In Conrad’s great novel, Heart of Darkness, his evil protagonist Kurtz dies uttering the words, “The horror! The horror.” That’s what he saw and that’s what he was as he lived in the Congo.
It’s the opposite here. “The beauty! The beauty!” is what I keep saying to myself on my hikes in the wilderness.
So it was in the Indian Peaks Wilderness today on my easy five-mile hike back to Diamond Lake. The only other time I ever hiked to this beautiful lake, almost exactly one year ago, I got too late a start and it began to rain just as I got there. My timing was much better today:
The other spectacle of this hike is the the waterfall:
I am finding more and more beauty not only at destinations, like Diamond Lake and the falls, but also along the trail. And not only flowers and insects, many of which I’ve photographed this glorious summer. But more and more mushrooms.
In a recent message I speculated that I would need to get a Colorado mushroom guide so I could add the non-poisonous ones to my trail food diet. At home I regularly eat mushrooms, either in my salad for lunch or just topped with a little mustard. But so far the trail mushrooms only figure in my photographs.
Now it turns out that nobody knows how many kinds of mushrooms we have here. My friend Barry emailed me today alerting me to an article in the local newspaper that we probably have a hundred thousand species of mushrooms here, and, “Many mushrooms look very similar, so it takes an expert to distinguish an edible mushroom from its deadly fungus twin.”
I’m resigned to looking. I found mushroom beauty in four places along the trail today:
When I last hiked this trail a year ago, I didn’t have time to explore the area a lot, since I hurried back in the rain. Today I spent a full two hours walking around the lake to look and photograph. I lunched there and talked with two women from Longmont and an environmental consultant from Baltimore. And I read and pondered.
My timing was much better today, because the thunder, lightening, and rain started just as I got back to Suzy.
But my timing wasn’t perfect. On the way back home I passed through the mountain community of Nederland. The high school just went back in session. The flashing light said the speed limit was 20 mph with fines doubles in a school zone.
I slowed down, but not that much. A Boulder County sheriff’s deputy pulled me over. I was awfully lucky that he let me off with a warning. He said the ticket would have been $300, if he had cited me. I did learn my lesson.