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This is the time of year when old friends come to visit. And more and more they are old friends rather than just friends I've had for a long time. Like me, they're beginning to turn gray and we spend more time talking about the past than the future.
One visitor told me she used to stay at Meeker Park and a friend of hers stayed in another cabin and together they wore a path between the two places. That was thirty years ago and she said the path's still there. I believe it.
Three years ago my brother made several trips to my workshop from his cabin and his path took him through my front yard, which is just a bunch of trees and wild flowers. He must have made a dozen trips. You can still see where he walked, and the path will be visible for many years to come.
The other day I was on Trail Ridge (with visitors) and we saw many tourists walking on the tundra. One group had spread a blanket on it. Others were picking flowers. That same week I chastised a woman for picking Eagle Plume's columbines. She got off easy -- if Charles had caught her he probably would have scalped her.
Last summer a woman stopped her car in front of my house, got out, and started digging up some plants. When I protested she said, "This isn't private land," as if that made a difference. She was bluffing, of course, and it was private land. You probably have similar stories to tell.
Even people who move up here from the Colorado plains don't understand how fragile our mountain world is. They find it difficult to believe that the tree they cut for Christmas, although it's only 6 feet tall, may be 100 years old. The tundra looks tough and feels solid underfoot. It seems impossible that spreading a blanket on it will kill many of the plants underneath in just a matter of minutes.
It doesn't take much looking to find places which will take decades to recover because of thoughtlessness. As more and more people come here we are going to find it increasingly difficult to make newcomers understand that once destroyed, the natural beauty of this place takes longer than our lifetimes to recover.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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