To the south of Gunnison sits a mountain. It rises above all the sage covered hills, the scattered stands of quakies and dark timber. Looking south it seems that every wash, every creek eventually leads to this huge mound of rock. It isn’t super close to town, nor does it appear to have the sort of majesty that would make it well known. Instead Sawtooth sits just far enough away that so few know it is there at all. I like to go and visit this place as often as I can. It calms my fiery heart, soothes my restless spirit. I often camp along it’s shoulders, listening to the wind blow wonderful words, hear the tinkle of tiny creeks letting me know it will all be fine, give it time.
I have come to call the mountain Grandfather. To me it sits with such quiet dignity, not absorbed in the glory of the day, instead; timeless, removed, handsome and reassuring. It does not need to be known. It does not need to be on a list, to be pursued, it is not extreme, it just is. Sitting high enough to look down with a watchful eye on our little town, it is also like the wizard of Gunny. Mighty, powerful, yet silent.
This morning I was off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Gunny. My plan was not the lingering camping trip, but doing it on the quick. Ride to Soldier’s Park, hike up to the top and run/hike back to the bike, ride home. I somehow got SamJ to come along. The morning starts cold and crisp, but not painfully so. The ride up out of town is steady and long, with a few steep bursts of climbing keeping the blood pumping and the body warm. After 19 miles it is time to hide the bikes and start hiking. The sky is solid blue, not a cloud to be seen. The aspens are glowing gold, yellow, orange and red, there is some variable snow cover on north aspects and in shady spots. The contrast is spectacular, it is simply an amazing day.
We push pretty good for the top. We hang out and eat, take in the distant ring of mountains in every direction. The view is something else atop Sawtooth. At 12,147′ it isn’t that tall of a mountain, yet with so few other mountains close by it sits in a sea of low sage hills, rolling aspens glowing with color, mixed with dark timber, wave after wave of ridgelines extending out in all directions. Lone, solitary, massive. The sun is warm but the wind is cool as we make our way off the peak, off the ridge and into the warm shelter of the golden grass filled valley. After 5 miles of slipping on melted snow, hopping from rock to rock, gaping at the wonderful colors, we get back to the bikes and switch shoes. Soaking up the warm afternoon sun, knowing this moment in time will not last long. Fall is such a tenuous time, so drop dead gorgeous, yet so temporary. Soon the trees will shed their leaves, the air will be too cold for exposed skin, this very place much farther away. Today, right now, it feels so good!
Riding back to town is fast and fun, warm enough to feel like I have stolen another day back from summer. These days are fading and sometimes it is so hard to let go of the freedom that long sunny days bring. The experience of today, to feel the pure love of what I was doing, to think, feel, want nothing more than to see what was around the next corner. The exhilaration of being surrounded miles and miles of wildness, yet feeling calm, safe and at home. Makes whatever comes next, ok, whatever s%^t happens, doable. Most wild places can make me feel like this, but going to visit Grandfather makes it sink deep down inside. Thanks Universe, thank you!