Last year during a visit to the high country in Grand Lake, Colorado, I rode some really fun new trails created by the Grand Lake Metropolitan Recreation District, just a short jog from the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. (On the way there, I saw a moose, just off the road. Such is life up in the Rocky Mountains.)
Tight, twisty, rocky, in the midst of a lodgepole pine forest, the trail is a complete blast. Lots of slow riding, shoehorning around pines and over rocks–sometimes jamming up against the trees and getting hung up. Riding there is a full contact sport, and I have the scratches and scrapes to prove it.
Last year I also ran into a bear, staring at me from around 30 yards off the trail. (My first thought: Wow, what a beautiful statue of a bear. Wait a second, the fur is blowing in the wind. Oh. Crud. That’s not a statue. That sort of mind-slogging at the unreality of it.)
Needless to say, I didn’t get mauled. I stopped, stepped back, my disc brake squealed lightly, and the bear turned away slowly, seemingly thinking, eh, the hell with it.
And then he disappeared.
The other highlight of this trail is that it crosses a rocky ridge and drops down to the headwaters of the Colorado River. Yes, the Mighty Colorado, the river that carved the Grand Canyon. I was excited to see the beginnings of this amazing serpentine ribbon of water; but I was surprised, and disheartened, a bit, to see how unmighty the River actually was. (Note the small puddles of water and dry river rocks.)
That was 2010.
Year 2011 is a completely different story. The snow season in Colorado has been heavy; even now in July, there are more white-capped peaks than I’ve seen in the 15 years I’ve lived here.
Which means that the rivers are the highest they been in a while–highest in 40 years, some Grand Lake locals have said.
Riding the same trail just a few days ago gave me that odd sensation of slipping back in time, to see the same narrow singletrack, the same rocks, the same trees, that I’d seen last year. How odd and wonderful, to gain the sensation that this place has been there through an entire year, waiting for me to return, and that it hadn’t changed at all.
Except for the Colorado River.
Here’s an image from the very same bridge, almost exactly a year later:
You can call it climate change, you can call it the natural variety in weather. Either way, it’s impressive. And it reinforces that old truth–one I’ve always loved to ponder: Nature does not care about us. It does what it does. And it’s gorgeous, and it’s haunting.
PS One more pic, of the rushing 2011 water.
PPS Every year I spend a week up in Grand Lake at the Lighthouse Writers Retreat, which is always a fun and thought-provoking time. Thanks to all those wonderful writers who were there this year–you’re a tremendous inspiration.