So it turns out Golden, Co is the home of the coors factory, 9 other microbreweries, and one of my best friends, Eilish. I flew up to visit her last week. I’m going to try and communicate here some of the wonder that was that trip, but mostly I want to get down what I can remember in hopes that it will unveil some important lessons.
I’m going to dump stories, photos, and details below.
The trip was filled to the brim with nature, conversation, delicious food, and mostly non-classical music. We spent time exploring Golden, RMNP, and Denver, but honestly spent a lot of time in the car.
In the car we listened to Morning Edition, Walden Pond, Wild Child, Fever Ray, Vulfpeck, Mountain Man, Teitur, Fleetwood Mac and Nina Simone.
Arriving on the opening day of camping, we were two of the first overnight campers at RMNP this spring. The weather, especially the first day, was cold and rainy. We decided after completely setting up camp in the Morraine Park campsite and starting off on a hike to request a different camp site (one on higher ground and without waterlog) by passing through the ranger station on foot. To our delight they granted us a two night stay at the highest elevated plot in our campsite. The views were incredible, and though we were surrounded, the campground was so well made that no one else was in sight.
We hiked Fern Falls (incredible falls, hiking amongst incredible trees next to a roaring, snow melt fed creek) the first day. The next morning we got away from the the trees and walked across a meadow at lower elevation. After a steep climb we reached an expansive, still lake, and then found ourselves looking across the gorge at the trail we walked yesterday. Finally, after meeting up with the Fern Falls trail we did the day before we completed a 6.5 mile loop. We drove the parts of Trail Ridge Road (as much as we could). I was truly exhausted but so so satisfied. The next morning we went to Bear Lake (completely snowed in), but then up to a secret lake very high up in the mountains.
My favorite was probably the last hike. It was switchback after switchback with incredible views. When we reached the top it was completely flat and snow covered. Because of the snow, and our early morning start, we had the top of the mountain to ourselves. Eilish and I struck up a conversation about children’s books to ward off bears until we finally reached the lake. We sat there, ate some almonds, and enjoyed the quiet cold beauty of the place. On the way back down we ran into a couple of curious hikers. We assured a mother and daughter that they were indeed close (at about 10 steps from the summit). One couple was obsessing over a hummingbird that we took time to appreciate. And at the very bottom we fielded questions from an older woman about the hike. Eilish was polite enough to tell her it was a long but rewarding hike, while I informed the older woman that hiking in socks and flip flops would not make it a comfortable one.
Sea salted popcorn was the unsung hero of our trip.
Each morning we had oatmeal with trail mix and a hot cup of tea. Each night we had pesto pasta. I really don’t think pesto pasta with a handful of pecans and a glass of wine can be beat.
We rose at 5:45 and fell asleep (at least I did) around 8:15, following the sun. I would love to do this back in the real world.
Eilish and I only saw the tiniest sliver of RMNP. The part we saw (trails, campsites, ranger station, visitor center) has been impacted or established by humans, but since 2009 over 250,000 acres of the park has been declared wilderness. Wilderness, according to the Wilderness Act, “…in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” It was a privilege to even be close to such a place.
I put my phone on airplane mode our first day in the park and didn’t turn it off until we were halfway back to Golden, and rather reluctantly at that. It just goes to show that if I could live off the grid, I would. It’s worth putting effort into calibrating as minimal a connection with technology as possible.
This trip reinforced that my core values of health, growth, and understanding can be lived out in nature and in deep relationships with close friends.
Living in a Westfalia camper would be cool, but I love tent camping and wood fires. A new approach to camping I’m interested in trying after this trip is hammock sleeping. We went to the REI flagship and I got a new hammock. I actually slept in it at the airport until I could catch the bus (free with my ID) back to campus.
There is something to be said about the energetic push and pull of the work with our instruments. Eilish and I both left our instruments at home, and left some of the guilt surrounding that at home too. Eilish shared with we that Ivo (viola professor at Rice) requires his students to take a 3 week break every year. After coming back I feel my practice was a little scary (how much I’d lost) but that energized me to do more work, to come back to my place as a violinist. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this in a future post. Natural energetic swings are things I want to pay attention to and learn about.
And a note via Charles Ives about experiencing the things we couldn’t if we were still playing 6+ hours a day: “There can be nothing exclusive about substantial art. It comes directly out of the heart of the experience of life and thinking about life and living life.”
Another quote by Ives Eilish showed me during our last dinner, “If a poet knows more about a horse than he does about heaven, he might better stick to the horse, and some day the horse may carry him into heaven.”
The Sibley books on birds are beautiful (lesson learned).
Last, on friendships. I just finished a book on social skills and relationships by Tynan, one of my favorite contemporary doers and thinkers. Friendships, he said, are grounded in experiences not time. Eilish and I have incredible amounts of overlapping experience (her Mom going to St. John’s, childhood experiences of nature, reading as a way of life, ambition to do things), and both have had the lucky opportunity to get to know each other closely at CSM and then intimately on this trip. Time hasn’t developed our friendship, but overlapping experiences that we can tap have. We do a little bit of maintenance texting each other and occasionally talking, but after going on this trip I think it is safe to say that seeing each other once a year (probably out in nature) will keep us close.
And Eilish, like many of my friends, is who I want to be close to. I want to have incredible friends who, most importantly, are kind, smart, and ambitious. Those are the people I want to be around. So it is really important to me that I am an amazing friend. I want to stay in touch, organize cool trips, tell great stories, stay honest, punctual, and keep my word. I want to make connections where I can and increasingly cross over the line to vulnerable intimacy, so my friends know they can trust me to support them if they do the same. I want to be friends with an independent, forward thinking, incredibly human, incredibly beautiful people. I can’t wait to see where this particular friendship leads.
I think nature and friendships have developed me into the person I want to be just as much as violin and teaching violin has. I know that today’s post sounds was rambling and casual, but I think it is important to take note of the events and the people that transform us.
And, mostly to assuage my fear of being “off topic” on a site I work so hard to stay focused on violin, I will conclude with a quote by Dr. Schinichi Suzuki.
“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Violin is certainly one place to find those things, but this trip was another.