Requiem at TwilightAll was strikingly calm. I meditated about my life and the life given for my family table as I washed after dressing my elk. Did the elk rollick as a calf in the same pond where I return some of his blood? What were his courting days like? His children? His joys, hardships and misery? Will I be granted such a graceful and beautiful wilderness cathedral requiem? (My wife has promised to sneak around the Forest Service so that my ashes will nourish the meadow - a highly insignificant gift for all I was given during a lifetime of hunting.)Requiem: A Mass, hymn, music or service of remembrance for the dead. Latin roots: “requiess” –“ re” – “quies” (“Rest In Peace”) Night of the BansheesBoiling black clouds appeared to the north-west in late afternoon. I briefly went back to camp and made sure all things were stowed, secure and tightened the tent guy lines. I returned to my stand, but knew my prey had sensed the approaching storm well before clouds appeared. They would be hunkered down in deep timber until the storm ended. Isolation roared in with the night gale. I had prepared for a superb night of reading, dreaming, slumbering and reminiscing as the beginning of a four-day snowstorm cradled-rocked my comfortable tent. I rejoiced at the pelting snow, wailing winds, the creaking and groaning trees, and the snapping of the tent fabric. I was totally rich, wondering what the ignorant, uninitiated to the wonderful backcountry, wealthy people in Denver were doing. I didn’t care. Many had more money, but I had riches galore. One was a previous noisy night on a mountain top when I was totally content and feeling secure. I knew this night would add to my ledger of happiness. What a bright warm morning greeted me! Banshee: Gaelic folklore phantom which is a lost soul the shrieking outside the door when there is death in a family.Hunter note: Please see my article on “infrasounds” and you will underatand how elk can hear approaching storms well ahead of their arrival.Approaching Eternity:The Hunters’ Full Moon began to set over a cold-blue meadow of sparkling, feathery, ice crystallized grass. Two Dali-like forms slowly took shape and leisurely ambled out into the emerging light. One will meet eternity – and I will have to make the tough decision of who will live and who will die. I am always reverent of my prey, realizing some unknown day I too will be visited by the hunter of all life. May he too have mercy and let me quickly enter my eternityA Well Earned SandwichMy wife has been my resolute hunting buddy for fifty years. A true no-frills outdoors person, she never asked for more than the adventures - the more, the better. Guess the reason for the smile on her face. Was it because of her relaxing after we dressed her elk? Or was it because her “old man” finally relented after thirty years and made her the first hot lunch of instant pea soup and a grilled hot sandwich?Last Men OutIn 2010 four days of snow turned our wilderness into a gorgeous but difficult terrain. Forty plus inches fell and was wind-smoothed over the high country meadows and drifted into timber. Thoughtful nearby hard core hunters checked on me the soloist. On the fourth day, we concluded elk would probably not return because the deep snow would settle, crust over and make grazing impossible. (Twelve to fourteen inches of snow generally makes elk permanently move to lower elevations.)Snow fell from a cold, moody sky as each camp folded. More snow clouds appeared on the horizon. When the sun peeked out of cloud holes, it was surrounded by rainbow ice crystal halos. The outfitter had pulled out his camps, so there would be no horsepower rescue options. We decided to join forces to drag out camps together on plastic toboggans. Snow-shoed Curt (photo) came over to pull one of my toboggans across a long meadow to the trailhead.The high winds had drifted snow to a level plain. With all the years of experience I erred. Dumb Kopf me thought the exceedingly fine weather before opening would continue, so I left the snowshoes in the truck. The hidden logs and holes made the normal ten-minute trek across a major meadow into an hour and twenty-minute ordeal. In the photo, I stumble to my knees into a low and wonder if it could it possibly be a deep elk wallow? Well, I can always dream of a next year’s wallow-filled hunt, can’t I? If you are not a dreamer, you have learned to become too serious in old age!The hike out was strenuous, but yet strangely very exhilarating – still another new life adventure. The lead man got a storm-lingering bull along the trail. I got a valley cow. Remaining hunkered down meant my cardiologist got stood up for an appointment: she later saw the evening TV news report and wondered if I was one of the many missing hunters (perhaps for good?). Friend Rick survived spending the four days in his camper shell with seven lost guys. That sounded like hell when I was in Heaven. Then it was done - - - the Flat Tops Wilderness was sealed for the winter. We could only imagine the beauty to come in a paradise of snow, wind, utter quiet and void of all summer’s living things.
Requiem at TwilightAllwasstrikinglycalm.Imeditatedaboutmylifeand thelifegivenformyfamilytableasIwashedafter dressingmyelk.Didtheelkrollickasacalfinthe samepondwhereIreturnsomeofhisblood?What werehiscourtingdayslike?Hischildren?Hisjoys, hardshipsandmisery?WillIbegrantedsucha gracefulandbeautifulwildernesscathedralrequiem? (MywifehaspromisedtosneakaroundtheForest Servicesothatmyasheswillnourishthemeadow-a highlyinsignificantgiftforallIwasgivenduringa lifetime of hunting.)Requiem:AMass,hymn,musicorserviceof remembranceforthedead.Latinroots:“requiess”–“ re” – “quies” (“Rest In Peace”) Night of the BansheesBoilingblackcloudsappearedtothenorth-westinlateafternoon.Ibrieflywentbackto campandmadesureallthingswerestowed, secureandtightenedthetentguylines.I returnedtomystand,butknewmypreyhad sensedtheapproachingstormwellbefore cloudsappeared.Theywouldbehunkered down in deep timber until the storm ended. Isolationroaredinwiththenightgale.Ihad preparedforasuperbnightofreading, dreaming,slumberingandreminiscingasthe beginningofafour-daysnowstormcradled-rockedmycomfortabletent.Irejoicedatthe peltingsnow,wailingwinds,thecreakingand groaningtrees,andthesnappingofthetent fabric.Iwastotallyrich,wonderingwhatthe ignorant,uninitiatedtothewonderful backcountry,wealthypeopleinDenverwere doing.Ididn’tcare.Manyhadmoremoney, butIhadrichesgalore.Onewasaprevious noisynightonamountaintopwhenIwas totallycontentandfeelingsecure.Iknewthis nightwouldaddtomyledgerofhappiness. What a bright warm morning greeted me! Banshee:Gaelicfolklorephantomwhichisa lostsoultheshriekingoutsidethedoorwhen there is death in a family.Hunternote:Pleaseseemyarticleon “infrasounds”andyouwillunderatandhow elkcanhearapproachingstormswellahead of their arrival.Approaching Eternity:The Hunters’ Full Moon began to set over a cold-blue meadow of sparkling, feathery, ice crystallized grass. Two Dali-like forms slowly took shape and leisurely ambled out into the emerging light. One will meet eternity – and I will have to make the tough decision of who will live and who will die. I am always reverent of my prey, realizing some unknown day I too will be visited by thehunter of all life. May he too have mercy and let me quickly enter my eternityA Well Earned SandwichMywifehasbeenmyresolutehuntingbuddy forfiftyyears.Atrueno-frillsoutdoors person,sheneveraskedformorethanthe adventures-themore,thebetter.Guessthe reasonforthesmileonherface.Wasit becauseofherrelaxingafterwedressedher elk?Orwasitbecauseher“oldman”finally relentedafterthirtyyearsandmadeherthe firsthotlunchofinstantpeasoupanda grilled hot sandwich?Last Men OutIn2010fourdaysofsnowturnedour wildernessintoagorgeousbutdifficult terrain.Fortyplusinchesfellandwaswind-smoothedoverthehighcountrymeadows anddriftedintotimber.Thoughtfulnearby hardcorehunterscheckedonmethesoloist. Onthefourthday,weconcludedelkwould probablynotreturnbecausethedeepsnow wouldsettle,crustoverandmakegrazing impossible.(Twelvetofourteeninchesof snowgenerallymakeselkpermanently move tolower elevations.)Snowfellfromacold,moodyskyaseach campfolded.Moresnowcloudsappearedon thehorizon.Whenthesunpeekedoutof cloudholes,itwassurroundedbyrainbowice crystalhalos.Theoutfitterhadpulledouthis camps,sotherewouldbenohorsepower rescueoptions.Wedecidedtojoinforcesto dragoutcampstogetheronplastic toboggans.Snow-shoedCurt(photo)came overtopulloneofmy toboggansacrossa long meadow to the trailhead.Thehighwindshaddriftedsnowtoalevel plain.WithalltheyearsofexperienceIerred. DumbKopfmethoughttheexceedinglyfine weatherbeforeopeningwouldcontinue,soI leftthesnowshoesinthetruck.Thehidden logsandholesmadethenormalten-minute trekacrossamajormeadowintoanhourand twenty-minuteordeal.Inthephoto,Istumble tomykneesintoalowandwonderifitcould itpossiblybeadeepelkwallow?Well,Ican alwaysdreamofanextyear’swallow-filled hunt,can’tI?Ifyouarenotadreamer,you havelearnedtobecometooseriousinold age!Thehikeoutwasstrenuous,butyetstrangely veryexhilarating–stillanothernewlife adventure.Theleadmangotastorm-lingeringbullalongthetrail.Igotavalleycow. Remaininghunkereddownmeantmy cardiologistgotstoodupforanappointment: shelatersawtheeveningTVnewsreportand wonderedifIwasoneofthemanymissing hunters(perhapsforgood?).FriendRick survivedspendingthefourdaysinhiscamper shellwithsevenlostguys.Thatsoundedlike hell when I was in Heaven. Thenitwasdone---theFlatTops Wildernesswassealedforthewinter.We couldonlyimaginethebeautytocomeina paradiseofsnow,wind,utterquietandvoid of all summer’s living things.