We awakened early to drive up to Estes Park from our home in Denver. Our daughter Michelle had flown in from Los Angeles for a short visit before she started her new job a week later. Within an hour and a half we drove up to the Beaver Meadows entrance to the national park just outside of Estes Park.
It proved to be a wonderfully warm and sunny day with bright blue skies in early May as we parked our car in Moraine Park at the trailhead for Cub and Fern Lakes. We couldn’t help but stare up at the very snowy Continental Divide. The snow glared so bright that it seemed to have taken on a luminous quality all of its own especially in contrast with the dark and burnt forests below. Many of the aspen and pines had succumbed to the Spruce Lake Fire several years ago.
As we entered the burnt forests, it became evident to us that regenerative Nature was beginning to restore the forest floor with yellow snow buttercups near melting banks of snow and a bright array of yellow clusters of Oregon Holly-grape along the trail’s edge. And since the deep snow of the mountains above had begun to melt, we were treated to numerous gushing waterfalls that helped feed the steady flow of Fern Creek just below.
We plodded along a sometimes very rocky trail we heard the steady hammering of red-headed woodpeckers on the side of burnt trunks perhaps in search of dead insects trapped deep within the tree. We marveled at how some clusters of trees were totally spared from the destructive flames of the forest fire. While other trees stood starkly black and yet others had but black streaks in the middle of otherwise healthy bark.
Other hikers coming down the trail alerted us to the presence of a flock of wild turkeys just a half mile beyond where we stood. We kept our eyes fixed on the forest floors to see if there was any movement between the shrubs and bushes. Finally we spotted the white tail feathers of dark brown turkeys headed down-slope toward Fern Creek. There were two hens guiding several chicks in search of lush parches of green grass.
After an hour or so of sometimes steep walking, we all agreed to take a much needed rest (especially we parents in our eighties) along the grassy banks of a cascading stream. We feasted on some delicious trail mix followed with deep swallows of ice cold water. My wife Maura and I greatly enjoyed chatting with our daughter away from the cares of the valley below. Nature has a way of grabbing your attention to its richly varied curiosities and its regenerative forces that can reach deep into the human spirit.
We all agreed that when city life becomes a mechanical routine, that is the time for a reprieve in the woods where one can listen to the chirping of wrens, the hammering of woodpeckers, and wild turkeys search of food by the gushing waters of a mountain stream.