Hiker Gone Rogue – Hunting In Pagosa Country (last cont.)
Day Five. Leaving the house early, it was a 45-minute drive to the pull-over I wanted to stop. This was my third choice of where I considered the elk would be found in the midst of rifle season. Alone, and armed only with a camera, the frozen grass shared my foot prints with anyone who would choose to follow.
Blackness pressed against my face giving me nowhere to focus. The air was crisp with a queasy stillness that comes from the cycle and pattern of pre-dawn. Knowing this path well, I picked my route gingerly up through the meadow, amongst the ponderosa and through the gate that was a mile-plus from where I’d parked. A few yards further and a wide view of the gulch could be seen if it were light. I backed myself to a tree pulling my orange blend of acrylic and polyester hat further over my ears and the black neck gaiter up to my nose. Clad in gloves I stuffed those into the pocket of my puffball jacket. After resituating the orange vest that had somehow become tangled in the getting comfortable moment, I paused to reacquaint myself with the sound of silence.
Last night, one of the final quotes I read before falling to sleep was from Carl Sagan. He said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Wholly believing in the healing power of nature I closed my eyes in reflection of all the beauty and grandeur I’ve had the privilege to experience in my years of backpacking. With hunting season in full gallop here in Pagosa Springs and having had the pleasure to observe the emotion of those who are doing the hunting, I understand that they have in fact explored their own passion, their own desire to be outside and this is where they find their connection. And, like any outdoor enthusiast, I appreciate that longing.
I feel the hairs in my nose grow brittle and that sends a rush of masochistic invigoration to my brain. I open my eyes expecting to see a few glimmers of light but instead reach out in the continued darkness. Time passes as I wait.
Many are at home already juggling getting lunches made, kids off to school and meat out of the freezer for tonight’s dinner. Rummaging for keys and locking doors they’ve not yet made a moment to peek outside to see the day unfold.
As first light beckons, a stellar jay flits to my left causing the piney branch to swing and drop one of its rusty needles. The slightest of movement catches my attention to the right. Bedded down, about fifty yards down and away sits a bull elk, head held high, neck hefty with the weight of his antlers. I watched with nary a breath having learned earlier this week that I simply have the benefit of no wind in my favor.
It is only for a few moments that I witness the unfolding of his legs from beneath his body while he stands to full height. He peers about eventually turning his head fully to my direction and I swear we make a connection, me of admiration and him of appreciation. And, with that, he bounds away in the direction of denser foliage.
Likewise, I unwind my body from the protection of the tree and head back on the pathway I’d walked many hours before. For me, it was time to go home, to hang my orange hat and vest and end my first hunting season.
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