Friday, November 17, 2006

Golden Aspens

Friday November 17 2006

Aspens are not your friends.

Beautiful and shimmery, green in the spring, golden, fiery yellow or orange in the fall, they demand adulation from a distance, or from close-up – but not too close. They are exquisite but untouchable; they are aloof. Nature is friend of the aspens, but not man. No hugging of these trees! No picnicking under these trees unless you’re a bear! If you must hike through an aspen stand, woe to you! You’d better be wearing Kevlar or Mithril because the aspens are often guarded by wild rosebushes that grab and tear at you and rip your hiking pants and stab and scratch your skin. Favorite trick is for an aspen branch on sloping ground to trip you up so that you reach out scrambling for balance and grab onto a rosebush for balance.

If you still insist on hiking through an aspen stand, if the rose bushes do not get you, some of the aspens themselves might. They can grow dense as a jungle and low as bushes, and if you can squeeze through the intense growth, they will snarl and snag you and trip you up and eventually become impassable.

This particular aspen canyon we walked through on an old jeep road for an archy survey was known as Quaking Aspen Canyon. It was not known as Welcome-Humans Canyon. The aspens had lost their leaves and looked dead (and still aloof), but they still had their own nature thing going on.

We intruding humans disturbed a red tailed hawk out a tree, a covey of quail, an injured hawk who was fluttering and running on the ground, and limping-crashing-flying to get away from us. Some other birds I couldn’t identify were squawking warning calls.

Plenty of bear sign in this aspen-bear playground – climbing claw marks on many of the trees and piles of poo from bear picnics. We got to a fence at the end of this old road which we crossed to try to see a little further up-canyon, but the rosebushes clawed at us, the downed aspens tripped us up, and concealed wire grabbed at us.

Time to retreat, tail between our legs, and leave this Quaking Aspen canyon to itself.

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