Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fort Apache

Back in the late '90s, we often rode our bikes to the top of Devil's head Mountain, west of Castle Rock.  On top of the mountain, at the end of a trail from the parking lot which gained about 1100 feet in a bit over a mile, with 260-something waterbars across the trail, is one of the coolest places in the world.

There is a flat circular area, partially wooded, about 50 yards in diameter, where the ranger's cabin sits.  This area is surrounded by a rock wall, about 25 feet high.  The effect is that of being in a volcanic caldera.  Then, to add to the coolness of the scene, there is a staircase which leads up the rock to the ridge which surrounds the faux-crater.

There, sitting on the barren rock, is the last manned fire lookout on the Front Range of the Rockies.

It was a habit of Bill's and mine to ride up to the fire lookout and eat our breakfast as the sun came up over the eastern plains, then ride back down to the car and go open the bike shop.  There was one summer when we did this three times a week, on average.

One day, we were sitting on the rock, looking out across the plains as the sun came up when, suddenly, we could hear the "whump, whump, whump" of helicopter rotors.  We started looking around, trying to spot the aircraft.  Eventually, we happened to look down from where we were sitting and we spotted an Apache attack helicopter flying up the valley, just to the east of us.

The Apache went in and out of view, for a few minutes, then we lost sight of it, completely.  Bill  and I figured that the chopper had flown around the base of the mountain, and was heading away from us.  But, we could still hear it, clearly.

Suddenly, just to our left, the Apache rose up over the top of the ridge upon which we were sitting.  The pilot hovered over the top of the rock, about 100 feet away from us, for a few seconds.  Then, with a wave of his hand, he moved forward across the top of the mountain until he was positioned over the rock on the west side.

Then, suddenly, the Apache upended, the nose pointing straight down, and the aircraft disappeared behind the ridge.  Ten seconds later, we saw it flying across the valley below us.

Bill and I looked at each other, in that "Did that really happen?" mode, our half-eaten Clif bars still in our hands, un-chewed bites in our open mouths, and just busted out laughing. 

We never saw another Apache up there, but we did watch a few helicopters, some months later.  But, that's a story for another day.


1 comment:

  1. Sean says this is a cool story - he's a fan of aircraft, as you may know.


As always, sorry about the word verification. It's a necessary evil, unfortunately.