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38: retrospection

Updated: Feb 27



Dear Friend,


What sorts of things have you found to do in that extra time between have-to-s this week? Maybe you had an envelope that you needed to mail so you went looking for a stamp and opened the top drawer in the kitchen where all the odds and ends get tossed, and in looking for a stamp, you came across one, lone, un-cracked sunflower seed that reminded you of your catcher’s glove somewhere in the garage which, when found, reminded you that you need to waterproof your snow boots and on your way to the cupboard to get the bottle of waxy stuff, you passed by your car keys and suddenly remembered that the stamps were still in the glovebox of your car! The letter got mailed. You did not eat the sunflower seed, it’s back in the drawer. Your catcher’s mitt is now on the kitchen table after prompting you to see if you can still get in that position… and now you’re sitting in the middle of the floor, reading this! Thank you for being here!


A couple of coyotes just trotted by, we didn’t get them on film, (or digitally), but just looked on as they made their way across the horizon and out into the wild of BLM land. We’re camped next to an old airport, no buildings, just a roadway with old, rusty chains, enough to tie down 4 small planes. Running parallel, is a ½ mile long asphalt runway that’s still in fairly good shape. At one end, the number 35 and the other end, 17, are painted in huge white road-paint.

 


All along the runway, wildflowers are blooming and/or going to seed.

 



The vibrant yellow of the flowers join the blue of the sky, pine-green conifers, golden grasses, and black – this is the scene of the Tamarac fire of 2021, (just 2 years ago). All around, thousands upon thousands of huge trees stand dead and black, their limbs burned to charcoal stumps.




We arrived at this campsite in the rain, monsoon thunderheads built up white against the slate-gray sky; we were treated to lightning and thunder. Huge drops splatted onto our dusty windshield. We stayed dry in the truck and watched as gravity pulled each drop down to lay on the earth, to be absorbed, to heal, to quench, to nurture.


The scent of rain on dry land, the call of birds suddenly motivated to sing in gratitude or to warn each other, “It’s raining!” Grasshoppers flitting about madly, clicking and clacking as they dart, the birds are fat. Lots of grasshoppers, lots of birds, two coyotes… life is returning to this place.


The wildflowers go to seed, the seeds attract birds and pica, rats, plants and shoots attract deer and rabbits, then come snakes and owls, coyotes and mountain lions. Everyone needs protein and everyone poops. And poop is life!



White puffball mushrooms are growing at the base of many of these blackened trees. Wild buckwheat, mustard, scorpion weed, big sagebrush, silverweed, horseweed, Indian rice-grass, so many flowers for the bees and butterflies. In the shade of charred trunks, delicate sprouts and sturdy ground-cover has started to take over the areas especially where water runs down the hills and collects within a rocky stream. This waterway is also an obvious part of bringing life back to the land.

 






The quiet here is spectacular, life is happening and we are so glad that we found this place!




As I write this, Frank is playing "Homer," our $50 guitar. Such a great sound! I love to hear the gentle chords and I enjoy humming a quiet harmony while I’m drawing or working on other things.

 


Homer has its own case which lies upon the water jugs in the cab of the truck behind our seats. We’re going to TRY to keep this guitar out of extreme elements. We’ll do our best.


Homer was a demo guitar at Skip’s music. It’s been played for years and years by countless, curious guitar shoppers of all skill-levels. Now it has a forever home, wherever we roam.


Now, wait a moment, there’s a forestry truck parking nearby. It’s a fuel truck. I’ll be right back.


Ok, I’m back and it’s several days later. Here’s what happened: As I mentioned, there had been thunder and lightning all night long. We saw the smoke earlier that morning.

 

 

Then we had confirmation, the “Wolf Creek” fire had broken out that night just over the hill. It was a 7-acre fire at that point. The steep, rocky terrain and the wind aided the spread of the fire so some of the firefight had to be done from the sky. Throughout the day, helicopters used the airport runway to land for refueling, water-bag adjustments etc.

 






 

When the sun set, the fuel truck left. The night was quiet. When we drove away the next morning, we learned that the fire had grown to 35 acres.

 


 

According to my “Watch Duty” and “Firespot” apps, the Wolf Creek fire is around 71% contained and as of late last night (Sept 16th, 2023, it hasn’t gotten any bigger). Firefighting is really difficult and dangerous work. We send our thanks and wishes for safety to all of the fire people.


Onward we went to the next campsite: an abandoned mine, another great find from many years ago.

 

 

The wooden buildings sit, though some lay, looking out at an expansive valley that stretches out - and out - and out.

 


At night, the stars aren’t even kidding!



Why do some people feel the need to destroy abandoned buildings? Some come to take planks and fixtures from the building, or continue to dismantle the old cars that sit on rusting axels, on their sides or upside-down. Seat cushions, long gone, springs lie loosened and feeling useless. No trace of the shattered glass from missing windshields and windows.

 




Gun shot and destruction make the old ghost town buildings even eerier. And at night, well, there are noises.


After our first night there, Frank prepared “Izzy,” his drone, for a flight and I went for a walk.


We’d never explored the road that went beyond the “ghost town.” As the dirt road wound round on hilly land through groves of aspen and piles of huge, volcanic boulders, I watched the ground for snakes. The only one I saw was dead. Not a rattler. The poor thing seemed perfectly fine except for severe dehydration. (Perhaps with a proper necropsy, a better explanation could be offered).


Several piles of debris lay at either side of the road in the weeds and wildflowers, more roofing and siding taken from the buildings. Cotton tail bunnies, chipmunks, pica, ground squirrels, lizards, hawks, an eagle… lots of life around. As I approached a narrowing in the road, wind suddenly gusted through the forest of aspen trees to my right and their branches heaved and their leaves quaked irrationally, wildly, like something was trying to rip them loose. My mind flashed to the morning before.


We had arrived at the mine and parked. When I got out and opened the door to unload a jug of water, several items flew out of the truck and hit the ground with an irrational force. Had the load shifted that much? Was it the elevation? 8200’… hmm. The truck was not on a slope, we always camp without a pitch in any direction. We talked about how odd it is… when things like that happen, and they do…


Back at the narrow bend in the road, I looked up into the trees and listened to the wind. It died down as quickly as it had kicked up. I started to walk on and saw something in the shadows on the road ahead, another snake? No, just poop, with lots of hair in it. Let’s just say, it was enough of a reminder that cats don’t always cover their excrement. With a tower of rocks on one side and a forest of trees on the other, I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and saw that I had no signal. I had walked well over a mile on a road that I didn’t know, and yes, I have a good imagination - like when I’m swimming out in deep water, I can imagine all kinds of toothy creatures that would make Jaws seem like a kiddie-pool toy. So, though I can only imagine an unplanned mountain lion meet and greet, there were also bears to consider. I really wanted to get a longer walk in but I erred on the side of caution, and turned around.


About a tenth of a mile later, I heard a loud crash at my side.


Respect for retrospection. The only way to truly prove how one might react in such a surprise assault on the senses is to experience such a surprise on the senses. My level of startle was off the charts yet I did not scream or jump. I simply turned toward the noise with a great inhale, (some would call it a gasp, but it was noiseless). A bear or a mountain lion could save itself a lot of trouble, skip the messy, vicious attack thing, and simply pop me with a hat pin.


Now totally full of air, I saw what had happened. A small creature had run across a large sheet of corrugated metal-roofing lying next to the road. The weight of the creature had bumped a buckled section of the metal which had popped back against itself. Ground squirrel, I exhaled with a laugh (Ichabod Crane comes to mind), and scanned the road behind me. The aspen leaves waved. Other than them, I was still alone.


A few more turns in the road, a crunch, crunch, something was walking, something big was in the shrubs at my right. Or not. A small creature walking through big dead leaves sounds a lot like a large creature walking through small dead leaves. All of this to tell you that bunnies cross the road under cover of large, dead, Wooly Mullein leaves and everything turns out just fine.


And Frank’s photography that morning also went very well. Here’s one shot from his drone.

 


Who we are is a sum of what we’ve lived. Kind, silly, sad, bewildered, determined, caring, hopeful… most of all, grateful. We are so grateful to be able to experience all of this nature along our journey.


And thank YOU for your thoughts and care as you check in to Tracks by the Post, each week. We appreciate YOU!


If you have time to Contact Me please do and let me know how you are doing!


We wish you a happy and wonderful week!


Gently Be,

Leslie and Frank


Frank has added new shots to his nature store, click HERE to have a look-see.


To learn about how one person, Brent Underwood, is reviving an abandoned mining town, check out one of his first videos and follow along: GHOST TOWN LIVING it's a real-time story told by a real-life, kind-hearted, adventurous entrepreneur.

 

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