Monday, December 10, 2012

The Colorado Trail: Reflections on a 500-mile Adventure (Part 4)

Yesterday Sheriff Bill Fairchild gave us a ride back to the trailhead.  He talked and laughed the whole way, and I found myself thinking he’d mastered the right kind of approach to life.

Today, we journeyed twelve miles over Snow Mesa at 12,400 feet, passing through a herd of sheep grazing in an alpine meadow.  Descending from the mesa we spotted a coyote and watched him run across the skree slope.  Now we’re camped in a beautiful meadow, and we’ve seen several deer this afternoon.

Today may have been my favorite hike of our entire journey.  We spent a leisurely morning goofing around then started hiking at 8:30—and it was a spectacular walk.  So many wildflowers covered the high meadows it was as if the world had gone all Jackson Pollock, splattering color across the land—daisies, Indian paintbrush, sunflowers, blue bells, columbine, and so many more.  And the mountains towered around us like something out of a fantasy novel, rugged gray and red peaks everywhere we looked.

We lingered at the top of Rolling Mountain Pass for a long snack, and now we’re camped beside a playful series of small waterfalls.  The stone beneath the water is chalky white, and the water is clear.  After dinner we took a short walk up a skree slope and watched the pikas.  Now I’m lying in bed, listening to the soft chanting of the waterfalls.

Today was relaxing—only walked 8 miles, all of it above timberline with spectacular mountain views.  We stopped early to camp at Taylor Lake, which sits at treeline in a glacial cirque, and we swam then let our skin dry in the sun.  At dusk, we ate dinner beside the water, and we were serenaded by a coyote in the distance.  We saw several deer, and the sunset was perfect.

It is our last night on the Colorado Trail.  It’s hard to believe that our six week journey is almost over.  Looking back it seems to have flown by, leaving images and deep feelings—the joy of laughter, an endless sea of mountain peaks, the simplicity and perfect slowness of walking.  Some images are steep and rugged.  Some are dry and thirsty.  Others are wet and muddy and smell like rain. 

Life has slowed down for me, closer now to the pace of the moon as it eases across the sky.  My days have been filled with rhythms of water, whispers of wind, songs of birds, long silences… and I will miss those things.  I’ll miss traveling with Richard, the carefree and habitual friendship we’ve deepened, the peace and simplicity we’ve shared.

Sitting in camp this evening, I am both excited and sad.  Another year in Boulder is waiting for me, and I’m excited to once again immerse myself in the energy of that town—the playfulness of the people, the stimulation of campus, the rollicking nights.  But I’ll miss this. 

The evening birds are singing, and the aspens are whispering.  I’ll take it as a farewell serenade and put these memories in my traveling bag for safe keeping.

Further Reading:  If you are interested in learning more about the Colorado Trail, check out these books:

Read the whole series:  Part 1  -  Part 2  -  Part 3  -  Part 4

J.S. Kapchinske is the author of Coyote Summer.