Spring in Eagle County
Spring is an amazing season to experience in the Colorado high country. The young leaves of the aspens wash the mountains in a soft lime green. When it’s not raining, sleeting or snowing the skies are so blue it doesn’t seem real. Unless we’ve had a really fast warm up, you usually find snow above 9,000 feet.
On a recent trip into the woods I heard something I’d never heard in all the years I’ve lived in Colorado. In a stand of chalk white aspens scarred with elk graffiti and whose branches still only had buds on their tips, I heard a sound I couldn’t figure out. It was coming from the forest floor. Just underneath the surface of a brown tapestry of last autumn’s decaying aspen leaves, I could hear the sound of trickling snow melt. Spring in the Colorado Rockies is visually amazing. But with a chorus of songbirds above and the waking forest floor below, it felt like I was hearing the sounds of spring in Colorado for the first time. I had lunch in an alpine meadow blanketed in tiny white and pink flowers and magnificent views of the Gore Range covered in spring snow.
We lost our 13 year old dog this month and we’re all devastated. She and I explored the Colorado high country together for ten years. Once it really set in that she was gone, all I wanted to do was be on a trail in the woods. It was really hard being there in the forest, spring snow melt rushing in the creeks, and not having my dog with me. The steeper the ascent the better, so I could just focus on the trail and the woods. But as I continued along the trail I slowly started feeling a sense of peace. I passed through three incredible hidden flower-filled alpine meadows, aspen forests that transitioned into Engelmann Spruce, Douglas Fir and Lodgepole Pine.
On the descent back toward civilization, happier from all the vitamin D and endorphins, I thought about how much we need wild places, especially during times of grief. When we need to make sense of things that happen to us, we need a place to go to figure those things out. Aldo Leopold, Bob Marshall, David Brower, Rachel Carson and John Muir are just a few of the environmental pioneers who knew this and dedicated their lives to protecting some of the last few remaining shreds of wilderness left in the United States. I am so grateful.
“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail” (Muir, John: Our National Parks, 1901, page 56).