Hunting 3.0

Walk with me while I reflect on our third year of hunting the wily elk in a not-quite-stream-of-consciousness style. I’ll use punctuation, but I’ll make no effort to turn this into an essay. If I didn’t use punctuation, I’ll would look like Ill, and I’ll get to that next.

I return from a week in Maine in time for my hunting week and try not to think about how much it’s going to suck going from sea level to Leadville level. And I never-ever get sick, but I picked up a cold from a snotty-coughy-cute kid who sat next to me on the plane. I feel like I’m in a tunnel. But I will hunt the wily elk.

We’re up at 4:30 a.m. and I hate getting out of bed in the morning because it’s dark and cold and I have a cold and I’m in a dark cold tunnel in my head.

I’m less nervous this year, maybe because I already have two unsuccessful hunting seasons under my belt. Or maybe it’s my cold medicine. Mike hesitates, asks if I’m sure I want to go because I’m a snot machine and making noises like a grunting snorting bull elk. Maybe it’ll help.

We go. Our high sky is infinite black behind comets and constellations and a half-moon. The Big Dipper looms on the horizon spilling good luck onto our heads and under all of this majesty, I pee behind a bush. My cheeks are cold. All of them.

We climb. I’m happy not to be in too much pain, and what a difference a year makes after ankle surgery last year, but after a week at sea level, I’m sucking wind up the formidable Weston Pass trail, but once we get to the top, the sweet, cold, piney aroma of the waking earth fills my senses.

Spreadable, not edible.

Spreadable, not edible.

Blackness turns to purple turns to barely blue against a powerful pink before all fades to light, and when I can no longer see the stars, the moon overhead sparkles on the icy grasses we crunch upon. Mike is solely focused on the trail, finding tracks, finding elk poop—some even spreadable—that shows only they were here once but are here no longer. I’m focused on this blog and writing sentences like “Daylight greets us like a fond memory.”

No signs of anything alive but us. As much as I want to hunker down and wait for a herd to pass—because they should be here, they always should be in the perfect places we stealthily approach—it’s too cold for that. My nose runs in the cold and I’m a snot-rocket factory.

#22kill push-ups for 22 October.

#22kill push-ups for 22 October.

We each do our 22 push-ups for veteran suicide awareness (#22kill campaign) and head back to the truck, willing a herd or even just one tasty treat to cross our path. It doesn’t happen. We sigh, heavily.

In the evening we hike around Mt. Zion. “We’ll zig-zag,” Mike says, but I know how Mike zig-zags and how many punctuations of straight ups there’ll be and when we get to the fifth or sixth or seventh straight up and it’s starting to get dark, I pout. I struggle to think of an analogy for what we’re doing because it’ll take my mind off pouting.

Trying to find a wily elk in endless acres of forest and valleys and ridgelines and mountain sides is like trying to find the one sane almond in a nuthouse. It’s nearly impossible and quite possibly futile. Especially since almonds rarely talk.

There.

Acres and acres and acres and acres of nothin' but nuts.

Acres and acres and acres and acres of nothin’ but two nuts.

I want to laugh when Mike’s pack catches on a dead limb and its release results in a cartoonish “BOING” sound. And then we both hear a sound that stops us in our tracks. Suddenly all senses are on fire and I’m barely breathing. Even my snot stops running.

“Move r-e-a-l-l-y slowly now,” Mike whispers, and we head toward the animal sound. Half of me hopes it’s nothing because it would be a bitch to get something big out of these trees at night. The other half wants to get something big out of these trees. We move like molasses in winter toward the patch of trees waiting to hear our prey and there it is again!

Simultaneously, we look up.

No, no elk in the treetops, but the rubbing of one dead tree against another in the blustery breeze makes a sound much like a large, grunting animal.

We end the day—and every day this hunting season—as we begin it, with stars and various moons emerging against darkness, more beautiful than any painting on black velvet.

And “Darkness greets us like a black velvet hug.”

Elkless, but happy to spend time together!

Elkless, but happy to spend time together!

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Toilet Rules

… heed ’em if you need ’em.

Toilet Rules posted in public toilet, Delicate Arch parking area.

Toilet Rules posted in public toilet, Delicate Arch parking area.

“Keep this Toilet Clean” reads the sign directly over the open-to-the-bowels-of-hell pit into which I will pee before our hike to the largest freestanding arch in Arches National Park.  Delicate Arch stands 64 feet high by 45 feet wide—nothing short of breathtaking!—and there will be no place to cop a squat along the heavily touristed 3+ mile round-trip journey over powdery-sand-coated stone punctuated by the occasional dead tree or struggling juniper.

I’ve never seen this sign before, and since it looks quite clean and new, I assume the following rules have recently become an issue for the brave folks who keep our comfort facilities usable. I laugh, take a photo, and break the first rule:

“Sit on the toilet during use.”

Nope. Not going to happen. There’s no way I’m going to allow a speck of my skin to touch the surface of something thousands of strangers have abused before me. Not even lining the rim with toilet paper will do in this case. I’ll squat, thank you very little, and hold my phone and the crotch of my pants away from danger as well. I’m pretty sure this is what I’ve trained for all those years in the Army. The perfect squat.

I have to think about the second rule because it takes me back to my childhood years:

The fresh air of Delicate Arch!

The fresh air of Delicate Arch!

“DO NOT stand on the toilet.”

While this might sound like a ridiculous rule—why would you stand on a toilet unless you needed to reach something high above it?—I do recall a youthful time when I had to “go” after hours of shopping with my Mum. There were no rules posted in public restrooms back then, and I remember being instructed to place me feet on the seat (I was young enough to be lifted onto it) and squat to do my business. It was awkward, for sure, and I remember fearing I might slip into the bowl.

I couldn’t have imagined the horror of an open-pit toilet at the time, and the thought of losing my balance and sliding into the Delicate Arch toilet—even just a foot, my foot—gives me the willies as I write these words.

I also remember my three months in Korea supporting a military exercise and wonder if this rule is meant to assist the predominantly Asian tourists we’ve encountered this week. The public restrooms along our bus route in 1989 had holes on the floor with footprints painted on either side. You can read about how I almost started an international incident one day in my story Battle-Dressed Breasts (in Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Woman).

In any case, the rule makers don’t need to fear my feet, or hands, or any other body part coming in contact with their toilet.

Mike at Delicate Arch

Mike at Delicate Arch

The third rule is—hands down—the best (but there will be no hands down, either):

“DO NOT use the floor. Use the toilet.”

I glance around me and am happy to note this rule has been followed, at least so far today. Then I look down the hole into which I’m preparing to pee (don’t ever look down those holes!) and wonder if peeing in a corner might be preferable after all. But I do follow this rule.

After I say “Eeeew!” out loud, the fourth rule makes me laugh because I start to imagine other creative ideas:

“Put used toilet paper in the toilet.”

I envision a 3-D collage lining walls and ceiling in varying shades of brown. I will say no more about this rule. I have said too much already.

The last rule, the rule that is likely the bane of every honeysucker’s existence, is one I’m quite certain many users won’t follow:

“DO NOT put trash in the toilet. Use the trash can.”

 They won’t follow this rule because they’ve already done unmentionable things. And they’ve looked down the hole. They may even have forgotten to secure things in pockets pulled down too quickly.

They’ve seen things, things that will haunt them the rest of their lives. Things they’ll write stories about someday. They’ll make the trek to Delicate Arch and try to forget what they’ve seen. They’ll take pictures, many pictures, and post them on Facebook and send them to friends who wish they could be there breathing the clean air and watching the birds float on air currents overhead . . .

But the picture that will forever clog their internal hard drives will be the horror . . . the horror, of what they’ve seen in that hole! *

Mike and I make the trek to Delicate Arch!

Mike and I make the trek to Delicate Arch!

* Thanks to Joseph Conrad for inspiring my final words.

Mike completes Day 14/22 push-ups at Delicate Arch for the #22kill veteran suicide awareness campaign

Mike completes Day 14/22 push-ups at Delicate Arch for the #22kill veteran suicide awareness campaign.

If you like my writing, you might enjoy my books! Check them out here, and thank you!

Summer’s End

We love the trailer
Life, it’s simple if you love
the one you’ve chosen

Chillin at the Gunnison KOA dog run.

Chillin at the Gunnison KOA dog run.

I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again: I love our trailer-trip adventures.

Two nights. Two nights of unplugging from the requirements of home and the barrage of politics and the lull of routine is all we needed this past weekend to return to it all feeling like we’d just spent a week at a resort.

 

Our resort: a KOA in Gunnison with full hook-ups, lots of green grass, clean facilities,

She only loved me for my carrots.

She only loved me for my carrots.

friendly owners, and surprise visitors. Ginny and Herbie must have known Mike and I were ass-kissers, or perhaps they were curious about our handsome dog. Maybe they smelled the bag of carrots I’d just brought out to munch on. In any case, they were both at least 29-years-old, and Ginny was nearly blind.

Ginny and Herbie, the Gunnison KOA's welcome burros.

Ginny and Herbie, the Gunnison KOA’s welcome burros.

Ranger was not inclined to welcome the unleashed beasts as freely as we were, however, and after an initial sniff (with Mike pulling him away from unpredictable rear-ends), decided they were untrustworthy. He remained quietly aloof for the duration of their visit.

Ranger meets Ginny, but decides he'd rather she moved along to other campers.

Ranger meets Ginny, but decides he’d rather she moved along to other campers.

In the evening, we kayaked/paddleboarded on Blue Mesa Reservoir, and I marveled at how different an experience it was from our peaceful paddle at Twin Lakes last week. This reservoir was enormous, and when clouds filled the sky and the wind picked up, the waves were Old Man And The Sea-worthy. I hooked up to Mike’s kayak for the final push to shore after 90 minutes of hard, enjoyable work, and after a few games of Cribbage and a shot of Dewar’s after the sun set, slept like a cat in a hat.

#22kill Day 7 of my 22 push-ups per day to raise awareness of veteran suicides. Hug a veteran today. Let him/her know you care.

#22kill Day 7 of my 22 push-ups per day to raise awareness of veteran suicides. Hug a veteran today. Let him/her know you care.

While Mike rode his bike at Hartman Rocks the next day, I did my trailer push-ups (to spread awareness of the number of veterans who commit suicide each day, the #22kill campaign) and wished I’d thought to do 22 push-ups against the burros during their visit.

We returned home to an extra layer of snow on the mountains and a brilliant sunset, the perfect Leadville summer evening. Soon our lake will freeze, but for now:

Fiery August sky
Turquoise Lake oblivious
Snow on Mount Massive

(thank you, Mary Howard, for reminding me to haiku my visions!)

Sunset over Leadville mountains and Turquoise Lake.

Sunset over Leadville mountains and Turquoise Lake.

Yes, you all know by now that I love haiku. I think my opening haiku for this post is the best I’ve written. See how many ways you can read/interpret it! Haikus Can Amuse! (get your copy today!)

If you like my writing, you might enjoy my books! Check them out here, and thank you!