Inspired by the insane gorgeousness that is Colorado, the project I’m finishing up is set in what is now Rocky Mountain National Park. This is awesome for me, because whenever I lose my way with the writing, I can just take a drive up into the mountains and find what I need to press on. RMNP is, frankly, the most beautiful national park I’ve ever been lucky enough to visit, and its proximity to Boulder means I can really get to know what’s there–the grassy, river-cut valleys freckled by elk herds, the little hiking trails that become waterfalls during the snowmelt, the glacial peaks. I love it. It is one of the places that I feel completely at rest, even while I scramble, cursing, up a scree-strewn incline, or pick my way down a steep, flooded descent.
Last Friday, Jesse and I decided to drive over the continental divide. I can report that it is, indeed, fucking awesome. The road takes you up past the montane ecosystem through subalpine into the true alpine regions, so you really get a sense of the distinct environments in mountainous regions. The day we went, it was rainy and misty, which was fine by me. While we didn’t get to appreciate the views down the sides of the mountains, it was amazing to see clouds–giant, fluffy clouds, like you see from the ground–chasing us up and eventually enfolding us as we drove. The two times we got out to hike, we’d see wisps just drifting in front of our faces and alongside us as if it was no big deal to the clouds to occasionally take a day off and, you know, go on a hike with some people.
With the craziness that is the Gulf, the writerly people I’m fortunate enough to know have been talking about the environment quite a bit, and those posts, as well as the news cycle in general, have really gotten me thinking. Among the many notable things I’ve read, my dawgg John Glover speaks eloquently about BP, the spill, and responsibility; Jeff VanderMeer has also commented on the situation. I think what affected me the most, though, was not Jeff’s idea that we put all the BP execs in a raft and make them eat nothing but the oily flesh of dying animals (not that such a sentiment doesn’t match my own feelings on the situation), but rather, a quieter, more personal post he made, using quotes from Thoreau and discussing a favorite hike over at St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge.
The gallows humor found in the notion of taking a long drive to enjoy the environment is not lost on me by any means. All the same, I feel inspired to discuss the overwhelming wonder I felt when I was able to, via man’s genius and shame, the automobile, ascend in only a few hours up to the top of the world and hike through an alpine tundra. Taking the drive over the divide was an experience as transcendent as it was depressing. These alpine regions, which we documented below, are delicate, sensitive ecosystems which will likely be devastated by unchecked climate change; the pristine forests, which in some ways look like they did a hundred, or hundreds of years ago, are being eaten alive by the pine bark beetle–a beetle that, were the winters as cold as they once were, would not be anywhere near as able to destroy tree after tree after tree after tree after tree.
The rest below the cut–large pictures follow: