Posted by: highmountainmuse | September 1, 2009

A day off… and up

The view back towards Ditch Camp and beyond, from the top of the Rio Grande Pyramid

The view back towards Ditch Camp and beyond, from the top of the Rio Grande Pyramid

Ah, the importance of work. But what fun, a day off!

Yes, I confess.  We took a full day off of work last week. Had to do it at ditch camp.  You know how it is.  If we had been home at the ranch, we’d have found things to do.  Work would have stared us in the face and followed in our footsteps.  You have to get away to get off the hook, so to say.

It wasn’t a relaxing day off.  Sitting on a porch watching the day go by has never been for me.  We had to ride our horses from camp to tree line, and then climb the Rio Grande Pyramid, which stands high and mighty looming over our big back yard at an elevation of over 13,800 feet.

I don’t know what was more remarkable:  the three of taking a full day off, or the three of us climbing to the top of the highest peak around.  I suppose the former.  The latter, as Bob said, was still easier than a day of ditch digging.

Peak Bagging is a popular hobby here in Colorado with a long list of mountains over 14,000 feet elevation awaiting the challenge of ascension.  The Pyramid comes in just under 14,000, therefore isn’t the attraction and destination of many of the slightly higher peaks.  As an added bonus, this means no crowds. We didn’t see another human all day. 

This mountain is not just a destination on a map, or a name on a list that needs to be checked off.  It is the mountain which appears before us every day, which shadows over us, reining over the headwaters of the Rio Grande in all directions around us.  It is the mountain which has called and beckoned us, teased and taunted us, tempted us to take a day off and try her on for size.

I wonder why we humans are so obsessed at conquering peaks?  Perhaps it is the explorer within us. And yet it’s all been tackled already, hasn’t it? But if we stare at something long enough, in due time, we need to be there.  Alas, the top of our highest mountain called us. 

The boys looking back towards the ranch

The boys looking back towards the ranch

Well, that mountain was magnificent. The ability to see, in all directions, to look down upon the mountains that we have ridden up on horseback over the past eight summers… to put our world in perspective. 

Climbing her rocky slope, at times she seemed larger than life. And at first view, taking in the panorama before us as we stood and soaked in the spectacle from the top, it seemed overwhelming.  But then, we start to break it down and make sense of it all. In each direction we looked, we could say, “yes, we were there…”  And suddenly what was once so large became somehow more intimate, more known, safer, almost touchable.

We returned to camp late than evening, horseback in the dark, and sat by the fire savoring a can of soup.  Simplicity.  The three of us around the glow of the fire, the horses turned out to the open pasture of the high country for the night, sharing the mountain with the deer, the elk, the moose, the coyote… You could look up from where we sat, and in the soft silver light of the waxing moon, see the silhouette of the mighty mountain, so close she somehow felt.

So small it now seems, our little neck of the woods.  And in a good way.  We have a greater sense of perspective having seen the bigger picture. The mountain, well, she’s a little less aloof.  A little more understanding. We know her just a little more.

The Rio Grande Pyramid, I don't tire of gazing at her from our work along the ditch

The Rio Grande Pyramid, I don't tire of gazing at her from our work along the ditch



  1. When i lived closer to the mountains a day off was a trip to the hills .My favorite spot was a old fire watch cabin my grand father built for the forest dept in the 30s .He packed every board and nail in by pack train .He must have done a good jod its still there and is a historical site . The forest servive restored it .It dosent get many visitors because the las 10 miles is nothing but a trail .You can see it from the highway across a canyon that seems like looking across the grand canyon .Driving then hiking and staying the night i always thouhgt about how it was just my grand father his horses an d tools and a job to do .I could live with that even now . Like your mountain it was a wonderful place .Im glad its still there im going to go there again soon . i retired on the 28th .But it will take a couple months to sell off and make what i want to keep fit a small trailer .Mostly tools .You never know when i will see you prabably next year

  2. Beautiful…

  3. Way to go guys! That sounds like a perfect day off! And the view from the top, well, there’s nothing to say…

  4. It is not the end of the journey that is important, but the journey itself. So glad you took the journey with your boys. One of my favorite memories is my trip to the Pyramid. Two of my three children have also made the trip. It is sort of like a rite of passage for our family.

  5. WOW Gin, Ya finally did it. You have fullfilled one of my dreams. Being on top of what you look at everyday at camp. The Pyramid has some kind of mystical pull that makes you want to embrace it’s magic. Congrats.
    Have you heard from Grill Chicken?

  6. Mom was right. Climbing the Pyramid and seeing those amazing views was one of my favorite Colorado memories.

  7. Ellen, your big back yard, too!
    Did you really do it all in one day, from the trailhead?

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