Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

Christmas in the Rockies

Longs Peak, RMNP, 14, 259 foot elevation, second tallest peak in Colorado.

A view of RMNP peaks off Trail Ridge road.

Lower elevation at the foot of RMNP, a clearing where herds of elk are usually seen grazing. Towards this time of night at sunset hours they will hunker down for the night. The sun was just beginning to go down, and the skies lit up with soft hues of pink and orange. These clouds seemed to descend down upon this peak, and I thought it was an awesome sight to photograph.

Elkhorn Ave. and The ‘Old Church Shops’ in Estes Park lit up for Christmas.

A view of the southeast side of  Estes Park. Notice the large star lit up on the side of the mountain.

 

Sometimes the Christmas season gets hectic with the business of shopping, decorating, program events, parties, and family gatherings. There are times when things came too soon and hurried right after the Thanksgiving Day holiday and often just having a moment to sit and relax with a cup of hot chocolate and a favorite Christmas movie seems like a luxury I don’t have or take time for and regret it later.

But, through the years we have tried to keep a few favorite Christmas traditions and even started new ones as we tried to prioritize what meant the most to us. Things like going up to the mountains to cut and collect our own greenery and pine cone branches to make our own wreath was a favorite event. Browsing through Christmas shops and antique stores to find a new Christmas ornament or antique toy to place under our Christmas tree was another.

But, our favorite thing is to just drive up to the mountains during the holidays and spend the day exploring the territory. This year we went up to Estes Park that sits at the foot of Rocky Mountain National Park, then drove up part way to Trail Ridge road. After the first snow storms of the season they close the first gate to the higher elevation areas when snow cannot be cleared and it becomes too dangerous to pass or drive through safely.

I took these shots above this last Friday (12-15) when we went up with our dog, Maggie, had a bison burger and fries at a favorite place and walked around town in Estes Park on our way down before returning home. Making a day of it makes it a special memorable outing. Colorado has not seen too much snow this season thus far, so it is pretty dry along the front range except for brief snowfalls in the higher elevation. Snow skiing is a very big sport industry here in Colorado so the ski slopes are waiting anxiously for some really good snows that keep them busy into spring. But, for those of us who are happy to find just enough to tramp through the white covered ground in brisk temperatures, and see Christmas lights glimmer off its white sheen it is enough to make our day.

I hope your Christmas will be merry and bright, memorable and special. Merry Christmas to all.

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Joyce E. Johnson (2017)

 

Our Journey

 

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We were nineteen years old fifty years ago today (July 16) when we were married in Kansas City, Mo. We stood at the church altar exchanging our vows, pledging our love, and devotion to one another, feeling as if ready in some ways, yet somewhat apprehensive about what life might bring. Two weeks later, Wayne went to his appointment at his draft board to hear their decision.

It was 1966 and the draft was in effect for the Vietnam war in southeast Asia, which meant that all males, eighteen to twenty-five could be called up to serve. They all had to carry their draft cards with the status, age and identification current and listed, registered and ready. Those who refused to serve were arrested, or dodged service and ran off to Canada. Hundreds more protested in open street demonstrations and things became violent. If they were in college, or enrolled in one by the time they were drafted they were required to keep a GPA of 3.00 or better to be in an exempt status.

Our prayers, faith and an acceptance letter from the college where Wayne was enrolled that fall exempted him from serving, so it was California, “Ready or Not, Here We Come,” and we headed off to school and new jobs in Los Angeles.

Four years later in 1970 we headed back to Kansas City after our daughter’s birth and his graduation. Our second daughter was born before we moved out to Colorado, which was like coming back home for me. Though we met and married in Kansas City while living there neither of us were originally from Missouri. He was from Kentucky, and I, from Colorado.

Life during those fifty years threw us some curves; tough times that challenged our faith, and what seemed at times like ‘Mission Impossible’ assignments. But, we got through them, and grew stronger through the experience because we have a friend in Jesus, who’s always there, always forgives, and wipes away every heartache and tear. We learned to rise above difficult situations, not give up and overcome those obstacles, or mountains in our path in order to climb to this point in life, today. Whether we will make it beyond our fiftieth, God only knows, but we will be together, until death do us part, rich or poor. Our moments here on earth are temporary, fragile and unpredictable, but those with Him are eternal.

At the time of this posting Wayne and I will be in Alaska seeing some beautiful country and embarking on an Alaskan cruise enjoying this moment in our lives, celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. And when I return I will have photos and stories to share of our journey.

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Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

Experiencing the famed Stanley Hotel

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“Look! There’s an ax. It’s just what we need,” my husband said. The long wood handled ax with its red steel blade was one of the featured sale items in the window of the hardware store on Elkhorn Ave., main street in Estes Park.

“Yes. It looks like a heavy-duty one, and a good buy.” I replied.

We bought the ax. We knew we would put it to good use on our newly purchased mountain property. There were a lot of trees to thin out, and we needed firewood.

When we got to The Stanley Hotel we grabbed up our bags and went to go check in. Then I remembered.

“Wait! We need to cover up the ax in the back of the car. It’s too exposed and someone will think…we don’t want someone calling the police on us.” I said.

I went back to the car, opened up the hatch back of our red Ford Escort Wagon and covered the ax with an old blanket.

This was the start to our weekend at The Stanley twenty-five years ago when we had a reservation to celebrate the weekend of our 25th wedding anniversary. We had a second floor balcony room that opened up to the veranda outside overlooking the magnificent Rockies encircling Estes Park. Beautiful and serene.

When we bought the ax we didn’t know that The Stanley Hotel was used for the inspiration of Stephen King’s horror story in his book, and movie, The Shining. Until we discovered all the copies of his book in the gift shop there, and vaguely remembered the story. The Stanley is also considered to be one of the most haunted hotels known. We didn’t know that either, or believed it. Until we heard sounds during the night like one banging pots and pans on old, creaky pipes. There was little sleep that night. Ghost story events are a regular form of entertainment at The Stanley.

The hotel sits atop a steep grade, in the mountains facing east, overlooking the town of Estes Park, Colorado. It is designated a national historic site, a mammoth four-story structure with the inside furnished in antique, heavy, ornate furniture in old world period pieces. It is located just six miles from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, and remains still one of the most popular and expensive hotels in Colorado.

Our daughters wanted to grant us another ‘memorable’ night at The Stanley, this time for our 50th wedding anniversary we are celebrating this month. So, once again we were guests, in a king size suite, a gift from our girls, after having celebrated with friends and family at a surprise anniversary party. I guess our girls wanted to keep the tradition going, though it is not our wish to repeat it a third time in another twenty-five years, if we’re still around. 🙂

As popular and expensive as The Stanley hotel is we could not understand why there were no screens on the high windows up on the fourth floor in our room this time. They had been cut out. Literally.  The room was beautifully furnished, but, the balcony off of that floor is completely inaccessible by doors so tightly secured one cannot use them to step out for some invigorating mountain air, or for any other needed escape. It was hot, and there was no air conditioning in the room, so we opened up the windows and just pulled the shears together, and hoped for a good night’s rest after a long drive up through RMNP.

Whether the hotel’s popularity dates back to its founding and opening in 1909, named for F.O. Stanley who came into town on his ‘Steamer,’ or is due to its long rich history of story lore and fame, it has hosted many a traveler and tourists, and then maybe those, who walk the dark hallways, and balconies, unseen. 🙂

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For information and history related to The Stanley Hotel you can find it here: http://www.stanleyhotel.com/accommodations

Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

Other things I used to do

One of my old 'practice' sketches

One of my old ‘practice’ sketches

 

When I was growing up in Colorado Springs one of the things I loved doing was sketching and drawing. I would take some favorite photographs or pictures of things or people and practice duplicating the image as best I could with a pencil. When in elementary school my teacher would pick me out to do a wall mural or display for the border above the chalkboard. She’d have me climb up onto tables so I could reach the areas since I was so short. One time I was so engrossed in drawing Easter egg baskets, eggs and bunnies that I literally did not notice how close I came to the edge of the table and fell off, much to my embarrassment. I was so embarrassed and afraid to get up and try again for fear of all the kids laughing at my lack of grace and coordination, and abundant clumsiness. But, I did get back up and finish my border art project.

One year while in the fifth grade my teacher had another student act as my ‘model’ so I could sketch him posed like, The Thinker sculpture. There were many highlights during those years when I explored my artistic expression, via pencil, and pen as I began to also ‘write.’  The following year my sixth grade teacher liked my fiction story and told me I should be a ‘writer’ when I grew up. I never got to realize my full potential beyond the point of merely sketching and drawing from photographs, sometimes even trying my hand at oils and watercolors. A dream to go to art school after high school was put aside and I got married. But, I kept what I did in art and through the years would bring out my sketch pad and try some again. The above picture is one I did from an old photo, with all its smudges and eraser marks. My love and interest in watching ballet prompted this sketch a very long, long time ago. 🙂

I recently attended a performance of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet with my daughter and granddaughter which was a tradition at Christmas time with my daughter and I when she was small. This year’s Nutcracker event was the first for my five-year old granddaughter. She loved it, and it will no doubt become an annual event for them now, too. Keeping alive some of those old traditions allows us special quality times to enjoy together.

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Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

 

 

Colorado’s gold

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These are some of our captured images while on a day trip Saturday (Sept. 26th). We had beautiful blue skies of over 100 miles in a day taking in the color, sights and sounds of the rising majestic Colorado Rockies northwest of Fort Collins, Co., in the Roosevelt National Forest, along the Cache la Poudre River, west across Cameron Pass Summit (10,000 + ft. elevation) and down into a valley where marshland and wetlands is the habitat of moose, elk, bear and other wildlife. All of this lies in a serene setting surrounded in a bowl of mountain ridges that rise into the skies like the jagged backbone of a dragon with the quaint little town of Walden nestled below and mountain folks reside. Every year the many hunters, fishermen, photographers, tourists, climbers and hikers come through this way to view the changing colors from summer to autumn. We make it an annual trip to view the aspens’ green leaves of summer turn golden-yellow with shades of orange and rust to merge together in a kaleidoscope of color. This is only one of the many popular routes or scenic highway drives seen crowded with cars going up into the high country for the views, but the state is awash with images, videos and stories of everyone’s adventure to capture Colorado ‘gold’. I am just an amateur at best with my little digital Nikon Coolpix or Sony video cam, so this is just a sampling of shots taken this year. But, the memories made and the scenes captured make it an unforgettable day trip.

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Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

My fish story; the one I reeled in

 

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That’s me, with my fish in front of our YNP cabin by Lake Yellowstone, about age 8 or round that. 🙂

 

16 & 1/2 inches it was. We measured it. I was about eight and the youngest of my sisters and cousins. We vacationed in Yellowstone National Park, had a cabin right on Lake Yellowstone and had a fishing contest. I stood on the river bank, holding a rod and reel and looking out onto the water, waiting for a bite.

It seemed like forever when I felt a strong jerk, saw a large fish do a flip-flop in the water and called my dad over. He confirmed I had a big one. As it yanked on the line I stood with my feet firmly planted on the shoreline and pulled hard. My dad thought he might get away if I tried managing it by myself, so he gave me a hand and together we reeled it in. My cousins and sisters all caught fish that day too, but when all were measured mine came out the largest.

I had my own fish, my own ‘fish story’ to tell through the years, and the best part? We cooked it, ate it and enjoyed it that night with all the other fish, and it was so good.  🙂 From that day on lake trout and rainbow trout became one of my favorite kinds of fish to eat. The trout fishing was good at Yellowstone Nat’l Park.

And, it is plentiful here in Colorado, too with all our lakes, rivers and streams. Now, when my husband, grandsons or son-in-law goes fishing, and I don’t go, I just say, “Catch me a fish, too.” and my little grandson says, “Yes, grandma, I know… I will.” He loves to fish, knows all his lures, what to use, what fish like, and what doesn’t work. He’s caught some great fish himself and would rather fish than do anything else. But, his little sister won’t be outdone, so she likes to fish now, too, just like I did at that age. Below are pictures of my grandchildren, Trevor and Alyssa with their fish they caught this last June. It’s a sport we love here in Colorado, and it’s been a great summer to fish.

And in the U. S., today is ‘Grandparents Day’, so from one grandmother to other grandparents out there, I wish you a Happy Grandparents Day.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

 

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The games we played

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The floor was our playing table. It was not cards or dice we held in our hands, but Jacks. Not the Jack of cards, but those tiny metal objects with spokes poking out from the center. The other thing needed for the game was a small rubber ball with a good bounce.

With our playing hand full of jacks we threw them out onto the floor.  One by one we picked up a jack after tossing the ball six to eight inches from the floor, and catching the ball before it bounced twice retrieving both in the same hand.

When a player collected all the jacks with the ball bouncing just once the turn moved to the next player. If the ball bounced twice before retrieving the jack the player was out of the game. And like cards or dice we played to win, as it soon turned into a competitive match with our opponent.

There were as many different variations to the games of ‘Jacks’ as there are to a deck of cards, or pair of dice.  When we completed each round we continued on to a harder game, like scooping up all the jacks in one swipe before the ball bounced even once.

If we dropped or moved a jack in the process of picking one up we were out of that round and would have to repeat that game at our next turn. The turn then went to the next player. The better we got at these games, the more fun we had, and new ones were invented.

In the game, ‘Around the world in eighty days,’ the player tossed the ball, picked up a jack and with a swift hand encircled the ball before the ball bounced twice. If at any time the ball was dropped, or hit a jack the player was out until his/her next turn.

In the game, ‘Pigs in the basket’, the player had to pick up a jack in one fast swoop before the ball bounced once. The process was completed with each jack in the same manner. Then, the player advanced to the next round as the player attempted to collect all the jacks in one swoop before the ball bounced.

In one game the player grabbed a jack, and tapped it on the floor before the ball bounced.

The trick to playing these games well was not to scatter the jacks so far away that they became unreachable to a quick hand, yet not have them so bunched up as to touch and make it more complicated for the player to retrieve the jacks without disturbing or touching another in the process.

Today, these games may not be known to most kids who play digital or arcade games on their tablets and smart phones, as my grandchildren do, but when I was a child Jacks was one of my favorite games. A set of jacks and ball were one of the most affordable, inexpensive games.

One day when shopping at a hobby store I found and bought the above large decorative ‘Jacks’ to display and use like bookends. On another occasion when going through some kept mementoes from my childhood I discovered I still had a few from my old set even though I keep a newer set and ball for my grandkids to use. But, they just can’t ‘get into’ the game like I once did.   🙂

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Joyce E. Johnson (2015)


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