Giant raindrops intermittently pelt our windshield while the sun still streams through the clouds, casting rays of lights through long cracks in the cloud cover revealing a blue sky beyond. We are driving through the western foothills of the Colorado Rockies. From Boulder the highway crested up and over hills into mountains passing Loveland and Vail and various other ski mountains with still snowy peaks and multi-million dollar condos butting up against their feet, occasionally a mine along the river mining gold or copper leaving obscene scars long the hillsides. The aspen and pine intermingling til the pine leaves it for the higher elevations. The mountains just as quickly turn into shear cliffs along the Colorado River – the cliff faces jutting out at odd angles and millions of right angles of every size. Now the cliffs have turned to arid woods, chaparral and tall wide mountains that will soon again change to something else- Arches and Canyonlands Parks, our next destinations.
We left Boulder after a hike in Gregory Canyon and a breakfast of mimosas and eggs benedict at the Chataqua Gathering Place, a lodge built in the late 1800’s for the advancement of education and the arts. Their wide green lawn and the copper red Flatiron Mountains as a backdrop made for a lovely parting meal. The day before we’d woken at the Alps Inn, a bed and breakfast lodge up a different canyon outside of Boulder where we’d spent the night of our first anniversary as a wedded couple.
These trips we make around the sun leave markers in our minds and it’s nice to focus our selves and reflect for a moment and consider what comes next. It was both our anniversary and the Summer Solstice – something of a natural anniversary – the longest day of the year. A year isn’t a long time in retrospect but, then, in the middle of it, it can seem to stretch forever. There aren’t always agreements and sometimes there can be a fierce disagreement. But then – the agreements, the love, and the dance that we do through the nuts and bolts of our lives, is lovely and wonderful.
For our first year anniversary, we timed this trip to land us in Boulder and the Rockies. We’d gathered together a picnic lunch of cheese (a nice variety: a porter cheddar, triple cream brie, a sheep’s milk gouda, a red pepper havarti, and, our favorite, the Humboldt Fog chevre – a deliciously potent and creamy cheese.), wine, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, a sourdough bread, and other assorted tasty treats and hiked it up to the top of Alberta Falls, a fairly short hike to be certain, where we enjoyed the roaring river, the tasty lunch, the wine, the sun, and each other’s presence. The light green leaves of the aspen trees fluttered in the sunlight and cast dappled shadows over the rock strewn ground. Little wild flowers poked up here and there and the entire thing was such a lovely experience of sensations: flavors – the food, the wine, the taste of the breeze; sounds – the river, laughter, birds; scents – mountain air, pine, the cold water; textures of cheese and water, rock and leaves; amd sights – the colors of the rocks and the sun glinting off the endless river ripples.
We left the park early-ish and, on our way to the inn, stopped at a winery tasting room and picked up a bottle of a locally made Syrah along with some smoked trout, said hi to the geese along side the pond and then wound our way down the mountain highway to the inn where we enjoyed the wine, the trout, the hot tub in our room, the pipe in low volume Billie Holiday and other old time jazz and blues, and then, come morning, a delicious breakfast of quiche, coffee and scones.
That morning, leaving the inn, we drove to Twin Sisters Peaks with Violet eyeing the gathering clouds.
Looks like rain, she said. And then again. And then again, reminding me that she was not going to be stoked if she was hiking in the rain.
Yes dear, i replied.
And so we hiked up and up and up: the tumbled and strewn rocks and dotted with moss, the birds that darted through the tall pine that waved and sighed in the breeze, whispering pine secrets amongst each other. A few drops started to come down so we scrambled up to the top of a tall rocky promontory where we had an incredible view of the flat stone face of Long’s Peak in the distance with it’s snowy glaciers and years of compounded snow, and then further down – the valley the river, and other rocky outcroppings and the, from there, seemingly endless sea of pine.
After a quick hike down we decided to drive up further into the park and see what we might find. We took the 34 through the northern edge of the park and along the way:
- saw half a dozen bighorn sheep alongside a river where they congregate and eat mud for it’s mineral content
- were awed by the wide grassy meadows with the slowly curving river and fields of wild flowers and massive mountains that sloped down from either side
- stopped to hang out with a couple of really large male deer with furry antlers, grazing on grass and flowers.
- and on and on and on….
…til we drove up a random road that dead-ended in a valley at the aptly named Endovalley picnic area. We parked and then hiked up a road for a ways til we reached Chasm Falls, a lovely roaring falls in the woods surrounded by rocks, no one around, the sun shining on us from the now bright blue sky and a lovely afternoon. We hiked back to the car, had some cheese, olives, wine, and then drove onwards through the park, stopping at a wide open meadow speckled with yellow, purple, and white wild flowers and ending in tall pine framing a panoramic view of the mountains with myself allowing promises to return for a longer multi-day hike. From there we drove back down through the park to my aunt and uncles house just south of Boulder where we had a delicious dinner, some wine, nice conversation and finally went to bed early so we could wake early and get to hiking in the morning.
Now, after all that we round the highway into a valley ringed by mountains to one side and lush fertile vineyards and farmlands and golden tinged mesas in the evening sun setting over the last stretches of Colorado, hoping to make it to Arches National Park before too late.