When my kids and I read Robert McCloskey’s books, I just want to crawl inside and live in the world he’s created. I want to be with Sal and her mom picking blueberries on a mountainside, though I could do without the bear tagging along. I want to stand at the shoreline and dig clams with Sal and her dad. And I really, really want to eat the clam chowder that Sal’s mom makes with the freshly dug clams.
I kept thinking of McCloskey’s One Morning in Maine a few weeks ago when I unexpectedly had an entire morning, alone, in Boulder, Colorado. We were on Spring Break in Denver, and my hubby had taken the three kids to nearby Eldora to ski for the morning. I am not a fan of heights, going fast or cold weather, so he offered to drop me off in Boulder for the day.
It was me, my two legs and a backpack in one of the country’s most utterly walkable cities. It was bliss.
They dropped me off by the Boulder County Farmers Market but I knew I wanted to hit it around lunch time, so I set off to the Chautauqua Trailhead. We’d hiked there in the fall and I was blissful at the prospect of having some solo time to explore.
I always forget, though, when I don’t have my three little people to pace me, that I need to pace myself. I started out a little too strong. The thing about this particular hike, though, is that you want to stop and rest. Because the views are amazing and change considerably as you climb. Before you hit the trees, you see wide open spaces, other hikers and the city of Boulder, including University of Colorado.
As you climb and approach the Flatirons, the ground gets rockier, until you discover you’re walking only on rocks. For someone like me who craves varied terrain and whole body engagement but isn’t so keen on danger or risk, this is the ideal hike.
About halfway back down, I started to hear a strangely familiar but unrecognizable noise. Convinced I was being closely followed by a vacuum cleaner, I quickened my pace a bit. I turned to find the source of the noise but there was just a pair of hikers behind me. They were looking up, however and that’s when it dawned on me – a drone! Someone was flying a small drone overhead. My “I watch too much Homeland” habits got the best of my fight-or-flight reflex and I scurried away from what was surely a child’s toy.
After hiking I walked through the CU campus back towards the farmers market. It’s changed a lot since I was a prospective student and some of the most notable changes include improvements to make the campus even more walkable that it was before. Well-designed, light-filled tunnels allow for near complete avoidance of busy roadways. Brilliant.
I made four separate passes through the Farmers Market, seeking out vendors I liked from our last visit and hoping to find some new ones. If there is city that is more celiac-friendly in the U.S., then I don’t know what it would be. Stall after stall offered gluten free goodness. Old favorites included quinoa crackers from New Beat Foods and Rowdy Mermaid kombucha where I stopped not one, but two different times.
I was hoping that the Korean rice bowl vendor whose food I devoured in October would be back, and was disappointed when I couldn’t find them. My disappointment was ridiculous, though, because I ended up scoring what was quite possibly the best lunch I have ever eaten outside.
Zeal, a Boulder-based restaurant, offered up a grassfed burger on a gluten free bun. The bun was from Kim & Jake’s, which is a gluten free bakery based in Boulder. Last time I was in Colorado, I smuggled back a container of Kim & Jake’s cookies that I’d bought at the Whole Foods in Denver. Their stuff is as good as it gets. (You can get those buns shipped to you here and see what Food & Wine magazine has to say about the bakery here.) I paired that burger, which was garnished with a house-made aioli, kale and beets, with sweet potato fries cooked in coconut oil. Delish + delish.
I topped myself off with a raw “Snickers” bar from Daydream Dessert Co., one of the newer vendors I found. Was it good? Let’s just say that she didn’t take credit cards and I emptied my wallet to buy as many as I could.
With tired legs and a happy belly, I waited for hubby and his family to fetch me by the market, listening to the live band playing and soaking up the last bits of my mini-vacation. As my brother-in-law pulled into the parking lot, I saw my son’s head peeping out the window yelling, “Mommy, I lost my tooth! I hurried to the car to inspect his new grin and he said, “I must have swallowed it when I was eating my apple. It’s gone!”
We spent the rest of the day trying to find something someone else had “lost” to make up for the lost tooth. In One Morning in Maine, Sal finds a bird’s feather to substitute for the lost tooth she couldn’t find.
Alas, finding no feathers, my little guy had to write a note to the Tooth Fairy explaining the situation. He labeled it, “Classified” and “Top Secret.” It must have been sufficient, because he netted $1.
Drones chasing me down the mountain instead of bears. Foraging kombucha instead of clams. And “Top Secret” letters to the Tooth Fairy instead of feathers and chocolate ice cream. It would seem, One Morning in Boulder features a few modernized plot twists.
For me, though, it was just as magical as I imagine life inside a McCloskey book to be.