At the entrance to the trail head at the furthest point the small bus of Golden is willing to take us, we begin to ascend up a winding switchback to the top of Tabletop Mountain in Golden. The mountain is a series of jagged rocks and sharp switchbacks with some scrambling at the peak. Formed through volcanic activity millions of years ago (the mountain is now dormant), it has an aged-appearance of something that is timeless and doesn’t bend or forgive to man’s petty 30 to 100 years spent on this planet. We are minuscule; a tiny drop of sand along the ocean, tiny glint of light in the galaxy, a soggy corn flake at the bottom of your morning cereal bowl. The mountain has many paths, all of which lead to death– but you’re free to enjoy whichever path you choose. That’s the gift of life.
The erosion of sand along the trail makes it slick in some spots and it makes it difficult at time to find your footing. I find myself wishing I had brought boots rather than running sneaks. The view from the top is stunning, although everything in mountain country tends to lean this way. Below, there is the Coors brewery with its’ faded paint mixed with the pungent smell of hops and refinery. The smell is intoxicating and my taste buds and stomach crave for a fresh beer, yet up here there is just dust, grime, sunlight. The sun shoots a blanket of heat down to the hardened canopy below.
Along the trail, there is an abandoned Home Depot shopping cart and a black widow with a red dot on the abdomen nestled beside it. It’s good to keep your eyes open before you sit down. The red hourglass on the body serves as nature’s warning for other birds thinking of dining on the poisonous spider; however, some birds dine on them anyways and pay the consequence.
Being how high up on the ridge we are, one has to ask how the shopping cart actually got there. Did someone drag it all the way to the top? Attached to the front handles of the cart is a hardened rope. It seems too steep for someone to have pulled it to the top though. It’s not till we get to the top that we realize there are other paths that are less steep that lead to the same confluence and someone could have perhaps took it along the straighter path and pushed it off the cliff…? But why, and what’s the story? You can make a guess.
The height of Tabletop Mountain is only over 6,000 feet so it’s nothing to grueling but an efficiently-timed day hike that’s easy to squeeze into about any schedule. At the top, we stop to enjoy the view. The sky is clear blue with scattered puffs of white clouds like something out of a picture book. The artistry in the sky is nonchalant in attitude. Cactus sprout up occasionally. Someone has placed a pacifier on the branch of a bush along the descending trail. Suck on that as a landmark! There is something that’s not as nerving when you see an object along the trail of the sort that someone has put thought behind it. It’s the discarded and empty beer bottles along the beginnings of trail heads that piss me off. And why is it, almost always, that they are at the beginnings of the trails and less frequent at the top? As another mark of the sloppy people that mindlessly discard aluminum cans into the bush, most are too lazy to even make it to the top.
On the descending trail, there is suddenly less sun and more shade offered as the sun is on the other side. We are now on the west side of the mountain. Here the climate has changed enough to offer different plant and wildlife. Sparrows shoot back and forth in between the valley. A tiny, furry critter on four legs darts between bushes along the trail but is unrecognizable. Near the bottom of the trail nearest the houses and a residential neighborhood, we stumble upon a rattlesnake which upon closer inspection turns out to be dead. Someone has taken it upon his or herself to chop off its’ head. Now nature is taking its’ course with every small insect from flies to bees bringing it back to where it came from– just dust in the ground.
Magpies congregate at the beginning of the trail head where we began this trek; yapping away and flying from the pine tree to the wooden fence of the house beside it. The mountain said, “there are multiple trails. All which lead to death.” Still, they often times end up taking you back to the same place you came from, except it looks altogether different this time around.