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  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

Walking the Same Ground: Closing Thoughts

Updated: Apr 26

I have never seen the Pacific Ocean, the coastline of Texas, or the Vastness of Alaska. I have only been out of the country once (A few days in Mexico). There are twenty states in the U.S. I have not seen, and another ten that I have only been in once. Living in Colorado for fifty years, I have never been to Rocky Mountain National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, or a Denver Broncos game. I have never even been on an airplane.

However, I have walked the same ground of Custer County for half a century. I have tasted the icy water of mountain streams, been chilled by a sudden gust of wind at timberline, smelled the freshness of a spruce forest after a summer shower, waded waist-deep snow to get to a high country lake in order to catch fish that I would eat before going home. I have slept in an aspen grove, listened to the bugle of elk during the rut, and observed the mating rituals of bighorn sheep.

I know the delicate Elephant’s Head and Alpine Forget-me-nots that grow in the harsh environment of timberline, the state Flower, Columbine, that range in color from deep purple to almost white, and the red Indian Paintbrush of the foothills and valley floor.

I have watched the Red Winged Blackbirds, Meadowlarks, and a variety of hawks who frequent the fences and power lines along the county roads. I have been in the creek bottoms as they entertained the Great Blue Herons, the smaller Green Herons, and the Mallard Ducks. Occasionally I see the brightly colored Western Tanager and of course the seasonal Mountain Blue Birds.      

I am not shocked by a snow storm in June, a mule deer standing in the middle of main street, or a stray bear who happened to wander into town.

I am familiar with the human landscape of the Valley as well. I have officiated at weddings, spoken at funerals, and known friends from four generations of those born in the Valley. I have laughed, grieved, worked and shared meals, memories, and stories with those who have walked this same ground with me. And Contrary to the current political climate, I disagree with some of my friends and still remain friends.

Over the years I have taught high school, been a coach, a pastor, a cook, a wrangler, a part time ranch hand, and a mountain guide. And yet, I feel that I have only “scratched the surface" of this unique sliver of God’s creation.

An old Native American saying, quoted by Richard Louv in his book, Last Child in the Woods says, “It is better to know one mountain than to climb many.” No, I have not traveled the world, but I do know this “mountain:” Its land, its wildlife, its people, and its seasons.

As I close my Walking the Same Ground series (Maybe), I am grateful for old friends, new friends, and the privilege of living in the Wet Mountain Valley. To all those who have encouraged me on this journey, thank you. If you have been blessed by reading this even half as much as I have by remembering and writing it, then it has been time well spent for all of us.

“.....The world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous, and humbling, and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home.” 

Wendell Berry, The Unforeseen Wilderness: Kentucky’s Red River Gorge

The Road Less Traveled By Andy Mast

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