Paul E. Anna: High Points | AspenTimes.com

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

As I was driving up my winding, snow-covered road last night (under billions and billions of sparkling stars I might add), I came around a corner and caught, in my headlights, an enormous elk buck.

He was grazing on a bush that protruded through the snow a bit and, as the light shined upon him, he nonchalantly raised his head and glanced in my direction revealing a rack with too many points to count. I stopped the car, dimmed my brights and just sat there watching him in awe.

Each morning when I wake up in my humble little abode atop a mountain, I look out the window for critters. My black Labrador has generally already scoped the vista for movement but occasionally I’ll get the first sighting of something moving in the snow-covered brush. It might be a rabbit or a coyote or a deer or occasionally it is a whole herd of elk. It is always a eureka moment when I spy them, and I always feel like I have had a visit from a friend.

One of the great things about living out here in the wilds is that we share our community with animals. It makes me feel like I live a life that is connected a bit with nature though I know that my presence actually is intruding upon their natural habitat. It is I, not they, who is the visitor.

The note in the paper about the mountain lion that was killed when it was struck by a car on Highway 82 last week brought that thought home vividly. A few weeks before, my wife and I, on that same winding road driving home under those same starry skies, caught sight of a mountain lion loping up the road. It was as magnificent as the aforementioned elk – strong, pure, golden. While we were a little freaked out to know that a big cat was living in the neighborhood, we still felt blessed to have seen him, or her, and it was cool to know that we lived amongst the wild things.

When I read of the accident, and the previous collision between another lion in the same spot a few months earlier, I couldn’t help but think that something special had been destroyed at the hands of man. That this was, for thousands of years, the domain of the elk, the big cats, the coyotes, and now they have to find holes in fences to simply survive a stroll.

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The night before Thanksgiving – you remember, that night when the temps dropped into the minus teens – a small cadre of elk chose to burrow into the snow not more than 20 yards from my back door to spend the frigid night. I can only surmise that my home gave off some heat that they used to weather the weather.

When I saw the remnants of their crash pad for the night I was glad to have helped out. They were great guests.