After 11 cramped hours on the roads and in the sky yesterday, I had to get out for exercise today. Fortunately, my friend Barry Erdman contacted me by email yesterday and we arranged to go hiking together today. Barry is newly diagnosed with type 1 and is extremely conscientious about controlling it.
Along the trail, Barry suggested that my next book could be about Hiking with Diabetes. I really like that idea and plan to pitch it to my regular publisher.
But I already have my next book lined up. I just heard from Jack Hailman that he wants me to take over updating the book that he and his wife Elizabeth wrote, Hiking Circuits in Rocky Mountain National Park.
I had written Jack when I found a problem with one of the circuit trail descriptions. He replied that he and Elizabeth had travelled every summer to Rocky Mountain National Park, but now that they are retired to Florida don’t get back this way any more. Since I am a hiking, a writer, and live close to the park where I hike as often as I can, I told him that I was the perfect candidate to take over the book. He apparently agreed.
Of all hikes, circuit hikes or loop trails are my favorite. So it wasn’t surprisingly that I suggested to Barry that we hike one of them today. We didn’t go to Rocky Mountain National Park today, but instead hiked Marshall Mesa in the foothills less than five miles from where I live.
It was a surprisingly warm morning with full sun and no wind and so little ice on the trail that I didn’t even put on my Yaktrax. We walked and talked for two hours.
Then, I took Barry to lunch at his favorite restaurant, Nepal Cuisine (he took me to lunch last time at an Indian restaurant, because it was Sunday and Nepal Cuisine was closed that day). He is a vegetarian Buddhist who spent many years in India and Nepal. It happens to be the restaurant closest to my apartment — the only one within easy walking distance — and one that I like very much. The only problem is that it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet, and I had already gained 1.8 pounds on my California vacation.
But today I limited myself to my favorite dishes. I had saag paneer (saag is spinach cooked with cream, and paneer is a type of soft cheese cube), fried okra, and a little chicken.
Then, we got a real treat. We met with the chef-owner, Ratna Shrestha. Barry has a connection with her through another friend in Boulder who featured her cooking on a recent radio broadcast.
Ratna, who told us that she is from Kathmandu, spent almost an hour with us. Since many of the dishes on the buffet have the same names as in an Indian restaurant, I asked her the difference between Indian and Nepalese cooking. “It’s in the spices,” she said. Nepalese cooking uses fenugreek seeds a lot more than the cumin that Indians prefer. Later, she added that Indian cooking generally uses the same sauces on everything, but all the dishes that she cooks are distinctive. She cooks everything from scratch and uses only fresh ingredients, Ratna told us.
Then, she went back into the kitchen and put together this plate with the spices that she uses:
I was familiar with most of them. But a very tasty spice that I will have to buy at the Indian grocery is Ajawna. Another great new spice is black cardamon, which is considerably stronger than regular cardamon.
Ratna told me how to cook bitter melon, which I bought recently at an Indian grocery — boil, use lemon juice, fresh tomatoes, pan-roasted sesame seeds (which she served us, and they are delicious), and cilantro. She is planning a cooking class. When she teaches how to cook saag paneer, I hope to be there.
Finally, this afternoon my massage therapist, Ranada Erikson, gave me a much-needed massage. She has moved to Denver, but sometimes comes back to Boulder on the weekend and called me yesterday on my cell phone just as I was taking off from a stop-over in Las Vegas. I really needed the massage because of the heavy weight that I had been carrying in my pack that I had been using for my carry-on luggage — and because I had strained some muscles in my legs getting on or off of the ski lift on Thursday.
The hike this morning and the massage this afternoon worked out all of those kinks, and I am now back to normal. This was a perfect conclusion to a vacation where I accomplished everything I set out to do and where everything went without a hitch.