Summer of 2002 I was a substitute camp counselor at a wonderful Christian summer camp in the Colorado Mountains (and you know how easily counselors get sick.... i got to spend quite a few weeks at Id-Ra-Ha-Je that summer). For those of you Coloradans, you can't forget that summer - the summer of the Hayman fires. I remember that each morning in Denver we had to brush the fallen ash off of the top of our cars before driving to work. That summer, we had more forest destruction from fires than any other time in Colorado's recorded history. Colorado had been suffering drought for a series of years, which made forest fires a huge danger.
(photo by globemaster3)
With the drought also comes danger from animal predators. Prey is more scarce and so is vegetation, so they become more of a threat to people. That summer we had bear sightings near our camp. One was sighted eating roadkill off of the road....which is guess is alarming bear behavior.
So we were warned. Each week I had a tepee full of about 10 girls 8 -10 years old. We were instructed to take anything that would attract bears away from our campers. Try collecting all flavored chapsticks, body lotions, shampoos, candies, and snacks from 8 year olds spending their only week away from their parents during their summer vacation. How do you convince these girls to give up their goodies without threatening them with being mauled by a bear? I always wondered what they were storing at the bottom of their sleeping bags...
One night I woke to a shuffling in the bushes. I laid in my sleeping bag, trying to peer through the holes in the bottom of the tepee but it was too dark to see anything. I heard movement - and it was apparent that it was an animal of considerable size. The foot steps were heavy, the breathing was loud. I knew that if I had a bear next to my tepee I needed to notify someone - I needed to get it away from our campers. Maybe I could wake my girls - keep them calm and INSIDE of the tepee (bring them away from the open edges) and scream all at once - that would alert the camp and maybe scare away the beast. But I couldn't insure that I could keep them safe and calm-ish if i woke them and told them to scream their heads off.
I got out of my bag quietly and laced my shoes. Making tiny steps in the dark, trying not to step on any of my sleeping girls, I made my way to the tepee door. I heard the animal's slow heavy steps and deep nasal breathing and as I planned my sprint to the Chief's door, my body started shaking violently - I was absolutely terrified. I listened to the beast as I prayed to God and let my eyes adjust to the forest light... Then from around the side of my tepee it stepped into the moonlight beside me.
A big fat horse. I had no idea that they opened the stables at night for the horses to roam free.
I felt like an idiot. I felt relieved. I couldn't sleep the rest of the night. I grabbed my things and went to my favorite rock, where I spent each morning's sunrise praying and singing and enjoying God and his majestic mountains.
Maggie's blogpost reminded me today of that summer. We are just a bit frightened out here about this Spring weather this early in the year. We really need that dumping of winter snow to keep our forests and our families safe from fires and predators this year. Without a good snowbase, our mountain states get very dry. It affects so much come summer when the snowmelt has already been used up and our streams dry and so do the vegetation leading the animals in desperate search, leading them into our back yards. As a skier, I want snow for the recreation it provides, but as a mountain girl, I am desperate for some snow to sustain us until next winter.