Wild Wild West

Well howdy there. G and I have been out traveling, doing what we called our Wild West Tour.

With Corona virus still raging through the country, closing international borders, we thought we would use our time to do some in-country travel. We’ve missed the West, our family and our kids. Since the Hood to Coast Relay was ALSO cancelled, we thought we’d head to the sunset side of the country a little earlier than the late August trip we had planned.

We started off making our first stop in Denver, CO. We will come back around to this at a later date. Denver was also our last stop before returning East, because honestly, we just can’t get enough of that Rocky Mountain area. Both G and I have always had a “thing” with the area, so it’s always fun when we can have some extended time there.

Good Morning Tetons
Day before I finish GVRAT

We wandered our way through the Tetons in Wyoming and Yellowstone in Montana after leaving Colorado. Making note that the Teton glaciers will definitely be in the running for our next long backpacking trip.

Can’t be in Coeur d’Alene and not hike Mineral

Second on our list was Big Sky, Montana. We love it! It’s always been a favorite ski area with our family and when we lived in Minneapolis, it was a trip we took often to get some nice, steep, slopes loaded with fresh pow! It’s just stunning all times of the year. I was working through my mileage to finish off the GVRAT 1000k (and now continuing back across, because I’m a glutton for punishment a lover of running) I chose to finish my 1000k on our last day in Big Sky. Waking up on the mountain, with Lone Peak, still with it’s snowy patches, out our window, just stoked our mountain running love affair. The air was crisp, clear and filled with the scent of evergreen forest. The trails were buffed and soft with pine needles and it made those last few miles an absolutely perfect finishline.

The Finish Line of 1000k
Searching for breath in the thinner air.

We soaked in the mountain vibes, sat outside drinking fabulous Montana beer and just really took in the enormity of those western ranges.

It’s a funny thing, our love of the mountains. I remember when we lived in MN and would take our ski trips to Montana, the anguish my soul felt when we would leave. I’d often be sobbing and it would take the ache days to go away, once we returned to the Mid West. It’s like something in the fabric of our lives was off. Our DNA was made to be steep and it’s why a lot of our trips have always been through hiking and climbing big mountains. With G growing up in the mountains of Northern Idaho and me in Northern California, it is just wound into our pneuma. So it was no surprise when I got that first glimpse of the Rockies and started to cry. Actually I take that back, it WAS a surprise, because since being in NC, we have spent A LOT of time in the mountains. Almost every weekend, hiking, climbing and running and have loved every single second of it. But something inside me broke and I was left longing.

Our time in Denver and Big Sky went by too quickly. We drank in the mountain air, literally. I remember running and saying to G “I can actually draw in huge, full, gulps of air” which if you’re living in the south right now, you have no idea what I mean…. or you do, and are looking forward to fall/winter running when the air isn’t thick and oppressive and slapping you in the face when you step outside. I LOVE humidity, but not when I’m running. I think in a perfect world it would be humid for morning dog walking, firefly watching and porch-sitting and crisp and arid at the perfect time for my daily runs. But for now, I’ll have to deal with the daily beat-down of humid, hot air that constantly assaults me while I run.

Distance like a Grizzly and wash like a Raccoon

When we got to Idaho and Coeur d’Alene it was full-steam-ahead with a steady stream of visits with family and friends. It’s hard living somewhere so long, and coming back as a visitor. You know your time is limited and we always try to stretch it out anyway we can, but it’s never enough. Now looking back, we wish we would’ve stayed longer, since we weren’t really on any schedule. We had fun acting like tourists in a town that is so close to our hearts. Running with our kids at English Point, hiking Tubbs, Mineral Ridge and Lost Man Trail all made it to the top of our list. We had fun watching our Goldie-girl realize she was back where she had learned and trained to run trails with us. Her old stomping grounds.

We were able to see friends who now live in AZ that were back in ID visiting their kids. God had impeccable timing. We were so grateful.

I know one thing; solid friends are solid friends and no matter the distance we are separated by now, when we walk into their homes, sit in their back yards having dinner, and picking up right where we left off on our last visit home, it’s magical! Unchanged and constant in my life, they are my sisters and are such gifts to me.

The time we had with our own kids flew by. We always want one more day. Always. I think that’s the way it is for parents. We raise such independent kids, who grow, and fly off and we are so proud, honored and satisfied with the jobs we did raising them and of their accomplishments and then the go and be adults, and you’re left with with the want of “one more day.” G and I feel fortunate to be able to see our kids often, even on the other side of the country. But no matter the time, the yearning of one more day is always present.

I think Covid has us all revisiting what’s important. G and I have really been talking about this a lot. This pandemic, as terrible as it has been, has also given us all the time to stop and redefine some things. To bring into focus what’s most important. To see things differently and with more clarity. To appreciate, recognize and discover what is paramount for us. It’s brought things that may have been in the back of our minds to the forefront and has made them more acute and pivotal. It’s has us both listening so raptly to that Still, Small, Voice. Waiting patiently, and watchfully. It has turned our prayer life upside down and has driven it to a whole new depth. It has made us both keenly and profoundly aware of some goals and dreams that may have slipped to the back of the lineup, that seem to have new breath being inflated into them. We recently had sweet friends that after years and years living out of the country, decide to come back, saying Covid and a recent birthday really put some things into perspective with a new angle and outlook. Has it had this effect on you? Has it brought around a new vibrancy and newness to chapters you’ve maybe left half read? Has it spurred some new passions that maybe you’ve shelved for a later time? Take the book down off of the shelf, dust off the cobwebs and crack its weary spine open. What do you see?

I think it’s in most of our natures to grow. I also think for some, the thought of growth or change can be paralyzing. I think Covid has either nudged or downright pushed some entirely out of their comfort zone.

For G and I we use our time in the mountains for prayer, reflection and to bust ourselves out of stagnation. We are most inspired on long hiking trips. We have some of our best conversations either hiking or sitting in the ocean on our surfboards. Maybe it’s the thin air and altitude, but more likely it’s the place that’s the most quiet where we hear the voice of God. We are both pretty content people, but are both constantly seeking to evolve. We have been gifted in knowing when and when not to make a move unless we both feel a prompting. Things tend to be disastrous when we put our own plans before God’s plans for us, but we ALWAYS see how even in the confusion and jumbled disarray we can sometimes step into, God works things out for the best. It’s such a comfort to us, having that faith.

Beautiful Coeur d’Alene
This was her back yard for the first three years of life. Happy Doggo

The mountains give us a great escape from the noise and chaos. They are simple. Their scents and sounds, Fauna and Flora provide us soul-blanketing relief. They make us feel small and for me, like a young child.

Their balm was so welcome on this trip.

Untapped Fullness

I’ve been on and off about writing in The Time of COVID. I have friends and family all over the place about this crazy time of quarantine, and rationing toilet paper and visiting supermarkets with masks at only certain times of the day.
For us, things haven’t been as hard-hitting as some have experienced. It’s heartbreaking to see the loss of jobs, business, finances, health, and to see so many stricken by fear.
Our area was later to the game as far as quarantine lock-downs and runs to the store to hoard goods. Little by little, we saw a trickle of items disappear but still at any given moment I’ve been able to walk into a store and get toilet paper. My husband and I eat a whole food plant-based diet, so for us, stocking a freezer or pantry doesn’t work incredibly well. When I first decided to grab a couple “extras” it was 2 cans of chickpeas and 2 cans of black beans. Fear has caused people to go… a little off the rails. Throughout this entire time, I have continued shopping every few days. The fresh produce has been PLENTIFUL! My hubs and I joked that with the world ending, the Vegans will live on because as inside isles (packaged & processed foods) of the grocery store were getting barer and barer, the fruits, veggies, nuts, herbs, lentils, beans and seeds were overflowing.

I have had a few days when we watched the news and I thought… am I having a false sense of security? Should I run to the store and stock my car full? I didn’t and here we are, eating a healthy diet, still.

We are not news watchers. We never have been. I like a morning update (online) and the Sunday NY Times which we have delivered. ALL of a sudden I noticed my phone starting to blow-up with all sorts of banners and alerts and warnings. My social media feeds were going crazy with news and photos of cars filled with sanitizer and toilet paper. I started to fall prey to looking more. Finally, I took a step back. The media has been on a feeding frenzy over this and THEY SELL FEAR! Fear is the best way to control people. We can’t allow fear to dictate our stories.
I did a social media cleanse which included cleansing from not only “looking” but also getting rid of articles and groups that were not nurturing my soul. I always say… just like the food you put into your body, what you put in your mind can be just as corrosive. Junk in, junk out. As an athlete, I would never demand or expect my body to perform well feeding it junk. Same with my mind. Watch news all day and see how you feel versus taking ONE day to not check your phone, not check your social feeds and instead get outside and move a little. Go for a hike, bike or walk in the fresh air. Take big full gulps of oxygen. See how things look after 24 hours. You’ll be amazed! Sitting inside during a pandemic may be the worst thing you could do.

My hubs and have a ritual; every morning we have coffee together and read and discuss a devotional. We pray together. It’s how we start the day to set our hearts and minds in a trajectory for the GOOD. It’s grown our faith. Some days challenge us. Much like that morning cuppa that gets people going, this does the same thing for us. Our minds are set above the waves and that’s how we walk through the rest our day. Not getting mired down. Even when things are trending downward globally we can still have the hope for a great tomorrow. We walk in gratitude and focus on things within our control. Not dwelling on the negative or the past. Each day is new and brings along with it, fresh opportunities. No matter who you are, this is a good practice. Set an intention.

We talked this morning about how much change this virus and quarantine is bringing to not only our states and nation, but the world! We have, for years, been a population of technology. Don’t get me wrong technology is fantastic (hello Zoom dinners and cocktail parties!) but the whole “social” part of social media has lent to people feeling more isolated, more alone, more depressed. People NEED people. We talked about how during this time of being more isolated than ever, MAYBE this is what will cause a change. A shift! I can tell you RIGHT now, I am dying to hug ALL the people.
This has challenged me (us)
G and I are very social. We love going out, going to breweries, going to restaurants, wine bars, museums, concerts, the theatre and we love people. We miss socializing with friends.
I have continued to run with friends weekly since this virus started. We’ve been very careful to keep our distance, which is easy when you’re dealing with a bunch of dirt and vert loving trail runners. Not to mention that most of the time we are in the middle of Nowhere, Wild Forest, North Carolina. It’s nothing but space and fresh air. BUT I cannot wait to high-five after a good long run. Or hug goodbye when we get back into our cars. As a social person IRL this has been hard.

We talked this morning about the fact that we will probably never walk by a stranger without talking to them. We won’t ever sit by someone in a restaurant without saying hello. We won’t ever pass up the opportunity for a hug. Our pastor is SO great (in normal circumstances) before we sit in church on Sunday mornings he will always say, “hug 3, 7, 10…14 people!” Some days it is awkward. It will never be again!

There are still ways, even now, to feel the fullness of life. Are you eating well or have you succumbed to boxed foods because you feel like it’s what you hoarded and now need to consume? DON’T! Are you still exercising? Even with 100% of the country on stay-at-home orders and social distancing, the outdoors are still open. Fresh air is still available to you. Get outside! Pick up a new hobby. Read more. Paint. Take the time for bubble baths. Rearrange your furniture. Give your house a good spring cleaning. Purge all of the unrecognizable, unnecessary “things” you’ve collected that aren’t serving you a purpose anymore and are collecting dust. Clean a closet or cabinet a day and donate. A lot of people are in need right now and it feels good to bless with your excess. Learn to cook some new incredible meals. Challenge your significant other to an Iron Chef cook-off (we love doing this) Learn yoga or practice meditation. Lean into God and learn WHO he really is. Play board games. Go outside barefoot and stand or walk in your lawn. (This alone can make you feel better) Contact with the Earth’s surface electrons by walking barefoot outside is a therapeutic technique. It has positive effects on your body; improving sleep, helps pain management, reduces stress, anxiety, reduces inflammation and boosts immunity.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a sold-out 100-percent glass half full girl! I can make a rainbow out of anything. Find the pony in the manure. I laugh a lot (and always have) and sometimes that’s all we can do. I grew up in a home lacking laughter, so as an adult, a wife, a mother that is something we nurtured and cultivated in our family. We laugh

A LOT.

We played tricks and pranks and had food fights, were silly, and joked about all sorts of things. We are, in general, a pretty un-serious crew. PS: laughing is great for your immune system.

I fling wide open my door and invite laughter right in to sit on my couch and have coffee, daily!

Take some time to laugh about things. Get goofy.

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Have you chosen to change some things up, instead of being mired down in the fear of what “could happen?”
Growing up all I heard from my parents was “what if?” As an adult, that was something I fought against. It didn’t make sense to me to think in those terms. For me, God flipped a switch from “what if?” in the negative sense to “what if!!!” in the excited and expectant sense. I never have the dismal, cloudy thoughts of “what if something goes bad.” And if I start down that road I can easily remember “This is the day the Lord has made… I love the TPT translation; “This is the very day of the Lord that brings gladness and joy, filling our hearts with glee.”

Are you still finding gratitude and joy every day?

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Have you allowed yourself some down-time and self-care and some time to figure out a new plan? A new normal. Sitting and thinking about what could happen only steals the joy of today. Most of the time the “what if” and “this could happen” NEVER does. BUT what if it does? “What if” this is a brand new start to something extraordinary? Find new passions. Soak yourself in new wishes and goals and cravings and hope. Rediscover your spouse and who you fell in love with years ago. Watch your kids play outside and cultivate in yourself some of that youthful curiosity. Make a list of some dreams that you and your husband shelved a few years back, bring them to the forefront, and start creating the plan to make them happen post C19. Reorder your priorities. Allow things that are not serving you to break off and fall away. Make changes. Change is not comfortable and that’s why most people shy away from it, but you can’t grow if you don’t allow it to happen. Prune off the old, dead, damaged buds for new growth to spring forward.

I have done all of the above during this pandemic. Coming back from Central America as COVID was starting to make its way around the globe halted a lot of plans that my husband and I had. It halted our B-days, it halted a trip to NYC to celebrate our B-days, it paused some big races that we were training for and it paused a huge backpacking trip in the South Asia mountains of Nepal.

I’ve been reading a lot in Psalms and noticed that so many say “Interlude” between paragraphs. I have another Bible version that instead of “Interlude” it says, “Pause in His Presence”
I loved this and realized this is where we are right now.
Paused. It’s had allowed us a breath. A gigantic intake of fullness. A gulp of oxygen.
It’s made room for some pretty spectacular new friendships to grow. It’s given us more time for our Life Group (eGroup) through our church; even if currently we have to meet every week via Zoom. Ha! It’s given us a chance to have some fun challenges with other friends that we run with, without the daily training schedule we usually keep to. It has allowed me to bake more. (Still wondering if this is good or bad) Ha! It’s given us the opportunity to explore more of our gorgeous state and the surrounding mountains, trails, and beaches.

How do you see this pause? Are you freaked and panicked and fearful? Are you thinking about what you’re missing right now or looking in the past? Or have you allowed this slow intermission to grow your potential? To allow joy to saturate all the dry places? To allow some healing on your mind, body, and soul? To repair what was lacking and broken? To enable you to find new passions, interests, potential, and empowerment? To let go of things not serving you? To de-clutter not only your house but your heart and soul? To bring your tank to fullness? Are you being refreshed?

Your inward disposition will always determine your outward outlook. You cannot let what’s happening around you affect what’s living in you.

Do you find yourself saying you just want to get back to normal? Back to the old way?

I keep thinking to a few weeks ago at church and the notes I jotted down; what if normal isn’t something to get back to? What if we want to get back to what we were trying to get rid of in the first place? When you are fearful you reach out to what is familiar even if the familiar was killing you. Negativity can feel normal. Keep believing and trusting God by faith or you’re going to find yourself missing today’s opportunities because you were too attached to yesterday’s blessing.

I don’t have all the answers and I know people suffer on various levels but I know what works for me and my house. I know faith and gratitude and fitness and food all work in conjunction for me. I know dancing and prayer and music and laughter is something I have to drink a full glass of every day. I know running gives me sanity and the smell of the forest and dirt and trees nourish my entire soul. It’s how I’m knit together.

“If God can’t get your attention he will change your direction.”
Wow!! Is he changing your direction right now?
Your faith grows in unfamiliar places.

It’s a different time for sure but remember; Faith looks forward!

Keep your eyes above the waves and keep bumping into blessings, my friends.

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*Media notes curtesy of PSF. Wave lyrical quote curtesy of Oceans by Hillsong United

Patagonia -Coming to an End

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Leaving Paine Grande we headed to Campamento Italiano. It was a relatively short hike, but we knew there were two miradors after we arrived and dropped our packs that we wanted to see.

Francés and Británico miradors. 

We needed to get to camp after crossing a raging river on a one-person swinging bride. As I am standing, waiting for my turn to pass over this unreliable-looking bridge, I am thinking, “one person of normal size with a 20lb pack, or a small child, or a large grown man with a 30lb pack or …?” What truly does a one-person bridge mean? 

It reminds me of how God works in our lives. Sometimes there is no answer right away, and life feels like a risk. Often. But in the end always works out according to plan. 

I could allow negative thoughts, doubt, anxiety, fear, despair, worry, denial, disbelief, or uncertainty fill my head. Fill my heart. I could stand on that bridge and see the massive, furious, arctic river below me and the old, weathered, wooden, swinging bridge ahead of me and stop dead in my tracks allowing panic to grip me, but God isn’t a God of panic. He’s not a God of fear or anxiety. He FREES us from all of that! 

“This is my command-be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

We crossed and checked in to Italiano, set up camp, filled our water bottles, and set out for the miradors. 

The Valle Francés was inconceivable! The entire trip, I said over and over how beautiful each place was but this…. We stopped and took tons of pictures and then pressed on towards Británico. Patagonia is full of beauty but also full of unpredictable weather, and as we pushed towards our next mirador, the clouds started rolling in. We continued as the wind ripped at us, and then the rain started. Light at first, and then really picking up. We pulled out our rain gear from our slack packs and decided that, as we looked towards the mountains, it was only getting worse, and the view we were craving was going to have too much cloud cover, so we turned back for camp. 

We got back to camp, peeled out of our rain gear, made some dinner, and dropped into the tent. 

We continued on to Campo Central the next day, and we knew as we approached that we were nearing the end of this hike but that the most unprecedented part of our journey was ahead. Los Torres. 

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We waited in line to check-in, found a place out of the wind to pitch our tent, and headed for the showers. Ya know, being clean and showering are things we really take for granted. It’s such a luxury on a backpacking trip! The showers were HOT, and I stood in there way too long! 

Afterward, we decided to hike over to the Refugio. The restaurant was warm, and we ordered GIANT beers that tasted like a little bit of heaven. They made us lazy and sleepy, which was exactly what we needed for a quick bedtime. We had an early alarm for our frigid, dark hike to the Towers before the sun rose in the morning. 

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Our daybreak was cold — possibly the coldest of the entire trek. Most of our days were warm, hot even, with the harsh sun and no ozone. When we did have rain, we welcomed it! We left our tent and belongings at camp, hiking only with our slack packs filled with water, tea, some food items, and warm clothes. We started early, pre-dawn with our headlamps on. 

I was walking in constant prayer on our ascent. Meditative. I knew this was our last day, and I was overwhelmed in my heart with gratitude. The reasons many. The time with my husband, the adventurous spirit God created in the two of us, our friendship, and the fact that we can spend days and weeks together in a pocket-sized tent and still laugh, still love, not argue, and grow even closer together as a couple. Thankful that my husband respects and encourages the wild-girl in me. We get one another to our depths. Grateful for the opportunity to start this journey, and the healing that took place on my body to get us to the trail start. I am utterly floored by this Earth and the paradise that God has created for us. Everything so intricate and complex. I was, and am always so taken by the enormous mountains and how small and humbled they leave me feeling, stripped of everything, deprived of ego and pride. Hiking allows us the opportunity to feel God at a whole new level, a deepening, to see His provision in our lives, to hear him in a way that is clear and simple and uncomplicated. It’s easy when you break it down. He provides all we need and loves us so wholly and excessively. I was most grateful for the way the Most-High spoke to my husband. Revealing to him some areas that we were struggling with direction and trying to find closure. 

We both know when we are in a place of discontent, confusion, uneasiness, or dissatisfaction, it comes from us not being aligned on the path that our Creator has us on. Things in our hearts that God never assigned to us. It’s so easy to veer. Easy to get caught up with our own agendas, eagerness, yearnings, and desires. It’s easy to “think” we are walking in God’s will and to B E N D our intention J U S T enough to feign closeness to what God wants for our lives, but when it comes right down to it… it is a skewed view that ends us up on an uneven, angled messed up path. Not matched or harmonized at all with what God’s plan is. We falter and end up thinking, “how did we get into this situation?” “Why aren’t things better?” “How is this still happening in my life?” 

The mountains make it simple to listen. 

As we continued our ascent, getting to a bouldering area, we knew we were getting closer. The trail was getting more difficult. We were excited about our first view of the Towers. The pinnacle of this entire trek! 

 When we reached the top, we paused — suspended in a moment awe-inspiring beauty!  

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Cordillera del Paine is such a spectacular set of mountains! It’s the area known as the Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine), the three massive summits are gigantic granite monoliths that are UNESCO-declared biosphere reserves. The highest peak of the range is Cerro Paine Grande, at 2,884 meters (9,461 feet).

Paine means “blue” in the native Tehuelche language and is pronounced PIE-nay

It was COLD, and the wind bit at us. We met up with others that had been in our original group the day we started in Laguna Amarga, each of us making this pilgrimage in our own time. Little by little, we trickled in. We took photos, sipped hot tea, broke bread together, all nestled next to an outcropping of rocks away from the wind and elements. 

Soon, we knew we needed to return to camp and break down to make our busses back to Puerto Natales. 

It was hard to leave. Hard to turn our backs on this extraordinary work of beauty. 

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Returning to camp was somber. It’s hard when you know a journey is coming to an end. Sometimes I feel like I could wander the mountains forever. Every time I hike I love the stripping away it does on me. Peeling off the lamina. I come back changed in some way. Always. Something is left behind, dropped off, and left in the dirt, unneeded, with new lessons learned, and new promises and assurances put in its place. It gives me time to do some soul searching and reevaluating. Where does God want us/me? Where is He placing us for most use? What’s important? What do we genuinely need? What is superficial and fake and inauthentic in me or in those I have in my life? Where do I draw the line? What boundaries need set or reestablished? What do I need to let loose of? Am I harboring unforgiveness for anyone? Have I put unnecessary pressure on myself or those around me in any way? 

 It’s the opportunity for God to pluck me up, and right my path with such clarity, it’s undeniable. 

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We packed up in near silence, only joking about how stinky we were. We headed to the Refugio and met up with our fellow hikers. It was fun to have one final toast to our accomplishments, to hear the stories from everyone about their journey on this incredible trek — their take-away from the trail. One beer down and we loaded our bus back to Puerto Natales, spending a couple of days here before hopping a plane for Santiago, where we almost missed our flight due to falling asleep in the airport. How were we to know they changed the gate?  I joke! We ran for our new gate in a drowsy stupor and reached the jetway only to see closed doors. We stood staring, weary, fatigue ravaging us and just started pounding on the glass doors. As the jetway was moving and the agent approached the doors, she saw us and having mercy on our completely worn-out souls, stopped the bridge, and asked them to let us on the plane. Had we been in the States… no way this would’ve happened. I could’ve kissed this sweet Chilean woman straight on the mouth. 

 

We laughed & laughed after finding our seats because this is always the way for G and I. Always coming in, hurriedly, screaming, with our pants on fire. We aren’t and have never been “planners,” and this sort of thing is just expected in any given circumstance with us. In this situation, however, we were just plain spent and fell into a delicious, deep sleep on benches in the aeropuerto. 

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We spent a few days in Santiago in the spa-comfort of a fabulous hotel. Allowing ourselves pampering and delicious PLANT-BASED foods (boy do we always miss greens and fruit) and exploring the city.

Off and away from the mountains….

Grateful, continually. Humbled, unceasingly. Changed, as always.