A thankful nod to what looks like summer

You know it’s really summertime in the high country when you drive over Vail Pass and see what passes for early wildflowers: bumpers, pieces of taillights and other automotive detritus left over from the winter carnage. It’s enough to put a song in the heart of even the most jaded mountain dweller, who, as early as two weeks ago, was still thinking winter would never end.

For those of us with kids, of course, warm weather means we just expanded the realm of where kidly energy can be expended. In March, when the four walls of the homes bore the marks of the children bouncing off of them, we dreamed of having one of those sitting-empty 8,000 square-foot mega-mansions on the hill. Sure, they’d cost a fortune to heat, but at least Li’l Johnny could ride his Big Wheel around the vast hallways – like that kid in “The Shining.”

We persevered through the many long winter months with the kids, alternating trips to the ski hill, the rec center and City Market. Then we mixed it up, going sledding, going to the rec center and Safeway. Repeat, ad nauseum, for seven or eight months until the automotive debris starts showing up on the Pass. Then, finally, at long last: Hit the park! Go for a hike, put some shorts on, for Pete’s sake!

The best thing that’s happened for our sanity – as the parents of a kindergartener – is that the vast chunk of ice that was welded to the cloth of our trampoline finally melted. Far and away the best $150 we ever spent, the tramp is an ongoing source of entertainment for the 6-year-old as well as the three teens and their friends. It’s also a great worry-generator for Mom, who obviously didn’t have enough things to worry about in the pre-tramp days.

Another summer tradition is back in fashion as well: hiking up to overlooks and feeding the chipmunks who live in the rocks. Someone will write to tell me you’re not supposed to do this, but the batch we feed appear to be entirely dependent on the sunflower seeds the many humans bring to them, so ceasing this activity would be to disrupt the natural food chains, so far as I can tell. With a strict prohibition in our house against the introduction of any reptiles or rodents as pets, the chipmunks make for an excellent alternative – plus Andy gets to see them in their quasi-natural environment.

Generally a kid with his hair afire, Andy has learned to sit still and patient as the “chick-a-munks” gather around him, their little feet tickling his hands as they squabble among themselves for the prime position around the feed bag. I finally learned to bring a folding chair and a book with me, since a regular feeding takes close to two hours. Not a bad thing on a warm day ….

Sometime in March, I was ready to call it quits and move to, say, Death Valley. There, at least, I would not have to scrape my windshield or be stuck behind lines of moronic truckers who didn’t want to put their tire chains on. Yeah … Death Valley. Sounded good.

Now, with winter finally in the rear-view mirror and the full glory of a high country summer upon us, I’m ready to give the hills another chance. Like the woman who wants to get pregnant again because she’s forgotten the more piercing pains of labor, we’re ready to enjoy the bouncing baby of summer and assume that next winter won’t be quite so bad. After all, we stayed for the summers, didn’t we?

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