I spent the next three days relaxing at Penn Ranch in a way that I somehow hadn't been able to access previously. Possibly because the concept of agenda was nonexistent except for a few important items like throwing a stick for the dog to fetch or admiring the tiny mosses that grew in the cracks between the pink and lavender quartzite boulders by the river. Gregory's gracious and affable dad Bill was in attendance and was a wonderful cohost. Luckily, Gregory's younger brother David was also visiting with his girlfriend Sinead. Gregory's delightful girlfriend Marcia joined us on Thursday and her daughter Cordelia and mom (whom everyone referred affectionately to as Yaya) joined the rabble on Friday afternoon. We all lolled about the Ranch, sometimes coalescing into frivolous activities (croquet in the horse pasture was superb!), sometimes just sitting in a chair, staring off into the distance at the mountains that wrap around the little valley like a sensible stole, cup of hot tea in hand to mitigate the slight nip in the air.
I picked Mark up Thursday evening at the bustling Durango airport and we enjoyed a nice sunset drive back to the ranch with me using every bit of navigational stamina I had to execute all the proper turns. On our way, we stopped at a small reservoir near the Ranch as the sun slipped below the horizon.
Just ahead of us, a white Euro van spilled its crazy contents: 5 dogs, several of them quite large, three children and two adults! I'm guessing it was essential that all 10 of them run around a bit and tire themselves out if there were to be any hope of harmony on the remainder of their travels. No matter, Mark and I were only there to bask in the orange rays for a moment before we scooted on out to the Ranch. When we finally got there and got Mark settled in, all three couples set out on a night time hike down to the bridge that spans the beautiful little rivulet running through the Ranch. We lay on our backs and scrutinized the dense canopy of stars above our heads. I don't know if I've ever seen the Milky Way look so bright before. Every couple of moments, one of us would cry out, "Look! There's one!" as a shooting star streaked through the velvety black sky. It was a delicious starry nightcap before retiring to sleep the sleep of the dead. Ahhhhhhhhhh.....
Friday morning, after the first batch of coffee had finished brewing, Gregory and Marcia set out just after the sun had come up to see if they could catch a nice fat trout for our breakfast. I lazed around and drank coffee and fried up a mess of bacon as Mark slept noiselessly on the nearby sofa bed. I so dearly love those early hours of the morning, all to myself, quiet. They charge my batteries like nothing else. I puttered around until all of a sudden it seemed Mark was up and drinking coffee, David was asking about eggs and then Marsha and Gregory waltzed in with an absolutely gorgeous rainbow trout - huge! At least 16-18" long!
I have to stop here and say that Gregory, and everyone in his family as far as I have had the pleasure of observing, are all really good cooks. They know a lot about good ingredients and how to prepare simple delicious meals. The Penns also seem to attract fellow foodies, and as an example, Marcia added her own wonderful influence by not only bringing fresh home grown tomatoes and herbs to contribute to the weekend's meals, but also by making biscuits and cutting them out ROUND! Wahoooo! I ate like an empress for three days with all those great cooks around and it was soothing balm indeed after a long punishing reign of Midwestern meat and potatoes. I was in heaven.
Gregory and Marcia stuffed the cavity of the trout they had caught with crisp fried bacon and an assortment of fresh herbs that Marcia had brought from her garden. They then rolled it in some olive oil on a cookie sheet, and.......EEEEeeeeeeekkk!!!! It just about rolled off the cookie sheet! I kid you not - that completely dead fish just about flopped off the sheet and onto the floor, right before it went into the oven. Creepy. I've never had trout that fresh.
But damn it was delicious! Our feast included fresh roasted trout, scrambled eggs, bacon, piping hot baking powder biscuits and tiny little flapjacks that Bill had made. Fabu-loso!
Friday evening, with the backdrop of a lightning storm raging behind the westernmost mountain tops, I made some colored fire for everyone to enjoy. I had decided to dedicate this fire to my granddaddy, because he'd been on my mind a lot during the trip. He was quite the traveller and loved to go on adventures and tell stories (sound familiar?). I feel like a good part of my adventurous spirit probably comes from the branch he produced on my family tree. What I wanted to celebrate was the joy of being free to roam and having the ability to drink in everything the world has to offer and that felt like an important occasion on which to presence my granddaddy. I carved a brick in honor of his ability to take many threads and weave them into a parable which oftentimes yielded common understanding and unity. By unity I mean making me realize that we're all hooked up to the same outlet. That's a good understanding to have and I thank him for that. Here's a few pictures of the fire I particularly liked (this first one looks like a cowboy boot of fire!):