It’s a cold morning in the back-of-beyond, thank goodness. Bear chews her rawhide, Teddy waits for coffee. I think of my little walk with Bear yesterday at the slough and what I saw.
I thought of how this particular slough trail is now very familiar. I know where to look to see the river. Since the first year I walked there, two things have happened. I became more accurately oriented to my world and the river moved last year during the floods.
The first year I walked there I didn’t notice that the river is RIGHT BY THE FUCKING PARKING LOT. I didn’t have to yell that but every time I think of it I want to slap myself for being so blind. It’s about 20 feet down a shallow slope and, that first year, there were bushes. No more. Last year’s floods took care of them.
The first year I walked I noticed the mountains. The first walk I walked I turned around halfway because I did not want the trail to be a loop. I enjoyed it so much I wanted it to be much longer than it is. But, you know and I know that the trail is a trail and wishes aren’t horses.
When it comes to mountain aesthetics, my favorites are looking at mountains from a distance and being above the trees. What that means is that my flat valley — where views are seldom obscured by trees — is perfect. From our little hike yesterday I could see the shifting sunlight on the three snowy “peaks” of the nearest San Juans as a storm deliberated its level of involvement. One of the “peaks” is such a gentle thing that you can walk right up it as if it were (and it is) an immense hill. They are among my favorite things to paint.
I have my formerly degenerating hip to thank for what I see now. When it was heading south (and after it was repaired) I was lucky to walk a mile on uneven ground AT ALL. But, of course, I did. My beautiful friend, Bear, was a young dog. I would walk a few hundred yards, feel pain, stop and look at the mountains or the river. Beauty is a powerful analgesic. Bear learned to walk that way. In her mind we were stopping because I smelled something and she would give the trail a sincere nose examination. She still thinks that’s what we’re doing (what else WOULD I be doing?) but she’s also learned that I stop for birds. Now, mostly, I stop for her.
It’s pretty close to exactly a mile on the Shriver/Wright walking loop. Yesterday the trail was a combination of frozen snow and clear gravel/dirt. Sometimes an easy, pleasant walking surface, sometimes lumpy and unresponsive.
Few people go out there in the winter. The wildlife has migrated down to the valley floor for winter. Tracks and scents rest undisturbed by humans and dog urine. The beasts are looking for open water, and can climb out on the ice to the narrow channel of free-flowing water in the Rio Grande which is slow and shallow in January.
It’s just a mile, but what a mile.