An older owl returned from a backpacking trip in the Sangre de Cristo mountains when I was four. The most prominent story I recall, upon his return, described the afternoon rain.
“It rained everyday, almost like clockwork, but it wasn’t like here. It was light and steady, and didn’t last long. The first two days, we’d stop hiking, took off our rucks, rummaged for ponchos and rain jackets, before fussling with waterproof pack covers. Most days it only lasted about 15 minutes though, so we’d end up clodding along and sweating inside that noisy raingear till our next rest stop. Soon enough we just kept hiking through the rain. The mountain air was so crisp our clothes usually dried in another 15 minutes anyway.”
I heard that story, and remembered that story, but it didn’t quite register for another 10 years when our group visited that exact place. Our experience was the same. World Geography happened between our 1st and 2nd return too. During our meteorology unit, Ms. Wilkinson described Orographic Lift as, “the phenomenon that occurs when wind has to climb up and over a mountain range”.
- On the windward side, air picks up moisture through evaporation from crops, forests, and lakes. As air ramps up the mountainside to colder altitudes, it can’t hold as much water, so clouds unload the storehouse of the skies. This side of the summit grows lush and green, oft adorned with trees and streams
- On the leeward side of the mountain, land’s drier with less precipitation or cloudiness, creating desert-like conditions in the rain shadow
- We experienced both sorts of micro-climates on our 12-day hike
“Oro (as in orographic lift) means mountain”, Ms. Wilkinson taught that year.
We stopped for a tour of an old copper mine near the treeline on Day #3. French Henry, our tour guide, wore a scraggly beard, ragged coveralls, and seemed plenty happy to welcome visitors. Following an old set of ore cart tracks 1/4-mile into the mountain, Frenchie dramatized stories of canaries in cages, carbide lanterns, beams used for shoring, and steel tools; continuing with captivating anecdotes about dynamite, near misses, communication signals, the ethnicity of miners, portable food, life in camp, and wages. When we finally found that old rusty pushcart I thought to myself, “Hmm, Señor Stewart always said oro means gold.”
“edge of the great lake” – Matt 4:13
Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future sees
Whose ears have heard,
The Holy Word,
That walk’d among the ancient trees.
Calling the lapsed Soul
And weeping in the evening dew:
That might controll,
The starry pole;
And fallen fallen light renew!
O Earth O Earth return!
Arise from out the dewy grass;
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumberous mass.
Turn away no more:
Why wilt thou turn away
The starry floor
The watry shore
Is giv’n thee till the break of day.
Artist: U2, War (1983)
“no mud, no lotus” – Thich Nhat Hanh