On the Trail: Hurtful change
August 6, 2006
I trespassed yesterday. Zack the lovable pit bull and I ducked under a chain with signs that say keep out, and walked a mile or so down what used to be the railroad tracks along the Roaring Fork River between Carbondale and Emma.I write “used to” because the tracks are gone and the railroad bed has been graded in preparation for a new trail. The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad is about to become the Rio Grande bike path.It’ll be a kick-ass trail. But it hurts to see the change that’s coming. For years and years a handful of adventurous downvalley residents have had it all to themselves. There are places where people lit fires and drank beer next to the river and under the stars. There are places where a deer or two, or a coyote or three were slaughtered every winter, prey to a beast (maybe a mountain lion or a wolf) greater and more powerful than they. There are birds, including the occasional heron or hawk, perched all aroundOnce the trail goes in, that’ll be the end of that. All the adventure, all that “Stand By Me” energy will be gone, replaced by a strip of pavement.Zack and I – accompanied by whichever woman was in our lives at the time – have been venturing upstream along the tracks for almost five years. We have a swimming hole a little more than a mile upstream. Not many people are willing to walk a mile, so we usually had it all to ourselves. Many summer nights I sat dripping on a log over the water with a warm breeze in my face. The sun would set, and Zack and I would hustle back to the car.Yesterday’s walk might be the last I take to the old swimming hole with Zack. He’s on the downhill side of 11, meaning he’s in his mid-70s in dog years. Instead of running ahead all the way to our favorite spot, Zack walked behind me the entire way. Each step was obviously painful. It hurt. But we were both glad to be there. And we stuck around longer than usual before leaving that special place that used to be.