For apparent lack of alternatives, and thanks to a still fully charged Energizer Bunny hiking partner, I commit to the task of making Richmond Pass, climbing on, going higher and getting smaller... till shrink-wrapped like a some provisional plaything for the amusement of capricious gods.
Though within a Nolan Ryan's stones-throw of our mine shack, it had been some 15 years or more since we'd hiked Old Baldy. The lasting impression I had was that it had been a rutted, steep, and extremely HOT hike through uniform-green oak-brush that provided scant shade for refuge from a July sun. At higher elevations sun and temps can beat a hiker/climber into a state of desiccated submission. By noon-thirty all I could think about is puckering my lips to the brim of a sweaty 20 ounce mug of well hopped IPA. But this is mid-September, cool and clear as the spring water that spills from our mountains. Hillsides around Lovely Ouray are alive with on-fire red and orange oak brush leaves, and pockets of yellow-flamed aspen lick at cobalt skies.
The promise of a fair day was quickly broken by dark clouds and white sheets of Corn-snow. For a good while it pelted with some fury, stinging bare legs and arms like a swarm of bees. On with the jackets, on with the hike to Silvercloud Mine, on with the "show," even as thunder rumbled from afar.
I sometimes fumble along the written page here amongst the walls of Box Canyon. Putting into words the physical and emotional connection between a man and his geography is difficult. My tongue is often defeated by its meager vocabulary, so when the phrase I desperately seek to "turn" doesn't budge, I resort to someone who better expresses the concept. This being one of those moments, I offer David Malouf's words from "An Imaginary Life:" Here, the immensity, the emptiness, feeds the spirit, and leaves it with no hunger for anything but more space, more light—as if one had suddenly glimpsed the largeness, the emptiness of one's own soul, and come to terms with it, glorying at last in its open freedom."