  If you’ve never been there, you should make plans to go.  There’s just something magical about listening to music outdoors, especially on a cool Colorado summer evening.

2012 Red Rocks View from the top

James Taylor just happens to be the ONLY musician that I like enough to sign up for his mailing list.  He’s so amazing!  You know, its not that he’s an outstanding vocalist or flashy instrumentalist (although he sure knows how to put a band together), but his songs come straight from the heart and he’s authentic.  Every time I’ve gone to one of his concerts, I feel like I’m sitting in the living room sharing good music with friends.  And since my husband is a musician, I really know what that feels like.  It’s pure joy!

So, several months ago when I got an email saying that he (James, not my husband) was going on tour and would be playing in Denver, I talked my husband into getting tickets for my birthday (which happens to be in July).  Our son lives in Boulder and we knew we’d be going to visit him sometime, so we planned to be there for the concert too…AND since I’m on JT’s mailing list, we were able to get tickets before they went on sale to the public, so we were in row 14!  The photo above is from near the top of the amphitheatre.  That’s a long way up!

This is the walkway that leads to the seating area.  It’s a bit of a hike, but not too bad.

2012 Red Rocks Amphitheatre

The pics below show our location in relation to the top and to the stage.  It was a perfect spot!

2012 Terry & Nancy at JT

2012 Nancy & Terry view to the stage

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take in my camera, but we did have Kevin’s pocket camera to take these pics.  He and his date, Hattie went with us too.

Despite the fact that it looked stormy that night and was a bit blustery, we didn’t have any rain (like they apparently did the following night) and the concert was only affected by wind sometimes blowing through the microphones.  Oh, and one of the roadies had to sit next to the drum set to make sure the cymbals didn’t get blown over. (you’ll see that in the video below)

James and his band performed amazingly well considering the distraction from the wind (and potential storm).  I did notice though that he’s reminding me more and more of my dad.  You see, he’s tall and thin and built like my dad and he’s bald like my dad and this time when JT was “dancing”, with his somewhat awkward moves that make him so endearing, I could totally see my dad.  I LOVED it!  So he’s not only a wonderful performer, but also a fond reminder of my dad, who passed away over 30 years ago.

Just to give you a little taste of what it was like at the concert I recorded one of my favorite songs, “Sun on the Moon” with Kevin’s little camera.  The lighting is way too hot on JT and my hand is a bit shaky, but I love the rhythm, arrangement and the harmonies in this song.   And check out the cheers when JT starts “dancing”.  Gotta love this guy for his down to earth performances. Nothing flashy or overly choreographed here.

The last pic here is the band taking their bows.  It’s hard to tell, but it really is James Taylor and his band.

2012 James Taylor Final Bows

Funny thing too, we found out later that another couple we know from Phoenix was at the same concert.  Only we didn’t find out until after we got home.  It was a spectacular night and makes me smile just thinking about it.  Wish you could have been there with us!

Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado

 

Did you know that the tallest sand dunes in all of North America are in Colorado?  Seems odd, huh?  I would think it would either be along the coast somewhere or maybe in the Arizona deserts, but actually you’ll find them in southern Colorado.  As you may know, one of the items on my Bucket List is to visit every National Park in the U.S.  On Friday we visited Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona (more on that soon).  Yesterday we visited Great Sand Dunes National Park!

Here’s the view from the visitor center!  Isn’t it gorgeous.  When we were there a monsoon storm was coming in from the east so the dark clouds cast shadows on the mountains and the dunes creating an ever-changing canvas of colors.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado

Summer’s not the best time to visit the park because the temperatures on the dunes can reach the mid-100’s (F).  We were smart enough to stay away from walking on the sand, but since we were in the area, it was still nice to get a preview of the place in case we want to come back and visit again sometime.  If you have a chance to visit the NPS website, you’ll see that there is really quite a bit to do around there besides just running around on the dunes.  Looks like there’s a seasonal river, lake, waterfall, wildlife, beautiful fall and spring color, camping, hiking, etc.  I definitely think it’s worth another trip.

You can explore any part of the 30 square mile dunefield you wish; there are no designated trails in the sand. And there’s even a sand dunes-accessible wheelchair available for free loan at the Visitor Center for those who aren’t quite as mobile.

Here are a few of the photos we took during our short visit.  We saw Pronghorn and Mule Deer as well as the expected chipmunks and squirrels.  Let me know if you’ve been there and what was the most fun for you during your visit.

 

Happy Birthday Terry!

Happy
Valentine’s
Day
to my favorite guy!

Taken at Fish Creek Falls in Colorado last summer.

Day 8 – Rocky Mountain National Park

On Friday we drove about an hour and a half to the western entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, near Grand Lake.

If you’ve never been there, it’s a gorgeous huge (415 square mile) park with Trail Ridge road slicing thru it’s mid-section. Trail Ridge is the highest continuous paved road in the U.S. climbing to over 12,000 feet in elevation. That’s above the tree line, which could explain why we saw snow in August.
While at the park we were so excited to see lots of wildlife! A herd of elk, a couple of deer, a coyote, and even an adorable chipmunk.
After we stopped for a quick lunch in Estes Park,
we took a drive to one of our favorite spots – Bear Lake. We followed the path around the lake and stopped for a few photo ops. (I’m not sure what was going on with my hair. I don’t remember it being windy. Oh well.)

That noisy little Chickaree (squirrel) wasn’t too happy that we were in his space and thought he might be able to chase us away. It was so cute.

Bear Lake is such a gorgeous peaceful place. We make a point to go there every time we visit the park.

Afterward we discovered a sweet lake nearby called Sprague Lake. We also came upon a family of (what I think was) Mallard ducks. Check out all the ducklings!

The amazing thing about this park is that there is always something new to explore. It’s so immense that you could spend weeks there exploring and enjoying God’s awesome creation.


Day 7 – Mad Creek Trail
Thursday we found another trail close by and since it was Mad “Creek” trail we were hoping for a shady walk near a cool stream. Unfortunately, we discovered that for the most part, the trail “overlooked” the stream at quite a distance, so we could see it, but not enjoy it up close and personal until near the end of the trail.

We were pleasantly surprised when the path headed down closer to the stream and I was thrilled to be able to take my shoes off and slip my feet into the cool refreshing water. My dusty hot toes felt so much better after a good soak. It was like God’s little spa treatment for me.
After we left the creek we continued on to Mad Creek Barn. It was this awesome restored barn that you could just walk inside and explore. As soon as I saw it, I thought about how much Amy would love it for a photo shoot. Imagine what it would be like in every season! Amazing! I did realize that I’d love to go back to that area in the Fall especially.
The first thing Kevin did was climb up in the hay loft and sit in the open loft window. I got a few good shots but could have stayed around there for hours taking pictures. There was so much texture and character inside and out.

Soon we had to head back toward the car. We managed to make one more quick stop by the creek, then hit the road. What a precious afternoon with two of my favorite guys.

Back to Day 6 – Weds – Fish Creek Falls
O.k., I realize that I’ve been sidetracked a bit from vacation for the last few posts, so now I’ll try to get focused and cover Days 6, 7 and 8 over the next few days, hopefully.

On Weds of our vacation week we went to Fish Creek Falls. It’s a short drive just outside of Steamboat Springs, so we decided to check it out. After the quick jaunt in the car, we had a short easy walk to the bridge at the base of the falls and decided it was a great spot for a photo op. Of course, Kevin hammed it up as usual.

You can see the beautiful falls in the background. Interestingly, when I was looking online for info about the falls, I came across a photo that was probably taken in the spring when the water flow is at it’s peak. Take a look at the difference between what we saw and what it would look like with full flow.

Soon after we arrived Kevin and Randy decided to do some rock climbing up to the base of the falls. They wouldn’t have been able to do it if the falls were full, but in late summer it was very manageable. Since Kevin just had flip flops on, he ended up going barefoot for his excursion. To give some perspective on the height of the falls, if you enlarge the 5th photo from the top you can see Randy and Kevin in the lower left corner of the picture. In the next photo you see Kev jumping from one rock to another (one of his favorite things to do).

Then back at the bridge I noticed this set of miniature clothes laying out on the rocks. Oops! Someone must have wandered a little too far into the creek…and here is the guilty party. Isn’t he cute and not phased a bit.

After our hike, I asked Kevin to hold the camera. Guess which pictures he took? Linda and I decided to give him a taste of his own medicine.

Then just before we left Randy, Linda, Kevin and Terry started playing a game that Linda called “Water Bottle Smack Down”. She explains the game on her blog post here. You have to enlarge the pic to see the water bottles flying thru the air.

Sadly this was our last full day with Randy & Linda. They left early Thursday morning to do the 14 hour drive all the way to Phoenix in one day. We had a great time with them! What a blessing to have friends that we’ve known for over 30 years and have so much in common with. We hope to do it again soon.

You can visit Linda’s blog to see more about their trip too.

Drives of a Lifetime (part 2)

O.k. let’s finish reviewing this list of National Geographic Traveler magazine’s “50 Drives of a Lifetime“. Or at least we’ll take a peek at the next 4 of them that we’ve had a chance to enjoy. Of course, I could do several posts on each and every stop, but won’t take the time here. Let me know if you’d like to hear more about any of these and I’d be happy to oblige.

Warning – this is going to make you want to go on a road trip!

1. Olympic Peninsula, Washington – We’ve done a pretty good chunk of this one just a few years ago. I think this was one of our first driving vacations without the kids with us and with my new camera. I drove Terry crazy asking him to stop so I could take pictures. It was fun, but definitely quiet without Amy & Kevin. We would absolutely go back to this area again!

Here are a few highlights:
Crescent Lake is gorgeous!
Sol Duc Hot Springs is pretty cool but a little smelly from the sulpher in the springs.
Hoh Rain forest was amazing, but probably the most humid place I’ve ever been.
Here are just a few photos that I took:

Crescent Lake and the cottages at Crescent Lake – Don’t they just take you back about 50+ years?

The one at the top is a photo of Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.

2. California’s Pacific Coast Highway – Since we lived in southern Cal for 18 years we had the privilege of driving PCH and the central coast many times. It is truly one of the most gorgeous places in the world and explains why the cost of living is out of this world. Of the places listed here, my top pics would probably be:

Monterey Bay Aquarium – You have to go at least once. It is so much fun to watch the sea otters and see all the crazy creatures that live under our seas.

San Simeon – Hearst Castle is just unbelievable! Especially considering it was built during the Great Depression. I want to go around Christmas sometime when they have it decorated for the holidays.

Carmel-by-the-Sea – storybook town, perfect weather and oh so quaint. Would have loved to go much more often. This is a little sliver of the Carmel Mission. There are old Spanish missions all up and down the Cal coast. Well worth visiting too!

Cambria – great little town for a romantic getaway.

3. Rocky Mountains – Although we have done just a sliver of this drive, I thought I’d mention it because we just got back from visiting Rocky Mountain National Park (one of our favorites) last week. We saw tranquil lakes, amazing wildlife, and drove Trail Ridge Road. It’s the highest continuous paved road in the United States, reaching an elevation of 12,183 feet (That’s above the tree line).

4. Santa Barbara Loop – This is another area that we’re quite familiar with, since it was less than 2 hours from our house so an easy day trip or lovely weekend. Also a gorgeous area in So Cal! Hard to list favorites. We have lots of stories from these parts.

Solvang
– A fun place to visit with lots of shopping, bakeries, outdoor theater in the summer and much more.

Santa Barbara – A wonderful respite from the heat in the summer with an awesome arts and crafts fair every Sunday. Nice restaurants too. If you ever have a chance, attend an outdoor concert with a view of the ocean at the Santa Barbara Bowl. We discovered it just before we moved away and are sad that we didn’t know about it sooner.

Santa Ynez Valley – Made semi-famous by the movie, Sideways. The NGT magazine failed to mention one of our favorite stops for lunch. The Cold Springs Tavern, which used to be a stage coach stop. It’s well worth the short diversion off the highway on the way to Solvang. Be sure to check it out for a meal or some afternoon refreshment. And don’t let the bikers intimidate you. Most of them are dentists or podiatrists from Orange County.

Even though we’ve skimmed the edges of some of the other Southwestern drives, I don’t feel like we’ve done enough to mention them, so I’ll leave it at that. It’s been so much fun reliving some of those unforgettable trips. I would love to do them all again anytime.

In looking at the remaining drives, I think it would be nearly impossible to decide which one I would want to do next, if I could choose any of them. I will definitely keep this list as reference for when we’re planning trips in the future. Let me know which of them you’ve had a chance to see. Travel is such a gift! I would do it full time if I had the chance…o.k., maybe not full time, but at least half time. I’m so blessed that I’ve had the chance to go as much as I have, considering I had only gone on 1 vacation before I was 16 years old.

If you want to continue to hear about our Colorado trip, stay tuned and come back soon.

Happy Trails! I look forward to hearing from you.