For years as a teacher, I planned and executed many a student field trip. The work was often burdensome but in the end, totally worth it. All throughout my career, I went on adult field trips. Sure, they masked themselves as national conferences with a great group of friends but in the end, they were recreational as well as professional. Now retirement … should I still be attending conferences? I wasn’t sure but I’d had two other experiences that inspired and fulfilled my wanderlust. One was a trip to Hawaii to take a comparative volcanoes class and the other to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and safari on the Serengheti. What would I do now that I was retired? There were after all graduate school linked trips and the professor had also retired. Then I remembered an experience that I had through a National Endowment for the Humanities grant I received to learn more about the Ancestral Puebloan culture and teach this to my Colorado fourth graders. The organization conducting the grant is called the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. On a whim, I visited their website and discovered that they have trips for adults. What happened for me was extraordinary and the best trip of my life.
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June 5, 2017
It seems appropriate that the first adventure after packing up my classroom and heading into retirement from teaching was a camping trip. As an outdoor girl, the mountains and hiking are central to my identity as teaching has been these last twenty years. Originally my thought was of Chaco Canyon. A trek out into the desert to visit a world heritage site and further study the ancient culture but the road leading in is currently too rough and so instead of going south (we live outside Denver); we went north. I haven’t been here at North Michigan Creek in over twenty years. Back then it was part of the National Forest, now the State of Colorado manages an extensive area as a state park in north-central Colorado.
This brings me to the idea of revisiting. One can merely go back to a place but in the true sense of the word – it is to see a place from a new perspective. My adult journey up until this point has been focused on others – children mainly, mine and hundreds of other people’s. Now it seems that I’m back in the position I was when I first came to this place. No longer responsible for others. Not sure what’s coming next but excited by the prospects. I’m grateful.
The mountain range is called The Never Summer Range and is located just north of Rocky Mountain National Park. Like many areas in northern Colorado, it has seen the devastation of the pine beetle. But as with much of life, one sees what is focused upon. You may look at the forest and see the death or you may look at the forest and see the young pines emerging under the regrown aspen groves. I thought it was beautiful. We were also lucky to have a pair of moose grazing several times a day right next to our campsite. Hummingbirds would zip into our trailer and zip out. Several couples of geese and their numerous offspring also grazed in front of our site. It was a joy to breathe and relax. Are you asking yourself where the adventure is? Sounds pretty tame. Read on.
MICHIGAN DITCH TRAIL
At the top of the pass leading to the state park is a ditch. The ditch diverts water from the western slopes of the mountain tops and puts some of the water in the the Cache-LaPoudre River. Along the ditch is a 6.5 mile trail (one way) that according to the ranger at the visitor’s center had just been plowed. My husband and I set off for our first bike ride of the year along a road at about 10,000 feet. Spectacular views are everywhere. We made it about 6 miles in before the mud and snow made us turn around and head back to our truck. Totally worth the trip.
Colorado State Parks Publication
Paths Trails and Beyond
As I unwind from the school year and the logistics of retiring as a public school educator, I am certain that there will be many opportunities to reflect and revisit.