« Peaceful Hills | Main | KTM Electrical Issue - Continued... »

June 17, 2015

The Flooding of Bear Creek

The Flooding of Bear Creek

In May, the snow changed to rain and the rain would not stop. It rained exactly the way that it never does in the mountains. Steadily. Condinuously.

It washed the pollen off of the trees. Made the grass grow tall and green as there was no chance to mow it.

It soaked the gardens so that they could not be plowed, and anyone that chose to plow their garden was rewarded with a unplantable soupy mess.

The raging water could only go downhill, and downhill it went, taking out driveways and homemade bridges along the way.

In tight canyons, it erased the shoulders from the roads. In the mornings, men from the county came in trucks and marked the damage with bright orange cones.

The creeks gnawed and the road's shoulder until the road split and started to fall into the raging waters.

The county would move boulders in to shore up the shoulder as best the could, and move on.

The Cordilleran Flycatchers, tired from the long flight from Central America, shivered under wet feathers, leaning into the very souls of the trees.

But we know that we must ride. So in the breaks between the deluges, I go out on my motorcycle, hoping to find a new trail or a new animal to shoot.

When you're on a bike, every motorccylist is a long-lost friend you've never met.

They're adrenaline junkies also. Thrill-seeking junkies, the same as you, only you've never met them.

Every bike I pass waves and now, baby elk with spots are crossing Bear Creek to an island in Evergreen Lake. Looks like a Disney movie unfolding in slow motion before your eyes.

Pull over, stop. Shut down the bike. Now shooting baby elk, nursing, standing in the stream. Surreal. Hard to believe that we live here. So glad to be alive.

I'm shooting a 400mm lens, but the guy beside me has a 500mm lens on a tripod. He thinks he's cooler than me, but he doesn't know who I am.

I turn to him...a total stranger...and say this - "Did you see that mountain lion video?"

"Yes. That was crazy."

"I made that. That's my video," I tell the stranger.

"Dude....that was insane. Never seen anything like it."

"Who sent it to you?"

"A frind of mine in the Division of Wildlife. He's a photographer also."

"That was in my neighbor's yard," I explain.

I'm something of a celebrity, albeit, not well known. People know my work.

I get my shots, and as I'm leaving the lake it starts to rain. Again.

Now, as I'm driving on Colorado 73 south out of evergreen, I see a woman walking down the road in the rain wearing nothing but a tiny pair of shorts and top that doesn't cover much.

I'm the world's worst at picking up chicks, but I think about this..."Dude...there's a chick walking in the rain. Pick her up. There's no way she'll turn you down."

So I loop back in the rain.

"You need a ride?" I ask her. She looks at me like a savior and starts to jump on, the way a dog starts to jump out of the truck before you can even get the tail-gate down.

"Hang on. Hang on...Easy there darling..."

I roll the bike forward and down into the ditch some so that she can get her leg up to the level of the seat.

She slides into the seat behind me and now, we're rolling north in the rain.

I'd give her my helmet, as there's no helmet law in Colorado, but it's raining so hard that, without the visor, I don't think I'd be able to see.

"Where we going to, buttercup?" I ask her over my shoulder.

"Brook Forest Road....You know where that is?"

I just nod and open the throttle a little.

Brook Forest Road is where all of the no-income people live in the mountains. It's the ghettos of the mountains. And the poorer they are, the further up Brook Forest they live.

Initially, when I picked her up, I thought she was a Lake Evergreeen housewife, caught out in the monsoons of summer.

Five miles up Brook Forest, I realize that I've picked up what is essentially, a vagrant, at best.

Eventually, it stops raining and now we can sort of talk, as we wind up Brook Forest canyon.

"Were you planning on walking all the way up here?" I ask, incredulously.

"No...I've been hitchhiking once I get out of town..."

I try to think if I've ever seen anyone hitchhiking up here...can't say that I have.

"You don't have a car?" I shout over my shoulder.

"I have a truck, but it's being fixed."

In the curves, she feels like she hasn't ridden on a bike much. You need your passenger to lean with you, but she seems reluctant to commit in the curves. Only in the final seconds of despair does she follow my lead and lean into the turn.

She doesn't weigh a hundred pounds dripping wet, but I still need her to lean or we can't turn.

"Turn right past the Brook Forest Inn," she calls out.

"Watch out!" she sings into my ear as we go into a hairpin.

"What's up?" I ask.


Sure enough, around the next switchback, a couple of mule deer lingering on the shoulder.

How nice is it to have another set of eyes watching out for you?

Eventually, we roll up to her house.

Basically, a collapsing graveyard of vehicles and refuse.

"You wanna come in and smoke a bowl?" she asks.

I think about that for a minute.

"I would come in and drink a beer if you have one..." I counter.

"I'll pour you a glass of wine?"

"Fair enough."

Now, I'm walking into this little shanty. Inside, clutter like you've never seen, so that there's just a little path through the house where you can sort of walk.

The couch has a clear space about 30" wide, and I sit down.

She continues on down the trail into the kitchen, pours two glasses of red wine, and returns.

I try to make room for her on the couch beside me, but she hands me my wine, and sits in a chair perpendicular to me, the only other place where a human could sit down.

The wall facing me is covered with hand-written motivational/inspirational sayings torn off and taped to the wall.

"Get Moving!"
"You Can Do It!"
and things like this. The wall is covered with them.

A cat comes in from outside to beg for food.

"So...where is your truck?" I ask suspiciously.

"It's being fixed. They're putting a bed on it..." she offers, apologetically.

"Where were you coming from when I picked you up?" I ask.

"I'm a bartender at Cactus Jacks....I've been hitchhiking to and from work since my truck isn't running..."

"This is good wine. Thank you."

"I used to work at The Little Bear..."

"Did Willie Nelson really used to come in there and set up and play?" I ask her. I've heard this story, but never known for sure if it was true.

"Yeah...he was good friend with the owners Judy Gerinomous. So he did used to play there all the time. Then, the one owner was having an affair with the bartender, so his wife made him sign the Little Bear over to her...but yeah...Willie Nelson was good friends with the owner..."

"And his daughter went to Evergreen High and drove a Blue Maserati?" I clarify. Like, it's hard to find people that can confirm these rumors. Somehow I'm finally getting the inside scoop.

"He had two daughters...they both went to Evergreen" she offers.

"Did you see my mountain lion video?" I ask her, out of the blue. It seems hard to imagine that she would have. It's hard to imagine her doing anything, really.

She stands up, walks across the room somehow, kicking cats out of the way, and opens up a laptop. I would have lost money on that.

Go to YouTube and searh for "The Lions of Peaceful Hills", and now she's watching my mountain lion video.

She's impressed, but not overly so, and returns to collapse in the clutter of her living room.

"Is that a pool table?" I ask, looking into the next room. It looks like a pool table stumbled and fell beneath the clutter many years ago.

"That's my bed," she replies.

I try not to think about that.

"Are you from around here?"

"I grew up down the hill, but I've been up here in Evergreen for a while now. I used to follow the Dead..."

Hardly surprising.

"OK. I think I'm going to clear out. Many thanks for the wine."

"Thanks for the ride. Come by and see me at Cactus Jack's and I'll buy you a beer," she offers.

But that was some day...the other day...Saturday or Sunday, I think.

Today is Wednesday...

June 17th?

Today, I'm driving into work on my motorcycle and, the problem with a riding a motorcycle is that it's just too easy. That's the real problem. The bike is just insane. It's almost like it's not even there. I find myself going into a curve, riding with one hand, going twice the speed limit. And the bike is so forgiving, that it lets you get away with shit like this.

And, after a while, you become convinced that you know what you're doing and that you could never go down. That it's not really a possibility.

And every day, you get a little less patient with the traffic, and you're pushing the envelope more and more every day.

This morning, I'm rolling up C470 from 285 to Morrison and I always sort of get in the right-turn-lane only and then just blow through it, ignoring th fact that I'm supposed to turn.

Only today, there's another car and, to get in front of him, I have to really open the throttle so that, for a while, I'm going down the shoulder at 87 mph. Like, you'd think that's not true, and that no sane person would do that, but I swear to God that's what I did. I passed a guy on the shoulder going 90 mph.

Next thing I know, I'm seeing red and blue flashing lights in my one rear-view mirror. The one that I had welded on on the Alaska Highway last summer.

Red and blue lights and there's a cop coming up on me fast in the passing lane with his lights rolling and I think "Maybe he's not after me."

That's seriously what I'm thinking. Like...how fucking stupid can one human be? To pass someone on the shoulder at 90 mph and then think the cop is after someone else.

The Jefferson County Sheriff drops in behind me and I pull over immediately and shut it down. Like...I dont run anymore. I'm not that stupid. I gave that up.

Cop comes up to me and says "The reason I pulled you over back there was because you were in a right-turn only lane and ignored law by not turning," he says. He said some other stuff also, but he didn't say anything about going 90 mph down the shoulder, and he didn't grab me by the throad and choke me out or anything. He was actually very polite and professional, and much calmer than I would have expected.

"I need to see your driver's license, proof of insurance, and registration...." he explains.

I crack open my wallet, and start searching for these items. It's tough because, I was just stopped 2 -3 weeks ago up in Gilpin County, and I remember that one of my documents was nearly expired then. Either my Insurance or my Registration. Now, a few weeks down the road, I'm sure that all of my documents aren't valid.

I'm shaking...nervours...digging through my wallet. It's full of speeding tickets, court summons, parking violations....and a few pieces of paper for the various vehicles I have rusting away at home.

I hand him the insurance and registration papers, proud to have identified them amongst the clutter.

He returns to his Jefferson County Deputy vehicle, and leaves me to sit on the bike and chew on my cuticles.

I don't think that he's taking me to jail because I don't think there are any current warrants for my arrest. Basically, what will happen, as best as I can tell, is I'll get some tickets, depending on how pissed he is.

But now, I have a cell phone to play with., so I sit on my bike and surf the internet, while I wait for him to call in all of my information.

I'm not going to get upset that he stopped me. I'm getting a ticket, but I control how I react to the situation. I'm in control of my responses. I'm not going to get upset. It is what it is. I need to slow down and be more careful. That is all.

Eventually, he returns, and he doesn't mention the fact that I have a criminal record that would make Ted Bundy blush. Doesn't mention that one of the documents is clearly expired.

"I could have written you tickets all day long for your violations back there," he offers. "But I just wrote you one ticket for illegal lane usage," he explains. "You can take care of it by mail," he continues.

"I'm sorry man. I was just in a hurry to get to work. I'll slow down." I apologize. He's really nice.

"Man...we don't want to see anything happen to you. You need to be more careful."

And he's right, of course.

I'm not clear that I'm making any money on this project. Every day, I'm getting tickets from red-light cameras, and vans parked on 14th Street. They take pictures from the shoulder as I speed through the city.

I'm probably breaking even, at best.

And I seldom see Jennifer, these days.

Like, you try to think about what it means to be here. To not be on the road. I've been on the road for a long time. Forever, really, if I'm honest with myself.

It's so weird to be working in my home town, Denver. Every day, I drive into work and Mitch and I go running in our neighborhood.

It's so strange to discover the city of Denver, when I've been spending my life in other cities. So odd to finally come back home to roost.

I quit shaving, and the girls at work asked me this, "Are you growing a beard?"

Like that question even makes any sense? The beard is always growing. Only I stopped shaving. That's all you need to know. And also, I quit bathing, but who's counting?

I shower in the men's locker room at work, after Mitch and I go for a run.

Am I growing a beard. No, woman. The beard is growing. All I did was stop shaving.

She clearly didn't approve. Jennifer has a stroke every time she sees me. "Dad...seriously...you have to shave."

But I'm not quite ready for that I think.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 17, 2015 at 10:29 PM


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)