Vacation Time – August 1997 Part XIV

The third day, a young couple with two littlegirls pulls in and parks at theedge of the pavement, and proceeds to tote all their paraphernalia down to the clear­ing. From what I gather, his little, late-model belchfire doesn’t have the clear­ance to get over the ruts, which actually aren’t that formidable. I do respect his wariness.

After they’ve set up their tent-o-rama, they’re off to get some staples,but not before asking yours truly to look after their premises. I was quite honor­ed at being appointed the trusted guardian of their camp-on-St. Vrain…. I pass the time reading anecdotes and jokes from Readers Digest. I look up at the cobaltblue sky and notice the contrail of a jetliner streaking at 35,000 feet from coastto coast, and I’m thinking: “It seems that it takes less time to cross the countryand more time to commute to work nowadays.”

There’s time to wonder about such things. I gaze up at the tree-studded mountain slopes and try to imagine how manywild annals are foraging for food up there as they have for centuries, long beforeman invaded their domain. And how much water can still be flowing down this creek,long after the snow melt has been depleted. Why, the annual rainfall up here is probably around ten inches. Are there underground springs somewhere up there?Water is so precious in this state, as it is throughout the western United States(with the exclusion of the Pacific Northwest). The headwaters of three majorrivers are within a hundred mile radius of each other in the Colorado Rockies -the Arkansas; the Rio Grande; and the mighty Colorado, which supplies an unbelievable (and disproportionate) amount of water to the Southwest in terms of rec­reation, agriculture, and hydro-electric power. I wonder how many people downstream realize where their precious commodity is coming from, especially those inthe southern tip of Nevada, otherwise known as Armageddon. Las Vegas would not exist as we know it today if it were not for the Colorado River backed up behind the Hoover Dam…a zillion kilowatts a day to keep the casinos open!

I finally have to drive down to Estes Park forfood and stuff, but not beforescrawling an imploring inscription on one of the two-bys with the words: “Please respect my campsite. I have gone to town for supplies. Help yourself to some end-cuts”. I returned several hours later to find my site intact. However, I couldsee that several pieces of wood had been “confiscated”, and my sign had been moved. My faith in mankind was still intact. All of a sudden, I wished I knew who those righteous dudes were…I’d like to thank them. Later that afternoon, a couple rolled in on a motorcycle, adorned in their customary black-leather attire. He was complaining about a loose gas cap. Nothing annoys a Harley owner more than a noisy gas cap. The “Easy Riders” roar off in a cloud of noise pollution

And then there was the elderly gentleman who just wanted to cast a line into thecreek. He was all decked out in his khaki outfit, looking more like he was on aAfrican safari hunt rather than a quiet fishing expedition. He was very artic­ulate and knowledgeable in describing his travelsthrough the west, which made our conversation that more enjoyable….we could relate to a number of commonplaces that we had each visited. As you can see, I had quite a cross-section ofsociety come and go while I reposed at my campsite. Maybe alone, but never lonely.

There’s a rock pinnacle to the west up the canyon which I use as a gauge asto when to start the ol’ campfire. Once the sun has set below the ridge, it’slight up time. The shadows cool the air just enough to make a fire’s warmth feelright at home. I look up at the same aerie, and picture alone wolf, baying atthe sky above, right out of the movie “Dances With Wolves”. The “borrowed” road­side kindling and the complimentary end cuts have made a perfect fire, which even­tually subsides to the consummate coals for cooking a pot of “Ditty Moore” beef stew. It just doesn’t get any better than this. The euphonious movement of the creek puts me away for the night, and I thank God again for helping me make it….

The next day is Sunday, the last day of August. Iprop up my plea sign again,and take off for Estes Park on State Highway 7 for a day back in “civilization”.It’s twenty-three miles of some of the most beautiful scenery in the state, highlighted by a dramatic view of Longs Peak, where scores of cars have pulled offto the side of the road, and the shutterbugs are having a field day. Nearing Estes Park, I come around a bend and there’s the whole town and valley spread out a thousand feet below. And off in the distance, thereagain are the snow-cappedpeaks of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Wow, what a view!

I pull into the HolidayInn and head directly to the sports bar…it’s Opening Day for the NFL. I wouldn’tmake such a big deal out of this except that both games of the double-header featurethe twoBig “D”teams. The afternoon turns out to be more enjoyable than I antici­pated….”th’ Boys” humiliate the Steelers (in Pittsburgh, wow! ), and the Broncos sidestep the KC Chiefs at Mile High. Everyone in the jointwas happy. Having got my “fix” of football, I head overto another “only-supermarket-in-town” Safeway -(remembering Jackson, WY) to purchasea coupleof cans of “Ditty Moore” stew for my last night’s stand on St. Vrain. Hey,  I know a tin of meat and vegetables isn’t exactly a gastronome’s delight, but when it’s heated over some red-hot coals next to a mountain stream, that stew procures a flavor all its own, believe me.

Yes, my little kingdom was still as I had left it, thanks again to the entreaty scribbled on the 2 x 8. As I’m heating up my “last supper on the creek”, I notice one more camper has settled in next door…the fifth one-nighter over the Labor Day weekend. Then it hits me – the abnormality of camper’s schedules: the ones that setup camp and vanish within 24 hours, and the Grant Wood’ s farm family (in Hot Sulphur Springs) who were content to sojourn in the same spot for two weeks.

I finally pullup stakes the next morning, and head southeast to Denver. Again, I’m planning ahead,arriving in the metromess before the onslaught of homeward-bound vacationers. I re-visit Cheeseman Park for one last fling at running barefoot in the park and swatting fly balls to phantom outfielders. In the interim, I pause to catch a few innings of Rockies baseball on the 50,000 watt blowtorch station KOA (I’ve picked up games asfar away as Salt Lake City and Phoenix).

As a final ending to a perfect day, I tune in my little portable B&W TV, and what do I find: the Packers versus the Bears onMonday Night Football…the classic confrontation on the non-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field (Super Bowl Champs 38, Chicago 24). Before calling it a night, I make one last round of phone calls to all my old Denver buddies, most of whom are people I workedwith at RNL Architects. Now most of them have spun off from RNL, and are either work­ing with another firm, or have their own firm.

What I’m trying to convey here is that these people rarely see or contact each other. So when I come to town, I’m calling everyone and visiting some (like Tom and Bob), and I involuntarily become sort of theinformation link between everybody…the out-of-town “grapevine’, a syou will. It has become a standing joke whenever I call my friends: “Hello. Earlybird’s in town. It must be August”. (I’d say 90% of my visits are in August).

I also “check in” with Mom to tell her I’m O.K. and I should be back in Big D by Thursday. As is my custom when calling from cool Colorado, I sympathetically inquire as to how torrid the Texas temperatures are, knowing full well it’s hot as Hades down there. I always anticipate her answer, which this time is: “Damn, it’s hot!”. That just cracks me up…I mean,that’s tantamount to hearing the Pope take the Lord’s name in vain. Well, I reassure her that I’ll bring a cool air mass with me on my return to Dallas.