A Bison’s Big Picture


A major perk to living in Summit County is that everyone wants to visit. Centrally and beautifully located, Passers Through and Revelers have been stopping by Frisco with bi-weekly regularity. This weekend I had the honor of hosting MLE and Reeves.

It is truly miraculous to watch my friends grow (I can only imagine a Grandparents’ perspective!). In the 5 years I have known MLE, her inner strength has compounded; knowing I have a person like that in my closest support circle is grounding. Reeves has always been an untapped emotional resource. He is now tapped. Wisdom and gentle encouragement and deference flow freely from lips I had only ever known to say, “I don’t care.”

Well they cared enough to strike out across Kansas (lips and all) and drive late into the night to get here. The next morning they visited me at Columbia and picked up some Winter Wear. That evening we took a driving tour of the local towns and night-hiked out to a point over Dillon Reservoir where there were teepees built high on the overlook.

One such structure was 20 odd feet tall and stood proudly atop a razed hillock. It was as if all the stripped corpses of pine were kneeling to him. It seemed every sound within 5 miles passed by here on the way into the ether. I could hear campfire revelry from the Swan Mountain Rec Area to the East; from the West, a punk band was just firing up. But even these sounds of humanity were muffled under heavy mountain silence. Swooping bats and cooing owls made their presence known. Moonlight exposed the alpine peaks in all their bare glory; they seem to beg for the cloak of snow even as the last pockets of the tired grey stuff melts out of the shadowy places.

Buffalo's Backside...he's mooning you.

The next morning we struck out to meet Buffalo Mountain (12777 ft). It is my intention to meet all the mountains in my neighborhood before they put their winter makeup on. Buffalo always smiles down on me as I drive to work, and one early morning there was a rain storm on his flank with the ends of an invisible rainbow atop the low, angry little cloud. A hawk perched atop a lightpost in the foreground and began talking to me. I’ve been keen to introduce myself to the big hunk ever since then. I’ve only ever known his backside and that is just sheer intimidating.

We drove up into Wildernest and parked along a roadside trail head, already drivers were getting creative about where to park.

MLE and I posed for a proud trail head photograph and then charged up the wide dirt road. The trail kept descending and we became suspicious. Finally we passed ways with someone who knew something about the area and they confirmed that we were on the wrong trail, having missed Buffalo cabin Trail Head by some 100 yards. Back Track Backpack.

A short wooded amble and we cut South and ran face first into Buffalo. It was not a moderate ascent. Nor was it a short one. Of the 15 or so people coming back down, 6 had turned back. A woman decked out in a black rayon and polyester track suit came flapping down the mountain toward us. Her long legs kicked out like Big Bird’s and from then I regarded her as a big grouchy crow. I was right. She squawked at us about how steep it was, “up there.” I tried to laugh it off and we kept climbing up to a finger of protruding rock ledge which afforded a marvelous vista of the valley. It was here that I learned this was MLE’s first mountain. I kicked myself for continuing to miss the details of planning a hike; at least I remembered food and water. Buffalo is for those who have acclimated and are comfortable on strenuous terrain. Only now did I truly process that Reeves was the congested variety of sick. And wearing flip flops.

We made it to Buffalo’s hairline and stopped at the last sheltered spot to eat lunch. We devoured Mom Made Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and regarded our standing. Below us, thousands of feet of a tree woven skirt swooped down to the valley floor. Above us another thousand feet of a boulder field loomed. Massive cairns outlined a rough track to follow but it would be a serious scramble.

About 15 feet into just such an ordeal MLE stood up tall on her rock and, hands planted firmly into hips, declared she was done climbing. I looked at Reeves, straddling two huge rocks with ten little tosies all exposedies and I realized MLE was right. But that didn’t mean I liked it one bit.

We had all been pushing hard to get that far and so our courtesy reserves were running low. And by “we” I mean “me” and I know “me.” So I ran it out of myself. 5 minutes of jogging and sliding and I remembered the whole reason we were out here. To share. So I pulled my pacifier out, waited up, and we had a fun descent. Except I still don’t get the game “20 Questions” and can’t figure out what is enjoyable about it.

That night we drove up Montezuma road and camped off of Peru Creek, dozing off quickly as the

languid yellow tongues lapped lazily around the logs.

Eat your heart out, King Louie

Today was Labour Day. A sumptuous breakfast at the quaint and quirky Inxpot and they hit the road, feeling the anxious call of GrownUp Land. I got home just in time to clean up and get to work where I helped equip dozens of other people to go on just such adventures. I feel good about it.

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