It would be hot, but the piercing rays of the infernal day star are combated by the elevation. We’re parked smack in the middle of what looks like a meadowy kind of area off of a small pond. A stiff breeze carries the little laps of stirring waves to my ears, and I so wish that the ankle-deep wetting of my legs and then, suddenly, jeans were due to its relatively clear waters instead of the pervasive muck I am currently squelching through. No matter. I am after an $18 piece of plastic and I will continue to slog through, into deeper and deeper layers of decades of organic decay and the thick, matting grass that grows atop it, making it look less like a swamp and more like a meadow. Except…<squelch> I go down even deeper. I’m nearly halfway up my calves in this thick black mud now and weigh the options of being potentially swallowed by high altitude death muck versus leaving the damned disc. But it’s nearly in my grasp, so I continue to slog through. I can practically feel Jeremy’s eyes recording my movements as I slosh forth in a most ungainly fashion. Grasping the ill-fated plastic in my hand, I tun, triumphant. My best friend looks concerned, and is shielding his eyes to get a better look at my movements.
“Are you okay?” He sounds worried. I feel the worst is behind me and grin; belatedly, I stumble and am nearly overcome by the muck. I raise a muddy hand in protest as I watch him start to lurch towards me. Getting us both stuck out here will help no one.
“I’m fine. Don’t come out here. It’s pretty terrible.” I recall suddenly his recent foray across a tributary of the Poudre River at our most recent adventure at Gateway Park in Laporte. He was making his way across and suddenly, he said, he felt himself sinking. Neither of us needed to be mired in Rocky Mountain quicksand. I lurch carefully towards him, my movements carefully planned, though I likely resemble the town drunk. I can feel the sting of sunburn on my shoulders and make a mental note to hose myself down with SPF 100 sport block as soon as I get out of this mess. One surefire way to burn: forget you’re eight thousand feet closer to the sun than most of the rest of the country. Also, three thousand closer than you’re used to in your day-to-day life in Fort Collins, Colorado. Red Feather Lakes makes for a gorgeous day-trip escape from the city’s late-summer heated frizzle; the disc golf course at the Sundance Trail Guest Ranch an idyllic 18 holes of meandering about in a slightly-off-the-beaten-path part of the world.
Still: the sun at this elevation will burn the fuck out of you, so higher-grade SPF is in order. I hand the disc to Jeremy and scrape thick fingers-full of greasy black ooze from my lower legs. In the distance, the sun raises the illusory effect of heat waves baking off of the steep inclines of the ranch’s main house’s alpine-style roof. Jeremy packs the disc I hand him into his bag, and we sally forth. Back across the bog, avoiding as best we can the wetter patches. My shoes are toast; my lower legs will need several hosings-down when I return home.
“Where are we going?” I squint at him, motioning to hand me the bag he carries. As he looks over the course I spray sport block wildly, trying to coat as much of my exposed skin as possible. When pressed, the pinkened flesh turns tan again. Dammit. Burned already.
“Well. Hole eleven’s that way.” He makes a swaying gesture to the meadow’s opposite side with most of his upper body, his blue eyes flashing wide at me. I stare him down for a moment. We break into grins and laughter, and start picking our separate-but-together paths out of the swamp. It’s mid-afternoon, we’re disc-golfing at 8000 feet, and my soaked shoes are my only care in the world. It’s another brightly beautiful day in Colorado.