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Take a hike, buster

Andrew Harley
Vail Daily/Andrew HarleyBighorn Creek runs under an uprooted tree Wednesday in East Vail.
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VAIL – I visited New York with a friend of mine in the middle of January, a couple years ago.

We were escaping the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the neurotic grasp of Vincent Van Gogh, when this guy who looked like a bum – I later found out that he was a writer; God bless him – came sprinting down the southside hill toward us with a Saks Fith Avenue shopping bag full of paintings.

When he reached us he stopped, stumbled forward – drunk – and proceeded to sit down on a park bench.

He said nothing, and quickly hid the bag of paintings in his coat.

All three of us watched silently as a man and his young son played catch with a rubber baseball nearby.

The man had slippery fingers and, when the ball squirted away toward me, the bum bolted out of his seat and yelled, “Double play!”

So, I charged the ball like a shortstop, flipped it behind my back to my friend, who winged it at the man with, perhaps, too much heat on it.

The man ducked. I pulled the hat over my eyes as the ball bounced into Fifth Avenue traffic.

“Hey! Ya screwed it up, ya twit,” the bum screamed.

The young boy’s lower lip began to quiver.

“Take a hike. Would ya, buster,” the man retorted.

But, it was the man and his boy, who walked away first.

Like that father in Central Park, I took my own advice Wednesday, and escaped the office for a hike on Bighorn Creek trail in East Vail.

Choose your own adventure

With so many trails, and so little time before Jack Frost subdues the fall colors, a hike must be chosen carefully.

The first half-mile of Bighorn Creek runs at an ascension angle that causes one to wonder whether rock-climbing gear might have been necessary.

After the first half-mile, the trail flattens considerably, and rolls along a valley.

In July and the beginning of August, Bighorn Creek is infested with nearly eighty species of wildflowers.

Most of the wildflowers have faded, but the dense aspens – whose leaves have begun to yellow – and floor of lush ferns have turned the hike from a summery flight through a Julie Andrews film, into a short quest through the forests surrounding Frodo’s Shire.

The trail has been relatively vacant lately – perhaps due to the construction on Columbine Road – so, don’t be ashamed of making animal noises, sounding your “barbaric yawp,” singing the entire songlist of the “Sound of Music” or whatever it is that you like to do when you’re alone in the wilderness.

Where are they now?

I don’t know if I’ve been on a trail with more engraved trees.

It seemed like a quarter of the aspens lining the singletrack bore the scars of some John Hancock or Romeo and Juliet.

Some of them were dated as far back as 1961, and I couldn’t help but wonder what “Bert” (1969) or Mr. “Kiahtipe” are up to these days.

Does “Suz” stand for Suzy? If so, does Suzy still respond to the nickname “Suz?”

And, how about “Chid,” who visited Ghost Ranch, N.M., and wrote his name next to the cave high in the walls of Box Canyon? Does “Chid” realize someone recently changed his name to read “Chode?”

These questions don’t plague me, as much as they inspire me to create fictions.

As for the writer and his bag of paintings, I watched the news for the next few weeks, but never saw anything about a theft at the Met.

Andrew Harley can be contacted at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at aharley@vaildaily.com.


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