On the walking mountain

On maps it is called Rabbit Mountain, a sloping hill about twenty minutes north of Boulder. But when the interpretive kiosks mentioned this mountain’s habit of walking—three miles away from its companion foothills over recent eons, thanks to a maze of small seismic faults in the area—I was hooked on its other name. A walking mountain. Cool.

We headed out one morning this week, our lunches packed, to enjoy warm sunshine while we could. (In Colorado, March warmth may not last long; a foot of snow can follow within hours.) The air was hazy, but a little ways up the Eagle Wind Trail, the snowcapped peaks of the Continental Divide became visible:

Rocks decorated richly with lichen kept us company, along with prickly pear plants newly fattened with moisture after their winter survival act of withering almost to nothing. In another couple months they’ll be bursting with yellow flowers.

We were hoping to see wildflowers. It was, after all, the first week of spring! The earliest flowers would appear on south-facing slopes, which meant we’d have to head to the far, south end of this four-mile loop. This was a birthday hike, and I felt lazy. Surely there would be a few wildflowers before we reached the far end.

About a mile into the hike, we stopped for lunch next to a grizzled pine that for many years now has been resisting the wind’s efforts at uprooting. From its twisted and exposed roots it reclines along the ground, resting the bulk of its weight on the earth while its branches and needles look fresh and lively. The sumac bush in the foreground is just now springing fresh green leaves:

After lunch, because we’d seen no wildflowers yet, we decided to go for it—we’d commit to the full four miles. Some splendidly painted lavender and purple rocks surprised us near the far end of the loop:

And then there was this spectacular snag:

We were rounding the turn now. Would there be no wildflowers? I had my eyes fixed on the horizon when I heard my sweetie behind me: “What have we here?” There they were, nestled close to the ground, some early Easter daisies, also called Townsend’s daisies (Townsendia hookerii):

Followed soon after by some spring beauties (Claytonia lanceolata):

Ahhh! The first wildflowers of the season. I could go home happy.

By afternoon the air had cleared, and the far side of the loop brought us some expansive views of Longs Peak (14,259′) and Mount Meeker (13,911′) , just a dozen miles away as the crow flies. The Arapaho people who lived here called these peaks the Twin Guides because they were used to guide travelers home to this area. The two are so close that it has never made sense to me why their English names are not more closely related. Twin Guides it is:

The day was complete. We were nearly out of water. Bodhi had stopped pulling forward excitedly and was now stopping to rest every chance he got. We took a quick breather in the shade before heading down to the car and home. Here we are, on my fifty-fourth birthday:


11 Responses to On the walking mountain

  1. Kathy Kaiser says:March 28, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I enjoyed your blog on Rabbit Mountain. It’s one of my favorite close places to hike. As for the names of the two mountains not being related, there is a bit of connection, in that both are named for early Colorado explorers: Stephen Long and Nathaniel Meeker, the latter an Indian agent who was killed by the Utes.

    • Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:March 28, 2011 at 9:33 am

      Thanks for the bit of history; it sent me to Wikipedia to find out more about these two men. Now I REALLY prefer the Twin Guides name. It’s place based; it celebrates the land instead of the men who worked to conquer it, such as those, like Meeker, who tried to coerce the people living here to conform to European lifestyles. It’s also a name that takes account of the two mountains at once, which is how they appear to the viewer; it makes sensory sense.

  2. Mimi Meredith says:March 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Priscilla, thank you for sharing more of your beautiful Colorado experiences. And happy belated birthday! What a wonderful way to greet another spring and celebrate another year!

  3. Melanie Mulhall says:March 29, 2011 at 9:11 am


    Being a fan of the Apukunas (the spirts that inhabit mountains), I love the concept of a walking mountain! I always suspected it of some.

    The wildflowers are stunning and I’m so thankful that you captured them on film. The heart rouses with such beauty.

    Melanie Mulhall

  4. Joan Calcagno says:March 29, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Hi Priscilla, Happy Birthday!!! I loved reading about your day and seeing the photos!

    • Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:March 29, 2011 at 6:42 pm

      Hi, Joan! Great to see you here. Thanks for dropping by.

  5. Ellen Orleans says:April 5, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I also took a birthday walk on Rabbit Mountain a few weeks ago! I hiked the Little Thompson Overlook trail, which I’d never walked before and saw some amazing frame-shaped red intrusions in the rocks. I took photos of them but am curious as to what geological circumstance would cause them to appear like that.

    So many mysteries in our hills!

    • Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:April 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      I look forward to exploring that trail too. We need a geologist to explain the red markings in the rocks! Happy birthday, Ellen.

  6. Janet Riehl says:April 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm


    Happy 54th birthday. How can that be? You are as glowing as ever. I see that you are connected with my blogging buddies Sharman Apt Russell and Susan Tweit. I admire how you’re bringing together your passions for nature, spirit, activism, and writing.

    You, go Girl!

    Janet Riehl

  7. Gail Storey says:April 22, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Yes, mountains really do “walk,” shifting locations like everything living! I delighted in your birthday hike, in search of wildflowers, and appreciated the vivid photos that further illustrate the nature-loving sensibility we share.

  8. Laurel Kallenbach says:April 24, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Wow! Walking on a walking mountain. And what treasures you found! You truly had a wonderful birthday!!