210903-outdoors-zaenger

There are thousands of secretive, tiny nooks around western Colorado from the San Juan Mountains to Grand Mesa, and from the Utah state line to the Saguache Mountains. This one, tucked near the cliffs of Black Canyon, is one of many that can help you open up your world. (Courtesy photo/ National Park Service)

The early morning is crisp as puffs of air rustle the leaves. Quiet pervades this little nook formed by a host of pillars which is tucked against the towering cliffs of Black Canyon.

I have lately returned to some locations in the canyon, acquainting myself with them once more. It has been decades since I last visited some of them.

Ranger Jeremy has joined me on this sojourn to a rosy-peach colored wall of pegmatite rock that pierces the blue sky.

Taking in periodic patrols like this provides greater insight to ancient geologic processes and a broader awareness of the inventory of plants and animals that live out here.

This morning is calm. Ravens squawk out at us. Turkey vultures check to be sure we’re still moving. Slowing down, gives us a chance to be absorbed in the pattern of life in the canyon. This is the part of our heritage – the natural rhythms of a world we inherited from our ancestors – that seems to be forgotten in our very busy world.

It’s also the part we encourage park visitors to embrace. Not long ago there was a group of four young people who arrived at the front door area of the South Rim Visitor Center. The hour was about 4:00. They were looking for hiking ideas.

I shared a couple of choices that would be beautiful in the late afternoon sun. They were in a hurry. They had to make Moab that night to see Arches National Park the next morning. I encouraged them to take a slower pace.

It was better to enjoy fewer activities and find something special, I urged, than it would be to cram a bunch of stuff in and later wonder what you did on your trip. Then they told me they intended to visit Ouray before driving to Moab. My heart sighed.

I think on these things when out in a nook or cranny in the canyon. How our world seems to be spinning too rapidly. It feels as though we are on a fast track to insanity. The soothing glow of rock in early morning light is a balm for this sort of world.

Not long after my visit with those hurried hikers, a mom and dad with three small children walked up.

They were interested in some-late day activities with the wee-ones, but they would return the next morning. We talked of many possibilities that were age-relevant for the family. They were excited – intending to keep a pace that suited the children.

I learned that they were camping at Pleasant Valley, out near Cimarron; and the subject of homemade pie came up.

There once was a time when there were several places that made and served their own pie along the roadway that circles Black Canyon, from Delta to Crawford to Cimarron to Montrose.

You need to open up time in your schedule for homemade pie. Their eyes sparkled when thinking about it. The ingredients are fresh; baking bubbles the flavors and nuances of fruit and spice together.

They seemed intrigued; wanted to know what kinds might be there. We surmised, considering produce coming in from the farms. They were off to take in the canyon, assured that their experiences in their heritage would be full.

We sometimes take in our natural and cultural legacies in rushed and manufactured ways. We gobble them in tiny bites rather than savoring the whole slice.

A fine piece of homemade pie is best when relished and shared. When enjoyed this way, like our heritage, we see a much bigger picture for ourselves. This gives us a broader understanding of our world. I hope you have a luscious slice soon.

Personal gratitudeThis is my last column as an employee of the National Park Service as, I’m retiring from Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

National Park in early October. The folks at the Montrose Daily Press have been very gracious in allowing me to share my various perspectives over the years. I’ll continue to do that with my colleagues on the Outdoors Page who appear in every Friday edition. My next submittal will be in October.

I’m very thankful to have worked with many different colleagues at Black Canyon as they, along with my wife Nancy, have fueled my imagination and provoked many questions.

But much appreciation goes to you, the readers of the Montrose Press. I have enjoyed your feedback, commentary, and perspectives as well. You have been a significant part of my personal heritage, and Nancy’s and my fondness for Montrose is rich and loving. God Bless.

Paul Zaenger has been a supervisory park ranger at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park since 1993. Other park assignments include Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

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