11:00 o’clock And All’s Sort Of OK

We had gray skies and Camelot rains here the last couple of days and this morning as I was making my rounds inventorying the trees here at the top of the world I was suddenly struck with the realization that one of my oldest friends was not doing so well.

We’ve known each other for over 25 years and have weathered many a storm together. Although old and past its prime it always appeared to be strong and vital and nowhere near ready to give up and lie down as so many of its peers have done. It has withstood one hundred and one mile per hour winds. Incredible snow loads. During the storm of the century the snow was half way up its trunk. Every bird that could peck holes in its slowly softening trunk have done so. Flickers, woodpeckers of several varieties, anything that could make a hole in it has. It has been the home of legions of Canyon wrens, black-capped chickadees, even a family of bluebirds. It has participated in life to its fullest.

Through it all it has stood steady and resolute, Nature’s own version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Defiantly strong in the face of all adversity while its lesser brethren gave up, tottered and fell to the ground to begin their long journey back into the earth that had nourished them for so many years. Not so my friend. It was as if it seemed to say “Is that all you have? Come on throw it at me. I can take it.”

As the years passed we both have been through our storms together. As each wave of turmoil swept over me I would look out and there my friend would be leaning into life with a strength I envied and tried to emulate, not always doing the best job of it, but buoyed up by seeing my old friend still standing firm. There were the successes too, some monumental, at least in my life. Great huge highs that were caused by family, or business, or simply being in a place that I loved as much as life itself. Always I shared it with my friend just outside the window.

Sometime ago I went and stood next to it feeling the texture of its rough and weathered surface. Pieces flaked off beneath my fingers yet it still seemed vital and present. Not fragile, not at the end of its road. I even pushed at it, testing whether it was as firm in its stance as I thought it was. It didn’t budge. I thought, well there’s a lesson there bucko. Keep grounded, keep a firm grip and you can make it too.

Of course at that time I wasn’t taking in the fact that time marches on and all things change. Now I see that the slow passage of our journey together has finally caught up with my old friend and it is calling its name. It is a tired old tree now. I fancy that if I look real close I can see it shiver in the wind, slightly swaying. Then I don’t. I really don’t want to see that. I’ve always thought that my friend and its sons next to it have represented the hands of a clock. The hands pointing to eleven o’clock, measuring our friendship in its own slow way. I, unable to see the slight movement of its hands but knowing they were moving even if I can’t see them do so. Now it seems the hands have stopped moving for my friend, even reversing themselves a little. If their position is eleven o’clock now, it is inevitable that as it must do, they will move to nine o’clock some time. When that happens my friend will have completed its journey.

Soon my old friend and I will part company. I to a new place where hopefully there will be new old friends. It to its final journey and rest on the earth that has sustained it all its life. I hope that it waits to complete its mission until I’m gone. I need it there to be strong and resolute in its constancy so I can be too.

 

 

Hiding In Plain Sight

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Mountain goats aren’t really known for being stealthy. They don’t have a lot of need to be. There aren’t that many predators up here at the top of the world at over 14,000′ to get them so they usually just hang out not caring very much about who sees them.

Yet Nature, who is in charge of animal protection here in this world, has chosen to give them life saving camouflage anyway. When you enlarge this image by clicking on it, and you know you should, you’ll see that even with them standing out in plain sight your eyes will drift right over them and you’ll often miss seeing them. This effect is even more pronounced when the herd is scattered out and the individuals take on the coloring and look of the boulder field they like to forage in.

Occasionally a coyote and on the rarest of occasions a mountain lion will find its way up here in the hopes of catching a lamb or a sick billy-goat but they’re usually so whacked out by the lack of oxygen up here that their efforts are half-hearted at best. Still the camouflage is there in case they need it.

This is Mt. Evans by the way, and it is 14,264′ up in the air. It is also one of the tallest of our national parks with all kinds of neat facts that you can read elsewhere about how cool it is. The road up here is not for the squeamish and will often involve some or all of the passengers in your vehicle crouching on the floor to avoid the sheer terror of the incredible drop offs just inches away from your tires. Drivers Pay Attention! Gravity is not your friend up here.

For those of you who are going to ask “Is that blue real?” the answer is no. It’s actually bluer than that. I had to tone it down in Photoshop from the real color because it is SO blue, and that is the famous Colorado blue you hear about, that my staffers walking by catching a glimpse of it on the monitor would be frozen in their tracks, stunned into immobility, so totally hypnotized by it blueness, that they would be paralyzed and fall over in what we call the Blue Coma. Since some of you may be viewing this on portable devices and doing things like walking or chewing gum I thought it best, in the interest of your safety, to bring it down into a more tolerable color.

Soon and that is in a couple of weeks, the ewes will start having their lambs and the tourists will start arriving to see them. The park opens later in the year than most other parks because this geography and weather up here are similar to arctic conditions. There’s tundra scattered around everywhere with arctic plants growing and biting winds and fast-moving storms that race in just to catch everyone unaware, so they, the people in charge of these places, want to give the inquisitive tourists every chance of making it up and back down alive. Plus the roads are mostly snowed shut until sometime in mid June. But life is an adventure and you’re alive or should be so jump in the old Celica and get on up to the top of the world. There’s views, and vistas, and far-reaching sights that will make you say “oh Wow” or even “Holy Moley” and you can see the Mountain goats hiding in plain sight. It’s worth it.