Home + Change: Memorial Day Edition

Maker:L,Date:2017-8-25,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y
The hills are alive with Memorial Day campers and our world has changed. This morning the two blues and I headed out for some “alone time” in the national forest, as has become our habit. We were accustomed to tents in a few camp sites along the road as the weather has been warming, but this morning each one was filled.

When we rounded the bend for the parking lot I felt dismay when I saw the brown, iron gates that had blocked the roads on either side of the fork were now wide open. Since we moved here they had been closed to regular vehicles and only available for snowmobiles in the winter. Since mud season began we had been hiking in our own personal playground: the only souls in sight the trotting elk tails and also tracks from moose, deer, and bear. All that has changed.

We drove down the road we’ve walked a dozen times at least, parking where we normally turn around for our walk. Maybe half of the campsites along side the road had RVs, tents, and one white Subaru with a contorted yoga form we left in a cloud of dust.

Our untried trail claimed to be a loop and we found ourselves at the fence line of houses keeping watch over massive hayfields and the lake. The ancient mountains looked back, keeping watch over them.

The loop met up with the road, Stillwater Pass, and as we approached, two vehicles a few minutes apart passed in different directions. We trekked the gap down the road back to our truck, ready for cars, managing to jump off the road for the last one we met near where we parked. For months we had been alone. I had come to feel as if we were in our own backyard where my only concern was avoiding animals and their babies.

I’ve never been one for change, even though change is the one thing that we can count on. Still, with one ear cocked for ATVs, the other heard birdsong and squirrels. I was surrounded by pines and aspens, brand new flowers, and a vista sparkling with a lake and dripping in melting, snowcapped mountains. It’s just another day in paradise.

If We Lived Within Our Means

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I arrived home from the deserts of Arizona yesterday. I enjoyed the moments, after the rain, when the sun shone warm on my face and a breeze lifted my hair. I think you can guess where this is going.

Back in Grand Lake, Colorado, where the temperature was a balmy 34 degrees last night, I breathed a sigh of relief. The dry air brushed against my hands and curled under my hair to give me a chill, but the kind of chill that is friendly and invites you to put on a roomy sweatshirt.

This morning in the strident sun, it’s 23 degrees and perfect. The smooth snow advertises a pillowy comfort while my littlest dog runs along its hard-shell top with the tiny steps of a toddler trying not to slip. New Ponderosa Pines and tiny firs demonstrate resilience in this pine-beetle-wasted lot, their needles vibrant and clearly vigorous.

Yes, there was green grass and budding flowers in the desert city. Every time I’m down there I wonder about the cost.

A few summers back, I straddled the headwaters of the Colorado river, amazed that the seepage in a green meadow would become the high class rapids I rafted down a decade ago. It all begins here, maybe 15 miles from where I live.

I think most of us know that the Colorado River only began reaching the sea again in 2014 after the U.S. and Mexico made the Minute 319 addendum that now allows the waters to reach the Gulf of California and the Sea of Cortez. I’m frustrated that the addendum was even needed.  Every time I see the crops, homes, and flowers of the Salt River Valley, I’m reminded that the 12th largest metro region in America, with a population of more than 4.5 million people, shouldn’t be there.  The people, the crops, the golf courses full of sprinkler systems for exceed the capability of that area’s water. Instead, they take long showers, mostly unaware of the source of their water. The Salt River project obtains water from the Colorado River, among other sources.

Water and oil don’t mix. And water will be the resource we battle over in the future.

Even as the Colorado River now finally returns to the Sea of Cortez, much of the snow melt in the Never Summer range in Colorado runs into the Grand Ditch, built in 1890, and flows to the east side of the front range in Colorado. Another reclamation project, the Adams Tunnel, takes water pumped from Grand Lake into the Shadow Mountain Reservoir and sends it 13.1 miles, an exact half-marathon, under Rocky Mountain National Park and to the dry eastern slopes of Colorado. Originally this water was intended for agriculture, but more and more it supplies water to the growing population in Eastern Colorado. The Front Range Urban corridor extending from Denver to southern Colorado Springs has more than 4.8 million people alone.

I wonder how this story ends? Reading post-apocalyptic books, especially Claire Vaye Watkins’s Gold Fame Citrus, shows us the imagined possibilities of what all this man-made manipulation could create. After turning the dark pages of this potential future, I’m always hoping for something better. Could nature simply choose to reclaim the alterations we’ve made for its own purposes? Could we reverse the damages in time?

What would the world look like if we lived within our means?

 

The Fox and the Vole: A Snow Thought

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The world is hard-shell icing around my house. The snow sparkles in the thin light and single-digit temperatures make me think about untenable environments. There are moments in our lives when we are breaking through the candied snowscape, up to our knees with the crust scraping our shins. Each step herculean, we have to remind ourselves that things might get better soon—the snow will melt one day.

The other day a fox hopped up on a rock outside my kitchen window. Remaining in taut, watchful motion, he leapt up through the air to earn the perfect arc and dove nose first into the crusty snow. Up he came with a vole.

I’m sympathetic to both sides of this situation.

Under the crusty snow, voles and other small creatures can live in relative comfort because the temperature remains around 32 degrees, thanks to that shell and the inches of insulation between the frigid outside air and the tunnels at ground level.

Back to untenable environments. The fox trots so lightly that he skips across the crust. The vole tunnels underneath and is warm where it appears cold. It makes me think about how we navigate difficulties. Sometimes we are all brute strength and ignorance, plowing through the obvious obstacle. And sometimes we should remember to tread lightly, immerse ourselves in the environment, or wait awhile to step into it at all.

Even so, sometimes the fox will get the vole. Sometimes we break through the snow. Always, the season shifts, the leaves come out, and there is an opportunity to try again.