I found another trail last night. I waited til the lightning and the hail were over before I ventured out to the field where, if I squinted, I could kind of make out a little path that takes off through the meadow and into the aspen trees. I found a way down the hill and across the creek (on an old, broken 2 x12--so someone else had the same idea, once upon a time). And yes, it was a trail.
My favorite thing in the world--a new-to-me trail. I meandered and grinned and smelled the wet ground smell as my legs got rain-slapped by tall grass. I saw no evidence of recent bikeage--or even recent hikage. This little path was overgrown, but beneath the tall grass was a way someone used to use to get from here to there. This is the magic of the old trails around here, and there are lots of them.
Caribou is a special place. There are sacred Arapaho ruins just a walk from where I live, and very nearby are the remains of what was once a thriving mining town. There are some trails on which I only walk. They feel so special that rolling over them on a mountain bike would be disrespectful. I don't give them names, and I don't want to know what other people call them.
There's a lot of riding in this Nederland area, and most of these places feel....recreational. Beautiful, fun, wild, even. But I haven't been to many places that feel as special as Caribou. The past has really lingered here. I live in a ghost town.
So last night, as I rode through meadow and flowers and crossed the creek three more times and finally ended up at the remains of a cabin, I thought about who used this trail before me. I know it wasn't some group ride, just off the 5:40 bus from Boulder (not that there's anything wrong with that). Maybe it was the light. It was that just-after-an-evening-thunderstorm sepia and I was all melancholy for a past that's not even mine. There was also a rainbow. And then, as I was turning around to head back home, on the ground next to my bike was a perfect, six-point elk antler.
I find at least one of these antler sheds every summer. I always find them when I've stopped to look at something far away, or to (usually the case) try to figure out where I've gotten myself to, and how to get back to where I need to be. It is at these moments that I look down, and there will be the antler, and I will all of a sudden be perfectly placed.
I always think of it as a gift--because I'm spiritual like that. I think of a big ol' bull elk shaking his great head until this antler falls off (and then I think about how funny he must have looked walking around with only one antler), and I look around and take in the world as he was taking it in, and then I bring it home and stack it on the pile with the other antlers on the shelf that was my grandmother's.
I like to think that the elk was watching me as I carried what was once part of him, home. I especially hope he was watching when the tip his antler got caught between my fork and my spoke just as I came down the steep hill that ends in a creek crossing.