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“A Good Day for a Drive”

an essay by Chris Hunt

First there’s the cramped aisle seat on the commuter. Knees aren’t meant to bend that direction. At least not for that long.

Then off the plane and into the airport. The rush. Harried faces counting gate numbers. Life becomes a watch face. Everybody has a smart phone at their ear, and looks of self-importance cross their faces.

Baggage claim is next – we stand around the carousel like a litter of puppies around a single food bowl, waiting nervously. They lost it. I just know it.

There’s the bag … the big green one. Says Orvis on the side, but don’t get too excited. One of the wheels was tweaked a few trips back. It’s barely functional, and due to be put down. But it’s been everywhere, seen everything. Three countries. Countless cased fly rods. Cameras loaded with digital images of toothy northern pike and saucer-shaped jack crevalle. And trout. Always trout. Can you put luggage out to pasture?

Now the rental car. Hours to go to get over the Sangres, but the skies are blue and the sun is winter-bright. It’s a day for driving.

A day for driving largely ruined by brain-dead talk radio. But there’s progress – I’ve discovered the real problem with this country. These pundits have, too, and that’s how they survive … on the anxieties of the sheep. Their closet racism, their veiled bigotry poorly disguised as patriotism. Yes, I know freedom isn’t free. I know these colors don’t run. I know Democrats spend too much money and Republicans are God’s chosen people. I know. One after the other – you’ve explained that to me.

The sheep are on fire. Your vitriol is the gasoline. Burn, baby, burn.

My kingdom for some FM music. Jesus.

But then I crest the summit and the valley lies stretched out before me. New snow tops the peaks of the San Juans far in the distance, and classic rock shows up with a push of the “scan” button. Another push and Lady GaGa, and those siren pipes resonate through the rental. She’s a strange one, but damn she can sing. Scan. Mariachi. Scan. Alan Jackson. Radio off.

One right turn at the bottom of La Veta, and in the distance I see the dunes. They look small from here, tucked up against 13,297-foot Mount Herard. Last night’s snow is a bright white on the peaks, and the contrast with the drab sage of the valley floor below and the deep blue of the afternoon sky makes the scene ahead especially crisp.

Twenty minutes later my feet rest on the dry, sandy bed of Medano Creek. It’s winter, and the creek doesn’t run this far. Three months from now I’d be shin-deep in ice-cold gritty water, and in a hurry to dry my toes in sun-baked sand a couple hundred yards away. For now, Medano Creek is a beacon of potential energy – when the brilliant white snow melts and rushes in a torrent down the stream, water from the Sangres will lose itself into the valley floor. For now, the sleepy, ice-covered stream soaks into the frigid winter sand without much protest.

A few clouds begin to climb across the sky. The sun sinks low in the southwest, and a chill takes over the dry valley air. The wind picks up. The moon makes its appearance over the Sangres. A coyote’s lonely din echoes off the pinons.

One last, long look at the mountains.

It was a good day for a drive.

Chris Hunt is a freelance writer and author living in Idaho Falls, Idaho. In a past life, he was a newspaper journalist. Years ago, he was the news editor for the Mountain Mail in Salida. His most recent book, “Shin Deep: A Fly Fisher’s Love for Living Water,” can be found at

One Comment

  1. Gretchen Atkinson Gretchen Atkinson May 6, 2010

    “THAT’S MY BOY”! Wonderful essay, felt like I was there with you, sure wish I was. Love, MOM

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