|Photo by Alan Szalwinsky|
Maybe it was because I was used to other people trying to kill me in war but I never felt uneasy or afraid of the bears or lions while I roamed and climbed my way through my beloved state of Colorado. I have had many encounters with both and have learned to tell the difference in the threat by manner of approach. A bear will never be shy about making introduction unless they are very young and when they are close they smell to high heaven. Lions are different, they are rarely seen, heard or smelled until they are pouncing on you. Their game is up if eye contact is made as they lost the initiative. They will try again and are very patient. Man is a different animal and are generally very poor hunters without a long rifle. The clumsiness of their movements betray their location and with this knowledge I became very efficient in the field dispatchingthe enemy. If you want to learn how to track a human. Practice phtographing Elk, nervous by nature they make excellent test subjects to sneak upon. I was lucky that the state I live in has many many elk and once you master this it is easy to sneak up on any human.
The morning, even though brisk for a summer was a great morning to be able to grab a camera and go for a walk in the woods. I was in a relatively tame area when I came across a glade just to the North of Pikes Peak in Central Colorado. The area is known to the locals as Rampart and it offered up many recreational activities form motorcross to world class rock climbing. As I walked across the dew laden forest floor the earlg sun streaming into the canapy gave the forest a magical look and feel.
As I started to descend the north approach of Pikes Peak looking forward to the increased oxygen (I was operating at 8500′ above sea level) and warmer temps I was exposed to something much different. As I crossed over a small berm I felt the hair on my neck stand straight up not processing the foreboding of doom that would change myb life forever. My mind drifted back to Iraq as a young man during the first Gulf war when my naeivity resulted in my being sniped in the shoulder. I was older and wiser now and immediately changed my profile waiting for the imapct to shock my body with searing pain, it never came.
I scouted the area over and over searching for my pursuer only to find nothing over and over again. I scanned in front of me and a strange fog covered the glade below me. I doubled back my course by following the berm, rocks and trees that nearly suffocated the area. Nothing. I ran a figure 8 pattern and nothing. The temperature dropped the lower I went which should not happen. Every time I neared the fog it dissipated the fog and parted for me. The forest was thinner now and the trail had lo
g since faded as I bushwacked my way back to camp. I performed a modern version of a crazy ivan by making errati c turns in hopes of catching a glimpse of my hunter. Nothing again. The next five miles were agonizing and painful. Who was tracking me and why?
I reached camp and set my cadre I to an increased state of alert and they took anti measures to orevent our intruder access. Within 20 minutes camp was broken and we were heading out of the area. I was nervous and twitchy the rest of the day.
I was unsure of what I had experienced until I started to do some research and talk to local historians. The information I had asembled toom me to a place where I found myself having to suspend my belief in an ordered world. During the fall of 1863 during the American Civil war the Genocidal maniac Col. Chivington ordered an attack on a tribe of Arapahoe and Cheyenne encampment that were under treaty with Lincolns govt. The result was a one sided massacre of over 150 women and children (it was fall, the warriors were hunting for winter provisions) at the hands of the Colorado militia. The result were the Indian wars that spread like wildfire from Colorado to the dakotas. In unprecedented unity tribes throughout the region put aside ancient quarles and set their rage and lust for retribution against the white man. This included an encampment near the base of The North side of Pikes Peak.
It was amustering point for the incensed members of the Arapahoe, Kiowa and Cheyenne Dog soldiers who wanted nothing more than a full out war with the whites. Pioneers and settlers were murdered, homesteads burned and women and children taken and many of them taken to this encampment to be raped, used for target practice or tortured. This was not dances with wolves, entry into tribes was not on the agenda. Retribution in the most of violent ways was the order of the day. I don’t know if the darkness I felt that day were from the Indians or from the Pioneers killed but I must insist on saying that this was an area that I felt much anger and hostility and I feel that if it were possible I woukd have met a similar fate of those that perished there.
I have not returned to this area since.