Usually the fall hunt is a time for male bonding whilst the women stay behind to reconnect with her female friends & rituals involving moon cycles and the approaching equinox. This year however, Uriah’s hunting buddy and best friend, Scott has moved to New Mexico and his brother Gary another hunting partner is in Africa. Although Rajni didn’t have a longing to go hunting, she was not about to let her beloved go alone. As a well-trained NOLS girl, she knows the dangers of being in the mountains alone. Luckily she does have some genuine curiosity about hunting and doesn’t want to miss an opportunity to get back in the Casita and head for the woods with her beloved husband. The O’s are packed up and ready to go but with all the rain the past two days and now flash flood warnings they’re not sure if it’s safe to proceed. In the morning, while enjoying their coffee mediation they watch the news to discover the range and scope of the flood and what the weather pattern is in the area they were headed. It wasn’t looking too hopeful as they watched the reporter hover over three cars down a ditch where the road collapsed no more than two miles from their home. Rajni couldn’t imagine any road was safe hauling the Casita around as it would be much heavier than just a car or pick up. However after further investigation of weather and road closures it seemed that most of the danger was further North on the St. Vrain River. They were heading south then west to the western slope up to Silverton where Uriah’s favorite hunting spot lies. They hit the road by 10ish, not bad for the O’s. Over to highway 93 they drive without incident, then as they head towards Golden paralleling the foothills, they start seeing the signs of flooding coming down the mountains. The car in front of them enters some water that sprays about fifteen feet high. They see the brake lights go on and there’s no way to tell how deep the water is or if the cars will go hydroplaning at any moment. Rajni holds the grip bar and silently begins to chant and pray. Phew, they get through it without a problem. One more spot in the road like this but mostly it was smooth sailing. Now heading west Rajni suggests they take the more maintained highway I70, but Uriah said highway 6 would be just fine and less steep for pulling the casita. Although this is the normal route people take as it cuts off a bit of time and is a pretty canyon, under the circumstances Rajni’s not feeling too comfortable taking the narrow canyon. Uriah wins this one and up they go. Fortunately the water level was not too high, but there was another danger, with all the rain the mountainsides are loosened and rockslides are a real threat. They see a few signs of just that and one time a very large boulder in the road, but all in all they made the accent unharmed. At the top there was a small heard of young big horn sheep and before they knew it they were on I70 on their way. They arrive in Glenwood Springs by afternoon and stop in for a few last minute provisions. The weather was sunny and hot, what a strange transition from the excessive rains they left behind. All stocked up they head to South Canyon just a few exits up the road. This was their destination for day one, the halfway point and a nice spot to stop and soak in the undeveloped hot springs. The O’s were a little road wary, so they took a little nap in the Casita. After about an hour, Rajni got up ro stretch her legs and went outside to access the situation. There were definitely people at the hot springs and she figured it was safer for a woman to go to the clothing optional hot springs with her husband. Therefor she decided instead to do a nice long and vigorous kundalini yoga kriya. Still feeling that her immune system is compromised from the Lyme disease she acquire over the summer, this would be a perfect activity. In the warm sun by the side of the Casita she does a full set that was very difficult. She knows this is probably just what is needed and is very content and happy with herself. An hour later she cannot believe Uriah is still sleeping! She calls to him, “time to get up sleepy head and go soak”, he can only reply with a weak moan. She reads for another half hour and as the sun begins to set decides it is the perfect time to soak. She gathers her things and tells him she is heading over hoping he will soon follow. It was a beautiful and perfect evening and as expected the hot spring was full of just men. She was prepared for this and was wearing her bathing suit. One single guy left and after being checked out thoroughly by the two mexicans, she hoped the two gay men would not leave too soon. The mexicans are peculiar in that they never bring their women and eyeball the spouses and girlfriends of others. She closed her eyes and tried to enjoy and occupy the moment and not let her old fears creep into the forefront of her brain. Meanwhile, Uriah awoke from his deep slumber and hiked up to join her in the hot springs. They chitty chatted with the locals and warmed their bodies in the womb of mother earth. Just before the sun set, they head back to the Casita for a lovely stir fry dinner and cozy evening at home.
Morning coffee meditation is their favorite ritual and it always seems even better when they travel in the Casita. Whether it is the hand grinder used to crush the grounds or the small cozy space of the Casita that makes it so yummy it is unclear, but it really is their favorite way to start the day. Today they decide to enjoy their coffee back up at the hot springs. It was a still and silent morning and they were the only inhabitants so they soaked in their bare flesh. There really isn’t anything quite like being naked in mother nature. They lingered long after their coffee cups were empty. Eventually there was much activity on the road. In fact they began to see trucks pulling up near the Casita and became curious what was going on. They head back to the Casita and Uriah learned that one of the power lines has a small fire atop of it and the linemen were trying to decipher the best way across the river. Meanwhile, Rajni performed the pack up/strap up routine to prepare the Casita for travel. After a year of traveling, she’s got it down to a tee and it only takes a few moments to prepare to head on down the road. By noonish they’re hungry and decide to stop in Grand Junction for breakfast and to check the internet. Although getting away on another adventure can easily take your mind off the past, the reality and gravity of the situation back home keeps their minds very acute to friends and family. It is very sad and horrifying to see and hear all the stories and pictures on facebook! This flood was effecting so many people they know and it was a very surreal feeling to be watching it from afar, even a bit guilt producing, like they’ve abandoned their community. They kept reminded themselves that they were only continuing the plan that was already in place and their probably wasn’t a whole lot they could have done anyway. The best thing they could do was to stick with their present plan, pray for those back home and help with donations and clean up when they got home. So on down the road they continue toward their second destination, Ridgeway Colorado, just a short and steep pass away from the hunting ground and the home of Uriahs old pal Nate Pierce. They arrived at Nates by early afternoon. He wasn’t home yet, but one of his roommates greeted them and told them to make themselves at home. This of course is quite easy with the Casita , as they only need to make sure their level and unpack/unstrap from travel mode. Uriah took the opportunity to fill up the water tank as he somehow forgot that task before departing Louisville. It wasn’t long until Nate pulled into his driveway. The three friends sat in the Casita talking and catching up for quite some time. After a while, Nate’s girlfriend Heather and her daughter Morgan arrived home and they too join the party in the Casita. Now five people is probably the max that can be held in the Casita, so when the phone rang, Rajni took the call outside. When she returned she was asked to sing a song, as everyone else had. After a little more singing she suggested a walk and the five of them took a nice stroll in the beautiful valley where Nate resides. Quite a paradise right out his front door, you’d really never need to drive anywhere except to get groceries. As they hiked, Heather became intrigued with mushrooms and Morgan headed back to the house, I guess she either doesn’t like to hike or doesn’t like it when she’s not the center of attention, who could blame the eight year old. It brought back many a memory for Rajni when her son Josh would refuse to hike any further. The two couples soon returned to the house to join young Morgan for a nice pizza and salad dinner, some more socializing and then by 9 am everyone was off to bed.
They started their day off as usual with coffee meditation. Afterwards Rajni snuck into the house for a quick shower. As they never did made it over to Orvis hot springs yesterday, this may be their last chance to clean up for a while. It wasn’t long until they headed up Red Mountain Pass also known as the Million Dollar Road, which is how much it cost to construct it back in that era! It is one of the steepest and most dangerous passes in all of Colorado. It was slow going but they made it up and back down into Silverton by 11ish. The San Juans are the youngest and most rugged of the mountain ranges in Colorado with great mineral wealth. Silverton was named for such, being that one could find silver by the ton. This small town is in probably the smallest county in the state but at one time one of the richest. However, when J.F Kennedy removed us from the silver standard the bottom fell out of the silver market and this economy came to a crashing halt. Today it hosts tourism with a narrow gauge railroad up a stunning canyon, one of the last of its kind and 4wd jeep roads that take your breath away. The environment is rugged and the weather brutal with long winters and heavy snows. Luckily for the O’s it is earlier enough in the season that they should be fine. They stopped at the visitor’s center to have some cereal and check the internet. The floods back home continues and was getting worse. This flood has now become the worst in recorded history for Boulder County. People in Lyons, Rajni’s former community are trapped. They are told by FEMA, if they leave their homes they won’t be able to come back for three weeks. She becomes worried about some friends in that area and tries to send them messages and continues her prayers. She’s relieved however to hear that at least her son is safe and that the compound has not been breached with water despite the fact that the storage facility across the street is flooded and the road just behind them has collapsed. They are grateful for this fact and that their tenant and friend Joska was keeping an eye on things and keeping them informed. When they finish their chores in town they head over the river to the dirt road that heads straight up to the high country where Uriah’s hunting ground lay. He decided to drop the Casita down at the bottom so they could recon the road. It was evident from the first 100 yards that the Casita was not going to make it up that road. It was steep and very rugged!! 3.5 miles of this 4 wheeling to get to Deer Park the place where Uriah and Scott usually camp. The guys usually take a cabover camper the type that sits ontop of the truck so they need not worry about clearance. Uriah had wanted to keep this tradition but Rajni insisted they take the Casita. In the beginning of their relationship the O’s had taken many a wonderful trips in the old cabover but now things had changed. After they’ve enjoyed the luxury of the new Casita, it was hard to go back to a less comfortable home. Not to mention the cabover has some new holes in the roof, mice inhabiting it and Zach, Uriah’s nephew is now currently living in there. For all these reasons, Uriah conceded to take the Casita. The plan today was to just go up and check out the situation. Luckily, they were prepared to hunt however, as that was exactly what they ended up doing. There were two camps already set up in Deer Park. One truck with a cabover camper and another truck with three tents set up. In addition, there were some vehicles from the Forest Service. They had a large dump truck couple of trucks and a trackhoe that was noisy and destructive. Uriah was very disturbed to learn of this interesting story about their mission there. This land is actually overseen by the BLM since it was all heavily mined. Some 6 years ago the owners of the Mabel Mine, a patented mine and now private property decided to improve access to their property by enlarging the trail to accommodate a vehicle. It is unclear if this was always a trail or had been a road. It is clear however that there had to have been a road at one time since there is an old vehicle and huge pieces of equipment at the mine. Apparently, a lawsuit ensued with the landowner loosing. The trail that was enlarged has since in those 6 years grown over with grass and was a very pleasant and easy route to follow to the hunting grounds. However the forest service was now “improving” the road so they could drive their heavy equipment up it, tearing it all up as they went. Their plan then was to work there way backwards and make the road back into a trail with a more “natural” look. Uriah was appalled by the whole ordeal thinking that it was imbecilic and punitive as the cost was most likely being forced on the owner of the Mabel Mine. In the past nine years that Uriah has visited this area, he has never met the owners of the Mabel Mine however in that time they have never posted any no trespassing signs. In fact they have left their cabin open with welcome messages and requests that it be left as it is found. The ledger inside is filled with comments of gratitude from hikers, picnickers and hunters who have used it for refuge. This gives credence to what Uriah’s grandmother always told him, “no good deed goes unpunished”. He believed it is just another example of our classic control-happy humanity, “Control of the majority over a minority”. Or in this case the minority of individuals in an authority position of a bureaucracy foisting their ideals upon others. When Uriah inquired with these Forest Service personnel doing the work, regarding the issue, they responded that the owners did not get “permission” which he believed they never would have given. In any case, having all summer to perform this mission he found it very interesting that they commenced the job at the beginning of hunting season. Dismayed by the injustice, they grabbed their gear and headed up the 1.5 mile trail. Rajni was a little sheepish at first to cross over the creek on an old log. Although she’s crossed many a creeks in her day without trouble, this log was neither level nor smooth and was slick from all the rain.
She did make it safely across so they began to ascend the very wet, muddy and steep trail to the mine stopping several times to catch their breath, drink water and take off another layer of clothing. Before they even got to the top of the mountain, Uriah saw some animals and stopped to load his weapon. By the time the task was done however the two deer and possible elk were out of sight. They reached the Mable Mine cabin by mid afternoon.
There was evidence that some bow hunters were camped there in the cabin, but they were never seen. After checking out all the old mining equipment, they proceeded further up the mountain to the “killing fields” as he calls them. This is the area with numerous meadows where he and Scott often see the elk. They got to one of Uriah’s favorite sitting spots and sat and eat their lunch. As they enjoyed their sandwiches, Uriah shared his knowledge, experiences and plans for their hunt. After some time with no signs of the heards, they decided to head back cross- country through the dense part of the forest and eventually hooked back up with the trail reaching their truck by dusk. After hiking at this high elevation over 11,600 ft they both were a bit tired and ready to head back to the Casita. Just when they thought they were going to get warm and dry Uriah noticed one of their truck tires was very low almost flat! It was a good thing that he’s army trained. He goes into the truck and retrieves a mini air compressor, which fills the tire back with air. It was the type of unit that plugs into a car charger so it was slow going and it was beginning to rain again, but at least it got the job done and they were back on the road and home sweet home in no time.
Rajni was pleased that they did not get up at 4am for the early hunt. It had been decided the night before that maintenance was in order before the hunt could be continued. The first order of business was to go into town and fill the tire fully to see if it would hold air. They weren’t 100% sure if there was a slow leak or some sort of foul play was at hand. In addition their truck needed some clutch fluid which was purchased and filled as well. While in town, they stopped at an outfitter’s store. Uriah wanted to see if they had any supplies for his weapon incase he had problems. His gun seemed to be jammed up the day before when he tried to fire it and he wasn’t sure if it was the nipple or if the black powder had just gotten wet. The store did not have any of these supplies, but while they were there Rajni took the opportunity to buy some boot wax and a neck warmer. She was not fully prepared for how cold and wet it was going to be on this trip. It had been raining most of the night and on and off all morning. By noon they were back at the Casita and the weather seemed to be braking. They packed a quick lunch and headed back up the steep 4 wheel drive road to Deer Park. It’s now Sunday and all the other cars were cleared out. Before heading up to the hunting grounds they decided to check out the road to the end of the valley which leads to a couple of cabins and a large outfitters camp. Uriah remarks that this was the wettest he’s ever seen this area. With nothing worth pursuing there, they drive back to Deer Park and hike again up the 1.5 miles in 300 ft elevation gain to the miners cabin. Still no sign of the bow hunters except their gear. They O’s took their lunch on the porch of the miners cabin until it started to rain again. They sat inside reading the guest book and other commentary around the cabin. When the rain subsided they hiked up to the meadows through the wet bogs to watch and wait. Still no sight or sound of elk. They finally headed back down again through the deep woods and did see some fresh scat, but still no elk. Back at the truck all was well, even the air in the tire had remained. As they headed down the rugged road Rajni spotted some animals above her in the timber. Uriah pulled over and as she was pointing out the animals a car was right behind them. Uriah had to move the truck forward and out of the way so the other vehicle could pass and in doing so, they lost the perfect view of the animals. They weren’t 100% sure if it was elk or deer but she did spot the big white rump, which is a sure sign that it was an elk so they decided it was worth a pursuit. Rajni was sent ahead to push the animals down toward Uriah. As she began heading up the rain started up again and unfortunately the grade of the hill was so steep she had a hard time gaining any sort of speed leaving it impossible to catch up to the animals. By the time she got to the top of the hill, Uriah had already caught up to her and the animals were long gone. They pursued the hunt a little longer and then when they were sure that there was no hope, headed back to the truck. Despite the disappointments of the day, as they got closer to the Casita a huge rainbow appeared overhead, perhaps all is not lost after all.
Both phone alarms went off at 4am. Rajni was very used to getting up at that hour due to her two year experience doing the Aquariun Sadhana, but Uriah seemed to be unable or unwilling to move. She got right up and got the water going for coffee. Most of the other packing, lunch making was accomplished the night before. Coffee was made and filled into their to-go cups, a quick bowl of cereal was eaten and then off they went up the 3.5 miles of the steep 4 wheel drive road to Deer Park. In the dark, there was a fair amount of apprehension about crossing that log bridge over the creek, even Uriah wasn’t confident and resorted to hands and knees. Fortunately for her he shone his bright light on the log and she side-stepped across slowly and without incident. Rajni had two head lamps neither of which seemed to give off any light. She followed close behind him to sort of see the trail in front of them. Walking in the dark is always touchy especially with the red light used so that the elk can’t see you. You can get a sense of a clearing but see no details. It had rained again all night and the trail was as muddy and wet as ever. The air was very cold, but the exertion warms their bodies to a sweat. Rajni kept thinking that this was certainly better exercise than any kryia’s she could ever do. They arrived at their sitting spot at predawn and settle in next to some pines. This location is at timberline at the junction of numerous meadows and ravines, perfect habitat for the elk. One such meadow Scott and Uriah have given the name “The Elk Playground”. In the past, they had observed herds of elk frolicking and bulls bugling and chasing each other. Previously they have made many kills here, this year however the area is devoid of sound, smell and other evidence of elk. As they sat patiently, they witnessed the sun rising through a cool mist overlooking the dramatic San Juan Mountains, the Jewel of Colorado. Deep in the valley below, the narrow gauge train could be heard making it’s way from Durango to Silverton with its host of tourists. What is peculiar to him is that the Aspens have not yet turned when normally this is the peak week for displaying their brilliant yellow colors.
After about an hour of sitting that brisk morning, Uriah suggests they hike further up to the highest meadow. Across the wet bogs they traveled carefully trying to prevent full boot immersion into the three inches of water. This area reminded Rajni of perfect moose habitat. After reaching the highest meadow they sat again, but soon became chilled in the damp and clouded sky. Each and every break in the clouds was a blessing making way for the high intensity sunlight to lavish it’s warmth upon them. Soon they decided to hike back down through the dark forest where the elk may be bedding down. This are is an old growth Douglas Fur forest some of monstrous size and filled with small brooks, cliffs and downed timber. If they had been hunting mushrooms they would have had much more success as they spotted almost every size, shape and texture in abundance. It is a difficult area to hunt because of its density and rugged nature creating many obstacles to get a good shot. Once again they did see some sign of the animals, but nothing promising in the end. As they walked they flushed several flocks of Spruce Grouse which made an elaborate whooshing sound of their flapping wings. These birds are the size of a small chicken and blend so well into the environment that it is said “for every one you see, you have walked past five”. They never fly far and when they land will sit still thinking you do not see them. About half-way down the mountain they stopped near a brook and took a nap in the warm sun. Despite the poor hunting they remembered to enjoy the beauty and serenity of their surroundings. Eventually they made it back to the truck and before heading back to the Casita decided to explore another valley to the west. This narrow valley had a 4 wheel drive road that reached nearly to the top of the mountain, far above timberline and hosted a large cavernous mine. Uriah contemplated this was a testament to the tenacious spirit of the miners of yore. The incredible amount of energy and effort it must have taken to create these roads long before heavy equipment was mind blowing. Through their binoculars they could see a group of tourist in their ATV’s checking out the mine high above them. On their way back down to the Casita Rajni spotted a hawk hunting in a tree and as they drive around the bend in the road she saw what was probably being hunted. A cute little marmot scurried into his hole and as she reached for her camera, he popped his head back out just in time for her to snap a picture of him.
She contemplated that when observing nature it was best not to favor one species over another as both predator and prey have their value in the cycle of life. She felt it to be an honor just to witness and be a part of this miracle. At the bottom of the road they encountered some bow hunters from Texas. They stopped to inquire about the condition of the road to Deer Park. Uriah exchanged information with them about his experiences and where to go, and they shared information about where they had come from as well. The Texas crew had just come from Monlinas Pass and Vallecito Valley with pretty much the same experience, no bulging or sign of elk. Since bow hunters are very tenacious and better suited for going into the deep timber, they may have a little better luck tracking what little sign the couple had discovered. While the Texans decided to try the area below the Mabel Mine, the O’s decided to head to lower elevation. After returning to their Casita tired from the days hunt, Uriah washed up in the creek while Rajni cooked a nice dinner then they soon went to sleep.
They awoke to the sound of raindrops pattering on the rooftop. Today, they will not make the 3.5 mile drive up the rugged 4 wheel drive road as Uriah thinks it is too much wear and tear on the vehicle. Instead they will head over Molinas Pass past Durango and try out their luck in a different area near the Peidra River. After coffee mediation they stopped again at Silverton’s welcome center to fill up their water, dump sewage and check their email. The people there verified what he had been thinking about the scarcity of elk. The conditions of the tundra being burned up in the spring from the drought then the consistent rain from June through August drove the animals to lower elevations. They also confirmed his observation that the Aspens are normally peaking at the ides of September had not begun to change. One can speculate that this is a result of climate change or it could just be a glitch in the normal weather patterns. With all the rain they’ve had on the Western slope although not flooded, Rajni believed the Peidra Hot Springs would be washed out and suggested they go to Trimble for the day instead. Uriah agreed and they enjoyed a wonderful relaxing day off from hunting soaking, reading, making love, and enjoying a nice meal out in Durango. Now that’s the way to go hunting, she muses.
Before leaving Durango, they stopped to get their tire fixed as it had a slow leak after all. Uriah chatted with some of the guys there whom shared that their friends had got an elk up on First Notch Rd which was on the way to where they were headed, this gave him some hope. Once in they were well in the National Forest, they stopped at the trailhead of the Peidra Hotspings to have lunch and check out the area. The parking lot and entire area was immaculate free of trash to Uriah’s joy confirming his prejudice that he believed was due to the fact that no Mexicans or Native Americans had visited or camped there for quite some time. After lunch they continue down to the end of the road. They were grateful and amazed at how well maintained the road was. At the end of the road was another camp of hunters and a few other cars. Uriah conducted his usual chitty chatting with everyone he met to get a sense of the area but most of the folks he talked with were hikers, rafters and neighbors and not fellow hunters. However, they all believed that there were elk in the area. The O’s set out by afternoon down the muddy trail that paralled the Peidra River to scope out the area. After a short ½ mile or so, Sargent Uriah directs his humble and obedient wife straight up the side of the mountain. He wanted to get up high to get a better view of the area. The steep slope presented an even more challenging endeavor than just than just the extreme elevation gain, as post forest fire made the ground unstable and extremely slippery. It was often necessary to grab onto a tree for stabilization only to get blackened from the burnt trunks. Rajni was lightheaded and hip strained from the climb. Once at the top, she learned that they had climbed 2,000 ft in less than a mile, so no wonder it felt so strenuous! Uriah pointed out the numerous fresh track at the top of the ridge, however contemplated that killing an animal here would entail a herculean task to get it out. The hope is that the wiley Elk will come lower. To Uriah this country is splendid with old growth ponderosa pine and mountain oak. Ponderosa have bark that is resistant to fire and the forest tends to be more open with huge trees. The smell is heavenly. A storm was approaching from the west with dark clouds and thunder. Uriah was unconcerned, more intent on finding sign as they move cross country slanting back towards camp. Rajni however was not in the same mode and pushed for a rapid descent back to the Casita. She knew from experience that not only was it dangerous descending on the unstable slippery ground but it had begun to lightening and a mountaintop is not a safe place to be in a lightening storm. Her intuition was well founded and eventually abided. The two tired hunters barely made it back before a deluge of rain and a lightning strike next to the Casita. No further evening hunt was attempted therefore what better plan than an evening of reading and cozy cuddling.
Spared of rain, Uriah got up before dawn for the morning hunt. After the harrowing previous day, Rajni decided to sleep in. He sat in a meadow just 100 yards above the Casita in a beautiful grassy meadow. Uriah loves this aspect of hunting, the prospect of an ambush. Sitting motionless making yourself invisible either in the darkness before dawn or as the evening shadows stretch themselves into darkness are magical moments. He never ceases to be amazed at the bounty of life and activity during these moments. On this occasion a skunk literally walked right up to him and then past without even noticing his presence. On another occasion a squirrel ran right up his leg and over his face! He returned to his sleeping wife and made the morning coffee, life was still good for the O’s. By late morning, they had packed a lunch and set out again on another exploratory hike. This time he promised to stay on the trail so the terrain would not be as rugged. The sun was shining and they indeed started the hike on a muddy trail. It was a gradual and pleasant climb through a beautiful spruce and pine forest sprinkled with several grassy meadows and meandering streams, perfect elk habitat. After a while, they did brake away from the main trail to criss cross through the forest following game trails when seen. They stopped for lunch and an afternoon nap and romp in the yummy sunshine. Nothing like several days of rain to enhance the blessing of the suns’ rays.
With no fresh signs or sounds they made their way slowly back to their vehicle to move once again to a more promising area. More than one person had mentioned Peidra Road was a good bet above the Williams Lake area. They made it to just past Pagosa Springs when it got dark and had to pull over as they cannot operate the headlights with the trailer brakes hooked up, the one setback with their dependable Ford Ranger truck they’ve named “Verde”. They park at the edge of a subdivision just off Peidra road. Rajni whipes up a wonderful dinner, while Uriah read for a bit. After dinner they attempt to watch a movie but soon ran out of power and just decided to go to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, maybe around 3am they awoke to a high pitched squealing sound. It was hideous and forced them to get up to try and figure out what was causing such a hellacious sound. The refrigerator was off, so they assumed it had something to do with the battery being too low, so Uriah got out and hooked up to Verde to give them a charge. Still the sound would not cease, but it did seem to lessen. They did their best to go back to sleep amidst the noise and caught a few more hours. It wasn’t long before they could not take it and had to get up. They both racked their brains trying to figure out what could be causing such a sound. Uriah even reasoned that it may have something to do with being parked under a power line and was about to move the Casita. He opened the cupboard where the sound was coming from one last time, pulled out a few baskets to give himself plenty of room for observation when he noticed that the sound moved with the basket. Low and behold he picked up this battery operated clock that Rajni had purchased at a McGuckin Hardware sale years ago and the culprit of the mysterious noise! Out came the old battery and at last they could finally rest in peace now that the horrid sound had stopped.
Regardless of the nights interruption, they still enjoyed their morning coffee meditation and down the road they head. It was a surprise to learn that they were only a mere 100 yards to the entrance of the National Forest! This new area was quite spectacular, neither of them had been before and were shocked at how beautiful it was. The large expanse of deep green pastures contrasted by the jagged Weminuche Wilderness area was breathtaking.
As they crossed the Peidra River again and now back in Uriah’s legal hunting area, they stopped to talk to a woman walking up the road. As it turned out her husband was a bow hunter and recently killed his first elk after years of trying the area. She gave them some more detailed info and suggested we speak more to Lloyd at the country store up the road. They did just that and he pointed out a promising area which was just SW of the Williams Lake area. The O’s drove another 10 or so miles up the Moska Rd, looking for a good place to set up camp. There was plenty of other hunting parties along the road but they did find a spot that seemed very ideal. After brunch they took a nice exploratory hike of the surrounding area to find a good sitting spot. Once again they enjoyed the second sunny day of their entire hunting trip. The hiking was not too steep and the aspens and ferns were beautiful. Rajni marveled at how they were now in a completely new ecosystem and was amazed by the diversity of the San Juan Mountains. Throughout the enjoyable afternoon they did not see or hear any elk, but did see sign of bear.
Enjoying hiking together, picnicking, sunning when it comes out and making love in the aspen groves has blurred Uriah’s focus. His hunting methods have become “unsound”, giving credence to the normal tradition of not bringing women on the hunt as they can be a great distraction. They headed back to camp so that Uriah could get some warmer clothes for the evening sit while Rajni stayed back at the Casita relaxing and writing. When her computers’ battery power got too low she shut it down and went out below where they were camped to watch and listen by the stream. When it was close to full dusk she thought she heard a thump. She eventually headed back to the Casita and learned that it was only Uriah back from his evening sit. With no luck once again, they settled for some leftovers, reading and sleep.
Uriah headed up to his sitting spot, a meadow just above the dirt road at dawn as Rajni enjoyed a little more sleep. She was so relieved to learn that she was not required to get up before dawn with Uriah to sit and wait for the elk every morning. Although she knows this is a special time to be awake she has become very comfortable in the cozy warmth of their bed and rationalizes that she is keeping it warm for his return when they will enjoy their morning coffee ritual. Indeed, when he returned and made the coffee he slipped back in the warm bed for a little meditation and conversation. No elk sign nor sound, but they determine to continue enjoying their experience and not be discouraged. After all time is running out and it could be disheartening, but Uriah is not one to give in to that sort of emotion. Instead they enjoy their usual marital bliss in the cozy Casita followed by a 13-mile drive to the end of the road. When all else fails, ROAD HUNT! Along the way, they saw many other hunter camps, a good sign that they are in a productive area. Most are from out of State, places such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Arkansas, North Carolina and of course Texas. These out of state hunters pay a premium price for their license. Few people know that the Department of Wildlife in Colorado is operated completely by the sale of hunting licenses and not one tax dollar. The hunters do willingly and pay for culling the herds that cannot be done naturally since we as a people have killed all the natural predators i.e. grizzly bears, wolves and such. You would think the DOW would be more helpful to the hunters, but instead the sight of a game warden is stressful since they are only out to break your balls on some infraction or another of the numerous rules and regulations. One thing they have come to realize however is that most all the other hunters have horses. It appears that they are needed to get in farther into the forest to where the elk must have migrated. As the rain was currently not coming down, they took another afternoon hike from this higher elevation spot. Along an old logging road they hiked only a ½ mile or so until the sat down to survey the area. While they watched and waited for sounds or signs, Rajni asked Uriah to share some of his old hunting stories. He shared one about he and his son killing their first elk and of the time they baited and tried to hunt a bear. Enjoying the moment and the beauty of the mountains made the lack of actual elk finding go down a little easier. Back at the Casita before dusk, Uriah gathers his belongings and heads back up to his spot while Rajni reads for a bit then prepares dinner. Once again he returns with no news but they enjoy their last evening in the hunting ground.
Last chance to kill an elk, but first you must actually find them. Uriah gets up and sits before dawn and once again has no such luck. On the way back he runs into another hunter, a fellow from Loveland with two horses as his companion. As it begins to pour he slips into the horse trailer for some more visitin’. Meanwhile Rajni had noticed it was getting late and at the sight of his orange had started the coffee. Thirty minutes later she was enjoying her café alone reading her book when he finally meandered back to the Casita. They pack it up and head out, still watching along the road as they leave. Stopping only once just before leaving the National Forest and the hunting grounds so Uriah could shoot out his gunpowder from his weapon. They stand on one side of the Peidra River above a deep and narrow canyon, too steep in fact to make Rajni not want to look over the edge. He is appalled that it took three caps to ignite the powder, showing that even if he had a shot the gun it may not have fired due to damp powder or any number of reasons, hunting with archaic weapons has its challenges.
Back on the muddy and slick road they made their way out of National Forest uneventfully gaining only a layer of mud coating their Casita. The drive over Wolf Creek Pass was a little nail biting with three inches of hail and several areas of rockslides covering half the road. Rajni silently chants and prays as Uriah expertly navigates the obstacles and treacherous road conditions.
They both felt relieved to make it to Valley View Hot Springs before dark. This Hot Springs is a favorite of the O’s with its splendid views and natural surroundings. It is a clothing optional facility and its long history patronized by those that are open and unashamed have made it a mecca of bliss and tranquility. Lately however, the natural inclination of people to want to develop things and “make them better” have incurred costs that in turn have been passed along to the consumer, increasing the admission price exorbitantly. This has changed the clientele in Uriah’s opinion by economics alone along with the plethora of rules. The hippie, bohemian, granola, spiritual blend has given way to retired, well to do and european customers. This is the way of things, change. Still Uriah finds this place a wonderful peaceful and restorative haven. Although the hunt was unsuccessful as far as bringing back some elk meat to share with friends and family, the trip was a true success overall. Rajni believes she does not need to hunt to enjoy the out of doors and will probably not repeat this experience. The perpetual newlyweds continue to appreciate and enjoy their lives living on the road and creating the “Casita Chronicles” adventures.