Ky Bouchard: A magical walk in Frisco
Editor’s note: This letter describes the writer’s walk south up from the Frisco bikepath to Rainbow Lake, then west toward Masontown and back down to the bikepath.
I am just back from a long walk in the woods behind my house.
The dogs’ tails wagging excitedly from the onset, almost prancing along the roaring river and up to the mountain lake where they splash unconstrained until I catch up. Then they jump and shake their heads wildly, sprays of wet watering the grass. It is the signal to throw a stick. They are good at running down the short hill, thrashing and paddling toward it, but not as good at retrieving, though their breed would suggest they are experts. Invariably a rotting smell or rock or other soggy, and thus more desirable, stick takes their attention. This is why I don’t bring tennis balls to the lake anymore.
Then we head on a newer trail to me, west toward an abandoned mining “town,” the original heartbeat of the town where I now live. I am entertained by the bounty of wildflowers along the way. Not a constant view of color, but groupings, spread out on either side of the path. Here, the sweet smell of wild rose rises to my nose and I drink it in. Then up ahead some asters and further still the sagging yellow petals of a type of daisy that was the sole recipient of soft breezes only weeks ago. Now their neighbors are taller and brighter but in those mass yellow groves, the dying flowers still make a statement. Now the blues of our state flower intertwined with the pinks of the roses flourish almost as far as the eye can see. Then around the corner it is the fire weed, not the columbine I see – the first of fiery pink buds sharing their glory. As I move further along the path I am delighted to discover the flower I will see next for around every corner is a lovely surprise. Something that looks like wild geranium, and a delicate pale bloom I can’t identify but stop to admire. And a white furry stalk, like the lamb’s ear flower without the silvery leaves. They are on both sides here and there, then gone, then reappear. Hearty plants, I think, or laden with exploding seed sacs. I cannot resist a touch of their velvety skin.
Then, up a long incline and around a bend is an amazing sight. A single daisy plant. Completely out of place as it is not the “crazy daisy” weed, but the hybrid type you would find in my garden. Just there, alone, like a ray of light shining through the aspen leaf canopy above it and whitening the brown forest floor. How did it come to be there? How did any of these miraculous flowers end up here?
I imagine a miner cook from well over a century ago, filling his days while others are digging stony dirt tunnels in search of precious ores. They will be hungry at the end of their arduous days no doubt, but is there a time between when the coffee pot is emptied and the meat put on the spit that he might nurture a garden? Herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes for sure, the trek to the supply house is a days walk. But would the pleasure of flowers entice such a man? Some to ward off the deer and elk. Others to brighten a summers day in the light dappled forest. Or perhaps the mules, burdened with mining gear and supplies, carried windswept seeds on their tails the way dogs might, unknowing agents of propagation.
Regardless how the flowers came, they are here and most of my senses are inflamed with them. As I head back down the mountain trail, I come across a clearing with massive views in three direction of mountain tops and sailboats moored on a dammed lake. The entire town lies at my feet. The clearing is new, evidenced by circles of black wood coal where the red needled lodge pole pines recently stood. A fierce beetle infestation has killed nearly all these pines along this corridor of the Rocky Mountains and as sad as that sounds I am heartened by what I see between several of the controlled burn spots. Indian paintbrush, orangey-red, unmistakable and rare to see. They are sparse as they tend to be, one plant here, one over there, but they are new to this area and I imagine that some day this will be an astonishing meadow of color with the town, lake and mountains beyond.
I am home now and encouraged to paint my own meadow with a rainbow of colors even though I know from last year and the year before that few plantings will survive the long, cold winter and it will be years before a plant will spread its seeds. There is something about creating a natural phenomenon that is very difficult. Yet on my walk the miracle of wildflowers, against all odds of droughts or too much rain, too much sun or shade, micro burst winds and curious dogs trampling young shoots, they survive. They more than survive. For this short time every year they make a walk in the woods like a walk on a rainbow. They are the pot of gold, perhaps something that miner cook knew all along.
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