Mountain Living

Smokies1Our entry into living atop a mountain didn’t begin with any auspicious drum rolls. In fact, if I took those first few hours after arrival at our cabin with two vehicles and a U-haul trailer as a sign, it would send me right back to Pittsburgh. But life throws us those little curves so we know how wonderful it feels when things go from bad to good.

We left Pittsburgh on a Friday morning around 6 a.m. in our little caravan of loaded vehicles and trailer. Mostly a smooth drive, but long because we both needed to stop often. Probably our tiredness and exhaustion from preparing to move was the key to our lack of stamina for what should have been a nine-hour drive. Within an hour of the new place, dark clouds came rolling over the mountains. Around 6:30 p.m. we pulled down our road. Unfortunately, the rain had started, and we forgot which of the turn offs led to our cabin. A newly installed steep driveway at our neighbors confused me, and I led our caravan up the wrong drive. I backed up my little Hyundai–right into a ditch. My husband had headed up a very steep drive that was not ours with the truck and trailer. ditchWhen he tried to back down, he ended up jack-knifing the trailer, blocking the road up to our driveway. jackknifedTwo hours and one wonderful tow truck driver later, we arrived with everything intact, albeit wet, at our cabin. We wondered if we’d made a hasty decision in moving here, but daylight and views of the smoke on the Smokies changed our minds.


meSo did the beautiful cabin that we’ve spent this week making our own. I brought my office desks and a dining room table. The rest of the furniture we purchased here, but it won’t arrive until our next visit later this month. As our ten-day stay nears an end, I yearn to stay. This place has grabbed me despite the incessant rain for the past five days. I feel at home here already. I can tell because I’ve been able to work on my next novel every day this week. The words come easily in my new office, and it feels like the place where I’ll write plenty more novels.Smokies


Yesterday, my husband planted two tomato plants and two pepper plants. tomato plantThat’s always a sure sign that we’re home.






WORD OF CAUTION: “Someone” in our crew threw in a large bottle of anti-bacterial hand soap at the last minute. It came open on the trip and dumped all over a table my great aunt made more than one hundred years ago. The table had been draped in a quilt made by my grandmother seventy-five years ago. Over that I wrapped an old tablecloth and put bungie cords around the whole thing. To our surprise, that soap acted as a harsh chemical and ate through the tablecloth, quilt, and damaged parts of the table. I don’t use this stuff and it wasn’t supposed to come on this trip, but “someone” saw it on the floor of the garage where we’re staying in Pittsburgh and decided it would fill a hole nicely. I’m even more convinced that I’d rather not use this stuff on my hands.

Soap damage.

Soap damage.

Soap ate the quilt.

Soap ate the quilt.

Rocky Mountain Majesty

Rocky Mountain Majesty

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

On our recent visit to Denver, we managed a day for leaving the city and driving north. It’s a dramatic drive because Denver is flat, but the mountains are a vision on the horizon. The tour guide Moon Handbook – Denver suggested the Peak-to-Peak Byway, “if you just want to enjoy the scenery at your own pace with lots of stops or none at all.” We chose the lots of stops version.

Blackhawk to Estes Park is about a 55-mile trip, but we turned it into more than a hundred mile trek that left us plenty of time for seeing some of the most beautiful vistas known to man, until the next one appeared.

Our first detour occurred when we saw the sign for Idaho Springs.

“That’s the home of Tommyknocker brewery,” my husband said. It happened to be one of our favorite brewers.

Idaho Springs, Colorado

We turned the car around and made the ten-mile detour for lunch. We enjoyed our Indian pale ales and a lunch of black beans and fish tacos.

When in Rome or Idaho Springs. . .

Back on the route again, we traveled parallel to the Continental Divide. The aspen trees were beginning to turn and at certain points, we came to colorful patches of the trees.

aspens displaying their true colors

They call the route Peak-to-Peak for a reason – we went in the crevices from one peak to another with views of Mount Meeker, Longs, Pawnee, and Ouizel peaks. We stopped at the visitor’s center near Longs Peak where a ranger convinced us needed to take another detour.

herd of elks

“It costs $20 at the entrance to the national park,” he said. “But you won’t be sorry in the least.”

He was right. We entered the Rocky Mountain National Park at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on Route 36. Then we began the climb to the alpine region of the park. We went around curves with no guardrails; we saw bulls herding their female elks; we went to the highest point on any paved road in the United States (12,183 feet); and we went where the trees don’t grow. We were in the clouds and looked down on the smaller peeks – those midgets of only 10,000 feet.

View from highest point

We came back down the mountain as the sun began its descent as well. The lowering sun made dark shadows on the mountains creating dark patches on my photos.

deep shadows

Rocky Mountain Majesty at its finest.

Steller’s jay