Day 24. July 11.
Pedaling through the wide open spaces along the Divide a Storyhill song “Paradise is Lost” plays through my head. They sing:
“Everybody wants a piece of paradise. A house up on the hill with a view of heaven. Now everyone’s here, so close together. Paradise is lost and gone forever. When we were young we used to walk out in those fields and run forever in the backyard woods. Now the old trails disappear in neighborhoods. With streets named after what’s gone for good.”
Many of the valleys we ride through are speckled with fake ranches and vacation homes. With names like “Elk Run” or “Coyote Crossing”. Mainly in Colorado, but no state on the Divide is immune to this expansion. Just yesterday in Idaho cement trucks zipped by us on their way to build a foundation for someone’s McMansion.
I get it. I’m guilty too. I own my own half acre of paradise. My house on a hill with a view of our heavenly woods.
Paradise is not lost however, in the Centennial Valley. We road over Red Rocks Pass crossing into Montana and down into the Red Rocks Wildlife Refuge-a 51,386 acre preserve created in the 1930’s primarily for the protection and growth of trumpeter swans populations. Flanked by mountains, the wetlands provide home to dozens of bird species.While trumpeter swans swam in the lake, sand hill cranes crowed in the grass, and White Pelicans danced gracefully in the sky above us. We pedaled slowly as we soaked up the paradise around us.Leaving the refuge, we traveled through lush Bureau of Land Management (BLM) , forest service, and state land. Each hill we crested delivered another view of wide open ranch and wildlife land. In all, the valley is about 60 miles long and 30 miles wide with very few houses and almost no roads besides the one we rode. Lost in my head I think about the landscape. A hidden gem. A piece of paradise. Our paradise. No, really. Almost the entire valley is public land. Your land too. We already have that place on a hill with a view of heaven. We can visit it and tread lightly without losing it for good. What a gift.