We spent 8 days in the Rocky Mountains last week in a place called Sunlight Basin. I still carry the wonder of the rock giants that guard the lush valley and burbling mountain creek in my soul.
“Mountain Majesty” are two words that not only go beautifully together in the song, America The Beautiful, but also fully describe my feelings whenever I see a mountain. Gigantic, longstanding, awesome, peaceful, and awe-inspiring also fill my thoughts.
To a flat-lander, a first encounter of this area may be a shock. My husband and I first pulled our camper off Chief Joseph Highway (a picturesque road that takes one to great heights before dropping into the valley via multiple switchbacks) onto Sunlight Road six years ago. As the gravel road led us through ranch land lush with grass and protected by log fences, we wondered how wild it would really be. As the road narrowed in places to one lane, climbed to new heights with steep banks right next to the camper, led around sharp bends, and pine trees and aspen closed in, we began to fear it would be too wild! We pulled into a campsite by the creek.
Later, our mountain savvy son-in-law informed us we should have driven further! So this year, on our third trip there, we drove 15 miles into the basin, settling our campers on the previous site of a Sulfur Mining Camp. (The old outhouse—not useable anymore, is still there.)
But oh, the peace: of hearing water washing a stony creek bed as it hurried out of the mountains; the lack of man-made odors in the sweet, fresh air; the ever-changing scenery in mammoth mountains with their razor sharp peaks that gave birth to clouds and afternoon showers, wrapped themselves in ribbons of fog at times, or glowed in the golden haze of evening sunsets.
And the wildlife, some visible, some not, but their presence known by their calls, tracks and scat. Two in our party saw a black wolf, two years ago we saw four wolves together. All of us saw moose, deer and squirrels. Night Hawks competed with Bank Swallows in the evening sky, swooping to clear the air of bugs. A young jay or hawk cried vigorously for hours to remind a parent to feed it. Multiple other bird calls filled the air. Binoculars identified Rocky Mountain Sheep and Mountain Goats near the summits.
An occasional huge bug helicoptered into our campfire area, just to see what we were up to. Smoke baptized us as mountain breezes swirled it around in generous amounts to everyone gathered around the rock fire ring. Ambience was no problem!
We ate like kings—some beans to remember the early trappers and cowboys, but also steak cooked over a wood fire, shrimp boiled in beer, tacos, hamburgers, brats and early morning flapjacks, eggs, bacon and hashbrowns. We rode our four-wheelers through creeks reluctant to let us through which soaked our feet with snow-cooled water. We marveled at an old gold mine that had heavy machinery still in place—how in the world did it get there, probably close to a hundred years ago, up a mountain covered in vegetation, trees and rocks?
In short, we melded present and past in another mountain top experience for me, out of reach of cell service, internet service and the corner store. Awe, sweet bliss.