Saturday, September 26, 2009

A New Respect for Chipmunks

People climb mountains for many reasons. I doubt among them is the idea of being humiliated by chipmunks.

Last week, after attending the ACFW Writer's Conference in Denver, my wife Cindi and I decided to stay on a few days to see the Rocky Mountains. Neither of us had ever been to Colorado, and who knows if we'd ever get another opportunity. We had the most remarkable time, but we also learned a few things about ourselves.

One of them is...we both prefer to take pictures of mountains from the valley, looking up; not from the mountaintop looking down. But we came to this realization only after making it to the top of a very high mountain (over 10,000 feet - see first picture). We didn't climb this mountain, mind you, we drove there. Other people who aren't afraid of being so high worked very hard to create a nice smooth road, so that other people could get to the top in the comfort of their cars. With the heat turned on, listening to music, drinking Starbucks lattes.

We started our journey (okay...our drive) both very excited at the prospect of the view we were about to experience. If it looks this beautiful from down here, what must it be like from way up there. I'll tell you what it's's terrifying.

We did fine for the first 8,500 feet. The road was nice. We both enjoyed looking out the window. Scenes worthy of an artist's brush around every curve. But then we rounded this one hairpin turn and the road seemed to narrow. We kept climbing up and up and up. Every turn was a hairpin turn. No railings. Just outside Cindi's window the pavement ended, a foot beyond that rocky cliffs and steep dropoffs.

Beckoning to us. Come, take your eyes off the road, for just a moment, and join us.

Are we enjoying the scene? No. I'm staring at one thing: the centerline of the road, holding the steering wheel with a white-knuckled grip; all the while trying to project strength and calm to my poor wife. Is she enjoying the scene. No, I look at her and she's leaning in away from the window, holding up her hands so that her eyes don't accidentally shift to the right and see the perils below.

Neither of us talk. Why would we, we are within inches of imminent doom. When will these stinking turns stop? When will this road finally end?

Finally, we reach the top. As I pull into the parking space, I push the brake pedal to the floor, so that the car doesn't sail off the edge into oblivion. How nice. They have provided restrooms. We both find the courage to venture out to use them. We need to use them.

It's freezing outside. The wind is roaring. It is no man's land. We decide we must at least spend a few moments taking in the view. Snap a picture or two to prove we had survived this moment. Standing several yards from the rocky ledge, we begin snapping the camera.

I look down and running about my feet, dancing up and down around this rocky ledge, I see chipmunks. A whole chipmunk family. Cute as can be. (see 2nd picture, click on it and he'll get real big). They are there with us at the very precipice of the mountain but, unlike us, they have no fear. They are as contented to be there as in any grassy field or shady tree. They were literally running and hopping right there at the edge, occasionally it seemed they were even playing little chipmunk games.

We stood amazed a moment more, snapped a few more pictures, then ran back to the car to get out of the cold. Both resolving that from now on, we will take our pictures in the valley below.

But now with a new, profound respect for these brave little creatures. There is the lion, and the bear, the elephant and the crocodile. But there is also...the chipmunk.


  1. Hello Dan, I just checked out the website and found your blog. I read this story and laughed because my son took his 2 children to Colorado and saw the chipmunks. He was taking pics and was ready to leave. As he was turning around, to get back in the RV, he saw a bunch of people on the other side of the road. They were looking down over the edge. He took the kids and got there just in time to see a mountain goat (big horns) running away. We laugh and laugh over taking pics of chipmunks when he could have taken pics of a mountain goat. I hope you didn't miss your mountain goat experience for chipmunks. lol!

    I think there is a lesson in this somewhere...

    I am on page 160 of your book and can't wait to finish it. It brings back memories of my childhood. I am a 67 yr. old gramma and the radio shows you mention where so much a kid. Hard to believe that now a days that would be hard to do. One thing for sure...we had imaginations. Now everyone tells the kids what to imagine.

    God bless you and thanks for a wonderful walk down memory lane.


  2. Charlene,

    I agree with you about the dulling of imaginations. I'm 52, my childhood memories are of B&W TV's, very small screens in very big pieces of furniture. Having spent so much time reading about the 40's,though, I feel like one untimely born, like I could easily go back then and pick right up.

    As far as the mountain goats and chipmunks...there was no way either of us could have ventured so close to the edge to see the goats. We were simply too pathetic and afraid. But I would have loved to see one.

    Glad you are enjoying the book, hope the finish is satisfying. If you do like it, I'd really appreciate it if you could say a few words about it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I think regular readers reviews are the most valuable to other readers.

    The sequel coming out in June stays in '44 and '45, so I think you'll enjoy that one too.