When my daughter and I went on walkabout up Kearney Gulch, I noted, quite excitedly, that our footprints in the fresh-fallen snow were the first bipedal ones. During the antiquity of the mining days, it was said a dragon lived here. One neighbor told me the Irish miners believed you'd see the Devil, what for the scent of sulfur further up the gulch, a motivation he had to seek out natural hot springs. We saw neither, but we didn't really go looking for that. We were seeking an adventure.
Whether or not any of those tall tales were true seem irrelevant. It's not a well-known trail outside of the locos. There's no map. When you get told of it, it appears you've been truly welcomed into the tribe.
Oh, fuck yes. Not bad for a misanthropic non-joiner. Strange luck.
A week before, Sabina and I went up to Steamboat Springs. She'd lived there for a season some twenty-five years ago and I'd never been. My impression was that of if Estes Park and Breckenridge had a baby. Frightening, but at least it wasn't Vail; contrived, devoid of any funk whatsoever. After all, you gotta have the funk.
The autumn colors were striking, though I didn't like the sulfur scent from all the hot springs. Flippantly, I can thank or blame Dante or Milton for that. Of course, even on a weekday, it was crowded. Leaving to check out the two-hundred forty foot waterfall named Fish Creek and picnicing from the tailgate of Old Scratch with a bottle of wine was preferable.
In our Sahel, the autumn colors, though late, have been more muted. Wind and snow have stripped some aspens, but, by early October, they're generally bald anyway. As I drove up to the summit of Loveland Pass I took note of the colors of rust and khaki against the snow and evergreen. It's been a queer year, but every year, every moment, is unique, and that's the beauty of it.
I'd wanted to walk up along the north ridge, heading vaguely in the direction of the Citadel, over the ski area itself. Almost immediately, it became a bad idea. There was more snow and ice than I anticipated, and I didn't bring crampons-on a twelve-thousand foot north face after recent snows? What was I thinking? Clearly, I wasn't-and, on the fledgling snowfields, the early-season skiers and snowboarders were out, eking, scratching, and welcoming the incoming season. I'd come part way up the ridge when one flew over my head, no mean feat, given my height. He crashed into a snowbank off to my left side and I helped him out of it.
"Nicely done," I said, too genuinely impressed with his jump to really be cross with him.
"Whoa! Thanks, dude!" He replied, dazed and impressed by his own act of acrobatic insanity.
So, I headed back down, toward the southern ridge; the trails for Sniktau and Grizzly Peak. Walkabouts I'd done before, but there was less snow and I could leave the school-ditching teenagers and twenty-somethings to play with their skies and boards-their cries of joyous abandon following me for almost a mile-showing their bodies were still made of rubber and springs. I'd still be able to see the Citadel. After all, I was on the Roof of the World.
I walked up to a group of windbreaks at one of the trail forks between Sniktau and Grizzly. From there, I found a cairn to sit by and have some trail mix whilst taking in the world from its roof. To the east, I could see toward home, and on into the Front Range. Beyond that was a break somewhere far off, denoting down below and the badlands to the east. Looking west, I could see the Gore Range, perhaps even the Mount of the Holy Cross, though, I wasn't sure. Beyond that, somewhere past the great frozen waves of mountain peaks, lay the Great Basin and the rest of the 'Merican Maghreb.
Heading down, I mused how my original scheme had been usurped. Mei fei tsu. The fastest way to make a deity to laugh is to have a plan and itineraries are for those who lack imagination. It was nice to improvise.
Back after I was first divorced and without any prospects of companionship, I felt depressed, battered, burnt to the core-but not broken-and bored. It was then, in that Edgar Allen Poe and Henry Rollins laced wallowing, I resolved to never allow myself to be bored. I've sought adventure in some form or fashion ever since; whether it was the neon novelty of the city or the magical mystery of the mountains. I've not been really bored yet. The day it happens, I find out what a bullet tastes like.
Shortly before reaching Old Scratch, catching once more the whoops and hollers or the early-season snowbums echoing across the peaks, I cut through my own snowfield. It was just a couple inches deep and I thought of snowshoeing. I thought of the ecstasy of those calls at the coming season. They had every reason to; it held the promise of a whole different set of adventures.