All across the country, the earth is adorned with many hues of gold. Recently, I returned from a road trip that took me from the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas to the Rockies in Colorado, and back. We went through miles and miles of Kansas, prairie and grasslands on the way out and we went through part of Kansas and mostly Oklahoma on the return trip. We drove through thousands of acres of farmland—most of them growing milo (more on this later), corn, soybeans, hay and wheat—at least that is what we saw from the road. The roadside hosted sunny golden-yellow sunflowers and Jerusalem artichokes along fences.
We stayed with my traveling companion, Tina Marie Wilcox’s folks in Goldfield, Colorado at 10,000+ feet. The mountain out the front window was called Bull Mountain and out the back was Battle Mountain. Bull Mountain was covered in huge bristlecone pines and other coniferous trees and golden aspens shone brightly amongst them. They are appropriately called quaking aspens and their leaves rustle with the smallest amount of wind which causes them to shimmer; I never saw them completely still the whole stay.
Battle Mountain was another kind of gold—as in “there is gold in them thar’ hills”. Both of Tina’s folks—John and Lois Wilcox were employed at the mine before retiring to their mountain home—and I learned more about mining for gold then I imagined possible. John is a wealth of information and we drove up to look at the mining operation, which is fascinating; I was most amazed and glad to see how the mine reclaims and puts the mountains back.
Hiking around the neighborhood, we saw the last of summer in the yards and gardens. It was in the mid-thirties at night when we were there, however we still saw herb plants like yarrow, many varieties of artemesia, primrose, monarda, thistle, as well as bright gold tansy and sunflowers. Folks in the Rocky Mountains live with a very short growing season and variable weather with wind and hail; I believe it must be a challenge to garden there.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Garden of the Gods (talk about red rock!) and the Manitou Springs Cliff Dwellings which had a really attractive and informative display of many native herbs, wildflowers, shrubs and trees. Their signage explained how the plants were used in the past and how they are used today.
En route back to the Ozarks, we made a trip to see some herb buddies in Oklahoma. We actually saw three rainbows while we were there which certainly would indicate a special place. Kay and Bob Whitlock grow Riesling grapes and sell them to a local wine maker. We happily sampled the fruity, slightly sweet wine and heartily gave it our thumbs up. In the rows of green-turning-gold grapevines was a golden pear tree laden with luscious golden-ripe fruit. We harvested a bucketful in no time flat and were given some to take home, along with a few bottles of wine made from the fruit of their vines. Kay has crates of the pears in their cold cellar where she is preparing to make her own pear wine. Inspired by the golden gifts, here is a Pear and Cranberry Crumble for you to try.
The Ozarks were turning orange, gold and russet when we returned, and now back in Maryland, the leaves are falling fast. The earth is covered in her many-hued autumn raiment—today I scuffled through fallen leaves—gold underfoot.