"It has come quickly... this crushing, industrial love of paradise. The pervert-free, less-trammeled, hundred-mile-view days were little more than two decades past, not so very long ago." The Anthropology of Turquoise, by Ellen Meloy.
Recalling her wild and free Sierra Mountain roots, Meloy writes, "The true heart of a place does not come in a week's vacation. To know it well...'one must wait its occasions'—follow full seasons and cycles... a retreating snowpack, a six-year drought, a ponderosa pine eating up a porch. Wild mountains offer a promise of undomesticated life...and by necessity and sheer numbers of nature-starved pilgrims, visits there must be brief. Memory...still ignite(s) a consuming longing for those Sierra days of witless youth and enflamed senses. I still carry the land so deep in my bones that I cannot bear to go back."
As you must know by now, I am enraptured by Ellen Meloy "poetry." I wonder some nights if we might not be fraternal twins from different mothers. Utterly beguiled, I fall asleep to her wit-infused prose, her tender, evocative portrayals of landscapes, and her reckless abandon with "right-field" adjectives and metaphors. Rest assured, I will soon turn the last page and put her quotes to rest. But until that midnight hour rolls around, I intend to share her "nuggets," her well-phrased insights that resonate within my aging heart and mind.
"To the east lay Whitney crest and a precipitous plunge to Death Valley and other lowlands of the Gread Basin, places of salt and irrational immensity and heat so fierce you stop noticing things." Ellen Meloy.
The Wednesday forecast called for a one-day break in the monsoonal turbine; "cool, cloudy, and humid." On the heels of a waterlogged Tuesday, and with a prediction for a dismal and wet Thursday, "hump-day" would be our window for escape, our only opportunity to offset rain-delayed "play." I didn't want to drive and didn't want a "re-do" of some hike we've already done this year... which pretty much left Bridge of Heaven." It's a tad short of 11 miles, with 4000 feet of elevation gain. "Are we sure about this?"
Well, one should never be "sure" about anything at our age. You just dream up a daily destination and/or challenge, put on your boots, and put one foot in front of the other until you either succeed, run out of gas, or slip the confines of this world while attempting to make your dream a reality. A good way to go.
"In the old days people knew how to dream. And they didn't have to go to sleep first." Fredrick Nietzsche
One thing I like about Bridge of Heaven is that one of its two trail heads (the harder/longer one) is only a quarter mile from our front door. Maybe it was the third cup of coffee, but I was excited and determined to hike from home.
As predicted, we were greeted by a cool, damp morning. It smelled earthy, a soggy forest scent permeated the air. Fresh snow and low clouds capped our mountain surround... insinuating summer's early demise.
Throughly rested and properly over-caffeinated, we set off at an eager pace, on a hike we hadn't polished off for over a year. Dismal day and another-year-older be damned.
In view of heavy clouds and flat light, I opted to not lug the DSLR five and a half miles and 4000 feet up to the "Bridge." Elphie would have to do.
|A little snow on Potosi.|
|Lovely Ouray, after topping out about the halfway point|
Being a wetter than normal summer, we were treated to an abundance of raspberries as we clawed our way up and out of The Crevice... an unexpected delay :).
Bridge of Heaven Trail affords numerous opportunities to look back on town. We call these "rest breaks." They give a sense of progress on the way up. On the way down, however, it makes us feel like we weren't getting any closer to home.
|Lovely Ouray and Bobbie, from the ridge to the Bridge of Heaven. Only 2000 vertical feet to go...|
|Looking north... toward Ridgway's green pastures and beyond|
|Courthouse Mountain... been up there a number of times.|
Finally, The Bridge... which is really a ridge, but Ridge to Heaven goes lacking in the symbolism department. A few shots from on top...
Time to head down, always the hardest part. Jammed toes. Achy knees. Muscular woes.
About this time every year, the tourist season slides from head to shoulder. We had the luxury of an empty trail to an empty "bridge." Forty minutes into our descent we ran into Craig.
"You the Johnsons?" he asks, chewing on an energy bar and looking plum tuckered.
"I been trying to catch you since I saw your name on the trail register... 9 AM, right?"
He was by himself and looked to be "fifty something."
"You make it to the top? Well good for you. I had to toss in the towel bout timberline."
I explained that timberline was only about 30 minutes from the "Bridge." He looked disappointed, then went on again about getting "older," accusing Bobbie of being in her 40's.
"You're only thirty years off," she laughed.
Exhausted. I can't remember ever being more thrilled to see our driveway. The coup de grace was that it was trash day, and I had to lug a huge, two-wheeled, Bear Proof, Mack Truck Mother of all garbage containers, plus recycle bins, up the 12% grade.
"Bridge of Heaven: Check," I said as we staggered through the front door. Seven hours and change after a light-footed departure. Though only a year had passed, Bridge of Heaven felt twice as hard. So this is how it happens...
But not this year, it was in the bag 'at close of day."
Some of you probably tire of the metaphorical "bleed outs" here on the BCB... the seeming preoccupation with strenuous to arduous treks at altitude. Why Why Why?
I don't know the answer, really; "Because it's there" sounds like a copout, and trips to Walmart, though challenging, aren't all that interesting. All I know is how I feel. Life is
Until then, Rage against the dying light...
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light." Dylan Thomas