Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Such Diaries: 12 July 2013

July the twelfth is Renée’s birthday, so, in conformation with family tradition, we ventured into the mountains on a hike. Our destination was the Fourth of July trail, which we reached despite being trapped behind an obstinately slow-driving sedan picking its way up the dirt road. We had wisely selected an easy hike to save ourselves for a 5K race the following day; upon arrival we learned that “easy” meant an 1,800-foot elevation gain over three miles to Dorothy Lake above tree line.

We began in the solemn douglas-firs, serenaded by saucy kinglets and their out-of-control whistles and warbles. As our elevation ticked upward, the trees shrunk until they tempted abduction as house plants. The kinglets gave way to White-crowned Sparrows as the dominant species. Finally, vascular plant life all but surrendered, leaving us exposed among rock and lichen, the domain of Pipits and Ptarmigan that we did not see.

Unaccustomed to high elevation, I felt dizzy, as if mildly drunk. Joel and Marcel forged ahead; I plodded behind, attempting to correct for the rocks that spiraled underfoot. Finally I reached them at the lake. I gave a triumphant shout and facetiously yelled, “Who’s jumping in with me?” The frigid lake leered at us, caped in ice that I had to convince myself was not blue.

Upon hearing of our planned tomfoolery, the parents disapproved. “What will you do, jump in your underwear? That will be wet and miserable for the hike down,” Renée interjected.

“Exactly. That is why we will take it off.”

It was cold.

Our unclothed adventures distracted us from the gathering gray clouds to the west. Afternoon thunderstorms are about as regular as defecations on a fiber-rich diet; thus, we decided to flee the tundra, where we towered as fleshy lightning rods. We hurriedly packed up and made it to the stunted trees before lighting began striking. I doggedly slid-walked down the trail, my hood up and my head down, occasionally tossing back a handful of chia seeds from the flask that Dave lent me.

We reached the parking lot thoroughly drenched.

It wasn’t until I was mostly finished with lunch at the Nepalese buffet in Nederland that I realized I had a chia seed imbedded in the blister that I had sustained on my palm the previous day from weeding an onion bed.    

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Such Diaries: 9 July 2013

For most of my life, east has been the boring, west the exotic. (Parenthetical: this rule was shaken up by a three-year sojourn in California, but, for the majority of my years, it holds true.) Western Meadowlark deserved a detour. Once, I drove (or, more accurately, my dad drove) an hour to see a Bullock's Oriole. Today, the poles flipped, and east became exciting.

Eastern Meadowlark, a first(ish) record for Boulder County. Instead of straining for the bubble of a rogue Western, Marcel and I strained for the sweet slurs of an errant Eastern at the periphery of its range. Yes, there it was, therefore making today, the ninth of July of 2013, the first day that I have seen Sturnella magna, Pygmy Nuthatch, and Sage Thrasher in the same day.

Later I found myself entombed in a kayak drifting across a very large reservoir with Joel. Life is absurd sometimes.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Such Diaries: 6 July 2013

Preface: My Kansas sinecure sputtering to an end, I found two weeks at my disposal with nothing to do. Therefore, I turned the hood of my trusty Taurus northwest to visit the Suches, my alternate family, in their montane abode near Lyons, Colorado. 

Here I am at the Suches. Mountains, trees, and green are welcome after many weeks of wheat, feedlots, and dust.

I rode out to Meade with Reed. An interesting fellow. We talked about grad school, alcohol, women, wildlife conservation, and especially hunting.

Seven more road hours awaited me. The trick to making good time, I've discovered, is to not stop. I only did so once, in Stratton, Colorado. Even when my head and lower back allied themselves in affliction, I pressed westward, straining for the hazy purple outline of the Front Range after miles and miles of plain.

Found the house (a cabin retreat by most standards) by following landmarks and flashes of deja vu up the network of gravel roads. The family is as loving and hospitable as ever. Bushtits, Steller's Jays, Magpies--yes, I am definitely not in Kansas any more.