“Soon winter will be upon us.” I grinned. “All of those brilliant gold leaves on the Aspen trees will be bare against the Pine trees, and wow, the fresh air smells fabulous.” All of the tension left my body as peace from the surrounding mountains settled in. There was nobody else on the road, and as far as the eye could see were the reds, gold’s, and greens of the trees.
“We’re almost to Valles Calderas, wouldn’t it be nice if we spot some elk herds.”
Valles Calderas is a vast meadow surrounded by the mountains and is one of the largest volcanic calderas in the world. Because the meadow is so green it’s hard to imagine it was once a volcano. Yellow and purple flowers dotted the grass, making it look fantastical. At one time it was private property with cows grazing on the land along with the elk, but now it’s public property, empty of the bigger wildlife until fall when the elk seem to come out from hiding. That’s what I was hoping for on this trip.
I’ve driven this road many times in my life, and had different experiences each time I’ve come up here. Mountain lions have jumped out in front of my vehicle, racing to the other side of the forest in an awesome blur. I’ve seen bears, and twice I’ve stopped for a big herd of elk crossing the highway. A bit scary, but quite a sight. A few times I’ve felt like I was driving on a parallel plane. The trees and rocks seemed just a tad out of their original place. Some nights I the drive was peaceful, other nights I would get crept out on certain stretches of the road. And, of course, there were the times when the drive was surreal like now.
Once I stopped to view the vastness of the Valles Calderas and one lone coyote walked right up to my truck. We checked each other out for about ten minutes before he took off back into the valley, very cool. I love these mountains and that’s why I chose to live here.
I kept my eye out for elk as Killer lay contently next to me with absolutely no interest in what was going on around him.
“Oh well, I don’t see any elk this time. Too bad.” We drove in silence for a while, “I have such big plans for us this winter Killer, you’re going to love it up here. We’re going to hike, fish, spend lots of snowy days sitting in front of the fire, and we’ll have tons of peace and quiet!”
My name is Montana Dayton. I am officially on vacation. Killer’s my 6 month old, 80 pound adopted chocolate lab/ bull mastiff mix puppy. He probably doesn’t have a vicious bone in his body. But when he runs, which is rare, he starts foaming at the mouth. He reminds me of Stephen King’s rabid Cujo. Right now he’s lying in the passenger seat of my truck with his head plopped down uncomfortably on my lap.
“I have to admit I’m starting to get a little nervous.” Silence from Killer.
“Okay this is something you don’t know, I let Rose oversee the construction of the houses, the modeling, and the decorating of the interior. I’ve only seen the blueprints, so I’m not sure what we’re going home to.”
I adopted Killer on a whim a week ago from my mother’s dog preserve in Hurley, NM. To be honest, he wouldn’t stop following me around. What’s a girl to do? Besides he’s cute and he doesn’t talk literally, I’ve heard a “woof” once. I can tell him all of my deep dark secrets knowing he won’t tell a soul, and his greatest quality is he doesn’t talk back. For the only man in my life he’s perfect.
“Okay Killer we’re almost there. See that dirt road? It leads to our casa.”
I down-shifted and turned on the gravel road in my big, gas guzzling Ford F-150, four wheel drive pickup, painted forest green camouflage colors. I then realized I’d made a great investment buying the truck. The ruts were horrendous and in major need of grading.
I noticed the for sale sign on the truck and fell in love. I took the beast for a test drive and purchased it right away. Besides, does it really matter that I look like a teenager driving it?
I’m 28 years old, 5’2”, and the steering wheel almost touches my chin for me to reach the gas pedal. The old Ford was already coming in handy. And looking younger than you really are is a good thing right?
I gazed at the landscape around me as I worked my way around the ruts. Both sides of the dirt track were thick with big beautiful Pine trees, Blue Spruces, Aspen, and some Oak bushes. The sunlight sparkled off the leaves of the trees casting a shadowy, lacy pattern over us. My truck blended in with the landscape. My skin prickled with anticipation.
I found the perfect piece of land for myself. It’s a three mile drive up the dirt road before we reach the clearing to my house. A huge meadow sits behind my back door, forest surrounds the meadow, and a big stream runs through, with good fishing from what I’ve been told. There’s also a small wooden bridge that crosses over the stream to the other side of the forest, which is private property like mine.
“Yes my driveway is graded!” I exclaimed as we reached the house. My driveway’s shaped into a horseshoe for easy turn around access and is big enough to hold several vehicles. I pulled in, turned off the truck, and stared at the A-Frame house for a few minutes.
“This is a good sign Killer, no dragons or fairies anywhere.” Killer smiled and some drool pooled out of his mouth leaving a long wet mark on my pants. I shook my head as I wiped off my leg with the bandana I’d bought just for these occasions. “Let’s check out the casa, and then find Rose.”
We ambled up the stairs to the front door, which is off a full deck and went inside.
“First we find the kitchen and get you some food and water Killer. Killer?”
On one side of the entrance way a long dark skinny table sat against the wall with two top drawers. Below the dresser a braided rug covered the floor, creating enough distance underneath for shoes. On the other side of the wall was a coat rack, and in the corner by the doorway was a big bunch of rosemary hanging off a silver string.
The rosemary enveloped the air with a nice pine scent. Through the entrance way is a big open space with a high ceiling and long ceiling fans hanging down. My living room sat to the right side of the entrance, and my kitchen sat to the left.
Killer was lying on the big throw rug in the living room in front of a roaring fire at Roses feet. Rose sat in a big overstuffed chair eyeballing him.
“Is he safe?” Rose asked, scrutinizing Killer.
“Yeah, he’s good.”
Rose didn’t seem to certain. I called Killer. He cocked his head at me, put his head on his paws and closed his eyes.
“Okay Killer, food and water are in the kitchen when you’re ready. You would think as a puppy he would want to run and play after the long drive up here.”
“He doesn’t look like a puppy to me.” Rose examined Killer.
I laughed. “He’s 6 months old; I can’t wait until he grows into his gangly self.” I watched him sleeping. “I’m pretty wiped out too. I want to check out the rest of the house before I hit the sack.”
Rose slowly got up and tiptoed around Killer. “He’s going to take some getting used to, but he does seem like a big softy. So, what do you think?” Rose asked, spreading her arms around.
“I think the house is perfect.” One couch, one chair, an entertainment system with a big screen TV, stereo, two gaming systems, all the DVDs and dreaded exercise games I needed.
Rose stared at me with her eyebrows raised. “There’s hardly any furniture in here. What if you decide to entertain? Where will everyone sit?”
“That’s the point.” I laughed. “No entertainment in my abode. Only me and Killer this winter.” Don’t get me wrong, I like people, just not all of the time. Besides, right now I’m on vacation.
“Let’s go into the kitchen,” She sighed. “You really should be more social, meet more people, find a man, and have some kids. I don’t understand why you want to stay up here alone all winter. When you get old like me you can have your “peace” time.” She finger quoted peace and gave me a loving, but disappointed gaze.
“Let’s not go there again. I already meet a lot of people and right now I‘m on vacation. You know I don’t want people to know who I am and where I live.” I replied as we walked into the kitchen. “These granite counter tops and all of the new appliances are gorgeous.”
I slid my fingertips over the glossy black, with dark gray specks, granite counter top. The appliances were black, and exactly what I ordered. Black is a perfect color for someone like me. I have a bad habit of spilling dark drinks and food often. The tile floor was a beautiful Santa Fe Brown with stain guard, making it super easy to clean.
“I’m proud of myself. The island I added myself to kind of separate the living room and kitchen.” Rose smiled. “It sits six people; see the bar stools, six of them. Just in case you change your mind and have a few people over.”
I rolled my eyes and yawned. “The kitchen is perfect Rose. What’s next?”
“Solarium, then your room and bed. You can check out the rest in the morning.” Rose led me to the back of the house, past the downstairs bath, and we entered the solarium. The solarium windows were made out of thick glass. The windows allowed the natural sunlight and warmth in while keeping out the cold. Rose had planted my garden in this room a few months earlier, and the plants were already bursting with fruits and vegetables.
I turned around in a full circle, admiring all of her hard work.
“Thank You Rose. This is wonderful.”
“Your room’s upstairs, I’m going to go check the barn. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“You’re an angel.” I smiled and aimed for the stairs.
The spiral staircase to my left was almost dead center in the solarium. I climbed up the wood steps, walked through my office space, longed for my bed, and went straight into the bathroom. I think it took me two minutes total to clean up, strip, and fall asleep.