Letters to Melissa – Piney Lake


Dear Sweet Melissa:

“…Blues this mornin’
fallin’ down like hail
Gonna leave a greasy trail…”

Bob Dylan “Nettie Moore”

Well, dear heart, we did it again. Camping up at Piney Lake, now for the third year. Explaining the words from Dylan will come later. But, then, you saw it all, didn’t you. I sometimes forget you’ve gone to a place in space and time where, perhaps, our mortal foibles are seen as just that–mortal foibles. Yes, we here, still stumbling through these grim times upon an imperfect world, do so seek the perfection you’ve come to know.

piney-lake-aug-2007090.jpg You know, of course, that we took Sarah with us. She has, since she came to us last October–rescued from the Polaris Malamute Rescue folks–exhibited an odor anxiety. I know…talk about human foibles. But, hey, she lived with two families before us and God knows what the hell she experienced with them. But, anyway, her odor anxiety causes here to become extremely anxious, pacing, panting, irreconcilable, manic. And, therein my fear of taking her into the hills was based. Would she freak- out with the new odors of the wild? Would David and I have to just pack-up and head back home because Sarah wouldn’t ease into the comfort of camping? Guess what, dear heart? Sarah was the grand champion camper of all of us. She took to the hills like the proverbial duck to water. She loved it. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t understand why we came back. Why in hell, she wonders, would one want to live in a city when the possibilities of the country, the hills, the open spaces call as a siren a sailor to the sea?

piney-lake-aug-2007124.jpgOne example of Sarah’s, perhaps primordial, knowledge of wide open spaces saw her choose a spot at the base of a Lodgepole Pine to dig a hole in which she settled herself when we tarried at the campsite. The interesting thing about her choice of a place to repose was that it remained absolutely dry, in spite of the daily rainfall–at times, pretty severe–that is so predictable in the hills. How did she know to do that? What knowledge base does she possess from her past? Or, was it best said by Henry Beston in The Outmost House: “For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.”

piney-lake-aug-2007140.jpgpiney-lake-aug-2007138.jpgpiney-lake-aug-2007137.jpg piney-lake-aug-2007038.jpg
The beauty of the area, about thirteen miles north of Vail, remains. The beetle infestation of the Lodgepole Pine has begun in the area. Not nearly as bad as further south. But, I expect the infestation will continue, unabated. And, perhaps, next year, campfires–the central core of any camping experience where truths are shared, where philosophy emerges and the mysteries of the world are understood–will be disallowed. The area–Piney Lake–is after all, rather boxed in, surrounded by hills and the Gore Range–the only exit (escape route) a single lane dirt road bordered by, yes, Lodgepole Pines.

piney-lake-aug-2007115.jpgpiney-lake-aug-2007114.jpgpiney-lake-aug-2007112.jpgpiney-lake-aug-2007110.jpgpiney-lake-aug-2007102.jpgpiney-lake-aug-2007156.jpgpiney-lake-aug-2007109.jpg We were all there–our precious bevy of friends–with the exception of Richard, who passed in June.

As is my habit when camping, I rise at first light–usually about 5:30–and walk/run to the Piney Lake Lodge, about a half mile down the road. This time I had Sarah with me who, as if she had been there before and knew the routine and route as well as I, led the way. You, Sweet Melissa, were in my thoughts then. Wondering if you would have enjoyed the experience as much as Sarah; wondering if you, dear heart, would have felt the whole thing as a rather blase experience. You were, of course, our little princess. Somehow I think you would have savored it all. The beauty of the place would have surely affected you in much the same way it did Sarah.


The evening of our second day (we stayed only two nights, leaving on the third day–Sunday), devolved into what, by the next morning, would become a somewhat somber plod through the mechanics of breakfast and breaking down the campsite.

Suffice it to say, the campfire truths of Saturday evening were so to-the-point, so biting, so deeply effused that David and I, more observing than participating in them–the truths–stepped into our tent secure in the knowledge that our truths, our twenty-five years of peaks and valleys, our twenty-five years of joy and sadness, our twenty-five years of sorting out the proverbial wheat from the chaff tempered our reaction to what occurred that night. We had each other and, of course, the memory of you, Sweet Melissa, and the precious warmth of Soulful Sarah to rely upon, to hold us close, secure, lovingly grappled in those hoops of steel.

So, Saturday night did, indeed, bleed with blues this evenin’ fallin’ down like hail, that turned, on Sunday morning, to the bard’s prediction: Gonna leave a greasy trail.

Hoping, expecting, our summer excursions to Piney Lake will continue. Hoping, expecting, God will soon remain in His heaven and all will be right with the world.

So, Sweet Melissa, I end this missive with you in my thoughts–not a day passes where I don’t find myself, if only for a moment, remembering, cherishing the time we were privileged to share your life.

Hoping, also, that our precious friends will see Piney Lake as more a healing place than a hurtful place; as more a safe haven than a dangerous trek into, yes, the foibles of our human selves.

P.S. Yeah, a little syrupy, huh. Sorry. But, then, you didn’t know Sweet Melissa.

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3 Responses to Letters to Melissa – Piney Lake

  1. Superlative post George.

    I’m so glad Sarah enjoyed the trip – it’s so important that our fuzzy friends ENJOY the life we force them to, unnatural and bizzare as it can be. No doubt Sarah felt like she’d come home at last.

    Thanks for writing this, wonderfully poignant.

  2. georgeindenver says:

    Thanks, Doog. Not my best effort. You are right, though: Sarah did, I’m sure, feel as though she had come home at last. She was clearly in her element. Wishing now only for the means to grab a few acres up in the hills where the Soulful one can more often feel the comfort of her roots, her past.

  3. Greg says:

    George. Loved the accounting of your trip. Great pictures, too, as always. We were not able to make it to the mountains this summer (the house!!), so reading about your trip provided a much-needed mountain experience, if only vicariously.

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