Postcard: Spring in Minnesota

Photo by Devon O'Neil
Photo by Devon O’Neil

Spring is all about new life. In the high country, aspen trees bud, dandelions bloom, fox kits scamper around the junkyard. In Minnesota, as my uncle-in-law showed me last week, blue birds lay eggs in PVC pipe nests.

Land in the Sky: Behave

For the last six weeks I’ve been “weeding the woods.” That’s what my neighbor George calls my crusade against garlic mustard. Also known as Alliaria petiolata, garlic mustard is labeled by environmental authorities as an “invasive species.” Not that there’s anything wrong with invasive species—I’m one myself, maybe you are too—but garlic mustard is an exceptionally ill-behaved newcomer. It respects no bounds.

The Cooperative Extension website reports that “garlic mustard has spread throughout much of the United States over the past 150 years, becoming one of the worst invaders of forests in the American Northeast and Midwest.” It’s spread primarily by the traffic of human beings and their livestock. Left unchecked, garlic mustard will infest a forest faster than cheap housing tracts do prime ag land.

So every spring I’m out there in the woods—pulling, yanking, raking over garlic mustard wherever I spot it on our thirty acres. A fruitless task, I know, but if nothing else it allows me to say, without exaggeration, that I know every square inch of this land of ours. It’s relaxing to be outside in the fresh air on Paradise Hill, wandering up and down the steep wooded slopes, with a rake over my shoulder and a couple of collies bounding along by my side.

“You’re not going to eradicate it,” a weed expert recently admonished me. “The best you can hope for is to teach it to behave.” That’s funny. Sister Mary Dorothy used to say the same thing about me.

Postcard: Forgotten poles

Photo by Devon O'Neil
Photo by Devon O’Neil

You would think that after forgetting my poles twice before, I would’ve designed some kind of system to remember them no matter what. Not the case. Last week, I repeated my idiotic move once more and was left foraging at the trailhead for wooden replacements. They actually worked well, which was only partial consolation for how stupid I felt.

Postcard: Cave Creek, Arizona

Photo by Devon O'Neil
Photo by Devon O’Neil

I have never ridden a bull, but I’ve watched a few rodeos and always yearned to be among them. Last week I visited Cave Creek, Arizona, just outside Phoenix, and attended an intimate weekly Friday night rodeo at a barbecue joint. Big-time rodeos might get the ink, but, like many adventurous pursuits, the small-time culture is where the sport shines. This cowboy got up and was fine after failing to last eight seconds, a bevy of high-fives serving as his consolation.

Postcard: Eastern Sierra

Photo by Devon O'Neil
Photo by Devon O’Neil

There aren’t many places in America where you can drive to a parking lot on public land, walk down a gorgeous boardwalk in the middle of nowhere, and soak in a 105-degree natural hot spring while staring up at one of the most famous mountain ranges in the country. I got introduced to this oasis last week in California’s Eastern Sierra after a nice day of spring skiing. I can only hope to one day return.

Postcard: The Oasis

Photo by Devon O'Neil
Photo by Devon O’Neil

Some tables just have a better view than others. This one, a two-top at the Oasis restaurant in southern Colorado, stares out at Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Sangre de Cristo range. Come summer, it would be nearly impossible to score a seat at this table. But in early May, it sits empty most hours of the day and night, waiting for someone who appreciates world-class landscapes and homemade fruit pies.

Postcard: April showers

Photo by Devon O'Neil
Photo by Devon O’Neil

On the last day of April 2016, we succumbed to nature’s will and entered the storm. One lap would have been enough in lesser conditions. But we could not help ourselves. Wives, children, and warmth could wait. We slapped skins back on skis and climbed again, up to the run in this photo. Powder is fleeting this time of year. Gotta get it while it’s to be gotten.

Postcard: Group walk

A few weeks ago I lauded the serenity to be had on a solo ski tour. Well, going with a few friends is worthwhile as well. Here, we trudge through one of the countless alpine valleys to be explored in Colorado’s mountains, en route to a peak that falls just shy of the fabled 14,000-foot elevation and thus remains empty most days of the year. We took only photos and left only tracks in the snow.

Photo by Devon O’Neil

Postcard: Northeastern Utah

We’re approaching getaway season in the Colorado high country. Winter is on its way out and spring on its way in. Not that this cow cares. I spotted her in a field while passing through northeastern Utah recently. She doesn’t know about getaway season, nor does she need to. She needs to keep eating grass to stay alive, plain and simple. Poor cow.

Photo by Devon O’Neil