Marshall Pass

I heard John speak about Marshall Pass for 50 years, and we actually drove through it! In 1880 a toll road was put there to cross the Rockies. Subsequently, a narrow gauge railroad was built on it. Of course, that’s why John talked about it. In 1948 (when I was six years old) there were 48 people living there, and it had the smallest post office in the US. The rails were pulled up in 1955.

It was 19 degrees when we left Gunnison, and John wasn’t at all sure we would make it all the way over the mountain. He set a rule for himself, that he would turn around if the driving seemed dangerous. I took one photo from the car to show the mountains near Gunnison. I hesitate to say anything critical, but some of the Colorado mountains were ugly. These were brownish and bare, as if big boulders were pushed up and scraped off. Somebody forgot the thin layer of earth and hardy grass.

102815 (1) Some CO mtns are ugly
Naked mountains

We turned off the highway and soon came to a sign pointing to the Pass. An animal was beside the road — a porcupine. I jumped out of the car and took a series of pictures as the porcupine climbed upwards. We talked about how some of the needles on his back matched the surrounding grass. I kept one shot. I knew that animal was in the picture, but I could not find him on the screen, no matter which way I looked. Evidently we could see him only because he was moving.

Where is the porcupine?
Where is the porcupine?

Before long we came to real snow on the road. There were tire tracks, so someone had been there before us. John felt he had to say we should turn around, but I knew how much he longed to see that historic sight up on the mountain. It was a joint decision to continue.

Snow on the gravel road
Snow on the gravel road

We made it! John agreed to pose with the sign, and I was thrilled for one other reason. It was the continental divide. Rain falling on one side would go to the Pacific Ocean and on the other side to the Mississippi River. The sign says the Atlantic Ocean, but I think that is a stretch. It would go into the Gulf of Mexico, which I don’t really think of as the Atlantic Ocean. A child might color it that way, but I wouldn’t. We often see posts in our NC mountains about the continental divide, that being the point where water would flow to the Atlantic or the Mississippi River.

John at Marshall Pass
John at Marshall Pass

As we went down the other side of the mountain, we saw the majestic, snow-capped mountains that one expects in the Rockies. An added bonus was a lake, high in the mountains, with a tiny little boat and a tiny little man in it. Actually, I couldn’t see the person, but the boat was moving.

Mountain lake with tiny boat
Mountain lake with tiny boat

We came to another place where there was snow on the road, this time with no other tire tracks. Going back was unthinkable at that point. Soon we reached other graveled roads and a highway. We had lunch beside the Arkansas River where we could see men in kayaks practicing going through gates. We were in Salida, a former railroad town. I took a photo of an interesting bench made of metal, a log, and boulders. We also liked an old radiator made into a bicycle rack.

Our stop for the night was Buena Vista. John made sure I was able to use the computer before he set out to explore a small road that matched one on the other side of the mountain. I don’t think they ever broke through there. From our motel window, we could see snow on the mountains in the distance. There were two framed pictures over our beds, about five feet square, of mountain scenes. By day or by night, we were guaranteed to see mountains.

I am Sorry, Son

A public blooper deserves a public apology. I blew my son’s cover without thinking, and I am very sorry.

Walking early in the morning, I met the dog walkers in the area. It was through dogs that I met Lee, Les, John O, Autumn, and Marla. Yesterday John O accepted my spur of the moment invitation to have coffee on the porch. He had already shared his knowledge of carpenter bees with me, and I wanted him to meet the family. Son John $ arrived, Nathaniel sauntered out, and husband John returned from cardiac rehab. When John O met everyone, he commented it was like having a three-holer with three Johns there. I knew $ would love to talk to John O, because they share an interest in hiking, local history, feelings for Indians, and compassion for people displaced from Cataloochee. The conversation never lagged while I kept my mouth shut. We didn’t realize how much time went by until John’s wife drove around looking for him. At our age, it’s understandable that a wife might think her husband had dropped dead if he didn’t come home at a reasonable time. I should apologize to her while I’m at it.

This morning John O was out with terrier Hank. He said he really enjoyed the family yesterday, especially $. He said, “I’m always polite to people I meet, but I really enjoy locals like your son. He knows so much about the area.”

Before I could stop it, my mouth began to flap. I said, “John $ was born and raised in New York.”

“Really?” John O said. “You could have fooled me. He has the local accent down pat.”

I was stunned, both at my blowing $’s cover and finding that I don’t notice when my son is speaking like a New Yorker or a mountain man. I hope $ will be pleased to know that to an outsider, he belongs to this area.

Café —  For the first time, someone from J Creek Café greeted me. She was the waitress having a smoke break outside and had seen me many times as I walked past. I was delighted to talk to her. She has worked at the café for 18 years. Before she told me where she grew up, I had her pegged as having a Piedmont accent. I was right! She grew up in Lincolnton, and her mother still lives there. I asked if she knew the Ramsuer family, but she didn’t. She opens the café two days a week and loves living in Fines Creek and working here. When I mentioned this happening to neighbor Shawn, she said the woman’s name is Dana. If you live here long enough, you eat at the café and know the staff.

Mystery Seeds

I wave to everyone who passes me when I walk, but rarely does anyone ever speak to me. This morning I was walking by the service station/general store/café when a man came toward me. He smiled and said something about morning exercise. He held out his hand, obviously wanting me to take what was hidden there. He told me what kind of seeds they were, and I made him repeat it twice. I could not hold onto the name to save my life. His thick mountain accent didn’t help, especially when he began to explain what to do with them.

What I understood him to say was, “Take off the little bits sticking out. Use fishing line to string them together to make a necklace.”

081315 Mystery seeds

As I was thanking him, he held out his hand to shake mine and sauntered off. I would love to have snared him with questions, wanting to learn more about him. Perhaps he has seen me often, since I’ve been walking there a full year now. I wonder if I’ll recognize him if I see him again.

If anyone can identify the seeds, please tell me what they are.

Beware of Tractors

It was good to be walking in the mountains again, even if they were shrouded in mist until I got home. Perhaps because I couldn’t see far, I noticed a road sign that has probably been in place the whole year we’ve lived here. How could I have failed to giggle at it all that time? The sign was there in plain sight a short way from the creek. The stylized picture of a farm tractor couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. If we had those in Tennessee when I was growing up, I never noticed them. I assumed most people in our rural area would always be watching for tractors on the road. We had more than tractors. From time to time herds of cows were driven through the town! Now that I have seen the tractor sign here, I will redouble my efforts at spotting them.

I would like to ask if anyone else sees “beware of tractor” signs.

073015 Tractor sign