"I discovered a passion to live my days fully, a conviction that will sustain me like sweet water on the periodically barren plain of our short lives.” Jonathan Waterman
Maybe not where you live, but here in Lovely Ouray I sense a growing unease as summer wanes. It's subtle, yet noticeable. Like a begrudged deadline closing in, my annual slip toward melancholy and panic is well founded. Daylight, a precious tonic, now slinks toward long nights—millimeter by millimeter (in hopes I won't notice). But I do notice, every year about this time, the gradual shift from long savory summer days to winter's interminable nights that require jackets and (sigh) the inevitable sentence to imprisonment in long pants. If rich, I would flee to the southern hemisphere every year come November through May.
With the ides of summer behind us, we vow to keep the "pedal to the metal," for those who dwell in the future and/or past lose the present. This motivates a surge in carpe diem, and we decide to paint some new "dots" on our life's canvas. If "hope" counts for anything, our motivation will match the mountain, this time, Duco. At 13,339 feet, Duco is the highest peak within the Brown Mountain Massif...a northerly neighbor to "The Reds."
In order to cheat the long, boring forest grind up Grey-Copper Gulch, we wake the slumbering beast, Petroleous Rex. His surefooted four-wheel drive lands us at Duco's timberline base, where we gaze in unison and fear at a Geezer-mocking 2000 foot ladder of tundra and rock that stands between us and our (ahem) lofty goal.
There is no "trail" to Duco's summit, thus we are left with the gift of choosing our path. The "ladder" begins right out the door, where legs and lungs are immediately thrust into a state of anaerobic shock. We struggle upward, lightheaded, waiting for the Second-Wind Fairy who never seems to show up when ambition exceeds aptness.
If there is one thing that can distract a mind from hard labor, it would be the always lovely "Reds," with their paranormal, reason-defying, in-your-face charisma.
|A Bristlecone snag and lichen adorn the foreground of a Red Mountain calendar shot|
|“This mountain, the arched back of the earth risen before us, made me feel humble, like a beggar, just lucky to be here at all, even briefly.” Bridget Asher|
Pet Rex shrinks from view as we succumb to insignificance in such an expansive and ever-humbling landscape.
Thankfully, the "ladder" is mostly tundra, with some interspersed boulder fields to keep us on our toes. Tests of agility are many on Duco Mountain. I can only pray that it grades on a "curve" rather than "Pass/Fail."
Though Duco is the subject of our climb, "The Reds" steal the limelight like a puppy at a party. We catch each other gazing over our shoulders more than watching our steps.
Pockets of flowers still thrive at 13,000 feet (Egads, more calendar shots!). The forecast called for thunderstorms, and, sure enough, clouds begin to build overhead. Our pace quickens, as does the drip, drip, drip of adrenaline.
Clouds lollygag over mountaintops, casting come and go spotlights amid shadows. They create a dizzying show...like an art gallery where exhibits change minute to minute.
|As in Life, Bobbie expresses disappoint (*%^$#! *#@%^& !) upon finding this a "false summit."|
My bedside Neitszche is right, “He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary.“ I am convinced that most society induced anxiety could be remedied by prescribing mountains instead of pills.
|Sometimes it's easier to use all "fours" when climbing mountains|
A nearby cloud darkens noticeably while we lunch on the Duco's petite summit. Thunder rolls overhead. A decision is made to forego retracing our hike and bail the Hell down off Duco's exposed ridge line. A Jeep trail awaits below, one that will take us back to our Pet Rex shelter.
We're still above timberline walking that Jeep trail, and there's no real "protection" anymore than up on Duco's ridge. Still, it feels better...safer. But the reality? Lightning is a fickle bitch... unpredictable in that it would just as soon strike you on a Jeep trail as a ridge line. We have literally ran off many mountains after being caught by lightning (right John Q?). The irony is in how being so close to certain instantaneous death makes you tingle with life! Too tired to run, we put distance between us, turn off our cell phones, and pray to gods who laugh at such banal human proclivities.
The storm moves south, taking its show to Silverton. Hurrah; we live to climb tomorrow, which, if not mistaken, will be a Courthouse Mountain summit. Another Stair-master, but short and sweet.
mark and bobbie...feeling "lucky just to be here."