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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Man, Van

Some friendships have unexpected benefits. There are those friendships that when you get together, things just get delightfully crazy or silly. Not all of the time, mind you, but just enough to provide much-needed comic relief in your life. When we get together with our friends Marie and Thayne, we can be very serious and adult. And then there are the other times, like when we were gathered around the kitchen table late one evening along with Thayne's sister Julie, and ended up with bout after bout of uproarious, uncontrollable laughter. Marie's kids were in high school at the time and had already gone to bed. We had even worse hysterics when they yelled down the stairs that they were young kids and needed their sleep for school the next day! 

A few Sundays ago we were invited to join our friends for an afternoon drive to the mountains, along with a picnic dinner. We know that we are very fortunate to be living in the Rocky Mountain Front Range. It's possible to take a relatively short drive and be in a beautiful, natural area away from almost everybody. As we drove up a canyon on our way to the lake area we planned to visit, we saw so many beautiful things. Our mountains are called the Rockies for a reason - they are geologically young and therefore extremely rugged. As is human nature, many people have built homes of all descriptions along hillsides and next to mountain streams, and scattered in canyon areas.

Some of the roads and highways going through these areas are of necessity no more than two lanes wide, and all of us who were on this day trip have been on roads here that are barely one lane wide. Those are the roads that have you fervently hoping that you won't encounter someone coming in the opposite direction, because one of you will have to back up to a slightly wider place while the other passes with the edges of their tires almost off the side of a sheer mountain drop-off. The canyon we were in was one with a two-lane highway alongside a creek that was still attracting kayakers, picnickers, and climbers. Even the rock faces across the highway and creek seemed close enough to touch.

Of course, when you're in a car you don't always see what the people on the other side of the vehicle can see, and sometimes the view from the front or back seats can even be quite different. I was sitting behind Thayne, the driver, and was surprised to see a man rappelling down a rock face. Even though he was high above us, it seemed as if he was close enough that we could have reached out the window and grabbed his ropes. "Wow! Look at that man hanging from the mountain!" I exclaimed, delighted to see everyone enjoying this beautiful day. 

Trent and Marie, on the right side of the car, both chimed in with "Where? Where?" as we continued on the road. After we had gone on another minute or two, Marie grumbled, "I didn't see it." We asked her what it was that she didn't see. "The van." We were puzzled about what van she was talking about, and asked her. "The van that was hanging from the side of the mountain!" I've decided that the elevation was getting to her ears and they needed to pop. Not really. We had a good belly laugh out of it and found more things to look at on the way.

As we climbed higher, we were captivated by the beautiful pines and Colorado Blue Spruce interspersed with stands of aspen trees. The air was crisp, as it only seems to be in the high mountains. We marveled at the beauty of the trees outlined against the clear blue sky, and the breathtaking sights of the sun shining behind the few scattered, small clouds. We came to a picnic area in a State Park that was crowded with incredible forest growth. The stillness was only occasionally and briefly broken by hikers passing on a nearby trail. We were visited by a female blue jay that flitted into our picnic area to see if we would share some of our dinner, and were soon joined by some of her friends. 

It was after we got to this lovely picnic area that I had my moment to make Marie laugh. We were talking about who knows what, and I was rattling along when I spotted a squirrel leaping along the ground on his way from one tree to another. Suddenly, I had turned into the dog Dug from the movie Up. Seriously, it was one of those moments you couldn't have planned if you tried. Here I was, rattling along, "Wah, wah, wah-SQUIRREL!" Thank goodness Marie wasn't taking a drink at the time; she would have choked to death from her laughter.

It was a day full of fun but more so of beauty. After we ate, we went to another lake full of lily pads at an elevation of over 10,000 feet. There were ducks swimming in the quiet of the late afternoon while huge dragonflies buzzed around in front of us at the water's edge. We drove home through another canyon that had been ravaged by flooding almost exactly two years ago, and marveled at what the water had done to everything in its path. We arrived home satisfied with a day full of nature's wonders. I'm sure, though, when we reminisce about the trip, it will be remembered as the one with the SQUIRREL! and the precariously dangling van!