I’ve been incredibly fortunate to travel as much as I have in my adult life, and hopefully I’m just getting started. This summer my golden retriever puppy, Lexi, and I spent a blissful three weeks traversing a good chunk of the US of A, from Northern Virginia to Colorado and back. While I’ve been home for a while now, the memories linger like the snow that covers the tops of the Colorado peaks far into summer. I just can’t seem to shake it off. It stays with me.
While I think I’ve written almost a dozen posts about our adventure, I still have much to chronicle about our time in the west, as well as the return trip, but regular life has pushed its unwelcome way into what had become a fairly decent writing habit. As a teacher/staff member at a small private school, there is always much to accomplish before the kiddos file through the door and begin a new year. It’s easy (and necessary!) to get caught up in it all. But I have found that the desire, and really the need to write, nags at me, despite the length of my real-life to-do list. And so I sit here, happily dwelling on my stay in Colorado. I can’t quite put my finger on it. For all the amazing places I have been blessed to visit, I can only remember one other trip like that in my whole life – where you just really, really can’t let it go.
But what made the week so especially memorable was not the simple magnificence of the place but the indelible imprint made by experiencing it as a cherished visitor of one who lives in Breckenridge and loves it well. That one of my best friends on the planet lives in such an exquisite place – an inexplicable blessing. My friend, let’s call her Jane – ok, possibly her name really is Jane, has been a resident since shortly after college, which makes her a seriously long-time inhabitant compared to many who have made their way to this town since its big-time boom began in more recent years.
Lexi the Golden and I blew into town on a Saturday afternoon to an empty house – no note, just an open front door. (This was not surprising!) We checked out our digs for the week and took a short walk before Jane and her sidekick, Jake the English Shepherd, returned. Neither one of us can remember with any certainty when we were last together. It didn’t matter. To have friends who you can engage with fully within a moment’s time – where there’s a sense of uninterrupted existence – priceless. No airs to put on, nothing to fake – just be. And a dog friend! Jake and Lexi were joined at the hip in no time, and Jake showed her the Colorado ropes. The only glitch – it took Lexi a solid three days to brave Jake’s doggie door, but he patiently modeled it for her until she got finally it! As recompense she endeavored to coax Jake into deep water to teach him to swim, but he would have none of it.
A little friendship history. Jane and I met in college a million years ago. And of all the ridiculous reasons to become friends, it was because of a silly boy. The story – a little unlikely and not really worth explaining. The boy – who was clearly not really worth all the angst at the time, turned out pretty well from all accounts (thanks in large part to the stellar girl he married!) but no thanks to either one of us! And though Jane and I would likely have become friends eventually, the boy unwittingly helped seal the deal early on and a friendship of 30+ years was born, though the entire span, with the exception of our years in college, has been lived thousands of miles from one another.
We are both, however, Pennsylvania girls. Not long after graduation, Jane and her dad invested in property both in Breckenridge and Hilton Head, and Jane headed west and south for the different seasons, and managed both as vacation rentals. Over the years she decided to focus on Colorado, her business became exclusively Jane’s Lodges, and she has since added several more homes to her lot, each more lovely and amazing than the next. It’s easy to think this is quite a glamorous life, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. Yes, living there = spectacular in many ways. But the workload is never-ending.
Jane’s personality fits her job so perfectly. She is a giver, and a pleaser, brimming with thoughtfulness and hospitality and wanting people to feel great. She’s also hilarious, and kind, and works endlessly. People come from all over the world to experience Breckenridge, and they want and need a hostess who sees to their every detail. And Jane does it all with a smile, making each family or pile of friends feel great about their choice of vacation home, whether it’s the heart of ski season or the middle of summer. I’m pretty sure she was born for this, and she says she’ll continue as long as she is able. There’s no other career she’d rather have. That we should all be so blessed.
But her greatest fault, which most (if not all) friends would agree with, is the hermit-like lifestyle she has developed. She goes for ungodly stretches of time without communicating with her friends from home. Jane takes introvert to a new level. But she loves completely and is as ultimately as faithful a friend as I can ever have. If you really need her, she is 100% there. However, if you just hope she might show up, well, she probably won’t. 🙂
Now I find myself, deep into writing and still struggling to find the theme in my own post. Is this a tale of friendship or one of mountain life in Breckenridge? I think the answer is just “yes”. While apt words seem to be failing me, I’ll take the easy way out and regale you with photos instead. So much beauty, although you will not find many pics to chronicle the countless moments where we dissolved into giggles over memories from the 80s, and clearly there’s nothing to indicate our wine intake on the week, or any of the superb meals we shared. It’s all in the in-between, so look hard. I left feeling as though I could’ve stay a year and still would depart with a hole in my traveling heart.
I’ll share a short list of favorites, which may also leave you wanting more, or at least planning your own trip!
First up, sailing on Lake Dillon in the hours before sunset. Best done with an expert sailor, who we had in spades in Jane’s friend Patrick.
An evening at Red Rocks – the most glorious outdoor God-made amphitheater. The evening was made more memorable when the whole goal was to see the Colorado-based Eagles tribute band, The Long Run, but we arrived only to find out that the concert started early and we missed them. Thank goodness for FACE, an incredible all-vocal (as in acapella) rock group, and a venue which was reason enough for the drive. Awesome!
Hiking and hiking and hiking – never enough. Awe-inspiring views and the boundless beauty of mountain streams and lakes, moose, wildflowers and endless meadows. Infinitely more fun with faithful four-legged friends, both of whom had limitless energy for miles of chasing, swimming and running – until they didn’t. (See mud-caked sleepy dog car photos:).
Eating – so many restaurants, so little time! But the best meals were honestly (well, maybe except one extra-delish lunch with yummy drinks at the Blue River Bistro!) the simple ones we made and shared at home, dogs at our feet, wine on the table, and no shortage of topics to catch up on.
Most importantly, friendship – adventuring to invest time with friends is always worth the trip, and in this case, the venue was more than a bonus! I am beyond blessed to have a truckload of close friends whom I’ve collected, like so much treasure, over the course of my life, and Jane is one of the gems. Thank you, Jane, for moving to Breckenridge all those years ago. Lexi and I will be back!
As I consider the whole lot of my treasure, I realize how many of these people are a significant portion of the timeline that defines me, and so many pathways in my life have been irrevocably changed by knowing them. You likely have a similar story to tell. If you don’t, go out and find yourselves some of these . . .
Small town/hometown high school pals – growing up together creates crazy bonds and experiences never to be repeated in your adult life. I grew up with quite a crew in the middle of the mountains of central Pennsylvania, and still love those crazies. And then forever friends from college – does anyone else really know me as well as they do? Still my most likely go-to girls when life gets tough. The years that followed brought that sweet group of women you hold on to for dear life when you have your own little ones because you must have adult contact occasionally, and you’re all just trying to get through it together. Even better when you come out on the other side to find that you can sit together and utter complete sentences and really dig deep after all these years. Not to mention church friends with whom I’ve studied and prayed, colleagues turned true friends I’ve taught alongside over the years, and of course all those wonderful women I get to claim simply because my kids had great friends and their moms turned out to be some of my favorite people. I am incredibly blessed by these fine humans, and you all know who you are.
Traveling with many of these people over the course of my adult life, and just setting aside weekends and pockets of time to GO somewhere, and fully engage with each other, are some of my life’s sweetest memories.
Maybe I’ve finally found the place I was heading with this post – the knowledge that great, deep friendships travel well – both through time and space. You just have to nurture them. And it doesn’t hurt when those special people live in spectacular places!
Lexi and I are moving on – time to point the trusty SUV east and make our way back. First stop on the return – camping on a ranch in Wyoming. So fun!
Interested in knowing more about my friend Jane’s spectacular digs in Breckenridge? Check out her website at Jane’s Lodges, and tell her Bing sent you!
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls, and has no one to help him up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10