There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes.
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more...

-Lord Byron

23 November 2014

I'm still here

In a time where memories become intertwined with dreams, I see us two siblings bike riding in Mammoth Hot Springs, elk bugling in the October dusk of evening. We smile uncontrollably, as being in Nature is where we always felt the freest.

The family is together for the last time in the wild before you leave this earth.

I return seven years later to hear the bugling elk again, looking for comfort.

What I find though is a wholly new adventure.

It's mid afternoon and unseasonably warm for October. The small herd of elk are lying in the the shade of the old buildings of Mammoth, waiting for the sun to drop behind the mountains so the male can once again find a suitable female.

With time to kill until the bugling will start up, I decide to explore more of the Old West buildings that make up Mammoth. I circle around the barriers that are set up to protect humans from the Elk, and walk with nary a care.
After about an hour, I find myself behind the Post Office when a lone young male Elk turns around the corner and finds itself face to face with me.

Breathe.....

I calmly stand still until he moves further down the road. With hesitation, I carry on. No more than a few steps though and I see that the herd I previously saw had moved from their shady spot, and had cut me off from getting to my car. In fact, I was completely surrounded. My only option was to approach the medical building directly in front of me to see if I could come inside, as Elk were gaining in numbers.

As I knock and explain my situation, I can see that cutting through the building to exit the front wasn't an option either, as the front lawn was full of elk as well. A young man offered to let me ride shogun in his van, and we would drive through the herd where I could then exit safely on the other side.

We slowly make our way past the herd, but the large male was getting increasing agitated. Without warning, he takes off at full speed though the onlooking crowd, chasing two younger males. The police go crazy, screaming to everyone....

 "Get back, GET BACK NOW!"

As I run for cover up the steps onto a front porch of an old building, the large male slowly saunters back down to a grassy area between two roads. He then charges a small tree, ripping it from the earth and tangles the branches in his antlers. This only frustrates the great beast further.

Without warning, he bellows out a great bugle, then rams a camper van! The thunderous crash echoes against the mountains as the van wobbles back and forth unsteadily.
Shaking with adrenaline, I say a little prayer of thanks that no one was hurt. I forget my melancholy and realize that although she is gone, I'm still here.

19 November 2014

Victoria Falls ( part 1 - our arrival)

As we got closer to our destination, the electricity in the air was causing goosebumps to form and tiny hair to stand on end. The mist from the Falls was mesmerizing in the blue Zambian sky.

We exit our taxi and walk up to the sign greeting those visitors to the Falls. One by one, baboons come out of the bushes and trees to meet the newcomers.
Only in Africa.....but the baboons are for another story. It was time to explore "the smoke that thunders..."

We started by walking along a trail head that would give one a broad view of the Falls, the canyon and the bridge connecting Zambia to Zimbabwe. The deep canyon walls, covered in rainforest growth, are spectacular.
We can hear the water pounding more than we can see it from our current vantage point. This soon will change though as we make our way back to the heart of Victoria Falls for one unbelievably spiritual and uplifting experience......

18 November 2014

Hanging Lake

Heeding to the multiplicity of Internet warnings about limited parking at the popular trail head after 9am, I rise shortly before five to secure a spot. Good thing too, as I became a little confused as how to actually get to Hanging Lake from the Interstate.

Arriving a little after 6 in the morning, I find only two cars in the trail head parking lot, one of them being park maintenance. Rubbing my hands together for warmth, I take off along the Colorado River, following the short paved trail that leads to the start of one of Colorado's most popular hikes.
As the sun rises and lights up the tips of the mountain peaks, I stop to search for signs of Rocky Mountain Sheep. None can be found with these eyes, but I've no doubt of their presence above, and am certain that they at least smell, if not see me.

A less frightened creature, a squirrel, busy with the quickly approaching Winter, pays me no mind as he gathers a large mushroom top and scurries it up a tree to his home.

After about a 1/4 mile in, the trail starts it's steep ascent. I buckle down and focus my footsteps on the trail and my controlled breathing so I make it to the top.
Being only two miles to the lake, I make good time on the climb up, and stumble over the rocks to enjoy the sun hitting the water. The waterfalls cool the sweat dripping off my backside in buckets, even though it's only a little past seven now....
The hikers from the other car in the parking lot are heading down the trail as I arrive.

Perfect timing.

I have some breakfast as curious fish cross my lens before becoming skittish and dart underneath the protection of downed tree limbs.
Popular for a very good reason, Hanging Lake is a short but strenuous hike in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, and worth every step....
no matter what time of day.

 

16 November 2014

Nicodemus

"I am anxious to reach your state ... because of the sacredness of her soil washed by the blood of humanitarians for the cause of freedom."

-- S.L. Johnson, black Louisianan in a letter to Kansas Governor John St John, 1879


It's been a three hour drive from Denver to the high plains of Northwest Kansas when I see the small sign pointing the way to a National Historic site.....Nicodemus.

Road weary and feeling sickness impending, I shack up for the night and do some research. I find that Nicodemus is the last remaining western community established by African Americans after the Civil War. A place where ex-slaves could flee the war-torn South and start new lives with "real" freedom.
I awake the next day to eight degrees outside and blowing snow. My head is fuzzy and sinuses stuffy. I should go back to bed yet Nicodemus is calling me from deep within. Every seeker has a deep feeling that there must be something more to life, a great truth to be discovered.

As the biblical character Nicodemus sought out Jesus for answers, I search for the town of the same name. I have ninety minutes of driving through the empty Kansas landscape to contemplate.
A town once bustling with refugee's from the South, today it holds near "Ghost Town" status. The American flag flies high in front of an empty town hall. My only companion, it would seem, is history.
Driving further along the dirt roads, a man appears from nowhere, trying to warm up in the freezing morning by doing sprints in his front yard. He glances curiously at me for a moment before returning to his morning exercise routine. I turn the corner and continue on.
Churches, banks and hotels sit in the blue Kansas sky as reminders of a community that once thrived with a renewed spirit. The promise of the great Union Pacific Railroad to come through here failed though, and instead it was decided to pass six miles away, leaving Nicodemus a stranded village.
The schoolhouse still stands, the echoes of children learning in a free environment can be heard in it's walls. Happy, playful playground sounds embedded in the creaking metal of the swings.
A ninety minute drive to see a part of history that many may not know. As I'm resting at the schoolyard historical sign, a large farm truck is rumbling toward me. The driver slows down as he approaches, as I imagine outsiders are a rarity these days.

I see curly white whiskers covering dark skin. Gleaming white teeth blind me as the driver smiles widely and raises his hand to befriend me.

The feeling that he is a direct descendant of those first settlers of this land that only wanted a fresh start after the Civil War is strong and powerful.

Our chance encounter is the reason I was drawn here.

10 November 2014

the dusty roads of Iowa

A pile of leaves has met it's end among the muck and mud of Mother earth. I cradle them in my arms before tossing them lightly in the breeze.
Small ponies run scared from an unknown and unseen intruder. A lone sheep joins the frenzy whilst I observe from a rotting fence post. The clouds move slowly past row after row of corn and still water....you know the kind.
An empty and dusty road in the twilight of evening. I rev the engine and disappear into the dust of sunset, outracing the past toward the future.....
as I find meaning along the dusty roads of Iowa.