by Steve & Barry Simpson
Last Sunday afternoon, I took the opportunity to go on a short hike, starting my trek west of Monticello on the northeastern flank of what locals call Blue Mountain.
The day was a bit wet for such an outing, but it was not cold and I felt good about going out.
As we all know, moist air improves engine performance and the additional moisture felt good in my lungs.
Because of the heavier than normal rainfall earlier in the day, the exposed areas of the mountain looked darker and richer in color. The green leaves of the oak brush seemed more vibrant, as did the gold foliage of the quaking aspen.
The mountain peaks were shrouded in masses of rolling gray and black clouds, and thunder rolled about the crags above the tree line.
The return of precipitation seemed assured, but the slopes were inviting and the warm weather made the possibility of a successful hike more inviting than dangerous.
Since I was wearing nothing but a light sweatshirt, I grabbed an oversized trash bag and a cigarette lighter from my pick-up truck, just in case I needed a shelter and heat.
At any rate, I would not be going far and a rain shower would feel invigorating.
Skirting the edge of the mountain, I discovered a fairly wide watercourse with a lazy trickle moving slowly down the rocky channel. I could tell that not long ago there had been heavy runoff.
I was drawn by the music of the stream, so I moved uphill and followed it into the thicker timber. My memory of the Google Earth maps associated with this area caused me to believe that if I maintained my present heading, I would soon intersect an unpaved road.
I did not. My memory was assuredly faulty.
I was, however, so entranced by the natural peace and quiet of the place that I continued upward. I knew where I was in the larger scheme of things, because when I came to a small clearing I could see Monticello five or six miles below.
When I came to a large valve cover, I was a bit confused, because I knew there were such things in Pole Canyon but, thought I should be south of there.
This was my first visit to the narrow valley, so I was unfamiliar with the road or trail situation further up the mountain.
As I climbed higher, I realized I was traveling in a slightly southwesterly direction.
Looking around, I listened to the sounds of birds chirping, squirrels barking and the creak of trees in the wind. I was seeing deer at every turn, and recognized the footprints of a fox and a weasel on the muddy banks of the stream.
I breathed in the sweet, fragrant aroma of the forest and felt it was far too early to leave this place.
I trekked upward and discovered a head gate, which was more proof of where I trod.
This must be Pole Canyon, one of the main watersheds for Monticello. If I remembered correctly, there would be an age-old trail connecting the Gold Queen mine, situated between South Peak and Abajo Peak, which wandered across the top of this canyon and made its way into town.
I soon came to a large clearing edged by ponderosa pine and white trunked quaking aspen leaved in bright yellow crowns.
The mostly perpendicular park was carpeted in long stalks of grass with green shafts crested by golden heads that ebbed and flowed like tides in the breeze. I stopped to take in the clean, clear beauty of the place.
Walking to a perfectly formed blue spruce, I drew in its perfume and knew I was getting closer to heaven. It is no wonder early Native cultures considered mountains sacred dwelling places of the Holy People.
A misty rain passed through, cooling me after the exertion of my upward ascent.
I looked to the peaks. Drawn by their towering beauty, I wanted to finish my climb, to search-out the trail and follow it back to my point of origin.
Just then, lightning flashed and thunder rolled. The storm up there at the peaks was building fast and this boy’s mama didn’t raise no fool. Being struck by lightning was nothing to brag about.
I turned on my heel and hoofed it back the way I had come. As I traveled, I scanned the northern border of the creek because I thought there should be a trail running south from the base of the dilapidated ski slope.
If my assumption was correct, I would discover an old water pipe that would lead me home. A short time later I found it and turned north.
Soon thereafter I came upon a garden-like metal gate with a sign on the opposite side that read, “Private property, no motorized vehicles beyond this point.” Another round of thunder and lightning sent me scampering once more.
Before long I came to a large, metal trough overflowing with water and coated in dark green algae. Standing there briefly, I congratulated myself on my Jedidiah Smith-like path finding qualities.
I would have to explore the upper portion of Pole Canyon on a later date. I climbed up to the nearby rocky road and traveled down it until I discovered another less traveled dirt track pointed in the direction I needed to go, so I took it.
The path led me to within a hundred yards of my Toyota. It was now 4:45 p.m. and Grandma Washburn, along with her feisty daughter Laurie, would serve dinner promptly at 5 p.m.
It would be a HeeHaw, “Grandpa what’s for dinner?” spectacular. There was promise of fire grilled shish-kabobs of beef and chicken interspersed with garden grown mini bell peppers and white onions, along with a vegetable medley, garden fresh red potatoes and wheat rolls with homemade jam.
This would be followed-up with handcrafted peach pie topped with whipped cream for dessert. Boy howdy! It was most definitely time to beat a path to that front door.