Monday, May 3, 2021

Joe Pyzyk's bench


     Joe Pyzyk's friends choose his tribute well. A sturdy wooden bench, sitting all by itself in the shade of a lonely tree, well along the Mount Sanitas Valley Trail, just west of downtown Boulder, Colorado. Marked by a simple bronze plaque: "In memory of Joe Pyzyk." One tends not to notice such plaques. But I noticed this one. 
     I'm in town, hanging with a pair of octogenarians of my acquaintance, seeing one through a daunting medical procedure, with the stipulation that I'll vanish first thing in the morning, if possible, and get a walk in.    
     My wife asked a niece who had studied at Boulder's Naropa Institute what trail she recommends, and she picked Sanitas, which worked for us. Saturday we walked up the valley trail and Sunday went up the more difficult mountain trail, which is like climbing a staircase a mile long. Both trails are well-populated, which is supposed to be bad, nature rudely withdrawing her glories when it comes to humanity. But after a year of lockdown, I enjoyed saying good morning over and over, and watching the procession of lean, lanky hikers, without enough fat to make a butter pat between them, plus of course their dogs, of all breeds, from whippets to huskies.  We saw dozens of them.
     There were also a number of black-billed magpies capering around the slope side of the valley trail, and I had never seen the bird before, with its dramatic black and white feathers and long thin tail. Like myself, they seemed undaunted by the presence of people, and got quite close to us.
     On the way back, both days we paused on Joe Pyzyk's bench, to let my spine recalibrate itself—more back trouble—and watched the people and dogs go by. (It's located on the valley trail; on the second day, after an hour on the mountain trail, we hit the valley trail for a cool-down stroll). Most people had a canine companion, and most of those were off leash but well-trained.  I of course wondered about our benefactor, and later found enough on-line to glean that he was 27 years old, a University of Wisconsin grad who came to the University of Colorado at Boulder to work on his masters in fine arts. He loved his dog Leo and loved the Rockies, which make the bench's location double appropriate: before a stunning vista and a virtual pooch parade. Pyzyk was also loved enough that somebody or some group endowed this perfectly-situated bench. I noticed his parents' names online, and for a moment thought of digging further. But his youth reveals tragedy aplenty without sniffing around for details, and in this case delving would be ingratitude, certainly poor recompense for installing this fine bench in such a dramatic spot. I suppose purists might complain, as purists like to do, that having a bench here at all interrupts the natural vista.  But so does the trail, as well as a wooden fence by the bench keeps people, who can be careless, from falling into a small brook. So this is already a blazed area of the countryside, a place which a good solid bench enhances rather than detracts from.
     During the pandemic I didn't worry too much about what I would do once I had my shots and could go somewhere, and now I know: I would come here and do this. A good choice.

Black-billed magpie


  1. What a marvelous photo! Worth the trip just to see such a bird in the wild.


  2. Having walked recently at Joshua Tree, I know exactly how you felt. That you got the magpie shot is your reward for being there in the first place to bring comfort to your friend.

  3. Looks like a well-worn bench. Joe Pyzyk passed away fifteen years ago.


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