With the snows finally melted, a lot of places that were inaccessible to me since the floods are now open. So last week, I hiked up Tahosa Creek, which I hadn’t explored since last fall. Amazingly, it looked like the floods came through just yesterday, unlike the roads going through St. Vrain Canyon. Since last fall, the highway crews have been busy removing dead trees and debris, using bulldozers to straighten out the creek, get it to flow in an orderly way. It will take decades for the vegetation to grow back, but there is a semblance of order, as if humans had tidied up the landscape, leaving it open to revegetate and replenish.
But on the small Tahosa Creek, there’s no one to take on this chore, so the fallen aspen trees clog the creek, creating their own stream diversions— smaller branches, twigs and grasses caught in their arms. The tall, leggy branches of the willows are yanked down to the ground, still in submission to the flood waters.
Untamed by CDOT’s bulldozers, the creek bed is now two or three times bigger than it was before the floods, so the creek is free to divide and spread wherever it wants, sometimes splitting into three channels. Away from the main flow, gravel and rock deposits litter the valley floor, with an occasional deposit of fine sand, as if the remains of a child’s sandbox or a faraway beach had been dropped here.
Hiking up the creek was slow going. In places where the path had been claimed by the forces of the flood, I had to either scramble up the hillside over rocks or crash through trees and bushes, or walk on the uneven creek bed. There were also barbed wire and wooden fences to crawl over and under.
Somewhere up ahead was a bridge that crossed the creek and gave me access to the road that would take me back to the cabin, so I wouldn’t have to bushwhack my way back. But this newly formed, chaotic landscape didn’t look familiar. I had never seen the new road across the creek, and farther up the stream, it looked like a bulldozer had come in and flattened out the stream bed. Where was I? How far was the bridge? And would it still be there after the floods?
I started to feel that I was losing my bearings, so I hurried faster, intent on finding something familiar. When I realized I was just hurrying along, not seeing anything, I decided it was better to go back than push on, because I knew what was behind me but not ahead.
But I needed to climb higher, get out of the mess, even the sadness of seeing all this destruction. I found what looked like an old game trail that took me higher and higher on a relatively level path. When I finally stopped and looked behind me, I could see the mountains to the south and Meeker to the west, and the seemingly endless green pine forests. Below was the tangle of river, trees and brown rushing water. But up here was spaciousness, room to breathe and gain a new perspective.
Sometimes life is as simple as making a choice: stay in the chaos and entanglements or climb out of it.