A week ago my pup and I hiked up to one of our favorite spots high in the forest above Santa Fe.
Take one of the major thoroughfares, then turn off onto a well-used ‘unofficial’ trail; after a ways cross a meadow; make your way through the far evergreen grove and eventually you’ll find another, hidden, meadow. Cross that to the rise on the far side and you’ll find our favorite perch. There’s a decent view there of the surrounding ridge-lines peeking over the treetops, and on some days if we sit just right we can see the plains of the high desert reaching from the outskirts of Santa Fe to the distant blue outline of the Ortiz Mountains.
About this same time last year when we were perched up here painting….
We were just packing up when we heard voices. It’s kind of fun because our perch is really only a few dozen yards from the trail, so we frequently hear hikers, though they are unaware that they have accidental eavesdroppers. In this case it was a man and a woman who seemed to be making there way across the first meadow.
Suddenly I panicked, speculating that they might be searching for a sunny spot for a romantic tryst, soon to be interrupted by my pup and me.
Moments later, after their voices and language became more distinct, did I realize a romantic tryst was definitely not on their agenda. Rather, now I was worried that they might kill each other, with me bearing witness. For they were yelling and calling each other the most unspeakable obscenities all the while hunting for mushrooms. The vitriol shouted back and forth through the forest was enough to discolor my painting. So much for solitude.
I let out a piercing whistle.
I whistled again, even louder.
Then the woman’s voice, a tone of questioning worry, called out, “Hello?”
“Just letting you know you’re not alone up here!”
All was quiet….for less than two minutes, when the battery of shouting insults and expletives reignited.
My Pup and I cut a wide swath around the yelling so as not to encounter them, though their shouts carried through the forest a good ways.
Soon a pair of Australian Shepherd-ish mutts ran up to us and moments later their green-eyed owner appeared — Johnny Depp’s twin brother, I feel sure. Clothed in a way that said gypsy, he was armed with two Trader Joe’s sacks plump with foraged mushrooms.
“Are you with the Love Birds?” I asked, their obscenities reverberating off the trees.
“Unbelievable, eh? Well here’s hoping they shut-up soon, and you’re able to enjoy some solitude and peace up here.”
“No kidding. Thanks! Peace to you, too.”
A year has rolled on since our encounter with the Angry Couple, and mushroom season is upon us again. I expected—hoped—to see some when we returned to our perch a week ago.
But there were none that I could see.
Then Sunday — just a couple days ago — on a different trail, I almost tripped on autumn.
Back to our perch this morning, where I’d hoped to find—now a week later—our small meadow dotted with the spangled red domes of Amanitas as it was last year. But no red appeared, save a swag of paintbrush here and there.
We settled onto our perch. Last week we sat in the sun, with me facing the eastern ridge-line and sunshine. After a few minutes The Pup was panting in the heat, I had to rig a sun shelter for her with my pack and rain jacket.
This time, we sat in shade — easier on The Pup, as well as my eyes as I try to decipher color. After a few minutes of sitting still though, The Pup got up to move into the sun, and I noted with some surprise a definite autumnal chill to the breeze. I pulled my wool sweater out of my pack, the first time all season.
An hour later with clouds building we made our way back down our path, stopping briefly to converse with frustrated mushroom hunters:
“The rains have come late this season. Maybe that’s why there are none.”
“Maybe they’re just delayed, as the rains were. ‘Hope so, anyway…”
Later, back home and on toward dinner time, I turned on my phone after several hours of being ‘unplugged.’ It buzzed — a text from a friend who works near the plaza; he’d sent it 45 minutes earlier: Look up on the peak!
I couldn’t image that whatever he’d seen — maybe a rainbow? a unique cloud formation? — was still there. But it was time for our late afternoon walk, so we’d scope it out from the park.
There, peeking up over the city was….
On Santa Fe Baldy!
16 August 2016.
I never imagined when I felt in the high forest a chill breeze this morning, that it was not autumn in the wind, but rather winter.
I hope the mushrooms don’t mind.