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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Grinding Out High Roads In Preparation For Long Summer Days above Timberline

While cherry blossoms are likely wilted to Long gone where you live...carpeting your manicured, thrice-mown eastern blue-grass lawn with the sweet funeral flower fragrance that reminds us, at this point in time, of a welcomed death...we who reside here in the "upper-lands" endure winter's dawdling demise with unhinged agitation. The white plague turns us back from lofty, preseason destinations...places we need to inspire us with a renewed since of will-to-live in a world run amuck. Nature and solitude seem to be the only things that can take our minds off the current buttloads of contradictory blather-slather. 

Excepting our rollercoaster Perimeter Trail, preseason hikes from our front door in Lovely Ouray involve climbing through a train wreck of dead and/or evergreens (thank you Pine Beatles). The only thing left are aspens...leafless, colorless and winter-like. Chlorophyll, it seems, is still too cold and thick to flow. 

And this, while you slog warm sandy beaches in minimal attire or sip lemonade under the lush foliage of your backyard shade, wearing tank-tops and cutoff Levis short shorts. But post-holing drifts is good for balance and strength. It's the price of being ready...to condition lungs and legs for a too short summer spent above timberline. 

At least something flowers at lower elevations...

So we drum fingers, impatiently gazing at an unmoving calendar while dreaming of mid-July's wade through fields of columbine and paintbrush, bluebells and penstemon. From ridge-lines and summits, we'll cast our eyes on hundred-mile curve-of-the-earth views. As my son Caleb says, "That's the payoff. It's all about the payoff."  

Today's hike is one of those "pre-season" kind we did last week (I'm getting behind). It stars yours truly, and bad-ass mother-hikers Ruthie, Bridget, and Bobbie...

We met at Ruthie's house, only a short walk from the Corbett Creek/Dallas trailhead. If good intentions are worth a shit ("the road to Hell is paved with them...") we will make a loop hike...up Corbett and down Dallas. We expect snow up high, hopefully not so much that we can't stay on-trail. It was a breezy day, relief for an uphill sweat-fest under full sun. Speaking of "festivals," are they now a thing of the past?

Some days second-winds are reluctant to show. It took a couple miles for legs and lungs to quit fighting and come to an "understanding." 

The Whitehouse massif gave us something pretty to look at while grunting and wheezing up Corbett. It's both spectacular and magnetic...tugging at hearts like a lure. Nothing like rugged, snowcapped mountains to take your mind off the grind. Corbett is narrow, loose and rocky, better to hike up than slip-slide down. It snakes upward through a forest of oak brush that clings to a few ugly brown leaves left over from fall.

Ahh Haa! A lower grouping of aspen shows off a little spring green. Higher up, though, a different story (sigh).

Almost to the top, the south-facing trail flattens as it gains the ridge.

Aspen forests are actually one large plant that self-propagates from the same root system. Rather abruptly, we transitioned from a white-barked aspen forest to a light green-barked one. Chlorophyll is thought to account for the difference in color, so maybe chlorophyll is thawing after all. Aspen are considered "invasive," as they take a foothold in dying or decaying (weak) conifer forests. Aspen can also propagate by seed, which gives them an two-pronged advantage. One disadvantage is that they are short-lived...somewhere between 100 to 150 years. 

Once we topped the ridge, the north-face was a reality check.

It was a good workout...a calorie burner. 
Cheers from Lovely Ouray,
Mark and Bobbie


  1. From the guy that says “it’s all about the payoff” ... dare I say sometimes it’s just about getting outside and enjoying the day, trail, friends, etc. Mother Hikers indeed! Bad asses!

  2. Thanks for the spending lesson! I've been studying up on tree identification and old growth forests this week.

    1. Another fun Factoid: Dense aspen forests grow extremely tall in competition for sunlight, with all the branches and leaves at the top. They have a shallow root system so the tallest trees are vulnerable to being toppled by high winds. Hope you are getting out to hike a few less crowded trails. Suddenly, everyone craves a Nature Break. :)

    2. Aspen and aspen bark also have medicinal uses:

      Traditional uses and benefits of Quaking Aspen

      It was widely employed medicinally by many native North American Indian tribes who valued it especially for its antiseptic and analgesic qualities, using it in the treatment of wounds, skin complaints and respiratory disorders.
      Stem bark is anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, nervine and stimulant.
      Bark contains salicylates, from which the proprietary medicine aspirin is derived.
      It is used internally in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, gout, lower back pains, urinary complaints, digestive and liver disorders, debility, anorexia, also to reduce fevers and relieve the pain of menstrual cramps.
      Bark is used to treat chilblains, hemorrhoids, infected wounds and sprains.
      An infusion of the inner bark is considered to be a remedy for coughs and an appetite stimulant.
      It is also used in the treatment of stomach pains, urinary ailments, VD, worms, colds and fevers.
      Root is poultice and applied to cuts and wounds.
      Tea from the root bark is used as a treatment for excessive menstrual bleeding.
      Leaf buds are used as a salve for colds, coughs and irritated nostrils.
      It has been as a diuretic in urinary affections, gonorrhea and gleet.
      Infusion has been found helpful in debility, chronic diarrhea, etc.
      It has been used as a treatment for gonorrhea.
      Native American uses of this plant include root bark tea for excessive menstrual flow.
      Poultices made of the root are used for cuts and wounds.
      Tea made of the inner bark is beneficial for venereal disease, stomach pain, urinary ailments, worms, colds, and fevers.
      Leaf buds may be used in a salve for colds, coughs, and irritated nostrils.
      Tincture of the bark contains salicin and is a remedy for fevers, rheumatism, arthritis, and diarrhea.
      Buds are slightly sticky and can be made into tea or salve for internal or external use.
      Boil the buds in olive oil or lard to make a soothing salve.
      Aspen has been used externally as a wash for inflammations, cuts scratches, wounds and burns.
      Tea may be used for coughs or gargle for sore throat.

  3. Aspens are my favorite, especially in the spring and fall. Have you ever done a hike that wasn't a good workout and a calorie burner??

  4. Cherry blossoms??? Are you kidding? We don't even have leaves out anywhere.

  5. What a treat to read your post this morning Mark. Thanks for the shout out for Aspens, we know they are a valuable species all around plus they dazzle the hell out of us, if you ever get to our digs you will understand. Al & I often talked about taking Corbett Canyon trail up to the Dallas trail as that was one of our favorite locals to hang in those Aspen forrest , glad it never happened though, don't care about slipping and sliding at the end of a long day. Talked with the girls yesterday and they said the cabin is booked for Memorial Day but the City hasn't given the green light yet for occupancy. We have our fingers crossed for Labor Day, don't know what we will do it we have to cancel; drugs, liquor, suicide are all options on the table :)

    Having beautiful Thunder showers here last night and to continue today, 68ยบ, perfect Spring weather. I just finished creating a new garden design which I call Rocks of The World ..Garden; Al & I have been collecting rocks from just about every gorgeous place on the planet we have visited over the last 50
    years so I figured why not use them in a landscaping design, well it was a great project while "house bond", so to speak, we still get out and go for drives in the county and coast.
    Need more of those videos !
    Stay Thirsty my Friends
    D & A

    1. Take it easy on the back! The doc might not need to know what you're up too, though :)


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