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The Mountains in the Summer
This is a very different place in the summer. I was reminded of the fairly obvious fact on three recent occasions.
First, we went to Estes Park to see the fireworks over Lake Estes. It wasn’t the rededication of the Statue of Liberty, but it was a good show. We had a very mediocre and badly overpriced meal at the Stanley, which featured an orchestra playing patriotic music. The best part of the meal was a visit with a couple from Missouri who shared our table. Like most tourists (I gather the tour people call them “lemmings”) they had very little time, and they were astonished by the things you and I take for granted: the mountains, the cool, clean air, the many streams. They wanted to know what they should do on the one remaining day they had free, so we recommended a trip up Trail Ridge Road, and my mother talked to them about what that trip had been like in 1927, when the only road was up the Fall River. The man had put in a new water pump somewhere in eastern Colorado, so he wasn’t at all sure this was what his car needed, and I wondered afterward if they made the trip. And they had arranged a rafting trip while they were here; the usual things people from Missouri do here.
After the fireworks, we tried to beat the crowd out of town, but several thousand others had the same idea. We all agreed that we had never seen so many cars on Highway 7. We thought most of them would turn off at Carriage Hills or the Mary’s Lake road, but most of them went right on up the Baldpate hill. A very strange sight indeed, as hundreds of cars made a trail of white and red lights, tracing the road along Lily Mountain. Years ago the fireworks were shot off from the cliff just south of town, above what is now Confluence Park, but that bluff now has dozens of houses all over it, so the pyrotechnics have been at the lake for many years. I can remember one 4th, lying on the roof of MacDonald’s Book shop with a very nice girl, watching the fireworks…but I digress.
The second event was just an ordinary trip to Estes Park, during which I was standing at one of the two intersections of the town, waiting for the walk light. Now, in the winter you can pretty much shoot a cannon down Elkhorn Avenue and not hit anything, but a Saturday in July is another matter. Forty or fifty people were waiting for the light, and a strapping young man with a whistle in his mouth and a two-way radio on his belt was insuring that all went well. A car entered the intersection after its light turned red, and the young traffic cop blew his whistle several times, but the people in the car just looked at him and kept on driving, as though he was blowing the whistle at someone else. One lady next to me said, “This is sure a long light,” which it is, and, as if in answer, when the walk light came on the young man said in a loud voice, “Thanks for waiting. Walk any way you like, across or diagonally.” So the tourists obediently walked, wearing their Estes Park hats and carrying their boxes of saltwater taffy and bags filled with souvenirs and they did indeed remind me a bit of lemmings.
Lastly, I turned into my driveway at about 11:00 one night and found an unfamiliar car parked just off the road; an old Datsun with a white fiberglass luggage box on the roof. A 30ish man of average build with a light beard was caught in my headlights standing next to his car in a strange sort of pose, with his right hand held out in front of him, palm down, and his left held out behind him pointing down. He seemed to be staring intently at the ground. “May I help you?” I asked.
“I’m a healer,” he replied, barely turning his head toward us, but not otherwise moving.
Now, I ask you, what would you have done? Well, I thought of several smart things later, but at that moment, I was stuck for anything to say. So I drove around him and went on the house, and as I was going in, he called out, “I’ll leave in a couple of minutes.” So I turned on the big halogen outside lights and waited, and sure enough, he left and I haven’t seen him since.
Who was he and what he was healing? I haven’t the slightest idea. But this is a very different place in the summer.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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