I wanted our 30th anniversary hike to be memorable... something Bobbie could neither forget nor forgive.
I've pulled this stunt before, on birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas. It's the old "bait and switch," where I feign the courtesy of allowing Bobbie to choose what, where, and how far. Then I add on to her "choice" something arduous like a summit or a ridge line run that gave us trouble when we were a few decades younger. The trick is to make the "going further/higher part" sound spontaneous, like, "Gee, we're so close. You want to go ahead and bag "it" again while we're here?"
On that note, recall that we tried to hike the yet unplowed Corkscrew Gulch Road back in May, that we were turned back by deep snow and potential for avalanche. It's since been plowed open, but remains a four wheel drive "Jeep Trail." So we headed south on 550, the infamous Million Dollar Highway, looking for a hike that would get us some high altitude training... something above timberline.
How about doing Corkscrew, you know, since we got turned back last time?
Of course Bobbie's thinks we'll just be hiking to the "pass," a couple thousand feet up and 7 or 8 miles roundtrip. But I got my heart set on reprising the ridge line run above the pass, which requires a grueling near-vertical scramble through loose talus and scree. Given our legs are still a little flat from yesterday's hike of the Perimeter Trail, I decide to wait till we get to the pass to mention "the Ridge Run."
Corkscrew is a precipitous Jeep road that serpentines through the heart and soul of Red Mountain's numerous peaks and connecting ridges. Yeah, I suppose we could have piled in the 4 X 4, Petroleus Rex, and motored up to the pass like everyone else, but where's the fun, challenge, and "memorable" in doing that? Besides, ridge-running is glorious, second only to summits and sex... or both, if you want to join the "Mile High Club." :)
On the hike up we are overtaken by a few Jeep Tours and others out for a preseason taste of the Colorado high country. Corkscrew is a favorite because the dirt and rock is supercharged with iron, leaving mountains looking as if they're bleeding out. We are chided with remarks like, "There are easier ways to get up," and "That's why God made Jeeps." We respond with goodnatured snowballs, and Bobbie telling them that "we are having more fun than they are."
Corkscrew becomes a "ledge," as it switchbacks up the mountainside. The views are staggering... patchworks of white snow against orange and red, ocher and umber. We pause, moved by the sights. "I could never, ever tire of this, no matter how many times I see it." Bobbie nods in agreement, trying to catch her "second wind."
Finally, we gain the "pass," about half snow, half bare ground; certainly more snow than in previous years come mid-June. We are overdressed in t-shirts and shorts. Clouds begin to build as predicted, adding mood and tension. Rocks explode with colorful lichens. Lakes reflect red mountain grandeur.
I embrace my soulmate, look deep into her soft green eyes and pronounce my love, telling her, "Life is still Good with you, after all these years."
"How about running the ridge?" I ask, knowing she can't refuse an offer to go higher.
"Sure. Why not?"
There are no words to convey such moments spent in such places. You have to be there in person to understand... to "get it." This is not photoshopped. It is as red as you see it. It is REAL, but my mind wonders if the eyes are playing tricks. A single tear tracks down a cheek, red with sunburn. Now the mind believes what the eye sees.
If one is not moved by such unparalleled beauty, their soul has gone to waste. I live for such moments, and stand willing to die for them. I'm reminded of Old Lodge Skins (Chief Dan George) prayer on his deathbed in "Little Big Man."
Old Lodge Skins: Come out and fight! It is a good day to die! Thank You for making me a Human Being! Thank You for helpin' me to become a warrior! Thank You for my victories, and for my defeats! Thank You for my vision, and the blindness in which I saw further! You make all things and direct them in their ways, O Grandfather.