Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day Weekend Part II

After our adventure on Friday we set early Saturday morning to try again for a cool hike at the top of Mt. Lemmon.  Joe was driving - he likes winding mountain roads and I like to read or knit while he's driving them, often a little faster than I'm comfortable with, but after nearly 20 years I'm pretty used to it.  There are lots of bicyclists struggling up the mountain and they don't always ride single file on that relatively narrow road. I admire their fitness and fortitude, but it can be frustrating to get stuck behind them.  It frustrates Joe, too.  He was enjoying driving the new car and several times he crossed the solid yellow line to pass cyclists on or near turns with limited visibility, though it's true there was almost no downhill traffic at that time of day.  A sheriff's deputy stopped us just past the Palisades ranger station. Fortunately, he let Joe off with a warning, and as I told him (without elaborating or gloating), I'm glad he got stopped. But it took away some of the fun of the Outback for him.

We parked across from the new community center that was built a few years ago as part of the recovery effort after the Aspen Fire.  Then we walked up Turkey Run Road, the first street on the right after you get into Summerhaven; this charming cabin is the first one on that road and it may be my favorite cabin on the mountain.  It dates from before the fire and has some interesting architectural details not visible in this photo, and more importantly, it nestles comfortably into its site rather than aggressively dominating it, like so many of the newer, bigger, more pretentious and vastly more expensive places built in the last few years. Many of those places remind me of what my grandmother (and I'm sure many other grandmothers) said: Money can't buy class or taste - though clearly not everyone would agree.

Turkey Run Road turns into a dirt road and then a trail along upper Sabino Creek, a beautiful riparian area.  The abundant rains have led to an abundance of mushrooms and other fungi in various shapes, sizes, and colors.

This fallen log was covered with thousands of these tiny mushrooms; the biggest were the size of a pea.  

There are signs of past human activity in the area along the creek - the concrete foundation of a building, another concrete structure that may have been connected to a bridge or meant to deter the creek from altering its channel,  rusty water pipes sticking up from the ground like the remnants of ancient plants, and this odd sight that made me think of the Teletubbies' world on PBS - while Isaiah was little, I grew quite fond of the Teletubbies:

After about a mile we came to the Aspen Draw Trail proper, which leads up to the summit, also the top of the ski lift, which stays busy in the summer giving tourists what must be a spectacular view.  There were lots of birds in the trees, including several of what had to be goldfinches, but much smaller than the ones we feed in our yard down in the "lowlands," as well as juncos and bluejays and titmice and others.  We've noticed on past hikes that we'll often see a junco who seems to be hopping ahead of us on the trail, like a guide, or maybe a sentry watching to see we don't go wandering off where we shouldn't.  Joe picked up a blue jay feather to add to those we keep in a Navajo pot at home.

We saw a number of downed trees, some cut, some fallen naturally, showing signs of rot and, in a couple of cases, that bears had been at them digging out insects and grubs. All that organic matter provides homes for opportunistic plants, like this solitary mushroom in the middle of an upright, rotted out tree trunk.

On the trail the view was always limited  to what was nearby, just behind us, just up ahead.
But once you reach the top you can see for miles and miles. These burned skeletons remind me of a prose poem by James Galvin, "Fathers and Indians," which appeared first in Imaginary Timber and later in Resurrection Update.  He writes  of "the old trees, pitch-hardened, fire-hardened spars . . . . Had they not been destroyed, they would not be remembered. The ones left standing remind us of the fallen, remind us there are forests of empty sleeves, tunneling into the sky."
That image, of the "forests of empty sleeves," has stayed with me for many years. For obvious reasons, it makes me think of the aftermath of war - not only war between peoples but the war so many of us continue to wage against the natural world.  But sometimes in that aftermath, to quote another poet, "a terrible beauty is born."

Going back to Summerhaven, we forsook the trail for the road, which was recently repaved and has wide enough shoulders for safety, for the most part.  We kept to it until we'd passed by the Ski Valley lodge and lift area and then got onto another trail that soon led us back to Turkey Run Road, and the village, and then back down the mountain to home.  It was a glorious day.

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