The other day, while Kathi was at work, I was in our garage. I was attempting to make extra room for some things that Mom gave us after the yard sale. As I moved things around and found space for other things, I came across the old G.I. pack that my Dad had given me when I was about 10 or so. It is still useable. It's ratty, tattered in spots, stained, and faded. It has been just about everywhere here in Colorado.
When I picked it up, it felt a bit heavy. I haven't used it in about 20 some years. I opened it up and it was still loaded up with some of my hunting, camping, and fishing gear. It even had a pair of my old jeans, socks, and spare shirt. 'Course, the pants are WAY too small now, as is the shirt. As I dug deeper, I came across the old Western hunting knife that my Dad had given me when he gave me the pack. The pack also had my old mess kit, with silverware, and my old skillet.
There were other things in the pack also. A old fishing creel, some fishing line, still on the spool. Some fish hooks and sinkers. Other things that one might need while out and about. As I looked at all of these things -- and I don't really know why -- it made me think back to a trip I made many years ago. It was 1976 or '77. I was living with my grandparents then.
I had decided to make a trip up into the mountains, but wanted to see some new country. So I decided to head towards Glenwood Springs, find a back road, and see where it would take me. I loaded up my old Blazer with gear, threw in my backpack and my dog Jessie, and away we went.
After making it through Glenwood Canyon, I found a road that went up and over the top. We ended up above the town of Glenwood Springs. So we pushed on further into the back country.
After several hours, we found a real good spot to camp. We set up the tent and made the camp comfy. Jessie was having a ball, running, jumping, and scoping out all the different smells, when all of a sudden she took off after a rabbit. It didn't take her long before she had the rabbit and brought it back to camp. The rabbit was dead, 'cause she had broken its back. She did this quite often on our little trips. She was also pretty good at getting fish also. I cleaned the rabbit, and we had him for supper that evening.
The next day, we were up bright and early. The sun was just barely coming over the top of the mountain. It was not really cold out, but it was one of them mornings where you can see your breath. It was just cool enough that you'd want a jacket, but you know that as soon as the sun gets up past the top of the mountain that it is going to warm up pretty fast. We ate a quick breakfast of cereal and a few dog biscuits and we were off. We walked and took our time. We found a nice stream to fish on and we would do that later on that day.
We came across a old road, if you can call it that. You could see that it had not been used in a lot of years. Trees had grown along the road. The trees on the outside of the road were taller than the trees in the road. We followed the little road for a long ways when we broke out into this clearing.
Setting at the top of this hill in the clearing was a little church. The front was still there, with the steeple and cross on top. The roof was long gone, and the back wall and a side wall had toppled over.
There didn't seem to be any other buildings around. The clearing was alive with wild flowers, green grass and you could hear some bees hard at work. As we got up to the old church, I turned around and then I could see where the other buildings had been. It looked like it had had about six or seven other buildings at one time or another. The doors to the church were long gone. As we stepped into that church, there were the most beautiful purple flowers where the floor should have been. They were all taller than the flowers out side of the church. Jessie laid down at the doorway and wouldn't go further into the church. I also just stood there.
I had never seen anything like it before and I have not seen anything like it since. It seemed that the sun was shinning more brightly in the church, that it was outside of it. It was so quiet and peaceful. Jessie and I sat there in the doorway of that church for what seemed like hours. The light smell of the flowers surrounded us. I wondered why just the church remained and the other buildings were gone.
After what seemed like a big chunk of the day had passed, we got up to head back to our camp. As we were getting off the porch of the church, I decided to pick some of the flowers on our way back. All of a sudden Jessie started to bark. She ran towards the backside of the church. I hollered at her and followed her around back. I was stunned to see an old graveyard about 30 yards back.
It was surrounded by fence, and where the gate should of been was wide open. I don't know how many graves there were. One stood out from the rest. It had roses . Bright red roses, mixed in with all of these other wildflowers of blue, white, yellow, orange, and purple. I don't know how, but there they were. I tried to read the marker, but it was too worn. The only name I could figure out was John.
We stood there for a bit. I was wishing that I had a camera. It seems that whenever I think to bring one, I never have anything to take a picture of. And when I don't have a camera, I always have something that I wish that I could take some pictures of! (Soon after this trip I had a Kodak Disc camera. I wore it out.)
Jessie and I left, and made our way back to camp. I fished. We sat around camp and made a few more treks around the area. It was soon time to head back home.
I told my grandparents all about our camping trip and how I had even stopped in Glenwood to see if I could find out anything about the little church. Nobody seemed to know, until I stopped to get gas for the return trip home. The guy running the station, was quite a bit older than the other people I had been talking to. I asked him about the little church. He smiled and said that his Dad had been a logger, and that there had been a permanent saw mill camp up there so many years ago that they decided that they needed a church.
The camp ran for about 10 years or so, or until all the available timber was gone for several miles around. They closed up shop, moved the saw mill. Just a few people stayed there over the years. It finally became a "ghost town" back in the 1940's. The grave with the roses was from the last person there, who passed from freezing one winter. The roses are believed to be from a family member who planted them there.
The years have come and gone. It took me about 15 years before I could get back up to that little church on the hill. The trees have grown over what was once the remains of the road. The hill is still covered by all of those colorful wild flowers. And now a few pine trees are growing there. The last time I was there without Jessie, who had passed on herself by then, the remains of the little church were gone. The little graveyard fence is still there, but the markers are gone. The only thing that I could find was a dead rose bush.
A lot of years have passed since that trip. I'm going to use that old pack again this summer. I can't go to a lot of the places where I used to hike, hunt, fish, and camp. They no longer exist or are now owned by some city slicker. And I just can't hoof them hills like I used too. Plus, I'm not all that great at sleeping on the ground any more.
I've done a lot of living in the mountains. As far as hunting, camping, fishing and being on my aunt's and uncle's ranch as a child, I've seen and learned all kinds of things. I wish now, more than ever, that I would have had a camera. There hasn't been a time that Kathi and I have been on a trip up in the hills that I haven't told her a story of being there or doing something in the area we are in.
How many campfires can you have in a lifetime? And how many little churches are there still on the hill?