Tony Vagneur: If not a reality, this pretty parcel sure makes for a nice dream | AspenTimes.com

Tony Vagneur: If not a reality, this pretty parcel sure makes for a nice dream

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

Do you know where we’re going?” she asked, as we drifted down a dirt road I hadn’t traveled for at least 20 years. “Uh, no, I don’t, although I thought I did in the beginning.”

“You sounded a little hesitant on the phone, so thought I’d better check to see if you really wanted to continue on with this,” she offered. “Hell, keep going,” I said, settling back in my seat, eager for whatever surprise lay ahead.

With the exception of 50 yards of asphalt, we traveled on winding dirt roads, still sticky from the last rain, looking for the turn-off she wanted. Found at last, we continued driving, from a rather smooth surface to one scattered with water-filled potholes, the wide-open spaces on either side eventually narrowing a bit with the introduction of a barbed-wire fence on the right. And we kept driving, very slowly, navigating unfamiliar terrain, with quiet anticipation in our hearts.

There it was at last, kinda like we’d arrived at the bountiful, impossible mirage normally just out of reach on a very hot desert plain. Only it was welcoming cool, surrounded in green, droplets still fresh on the grass from the last drizzle.

It was the kind of place where maybe you go when you die, a veritable heaven that you’re standing in, without familiar reference, a place that begs for your creative spirit, using the palette God left for you, but no, not yet. There’s nothing to do but soak it all in. Does such a place really exist within our reach?

We’d just missed the last bear that had wandered through, making tracks through grass so tall it would be almost impossible, without a practiced eye, to see him again if he backtracked for some reason. It’s clearly deer and berry country — a place well-suited for the ursine world. Keep your doors closed.

A quiver of arrows hung along the entryway to a small, 120-year-old refurbished cabin, ready when needed. The quiver was made from tanned coyote hide, the head still on. It’s old, my god, it’s an old way of living that is so incredibly near, but almost impossible to touch.

If you looked east, there was Independence Pass, and if you looked west, the view was almost endless, maybe Grand Junction was down there somewhere, and we weren’t even at the highest point. And as good as the vista was, it wasn’t necessarily any better than the nearer surroundings, including the cabin. Or the much larger log house that could serve as the centerpiece of this unique place.

To the northwest, high up above us, maybe half a mile away, silhouetted against the now-azure sky, was a promontory of immense proportion, a huge piece of rock and earth jutting out over the valley. If it was in South Dakota, someone would be trying to build a national monument out of it, honoring Native Americans. Oh no, I didn’t ask, and there was no need — without a doubt, there was a hideout up there, perhaps a couple of them. Was it forbidden to humans? Maybe, and a shiver went up my spine.

Sloping gently toward the beginning of the monolith, far off, and going over the other side, was a park, an open, gentle meadow, deep in emerald color, not a bare spot in sight. Surely a time-worn trail skirted the edge, leading horsemen toward the fold of earth and sky, old men of skill riding swift ponies to their final destiny in the land of beyond.

Ah, a very special place that has held my attention for days. If I was a young man, or even in my 50s, maybe even my 60s, I’d let my deep, natural instincts loose and grab not only the physicality of it, but the essence of the wonder it exudes. To me, there was something so deep-seated, so natural about it all, an outpost containing simplicity, intrinsically unforgettable.

The winters might be brutal, an added attraction to my way of thinking, although daily trips to Aspen Mountain would likely be out of the question. There are undoubtedly a million cross-country trails waiting for the first winter storms, just outside the cabin door.

If you haven’t guessed, this extraordinary place is for sale, likely attractive to a young person or couple looking for the rustic life away from glamor gulch. Maybe your interest has been piqued by my description, and if so, contact me. I’ll put you in touch. If not, just put it in your bag of dreams.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.


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