I had in my plans the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway, an 82-mile or so mostly dirt and gravel road that winds its way through the Flat Top Mountains, a range to the north and west of the Continental Divide and Rockies proper. Probably the most notable thing about the mountains is that they include Trapper's Lake, an area of allegedly pristine wild beauty that is said to have inspired the National Wilderness Act. It was a 20-mile detour on a road undergoing grading or some other kind of construction, so I skipped it.
The Flat Tops also boast an apparently wicked hike-along-a-knife-edge-ridge called The Devil's Causeway, but with a recuperating Wiley in tow I didn't even attempt it.
On the road to the byway, itself pretty scenic, we passed a rock formation that made me think aha, this is what the Devil's Towelette should have looked like up close!
The Flat Tops themselves aren't that impressive, especially when one lives in the shadow of both the Divide and Byer's Peak.
Here's about the most interesting shot I could manage on a gray and overcast day, with some of the not-so-flat Flat Tops in the background:
By far the highlight of the day was running into (not literally, fortunately) a herd of sheep tended by Actual Cowboy, or at least Actual Sheep Wrangler, Gabriel.
Gabriel spoke no English, but my Spanish clicked on and we chatted for a couple minutes until the Iron Curtain came down. It's like my brain has a meter whenever I try to speak German or Spanish. After two minutes, the synapses reroute themselves and I hear an internal voice say "nu, davai... tolko po-russki." My entire vocabulary and thought process switches to Russian and, like being trapped in a Siberian gulag, I can't get out. It's awful. I think Gabriel thought I was choking as I tried to form words en espanol but could get out only halting Russian.
Damn you, Putin! (totally not his fault, of course, but he's my favorite kozyol otpushcheniya... it's funny what Russian words are ever present in my head, such as how to say "scapegoat," "you are difficult to believe," "go to hell, jerk" and "we won the cold war.")
Anyway, Gabriel was adorable, as you can see in this photo:
He just may be my second favorite Sheep Wrangler ever, after the wry guy Loki whom I met back in May. And, quite frankly, Gabriel had the more impressive entourage, with not three but five sheepdogs. Two wily, wiry little border collie-lookin' dogs and then three... uhm... not sure. They were not the gigantic Anatolian Shepherds that Loki had, but they were dang-all big.
Looking at the photo above now, I think that they were some kind of Anatolian Shepherd-Golden Lab mix. You know, like an Anatoodle or something. (And yes, I know "Anatoodle" implies an Anatolian-Poodle mix, but it's just more fun to say than an Anador Sheptriever.)