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I just spent an hour on the phone, talking to our kids.  They are currently on vacation with their grandfather and are having the time of their lives.  It’s become a nightly ritual…they run around having spectacular adventures all day, and then call home around dinner time to recap the day’s events…in Ben’s case, in excruciating detail. 

On Monday, they drove up to the Four Corners area and are spending the week in southwestern Colorado.  Their first night was spent in Cortez, after stopping at the Four Corners monument.  If you’re not familiar with this, it’s a round circle of metal at the spot where four states, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, meet.  There’s a picture of me with my college boyfriend, with hands and feet in all four states.  The next morning, they headed out to Mesa Verde and the Anasazi Ruins.  When I was living in Durango, several of us took off on a day trip to Mesa Verde.  It was the first time I’d ever seen a wild deer, and the ruins are fascinating.  Grandpa and the kids spent hours there, taking tours and exploring on their own.

The bulk of their stay is in Durango, and their condo is up on the mesa that overlooks the town.  They’re right across from my alma mater, Fort Lewis College.

As they’ve talked about the events of each day, and the things that they have seen and done, I’ve been filled with nostalgia.  Durango is a pretty little town in the San Juan Mountains.  It took some getting used to for a desert rat like me…I never did settle in to winters there; but, the summers are glorious.

I’m tickled to discover that Isabel has been mesmerized by the aspen trees everywhere.  Grandpa tried to explain that they are “Quaking Aspen,” but Isabel disagreed.  “No, Grandpa…they shimmer!”

I miss the warm, clear air, the majestic peaks that surround the town and the train whistle.  Each day during the summer, the Durango/Silverton Narrow Gauge Train chugs through town, bellowing and belching smoke as it winds up through the mountains to Silverton and back.  When I lived there, I would always wave at the tourists on the train, knowing how tickled they’d be that a “Townie” would wave back at them.

One day a year, at the end of the season, the railroad would sponsor a day for locals.  Students could ride the train for five dollars.  A group of us would pack a lunch, take over one of the open cars and amuse ourselves and anyone hearty enough to brave the cold with us.  Along the way, we’d drink in the sights of the early fall…stands of aspen flowing down through the evergreens like molten gold.

There’s a place in the valley, just outside of town, where you can take glider rides.  Ben was fascinated by the idea of this, and even more so when I told him that one of my friends had his pilot’s license and used to fly the tow plane for the gliders.

Today, Grandpa and the kids went river rafting on the Animas River.  Even in late June, the water is icy cold from the snow melt.  The sun, however, is a lot hotter in the thin mountain air.  They’re all sporting warm pink faces tonight.

After the raft trip this morning, they dried off, ate some lunch and then drove up to Purgatory Ski Resort.  In the summertime, the resort sells tickets for the Alpine Slide.  You ride the chair lift up to the top of the mountain, and then ride a sled down a cement track as fast as you are brave enough to go.  My senior year roommate, Kirsti, and I spent a whole afternoon riding the lift up and racing back down the mountain, screaming with laughter.

They haven’t yet eaten at the burger joint where I waited tables my senior year.  The Olde Tymer’s Café is still on Main Street, probably still selling the tee shirts that say, “We Cheat Tourists and Drunks” on the back.

Isabel, at seventeen, is acutely aware of all of the attractive young people walking, skateboarding and biking everywhere.  She’s suddenly discovering the appeal of going to school in a small college town.

Tomorrow, the troops are packing up and heading to Ouray.  They’ll drive up to Telluride and do some exploring, take a jeep tour at 13,000 feet and go on a mine tour.  Tomorrow night, Grandpa is going to take them outside, away from town a little way, to look at the stars.  Neither of my kids has been far enough away from a city to really see the stars.  Of all of the things that I wish that I were along for, this is probably the one thing I’m sorry that I will miss.  I remember the first time that I stood on a quiet mountain trail and looked up.  To see the Milky Way for the first time is to feel so very small and so very much a part of the universe all at once.  I could have looked and looked and looked.  It literally took my breath away.

Grandpa has already decided that they will come home by a different route than the one that they took up.  I’m sure that they will head back down to the desert through the southeastern corner of Utah, site of my one and only true camping experience.

They will probably stop in Honeyville on their way out of Durango tomorrow, where they’ll be able to see bees making honey in glass-fronted hives.

Although I miss the kids and wish that I could be sharing this trip with them, I am thrilled beyond measure that they are on the trip of a lifetime with their grandfather.   He is a true explorer and loves adventure as much as the kids do.  They couldn’t be in better hands.

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