Miles High and Climbing - Part 2
Eagles flying high
Thursday -- July 28th, 1994 ___________________________
It is 6 a.m., windy and cold, and I have to go to the bathroom -- big time! Snuggling down
dream, yeah, that is it, a dream. Reality though, has a way sometimes of just flat getting
your attention. Finally getting out of my sleeping bag (who invented these crazy mummy
bags with hidden zippers anyway?), I slip on some long pants. Bending forward to put my
shoes on, I feel the pain in my shoulder that bothered me all night long. Even with all the
pills I took last night, it still bothers me.

As soon as I slip out of the tent, I know that this morning's trip to the "woods" will be a
little bit different -- the wind feels like it is gusting upward to about 20 knots at times.
In situations like this, one has to be a master at certain skills or the results can be
undesirable. For example, one has to consider such variables as wind direction and
velocity, amount of "cover", degree of wind break, temperature of outside air, direction
to face, angle of body bends -- all sorts of technical stuff. And people think it is easy to
just "go" in the woods -- what do they know?

One thing is for sure. On a morning like this, one does not hang around and "read!" Know
what I mean?

Back in the sleeping bag, I quickly scrunch down inside to get warm again. Next thing I
know it is 9 a.m., and Michael is asking me if I plan on sleeping through our entire day
off. Day off. After yesterday, these two words sound wonderful.

Today belongs to us -- we can do with it as we please. Sleep, hike, fish, read, nothing.
Michael and I said the night before we might try to hike up to the back of the valley we
are in and then climb up until we reach the actual ridge line on the Sangre de Cristo
Mountain Range. My body is telling me right now that the very idea of a hike of that
magnitude sounds stupid. Maybe later -- just not now.

By now, the entire camp is stirring. Michael and I finally stumble outside and into the
brilliant, morning sunshine. Over at the kitchen site, the coffee drinkers are anxiously
awaiting Jayme's first pot of real coffee to come to a boil. Normally, you let the pot
simmer a bit after coming to a boil because this type of coffee making requires you to
just drop the grinds right into the water -- no filters or any of that "modern stuff." The
simmer period allows most of the grinds to settle on down in the pot. We usually just
pour and let them settle in our own cups. We are tough, remember? We are veterans.

English muffins, topped with shredded cheese, then covered with a piece of Canadian
bacon and finally topped out with a fried egg -- are we talking good or what? What
can I say? I am not sure how many of these delightful morsels of camp cooking
everyone else has eaten, but I think Michael and I have had four apiece. Or was it five?
This little simple recipe for breakfast immediately went on my campfire cook list.

I had all intentions of shaving on this trip. I had intentionally brought along all sorts of
stuff for this daily ordeal. Things like a nice little mirror that has a cute little stand,
travel size can of shaving cream, and three or four throw-away razor blades. One touch
of the ice-cold water up here in the mountains made me seek out my son's battery-
powered shaver.

Best 15 bucks he ever spent. We have used it all week long and today is no exception.
There is a beautiful acre-sized meadow next to our campsite, and we now take turns
walking out there in the warming sunshine while blissfully shaving away. As I walk, I
think about something I heard or read about lately -- something like "civilization as we
know it will end when all the batteries are dead." Probably true, probably true.

With breakfast under our belts, we each seek our morning's quiet time. I keep looking
at this gigantic boulder out in the middle of the acre-sized meadow beside us. The top
is fairly flat and one side angles up from the ground for easy access. My problems are
solved. Lying here on top of the rock, with the sun warming my old bones, I write in my
journal for a while and then read some more of my paperback. "Wonder what old Dirk
is up to now?" I ponder as the story line once again unfolds before my eyes.

My rock, my peace, my time -- it is wonderful this morning.

Drifting back into camp after an hour of rejuvenation, I spot Number 1 -- Michael --
roaming around the camp just looking for something to get into. He has that mischievous
look about him only a father or mother can recognize (years of practice, I guess). I
never call him Jr., even though he is. Besides, he is a whole lot bigger than I am and Jr.
just does not seem quite right. I like to call him either Number 1 (for first born, my
First Mate, my number one friend) or just simply, Michael. Just looking at each other
now, we know the decision has already been made without any words being spoken.

Michael and I decide to go for it -- hike to the rim at the back of our valley.

"Lets do it," we say as we just look at each other and smile. Even as I say I will go I
cannot believe I just agreed to go. It looks so far away and strenuous as we stand by
the stream next to our campsite and Gary points to where we need to go. From our
campsite, we can look up and see the rim almost three miles away.

Not only can we see the rim, we can clearly see the post Gary is pointing to. The post is
placed on the rim at the pass that allows trail traffic from our valley to crossover into
the valley beyond the rim.

We "tank up" with water again and refill our water bottles. We also place some of the
infamous trail snacks in our day packs. Here it is Thursday and we still have enough of
this stuff to outfit an expedition to the South Pole and back! My guess is that some of
today's trail mix will not make it back to camp.

"Oops! Did I spill those -- I am sorry, what a shame. Better cover them up Number 1,
we cannot leave any trace of the spill," I would say miles ahead.

We ask around if anyone else wants to go. Everyone else has plans at the moment. Sue
and Malcolm already have books in their hands and are headed for the "rock pile" next
to our campsite. Sue says that after the splendor of yesterday, they just want some
quiet time and a chance to soak up some warm sunshine. That sounds so good, I thought.
I almost drop my pack, get my book and join them. I make a note to myself that if the
weather is still good when we get back, I am going to do the exact same thing.

Suited up, we leave camp and start up the trail that will lead us up and beyond the tree
line. After about 300 yards, we are breathing hard. We turn and look at each other and
say almost in unison, "We are nuts -- I hurt like the devil already!"

"Come on," I urged, "This will be our day -- we will enjoy it." It is so easy to lie, I
thought, as the burning in my legs get worse. Soon, we break through the tree line and
we are out in the open.

There is something about being out beyond the tree line. The vastness, the beauty of all
the vistas and wildflowers, something. Within five minutes, we are cruising along.
Breathe, step, breathe, we make our way up the valley floor through wildflowers, bear
bushes, and finally out onto the grasslands that go all the way up to the top of the ridge
we have to climb.

Gary has given us some basic directions -- just make your way up the valley and continue
up until you intersect a trail. This trail goes from the pass you are headed for, back
across the top of the valley and onto a pass on a ridge to your right. Bill and Karen said
earlier that they might head up toward that pass to get a look at the lakes in the
next valley.

Just like during the hike yesterday, we begin to be overwhelmed by all of the beauty
that surrounds us. The wildflowers are much more prevalent in this valley. I even stop
several times to get down low so I can try to capture a few of them on film. Even if the
pictures turn out, believe me, they will not even begin to compare to the pictures my
eyes are taking right now.

Michael starts to drag a bit, even talking about do we really want to climb the ridge we
are now facing. He had injured his right knee a few months ago, and I begin to think that
maybe the steepness of the climb up and back down we are considering, coupled with
yesterday's trek, might be too much for his knee.

Trying to come up with a solution, I quickly look at the obstacles before us. "Look, we
can go up here, cut along a wide switch-back to over there, then back to where we think
the trail should be." I am saying all of this while pointing to various points on the back of
the valley wall. The route pointed out seems like it will allow us to gain altitude easy
enough, even though it will be a bit longer than necessary. It even convinces me -- I am
also hurting more than I was admitting.

"Agree," is his only answer and we start up -- breathe, step, breathe, we head up the
first leg of our imaginary trail that will get us up to the trial that leads to the pass at
the top.

The sun is playing hide and seek with us now and some dark looking clouds are beginning
to show up above the rim. Even with the dim light, the masses of wildflowers we are
passing through give comfort to our journey. As the rhythm of our climbing falls into
place, we find ourselves steadily heading higher and higher, until finally, we arrive at the
point where we switch back and angle upward toward the trail that leads to the top.

In no time at all, we find the trail -- a thin, bare line crossing a vast sea of grass, rocks,
and a million wildflowers. The flowers are now almost completely covering the ground.
As we climb higher on our new trail, the landscape takes on a faint, red hue in areas
covered by thousands of Paint Brushes -- a beautiful, delicate, wispy sort of flower that
looks like a paint brush tinted in numerous shades or red.

I wish with all my heart you could be here right now, Deanna. The simple beauty of our
surroundings is so overwhelming. One of God's own special paint brushes touches this
magical place.

With one final step, breathe, step, Michael and I lift our hands in triumph as we break
out onto the top of the ridge. We are at the top -- straddling the very backbone of the
Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The post we had so clearly seen from our campsite stands
before us, marking the division between two great National Forests.

Ahead of us and to the west is the Rio Grande Forest. Behind us and to the east, is the
San Isabel Forest -- our home for the past four days. Looking to the west and
southwest, we can see all the way to and beyond the San Juan Mountains -- onto toward
Four Corners, the extreme southwest corner of the state of Colorado. Farther around
to the south, we can see clear down into New Mexico.

Looking back toward our valley, we can see all of it -- clear to its end where it merges
thousands of feet below us with the great valley between the Wet Mountains and the
Sangre de Cristo Mountains. We can look even beyond the Wet Mountains and see the
Front Range, backdrop to Colorado Springs and Denver. Farther around to the north we
are looking into the mountain ranges that made up the central core of Colorado.

Michael and I soared a few moments yesterday with the eagles, but today, today we are
eagles, Deanna -- do you understand? -- we are flying with God and can see all that is
beautiful below us.

We spend another 15 minutes on the top just looking at all the world below us and not
saying too much. Each of us, in our own quiet way, is soaring and dreaming.

The weather to the west is starting to look threatening, so we decide it is time to head
down. Putting on our rain gear tops to ward off the chilly winds, we spot out our trip
back down. We pick out several new landmarks that will give us a different return path
once we leave the ridge trail that runs between the two passes.

With one final look toward our valley and our campsite below, we hit the trail and within
minutes, are far below the ridge line. As we drop farther and farther, we seem to be
passing more and more wild flowers. Maybe we just did not see all of them on the way
up. Anyway, just past the point where we had joined the trail earlier, we come up on
about an acre of Blue Larkspur, about two-feet tall and growing in a circle. Needless to
say, we get a picture of this beauty spot. In fact, Michael wanders out into the middle
of it, replete with about a million bumble bees buzzing around, and squats down.

He is anxiously waiting for me to snap his picture as he squats there with this obvious,
forced grin on his face. I am messing around with the camera like I can not get it to
work (I have already taken his picture) while he is saying things to his Daddy under his
breath that I just cannot repeat here!

A little while later, we spot Bill and Karen about two miles away on the next pass (at the
end of our trail). They are on the top of the next ridge over and are probably just as
awed as we were as they look around from their vantage point.

Leaving our threadbare trail, Michael and I head down toward one of our "spots" about a
mile and a half away -- an open spot just inside the tree line. Soon, we leave the lush
grasslands of the upper valley and drop into the thin vegetation that precedes the tree
line. It is the same in all the valleys -- low growing bear bushes, intermixed next with
dwarf-sized, wind-blown evergreen trees and other hardy mid-sized shrubs.

We are close enough to Bill now that we can call up to him, still high above us in the open
grasslands. He and Karen are making their way down from their pass much the same way
as Michael and I did -- pick a route from the top and head down. Bill wants to know how
to get to the pass we have just came from and Michael points out to him how to find the
actual trail that runs between the two passes. He also warns them of the storm clouds
we saw growing behind our pass. With a final wave, we are both on our separate ways.

Bones. A complete skeleton. From the size of it, it must have been an Elk. These bones,
just like the single one I found yesterday, are fresh -- bloody and still supporting skin
and stuff around the lower legs. And just like yesterday, we did not take long to
"inspect" these bones. One quick snapshot and we are history!

We pick up our pace just a bit as we now make our way down through the trees and small
boulder fields. We are making our own trail, dead reckoning our way back toward camp.
This type of hiking, dead reckoning, has always appealed to Michael and me. We love to
get somewhere in the mountains and with our seven-minute topo maps, plot out a course
that should take us to some landform identified on the map. Usually it is something like a
double rise in the land, shown on the map by very closely drawn contour lines.

After taking a bearing with our compass, or just using our "built-in" compass, we strike
out for our target, making our own trail as we go. In all the years we have done this, we
have never missed our target.

Just as the rain starts, yes, it is that time of day again, we break out of the trees dead
on target -- right in front of our tent. Are we good or what?

After letting Gary know we were back, we hit the tent to dress down. We quickly change
back into light-weight camp shoes, dry socks, and a warm sweat shirt. We both agree
almost at the same time that this "sure looks like sleeping weather to me," and with
that, we snuggle into comfortable positions against our gear and sleeping bags and are
napping before the words even hit the floor.

An hour later, the rain has stopped and the sun is already back out, drying out
everything. Feeling refreshed, I grab my paperback and head out to the rock pile beside
our campsite. Quickly climbing to the top, I selected a comfortable looking couple of
rocks and settle in for some quiet reading. Michael joins me after a while. We sit here
in the warm afternoon sun and read our stories of adventure and intrigue.

About an hour later, the wind picks up a bit and it turns just a little chilly, especially up
here high on the rock pile. We call it quits on reading and head down. Gee, I do not
remember climbing this high, I am thinking to myself as I have to watch for and
carefully choose which rocks to step on to come down safely.

This basic phenomenon, going up is easier than coming down, traps more would-be
mountain climbers, especially rock climbers. It kind of lures you in and them boom, you
are caught high up and panic sets in. It is easy to see upward and to pull yourself up. It
is very difficult to see below you and find safe footings, especially when you are "glued"
to the face of a cliff.

Stepping back onto the narrow meadow at the base of the rock pile, I run into Gary,
Bill, and Karen standing beside a small stream meandering through the middle of
the meadow.

I should say only Gary and Karen are beside the stream because Bill is in the stream.
Yes, standing smack dab in the middle with his boots on. He swishes them around a bit
saying that he is washing them off. He does this every day -- stands in freezing water
and washes his boots! Maybe it is some sort of secret airline pilot requirement thing, I
do not know. Anyway, he seems to enjoy it and that is all that counts.

Gary has his binoculars out and is looking for April. She had changed her mind about
hiking up to the rim that Michael and I had gone to and now wanted to go. The rule is two
or more on an extended hike, and everyone was done for the day. She finally talks Gary
into letting her go. To compromise, he walks with her up to the tree line and points out
the exact path she should take to the top.

Standing here now with the binoculars, he is waiting for her to appear above one small
rise that blocks our view of the lower portion of the head of the valley. Within minutes,
she comes into view and is watched on and off by both Gary and ourselves.

All the way to the top in one long, continuous climb. What a trooper. April stands by the
same post we had been at earlier and raises her hand in a wave to us. I can almost see
the pleasure on her face from this distance. No one can stand there and not be dazzled.

Gary brings out his signaling mirror and "flashed" April the high sign. She sees it
immediately and frantically waves back. I saw for the first time how important it is to
keep a mirror with you when hiking. From her vantage point, half of the world was laid
out before her, including us as just specks on a very crowded landscape. The instant
Gary turned the mirror toward her, the flash of brilliant sun light was seen and
recognized by her in a microsecond.

The mirror in my day pack became a permanent part of that day pack in the
same microsecond.

The mosquitoes are back out in force -- must be getting close to suppertime. I go back
to the tent and stow my book and binoculars. Picking up my coat, wool hat, and bug spray,
I head back to the kitchen area.

The bar is open while Jayme and Gary start preparing the evening meal. Tonight it would
be couscous -- a delicious North African dish of crushed grain (like grits), steamed and
served with various vegetables and meats, such as Kielbasa like we are having tonight.
Now I ask you. How many campers or hikers do you know that could pull that meal out of
their backpack? Anyway, while all the cooking is going on, everybody is sitting all huddled
up to ward off the chill and actively batting around all the things that have happened
today, including April's solo trip up to the rim and back.

She and I are sharing memories about the view from the top when Michael comes over
and gets me to try some kind of drink he and Malcolm have devised out of sheer
desperation. First, they heat up a pot of water. Next, they take a cup and pour
powdered lemonade into it (about a quarter of an inch deep), and then pour the hot
water into the cup. To this brew, they pour a healthy portion of Jim Beam.

Folks, I just found another recipe to add to the campfire book. Good, very soothing and
good. Against the nip in the air, it hits the spot.

Talk about hitting the spot, I fall backward off the log I am sitting on. This particular
kitchen area is defined by two huge logs, lying parallel to each other and about 15 feet
apart. We place the saddle blankets along the tops of the logs and these make for very
comfortable sitting around the kitchen area.

There is a dead tree on the ground lying directly behind the one log several of us are
sitting on. Unfortunately for me, this particular dead tree still has short, broken limbs
attached to it, each one being broken off at sharp angle about a foot away from the
main trunk. Instinctively holding out one arm behind me to break my fall, I fall against
the dead tree behind me. One limb punctures my left hand and two others, thankfully
blunt on the ends, try their best to gore me in the left rump and back.

Immediate pain in my hand. However, it is nothing compared to my rump and back. At
first, I am scared -- I think I have actually punctured my back, it hurts so intensely. I
am afraid to move. Jayme and Michael are on me in one second, first determining how
bad I am hurt, then gently helping me back to the safety of the top of the log. April is
also right there, and between her (the doctor) and Jayme (the nurse), they ask all the
questions, etc., to make sure I am OK. Other than feeling stupid, I am all right, I assure
them. What I do not tell them is that the pain is so intense in my lower back that I feel
like I am going to pass out.

Now do not jump to conclusions -- I only had one of Michael's "lemonades" before the
big fall. I did however, have several after the fall.

Finishing off another great meal, we sit around for a while longer and shoot the breeze.
It amazes me how well we all seem to get along. This entire week has made us feel as if
we have know each other for years. Except for a few introductory remarks about who
we were, where we came from, what we did for a living, etc., we do not dwell on our past
as much as we do on the present -- we are having a great time and it shows constantly.

Sure, some of our past creeps into our conversations -- our past determines who we are
-- we cannot escape it. However, we do not go on about things like how tough it is at
work, or how bad things are at times, and all the other things we seem to dwell on back
home that generally sends us into a tailspin, to use one of Bill's terms. We talk about
the good things, the good memories, the funny memories, the scary memories, but not
the bad memories.

Malcolm and Sue head for their tent as darkness starts to settle in around us. Saying my
good nights to the remaining group still bubbling with stories untold, I, too head for the
barn, so to speak. It has been a long day and the hiking, log falling, and lemonades are
starting to take their toll. My body is saying "get me in the sleeping bag, now!"

As I lie here all zipped up in my sleeping bag, I think about what a great day this has
been. The moments that I shared with my son today, both quietly and when we spoke,
will last me a lifetime. We flew high today Number 1, we flew high.

The last thing I hear before I drift off to sleep is the sound of Michael's voice coming
from the kitchen area. His high spirit and laughter lulls me to sleep.
Downhill all the way
Friday -- July 29th, 1994 _________________________
Homeward bound
Saturday -- July 30th, 1994 ___________________________
I do not have to get up, put some warm clothes on, go outside and find a "tree." I smile.
Life is good.

Our flight back to Atlanta is not until 1:30, so Michael and I decide we will head over to
town after breakfast and look around again. It is Saturday, and all the shops will be
open. We also want to see if we can find some sort of cloth patch that at least says
"Colorado" so we can sew it on our backpacks to commemorate our adventure.

After a quick breakfast back over at Denny's, we strike out for town. Crossing over the
bridge again, we observe one of the longest trains I have ever seen. I am not sure how
far the empty gondola cars back up from the engines (they back out of sight), but there
are eight engines linked in tandem.

Power. Pure raw power. As we stand on the bridge above them, we can hear and feel the
diesel engines loafing -- the hum of power instantly recognizable. In the blink of an eye,
my mind pulls up memories from my past, memories of when I was in the Navy. I
spent three years on a World War II type diesel submarine, powered by four
Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines. Even now, I can hear them purring in my mind, purring
in harmony with the sound beneath my feet. For just a second or two, I am back in time,
standing on the bridge of my submarine cruising above the Arctic Circle in search
of peace.

Returning back to the present, I also notice another odd thing about this train -- out of
the eight engines, five are from different railroads. Rio Grande, Sante Fe, MDI, Cotton
States, and one other I cannot make out. Railroad persons -- do you know where all your
engines are?

Town is far different than it was last Sunday. The streets and shops are bustling with
cars and people. Up around Tejon street, it is like a mall, there are so many people. We
spend an hour going from shop to shop trying to find our patches. Everywhere we go, we
hear the same story. "Patches? No, we do not have them, but that sounds like a
great idea."

After a while, we just give up and start shopping like everyone else. Michael finds a
tee-shirt in one store that sports a snapshot of where we just hiked. A little later, we
go into a wonderful store called Terra Verde, that presents it's wares so artistically --
kind of a southwestern decor and an ancient Indian look. I buy Deanna a beautiful pair
of ear rings -- looks like ancient Indian ceremonial dance figures, silver, with a
turquoise stone imbedded in them.

Yes, we like downtown Colorado Springs. It is good to see so many people here in the
heart of the city instead of out somewhere filling up the parking lots of a mall
or something.

Time is starting to run out, so we head back to the hotel. We finished checking out,
gather our gear, and catch the hotel shuttle van out to the airport. The weather today
is absolutely gorgeous. Crystal clear blue skies and warm. Pike's Peak looms up behind
Colorado Springs like a great protector. Every detail of it's majesty is clearly visible
even from this distance.

One day, I hope to return with Deanna and go to the top. I want to stand where Kathy
Baker stood and saw "amber waves of grain" as she composed "America the Beautiful."

After checking our baggage at the airline counter and getting our tickets all squared
away, Michael and I head for the gift shop. The first thing we see when we walk in the
door is a cloth patch that shows a mountain range and says "Colorado." Our search is
over -- we have found our patch.

Shortly, our flight will leave and we will be homeward bound -- our odyssey, our
adventure almost over. In a few hours, our trip will fade back into reality as we get on
with our lives. Deanna and her sister will be at the airport to greet us as we
triumphantly return home, marching off the plane with our packs on and proudly
wearing our Bear Basin Ranch shirts.

We will spend countless hours in the days ahead retelling and reliving our week high in
the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Our photographs will show those things that we
struggle to find words to describe, like the vastness of alpine meadows painted with a
million wildflowers, or the majesty of a unmolested mountain peak.

People will gather around and listen, look, and yes, even dream themselves. We will tell
them about our companions on our journey, how great they all were, how special they
became to us, and how much we will miss them.

Michael and I took about 300 photographs and now have them mounted in two albums --
one for him and one for me. Each time I look at the pictures, each time I see the faces
of Gary or Jayme, I am there again. Good memories have a magical way of
lasting forever.

As our plane lifts off the runway, I can see our mountains in the distance. Staring at
those far-off peaks, I think about Thursday when just for a few moments in time, high
on a mountain ridge, Michael and I soared like eagles.

We were miles high and climbing.
Miles High and Climbing - Part 2
By Mike Bailey
Miles High and Climbing Library Rules:  All works/images are Copyright © 2001, 2016 by Michael T. Bailey Sr., Marietta, Georgia. All rights reserved.
Reproduction, adaptation, or translation without prior written permission is prohibited, except as allowed under copyright laws
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End Part 2 of 2 for Miles High and Climbing

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It is about half past six in the morning, and I am again out in the woods, facing into a
cold wind and trying to take care of business. Porcelain toilets -- tonight the real thing
-- my mind races with visions of running water, warm bathrooms, and an entire roll of
toilet paper. Life can be good at times!

Everyone must be having "go home" feelings because by 7 a.m., the entire camp is alive
with warm bodies. Jayme is banging pots around, trying to get her coffee pot going.
Gary has already gone down to the meadow below to tend to the horses and April soon
joins him.

The campsite is already starting to take on the appearance of departure. Duffel bags
are piled up here and there, and Jayme's saddle packs are all lined up. She's starting
to solve the daily puzzle of weight balancing of all the pack gear.

Soon, breakfast is well underway. Gary is playing master chef this morning, cooking up
one of his special trail breakfasts of peppers, mushrooms, onions, bacon, eggs, plus a
few other things he just kind of throws into the pot, so to speak. I do not think he
realizes it, but Jayme watches every move he makes, like, this is her kitchen and she is
not quite sure that he is doing everything "right."

I am informed during breakfast that I snore, in fact, snore very loudly. So loud in fact,
they say it can be heard throughout the entire camp. Mind you, some tents are as much
as a 100 yards from my tent! Malcolm and Sue say they thought about coming over to my
tent and giving it a few whacks with their hiking sticks. April swore she could hear me --
said I sounded like a wounded bear. Bill and Karen nod agreement.

Even Gary, my friend and leader of this bunch of horse thieves, says it woke him up
twice and that each time, he thought a bear had charged into camp looking for food.
Both times, he said, he slipped his pants on, grabbed his rifle and jumped out of his tent
looking for some "crazy bear on the loose!"

I keep looking for the smirks -- there are none -- these people are serious. Must be the
altitude, yeah, that is it. Michael, Number 1, my compadre, says he did not hear a thing.
You know what that means, do you not? He that does not hear the snore is probably the
snorer! I rest my case.

Bill and Gary talk a long time about flying as we keep putting away another great morning
meal. Both of their flight experiences are fascinating and colorful. The stories swap
back and forth between Bill's commercial aviation background and Gary's various rides
in all sorts of aircraft when he was a U.S. Army Special Forces Captain in Vietnam. We
all just watch and listen as two special people let a few old memories bubble up to
the top.

Listening to Gary speak about Nam is different from most stories I have listened to
about this long-ago period in our nation's history. Oh, I do not mean the politics of the
era, that never comes up. It is the calm and almost unassuming voice that Gary uses
when narrating his exploits. Never boastful, never vindictive, never hoarding the glory.
Just by the very nature of his rank and unit, Special Forces, he saw and experienced
things most never saw during their entire tour. With a quiet voice, he speaks of
harrowing times and death. He gives dignity to his words and to his fellow comrades,
especially to those that he left behind.

After breakfast, Michael, April, and I hike down to the lake below us where we
originally were going to camp. The lake is crystal clear and beautiful. Being about 15
acres in size, it probably supports some rather large trout. As we walk around the edge,
I note that the mosquito colony here appears large. We are already seeing them here,
whereas up at our camp, they will not show up until late afternoon. Considering the
number of the little black things buzzing about us right now, I am glad we are camped
one mile away from the lake.

Through the trees, we get another glimpse on the high mountain we traversed two days
earlier, hiking along the side of its rounded edge from one end of the valley wall to the
other. Again, we look at it and are amazed -- it just does not look possible to walk across
the face of that mountain.

Back in camp, things are really winding down. It is around 10 a.m. now, and Gary and
Jayme are ahead of schedule. All of the horses have been brought up into the campsite
and are standing patiently, waiting to be fitted with their packs.

For some reason, today's gathering of all the gear in the middle of the campsite looks
voluminous -- like we were a 40-party expedition gearing up for a two-month assault on
Mt. Everest. Maybe it is just the first time everything has been all spread out instead
of bunched or packed up tight together. Whatever it is, it sure is a lot of "stuff." Jayme
is having a time today, sorting out where everything goes as far as weight is concerned.

We all at various times, help when we can. Lifting a pack here, tying this or that down,
moving the horses around, doing whatever Jayme or Gary ask us to do. Off to one side,
writing in my journal, I can hear the sounds of excitement, pleasure, and peace. The
horses are baying, the group laughs and talks a mile a minute, Karen's and April's voices
fill the air with laughter and giggles as the camp is struck and the horses loaded.

Good sounds -- good times.

"It is downhill all the way," exclaims Gary. With these words after a final look around
the campsite for any evidence of paper, anything that will portray our ever being here,
we set out on the trail that will lead us back home. This is another one of Gary's secret
trails down and out of the valley. Most people only know how to hike back up and over
the pass where Karen and Bill had visited yesterday.

We hit the trail all lined up like the von Trapp family skipping off through the Alps. The
coldness of the morning has worn off by the time we depart and everyone has traded
long pants and sweaters for comfortable hiking shorts and colorful teeshirts.

Everybody that is, except Jayme -- pink, yes, long, pink hiking pants. That is OK Jayme
-- you look wonderful!

Bogs -- very rich, fertile, wet grounds. We bypass a few large ones and tramp right
through several narrow ones. With so many streams up here, it is almost like a maze
trying to get through. The wildflowers growing in the middle of them are almost five
feet high -- lush, thick green stalks and leaves, topped with a profusion of either
multiple blooming blue or white flowers, or singular yellow, daisy-like flowers.

Sometimes, they are so thick that when we get to the middle of the bog, we can hear a
stream bubbling beneath our feet but we cannot see it for all the flowers. We can also
hear the drone of thousands of bees around us as we quietly walk through their garden.

In several places, the horses have a bit of a time getting through. The ground is so soft
and gives way with their tremendous weight. More than once, Gary has to stop and throw
rocks into a soft area, trying to strengthen the footpath.

Zipping through these gardens of flowers, Gary shows another one of his many talents.
As we ask questions about this flower or that one, he is rattling off names like
"Aquilegia Caerulea" (Blue Columbine, Colorado's state flower), "Aconitum
Columbianum" (Blue Monkshood), and "Delphinium Nuttallianum" (Western Larkspar).

We just nod and smile and whisper "Did he say daisy?" "Yeah, that sounds close -- must
be a blue daisy." We are amazed as he just keeps spinning off the names like they are
the names of his horses or something.

We are dropping rapidly now, the forest becoming thicker and thicker with old-growth
trees. Our thin trail delicately threads its way through the trees and sometimes, around
and even under all the deadfall. So many downed trees. In one way, it is beautiful to see.
No real evidence of man -- just the natural progression of a forest from seedlings, to
young saplings, to tall majestic adults, then dying and diseased trees, and finally, those
who have fallen back to earth to decay and give nourishment to the life cycle
they support.

The actual deadfall itself is almost frightening. It is all around us, thousands of trees in
every stage of returning to dust and soil. Our path at times is blocked and Gary has to
cut a limb or even a tree away to allow us to pass. Sometimes, they are so numerous or
heavy, several of us help. The spurs, broken limbs on the deadfall, are the most
dangerous. Some are like spears or knife points, waiting for careless or
unsuspecting invaders.

Somewhere along in here, I punctured my upper right arm while helping Gary remove a
large dead tree. Michael places a temporary bandage on it to stop the bleeding. It helps,
but by lunch time, it is a mess.

We are still dropping in altitude. I already miss the vastness of the high, alpine
meadows. The sky above us gets really dark, and I suspect we will be getting our usual
"rinse" soon. We can also hear rumbling to our left toward the west. None of us are too
excited about that. We continue, stepping over fallen logs and skirting around trees.

Rain. Out comes the rain gear. This time, pants are broken out also. The water is cold.
Michael and I put on our wool gloves. Both Michael's and my rain gear is a bright, cobalt
blue affair with a separate bottom and top. The tops can be zipped up and with the hood
pulled up and over our heads, we are pretty well protected from the elements. However,
there are two problems. One, it gets hot inside. In fact, the sweat makes you "feel" wet.
And the other problem? We look like we are walking around in radioactive
decontamination suits -- we could probably scare a bear away with all this bright blue
flapping in the wind!

Flashes of lightning are accompanied by loud claps of thunder. Unfortunately, the time
between flashes and booms is getting short. We are hiking now under a solid umbrella
of trees, giving us, I guess, the best protection we can get under the circumstances.
At least we are not out in the open.

The freezing rain makes everyone feel a bit uncomfortable. Sue and Karen are snuggled
down deep in their rain gear and warm sweaters. Gary has his rain gear on -- the "Clint
Eastwood" outfit we call it. It is a well oiled and worn, flat-brim leather hat and
western-styled leather rain slicker, the kind that looks like a flowing cape. April's hands
are starting to freeze from the cold rain and she turns and just looks at me with that "I
am cold" look. I give her my gloves. Without hesitation, Number 1 gives me his.

What is this? We are in the middle of a weird looking environment. Some kind of moss,
similar to grey Spanish moss back home, is draped on everything from the ground up to
the top of the trees. To start with, this stuff is slime green in color and as thin as hair.
It looks like we are standing in the middle of about one acre's worth. We take a poll
and agree. Martians. Yeah, they landed right here.

We are beginning to move along now much faster and easier. The rains have really
lightened up and things are looking good. We have probably dropped about 3,000 feet
already -- about 2,000 to go I figure. The forest is changing all around us as we continue
downward, changing from a high alpine forest to a forest more like what most people are
accustomed to -- mixed trees, lots of bushes, shrubs, and moss covered rocks in and
around rushing creeks.

Crossing a huge creek, we scramble up the bank on the other side and pop out into a
campsite right beside the main trail going up to the valley that was west of us when we
were at the top. Gary's secret trail, his short-cut out of the mountains, has ended.

No sooner have we arrived in camp than the rain quits and the sun breaks free of all the
clouds. Within a few minutes, the skies above us are bright blue and clear. Somebody has
watched over us all week long. Every single time we break for lunch, the rains quits and
the sun comes out. Thanks.

We all shed our rain gear and hang them out to dry. While Jayme starts spreading out a
picnic lunch, April "doctors" up my arm. Removing the bandage Michael had put on
earlier, she looks at the open cut and determines that all is well. Then, with some stuff
from Michael's first-aid kit, she cleans the wound, adds an antibiotic, and finally,
creates and applies a bandage large enough to cover all of this "doctoring." In case I
forgot -- "thanks, doc."

I might also mention that since we left the top, over two hours ago, we have been
travelling non-stop in a tightly knit group with almost no "out of sight" spaces between
us. As soon as the rain gear was shed and a few other basic chores done, it was a mad
rush to "find a tree," if you know what I mean!

As usual, lunch is great. Jayme has broken out some kind of bread that looks like a
deflated basketball -- a big, round, flat circle of bread that when cut in half, reveals a
hollow cavity inside. I am sure it has a proper name and all that, but I like my description
better. Anyway, it makes great "pockets" for holding all the other goodies she has
placed on the picnic cloth such as, cold cuts, cream cheese, tomatoes, and onions. Squirt
a little mayonnaise here, stuff a little meat there -- wonderful sandwiches, wonderful!

Day packs back on, we head down the main trail. We are on our final leg now, our
destination only about four miles away. The trail is wide and well travelled. At first, it
seems like a blessing. Easy to navigate, wide berth for the horses, no obstacles to duck
under, jump over, or veer around. Almost boring. Within minutes, we are spread out on
this "expressway" through the forest.

I immediately longed for Gary's secret trail. It was a ribbon of black and brown that
delicately threaded it is way through the forest, barely visible even from a few feet
away. It kept us close together, almost as if to protect us. Each step was measured, in
sync with the forest so that we became a part of the forest and not just an intrusion
passing through. I will take Gary's trail anytime.

Up ahead, we see Gary talking to a man and a woman. They are U.S. Forest Rangers and
they are loaded down with heavy backpacks. The strain is visible even from this distance.
As we approach, we hear them talking about the group of people who had been illegally
camped below us. The rangers have been sent here to specifically deal with the report
Gary had called in late Wednesday afternoon.

They had originally planned to come Thursday by horseback, coming from over the
mountain behind us -- from the Rio Grande National Forest side of the mountain ridge
that Michael and I had stood on yesterday. Other problems delayed their approach, so
they drove around the entire mountain range to the San Isabel National Forest side.
They parked below at the trailhead where we are now headed.

Extra heartbeats, invalid wilderness camping permits, and illegal camp fires -- all
citations issued to the group they had been sent to investigate. The rangers met the
campers earlier as they were leaving the forest and gave them their "tickets" as
they departed.

The man is carrying about a 70-pound backpack and the woman is carrying a 45-pound
backpack. They both admit they are carrying too much and should have come in by
horseback. They are the only two rangers for this entire mountain range. As a old ranger
myself (years ago in the South Carolina State Park system), I tipped my hat to them -- I
knew their position well. A love for the job that transcends both burdens and long hours,
carries them through each day with pride in themselves and the job they serve.

Leaving the rangers, we strike out for the finish line. Karen has already whizzed by again
-- she does that you know. She is the fastest lady hiker I have ever seen. Many times
since Monday, she would pass Michael and me and just keep on trucking with Bill close
behind trying to keep up. She says it helps her to unwind, to release the tensions.

Even though she now lives in Colorado Springs and Bill is still back in D.C., they have
constantly been together on outings -- skiing, hiking, camping -- you name it. I only kid
Bill about keeping up with Karen. He can hold his own. Anyway, anybody that stands in
the middle of an ice-cold mountain stream and washes his hiking boots off while still
wearing them is OK in my book.

There is something special about hiking in the outdoors. It does things to people. Karen
is right -- it can magically pull the stress right out of your body. Sometimes I think that
stress is really just a fuel and if you do the right exercise, like hiking, you will simply
burn it up. Everyone I know, including every single person on this expedition (that is what
we call it now, sounds kind of important, doesn't it?) who hikes for fun and pleasure is
healthy. Healthy not only in body, but healthy in spirit.

Back to Karen whizzing by. Like I said, she has done this all week. Then she will slow
down, and maybe fall all the way back to walk with Jayme and the rear horses. No
matter where she is, she carries her smile and free spirit with her, a combination that is
a pleasure to be around.

A sign at a trail fork says something about an old mine "that-a-way" and we head for it.
Soon, we break out of the forest cover and start climbing back up again.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute. Gary, you said, you promised, that it was downhill ALL the
way," we all shouted in near perfect unison as our calf muscles started to cry.

"Turn around," was all he answered.

"Huh?"

"Turn around," he said while pointing over our shoulders. Behind us is our entire world
for the past three days. From the clearing on the small rise we are standing on, we can
see the mountains, the valleys, the peaks and ridges that have shouldered our footsteps
for the past week.

It is beautiful. I am at a loss for words. We all stand here for one final look and a
snapshot or two and then, we just quietly turn and continue with the climb. Veterans do
that you know -- move on when the heart wants to stay.

The climb quickly ends and we are pulled into a completely new type of forest. It is
almost entirely Aspens and the ground is covered in a low growing plant that is about
three inches high and green, green for as far as the eye can see. It looks like someone
has carpeted the entire forest with a fuzzy, green carpet. Neat.

Our trail now is wide and rocky, very rocky. In fact, we call it a "rocky road," and make
all sorts of smart comments using play on word phrases such as, "life is just a rocky
road," or "I've been working on the rockroad, all the live long day-- ."

Tired, yeah, that is it, that is what is happening. No, wait a minute. I know. It is too
much oxygen, we are coming down the mountain too fast!

The trail, the road, is getting very steep. We have to really watch where we step. All
kidding aside, the ground is very uneven because of erosion plus all the loose rocks. It
is times like this that I love my hiking stick because it gives me the advantage of a
"third" leg to balance on. Michael tells me "It is just a prelude to a wheelchair Dad, a
sure sign of old age."

"Smart mouth!"

"We will probably have to put a name tag on you next," he smirks.

"Smart mouth!"

A truck, three trucks. We have made it -- the end of the trail. Gary had told us that a
truck would meet us at the trailhead and carry us and the pack gear down to where the
horse trailers will be waiting. While we ride, he and Jayme will ride two of the horses
down and pull the other along.

Standing by the old red, king cab four-wheel truck, is Bill Brown, the ranch foreman. He
had brought one of the horse trailers up to where we started from on Monday and had
helped us get started. Nice guy. Tall and thin with a salt and pepper beard, he looks at
home standing there with his well-worn black cowboy hat set straight on his head. His
hat looks just like mine back home -- I wear mine everywhere except to work. IBM
has come a long way with its dress code, but not that far! With a firm handshake, he
welcomes us back to civilization.

Bill is playing in the water again. You guessed it. He is standing in the middle of a stream
washing his boots off while he is still in them. Karen, you have to talk to Bill about this!
The water in the stream is coming out of the entrance of an old, caved-in abandoned
mine shaft running back into the mountain side. Michael and I immediately start looking
in the stream for gold nuggets but soon realize that they are probably "all gone."

Standing there looking at the flooded mine, with its collapsed entranced and ore-car
rails all twisted and rusted, I cannot help but wonder at all the dreams and hopes that
once were here. Now, only the rusty rails give evidence that anyone was ever here in this
lonely place.

Back at the truck, everyone is gathering in a big semicircle, with the horses, so Bill can
take our "group picture." We run out to him with our cameras, each one freezing in time,
a small frame of life with the push of a button. In time, I will be able to look at mine and
see the entire week in the blink of an eye.

We help unload the pack horses and start loading all the gear into the truck. This truck
has the trailer hitch mounted up in the truck bed (5th wheel, they call it), so we have to
pack all around it. It is that time of day again -- rain. Quickly we finish loading the truck,
and Gary and Jayme head on down with the horses.

Michael and Bill ride on the back of the truck as we head down. The girls, Sue, April, and
Karen, ride in the "back seat" while Malcolm and I ride up front with Bill. Back seat --
about as big as a large shoe box. I do not know how the girls can stand it.

The ride down the mountain on the old forest service road is slow and bumpy. The views
are great, except when Bill comes close to the edge of the road in a curve and
everything is a very long way down when I look out the window. He seems unconcerned,
so I quit worrying. As we continue to bounce along, Bill keeps us in stitches talking about
himself or about some of the folks he has escorted through the wilderness on
horseback trips.

Someone from the back seat asks if he likes towns. He said sure, he likes them -- went
to one now and then. Only problem was, after about two days, he has to leave, feels
closed up, has to get back to the ranch to breathe. He's just an old cowboy, he says,
nothing fancy, just a cowboy.

He told this one story about taking a bunch of women up in the mountains on horseback
and how the next morning, they all came out of their tents all made up, false eyelashes
applied, and their hair all made up after using propane gas fueled hair dryers. His humor
in telling this story, dragging out all the things the women did, or used, was hilarious.

The rain has stopped and it is getting warmer and warmer as we drop in elevation and
get closer to the main valley below. The road now is passing through forest and meadows
that look just like the ones we passed through on Monday when we were on the Rainbow
Trail. Lots of pine trees now, with wildflowers popping up all over the open places
beneath the trees, especially in one area that had been burned several years ago. Even
after all this time, the damage caused by the fire is still so clearly visible. At least the
wildflowers signal a rebirth of the land. One day, the forest will stand tall again with
trees reaching for the sun.

Up ahead, we see the horse trailers, Gary, and Jayme. We pull in alongside the trailers
and also see our van, the same one we came out on from Colorado Springs. Several of the
folks from the ranch are here to help and in quick order, our gear from Bill's truck is
sorted out and reloaded back on top of the van.

Calling Jayme over, I handed her our tip. We had originally handed it to Gary, thinking
that he would divide it between himself and Jayme. Refusing the tip, he said to give it all
to Jayme. With his arms and hands spreading out as to suggest the world around him, he
smiled and said "This is my tip, just being here with you."

Gary stood 10-feet tall in my eyes when he said that. Quiet, western class. I am proud I
know him.

Jayme is leaving out the following week on vacation herself -- going to Alaska with a
friend. We wish her well and tell her we hope our tip adds some fun to her trip. With a
few final hugs and good-byes, we leave to her duties with her horses. As I turn and walk
away, I begin to hurt inside knowing she is leaving us. I will miss her.

We pile back into the old van, same seats as before, and head for the barn. The
mountains quickly grow behind us as we speed away on the long dirt road heading toward
town. After a while, Gary stops the van and points out the ridges and peaks we just
spent an entire week hiking across. From here, it seems impossible that we did all that
-- the mountains look so high, so far away. After a few moments, we start back up and
are on our way. After a while, our dirt road ends and we hit the pavement once again.
Turning south, and head for Westcliffe.

Sitting here on the back watching the mountains fade away, I feel so strange inside.
Even though I can still see the mountains, I already have a deep longing for them in my
heart -- a longing to go back, to be free, to climb high and soar with the eagles.

Passing through Westcliffe, we turn east and head to the next town, Silver Cliff. What
is sort of funny here is that Silver Cliff is only two blocks east of Westcliffe. Seems
like back in the late 1800s, there was a rivalry going on to get the railroad to come to
this part of the state. Both towns were built to entice the railroad and each wanted it
desperately. Silver Cliff lost.

Silver Cliff might have lost the railroad but it got Clever's Tavern. Rustic, authentically
western (with a few modern touches), and has the best ice-cold, "long neck" Miller Lite
beers in the world. At least they tasted like it when we all piled into the tavern and
bellied up to the bar. Half of us got long necks and the other half got Diet Cokes, each
trying to push away the withdrawal pains we had suffered through all week long.

There is a God, life is good!

There are so many cultures, lifestyles all around us in this small tavern in the middle of
a huge valley. There are two pool tables beside the bar. At one table are three young
men, all in their early 20s and dressed 100 percent cowboy. Stetson hats, tight blue
jeans, and cowboy boots. At the other table is a young couple, same age but completely
opposite in attire. Long hair, earrings, (the girls' are larger), baggy pants, and sandals.
Here we are at the bar in hiking boots, short pants and tee shirts and probably smelling
to high heaven. All of us are just looking at each other, not saying anything, just looking.
Only in America.

Back on the road, we head for the ranch about 20 miles away. The countryside starts to
look familiar about the time Gary tells us all the land on the left is his ranch. In a few
more minutes, we turn left off the highway and go bouncing back along the dirt road
over to the ranch. We have Jayme's dog, Gretchen, with us and a "friend" of Gretchen
out in the middle of a huge open area, sees our van and races us to the ranch. I guess
dogs miss their friends just like we do.

"Bear Basin Ranch" reads the gate sign as we pass under it and come to a stop in front of
the office. The office is one of the original buildings built before the turn of the
century. Next to it is the bunkhouse. Both are old, log-walled structures and show their
age, but with dignity. These buildings have been a part of this ranch for over a
100 years.

The office is used also to sell tee-shirts and Michael and I buy one with the ranch logo
on the front of it. Without hesitation, I proudly wear mine every chance I get. It is like
a badge of honor, I earned the right to wear it. The bunkhouse is neat -- my kind of
place. It sleeps about 21 people, in bunks, in two huge rooms.

"Got to like people to sleep here," the ranch manager tell me as she shows us around. No
arguing there. There is no "room' to not like people.

The rest of the house is really just one huge room that serves as both the kitchen and
dining room. A huge wood-burning stove is in one corner, the kitchen cabinets, counter
tops, and sink take up the wall and adjacent corner and a table that sits about 21 people
at a time takes up the remainder of the room. I love big eating tables. Lots of people,
lots of fun, lots of good times.

Outside is a huge deck, overlooking the rest of the ranch. The "men's and women's"
houses are down a ways from the bunkhouse, as are the shower and sauna. Farther down
are the stables and barns. All in all, a neat place, and home to some.

After a while, we load up the van and head for Colorado Springs. As the ranch fades
behind us, as does the beautiful valley beyond, and the majestic mountain range beyond
that, my heart again feels so heavy. As I look at the mountain peaks far in the distance,
I remember the moments that Michael and I stood there, on those very same high
peaks. With tears in our eyes, we stood there and hugged each other and both said "I
love you" as we looked out over the grandeur below us and felt so alive, so free, and
so satisfied.

Gary keeps us entertained all the way back to Colorado Springs. With his knowledge of
this part of Colorado, he keeps up a steady stream of facts, figures, and stories about
almost everything around us. It is so refreshing to hear someone talk with authority and
pride about his surroundings -- it's culture, it's history, it's place in time.

Back up and over the Wet Mountains, we draw closer to Colorado Springs. The Front
Range is coming into view. Soon, we are zooming along the main road through town. I keep
trying to look behind us, trying to capture just one more look before it is all gone. The
buzz of traffic and masses of people soon make me realize that my mountains are gone.
Gone from sight, but not from my mind. Even now, I can close my eyes and see the ridges
and valleys as clearly as if I were looking at them from the top of Electric Peak.

We pull back into the hotel parking lot about 8 p.m. We all pile out and I climb up on top
of the van to retrieve our gear. After removing the webbing that holds it in place, I
started handing down all the gear.

We gather around the van for a few moments just talking and then we start saying all
of our good-byes. Telling Gary good-bye is hardest of all for me. I will miss him -- he
became very special to me in such a short period of time.

Then, in the blink of an eye, eight people who have been so close together for five days,
disappear into the night -- each going his or her separate way. Maybe one day, some of
us can meet again -- I sure hope so. As I walk into the hotel, I feel so many strange
things at once. Elation, fatigue, hunger, excitement, but worst of all, an emptiness. I
cherish some things in life very much and I have a sinking feeling that I am losing
something very close to me. I just cannot figure out what it is. Maybe the fatigue is
playing tricks on me and I am just having a simple case of the blues. Yeah, that must
be right.

Michael and I check back into the hotel and make a bee line for the room. Hot showers
and a honest-to-God toilet, complete with a entire roll of paper, and a bright light above
for reading. Is civilization great or what? The bed -- firm and pool table level. I must be
in heaven!

We clean up, throw some dirty clothes into the washing machine on our floor and head
out to eat supper. By-passing the hotel restaurant, we head across the street to the
local Denny's restaurant. "I want the biggest, juiciest, cheeseburger you have got and
an order of French Fires," was the order of record. Some things just never change.

Afterward, we swing by the hotel bar for a "long neck" or two. A long, very long day is
slowly catching up with us, so we head back to the room. We swing by the washing
machine and throw our stuff into the dryer.

Back in the room, we go about sorting out our duffel bags. In addition to everything I am
supposed to have, I also end up with three sticks, seven rocks, one blue flower, nine
squares of toilet paper, one very sticky pine cone, two dead mosquitoes, and three ants
-- still crawling around.

Talk about going on a trip -- wait until they get back and tell their buddies where they
went! I just wish that when they went back, they would take some more trail snacks
with them. Yes. It is Friday night and we still have enough of that darn stuff to sink
a battleship!

There are nice people in the world. Michael goes down the hall to get our stuff out of
the dryer and comes back with all the clothes folded. Someone had removed our
clothes and very neatly folded them and placed them on top of the dryer. Thank you,
kind person, wherever you are.

Bed. Oh God, does it ever feel good. My aching, tired body thinks it has found heaven. I
think Michael and I are asleep within seconds. I close my eyes and clearly see the
mountain ridge that Michael and I climbed and stood on yesterday.

I can hear powerful wings beating the air as I drift off to sleep.
. . . The End