Briefly Fleeing the Dog Days

by admin | July 25, 2013 4:33 pm

NORTH OF COLORADO SPRINGS — A fine mist is sweeping through the ponderosa pines and quaking aspens on this late July morning just after sunrise. I sit outside under a pole barn, watching a pair of geese named Precious and Snow White pecking the ground inside their pen. Yesterday we fed them our watermelon rinds from the slices served us each morning by the proprietor of the bed-and-breakfast where we are staying. Both the geese, a Rhode Island Red named Ethel, and an aged Golden Retriever who goes by Scootie Patootie eagerly chowed down on the rinds. It was a revelation to know both fowl and an old dog would be so fond of watermelon rind.

I consider going back upstairs to get my windbreaker out of my suitcase, but I don’t want to wake my Beautiful Mystery Companion. Then I think about how luxurious it is to actually need a windbreaker in late July and shiver with delight. It will be short-lived respite from the heat, but we will enjoy every minute of it. Fleeing from the dog days of an East Texas summer is an annual goal of ours.

Yesterday was hot for this area at 93 degrees, but though we sweated while hiking through the Garden of the Gods, all one had to do was stand in the shade to get relief. That is the difference between summer heat with zero humidity at 6,000 feet and summer in the Piney Woods. And I have yet to see a mosquito.

The thinner air at this altitude takes getting used to; natives advise drinking lots of water. We rode the famed cog railway a few days ago up to the summit of Pike’s Peak, which at 14,110 feet marks the highest altitude I’ve reached. The air there was thin enough that — even though I delude myself into thinking I am reasonably fit — I found myself gulping for more oxygen, heart racing and light-headed. At about that time, a pair of cyclists arrived, having pedaled their way up the mountain. Talk about feeling one’s age. My BMC, daughter and I all agreed we are happy to say we took the train to the top of Pike’s Peak — and there is no need to repeat the performance.

I mentioned Garden of the Gods. This now nearly 1400-acre city park contains breathtaking sandstone rock formations formed millions of years ago ( In 1879, rancher Charles Perkins bought 480 acres of land containing the rock formations. When he died in 1909, his family gave it to the city of Colorado Springs under the provision it would forever remain a free city park. The generosity of that gift, and the fact that the city has kept that promise and even expanded upon it, is a great American story.

We are staying on Black Forest Road, near where fires raced through this area a little more than a month ago. The Black Forest fire destroyed 486 homes and caused more than $120 million in damage. Along the road heading to the B&B hang banners proclaiming, “God Bless Our Firefighters.”  The proprietress where we are staying has paid for a banner as well. She was forced to evacuate for two days during the week of fires from the log house built 30 years ago. She has now converted it into a B&B, added several other cabins, a lodge where weddings and receptions are held nearly every weekend, and the pole barn under which I’m taking shelter from the mist. Being originally from Los Angeles, she has wisely culled trees away from the buildings to lessen the danger of losing them to fire. Many of her neighbors down the roads in Black Forest were not so fortunate. Already, she tells us, many of those who lost homes have begun clearing and preparing to rebuild. We see some of the devastation while driving to town, a ridge now blackened, a few homesites leveled, other homes spared though the trees around them are blackened.

Wildfires are the constant danger here and in much of the West where homes have been built well into the forest leading up into the Front Range.  Along the Gulf Coast, hurricanes are the danger. In East Texas, we worry about tornadoes and flooding in some parts. Every region has its natural hazards, I suppose.


A thunderstorm came through later in the day, dropping more rain. Fire danger is fairly low now. Around sunset I walk back outside to take a bag of trash to the B&B’s dumpster. A doe is grazing nearby and eyes me warily, but she doesn’t bolt even though I’m only 50 feet away. The other day we saw a deer nibbling a rose bush in the front yard of a subdivision in Colorado Springs. Out here in the country, there’s more foliage to offer.

The doe kindly let me snap a cell phone photo before slowly ambling off. I took a deep breath of the cool mountain air and went back inside to enjoy a final night of sleeping with open windows and no air-conditioning.

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