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Spring seems to have finally sprung here, and I couldn’t be more pleased! Photos to follow!
Quote of the day: “I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.” – e.e. cummings
Dinner with Melanie
The glowing green of spring
Outside of Seattle, Washington.
Quote of the day: “The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.” – Albert Einstein
Spending the day in my Scottie pajamas
The stripe next to the moon last night
That there are still leaves on the trees
NFL players with their little pink accents in support of Breast Cancer Month
Last weekend was the 24th annual Rhubarb Festival in Pine Grove, Colorado. You may have figured out by now that I love weird little festivals. This one wasn’t weird. It was just small-town festive.
Pine Grove is part of a tiny trio of towns around Highway 285 about 50 miles west of Denver: Pine, Pine Grove, and Pine Junction. The name Pine encompasses them all. Pine Junction is the really the intersection of Hwy 285 and Hwy 126. Pine Grove is the historic crossroads town that used to be a railroad stop and is sort of an adjunct to Pine. And Pine has the rare claim to fame of being one of the foremost homes of miniature donkey breeders in the United States. Not that I saw any miniature donkeys, even at the Festival, so I think someone is missing a significant marketing opportunity here.
The outskirts of Pine fell victim to the Hayden fire a few years back, and while I know, as is always the case in fire-ravaged areas, that fresh, new, brilliant green shoots of life will sprout, it still seems to be in recovery mode. I feel relief and pride for those who either kept their houses or rebuilt them – it’s impossible to tell which without the intimacy of knowing the people or the area. I also feel horror and sorrow for the wildlife that perished, and for the woman who loved the forest, who accidentally set the fire by burning the love letters from her ex-boyfriend. The bitter irony of the outcome of that oh-so-private ritualistic gesture made by someone who knew the dangers better than most is poignant, painful and not lost on a fellow lover of men and nature.
Anyhow, I went on my own. I had invited Kelsea. I had invited a friend. Neither could make it. And in the end, I was so very glad of that, as much as I would have adored the company of either.
I got there early – about 9:30 – and things had clearly been going for quite some time. These rhubarb growers know how to play. Parking on the road a distance away from the happenings, I was immediately greeted by a few suspicious deer -
- they were suspicious of me, not the other way round – and several little old houses surrounded by lilac bushes. Lilacs seem to bloom later at this altitude ( 8,550 feet, which is 3,214 feet higher than where I live) and are soooo much more fragrant. My nose oohed and aaahhed every time I passed one, which was often, as each house seemed to boast the blooms.
The sun was warm, the sky only slightly hazy with the waking-up of morning in the mountains, richly mixed with smoke from distant wildfires, which must be a perpetual reminder of the past for permanent residents.
Most of the festivities were set up around the one of several volunteer and paid firefighting stations (ah, the irony), and the line was perpetually out the quonsset hut for the pancake breakfast, which of course would not be complete without rhubarb sauce.
I’m not much of a pancake girl, so I wandered. There was already a sort of semi-Southern rock-blues-abilly band playing on the stage.
The vendors were setting up their wares, enjoying the music and the sunshine.
There were truckloads of motorcycles, particularly Harleys. The approach to Pine from any direction involves a rambling road with sweeping curves and equally sweeping vistas, and so the drive is a popular one with riders.
Much to my delight (and unlike most festivals), oodles of dogs were in the thick of things, enjoying the event as much as their owners.
I walked up the road a piece to check things out. This is why I love going off on my own sometimes. I stopped to take pictures every single time I wanted to, and nobody else fussed about it – and I thanked the photo gods for digital, as I have come to do almost every time I pick up the camera.
Pine is nestled amid some rock formations that I find unique to this area of Colorado. In fact, when you take the time to examine the rock formations of the Front Range and foothills, inclusive of Colorado Springs, you will find yourself contemplating some amazing and diverse geology – but that’s for another time. Today, it was all about Pine, and it’s gently massive round rocks that look like the perfect rappelling challenge.
A slight river meanders through the town, and residents clearly take pride in the age and history of their mountain (and railroad) roots.
If you have yet to realize it, walking up one side and down the other of the same road provides you with a completely different experience. It’s not as if you are retracing your steps – you are just seeing everything from a completely different perspective. And you get to see completely different things as well, that perhaps you didn’t notice before.
Wandering back into the thick of things, I took a closer look at the classic (and not-so-classic) cars lined up for the parade later that afternoon.
Classic cars are a favorite photo subject for me, and I love (again) the pride that small towns seem to take in their past by showing off these treasures.
The festival itself was in full swing now.
Vendors were doing a brisk business and the crowd was happily swaying to another performer on stage.
The most unfortunately attired representatives of the Mutual of Omaha booth were kindly giving away free water to all and looks that completely expressed their opinions about their attire to me, me being a sympathetic woman.
Stopping for a totally unhealthy snack, I realized that one of the reasons everyone was being so pleasant was because this was an alcohol free festival. There was not a beer to be had.
I also realized that, several hours into the event, I had yet to see any rhubarb. This is a rhubarb festival, right? So where’s the good stuff? I squeezed my way back into the quonsset hut, and found one rhubarb plant available for bid at the silent auction.
There were a plethora of soon-to-be-eaten baked goods entered into the rhubarb baked goods competition, the winner of which is apparently crowned rhubarb queen.
One similarly inquisitive couple had just bought the very last available rhubarb pie.
I had no pieworthy intentions, but I was most determined not to leave the valley until I was the proud possessor of red gold, aka, rhubarb.
More music was going on – they had a broad range of interesting musical talents. Smokey the Bear was getting his …. something on.
Children were sucking on traffic cones when their parents weren’t looking.
Dogs happily were doing meet and greets with other dogs.
Or in training.
Or just roaring at the sunshine.
I wandered off again, fascinated by the Public Library that has seemingly permanent shelves outside in the shelter of their building awnings, a sight unseen since Hay-on-Wye in Wales some four years ago.
There were women on horseback and wizened old men with pride and canes. Walking up the dirt road, I found houses that were being transformed into classic painted ladies and some that were just classic, along with one that was simply a photographer’s dream.
The small cemetery was at the top of the hill leading out of town to Sphinx Park. What a lovely spot, overlooking the perfect valley that I had taken photos of on my earlier walk.
The gate was old, wrought iron and unlocked, so I went in, accompanied by a couple of magpies, and found or imagined the stories buried beneath my feet.
It was a sparsely populated cemetery, but that was okay – it gives the residents room to breathe. The most common tribute was the Indian Paintbrush.
Because it looked like it was kind of off limits, and because there were no signs specifically telling me I’d be struck dead if I did so, I climbed through the brush up the hill to a barely visible giant flat rock above town.
It gave me a bird’s eye view of the festivities, and a chance to bask in the silence of the warm sun.
I lay on my back on the big rock and took one hundred pictures of heaven, basking in bliss, and thanking the universe for the gift of being.
When I was done, which was no particular time, I wended my way back down into town again. As always, the camera was in hand – this is becoming more of a photo post than a festival post.
The next spot to capture me was the Pine Emporium, which on the surface appears to be a small false-fronted touristy- trappy antiquey store. Enter and you will find that appearances can be deceiving and it’s anything but.
This place was awesome with a capital awe.
A maze of rooms, shelves and floorspace crammed full of almost anything you can imagine, this is a flea market lovers dream from underground basement to narrow-stepped attic. I must have spent an hour there. They had a plethora of gorgeous, inexpensive, vintage earrings for unpierced people like me, books, boxes, art, incredibly creepy gnome-ish chotskies, glassware, memorabilia – it was almost as good as Jerry’s Museum in Genoa, Colorado.
The owners were adorable. The husband told me all about his hernia surgery last year – the wife oohed over the inlaid box I was buying (for my earrings), lamented selling it, then realized it had been hers, which was why she liked it so much. I brought up the fact that I hadn’t seen any rhubarb at the festival and they sold me their last bag for the bargain price of $5.
On my way out, I encountered several individuals with arm dogs. I always ponder the concept of large men with small arm dogs.
Apparently, the parade had gone on while I was buried in the shop, but I didn’t feel like I really missed anything, as I had seen the lineup before start time and the firetruck and ambulances – a quintessential part of small town parades – were still in evidence. I am sorry I missed the Rhubarb Queen though.
Festivities ended around 1:30. Vendors were packing up, dogs were making their way back to their cars. I decided that since I was so close, had never been, and yet was still the proud owner of a t-shirt from it, I should take a side trip up to Sphinx Park to see the famous Bucksnort Saloon.
The Bucksnort is a haven for motorcycle riders, which amazes me, because the road up to Sphinx Park, which was a summer community founded back in the late 1800s, is a bit of a white-knuckler, and I don’t say that very often. Dirt, windy, and one-lane, I was a tad edgy taking it in the truck, especially when I’d run into lowlanders in their extra-large Highlanders who didn’t know a damn thing about one-lane mountain road etiquette. I mean, I know yours is bigger than mine, but just exactly where do you think you’re going to put it? Seriously. The rock formations got even more amazing the higher I went, and the higher I went, the closer I got to them. At the edge of Sphinx Park, the still-standing remains of old cabins were literally perched on the edges of cliffs overlooking Elk Creek. I wish I could have stopped to take some pictures, but I didn’t want to risk being a traffic hazard or worse yet, a statistic.
The Bucksnort is dark and woody with a great patio overlooking the river. It’s very much a family place, at least during the day, and it was hopping after the festival. Ceilings and walls were covered with “I was here” dollar bills.
It reminded me of a mountain version of Foxy’s on Jost van Dyke. Except instead of underwear, T-shirts, and hats stapled to the posts and ceiling, it had dollars. I guarantee you that no dollar would ever stay stapled to a pole or ceiling at Foxy’s for long.
I snuggled into a corner barstool to people watch and listen to music. Two Coronas and 3 tacos later, I was still a happy little camper.
One of the regulars – Bob – whose customary stool I had taken, told me that the place only served beer and wine, and closed at 10:30 to try to keep people from getting too toasty and taking that road back down to town. As it was, the crowd was tame and well-behaved. I wonder if it remains so after dark. I may have to find out sometime. There’s actually a really cute little cabin for rent, overhanging the water, just up the road which I would tell you about, but then I’d have to kill you. No just kidding, I’d tell you about it if I could get their website to work, but I’m not going to subject you to the needless frustration I experienced trying to access it.
Apparently, the road that I took up continues on until you reach a crossroads where you can return to Hwy 285 via Schaeffers Crossing. I took my accustomed route home, singing in the truck and enjoying the sun, and basking in the blissful day. Next time I head up, I’ll take Kelsea. She’d love the Emporium, the rocks, and the hummingbirds at Zorla’s restaurant. Her company would give me an excuse to stop at the Angry Llama Diner on the way up – I couldn’t stop there without her.
As a punctuation mark to the day, on the way home, I witnessed a car accident, right in front of me. No one was hurt, but it was definitely a “gasp” moment.
I’m so pleased with my self and my peaceful adventure. The pleasure of it has stayed with me through the past stressful work week.
And even the zebras were happy about the rhubarb.