Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Devils Head

It took almost an hour and a half to climb to the top of Devils Head.  I made it down the mountain in less than 20 minutes. Nothing like the threat of an imminent lightning strike to hurry you away from admiring the view from a several-thousand foot exposed rock to the lowland safety of a dry, rubber-tired automobile.

Devil’s Head (I have yet to find the history of the name, whether it has to do with a certain satanic shape, or is connected with the fact that lightning regularly reaches down to blast its surface) is less than 20 miles from my cousin’s house, but both the Forest Service website and my GPS agreed that there was no direct, easy road between the two.  Of course, I think that the GPS programmers must derive a sadistic pleasure from sending unwary travelers via some of the most obscure and treacherous routes available—through cornfields, down goat paths, up sheer rock faces....  Almost half of the way was unpaved, and after a week of rain, the little twisty mountain roads into the Pike National Forest were muddy and rutted—I kept a sharp eye out for edge sections where the dirt was entirely washed away as I crept around hairpin turns and down single-lane tracks in my increasingly filthy rental SUV. 
Again, I was grateful that the Avis lady had recommended that I upgrade from the sedan I had originally reserved.  Bumping over the potholes and up the steep and occasionally slippery grades would have been even harder going in a strictly urban vehicle.

When I started my hike, the sky was blue for the first time in days, and the aspen trunks shone white in the sunshine.  I wish that the leaves had been already turning the golden butter color for which they are famous, but they were still a nice summery green, intensified by the generous watering they’d enjoyed the previous week. 
There were huge, Humvee-sized lumps of granite everywhere, their rough pink and grey surfaces specked with pretty splotches of lime-colored lichen, and clumps of soft moss underneath the assortment of spruce and pine trees. 
The fresh air was delightful.  As I climbed higher, I could see across the lower ridge of mountains out onto the plains, and admire the irregular terrain through which I had so painstakingly navigated in the Buick Encore.  There were only a few other hikers out, and so I was able to crunch along in unhurried silence, stopping frequently to take photos of whatever little detail or awesome view had caught my eye.  Thanks to a couple of USDA-installed fenceposts at strategic points, I was able to get a couple of pictures of me in the landscape, and when I finally reached the catwalk around the fire-watch tower, a father with his two sons was willing to snap a couple of additional frames. 

Hermione, who is a rocket scientist (literally—she has a MS in aeronautical engineering from Stanford), says that science is the study of God—in the order and mystery of the universe, she sees his hand. Hiking in the woods and ascending to the crown of Devil’s Head impressed me similarly. The Forest Service sign at the bottom of the 100+ stairs noted that from the top, on clear days (of which this was an example), you could see 100 miles in all directions, and the beauty of it (not to mention the height) took my breath away.  I would have contentedly stayed up there for hours (there were no fires to spot because everything was so wet), but I could see (and hear) the dark bulk of a thunderstorm rolling in quickly from the northeast, and I deduced that getting fried by a bolt of electricity would not be the most pleasant way to end my Denver vacation.

The minute I was safely back inside my car, the rain began.  It lasted for most of the dirt road back, but almost at the moment I hit pavement, the sky ahead cleared, and when I pulled back into my cousins’ driveway, the sun was again dazzling.  So, I went down for an afternoon nap after I finished off the last of Hermione’s peanut butter-M&M cookies (“They have oatmeal in them—they’re good for you!”). I’d stayed up all Sunday night reading Allende’s Zorro cover to cover, so I was more than a little mentally fried, even if my ever-plumping physique had thankfully escaped being so.

My LDC and I resumed contact last week—he’s been traveling in West and Central Europe with one of his cousins, and internet access is occasional.  I really want to go visit my friend in Prague, but none of the three flights on the Denver trip were overbooked, so I didn’t have the opportunity to give up my seat in exchange for a voucher.  Short of winning a travel sweepstakes or something similar, I don’t see me getting overseas anytime soon--my current passport expires next year­­, and I want to get at least one more stamp in it before this version is retired!

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