The Wilderness Hunter

exploring colorado in all seasons

Evans’ Old Goats

I woke up the day before my birthday like any other day, but I was reading Outdoor Photographer magazine and in the back pages of the magazine are advertisements for various guided photo excursions. I like to glance at them and the locales they offer, mostly wishing I had the funds to take off on one of these, also to see if there are any local photographers subtly giving away their spots. One caught my eye; “Colorado Mountain Goats at 14,000 feet!” Bingo. The rest of the ad proceeded to indicate the destination was Mount Evans, where, as the locals would know, the goats are almost tame enough to eat out of your hand. Inspiration hit me like a freight train, and I had to go. As a kid, my Mom and Dad and I spent a lot of time both on Mount Evans proper and the surrounding area, but I didn’t ever recall going all the way to the summit, which you can drive to. The fact the road leads to the top makes it a big touristy destination, the only other 14er that you can drive to the top of is Pike’s Peak. Things on Evans had changed a LOT since the 1980’s, namely the fact one now has to pay to drive CO HWY 5, the highest paved road in North America,

to the top of a 14,000 foot Colorado mountain. Okay, so it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea for the US Forest Service to charge a couple bucks per car to help maintain the road. So I swallowed my sentimentality and put away my old man comments like “I remember when..” and forked out the cash and started driving. The amount of  traffic for a Thorsday was off putting, but once again, I dealt with it and drove to Summit Lake where I had fished with my Dad and my Grandad years ago. There used to only be a flatish dirt spot to park and an old stone shelter with a dirt floor. The shelter was meant to be a refuge from the harsh storms that blow suddenly across the mountains at that altitude. I have a memory of one such occasion when I was just a pup. On a June day Mom and Dad and I drove up for a day in the mountains with our dog Tisha, mostly sunny kind of day, stopping to look at the mountain goats and  have a picnic at Summit Lake. Though once we got to Summit Lake the summer turned winter and we were in the driving snow with jackets, hats and gloves on. Back to the present, Summit Lake now has a proper divided parking lot, pit toilet facilities, triangular lodge pole fences complete with ‘stay off the tundra’ signs that are regularly ignored. The old stone shelter still there, the flatish dirt spot was now much larger and filled with shiny late model SUVs and the like. It’s things like these that pain me deep down. It seems that, like the old stone shelter, gone are the days when only the hardy, well prepared types headed to the mountains. The people I saw there could have been easily picked up off that mountain and dropped into a park in downtown Denver. Or maybe it happened the other way around. On the other hand, what could I expect on a mountain one could drive to the top of? Now seeing an urbanite strolling around the top of North Maroon Peak or El Diente, two other 14ers that require skills above the ability to walk, would probably drive me in to a deep insanity. I digress once more. I found a spot to park just a ways down from the summit and started rock hopping to the top of the ridge, where I could look down on Summit Lake, and Chicago Lakes and Creek, Abyss Lake, Mount Bierstadt and the Sawtooth, the jagged ridge that connects Evans and Bierstadt. I found my spot, well away from the throngs of people flocking to the very summit of the mountain and sat fo

r a while watching as a flock of Ravens soared between to rocky perches. And after sitting Zen-like for what seemed a day and a half, I headed down before the tourists saw the dark clouds forming to the west and the mass exodus began. On the way down I finally got some shots of the Old Goats I had come here to see in the first place. Watching them sit on the rocks of a sheer drop, Zen-like without a care that the people were stumbling over each other to get closer with point and shoot cameras and cell phones, I felt a great deep connection with the goats. It was then I remembered that Mom always said I was part Mountain Goat.


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