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Above Mancos, Colorado

"Nothing makes a sound in the trees like the wind does."
            - Don Williams

An aspen grove is a delightful place to be. And to park an RV.

I arrived here a bit put out. Even desperate. I was seeking sanctuary from the madding crowd of Labor Day in the mountains, when the public ascends upon the public lands.

Easier sought than done. I walked around Transfer campground this morning, noticing all the little reservation tags.

Abandon peace all ye who remain here.

I went down the hill to Mancos State Park, not really expecting relief. Same thing. The lady at the booth said a lot of family groups were expected. Boats, motorcycles, squalling kids.

She wore a large white cockatoo on her right shoulder, which gave her an odd air of gravitas.

"Don't get me wrong, ma'am. I like kids. But I don't like 'em hollering and running around at 8 in the morning."

She nodded. So did the bird.

"You couldn't live with one of these, then." She inclined her head at the cockatoo, then raised her arm. It was a big bird. Big enough to sit on your shoulder and look down at you. Sensing an invitation, it grasped her collar for support and edged down the arm, settling in just above the wrist. Then It began to nibble under one wing, showing the flash of yellow feathers there.

"She starts screaming every morning at sunrise. Doesn't matter if you cover the cage, she knows what time it is, and wants out. Don't you, precious?"

The bird preened itself, and looked down piercingly at me with one eye. Very impressive. If either of them had worn an eyepatch, I'd think I'd wandered into a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Okay. Campgrounds full. Only thing to do is head for the high hinterlands.

Onward and upward, however, did not amount to progress. Every place I could drag the trailer in was occupied. Some of these impromptu camps had been turned into regular ramshackle compounds, with tarps and tents and multiple trailers circled, even a few Class Cs.

There was a disconsolate, even abandoned feeling to some of them. No one home. I suspect they were dragged out here last weekend, just to lay claim to the spot. Good plan.

There was an occasional caretaker sitting outside. One of them smugly raised his beer as I passed by.

Finally, at a bend in the rutted gravel road, above 9500 feet, I found a spot untaken. You couldn't actually get into the aspens, but you could pull right up to them, and face the woods. I took it, hopeful that some branch of the Snopes clan would not pull in beside me during the night.

As I said, aspens are great entertainment. All those dancing leaves can distract you into dreams as readily as any campfire. Maybe more so, since it is seldom you'll see a family of jays perch and squawk among the flames.

If you close your eyes, as the wind rises, it sounds like a river running by.

This is going to be a golden spot in a week or two. Yellow is already peaking out from the lower branches. There's an icy scent in the air, though the sun beams down undiminished.

Someone's been here before, of course. There's a fire ring made of rocks, and a few large aspen boles sitting about to sit on. I threw one of them, about 2 feet thick and 2 feet high, onto a moderate fire.

It burned readily. Try that with an oak stump, and it will likely put out your fire.

It may rain. The sky is rumbling off to the south. I'll be here through Monday, hiding out, regardless. If the weather doesn't encourage walking, I can always read. And a little rain might hold down the dust from the invasion.

It could be worse. Happy Labor Day. See you on the other side.


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