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Allenspark Meadow Mountain Cafe and The Wild Turkeys at Rocky Mountain National Park

August 22, 2016
Meadow Mountain Cafe, Allenspark, Colorado

Meadow Mountain Cafe, Allenspark, Colorado

It was just this past Saturday, August 19.

I dropped Nancy off at her all-day recorder workshop at the Allenspark art gallery right on Highway 7, 16 miles or so south of Estes Park and headed directly to the Meadow Mountain Cafe in town. At 9 am the place was packed but someone sitting by himself let me join him at his table. The redness in his face suggested a lifetime of booze, although he appeared sober; no breath wreaking of alcohol to ruin breakfast; mercifully he permitted me to sit at his table as long as we didn’t have to talk, which suited me fine. After a short time, he got up to leave..and kept getting up and up and up. Sitting I hadn’t noticed his 6’7″ towering figure.

Our agreed nonverbal table sharing didn’t prevent him from sharing his thoughts with others in this pleasant but somewhat cramped space that made up the interior of the restaurant. There was also a lovely patio, but it was too chilly out to enjoy it. From his conversation with the other clientele, my table mate, a Colorado Paul Bunyan, appeared to be something of a local, the “locals’ in Allenspark being mostly prosperous people from Texas and Oklahoma who have purchased mountain homes that for the most part, they visit for a few weeks in the summer. At least that is what the supersized SUVs and Hummers sitting outside the restaurant suggested.

The conversation flitted from one subject to another. It began interestingly enough.

The “locals” talked about a man who had ridden his Harley Davidson motor cycle over a cliff  to his death on Highway 7 – “the Peak-To-Peak” Highway’  this past winter. An autopsy suggested he had a heart attack prior to taking the great plunge. He was someone who was something of a local hero,  having helped people survive the 2013 major flood that washed away a good part of downtown Lyons. After they described where he lived down the canyon a ways, it struck me that I had met him two years ago at the Meeker Lodge; we had had a long talk about the flood’s aftermath, the scars of which pock the mountains three years on and how he had helped save several of his neighbors properties, and probably their lives. He left his wife with a mortgage she couldn’t afford paying and she had to sell the place.

There was a lot of cheap talk about “well he died doing what he loved” (ie riding his bike) as if that was some kind of consolation, the kind of shallow, meaningless talk of people trying to rationalize, or justify a tragic loss of some decent human being who had died. The other “not-so-locals” agreed. I just felt bad for the guy, one of the few people in these mountains who grew up here and knew the mountains as well as anyone and was not a Texas or Oklahoma oilfield transplant . I’d talked to him about mushrooming and remembered he knew what he was talking about.

The subject matter deteriorated from the deceased mountain man who had ended life on his Harley to the brain-dead, but otherwise very much alive, Republican candidate for the presidency, Donald Trump. They started talking politics, that is, if you can dignify the garbage emanating from  Trump’s mouth as political. No question though, Trump had won the hearts of the summer-time-only-locals at the Meadow Mountain Cafe.

These were true red, white and blue “Trumpeteers,” not the so-called angry white working class Mexican-immigrant hating variety, but the more prosperous, Christian fundamentalist Hummer-driving oil and gas industry  Mexican immigrant hating types. They were far more politically stupid and openly bigoted than the ranchers and farmers in Nebraska and Kansas I had spoken to a month back, inquiring why they liked Trump.

For the latter support for Trump was mostly about opposition to the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal) combined with a healthy dose of cynicism about Hillary Clinton’s connection to high finance, ie, these were actual political discussions about issues. The content of Trump’s Allenspark contingent had a different tone however. They  went on about Trumps’ “moral courage,” how “he’s only saying out loud what everyone thinks privately.” “Everyone” gets conflated here with what they think privately, a much smaller circle of those whose minds are politically and socially pickled by Fox News and the like.

The discussion morphed from how Americans fail to appreciate – or acknowledge Donald Trump’s finer qualities – to the source of the “misinformation” concerning the Trump candidacy. The Trumpeteers went on to pinpoint the source of the national anti-Trump brainwashing: liberal arts college education and all those liberal professors who are polluting the minds of young students, undoing in part or in whole, all that those young minds had learned in church and home about Christian America. Besides poisoning the minds of the young with claptrap about democracy, racial equality, and the cruelty of America’s foreign wars, what is a college education “worth” these days, they wondered? Not much, they concluded. An argument to shut down higher education in America?

Trying to show at least a minimum of moral courage in face of this casual ideological onslaught, I refused to hide the book I was reading, the title of which belies the searing content about modern warfare (Michael Burleigh’s Moral Combat) on my lap.

I should add here, that the food is fine, and if one needs a little patience because in the end it is a small, understaffed operation, the meal is worth the waiting – the conversation aside. I would guess that many of the temporary locals have returned to triggering fracking earthquakes in Oklahoma by Labor Day, after which the Meadow Mountain Cafe would be an even more pleasant place to stop for breakfast.

Mount Meeker - one of the favorite Colorado mountains I have never climbed.

Mount Meeker – one of my favorite Colorado mountains I have never climbed.

2.

Leaving my esteemed company to ponder – or discover – Donald Trump’s finer qualities, I headed north along Highway 7 past Mount Meeker and Longs’ Peak towards Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park where I was determined to take advantage of my “Senior Pass” – free admission for the elderly-but-young-in-spirit crowd – of which I am now a two card-carrying member (my Senior Pass and AARP card) and take a hike in the park.

But as usual, the majesty, utter beauty of Mount Meeker stopped me dead in my tracks leaving Allenspark. I had to take picture, forgetting that I already have, according to my informal estimate, at least 15 of this mountain taken from exactly the same spot. No matter, same thrill, like the first time I saw it 47 years ago, when “fate” and a Greyhound Bus from Chicago, first landed me in Denver. The moment of nostalgia – and the camera click – having quickly passed, I continued on my journey north, still considering the imponderable: how I wound up in this place and made my life here, nearly half a century ago. Unable to figure that out – it remains imponderable – I drove on hoping to successfully negotiate the three state troopers sitting in their souped up police cars between Allens’ Park and Estes. Guess they hadn’t met their quota of tickets this late in the month.

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the nation’s top tourist spots especially at this point of the summer in the weeks before Labor Day. This past Saturday was no exception. The roads were crowded with people from all over the country and the world. Later in Estes Park I listened to Finnish, Swedish, Spanish, French, Russian, spoke to a Thai worker and a young Ukrainian student from Odessa. I enjoy their presence immensely, even if Estes is little more than a little dump of a tourist town (but with the best Safeway for miles around and three great ice cream shops, one of which I could resist).

In any case, I entered the park easily enough using my “Senior Pass’ which gives me free access – and a special lane at the entry – through the more southern Beaver Meadows entrance south of Estes, and headed for Beaver Meadows. I took about a four mile round trip hike by myself along the edge of the meadow where it meets the mountains. Lovely. The view, once again, was spectacular and after cursing the eugenicist, Teddy Roosevelt for his role in invading Cuba, a praised him for pushing the national park project through Congress despite the fierce opposition of the Tea Party-like idiots of a century ago who wanted to keep it all privatized so they could squeeze every last penny out of its beauty

Rounding a bend, too busy to worry about my presence very much, was a family of wild turkeys, seven in all. A male, two females and four chicks. They were working the tall grasses and didn’t seem nervous by my presence. Every once in a while, the male would look up and “give me the eye.” I would humbly turn my eyes down towards the ground having read somewhere that this was a show of my subservience…or was that true only with Diane Fossey’s gorillas, but in any event, it worked. I was able to get within about 75 feet of them, taking one step at a time, waiting and then proceeding again slow. Watched them for a good half hour, took a load of not-very good photos-before continuing on my way. 2016 - 08 - RMNP - 24a

Meanwhile back at the Allenspark art gallery, waiting for Nancy to finish up her all-day recorder marathon, talking to a friend afterwards, I learned that the presence of wild turkeys at the park is a recent phenomenon and that there was a Colorado Public Radio program (which I could not locate) on the subject. Although they have become common enough on the High Plains – from 4000  to Denver’s 5280 feet 8500-9000 feet, until a few years ago wild turkeys did not occupy the higher altitudes. Their presence in and adaptation to these higher altitudes is yet another indication of climate change and global warming.

This is my third sighting of wild turkeys in a little more than a year – once east of Kearney, Nebraska with Nancy and David Fey a year ago March, and then last summer on the outskirts of Brownville, Nebraska which sits on the Missouri River. Once nearly wiped out in the United States, wild turkeys have made an impressive comeback thanks to efforts of state game and fish agencies and non-profit sportsmen’s groups like the National Wild Turkey Federation. But then why should wild turkeys be different from bison, wolves, egrets and all the other band of animal brothers we humans have tried to exterminate…and nearly did?

They have thrived on the High Plains of Colorado and now have worked their way into the mountains.  They are present in 53 of the state’s 63 counties. Colorado’s turkey program ranks among the most successful species conservation efforts in Colorado Division of Wildlife’s history, with turkey hunting having become the fastest growing form of hunting in the United States. Although I’ve never done so, and don’t expect to in the future, I have no particular aversion to hunting as long as it is done in a controlled manner. 2016 - 08 - RMNP - 26a

Shortly afterwards, continuing on my hike I met up with a group of hikers heading back towards the parking spaces. I told them about the wild turkeys just up ahead of them off the path. Having lost the ability to estimate ages I guessed they were ; in their early 30s, two men, two women. And then, as has happened with some frequency, at the entrance to the NYC subway, in downtown Seattle, but now in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, I heard the all to familiar – “Professor Prince!” Turns out she was Abbey Vannoy, a former student at the University of Denver. What’s more, she lives around the corner from us, in Denver. I was told that she went on to make a career in the sustainable food movement. I hope to see her again.

It was only later that I learned that daughter Abby was in the Park at the same time as I was. She was “lake hopping” (from her pictures) with a friend. Unfortunately our paths didn’t cross.

 

 

3 Comments leave one →
  1. William Watts permalink
    August 23, 2016 4:42 am

    I loved this

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. Ronald D. Parks permalink
    August 29, 2016 1:46 pm

    Rob’s experience with the Trumpeteers at the cafe is both fascinating and chilling, especially so since about a year before Trump launched his quest to be president I had my own encounter with resentful locals in a small town cafe in north-central Kansas. The contents of my experience was less political, but after about 50 minutes of waiting for my order of eggs, toast, and hash-browns while listening to a profanity-laced, violence-soaked, racist, misogynist conversation at a nearby table of good ol’ boys , it finally dawned on me that a culture wars skirmish was underway and I was the bad guy being assailed. The depth of anger staggered me. It also helped me to understand the Trumpeteer phenomenon when it surfaced a few months later.

    • August 29, 2016 1:56 pm

      so much anger in the land – some focused, mostly not…

      half way through your book; more on that later. best, rob.

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