Mountain Passages: Changes Are Coming…

Changes Are Coming

By Alan Stark


I’ve been getting some cosmic hints lately that say, “It’s time for some changes.” These hints are coincident if taken individually but cumulatively—a blood test, some rain, a Feathercraft K2, and coyotes howling—all four got my attention.

These events all happened between September 9th and 13th 2013. Given 9/11 and toss in a Friday the 13th, and the cosmically in-tune might have been looking for a place to hunker down. Not me, 9/11 is my best friend Blue Eye’s birthday and not an annual reminder of how much of our personal freedom we have given up to fear. As to Friday the 13th, it’s sort of like Mercury in retrograde—who cares, but then I’m cosmically challenged.

Since my second senior year at school, I’ve been good about getting an annual physical every 18 month after I run out of excuses.

I greet my Doc David, who notes that my blood pressure was 160/75. “Sorta high” he says.

“White Coat Syndrome” I tell him for the 31st time.

“Sure.” he says, but I don’t have a white coat.”

“You are still a Doc.”

David notes an irregularity in the blood work “that bears watching.” And then does his frowny face that means some sort of fear-inducing lecture is coming. He listens to my heart and lungs, pokes around my gut, flexes major joints, checks reflexes and requests that I bend over. It’s routine. But even though I run trails year round, he mentions I should lose some weight.

“Sure thing David, see you in 18 months.”

“Alan, it more than that. You have to hear what I’m saying. Your blood sugar is 118, that’s pre-diabetic.”

 “Whoa! Say what?”

He tells me signs, symptoms and long-term prognosis. Then he wants to know how much I drink.

I mention a cocktail before dinner, maybe two.

“Too much,” he says, “Try one beer or a glass of wine or just cut out alcohol.”

Lucky for me I didn’t mention that they were doubles.

Could be I need to lose some weight and stop drinking.

Sometime in the future if someone starts to blather-on about 100-year floods and their statistical unlikelihood I’ll remind them of September 11th thru the 13th in the Front Range when we got a year’s worth of rain in three days.

When Blue Eyes and I showed her Dad our new Boulder house with the irrigation ditch on a bank in the back yard, I could literally see his photo-3face drop. He’s a native and he knew what was coming. I, of course, didn’t.

On the night of September 11th the rain came down so hard it roared and woke us up.

“Maybe we should check-out the basement,” she said.

I was tempted to say, “You think?” but thought better of it.

We were flooded with three inches of water backed up from the storm sewer. But we were lucky beyond words. To the west of us, the water came over the bank of the ditch, blew out a neighbor’s basement windows and left six feet of ditch muck.

To the east, the water again came over the bank, down the cul de sac and blasted the basements of two other neighbors. Good bet is that there is $250K in damage to those three houses.

The water receded and we ripped out the carpet, padding and tack strips and hauled everything outside including a bed and cartons of soggy stuff in cardboard boxes and canvas bags.

We were taking a break and Blue Eyes said, “You think we could live in a smaller house?

“With the basement trashed, that’s what we have upstairs.”

“No, I mean sell this house and get a smaller house.”
“With no basement?”


Could be we need to find a smaller house.

Three years ago I bought a used Feathercraft K2, a collapsible expedition sea kayak. It took me two hours to assemble the first photo-5time, not much less the second and third times I used it. And that was it. The boat bags sat in the basement. It was just too much trouble to assemble. After the flood I had to drag two soggy boat bags outside to dry out.

The boat is maybe 15 years old and has been on a good number of trips. There are two patches in the bottom. The red deck is faded and the frame pieces scared but all functioning. Once assembled in my garage I just stared at the boat and fell in love it all over again. It has superb lines for sea kayak and the engineering is amazing.

But with my reintroduction to my boat came the epiphany that there was a reason the boat was in the basement mostly unused. The last time I loaded up a truck with a sea kayak (my single), drove three hard days (including an overnight ferry ride) to the west coast of Vancouver Island and spent some time off shore was eight years ago.

I loved the adventure but haven’t been sea kayaking on an ocean since. It’s a huge amount of work to coordinate food and equipment, set schedules, plan routes accounting for prevailing winds, currents, and tides,  break and set-up camp daily, and then truck home for three days.

The boat and I are headed for Montana tomorrow. We’ll spend a day on Flathead Lake and then this beautiful old sea kayak will go up on eBay at a good price. A sea kayak like this must be used, having it sit in bags in a basement is just wrong.

Could be I need to admit that I am not 35 anymore.

As a scribbler by profession, I’ve written about my interactions with a smart-mouth local coyote named Elizabeth Cady Coyote. One of these scribbles appeared in Mountain Gazette as God’s Dog Christmas.

On Friday the 13th I took a hike on what was left of the Wonderland Trail northwest of Boulder.

Cady was on evening hunt and trotted up beside me.

“How did you guys do in the flood?” I asked.

“Okay, we lost the den near the couloir. The higher dens were a little damp.”

“And the pups are alright?

“Little shits are muddy and cranky, but fine. And you and Blue Eyes?

“We were lucky, just water in the basement. But a lot of Boulder is trashed.”

“Could be the Mountain Gods punishing Boulder types for having too much stuff.”

“That’s horseshit Cady.”

“Okay, let’s just call it cosmic urban renewal.” And she was off again on the hunt.

Could be I need to write more about Elizabeth Cady Coyote.

That night Cady and friends and family celebrated a meal with their eerie yelps and yips that echoed down the drainages and into town. I listened for a moment and then thought that bad stuff is usually followed by good stuff.

Could be time for some changes.

Alan Stark is a freelance and recovering book publisher who splits his time between Boulder and Breckenridge.