ya' dig?

 People often talk about lives passing before their eyes in the bracing moment of realization just ahead of a car accident or some other well-this-is-it event.  I'm pretty convinced that all of that playing back of life actually occurs after the fact as adrenaline races its way through the bloodstream and reminds you that "hey, that was one of those times" that just such a thing is supposed to have happened.

As I was rolling ass over end on the descent from Green Mountain on the Ranger Trail just above Boulder earlier this week, the only thing that flashed in front of me was a lot of dirt, too many rocks for a comfortable landing and a fleeting glance at some sparse trees and the valley below.  I may have also, for a microsecond, caught sight of one Sean McCoy who is developing a nasty habit of getting himself a good look at me falling over, puking or wandering out into the world without my pants on (a very different story, I assure you).

I'd taken a serious digger in my attempt to chase down our pack leader, Jon Webb, as he flexed his mountain-living muscle and left us other two stragglers behind.

Just a few short hours later, I'd be on a plane home.  Daddy went to Boulder and all I got was this lousy collection of cuts, scrapes and bruises. 

Maybe that wasn't all I got.

As is always the case, I also managed to collect another precious fistful of memories and the cache of good vibes that is time spent with friends up, up above the fray.

On Monday, I'd risen from bed ahead of my 4:30 AM alarm, hoping that the not quite 3 hours of sleep I'd eked out on the heels of my flight's delayed arrival at Denver International Airport the night before would be enough to get me through the day.

My sense is that the active folks of Boulder are up and at it pretty early, but not so early that I saw another soul as I climbed in the rental car and invested the twenty minutes required to drive up Canyon Boulevard to the hamlet of Nederland and gain another 3,000 feet more altitude on what my lowland lungs are accustomed.

There I met Jonathan who had me follow him a few more miles to the Hessie Trailhead just beyond the ski-style shanties of Eldora.  At roughly 9,000 feet, the thin air immediately shamed me for my recent complaining about the heat and humidity back at my home base of just over 400 feet.  It may have been a little light on oxygen, but the air sure tasted good.  There were a few cars parked at the trailhead, a trailhead I was informed was a buzzy-busy one on weekends, but we had the place to ourselves at that hour of the morning.

It had rained overnight and during a couple of preceding days, adding extra moisture to the snow melt from storms that had continued dumping wintry weather into late April and even earliest May.  Jonathan and I played catch up on life and our kids with just a word or two of work.  Mostly, we just soaked up the beauty of a misty morning in the mountains.  A mule deer doe and fawn lifted heads as we passed but otherwise paid no mind.  Crows and magpies went about morning chores, likely wondering what all the huffing and puffing from the bearded guy was all about.

My guide pointed out numerous trailheads and referenced peaks both near and distant, many of which, unfortunately, couldn't be made out in the lingering fog.  The wildflowers were abundant and beautiful in spite of their colors being muted by the low light.  We crossed over the swollen creek a time or two on handy footbridges before having to choose a spot to fjord back across the thundering cascade to reach the return trail.

As I stepped into the frigid water to follow Jonathan to the far side, I discovered that I'd punched a small hole in my left shin while clumsily climbing over a downed pine tree.  It would be just the first of many scrapes, as things turned out, and I paid it little mind.

After a leisurely five or six miles, we said reluctant goodbyes and made our separate ways back to civilization, both certain we'd picked the right way to start our days.

That night after a full day's worth of product line reviews and business discussions, I slept fantastically, nurtured by exhaustion, a comfortable bed and an incredible dinner at The Kitchen (http://thekitchencommunity.com/the-kitchen-boulder/).

Morning found me refreshed and again awake ahead of the alarm.  My friend and chauffeur, Jon, pulled up in front of the hotel at 5:45 AM to find me grinning over a cup of coffee.  Minutes later we pulled into the lot at Chautauqua Park as first light was creeping over the Flatirons, the five iconic sandstone landmarks that perch just west of town.

The Flatirons inhabit the east slope of Green Mountain which we would be ascending via the Gregory Canyon and E.M. Greenman trails before bombing down Ranger and returning to Chautauqua.   There would be no bombing (or falling) down, of course, until we'd navigated the 3.5 miles and 2,400 feet of gain to get to the top of Green.

Before leaving the parking lot, we chatted briefly with mountain stalwarts Peter Bakwin and Buzz Burrell on their way to scramble directly up the first Flatiron (in the photo above, the first is the prominent slab furthest to the right/North with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Flatties trailing off to the left/South).  Just after Buzz and Peter left, we were joined by Sean who had made an early drive up from Denver to take part in the festivities.

Jon made the ascent look easy right from the start while Sean and I, um, didn't.  We did, however, keep on chipping away, running when we were able and power hiking when we weren't.  Compared to the prior morning, the trails were bustling with activity but there was a kindred spirit among runners and day hikers alike that made for great camaraderie.

As our group swapped stories I couldn't help but reflect upon life's fascinating intersections and my unlikely meeting of Jon a few years ago in Escalante, Utah and, separately, Sean in Cortez, Colorado in the Spring of last year.  In revisiting those introductions, I was reminded that it was while running with Sean during the fourth stage of TransRockies last August that we chanced upon Jonathan and all spent several miles together which had, of course, led to my reconnecting with him just the day before.

Any little diversion from the path that I'd followed both personally and professionally would likely have kept me from ever knowing any of these now good friends and to have met them in the first place, much less to have shared the experiences that we have since then, should not to be taken lightly.  As Jon, Sean and I tackled Green Mountain together, I took a moment to be thankful for, to marvel at, to praise the gifts of friendship.

Not that doing so made it any easier for my altitude-challenged lungs to function.  As usual, however, the body came around and the summit was reached with slow but steady progress.  We soaked in our surroundings, the warmth of the morning sun and were soon joined by Peter and Buzz who had made quick work of the First.  Their effort made our approach seem rather pedestrian, but my body assured me that we'd done work too.

We took one last look north and west toward the parade of mountain tops that spreads out for a hundred miles beyond, called out in detail on the peak-finder that inhabits the summit of Green.  I'd been somewhere out there yesterday, though I was too geographically challenged to say exactly where.

Not too much later, I was airborne with Sean as my witness.  The fall and subsequent tuck and roll hurt, make no mistake about that, but I was too enthralled with racing down the mountain with my friends to do anything more than get immediately back on my feet and resume the so-damn-fun pace that Jon was setting...that and knowing that it was in my best interest to just keep going as opposed to really getting a good visual on the damage done and giving my body a chance to stiffen in response.

The visual confirmation, the stiffening, that would come later in the day and, unfortunately, in the days that have followed.  But for a little while longer, that could wait.

I would wear the evidence of that lousy digger with pride, a badge of honor for having spent time in my favorite of ways with some of my favorite people on the planet.

Ya 'dig?

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