Recently we drove to Estes Park, Colorado, up steep and winding South St. Vrain Canyon, along the white waters of the river of the same name. A few miles from town, we parked near a dirt road and started walking, soon coming to the entrance of the H Bar G Ranch. There are several old ranches in Estes Park, some still working and all in gorgeous settings, but H Bar G is special, with spectacular views of the Front Range and Longs Peak. Mostly abandoned now, the grounds and a few of the fifteen or so cabins are still maintained. Once a lodge, a dude ranch, and a youth hostel, it exudes a sense of peace; you can almost feel the pleasure guests must have felt when they came here for the first time. The land slopes up toward what was originally a hotel. The cabins are spread around, not too close to one another; most have inviting porches and a couple are secluded in shade-giving trees. A dairy provided some of the food for visitors; there are barns, outbuildings, and farm equipment, whose current state of disrepair seems both sad and charming. We always enjoy passing through, peeking in windows, climbing on old machines, wishing we could stay a week or two. On a previous visit, we sat on worn Adirondack chairs and imagined what this must have been like. We smiled at the curious juxtaposition of a crumbling tennis court and a basketball hoop with a brand new net.
Beyond the main grounds, we passed through two old wooden gates and hiked along a trail between thickets of pine and aspen. The aspen’s intensely green leaves quivered in the warm breeze, their September death rattle three months distant. Wildflowers were in bloom everywhere, in gullies, on rocks, among the trees. We stopped to smell the bark of a ponderosa pine, which, especially in summer heat, emits a pleasing vanilla scent. A nearby grove of ponderosa perfumed the air.
After a downhill trek, we came upon the large open meadow that was our destination, and gasped. Verdant and tall grasses enveloped an astonishing profusion of flowers—mountain bluebells, primrose, larkspur, wild rose and iris. A rainbow’s spectrum of colors greeted our eyes. We sat on some large rocks, had lunch, and took in the show. Grass rolled across the meadow in waves, an army commanded by the wind. On the horizon, enormous craggy blocks of stone, some snow-covered, rose toward the pinnacles that formed the mountains’ tops. Puffy cumulus clouds dotted the pure-blue sky. The scene struck so perfect a note that it was almost painful to think of leaving it. But we knew there were more wonders to see.
We hiked contentedly a couple more hours, barely noticing that the white clouds had given way to gray and the blue sky had disappeared. Thunder sounded, and by the time we reached our car it was raining. On the drive home, the temperature dropped twenty degrees, and hail pelted down so hard I thought the windshield might crack. But the storm, the lightning, and the compelling darkness enveloping us were an added bonus to a wondrous day.
Hikes like this are therapeutic. We had just experienced two weeks of anxiety waiting for medical test results. The news was good, but the stress lingered. Getting out in open spaces, hearing natural sounds, and seeing the wonderful wildflowers, cleansed us. Life once again seem full of possibilities.