August 26, 2019
We ventured out west twice this summer, though we didn’t originally intend to. Our Lewis and Clark themed trip to Montana was already planned when we learned that Emily would be the production manager for the Aspen Opera Center. Of course we bought more plane tickets and arranged to visit her there.
The trip to Montana was Michael’s idea. After another two weeks fly fishing with his friend Jack, I joined him in Missoula and he showed me all his favorite Montana places. We also decided to check out a bunch of Lewis and Clark sites, recommended in Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage, including a hike to Lewis and Clark Pass and a three-day canoe trip to the wild and beautiful Missouri Breaks section of the Missouri River. We have always enjoyed driving out west, and we covered a lot of ground: soaking in Lolo Hot Springs, exploring the archeological excavations at Travelers’ Rest, spending July 4 in Helena, and seeing the headwaters of the Missouri in Three Forks.
The canoe trip was also fantastic, though Michael had a bit of trouble negotiating the slippery mud – he was in good company: so did the Corps of Discovery – getting in and out of the canoe and hauling our gear up the bank and to the campsite. Luckily there were plenty of able bodies also on the trip, including me, to help. The lead guide was amazingly knowledgeable and articulate about details of history and archeology. His young helpers were wiry river rats who carried our gear, set up tents, and cooked delicious meals for us. Sleeping and eating in the wilderness was wonderful. I also joined a small group of hearty folks for several great hikes that included challenging rock climbing through beautiful slot canyons. Michael could enjoy the river with the less active crowd. Paddling down river was also a pleasure, except when we got caught in a torrential rain squall with booming thunder and lightening, high winds and hail. We made for shore and took shelter under our life jackets for ten minutes until the sun came out again. Overall the weather was delightful, and the scenery was awe inspiring.
After a quiet month at home we set out again, this time for Denver. We rented a car and drove over Independence Pass, reliving some of the earliest days of our relationship. The drive through Leadville and onto Colorado 82 was my first introduction to the Rocky Mountains back in the early 1980s and it is still spectacular. Aspen is, in some ways, very different, but in many ways just the same as it was back in my student days. Even with a newly constructed tent, the music festival felt exactly the same, many of the same people, including our friend Ed Berkeley who has been the director of the Opera program for almost 40 years. There were also different faces but in familiar roles, including voice teachers and coaches, and Emily, who was keeping all the details flowing smoothly. It was wonderful to see her in that role. She spoke and everyone listened. We were just her parents, not “soprano” or “conductor.” That felt both strange and freeing. We saw a production of Figarothat was enjoyable but also unsettling with all the ghosts it stirred up.
My sister Susanne came out for a few days which added another layer of interesting interactions to the mix. She loved seeing Aspen, and it was great to see her, but she couldn’t quite appreciate the swirling memories Michael and I were dealing with, or the parental pride we were enjoying. I was having a real “who am I?” experience: wife looking out for Michael, Madame Voice Teacher, retired soprano, Emily’s mom, Susanne’s sister. The altitude made it hard to sleep, and the cannabis I tried from one of the dispensaries didn’t really help. Michael took it easy in the altitude, but I walked a lot and had one fantastic day hiking 17 miles. Emily and I did a short hard climb in the morning, then she had to go back to work. I continued up to Hunter Creek, which was still beautiful but had houses and roads much higher up than it used to. The next day, after Susanne left, I rented a sweet Italian road bike with electric assist. Emily and I biked up to Maroon Bells, a fantastic ride! Emily was used to the altitude and was in terrific shape. She shamed me into trying part of the ride without the electric assist, but I was glad to have it overall. Michael met us at the top and we hiked around a bit – still a breathtakingly beautiful spot. Emily went back to work, Michael took the bus back into town and I enjoyed the thrilling ride down the hill – 8 miles and 2000ft – and then even continued up to Ashcroft. I was very happy to take advantage of the e-assist and I road almost 50 miles and 4000ft of climbing that day! Amazing and so beautiful.
After another spectacular drive over Independence Pass and an easy flight home from Devner, we were very thankful to spend some quiet weeks enjoying our back yard before school starts.