Monday, January 3, 2011

Boulder Days

I’d been talking about visiting my friends Bob and Cynthia for years and was glad to finally make it happen. There are many things we didn’t get to do this time – skiing and climbing a 14-er most prominent among them – but it was nice to spend two full days there. Boulder definitely has a good vibe, with a mix of consciousness and affluence; it’s laid back yet thriving. If you don’t need an ocean, it might be the ideal place to live! I know that Bob and Cynthia looked at many places before deciding on this one; their embrace of Buddhism came after their move, and it turned out that Boulder is a great place for that.

Sunday was devoted to an overview of Boulder. We started with a hearty breakfast at a local place. We then went to a prairie dog community near Bob’s office – I can see why people consider them pests (they denude the landscape and create a bunch of holes) and also why people want to protect them (they’re cute and fun to watch). We passed the school of massage therapy that Cynthia attended and she pointed out her class’s gift to the school, a Peace Pole. This is what gave me the idea to donate one to Quadrangle Club for my 30th Princeton reunion – I had seen them in many places and admired them, but I had no idea that one could purchase or donate one!

We went to Celestial Seasonings, an iconic tour to take when in Boulder. After all of the Moroccan tea I wasn’t feeling the need for more tea, but I do like factory tours. The most interesting part was the mint room – the flavor is so strong that if it were in the room with the other herbs, everything would smell of mint! It was interesting to see where the various ingredients come from and of course to know that they are harvested with fair wages and sustainability – wouldn’t it be fun to travel the world and sustainably source something? Hm… It was also interesting to see the original art of all of the tea boxes; it makes you realize it IS art.

We went on to Pearl Street, the pedestrian-only main commercial street downtown. Very busy! Street performers and lots of people. We went into a few stores and then continued our tour, seeing some of the old Victorians of downtown and a teahouse sent over and built by a sister city in Tajikistan. We were just looking, but it would be fun to go to tea there sometime!

Next was Chautaqua, a conference center that had some nature paths – we took a little walk that to me seemed entirely uphill, but that’s what happens when you’re not used to the altitude! Boulder does seem full of healthy, active people! On to Flagstaff, further up, where we could see the Flatirons behind us and the prairie below, a good illustration of what I had just driven through and what driving was to come. A pretty stark contrast!

We had dinner at a Sherpa’s, a Tibetan/Nepalese place, run by the person who had led their life-changing Nepal trip a few years back. The food was delicious! More like Indian than anything else one might be familiar with, but with its own spice combinations. Back at their house, we looked at beautiful pictures of Nepal and Bhutan and talked about Buddhism.

The next day started with some great New York bagels – a definite tick in the plus column for Boulder. And then we went off to Estes Park. We stopped at the Stanley Hotel, a Grande Dame famed for its use in the movie, “The Shining.” There are “Shining” souvenirs in the gift shop. The hotel is also known to be haunted; we listened to part of a tour before realizing we were supposed to have paid for it – oops!

On to Rocky Mountain National Park (and perhaps the final passport stamp of the trip). Much of the park was closed for the winter but we did what we could – which is all we had time for anyway! We saw herds of elk in the meadows, evergreen trees, snow on the mountains. Longs Peak is the park’s 14-er, the northernmost and the closest one to Boulder. We went to Bear Lake, a pond with a Longs Peak view, and took a snowy trail around it – great with my new boots! We then drove Trail Ridge Road to the point where it was closed by snowpack – some great views of Rocky Mountain majesties.

We went back to downtown Boulder for dinner and then went to a meditation class at one of the Buddhist centers nearby - it’s something I’ve been wanting to learn about as well, so it was a good class for me. More pictures, more piffle, more talking, and another all-too-short visit came to a close

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