Where the Prairie Meets the Mountains


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June 29th 2015
Published: July 23rd 2015
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I needed a workday. I’d been playing for a week straight, and I needed to get some “real world” stuff done. My friend Mer works near Boulder and suggested that I follow her out on her way to work. There was a beautiful 6.5-mile hike in Eldorado Springs that she thought I’d like; then I could drive into Boulder and get some stuff done.

We drove down Colorado State Highway 93, which follows the geographical line of where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. Looking west, golden-green fields of grass danced gently with the wind. Looking east, the conglomerate sandstone outcrops of the Flatirons jutted imposingly into the sky.

While Mer turned right, she signaled for me to turn left towards Eldorado Springs. I parked at the Doudy Draw trailhead and hiked out into a flower-filled meadow on an absolutely perfect Monday morning. It was just what my soul needed after a week in the desert – a green field filled with wildflowers, butterflies, and bumblebees – surroundings completely worthy of the cliché Heaven on Earth. I gratefully luxuriated under a sun that didn’t seem intent on frying my brain like eggs.

Then, the field ended and the mountain rose before me. For two miles, I climbed up what seemed like 1,287 rock stairsstraight up to the ridge. But, I lost count. It would have been a challenge on any day, but I still hadn’t acclimated to the elevation, so I considered it a victory anytime I managed to take ten consecutive steps without stopping to gasp for air.

South Boulder Peak, where I was heading, stands at 8,549 feet. I consider this is a verytall mountain. To Coloradans, it’s a mere molehill. The idea of moving to Colorado and becoming a crazy mountain goat endurance athlete is something that is growing on me.



Every time I hike a trail like this one, I can’t help but think about the American settlers who migrated across the United States during Westward Expansion (which is undoubtedly the result of having spent a good portion of my childhood playing the popular computer game The Oregon Trail – on a floppy disk no less). I often have trouble negotiating these rugged mountain trails on two feet, yet these folks managed to cross two major mountain ranges in a Conestoga covered wagon. How did they do it?

After the long climb to the summit and taking a moment to enjoy the view, I was given an incredible opportunity to practice the Zen Art of Walking Downhill. Even though a four-letter word would more accurately describe my feelings about hiking downhill, I’ll refrain from using it and suffice it to say that I have a strong preference for moving in the uphill direction (huffing and puffing or not). Overcoming my dislike for descents could be one of the biggest challenges I face in my life – and it should be noted that I’ve already triumphed over a strong aversion towards leeches and ticks.

Each time I find myself on a difficult descent, I try to empty my mind and watch my breath (breath in, breath out). When that doesn’t work, I try to remind myself of the impermanent nature of all things (Nothing lasts forever, not even this downhill). When that doesn’t work, I try to think about other things (How can I better utilize the Question Formulation Technique in my math classes?). But my quads tremble and my hip starts screaming bloody murder at me, and all my attempts at a Zen
Snack TimeSnack TimeSnack Time

These three butterflies have found a tasty coyote scat to snack on.
mindset are shot as I always end up thinking, When will this downhill be over?!?!

This time was no different. In the end, I had spent so much time frolicking through the fields and cursing the downhill that by the time I finally made it back to the parking lot, Mer was already getting off work. So, instead of going into Boulder get my work done, we met up in Boulder for a beer (two, if I’m being honest). The real world and mastery of the Zen Art of Walking Downhill would have to wait for another day.


Additional photos below
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ChicoryChicory
Chicory

Also known as "Blue Sailors," the leafy green part of the plant can be eaten before it flowers.
Giant PodsGiant Pods
Giant Pods

Anyone know what I am?
Western SpiderwortWestern Spiderwort
Western Spiderwort

This is a plains flower that I found in the foothills.
Wild BergamontWild Bergamont
Wild Bergamont

Also known as "Bee Balm"
Prairie ConeflowerPrairie Coneflower
Prairie Coneflower

Also known as a "Mexican Hat."
Yellow BlanketflowerYellow Blanketflower
Yellow Blanketflower

Also known as a "Brown-eyed Susan"


27th July 2015
Secondary Succession in Action

Life and death
Forest fires aren't just about death and destruction, it also paves the way for other species. Some insects you can only find in the aftermath of a forest fire. Where they are at other times is somewhat of a mystery I guess. Nice catch of life and death in the same photo/ Ake

Tot: 0.289s; Tpl: 0.019s; cc: 18; qc: 71; dbt: 0.0211s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb