Escaping Boulder at the beginning of November is a strange feeling. Boulder sits nestled up against the flat irons, protected from all but the worst storms. Temperatures this Autumn have felt more like a British summer, albeit with less rain. All together this means I can forget that November is a winter month, and be perfectly content riding my bike and pretending that winter will never happen.
This weekend was my first trip up into the mountains since I got back from Tahoe. Spending a week in sunny Californian mountains didn’t help the endless-summer delusion either, but finally, as we started winding our way up and over Berthoud pass in the red rocket, I realised that I needed to begin embracing the snow.
I’ve been up to this cabin a few times now, and its always pretty special. Situated about 45 minutes from the closest anywhere, its rather isolated, very high, and spectacularly beautiful.
We had Emily, the newest addition to the long line of Bath students, along for the trip. I started to remember what it was like the first time I did this very drive. Breath-taking, incomprehensible size, and sheer majesty of the mountains were the feelings running through my head. Although I still see the mountains for the beauty they hold, I’m also struck with other things that aren’t apparent on the first view. Grand county is riddled with Pine Beetle, the devastating parasite which has spread through the forests as quick are the wildfires that will surely follow. Instead of the deep dark green on the alpine forests, entire hill sides are covered with brown and brittle sticks. Even two years since my first visit, I can see the thinning of the trees. I can imagine that for a life long resident of these parts, the destruction would be heart-breaking.
Thus, on the smaller scale, the loss of trees and bareness of the uncovered land seems like the end of these amazing valleys, but towering overhead are the constant reminders that life, even trees, is transient. Standing in the very centre of the valley, huge mountains rise up in every direction; the Park range to the west, the Never Summers to the south, a few peaks of rocky mountain national park in the far distance, the Medicine Bow range to the east, and the seemingly endless view into Wyoming to the north.
Returning back to Boulder after a weekend in the big country is rather disheartening. Although Colorado is sparsely populated in comparison to almost everywhere in Europe, the density of people on the front range is overwhelming. Driving over Cameron pass and into Fort Collins marks the start of the constant conurbations stretching 150 miles to Colorado Springs, lights, traffic and neon signs brings about a reality which I didn’t want to face. even though cycling through Boulder on the way to work signalled the start of another week in the lab, I was overall pretty happy to have escaped the hysteria of humanity for at least a couple of days. long live the wilderness!