The Writing Traveler: Distant Mountain Memories


We gathered wood, built a large fire, fried bacon, scrambled eggs, made toast in big iron skillets, and brewed coffee in old porcelain pots

In the scorching heat of the summer,  we would leave our urban dwelling and head for the summoning mountains.

No sooner had we hit the road than we would — in the mind’s eye – begin to feel the refreshing mountain showers, the cool temperatures, the relaxing settings. For we knew them well, having been there so many times before.

Eventually, the hot highways would morph into the narrowing, circuitous mountain roads and the real mountainous moments would again be with us and we would be restored, renewed,  reinvigorated.

Complete, engulfing happiness was ours when we would see the familiar log and wood plank bridge that would take us across the cold, rushing, inviting mountain river and to the guest ranch with its two dozen or so rustic cabins that had been our summer vacation home for year after year after year. And would be again just now.

Hurry, hurry, hurry across the bridge. Heaven was on the other side.

Home, at last, we would think, and immediately begin to wish — as we did each year – that we would never have to leave, though we knew with certainty that we would have to.

And oh, so soon. So very, very soon.

Roger Summers

The owners would welcome us, as they always did, there in Northern New Mexico and instantly we would have our belongings inside our chosen cabin and immediately would begin making a mental schedule of what we would do and where and when. There were trails to be hiked, rivers to be splashed about in, rocks to be hunted, photographs to be made,  cookouts to be arranged, and on and on.

And we would know with certainty that, in due time, the owners would knock on our cabin door and offer to take us exploring in their old beat-up but always reliable pickup famously known as the Pink ‘n’ Gray Bird. Maybe fishing. Maybe up to their mountaintop ranch. Maybe to some breathtaking vista. Maybe . . .

Sure enough, the knock would come on the cabin door.

How about a midnight ride up to the mountaintop ranch for a breakfast cookout, where we could watch the stars play and delight and entertain?

And fill us with wonder.

And calm.

The owners surely knew they could depend upon our answer  — a quick, enthusiastic, collective, “Yes!”

It would be cold in the night air so bundle up. And bring something comfortable to sit on, for the Pink ‘n’ Gray Bird, although seemingly guaranteeing it would get us there and back, could be a rough ride as we sat in the truck bed bounding and bouncing along those switchback dirt roads — paths, really – to and from the mountaintop ranch. No matter, the Pink ‘n’ Gray Bird always delivered us to abundant reward.

But bring nothing else, except for an enormous appetite. The owners would take care of all other needs.

Soon we would be there, carefully choosing a sloping spot among the aspen and the pine, a place where we could watch the stars come out to play, to endlessly twinkle, zoom, and dip and zip. And delight.

We gathered wood and built a large fire and fried bacon and scrambled eggs and made toast in big iron skillets.

And we brewed coffee in a couple of old porcelain pots and the smell of it wafted about and made our setting at once complete and reassuring and serene.

And as we ate our after-midnight breakfast and sipped our hot coffee we listened to the owners tell the wondrous, enthralling tales of the mountains, some true, some made up from the whole cloth from deep within the imagination but the latter still stories we somehow wanted to believe.

And maybe did.

And so the night was ours.

To this day, those star-watching,  breakfast-eating, story-telling, coffee-sipping moments there about that enormous mountaintop camp fire are deeply etched into the 20-20 vision of memory — there to repeatedly be called up and enjoyed and lived and relived and cherished.

Roger Summers is the author of Heart Songs from a Washboard Road. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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