Sunday, January 11, 2009


If you were asked “What is the sound of wilderness – of nature?” what would you say? I am sure some people would say it is the sound of waves breaking on the shore of a sandy beach. Others might say it is the call of the wolf or the bugling of the elk. To me the sound of wilderness it is the sound of silence. It is the utter and complete silence of the desolation of the open spaces. Yes – sometimes this sound might change. Sometimes is it the sound of wind rustling through the dry grass of the open prairie. Or it is the sound of the hawk or golden eagle crying out as it goes in search of a rabbit for a meal. In the night it is the sound of the coyotes yipping as the moon comes up in the night sky. But it all comes down to the silence – the absence of sound made by man. Today Zack and I went in search of silence. We traveled west along the Front Range Mountains to the Sharptail Ridge open space. This open space area backs to Roxborough State Park and consists of thousands of acres of rolling prairie. Sharptail Ridge is part of the final transition between the plains and the high mountains just a mile further west. Given it’s location it is home to herds of elk and mule dear, the occasional mountain lion and numerous black bears.

I always think it is so amazingly beautiful when you get out in the middle of a great tract of prairie. Literally there is nothing there – just rolling hills and acre after acre of brown dried grass. I am sure some people would have a hard time finding beauty in this stark environment. But there is plenty of beauty all around – and nothing as beautiful as the sound of silence. Our hike was about 5 miles and we went over many rolling hills. As we mounted one hill top we would see another hill for us yet to climb. As we walked further and further we could see the prairie coming to an end as the scrub brush and small trees that mark the start of the mountains began. We had the whole place to ourselves. We only saw two other people during the two hours that we were out there. Each of our fellow hikers were alone and moving fast. For the most part we just said a courteous hello and let them pass us by. We did ask the second hiker – a woman to take a picture of the two of us together. But otherwise we left them pass us by without a lot of conversation and resume their journey in silence.

The weather was such that there were frequent snow showers that came upon us suddenly. This only added to the sound of silence that filled our ears. The snow seemed to eat any manmade sounds that penetrated the prairie. As the snow fell around us you could almost hear the sounds of the snowflakes impacting on the dry grass and dirt. With snow in the air the landscape took on a magical quality as an opaque hazy hung over the mountains. Our eyes were tricked with views that would appear and disappear as each snow squall came and went. We enjoyed every moment of our hike today. We did find our silence – our sound of wilderness in the beauty of Sharptail Ridge open space. We look forward to going back and experiencing this place of great natural beauty in every season of the year. Peace!

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