On Sunday, I went on a hike on the Fowler Trail in Eldorado Canyon with Doug and our friend, Greg. From there, we continued up the spectacular Goshawk Ridge Trail, a path I had never followed before. Eldorado Canyon is one of those places I have visited numerous times, and it holds a lot of memories. As we started our hike, I came face to face with some artwork of a falcon on the trailhead sign that I did while working as a park naturalist at “Eldo” in 1995. Seeing that drawing took me to that summer, and I began to think back to all the hikes I led in that exact same spot. It was one of my first jobs as a naturalist, and I gained a lot of confidence and skills there that provided a foundation for my career. Eldo is also the place I started my very first illustrated sketchbook journal. Though I had kept a diary-like journal since I was a child, it was in the park that I was inspired to begin incorporating drawings into the pages. One afternoon, I went down to the creek after work, and drew a wild rose on the first page of my new sketchbook. Hundreds of pages and several volumes later, that love of sketching and writing lives on.
I am sometimes amazed at a place’s ability to take me right back to different moments in time– especially if it is somewhere that I have visited year after year. The location usually hasn’t changed much between visits, yet I have often gone through profound transformations since last stepping in that exact same spot. The sights and sounds of that specific place can often recall memories so strongly, that it is like watching a movie snippet of my life in my head.
Later on Sunday’s hike, we approached a bench along the path and I remembered sitting in that same place, sketching with Molly Dog at my side. The Fowler Trail is an easy hike, and it was one of Molly’s first excursions after she lost her front leg to cancer. I recall being ecstatic as she happily galloped alongside me, and knowing that the tough choices we had to make in her treatment had allowed her to do the things she loved again.
Farther on the trail, we came upon the backside of the Bastille, a 600-foot rock formation. Over ten years ago, I had climbed every pitch of a long route on its north side as one of my first lead climbs (where I head up first and place all the gear to put the rope through to hold possible falls). Where I was now standing with Doug and Greg was the place I had descended from the top. I remember being utterly exhausted when I got down from that rock climb, but I also had a huge sense of accomplishment over doing something that was extremely challenging for me.
So what snippets from my life will be playing in my head when I am in Eldo at some future date? I imagine that I will be on an airy rock face, looking across the canyon at the Fowler Trail. From there, I’ll reminisce about the fun hike I had with loved ones. I will remember the beauty of exploring a new section of trail I had never been on before, and recall the strength I felt scrambling up the tiniest rock slab, feeling so alive again post-surgery. I will remember gazing longingly at the climbers on the rock faces across the canyon and knowing that I would be up there again someday.