Easter, In the Bleak Midwinter

stone fireplace

With temperatures in the mid-to-upper 60s last weekend then record-breaking snowfall and cold a scant two days later, these extreme climatic changes are reminiscent of a trip I took with my wife-to-be when we drove from Michigan to Colorado for the Easter holiday.

Our first trip together, Erin and I left Grand Rapids with temperatures in the low 70s. Hitting spring storms in the Chicago area, the temperatures took a slight dip but the weather held until we crested a mountain ridge two days later as we began our descent into Steamboat Springs, Colorado. On that fateful descent, we encountered intermittent snow squalls punctuated by bursts of sunshine and cold, blue skies. Because the alignment of my 1998 Honda civic was out of kilter, the tires would begin vibrating during braking. This caused friction and heat that eventually led to the popping of one of the tires. After twenty-five minutes on the shoulder of a mountain pass being buffeted by winds and feeling the intensity of the high-altitude sun, we were able to roll into Ski Town, U.S.A., in the mid-afternoon. Winter had again descended.

We stayed with former classmates of Erin’s in one of those A-frame, tri-level homes typical of a ski-town. After a day of sipping hot chocolate in a quaint bookstore, tea-tasting, art studios, and beers, we jumped into a Jeep to traverse the rocky dirt roads that took us to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Surrounded by gray stone and wood, a light snow was now falling but we were basking in the steaming pools, fired to 104 degrees by the deep earth.

As the light was just beginning to wain we piled back in the Jeep to return to the bungalow where we were staying. With only enough time to slip into fresh clothes, we made it to the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil that was  beginning as night descended. A fire was kindled outside the brick church for the opening rites and pierced the frigid night air. A full naive relegated us to the choir loft for the next 2 1/2 hours of the service.

When we returned home, Erin and I prepared a pasta dinner for our hosts and dear friends–something out of a Rachel Ray cookbook found while rummaging through the kitchen earlier that day. The meal was put on the table close to the midnight hour. Dining by the light of a blazing fire, we basked in its warmth as we ate, lingering there over red wine and conversing into the small hours of the morning. I’ve stunned people when I’ve told them that Easter–not Christmas–is perhaps my favorite holiday. This particular holiday, as I recall it four years ago hence, seems to tell the story why.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs

Strawberry Park Hot Springs, Steamboat Springs, CO

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