“The Meadow Death Camas,” said the Park Ranger as he pointed toward a single stalk aglow with creamy blossoms. “It probably won’t kill you, but it’ll make you sick. Make sure your kids don’t eat it.” I took a good observation of the threatening plant and made a mental note to keep an eye on my two-year-old.
That was the beginning of our hike up the Hogback Trail. It was a climb up to a ridge that had been forged by the tectonic plates. The plates also birthed the massive spine of Rocky Mountains we could see running down from the north. And their siblings ran just to the south— the Spanish Peaks and Sangre De Cristos. Their peaks glistened with snow reminding us of last weekend’s spring snowfall. This ridge was dwarfed by their size and beauty, but it was a gift to patter along it’s trails at sunset. And I learned it was stationed in what is called the Transition Zone.
The Transition Zone is the area of change between the flatness of prairie—here sprinkled with junipers and piñon pine—and the granite steeples of mountain.
The switchbacks lasted only about 10 minutes. My youngest dropped his gum as we summited the small ridge. I picked it up and promised another piece back at the campsite to help him with his grief. And then I was able to take in the view: The sun was just beginning to set and the pink and amber hues glistened off the southern snowcapped faces of the Spanish Peaks. Below the peaks, the mountains began to embrace dusk with deepening violet hues. Martin Lake captured and echoed the colors below on it’s calm surface. It was beautiful. Serene.
In these past 8 years of life—raising my 3 lively sons—“serene” is not a word that has been part of my vocabulary. And the school year had just ended—the stretch of endless lunches, homework, volunteering, driving —which finalizes with a frenetic grand finale so severe a friend has jokingly called May, “Mayhem”. I was thinking May was more of a four-letter word…..nothing serene this last month. And so here, even in the midst of a group of evening hikers with children and adults shouting and scrambling about on these igneous rock formations, my vista offered serenity. And a promise I didn’t yet understand…
The remainder of my weekend included playing darting games with the anole lizards as they responded to the vibrations of my footsteps, watching the barn swallow cheerfully swoop in it’s kite-like flight overhead, hearing my sons’ giddy story of spotting an elusive roadrunner with an anole lizard in it’s mouth (I hoped it wasn’t the same one I had played with earlier…) , and watching my middle son reel in a 13” small mouth bass. We canoed to cricket song and ate s’mores in a gentle breeze. I spoke with a vacationing couple from Switzerland about the world economy while magpies glided overhead.
All these creature encounters with the backdrop of such beauty and wildness were rekindling something in me—hope, awe. A new season of life is coming. Here, the only rhythms we had to respond to were created by the sun and our stomachs. I didn’t know how deeply I needed this rest and beauty. And I felt such deep gratitude for this Transition Zone.