The vibrant pink color confronting me was overwhelming. Contrasted against the green tundra with snow capped mountains in the background, it felt like a scene straight of “The Sound of Music”. It was all I could do to keep myself from breaking out into “Climb Every Mountain…” Though this summer has not been my favorite for so many reasons (having a close call with a wildfire being one), what makes up for this time of year is hiking into the high country, encountering the beauty of wildflowers in the Rocky Mountains.
Earlier in my life, when I lived a more conventional life, in small towns of Oregon or the suburbs of Maryland, I used to love to garden. I looked forward to springtime, heading to the local nursery, buying up pony packs of annuals and perennials. I would spend my weekends planting container gardens with mixture of golds and purples, pinks and reds. I would water them waiting for the splash of color that would brighten my day when I came home after work.
But life in the mountains is different. Water is such a prized resource here. When you live on a well system, Colorado water law dictates how and for what purpose you can use that water. Watering flowers outside is not one of those purposes.
So instead I take what Mother Nature gives us. This year, due to our wet spring, it was an abundance of Pasque flowers and Wild Roses right outside our door. And now in the dog doays of summer, I must venture farther from home to get my flower fix, but the rewards are no less stunning. Fields of pink paintbrush carpet the high alpine areas, along with my favorite tundra wildflower, Sky Pilot. It’s that much sweeter to find my tundra wildflower gardens, because without the trees, the expanses of gold, pinks and purples seem to go on and on as far as the eye can see.
A lovely couple I know lost their home in the recent Cold Springs Wildfire. I could feel how painful it was for them to not only find their home in ashes but to see the beautiful landscape they had so cherished become blackened and charred. She asked me if it would recover, what would happen next year? Perhaps one of the silver linings to a terrible fire is the rebirth in the years after. One of the most beautiful wildflower displays I have ever seen was here in the mountains the very next spring after a terrible wildfire. I was hiking up the hill, approaching the burn area, and the ground was completely covered in purple and yellow wildflowers. It took my breath away.
Wildflowers remind that life is filled with surprises, many of them filled with joy and beauty. Take a walk out there in the high country of Colorado and you will experience the beauty and wildness of the Rocky Mountains.