Monday, June 26, 2017

A Fire

At 3:45 am last Tuesday, the house we lived in caught on fire. Last Monday was a good day for me. I had planned to work some overtime to catch up on things before taking two days off to move the next week. I was very focused at work and got a lot done. I walked home and did yoga immediately. I helped with dinner and with washing up. I took Kiki for a walk and I went to bed at a decent time. I was happy that I had finally fallen into a good routine. I knew that I would need to have that good routine in the 10 days leading up to moving in order for things to go smoothly and to not feel stressed about it.

I had taken allergy medicine the night before and was sleeping more soundly than I usually do. I woke up to Brian going downstairs from our loft. I thought that he was going to the bathroom, but he was opening doors and walking around a bit. I was still half asleep at this time. I asked him what he was doing, and he told me that he smelled smoke and went downstairs to check it out. I hadn't realized that he had left the apartment. I told him that it was probably nothing, that Denver often smelled like smoke. Then I lay down to go back to sleep.

Brian said that he was going to check again. He went downstairs and I started smelling the smoke get stronger. I sat up and looked out our skylight window. The smoke was billowing up behind our house. I didn't know where it was coming from. I thought maybe it was a nearby house or something in the parking lot or alley. I knew that it was time to leave, but I was still telling myself that I would just go downstairs to check. I climbed down our loft stairs in a hurry and turned around to see Kiki looking up at me. I threw on whatever clothes I could find the quickest, picked Kiki up and rushed down the stairs.

As I was going down the stairs, Brian was coming up. I heard him and yelled his name. He yelled mine and said that it's a fire. He kept going up the stairs. I asked him what he was doing, but he kept going and went back in to grab our passports. We also locked our door. I would love to say that I kept my cool and did everything right, but in the moment it's hard not to just do the first thing that comes to mind.

I went to the back parking lot and saw that the house was on fire. I think at that point I was still wondering if it was really our house. I regret that I didn't knock on everyone's door while going down, but I was still in shock and wasn't sure what was happening. Brian came back out and I told him to yell to wake everyone up. Our hallway carries sound very easily to all apartments. He went in and yelled that it was a fire. By that time some of our neighbors were also up and out of the house. I knocked on the front neighbors' door. The firefighters were already there and going into the house. It all happened very fast.

We all gathered outside. I didn't see my friends from the apartment in the back on the second story or our neighbor that lived on the third story behind us. For a few minutes I couldn't help but think the worse. Thankfully, they just took a little longer to wake up before they realized what was happening. The neighbor behind us had climbed onto the roof and was rescued by the firefighters.

We stood outside waiting and waiting for five hours. The news crew came, and the firefighters did their work. We were asked questions, and we kept waiting. It started to get light out. I went down the street to St. Mark's, a coffee shop and bar, to get scones and coffee. We barely ate the scones, but we needed the coffee. We didn't know how bad it was for a long time. We were just thankful that everyone was okay.

The back apartments on the second and third floor were the worst. They both had some fire damage along with some water and smoke damage. Our apartment had some water and smoke damage, but not much. They chopped some holes in our ceiling to make sure that the fire hadn't spread and wasn't still smoldering in the walls. I was able to take my Octavia Butler book from the loft. It was a bit wet, but still readable.

After the five hours of waiting, we went down the street to get some breakfast. We didn't even think of sunscreen and got horribly burnt as it was the third day of intense heat in Denver, which is probably part of the reason that we had a fire in the first place. Looking back on that day, everything seemed strange, and it still does. We ate our breakfast and walked back to the house. We were still waiting to hear if we could stay in our apartment. We went back to St. Mark's and had a couple of beers.

After hearing that we couldn't stay in the apartment, I found a motel that allowed dogs. It wasn't easy to find something so last minute. We went back to grab some clothes and went to find our motel. Kiki was calm throughout this entire ordeal. We hadn't thought to grab her collar or leash when we first left the house, so we held her while we waited for the fire to be put out. Once we were settled in at the motel, she started barking at any sound outside our door. She barked more that day than in the entire 5 months that we have had her.

We decided to get an Airbnb. I woke up at 5:30 am and started looking for one that would allow dogs, wasn't extremely expensive, and would be within walking distance of my work. This was a very stressful experience. Once I found one, something went wrong with my verification and after a lot of hassle, I had to call customer service. In the end, it worked out very well for us. Our Airbnb is only a 30-minute walk from my work. It's an entire apartment, and it's very comfortable.

Throughout this whole ordeal, we kept thinking about how lucky we are to already have another apartment lined up. We were told that we would be able to get back into our apartment to start packing up our belongings on both Saturday and Sunday. However, each time we went back, the entire house was still sealed up for asbestos cleaning. Hopefully they'll have it opened by Thursday, which is when I scheduled a day off for the move.

The past week has been stressful and strange, but we are so thankful that everyone in the house got out in time and that one of our neighbors had woken up before us and called the fire department. It could have been a lot worse if they had arrived just a few minutes later. Most of our belongings are fine, other than our futon mattress in the loft and possibly our bedding. We are now focused on just getting through the week and getting ready to move into our new apartment.

I keep replaying that morning in my head. The moment that stands out to me the most is when I got down the loft stairs, turned around, and saw Kiki standing there looking at me with a quizzical expression on her face. I think I talked to her and told her that it was going to be okay, and that I was going to get her out of the house. We were all very lucky that the fire wasn't worse and that we were all able to get out without getting hurt. I don't think I will feel completely normal until we're settled into our new apartment and have been living there for a few weeks, but we're safe and we have a place to stay, and right now that's all that matters.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Catamount Falls Trail & Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Driving south from Denver, we enjoyed the gorgeous Colorado landscape that was obscured by thick fog the last time we went down to Colorado Springs. Green fields and bushy trees turned into rolling hills before stretching out to meet the Front Range of the Southern Rocky Mountains. Impressive rock formations dotted the landscape, which kept me from noticing the poor deer who were not lucky enough make it across the highway, as Brian later informed me. We continued past Colorado Springs and arrived at Green Mountain Falls, Colorado. 

Green Mountain Falls has an elevation of 7,756' and a population of 640, which is even smaller than the mountain town where I grew up in Washington with a population of 2,116. Nevertheless, it made me think of home, and I was happy to be exploring this little corner of Colorado. We pulled into the parking lot at Gazebo Lake and had no trouble finding a spot. To get to the trailhead, we walked out of the parking lot and turned right. We walked for a few minutes and turned left onto Hondo Rd. There is no parking for hikers on this road. I'd read that it was steep--they weren't joking. It was a hard trek for me just to get to the trailhead. We must have stopped at least 10 times on the way.

At the beginning of the trail, there was a little waterfall surrounded by perfect sitting rocks. After the hike to the hike, it was tempting to stay at the bottom of the trail and enjoy the water, but we decided to keep going. Unfortunately, we walked right pass the trailhead despite reading the sign. We ended up going down the opposite entrance point to another road below. Thankfully, it was still part of the lovely forest and wasn't a disappointing detour. When we realized what we'd done, we turned around in search of the actual trail.

The trail doesn't look quite like a trail at the beginning. It's obscured by large rocks. Once you see it, though, it's fairly easy to follow. We went off in search of a larger waterfall. The forest didn't disappoint. We trudged up and up through the pines. Kiki did very well keeping up with us, although she probably could have surpassed us if she wanted to. We saw a lot of other hikers with dogs on the way.

Having made a detour at the beginning of our hike, and feeling like we'd given it a good effort, we turned around about half a mile from the top. I read that the first half is quite difficult and it gets easier from there. It seems that we gave up just before the easy part, and the beautiful view. We ended up hiking for about four hours overall. I'm determined to get into better hiking shape and go back to finish this hike someday. Once we made it back down to the water, we had a snack and tried to get Kiki to swim. She seems to kind of like water, but she gets a bit anxious about it. She's not quite sure what she thinks about it yet.

Back in the village of Green Mountain Falls, we ate at a local restaurant called the Mucky Duck. Everything we read online said to go to the Pantry, and there is a reason for that. We were unable to eat at the Pantry since it was just closing as we came down, so we went to the Mucky Duck instead. It was a bit of a disappointment. The food was flavorless and not worth the money we paid for it. At least we were able to sit outside with a beautiful view of the tree-covered mountains and daydream about buying a little shop down the street.

On our way home, we stopped by the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. I've wanted to see cliff dwellings ever since I learned about them in a textbook in elementary school. These dwellings were relocated from the Four Corners area where the Anasazi lived and made their home. The stones from a collapsed site were used to rebuild them in Manitou Springs. We'll hopefully visit the larger cliff dwellings in New Mexico and Arizona sometime, but this was a nice little detour and a neat glimpse back into history. The one thing I was not happy with was how many Native American products in the museum gift shop were not made by Native Americans. They did have a few items that were signed by Native artists, but I am of the opinion that everything in a gift shop celebrating Native American history should be made by and profit Native Americans.

Getting out of Denver for two weekends in a row was a treat. Denver is a nice city with a lot of green, but I still love the woods and being away from the chaos of the city. More and more I have been wanting to move to a small town in Washington State. I do like living here, but I don't think it will be my forever place. I think I might have one or two more in-between places before I actually find my forever place, but Denver is a good place to be for now. My job and life in general is good, and we're going to see as much of Colorado as we can while we're here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Two Weeks

Two weeks from now, we move into a one-bedroom apartment. It seems strange to be moving again. Everything happened so fast last year. We went from this place to that place and suddenly had an apartment. This is our first apartment together, and our first apartment in America after college. We adopted a dog here, and the three of us became a little family. It's our home.

I will be enjoying the charm of this place as much as I can in the next two weeks. I'll miss the view and the neighborhood. I'll even miss the cute little kitchen. But every time I climb up the stair-ladder to go to bed or down the stair-ladder to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I'll remember why we're moving and get excited to have more than twice as much space. It was romantic and easy to live in a tiny attic apartment for a little while, but I am ready to have more room to exist.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Standley Lake

Last summer, we took a little day trip from Denver to Standley Lake in Westminster. It was only a 45-minute drive, and we had a great view of the mountains. The lake is also a campground with picnic tables and barbecue grills. I'd love to go back and grill burgers sometime. I'll be ready to fend off the geese at any moment. We hung out for awhile after eating our sandwich picnic, and the geese would not leave us alone. They started acting like they were going to charge, and we decided to leave. I'm a little embarrassed to say that we were driven off by geese, but I like to play it safe.

The Standley Lake Regional Park has an open landscape with a few trees here and there. It isn't what I'm used to coming from the Pacific Northwest, but now that I understand and appreciate Colorado's landscape a bit better, I'd be fine with camping there. It isn't as far out into nature as I'd like to go, but it's still very serene and pleasant. If you go on a hot day, be prepared to stay in the shade as much as possible. I still need to be better at living in Colorado and buy a sun hat. I also need sunblock with the highest SPF rating possible.

Even if it is man-made, it was nice to sit at the edge of a lake and watch the water coming in and going out as boats and kayaks went by.

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