There are an estimated 50 million Scot Diaspora living around the world and I am lucky enough to be one of them. Among that 50 million, a much smaller number have been lucky enough to actually visit Scotland. I am also one of them. An even smaller number, perhaps, long to be back in Scotland, and I am most definitely one of them. I am homesick for the Highlands, the Islands, the lochs, the Munros, the haggis, the whisky, the friends, and all that is Scotland.
While I explore my options for immigration with an eye to making Scotland my home, I constantly search for ways to stay 'connected' to the country. A recent visit to Colorado almost had me believing I was back under the Saltire.
My first visit to Colorado was in 1970. While I was still in high school, our family vacationed with my Uncle Van and Aunt Ruth who had a ranch in Durango. A decade later I honeymooned there. In the early 1990s I flew balloons there for the first time. I could not have known then that it would be nearly 25 years before I would return and that when I did, I would be viewing Colorado in an entirely different light - making comparisons to the land I plan to call home, Scotland.
The reason for my recent trip to Colorado was the same as my last, ballooning. I was invited to attend and fly the Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Rodeo. Though I'd only returned from Scotland barely 6 weeks earlier, I jumped at the opportunity for I needed to see the majestic vistas, the lakes (lochs), and mountains (munros). I needed to breathe the clean, crisp, invigorating air I'd experienced in the Kilkpatrick Hills, the Highlands, and on Isles of Bute and Skye. I was anxious for a break from the already sweltering summer temperatures of Louisiana. Colorado did not disappoint...
A WEE BIT O' SCOTLAND
In my travels I found many comparisons between Colorado and Scotland (noted further on) but there is a significant difference - altitude! While Ben Nevis towers over Scotland at an elevation of 4,409 feet, it pales in comparison to Colorado's Rocky Mountains. Steamboat Springs, Colorado, sits in the NW corner of the state, in the Yampa River valley at 7,000 feet elevation. Access to the valley is via mountain passes that approach 10,000 feet. Cross the nearby Continental Divide and you'll 'soar' to over 11,500 feet!
My traveling companions were two friends, Joey Scarpinatto and Frankie McCall, who often volunteer as crew for my "Coyote Rising" hot air balloon. Our first view of Steamboat Springs, from just over 9,500 feet in the shadow of Walton Peak (no, not of the TV show), literally took our collective breath away - and had me immediately reminiscing about Scotland.
This view of the valley, with Steamboat Springs at the far end... recalled this view of the Glengarry Overlook, sans the loch of course!
This view of Colorado (left) recalled a view of the Black Cuillin on Skye.
Click on each to enlarge.
Both Colorado and Scotland are dotted with waterfalls, large and small. Here is Fish Creek Falls (left) near Steamboat Springs, CO and Mealt Falls, Isle of Skye.
A rushing stream in Colorado and a similar rushing "burn" (stream) on the Ardverikie Estate in Scotland. Colorado photo by Joey Scarpinatto
It is the prodigious snow melt from the Rockies and the Cairngorms that result in nearly countless rushing rivers and streams (burns) in both Colorado and Scotland...
And of course there are the lochs, those amazing bodies of water that help make Scotland a world-class sailing destination. Best known as a Mecca for snow skiing and winter sports, Colorado does not lack for spectacular lakes of its own for sailing, water skiing and other aquatic recreation...
Green Mountain resevoir, Colorado and Loch Sligachan, near Sconser, Isle of Skye.
Click to enlarge
Garden of the Gods and Kilt Rock. Click to enlarge.
Both Colorado and Scotland also have dramatic rock formations that are well know tourist sites -- a popular attraction in Colorado, near the city of Colorado Springs, is the Garden of the Gods, which features dramatic formations of red rocks - and on the day of my visit, showery, typically 'Scottish' weather. Near Staffin on the Isle of Skye is the famous "Kilt Rock," so named because the striations in the rock resemble the pleats of a kilt.
The natural beauty of Colorado and Scotland is found on many levels, including in brilliantly colored varieties of flora...
Top row Colorado, bottom row Scotland.
So my recent trip to Colorado served to once again stoke the fire of my love for Scotland, of my desire to make Scotland my home, and it gave me one experience I did not have time to enjoy when in Scotland... the opportunity to fly my balloon amidst a very 'Scottish' backdrop!
And so I celebrated this adventure in a very Scottish way, with an Irn Bru. After this most recent visit, Colorado will always seem to me as Scotland, USA! Slainte Mhah!