A Quick Camping Get-Away
For three of us, getting away from Denver to two thousand feet higher in the foothills proved rewarding in more ways than one. Two of us left early since we were retired and one of us, an optometrist, couldn't join us until 9:00 or so in the evening. We backpacked in from a parking area overlooking the distant city of Denver, Colorado for not quite two miles to a campsite to set up our tents and light an early evening fire in the much cooler and crisper air scented with ponderosa and lodgepole pines.
Our campsite was laced with light purple penstemon and yellow mustard flowers. We walked out to some lichen-encrusted rocks fringed with yellow stonecrop blossoms to look down on the misty city enshrouded in gray haze from forest fires in far away Utah and California. Brightly lit jets seemed to hover like UFO's in the sky before landing at Denver International Airport.
It was relaxing to sit up here with a few romping mule deer above the hustle-bustle of a large metropolitan area that had a faint hum of traffic so far below. We hoped our working friend would arrive soon to unwind and relax. We returned to our campsite picnic table and toasty warm log fire to open two bottles of German beer and chat about our deep appreciation of Nature's calm beauty perhaps only twenty air miles from urban angst.Then we heard our friend shout in the distance. It had become quite dark with a half moon in the sky.
He shouted again and so we grabbed our lanterns and hoofed down the trail to meet him. He waved his flashlight and shouted, "Am I ever glad to see you guys!" We all met perhaps a quarter mile from our campsite to hear of his experience only five minutes ago.
"I came across a mountain lion ten yards away who sat and stared at me with his bright yellow eyes! I tried not to act frightened and made myself as tall and big as possible with the help of my big backpack. I shouted at him and lucked out because he left me to chase a buck mule deer out into the meadow!"
We got back to the campsite to sit down with another beer. Our friend was all sweaty with fear. As he gradually calmed down, he remarked that this lion had given him some significant insight after some bit of reflection. Here he was (only an hour after the routine of work at the office) up here in the forest where he could have been attacked by a wild beast only twenty miles away from heavy traffic, honking horns, fast food drive-ins, neon signs, and non-chalant people. The experience infused him with a sense of vitality that he had not known before, and, after he set up his tent, he fell into one of the deepest sleeps he had in a long time.
I awakened before my friends very early in the morning to catch the sunrise over Denver and surrounding prairie lands. The rising sun illuminated the forest fire haze into a brilliant golden hue. The stonecrop flowers around me seemed twice as bright as the day before. It was good to be away from the city if only for a day, and what a day.