June 10, 2014

Chernobyl Wolf. ~ Kathy King Johnson

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I feel like a Chernobyl wolf.

We’re walking along this Open Space trail in Boulder between a septic plant and a fracking mine and it is called, no kidding, “Walden Ponds.”

Walden Ponds seems an exotic oasis in the High Desert of the foothills of Colorado.

Waterfowl summer here, cormorants, egrets, Great Blue Herons, duck, duck, goose, and were those sandpipers? And the raptors who live off of this riparian system: eagle, osprey, hawk and owl.

Exotic flowers in primary colors splash from the green. I think someone has dropped seeds of not quite indigenous blooms.

The theme of soothing beauty culminates in a sort of waterfall at the end of the trail.

It’s Boulder Creek, but at this point it’s surely Boulder River, high, fast, brown, cold and toxic. Much more rain, and we will flood. And nobody, but nobody, wants another 500 year or 1000 year or however-long-ago flood of that proportion. It’s been so long no one can remember the last one so they can’t agree on a year.

Chernobyl Wolf Walden Ponds is my least favorite trail in Colorado. Tony loves it. The ponds are mining pits, dug out years ago by the same kind of folks who are still digging right next door for rocks and minerals. The holes filled with mountain runoff now, freakish marshland where once there was rock.

It’s a lot of water for Colorado. Where else do you see flowers without irrigation?

Water pours from creeks and ponds and ditches that run along the paths. The humidity fogs my sunglasses. I scout for poison ivy, morel mushrooms and trillium that grow in my northern Michigan. Michigan humid.

Plants you won’t see in the rest of Boulder grow to freakish size at Walden Ponds.

I dub the place Monsanto Gardens. It’s unnatural, fecund and overdone. Trees manipulated by human hand, a fallen log shaped like a dragon’s head, rocks inserted for nostrils. Someone built a hiding place, a house of sticks for shelter from the storm. I would rather hike away from people. I’d prefer to see not a trace.

The people are alien. Birders. OMG. Tony says you’re toast once you buy the vest. Khaki, goggles and lenses. And great hats! I covet the hats. Hikers, moving faster than I. Not gawking or stopping to photograph. In it to win it.

And bikers, yes, I don’t know why. A flash of neon flies by. If you’re in such a hurry, why drive in the woods?

Clothed in plastic, slick like horses, not what you’d expect to see in the woods today.

I come along on the hikes to see the amazing wildlife. Lots of critters. I follow their tracks in the mud. Horse, coyote, vole, mouse, raccoon, and hopefully what’s someone’s big dog. Tony saw a chupacabra here once, and he got the picture—feral cats, too.

I wonder, if Walden Ponds is as creepy as I find it, why the birds and animals are flocking here?

I think they are like wolves that thrive in the nuclear wasteland of Chernobyl, taking back the wilderness from those who tried to destroy it.



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Apprentice Editor: Amanda Fleming Taylor / Editor: Renée Picard

Photos: Tony Johnson

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Kathy King Johnson