May 12, 2013
64 of 65
We lived in the mountains of Clear Creek County for 12 years. Our driveway was a private road shared with several other property owners. From Fall River Road, you would go down about a quarter mile and across the River to reach our house. The road then went back up the other side of the canyon another quarter mile to our nearest real neighbor.
There were four other patented mill sites nearby. One was owned by some people from Missouri who we saw only once in the dozen years we lived there. Those folks stopped by one day to say howdy and to mention that a log “fort” our children had built for play was partly on their property. We promised to move it, but never got around to it before both kids had gone off to college and weren’t that interested in playing there anymore.
Small summer or weekend cabins were built on two of the other mill sites. Those owners would use them infrequently. They were never occupied for more than a week at a time.
The last mill site was not used at all for most of the time we lived there. Just over a year before we moved, a couple from Illinois bought it with the intention of making it their retirement home. Unfortunately, the husband soon suffered a stroke and they were not able to leave Illinois.
All the rest of the land around us was National Forest. From our house, we could not see any other buildings; the only road we saw was our driveway; and usually we could hear only sounds of nature. We felt isolated, and we liked it. A visitor once said, “You could run around naked all the time and no one would know.”
Perhaps – but it gets pretty chilly at an altitude of 9,000 feet, especially in the winter.
Across the driveway and down a bit toward the river was the beginning of a trail that went up our mountain. It climbed about half a mile through a forest of spruce and pine and aspen to a fork where it split into three trails. Two of them climbed another half mile to what we called the Jeep Road. Technically, it was Forest Service Road 171, a single lane (at best) carved along the side of the mountain. It was almost never travelled except on foot or by ATV – or a very few hardy 4-wheelers.
Here, the altitude was around 9,500 feet. If you turned left and continued another half mile, there were two large outcroppings of rock. Venture out on those and you could see for miles. Tiny cars would traverse Fall River Road across the canyon, but most of them did not make any sound that could be heard from there. Often I would walk or jog to those rocks to simply sit or stand for a minute or two or for half an hour. Living in the mountains you learn that rocks have wisdom and a very soft, slow voice. If you give them a little time and a bit of quiet, they can help sort out many of the thoughts and problems that we humans tend to carry in our minds.
Our dog Emmy was usually with me. As I listened to the rocks, she would sniff around the area until she thought it was time to move on. Sometimes we went farther down the road. Other times she would see that I still had things to learn that might take a while, so she would go on home.
If you turned right where our trails hit the Jeep Road, you could walk or run another six miles to Fall River Reservoir, perched at 12,000 feet on the edge of the James Peak Wilderness Area. That was a trek for special occasions, only.
Sometimes I did not go to the Jeep Road. If I went right at the three-way fork, the trail leveled out, crossing a meadow and turning toward the River. In barely a quarter mile, there was a group of large boulders. The tallest one reached perhaps 15 feet above the ground. On top of that boulder was an indentation that made a perfectly comfortable seat. Though I sometimes enjoyed looking out at the trees and meadow, it was easy to sit and close my eyes without worrying I would lose my balance.
These granite psychologists seemed to ask me to make myself comfortable on their couch for a quiet session of my thoughts merging with their soft voices.
Emmy did not particularly like going there. The climb up the boulder was too steep for a dog. She generally knew when I was going to head in that direction and let me go by myself.
It has been several years since I have spent quality time with those rocks. That is not a long time for them. They probably haven’t even missed me yet. However, it is long enough that I should probably stop by to say hello. I do miss our talks.