More Endorsements

Hecate’s Feast: Celebrating Dark Time in Deadwood

Categories: Adventure, Conscious Living, Dining, Meditation, Mindfulness, Personal Growth, Self-Improvement, Spiritual - Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Skeletal Wine~But Look at the Price tag: $98! Fit for the Feast of Hekate

Jim and I had an amazing experience on Sunday night, visiting a friend in Deadwood Oregon, a tiny bohemian enclave off the grid in central Oregon.  We happened to be near Deadwood for the Feast of Hecate, as we are here on the last major chapter of our book tour, which is taking us from Eugene, to Portland, to Seattle, to Port Townsend and then back through Tacoma, where we will celebrate the close of the tour with Thanksgiving at the home of our daughter Brooke and her family.

Yardenna, Our Queen of Deadwood

 

Our longtime friend and former mediation partner, Yardenna, invited us to overnight at her home in Deadwood.  She told us that Deadwood residents would be gathering at the home of Mark McNutt, internationally recognized astrologist and his wife, Mary, an Anusara yoga teacher.  Their strawbale home is totally off the grid and built entirely by their own hand, an experience to visit in its own right.

Hecate’s feast was celebrated by candlelight with quite delicious offerings of black beans, peruvian potatoes, kale, dark pasta sauce with lots of black olives, forbidden rice, some amazing beets, etc brought by guests from the neighborhood and beyond.  After the feast, carrying some of the food, Mark and Mary led us with hypnotic drumming on a ritual walk by candlelight in the gently falling rain to Hecate’s altar on the bank of Deadwood Creek.  There we gathered for singing and silent intentional reflections about what we would like to lay to rest and what we would like to nourish through the dark time of winter.
Then, after being offered six pomegranate seeds, symbolic of the six seeds Persephone ate which consigned her to spend the six dark months of the year with Hades, some of us followed the sounds of splashing and thrashing to a bend in the creek where 20-30 pound salmon were returning to their birthplace to spawn.  The exhausted fish, weary from crossing the Pacific ocean and returning to their home creek, were digging holes in the rocky creek bed with their tails, before laying eggs, then the males fertilize them–and up the creek they journey, spawning until battered by the rocks they have beaten their bodies against, utterly depleted and exhausted, they die and the winter brings a gestation time for their fertilized eggs to hatch in spring.  What a powerful experience of celebrating rather than resisting the onset of the dark time!

My Beautiful Brave Paso Fino Horse

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Conscious Living, Horses, Pets, Self-Improvement, Women's - Tags: , , ,

This story, sent to me by my Paso Fino horse-loving friend  is so inspiring to those of us who cherish our horses, I had to  share it with you.

LAKE TAHOE – Melissa Margetts and Cabo, “my beautiful brave Paso Fino

horse,” made history upon completing the Tevis Cup, the world’s hardest

and most technically difficult 100-mile endurance ride, from Lake Tahoe

to Auburn, Calif.Horse and rider have 24 hours to complete the 55-year-old race, and only
50 percent of them make it.
Melissa Margetts and Cabo Complete Fabled Tevis Cup

Cabo, a buckskin-colored Paso Fino, is the first of his breed to have
ever completed the race, in which 98 percent of the equine participants
are Arabians – their strides maybe half again as long as the stride of
the quick-stepping Paso Finos, who are known for their  smoothness.

“His natural four-beat lateral gait’s short steps make his ride so sure
footed and smooth,” Margetts says of Cabo, “but it also means he is not
as efficient as an Arab” – and that her horse “probably did 150 miles to
their 100!”

Most horse-and-rider teams are pulled out of the race because of
fatigue, or because either they or their horses are not able to because
of the technical difficulty, lameness, dehydration, metabolic imbalances
caused by the altitude and temperatures of over 100 degrees in some of
the canyons.

The trail is treacherous, narrow and rocky in places, with granite
trails especially slippery, with sheer drop-offs into the abyss.

Hardship notwithstanding, riders from all over the world apply for the
Cup a year in advance, in the hopes that they will be lucky enough to
have a spot among the maximum 210 riders that every year take on the
challenge.

This year, riders came from Australia, Japan, France, Switzerland and
the United Arab Emirates, in addition to the American riders.
International riders who do not have passports for their own horses pay
roughly $5,000 to lease a conditioned, Tevis-worthy horse for the one-
day ride. Most of the riders are from the U.S., however, and have spent
years conditioning themselves and their mounts for this ride. All riders
and all horses are required to complete hundreds of miles of documented
endurance rides either nationally, with the American Endurance Ride
Conference, or internationally with the Fédération Equestre
Internationale, headquartered in Switzerland.

“To finish is to win” is the motto in the endurance world, and to that
end the Tevis Cup offers no monetary prizes – its only prize is a much-
coveted silver belt buckle with a picture of a pony express rider at a
gallop and the words “100 miles…One Day.” The buckle is only given to
horses and riders who have proved themselves to be “fit to continue” the
grueling race and cross the finish line.

Bottom line, Margetts emphasizes, is that “it’s all about the horse, as
it should be.”

As is the case in other major world-class sports events, participants’
blood is drawn regularly to ensure no performance-enhancing drugs are
being used (or drugs to mask the pain from injuries). More than 700
volunteers and 17 top veterinarians (with 30 veterinary assistants) man
17 Vet Checks and Stops along the route.

“They couldn’t care less if the rider is dead in the saddle and held in
place with duct tape and bungee cords,” Margetts says, by way of
describing the race’s central emphasis on peak condition horses. “Your
horse had better be in fine shape every inch of the way, and they are
there to make sure that happens. At every vet check, they look at each
horse’s capillary refill, heart rate, respiration, hydration levels,
muscle tone and attitude, and check for soundness. They listen to the
horses gut sounds with their stethoscopes to make sure everything is
moving and even check ‘where the sun don’t shine’ for anal tone if your
horse looks a little off. I’ve never had such a going over myself, but I
can guarantee you Cabo has!”

All that information is then marked and recorded on the vet card riders
carry with them to the next vet check.

“Cabo got all A’s and B’s every time,” Margetts relates proudly.

Margetts herself rode with with a heart rate monitor attached to her
horse’s girth to transmit his heart rate to her watch every three
seconds, to ensure he was being kept at an aerobic pace. “You are
trotting for the entire 100 miles and are hardly ever at a walk,” she
explains, so as to not “squeeze all of the toothpaste out of the tube”
at the start.

“Another way to give both you and your horse enough energy for the whole
ride – and a better chance of finishing – is to get off the horse
wherever you can cover ground on foot just as fast as he can with you on
his back.”

To that end, Margetts says, “I ran on foot down all the steep canyons,
leading him over the rocks and holding onto his tail and one rein to let
him pull me up the really steep terrain.

“There is a lot of training and conditioning,” she emphasizes, for both
horse and rider to prepare for the Tevis Cup. “This ride is like the
Olympics, and these horses are the elite athletes. The sport is
dominated by Arabian horses who, in addition to their long and efficient
stride, have thin skin “to help dissipate heat, large nostrils for
taking in oxygen and a large lung capacity.”

Living at 9,600 ft. on Wilson Mesa and “being able to train at altitude
ranging from 10,000 to 130,000 feet gave Cabo what he needed for most of
the ride where we were climbing up over the Sierra Nevada,” Margetts
says, praising the horse for being “sure-footed and fast” in mountainous
terrain.

“We were well-conditioned” from training for the race, she says, adding
that “our biggest challenge came when we hit the canyons midday when the
temperatures reached around 105 degrees and I was running down 3,000
feet and then ‘tailing up’ the next 3,000 feet. “You are so happy to
climb out of those canyons and get into a vet check,” and meet up with
the pit crew, before descending into the next “hotter-than-Hades
canyon,” she says.

While the horses and riders guzzle water with electrolytes, the vets are
swarming all over each horse, the crew is taking off the horse’s tack
and dousing him with buckets of cool water, and buckets-full of grain,
cut-up carrots, apples and alfalfa – and then putting on a dry saddle blanket.

“Then it’s tack back on, jump in the saddle, grab an energy bar on the
fly and you’re off again.” As night falls, and horse and rider come into
the next Vet Check, glow bars are duct-taped onto the horses’ breast
collars to help them see, as headlamps and flashlights are too
disorienting. Now the rider grabs a jacket for the trail and horse and
rider take off for yet another the part of the ride showcasing the
camaraderie and teamwork between horse and rider.

“It really does take a leap of faith to trust your horse, who can see
the trail better than you can at a full trot in the pitch black,” says
Margetts. “One misstep and both horse and rider could be cartwheeling
over a cliff.”

That did happen, she adds, although it was an accident with a relatively
happy ending, as the horse was “just a little cut up, but not seriously
hurt,” and the rider broke several bones, punctured a lung, bruised his
liver and after several hours in the dark perched precariously on a
ledge, was rescued and helicoptered out.

“You spend a lot of time with your heart in your throat,” says Margetts,
who is still ebullient from the experience, “but I am always amazed how
a horse sees so much better than we do at night. You just need to trust him.

“It’s an incredible experience to ride at night, and at that pace,” she
adds. And then, “just when you are really starting to enjoy the
experience, despite the exhaustion, it comes time to swim your horse
across the American River, following a path that volunteers have marked
with glow bars on ropes attached to the rocks underwater.

“It was so beautiful!” she says.

The river’s dam is shut off (for just that one day all year) so the
Tevis riders can swim across the river without getting swept downstream
by its swift-moving current.

And then the last lap begins. “Drenched up to your thighs, you start
climbing up the very last canyon, across No-Hands Bridge and into Auburn
to the finish line and your victory lap around the stadium in the
fairgrounds – and to a cheering crowd of camera-toting fans, “food and
rest and tears of joy when you receive that coveted silver belt buckle –
and that even more special prize of burying your face in your horse’s
mane, throwing your arms around his neck and crying, knowing that the
two of you just accomplished something very special and that you both
took care of each other.”

Margetts, who recently retired after three decades as a wildlife
rehabilitator and educator, founded the Telluride region’s much-loved
Rocky Mountain Ark Wildlife Center.

She says she’s enjoying her so-called retirement – and viewing the world
from between the ears of her horse. Emphasizing that she has never in
her life owned a cowboy buckle, and has “always kind of shied away from
real cowboy attire,” she says: “You can bet yer boots I’ll be sportin’
this thing around for a while!”

So if you see Melissa Margetts around town, once you’ve recovered from
the sun flashing off of that silver buckle, tell her congratulations.

And give her an apple for Cabo.

Right Action: Save Unspoiled Land!

Categories: Conscious Living, Mindfulness - Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s Hear It For the Santa Cruz County Land Trust! (http://www.landtrustsantacruz.org)   Really performing “Right Actions” here in our county, saving thousands of acres of land from development.  Here are some photos of a sneak peek I was privileged to enjoy visiting our newest acquisition, pristine 1,200 acre Star Creek Ranch in the heart of the Pajaro Hills near Watsonville.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Board of the Santa Cruz County Land Trust and my friend and neighbor Cindy Rubin, former President of the Land Trust, invited us to join Stephen Slade, Deputy Director and Lisa Larson, Finance and Administrative Director, on a picnic and Four Wheel Drive tour of the ranch.  We agreed in a nanosecond, and I wanted to share the inspiring and heads up story of what the Land Trust is doing in our county, in hopes that any of you in other counties will take action in your own back yards.  It seems to me, there is no greater legacy we can leave the next generations than open and wild spaces.  They create a habitat for animals and a breathing space for humans seeking regeneration and respite from the congestion of modern cities.

At its core, Santa Cruz County Land Trust is pioneering forward thinking conservation planning non profit.  SCCLT has developed a “master plan” or Conservation Blueprint identifying those places in our county where conservation could deliver the most benefits for the least dollars. They were, essentially, looking for places that had it all. The Pajaro Hills fit the bill and Star Creek Ranch is at the heart of those hills: the single property that links other large properties and is, therefore, the place to begin the protection of a whole new region.Star Creek is such an exciting acquisition. Wildlife habitat, check. Fish habitat, check. Water quality, check. Recreational opportunities, check. Biodiversity, check. Connections to other large habitats, check. Potential revenue to fund stewardship,

You can follow the 2.5 miles of Pescadero Creek as we did, bumping along in Steve’s 4WD SUVor look down on the canyon it forms from the hills above and you can’t help but see the appeal of this property for a wide variety of wildlife. Deer, bobcats, wild turkeys, mountain lions, hawks, eagles, steelhead, and even threatened species like the Southwestern pond turtle have all been seen on the ranch. The endangered California Red-legged frog is there, too – and we can enhance their environment once we own the property.

As exciting as what is on the land is what can pass through it. The Conservation Blueprint identified the Pajaro Hills as a critical link between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Gabilan Range to the south. Linking such large habitats is a high priority for the long-term health of such wide-ranging species as the Mountain lion and badger.

Pescadero Creek drains a watershed as big as the Aptos Creek watershed. It runs year-round and already serves as a critical steelhead spawning and rearing habitat. We anticipate that restoration and stewardship work will increase the steelhead population. The creek flows into the Pajaro River and the property has numerous streams and springs – all of which contribute to the flow of quality water into the Pajaro Valley and its overdrafted aquifer.

Star Creek Ranch has 24 miles of unpaved roads and trails, which can provide the basis for a wide range of recreational opportunities in the future. Because the ranch borders all the large neighboring ranches in these hills, it is the critical link in providing connections to other lands as they are protected – as well as to currently protected lands, including Clark Canyon Ranch (owned by Peninsula Open Space Trust), Castro Valley Ranch (where there is a trail easement already) and Mt. Madonna County Park.

The 1,200 acres includes 360 acres of redwood forest that has been logged in the past. The Land Trust will reduce timber harvests and follow the model it has used in the Byrne-Milliron Forest to create a healthy, unevenly-aged forest that will both enhance wildlife habitat and provide revenue for stewardship and restoration of the ranch. As in the Byrne-Milliron Forest, our practices on Star Creek Ranch will demonstrate the compatibility of forestry with habitat and water quality protection.

Our day at Star Creek Ranch was way more than a picnic–it was a day of spiritual replenishment, inspiration and wild beauty.

Looping Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps

Categories: Adventure, Conscious Living, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Horses, Relationships, Travel - Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wonderful opportunity!  Reservations for the High Sierra Camps are hard to come by.  You have to win a lottery and my psychoanalyst colleague Francine has been trying for years.  The appeal is enormous:  Yosemite National Park; beautiful trails high above the valley floor, some intersecting with the JMT (johnmuirtrail.org/) and the Pacific Crest Trail (www.pcta.org/); camps about every 8-10 miles with tent cabins, restrooms, and a dining/cook tent to prepare meals so you need only a day pack; you don’t have to carry a full backpack!

In 2012 Francine’s number came up for a group of six hikers and we were lucky to be among them.  Just try to imagine a group of (mostly office-bound psychoanalysts representing southern and northern California) planning a challenging 5 day hiking trip, then throw in the fillip of the hantavirus threat (http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hantafaq.htm), and you’ve got a guaranteed flurry of preliminary emails, a classically contagious mix, not of the virus, but of the sixty something and seventy something hikers’ anxieties.  What shall we  bring? Carry?  Wear? How much training had we better do? etc.

Fortunately for me, one of our number, Susan, recently married to John and new to distance hiking, was sufficiently worried about carrying a pack and her back pain (an occupational hazard for we of the seated psychotherapist set) that she called ahead and discovered, lo and behold, a mule could be arranged to carry any and everything a hiker didn’t need on her person during the day (i.e. dop kit, camp shoes, book, flashlight, sleepsack, extra clothes).  So, for a a fee, Roamer the mule freed us to hike completely unburdened by anything other than our 2 litres of water, rain gear, cameras and lunch. Thank you, Susan and Roamer and his charming mule skinner accompanist.

Jim, Francine, Mary, Harriet, Roamer, Susan and John and our lovely “muleskinner”s horse Ready to Roll On!

Day One:  After a good dinner and comfortable bed in our tent cabins in Tuolomne Meadows, inauspicuously visited by a deer mouse scuttling across our packs during the night, we loaded our packs. Just in case we sprayed them all with Lysol and gave Roamer what we didn’t need; we set off in high spirits to hike our “shakedown day” about eight or so miles to the camp at Glen Aulin.  We stopped for lunch overlooking Tuolomne Meadows, setting the bar for each days picnic as a site of beauty and welcome rest.  By late afternoon, we reached Glen Aulin Camp, situated at the base of a spectacular waterfall.  Out came the blister first aid, aspirin, some scotch, comfortable shoes–no showers because throughout the loop the water shortage this season was too extreme–handiwipes instead of showers, and in my case, my favorite “Ticket to the Moon” purple parachute silk hammock (ticketothemoon.com/).  I climbed in and, gently swaying by the waterfall, relished reading Caleb’s Crossing, Pulitzer prize winning author Geraldine Brooks’ story of life in the 17th  century colonial settlement on Martha’s Vineyard.

Day Two:  Setting out for Mae Lake Camp. With my Garmin GPS I soon learned that the old artistic rusted cutout trail marker signs underestimated distances by 10-20%, so we averaged 10 miles per day between camps and with detours for spectacular views and picnics.  Today we had a good long 1,600 foot climb up out of Glen Aulin with views of dark red Mt Dana and Mt Conness marking the Sierra divide.  Because of the drought and our September days, we missed seeing some of our favorite Yosemite wildflowers, Lemmon’s Paintbrush, sticky  yellow Monkeyflower and Sierra Gentian.  Another year!  By the end of the 10 mile hike, we were all sweaty and tired and so happy to come upon beautiful Mae Lake that we all stripped and dove in.  It felt fabulous.  Only later did we see the “no swimming” sign—it turns out in the drought, the lake is needed for the camp’s drinking water.  Tasty!

 

Two beautiful shots taken by Mary Herne of (L) the sunrise coming up behind Mae Lake, and (R) the shimmering reflection on Mae Lake’s surface at sunrise.  No evidence, fortunately, of our inadvertent rule breaking swim.  Just beauty.

 

Day Three: Mae Lake Camp to Sunrise High Sierra Camp, following the original Tioga wagon road to Tanaya Lake, we climbed up the trail on a series of steep switchbacks  to Clouds Rest Junction.  Other hikers coming the other way assured us we were almost at the top and we must NOT miss taking a cut off west from the junction to a perfect overlook site for lunch.  Jim, Mary and I did that and even though we were tired from the climb, were SO glad we did. The overlook provided a dramatic vista of the valley carved by the movement of Tenaya Glacier, formed when a portion of the Tuolomne Glacier overflowed its basin into Tenaya Lake and down Tenaya Canyon. Oohing and Aahing, munching on our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we could look out over Half Dome and El Capitan from our perch. Returning to the trail inspired, we hiked the rest of another 10 mile day into Sunrise, a camp Jim and I had stayed at years ago, hiking from Vogelsang High Camp in the other direction.

Each tent cabin has a wood stove and bed space for six, but because several less-intrepid hikers than we had cancelled, we spread ourselves out nightly in two tents and kept cosy over the cold nights.

                                                                                           Jim, Stoking the Wood Stove at Sunrise

Day Four:  Sunrise is aptly named as it is situated on the edge of a huge meadow rimmed by peaks, a perfect place to get up early, which Mary and I did by starlight the next morning, the last morning on the trail, to meditate bundled up in parkas, long johns, blankets and booties, and watch in silent awe as the sun slowly lit up the peaks and crest, bringing in warmth and the day.  Sad to anticipate parting with our friends and the high Sierras, we set out on our last day’s hike back out to Tuolomne Meadows.  It was a gorgeous hike past Cathedral Peak and an opportunity for another beautiful side trip down to picnic on a huge granite outcropping overlooking Lower Cathedral Lake.  Switchbacking down the trail back to Tuolomne Meadows, another 10 miler, and we were thrilled to find the bus stop at the trailhead juncture with Tioga Road for the shuttle bus to save us an additional two more miles back to our starting point.  

The last  night over dinner and breakfast the last morning, we celebrated our friendship, our accomplishments, our courage in not cancelling the trip out of fear of a deer mouse, and our hopes to win the lottery another year for a return journey.

 

Eight Great Joys of Book Touring

Categories: Adventure, Conscious Living, Personal Growth, Psychology, Relationships, Travel, Writing - Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We have crafted a book tour adventure to follow our sabbatical adventure journey, PULLING UP STAKES: STEPPING INTO FREEDOM.  To date Since the book’s publication in April, we have appeared in Los Angeles at two private events, then at READER’S BOOKS (readers.indiebound.com/) in Sonoma, BOOKSHOP SANTA CRUZ in Santa Cruz (www.bookshopsantacruz.com/), as a presenter at The DIVISION 39 Psychoanalytic Meeting in Santa Fe, at GARCIA STREET BOOKS  (garciastreetbooks.com) also in Santa Fe, at another private party in Santa Cruz, private events in NEW YORK CITY, and WASHINGTON DC, at the HARVARD CO-OP BOOKSTORE  (www.thecoop.com/) in Cambridge, Mass, then at the VASSAR COLLEGE BOOKSTORE (vassar.bkstore.com/) in Poughkeepsie, New York.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most recently, we visited Colorado and made “Meet the Author” events at the BOOKWORM,(www.bookwormofedwards.com/) in Edwards Colorado near Vail, and BOULDER BOOKSTORE (www.boulderbookstore.net/) in Boulder, Colorado.  We have been having a ball!  (You can deduce that from my last blog entry: “How I Hit the Jackpot!”).

It has become clear to me that in this era of the explosion in books on the market brought about by self-publishing, that even those of us who are fortunate enough to have a publisher and a marketing team behind us, book promotion is a big job that falls primarily  on the shoulders of the author (and in my case, on my husband Jim Wheeler’s shoulders too!) I’ve told many curious friends that it is clear I’d better not quit my day job.  For one thing, it takes typically six months before accurate sales figures come in from the distributor and even longer before any dividend checks roll in.  And because the author’s cut from the retail sale of a book is fractional, I’m not counting on anything close to a windfall.  So, “What’s It All About, Alfie?”

It’s about having a new adventure!  I’m learning social media, beginning to blog, became the screenwriter and “star” in my own three book videos, and a travel planner for setting up the cities and towns Jim and I have friends in and would like to visit, so my publisher can arrange book store appearances.  This time, instead of traveling to the “back of beyond” we are traveling all over our own United States.  I’ve had to navigate an internal paradigm shift from my phobia and aversion to “sales”, substituting instead the notion of offering something of genuine value to people I may or may not know.  And that paradigm shift has been amply rewarded by making the acquaintance of so many interesting readers!  This tour has been a ticket to the global village and it has been, in its own right, another pilgrimage.

HOW I HIT THE JACKPOT!

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Biking, Dining, Gourmet, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Pets, Travel - Tags: , , , , , , ,

Hiking High Above KESSLER CANYON RANCH, COLORADO

We have been book tour traveling off and on since Pulling Up Stakes: Stepping Into Freedom (http://www.pullingupstakesbook.com) was released in April.  This month we have dates at bookstore in Vail and Boulder, Colorado.  Of course, being savvy travellers, we’ve cherry picked our trips and it has really worked out well for us.  So when we were confirmed at Bookworm in Vail (http://www.bookwormofedwards.com) and Boulder Books Store (http://www.boulderbookstore.net)  in Boulder, I went on the web to find out what else we might do to light our fire while in Colorado.

One of my favorite websites is Luxury Links (http://www.luxurylinks.com). We’ve stayed at some amazing places all over the world during our sabbatical that we found, bid on and won at Luxury Links.  This time I found a property called Kessler Canyon (www.kesslercanyon.com) that looked like it might just be the spark to light our fire for the Colorado tour (oops, too many wildfires are burning right now in the west….anyway, you know what I mean).

It was a competitive bid, but luckily, this place must be the best kept secret in Western Colorado.  SO, drumroll….I won the auction—3 days and 2 nights, all meals and activities included.  But, we didn’t have a clue we had won the JACKPOT until we landed in Grand Junction, got a free upgrade to any car of our choice (a 4 wheel drive Jeep SUV) because they were out of compact cars.  We drove north to DeBeque and 17 miles west through high desert before we found the gates to Kessler Canyon and drove 4.5 more dusty dirt road miles into a canyon surrounded by rugged sandstone and shale peaks before arriving at the oasis that is this private resort.

Kessler’s Homage to the Wild Mustangs Greeted Us–6 Larger Than Lifesize Sculptures Galloping Across the Crest of a Hill

We were greeted like long lost relatives, I was immediately hugged and called “Lil Darlin’” by Chef Lenny, a generously proportioned cowboy (definitely gourmet) cook/chef.  They’d been waiting for us and couldn’t wait to welcome us, help us get settled in this amazing place. Our huge room has original old west paintings, leather easy chairs, hand carved wooden tables and chests and a gorgeous spa-like bathroom.

We soon learned that the Kessler family fortune was made in the 1970s with the establishment of the Days Inns along highway interchanges.  This canyon has been the family’s private 23,000 acre hunting and fishing retreat from managing over a dozen other boutique hotels throughout the south. We’re here, it turns out to our amazement and delight, with only two other guests and a hand-picked gifted staff of 19.  Oh, My!  If there were stars to award and five was excellent, this place would rate a ten!

 

 

 

 

Cowboy Chef Lenny in a Rarely Pensive Moment (He is Usually Laughing or Singing)


 

 

We have been treated like visiting royalty.  Encouraged to fish in one of the lakes, take lessons in shooting skeet (this is a private big game hunting lodge during hunting season)—both shotguns and high powered rifles.  Now as a Buddhist, I clearly clo not believe in killing, but I certainly don’t object to shooting skeet and tin targets at 250 yard, especially when a Navy sharpshooter who has been teaching for almost twenty years offers himself as your private guide and instructor.

We’ve also been mountain biking and this morning we took Tess, the family Springer Spaniel, a reportedly $10.000 dog who recently gave birth to eight wonderful puppies, on a challenging hike up to the top of the plateau overlooking this canyon (see above photo)—about a 3,000 ft climb.

 

Mama Tess, the Amazing Springer Spaniel

We really feel we deserve the phenomenal gourmet meals Cowboy Chef Lenny prepares for us each meal.

We also were invited to learn (fast) and take out our own ATVs —for someone who’s never done that, and always only hiked, biked or ridden horses, that’s another adventure into a testosterone-drenched world, like shooting guns,.  Suffice it to say, we didn’t flip our ATVs. But there were more than a few “Yee Haws!” as we swooped down through stream beds and up steep banks to gun it (lots of guns here) out the straightaway.

Well, all I can say, is “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment” has many unexpected, sometimes challenging, yet extraordinary meanings.  It does appear, for the price we paid and the amazing experience we have had, that we have surely hit the jackpot.

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