Before the Craig Daily Press discontinued the column, Moffat County Neighbor, I looked forward to the question, "What's your favorite place in Moffat County?" I enjoyed learning what other people like about our spot on the planet.
I thought if I were interviewed for the feature, I might dither about three people I'd invite to dinner or the type of music I prefer, but I could name my favorite place without hesitation.
When Joel and I drive home along Colorado Highway 13 or U.S. Highway 40, I anticipate my first glimpse of Cedar Mountain.
Around town, I lift my eyes to find it. I like the way its profile varies depending on my vantage point. From some locations, it seems to shoot fiercely from the earth, towering high; at others, it appears gentle, approachable; always it is unique in its isolation.
Joel and I like to walk the well-kept trail that traces the mountain. The path offers a perfect short hike: steep climbs interspersed with long cruising stretches downhill or parallel to the mountain's crest. On the uphill, our hearts pump hard, and our breathing startles the good folks of Maybell.
As we hike, we examine the surrounding terrain, noting subtle changes that mark the progress of the seasons.
In the spring, as soon as the trail dries enough to prevent mud from collecting beneath our boots, we go to the mountain. Fresh green unfurls in all directions, softening the world, lifting our winter-weary hearts, cushioning strong-willed wildflowers.
We walk to the edge of a steep bluff and peer over at an old eagle nest, hoping to find it occupied this year.
As summer gains dominance, we leave earlier for our hike, wear cooler clothes and wish we had remembered our sunglasses. Birds powdered with blue group on favored bushes, fretting about our passing. The fields stretching below wear a purposeful green.
The Cedar Mountain of autumn is transcendent.
Understated shades of brown and gold fade into one another. Deer freeze in wide-eyed pose or flee in swift, silent bounds. Indian paintbrush stands crimson and stalwart. We lift our faces, storing up a winter's supply of sun.
Eventually, ice and snow end our weekly walk. We shove hiking boots to the back of the closet, vow to buy snowshoes and watch from the valley as snow accumulates on our mountain. We imagine it misses us.
We like the people we meet on Cedar Mountain and most of their dogs. We look forward to the lady with the two Labradors: one, old and dignified, approaches slowly and nods his head in greeting; the other, young and muscled, with more energy than common sense, bounces up and wriggles with delight, as though meeting us is better than puppy chow for dinner.
We step aside for mountain bikers and runners, respecting the effort and skill they are expending. Once we came across an early morning photographer practicing her art. On occasion, we see folks unloading horses from trailers and gearing up for a ride, but we've never met them on the trail. We wouldn't mind.
During bow season, we met two hunters and asked where they would be hunting, so we wouldn't interfere. They told us they hadn't seen any bucks and were giving up for the day. They thanked us for our concern and remarked, "We all need to share such a beautiful spot and take care of each other and it. This mountain's something remarkable, isn't it?"
Indeed, it is.