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“Autumn is the time of year when Mother Nature says, ‘Look how easy, how healthy, and how beautiful letting go can be.’”
– Toni Sorenson  
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 9 September 2018  

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  An event or an experience?
  By Mark Stoller

   Mark Stoller is a nine-year resident of Colorado. He and his wife, Andra, both U.S. Air Force veterans, moved to Falcon in 2007 and are now raising their three teenage daughters in Latigo. They enjoy their home on the prairie with plenty of room for their six adopted dogs, bagpipes & Celtic Festivals and beekeeping. Mark enjoys the privilege of his wife and daughters being his muse for topics, people to meet and places to investigate.
The last weekend of July, we took a trip to Aspen Alley Ranch to visit our daughter, Alex. She spent her summer vacation there working as a trail guide.
   
   Aspen Alley Ranch is six hours away in south-central Wyoming and about 25 miles west of an old mining town called Encampment (population 442) in the Medicine Bow National Forest. The 500 acres of land were donated to the Salvation Army in 2014 by Dr. Paul and Joan Broome. The Salvation Army decided to allow the public to enjoy its natural beauty and also allow groups to experience off-grid life in the middle of Wyoming’s wilderness.
   
   It’s a beautiful drive after you leave the concrete cityscape of I-25 just north of Fort Collins. Heading northwest across Colorado toward and throughout Wyoming, there is a spectacular view of sagebrush shrubland, desert basins, protruding flat-top mesas, grasslands and alpine mountain ranges full of birds of prey, antelope, roadside free-range cows and bears.
   
   Driving from Encampment to Aspen Alley Ranch, I noticed 6-foot sticks attached to the top of each mile marker as we crested the Continental Divide. The stick extensions give the snowplow drivers an idea of the boundaries of the roads they need to clear during the early spring when the roads open again. As much as 12 feet of snow can accumulate in any given winter up there!
   
   Pastor Pat Jeffrey, formerly of Falcon’s Grace Community Church, along with his wife, Joyce, are the proprietors of Aspen Alley Ranch. They have spent the last two years improving the facilities, grounds and hosting a multitude of groups from churches to 4-wheel clubs.
   
   Standing in front of the ranch house fire ring and surrounded by 60-plus-foot aspen trees, Pat and I discussed how important it is to get away from life’s grind and routine. Pat said, “In many of the memorial ceremonies I have conducted, people laugh and share stories about the times they went on camping or rafting trips with their family. No one talked about going to the opening night of a movie. You see, Mark, they recalled the experiences they shared. That’s another beauty of this ranch. Folks are disconnected from the world and focused on each other or their own personal journey.”
   
   Being completely off-grid, I had the opportunity to experience the wilderness around me. Each morning, I walked barefoot for 15 feet off the trail and into the acres of grassland leading to a seemingly endless, thick grove of tall aspens. With the early morning sun on my face, I spent some time with my eyes closed and listened to the stillness punctuated by the distant rustle of leaves tossed by a slight wind, occasional chirps of crickets and the varying calls from birds in the trees.
   
   Going for a barefoot walk in the grass is a technique called “earthing.” Studies have shown there are many benefits from the relationship between our bodies and the electrons in the earth. The earth has its own natural charge, and humans seem to be healthier when there is direct contact with it.
   
   A review published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health found that “earthing changed the electrical activity in the brain, benefitted skin conductivity, moderated heart rate variability, improved glucose regulation, reduced stress and boosted immunity.”
   
   Today, you can find some grass and walk barefoot for a while to ground yourself. See if you feel any different.
   
   School is back in session and fall break isn’t too far away. I challenge you to take this time to plan a trip where you and your family can leave behind the noise of the world and experience something new.
  
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