i.e. Stop and Smell the Roses – or the thistles!
For some people, hiking is mostly about speed to their goal, maximizing their heart rate and competing with others to see who is fittest or fastest. There is another whole side to exploring the outdoors which has more to do with being in the present, noticing things that others miss and extracting extra joy from what nature has to offer.
One time while on the way to a climb up Mt. Lindsay, a fourteener in the Rockies, I saw a robust patch of healthy and even scary thistles. They were big. The fully developed ones reminded me of The Little House of Horrors, so I just had to take a photo break.
For me, the curiosity never stops there. I had to find out more about those thistles. I learned they are in the Sunflower genus and specifically called Cirsium Scopulorum, or more commonly, Rocky Mountain Thistle. Cirsium is Greek for “dilated vein,” which comes from the bygone belief that a thistle distillate opens clogged veins. Scopulorum means “of rocky places,” which is quite fitting as these thistles are mainly found in the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountain ranges in the Rockies. They grow in tundra, boulder fields and scree along the Continental Divide from 9,000-13,000 feet in elevation.
The Cougar on Superstition Mountain
Superstition Mountain, located east of Phoenix, is famous for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine where millions of dollars’ worth of gold is allegedly hidden. Many have searched for the mysterious mine. But this is sacred ground. People disappear and mysterious deaths occur. That is just one reason why it is called Superstition Mountain. Local farmers have heard many stories from the Pima Indians about how they feared this mountain.
Some Apache Indians believe that the hole leading down into the lower world, or Hell, is located in the Superstition Mountains. Winds blowing from the hole are supposed to be the cause of severe dust storms in the metropolitan region. Each summer the great Thunder God roars his loudest, creating thunderstorms like no other, announcing his control over the mountain.
Then there are the UFOs. It has been claimed that the Superstitions are the home of an underground base for aliens determined to abduct and probe us. Of course, there are some who say that is just what happened to them. But what is surely true, is that twice yearly for 3 days each in March and September, a shadow of a cougar attacking its prey appears on Superstition Mountain.
Climbing that mountain became a goal for me – I guess you could call that a silly reason for a goal, but for me it was all about exploration, observing nature and being in the moment. That full story of that climb is HERE
Setting a Goal Based on Anything
Wilson Peak is one of Colorado’s more iconic 14,000’ mountains due to its prominence, striking a mighty profile over the Telluride area.
Wilson Peak is even more easily recognized for another reason: it figures prominently on the Coors beer labels and products! Adolf Coors choose this mountain to represent his beer in 1873.
I decided that if Wilson Peak was good enough for Adolph Coors, it was a good enough goal for me to climb the mountain and get up close and personal. That turned out to be even more eventful than I expected. On the several mile hike in to the approach to climb that mountain, I passed a long-defunct gold mine … and found gold!
It was the Silver Pick Mine, one of the better-known ore loads in San Miguel County. Between 1875 and 1959, San Miguel County produced 3,837,000 gold ounces. The Silver Pick Mine was a major producer of lode gold in the area.
Naturally as soon as I got home, I researched the Silver Pick Mine. It featured lode gold, actively mined from 1890 – 1900. Lode gold occurs when a large mass of molten rock (in this case granodiorite) rises to the surface from far below, causing fractures. Water, seeping down from the surface, gets heated by the molten rock. The combination of this heat and pressure can dissolve many minerals that we think of as insoluble, including gold.
The super-hot and mineral-laden water then rises back towards the surface. As it circulates through the crevices and faults in the rock, it cools and deposits many of these minerals. Ages of erosion exposes the top of the granite and the fractures to the surface. Erosion also releases the gold from the veins and deposits; some of it makes its way into the streams and rivers in the valley for panhandlers to find. The rest remains in the hard rock veins, to be discovered and mined as lode gold.
Setting a Goal Based on Curiosity – The Lake Christine Wildfire
The Lake Christine wildfire started on July 3, 2018 and burned over 12,500 acres, much of which was contained on mostly uninhabited Basalt Mountain near Basalt, Colorado. Three homes were destroyed, and 500 homes were under mandatory evacuation several times when the fire rekindled.
Exactly one year later I was curious how fast Mother Nature might start to heal such a big wound on her mountain.
To get a first-hand look at the burn one year later, I picked a trail I knew went right into the burn area. I didn’t take a dog because I didn’t know how much soot and burnt wood chunks would still be on the ground.
But mixed in with this grim backdrop was the uplifting side of Mother Nature. Against the stark images of blackened trees was the beginning of a fresh palette of greens from grasses and new growth. Death and renewal were presented all in one view.
I now wonder how much more progress the new growth has made at the end of two years. I will go back again – any reason to take a hike!
There are an unending number of goals, curious pursuits and any old reason to take a hike and enjoy it beyond how fast it can be done.