We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

The Rockies, near home

Imbolc                                                                 Imbolc Moon

Looking east from the summit of Kenosha Pass

Looking east from the summit of Kenosha Pass


Through the Platte Canyon, over Kenosha Pass, onto the highplains of South Park, past Fairplay, into the Collegiate Range and finally to the Liar’s Lodge in Buena Vista on the Arkansas River, not far from Leadville. Picked up Kate and Valerie, two Bernina’s, lots of cloth, a suitcase, cutting boards and other accessories of the sewing life. Also petted Sadie, the dog who greets all who come to Liar’s Lodge, then reversed course through a light snow that made the drive out of Buena Vista picturesque.

About ten miles out of Buena Vista, on a hill, with no traffic in either direction, a man in a black SUV pulled onto the highway into my lane and I had to swerve to miss him. Sent my heart rate up. This is steep, curvy country with so many possible sources of accidents, but this one? Would have been stupid, stupid, stupid. Other than that the drive was uneventful.

Here are a few photographs. I stopped along the way, taking time to look, to see. So much more to explore here in Colorado. And all this is within an hour and a half of home.

The Lazy Bull, South Park

The Lazy Bull, South Park

Tarryall Ranch, now public land. Good fishing.

Tarryall Ranch, now public land. Good fishing.




Inching toward 71

Imbolc                                                                  Imbolc Moon

As any who’ve paid attention to the top line of these posts over the years know, the moon has always been important for Ancientrails. The Imbolc moon, at 2%, will preside over my 71st birthday. I’ve just received a copy of Lunar Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao, meditation that follow the traditional Chinese lunar calendar.  I’m looking forward to both reading Ming-Dao’s work and considering how a similar book based on the Great Wheel might look.

The silly season is well underway. Caucuses here in Colorado are on March 6th. I drove over to Dorothy Lane in Evergreen yesterday for an event at Nancy Friedman’s. It was for Lisa Cutter, a candidate for the State assembly. She’s running against Tim Leonard who has the opinion that the government should not be involved in k-12 education. He’s part of the weirdo branch of Colorado politics, but a branch that includes many voters here, a Libertarian variant that has redolence of the range wars and anger about far away corporate control of Colorado.

After walking into Nancy’s, I remembered a reason I stopped going to these events. I couldn’t hear. Even with my hearing aid, the crush of people and noise, her dining room, living room and kitchen were full, hit me like a flood, physically repulsing me. I spoke to Lisa, put my check in the bowl, greeted other members of Beth Evergreen that were there and left.

Kate’s been gone since Friday. This morning I’m driving back to Buena Vista to pick her up. The road there is beautiful, a drive I look forward to.




Samain                                                                    Joe and SeoAh Moon

Moose, Superior National Forest, Minnesota, USA

Moose, Superior National Forest, Minnesota, USA

The Moose.  Been awhile since I’ve written about my totem animal. I didn’t gain the moose in a sweat lodge or a vision quest. Nor did a psychic or friend suggest it.

Nope. Got to thinking about myself a long while ago. Introverted, wandering the forests by myself, not easily cowed, even by predators. Usually alone. And the moose came to mind.

May not be pretty, but they stand tall and act with vigor. I know no one picks a field mouse as their totem animal and that self-selection is sort of frowned upon; but, moose just seemed to fit.

Up here they live not far away, wandering the Arapaho and Pike National Forests. In fact, a male showed up in the meadow at the base of Shadow Mountain just over a month ago. Their only foe, the wolf, is no longer present here, so their numbers have gone up after a recent re-introduction by Colorado Natural Resources. The moose in Minnesota are in trouble, thanks mainly to global warming. The winters are no longer cold enough to consistently kill off the ticks that plague them. Not sure why that isn’t true here in Colorado.

I guess what appealed to me about the moose is its solitary nature, its home turf in the wilderness, its majesty. Moose are one of the iconic animals of the north along with wolves and loons and ravens. Out here in the Rockies they join the buffalo and the wild horse, the grizzly bear, the mountain lion, the elk. I see myself as a man of the north and now, too, of the west, but especially the mountains, so we share a home range, two of them in fact.

Mountain Life

Fall                                                                             Joe and SeoAh’s Moon

happy camper2Business meeting at the Crow Hill Cafe. This a modest place, a hometown joint. It has regulars, including us, several were in yesterday morning. There were the two older ladies who parked their car at a diagonal in the parallel places, paid for their breakfast out of envelopes and shared a meal. There was the long table of folks, maybe a church group, who chat. Well, most of them chat. One guy with long hair and a beard, an older biker, must have hearing loss from loud pipes. He TALKS REALLY LOUD. There was, too, a table of three men with WWII or Korea hats, talking about The War. Older than Kate and me. Because it’s on 285, Crow Hill also gets tourists headed west toward South Park.

One reason we choose Crow Hill Cafe on Tuesdays is that Happy Camper has 20% off on edibles on Tuesdays. Your average dispensary, we’ve been in a few, has a definite sixties, Haight-Ashbury vibe, but I’m not sure it’s intentional. Most of the workers are young, some ordinary looking, like the woman who rang us up yesterday, but others, like the man who checked our I.D., “Cool, man.”, are definite stoner types. There are pre-rolled joints, bud, flake, many kinds of edibles, bongs, and other accessories for the green life.

Yesterday Sandy came, our house cleaner, so we also went out for lunch to 3 Margaritas. While there, we discussed our disaster planning. This is a good time to do that since a forest fire is much less likely, cooler weather and some snow tamp it down. We have snow predicted tomorrow.

20171022_071909Still tired from the Georgia trip. Traveled Thursday, was up all day and into the night with Joe and SeoAh both Friday and Saturday, then back home on Sunday. Not used to being on the go that much. Don’t know how buddy Tom Crane manages all the travel he does. Wears me out.

Over to Beth Evergreen last night to help set up for Minyan Makers, a short course on prayer. Saw Rabbi Jamie, Tara, and Anshel. Since the setup had already been done, I turned around and went back home. Needed the rest. But. There was a warmth just from seeing those three. Beth Evergreen is a place that gives me joy. I’m very glad to have it in our life.

20170902_163055Gertie gets around pretty well considering four tears from the teeth of Kepler. She had sedation and stitching up at Sano Vet on Monday. With the wounds to her haunches and her arthritic left leg she has considerable trouble on slick surfaces like the loft floor and the downstairs wood floor. I’m going to buy some more rugs for the loft so she’ll have better surfaces to get around on. Right now I have yoga mats down. They work ok, but it’s not their best use.

Trips like the one to Georgia produce, for all their brevity, life long memories. This one, in addition to seeing Joe and SeoAh in their first house, will always have Murdoch’s homecoming as its centerpiece. Dogs. He’s playing in the wood chips in the children’s playground in the picture above. That was at 5:30 am.




Lughnasa                                                                        Eclipse Moon

20170821_113508Totality in Tetonia, Idaho


Mountain Spirit at home


Bristlecone pine cones, Mt. Pennsylvania, outside Fairplay, Colorado

Higher Up

Lughnasa                                                                Eclipse Moon

shaggy sheep2Took off yesterday morning about 7:30 am and drove west (or south) on Hwy 285 headed toward Park County, Bailey and Fairplay. I stopped at Grant, a place made visible only by its single, as near as I can tell, business, the Shaggy Sheep. There’s one of those yellow diamond signs just after it with a black silhouette of a bighorn sheep. This is one of several instances of displaced chefs seeking less frenetic lifestyles in the mountains. I mentioned the Badger Creek Cafe in Tetonia, Idaho in my eclipse post. There are others.

The breakfast I had was a deconstructed carnitas hash with green chili and two eggs on top. The deconstructed hash had carnitas laid over cut up chunks of potato, not mixed together as in corned beef hash. It was delicious. While I ate, I read a brand new book by an author from Boulder, Colorado, Megafire. Michael Kodas analyzes the sudden uptick of catastrophic wildfires since the 1970’s and why they’ll keep coming. It pleased me to see that the Shaggy Sheep had opened a second room, meaning they may stay in business, a far from certain conclusion for anything retail up here.

South Park (to the right) from Pennsylvania Mtn.

South Park (to the right) from Pennsylvania Mtn.

After breakfast, I drove on toward the Kenosha Pass, a cut through a huge granitic batholith that forms the western boundary of the Front Range. After the 9,997 foot pass, Hwy. 285 descends sharply, a 7% grade, into South Park. Yes, that South Park. At the top of the pass South Park spreads out below, a wide treeless plain that stretches to another range of mountains beyond. They mark the continental divide. That was where I was headed.

A Fairplay favorite, the Java Moose

A Fairplay favorite, the Java Moose

Fairplay, the county seat of Park County, is a not unusual, for Colorado, meld of old mining town, tourist destination and current mining. A dispute reported in last week’s Flume concerns whether or not to rezone residential plots for mining so a gold mine, yes, a gold mine, can expand its operations.

Those of us hiking up Mt. Pennsylvania met at a Sinclair truck stop on the east side of Fairplay. I went in the car with our two guides and Rich Levine, a member of Beth Evergreen and the lawyer who drew up our new estate documents. On the drive we went past the disputed zoning plat. The gold mine, it’s no longer grizzled old men in long underwear with pans and picks, looked more like an aggregate pit.

Indian Paint Brush

Indian Paint Brush

At the trailhead we began our hike at 11,700 feet through willow, lodgepole pine and a surprising abundance of wildflowers. The trail meandered a bit while traversing another 500 feet up to 12,200. We passed through the krummholz layer, crooked trees, that mark the tree line. Trees right at the tree line are stunted and crooked due to the inhospitable climate. It’s the tree line, after all.

After the krummholz comes tundra, flat and bare except for plants that hug the ground, mat plants, and a few hardy flowers. The air is thin here on Shadow Mountain at 8,800 feet, but 12,200 is thinner yet. It was a struggle to get to the highest point of the hike, requiring breath breaks for most of us; not, however, Tara’s three teenagers who seemed to run with exasperating ease (to this old guy) up the trail. As did Marley, their dog.

A tree island at the krummholz level

A tree island at the krummholz level

Those of us from Beth Evergreen were there because of the research being done on Pennsylvania Mountain. Forty years worth of investigation has been conducted there into alpine bees and some of the plants that they pollinate. Native dandelions, for instance, may be under threat from the expansion of the familiar, but invasive dandelion probably growing in your yard right now. Unfortunately, the scientists had vacated the site, presumably due to the academic year just getting underway, so we were left mostly with the stunning scenery as a benefit.

There was one other gain. The Beth Evergreen pre-school, now a wholly owned subsidiary of the congregation, has as a theme for the year, Bee Alive. It came up in the conversation that Kate and I have beekeeping experience. Rich has started two hives, which he has very cleverly suspended on steel cable high above the ground to foil bears. Otherwise an electric fence, and a strong one, is necessary. Rich invited me over to his house next week for a pre-school staff meeting. Kate and I may end up sharing some of our equipment and knowledge. Should be fun.

A full day. And a good one.

Up Here

Lughnasa                                                                              Kate’s Moon

BaileyBailey, Colorado is about 20 miles west of us on Hwy. 285. It’s an up and down, winding path with vistas of the Continental Divide and several fourteeners including Mt. Evans, the weathermaker for our neighborhood here on Shadow Mountain.

Bailey is also the first, coming from the east, town in Park County, which abuts our own Jefferson County. That’s significant because the marijuana laws here in Colorado give counties the authority to accept or include dispensaries. Jefferson County, one of Colorado’s largest, has said no for now. Park County though, said yes. Kate and I make the journey to The Happy Camper, located just outside of Bailey, every once in awhile.

Entrance to the Sasquatch Museum

Entrance to the Sasquatch Museum

I went yesterday while Kate entertained the Needleworkers at our home. On a whim, after my visit to the Happy Camper I decided to satisfy my curiosity and visit the Sasquatch Outpost. It’s in Bailey, down the steep 7% grade known as Crow Hill, about six miles from the dispensary.

While there, I spoke to some folks, a couple of employees and two men who seemed to be hanging out, sussing out the level of credulity. Turns out it’s pretty high. Voicing the expected level of uncertainty, “Could be natural phenomenon,” one man, six foot two, white haired, well spoken, showed me on his phone a photograph he’d taken on a recent research trip with some Australians. It showed an Aspen bent in a 180 degree arc and, he said, “Fastened to the ground.” This Aspen had branches leaning up against it. When they do research, he and his buddy go to places that have what he described as a high incidence of such things.

Sasquatch Museum

Sasquatch Museum

When I asked why we didn’t have more information about the Sasquatch, he replied, “We do. There’s the BigFoot Field Researchers Organization. It has over 30,000 sightings graded A, B, C. With A the most reliable, C the least.” He recounted a recent Park County incident outside Shawnee, about 8 miles further west from Bailey, up the Ben Tyler trail. “Not all that far up. There’s six switchbacks before you get into the Lost Creek Wilderness. Guy saw a bigfoot right there only three switchbacks up.”

(the archways shown here are what the guy showed me on his phone.)

It would be exciting to have a North American ape living in our mountains. I found myself enthralled by the idea that out there, living a reclusive life like the pine martens and lynx and bobcats we rarely see, is an 8 foot, bipedal creature in our own evolutionary path. But. Geez. Seems far fetched to me. Still.

Oh, and there’s also this, more Bailey culture, a bit changed from the last time I posted a photograph of it. Trump inflected, I think. The America Will Act banner is new.



Measure once. At least once.

Midsommar                                                                     Kate’s Moon


So that happened. Ted of All Trades, a former Iowa handyman now living here, came over to install the 15,000 BTU air conditioner in the loft. The loft is 850 square feet so it has to be that big or it would run all the time. I researched this, found the right air conditioner, bought it and brought it home. Forgot one thing. “That’s a big box,” said Ted, a hyper masculine, shaved head, brawny guy. Oh. “You have 25″ of window and a 29 1/2″ air conditioner.” Oh. Right BTU, wrong size. 70 years old and I haven’t learned to measure things. So, back it goes. Not sure what I’m going to do to cool the loft now.

Ted does not impose a trip charge. “Nope, I don’t do that. I want to earn my money.” We then had a conversation about the mountain way when it came to trades. “I went to a customer’s house. Said I’d be there at 8 am, got there about 7:45. Knocked on the door.” He shook his head, “The guy came to the door and said, ‘Who are you?'” “Ted,” I said, “Ted of All Trades.” “Holy shit, I wasn’t expecting you until 9:30 or later.”

The Midwestern work ethic, especially one grounded in the agricultural ethos of Iowa, would chew up and spit out guys who don’t show up on time. Ted’s on time, start to finish attitude about his business has him booked until October in spite of having been in the mountains only a year.

Flight for Life

Midsommar                                                                  Most Heat Moon

What looked like a nasty fire season in March and early April has become moderate, even subdued. First we had heavy late season snow, then rains and now cool weather. None of this rules out fire, but the fuel is moist and the temperatures are not exacerbating the low humidity. There are still emergency preparedness items to check off, however. Need to get that safety deposit box and figure out how to handle the times when one of us is away from the house with the car. A bit less urgency than we’d anticipated.

crowhillcafe01The go-go girls, Rigel and Gertie, joined me on a breakfast outing to Crow Hill Cafe. Crow Hill is the steep, 7% grade, that takes Hwy 285 down into Bailey. On the way there, from the western edge of Conifer, the continental divide defines the horizon, peaks until recently covered with snow. They allow us, who live in the mountains, to see the mountains in the same way folks in Denver can see the Front Range, as distant and majestic.

We experience the mountains daily, going up and down them, around their curvy two-lane roads, beside their creeks, outlets for snow melt, modulating our speed for the wildlife that refuses (thankfully) to acknowledge our presence as a limitation. This in the mountains travel finds our views obscured by the peaks that are close by and the valleys that we use to navigate through them.

French toast and crisp bacon, black coffee and the Denver Post, a window seat overlooking the slight rise beyond which Crow Hill plummets toward Bailey. I love eating breakfast out, don’t know why. Something about starting the day that way once in awhile. Rigel and Gertie got a saved piece of french toast each, happy dogs.

20170625_180842Back to Conifer and the King Sooper. King Sooper is a Kroger chain upscale store, one listed as a potentially threatened species by newspaper articles about Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods. With the rapid concentration of certain retail activities we may need an endangered business protection act. King Sooper does deliver though we’ve not made use of that service. Those of us on Shadow Mountain don’t expect to see drones with celery and milk anytime soon.

Although. We did have confirmation yesterday of a premium asset related to our location on Black Mountain Drive. Two Jefferson County sheriff black and white S.U.V.s followed an Elk Creek Fire and Rescue ambulance past us in the late afternoon yesterday. About 30 minutes later Kep recruited Rigel and Gertie to defend the house. When I went to check, there was a line-up of stopped vehicles stretching from the curve where Shadow Mountain Drive turns into Black Mountain Drive.

20170625_180848Neighbors and their dogs were on the sides of the road. Cell phones (pocket digital cameras) were out and aimed at the curve. The chop chop chop of helicopter rotors was evident, but the helicopter itself was not in sight. Then it was, slowly rising from the road, Flight for Life spelled out along the yellow stripe leading back to its stabilizers.

It’s very reassuring to know if Kate and I ever end up in a medical emergency we won’t have to rely on a 45 minute ambulance ride to the nearest E.R. The E.M.T.s  could just pop us on a gurney, wheel us down the road a bit and into the ‘copter. Then up, up and away.

Today is back to working out, more reimagining prep, this time including reordering my reimagining bookshelf, checking the old computer for reimagining files. I’ll also be studying for kabbalah tomorrow night and possibly taking a trip over to Sundance nursery in Evergreen looking for lilac bushes.



David Neils, local photographer

Beltane                                                                            Rushing Waters Moon

David believes we protect what we care about. I agree with him. He uses photography as a way of engendering support for some of our more charismatic megafauna. Mountain lions and bears are under attack in certain sections of Colorado. The government is killing them to supposedly increase mule deer herds.

This is a still of the same mountain lion in the video.


Mountain Lion, David Neills

February 2018
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