June 28, 2013

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The view down the valley to Pagosa Springs from Wolf Creek Pass, an awe-worthy welcome if ever there was. Shortly after our departure, the pass was closed by fire, so who knows what this looks like now. My great hope is that the fire remained at my back, eating up the scores of trees ravaged by insatiable beetles, and did not travel to the more populated areas below.

Rocky Mountain Columbine, Colorado’s State Flower and my favorite as a kid.

A sulfur spring in Pagosa Springs. It bubbled, groaned, belched, and steamed.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Pagosa Springs

Sometimes, I get a notion, a soft whisper of a bug in my ear, “Do this, soon, do not dally. You will not regret it.” In this case, way back in January, “Ride a horse.” I hadn’t done so in at least twenty-five years, one short ride on a dusty dirt road (who knows where or when) under a canopy of trees. The horse was dark brown and belonged to a woman, her hair a match to the horse in a long braid. I remember feeling tall and powerful and in exactly the right place, exhilarated by the response of my timid tongue click, moving from a slow saunter to a rapid trot.

This time, we rode with Third Generation Outfitters (and highly recommend that you do, too, if ever you have the chance), and that’s Jaclyn, our guide extraordinaire. She’s been around horses her whole life and exhibits that fine quality of knowing and truly loving these gorgeous giants. She’s dressing Lonny, a formerly wild Mustang that I just knew would be “mine” for the afternoon.

The hubster and Pistol were fast friends.

Chin straps look a might silly, but they keep hats from flying and horses bolting, a very good thing.

We rode for two hours, in and around the area just below Wolf Creek pass, at the foreground of the topmost photo. It was a perfect day, the wind down to a whisper and the sun bright and warm on our backs. We rode in meadows and on a rocky path that was once the highway, imagining a Model T bumping perilously along. We climbed near the summit and descended through woods thick with grass and wild flowers in full bloom: columbines, serviceberries, strawberries, Oregon grape, wild iris, a smattering of dandelions, and scores more whose names I do not know. There were deer, too, and birds, the hum and buzz of life itself.

All the while, the horses were gentle, sweet, and sure footed, farting and peeing and stealing a leaf or bite of grass when they could. I spent much of my time in admiration, marveling that this creature, with me astride his back, seemed hardly to notice. He gave not a single response to my gentle brushing of his silken neck, my fingers threading through the thick of his mane, or my myriad questions and praise of his fine virtues. A professional, and shy as he was beautiful and strong, I suppose.

Many thanks to Alan and Martha, with us but not pictured. It was a marvelous day!


 And speaking of horses, this is my sweet Mom, taking her first ride as a wee thing.