There aren’t many places that I don’t know where I am within Boulder county, but today’s hike was one of those times. As usual, we headed out without as map–the intrepid five of the six who had Sunday brunch at Leaf. I had wanted to hike from the Gross Reservoir end of Flagstaff Road for about a year and a half, because last fall I had hiked a few miles down toward Gross on an old four-wheel drive road with Randi. That year’s aspen colors were amazing, but the hike was long and we never seemed to make it around that last bend in the corner to where we could see Gross or at least the Walker Ranch burn. Eventually Randi and I had turned back without getting to where I thought we would come out (it was one of the last longish hikes for Libby before her knee pain finally had us call a halt to hiking with the dog).
So I was eager to try starting the hike from the other direction. My memory of the starting from the Gross Reservoir side was that it was quite confusing as to what was a road, what was a driveway, and what was a trail. I was right–we were quickly lost and casting about for a trail–and the only other day hikers starting around the same time were equally as confused. Fortunately, we figured out which fork in the road to follow, and the five us set off on a pleasant amble up a mountain lane. But since I had suggested the day’s route, I spent the first half of the hike preoccupied, trying to figure out where we were going, whether the terrain resembled the Aspen hike Randi and I had taken more than a year before. It didn’t–instead of leading to Gross Reservoir the road wandered toward Twin Sisters Rock, which I remembered having rock-climbed in college. And when our four-wheel drive track came down into a different dead-end county road, I was even more baffled. Not so much about where I was now–as the Repo Man so eloquently put it: wherever you go, there you are. All we had to do was retrace our steps to get back to the car, and there was no doubt that that back county road was a spur road off Magnolia road. Besides, growing up I had hung out with a good friend who lived on the Magnolia side of the Twin Sisters Rock, and the county road seemed familiar in that I-sorta-remember-this-from-high-school way. But why hadn’t we come into the road Randi and I had walked last fall?
At least on the return trip I was able to put aside my uneasy confusion behind me and chat a bit. Hiking with five is a good number–it is easy to hold a conversation in pairs and occasionally even in threes, while nobody waits and woofs if you want to focus on taking a long flower shot or want to hike alone a bit. The number makes for a pleasant drifting in and out of conversations, synchronizing thoughts now with this friend, then with that one. Ron sounded Gina and I out on his latest observations upon his return from China and India–that the economic system had very little to do with a society’s success or failure due to too many intervening variables–a great disappointment for a rational libertarian like him. The conversation always drifts from politics and ideology to history and books, and it reminded me that I wanted to loan them my copy of American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips (great read!), not to mention borrow some books from each of them. Then there is the idea of reviewing books and such on my blog, rather than just filling it with hapless tales of an itinerant soul. But it is almost summer, and the thought of getting a reading discussion group together was ill-received… until the winter. Ah, Colorado–everyone wants to backpack all summer, read in the winter. Me, too, actually.
In the end, I had to consult a map at home to get some idea of the differences between where I had been today and a year and more ago–two different valleys, two different spur roads of Magnolia, one memory that had clouded them together. But I didn’t really get a grip on where I had been until the following week when I took this photo of the various drainages of South Boulder Creek from atop Bear Peak. Thinking back upon this hike from a better vantage, it is easy to realize my mistake. The mountains are replete with sensous folds, and they make it easy to get lost in the crevices of our memories. One drainage blends into another; the mountains and the brain are both complex topographies of sulci and gyrii, networks of spurs, ridges and valleys through which the mind slips and slides, hikes and hides. One conversation blends into another; this time into that; one year into the next; and it takes the philosopher’s trick of climbing to an overarching perspective to know–nay, to feel–where one has been wandering, wondering; thinking, walking; conversing, hiking.
Lost on a lark about? A better way to spend a Sunday I know not.