Coffee. Dark and bitter.
The man made oasis in the high mountain desert was a retreat from the nearby elements.
The problem is, we don’t retreat much. We hopped in the car seeking new challenges and sights. We travelled to mountain country.
We stopped about 4 miles away from Idaho Springs and made camp at 9600 feet above sea level.
We opted for a reserved location to ensure amenities were available. I prefer more seclusion, but this was an advantageous base camp.
We had one challenge here.
We brought the wrong fuel.
Propane does not work well at 10,000 feet and we were very close to the limits of our camp stove. Coffee would now be an unattainable treasured commodity. Imagine my sorrow.
I was not about to camp at 9600 feet and not go 400 feet higher for an even 10,000. I brought an 11 year veteran of outdoor activities and we climbed. If you look at the picture below, you can see where the mountains turn grey.
This is tree line. There is not enough oxygen for trees to grow at this elevation. Tree line at this latitude is around 12,000 feet.
Upon descent, I continued exploration. Strolling through a meadow, I saw a she vixen reading. In my oxygen deprived delirium, she spoke enchanting words that I do not remember. She led me deep into the forest.
The details are sketchy, but strange runes appeared on a tree and wildflowers affixed themselves to my Gatorade bottle.
It is known around the world that our little tribe likes campfires. After all, it is the title of my blog. It is so well known that artwork has been drawn by fans from the far reaches of the world.
Initially, we did not want a campfire due to breathing concerns in our group. Practical avoidance of smoke was important to avoid nebulizer treatments, inhalers and hospital stays.
From nowhere, a man in a blue shirt introduced himself simply as Brother. He outlined the rules and legality of a campfire under a fire ban. This law abiding, no shades of grey curmudgeon agreed with us for totally unrelated reasons. He left briefly, and we sighed in relief; he was quite overbearing and was obsessed with rules.
Brother returned with excitement in his voice.
“I checked with the authorities. It is perfectly legal to have a fire. We must light one with haste.”
I informed Brother that some in our group had breathing concerns and that the firewood for sale was expensive.
Flatly, he stated, “The wind is favorable and the pine for sale is wet and uncured. There is dry aspen in the woods and all will be well. ”
With speed and efficiency, Brother went to the woods we built a sizable, nearly smokeless fire. I wondered at the man who came to the camp. Who was he?
He said nothing and stared intently at the fire. My efforts to speak with him were in vain.
The Brother guy eventually left. He said something about a longing for the north. I tried to be polite, but I did not understand.
It must have been the day for visitors. A man with a strange looking instrument approached the fire and encouraged people to sing. Shyness disappeared on his arrival, and even the introverted sang along.
The singing stranger asked for donations. I informed the stranger that while I appreciated him stopping by, he only encouraged others to sing, but he did not perform.
He replied, “To save face, cannot, amazing grace diminish not.”
I am not sure what he meant, but he went on his way. Silly poet. He reminded me of a bard from folklore.
Night fell and we went to bed. At around 2 AM I heard wailing. It was as if a woman was screaming bloody murder. Following up the screams were the loneliness sounds I have ever heard.
I remembered that big cats make similar vocalizations.
It was likely a mountain lion. You can listen to an example of what I heard here. Mountain Lion Sounds
The sounds were also remarkably similar to those attributed to a beast called sasquatch. There have been plenty of sightings in the surrounding mountains for several decades.
I am pretty sure it wasn’t the famed elusive creature….. Or was it?
I will never know.