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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

On Second Thought...

"I could dance with you until the cows come home. On second thought, I'd rather dance with the cows until you come home."  Groucho Marx

Everyone deals with boredom in their own way. Some jet to the ends of the earth in search of something different, something to break rutted routines, something that makes them feel alive, something that quickens their pulse besides a double expresso and a side of cinnamon swirl coffee cake at Starbucks every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Some go on wildlife safaris in Africa or climb 8,000 meter peaks in the Himalayas, while others are content with a Caribbean Disney cruise where they can drown their boredom at the Tiki Bar after a port-of-call day off-ship, indulging native culture and trying on hats woven from genuine Guatemalan palm leaves. 

There was a time when I thought the above made perfect sense and a purposeful retirement life. Perhaps I've evolved since then; all I seem to need now is mountains, deserts, and the occasional ocean...preferably in the great northwest where angry seas ricochet in white spray off black volcanic rock.
Recall the criterion for "adventure" put forth a few posts back, that it must involve undetermined outcomes. Now before slings and arrows of accusation start flying my direction, let me assure you that Bobbie has no life insurance. Zero. Zip. Nada. I, on the other hand—upon an untimely death—am worth a bundle. So let there be no question or doubt regarding "who's zooming who" should something go wrong...which is likely.

There are backroads and trails in our neighborhood that steal my breath. And in spite of concerted efforts to ply them all before we die, we've only made a dent. This is when I realize the significance and consequence of "Time," as the bulk of the sand in my wretched hourglass lies in a conical pile on the bottom. I choose to use this as motivation to explore the rest of my backyard. It's all I need...that and the occasional sea, Utah, and Arizona. La La Land and SoCal could slip into the abyss as far as I'm concerned, and the rest of the world along with it.  Sorry, but it's hard to beat perfection...

This is where one of those local "backroads" landed us yesterday, a bizarre stoney "pass" above timberline reminiscent of Rover images from Planet Mars. We are aghast at its otherworldliness. We must explore.

If you were Nolan Ryan, and could throw a rock over that colorful mountain in the above photo, it would land in Columbine Lake...the most sapphired alpine gem I've ever rested eyes on. 

Bobbie and I have driven this pass numerous times, but never thought to explore it's outlying bouldered surround. It's not particularly inviting to the "average hiker," which is another way of saying, "we might just have it all to ourselves." Onward and upward we go...till there, hidden from view at the base of a vast moraine, another gem.

I'm captivated, and pause to photograph. Bobbie succumbs to the lure of an amphitheater shaped basin and pushes on. 

And on...

And on...

And on... 

 Meanwhile, back at the lake, fish are jumping and my pulse quickens...

It was obvious that Bobbie had her sights set higher, so I rushed to catch up...not a good idea near 13,000 feet. The moraine basin steepened as we climbed, as all proper amphitheaters do. There was no need to even mention it; we are of like mind and both assume the ridge is our goal...a labor of love.

Half Moon over spiked ridge

As we reach the crescent of snow below the ridge, the amphitheater steepens. Scree morphs into loose boulders at their tipping point. There is no such thing as equilibrium on such a slope. Gravity casts a spell of fluidity and we are fighting its current, swimming upstream, two steps forward, one back. My pulse hovers near 150; ten beats fully ascribed to what lies above. Is it even doable? What looked like a walk in the park from below is in reality discomforting. I worry that I might send a landslide of rock down on Bobbie and warn her to stay out of my "line."

She either doesn't hear me...or doesn't listen. I sit tight and wait.

 It seems every handhold teeters. We can no longer proceed without sending off a cascade of boulders. It's time to close ranks and climb together. Bobbie takes the lead; victory comes in inches rather than feet. 

Finally we reach a knob that has yet to crumble and is still fastened to the mountain. We use it to give tensed muscles and burning lungs a break. There's a odd bundle of long sticks held in place by a couple of rocks. We can't figure out why they are there nor for what. The wind blew cold against shirts soaked with sweat; we joke that we'll at least have a campfire while awaiting rescue. One thing is certain: Difficult climbs make for more difficult descents. I do NOT want to go down the same way we came up. 

It's cold. Time to get a move on...

I don't know which is worse, ascending a moraine of boulders, each at their tipping point...or scrambling up hard-pack sprinkled with "marbles." It's such a relief when the steep gradient relents near the top and we can actually stand upright.

13er, Lookout Mountain

Bobbie gets out her maps and indicates that the knob next to us is 13er, Lookout Mountain. The ridge we're on is 13 enough, I say. We need to find another way off this mountain. 

I'm mesmerized by the interplay of light and shadow. Clouds, while threatening, can make a photographer's day. After a couple dozen more shots we begin walking a ridge that, hopefully, will provide an alternate route back down the the lake.

We lose about 800 feet following the ridge before it "cliffs out." We either go down the west face to the lake, or the east face to another basin and hike our way back to Pet Rex. We agree to go back down the shorter lake side. It's sketchy, but better than the way we came up.

On the way down, gorgeous light

Success! Admittedly, I had a few "second thoughts" while clawing up through a wretched scree of "tipping point" boulders. But a half-glass of Sulton IPA later, at a table for two on the deck of Silverton's Avalanche Brewry, my "cup" runneth over with fond memories and photos. 
Another Sulton, sir?
Why not :). 

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  1. Fabulous! Not only are you blessed to live in Lovely Ouray, perfect for your inner needs to climb, but you are blessed with your perfect soulmate partner. Who could ask for more. Perfect. as are those photos of the lake.

    1. Totally agree with you! Mark and Bobbie have a stunning beautiful backyard and I'll never tire of them sharing it with us all.

  2. Just beautiful, but enough already! Each hike you've posted about this summer scares the crap out of me more than the previous one :)

    1. You will love the lake (purposefully un-namamed). Get ready! We'll skip the ridge...not sure I want to do that again, but glad I did it.

  3. I totally agree with only needing mountains, desert, and a little ocean to be complete. I know that's all we need...well, and a good grocery store:) You do live in a spectacular place...int eh summer and early fall. So glad you are exploring areas that the rest of us will never tackle. Such beautiful photos today from above. But we are also happy with ground level photos:)

    1. I love that. A good grocery store/co-op is so necessary.

  4. You are like fine wine Mark, gettin' better with age and each post tops the last one. Oh and thanks for the location clues, time now to get out the old map or easier yet click on google.
    Great Ending !

  5. Exquisite photos...had my heart pumping just looking at the effort and danger involved to get them!

  6. Reminds me of a solo backpack trip I took in the Weminuche Wilderness some years ago to half moon lake...

  7. I don't know how you could be bored with this kind of mountain goat climbing and astonishing views. I will stick to a lower elevation.


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