Today's amazement started before we even arrived at the Mountain Park Environmental Center with several deer in the fields beside the road.
Then couple of very impressive bucks came running along the road beside us before actually leaping the fence and crossing the road directly in front of our van!
once we arrived at the Pueblo Mountain Park we dropped into the Horseshoe Lodge to get water, a radio and a couple of knit caps just in case. It was a chilly morning.
We then drove up to the Tower Trail-head and began our hike.
Along the way we took notice of the increased signs of Autumn's arrival, the changing colors of the leaves, the reddening of certain beautiful grasses, the many dry seed heads of grasses and flowers. We talked about these changes at length as well as about the weather and the particular changes we noticed in each of the ecosystems we visited.
We stopped for a break, deciding it was first snack time. In a pleasant and automatic manner, the boys got out their nature journals and began writing and drawing. Sumner piped up with an idea he was having for a poem and it became the thinking point of the day:
I liked their enthusiasm about writing more poems, and they sat for some time thinking and writing and drawing in silence. It was a very peaceful moment. Just before we left this spot we found a very cool dried Earth Star mushroom.
As we hiked along we noticed signs of Deer and Squirrels as well as even finding some not-too-fresh Bear scat. We remembered the Bear that we never saw last week on the Mace Trail and wondered if it was the same. We talked about the large territory large predators such as the Bear and Mountain Lion need and why it is important to have large areas set aside for wild life to live according to their nature.
The smell of fall looked like many things to us: the oak leaves turning red and gold, the red dirt trail beneath a gray sky, dry pine needles and leaves sailing in the breeze, the Nuthatches and Black Capped Chickadees flitting from tree to tree, the early morning blanket of cloud, the blush of the leaves of grass, the tall seed-heads waving in the slight breeze, fleet shadows of clouds slipping in silence over the forested face of the ridge in the distance, the lizard scuttling through the dry and fallen leaves, the crispy lichen on rocks with it's curled edges awaiting the coming precipitation.
At a junction in the trail where the high trail leads up to the Fire Tower and the low trail follows a ridge-line towards Lookout Point there is a Peace sign along the side of the trail made with small palm sized and smaller rocks. I often have to stop here and maintain this small but important mnemonic device and this time was no different. A few of the rocks had been scattered either accidentally by the hooves of horses and careless riders on the trail or perhaps intentionally by someone, which seems unthinkable, however, one can never tell why people do things. It was a good place to discuss Peace and Love, Compassion and Kindness and thoughtful nature of creating small simple artworks or little shrines like this to plant seeds of Peace for others.
Further up the trail we discussed the art of trail creation. A lot of design and thought goes into the creation and maintenance of the trails in this Park and others. We talked about the switchbacks, how they can take us up a steep hill in a fashion which is less strenuous while at the same time channeling and slowing the rainfall runoff in a way that it soaks into the immediate area better instead of running off quickly and eroding away the hillside. Several areas of this trail where the trail one is on and the trail ahead after a switchback are fairly close show obvious signs of people not understanding or respecting this art of trail design and not following the way of the trail when hiking. We discussed how to walk on a trial and why we shouldn't take the vertical shortcuts between sections of the switchbacked trails. Where others have done this repeatedly the water erosion has created obvious damage to the hillside and trails. We did a bit of light work moving sticks and things across these rogue shortcuts to discourage their use.
At the top of the hill sits an old Fire Tower which we were able to climb safely and look all around the area in 360 degrees. What a view! We discussed the history and use of the Fire Tower and other towers like it and tried to find Pueblo and the Reservoir in the far distance.
The tower was a good place for lunch and more journalling. I had brought along my Native American cedar flute and began to play as the boys wrote in their journals. This evolved into a period of time where we just laid back and watched the clouds in the sky as they moved and swirled and swelled and morphed fluidly from shape to shape while I played flute. It was quite a relaxing break.
We hiked into the forest south of the tower to some big and very Old Trees which I had met before which I wanted to visit again, hug and introduce the boys to.
We finally hiked down and made our way to another picnic shelter to rest, eat our afternoon snacks and do more journal writing. We had had a long day and a long hike. Autumn was in full swing and we had really got out there and experienced it!