I was in California toward the end February 2020 planning a trip with friends for later that year to some of the less-visited National Parks in that state. About that time, word was spreading about a virus, originating in China, that had the potential to spread across the planet. As I was settling into my seat for the flight back to Tampa, my seatmate offered me a Lysol wipe to clean my tray. Little did I know that in just a matter of a few weeks those little wipes would disappear from store shelves – along with toilet paper, paper towels, detergent, hand soap, hand sanitizer, water and many other products we never knew would one day become “hoardible” items!
Off the plane in Tampa, as I was making my way on the tram to the parking garage, I noticed two young men wearing face masks. They looked out of place at that time; yet mask-wearing would soon become the norm.
[for anyone reading this 100 years from now (as if!) with no knowledge of this pandemic] The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) described the virus thusly: “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that appeared in late 2019. It is predominantly a respiratory illness that can affect other organs. People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms, ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.” – and, as of July 1, 2021, has resulted in 3.9 million deaths worldwide, with 620,640 in the United States alone.
As many of you know, I’ve spent a fair amount of time volunteering – mainly to occupy my time. But, all of that came to a crashing halt in March 2020. It was important to me to keep physically active, so I continued my daily exercise walks – this really helped my mental well-being, too. Unlike many others, I didn’t opt for grocery deliveries. I shopped the market once a week, fully masked; properly socially-distanced and obediently followed the directional arrows on the floors! I knew my experiences weren’t unique – there was some comfort in knowing we were “all in this together”.
I eagerly took advantage of the vaccine when it was offered in January 2021. That was the beginning of a feeling of liberation. Many others with whom I spoke had that same reaction.
I’m very fortunate to have my daughter’s family close by. I enjoyed watching several of John Morgan’s baseball games – sometimes I’d be one the few mask wearers at the ball field. Call me super-cautious!
In June of 2021, after being in a pandemic hibernation for fifteen months and fully vaccinated, I decided it was time to get back on the road again. The very first places I just had to go was Texas and Colorado to see my three granddaughters (and incidentally my son and daughter-in-law!), with whom I’d not been since before the pandemic hit.
First stop was Texas to see Ella and Maddie. School was out for the summer and the girls were both involved in volleyball lessons, camps and competitions. I always like to bike with them when I visit. Ella was busy, so Maddie and I hit the streets. We encountered an extremely precocious youngster who was “transitioning” from second to third grade. Maddie and I will always remember “Watson”!
On a shopping trip to buy a birthday gift for one of Ella’s friends, I learned something new. The store Lululemon, that I’d been pronouncing as Lu-Lu-Mon all this time, is actually pronounced Lu-Lu-Lemon. We all had a good laugh as the salesperson patiently explained it to me – actually I think the girls were a bit embarrassed (for me)!
My short visit was over all too soon! Next stop: Colorado to spend the weekend with my eldest granddaughter, Megan. Since I had last seen Megan she’s moved from Arizona to Colorado and, with her significant other, purchased a large home with plenty of acreage for their two dogs, Eli and John, to roam. I’ve always loved Eli, but I feel John (a new family member) and I really bonded.
Megan had arranged for us to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. This park was one of six that still required reservations to enter – Glacier, Yosemite, Zion, Haleakalā and Acadia are the others. I’ve visited all of those parks, except Acadia. I hate to say, I grew up in New England but never visited Acadia (in Maine) – it’s definitely on my list. We had a two o’clock slot at Rocky Mountain.
The park, established in 1915, is located about 80 miles northwest of Meg’s house. We set out after breakfast for a leisurely drive, gaining another 4,000 feet in altitude from the already mile-high altitude of Denver! Strangely, other than ear-popping, I wasn’t impacted too much by the altitude.
We arrived in Estes Park before noon, in time for some window-shopping in the quaint town and lunch at Bird & Jim before heading to the gate for our 2 o’clock appointment.
Rocky Mountain is far from the largest of the parks at 415 Square miles (there are a couple in Alaska that exceed 10,000!), but time constraints necessitated we concentrate on one area of the park this visit – the Bear Lake area and a one mile hike up to Alberta Falls.
It was so good to be back out on the trails again! There was still a bit of snow at that elevation – you can see it at the shoreline across Bear Lake in this photo.
Just as we humans are tentatively moving on, the bears were out of hibernation when we visited – although we saw none.
Oh yes, the trip we planned over a year ago that became another casualty of the pandemic: it’s now on the books for this fall!